china and russia in the u.n. security council have again vetoed proposed sanctions against syria unless assad commit to the peace plan developed by kofi annan. china will not interfere in the affairs of another country that does not pose a threat to china.
a few weeks ago, the new york times quoted a chinese foreign ministry spokesman liu weimin as saying, "I think the Syrian government and opposition should both truly shoulder their responsibility and cease-fire and half violence. Both sides have this responsibility because they both undertook this commitment." this got me thinking about responsibilities.
what is the role and purpose of a national government? in the interactions between china, the united states, and the rest of the world, we see philosophical differences emerge concerning the role, function, and responsibilities of a government.
china's reluctance to support rebellion in syria does not necessarily reflect its love of the assad regime. both china and russia have fostered beneficial economic and political relationships with assad. however, the chinese have stated that they can both work with other governments. they realize that a different syrian government can provide what benefits they currently derive from business with that country. i do not think that economics are the driving factor for declining u.n. support for the rebellions. instead they refuse to trample the sovereignty of another government.
the rest of the world may at times take issue with chinese policies. the western world may accuse china of human rights abuses. but where we see abuse or totalitarianism, the chinese may see protection and responsibility. i would argue that the government of the people's republic behaves very differently from that which authorized the crackdown on the tienanmen square protesters, and i would argue that the mass killings of syrians by that government may be unacceptable to the chinese government. however, it's hard for the chinese to support efforts to topple a foreign government when so much of the rest of the world disagrees with many chinese policies.
in the western democracies of the world, we believe that government must represent the consent and perhaps will of the people. power is generated by the people of a nation. as our declaration of independence insists, "Governments are Instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," to protect certain rights that we hold to be inalienable. for us, a government is not just a controlling group of individuals over a larger nation. the power to govern is generated from the consent of the people. we give up certain individual autonomy to gain greater liberty, equality, and protection.
because we believe that the foundation of government lay with the consent of the governed, it allows up to support revolution, uprisings of peoples against dictators and totalitarian regimes. we believe "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to the them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." and so we supported the libyan rebellion, and support the uprising against assad in syria.
chinese political philosophy does not exactly mirror our own. the government of the people's republic views itself as a protector of the chinese people. its policies revolve around security for its people, security against other countries and other markets, security against social unrest and de-stability, security against poverty and hunger. the chinese government probably does not see governmental power and legitimacy as derived from the will of the people but rather through the government's ability to serve and protect. as china is now the second largest economy in the world, supporting some of the world's largest and most ambitious infrastructure projects, china has revolutionized the way its citizens live. it trades the rights of the individual for a great prosperity. for china, the freedom to individual expression, individual agency, and personal political determination and participation could be advanced rights, guarantees upon which government is not founded but which are generated from greater prosperity, greater equality socially and economically.
this is not to say that i do not believe in our western tradition of human or basic rights, and i find the chinese reluctance to sanction syria as a permanent member of the u.n. security council frustrating, though of course, the organization of the u.n. and the existence of a security council frustrates me. but as we criticize china for human rights abuses, i believe we must ask ourselves why china behaves the way it does. this analysis cannot be justification for unjust behavior, but can aid in understanding chinese policy and in our methods of negotiating with china. china as a major world player, as a huge economy, as a powerful government with a powerful military cannot expect the world to ignore its human rights abuses, restricts its media, abducts its citizens extrajudicially.