Page 1 of 3 China: the West's bogeyman in Libya
By Peter Lee
On the matter of Libya, the West appears on its way to a Pyrrhic victory.
Success in Libya gives the West a chance to say it got regime change right
after its disaster in Iraq - and reassert its global moral relevance after it
bungled the world economy into recession.
The rising BRIC countries, on the other hand, find their mistrust of Western
self-delusion, enabled by military force and insistence on a rule-based world
in which only the Western democracies have the right to break the rules,
In an era in which the United States is still the only power capable of
projecting military force across the globe, the unique combination of anxiety,
arrogance and oblique post-colonial
racism that marks the Libyan intervention will probably not signal the twilight
of Western influence.
But the West will probably find its ability to project its power beyond the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Gulf Co-operation Council
significantly and actively constrained.
Last week, China finally rolled up its sleeves and became involved in that
exercise in imperial sausage-making that is New Libya. Per the announcement of
the People's Republic of China's (PRC) Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
September 12, China notified the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) of
China's decision to recognize it. China stated that the Chinese side respects
the choice of the Libyan people, values the important status and role of the
NTC, and has maintained close contact with it. China recognizes the NTC as the
ruling authority of Libya and the representative of the Libyan people and would
like to work with it to push for the smooth transition and development of
China-Libya relations. China hopes that the previously signed treaties and
agreements between the two sides will remain valid and be earnestly
The NTC said that the Libyan people and the NTC are happy at China's
recognition and has long been looking forward to it. Attaching great importance
to China's status and role, the NTC will honor faithfully all treaties and
agreements signed between the two sides, stick to the one China policy, welcome
China's participation in Libya's reconstruction and jointly advance with China
the stable and sustained development of bilateral relations.
concession by the Chinese was treated with a certain amount of glee in Western
capitals and media, as if recognition of the rebel forces that had occupied the
capital and virtually all of Libya's urban areas represented a retreat from
China's policy of non-interference.
Certainly, the collapse of a fellow authoritarian regime confronted by popular
unrest caused Beijing's mandarins considerable heartache and unease. However,
it appears more important that the services of the Chinese bogeyman are
urgently needed to provide a more flattering contrast to the shaky and dubious
Western adventure in Libya.
The Guardian turned to Dr Steven Tsang of Nottingham University to deliver
judgement on Beijing's move:
"They have taken their time in recognizing
the rebels," said Steve Tsang, professor of contemporary Chinese studies at
Nottingham University. ... "You will have quite a lot of people concluding
China is much more interested in protecting its own national interests than
performing its duties as a leading power in the international scene. As [one of
the] P5 [permanent members of the UN national security council] there are
certain expectations and moral responsibilities … The way the post-Gaddafi
situation has been handled, [people] have not been giving China a particularly
high mark," he said.
As to the "people" who are not giving
China particularly high marks, one might assume that they are the kind of
people Dr Tsang associates with.
The Guardian might have rendered its readers a useful service by revealing that
Dr Tsang was previously director of the Pluscarden Center for the Study of
Global Terrorism and Intelligence at St Antony's College at Oxford. St Antony's
is the pet benefaction of conservative Arab governments seeking to burnish
their non-terrorist credentials in the West.
According to a study by the Centre for Social Cohesion, a conservative
think-tank eager to alert the world to penetration into the West by the Islamic
menace, at least two thirds of the endowment of its Middle East Centre -
including a donation of 1 million pounds (US$1.54 million) representing 30% of
the MEC's endowment raised in the last 15 years, from Saudi Arabia's King Abdul
Aziz Foundation - comes from governments or individuals from the conservative
Arab monarchies. 
The most conspicuous "get" for the Pluscarden Center's speaker program this
year: "His Royal Highness Prince Turki al Faisal, Chairman, King Faisal Centre
for Research & Islamic Studies and former Director General of Saudi
Arabia's intelligence agency Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah." 
The conservative Sunni states forming the Gulf Co-operation Council were
Gaddafi's most implacable enemies and the driving force behind the Arab League
/ United Nations / North Atlantic Treaty Organization campaign for regime
change in Libya. 
As a matter of fact and public record, the primary enthusiasts for the Libyan
operation were the Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab
Emirates, and NATO. The rest of the world's reaction to NATO's decision to use
a UN resolution as a fig leaf to intervene in Libya on behalf of anti-Gaddafi
rebels ranged from quiet disgust - India and Brazil - to vocal opposition from
China, Russia, South Africa, and the African Union (AU).
With remarkable arrogance, Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, gave her
opinion of "those people":
The US has not been encouraged by the
performance of India, Brazil and South Africa during their temporary tenure on
the UN Security Council ... "It's been a very interesting opportunity to see
how they respond to the issues of the day, how they relate to us and others,
how they do or don't act consistent with their own democratic institutions and
stated values," Rice said at a briefing with reporters. "Let me just say, we've
learned a lot and, frankly, not all of it encouraging." 
attitudes like this, it is not surprising that the UN is deadlocked on Syria.
When Gaddafi did fall, it appears that his end did not come at the hands of the
inept and bickering Benghazi-based TNC (which opened August, its month of
victory, with the unsolved torture and murder of its main military commander,
Abdel Fateh Younes). Instead, the regime collapsed as the result of a drive on
the capital by the Tripoli Brigade of Islamist fighters under Abdelkarim
Belhadj, and the opportune (and perhaps liberally financed) defection of a key
Back in June, an al-Jazeera video essay filmed at the Tripoli Brigade's
training camp revealed to all who cared to pay attention that Belhaj's faction
was due to receive arms from Qatar and the UAE, in apparent violation of the UN
When Belhaj reached Tripoli, the US and the UK had to deal with the awkward
fact that Belhaj's questionable credentials went beyond his Islamist militancy
(since renounced) and his reputed links to al-Qaeda (vociferously denied).
Belhaj revealed he had been rendered and tortured by the UK and the US in 2004
and delivered to Gaddafi's Libya for more torture and six years of
incarceration, calling into question his enthusiasm for the West and its
program in Libya.
In fact, it Belhaj looks more like an effective, heavily backed Gulf asset
promoting the Saudi ideal of conservative, stable Sunni regimes than a
sympathetic ally of the West, making his relationship with the pro-Western TNC
bureaucrats out of Benghazi appear rather problematic.
When, after two long and embarrassing weeks, the ostensible architect of the
August victory, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, cautiously made his way to Tripoli to
deliver his maiden speech in Martyr's Square, the Western media obligingly
provided pictures of adoring crowds waving new black, red, and green flags and
English language T-shirts and mylar balloons to celebrate the new regime
beneath a fireworks display.
It is difficult to determine whether the scene in the square was a
demonstration of the remarkable resilience of Tripoli's flag, T-shirt, and
balloon manufacturers and fireworks distributors after months of bombings and
supply dislocations, or just another sign of the West's persistent spackling of
the TNC's public relations facade.
However, Jalil's performance probably caused a fair amount of anxiety for his
Western and Gulf patrons. Occasionally clutching the twin microphones like an
anxious rider gripping the ears of an untrustworthy donkey, Jalil flatly
murmured a speech about reconciliation to a crowd of, as the Guardian revealed,
"approximately 10,000". 
Even during the darkest days of his regime, in July 2011, Gaddafi was
apparently able to muster a bigger, albeit relatively unenthusiastic, crowd of
listeners in the square. It will presumably take more than one night of
festivities for the residents of Tripoli to forget five months of bombing and
sanctions delivered courtesy of the TNC's NATO air arm, or to forgive the
capital's new masters at the ballot box.
It will also take concerted perception management by the Western and Gulf
powers - not to mention the application of billions of frozen Libyan assets -
to provide the pro-Western elements of the TNC with a necessary veneer of
authority and effectiveness and co-opt the militant Islamists entrenching
themselves in post-Gaddafi Tripoli.
And it will also require a fair amount of China-bashing to draw attention away
from the West's continued manipulation of Libyan sovereignty through the medium
of the TNC.