Libyan crisis tests China’s flexible diplomacy

By Gu Di

The Libyan crisis has left the pro- and anti- Gaddafi sides as incompatible as fire and water. And China has gradually been dragged into the dispute. Whether in Tripoli, still controlled by Muammar  al-Gaddafi’s forces, or Benghazi, the base of the rebels, ordinary people seemed grateful to China, but also had complaints.

Gaddafi’s supporters praised China and Russia for abstaining on UN Resolution 1973, but complained that if they had voted against, the NATO airstrikes wouldn’t have occurred. The opposition forces, on the other hand, asked why China was still withholding recognition from their new regime and hadn’t offered help.

The mood of the Arab public shifts easily, and beliefs such as that China sells inferior merchandise to Arab countries, or is stealing Middle Eastern oil, have greatly affected the way local people think about China.

China’s vote on the UN Security Council on sanctions against Libya has already declared its position.

So far, only the countries that actually joined the military actions against Gaddafi’s regime have recognized rebels as the legitimate government of Libya. The recognition of rebels’ legitimacy is necessary to justify their military interventions.

Meanwhile, none of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have publicly backed the rebels.

But China can’t delay in building bridges to the Libyan opposition. Rather than staying passive, China needs to seize the diplomatic initiative on solving the Libyan problem.

I suggest China participate in the process of finding a political solution to the crisis in Libya. The African Union, for example, sent envoys to hear  appeals from both sides. The road map recently proposed by the African Union was unilaterally accepted by Gaddafi. There’s no doubt that China’s mediation will be quite difficult. The future of Gaddafi should be decided by Libyans themselves. However, by mediation and participation, China can build connections and make its contribution to regional peace.

  • Source: Global Times

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