Global Security Headlines

Sunday, December 20, 2009

China Can Say ‘No’

The real story out of COP15, the so-called Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, is not the curious quest for an international agreement based on dubious science.

It is the conspicuous display of China’s full diplomatic, and economic strength on the world stage and the eclipse of US prestige.

China Leads

China hosted a closed door meeting among other partners with India and Brazil to thwart any legal binding stipulations to put teeth into any accord pushed by the United States. While it is not confirmed that Russia attended, the BRIC bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) came alive in Copenhagen.

The BRIC bloc represents the four top developing nations whose weight on the world stage is increasing every day.

Surrounded by its BRIC bloc partners, China asserted its role clearly as a leader of the “non-aligned” less-developed countries at the Copenhagen conference. This was China’s tact during the Cold War and remains a guiding principle in its international statecraft.

BRIC Ascendancy

It was US President Barak Obama who sought out Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, not the reverse, to salvage a minimal and meaningless “declaration of principles” so he did not appear to leave Copenhagen empty handed twice in a span of two months.

China told the US ‘no’ on any binding targets for reduction of CO2 gas emissions on which its economy is dependent for exports as a developing country. It will not sacrifice its economic progress and date with history based on dubious science.

The BRIC bloc is emerging as an effective counterweight to declining US primacy.

China Snubs

The Sino-US standoff began as soon as US President Obama arrived on Friday in Copenhagen. Premier Wen took umbrage from an extemporaneous line in the president's speech in a slightly veiled reference to China by insisting on "sharing information and ensuring we are meeting our commitments."

Later that afternoon in a negotiation round, he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cooled their heels with three low-level Chinese delegates who could not make any political decisions. That was only the first diplomatic snub.

US Prestige Drops

The amateurish US diplomatic play by President Obama to crash China's closed door meeting (to which it was pointedly not invited) in order to desperately force even an unbinding agreement will certainly be noted by the BRIC bloc and other adversaries in the world.

The rapid drop of US prestige in the world less than one year into the naïve president’s term is quite shocking.

The Sino-US chilliness is palpable. China's handling of the weak US president has broader implications. A China that can say 'no' to the US has already risen.

The fissures exposed among the international players in Copenhagen augur a more competitive global security environment at the expense of Washington. The die is cast.
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