A new ‘Cold War’?
China’s execution of Akmal Shaikh, 53 for drug smuggling was a disgraceful act. It not only exposed China’s appalling human rights record but also it exposed the problems with the death penalty as a form of punishment. However, it also exposed a growing climate of open hostility between Western governments and the Chinese which was also evident at Copenhagen when China was blamed almost solely for the failure of the climate change talks.
As with anything we have to endure a degree of hypocrisy when the West speaks on these issues. America, for example, is in no position to lecture China over the execution of Shaikh given its stance over Gary McKinnon (where it shows a similar disregard for McKinnon’s mental health). Indeed, the indignation of the British government in light of its decision to obey the United States is also a little hard to swallow.
Similarly since America has the death penalty it can be taken almost as read that it will have executed prisoners who are of less than sound mind and doubtless also innocents. Returning to Copenhagen; America’s demands on China equate to something like a subtle attempt at a trade war to clip China’s economic wings.
Where is this all going? Put plainly and simply there will not be a new ‘Cold War’ because the West is in no position or shape to fight one. While the credit crunch decimated large swathes of Western economies China has managed to weather the storm. The credit crunch did effect China but in 2009 GDP is still expected to grow by over 8% when the final figures are tabulated;
In 2009 China’s GDP growth rate, though lower than the double-digit average of recent years, has held up well, rising from 6.1% year-on-year in the first quarter to 7.7% in the first three quarters of the year. This means that year-on-year GDP growth was around 9% in the second quarter. A similar rate of growth (9%) is expected in the final quarter, ensuring a rate of over 8% for 2009 as a whole.
Militarily the West is fractured as Afghanistan looks set to claim the NATO Alliance amoung its numerous victims. Ideologically, (partially no doubt to its economic power) China is leading the pack of nations in the ‘G77’ as it showed at Copenhagen. Coupled with a Russia still less than enamoured of the West it has the potential to lead a power bloc that would rival NATO easily. If Israel or the West were to attack Iran then it is beyond doubt that neither nation would be happy and that both would make their voices heard and presence felt.
Britain and America are fundamentally complacent to see the solution to problems as being the excision of their own, much diminished, influence. The sun has already set on that world; our best hope of redressing the balance is to be partisans of a new internationalism which sets aside national sovereignty as much as is needed and recognises the era of ‘Great Powers’ strutting about the globe is over.