Fri 29 Feb 2008
Filed under: International,News
China should not fear working with other countries to put pressure on “faltering states”, Britain’s foreign minister said on Friday in an indirect plea for Beijing to do more with countries such as Sudan and Myanmar.
David Miliband, speaking at the tailend of a trip to Hong Kong and China, said it was in everyone’s interest to deal with these countries, lest they destabilise their neighbours.
China traditionally avoids supporting international sanctions, saying it prefers dialogue and does not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
“I believe it is in all our interests to address the poor governance that can give birth to conflict and instability,” Miliband told students at the elite Peking University.
“When the incentives of global engagement do not work, there will be cases for applying pressure,” he added.
“Sometimes, sovereign nations must be prepared to intervene together where they see a risk to regional stability and where a state is unable or unwilling to address the problem itself.”
Doing so could also help hold back protectionist sentiment against China in Europe and other parts of the world, he said.
“The more our publics see China using its growing influence around the world to pursue vital shared interests, from African development and Korean denuclearisation to low carbon growth, the more greater will be public support for increased market opening,” Miliband added.
A country he suggested China could help with was Myanmar, whose military violently put down pro-democracy protests late last year.
“Burma is on your border. You know it well,” Miliband said, without specifically calling on China to do more, and outlining Britain’s view that Myanmar’s military government is “brutal” and must release Nobel laureate opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
China is one of Myanmar’s major trading partners and investors, and at least one Myanmar opposition group has urged a boycott of this summer’s Beijing Olympics.
But China should not worry too much that U.S. film director Steven Spielberg’s withdrawing as artistic adviser to the Olympics would undermine the Games, Miliband said.
“Do not believe Steven Spielberg is going to wreck the Olympics, however much the Olympics focuses the world’s attention on China,” he said.
“But do recognise that when individuals express concerns over government policies, this is not born of a desire to pick on China or block its rise, but instead see its power as a force for good in the world,” he added.
Spielberg quit earlier in February, claiming China had failed to use enough of its sway with Khartoum to press for peace in Sudan’s strife-torn western region of Darfur.
China is a leading oil customer and supplier of weapons to Sudan, and critics accuse Beijing of providing diplomatic cover for Khartoum as it stonewalls international efforts to send peacekeepers into Darfur.
Miliband repeated his opposition to an Olympic boycott, saying it would only harm global cooperation with China on the very issues where Beijing’s help is especially needed.
“Isolation would be a disaster,” he said. “Do not boycott the Olympics, celebrate the Olympics.”