China utilized the foreign-minister level strategic dialogue with Germany in Beijing on Friday to reiterate its call for a political solution to the Libyan crisis. The visiting German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle joined Chinese FM Yang Jiechi to say, "The Libyan situation cannot be resolved by military means. There can only be a political resolution and we must get the political process underway."
"Both China and Germany abstained from voting for UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which shows that the two states have reservations on the resolution," Yang told reporters. The resolution was adopted to stop violence and protect civilians, Yang said, adding that China is worried by continued reports of deaths and injuries among civilians and the escalation of military conflict in Libya. China maintained that concerned countries should strictly abide by the resolution and respect Libya's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, Yang said. "The matter should be addressed appropriately by political and diplomatic means," he added.
China has scored a big point on the diplomatic front by getting Germany to take a common position with it. This comes barely two days after Hu Jintao's plain-speaking with the visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Quite obviously, Beijing has taken the high ground in the Libyan crisis and has positioned itself visibly as the flag carrier of opposition to the western military intervention. Interestingly, it is acting entirely on its own.
Xinhua carried a strident commentary today posing the rhetorical question: "Why Libya, why not Cote d'Ivoire or Somalia? It's a question posed in Africa - from Cape Town to Addis Ababa, from Nairobi to Abuja. Though reasonable, the question has not yet been highly valued or clearly responded... The U.N.-sanctioned military operation is based on an assumption: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi will massacre all the residents after storming the rebel's eastern stronghold of Benghazi. Thus, the crisis is latent and the operation is preventive. Also in Africa, on the western side, a humanitarian crisis looms in Cote d'Ivore. That's where hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes and nearly 500 have been killed by forces loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo, who clings to power despite losing to Alassane Ouattara in the Nov. 28 presidential run-off election. Why Libya but not Cote d'Ivoire?"
The commentary quotes prominent African leaders echoing China's criticism of the western intervention. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni accused Western countries of using double standards by pushing for a no-fly zone and asked: "Why Libya, but not Bahrain or Somalia? While imposing a no-fly zone in a rival country like Libya, the West turns a blind eye to a similar case in Bahrain, one of the pro-West countries. We have been appealing to the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone over Somalia so as to impede the free movement of terrorists, without success. Why? Are there no human beings in Somalia similar to the ones in Benghazi? Or is it because Somalia does not have oil which is not fully controlled by the western oil companies?"
The commentary concludes by rallying African opinion against the West. "In the world arena, the Africa countries have often been regarded as a 'silent majority'. In fact, Africa may not be really silent. Instead, maybe its voice has not been valued or considered. As the war in Libya faces a deadlock and turbulence in the Middle East appears to be sprawling to Africa, questions concerning Africa's situation require rational settlement, rather than any unwise approach."
The way things are developing, the longer the western military operations in Libya continue, the greater will be the opportunity for China to rally African opinion. The decision by the African Union not to participate in the London conference last Tuesday creates a highly favorable backdrop for China's diplomatic offensive in Africa. The West has no answer to China's campaign.