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Don't Be Deceived by Hu's Tactics
Paul Lin

It is said that Chinese President Hu Jintao's leadership style is a balanced mix of hard and soft tactics.

This is not necessarily true as one of these approaches often dominates the other. If Hu's counterpart softens, he responds with tougher tactics, but if his counterparts take a hard line, he softens and becomes a paper tiger.

A closer look at Hu's recent diplomatic moves will help clear up any doubts on the matter.

Earlier this month, Hu displayed his soft approach to politics at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) by lavishing money on the 48 participating African nations. Clearly, Hu was copying former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong's (ë?ɖ|) tactic of joining hands with weaker nations to oppose powerful states in order to play the role of a world revolutionary leader.

But despite his stylish maneuvering, Hu made a clumsy impression on his guests.

In order to attack imperialism, Hu took aim at Canada. One reason for his attack might have been that the Conservative Party recently took power in Canada, and Hu wanted to come across as looking tough and in control. Another reason could have been the close relationship between Canada and the US; Hu may have wanted to attack Canada to warn the US.

Then at the APEC summit in Hanoi from Nov. 17 to Nov. 19, China approached Canada about a formal meeting between Hu and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. When Canada listed human rights on the list of issues to discuss, China canceled the meeting.

Unexpectedly, Harper responded by saying that "I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values -- our belief in democracy, freedom, human rights."

Despite Harper's forceful response, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs still said that Hu would meet Harper during the summit. In the end, the two leaders did meet and China said that the human rights issue was not discussed.

After the conclusion of the APEC meeting, Hu continued on to India. Although border dusputes between India and China still exist, Beijing's current "good neighbor" policy means that it respects India's control line along the border.

During Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's India visit in April last year, the two countries established a strategic partnership. However, less than a week before Hu's visit, Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Yuxi said in a televised interview that the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh was part of Chinese territory, but he did not mention the Aksai Chin region, which is occupied by China but claimed by India.

As a result, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Nov. 14 requested that China recall Sun. Sun was later forced to modify his stance by saying that the China-India border dispute can only be solved through a bilateral compromise and that China is ready to do so.

Whether Hu visited India to compromise or to contest every inch of territory will shed light on China's desire for unification with Taiwan at any cost.

China's quickly changing attitudes are not limited to this incident. Other examples are its blockade of online information by forcing companies like Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, Cisco and others to submit to Chinese regulations and sometimes even help it pursue ethically questionable policies.

Last month, Chinese authorities blocked access to the English version of Wikipedia. Wikipedia, however, did not give in to the pressure and the blockade has now quietly been lifted.

All these examples serve to underline that if you are soft in dealing with a rogue regime, it will run roughshod over you; but if you stick to your principles, it will back down.

Unfortunately, some major powers accommodate this rouge country, and -- whether it be due to threats or incentives -- sacrifice universal values. If Canada, India and Wikipedia on their own are able to force China to compromise, then why can't all democratic nations or powerful Internet companies do so through a united front? Together, wouldn't they be able to resist Chinese political intervention, work to guarantee freedom and democracy and force China to respect human rights and world peace?

The run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics is the best time for all democratic nations to stand up to China.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in Taipei.

Translated by Lin Ya-ti

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