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16th May 1999

Towards a new Asian century

By Mervyn de Silva

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Let China sleep for when it wakes the world will tremble. President Clinton's foreign policy advisers seem to have ignored that warning.

Mao Tse-tung presided over his country's awakening. Britain did not tremble over Hong Kong. Skillful diplomacy would do. President Clinton may have done better if he had consulted the old China hands in London before he launched his NATO operation bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

The Chinese government was characteristically correct and unflappable. Here is the full text of the statement issued by the government of the Peoples Republic of China:

"US-led NATO dropped three missiles from different angles on the Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China in Yugoslavia at midnight Friday. US-led NATO has been wantonly bombing Yugoslavia for more than 40 days killing and wounding large numbers of innocent civilians and now it even launched air strikes against the Chinese embassy. The action is a gross violation of Chinese sovereignty and random violation of the Vienna conventions on diplomatic relations and the norms of international relations. This is rare in diplomatic history. The Chinese government express their utmost indignation and severe condemnation of the barbarian act and lodge the strongest protest".

US-led NATO should bear all responsibilities. The Chinese government reserves the right to take further action on this matter.

China has had a long and bitter border dispute with India, and the armies of the world's most populous countries have gone to war at least twice, with heavy casualties on both sides. India is also the world's largest democracy. China has been engaged in a fierce ideological battle with the ruling Communist party in Lenin's land. Border disputes have also soured Russia-China relations and did aggravate Sino-Indian relations. Ethnic prejudice and anti-black policies have exposed Lincoln America to racial prejudice.


The United Nations has independent nation-states as its members. The ethnic composition of each is different - a majority and a minority, or minoriies. The regime, popularly elected or not, is often exposed to the consequences of prejudice and discrimination. Few countries are completely free from this evil and its socio-economic consequences, certainly not the nation which could boast of an Abraham Lincoln.

Has any nation the legal right to use its military muscle to correct this perceived ethnic prejudice or unjust laws or discrimination? Is this the New World Order under the sole superpower?


"From the beginning of NATO, western Europe's defence against a land invasion from the East demanded major reliance on the US lead in atomic power, writes Norman A. Grabner, Professor of History and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia... NATO would sustain the military division of Europe with vengeance; it would do no more".

In short it was a reply to the Soviet ally now turned ideological challenger globally, and perceived as an imminent threat from the Moscow-dominated Warsaw Pact countries. With the Soviet implosion and the political-economic disorder in the former rival, the U.S.S.R. , the Soviet disunion.

Yugoslavia on the new frontline - although it was governed by Tito's league of communists. Washington's perception was plainly founded on the post-war continental power structure. Tito was a Marxist-Leninist but his central concern was Yugoslavia's independence in the war of ideologies. And so, inspired and encouraged, India's Nehru actively encouraged Tito to launch the non-aligned movement.

The reaction of the American foreign policy establishment was a bit bizarre - the newly independent states, former colonies of the major European powers, Britain and France, mainly were turning ideologically pink, if not pro-Moscow red. And so the cold war. The threat perception was clearly focused on N.A.M. or the Third World, and its pro-Soviet stance.

What the shape of the new post-Cold War power structure is still not clear because the new nation-states that are all players in the new global system, have still not resolved the fundamental problem of power-sharing, and distribution between the communities only but not of authority and power but territory - an aggressive claim on what is usually identified as the "traditional homeland".

Unfortunately Yugoslavia stood on the frontline of the Cold War, the war of ideologies and systems, Non-alignment bought time for Tito's honest and brave effort to construct a united nation.

Human Rights

In the strategic-diplomatic arena, we have moved from bipolarity to a much more complex and unprecedented situation. The main actors are still the states; it is in this realm that the U.N. and the various regional organisations have been least effective says a commentator in the Washington Post.

When NATO (U.S.) intervened in Yugoslavia it was presented by the US-Europe dominated global media as benign intervention..... spelt out as a defence of human rights. Private enterprise and human rightsó. since the United Nations is in reality powerless, the sole superpower could orchestrate the Kosovo conflict. Russia, for obvious reasons, could have been more active, counter-intervention........ at least diplomatic. Prime Minister Primakov thought he could claim a seat at the high table. He paid a price, President Yeltsin is as frail as his government and country. Euro-Asian Russia will have to stress its Asian personality. China has already seen new opportunities in the new decade or millennium. India, China, Russia have seen new "windows of opportunities." Japan has to make up its mind, prepared for a new millennium

Hulftsdorp Hill

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