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Friday, July 13, 2007

Gen Musharraf's Real Ally

While most people speculate why the general did it - to postpone elections, to show Bush results, or to show the former allied-turned-foe terrorists their place in Pakistan, Howard French writes about Chinese official, and the much better informed Chinese people, opinion on the fight in Lal Masjid (IHT has nice aerial picture of Lal Masjid - Lal is really Hara).

Within Pakistan, and indeed much more widely among people who have followed these events closely, this incident, along with the killing two weeks later of three Chinese people in the western Pakistani city of Peshawar, is believed by many South Asian diplomats to have precipitated the decision by President Pervez Musharraf to lay siege to the mosque, mounting a rare, direct confrontation with the forces of radical Islam in his country.

Alarmed by the attacks on their citizens, and on the sensitive question of public perception of these events, Chinese leaders are widely reported by these diplomats to have put strong pressure on Musharraf to take action. And China being an increasingly important ally, militarily and economically, for Pakistan, that is exactly what Musharraf did.

This understanding of events may be common elsewhere, but it has gone all but unheard of here in China. There has been scarcely any mention of a possible role of the anti-Chinese attacks in the Pakistani government's decision to take on the radicals at the Red Mosque, and none at all in the Chinese media.

Moreover, almost no one in the press has printed, even speculatively, what many Chinese themselves presume to be the truth of this matter, that the women kidnapped and later released in Islamabad were sex workers.

After all, there are important myths to protect: One of them is the essential goodness of the Chinese people, and the other, that China does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs.

Chinese citizens and Chinese interests are fanning out around the globe at a rate that is unequaled in this country's long history. Wherever they land the Chinese are very often reproducing a Chinese way of life, as Americans did in the postwar era over half a century ago.

As with overseas Americans - the "Ugly American" became a cliché in Asia - among the Chinese, naturally enough, there is good and bad. Along with fresh injections of capital and ingenuity and China's famous entrepreneurial bustle, the Chinese also often bring an insular clannishness, a driven style of management, an unblushing attitude toward corruption, and as the case in Pakistan suggests, an acceptance of things like brothels, which are common in China but in many other societies are seen as undesirable or are illegal. [IHT]

By doing Chinese bidding, without the usual internal affairs excuses offered to the Americans, it's clear who the real ally of the Pak establishment is.