Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Botswana needs to tread carefully when it comes to China

Our foreign policy, if there is one needs a reality check.

Just this week the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement in which it effectively accused China of not playing by the rules in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

To put the matter into context, China is currently engaged in what amounts to a cold war with Philippines on one hand Japan on the other over control of some territories in the South China Sea.

Both disputes are a result of China’s expansionist policy, which are predicated on efforts to counter the excessive American influence in the region.

Quite correctly, Botswana Government has identified South China Sea as an important sphere in the world geopolitics.

What is however wrong is a decision by our Government to publicly engage the belligerents on this matter.

We are of the view that at least on this issue, the user of back channels or quieted diplomacy will yield greater results.

The geopolitics of the South China Sea have become a diplomatic mayhem.

Even for countries that have advanced leverage like the United States are finding it difficult to reign in China ÔÇô not just in the country’s stand off against Japan and the Philippines, but also over Taiwan.

It therefore follows that by literally plunging head-on into this matter, Botswana is not for the first time, punching above her weight, to use a boxing analogy.

On this matter Botswana should tread carefully, because China, as a non democracy is very sensitive to outside criticism.

As a country, Botswana should at all cost6 avoid meddling in China’s internal affairs.

In fact that has always been a cornerstone of Botswana’s relations with all countries of the world.

If we are not careful, our government risks being entangled in a diplomatic vortex from which we might not just be unable to get ourselves out, but also lose big time.

For China there are areas where public criticism is literally a no go area. These include the country’s such what happened at the Tiananmen Square. Also include in this suite of no go areas is outside relations with Taiwan, which China continues to regard as one of its provinces ÔÇô albeit a rogue one. China also takes a serious offence when ant country is viewed to be publicly courting or consorting with the Dalai Lama.

Relations and indeed territorial ownership of the South China Sea is a new addition to the list.

For China, when it comes to the geopolitics of South China Sea, relations have never been high.

Experts of international relations are united that events of the new world order will largely be determined by China’s behavior, most particularly its role in the world.

Leaders of China, for their part insist that the world order will be determined by what becomes China’s role in the South China Sea vis-├á-vis the dwindling influence of the United States in that increasingly important part of the world.

It is our hope that officials at our Ministry of Foreign Affairs know as to have internalized these cardinal points when it comes to China.

China’s behavior in the world stage has not always been full of glory.

For a growing economic superpower, China is often excessively sensitive to outside criticism.

The country, while too eager to increase its influence on the world stage, is often too reluctant to also increase its obligations.

That is unfortunate.

But these are the realities that technocrats at the Ministry of Foreign affairs should learn to master otherwise Botswana will find itself on the receiving end of a rising star.

Britain, for example sees nothing wrong doing business with China ÔÇô notwithstanding China’s checkered human rights record.

The Prime Minister of Britain never raises his voice against China ÔÇô at least not in public because he knows that Chinese money today matter more than the country’s adherence to human rights.

If our government really has any issues with China, it is important that such issues are not raised in press releases but rather behind closed doors. This is important because that is where as a small country we stand to have the biggest influence on events.

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