Thursday, 24 February 2011

China's rocky relations with Libya

Whilst the rift between Libya and the United States during the 80's is well-known, the story of Libya's somewhat spotty relations with the People's Republic is little known in China, Europe, or America. However, even a bit of research turns up a treasure-trove of Libyan actions in recent years which will have left the Chinese with little in the way of sympathy for Gaddafi's government.

You want support for Taiwan? You've got it:

"Earlier, in 2006, the two countries squabbled over Libya's relations with Taiwan. The deterioration began in January when Sayf al-Islam Qadhafi—chairman of the Libyan Qadhafi Foundation—met President Chen Shui-bian in Taiwan, acting as an envoy of his father, Mu'ammar Qadhafi. Libya, which had maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan from 1959 to 1978, recognized the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1971 but delayed the establishment of diplomatic relations until 1978. Qadhafi invited Chen Shui-bian for an official "state visit" to Libya and said that his father was resolved to develop relations between the two countries, with Libya serving as Taiwan's gateway to Africa. "He hoped that the two nations sign a memorandum on establishing mutual representative offices before his departure" [1]. Adding insult to injury, this invitation came on January 19, precisely when PRC Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing was meeting Qadhafi (the father) in Libya. An online Libyan newspaper reported recently that Sayf al-Islam Qadhafi was officially and practically appointed as successor to his father (Libya al-Yaum [Libya Today], October 15).

To be sure, a few months later, in May 2006, Libya allowed Chen Shui-bian to make a stopover in Tripoli, and used the opportunity to negotiate the issue of representative offices in the two countries, despite Beijing's protests and "strong opposition." A PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "We demand that Libya live up to its commitment and immediately cease all official exchanges with Taiwan in whatever forms so as to maintain the overall China-Libya relations…This is a serious violation of Libya's long-term commitment to the one-China policy and will exert a negative impact on China-Libya relations" (Xinhua News Agency, May 11, 2006)."

You want blocking of Chinese businesses seeking to enter the Libyan market? You've got it:

"Libya will exercise its right to buy the assets of [Libyan oilfield operating] Verenex Energy Inc., blocking a roughly US$400 million deal that China had sought with the Canadian oil producer, said the country’s top oil official.

Libya will match the amount that China National Petroleum Corp. had agreed to pay for Verenex, Shokri Ghanem, head of Libya’s National Oil Co., said on the sidelines of an energy conference.. Libya wants to buy the company out of "commercial interest" as it tries to boost its oil-pumping capacity, said Mr. Ghanem."

In the same interview in which Musa Kusa attacked the Chinese government for alleged "imperialism" in Africa, Musa Kusa also accused China of bypassing the African Union in its dealings with African nations, an organisation which Colonel Gaddafi has made his own pet project:

"is an insult to the African Union. […] Is it reasonable for China—as a single country—to preside over an entire continent? This is an injustice. […] China's unwillingness to accept the presence of African Union commissioners means that they do not want the African Union, or African Unity, but rather China wants to cooperate with Africa as separate nations, rather than as a union."

It seems that if Gaddafi's government is somewhat lacking allies at the moment, it has no-one to blame but itself.


2m said...

Hm, thanks for the analysis.

Maybe this is why China didn't block the recent airstrikes in Libya?

justrecently said...

Gaddafi's complaints about Chinese "colonialism" were explicit as usual, but it isn't really too much different of what Thabo Mbeki, them president of South Africa, has stated several times, too, while in office.

As for Libya's relations with Taiwan, the coming months will show if Libya can or wants to be Taiwan's "gateway to Africa". They say that Beijing and Taipei stopped competing for "diplomatic allies" at the cost of one another, and besides, Libya's new government (if there is any) might need good relations with the security council etc. during the coming months.