Publishing a book on the confused state of the law regulating royal marriages has taken up most of my time recently, but I’ve had an ear to the ground over events in Libya, keeping an eye on how Chinese wangyou are reacting.
Unsurprisingly, the mood and views are often terrifyingly partisan and ill-informed. A predictably bileful poster managed the darkly emotionless “go grab a few Libyans and add them to the pile in Japan”. Some have been scathing about “that clown Sarkozy” - “If France’s performance in World War Two’s anything to go by, I’m not worried for Gaddafi” - while others concede that France has made a shrewd move in supporting the interim government.
There’s much chatter about the role of oil in sparking the crisis, a factor which has been almost completely absent from UK news commentary. The average Chinese wangyou, to make sweeping generalisations, can border on an irrational obsession with how foreign governments’ agendas are rooted in global economics and nothing more, most likely as a result of their own government’s obsession with macroeconomics over anything else: there’s little hint in Chinese chatrooms that ideas of individual liberty and democracy are appreciated as being a driver of Western policy.
Wangyou are full of grand ideas on what China’s strategy in Libya should be, but only a few seem to realise that all their political theoretising will amount to Jack when China is cold-shouldered for its refusal to support military action against Gaddafi.
“Gaddafi knows China needs oil,” writes one, “and China has spent a real lot on getting oil, with huge construction projects in Libya, which puts him over a barrel, as it were... Yet Gaddafi doesn’t think China amounts to anything, and when these criminals go around destroying and looting Chinese companies’ property, or even killing Chinese people, he’s totally unconcerned, so we’ll have to withdraw all the Chinese currently in Libya and abandon all the infrastructure. Once he’s back in control of the situation, that infrastructure will be to Libya’s benefit, and if China wants to go back it’ll have to renegotiate from scratch, and Gaddafi will be able to name his price - this is his dream scenario. This is why China has sold out on Gaddafi. Of course, if the rebels win, no good will come China’s way, and it’ll be hard whether or not China gets back in to Libya, if this lot have a deep Western worldview.”
Hopefully, the Chinese government will have more sense than to do what one wangyou has proposed...
“China’s best outcome would be, if Gaddafi loses, to arm and aid the groups opposed to the rebels, including Gaddafi’s tribe, and then let Libya become a quagmire for other countries to send troops into, so that after the mess gets too much they just eventually wash their hands of it and pull out, which would let China and Russia position themselves as international moral saviours. The British and French with their military and economic power won’t want to get stuck in that quagmire, and everybody’s there for oil, so why spoil the moneymaking? At that point, countries like France and Britain who are first in and have most to make will need to sit down with China and Russia to talk shop. On no account will anyone want to end the mess - everyone will be making money, won’t they? Sinopec or whoever will be able to divvy up the Italians’ territory in Libya, and as for the British and French, well, we can think more about them, but those slow-witted Italians have always been our bitches...”
There’s no need to point out that any assessment of the situation that paints China and Russia as moral saviours is seriously out of touch with reality. Even more so, another Chinese wangyou had this to say about Libya under Gaddafi. Only in a country like China, where healthcare is prohibitively expensive and corruption and exploitation ubiquitous could Gaddafi’s regime be portrayed as a veritable paradise. Promise not to laugh.
“In power, Gaddafi took 50% of Libya’s oil revenue and distributed it to every household before using the rest on the state budget. Education and healthcare are all free, and conditions that can’t be treated in Libya are sent abroad for treatment, free of charge. Exploitation isn’t permitted. Shops aren’t allowed to employ staff, only partners who hold a share in the business. Wherever the state has provided large-scale water projects, the herdsmen can become farmers, and farms, homes and tractors are all provided for free.”
What hope for China, if citizens can look with envy at the few measly cents that have trickled down from the oil wealth of the brutal regime of a murderous psychopath?