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Pakistan could test China's commitment to solving problems

May 17, 2011

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Pakistan, (U.S.) Senator Jim Webb raised the often-overlooked issue of China’s growing influence in the region and said the situation in Pakistan could provide a test as to whether China will help advance solutions there and around the world.

“We cannot examine clearly what our options are [or] what the region is going to potentially look like without talking about China,” said Senator Webb, citing Pakistan’s “long term relationship” with China, and that “China enabled Pakistan to become a nuclear power.” Senator Webb also mentioned a news report where the Pakistani Prime Minister termed China Pakistan’s “best friend.”

“I have had many concerns about Chinese expansionist activities, particularly sovereignty issues in the South China Sea,” said Senator Webb, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee. “We really need China to become more overt in helping to solve problems around the world, whether it is Iran, Burma, or North Korea, and certainly here [in Pakistan].”

“Perhaps this is a situation where we could test the goodwill of a growing China in terms of using its influence to help Pakistan direct its energies in a more positive way.”

Former National Security Advisor General James Jones, who was testifying before the committee, voiced strong agreement.

“If we are able to create an environment where countries like China, Brazil, and India understand that great economic power comes with great responsibilities in terms of making the world a better place and that we do not have to do it alone, it will be very worthwhile,” said General Jones, calling this “the pattern for the 21st Century.”

Since the end of 2001, Pakistan has received nearly $10.6 billion in direct assistance, making it one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid. Senator Webb has repeatedly called for increased accountability of U.S. assistance to Pakistan.

A partial transcript of today’s hearing is below:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing
Strategic Implications of Pakistan and the Region
Witness: General James L. Jones, Jr. USMC (Ret.), Former National Security Advisor
May 17, 2011

Senator Jim Webb: If we are looking at the strategic implications of Pakistan in the region, I do not see how we can discuss the reality of this issue without addressing China’s influence, not only in Pakistan, but its national interests in this entire region. We cannot examine clearly what our options are and I do not think we can examine what the region is going to potentially look like without talking about China.

Those of us who have worked in these areas for a long time all know of Pakistan’s long-term relationship with China and the reasons behind it, the situation with India and the shared concern about India many years ago. There are smart people who would assert that China actually enabled Pakistan to become a nuclear power.

As I was walking in here, BBC was reporting that the Pakistani Prime Minister just landed in China and hailed China as Pakistan’s “best friend.”

Looking at this from an American strategic perspective, one of the concerns that I have had about Chinese foreign policy for many years is that we really need China to become more overt in helping solve problems around the world, whether it is Iran, Burma, or North Korea, and certainly here. They are going to be a big beneficiary of any stability that we are able to bring about in the region. They are going to be a commercial beneficiary and also obviously a beneficiary in terms of regional stability. The real question is how do we get China to be more involved in the solution of these kinds of problems instead of simply taking advantage of things one-by-one as they go wrong?

General Jim Jones: Senator, that is a great observation and mirrors exactly with my philosophy about where the world is going in the 21st Century. We hopefully are emerging once and for all from the bi-polar world of the 20th Century. We recognize the multi-polarity of the world, and with the rise of the other economic powers in the world like India, China, Brazil, the European Union as a whole, and perhaps others—Russia--it seems to me that there is a strong case to be made that for us to make the world a better and a safer place and to solve problems like we have in Pakistan and Afghanistan, whose borders are contiguous to China’s and Russia’s as well, they do have an interest in making sure that this region is as stable as possible as we begin to transition our posture in Afghanistan in particular.

I think it is well worth the effort as our bilateral relations with China continue to hopefully improve--relations with Russia have improved dramatically. The application of a solution does not just include security and troops on the ground, but also the economic pillar and assistance in developing the instruments of governance and the rule of law in these countries so that they can move into the 21st Century, themselves. There are all kinds of other ways to help, with energy solutions and the like. This is, I think, the pattern for the 21st Century. If we are able to create an environment where countries like China, Brazil, and India understand that great economic power comes with great responsibilities in terms of making the world a better place and that we do not have to do it alone, it will be very worthwhile.

Senator Webb: I would agree. I have had many concerns about Chinese expansionist activities, particularly sovereignty issues in the South China Sea and I have held hearings on those issues in the East Asia subcommittee. Perhaps this is a situation where we could test the goodwill of a growing China in terms of using its influence to help Pakistan direct its energies in a more positive way.

General Jones: If any part of Pakistan’s thinking is that better relations with China make India mad and that’s a good thing to do, then that is flawed thinking. We need to try to ensure that the relations don’t get worse as a result of this kind of rhetoric.

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