The third path – the middle way – panda politics

Panda Bear Mother & Cub

The Arab League has sort of given up hoping that by itself it can force, coerce or entice the Assad government in Syria to change it course, stop the killing, and resign. Now the Arab League is calling for the United Nations to send someone or something to Syria in the hopes that might bring about an end to the fighting and, if not a regime change, at least some governmental reform. No one word from Syria on the number of people holding their breath waiting for the United Nations to rescue them.

It is hardly a week since China and Russia shot down the last efforts by that august body to effect some change in the situation on the ground in Syria.  Russia, Turkey and Iran are all trying to increase their influence in Syria and in the region in general.  So is China, but differently.

All of this is year, there has been a constant stream of national heads-of-state, diplomats and financial executives to China.  More than any other country in the world, at the moment, China holds a winning hand – China has money.  When SAAB goes bankrupt, China sends people willing to bail the company out, when Greece’s belly is turning up to the sun, China is the place its leaders look for new loans without the onerous conditions imposed by the EU, Iran and North Korea look to China for money, technology and friendship, even American companies looking for major investors go to China.  And of course, everyone wants to sell their products in China.

This week Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and his wife have been in China. He went to China to talk about trade, energy, money and it seems pandas.  We don’t know what agreements, if any, were reached, but we do know he is taking home a pair of pandas – they will be on loan; isn’t that the ultimate demonstration of trust? “I trust you so much I am sending two of my children home with you for safe keeping.” While the prime minister was wandering around zoos looking at pandas – I wonder if he got to pick his own, kind of like a fish or flesh market – another delegation was in town – Syrians.  The Syrians sent four ambassadors looking for support and friendship.

We don’t know if they will be awarded a panda, arms or more votes in the United Nations, but Chinese editorials are saying China is the answer to the crisis.  China is not looking for regime change or even reform; instead China is offering a third path – the middle way.  China is offering to broker peace negotiations between the various Syrian factions.  No sanctions, no demands, no preconditions, just a friendly little get together around the table and maybe a visit to the zoo and a panda if peace is achieved.


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February 2012
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