Potato Potato, Tomato Tomato

A fun little back and forth on China’s allegedly “illogical” stance on North Korea from a former US ambassador to China:


“Do we do better when confronted with similar contradictions? No. We fumble as well. Take our support for Israel, a country where we have influence but lack control. It is a core element of our foreign policy. It often undermines our ability to have a coherent Middle East policy. It was an unstated factor in the decision to invade Iraq and oust the Sunni leadership, which had the collateral consequence of upsetting the Sunni-Shia balance in the Middle East and strengthening Iran’s influence. Despite our disapproval of Israeli settler policies, we don’t cut off aid. We shield Israel against condemnation for atrocities against Palestinians. In short, our own synthesis of the contradictions spawned by our unremitting support for Israel often makes our policy in the region appear incoherent, or even, if one can use the word, illogical. And yet the drivers of our support for Israel are just as immutable as are Beijing’s geopolitical interests with respect to North Korea.”

It seems i’m a little late getting on the bandwagon, but now that i’ve jumped aboard this discussion has given me perhaps a less critical view of China and even my home country’s approaches to their respective potatoes and tomatoes.


2 comments on “Potato Potato, Tomato Tomato

  1. aidangnoth says:

    An interesting article. I especially enjoyed the way in which Cosser and Glosserman concede to the Ambassadors view (“He’s right of course”) and claim that they were after a Chinese response all along, but none came.

    The article to which this is a response too (http://csis.org/files/publication/Pac1232.pdf) raises one issue that I don’t feel Ambassador Roy addresses in his rebuttal, comments against the supposed ‘illogical’ Chinese perspective aside. Cosser and Glosserman argue that “China contributes to the strengthening of the US alliance system that it considers a tool of encirclement” due to its refusal to do more against Koreans Nuclear ambitions. While this is not, as Roy points out, a direct result of having a ‘illogical’ Korean Foreign Policy, it is certainly a side effect that China does not want and could be severely reduced if it was to take a firm stance (while taking a decline in relations with NK on its chin).

    Perhaps most illuminating for me were the comments made by Ambassador Roy regarding the similarities between China’s inability to control North Korea and the United State’s inability to control Israel. I had never considered the close similarities between these two cases, and wonder how far they run. China is of course much closer geographically to NK than the U.S. is to Israel giving weight to Ambassador Roy’s argument; but to say that China’s inability to control North Korea’s nuclear aspirations is similar to the U.S’ inability to stem the flow of narcotics coming from Mexico is not a fair comparison at all in my opinion. Narcotics are surely much easier to smuggle than yellow cake.


  2. ryankf says:

    Ya, the US/Mexico thing works loosely at best. But the Israel-North Korea comparison is very interesting. I’ve always been a bit baffled by both. It seems both bilateral relationships act only to drain their respective super power backers and their ability to act with integrity in IR.


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