In a move that sparked international condemnation and anger, China and Russia on February 4 vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government’sbrutal crackdown on antigovernment protestors. Reflecting widespread sentiment, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “What happened yesterday at the United Nations was a travesty.” Out on the streets Syrian and Libyan protesters responded to the veto by spraying graffiti on the walls of and throwing rocks and eggs at the Chinese Embassy in Libya.
Chinese diplomats view their veto of the Syria resolution as part of their long-standing foreign policy principle of “non-interference in other country’s internal affairs” (bu ganshe neizheng). Since the 1950s this principle helped China maintain a low profile on the global stage, economize on military spending, maximize the resources directed toward domestic economic growth, and build foreign policy relationships with a wide variety of regime types.
Times are changing, however, and in recent years noninterference is just as likely to bring major international condemnation—not only from the Western powers, but also from the citizens of developing nations that would traditionally have supported this approach.
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