China recently made some waves with a speech (full text) that the world should be more open minded and respect diversity of forms of government. Is China feeling some heat from the West's pressure to move to democracy or expand political freedoms? Not at all. China is calling the shots economically for Europe as nations cast their eyes to China's sovereign wealth fund for potential bailouts, excuse me, investments, and the USA is dependent on China to fund it's deficit. China's diversity of governments statement is not to protect China. This statement is meant for current and future clients and signifies change in the global game. It is to protect China's investments, current foreign policy and future foreign policy.
China has been developing it's string of pearls foreign policy to secure raw materials and natural resources for the giant manufacturing engine that is mainland China. China has client states in the Middle East and North Africa that supply (or used to supply) them with that wonderful input, crude oil. China has witnessed within the last few years an overthrow of one client (Libya) and harassment of other clients (Iran and Sudan). Because China now imports as much if not more crude than the USA and is growing its manufacturing sector, this is of supreme importance to them. China has also been directly investing in Africa and southern Asia with no strings attached to the development. Unlike Western aid, China just wants the goods, and their approach and this speech appeals to the dysfunctional sub-Saharan African nations.
China has been bumping into Western investment opportunities in Africa, which is their newest source for raw materials. The West can use cathedral apparatchiks like Dambisa Moyo (Harvard, Goldman Sachs, World Bank) to push the Goldman line (my review of her bestseller Dead Aid). Africa has many resources but corrupt institutions and complete dysfunction. The West and China will get their hands on them using their current systems. Africans might choose the Chinese model of economic progress without political progress, but the West will push the "DEMOCRACY NOW" line as usual. Sec. Clinton even called China's moves creeping neo-colonialism. The West needs dysfunctional democracies so that the countries will be dependent on Western aid, end up selling resources for nothing, and ultimately get in trouble with loans so that vulture funds can pick up the impaired debt and then use the international court system to get repayments in the form of mineral or resources rights. The strong will use the weak, just as it always has been.
What system is right? The West's decades of post-colonialism aid have created more problems than good. Will it stop the West from pushing propaganda attacking China's moves? No. China also has plenty of reason to fear Western funded and supported rebellion movements in their client states in Africa. They don't want their resource centers tinkered with or else it drives up the cost of extraction. This Chinese speech is an advertisement to 3rd world countries and a statement of strength. China's statement about respecting different political systems reveals a heightened sense of confidence as well as an offensive move in the public relations realm. This signifies a big change, that I did not see in the reports on the speech. Twenty years ago, Bush 41 and Bill Clinton could prod and threaten China on reforms in the wake of Tiananmen. As China hosted the Olympics in '08, all Bush 43 could encourage was the freedom of religion (smart but nothing like his dad's statements). In 2013, China doesn't feel the need to defend itself, and instead, exports its model of governance and development to the rest of the world. The score changes but how many people notice.