#10 event report: China, Europe & the Libyan War

China, Europe & the Libyan War

September 21, 2011, Bridge Café (Wudaokou)

Speaker: Dr. HUANG Jing 黄靖, Researcher, Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)


Jane Huang, a researcher at Institute of European Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), addressed the ThinkIN China community on the topic of the Libyan war and its impact on China and Europe, especially from the Chinese perspective.

At the start of her speech, Jane came up with quite an interesting question “How did Chinese respond to the Libyan war”, and then she made a sharp comparison between Chinese media and public opinions on the Libyan war. From her research, she showed us Chinese media largely focused on the economic and geopolitical impacts of this war on China, such as the oil investment losses and diplomatic relationship between China and other countries taking part in this war, but almost not at all something normative, for example, the human rights and democracy. On the contrary, the research told us that most Chinese people were angry about this war, condemning the injustice that UN and NATO have done to Libya as well as its civilian, and always being emotional while talking about this war, such as General Zhang Zhao-Zhong, a well-known military theorist and critic in China, indignantly blamed the involved countries for the violation of Libyan sovereignty.

What a total difference among Chinese media and public responses to this war! But some consensus still existed. At the mass level, all the people praised the organized evacuation by the central government and took pride in the increasing sense of citizens’ safety shared by the party and government, as well as to worry about the huge overseas investment losses resulted from the war and the following downfall of the government of Moammar Gadhafi. At the academic level, the neo-left and neo-right fell into the irreconcilable debate on this war. Up to the policy makers’ level, protecting the national interest was the common ground. So the Chinese diplomacy essential principles—ultra-pragmatism and flexibility—are prevailing over China.

What about the Chinese responses to the Europe, regarding to its performance and intervention in this war? In Chinese eyes, the real players in this battleground were the US and NATO, and the collapse of the government of Gaddafi freed the Europe out from the heavy burden in terms of time, energy, money, resources and reputation. To Chinese, they viewed the Libyan victory as just the luck of the Europe who was over-idealistic and unrealistic.

Is it a golden opportunity for China or Europe to cooperate with North Africa? Jane Huang gave us her own idea: there is one country that possesses the human and engineering resources to step in and do the necessary work that the oil-rich and labor-poor nation—Libya— is unable or unwilling to perform itself, which is definitely China; However, Europe is still embracing a lot of concerns at home and abroad, such as the debt crises taking place in Greece and Ireland, running risks to expand into Spain, Italy, as well as the increasingly widening mutual trust gap between the Europe and US. For Jane, it is obvious that China is on the road to succeeding the trust and cooperation of North Africa.


At last, it was time for Q&A session. Jane Huang’s vivid talk aroused the audience’s interest in the abstention of China from voting on no-fly zone while the United Nations Security Council was making such resolution punishing Gaddafi and its government and the future of African Union’s role in solving the African affairs. Chinese and foreign students were actively participating in the ensuing discussion and sharing their distinctive opinions.

(Report by JIANG Wei)