Friday, October 9, 2009

Now Obama has the Peace Prize Expectations to Live Up to

No doubt President Barrack Obama woke up with the biggest surprise of his life when he found out that he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, he understood that the award was not for what he has done but for the vision of world peace he has been promoting.

The award could not be based on actual accomplishments since he was nominated in February, within days of his coming into office. He only had time to express his intentions that his administration will embark on a collaborative diplomacy in international relations; he could not have done much yet.

Apparently it was enough for the Peace Prize committee. They simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to repudiate the Bush doctrine of unilateralism and peace by shock and awe. By giving the prize to Obama, the message to the American people is clear: the neoconservative idea of hegemony over the world as the last superpower standing is no way to world peace.

Now comes the hard part. By the end of his term, Obama will have to show that he can deliver results commensurate with winning the Peace Prize. To be the world leader for peace, Obama will have to resolve a host of challenges facing him. It may not be obvious but China could be a big help to Obama in carrying out a world peace initiative.

North Korea is the first that comes to mind. After branding North Korea as part of axis of evil and antagonizing the hermit kingdom to no end, Obama's predecessor defaulted and left the relationship for China to bail out.

China's premier Wen Jiabao just made a high profile visit to Pyongyang. He returned to Beijing with the news that North Korea will agree to return to the six party talks provided a bilateral meeting with the United States takes place first. Bush never showed the inclination to give any slack to the North Koreans. It will be up to Obama to take a more flexible approach and break the deadlock.

China and the U.S. share a common interest in preventing a nuclear Iran but China will not agree to economic sanctions or even more extreme action, such as embargo, because China depends on Iran for oil. Since sanctions rarely work especially when many of the European allies will also not support such sanctions, Obama will be better served by quietly conferring with China for a viable non-confrontational approach to Iran that both can buy-in.

Al Qaeda has just declared jihad on China. This puts China and the U.S. in the same boat in desiring to suppress terrorism. Pakistan is strategically positioned to either help defeat the Taliban or allow the Taliban to thrive and once again overrun Afghanistan. Here too China enjoys a long relationship with Pakistan, and not nearly as ambivalent as Pakistan's love-hate relationship with the U.S. For the U.S. and China to work together would surely be more productive than the impasse currently facing the U.S.

The recent global financial crisis amply demonstrated that the economic interests of China and the U.S. are tightly bound. One cannot win at the expense of the other. Instead, officials from both sides are meeting frequently and have acknowledged their common interest and desire to solve challenges of global warming and willingness to cooperate on energy and environmental concerns.

Enlisting China to work on world peace is a logical extension of the current bi-lateral relationship. China is unlikely to be of much help on the Israeli-Palestinian question and extricating the Americans out of Iraq, but by taking on China as a full and equal partner, Obama will have a valuable ally to shoulder some of the other burden. He would increase his chance of reporting to the Peace Prize committee that the award is deserved.
An edited version is published by New America Media.
A partial translation of the New America Media version was published in the Chinese World Journal, (世界日报)

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