Friday, May 18, 2012

When is a gunboat not a gunboat?

When it's Chinese, of course.

According to Shen Dingli, an "expert" on international security quoted in an article in the Chicago Tribune the other day, China's actions in (so far) sending only small patrol ships rather than major warships to assert its claim over the Scarborough Shoal display great "restraint", are an effective projection of its "soft power", and demonstrate that China is not engaging in "gunboat diplomacy".

Restraint, soft power, gunboat diplomacy - I think Mr Shen needs to consult a better English dictionary.

As so often with me, a Punch cartoon from the 1970s came to mind; but, alas, I have been unable to locate it online. 

One of Queen Victoria's gunboats is chugging up a river somewhere in the heart of Africa. The riverbank is lined with hundreds of angry tribesmen brandishing spears. The captain on the bridge remarks to his first officer, "I suppose Lord Palmerston knows what he's doing."

I never have that sort of confidence in our political leaders.

1 comment:

Froog said...

I notice a lot of other Chinese are rather shaky in their grasp of the 'soft power' concept, being more concerned with the 'power' element and not paying too much attention to the 'softness'.

Writing a pop song about something is 'soft power'. Sending gunboats is 'gunboat diplomacy'.

Writing pop songs about the Scarborough Shoal might be considered "restrained". Gunboat diplomacy is NOT.