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Responsible Protection: Building a Safer World

CIIS Time: Jun 15, 2012 Writer: Ruan Zongze Editor: 姜志达

  By  Ruan Zongze


In recent years, the West has been practicing “new inter-ventionism” under the signboard of “Responsibility to Protect” (“R2P”) and the cover of “humanitarian intervention”, which runs counter to the international trend of peace and development and has caused chaos in the international community. As a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations, China should unequivocally advocate “Responsible Protection” and take an active part in the construction of a fair and reasonable new international order for the 21st century.


I. The Syrian Crisis and “New Interventionism”


Since the eruption of the Syrian crisis more than a year ago, anti-government protests in the country has long escalated into armed conflicts causing huge casualties, which has attracted high attention of the international community. Sharp differences exist in the international society on how to resolve the crisis; but mainly there are two views: one stands for settlement of the crisis through political consultation and the other advocates armed intervention. At the crucial and touch-and-go moment of the situation, the Syrian government troops and the opposition armed forces announced ceasefire in mid-April. On April 14, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution deciding to send an advance team of the UN Supervision Mission composed of no more than 30 observers to Syria to supervise the ceasefire and the execution of the six-point plan proposed by the UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan. The advance team has arrived in Damascus and started to work. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed that he would propose a concrete plan to the Security Council asking to deploy a 250-man-strong Supervision Mission in Syria. Fragile though the easing of the situation is, the current ceasefire in Syria comes by not easily.


China and Russia have made positive efforts and created conditions for the political settlement of the Syrian crisis. They vetoed a draft resolution in the UN Security Council on February 4 that contained contents of resolving the issue with military force, which demonstrated the responsibility a major power must undertake. What China upholds in essence is the very purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Besides, China has sent for several times special envoys shuttling between Syria and its surrounding countries to make extensive contact and communication with various parties concerned to facilitate a peaceful solution of the issue through dialogue. In the meantime, it has also provided timely humanitarian assistance.


On March 4, China announced the six-point proposition and proposal on the Syrian issue which contained such contents as ending violence, conducting dialogue and providing humani-tarian assistance and emphasized China’s support for the positive efforts of the Arab countries and the Arab League in promoting the political solution of the crisis as well as the unity of the Security Council. The UN Security Council adopted unanimously a Chair’s Statement on March 21 giving full support to Joint Special Envoy Annan’s mediation efforts and the six-point proposal put forward by him, much of which is identical with the propositions and proposals of the Chinese side.


Annan visited China on March 27 during which he exchanged views with the Chinese side concerning the Syrian issue and sought China’s support. In the meantime, the Syrian government announced its acceptance of Annan’s six-point proposal on ceasefire. The once saber-rattling crisis in Syria finally showed the signs of easing up, and the forces for political dialogue were growing with increasing voices for peace. This precious consensus reached by the international community through rounds of struggle greatly heightened people’s confidence in the political settlement of the Syrian crisis.


Afterwards, the 23rd Summit Meeting of the Arab League was convened on March 29 in Baghdad, capital of Iraq, which was attended by delegations from 21 Arab countries including 10 heads of state but excluded Syria. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a special trip to attend the meeting. The Baghdad Declaration issued following the meeting pointed out that the meeting fully supports the Syrian people in their legitimate pursuit for freedom, democracy and a beautiful future, condemns acts of violence, killings and bloody suppression, perseveres in solving the Syrian crisis through dialogue and political means, and opposes any form of foreign intervention. These statements were made to maintain Syria’s national integrity and safety of its people, back up the resolutions adopted by the Arab League on the matter, and give support to the mission undertaken by Joint Special Envoy Annan.


What the Syrian people deep in the swirl of crisis long for most is ending violence and restoring normal order of the society. Only a political solution could reduce the harms brought to civilians by the conflicts to the minimum. It is precisely for this that countries including China and Russia are busying themselves making good offices.


Frankly speaking, China’s stand on the Syrian crisis was not rightly understood by some countries for a time and China suffered considerable pressures, for China’s, as well as Russia’s, endeavors were often smeared by the West. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went so far as to wantonly allege after the “Friends of Syria” Meeting that China and Russia were not only stumbling-blocks on the road of the Syrian people’s struggle but also the entire road of “Arab spring”. Such unwarranted charges confounded black and white and misled the public.


Facts show that it is precisely the abrupt “braking” acts and mediation efforts made by China and Russia that has won time and space for the political settlement of the Syrian crisis. But for China’s and Russia’s insistence, there would be no mediation by Annan or ceasefire in Syria.


The Syrian issue is quite complicated, involving not only historical grievances between Syria and other countries concerned but also contradictions between religious sects, and even the Iran nuclear issue, the current focus in the Middle East. These knotty problems intertwined and overlapped with each other, and hence any change in one would affect all the rest. The attitudes of the member states of the Arab League are thought-provoking. Instead of acting in unison, they stick to their own views: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some other Gulf countries hope to see the current Syrian government which is dominated by the Alevis, a sub-sect of the Shia Islam, to be removed and replaced by the Syrian Sunnites so as to check and balance Shia-dominated Iran; Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and others oppose such a view; while Egypt and some other countries take a stand in between.


Noises advocating applying the “Libya model” in Syria, enforcing military intervention against Syria, and facilitating “regime change” have never been subsiding in the West. Calls for military intervention within the United States could be heard for a time. Quite a few prominent political figures including senior Senator John McCain suggested that due to escalation of the Syrian situation the United States should begin to consider a variety of options including “arming the opposition” in order to avoid irreversible humanitarian disasters.


In the meanwhile, the Syrian government also tried to alleviate outside pressures through political reform. On February 26, Syria conducted a referendum on the draft New Constitution, the central contents of which are to replace one-party system with multi-party system and choose by direct election the president whose tenure of office will be seven years and who could be re-elected only for another term. There is hope that a new era of plural politics and multi-party system might start in Syria.


The West ridiculed the referendum as a “farce” on the one hand while on the other stepped up its efforts in making use of and backing the opposition. Just on the eve of the Syrian government’s launching of the referendum, the “Friends of Syria” meetings manipulated by the West were held in Tunis on February 24 and Istanbul on April 2 one after the other, which purposely excluded the Syrian government, the key side in the solution of the Syrian crisis. The meetings recognized the Syrian National Council, chief opposition in Syria, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people pursuing democratic and peaceful change and promised to increase support to the Syrian opposition. This indicates that the purpose of the West is not to solve the crisis as soon as possible so as to avoid blood-shedding and sacrifice on the part of the common people, end humanitarian disasters and promote political dialogue and democratic process in Syria but to achieve regime change in the country.


Leaderless and split, the opposition forces in Syria act each on its own and pursue different interests. Some analysis expressed worry that if the West should arm the Syrian opposition forces, it would indirectly bolster the two terrorist organizations of Al Qaeda and Hamas, for both of them forcefully backed the Syrian opposition forces. This made the West hesitate on involving in the Syrian issue. In addition, the escalation of violent conflicts would plunge Syria into civil war. Furthermore, once war breaks out in Syria, the consequences would be worrisome as the Syrian situation involves regional powers’ contention for regional dominance in the Middle East, religious conflicts among different sects, and geo-strategic competition between the United States, Russia and other major powers.


II. “Responsibility to Protect” and the Libyan War


Since the mid-1990s, the West has dished out one after another such theories as “humanitarian intervention”, “the supremacy of human rights over sovereignty” and “exceptions to non-interference in internal affairs” in an attempt to provide grounds for interfering in internal affairs of other countries. The advocators of such theories allege that armed intervention is a “moral responsibility” and “just war” so long as it is out of “humanitarian purposes”.


The humanitarian catastrophes happened in Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia and other places prompted people especially politicians to re-consider such issues as the “inviolability of state sovereignty” and “which is more important between human rights and sovereignty”. The “responsibility to protect”, which came into being in the course of massacres in Rwanda and other places, became a prop to the “humanitarian inter-vention” theory. But unfortunately this notion has, in the almost ten years since its formulation and in its application in the Libyan War, become a synonym of “regime change” and constituted severe challenges to the traditional concept of “state sovereignty” and such principles as “non-interference in other’s internal affairs”.


The R2P concept was first raised by the Canadian International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in its report to the United Nation in 2001. The background of the formulation and evolvement of this theory was a statement in the report made by the then UN Secretary-General Annan at the UN General Assembly in which he called for the international community to reach consensus on how to respond to gross and systematic violations of human rights and international laws. In September 2000, the Canadian government, together with some non-governmental organizations, announced the formation of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty at the UN Millennium Conference. The report submitted by the Commission to the UN in December 2001 titled “Responsibility to Protect” raised the concept for the first time and made a systematic analysis on the judicial and legal basis of the notion as well as offered a new explanation and design on the methods and ways of providing protection by the states and the international community. The report drew wide attention from the international community and was acclaimed by Annan.


In December 2004, the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change appointed by Annan adopted the R2P concept for the first time when designing the report “A More Secure World – Our Shared Responsibility” regarding the collective security system in the new era, stating that if a sovereign state is unable or unwilling to undertake the responsibility to protect its citizens, the international community has the responsibility to offer protection. The adoption of the concept by this high-level consultancy organization on UN reform and development is an endorsement of R2P.


The UN Secretary-General’s report “In Larger Freedom – Toward Development, Security and Human Rights for All” at the 59th Session of the UN General Assembly in March 2005 defined and expounded the R2P concept and its nature. The Secretary-General held that the “responsibility to protect” falls, first of all, on each individual state as the primary reason and duty for the very existence of a state is to protect its civilians. If, however, the authorities of a state are unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, then the responsibility falls on the international community which would help safeguard the human rights and well-being of the civilians through diplomatic, humanitarian and other means.


This concept was later on written into the “2005 World Summit Outcome Document” issued by the Summit Conference in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations but the application of R2P was confined to such situations as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. In other words, only in the case of the four kinds of crimes in gross violation of the international law and when the government concerned is unwilling or unable to perform the duty of protection, then the “responsibility to protect” could be exercised. This conferred greater authority to R2P and facilitated the gradual formation of international consensus on the concept.


The military strikes against Libya by the NATO-led multi-national forces and the regime change in the country in 2011 created a new model of intervention, which the West called the first application of R2P. Former director of Policy Planning of the U.S. State Department and professor at Princeton University Anne-Marie Slaughter remarked that the Libyan War was a successful example of R2P and should be applied to other parts of the world. She further said that the nature of sovereignty had changed and the legitimacy of a government no longer depended on its control of the country’s territory and people but on how it exercised its control; if the government could not perform its duties, the international community had the responsibility to protect the citizens of the country. She also called it the concept of “new sovereignty”.


Since anti-government demonstrations erupted in Tunisia in late 2010, public dissatisfaction with government quickly spread like prairie fire to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, producing eventually the Domino effect of “regime change”. Some people in the United States became agitated and rolled up their sleeves, believing the good chance of re-dominating the Middle East had come. The United States then sang praises for the “peaceful revolution” and “democratic transition” in Tunisia and Egypt and not only increased aids to them but also dispatched senior officials to the Liberation Square in Cairo to pep up the rallying mass. When Libya was caught in the flames of public demonstration, Gaddafi once controlled the situation by means of military suppression. The United States lost no time in getting itself involved, first pushing for the adoption by the UN Security Council of a resolution to set up “no-fly zones” in Libya to justify its military action and then imposing military strikes or high-hand sanctions against Libya and Syria, the two disobedient states, so as to erect a yardstick of reward or punishment for Arab countries.


On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council passed Reso-lution 1973 deciding to establish “no-fly zones” in Libya to “help protect the civilians”. The United States, France, Britain and some other countries, however, distorted it as green light for waging military strikes against Libya. Two days later, U.S. Air Force launched massive air strikes against Libya with 110 Tomahawk missiles dropping from the air that destroyed Libya’s military and civilian facilities and inflicted sanguinary catastrophe on the local populations.


Burdened by heavy fiscal deficits at home and the awful mess left over from the Iraqi and Afghan Wars, the United States, different from its consistent behavior of bearing the brunt, retreated to backstage after the first phase of joint air strikes together with France, Britain and other countries and gave the baton to NATO. President Obama called it “leadership behind the scenes”. French President Sarkozy became the pioneer in attacking Libya out of the need for presidential election. British Prime Minister Cameron participated in the war with the aim of cutting off the relationship between the former Labour government and the Gaddafi government.


The military strikes on Libya by the United States and Western countries caused a turn in the so-called Arab spring. The purpose of “protecting the civilians” written down in UNSC Resolution 1973 was alienated into strategic attempt at realizing “regime change” in Libya. The military actions launched by the United States, France, Britain and other countries in Libya caused huge civilian casualties. In spite of the death of Gaddafi, Libya is still in chaos with constant political strife and burning flames of war and “spring” for the common people remains distant. Meanwhile, the United States and its Western allies have already shifted their zeal for democracy and freedom in Libya to another country: the humanitarian banner that flattered over Libya was taken to Syria.


Practice has proven that this is to play the tyrant under the name of “humanitarianism”. The “Libya model” is no more than a fresh example. Anne-Marie Slaughter said when analyzing why the United States resorted to force in Libya that it was a face-saving issue for America to maintain its strategic need. If the United States sounded support to R2P while doing nothing in action, the consequences would be that when the United States needed to spread and strengthen effective international order, autocrats in the world would think U.S. support to international norms and obligations was mere bluff and bluster. When young people in the Middle East fought for freedom, democracy and justice, American values would be rebuffed.


Neo-conservatives and proponents of R2P conceitedly believed that they have better ability to make judgment than the people of the intervened countries regarding their future. Some people warned that the impact of such conduct on U.S. domestic politics should not be ignored as the United States could also be the object of intervention. Libya is a mirror. Libya’s internal affairs were intervened by outside forces under the pretext of R2P while the decision-makers establishing the necessity and ways to intervene were international “experts” instead of representatives elected by the people of the countries concerned. How should the United States respond if such intervention is out of “responsibility to protect”?


At present, the West wishes to reproduce in Syria what happened in Libya. What is more, the West got “enlightenment” from its experience in the Libyan War, i.e., letting the relevant regional organizations to bear the brunt, which could instantly and easily expand its own ranks by several times and increase without notice opposition to countries saying “No” to the West, hence placing China, Russia and the likeminded into an awkward position of being unable to oppose. Actually, the reason for China to abstain instead of veto Resolution 1973 was largely because the Arab League and the African Union backed the establishment of “no-fly zones” in Libya. At the moment, the West is trying hard to push the Arab League to the forefront in an attempt to repeat its old tricks on the Libyan issue and even sow discord between China and the Arab countries. This is a game China could not afford to lose.


III. Reflections by the International Community


How many military interventions by the West came to an “honorable end” since the end of the Cold War? How many places were made a shambles? And how many innocent civilians lost their lives in wars launched under the banner of “avoiding humanitarian catastrophe”? In the end, it is always the common people who paid the heaviest cost. Should “new interventionism” with use of force at every turn as well as regime change at the core be allowed to grow and spread unchecked, the basic norms governing in-ternational relations would be severely undermined and the developing countries would be deprived of their legitimate rights of development and security. To choose “new interventionism” is to stand on the wrong side of history.


As a matter of fact, R2P has been controversial from the outset. Despite of its limited positive meaning in addressing some hotspot issues, it is liable to be abused. If the United Nations intends to make R2P a binding legal principle, it is necessary to reach consensus over the matter through extensive discussions and formulate a written document to guide future decision-making. But at the moment, the framework for such a process is absent, and in the absence of such a framework, all future decisions are but temporary. Since it is not a recipe to pursue international justice, the international community has never stopped making reflections on the matter.


Reflection 1: R2P could be abusively employed to change the state power of a country, which contradicts the purposes of the UN Charter and the principles of state sovereignty and non-interference in other’s internal affairs prescribed in the Charter, and hence its legality and justness are questioned. There are so far no objective criterions to judge if “a country is unwilling or unable to execute responsibility to protect” and therefore it is likely that it would become another excuse for some countries to impose armed intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. Even if the UN Security Council passed a resolution, the Western powers could still make one-sided explanations and seek self-interests by abusing the resolution under the cover of “protecting the civilians”. The Libyan War was launched precisely after the United States and some other Western countries made a distorted explanation of the UN resolution. For this reason, R2P is regarded by quite a few countries as another version of “humanitarian intervention” and a moral flag of “new interventionism”.


Miguel d’Escoto Brockman, Nicaraguan diplomat serving as President of UN General Assembly in 2009, maintained that the whole R2P idea was a cover to legitimize armed intervention by rich Western powers in the affairs of poor countries and that a more accurate name for the concept would be the “right to intervene” or R2I. U.S. Time magazine carried an article after the end of the Libyan War saying that the war showed once again that R2P created chaos in international relations.


The Guatemala delegation to the UN Informal Discussion on “Responsibility While Protecting” held in February 2012 opined that the criterion of protecting the civilians is apt to be regarded as a means to effect regime change in a country.


Permanent Representative of India to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri said: “Libya has given R2P a bad name.” India also worried that R2P would place it in an awkward position. Speaking at the UN General Assembly on July 24, 2009 in a discussion on R2P, Puri said: “Sovereignty as a responsibility has, however, always been a defining attribute for nation states, where safeguards for protection of fundamental rights of citizens are constitutionally provided. These measures [R2P] not only have to be used as a last resort, but have to be in conformity with the provisions of the UN Charter. Responsibility to protect should in no way provide a pretext for humanitarian intervention or unilateral action....”


The reason for India to adhere to the above-mentioned stand is on the one hand that it believes the West invokes R2P selectively and on the other it wants to ensure that it will not become a victim to R2P. There is already worry that the actions of Indian security forces in Kashmir and elsewhere are deliberate violations of the human rights of the civilians that may invoke R2P issues.


China’s Alternate Representative to the UN Ambassador Liu Zhenmin said at UN General Assembly debate on R2P in 2009: “The government of a given state bears the primary responsibility for protecting its citizens. The international community can provide assistance, but the protection of the citizens ultimately depends on the government of the state concerned. This is in keeping with the principle of state sovereignty. Therefore, the implementation of R2P should not contravene the principle of state sovereignty and the principle of non-interference of internal affairs. Although the world has undergone complex and profound changes, the basic status of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter remains unchanged. There must not be any wavering over the principles of respecting state sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.”


Reflection 2: Who will bear the responsibility for “inhuman consequences resulting from R2P? How many injuries and deaths the Libyan War launched by the West under the banner of “protecting the populations” and the name of ending humanitarian disasters have caused to innocent people? The UN statistics show that since the outbreak of Libyan conflicts last year, over 900,000 Libyans have fled from Libya with many being stranded in border areas between Libya and Egypt, Tunisia and Nigeria waiting for help. In the meanwhile, the plight of the displaced people in Libya facing severe shortage of basic daily necessities such as fuels, foods, water and medicines is more worrisome. Tens of thousands are still in a state of being displaced one year after the start of the Libyan War. With more than 5,000 armed organizations beyond government control, conflicts and violence are common occurrences and are causing numerous civilian casualties.


The report issued by the UN Human Rights Council on March 2 pointed out that both the government and anti-government forces committed “crimes against humanity and war crimes”. Russia once asked the UN Security Council to investigate into the matter but met with rejection from the West. More seriously, the Afghan and Iraqi Wars have already deprived the lives of more than 100,000 common people. Therefore such humanitarian intervention has been referred to as a method from hell and its “spillover effect” has brought negative impact on the regional situation. Huang Huikang, Director-General of Treaty and Law Department of Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that if Western countries undertook actions unauthorized by the Security Council under the banner of R2P or the Security Council, for example, carrying out regime change or harming more civilians than protecting them, then these actions violate the law and China is definitely opposed to them.


To confuse public opinion and justify their violent actions, the decision-makers of the West explained that they usually followed the traditional line of “just war” when conducting war or implementing “regime change”. This used to be one of the theoretic supports propping up the UN Charter and international law and reflected the sacredness and inviolability of human lives and dignity. With this noble pretext, the actions of the “righteous army” in flagrantly trampling down the UN Charter and principles of international law with evil means or means of war would become “reasonable and just”.


Then who should bear the responsibility for the harms done when the West’s “righteous army” suppressed the “evil” forces? This is a serious question to which most people turn a deaf ear. It seems so long as the goal is noble, it may be achieved with whatever means regardless the consequences. What a modern version of Machiavellian doctrine. Some scholars, however, pointed out sharply that the United States should not make so many innocent lives wither under the name of “humanitarian intervention”. American scholar Carl Boggs maintained that if “evil” was another way of expression for violence that impaired lives, then the wars waged by American military machine had killed more lives than the plotters of the 9/11 incident; in the Vietnam War alone, the number of people killed and injured by the United States sufficed to make it the Number One “evil force” in the world.


Reflection 3: How to realize “responsibility while protecting” and “proportionality” and other principles? Brazilian Permanent Representative to the UN Maria Viotti put forward a new concept of “responsibility while protecting” or “RWP” in 2011 which touched the serious flaws of R2P in its practice such as irresponsibility and lack of accountability. Brazil believes RWP is more important for the international society.


To popularize this concept, Brazil sponsored a seminar in the UN to discuss the related questions. Brazilian foreign minister Antonio Patriota and UN Secretary-General’s special advisor on R2P matters Edward Luck jointly presided over the informal seminar hosted by the Brazilian Permanent Mission to the UN. The theme of the seminar was to discuss the conceptual document of “Responsibility While Protecting” put forward by Brazil in September 2011.Worrying about the military actions taken under the R2P framework, RWP emphasized that only “prevention” would be the “best policy” and that the use of force must be subject to supervision and evaluation. Evidently, Brazil tries to rectify the R2P deviations.


Reflection 4: Is military force the only means to implement R2P? “Non-use of force” is a fundamental principle in contem-porary international law and the central element of the UN Charter. But in reality, this principle has been repeatedly challenged and broken by power politics. In particular, under the circumstance of grave imbalance of international forces since the end of the Cold War, the West has been relying on the use of force to pursue its strategic interests. The main way is to flagrantly intervene in other’s internal affairs under the signboard of democracy and human rights and the pretext of “humanitarian intervention”. Syria held a referendum on the new Constitution on February 26 but it was ridiculed by the United States as a “farce”. This testifies that the United States and other Western countries are not genuinely concerned with the democratic process and political dialogue in Syria but are only interested in achieving regime change in Syria for which they would not refrain from using force.


Some scholars proposed that it is better to enhance “humani-tarian diplomacy” than to be bent on humanitarian intervention through military means, as R2P performed by non-military means of providing assistance to developing countries for public hygiene improvement, disaster relief and refugee resettlement would bring about more positive and enduring effect. On the contrary, frequent resorting to force under the name of R2P would stimulate militarism in international relations, which is paramount to opening Pandora’s Box with endless troubles in the future.


Reflection 5: Who should be protected and who should be left alone? And how to deal with double standards? Why have the United States and other Western countries kept silent on and turned a blind eye to the fact that Gulf country Bahrain used armed forces and tanks to deal with demonstrators in February 2011 and Saudi Arabia dispatched troops to help Bahrain put down the revolt? Simply because Bahrain is America’s close ally and the United States does not want to see the downfall of the current Bahrain government. On the one hand, the headquarters base of the Fifth Fleet of the U.S. Navy and a U.S. Air Force base are set up in Bahrain, helping the United States control the oil-rich Gulf region. On the other hand, the assumption of power by the opposition in Bahrain would most likely lead to the Shiite-dominant Bahrain turning over to Iran, which amounts to “moral collapse” of power politics, an outcome the United States is most reluctant to see. Here, double standards are most vividly demonstrated.


Questions thus arise: When should or should not the international community exercise protection in the case of a government violating the rights of its citizens? Where should this redline be drawn? Some people asked: Why intervention was not invoked in Democratic Congo and Cote d’Ivoire where humanitarian crisis was more serious? Did the Clinton administration also lose its legitimacy for rule when it used force to siege and attack the Waco Davidians in Texas State? India expressed worry over the selective exercise of R2P by the international community, maintaining that the occurrence of such a situation must be avoided at any cost.


R2P has brought unnecessary chaos to international rela-tions and fell into a tool of the big powers in practicing power politics. Some analysis said that Russia, paying the West back in its own coin, justified with Western logic its war against Georgia in 2008, stating that it was exercising R2P to protect the populations of the two separated parts of Georgia.


IV. Responsible Protection


Although R2P remains so far a concept without being made a rule in international law, it has been waved constantly as a banner of “justice” and has become a fig leaf for “neo-interventionism”.


Director-General Huang Huikang maintained that the R2P concept, which was accepted by and large at the UN World Summit in 2005, contained four key elements: 1) The government of a given state bears the primary responsibility for protecting its citizens; 2) The concept of R2P applies only to the four international crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity; In other words, only when the four crimes that grossly violate the international law are committed and the government of a given state is unwilling or unable to exercise the right to protect its civilians will R2P be invoked; 3) To execute the responsibility to protect, the international community may only make proportionate intervention; and 4) UN Security Council authorization must be acquired if coercive force or military force is to be used. Exercising R2P in compliance with the four conditions does not constitute a violation of international law. However, practicing new ver-sion of “humanitarian intervention” under the banner of imple-menting R2P or exercising R2P by overstepping Security Council authorization is violation of law.


The R2P concept contravenes with the concept of state sovereignty and has caused varied impacts in practice.


In view of the destruction brought about by war and for the sake of better safeguarding the purposes of the UN Charter as well as the basic norms governing international relations, it is imperative to act prudently on the question of using force to implement intervention, even if humanitarian intervention, out of whatever purposes and to take a highly responsible attitude and stand toward the parties concerned.


The Syrian crisis is at crossroads at present. China is opposed to any one carrying out intervention in Syria’s internal affairs in the name of “humanitarianism”. Hence, it is necessary for China to propose in time the idea of “responsible protection” or “RP” to contribute its public goods to the international community. The basic elements of this idea are specified as follows:


First, the object of RP must be made clear. Of course, it is the people of the target country and peace and stability of the relevant region. The objects of protection must be the innocent people, not specific political parties or armed forces. Only such kind of protection is rightful and well-intentioned and is protection in its true sense.


Second, the legitimacy of the “protection” executors must be established. The government of a given state bears the primary responsibility of protecting its citizens. Besides that, the UN Security Council is the only legitimate actor to perform this duty while no countries have such a right, let alone the legal status to do so.


Third, the means of “protection” must be strictly limited. The prerequisite for invoking protection should be exhaustion of diplomatic and political means of solution. Non-military means like diplomatic efforts, though time-consuming, produce long-lasting results with lesser side effects. On the contrary, using military force at every turn would not only cause huge civilian casualties but also bring severe damage to infrastructure and downturn of national economy in the country or region to be “protected”, eventually aggravating humanitarian disasters and plunging the object of “protection” into protracted and distressful post-crisis reconstruction.


Fourth, the purpose of “protection” must be defined. Just as doctors should not kill patients by means of treatment, the purpose of protection must be to mitigate humanitarian catastrophe. It is absolutely forbidden to create greater huma-nitarian disasters because of protection, let alone to use protec-tion as a means to overthrow the government of a given state.


Fifth, the “protectors” should be responsible for the post-“intervention” and post-“protection” reconstruction of the state concerned. They should absolutely not smash and go, leaving a terrible mess to the country and people subject to “protection”.


Sixth, the United Nations should establish mechanisms of supervision, outcome evaluation and post factum accountability to ensure the means, process, scope and results of “protection”.


In short, the idea of RP better embodies the purposes and principles of the UN Charter as well as the basic norms governing international relations, better conforms to the trends of peace and development of the present-day world, and is more conducive to building a just and reasonable new international order. Moreover, this idea is broadly based internationally.


The BRICS countries have recently issued a number of statements regarding situation in West Asia and North Africa calling for halt of violence and solution of the crisis through political dialogue, which expressed the common aspiration of the majority members of the international community. The Sanya Declaration issued in April 2011 at the Third BRICS Leaders Meeting pointed out: “We share the principle that the use of force should be avoided. We maintain that the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of each nation should be respected. …We are of the view that all the parties should resolve their differences through peaceful means and dialogue.” The BRICS leaders held the Fourth Meeting in New Delhi on March 29, 2012 and the Delhi Declaration issued afterwards reiterated solving the crisis through peaceful means and encouraged broad national dialogues that reflect the legitimate aspirations of all sections of Syrian society and respect Syrian independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Declaration said: “Our objective is to facilitate a Syrian-led inclusive political process, and we welcome the joint efforts of the United Nations and the Arab League to this end. We encourage the Syrian government and all sections of Syrian society to demonstrate the political will to initiate such a process, which alone can create a new environment for peace. We welcome the appointment of Mr. Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis and the progress made so far, and support him in continuing to play a constructive role in bringing about the political resolution of the crisis.” This fully reflects the general stand and concern of the vast developing countries and expresses the hope that the voices of the developing countries are duly respected.


V. Conclusion


The Syrian crisis at present is both complex and changeable. Joint Special Envoy Annan’s mediation has scored initial results, but how to achieve sustainable ceasefire and bring Syria back from the brink of civil war to start inclusive political dialogue remains a most severe challenge. On the one hand, the pressing task for the Syrian government is how to make close cooperation with Annan and earnestly implement his six-point proposals to demonstrate to the international community its sincerity in ceasefire and dialogue. On the other hand, the international community should respect the mediation efforts made by various parties for the solution of the Syrian issue and make full use of the rare break in the crisis to encourage conciliation and dialogue so that the ray of peace in Syria will eventually grow into splendid sunshine.


Paying high attention to the development of the Syrian situation from the outset, China firmly stands for the peaceful and appropriate resolution of the current crisis through political dialogue and has made unremitting efforts to this end. China has defended with its own actions the purposes and principles of the UN Charter as well as the basic norms governing international relations, instead of letting the Security Council to degenerate into a rubber stamp of power politics. China is opposed to imposing solutions to Syria. Taking a fair and res-ponsible stand, China is not partial to a particular party. Pre-mier Wen Jiabao stated when meeting with Annan that China would intensify its work toward the Syrian government and all parties concerned and call them to seize the crucial opportunity to answer Annan’s mediation with concrete actions and be trustworthy.


Today, China has become a leading actor on the international stage thanks to the fast growth of its strength. China needs to get acclimatized to the new environment of being under the spotlight and likewise the international community has to familiarize with this new actor of China. China must have the courage to speak out and contribute its ideas to the world even though it means China will face with more difficult and complicated options in addressing and handling diverse and complex international affairs. The idea of “responsible protection” is an endeavor made by China in actively participating in the solution of hotspot issues and in building a just and reasonable new international political order. China shall continue to undertake its due responsibilities in upholding, together with the vast developing countries, the purposes of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations.


(China International Studies, Volume 34, May/June 2012)