August 23rd, 2011
01:38 PM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – When the going gets rough, China gets going. After six months of attempted neutrality between Moammar Gadhafi loyalists and rebel forces, Beijing now appears to have chosen sides. This, as the end-game seemingly nears for Libya’s leader of 42 years, whose hold on power wanes by the day.

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry now says the country “respects the choice of the Libyan people” and wants “to play a positive role in rebuilding Libya”.

The translation? Beijing thinks Moammar Gadhafi is about to be booted out and it’s switching allegiance to the folks that may eventually run the country.

Looking at this move through the prism of an oil-sprinkled lens, Beijing’s motivation comes into focus a bit more. China is the world’s second largest consumer of oil after the U.S. And Libya, at peak production, was pumping out a total of 1.5 million barrels a day. And 11% of that went where? You guessed it - China.

Since the conflict in Libya started in mid-February, that oil production has all but dried up. With the potential dawn of a new peace, it stands to reason that China wants to be best positioned with Libya’s leaders, whoever they turn out to be. Ah China, you fair-weathered - albeit very logical - friend.

From political to social reaction, our crack team of producers trolled Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. They found Libya is one of the top ten most popular topics on the website today. And they range the gamut: comments of support for Gadhafi’s fall, of criticism for Western attacks on Libya and of sarcasm of Beijing’s own motivations. Here are some that best reflect the diversity of opinion:

@FanZaisWorld says: “Lessons learned from Gadhafi’s downfall: (1) never point the gun at your own citizens; (2) never neglect your citizens and have drastic wealth discrepancy; (3) never disregard widespread global values to enforce unpopular governance.”

@JingZhongFengYing: “The Western nations are finally about to make Libya their colony! Libya’s oil will continuously flow into the barrels of the corporate giants in the West! These thieves are stealing in the name of justice! The opposition forces in Libya have become traitors to their country in their battle against the regime.”

@Yanglichuan: “Gadhafi is over. MoFA (China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs) commented, we respect the choice of the Libya people. What if Gadhafi continues to rule the country? MoFA will say the same thing, and China will have its state-run enterprises go back in Libya to find more oil…..This is the most primitive materialism.”

@shanghaixintuofufan: “There is no forever friend but only forever interest. Bye bye our ‘old friend Gaddafi’.”

@Rainliuxing:”After Gaddafi surely comes Syria. There are not many ‘old friends’ left for China.”

And Chinese netizens also had their say on Gadhafi’s fate in an online poll. The question:
“What do you think will happen to Gadhafi?” The answer: 60% of the users (940 out of 1577) think he’ll “be captured alive and judged in court in Libya”.

Time will tell. We all watch together to see what happens in Libya. Will Moammar Gadhafi be the next African leader caught up and washed away in the Arab Spring?

Our crack team of producers, Helena Hong in Beijing and Nini Suet in Hong Kong, helped with those Weibo tweets.

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Filed under: BusinessChinaOil


soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Bill

    Amazingly, if you look at world politics, you will find the new traces of cold war situation, the fall in economy of U.S and rise of China, this diplomacy has been used by U.S in the past and i think there's nothing wrong when China is doing it. The communists and americans will always be enemies, one will fell other will rise. However, right now there is a danger in Libya as for the transfer of power. Back in Afghanistan, after withdrawal of Soviets the situation was dire but here the war is different, even if there would be a stable government there is a chance that it will take many years for the country to be stabilized.

    August 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  2. lpc1998

    China does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. She will do business with whomsoever is in-charge. Of course, the business must be mutually beneficial. If doing business must require a local agent in-charge, then the world will be returning to the period following the WWII where one group will be promoting "regime change" and an another the "war of liberation".

    August 23, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  3. Tony

    Never point the gun at your own citizens, San Francisco policeman.

    August 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  4. Rowny J Vidot

    Look who is talking !!!!...... accusing China of being Libya's "fair weather friend". Anyone with a sound intelligence will know that this war in Libya is not about purely ousting Gadhafi but most important of it all ... OIL.... which the western world badly needs. Once Gadhafi is booted out and a new regime comes in then every stake-holder in this "arena" will demand their share of the "loot" as "compensation"for the support they gave to install "DEMOCRACY" in Libya. But be very careful, when some countries think that they have installed a regime which they could count on to protect their interests, it could turn out to be a very, very different story., a regime which could turn out to be far worse than GADHAFI, in other words beware of Islamic fundamentalism under the cloak of openness.

    August 23, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  5. Koswinner

    This article is purely 'out of touch' at best.
    The commentator does not even has the basic knowledge about the relationship between China and Syria before starting to comment. For your information, China and Gadhafi are known to have a bad relationship, with Gadhafi publicly criticising China for its system (because they differ from his version of Socialism) long before the unrest started. China's goverment actually quite disliked Gadhafi but kept doing business with him because of potential profit.
    They did not support military action because some other simple reason, something far different from 'supporting Gadhafi' as claimed by the author of this article. And guess what? It's something quite simple, just ask any political analyst with some real knowledge about Chinese government's behaviours.
    The degree of ignorance shown in this article is nothing bu amazing.

    August 23, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  6. Gholahan

    Well said that there is no permanent friend only permant intrest. As long China has an intrest in a country,China will switch side to be friends with whoever is ruling, wether rebel or tyrant.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  7. chinese

    Nice tone. Specially consider US has done the same over the years. Who supported Saddam's Irak when it suit their best interest? Who supprted Egypt old government? let's if the bad(when look from western point of view of the world) Saudi government fall's, would US change side too. Let's not even bring out all those dictatorship that US supported(officially or unofficially) from africa to south america.

    I do see the irony of chinese changing side,but US has done it quite few time too. It's not like US always "go down with the ship". The mocking tone is funny,specialy when it come from american's(if this artical was write by canadians,well that would some more power). It's like US never care about money,power and oil...

    August 23, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  8. eddie2010

    If China is Libya's fair weather friend, what does that make America?

    August 23, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  9. common sense

    yeah? and what about Russia...same thing. Both the West and the dictators should know by now that China&Russia are good weather friends at most. That shouldn't be that surprising.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  10. Tony L

    Another typical biased report from CNN. What do you expect China to do ? Send their air force to defend Gadhafi. This is a civil war. Foreign countries should not be sending troops to interfere in the internal affairs of the country.

    August 24, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  11. zhk

    Gaddafi is a friend of Taiwan, not a friend of China, China is very glad of hes downfall

    August 24, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  12. John Plissken

    This is journalism?! Another completely unprofessional piece written by incompetent "journalist" at CNN.
    It shows the complete disregard of facts, and inserting its own bias to a issue when there is none.
    Even a casual search on Google will show you this.

    http://foarp.blogspot.com/2011/02/chinas-rocky-relations-with-libya.html

    The truth is, Gadhafi didn't exactly win "friends" in international arena, he is actually a stupid nutcase who makes enemies out of everyone, even China and Russia. Its too bad that he is now on the run, because nobody will want to take him in and his fate is going to be just the same as Saddam's.

    August 24, 2011 at 4:11 am |
  13. woods

    how about EU and US? Gaddafi was also a friend of UE and US. what do you guys expect China to do with Libya war?

    August 24, 2011 at 4:44 am |
  14. Naomi

    1 in 6 Earthlings is a Chinese. Who cannot be China's friend? I hope we won't be forced to learn Chinese in the near future, though it may do good to our brains.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:38 am |
  15. Abu

    Oh yeah, just like the USA. USA supports dictators like Mubarrak of Egypt, then quickly turn around 180 degrees to support Egyptian rebels. Similarly USA was supporting dictators in Yemen and Tunisia, but then USA start to distance themselves to sick back and watch what happens before choosing sides.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:54 am |
  16. Abu

    At least China is being consisitent about not ineterfering. USA is the one that keeps switching sides.

    August 24, 2011 at 5:55 am |
  17. Tobias

    China just wants to do business, they are not a friend or enemy of anyone. They are politically passive, reliable business partners. There is a good wikipedia article on China's role in Africa. (yes i know wikipedia, but you can check the sources yourselves)

    August 24, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  18. Obiwan Kenobi

    Which China is this guy (shrewd choice of Asian face, who probably speaks zero Mandarin) talking about?
    If it's Republic of China (Taiwan), then yeap it's true Gaddafi is friends with Taiwan, the PRC is not friends with Gaddafi, and Gaddafi used to openly criticize China. I still cannot believe how misinformed a "world-class" news media like CNN can be these days. I can only infer that your sources are as misinformed as well.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  19. suri

    It's was ridiculous

    August 24, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  20. Fly

    It is not just China. Every country did the same thing. Only interest , no friends.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  21. Mark

    Each of the countries mentioned (by the article and comment posters) has played musical chairs before. Nothing new here. The sooner we replace oil with other energy sources, the better.

    August 24, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  22. notAllPPLstupidAsAuthor

    I'm happy not all ppl are ultimately stupid as the author! I hope not many Americans are like him either!
    This kinda mentality's not helping ppl to make peace, but making enemies and fights all around, what's this type of ppl's intention in the end? Seriously?!
    Who are you? Do you think only you or ppl from your country is the final judge of the world for justice? What do you know about other ppl? Why you think you can just sent your army to shoot other ppl's countries all around the world? And for what?!
    Each society's different, can't you just respect other ppl and let them to solve their own problems and be happy to be themselves? But not live in the way you want them to live? And what way do you want them to live anyway? Slave for your interest only? Is that satisfy you ultimately?

    Just focus your own troubles you are making to others and yourself plz! And stand on your feet to solve them with dignity plz!

    You are not Jesus after all, and even Jesus not forcing ppl but helping ppl for peace and love!

    August 24, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  23. mjs

    If libya suppied 11% of oil to china then who did it supply 89% of its oil to....?

    August 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  24. tat

    Wow, are there any commenters here who aren't Chinese? I don't mean that question negatively or positively, just amazed at how many there are here, on CNN... well, not negative except for all those Chinese trolls who scour the web looking for any reference to China and then blindly spout the party line all over internet comment boards...

    August 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  25. hahaha

    China is probably a potential threat to US, but that dosnt make china to be a friend to every nation and the so-called dictators that US dislike. As Gadhafi publicly support the Taiwan independency, he could never be a friend of china. However that dosnt stop china doing business with him, after all, who will say no to money? Sorry for my poor English hope u guys could understand what I mean.
    A Chinese from Beijing.

    August 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  26. Mary

    LOL this coming from an American news company. This is just too much....How many dictators had their boots on the people's throats around the world, all the while with the blessings of the USA, so called champion of democracy? Many! Of course our everyday insular American will deny this. The rest of the world will agree this is the plain truth!

    August 24, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  27. USofAfrica

    Lets be fair just because the US doesn;t like someone doesnt mean that they're not worthy of any allies, it just means that they are against US interests.

    September 5, 2011 at 4:11 am |
  28. Gracielle

    I don?t rlelay see why you think Chav?s comment was a ?challenge?, or my response an ?objection?, or why you think it was implausible.Chav wondered out loud whether the pollies and pundits celebrating the death of Gaddafi be the same ones who would consider the execution of the Romanovs as one of the great crimes of the 20th century.Chav was clearly alleging that perceived boss class interest would trump the usual concern for the normal usages of civilised life. That's a challenge, surely?You were clearly making, on the face of it, a temporal objection to the claim, oting the likelihood that those who held the view that those politicians who held that the execution of the Romanovs was one of the great crimes of the 20th century would surely have died by now. The mockery relied on Chav's syntax. Yet you were careless. Chav had perhaps anticipated the objection and used would to get around it. The problem of course is that unless he shows someone meeting his specification, it's not much of a point.Richard Pipes would probably endorse the view, but I don't know what he thinks of events in Libya and I am not aware that he has ever been a politician. Tough gig. I suspect the class may well have many folks in it, but evidence would be lacking.

    February 29, 2012 at 6:13 am |

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