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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 5-Apr-08
China "betrays" Iran, as internal problems in both countries mount

Web Log - April, 2008

China "betrays" Iran, as internal problems in both countries mount

Diplomats say that China has provided Iran's nuclear weapons plans to the UN.

In a surprising move, China appears to be cooperating with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its investigation of Iran's nuclear development plans, and has provided it with Iran's nuclear plans. The exact nature of the information hasn't been made public, but it's believed to be related to the development of nuclear weapons and associated missile delivery systems.

China's change of heart may have occurred because China was caught red-handed. Documents confiscated from Iran in February by the IAEA indicate China was supplying Iran with information on manufacturing nuclear-armed weapons.

Several web site readers have written to me expressing concern that the Bush administration is about to invade Iran. These fears have been fostered by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as by paranoic journalists, led by Seymour Hersh, who believes that the American armed forces are Nazi thugs. Hersh, in particular, has been building a career for several years out of predicting an imminent American invasion of Iran.

This story of China's supposed "betrayal" of Iran gives us an opportunity to do a generational analysis of the relationship between China and Iran.

On this web site, I've done generational analyses of the strategies of different countries. In this case, we'll be attempting a comparative strategy. This exercise is of theoretical interest to generational theory because Iran is in a generational Awakening era, while China is entering a generational Crisis era.

In particular, we want to speculate on Iran's place in the coming world realignment. Readers may have noticed that I talk about a new "axis," consisting of China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and North Korea, versus the "allies," America, the UK, Russia, India and Japan, but that Iran is conspicuously missing from both the "axis" and "allies" list. We'll explore the meaning of China's "betrayal" of Iran on that question.

We will focus on the following four issues:

China's strategy

China is entering a generational Crisis era, and has been almost coming apart at the seams for a few years. China is headed for a secular civil war, as I wrote in 2005. In March, 2007, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said that China is "unsteady, unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable."

It's hard to overestimate the increasing severity of China's internal problems in recent weeks and months:

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Everything in China is geared toward the summer Olympics games. When the games end, there will be an enormous letdown. We will have to see how China reacts to the above list of crises at a time when it no longer cares what the world thinks.

As the world approaches the Clash of Civilizations world war, China is going to be allied with Pakistan and Bangladesh against India and Russia in central Asia. It's very hard to see how Iran fits into that picture.

Iran's strategy

Unlike China, which is in a generational Crisis era, Iran is in a generational Awakening era, since only one generation has passed since the genocidal Islamic Revolution in 1979, followed by the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s. This means that Iran's "mood" is significantly different from China's "mood," which would make it very hard for them to understand each other's motivations.

As we described last year, "Iran's President Ahmadinejad is facing a growing 'generation gap,'" as he pursues an Awakening era strategy:

The best that can be said about Ahmadinejad's policies is that they've been irrational. There is absolutely no way that the Sunni Arabs or Taliban will ever permit themselves to be governed by Shia Iran. Hamas is willing to take Iran's money and Iran's weapons, but when choices must be made, Hamas will never choose Iran as their leaders. In other words, Ahmadinejad is simply wasting his money.

Nonetheless, Iran remains a dangerous wild card in the Mideast, as Ahmadinejad becomes about as unpopular in Iran today as Richard Nixon was in the 1960s and 1970s America.

Iran's relationship with China

Comparing the strategies of two countries that are at different points in the generational timeline has been an interesting exercise from a theoretical point of view, because it illustrates how incongruous the "moods" of the two different countries are.

If you read through the strategies of China and Iran in the previous sections, it very quickly becomes clear that they have almost no strategic goals in common -- except a general wish to oppose the United States ("the enemy of my enemy is my friend").

The contrast between Iran and China can be demonstrated by both countries' relationship with Pakistan:

Now add a potential Iranian nuclear weapon into this mix, and you really see the problem: Iran would like to have nuclear capabilities in order to be a regional superpower, and paranoid China would fear that Iran will give nuclear weapons to al-Qaeda terrorists.

So, China didn't really "betray" Iran, because there are really no common interests to betray. China was willing to support Iran's nuclear development as long as doing so simply annoyed the West, but that support stops when China's own interests are at risk.

Iran's relationship with America and the West

Whenever I've talked about Iran on this web site, I've always mentioned how the country is an internal contradiction. The government and mullahs are anti-American and anti-Israel, while the people, especially the young people, are much more pro-Western, and really don't have anything against Israel. In fact, young Iranians are probably much more politically opposed to the Iranian government than to the American government.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, when I analyze any country, I always have to focus on the attitudes and behaviors of the great masses of people, not on the attitudes of a small group of politicians. And so I have to conclude that since young Iranians are generally pro-Western, it follows that Iran is going to be pro-Western when a choice is forced upon them. This is not a sure thing at this point, but the trend is definitely in that direction.

As the "Clash of Civilizations" world war approaches, and Iran is forced to choose sides, their initial choice will be to stay out of it as long as possible. This means that they'll avoid the use of their own army, and they'll try to keep the war off Iranian soil. If a choice is forced, I think it's more likely to be an alignment with the West.

What about the original question: Is America about to attack Iran?

I read the same news stories that everyone else does, and I see no evidence of it. If there were any preparations going on, the New York Times and the BBC would be all over it.

When writing about China in the preceding sections, I used words like "paranoia," "anxiety" and "panic" in describing China's mood.

The same words can be used to describe America's mood and Israel's mood. On the one hand, you have the paranoic reporters talking about an imminent invasion. On the other hand, you have the possibility that anxiety and panic will lead to some kind of bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, just as panic led Israel to declare war on Hizbollah in Lebanon in 2006.

We can't predict the actions of individual politicians, so the most we can say is this: The reasons given by those reporters who are claiming that an attack is imminent are completely wrong; if an attack does occur, it will be a panicked reaction to Iran's perceived nuclear buildup.

That's speculation. What is certain, however, is that China's so-called "betrayal" of Iran reveals cracks in their relationship that will not be healed any time soon. (5-Apr-08) Permanent Link
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