Hunting Down Bad Guys: China vs. the U.S.

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REUTERS / China Daily

Convicted drug lord Naw Kham heads for the Chinese execution chamber March 1.

A pair of ostensibly unrelated New York Times‘ stories recently jumped out at me.

Understand, the paper itself made no attempt to link the two.

What struck me was just how calmly the Times reported 3,000 (!) targeted assassinations by the Obama Administration since 2009, after rather breathlessly noting – just days before – China’s “hard-nosed display of the government’s political and economic clout across Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.”

Granted, the paper took both governments to task for their actions. It’s just that the wording and tone differed so much:  matter-of-fact for the de facto White House Office of Global Assassination, but notably alarmed about China’s “powerful Ministry of Public Security” nabbing and executing one guy — convicted drug lord Naw Kham.

Beijing, you see, coordinated this drug lord’s capture by local Laotian police, and then had him immediately extradited to China, where he was summarily tried and executed him in a live TV broadcast. Beijing, it seems, thought about simply offing this guy with a drone, but decided against that. The drug lord was found guilty of masterminding the murder of 13 Chinese seamen operating on a Laotian river.

The action was compared – quite brilliantly I thought – to the U.S. sending General John Pershing down to Mexico to nab Pancho Villa after he killed 18 Americans in New Mexico in 1916.  Reference was also made, via the same quoted expert, to this being a preliminary display of China’s “Monroe Doctrine” for Southeast Asia.

Fair enough, say I. Great powers reserve the right to police bad actors in their neighborhoods.

It just got me thinking, though.

America currently reserves the right to kill something like 700 to 800 foreign citizens a year – often right in nations bordering China (Afghanistan, Pakistan) — and that’s just “targeted killing” coming “to define war on terror” and constituting a “mark of the Obama era.”  But if China arrests and then publicly executes somebody in its actual neighborhood (and not on the other side of the planet) . . . well, that is provocative, my friends!

Seriously, sometimes it just gets so clear that America’s hypocrisy on such subjects is painfully obvious to everybody but ourselves.

Last week OPEC predicted that China will surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil by 2014. It’s a stunning turn of historical trends, reflecting both the U.S. fracking revolution and Beijing’s skyrocketing energy use.

So understand, in that unfolding future global reality, it makes far more sense for China to be killing several hundreds of bad actors truly distant from its shores, and for America to go back to occasionally nabbing the local Villa types, and, by and large, minding its own strategic business.

Now, we all know that’s not going to happen any time soon.

My point is simply to note that China’s still vastly underperforms in the flaunting-of-clout department while the U.S. still vastly over-reaches – relative to actual global economic connectivity/dependency of each nation.

In truth, we should be celebrating what China did.

Washington keeps complaining to Beijing that it needs to play more of the “responsible stakeholder” role.  Well, Beijing just did. And it bothered to hold a trial before executing the bad guy, something the U.S. rarely deigns to do (as the Times’ story nicely pointed out).

So just remember these relative distinctions the next time we (the kettle) decide to call the pot (China) black for its supposedly provocative actions.

Washington has a tendency to hold other powers to standards that it routinely flaunts – plain and simple.


@RaymondLiwell we can read this article... so obviously no censoring, trust me this isn't communist China here in the U.S. where you have a whole branch of uniformed government blocking anti-government and human rights searches

Regarding this article: I think the problem is that China falsifies the record of it's targets because EVERYTHING is state run, it's why they can target human rights activist and people in Falun Gong so easily, and keep their internal media under wraps. It's not a racial thing... the Peoples Republic of China simply doesn't have the ability to justify anything positive they do on the world stage because of the active role they play against human rights efforts in their own country.

On the other hand the hypocrisy in free counties like America is very different. ...
@prastagus Our government hypocrisy stems from greedy politicians that have limited power, but a stupid stupid public that keeps electing them out of fear/lack of research/false promises. Our problem is cultural, not sanctioned by the state like it is in communist China.


And how many of the US assassinations are executed on TV?

If you don't see the basic difference in doing something, and then doing something as a public display, you're either oblivious, or consciously biased.


This is SO true! Too bad US Censors will probably just make sure this article never gets read. 


We are jsut too used to how USA flaunts its power all over the world from our media. Once someone else do similar things once, it is sensational because it is new we are not used to any other do what we had done.

duduong 2 Like

NY Times is now so biased against China that its 1943 article claiming that the new German Tiger tank was poorly designed, poorly manufactured and poorly suited for war in North Africa looks like fair and balanced journalism in comparison. 

I am glad that someone at Time not only takes notice but actually writes about it. But I personally consider NY Times too far gone in its extreme partisanship for any hope of salvation. They cannot even fire the reporter who reviewed the Tesla Model S when he is caught deliberately trying to run the car out of battery by driving in circles in the parking lot. Instead, NY Times calls him a "bad driver"!? Apparently, to NY Times' chief editor, fancy words, convoluted logic and access to big shots are the keys to successful newspapers. Fairness and truth be damned.



The early Tiger was indeed poorly built with constant breakdowns...

Know your tanks


The fact that the NY Times didn't catch this connection (like Sherlock Holme's "dog at midnight") is significant.  Worse is the pattern that behaviors once widely condemned in the previous administration are currently barely mentioned when conducted by the current administration.  In my view, this institutionalizes a politicized approach to foreign policy that creates the kinds of blind spots Dr Barnett alludes to here.


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