Internal affairs

The Chinese have been huffy recently about meddling, as well they might, given the last couple of hundred years of Western and Japanese treatment of a proud and ancient civilization. In the last half century, Chinese foreign policy has been based on a simple and just principle, namely that no nation has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another.

Westerners may not understand how this simple, reciprocal, honorable, and just rule of conduct applies to real events, especially as the world has become so interdependent and complicated, but the RBC is pleased to clarify.

The savagery in Darfur, perpetrated from Khartoum, is internal. Chinese enabling of this behavior, and protecting the Sudan government from attempts by western powers to stop mass rape, starvation, and murder there, is not external interference.

Climate change all over the world caused by Chinese coal power plants is not interference in the affairs of other countries, though any attempt to dissuade the Chinese from filling the atmosphere outside China with CO2 is.

Poisoning foreign guests, athletes and spectators, invited into China, with air pollution that would be rated unhealthy anywhere else but “good” in China, is an internal Chinese matter. Jacques Rogge, of whose whose public health and medical credentials we were previously unaware, understands this and assures us that the air is safe; that filthy haze you see is just fog.

A worldwide flu epidemic is an internal matter for the country that allows it to get started.

If you conquer a country whose people speak a different language, don’t share your religion, and would prefer not to have been conquered, everything that happens there is henceforth internal and no meddling is allowed. In cases like this, having opinions is tantamount to meddling.

Buying endangered creatures from outside your country, and timber from trashed rain forests in foreign lands, is an internal matter, and anyone giving you grief is an imperialist hegemonic Bad Person and should shut up about it.

If these carefully chosen examples don’t clarify the principle, you simply can’t be reasoned with Michael Corleone understood it, Tessio and Roth understood it, and they weren’t Chinese, why can’t you? “It’s strictly business!”

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.