An Open Letter To The Chinese Friends Who Lit Up The Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower With The Colors Of The French Flag
The night following the Paris massacre, China has expressed her solidarity with the French people by displaying the colors of the French flag on the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower. When the French President François Hollande spoke at the UNESCO four days after the tragedy, he mentioned with gratitude the expressions of friendship which came from all over the world at a difficult moment for the French nation, from the Sydney Opera, the Brandenburg Gate, the Pyramids of Egypt, the New York Metropolitan Opera and the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower.
The killers who executed 129 human beings on November 13 in the French capital might have hoped to divide the French nation, they have only hardened her resolve to fight terrorism, they were expecting the fractures of the international community to widen, they have generated a truly universal condemnation of their barbarity.
But with the French President’s declaration of war against what he called an “army of terrorists”, you, dear Chinese Francophiles, are having interrogations about the nature of François Hollande’s answer to the November 13 tragedy and its long term effects. Could an ancient European country like France repeat the post September 11 American tragic mistakes in the Middle East? Post November 13 France should not be post September 11 America, and, in fact, it is not.
While genuine intellectual debates were absent in the US after al-Qaeda’s attacks, a plurality of views is already at work in the post November 13 French society, some might be ready to assume a logic of war but others have warned against it, the nation stands as one but refuses to move blindly.
In France, the words pronounced by the French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin in February 2003 when the United Nations Security Council was discussing the fate of Iraq, still resonate : “No one can claim that the path of war might lead to a safer, more just and more stable world. For war is always the sanction of failure. Would this be our sole recourse in the face of the many challenges at this time? ”
Time has proved the foreign minister of President Jacques Chirac to be right, the war in Iraq did not lead to a safer world, 11 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, proclaimed the establishment of a caliphate spanning on his imaginary map from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to China’s Xinjiang.
ISIS, which was born and has developed in a context largely created by G.W. Bush’s foreign policy, is globalizing its jihad while it is in control of territories in Iraq and in Syria but also in Libya, Egypt's Sinai, Nigeria and Afghanistan. It is ISIS' "territorialized terrorism" which gives it the strength to strike far away from the territories it brutally rules.
Geography, the number of French jihadists and arguably some of the most recent French actions in Africa and in the Middle East might explain why terrorists are targeting France, but the country which opposed G.W. Bush’s policies is also in a position to combine courage and political wisdom in her answer to the long term challenges posed by the Islamic State.
Having in mind the immediate protection of her citizens but also trying to create the long term conditions of her security, France should avoid to reinforce the causes which led to the creation of ISIS, she has certainly to neutralize by all possible means the forces which threaten her, but she has also to address the complex factors, internal and external, which generate hatred against the civilization she represents.
It is with the spirit which animated its 2003 discourse that France will defeat terrorism on the long run, terror has shocked the City of Light, but reason and lucidity will overcome chaos and darkness.
The follies of terrorism which have too often killed within China could sadly hurt her again, should it happen, those who lit up the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower with the colors of France will certainly look at Paris’ reaction with the hope that always more people in the West recognize that the destructive forces which killed in Paris have also to be eliminated when they menace Urumqi, Kunming or Beijing.
On November 30, on the occasion of the opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, François Hollande, the leaders of the European Union, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping will gather in Paris in order to find an agreement to better protect our planet. It will be an opportunity for them to announce to the world that we stand all together in a long and complex fight against terror.
United in defense of mankind, with the courage to confront the most terrible violence but also with the intellectual and moral force to address the complex causes of obscurantism and fanaticism, they will signal that life and civilization will inevitably prevail.
(David Gosset Is A French Citizen Living In Shanghai.)