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The True Meaning Behind “Special Relationships” in Global Governance

1 dic 2023

Andrina Sánchez Sainz

Estudiante de Relaciones Internacionales en el Tecnológico de Monterrey. Forma parte de la mesa directiva del Tec Debating Union y ha sido reconocida en redes sociales por sus escritos y poesía, actualmente con una plataforma de más de 1.2 millones de seguidores. Es activista apasionada en derechos humanos y justicia para grupos vulnerables.

“Beyond those natural duties that each of us owes to all our fellow human beings, ordinary moral thought has always acknowledged that we have obligations to those persons to whom we stand in special relationships”, explains author Diane Jeske in Special Relationships and the Problem of Political Obligations. The book, further proceeds to give an accurate and descriptive analysis of how these “fraternal” and “friendly” situationships that occur in the world of politics, are often biased, and unethically applied in global governance. Because of these obligations, even if not legal, it is easy for a country to “cover-up”, or permit, inhumane acts, and human right violations from their partner country. Taking into consideration the way alliances have functioned ever since the first wars, further understanding and comprehension on the meaning of “special relations” inside global governance has been provided, and historically, it is not moral, it is the complete opposite. There is no “morality” in special relationships inside the political world, it is instead, a system that allows the most powerful States do whatever they please, specially when economic power is involved. To comprehend the importance of the economic factor, and the awful implementation of special relationships in global governance, as well as its true meaning, variables are additionally presented and explained.


            The United States and Israel have been together ever since Israeli people were placed back into their homeland, which was at that moment palestinian territory, in 1947. To understand the conflict as well as the US’s involvement, it is crucial to understand the historical context of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian War. Inside the book A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, author Mark Tessler thouroughly explains how the partition was first made by the United Nations, which it was proposed in 1947 to divide the palestinian territory with Israel, and how Israel later, invaded more of the corresponding Palestinian land in 1980. This conflict has been going on for years now and is only getting worse. Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas, has attacked Israel’s border, and Israel struck back and has not stopped since. Even now that Israel has almost all of Palestine, the United Nations has historically refused to accept Palestine as a legitimate State, even when they do recignize, and have been doing it for years, Israel. The United States, who is one of the founders of the United Nations, has constantly denied Palestinian engagement and peace-keeping missions at the Gaza Strip, which has been in war with Israel since October 7th of this year and has already had at least 14,854 palestinian deaths, of which 6,150 are children (Aljazeera, November 2023), whilst about 1,200 israeli passings.


In the article The United States and Israel since 1948: A “Special Relationship”? by Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, a deeper insight between these two countries has been provided and further explained, to prove the undeniable alliance they hold, and how the United States is equally guilty of the violence the Israeli State has applied to the Palestinians over the years. The article states that “In 1962, President John F. Kennedy privately told Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir: ‘The United States has a special relationship with Israel in the Middle East, really comparable only to that which it has with Britain over a wide range of world affairs.’ Fifteen years later, President Jimmy Carter publicly used the same phrase: ‘We have a special relationship with Israel. It's crucial that no one in our country or around the world ever doubt that our number one commitment in the Middle East is to protect the right of Israel to exist, to exist permanently, and to exist in peace.’  Nonetheless, “to exist in peace” is a cynical statement, considering Israel’s peace costs thousands of palestinian deaths and displacements. Because of this special relationship, nevertheless, peace outside United States’ interest, Israel, is not a necessity, it is not even considered inside US’s commitment. The right for Israelis to exist, is a priority, while Palestine is just another, non-important, stone along the way of Israel’s existance.


The Gaza Strip also holds gas reserves that, according to the article Everybody Wants Gaza’s Gas by Planet: Critical, “were valued at a staggering $524 billion in 2019. But Israel does not have sole legal entitlement to the $524 billion, according to a UN report published in the same year. Not only is some of the $524 billion sourced from within the Occupied Territory of Palestine, but much of the rest also sits outside national borders in the deep sea, and thus should be shared with all relevant parties. The report questions the national right to these resources given they took millions of years to form—and that Palestinians occupied the whole territory until Israel’s recent formal creation”. The article also explains how the European Union after Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, formed a Memorandum of Understanding with a different colonising force to import gas from the Leviathan gas field. Because of this, author explains, “The USA went one further, creating a USA-Israel energy cooperation agreement which stipulates that ‘United States-Israel energy cooperation and the development of natural resources by Israel are in the strategic interest of the United States‘, promising to assist Israel with “regional safety and security issues”. This “special relationship” between Israel and the United States is economical, and the United States is willing to allow human right violations toward palestinians to an inhumane extent, to fulfill their interests within Israel.


            Another example of the inmoral meaning behind political special relationships, is Pakistan and China. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, “An estimated eight hundred thousand to two million Uyghurs and other Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks, have been detained since 2017, according to international researchers and U.S. government officials. The Chinese government calls the facilities ‘vocational education and training centers;’ the most common terms used by international media organizations and researchers are reeducation camps, internment camps, and detention camps. Some activists describe them as concentration camps. Outside of the camps, the eleven million Uyghurs living in Xianjang—officially called the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region—have continued to suffer from a decades-long crackdown by Chinese authorities”. Chinese authorities have stated since 2021 that these “camps” are no longer in function, but news channels like BBC and National Geographic, have spotted growth in Uyghur prisons in Xianjang’s outsides, as well as expansion in the remaining re-education camps within the area, which is also restricted to public and reporters.


            In the book, China’s System of Opression in Xianjang: How it Developed and How to Curb it, authors James Millward and Dahlia Peterson give a powerful insight into the problem’s historical context and explain how Xianjang has always been one of the most important cities for commerce within China. Xianjang is the country that connects China to nearby countries like Pakistan, Türkiye and Russia, and has been this way since the Silk Road, in the Nineteenth Century. The book further explains China’s government though the years and the rise of Hans as the “official” Chinese. Xianjang, nonetheless, has never been a Han-populated city, but a Uyghur-populated one, and ever since Mao Tse-tung rise to power, in 1949, Han occupation in Xianjang has grown from 7% to now 40%. Re-education camps that operate officially since 2017 have, according to linked official governmental information, been having a “shoot to kill” policy in case of escape intentions, and have captured about 1.2 million Uyghurs, forced them to lose attachment to “extremist Islamic beliefs” to prevent terrorism, and have encarcelated almost 70% of the population that was found inside their camps.


            Because islamic traditions vow to protect all muslim brothers and sisters, news channels and people around the world began to question why near-by muslim countries were refusing to speak up for the Uyghurs and started demanding insight on what China was hiding ithin Xianjang. On September 23, 2019, the Council of Foreign Relations scheduled an interview with Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imram Khan, to speak about the disinterest of Pakistan fot the Uyghur detention by the chinese government.  When asked about the connection between Pakistan’s economic relationship with China and their silence on the Uyghur treatment at Xianjang, Khan said, “Look, with the Chinese, we have a special relationship. And any of—it’s the way China functions. Any of issues like these, we talk to them privately. We don’t make public statements because that’s how China is. And I again repeat, I mean, China has come to help when we were right at the rock bottom. So, I would not publicly talk about it”. This special relationship Khan mentions with the chinese, means that Pakistan is not allowed to protect the Uyghurs, because “that’s how China works”, and states the priorities of countries inside global governance rely on their economic benefits, instead of protecting humanity. Xianjang is still the road for commerce within Pakistan and China, and that is everything the chinese need for Pakistan’s, and other neighbout contries’, silence.


            There is a pattern in public speaking surrounding the phrase “special relationships”, when referring to global goverance. It has no moral background, and consequently, it is used to imply violations of international law, personal interests, economic benefit, and human right infractions. Worldwide politics are biased, and completely controlled by the country, within alliances and organizations, that has the most power. The system has turned out to be selfish, unfair, and is full of these special relationships. For these relationships to evolve, there must be a dependance from one country-to-another, and it usually involves a small country’s alliance to a big one, like China and the United States. Inside the analysis of the meaning special relationships in global governance, nothing special is found. Nonetheless, selfishness and bad-implemented capitalism can be clearly seen. If economical interests are excruciatingly more important than humans, that our own people, how are we supposed to live global governance fairly and in peace? It is impossible to achieve global peace, and our rulers’ “special relationships” are the reason behind it.

            There is usually a system of oppresion within special relationships, in which there is one economic power, and an economically dependent nation. In my opinion, “special relationships” is just another code countries use to disclose that, the dependant State, is forced to turn a blind eye on attrocities the most powerful sovereignty is committing. The fear smaller governments have towards the biggest hegemonies is what feeds these rulers to continue these relationships and exploit them. I am not stating that the victims are innocent, but I am stating they can not go against their oppressors because the system is meant to be that way. Special relationships, in this case, are the definition of a silence agreement, in which the independent abuser punishes economically the financially injured party in case they are ever to reveal what goes on inside their empires. The system is rigged, and everyone knows it, they are just too afraid to talk about it.



The United States and Israel since 1948: A “Special Relationship”? (Yaacov Bar-Siman- Tov, Published December, 17, 2022) Oxford Academic. Retrieved from:


Jeske, Diane. “Special Relationships and the Problem of Political Obligations.” Social Theory and Practice, vol. 27, no. 1, 2001, pp. 19–40. JSTOR, Accessed 27 Nov. 2023.


Millward, J., & Peterson, D. (2020). China's System of Oppression in Xinjiang: How it Developed and how to Curb it. Brookings Institution.


Chomsky, N. (1999). Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians. South End Press.


Khan, H.-R. (1961). PAKISTAN’S RELATIONS WITH THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA. Pakistan Horizon, 14(3), 212–232.


Tessler, M. (2009). A history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indiana University Press.


Council on Foreign Relations. (n.d.). A conversation with prime minister Imran Khan of Pakistan. Council on Foreign Relations.


Pti. (2021, November 18). Pakistan under pressure from U.S., Western powers over close ties with China: Imran Khan. The Hindu.


Al Jazeera. (2023, November 27). Israeli forces kill eight Palestinians in occupied West Bank raids.


Donald, R. (2023, October 31). Everybody wants Gaza’s gas. Everybody Wants Gaza’s Gas - by Rachel Donald.


Beck, J. (2022, December 15). China is erasing their culture. in exile, Uyghurs remain defiant. History.


Council on Foreign Relations. (n.d.-b). China’s repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Council on Foreign Relations.


Lo escrito aquí es a títutlo personal y no refleja necesariamente la postura de Global Thought ni de las instituciones afiliadas.

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