China-US: What Is Inside Real Politics

As we continue our conversation about relations between the United States and China, I should point out that the United States controls China both militarily and politically. How does that work? To begin, we need to answer the main question: does the United States today want to cut off China’s raw material supplies or does it want to control them? Cutting off supplies and controlling them are entirely different things. One is a direct threat, and the other is a potential threat. It is one thing to shoot someone in the head with a pistol and another to just hold it next to his temple. In the first case, you can only regret the untimely death of the victim; in the second, you can try to exploit the victim.

Why do we need to ask that question as we considering US-China relations? The fact is that some (although former) members of the US administration are arguing that the United States specifically wants to stop supplies of raw materials to China. Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and now a columnist for The Washington Times, said: “We want to overthrow Gaddafi and Assad in Syria because we want to clear China and Russia out of the Mediterranean. China has massive energy investments in eastern Libya and is relying on Libya along with Angola and Nigeria for energy needs. This is an American effort to deny resources to China just as Washington and London denied resources to the Japanese in the 1930s.”

Let’s assume Paul Roberts is right, but what exactly is he right about? That Washington and London denied resources to Japan in the 1930s is quite understandable. The US economy at that time was the largest manufacturing economy in the world. The United States wanted no competitor during those years. Now the situation has changed. When you go to the wall today, you see “Made in China” labels everywhere. If you see a label that says, “Made in USA,” you can be sure it was made in China, too. If the US administration is currently trying to stop the flow of resources to China, as Paul Roberts claims, that means it is also trying to stop Chinese goods from being exported to the United States. Otherwise, how would you get the Chinese to make blue jeans and computers for Americans?

To stop Chinese exports, all you really need to do is impose a few restrictive customs procedures. That would be cheaper and easier than an intervention in Libya. We also have to ask, what would the United States do without cheap Chinese goods? Rebuild their industry? Do the Americans want to work hard for mere pennies in order to try and win an industrial competition with the Chinese? They will just lose anyway.

So we have to conclude that the U.S. does not want to cut off raw material supplies to China, but it does want to control them. How and why? The answer to the second part of that question is simple. Control of resources going to China allows the United States to exploit it. The answer to the “how” can briefly be stated like this. United States can and does control resource supplies to China both by military means, using its Navy to oversee shipping, for example, and politically, by installing regimes it considers acceptable in countries that supply resources to China, for example, in Sudan, Libya, etc. China, of course, is doing everything it can to counter US efforts.

Let’s take a look at how it all works.

Ian Bremmer writing in The Financial Times claims that “… energy agreements with new suppliers have become a Chinese priority. To secure long-term supply, Beijing often pays substantially above market rates to get the deals done. That distorts market prices. In addition, China looks to markets where competition is less intense. This leads Beijing to cut deals with regimes that are politically isolated and therefore anxious for access to a market such as China’s. That is where the conflict really begins, because it is the US that wants these regimes isolated, while China provides them with both cash and political cover.”

By “regimes that are politically isolated,” Bremmer means national governments that the United States finds objectionable and that are trying to pursue a policy independent of Washington. These regimes, which are also called “tyrannical,” are, in fact, simply not Washington’s “sons of bitches.”

What, for example, is the nature of the current conflict between the United States and Iran? Without delving into Iran’s nuclear program and the human rights violations committed both by the current anti-American regime of Ahmadinejad and by the pro-American regime of the last Shah, Reza Pahlavi, Iran is one of the top five exporters of oil to China: Angola, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman and Russia. As Bremmer pointed out, “China has now become the major obstacle to putting multilateral pressure on Iran to renounce its nuclear ambitions.” For example, in November 2005 China signed a memorandum with Iran to supply $70 billion worth of liquefied natural gas over a 30-year period. We can only agree with Bremmer that “as a result, China is likely to block any US attempt to use the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iranian oil and gas.”

Now let’s turn again to Bremmer’s article. Among other things, he says, “And, because China’s Navy is not yet able to challenge US naval supremacy in Asia, a security crisis over, say, Taiwan, might lead the US to blockade China and cut off its access to oil shipped in from the Middle East and North Africa. To reduce its vulnerability to such a scenario, China is considering building an oil pipeline across Burma—a state the Bush administration has included on its list of ‘outposts of tyranny.'” For more on Myanmar (Burma) and a blockade against oil supplies passing through the Strait of Malacca, see my article “Myanmar: Who Is Concerned about It and Why?” As for China’s attempts to challenge US naval control of the “String of Pearls,” i.e., the Indian Ocean passage connecting the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea, we should look not just at Myanmar, but at Pakistan as well. The fact is that China’s naval base in Pakistan allows the Chinese Navy to contend for control of the western portion of the String of Pearls.

Until recently, Pakistan was firmly committed to the political and military plans of the United States. The best evidence of that is the $3.5 billion in annual aid that Washington gives Islamabad, not to mention other sums, the amount of which depends on the international situation at a given point in time. According to a BBC report, for example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan during talks in Islamabad last year. The package had been approved by Congress in 2009 to reduce anti-American sentiment in the Pakistani establishment.

Not without irony, former Pakistani Air Force Assistant Chief of Air Staff Air Cdre Khalid Iqbal shared his impressions: “Since 1950s, Pakistani governments, both military and civilian have been fatally addicted to US financial assistance. Pakistani rulers have always been ready to bend backwards to receive another dose of US aid. Hillary Clinton and Admiral Mullen were certainly not short of affirmatively nodding audience during their recent visit to Pakistan.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistani establishment now holds different views on US “assistance.” Air Iqbal pointed out that “perpetual dependency has resulted in relegating Pakistan to a client state or a ‘rental commodity.’ America has been able to accrue an unbalanced influence over Pakistan’s policy…”

China’s sharply rising influence in South Asia has inclined part of the Pakistani establishment to balance the US presence in Pakistan with a Chinese and Russian presence. This behavior is sometimes called “double-dealing,” but it is more often due to national interests. Indeed, an important consequence of current rapprochement between the United States and India, Pakistan’s most dangerous enemy, is that Islamabad has begun feeling concern. That concern is based on definite historical experience. Not all Indo-Pakistani incidents have ended well for Islamabad. In short, Pakistani government circles regard the friendship with China and Chinese assistance today as a very attractive alternative to the US contributions.

A good example is a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, which reported that on April 16, Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani advised Hamid Karzai at a meeting in Kabul to tell the Americans and Indians to go fly a kite. Gilani supposedly suggested to Karzai that the two countries should work together, and that China is their ally. It is hard to say whether it happened or not. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, said there were no talks with Karzai on cooperation with China, and Pakistan remains a faithful ally of the United States.

Meanwhile, Pakistan-China relations are gaining momentum.

According to Reuter, Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar announced in May that Pakistan’s government has given approval for construction of a Chinese naval base at Gwadar. “We would be … grateful to the Chinese government, if a naval base is … constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan, ” he said.

It should be recalled that the Gwadar deep-water port opened in March 2007. China was involved in its construction, and it invested $200 million in it. It is particularly worth noting that the port is located 70 kilometers from the Iranian border. According to Mukhtar, the Chinese government agreed (of course!) to take over port operations. Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani had concluded a four-day visit to Beijing just prior to that. An agreement was reached during the talks to accelerate delivery of 50 JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan. Departing from Beijing, Gilani said: “We are proud to have China is our best and most trusted friend, and China will always find Pakistan standing beside it at all times… When we speak of this friendship as being taller than the Himalayas and deeper than the oceans it truly captures the essence of our relationship.”

Now let’s try and draw some interim conclusions. China is not a weak-willed object of US exploitation, and it is actively seeking to resist its “partner” in every way possible despite the fact that Washington still has the military and strategic advantage. That advantage should in no way be underestimated. However, what might Beijing’s victory strategy in its struggle with its “friend” across the ocean? We will attempt to address that question in a future article.

Source: New Eastern Outlook

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  1. Pingback: China-US: Big Guns As a Basis of Understanding | Oriental Review

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