(from october 2007)
Beijing's lust for oil and gas perpetuates atrocities in Southeast Asia and Africa.
By PETER NAVARRO
The slaughter in recent days of Burmese Buddhist monks and other pro-democracy demonstrators by a ruthless military dictatorship and the ongoing genocide in Darfur by Sudanese Janjaweed militia are taking place more than 4,000 miles apart but both atrocities are intimately connected to the amoral foreign policy of China. This policy is based on Chinese President Hu Jintao's stated doctrine of "just business, with no political conditions."
To implement this doctrine, China regularly trades its veto power at the United Nations for access to the oil and other natural resources of rogue nations like the Sudan, Burma and Iran. China has this veto power because it is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council – it only takes the veto of one council member to block U.N. sanctions or military interventions.
In Africa, China has used its U.N. veto power to protect the Sudanese government from sanctions against the genocide in Darfur. As a result, China now benefits as the largest importer of Sudanese oil while much of the Sudan's oil revenue flows right back to China to purchase advanced weaponry used in committing the genocide.
In the Middle East, China likewise is using its veto power to protect Iran from sanctions related to Shiite Muslim Iran's quest to develop nuclear bombs to drop on Israel – or perhaps one of its Sunni Muslim neighbors like Saudi Arabia or Egypt. In exchange, China has received a very lucrative deal to develop Iranian natural-gas reserves, which are the second-largest known in the world.
Regarding Burma (or Myanmar), China used its veto power last January to protect the ruling military junta from a Security Council resolution that would have forced that regime to release political prisoners and cease its assaults on Burma's ethnic minorities. Now, as Buddhist monks and nuns are being caged behind barbed wire in their temples and their fellow pro-democracy protesters continue to be slaughtered in the streets, China is once again protecting Burma's military junta from U.N. sanctions.
The reason why China wants to protect Burma's dictators is "blood for oil" – straight up. A petroleum-hungry China wants to import the lion's share of Burma's natural-gas reserves, which measure over a half-trillion cubic meters. Far more important strategically, Beijing also wants to build a $2 billion oil pipeline from Burma's coast on the Bay of Bengal to China's Yunnan Province.
The Burma-China pipeline is a critical project because it would allow China to take delivery of oil from the Middle East without tankers passing through the very narrow Strait of Malacca linking the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. This waterway is a key chokepoint that could easily be shut down by the U.S. Navy in time of conflict, over, for instance, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Adding imperialist insult to pro-democracy injury, China is rapidly burdening Burma with a very heavy debt – thereby forcing Burma to mortgage its future and natural resources to China. As in the Sudan, much of this borrowed money purchases Chinese weapons to keep Burma's military junta in power. A good chunk of these borrowed Chinese funds also help finance a lavish lifestyle for the ruling elite, and there is virtually no "trickle down" for the Burmese people, who rank amongst the poorest in the world in a country blessed with a wealth of natural resources.
The military butchers of Burma will never yield to democratic forces as long as China has their backs. For their part, China's hard-liners won't condemn Burma's military government for its brutal suppression of the demonstrators for fear that such a condemnation would come right back to Chinese soil. Indeed, should those same type of pro-democracy voices be raised once again in China, it would then be hypocritical for China to conduct a similar crackdown, a Tiananmen Square redux.
In this political stalemate, neither Burma nor China will change their blood-for-oil bargain in the absence of outside pressure. The most pressure that can be exerted right now on China is to threaten a boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. If such a threat could stop China from using the United Nations as a tool of commerce rather than an instrument of peace, it would be well worth the while of the United States and Europe and other countries of the world to speak in that common voice.