Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Cold War Continues or Again?

Part 1-China

One of the things I've been thinking about is how all of these countries, Iraq, Iran, China, Russia and Europe have something in common besides appearing to either directly or philosophically oppose the United States.

When you think about all of the talk amongst these groups and their opposition to the United States' actions in the ME, you first have to understand that whatever they accuse the United States of, they are most likely guilty of the same. Obviously, not committing direct war, but I am talking about attempts at garnering influence over the area, access to resources, access to increased commercial markets for goods (not the least of which is military and atomic). In short, soft influence, which Europe, particularly France and Germany, have continued to eschew as their favored method of dealing with the Middle East. China needs it to stay afloat.

For more on China, go to the inner sanctum.


There are several issues at hand here. The first of which is their relationship with the geography of the middle east. In previous posts, I explored the issue of oil and other natural resources. China obtains a very large portion of their imported oil from the Middle East. In particular, Saudi Arabia is its largest contributor followed by the United Arabic Emirates. China has a growing economy, a growing population and both of these are spurring a growing industrial program. Yet, Chinese reserves of oil and natural gas are not infinite and, at the rate they are being pumped and distributed, cannot fully supply their internal needs. This has actually led to China drastically decreasing the export of their own resources. Those who study economy know that this can be a problem in the future. Net importers of raw materials and resources are balancing on a tight rope of economic disaster. It also, and often, tends to lead these countries to become tired of trying to stay afloat economically while buying what they need and decide that it is easier just to expand their hegemony (yes, what they claim the US is doing) over lands that contain these raw resources.

I do mean war. Often, world war. World War I, World War II and even the Cold War were wars of land and resources, not just ideology.

In the recent past, China has attempted to extend influence over nearby countries and extend its borders into international waters. The extended borders serve two purposes: first, oil has been found on the ocean shelves just off the range of China's designated borders, based on international sea law. Other oil reserves have been identified off the coast of North and South Korea. All of these area entail certain difficulties in obtaining the oil from either international borders or placement of the reserves with limited ability to drill due to technology. However, it has not stopped China from attempting to expand its rights in order to lay claim to these resources or at least have influence over them. Secondly, China has been moving vigorously towards building a pipeline to Iran with terminals in other countries along the way for natural gas.

China, for all intents and purposes, is balancing on a tight rope. Reduction in resources, or their inability to keep up with their demand, could seriously curtail their economic growth, putting China in a tail spin. There is a lot of investing going on in China from foreign markets. China in a tail spin would have a direct impact on economies around the globe. Including the United States.

China and the United States have two types of MAD (mutual assured destruction) going on. The first is the obvious: nuclear destruction. The second, possibly not so obvious to the average Joe on the street, is economic. US companies have invested a lot of money in factories, banks, etc in China. These companies contribute a nice chunk of tax/revenue into the US coffers. Cheap Chinese goods flood the US markets and keep many US citizens employed through distribution, management, retail, warehouse, you name it, it has an impact on our markets. China also has bought up a number of US debts through their banking systems.

At the same time, US companies investing in factories and other businesses in China obviously employ thousands, if not millions, greatly contributing to their continued economic growth.

In this way, the US is able to keep what would otherwise be China's expansionist tendencies from becoming a reality. It is historically proven that countries with limited resources and expanding population tend to look outside of their borders for these resources and are not adverse to going to war to gain said resources. At the same time, economic growth has decidedly changed China's political make up, if only by a small portion. And, aside from North Korea, China has no true allies, not even potential allies since the fall of communist Russia.

As freedom and democracy move across south Asia, they find themselves more and more isolated and more and more bound to economic manuevering than any possible military action. I've noted before that this economic MAD is the reason that North Korea's continued saber rattling about nuclear weapons is unsettling to Beijing. A war on their flanks or even the potential interruption of China's economy from expanded sanctions or unrest inside of North Korea would unbalance the economic tight rope that China finds itself walking.

China and Iran

Clearly, China's interest in Middle East affairs is bound up by access to resources. Aside from oil from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, China has made overtures to Iran concerning a natural gas line and oil, putting ink to a deal in October 2004. In the meantime, China has become one of the major exporters of goods to Iran including household appliances, computers and cars. China, according to the aforementioned article, holds a veto on the UN Security Counsel and has been one of the key countries blocking the US's attempt to put pressure on Iran regarding their nuclear ambitions.

The China and North Korea

One thing you will consistantly hear from the left side of the aisle are comments about the Iraq war being the wrong war when North Korea and Iran were and are clearly more hostile and possibly more dangerous to the United States considering one claims to have "nukes" and the other wants to get "nukes". Some rhetoric has even gone so far as to demand why we didn't attack these countries since they were clearly more dangerous. Let's not forget others, from both the left and the right, demanding to know why we haven't attacked Saudi Arabia as it would appear that 15 of the 19 hi-jackers came from that country and it would appear equally clear that they are the major exporter of wahabist doctrine that is supporting or creating terrorism.

I'll deal with "why Iraq" shortly, but let's talk about "why NOT" North Korea, Iran or Saudi Arabia in context to the China problem. North Korea is too obvious. Only crazy people think that attacking North Korea, a partial client state to China on China's flank, is a good idea. I always want to ask these "experts" what they think would happen. I wonder if these people believe that China would just sit still and let us lance the puss ridden boil on their buttocks, regardless of how painful it must be?

Secondly, how is it that these same "realists" don't understand that North Korea is dying and China isn't sure if it gives a rat's patutti, but it doesn't want it helped along by direct outside force? North Korea as a saber rattler behind China's skirt is one thing, but a collapsed North Korea in chaos poses a whole other danger to China. They would most likely prop up another dictator if Kim Il Jong took the fall because a destabilized North Korea in their backyard could cause their own civil unrest. Outside interference in what they consider their "own" problem would result in direct conflict.

As a small reminder, while North Korea pretends it has "nukes", China does. Hopefully, nuclear MAD would bind them to conventional war, but who really wants to be at war with China over North Korea, nuclear weapons or not? China as the lead in these discussions makes perfect sense. It also keeps the US distanced from Little Kim and his demands. Talk of "nukes" is a bargaining chip that North Korea used once before in gaining economic aid and nuclear energy assistance from the US under the Clinton administration in exchange for promises not to build nuclear weapons. Obviously, that didn't work. Like all blackmailers, once you pay them, they don't go away like they promise, they just come back demanding more. The US has taken a firm stance: North Korea is China's rotten child and they should handle him. China understands that North Korea making war on South Korea or taking any other direct war like steps may drag them into war, just when they are growing their own econmic power house.

This is economic MAD at it's best.

China and the Greater ME

Without a doubt, China's interest in ME resources puts a strain on most US activities in the region. Not that China is alone in their need for and obtaining resources in the area, but in terms of real countries that could challenge the US effectively, even militarily, China is it. Interdiction of the resources China demands at this time in their economic growth could be seen as a direct threat to their national security. One might recall that Japan attacked the US after the US placed an oil embargo on them in attempt to block their expansion in the region which already included attacking main land China. It is not very hard to understand that wars are often fought over two things: land and resources.

If my hypothesis holds true, one might ask, "Why did we attack Iraq? Wouldn't China find this to be an attack on their resources?" First, one would have to understand that, in all the countries of the region, China had very few, if any, interests in Iraq. Neither do they have much interest in Syria or Jordan for that matter. While Iraq certainly sets on the regions second largest oil reserves, its pumping capacity was approximately 15% of the entire output of the Middle East OPEC countries. What limited amounts of oil were making it to market were spread out amongst many nations. While China was purchasing what amounted to appx. 20% of Iraqi oil, in toto compared to China's needs, it was extremely small. This is why promises from Saudi Arabia and other ME OPEC countries to continue pumping oil at their current rates or greater to assauge any short falls in the market was extremely important.

It wasn't just for US consumption, but to insure that the oil flow to the world was not severely restricted. Such restrictions would have had a much greater impact on the world in general. From my point of view, Iraq was the most logical, although, this reason alone is not sufficient to validate Iraq's role as the first amongst many to go, it certainly weighs in the balance. I would be very un-surprised if assurances regarding flow of oil and other resources in the area were given to China prior to our attack. I'd also be very unsurprised by China voicing conerns about possible instability in the area, particularly regarding Saudi Arabia and Iran. Certainly, China's opposition to the Iraq attack on the Security Counsel of the United Nations was made very clear.

In this game of strategy is quite complex considering the US wants to keep this war against terror low key and not have it develop into state on state actions outside the general aspects of WOT.

China and Europe

Recently, Europe has announced its intentions to lift the embargo on arms sales to China. This has several implications and derives from two specifc European strategic needs. First, Europe, France specifically, has long held the belief that an American Superpower, all alone in the world, is dangerous and requires balance or, in Chirac's words, "multi-polarity". Obviously, Europe neither has the budget nor the will to attempt to act as a direct opposition to American military power. Its main desire is to act as a political and possible economic opposition. Considering Iraq, Iran, Syria and China, all places where the US had or has little diplomatic interaction (and, in the case of Iran, no diplomatic ties; in Syria, limited diplomatic ties), Europe and France specifically, wish to fill this gap, basically taking up where the USSR left off when last it could manage a "sphere of influence".

Militarily, I believe that speculation by Bill Kristol and the panelist that met on Januray 18, 2004 at the Hudson Institute, are most likely correct. The panelist indicated that France's desire to arm China with the latest technology, including technology developed for American military, is an attempt to build up a military opposition to American "hegemony" without spending their own money, man power or political clout/diplomatic ties with the United States. One wonders why Europe or France in this case, cannot see past a few years into the future and note that an economically expanding China, while not actively and physically exansionist at this time, will become so in the near future if it sees a weakening of political will power. They may take that as their cue to actively seek the reunification of Taiwan or expand their borders into international waters to gain control of oil reserves and shipping lanes.

I think it is very short sighted of France. Either that or they are laying all their hopes on MAD as the check that holds China in place.

Second, the sale of arms to China has economic implications for a Europe where most of its member states are showing stagnate and weak GDP and record amounts unemployment. Defense contracts would lead to increased employment, at least through out the defense industries. Which, when taken into context with the typical European and extreme left commentary on the "American Military Industrial Complex", sounds pretty hypocritical. It is obvious the European economy and military industrial complex that is up-arming a potential superpower of China for economic benefit.

The same thing can be said about Europeans rushing to sale arms and nuclear technology to Iran. The same thing can be said for Russia rushing to sale arms and nuclear material to Iran and any number of other not so free and open countries.

Economy isn't their sole motivation, but, while many scream at the top of their lungs (including our left, Euros, South Americans and some Russian politicos) about the alleged Halliburton/Lockheed oil/military industrial complex controlling American foreign policy, I do wonder if they ever stop shouting long enough to look around at their own foreign policy?

Probably not. And, just like the press of closed countries like Saudi Arabia or China, their own press does a damned poor job of pointing this out. Mainly because their own press is often state run and state funded. If I were looking for a "propaganda machine" working in tandem with it's government, I'd be looking at French News. Where are those warning their European brethern that engaging in this activity is dangerous with little fore sight except the short term idea that they can drag themselves out of a financial and unemployment morass by arming those who have, shall we say, less than sterling human rights history, are hostile to the west in general, not just the US, are actually forthright and outspoken about their plans to enjoy political, financial and military hegemony over regions that have world implications?

Are countries that engage in these activities today in the alleged post cold war period actually continuing the cold war through their diletente diplomacy or looking to start it again? Is it like one of those people who enter into abusive relationships, where they must be afraid every day that they will be beaten to death, finally get out of the relationship just in time to stave off death only to turn around in short order and look for the same "mate" again? Did the Europeans and Russia enjoy the cold war so much that they want it back again?

That is the only thing I can think of when I hear Jacques Chirac speak about "multi-polarity" instead of "freedom and democracy".

Much easier to sit back and complain about how crappy the world is than to change it.

American Continuing Cold War Containment

In review, I believe that there are multiple fronts going on while we fight the war on terror. Obviously, we have taken on the idea that freedom and democracy are anti-dotes for fascist, tyrannical, murdering ideologies, just as it has been for well over two centuries. Stopping our thought processes at the door of "Global War on Terror" seems very short sighted. I'm sure I'm not expecting anyone to announce any different reason for exporting freedom and democracy, but looking at the interaction of countries like China, Russia, Iran, Europe even, it seems that we are in many ways continuing our cold war containment policy with maybe a slight twist. Instead of dealing with tyrants to gain influence, they will become free democracies and stand shoulder to shoulder.

If you were to pull a map of the eastern hemisphere and mark all of the countries that are either friendly, a democracy or an emerging democracy, what would you see? If you were to pull a map of the Euro-Russian area and marked all of the countries that were friendly, a democracy or an emerging democracy, what would you see?

What you would see is that the last standing enemies of freedom and democracy are slowly surrounded by freedom and democracy.

Update: Europe Bye Bye
To Russia With Love


Tom said...

Nice economic analysis. What about that white elephant in the corner; Taiwan? I'm surprised you didn't mention them, and am curious why. Do you not think it is overplayed as an issue, as something that we may go to war with China over?

Kat said...

Actually, I did mention it once, but, you may be correct in thinking it was worth a little more mention. In regards to this thesis, I'd say that it's about territory, expansion and resources.

If china could reclaim Taiwan, they'd have expanded their territorial waters hugely and would lessen their burden on the shape and area of their pipeline to eastern asia.

Let's not forget the all important shipping lanes around there. It's all about money and resources. None of this "national pride" crap everyone tries to feed each other.

Final Historian said...

I think for China resources is key. They know the foreign investment is going to stop eventually, and soon. When that happens, they are going to need to ensure they have enough resources under their control to keep their economy afloat.

Kat said...

Historian...yes, it is all about resources. China is an island without it, regardless of how many factories they build.