Monday, November 15, 2004


African oil, Chinese power, and the International Criminal Court

Readers of this space will know of my contention that at some point in the future, the United States is likely to be replaced as the dominant world power by China. The Chinese not only appear to agree but are working hard to bring it about. Here's evidence from TAPPED:

CHINA ON THE MARCH. It would seem that the United States and China are poised for a showdown over Africa’s oil reserves.

The article also clarifies an off-hand remark made by AEI’s Thomas Donnelly about China’s meddling in Sudan. Donnelly mentioned Chinese involvement in Sudanese malfeasance, but then said no more. At the time this took me by surprise, but the TNR piece sheds some light on the Beijing-Khartoum axis:

…The Bush administration is getting more blame for Darfur than it deserves--and Beijing is not getting enough. Quietly but steadfastly, China's ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, has helped defang U.S.-sponsored drafts against Sudan, transforming language threatening to "take further action" against Khartoum into the more benign "consider taking additional measures." China then abstained from voting on even this weakened resolution, along with longtime ally Pakistan.

Beijing's goal? Probably to protect its investments in the Sudanese oil industry, including a 40 percent stake in a refinery pumping more than 300,000 barrels a day and a 1,500-kilometer pipeline from Sudan to the Red Sea. China's projects in Sudan are the pride of Beijing's new policy of prospecting for oil abroad--especially in Africa, where vast untapped fields could help fuel China, which recently became the world's second-largest oil consumer. In fact, by massively investing not only in African oil but also in African public works, telecoms, agriculture, and other sectors, China is trying to buy the hearts and minds of African leaders as part of a broader push to win allies in the developing world and boost its soft power abroad.

By my reading, the article goes on to suggest that China may have the upper hand in the race for West African oil. Unlike the United States (or the World Bank for that matter) China doesn’t put many good governance conditions on any of its loans to dictatorships or struggling democracies in Africa. China is unencumbered by such idealism.

For the United States, and neocons in particular, “freedom is on the march” and promoting democracy in struggling societies is paramount. Sadly, the Bush administration’s foreign-policy geniuses seem to be squandering much of our soft power in Africa and have undermined America’s ability to achieve said goal.

America’s soft power -- the kind of power derived from co-opting and aligning the interests of foreign countries to those of the United States -- seems to be waning in sub-Saharan Africa. There are numerous reasons for this, but one obvious, if under appreciated, reason is the Bush administration’s hell-bent opposition to the International Criminal Court.

Yes, this sounds crazy, but the devil is in the details.

The Bush administration has been withholding aid to several African countries -- money often earmarked to enhance security -- for the sole reason that those countries have refused to sign a bilateral treaty with the United States granting Americans immunity from the ICC in those countries. As Newsday reported a few weeks ago, Tanzania, the site of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Dar el Salaam, lost $450,000 in U.S. aid set aside to bolster security. Elsewhere in Africa, Newsday reported, the Bush administration has withheld $7 million from South Africa, $500,000 from Benin, and $250,000 from Mali -- funds earmarked for “strengthening regional stability” and decreasing the reliance on U.S. peacekeepers in Africa.

For a variety of reasons, neocons within the Bush administration detest the ICC. The likely-to-be-promoted Undersecretary of State John Bolton has led the Bush administration’s efforts to strong-arm as many countries as possible into signing immunity agreements with the United States. Reasonable people can have legitimate qualms with the ICC, but the Bolton-led efforts to undermine the courts has nothing less than a missionary zeal about it.

China too is no great fan of the ICC, but can you imagine Beijing prioritizing its relationship with the ICC above its other interests in Africa? Given America’s misguided cost-benefit analysis here, it's no wonder China is on the ascent in Africa. As Donnelly and his fellow travelers in the administration and think-tankery ratchet up their anti-China rhetoric, it's important to keep in mind their own role in weakening America’s hand.

--Mark Leon Goldberg

A Kissingerian "realist" would say we should abandon such idealistic or moralistic goals as "freedom on the march" to the hard cold realities of power and oil. An idealist such as myself would say we can have both human rights and oil. Indeed, without human rights, in the long term we won't have oil either.

(Of course, a true idealist and long-term realist would say we should be cutting back on oil consumption through conservation and serious research into alternatives. That way, we could pursue a foreign policy that genuinely represents our ideals without compromising because we need oil. But we should have started this in the 1970s after the first oil shock.)

In any case, China is not going to back down. If we don't really want to do the things that will be necessary to compete, we should all start studying Mandarin now.

The Bush administration is doing everything wrong. We're not getting the oil, we're not preparing for life after oil, we're not increasing our influence, we're not competing with the Chinese - as the Freeway Blogger freeway-blogged, "Name one thing he's done right. One."

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?