China's Economic Interests Are Blooming into Military Ties: Arming Militaries in Latin America, for Example

By Hilsum, Lindsey | New Statesman (1996), May 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

China's Economic Interests Are Blooming into Military Ties: Arming Militaries in Latin America, for Example


Hilsum, Lindsey, New Statesman (1996)


Jack cosied up to Condoleezza, but maybe Margaret needs to become Li's best friend. Or even Sergei's. The Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing and Russia's Sergei Lavrov may not be as glamorous as the US secretary of state, but increasingly they hold the diplomatic levers influencing world events.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

At Mrs Beckett's first high-level international meeting, held in New York on 8 May, Sergei and Li put a spanner in Condoleezza's works (so to speak). They refused to agree a UN Security Council resolution making it illegal for Iran to enrich uranium. Neither Russia nor China wants Iran to build a bomb, but they don't want sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, either. They feared that the resolution, in its current form, would be the first step.

Cast your mind back to 1991 and the first Gulf war. A weakened Russia went along with the American plan to dislodge Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. China scarcely figured. Both countries' protestations over Kosovo in 1999 were a nuisance to Europe and the US but not an obstacle. Their objections over Iraq in 2003 were dismissed. But now the world is different. America has shot its bolt in Iraq--for every hawkish voice threatening military force against Iran, there are dozens in Washington saying diplomacy is the only way, and that means re-engaging China and Russia as well as Europe.

With oil at more than $72 a barrel, Russia has become rich. During last winter, the Russians made sure everyone knew they are powerful, too. They cut gas supplies to Ukraine and threatened western Europe with an energy shortage. The Americans are worried--recently Dick Cheney tried to cut Russia down to size, accusing it of holding back democracy and using its reserves of oil and gas as "tools of intimidation or blackmail". President Putin seems unfazed, because oil money bolsters his increasingly authoritarian government, which scarcely tolerates human-rights campaigners or reporters investigating corruption and the abuse of state power.

Paradoxically, China's strength comes partly from its thirst for oil. As the second-largest energy consumer in the world after the US, it is combing the globe for new sources of oil and gas. No wonder the Chinese don't want sanctions imposed on Iran--they've signed a deal to develop Iran's largest natural gas field, and a long-term contract for both oil and gas.

Just as western powers begin to exert a little more pressure on the Sudanese government to end killings in Darfur, Beijing has drawn even closer to Khartoum. In early April, Sudan opened a new oil pipeline, increasing output from 300,000 to 500,000 barrels per day. …

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