How rising power China checkmates superpower

The Bush administration, although livid at China's defence of
countries such as Iran, Sudan and Burma, is less likely to go on a
confrontation course with Beijing because of the strong economic relations.

NEW YORK-- During the height of the Soviet-American cold war in the 1960s, the US and the Soviet Union vetoed each other's resolutions in the Security Council — primarily to protect their own national and international interests. As always, the US never wavered in protecting Israel, while the Soviets ensured that their political and military allies in Eastern Europe (and also countries such as Cuba, Ethiopia, Libya, Syria, Iraq and India) were safeguarded.

Just as much as Israel was fully armed with American weapons systems, the Soviets were the primary arms suppliers to India, Cuba, Syria and Iraq. The military factor also determined the political friendship between countries — be it with the US or the Soviet Union. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 — symbolizing the end of the cold war — and the subsequent dismantling of the Soviet empire, the political dynamics of the Security Council underwent a change. The vetoes have been used less often, and there have been fewer political confrontations in the chambers of the Security Council.

With the People's Republic of China emerging as a new political, economic and military power, the cat-and-mouse game now involves Beijing and Washington. If given a free hand, the Bush administration would have initiated UN economic and military sanctions on at least four countries: Iran, Sudan, North Korea and Burma (Myanmar). But its attempts, mostly behind closed doors, continue to be thwarted by potential threats of vetoes by China which is protective of its own national interests in all four countries. As a result, the existing sanctions against these four nations are mostly US sanctions, not UN sanctions.

As its economy keeps spiralling, China has cultivated a voracious appetite for both oil and raw materials. As a result, it has strengthened its relations with countries such as Iran and Sudan — both shunned by the US — and also actively courted countries such as Nigeria, Burma and Zimbabwe. In international politics, the primary factors determining relationships are linked either to oil or arms — or an unholy combination of both.

And according to a new report released by the London-based Amnesty International (AI), China is a key arms supplier to countries such as Sudan, Burma and Nepal, described as human rights violators. Iran is also a longtime recipient of Chinese weapons, including Shenyang fighter planes, T-59 battle tanks, HY-2 Silkworm surface- to-surface missiles and rocket launchers. China has strong military interests in both Sudan and Iran which, in turn, are oil suppliers. "China's arms exports, estimated to be in excess of one billion dollars a year often involve the exchange of weapons for raw materials to fuel the country's rapid economic growth," says the AI study.

At onetime, the running gag in the US was that even though an American invasion of Iraq would send oil prices skyrocketing, the capture and military occupation of that country may possibly result in Americans getting their petrol free for their gas-guzzling vehicles. The former was a reality, the latter a myth. But most political observers still believe that the US invasion of Iraq was prompted primarily by oil.

When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the US last April, the New York Times ran an editorial cynical of China's comments about America's over-consumption of oil. "The leader of a country (read: China) that consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day is warning the leader of a country (read: the US) that consumes some 6.5 million barrels not to try to lock up world oil resources." In other words, said the Times, China is acting like everyone else: subjugating its foreign policy to its energy needs.

The US, however, is no better because it invaded Iraq largely for its oil resources just as much as it is also militarily protective of its Gulf allies — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — and would never push for democratic reforms in any of these family-run authoritarian regimes.

The Bush administration, although livid at China's defence of countries such as Iran, Sudan and Burma, is less likely to go on a confrontation course with Beijing because of the strong economic relations. When Hu arrived in the US in April, his first stop was not Washington DC, but the city of Seattle in the state of Washington which is home to Boeing aircraft. Since 1972, China has purchased 678 Boeing aircraft at a cost of over $37 billion. In fact, the Chinese president flew into the US on a Boeing 747.

Hu, who was given a rousing welcome in Seattle, was a hit at a luncheon meeting of some 600 business officials and political leaders when he rattled off statistics to show the strengthened economic relationship between the two countries. The US needs China just as much as China needs the US. With nearly 1.3 billion people, China's potential market is an absolute dream for US businessmen.

The statistics Hu cited were staggering: China has 740 million fixed-line telephone users and is expanding; 30,000 megawatts of installed capacity in its nuclear power plants; 530,000 foreign-invested business enterprises, including 49,000 US linked; and $1.4 trillion (that's a trillion with a T) in export volume in 2005 alone.

With more and more Americans saluting their national flag made in China, the Chinese have flooded the US market with virtually all the consumer goods that Americans crave for. Hu cited statistics, both from the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and the US investment bank Morgan Stanley, to prove his point. He said that cheap Chinese products had saved US consumers over $100 billion. At the same time, increased trade with Beijing had also created more than four million jobs in the US.

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