A recent request by Vietnam to come to her aid in resolving China’s aggression in the South China Sea confirms that the next cold war will be fought against China in the South Pacific over the oil resources there.
Incoming Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, seems to understand the threat, writing in a 79-page report ahead of his Senate confirmation hearing that China’s military is starting to “emphasize anti- access and area capabilities” with the high hopes of shutting out America from Asia. Left unsaid in the report was how to counter this threat realistically – by shutting off China’s spigot of resources.
China’s government-fueled, inflationary growth means that she depends on foreign sources of oil. She has decided to go on a worldwide resource shopping spree. In deal after deal, she carves up Africa with impunity as the West continues a paternalistic policy of favoring aid, not trade with resource-rich African countries. As freelance columnist Jennifer Brea reported in The American in 2006, “total trade between China and Africa nearly quadrupled over the last six years, from $10.8 billion in 2000 to nearly $40 billion in 2006, making Beijing the continent’s third largest trading partner. The Chinese government intends to reach $100 billion by 2010, and Chinese trade and investment are a major factor driving Sub-Saharan Africa’s record 5.8% growth rate, the highest since 1974.” China’s demand for oil was part of the reason that it opposed the military intervention in Libya and humanitarian intervention in Sudan. It’s bad for business if the dictatorships with which the Chinese government has cut deals fall.
China’s hunger for resources has obvious military dimensions which America neglects at her peril. The Chinese decision to restrict export of rare earth metals – a crucial component for producing cruise missiles and guided weapons systems – can only be seen strategically. China, which produces 97 percent of the global supply of 17 rare earth minerals, recently consolidated its control by granting state-owned Baotou Steel Rare Earth a total monopoly. (Fortunately this development will be countered by renewed trade with Mongolia, which has the world’s second largest reserves of rare earth metals and which recently updated its mining laws for foreign investment in preparation for meeting with a congressional team led by Congressman David Dreier.)
The resource decision is all part of its strategy. Ultimately China, like Japan before it, plans to act locally, keeping Asia for the Asians, by which they really mean the Chinese. Of course Chinese leaders know that were she ever to try to take Taiwan, America could end her economic growth by severing the supply lines from the Middle East and Africa. She therefore needs closer sources of energy which can be defended against disturbances and so she is positioning to develop the oil resources in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the Pacific Ocean. If necessary, these energy fields can be defended with low-cost, long-range, ocean-skimming, radar-avoiding cruise missiles, which effectively deny large swaths of the South China Sea. China’s new DF-21D, guided-ballistic missile can hit American carriers nearly 2,000 missiles away. Though there remains some doubt as to how well the Chinese can maneuver these missiles in the absence of a guidance system, Chinese cyber attacks on American military installations and businesses can cripple our intelligence apparatus. It is building submarines at a clip – 30 since 2000 – and an aircraft carrier. One of those ultra-quiet submarines popped up in the middle of America’s fleet exercises in 2007. It has been hitherto undetected.
The cognoscenti – the latest of which is the sycophantic Henry Kissinger, whose Kissinger Associates makes money off of its access to the Chinese dictatorship – are convinced that China is to be the world’s superpower and plan to be her pets as she manages our decline. But as Charles Krauthammer rightly puts it, decline is a choice. Americans can still protect the peace in Asia but only if we continue to build close relations with all of China’s neighbors. Only then can we contain the Chinese.