Friday, January 20, 2006

The Chinese Connection

In a lengthy article in Policy Review, Tony Corn makes an interesting observation about Chinese influence in the Middle East and in East Africa.

The Sino-Islamic connection is not the fruit of some fertile neocon imagination, but a fundamental fact of international life for anyone who cares to take a closer look at China’s energy policy. The “it’s about oil” mantra heard in some Western quarters is indeed not unfounded — so long as one remembers that in little more than a decade, China has changed from a net exporter of oil into the world’s second largest importer, and that in the not-so-distant future, the energy needs of 1.2 billion Chinese will dwarf those of 300 million Americans. The oil factor does indeed explain why China has a more proactive policy than the U.S., and a more reckless one as well. As the most populated country in the world, China is also the country that cares the least about the danger of nuclear proliferation involved in some of its more Faustian bargains.

But there is more than oil at stake in China’s strategic relations with Muslim countries. If 1979 marks the return of Islam in history, it also marks (more significantly than 1949 ever did) the return of China in history. Throughout the 1980s, China experienced phenomenal growth rates and was catching up fast with the West, when the advent of the information revolution widened the gap anew. Since the Chinese leadership cannot go into overdrive without destroying the social fabric (and ultimately its own power base), it can only hope to narrow the gap by slowing down the West. For Western historians, all this has a deja-vu all over again feel. Just as imperial latecomers like Germany and Japan did not hesitate to play the Islamic card for all it was worth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, today China has — to put it mildly — no reason to be a priori hostile to the idea of using jihadism as a weapon of mass disruption against the West.

The congruence between the Islamic 4GW jihad and China’s own Unrestricted Warfare20 doctrine is therefore no surprise. This Sino-Islamic connection has been largely ignored by European elites too busy indulging in anti-American posturing instead. In the EU media, China is invariably portrayed as being all (economic) opportunities and no (political) threats; from the Spanish and French media in particular, one would never guess that China in fact has a rather proactive — and sophisticated — policy in Spain’s and France’s former colonies. As for the Islamic question, EU elites continue to believe that it can best be solved by keeping as much distance as possible between the U.S. approach (Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative) and the EU approach (Euro-Med Partnership).21

The recent referenda on the EU Constitution have proven, if anything, how disconnected EU elites have become, not just from world realities, but from their own constituencies. It should now be clear to all that the intra-European gap between elites and public opinion is greater still (and in fact older) than the transatlantic gap between the U.S. and the EU. For Washington, there has never been a better time to do “European Outreach” and drive home the point that the existence of a “Sino-Islamic Connection” calls for closer transatlantic cooperation and a reassertion of the West. In short, if the Atlantic Alliance did not exist, it would have to be invented.22

Europe's reluctance to join Washington in the Iraq adventure should not be conflated with its refusal to deal realistically with its growing Muslim insurgency. European leaders had valid, rational concerns regarding the Iraq War. But the failure of European leaders to address the threat of Muslim immigration has no rational basis save fear. Fear of the growing Muslim electorates inside their own countries - electorates whose values and predispositions are antithetical to the European cultures in which they are growing. A foolish, and even desperate, adherence to leftist multicultural dogma in the face of approaching disaster, is the current hallmark of most European governments. The next uprising by Muslims in France will see a lot more than just cars burned.

But Iraq has so absorbed the attention of Washington, that Bejing's strenghtening influence in the Middle East and even in the Americas has been overlooked. al Qaeda makes nothing of its own. China is a manufacturing giant to which the US has exported most of its industrial base. Which is the greater threat?


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