Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How China's secret deals are fuelling war

The Times of London claims in today's editions that it is China that is fuelling the current war in Lebanon by trading weapons for Arab oil and using the profits to buy Israeli technology to produce more weapons. Some of you may recall that the US stopped an Israeli weapons sale to China a few years ago. Now I understand why.
A brilliant analysis of China’s role by Barry Rubin, in the Middle East Review of International Affairs, describes China’s first steps thus: “As hope for global revolution faded and Beijing switched its partners from tiny opposition groups to governments, China now projected itself as leader of the Third World, struggling against the hegemony of the two superpowers, the USSR and the United States. Lacking the strength and level of development of other great powers, China would try to make itself the head of a massive coalition of the weaker states.” That meant, in the Middle East, Israel’s enemies.


The Middle East is now China’s fourth largest trading partner. But its trade is hardly traditional. As Rubin puts it: “Being so late in entering the region — and having less to offer in economic or technology terms than the United States, Russia, Japan, and Europe — China must go after marginal or risky markets . . . supplying customers no one else will service with goods no one else will sell them.” What that means, of course, is arms.

In the war-by-proxy analysis, Iran is rightly said to be the power and arms supplier behind Hezbollah. But the issue of where Iran’s arms come from has been ignored. China has sold Iran tanks, planes, artillery, cruise, anti-tank, surface-to-surface and anti-aircraft missiles as well as ships and mines. It is also Iran’s main supplier of unconventional arms and is thought by almost all monitors to be illicitly involved in supplying key elements in Iran’s chemical and nuclear weapons programme. This is despite China being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

China has sold nuclear reactors to Algeria, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and Chinese nuclear weapons designs were found in Libya. It has also negotiated with Syria on the sale of M11 ballistic missiles. China is one of the few global suppliers of ballistic missiles. and can charge a heavy price. It demanded of the Saudis, for instance, to whom it sold CSS2 missiles, payment in cash, ensuring both the cementing of a key strategic relationship and total deniability of the sale.

Both nations have kept the relationship as secret as possible, but one expert, Robert Mullins, estimates that at least 1,000 Chinese military advisers have been based at Saudi missile installations since the mid-1990s. Such secret deals are handled by Polytechnologies Incorporated, a defence firm controlled by the People’s Liberation Army, which both installs weapons and trains handlers.

But like all the most successful illicit traders, China is ideologically profligate in its relations. Keen to supply weapons to Israel’s enemies in return for oil, it is equally happy to trade with Israel in return for its technology. As Benjamin Netanyahu put it to the Chinese when, as Prime Minister, he championed an Israeli investment in China: “Israeli knowhow is more valuable than Arab oil.” The estimates are that there has been between $1 billion and $3 billion of arms trade between China and Israel. But in this case the flow of arms and weapons technology has been from Israel to China.

In the immediate analysis of the present conflict, it is clearly Iran and Syria that, as President Bush put it, should “stop doing this shit”. But any deeper explanation of the realpolitik of the Middle East has to include the insidious role of the Chinese, the 21st century’s next superpower.
Hopefully when this ends, Israel will reconsider some of its relations with China. Read the whole thing.


Post a Comment

<< Home