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Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.

Maximising Persian Gulf oil flows to avert a potential global energy crisis motivated Iraq War planners – not WMD or democracy
Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry

Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq War – yet to this day, few media reflections on the conflict accurately explore the extent to which opening up Persian Gulf energy resources to the world economy was a prime driver behind the Anglo-American invasion.

The overwhelming narrative has been one of incompetence and failure in an otherwise noble, if ill-conceived and badly managed endeavour to free Iraqis from tyranny. To be sure, the conduct of the war was indeed replete with incompetence at a colossal scale – but this doesn’t erase the very real mendacity of the cold, strategic logic that motivated the war’s US and British planners in the first place.

According to the infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC) document endorsed by senior Bush administration officials as far back as 1997, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the US “to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

So Saddam’s WMD was not really the issue – and neither was Saddam himself.

The real issue is candidly described in a 2001 report on “energy security” – commissioned by then US Vice-President Dick Cheney – published by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. It warned of an impending global energy crisis that would increase “US and global vulnerability to disruption”, and leave the US facing “unprecedented energy price volatility.”

The main source of disruption, the report observed, is “Middle East tension“, in particular, the threat posed by Iraq. Critically, the documented illustrated that US officials had lost all faith in Saddam due his erratic and unpredictable energy export policies. In 2000, Iraq had “effectively become a swing producer, turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so.” There is a “possibility that Saddam Hussein may remove Iraqi oil from the market for an extended period of time” in order to damage prices:

“Iraq remains a destabilising influence to… the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export programme to manipulate oil markets. This would display his personal power, enhance his image as a pan-Arab leader… and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions against his regime. The United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments. The United States should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia, and with key countries in the Middle East, to restate goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies.”

The Iraq War was only partly, however, about big profits for Anglo-American oil conglomerates – that would be a bonus (one which in the end has failed to materialise to the degree hoped for – not for want of trying though).

The real goal – as Greg Muttitt documented in his book Fuel on the Fireciting declassified Foreign Office files from 2003 onwards – was stabilising global energy supplies as a whole by ensuring the free flow of Iraqi oil to world markets – benefits to US and UK companies constituted an important but secondary goal:

“The most important strategic interest lay in expanding global energy supplies, through foreign investment, in some of the world’s largest oil reserves – in particular Iraq. This meshed neatly with the secondary aim of securing contracts for their companies. Note that the strategy documents released here tend to refer to ‘British and global energy supplies.’ British energy security is to be obtained by there being ample global supplies – it is not about the specific flow.”

To this end, as Whitehall documents obtained by the Independent show, the US and British sought to privatise Iraqi oil production with a view to allow foreign companies to takeover. Minutes of a meeting held on 12 May 2003 said:

“The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest.”

A “desirable” outcome for Iraqi’s crippled oil industry, officials concluded, is:

“… an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields.”

The documents added that “foreign companies’ involvement seems to be the only possible solution” to make Iraq a reliable oil exporter. This, however, would be “politically sensitive”, and would “require careful handling to avoid the impression that we are trying to push the Iraqis down one particular path.”

Media analyses claiming lazily that there was no planning for the aftermath of the Iraq War should look closer at the public record. The reality is that extensive plans for postwar reconstruction were pursued, but they did not consider humanitarian and societal issues of any significance, focusing instead on maintaining the authoritarian structures of Saddam’s brutal regime after his removal, while upgrading Iraq’s oil infrastructure to benefit foreign investors.

A series of news reports, for instance, confirmed how the State Department had set up 17 separate working groups to work out this post-war plan. Iraq would be “governed by a senior US military officer… with a civilian administrator”, which would “initially impose martial law”, while Iraqis would be relegated to the sidelines as “advisers” to the US administration. The US envisaged “a broad and protracted American role in managing the reconstruction of the country… with a continued role for thousands of US troops there for years to come”, in “defence of the country’s oil fields”, which would eventually be “privatised” along with “other supporting industries.”

The centrality of concerns about energy to Iraq War planning was most candidly confirmed eight years ago by a former senior British Army official in Iraq, James Ellery, currently director of British security firm and US defence contractor, Aegis.

Brigadier-General James Ellery CBE, the Foreign Office’s Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since 2003, had confirmed the critical role of Iraqi oil reserves in alleviating a “world shortage” of conventional oil. The Iraq War has helped to head off what Ellery described as “the tide of Easternisation” – a shift in global political and economic power toward China and India, to whom goes “two thirds of the Middle East’s oil.” His remarks were made as part of a presentation at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, sponsored by the Iraqi Youth Foundation, on 22nd April 2008:

“The reason that oil reached $117 a barrel last week was less to do with security of supply… than World shortage.”

He went on to emphasise the strategic significance of Iraqi petroleum fields in relation to the danger of production peaks being breached in major oil reserves around the world:

“Russia’s production has peaked at 10 million barrels per day; Africa has proved slow to yield affordable extra supplies – from Sudan and Angola for example. Thus the only near-term potential increase will be from Iraq.”

Whether Iraq began “favouring East or West” could therefore be “de-stabilising” not only “within the region but to nations far beyond which have an interest.”

“Iraq holds the key to stability in the region”, Ellery continued, due to its “relatively large, consuming population,” its being home to “the second largest reserve of oil – under exploited”, and finally its geostrategic location “on the routes between Asia, Europe, Arabia and North Africa – hence the Silk Road.”

Despite escalating instability and internal terrorism, Iraq is now swiftlyreclaiming its rank as one of the world’s fastest-growing exporters, cushioning the impact of supply outages elsewhere and thus welcomed by OPEC. Back in 2008, Ellery had confirmed Allied ambitions to “raise Iraqi’s oil production from 2.5 million bpd today to 3 million by next year and maybe ultimately 6 million barrels per day.”

Thus, the primary motive of the war – mobilising Iraqi oil production tosustain global oil flows and moderate global oil prices – has, so far, been fairly successful according to the International Energy Agency.

Eleven years on, there should be no doubt that the 2003 Iraq War was among the first major resource wars of the 21st century. It is unlikely to be the last.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.

Maximising Persian Gulf oil flows to avert a potential global energy crisis motivated Iraq War planners – not WMD or democracy
Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry

Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq War – yet to this day, few media reflections on the conflict accurately explore the extent to which opening up Persian Gulf energy resources to the world economy was a prime driver behind the Anglo-American invasion.

The overwhelming narrative has been one of incompetence and failure in an otherwise noble, if ill-conceived and badly managed endeavour to free Iraqis from tyranny. To be sure, the conduct of the war was indeed replete with incompetence at a colossal scale – but this doesn’t erase the very real mendacity of the cold, strategic logic that motivated the war’s US and British planners in the first place.

According to the infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC) document endorsed by senior Bush administration officials as far back as 1997, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the US “to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

So Saddam’s WMD was not really the issue – and neither was Saddam himself.

The real issue is candidly described in a 2001 report on “energy security” – commissioned by then US Vice-President Dick Cheney – published by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. It warned of an impending global energy crisis that would increase “US and global vulnerability to disruption”, and leave the US facing “unprecedented energy price volatility.”

The main source of disruption, the report observed, is “Middle East tension“, in particular, the threat posed by Iraq. Critically, the documented illustrated that US officials had lost all faith in Saddam due his erratic and unpredictable energy export policies. In 2000, Iraq had “effectively become a swing producer, turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so.” There is a “possibility that Saddam Hussein may remove Iraqi oil from the market for an extended period of time” in order to damage prices:

“Iraq remains a destabilising influence to… the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export programme to manipulate oil markets. This would display his personal power, enhance his image as a pan-Arab leader… and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions against his regime. The United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments. The United States should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia, and with key countries in the Middle East, to restate goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies.”

The Iraq War was only partly, however, about big profits for Anglo-American oil conglomerates – that would be a bonus (one which in the end has failed to materialise to the degree hoped for – not for want of trying though).

The real goal – as Greg Muttitt documented in his book Fuel on the Fireciting declassified Foreign Office files from 2003 onwards – was stabilising global energy supplies as a whole by ensuring the free flow of Iraqi oil to world markets – benefits to US and UK companies constituted an important but secondary goal:

“The most important strategic interest lay in expanding global energy supplies, through foreign investment, in some of the world’s largest oil reserves – in particular Iraq. This meshed neatly with the secondary aim of securing contracts for their companies. Note that the strategy documents released here tend to refer to ‘British and global energy supplies.’ British energy security is to be obtained by there being ample global supplies – it is not about the specific flow.”

To this end, as Whitehall documents obtained by the Independent show, the US and British sought to privatise Iraqi oil production with a view to allow foreign companies to takeover. Minutes of a meeting held on 12 May 2003 said:

“The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest.”

A “desirable” outcome for Iraqi’s crippled oil industry, officials concluded, is:

“… an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields.”

The documents added that “foreign companies’ involvement seems to be the only possible solution” to make Iraq a reliable oil exporter. This, however, would be “politically sensitive”, and would “require careful handling to avoid the impression that we are trying to push the Iraqis down one particular path.”

Media analyses claiming lazily that there was no planning for the aftermath of the Iraq War should look closer at the public record. The reality is that extensive plans for postwar reconstruction were pursued, but they did not consider humanitarian and societal issues of any significance, focusing instead on maintaining the authoritarian structures of Saddam’s brutal regime after his removal, while upgrading Iraq’s oil infrastructure to benefit foreign investors.

A series of news reports, for instance, confirmed how the State Department had set up 17 separate working groups to work out this post-war plan. Iraq would be “governed by a senior US military officer… with a civilian administrator”, which would “initially impose martial law”, while Iraqis would be relegated to the sidelines as “advisers” to the US administration. The US envisaged “a broad and protracted American role in managing the reconstruction of the country… with a continued role for thousands of US troops there for years to come”, in “defence of the country’s oil fields”, which would eventually be “privatised” along with “other supporting industries.”

The centrality of concerns about energy to Iraq War planning was most candidly confirmed eight years ago by a former senior British Army official in Iraq, James Ellery, currently director of British security firm and US defence contractor, Aegis.

Brigadier-General James Ellery CBE, the Foreign Office’s Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since 2003, had confirmed the critical role of Iraqi oil reserves in alleviating a “world shortage” of conventional oil. The Iraq War has helped to head off what Ellery described as “the tide of Easternisation” – a shift in global political and economic power toward China and India, to whom goes “two thirds of the Middle East’s oil.” His remarks were made as part of a presentation at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, sponsored by the Iraqi Youth Foundation, on 22nd April 2008:

“The reason that oil reached $117 a barrel last week was less to do with security of supply… than World shortage.”

He went on to emphasise the strategic significance of Iraqi petroleum fields in relation to the danger of production peaks being breached in major oil reserves around the world:

“Russia’s production has peaked at 10 million barrels per day; Africa has proved slow to yield affordable extra supplies – from Sudan and Angola for example. Thus the only near-term potential increase will be from Iraq.”

Whether Iraq began “favouring East or West” could therefore be “de-stabilising” not only “within the region but to nations far beyond which have an interest.”

“Iraq holds the key to stability in the region”, Ellery continued, due to its “relatively large, consuming population,” its being home to “the second largest reserve of oil – under exploited”, and finally its geostrategic location “on the routes between Asia, Europe, Arabia and North Africa – hence the Silk Road.”

Despite escalating instability and internal terrorism, Iraq is now swiftlyreclaiming its rank as one of the world’s fastest-growing exporters, cushioning the impact of supply outages elsewhere and thus welcomed by OPEC. Back in 2008, Ellery had confirmed Allied ambitions to “raise Iraqi’s oil production from 2.5 million bpd today to 3 million by next year and maybe ultimately 6 million barrels per day.”

Thus, the primary motive of the war – mobilising Iraqi oil production tosustain global oil flows and moderate global oil prices – has, so far, been fairly successful according to the International Energy Agency.

Eleven years on, there should be no doubt that the 2003 Iraq War was among the first major resource wars of the 21st century. It is unlikely to be the last.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Jan Winiecki compares Vladimir Putin’s short-sighted leadership to Soviet rule in the 1970’s and 1980’s. – Project Syndicate

Jan Winiecki compares Vladimir Putin’s short-sighted leadership to Soviet rule in the 1970’s and 1980’s. – Project Syndicate.

RZESZOW – With the Winter Olympics underway in Sochi, Russia is again in the global spotlight – and President Vladimir Putin is taking the opportunity to present his country as a resurgent power. But, beneath the swagger and fanfare lie serious doubts about Russia’s future. In fact, long-term price trends for the mineral resources upon which the economy depends, together with Russia’s history (especially the last two decades of Soviet rule), suggest that Putin’s luck may well be about to run out.

Mineral-resource price cycles generally begin with a rise lasting 8-10 years, followed by a longer period of stable, relatively low prices. Given that prices have been on an upswing since the middle of the last decade, they should begin declining within two years, if they have not done so already. Moreover, the last price trough lasted more than 20 years, implying that Russia cannot expect simply to wait it out.

But, beyond acknowledging the need to cut spending – an obvious imperative, after the estimated $50 billion cost of the Sochi Olympics – Putin has not signaled any concrete plans to tackle Russia’s economic weaknesses.

Russia faced a similar challenge in the 1970’s and 1980’s – and, like Putin today, its leaders failed to do what was needed. According to former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, who led Russia’s only post-Soviet government that was oriented toward systemic change, the socialist command economy exhausted its growth potential by 1970.

Under non-totalitarian circumstances, the threat of stagnation would have generated strong pressure for systemic reform. But the Soviet Union’s aging communist leadership, encouraged by the OPEC-generated oil-price explosion and the discovery of massive hydrocarbon reserves in western Siberia, took a different tack, using natural-resource revenues to finance continued military expansion.

In an effort to appease the public, the Soviet leadership increased food imports – both directly (meat imports, for example, quintupled from 1970 to 1980) and indirectly (by increasing feedstock imports). While this strategy worked in the short term, it caused food consumption to increase far beyond what the economy could sustain.

As a result, the Soviet economy became even more dependent on resource revenues, making it extremely vulnerable to price fluctuations in international commodity markets. When mineral prices began to decline in the early 1980’s – reaching their lowest point in 1999 – the economy, which had already been stagnating for about five years, went into a free-fall.

Today, the Russian economy is no more resilient than it was in the late Soviet era, with commodities, especially oil and natural gas, accounting for around 90% of total exports and manufacturing for only about 6%. If anything, the economy’s dependence on exports of fuels and industrial minerals has increased, meaning that smaller price fluctuations have a greater impact on Russia’s fiscal and external position. Indeed, some observers – including the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) – have predicted that the country’s current account could slip into deficit as early as next year.

A lasting deficit would eliminate the major economic difference between Putin’s Russia and its Soviet counterpart during the 1980’s – namely, the financial buffer that has been accumulated over the last decade. It is this buffer – which amounted to $785 billion in the 2000-2011 period – that protected the economy from a larger shock when the global financial crisis erupted in 2009, and that has financed Russia’s foreign-policy initiatives, including its recent cooperation with Ukraine.

The CBR’s warning of twin fiscal and current-account deficits assumed that oil prices would remain steady, at $104 per barrel in 2015. But my expectation that oil prices will decline over the next 3-7 years suggests that Russia’s medium-term prospects are actually considerably worse.

In short, Russia will soon have to confront diminished macroeconomic health, with few options for restoring it. Russia’s uncompetitive manufacturing sector certainly cannot pick up the slack, and this is unlikely to change, given Putin’s unwillingness to pursue the needed shift to a more knowledge-intensive economy.

This new reality will not only affect Russia’s foreign-policy and imperial ambitions; it will also undermine the relative social and political stability that has characterized the last decade. Without resource revenues, the government will struggle to finance the policies and programs that are needed to placate ordinary Russians. In this context, the Sochi Olympics, intended to herald Russia’s triumphant return as a global power, may soon come to be regarded as a swansong.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/jan-winiecki-compares-vladimir-putin-s-short-sighted-leadership-to-soviet-rule-in-the-1970-s-and-1980-s#TiVhRbCHDwyeZSOZ.99

Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.

From North America to Europe, the ‘national security’ apparatus is being bought off by Big Oil to rout peaceful activism
Climate and anti-fracking activists blocade site

Are the hundreds of peaceful protesters who blockaded the Cuadrilla oil drilling site outside Balcombe, West Sussex, dangerous “extremists”? Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Over the last year, a mass of shocking evidence has emerged on the close ties between Western government spy agencies and giant energycompanies, and their mutual interests in criminalising anti-fracking activists.

Activists tarred with the same brush

In late 2013, official documents obtained under freedom of information showed that Canada‘s domestic spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), had ramped up its surveillance of activists opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project on ‘national security’ grounds. The CSIS also routinely passed information about such groups to the project’s corporate architect, Calgary-based energy company, Enbridge.

The Northern Gateway is an $8 billion project to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbia coast, where it can be shipped to global markets. According to the documents a Canadian federal agency, the National Energy Board, worked with CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to coordinate with Enbridge, TransCanada, and other energy corporations in gathering intelligence on anti-fracking activists – despite senior police privately admitting they “could not detect a direct or specific criminal threat.”

Now it has emerged that former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl – the man appointed by Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to head up the CSIS’ civilian oversight panel, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) – has been lobbying for Enbridge since 2011.

But that’s not all. According to CBC News, only one member of Strahl’s spy watchdog committee “has no ties to either the current government or the oil industry.” For instance, SIRC member Denis Losier sits on the board of directors of Enbridge-subsidiary, Enbridge NB, while Yves Fortier, is a former board member of TransCanada, the company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Counter-insurgency in the homeland

Investigative journalist Steve Horn reports that TransCanada has also worked closely with American law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in attempting to criminalise US citizens opposed to the pipeline. Files obtained under freedom of information last summer showed that in training documents for the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), TransCanada suggested that non-violent Keystone XL protestors could be deterred using criminal and anti-terror statutes:

“… the language in some of the documents is so vague that it could also ensnare journalists, researchers and academics, as well.”

According to the Earth Island Journal, official documents show that TransCanada “has established close ties with state and federal law enforcement agencies along the proposed pipeline route.” But TransCanada is only one example of “the revolving door between state law enforcement agencies and the private sector, especially in areas where fracking and pipeline construction have become big business.”

This has had a tangible impact. In March last year, US law enforcement officials had infiltrated and spied on environmentalists attending a tar sands resistance camp in Oklahoma, leading to the successful pre-emptive disruption of their protest action.

Just last December, other activists in Oklahoma faced terror charges for draping an anti-fracking banner in the lobby of the offices housing US oil and gas company, Devon Energy. The two protestors were charged with carrying out a “terrorism hoax” for using gold glitter on their banner, some of which happened to scatter to the floor of the building – depicted by a police spokesman as a potentially “dangerous or toxic” substance in the form of a “black powder,” causing a panic.

But Suzanne Goldenberg reports a different account:

“After a few uneventful minutes, [the activists] Stephenson and Warner took down the banner and left the building – apologising to the janitor who came hurrying over with a broom. A few people, clutching coffee cups, wandered around in the lobby below, according to Stephenson. But she did not detect much of a response to the banner. There wasn’t even that much mess, she said. The pair had used just four small tubes of glitter on their two banners.”

The criminalisation of peaceful activism under the rubric of ‘anti-terrorism’ is an escalating trend linked directly to corporate co-optationof the national security apparatus. In one egregious example, thousands of pages of government records confirm how local US police departments, the FBI and the DHS monitored Occupy activists nationwide as part of public-private intelligence sharing with banks and corporations.

Anti-fracking activists in particular have come under increased FBI surveillance in recent years under an expanded definition of ‘eco-terrorism‘, although the FBI concedes that eco-terrorism is on the decline. This is consistent with US defence planning documents over the last decade which increasingly highlight the danger of domestic “insurgencies” due to the potential collapse of public order under various environmental, energy or economic crises.

Manufacturing “consensus”

In the UK, Scotland Yard’s National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (which started life as the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit and later became the National Domestic Extremism Unit), has had a long record of equating the spectre of “domestic extremism” with “single-issue protests, such as animal rights, anti-war, anti-globalisation and anti-GM crops.” Apart from animal rights, these movements have been “overwhelmingly peaceful” points out George Monbiot.

This has not prevented the police unit from monitoring almost 9,000 Britons deemed to hold “radical political views,” ranging from “anti-capitalists” to “anti-war demonstrators.” Increasingly though, according to a Guardian investigation, the unit “is known to have focused its resources on spying on environmental campaigners, particularly those engaged in direct action and civil disobedience to protest against climate change.”

Most recently, British police have gone so far as to conduct surveillance of Cambridge University students involved in social campaigns like anti-fracking, education, anti-fascism, and opposition to austerity, despite a lack of reason to suspect criminal activity.

This is no accident. Yesterday, senior Tory and ex-Cabinet minister Lord Deben, chairman of the UK government-sponsored Committee on Climate Change, characterised anyone suggesting that fracking is “devastatingly damaging” as a far-left “extremist,” holding “nonsensical” views associated with “Trotskyite” dogma. In contrast, he described “moderate” environmentalists as situated safely in the legitimate spectrum of a “broad range of consensus” across “all political parties.”

In other words, if you are disillusioned with the existing party political system and its approach to environmental issues, you are an extremist.

Deben’s comments demonstrate the regressive mindset behind the British government’s private collaboration with shale gas industry executives to “manage the British public’s hostility to fracking,” as revealed in official emails analysed by Damien Carrington.

The emails exposed the alarming extent to which government is “acting as an arm of the gas industry,” compounding earlier revelations that Department of Energy and Climate Change employees involved in drafting UK energy policy have been seconded from UK gas corporations.

Public opinion is the enemy

The latest polling data shows that some 47% of Britons “would not be happy for a gas well site using fracking to open within 10 miles of their home,” with just 14% saying they would be happy. By implication, the government views nearly half of the British public as potential extremists merely for being sceptical of shale gas.

This illustrates precisely why the trend-line of mass surveillance exemplified in the Snowden disclosures has escalated across the Western world. From North America to Europe, the twin spectres of “terrorism” and “extremism” are being disingenuously deployed by an ever more centralised nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power, to suppress widening public opposition to that very process of unaccountable centralisation.

But then, what’s new? Back in 1975, the Trilateral Commission – a network of some 300 American, European and Japanese elites drawn from business, banking, government, academia and media founded by Chase Manhattan Bank chairman David Rockerfeller – published an influential study called The Crisis of Democracy.

The report concluded that the problems of governance “stem from an excess of democracy” which makes government “less powerful and more active” due to being “overloaded with participants and demands.” This democratic excess at the time consisted of:

“… a marked upswing in other forms of citizen participation, in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ’cause’ organizations… [including] markedly higher levels of self-consciousness on the part of blacks, Indians, Chicanos, white ethnic groups, students, and women… [and] a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private… People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.”

The solution, therefore, is “to restore the prestige and authority of central government institutions,” including “hegemonic power” in the world. This requires the government to somehow “reinforce tendencies towards political passivity” and to instill “a greater degree of moderation in democracy.” This is because:

“… the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups… In itself, this marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic, but it has also been one of the factors which has enabled democracy to function effectively.”

Today, such official sentiments live on in the form of covert psychological operations targeted against Western publics by the CIAPentagon andMI6, invariably designed to exaggerate threats to manipulate public opinion in favour of government policy.

As the global economy continues to suffocate itself, and as publics increasingly lose faith in prevailing institutions, the spectre of ‘terror’ is an increasingly convenient tool to attempt to restore authority by whipping populations into panic-induced subordination.

Evidently, however, what the nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power fears the most is simply an “excess of democracy”: the unpalatable prospect of citizens rising up and taking power back.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Asia Times Online :: China loses control of its foreign policy

Asia Times Online :: China loses control of its foreign policy.

China loses control of its foreign policy
By Terry McCulleyTo some people, President Xi Jinping’s efforts to consolidate his control over China’s military and government are a welcome development, especially given China’s haphazard approach to crisis management. Xi’s actions might even be interpreted as a sign that China is transitioning towardshu a more “advanced” political system in which the military and foreign policy are controlled by a strong civilian chief executive.In reality, Xi’s attempt to tighten his control over China’s vast and unwieldy bureaucracy reinforces global fears that China is starting to lose control of its foreign policy. This disturbing truth goes a long way towards explaining why the international community was so alarmed by China’s announcement of a new “Air Defense Identification Zone” (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, followed shortly

thereafter by a “no-fishing zone” in the South China Sea.

Even if these new zones were carefully planned years in advance, they also represent part of a larger pattern of aggression – propelled by China’s hostile and uncompromising form of nationalism – that is beyond the ability of China’s leaders to control.

That is what really underlies the collective anxiety of the United States, Japan, and Southeast Asian countries every time China makes aggressive moves overseas. Ironically, China’s new zones of control only serve to underscore deep concerns among a global community that is starting to realize that China is incapable of controlling the nationalist sentiment which has hijacked China’s foreign policy.

Interestingly enough, some commentators have suggested that China doesn’t even have a foreign policy – or at least nothing that’s remotely coherent. This lack of long-term vision makes Chinese foreign policy even more susceptible to being steered in a dangerous direction by those who stand to benefit from aggressive nationalist posturing.

For instance, in a New York Times op-ed, China scholar David Shambaugh asks, “Does China Have a Foreign Policy?” and then proceeds to answer the question in the negative. This absence of strategic planning makes China’s foreign policy vulnerable to the whims of zealous nationalists and hawkish PLA officers seeking to instigate conflict in order to acquire more power and resources.

Indeed, China security analyst Andrew Scobell suggests that China’s military has engaged in “roguish” behavior motivated by a desire to acquire a greater slice of the government’s budget. According to Scobell, examples of such “roguish” behavior include missile tests near Taiwan in 1995-96; the collision between Chinese and US military aircrafts in 2001; an incident involving a Chinese submarine and a US aircraft carrier in 2006; and the unannounced anti-satellite missile test in 2007. Scobell says that such “roguish” actions could indicate that “PLA leaders are going their own way to pursue power and resources with little regard for civilian leaders or consideration for the larger implications of their activities.”

Another scholar, Professor Huang Jing of the National University of Singapore, has likened China’s young military officers to the hawkish young Japanese officers of the 1930’s who were partly responsible for Japan’s invasion of China. In an article published by The Telegraph, Professor Huang is quoted as saying that young PLA officers are leading China on a collision course with America by “taking control of strategy and … thinking [about] what they can do, not what they should do … This is very dangerous.”

In other words, after devoting so much time and resources towards modernization today’s PLA has a bunch of new toys to play with. The PLA also has greater capacity to project power overseas now, so it’s only natural that some military officers are itching for an opportunity to test out their new capabilities and equipment. In fact, Scobell indicates that PLA officers are eager for exposure to real-world combat because China hasn’t had a major war since 1979, when China attacked Vietnam in a brief but bloody conflict.

This desire to accumulate combat experience and test out new equipment – coupled with the PLA’s bureaucratic interest in obtaining more power and resources by instigating or exaggerating foreign conflicts – means that Xi needs to keep a close eye on the PLA in order to prevent a dangerous miscalculation. Sure enough, last month’s close encounter between Chinese and US naval vessels in the South China Sea provided a frightening glimpse of how adventurous PLA maneuvering can lead to real confrontation.

Of course, it’s quite possible that last month’s close encounter wasn’t adventurism but rather a carefully planned maneuver. China is eager to determine how the US military responds to various scenarios, and China is particularly interested in gauging America’s response to provocations at sea because this helps China plan for a possible clash with the US military over Taiwan.

In such a scenario, the United States would have the initial advantage due to its superior naval power, so China’s current strategy is to quickly knock-out American naval vessels with conventional weapons – especially its new “aircraft carrier killer” DF-21D missiles.

Yet even if the recent close encounter in the South China Sea was part of a carefully planned strategy, Professor Huang still doubts that Beijing’s civilian leaders can rein in young PLA officers, saying that nowadays Beijing “can no longer control much of anything”. This is exactly what concerns the international community, as China’s complex web of competing bureaucratic interests – infused with aggressive nationalism – has spawned a Chinese foreign policy that is hawkish, unpredictable, and uncontrollable.

Xi Jinping is well aware of this problem and has attempted to bring a semblance of discipline to China’s foreign policy by creating a “State Security Committee” headed by Xi himself. This “State Security Committee” is modeled on the US National Security Council, except that China’s version is responsible for coordinating both domestic and foreign policy. Not surprisingly, China scholars such as John Lee have noted that the PLA was initially opposed to the creation of a “State Security Committee”, as it stands to reduce the PLA’s influence over China’s national security policy.

Nevertheless, merely setting up a new committee won’t drastically alter the fervent nationalism and adventurous spirit within the PLA and greater Chinese society. The alarming truth is that regardless of how much President Xi consolidates his power, there is only so much he can do to reduce the enormous influence that individual Chinese citizens and soldiers – emboldened by China’s aggressive form of nationalism – have on China’s foreign policy.

Protecting Chinese citizens overseas
One perverse consequence of China’s extremely nationalistic culture is that Chinese citizens are increasingly willing to push the limits overseas, all the while feeling safe knowing that nationalism will compel Chinese leaders to protect them if something goes wrong – or indeed, if they wind up breaking foreign laws or encroaching on foreign territory.

This holds true regardless of whether the Chinese citizens involved are fishermen veering into foreign waters; traders encroaching on foreign markets; or adventurous military officers. Instead of admonishing citizens who break foreign laws, Beijing typically rushes to their support and orders Chinese media outlets to portray Beijing’s leaders as doing everything in their power to protect Chinese citizens abroad.

The Communist Party has little choice but to passionately defend its citizens overseas – even if they are breaking the law – as otherwise the Party’s monopoly on power will be gravely threatened by nationalist forces.

For example, international newspapers last year reported that upwards of 50,000 Chinese citizens were engaged in illegal gold-mining in Ghana, causing massive environmental destruction in the process. In response, Ghana launched a crackdown on illegal gold-mining which specifically targeted Chinese citizens (even though a small number of other foreigners were also involved).

According to Chinese media reports, Beijing immediately lodged a strong diplomatic protest and rushed to protect its citizens by dispatching a team of central government officials to conduct an investigation in Ghana. Xinhua also reported that Shanglin County – the place in China where many of the goldminers came from – sent its own team of officials to help Chinese citizens return home from Ghana, even offering to pay their airfare.

As the story unfolded, Beijing took pains to show that bold action was being taken – even going so far as imposing retaliatory measures against Ghana. According to the Guardian, China tightened its visa policies for Ghanaian citizens and even delayed the disbursement of China’s development assistance to the country. Faced with such harsh retaliatory measures, Ghana eventually acquiesced by releasing all 169 Chinese citizens detained for illegal gold-mining.

Even though China’s outlandish retaliation risked damaging its long-term relations with Ghana, Beijing was obliged to take swift action – particularly after coming under pressure from cyber-nationalists who had seen images of Chinese citizens injured during the crackdown.

These days, Internet forums are the primary vehicle for expressing nationalist rage in China, and Chinese leaders simply can’t build a great firewall high enough to stop the spread of graphic images and pent-up anger online. Much of this pent-up rage is actually rooted in China’s own internal problems, but Chinese citizens can only safely direct their anger toward outsiders because any serious criticism of the Communist Party is quickly snuffed out.

In this case, Beijing responded to cyber-outrage by making a public spectacle of its iron-clad will to tackle the problem in Ghana. For instance, a spokesperson for China’s embassy in Ghana was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying that China’s government attaches “great importance to Chinese citizens mining gold in Ghana” and that “a joint investigation team comprising officials from the ministries of foreign affairs, commerce, and public security [was sent] to the West African country to protect their safety and lawful rights”.

The South China Morning Post further reported that Beijing not only asked Ghana to prevent robbery against Chinese citizens, but also asked Ghana to stop detaining Chinese citizens. In other words, nationalist pressure forced Beijing to effectively demand that Ghana stop enforcing its own laws against illegal mining. Ghana enacted these laws to prevent environmental destruction and ensure that all mining activities were subject to taxation, but apparently nationalist pressure compelled Beijing to insist that Chinese citizens shouldn’t be subject to Ghana’s duly-enacted laws.

Despite the crackdown, Ghana’s illegal gold-mining problem won’t improve any time soon because certain local actors benefit from Chinese extraction activities. Ghana’s government receives billions of dollars from China to build infrastructure projects, and it’s well-known that local officials worldwide pocket bribes from their dealings with China. In addition, the international press reported that some Ghanaian entrepreneurs have established joint ventures with Chinese citizens engaged in illegal gold-mining activities.

The China-funded infrastructure projects in Ghana and other countries are usually designed to facilitate resource extraction; gain diplomatic influence; and alleviate China’s unemployment problem, as thousands of Chinese laborers are sent to work on these projects overseas. In many countries, the displacement of local labor in favor of imported Chinese workers provokes intense anger among locals who are denied job opportunities and the chance to learn new technological skills.

In addition, local resentment towards Chinese immigrants is magnified by the perception that Chinese traders have the unfair advantage of being connected to a colossal China-dominated global supply network. These types of grievances have caused rising tension between locals and Chinese immigrants, even leading to violence against Chinese communities in such far-flung places as Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and several African countries.

Many local communities are also furious that Chinese companies are causing environmental damage as well as human rights violations. In both Ghana and Myanmar, for example, locals have expressed outrage that Chinese companies are importing Chinese-made equipment and using it to plunder local resources, destroying the environment and abusing human rights in the process.

The fact that Ghana’s crackdown targeted Chinese immigrants – as opposed to illegal miners from other countries – underscores the intensity of local anger towards the destructive methods of Chinese companies in Ghana.

Local animosity towards Chinese immigrants in Ghana and other African countries has certainly damaged China’s foreign policy, but China’s biggest diplomatic setback in recent years occurred right in its own backyard – Myanmar, where the conduct of individual Chinese traders and large Chinese companies has aroused such revulsion towards China that it’s unclear if Beijing can ever recover its once-dominant influence in the country.

Myanmar’s change of heart
Myanmar’s decision to “open up” in 2011 wasn’t simply a matter of offsetting Beijing’s political influence in the country. It was also fueled by a backlash against the growing dominance of Chinese traders over Myanmar’s economy. Many of these Chinese traders entered Myanmar illegally through semi-autonomous regions along Myanmar’s border with China – particularly Wa territory, which serves as a proxy for Chinese power projection in Myanmar and a vehicle for illegal Chinese immigration into the country.

Myanmar’s so-called “Kokang” region was another semi-autonomous area that served as a gateway for illegal Chinese immigration into Myanmar before it was attacked by the Burmese military in 2009, sending a flood of ethnic Chinese refugees across the border into China.

The “Kokang” ethnic group is actually a mixed bag of ethnic Chinese who settled in Burma many years ago along with more recent illegal Chinese immigrants, many of whom obtained false identity documents by paying off local officials. Indeed, one of the reasons why the Burmese military decided to attack the Kokang in 2009 was to stem the tide of illegal Chinese immigrants and their dominance over Myanmar’s economy.

The predominance of Chinese traders in Myanmar – both legal and illegal – and the perception that Chinese immigrants are cheating the system by skirting local laws has precipitated widespread animosity towards China (and Chinese immigrants) in Myanmar.

This intense hostility is still prevalent in Myanmar today, as evidenced by last month’s arrest of several Chinese individuals who were illegally conducting business in Myanmar while there on tourist visas.

Although it’s not uncommon for people to conduct business while on tourist visas, the nature of this case demonstrates the extreme

sensitivity surrounding Chinese business activities in Myanmar. The group was arrested while exploring for natural resources in Kachin state, and their arrest shows the eagerness of Myanmar’s government to assuage public anger towards China for exploiting Myanmar’s resources and destroying the environment.

It was precisely these grievances which sparked the Kachin conflict in 2011, as Kachin people had become outraged by the destruction of their ancestral homeland by Chinese companies that were extracting resources in collaboration with Burma’s military. Certain Kachin leaders were also profiting from these extraction activities, and during the 2000s older Kachin leaders were actually pushed aside by younger Kachins who wanted to take a harder line towards the Burmese military.

Some younger Kachins were even hoping that armed conflict would break out, thereby enabling Kachins to win back ancestral homelands that Burma’s military had steadily encroached upon and plundered over time. Rising anger among Kachin people towards the Burmese military eventually came to a head over the Myitsone dam, which became a rallying cry for citizens across the nation who were infuriated that Burma’s military was collaborating with Chinese companies to plunder Myanmar’s resources and destroy its natural beauty.

By the late 2000s, a consensus had crystallized between Burma’s military and average Burmese citizens that something had to be done to prevent China from taking over Myanmar’s economy. This is what triggered the attack against the Kokang in 2009 and the military’s decision to “reform” in 2011. Together, these landmark events were designed to curb the influence of Chinese officials, Chinese state-owned enterprises, and individual Chinese traders in Myanmar – particularly in northern Myanmar, where Chinese business interests had become so prevalent that Mandalay had earned the nickname “The 2nd Beijing”.

Northern Myanmar’s disproportionately large Chinese population was recently confirmed by the Irrawaddy, which cited a population survey conducted by Australia National University showing that 20% of Mandalay and a whopping 50% of Lashio is now Chinese. The Burmese government is attempting to address this issue by checking the authenticity of identification documents held by Mandalay residents – particularly individuals who can’t speak Burmese, which according to the Irrawaddy suggests the authorities will be targeting Mandalay’s large population of illegal immigrants from China’s Yunnan Province.

As a result of this tension, Myanmar’s troubled relationship with China now alternates between outright hostility and neighborly friendliness. Even Aung San Suu Kyi has said that it’s crucial for Myanmar to maintain good relations with its neighbors – especially China, which Myanmar still depends on for technical expertise, military equipment, and infusions of cash from projects such as the oil-gas pipelines. As such, the Burmese government still bends over backwards to appease China, and recently even arrested an activist for burning a Chinese flag during a protest against the Letpadaung copper mine.

Nevertheless, Myanmar’s fateful decision to offset Chinese influence in Myanmar by “opening up” in 2011 was a major blow to Beijing’s political and economic interests. Chinese investment in Myanmar has fallen dramatically ever since, and Myanmar stands out as a prime example of how Beijing’s inability to control the behavior of Chinese citizens limits China’s ability to control its own foreign policy.

Nationalism on the high seas
Individual Chinese citizens have also entangled China in numerous conflicts with its neighbors on the high seas, including the incident which led to China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal, a coral reef in the South China Sea that was previously controlled by the Philippines. China seized the reef in 2012 on the pretext of protecting Chinese fishermen who were accosted at Scarborough Shoal by the Philippines.

Relations between China and the Philippines have been on the rocks (or perhaps on the reef) ever since, and once again China has resorted to imposing retaliatory measures such as subjecting Filipino banana imports to lengthy customs inspections. Unfortunately, it’s become common practice for China – under nationalist pressure – to blackball other countries using various kinds of retaliatory measures. Such arrogant and audacious tactics have provoked outrage in many countries, who accuse China of using access to its huge market as a weapon while insisting that other countries open their doors to a flood of Chinese imports.

The most disturbing example of China’s defiant approach to international affairs occurred in 2010, when China decided to halt exports of rare earth metals to Japan after a Chinese fisherman was arrested by Japan near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Shipments of rare earth metals to other countries were also impacted by China’s export restrictions, and it was this incident more than anything which convinced global leaders that it was time to start cooperating in order to convince China that it can’t unilaterally thumb its nose at well-established global norms.

Even China’s erstwhile ally Russia has begun to distance itself from China by cooperating with some of China’s neighbors in order to discourage reckless behavior by China. In particular, Russia has explored various forms of cooperation with China’s historic arch-rivals Vietnam and Japan, both of whom have bitter outstanding territorial disputes with China.

Russia’s budding ties with Japan are especially significant given their long history of icy relations dating back to Russia’s humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05); Russia’s occupation of the Southern Kurils (or what Japan refers to as its “Northern Territories”) in the closing days of World War II; and their ongoing rivalry during the Cold War.

Although the Southern Kurils dispute lingers on, the historic rapprochement between Russia and Japan certainly puts China on notice that the global community is in a stronger position to collectively ward off any future delinquent behavior by China.

As for the Chinese fishermen who were accosted by Japan and the Philippines, it’s hard to say whether they just made an honest mistake or were part of Beijing’s grandiose plan to assert authority over contested territory. In a sense, it doesn’t really matter because either way Chinese leaders would have been compelled to quickly dispatch their cavalry to protect the fishermen – lest China’s leaders be accused of failing to defend Chinese citizens or capitulating to “pawns” of the United States. As both these incidents demonstrate, the impact of individual citizens on China’s foreign policy is so great that even fishermen can inadvertently embroil China in foreign military conflicts.

The ‘Chinese Dream’: Escape 
To prevent further incidents abroad, the Chinese government can’t very well ask its compatriots to stop doing business overseas. On the contrary, Beijing has been actively encouraging outbound investment to offset China’s flagging economic growth and reduce unemployment – both of which pose a threat to the Communist Party. China’s “go out” campaign actually began in the 1990’s under Jiang Zemin, but more recently it’s received a huge boost under Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping in the form of generous government support – particularly to state-owned enterprises.

Many people were actually hoping that Xi Jinping would reduce government support to state-owned enterprises, but apparently this vested interest group is just too powerful – even for China’s strong and charismatic new president. However, Xi Jinping has managed to implement some financial reforms, and his ability to enact reforms will only increase as Xi continues to strengthen his grip on power.

Moreover, Communist Party leaders have bolstered Xi’s ability to push reform proposals though China’s most powerful body – the Central Politburo Standing Committee – by stacking the Central Committee with allies from Xi’s so-called “elitist” faction. The hope of Party leaders who helped engineer Xi Jinping’s rise to power is that Xi will be well-positioned to spearhead critical reforms needed to prevent the collapse of the Party (not to mention China itself).

This represents a marked contrast to former President Hu Jintao’s tenure, which many have criticized as a “lost decade” in which crucial reforms were forestalled due to Hu’s relative weakness and a divided Central Committee that was split between the “elitist” and “populist” factions.

Despite Xi Jinping’s rising status it’s doubtful whether he can really address China’s caustic mix of rising inequality, pervasive corruption, and the myriad health and environmental problems which have fueled protests across the country. Indeed, social unrest has become so widespread that China now devotes an enormous chunk of its budget towards internal security, and domestic security will certainly figure prominently on the agenda of Xi’s newly-created “State Security Committee”.

Official statements describing the State Security Committee – Xi’s pet project which former Chinese Presidents pursued but weren’t powerful enough to create – have declared that it will strengthen China’s response to “anyone who would disrupt or sabotage China’s national security”.

In other words, Xi’s leadership of the State Security Committee is designed to impress upon everyone that Xi Jinping is the ultimate defender of China’s interests, security, and sovereignty.

From his powerful and lofty perch, Xi has attempted to steer Chinese nationalism in a “healthy” direction through his “China dream” slogan and by resurrecting several Mao-era campaigns. These carefully-planned PR stunts along with Xi’s powerful status are all designed to show Chinese citizens that Xi is “redder than red” – the supreme patriarch of Chinese socialism and the ultimate defender of China’s interests. In this respect, Xi is styling himself as some kind of latter-day Chairman Mao – only this time China’s supreme leader has a slightly more profound understanding of public finance.

However, Xi’s attempt to co-opt nationalist fervor by proclaiming he’s the flag-bearer of Chinese patriotism and primary defender of Chinese sovereignty will only increase adventurism by Chinese citizens. After all, Xi’s new “China dream” slogan not only strives to build a large middle class, but also envisions a “strong China” and a “strong military.”

With such explicit backing from China’s top leader, it’s certain that adventurous PLA officers, fishermen, and traders will take Xi’s slogan as a green-light to continue their aggressive actions overseas. History has proven that once Chinese nationalist forces are unleashed they’re impossible to control, and Xi’s sloganeering will only fan the flames of Chinese adventurism abroad.

Xi’s agenda also includes a supposedly wide-ranging crackdown on corruption within the Party, but everyone knows this campaign just isn’t capable of solving China’s deep-rooted culture of corruption. Rather, Xi’s anti-corruption drive is merely another publicity stunt aimed at placating widespread antipathy towards the Party, and many analysts have noted that it’s also being used to attack Xi’s political enemies.

Besides, even if Xi sincerely wanted to tackle corruption, China’s vested interests are so powerful and have so much at stake that President Xi – despite his enhanced power – simply doesn’t have the political strength to make anything more than cosmetic changes to a system that is rotten to the core.

As China’s socio-political system decays, Chinese citizens are becoming more and more desperate to find a way out. And the impetus to escape China’s miserably over-crowded and polluted cities has become even greater in recent years, with toxic haze paralyzing China’s major cities on a regular basis. This has spurred countless numbers of Chinese to seek greener pastures and bluer skies overseas, with Chinese immigrants fanning out to all corners of the globe. Indeed, for many Chinese citizens their “China dream” is to get the heck out of China as soon as possible. And once they leave there isn’t much Beijing can do to control their behavior.

Thus, even if Xi is somehow able to reduce adventurism in the PLA there’s little he can do to regulate the conduct of fishermen, traders, and other Chinese immigrants overseas – many of whom are so desperate to escape China and earn a living they’re willing to do anything, including breaking foreign laws. After all, finding loopholes is one of China’s great national pastimes, so it’s not surprising that some Chinese citizens are tempted to flout social and legal norms overseas.

As the Ghana and Myanmar cases demonstrate, Chinese citizens will continue push the limits, evade the rules, and test the patience of governments and peoples overseas. Invariably, unlawful behavior by some Chinese immigrants will ignite more backlashes against Chinese communities overseas (even if only a few are actually breaking the law). Beijing will then be compelled to rush out and support all its citizens – including the lawbreakers – by engaging in trade retaliation and other kinds of aggressive tactics. This will then prompt countries across the globe to further strengthen their cooperation to discourage reckless behavior by China.

Xi’s new “China dream” slogan is pretty cute, but if Xi thinks he can tame China’s aggressive nationalism or the behavior of Chinese citizens overseas, he must be dreaming. As time goes by, Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders will continue to lose their grip on China’s foreign policy, and our world will become an ever more dangerous place to live.

Terry McCulley is a freelance writer who focuses on East Asia . You can send Terry comments and questions to his e-mail address, which is his first name followed by 63178@gmail.com 

The Tories’ Naked Self-interest in Foreign Policy | Yves Engler

The Tories’ Naked Self-interest in Foreign Policy | Yves Engler.

Should the primary purpose of Canadian foreign policy be the promotion of corporate interests?

Canada’s business class certainly seems to think so. And with little political or ideological opposition to this naked self-interest, Harper’s Conservatives seem only too happy to put the full weight of government behind the promotion of private profits.

Recently, the Conservatives announced that “economic diplomacy” will be “the driving forcebehind the Government of Canada’s activities through its international diplomatic network.” According to their Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP), “All diplomatic assets of the Government of Canada will be marshalled on behalf of the private sector to increase success in doing business abroad.”

The release of GMAP is confirmation of the Conservatives’ pro-corporate foreign policy. In recent years the Conservatives have spent tens of millions of dollars to lobby U.S, andEuropean officials on behalf of tar sands interests; expanded arms sales to Middle East monarchies and other leading human rights abusers; strengthened the ties between aid policy and a Canadian mining industry responsible for innumerable abuses.

While some commentators have suggested that GMAP is a “modern” response to China’s international policy, it actually represents a return to a time many consider the high point of unfettered capitalism.

Often in the late 1800s wealthy individuals not employed by Ottawa conducted Canadian diplomacy. The owner of the Toronto Globe, George Brown, for instance, negotiated a draft treaty with the U.S. in 1874, while Sandford Fleming, the surveyor of the Canadian Pacific Railway, represented Canada at the 1887 Colonial Conference in London.

From its inception the Canadian foreign service reflected a bias toward economic concerns. There were trade commissioners, for instance, long before ambassadors. By 1907 there were12 Canadian trade commissions staffed by “commercial agents” located in Sydney, Capetown, Mexico City, Yokohama and numerous European and U.S. cities.

Despite this historic precedent, in the 21st century it should be controversial for a government to openly state that economic considerations drive international policy. Yet criticism of GMAP has been fairly muted, which may reflect how many progressives feel overwhelmed by the Conservatives’ right-wing aggressiveness in every policy area.

Or perhaps there’s a more fundamental explanation. The mainstream political/media establishment basically agrees with the idea that corporate interests should dominate foreign policy.

In response to GMAP, Postmedia ran a debate between John Manley, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and a member of the advisory panel that helped draw up the Conservatives’ plan, and former foreign minister and leading proponent of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, Lloyd Axworthy.

While Manley lauded the Conservatives’ move, Axworthy criticized it as “bad trade policy” and said: “The best way to enlarge your trade prospects and to develop a willingness for agreements and to improve economic exchange is to have a number of contacts to show other countries that you are a willing and co-operative player on matters of security, on matters of human rights, and on matters of development.”

Axworthy did not express principled criticism of the Conservatives’ move; he simply said that “trade prospects” — a euphemism for corporate interests — are best advanced through a multifaceted foreign policy. Widely lauded by the liberal intelligentsia, Axworthy reflects the critical end of the dominant discussion, which largely takes its cues from the corporate class. And Canada’s business class is more internationally focused than any other G8 country.

Heavily dependent on “free trade” Canadian companies are also major global investors. The world’s largest privately-owned security company, GardaWorld, has 45,000 employees operating across the globe while another Montréal-based company, SNC Lavalin, is active in100 countries. Corporate Canada’s most powerful sector is also a global force. The big five banks, which all rank among the top 65 in the world, now do a majority of their business outside of this country. Scotiabank, for example, operates in 50 countries.

The mining sector provides the best example of Canadian capital’s international prominence. Three quarters of the world’s mining companies are based in Canada or listed on Canadian stock exchanges. Present in almost every country, Canadian corporations operate thousands of mineral projects abroad.

With $711.6 billion in foreign direct investments last year, Canadian companies push for (and benefit from) Ottawa’s diplomatic aid and military support. As their international footprint has grown, they’ve put ever more pressure on the government to serve their interests. There is simply no countervailing force calling on the government to advance international climate negotiations, arms control measures or to place constraints on mining companies.

There’s also limited ideological opposition to neoliberalism. Few in Canada promote any alternative to capitalism. Until unions, social groups and activists put forward an alternative economic and social vision it’s hard to imagine that Canadian foreign policy will do much more than promote private corporate interests.

 

Commentary: The American Public’s Foreign-Policy Reawakening | The National Interest

Commentary: The American Public’s Foreign-Policy Reawakening | The National Interest.

 

U.S. Admits It Has No Idea WHO Carried Out Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack | Washington’s Blog

U.S. Admits It Has No Idea WHO Carried Out Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack | Washington’s Blog.

 

Foreign Policy: CIA Documents Show the U.S. Helped Saddam Hussein Use Chemical Weapons | A Lightning War for Liberty

Foreign Policy: CIA Documents Show the U.S. Helped Saddam Hussein Use Chemical Weapons | A Lightning War for Liberty.

 

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