Monday, July 30, 2007

The New Imperial Age

China's Imperialism. In Africa, the Ugly American has been replaced by the equally ugly Chinese trader.

The People's Republic has been so shameless in its wooing of other nations that it now receives the type of anti-imperialist criticisms once reserved for America. It stands accused of exploiting foreign populations for economic gain; of stacking the international political deck in its own favour; of ploughing forward with no regard for environmental sustainability.

As trade and diplomacy between China and other countries in the developing world has skyrocketed, America's relationship with poor countries has crumbled – nurtured by years of unpopular wars, military interventions and one-sided economic policies.

In East Asia, where many of China's new friends are located, the animosity toward the U.S. veers on cartoonish. In Seoul, roughly half of young people polled said their country should support North Korea in a nuclear war with America. Kurlantzick doesn't say this may have been a knee-jerk reaction to a fresh outrage – U.S. soldiers crushed two 14-year-old South Korean girls in an armoured vehicle – but the sentiment is widespread.

In Africa, a continent wooed intensely by Chinese officials, the U.S. has likewise soiled its reputation to China's benefit. America even threatened poor, famished Niger with sanctions when it tried to support the International Criminal Court, which the U.S. opposes.

As America rolls back from Africa, cutting aid, China has moved – straight into the worst neighbourhoods. China now controls about 40 per cent of Sudan's oil consortium and regularly courts mass murderers such as Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.

But China's support of African despots is well documented. Kurlantzick is valuable because he traces, first-hand, the cutthroat romp of Chinese industry all the way to Latin America.

Kurlantzick notes, though, that China's efforts haven't been seamless: There is anger at hollow trade deals; resentment at the huge trade deficits; protests by Africans upset by Chinese firms' preference for exported Chinese labour.


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