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Failing to strengthen and rebuild functionally viable interstate relations and prevent erosion of access to resources


While it is a necessary requirement for the US to focus on al Qaeda and international terrorism, as opposed to Iraq per se, we must simultaneously look to the longer term of preventing erosion of access to resources, and the continuity and strengthening of functionally viable interstate relations. While we have treated a number of states in an offhand manner, notably those in the third world, those offended states had no counterbalance in terms of a market to which they could sell their goods and services and a sympathetic partner with whom to form beneficial alliance for economic and political gain.

The economic resurgence of China has changed that balance in any essential fuel and raw materials region. China's demand for raw materials, food stocks, semi-finished goods, and fuel in combination with a human-intensive form of diplomacy at all levels, levels that would fall beneath the attention and reach of US diplomacy, are changing the landscape in Saudi Arabia, the Stans and Southwest Asia, Australia, and Brazil to name but a few.

In the case of Brazil, a nation that has long sought to counter US power diplomacy in South America, established Mercosur (Southern Common Market), led the Group of 20 (or G-20) developing nations to force the collapse of the WTO's Cancun round of world trade talks, and has sought to form a South-South Axis with India and South Africa, a relatively benign economic entrée from the PRC was welcome. The era of competition in the 1990s in which Brazil vied with China for foreign direct investment has now given way to a fourfold increase in trade and welcomed Chinese investment in Brazilian manufacturing and infrastructure, notably in ports, roads, and rail lines connecting agricultural and industrial hubs to tideside facilities.

Such investments are key to China's securing supply lines for commodities needed to fuel economic growth. Brazil and China stand to gain diplomatically as both are members of the G-20 countries (which has floated up to G-22). (Other nations include Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela, Cuba, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.)

Brazil and China will likely continue to find common cause as they increase bilateral trade while seeking concessions in US and EU trade negotiating positions and the reduction of a variety of trade sanctions. (China is lobbying the EU to drop strictures passed in the wake of Tiananmen to sell weapons systems to Beijing.) China has shown itself to be flexible in exercising diplomacy and has presented itself as a much less intrusive and demanding partner than the US, is building personal relationships that the US will have difficulty in unwinding, and has differentiated its "multipolar" diplomacy from what it calls the US' "unipolar" approach of achieving "hegemony" via economic and military power.

Yoichi Funabashi, foreign-affairs columnist for the Asahi Shimbun, reported that a researcher from a Chinese government-affiliated think-tank explained China's "Peaceful Rise" (heping jueqi) by noting, "China aims to grow and advance without upsetting existing orders. We are trying to rise in a way that benefits our neighbors [and] never act haughtily." Many in Europe and the Third World will welcome such a seemingly refreshing posture and be sympathetic to its aims.

I would expect common interest to grow between Brazil and China, just as it will in other areas of mercantile interest to the PRC. The continued US focus on al Qaeda will most likely deprive the US of the attention span and resources to repair and maintain its links with nations that it has taken for granted and that it will need in the future. That may be al Qaeda's ultimate victory.

Cancun: Can the G22 Survive Success?
By Diego Cevallos
Inter Press Service
September 24, 2003

Why the Group of 20 was "Suddenly" Formed
Amb. Rubens Antonio Barbosa
Remarks made at the Cordell Hull Institute, Trade Policy Roundtable
"Getting the WTO Negotiations Back on Track"
Washington D.C., November 25, 2003

Alert - China connection raises new vulnerabilities
20 May 2004

China's Strategy: Peaceful Ascendancy
By Yoichi Funabashi
Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2003

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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