By Rohan Singh:
The Arab world in the African continent has been witnessing a melodrama for the last 2-3 months. Whatever be the end result– but one thing’s for sure, it won’t be for nothing!! They’ve got everybody in a tizzy–from the oil-rich gulf to the western economies to the prominent EU to the rising powers in south-east Asia!! Many critics of the ongoing Euro-US wars in the Middle East and, now, North Africa, have based their arguments on clichÃ©s and generalizations devoid of fact. The most common line heard in regard to the current US-Euro-NATO war on Libya is that it’s “all about oil”–the goal is the seizure of Libya’s oil wells.
The Libyan stalemate has something in store for everyone out there on this planet, but for the states of USA and China there’s a lot more at stake!! For the case of Libya, is the pivot which will prove prominent in deciding whether America will hold on to its ‘superpower’ tag or will it have to share it with China.
To start with, these revolutions have everything to do with ‘democracy’- a tongue twister for the Chinese, their worst nightmare! For the Americans that’s the only card that can be played to checking a burgeoning China (saying this is politically incorrect though). With rising food and real estate prices, as well as growing unemployment among college graduates, corruption gnaws at society–universal truth! A widening wealth gap, political instability, territorial disintegration, humanitarian cries backed up with some international intervention and it’s doomsday for the communists in China. All the 8-9% GDP growth talk goes for a six, resulting in inflation, uprisings ultimately leading to massive protests. Already, China suffers from around 80,000 small-scale protests a year, according to government statistics. Imagine what might happen when gravity finally pulls the Chinese economy back into the normal atmosphere. Havoc!
How do you plan on checking over a billion dissidents? Remember 1989– ‘Tiananmen Square’ to be more precise? The west won’t hesitate for once to make its move in another such situation, of course under the hood of ‘right-to-protect’, as known in diplomatic parlance. Barack Insane Obama does not want a multi polar world out there–at least not with China as one of the poles.
Getting back to the revolutions, it was Tunisia where the first sparks were seen, within days they erupted in a major fire taking down the long standing so called ‘government’. What happened in Tunisia stunned and embarrassed Arab and Western countries alike. Nobody had suspected that. Tunisia was not a country made of revolutionary material. But then, ‘real’ democracy prevailed. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was subsequently forced to find shelter in Saudi Arabia. US President Barack Obama unambiguously declared his support for the demonstrators–but only after they had won! Paris, a close ally of Ben Ali also let it be known that family members of the deposed president were not welcome and froze his bank accounts. Other European countries had yet to speak up, as if waiting to see which way the wind would blow.
Next on list was Egypt. The uprising in Egypt took everyone by surprise. It forced all those political “pundits” to re-examine the old certainties. The imperialist powers, in particular, the United States, thought that they had the situation under control, and that the regimes under their patronage were stable. Wrong. The so called bourgeois ‘experts’ failed to detect what was happening in the lower layers of society, among the millions of downtrodden workers and poor. That was because, as they lived in their ivory towers, they usually ignored these layers. And because apparent calm can last even for decades, they began to think that is how things would always be. That reveals extreme short-sightedness on their part. Egypt fell. With the collapse of Egypt alone, a major pivotal state in the region, American influence in the Middle East could be drastically reduced. Furthermore, Israel would no longer be in a position to act with impunity against its Arab neighbours, as was the case in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-09; its deterrent capacity in favour of its own interests and that of its American Master would therefore be severely curtailed. America had to act!
Two coupled uprisings- cent percent success- freedom to all–word reached the neighbourhood. Libya– precisely in between Tunisia and Egypt on the map. The tempo of the events unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa in part depends on what happens in Libya in the coming days and weeks. Should the present movement fail to topple Gaddafi in the short-term, this could slow the process down. Should he be brought down soon, this in turn would accelerate the process elsewhere. As the outcome is determined by a struggle of living forces, one cannot say in advance how fast or how slow this will be. But the direction of the process is very clear. Sooner or later Gaddafi will have to go and a new period will open up, in which the class struggle in Libya will rise to a higher level. If Libya is successful, the revolution may reach Yemen, Jordan, Ethiopia and other Arab countries–non-democratic states all of them. There is no escaping from this, and it will have an impact on the whole region, probably the whole world. That leaves no perks for guessing who just felt the shivers in Asia! It may very well start with Vietnam, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, traverse to North Korea and then? Beijing isn’t far from North Korea. So it’s simple–if Gaddafi wins, China gets a booster; if Gaddafi is overthrown, the Communists may be in sight of losing power– Therefore the best bet for them is to try and keep the rebellion uprisings at bay, restrict it to the continent of Africa. They wouldn’t love to see their neighbourhood burning this time; not when India stays out of the conflagration!
Well, sitting in my study room if I can make that assumption, the Chinese for sure have better, larger and indispensable resources, and of course some of the best grey cells are working for them 24 x 7. Wonder why they didn’t make a move still? Well, in all probability they already have! There is every possibility that behind the tenacious acts of Gaddafi there are some invisible hands moving the levers in Libya. China stands tall on the list of such rationales. Or else, how do you explain the current state of Libya, despite the fact that the Allied Forces, now lead by NATO are bombing Gaddafi’s strongholds day in and day out for the last week and a half and still the mad-dog-of-the-middle-east is calling the shots like it were his sunny days. Does it ring a bell? Well for one thing- China won’t take any chances, not on something like this!
But then arises the obvious question. Is overthrowing the communist rule in China that easy? No, it isn’t. China follows a policy of ‘non-intervention’, that makes it impossible for the West(read US) to meddle in their internal affairs. Alternatively, known as the Five Principles as interpreted by China, it states that one state has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of another state. With its human rights record often under criticism and with restive minorities in its regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, Beijing worries that it might be the target of international intervention one day. For the Chinese dictators, it’s similar to a vampire feeding on vervain: after all ‘Chinese democracy’ is a folklore for the dictators- the false truth!!. Then why doesn’t the US with all its political clout tries to arm-twist China? Well, there are short-term worries on the American part too.
In a deadlock
What the Americans are worried of is the ‘Chinese ownership of American debt’! What if the Chinese dump their debt? An economically stagnating America probably has nothing else to fear-–at least not on this planet!! By selling American debt, China would weaken the value of the dollar, damage investor sentiment towards the U.S. economy and make it tougher for Washington to finance its giant budget deficits. That’s the last thing Barack Obama would like to see happen. Many “pundits” argue that over the past year, the U.S. has become less dependent on China’s financing of its deficits, particularly as the U.S. private saving rate has gone up and the current account deficit has fallen. But I believe, given the sheer scale of the U.S. deficit financing requirement–a budget deficit of about $1.6 trillion in the fiscal year 2010 and prospects of almost $9 trillion of deficits over the coming decade–sentiments in bond and currency markets are fragile. A precipitous action by Beijing to shift aggressively out of U.S. dollar-denominated instruments, or even an announcement of such an intention, could act as a trigger that nervous market sentiments coalesce around, leading to a sharp fall in bond prices and the value of the U.S. dollar.
No wonder President Obama followed a wait-and-watch approach while the Arab youth was bursting with ambition. But then after the initial successes in Tunisia and Egypt, when things seemed like going haywire, he intervened, with ‘Operation Odyssey Dawn’ and the message- ‘Big brother is watching’! Had they allowed the uprisings in Libya to settle for nothing; the notion of American supremacy, its values–liberty and democracy would have taken a blow; which was not acceptable. Not in the face of an aggressive, communist China threatening to take over the world. Hence the air strikes were inevitable despite the facts that the American economy is in proverbial shambles and is already engrossed in ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ that is a decade old now.
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