Blood for oil

Human rights groups have been critical of Chin...

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Christopher Hitchens, in a recent interview, said the following: “Darfur, Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, anywhere that the concept of human rights doesn’t exist, it’s always the Chinese at backstop. And always for reasons that you could write down in three words: blood for oil.”

In today’s world, the neo-conservatives talk the talk of human rights and democracy, but fail to take on the big offenders, while liberals have a selective standard that highlights Israel but ignores Zimbabwe. Britain’s new rulers actively appease Chinese totalitarianism; Obama vacillates and tries to please everyone; human rights organisations are compromised by their support for Jihadi terrorists; and the Wikileaks revelations show the extent to which American interests are entangled with those of the Gulf oil robber-barons.

In this post, I am highlighting just a few of the human rights issues from around the world, that seem to fall beneath the radar of the liberal conscience.

One of the most neglected of conflicts is the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, 35 years old and displacing a whole people into refugee camps in the desert. Unlike Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, there are no proposals for boycott, divestment or sanctions against the Moroccan state, which unlike the Israeli state is an absolute monarchy. This post examines liberal complacency about this outrage.

This post focuses on a more well-known conflict situation, Darfur in Sudan, but focuses on a neglected aspect of it: China’s role in fuelling the conflict. The blogger links to a Reuters article which shows China’s obstruction of the UN’s attempts to dis-arm the conflict, obstruction motivated by the fact that China is breaching the arms embargo, arming the massacres. The blogger rightly comments:

The craven nature of Western powers complying with, or not wishing to offend their most beloved trading partners, China is shameful, but not unexpected. As with David Cameron’s trip, Western leaders will occasionally raise, very carefully, a few questions about human rights in China. But it is all for the benefit of the media and “face”.

Western leaders won’t let the inconvenient issue of human rights get in the way of doing lucrative contracts with China. Business comes first in the West, that’s how they see it, and it is the Darfurians and Tibetans that lose out as a result.

The post also links to Eric Reeves, who highlights the failure of the Obama administration to make a difference.

The human rights situation in Burma is also much on the public mind in the West, with the recent release of Aung San Suu Ki, but again not the role of big business in general and Chinese capitalism ion particular in sustaining it. Modernity reports (via the Sydney Morning Herald) that:

According to Mizzima (a dissident Burmese newsagency based in India), from 1988 to early 2009, Burma attracted foreign investments worth $US15 billion. According to Irrawady, another dissident newsagency, it sharply fell in 2009-10 to $US315 million. But in 2010-11, the Burmese junta expects foreign investors will commit to projects worth about $US16 billion (mostly in oil and gas, and electricity generation). China and Thailand continue to be the biggest investors followed by the UK (about $US2 billion) and Singapore.

More than 30 companies from Australia, China, France, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand are now engaged in oil and gas exploration and production. Mining, manufacturing and tourism are also attracting investment. The number of tourists visiting Burma is also on the rise. In past five years, Burma’s economy grew an average by about 6.5 to 7 per cent.

Burma has China to thank for providing a model of economic development. China’s massive economic growth has been a potent force counteracting the dissemination of such democratic values as rule of law, freedom of speech and independent judiciary.

To repeat Hitchens’ point: blood for oil.

China is also involved good old-fashioned military aggression from Burmese soil, the kind of gunboat geopolitics that used to be called imperialism, but for some reason that term these days seems only to be used for the actions of the fading Western powers.

Burma has allowed China to build naval and electronic reconnaissance facilities on its Great Coco Island (18 kilometres from India’s major naval and satellite launching facilities in Nicobar Islands). Burma’s ports offer China’s emerging blue water navy a multi-directional access to both the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.

Blood for oil, too, although rather less dramatically, in Ghana.

The discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities at the West Cape Three Points in the Western Region of Ghana in 2007 has triggered the high cost of liv ing in Sekondi-Takoradi and its immediate environs in recent times.

Since the oil-find 3 years ago, the cost of living in Sekondi-Tako radi and surrounding communi ties has been on the ascendancy. The discovery of oil has brought in its wake an upward review of prices of all items, goods and services being pro vided in the city.

The most affected items include food, office and resi dential accommodation as well as land for real estate develop ment.  As a result of the oil find and in anticipation of making good business when commer cial production of oil many companies, including financial and banking institutions, have moved in to open branches of their offices in Takoradi to take advantage of the “black gold”.

Also many oil and gas related companies; Kosmos EnergyTullow OilBaker HughesSchlumberger,Expro GroupAnardarko & co have found their way into Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis. This has obviously increased the popula tion in Takoradi and its envi rons, thereby putting pressure on the inadequate housing and office accommodation in the city. [READ THE REST]

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