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COP15 & The Danish Text Update: China and the phoney war

June 6, 2010

Wars waged with modern weapons leave less for looters. They devastate the territories over which they are fought. They destroy infrastructure and materials, labour and resources. The media eat war and regurgitate it endlessly, to the detriment of all protagonists. Instead of destruction as a tool, a better strategy for domination is through economics. Read Sun Tzu, and remember he was Chinese.

So here is a strategy for the 21st Century. Start by assisting the west in its relentless desire to render itself weak and dependant for the sake of a quick buck. Entice the west to move its manufacturing to the east, lured by its greed for ever more short-term profit. As it loses the ability to be self-sufficient, start buying up western debt and invest in all its major industries, corporations and interests. Undermine the dollar and infiltrate the economic mechanisms of free trade, the markets, the exchanges, the banks. Gradually, the west becomes weaker, more volatile, less able to defend its own interests, spending ever more to maintain the illusion of power, and to keep its populace docile. Make the west dependant on the east and no longer in control of its own fate.

Then form a power bloc of like-minded allies. Call it something like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Build a powerful coalition of disaffected developing nations – Africans, Indians, Pakistanis, Russians, Iranians, even Japanese, as a counter to the EU and NATO. Guarantee protection and assistance to third world oil and gas producers, to countries with mineral and other material resources on which industry depends. Make such promises of aid and support because by now, China is the only country in the world still experiencing economic growth, so its aid remain credible where western promises appear as hollow, empty and meaningless as they have always been.

Continue to take vast sums of money from the west and plough it into renewables while burning all the coal you can dig up. Prepare for the worst of climate change because, as the only growing economy and now with control over the remaining oil and gas and resources, you can afford to mitigate the worst of climate change and help those in the SCO do so as well.

And if the population of China is too high, just reduce it. No democracy gets in the way, so you can do anything and everything you need. Another cultural revolution – no problem. We have experience of this and if draconian measures are needed to accommodate loads of Bangladeshis and other displaced people, we’ll just move vast numbers of them around our huge country because it’s better to employ foreigners to do the hard labour while the Chinese people enjoy their new-found prosperity. While we’re doing this, the west will decay and descend into anarchy and violence, and we’ll sell them arms to shoot each other with while we’re at it before turning them into colonial satellites.

And let’s not forget to build a lot of new nuclear missiles, in N. Korea, in Iran, with our SCO allies Russia, with all the countries that have been relentlessly screwed by the west and harbour grudges that are like open wounds into which we add a little salt to keep them fresh and hurting. When we are done, there will be one superpower – China – and all else will dance around us like puppets, begging for the handouts only we can afford to give.

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I do love a good conspiracy theory, especially with a nice bit of xenophobia chucked in. This kind of ‘Neo-Manichaeism’ is all very convenient for the media pundit, but as with most topics in this complex world of ours, it suffers from a mixture of over-elaboration, dark and sinister motive, a shocking lack of nuance and a tendency for the kind of populist reductionism in which we all end up wearing black hats or white hats. Yippee… 

…And then a pin gets stuck into the pretensions of the reductionists. The publication of Yve de Boer’s candid memo condemning the now-infamous ‘Danish Text’ calls into question the articles by writers like Mark Lynas in the UK’s Guardian, in which he resolutely blamed China for the failure of COP15. Yet this is how the New Scientist summarised de Boer’s letter and the implications for the summit he describes:

According to de Boer, the document was “unbalanced” and heavily biased in favour of western nations. “The Danish paper destroyed two years of effort in one fell swoop,” de Boer wrote in a memo shortly after the conference ended. The memo was obtained by Danish journalist Per Meistrup, author of Kampen om klimaet, and can be seen online at bit.ly/aanbGg.

Source: New Scientist (The Guardian also covered the story here)

Reading the various articles that have appeared post COP15, I am struck by the consistency of comments made by those who have lived and worked in China. All allude to endemic corruption, chaotic and self-serving local bureaucracies and deep inconsistency across this vast nation. I find this veiwpoint consistent with other observations made by, for example, John Lee in his Guardian analysis, which is rather at odds with that of Mark Lynas, appearing a few days later in the same paper: the title of Lynas’ piece rather gives the game away in my view – “How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room“. Both seem credible, but Lynas’ conclusion that China acted to ensure the US took the blame hardly apportions a suitable weight to the significance of the Danish Text, or the way China was sidelined and humiliated publicly, particularly by Obama in an uncharacteristic moment of shockingly inept diplomacy. Nor does it acknowledge how convenient a scapegoat China was for a US president whose impotence was so cruelly exposed, even before he got on Air Force 1 heading for Europe.

There are too many influences in play at this time to be so certain about motive, and as with all administrations, it is unreasonable to expect any country to have a clear and overriding imperative, or a similarly cogent strategy. It must surely be the case that China, like everyone else, is finding it very difficult indeed to balance domestic requirements against global ones. And if China places its domestic concerns before global ones, they are no different from any other country and it seems rather inconsistent to allocate blame for that we so clearly value ourselves.

There are so many paradoxical requirements it is hard to reach any conclusions, especially when addressing a country we know so little about. China wants to achieve some kind of parity with the west and knows it must emit a great deal of CO2 in order to do so. Yet its use of fossil fuels is tied intimately to the servicing of export markets. It may agree to set voluntary emissions targets but if meeting these targets reduces the ability to service the consumer demands of the west, not only will China’s economy suffer, so too will the consumer markets it depends on for foreign exchange. This could lead to massive devaluation in the debt it has purchased as well as reduced exports. The suffering of the west will not be confined by any means to western countries. How China squares this circle in order to identify the least worst option must be very difficult.

I also note that there is little or no mention of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in any commentary. Considering that the membership already includes Russia, with India, Pakistan and Iran – among others – awarded observer status and seeking full membership themselves, it is striking that no analysis is forthcoming about the economic and military aims of this organisation. What influence did this counter to the EU and NATO exercise in Copenhagen. What policies were decided in advance by the countries involved with the SCO. Do they even have a concerted position on climate change? One thing is certain: the focus of influence is shifting rapidly to the countries that favour the SCO, or are favoured by it. Are they influencing other developed nations – African and ME in particular – by guaranteeing their sovereignty against the kind of western imperialism demonstrated in Iraq? Do they seek a hegemony over the remaining oil and gas – having Russia onside certainly helps if they do – and if so, will it be in their best interests to undermine the dollar as the ‘oil’ currency?

I like to present a clear analysis of what I think is happening, but in this case I find not only can I offer any putative answers, I’m not even sure what the real questions are. We need more information, more cooperation, more inclusiveness and much less division. And the last thing we need is to seek scapegoats. COP15 was a collective failure, and reasons for that failure are as complex as one would expect when trying to address such a monumental change in global affairs. My main concern in all this is that if China serves its own interests at the exclusion of the global responsibilities we want them to shoulder, they may well emerge as the only industrial nation to weather the coming storm, for it is horridly ironic that a totalitarian state is best positioned to do what is needed since they do not have to cater to public opinion.

Inevitably, as the impotent administrations of the west seek to deflect electoral anger, they will point accusatory fingers at the most convenient, and largest, target. That will be the SCO block – China, Russia and India chiefly – and in the very worst case, it will lead to another world war: east versus west. If Sarah Palin ever gets her hands on the launch codes, there will be no winners, but it’s certainly one way to solve the population problem.

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