The upheaval in Libya brought the surprise of 36,000 of their people working there in construction and in the oil fields. But in this global spread, there are risks for China and its much heralded role of leader of the third world:
Thirsty for oil and other raw materials needed to fuel its breakneck development, China is funneling money and manpower into ever more volatile regions of the globe to lock up natural resources. Despite international pressure, Beijing has developed trade ties with energy-rich pariah states, including Iran and Sudan, carefully avoiding any criticism of those regimes.
In Libya, the world’s 12th-largest oil exporter, China has emerged as a major investor and financial partner of strongman Moammar Gadhafi. China is now the third-largest buyer of Libyan crude behind Italy and France. European and American oil firms have worked in Libya for years, but their governments have long sought to punish Gadhafi for terrorist ties. Meanwhile, China has stuck to a hands-off policy it has dubbed “non-interventionism.”
But that approach hasn’t protected it in Libya, whose angry citizens attacked Chinese workers and infrastructure projects following the Gadhafi regime’s violent crackdown on civilian protesters. Read more:
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria tackled this subject on GPS this morning. He rattled off the numbers of ships and airplanes that it took to evacuate the Chinese nationals. But he also pointed to the fact that riding the waves off shore was a very large Chinese war ship. Having been on patrol against pirates off Somalia, it had been reassigned to the Mediterranean following the demonstrations that turned violent in Libya when Gaddafi attacked his own people.
That war ship was the first time that China had gone off course to project its protective power anywhere. Could this be the reason the US had tread carefully? It follows the test flight of their version of the stealth aircraft during Gate’s visit to Beijing, and just before the launch of the world’s largest aircraft carrier. There is an increase in the military budget of roughly 13% at a time when the US defense budget is shrinking. And remember, the uniforms for our troops are made in – wait for it – China.