Monday, November 27, 2006

An interesting view on China

China’s wealth is rising rapidly, delivering an average income per person of $7,204 last year, up from $2,800 ten years ago. By contrast, Argentina’s per capita income was $4,030 ($8,773 in 2000 dollars) when the military was forced by unrest to quash democracy in 1975. That was the wealthiest democracy to fall prey to a military coup, according to Adam Przeworski and others in a study of democracy and development from 1950 to 1990.
That comes from this essay, "When will the Party end?"

I was dismayed to note that a number of people, Thomas Axworthy among them, are proposing that Canada lock out Chinese investment from Canadian companies. The idea seems to be that since the major Chinese overseas investors are all at least partially or wholly state-owned, they aren't "investors" in the sense that other companies are, but rather acting on behalf of Beijing - especially in the case of energy and mineral exploitation.

Well, color me unimpressed. First of all, this view totally ignores the extent to which large American corporations have acted as agents of American influence, especially when it comes to oil - the history of the Arab-American oil company in Saudi Arabia is a perfect example.

More broadly, the only way a country like Canada can maintain even the fig leaf of independence is not to become to tightly tied to one partner over any others. Canada should be willing to deal with China, India, Russia, Brazil, whoever wants our oil (as long as we can still produce it.)

Axworthy, according to his essay here (PDF), believes that we should do the opposite - offer America a guaranteed energy supply in exchange for an end to trade disruptions emanating from Washington. Apparently, he never noticed that we've already done exactly that, and it didn't work. We have guaranteed America a certain fraction of our energy as exports under NAFTA, and NAFTA was supposed to put a stop to US trade tantrums. It didn't work before, why is Axworthy so stupid to believe it would work now?

Axworthy has a long history of being hostile to the PRC and, I believe, naively kind in his opinions of the United States. This latest essay really just confirms it for me - to believe that the US Congress would stop acting like, well, the US Congress, simply because we go from our current position (slavish devotion) to something even more sycophantic is absurd.

Now, imagine for a moment that instead Canada openly courted Chinese and Indian investment in the oil sands, and started building the necessary pipelines to export the 1-2 million barrels of oil a day we can expect from the tar sands to the Pacific coast, and from there to Asia. We would suddenly have what people not named Axworthy call "bargaining power" with the United States: We could ship our oil to the US, or not, if we decided to. At the moment, most of the pipelines lead (PDF) from Alberta straight south to the US, making serious bargaining impossible. Pipelines to the west coast would end this situation, and allow us to sell to more than one customer. But all of that is moot if way lay down and promise the Americans they can have whatever they want.

Axworthy is the kind of Liberal that makes it difficult for me to support their party - no vision of Canadian independence from the US, no vision of Canada as an actual equal in the world, and no heir to Pierre Trudeau. There are plenty of strong Liberals out there, but Axworthy's vision of Canada is not one that I can support in any way.

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