Monday, March 12, 2012

382 Krugman: impose Tariffs on China. Hudson: ignore Krugman's China Bashing-

Krugman: impose Tariffs on China. Hudson: ignore Krugman's China Bashing

John Craig's comments on "Chindia - you ain't seen nuthin yet":
http://cpds.apana.org.au/Teams/Articles/Babes.htm#25_9_10

My position is this: both sides are right - and wrong.

Krugman is right about China's manipulating its trade and currency - but this is par for the Asia Model. Anglo-American laissez-faire politices have led to a Postindustrial Nightmare.

Hudson is right about Anglo-American financial imperialism, but he turns a blind eye to China's own empire-building.

The US needs tariffs, not directed at China but universally. We should return to the tariff regime of the 1950s & 60s (a time of prosperity; they did not cause depression). Political sovereignty is meaningless without economic sovereignty, ie control over our economy. The real reason for scrapping tariffs is to erode national sovereignty in favour of One World; other reasons given are merely excuses, rationalizations, advocacy. We should reject both US Empire and Chinese Empire.

(1) Krugman: US should impose tariffs on China - it's keeping its currency low, taxing imports & subsidizing exports
(2) Michael Hudson: ignore Krugman's China Bashing
(3) Krugman: no solution to  mass unemployment without tariffs. US should Take China On
(4) Fears of Chinese land grab as Beijing's billions buy up resources
(5) China's quest to control resources is often followed up with military ties
(6) Annexed by China: Africa barters raw materials for Chinese infrastructure & loans

(1) Krugman: US should impose tariffs on China - it's keeping its currency low, taxing imports & subsidizing exports

China, Japan, America

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: September 12, 2010

New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/opinion/13krugman.html?_r=1&ref=paulkrugman
http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/102808389.html

Last week Japan's minister of finance declared that he and his colleagues wanted a discussion with China about the latter's purchases of Japanese bonds, to "examine its intention" — diplomat-speak for "Stop it right now." The news made me want to bang my head against the wall in frustration.

You see, senior American policy figures have repeatedly balked at doing anything about Chinese currency manipulation, at least in part out of fear that the Chinese would stop buying our bonds. Yet in the current environment, Chinese purchases of our bonds don't help us — they hurt us. The Japanese understand that. Why don't we?

Some background: If discussion of Chinese currency policy seems confusing, it's only because many people don't want to face up to the stark, simple reality — namely, that China is deliberately keeping its currency artificially weak.

The consequences of this policy are also stark and simple: in effect, China is taxing imports while subsidizing exports, feeding a huge trade surplus. You may see claims that China's trade surplus has nothing to do with its currency policy; if so, that would be a first in world economic history. An undervalued currency always promotes trade surpluses, and China is no different.

And in a depressed world economy, any country running an artificial trade surplus is depriving other nations of much-needed sales and jobs. Again, anyone who asserts otherwise is claiming that China is somehow exempt from the economic logic that has always applied to everyone else.

So what should we be doing? U.S. officials have tried to reason with their Chinese counterparts, arguing that a stronger currency would be in China's own interest. They're right about that: an undervalued currency promotes inflation, erodes the real wages of Chinese workers and squanders Chinese resources. But while currency manipulation is bad for China as a whole, it's good for politically influential Chinese companies — many of them state-owned. And so the currency manipulation goes on.

Time and again, U.S. officials have announced progress on the currency issue; each time, it turns out that they've been had. Back in June, Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, praised China's announcement that it would move to a more flexible exchange rate. Since then, the renminbi has risen a grand total of 1, that's right, 1 percent against the dollar — with much of the rise taking place in just the past few days, ahead of planned Congressional hearings on the currency issue. And since the dollar has fallen against other major currencies, China's artificial cost advantage has actually increased.

Clearly, nothing will happen until or unless the United States shows that it's willing to do what it normally does when another country subsidizes its exports: impose a temporary tariff that offsets the subsidy. So why has such action never been on the table?

One answer, as I've already suggested, is fear of what would happen if the Chinese stopped buying American bonds. But this fear is completely misplaced: in a world awash with excess savings, we don't need China's money — especially because the Federal Reserve could and should buy up any bonds the Chinese sell.

It's true that the dollar would fall if China decided to dump some American holdings. But this would actually help the U.S. economy, making our exports more competitive. Ask the Japanese, who want China to stop buying their bonds because those purchases are driving up the yen.

Aside from unjustified financial fears, there's a more sinister cause of U.S. passivity: business fear of Chinese retaliation.

Consider a related issue: the clearly illegal subsidies China provides to its clean-energy industry. These subsidies should have led to a formal complaint from American businesses; in fact, the only organization willing to file a complaint was the steelworkers union. Why? As The Times reported, "multinational companies and trade associations in the clean energy business, as in many other industries, have been wary of filing trade cases, fearing Chinese officials' reputation for retaliating against joint ventures in their country and potentially denying market access to any company that takes sides against China."

Similar intimidation has surely helped discourage action on the currency front. So this is a good time to remember that what's good for multinational companies is often bad for America, especially its workers.

So here's the question: Will U.S. policy makers let themselves be spooked by financial phantoms and bullied by business intimidation? Will they continue to do nothing in the face of policies that benefit Chinese special interests at the expense of both Chinese and American workers? Or will they finally, finally act? Stay tuned.

(2) Michael Hudson: ignore Krugman's China Bashing

From: chris lenczner <chrispaul@netpci.com> Date: 04.10.2010 12:29 PM

http://www.counterpunch.org/hudson09292010.html
http://michael-hudson.com/2010/09/america%E2%80%99s-china-bashing-a-compendium-of-junk-economics/

America's China Bashing: A Short Tour of Junk Economics

Michael Hudson

September 29, 2010

It is traditional for politicians to blame foreigners for problems that their own policies have caused. And in today's zero-sum economies, it seems that if America is losing leadership position, other nations must be the beneficiaries. Inasmuch as China has avoided the financial overhead that has painted other economies into a corner, U.S. politicians and journalists are blaming it for America's declining economic power. I realize that balance-of-payments accounting and international trade theory are arcane topics, but I promise that by the time you finish this article, you will understand more than 99 per cent of U.S. economists and diplomats striking this self-righteous pose.

The dollar's double standard gives America an international free ride

For over a century, central banks have managed exchange rates by raising or lowering the interest rate. Countries running trade and payments deficits raise rate to attract foreign funds. The IMF also directs them to impose domestic austerity programs that reduce asset prices for their real estate, stocks and bonds, making them prone to foreign buyouts. Vulture investors and speculators usually have a field day, as they did in the Asian crisis of 1997.

Conversely, low interest rates lead bankers and speculators to seek higher returns abroad, borrowing domestic currency to buy foreign securities or make foreign loans. This capital outflow lowers the exchange rate.

There is a major exception, of course: the United States. Despite running the world's largest balance-of-payments deficit and also the largest domestic government budget deficit, it has the world's lowest interest rates and easiest credit. The Federal Reserve has depressed the dollar's exchange rate by providing nearly free credit to banks at only 0.25 per cent interest. This "quantitative easing" (making it easier to borrow more) aims at preventing U.S. real estate, stocks and bonds from falling further in price. The idea is to save banks from more defaults as the economy slips deeper into negative equity territory. A byproduct of this easy credit is to lower the dollar's exchange rate – presumably helping U.S. exporters while forcing foreign producers either to raise the dollar price of their goods they sell here or absorb a currency loss.

This policy makes the dollar a managed currency. Low U.S. interest rates and easy credit spur investors to lend abroad or buy foreign assets yielding more than 1 per cent. This dollar outflow forces other countries to protect their currencies from being forced up. So their central banks do not throw the excess dollars they receive onto the "free market," but keep them in dollar form by buying U.S. Government bonds. So the "Chinese savings," "yen savings" and "Euro savings" that are spent on U.S. Treasury securities (and earlier, on Fannie Mae bonds to earn a bit more) are not really what Chinese people save in their local yuan, or what Japanese or Europeans save. The money used to buy U.S. Government securities consists of the excess dollars that the American military, American investors and American consumers spend abroad in excess of U.S. earning power. To pretend that these savings are "saved up" by foreigners (who save in their own currency, after all) is Junk Economics Error #1.

By lowering U.S. interest rates to near zero, the U.S. Federal Reserve is doing what the Bank of Japan did after its financial bubble burst in 1990, when it helped Japanese banks "earn their way out of negative equity" by providing cheap credit to obtain a markup by lending to speculators and arbitrageurs to buy foreign bonds paying higher rates. This came to be known as the "carry trade." Arbitrageurs borrowed yen cheaply and converted them into Euros, dollars, Icelandic kroner or other currencies paying a higher rate, pocketing the difference. This threw yen onto foreign-exchange market, weakening the exchange rate and hence helping Japanese automotive and electronics exporters.

This is the easy credit policy that the Fed is following today. U.S. banks borrow from the Federal Reserve at 0.25 per cent, and lend to speculators at a markup of one or two percentage points. These speculators then look for companies, government bonds, corporate stocks and bonds and any other asset in a foreign currency that they believe may yield more than about 2 per cent (or that are denominated in currencies that may raise in price against the dollar by more than 2 per cent annually), hoping to pocket the difference.

Accusations that Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are "making their currencies cheaper" by recycling their dollar inflows into U.S. Treasury securities simply means that they are trying to maintain their currencies at a stable level. Even so, the yen's exchange rate has risen as international borrowers pay off their carry-trade debts by re-converting the Euros, dollars and other currencies they borrowed in yen to play the arbitrage game. Paying back these foreign currency loans raises the yen's price. To prevent this from pricing Japanese exporters out of world markets, Japan's central bank is trying to stabilize the yen/dollar exchange rate by recycling these payments into the purchase of U.S. Treasury securities – exactly what U.S. officials accuse China of doing. It is how most central banks throughout the world are responding to the global dollar glut. They are increasing their international reserves by the amount of surplus free credit" dollars that the U.S. payments deficit is pumping out. To pretend that China is "manipulating its currency" by doing what central banks have done for over a century is Junk Economics Error #2. Back in the early 1970s, U.S. officials told OPEC governments that if they did not do this, it would be deemed an act of war. And Congress has refused to let China buy U.S. companies – so China can only recycle its dollar inflows by buying Treasury securities, thereby financing the U.S. federal budget deficit.

Every currency is managed by recycling dollars to avoid distorted exchange rates

To pretend that exchange rates are determined mainly by international trade is Junk Economics Error #3. International currency speculation and investment is much larger than the volume of commodity trade. The typical currency bet lasts less than a minute, often being computer-driven by arbitrage swap models. This financial fibrillation has dislodged exchange rates from purchasing-power parity or prices for export and imports.

The largest payments imbalances have little to do with "market forces" for imports and exports. They are what economists call price-inelastic – money spent without regard for price. This is true above all for military spending and maintenance of America's vast network of foreign bases and political maneuverings to control foreign countries. During the 1960s and '70s U.S. military spending accounted for the entire balance-of-payments deficit, as private sector trade and investment remained in balance. Escalation of America's oil war in the Near East and Pipelinistan, and the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to prop up America-friendly regimes, end up in central banks – whose main option, as noted above, is to send them back to the United States in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bills – to finance further federal deficit spending!

None of this can be blamed on China. But any nation that succeeds economically is assumed to be doing so at America's expense if they do not let U.S. investors siphon off the entire surplus. This attitude that other countries should sacrifice themselves is sweeping Congress, whose China bashing is reminiscent of the Japan-phobia of the late 1980s. The United States convinced the Bank of Japan to raise the yen's exchange rate in the 1985 Plaza Accord, and then to turn Japan into a bubble economy by flooding it with credit under the 1987 Louvre Accord. Tokyo was humorously referred to as "the 13th Federal Reserve district" for recycling its export earnings in U.S. Treasury bills, becoming the mainstay of the Reagan-Bush budget deficits that financed U.S. global military spending while quadrupling the public debt.

U.S. strategists would not mind seeing China's economy similarly untracked by letting global speculators bid up the renminbi's exchange rate – by enough to let Wall Street speculators make hundreds of billions of dollars betting on the run-up. "Free capital markets" and "open financial markets" are euphemisms for setting the renminbi's exchange rate by U.S. and European currency arbitrage and capital flight. The U.S. balance-of-payments outflow would increase rather than shrink, thanks to the ability of American banks to create nearly "free" credit on their keyboards to convert into Chinese or other currencies, gold or other speculative vehicles that look to rise against the dollar.

"In a world awash with excess savings, we don't need China's money," writes Prof. Krugman. After all, "the Federal Reserve could and should buy up any bonds the Chinese sell." It's all just electronic credit. From reading such diatribes, or President Obama's exchange with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the United Nations on September 23, one would not realize that Chinese savers have not sent a single yuan of their own money to the United States.

But that is the point! Krugman should have reminded his readers that the balance of payments consists of much more than just the trade balance in today's world swamped by financial speculation and military spending. What China "invests" in the United States are the dollars thrown off by the U.S. payments deficit. China would take a loss on the yuan-value of these dollars if it revalues its currency – as it has lost on the dollars it has turned over to Blackrock in the hope of making more than the minimal 1 per cent available on U.S. Treasury securities.

Describing China as "deliberately keeping its currency artificially weak. … feeding a huge trade surplus," Krugman adds that "in a depressed world economy, any country running an artificial trade surplus is depriving other nations of much-needed sales and jobs." In his reading the problem is not that America has let easy bank credit bid up housing prices for its workers and loaded down their budgets with debt service that, by itself, exceeds the wage levels of most Asian workers. This financialization is largely responsible for the U.S. trade balance moving into deficit (apart from food and arms exports). Homeowners typically pay up to 40 per cent of their income for mortgage debt service and other carrying charges, 15 per cent for other debt (credit card interest and fees, auto loans, student loans, etc.), 11 per cent for FICA wage withholding for Social Security and Medicare, and about 10 to 15 per cent in other taxes (income and excise taxes). To cap matters, the financial burden of debt-leveraged real estate and consumption is aggravated by forced saving pension set-asides turned over to money managers for financial investment in these debt-leveraged financial instruments, and "financialized" wage withholding for Social Security. All these deductions are made before any money is left to buy food, clothing or other basic goods and services.

Chinese currency appreciation would make its exports cost more. But would this spur America rebuild its factories and re-employ the workforce that has been downsized and outsourced? To imagine that long-term investment responds to immediately is Junk Economics Error #4.

The same is true of international commodity trade. "An undervalued currency always promotes trade surpluses," Krugman explains. But this is only true if trade is "price-elastic," with other countries able to produce similar goods of their own at only marginally different prices. This is less and less the case as the United States and Europe de-industrialize and as their capital investment shrinks as a result of their expanding financial overhead ends in a wave of negative equity. To assume that higher exchange rates automatically reduce rather than increase a nation's trade surplus is Junk Economics Error #5. It is a tenet of the free market fundamentalism that Krugman usually criticizes, except where China is concerned.

Krugman urges the United States to do what it "normally does" when other countries subsidize their exports: impose a tariff to offset the supposed subsidy. Congress is increasing the drumbeat of accusations that China is violating international trade rules by protecting itself from financialization. "Democrats in Congress are threatening to … slap huge tariffs on Chinese goods to undermine the advantages Beijing has enjoyed from a currency, the renminbi, that experts say is artificially weakened by 20 to 25 percent." The aim is to make China "lift the strict controls on its currency, which keep Chinese exports competitive and more factory workers employed." But such legislation is illegal under world trade rules. This has not stopped the United States in the past, but the believe that it might succeed internationally is Junk Economics Error #6.

This kind of propaganda does not see the United States as guilty of "managing the dollar" by its quantitative easing that depresses the exchange rate below what would be normal for any other economy suffering so gigantic and chronic s payments deficit. What makes this situation inherently unfair is that while the Washington Consensus directs other countries to impose austerity plans, raise their taxes on consumers and cut vital spending, the Bush-Obama administration blames China, not the U.S. financial system or post-Cold War military expansionism.

The cover story is that foreign exchange controls and purchase of U.S. securities keep the renminbi's exchange rate low, artificially spurring its exports. The reality is that these controls protect China from U.S. banks creating free "keyboard credit" to buy out its companies or load down its economy with loans to be paid off in renminbi whose value will rise against the deficit-prone dollar.

The House Ways and Means Committee is demanding that China raise its exchange rate by 20 per cent. This would enable speculators to put down 1 per cent equity – say, $1 million to borrow $99 million and buy Chinese renminbi forward. The revaluation being demanded would produce a 20,000 per cent profit, turning the $100 million bet (and just $1 million "serious money") into making $2 billion. It also would bankrupt Chinese exporters who had signed dollarized contracts with U.S. retailers. So it's the arbitrage opportunity of the century that lobbyists are pressing for, not the welfare of workers.

The Internal Revenue Service treats such trading gains as "capital gains" and taxes them at only 15 per cent, much less than the tax rate on earned income that wage-earners must pay. The Brazilian real has risen by about 25 per cent against the dollar since January 2009. Last week, Brazil's state oil company, Petrobras, issued $67 billion in shares to exploit the nation's new oil discoveries. Foreigners have been swamping Brazil's central bank with a reported $1 billion per day for the past two weeks – about 10 times its daily average in recent months – but this was largely to absorb money entering the country to take part in last week's issue by the national oil company.

The U.S. and foreign economies alike are suffering from the idea that the way to get rich is by debt leveraging, and that the wealth of nations is whatever banks will lend – the "capitalization rate" of the available surplus. The banker's dream is to lend against every source of revenue until it ends up being pledged to pay interest. Corporate raiders use business cash flow to pay bankers for the high-interest loans and junk bonds that provide them with takeover credit. Real estate investors use their rental income to service their mortgages, while consumers pay their disposable income as interest (and late fees) to the banks for credit cards, student loans and other debts.

But Paul Krugman and Robin Wells blame China for Wall Street's junk mortgage binge. Instead of pointing to criminal behavior by the banks, brokerage companies, bond rating agencies and deceptive underwriters, they take the financial sector off the hook: "Just as global imbalances – the savings glut created by surpluses in China and other countries – played an important part in creating the great real estate bubble, they have an important role in blocking recovery now that the bubble has burst."

This sounds more like what one would hear from a Wall Street lobbyist than from a liberal Democrat. It is as if the real estate bubble didn't stem from financial fraud, junk mortgages, NINJA loans or the Federal Reserve flooding the U.S. economy with credit to inflate the real estate bubbles and sending electronic dollars abroad to glut the global economy. It's China's fault for running large trade surpluses "at the rest of the world's expense." The authors do not explain how it helps China or other economies to let foreign investors buy their companies at a 20 per cent return and pay in dollars that must be recycled to the U.S. Treasury earning just 1 per cent. And Congress won't let the Chinese buy U.S. companies. It blocks such inflows, managing the economy ostensibly on national security grounds – in practice a structural payments deficit.

Wall Street's idea of "equilibrium" is for foreign countries to financialize themselves along the lines that the United States is doing, then global equilibrium could be restored. But the most successful economies have kept their FIRE-sector costs of living and doing business within reasonable bounds, and are not remotely as debt-leveraged as the United States. German workers pay only about 20 per cent of their income for housing – about half the rate of their U.S. counterparts. German practice is not to make 100 per cent mortgage loans, but to require down payments in the range of 30 per cent such as characterized the United States as recently as the 1980s.

The FIRE sector's business plan has priced U.S. labor out of world markets. There seems little likelihood of making Chinese and German workers pay rents or mortgage interest as high as the United States? How can American economic strategists force them to raise the price of their college and university tuition so that they must take on the enormous student loans of the magnitude that Americans have to assume? How can they be persuaded to follow the high-cost U.S. practice of adding FICA-type wage withholding to the cost of living to save up pensions, Social Security and medical insurance in advance, instead of the pay-as-you-go basis that Germany quite rightly follows?

Such suggestions are a cover story for America's own financial mismanagement. The U.S. idea for global equilibrium is to demand that that the rest of the world follow suit in adopting the short-term time frame typical of banks and hedge funds whose business plan is to make money purely from financial maneuvering, not long-term capital investment. Debt creation and the shift of economic planning to Wall Street and similar global financial centers is confused with "wealth creation," as if it were what Adam Smith was talking about.

A Proposal

China is trying to help by voluntarily cutting back its rare earth exports. It has almost a monopoly, accounting for 97 per cent of global trade in these 17 metallic elements. These exports are "price inelastic." There is little known replacement cost once existing deposits are depleted. Yet China charges only for the cost of digging these rare metals out of the ground and refining them. They are used in military and other high-technology applications, from guided missile steering systems and computer hard drives to hybrid electric automobile batteries. This has prompted China to recently cut back its exports to save its land from environmental pollution and, incidentally, to build up its own stockpile for future use.

So I have a modest suggestion. If and when China starts re-exporting these metals, raise their price from a few dollars a pound to a few hundred dollars. According to a theory put forth by Paul Krugman and the U.S. Congress, this price increase should slow demand for Chinese exports. It also would help promote world peace and demilitarization, because these rare metals are key elements in missile guidance systems. China should build up its national security stockpile of these key minerals for the future – say, the next prospective five years of production. Let this be a test of the junk paradigms at work./

(3) Krugman: no solution to  mass unemployment without tariffs. US should Take China On
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/opinion/01krugman.html?ref=paulkrugman

Taking On China

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: September 30, 2010

Serious people were appalled by Wednesday's vote in the House of Representatives, where a huge bipartisan majority approved legislation, sponsored by Representative Sander Levin, that would potentially pave the way for sanctions against China over its currency policy. As a substantive matter, the bill was very mild; nonetheless, there were dire warnings of trade war and global economic disruption. Better, said respectable opinion, to pursue quiet diplomacy.

But serious people, who have been wrong about so many things since this crisis began — remember how budget deficits were going to lead to skyrocketing interest rates and soaring inflation? — are wrong on this issue, too. Diplomacy on China's currency has gone nowhere, and will continue going nowhere unless backed by the threat of retaliation. The hype about trade war is unjustified — and, anyway, there are worse things than trade conflict. In a time of mass unemployment, made worse by China's predatory currency policy, the possibility of a few new tariffs should be way down on our list of worries.

Let's step back and look at the current state of the world.

Major advanced economies are still reeling from the effects of a burst housing bubble and the financial crisis that followed. Consumer spending is depressed, and firms see no point in expanding when they aren't selling enough to use the capacity they have. The recession may be officially over, but unemployment is extremely high and shows no sign of returning to normal levels.

The situation is quite different, however, in emerging economies. These economies have weathered the economic storm, they are fighting inflation rather than deflation, and they offer abundant investment opportunities. Naturally, capital from wealthier but depressed nations is flowing in their direction. And emerging nations could and should play an important role in helping the world economy as a whole pull out of its slump.

But China, the largest of these emerging economies, isn't allowing this natural process to unfold. Restrictions on foreign investment limit the flow of private funds into China; meanwhile, the Chinese government is keeping the value of its currency, the renminbi, artificially low by buying huge amounts of foreign currency, in effect subsidizing its exports. And these subsidized exports are hurting employment in the rest of the world.

Chinese officials defend this policy with arguments that are both implausible and wildly inconsistent.

They deny that they are deliberately manipulating their exchange rate; I guess the tooth fairy purchased $2.4 trillion in foreign currency and put it on their pillows while they were sleeping. Anyway, say prominent Chinese figures, it doesn't matter; the renminbi has nothing to do with China's trade surplus. Yet this week China's premier cried woe over the prospect of a stronger currency, declaring, "We cannot imagine how many Chinese factories will go bankrupt, how many Chinese workers will lose their jobs." Well, either the renminbi's value matters, or it doesn't — they can't have it both ways.

Meanwhile, about diplomacy: China's government has shown no hint of helpfulness and seems to go out of its way to flaunt its contempt for U.S. negotiators. In June, the Chinese supposedly agreed to allow their currency to move toward a market-determined rate — which, if the example of economies like Brazil is any indication, would have meant a sharp rise in the renminbi's value. But, as of Thursday, China's currency had risen about only 2 percent against the dollar — with most of that rise taking place in just the past few weeks, clearly in anticipation of the vote on the Levin bill.

So what will the bill accomplish? It empowers U.S. officials to impose tariffs against Chinese exports subsidized by the artificially low renminbi, but it doesn't require these officials to take action. And judging from past experience, U.S. officials will not, in fact, take action — they'll continue to make excuses, to tout imaginary diplomatic progress, and, in general, to confirm China's belief that they are paper tigers.

The Levin bill is, then, a signal at best — and it's at least as much a shot across the bow of U.S. officials as it is a signal to the Chinese. But it's a step in the right direction.

For the truth is that U.S. policy makers have been incredibly, infuriatingly passive in the face of China's bad behavior — especially because taking on China is one of the few policy options for tackling unemployment available to the Obama administration, given Republican obstructionism on everything else. The Levin bill probably won't change that passivity. But it will, at least, start to build a fire under policy makers, bringing us closer to the day when, at long last, they are ready to act.

(4) Fears of Chinese land grab as Beijing's billions buy up resources
                                       
Sarah Arnott
London Independent
Oct 2, 2010

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/fears-of-chinese-land-grab-as-beijings-billions-buy-up-resources-2095451.html

China is pouring another $7bn (£4.4bn) into Brazil's oil industry, reigniting fears of a global "land grab" of natural resources.

State-owned Sinopec clinched the deal with Spain's Repsol yesterday to buy 40 per cent of its Brazilian business, giving China's largest oil company access to Repsol Brasil's estimated reserves of 1.2 billion barrels of oil and gas. The whopping price tag for Repsol Brasil – which values the company at nearly twice previous estimates – is a sign of China's willingness to pay whatever it takes to lock in its future energy supplies and avoid social unrest. It will give the company enough cash to develop all its current oil projects, including two fields in the Santos Basin.

The Repsol deal is not China's first in Brazil. In February last year, Sinopec stumped up a $10bn loan to Petrobras, the state-owned oil company, in return for guaranteed supplies of 10,000 barrels of oil every day for the next 10 years.

It also follows a slew of similar deals across the world. While much of the developed world is baulking at its debts in the aftermath of the financial crisis, China has continued a global spending spree of unprecedented proportions, snapping up everything from oil and gas reserves to mining concessions to agricultural land, with vast reserves of US dollars.

This year alone, Chinese companies have laid out billions of dollars buying up stakes in Canada's oil sands, a Guinean iron ore mine, oil fields in Angola and Uganda, an Argentinian oil company and a major Australian coal-bed methane gas company.

"China is rich in people but short of resources, and it wants to have stable supplies of its own rather than having to buy on the open market," Jonathan Fenby, China expert and director of research group Trusted Resources, said.

But it is a strategy causing anxiety elsewhere in the world. Rumours in recent weeks that China's Sinochem may make a bid for Canada's Potash Corporation raised fears that the Middle Kingdom would corner the global market for fertiliser.

Similarly, when BP's share price plummeted after Barack Obama's criticisms in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, there was concern that the company would be driven into the hands of the Chinese.

More explicitly still, when the aluminium giant Chinalco was trying to buy Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto last year, television ads protesting against the scheme from no less than the Senate opposition leader bellowed "Keep Australia Australian".

"Chinese acquisitions are increasingly on the political radar," said Robin Geffen, the chief executive of Neptune Investment Management, which runs a leading China investment fund. "The pinch points come when people feel that supplies affecting national security could be threatened by China buying them all up."

Contrary to the conspiracy theories, China is not looking for world domination. It has seen economic growth averaging a massive 10 per cent for the best part of three decades, and although it is expected to drop into the high single-digits in the coming years – in response to a dip in export demand – the natural resources required to support even slightly moderated growth are an overwhelming priority.

China is already the second-largest oil consumer in the world and far outstrips its domestic supplies. Neptune estimates that it will need to buy two companies the size of BP each year for the next 12 years to meet its growing domestic energy demand. Demand for electricity alone is growing each year equivalent to Britain's entire output.

"These are massive, massive numbers," Mr Geffen said. "The deal with Repsol today, and all the others we have seen in recent years, are wholly strategic, to nail down what they estimate future demand will be."

But, despite the concerns that China is cornering the market and will push up prices, the developed world also has a vested interest in China pursuing a successful strategy.

Notwithstanding qualms about a change in the global balance of power, China's continued economic growth has been vital to hauling the world out of recession – and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The threat from political instability if Chinese growth stalls has similarly global implications. "The whole world needs China to have these resources to help pull us out of recession and avoid local unrest," said Ian Sperling-Tyler, a partner and oil and gas expert at the consultancy Deloitte.

But concerns remain about China's involvement in politically difficult countries, particularly in Africa. China is not squeamish about the politics of its business partners. It follows a simple formula, offering premium prices and massive infrastructure investments in return for long-term concessions for key resources. There are several well-documented deals on the continent – including a recent $2.5bn tie-up with Britain's Tullow Oil in Uganda and off-shore production in Angola and Nigeria. And the positive impact is evident in spanking new infrastructure including hospitals, ports, and road and rail links being built with the influx of Chinese money.

But China is also involved in some of Africa's more controversial countries. It came in for widespread criticism in 2008 for arms sales to war-torn Sudan, a major trade partner, and its alleged refusal to help resolve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. It has also been accused of paying multimillion-dollar backhanders in return for African leaders repudiating Taiwan at the UN, although nothing has ever been proved. And because the majority of the deals are done on a government-to-government basis, there is no way to be clear on the extent of the relationships.

(5) China's quest to control resources is often followed up with military ties

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/michael-klare-this-expansion-has-not-gone-unnoticed-in-washington-2095449.html

Michael Klare: This expansion has not gone unnoticed in Washington

Saturday, 2 October 2010

There's a battle going on over the future of US policy and strategy. For now the focus is on terrorism and Afghanistan. But when that winds down, all eyes will be on China and its rush for resources.

President Obama sees the risk. He talked with China's President, Hu Jintao, about co-operating in developing renewable energy. But the pressure to procure resources is greater than the incentives to develop renewables. The US military is divided on the issue. The Army and the Marines see terrorism as the greatest threat, but the Navy believes China's growing resource dependency on Africa and the Middle East explains its naval build-up and that the US must expand its own navy.

China is not intending to be a threat. It needs a vast amount of resources to maintain its economic growth – it will need twice as much oil by 2030 as it does now. Most of it is imported and it will need to come from the same places that the US gets its oil from. That will be seen as an economic threat – and a military one in some eyes.

The US and China will be the major players. In the past few weeks, military exercises have been conducted under the rubric of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, Peace Mission 2010. This is an attempt by China to exert its strategic power in central Asia and the China Sea region.

China and Japan have been in dispute over a couple of islands in the past two weeks. The islands are of no use, but the area contains a lot of offshore oil and gas. In the western hemisphere, China is relying largely on market forces and is not following up with its military. China is very aware that Brazil is America's backyard.

In Africa it's another story. China's quest to control resources is often followed up with military ties. This poses a challenge to the US, which has responded by stepping up its own military presence. Africom (the US African Command) was established in 2007, and though its head does not say so, people in Washington say it is a response to China.

What is different today is that the scale of demand for resources is greater than ever, thanks to the spread of industrialisation to much larger parts of the world. Supply is not growing fast enough to meet the demands.

Michael Klare is professor of peace and world security studies and the author of 'Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet'

(6) Annexed by China: Africa barters raw materials for Chinese infrastructure & loans

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/annexed-by-china-ndash-for-good-or-ill-2095450.html

Annexed by China – for good or ill

By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent

Saturday, 2 October 2010

To the casual visitor, the most obvious sign of China in Africa is also the most fleeting indication of the country's deepening engagement with the continent: On the road into Nairobi you pass a green and red arch commemorating Beijing's friendship with Kenya.

Clones of this giant Chinese character lie in wait outside a host of other African airports. But the reality of China's surge towards becoming the continent's largest trading partner is borne out by what lies beneath your vehicle: the road was built by a Chinese contractor.

If the African experience is anything to go by, China's move to strengthen its investment in Brazil is unlikely to be its last. The Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa issues a weekly update on Sino-African commerce and development. The bulletins reveal a transformative geopolitical phenomenon. This week's highlight was the US$15bn (£9.5bn) contracts signed between Ghana and China for infrastructure projects and loans for oil and gas development. Ghana's President, John Atta Mills, eschewed a high-profile global summit in New York on the future of aid to spend six days in Beijing sealing the largest deal of its kind in his nation's history.

Ghana is not alone. China's trade with Africa has grown from £6.3bn in 2000 to more than £66bn by the end of the decade – outstripping everyone but the EU and the US in volume.

Monika Thakur, an analyst with the South African Institute of International Affairs, has been monitoring this surge: "With China as a new player in geopolitics, Africa has overnight become an area of interest for global powers, drawing in the US and EU to engage more directly with the continent. Intentions and impact aside, China must be given credit for this – making the world re-engage with the continent."

The phenomenon has changed the continent's relationship with the world, brought Chinese contractors, finance, labour and know-how to practically every outpost, and prompted a commodities boom that cushioned Africa's ride into and out of the global recession. Indeed, its impact in Brazil is unlikely to ever reach quite that extent, for the simple reason that the South American nation is a far more developed and diversified economy.

In Africa, though, a decade of China's presence has coincided with the continent's strongest period of economic growth. A McKinsey report in June pointed to average real GDP growth 4.9 per cent from 2000 through to 2008.

With its inherent challenge to post-colonial relationships, assessments of the impact of China tend to be accompanied by language like "invasion" or "scramble". At its worst, this perspective approaches "Sinophobia", and ignores the positive aspects of China's challenge to traditional Western engagement with the continent, argues Markus Weimer, a research fellow at the UK think-tank Chatham House: "China offers African countries greater choice," he says. "This means that they can choose, for better or for worse, with whom they will do business."

The "Beijing model" has often meant unprecedented bartering, with raw materials traded for infrastructure. The largest single example of this, prior to Ghana, came in central Africa in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a mega-deal worth more than $10bn (£6.3bn).

The traditional criticism of China's search for resources – that it does little to encourage more sophisticated and diverse economies – sometimes ignores examples such as Ethiopia where Beijing's engagement in a non- resource-rich country has done more to drive economic growth, arguably, than decades of Western humanitarian aid.

The responsibility for harnessing the increased interest in their continent will fall to African leaders, says Thakur: "It is still premature to fully comprehend Beijing's intentions and the impact of their relationship with Africa – but African leaders must seize the opportunities that China brings and fashion it in such a way that benefits their countries, region and the continent as a whole."

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