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China Ate a Power Pill and Some of Us Are Turning Blue

January 5, 2010

Lately I’ve gotten the impression that China is becoming a voracious beast with an insatiable appetite for the world’s primary commodities.  It’s not the size of the appetite that has struck a nerve, but the indiscriminate nature of when and where it decides to feed.  In a New York Times article Michael Wines describes a recent deal between the Afghan government and the China Metallurgical Group Corporation to buy the largest Copper deposit in the country becoming the largest foreign investor in Afghanistan.  It is not concerning that Afghanistan in attracting foreign direct investment, but it is troubling when China takes the lead in investing in weak states.  Afghanistan currently does not have a record of good governance and the most recent elections were besieged by allegations and confirmations of fraud.  China’s lack of transparency and rhetoric denouncing its need recognize human rights does not make it a partner for securing a future in the best interests of the Afghani people.

The United States is not necessarily the world’s model citizen when it comes to the reverence of human rights, especially in recent years during our concurrent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under the Bush Administration.  But China is in another league.  The all-stars of human rights abusers, if you will.  It was listed by the U.S Department of State as one of the top 10 abusers of human rights until 2008 when it was removed (even though a marked improvement in the observation of human rights seemed to be lacking).  The United States divested in Sudan while China has seen only the opportunity to secure resources for its present and future growth.  The Chinese have invested billions of dollars into Sudan’s oil industry which allows the government in the north to continue bloodshed in Darfur and southern Sudan. 

Afghanistan ranked 179 out of 180 on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2009 published by Transparency International.  Money from China with no pressure for reform only enables this kind of environment.  If there was some semblance of a stable government with the rule of law you could argue against aid or investment with conditionality, but in this circumstance it is necessary to motivate the state towards true development.  With China’s no-questions-asked policy the international community not only misses the opportunity to apply pressure to Karzai’s government, but their respective industries that were waiting for benchmarks to be met will lose out to the competing Chinese companies.

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