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The Chinese are evil/benign [delete as appropriate] 10, March 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China.
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As if there weren’t enough threats from the Far East, commentators have come out with another Sinic threat to us all. This new future threat comes hot on the heels of countless column inches extemporising on current yellow-perils terrorising the Western world: China’s overcoming of their ‘century of humiliation’, their massive, rapacious expansion into Africa, their mega-cities spewing out epic levels of pollution, their burgeoning Naval fleet creeping ever further across the Pacific and avian bird flu, to name but a few.


This time around China are hoovering up all the ‘rare earth metals’ throughout the world, critical to iPods, lasers and laptops. Furthermore, through aggressive commerce (that some might call capitalism) they are driving their competition out of business, digging up and refining their product at cheaper prices. Imagine the temerity of them trying to create a comparative advantage; David Ricardo would be turning in his grave.


Dialling down the sarcasm as well as the hyperbole for just a minute, it does appear as if China are cornering the world market in such critical metals, accruing 95% of the supply of such rare earth metals in recent times. However – and this is a large however – one need not imply nefarious and evil intentions to this. If America or Switzerland or even the peace-hugging Scandanavians had an opportunity to corner such an important and lucrative market, they too would take it. To imply that China are ipso facto up to no good and seeking to set themselves up to extort the world in the future is not actually based on anything. They are – like the good capitalist they are – following the invisible hand eloquently. They could, of course, be just so evil: planning to ransom these commodities to a technology dependent world, but there is nothing as yet to base such a claim on.


Granted, their navy’s antics do not contribute to the West’s sense of ease. In recent weeks, Chinese ships have harassed American Navy ships in international waters, buzzing the ships repeatedly, sailing to within metres of them as well as dropping debris in their path forcing emergency stops. Whilst this kind of behaviour is certainly menacing to some degree, my overall impression is that it essentially puerile and childish; hardly a threat to national security.

Like the central theme of the first half of the article, the conclusions that can be drawn from the examples are mostly down to a person’s preference and proclivity. Each side can make a mostly convincing case that each Chinese action is absolute proof of their overall evil/benign intent. I tend towards the less alarmist, look at things from their perspective, type of view point. Yet I acknowledge (unlike many commentators on the topic) that the evidence can be easily manipulated to go both ways.