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China keeps Asian economies moving, but at what cost to the US?
There are many reasons but here is one not written about much: China isn't really at war. Even in countries where Americans are fighting and dying, China is doing business. Security provided courtesy of the U.S.
A year ago McClatchy newspapers' excellent reporter Jonathan Landay described American soldiers in Afghanistan securing a road leading to the site of what will be a multi-billion dollar Chinese copper mining venture in Aynak, south of Kabul. The soldiers were actually trying to clear the area of Taliban for their own strategic purposes but their presence made the area secure enough for a Chinese crew to grade and pave a road to the mine site. The copper lode there is expected to help supply China's voracious need for the stuff for the next two decades.
Afghanistan isn't the only place where the American military is operating and American foreign aid is trying to prevent a take-over by Islamic radicals while China goes about the business of providing raw materials for its insatiable economy.
In Gwadar, on the southern coast of the Pakistan province of Baluchistan, the Chinese have built a massive oil tanker facility. If you go to Google Maps and type in Gwadar, Pakistan, you can see it.
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Lots of brown desert and a provincial city of houses the same color and over on a hammerhead spit of land sticking into the Arabian sea is the port. Someday soon a pipeline will be built from Iran's south Pars gas field to Gwadar and Chinese tankers will load up and race around India and the Strait of Malacca to offload the gas in the southern parts of their country. China is regarded as a great partner in Pakistan while with every drone attack America is regarded more completely as an enemy. But if America weren't trying to do something about securing the Pakistani state from implosion, would China be able to go about its business?
Gwadar isn't the only interface between China and Iran. As American leaders expend energy and political capital trying to halt Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons, China has recently opened a pipeline into the Islamic Republic from the north via Turkmenistan.
You see where this article is going. On the other side of the world there is optimism and economic drive, in the marshaling yard everyone is coupling up behind the Chinese locomotive. On my side of the world, people are down and depressed, burying their dead, trying to get the drag of billions spent fighting wars in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan off the books. So much mental energy and money is spent surveilling Iran and every email on the planet with the word jihad in it. Bright minds should be working on other projects. The bright minds in China surely are.
At the end of last year, The New York Times reported on the Aynak copper mine in Afghanistan and quoted Frederick Starr of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute: “We do the heavy lifting and they pick the fruit.”
That sums up the situation nicely. I am not naturally inclined to provide a talking point for Heritage Foundation/American Enterprise Institute types but it is amazing that the government of the People's Republic of China can get away so cheap. There is much talk these days about forcing China to allow its currency to float freely on foreign exchange markets.
Perhaps a more direct way of dealing with economic imbalances between the rival powers would be for the U.S. to send China a bill for security services. A few billion here and a few billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money. Why not split the tab right down the middle?