AFRICOM Report: Combating Chinese Economic Encroachment in Central Africa
by Nile Bowie
March 23, 2012
Since the time of the British Empire and the manifesto of Cecil Rhodes, the pursuit of treasures on the hopeless continent has demonstrated the expendability of human life. Despite decades of apathy among the primary resource consumers, the increasing reach of social media propaganda has ignited public interest in Africa’s long overlooked social issues. In the wake of celebrity endorsed pro-intervention publicity stunts, public opinion in the United States is now being mobilized in favor of a greater military presence on the African continent. Following the deployment of one hundred US military personnel to Uganda in 2011, a new bill has been introduced to the Congress calling for the further expansion of regional military forces in pursuit of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an ailing rebel group allegedly responsible for recruiting child soldiers and conducting crimes against humanity.
As the Obama administration claims to welcome the peaceful rise of China on the world stage, recent policy shifts toward an American Pacific Century indicate a desire to maintain the capacity to project military force toward the emerging superpower. In addition to maintaining a permanent military presence in Northern Australia, the construction of an expansive military base on South Korea’s Jeju Island has indicated growing antagonism towards Beijing. The base maintains the capacity to host up totwenty American and South Korean warships, including submarines, aircraft carriers and destroyersonce completed in 2014 – in addition to the presence of Aegis anti-ballistic systems. In response, Chinese leadership has referred to the increasing militarization in the region as an open provocation.
On the economic front, China has been excluded from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), a trade agreement intended to administer US-designed international trading regulations throughout Asia, to the benefit of American corporations. As further fundamental policy divisions emerge subsequent to China and Russia’s UNSC veto mandating intervention in Syria, the Obama administration has begun utilizing alternative measures to exert new economic pressure towards Beijing. The United States, along with the EU and Japan have called on the World Trade Organization to block Chinese-funded mining projects in the US, in addition to a freeze on World Bank financing for China’s extensive mining projects.
In a move to counteract Chinese economic ascendancy, Washington is crusading against China’s export restrictions on minerals that are crucial components in the production of consumer electronics such as flat-screen televisions, smart phones, laptop batteries, and a host of other products. In a 2010 white paper entitled “Critical Raw Materials for the EU,” the European Commission cites the immediate need for reserve supplies of tantalum, cobalt, niobium, and tungsten among others; the US Department of Energy 2010 white paper “Critical Mineral Strategy” also acknowledged the strategic importance of these key components. Coincidentally, the US military is now attempting to increase its presence in what is widely considered the world’s most resource rich nation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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