This article appears in the July 15 edition of Asia Times Online. Click here for the full story or paste http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/JG15Cb01.html
By Peter Navarro
China last week once again demonstrated its willingness to opportunistically trade diplomatic favors for access to African riches. Joining with Russia, the People's Republic vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have imposed tough sanctions on Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and other members of his illegitimate regime for rigging the country's presidential election.
China has in the past "sold" its UN veto power to protect Sudan from sanctions over the killing of people in Darfur in exchange for access to Sudanese oil. China is now Sudan's biggest customer. Beijing has also provided Iran with diplomatic cover at the UN for the Middle East country's nuclear development program in exchange for access to its huge natural gas reserves.
In Zimbabwe, it's not petroleum that China covets. Rather, the African nation is the world's second-largest exporter of platinum, a key input for China's auto industry. China is also the world's largest steel producer, and Zimbabwe controls more than half of the world's known chromium reserves, used in making stainless steel.
On the agricultural front, China has long coveted Zimbabwe's rich tobacco fields. As the world's largest cigarette producer, China produces roughly 2 trillion sticks a year (which annually kill about a million Chinese). Over the past decade, by providing Mugabe with diplomatic cover at the UN and by lending his regime huge sums, China has been able to gain control of much of Zimbabwe's valuable tobacco output.
China's Zimbabwe gambit is symptomatic of a broader brand of Chinese imperialism that would have Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong turning in their graves.
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