Writing in Commentary Magazine Gal Luft and Anne Korin (both of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS)) have written an article exploring China's relationship with Saudi Arabia and China's growing need for oil entitled The Sino-Saudi Connection
According to a conservative estimate by the U.S. Department of Energy, China’s oil imports over the next two decades will grow by 960 percent. The International Energy Agency predicts that, by 2030, those imports, now at 1.9 million barrels a day, will rise to at least 10 million barrels a day, the current import level of the United States.
If the Saudis opted to acquire their own bomb, they would likely become the first nuclear power to have bought one off the shelf. Were this to happen, it would represent the culmination of a Sino-Saudi-Pakistani nuclear project that began in May 1974 when, following India’s ascension to the nuclear club, China sent scientists to assist Pakistan in developing that country’s own nuclear program. By the early 1980’s, China had supplied the Pakistanis with enough enriched uranium to build a few weapons. In 2001, the CIA reported that China was continuing to lend "extensive support" to Pakistan’s program. Today, Pakistan is estimated to have an arsenal of between 35 and 60 nuclear weapons.
How did Pakistan, with its grinding poverty, pay for this expensive project? Some of the costs were undoubtedly carried by the Chinese in pursuit of their own interests, including their rivalry with India. But considerable evidence suggests that Saudi Arabia played a part as well.
Luft and Korin make an argument familiar to regular ParaPundit readers: Growing Chinese demand for oil is going to result in a decreasing influence of the United States over Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern oil producers.
Even if Saudi Arabia does not pursue nuclear status, however, it has abundant reasons for looking east to China both for markets and for military assistance, just as China has abundant reasons for looking west to Saudi Arabia for continued access to Middle Eastern oil. And aside from these mutual interests, an alliance with China would hold other attraction for the Saudis. Unlike the U.S., the Chinese do not aspire to change the Arab way of life, or impose freedom and democracy on regimes that view such ideas with skepticism and fear. Indeed, Chinese attitudes toward the open societies of the West are markedly similar to those of the Arab despotisms themselves.
The Chinese also have at their disposal immense reserves of manpower, which they can deploy to protect the oil resources of any new allies they acquire. Thousands of Chinese soldiers disguised as oil workers, for example, are used today to guard petroleum facilities in Sudan. With 11 million men reaching military age annually, China could easily replicate this elsewhere. Finally, while the U.S. is continually castigated by the Arabs for its closeness to Israel, China’s ties with Jerusalem have never risen above the level of indifference.
The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) turns out to be an organization dedicated to promoting views which which I'm in incredibly strong agreement:
The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to setting America free from the oil dependence that threatens its security. We believe that a shift from oil is the best guarantor of global security, prosperity, and freedom for generations to come. Through technology we can win the war on terror and shake the yoke of our energy dependence without compromising our way of life.
The IAGS website has additional articles which develop their line of argument.
What makes penetration and control of money transactions in the Arab world especially difficult is the Hawala system--the unofficial method of transferring money and one of the key elements in the financing of global terrorism. The system has been going for generations and is deeply embedded in the Arab culture. Hawala transactions are based on trust; they are carried out verbally leaving no paper trail.
The Saudi regime has been complicit in its people's actions and has turned a blind eye to the phenomenon of wealthy citizens sending money to charities that in turn route it to terror organizations. Furthermore, Saudi government money funneled into madrassas where radical anti-Americanism is propagated has been instrumental in creating an ideological climate which generates terrorism.
Reducing demand for oil would decrease the money available to spread hostile Islam and to support terrorism.
There are many strategies proposed by counter-terrorism experts to obstruct terrorist financing. Many of them are effective and, indeed, some of the steps that have been taken since September 11, such as freezing bank accounts and improving the scrutiny over international monetary transfers, contributed to a reduction in Al-Qaeda's financial maneuverability. But the only way to deal with the problem strategically is to reduce the disposable income and wealth generation capacity of terrorist supporters.
Hence, America's best weapon against terrorism is to decrease its dependency on foreign oil by increasing its fuel efficiency and introducing next-generation fuels. If the U.S. bought less oil, the global oil market would shrink and price per-barrel would decline. This would invalidate the social contract between the leaders and their people and stem the flow of resources to the religious establishment. It will likely increase popular pressure for political participation, modernity and reformed political and social institutions.
Reducing demand for Middle East oil would force the petroleum-rich regimes to invest their funds domestically, seek ways to diversify their economies and rethink their support for America's enemies. Only then financial support for terrorism could radically diminish.
It is very gratifying to read policy analysts whose analysis of the problems posed by US and world dependence on Middle Eastern oil agrees so very closely with my own. My most recent post on the topic is Demand For Oil Increasing From Rapidly Developing Nations. Also see my post on the problem posed by rapidly growing Chinese energy consumption: China Energy Consumption Growth Complicates Anti-Terrorist Efforts. See the bottom half of the post Intervention In Liberia Linked To Oil Dependency for Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley's appeal for a massive research and development effort to develop alternative energy technologies. For more on the threat of Saudi Arabia buying nuclear weapons see the post Without US As Ally Saudi Arabia Could Go Nuclear. My argument for why an energy policy aimed at obsolescing oil as an energyh source is found in the post Energy Policy, Islamic Terrorism, And Grand Strategy.
In my view it is not enough to reduce or even to eliminate US dependence on Middle Eastern oil. The main problem is not that the US is vulnerable to supply cut-offs. The biggest problem is that the whole world's demand for Middle Eastern oil is funding the spread of Wahhabi Islam, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation. While technologies that allow oil to be used more efficiently will be of some benefit the only way to reduce world demand for Middle Eastern oil is to develop technologies for producing energy that are cheaper to use than oil.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 March 13 02:08 AM Politics Grand Strategy|