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  Issue No 93 Official Organ of LaborNet 27 April 2001  




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The End of an Era?

The post-Cold War era is over. Something different is developing to take its place. John Passant writes.


Chinese Pilot Wang Wei

In 1991 George Bush the first described the Gulf War as heralding a New World Order. There was some truth in what he said, but it was more a statement of US desire than reality.

The NATO bombing of Serbia showed America's intent more clearly. The US-controlled NATO bombed Serbia to send a message to the world in general but China and Russia in particular - nothing could stand in the way of American interests anywhere in the world.

The missile which destroyed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during that bombing reinforced the message. Faced with the overwhelming military superiority of the United States, the Chinese could do nothing in response. Demonstrations in China against the US only increased the feelings of futility and frustration the Chinese leadership the felt.

The recent spy plane crisis is the first indication that the American era is over, or at least that the image of the United States as all powerful can be challenged.

The incident gave the Chinese the opportunity to overcome some of their previous humiliation. The fact that the US aircraft crash landed on Chinese territory with 24 American crew members gave China control of the situation and thus a major advantage over the Americans.

The US could conceivably have responded militarily. However a rescue mission would have taken time and may well have failed in its immediate objective of rescuing the crew.

The US also had the option of attacking a Chinese target - for example some of the military installations on the mainland across the water from Taiwan. This would have escalated the dispute and possibly resulted in war, limited or otherwise.

Despite the urgings of the Republican right, George Bush the second could not risk a military adventure against a middle-ranking power like China on its home soil. He, and the US, had too much to lose.

This has allowed the Chinese leadership to project an image to the Chinese people and the world that they are immune from US military action.

In the event, American military power was held in check. So the two sides cut a deal. Ambiguous words about being sorry allowed both sides to claim "victory".

This checking of US military power does not make China a superpower. The country simply does not have the economic power or technological capacity to challenge the Americans around the globe.

However China wants to become the major power in Asia. This in itself will create conflicts with the United States which has substantial military forces and economic presence in the region.

China's plans involve expanding its navy to become the dominant force in the South China Sea. This would give it the ability to control the oil-rich Spratley Islands. But it also means challenging US power in the area.

The security consultants Stratfor speculate that the US EP-3E spy plane was looking for two new submarines the Chinese navy is developing. The Type 093 can supposedly fire cruise missiles underwater and would, if true, "threaten the pre-eminent American weapons system in the region - the aircraft carrier".

In 1996, when China carried out live missile tests off Taiwan, the United States sent an aircraft carrier group to the region. China stopped its tests. The new submarines the Chinese are developing may challenge the capacity of the US to defend Taiwan.

Taiwan is the key. The United States sees itself as Taiwan's protector. China views Taiwan as a renegade province and reserves the option to re-take the island by force.

However the Chinese are not strong enough in the water or in the air to do this, even without the US intervening. So the Chinese have built up their missiles on the coastline facing Taiwan.

In response the Taiwanese asked to buy four destroyers equipped with the Aegis anti-missile system from the US. Aegis is capable of being integrated into Bush's proposed missile defence system which the Chinese see as giving the United States a nuclear first strike capability.

The Taiwanese request gave President Bush a dilemma. He wanted to emphasise US power and America's desire to protect Taiwan.

But he also did not want to antagonise China. US transnational corporations see China as the last great market for their goods and services as well as a source of cheap labour.

This dilemma was encapsulated in the different descriptions of China during the presidential campaign - either a "strategic competitor" according to the Republicans or "a strategic partner" in the words of the Democrats.

Bush has resolved this dilemma by agreeing to sell the destroyers to Taiwan without the Aegis system. The President recognises that China is both a competitor and a partner.

The Chinese success in the Hainan incident means that they will test the waters (literally!) to gauge the strength of US resolve in the area. And as its economy grows and strengthens China, it will be able to exert its influence in the region more strongly, despite what the US wants. China will have to do it carefully, but it will do it.


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 93 contents

In this issue
*  Corporate: The Jobs Myth
Access Economics' Chris Richardson debunks employer claims that increased workers compensation premiums have a dramatic impact on jobs.
*  Interview: The Workers� Voice
When trade union stalwart Ian West took a seat in the NSW Upper House he was determined to be more than a bench-warmer. Then the Workers Comp legislation hit.
*  Unions: Postcard from the Pilbara
In the face of unprecedented pressure, BHP workers in the Pilbara are standing together and refusing to sign individual cotnracts.
*  Economics: Currency Unification: Dollarize or Die?
Dick Bryan asks what happens to an economy when it gives up its domestic currency.
*  History: Instant History
In his address to the Australian Labour History Conference, the SMH's Brad Norington asks whether there is still time for history.
*  International: The End of an Era?
The post-Cold War era is over. Something different is developing to take its place. John Passant writes.
*  Media: The Battle for Aunty
The CPSU's Graeme Thompson ouitlines the campaign to save the ABC and this week's emergency share-holders' meeting.
*  Review: Share-Holder Nation
A legacy of government-backed privatisations, demutualisations and stockmarket hype over the past decade is the creation of a nation of shareholders.
*  Satire: SOS: Save the Investment Banker!
Spare a thought for those less fortunate With redundancies at investment banks around the globe looming, now is the time for us to show the world just how much we care. It's just not right.

»  Budget Day Looms as Compo D-Day
»  Give It a Shake, Lads!
»  World Spotlight on Asbestos Usage
»  Compo Talks Begin in Earnest Monday
»  Action Rolls On as Della�s List Fills Up
»  Government Ignites Industrial Blaze
»  Robbo Elected Unopposed
»  Women Casuals Victimised by Abbott
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»  Victimised Mineworkers Confront Rio Tinto Board
»  Queenslanders Call for End to Employer Theft
»  Inflation Destroys Howard�s Living Wage Ploy
»  Commitment to Schizophrenia Research
»  Activists Notebook: Workers of the World Unite
»  ANZAC Special : Hundred Not Out

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