Why does China continue to support Morales?
Many friends of China are asking why
China continues to support Evo Morales.
To read most of China's press coverage of Bolivia's
recent referendum on
constitutional reform and regional autonomy is to move
into a fantasyland.
China's press portrays this vote as a triumph for Morales.
The reality is
quite different. Morales is the big loser, as time will
Morales deserves to lose. To put this
point in a Chinese context, Morales
does not bring anything new to the political reform
agenda. Rather, he
resembles two detested figures in recent Chinese history,
the Dalai Lama,
and Chiang Ching, neither of which would receive a moment's
hearing in the
The Dalai Lama above all worships a
mythical golden era before Tibet was
corrupted by contact with the outside world, and wants
to return Tibet to
that reality. He not only plays this card against China,
which is bringing
Tibet into the global system, he plays the race card.
The Dalai Lama refers
to the Chinese in the same terms as Morales refers to
the Yankees, the
Gringos, and even on occasion to the non-indigenous
Latin Americans - i.e.
foreign imperialist exploiters. In a word, Morales wants
to turn Bolivia
into an indigenous Tibet.
Morales is also very much like Chiang
Ching, Mao's ex-wife and leader of the
Gang of Four. The Gang of Four were Chinese ultra-leftists,
that is - to use
China's own parlance -- they "waved the Red Flag
in order to oppose the Red
Flag." One look at influential Morales supporters
like Felipe Quispe and
Jaime Solares is convincing evidence as to the ever
more radical direction
of the Morales revolution. These two ultra-ultra-leftists
are the very ones
who will drive Morales to the ultra-ultra left position,
now that he has
been defeated by the governors of four states (which
contain 90% of
Bolivia's energy resources) in the vote on autonomy.
What is China thinking when it supports
Morales? To again borrow Chinese
terminology, a "two line struggle" is underway
in Latin America. On one
side are the forces of progress and global capitalist
integration (the very
path that China itself has chosen). On the other side
isolationists, ethnic warriors, ultra-leftists and tinpot
Hitlers like Hugo
Chavez, whose best friend and closest ally, Iran's Ahmadinejad,
pontificating that "Germany has nothing to apologize
for in World War II."
Really? And how about Japan? Japan says the Nanking
happened, and that Japanese entry into China was a benevolent
today's China agree?
In short, the struggle for Latin America's
future is intensifying in
Venezuela, Mexico, and, yes, especially Bolivia. The
downfall of Morales,
which is now inevitable and closer than many think,
is a cause for rejoicing
because it will accelerate the decline of Chavez and
Obrador. China, above
all, will want to get this one right.
6 July 2006
America Drifts East
Evo Morales Stakes Bolivia's Future on China
By Marcelo Ballvé, New America Media
Bolivia and other Latin American governments are using
new ties and
investment with China to gain greater political and
from the United States.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Jan 4, 2006
- Evo Morales, a former coca farmer
and Aymara Indian, is hoping Chinese capital will help
him develop Bolivia's
natural gas resources, which he has vowed to exploit
for the benefit of the
country's poor indigenous majority. In one of his first
actions as Bolivia's
president-elect, Morales skipped the United States and
scheduled a two-day
visit to Beijing.
To Latin American analysts, Morales's
choice of China as he angles for
investment is the latest evidence of a trend: The region,
once firmly in the
U.S. sphere of influence, is slowly but surely drifting
Andrés Oppenheimer, hemispheric
affairs columnist for the Miami Herald and
El Nuevo Herald, writes that 2005 will go down in history
as "the year in
which the United States lost much of its once almighty
influence in Latin
America, and (China) began to play a modest but rapidly
growing role in
Charles Shapiro, U.S. Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State for the Andean
Region, told a congressional committee that "China
is an important new
investor in the region as it searches for resources."
He said China's
imports from Latin America ($22 billion worth in 2004)
increasing 16 percent in the first half of 2005 alone.
It may be too early to say that China
is threatening to supplant U.S.
influence in a region that Washington, D.C., has long
treated as its own
bailiwick. But as China's star rises, Latin America
is increasingly looking
to Beijing for guidance and investments.
China has become a blockbuster market
for Latin America's mineral and
agricultural exports-including Chilean copper, Argentine
soybeans and the region's ores and gas resources. China
demonstrated a desire to invest in infrastructure projects
America needs to export more efficiently and reorient
itself toward Asia.
China's interest in Bolivia is motivated
by the desire to secure global
natural gas resources. Morales, eager to exploit the
gas reserves in Latin America, would welcome investors
like the Chinese, who
understand his desire for a partially nationalized energy
sector and are
willing not to meddle in Bolivia's internal affairs.
The Bolivian news blog MABB, written
by economist Miguel A. Buitrago, notes
that Asia's demand for natural gas will rise 220 percent
by 2030, according
to the World Energy Outlook Report. "This should
have a direct impact on
Bolivia," he writes, "whether Bolivians want
it or not."
Buitrago continues: "The world's
appetite for NG (natural gas) is insatiable
and will devour anything that remotely resembles NG
... China alone is
expected to drive that demand ... China has even been
to Bolivia offering
huge amounts of investments in order to secure much
needed resources ... The
challenge is whether Bolivians can take this opportunity
and use their
resources to achieve development."
In fact, when reporters asked Morales
how he would confront U.S. displeasure
with his policies, such as his desire to decriminalize
the coca plant, he
quickly snapped back that there were other governments
willing to help him
-- and immediately cited China.
In neighboring Argentina, booming soybean
exports to China, nearly $2.5
billion dollars worth, helped it accumulate enough cash
reserves to make a
surprise move -- in the first days of 2006 Argentina
paid off its $9 billion
debt to the International Monetary Fund in one lump
sum. This freed it from
onerous economic prescriptions (often dictated by the
United States, the
IMF's dominant shareholder).
Brazil, Latin America's largest economy,
is also aggressively pursuing the
"We've increased our exports to
China a great deal in the last two years,"
Brazil's Minister of Planning, Ivan Ramalho, told the
Xinhua news agency in late 2005. Soybeans and iron still
account for half of
Brazil's exports to China, but some of Brazil's biggest
-- including state-run aircraft manufacturer Embraer
-- are establishing
plants in China in partnership with Chinese entrepreneurs.
Of course not all is rosy in China-Latin
American relations. The Mexican
economy, tied to low-skill manufacturing, has suffered
competition. China take a huge share of all foreign
other emerging markets like Latin America without important
Finally, there is the risk that by selling raw materials
to a booming China,
which processes them into finished products, Latin America
its status as an underdeveloped, second-tier player
in the world economy.
The Ciencia Maldita economics news blog
in Argentina warns: "(Argentina)
should not rest on its laurels, or rather, on its soybean
shoots ... "
Selling soybeans to booming markets like India and China
is fine, he writes,
but Argentina needs to use its soybean windfall to develop
high-value sectors like software to stay competitive
in the long-run.
now, the U.S. volume of trade and investment with Latin
America, not to
mention its cultural influence, still dwarfs Chinese
involvement. But in the
current political moment, China's ascendancy is offering
a window for Latin
American economies to at least marginally reduce their
on the United States, and enjoy greater political maneuverability
result. For Bolivia's Morales, stronger ties to China
may mean he can follow
through with promises to suspend the drug war and nationalize
over U.S. objections.
is a former Washington government employee. Petroleumworld
necessarily share these views.
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