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Latin America emerges as new Chinese energy hub
China at a "strategic crossroads"
China Reform Monitor

February 24:

The Chinese government continues to interfere with the travel of Taiwanese officials. The latest incident surrounds Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's planned March trip to Seoul. The Japan Economic Newswire reports that, following pressure from Beijing, the sponsor of Ma's visit, the South Korean Chosun Ilbo newspaper, has abruptly rescinded its invitation, citing "unpredictable technical problems."

March 1:

With the largest oil reserves outside of the Middle East and occasionally-tense relations with the United States, Latin America is rapidly becoming a new focal point for Chinese energy exploration, the New York Times reports. At the center of China's regional energy efforts is Venezuela, which, despite exporting roughly 60 percent of its crude oil to the United States, has been eager to strike up an energy partnership with China. Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong signed 19 cooperation deals during their meeting in late January - including a long term arrangement for a Chinese stake in Venezuela's oil and gas fields - and Venezuelan and Chinese officials have discussed cooperative development of untapped energy reserves in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia.

"The United States should not be concerned," Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela's energy minister is quick to reassure, "because this expansion in no way means that we will be withdrawing from the North American market for political reasons." Nevertheless, at a time of growing focus on U.S. energy security, the emerging energy entente between Beijing and Caracas is becoming a source of concern in Washington. China already operates two oil fields in Venezuela, and is now set to develop 15 additional fields in the country's east, as well as possibly partake in the joint exploration of the Orinoco belt - the world's largest deposit of crude oil.

March 2:

Taiwan has spoken out against the European Union's plans to lift its longstanding arms ban against China. The Agence France Presse reports that Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has warned the move would tip the military balance in East Asia in favor of China and stall Beijing's democratic reports. "Should the EU decide to lift its arms embargo against China it might lead to a tilt in the military balance in the Taiwan Strait, which would pose a clear threat to peace and stability," the Taiwanese President has cautioned.

The People's Republic of China is at a "strategic crossroads" in its political evolution, and must chose between international responsibility and corrosive hegemonic ambitions, a top Defense Department official has said. In a recent speech before the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith warned that Chinese officials must chose how they will "define their national purpose with reference to the freedom, well-being and prosperity of their citizens." "Rising powers have understood that their worthy hopes can be realized within a well-ordered system of sovereign states," Feith said in comments carried by the Geostrategy-Direct intelligence newsletter. "The United States and our allies and partners have an interest in fostering an environment in which China comes progressively to share that understanding."

March 3:

Following the release of a State Department report slamming China for "numerous and serious abuses" of human rights, Beijing has lashed out at the Bush administration. "The United States should stop using double standards on human rights and stop interfering in the internal politics of China under the pretext of human rights," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao has declared in comments carried by the China Daily. According to Liu, "China has made important progress in human rights, in political and legal areas," in recent years. The report "will do nothing good for the improvement of bilateral relations," the Foreign Ministry spokesman has warned. In retaliation, Beijing is now reportedly planning to release its own human rights assessment, which will exemplify "the bad records of the United States concerning the invasions into other countries and mistreatment of foreign inmates, as well as the bad records in the aspects of life, freedom and personal security of U.S. citizens."

China Reform Monitor No. 580, March 7, 2005
American Foreign Policy Council, Washington, DC

Editor: Ilan Berman
Associate Editor: Lisa-Marie Shanks

Copyright (c) 2005, American Foreign Policy Council

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