Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Islanders With A Dragon Tattoo - China's Rising Influence In The South Pacific. (Updated)

Following up on an earlier post titled "Trans-Tasman Reflexivity In South Pacific Geopolitics".

Regarding the issue of geopolitics of energy, a 2008 lecture hosted by Standford University by Michael Klare outlines the new dimensions in that particular arena. (Video posted below).

With regards to the geopolitics of energy as postulated by Klare, the recent and unfathomable effects of the global financial crisis had major implications on geo-political relationships; which was addressed in keynote address by Paul Krugman at the Center for International Security Study's second annual symposium and was held on May 13-14, 2010. (Video posted below)

Coupled with Paul Krugman's ideas, the inability of the U.S to pay its debts (by borrowing more) will have major and irreversible damages to their relationships with other countries including in the Pacific region, and most importantly how the Washington consensus is perceived.

As of this posting, news reports indicate that the U.S Congress had not passed a legislative Bill to raise the debt ceiling and a Bloomberg article highlighted that Australia also seeks to her own debt ceiling maneuver as well. Both countries are currently involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and have spent a considerable amount of treasury and lives in the two-front, open ended conflict.

Australian think tank, Lowy Institute, whose recent blog posting also raised serious concerns about the sacrifices involved. Neither the U.S, Australia nor New Zealand's influence in the Pacific had progressed significantly due to their past, present and  projected war footing; one might even argue that the ANZUS trio's grass roots perception in the region, had taken an un-remediable dramatic turn for the worse.

Undoubtedly, the perceived implications derived from the global financial crisis (GFC) is clearly demonstrated in, the intuition and reactions of the South Pacific region nations and its inhabitants, that have long recognized the incurable symptoms of a life-threatening ailment. The spheres of influence and their competition within the region, are moving from the rather nuanced level, to a more defined and overt manner- like prospective suitors wooing their brides.

Several commentators and publications have outlined that particular seismic shift in the Pacific rim area, in terms of the diminishing American Lake versus China's growing influence, including Cleo Paskal whose Nov. 2010 article-"Why the West is Losing the Pacific To China, the Arab League and Just About Everyone Else" highlighted the friend option (in a social media analogy), which many South Pacific nations including Fiji, have systematically used:
Geopolitics as it is -- Looking for new friends 
The problem is these sphere-of-influence policies are a based on a Cold War-era model, in which the traditional allies are the only game in town and so can decide policy in a relative geopolitical vacuum. 
Those days are long gone. In an increasingly multipolar world, all sorts of new foreign policy options are available, especially as the enormous value of the island nations of the Pacific becomes increasingly clear.
From a geopolitical perspective, the nations of the Pacific offer (among other things):
  • Sea-lanes and ports in relatively calm waters (increasingly important as China, in particular, increases trade with South America);
  • Access
  •  to fisheries (something increasingly important as the Atlantic is fished out);
  • Agricultural exports (especially important as concerns over food security increase in countries such as China);
  • Unknown but potentially valuable underwater resources;
  • Geostrategic military basing sites;
  • Crucial votes in international fora (Pacific Island countries represent around a dozen votes in the UN - a substantial voting block).
Given what is at stake, other nations are understandably keen to take advantage of discontent with traditional partners in order to advance their own position in the Pacific.
Steven Ratuva, somewhat echoed  and seemingly repeated the sentiments of Cleo Paskal, in a May 2011 article that appeared in a NZ centric magazine- Steve Ratuva's opinion article in "The Listener.

The excerpt of the Ratuva's article:

Although, the interesting times in the Pacific as alluded to by Ratuva, has become much more acute amid the new mania to mine the seabed; this situation has created an awareness among the various Pacific island nations to re-look, re-define, reclaim interest with their economic exclusive zones (EEZ) with much vigor, but unfortunately viewed through the prism of a dollar sign, at the very expense of environmental concerns and community consultations, as pointed out by NGO's in a Fiji Times article.

The excerpt of the Fiji Times article:

Mining problems appear in Pacific

Thursday, June 02, 2011
PACIFIC rights groups have called for a moratorium on deep-sea mining until individual nations have decided where they stand on the controversial new activity.
According to AAP South Pacific correspondent Tamara McLean, the call comes ahead of a regional meeting in Fiji next week to map out the future of ocean mineral mining, a potentially lucrative but as yet unexplored industry.
The PNG government granted the world's first commercial lease for deep-sea mining in January to Canadian-based Nautilus Minerals, which is set to extract gold and copper from the sea floor 50km off PNG's north coast.
About eight Pacific nations have been granted licences for the new industry, however, there are few regulation guidelines to manage it.
The Deep Sea Minerals Project, funded by the EU and administered by the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission, aims to fill that void.
The project's team leader, Akuila Tawake, said the Fiji meeting would provide a much-needed framework which would take shape over the next four years.
"The purpose of the workshop is to help representatives of those countries participating in the project to better understand issues related to seabed minerals and mining," Mr Tawake said in a statement.
However, an advocacy group has spoken out strongly against the meeting.
Maureen Penjueli, coordinator of Fiji-based Pacific Network on Globalisation, said individual governments needed to consult their citizens about ocean mining before the discussion went regional.
"It doesn't seem right to be having regional talks when countries haven't had the discussion with their people," Ms Penjueli told AAP.
"The public perception among educated people is that we really don't know what we're getting ourselves into.
"We've had a terrible time with land-based mining so people are very weary.
"Jumping ahead with a framework for how to do it suggests we've already said we're happy about it, but we most certainly haven't."
She said the issue had to be very carefully managed as multi-million dollar leases were a "terrible temptation" for relatively poor Pacific governments.
"It would be easy for the environmental and cultural concerns to be overlooked due to the huge economic interests," Ms Penjueli said.
She called for a moratorium on activity and regional talks "until the basic issues are dealt with".
Fifteen Pacific nations will be involved in the meeting, to be held in Nadi from June 6.
Australia and New Zealand will be represented and 15 of the world's leading industry experts will be present.

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