[Marxism] Marxism] China-Brazil hydroelectric project generates protests

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Nov 20 16:07:48 MST 2005

Nestor quoted the first paragraph of an article from the New York Times
submitted by Louis and followed it with a one-sentence comment, as
Respuesta a:"Marxism Digest, Vol 25, Issue 49"
Enviado por:marxism-request at lists.econ.utah.edu
Con fecha:20 Nov 2005, a las 12:00

> PAQUIÇAMBA, Brazil - Here at the great bend of the mighty Xingu River,
> the Brazilian government is pushing to construct a dam that could end
> up being the world's second-largest, generating huge amounts of
> hydroelectric power. But the main beneficiaries of the project are not
> likely to be the Indian tribes or other local residents, but instead a
> government halfway across the world, in China.

The above is simply imperialist drivel.

Fred responds:
I want to completely solidarize with Nestor on this.  The sentence is
imperialist drivel, portraying China -- halfway across the world -- as
the oppressor and plunderer of the indigenous Brazilians.

No number of clippings from Louis's overflowing files on the awfulness
of present day China and Brazil under Lula will turn the drivel into

Why such hostile articles from the New York Times on the subject.  Do
their nerve endings tingle with sympathy for the indigenous in Brazil or
anywhere else?  What accounts for this deep hostility to China, and to
Lula's nationalist strategies, which include links with China and India,
as well as maintaining very friendly ties with Cuba and Venezuela.

I think socialists should be in favor of electrification in Brazil and
other third-world countries.  We defend Iran's right to use nuclear
power for this purpose against US threats.  Why not defend Brazil
against this propaganda maneuver.
Can Brazil end poverty or much else WITHOUT electrification.

Will these peasants get screwed?  It could very well be, and we should
support their fight for fair treatment.  Frankly, I think the prospect
of being scandalized for such a project servicing China in the world
imperialist media will probably put Brazil on better-than-usual
behavior.  These Indians have a real shot of cutting a fairly good deal
under the circumstances, as the article hints. I support their efforts
to get one, which are getting underway.

Note the final paragraph:

In Brazil's industrialized south, little mention has been made of the
connection to Mr. da Silva's broader strategy of strengthening economic
political ties with China. That policy is coming under increasing 
criticism, especially in São Paulo, the nation's business capital, on
grounds that Brazil's national interests are being sacrificed.

What is the meaning of this diplomatic note from Washington and Wall
Street, delivered in the name of the buddies in Sao Paulo?  What is the
meaning of the hostility to China here.

Now, take another example -- a government which strikes a strong
"patriotic" pose against the oppressor "halfway around the world".  The
Fox government of Mexico.  This is from Counterpunch.

It is worth noting that the Fox government, which accuses China of
"stealing our jobs" and so forth, is also quite prone to make stabs --
so far unsuccessful due to public opinion -- at breaking relations with
Cuba and Venezuela. Whereas the governnment of the monstrous Lula, which
has improved relations with both Cuba and Venezuela, has a
China-oriented economic policy. Is it possible that the dealings with
China and the ties with Cuba and Venezuela are linked together as part
of a foreign and economic policy that is relatively more independent of
US imperialism.

The articles Louis submits are well worth reading, but I would really
like to see a more critical attitude on his part toward the character
and content of their anti-China orientation which can also slant facts
in ways we are not in  a position to know, and thus justify caution in
some cases -- this definitely being one of them.

Anyway, here is the article on Mexico from Counterpunch.

Weekend Edition
November 19 / 20, 2005

China and Mexico Pummel Each Other in Punishing Trade War
The Dragon Flies High, But Not Over Mexico

Perhaps the most indelible moments of Chinese Prime Minister Hu Jintao's
September stopover in the Mexican capitol, were the ones he spent stuck
in a balky elevator during a courtesy visit to the nation's Supreme
Court. For over 15 minutes, Hu dangled there in the gilded elevator cage
until rescuers arrived. 

Mexican-Chinese trade relations bear an uncanny similarity to that
incident, stalled in mid-air, suspended against the breath-taking
panorama of new Chinese investment in Latin America. 

What Mexico and China are at loggerheads about is, of course, access to
the U.S. market. At the turn of the millennium, Mexico, enervated by the
North American Free Trade Agreement, was still the U.S.'s number one
supplier of imported goods but by 2002, the Peoples Republic of China
had nudged the Aztecs off the top of the heap and has never relinquished
its position since, although the competition between the two remains

While Hu traverses Latin America doling out upwards of $30 billion USD
in mew Chinese investments, Mexico gets the scraps--an agreement to swap
its grapes for Chinese pears and to build a tortilla factory in

For China, Mexico is a key beachhead in the global trade war over
meaningful access to free-spending U.S. consumers. But Mexico looks upon
China as a suspicious intruder seeking to nullify trade advantages that
accrued to the United States' southern neighbor as the result of the now
12 year-old NAFTA agreement. 

Although NAFTA swelled the number of maquiladoras (foreign-owned
assembly plants) along the U. S. -Mexican border, China soon had lured
over 600 of them to relocate to its 30-U.S.-cents-an-hour industrial
complexes in the inscrutable Orient, leaving Mexico with 250,000
unemployed workers on its hands. 

Moreover, Chinese textile exports to the U.S. now outstrip Mexico's ($10
billion to $8 in 2004) and Mexican farmers cannot compete against
state-subsidized agriculture--Chinese chilies now dominate the Mexican

Although China is Mexico's second supplier of imported goods behind the
U.S., relations between the two feel more like a hostile takeover than
an equitable arrangement. In 2004, Mexico sold $1.9 billion worth of
goods to Beijing while China sent a whopping $9.1 billion back to
Mexico. For every dollar Mexico put out, it got back 31 U.S. cents--not
the win/win proposition that President Vicente Fox sold the Mexican
people when he hyped "the opening to the Orient."

The trade imbalance includes about $6 billion USD in hard goods to keep
Chinese-owned factories in Mexico churning out consumer goods for the
U.S. market.

But the inequities are not restricted to legitimate commerce. In Mexico,
China has become a code word for pirate goods. Tens of thousands of
containers overflowing with counterfeit products stack up in West Coast
ports each year and make their way to big city thieves kitchen markets
like the brawling Tepito bazaar in the capitol. To Mexico's unflagging
shame, an astute Shanghai impresario now owns the copywrite on the image
of the country's most venerated icon, the Virgin of Guadalupe and Mexico
is flooded with Guadalupana knock-offs "made in China."

19 times over the past decade, Mexico has filed dumping charges with the
World Trade Organization against China--the Mexican government was the
last to sign on to Chinese membership in the WTO. At various moments in
its history, Mexico has singled out its tiny Chinese population, mostly
shopkeepers and restaurateurs, for retaliation against imagined evils
and even today, Chinese free traders are drawn by political cartoonists
here as racist stereotypes.

While Mexico and China square off in an ugly turf war, the Dragon is
wheeling and dealing for oil, iron ore, bauxite, timber, precious
metals, and new markets all over Latin America. Chinese investments in
Latin America, $12 billion USD in 2002, rose to $40 billion USD this
year and are expected to soar to $100 billion USD by 2010. 

Kirschner's Argentina (rebaptized by wags "Argenchina") has just inked a
$20 billion USD trade deal with the Far East powerhouse for development
of its railroads and hydrocarbon production with. Lula's Brazil--China
is its second-most important trade partner--will build a Petrobras
pipeline with Chinese money. And even Castro's Cuba picked up a half
billion for nickel production on Hu Jintao's recent swing through the
region. Chile and China have signed 19 bi-lateral agreements and
Santiago now sends more copper to Beijing then it does to Washington. 

Hu also took a look at prospects in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia for oil
infrastructure development on his September spending spree. At an
international conference in the Yangtze river delta port of Tanzhau last
year, China disclosed it is looking at the development of three Latin
American ports as possible trade hubs--Iquique Chile, Santos Brazil, and
Ensenada on Mexico's Baja California peninsula. 

But the big winner in the Chinese sweepstakes has been Venezuelan
president Hugo Chavez. Last January, Chavez journeyed to Beijing (his
third trip) to unveil a statue of Simon Bolivar and sign a series of
joint accords that opens up the previously inaccessible Venezuelan oil
industry to the Chinese. Both countries will cooperate in the renovation
of 15 depleted oil fields in eastern Venezuela. In addition, China will
go partners in the development of the San Cristobal field and in
preliminary exploration on the Orinoco. Venezuela will also export
120,000 barrels of fuel oil to China each week--a drop in the bucket for
a nation that guzzles 2.7 million barrels daily (second only to the
U.S.) Finally, China will build a refinery in Venezuela and finance
700,000 units of worker housing. 

The deal grooves nicely with President Chavez's moves to make Venezuela
more independent of U.S. oil demands. Venezuela sells 60% of its
petroleum production to Washington and twice in recent months when
confronted by perceived U.S. aggressions, Chavez has threatened to cut
off the oil flow north. The Chinese opening will give the Bolivarian
president more room in which to maneuver. U.S. Senator Richard Lugar,
head of the influential foreign relations committee, recently declared
that a Venezuela cut-off constituted a threat to Washington's national

Washington has indeed grown more fretful about Chinese intentions in
Latin America. The Bush administration recently used the national
security card to prevent the sale of the oil giant Unocal to the Chinese
and Pentagon documents speak of Beijing as "an inevitable foe." 

In another less globalized time, China's incursions in Latin America
might have triggered charges of Monroe Doctrine meddling. China's thirst
for oil fuels all sorts of political paranoias. Without sufficient
supply to feed 9% growth rates over the past two decades (Latin
America's were 0%), China will lose steam in global markets. In the
first six months of 2005, Chinese oil consumption boomed 40% in a
$60-a-barrel market and only the U.S. uses more imported oil (12 million
out of 20 million daily.) Like a an unslakable giant, China stalks the
earth seeking fresh infusions and with no significant Latin American
suppliers in his oil basket (Africa and Iran are key sources), the
once-red Dragon has its sights set on that southern continent. 

Mexico, the world's eighth largest oilocracy, which ships 90% of its
production to the U.S., is not exempt from Chinese offers. During his
recent stay in this capitol, Hu Jintao is thought to have discreetly
inquired about the privatization of PEMEX, the nationalized oil

PEMEX remains as impervious as ever to all privatization schemes but
that could change radically after the 2006 presidential elections. If
the Chinese and the Mexicans overcome the Great Trade Wall between them
and patch things up (both are APEC members), the one-time Commies from
Beijing might even be in line to pick up a little PEMEX action. 

John Ross is the author of Murdered By Capitalism.



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