I confess that on this particular June 4th I’m pleased to see Tony Hayward having quite an unpleasant time of it. If only somehow we could spread the malaise more broadly, across the globe’s Unaccountables. We know too well however, from historical memory, that he’ll one day “have his life back.” Like the clichéd African dictator who retires afterward to the French countryside – with only the Swiss bank accounts to remind him of home – Mr. Hayward will do fine, whilst the masses will be left to the business of living in the dirty wake of the mess that enriched him. That’s how it is in our age of Winner Take All.
Africa comes to mind for two reasons. One: it is this continent, and not the North American, which may lay claim to the world’s worst disasters of the crude variety. As Anene Ejikeme points out in today’s New York Times, “Experts estimate that some 13 million barrels of oil have been spilt in the Niger Delta since oil exploration began in 1958. This is the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez every year for 50 years.” Two: Africa is quietly being re-colonized and “re-Apartheided” (if I may coin an awkward term) by a dictatorship which on June 4 is recollected around the world for its Tiananmen massacre.
Neither examples one or two has received the attention in the West that British Petroleum now receives, but they are more useful indications than the Macondo spill of perils our species will face in the future. China has shown beyond any doubt that it has no regard for human life, that it cares nothing for the environment, and that it intends to flood territories it finds useful, from Tibet to Zimbabwe, with Han Chinese. As its appetite and boldness for acquiring both greater Lebensraum and resources increases, China (the world’s leading exporter of goods, the possessor of the largest foreign currency reserves, and the country with the most severe wealth polarization) will export ever more weapons, and it will back more and worse dictators throughout the world. In short it will export its totalitarian version of market socialism, its racism, and its contempt generally for human life.
In any war zone or dictatorship into which one may have looked in recent years, whether Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, or Nigeria, the participation of China can be discerned. In Darfur, the Janjaweed militia kill with China-supplied AK-47 rifles and grenade launchers. In Equatorial Guinea, the Chinese government lavished a new capital upon long-standing dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, whose regime competes with Robert Mugabe’s for the title of Africa’s most corrupt. In Zimbabwe, it is China’s weapons and military equipment which have enabled Mugabe to crush his opponents.
True, you may say. But what about the Russian and British and American weapons? Well, we rightly denounce these and look with indignation upon the history of colonialism. How depressing it is, then, to contemplate the very likely prospect of a vigorous expansion of this project in the present century. The country best poised to dominate our planet for the foreseeable future is backward and wicked in every respect. Reactionary, barbaric, and obstinate on every issue of present concern, China is the land of vetoes, denials, obfuscations, and crackdowns, and so its approaching global rule promises disaster for the causes of human rights and social progress — as indeed it does for the very notion of progress itself.