Chinese Contingent of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) during a medal ceremony held today (06/20/2008) in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Chinese Contingent of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) during a medal ceremony held June 2008, in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

The Human Security Brief 2007 reports:

… the extraordinary, but largely unnoticed, positive change in sub-Saharan Africa’s security landscape. After a surge of conflicts in the 1990s, the number of conflicts being waged in the region more than halved between 1999 and 2006; the combat toll dropped by 98 percent.

… Between 2002 and 2006 the number of campaigns of organized violence against civilians fell by two-thirds.

During the first 6 years of this century peace and stability have improved in Africa, largely due to pressures from within Africa, and with help from the UN. With increased stability, Africa has become a better prospect for investment, and business and markets are starting up and taking off.

Then the Bush administration dreamed up AFRICOM.

From Michael Klare:

American policymakers have long viewed the protection of overseas oil supplies as an essential matter of “national security”, requiring the threat of – and sometimes the use of – military force. This is now an unquestioned part of US foreign policy.

… Although department of defence officials are loath to publicly acknowledge any direct relationship between Africom’s formation and a growing US reliance on that continent’s oil, they are less inhibited in private briefings. At a 19 February meeting at the National Defence University, Africom deputy commander Vice-Admiral Robert Moeller indicated that “oil disruption” in Nigeria and West Africa would constitute one of the primary challenges facing the new organisation.

AFRICOM is about oil. It is a combatant command. There has been lots of talk about its humanitarian role, lots of photo ops in African countries, and lots of talk about working with the State Department and USAID. But the State Department and USAID are just tools for AFRICOM to insert itself into target countries such as Nigeria. The Pentagon can kill lots of people, or arrange for others to kill lots of people. It can devastate the environment. But it will not be able to secure the oil.

The Pentagon intends most of the actual fighting to be done by African surrogates, hence the AFRICOM emphasis on training. Or have it done by mercenaries, who are unregulated and unaccountable. And that is one reason the Cheney Bush administration likes them so much. They are subject to the laws of no nation. The mercenary corporations are looking to AFRICOM for their next contracts.

Theresa Whelan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, and frequent spokesperson for AFRICOM addressed a dinner of the IPOA, the association of military contractors.

Contractors are here to stay in supporting US national security objectives overseas.

… some times we may not want to be very visible.

The US is investing more money in the IPOA, the International Peace Operations Association, for “peacekeeping” and “stability operations. At the same time, just before Bush visited Africa this year, he he made huge cuts to the US peacekeeping contribution to the UN.

But to think the US or any country can secure the world’s oil by use of military force is to live in Dick Cheney’s own version of cloud cuckoo land.

As Klare concludes:

After all, other than George Bush and Dick Cheney, who would claim that, more than five years after the invasion of Iraq, either the US or its supply of oil is actually safer?

Contrast this with China’s approach. China’s interest is at least as self serving as the US. It wants and needs Africa’s oil and other resources. But so far it is behaving in a far more practical manner.

From Elaine Wu at the University of Southern California comes this report:

China’s Presence Increasingly Important in Cooling the World’s Hot Spots

China, which has long been wary of foreign entanglements and has historically had a policy of nonintervention, is playing an increasingly prominent role in U.N. peacekeeping operations and other humanitarian aid undertakings. …

In efforts to expand its role as a global leader, China has increased diplomatic ties and economic linkages with resource-rich regions of the world, including … Africa

Currently, of the five permanent members on the U.N. Security Council, China and France are the two largest contributors to peacekeeping missions.

However, China continues to shy away from any form of direct military involvement. Most of China’s peacekeepers are non-military personnel. Some serve as military observers, advisors and liaisons, but the majority of Chinese forces deployed are involved with engineering, transportation, medical and other civilian projects.

According to 2007 statistics released by the Peacekeeping Affairs Office of China’s Ministry of Defense, Chinese peacekeepers have built more than 7,300 kilometers of roads, constructed over 200 bridges, treated more than 28,000 medical patients, performed over 230 surgical operations, and have cleared more than 7,500 explosives.

China has never deployed any military troops in any of its missions,” Wen Long told US-China Today. Wen is a Chinese counter-terrorism unit officer and a former member of a Chinese peacekeeping delegation. “China’s attitude towards peacekeeping missions is one of giving help and aid, not to take any kind of aggressive stance. We want to show we care about humanitarian crises.”

It’s not easy for a Chinese police officer to be chosen to go on a mission,” Wen said.

China sets rigorous standards for selecting and training its peacekeepers. In order to be selected for the government’s intensive training program, officers must be at least 25 years old, have an associate degree from an institution of higher education and at least five years of professional work experience in public security fields. In addition, they must have proof of proficiency in English, two years of driving experience and be in top physical and mental condition. In the government’s 2004 screening examination only about 10% of the 500 candidates were accepted, according to a statement by Guo Baoshan, deputy director general of the international co-operation department of the Ministry of Public Security.

In 2002, China built Asia’s largest peacekeeping civil police training center on the outskirts of Beijing. The center trains its cadets in physical and technical skills, as well as in extensive foreign language proficiency and other areas of expertise required for specific missions. In addition to being trained and screened by the Chinese government, all peacekeeping candidates must pass a strict selection examination organized by the U.N., which tests cadets on their knowledge of and skills in U.N. field procedures.

China is very careful to send its best-trained troops, the cream-of-the-crop, to foreign countries,” said Daniel Lynch, an associate professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. “They’re very concerned with projecting a good image.”

“China is under a lot of pressure to be seen as a responsible power as its economic and military power is growing,” Lynch said. “It’s taking small steps, but it wants to prove that it’s a non-threatening, benign power.”

Most China experts agree that as long as China’s economy continues to grow, it will continue to become increasingly involved in world affairs. However, a heated discussion persists in academic, business and political fields over whether China’s rising influence will be a detriment to the current world order or a balancing force for a more stable global system.

And John Taplin writes regarding oil that the:

… Chinese have locked up supply all over Africa, just with a piece of paper, a contact stating they will buy all of the oil output at whatever the prevailing spot price is, for 10 years. They then introduce the local oil company to their local banking partners which lend the driller money against the Chinese contract. So while we have spent six years getting our ass shot off in Baghdad, the Chinese have been busy locking up much more oil than us without even writing a check and without getting their soldiers killed.

To recap, the US creates the Africa Command, trains surrogates, and employs mercenaries to secure oil resources by military force in Africa, damaging prospects for peace and stability.  China writes contracts to buy the oil at the going price, and helps build infrastructure.

Which approach looks more like the approach of a responsible world citizen and benign world power? Which approach looks like the best business practice and best investment? Which approach looks the most patriotic, benefiting the citizens at home while saving lives and money?