Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Good Stuff From Winds of Change On China And Bolivia

Two from Winds of Change today, the first being a story about the illusion of "managing" Chinese ambitions. The WoC story links to a Robert Kagan post that questions the historical success of "managing" a rising power, an activity that "provides little reason for confidence or comfort". Kagan also writes
The security structures of East Asia, the Western liberal values that so dominate our thinking, the "liberal world order" we favor -- this is the "international system" into which we would "integrate" China. But isn't it possible that China does not want to be integrated into a political and security system that it had no part in shaping and that conforms neither to its ambitions nor to its own autocratic and hierarchical principles of rule? Might not China, like all rising powers of the past, including the United States, want to reshape the international system to suit its own purposes, commensurate with its new power, and to make the world safe for its autocracy? Yes, the Chinese want the prosperity that comes from integration in the global economy, but might they believe, as the Japanese did a century ago, that the purpose of getting rich is not to join the international system but to change it?
Absolutely, and the answer to these questions is a nearly-certain "yes". Second, they link to a story by Dr. Jack Wheeler. Doc Wheeler is possessed of some, um, rather nutty ideas -- "Russia is doomed as a culture due to its inheritance of Mongol concepts of justice and equality". (We'll get back to you on that one, Jack.) But back to the story. WoC's story focuses on the notion that Bolivia is about to fission because its current el presidente, Carlos Mesa, is "teetering" thanks to political unrest partly fueled by the 50 trillion cubic foot natural gas reserves in the east, known as the Media Luna or Half Moon. The Cruceños -- named after Santa Cruz, in the center of natural gas production and the bulk of the country's economic output -- who live there apparently despise Mesa and have managed to get a referendum about autonomy on the ballot. Everyone else, especially those living in the poor western altiplano, wants to nationalize the gas resources. Naturally, this activity is being funded by Hugo Chavez.

Chile, Argentina, and Brazil all have a big stake in what happens -- they get virtually all of their natural gas from Bolivia -- and the U.S. has dispatched Donald Rumsfeld to Argentina lately to get a handle on how best to isolate the problem. If Cruceño turf goes indy, the theory goes, eventually it will merge with Argentina and Brazil, leaving the rest of the country in the cold, probably to join up with Chile. Hugo Chavez might want to stop all of this, but it's hard to see how; the Bolivian officer corps consists primarily of Cruceños.