BY BERNARD YEGIORA
IN RECENT WEEKS a collage of events in international politics has moved the spotlight directly on to PNG. The tag of being classed as a minnow in international politics is slowly fading as the global competition between two of the world’s most influential nations gain momentum.
Three different events occurred in succession that share in essence the message of competition: Hilary Clinton’s words about PNG involving China; Julia Gillard’s historical address to the US Congress which included the topic of China; and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s media session during the annual Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.
Competition for influence is one main motive in international politics, if a country can gain influence it means it can have easieraccess to scarce resources like energy and markets for manufactured goods.
The US feels that China is pushing them out of the LNG Project because of Chinese influence in the country in the form of increased aid and investments. Both are attributes of Chinese soft power according to Joshua Kurlantzick.
The President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, John Momis, added emphasis to this when he highlighted the lack of American investment in PNG. The presence of Chinese companies supported by their government’s ‘Going Global’ policy is evident not only in PNG but also in other parts of the world.
In PNG, Chinese companies like China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), Chinese Overseas Engineering Group Company (COVEC), China Railway Construction Company (CRCC), Business Solutions Best Material (BNBM) Public Limited Company, Guangdong Foreign Construction Company, and others manifest the presence of China in PNG. This explains why Clinton argued that China is in PNG every day in every way.
This intricate web of interdependence and the continued growth of China is a worrying sign for the US. But in her speech Gillard assured the US that, regardless of the good trade relations Australia has with China, when push comes to shove Australia will be at America’s back.
The Prime Minister used words constructively to play with the emotions of her listeners causing some to cry patriotically and give a standing ovation when she blurted out the boot licking praise that Americans can do anything.
Her speech outlined Australia’s support of American dominance. This affirmation came after she called on America not to fear China, and called on China to be “a good global citizen”.
This causes one to ponder about a hypothetical scenario where one ask what type of information will Wikileaks discover next time around if they happen to intercept a conversation between the US Ambassador to PNG and the Secretary of State.
Will their be calls for more American investments in PNG once the Specialize Economic Zone legislation is approve by Parliament? Will America increase its aid to PNG? Will increased pressure be on America’s deputy sheriff in the Pacific Australia to step up?
Regardless, the message from Beijing is still the same; China admits competition but wants to cooperate to ensure that its development goals are achieved. Yang Rui CCTV9’s news anchor summed up Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s address nicely when he said , “China has vowed to carefully formulate a comprehensive transformational diplomacy to live up to its new global status.”
The Foreign Minister told journalists that there was a shifting dynamic in the world order in the past year and urged developed countries to be more accommodating to the rise of emerging economies.
He went further saying: “China will play an active role in the global power shift. This transformation was a defining trend of the year 2010, there was a rapid rise of developing economies, and there was a greater balance in international power.”
This shows that the rise of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations makes competition for influence with the US and other established powers inevitable.
Thus, to foster a favorable international environment, one key strategy of China is to pursue summit diplomacy. Through multilateral forums like BRIC, G20, APEC, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, Central Asia and Russia), China wises to address security, economic and developmental issues.
It is clear that China has a different view of the world from the West. Prime Minister Gillard’s support of American dominance of the world comes into conflict with the Chinese Foreign Minister’s call for developed nations to make way for emerging nations by accepting the fact that the world is evolving.
A combined effort is needed to address problems facing nations of the world, America can no longer act alone in policing the world. As a result, China is at the moment pushing for more representation in the World Bank.
This will set emerging powers on a collusion path with developed powers, meaning competition for resources and market in the 21st Century will increase aggressively. Countries like India and China are both very populous; their energy consumption is massive, as the use of hydrocarbon products increases in these countries because of modernization and urbanization, where will they look to for more?
Known as a small Treasure Island, PNG stand to benefit from the global competition. The current LNG project is a testimony; America knows that this resource is vital for its economy, which is why Hillary Clinton used it as a case to argue that Congress should not cut its aid programs to Pacific Island countries in fear of its competitor China.
PNG has seen some changes, more people are being employed addressing the employment problem, more spin off businesses are established to take advantage of the opportunity, a building boom in Port Moresby and others. But the question is can PNG benefit sustainably? Can the revenue gained from this project benefit the next generation?
Whatever the outcome, the mere mention of the Pacific, in particular PNG, strengthens the fact that PNG is no longer insignificant in geopolitics. As Member for Pomio Paul Tiensten mentioned, PNG could be another China in the Pacific in terms of economic growth patterns, or precisely it has the potential to become an influential player in the Pacific Region and eventually the world.
PNG could be the next Venezuela or the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a strategic way if it could use the resources it has as a bargain chip to gain more from the big competitors. However, the onus is on the current group of political leaders, they are on the verge of creating modern history if they can seize the moment.