Tue, Aug 09, 2005 - Page 8 News List

US right to block CNOOC offer

By Paul Lin 林保華

The bid by China's state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) for the American oil company Unocal fell through, upsetting both the Chinese and China-friendly forces outside the country. One headline said: "Failure of CNOOC bid blasted by US and Chinese media." The New York Times accused members of the US Congress of harming public interests by acting out of self interest, while the China Daily blamed the US for violating free-trade principles.

What does it mean to harm public interests out of self interest? It means selling at the highest price without giving any thought to national interests. The Times has mixed up the concepts of public and private. Another of the paper's points was that blocking the deal will only force China to buy oil from states that the US disapproves of, such as Iran, Myanmar and Sudan, thereby helping consolidate the totalitarian governments in those countries and having a negative impact on US interests. This only goes to show that the Times doesn't understand the expansionist ambitions and innate character of China's imperialism.

The US doesn't have to block the Unocal deal for China to become best buddies with Iran, Myanmar or Sudan. In the 1980s, the US had to keep a close tally on Chinese missile sales to Iran. China has also been close to Myanmar since the 1950s, giving it a part of Chinese territory in the 1960s, and it was already investing in oil in both Iran and Sudan prior to the Unocal deal. Is there any dictatorship that hasn't had dealings with China?

The US blocked this deal based on national interests. Had China taken over Unocal, there were fears that its business would be affected by political considerations, in the same way that Beijing is targeting pro-independence Taiwanese businesspeople based in China. The thinking in Washington is that Beijing, which has said it wouldn't shrink from firing nuclear missiles at US cities, would not sell oil to the Americans, thereby endangering US national security.

China's English-language mouthpiece, the China Daily, self-righteously said that the controversy over the CNOOC bid allowed the world to see the US' true colors -- that while the US calls itself a free economy, the truth is different. If a free economy means that the highest bidder wins, then the US has never been a free economy. At the very least, it hasn't been a free economy since it adopted trade sanctions against China after the Tiananmen Massacre on July 4, 1989, since the sanctions mean that there are some products the US will not sell to China, no matter how much Beijing is willing to pay.

So is China a free economy just because it is willing to make a high bid? CNOOC is a state-owned enterprise and a monopoly. China's Constitution says that the basis of the economic system is socialist public ownership, and that "The state ensures the consolidation and growth of the state-owned economy." Does this sound like freedom?

"Guaranteed" by the Chinese government, CNOOC offered a high price in violation of free market principles for Unocal. That was equal to the Chinese state trying to deal with the US state. Of course the US had to make its own counter-move.

It is in fact quite stupid to have the China Daily promote the virtues of a free economy. Hong Kong's media has already followed Beijing's lead and criticized the US for violating free-market principles. Meanwhile, Guangdong and Beijing have prohibited imports of pork from Sichuan as a result of the swine flu in that province. But the Hong Kong government is afraid to do so, in fear of violating free-trade principles. It seems there is no end to the uses for these principles.

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