Panama Canal: China's gateway to Mexico?

By Peter Zhang
web posted February 28, 2000

Chinese control of the Panama Canal has fueled wild speculation in the US as to Beijing's plans for this strategic piece of real estate. Though I am not party to Beijing's military intentions I do know that they do not include submarine bases or sabotage, both of which would be obviously self-defeating. On the contrary, the Chinese will, as Clinton inadvertently pointed out, bend "over backwards to make sure that they run it in a competent and able and fair manner." What matters, however, is not how the canal is managed but how Beijing will use the Hutchison Whampoa agreement to damage strategic US interests.

Irrespective of what some have asserted, Hutchison Whampoa is an arm of the Chinese government. The company's chairman, Li Ka Shing, is an unofficial government minister. This fact is well known to US intelligence and President Clinton. And still Clinton insisted on the canal passing into Beijing's hands, even though he knew Hutchison Whampoa had corruptly obtained the lease.

To get a clearer picture of what Clinton has let the US in for let us turn to Chinese Defence Minister Chi Haotian who said that war with the United States is inevitable. As Chi well knows there is more than one way to wage war — and this is where the canal comes in. It provides Beijing with a base from which to create enormous mischief for the US while piously claiming that its presence is merely a commercial one.

The word is out that acting through Castro's agents and Chinese crime lords, Beijing is already heavily involved in running drugs into the US. To Beijing drugs are merely another weapon in its unofficial war against the US. Two other weapons are terrorism and subversion. Drug revenues could be used to finance terrorists whose activities will, it is hoped, destabilise the region, particularly Mexico, thus tying up US military and intelligence resources. (Beijing also knows it can count on America's mainstream media to sympathetically report on left-wing terrorist activities). The emergence of the Zapatistas in the state of Chiapas could be a foretaste of things to come. It is no accident that this area is contiguous with Central America.

It is said in certain Beijing quarters that Mexico will play a central role in this strategy. These assume that encouraging political and social turmoil in Mexico would, for example, spur many more Mexicans to seek sanctuary in the US, forcing Washington to strengthen its southern boarder while antagonizing Mexico City in the process. Beijing believes that a flood of Mexicans immigrants would provoke a backlash which in turn would whip up anti-American feeling south of the border, never a difficult task.

Clearly the tactic is not one of establishing pro-Beijing regimes but of creating a massive running sore that will drain US political and military resources that will eventually help drive it out of the Pacific Asian region, leaving Hawaii as its only Pacific base.

This is not a fantasy. Why else does Beijing provide missile know-how and nuclear weapons technology to the likes of North Korea, Pakistan, Iran and Libya? Because it generates tensions and fuels conflicts that tie up US resources. Knowing all of this, why did Clinton allow the canal to fall into Beijing's hands? Because, incredible as this will seem, he does think of Beijing as a "strategic partner" of sorts and not a potential enemy. Clinton belongs to that peculiar school of thought that sees conflict, particularly war, as the tragic outcome of misunderstandings between basically decent and reasonable people — except for fascists, of course. Impervious to reality, those who cling to this suicidal-like vision accuse their critics of bad faith and dismiss their patriotic warnings as alarmist, ridiculous, hateful and so on.

The only thing Beijing's warlords understand and respect is power and the will to use it. America still has the power. Unfortunately, it still has Clinton and his clones — particularly in the media.

Reprinted with the kind permission of The New Australian.

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