Coming of age ? - APEC, Asia-Pacific and Australia at heart of the new, multipolar New World

Posted in Asia | 28-Sep-07 | Author: Ian Adie

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard (R) meets U.S. President George W. Bush before an Asia-Pacific Ecomonic Cooperation (APEC) business summit at Sydney's Opera House September 7, 2007.

"Apec has enterered the 21st Century as a major and authoritative regional structure with a uniquely broad membership of countries...Due to the rapid development of the Asia-Pacific region, APEC can be called the most promising economic association of the Planet. Even now the Member States of the forum account for 57% of the world's gross domestic product, 48% of world trade..." These are not the words of the Sydney Financial Review ("Howard spruiks APEC success", 10 September 2007). It is Mr. Vladimir I. Putin (Dar Al-Hayat.com 10 Sep. 2007) expressing Russia's determination to "look East" - to be big in the Asia-Pacific and in APEC. By spending 147.5 bn. rubles (USD 5.7bn.) to develop the Far Eastern port and submarine base of Vladivostok, where Russia intends to hold the 2012 meeting of APEC, the "Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation" summit, a year after the USA.

The meeting of 21 political and 67 business leaders, including President Bush's 700 aides, just annoyed Sydney commuters, thanks to the security measures which effectively prevented a terrorist attack or violent protest (only a bogus motorcade of comedians breached the "Iron Curtain"). Some voters gave credit to PM John Howard for getting the leaders of both China and Russia to pay lip service to fighting "climate change" in his "Sydney Declaration" ending the conference. Cynics said it was an election stunt.

How to « fight Climate Change » ?

In private, he could have explained to those despots that, like King Canute of old, they could stay enthroned even after proving to their subjects that the Crown cannot rule the tides. Whereas the likes of Howard and Bush must make electors believe they can "do something" against what polls say 70% are scared witless about; thank you, Mr. A. Gore.

The trick is, to identify one single "cause" of complex natural phenomena ("the science" does this using computer models for « garbage in, forecasts out ». The public mind thus gets clouded with interchangeable buzzwords ; "global warming, greenhouse gas/es, emissions, carbon, CO²"…It all means we bipeds (not God) make bad weather by burning stuff to produce electricity and generally fuel industrialised society.

The single alleged remedy the Crown can then propose, of course, is taxation/pricing in various forms; some more prone to fraud (e.g. "carbon offsets") than others. The gullibility - or opportunism - of some Sydney attendees may be measured by the $25,000 they paid to meet and hear Mr.Gore shout in Sydney that climate change was not scientific, political or ideological - "It's about survival!". ("Paying dearly to hear Mr. Gore's climate story", The Age 20 September 2007).

More true than he knew ; there are other most pressing reasons not just to revive the Doha Round, promote regional trade and « reform behind the borders » etc. as APEC usefully decided, but to implement specific practical measures like re-forestation, and especially more efficient, alternative and secure energy less dependent on fossil fuels : even if the story about co² emissions is indeed "not scientific". (Ask the Czech President, for one). As Condoleeza Rice put it, either we sacrifice global economic growth to secure the health of our planet, or we sacrifice that to continue with fossil-fuelled growth. Up to each country to tackle the problem as suits it. (FT.com 27 September 2007)

Das Kapital in Crisis ? Hello, Sovereign Capital ! for Peak Oil, Uranium, Food ?

The real story behind this APEC event, against the background of concerns about the supply/demand shortfall of oil, peak uranium – and cereals - was about the deals struck with Australia in global competition over resource security by Mr. Putin (alias Gazprom et al.- for uranium) and Mr. Hu (alias China Unlimited - $45 billion for natural gas). If oil does reach $100 or 150 a bbl.as theSaudi Arabian Monetary Authority cuts link to the US dollar, what future for the world’s oil-standard/petrodollar merry-go-round SAMA and Treasury secretly set up in 1974 ?

Forget oil ? The world's present 440 nuclear plants require 180 million pounds to operate, while mines now supply 100 million and production is declining. 28 new reactors are being built and 62 more are planned, including some 30 each by Russia and China and 20 in India…Lateral thinkers find alternative energy sources – e.g. in solid, not computerised garbage, abundant in developed countries ! But global competition for resources looks more likely than cooperation.

Mr. Putin made side visits to South Korea (for agreement to help the buildup of his once-Chinese Vladivostok) and Indonesia (credit line for huge arms deal including stealth submarines...who is encircling whom here ?). As in Central Asia, Putin and his Lenin-type Chinese « allies », strive with and against each other to replace US influence in the Asia-Pacific region. As the world's economic centre of gravity swings to that region, Putin must also think of « human security » in the territories there the Czars wrested from the Manchu Empire in 1856 and 1860. Demography is against him. (See Wishnick Elizabeth, Lingnan University; « Chinese Migration to the Russian Far East : a Human Security Dilemma » at http://gsti.miis.edu.CEAS-PUB/2000209)

Ian Adie is WSN Editor Australia.

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