China now menaces the world's oil supply

By Joe Schembrie
web posted September 4, 2000

China may now have the capability to seize the oil fields of the Middle East and hold the world's economic system hostage. Ten years ago, the US and its allies mobilized to defend the free flow of Middle Eastern oil. But perhaps this time the noose will choke while the US government looks the other way.

On August 27, the London Sunday Telegraph reported that China had 700,000 soldiers in Sudan. Two justifications were offered: the Chinese were there to protect their own oil interests in Sudan, or they were there to help the Sudanese government in its civil war against Christian rebels.

According to the analysis presented by Stratfor, Inc., the Austin-based global intelligence consulting firm, neither justification could account for such a large mass of soldiers. Stratfor concludes ". . . the scale of Chinese involvement is probably exaggerated. Tens of thousands of troops are hard to hide, and a number of relief agencies operate in the area -- but none interviewed could verify this claim."

But former Soviet military officer Colonel Stanislav Lunev, writing at Newsmax.com, asserts there are millions of Chinese nationals in Africa serving as cheap labor: "Officially these people are civilians, but in reality they are a secret army, used by Beijing for Red China’s expansion to African, Asian, Latin American and other countries . . . . "

If such workers stay on oil-field property leased by the Chinese government, relief agencies wouldn't encounter them. And how could orbiting satellites determine that workers are also soldiers? They couldn't, any more than they can sense that buildings supposedly full of oil drilling equipment are actually filled with military hardware.

If Lunev is right about the number, and Stratfor is right that such a large number of soldiers wouldn't be justified for protecting Chinese oil interests or helping the Sudanese government -- then just why would China have 700,000 soldiers in Sudan?

Sudan is a backward African country with a sparse population and only a small percentage of the world's oil reserves. But it is across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia -- which has the richest oil fields in the world. Altogether, two-thirds of the world's oil is located in the Middle East. And Chinese troops are now less than three hundred miles away.

By repeatedly flying that short route, a handful of cargo planes could airlift ten thousand or more Chinese soldiers from Sudan across the Red Sea into Saudi oil fields every twenty-four hours. In a single month, hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers could occupy the Middle East.

Contrast: During the logistics operations that preceded the Persian Gulf War, it required four months for the United States to position half a million soldiers in Saudi Arabia.

Which is something the US might not be able to do now, according to Anthony Zinni, former chief of U.S. Central Command. He told CNN: "I believe the military is too small for the current kinds of commitments that we have. And you either need to change the structure of the military and the size and the manning, or you need to change the strategy."

And the Clinton Administration is doing neither. Indeed, an odd divergence has occurred in military thinking within the US. Active-duty, high-ranking officers assure everyone that the US is in fighting shape. Retired officers, however, almost unanimously dispute that assessment. Are the retirees out of the loop -- or has the Pentagon become a ventriloquist dummy upon the lap of Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton?

Disturbingly, it's the Clinton Administration that appears out of the loop. The same foreign policy wonks who saw American interests jeopardized in the ethnic struggles of Somalia and Kosovo voice no qualms about the Chinese military buildup adjacent to two-thirds of the world's oil supply.

In 1990, Iraq threatened to choke the lifeblood circulation of the global economy by invading the Middle East's richest oil fields. If current reports are true, China, with an army several times larger, could now accomplish that very objective.

And due to Clinton Administration policies, America's military is unprepared to respond -- and seems unaware that a storm gathers.

Joe Schembrie is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right and can be reached at joeschembrie@enterstageright.com

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