Politics of Hypocrisy Rife Among US Lawmakers
bought quite a lot of stuff at his favorite shopping mall over the
weekend: cheap Chinese-made shirts (five), pants (three), suits
(two), dresses (three), scarves, underwear and socks – and let's
not forget those cheap Chinese-made toys for the grandchildren to
whom he also sent emails through his personal computer which was
installed somewhere in Greater China.
dinner on Saturday night, he praised President George W Bush's costly
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as his tax cuts and increase
in domestic spending. Yes, defense spending will rise, and the budget
deficit will expand, but there is no need to worry about current
account deficits, a weakening US dollar or rising interest rates.
The Chinese central bank will continue to buy US Treasuries on the
bond market and protect the US dollar and interest rates.
he returned to his house in a suburb of Washington, DC, he contemplated
how the value of his mansion had tripled since he had purchased
it twelve years ago. Some economic commentators have raised concerns
over the popping of the US housing bubble if the Chinese and other
Asians started dumping their US dollar reserves.
he is not worried, since he knows that the Chinese and other Asians
won't do that because they benefit from their large trade deficit
with the United States. In fact, when it comes to that trade deficit,
his son – who works for a company that invests in China – is one
of the beneficiaries.
so on Monday, after the long weekend in which he had become aware
more than anytime in the past of the rewards that he and his family
– and most of the American people – are winning as a result of the
growing ties between America and China, he returned to Capitol Hill.
This is where he has been serving for more than ten years as a lawmaker,
representing a district in a state whose economy has grown as a
result of increasing Chinese investment, he went on the floor of
the House of Representatives where he delivered a televised address
in which he attacked China and warned Americans of the great threat
that country is posing to US economic and security interests.
have to wake up and start taking swift action against China before
it's too late," he warned, as he specifically denounced the
US$18.5 billion bid from the China National Offshore Oil Company
(CNOOC) for Unocal, the US energy company. His son's company should
be permitted to invest in China, of course; you can only imagine
the bashing China would have taken from our lawmakers if that wasn't
the case and be accused of violating free-trade principles. But
when it comes to a Chinese company trying to do business in America,
well, free-trade principles don't seem to apply anymore.
US lawmaker may be just a product of my wild imagination, but if
you had spent a few hours last Wednesday watching the hearing of
the Armed Services Committee on CNOOC's bid for UNOCAL, you would
have no choice but to conclude that he represents the current anti-China
sentiment that has been building for a while on Capitol Hill, reflecting
security concerns, complaints of currency manipulation and intellectual
property theft, and representing a mix of economic nationalism,
strident jingoism, and just a lot of good old hypocrisy.
is so much heat in this hearing room, that perhaps we would now
be able to resolve the energy crisis," commented one of the
saner lawmakers after his colleagues, joined by a motley group of
China-bashing "experts," accused China of a grand strategic
plan to control the energy resources of the planet and use the "oil
weapon" to destroy the US economy and force the US to surrender
to Chinese demands on Taiwan and other issues.
committee chairman Duncan Hunter, a hawkish Republican Representative
from California, made it clear he wanted CNOOC's proposal to be
rejected on "national security" grounds.
was not surprising, therefore, that most of the witnesses during
the hearing, led by R James Woolsey, former director of central
intelligence, were promoting the same anti-China line and calling
on the Bush administration to stop the takeover of UNOCAL by the
one of the leading neoconservative figures in Washington, argued
that CNOOC's bid for UNOCAL should be seen as part of Beijing's
strategy for energy security in competition with the US. CNOOC was
nothing more than "an organ, effectively of the world's largest
communist dictatorship," is the way Woolsey put it, and allowing
it to buy UNOCAL "should be beyond the pale, given the nature
of the Chinese government."
didn't explain, however, why the central bank in Beijing should
be permitted to finance the US deficit – the economic security of
the American democracy being taken hostage by the "world's
largest communist regime" – and how American commitment to
free trade would square with a move to block CNOOC from buying UNOCAL,
even if that deal were to be approved by the shareholders.
fact, Congressman Hunter is considering introducing legislation
to block CNOOC from taking over UNOCAL even if the deal is approved
by the government committee that reviews corporate takeovers by
only voice of reason that was heard during last week's hearing was
that of Jerry Taylor, director of natural resources studies at the
Cato Institute, a pro-free market think tank, who tried to challenge
the notion that CNOOC's bid is part of Chinese policy to develop
an "oil weapon."
the lawmakers with an introductory session in Economics 101, Taylor
explained that oil is a fungible commodity and that owning petroleum
in the ground doesn't provide any nation with "energy security"
from sudden changes in the oil and gas markets.
if a Unocal-CNOOC transaction led to diversion of supply to China,
it would have no net effect on the amount of oil available to buyers
in the world market and thus zero impact on the price of crude oil
in the United States or the availability of crude oil in the US,"
the free-market argument was drowned in the nationalist and mercantilist
rhetoric on Capitol Hill. Ironically, the lawmakers were exhibiting
what psychologists describe as "psychological projection"
(or projection bias) – that is, when one projects his or her own
undesirable thoughts, feelings, desires and motivations onto others.
Instead of admitting that you don't like Bob, you project your dislike
onto Bob. Hence instead of "I don't like Bob" you tell
yourself that "Bob doesn't like me."
for "oil weapon"
a way, American officials and lawmakers don't want to admit that
it is the United States that is engaged now in a strategy aimed
at controlling the oil resources of the Middle East, Central Asia
and the Caucus which would provide it with a leverage over other
oil-importing countries, including China. But instead of admitting
that, they are the ones searching for an "oil weapon"
against the Chinese; they are accusing the Chinese of trying to
gain control over oil resources in order to gain leverage over the
the theory of projection and you'll be able to deconstruct Representative
Hunter's following argument: UNOCAL is an investor in pipelines
running through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey – "critical
players and key US allies" – and China's purchase of UNOCAL
would therefore "dramatically increase its leverage over these
countries and therefore its leverage over US interests in those
if one were to argue that America is perhaps hoping that its alliance
with those "critical players" and other "key allies"
(Saudi Arabia, Iraq) would provide the US with leverage over China's
interests – use the "oil weapon" against it – or that
UNOCAL is serving as "an organ of the US government,"
he would probably be dismissed by Woolsey and Hunter as "anti-American."
Unfortunately, as they advance a mercantilist and anti-Chinese agenda,
they should not be surprised if they discover that they helped to
create a mercantilist and anti-American China.
Hadar [send him mail] is Washington correspondent
for the Business Times of Singapore
and the author of the forthcoming Sandstorm:
Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan).
© 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved. Reprinted
with permission of the author.