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Thursday, September 21, 2006

SA spooks' lesson on China

Jackie Cameron

China is arming itself as a superpower even faster than it is booming economically – and South Africa needs to get up-to-speed with its military strategy, including its nuclear weapons’ capability, if it is to ensure continued foreign investment flows to the continent.

That was the message from Professor Renfrew Christie, Dean of Research at the University of the Western Cape, in an unclassified seminar paper recently presented to the intelligence community at the request of the intelligence minister.

In the detailed report on China’s rise as an economic powerhouse as well as its defence spending, Christie warned that China is currently in the grips of the “fastest, largest military expansions in all of history”.

“Massive, rapid re-armament usually results in war. You have been warned,” he said.
China is reducing the size of the army and massively modernising all its forces, concentrating on nuclear and missile capabilities as well as the navy and air force, said Christie.

Figures mentioned in the report include a military budget that is 13 times larger than it was in 1989, with two-digit growth in its initial defence budget for 18 consecutive years.

Diplomats have been re-assuring the world that there is no need to worry, but according to Christie, “it is possible from a certain Western point of view to sketch China as an increasingly present military danger to Africa, the Middle East and the world”.

For example, Iran and China have a relationship: oil from Iran to China in exchange for cash and military and political support by China for Iran against America and Israel.

South Africa, meanwhile, has good relations with Iran – one of our largest crude oil suppliers.

“There seems to be a high probability of the US and/or Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities soon, to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

“It is assumed that South Africa has laid contingency plans, at least for oil supply?” asks Christie.

His view is that South Africa must be non-aligned, however the country “must build the military and intelligence forces needed for our survival in a threatening world”.

South Africa has “major interests in stability throughout Africa so that investment flows easily”. War looms for Africa – “war for oil; war for other resources”.

“China’s rise has put up the prices of all African resources. Economically that is good for Africa! But in turn it will tend to bring heightened tensions, coups and wars to Africa. We must increase our own defence and intelligence budgets to match the increased risks!”

Christie said it is not expected that China will “somehow become our enemy”, however “it must be expected that China’s rise will cause conflicts across Africa”.

“Our intelligence and military services only will be able to prevent African wars if we build those forces properly. If we cannot prevent wars, we must at least be strong enough to win them,” he said.

For Christie nuclear intelligence is critical for South Africa, a major uranium producer.

“Wars will accompany the rise of China (and of India). Some of these wars will be in Africa. Nothing promises that African wars will not be nuclear. South Africa must work to ensure that these wars are not nuclear (unless they suit our interests?),” he said.

Christie said South Africa “must quickly be able to revert to being a nuclear weapons state if that becomes vital to our interests, but the chance of this is small.”

Also important, says the academic, is building our business relations with China. This includes speaking Chinese languages for private sector as well as various government department players.

“We must engage China enthusiastically on the economic front. We must find much more economic common ground with China than we have done so far…We must get more two-way trade with China and additional two-way investment,” he said.

“The Chinese will leap-frog from low to high technology. This will challenge our own import substitution industries. We must be ready for that. We must explore new technology together with China. We must export beneficiated minerals to China.”

Also, South Africa must “welcome the better prices which this will bring for African products”.

“China will improve the manners of the Americans and Europeans in dealing with Africa. In short: we must ride the Chinese economic boom,” said Christie.

“At the same time", he added, "South Africa must have a cast-iron alliance with the US and must keep its excellent relations with Europe.”

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