Monday, February 20

How about Chinese?

ever heard the old joke about being hungry an hour after a Chinese meal?

for Meles Inc. power may last a bit longer at gunpoint but it won't be with any substance from China

Take a bit of the obvious, mix in some serious sober expressions and historical memory as deep as a puddle to get this type of anyalysis - Ethiopia's Meles can weather political storms.

Sure, by using brute force and a pervasive security apparatus Meles can stay in power for some time. It is still amazing that observers act like this all began this year with the fake election.

What do they possibly think the past decade and a half was about?

Ethiopians have lived with it all for fifteen years now - only two years less than they had to deal with the Dergue and arguably more than Mengistu ruled alone. Siad Barre lasted even longer as did Mobutu and the rest of the usual suspects of those African desposts who have managed to 'weather political storms'.

Perhaps that term 'weather political storms' should be re-written more honestly as 'willing to kill' because that is what power in a revolutionary democracy / dictatorship is all about. That and being a master illusionist.

Arguably Meles made his living until just last year running an elaborate con game on ferenjis. Seizing control of a popular struggle and transforming it into the bloody reality of a Marxist - Leninist - Maoist Liberation Front (named for its first victims) whose arcane internal politics would shock Machieveli was just the tip of the iceberg of talents required to take over Ethiopia.

In a world where the old communist gods were dying before their eyes and the imperialists were winning the Cold War there was a desperate need for someone to deal with the ferenjis and Meles perfectly fit that bill. We suspect that quite a bit of his ascendancy within the TPLF had to do with the ability to be exactly what every ferenji - progressive or conservative or whatever - exactly wanted him to be.

What this last year's burst of arrogance that had the Ethiopian government imagining it could actually win an even fractionally open election with minimal cheating actually did was to rip away many careful years of images and lies served up solely to impress ferenjis.

Every drop of vengeful regime drawn tears and the streams of blood showed conclusively that there was no commitment to the rights and dignity of man as understood by any civilized government from Costa Rica to the EU to Botswana anwhere within the brain, organs or corrupt flesh of Ethiopian government.

With that democracy game over for the EU next up is the security game which most interests the US. The problem is that being an alleged bulwark against terrorism is only looking just one wrong move ahead from everyone's point of view. That is especially so when destitution, tribal - religious - regional divide and rule while cherishing an old fashioned single party kleptocratic mess are all as dear to the Ethiopian government as transit systems, votes and social security are to others.

In Washington no one ever took any of the democratic blather from the Gibee seriously anyway but eventually either the Bush administration or certainly the next will have to deal with the aftermath of a totally failed state in the Horn of Africa precisely because of Meles aided and abetted by American power and prestige while democratic alternatives existed in plain sight. Even with the security game working and helped along by fake rumors of war with Eritrea, EU monetary threats are still quite potent.

As we have often said the perverse social contract written by Meles Inc. has it that 70 million Ethiopian hostages can always be treated worse by their own government unless ferenjis pay cash and show the regime respect to protect all those innocents. The price of the regime's brand of revolutionary democratic power is national failure so the donors made themselves the constituents instead of the actual Ethiopians.

What kept up the illusions necessary to support this monstrosity erect was the force of personality from Meles himself that allowed willingly gullible folks with deep pockets to think they were in the presence of what they had always dreamed an African leader could be. From Clinton to Blair to Sachs to Bono to countless others they lapped it all up and kept coming back for more.

After a while they must have known they were being conned but they kept coming back for more because they could not admit they had ever been wrong lest someone doubt them on the next issue. It seems for now that Tony and Meles are no longer best friends forever but if the British taxpayer cash still ends up in the regime's coffers at a different level it won' matter much.

So yes, Meles may last in power and weather storms to come by killing whomever he has to and defying nations who care more for his people than he does. But he will be doing it as a common dictator before the whole world no different than all the other bloody despots of history who have climbed their way to the top of pyramids of suffering.

In so many of these posts on ethiopundit and elsewhere on these innernets it all seems to begin or end with what the ferenjis think doesn't it? The Ethiopian government is so proud everytime someone with money isn't too loud about the bloodletting that it crows about how wonderful it is before the eyes of mankind.

Critics are certainly more discerning about events but again, how loud ferenji attitudes are about the bloodletting is also an all consuming matter. For a nation so old, so proud, so manifestly able this is certainly a difficult situation to be in.

It is the function of three decades of Ethiopian Marxist Lenininst Maoism that have brought Ethiopia so low that what foreigners think matters so much. Mengistu sought alliances from the USSR rather than in Ethiopia because he was busy harming Ethiopians and Moscow willingly stepped in with guns while Moscow's enemies in the West fed his people.

Meles has sought alliances in the West since he was busy harming Ethiopians and figured the natives would not be good allies for him in the long term while he needed someone to take care of his own people. Every nation follows its self interest in foreign policy but while the West has a rather more enlightened view on that topic than Moscow did - the ultimate effect is the total absence of popular accountability from serial Ethiopian governments.

The untold story of all of this is that the Ethiopian people themselves are sick and tired of Meles and his permanent revolutionary aristocracy that own all the land and control the economy through government monopolies and party / crony businesses at every level from millions in trade to every centime squeezed from a peasant.

One popular theme of late is that China is a big factor now in African politics in general and in Ethiopia in particular. Somehow Meles is imagined to be on the verge of pulling THE CHINA CARD out of his sleeve to show all the ferenjis and all of the uppity Ethiopians that he is in control of the game.

Yeah right. With or without EU cash and with the US support for his bloody deeds not likely to continue for long Meles will be left with how many Ethiopians he can make suffer in the end while China will make little if any difference.

Once again - all nations pursue foreign policies based upon self interest - and once again there are occasional governments that care for many peoples more than their own governments do - often when no particular interest is at hand from the strategic or business point of view.

China, ruled by the party of Mao of Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution shame, is definitely NOT one of those countries.

Here is a small but representative sampling of the new Chinese - African Hype in the media: China's investment, clout in Africa cause concern, Africa a Frontier of Opportunity for China and China shifts from receiving to giving foreign aid as economic boom continues. Sounds impressive right? China is about to come out kicking ass and taking names on a global humanitarian scale right up there with the big boys!

What you may not know is that in the case of the Tsunami Disaster of a year ago that China only pledged only $60 million and delivered less. But every good intention and penny put out there received maximum coverage that at times rivalled that given the substantial efforts of the US and the EU. In 2004
China donated $24m to the WFP. The bulk of these funds went towards operations in China's poorest provinces. Only $1.5m (£780,000) was earmarked for international humanitarian work.
Basically China doesn't give anyone that much aid at all and it is not likely to start doing so anytime soon. Back in the 1960s and 70s during Mao's disastrous rule China probably gave more aid overall and certainly with less conditions than now although it was far poorer. The main purpose being competition with the USSR and / or the US most of it was wasted as most ideologically driven projects are.

Imagining a scale of aid to match what has been keeping Meles Inc. afloat is totally beyond the bounds of reality.

The Chinese are one of the great peoples of earth but China's government is just a particularly intelligent (recognizing, for example, that capitalist cats catch mice best) totalitarian regime. The Chinese politburo is all about the bottom line especially when it comes to their power and money.

They may look at their counterpart Ethiopian politburo and recognize kindred ideological / dicatorial spirits but the folks in the Forbidden City today are every bit as unromantic as the ones in the Gibee. Taking away pieces of Sub-Saharan business from Europe is one thing that is cheaply done and potentially profitable on a small scale but actually giving Meles enough money to live on is not about to happen.

The Council of Foreign Relations has one of the best takes on this issue we have come across in China, Africa, and Oil. It boils down to this
China has adopted an aid-for-oil strategy that has resulted in increasing supplies of oil from African countries.
Last year's jump in oil prices had to do with rising demand from mainly China.
China accounted for 40 percent of total growth in global demand for oil in the last four years; in 2003, it surpassed Japan as the world's second-largest oil consumer, after the United States. In the first ten months of 2005, Chinese official sources say, Chinese companies invested a total of $175 million in African countries, primarily on oil exploration projects and infrastructure.
The Chinese government is looking very far ahead to how to keep their economic engine running. They are really in a race. Their social contract with the Chinese is based upon delivering the chance of increasing capitalist generated wealth in exchange for total political obedience.

If the Chinese regime can't deliver growth then political demands will be made for accountability and they also know that will happen anyway, but they want to stay as far ahead of the curve as possible. So they need oceans of oil in the very near future. Africa is just part of the game. Territorial claims against almost every neighbor in the Pacific feature in as well as does policy towards Iran and the rest of the petro-world.

Basically, an African nation that doesn't have oil or some decent chance of getting access to some in a reasonable time frame is of little interest to Beijing beyond flooding its market with Tickle Me Elmo dolls and other at times more substantial projects - always for a profit. Actually the biggest interest may be arms sales - both Ethiopian and Eritrea spent $1 billion neither could afford and largely siphoned from aid and squeezed from peasants on Chinese arms from 1998-2000 alone.

"China is very pragmatic about this," ... "It's cutting deals with governments all over the world." China doesn't care about slavery in Sudan (well for that matter Canada doesn't either but let us conveniently call that the exception that proves the rule) and doesn't care what horrors Meles Inc. may invent for Ethiopians. If there is oil in Ethiopian it doesn't hurt to be seen as a reliably cold blooded by a fellow dictatorship and if there isn't then so what? The world doesn't expect moral behavior from China anyway.

The Chinese may loan Meles Inc. money that they definitely expect to be paid back with loan rates dependent on the level of Western aid compounding interest that will never be forgiven. However, they aren't just giving anyone hundreds of millions or billions for any reason at all including any illusory geopolitical rivalry with the West when China can barely make its power felt beyond its borders.

The Chinese politburo may look at the Ethiopian one and see a familiar structure and shapes, but fellow Communists or not the Chinese look over and see losers. Basically they don't respect and have sympathy for a regime whose grand strategic plan was keeping its own population as hostages.

There may be something to be said for just weathering storms and staying in power at all costs but there is no kinship felt beyond those slim bonds of mutual dictatorship to the Ethiopian regime at all. Basically, Meles Inc. has absolutely nothing to offer the Chinese government which is also never likely to be moved by human suffering.

THERE IS NO CHINA CARD hiding in the sleeve of Meles that matters anymore than the next giddy headline on the Government outlets Walta or ENA.

The likes of the Chinese politburo that slaughtered thousands in Tianeman Square and that are heirs to Mao's legacy built on the bones of tens of millions would go along with an Ethiopian slave trade if they could get away with it - but always the Chinese government will want a return on any investment of cash or prestige in Ethiopia that Meles can not possibly deliver.

In exchange for an endorsement of the invasion of Taiwan the Ethiopian government seems to have gotten a promise of one or two articles a month from Chinese government media that faithfully repeat the talking point from the Gibee but that is about it for support as far as we can tell. We don't expect much more of substance in the future either.

The EU seems to be backing off from Meles and the US will stick around for now at least but unless enough money can be siphoned off from aid or even more squeezed from peasants or oil discovered - it doesn't matter how charming Meles could possibly be with the A-Team of World Dictatorship in Beijing - there will be no weathering the storm with anything besides a few Chinese words and EPRDF purchased bullets.

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