2-24-11 China rushed to evacuate thousands of workers from Libya on Thursday, after CNPC and other Chinese firms were attacked in the wave of unrest sweeping the country
Officials say 30,000 Chinese are in the country and the scramble to evacuate them—in what may be the country’s largest overseas evacuation ever—is posing a new foreign policy dilemma for China, which has for decades supported the Gaddafi regime.
CNPC, China’s largest oil and gas producer, said on Thursday that its facilities had been attacked and that CNPC employees were being evacuated back to Beijing. The statement is the first confirmation of attacks on oil companies, after oil majors such as Eni
of Italy and Repsol
YPF shut down their Libyan operations earlier this week
The violence in Libya poses a new test for China’s foreign policy in the region, which has centred around the concept of non-interference. That policy has become increasingly difficult to maintain as China’s commercial engagement with Africa deepens and Chinese workers decamp by the thousands to build infrastructure projects on the continent.
Ma Zhaoxu, Foreign Ministry spokesman, acknowledged that some Chinese companies in Libya “had their local camp sites raided by gangsters and some people got hurt.”
One Chinese railway worker painted a vivid picture of those attacks in his microblog posts on Chinese website Sina. Raiders set fire to equipment and cars and injured Chinese workers in an attack on his work camp on Monday, said the blogger known as “Happy Xufeng,” posting pictures of the inferno as well as desperate calls for help.
“We are in great danger,” he wrote on Monday night, describing a group of more than 500 Chinese workers who lacked basic supplies. “Chinese companies in Libya are in a state of emergency, our projects are being raided and communications are down.” By Wednesday the blogger, whose internet records indicated he was an employee of China Railway 11th Bureau, reported that he and his colleagues were being evacuated to safety.
In an unusual statement on Tuesday, China’s President Hu Jintao ordered government workers to “spare no efforts to ensure the safety of life and properties of Chinese citizens in Libya.” China has dispatched charter flights, COSCO transport ships and Chinese fishing boats to travel toward Libya. Hired buses will also stand ready to enter Libya to help with the evacuation if necessary, the foreign ministry said.
There have already been signs of resentment in Libya at China’s growing economic clout in the region. At the end of 2009, Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa said in an interview: “When we look at the reality on the ground we find that there is something akin to a Chinese invasion of the African continent. This is something that brings to mind the effects that colonialism had on the African continent.”
The forced evacuation of such a large group of overseas Chinese has exposed one of the new vulnerabilities of China’s foreign policy as its interests expand rapidly around the globe.
There are now tens of thousands of Chinese migrants working in potentially volatile places such as Sudan, Congo, Burma and Pakistan. Chinese diplomats worry that high-profile cases of kidnapping or violence towards Chinese workers overseas could provoke nationalist reactions at home and push the government, which prides itself on a policy of non-intervention, to become much more involved in the domestic political affairs of crisis-ridden countries.
To the intense discomfort of Beijing, a defiant Colonel Muammer Gadaffi has used the example of China’s violent crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 to justify his own use of military force against domestic opponents. “The unity of China was more important than those people on Tiananmen Square,” he said earlier this week.
The evacuations of oil companies have caused Libya’s oil output to fall by half, sending oil prices higher amid global fears that unrest in the Middle East will lead to shortages.
News of the attack on CNPC will heighten concerns among oil industry executives that the turmoil in Libya may lead to widespread sabotage of oil facilities and that it would take many months or even years to return the country to full production capacity, even if a semblance of peace returns.
In a speech earlier this week, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Col Gaddafi, warned that in the event of a civil war, Libya’s oil wealth would be “burned”.
Oil experts in Beijing have said that unrest across the Middle East is likely to prompt Chinese authorities to accelerate oil purchases in an effort to fill reserves, a move that would put further pressure on global supplies of crude.
“Recent events made them very nervous and they believe the oil price may be on an upward trend, so better to buy sooner rather than later,” said K F Yan, director of IHS Cera in Bejing. “With or without events in the Middle East, China needs to refill the tanks after depleting supplies at the end of 2010.”
China’s trade with Libya centres mainly on oil, but the $6.6bn in bilateral trade also includes companies in a wide range of other businesses, thanks in part to China never having imposed sanctions on the Gaddafi regime. Chinese rail companies have signed lucrative railway contracts with Libya, agreeing in 2008 to build a rail line between Tripoli and Sirte for $1.7bn, according to reports.
China’s Other Problem with Protests Abroad
Talk of a “Jasmine Revolution” online and a subsequent stepping up of censorship by Beijing authorities this week has helped thrust the Internet—microblogging in particular—to the center of the conversation around how China’s government manages problems at home. But as the upheaval in Libya grows increasingly violent, microblogs are also serving to highlight a challenge China faces abroad: The presence of tens of thousands of Chinese nationals, many of them workers for state-owned enterprises, living in potential conflict zones in Africa and elsewhere.
On Tuesday morning Beijing time, a person claiming to be one of those expatriates, an employee of a Chinese company in Libya, took to Sina Weibo, China’s most active microblogging service, to send out a plea for help.
“Urgent situation Libya has lost control, the army has moved suppress demonstrators, countless numbers of dead and wounded,” read the hastily punctuated Chinese-language message, posted on an account with the name Happy Xu Feng. “Communication is completely cut off. Right now it’s middle of the night I used a satellite to leave a message, calling on the government to send a plane to rescue us. Urgent”
It’s not clear how the user was posting to Sina Weibo despite communications being down, but several hours later, the user posted another message saying a number of the company’s compounds had been trashed. That was followed by photos of a construction vehicle and a building in flames along with another urgent call for help:
“The UK, France and South Korea are preparing to send over planes. How come there’s still no movement from our government? A lot of Chinese brothers are embroiled in fights with gangsters.”
It’s not clear which company Happy Xu Feng is working for and is almost impossible to confirm details of the attack described in the posts. State media reported that “armed gangsters” looted a Chinese-operated construction site in the eastern city of Agedabia, forcing nearly a thousand Chinese workers to abandon their living quarters. However, that attack reportedly took place on Sunday, a day before the attacks described by Happy Xu Feng.
The messages were forwarded thousands of times and attracted hundreds of comments urging the government to move quickly.
Xinhua reported Tuesday night that China’s State Council had set up a “special headquarters” to coordinate efforts to evacuate Chinese nationals from Libya. The headquarters had decided to dispatch chartered airplanes, as well as fishing boats and cargo ships, the report said, adding that Chinese president Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao had jointly ordered “all-out efforts to ensure life and property safety of Chinese nationals in Libya.” News of Messrs. Hu and Wen’s orders, including the “all-out” modifier, was repeated multiple times on CCTV’s main news broadcast Tuesday night, a sign of the sensitivity surrounding the effort.
Indeed, for Chinese leaders confronting the protests in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere, public criticism over their ability to protect Chinese citizens abroad is arguably as big a concern as the possibility the unrest will somehow spread to China. While regular Chinese people seem to have little interest in emulating protestors in North Africa (whether because censorship has kept them in the dark or because they’re just not that keen on revolution), they are interested in having a government strong and competent enough to look after them when they’re overseas.
Beijing came under considerable public pressure over its handling of the killing of Hong Kong tourists who had been taken hostage in Manila last August. More recently, leaders faced criticism for sending too few planes to evacuate Chinese citizens from Cairo after protests erupted there in late January. With Libya, too, the pressure is on.
“I just called the number 86-10-6596114 listed on the website of Ministry of Foreign affairs and a woman answered, sounding as if she’s just woken up,” one user wrote in a comment on Happy Xu Feng’s Sina Weibo feed. “As soon as the word ‘Libya’ left my mouth, she said ‘the leaders have all gone home, we’ll deal with it tomorrow.”
Wrote another: “Government, the time has come to test whether you rule for the people.”
That test is not likely to be easy. According to state media, there are more than 30,000 Chinese living in Libya.
Meanwhile, in other news:
They’re doing it again! Three years ago, two Rothschild-owned Wall Street banks—Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley—artificially drove the price of oil up to $142 a barrel, and the American economy collapsed. One year later, the price had fallen to $32 per barrel—and the oil companies were still making money, (They bring it out of the ground for a puny $4 per barrel!)
Now, Rothschild's Wall Street manipulators are back in business. For weeks now, oil gasoline demand has actually decreased. Nevertheless, the Wall Street criminals are driving the price of oil up through the roof on the oil futures market—which they own! That’s right, they own the commodities future exchanges!
And here’s what else you need to know:
President Obama is colluding with these bums. His Fed Reserve (with Jewish chairman Bernanke) gave 73 billion dollars in “loans” to Libya and Gaddafi. But Gaddafi’s oil goes to France, not the U.S.A.!
Obama’s Treasury Secretary (the Jew Geithner) gave a two billion dollar “loan” to Petrobras, the Brazilian oil giant, to drill in the Atlantic, off the coast of Brazil. Surprise: Brazil’s oil goes primarily to Red China and India, not the U.S.A.!
Obama’s Marxist EPA and Energy Department hassles U.S. oil drillers with a blizzard of regulations—all to intentionally force Americans to buy foreign oil owned by Rothschild and other Israel and Jewish billionaires. This in spite of the fact that the U.S. oil reserves are greater than Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and all the rest of the world’s nations combined.
What the environmental crazies and Obama plan is for the price of gasoline to shoot up to $6.00, even to $10.00 per gallon. They think that Americans will be forced to drive less and thus their Global Warming scam will be enhanced.
Fidel’s Cuba and Red China are drilling new oil wells in international waters off of Florida, but Obama says “No!” to American drillers.
Iraq’s abundant oil is being shipped by oil pipeline through Israel to tankers sitting off the coasts of Gaza and Lebanon and is going directly to Red China. That’s right, Rothschild’s Israeli partners have been given—yes, given!—all of Iraq’s oil. They’re making a mint selling it to the Communists in Beijing. Remember when Dick Cheney promised us that the invasion and occupation of Iraq wouldn’t cost Americans a dime, because Iraq’s oil would pay for it? Well, now you and I see what rotten, filthy liars these politicians are!