China’s African Mischief

TOKYO – As Libya’s National Transitional Council attempts to establish a functioning government for a newly liberated country, the truth about what went on under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime is starting to come to light. Various treasures have been unearthed from Tripoli mansions that were hastily vacated by their owners, and what happened to the tortured, the murdered, and the missing is beginning to be revealed.

So, too, are some of Qaddafi’s dirtiest diplomatic secrets being exposed. On September 2, the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported on recent negotiations between the embattled Qaddafi regime and Chinese armaments companies with direct ties to China’s government for contracts worth $200 million.

Such contracts were in flagrant violation of the arms embargo instituted under UN Security Council Resolution 1970, which China approved. China’s rulers have denied that the secret arms deals were valid, and insist that the government did not authorize them. But a travel report explicitly states that Qaddafi’s security officials met with three Chinese arms manufacturers: China North Industries Corp. (Norinco), the China National Precision Machinery Import & Export Corp. (CPMIC), and China XinXing Import & Export Corp. The agenda included not only these companies’ available weapons stockpiles, but also the Chinese firms’ promise to provide additional weapons if required.

Qaddafi’s turn to China in his hour of desperation is somewhat surprising. After all, he reacted to China’s growing activities in Africa – which his officials maintained was “reminiscent of imperialism” – by receiving an official visit in 2006 from Taiwan’s then-President Chen Shui-bian. As the pressure from the rebels grew, Qaddafi’s last hope for maintaining power became China, and so fear of its influence in Africa was brushed aside.