Maybe the Belt and Road Initiative is just another government-sponsored white elephant in a world that’s littered with them. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:
The world appears to be tiring of globalization and hegemons, and that trend may doom the Belt & Road to irrelevancy.
The conventional narrative holds that China’s Belt & Road Initiative is cementing China’s global superpower status. There’s an alternative narrative, however: it’s a decade too late. From this perspective, global trade has reached the top of the S-Curve and is in the stagnation phase, which will be followed by decline or collapse.
Global trade growth loses momentum as trade tensions persist (WTO)
Why could global trade decline as a secular trend? The answer of the moment–trade wars– is more a symptom than the disease itself, which is the benefits of globalization have declined and the negative consequences are becoming unavoidable.
Trade is never “free;” there are always losers to any trade, and if the benefits accrue to the few at the expense of the many, the gains no longer offset the losses. Resistance to globalization is rising, and national interests are gaining political ground.
Then there are the strategic considerations of trade. Do you really want your nation overly dependent on other nations for energy, food, semiconductors and capital? Food security makes little sense by itself; the spectrum of autarchy / self-sufficiency must also include energy, critical technologies and capital–human, institutional and financial.
Going forward, the last thing nations will want is increasing dependence on China–or any other hegemon.
China’s debt diplomacy–pressuring “partners” to borrow immense sums from China, backed by collateral like harbors and ports–is already drawing resistance. If global trade has indeed topped out and shifted to secular decline, all the strategic reasons to limit dependency on other nations will start becoming more important than private-sector profits reaped by politically powerful corporations.
Sometimes carrots work better than sticks. Who knew? From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:
The global trend in international relations is often difficult to discern. But one can be helped in this task by looking at two events, organized in Washington and Beijing, comparing the different themes, participants, objectives, and broached for discussion. After all, we are talking about the two largest economies in the world, two colossi directing and shaping global culture, behavior and world opinion.
The last few weeks have offered the international community an opportunity to reflect. Two events took place in Washington and Beijing that, in terms of impact, depth, participation and issues discussed, are striking contrasts.
In Beijing at the Belt and Road Forum over 40 world leaders discussed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a project that will transform the entire Eurasian continent, improving free trade between dozens of countries by investing in transport infrastructure as well as in energy and technological cooperation. The leader of this silent industrial revolution is China’s Xi Jinping, casting ancient ambitions and perspectives into the new millennium, anxious to once again acquire the leading role in global civilization.
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jingping’s approach to international relations certainly seems to be winning the Russians and Chinese more friends than the US approach. From Andrew Korybko at orientalreview.org:
President Putin left nothing to doubt when he proudly proclaimed that Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union regional integration organization that it leads are strategically merging with China and its Belt & Road Initiative, with this process having unprecedentedly far-reaching strategic consequences for the supercontinent and 21st-century geopolitics as a whole.
This year’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) Forum is a monumental event bringing together several dozen heads of state and providing a platform for the international community to better understand this world-changing vision. President Putin gave an important speech during this event that can be summarized as his proud proclamation that Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAU) regional integration organization that it leads are strategically merging with China and its BRI. There’s no doubt that this process will have unprecedentedly far-reaching strategic consequences for the supercontinent and 21st-century geopolitics as a whole, which is why his entire address deserves to be analyzed in full. What therefore follows is the transcript of his speech interspersed with brief interpretations of the text in order to help the reader appreciate just how significant of an event this was and what his words might mean for the future of Russian grand strategy:
The US and China a vying for supremacy in Asia. China would be the betting favorite. From Pepe Escobar at atimes.com:
What remains of Western unity does not represent a vision of the future any more
Workers construct piers for the bridge over the Amur River, which will connect Russia and China, part of the Belt and Road project. Photo: AFP/Eugene Odinokov/Sputnik
It’s all about the cross-strait median. No, that’s not a drink in a Hong Kong bar. It’s the de facto maritime border between continental China and Taiwan.
Last Sunday morning, two Chinese J-11 fighters crossed the median and stayed on Taiwanese air space for about 10 minutes – even after Taiwanese interceptors were dispatched. Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan, defined the incursion by the PLA Air Force as “reckless and provocative.”
And, ominously, demanded the “forceful expulsion” of Chinese fighter jets if it ever happened again. Well, that used to happen, quite frequently, but only up to 1999, when Beijing and Taipei clinched a deal to make them stop.
The so-called magic quadrant sure isn’t buying the notion of US unipolarity, and is doing everything in its power to oppose it. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:
With the end of the unipolar moment, which saw Washington dominate international relations, the richest and most powerful Eurasian countries are beginning to organize themselves into alliance structures and agreements that aim to facilitate trade, development and cooperation.
At the height of the US unipolar moment, Bill Clinton was leading a country in full economic recovery and the strategists at the Pentagon were drawing up plans to shape the world in their own image and likeness. The undeclared goal was regime change in all countries with unapproved political systems, which would allow for the proliferation of us-made “democracy” to the four corners of the earth. Clearly Eurasian countries like Russia, India, China and Iran were on top of the to-do list, as were countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The bombing and destruction of Yugoslavia was the final step in the assault on the Russian Federation following the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Yeltsin represented the means by which Western high finance decided to suck all Russia’s wealth, privatizing companies and plundering strategic resources.
China, on the other hand, saw a rebirth as a result of American and European manufacturing companies relocating to the country to take advantage of the cheap labor it offered. India, historically close to the USSR, and Iran, historically averse to Washington, were struggling to find a new balance in a world dominated by Washington.
Tehran was clearly in an open conflict with the United States because of the 1979 Islamic revolution that liberated the country from Western submission under the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. India understood the new reality, laying the foundations for a close cooperation with Washington. Previously, the use of jihadism in Afghanistan, through the coordination between Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States, had severely undermined relations between India and the United States, remembering that New Delhi was an important ally of Moscow during the Cold War.
Posted in Eurasian Axis, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Governments, History, Imperialism, Military, Politics
Tagged Belt and Road Initiative, China, India, Iran, Middle East, Russia
China’s got a lot of wood to chop before it can take over the world. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:
In the New Year, after a close to the old one that was sort of terrible for our zombie markets, do prepare for a whole lot of stories about China (on top of Brexit and Yellow Vests and many more windmills fighting the Donald). And don’t count on too many positive ones that don’t originate in the country itself. Beijing will especially be full of feel-good tales about a month from now, around Chinese New Year 2019, which is February 5.
And we won’t get an easy and coherent true story, it’ll be bits and pieces stitched together. What will remain is that China did the same we did, just on steroids. It took us 100 years to build our manufacturing capacity, they did it in under 20 (and made ours obsolete). It took us 100 years to borrow enough to get a debt-to-GDP ratio of 300%, they did it in 10.
In the process they also accumulated 10 times more non-productive assets than us, idle factories, bridges to nowhere and empty cities, but they thought that would be alright, that demand would catch up with supply. And if you look at how much unproductive stuff we ourselves have gathered around us, who can blame them for thinking that? Perhaps their biggest mistake has been misreading our actual wealth situation; they didn’t see how poorly off we really are.
Xiang Songzuo, “a relatively obscure economics professor at Renmin University in Beijing”, expressed some dire warnings about the Chinese economy in a December 15 speech. He didn’t get much attention, not even in the West. Not overly surprising, since both Beijing and Wall Street have a vested interest in the continuing China growth story.
Posted in Business, Currencies, Debt, Economy, Eurasian Axis, Geopolitics, Governments, History
Tagged Africa, Apple, Belt and Road Initiative, China, Smartphones
Russia is turning towards Asia, perhaps having given up on the West. From Pepe Escobar at atimes.com:
Russia is keen to push economic integration with parts of Asia and this fits in with China’s Belt and Road Initiative