The Malaysian investment fund scandal gets stinkier and stinkier. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
In the waning months of his administration, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was desperate to stave off the bankruptcy of1MDB, the sovereign wealth fund that Razak and members of his inner circle looted (allegedly with the help of Goldman Sachs). So, he turned to an unlikely source of funding to bail out the fund – signing away rights to some of his country’s most valuable resources in the process.
The source? China. Employing financier Jho Low as an intermediary, Razak worked out an arrangement with the Chinese government whereby Razak’s government would grant state-owned Chinese enterprises lucrative stakes in Malaysian railway and pipelines projects in exchange for $34 billion – more than enough to clear the shortfall in 1MDB, and then some.
By 2016, Mr. Najib was in a bind because the fund had borrowed $13 billion it couldn’t repay. He turned to Jho Low—a Malaysian financier the U.S. Justice Department has alleged was the mastermind of a multibillion-dollar theft of 1MDB funds—to negotiate with China to resolve the crisis, according to current and former Malaysian officials.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Razak offered the Chinese an invaluable cherry on top of the sweetheart deal. Permission to dock Chinese Navy ships in two Malaysian ports – a “significant concession” that would push Malaysia undeniably into the orbit of Beijing.
Mr. Najib also embarked on secret talks with China’s leadership to let Chinese navy ships dock at two Malaysian ports, say two people familiar with the discussions. Such permission would have been a significant concession to Beijing, which seeks greater influence across contested waters of the South China Sea, but it didn’t come to pass.
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I spent a week in China last month, dealing with a drone company whose drones are far superior to anything American companies produce. Here’s news to those who say the Chinese can only copy. By definition you cannot copy something if what your building is better. The Chinese have the largest share of the drone market, by virtue of cutting edge technology. I was in Suzhou, which has 10 million people. It’s next to Shanghai, which has 24 million people. In my week in China, I didn’t see one fat person. Maybe a few pounds overweight, but they’d be considered normal, not even obese, here in the US. Everywhere I went, people were working, working, working. The US underestimates China at its peril. From Fred Reed at theburningplatform.com:
One often sees the silly assertion by right-wing extremists that feminists, social justice warriors, and other “cranks” are enstupidating American education. The purpose. according to these fascists, who are just like Hitler, is “to make historically incompetent groups look competent.” The racism in these absurd claims is obvious. In particular such Neo-Nazis say that mathematical education is being destroyed to benefit “retards.” This “dumbing down,” they say, will hand the future to China.
This is conservative drivel. Nothing suggests that China is gaining on the US in science and technology, except the evidence, and this can be ignored. It is particularly important to keep in mind that the Chinese cannot innovate, only copy American technology.
China grants loans to African companies and if they default, China grabs the infrastructure. That’s a strategy Western countries and governments have been employing for decades. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
Back in 1885, to much fanfare, the General Act of the Berlin Conference launched the Scramble for Africa which saw the partition of the continent, formerly a loose aggregation of various tribes, into the countries that currently make up the southern continent, by the dominant superpowers (all of them European) of the day. Subsequently Africa was pillaged, plundered, and in most places, left for dead. The fact that a credit system reliant on petrodollars never managed to take hold only precipitated the “developed world” disappointment with Africa, no matter what various enlightened, humanitarian singer/writer/poet/visionaries claimed otherwise.
And so the continent languished…. until 2012 when what we then dubbed as the “Beijing Conference” quietly took place, and to which only Goldman Sachs, which too has been quietly but very aggressively expanding in Africa, was invited.
As the map below, which we first showed in 2012, in just two years after 2010 China had pledged over $100 billion to develop commercial projects in Africa, a period in which the continent had effectively become de facto Chinese province, unchallenged by any developed nation which in the aftermath of the financial crisis had enough chaos at home to bother with what China may be doing in Africa.
Trade wars can in fact lead to shooting wars. From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:
The United States and China look like two punch-drunk prizefighters squaring off for a major championship fight. They have no good reason to fight and every reason to cooperate now that both their stock markets have been in turmoil.
Six hundred point market swings down and then up look like symptoms of economic nervous breakdown.
Factions in both nations are beating the war drums, putting presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping under growing pressure to be more aggressive.
Trump shoulders much of the blame for having started this unnecessary confrontation by imposing heavy duties on Chinese goods. The US president has turned the old maxim on its head that nations that trade heavily don’t go to war. The US and China, both huge trading partners, appear headed to military clashes, or even full scale war, if their governments don’t come to their senses soon.
Posted in Financial markets, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Governments, History, Politics, Trade, War
Tagged China, President Trump, Trade War, Xi Jinping
Nothing goes up forever, and when stock markets stop going up, it often means the economy will go down, too. From Michael Snyder at theeconomiccollapseblog.com:
Stock markets are crashing all over the world, we are seeing extremely violent “flash crashes” in the forex marketplace, economic conditions are slowing down all over the globe, and fear is causing many investors to become extremely trigger happy. The stock market crash of 2018 wiped out approximately 12 trillion dollars in global stock market wealth, but things were supposed to calm down once we got into 2019. But clearly that is not happening. After Apple announced that their sales during the first quarter are going to be much, much lower than previously anticipated, Apple’s stock price started shooting down like a rocket and by the end of the session on Wednesday the company had lost 75 billion dollars in market capitalization. Meanwhile, “flash crashes” caused some of the most violent swings that we have ever seen in the foreign exchange markets…
It took seven minutes for the yen to surge through levels that have held through almost a decade.
In those wild minutes from about 9:30 a.m. Sydney, the yen jumped almost 8 percent against the Australian dollar to its strongest since 2009, and surged 10 percent versus the Turkish lira. The Japanese currency rose at least 1 percent versus all its Group-of-10 peers, bursting through the 72 per Aussie level that has held through a trade war, a stock rout, Italy’s budget dispute and Federal Reserve rate hikes.
This is the kind of chaos that we only see during a financial crisis.
Apple is running into trouble in China, and the US stock market bellwether is now down over 35 percent from its recent all-time high. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:
“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration.” Oh dude, starting the year out on the right foot.
On Wednesday after the market closed, Apple released a letter to shareholders in which it said that revenues are going to be a lot worse in the quarter ended December 29 than its guidance two months ago, that iPhone revenues have dropped year-over-year, that China’s economic problems are deeper than expected, and that iPhone revenues are hurting elsewhere too. This confirms a series of revenue warnings from Apple suppliers.
Shares plunged 7.5% after hours to $146. If shares close at this level on Thursday, it would be the lowest close since November 7, 2017. Shares have plunged 38% in three months. Wow, this was quick:
In its “Letter from Tim Cook,” Apple slashed its revenue guidance by 6% to 10% from its prior guidance two months ago, to about $84 billion in the quarter, down from its previous guidance of $89 billion to $93 billion.
The US wants to stop other countries from colonizing Africa so it will have the field open to itself. From Netfa Freeman at antiwar.com:
John Bolton’s recent unveiling of the Trump Administration’s “Prosper Africa” plan did what is typical of such U.S. foreign policy announcements. It performed the balancing act of admitting motives to protect vague “US interests” while dishonestly claiming benevolent intentions for the other country, region, or continent concerned. In this case the continent is Africa.
The “new” Africa policy, National Security Advisor Bolton suggested, is an adjusted US strategy to “assist” African economic independence from the predatory designs of China and Russia. In reality it is the Trump’s administration taking the baton from the Obama administration in the new Scramble for Africa, a sequel to the proliferation of conflicting European claims to African territory during the New Imperialism period, between the 1880s and the start of World War I.
Bolton admits as much when he calls the administration’s new plan a response to “predatory practices pursued by China and Russia [that] stunt economic growth in Africa; threaten the financial independence of African nations; inhibit opportunities for US investment; interfere with US military operations; and pose a significant threat to US national security interests.”
He divulged this and the “new” U.S.-Africa policy in a speech he gave at the far-right Heritage Foundation.
It should be obvious that Bolton cares little about predation – he just doesn’t want other predators to compete with. He made no mention of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), which has put most African nations under the effective military control of the United States. AFRICOM is the re-colonization of Africa by the US, with thousands of US troops now stationed in some 30 African countries and dozens of US bases across Africa. The total estimated cost for AFRICOM in 2018 is $236.9 million.