Lame duck out of the Silk Road caravan
November 11, 2014 10:57
World leaders during the APEC Summit family photo in Beijing November 10, 2014. Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott standing behind Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L) (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)
There’s hardly a more graphic illustration of where the multipolar world is going than what just happened at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing.
Take a very good look at the official photos. This is all about positioning – and this being China, pregnant with symbolic meaning. Guess who’s in the place of honor, side by side with President Xi Jinping. And guess where the lame duck leader of the “indispensable nation” has been relegated. The Chinese can also be masters at sending a global message.
When President Xi urged APEC to “add firewood to the fire of the Asia-Pacific and world economy,” this is what he meant, irrespective of inconclusive decisions out of the summit.
1) Beijing will go no holds barred for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) – the Chinese vision of an “all inclusive, all-win” trade deal that really promotes Asia-Pacific cooperation, instead of the US-driven, corporate-redacted, and quite divisive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
2) The blueprint is on for “all-round connectivity,” in Xi’s words – which implies Beijing setting up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; Beijing and Moscow committing to a second mega gas deal – this one through the Altai pipeline in Western Siberia; and China already funneling no less than $40 billion to start building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
World leaders take their seats as China's President Xi Jinping (C) prepares to deliver opening remarks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Pablo Martinez Monsiváis)
Once again, everything converges towards the most spectacular, ambitious and wide-ranging pluri-national infrastructure offensive ever attempted: the multiple New Silk Roads – a complex network of high-speed rail, pipelines, ports, fiber optic cables and state of the art telecom that China is already building through the Central Asian -stans, linked to Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Indian Ocean, and branching out to Europe all the way to Venice and Berlin.
That’s Beijing interlinking Xi’s “Asia-Pacific Dream” way beyond East Asia, with eyes set on pan-Eurasia trade – with the center being, what else, the Middle Kingdom.
The “Go West” campaign was officially launched in China in the late 1990s. The New Silk Roads are a turbocharged “Go West” – and “Go South” – expanding markets, markets, markets. Think of near future Eurasia as a massive Chinese Silk Belt – in some latitudes in a condominium with Russia.
You want your war hot or cold?
As Beijing dreams, Noam Chomsky has been very vocal about a 1914-style chain reaction of catastrophic blunders – by the West - that could fast spin out of control; and the stakes, once again, are nuclear. Moscow absolutely abhors this gruesome possibility - and that explains why Russia, under relentless US provocation, as well as sanctions, has exercised titanic restraint. Not only can Russia not be “isolated” as the US attempted with Iran; Moscow also called the US neo-cons’ bluff in Ukraine.
At the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi, President Putin, in a crucial speech (text plus Q&A) obviously ignored by Western corporate media, drew the necessary conclusions. The Washington/Wall Street elites have absolutely no intention of allowing a minimum of multipolarity in international relations. What’s left is chaos. That’s what I’ve been arguing, over different strands, during the Obama administration years, and is at the center of my new book "Empire of Chaos".
Moscow knows all about the complex interlinks with Europe – especially Germany – and with the still fading, but still influential, Washington Consensus. And yet Russia holds the trump card of being a Eurasian power; when in trouble, there could always be a pivoting to Asia.
Gorbachev was spot on in Berlin when he stressed how, breaking the promise personally made to him by Bush the father, NATO embarked on an eternal eastward expansion; and how the West – essentially the US plus a few European vassals – now seems obsessed in launching a new cold war, with the new Berlin Wall – metaphorically – transplanted to Kiev.
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders pose for a family photo at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon)
Moscow pivoting away from the West and towards East Asia is a process developing on many levels – and for months now, for all to see. Acres of forest can be further devastated to print how the outcome has been directly influenced by Barack Obama’s self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine, which he christened aboard Air Force One when coming from a trip to – once again - Asia last April.
On energy, the spin by the Financial Times of yet another Russia-China mega gas deal as “Putin’s revenge” is proverbial rubbish. Russia is turning east because that’s where the top demand is. On finance, Moscow has just ended the pegging of the ruble to the US dollar and euro; the US dollar instantly dropped against the ruble. VTB for its part announced it may leave the London Stock Exchange for Shanghai's – which is about to become directly linked to Hong Kong. And Hong Kong, for its part, is already attracting Russian energy giants.
Now mix these key developments with the massive yuan-ruble energy double deal, and the picture is of Russia actively protecting itself from speculative/politically motivated Western attacks against its currency.
The Russia-China symbiosis/strategic partnership visibly expands on energy, finance and, also inevitably, on the military technology front. That includes, crucially, Moscow selling Beijing the S-400 air defense system and, in the future, the S-500.
The S-500 system can intercept any American ICBMs or cruise missiles, while the Russian ICBMs deployed at Mach 17, equipped with MIRVs, are simply unbeatable. Beijing, for its part, is already developing its own surface-to-ship missiles that can take out everything the US Navy can muster – from aircraft carriers to submarines and mobile air defense systems.
Join the caravan
Strategically, Beijing and Washington could not but be polar opposites in what I called the birth of the Eurasian century.
Beijing has clearly identified Washington/Wall Street fighting to the death to preserve the short unipolar moment. China – and the BRICS – is working towards what Xi defined as a “new model of great power relations.” The Washington/Wall Street mindset is “either/or” instead of “win-win”; the self-appointed Masters of the Universe believe they can always monopolize the loot because Russia – and then China - eventually will back down to avoid confrontation. This is the key aspect of Asia-Pacific today somewhat resembling 1914 Europe.
China's President Xi Jinping delivers opening remarks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Reuters / Pablo Martinez Monsiváis)
With this kind of stuff passing for “analysis” in US academic circles, and with the Washington/Wall Street elites through their myopic Think Tank land still clinging to mythical platitudes such as the “historical” American role as arbiter of modern Asia and key balancer of power, no wonder public opinion in the West cannot even imagine the impact of the New Silk Roads in the geopolitics of the young 21st century.
A quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall the US, for all practical purposes, is run by an oligarchy. Europe is geopolitically irrelevant. “Democracy” has been degraded to self-parody in most of the West. “Humanitarian” – as well as neo-con - imperialism in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and beyond has led to disaster after disaster. Financial turbo-capitalism is a time bomb.
Russia and China may not be proposing an alternative system – yet. Still, as the dogs of war, of hate, of inequality - bark, the China-Russia caravan passes. The caravan is selling Eurasia economic integration – not bombs. Real Asia-Pacific integration may still be a long dream away. Yet what APEC has shown – graphically – once again is the spectacular implosion, in slow motion, of the former indispensable nation’s geopolitical dominance.
Lame duck out of the Silk Road caravan
Russia and China: The Movie
NOV 11, 2014
NEW YORK – The times we live in are often most clearly reflected in the mirror of art. Much has been written about post-communism in Russia and China. But two recent films, Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, made in China in 2013, and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, made in Russia in 2014, reveal the social and political landscapes of these countries more precisely than anything I have seen in print.
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/authoritarian-capitalism-russia-china-by-ian-buruma-2014-11#PDkc1ggwj0pBiqRt.99
Fear and Loathing in America
A variety of recent opinion polls indicate that a significant portion of the American public remains deeply fearful of international terrorism. Many Americans even feel less safe now than they did before the 9/11 attacks.
A CNN poll conducted in September found that 53% of Americans believe that more terrorist attacks on the homeland are likely. Seven out of ten Americans meanwhile believe that Islamic State (ISIS or IS) has operatives in the United States who are planning future attacks.
These deep-seated fears formed part of the backdrop in the recent US midterm elections that swept Democrats from power in the Senate and added to the Republican majority in the House.
America today lives in an age of fear, loathing, and anxiety that might have produced good copy by Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, if he was alive today, but which bespeaks a republic that has lost its confidence as well as its emotional and intellectual moorings.
Yet it’s hard to understand why if we consider our present circumstances. As noted by terrorism expert Peter Bergen at a recent symposium (echoing figures from a variety of sources) 22 Americans have lost their lives in the United States since the 9/11 attacks in violence perpetrated by attackers expressing support for Islamic extremist causes. Of those 22, 13 were killed in a single attack inside a US military base at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009.
The numbers of Americans killed outside their borders due to terrorist attacks is somewhat higher, but still remains small. According to the State Department, 16 Americans lost their lives as a result of terrorism related violence around the world in 2013.
In short, Americans have more to fear from slipping in the shower or falling down the stairs than they do of terrorist-inspired violence. They definitely have more to fear from random handgun-related violence in their neighborhoods, which has lead to nearly 1,000,000 fatalities and injuries since 9/11 in the United States. Yet many people resist even rudimentary steps to control access to guns at home while enthusiastically supporting America’s trigger-happy foreign policy around the world.
How do we explain the incongruence and disconnects between the American public’s perceptions and these realities? Political and military leaders are part of the problem.
Instead of reassuring the public about the threat of terrorism relative to other dangers, political leaders have actively played upon public fears by continually asserting the imminent dangers of new and more dangerous attacks.
One result has been the establishment of the national security surveillance state by the generation of Vietnam War protesters that once took to the streets to protest the overreach of the state in the 1960s and 70s. Even the postal service recently disclosed that it had received 50,000 requests from the government to read people’s mail during 2013 in national-security related surveillance. Not to mention the intercepted phone calls and emails, to say nothing of those who are being watched in other countries. The public has greeted this development with little more than a yawn.
Of course, even as political leaders from both sides of the aisle mercilessly exploit people’s fears, the fact is that they are mirroring general public attitudes and perceptions. The slide of the American public into fear and loathing post-9/11 has paralleled the state’s political descent into anarchy at home. Republican religious zealots and conservative ideologues have brought their version of the Taliban home to the United States, just as our armies sought in vain to drive the group away from major Afghan cities in America’s longest war.
Therein lies the strategic consequences of the 9/11 attacks that went far beyond Osama Bin Laden’s wildest dreams when he and his lieutenants concocted the idea of flying airplanes into buildings. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving to Islamic extremists as America spies on its citizens at home and careens around the world blasting away at real and imagined enemies in a vain attempt to bomb them into submission. Unfortunately, the latest crusader army that has been taking shape since the end of the Bush administration only confirms the extremists’ vision of a Western-led war against Islam.
The atmosphere of fear and loathing at home in the United States will only gather momentum with the Republican-led Congress, and the squeamish, defeatist democrats meekly following along. Republican candidates around the country cloaked their winning message in the fear and loathing parlance for which the party has become known for in the post-9/11 era. And it’s not entirely clear what the Republicans are hoping for any more—other than aiding the wealthiest among us and enhancing fortress America to keep out immigrants.
What does this mean for the Middle East? It means that America’s fruitless bombing campaign will continue for the foreseeable future—a slippery slope of commitment that will inevitably involve additional ground troops in the region. America’s quarter century of war in Iraq isn’t ending any time son.
Another casualty of this campaign may be the failure to reach an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program—if a weakened and chastened Obama administration retreats in the face of the Republican (and Israeli) pressure. Meanwhile, a new intifada in the simmering occupied territories would serve as icing on the proverbial cake of America’s failed endeavors that litter the Middle East like shattered glass.
Hunter S. Thompson would have had a field day in today’s world. His drug-infused delirium, which led to his famous novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was his only release from the madness surrounding him—but what about us? Unfortunately, it’s Osama bin Laden who has so far had the last laugh from his watery grave in this plot—and the joke is on us.
Les doy cordialmente la bienvenida a este Blog informativo con artículos, análisis y comentarios de publicaciones especializadas y especialmente seleccionadas, principalmente sobre temas económicos, financieros y políticos de actualidad, que esperamos y deseamos, sean de su máximo interés, utilidad y conveniencia.
Pensamos que solo comprendiendo cabalmente el presente, es que podemos proyectarnos acertadamente hacia el futuro.
Gonzalo Raffo de Lavalle
Las convicciones son mas peligrosos enemigos de la verdad que las mentiras.
Quien conoce su ignorancia revela la mas profunda sabiduría. Quien ignora su ignorancia vive en la mas profunda ilusión.
“There are decades when nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen.”
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.
No soy alguien que sabe, sino alguien que busca.
Only Gold is money. Everything else is debt.
Las grandes almas tienen voluntades; las débiles tan solo deseos.
Quien no lo ha dado todo no ha dado nada.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.
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