Archive | China

Special Envoy: China Strongly Opposed to Disintegration of Syria

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[Editor’s note: Now that China has publicly stated it’s firm backing of Iran and it’s strong opposition to any notion of  breaking up Syria, the US and it’s ludicrous ‘Assad must go because he is an evil tyrant who murders his own people with poison gas’ lie is looking ever more isolated and out of touch with both the other world powers and reality itself.

I’m sure Trump will have some inane insults to hurl at China in response, his usual childish and incompetent way of dealing with such matters. However, I very much get the feeling that the days of the Chinese giving two hoots what Trump has to say have passed and Premier Xi Jinping won’t be making any trips to Florida to munch on chocolate cake anytime soon.

Ruining the US-China relationship is one of the very few achievements of the Trump presidency and can be seen as a contributory factor to China’s opposition stance in Middle East issues. Further US meddling in Syria can now only worsen US-China relations, something that has potentially serious ramifications for the entire globe. Ian]

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Special Envoy: China Strongly Opposed to Disintegration of Syria

China’s Special Envoy to Syria Xie Xiaoyan underlined that his country’s strong opposition to plans to disintegrate Syria, stressing the need for all states to fight against terrorist groups.

“China is opposed to any form of the disintegration of Syria and we believe that the country’s integrity should be maintained and different countries should fight against terrorists,” Xie said in a meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader’s top aide for international affairs Ali Akbar Velayati in Tehran on Saturday.

Warning that certain countries’ interference can exacerbate the crisis, he said such meddling “has led to the reinvigoration of the terrorists in Syria and the spread of their presence to other areas”.

Xie noted that he plans to discuss bilateral, regional, international and Syrian issues with Iranian officials during his trip, and said, “Iran and China enjoy common positions not only on Syria but also on other regional and international issues.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a meeting with Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao in Bangkok in October underlined the need for Beijing to play a more active and significant role in Syria and Yemen.

During the meeting on the sidelines of the 2nd Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) summit, President Rouhani stressed Iran and China’s common views on different regional and international issues, and said, “China can play an important role in restoring peace and stability in the region, specially humanitarian aid to the oppressed regional people, including in Yemen and Syria.”

Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the turmoil in Syria has brought a lot of suffering to its people and grave challenges to regional and world peace.

“China’s position on the Syrian issue has been consistent,” Xi said, adding that “Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be protected and respected, and its future decided by its own people.”

“A political solution offers the only way out,” the Chinese president underlined.

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Multi-polar World Arrives: Russia, China Face Down US Bully

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By Finian CUNNINGHAM 

The United States’ hegemonic dominance in the world is heading to the exits. The decline in US uni-polar power has been underway for several years, in line with the emergence of a multi-polar world. This week, Russia and China showed important resolve to face down American bully tactics over North Korea. The confrontation suggests a turning point in the transition from American world dominance to a multi-polar one.

US President Donald Trump reiterated the possibility of military attack on North Korea while in Poland this week. This was also while Washington was hectoring China and Russia to join in a tougher response to North Korea over its ballistic missile launch days before – the former two nations themselves having recently been sanctioned anew by the US. Talk about American audacity and double think.

However, the crass arrogance shown by the US seems to have hit a new limit of tolerance in Moscow and Beijing. Both are beginning to demonstrate a loss of patience with the bumptious, insufferable Americans.

Reacting to North Korea’s breakthrough ballistic missile launch, Washington deployed its typical conceit, casually threatening to carry out a «retaliatory» military strike. Trump said he was considering «severe» options over Pyongyang’s «very, very dangerous behavior».

But Russia and China’s stance this time to the Americans had significantly stiffened. Both explicitly warned the US against taking military action against North Korea.

Moreover, Russia and China said that they would oppose Washington imposing further sanctions on the government of Kim Jong-un. The latter has already been subjected to six rounds of US-led sanctions.

In short, the American bully is finding that it is no longer able to dictate its unilateral way.

Addressing an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, the Russian and Chinese ambassadors rejected the shrill American call for «global action to a global threat». Russian envoy Vladimir Safronkov stood firmly with his Chinese counterpart, saying that threatened American military action was simply not an option, and that a different policy was needed from the failed American one of slapping ever-more sanctions on North Korea.

One can imagine the exasperation felt within Washington of being bluntly told «no» to its invariable, self-anointed belligerence.

The alternative route being proposed by Russia and China was the «radical» one – radical from the American point of view – of diplomacy. It has perhaps taken the Russians and Chinese overdue time to reach this point. But what is remarkably apparent now is that they are asserting themselves against the US with increased confidence. And what they are asserting in this case is an eminently reasonable solution to the Korean crisis. They are calling for a freeze on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program in conjunction with the US freezing its constant military exercises on the peninsula, as well as withdrawing its anti-missile THAAD system. The next step is to then hold multilateral negotiations for a comprehensive peaceful settlement, without preconditions.

Such an eminently reasonable approach is anathema to the Americans. Because it negates their unilateral arrogance and self-righteousness to dictate terms.

This is a significant development, one that portends a new determination by Russia and China to confront the American bully head-on. For too long, Washington has gotten away with outrageous aggression, lawlessness, hypocrisy and absurd hubris, not just over Korea but on countless other international issues. On the world stage it behaves like a schoolyard bully, or perhaps more accurately that should be a street thug. Going around beating up other people, usually the weak, as it likes. Then when Washington feels particularly affronted about some perceived slight, it invokes international law and righteousness.

This week, what we saw over the North Korea missile launch and the typical American over-reaction was Russia and China saying to Washington: your days of self-licensing aggression and abusing international law are over; your American uni-polar hegemony is redundant.

Welcome to the multi-polar world forged largely by Russia and China where all nations must abide by international norms and law, principally the paramount pursuit of diplomacy.

Oh the shock to American arrogance to receive such a rude awakening.

The lawlessness of American «exceptionalism» is a theme that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been constantly hammering over the past decade. But it seems now that Russia and China are strong enough politically, economically and militarily to begin asserting and acting on the conviction that the days of American arrogance and lawlessness are indeed over. It is no coincidence that the firm Russian-Chinese opposition to American aggression over North Korea came at the same time that Putin was hosting his counterpart President Xi Jinping in Moscow, where both leaders hailed an even deeper Sino-Russian strategic alliance.

Moscow and Beijing censured North Korea over its 11th missile launch so far this year. They said it violated UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang since it first exploded a nuclear warhead in 2006. Still, they sought to put a proper perspective on the event, rather than reflexively demonizing North Korea as the Americans never cease to do.

The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched this week by North Korea was not armed with a warhead but Pyongyang said it now has the capability to do so and to strike anywhere on the globe. The trajectory of the ICBM indicates that North Korea could now hit the US state of Alaska. That heralds a major breakthrough in North Korea’s military capability. Earlier this year, President Trump claimed that North Korea would never be allowed to reach that point. Well, it just did this week.

Nevertheless, Russia and China realize that the Korean crisis is a complex issue, not the simplistic narrative put out by Washington about a «rogue regime» threatening world peace. Moscow and Beijing are well aware that Washington is very much part of the problem, with its relentless military exercises and provocative threats to North Korea’s sovereignty.

Russia and China understand that the only reasonable solution is not reckless escalation, but a negotiated engagement by all sides, including North Korea, South Korea, the US, Japan, China and Russia. Past multilateral negotiations have come unstuck largely because of Washington’s high-handed imperious attitude. Winding down conflict on the Korean Peninsula necessitates the winding down of military forces by all sides, and a primary responsibility for that lies with the US, the external protagonist in the region.

As the Russia-China strategic alliance grows ever stronger heralding a «post-West» world order, as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov put it, one which was dominated by American capitalism, the US petrodollar and its military machine, it seems unmistakable that both Russia and China have reached a practical limit of tolerance to Washington’s lawless arrogance.

In recent weeks, Washington has slapped more sanctions on both Russia and China, conducted provocative military incursions into their territorial domains, and continued to disparage them with media distortions. Washington possesses thousands of ICBMs, test-fires them all the time, and installs missile systems around Russian and Chinese territory. Washington has waged or covertly sponsored criminal wars across the Middle East over the past two decades, resulting in millions of innocent deaths and spawning of terror groups.

North Korea has attacked no-one, has an arsenal of perhaps 10 nuclear weapons and conducts its missile tests far from any of its neighbor’s territory.

Yet the lawless, mass-murdering Americans – the only nation to have actually dropped nuclear weapons on civilian populations – have the audacity to declare North Korea a threat to world peace and insist on the «right» to preemptively attack Pyongyang. And if Russia and China do not acquiesce to this American demand then Washington threatens to increase more sanctions on them.

The American bully is patently beyond itself from its own megalomanic despotism. But the big, crucial difference now is that Russia and China are moving to finally put this bully in its place. The multi-polar world has arrived. And the only «radical» thing that Russia and China are insisting on is that the US behaves like everyone else and abides by international law. That basic requirement is an indication of how lawless the Americans are.

Addressing bused-in supporters in Poland’s Warsaw Square this week, Trump declared with bravado that «the West [that is, the US] will never back down».

Well, we’ll see about that. As noted, the multi-polar world has arrived and America is being compelled to back down by an ascendant Russia and China who also happen to have world opinion on their side.

Posted in USA, China, RussiaComments Off on Multi-polar World Arrives: Russia, China Face Down US Bully

US rejects Russo-Chinese proposal to suspend drills in South Korea

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The US rejects a proposal by Russia and China to suspend joint drills with South Korea in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear weapons programs, the State Department said, adding that Washington does not see the activities as equivalent.

US drills with South Korea are not the same as North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday.

“These are all things that have taken place since the 1950s. So that wouldn’t change,” Nauert said, describing the drills as lawful and longstanding.

“We do these kinds of exercises and have relationships like this all over the globe. If China and Russia decide to come out against that, that is not going to change our position,” she added.

Moscow and Beijing have called on Washington and Seoul to freeze large-scale military exercises in an attempt to calm tensions on the Korean peninsula after Pyongyang test-fired a missile it said could reach the US mainland.

The US diplomatic offensive to pressure and isolate North Korea is still in its early stages, according to the State Department spokeswoman.

“We continue to believe that China can do a whole lot more to try to bring additional pressure to North Korea,” Nauert said, adding that China has “unique leverage” with Pyongyang because of the “strong trade relationship” between two countries.

One of the measures the US has proposed to other countries is to drastically scale back the number of North Korean guest-workers, Nauert said.

She also referenced last week’s decision by the US Treasury Department to sanction a Chinese bank that did business with Pyongyang, although she declined to say whether more such sanctions were in the works.

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China warns against escalation of tensions over North Korea

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China has warned against any rhetoric and action that could further escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, two days after Pyongyang test-fired its first ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“We also call on relevant parties to stay calm, exercise restraint, refrain from words and deeds that may heighten tensions, and jointly make effort for the easing of tensions,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a press conference on Thursday.

North Korea announced on Tuesday that it had successfully tested the ICBM, with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un calling it a gift to the United States on July 4, America’s Independence Day.

Shuang’s comments came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly condemned the launch and described it as a new escalation of the “threat” to Washington, its allies, the region, and the whole world.

On Wednesday, US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley also told the UN Security Council that her country was prepared to exert force if needed to deal with the perceived threat posed by North Korea and singled out China as key to any diplomatic solution.

Meanwhile, Russia accused the US of attempting to negatively affect Moscow’s relations with Pyongyang by leveling false allegations about the purported abuse of North Korean migrant workers in the Russian Federation.

“These allegations are unfounded. They fabricate and publish this nonsense… and then we stand and feel like justifying ourselves after this fake news,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, in a press conference in the Russian capital.

She added that North Korean migrant laborers work in Russia according to an entirely legal 2007 intergovernmental agreement. She also said that the agreement was not in violation of any UN Security Council resolutions regarding Pyongyang.

Unsettled by North Korean missile and nuclear programs, the US has adopted a war-like posture against Pyongyang. The US recently deployed an advanced missile system on South Korean soil to counter potential threats from the North, angering Pyongyang.

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US and South Korea launch missiles in defiance of Russia and China

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By Adam Garrie | The Duran 

Hours after Russia and China both stated that it is the objective of both countries to freeze the North Korean nuclear programme and also to freeze joint military drills between South Korea and the United States, the United States and South Korea did the complete opposite of the wishes of two of the three world super-powers and the only countries which neighbour the Korean peninsula.

The US and South Korea have just launched several surface-to-air missiles from South Korean territory which landed in international waters.

US force in Korea issued the following statement about the launches,

“Eighth US Army and Republic of Korea (ROK) military personnel conducted a combined event exercising assets countering North Korea’s destabilising and unlawful actions on July 4.

This exercise utilised the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Republic of Korea Hyunmoo Missile II, which fired missiles into territorial waters of South Korea along the East Coast”.

The move by the US and South Korea could put a strain on Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin later this week. While the show of force by the US and South Korea ultimately will not change the political dynamic on the Korean Peninsula, it does demonstrate a grave insult to both Russia and China.

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ISIS “Coincidentally” Appears Along China’s One Belt, One Road

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Two Chinese teachers based in Pakistan’s southwest province of Baluchistan were reportedly abducted and murdered by militants from the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS).

CNN, in an article titled,‘Grave concern’ over Chinese teachers reportedly killed by ISIS in Pakistan,” would attempt to portray the act of terrorism as a random strike aimed at China’s expanding economic activity abroad.

In reality, the terror attack was very precise in terms of location and purpose, and fits into a larger pattern of violence and political instability that has plagued Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and China’s ambitions there for years.

US Using Proxies to Disrupt China-Pakistan Economic Corridor 

Baluchistan, and more specifically, the port city of Gwadar, serve as the central nexus of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is a complex and expanding system of rail, roads, ports, and other infrastructure projects built jointly with the Pakistani government to facilitate regional economic growth – and an integral component of the much larger One Belt, One Road initiative.

Disrupting China’s economic lifelines to the rest of the world is an open objective of US policymakers. A paper published in 2006 by the Strategic Studies Institute titled,String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power across the Asian Littoral. identified Gwadar by name as one of several components of China’s “String of Pearls.”

The report states explicitly in regards to a possible “hard approach” toward Beijing that:

There are no guarantees that China will respond favorably to any U.S. strategy, and prudence may suggest to “prepare for the worst” and that it is “better to be safe than sorry.” Is it perhaps better to take a hard line towards China and contain it while it is still relatively weak? Is now the time to keep China down before she can make a bid for regional hegemony? Foreign policy realists, citing history and political theory, argue that inevitably China will challenge American primacy and that it is a question of “when” and not “if” the U.S.-China relationship will become adversarial or worse.

What better way to contain China’s regional ambitions than to mire economic development in places like Baluchistan with armed militancy, or obstruct it altogether with a US-backed independence movement in the province?

US policymakers have noted just that. In a 2012 paper published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace titled, Pakistan: The Resurgence of Baluch Nationalism” (PDF), it would be stated unequivocally that (emphasis added):

If Baluchistan were to become independent, would Pakistan be able to withstand another dismemberment—thirty-four years have passed since the secession of Bangladesh—and what effect would that have on regional stability? Pakistan would lose a major part of its natural resources and would become more dependent on the Middle East for its energy supplies. Although Baluchistan’s resources are currently underexploited and benefit only the non-Baluch provinces, especially Punjab, these resources could undoubtedly contribute to the development of an independent Baluchistan. 

Baluchistan’s independence would also dash Islamabad’s hopes for the Gwadar port and other related projects. Any chance that Pakistan would become more attractive to the rest of the world would be lost.

Not only would it be Pakistan’s loss regarding the Gwadar port, it would be China’s loss as well.

And while the paper attempts to claim the US stands nothing to gain from Baluchistan’s independence, the US State Department has spent years and an untold sum of money and resources supporting just such an independence movement. Additionally, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace itself hosted an event by the “Baloch Society of North America,” advocating US intervention in the province toward achieving “independence.”

The US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Open Society via “Global Voices” funds a long list of organizations in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province advocating everything from autonomy to outright independence. This includes the Association for Integrated Development Balochistan (AID Balochistan), The Balochistan Point, and the Balochistan Institute for Development.

The US NED-funded Institute for Development Studies & Practices’s (IDSP) president regularly uses social media like Twitter to make and support statements calling for Baluchistan’s independence and depicting the province as a “colony” of Pakistan. So do virtually all other members of the above mentioned organizations funded by the US government.

The long list of US-funded Baluchistan-based organizations regularly link to op-eds and propaganda depicting violence in the province as one-sided and perpetuated by Pakistani forces alone – echoing the same sort of intentionally skewed public relations campaigns supporters of US-backed violence in Syria have undertaken since 2011.

And just like in Syria, the violence being spun, excused, or glossed over directly meshes with US interests – in this case – impeding Chinese-Pakistani cooperation in Baluchistan and beyond.

Violence in Baluchistan Benefits US Proxy War with Iran Also 

That the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for this latest attack, following in the wake of a larger attack on Tehran, Iran, is particularly significant. It was US policymakers who, in a 2009 Brookings Institution policy paper titled,Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran,” would mention Baluchistan and Baluchi separatists by name as possible conduits, safe havens, and proxies for conducting armed conflict against Iran.

Creating violence in Baluchistan, Pakistan thus serves to not only mire Chinese ambitions across Asia, it assists Washington’s long-standing objective to encircle Iran with hostile state and non-state actors ahead of eventual regime change operations against Tehran.

Previously, the United States has attempted to use a variety of local groups to foment political instability and violence. Now it appears that all of its geopolitical mischief is being lumped under the catch-all, the “Islamic State.” In reality, the militants who kidnapped and murdered the two Chinese teachers in Baluchistan, Pakistan, were likely local militants the US has been backing for years, and whose role in destabilizing Pakistan is increasingly understood by local and global audiences.

Assigning blame to the Islamic State appears to be a means of disassociating America from the violence it is intentionally fueling across the region.

The Islamic State “coincidentally” appearing in virtually every geopolitical theater on Earth US interests are impeded or challenged by local and regional interests helps explain why not only the Islamic State exists in the first place, but explains how it has managed to survive and continue to thrive despite multinational efforts by nations like Russia, Syria, and Iran to defeat it.

Through state sponsorship, the Islamic State’s source of logistical, political, and military power ultimately lies in Washington, London, Brussels, Ankara, Riyadh, and Doha – where Russian-Syrian-Iranian military and political power cannot reach.

For those wondering where the Islamic State will strike next, one needs only to look at a  world map and identify where else US interests are being impeded by an increasingly multipolar world unwilling to yield to Wall Street and Washington’s corporate-financier monopolies. As illustrated in this recent and abhorrent attack in Baluchistan, Pakistan, important points along China’s One Belt, One Road project would be important places to look out for.

By targeting teachers, such terrorism seeks to incite fear across the very workers who are part of implementing this ambitious regional economic plan. It is a motive that resides far above the crude ideological motivations generally assigned to the Islamic State, and instead resembles well thought-out – if not sinister – geostrategic planning.

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China may finance Russia’s natural gas pipeline to Europe

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Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline may get Chinese financing if European companies are forced out of the project by the latest round of US sanctions, business daily Vedomosti reports.

Russian officials have already contacted Chinese banks, sources have told the media.

“Nord Stream 2 has a good rate of return and low risks for creditors. Chinese banks may be interested,” explains Aleksey Grivach, deputy CEO at Russia’s National Energy Security Fund.

The extension will double the existing pipeline which delivers natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea and is estimated to cost €9.5 billion.

Initially, Engie, OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall were to get a 50 percent stake minus one share in Nord Stream 2. However, red tape at the European Commission made Gazprom and its partners come up with another financing option. Under this plan, European companies will each provide an equal long-term loan to Gazprom, which will fully own the pipeline.

Financing of Nord Stream 2 may be affected by new US sanctions which target firms investing in Russian gas and oil projects. According to the new bill passed by the US Senate, and currently, before the House of Representatives, companies will be forbidden from making investments of over $1 million in the Russian energy sector.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, Ben van Beurden. Among other things, they discussed Nord Stream 2. Van Beurden told Interfax the new project “will be realized for the benefit of all parties – both Europeans and the Russian Federation.”

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As Tensions with US Mount, Germany Reaffirms “Strategic Partnership” with China

Under conditions of mounting tensions with the United States, Germany is expanding its already close political and economic ties with China.

At a joint press conference in Berlin with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that in the period since China initiated diplomatic relations with Germany 45 years ago, the country has “become an increasingly important and now strategic partner.” This applies to “the entire spectrum” of relations, “of a political as well as economic nature … but also with regard to the cooperation on cultural and social issues.”

“At times of global instability,” Merkel said, both countries feel they “have a responsibility to expand our partnership in these diverse areas and intervene in favour of a rules-based global order.”

She was “happy” that there was “during this year a very intensive exchange.” Another visit is planned by Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of the G20 summit in early July in Hamburg.

Trading relations had been “an important subject” in the talks, Merkel continued. It had been

“agreed that trading nations like Germany and China should cooperate and issue a clear recognition of free trade,” declared Merkel, in what was a barely concealed swipe at US President Donald Trump.

At the G7 summit last week, Trump repeated his criticism of Germany’s trade surplus and threatened to adopt counter-measures.

Germany’s political and economic relations with China are already more developed than with any other country outside of the European Union (EU). Regular government consultations have been taking place between the two countries since 2011.

“China was our most important trading partner in 2016, with a bilateral trade volume of €170 billion. These are already very impressive figures,” Merkel said.

Merkel and Li had “discussed that we want to expand these developments, which have been positive for both sides.”

The two countries signed 11 agreements and declarations of intent, according to the German government’s web site, including on cooperation in air travel technology, electronic mobility and recycling technology, and in the area of artificial intelligence. Partners on the German side included industrial giants like Airbus, Daimler, VW and Bosch, as well as mid-sized businesses and research institutes.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang shake hands - behind them a bank of photographers with cameras.

Prime Minister Li Keqiang was in Berlin for talks with the Chancellor (Source: Bundesregierung/Denzel)

Deutsche Bank signed a five-year cooperation agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) on Tuesday. Both banks committed in the agreement to finance projects on the “New Silk Road,” up to a cost of $3 billion. With its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, the Chinese government hopes to revive the trade route of the Middle Ages with massive investments in infrastructure in order to connect China’s major economic centres with Europe and Africa.

Germany and China also intend to cooperate more closely in the future on climate protection measures.

China will “continue to adhere to its promises within the framework of the Paris Agreement on climate change,” Li announced in Berlin, only a few hours before Donald Trump declared the US was exiting the deal in Washington.

The picture of Merkel and Li jointly reaffirming their commitment to the Paris Agreement took on a symbolic character under such conditions and was circulated widely around the world.

It is expected that during his visit to Brussels today, Li will sign a joint agreement with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk on wide-ranging cooperation to combat climate change.

Cooperation between Germany and China on security policy matters is relatively new. With regard to North Korea,

they “shared the conviction that North Korea could pose a danger to world peace,” Merkel said.

At the same time, they were “committed to a negotiated solution that is very, very urgent.” Germany declared its readiness “to be able to contribute to such a solution.”

Li also noted that they “want to cooperate more closely on other security policy matters.” Among other things, Germany and China want to “provide assistance to Afghanistan to rebuild its society and economy, and help them to increase their security capabilities so that the population can live there in peace.” The two countries would consult closely on “other international issues,” including “the Iranian nuclear dossier and the Istanbul process.”

Cooperation is also developing in the military sphere. German soldiers took part in joint exercises with troops from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for the first time on Chinese territory during the 2016 “Combined Aid 2016” aid exercise. It was the first joint exercise between the PLA and any European army. Armed forces from both countries are already working side by side in Africa in UN missions, such as Minusma in Mali.

The deepening cooperation between Berlin and Beijing in a number of important policy areas is directly bound up with fraying Transatlantic relations, which have been a cornerstone of German foreign policy since the founding of the Federal Republic 70 years ago. Following last week’s NATO and G7 summits, Merkel called the alliance with the US into question during a speech in a Munich beer tent on Sunday, and declared that Germany would now take its “fate” into its own hands.

Although neither Merkel nor Li referred to the US or Trump by name during the press conference, German-Chinese cooperation is increasingly directed against the policies of the US, which is turning to economic protectionism and preparing for a military confrontation with Iran and North Korea. Such conflicts would not only be targeted at China, but also the geopolitical and economic interests being pursued by German imperialism in Asia.

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China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative: “A New Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe”

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On Sunday May 14, China’s President Xi Jinping will inaugurate the One Belt One Road summit, the object of which is to to build a “new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe”, largely focussing on infrastructure investment. Global Research brings to the attention of its readers this carefully researched review by political scientist Zhao Bingxing

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The debate on China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR, also referred to as “Belt and Road”) initiative seems gradually cooled down in the last year and one plausible reason was the relatively slow and limited progress it made. But recent news released by Chinese government reheated it: The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing in the middle of this May and 28 heads of state and government leaders [including North Korea] have confirmed their attendance.

For international observers, at least two factors make this forthcoming meeting eye-catching. On the one hand, it may tell whether China can convince other countries it is capable of playing a leading role in promoting global free trade by implementing OBOR when the U.S. turns to isolationism and protectionism.

On the other hand, three and a half years have passed since this initiative was announced and a mid-term review is required, which should preferably in a summit or high-level forum, rather than by a one-sided progress report, and the conclusion of this review will be a focus. To make judgment on either of the issues, the analysis of the motive, rationale of OBOR are necessary but still not enough. We need to examine how successful this initiative was implemented in those relevant countries so far and what impact OBOR will bring to them. Considering the different national power, developing level, economic institution of these countries, and even their complicated relations with China, an unified or too generalized view without studying of each country should be avoided.

In this article, four countries in the OBOR scope, i.e. Russia, Uzbekistan, Malaysia and Germany are selected to do case studies and it shows that OBOR, though based on  positive principles, which focus on enhancing connectivity, facilitating trade and improving infrastructure, may not bring equal benefit to the relevant countries along this route and its impact on these countries differs significantly from one to another. In the meantime, the response of these countries also differs, which is closely relates to their economic, geopolitical and ideological consideration.

Russia

According to Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (hereafter referred to as Vision and Actions), the official guiding document of OBOR, one of the three routes of the “Belt” passes Russia and two passes Central Asia, whereby Russia considers it to be a part of its historical economic and regional interests.[1][2] Hence, Russia can be viewed as a key to the success of OBOR. In a sense, the construction of the “Belt” will face more challenges if it lacks Russia’s cooperation, or at least consent.

A recent official remark in respect to bilateral relations between Russia and China seems quite optimistic. On Jan 17 and 18, 2017, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and a Chinese spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs respectively stated that Sino-Russian relations were “at their best level ever in the two countries’ history”.[3] Both of them also mentioned OBOR as a part of Sino-Russian cooperation.[4] Though China has consistently been seeking support and cooperation with Russia (and all the other countries along OBOR as well), it is important to note, however, that Russia’s position was not consistent and underwent an obvious shift.

Related image

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Initially the Kremlin didn’t give the OBOR initiative positive feedback and it didn’t show enthusiasm for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the first place, either, which reflected a dominant view of Russian elites that these would lead to a mutual distrust between the two countries.[5]

Russia’s concern about losing freight traffic was one reason for its unwillingness because the original route based on Chinese planning was to bypass Russia.[6] More importantly, it worried that the closer economic ties between China and the Central Asian countries would compete with Russia’s own integration plans for this region, which may further make the Central Asian countries drift away from Russia and embrace China.[7] But President Putin soon changed his position when China acknowledged Russia’s concerns and agreed to make some concessions to accommodate Russia’s needs, followed by the Russia’s endorsement of OBOR and its joint declaration with China on coordinating and linking OBOR to Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in the middle of 2015.[8]

In fact, China did show considerable willingness and flexibility to cooperating and this was exemplified by China’s “creation” of an economic corridor with Russia and Mongolia, which would connect the “Belt” to Russia’s transcontinental railroad plan which was not in the initial plan of the OBOR.[9] Besides, China’s “Three Nos” principle in Central Asia, i.e. no interference with Central Asian countries’ internal affairs; no attempt to seek a dominant role in regional affairs; and no desire to create a sphere of influence, being a policy for dealing with its relations with Central Asian countries, to some extent eased Russia’s concern about China’s involvement in this region, because such showed that China had no intention of changing the status quo (Russia’s dominant influence) even though China didn’t formally acknowledge Central Asia as Russia’s backyard.[10] So far the concessions China made with regards to Russia are probably the most significant ones made during the promotion of OBOR because no other country alone constituted a reason for China to change the route.

Russia’s consideration is also based on the fact that some benefits, including infrastructure construction and cooperation on industrial capacity with China are not a priority and the only significant and substantial benefit to be incurred may be the receipt of funding from China. Rather, apart from the competing interest in Central Asia, some cooperation models as used in other countries such as contracting a construction project and dispatching thousands of Chinese workers there would hardly be acceptable for Russia due to its vigilance on the issue of Chinese migrants, especially in Far East region.

However, there are some reasons that Russia eventually decided to support this initiative. First, there is some tangible benefit that Russia can expect, though it doesn’t seem so imperative for Russia to seek out for the time being. In addition to being another channel for funding of infrastructure, OBOR, after an adjustment to its route as per Russia’s requirements, both in the plan and in practice, has brought some benefits to Russia.

Since Russia’s transcontinental rail was connected to OBOR and China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor started to build, freight volume rocketed up in the railway routes from China to Russia, and to Europe via Russia, both of which used Russia’s transcontinental railroad, such as Chongqing-Inner Mongolia-Russia (Yu-Meng-E) and Hunan-Inner Mongolia-Europe (Xiang-Meng-Ou), which had positive effects for both China and Russia.[11]

Second, EEU is currently Russia’s priority. Though initially OBOR was viewed more as a rival, China’s clarification and commitment on connecting the two projects eased Russia’s concerns to a large extent. As a concrete step, a document was signed in the middle of 2016 in which the two governments decided to formally start negotiations on an economic partnership, mainly focusing on trade facilitation, merging different standards on intellectual property, customs, and other areas.[12] Third, it might not be wise nor feasible for Russia to contain China’s influence in Central Asia, or larger scope by boycotting this initiative.

For one thing, though the influence of Russia, the “elder brother” in Eurasia is still dominant, which is determined by its close political, economic, cultural, language and even people-to-people ties with the five republics in this region, the latter have long been seeking reducing their overdependence on Russia and striking a balance among big powers. Of course, Russia and China are the most important two in the region. In the past decade, China’s influence in the field of economics in this region grew very quickly and as such China has been able to compete with Russia, if not surpass it.

In 2015, all Central Asian countries have a larger share of their two-way trade with China than with Russia except for China’s exports to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and imports from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.[13] Besides, the build-up of mutual trust and cooperation in other areas such as that of anti-terrorism also increased China’s influence and say in this region. These facts make it very difficult for Russia to sway these countries by one-sided action. It is even interesting that Kazakhstan, where Xi Jinping first announced the “One Belt” initiative, is exactly the country which has the closest relations with Russia in Central Asia. For the other, OBOR is basically based on the actual needs of both China and many other countries. Also, China has enough political will and financial resources to push forward with. These factors mean that it can still proceed even if the support from some of the local big powers is absent.

Image result for silk road economic belt

In addition, it is necessary to examine Russia’s position beyond the calculation of the benefit or loss of OBOR per se and put it in a broader context. After the annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian territory in March, 2014, the West imposed the harshest sanctions since the Cold War was over against Russia and this was a heavy, though not devastating blow to Russia, both in politics and in economy.

Data showed that Russia entered into a recession, with GDP growth of -2.2% for the first quarter of 2015, as compared to the first quarter of 2014, which was regarded as a success of Western sanctions in terms of the proximate goal of inflicting damage on the Russian economy.[14] Under this great pressure, it is no surprise that the Kremlin turned to the East and sought cooperation opportunities from China. Though China didn’t support Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and basically held a neutral position, it did have a great deal of interest in strengthening bilateral cooperation with Russia in economic, military and other areas because China also faced pressure from the West and needed political support from Russia. Admittedly, joining OBOR cannot bring enough benefits to Russia to offset its losses from the sanctions, nor can the closer relations with China.

However, a positive attitude to OBOR is vital for Russia if it hopes to get more financial support from China, whether under the OBOR initiative or other bilateral projects. It is hard to image that the $400 billion USD gas deal between the two countries, which was signed shortly after Russia annexed the Crimea and other cooperation projects can be implemented smoothly if Russia eventually declines this initiative that China attaches the most importance to.

On the whole, the benefit of OBOR seems more symbolic than substantial for Russia and thus Russia still sticks to the EEU project, which can help to bolster its economic and political dominance in Eurasia. This has been evidenced by the wording used when Lavrov mentioned that the Russia-China relations were at the best of all time this January. He emphasized “aligning” the two projects, instead of “joining” OBOR. Nevertheless, Russia still cannot neglect OBOR because the latter is closely related to China, who is able to provide key support to Russia. This support was vital to Russia when it suffered from the sanctions from the West and is expected to continue to play an important role in the near future because the relations between Russia and the West have been in a stalemate and chances of lifting the sanctions look very slim in the near future.

Uzbekistan

It is not a coincidence that Xi chose Central Asia to announced the “One Belt” initiative first. One plausible explanation for such is that this is the region where the ancient Silk Road first passed by when it left West China, but the underlying reason may be that the five republics of Central Asia are the countries who best match the ideas of OBOR and support it most as well. Since they gained independence twenty-five years ago, these landlocked countries had to face a common challenge, i.e. how to develop their economies in the Post-Soviet time?

Although Putin showed a strong desire to play an even bigger role in this region, Russia’s capabilities alone are not enough to ensure the prosperity of these counties. More importantly, such support is not without a price—overreliance on one big power will risk their independence. The rise of China provided an alternative to these countries which enabled them to choose partners from a wider range and benefit from both. OBOR is attractive to Central Asian countries because the focuses of this initiative, such as promoting connectivity, facilitating trade and investment, and improving infrastructure are all imperative to them. In this section, Uzbekistan is selected as an example, which can be a representative of the other four countries.
In May 2014, one year before the Vision and Actions was released, the then Uzbek President Karimov stated that Uzbekistan would actively participate in the building of the Silk Road economic belt when he met with Chinese President Xi.[15] In June 2015 China and Uzbekistan agreed to expand trade and economic cooperation under the framework of the “Belt initiatives”.[16] In June 2016, Karimov and Xi agreed to focus on jointly promoting this initiative.[17] All of which clearly shows Uzbekistan’s positive attitude to OBOR.

Image result for karimov jinping

Uzbek President Karimov and Chinese President Xi Jinping

The main areas of cooperation under the OBOR framework include economic and trade cooperation, gas pipeline, railway tunnel construction, people-to-people exchange, etc. and much progress has been witnessed since a series of pacts were signed.[18] For example, the Qamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan, which is a part of the Angren-Pap railway line that connects Tashkent and Namangan, was completed on June 22, 2016 as a major achievement of OBOR.[19]

There is also some uncertainty about the implementation of OBOR in this country, which not only comes from the death of Karimov in last September, but also comes from local Uzbekistanis’ insufficient knowledge and recognition of OBOR, and too even China’s overall model of economic development.[20] In spite of this, cooperation related to OBOR still seems to be on track and there is no sign that it has been set aside by Uzbekistan.

Admittedly, the five republics in Central Asia differ from each other in terms of levels of democracy, natural resources, economic development levels, even in terms of domestic tensions or conflicts. Nevertheless, their common feature in geographic location cannot be overlooked. Being landlocked states, their trade connectivity with the rest of the world is limited, but they are also the overland juncture between East Asia and Europe, which gives them the potential to become a transportation hub that can connect the East and the West.[21] OBOR looks like a perfect solution to this situation.

If properly managed, it can better the connectivity within their individual country and that with other countries, which will bring triple benefits to them. First benefit is in meeting their local needs. Second is in facilitating their own export and import, and the third is to make profit by providing transshipment services. Also, appealing to Central Asian countries is China’s “no intervention in domestic politics”, “business-is-business” and economic oriented approach. When compared to Russia or other powers, China “is more inclined to perceive the local situation in terms of a sophisticated win-win scenario rather than in terms of aspirations of geopolitical dominance in the region” and such this policy has been approved to be successful.[22]

Overall, OBOR is beneficial to Uzbekistan and joining this initiative can be a reasonable choice. In fact, Uzbekistan can be a typical case with regards to OBOR from two different angles. One is that it represents the other four Central Asian countries which have similar geographic advantages as well as disadvantages and economic status quo. The other is that it can represent many medium or small developing states which have little direct conflicting interest with China in terms of geopolitics and thus can focus more on the economic cooperation they are mutually interested in. Basically, it is not difficult for them to find some areas in which they can cooperate with China on and benefit from them together.

Malaysia

Being an important part of 21st century Maritime Silk Road, or “One Road”, the other half of the OBOR, Malaysia, has its significance in two aspects. First, it is sitting on a strategic spot, in that Kuala Lumpur is quite close to the Malacca Strait, the second busiest waterway in the world. Trade statistics show that almost half of the world’s total annual seaborne cargo passed through this passage, which is jointly administered by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.[23] Second, Malaysia is now China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN and the third largest in Asia and its policy option can be used as reference for some other countries.[24] In addition, Malaysia is able to help China expand markets in other ASEAN and neighboring countries.[25] All these factors together make Malaysia’s position key to the prospects of “One Road”.

In fact, Malaysia is perhaps the most active country regarding the OBOR in ASEAN, or Southeast Asia. In October 2014, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak voiced his country’s readiness to support both OBOR and AIIB when meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi.[26] In addition, many other high-ranking governmental officials also echoed Najib’s position on OBOR. For example, Liow Tiong Lai, the Minister of Transport of Malaysia reiterated that the OBOR was a win-win project and indicated that Malaysia was ready for that in his speech at the Boao Forum for Asia in June 2015.[27]

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Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Several key areas and projects have been highlighted by both Malaysia and China under the umbrella of OBOR, including infrastructure, transportation, energy, property and even education and some progress have been made on each to date. For example, 60% of the equity of the 1MDB-owned Bandar Malaysia project in Kuala Lumpur was sold to a consortium led by a Malaysian company and China Railway Engineering Corp (CREC, a stated owned Chinese company) at RM7.41 billion in early 2016.[28] In November of the year, following an official visit to China by Najib, Malaysian and Chinese companies saw the signing of fourteen agreements on several iconic and mega agreements worth RM144 billion.[29] Another eye-catching project which China hopes to incorporate into OBOR is the High Speed Rail (HSR) connecting Malaysia and Singapore. Though the final result of HSR bidding will not be available until 2018, it is a general consensus that a Chinese-led consortium is one of the two most promising competitors (the other is Japanese-led consortium) because of its successful precedent as set in Indonesia.

There are several reasons that can explain the positive attitude of both government and business sectors. First, Malaysia has basically maintained friendly relations with China over the past few decades. In fact, Malaysia was the first country in Southeast Asia to build formal ties with China in 1974.[30] Such good relations are also based on the fact that there was little strategic conflict between the two countries after 1980s whereas there was also a frequent people-to-people exchange that occurred because of the large Chinese ethnic population present in Malaysia. It should be noted that territory disputes between the two countries do exist, which is about the waterways in the South China Sea. However, both Malaysia and China seem to be restrained about such and downplay this dispute, which is unlike the situation between the Philippines and China in the last several years. As a result, this dispute didn’t impede the bilateral relations. Second, both Malaysia and China have benefited a lot from previous economic cooperation and thus there is a strong driving force for them to maintain such development. A closer look at the bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries shows that two-way investment and trade involves different sectors, from manufacturing to construction, and different regions in these two countries, which reflects the in-depth and successful cooperation of both. Third, Malaysia believes that much of its needs in infrastructure, transportation and investment can be met by joining OBOR. As Najib notes, for instance,

“[The double-track East Coast Rail Line] will spur socio-economic growth in specific areas and bring great benefit to the people in the East Coast [of Malaysia]”.

Image result for east coast rail line malaysia

Also, with the implementation of OBOR, Malaysia sees more opportunities to attract Chinese investment.[31]
OBOR can be a good opportunity for Malaysia too because it is more likely to succeed in this country than in some other developing countries along the OBOR. Aside from the strategic significance, Malaysia has a relatively stable political environment, well-established legal system and sound economic framework and good infrastructure. Its unique advantages include its large Muslim population as well as its Chinese ethnic population. The latter can help Chinese businesses easily enter into the local market and the former provide a possibility to connect the Chinese halal industry to the Muslim world.[32]

Though geopolitical consideration is not frequently and publicly emphasized when Malaysian high-ranking officials talk about OBOR, there is good reason to believe that Malaysia is trying to seek a balance between the two big powers of the United States and China. While actively getting involved in OBOR, Malaysia is also a member of TPP, a US-led trade agreement.[33] Since OBOR and TPP are widely considered to be part of a rivalry between China and the US, the involvement of both projects clearly shows that Malaysia hopes to benefit from both but not to overly rely on any. In a sense, the choice of “OBOR or TPP” reflects the choice of “US or China”, which is a common issue facing almost all the ASEAN countries, which is largely due to the geographic location of these countries. Although ASEAN countries try to speak with one voice, each of them have different responses to the “US or China” issue — some are more pro-American and others seem more pro-China. Of course, such is subject to change depending on their leadership and certain circumstances and the dispute over the South China Sea plays a key role in the policy option.

Last but not least, skepticism and concerns about OBOR can also be found in Malaysia. In addition to the dispute concerning the South China Sea, the “indifference” of Malay ethnic people as opposed to the “enthusiasm” of Chinese ethnic people and the exaggeration of the potential effect of OBOR are also challenges.[34] However, it seems that the Malay-Chinese cooperation on OBOR hasn’t been influenced much by such opinions.

Germany

China became the biggest trading partner of Germany in 2016 for the first time, overtaking France and the US, and Germany has long been China’s biggest trading partner in Europe.[35] This clearly shows the even closer economic relations between the two countries. From China’s perspective, Germany’s significance for OBOR primarily lies in its geographic location as one of the destinations of OBOR as well as its identity as an important actor among Western countries, which means that cooperation on OBOR, if successfully implemented, may set an example for other Western countries in Europe and attract more Western partners. Overall, the German government holds a relatively positive position towards OBOR and its focus is mainly on the areas of improving connectivity and trade and investment facilitation. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has welcomed the initiative to secure more Chinese investment in Europe.[36] At the same time, reservations and ambiguity can also be read from German government positions. German Consul General in Hong Kong when asked about the position of Germany on OBOR, said that Germany welcomed China’s openness to the rest of the world but he also highlighted that “any roads and any belts should be and will be in both directions”.[37]

Image result for merkel jinping

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Although German government is not very willing to provide clear and strong support to OBOR, it didn’t refuse the relevant business opportunities that came with such. However, when compared to the Central Asian countries or some Southeast Asian countries, the result yielded in Germany under OBOR seems rather limited. The most prominent progress related to OBOR made in Germany is the Sino-European freight trains. In fact, the only five big projects to be undertaken by the end of 2016 were those linking the existing railroads. But it should be noted that several of them had been planned long before the announcement of OBOR and were just included in this initiative later.[38]

Unlike some countries which are China’s immediate rivals or have territory disputes with China, Germany can stay away from such tricky problems. As a result, the responses of Germany regarding OBOR, especially those positive ones, including the statements of the government or business sectors and projects discussed or agreed to are almost all based on economic calculations. In fact, the realistic or foreseeable benefits for Germany may also lie in this area. For one thing, the operation of Sino-German freight train provided a new option for the transportation of goods between China and Germany, and other European countries with a shorter timeline and more affordable cost. According to the China Railway, the total freight volume of the Sino-European railway reached 42 million tons in 2016, an increase of 12% and Germany was the main destination.[39] It should be noted that there are other destination countries of eastbound freight trains aside from China, such as Kazakhstan.[40] This demonstrates that the connectivity achieved can be beneficial to all the countries along OBOR. For the other, it did attract more Chinese investors to Germany. So far around seventy enterprises have settled in Duisburg, one of the destinations of Sino-German freight train, and most of them entered the European market within the last two years.[41] Overall trade and investment statistics show a very positive trend for the past three years and OBOR did play “some” positive role in such, though it may not be easy to measure precisely to what extent OBOR contributed to this trend.

Admittedly, the challenge facing OBOR in Germany is huge, and such a challenge is quite different from that in the developing countries or in China’s neighboring rivals. For a Westernized developed economy like Germany’s, infrastructure, one of the key pillars of OBOR, which is also a focus for many of the countries in Central Asia and Southeast Asia, is not a priority, nor even a concern of Germany’s because infrastructure is well-established throughout the country. Foreign investment is generally welcomed but not a pressing need. The cooperation on manufacturing capacity which has been in operation by China and some developing countries along OBOR is not applicable to Germany at all. This explains why the major benefit, if not the only benefit, that is attractive to Germany may be the connectivity created by OBOR and the resultant trade and investment opportunities.

In addition to the mismatch as mentioned, the obvious divergence between Germany and China regarding China’s markets, transfer of cutting-edge technology to Chinese companies, Chinese state-owned enterprises, or ultimately, China’s model of economic development is also a big obstacle for OBOR. For example, Berlin became seriously concerned that Chinese acquisition of hi-tech German companies would make China an even more aggressive competitor while Chinese officials criticized this new protectionist tendencies in Germany in response.[42] Needless to say, this is a common issue between almost all the EU countries and China. Furthermore, the EU’s approach has, to a large extent been based on a democratization and human right paradigm, which can be viewed as one of the root causes of their indifference and skepticism of OBOR.[43]  As a result, Germany’s involvement with OBOR is limited and the influence of OBOR to this country is drastically weakened.

Related image

Siemens is a German conglomerate company with headquarter in Beijing, China.

For years Germany’s policy on China has been split between the economic interests and ideological considerations. On the one hand, it cannot ignore the Chinese markets and cooperation with China, which has brought huge benefit to its economy. On the other hand, Germany’s free market capitalism and values can hardly accommodate China’s development and expansion based on the Chinese model and thus deterrence is required. This dilemma has inevitably influenced how Germany looks at OBOR and what impact OBOR will bring to Germany. The result is, not surprisingly, a temporary balance between the two objectives. Of course, such a balance is not unchangeable and the struggle over economic interests and ideological principles will continue. A recent and noticeable event that occurred which may sway Germany’s position might be US president Trump and his isolationism. Before Merkel’s meeting with Trump, Merkel and Xi stressed a commitment to free trade during a telephone call.[44] This move signals that Germany may have to attach more importance to achieving economic cooperation with China, which means OBOR will probably have a more favorable environment in Germany in the future.

The case of Germany can reflect the general European situation to some degree and it basically coincides with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s statement, who also emphasizes the importance of investment and links and holds that this initiative can bring huge benefit to both China and the EU, if it works well.[45] However, the representation of Germany shouldn’t be overestimated. On the one hand, there is no official EU position on OBOR as of yet and EU countries also lack a collective voice.[46] On the other hand, the Germany case is more applicable to Western Europe than Eastern, Central and Southeastern Europe. Unlike Germany, most countries in the Central, Eastern and Southeastern parts of Europe are less developed and thus need more infrastructure building assistance and foreign investments, which brings them more opportunities to cooperate with China under OBOR. And this has been evidenced by a series of cooperation between two parties, such as the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO)’s purchase of the Greek port of Piraeus and China’s building of a high-speed railway from Hungary to Serbia.

Conclusion

The analysis of the four countries, though fragmented and not adequate to provide a whole picture of the impact of OBOR for those countries within the scope as well as their response, to some extent reveals the trend of the relations between OBOR and the relevant countries, because each of the four countries can represent a group of countries, or at least reflects some key consideration of the countries with the same features.

First, big powers are more inclined to put OBOR in the context of power rivalry and this inevitably reinforces OBOR as a challenge and usually leads to distrust of this initiative. Russia’s response initially reflected

this relationship but China’s immense move towards making concessions and Russia’s plight in the Ukraine eventually changed Russia’s position. By comparison, India is a case in point to show how another power is wary of China’s OBOR initiative. Since India positions China more as a rival than a partner, and there are no key drivers that emerged like those which occurred in Russia’s case that could reverse the trend, to date India hasn’t endorsed this initiative and there is little hope it will in the future. To some degree, the benefits or losses that OBOR can yield have become secondary to geopolitical considerations. Small or medium states, such as the Uzbekistan and Malaysia cases suggest, however, don’t want to get involved in the great power games and tend to focus on the tangible and immediate gains that can be derived from OBOR. They don’t seem to care whether or not China can get more from the bilateral cooperation than they do. In reality, many of them tend to seize the opportunity as it presents itself and transform it to improve their own country’s economy.

Second, developing countries are meant to benefit more from OBOR. Overall, the trade and investment facilitation, one of main goals of OBOR is universally welcomed by both developed countries and developing countries alike. But only the developing countries have huge demands for infrastructure building and requirements for relevant funding to be invested, which can probably be met by the implementation of OBOR. Then it should come as no surprise that developing countries along OBOR show relatively more positive attitudes towards it.

Third, political and economic institutions and too even ideology can play a important role in the assessment of OBOR as well as the position a country takes on it. Western counties are more concerned about the role of the Chinese government and state-owned enterprises in OBOR and are prone to link the implementation of this initiative outside China to the market environment within China. By contrast, non-Western countries have less concern in this regard partly because some of them are also practicing state capitalism, rather than free market capitalism. Therefore, their judgment is basically centered on what result OBOR can yield and to what degree such is beneficial to them.

In general, the idea of enhancing connectivity and promoting trade, which constitutes the main rationale of OBOR, is positive and this explains why OBOR won quite a bit of recognition after three years of intensive promotion, though it has always been accompanied by skepticism and challenges outside China. However, this initiative is still not a one-size-fits-all solution because its real effect relies heavily on the different situation of each country. Then it is no surprise that each country has different positions, all depending on the consideration of various factors, including economic, geopolitical, ideology, etc. Roughly speaking, OBOR is more of an opportunity for small and medium developing states than big powers or Western countries.

In a sense, Trump’s new policy, Brexit and even the rise of right-wing political force in West Europe provided an unexpected opportunity for China’s OBOR initiative because most countries in the world are still in favor of open and free trade. In the meantime, they also need some kind of mechanism and project to materialize this conception. Intentionally or unintentionally, OBOR may probably play a positive role in this regard, but we also need to realize its limit and avoid too optimistic or unrealistic expectation.

NOTES

[1]National Development and Reform Commission, Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.
[2]Linn, J. F., Central Asian Regional Integration and Cooperation: Reality or Mirage?, 96.
[3]See Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference on the results of Russian diplomacy in 2016, Moscow, and
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying’s regular press conference on January 18, 2017.
[4]Ibid.
[5]Li, X., Silk Road Can Find Common Ground with Eurasian Economic Union.
[6]Wilson, The Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Silk Road: Implications for the Russian–Chinese Relationship, 119.
[7]Yu, China-Russia Relations: Putin’s Glory and Xi’s Dream.
[8]Wilson, The Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Silk Road: Implications for the Russian–Chinese Relationship, 119.
[9]Li, X., Silk Road Can Find Common Ground with Eurasian Economic Union.
[10]Yu, China-Russia Relations: Putin’s Glory and Xi’s Dream.
[11]Xinhua, China Uses Cooperation on Regional Ports to Boost China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor.
[12]Shtraks, China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative and the Sino-Russian Entente: An Interview with Alexander Gabuev.
[13]Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook,
[14]Christie, Sanctions after Crimea: Have They Worked?
[15]Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC, Xi Jinping Meets with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.
[16]Xinhua, China, Uzbekistan to Strengthen Cooperation Under the Silk Road Initiative.
[17]Xinhua, China, Uzbekistan Agree to Focus on Belt and Road Development.
[18]Xing, Guangcheng, and Weiwei Zhang, Promote the Building of Sino-Uzbeki “One Belt, One Road”.
[19]Xinhua, Chinese, Uzbek Leaders Hail Inauguration of Central Asia’s Longest Railway Tunnel.
[20]Chen, Julie Yu-Wen, and Olaf Günther, China’s Influence in Uzbekistan: Model Neighbor or Indifferent Partner?
[21]Li, Z. G., Central Asia Embraces “One Belt, One Road” Because of the Matched Interest.
[22]Kozłowski, The New Great Game Revised: Regional Security in Post-Soviet Central Asia.
[23]InvestKL, One Belt One Road: Kuala Lumpur is Sitting on a Strategic Spot.
[24]Foon, “Belt-road” to Benefit Businesses.
[25]Ibid.
[26]Xinhua, China, Malaysia Wow to Promote Bilateral Relationship.
[27]Liow, Speech By YB Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, Minister Of Transport, Malaysia, Boao Forum For Asia – Luncheon Speech One Belt One Road Strategy, Vision, Action Plan.
[28]Khoo, China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiatives in Malaysia.
[29]Bizhive, Riding the dragon: Harnessing Malaysia-China’s Trade Partnership.
[30]Foon, “Belt-road” to Benefit Businesses.
[31]Bizhive, Riding the Dragon: Harnessing Malaysia-China’s Trade Partnership.
[32]Liow, Speech By YB Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, Minister Of Transport, Malaysia, Boao Forum For Asia – Luncheon Speech One Belt One Road Strategy, Vision, Action Plan.
[33]With the inauguration of President Trump, the US quitted TPP on Jan 23, 2017. See http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38721056
[34]Chen, J.S., Where is “One Belt, One Road” Heading for?
[35]Xinhua, Sino-German Trade Reaches a New Level Based on Mutual Benefit.
[36]Gaspers, Germany Wants Europe to Help Shape China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
[37]Lau, Make China’s Belt and Road Initiative a Two-way Street, Says German Consul General in Hong Kong.
[38]Ibid.
[39]Guan, “One Belt, One Road” Is a Lucky Key for Us.
[40]Ibid.
[41]Ibid.
[42]Larres, China and Germany: The Honeymoon Is Over.
[43]Arduino, China’s One Belt One Road: Has the European Union Missed The Train? 14.
[44]DW, Germany, China Stress Commitment to Free Trade Ahead of Merkel’s Meeting with Trump.
[45]Xinhua, Interview: Europe to Benefit from China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative: EC chief.
[46]European Parliament, One Belt, One Road (OBOR): China’s Regional Integration Initiative.

SOURCES

Arduino, Alessandro. “China’s One Belt One Road: Has the European Union Missed the Train?” Policy Report, Nanyang Technological University, Mar 2016

Bizhive, Yvonne Tuah. “Riding the Dragon: Harnessing Malaysia-China’s Trade Partnership.” Borneo Post Online, Nov 13, 2016
http://www.theborneopost.com/2016/11/13/riding-the-dragon-harnessing-malaysia-chinas-trade-partnership/

Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, CIA website
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/wfbExt/region_cas.html

Chen, Jinsong. “Where is ‘One Belt, One Road’ Heading For?” (yi dai yi lu, lu zai he fang), Oriental Daily News, Sept 27, 2016
http://www.orientaldaily.com.my/columns/pl20153441#

Chen, Julie Yu-Wen, and Olaf Günther. “China’s Influence in Uzbekistan: Model Neighbor or Indifferent Partner?” The Jamestown Foundation Global Research & Analysis, Nov 11, 2016
http://www.silkroadreporters.com/2015/05/13/chinas-influence-grows-in-uzbekistan/

Christie, Edward Hunter. “Sanctions after Crimea: Have they Worked?” NATO Review
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DW. “Germany, China Stress Commitment to FreeTtrade Ahead of Merkel’s Meeting with Trump.” DW, Mar 16, 2017
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Foon, Ho Wah. “’Belt-Road’ to Benefit Businesses.” The Star Online, Aug 2, 2015
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Gaspers, Jan. “Germany Wants Europe to Help Shape China’s Belt and Road Initiative.” The Diplomat, Dec 17, 2016
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Guan, Kejiang. “’One Belt, One Road’ is a Lucky Key for Us.” (yi dai yi lu shi wo men huo de de xing yun yao shi), People’s Daily, Jan 26, 2017
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Khoo, Ryan. “China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiatives in Malaysia.” The Edge Property, Feb 1, 2016
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Kozłowski, Krzysztof. “The New Great Game Revised: Regional Security in Post-Soviet Central Asia.” Warsaw School of Economics, (2014): 190-203

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Posted in ChinaComments Off on China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative: “A New Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe”

This is What Can Prompt China Not to Defend N Korea in the Event of War

NOVANEWS
Image result for China N Korea CARTOON
Sputnik 

Recently, there have been a growing number of suggestions by Chinese diplomatic and military commentators that Beijing is not obliged to defend Pyongyang in the event of a military attack, an article in the South China Morning Post read.

The assumption comes as senior officials in the United States have warned of a strike against North Korea.

In particular, Washington has positioned two destroyers in the region that can deploy Tomahawk missiles, according to what intelligence officials told NBC News, along with heavy bombers stationed in Guam that could provide support should such a strike take place.

“North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday.

Chinese media outlets and even some official websites have recently published articles saying that in the current situation there are fewer options to find the peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.

For example, on March 22, website China Military, sponsored by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), published an article commenting on a ground test by Pyongyang of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine.

“We believe that warfare is just a matter of time if DPRK continues its nuclear and missile program. […] Under no condition will the international community accept DPRK’s legal possession of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. As Pyongyang continues with its nuclear programs, international sanctions will get tighter, and it will eventually be isolated from the rest of the world for a long time,” the article read.

It is not in Pyongyang’s interests to go against international community’s stance on nuclear weapons. In a situation when the US, Russia and China share views of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions Pyongyang has almost no room for maneuvering. On the other hand, Pyongyang’s decision to give up its nuclear ambitions would satisfy the interests of the North Korean political elite, without posing a threat to the country’s existence.

This assumption was made before President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Florida, which proves that Beijing toughened rhetoric towards Pyongyang not under the influence by Washington.

In formal terms, China is North Korea’s only military ally, according to the 1961 Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty. At the same time, many Chinese experts say that de-facto those obligations do not exist anymore. The reason is that Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions have formed an epicenter of tensions near China’s border.

“Despite China’s support for North Korea during the 1950-1953 Korean War, in the current environment, Beijing will prioritize national security over ideology,” Andrei Karneyev, deputy director of the Institute of Asian and African Countries at Moscow State University, told Sputnik China.

According to the expert, this change of heart is not related to any pressure from Washington, but is dictated by security needs. However, the question remains: what would China do in the event of a military confrontation against North Korea?

Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong told the South China Morning Post that Beijing would need to provide military assistance to its neighbor if US troops invaded, but Pyongyang’s violation of the UN non-proliferation treaty was a “strong reason” for China not to help.

According to Zhan Debin, an expert from the Shanghai University of Foreign Trade, there is little chance of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

“The US is unlikely to attack North Korea on its own initiative. It would be possible if Pyongyang endangered the key security interests of Washington and Seoul. This would be an adequate reason for the US,” he told Sputnik China.

The expert pointed out that the US military force redeployed to the Korean Peninsula is rather a warning for Pyongyang.

He added that the probability of minor conflicts between the US and North Korea is very low because any minor conflict will turn into a large-scale confrontation.

“We can’t say that the US recklessly wants to start a war. Of course, South Korea doesn’t want war. If a conflict broke out South Korea would be hit the most,” Zhan Debin said. Commenting on China’s actions during the hypothetical confrontation, the expert noted that Beijing may not get involved if Pyongyang provoked a conflict, but at the same time China cannot turn a blind eye to instability in the region.

“Of course, Beijing will try to prevent a conflict from turning into war. China will not supply weapons and provide military and combat assistance,” he said.

The expert continued: “It is not correct to speculate on the matter. This makes no sense. What we should do is to have a backup plan of actions. Of course, China would act [in the event of a confrontation], but there should be a reason for actions. On the whole, China’s goal is to maintain peace and stability in the region.”

Posted in USA, China, North KoreaComments Off on This is What Can Prompt China Not to Defend N Korea in the Event of War

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