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Goodbye G20, Hello BRICS+

Pepe Escobar wrote . . . . . . . . .

The redeeming quality of a tense G20 held in Bali – otherwise managed by laudable Indonesian graciousness – was to sharply define which way the geopolitical winds are blowing.

That was encapsulated in the Summit’s two highlights: the much anticipated China-US presidential meeting – representing the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century – and the final G20 statement.

The 3-hour, 30-minute-long face-to-face meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden – requested by the White House – took place at the Chinese delegation’s residence in Bali, and not at the G20 venue at the luxury Apurva Kempinski in Nusa Dua.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs concisely outlined what really mattered. Specifically, Xi told Biden that Taiwan independence is simply out of the question. Xi also expressed hope that NATO, the EU, and the US will engage in “comprehensive dialogue” with Russia. Instead of confrontation, the Chinese president chose to highlight the layers of common interest and cooperation.

Biden, according to the Chinese, made several points. The US does not seek a New Cold War; does not support “Taiwan independence;” does not support “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan”; does not seek “decoupling” from China; and does not want to contain Beijing.

However, the recent record shows Xi has few reasons to take Biden at face value.

The final G20 statement was an even fuzzier matter: the result of arduous compromise.

As much as the G20 is self-described as “the premier forum for global economic cooperation,” engaged to “address the world’s major economic challenges,” the G7 inside the G20 in Bali had the summit de facto hijacked by war. “War” gets almost double the number of mentions in the statement compared to “food” after all.

The collective west, including the Japanese vassal state, was bent on including the war in Ukraine and its “economic impacts” – especially the food and energy crisis – in the statement. Yet without offering even a shade of context, related to NATO expansion. What mattered was to blame Russia – for everything.

The Global South effect

It was up to this year’s G20 host Indonesia – and the next host, India – to exercise trademark Asian politeness and consensus building. Jakarta and New Delhi worked extremely hard to find wording that would be acceptable to both Moscow and Beijing. Call it the Global South effect.

Still, China wanted changes in the wording. This was opposed by western states, while Russia did not review the last-minute wording because Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had already departed.

On point 3 out of 52, the statement “expresses its deepest regret over the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands the complete and unconditional withdrawal of armed forces from the territory of Ukraine.”

“Russian aggression” is the standard NATO mantra – not shared by virtually the whole Global South.

The statement draws a direct correlation between the war and a non-contextualized “aggravation of pressing problems in the global economy – slowing economic growth, rising inflation, disruption of supply chains, worsening energy, and food security, increased risks to financial stability.”

As for this passage, it could not be more self-evident: “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today’s era must not be of war.”

This is ironic given that NATO and its public relations department, the EU, “represented” by the unelected eurocrats of the European Commission, don’t do “diplomacy and dialogue.”

Fixated with war

Instead the US, which controls NATO, has been weaponizing Ukraine, since March, by a whopping $91.3 billion, including the latest presidential request, this month, of $37.7 billion. That happens to be 33 percent more than Russia’s total (italics mine) military spending for 2022.

Extra evidence of the Bali Summit being hijacked by “war” was provided by the emergency meeting, called by the US, to debate what ended up being a Ukrainian S-300 missile falling on a Polish farm, and not the start of WWIII like some tabloids hysterically suggested.

Tellingly, there was absolutely no one from the Global South in the meeting – the sole Asian nation being the Japanese vassal, part of the G7.

Compounding the picture, we had the sinister Davos master Klaus Schwab once again impersonating a Bond villain at the B20 business forum, selling his Great Reset agenda of “rebuilding the world” through pandemics, famines, climate change, cyber attacks, and – of course – wars.

As if this was not ominous enough, Davos and its World Economic Forum are now ordering Africa – completely excluded from the G20 – to pay $2.8 trillion to “meet its obligations” under the Paris Agreement to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

The demise of the G20 as we know it

The serious fracture between Global North and Global South, so evident in Bali, had already been suggested in Phnom Penh, as Cambodia hosted the East Asia Summit this past weekend.

The 10 members of ASEAN had made it very clear they remain unwilling to follow the US and the G7 in their collective demonization of Russia and in many aspects China.

The Southeast Asians are also not exactly excited by the US-concocted IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework), which will be irrelevant in terms of slowing down China’s extensive trade and connectivity across Southeast Asia.

And it gets worse. The self-described “leader of the free world” is shunning the extremely important APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Bangkok at the end of this week.

For very sensitive and sophisticated Asian cultures, this is seen as an affront. APEC, established way back in 1990s to promote trade across the Pacific Rim, is about serious Asia-Pacific business, not Americanized “Indo-Pacific” militarization.

The snub follows Biden’s latest blunder when he erroneously addressed Cambodia’s Hun Sen as “prime minister of Colombia” at the summit in Phnom Penh.

Lining up to join BRICS

It is safe to say that the G20 may have plunged into an irretrievable path toward irrelevancy. Even before the current Southeast Asian summit wave – in Phnom Penh, Bali and Bangkok – Lavrov had already signaled what comes next when he noted that “over a dozen countries” have applied to join BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).

Iran, Argentina, and Algeria have formally applied: Iran, alongside Russia, India, and China, is already part of the Eurasian Quad that really matters.

Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Afghanistan are extremely interested in becoming members. Indonesia just applied, in Bali. And then there’s the next wave: Kazakhstan, UAE, Thailand (possibly applying this weekend in Bangkok), Nigeria, Senegal, and Nicaragua.

It’s crucial to note that all of the above sent their Finance Ministers to a BRICS Expansion dialogue in May. A short but serious appraisal of the candidates reveals an astonishing unity in diversity.

Lavrov himself noted that it will take time for the current five BRICS to analyze the immense geopolitical and geoeconomic implications of expanding to the point of virtually reaching the size of the G20 – and without the collective west.

What unites the candidates above all is the possession of massive natural resources: oil and gas, precious metals, rare earths, rare minerals, coal, solar power, timber, agricultural land, fisheries, and fresh water. That’s the imperative when it comes to designing a new resource-based reserve currency to bypass the US dollar.

Let’s assume that it may take up to 2025 to have this new BRICS+ configuration up and running. That would represent roughly 45 percent of confirmed global oil reserves and over 60 percent of confirmed global gas reserves (and that will balloon if gas republic Turkmenistan later joins the group).

The combined GDP – in today’s figures – would be roughly $29.35 trillion; much larger than the US ($23 trillion) and at least double the EU ($14.5 trillion, and falling).

As it stands, BRICS account for 40 percent of the global population and 25 percent of GDP. BRICS+ would congregate 4.257 billion people: over 50 percent of the total global population as it stands.

BRI embraces BRICS+

BRICS+ will be striving towards interconnection with a maze of institutions: the most important are the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), itself featuring a list of players itching to become full members; strategic OPEC+, de facto led by Russia and Saudi Arabia; and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s overarching trade and foreign policy framework for the 21st century. It is worth pointing out that early all crucial Asian players have joined the BRI.

Then there are the close links of BRICS with a plethora of regional trade blocs: ASEAN, Mercosur, GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), Arab Trade Zone, African Continental Free Trade Area, ALBA, SAARC, and last but not least the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest trade deal on the planet, which includes a majority of BRI partners.

BRICS+ and BRI is a match everywhere you look at it – from West Asia and Central Asia to the Southeast Asians (especially Indonesia and Thailand). The multiplier effect will be key – as BRI members will be inevitably attracting more candidates for BRICS+.

This will inevitably lead to a second wave of BRICS+ hopefuls including, most certainly, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, three more Central Asians (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and gas republic Turkmenistan), Pakistan, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, and in Latin America, a hefty contingent featuring Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the role of the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB) as well as the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will be enhanced – coordinating infrastructure loans across the spectrum, as BRICS+ will be increasingly shunning dictates imposed by the US-dominated IMF and the World Bank.

All of the above barely sketches the width and depth of the geopolitical and geoeconomic realignments further on down the road – affecting every nook and cranny of global trade and supply chain networks. The G7’s obsession in isolating and/or containing the top Eurasian players is turning on itself in the framework of the G20. In the end, it’s the G7 that may be isolated by the BRICS+ irresistible force.

Source : The Cradle

The Benefits of Technocracy in China

Liu Yongmou wrote . . . . . . . . .

Since the Reform and Opening initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, any casual observer of China’s leaders might note how many of them were educated as engineers. Indeed, at the highest level, former presidents Jiang Zemin (1993–2003) and Hu Jintao (2003–2013) as well as Xi Jinping (2013–present) all studied engineering, although Xi subsequently did academic work in management and law. And an engineering influence exists not only at the very top. A high proportion of government officials at city, provincial, and national levels have had some form of technical education. For example, of the 20 government ministries that form the State Council, more than half are headed by persons who have engineering degrees or engineering work experience. As a result, foreign analysts have suggested for some time that China functions as a kind of technocracy—a nation run by people who are in power because of their technical expertise—and have often criticized it as such. This assessment reflects a common Western view that technocratic governance is inherently anti-democratic and even dehumanizing.

But what does technocracy mean today, especially in China? Given China’s remarkable emergence in recent decades as a vibrant player on the world economic and political stage, might technocracy in the Chinese context have some positive characteristics?

To understand technocracy in China, one must first have a sense of historical context and above all an understanding of the cultural impact of a series of devastating military humiliations—the Opium Wars of the 1840s and 1860s, in which, in the name of free trade, China was forced to allow the importation of opium and the Summer Palace was sacked; an 1895 war in which Russia captured the Liaodong Peninsula and Japan took Taiwan, the Penghu Islands, and eventually Korea; and the 1899 Boxer Uprising against Christian missionaries, to which Great Britain, France, the United States, Japan, and Russia all responded by looting and raping in Tianjin, Beijing, and elsewhere. In reaction to these defeats, Chinese intellectuals turned the Qing Dynasty thinker Wei Yuan’s injunction “to learn from the West to defeat the West” into a social movement motto. Early Republic of China attempts to learn from the West actually involved the conscious importation of technocratic ideas by the Nanjing government. A number of Chinese who studied in the United States during the 1920s returned home influenced by American technocratic ideals of such figures as Thorsten Veblen and Howard Scott. One example is Luo Longji, who studied at Columbia University from 1922–1923 and returned to China to publish a number of articles arguing for what he called “expert politics,” his term for technocracy. Luo subsequently founded the China Democratic League, which remains one of the eight non-Communist political parties represented in the National People’s Congress.

Initially, however, all attempts to learn from the West had to struggle against internal political disorder (the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and a resulting long-term civil war) and renewed invasion by Japan (from 1931 to 1945, through which China endured the brunt of the World War II Pacific Theater). When Mao Zedong and the Communists won the civil war and on October 1, 1949, declared the People’s Republic, political consolidation and technical development vied with each other for priority.

For the next quarter century, until Mao’s death in 1976, the purity of redness often trumped technical engineering competence. The disaster of the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961) was caused by ignoring technological expertise, especially about agriculture, and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) closed many universities in the name of learning from the peasants. The Reform and Opening that began two years after Mao’s death naturally became an opportunity to rehabilitate expertise, both engineering and economic. In policies influenced by the successful development pathways pursued by technocratic regimes in Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, the new paramount leader, Deng, moved engineers into critical government positions. Hu Yaobang, as Party Chairman (1981–1982) and General Secretary of the Communist Party (1982–1987), further proposed that all leading government personnel be trained technical specialists. The technocratic practice of scientific management, which Vladimir Lenin had declared as exploitative under capitalism but beneficial under socialism, offered a bridge between engineering and economics.


Before discussing what technocracy has come to mean in China today, I want to first step back to briefly explore how the term has come to be understood in the Western intellectual tradition. In one of the few empirical studies of technocracy, political scientist Robert Putnam defines technocrats as persons “who exercise power by virtue of their technical knowledge” and describes the “technocratic mentality” in terms of five key characteristics:

  • Confidence that social problems can be solved by scientific or technological means.
  • Skepticism or hostility toward politicians and political institutions.
  • Little sympathy for the openness and equality of democracy.
  • A preference for pragmatic over ideological or moral assessments of policy alternatives.
  • Strong commitment to technological progress in the form of material productivity, without concern for questions of distributive or social justice.

Putnam’s 1977 study further distinguishes between two types of technocrats: those with engineering technical knowledge versus those with economic technical knowledge—noting that the two groups diverge with regard to characteristics three, four, and five. Economic technocrats were more likely than engineering technocrats to grant importance to politics and equality and to be more interested in issues of social justice.

In a recent revisiting of the comparison, Richard Olson’s Scientism and Technocracy in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Scientific Management (2016) suggests that subsequent decades have witnessed something of a reversal. Engineering education has called increasing attention to social contexts that take politics and social justice seriously, while economics has become more quantitative and less concerned with social issues.

Neither author notes, however, the significant roles played in all modern societies by what could be called limited or sectoral technocracies. Technical knowledge is a basis for power that democratic societies willingly grant: for example, by delegating authority to the military, physicians, and civil engineers. At the same time, such societies may bitterly contest technocratic authority with regard to evolutionary biologists, agricultural researchers, and climate scientists.

Such distinctions help make clear what is really at stake in concerns about technocracy. In short, governance by technical experts and governance employing such principles as those of scientific management are not the same. When exercising political power, technical elites such as engineers and economists may also use the authority of their expertise to advance positions or policies that are not simply technical. In doing so they can easily ride roughshod over the interests of those they are supposed to serve, and in the process use their expertise to preserve their own political interests.

In Western developed countries, technocracy has thus been subject to multiple criticisms. Marxists attack technocracy for helping capitalism control workers. Humanists claim technocracy turns humans into machines. Libertarians criticize technocracy as encroaching on individual freedom. Historicists and relativists criticize scientific principles and technological methods for not adapting to human society.

Yet advanced techno-scientific society depends crucially on some level of technocratic governance. City mayors cannot provide safe water systems without asking engineers to design them. Governors cannot promote regional disease prevention and healthcare without medical and public health professionals; they cannot reduce environmental pollution without technical experts to monitor air and water quality. Heads of government would not even know about the ozone hole and global climate change without scientific advisers. The progressive deployment of technocratic elites in the practices of governance, even when under the supervision of non-technocratic elites, is a critical feature of all social orders today.

Maybe the fact that some form of technocracy is one of the basic characteristics of contemporary politics is a reason it is so often criticized. There is certainly some sense in which contemporary politics is characterized by a kind of universal resentment against the unintended consequences of a techno-scientific world that, along with all of its benefits, seems to be depriving us of traditional solaces and stabilities.


In The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy (2015), political theorist Daniel A. Bell provides a strongly positive interpretation of the current situation in China. As Bell sees it, the fact that Chinese leaders, such as President Xi, have spent years managing cities and provinces as well as serving time in national ministries develops a level of expertise in both engineering and economics that is often short circuited in Western (especially US) one-person, one-vote democracies. The further fact that independent surveys repeatedly show high levels of public satisfaction with the Chinese government (regularly higher than is the case in Western democracies) provides a sound argument for legitimacy.

Certainly, it is the case that China today is living through a heroic stage of engineering in its urbanization and infrastructure development—something that would not be possible without a significant level of technical competence playing a major role in the exercise of political power. For decades China has, in fact, been educating engineers to an extent that has raised competitive concern in US engineering circles. According to the US National Academies report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (2007), in China, 50% of all undergraduates receive degrees in engineering, whereas in the United States, it is only 15%. Although that number can be questioned, it probably remains the case that in China, a much greater percentage of university degrees are awarded in fields of engineering than in the United States. At the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Chinese Academy of Engineering in 2014, President Xi not only gave an address to all attendees praising the contributions of engineers to current Chinese achievements but sat in the audience and took notes on other talks by European and American speakers. In doing so, he publicly declared himself to be occupying dual roles, both as political leader and as technical expert. It’s difficult to imagine a US president doing the same.

Yet Daniel Bell’s interpretation of China as a soft technocracy is not realistic in terms of the ways in which political elite selection and promotion take place in the People’s Republic. The process by which Chinese politicians rise to power is not fully determined by institutional processes but remains strongly influenced by individual, private relationships. Many experts come to power not because of competency or technical professional qualifications; loyalty to Communist Party of China ideology and politics and building strong relations with party leaders remain critical factors.

Thus, the situation in China with regard to technocracy is complex and ambiguous. Since 1978, more and more technical experts have become part of the government, creating a limited or soft technocracy. But the ideal of socialism has not been replaced by the ideal of technocracy. Indeed, the extent to which Chinese technical experts, especially those at high levels in the government, actually employ their engineering or economic knowledge once they gain access to political inner circles is far from clear.

Nonetheless, in China today, there exists a more favorable attitude toward technocracy than is found elsewhere. I see three reasons for this overall positive view. One is a heritage of scientism. From the second half of 19th century, Chinese anxieties about backwardness have promoted a faith in science. Since then, although conditions have changed, scientism has remained popular. Insofar as it is scientism applied to politics, the Chinese tend to have a positive attitude toward technocracy.

Technocracy also fits with the Chinese tradition of elite politics and the ideal, to reference a Confucian phrase, of “exalting the virtuous and the capable”—although the traditional tendency was to privilege virtue over capability. Although Chinese virtue politics emphasized knowledge of the Confucian classics instead of Western technical expertise, both assumed that knowledge was more important than the representation of the interests of those being governed.

Finally, there is the close relationship between socialism and technocracy. Socialism remains the dominant ideology in China. The founder of the ideal of technocracy, Henri de Saint Simon, was criticized by Marx and Engels as a utopian socialist, but his thought still exercised an influence in Marxist theory. Veblen, another important defender of technocracy, was also to some extent a Marxist. There are many similarities between technocracy and socialism: a common promotion of economic planning, the idea that capitalism will perish because of problems created by production, and a strong emphasis on the values of science and technology.

The positive attitude toward technology present in contemporary Chinese culture is an advantage for developing a kind of technocracy appropriate to China. Indeed, I would defend some form of technocracy as progressive, especially for China. I hold this view not because of any inherent virtues that one might ascribe to technocracy, but because any assessment of technocracy must consider the broader political context. Technocracy is a better and fairer use of power than any other hierarchical system. Against the background of the Chinese heritage of a long feudal culture, technocracy is a better way to confront social problems than authoritarian politics divorced from technical expertise.

Moreover, in a socialist system in which political ideology plays a prominent role, technocracy can improve the status of intellectuals. From 1949 to 1978, Chinese intellectuals were oppressed, and even now do not receive the kind of respect necessary for thriving in the knowledge economy. In China, irrational political activities and political decision making is all too common. Contemporary Chinese administrative activities need scientization and rationalization. Although scientization and rationalization can go too far and create their own problems, their absence in any nation will result in more and worse problems, all the more so in China where, as I have noted, pathways to political advancement are often personal and private.

From the beginning, technocracy has taken on radical and moderate forms. In the radical form, technocrats have sought to re-engineer the human condition and have given birth to the tragedies of centralized planning and large-scale social engineering. By contrast, moderate technocrats seek only to practice what Karl Popper called “piecemeal social engineering,” that is, to introduce appropriate, rational reforms into society and then to undertake evidence-based assessments. Along with Popper, John Dewey, and others, I think some form of soft technocracy is more progressive for China than other proposals promoted by the West that would emphasize only democratic institutions without acknowledging the political and historical context from which China’s governing institutions continue to evolve.

Source : ISSUES

Russia, India, China, Iran: the Quad That Really Matters

Pepe Escobar wrote . . . . . . . . .

Southeast Asia is right at the center of international relations for a whole week viz a viz three consecutive summits: Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Phnom Penh, the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Bali, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok.

Eighteen nations accounting for roughly half of the global economy represented at the first in-person ASEAN summit since the Covid-19 pandemic in Cambodia: the ASEAN 10, Japan, South Korea, China, India, US, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand.

With characteristic Asian politeness, the summit chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (or “Colombian”, according to the so-called “leader of the free world”), said the plenary meeting was somewhat heated, but the atmosphere was not tense: “Leaders talked in a mature way, no one left.”

It was up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to express what was really significant at the end of the summit.

While praising the “inclusive, open, equal structure of security and cooperation at ASEAN”, Lavrov stressed how Europe and NATO “want to militarize the region in order to contain Russia and China’s interests in the Indo-Pacific.”

A manifestation of this policy is how “AUKUS is openly aiming at confrontation in the South China Sea,” he said.

Lavrov also stressed how the West, via the NATO military alliance, is accepting ASEAN “only nominally” while promoting a completely “unclear” agenda.

What’s clear though is how NATO “has moved towards Russian borders several times and now declared at the Madrid summit that they have taken global responsibility.”

This leads us to the clincher: “NATO is moving their line of defense to the South China Sea.” And, Lavrov added, Beijing holds the same assessment.

Here, concisely, is the open “secret” of our current geopolitical incandescence. Washington’s number one priority is the containment of China. That implies blocking the EU from getting closer to the key Eurasia drivers – China, Russia, and Iran – engaged in building the world’s largest free trade/connectivity environment.

Adding to the decades-long hybrid war against Iran, the infinite weaponizing of the Ukrainian black hole fits into the initial stages of the battle.

For the Empire, Iran cannot profit from becoming a provider of cheap, quality energy to the EU. And in parallel, Russia must be cut off from the EU. The next step is to force the EU to cut itself off from China.

All that fits into the wildest, warped Straussian/neo-con wet dreams: to attack China, by emboldening Taiwan, first Russia must be weakened, via the instrumentalization (and destruction) of Ukraine.

And all along the scenario, Europe simply has no agency.

Putin, Raeisi and the Erdogan track

Real life across key Eurasia nodes reveals a completely different picture. Take the relaxed get-together in Tehran between Russia’s top security official Nikolai Patrushev and his Iranian counterpart Ali Shamkhani last week.

They discussed not only security matters but also serious business – as in turbo-charged trade.

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) will sign a $40 billion deal next month with Gazprom, bypassing US sanctions, and encompassing the development of two gas fields and six oilfields, swaps in natural gas and oil products, LNG projects, and the construction of gas pipelines.

Immediately after the Patrushev-Shamkhani meeting, President Putin called President Ebrahim Raeisi to keep up the “interaction in politics, trade and the economy, including transport and logistics,” according to the Kremlin.

Iranian president reportedly more than “welcomed” the “strengthening” of Moscow-Tehran ties.

Patrushev unequivocally supported Tehran over the latest color revolution adventure perpetrated under the framework of the Empire’s endless hybrid war.

Iran and the EAEU are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in parallel to the swap deals with Russian oil. Soon, SWIFT may be completely bypassed. The whole Global South is watching.

Simultaneous to Putin’s phone call, Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan – conducting his own diplomatic overdrive, and just back from a summit of Turkic nations in Samarkand – stressed that the US and the collective West are attacking Russia “almost without limits”.

Erdogan made it clear that Russia is a “powerful” state and commended its “great resistance”.

The response came exactly 24 hours later. Turkish intelligence cut to the chase, pointing out that the terrorist bombing in the perpetually busy Istiklal pedestrian street in Istanbul was designed in Kobane in northern Syria, which essentially responds to the US.

That constitutes a de-facto act of war and may unleash serious consequences, including a profound revision of Turkiye’s presence inside NATO.

Iran’s multi-track strategy

A Russia-Iran strategic alliance manifests itself practically as a historical inevitability. It recalls the time when the erstwhile USSR helped Iran militarily via North Korea, after an enforced US/Europe blockade.

Putin and Raeisi are taking it to the next level. Moscow and Tehran are developing a joint strategy to defeat the weaponization of sanctions by the collective West.

Iran, after all, has an absolutely stellar record of smashing variants of “maximum pressure” to bits. Also, it is now linked to a strategic nuclear umbrella offered by the “RICs” in BRICS (Russia, India, China).

So, Tehran may now plan to develop its massive economic potential within the framework of BRI, SCO, INSTC, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), and the Russian-led Greater Eurasia Partnership.

Moscow’s game is pure sophistication: engaging in a high-level strategic oil alliance with Saudi Arabia while deepening its strategic partnership with Iran.

Immediately after Patrushev’s visit, Tehran announced the development of an indigenously built hypersonic ballistic missile, quite similar to the Russian KH-47 M2 Khinzal.

And the other significant news was connectivity-wise: the completion of part of a railway from strategic Chabahar Port to the border with Turkmenistan. That means imminent direct rail connectivity to the Central Asian, Russian and Chinese spheres.

Add to it the predominant role of OPEC+, the development of BRICS+, and the pan-Eurasian drive to pricing trade, insurance, security, investments in the ruble, yuan, rial, etc.

There’s also the fact that Tehran could not care less about the endless collective West procrastination on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as Iran nuclear deal: what really matters now is the deepening relationship with the “RICs” in BRICS.

Tehran refused to sign a tampered-with EU draft nuclear deal in Vienna. Brussels was enraged; no Iranian oil will “save” Europe, replacing Russian oil under a nonsensical cap to be imposed next month.

And Washington was enraged because it was betting on internal tensions to split OPEC.

Considering all of the above, no wonder US ‘Think Tankland’ is behaving like a bunch of headless chickens.

The queue to join BRICS

During the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand last September, it was already tacit to all players how the Empire is cannibalizing its closest allies.

And how, simultaneously, the shrinking NATO-sphere is turning inwards, with a focus on The Enemy Within, relentlessly corralling average citizens to march in lockstep behind total compliance with a two-pronged war – hybrid and otherwise – against imperial peer competitors Russia and China.

Now compare it with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Samarkand presenting China and Russia, together, as the top “responsible global powers” bent on securing the emergence of multipolarity.

Samarkand also reaffirmed the strategic political partnership between Russia and India (Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it an unbreakable friendship).

That was corroborated by the meeting between Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar last week in Moscow.

Lavrov praised the strategic partnership in every crucial area – politics, trade and economics, investment, and technology, as well as “closely coordinated actions” at the UN Security Council, BRICS, SCO and the G20.

On BRICS, crucially, Lavrov confirmed that “over a dozen countries” are lining up for membership, including Iran: “We expect the work on coordinating the criteria and principles that should underlie BRICS expansion to not take much time”.

But first, the five members need to analyze the ground-breaking repercussions of an expanded BRICS+.

Once again: contrast. What is the EU’s “response” to these developments? Coming up with yet another sanctions package against Iran, targeting officials and entities “connected with security affairs” as well as companies, for their alleged “violence and repressions”.

“Diplomacy”, collective West-style, barely registers as bullying.

Back to the real economy – as in the gas front – the national interests of Russia, Iran and Turkiye are increasingly intertwined; and that is bound to influence developments in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, and will be a key factor to facilitate Erdogan’s re-election next year.

As it stands, Riyadh for all practical purposes has performed a stunning 180-degree maneuver against Washington via OPEC+. That may signify, even in a twisted way, the onset of a process of unification of Arab interests, guided by Moscow.

Stranger things have happened in modern history. Now appears to be the time for the Arab world to be finally ready to join the Quad that really matters: Russia, India, China, and Iran.

Source : Press TV

Techno-Authoritarianism Is Here to Stay: China and the Deep State Have Joined Forces

John & Nisha Whitehead wrote . . . . . . . . .

“If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.” — Senator Frank Church

The votes are in.

No matter who runs for office, no matter who controls the White House, Senate or the House of Representatives now or in the future, “we the people” have already lost.

We have lost because the future of this nation is being forged beyond the reach of our laws, elections and borders by techno-authoritarian powers with no regard for individuality, privacy or freedom.

The fate of America is being made in China, our role model for all things dystopian.

An economic and political powerhouse that owns more of America’s debt than any other country and is buying up American businesses across the spectrum, China is a vicious totalitarian regime that routinely employs censorship, surveillance, and brutal police state tactics to intimidate its populace, maintain its power, and expand the largesse of its corporate elite.

Where China goes, the United States eventually follows. This way lies outright tyranny.

Censorship. China’s censorship machine is straight out of Orwell’s 1984 with government agencies and corporations working together to limit the populace’s freedom of expression. Just a few years ago, in fact, China banned the use of the word “disagree,” as well as references to George Orwell’s novels Animal Farm and 1984. Government agencies routinely harass and intimidate anyone seen as non-compliant. Activists are frequently penalized for gathering in public places and charged criminally with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” China has also gone to great lengths to muzzle journalists reporting on corruption or human rights abuses.

Surveillance. COVID-19 brought China’s Orwellian surveillance out of the shadows and gave China the perfect excuse for unleashing the full force of its expansive and sophisticated surveillance and data collection powers on its citizenry and the rest of the world. Thermal scanners using artificial intelligence (AI) were installed at train stations in major cities to assess body temperatures and identify anyone with a fever. Facial recognition cameras and cell phone carriers tracked people’s movements constantly, reporting in real time to data centers that could be accessed by government agents and employers alike. And coded color alerts (red, yellow and green) sorted people into health categories that corresponded to the amount of freedom of movement they’re allowed: “Green code, travel freely. Red or yellow, report immediately.”

Social media credit scores. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese surveillance state had already been hard at work tracking its citizens through the use of some 200 million security cameras installed nationwide. Equipped with facial recognition technology, the cameras allow authorities to track so-called criminal acts, such as jaywalking, which factor into a person’s social credit score. Social media credit scores assigned to Chinese individuals and businesses categorize them on whether or not they are “good” citizens. A “citizen score” determines one’s place in society based on one’s loyalty to the government. A real-name system—which requires people to use government-issued ID cards to buy mobile sims, obtain social media accounts, take a train, board a plane, or even buy groceries—coupled with social media credit scores ensures that those blacklisted as “unworthy” are banned from accessing financial markets, buying real estate or travelling by air or train. Among the activities that can get you labeled unworthy are taking reserved seats on trains or allegedly causing trouble in hospitals.

Safe, smart cities. Having pioneered the development of so-called “safe” smart cities, China is exporting worldwide the high-tech communities in which residents are monitored round the clock, their every action under constant surveillance, and every device is connected to a central brain operated by artificial intelligence. As privacy expert Vincent Mosco concludes, “The benefit from smart cities clearly goes to the authorities who are able to use the promise of the modern, high-tech city to extend and deepen surveillance. It also goes to the big tech companies who profit first from building the smart city infrastructure and secondly by commodifying the entire smart city space. Citizens gain some operational efficiency but at great cost to their liberty.”

Digital currency. China has already adopted a government-issued digital currency, which not only allows it to surveil and seize people’s financial transactions, but can also work in tandem with its social credit score system to punish individuals for moral lapses and social transgressions (and reward them for adhering to government-sanctioned behavior). As China expert Akram Keram wrote for The Washington Post, “With digital yuan, the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] will have direct control over and access to the financial lives of individuals, without the need to strong-arm intermediary financial entities. In a digital-yuan-consumed society, the government easily could suspend the digital wallets of dissidents and human rights activists.”

Digital authoritarianism will redefine what it means to be free in almost every aspect of our lives. Again, we must look to China to understand what awaits us. As Human Rights Watch analyst Maya Wang explains: “Chinese authorities use technology to control the population all over the country in subtler but still powerful ways. The central bank is adopting digital currency, which will allow Beijing to surveil—and control—people’s financial transactions. China is building so-called safe cities, which integrate data from intrusive surveillance systems to predict and prevent everything from fires to natural disasters and political dissent. The government believes that these intrusions, together with administrative actions, such as denying blacklisted people access to services, will nudge people toward ‘positive behaviors,’ including greater compliance with government policies and healthy habits such as exercising.”

AI surveillance. In much the same way that Chinese products have infiltrated almost every market worldwide and altered consumer dynamics, China is now exporting its “authoritarian tech” to governments worldwide ostensibly in an effort to spread its brand of totalitarianism worldwide. In fact, both China and the United States have led the way in supplying the rest of the world with AI surveillance, sometimes at a subsidized rate. In the hands of tyrants and benevolent dictators alike, AI surveillance is the ultimate means of repression and control, especially through the use of smart city/safe city platforms, facial recognition systems, and predictive policing. These technologies are also being used by violent extremist groups, as well as sex, child, drug, and arms traffickers for their own nefarious purposes.

While countries with authoritarian regimes have been eager to adopt AI surveillance, as the Carnegie Endowment’s research makes clear, liberal democracies are also “aggressively using AI tools to police borders, apprehend potential criminals, monitor citizens for bad behavior, and pull out suspected terrorists from crowds.” Moreover, it’s easy to see how the China model for internet control has been integrated into the American police state’s efforts to flush out so-called anti-government, domestic extremists. This is how totalitarianism conquers the world.

Secret police. According to recent reports, China has planted more than 54 secret police forces in 25 cities around the world, including the United States, as part of their efforts to track and threaten dissidents and deport them back to China for prosecution. The campaign to surveil, intimidate and punish ex-patriates living abroad engaging in dissent has been dubbed Operation Fox Hunt. As one human rights agency noted, “The message from the [Chinese] ministry of foreign affairs – that you are not safe anywhere, that we can find you and that we can get to you – is very effective.”

Police brutality. Not much has changed about China’s brutal crackdown on protesters in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese policing remains brutal, excessive and inflexible, now with the added power of the surveillance state behind it.

Intimidation tactics. China has mastered the art of intimidation tactics, threatening activists, their families and their livelihood should they fail to comply with the government’s dictates. As one activist explained, “There have been telephone calls in the middle of the night that family members won’t find work if you don’t cooperate with the government, or that your parents’ phone number will be posted online and they’ll be harassed. Or with Uyghurs, that the rest of your family will be put in camps.”

Disappearance, brainwashing and torture. Those who fail to fall in line with China’s dictates are often made to disappear, arrested in the dead of night and imprisoned in Orwellian re-education camps. China has built more than 400 of these internment camps in recent years to detain people for offenses that run the gamut from challenging the government to so-called religious crimes such as owning a Qur’an or abstaining from eating pork. As the Guardian reports, “abuses include detailed arbitrary detentions, torture and medical neglect in the detention camps and coercive birth control.”

China’s global influence, its technological reach, its quest for world domination, and its rigid demand for compliance are pushing us towards a world in chains.

Through its growing stranglehold on surveillance technology, China has erected the world’s first digital totalitarian state, and in the process, has made itself a model for aspiring dictators everywhere.

What too many fail to recognize, however, is that China and the American Deep State have joined forces.

As I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, this is fascism hiding behind a thin veneer of open government and populist elections.

For all intents and purposes, we have become the embodiment of what Philip K. Dick feared when he wrote The Man in the High Castle, a vision of an alternate universe in which the Axis powers defeat the Allies in World War II, and “fascism has not simply conquered America. It has insinuated itself, with disturbing ease, into America’s DNA.”

Yet while Dick’s vision of a world in which totalitarianism has been normalized is chilling, our growing reality of a world in which the Deep State is not merely entrenched but has gone global is downright terrifying.

Our national flag may not boast the red and white stripes with a swastika on a field of blue as depicted in The Man in the High Castle, but be warned: we are no less occupied.

Source : The Rutherford Institute

Chart: The (Political) World Cup Map

Source : Statista


记者: 白林 倪四义 刘华 . . . . . . . . .















Source : 新华网

In Russia’s War Against Ukraine, Are ‘A Coup or A Nuke’ the Only Endgames Left?

Joshua Keating wrote . . . . . . . . .

The longer the war in Ukraine lasts, the harder it gets to imagine how it might end.

For one thing, both sides appear as all-in as ever. Last week, Russia launched missiles and Iranian “kamikaze” drones at Kyiv and Lviv and other heavily populated areas, and took aim at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, continued their advances on territory that Russia had claimed as its own, in a series of “annexations” just three weeks ago. Russian President Vladimir Putin is under heavy domestic pressure to use a heavier hand in the war, and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy uses his nightly addresses to the nation to make clear that his country will not rest until — at a minimum — Ukraine controls all the land it did prior to the Russian invasion.

There is no give at the moment on either side.

In the early days of the conflict, it was possible to imagine the fall of Kyiv to the Russians or a negotiated settlement that left a significant portion of Ukrainian territory in Russian hands. But Ukraine’s resistance and the international support it received exceeded most expectations, while Russia’s forces underperformed. All of which knocked those scenarios off the table.

At the same time, one scenario that seemed outlandish in late February — total Ukrainian victory and the expulsion of all Russian forces from Ukraine — is now not only seen as plausible; to many leaders in the West, it’s considered the only acceptable outcome. Sanna Marin, prime minister of soon-to-be NATO member Finland, spoke for many with her snappy response recently to a reporter’s question about finding a “way out of the conflict” for Putin:

“The way out of the conflict is for Russia to leave Ukraine,” she said. “That’s the way out of the conflict.”

Taken to its logical conclusion, this state of affairs — with the two sides dug in and NATO firmly dug in as well — seems to leave only two plausible outcomes: a coup or a nuke. Or to put it slightly less crudely, either there’s major political change in Russia, or Putin rolls the dice and escalates dramatically. The first scenario is not particularly likely, the second almost too horrifying to contemplate.

Are these really the only options left?

Calls for negotiations

Despite Ukraine’s recent battlefield gains, a growing number of international observers are calling on Ukraine to be open to making concessions to Russia and for Kyiv’s international backers to pressure it to do so. Most prominent among them has been the tech tycoon and omnipresent media figure Elon Musk.

Earlier this month, Musk tweeted a four-point peace plan, which included rerunning Russia’s sham sovereignty referendums in eastern Ukraine “under U.N. supervision” and Ukraine formally recognizing Crimea as part of Russia. The proposal was quickly panned by Ukraine supporters and by Zelenskyy himself.

Back in March, the argument for Ukraine making territorial concessions was that it would be preferable to full-scale Russian occupation. Now, the fear in some quarters is not the likelihood that Ukraine will lose but the possibility that it might win and the uncertainty about what Putin might do to prevent that from happening. As Musk put it in a follow-up tweet: “A possible, albeit unlikely, outcome from this conflict is nuclear war.”

Even Ukraine’s staunchest backers seem to share this anxiety. At a recent Democratic Party fundraising event where President Joe Biden made headlines for saying that the world currently faces the “prospect of Armageddon” due to Putin’s nuclear threats, he also said, “We are trying to figure out, what is Putin’s off-ramp? Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself where he does not only lose face but significant power?”

Think tank leaders and policymakers in many global capitals are asking the same questions. And unfortunately, for the moment, there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer. Put differently, it’s hard to see any way out for Putin that would be remotely acceptable to Ukraine or much of the international community. Rather than taking a number of opportunities to back away from the war, the Russian leader has chosen to escalate, most recently with last week’s barrage. And so, for the foreseeable future, the war will continue to be fought by a Russian military that is incapable of winning and a Russian president who is incapable of letting them lose.

The trouble with talks

Dan Reiter, a professor of political science at Emory University and author of the book “How Wars End,” told Grid, “The sweet spot you’re trying to find is a deal that has some set of concessions that Ukraine and the west are willing to make, but it has to be big enough that it can serve as a fig leaf for Putin to withdraw from the war without getting thrown from power.”

It’s hard to remember now that there was a time when this sweet spot seemed achievable. Back on March 28, the Financial Times reported, from sources at ceasefire negotiations that were underway in Istanbul, that Russia had dropped its demand that Ukraine be “denazified” and would settle for guarantees that Kyiv abandon its quest for NATO membership and refrain from hosting foreign military bases. Under the proposed deal, the final status of the regions seized by Russia after 2014 would be punted to future discussions.

Those talks ended abruptly after the revelations of atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians in Bucha and other towns. Since then, Russia and Ukraine have held constructive talks on resuming grain shipments through the Black Sea, on the dangerous situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and on various prisoner exchanges — all important matters, to be sure — but none on ending the war itself. And in the meantime, the diplomatic starting points for both sides have only grown further apart. Russia is no longer just pushing for the autonomy of Donetsk and Luhansk, the two regions it has partially controlled since 2014; last month’s annexations were a declaration that those two regions and two new ones, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, were now part of Russia. Putin has said since that he is open to negotiations but that the status of the four regions “will not be discussed. The decision has been made, and Russia will not betray it.”

If that’s true, it’s not clear what there is to negotiate about.

For his part, after the annexation, Zelenskyy abandoned his previous position that Ukraine would settle for security guarantees short of full NATO membership and applied for fast-track accession to the alliance. As for a temporary ceasefire, Ukrainians now argue this would simply give the Russians time to regroup and prepare for another invasion, as happened after the first incursion into eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Zelenskyy has said that there’s not much point in arguing with “unreasonable people.” In a recent interview with the German broadcaster ZDF, he argued that “these are terrorists who don’t entirely know what they want. Because every day their position changes depending on their emotions.”

It’s also not clear now whether Zelenskyy would have a political mandate to negotiate even he wanted to. A Gallup Poll released this week found that 70 percent of Ukrainians favor continuing to fight until victory is achieved and that more than 90 percent define “victory” as “when all territory lost between 2014 and now is regained, including Crimea.” As Ukrainian MP Oleksii Movchan told Grid in June, the Russians “have killed too many people. They have destroyed too many cities. They have raped too many women. If the war stops now and the world tries to accommodate Putin, then international law will have no meaning.”

What will NATO do?

Of course, given that the resistance depends on international money and weapons, the decision about whether to bend at all to Moscow may not ultimately be Ukraine’s to make. NATO and the U.S. could theoretically apply pressure on Zelenskyy to make concessions.

But for now, even the NATO leaders who’ve continued to communicate with Putin and argued for leaving open diplomatic options — France’s Emmanuel Macron and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to name two — say the starting point for talks is that Russia must abandon its annexed territories. In this view, what’s at stake is not just Ukraine, but the very principle that international borders should not be changed by force.

“From the Western perspective, having Russia gain territory from a war of aggression in Europe, carried out under the shadow of nuclear threats, is not terribly conducive to the future of European security,” Olga Oliker, Crisis Group’s program director for Europe and Central Asia, told Grid.

Coup or a nuke

If there’s no way out via the negotiating table, that brings us back to those two often-discussed scenarios: a coup in the Kremlin or Russian use of a nuclear weapon.

While there has reportedly been more dissent than normal within Putin’s inner circle in recent weeks, and the president’s removal is not out of the question, it’s the sort of deus ex machina scenario Ukraine and its allies shouldn’t be counting on.

Even if Putin were removed from power, it’s not clear that his replacement would be more accommodating. The boldest critics of the war within Russia’s power structure are not liberal dissenters but figures like Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who think the problem is that Putin’s “special military operation” hasn’t been waged harshly enough.

As for nuclear weapons, their use in this war remains a disturbingly plausible scenario, and the Russian government’s threats should not be taken lightly. But it’s worth noting that those threats have generally been made not against Ukraine itself but against Western countries in an effort to deter them from direct intervention in the war. It’s fairly apparent that Putin wants no part of a direct military conflict with NATO, which would become far more likely in the event of a nuclear strike. For all the destructiveness of Russia’s recent assaults on Ukraine, Russia has avoided targeting the supply lines bringing Western weapons into the country — a retaliatory response far short of the nuclear option. As reckless as he may be, Putin still appears to have lines he won’t cross.

On the other side, Ukraine and its allies have repeatedly crossed Putin’s self-declared “red lines” without triggering “Armageddon.” After the four regions were annexed, there were fears that Russia would consider any attack against those areas an attack on the Russian homeland, and therefore a justification for a massive — perhaps even a nuclear — response. Putin added to these concerns by vowing to defend the new territories with “all the means at our disposal.” But in the three weeks since the annexation, Ukraine has continued to fight and take territory in those regions, and the response — while fierce — has been limited to missile and drone strikes on various Ukrainian cities.

Meanwhile, Russian officials have vowed that an attack on Crimea would unleash “judgment day.” Maybe. And maybe not. To date, Ukrainian strikes on Crimean bases and the symbolically important bridge connecting the peninsula to Russia have been met with only a conventional — albeit deadly — Russian response.

So how does this end?

What we might call the “fear of a Ukrainian victory” is premised on the notion that Putin considers this conflict existential, for himself if not for Russia, and that he would risk everything to prevent a defeat. As one analyst put it, “The two planks of U.S. policy in Ukraine — ensuring a Russian defeat and minimizing the prospects of a direct confrontation with Moscow — are increasingly incompatible.”

Losing a war and losing territory are never good for leaders, be they dictators or democrats. But they’re not necessarily fatal. Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait, lost it and remained in power for another 12 years. For a more recent example, Putin could look to his ally Nikol Pashinyan, prime minister of Armenia, who is still in office despite losing a humiliating territorial war in 2020.

It may well be that Putin would have a greater chance of political survival were he to concede now rather than continuing to fight. The problem is that he doesn’t seem to see it that way. In a recent Twitter thread, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, a staunch advocate of pushing for total Ukrainian victory, questioned the premise that Putin will “never back down,” noting that he had scaled back his initial goals during the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014. But in those cases, Putin had at least accomplished some goal, something he could sell as a victory. Again, he might have been able to make such a case a few months ago. Now, it’s not clear what that claim of “victory” could possibly be.

Turning points to come

For the time being, the most likely scenario is neither a nuke nor a coup, but simply more war.

A few potential turning points are looming on the horizon, however, and any of these could make calls for negotiations grow louder.

One will come if Russian forces are pushed back toward the areas they controlled before Feb. 24. In March, this would have been viewed as an incredible victory for Ukraine. Now, the Ukrainians have larger ambitions, but their foreign supporters may start to run out of patience with the costs and risks of the war once the pre-2022 status quo is restored. That’s even more likely when it comes to Crimea, which has been de facto part of Russia since 2014. The Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea may have been utterly illegitimate from a legal standpoint, but the willingness of the Europeans and the U.S. to prolong the war if it comes to a fight for Crimea is not clear.

As a political matter, while support for a Ukrainian victory is still impressively robust and widespread in the West, that could change as well. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has suggested that his party will no longer write a “blank check” to Ukraine if it takes control of Congress in next month’s midterm elections. Europe is in for a cold and expensive winter and already facing strikes and demonstrations over the rising cost of living — which has been a direct consequence of the war.

On the Russian side, the impact of sanctions and export controls will continue to accumulate. For now, it is mainly the hawks who are openly criticizing the war, but “technocrat” politicians including Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin have also been trying to distance themselves from Putin’s unpopular mass mobilization.

And while there are no signs of direct Ukraine-Russia ceasefire talks any time soon, there are still a number of intermediaries who are talking to both sides. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and Turkey’s Erdogan helped facilitate the grain deal. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich played a role in negotiating a recent prisoner swap. United Arab Emirates Leader Mohammed Bin Zayed, a close U.S. ally, was recently in Moscow for talks with Putin. With the possible exception of Guterres, this seems an unlikely group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, but the point is that there are potential intermediaries out there — if avenues for negotiation appear.

And they may. “Decision-making has to be based on the facts we have on the ground, not on virtual political reality,” Liana Fix, fellow for Europe at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Grid. “It just requires a lot of patience, because down the road other scenarios may open up that we’re not thinking of now. It’s a matter of walking through the fog in a cautious, step-by-step approach, without sacrificing our principles.”

It’s also worth remembering that while Feb. 24 may feel like a lifetime ago, only eight months have passed — a relatively short amount of time for a major land war between two well-supplied military powers. Right now, there’s no telling how long we may be walking through the fog.

Source : Grid

Britain’s Productivity Problem

Paddy Hirsch wrote . . . . . . . . .

On Thursday, British Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned after just 44 days. To some she was an economic naif, brought down by delusions of resurgent Thatcherism; to others she was a conservative clown, who had turned the United Kingdom into a laughing stock. The turmoil in the UK economy caused by her budget prompted European newspapers to mock Britain for leaving the European Union. American media outlets wondered if she could last until the end of the month. Britain’s own newspapers compared the Prime Minister to a rotting head of lettuce — and then noted the lettuce outlived her. Italy’s leading daily, Corriere Della Sera, ran with the headline “Panic in London: ‘We have become the new Italy’.”

This last jab was particularly galling for Truss, and not just because it nodded at how politically unstable the UK has become (Italy went through six prime ministers in the ten years between 2006 and 2016: when Truss’ successor is named, that will be four in four years for the UK). The comparison also points to the UK’s economic malaise: its low growth, its bloated public services — and its sluggish productivity, a long-lived feature of the UK economy that Truss vowed to reverse.

Mind The Productivity Gap

Truss and her ill-fated finance minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, were two of the five co-authors of Britannia Unchained, a booklet published in 2012 warning that the UK was mired in a slough of low productivity, lack of ambition and an inability to compete with fast-growing Asian economies.

“The British are among the worst idlers in the world,” they wrote. “We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor. Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.”

Truss telegraphed her intent to tackle Britain’s culture of unproductive laziness during the race to replace Boris Johnson, so it was no surprise to anyone who was listening when she burst out of the gate, guns leveled at Britain’s low productivity and growth. Her mini-budget, released on September 23, promised the biggest tax cuts the UK had seen since 1972, as well as an energy price freeze, all to be paid for with a massive borrowing spree.

It all went as her opponent for the leadership, Rishi Sunak, had predicted: markets freaked out, the pound fell to an historic low, bond yields flew higher and the Bank of England had to step in with an emergency bailout package to protect funds managing the assets of British retirees. Within a month, both Truss and Kwarteng were gone.

The Productivity Problem

Productivity is important to an economy: it’s how you make more with less, and it’s vital to improving a nation’s living standards. Britain was a highly productive country in the 1800s — if not the most productive — thanks to the Industrial Revolution and colonialism. When the 20th century rolled around, however, Britain lost its place to the US, and — thanks in part to two World Wars — never won it back.

Productivity languished for years. Margaret Thatcher made improving it one of her missions, urging people to “Travel abroad, and see how much better our neighbors are doing,” while she was in opposition. Once in power, in 1979, she ushered in a series of reforms that cut taxes, empowered employers over unions, dismantled public ownership of assets and deregulated much of the economy.

And productivity did improve, relative to other European nations. The downside was that the hollowing out of unions and manufacturing depressed wages, stifled innovation, and left the UK overly dependent on the financial and services sector. That kept a lid on productivity and growth right through the millennium. Still, by the early 2000s, productivity was growing at a rate second only to the US. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, however, productivity hit a wall. Diane Coyle, a professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge, says it has never really recovered.

“We’ve had flat lining productivity since the mid-2000s,” she says. “And while compared to other countries, they’ve had slowdowns, we’ve just had a much worse slowdown than anybody.”

Between 2009 and 2019, Britain’s productivity growth rate was the second slowest in the G7, just ahead of Italy. Coyle says there are plenty of factors to blame for Britain’s weak productivity growth; there are so many in fact that she likens the search for a culprit to the conclusion of an Agatha Christie mystery: Everybody turns out to have done it.

“It’s a system problem,” Coyle says. “And I can give you a list of things that have gone wrong: low investment, very centralized government decision making, really inadequate skills, training, constant chopping, and changing of policies; an economy that’s much too weighted towards financial services and professional services at the expense of manufacturing.”

Blaming Brexit

One suspect that a lot of people are pointing the finger at: Brexit. Soumaya Keynes, an editor for The Economist, says Britain’s departure from the EU undoubtedly had an effect on productivity.

“That created all sorts of uncertainty and stability, and that made it harder for businesses to plan in the kinds of productive investments that would be good for the economy,” Keynes says.

That uncertainty may have depressed business investment by as much as 11 percent in 2019. A study from the Bank of England estimated that the Brexit process has cut the productivity of British companies by between 2% and 5%since the 2016 vote to leave. Output per hour worked in Britain is around 15% below that in the United States, Germany and France.

Brexit’s effects on the UK economy, however, may only be short term. That’s because much of the productivity drain came from executives spending time on planning and preparation, and the uncertainty over Brexit should fade over time.

Other potential causes of a lack of productivity in the UK are more entrenched. Soumaya Keynes says the lack of investment in business and industry by both the government and the private sector is one of the most affecting. And not just the kind of investment that acquires new equipment that helps people do their work better.

“There’s intangible investment that you can’t touch so easily, like building brands or intellectual property or designing better processes; that other kind of investment that’s much harder to measure, but is very important in a services-based economy like Britain.”

Keynes says the amount of money the UK government spends on investment in businesses is relatively small, compared to the private sector, but the government has the vital role of creating the conditions that encourage spending by private sector companies.

“A necessary condition for healthy investment is certainty and stability, and an expectation from businesses that there’s going to be a strong economy and healthy demand,” Keynes says. “It’s really those necessary conditions that haven’t really been satisfied over the past few years.”

That lack of investment has put the UK on the back foot, compared to its peers. A report from the London School of Economics and the Resolution Foundation think tank found that business capital investment in Britain was 10% of gross domestic product in 2019, compared with 13% on average in the United States, Germany and France. And the UK government spends a lot less on research and development, too.

Low investment, along with an education shortfall, a skills gap and deep regional inequality is further complicated by a byzantine planning system that is so devolved and bureaucratic that it makes it really, really difficult to build anything in Britain. Altogether these barriers represent a severe, long-term and systemic obstacle for improvements in the UK’s productivity. And to be fair to Liz Truss, she did want to address these issues in her mini-budget. The problem, Keynes says, was that she tried to combine reforms directed at this barrier with a package of big tax cuts all at the same time.

“I think her sequencing was wrong,” Keynes says. “If you step back, her primary objective was going for growth, and that is admirable. Well done, Liz Truss, identifying this huge problem and really trying to fix it.”

But Truss was naive, Keynes says. “There are huge vested interests that want to see the current planning system kept as it is. And with her announcement of lots of unfunded tax cuts, investors took fright. We’ve got a hostile global economic environment: It was a very risky environment in which to try to do that.”

Stuck in an unproductive rut

The UK is caught in a bind over its low productivity and growth, which have been exacerbated by external issues in the global economy — particularly the war in Ukraine. If the UK wants to increase productivity, it needs to boost investment. But within the current economic context of high inflation and budget woes — and a bond market that won’t permit much more borrowing — that means cutting domestic spending, which will squeeze households at a particularly difficult time and cause pain for years to come. The LSE-Resolution study estimated that increasing business investment funded by domestic resources could generate an extra 8 percentage points in GDP growth over 20 years, but it could take 15 years before household consumption recovered from an initial fall.

Another path to take is to attract foreign investment, but a big part of that will involve lowering taxes. The demise of Liz Truss shows how tough it is to get that kind of policy passed when inflation is high, and citizens are bracing for a hard winter.

Poor Liz. She was dealt a bad hand from the get go. Her successor isn’t likely to do much better in the shuffle.

Source : NPR


作者: 白川 司 . . . . . . . .

● 習主席が捨て去った 鄧小平の「開放路線」












● 中国経済の停滞に 拍車をかける習近平








● 貧富格差の拡大で 分断が進む中国社会









● それでも習近平の 権力基盤が強固な理由














Source : Yahoo!

两个确立是中共中央总书记习近平执政时期提出的政治口号,是指确立习近平同志党中央的核心、全党的核心地位,确立习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想的指导地位,是对2018年提出“两个维护”的发展。 外界视为习近平崇拜的一部分,目的是进一步强化习近平作为总书记的党内领导地位。

U.S. National Security Strategy 2022

October 12, 2022

From the earliest days of my Presidency, I have argued that our world is at an inflection point. How we respond to the tremendous challenges and the unprecedented opportunities we face today will determine the direction of our world and impact the security and prosperity of the American people for generations to come. The 2022 National Security Strategy outlines how my Administration will seize this decisive decade to advance America’s vital interests, position the United States to outmaneuver our geopolitical competitors, tackle shared challenges, and set our world firmly on a path toward a brighter and more hopeful tomorrow.

Around the world, the need for American leadership is as great as it has ever been. We are in the midst of a strategic competition to shape the future of the international order. Meanwhile, shared challenges that impact people everywhere demand increased global cooperation and nations stepping up to their responsibilities at a moment when this has become more difficult. In response, the United States will lead with our values, and we will work in lockstep with our allies and partners and with all those who share our interests. We will not leave our future vulnerable to the whims of those who do not share our vision for a world that is free, open, prosperous, and secure. As the world continues to navigate the lingering impacts of the pandemic and global economic uncertainty, there is no nation better positioned to lead with strength and purpose than the United States of America.

From the moment I took the oath of office, my Administration has focused on investing in America’s core strategic advantages. Our economy has added 10 million jobs and unemployment rates have reached near record lows. Manufacturing jobs have come racing back to the United States. We’re rebuilding our economy from the bottom up and the middle out.

We’ve made a generational investment to upgrade our Nation’s infrastructure and historic investments in innovation to sharpen our competitive edge for the future. Around the world, nations are seeing once again why it’s never a good bet to bet against the United States of America.

We have also reinvigorated America’s unmatched network of alliances and partnerships to uphold and strengthen the principles and institutions that have enabled so much stability, prosperity, and growth for the last 75 years. We have deepened our core alliances in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. NATO is stronger and more united than it has ever been, as we look to welcome two capable new allies in Finland and Sweden. We are doing more to connect our partners and strategies across regions through initiatives like our security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom (AUKUS). And we are forging creative new ways to work in common cause with partners around issues of shared interest, as we are with the European Union, the Indo-Pacific Quad, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.

These partnerships amplify our capacity to respond to shared challenges and take on the issues that directly impact billions of people’s lives. If parents cannot feed their children, nothing else matters. When countries are repeatedly ravaged by climate disasters, entire futures are wiped out. And as we have all experienced, when pandemic diseases proliferate and spread, they can worsen inequities and bring the entire world to a standstill. The United States will continue to prioritize leading the international response to these transnational challenges, together with our partners, even as we face down concerted efforts to remake the ways in which nations relate to one another.

In the contest for the future of our world, my Administration is clear-eyed about the scope and seriousness of this challenge. The People’s Republic of China harbors the intention and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global playing field to its benefit, even as the United States remains committed to managing the competition between our countries responsibly. Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war on its neighbor Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and impacted stability everywhere, and its reckless nuclear threats endanger the global non-proliferation regime. Autocrats are working overtime to undermine democracy and export a model of governance marked by repression at home and coercion abroad.

These competitors mistakenly believe democracy is weaker than autocracy because they fail to understand that a nation’s power springs from its people. The United States is strong abroad because we are strong at home. Our economy is dynamic. Our people are resilient and creative.

Our military remains unmatched—and we will keep it that way. And it is our democracy that enables us to continually reimagine ourselves and renew our strength.

So, the United States will continue to defend democracy around the world, even as we continue to do the work at home to better live up to the idea of America enshrined in our founding documents. We will continue to invest in boosting American competitiveness globally, drawing dreamers and strivers from around the world. We will partner with any nation that shares our basic belief that the rules-based order must remain the foundation for global peace and prosperity. And we will continue to demonstrate how America’s enduring leadership to address the challenges of today and tomorrow, with vision and clarity, is the best way to deliver for the American people.

This is a 360-degree strategy grounded in the world as it is today, laying out the future we seek, and providing a roadmap for how we will achieve it. None of this will be easy or without setbacks. But I am more confident than ever that the United States has everything we need to win the competition for the 21st century. We emerge stronger from every crisis. There is nothing beyond our capacity. We can do this—for our future and for the world.

Read the full report . . . . .