Posts Tagged ‘China’

War and peace: Links & comments 11/24/14

November 24, 2014

Washington Plays Russian Roulette by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The great threat of nuclear war is not that some crazy Islamic terrorist will someday obtain a nuclear weapon.  The threat is that decision-makers in Russia, the only nation with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out the United States, will think the USA is attacking or about to attack their nation, and their only choice is to retaliate or strike first.

I don’t think that the decision-makes in Washington, wicked and foolish as some of them seem to be, really plan to attack Russia.  But they sure are doing things that give Russians reason to fear.

First, by expanding NATO to Russia’s borders.  Second, by bringing an anti-missile defense system to Russia’s doorstep, which, if it worked (it probably won’t), would negate Russia’s ability to retaliate or defend itself.  Third, by a reckless policy in Ukraine, which Pepe Escobar described pungently in this article.

During the Cold War with the Soviet Union, there were a number of times when American and Soviet defenders received false indications that their countries were under attack, and the decision-makers held back on retaliating.   To count on this happening every time in the future is truly the same as playing Russian Roulette.

Dumbing It Away by “Spengler” for Asia Times.

The Chinese don’t believe in Heinlein’s Rule.  They think U.S. government reduced the Middle East to chaos on purpose, in order to disrupt the world’s oil supply and strengthen the U.S. position as an energy producer.  As evidence, they point out that the Islamic State (ISIS) is led by Sunni Arab officers armed and paid by General David Petreaus during the “surge” in 2007-2008.

David P. Goldman, writing as “Spengler,” would like to send the Chinese leaders copies of Why We Lost: a General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars by Daniel P. Bolger.   General Bolger showed that U.S. policy was actually the result of a sincere effort to reach impossible goals by means of an unworkable strategy.

Malarkey on the Potomac by Andrew Bacevich for TomDispatch

Andrew Bacevich, a political scientist and retired military officer, said U.S. policy in the Middle East is based on five false assumptions:  (1) U.S. forces in the Islamic world help stabilize the region and enhance U.S. power, (2) the Persian Gulf is vital to U.S. security, (3) Egypt and Saudia Arabia are valuable U.S. allies, (4) U.S. and Israel’s interests coincide and (5) terrorism is an existential threat.  Bacevich explained clearly and briefly why none of these beliefs is true.

 

The passing scene: Links & comments 11/17/14

November 17, 2014

What really happened in Beijing: Putin, Obama, Xi—and the back story the media won’t tell you by Patrick Smith for Salon.

Patrick Smith explained why the real winner in the new U.S.-Russian cold war is China.

Saudi Arabia is driving down the world price of oil, now about $80 a barrel, by putting oil on the market.  The main point, Smith wrote, is that the Saudis can make a profit so long as oil is priced at more than $30 a barrel, but the Russians, whose oil is harder to get, need a price of $104 a barrel.

The Saudis oppose Russia for supporting Syria and Iran, which are obstacles to Saudi influence in the Middle East.  Other oil-producing nations suffer collateral damage.  Venezuela is currently going through a political and economic crisis due to the fall in the price of oil.

Russia had helped the United States in its negotiations with Iran, by agreeing to reprocess uranium for the Iranians, which would remove the possibility that the reprocessing might be used to make Iranian nuclear weapons.  U.S.-Iranian negotiations also are collateral damage.

All this benefits China, which gets to buy Russian oil and gas at a bargain price.  China is expanding its influence in Asia offering attractive trade deals to nations that don’t want to be drawn into U.S. conflicts.

Ronald Reagan’s secret tragedy: How 70s and 80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America, an interview of Rick Perlstein by Thomas Frank for Salon.

Rick Perlstein, author of the newly-published The Invisible Bridge: the Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, said the roots of present-day politics go back to the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon governed based on short-term political gain, and candidate Ronald Reagan encouraged Americans to believe in the myths we tell ourselves.

Democrats meanwhile turned away from working people and New Deal liberalism and embraced an illusory non-partisanship.  This created a politics in which big-business conservatives can pose as  populists and the true representatives of working people.

Act of Faith: the Catholic priest who puts his life on the line to save Muslims in the Central African Republic by Sam Jones for The Guardian.

Father Bernard Kinvi is a true hero who lives up to the best teaching of his church.  His story is well worth knowing.

The passing scene: November 15, 2014

November 15, 2014

The Myth of Chinese Super-Schools by Diane Ravich for the New York Review of Books.

Diane Ravich, a foremost defender and analyst of the U.S. public school system, reviewed Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World by Yong Zhao.

Zhao, who was educated in China and now teaches at the University of Oregon, said the Chinese educational system is the best in the world for promoting rote learning, high test scores and hard-working, obedient employees.  It is the worst in the world for encouraging creativity, enterprise and self-reliance.

The United States is making a big mistake by moving to a high stakes testing system that measures rote learning.

Who won the Civil War?  These students at Texas Tech have no idea, a video from the History News Network (hat tip to Bill Harvey)

 A video interview of Texas Tech students revealed that hardly any of them knew that the North won the Civil War or that the United States won its independence from Great Britain.

After watching this video, I thought that maybe a certain amount of rote learning might not be amiss.  But my question is: Were these students never taught basic facts about the War of Independence and the Civil War?  Or were they taught them, but never made to understand why these facts were worth remembering?

Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism? by Elizabeth Kolbert of the New York Review of Books.

Elizabeth Kolbert, a foremost writer on climate change, reviewed This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein.  She wrote that Klein makes the issue too simple by blaming climate change on fossil fuel companies, and ignoring the drastic changes in everyday life that will be needed to keep the planet from overheating.

Is the U.S. China Climate Pact as Big a Deal as It Seems? by James Fallows for The Atlantic.

Without the USA and China, the world’s two biggest economic powers and two biggest polluters, nothing can be done to stop catastrophic climate change.  The current pledge by Presidents Obama and Xi may not come to anything, but it is a necessary first step.

Sunken Soviet Submarines Threaten Nuclear Catastrophe in Russia’s Arctic by Matthew Bodner for The Moscow Times (hat tip to Naked Capitalism)

The passing scene: November 14, 2014

November 14, 2014

China’s silky road to glory by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

 China for decades has been quietly building up its strength.  Now it is manifesting that strength, as Pepe Escobar reported from the 21-nation Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Beijing.

President Xi Jinping announced a plan for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) which, according to Escobar, got a more favorable reception that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, proposed by the United States, which excludes China.

He also announced a $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Bank, providing an alternative to the International Monetary Fund and a $40 billion investment for a Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road, improving China’s connections with Central Asia, South Asia and Russia.

All these measures would tie neighboring countries closer to China.  These amounts are relatively small, but could be the start of something big.

Why Cuba Is So Good at Fighting Ebola by Alexandra Sifferlin for Time.

Cuba sends medical teams that are expert in tropic diseases to countries in peril.  The USA sends troops.

I once wrote a post saying Cuba is an economic failure.  I don’t approve of dictatorship and I don’t think centrally planned economies work well, but I have to say that Cuba puts the USA to shame in its response to emergencies (the Cubans were better prepared for the Katrina hurricane than we Americans were) and its help to other countries.

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The passing scene: November 6, 2014

November 6, 2014

New Shipping Canal in Nicaragua Faces Questions and Opposition by Jens Gluesing for Der Spiegel.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Nicaragua is proceeding with plans for a new canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which will be bigger than the Panama Canal.

The Nicaraguan Canal will be paid for and built by China, which will get a 50-year concession to operate the canal and an option for an additional 50 years.  It would give China a great foothold for expanding its economic influence in the Western Hemisphere.

The canal is scheduled for completion in just five years, although construction hasn’t started as yet.  Unlike the Panama Canal, it will be big enough to handle container ships.

Some Nicaraguans are opposed, because of the impact on Lake Nicaragua, source of most of the country’s drinking water, and because 30,000 Nicaraguans will be displaced from their homes to make way for the canal.  Others question whether the canal will be financially viable, since the Panama Canal is being expanded and other central American countries are building “dry canals”—railroads to transfer cargoes from one ocean to the other.

The New Loan Sharks by Susanne Soederberg for Jacobin magazine.

desperationnationStagnation of American wages and economic uncertainty have made payday loans a big business, because so many Americans are barely getting by and have no savings cushion for unexpected emergencies.

Payday loans are not a marginal part of the U.S. economy.  They are a big business financed by economic giants such as Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, and by Advance America, which is owned by Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pilego.

The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster by Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica and Laura Sullivan of NPR.

The Red Cross is another charitable organization which has succumbed to the corporate model, which puts fund-raising and public relations ahead of doing its job.

China leads the world in executions

October 21, 2014

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Source: The Independent

Last year China executed more people, by far, than the rest of the world combined.

Emerging Eurasian alliance: a new power balance

October 6, 2014

Silk-Road-Map1

While the attention of the USA is focused on the ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria, the most important thing going on in international affairs is the rising power of China, its ties with Russia and the future of the heartland of the Eurasia continent.

Pepe Escobar, the roving correspondent for Asia Times, sums up the situation in a new article for TomDispatch.  If things keep going the way they are now, China will be the world’s strongest industrial power, with Russia as its supplier of oil and gas and maybe Germany as its machinery supplier and India as its back office.

Vladimir Putin has the ambition of restoring Russia as one of the world’s great powers.  To do that, it is to his interest to have good relations both with China and with the nations of the European Union.   But United States and NATO policy are driving him into the arms of China.

New cold wars between NATO and Russia, and between the USA and China, give both Russia and China all the more reason to join forces across the interior of Eurasia.

The framework of a Russian-Chinese alliance is the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement, which includes Russia, China and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.   This is not yet a tight military alliance such as NATO or a formal economic union such as the European Union. but it could become either or both.  India, Pakistan and Iran have expressed interest in joining.

One of the ways the Obama administration seeks to offset a Eurasian alliance is through the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (aka the Transatlantic Free Trade Area).

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The passing scene: Links & comments 10/1/14

October 1, 2014

Why I Hope to Die at Age 75 by Ezekiel Emanuel for The Atlantic.

Bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel, who’s now 57, wrote that he won’t undergo any medical treatment for the purpose of prolonging life after age 75.  He added that this is a personal decision, and not a recommendation.  But he sees the years after 75 as a period of decline that will add nothing to his life.

I am impressed that someone would be so satisfied with their life that they would be willing to wind it up at age 75.  I’m 78, going on 79, and I have unfinished business.

But it is true that, if I live long enough into years of decline, I will find life no longer worth living.  One disappointment is that I probably won’t be around to see if Emanuel carries through on his resolution.

[Added 10/2/14]  I note that Emanuel is a bio-ethicist.  In my opinion, the job of bio-ethicists is to rationalize doing things that physicians and others intuitively feel is wrong.

Another subtext to Ezekiel Emanuel’s “Why I Hope to Die at 75″: Hillary’s Too Old by Steve Sailer for The Unz Review.

If elected President in 2016 and 2020, Hillary Clinton would be 77 when she stepped down on Jan. 19, 2015.  Joe Biden would be 82; Jerry Brown, 86; Elizabeth Warren, 75 1/2; and Bernie Sanders, 83.  But Ezekiel’s brother Rahm, the Democratic mayor of Chicago, would be a vibrant 65.

ISIS at the Gates of Baghdad: Why Airstrikes Are Failing by Patrick Cockburn for Counterpunch.

Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote that the only forces in Iraq capable of fighting ISIS are the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias.  But they terrorize Sunni Muslims, who look to ISIS for protection.  Cockburn doesn’t see any good way out of this dilemma for the United States.

World should not be oblivious to Russia’s calculated shift toward China by Hisayoshi Ina for Nikkei Asian Review.

Russia, China court India for regional bloc by Takayuki Tanaka for Nikkei Asian Review.

The world balance of power is changing, as the Russian government responds to pressures in Europe by strengthening its ties with Asia.

Andreatta: Cops and Manners on Short Street by David Andreatta for the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, NY.

I think that if I was a policeman, I would find that every prejudice I had concerning any group of people would be confirmed by my experience, because the police see the worst of any group of people and see people at their worst.

This column by David Andreatta shows just how difficult it is to overcome such attitudes.

The powerful and precarious rise of China

September 26, 2014

The rise of China is one of the most important historical events, maybe the most important, of our time.

Jonathan Fenby, an experienced reporter and former editor of the South China Morning Post, gave a good account of China’s rise in his 2012 book, TIGER HEAD, SNAKE TAILS: China Today, How It Got There and Where It is Heading.

I finished reading Fenby’s book a week or so ago.  It reminded me of histories of the United States in the late 19th century, the era of the so-called robber barons.

Like the USA then, China has sweatshops, child labor, pollution, slums, suppression of minorities and rampant bribery and corruption.  But also like the USA then, China is full of energy and optimism, growing in wealth and power, and a land of opportunity for its entrepreneurs.

fenby.tiger.headWhen I was a boy, most Americans thought China was eternally doomed to upheavals, poverty and famine.

From the Opium Wars to the death of Mao Zedong, that was China’s fate.  But during the past 40 years, the Chinese leaders have made their country one of the world’s great economic powers, brought population growth under control and provided a basic subsistence to all and prosperity to many.

From 1978 to 2012, China’s economy grew 17-fold.  China’s economy is the second-largest in the world, although still far smaller than the United States.  It has a positive balance of trade.   It is the largest trading partner of Australia, the largest trading partner of Africa and a growing presence in Latin America.

Chinese companies compete and expand worldwide, while China’s own territory attracts industry from the USA, Europe and Japan.

The Chinese challenge, however, is much different from the Japanese challenge of the 1980s.  The Japanese challenge was that Japanese companies made products of a higher quality than U.S.-based companies.  This resulted in a competition for quality that was good for both the United States and Japan.

This is a different from the Chinese challenge of making products more cheaply than U.S.-based companies.  This results in a race to the bottom which is bad for most countries.

While many Chinese companies make world-class products, others cut corners.  Chinese companies are noted for cheap imitations of foreign brand name products.  Violation of copyright and theft of patents are common.  Fenby reported that 80 percent of counterfeit goods seized in the USA and Europe originate in China.

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The Eurasian scene: Links & comments 9/15/14

September 15, 2014

Russia fears the eastward spread of the ‘jihadist cancer’ by Vitaly Naumkin for Al-Monitor.

The Islamic State (ISIS) has, according to this writer, established a stable government in the area it controls.  ISIS successfuly operates oil wells, sells oil in international black markets, provides jobs and keeps order, at least for those willing to submit to its rules.  Its horrible atrocities frighten poorly-disciplined and poorly-motivated troops of its enemies.

The Russian government is worried about the growing power of ISIS, especially in Syria.  Unlike the United States, Russia supports the Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian regime.  Moscow hopes for success of all-Syria peace talks, but is prepared to support Syria’s government by any means short of sending Russian troops.

Uzbekistan: Rattled by Russian Expansionism, Tashkent Looks East by Joanna Lillis for Eurasia.net.

Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s tyrannical ruler, worried that the Maidan protests in Ukraine would encourage would-be protesters in his country.  But now he’s more worried about the precedent set by Russian incursions in Ukraine.

Too offset Russia, Karimov is strengthening Ukraine’s ties in China, other east Asian countries and the Persian Gulf states.  This is a blow to Vladimir Putin’s hopes of creating a Eurasian Union, a Russian-dominated economic union of former Soviet nations to offset the European Union.

China’s Island Factory by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes for BBC News.

China is building artificial islands on reefs in the South China Sea in territorial waters that also are claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.  These islands will become offshore Chinese air bases and naval bases.


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