I recently published this opinion piece on the Saker website, & it was republished in Russia Insider. I also wanted to share it here as well (with a few minor grammatical corrections). Apologies in advance if the pictures turn out blurry, please refer to one of the links above.
Not All Silk Roads Are Created Equal
The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route is unlikely to see high-volume PRC adoption in the near term due to insufficient business and geopolitical value prop
Several months ago, there were quite a fewnews/analysisreports lauding the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) as a new path for trade along the Silk Road, which is being revitalized by China and its regional partners under the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project. The TITR is highly attractive to Russia’s geopolitical rivals, such as Georgia and post-Maidan Ukraine (& no doubt the US too), for it is a potential Sino-European trade route across the Eurasian continent that completely bypasses Russian territory. However, there is little/no incentive for China to actively promote or use TITR for large-scale trade in the near future. To expand on this conclusion, this article will cover the following: the basic business value proposition of the land-based Eurasian Silk Road, an outline of the TITR path, a side-by-side comparison of a comparable route (Chongqing-Duisburg, also known as ‘Yuxinou’), and the geopolitical factor.
It seems the ghost has been exorcised but no MSM seems interested in reporting it.
Simply search for “China ghost town Africa” and you should find a list of reporting that are simply ignorant or dishonest. If you want to see what brainwashing and misinformation can do simply read the comment section of the following articles: Read more…
New research, based on China’s aid track record from 2000-2013, shows that much of what the western media propagates about China’s intentions & practices, when it comes to providing official development aid (ODA) to Africa, is simply NOT true. “Coincidentally”, this latest research published by AidData has garnered little (if any) attention in US mainstream media outlets.
Here are a few of its findings. Those who are interested in the details should check out this new report in its entirety.
African states that align with the PRC’s stances in the UN tend to receive more development assistance.
Internal political system is not a factor for ODA allocation; the PRC does NOT favor either authoritarian or democratic governments.
For China, humanitarian need is a stronger determinant of ODA destination than natural resource development opportunities, given that Chinese ODA is more focused on poorer African countries.
Chinese ODA does NOT favor countries with higher levels of corruption.
Recently, there has been no shortage of highly pessimisticcommentariespublished & republished, pointing out the supposed “follies” of Russia’s eastern pivot, by highlighting this year’s decline in Sino-Russian trade, China’s stock market volatility, and its supposed economic “weakness”. The conclusion implied by these articles is clear: “Russia’s economic pivot to China is failing, because increased economic cooperation has not mitigated Russia’s recent economic woes, or the effect of sanctions. China cannot save Russia, and the latter must continue depending on the West.”
This is essentially a straw-man conclusion. One thing should be plainly apparent through even a casual examination of Russia’s biggest recent commercial agreements with China: most of these arrangements with China were NEVER INTENDED to offset the impact of Russia’s current recession, but rather to position Russia’s economy for greater long-term diversification and upward mobility on the global economic value chain.
In April the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court dismissed another AMSC software copyright infringment case against Sinovel. AMSC made an appeal in May to the Beijing Higher People’s Court, requesting a revocation of the ruling as well as court support for its previous claims in the re-trial. Several weeks ago, Sinovel also announced that it has received a written notification from the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court informing it that AMSC had requested a change to the allegations it was making.
I want to share a GREAT analysis from the Valdai Club (see links below), outlining the opportunities for the PRC & Russia to jointly promote development and stability in Central Asia, by integrating the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) & Eurasian Union initiatives. I find it an insightful counter-narrative to the mainstream (mostly western) rhetoric of China & Russia “at each others’ throats” in a zero-sum competition for hegemony in Central Asia – such as this one. It illustrates the magnitude of the opportunity for collaboration, and recommends a framework for execution. To date, I think there is no better scholarship than this one, in terms of clearly articulating the Russian perspective on, and response to, the Chinese SREB project.
It is becoming more and more common to hear cries that China is becoming less competitive in its manufacturing industry and factories are moving overseas. Of course, rising cost of production and particularly that of labour doesn’t help. China’s average yearly wage in manufacturing has increase from RMB 15,757 in 2006 to RMB 46,431 in 2014, and is still increasing. The US has been the largest manufacturing nation since around the late 19th century or early 20th century. UK briefly held the number one title after replacing China in mid 19th century. What is the real state of manufacturing in China since surpassing the US in 2010? At that time, China’s share of world manufacturing was 19.8% ($2 trillion) compares to the US’s 19.4% ($1.94 trillion). However, the contrast is extremely great in the make up of the industry. China’s factories hire around 100 million workers compare to around 11.5 million for the US. Read more…
The conclusion of a 30-year, 38 BCM/year Sino-Russian gas deal has gotten considerable attention in the media recently. Not surprisingly, much of the coverage – especially in the western media – was emotionally charged, given that Putin’s visit to China & the deal signing coincided with the unfolding crisis in Ukraine. There was no shortage of rhetoric about Putin “making Russia a resource appendage of China” for “good PR”, as if being a resource appendage of the West is so much better. The tirade of rhetoric against this deal reminds me of the type of propaganda we saw when China started boosting trade and investment in Africa. This post will address some of the biggest misconceptions being propagated in the western (& even Russian) mainstream media, and seek to draw conclusions based on facts, rather than anti-Chinese xenophobia. This is a lengthy post, so for those who are not interested in the details, the bold text will give you an adequate summary. Read more…
When I wrote my first commentary on this blog, I outlined three common myths that people frequently believe without question when they think about democratic governance. Obviously, an idea as blindly and fervently worshiped as ‘democracy’ will have far more than just three myths associated with it. I continue my exploration of this ideology by discussing another myth that is frequently accepted without critical examination. Read more…
It is refreshing to see public intellectuals other than Eric X Li speak openly against the blind faith that most westerners place in their own brand of democratic governance and market capitalism (a faith that they attempt to impose on the rest of the world). However, I wanted to voice my skepticism on two of Moyo’s assumptions that I noticed in this linked video.
Apparently, the lure of money makes people forget lessons of the past.
So when recently the housing prices started to rise again in the Western regions of US, People are starting to dump houses, hoping to cash in on the higher prices. (either that, or just trying to get themselves out of the market with little loss as possible).
That’s what I said to my parents-in-law who asked me to explain the “market” behavior that turns on every bit of news.
To the ordinary people, American or Chinese or anyone else, the “market” is hard to explain/understand. That’s because it really is nuts/bonkers/crazy/insane/irrational. This is NOT some “rational market”, because this “market” of today responds to opinions of those who claim to know. But do they really know? Or are they merely seeking to influence the outcome with their opinion?
I have long maintained that boycotts rarely work well as a tool of political protest. Even when mobilized as a collective national action like a trade embargo, history has not shown much effectiveness in causing political change, other than merely increasing bitterness (like the Embargo against Cuba).
Against a much larger target, with even broader scope, such as “boycott China”, the sheer size of lunacy of such a proposition is immediately apparent. Chinese economy is not pinned down in a few special economic sectors, it’s large and diverse, and most importantly international. It produces final products and components and material. It’s not merely economical for businesses, it’s necessity of businesses to buy Chinese products.
But even more interestingly, the increase in the internet economy has shown that it’s not just companies like Walmart that dictates the improbability of “boycott China”, it’s increasingly the end user purchasers who are making it impossible to “boycott China”.
Time recently published an article titled “How a Starbucks Latte Shows China Doesn’t Understand Capitalism” on the attention the Chinese government appears to be bringing to the practice of foreign companies overcharging Chinese consumers. According to Time, the government in doing this shows it doesn’t understand capitalism, ought to back off, and let the market reach a proper price.
The article asserts:
The bottom line is this: Companies will price their products based on what the consumer is willing to pay. That’s nothing illicit. It’s simple supply and demand. If Starbucks lattes were truly overpriced in China, the Chinese wouldn’t be buying as many of them, and the American firm would not have been able to build a successful network of over 1,000 shops in the country.
If foreign companies are engaged in illegal practices, then they should be stopped. But meddling in the pricing decisions of independent private companies is another thing altogether. China’s leaders persistently promise to make the Chinese economy more market-oriented, liberalized and fair. Premier Li Keqiang recently committed the government to “steadfastly pursuing reform and opening-up with priority given to the stimulation of the market.” Interfering with the prices private firms charge Chinese consumers suggests that China’s officials believe that they should make economic decisions, not free markets. Read more…
Video below was taken about a year ago, then 5-year old Tsung Tsung exhibiting what a piano prodigy he was. This is obviously raw talent and true passion. It would have been a shame for not Tsung Tsung’s parents affording him the piano and the lessons. Tsung Tsung is another example of why I am bullish on China. The hundreds of millions of Chinese finally moving out of the farms, away from playing in the dirt, are finally getting a chance to unleash their potential. That’s all due to stable development. When James Fallows told the Anglophone media that the Chinese have no dream, well, we were the first to tell him: shove it!
Huawei might need the Chinese media’s help in doing some defamation against Cisco before that American protectionism truly drops. It’s hard to imagine any other way. Huawei’s Chen Lifan is asking for ideas!
Instead of Cisco, Apple is an ideal target. For one, its user base is much larger than Cisco’s. Samsung’s phones with Android are better in my personal opinion, so iPhones are not indispensable. Apple’s customer service is probably above average in China relative to all the other companies. Certainly, there are legitimate grievances, but I wouldn’t consider them egregious. Also, remember, the Chinese media criticisms were targeting a basket of foreign firms. China is merely playing catch-up in this protectionism game others have been playing these last few years. In this kind of ugliness, everyone should remember who started first.
By now, the Cyprus government is still haggling with EU (and its banks) over how to save Cyprus economy, without anyone paying for it.
But just a few days ago, they almost managed to get away with a “deal” to pay for it by “taxing” 10% of all bank accounts in Cyprus. This didn’t have much of a shock value in the West, except for perhaps in Cyprus, where the populous protested and forced their representatives to vote “no” on the “deal”.
It should come though as no surprise for the pessimists, because Western Democracies have had a string of such “deals”, which gives new means to the lack of accountability.
Allen and I had a chance to chat with Professor Ann Lee a little over a year ago, and we continue to see her moderating the warped perspectives in the Anglophone press. In this short CNBC video, she debunks Professor Peter Navarro of UC Irvine. Actually, she’s mostly debunking CNBC’s narrative. China’s urbanization rate is still only about 52%. When China’s industrialization finishes, about 1 billion people would have moved. Demand for urban housing is astronomical in China this day in age. As Lee says, China is implementing various policies to curb escalating real-estate prices. Allen often like to say – this is an economics issue, but as you see in the narrative below from CNBC’s reporter and Peter Navarro, this issue sounds ominous and political doesn’t it? Kudos to Lee for sticking to her points which we wholeheartedly agree with.
The Founding of the New Republic
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, two events are so controversial that they almost cannot be discussed rationally or void of politics. One of them is the Great Leap Forward of 1958, and the other being the Cultural Revolution of 1966. A reference to history cannot be avoided for any event, more so an event as significant as GLF. The PRC was founded in 1949 October the 1st. What most people didn’t realize is, on that day, the Communist Party of China and its military arm, the People Liberation Army controlled less than 2/3 the territory of modern China. Areas such as Chongqing, Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Hainan, Xizang, Taiwan etc are still under the control of various Nationalist armies. In fact, Gansu and Xinjiang was only taken by the Communist in September. It would be June 1950 when all those regions except Hainan, Xizang and Taiwan were to be liberated.
I recently had to write an essay about energy trends affecting China, so I thought I’d share here as well, with a few details modified:
While China has actively expanded its use of renewable energy and fostered innovation in the clean-tech space, planning on the renewables development and deployment front has been suboptimal in the face of present realities. To advance China’s twin goals of modernization and security in the energy space, China should place greater emphasis on renewable capacity utilization rather than capacity expansion in the next five years. China should also find ways to increase the proportion of non-maritime energy imports in its overall import portfolio. Read more…
I have now been living in China for almost 4 month and I’d like to write a little about my impressions so far from personal experience and in talking to the people. As you all know by now, my views on things like the rule of law, human rights and democracy may be quite different from some of yours (see the posts and comments here, here, here, here, here and here for example).
Now that the U.S. House of Representative investigative report by Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence regarding Huawei and ZTE is out, there is a lot of chatter in the U.S. media. I thought Paula Dwyer of Bloomberg summarized this whole affair the best:
What the report lacks is evidence. It also smacks of protectionism, despite denials by the committee chairman, Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, that he is invoking national security to shield U.S. telecoms equipment companies from Chinese competition.
A lot has been discussed on this blog recently with regards to censorship, most of the discourse so far have revolved around the justice and standards of censorship. I want to take a different but related direction, and discuss yet another myth propagated by the democracy/freedom advocates – the notion that “free” societies are always more innovative than their “non-free” counterparts. To what extent is this actually true? More fundamentally, where does innovation come from, what actually stimulates innovation? How does innovation come about? I won’t pretend that I have all the answers, but here are some of my observations so far. Read more…
American politicians and media love to blame China for ‘stealing’ jobs. Following is a pie chart showing Apple’s profits and percentage contributions from its global supply chain. Blaming China is like blaming one’s gardener for his financial woes. This chart is a true pie in the face to those who have so clouded reality in the American public discourse about trade with China. The true tragedy here is that China is polluting her environment at such alarming rates on behalf of companies like Apple. What Apple is getting away with is not shown – a wedge is yet to be made representing environmental damages done.
We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about media bias in the West against China. One question is how do you correct it? The video report below reminded me the biggest impact really should come from the Chinese themselves. How? By becoming rich! Let’s face it, we humans worship wealth and success. Emotionally, when we see a bum on the street versus when we see a rich and successful person, our biases are vastly different. The video report shows luxury brands in New York catering to rich Chinese shoppers. China has already become Luis Vuitton’s second largest market. I can only imagine Luis Vuitton trying to align its brand with what’s cool about being Chinese. That also means favoring Chinese models over blue eye-ed blond hair ones in China. All that will work towards a more positive image for China inside and outside. China just needs to continue to sprint towards becoming rich. Read more…
Someone asked me recently to comment on the difference between Chinese banks and American banks. While both seeks to maximize profits, the former is much more under the control of the government and thus more aligned with national economic policy. Ann Lee recently told Allen and I that in the U.S., as in the recent bail-out of WSJ, the situation was a socializing of the risks but privatizing the gains. U.S. banks form a powerful interest that can co-opt the American public. That situation is no different than the Canadian one, apparently, as this amazing 12 year-old, Victoria Grant, who recently articulated what’s wrong with her country’s banking system:
One key point, in my opinion, of our work here is to try to disentangle facts from one’s version of the truth. What is especially difficult is trying to disentangle one’s plausible version of the truth – a truth arising from one’s ideological perspective – from facts. At least that’s the soft version. The hard version is trying to reveal the perpetration of plausible truth in furtherance of political ends that perpetuate many unjust aspects of the current world order – that promote war rather than peace. We call such perpetration “propaganda” – even though we fully understand that in the West, people prefer to relegate “propaganda” to government sponsored perpetration, calling the rest “spins.” We personally don’t see the need for such discrimination. Political “spins” – especially carried out consistently and pervasively on a population that is neither educated nor vigilant about world affairs but that gladly “votes” (enables political actions to be taken) based on ignorance – is probably the supreme form of “propaganda.” (Allen)