Friday, October 30, 2020

Should Biden adopt Pompeo’s style of diplomacy?

The concluding article of a two-part report offers recommendations on what a Biden administration's China policy should be. Co-written with K J Noh and first posted in Asia Times. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not known to be a particularly original thinker. Every time he attacks China, alleging misbehavior, theft of intellectual property (IP) is always on top of his list of accusations. This is an American complaint about China that dates back to the 1990s and is regularly dusted off for reuse. Lacking literacy in technology, Pompeo does not appear to understand that the nature of IP in technology evolves and changes rapidly. The leader of a particular discipline today can quickly become a follower tomorrow. To compete, companies in Silicon Valley regularly steal, infringe, copy or share by cross-licensing technology to keep up. Chinese technology companies are not averse to using the same strategy. They nick IP when they can, they copy – euphemistically called “reverse engineering” – when they can, and they enter licensing agreements when necessary. The only difference is that the Chinese companies didn’t just stop there but went on to invest in their own research and develop their own proprietary IP. One example is Huawei. Huawei employed 96,000 researchers and spent US$17 billion on research and development in 2019 alone. Not surprisingly, it holds 85,000 patents, including 19% of all standard-essential patents in fifth-generation (5G) telecom technology. Because Chinese engineers are generally better trained, are more motivated and work harder than their American counterparts – and there are many more graduates in this field every year – some Chinese companies have introduced products and technology not seen in the US. Indeed, Pompeo doesn’t appreciate that in some technical disciplines, China has already surpassed the US, and the gap will only increase with time. To suppress China’s technological advances, Pompeo’s approach is to harass Chinese executives, threaten sanctions to restrict their international travel, and bring about sudden unannounced arrests in transit lounges. By denying access to technologies and products where the US is more advanced, such as semiconductor manufacturing, he expects the Chinese to stop dead in their tracks. Unfortunately for the US, the blowback to his approach has near and long-term consequences. An immediate consequence is a significant drop in sales of semiconductor chips to China. Previously, almost 40% of the US output was sold to China. Now, it’s possible that unsold chips will be keeping company with sacks of unsold soybeans. Sadly, American companies can only watch their former advantages get washed down to the sewer by the actions of their own government. Once China has overcome the shock of doing without advanced US technology, companies such as Huawei will press all the harder to develop their own indigenous replacements for the American products. At some point, Silicon Valley will permanently lose a customer and gain a formidable competitor. Pompeo’s simple-minded technology war with China extends to cutting off enrollment of Chinese students in American universities, especially at the graduate-school level. His thinking, shared by many of his Republican colleagues, is that the best and brightest from China come to the country for the express purpose of stealing from the US. In actual fact, first-tier graduate schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or University of California at Berkeley would be reduced to a mere shadow of their former robustness if they only had US-born-and-educated students to staff their research labs. China annually generates roughly 10 times as many graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as the US. Skimming the best from a population 10 times as large is bound to yield candidates with more impressive credentials. Furthermore, colleges and universities in China demand and expect more from their students before allowing them to graduate. If President Donald Trump’s administration really cared about “making America great,” it should have actively welcomed students from China and found ways to entice them to stay and work in the US. Instead, Pompeo and his State Department have introduced deliberate ambiguity on approval of their visa applications, raising doubts on whether they can attend and can count on completing their studies. When Chinese students stop coming Pompeo’s tactics have succeeded. A significant number of Chinese students are changing their plans and deciding against going to the US. About 6,000 Chinese nationals used to obtain their doctoral degrees in science and engineering from American institutions annually. That number will surely decline. Thanks to Trump’s persistent show of xenophobia insisting that China is to blame for the Covid-19 epidemic in the US, the frequency of physical violence against Asians in America has risen drastically. Pompeo’s wish is thus being fulfilled as increasing number of Chinese are going back to China. They are not sticking around to “steal” high-paying jobs from Americans. The case of Cao Yuan comes to mind. He was a physics doctoral candidate at MIT who went home to China for the summer. Then he found out that US Immigration might not allow him to return. His suspension was lifted only after MIT interceded on his behalf. After getting his degree this year, Cao immediately announced his intention to go back to China. America may come to rue this development. For his discovery of room-temperature superconductivity, the journal Nature recognized Cao as first among the top 10 who mattered in science in 2018. When superconductivity becomes common in daily use, China will be massively ahead of the US. Trump and Pompeo may be remembered for their ignorance of what superconductivity was all about. As we can see from this brief survey, Secretary Pompeo is like that overeager player on a soccer team who not only messes up all the plays, but actually scores errant own-goals. There has rarely been such a continuous string of diplomatic defeats and faux pas: If this were a game, he would have been fouled out, traded, or sold long ago. Yet he continues to lead the US into a diplomatic abyss. Pompeo’s boss is also doing his utmost to shake the American people’s confidence in democracy. When Trump asks voters to break the law and cast their ballot twice, he is challenging the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and making it difficult to vote as an absentee or in person. He can then cry foul over the very voter suppression that he has created. Small wonder that three of the world’s oldest and most prestigious scientific publications, Scientific American, New England Journal of Medicine and Nature, could no longer stand idle while Trump made a mockery of democracy. They broke a historic precedent to remain apolitical and publicly endorsed his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, for president. Assuming that Trump does not succeed in stealing the coming election, what would a Biden presidency do? Should the Biden administration go down the same self-destructive rabbit hole? “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” say performers, but Pompeo’s diplomatic comedy is actually deadly and destructive to the world and the US. Will Biden continue the same dying and deadly stand-up routine in front of a global public that has already left the theater? Will he double down on the lies and the farce? Biden has apparently adopted the China policy statements from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the reconstituted neocon think-tank from the George W Bush years, as his template for foreign policy on China. This is not encouraging. They have grandfathered in all of Trump’s Sinophobic policies and worked out in obsessive detail to further acts of confrontation and escalation. How Biden can save America To avoid hurtling over the precipice and turning America away from economic and military disaster, we recommend that the Biden presidency take the following actions: Drop CNAS from the foreign-policy advisory committee. The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) led us to the disastrous Middle East quagmire. In a similar fashion, CNAS will lead us into catastrophic war with China. Drop Michèle Flournoy and the old “blue team” neocon or “Pacific pivot” holdovers. They have no business doing politics, given their atrocious records. Facilitate the release of Meng Wanzhou from Canadian custody immediately, and apologize for her kidnapping. Her only crime is being the daughter of the chief executive of a Chinese company the US wants to destroy. Apologize for Biden calling President Xi Jinping a “thug.” The only justification for insulting a head of state in that manner is if you intend to go to war. Stop the “freedom of navigation operations“ (FONOPs) and other belligerent military maneuvers in the South China Sea. Halfway around the world is not your back yard, and besides, the Chinese have no reason to interfere in any of the shipping – it’s all headed for or leaving China. Stop the harassment of Huawei and its supply chain. Compete properly or cede the field, but don’t kidnap its executives. Same for TikTok, Tencent, and Ant Financial. Stop militarizing Taiwan. Stop building an embassy there. Stop using airbases there. Don’t mislead Taiwan into thinking that if it provokes a conflict, the US will come to its aid. Taiwan is part of China, and Taipei and Beijing need to resolve their differences without Uncle Sam in the room. Shut up about Xinjiang. It’s all lies, and the longer you keep up the lies, the more embarrassing when you get found out. Uighur terrorists who fought for al-Qaeda do not become “freedom fighters” when they go back to Xinjiang. Shut up about Hong Kong. Hong Kong is part of China, and it has no capacity or desire to be independent (it gets its food, water, and electricity from mainland China). Funding black-shirted fascists will only result in catastrophe. Shut up about Covid-19. Get your house in order. Implement real public health measures, and a people-centered medical-insurance program. Stop the harassment of scholars and students. The US without Chinese scholars and engineers is a country of MBAs, JDs and gun-toting survivalists – an unproductive failed state heading for a surreal apocalypse. Stop trying to derail the Belt and Road Initiative, and for God’s sake, stop waging wars, coups, assassinations, and explosions in its key nodes. Imagine what it could be like, collaborating in peace, open trade based on relative advantages, and exchange of ideas and people in friendship. America cannot win and China cannot win in a zero-sum game. But China is no threat to the US, and it is no pushover either. Biden can and should make the bold move to the northeast quadrant of game theory where both can win and prosper. This is the concluding article of a two-part report. Read Part 1 here. George Koo is a retired international business adviser and frequent contributor to Asia Times. K J Noh is a journalist, political analyst, writer, and teacher specializing in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Pompeo’s record a litany of failure

In the first article of a two-part report, we examine the damage the US secretary of state has done at home and abroad. Co-written with K.J. Noh and posted on Asia Times Mike Pompeo, otherwise known as the international man of catastrophe, by wide acclaim, has earned a label as the worst secretary of state in the history of the United States, while appropriately enough serving under its worst president. That president, Donald Trump, has torn the US constitution to shreds, and he has an absolutely corrupt chief law-enforcement officer, Attorney General Bill Barr, to provide him a temporary Get out of Jail Free card. Until and unless regime change takes place after the November election, Pompeo is safe under the same protective custody. As the US top diplomat, Pompeo’s mission is to persuade nations to take positions aligned with the US and in opposition to China. If a nation fails to be persuaded, especially when it’s against that nation’s self-interest, Pompeo’s technique is to compel it to comply with the threat of sanctions. Levying sanctions hasn’t been limited to the usual wide-angle shotgun blasts at Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, but the US has also targeted the chief prosecutor and other officials of the International Criminal Court for investigating Pompeo for possible war crimes while he was head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Just as his boss, Trump, sees himself as above the laws of the United States, Pompeo, who sees the United Nations, World Health Organization and other international bodies as subordinates to the US, certainly would not allow the possibility of being subject to international laws. The sanction is his way of saying we’re not going to allow you to travel freely to continue your investigation and we’re not going to take you seriously. He lied, cheated and stole In a moment of braggadocio and indiscretion – and poor judgment – he chortled before a group of students and boasted how as head of the CIA, he lied, cheated and stole. All in the CIA training manual, he said. The students were not amused. Neither was the public. Since becoming the head of the State Department, his actions confirm that his modus operandi has not changed. Pompeo has remained true to his character in his campaign against China. With no sense of irony, a typical preamble to his speeches on China goes: “Communists always lie, but the biggest lie is that the Chinese Communist Party speaks for 1.4 billion people who are surveilled, oppressed, and scared to speak out.” He failed to note that annually, 170 million of these deceived Chinese people travel as tourists abroad, and then choose voluntarily to return to this “open-air prison” of surveillance, oppression and terror. It probably did not occur to him that this allegation may be more projection than anything resembling truth, given the fact that the US has the largest prison population of any country – five times as great on a per capita basis as China’s – and the surveillance and harassment of whistleblowers and dissidents is routine. On October 6, Pompeo lashed out against China and exhorted the Quad – the US-Japan-Australia-India military-strategic formation that the US is trying to consolidate against China – to stand against China and its evil, corrupt actions: “I also look forward to … renewing our resolve to protect our precious freedoms and the sovereignty of the diverse nations of the region. “As partners … it is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the CCP’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.” The silence from the Quad members was deafening – no agreement or statement was issued after their ministerial meeting in Tokyo. The Japanese government, in particular, in a mind-bending act of diplomatic insouciance, insisted flat out, “This Quad meeting is not being held with any particular country in mind.” Sorry, His Holiness is not in On September 30, the Vatican rebuffed a request from Mike Pompeo for an audience with Pope Francis, and accused the secretary of state of trying to drag the Catholic Church into the US presidential election by denouncing its relations with China. On September 9, in a speech to member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations encouraging them to gang up against China, he stated, “Don’t let the Chinese Communist Party walk over us and our people. You should have confidence and the American will be here in friendship to help you.” The good secretary seemed to have forgotten that if anyone has posed a historical threat to Southeast Asian countries, it is the United States. Unsurprisingly, there were no takers. On July 23, at the Nixon Library, Secretary Pompeo in a warmed-over version of Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech declared the end of US-China détente, and announced a new cold war: “Washington is seeking to change Beijing’s behavior, [against] a generational threat, a totalitarian and hegemonic regime.… Free nations … can successfully force a change of China.” To make this argument, Pompeo listed a litany of imagined, projected, and concocted wrongs committed by the Chinese: spreading Covid-19, stealing jobs and intellectual property, trade abuses, violations of international law, and of course, the catchall, being “Marxist-Leninist.” After all this hyperventilating about China’s menace “to our economy and way of life,” he called for all nations to come together to fight China, to “triumph over this new tyranny.” “We, the freedom-loving nations of the world, must induce China to change … because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity…. It’s time for a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies.” Pompeo acted as if he was the visionary to lead the 1.4 billion Chinese out of the wilderness and overthrow the Beijing regime. Lies about China can be very profitable To make his case for demonizing China, Pompeo will use any source of questionable legitimacy. One example was a paper written by Li-Meng Yan, a virologist and at the time of publication a postdoctoral student at Hong Kong University. Her paper claimed that the Covid-19 virus was created in a Wuhan lab. Her finding was sensational as it seemed to authenticate Trump’s and Pompeo’s accusation that China should be held accountable for the pandemic. The popular media went wild with the story, even though those in scientific circles criticized the non-peer-reviewed paper as weak on science. Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, a collaboration between the University of California at Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, quickly solicited reviews of the Yan paper by four renowned scientists in the field and their conclusion was: “This manuscript does not demonstrate sufficient scientific evidence to support its claims. Claims are at times baseless and are not supported by the data and methods used. Decision-makers should consider the author’s claims in this study misleading.” Those reviews followed the publication of the Yan paper by about two weeks. It’s a safe bet that the refutation is unlikely to attract the attention of the mainstream media. An added side note in the comment section was the observation that the co-authors listed in Yan’s paper did not exist but were fictitious – in other words, a blatant lie. So what could have motivated Yan? By now, it has become quite clear that providing material for China-bashing can be very lucrative business. Gordon Chang showed that he could publish a book on China that totally missed the mark – instead of economic collapse, China is about to become the largest economy in the world – and instead of striking out, he became an anti-China media star for the last 20 years. Peter Navarro did even better. He wrote a book and a documentary titled Death by China, a complete work of fiction, with imaginary “expert” “Ron Varra,” who turned out to be the anagrammatic alter ego of Navarro himself. This China-bashing turned him from being a failed politician and outcast academic into the holder of a seat in the inner circle at the Trump White House. The latest to follow this career trajectory is Adrian Zenz. In just two years, out of nowhere, he became known as an expert on Uighurs in Xinjiang by claiming that between a million and 1.8 million Uighurs were being held in concentration camps. No one really questioned the accuracy of the report nor the veracity of this so-called expert, a millenarian Christian theologian who claims that Jews will be exterminated in the Rapture, that women should not pursue careers outside the home, that children should be physically abused “according to scripture,” and that homosexuality is the work of the Antichrist. With those impeccable credentials, Zenz was instantly embraced by the media, the Trump administration and the US Congress. Zenz visited Xinjiang 13 years ago, but it is not likely that he was drawing any substance from that visit. One million people is a lot to be held and would be difficult to hide: The US has more than 6,000 such facilities to house its inmate population. Satellite photos offered as evidence of such camps turned out to be schools and office buildings. These compounds all have fences and walls on their perimeter. Apparently, that is all it takes to qualify as evidence for prison camps. Foreign visitors to Xinjiang of more recent vintage have found no evidence of large numbers of locals incarcerated. If the numbers claimed by Zenz are correct, it would imply that a very large percentage of working Uighur adults are incarcerated. However, life on the streets and markets appears relaxed and normal. Indeed, most people living in Xinjiang, of any ethnicity, seem to be beneficiaries of China’s campaign to lift everyone out of poverty. About 9% of China’s population belong to an ethnic minority, of which 55 are recognized. Where any given ethnic group dominates a geographical region, an autonomous government is established to allow some degree of local governance. Ethnic minorities are encouraged to preserve their own culture and attend bilingual schools where Mandarin is taught alongside their own native tongue. During the draconian era of one child per family throughout China, ethnic minorities were permitted to have two or three children. Remote, hard-to-reach areas of China were understandably the last to feel the benefits of Beijing’s poverty-alleviation program, regardless of the ethnicity of the people living there. Local governments’ mandate is to strive to improve the welfare of the people under their care. But all lives matter in China In China, voting occurs at the local level for representatives to the local people’s congresses. Members of the local congress then elect from within that body those who will become members of the provincial congress, who then elect those to represent their province at the National People’s Congress. Thus each tier of representation becomes more selective, rigorous, and professional. While this differs from the direct suffrage practiced in the West, it promotes competence and dedication, and a government where all lives truly matter, and none are kept in ghettoes by design. Poverty alleviation follows a general pattern. The local governments with the support of the central government build roads to connect the remote village to the economically upscale towns and cities to facilitate the sale of their produce and local goods. This policy accords with studies that show the single most important factor in alleviating and escaping the cycle of poverty is good transportation access. Where transportation infrastructure was too difficult to build, the local government would provide the option of heavily subsidized housing with electricity and water to encourage poor villagers living in remote places to relocate to nearby urban centers with easier access to schools and health care. Vocational training along with relocation provides the farmers with new skills and chance to raise their income. One example was presented here. Technical experts would visit the poor village and appraise the potential to raise incomes and provide guidance. Sometimes the recommendation is to switch to higher-valued crops, other times just introduce ways to improve yield. With the popularity of streaming over the Internet to promote sales and with greatly improved roads and rail, and rapid payment and delivery systems, it is now possible to sell exotic fruits, local goods, and medicinal herbs available in one remote region to consumers all over China. Attractive handicrafts unique to a particular ethnic group can be introduced and popularized via streaming. As a consequence of being a huge and fast-growing economy, China has a burgeoning middle class. Relatively new to consumption, the appetite of the middle-class Chinese for goods is a huge market not remotely near saturation. By dedicated and determined efforts, Beijing can proudly proclaim that hundreds of millions have been lifted out of subsistence living. Yet the West with its comfortable standard of living continues to accuse China of human-rights abuses. Third World countries make no such accusations, just express admiration for China and hope that China will help them to attain higher standards of living through its experience and expertise and via the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Pompeo has been busy telling African countries that China’s BRI is nothing more than a debt trap. Of course, drawing from his own personal background, it’s easy for him to project what he would do and imagine that China is pulling off a con. By and large, African nations welcome the opportunity to collaborate with China and take advantage of its infrastructure expertise and willing investment. These nations react to Pompeo with disdain and affront. Privately, they say to themselves, “Do you think we’re so dumb and easily swindled, or what?” A port and airport project in Sri Lanka has been frequently cited by Pompeo and others as the “see, I told you so” example. The truth of the matter was that the Sri Lankan government was too ambitious and overestimated the expected revenue stream to be derived upon completion of the port and airport. When Sri Lanka could not meet the repayment schedule, China took over the management of the port and airport. In experienced hands, the Chinese operator has raised efficiency and increased utilization so that profitability is now within reach. Once revenue is sufficient to service the loan, the projects will revert to Sri Lanka. Just this month, Pompeo went to Croatia to tell the country to stay away from China’s BRI. In a press conference in front of the Dubrovnik harbor, Pompeo and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković stood side by side, and Plenković was asked by the media his thoughts about the BRI. The reporter prefaced her question by saying that Pompeo had denounced the BRI as a predatory scheme to buy a Chinese empire. In response, Plenković said China was very smart to use the BRI to build its relationship with Central and Eastern European countries. He said he had met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang five of six times since coming into office, is fully aware of all aspects of China’s deal, and believes Beijing will be fair and behave in accordance with international norms. Plenković looked over at Pompeo as he praised Croatia’s relationship with China. Apparently, he did not feel the need to be diplomatic before the emissary from the US. This is the first article in a two-part report. Part 2 will look at what to expect from US diplomacy under a Joe Biden presidency. George Koo is a retired international business adviser and frequent contributor to Asia Times. K J Noh is a journalist, political analyst, writer, and teacher specializing in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

America’s global prestige on life support

First posted in Asia Times Recently, on the occasion of commemorating the United Nations’ 75th anniversary, world leaders took turns addressing the General Assembly via video feed. US President Donald Trump’s surprisingly short seven-and-a-half-minute address can be summarized in three words: “Chia-nah, Chia-nah, Chia-nah,” with a sneer and a snarl for emphasis. Trump blamed China for covering up the Covid-19 outbreak, and for spreading it to the rest of world. He also congratulated himself for his great job in bringing the pandemic under control – despite the fact that the America he has supposedly made great, with slightly over 4% of world’s population, has accounted for more than 20% of the world’s Covid infections. In his address, Chinese President Xi Jinping reported that China has several vaccines undergoing final stages of clinical trials. When the vaccines become available, he promised that they would be a public good available to the world. “Covid-19 will not be the last crisis to confront humanity, so we must join hands and be prepared to meet even more global challenges,” Xi said. In short, China considers itself a member of the world community of nations and wishes to collaborate within the UN framework. Trump’s America wants to go it alone and other nations are expected dutifully to follow along. The US is only a member of the UN when the international body gives Trump what he wants. For the purpose of ensuring his re-election, Trump is acting on the premise that he needs to make an adversary of China every which way possible. Trump’s anti-China team seems to believe in the economic law of comparative disadvantage – a novel idea that no matter how much hurt America suffers, China will hurt more. So far, the “mutual hurt” idea, rather than being revolutionary, has turned out revoltingly for the American people. Levying tariffs on imports from China has backfired. The trade imbalance with China has not changed but continues to favor China – not an unexpected outcome according to the law of comparative advantage – simply because the country that can make a product cheaper and better sells more. Bloomberg Businessweek has already declared China the winner of the trade war. American businesses cry uncle As Reuters reported, 3,500 US companies have joined in a legal suit against the Trump administration for “unlawful escalation of the US trade war with China.” In other words, American businesses are saying the waterboarding they have endured from the trade war has gone on long enough. China has effectively brought Covid-19 under control and is resuming its economic growth. The US, unsurprisingly given its failure to bring the pandemic under control, is experiencing drastic economic shrinkage; the backsliding of its economy is likely to persist for the rest of this year and beyond. An important consequence is that foreign direct investments are pouring into China from all directions as investors make sure they do not miss out on the world’s most significant booming consumer economy. Former US vice-president Joe Biden appears to be winning the race to the White House. As I stated in my last commentary, it will be in Biden’s interest to drop the zero-sum confrontation and find ways to collaborate with China, because America’s economic recovery will depend on a mutually beneficial relationship going forward. But getting along with China will be only one of many challenges a Biden administration will face. The current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has made a mess of America’s relations with the world community of nations, alienating friend and foe alike. The wreckage he is leaving behind will take a Herculean effort and reassurance to restore the US position as a trusted leader of the world. For example, as Asia Times has noted, somehow Pompeo has pressured Australia into leading an attack on China repeating baseless accusations from Washington, despite China being Australia’s most important customer and most vital contributor to its economy. The author of that op-ed can’t understand why Australia is willingly digging its own grave, except possibly that their leaders are not too bright. Canada is in a somewhat similar position as Australia, but its reluctant slitting of its own throat is more explicable. The United States is too big and powerful of a neighbor and has a stranglehold on Ottawa. Arresting Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei, with no legal justification in an act tantamount to kidnapping was apparently necessary to placate Trump at the expense of angering Beijing. Too bad Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been too weak-kneed to stand up to Washington. Huawei customers wait and see Pompeo has apparently strong-armed many countries into rejecting Huawei’s 5G technology, the fifth-generation mobile telecommunication protocol, by alleging the Chinese company is a security threat. In many cases, these countries have been using Huawei equipment for 3G and 4G without incident. To break away will mean having to rip out pre-existing Huawei installations and facing months of delay waiting for one of its competitors, Ericsson or Nokia, to catch up with its version of 5G. In the case of the UK, banning and removing all Huawei equipment would take until 2027, delay the rollout of 5G by three years, and cost the economy an estimated £18.2 billion (US$23.25 billion). Britain would also be giving up its competitive leadership in 5G and billions of pounds in associated opportunity costs. It’s most likely that 10 Downing Street will watch the outcome of the US election with keen interest to see if it really has to abandon Huawei. Indeed, many countries in a similar pickle will be watching for a regime change in Washington that would allow them to proceed with business as usual and not cause such disruption in their telecommunication plans. The carriers in Canada, for example, want C$1 billion (US$747,000) in compensation from Ottawa if they are forced to switch away from Huawei. In his ham-fisted style, Pompeo has managed to charm no one and pissed off many, including heretofore allies such France, Germany and the European Union itself. The latest example was Pompeo demanding the signatories of the Iran nuclear deal to reinstate sanctions as provided in the agreement, an agreement that Trump walked away from shortly after he became president. The EU countries, Russia and China merely laughed and told Pompeo that he has no say in the matter. China, Russia are tight Crucially by threatening Russia and China at different times by different means, Pompeo has managed to forge a tight alliance between Moscow and Beijing. China will buy oil and gas from Russia in a long-term contract. The two countries will jointly develop agriculture and natural resources in the vast Siberia region and Russia has offered to install an anti-missile defense system for China. These are just for starters. As M K Bhadrakumar, a veteran diplomat and writer, has observed, “The US is increasingly resorting to unilateral sanctions against both Russia and China that are not supported by international legal foundations, and is stepping up pressure through the extraterritorial application of national legislation to compel other countries to fall in line with its sanctions regimes and domestic laws, often in contravention of international law and the UN Charter.” The shining citadel on top of the hill that was once America is no more. “America First via my way or the highway” has washed the citadel down into the gully. The challenge for Biden, should he win the election, is to figure out how to pick up the pieces and restore America to where it should be, namely by regaining the trust and respect of the world. The world is keenly watching whether a change in the US administration will lead to the restoration of sanity and order. If the American people allow Trump to keep his job in November, then the hope is that he, not having to run for another election, can do an about-face and start to get along with everybody, including China. But consistency has never been much of a deal for Trump, and so it would not be much of a surprise. The signal for an about-face would be a Pompeo replacement.