Showing posts with label American politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label American politics. Show all posts

Friday, June 16, 2023

Biden’s contrasting styles and priorities - The Biden administration has concentrated virtually all its efforts on keeping China from rising, to no avail

I celebrated my 85th birthday by writing this piece for Asia Times. For weeks, US President Joe Biden publicly demanded that the issue of raising the debt ceiling was a done deal and not negotiable. As the prospects of national default loomed, the Biden White House quietly began negotiations with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and arrived at a compromise in the nick of time so as to avert default. It seems Biden understood, after all, that avoiding the disaster of a default and the mortal pain on the American economy was more important than sticking by his guns. However, he apparently does not understand that the outcome of his negotiations with China is equally crucial to America’s future; his approach has been steadily unyielding, unfriendly and unhelpful. Biden’s China team has adopted a strategy of saying one thing and then doing just the opposite. Every one of his cabinet officers would declare that he or she wishes to meet with their Chinese counterparts to discuss cooperation and collaboration – but always on the US terms, meaning that the US reserves the right to discuss the issues it wants to discuss, but will continue to criticize, attack and sanction China on others. This is the way an imperious hegemonic power acts toward a subordinate country and expects obeisance and compliance. Except China no longer sees itself as a lesser power to the US. China has simply ignored the many White House requests. The latest example came at the Shangri-La security forum in Singapore. The US had asked for a meeting between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his counterpart Li Shangfu on the sidelines of the forum. China refused. The US promptly accused China of irresponsible behavior endangering the bilateral relations by not keeping the lines of communication open. US wants to meet with China for what purpose? Of course, communicating and agreeing to face-to-face meetings are two separate matters. China expects prospects of a useful outcome to justify arranging in-person meetings. For possible constructive results, China wants to see serious and sincere gestures from the US. All too frequently in previous meetings, the American officials viewed them as opportunities to crow about China giving in to American demands, whether actually true or not. That Biden did not even bother to lift the personal sanction imposed on Li Shangfu during Donald Trump’s administration and still expects to have a summit meeting of military leaders seems stupid and arrogant. Mind you, Li was sanctioned for purchasing fighter jets from Russia on behalf of China as part of his duty at the time in charge of procurement for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). What right does the US have to sanction an official of another country for doing his job? India buys arms from Russia; Turkey buys arms from Russia, apparently with no sanctions. This is just one example of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s “rules-based international order.” That order is arbitrary and is whatever the US says it is. Blinken was hankering for an invitation to meet in Beijing. Then the wandering weather balloon from China gave him the excuse to cancel the visit on an invitation that never came. Not only that, he reaped a PR dividend by blaming China for the debacle. Examples of hypocrisy and deception abound. Biden warmly embraced Xi Jinping in Bali and swore by the one-China principle and that Taiwan is part of China. Then he openly sells arms to Taiwan and impose complete sanctions of export semiconductor technology to China. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen goes out of her way to ask China for support of the US treasury debt and then goes to Africa to warn African nations to beware of China’s debt-trap diplomacy. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo asked for a meeting with her counterpart to discuss increasing bilateral trade. What she actually meant was she wanted China to buy more but did absolutely nothing to reduce the tariffs imposed on Chinese imports by the Trump administration that might actually raise the volume of bilateral trade. US on the path of self-destruction Decoupling from China is not his intention, Biden claims, but then every action by his team is just the opposite. Every prospective bilateral outcome has to be on US terms, or else. What the Biden White House does not appreciate is that it has embarked on a path of self-destruction for America. The damaging blowback from Biden’s China policy may not be as obvious as not raising the debt ceiling, but there is a strong element of cutting off Uncle Sam’s nose to spite his face that the leaders in Washington seem oblivious to. Just a few examples follow. When Biden first came to office, if he had intended to resume a constructive relationship with China, he could have eliminated the tariffs levied by Trump on Chinese imports. Instead, he retained the tariffs despite hurting the American consumer much more severely than China’s manufacturers. The desire to inflict pain on China far outweighed protecting Americans from even greater pain. Whether it’s assembling new subway cars with Chinese components, installing the world’s most cost-effective port-handling cranes, or surveillance cameras made in China, Washington let its paranoia run wild and turned away the cost savings from buying superior products from China. The sanction of Huawei is an extreme case. Huawei has developed the world’s most advanced fifth-generation (5G) telecommunication system, which has received acceptance around the world. Because of US fear of being spied upon, Washington not only has refused to buy from Huawei but pressured many of its allies to rip out billions of dollars’ worth of Huawei equipment already installed. After enduring the US sanctions for three years, Huawei has just announced the complete replacement of operating software based on Western technology. It will now sell to the world without any constraints, while the United States’ allies suffer hundreds of billions of dollars from the teardown of already installed Huawei equipment and the huge opportunity costs 0f not having a state-of-the-art telecommunication system. China has also surpassed the US in EVs Of course, telecom is not the only technology where China has surpassed the US. Among others, China’s emergence as the world’s leading producer of electric vehicles and owner of leading technology for the batteries that go into the EVs has taken the West by surprise. China has become the No 1 exporter of EVs around the world. Ford and Tesla, among many automakers in the West, would like CATL to build an advanced battery plant next to their EV plants in the US. (CATL is abbreviation for Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd headquartered in Ningde, China, and is an acknowledged leader in EV battery technology.) The potential deals raise interesting questions. Will Beijing forbid CATL’s transfer of battery technology to the US along the same logic as Washington’s semiconductor sanction on China? Or will some senator, such as a Marco Rubio, raise the specter of Chinese batteries in EVs forming a terrifying network for spying on America? Biden thought he had cleverly jumpstarted the US semiconductor industry by snatching a leading-edge operation from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co to Phoenix, Arizona. Now the TSMC management has discovered that they are not able to hire enough people from an American workforce that are qualified and/or willing to work in the rigors of a Taiwanese operation. In the meantime, the people of Taiwan are feeling increasing betrayed by America’s ham-fisted ways. This is a classic lose-lose outcome in the making. Another is Defense Secretary Austin’s insistence on playing the “freedom of navigation” game in waters around China and flying surveillance planes off coastal China. Since Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei last year, China has emphasized its territorial claim over Taiwan and has been increasingly aggressive in responding to American intrusions in Beijing’s back yard. Just last Saturday, a US destroyer along with a trailing Canadian frigate attempted to sail through the Taiwan Strait, which China regards as its territorial waters. In response to this provocation, a Chinese destroyer intercepted the American warship and forced it to change course. Obviously, the PLA is increasingly willing for a showdown over whether China’s territorial waters can continue to be treated as America’s international waters. The firepower and technology of the PLA warships have surpassed the Americans’, and the Chinese appear confident and ready to put it to a test. If the US Navy should succeed in provoking the PLA into a firefight, it is certain that both parties would be losers. China has more friends than US has allies Geopolitically, the US continues to count on the Group of Seven and a handful of other countries to be its allies. Biden’s stipulation is to insist on strict compliance of his foreign policy even at the expense of each ally’s own national interest. Consequently, France is becoming a doubting Thomas about the wisdom of going along with the US, South Korea is trying to wriggle out of not losing China’s sales, as is ASML of the Netherlands. Germany and Australia in their own ways are holding on to their trade relations with China. In sum, the American alliance is increasingly questioning the shakiness of US leadership. Concurrent to American hectoring over its version of “rule-based” order, 19 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) purely for the economic advantages of being a body that requires no military allegiance. Saudi Arabia along with other oil-producing countries becoming members of BRICS+ will change the global alignment. The body will be far more populous and economically powerful than the US-aligned G7+. And, by the way, a top agenda item for the new BRICS is to discuss a plan to introduce a new currency to replace the need to settle trade accounts in US dollars. This move is in direct response to Biden weaponizing the dollar and denying dollar access to countries he doesn’t like, such as Russia. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has just come into full force. Members of the partnership consist of the 10 ASEAN countries plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. They will enjoy booming, tariff-free trade among themselves. The US is on the outside looking in. Since China initiated the Belt and Road Initiative 10 years ago, around 150 countries have become beneficiaries of projects and investments through BRI. At reasonable financing terms, China supplies their expertise to build infrastructure such as ports, railroad, highways, bridges, airports and many others to enhance the economic development of the recipient country. By far, BRI has been China’s most effective tool for making friends around the world. The US? It stands impotently on the sidelines and watches with envy, and occasionally throws stones by calling these BRI projects debt traps. Despite Washington’s mighty effort to suppress and obstruct China’s rise, China has become relatively impervious to American sanctions and restrictions. Just like Huawei, China’s semiconductor industry will find ways around the ban. At the same time, China has become the foremost trading partner to virtually every country in the world. China’s economy remains strong and technological innovations will continue, hardly affected by actions from Washington. The Biden administration has concentrated virtually all its efforts on keeping China from rising, to no avail. At the same time, the administration has not done anything concrete to lift the competitiveness of the American economy. In a long line of mediocre leadership, Biden may prove the be the worst.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Nord Stream Explosions Hard to Cover-Up, Award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has exposed the Biden administration’s role in sabotaging the pipelines

First posted on Asia Times. The report “How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline” by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Seymour Hersh states beyond any reasonable doubt that US President Joe Biden ordered the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. Thus if it wasn’t clear before, it is emphatically clear now that the US will impose its proprietary version of “rules-based international order” by any means possible including committing a crime against humanity. The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines are jointly owned by the Russian energy corporation Gazprom and four European energy companies. Nord Stream 1 had been providing low-cost natural gas from Russia to Germany, which redistributed some of it to other parts of Europe. Nord Stream 2 was in the process of coming on stream and would have doubled the supply to Europe. The explosions that took place on September 26, 2022, stopped the flow of Russian gas, and left hundreds of millions of Europeans facing the prospects of a cold winter. The economic consequences of the Nord Stream sabotage were the quadrupling of energy costs and triggering rampant inflation in Europe the likes of which hadn’t been seen for decades. President Biden wanted to make sure that Germany would strongly support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Blowing up the pipelines would ensure that Russia could no longer supply cheap energy to Europe and Germany wouldn’t have natural gas from Russia as a source of distraction from its support for Ukraine. Biden had absolutely no justification for destroying property that did not belong to the US. Doing so would be naked aggression, an act of war, devoid of concern that the people and economies of friendly allies would suffer. He wouldn’t care that to achieve his sense of security for the US required committing a war crime. Heretofore, we Americans have been telling the world that the United States of America is the citadel on top of the hill, a shining beacon of integrity and an example of what a freedom-loving democracy should be. Other nations are supposed to admire what we stand for and aspire to be just like us. Shining beacon no more Now, the world sees that Fortress America is corrupt, dishonest and shameless. The US suppresses other countries by force, intimidation or sanctions or a mixture of the above. Other nations comply with our demands not because they admire us but because they fear us. If the US did indeed destroy the pipelines as Hersh reports, some in the inner circle of the Biden administration might try to defend its action by claiming that it was a reprisal for Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. In fact, according to Hersh, planning to blow up the pipelines was under way months before the Russian invasion began. He further explained that the government of Norway was enlisted to help with the execution of the sabotage. One of the reasons for recruiting Norway was that it knew the shallow waters of the Baltic Sea better than anyone. “On September 26, 2022, a Norwegian Navy P8 surveillance plane made a seemingly routine flight and dropped a sonar buoy,” Hersh reports. “The signal spread underwater, initially to Nord Stream 2 and then on to Nord Stream 1. A few hours later, the high-powered C4 explosives were triggered and three of the four pipelines were put out of commission.” Norway’s participation is full of irony. The annual winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is selected by a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament. One year, they rushed to give Peace Prize to incoming American president Barack Obama even before he assumed office. History will credit Obama as the president who first popularized the use of drones as deadly killing machines, cold-blooded and indiscriminate. They were deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. In hindsight, these were not exactly the kind of credentials consistent with those of a Peace Prize laureate. In a podcast interview subsequent to his exposé of the Nord Stream explosion, Hersh said that putting the story together was not difficult. Any reasonably competent investigative reporter could have followed the trail of telltale clues leading directly to the White House. For months before the invasion of Ukraine and the explosion of the pipelines, President Biden and his foreign-policy team – national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state for policy – had been vocal and consistent in their hostility to the two pipelines. Biden gave the secret away Biden and Nuland even publicly hinted to the media that the pipelines would “go away.” At the press briefing that followed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ visit to Washington in February last year, Biden said, “If Russia invades … there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.” Undersecretary Nuland also said at a State Department briefing, lightly covered by the media, “I want to be very clear to you today. If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.” The reason the mainstream media did not bother to ask the obvious question as to who blew up the pipelines and why was either being lazy and uninquisitive or because they knew the answer and did not want to embarrass the Biden White House. Even after the publication of Hersh’s report, mainstream media outlets such as The Washington Post and The New York Times did not even bother to contact him and interview him. By deliberately ignoring this story, they are not living up to their obligation as members of the fourth estate and protecting their integrity. In other words, they have betrayed public trust and sold out to the White House. The US has always acted above the laws of other sovereign nations, even ignoring the laws of the United Nations. With compliant and docile media, the Biden team can go wild and run roughshod over anyone without a tinge of concern. The worldwide disrespect for the US will grow. In time, The US will find itself alone and friendless in a unipolar world of its own lonesome.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Fatal flaws with the idea of decoupling

A shorter version of this post first appeared in Asia times. Recent issue of Bloomberg/Businessweek said, “Despite the heated national security rhetoric in Washington and talk of “decoupling” in policy circles, the world’s top two economies remain firmly intertwined.” The article goes on the say that the bilateral trade for year ending 2022 is likely to be the highest ever recorded. The failure to decouple is likely good news for China but even better news for the American public. However, anyone with a dollop of common sense would realize that the talk about decoupling was just so much balderdash. For the sake of introducing clarity to what and how decoupling might actually mean, let us recruit a team of Indians to address the many facets of this “elephant” in the room. Decouple would mean the opposite of economic integration. Each would have nothing to do with the other. This means Americans would have to stop buying manufactured goods from China. But this is contrary to actual bilateral trade data, wherein despite the added import tariff to the retail price, the American public can’t buy enough products Made in China. That’s the reality to date. In order for the US not to buy from China, we would have to make these products in America. Former President Donald Trump struck on the brilliant idea of bringing manufacturing back to America. He ordered, cajoled and dangled sweet deals to entice American companies back to the US. Americans don’t know how anymore The idea basically flopped for a host of reasons. The making of widgets left the U.S. decades ago, first to the four tigers such as Taiwan and Hongkong and then to mainland China. The basic skill sets needed on the production line hasn’t been seen in America for many decades and could not be replaced overnight on demand. Some lament that Washington is at fault for not having the vision to craft an industrial policy that would encourage retention of the manufacturing of run of the mill products, such as toys, television, personal computers or mobile phones. Our political leaders, busy getting elected, did not envisiage that making widgets was a necessary precursor step to making increasingly higher valued goods, as China has done. Actually, most the blame belongs to America’s abiding faith in Capitalism as executed by Wall Street. Not for nothing that Corporate America are known as “multinationals.” Multinationals (MNCs) go to where the production costs are the lowest and sell to where the profit is highest. “National interest” does not figure in their board room discussions. As Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden lacked the courage to remove the tariffs on imports from China, which could have only benefitted the American consumer. Washington along with the compliant mainstream media has so thoroughly demonized China in the minds of American public that Biden dare not risk even an appearance of apparently acting soft on China. However, Biden apparently understands that bringing manufacturing back is not quite as simple as a Trumpian clarion call. For one thing, the American wage scale would raise the cost of production, perhaps by as much as 50% according to Morris Chang, founder of Taiwan Semiconductor, for semiconductors. In the case of highend products, production also needs a complete supply chain of parts and components, which would also need to be transplanted from somewhere. Biden wins at the expense of Europeans So, instead of counting on American MNCs to make America great again, Biden is dangling subsidies to appeal to foreign MNCs, any company except from China, to move their plants to the US. European companies find the prospects tempting. Their economy at home faces shortages and inflation thanks to the Ukrainian war and they find America’s stability and market appealing. Just like their American counterparts, European companies owe their allegiance to their shareholders. But enticing European MNCs to the US means taking jobs away from their home country, which is making the European leaders very unhappy, hardly a way to treat America’s allies. Biden’s another approach is to outright hijack Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) plant from Taiwan and transplant it to Phoenix Arizona. The first group of TSMC staff came willingly and accompanied the equipment disassembled from Taiwan. They were convinced by their own government that invasion from China was imminent and this was the opportunity to get out. Mere weeks later, some troubling signs are developing. The staff from Taiwan are used to working 10-12 hour shifts and they were promised that they do not have to work night shifts. Well, their American colleagues don’t want to work night shifts either and 8 hours per day is their normal stint. The difference between the Taiwan based wage scale and the US based also creates tension and resentment. Presumably, the difference would eventually be harmonized but the manufacturing cost would go up. The question will be whether the TSMC customers, such as Apple et al., would pay for this higher price chips for the sake of national interest or just keep buying from the TSMC plant remaining in Taiwan. Want to hazard a guess? When the Soviet Union sent aloft the first manmade satellite in 1957, America woke up in shock, and promptly rallied national energy and resources to respond. Twelve years later we sent man to the moon. That was America’s first Sputnik moment. When China showed that they have caught up or even surpassed the US in certain critical 21st century technogies, that was another Sputnik moment. Demonize easier than compete But this time, our leaders in Washington must have decided that rather than compete head on, it was cheaper to allocate a few hundreds of million dollars to the media and ask them to continue to mislead the American public and demonize China as a human rights violator incapable of innovation and technological advances. Of course, Pentagon has yet to explain how an undersea mountain “ran” into the nose of our most advanced nuclear submarine off southern China coast in 2021 and forcing the sub to surface and run to safety. That’s a juicy mystery still waiting for the mainstream media to investigate and report. Unconfirmed rumor is that a Chinese drone sub wreaked havoc on the USS Connecticut. When the US has been going around the world promoting armed conflicts in the name of imposing “rule based, international order,” death and destruction inevitably followed. The world witnessed the repeated scenario in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen to name a few hot spots set ablazed by Uncle Sam. Rather than feeling secured under the American military umbrella, the rest of the world fear and distrust American rhetoric and intentions. In the meantime, China makes the rounds offering Belt and Road Initiative to underdeveloped and developing countries. The basics of BRI is that the host country will consult with China and select the infrastructure projects that need China’s assistance and financing. Infrastructure projects, such as port, rail, highway, airport, power and others, upon completion would give the host an economic shot in the arm. Raising the gross domestic product could come from increase in export and participation of global trade, improved yield on the farm based on Chinese technical assistance and creation of new jobs in the cities. BRI becomes a form of incoming tide that raises all boats. Over 150 countries around the world have signed BRI deals with China. Over time, we can expect to see increasing number of countries grow in economical strength. As more countries manage to keep their own people employed at home, the world will see fewer refugees and migrants, an overall benefit you will not hear reported by the western media. China has friends, the US fear and loathing The success of BRI has raised alarm from the western media and American diplomats are going around Africa and Latin America warning them of China’s “debt-trap diplomacy.” China’s BRI financing is normally around half of the going rate, sometimes even at zero interest, and some loans were outright forgiven. These third world countries should be offended that the West believes they are too stupid to tell the difference between centuries of colonial exploitation they suffered in the hands of the western imperial powers and China’s straightforward business propositions. If the much talked about decoupling were to suddenly occur tomorrow, the US would pay a much dearer price than would China. China would continue to be the most important trading partner to every country except for perhaps the US. China has long term, yuan based, energy contracts with Saudi, Iran, Qatar and other Gulf states along with Russia. Furthermore, thanks to the US aggressive actions pushing China and Russia into tighter collaboration, they can roll up their sleeves and concentrate on developing and realizing the vast potential of Siberia. On the other hand, the US is suffering from a deep deficit of trust by allies and rest of the world alike. The world has seen American unilateralism at work as the US confiscated the foreign reserve of the Taliban government in Afghanistan and later the Russian holdings, national and personal. The threat of sanctions and actual sanctions imposed has been the US favorite tool of diplomacy. As many have observed, sanctions have unanticipated consequences and blowback. As one recent article concluded, “Western sanctions led Russia to greatly increase trade with Asia, while devastating Europe’s economy. The US tech war against China is damaging its own industry.” Washington can act arbitrarily, capriciously and unilaterally. That’s why Japan, even as an ally, and China being the two largest foreign holders of US debt are in a rush to divest their holdings as quickly as possible. In the case of China, they face the challenge of trade surplus accumulating faster than they can divest their dollars. Indeed, friend and foe alike, most countries’ reserve now include increasing portion of China’s yuan while lessening the portion in dollars. Russia has even announced the ultimate goal of holding 60% renminbi and 40% gold as their foreign exchange reserve. Ironically, in middle of last month, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen flew to Europe just to intercept China’s vice premier Liu He as he was on his way to the Davos summit. Apparently, the gist of their three-hour meeting was for Yellen to pitch the importance of China holding onto the dollars and continuing to buy US debt as vital to supporting the American economy. Most likely decoupling was not part of their conversation.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

US pushes ‘rule-based disorder’ Latest set of sanctions targeting the chip industry will do no one any good, certainly not the US itself

First posted in Asia Times. Upon becoming president of the United States, Joe Biden immediately set forth to promote “rule-based international order,” ostensibly for the world community, but the message was really intended for China. The “world order,” according to Biden, was for Beijing to conduct its foreign affairs in line with Washington’s expectations. Now into the second year of his regime, it has become increasingly clear that Biden’s idea of order is actually disorder and is causing chaos not only in the world but especially to the American economy. The latest example is the most recent series of sanctions and embargoes forbidding sales of semiconductor chips and manufacturing equipment to China. Up to now, China has been far and away the largest buyer for semiconductor processing equipment and is the major market for advanced chips designed by such Silicon Valley companies as Nvidia and made by such foundries as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). The ban seeks all the members of the semiconductor industry, foreign and domestic, to go cold turkey and stop doing business with China. Heretofore, the industry has been a prime example of a virtuous circle created by globalization. In simplified terms, we can say that innovations in chip designs for new uses are created in Silicon Valley, fabricated by foundries in Taiwan and South Korea, and then shipped to China to assemble into devices and final products, which are then sold around the world. Companies engaged in making fabrication and processing equipment kept pushing the boundaries of their technology and collaborated with the foundries to produce the next generation of advanced chips. The equipment companies were not just in the US but also in Japan and the Netherlands. Everyone wins in a virtuous circle In a virtuous circle, everybody does what he does best and contributes to a supply chain at the most cost-effective efficiency. Everybody wins in such a circle. By breaking up the circle, everybody loses. South Korean foundries such as Samsung sell 40% of their output to China, including foundries they operate inside China. China represents around 30% of sales for semiconductor fabrication equipment from American companies such as Applied Materials and Lam Research. China is also the most important market for ASML, the Netherlands-based company that is in essence the only maker of advanced lithographic machines. Despite the just-imposed ban, the company has continued to increase its local hire in China to support its sales and technical services. Every member of the circle now faces a perplexing dilemma: Do they obey the Washington edict at the expense of their financial interests and companies’ futures? Or do they pay a lot of money to lawyers and lobbyists to plead on their behalf and secure certain dispensations that would allow their continuing to do business with China, perhaps at a more subdued level? Or do they find questionable routes and intermediaries to continue their sales to China? Or can they flat out defy Washington? In theory, their lost sales to China would be replaced by the expansion of a new and growing US market, as foreign companies such as TSMC and Samsung are enticed or coerced into building new fabs in the US. The challenge is whether other members of the circle can survive long enough while waiting for the new capacities in America to make up the immediate shortfall around the world. Furthermore, there are serious concerns and doubts as to whether new fabs could actually happen in the US. The cost of defying Washington’s order will be high, but the industry can already see that the cost of yielding to Biden’s sanctions makes no sense given the devastating consequences. TSMC obediently gave up on serving Huawei, its most important customer, under orders from Donald Trump’s White House more than two years ago. Now it apparently has given up on the rest of the China market in exchange for locating fabs in the US. Since then, the market capitalization of the company has declined by half from its peak. Washington offers losing propositions Washington doesn’t offer any incentives or rewards, just threats and intimidation if they are not obeyed. This is what a hegemon does, but increasingly the world is disenchanted and not convinced South Korea is the latest to feel the sting that goes with being a loyal American ally. Washington expected the Koreans to give up their huge markets in China, and the reward was for their president to face a rude and very public brushoff when he greeted Biden at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York recently. According to K J Noh, who understands the Korean language, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol cursed in the foulest terms at the way he was treated. Hard to blame him though. Biden is asking his country commit economic seppuku but acted like Yoon was some Asian scumbag – another gaffe that the White House staff will have to repair. The European Union has also learned that there is no upside in being a groupie of American foreign policy. By joining the US in supporting the Ukrainians and sanctioning Russia in the Ukrainian war, the EU is facing a bleak cold winter with a shortfall of fuel to heat homes and fire the boilers that the German industries will need to keep operating. Facing record-breaking inflation, the people in the EU are becoming restless and beginning to agitate and question the reasons for antagonizing Russia and bringing economic misery on to themselves. Shortly before the UNGA, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization concluded its annual conference, held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Under China’s leadership, the SCO welcomed Iran and Belarus as new members, with a long list of other nations applying to join, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others. The SCO now accounts for half of the world’s population and more than 25% of global GDP. Non-aligned countries find the SCO increasingly attractive as an antidote to American unilateralism. Geopolitical rivals such as India and Pakistan or Saudi Arabia and Iran can leave their contentions outside and join the organization to work on trade and economic cooperation, and collaborate on combating terrorism. Unlike the American led groups of nations, political or military alliances are specifically excluded within the SCO. There are, by the way, no nations waiting to join the US alliance to contain China. As I observed in June, the US approach to recruiting others to join in an alliance to contain China is a faltering strategy that will lead to America’s self-destruction. Biden’s insistence on decoupling China from the semiconductor supply chain is another step in that direction. Another step to self-destruction Washington seems not to have anticipated China’s likely response to the latest sanctions. Its semiconductor industry is redoubling its efforts and investments to develop technical advances that would replace the chips and fab equipment that have been cut off by the American sanctions. China has the raw technical manpower graduating from their colleges and universities every year and has recruited senior engineers and fabrication technologists – Asia Times called them godfathers – from Taiwan, Japan and South Korea to advise on the technical and management direction. News from China already indicates that they are making breakthroughs getting around the American embargoes. Even American analysts say that the trade barriers are doomed to fail. In the long run, the Biden sanctions will help China create its own independent semiconductor industry and leave the currently established providers out in the cold. When and if China decides to retaliate in full, it has the wherewithal to inflict pain in kind. China’s CATL is the world’s largest producer of lithium batteries for electric vehicles. The company has announced plans to build a US$7 billion plant in Hungary to serve European automakers. Its plans for North America are on hold since Nancy Pelosi’s jaunt to Taipei. China also has a virtual stranglehold on the world supply of rare earth minerals, some crucial in strategic military applications, and can elect to restrict sales to the US. Most recently, the Pentagon was aghast to find that the engine of the F-35 fighter depends on rare-earth magnets made in China. This latest “discovery” shows the deep integration of the two major economies and the difficulty of disentangling and decoupling the two. It also can show the destructive power of paranoia in Washington. The wise old gnomes in the bowels of the Pentagon probably wouldn’t suggest tearing apart all the existing F-35s to remove the magnets from China, but could certainly see this matter as another “urgent” reason to increase the defense budget greatly in order to develop a domestic replacement. The hostile drumbeats from Washington reverberate within the echo chamber for the benefit of the handful of allies sitting inside, seemingly unaware of the ongoing peaceful cooperation between China and the rest of the world. It’s hard to know when the American people will say enough is enough and vote for a thorough reform of how Washington makes friends instead of enemies.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

My confession seems to have struck a responsive chord

I also had a conversation with Cyrus Janssen on his YouTube channel. I have received many more reader responses than usual on my essay on Asia Times. I have decided to post selected inputs from my readers. Ifay Chang Tue, Aug 23, 9:17 AM (1 day ago) I echo with you as a Republican, seeing the hypocritic bipartisan bickering that is degrading the U.S.. Ifay Bob Dickerson Tue, Aug 23, 9:29 AM (1 day ago) Wonderful, George. Very moving and so honest. Peace and love to you. If you need me, I’ll be there for you. Peter Li Tue, Aug 23, 9:42 AM (1 day ago) Thanks George. You have said exactly what’s in my heart and a sense of frustration and exasperation. America has changed so much since we first came in the 40s and 50s. Alas… Peter William Fuller Tue, Aug 23, 9:51 AM (1 day ago) Hi George, From one 84 year old to another, well done! Like you, I could not be more worried about our country, its relations with China, and the risks to our democracy. With best wishes, Bill Ivy Chang Tue, Aug 23, 9:58 AM (1 day ago) George, I'm an immigrant, like you, and agree with your writing. You make the Chinese in the U.S. proud. Lillian Sing Tue, Aug 23, 10:39 AM (1 day ago) George, I tilt my hat to you over and over again. Once again, your writing touched my heart and soul. 很佩服你! You share the same experience as so many of us, CA, who came to the US with hope and aspiration. Yes, US has been good to us. I became a judge when there were no female AA women judges in No. CA . It was a dream come true. But, alas, I see over and over again, how US has missed opportunities to be the great country and now has taken steps that will endanger all of us. CA is no longer welcome here. We are viewed with suspicious and the entire CA community is accused of posing a "whole of society threat against the US." Like you, I feel betrayed, disappointed and the necessity to speak out. Lillian Nancy M. Lee Tue, Aug 23, 10:47 AM (1 day ago) George: I could not have agreed with you more. It echoes precisely my feeling. When I came to this country in 1960, America was at its best. It has since come down and deteriorated year by year. Instead of using the tax money to build our country, it has spent the money around the globe to start wars. Thank you for writing this excellent article. I am sending your article to all my non-asian friends. Best, Nancy Anthony Ng Aug 23, 2022, 11:14 AM (1 day ago) Dear George: Thank you for sharing. Profound analysis! I resonated so much with what you wrote and got to know you better. Indeed, honesty is such a lonely word in politics. What could we do as part of the solution? I would love to hear more from you. Could we chat at your convenience? Blessings, Anthony C. Ng Robert Kapp Tue, Aug 23, 1:12 PM (1 day ago) I knew we had things in common: I ran "Americans Abroad for McCarthy" in London in 1968, when I was a graduate student just out of nine months of Ph.D. research in Chiang Kai-shek's Taiwan. But not Laurelhurst: the first thing someone at the UW said to me when we moved to Seattle in 1973 and I joined the UW faculty was, "Of course you'll live in Laurelhurst...." Uh-uh. We bought a houseboat for $12k instead. I never did quite meld with the Laurelhurstians on campus. Best wishes. B. Phil Cunningham Tue, Aug 23, 1:26 PM (1 day ago) Hi George, I liked reading your personal story, helps put your pieces in perspective. You have a lot of wisdom, hard-earn lessons and longitude in your views on things. Funny on the Shakespeare thing. Cornell Press asked me to read a thesis and book proposal by a Chinese scholar about Shakespeare in China; it was quite good! I've got a piece coming out in SCMP this week about decline in number of Chinese students, using Cornell as example. Next piece is about the almost complete zeroing out of US students in China. Phil Maeley Tom Aug 23, 2022, 1:57 PM (1 day ago) Your article was nothing short of "outstanding" and distributing it to my network. Thank you George Tue, Aug 23, 2:50 PM (1 day ago) George Your disclosure of personal experience is deeply appreciated by myself And this is a very acceptable article to share with all My friends disregard their political outlook nor their “ distorted “ ( a big majority of them , unfortunately Views or perception of China These are fir those who lived in the west ( US Canada England Australia or even Hong Kong and yes HK and Taiwan) Your personal experience is indisputable including your criticism and disappointment with US politicians ! Money talk it’s not like one would like to think Democracy is Peoples Talk ( we are all damaged by the Western Politician Talk ) leaving many of us feeling so helpless and hopeless 😩 Miranda Hsiung Fei Lee Tue, Aug 23, 2:54 PM (1 day ago) Dear George: Very well said. Your article of "Confessions of a Disgruntled Chinese American" resonances with me very much. I first came to the US in 1961. The America in the early 60's was different from how or what it is today. Many of the things you mentioned were not on the surface back then. The military and defense industry complex brings misery to the people around the world as well as Americans at home. It is hard to reverse the ' one-dollar-one-vote system' we have today back to the ' one-man-one-vote system' it is supposed to be. But it is the only chance that America will survive another two hundreds years without collapsing. There has to be a way to turn the American policy from outward expansionism to paying attention of domestic issues. Washington needs to look after the well being of the 99% instead of what happens in Ukraine or Taiwan Strait. Most Americans do not understand international politics. Hopefully, they know what it means to have food on the table and the roof over their head. H. F. L. Ling-Chi WANG Tue, Aug 23, 3:48 PM (1 day ago) Hi, George: What an inspiring confession! There are so many striking similarities between your experience and mine, from being born in the same year and raised on the same tiny island of beautiful Gulangyu (鼓浪屿), 3 sq. Km., to coming to America for education and opportunity to becoming engaged in American civic life, and finally, to becoming disillusioned and disgruntled in our sunset years. Reading your confession is like reading my own memoir except you write, as usual, with such flair and eloquence, I could not possibly match. It is quite incredible that we should finally, in a fortunate stroke of serendipity, meet in San Francisco a few years ago when we were active in the fight to win freedom and justice for Dr. Wen Ho Lee. Dr. Wen Ho Lee won his freedom on September 13, 2000. Sadly and outrageously, 22 years later, we, Chinese Americans today, have all become Wen Ho Lee because of American ignorance, racial prejudice, and hostility. Thanks for sharing your experience. Keep writing because the U.S. needs your perspective and voice! Ling-chi Aug 23, 2022, 3:58 PM (1 day ago) With great grandiloquence, par excellence. Henry Richard King Tue, Aug 23, 4:40 PM (1 day ago) Dear George: Thank you for sharing your story with me. We are the same age. But I came when I was already 14. I did well in school but not at your level. While my math was fine I still struggled with my English and therefore did not get into Bronx Science. Instead I attended Lincoln Park Honor School. I wanted to go to Cornell but did not have the money. I worked at a Jewish resort and managed to save $ 1,100, a nice sum but it was short of the $ 2,000 needed. If I knew then what I know now, I could have borrowed, got a scholarship or worked at a frat house for my room and board. I went to CCNY which was known as poorman's Harvard. At that time more than 90% of the students were Jewish. I hated it. Ironically, my son Bentley would one day go to and graduate from Cornell. Of course he did not have to work a single day to pay for his tuition. But isn't that what we all work for: To give a better life for our kids? Since there were few of us then, there was not the hysteria of Asian, namely Chinese, students taking over the top colleges. Affirmative actions were then not that evident. These days I don't know what it would take for our kids and grandchildren to get into an Ivy or MIT? China was then Red China and for the most part not on the radar screen. Even as recent as the late 70s and early 80s it was Japan that was the threat. Japan bashing was in full swing. Japan folded and has never recovered. China is a different and more tough nut to crack. As you pointed out, the head of the FBI shamelessly bragged about targeting ethnic Chinese. I worked in the defense industry, something I would not do today. I wonder what would happen if all ethnic Chinese were to boycott the defense industry. It would collapse. With China's rising, we Chinese-Americans will increasingly face tough times ahead. Richard James Hsue Tue, Aug 23, 5:34 PM (1 day ago) Thank you George for the personal experience spoken from the heart. It is an experience that is probably widely shared amongst not only Chinese Americans but also amongst Chinese canadians, Chinese Australians etc. I am really happy to see it being told. I sent it out to my HK highschool classmates, many of whom emigrated to the U.S., Canada and the U.K. James Shirley Kinoshita 6:51 AM (16 hours ago) George Interesting op-ed. I also served on the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission and has experienced a lot of opportunities and rewards as an American. In my case, I’ve had the added blessing of being born in US Territory of Hawaiii, see my home state become a state. I’m surprised you use the term “Heaven..” since I believe you are not a believer in this concept. Shirley

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Confessions of a disgruntled Chinese-American. Heaven help any aspiring leader who wants to correct America’s problems at home and campaign on what the US needs to fix.

First posted on Asia Times. I am proud to be an 84-year-old Chinese-American: proud of my Chinese heritage and at one time proud to be an American. My friends frequently ask me why I am so critical of our government. I tell them that as a citizen, I have a right and duty to criticize when I see my country heading in the wrong direction. It has not always been like this. One of my proudest moments was when I became a naturalized citizen many years ago. To be an American was something to be proud of and look forward to. I thought I was enjoying a charmed life and living in the best of two worlds. Before I immigrated to America, I lived in China for my first 11 years, a country devastated by war with Japan. But I had the good fortune of living in a remote area of China that never saw one Japanese soldier. Thus I didn’t have to witness the many unspeakable acts of atrocity committed by the Japanese military. When my mom, my sisters and I joined my dad in Seattle, he was a graduate student on a very limited income. We lived in the university housing project where each duplex was modestly better than a Quonset hut. But we lived within the district of one of the best elementary schools in town. At Laurelhurst Elementary, my classmates, mostly from well-to-do families, helped me learn English as quickly as I could absorb it. A friend gave me helmet and shoulder pads and I quickly learned to play football. At no time did I feel the sting of racism. My welcome to America was all cookies and cream. I graduated at the top of my senior class and received a scholarship and part-time job on campus to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By the time I became a young father raising a family in New Jersey, I was the supervisor of a materials-testing laboratory. My company encouraged me to complete my doctoral studies by giving me leave and financial support. I was living my American dream. I even participated in exercising American democracy by becoming a grassroots worker campaigning for delegates going to the Democratic National Convention to cast their votes for Eugene McCarthy as the party’s presidential nominee. But watching the 1968 Chicago convention on national TV, I was appalled and outraged. Mayor Richard Daley’s police force was supposed to maintain law and order. Instead, they were instigators of violence and chaos, clubbing the protesters outside the convention. I wrote a letter to the Newark Evening News, a major daily in New Jersey, expressing my indignation. To my surprise, my letter was published. That encouragement caused me to think that expressing my opinion could make a difference. After I moved my family to California, I continued to participate in civic affairs and local politics. I was the campaign manager for two friends running for the city council – at different times. One won and the other did not. When my city decided to establish a “Human Relations Commission,” I was appointed to the first one. One of my commendations read: “His service demonstrates his commitment to the community and the desire to promote the fullest participation of all members of the community.” When Mike Honda decided to run for Congress and asked for my help, I was happy to help because he was an honorable and genuine human being with a generous heart. He won on his first try and when we met for lunch to celebrate, he told me that his first task at hand was to raise a lot of money for his campaign war chest so that potential opponents would think twice about running to unseat him. His revelation surprised me but also drove home to me the realization that money had taken control of our democracy. Fast-forward to today, and I keep asking myself, “Why has my country fallen so low?” We can’t seem to keep up with other developed countries that are our peers. We unfailingly acknowledge the importance of education as critical to the future of our children, but we only talk and don’t do anything about it. The quality of education depends on the average household income in the local area where the school is located. Children from the city ghettoes hardly ever get a decent education and thus start out in life with a disadvantage that many are not equipped to overcome. In some parts of our country teaching creationism has the same legitimacy as teaching science and mathematics. Some Americans still believe that our Earth is 6,000 years old. Ignorance is regarded as a badge of honor. Thou shalt not commit perjury “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” I may have learned the oath from the long-running TV serial Perry Mason, but I came to understand that honesty and being truthful were among the foundational principles that made America great. Today, public figures of any and all stripes tell lies and do not even bat an eyelash. They violate every statute of the constitution as if the laws of the land do not apply to them. There is no sense of honor and right or wrong or even any hint of shame. Our two major political parties battle for control of the federal government and Congress. They devote virtually all of their energy and attention to outmaneuvering the other side just to gain an edge. Getting re-elected and retaining their seats in Congress have highest priority unless it’s to unseat someone from the other party. Pettiness reigns and national interest is rarely on the table. My e-mail inbox is filled daily with solicitations from candidates running for public office asking me for a campaign contribution. People I have never heard of, running for the House or Senate or governor from a state far from California, and they don’t ever ask what issues I support. They simply presume that I care about their getting elected. They just want my money. If I can write a big check, they will come running again and again. If I don’t write checks but can “bundle” a lot of checks from other contributors into a bagful, I will be regarded as a person of influence. America’s democracy is all about money and it takes more and more to enter the fray. Thoughtful and capable politicians are getting out. Our roads and bridges are dilapidated, college and university tuition has been rising beyond most household budgets, women are denied the right to decide what’s good for their health, and schoolchildren are regularly slaughtered in mass shootings. These are just a few indicators of what’s wrong with America. Heaven help any aspiring leader who wants to correct the problems at home and campaign on what America needs to fix. Such a candidate won’t get financial sponsors and won’t get nominated, much less win any election. Incumbents will not risk their chances of re-election by tackling these knotty issues and are very adept at kicking the can down the road. Anti-China chorus The one sure-fire way to political success is to demonize China and attack China as our adversary, an easy adversary accepted by both parties. In the process, every ethnic Asian in America becomes a prospective target of hate crime, because “all Asians look alike.” To add fuel to the fire, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation even boasted about the many cases of investigation opened daily on Chinese-Americans employed in American universities and research organizations. He never talks about the disproportionate number of cases that were dismissed or dropped because of lack of evidence or the FBI’s haste to accuse. He doesn’t acknowledge the financial ruin suffered by the innocent victims because of the cost of their legal defense and their having to deal with careers in tatters. A senator from Arkansas even suggested that students from China should not be allowed to come to the US for further studies in science and engineering but only on Shakespeare. Indeed, because of arbitrary prosecutions, random violence from hate crimes and uncertain treatment on granting of visas, enrollment from China has already dropped substantially. There is nothing to suggest that this trend is likely to reverse. Heretofore, Chinese-Americans have contributed far more than their pro rata would indicate. They come to America as part of China’s cream of the crop, already well trained and prepared to contribute with diligence and motivation. If they stop coming, it will be America’s loss. Meanwhile, Washington is investing all its energy on pushing China’s head under water, all the while not doing anything to solve the social and economic ills rooted within our country. China will continue to work around the American embargoes and sanctions and surpass the US with one technological advance after another. It already has taken the lead in many technical disciplines, Shakespearean scholarship not being among them.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Sputnik moment isn’t what it used to be

The first one in 1957 spurred the US on to technological greatness; now, China’s progress spurs stagnation and indolence First posted in Asia Times. When China successfully tested a hypersonic weapon system in October 2021, General Mark A Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this was very close to a “Sputnik moment.” The first Sputnik moment took place on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union surprised Washington by sending aloft the world’s first man-made satellite, called Sputnik 1. All of a sudden, the heretofore assumed technological superiority that Americans thought they had over the Soviets vanished overnight. Public panic fueled by fear and loathing became a national crisis. For the rest of that October, The New York Times talked about the Soviet satellite, on average, in 11 articles every day. The US under president Dwight Eisenhower responded promptly to the Sputnik moment. He ordered the formation of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in February 1958 to develop emerging technologies for the military. In July, he signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act to create NASA. Response to Sputnik challenge Congress quickly followed by passing the National Defense Education Act to pour billions of dollars into the American education system and raise the quality and quantity of university graduates in science, mathematics and engineering. By the time the USSR sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit on April 12, 1961, the US was ready for the space race and set putting man on the moon as the goal. The culmination was the worldwide televised moon landing of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin from Apollo 11 in July 1969. DARPA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration generated many noteworthy technological breakthroughs, and many of those were spun off into civilian uses. Some directly or indirectly became home-run investments that nurtured an emerging venture-capital industry. The budget appropriations for the National Science Foundation created by Congress in 1950 were boosted every year to encourage scientific research in academia and research institutes. The 1970s were undoubtedly the golden decade for America. Then-president Richard Nixon went to China in 1972, which later led to normalization of relations between the two countries. The endless war ended in Vietnam. America led in virtually every field of science and technology. The fruit orchards south of San Francisco became the now famous Silicon Valley. The US claimed ownership of most of the top universities in the world. International students all over the world aspire to do postgraduate studies in America. A flood of the best and brightest from China began in the 1990s. US won the rivalry over Soviet Union America had risen to the challenge of the Sputnik moment, and it was easy to be a proud American. The American people celebrated the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and looked forward to a forthcoming “peace dividend” with enthusiasm and anticipation. Tragically, the dividend never materialized. Instead, the draft of the Wolfowitz Doctrine in 1992 became the guiding framework for future White House administrations. Paul Wolfowitz, undersecretary of defense at the time, was the principal author of the doctrine. As summarized by the documentary program Frontline, the essential points of the doctrine were: The No 1 objective of the US post-Cold War strategy is to prevent the emergence of a rival superpower. Another major objective is to safeguard US interests and promote American values. If necessary, the United States must be prepared to take unilateral action. The legacy of this doctrine has been America’s unilateral action in Iraq, Libya and many other less publicized overthrows or interference of regimes not to US liking. The price was the loss of millions of innocent lives. “Safeguard our interests and promote American values” are invariably part of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks supporting his justification for the threat of and actual unilateral action. China became the next designated adversary The doctrine needed a rival to warrant actions to “prevent emergence.” The US branded China as its next threat. To justify the American position, it declared a unilateral trade war and accused China of massive intellectual-property theft. And the US increased its military surveillance off the coast of China and justified increasing its naval presence in the South China Sea as based on “freedom of navigation.” A litany of US provocations succeeded in getting China to respond. One result was the hypersonic weapon system. But this was hardly a Sputnik moment. General Milley’s comment was meant to motivate increase budget allocation for weapon development. However, Washington and the mainstream media seem oblivious that the deliberate provocations have created a formidable opponent. Since the US declared China as an adversary, it has surpassed the US in many technical fields. One response was to deny China access to advanced semiconductor manufacturing technology in order to kneecap its semiconductor industry and cripple its manufacturing that depends on advanced chips. But as David Goldman observed in a recent Asia Times article, “The Biden administration’s belated attempt to suppress China’s semiconductor industry appears to have backfired. China has found workaround technologies that bypass the aging American IP that Washington has embargoed.” By concentrating its national energy and attention on stifling China’s advance, the US has neglected to invest in solutions and remedies that would have raised the well-being of America. We Americans could have raised the living standard of the poor. We could have made universal health care affordable for everyone. We could have repaired our old bridges and highways. We could have strengthened our law and order and made it fair to all regardless of race. We could have invested in our education and in scientific research to ensure our future. We could have done all that and more. Instead, we experienced more than 30 years of stagnation and indolence because of the US determination to rule the world.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

What I've learned from the January 6 hearing

When my mother and me and my siblings arrived in the US in 1949, my father met us at the airport. At that time he had been in the US for three years studing for his PhD. We were overjoyed to see him and he us. Dad said to me, "George, you have entered the land of golden opportunity and a chance to live the American dream." For most of my life, it was a dream come true. I had indeed landed in the best of two worlds. No more. The House January 6 Committee public hearing is telling us how close America came to lose our civil liberties and witness the Constitution torn to shred. Incredibly enough, elected officials and politicians wilfully ignored the rule of law just to cater to the personal desires and ego of one person, Donald Trump. I cannot believe that one blowhard can stage a revolution, get away with sedition and came close to overthrowing the US government. It saddens me terribly to see a post WWII golden age America turn into a fail state in my lifetime. God save America. Nobody else can.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Blowbacks from Ukraine war will be deadly serious

First posted in Asia Times. Rampant inflation, a damaged dollar, and the threat of wider conflict are among the perils awaiting the world As the war in Ukraine rolls into its second month, the fog (of war) is beginning to lift and certain troubling conclusions emerge into view. Ominously, some are consequential threats to the future existence of the world as we know it. It’s increasingly obvious that the war was provoked by the US and that the US has a vested interest in keeping the conflict going. No members of President Joe Biden’s administration talk about ending the war, only about providing more arms for the Ukrainians to keep fighting, and to impose more sanctions on Russia. Biden has declared that the purpose of levying sanctions on top of sanctions on Russia was to inflict pain on the country to the point that the Russian people will revolt and overthrow President Vladimir Putin from power. As the world has learned from previous experiences of countries that faced the full fury of American wrath, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela to mention a few, sanctions represent a blunt and non-discriminating instrument of torture. The elites of the target nation might feel some pain but innocent civilians, especially women and children, suffer the most from the deprivations resulting from the sanctions. Rather than turning the people against their leaders, the external cause of pain can become a rallying focus for their leader and turn the resentment toward the perpetrator. Over time, the victimized people learn to make do with less and stiffen their resolve to stand up to the external bully. Also, in order for any sanction to become a potent weapon, it needs virtually universal support from the community of nations. Thus US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior officials have been scurrying around to hector friend and foe alike into joining the sanctions on Russia. Most not buying the American sanctions The response has been a great disappointment to Washington. Brazil, India and South Africa have elected to stand by Russia as fellow members of BRICS. Even Mexico has demurred and not joined the American-led sanctions. A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, was tactless enough to point out that 140 members of the United Nations have not signed on. In other words, more than half of the world’s population is not joining the sanctions on Russia. Along with oil and natural gas, Russia is a major supplier of wheat and other agricultural products and fertilizers. Prohibition of Russia from participating in the world market will create shortages and inflationary prices. Not only does Biden expect his American public willingly to bear the economic pain caused by the collateral impact of his sanctions, he also expects the Europeans to go along, notwithstanding that their cost of living will go through the roof. The European Union depends on Russia for 40% of its natural gas and 27% of its oil. Germany is especially dependent on Russia as its major supplier of energy. One has to wonder how long the EU will squirm under US unilateral foreign policy. Rampant inflation will lead to civil unrest and tear the European alliance apart. A weakened Europe unable to get along with Russia would minimize the EU’s claim as one of the poles in a multipolar world. Eliminating the EU as a rival happens to fit the White House design to regain world domination. Even though Biden admits that sanctions do not deter, he freezes Russia’s international reserves. Then he chooses to accentuate the pressure on Putin by ordering the seizure of private property, such as US$100 million yachts, from selected Russian oligarchs, and removing Russia from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) international financial transfer system, in effect removing Russia from global commerce. After Biden’s announcement, the value of the ruble plummeted through the floor and the US and its allies crowed in delight. Then Putin declared that he would accept payment only in rubles for the sale of Russian natural gas and oil to “unfriendly” countries. Later, he broadened that to include accepting gold for payment at the exchange rate of 5,000 rubles to one gram of gold. Trust in the dollar eroding With the linking of the Russian currency to real assets, the world has a choice on whether to trust the ruble or the full faith and backing of the US government on the value of the dollar. Apparently, confidence in the ruble was quickly restored, as the exchange rate against the dollar bounced back to near pre-war level. The unilateral and arbitrary actions of the Biden administration are raising doubts about the reliability of commitments from the US. India is one example. Not even Japan’s offer (as a proxy for the US) of a $43 billion investment over a five-year period can tempt Prime Minister Narendra Modi into joining the sanctions. Instead, Modi is negotiating a rupees-for-rubles deal for Russian oil. Even before the war in Ukraine, Russia had struck a deal to supply natural gas and oil to China based on the renminbi. Saudi Arabia has also hedged and agreed to sell oil to China on payment of the yuan instead of the dollar. Biden’s sanctions on Russia clearly drive home the lesson that no sovereign foreign reserve is safe in the hands of banks in the US or the UK, but is subject to seizure at the whim of the those governments. The American public may not yet fully appreciate that the one consequential blowback of this is a worldwide loss of confidence in the dollar, a currency not pegged to gold or any real asset and the belief that the US remains a safe place to leave one’s money. If and when the US is no longer perceived to be a safe place to park a country’s foreign reserve or a tycoon’s private wealth, the dollar will cease to be a reserve currency of any value. The dollar not being worth the paper it is printed on will lead to the collapse of the US economy, which can be directly blamed on Biden’s folly. China works on negotiation to peace While the mainstream media in the West focused on Putin’s naked incursion into Ukraine, there were some that documented the step-by-step aggression of the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that led to war. The alleged motive for the aggression was to provoke Russia into a war. The war was to bleed and weaken Russia into a pushover state for the US. Small wonder then that when Blinken asked China to join the sanctions on Russia, he got a polite but blank stare. He must have assumed the Chinese were too stupid to understand that after the collapse of Russia, China would be next in Uncle Sam’s gunsight. In contrast with Biden’s foreign policy, Chinese President Xi Jinping contacted Putin on the day after the Russian incursion into Ukraine to propose commencing negotiations with Ukraine for a peaceful settlement. Distinct from the US, the UK and NATO, China has been quietly working with France and Germany to promote a negotiation process that would lead to peace. The most recent meeting held in Istanbul was the fourth in a series of parleys to discuss a ceasefire. As host, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been following and reporting on the progress of the negotiations. Despite Western media accusations of genocide and war atrocities, Putin has apparently been careful to limit civilian casualties. As former ambassador and US official Chas Freeman has pointed out, the ratio of civilian casualties from the Ukraine conflict to military casualties has been one-tenth of that normally found in a typical war. Newsweek reported a US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst as saying, “I know that the news keeps repeating that Putin is targeting civilians, but there is no evidence that Russia is intentionally doing so. In fact, I’d say that Russian could be killing thousands more civilians if it wanted to.” Yet Blinken had the temerity of wanting to charge Putin with war crimes without any sense of irony. So far, no one has accused Putin of indiscriminate carpet-bombing, drone strikes on wedding parties or waterboarding of prisoners of war. All are war crimes that Americans could have been charged with but have not. Another indicator that Putin’s objective in Ukraine was to reach a negotiated settlement was the report that the Russian military had agreed to release the mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Slavutych in exchange for removing arms within the city and for the Russian soldiers to leave. Hardly the action of anyone planning on a long-term occupation. One media source reported that prior to the breakout of hostilities, Moscow had submitted a draft proposal for a new mutual security treaty between Russia and NATO, with nine articles to be negotiated. But the Biden administration brushed off Russia’s entire proposal as a non-starter, not even a basis for negotiations. Given the Biden administration’s attitude about extending the conflict for as long as possible, it would be reasonable to speculate, as the two parties approach a peaceful settlement, whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky could run the risk of assassination by either a radical Nazi hit squad from within or by an outside CIA sniper. Kinzhal the dagger To show Russia is no mere paper tiger, it fired a hypersonic missile, which it calls Kinzhal, from the Black Sea across Ukraine that penetrated and exploded in an underground arms and munition depot in Ivano-Frankivsk region in western Ukraine. This depot was supposed to be hardened to resist a direct hit by a nuclear blast. The Kinzhal, Russian for “dagger,” is an air-to-surface missile that the Russian military claims can travel at more than 10 times the speed of sound and has a range of 1,930 kilometers. One reason for firing the missile was to tell the Pentagon that it had greatly underestimated Russia’s capability. As the publishers of Asia Times have written (Biden’s living a dangerous fantasy), Putin has repeatedly warned the US that the Russian bear will not be cattle-prodded into a corner but will pre-emptively launch the first nuclear strike if baited. Apparently, the Biden administration is not ready to back down and lose face. Thus the second consequential blowback from Ukraine is America’s evident willingness to collide with Russia at full tilt, even risking a worldwide nuclear holocaust. If the US does not succeed in knocking Russia back to the Stone Age, then what will Biden do with China? First, the US can continue to pressure China with the threat of sanctions. However, if sanctions will not cause Russia to bend to America’s will, China is even less likely to feel intimidated. After the financial crisis of 2008, China could see the shakiness of the dollar – a currency that depended on quantitative easing, that is, on the US Federal Reserve’s printing press running wild – and began to enter currency swap agreements with other countries. A swap agreement allows two trading partners to pay each other in their own currency and not have to settle in dollars. At last count, 40 countries have such agreements in place with China. Since China has become the leading trading partner of virtually every nation in the world, the US is even less likely to find many interested in joining any American boycott of doing business with China, were the US foolish enough to try. China counters US sanctions on Xinjiang But sure enough, the Biden administration has tried, by banning the import of cotton from Xinjiang. In response, China has mandated that all face masks for export must be made with cotton from Xinjiang. Biden has also forbidden the import of any products made in Xinjiang. In response, China has consolidated all its rare-earth mining companies into one holding company and registered it in Xinjiang. The US can probably get along without masks from China but will find it a real challenge without rare-earth metals and minerals. There’s a Chinese saying: “For every ploy, there is (always) a counter.” Second, the skill level of Biden’s team of diplomats is no match for China. When Blinken and company come calling, their message has been a consistent one: Follow our lead or else we will subject you to sanctions beyond your imagination. Nothing subtle or nuanced in their message, nor any offer of incentive to go along, just arrogance. Chinese diplomats do not go around threatening military action or sanctions. They offer collaboration in the spirit of their Belt and Road Initiative. China’s recent interaction with India comes to mind. On the eve of a scheduled visit to India by a UK delegation led by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also came calling. The UK group intended to lecture their former colony on the need to join the sanctions against Russia. Instead, the Indian government abruptly canceled the UK visit, but welcomed the visit by Wang. Wang went to India to indicate that the two nations’ border dispute can be resolved amicably and pale in importance compared with the need to unite and stand up to the hegemony of US/UK/NATO. India, having had a full dose of the Pentagon’s insulting arrogance, listened. Both Russia and India have tried to integrate with the West and failed. Now it’s time to look east and align with East and Central Asia. If the threat of sanctions against Beijing rings hollow, could the Biden administration replace Ukraine with Taiwan to push China into war over the island? Many in the mainstream media have suggested that pushing Russia to invade Ukraine was a dress rehearsal for doing the same with China, namely getting China to invade Taiwan. Is Taiwan China’s Ukraine? Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and others have suggested that the sure way to provoke China into war was officially to declare recognition of Taiwan as an independent and sovereign nation. Such a declaration would be to ignore the one-China principle that Taiwan is part of China and would violate China’s sovereignty and international rule and order. Of course, trampling on established international order has never bothered the US. The only order that the US respects is the set of rules set by the US. For certain, such open support for Taiwan’s independence would raise the tension between the US and China by orders of magnitude. But to light the spark of conflict, Washington would have to persuade Taipei to initiate military hostility. According to a poll taken in Taiwan recently, after witnessing how the US provoked the Russian incursion into Ukraine and then watched the war on the sidelines, only one-third of Taiwanese are confident they will receive direct US military support in the event of a Chinese invasion. One in six fears they will have to fight alone. This represents a sharp decline by almost half from a survey taken six months earlier. Hard to imagine that the people in Taiwan would want to see their island turn into another Ukraine. China also claims to own hypersonic weapons, but we have not seen a demonstration of the capability of its version of a “Chinese dagger.” But we do know that China is developing carriers on high-speed rail to keep its nuclear missiles on the move. The idea of moving the nukes on China’s high-speed rail network is similar to putting nukes in submarines. Namely, keep them moving to raise the likelihood of surviving a surprise attack and retain the ability to strike back. Unlike Putin, China is not ready to depart from its long-standing policy on “no first use” but will endeavor to keeping its sting potent. The American public must wake up to full realization that the third consequential blowback is the willingness of the political leaders in Washington to risk nuclear war in order to assert hegemonic superiority over China and the world. The Chinese have a saying, hui tou shi an (回头是岸), meaning “turn your head to see the shore.” In order to turn America back to the direction of peace, the American voters must be alert to the danger the world is confronting and exercise their rights to vote the rascals out. That means all of them, regardless of their party affiliation, so long as they yearn for war. We stand at a dangerous junction in history. Let us hope the world will live to see a brighter tomorrow. This song, "War Machine" says it all.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Exciting White House Statement on Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Mike Billington of the Schiller Institute sent me an email as below and my reply that followed. Dear George, We would like your thoughts on today's dramatic P5 statement against nuclear war and the arms race. Do you think it will be durable? Will it lead to an agreement to Putin's treaty proposals? Can the US be trusted to stick to such an agreement after dropping out of so many others? Any other thoughts? Thanks, Mike Dear Mike, Thank you for sharing the statement from the White House. On its face, the proclamation is as positive and forward thinking as one could wish for to begin the New Year. However, the U.S. has a history of double talk and recanting their publicly declared positions when it suits them, such that people around the world can't be faulted for being wary and restrained in daring to hope for a better future. By listing all five members of the UN Security Council in the opening paragraph, I believe the Biden Administration is attempting to suggest and imply that all five nuclear powers stand together and behind the proclamation. This is a strong move and should help bolster the credibility of the intention behind the statement. To reassure the peace loving people of the world, I hope the other Security Council members will soon go public to reaffirm and echo the American declaration. Over the decades of disappointment, we have learned that just the word of Uncle Sam is not enough.* There is nothing specific in declaration to suggest that the U.S. intends to reach an agreement on a treaty with Russia. However, if the Biden Administration is truly committed to the last paragraph of the statement, such as "multilateral diplomatic approaches to avoid military confrontations" and "prevent an arms race that would benefit none and endanger all" then Washington needs to reach out and begin the negotiation process and reassure Russia of the U.S. and NATO's intention to stop expanding their presence eastward including Ukraine. Further, if the United States were to live up to the commitment of nuclear non-proliferation, then the Biden White House should unilaterally cancel its commitment to transfer nuclear submarine technology to Australia. Will the world's only hegemon adhere to their New Year commitment? I fervently hope so and, furthermore, it's too early in the New Year to rain on a peace parade, but, alas I am prepared to be disappointed. Happy New Year. George * I realized that the declaration was a joint statement by the permanent 5 members of the Security Council. See commentary by Swaran Singh for a comprehensive analysis of the New Year's statement.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Is China ready to bail out the US in Afghanistan?

First posted in Asia Times. The appalling images of desperate Afghans losing their grip and falling to their death as planes take off from Kabul Airport evokes the memories of the panic evacuation from the rooftop of the American embassy in Saigon some 46 years earlier. This is yet another stain on America’s reputation. To lessen the trauma of the humiliating rush for the emergency exit as seen by world opinion, it will be crucial for President Joe Biden’s administration to arrange for the orderly departure of the Americans remaining in Afghanistan and not leave them stranded. And, just as important, there are tens of thousands of Afghans who have provided loyal services to the Americans forces and have been promised visas to emigrate to the US, and are now waiting for safe passage out of Afghanistan. Not all wishing to depart are gathered in Kabul or at the international airport. Many are simply caught unprepared by the sudden collapse of the US-backed government. Obviously, only with the consent and willing cooperation of the Taliban, now in control of the country, can the remaining Afghans and Americans be assembled and safely conveyed to departing planes. It has been reported that US Secretary of State Tony Blinken contacted his counterparts in Russia and China as the debacle at the Kabul airport was unfolding. What Blinken said to Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, and Wang Yi, foreign minister for China, has not been made public. But if Blinken was hoping to salvage the reputation of the Biden administration, he probably would have had to swallow some of the American hubris and ask for assistance in intervening with the Taliban on America’s behalf. China as intermediary for the US Both China and Russia have kept open their embassies in Afghanistan and maintained diplomatic relations with the Taliban. Just recently, the Taliban even sent a delegation to Beijing to shore up their bilateral relations. The message was that the Taliban would like Afghanistan to become a part of the Belt and Road Initiative and welcome Chinese investments. In turn, China has expressed interest in enlarging its presence but needs to see a secured country and the assurance of the safety of Chinese nationals working in Afghanistan. And, of course, the Taliban should not permit the use of Afghanistan as a staging ground for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and allow the mostly ethnic Uighur terrorists to enter China and wreak havoc there. It’s no small irony that the world’s mightiest military power cannot exert its will on a tribal Islamic militant group and must rely on a third party to intercede on America’s behalf. Arguably, China is in the best position to persuade the Taliban to ensure safe passage for the people wishing to leave, and thus save Uncle Sam from the lingering embarrassment of a panic-stricken retreat. The war in Afghanistan over 20 years has cost Washington the average of US$300 million per day. Perhaps China might suggest to the Biden administration that the US transfer the savings of some of that daily expenditure to the Taliban as a form of “departure head tax” to facilitate smooth exits. Surely, Afghanistan is merely the latest evidence that the American mission of nation-building around the world and replicating democracies after its own image is nothing more than a fool’s errand and a pipe dream. Follies of nation building Even if the denizens inside the Washington Beltway fail to see the folly of decades of futility, the rest of world is increasingly aware of the risks of signing on to be a US ally. When Washington’s next bumbling leads to another crisis, the American assurance that Uncle Sam has their back will be shown as meaningless. Yet the latest US secretary of the air force, Frank Kendall, wants to refocus American weapons using advanced technology to “scare” China. Can’t even beat the Taliban but still wants to scare China. What is he smoking? In previous commentaries in Asia Times, I have unabashedly promoted the idea that the US needs to find ways to work with China rather seeking to win the unwinnable zero-sum rivalry. Perhaps the folks in Washington are just too focused on building military might and can’t think of any other approach with China. First, it’s important to recognize that China does not want to compete with the US, especially in the development of weapons. Each advance the US makes, China is obliged to match and develop an effective counter. Each effective counter gives the US justification to invest in the next state-of-the-art weapon to kill and destroy. This is an endless march to disaster. Rather than sending soldiers, China sends construction engineers to help countries on the Belt and Road build their infrastructure. The US does not have the resources to compete and should not. China makes friends with its BRI but not at the expense of America. Economic development in the countries that China assist is good for everybody. Afghanistan is just one situation where collaboration with China is beneficial. There are many other global challenges on which the US needs to work with China such as climate change, stopping the Covid epidemic, cyber hacking, counterterrorism, drug and human trafficking and many others. Without mutual trust, the two countries cannot work effectively together. Steps to collaboration with China I would like to propose some sensible steps in the direction of getting along with China. American business leaders have been clamoring for the Biden administration to restart trade negotiations with Beijing and remove the tariffs on imports from China. Biden should begin in all due haste and stop the open wound to American farmers and consumers caused by the tariff war. The detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver has been an embarrassment for Canada and an unwarranted source of tension between China and the US along with Canada. Biden should take the initiative and promptly remove the request for extradition before the presiding Canadian judge dismisses the case. This good-faith gesture would do wonders for the relations among the three countries. Basically, former president Donald Trump’s MAGA (Make America Great Again) foreign policy has been an unmitigated disaster to America’s credibility and prestige. Rather than blindly following the policies of his predecessor, Biden needs to order a thorough review and think deeply on what’s really good for America. Rather than trying to persuade the rest of the world to be more like us Americans, we badly need to fix our seriously flawed democracy. We allow politicians to turn vaccinations and wearing a facial mask, which should be a public health issue, into a political issue. Some politicians, including ex-president Trump, treat the US constitution as nothing more than a doormat for their muddy shoes. Are these characteristics of a model democracy worthy of worldwide adoration and respect?

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Huogai – Anti-Vaxxers get what they deserve

Only in the United States, world’s greatest power, can a handful voices exercise their individual rights to negate greater public interest and even challenge the validity of President Joe Biden’s wish for everybody to be vaccinated against the Covid coronavirus. Incredibly, a public health issue can become a political issue. Those on the political right believe religion trumps science and getting vaccinated is tantamount to blasphemy. Furthermore, the need to wear a mask in public is regarded as infringement of the right of personal freedom. Science tells us that when enough of us are vaccinated, the virus can find no new victims as host and that’s when the virus dies. There are some southern states where the extent of vaccination is well under 50%, and the unvaccinated population are waiting for the virus invasion. No doubt, they place their faith in God to keep them from the disease. The latest Delta variant is deadlier and more contagious. So far, over 99% of those that have died in the US from this variant were unvaccinated. As of end of July, grossly unvaccinated Florida has three times the national average that contracted the virus. As patients entering the hospital struggling to breath, they begged for a jab of vaccine, much too late of course. When the full force of this variant hits the under vaccinated states, those that preached the gospel against vaccination will bear a heavy responsibility for the unnecessary deaths. Particularly prominent among the antivaxxers has been Robert F. Kennedy Jr. His name gave him added credibility. I wept when his father was assassinated in the hotel kitchen in Los Angeles but I won’t shed tears if the son is struck down by the virus. Huogai is the Chinese term for “you get what you deserve.” Unfortunately, their just deserts does not end with their death but keeps the virus alive to strike the innocents around them. The same goes for the governors of Florida and Texas, who have insisted that wearing a mask and getting a vaccination is up to individual decision and cannot be mandated from top down. Most Americans do not appreciate how fortunate they are, living in a wealthy country and thus among the first to have access to Covid vaccination. Poor countries, such as those in Africa, can’t get access to the needed vaccine and their rate of vaccination is less than 1%. It goes without saying that future mutations of the virus are incubating in those places just waiting to strike along with the Delta variant. The sentiment against vaccination is not only harmful to the interest of the American public but to the world. Unless massive vaccination takes place worldwide, the virus will persist. It should be obvious to anyone that the two greatest economies of the world, China and the US, must work together in order to eradicate this virus in its present form and prevent future mutations. In that respect, the US has a lot to learn from China. China started its domestic vaccination later than the US but has already exceeded 1.6 billion jabs, covering the cities and most of the surrounding areas. Rural areas will take more time. Recently when the city of Guangzhou detected an imported case of Covid, instant mass testing was initiated. My Chinese American friend who lives near Dongguan, a city of 10 million adjacent to Guangzhou, reported that everybody in the city got tested for Covid in one day. He got tested at 3 PM and received his test results by midnight. Needless to say, if the one case had spread, it would have been detected and arrested. China’s model relies on organization, discipline, corps of instantly available volunteers and a culture where cooperation for the greater good of the society is more important than the individual right to go against the grain.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Will the U.S. learn from history to avoid catastrophe?

This post first appeared in Asia Times. On a recent visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Honolulu, I was struck by a statement on the museum wall. It read: “Conflict is brewing in Asia. The old world order is changing. Two new powers, the United States and Japan, are rising to take leading roles on the world stage. Both seek to further their own national interests. Both hope to avoid war. Both have embarked on courses of action that will collide at Pearl Harbor.” The wall was referring to the collision that culminated in the surprise attack by waves of Japanese warplanes on December 7, 1941. The statement caught my attention because by exchanging “China” for “Japan,” it could easily apply to the bilateral tension that’s simmering today between the US and China. Sadly, we Americans seem to be heading for another collision, having learned nothing from history. After World War II, the Chinese fought the Americans to a draw in Korea despite owning vastly inferior weapons and firepower compared with those available to our troops and other UN forces. Next, we made up a bogus Gulf of Tonkin incident to justify charging into Vietnam. Despite wanton use of napalm, Agent Orange, cluster bombs and other innovations to deadly effect, we lost the war and had to get out in disgrace. Then for one brief brilliant moment in recent history, our Cold War adversary, the former Soviet Union, imploded. For the first time, we won a war without having to fire a shot. We became the only shining kingdom on top of the hill. We began to hope that a peace dividend would make possible the realization of the American dream. But that flicker of optimism was quashed by a group in the Washington establishment who called themselves neoconservatives. They began to agitate and promote the idea that the opportunity was nigh for the US to become the sole surviving superpower and seize the mantle to rule the world. To show pointed disdain, I proposed calling the proponents of these ideas neoconservative nincompoops, abbreviated as “neoconpoops.” I was disappointed that the handle did not gain popularity. To add insult to injury, these diehard neoconpoops moved from the fringe to the center of power when George W Bush was elected president of the United States. 9/11 became a sad legacy Then came September 11, 2001. With the help of his neoconpoop advisers, W promptly launched a Global War on Terror (GWOT). We invaded Afghanistan because Osama bin Laden was supposed to be hiding there. We did not find him in Afghanistan, but our troops are still there more than two decades later. We got at twofer by invading Iraq at about the same time. The pretext was to accuse Saddam Hussein of owning weapons of mass destruction. We did not find any WMD but we “shocked and awed” the Iraqis, found Saddam and lynched him. And, by the way, our troops are still in Iraq. With our heavy presence in the Middle East, we assumed that we could influence many admiring countries in the region to emulate what we called democracy. The Arab Spring that ensued seemed to justify our expectation that authoritarian leaders would be toppled. But except for possibly Tunisia, the movement did not succeed other than causing death and destruction. With the help of our military, the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was defeated and torn to pieces by a street mob. For sure Gaddafi was not a supporter of democracy, but his rule provided education, health care and housing for the Libyan people and raised per capita income to more than US$11,000. What has happened to Libya since Gaddafi? Just a constant state of civil war and misery for civilians. Safe to say that democratic reform and free elections are far from the minds of the people hoping just to survive another day. Somehow, we got away cheap on this one. We got rid of the bad guy and lost just one ambassador and three other American casualties, and then we got out. We didn’t get our hands on Libyan oil but we didn’t leave any boots on the ground, either. We also got smarter at fighting proxy wars and not putting our soldiers at risk. Under president Barack Obama, we started to use killer drones to rub out presumed al-Qaeda bad guys. Civilians who got killed were simply treated as collateral damage without so much as an expression of regret – such as, sorry you got in the way. President Donald Trump elevated the use of drones to another level by assassinating Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian war hero and second only to Iran’s Supreme Leader in prominence. He was killed at Baghdad airport along with other Iraqis and some Iranian nationals. The mission was carried out remotely and did not put any American at risk. We haven’t even mentioned the disturbances in Syria, Yemen, Egypt and other countries in that part of the world. Suffice to say that wherever we go, we have been very good at creating instability and causing mayhem. Our intentions were always lofty, to promote democracy, but the consequences invariably took a toll on innocent lives – and worldwide refugee crises. It’s true that a decade after 9/11 we finally found bin Laden hiding in Pakistan and killed him. However, he had the satisfaction of seeing our over-the-top response and self-inflicted cost of lives and property exceed his wildest expectations. This has been a long but I feel necessary review of recent history to bring into context the current status of international relations with China under President Joe Biden’s administration. Trend set by Anchorage summit The first summit meeting of the Biden administration’s top diplomats with those of China held in Anchorage, Alaska, last month was a strong indicator that nothing has changed in the way we Americans think about China. It’s almost as if our secretary of state, Tony Blinken, retrieved some notes from the trashcan discarded by outgoing secretary Mike Pompeo and carried on from there. Our Mr Blinken dispensed with the customary diplomatic niceties and proceeded straight to accusing China of human-rights offenses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, cyberattacks and economic coercion among other offenses. Yang Jiechi, China’s leading foreign-policy official and a member of the Politburo, replied in kind. Yang said the US was not in a position to criticize China. America has a history of genocide from the eradication of native Americans to the persecution and lynching of black Americans. When he mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement, we were reminded of the white police officer slowly squeezing the life out of George Floyd with his knee on Floyd’s neck. We have to admit that Yang had a valid point. Since China began its economic reform, it has been working steadily on poverty alleviation regardless of the ethnicity of the people being helped. The only government “bias” was to assist the most accessible first and the more remote ones later when roads and the Internet were put in place. Today, China proudly claims that it has no one living below the poverty line. Many developing countries envy China’s success and are seeking to emulate its model of helping their rural poor and raising their standard of living. So far as I know, we haven’t alleviated poverty for anyone in the US. The top 1% have improved their lot and grown wealthier, but the bottom 50% have suffered reduced circumstances. Since most people in the ghettos are people of color, America’s economic divide has made them a lot worse off. More than 90% of the people in China approve of their government, support its policies and express optimism for their future. The surveys backing this are done by reputable third parties, such as Pew Research, and are not paid for or coerced by an authoritarian government. In the US, any time the sitting federal government gets 50% popular approval it is considered to be doing well. Our model of democracy says the right to carry a gun, to wear a mask in public places or to receive vaccinations against Covid-19 are important political issues and not matters of public health. Further, the most urgent issue at hand right now is how legally to deny certain Americans the right to vote. Biden’s China team seems oblivious to the fact that much has changed between the US and China since the financial crisis of 2008 caused by fraudulent financing of mortgage swaps by Wall Street. China’s disenchantment began in 2008 China’s disappointment in the US and loss of confidence in Wall Street have meant a loss of faith in the American dollar. In lieu of quantitative easing American-style, China invested heavily in its infrastructure, resulting in superhighways and the world’s largest network of high-speed rail. China then applied its experience and expertise in building infrastructure to a world-girding Belt and Road Initiative. At last count, China has started 2,800 projects in about 100 countries helping them build and improve their infrastructure. Given the total estimated investment value of $3.7 trillion, the participating nations could not hope to see new roads, railways, ports or airports without China’s help in financing and project-management expertise. The best we in the US can do in response is to warn these countries to beware that China is promoting debt traps. Along with economic cooperation on infrastructure projects, China has also promoted open global trade. Before Biden was sworn in to the White House, China concluded the biggest free-trade agreement with the ASEAN+5 (China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand) bloc, and a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with the European Union. As I said in my January Asia Times commentary, “The community of nations has moved on while, thanks to Trump, the US has been left at the station. It’s unrealistic to expect that the US under the new Biden administration can simply pick up from where the US was before the Trump debacle.” Unfortunately, the Biden administration seems to think that all we need to do is to rally our old allies to counter China’s rise. To justify our continuing attacks on China, it’s not beneath our officials, abetted by our mainstream media, to resort to lies and fabrications – another Gulf of Tonkin in the making. The most popular topic recently is to accuse China of committing genocide against Uighurs in Xinjiang, despite the fact that the population of Uighurs in China has been increasing and not declining. However, it is a fact that economically Uighurs have done poorly as an ethnic group. Part of the effort to help them out of poverty was for the Chinese government to offer vocational training and to encourage young women from large multiple-sibling families to accept factory jobs elsewhere in China. The idea was to broaden a woman’s view of the world and raise her life expectations, in addition to earning a better income. The prospect of leaving her family for some faraway city is likely a wrenching and traumatic experience for a young girl whose culture indoctrinates her from birth to prepare for marrying young, having babies and toiling on the family farm for the rest of her life. Often, the factory recruiter would bring along an older Uighur woman who could describe her experiences in a factory and how her savings enabled her to help her parents enjoy better lives and even move into a Chinese city to live with her. Chinese documentary becomes a BBC exposé Beijing-based broadcaster CGTN made a documentary on the process of recruiting Uighur women for factory jobs elsewhere in China. By judiciously omitting certain parts of the video footage, the British Broadcasting Corporation transformed the documentary into an exposé of China forcing young Uighur women into slave labor. Thanks to “Numuves,” who produced a YouTube video comparing the original Chinese version and the adulterated BBC version, we can see the BBC’s adroit skill in misrepresenting the truth. Readers can view both versions and see how the BBC can shamelessly stoop to distort and fabricate in order to demonize China. Unfortunately, the BBC is hardly the only member of mainstream media to help the Western governments blacken China’s reputation and enhance our superior-than-thou stance. YouTube is replete with accusations of The New York Times and other “reputable” members of the media being guilty of slanting reports to reinforce the anti-China bias. Thus Biden, with bipartisan support and the coordinated distortion from the mainstream media, can confidently declare that China’s rise to become a world superpower will not happen on his watch. In reality, China’s rise to becoming the most powerful economy is inexorable and only a matter of time. Whether it will happen during Biden’s watch really depends on how long he expects to be the US president. We hardly have a knee on China’s neck. The day after the frosty and contentious meeting in Anchorage, Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Guilin, China. They expressed solidarity in their views and oppose the “unilateral bullying” by Washington. Wang Yi then went on to Tehran to sign a 25-year agreement with Iran worth $400 billion. China’s cash infusion to Iran will relieve the pressure of American sanctions and in exchange, oil from Iran will enhance China’s energy security. The China-Russia-Iran alliance certainly should give us pause. We gave up trying to beat the Taliban in Afghanistan after 20 years, and that certainly shouldn’t give us confidence to take on the triumvirate. Nevertheless, the Biden team seems determined to follow Trump’s script for confrontation with China. No issue is as sensitive and fraught with danger as Taiwan. Yet we seem determined to raise the tension over the waters around Taiwan and dare China to step over the red line. God help us if we succeed in triggering a collision with China. Most of us won’t likely be around to see how the collision ends. Hear my discussion of this piece on national podcast commencing at about 28 minute mark,