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The French navy command ship Dixmude is welcomed by Chinese soldiers upon its arrival at the Wusong naval port of Shanghai on May 9, 2015. The LHD Dixmude is in Shanghai for a port visit during a five month Jeanne Darc mission.  AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

The French navy command ship Dixmude is welcomed by Chinese soldiers upon its arrival at the Wusong naval port of Shanghai on May 9, 2015. The LHD Dixmude is in Shanghai for a port visit during a five month Jeanne Darc mission. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

 

https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/03/the-two-words-that-explain-chinas-naval-strategy-active-defense/

https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/04/should-beijing-establish-an-air-defense-identification-zone-over-the-south-china-sea/

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‘It is obvious that people here are poor. It is less obvious that someone made them that way.’

Now this is different.

So I made a video with some thoughts I had during my recent work-trip to Uganda.

I have a knot in my stomach putting this kind of shit online. Another white guy, in another African country, broadcasting another set of un-earned conclusions. The whole point I’m trying to make in the video is that I have no idea what I’m talking about, but maybe that means I should have just not talked at all.

Anyway, now it’s out there, embarrassing but irrevocable, just like the rest of the internet. Next time, I’ll try making one of these I don’t feel the need to apologize for.

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Zimbabwe Challenges

https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/03/ominous-warning-signs-resurface-in-zimbabwe/

Ominous Warning Signs Resurface

in Zimbabwe

Ominous Warning Signs Resurface in Zimbabwe

The southern African nation of Zimbabwe has fallen off the international radar screen in recent years, but alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear. Over the course of the past few months, we have witnessed an ominous series of warning signs: bitter political infighting within the country’s ruling party, the worsening of already deplorable economic conditions, the abduction and disappearance of a prominent human rights activist, and a surge of inflammatory rhetoric and political violence. According to a report by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, these are all telltale signs of growing atrocity risk — and precisely why the United States, and its allies, must wake up and take a proactive stand.

Political violence has long shaped the landscape of Zimbabwe, home to an estimated 14 million people. After a bloody liberation struggle against British colonial rule, Robert Mugabe, the only head of state Zimbabwe has ever known, spoke of reconciliation, peace, and social cohesion at independence in 1980. Mugabe’s words, however, brazenly belied the reality on the ground. Wartime emergency measures were kept in place, and we now know that plans for massacres against the Ndebele people in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces — what would later be known as Gukurahundi — were well underway. This calculated campaign of terror against an ethnic minority, executed with assistance from North Korea, was a key component of Mugabe’s plan to eliminate any opposition to his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). This scorched-earth campaign left at least 20,000 people dead and thousands more displaced. Thirty years later, no one has been held accountable, and the perpetrators remain in positions of power.

For a brief moment during Zimbabwe’s coalition government, from 2009-2013, the situation seemed as if it might be improving. The shattered economy stabilized and slowly began to recover, political space re-opened, and the most blatant forms of state-sponsored aggression declined. In reality, however, ZANU-PF and Mugabe were merely adjusting their tactics: Instead of physically assaulting opposition leaders in front of TV cameras, they undermined their influence through manipulation of the courts; instead of firebombing newspapers, they quietly intimidated the media and civil society activists; instead of beating up and maiming opposition supporters, they craftily rigged the polls to win the vote in July 2013. This more subtle approach worked, even leading to a softening of European sanctions earlier this year.

Over the past several months, however, the mood in Zimbabwe has markedly changed.

On March 9, prominent human rights defender Itai Dzamara was abducted in broad daylight. Diplomats claim that his disappearance bears all the hallmarks of an operation by Zimbabwe’s intelligence services, which has long operated with impunity under the direction of Mugabe and his security chiefs. More than two months later, Dzamara remains missing. Not only have the police ignored a High Court judgment, which ordered them to provide bi-weekly updates on the investigation and search for Dzamara, but a government minister went so far as to suggest that Dzamara staged his own disappearance.

Dzamara’s abduction is not an isolated incident. Zimbabwe’s history is replete with examples of human rights and opposition political activists who have been abducted, tortured, forcibly disappeared, or murdered by state agents. Most recently, on April 26, ruling party operatives publicly assaulted six traditional leaders at a campaign rally in Mashonaland, in full view of the police, for supporting an independent candidate running for local office. Two of the headmen have been reported missing by the local press.

The recent uptick of incendiary rhetoric espoused by leaders in ZANU-PF has also raised red flags. Last month, for example, Zimbabwe’s current Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while on a campaign stop in Midlands, likened Zimbabwe’s political opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), to Satan, announcing to the crowd “we have come to cleanse you of the sins of the MDC.” Importantly, Mnangagwa — who is also minister of justice and the most likely successor to the 91-year-old Mugabe — was a chief architect of Gukurahundi as then-minister of defense.

This type of dog-whistle rhetoric — including from Mugabe himself — is eerily reminiscent of Zimbabwe’s dark past. The ethnically-charged words are strategically chosen: meant to strike fear in the hearts and minds of would-be voters, but also to send a clear warning to those in ZANU-PF who might challenge Mugabe’s authority. In December 2014, for example, during the height of a frenzied intraparty struggle for power, Zimbabwe’s longtime vice president and liberation war hero Joice Mujuru — nicknamed “Spill Blood” — was ousted after allegations that she had planned to assassinate Mugabe. To date, Mujuru has maintained that the accusation is false and many observers, both inside Zimbabwe and out, believe the smear campaign was part of a more sinister plot to neutralize a political rival who had been gaining popularity.

Even prior to this latest incident, Mujuru knew full well the ramifications of crossing Mugabe and ZANU-PF, whether intentional or perceived. Her late husband, Solomon Mujuru, a highly revered figure in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and former defense minister, was killed in an eerily suspicious house fire in 2011. Following Joice Mujuru’s political demise this past year, the first lady of Zimbabwe and current chairwoman of the ZANU-PF Women’s League, Grace Mugabe, declared that if Mujuru were killed, “dogs and fleas would not disturb her carcass.”

In Zimbabwe, this type of odious rhetoric has often coincided with political violence: It was a common tactic deployed during land invasions in the early 2000s, during a forced “urban clearance campaign” in 2005, and exemplified by targeted political attacks during and after the 2008 election period, when Robert Mugabe lost a first round but then unleashed a cascade of violence to force the opposition to withdraw.

The latest developments in Zimbabwe come at a time when the country’s economy is again collapsing and the political elite are tearing themselves apart in a battle for succession. Monitors of mass atrocity risk typically watch for ethnic exclusion, hate speech, and indicators of political and economic stress. The greatest indicator of a country’s atrocity risk is whether it has suffered from similar events in the past. All of these factors are currently, and ominously, present in Zimbabwe.

This is a dangerous moment for the citizens of Zimbabwe, and for the southern African region writ large.

This is a dangerous moment for the citizens of Zimbabwe, and for the southern African region writ large. The United States government recently dispatched a delegation, including one of the State Department’s top human rights officials, to Harare. But the Obama administration will need to keep a keen and close eye on the ongoing events in Zimbabwe, including tasking the intelligence services for an assessment of the potential for mass violence. This should include elevating the issue of Zimbabwe to the president’s Atrocities Prevention Board, which can readily address the early warning indicators of mass atrocities that currently prevail. Just as important, authorities in the capital, Harare, must know that the world is watching. Preventative steps must be taken now by engaging with the African Union (which Mugabe currently chairs), other African heads of state, as well as the United Nations Security Council to dissuade the Mugabe government from going down this tragic road once again.

Mugabe and his inner circle of ZANU-PF loyalists must also understand that those who continue to commit violence against their own people will ultimately be held accountable. The United States and its allies should make it profoundly clear, both publicly and in private, that visa bans, asset seizures, and even war crimes prosecutions are all viable policy options that remain on the table.

Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

The Asian Century (Part Two)

Red Dragon Rising

  China 1 China 3

Prior to trying to formulate an informed opinion on China’s role in the first half of the 21st Century, a brief review of the make up of the current leadership of the P.R.C. related to global strategic defence, specifically the South China Seas region would assist the reader. The P.R.C. President and Premier are Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang. Their roles are head of state and head of government and the leadership is commonly referred to as the Xi Li team. The Minister for Defence is Chang Wanquan. These three men will be responsible for the continued global positioning of the P.R.C. during Q1 of the 21st Century.

China B

Xi Jinping is one of the three wise men (Mao & Deng are the other two) and he is focused upon positioning China for Q2 of the 21st Century with domestic and international foundations that have been constructed or are being constructed by China. With his quasi-Maoist values he is changing China. He has gained more power than his predecessors with a strong power base in the P.L.A. He is the key figure of the Fifth-Generation leadership in this renaissance period or golden age of the P.R.C.

Xi is changing the growth mode and improving quality and efficiency at the center, the economy will be driven by consumption, investment and exports instead of only by investment and exports. China will shift from relying on secondary industries alone to reliance on the primary, secondary and tertiary industries, turning away from resource consumption and toward technological progress through innovation. With the 13th five year plan (2016 – 2020) Xi is driving the industrialisation, informatisation, urbanisation and agricultural modernisation. The weakest link is agriculture which Xi is transforming agricultural development with agricultural technology innovation.

China C

Li Keqiang is the driving force behind China’s positive efforts to promote political reforms such as decentralization of government and the positioning of government to be efficient and streamlined to meet the needs during this transitional phase stage two of China’s global dominance, stage one being the one that Deng Xiaoping implemented. China’s economic development is now in the transitional period from export driven to domestic demand and makes up the other component of the Li leadership, and that is of development.

China D

Chang Wanquan was born 1949 in Nanyang City, Henan Province,
home of ancient strategist, Zhuge Liang. Rise to power possible from President Hu Jintao (2003-2013) and anit-terrorism background. Writings and speeches demonstrate support for President Hu’s “scientific development” effort, Confucian in nature, and a heavy emphasis on training. Partly due to his leadership background in military technology, including the manned space program, Chang has been a strong advocate of rapid modernization in PLA military equipment and of the integration of a combined operations supreme command, with an emphasis on better operational coordination among the army, navy, land forces, and missile forces in warfare.

Chang has had direct influence in the continued pursuit of China’s space programe via the Second Artillery Corps which is the strategic ballistic missile force of the PLA, and it maintains China’s nuclear arsenal. The ultimate end goal is to move away from the S.A.C. control of the space progame, have an independent organization that will still have a collaborative role with the military. Hainan Island (space programe and a Deep Blue for the Navy and physical location of GhostNet) is a critical geographical location for both military and space operations.

Whilst a single decision-maker does not decide upon military strategies, policies, and weapons development, Chang is part of the apex in the decision making process. Chang is diverse in his roles and is involved in various military and space related activities. He was the commander of the manned space mission named Shenzhou VII. Chang advocates certain strategies such as the importance of Shih in Chinese military strategy. “Instead of using military force to subjugate another society or to defeat an enemy’s army, Shih operates to convince an opponent to yield without battle.

Whilst Chang is Minister for defence and the P.R.C. military strength is increasing along with a space programe, Chinese preference for psychological warfare over weaponry and firepower, victory without fighting, nonviolent stratagems, and deception still exists in the 21st Century. China’s ancient and modern history has demonstrations of great violence; however, Chinese rhetoric today promotes peace in the world and a defensive posture. Chang has made statements that whilst pursuing peace the P.R.C. will defend it’s assets with force.
Chang’s birthplace Henan Province is historically significant because it is the “cradle” of Chinese civilization due to its proximity to the Yellow River.However, maybe more importantly, many in Nanyang City consider it the home to the greatest military strategist and public official during the Three Kingdoms Period, Zhuge Liang (181-234 AD). Zhuge Liang often quoted Confucius and reflected an undercurrent of Taoist thought in his attitudes toward life and work, and stressed the importance of military preparedness, training, and the need for strong allies as consultants.

Chang joined the P.L.A. in 1968 and has risen through the ranks with various roles such as and not limited to: Chief-of-Staff of the 140th Division, 47th Field Army, Division Commander of the 61st Division of the 21st Group Army, Director of the General Armament Department, Director of the Campaign Teaching and Research Office at the National Defense University. Chang’s credentials are not technical; instead, he is a trainer. His role is likely not the technical management of the latest weapon systems in the PLA arsenal, but instead, is to make the P.L.A. qualified to operate in an “informationalized” environment with high-technology equipment.

Chang’s rhetoric often is close to that of Zhuge. In his published article “Ancient Thought of Military Management in China and Its Inspiration” is said to be a work designed to revitalize Confucian teachings and thinking. Chang understands why the P.R.C. has used force against its neighbors at least 12 times since 1949 and why in 1950, Mao committed his people to fight the United States, not because of any threat to China’s survival but to resist U.S. expansion on China’s periphery. China’s culture developed its own world order and attitudes toward warfare over nearly three millennia and through its history of survival, evolution, domestic conflicts, and defenses against foreign aggressions, China’s distinctive culture has shaped and limited strategic choices and profoundly influenced China’s interactions with other states.

Chang may not fully understand the complex nature of China’s strategic rival, the U.S.A. but he has much to draw upon to drive the military and space programes, and protect the P.R.C. through the 21st Century. He is a vital part of the P.R.C. triangle, Xi – Li – Chang.

China’s long history has seen evidence of both a defensive and offensive culture. Additionally, the writings of Sun Tzu and others offer a method of statecraft that is secretive and deceptive.
Many analysts do not understand the motivations, priorities, and perspectives of Chinese decision-makers, especially regarding China’s space programe. The programe has a duality – it is for defence as much as it is for economics.

China’s strategic culture has converged around Tao three additional
important ideas that emerged from prehistoric Confucian thought and belief:
Shih, Hsing, and Li. Any analysis of China’s strategic culture and uses of force must begin with an understanding of these four faces of Chinese
Shih-strategy. The defining theme in Sun Tzu’s The Art of Warfare, the essence of Shih was the dynamic power that emerged in the combination of men’s hearts, military weapons, and natural conditions.

Shih-strategy, which converged Shih along three broad dimensions of warfare: the people, the context, and the enemy. Shih-strategy concentrated the power of the people in the soldiers and their weapons. The power of context appeared in opportunity, timing, and logistics. The enemy’s power lay in the relative skill, competence, and will of the opposing force.

Hsing as a military term is described as the deployment and employment of forces. Hsing is explicitly the tangible, visible, and determinate shape of physical strength and Hsing is static.

Li refers to self-interest or material gain and carries a definite priority for the present. arising from materialistic thought and theory, Li-strategy does not recognize intangible human factors as important elements of power. Instead it focuses on visible, material assets and enemy forces

Sun Tzu’s famous metaphor is a strategic message that the method of draining the water was more important than the amount of water behind the dam.

The Asian Century ( Part One)

th 1

The Asian Century

EXORDIA

The most prudent way of looking at the future of the human race is to look back at our history. The fiscal year is divided by quarters and this is how the last century will be divided for historical purposes and for this brief review of where we have been, where we are at and where we are going as a global village in the 21st Century. The 20th Century began with some issues that were left over from the previous century and had influence upon the political tensions within Europe. The world population was approximately 1.6 billion in 1900 and would almost double in sixty years (just over three billion in 1960) and would double again in fifty years (over six billion in 2010).

Over thousands of years the human race has been involved in conflict and it is but human nature to create or to destroy. One of the most appropriate people to quote here is Thomas Hobbes who states – The condition of man… is a condition of war of everyone against everyone. And so one must understand the human condition being one that is best explained as the welfare of man is in a state of eternal conflict. It would be advisable for the reader to give serious consideration to reading the following works.
The Social Contract – (Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique; 1762) written by Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651) to obtain insight into this century.

The reader will be influenced by specific data that is external to this information. To endeavour to formulate an independent unbiased and informed opinion on the 21st Century, merely look at the facts that have been presented.

20th Century Conflict

The last century had four quarters of conflict and is known as one hundred years of war. The First World War was in Q1 and the Second World War in Q2. The third quarter (Q3) was the Korean War and then the Vietnam War and finally in Q4 the world experienced The Gulf War. Below is a more detailed account of our human history and war in the 20th Century.
1898-1901 Boxer Rebellion
1899-1902 Boer War
1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War
1910-1920 Mexican Revolution
1912-1913 First and Second Balkan Wars
1914-1918 World War I
1915-1918 Armenian Genocide
1917 Russian Revolution
1918-1921 Russian Civil War
1919-1921 Irish War of Independence
1927-1937 Chinese Civil War
1933-1945 Holocaust
1935-1936 Second Italo-Abyssinian War (also known as the Second Italo-Ethiopian War or the Abyssinian War)
1936-1939 Spanish Civil War
1939-1945 World War II
1945-1990 Cold War
1946-1949 Chinese Civil War resumes
1946-1954 First Indochina War (also known as the French Indochina War)
1948 Israel War of Independence (also known as the Arab-Israeli War)
1950-1953 Korean War
1954-1962 French-Algerian War
1955-1972 First Sudanese Civil War
1956 Suez Crisis
1959 Cuban Revolution
1959-1973 Vietnam War
1967 Six-Day War
1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan War
1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War
1990-1991 Persian Gulf War
1991-1995 Third Balkan War
1994 Rwandan Genocide

21st Century

The current world population is just over 7.3 billion and there are various implications that are associated with this figure. The world population has never doubled in such a short period – (1960 – 3 billion to 2010 – 6.75 billion) and there are environmental, social, economic and political consequences from the increasing global population. There are two ways that an individual will react to threat, fight or flight and humans embrace gradual change with comfort and immediate change with discomfort. The current world dynamics are very complex and complicated with no easy quick fix solution to the challenges that we face during this century. It would be naive for the reader to assume that the human race will find peace and love this century.

There are three sources of global tension which are economic, political and religious. The economic tensions could be as simple as internal sovereign debt related issues, unemployment, lack of natural resources or as complex as climate change or the percentage of debt to gross domestic product and the servicing of that debt. The political tension could be due to lack of resources, climate change or one of various other economic related issues. The religious tension between groups such as Jews, Muslims, Christians or Muslims and even Muslims amongst themselves
(Sunni, Shia or Alawite Muslims) creates challenges that effect both regional and global stability.

Global conflict is surrounded by certain factors such as and no limited to extreme weather events; failure of national governance; state collapse or crisis; unemployment or underemployment; natural catastrophes; failure of climate change adaptation; water crises; data fraud or theft; and cyber-attacks. Other factors to consider when evaluating possible conflict are the following – water crises; the spread of infectious diseases; weapons of mass destruction; interstate conflict; failure of climate-change adaptation; energy price shocks; a breakdown in critical information infrastructure; fiscal crises; unemployment or underemployment; and biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.
Along with foreign policy mistakes the USA has made other mistakes since the end of the Cold War such as underestimating China.
There are several reasons why the East China and South China Seas are of concern to the West and the East. The ongoing tensions between China, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, United States and Vietnam has political and economic challenges that requires a solution.
China has been drilling for oil and gas for several years in an area of sea with known reserves (the newly discovered gas field, dubbed Lingshui 17-2, is located 150 kilometers south of Hainan Island).
China’s rapidly growing interest in deepwater drilling represents a convergence of two of China’s major strategic interests: protecting its claims to much of the South China Sea and reducing China’s growing reliance on imported energy.

Another interesting aspect to the tension in the South China Seas is the progress that China has made with its space program on what is referred to as China’s Hawaii (Hainan Island). The space launch centre is completed and the fourth of such facilities. The island also has military capability with naval resources. China has stated that they expect to have a man on the moon by 2017 and Mars by 2021 both of which are possible achievements. China has been on the moon since 2013 (China’s Chang’e 3 moon lander and its Yutu rover touched down on the moon Saturday (Dec. 14) at about 8:11 a.m. EST (1311 GMT). It is the first soft-landing on the moon by any spacecraft in 37 years.

Currently the Helium 3 (3He) reserves on the moon are estimated to be 2469000 tons – http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2007/pdf/2175.pdf .
The current estimate is that one ton has a potential worth of 3 billion dollars. Approximately 25tons could power the USA for one year. Helium 3 could be used in future fusion power plants (currently we use fission power plants).

http://www.explainingthefuture.com/helium3.html

The current trajectory that the human race is on is one that has challenges that we have not experienced before, and whilst that can be argued regarding our history and that we have had great challenges before, these future challenges are most serious in complexity and in the outcome. This fist quarter of the twenty first century is merely one where the foundations are being laid in the transition between the West and the East. China could well be mining Helium 3 in the early part of Q2 of the 21st Century and positioning itself to be the dominant political and economic leader for the second half of the century.
The USA is most concerned about REE – Rare Earth Elements or rare earth metals and alloys that contain them are used in many devices that people use every day such as computer memory, DVDs, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting and much more. During the past twenty years, there has been an explosion in demand for many items that require rare earth metals. Twenty years ago there were very few cell phones in use, but the number has risen to over 7 billion in use today. The use of rare earth elements in computers has grown almost as fast as cell phones.

Rare earth elements play an essential role in our national defense. The military uses night-vision goggles, precision-guided weapons, communications equipment, GPS equipment, batteries and other defense electronics. These give the United States military an enormous advantage. Rare earth metals are key ingredients for making the very hard alloys used in armored vehicles and projectiles that shatter upon impact. Substitutes can be used for rare earth elements in some defense applications; however, those substitutes are usually not as effective and that diminishes military superiority.

China began producing notable amounts of rare earth oxides in the early 1980s and became the world’s leading producer in the early 1990s. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, China steadily strengthened its hold on the world’s rare earth oxide market. They were selling rare earths at such low prices that the Mountain Pass Mine and many others throughout the world were unable to compete and stopped operation.

Chinese companies have been purchasing rare earth resources in other countries. In 2009 China Non-Ferrous Metal Mining Company bought a majority stake in Lynas Corporation, an Australian company that has one of the highest outputs of rare earth elements outside of China. They also purchased the Baluba Mine in Zambia. Mines in Australia began producing rare earth oxides in 2011. In 2012 and 2013 they were supplying about 2% to 3% of world production. In 2012, the Mountain Pass Mine came back into production and the United States produced about 4% of the world’s rare earth elements in 2013. India has been producing about 3% of the world’s supply for the past decade. Indonesia, Russia, Nigeria, North Korea, Malaysia, and Vietnam are minor producers.
If a single country controls almost all of the production and makes a firm decision not to export, then the entire supply of a commodity can be quickly cut off. That is a dangerous situation when new sources of supply take so long to develop. The demand for REE will remain as the middle class require consumer products that contain these elements. The global demand for automobiles, consumer electronics, energy-efficient lighting, and catalysts is expected to rise rapidly over the next decade. Rare earth magnet demand is expected to increase, as is the demand for rechargeable batteries. New developments in medical technology are expected to increase the use of surgical lasers, magnetic resonance imaging, and positron emission tomography scintillation detectors.

From the information presented regarding REE the reader can make the assumption that there will be economic pressure placed upon certain countries that could exacerbate tensions between the West & the East. Never before has the human race experienced the challenges that we are facing today that will remain throughout the rest of the 21st Century. China has had three men of great significance and we shall call them the three wise men. They are 1) Mao Zedong 2) Deng Xiaoping 3) Xi Jinping – and these three men are why China is what it is today. Mao set about creating foundations which Deng then built upon and where Xi is transforming China today and preparing it for tomorrow.
There are other men that have had an influence on China such as and not limited to the following – Qin Shi Huang (221-210 B.C.) – Kublai Khan (1279-1294) – Sun Yat-sen (1912) and two great tacticians and strategists – Zhuge Liang (181–234) and Sun Tzu (544–496 BC). The Republic of China began on January 1, 1912 and in 1949 Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China.

The reader can make their own conclusions about the future from this information.

Russia and China are Frenemies

Russia and China are frenemies both in Central Asia and globally

May 18, 2015

Original Article – http://www.russia-direct.org/opinion/russia-and-china-are-frenemies-both-central-asia-and-globally?

While there are greater outward signs of cooperation between Russia and China, especially in Central Asia, the reality is that Russia and China still view each other as rivals in their economic and geopolitical ambitions.

“China may see itself having a partnership with Russia in the region, but it believes it, and not Russia, is the leader.” Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping. Photo: RIA Novosti

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia in early May was warmly received by the Russian media as a sign of close collaboration between the two countries. In line with President Vladimir Putin’s disengagement with Europe and pivot to elsewhere in the world (typified by the emphasis on the strange bedfellows of the BRICS), it is widely believed that Russia and China represent a counterbalance to the perceived monolith known as “the West.”

it is more accurate to think of Russia and China as “frenemies,” apparent friends due to their disagreements with other countries but in reality rivals with very different ideas on how the neighborhood should be run

With tensions between Washington and Beijing also rising due to Chinese activities in the South China Sea, some have even giddily commented that a new “G2” of Russia and China could supplant the current one of the U.S. and China. However, the tensions that have long existed between the two neighbors are hardwired to their geopolitical and economic interests and will not dissipate because of one trip. Indeed, it is more accurate to think of Russia and China as “frenemies,” apparent friends due to their disagreements with other countries but in reality rivals with very different ideas on how the neighborhood should be run.

The relationship between China and Russia has been the subject of increasing interest over the past three years, as cooperation has appeared to intensify across a broad range of issues. The Chinese President’s attendance at the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow may have been the most ostentatious manifestation of this growing closeness, but more concrete measures such as the joint Russian-Chinese naval exercises in the Mediterranean last week are more telling for where the relationship might go. China has also been a willing (and the largest) backer of the new “BRICS Bank,” a brainchild of Russia that has been seen as a way to “chip away” at America’s financial hegemony

Moreover, as the world’s fastest growing economy, China also has an intense and sustained need for energy. According to the U.S. Defense Department, China imported 60 percent of its oil in 2014 and is projected to import 80 percent by 2035. This reality that explains why Russia is an attractive partner for China, even as the Russian economy moves more and more towards being a mono-economy, dependent upon natural resources.

For a very different take, read “The real meaning of Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow

Russia has played up this aspect of the partnership, with energy concerns playing a central role during the visit of Xi Jinping to Moscow at the beginning of May. With markets in Europe seeking to break their dependence on Russian energy, it is vital for Russia to find new consumers elsewhere.

But perhaps the most important reason that Russia has looked to its eastern neighbor has been for support of its own territorial ambitions. With the heavy-handed Russian approach to Moldova and Georgia and the continuing slow-motion “invasion” of Ukraine (and the corresponding backlash from Europe), Putin has looked elsewhere for friends who would not be so judgmental.

the Chinese conquest and incorporation of Tibet pre-dates Russia’s re-establishment of control over Chechnya by 50 years, and Chinese territorial claims throughout the South China Sea mean Beijing is in no mood to counter Russia’s own regional aspirations

And China certainly has no reason to cast aspersions on Russia: the Chinese conquest and incorporation of Tibet pre-dates Russia’s re-establishment of control over Chechnya by 50 years, and Chinese territorial claims throughout the South China Sea mean Beijing is in no mood to counter Russia’s own regional aspirations. However, China is also conflicted by Russia’s actions in Ukraine, as the referendum in Crimea could set a dangerous precedent for Tibet or the Uighurs in Xinjiang to have their own secessionist vote and attempt to leave the People’s Republic.

Regardless of this tension, for the most part China has been somewhat supportive of Russia’s Ukrainian policy. Much has been made in the Russian media regarding China’s abstention in the UN vote condemning the Russian annexation of Crimea, with Putin himself taking this abstention as a clear sign of China’s support. More directly in support of Russia, China has been vocally against the imposition of sanctions by the EU, and state media has pointedly not criticized Russia’s military incursions.

However, ambiguity still remains on China’s true stance, with continuous “clarifications” from the Foreign Ministry and seemingly contradictory support for Russia’s interests while at the same time championing non-interference. The takeaway from the entire affair appears to be that China deplores the idea of the West telling anyone what to do, while not necessarily believing that Russia’s invasion is in and of itself a good idea.

Traveling the Silk Road together or alone?

While Ukraine may showcase common interests between Russia and China, there is a marked divergence of economic and geopolitical interests in relation to the landlocked and politically immature countries of Central Asia. Where broader sentiments against the West may converge far from China’s shores, there is more potential for friction between the two countries in each other’s backyards.

Moscow should rightly regard Beijing as a competitor in the Central Asia for several reasons, with the biggest one related to economics. The Russian (and in many cases, still the Soviet) economic model has failed the region for a century, spawning only backwardness and political repression.

With China’s vibrant economy and ready capital next door, and Russia’s economy in freefall after military conflict in Ukraine, the Chinese model of political centralization but economic decentralization may look much more attractive to the leaders of Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. And China has proven itself as more adept in penetrating these markets, becoming the region’s largest trading partner as of 2013.

Perhaps aware of this economic challenge to its moribund economy, Russia has not been making it easier for the countries of Central Asia to enjoy the benefits of proximity to China. The Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has created extra barriers to trade and in-migration with Kazakhstan, a country that has benefited from China mightily over the past decade, and Kyrgyzstan’s recent acquiescence to the EEU means it too is likely to erect unnecessary barriers to life with China.

Thus far, Russia has ignored advice for the EEU to be more liberal in relation to China (and in general), although there has been some discussion on creating an EEU-China Free Trade Agreement. Such a move would be incredibly beneficial for consumers in the EEU, but is unlikely to bolster Russia’s political prospects any further, as China’s economic dominance in the region will likely increase.

In regards to security issues, Russia and China also display some disagreements, although they have not been as pronounced as China has been fairly deferential to Russia’s position in the region (preferring to operate through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, rather than bilaterally). In particular, Russia and China are in agreement about the rise of Islamic terrorism in the region, but there is also some divergence on the strategies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, gestures while speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping, second left, watching the Victory Parade marking the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II, in Red Square, Moscow, on May 9. Photo: AP

China has less of a fear of American presence in Central Asia, while Russia believes it can take on the issues by itself (and has pressured the Central Asian countries, notably Kyrgyzstan, to close American bases in the country). Russia has ramped up its military presence in the region via a training exercise in Tajikistan this past weekend to demonstrate just this point, using as its vehicle the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). With Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan on board (as well as Armenia and Belarus), Moscow hopes to utilize this organization to help keep the peace in the region.

Others in the region are not so sure, and both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan has turned to China to upgrade their military, rather than Russia. Uzbekistan in particular has much to lose from increased terrorism, bordering Afghanistan to the north and having fought its own insurgency in the guise of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (which was defeated in part by the U.S. during its intervention in Afghanistan).

China has contributed $4.4 million worth of equipment for Uzbekistan’s border posts and sniper rifles for the military starting as early as 2000. Kazakhstan has also sought some assistance from China in military capacity building, famously mulling the purchase of Chinese drones (although, at time of writing, this had not yet happened). And even the latest member of the EEU, Kyrgyzstan, has conducted bilateral exercises with China (although in 2002), with more recent overtures including $16 million in military aid at the end of 2014.

China may see itself having a partnership with Russia in the region, but it believes it, and not Russia, is the leade

The final point regarding the incipient rivalry between the two countries in Central Asia is probably the one that may cause the most friction: China may see itself having a partnership with Russia in the region, but it believes it, and not Russia, is the leader. While China may have been deferential in the past, the undisputed divergence in economic fortunes, exacerbated by Western sanctions on Russia, may make it bolder and more persistent in its ambitions.

Such a desire could be behind the Chinese championing of a new “Silk Road,” an initiative it is vigorously promoting in order to link its producers with markets in Central Asia and in Europe. Even the joint naval exercises seen last week can be thought of, not as a show of solidarity with Russia, but as a vehicle to push this idea. In this view, Moscow is deluded if it feels that it is bringing China along to help do Russia’s bidding, when the exact opposite may be true.

China does what China wants

In reality, at least in reference to Central Asia (but likely on a host of other issues), China is returning to its Cold War strategy of triangulation between Moscow and Washington. This is clearly not based on some mystical solidarity with Russia or acquiescence to the U.S., but on a cold and hard calculation of China’s geopolitical position.

As Lord Palmerston noted in the 19th century, countries do not have “permanent allies, only permanent interests,” and China sees this more clearly than others. For the future, China will tack towards Russia when it feels it suits its interests, and it will collaborate with the U.S. when that suits itself better.

This means that, unfortunately, neither Moscow nor Washington have much leverage to persuade China conclusively to one side or the other. Russia, having displayed its disregard for international law, may have the upper hand is supporting China in its territorial disputes, as it is unbound by diplomatic niceties and pieties. But, as noted, Russia has its own ambitions in Central Asia that definitely do not converge with China.

Similarly, the U.S. is the only country with the logistical and financial ability to effectively combat Islamic terrorism in the Middle East and Central Asia (whether President Obama is serious about this is another question); and while the U.S. economy remains fragile under years of harmful policies, it still remains a formidable force on the world stage. But Washington has its own ideas about the way disputes should be resolved in the South China Sea, which put them into direct opposition to Beijing.

First Post-Trust ME

Trust as part of a world that only exists in stories and for some fortunate babies, for the adult world has lost it.

Creative Entertainment

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As Far as babies are concerned, they can be viewed from different angles and various aspects. The variations of experimentations performed on such humble human beings can be infinite but the results which they share converge to a single point Happiness.

 

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Yes, to make sure that this happy doze is provided to them on a daily basis, many parents have now started to employ different Baby Games. The desire owing to the genetic reasons may differ from one baby to another, but they all seemed to be arguing for the attainment of quality entertainment. The crying habit of the babies is not at all difficult to apprehend. This can be easily acknowledged, when their crying appetites take into consideration. Not every time they are hurting voice are an indication of hunger, sleep or poo-poo, sometimes the baby cries at the top of his voice, demanding only an…

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Addressing Change in South Africa

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Effective Solutions in Urbanization & Metropolitanization

 

Let us ask the question, what opportunities are being created for the citizens of South Africa to be part of the economic growth in Sub Saharan Africa between now and 2030. In 1994 there was real change that has slowly stalled and now the hopes and dreams of many millions of citizens have turned into the shattered reality of the current situation. According to a recent McKinsey report urbanization is confused with improved quality of life and that at least 72% of Africans live in cities, live in slums.

There has been a growing global trend for rural inhabitants to move away and into urban areas for various reasons such as and not limited to better access to employment, health and education services and an improved standard of living. If we are to see this trend in Africa, then surely it would be prudent for urban planners and other government departments to provide real solutions for the urban populations. Infrastructure development and the allocation today of a percentage of GDP towards education and health services, water and sanitation would be a start.

Let’s take agriculture as a case in point: According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, there are 500 million smallholder farmers in the world. Smallholder farmers provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.  And about two-thirds of the 1.2 billion people now surviving on US$1.25 a day or less live in rural areas that are largely dependent on small-scale agriculture. Can we improve the education of these farmers and lift their production rate without placing strain on the environment and the ecosystem and in doing so lift their standard of living through an increase in wages/income.

Now if our estimated global population growth trajectory is accurate the global population will be around nine billion by 2030 (estimated by others to be 2050) and Africa will double by 2050. There are benefits for government in taking a proactive stance in policy making and in planning for the tomorrow with effective solutions. In many cases, these farmers can double their productivity and output together with their income, through access to tools and technology available today within the private sector. More importantly, by improving smallholder farmer productivity and their access to markets by working with the private sector, incomes will be generated and will go a long way to solving poverty.

In a previous article I made mention of the South African National Development Plan and I would like to focus here again on this plan. If we look at independent data, the projected population by 2030 of South Africa will be 66,000,000. The current estimated population of South Africa is 52,900,000 and so there must be effective planning undertaken by the current and by successive governments if we are to see an improvement in the standard of living for the citizens of South Africa.

One example here to review is that of Gauteng, one of the nine provinces, that currently has a population of approximately 12,500,000 people and it is estimated that by 2050 that figure will rise to 23,100,000 people. This province has the highest density ranking and so I have highlighted it here as it will have the greatest demands in addressing the MDGs. Increasing the affordability and access to quality education is an effective solution to alleviating poverty and this must be a priority for government for this province.

Gauteng produces approximately 10% of the total GDP of Sub Saharan Africa and yet has 8.4% of residents aged 20 and over have received no schooling, 11.2% have had some primary, 5.5% have completed only primary school, 34.3% have had some high education, 28.0% have finished only high school, and 12.6% have an education higher than the high school level. Overall, 40.6% of residents have completed high school, 25.8% of the population aged 15–65 is unemployed.

From these figures one can see that the lack of education is evident and it is a belief, widely held by educational academics, that education is one way of alleviating poverty – median annual income of working adults aged 15–65 is R 23 539 ($3,483). Males have a median annual income of R 24 977 ($3,696) versus R 20 838 ($3,083) for females. I will use just one example below to highlight the point of the correlation between lack of education, poverty and the standard of living.

Alexandra, Gauteng, with a population of 166,000. However, some estimates place the number closer to 470,000 as the population has grown after the fall of apartheid and the rise of people seeking jobs as immigration from other parts of Africa is on the rise. Alexandra is located northeast of the Johannesburg city center situated on the Jukskei River and covers 8 square kilometers. Originally planned to be a vibrant community this area turned into low-income developments with 7,500 formal homes and roughly 20,000 shacks. The people and their plight is something we do not think of when simple things such as electricity and plumbing is common to us, but relatively uncommon to those who reside in the slums.

According to UN-Habitat, besides Johannesburg, Gauteng comprises Pretoria, Vereeniging, Benoni, Krugersdorp and their surrounding areas, with a total of 23 municipalities  and is the headquarters for most of South Africa’s large corporations, banks and other financial and business activities. It is estimated that by 2020, Gauteng will be an urban region of 20 million people. It would make sense that government and non-government leaders huddle and make plans for the future, to bring about real and effective social change through the improvement and access to quality education for the citizens of this province.

Likewise, the other provinces could review and adopt the same or a similar model of providing this and other services, but for this article it is education which is the focus. In 2015, the urban slum population in Africa is likely to reach 332 million. There are other societal benefits for addressing population growth and the rural migration to urban areas and improving the standard of living through education, such as a stabilizing and or the reduction in the crime rate. South African homicide rates remain exceptionally high – higher than any other country that submits crime statistics to Interpol. A SAPS performance report reveals that over 21,400 cases of murder, nearly 540,000 cases of rape and over 116,700 cases of serious robbery were recorded in 2000/2001.

Increasing youth crime has serious implications, particularly in Africa where over two thirds of many cities’ populations are between the ages of 12 and 25. Most of these young people live in informal settlements without basic facilities, services and security. South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world. Tackling these challenges will not be an easy task, and it will require good governance and transparency to bring about the required change. Corruption is pervasive in Africa and a previous article reviewed the KPMG report into South African fraud and corruption which is now systemic in government.

Equitable quality learning is one way to bring about this change. Skills are the key way in which education reduces poverty. Education makes it more likely for men and women not just to be employed, but to hold jobs that are more secure and provide good working conditions and decent pay. In so doing, education can not only help lift households out of poverty, but also guard against them falling – or falling back – into poverty. Low quality education reinforces this problem, as parents are less willing to bear those costs if they cannot see the benefits of education.

Demographic change has a profound impact on the direction of public policy and the development of a country. As the population increases nationally and or provincially, policymakers will be compelled to meet the service needs of a larger population in areas like healthcare, education, employment or basic infrastructure needs. The importance of aligning policy planning to cover all possibilities and contingencies cannot be overemphasized in the current context in South Africa.

Understanding the dynamics of population change and by government adopting and implementing policy that is proactive in its approach to the challenge of Urbanization & Metropolitanization, South Africa will move towards a better tomorrow for all of its citizens.

“Children of today are the leaders of tomorrow and education is a very important weapon to prepare children for their future roles as leaders of the community”. Nelson Mandela

 

 

Human History Horribilis

THE REVENGE OF GEOGRAPHY

WHAT THE MAP TELLS US ABOUT COMING CONFLICTS AND THE BATTLE AGAINST FATE

 

To quote Robert D. Kaplan “In order to understand today’s current events—religious conflict, war, and political instability—one need look no further than a map.”  Cartography is an interesting and most fascinating subject, especially if one wants to study history and can we understand more about our present world by studying maps. There are many different and diverse subjects that are related to maps such as, and not limited to the following: Toponymy, Hydronymy, Demonym, Ethnonym (polito-ethnonym and topo-ethnonym), Diaspora, Exonym, Endonym, Onomastics, Critical Cartography, Geoinformatics, Historical and Thematic Maps.

Here are several maps worth considering when looking at the current geopolitical tension and conflict in the Middle East.

UN_Palestine_Partition_Versions_1947

Mandate_for_Palestine_(legal_instrument).svg

640px-MPK1-426_Sykes_Picot_Agreement_Map_signed_8_May_1916

If one looks at the maps (ancient and modern) and this post will only briefly look at 2oth Century maps, one can obtain a clearer understanding of where we are at today regarding some of the conflict in the Middle East. The Chester Concession approved by the congress of the newly founded Republic of Turkey on April 10, 1923, allowed United States development of oil and railways. It was an award of the significant importance and marked the introduction of U.S. capital for the first time on a large scale into the Near East. The same type of agreement (Baghdad Railway) was a major cause of the anxiety which led the Ottoman Empire to World War IGermany had obtained concessions from Ottoman Empire which allowed German companies to construct railways. (Wikipedia)

OttomanEmpireIn1683

The Ottoman Empire at its greatest extent, in 1683

Some view the Twentieth Century as ‘One Hundred Years of War’ and the first quarter of that century was riddled with conflict that saw changes and a shift in the balance of power. One poses the question here are there any parallels here between the first quarter of last century and the Twenty First Century. Whatever the answer to the question may just be found in our history and if history can teach us anything, may it be the wisdom to not make the same mistakes again this century.

The last Caliphate was The Ottoman Caliphate which ended with the abolition when the National Assembly that had been newly created and declared Turkey as a republic 1923 circa. After almost seven hundred years the empire ceased to exist and with this new government a sweeping set of changes occurred under Atatürk and one such reform was that the National Assembly abolished the Caliphate on March 3, 1924. The caliphate was the core leader concept of Sunni Islam, by the consensus of the Muslim majority in the early centuries.

There have been calls by groups such as the Mujahideen, al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, Jemaah Islamiyah and now the newest call by what was ISIS and now has been altered in name to Islamic State, for a new Caliphate. To understand better this current situation in the Middle East, one has to have a better understanding of the differences between the current Shia-led Iraqi Government  ( eighteen provinces in Iraq) and the religious groups within the country and the sectarian violence between Iraq’s religious groups.

The Shia majority in Iraq have some groups that support the Assad regime in Syria, which many Sunni factions stand against and now there has been an galvanizing effect between the two countries with this newest stand by the Islamic State aka ISIS. The map below shows the June military situation with who controls what geographically.

Green-Syrian Opposition  Pink light-Syrian Government Pink dark - Iraqi Government Grey - ISIS Yellow dark - Syrian Kurds Yellow light - Iraqi Kurds

Green-Syrian Opposition
Pink light-Syrian Government
Pink dark – Iraqi Government
Grey – ISIS
Yellow dark – Syrian Kurds
Yellow light – Iraqi Kurds

 

The Hadith, or the translation and or reporting of the deeds and sayings of Muhammad is most controversial and includes Sharia Law. Sunni and Shia hadith collections differ because scholars from the two traditions differ as to the reliability of the narrators and transmitters. Narrators who took the side of Abu Bakr and Umar rather than Ali, in the disputes over leadership that followed the death of Muhammad, are seen as unreliable by the Shia; narrations sourced to Ali and the family of Muhammad, and to their supporters, are preferred. Sunni scholars put trust in narrators, such as Aisha, whom Shia reject. Differences in hadith collections have contributed to differences in worship practices and shari’a law and have hardened the dividing line between the two traditions. (Wikipedia)

So what we have is a most highly complex religion that has become polarised. Shia and Sunni beg to differ on religion. Now one can see where some of the conflict begins as one side claims that their belief is more in line with the Muslim faith. Okay so how did we get to where we are today in the Middle East where brother fights brother and state fights state. The Hadith – Muhammad al Bukhari (810-870 AD) travelled for eighteen years through various Islamic lands and then returned home to Bukhara where he wrote a consequential text (Sahih al-Bukhari) the central collection of Hadith, or “narratives” taken from the life and words of Muhammad.

Other Hadith have been written, but al-Bukhari’s is considered by Sunnis to be second in authority only to the Qur’an (Koran) and gives a guideline covering thousands of activities from birth to death. In the Qur’an (Koran)  the following is of concern regarding tensions in the Middle East because of the relationship between the Jewish State of Israel and the Muslim world. The Qur’an (Koran) is a 114-chapter recitation that Muslims believe God spoke through the Prophet.

In Chapter Five  of the  Qur’an (Koran) (Surah 5 – Al-Ma idah) Section Eight: Relations of Muslims with Their Enemies 51- O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors:* they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily God guides not a people unjust. The * note here states the following footnote: That is, look not to them for help and comfort. They are more likely to combine against you than to help you. And this happened more than once in the lifetime of the Prophet, and in after-ages again and again. He who associates with them and shares their counsels must be counted as of them. The trimmer loses whichever way the wheel of fortune turns.

There is much angst and multi-generational hatred and mistrust that still lingers between various sectarian groups. Between Sunni & Shia there is a complex battle which we are witnessing today in the Middle East. Now, if we are to also add to this the complexity of adding the state of Israel into the situation, it becomes even more complex. Without a doctorate in theology one is left a tad perplexed by the complexities of the various religious groups in the Middle East…Judaism, Alawite, Sunni, Shia for example. So what happened in the middle of last century at the end of the second World War, and did the action have a reaction creating the messy situation today?

At the end of WWII the Middle East was divided into specific sovereign territories. At the end of the Second World War, the region’s states finally obtained independence. But the creation of the State of Israel and the failure of attempts to create Arab unity left the Middle East deeply divided.

The borders were drawn without regard for the wishes of the people living there, or along ethnic, geographic, or religious boundaries – they were truly arbitrary. It is important to note that even today, political borders in the Middle East do not indicate different groups of people. The differences between Iraqis, Syrians, Jordanians, etc. were entirely created by the European colonizers as a method of dividing the Arabs against each other.

http://www.globalissues.org/article/119/the-middle-east-conflict-a-brief-background

The trajectory that was set for the last century had roots back to the conflict that was left over from the previous century…and so it goes without saying that the trajectory that we have set for ourselves as a species, was done so in the latter half of last century. As the United States of America is about to celebrate on the 4th of July, maybe every American can make a change by giving some serious thought to making their government responsible and changing foreign policy.

In the 21st century, U.S. influence remains strong but, in relative terms, is declining in terms of economic output compared to rising nations such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, and the newly consolidated European Union. Substantial problems remain, such as climate changenuclear proliferation, and the specter of nuclear terrorism. Foreign policy analysts Hachigian and Sutphen in their book The Next American Century suggest all six powers have similar vested interests in stability and terrorism prevention and trade; if they can find common ground, then the next decades may be marked by peaceful growth and prosperity. (Wikipedia)

If anything is certain regarding the future of the Middle East it is that human history will record more unnecessary conflict and war that is a mixture of economics, politics and religion that the writer terms “Horribilis”.