zaterdag 29 april 2023

Alfred McCoy, Whose Continent Is This Anyway?


Alfred McCoy, Whose Continent Is This Anyway?


[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a small reminder that signed, personalized copies of Alfred McCoy’s remarkable history of global empires from the 16th century to late last night, To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change, are available to any of you willing to lend this site a hand. Just visit our donation page and, for a contribution of $125 ($150 if you live outside the U.S.), it’s yours! As a number of readers of McCoy’s book have told me, you won’t regret it (and believe me, neither will we!). Tom]

On both sides, the talk only grows grimmer. Just the other day, speaking about China, Admiral John Aquilino, head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, warned that “I’m responsible [for finding a way] to prevent this conflict today and — if deterrence were to fail — to be able to fight and win.” Fight and win indeed! And if that doesn’t seem clear enough to you, he’s talking about a future war between the planet’s two nuclear-armed great powers. His comments were mild compared to those of General Mike Minihan, head of the Air Mobility Command, who recently predicted war with China within — yes! — two years! (“My gut tells me [we] will fight in 2025.”) And don’t think it’s just the admirals and generals either. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, while not exactly predicting such a conflict, Minihan-style, did recently say of China, “We obviously have to prepare, to be prepared to fight and win that war.”

That war! Meanwhile, after a — yes, this is not a misprint — congressional war game simulating a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the head of the new House committee on China, Mike Gallagher (R-WI), insisted that Washington needed to arm that island “to the teeth.” At the same time, the U.S. military is upgrading its forces in the region, its military positions in the Pacific, and its training exercises for just such a future conflict. At the same time, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has turned a cold shoulder to the Biden administration’s attempts to restart high-level talks of any sort while, as the New York Times reported recently, his country has begun a significant buildup of its nuclear arsenal.

With all of that grimly in mind, why not take a step back from this increasingly overheated world of ours and let TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy, author of To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change, explore what lies behind such tensions: the rise and fall of great powers on a distinctly disturbed planet. Tom

The Rise of China (and the Fall of the U.S.?)

Tectonic Eruptions in Eurasia Erode America's Global Power

From the ashes of a world war that killed 80 million people and reduced great cities to smoking rubble, America rose like a Titan of Greek legend, unharmed and armed with extraordinary military and economic power, to govern the globe. During four years of combat against the Axis leaders in Berlin and Tokyo that raged across the planet, America’s wartime commanders — George Marshall in Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower in Europe, and Chester Nimitz in the Pacific — knew that their main strategic objective was to gain control over the vast Eurasian landmass. Whether you’re talking about desert warfare in North Africa, the D-Day landing at Normandy, bloody battles on the Burma-India border, or the island-hopping campaign across the Pacific, the Allied strategy in World War II involved constricting the reach of the Axis powers globally and then wresting that very continent from their grasp.

That past, though seemingly distant, is still shaping the world we live in. Those legendary generals and admirals are, of course, long gone, but the geopolitics they practiced at such a cost still has profound implications. For just as Washington encircled Eurasia to win a great war and global hegemony, so Beijing is now involved in a far less militarized reprise of that reach for global power.

And to be blunt, these days, China’s gain is America’s loss. Every step Beijing takes to consolidate its control over Eurasia simultaneously weakens Washington’s presence on that strategic continent and so erodes its once formidable global power.

A Cold War Strategy

After four embattled years imbibing lessons about geopolitics with their morning coffee and bourbon nightcaps, America’s wartime generation of generals and admirals understood, intuitively, how to respond to the future alliance of the two great communist powers in Moscow and Beijing.

In 1948, following his move from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, Secretary of State George Marshall launched the $13 billion Marshall Plan to rebuild a war-torn Western Europe, laying the economic foundations for the formation of the NATO alliance just a year later. After a similar move from the wartime Allied headquarters in London to the White House in 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower helped complete a chain of military bastions along Eurasia’s Pacific littoral by signing a series of mutual-security pacts — with South Korea in 1953, Taiwan in 1954, and Japan in 1960. For the next 70 years, that island chain would serve as the strategic hinge on Washington’s global power, critical for both the defense of North America and dominance over Eurasia.

After fighting to conquer much of that vast continent during World War II, America’s postwar leaders certainly knew how to defend their gains. For more than 40 years, their unrelenting efforts to dominate Eurasia assured Washington of an upper hand and, in the end, victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. To constrain the communist powers inside that continent, the U.S. ringed its 6,000 miles with 800 military bases, thousands of jet fighters, and three massive naval armadas — the 6th Fleet in the Atlantic, the 7th Fleet in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, and, somewhat later, the 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf.

Thanks to diplomat George Kennan, that strategy gained the name “containment” and, with it, Washington could, in effect, sit back and wait while the Sino-Soviet bloc imploded through diplomatic blunder and military misadventure. After the Beijing-Moscow split of 1962 and China’s subsequent collapse into the chaos of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, the Soviet Union tried repeatedly, if unsuccessfully, to break out of its geopolitical isolation — in the Congo, Cuba, Laos, Egypt, Ethiopia, Angola, and Afghanistan. In the last and most disastrous of those interventions, which Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to term “the bleeding wound,” the Red Army deployed 110,000 soldiers for nine years of brutal Afghan combat, hemorrhaging money and manpower in ways that would contribute to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In that heady moment of seeming victory as the sole superpower left on planet Earth, a younger generation of Washington foreign-policy leaders, trained not on battlefields but in think tanks, took little more than a decade to let that unprecedented global power start to slip away. Toward the close of the Cold War era in 1989, Francis Fukuyama, an academic working in the State Department’s policy planning unit, won instant fame among Washington insiders with his seductive phrase “the end of history.” He argued that America’s liberal world order would soon sweep up all of humanity on an endless tide of capitalist democracy. As he put it in a much-cited essay: “The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident… in the total exhaustion of viable systemic alternatives to Western liberalism… seen also in the ineluctable spread of consumerist Western culture.”

The Invisible Power of Geopolitics

Amid such triumphalist rhetoric, Zbigniew Brzezinski, another academic sobered by more worldly experience, reflected on what he had learned about geopolitics during the Cold War as an adviser to two presidents, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. In his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski offered the first serious American study of geopolitics in more than half a century. In the process, he warned that the depth of U.S. global hegemony, even at this peak of unipolar power, was inherently “shallow.”

For the United States and, he added, every major power of the past 500 years, Eurasia, home to 75% of the world’s population and productivity, was always “the chief geopolitical prize.” To perpetuate its “preponderance on the Eurasian continent” and so preserve its global power, Washington would, he warned, have to counter three threats: “the expulsion of America from its offshore bases” along the Pacific littoral; ejection from its “perch on the western periphery” of the continent provided by NATO; and finally, the formation of “an assertive single entity” in the sprawling center of Eurasia.

Arguing for Eurasia’s continued post-Cold War centrality, Brzezinski drew heavily on the work of a long-forgotten British academic, Sir Halford Mackinder. In a 1904 essay that sparked the modern study of geopolitics, Mackinder observed that, for the past 500 years, European imperial powers had dominated Eurasia from the sea, but the construction of trans-continental railroads was shifting the locus of control to its vast interior “heartland.” In 1919, in the wake of World War I, he also argued that Eurasia, along with Africa, formed a massive “world island” and offered this bold geopolitical formula: “Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World.” Clearly, Mackinder was about 100 years premature in his predictions.

But today, by combining Mackinder’s geopolitical theory with Brzezinski’s gloss on global politics, it’s possible to discern, in the confusion of this moment, some potential long-term trends. Imagine Mackinder-style geopolitics as a deep substrate that shapes more ephemeral political events, much the way the slow grinding of the planet’s tectonic plates becomes visible when volcanic eruptions break through the earth’s surface. Now, let’s try to imagine what all this means in terms of international geopolitics today.

China’s Geopolitical Gambit

In the decades since the Cold War’s close, China’s increasing control over Eurasia clearly represents a fundamental change in that continent’s geopolitics. Convinced that Beijing would play the global game by U.S. rules, Washington’s foreign policy establishment made a major strategic miscalculation in 2001 by admitting it to the World Trade Organization (WTO). “Across the ideological spectrum, we in the U.S. foreign policy community,” confessed two former members of the Obama administration, “shared the underlying belief that U.S. power and hegemony could readily mold China to the United States’ liking… All sides of the policy debate erred.” In little more than a decade after it joined the WTO, Beijing’s annual exports to the U.S. grew nearly five-fold and its foreign currency reserves soared from just $200 billion to an unprecedented $4 trillion by 2013.

In 2013, drawing on those vast cash reserves, China’s new president, Xi Jinping, launched a trillion-dollar infrastructure initiative to transform Eurasia into a unified market. As a steel grid of rails and petroleum pipelines began crisscrossing the continent, China ringed the tri-continental world island with a chain of 40 commercial ports — from Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, around Africa’s coast, to Europe from Piraeus, Greece, to Hamburg, Germany. In launching what soon became history’s largest development project, 10 times the size of the Marshall Plan, Xi is consolidating Beijing’s geopolitical dominance over Eurasia, while fulfilling Brzezinski’s fear of the rise of “an assertive single entity” in Central Asia.

Unlike the U.S., China hasn’t spent significant effort establishing military bases. While Washington still maintains some 750 of them in 80 nations, Beijing has just one military base in Djibouti on the east African coast, a signals intercept post on Myanmar’s Coco Islands in the Bay of Bengal, a compact installation in eastern Tajikistan, and half a dozen small outposts in the South China Sea.

Moreover, while Beijing was focused on building Eurasian infrastructure, Washington was fighting two disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in a strategically inept bid to dominate the Middle East and its oil reserves (just as the world was beginning to transition away from petroleum to renewable energy). In contrast, Beijing has concentrated on the slow, stealthy accretion of investments and influence across Eurasia from the South China Sea to the North Sea. By changing the continent’s underlying geopolitics through this commercial integration, it’s winning a level of control not seen in the last thousand years, while unleashing powerful forces for political change.

Tectonic Shifts Shake U.S. Power

After a decade of Beijing’s relentless economic expansion across Eurasia, the tectonic shifts in that continent’s geopolitical substrate have begun to manifest themselves in a series of diplomatic eruptions, each erasing another aspect of U.S. influence. Four of the more recent ones might seem, at first glance, unrelated but are all driven by the relentless force of geopolitical change.

First came the sudden, unexpected collapse of the U.S. position in Afghanistan, forcing Washington to end its 20-year occupation in August 2021 with a humiliating withdrawal. In a slow, stealthy geopolitical squeeze play, Beijing had signed massive development deals with all the surrounding Central Asian nations, leaving American troops isolated there. To provide critical air support for its infantry, U.S. jet fighters were often forced to fly 2,000 miles from their nearest base in the Persian Gulf — an unsustainable long-term situation and unsafe for troops on the ground. As the U.S.-trained Afghan Army collapsed and Taliban guerrillas drove into Kabul atop captured Humvees, the chaotic U.S. retreat in defeat became unavoidable.

Just six months later in February 2022, President Vladimir Putin massed an armada of armored vehicles loaded with 200,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. If Putin is to be believed, his “special military operation” was to be a bid to undermine NATO’s influence and weaken the Western alliance — one of Brzezinski’s conditions for the U.S. eviction from Eurasia.

But first Putin visited Beijing to court President Xi’s support, a seemingly tall order given China’s decades of lucrative trade with the United States, worth a mind-boggling $500 billion in 2021. Yet Putin scored a joint declaration that the two nations’ relations were “superior to political and military alliances of the Cold War era” and a denunciation of “the further expansion of NATO.”

As it happened, Putin did so at a perilous price. Instead of attacking Ukraine in frozen February when his tanks could have maneuvered off-road on their way to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, he had to wait out Beijing’s Winter Olympics. So, Russian troops invaded instead in muddy March, leaving his armored vehicles stuck in a 40-mile traffic jam on a single highway where the Ukrainians readily destroyed more than 1,000 tanks. Facing diplomatic isolation and European trade embargos as his defeated invasion degenerated into a set of vengeful massacres, Moscow shifted much of its exports to China. That quickly raised bilateral trade by 30% to an all-time high, while reducing Russia to but another piece on Beijing’s geopolitical chessboard.

Then, just last month, Washington found itself diplomatically marginalized by an utterly unexpected resolution of the sectarian divide that had long defined the politics of the Middle East. After signing a $400-billion infrastructure deal with Iran and making Saudi Arabia its top oil supplier, Beijing was well positioned to broker a major diplomatic rapprochement between those bitter regional rivals, Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. Within weeks, the foreign ministers of the two nations sealed the deal with a deeply symbolic voyage to Beijing — a bittersweet reminder of the days not long ago when Arab diplomats paid court in Washington.

Finally, the Biden administration was stunned this month when Europe’s preeminent leader, Emmanuel Macron of France, visited Beijing for a series of intimate tête-à-tête chats with China’s President Xi. At the close of that extraordinary journey, which wonFrench companies billions in lucrative contracts, Macron announced “a global strategic partnership with China” and promised he would not “take our cue from the U.S. agenda” over Taiwan. A spokesman for the Élysée Palace quickly released a pro forma clarification that “the United States is our ally, with shared values.” Even so, Macron’s Beijing declaration reflected both his own long-term vision of the European Union as an independent strategic player and that bloc’s ever-closer economic ties to China

The Future of Geopolitical Power

Projecting such political trends a decade into the future, Taiwan’s fate would seem, at best, uncertain. Instead of the “shock and awe” of aerial bombardments, Washington’s default mode of diplomatic discourse in this century, Beijing prefers stealthy, sedulous geopolitical pressure. In building its island bases in the South China Sea, for example, it inched forward incrementally — first dredging, then building structures, next runways, and finally emplacing anti-aircraft missiles — in the process avoiding any confrontation over its functional capture of an entire sea.

Lest we forget, Beijing has built its formidable economic-political-military power in little more than a decade. If its strength continues to increase inside Eurasia’s geopolitical substrate at even a fraction of that head-spinning pace for another decade, it may be able to execute a deft geopolitical squeeze-play on Taiwan like the one that drove the U.S. out of Afghanistan. Whether from a customs embargo, incessant naval patrols, or some other form of pressure, Taiwan might just fall quietly into Beijing’s grasp.

Should such a geopolitical gambit prevail, the U.S. strategic frontier along the Pacific littoral would be broken, possibly pushing its Navy back to a “second island chain” from Japan to Guam — the last of Brzezinski’s criteria for the true waning of U.S. global power. In that event, Washington’s leaders could once again find themselves sitting on the proverbial diplomatic and economic sidelines, wondering how it all happened.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War IIand Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars: The Untold Story.

US Presidency


Is the US Presidency Actually a Powerful Dictatorship?

The US has projected itself as the global leader of democracy through its powerful mass media, huge economy and lavish military expenditures. A closer look reveals that the country requires extensive reform before it can claim to be a true democracy. Democratic reform should begin with the presidency. 

The presidency of the United States has a surprisingly undemocratic selection process. In my previous article on American democracy, I pointed out that the president is not elected by popular vote, but by the electoral college and how, over time, the presidential election process has become corrupt. 

America’s founding fathers feared the evolution of the presidency into an imperial office. In fact, that fear was the driving force behind the separation of powers into three distinct branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary.

We traditionally call this the “checks and balances” system. Each branch of government can challenge the actions of another branch. For example, the judiciary has the power to overturn unconstitutional laws drafted by the legislature or overrule acts contravening the law by the executive. This can happen both at the state and the federal levels.

In Washington, the president can veto legislation proposed by the Congress. At the same time, the Congress has the power to override presidential vetoes and confirm or reject presidential nominations. At first sight, the checks and balances system appears to be an effective way to maintain democracy. However, the system doesn’t always work out the way it was originally intended. In recent years, it has led to partisan division and logjam.

The Most Powerful Man in the World

Despite the fact that they are not exactly elected directly by the people, US presidents have the power to make critical decisions via executive orders. On August 24, 2002, President Joe Biden signed an executive order “to cancel $10,000 of student debt for low- to middle-income borrowers.”  This cost of Biden’s plan is estimated to be $400 billion for US taxpayers. 

Executive orders are sometimes called “instant laws.” They do not need Congressional approval. The Supreme Court has the power to overturn them if they are found unconstitutional. However, this is a high bar and presidents have been usurping the power of Congress.

During his time in the White House, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a record number of 3,721 executive orders. Only five of them were overturned by the Supreme Court. More recently, Donald Trump made executive orders infamousby announcing big policy changes without Congressional approval.

Even more alarming are the president’s nuclear powers. As commander-in-chief of all the US armed forces, the president has exclusive access to the nuclear codes. With the push of a button, he can cause a nuclear holocaust. Should a single human being have the power to destroy the world?

As I have pointed out repeatedly in my past articles, the US has an aggressive foreign policy. It meddles in the affairs of other countries. This leads to tensions and even standoffs with other powers such as Iran, Russia and China. An American president could blunder into nuclear war in a crisis. In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis demonstrated this danger. 

The Biden-led NATO supports Ukraine against Russia. This is part of a longstanding American policy. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO has expanded east. The “deep state” has taken charge of American foreign policy. Presidents have to do the bidding of the military-industrial complex. In 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against this phenomenon in his parting presidential address. In the context of the Russia-Ukraine War, the US president’s nuclear powers have become dangerous.

A Rapidly Deteriorating System

A key reason why the office of the president has become all powerful is because the Congress has become dysfunctional. The incessant squabbling between the two political parties makes passing of laws extremely difficult. The parties themselves are increasingly divided. It took a historic 15 rounds of voting for Kevin McCarthy to be elected speaker of the House of Representatives. 

Republican lawmakers are so divided right now that it will be difficult for them to push through any legislation despite their majority. Even if they do, Democrats have a wafer-thin majority in the Senate and can block them. The Democrats are divided themselves and are unlikely to push through significant bills in the Senate. This leaves the White House a clear field for executive orders.

In this way, the US presidential power and prestige are the envy of dictators. Presidents enjoy unprecedented autocracy and imperial power under the guise of democracy. The president appoints thousands of delegates, who often lack the qualifications necessary for the political positions they are assuming.

Presidents have not only been appointing shady judges but they have also been benefiting family members. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, profited immensely from dealings with the Saudis. This might not have been illegal but was certainly immoral. Such is the power of the president that Trump and Kushner were never held to account.

Today, the presidency is too powerful and not accountable to the people. Reforms to the system are long overdue. Otherwise, troubles lie ahead. An unrestrained, all-powerful presidency is not sustainable long term.

What China’s growing power means for Palestine


What China’s growing power means for Palestine

What does China’s growing power and the shift towards a multipolar world mean for Palestine and its broader region?

That was a key theme in a livestream I participated in with hip hop artist Lowkey, a Mint Press writer and a contributor to The Electronic Intifada.

We were hosted by journalist Danny Haiphong on his YouTube show. You can watch the video above.

Our lively discussion touched on issues I raised in my recent article, “Why the Saudis have called off their Israeli wedding.”

Central to considering China’s role is looking at the rapid unraveling of US global power, especially in the light of the US going all-in on a proxy war against Russia on the European continent, which Ukraine has no chance of winning.

In many regions China is stepping into the vacuum left by the US, gaining friends and allies not with military threats, but by building infrastructure including roads, ports, schools and hospitals in dozens of countries all over the world.

In Iraq, which was destroyed by the United States, for example, China is building 8,000 schools.

A major win for Chinese diplomacy was its recent brokering of an historic reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a rapprochement that has the potential to bring progress on other fronts, such as finally ending the US-led proxy wars in Syria and Yemen.

“What China has been able to do is say to Saudi Arabia, ‘if you want us to trade with you in currencies other than the dollar, if you want the benefit of a good relationship with us, then you have to drop the sectarian agenda in the region and be willing to engage with Iran as a good faith actor,” Lowkey explains.

Saudi Arabia, long dependent on the US, is now diversifying its relations with other major powers. As it does so, it sees less need to normalize ties with Israel, a move whose primary purpose would have been to please its patrons in Washington.

According to Lowkey, this realignment is also giving resistance factions in Palestine and Lebanon “a new found confidence” to confront Israel as a united front.

“They understand that when Iran is taken out of isolation, so too are the resistance factions,” Lowkey adds. “Instantly what that does is weaken Israel’s ability to assert power over the Palestinians.”

The end of “limited conflicts” for Israel

I pointed out that Israel understands this emerging reality, as reflected in recent comments by its defense minister.

“This is the end of the era of limited conflicts,” Yoav Gallant told reporters earlier this month. “We are facing a new security era in which there may be a real threat to all arenas at the same time.”

“We operated for years under the assumption that limited conflicts could be managed, but that is a phenomenon that is disappearing,” Gallant added. “Today, there is a noticeable phenomenon of the convergence of the arenas.”

In other words, Israel can no longer have the confidence that if it attacks Gaza, the conflict will remain limited to Gaza, or that if it attacks the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, that events will remain localized in Jerusalem.

Neither can it be assured anymore that during a major escalation with the Palestinians, Lebanon’s powerful Hizballah resistance group will stay out of the fight.

Although Israel still possesses enormous military might, its ability to dictate terms is eroding as the US slowly retreats from the region after its military and political failures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan.

I noted that China recently offered to mediate between Palestinians and Israelis, and while I do not think this is likely to lead to any results in the near term, it is significant that Beijing feels willing and able to step into a role that the United States has always monopolized – consistently to the benefit of Israel and the detriment of the Palestinians and the rest of the region.

Perhaps more important in the short term, as we discussed, is China stepping up its diplomacy towards ending the war in Ukraine as indicated by the recent phone callbetween President Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Taiwan provocations

Not satisfied with entering a bloody quagmire in Ukraine just months after their defeat in and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States and its European vassals are also trying to pick a fight with China over Taiwan.

This month European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged member states to send their warships to the Taiwan Strait, a policy I called madness.

I pointed out that the United Statesthe EU – in fact the whole world except a tiny handful of countries such as Guatemala – agree that the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government of China, of which Taiwan is an integral part.

I argued that China has never shown any interest in reintegrating Taiwan by force and has instead focused on fostering the burgeoning economic ties between the island and the mainland.

The only factor that brings in the military equation is the meddling and provocations by the United States and now the EU.

But if the EU – acting as an American proxy – successfully instigate a war across the Taiwan Strait, we can be sure that European armies and navies are not going to sail to the rescue of Taiwan. All that would happen is that yet another country would be destroyed at enormous human cost.

One can only imagine the reaction if China were to send its brand new aircraft carrier Fujian to the English Channel or to the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico, or park it off of New York harbor.

And yet the US and EU think it is the most natural thing in the world for them to go and interfere halfway around the world where nobody asked them to, where they can do no good and where there are no problems except the ones they themselves are creating.

This dangerous foolishness looks like the death throes of a dying empire.

Undermining the positive direction of China-EU ties


Germany’s possible restriction on semiconductor chemicals exports to Beijing would undermine the positive direction of China-EU ties: experts 

Published: Apr 28, 2023 06:58 PM


Germany is reportedly considering restricting exports of chemicals to China that are used to produce semiconductors, a move which experts said would disrupt the positive direction of China-Europe relations and represent a "severe blow" to the country's industrial base, further hurting an economy that is already suffering from economic blows linked to the Ukraine crisis.

According to a report by Bloomberg, Germany may place implement restrictions as part of the government's efforts to reduce its economic exposure to China. The report cited sources as saying that the move was still "in the early stages of discussion."

German chemicals giants Merck and BASF could be affected by the export curbs if implemented, the report said.

The move would constitute a belligerent move if it is pushed ahead at a time when China and Europe's relations are showing positive signs with more frequent bilateral visits between government officials and company executives.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said during a press conference on Friday that economic and trade cooperation is mutually beneficial, and China is an important global semiconductor market. Some countries' practice of implementing export controls against China under the guise of "reducing dependence" is not constructive, and ultimately will only harm others and themselves, as well as affect the stability of the global industrial and supply chains, Mao said.

"China urges these countries to respect the laws of the market economy…and work together with China to maintain the international economic and trade order to promote the construction of an open global economy," she said.

Experts have attributed the issue to Germany facing pressure from the US to pick sides, as well as the fact that some German politicians are seeking to use trade protectionism to prop up domestic industries.

Ma Jihua, a veteran tech analyst, told the Global Times on Friday that some of the EU's traditionally strong industries have seen a widening gap with China, citing electric cars as one example. This is triggering a sense of crisis and prompting some German politicians to turn to trade protectionism as a solution, Ma said.

However, experts warned that if Germany really places restrictive measures on semiconductor related products to China, the action will result in tremendous harm to China-German or China-EU relations which have only recent shown signs of improving.

"It is to be expected that Germany's restrictive measures, if implemented, might trigger objections and dissatisfaction from China, which will harm the two countries' strong business ties," Hong Yong, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Friday.

He also noted that if German companies are forced to cut supply to China, it may trigger flow on effects across Europe's semiconductor and related supply chains, such as rising costs, interrupted production and economic losses.

Ma Jihua also said that many of German industries focus on downstream sectors, which means they need to import a large number of raw materials and equipment parts from other countries including China. Therefore, if they take action to harm business relations with China, that would cause serious backfire on their own industries.

"Not only might they face countermeasures from China, their business partners from other countries will look at Germany trade policy through a different lens, which will also impact the country's economy," Ma said.

Both experts urged Germany to cherish business ties with China which bring a lot of opportunities and business benefits to German companies.

China and Europe have shown signs of more connected relations over the recent past, with government leaders holding meetings and executives from European industrial giants visiting China.

On Thursday, Wang Wentao and German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck met in Berlin on Thursday to exchanges views on issues such as deepening bilateral cooperation and implementing the economic and trade consensus between the two countries' leaders. Wang also expressed concern over export restrictions being contemplated by Germany, the statement said.

One day earlier, Wang met with the head of the German federal chancellery Wolfgang Schmidt. Earlier in April, China's president also met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Beijing.

Hong suggested that the two countries should increase strategic communication and coordination via meetings and government calls. They should also actively advance negotiations on the China-Europe investment agreement, he said.

Global Times

Voetbal Commentator stan van houcke heeft dit als repost geplaatst Marcel Van Silfh...