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China celebrates 90 years of the People’s Liberation Army while sending a strong message to the world

China is speaking volumes to the world although many, particularly in the United States and India, pretend not to hear.

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China has held a large parade honouring the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In addition to displays of cutting edge, never before seen weapons, China’s President Xi Jinping clarified the purpose of a large, modern and highly trained PLA in the 21st century.

Speaking at a ceremony after the parade, Xi stated,

“The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions.

We will never allow any people, organisation or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form. No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests”.

Xi went on to praise the PLA’s 5 year plan for modernisation which has seen an increased focus on air and naval power while still boasting the world’s largest army.

China’s message is clear, but who is it directed to?

1. The United States 

The US has and continues to engage in aggressive policies towards China through the projection of both overt provocations, through geo-strategic meddling and through proxy wars around the world designed to retard the progress of China’s One Belt–One Road global trade, infrastructure and commerce initiative.

a. Direct Provocations 

The United States continues to infringe on China’s territorial rights in the South China Sea as well as the East China Sea. What the United States deceivingly calls ‘freedom of navigation’ is merely an attempt to internationalise territorial waters claimed by China.

The US has often co-opted south east Asian nations into an aggressive stance against China in the South China Sea, but this strategy has hit something of a brick wall ever since the 2016 election of Rodrigo Duterte as President of Philippines. Duterte has pledged to work cooperatively with China over the dispute and dismissed all calls for violence as foolhardy and suicidal.

While the US continues to provoke China in Chinese maritime territory, the particular way in which the Trump administration has approached the North Korean issue is more about Beijing than it is about Pyongyang.

China is North Korea’s neighbour, and since the illegal collapse of the Soviet Union, China has been North Korea’s primary window to the wider world although North Korea’s economy is increasingly self-sufficient and looks set to continue along this trajectory.

North Korea is a sovereign state and China and Russia both respect and acknowledge this, it is only the United States which constantly treats the North Korean issue as though it is an issue of a Chinese protectorate. In this sense, North Korea is far more remote from China than is Chinese Taipei, also known as Taiwan. If the US has direct talks with the generally pro-western government of Chinese Taipei, surely on the sheer principles of sovereign foreign relations, the US ought to talk to North Korea which unlike Chinese Taipei is an unambiguously sovereign state as recognised by the United Nations.

By suggesting otherwise, the United States is insulting China, something which under Donald Trump has become increasingly par for the course.

In this sense, by attempting to draw China into the North Korean issue from the view that North Korea is somehow a protectorate of China, while the US continues to sell weapons to Chinese Taipei (aka Taiwan) which China regards as part of its indivisible sovereign territory, the US is accomplishing both a two-pronged insult as well as a two-pronged challenge to China, one which China has responded to sternly in recent days.

READ MORE: China REFUSES to be drawn on Trump’s North Korea threats

b. Military and geo-strategic meddling along One Belt–One Road 

China has laid out the preliminary map of the manifold routes which will comprise its One Belt–One Road land and sea super-highways.

It is no coincidence that since this announcement was made in 2013, the United States has stepped up military action and geo-political meddling in key spots along the road.

As I recently wrote in The Duran,

“NATO’s recent land and sea exercises in eastern and southern Europe as well as the Black Sea frontiers of Eurasia are at face value, provocations designed to anger and intimidate Russia. Likewise, America’s presence in Iraq and Syria are at face value, provocations designed to angry and intimidate Iran. But they are also something else: they are provocations designed to anger and intimidate China.

The key element here lies in understanding the geography of China’s massive trade/commerce project, One Belt–One Road, also referred to as the New Silk Road.

A map of the likely final routes of the land and sea trade corridors which China is working to build in cooperation with local nations along the route goes a long way in explaining why the United States is conducting troop exercises, engaging in military conflicts and threatening new military conflicts in key spots along the New Silk Road.

The following map shows the routes of China’s New Silk Road. Each number corresponds to an area where US troops or their allies are either active in a conflict zone or have recently engaged in military exercises.

1. The border between Iraq and Iran. 

Kurdish areas in northern Iraq are set to vote in an independence referendum in September of 2017. While it is not clear if the US will officially support the results of the vote which due to a declared boycott of the referendum by the area’s non-Kudish residents will almost certainly be won by nationalists, the US has developed very close ties to Iraqi Kurds over the last decades. The US has likewise supported Iraqi Kurds in their fight against ISIS in northern Iraq.

Iran is staunchly opposed to Kurdish separatism in neighbouring Iraq and has taken Turkey’s side in opposing Kurdish separatism throughout the region. Syria of course also opposes local Kurdish separatists.

Many in Iran are growing increasingly suspicious that the US and Israel plan to use their Kurdish allies as a means of waging a proxy war against Iran and its allies. America seems willing to throw out its historically good relationship with Turkey in order to do just that.

2. North Eastern Syria

The next US hotspot along China’s New Silk Road is in north-eastern Syria. This is also an area in which Syrian Kurds are growing increasingly vocal about independence.

Should America support Kurdish nationalists in northern Iraq and north eastern Syria, this could create two decidedly pro-American entities along the New Silk Road.

Should Syrian and/or Iraqi Kurdish nationalists decide to link up with the Kurdish nationalist PKK in Turkey, the New Silk Road’s journey into Turkey could also be threatened.

Just as Syria and China forge new economic ties, America continues to increase its presence in Syria.

3. Western Balkans 

The New Silk Road’s maritime route into Europe is through Greece where it eventually hugs the western Balkans on its route northwards.

This will see the New Silk Road passing by Albania and Montenegro via the Ionian and Adriatic Seas. The western Balkans has become a big hotspot of US mischief for several reasons.

America has been fomenting Albanian extremism in Macedonia (aka Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) in an attempt to weaken the position of the sovereignty minded President Gjorge Ivanov. The threats of Albanian nationalists to Skopje threaten the entire statehood of the small Balkan country.

Furthermore, America has been deeply supportive of the Greater Albania project which would see Albanians annex not only parts of Macedonia but also parts of Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. Montenegro’s recent, deeply controversial ascension to NATO could only exacerbate the problem as a fraternal nation to Serbia is now NATO’s newest and smallest member.

All of the sudden, The New Silk Road’s path into southern Europe becomes perilous and highly unstable.

4. Romania 

Thousands of NATO troops are currently participating in military exercises in Romania. This comes after the US sold a $3.9 billion Patriot Missile system to the poor European country.

All of the sudden Romania’s seemingly easy route into Europe along the New Silk Road just became dotted with US military hardware and the presence of many NATO troops who will soon be back for more.

5. The Black Sea 

The US has recently conducted its biggest ever Black Sea naval exercises with fellow NATO members along with Ukrainian ships.

This further augments America’s presence along the coasts of Romanian, Russia, Ukraine while also being quite close to Turkey’s shores on the southern sands of the Black Sea.

6. Ukraine 

At present, the post-coup regime which rules Ukraine is ardently pro-America. China and Russia’s close alliance could spur the pro-western regime in Kiev into making life deeply difficult for the New Silk Road, even though such moves would be to their own economic detriment.

The Ukrainian regime is well known for making politicised moves which have hurt its own economic interests, severing economic ties with both Russia and the Donbass Republics being two such examples.

In the coming years, many will ask if the fact that the Ukrainian coup of February 2014 and the formal announcement of One Belt–One Road in the Autumn of 2013 were coincidental events in respect of their proximity in time, not least because Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych visited China in December of 2013 where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. During the meetings which were uniquely successful for Ukraine, China agreed to invest $8 billion into the Ukrainian economy. A few months later a western orchestrated coup removed Yanukovych from power.

7. Poland 

NATO troops continue to pour into Poland where they have been largely welcomed by the Polish government. Can masses of NATO troops coexist with Chinese commerce along the New Silk Road? It certainly does not bode well.

8. Bab-el-Mandeb Strait

Ships on the maritime New Silk Road are set to pass through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait which links the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea. Currently, the Strait is under naval blockade from America’s ally Saudi Arabia. The results which have meant a humanitarian disaster for Yemen which is the subject of the Saudi blockade, could also threaten China’s shipping routes to the Red Sea.

9. Suez Canal/Sinai Peninsula

The Suez Canal borders the Sinai Peninsula. Much of Sinai is currently home to ISIS troops that the Egyptian armed forces have had difficulty in ridding from their territory.

The presence of ISIS in the Sinai has led many to worry that Israel could invade and occupy Sinai as Israel did between 1967 and 1982.

It is wise to remember that Israel is not on the New Silk Road while Iran, Iraq and Syria are. This reality will not be lost on the leaders in Tel Aviv.

This does not make for smooth sailing along the maritime New Silk Road”.

2. India 

Of all the major states along One Belt–One Road, India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been the most obstinate in respect of cooperating with China.

India’s moves to provoke China in the disputed Donglang/Doklam border area at the intersection of India, China and Bhutan combined with overtures to Japan which have little economic benefit to India but fulfil the Modi geo-strategic narrative of projecting Indian power against China, are both symptomatic of an Indian government that is keen to challenge rather than cooperate with China, even though this runs contrary to the short, medium and almost certainly the long term economic interests of India. It is a dangerous game of using and abusing geo-political interactions for the sake of propaganda designed for domestic consumption among Modi’s Hindutva base.

READ MORE: Narendra Modi’s version of Non-Alignment is fooling no one and is bad for India

Additionally, India’s purchase of costly American weapons is a further rebuke to China. India could purchase equally effective but much less expensive weapons from both China and Russia. In getting into bed with the US military-industrial complex at a great expensive to the Indian treasury, India is attempting to essentially buy American favour in any major future disputes with China, a plan that will almost certainly not work as America is pursuing China according to America’s own geo-strategic interests and not those of the anti-Chinese factions in India.

Modi’s fanatical approach to China will only draw China closer to Pakistan and the only loser in such a scenario is India which could have stood to gain greatly from Sino-Indian cooperation without sacrificing India’s historical friendship with Russia, nor at the expense of China’s historically good and presently expanding relationship with Islamabad.

China’s message is clear, India can either work with China and win or antagonise China and lose. It is a concept so simple that Modi and his ministers seem to have internalised it and reached the totally opposite conclusion to what logic ought to dictate.

READ MORE: China sends STRONG message to US and India

3. Russia and Pakistan 

China’s display of military strength is simultaneously an offer to Russia and a reassurance to Pakistan. While China is at times less vocal about its geo-strategic partnerships than fellow super-power Russia, its meaning is equally clear.

Russia and China’s alliance is the most important in Asia and Eurasia, respectively. With two of the three global super-powers in what amounts to a formal alliance in all but name (and occasionally in name based on a number of bilateral agreements), the weight of the world’s aggregate military might is clearly set against anyone who seeks to challenge the Russo-Chinese alliance.

Secondly, although the timing is largely coincidental, China seeks to assure Pakistan that in spite of the recent ouster of Nawaz Sharif, that Beijing and Islamabad’s cooperative endeavours, namely the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, are safe in spite of the internal situation in Pakistan that is currently being handled in a deeply professional way based not only on Pakistani but global standards.

CONCLUSION: 

The more America engages in aggressive acts along One Belt–One Road and the more India pushes back against the inevitable inertia of China’s economic and geo-political progress, the more China will subtly but steadfastly push back.

The size and scope of the recent military displays by China in addition to the stern words of President Xi are merely one small but poignant indication of just how serious China takes the challenges that others are unnecessarily sending its way.

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It’s Official: ‘Britain’s Democracy Now At Risk’

It’s not just campaigners saying it any more: democracy is officially at risk, according to parliament’s own digital, culture, media and sport committee.

The Duran

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Via True Publica, authored by Jessica Garland – Electoral Reform Society:


Britain’s main campaign rules were drawn up in the late 1990s, before social media and online campaigning really existed. This has left the door wide open to disinformation, dodgy donations and foreign interference in elections.

There is a real need to close the loopholes when it comes to the online Wild West.

Yet in this year’s elections, it was legitimate voters who were asked to identify themselves, not those funnelling millions into political campaigns through trusts, or those spreading fake news.

The government trialled mandatory voter ID in five council areas in May. In these five pilot areas alone about 350 people were turned away from polling stations for not having their papers with them — and they didn’t return. In other words, they were denied their vote.

Yet last year, out of more than 45 million votes cast across the country, there were just 28 allegations of personation (pretending to be someone else at the polling station), the type of fraud voter ID is meant to tackle.

Despite the loss of 350 votes, the pilots were branded a success by the government. Yet the 28 allegations of fraud (and just one conviction) are considered such a dire threat that the government is willing to risk disenfranchising many more legitimate voters to try to address it. The numbers simply don’t add up.

Indeed, the fact-checking website FullFact noted that in the Gosport pilot, 0.4 per cent of voters did not vote because of ID issues. That’s a greater percentage than the winning margin in at least 14 constituencies in the last election. Putting up barriers to democratic engagement can have a big impact. In fact, it can swing an election.

In the run-up to the pilots, the Electoral Reform Society and other campaigners warned that the policy risked disenfranchising the most marginalised groups in society.

The Windrush scandal highlights exactly the sort of problems that introducing stricter forms of identity could cause: millions of people lack the required documentation. It’s one of the reasons why organisations such as the Runnymede Trust are concerned about these plans.

The Electoral Commission has now published a report on the ID trials, which concludes that “there is not yet enough evidence to fully address concerns” on this front.

The small number of pilots, and a lack of diversity, meant that sample sizes were too small to conclude anything about how the scheme would affect various demographic groups. Nor can the pilots tell us about the likely impact of voter ID in a general election, where the strain on polling staff would be far greater and a much broader cross-section of electors turns out to vote.

The Electoral Reform Society, alongside 22 organisations, campaigners and academics, has now called on the constitution minister to halt moves to impose this policy. The signatories span a huge cross-section of society, including representatives of groups that could be disproportionately impacted by voter ID, from Age UK to Liberty and from the British Youth Council to the Salvation Army and the LGBT Foundation.

Voters know what our democratic priorities should be: ensuring that elections are free from the influence of big donors. Having a secure electoral register. Providing balanced media coverage. Transparency online.

We may be little wiser as a result of the government’s voter ID trials. Yet we do know where the real dangers lie in our politics.

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Corrupt Robert Mueller’s despicable Paul Manafort trial nears end (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 79.

Alex Christoforou

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Paul Manafort’s legal team rested its case on Tuesday without calling a single witness. This sets the stage for closing arguments before the judge hands the case to jurors for a verdict.

Manafort’s defense opted to call no witnesses, choosing instead to rely on the team’s cross-examination of government witnesses including a very devious Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime deputy, and several accountants, bookkeepers and bankers who had financial dealings with Manafort.

Closing arguments are expected on Wednesday. Jurors may begin deliberating shortly after receiving their final instructions from judge Ellis.

Manafort case has nothing to do with Mueller’s ‘Trump-Russia collusion witch-hunt’ as the former DC lobbyist is accused of defrauding banks to secure loans and hiding overseas bank accounts and income from U.S. tax authorities.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III denied a defense motion to acquit Manafort on the charges because prosecutors hadn’t proved their case.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the circus trial of Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, and how crooked cop Robert Mueller is using all his power to lean on Manafort, so as to conjure up something illegal against US President Donald Trump.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Zerohedge

Prosecutors allege he dodged taxes on millions of dollars made from his work for a Ukrainian political party, then lied to obtain bank loans when cash stopped flowing from the project.

The courtroom was sealed for around two hours Tuesday morning for an unknown reason, reopening around 11:30 a.m. with Manafort arriving around 10 minutes later.

The decision to rest their case without calling any witnesses follows a denial by Judge T.S. Ellis III to acquit Manafort after his lawyers tried to argue that the special counsel had failed to prove its case at the federal trial.

The court session began at approximately 11:45 a.m.:

“Good afternoon,” began defense attorney Richard Westling, who corrected himself and said, “Good morning.”

“I’m as surprised as you are,” Judge Ellis responded.

Ellis then heard brief argument from both sides on the defense’s motion for acquittal, focusing primarily on four counts related to Federal Savings Bank.

Federal Savings Bank was aware of the status of Paul Manafort’s finances,” Westling argued. “They came to the loans with an intent of doing business with Mr. Manafort.”

Prosecutor Uzo Asonye fired back, saying that that even if bank chairman Steve Calk overlooked Manafort’s financial woes, it would still be a crime to submit fraudulent documents to obtain the loans.

“Steve Calk is not the bank,” Asonye argued, adding that while Caulk may have “had a different motive” — a job with the Trump administration — “I’m not really sure there’s evidence he knew the documents were false.”

Ellis sided with prosecutors.

The defense makes a significant argument about materiality, but in the end, I think materiality is an issue for the jury,” he said, adding. “That is true for all the other counts… those are all jury issues.”

Once that exchange was over, Manafort’s team was afforded the opportunity to present their case, to which lead attorney Kevin Downing replied “The defense rests.

Ellis then began to question Manafort to ensure he was aware of the ramifications of that decision, to which the former Trump aide confirmed that he did not wish to take the witness stand.

Manafort, in a dark suit and white shirt, stood at the lectern from which his attorneys have questioned witnesses, staring up at the judge. Ellis told Manafort he had a right to testify, though if he chose not to, the judge would tell jurors to draw no inference from that. – WaPo

Ellis asked Manafort four questions – his amplified voice booming through the courtroom:

Had Manafort discussed the decision with his attorney?

“I have, your honor,” Manafort responded, his voice clear.

Was he satisfied with their advice?

“I am, your honor,” Manafort replied.

Had he decided whether he would testify?

“I have decided,” Manafort said.

“Do you wish to testify?” Ellis finally asked.

“No, sir,” Manafort responded.

And with that, Manafort returned to his seat.

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One more step toward COMPLETE de-dollarization

Over the past several months, sitting here in Moscow, it has become increasingly obvious that while the US Dollar is unquestionably the world’s leading and liquid reserve currency, it comes with an ever increasing high price (of sovereignty and FX) if you are not the USA.

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I have opined and written about the trend towards de-dollarization before, but with the latest US –Turkish spat it has hit the wallets, mattresses and markets of a number of countries, be they aligned with Washington or not. One thing they all have in common was that in this recent era of low cost available money, many happily fed at the US dollar trough.

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This serves as a further albeit loud example to many nations for the need to diversify to an extent away from the greenback, or risk being caught up in its volatile, sudden and unpredictably risky increasingly politicized directions.

The Dollar and the geopolitical winds from Washington are today as never before openly being used as policy, which can be called the “carrot and stick”, a distinctly Pavlovian approach. Sadly, few if any can make out where or what the carrot is in this recent US worldview branding.

Tariffs, sanctions, pressured exchange rates, the Federal Reserve loosening or tightening, trade agreements and laws ignored or simply trashed… there is a lot going on which seems to democratically affect America’s allies as well as those on Washington’s politically popular and dramatic “poo-poo” list.

Just now from a press conference in Turkey, I watched Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov say that through the actions shown by the US, the role of the US dollar as a secure global reserve currency for free trade will diminish as more countries switch to national currencies for international trade.

He clearly spoke for many nations when he said; “It will make more and more countries that are not even affected by US sanctions go away from the dollar and rely on more reliable, contractual partners in terms of currency use.” Putting the situation in a nutshell he went on to say “I have already said this about sanctions: they are illegal, they undermine all principles of global trade and principles approved by UN decisions, under which unilateral measures of economic duress are unlawful.”

Turkey, a long-standing NATO ally and a key line of western defense during the long cold war years fully agreed with his Russian counterpart. The Turkish foreign minister Mr. Cavosoglu openly warned that US sanctions or trade embargoes can and are being unilaterally imposed against any country at any time if they do not toe DC’s political line.

He said at the same press conference; “Today, sanctions are imposed on Turkey, and tomorrow they can be used against any other European state. If the United States wants to maintain respect in the international arena, then it is necessary for it to be respectful of the interests of other countries.”

What is happening in Turkey is symptomatic of the developed and emerging markets globally. When trillions of dollars of newly issued lucre was up for grabs, thanks to several developed country central banks, it was comparatively easy for governments and companies just like Turkey’s to borrow funds denominated in dollars and not their national currencies.

Turkey has relied on foreign-currency debt more than most EM’s. Corporate, financial and other debt denominated mostly in dollars, approximates close to 70% of it’s economy. Therefore as the Turkish lira plunges, it is very costly for those companies to repay their dollar-denominated loans, and even now it is patently clear many will not.

The concern rattling around the underbelly of the global markets is what can be reasonably expected for assets and economies that were inflated by cheap debt, the United States included. All this points not so much to a banking crisis as has happened eight years ago, but a systemic financial market crisis.

This is a new one, and I doubt if any QE, QT, NIRPs, or ZIRPs will make much of a difference, despite the rocket-high equity markets the US has been displaying.

One financial trader I spoke to, whom I have known since the early 1980’s (and I thought him ancient then) muttered to me “we’re gettin’ into the ecstasy stage, nothing but the high matters, everything else including the VIX is seen as boring denial, and not the warning tool it is. Better start loading up on gold.”

Meanwhile, de-dollarization is ongoing in Russia and is carefully studied by a host of countries, especially as the Russian government has not yet finished selling off US debt; it still has just a few billion to go. The Russian Finance Minister A. Siluanov said this past Sunday that Russia would continue decreasing holdings of Treasuries in response to sanctions.

The finance minister went on to say that, Russia is also considering distancing itself from using the US dollar for international trade, calling it an unreliable, conditional and hence risky tool for payments.

Between March and May this year, Russia’s US debt holdings were sold down by $81 billion, which is 84% of its total US debt holdings, and while I don’t know the current figure it is certain to be even less.

The latest round of tightening sanctions screws against Russia were imposed by the State Department under a chemical and biological warfare law and should be going into effect on August 22. This in spite of the fact that no proof was ever shown, not under any established national or international law, or with any of several global biochemical conventions, not even in the ever entertaining court of public opinion.

Whatever Russia may continue to do in its relationship with US debt or the dollar, the fact of the matter is that Russia is not a heavyweight in this particular financial arena, and the direct effects of Russia’s responses are negligible. However, the indirect effects are huge as they reflect what many countries (allied or unallied with the US) see as Washington’s overbearing and more than slightly unipolar trade and geopolitical advantage quests, be they Mexico, Canada, the EU, or anyone else on any hemisphere of this globe.

Some of the potential indirect effects over time may be a similar sell-off or even gradual reduction of US debt exposure from China or any one of several dozens of countries deciding to reduce their exposure to US debt by reducing their purchases and waiting for existing Treasuries to mature. In either case, the trend is there and is not going away anytime soon.

When Russia clears its books of US dollarized debt, then who will be next in actively diversifying their US debt risk? Then what might be the fate of the US Dollar, and what value then will be the international infusions to finance America’s continually growing debt, or fuel the funds needed for further market growth? Value and the energy of money has no politics, it ultimately trends towards areas where there is a secure business dynamic. That being said, looks like we are now and will be living through the most interesting of disruptive times.

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