Posts Tagged ‘Belt and Road’

Trump is disarming America in the face-off against China

December 3, 2018

As the United States and China face off, President Trump seems determined to disarm his own country — to undermine our greatest strengths.

I’m not talking about tariffs or trade rules, soybeans or steel, or whatever else Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping jawboned about Saturday in Buenos Aires as they negotiated a 90-day truce in their commercial disputes.

I’m talking about something more fundamental. Long after the truce expires, China will be promoting its authoritarian model throughout the world as a superior alternative to Western democracy.

In that competition, China boasts that one-party rule enables long-term planning and follow-through. It can complete huge infrastructure projects without pesky citizen opposition or time-sucking environmental studies. It can offer loans to small-country dictators without bothering about corruption, transparency or human rights. Its huge internal market, shielded from outside competitors, nurtures homegrown companies. Its vast storehouse of data on every citizen, collected without permission or respect for privacy, gives its companies an invaluable resource.

By Fred Hiatt
Washington Post

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Nov. 9, 2017. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

I’m skeptical about some of those claims. Central planning has not generally been associated with efficiency, and one-man rule can enable massive mistakes as well as massive achievements.

But China’s record of development over the past four decades is astonishing — in fact, unmatched in human history in the sheer number of people raised out of poverty. So let’s assume it can continue; let’s stipulate the strengths they claim. How does the United States counter?

One comparative advantage, historically, has been the depth and quality of America’s alliances. A visiting American once chided a Chinese leader for his country’s liaisons with unsavory regimes. “What do you expect?” the leader replied. “You’ve taken all the good ones.”

If Trump had set out to squander that advantage, it’s hard to see how he could have done better. His first move was to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have united the strongest economies on both sides of the Pacific Ocean in a covenant dedicated to the rule of law, fair treatment of workers and open investment.

Since then, he has communicated to Japan, South Korea and others an entirely transactional view of the world: Pay more or be abandoned. Nations desperate for a bulwark against Chinese bullying no longer know where to turn.

Another historical advantage has been America’s ability to attract and integrate talent from abroad. Countless brilliant students have chosen to come to our universities; many of them go on to found successful companies, make groundbreaking discoveries and contribute in other ways.

Trump has done everything he can to squander that advantage, too, from his first-week travel ban that posted a virtual Do Not Enter sign on our borders, to his continual demeaning of foreigners and immigrants, to his refusal to engage seriously in reform of immigration laws. The United States remains a magnet, but it is being tarnished.

Third, strange though this may sound right now, we benefit from the strength of our government and those who serve in it, both civilian and military. They have shown that a democracy can function competently with an incorruptible tax service, a highly knowledgeable diplomatic corps and more.

Trump has, with Congress, funded the military generously and put it in good hands. But he has shown contempt for the civil service and its leadership, and morale in many agencies is drooping. Almost halfway through his term, barely half of key government positions are filled — 378 of 704, according to a tracker maintained jointly by The Post and the Partnership for Public Service. Trump disparages the “deep state” and makes nominations — his personal physician to run the 377,000-employee Department of Veterans Affairs, for example — that mock the mission.

That contempt underlies Trump’s most damaging sabotage of what should be America’s greatest comparative strength: its fidelity to democratic values.

Even if China continued to boast shinier airports and faster trains than the United States , many people in the world would prefer to live where they can speak freely, choose their leaders, worship whatever god they prefer. China, rounding up Muslims in concentration camps and torturing lawyers who defend the rule of law, presents an easy foil.

Yet Trump cedes this advantage, too. He embraces dictators who murder imagined enemies, smears the press as unpatriotic and deceitful, spits on the independent judiciary, threatens to wield the law against personal enemies and conflates his private interests with the public welfare. Rather than offering a contrast to the authoritarians of the world, he seems to model himself on them.

Alliances, diversity, governance, liberty: These should be America’s aces. Until we again have a leader who values them, we will be ceding to China the upper hand.


CIA says crown prince messaged key aide around time of Khashoggi murder – report

December 1, 2018

Wall Street Journal reports excerpts from intelligence assessment which says Saudi royal sent at least 11 text messages in hours surrounding killing to man who oversaw hit squad

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on October 23, 2018. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on October 23, 2018. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 text messages to his closest adviser, said to have overseen the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, in the hours preceding and following the journalist’s murder, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing excerpts from a highly classified CIA assessment.

The Saudi royal sent the messages to Saud al-Qahtani, who is thought to have supervised the 15-man team that killed Khashoggi. The content of the electronic messages is unknown, the newspaper reported.

The assessment also notes that the prince told associates in August 2017 that “we could possibly lure [Khashoggi] outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” if the dissident journalist living in the United States could not be persuaded to return to the kingdom, The Hill website reported.

The Journal report noted that from the excerpts it is unclear whether the comment came directly from Prince Mohammed, or was instead a description of his communications.

In this image made from a March 2018 video provided by Metafora Production, Jamal Khashoggi speaks during an interview at an undisclosed location. (Metafora Production via AP)

Although the excerpts do not directly state that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the crown prince, the US intelligence agency apparently had “medium-to-high” confidence that the crown prince had targeted the dissident writer and to the point of “probably ordering his death,” the Journal reported.

US President Donald Trump has said it may never be known who was responsible for the killing, and in public comments — and a long and unusual statement last week — he reinforced the United States’ long-standing alliance with the Saudis. Trump has praised a pending arms deal with the kingdom that he says will provide the US with jobs and lucrative payments, though some outside assessments say the economic benefits are exaggerated.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Washington’s continued strong ties with Riyadh despite Khashoggi’s murder, and denied reports linking the Saudi crown prince to the killing.

“I do believe I’ve read every piece of intelligence unless it’s come in in the last few hours … There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi,” Pompeo told reporters.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks up to the microphones to speak to members of the media after leaving a closed-door meeting about Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for The Washington Post and had been critical of Prince Mohammed, was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get marriage documents on October 2, where he was killed and reportedly dismembered. His body has not yet been found.

Saudi Arabia initially said Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate before shifting its account of what happened amid Turkish intelligence leaks. Riyadh is now seeking the death penalty for five members of the hit squad in a move that appeared to be aimed at appeasing international outrage over the killing and distancing the killers and their operation from the crown prince.

Saudi prosecutors maintain that the 15-man team sent to Istanbul exceeded its authority when the lead negotiator in the team decided to kill Khashoggi for refusing orders to return.

World leaders on Friday welcomed Prince Mohammed at the G20 summit, showing he was no pariah less than two months after the killing.



CIA Intercepts Underpin Assessment Saudi Crown Prince Targeted Khashoggi — Putin, Xi Jinping offer support

December 1, 2018

Conclusion that Mohammad ‘probably ordered’ killing relies in part on 11 messages he sent to adviser who oversaw hit squad around time it killed journalist

Image result for Putin with MBS, photos, G20

How did the CIA conclude that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? WSJ’s Warren P. Strobel has an exclusive look at the secretive evidence behind the assessment. Photo: Reuters

WASHINGTON—Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser, who oversaw the team that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October, according to a highly classified CIA assessment.

The Saudi leader also in August 2017 had told associates that if his efforts to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia weren’t successful, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” according to the assessment, a…

Mr. Khashoggi, a critic of the kingdom’s leadership who lived in Virginia and wrote columns for the Washington Post, was killed by Saudi operatives on Oct. 2 shortly after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he sought papers needed to marry his Turkish fiancée.

Excerpts of the Central Intelligence Agency’s assessment, which cites electronic intercepts and other clandestine information, were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The CIA last month concluded that Prince Mohammed had likely ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, and President Trump and leaders in Congress were briefed on intelligence gathered by the spy agency. Mr. Trump afterward questioned the CIA’s conclusion about the prince, saying “maybe he did; and maybe he didn’t.”

The previously unreported excerpts reviewed by the Journal state that the CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that Prince Mohammed “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.” It added: “To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order.”

The electronic messages sent by Prince Mohammed were to Saud al-Qahtani, according to the CIA. Mr. Qahtani supervised the 15-man team that killed Mr. Khashoggi and, during the same period, was also in direct communication with the team’s leader in Istanbul, the assessment says. The content of the messages between Prince Mohammed and Mr. Qahtani isn’t known, the document says. It doesn’t say in what form the messages were sent.

It is unclear from the excerpts whether the 2017 comments regarding luring Mr. Khashoggi to a third country cited in the assessment are from Prince Mohammed directly, or from someone else describing his remarks.

Saudi Arabia has acknowledged Mr. Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate. But it has denied Prince Mohammed had any role and blamed the operation on rogue operatives. The Saudi Public Prosecutor’s office last month announced charges against 11 Saudis in connection with Mr. Khashoggi’s death, saying it would seek the death penalty in five cases. The office didn’t release their names.

The U.S. Treasury Department in mid-November slapped sanctions on 17 Saudis whom it linked to the killing. But Mr. Trump, in a statement days later, said he intended to maintain strong relations with the crown prince because of Saudi Arabia’s opposition to Iran, its investments in the U.S. and its role in the oil market.

The Trump administration’s posture has angered many in Congress, and the intercepts and intelligence gathered by the CIA may complicate Mr. Trump’s efforts to maintain relations with Prince Mohammed, the de facto leader one of the world’s biggest oil producers. The two are among the world’s leaders meeting this weekend in Buenos Aires for a summit of Group of 20 nations.

Earlier this week, the Senate voted to begin consideration of a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for a Saudi-led military coalition fighting against Houthi rebels in Yemen, with senators venting their frustration over Mr. Trump’s reluctance to hold Prince Mohammed responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, seen here in London on Sept. 29, days before he was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, seen here in London on Sept. 29, days before he was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. PHOTO: MIDDLE EAST MONITOR/REUTERS

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with senators Wednesday to try to forestall the resolution, has said that he had read every piece of U.S. intelligence regarding Mr. Khashoggi’s killing and that the agency didn’t find a so-called smoking gun. “There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters.

The judgment on Prince Mohammed’s likely culpability, the CIA assessment says, is based on the crown prince’s personal focus on Mr. Khashoggi, his tight control over the Saudi operatives sent to Istanbul to kill him, “and his authorizing some of the same operators to violently target other opponents.”

Mr. Qahtani has led Prince Mohammed’s efforts to crack down on dissent internally and abroad. He is one of the 17 sanctioned by the Treasury.

After this article’s initial publication online, a Saudi official, responding to an earlier request for comment to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said, “HRH the Crown Prince communicates regularly with various senior officials within the Royal Court on different matters. At no time did HRH correspond with any Saudi officials in any government entity on harming Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen. We continue to categorically reject any accusations based on speculations.”

A CIA spokesman declined to comment on the report. A White House official said Friday the White House doesn’t comment on intelligence matters. Mr. Qahtani didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump last week said the CIA only had “feelings” about Prince Mohammed’s involvement, a statement that irked current and former U.S. intelligence officials. U.S. intelligence assessments are rarely black-and-white, often relying on fragments of information gathered clandestinely.

The highly classified CIA assessment says that the Saudi team sent to kill Mr. Khashoggi was assembled from Prince Mohammed’s top security units in the Royal Guard and in an organization run by Mr. Qahtani, the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Royal Court, the Saudi royal court’s media department.

“We assess it is highly unlikely this team of operators…carried out the operation without Muhammed bin Salman’s authorization,” it says.

The document says that Mr. Qahtani “explicitly requested the Crown Prince’s permission when he pursued other sensitive operations in 2015, which reflects the Crown Prince’s command and control expectations.”

Mr. Qahtani was fired by King Salman, the crown prince’s father, in the aftermath of the murder. But Mr. Qahtani informally continued some of his former functions as royal-court adviser, such as issuing directives to local journalists and brokering meetings for the crown prince, according to people familiar with the matter.

A U.S. official said that the U.S. government has recently developed information that under Mr. Qahtani, personnel from the Center for Studies and Media Affairs have for two years engaged in the kidnapping—sometimes overseas—and detention and harsh interrogation of Saudis whom the monarchy perceives as a threat. The interrogations have led to repeated physical harm to the detainees, the official said.

The CIA assessment said that since 2015 Prince Salman “has ordered Qahtani and CSMARC to target his opponents domestically and abroad, sometimes violently.”

Five employees of the center were involved in the Khashoggi operation, the assessment says. All five were also involved in abusive treatment of prominent Saudis detained at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in the fall of 2017 as part of what the Saudi government described as an anticorruption drive, it says.

Write to Warren P. Strobel at

Appeared in the December 1, 2018, print edition as ‘CIA Intercepted Saudi Prince’s Messages.’

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Image result for Putin with MBS, photos, G20

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attend the G20 leaders summit, November 30, 2018


Chinese President Xi Jinping offers support to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite outcry over Khashoggi killing

US slams harmful China trade policies, threatens auto tariffs

November 29, 2018

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday slammed Beijing for failing to offer “meaningful reform” on aggressive trade policies that harm US workers and industry, and threatened tariffs on Chinese autos.

The latest trade threat against China comes days before President Donald Trump is due to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a G20 summit in Argentina to defuse the ongoing trade conflict between the world’s top two economic powers.

In this May 1, 2018, file photo, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer speaks at the 9th China Business Conference at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Instead, Lighthizer’s statement escalated the dispute further, saying: “China’s aggressive, state-directed industrial policies are causing severe harm to US workers and manufacturers.”

And while talks continue, “As of yet, China has not come to the table with proposals for meaningful reform,” he said.

The country’s policies on auto tariffs are “especially egregious,” taxing US cars at more than double the rate it charges other countries.

“At the president’s direction, I will examine all available tools to equalize the tariffs applied to automobiles,” he said.

Trump already has imposed steep punitive tariffs on about half of the Chinese goods imported into the US market each year, and has threatened to target the remaining $267 billion as well — which would hit Apple iPhones and laptops produced in China.

Earlier this month, Xi and Trump discussed the US-China trade conflict during a phone conversation that Trump called “very good.”

Xi said he was “very happy” to talk to Trump again.

But tensions came to the fore again at a summit when Xi and US Vice President Mike Pence delivered competing speeches criticizing each other’s trade and investment practices.

Xi lashed out at “America First” trade protectionism, while Pence warned smaller countries not to be seduced by China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure program.

Trump heads to Buenos Aires on Thursday for a Group of 20 summit that is confronted with increasingly dire warnings, by the International Monetary Fund among others, of the potential harm faced by the world economy from the president’s trade wars.

Trump is due to meet Xi for a working dinner at the summit that runs Friday and Saturday.

Economic adviser Larry Kudlow told a White House press conference that “the president said there is a good possibility that we can make a deal and he is open to it.”

Despite Kudlow’s repeated insistence that Trump sees cause for optimism, he also underlined the tough conditions that the administration wants to impose on Beijing.

“China should change its practices and come into the community of responsible trading nations,” Kudlow said, stressing that he considers the US economy in far better shape than China’s to weather a prolonged trade war.

“We are in a position to deal with it and handle it very well,” he said.

China will have to give way on “fairness and reciprocity,” he said, warning that US concerns over intellectual property theft and China’s forced technology transfers “must be solved.”


China: IMF pressure won’t weaken Pakistan’s CPEC commitment

November 28, 2018

Global Times report by Zamir Ahmed Awan states that Pressure and challenges from the IMF regarding debt woes over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) won’t compromise Pakistan’s commitment to the CPEC.

(AFP photo)


Pakistan is experiencing a deep economic crisis, and the nation is facing a burden of foreign debt of $95 billion.


Overseas Pakistanis have been sending their earnings to their family members in Pakistan, which for a long time was a good source of foreign exchange earnings for the government of Pakistan. But due to mismanagement, poor planning and corruption, these remittances have been decreasing over time.

Also, the Pakistani rupee has weakened against the strengthening US dollar, resulting in a decline in Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves. This, along with the difficulty Pakistan faces in repaying its debts, has worsened the country’s economic problems. These led Pakistan to seek a bailout package from the IMF.

The IMF team has been in Pakistan recently and negotiations started over a bailout, which included many conditions, including details of CPEC agreements. Although Pakistan was in dire need of financial assistance and could accept some of the IMF’s monetary conditions, it could not compromise regarding the CPEC.

Pakistan’s involvement in the CPEC is backed by the whole country, and this won’t change even if there is a new government. The CPEC is an essential element of Pakistan’s national strategy, and we believe it is the only way forward for Pakistan. So the IMF’s pressure can only prompt Pakistan to strengthen its ties with China. We are already good and trustworthy friends.

The US has used the World Bank and IMF as tools to exert its political hegemony in the past and it still does so. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has previously warned against any IMF bailout for Pakistan that would pay off Chinese loans to Pakistan. Categorically, they asked not to fund any project that is part of the CPEC or backed by China. They wanted us to guarantee there would not be any transfer of funds to China.

It is obvious that the US does not accept China’s rise and is trying to restrain it. The US will use all necessary means to put pressure on China and anyone entering into a partnership with it. The US aims to pressurize Pakistan as a way to limit China’s further economic development. But Pakistan enjoys a very special relationship with China and wants to take this friendship to new heights.

China has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is helping developing countries to improve their infrastructure. The bank works on the basis of merit and without any political prejudice. India offers an example of this. India has been skeptical about the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) and has had a sometimes difficult relationship with China, but India has already been one of the beneficiaries of AIIB loans. Many other developing countries have received AIIB loans and are satisfied with its policies.

It is time to establish an Asian Monetary Fund in order to help developing economies based on merit only, without any political motives. The IMF is bound by US influence and functions as an economic wing of US foreign policy. Many developing countries have been victims of harsh IMF terms and want to get rid of IMF control. I think China has the experience and resources to come up with new initiatives, and the developing world would appreciate and support it.

There is a visible divide in the world, between those who are pro-globalization and those who believe in protectionism. Creation of a new funding institution would put China in a position of global moral leadership. Developing countries would extend their support for globalization and Chinese initiatives like the BRI, free from external monetary coercion. Pakistan, being an all-weather, time-tested friend, will stand with China at all times.

The author is a non-resident fellow with the Center for China and Globalization and a professor at the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Newspaper headline: Pressure won’t weaken Pakistan’s CPEC commitment

Money and Muscle Pave China’s Way to Global Power

November 27, 2018

Beijing is leveraging its commercial and military might to redraw the terms of trade, diplomacy and security, challenging the liberal democratic order.

Under a merciless sun, a dozen Chinese construction workers survey an empty expanse of desert, preparing to transform it into the heart of a new Egyptian capital.

The workers are employed by China’s largest construction conglomerate through a $3 billion contract from an Egyptian company, with financing from Chinese banks. They are erecting a thicket of 21 skyscrapers, one as tall as the Empire State Building.

Image result for xi jinping, waving, photos

The presence of Chinese labor and largess on the sands of Egypt is a testament to China’s global aspirations. After centuries of weakness and isolation, China is reclaiming what its leaders regard as its natural destiny — supremacy in Asia, and respect around the planet. Through the ventures in Egypt and elsewhere, China is exploiting its formidable economic clout to expand its geopolitical influence, directing investment to woo governments that control vital assets.

A traditional ally of the United States, Egypt controls the Suez Canal, a vital shipping passage where a threat to access could impede China’s movement around the globe. In constructing a central piece of the futuristic capital, China is ingratiating itself with the canal’s ultimate gatekeeper, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, while rendering his grandest visions dependent on friendly relations with Beijing.

China’s reach for commercial expansion along with diplomatic influence guides an array of Chinese undertakings, from rail networks and highways taking shape across Africa and Latin America to ports and power stations being constructed in Eastern Europe and South Asia. In Southeast Asia, Chinese entrepreneurs are engineering a crop of web companies just as China projects growing military power in the South China Sea.

Little more than a decade ago, China’s forays beyond its borders were mainly about bringing home energy, minerals and other resources, often from countries forsaken by the West as pariah states like Iran, Sudan and Myanmar. In foreign policy, China pursued a sole obsession — peeling off diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its territory. Even as China skirmished with neighbors over contested islands, it accepted the dominance of the United States Navy.

Those days are over.

Under the muscular leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has cast off previous restraints, rejecting deference to an American-dominated global order as an impediment to national revival. In matters of commerce and national security, China is competing with the United States, even in traditional American spheres of influence.

From a Chinese perspective, this reordering is merely an overdue reversion to historical reality as Beijing demands consideration commensurate with its stature.

In the telling of the ruling Communist Party, China’s modern history is the story of Chinese mastery degraded by colonial depravity. China is the land that invented the compass, gunpowder, paper and printing, amassing stupendous wealth while Europe was still backward. Then came centuries of humiliation — Britain’s profiting from forcing opium on the populace, Japanese brutality, demeaning lectures about human rights from hypocritical Americans. Now, China is intent on securing its own fate.

“China wants to be a great power in the world,” says Paul Heer, a former chief national intelligence officer in East Asia for the United States, who now teaches at George Washington University. “They think the rest of the world owes them recognition, and a return to what the Chinese see as their rightful place.”

Nowhere are China’s designs clearer than in Asia. China has overtaken the United States as the leading trading partner with Asian nations while pushing back against American naval primacy in the South China Sea. China is disrupting American alliances in the region, from Japan to Singapore to Australia.

Beyond its backyard, China’s ambitions are boundless. It celebrates its Belt and Road Initiative, a vast collection of infrastructure projects around the world, as the means of recreating the Silk Road, the trails navigated in ancient times by merchants carrying goods between Asia and Europe.

“Xi Jinping is leading a China that has influences in all corners of the globe,” says Zhang Baohui, a professor of international relations at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. “The 2008 financial crisis in the West was the turning point for China. Beijing started to embrace a triumphal mind-set, and pursued global leadership with new confidence on the back of the West’s perceived flaws.”

China’s assertive role in world affairs is grounded in its domestic needs. It is at once spreading into new markets, generating fresh demand for its factory wares just as growth slows at home. It is projecting military strength and influence when the legitimacy of the Communist Party rests on bolstering economic fortunes and international esteem.

Among its neighbors, China’s rise provokes fears that an unwanted piece of history is being resurrected — the old tribute system that cemented China’s status as the Middle Kingdom. For centuries, other nations bowed in recognition of China’s imperial might, bestowing gifts on the emperor and accepting vassal status to secure trade and peace.

Beijing now confronts accusations that it is directing investments to ensnare partners in debt traps as a means of seizing their assets. Last year, Sri Lanka handed control of a port to a Chinese venture after failing to pay back Chinese loans. Malaysia recently canceled a pair of projects involving Chinese financing. Faced with pushback abroad and concerns about mounting debts at home, China is reassessing the breadth and cost of its global ventures, although the scope remains vast.

For the Western powers whose order has prevailed since the end of World War II, China poses a foundational challenge. The United States and its victorious allies erected institutions that were — at least rhetorically — designed to keep the peace by promoting trade and fair competition. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have dispensed aid with conditions, though frequently drawing accusations that they have failed to comply with their standards on protecting human rights and the rule of law.

China’s investments come with no such strictures. China bankrolls autocrats who control geopolitically valuable real estate. China demands only that its companies gain a piece of the action while recipients eschew criticizing Beijing.

China’s challenge to the Western-dominated order is amplified by the reality that its primary architect, the United States, is now led by an avowed nationalist. As President Trump wages a trade war and derides international cooperation, he has generated doubts about the perseverance of the liberal democratic philosophy the United States has long championed.

Mr. Xi has sought to fill the vacuum. He has cast himself as the leader of the rules-based international trading system, even as China faces accusations of stealing intellectual property, subsidizing state-owned companies and dumping products on world markets at unfairly low prices.

“What’s happening in the United States gives China this golden opportunity to portray itself as the defender of the international order,” says Jessica Chen Weiss, a China expert at Cornell University.

Threatening Competition and Cohesion

If the new Silk Road is in part about moving goods from Chinese factories to customers in the rest of the world, the trail seems certain to pass through Central and Eastern Europe.

Already, Chinese investment has turned the Greek port of Piraeus into the busiest shipping hub on the Mediterranean, a gateway to the rest of the European Union, with its 500 million consumers. China has promised to help finance the construction of a high-speed rail link from the Serbian capital, Belgrade, to the Hungarian capital, Budapest. It has also pledged to turn the region into a transportation corridor laced with highways, airports, rail, ports and power stations.

This reality frames the proceedings of the “16-plus-1” group, an economic bloc that China has forged with 16 Central and Eastern European nations. Its latest summit meeting convenes on a drizzly day in July in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. Officials from the 16 governments — among them the newest, least-affluent members of the European Union — pose for photos with the delegation from China, the one nation wealthy and ambitious enough to finance their visions.

Leaders in the rest of the European Union construe the group as a stealth assault on the rules and cohesion of their bloc. In offering financing for infrastructure projects, China has positioned itself as an alternative to European Union development funds.

Europe’s money comes with rules protecting labor and the environment, while requiring that projects be awarded to companies on the basis of competitive bidding to ensure fair competition. China tends to distribute its funds with far simpler demands: Chinese companies must gain work, free of competition, while Beijing secures an international ally.

European Union officials are especially worried that Chinese money could weaken the pressure Europe is applying on members that have been breaching democratic norms. Europe has threatened to withhold development funds from Poland and Hungary as punishment for their turns toward authoritarianism. Both have packed courts with government-friendly judges and menaced the press.

“It’s a mutually beneficial cooperation based on mutual trust without any kind of attempts to interfere into domestic issues,” Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, says in an interview before the summit meeting in Sofia.

Bulgaria has high hopes for Chinese investment on highway projects linking its ports. The Bulgarian government has broken with other European Union members in declining to join international statements condemning China’s human rights record. As Bulgarian officials prepare at the gathering to meet China’s premier, Li Keqiang, they plan to stick to business.

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China hopes for trade war solution at G20 Xi-Trump talks

November 23, 2018

China said Friday it hopes US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping can find a solution to the trade war when they meet at the G20 summit next week.

The talks in Argentina come as the two countries have failed to reach any agreement to resolve a dispute that escalated after Trump slapped huge tariffs on Chinese goods, prompting tit-for-tat responses.

“We hope that both sides can work together on the basis of mutual respect, balance, honesty, and mutual benefit and finally find a solution to solve the problem,” Wang Shouwen, Chinese vice minister of commerce, said at a press briefing in Beijing.

© AFP | Washington and Beijing have failed to reach any agreement to resolve a dispute that escalated after Trump slapped huge tariffs on Chinese goods, prompting tit-for-tat responses

Want said global trade faces a “complex situation”, with “unilateralism and protectionism on the rise” creating uncertainty for economic development.

China hopes the G20 will uphold its backing of multilateralism at the summit, which will take place from November 30 to December 1 in Buenos Aires.

Beijing also backs reform of the World Trade Organization to enhance its authority and effectiveness, he said.

Trump said Thursday he was “very prepared” for the meeting with Xi.

Washington has threatened to toughen measures even further if the issue is not resolved before January.

“China wants to make a deal. If we can make a deal, we will,” Trump said.

The United States has imposed punitive tariffs on Chinese goods worth $250 billion per year. In retaliation, China imposed tariffs on $110 billion of US goods.

Earlier this month, Xi and Trump discussed the US-China trade conflict, as well as North Korea’s nuclear programme, during a phone conversation that Trump called “very good”.

Xi said he was “very happy” to talk to Trump again.

But tensions came to the fore again at an APEC summit last weekend, when Xi and US Vice President Mike Pence delivered competing speeches criticising each other’s trade and investment practices.

Xi lashed out at “America First” trade protectionism, while Pence warned smaller countries not to be seduced by China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure programme.


Trump, Xi Signal Readiness for Trade Talks Ahead of G-20 Meeting

November 23, 2018

As Trump scales back America’s involvement in international trade agreements, Xi is using his signature Belt and Road trade and infrastructure program to position himself as a champion of global free trade. The initiative has extended into South America and the Caribbean, as Xi looks to expand China’s influence in the region.

Trump says he is ‘very prepared’ for talks with Chinese leader

China says trade teams ‘in close touch’ ahead of summit

File photo of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany in 2017.   Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have indicated they’re both ready for a highly anticipated meeting at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina next week.

The world’s biggest economies have been engaged in an escalating trade war that is starting to have a greater impact on financial markets and global growth. On Thursday, Trump told reporters that China wants to make a deal “very badly” after his administration placed tariffs on on about $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

China “wants to make a deal and we’re very happy with that,” Trump said. “I’m very prepared, I’ve been preparing for it all my life.”

On Friday in Beijing, top Chinese officials briefed on Xi’s upcoming travels, including the Nov. 30-Dec. 1 G-20 in Buenos Aires where he’ll meet with Trump. Xi’s trip will include stops in Spain, Portugal, and Panama. They didn’t name any officials who would accompany Xi.

Highlights from China’s briefing:

  • China “hopes the Xi-Trump meeting goes smoothly,” Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Chao said.
  • China hopes to meet the U.S. halfway in addressing trade issues, Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen said Friday in Beijing, as Chinese officials briefed on Xi’s upcoming travels. “Chinese and U.S. trade teams have been in close touch,” he said, echoing White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow’s comments last week that they have resumed contact “at all levels.”
  • Wang Shouwen appeared to echo Trump’s line: “We noticed that the U.S. wants to reach an agreement to solve trade frictions with China. China hopes to work with the U.S. to contain disputes.” U.S. trade action hurts China, America and the world, he added.
  • The briefing also included remarks from foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Jun, Vice Minister of Finance Zou Jiayi and central bank Deputy Governor Chen Yulu.

Key Comments on G-20

  • Xi will attend a meeting of BRICS nations and hold bilateral summits with other leaders. China hopes to use the G-20 to reach a practical, open agreement on economic and trade cooperation, pushing all parties to improve policy coordination.
  • China hopes to send a clear signal on supporting a multilateral system of trade and enhance cooperation with its trading partners.
  • China is paying “close attention” to the summit and calls for all parties to uphold equality and mutual respect.
  • The G-20 will agree to a 2020 deal on a digital economy.
  • The bloc agrees the global economy faces downward pressure and rising risks, including a volatile finance market, trade frictions, and weak structural growth. The global economy lacks growth driver.
  • China says reforms on the World Trade Organization should be addressed within the global trade body. Trump has repeatedly said the U.S. hasn’t been treated fairly by the organization.

Latin America

  • China and Spain will chart a new road map for bilateral relations. China and Portugal will sign unspecified deals.
  • China and Argentina will sign a five-year plan for future cooperation, and Beijing will support the country’s efforts to stabilize its finances.
  • China and Panama will sign agreements in the e-commerce sectors and the service trade, and a pact for infrastructure and energy cooperation.
  • While some Latin American countries see rising challenges in an unstable global environment, cooperation between China and the continent won’t change.


  • As Trump scales back America’s involvement in international trade agreements, Xi is using his signature Belt and Road trade and infrastructure program to position himself as a champion of global free trade. The initiative has extended into South America and the Caribbean, as Xi looks to expand China’s influence in the region.
  • Outside of talks with Trump, this trip is a chance for China to bolster ties after its lending practices to poor countries — including Ecuador and Venezuela — fueled concerns that they would become saddled by debt. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence warned countries to avoid becoming indebted to Beijing in a speech last week at APEC in Papua New Guinea.

— With assistance by Miao Han, and Dandan Li


In Race for Global Power, U.S. and China Push Nations to Pick a Side

November 22, 2018

The escalating brinkmanship between the United States and China as they race to quash each other’s global influence is forcing other nations to pick sides between the two superpowers, putting at risk future cooperation on geopolitical threats and a resolution to the economic standoff.

The rivalry, which has reached a new pitch and scope, is now centered on the trade war that President Trump started this year. But tensions have also sharpened over a broad range of diplomatic and military issues, like Taiwan, the South China Sea and economic sanctions on North Korea and Iran.

Image result for china, u.s., flags, pictures

Across the globe, the United States and China are jockeying to build alliances or partnerships and shut out the other power. The hard-nosed competition surfaced over the weekend at an Asian economic forum that pitted Vice President Mike Pence against President Xi Jinping of China. The dispute threatens to disrupt the Group of 20 summit meeting that starts Nov. 30 in Argentina.

The United States again vented its frustration on Tuesday, accusing China of continuing to engage in unfair trade practices despite Mr. Trump’s tariffs. “China fundamentally has not altered its acts, policies and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation, and indeed appears to have taken further unreasonable actions in recent months,” the Office of the United States Trade Representative said in a report.

By  Edward Wong and Alan Rappeport
The New York Times

Image result for Ng Han Guan/Associated Press, China, auto assembly, robots, photos

A robotic assembly line demonstration during an expo in Shanghai this month. China and the United States have been courting other countries to pick a side over their trade dispute.Credit Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Mr. Trump has repeatedly said China “wants to make a deal very badly,” but continues to warn that he will tax nearly all Chinese imports if Beijing does not open its markets to American companies and end its unfair practices.

“China has been ripping off our country for many, many years,” the president told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “And they don’t rip us off with me.”

In Beijing on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, responded to such criticisms by pointing to a paper previously issued by the government that rebutted similar accusations. “It is quite normal to have economic and trade frictions,” he said at a news conference. “The key is to resolve them through dialogue and consultation on the basis of mutual respect, equality and good faith.”

At the economic forum in Papua New Guinea over the weekend, the United States and China openly clashed over trade in their most explosive diplomatic standoff of the Trump administration. Mr. Pence and Mr. Xi each led delegations that sought to corral the other nations in attendance to side with his country.

Image result for Xi Jinping, apec, photos, papua new guinea

Elsewhere, the two nations are forging bilateral and multilateral trade pacts in parallel that limit options for the other. During his visit to the Philippines this week, Mr. Xi signed 29 trade and investment deals, though many were broad and vague.

Some countries are bristling at the economic demands that the two superpowers have made.

Canada’s agriculture minister said Monday that his country could freely enter into formal trade negotiations with China, despite an apparent attempt by the United States to exercise leverage over any such action.

Image result for Mike pence, apec, photo

Vice President Mike Pence facing President Xi Jinping of China at an economic forum over the weekend in Papua New Guinea. The United States and China openly clashed over trade in what was their most explosive diplomatic standoff of the Trump administration. Credit Mick Tsikas/EPA, via Shutterstock

On Tuesday, in a blow to China, the European Union announced a proposed law to coordinate scrutiny of foreign investment in strategic sectors, such as ports and technology.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi are both expected to attend the Group of 20 meeting. While they could come to some mutual understanding, “it is becoming increasingly difficult for both sides to reconcile their competing perspectives,” said Ryan Hass, a China analyst at the Brookings Institution.

“Both countries are becoming entrenched in their narratives and having increasing difficulty finding common ground,” Mr. Hass said. But virtually no country in Asia wants to be exclusively aligned with either power, he added.

On the issue of recognition of Taiwan, China and the United States are pushing nations and private companies. Since 2016, China has campaigned, often with promises of loans and investments, to persuade a small number of nations to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Three Central American countries did so over the last two years, infuriating top American officials, even though the United States cut formal ties with Taiwan in favor of Communist-ruled China in 1979.

American officials are trying to deter nations from taking Chinese loans, often for infrastructure projects, by talking about Beijing’s “debt-trap diplomacy.” In their global propaganda push, they promise that American private investment will flow throughout the world, in part because of a new program to aid businesses with up to $60 billion in loans and loan insurance.

Officials in Washington are also trying to rally Southeast Asian nations to stand firm against Beijing over its expansive territorial claims and military buildup in the disputed South China Sea. Mr. Pence criticized China’s moves as “empire and aggression” in a speech at an annual regional forum last week in Singapore.

China, for its part, has signaled to other nations that they should push back against Mr. Trump on one of his signature foreign policy actions — withdrawing the United States from the nuclear agreement with Iran.

The Obama administration forged the deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program in 2015 with other world powers, including China; backing out of it was one of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises. A top Chinese foreign policy official said in Washington this month that the agreement should “be implemented and observed.” China is continuing to buy oil from Iran, as are some other nations.

China’s moves to strengthen its global standing have received a big boost from Mr. Trump’s denunciations of multilateral institutions, alliances and treaties.

Mr. Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which shook the confidence of Asian nations. After Mr. Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States would leave the Paris climate accord, China has presented itself as the new standard-bearer on addressing climate change. Earlier that year, in a speech in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Xi said China would defend the globalized economy in the face of criticism by Mr. Trump.

Some Trump administration officials are optimistic that the two leaders will emerge from the Group of 20 meeting with the framework of a trade agreement that would reduce America’s bilateral trade deficit with China and protect the intellectual property of American companies who do business there. Treasury Department officials have been in frequent contact with their Chinese counterparts in hopes of building the groundwork for a deal.

However, the latest lurch toward a détente has renewed division among Mr. Trump’s economic team.

This month, Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s top trade adviser, warned that a weak agreement would have the “stench” of Wall Street. In a public rebuke days later, Larry Kudlow, the National Economic Council director, called Mr. Navarro “way off base.” Mr. Navarro’s comments also frustrated Mr. Trump who, according to a person familiar with his thinking, felt boxed in by the remarks.

The dissonance has left China uncertain of the Trump administration’s goals and cast a shadow of uncertainty over their negotiations.

“It feels to me like the administration doesn’t quite have one strategy toward China,” said Jon B. Alterman, a global security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Not only do you see administration leaders saying different things, but it feels like they’re not integrated, especially in the absence of something like the TPP, which was a genuine long-term strategy to deal with China’s rise.”

On Monday, the Commerce Department began drawing up new regulations on export controls, outlining potential industries to protect — such as artificial intelligence and quantum robotics — from Chinese theft of intellectual property. In early November, the Justice Department charged a Chinese state-owned company with stealing trade secrets  from an American technology company. And last month, the Trump administration outlined a more aggressive system for policing foreign investment, using the expanded powers of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

The Trump administration has also embarked on bilateral trade deals with other countries with the intention of exerting pressure on China. Despite abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the administration is forging ahead with negotiations with Japan and the Philippines, and officials are eyeing possible talks with Vietnam and India.

Criticism of China’s trade practices was at the center of the blowup at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum over the weekend.

In several meetings, Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, and his colleagues objected to a draft of the forum’s closing statement that asserted, “We agree to fight protectionism including all unfair trade practices.”

Raising his voice, Mr. Wang accused American officials of trying to insert a veiled reference to China, said one American official who was there. At one point, Chinese officials barged into the office of the foreign minister of Papua New Guinea to demand changes.

Only China objected to the draft. The forum closed without a consensus statement from the 21 member economies for the first time since 1989.

“It was truly a stupid move by the Chinese,” said Bonnie S. Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I guess we should all conclude that China will do whatever it takes to continue to pursue unfair trade practices.”

“And they will also continue to put their narrow self-interests first at the expense of multilateral institutions,” she added. “What’s next?”

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. and China Push Nations To Pick a Side.

China blames ‘excuses’ for lack of agreement at APEC, as U.S. ties sour again

November 20, 2018

China dishes out more propaganda….


Blow from Reuters

A major Asia-Pacific summit’s failure to agree on a communique resulted from certain countries “excusing” protectionism, a top Chinese diplomat said, in a veiled criticism of Washington that further sours the tone of China-U.S. ties ahead of a G20 meet.


Xi Jinping.  Photographer: Fazry Ismail/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

After months of bickering over a damaging trade war, the disputed South China Sea and U.S. support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan, the two nations’ presidents took a step back from the edge with an ice-breaking telephone call early this month.

While both U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed optimism about resolving their trade war ahead of a planned meeting at the G20 meeting in Argentina at the end of next week, relations have since faltered again.The weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Port Moresby was one of open disagreement, topped by disputes between the U.S. and China over trade, security and which would be the better investment partner for the region.

For the first time, the gathered leaders failed to agree to a joint communique, against the backdrop of the bitter trade war.

The inability to reach a communique was “by no means accidental,” the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said in comments on the foreign ministry’s website late on Monday.

“It is mainly that individual economies insisted on imposing their own texts on other parties, excusing protectionism and unilateralism, and not accepting reasonable revisions from the Chinese and other parties,” the ministry cited Wang as saying, without naming any country, in an oblique reference to the United States.

“This practice caused dissatisfaction among many economies, including China, and it is obviously not in line with the consensus principle adhered to by APEC.”

Consensus is where the value lies in APEC, Wang added.

“It is in the joint interests of all parties and cannot be ignored and abandoned.”

On Monday, China’s foreign ministry said the United States, whose delegation at the summit was led by Vice President Mike Pence, attended APEC in a “blaze of anger”, and that China had not gone to “get into a boxing ring”.

Pence said the United States would not back down from the trade dispute, and might even double tariffs, unless Beijing bowed to U.S. demands.


China took a dig on Monday at Pence’s pledge of $60 billion in development financing for what the Trump administration calls the Indo-Pacific region, a promise widely seen as Washington’s answer to Xi’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure plan.

“We take note that some voices worry whether the United States can make good on its promises and whether they’re just paying lip service,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters, in reply to a question.

“We hope these worries don’t come to pass.”

The trade spat between China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, has dragged down financial markets, with world stocks falling on Monday partly due to the persistent tension.

In one bright spot, however, Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) on Monday received unconditional approval from China for its deal to buy Twenty-First Century Fox’s (FOXA.O) entertainment assets, clearing one of the last major hurdles it faced.

Trump has imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports to force concessions on a list of demands that would change the two countries’ terms of trade. China has responded with import tariffs on U.S. goods.

Washington wants Beijing to improve market access and intellectual property protections for U.S. companies, cut industrial subsidies and reduce a $375-billion trade gap.

Last week, Reuters reported that China had delivered a written response to U.S. demands for wide-ranging trade reforms, though a senior Trump administration official said it was unlikely to bring a breakthrough during the two leaders’ talks.

It appeared Trump and Xi had indicated to senior advisers that they wanted to flesh out a deal, Craig Allen, the president of the U.S.-China Business Council, told Reuters this month.

“This could be the basis for a ceasefire, a halt to new tariffs, and an opportunity for new negotiations,” Allen said of the planned G20 meeting. “But I don’t think it’s a guaranteed slam dunk.”

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez



  (Monday’s Asian Markets Up)