Electrical Safety on the Factory Floor

Here’s a quick look at how enclosures, automation controls and wiring can be kept safe

Kevin Kakascik

Just about every product and machine we come in contact with uses electricity. To keep us safe, almost all of them have built-in safety features, especially those on the factory floor. Technicians, maintenance crews, supervisors and managers must be protected from injury due to moving parts, high temperatures, shocks and other electricity-related hazards.

Designers have a host of methods to address electrical safety issues.

When it comes to industrial electrical safety, the best offense can be a good defense. In other words, if there were a way to keep people away from dangerous electrical equipment, it would lower the chances of anyone getting hurt. One simple way to do this is to keep risky equipment secure in an enclosure. Enclosures prevent injuries, along with inadvertent tampering and vandalism.

Most automated and factory equipment requires electrical enclosures, sometimes called control enclosures. They keep moisture, dust and contaminants away from electrical and automation components. They also keep workers from getting too close to electrical components. Enclosures are best located so they do not impede traffic and aren’t in crowded areas.

Eventually, someone will need to get inside the enclosure. That could be maintenance technicians making annual checks and upgrades or inspectors looking things over. So, inside the enclosure, engineers should choose components and assemblies with guards, shields and other devices to stop visitors from touching energized components. Components should be laid out so there’s enough working room and adequate airflow. Wires should be neatly routed using wire ducts so that wires and workers are protected.

On equipment itself with moving parts, hot surfaces, or other physical hazards, the best approach providing physical barriers or guards to contain those hazards. Of course, any guard can be defeated by removal, so plant managers should also use non-contact or interlock safety switches that make it difficult to bypass. And if the guard is moved, sensors detect it and automatically have the equipment stopped and/or de-energized.

Some guards and panels must be easily movable to accommodate cleaning and replacing parts. In these cases, trapped-key interlock safety switches hold the door closed with a mechanical lock-and-key until the equipment stops and is safe to access.

Another way to physically safeguard electrical and automated equipment adds devices such as light curtains, mats, edges and bumpers. These can all be arranged around potentially dangerous equipment to detect someone approaching and stop equipment operation before the operator gets too close to the hazard.

The electrical design inside enclosures should also be safe in terms of power distribution and control circuitry. It must follow NFPA 70 National Electrical Code (NEC), which is the benchmark for safe electrical design and installation practices to protect people and property from electrical hazards. Provision and sizing of disconnect switches, overcurrent devices, conductors and associated components are all covered by the NEC.

Disconnect switches are primary electrical safety devices that isolate downstream electrical systems from upstream power. They are used in electrical switchgear, panelboards and control panels, as well as for mounting close to power-using machines such as motors. Disconnect switches can be locked open by users to ensure downstream equipment is electrically safe for maintenance or repair.

In power distribution and control panels, overcurrent devices such as circuit breakers fuses, and motor overload devices, protect downstream conductors by automatically opening a circuit when there’s an overcurrent or short-circuit. This protects equipment and workers from fault conditions.

Surge protection is another electrical safety provision and has recently received increased attention, especially since the 2017 revision of NEC section 670.6. This added the requirement to have surge protection on industrial machinery safety interlock circuits. Electrical surges can be caused by failing equipment, utility problems, and lightning strikes, and can damage operational equipment and control circuits. Surge protective devices on safety interlock circuits help ensure safety functions operate continually and are protecting workers.

For motor-driven electrical equipment, prudent designers include devices not absolutely required but proving additional protection. For instance, phase-monitoring relays detect electrical problems such as phase loss or phase imbalance, each of which can cause hazardous operating conditions. Similarly, some equipment can be equipped with vibration, temperature, and seal leak sensors. Wiring these sensors to relays or automated switches can stop equipment if a problem is detected.

In addition to safely enclosing electrical devices and installing wiring and devices per NEC, designers can take additional steps to keep workers safe. Some of these steps are mandated by standards such as ISO 13849 Safety of Machinery, while others are simply good engineering practices.

Machinery designers must also follow ISO 13849 and perform a risk assessment to identify hazards and how to safeguard against them.

Cable-pull safety switches are particularly effective safety devices because they can span large areas of equipment and those working in the area can easily actuate them. These switches get wired into safety relay modules or more advanced safety controllers, depending on the required safety level needed. When there’s no trouble, these relays and controllers let equipment operate and hold all trapped-key interlocks closed. However, if a safety sensor is triggered, the equipment is de-energized and brought to a safe state as quickly as possible.

Outside of dedicated safety circuits, designers can provide automation features to help operators efficiently and safely run equipment. These include visual and audible indicators so workers can quickly understand the operating state and condition of the equipment. Specialized indicators such as modular stack lights are a good way to provide this type of indication from a much greater distance than small control-panel lights.

Pilot devices such as switches and pushbuttons, or even human-machine interfaces (HMIs), can be combined with control wiring and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to facilitate safe startup, operation and shutdown of equipment. Careful configuration and programming of HMIs and PLCs is essential for good equipment performance and safe and efficient operator interaction with machinery. 

Incorporating sufficient safety for industrial machinery and systems is never a “one-and-done” proposition. Some safety requirements for electrical and controls are mandated by codes and standards such as the NEC and ISO. Other safety measures are based on good engineering practices and careful consideration of how workers may interact with equipment. Designers can keep safety first for electrical and automation systems by following a layered approach that evaluates changing conditions and develops designs based on a portfolio of products to address physical, electrical and automation safety concerns.

Kevin Kakascik is a technical marketing engineer at AutomationDirect.

Here’s How Russia Can Lead Eurasia’s Consolidated Response to the Economic Crisis

28.07.2020 Andrew Korybko

From a grand strategic perspective, balancing between BRI and the AAGC would enable Russia to participate in both mainland and maritime Eurasian integration processes, with an eye on facilitating the eventual convergence of these two in Afghanistan for the betterment of the continent’s security after that conflict inevitably ends, writes Andrew Korybko, a Moscow-based American political analyst

Eurasian Uncertainty

The long-running process of Eurasian integration is challenged by the economic crisis brought about by the world’s uncoordinated response to COVID-19, but the situation is all the more acute following the recent border clash between China and India. It’s therefore incumbent on Russia, whose 21st-century grand strategy envisions it functioning as the supreme balancing force in Eurasia, to balance between its two strategic partners while taking the lead in organizing Eurasia’s consolidated response to this crisis. This is the only realistic way to effectively advance all three of their shared multipolar interests in the contemporary context.

The Russia-India-China (RIC) triangle is the core of BRICS and the SCO’s synergetic efforts, but the Galwan Incident exacerbated mutual Indo-Sino mistrust that existed before this clash. Furthermore, that deadly skirmish is being exploited by the US to tempt India into disengaging from the Eurasian integration initiatives in which China is also participating. Russia’s goal must naturally be to ensure that India doesn’t drift too far away from Eurasia all while simultaneously retaining both of their hard-earned trust-based relationships with China, which might interpret any overly enthusiastic outreach efforts on Moscow’s part towards Delhi as suspicious.

The Worst-Case Scenario

The task at hand is made more difficult by the US’ strategic weaponization of what can be described as economic nationalism. India’s preexisting issues with China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) are being taken advantage of by American policymakers to woo the country from the earlier mentioned Eurasian integration initiatives in which China is also participating. In this context, India’s rejection of the Chinese-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) last November, the ongoing Indian-American free trade talks, and the possibility of bringing a multilateral economic dimension to the military-focused “Quad” are concerning.

Without Russia’s visionary leadership, there’s a credible fear that China and India will rapidly move along a possibly irreversible trajectory of rivalry that might culminate in an Asian Cold War between them, which would essentially function as a subset of the New Cold War between the US and China.

The US has an interest in actualizing this scenario because it advances its Indo-Pacific strategy of containing China by dividing and ruling Eurasia across the coming century. Russia must avert that worst-case scenario and do its utmost to ensure that RIC, the core of BRICS and the SCO, remains strong and united at all costs.

Three Steps to Success

What follows are three interconnected policy proposals for responding to this grand strategic challenge:

1. Strongly reaffirm Russia’s strategic neutrality

Russia can’t afford to be perceived by China or India as taking either of their sides otherwise its 21st-century balancing act will fail. Outreaches to one of them must proceed in parallel with symmetrical outreaches to the other. An effective means of maintaining the balance between them would be if Russia attempts to revive the Non-Aligned Movement. The author published a jointly written academic article for MGIMO’s Vestnik journal about pursuing this together with India, but it might now be best to advance this proposal independently considering how negatively China might perceive such a move after the Galwan Incident.

2. Implement and articulate a middle ground between globalization & economic nationalism

There’s no realistic chance of returning to the pre-COVID model of globalization anytime soon because it could prove disastrous for domestic economies after the crippling lockdown, but the US’ weaponization of economic nationalism could reverse Eurasian integration processes if left unchecked. Faced with this dilemma, Russia must urgently implement, articulate, and promote a balance between these seemingly contradictory economic models in order to help bridge the growing Indo-Sino divide before it proves irreconcilable in this respect. Leading by example by implementing this hybrid model at home could prove to be most convincing method.

3. Balance between BRI and the Indo-Japanese Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC)

China and India are pursuing different, but not necessarily mutually exclusive, trans-regional integration projects, and it would be best for Russia to participate in both of them so as to facilitate the eventual convergence of these two visions through their shared Great Power partner. While the Eurasian Land Bridge and a prospective Russian-Pakistani trans-Afghan trade corridor could be considered as BRI initiatives, the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) and Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC) can be regarded as unofficially connected with the AAGC, thus proving that the building blocs for balancing are already present.

Kabul at the Crossroads

Expanding upon the last-mentioned proposal, it should be pointed out that Afghanistan lies at the crossroads of the RIC countries’ three trans-regional trade corridors. BRI’s China-Central Asia-Mideast Economic Corridor can connect the People’s Republic to Afghanistan by rail upon the completion of the proper infrastructure in that country and Kyrgyzstan; India’s Chabahar Corridor is already pursuing such rail connectivity; and a prospective Russian-Pakistani trade corridor (RuPak) could do the same. All three Great Powers have an interest in ensuring Afghanistan’s post-war stability, which can be best achieved by combined economic efforts in this regard.

Special attention should be paid to the importance of the RuPak proposal as a symmetrical Chinese-friendly outreach to be pursued in parallel with expanding the VCMC that was announced during Prime Minister Modi’s attendance at the Eastern Economic Forum last September. It’s the key to retaining goodwill and trust with China since Pakistan hosts BRI’s flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). As such, it’s unlikely that Beijing would regard the VCMC in an unfriendly way so long as progress proceeds in parallel with RuPak. This proposal could optimize Russia’s balancing strategy between China and India if implemented. 

Preparing for SPIEF-2021 

Although admittedly ambitious, Russia should plan to make tangible progress on all three of the author’s interconnected policy proposals by next year’s Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). This would greatly increase the chances that RIC is able to rebound from the unexpected setbacks of the present year (COVID-19 and the Galwan Incident). By applying its envisioned balancing role in a meaningful way, Russia would retain the viability of Eurasian integration processes while offsetting the efforts of external players like the US to interfere with the aforesaid. 

From a grand strategic perspective, balancing between BRI and the AAGC would enable Russia to participate in both mainland and maritime Eurasian integration processes, with an eye on facilitating the eventual convergence of these two in Afghanistan for the betterment of the continent’s security after that conflict inevitably ends. Pioneering a hybrid model between globalization and economic nationalism, as well as reaffirming its strategic neutrality in a symbolic and/or substantive way, could also make Russia a worldwide trendsetter in the New Cold War and immeasurably boost its soft power appeal.

Getting the wheels back on Japan’s travel industry

Unprecedented travel restrictions have crippled tourism, forcing businesses in the sector to rethink strategies and explore new opportunities

BY ALEX MARTIN

STAFF WRITER

  • JUN 6, 2020

As COVID-19 brought travel to a standstill in April, a traditional Japanese inn in Fukui Prefecture began selling takeout for those hunkered down at home, offering customers the opportunity to replicate a night at the upscale ryokan under their own roof.

The ¥29,000 package deal for four people offered by Grandia Housen comes with a bottle of locally produced sake, 10 liters of water from the inn’s hot spring that is to be mixed with bathwater to emulate a spa and, for each of the four bathers, a traditional kaiseki boxed dinner and a light cotton yukata kimono.

And that’s not all. Instead of being pampered by the ryokan’s staff, “guests” have access to online videos simulating check-ins and check-outs, as well as short clips explaining the menu, sake and the qualities of the onsen water.

Is it worth the price tag? “Including other takeout options, we’re happy to say we’ve been receiving more than 100 orders every weekend,” says Takazumi Yamaguchi, managing director of the ryokan.

Grandia Housen is among approximately 50,000 hotels and traditional inns in Japan that have been facing one of the most wrenching consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic: the restriction of movement. Beyond the canceled vacations and business trips, travel restrictions have crippled tourism like never before, forcing the industry to rethink strategies and explore new commercial opportunities.

“Things were stable back in February, but sales began falling in March and we’ve been mostly closed since April,” says Yamaguchi, whose family has been running the inn since 1963. “Under these circumstances, we have to diversify our business and find new ways to promote our ryokan.”

While Japan’s state of emergency has since been lifted and guests are gradually returning, Yamaguchi says the hospitality sector should be prepared for a second and even third wave of the pandemic.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” he says.

Reassessing tourism

2020 was supposed to be a stellar year for tourism in Japan.

Tokyo was hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The government was aiming to attract a record-high 40 million visitors, riding on a rising wave of inbound travelers. Hotels and ryokan were preparing for an influx of guests and domestic airlines rolled out promotional campaigns. Even a slick new bullet train was developed to make its debut in July, when the sporting extravaganza was scheduled to kick off.

However, the pandemic forced organizers to postpone the games to 2021. International flights were suspended and stay-at-home requests saw domestic tourism come to a screeching halt.

Perhaps symbolic of the new stigma that would be associated with travel was the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship that was put under quarantine in the port of Yokohama in February after passengers tested positive for COVID-19. The high-profile outbreak eventually claimed 14 lives and highlighted the risk of the infection’s spread in confined spaces.

Rebuilding a sustainable tourism industry in the aftermath of such an unparalleled crisis will take years and involve multiple phases, experts say. More jobs will be lost and bankruptcies will ensue. Recovery will only come step by step, starting with domestic travel while maintaining social distancing measures. It will be some time before foreign tourists begin trickling back into Japan and, when they do, the nation’s omotenashi, or the Japanese spirit of selfless hospitality, may be put to the test.

In a report released in April, Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting estimated that ¥2.4 trillion of inbound tourism consumption would be lost in the six months to September if the number of travelers to Japan remained at the levels of March, when the nation saw a 93 percent year-on-year drop. That, in turn, would push down Japan’s nominal GDP by 0.6 percent and could cost 557,000 jobs, it said. Tourism figures worsened in April, with the number of inbound travelers falling 99.9 percent against the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Shoko Research counted 219 bankruptcies due to the pandemic as of June 5. Thirty-four were from the lodging industry, which employs around 700,000 workers nationwide.

“Japan’s tourism industry has weathered the global financial crisis (in 2008) and the Great East Japan Earthquake (in 2011), but nothing compares to this,” says Yoshihiro Sataki, a professor at Josai International University and an expert on tourism.

“The coronavirus is a direct threat to the sector since it is transmitted between people and restricts travel,” he says. “If the situation continues, I’m afraid most businesses in hospitality won’t be able to survive.”

Sataki says that while domestic tourism will likely pick up some momentum in the months ahead, it may take three or four years at the earliest before international travel regains its vigor. Meanwhile, he says, the pandemic is an opportunity for the government to review its inbound tourism policy, which has been overly reliant on big cities and a single source of tourists.

“When you look at the accommodations that are hardest hit, they are ones that have counted on visitors in group tours from countries such as China,” Sataki says.

Overseas visitors to Japan, especially from Asia, have been growing in recent years against the backdrop of the declining value of the yen and the easing of visa requirements. The figure hit a record high of 31.88 million in 2019, of which over half were from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Sataki says the industry needs to reassess its tourism assets and devise new ways to shed light on the attractions Japan has to offer. Rather than arriving in large crowds, more people may come in small groups or seek personalized tours off the beaten track.

And if there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it may be how the crisis is addressing overtourism, or the congestion of favorite tourist spots from excessive numbers of visitors. Sataki, who has published a book titled “Kanko Kogai,” or “Tourism Pollution,” says popular destinations such as Kyoto have been inundated with tourists over the years, leading to mounting complaints from locals. As things now stand, the pandemic has seen the ancient city temporarily restore its peace.

“This could be a chance to hash out new measures such as placing limits on the number of visitors at certain attractions as part of social distance measures,” Sataki says.

To stimulate domestic tourism, the government has allocated ¥1.7 trillion for what it calls the “Go To Campaign,” in which it plans to subsidize half of domestic travel costs up to ¥20,000 per night and issue coupons that can be used at local restaurants and souvenir shops.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the airlines and railways that tourists depend on for transportation can ride out the storm.

Airlines grounded

The aviation industry has been especially hard hit by COVID-19 as countries impose travel restrictions and carriers cut back on flights.

Before the pandemic, Japan’s domestic air market stood at No. 5 in the world in terms of passenger volume. It also boasted three of the top 10 domestic air routes in the world, according to the International Air Transport Association. But during the Golden Week holiday period from April 29 to May 6, the number of domestic flight passengers fell to around 123,500, down 95 percent year on year. Travelers on international flights sank by 98 percent to approximately 8,700.

Facing a plunge in bookings, the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan sought ¥2 trillion in unsecured loans from the government in April, according to reports. The association, which includes All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, their budget affiliates and other smaller airlines, has said the decline in revenue for the four months through May will likely reach an estimated ¥500 billion. A worst-case scenario in which the pandemic’s impact stretches for more than a year could see the domestic industry’s revenue slashed by around ¥2 trillion.

Geoffrey Tudor, principal analyst at Japan Aviation Management Research, says the nation’s two main carriers, ANA and JAL, had already reached their peak in market terms prior to the current crisis. Further growth may come from low-cost carriers (LCCs), he says.

“However, can LCC’s survive after the coronavirus?” he asks. “LCCs depend on fast turnaround to make as many flights as possible. If the turnaround is delayed, they lose this advantage. So extra cabin cleaning tasks and other safety measures may take away this advantage.”

IATA has proposed temporary, layered measures for restarting passenger flights, including collecting passenger data in advance of travel and requiring in-flight face coverings. The Scheduled Airlines Association also released its own set of guidelines, advising operators to serve boxed meals on international flights, for example, to reduce interaction between passengers and crew.

Tudor, who previously served as director of public relations at JAL, says that under the circumstances recovery for the sector will be slow and L-shaped, rather than V-shaped.

“Will the Chinese return? Yes, but we don’t know when. That depends on when an acceptable vaccine has been proven safe — and safe and simple cross-border quarantine measures are in place,” he says. “That will happen, but nobody knows when. A year? Two years?”

Paradise lost

Entry bans are disproportionately hurting tourist magnets such as Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost island chain, which positions tourism as the leading industry of the prefecture’s economy.

Okinawa welcomes around 10 million visitors annually. Seventy percent are domestic travelers and 30 percent are overseas guests mostly coming from Taiwan, South Korea, China and Hong Kong.

“The number of tourists began falling in late March and, in April, the figure was down 90 percent year on year,” says Norihiro Mejima, executive director of the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau. “So far we’ve only seen one related bankruptcy, but these few months have been backbreaking.”

According to the prefecture, the number of inbound travelers in April dropped to zero for the first time since 1972, when the United States agreed to the return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty.

“While we expect domestic tourists to start returning in June after the state of emergency is lifted, we can’t tell when demand will recover to pre-pandemic levels,” Mejima says. “July and August are peak tourism season for Okinawa, but schools are considering shortening summer vacations to make up for time lost during school closures.”

Roughly 400,000 students visit Okinawa annually on school trips, Mejima says. Many go on to become repeat visitors, drawn by their childhood memories.

“But with school events being canceled, we may not be able to rely on them in the years ahead,” he says.

Mejima says the prefecture is also working to dispel the new stigma associated with visitors by stressing the economic importance of the tourism sector. Many of the initial cases of the coronavirus reported in the prefecture were people returning from overseas travels and business trips to Tokyo.

“That created some hostility toward tourists as being potential hosts of the virus,” he says.

Ailing rural lines

That fear of spreading and catching the infection has led to self-quarantine and workplace reforms, including the shift to working remotely, measures that are paralyzing ground transportation.

East Japan Railway, Central Japan Railway and West Japan Railway, which cover metropolitan Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, respectively, all suffered badly in the January-to-March quarter.

Bullet trains, for example, account for 90 percent of Central Japan Railway’s revenue from rail services, but passenger volume in April plummeted 89 percent year on year.

“I think companies have realized that teleconferences can often substitute for face-to-face meetings,” says Junichi Sugiyama, a railway journalist. “Looking ahead, bullet train lines that rely on business trips should brace for decreasing demand.”

Meanwhile, major private rail lines operating in urban centers may tilt their investments toward development of their real estate as passenger numbers in this aging and shrinking population are set to decrease.

“Rail services only account for around a third of sales for large private railway companies,” Sugiyama says. “Their portfolio is heavily leaning on housing and office developments and the operation of entertainment facilities, department stores and other retail outlets near terminal stations.”

More of a concern are the rural rail lines connecting Japan’s countryside. With dwindling passengers and limited capital, the pandemic could be the death knell for many, Sugiyama says.

“That will be a pity, not only for residents relying on these routes, but also for trainspotters like myself who enjoy traveling on scenic railways,” he says.

It’s not only trains. In March, a rental car dealership in Okinawa filed for bankruptcy, while a taxi company in Osaka and a bus operator in Saitama Prefecture went out of business in May after customers evaporated.

That sea change in attitudes toward travel has prompted many accommodations to prepare for what may be the new normal for tourism in post-pandemic Japan.

Yubo Ichiraku, a hot-spring ryokan in the city of Tendo, Yamagata Prefecture, has decided to shift its focus from large parties to individual guests. Before the pandemic, roughly 20 percent of customers were inbound tourists, says Taichi Sato, executive director of the 67-year-old inn.

“But they disappeared in March, prompting us to change our direction,” Sato says. “We’ve been primarily catering to group guests, but have been using the temporary closure of the ryokan during the state of emergency to renew our service and infrastructure.”

Sato says the inn will be closing its buffet and will introduce a system to check in guests in their rooms to avoid queues forming at the entrance. Rooms with private open-air baths will offer all-inclusive deals where guests for a set price will be served all they can drink, including craft beer produced by the ryokan at an adjacent brewery.

“I think it’s fair to say that this is the worst crisis since World War II,” he says. “There’s a lot of uncertainty toward the future, but it’s also an opportunity to embrace new challenges.”

Source: THE JAPAN TIMES

Hainan FTP MASTER-PLAN Released to Establish China’s Biggest Free Trade Port by 2035

Ruslan Tulenov Supervisor at Hainan Provincial Bureau of International Economic Development

On June 1, 2020, Chinese authorities released the Overall Plan for the Construction of Hainan Free Trade Port (“the Masterplan”), a large-scale plan to transform the entire island province into a free trade port (FTP) – making it the largest special economic zone in China.

Hainan Province, an island at the southernmost point of China is best known for its sandy beaches and resort-lined coast. Due to its proximity with ASEAN nations, the Hainan FTP acts as a frontline to China’s integration with Southeast Asian countries. This has created new opportunities along China’s Belt and Road Initiative; Hainan will be an important node on what is referred to as the “Maritime Silk Road”.

At start of June, the Central Committee and the State Council jointly released the Masterplan, which laid out a series of special policies for Hainan – scrapping import duties, lowering income tax rates for high-level talent, capping company tax at 15 percent, and relaxing visa requirements for tourist and business travelers.

Collectively, the policies are designed to diversify Hainan’s reliance on traditional industries and to function as a strategic trade and investment destination in China.

For foreign firms, Hainan will provide broader market access – particularly for industries like telecommunications, tourism, and education – in addition to a phased plan for capital account opening and free flow of money between Hainan and overseas markets.

Below we summarize some of the key policies introduced by the Hainan FTP Masterplan.

What’s in the Masterplan?

The Hainan Free Trade Port will make up the entire island province – being 35,000 km2 in size and encompassing a population of 9.5 million – dwarfing regional competitors Hong Kong and Singapore on both metrics.

The overarching theme of the plan is to liberalize the cross border flows of trade, investment, capital, personnel, transport, and data.

The Masterplan lays out a four-stage timeline for achieving different stages of development:

By 2020:

  • Become an operational FTZ;
  • Significantly improve international openness;
  • Investment and trade facilitation; legal environment regulation; financial services improvement; a first-class ecological environment; and
  • Lay foundation for the construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port.

By 2025: 

  • Have the free trade port system basically in place;
  • Establish a leading business environment in China;
  • Industrial competitiveness significantly improved and risk prevention and control strong and effective; and
  • Gradual improvement of the law and regulations adapted for the construction of the free trade ports.

By 2035:

  • Have a mature operation of the Hainan Free Trade Port;
  • Free and convenient exchange of people, transportation and data;
  • Establish a world-leading business environment; and
  • Be at the forefront of socialist modernization.

2050:

  • High-level free trade port with strong international influence established.

Key policies under the Masterplan that investors should pay attention to 

One of the most significant features of the plan is the establishment of the ‘first-line’ and ‘second-line’ customs controls into China.

Goods coming from overseas countries into Hainan will be subject to the ‘first-line’ control system. Here, the Hainan Free Trade Port is responsible for developing a list of goods/articles that are prohibited / restricted from import/export.

Further to this, a catalog of goods will be formulate specifying the goods that will be subject to import duties when entering the free trade port. Goods outside of these lists will be exempt from tariffs and be able to exit and enter the province freely.

While these lists are yet to be established, the plan already specifies various categories of imported goods that will be exempt from import duties, import VAT, and consumption tax:

  • Production equipment for enterprises own use;
  • Operational vehicles and yachts;
  • Raw and auxiliary materials imported for production; and
  • Imported good purchased by island residents.

Goods coming from Hainan to mainland China will go through relevant procedures in accordance with relevant import regulations, and customs duties and taxes.

Encouraged industrial enterprises producing goods originating from Hainan that do not contain imported materials or contain imported materials (with added value exceeding 30 percent after domestic proceeding of imported intermediary products) are exempt from import tariffs when entering the rest of China.

For goods coming from mainland, transiting through Hainan and returning to the mainland, no customs processing is needed. They should be loaded and unloaded onto the customs supervised operations site in the free trade port but stored separately from other customs-supervised goods.

In addition to this, the plan says Hainan will establish more special custom supervision regions to help the island implement more flexible import-export management. The island will also establish a convenient and efficient “single window” while dealing with imports and exports with overseas countries.

2. Facilitation of investment, opening-up of key sectors

Equally, the plan prescribes a series of policies aimed at liberalizing the trade of services by implementing a ‘minimum approval’ investment system.

This system will comprise of a special market access list relaxing market access for the Hainan Free Trade Port, as well as a Negative List for foreign investment access.

Broadly speaking, the Masterplan puts in place a system where foreign firms gain broader market access in Hainan. It does so by implementing a new ‘market access commitment and entry system,’ which does the following:

  • Establishes a comprehensive filing system;
  • Relaxes the licensing and approval requirements for certain investment areas;
  • Implements a pre-entry national treatment plus Negative List management for foreign investment – greatly reducing the prohibition and restriction clauses; and
  • Encourages the development of an innovative investment management system focusing on streamlining supervision of process through methods such as electronic licenses.

The Masterplan taps into growing opportunities for investors in traditional industries, as well as opening new industries for early development.

Preferential policies for industries have so far come in various shapes and forms. For example, the plan states that by 2025, income acquired from new FDI in tourism, modern services, and high-tech industry enterprises will be exempt from corporate income tax (CIT).

Further, the following industries are said to be subject to opening-up and additional support in establishing within Hainan:

  • Telecommunications – remove restrictions on foreign equity ratio on value-added telecommunication services, allow entities to conduct online data processing services with the FTP and internationally and then gradually expand to nationwide, open up basic telecommunications services, roll-out international Internet data exchange pilot projects, build international submarine optical cables and landing points, and set up international communication gateways;
  • Financial + insurance industry – support financial institutions to carry out business, such as policy financing, warehouse receipt pledge loan, account receivable pledge loan, intellectual property pledge financing, etc. under the premise of legal compliance and effective prevention of risks;
  • Medical insurance – support more financial institutions and overseas institutions to develop cross border medical insurance products;
  • Education – allow overseas high-level universities and vocational colleges specialized in science, engineering, agriculture, and medicine to open branch schools independently in Hainan, and assist well-known foreign universities and domestic universities with working together to set up Chinese-foreign cooperatively run schools with independent legal entities; and
  • Tourism – proposes the construction of pilot zone for the cruise tourism industry and the yacht industry.

The Masterplan also takes steps to create a better environment for businesses in general, including to strengthen intellectual property right protections and the creation of a more open, fair, and predictable investment environment for all market players.

The document proposes that an internationally competitive taxation system should be established, sticking to the principles of zero tariffs, low tax rates, and simplified taxation systems.

As a way to attract more business operations to Hainan, the Masterplan has rolled out a preferential 15 percent income tax rate for eligible individuals, while CIT for encouraged enterprises will also be capped at 15 percent.

Qualified capital expenditures of enterprises are allowed to be deducted fully in the current period, or enjoy accelerated depreciation/amortization prior to the calculation of the tax payment.

3. Free exchange of people, capital, and data

The Masterplan also makes efforts to ensure the cross border flow funds, through further opening the free trade port’s financial sector and supporting the setup of trading venues for financial products related to energy, shipping, property rights, equities, as well as clearing centers.

Logistics flow was also a key priority in the document. Under the plan, transport flows will be eased in the in the following ways:

  • Trial policy of tax rebates to be implemented for the departure of goods through the Yangpu Port for final departure to China;
  • Flights and ships to be allowed to refuel with bonded aviation fuel when coming in and out of Hainan; and
  • Export tax rebates to be introduced on domestically built ships that are registered at Yangpu Port of China and engaged in international transport.

More accommodating traveling regulations will also be released to encourage talent in high-end industries to stay, reside, or work in the free trade port.

For example, the entry-exit bureau will be tasked wit improving the international talent evaluation mechanism, using an individual’s salary level as the main indicator to categorize talents.

A negative list management system will also be implemented in order to regulate the inflow of foreign personnel into the port, guided by a more relaxed entry-exit policy.

The Masterplan will also broaden the effect and scope of the current visa-free entry policy – allowing for the more widespread implementation and extension of the visa-free duration.

On the flow and security of data, China will expand the opening-up of the data field, innovating institutional design, and cultivating and developing the digital economy in the FTP.

Hainan has signaled that it plans to carry out international internet data exchange pilot programs to expand its communication resources and bolster its business landscape.

Hainan Free Trade Port by 2035: The countdown begins

The concept of the Hainan FTP was first proposed in 2017, with the province gaining approval for the draft plan later in 2018.

In the lead up to the Masterplan, an ambitious new medical tourism zone was created in 2019 revitalizing local tourism – a dominant industry in the province.

In 2020, the much-anticipated plan appears to be finally set in motion. Foreign investors can look through the slew of new policies, pilot projects, and wide-scale plans that the government says will be implemented as per a stipulated schedule. The goal being, the establishment of a fully functional Free Trade Port by 2035.

Investors can use the Masterplan as a guidance document to assess which industries will be prioritized for growth and how they can tap into tax incentives and preferential policies.

Businesses should stay updated on the latest developments in Hainan FTP as we expect that further implementation documents will likely be released in coming months to support the policies unveiled in the Masterplan.

Original article: https://www.china-briefing.com/news/hainan-ftz-masterplan-released-establish-chinas-biggest-free-trade-port-2035/

Next stop, hydrogen-powered trains

As old diesel trains are phased out of rail networks around the world, the UK is about to test a new type of engine that could help to decarbonise railways – hydrogen-powered trains

By Allison Hirschlag

From the platform it looked like any other British commuter train. But as several hundred passengers climbed on board the steel-bodied carriages at Long Marston, they were met with an unusual sight. In one of its cars, passengers were encouraged to perch around four hydrogen fuel tanks, a fuel cell and two lithium batteries.

The train’s hydrogen power system produces sufficient power to take the train 50 to 75 miles. The train, called Hydroflex, is the UK’s first to be powered by hydrogen. It was being shown off to the public in June 2019 for the first time on the tracks at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre, a test facility at Long Marston, near Stratford-upon-Avon, in England.

Engineers who developed the new train, from the University of Birmingham and British rail company Porterbrook, wanted passengers to sit alongside the train’s hydrogen fuel cells. The sooner they would become familiar with the technology, the sooner they would feel safe, they reasoned.

Some apprehension around hydrogen as a fuel source is perhaps understandable considering the unfortunate history of hydrogen-filled dirigibles, namely airships such as the ill-fated British R101 and the German Hindenburg. But hydrogen-powered trains have been emerging as a viable – and much safer – means of transport. How close are we to fleets of trains that release only water as a waste product?

The way hydrogen powers a train like the Hydroflex is quite simple. The fuel cell is made up of an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte membrane. The stored hydrogen passes through the anode, where it is split into electrons and protons. The electrons are then forced through a circuit that generates an electric charge that can be stored in lithium batteries or sent directly to the train’s electric motor. The leftover part of the hydrogen molecule reacts with oxygen at the cathode and becomes the waste product – water.

The Hydroflex’s hydrogen tanks, fuel cell and batteries currently sit inside a passenger car, but the ultimate plan is to store them underneath the train in order to fit in more passengers. Hydrogen is of course extremely flammable, but on the Hydroflex it is stored in four secured high-pressure tanks, one of a range of measures to ensure passengers’ safety.

In the midst of the climate crisis, the demand for decarbonisation across transport industries has grown and the Hydroflex is just one product of that. In 2016, Germany unveiled the Coradia iLint, the world’s first hydrogen-powered train, which can run for 600 miles on a single tank of fuel – on par with the distances that traditional trains achieve on a tank of diesel. Engineers in the US are also working on bringing a version of a “hydrail” to the states. However, since rail is already among the lowest greenhouse gas emitters in transportation, it remains to be seen whether the value of a massive overhaul of rail systems will be worth it.

The UK already has 42% of its route miles electrified, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, meaning those trains are ready to become zero-carbon, if they use a renewable source of power. A single line running to London from Hampshire is currently the only one in the world to run solely on solar power. However, the remaining 58% of UK track is not yet electrified, so diesel trains are still needed to keep those areas connected by rail.

Engineers working on the Hydroflex say that hydrogen-powered trains could be the answer to decarbonising the UK’s rail system without incurring the high cost of electrifying its track. According to an assessment of 20 lines in Britain and mainland Europe, electrifying a single kilometer of track can cost £750,000 to £1m ($965,000 to $1.3m). Hydrogen-powered trains are less expensive, because they don’t require massive track overhauls and they can be created by retrofitting existing diesel trains. This is especially beneficial in rural areas where there are more miles to cover, but fewer passengers to justify the expense.

But hydrogen trains come with their own challenges.

“We store about 20kg of hydrogen, and that is enough to run the fuel cell for three hours,” says Stuart Hillmansen, professor at Birmingham University and leader of the Hydroflex project. As such, longer-distance journeys wouldn’t yet be feasible. Engineers at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education, Porterbrook’s partner on the Hydroflex, are working on ways to extend these limits.

With our current hydrogen storage technologies, hydrogen takes up significantly more space than equivalent fossil fuels do – Raphael Isaac

And while hydrogen fuel cells can be as energy-efficient as diesel fuel, storing the gas can be a problem. “While hydrogen has a lot of energy per mass, because it is super light, it also takes up a lot of volume,” says Raphael Isaac, a researcher on fuel alternatives in rail at Michigan State University’s Center for Railway Research and Education. “With our current hydrogen storage technologies, hydrogen takes up significantly more space than [equivalent] fossil fuels do.” Even though hydrogen is typically compressed, it’s still not as efficient per unit volume as fossil fuels.

It’s also a space issue on trains. The fuel tanks on the Hydroflex, for example, have to be small enough to fit in an ordinary car that can pass through Victorian-era railway tunnels. These space constraints are one reason that Porterbrook chose to retrofit older train models with the hydrogen fuel power system, rather than construct entirely new vehicles like the Alstom did in Germany – the existing trains were already made to measure for the tunnels they had to pass through.

Hydrogen can be produced using other methods and from renewable energy sources, e.g. electricity from solar photovoltaics and electrolysis of water – Margaret S. Wooldridge

Even though the only direct waste product of hydrogen fuel is water, obtaining this form of power is not necessarily squeaky clean. “The challenge is, at the moment hydrogen is made as a byproduct of chemical processes,” says Helen Simpson, innovation and projects director at Porterbrook. The cheapest and most common method at present uses natural gas and high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen. Hydroflex runs on hydrogen produced from a combination of hydrogen produced using natural gas but its supplier, BOC, says it is looking into renewable options.

In order for hydrogen power to be truly sustainable, other methods of producing it that don’t rely on fossil fuels would need to become mainstream. “Hydrogen can be produced using other methods and from renewable energy sources, e.g. electricity from solar photovoltaics and electrolysis of water,” says Margaret S. Wooldridge, an aerospace engineer at the University of Michigan.

Electrolysis creates hydrogen by separating oxygen from water using an electric current. That current can be created using energy from renewable energy sources, but it has yet to be done outside of small test demonstrations. In order to be a truly green form of travel, the hydrogen would need to be created and stored using renewable energy sources, like off-shore wind farms and solar grids, rather than fossil fuels.

Another lingering environmental issue with hydrogen-powered trains is their use of lithium batteries. Currently, lithium processing takes a major toll on the surrounding environment. Mining one tonne of lithium requires 500,000 gallons of water, for example, and lithium mining has been linked to several measures of environmental degradation. Researchers hope that in the future it may be feasible to extract lithium from seawater instead using solar power, but the idea remains experimental.  

On the flipside, one major benefit of trains like the Hydroflex is their potential as a bi-mode train, meaning they can run on the electrified or conventional lines alike. So even though there is certainly an expense to building new hydrogen-powered trains (one of the Alstrom hydrogen trains costs approximately £5.19m), or retrofitting older ones, they are a flexible alternative while the majority of lines – especially rural ones – are yet to be converted to carry electric-trains.

“This is really the space where hydrogen fuel comes in as a real cost-effective and valuable alternative and delivers a low-carbon railway,” says Simpson. “Where we’ve got all these long routes that don’t have as much passenger demand, the cost-benefit of electrifying the lines isn’t there.”

There are benefits to passengers too. Hydrogen-powered trains, like electric trains, are also incredibly quiet compared to their diesel counterparts. And unlike electric trains, they are more resilient to network-wide disruption. “The shared electric infrastructure means that if there is damage to the infrastructure, the operations of many trains on a line will be impacted,” says Isaac. A hydrogen powered train could switch over to its fuel cells if the electricity lines went down, for example.

There is a huge challenge in terms of developing the infrastructure to supply the hydrogen to the railway – Stuart Hillmansen

In countries where passenger trains are less popular, like the US, the ability to convert freight trains to hydrogen power will be key to making the case for mass producing them. A recent report sponsored by the US Energy Department and Federal Rail Administration notes that while powering freight trains with hydrogen is more technically challenging, it would ultimately have “the highest societal value”. Freight is, however, heavier than passengers, so it would require more hydrogen, or more efficiently compressed hydrogen, to carry the same load the same distance that diesel-fueled freight trains currently manage.

The engineers at Birmingham are currently working on more efficient ways to compress hydrogen, one of several hurdles Hydroflex still has to navigate. “There is a huge challenge in terms of developing the infrastructure to supply the hydrogen to the railway,” says Hillmansen. “This technology exists, but there will need to be an uplift in the scale of these operations.”

But the engineers emphasise that Hydroflex is not just a demonstration of hydrogen-power technology – it is set to become a viable commercial train, with mainline testing expected to begin in March or April this year. There a long list of approvals the train needs to pass in order to be considered safe for commercial use, but those involved in the project estimate Hydroflex will be fully up and running as soon as two years from now.

In the light of the UK’s ambition of doing away with diesel-only trains altogether by 2040, the Hydroflex’s forthcoming springtime test on the tracks makes it perhaps one of the most keenly anticipated arrivals in the country.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200227-how-hydrogen-powered-trains-can-tackle-climate-change

Hainan free trade port reaffirms China’s commitment to opening up

Chinese authorities on Monday released a master plan for the Hainan free trade port, aiming to build the southern island province into a globally-influential high-level free trade port by the middle of the century

Ruslan Tulenov – Supervisor at Hainan Provincial Bureau of International Economic Development

A free trade port system focusing on trade and investment liberalization and facilitation will be “basically established” in Hainan by 2025 and become “more mature” by 2035, according to the plan jointly issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council.

The authorities expect to make Hainan, China’s largest special economic zone, the frontline of China’s integration into the global economic system, according to the plan.

It has been a strategic decision of the CPC central committee based on the domestic and international situations, it said, noting that the world is facing a new round of major development, changes and adjustment, with protectionism and unilateralism on the rise and economic globalization facing greater headwinds.

Building the Hainan free trade port is of vital importance for pursuing an open economy, deepening market-based reform and improving the business environment, as well as a strategic choice for advancing high-quality development and concrete action to support economic globalization and building a community of shared future for humanity, it said.

Instead of rushing for quick results, China will advance the plan gradually. Hainan will be given more autonomy in reform and will be encouraged to make both the laws and the regulatory system more flexible and efficient, thus clearing institutional obstacles hampering the flow of production factors.

The construction of the free trade port will provide support to national strategic goals in terms of institutional innovation, growth impetus and greater opening-up. Hainan will enhance exchanges and cooperation with Southeast Asian countries, and promote joint development with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

The master plan also envisions grasping opportunities in the technological and industrial revolution, focusing on tourism, modern services and high-tech industries to foster new competitive edges for the island.

High standards, high tech

In April 2018, China announced plans to build a pilot free trade zone covering the whole island and explore the establishment of a free trade port with Chinese characteristics.

In an effort to create an international and convenient business environment, Hainan in April decided to grant more rights to its seven key industrial parks, as an institutional innovation to serve its free trade port construction.

Benefiting from the policy, an administrative bureau was launched on April 15 in the Hainan Resort Software Community (RSC), a park focusing on the internet industry and home to about 5,000 registered companies. A batch of provincial-level administrative powers have been delegated to the bureau.

“It means cutting red tape for businesses, and the enterprises in the park can enjoy more convenient and efficient services,” said Yang Chunzhi, general manager of the Hainan Resort Software Community Group Co., Ltd, which runs the park.

A blockchain research institute, jointly established by the RSC and the University College Oxford Blockchain Research Centre at Oxford University, was officially opened in 2018 and has attracted many international talents.

Yang said the RSC is developing new industries, including blockchain and digital health and services. “The park will make good use of the policy and promote industrial innovation through our technological advances,” he said.

As the province focuses on modern services, high technologies and tourism, a number of the world’s top enterprises and industry leaders have invested in Hainan, including Temasek, SOSV and Deloitte.

Data from the Hainan Provincial Commerce Department showed that 338 foreign-funded enterprises were set up in Hainan in 2019, up 102.4 percent year on year, and the actual use of foreign capital reached US$1.5 billion, soaring by 100 percent year on year.

From January to April this year, Hainan’s actual use of foreign investment reached around US$316 million, up 252.3 percent year on year. The province saw 110 newly-established foreign-funded companies, covering trade, investment, medicine and logistics, data showed.

“The foreign-funded enterprises have become an important force to boost the development of Hainan’s economy,” said Peng Wei, deputy director of the department.

Peng said Hainan will target the highest levels of opening up, thereby creating a more favorable business environment by better using foreign capital, promoting quality development of trade and further opening up trade in services.

“China’s door is opening wider and wider and Hainan is becoming the new highland of China’s reform and opening up,” said Han Shengjian, Director-General of the Hainan Provincial Bureau of International Economic Development.

“The special policy of the Hainan free trade port is of great significance especially amid the COVID-19 epidemic. It reflects China’s firm determination to expand its opening up and will definitely bring more opportunities to global investors,” he said.

Hainan is worth investing

Why America’s revolution won’t be televised

The so far purely emotional insurrection lacks political structure and a credible leader to articulate grievances

by Pepe Escobar June 3, 2020

Burning and/or looting Target or Macy’s is a minor diversion. No one is aiming at the Pentagon (or even the shops at the Pentagon Mall). The FBI. The NY Federal Reserve. The Treasury Department. The CIA in Langley. Wall Street houses. 

The real looters – the ruling class – are comfortably surveying the show on their massive 4K Bravias, sipping single malt. 

This is a class war much more than a race war and should be approached as such. Yet it was hijacked from the start to unfold as a mere color revolution. 

US corporate media dropped their breathless Planet Lockdown coverage like a ton of – pre-arranged? – bricks to breathlessly cover en masse the new American “revolution.” Social distancing is not exactly conducive to a revolutionary spirit. 

There’s no question the US is mired in a convoluted civil war in progress, as serious as what happened after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King in Memphis in April 1968. 

Yet massive cognitive dissonance is the norm across the full “strategy of tension” spectrum. Powerful factions pull no punches to control the narrative. No one is able to fully identify all the shadowplay intricacies and inconsistencies.

Hardcore agendas mingle: an attempt at color revolution/regime change (blowback is a bitch) interacts with the Boogaloo Bois – arguably tactical allies of Black Lives Matter – while white supremacist “accelerationists” attempt to provoke a race war.

To quote the Temptations: it’s a ball of confusion

Antifa is criminalized but the Boogaloo Bois get a pass (here is how Antifa’s main conceptualizer defends his ideas). Yet another tribal war, yet another – now domestic – color revolution under the sign of divide and rule, pitting Antifa anti-fascists vs. fascist white supremacists.

Meanwhile, the policy infrastructure necessary for enacting martial law has evolved as a bipartisan project.

We are in the middle of the proverbial, total fog of war. Those defending the US Army crushing “insurrectionists” in the streets advocate at the same time a swift ending to the American empire.  

Amidst so much sound and fury signifying perplexity and paralysis, we may be reaching a supreme moment of historical irony, where US homeland (in)security is being boomerang-hit not only by one of the key artifacts of its own Deep State making – a color revolution – but by combined elements of a perfect blowback trifecta:  Operation PhoenixOperation Jakarta; and Operation Gladio

But the targets this time won’t be millions across the Global South. They will be American citizens. 

Empire come home 

Quite a few progressives contend this is a spontaneous mass uprising against police repression and system oppression – and that would necessarily lead to a revolution, like the February 1917 revolution in Russia sprouting out of the scarcity of bread in Petrograd. 

So the protests against endemic police brutality would be a prelude to a Levitate the Pentagon remix – with the interregnum soon entailing a possible face-off with the US military in the streets.  

But we got a problem. The insurrection, so far purely emotional, has yielded no political structure and no credible leader to articulate myriad, complex grievances. As it stands, it amounts to an inchoate insurrection, under the sign of impoverishment and perpetual debt. 

Adding to the perplexity, Americans are now confronted with what it feels like to be in Vietnam, El Salvador, the Pakistani tribal areas or Sadr City in Baghdad. 

Iraq came to Washington DC in full regalia, with Pentagon Blackhawks doing “show of force” passes over protestors, the tried and tested dispersal technique applied in countless counter-insurgency ops across the Global South. 

And then, the Elvis moment: General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, patrolling the streets of DC. The Raytheon lobbyist now heading the Pentagon, Mark Esper, called it “dominating the battlespace.” 

Well, after they got their butts kicked in Afghanistan and Iraq, and indirectly in Syria, full spectrum dominance must dominate somewhere. So why not back home?

Troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, the 10th Mountain Division and the 1st Infantry Division – who lost wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and, yes, Somalia – have been deployed to Andrews Airbase near Washington.     

Super-hawk Tom Cotton even called, in a tweet, for the 82nd Airborne to do “whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters and looters.” These are certainly more amenable targets than the Russian, Chinese and Iranian militaries. 

Milley’s performance reminds me of John McCain walking around in Baghdad in 2007, macho man-style, no helmet, to prove everything  was OK. Of course: he had a small army weaponized to the teeth watching his back. 

And complementing the racism angle, it’s never enough to remember that both a white president and a black president signed off on drone attacks on wedding parties in the Pakistani tribal areas.  

Esper spelled it out: an occupying army may soon be “dominating the battlespace” in the nation’s capital, and possibly elsewhere. What next? A Coalition Provisional Authority?

Compared to similar ops across the Global South, this will not only prevent regime change but also produce the desired effect for the ruling oligarchy: a neo-fascist turning of the screws. Proving once again that when you don’t have a Martin Luther King or a Malcolm X to fight the power, then power crushes you whatever you do. 

Inverted Totalitarianism

The late, great political theorist Sheldon Wolin had already nailed it in a book first published in 2008: this is all about Inverted Totalitarianism.

Wolin showed how “the cruder forms of control – from militarized police to wholesale surveillance, as well as police serving as judge, jury and executioner, now a reality for the underclass – will become a reality for all of us should we begin to resist the continued funneling of power and wealth upward.

“We are tolerated as citizens only as long as we participate in the illusion of a participatory democracy. The moment we rebel and refuse to take part in the illusion, the face of inverted totalitarianism will look like the face of past systems of totalitarianism,” he wrote.

Sinclair Lewis (who did not say that, “when fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving the cross”) actually wrote, in It Can’t Happen Here (1935), that American fascists would be those “who disowned the word ‘fascism’ and preached enslavement to capitalism under the style of constitutional and traditional native American liberty.”

So American fascism, when it happens, will walk and talk American. 

George Floyd was the spark. In a Freudian twist, the return of the repressed came out swinging, laying bare multiple wounds: how the US political economy shattered the working classes; failed miserably on Covid-19; failed to provide affordable healthcare; profits a plutocracy; and thrives on a racialized labor market, a militarized police, multi-trillion-dollar imperial wars and serial bailouts of the too big to fail.  

Instinctively at least, although in an inchoate manner, millions of Americans clearly see how, since Reaganism, the whole game is about an oligarchy/plutocracy weaponizing white supremacism for political power goals, with the extra bonus of a steady, massive, upwards transfer of wealth.

Slightly before the first, peaceful Minneapolis protests, I argued that the realpolitik perspectives post-lockdown were grim, privileging both restored neoliberalism – already in effect – and hybrid neofascism. 

President Trump’s by now iconic Bible photo op in front of St John’s church – including a citizen tear-gassing preview – took it to a whole new level. Trump wanted to send a carefully choreographed signal to his evangelical base. Mission accomplished. 

But arguably the most important (invisible) signal was the fourth man in one of the photos. 

Giorgio Agamben has already proved beyond reasonable doubt that the state of siege is now totally normalized in the West. Attorney General William Barr now is aiming to institutionalize it in the US: he’s the man with the leeway to go all out for a permanent state of emergency, a Patriot Act on steroids, complete with “show of force” Blackhawk support.

TRUMP’S CHINA POLICY AT A CUL-DE-SAC

This past week has been a catastrophic seven days that shook America. Some of the debris may have fallen on President Donald Trump. Most importantly, the Trump administration has lost the plot on China

The tragic Memorial Day murder of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, highlights that as much as racial violence and the targeting of non-whites in incidents of police violence signal the surge of the most backward and reactionary layers of American society, the latent class oppression under the Trump presidency lies exposed.

The victims of police violence – black, white, Hispanic or native American – are invariably the poor and the most vulnerable segments of the population. 

Internationally, there has been a show of solidarity with the protests that erupted after the killing of George Floyd. Demonstrations took place in Trafalgar Square in London and at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The Russian Foreign Ministry commented on it.

Europe’s alienation from Trump’s America can only deepen now. Already, this past week highlighted the schism that is brewing in the trans-Atlantic alliance. Three vectors appeared. 

Trump’s carefully timed initiative to host a Group of Seven summit in Washington on June 25-26, ostensibly to look beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, crash-landed for a lack of enthusiasm among the United States’ Western allies.

Merkel makes a stand

This was dramatically brought home with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision not to accept Trump’s invitation, pleading, ironically, her preoccupations over containing the pandemic. 

But Merkel’s dissent goes far deeper. She publicly remarked that in whatever form the G7 meeting takes place, “whether as a videoconference or otherwise, I will definitely fight for multilateralism. That is very clear, both in the G7 and the G20.”

Sensing that his leadership has come under serious challenge in the Western world, Trump quickly switched tack to propose that the G7 group of advanced economies has become “very outdated” in a changing world and should transform as the “G10 or 11 vs G1.”

Which is to say, Trump wants an expanded G7 – with Russia, India, Australia and South Korea added on – and such a reformed club to unite against China.

This brainwave is quixotic and will further hurt US diplomacy and leadership. The other six members of the G7 – the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan – remain skeptical about the inclusion of Russia, which was disinvited in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea. 

Besides, Europe wants to know first what Trump would do to the American leadership of the post-World War II liberal international order. It is not only that the other members of the G7 will feel annoyed over Trump’s unilaterally proposed formal enlargement, but Europeans are also determined to maintain cooperation with China.

Japan, South Korea, Australia and Russia also have an interest in deeper economic regional integration involving China. 

The schism over relations with China within the Western club was highlighted by Merkel in remarks last week when she insisted that European countries have “great strategic interest” in the constructive engagement of China, even while robustly pursuing an equal partnership.

In a major speech addressing the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung, a think-tank with ties to her Christian Democratic Union political party, in Berlin on May 27, Merkel said China would be a top priority when her government takes over the six-month rotating European Union presidency on July 1. 

Ill-judged steps

Merkel stressed: “We Europeans will need to recognize the decisiveness with which China will claim a leading position in the existing structures of international architecture.” She added that even as European governments cast a critical eye on China’s assertiveness, she’ll aim to maintain a “critical, constructive” dialogue with Beijing. 

Merkel reiterated her aim to complete an investment accord with China, as well as finding common ground in fighting climate change and global health challenges. Merkel’s remarks spell doom for Trump’s hopes of using the G7 – or what he is now calling the G10 or G11 – to build a coalition to put pressure on China.

Simply put, Trump’s unilateral announcement regarding a G7 expansion is perceived in Europe simply as a continuation of his ill-judged steps in the past three years of his presidency to undermine the rules-based multilateral world order that American presidents from both parties have painstakingly built up for more than 70 years.

Trump’s last pugnacious act to announce his intentions to withdraw the US from the World Health Organization drew forth a dissenting statement by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on Saturday.

The statement openly chastised Trump: “As the world continues to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, the main task for everyone is to save lives and contain and mitigate this pandemic. The European Union continues to support the WHO in this regard and has already provided additional funding.” 

The EU has urged Trump: “Actions that weaken international results must be avoided. In this context, we urge the US to reconsider its announced decision.” 

Equally, while the EU has disagreements with China over its recent legislation on Hong Kong, Brussels and the major European capitals distance themselves from Washington’s diatribes against Beijing. The US ultimately had to be content with issuing a statement with a clutch of Anglo-Saxon countries in regard to the situation in Hong Kong. 

As for the EU, it issued a brief statement of its own regarding Hong Kong. While expressing “grave concern at the steps taken by China on 28 May,” the EU estimates that Beijing’s move “risks to seriously undermine the ‘One Country Two Systems’ principle and the high degree of autonomy of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.” 

The statement concluded by saying that “EU relations with China are based on mutual respect and trust. This decision further calls into question China’s will to uphold its international commitments. We will raise the issue in our continuing dialogue with China.”

A debilitating rift

The bottom line is that Trump’s unilateralism on the G7 and the ever deeper rift he is creating between the US and its NATO allies may eventually prove to be profoundly debilitating for America.

Trans-Atlantic spats are nothing new, but this time around, a veritable chasm is developing. Trump’s actions are calling into question the fundamental unity of the West that has been a steady feature of world politics since the Cold War began in the late 1940s. 

In the attempt to perpetuate its global hegemony, the US is still traveling on the path of the past seven decades with its eyes trained on an “enemy image” that helps generate business activity for its military-industrial complex and in turn fuels dreams of a New American Century.

The stuff of dreams is seldom borne out of realities. The concerns of the United States’ principal allies are increasingly at variance with America’s.

No takers

Thus the sort of decoupling from China that Trump espouses has no takers in the West where the mainstream opinion upholds global economic cooperation. The groundswell of world opinion is that societies that are able to rebuild themselves the most successfully are those that are able to work together across countries and across regions to assist their economic recovery. 

In the immediate context of the Covid-19 pandemic that is casting the shadow of a possible world economic recession amid the lurking fear that the shadow of the pandemic may last long, it is inevitable that an Asian-led recovery holds attraction. Over the past four months, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has become the largest trading partner for China, replacing the EU.

Trade between China and ASEAN economies touched US$85.32 billion in January and February, despite the trend of falling trade with most other trading members as a result of the pandemic, which generates incipient hopes of a gradual resumption of the supply chains.

China and the Asian countries strongly believe in multilateralism and cooperation, which is helpful in times when the global community needs to deal with an economic crisis. Globalization, in effect, is acquiring new traits of “regionalization.” This was also what Merkel had in mind in her Berlin speech last Wednesday. 

Indeed, Trump’s statement on “Actions Against China” on Friday hints at some degree of awareness that the US is beating a dead horse by demonizing China. Trump was very tough in rhetoric, but probably as cloud cover. Trump’s statement laid out a long list of issues with China, which makes it look like a“China carnage” statement. But in their totality, they do not add up as a coherent strategy.

Trump said the US is studying what to do about US-listed Chinese firms; the US will restrict Chinese postgraduate students and scientists from studying in American centers of learning and research; special treatment for Hong Kong will end; Chinese officials involved in the Hong Kong situation may be sanctioned; and the US is terminating its membership of the World Health Organization.

But curiously, US stock markets shot up after Trump’s comments. It looks like investors are relieved that the measures Trump outlined are not as bad as one would have thought. And the language he used certainly leaves wiggle room for timing and implementation.

Most important, Trump did not say a word in his statement about the fate of the US-China trade deal. Presumably, it is a work in progress and Trump is conscious that trade with China can be critical for the United States’ post-Covid economic recovery.

A Reuters analysis on Monday was wryly captioned “‘Lemon’ or not, Trump is stuck with Phase 1 of the China trade deal.”


By M.K. Bhadrakumar
Source: Asia Times

BEIJING SEES TRUMP’S HAND AND WON’T FOLD

Stranger things have happened.

Everyone was expecting US President Donald Trump to go nuclear by de facto sanctioning China to death over Hong Kong. In an environment where Twitter and the President of the United States are now engaged in open warfare, the rule is that there are no rules anymore.

So in the end, what was announced against China amounted to an anti-climax.

The US government, as it stands, is terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO). The geopolitical repercussions are immense and that will take time to sink in. In the short term, something must be blamed for the US’ appalling Covid-19 record, so it might as well be a UN institution. 

Hong Kong’s preferential trade status will also be terminated, but in a hazy future in still undetermined terms. 

Phase 1 of the US-China trade deal still stands – at least for now. Yet there’s no guarantee that Beijing itself won’t start to doubt it.  

The bottom line: “Investors” were duly appeased, for now. Team Trump seems not to be exactly versed in the niceties of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, as the president stressed the “plain violation of Beijing’s treaty obligations with the United Kingdom.” The national security law was blasted as “the latest” Chinese aggression against its own special administrative region.  

Now compare all this with the Two Sessions in Beijing ending the day before, with an intriguing, quite Keynesian performance by Prime Minister Li Keqiang. This was compelling as much for what Li did not say as for what he chose to put on the public record.

Let’s review some of the highlights. Li stressed that the NPC’s resolution putting forth a national security law for Hong Kong is meant to protect “one country, two systems,” and not as an “aggression.”  

Instead of demonizing the WHO, Beijing is committed to a serious scientific investigation of the origins of Sars-Cov-2. “No cover-up” will be allowed, Li said, adding that a clear, scientific understanding should contribute to global public health. Beijing also supports an independent review into the WHO’s handling of Covid-19. 

Geopolitically, China rejects a “Cold War mentality” and hopes China and the US will be able to cooperate. Li stressed the relationship could be either mutually beneficial or mutually harmful. Decoupling was described as a very bad idea, for bilateral relations and for the world at large. China, after all, will start to import more and that should also profit US companies.

Domestically, the absolute focus – 70% of the available new funding – will be on employment, support for small and medium enterprises and measures to encourage consumption rather than investment in infrastructure building. In summation, in Li’s own words: “The central government will live on a tight budget.” 

If not completely Sisyphean in the long term, it will at least be a “daunting task” in Li’s terminology considering the previously stated end-of-2020 deadline would be to reach President Xi Jinping’s goal of eliminating poverty across China.  

Li said absolutely nothing about three key themes: the alarming Himalayan border stand-off between China and India; the prospects for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects; and China’s complex geopolitical and geo-economic relationship with the European Union (EU).

The non-mention of the last theme is especially noticeable after Chancellor Merkel’s quite encouraging assessment earlier this week and EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell’s remark to a group of German ambassadors that “the end of an American-led system and the arrival of an Asian century” is now “happening in front of our eyes.”   

Confirming steady rumors emanating from Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels and Paris, China and East Asia are taking precedence as the EU’s top trading partner. This is something that will be extensively discussed at the upcoming EU-China summit next autumn in Germany. The EU is going Eurasia. Team Trump won’t be amused. 

Dancing with wolves, remixed

Predictably, the Beijing leadership needs to focus on domestic consumption and reaching the next level on technological production so as not to fall into the notorious “middle-income trap.” Fine-tuning the balance between domestic stability and a very strong and wide global reach is another tak that brings Sisyphos to mind.

Xi, Li and the Politburo very well know that Covid-19 hugely affected migrants, farmers and small-scale family entrepreneurs. The risk of social unrest is very high. Unemployment protection is far from Scandinavian levels. So back to business, fast, has to be the top priority.     

Enveloping this strategy is a new diplomatic offensive. Foreign Minister Wang Yi, usually meticulously nuanced and polite, is now increasingly exasperated. Earlier this week, Yi defined the demonization of China by the US over Covid-19 as “a product of the three no’s”: no grounds, no factual basis and no international precedent.

Moreover, he described attempts to blackmail China through threats as “daydreaming.”   The Global Times, for its part, has blasted the Trump administration for “typical international hooliganism” and additionally stressed that “labeling Chinese diplomacy as ‘wolf warrior’ reflects an extreme ideology.” 

The “wolf warrior” plot is bound to thicken. Beijing does seem ready to deploy its diplomatic force as wolf warriors. One should always keep in mind General Qiao Liang: if China is forced to dance with wolves, it might as well set up the rhythm. 

That applies perfectly to the Hong Kong question. Whatever Team Trump thinks, Beijing has no interest whatsoever in disturbing the Hong Kong financial system or collapsing the Hang Seng index. That’s exactly what the black block protesters last year were accomplishing. 

What we saw during this week is the result of what a task force, sent to Shenzhen last year to examine every angle of the protests, relayed back to the leadership in Beijing. 

The sources of financing for the hardcore black blocks have reputedly been cut. The local 5thcolumnist “leaders” have been isolated. Beijing was being very patient tackling the whole mess. Then along came Covid-19. 

The economic consensus in Beijing is that this will be an L-shaped recovery – actually very slow on the bottom of the L. So the West will buy much less from and invest much less in China. 

This implies that Hong Kong is not going to be very useful. Its best bet has already been offered many times over: integrate with the Greater Bay Area and be part of a booming Pearl river delta southern cluster. Hong Kong businesses support it. 

Another conclusion was that, whatever Beijing does, the Sinophobic hysteria in the US – and in this case also the UK – is unabated. So now is the right moment to go for the national security law, which of course is against subversion, against British-era “wigs” (judges) acting as 5th columnists and, most of all, against money laundering.

A Global Times editorial cut to the chase: the national security law is the “death knell” for US intervention in Hong Kong. 

Cold War 2.0

As much as Yi may have said, this time diplomatically, that we’re “on the brink” of a new Cold War, the fact is the Trump administration’s hybrid war on China – or Cold War 2.0 – is now fully established. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is openly threatening Five Eyes allies and vassals, as well as Israel, with consequences if they fail to ditch any projects linked to Belt and Road. 

That is intimately linked to the avalanche of threats and measures against Huawei and everything connected to Made in China 2025, which proceeds at a fast pace but without using the terminology. 

The official Trump re-election campaign strategy “China, China, China,” detailed in a 57-page memo to Republicans, is bound to be deployed as total hybrid warfare, including non-stop propaganda, threats, infowar technologies, cyber warfare and breaking news fabrications. 

The ultimate objective shared by every Sinophobic strand, whether commercially-minded or think tank-based, is to derail the Chinese economy – a top level competitor – by any means necessary and thus cripple the ongoing Eurasian integration process whose three key nodes, China, Russia and Iran, happen to be top “threats” according to the US national security strategy. 

Once again, the gloves are off. And Beijing won’t stop counterpunching in kind. 

It’s as if Beijing had so far serially underestimated the Deep State and Beltway’s larger than life obsession with always remaining the undisputed hegemon, geopolitically and geo-economically. Every “conflict” erupting across the chessboard is and will continue to be directly linked to the twin objectives of containment of Russia and disruption of the Belt and Road. 

I previously referred to the Empire of Chaos, where a plutocracy progressively projects its own internal disintegration upon the whole world. But only now is the serious game starting, complete with Trump’s intention to test nuclear bombs again. Not against a bunch of low-life “terrorists,” but against a serious, peer-competitor: the Eurasian strategic partnership. 

It would be too much to expect Team Trump to learn from Gramscian analyses of Belt and Road, which demonstrate how the Chinese Dream – a Confucianist variant of neoliberalism – marks the evolution of China into a core production zone in the neoliberal world economy by profiting from the existing global legal structure. 

Team Trump has vociferously announced its own strategy. Expect serial, silent Sun Tzu counterpunches. 


By Pepe Escobar
Source: Asia Times

DRAWING BATTLE-LINES: US OPENLY TARGETS CHINA’S OBOR

Judging by US foreign policy – China is a massive global threat – and by some accounts – the “top” threat. But a threat to what?

AFP would report in its article, “Trump nominee to lead intel community sees China as top threat,” that:

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the US intelligence community said Tuesday that he would focus on China as the country’s greatest threat, saying Beijing was determined to supplant the United States’ superpower position.

Were China doing this by using news agencies like AFP to lie to the public to justify invading Middle Eastern nations, killing tens of thousands of innocent people, installing client regimes worldwide, and using its growing power to coerce and control nations economically and politically when not outright militarily – US President Donald Trump’s “pick” – John Ratcliffe – might be justified in focusing on China and its “determination” to “supplant the United States’ superpower position.”

However, this is not what China is doing.

China Building Rather than Bombing 

China is – instead – using economic progress to rise upon the global stage. It makes things. It builds things. It creates infrastructure to bring these things to others around the globe who need or want them, and enables other nations to make, build, and send things to China.

One example is China’s One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR) also referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This includes a series of railways, highways, ports, and other infrastructure projects to help improve the logistical connections between nations, accelerating economic development.

Only in the US could the notion of building railways connecting people within and between nations seem like a dangerous idea.

By building such networks, people are better empowered to trade what they are making and what they seek to buy and sell. China, which possesses the largest high-speed railway network on Earth carrying 2 billion passengers a year, is extending this network beyond its borders – deep into Southeast Asia and even across Eurasia via Russia and beyond. Alongside it are a raft of other projects ranging from ports to power plants, and more.

The political and economic power China is gaining by expanding real economic activity both within its borders and beyond them, and both for China itself as well as for its trading partners – represents a global pivot away from America’s century-long unipolar global order and closer toward a now emerging multipolar world order.

The US with a population of over 300 million and some of the best industrial potential in the world could easily pivot with this sea change – but entrenched special interests refuse to do so. Paying into a genuinely pragmatic method of generating wealth and stability exposes Washington and Wall Street’s various rackets, making them no longer tenable. So instead, US special interests are labeling China’s One Belt, One Road initiative a global threat and China itself as one of America’s chief adversaries.

Fighting Fire with Fire or Pushing Rope Uphill? 

To combat this adversary – the US is not building bigger and better global networks to facilitate economic progress – but is instead marshalling the summation of its “soft power” to hinder and sabotage it. It has ringed China with a series of sociopolitical conflicts, cultivating opposition groups in various nations aimed at destabilizing them and spoiling them as constructive economic and infrastructure partners for Beijing.

The US is leveraging its still massive media monopolies to portray these political conflicts as otherwise inexplicable opposition to closer ties with China and against infrastructure projects jointly developed with China.

In some nations – like Cambodia – this has all but failed with swift and definitive action taken by the Cambodian government against US proxies to clear them from Cambodia’s media, political, and public space. In nations like Thailand, the opposition has been left to linger – neutralized at the moment but ever threatening to overturn sociopolitical stability if given the opportunity.

Nations like Japan, South Korea, and even Australia – who are generally perceived as being staunch US allies – have even begun slowly but surely shifting their foreign policy to benefit from the economic rise of China.

Australia – for example – has even been recently threatened by the US after the state of Victoria signed a trade deal with China.

An ABC article titled, “US threatens Australia’s intelligence ties over Victoria’s ‘Belt and Road’ pact with China,” would report:

The US Secretary of State has said his nation could “simply disconnect” from Australia if Victoria’s trade deal with Beijing affects US telecommunications.

Mike Pompeo said while he was unaware of the detail of Victoria’s agreement, he warned it could impact the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership with Australia.

Of course, the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing partnership is an abusive combine of invasive surveillance used to enhance the power and profits of the special interests that created it – not to actually protect the people living in any of the “Five Eyes” partner nations.

While US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hints at possible security risks associated with doing business with China and its telecom giant Huawei – “Five Eyes” governments have regularly been exposed and confirmed to be partnering with Western tech giants to violate privacy and spy on innocent people.

It is just one example of how the US seeks to shape the world and bend nations into joining or doubling down on its abusive axis and steering them away from constructive partnerships.

Australia’s economic trade is mainly done within Asia – not with the West. As China continues to rise, common sense will compel Australia to continue building better and more constructive ties with Beijing and divesting from otherwise costly and unconstructive alliances with nations like the US built on military intervention, spying, and political subversion.

The US finds itself pushing the geopolitical rope of hegemony up hill – offering up unconvincing criticisms of China and its foreign policy while offering no viable alternative.

Delusion is the Worst Defense 

Op-eds like Foreign Policy’s “One Belt, One Road, One Big Mistake,” help illustrate the West’s thinking regarding China’s rise and its OBOR project.

The article claims:

This might not matter if BRI projects were driving favorable political outcomes. They aren’t. Prolonged exposure to the BRI process has driven opposition to Chinese investment and geopolitical influence across the region.

FP can make this claim because it entirely omits any mention of the vast sums of money and effort the US has spent to create this opposition. The example FP uses is the Maldives – never mentioning that the pro-Beijing government there was overturned by a convicted criminal literally hiding in Western Europe and fully supported by the US State Department in his bid to return to power.

Thus – this isn’t an example of OBOR failing to create a favorable political outcome for Beijing – it is an example of US soft power overturning these favorable political outcomes nonexistent American alternatives to OBOR are incapable of doing. How durable these US successes are is a matter of debate.

The article also claims:

Far from being a strategic masterstroke, the BRI is a sign of strategic dysfunction. There is no evidence that it has reshaped Asia’s geopolitical realities. The countries that have benefited most from it are those that already had strong geopolitical reasons for aligning themselves with Chinese power, such as Cambodia and Pakistan.

Here again – FP depends on omitting facts including the fact that many nations previously bent to US foreign policy are exiting out from under it via China’s One Belt, One Road. Thailand is a perfect example of this – having recently replaced much of its US military hardware with Chinese alternatives including tanks, armored personnel carriers, ships, and even submarines. Thailand is also in the process of building a joint high-speed railway with China that will connect it to China via Laos to the north and with Malaysia to the south. It’s not that the Western media doesn’t know this – they choose simply to ignore this reality and shield its readership from it – a bit of delusion in hopes its soft-power methods can continue gaining them victories and reversing China’s gains faster than China can make and cement them. As to what the US is doing to counter OBOR, Foreign Policy and many others populating the West’s echo chambers feel criticism – however baseless – as well as brushing off the sea change OBOR is slowly creating – is good enough.

Of course it is not. In an international order where might makes right, the US finds itself with diminishing might and a growing inability to convince the world it is “right.” Luckily for the US and much of Western Europe strong-armed into following Washington’s cues, the rest of the world still seeks to constructively work with the West and inevitably will do so.

It will just be a matter of weathering the damage being done by the current circle of special interests still dominating Western foreign policy, waiting for them to wane and disappear from positions of power and authority and be replaced by leadership willing and able to move the West into a constructive role amid a multipolar world.

Either way, OBOR will connect the rest of the world together leaving the West just beyond its terminus. It will be up to Western leaders – particularly in Washington – whether or not they choose to benefit from the wealth left just beyond their doorstep or not.


By Tony Cartalucci
Source: New Eastern Outlook