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April 16, 2024

PI Newsletter #99

by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, in the European Conservative

1. Is it China vs the World?

As rattling Beijing’s cage seems to be the international order of the day, the prospects of post-pandemic peace are looking remote.

China might be forgiven for developing a persecution complex.

With politicians in the Philippines and Australia joining many in the US in almost daily rants against the Middle Kingdom, rattling Beijing’s cage seems to be the international order of the day.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to allow largely Chinese-owned casinos to remain open as essential services while most other industries were shuttered during the coronavirus lockdown angered many, writes Richard Javad Heydarian. Legislators, including top Duterte supporters, have channelled public outrage to table a new bill which aims to ban casino operators outright on the grounds they represent a “social menace.”

Australia’s beef with China developed after Beijing banned imports of barley and, well, beef. That happened after Canberra called for an investigation into China’s role as the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now it’s quickly morphing into a trade war that could have unhealthy impacts on both sides, reports Alan Boyd.

Growing animosity between China and, seemingly, everyone else is posing some worrying questions about security in the Asia Pacific region.

The Japanese parliament approved a whopping US$46.3 billion defense budget on March 27, replete with earmarks for new hypersonic anti-ship missiles and helicopter carrier upgrades that will allow for the carrying of Lockheed Martin F-35B stealth fighters.

Defense-related spending in Japan has traditionally aimed chiefly to shield against neighboring North Korea’s nuclear threat. But the new ramped up spending is more clearly pointed China, according to Japanese military insiders. Bertil Lintner reports.

Who’s got beef? Beijing has banned imports of barley and beef after Canberra called for an investigation into China’s role as the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The USS Ronald Reagan carrier force is underway to the island of Guam and carrying with it the ability to deliver up to two dozen stealthy AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs). It’s now abundantly clear that the Pentagon wants China to know Uncle Sam is in its face, writes Dave Makichuk.

In April, Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, told the US Congress that he would like US$20 billion to create a robust military cordon that runs from California to Japan and down the Pacific Rim of Asia. And in 2019, acting US defense secretary Patrick Shanahan told US military officials that the problem is “China, China, China.”

In an opinion piece, Vijay Prashad writes that the obvious conclusion is that the US is galvanised for confrontation of some sort with its eastern rival.

Chinaphobia is even informing that most intractable of American problems, the Middle East, Shaiel Ben-Ephraim writes. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Israel during the week to discuss several well-worn issues but, mostly it was talk about the depth and breadth of cooperation between Israel and China.

In an opinion piece, Ravi Kant suggests the geopolitical jostling may amount to nothing because China is managing to capitalize on the Covid-19 crisis by rewriting the codes of the international world order through new strategic chokepoints.

With so much negativity going China’s way, it’s maybe unsurprising that state media is suggesting the country bolsters its nuclear arsenal, as Frank Chen reports.

Read the full stories in Asia Times

2. Recommended Book: The Hundred-Year Marathon

Chinese Secret Strategy to Replace America as The Global Superpower, by Michael Pillsbury

3. Hungary at War with COVID

As the world battles the global coronavirus pandemic, Budapest stands accused of using the crisis to enshrine authoritarianism via parliamentary vote—by giving conservative prime minister Victor Orbán extraordinary powers forever. An angry clamor has gone up, calling for Hungary to be expelled from NATO and the EU. Such calls are premature, however. There is no plot to destroy democracy on the Danube. As Orbán himself put it, “We are at war—and the country is operating on a military plan.”

The Hungarian government’s response is rather common sense. It generally conforms to the self-protective pattern followed by America and others, with some important sui generis Magyar characteristics. But before we turn to domestic Hungarian issues, let’s see how the Danubian parliamentary republic measures up to other nations.

Globally speaking, there are six basic kinds of national responses to the COVID-19 emergency. First, in a category all its own, there is that of North Korea which, claims its dictator Kim Jong Un, is free of the virus. This is because the Communists there reportedly shoot anyone infected. In fact, so far only the Arctic can boast of zero infections—and without any executions.

Second, there is the post-totalitarian model of Communist China and post-Communist Russia. It is essentially authoritarian. Beijing has paved the way, with forced quarantines and a population movement ban for anyone caught in the broadly understood ‘infection zone’ (Wuhan, in particular). It also includes random temperature and symptom checks for all subjects; obligatory isolation for suspected carrier; and forced treatment, real or alleged, for everyone infected.

Third, there is the Swedish way: ignore the pandemic and go about the nation’s business as usual. Sweden is a low-density country, so the countryside (at the very least, the frozen northern parts) probably won’t be infected for now. But the coastal cities most certainly are threatened, and, in fact, are already contaminated.

Belarus has emulated Sweden, seemingly remaining in denial about COVID-19. But Minsk’s close links to Beijing will eventually—perhaps sooner rather than later—provide a reality check for Moscow. There are already ‘hushed up’ reports of hundreds of cases in the eastern part of the country, where Chinese workers and experts are employed on a variety of projects.



by Marek Chodakiewicz
The European Conservative

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