Pepe Escobar: Westward ho on China’s Eurasia BRIC road

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Pepe Escobar March 21, 2015 16 Comments
Empire of Chaos, Pepe Escobar
“…it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger (to the U.S.)

emerges capable of dominating Eurasia

and thus also of challenging America”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, 1997

What’s in a name, rather an ideogram? Everything. A single Chinese character – jie (for “between”) – graphically illustrates the key foreign policy initiative of the new Chinese dream.

In the upper part of the four-stroke character – which, symbolically, should be read as the roof of a house – the stroke on the left means the Silk Road Economic Belt, and the stroke on the right means the 21st century Maritime Silk Road. In the lower part, the stroke on the left means the China-Pakistan corridor, via Xinjiang province, and the stroke on the right, the China-Myanmar-Bangladesh-India corridor via Yunnan province.

Chinese culture feasts on myriad formulas, mottoes – and symbols. If many a Chinese scholar worries about how the Middle Kingdom’s new intimation of soft power may be lost in translation, the character jie – pregnant with connectivity – is already the starting point to make 1.3 billion Chinese, plus the overseas Chinese diaspora, visualize the top twin axis – continental and naval – of the New Silk Road vision unveiled by President Xi Jinping, a concept also known as “One Road, One Belt”.

In practical terms, it also helps that the New Silk Road will be boosted by a special, multi-billion-dollar Silk Road Fund and the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which, not by accident, has attracted the attention of European investors.

The New Silk Road, actually roads, symbolizes China’s pivot to an old heartland: Eurasia. That implies a powerful China even more enriched by its environs, without losing its essence as a civilization-state. Call it a post-modern remix of the Tang, Sung and early Ming dynasties – as Beijing deftly and recently stressed via a superb exhibition in the National Museum of China consisting of rare early Silk Road pieces assembled from a range of regional museums.

In the past, China had a unifying infrastructure enterprise like the Great Wall. In the future it will have a major project of unifying Eurasia via high-speed rail. When one considers the breadth of this vision, depictions of Xi striving to be an equal of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping sound so pedestrian.

Of course China’s new drive may be interpreted as the stirrings of a new tributary system, ordered and centered in Beijing. At the same time, many in the U.S. are uncomfortable that the New Silk Road may be a geopolitical, “peaceful development”, “win-win” answer to the Obama administration’s Pentagon-driven pivoting to Asia.

Beijing has been quick to dismiss any notions of hegemony. It maintains this is no Marshall Plan. It’s undeniable that the Marshall Plan “covered only Western nations and excluded all countries and regions the West thought were ideologically close to the Soviet Union”. China, on the other hand, is focused on integrating “emerging economies” into a vast, pan-Eurasian trade/commerce network.

Achtung! Seidenstrasse! (Attention! Silk Road!)

It’s no wonder top nations in the beleaguered EU have gravitated to the AIIB – which will play a key role in the New Silk Road(s). A German geographer – Ferdinand von Richthofen – invented the Seidenstrasse (Silk Road) concept. Marco Polo forever linked Italy with the Silk Road. The EU is already China’s number one trade partner. And, once again symbolically, this happens to be the 40th year of China-EU relations. Watch the distinct possibility of an emerging Sino-European Fund that finances infrastructure and even green energy projects across an integrated Eurasia.

It’s as if the Angel of History – that striking image in a Paul Klee painting eulogized by philosopher Walter Benjamin – is now trying to tell us that a 21st century China-EU Seidenstrasse synergy is all but inevitable. And that, crucially, would have to include Russia, which is a vital part of the New Silk Road through an upcoming, Russia-China financed $280 billion high-speed rail upgrade of the Trans-Siberian railway. This is where the New Silk Road project and President Putin’s initial idea of a huge trade emporium from Lisbon to Vladivostok actually merge.

In parallel, the 21st century Maritime Silk Road will deepen the already frantic trade interaction between China and Southeast Asia by sea. Fujian province – which faces Taiwan – will play a key role. Xi, crucially, spent many years of his life in Fujian. And Hong Kong, not by accident, also wants to be part of the action.

All these developments are driven by China being finally ready to become a massive net exporter of capital and the top source of credit for the Global South. In a few months, Beijing will launch the China International Payment System (CIPS), bound to turbo-charge the yuan as a key global currency for all types of trade. There’s the AIIB. And if that was not enough, there’s still the New Development Bank, launched by the BRICs to compete with the World Bank, and run from Shanghai.

It can be argued that the success of the entire Silk Road hinges on how Beijing will handle restive, Uyghur-populated Xinjiang – which should be seen as one of key nodes of Eurasia. This is a subplot – fraught with insecurity, to say the least – that should be followed in detail for the rest of the decade. What’s certain is that most of Asia will feel the tremendous pull of China’s Eurasian drive.

And Eurasia – contrary to perennial Brzezinski wishful thinking – will likely take the form of a geopolitical challenge: A de facto China-Russia strategic partnership that manifests itself in various facets of the New Silk Road that also bolsters the strength of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

By then, both Iran and Pakistan will be SCO members. The close relations between what was ancient Persia and China span two millennia – and now they are viewed by Beijing as a matter of national security. Pakistan is an essential node of the Maritime Silk Road, especially when one considers the Indian Ocean port of Gwadar, which in a few years may double as a key transit point of the IP or Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. It may also be the starting point of yet another major Chinese Pipelineistan gambit parallel to the Karakorum highway, delivering gas to Xinjiang.

Beijing values both Iran and Pakistan – the intersection of Southwest Asia and South Asia – as fundamentally strategic nodes of the New Silk Road. This allows China to project trade/commerce power not only in the Indian Ocean but the Persian Gulf.

Got vision, will travel

Washington’s alarm at these developments betrays the glaring absence of an enticing made -in-the-USA vision to woo pan-Eurasian public opinion – apart from a hazy military pivoting posture mixed with relentless NATO expansion, and the TTIP “free trade” corporate racket, also known across Asia as “NATO on trade”.

The counter punch to the above could be already coming via the BRICs; the SCO; the non-stop strengthtening of the China-Russia strategic partnership. There’s also the expansion of the Eurasian Union (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia – with Kyrgyzstan soon acceding, followed by Tajikistan). In the Middle East, Syria is seriously studying the possibility, and a trade agreement with Egypt has already been clinched. In Southeast Asia, a pact with Vietnam will be a done deal by the end of 2015.

Russia and China’s “secret” agenda in helping to clinch an Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal paves the way for Tehran to be admitted to the SCO as a full member. Expect, as early as 2016, an SCO alignment that unites at least 60% of Eurasia, with a population of 3.5 billion people and a wealth of oil and gas that more than matches the Gulf Cooperation Council states.

So the real story is not how China will collapse, as peddled by David Shambaugh, the so-called second top China expert in the U.S. (who’s the first? Henry Kissinger?) This is a line that’s been soundly debunked by many sources. The real story, which a revived Asia Times will be covering in detail in upcoming years, is how the myriad aspects of the New Silk Road will be configuring a new Eurasian dream. Have vision, will travel. Bon voyage.

Pepe Escobar’s latest book is http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Chaos-Roving-Eye-Collection-ebook/dp/B00OYVYD3G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423800890&sr=1-1&keywords=empire+of+chaos

Empire of Chaos. Follow him on https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377

Fonte: Asia Times

The Non-Problem of Chinese Currency Manipulation

CAMBRIDGE – America’s two political parties rarely agree, but one thing that unites them is their anger about “currency manipulation,” especially by China. Perhaps spurred by the recent appreciation of the dollar and the first signs that it is eroding net exports, congressional Democrats and Republicans are once again considering legislation to counter what they view as unfair currency undervaluation. The proposed measures include countervailing duties against imports from offending countries, even though this would conflict with international trade rules.
This is the wrong approach. Even if one accepts that it is possible to identify currency manipulation, China no longer qualifies. Under recent conditions, if China allowed the renminbi to float freely, without intervention, it would be more likely to depreciate than rise against the dollar, making it harder for US producers to compete in international markets.

But there is a more fundamental point: From an economic viewpoint, currency manipulation or unfair undervaluation are exceedingly hard to pin down conceptually. The renminbi’s slight depreciation against the dollar in 2014 is not evidence of it; many other currencies, most notably the yen and the euro, depreciated by far more last year. As a result, the overall value of the renminbi was actually up slightly on an average basis.
The sine qua non of manipulation is currency-market intervention: selling the domestic currency and buying foreign currencies to keep the foreign-exchange value lower than it would otherwise be. To be sure, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) did a lot of this over the last ten years. Capital inflows contributed to a large balance-of-payments surplus, and the authorities bought US dollars, thereby resisting upward pressure on the renminbi. The result was as an all-time record level of foreign exchange reserves, reaching $3.99 trillion by July 2014.
But the situation has recently changed. In 2014, China’s capital flows reversed direction, showing substantial net capital outflows. As a result, the overall balance of payments turned negative in the second half of the year, and the PBOC actually intervened to dampen the renminbi’s depreciation. Foreign-exchange reserves fell to $3.84 trillion by January 2015.
There is no reason to think that this recent trend will reverse in the near future. The downward pressure on the renminbi relative to the dollar reflects the US economy’s relatively strong recovery, which has prompted the Federal Reserve to end a long period of monetary easing, and China’s economic slowdown, which has prompted the PBOC to start a new period of monetary stimulus.
Similar economic fundamentals are also at work in other countries. Congressional proposals to include currency provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the mega-regional free-trade agreement currently in the final stage of negotiations, presumably target Japan (as China is not included in the TPP). Congress may also want to target the eurozone in coming negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
But it has been years since the Bank of Japan or the European Central Bank intervened in the foreign-exchange market. Indeed, at an unheralded G-7 ministers’ meeting two years ago, they agreed to a US Treasury proposal to refrain from unilateral foreign-exchange intervention. Those who charge Japan or the eurozone with pursuing currency wars have in mind the renewed monetary stimulus implied by their central banks’ recent quantitative easing programs. But, as the US government knows well, countries with faltering economies cannot be asked to refrain from lowering interest rates just because the likely effects include currency depreciation.
Indeed, it was the US that had to explain to the world that monetary stimulus is not currency manipulation when it undertook quantitative easing in 2010. At the time, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega coined the phrase “currency wars” and accused the US of being the main aggressor. In fact, the US has not intervened in a major way in the currency market to sell dollars since the coordinated interventions associated with the Plaza Accord in 1985.
Other criteria besides currency-market intervention are used to ascertain whether a currency is deliberately undervalued or, in the words of the International Monetary Fund’s Articles of Agreement, “manipulated” for “unfair competitive advantage.” One criterion is an inappropriately large trade or current-account surplus. Another is an inappropriately low real (inflation-adjusted) foreign-exchange value. But many countries have large trade surpluses or weak currencies. Usually it is difficult to say whether they are appropriate.
Ten years ago, the renminbi did seem to meet all of the criteria for undervaluation. But this is no longer the case. The renminbi’s real value rose from 2006 to 2013. The most recent purchasing power statistics show the currency to be in a range that is normal for a country with per capita real income of around $10,000.
By contrast, the criterion on which the US Congress focuses – the bilateral trade balance – is irrelevant to economists (and to the IMF rules). It is true that China’s bilateral trade surplus with the US is as big as ever. But China also runs bilateral deficits with Saudi Arabia, Australia, and other exporters of oil and minerals, and with South Korea, from which it imports components that go into its manufactured exports. Indeed, imported inputs account for roughly 95% of the value of a “Chinese” smartphone exported to the US; only 5% is Chinese value added. The point is that bilateral trade balances have little meaning.
Congress requires by law that the US Treasury report to it twice a year which countries are guilty of currency manipulation, with the bilateral trade balance specified as one of the criteria. But Congress should be careful what it wishes for. It would be ironic if China agreed to US demands to float the renminbi and the result was a depreciation that boosted its exporters’ international competitiveness

Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, previously served as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. He directs the Program in International Finance and Macroeconomics at the US National Bureau of Economic Research

Fonte: Project Syndicate

EU wins a WTO dispute on Chinese anti-dumping duties

A WTO panel today declared Chinese anti-dumping duties on European and Japanese imports of stainless steel tubes in breach of WTO rules.

In its report today, a WTO panel in charge of the dispute opposing the EU, Japan and China declared the Chinese anti-dumping duties on stainless steel tubes – imposed by China in 2012 – illegal in the light of the Organisation’s rules.

“In international trade we all need to play by the rules. I am glad that the WTO panel confirms this today asking China to bring its customs duties in line with the WTO obligations,” said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. “I hope to see China reacting to this ruling immediately and restoring fair trading conditions for EU producers.”

The WTO panel found that the Chinese measures did not fully respect the prescribed WTO methods to calculate dumping margins. Margins calculated for one of the EU’s exporting producers were found not to be correct. China failed also to justify its finding that the tubes imported from the EU had caused injury to China’s domestic industry. Finally, the panel concluded that the Chinese antidumping procedure came short of the WTO requirements in terms of due process and transparency.

The panel’s findings are also of systemic importance because they highlight recurrent shortcomings in trade defence investigations carried out in China. This is the second time that the EU has successfully challenged China in the WTO on anti-dumping duties. Following the previous ruling, China repealed its anti-dumping measures on x-ray scanners. Today’s report marks again a clear victory for the EU and sends a strong signal to all WTO Members that their trade defence instruments must respect WTO rules.

China will be expected to remove its anti-dumping duties on EU imports. The Chinese authorities can decide to appeal the ruling within the coming 60 days.

Background

The case concerns certain high-performance seamless tubes of stainless steel produced in the EU and Japan. China imposed definitive anti-dumping duties on those products in November 2012. The Chinese decision followed an EU investigation on similar products imported from China in June 2011. The WTO proceedings started in the end of 2012 initially between Japan and China. The EU joined the procedure in mid-2013.

For further information

EU requests WTO Panel on Chinese Anti-Dumping duties on Steel Tubes, 16 August 2013

EU Joins Japan in WTO Challenge against Chinese Anti-dumping Duties on Steel Tubes, 13 June 2013

Dispute Settlement and the World Trade Organisation

China — Measures Imposing Anti-Dumping Duties on High-Performance Stainless Steel Seamless Tubes (“HP-SSST”) from the European Union

Fonte: Comissão Europeia

US files dispute against China over alleged export-contingent subsidies to enterprises

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11 February 2015

The United States notified the WTO Secretariat on 11 February 2015 of a request for consultations with China regarding certain measures that allegedly provide export-contingent subsidies to enterprises in several industrial sectors. These sectors include textiles, agriculture, medical products, light industry, special chemical engineering, new materials, and hardware and building materials.

According to the US, China designates a cluster of enterprises in a particular industry as a Demonstration Base and then provides export-contingent subsidies to those enterprises. In addition, the US argues that China provides certain other export-contingent subsidies to Chinese manufacturers, producers, and farmers.

Fonte: OMC

Keiser Report: Lucky Chinese Number (E666)

CrossTalk: The Bear & The Dragon (ft. Pepe Escobar)

40 Central Banks Are Betting This Will Be The Next Reserve Currency

Tyler Durden's picture

As we have discussed numerous times, nothing lasts forever – especially reserve currencies – no matter how much one hopes that the status-quo remains so, in the end the exuberant previlege is extorted just one too many times. Headline after headlines shows nations declaring ‘interest’ or direct discussions in diversifying away from the US dollar… and as SCMP reports, Standard Chartered notes that at least 40 central banks have invested in the Yuan and several more are preparing to do so. The trend is occurring across both emerging markets and developed nation central banks diversifiying into ‘other currencies’ and “a great number of central banks are in the process of adding yuan to their portfolios.” Perhaps most ominously, for king dollar, is the former-IMF manager’s warning that “The Yuan may become a de facto reserve currency before it is fully convertible.”

The infamous chart that shows nothing lasts forever…

Nothing lasts forever… (especially in light of China’s recent comments)

 

As The South China Morning Post reports, Jukka Pihlman, Standard Chartered’s Singapore-based global head of central banks and sovereign wealth funds (who formerly worked at the International Monetary Fund advising central banks on asset-management issues), notes that:

 
 

At least 40 central banks have invested in the yuan and several others are preparing to do so, putting the mainland currency on the path to reserve status even before full convertibility

The US dollar remains in charge (for now)…but

 
 

The US dollar is still the world’s most widely held reserve currency, accounting for nearly 33 per cent of global foreign exchange holdings at the end of last year, according to IMF data. That ratio has been declining since 2000, when 55 per cent of the world’s reserves were denominated in US dollars.

 

The IMF does not disclose the percentage of reserves held in yuan, but the emerging market countries’ share of reserves in “other currencies” has increased by almost 400 per cent since 2003, while that of developed nations grew 200 per cent, according to IMF data.

As SCMP goes on to note, the rising popularity of the yuan among central bankers is probably mainly due to Beijing’s extremely favourable treatment of them as it has sought to encourage investment in the yuan.

 
 

For example, central banks enjoy preferential treatment in the qualified foreign institutional investor category, both on the size of the quota and the length of the lock-up period. The QFII quotas given to central banks are not publicly known, but some of those announced by investing central banks are up to 10 times larger than others in the programme and, most importantly, free of any capital controls.

 

“Central banks and sovereign funds have special treatment,” Pihlman said. “They have the ability to invest in a way that any other investor does not have. When it comes to convertibility, there is nothing formally out there, but it is fully convertible.”

As Pihlman explains, things are accelerating…

 
 

Pihlman said “a great number of central banks are in the process of adding [yuan] to their portfolios”.

 

The [yuan] has effectively already become a de facto reserve currency because so many central banks have already invested in it,” he said. “The [yuan] may become a de facto reserve currency before it is fully convertible.”

 

The central banks more likely to add yuan holdings in the future were the ones with “strong trade linkages to China” and those which had relatively large levels of reserves which could consider diversifying more for return-related reasons, he said.

 

The [yuan’s] convertibility may be already there for central banks in a way that has got them comfortable to start investing in the currency,” Pihlman said.

We leave it to a former World Bank chief economist, Justin Yifu Lin, to sum it all up…

 
 

“the dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises,”

It appears the world is beginning to listen

 Fonte: Zero Hedge