AN EMPIRE, IF YOU CAN FIND IT? AMERICAN HEGEMONY AND IMPERIAL CONTROL EMMA ASHFORD APRIL 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEWS
Daniel Immerwahr, How to Hide an Empire (Farrar, Strous, and Giroux, 2019).

The concluding words of Daniel Immerwahr’s new book should leave no one in doubt as to where he stands. “The history of the United States is the history of empire,” he observes, stripping away the pretense of a U.S.-led liberal international order and demoting the United States from benevolent superpower into the ranks of greedy European imperial states. America’s overseas territories and military bases are — in Immerwahr’s telling — every bit as much shaped by racist and colonialist forces as their 19th-century forebears. America today still constitutes what he describes as a “pointillist empire”: a globe-spanning hegemon enabled by the tiny specks of land it controls across the globe.

The idea that America is an empire, of course, is not a new one. It has a long pedigree among authors, intellectuals, and left-leaning critics of American foreign policy. At least historically, whether it was westward expansion or the annexation of the Philippines, U.S. leaders repeatedly expanded America’s territorial footprint and global reach while simultaneously denying or concealing that they were doing so.

But while Immerwahr’s book draws a straight line between America’s history and its present, reality is fuzzier. Was America an empire? Undoubtedly. Is America today still an empire? It’s much harder to say, particularly because the author steers clear of the political science debates about hierarchy, imperial systems, and global governance. The concept of “empire” is fundamentally about political control. But Immerwahr instead focuses on the physical aspect of empire: on territory and, specifically, on America’s 800-some bases around the world. His book thus hews to a more traditional understanding of empire as territorial control, rather than to modern conceptions of empire as informal control, “soft hegemony,” or political and economic influence.

Immerwahr’s territorial focus is a compelling frame for understanding the injustices of America’s colonial past — and the fact that the American public has yet to come to terms with it. But today, if the United States has an empire, it is not territorial. It is a far subtler network of informal control that sustains and prolongs America’s privileged political and economic position in the international system. So while there are many good strategic, economic, and even moral reasons to downsize America’s global military footprint, focusing on territory is misplaced. The real question is whether the United States should be seeking or maintaining global political dominance. Primacists — at least tacitly — often agree it should; realists argue that it’s simply not necessary to do so.

To make the case for America’s modern-day “pointillist empire,” Immerwahr’s book inverts a commonly heard argument. As pundits like Thomas Friedman are wont to opine, new technologies shrink the world. That feeling of a smaller, more connected world understandably — though often wrongly — raises fears that American security is imperiled by faraway events. The result, as Patrick Porter describes, is that “fear is never far away from the rhetoric of globalism, about new vulnerabilities and the ease with which aggressors can apply violence over large spaces.”

For Immerwahr, however, it’s not about security. Instead, technology is the great enabler of American empire. Technological innovation — from airplanes to malaria pills — has allowed postwar America to project power without the need for occupation and direct military control of more than a few strategically located specks of land. Aircraft carriers obviate the need for permanent air bases. Radio and satellites enable long-distance communication without control of the territory in between.

It’s an intriguing and intuitively appealing argument in an era of American military primacy. The “pointillist empire” that Immerwahr describes can be visualized as the small pinpricks of land necessary to make the whole system work. America’s base network includes airstrips on remote islands (Ascension or Diego Garcia), forward bases (Ramstein in Germany or Al Udeid in Qatar), and smaller cooperative security locations (various counter-terrorism bases in Africa, for example). Some of these host missiles or drones, others communications technology, and still others just soldiers and sailors.

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Yet while the book effectively makes the case that technology enables America’s global military presence, the thornier question is whether that setup truly constitutes an empire. For political scientists, territory isn’t the measure of empire; political control of peripheral areas outside the metropole is. Colonialism is one model of empire, but not the only one. Today’s base network undoubtedly raises some of the same moral issues as colonialism does: There are sovereignty concerns in places like Okinawa. There are human rights considerations, whether it’s human trafficking near military bases or the continued exclusion of locals from ancestral lands in the Chagos Islands. But modern-day America’s territorial holdings — its military bases — simply don’t rise to that level of political control. This is why most political scientists who study the question of empire in American foreign policy today don’t focus on territory. Instead, they frame it in terms of political influence or hierarchy.

Of course, even if America does retain some sort of empire, the book — perhaps unintentionally — makes the case that it is substantially more benign than most historical empires. To be frank, the modern iniquities of the “pointillist empire” presented in the book’s latter half are minor when compared to the gut-wrenching overview of American conquest and colonialism that makes up the first half of the book.

The book is unflinching in its refusal to shrink from the darkest corners of American imperial history. It explores America’s conquered territories — places like Guam, Saipan, the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico — and the choice of American policymakers in the 19th and 20th centuries to largely hide this unofficial empire from public scrutiny. In retrospect, the reasons are obvious. America has long viewed itself as a republic, not an empire. Imperial possessions undermined that cherished myth.

The situation was also complicated by the racist attitudes of the era. Unlike many other empires, the United States offered a path for territories to eventually join the union as full partners. But territories like Puerto Rico or the Philippines could not easily follow that well-worn path to statehood without forcing America’s political class to reckon with the fraught question of citizenship and political rights for non-white residents. Better, leaders decided, to ignore the issue and hide it from public view.

Unfortunately, the results were often devastating for the natives of these territories. The American territories were (and are) a legal no-man’s land: full of U.S. nationals rather than U.S. citizens, bound by only some of the country’s legal and constitutional framework. Some of the consequences were horrifying, from torture at Guantanamo Bay to the use of Puerto Rico as a testing ground for drugs deemed too risky or difficult to test on the mainland.

Immerwahr’s book is thus a call for Americans to acknowledge their own past. Implicit in the text is a variety of challenging moral questions that Americans rarely have to confront: the horrors of colonialism and the culpability and guilt that subsequent generations should bear for the sins of their fathers.

As a British citizen, I and most of my peers are familiar with these questions, if only thanks to family history. My great-grandfather died in World War I defending the Palestinian territories. My great-great-great uncle was David Livingstone. Yes, that Dr. Livingstone. So trust me when I say that I have seriously thought about the legacies of colonialism. It’s deeply uncomfortable to know that your ancestors helped to build an empire, subjugated less advanced countries, and attempted to “civilize” them.

It’s even more uncomfortable to know that many still believe empire to have been an unabashed good; as Boris Johnson once memorably described Africa, “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.” The controversy resonates strongly in Britain’s political culture today and shapes its global interactions.

Is the same true for the United States? Americans, of course, have similarly meditated on their culpability for slavery and segregation. In the 2020 presidential campaign, reparations have become a mainstream topic of discussion. But as How to Hide an Empire highlights, Americans don’t have a similar frame for their imperial past: It has been effectively hidden from them. Generations of American politicians endeavored to convince mainland populations that territories like Puerto Rico were not truly “America,” with the disturbing result that, even today, 46 percent of Americans don’t know Puerto Ricans are citizens. The secrecy continues to this day: It often takes security breaches and intrepid journalism for the locations of America’s overseas bases to even become public.

As a result, Immerwahr’s book is a riveting read whose policy implications — despite the somewhat misguided focus on America’s base network — are as much about facing the past as suggesting a path for the future. America’s status as an empire today may be debatable, but its colonial legacy is laid out clearly and completely in a story that’s hard to put down. That legacy of ambivalence about empire is relevant for today’s foreign policy debates, and it is clearly still shaping life in the semi-American territories today.

At a time when President Donald Trump rails on Twitter about ungrateful and lazy Puerto Ricans and his administration tries to portray that territory as a foreign country and denies it the disaster aid granted to predominantly white states, Immerwahr’s argument is deeply relevant. To right the injustices he spotlights, Americans would need to start a serious debate about Puerto Rican statehood. They’d need to end unjust and unequal laws like the Jones Act, which imposes harsh penalties on businesses and citizens in Hawaii, Alaska, and elsewhere. They’d have to give residents of territories like Guam much more choice about whether they choose to host U.S. bases and missiles.

And to address the more difficult question of modern American empire, they’d need to grapple with whether today’s foreign policy is truly a benign global system of liberal order or simply a more subtle and insidious form of empire. It would be an extremely difficult conversation. After all, as How to Hide an Empire makes clear, how can Americans contend with the legacies of colonialism — let alone consider the tricky question of whether America today has or should have an empire — if its imperial past is hidden from them?

Anúncios

A ascensão chinesa na América Latina, com Javier Vadell

Nesta edição falamos com Javier Vadell (PUC-MG) sobre a ascensão da China na América Latina. Saiba qual é o projeto chinês pra região, o significado da ascensão chinesa para as relações econômicas contemporâneas e o impacto desta nova configuração na geopolítica. Aperte o cinto, dê o play e assista você também o voo do dragão!

ESCUTE:https://soundcloud.com/chutandoaescada/a-ascensao-chinesa-na-america-latina-com-javier-vadell

Our manifesto to save Europe from itself -Thomas Piketty

We need to reduce inequality within countries, not between them, and invest in the future of all Europeans

One Belt, One Road, One Big Mistake

China’s signature foreign-policy project is a failure that the U.S. shouldn’t copy.

the headlines coming out of this year’s APEC conference in Papua New Guinea focused on the conflict between America and China that kept the forum from issuing a joint communiqué. Less noticed were two short memorandums released on the sidelines of the conference by the island nations of Vanuatu and Tonga. In return for renegotiating existing debt, both agreed to become the newest participants—following other Pacific nations like Papua New Guinea and Fiji—in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign-policy venture, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

As Xi’s trillion-dollar development strategy has snaked away from the Eurasian heartland and into the South Pacific, western Africa, and Latin America, concern has grown. Many Americans fear that the Belt and Road Initiative is an extension of efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to undermine the security and economic architecture of the international order. China’s growing largesse, they worry, comes largely at the expense of international institutions and American influence.

This angst lies behind another announcement made at last month’s APEC gathering: Australia, Japan, and the United States declared that they had formed their own trilateral investment initiative to help meet infrastructure needs in the Indo-Pacific. For some this is not enough: In its most recent report to the United States Congress, the bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended that Congress create an additional fund “to provide additional bilateral assistance for countries that are a target of or vulnerable to Chinese economic or diplomatic pressure.”

This is the wrong response to the Belt and Road Initiative. Ignore the hype: For the Chinese, this initiative has been a strategic blunder.

Ignore the hype: For the Chinese, this initiative has been a strategic blunder.

By buying into the flawed idea that barrels of money are all that is needed to solve complex geopolitical problems, China has committed a colossal error. Xi’s dictatorship makes it almost impossible for the country to admit this mistake or abandon his pet project. The United States and its allies gain nothing from making China’s blunders their own. 

In Xi’s speeches, the phrase most closely associated with the Belt and Road Initiative is “community of common destiny.” Xi’s use of this term is meant to link the BRI to the deeper purpose party leaders have articulated for the CCP over the last three decades. China’s leaders believe that not only is it their “historic mission” to bring about China’s “national rejuvenation” as the world’s most prestigious power, but that China has a unique role to play in the development of “political civilization” writ large.

It is the Chinese, Xi maintains (as Hu and Jiang did before him), who have adapted socialism to modern conditions, and in so doing have created a unique Chinese answer to “the problems facing mankind.” Though this answer began in China, Xi is clear that the time has come for “Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach” to benefit those outside of China. The Belt and Road Initiative is intended to do just that. By using the Chinese model of socialism to develop the world’s poorer regions, the initiative justifies Xi’s grandiose claims about the party’s historic mission on the international stage.

To match these lofty aims, Chinese academics and policy analysts at prestigious party think tanks have articulated more down-to-earth goals for the initiative. According to them, the BRI promises to integrate China’s internal markets with those of its neighbors. Doing so will bring its neighbors closer to China geopolitically and bring stability to the region. By increasing economic activity in China’s border regions, such as Xinjiang and Tibet, the Belt and Road Initiative will lessen the appeal that separatist ideology might have to the residents. Another projected benefit is the energy security that will come through the construction of BRI-funded transport routes. Finally, by articulating and then following through on an initiative that puts common development over power politics, China will gain an advantage over other major countries (read: Japan and the United States) who present the world as a black-and-white competition for hegemony. The community of common destiny, these analysts have claimed, is a community that will immensely benefit China.

As the Belt and Road Initiative is only five years old (and many of its main members have been involved for a far shorter time) its full results cannot yet be judged. However, a preliminary assessment can be offered for BRI projects in South and Southeast Asia, the region described by Chinese leaders as the “main axis” of the Belt and Road Initiative. It is here that BRI investment is strongest and has been around longest. The picture is not promising. The hundreds of billions spent in these countries has not produced returns for investors, nor political returns for the party. Whether Chinese leaders actually seek a financial return from the Belt and Road Initiative has always been questionable—the sovereign debt of 27 BRI countries is regarded as “junk” by the three main ratings agencies, while another 14 have no rating at all.

Investment decisions often seem to be driven by geopolitical needs instead of sound financial sense.

Investment decisions often seem to be driven by geopolitical needs instead of sound financial sense.

In South and Southeast Asia expensive port development is an excellent case study. A 2016 CSIS report judged that none of the Indian Ocean port projects funded through the BRI have much hope of financial success. They were likely prioritized for their geopolitical utility. Projects less clearly connected to China’s security needs have more difficulty getting off the ground: the research firm RWR Advisory Group notes that 270 BRI infrastructure projects in the region (or 32 percent of the total value of the whole) have been put on hold because of problems with practicality or financial viability. There is a vast gap between what the Chinese have declared they will spend and what they have actually spent.There is also a gap between how BRI projects are supposed to be chosen and how they actually have been selected. Xi and other party leaders have characterized BRI investment in Eurasia as following along defined “economic corridors” that would directly connect China to markets and peoples in other parts of the continent. By these means the party hopes to channel capital into areas where it will have the largest long-term benefit and will make cumulative infrastructure improvements possible.

This has not happened: one analysis of 173 BRI projects concluded that with the exception of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) “there appears to be no significant relationship between corridor participation and project activity… [suggesting that] interest groups within and outside China are skewing President Xi’s signature foreign policy vision.” This skew is an inevitable result of China’s internal political system. BRI projects are not centrally directed. Instead, lower state bodies like provincial and regional governments have been tasked with developing their own BRI projects. The officials in charge of these projects have no incentive to approve financially sound investments: by the time any given project materializes, they will have been transferred elsewhere. BRI projects are shaped first and foremost by the political incentives their planners face in China: There is no better way to signal one’s loyalty to Xi than by laboring for his favored foreign-policy initiative. From this perspective, the most important criteria for a project is how easily the BRI label can be slapped on to it.

This is why many of the more promising BRI projects were already slated or under construction well before Xi announced his vision for the initiative. These projects have simply been rebranded with the BRI label to curry favor with the party leadership. (Sometimes this rebranding reaches comical proportions: Turkey’s Marmaray rail tunnel, for example, was recently lauded by the World Bank as an exemplary BRI investment, even though it is funded by a Turkey-EU-Japan consortium and appears to have no Chinese involvement.) It is easier to rebrand a successful project as part of the Belt and Road Initiative than it is to create successful projects from scratch.

This reality helps explain the coolness with which private investors have treated the initiative. Despite stringent capital controls on non-BRI investment, only 12 percent of Chinese foreign direct investment has been directed to the countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative (and one third of that goes to the developed economies of South Korea, Israel, and Singapore). Government calls for participation from international partners and private investment have been ignored: large state-owned enterprises and government policy provide more than 95 percent of BRI funding. BRI is not a brand investors trust.

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. In the Maldives, the pro-Beijing Progressive Party of Maldives was unseated this year by the Maldivian Democratic Party, which ran on an explicitly anti-BRI platform. The Maldives’ new president calls the BRI “a big cheat” and a “debt trap” that must be abandoned or renegotiated.

He has a kindred spirit in Mahathir Mohamad, the new prime minister of Malaysia, who has described BRI projects as a form of “new colonialism” that must be rejected. Beijing’s quest to create a stable pro-China tilt in Sri Lanka has only spawned political instability, with President Maithripala Sirisena sliding up to and away from Sri Lankan politicians connected to China as the situation demands. In Bangladesh authorities recently blacklisted China Harbour Engineering Company, one of the region’s most active BRI construction firms, on accusations of corruption.

Burma was so alarmed by regional trends that it put a hold on its own BRI-funded port project in Kyaukpyu until the Chinese agreed to cut its scale by 80 percent. Nepal and Pakistan have also demanded that China cancel or completely retool ongoing projects in their countries. In western Pakistan opposition to the initiative has turned violent. Last week Baluchi separatists attacked the Chinese consulate in Karachi, treating Chinese infrastructure investment in their region as a threat to their dreams of independence. Chinese analysts who hoped that the BRI investment would help stabilize China’s borderlands and ease the threat it faces from ethnic separatists inside China now must come to terms with an initiative that is embroiling China in conflict with separatists outside of it.

 

The problems China has had with the BRI stem from contradictions inherent in the ends party leaders envision for the initiative and the means they have supplied to reach them. BRI projects are chosen through a decentralized project-management system and then funded through concessional loans offered primarily by PRC policy banks. This is a recipe for cost escalation and corruption. In countries like Cambodia, a one-party state ruled by autocrats, this state of affairs is viable, for there is little chance that leaders will be held accountable for lining their pockets (or, more rarely, the coffers of their local communities) at the entire nation’s expense. But most BRI countries are not Cambodia. In democracies this way of doing things is simply not sustainable, and in most BRI countries it is only so long before an angry opposition eager to pin their opponents with malfeasance comes to power, armed with the evidence of misplaced or exploitative projects.

If the party leadership was willing to pour extra resources into target countries each time power changed hands, they might be able to blunt this sort of opposition. Beijing has not proven willing to do this. The helter-skelter nature of BRI investment has caused other problems for party leadership: while local Chinese governments and state-owned enterprises are willing to lend so much that BRI investments threaten to drive some countries towards default, the central government is not willing to be the lender of last resort for the countries thus driven. Like Pakistan last month, most countries forced to this extremity will have only one option left: come crawling to the International Monetary Fund in hopes of a solution. For such countries, the end result of Chinese investment is an even stronger dependence on the Western-led financial system.

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. The expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative across the globe is deeply worrisome not because of the strategic threat it poses to the standing international order, but because of what it tells us about the internal workings of the world’s most powerful authoritarian state.

These problems are not new. For the last three years even China’s state-run banks have been trying to extricate themselves from spending more on the initiative. Yet despite these problems, the initiative expands to new countries and continents. Why this is happening is clear enough—no other foreign policy program is associated personally with Xi like this one is. Xi’s apotheosis to permanent leadership at the 19th Party Congress this spring meant that his signature foreign-policy initiative also had to be elevated—and so it was, written directly into the constitution of the Chinese Communist Party. Now to attack the Belt and Road Initiative is to attack the legitimacy of the party itself. The Belt and Road Initiative is evidence that the party’s once responsive policymaking system is breaking down. The rest of the world must recognize that BRI persists only because it is the favored brainchild of an authoritarian leader living in an echo chamber.

Quem criou o Estado Islâmico?

Operation Cyclone (1979-1989): US spent billions of dollars arming and training extremists from all over the Arab world to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan

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Osama Bin Laden: Profile of a Terror Leader

Osama bin Laden, labeled “one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world,” has been linked to terrorist actions for years, and has been named the prime suspect in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

The Saudi exile also is suspected of playing large roles in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000.

He has been a man on the run since a U.S.-led attack in late 2001 drove out Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban party, which had refused an American demand to turn over bin Laden to U.S. custody.

Bin Laden had been living in Afghanistan, and the United States asserts that he ran his terrorist operations out of that country. Since late 2001, news organizations have received a series of pre-recorded statements purportedly from bin Laden, but the terrorist kingpin’s whereabouts have never been definitively determined.

The capture of one of his deputies, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan, which was announced March 1, had raised hopes that the world’s most-wanted man may finally be nabbed after an intense, high-profile manhunt.

It followed information allegedly supplied by Mohammed to his interrogators that weeks before his capture, Mohammed met bin Laden in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province or in the rugged mountain peaks that run along the border with Afghanistan.

Bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization is a loose umbrella association of radical groups and people believed to operate in dozens of countries around the world.

Long before the embassy bombings in Africa, al Qaeda members were suspected of playing a role in several attacks against U.S. interests, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, failed plots to kill President Clinton and the pope, and attacks on U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

Bin Laden has also used his millions to bankroll terrorist training camps in Sudan, the Philippines and Afghanistan, sending holy warriors to foment revolution and fight with fundamentalist Muslim forces across North Africa, in Chechnya, Tajikistan and Bosnia.

Ordinary Young Man — Then He Joined Jihad

Born in 1957, bin Laden was the son of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest construction magnate. Saudi sources remember him as an ordinary young man whose intense religious nature began to emerge as he grew fascinated with the ancient, holy mosques of Mecca and Medina, which his family’s company was involved in rebuilding.

In the 1980s, bin Laden left his comfortable Saudi home for Afghanistan to participate in the Afghan jihad, or holy war, against the invading forces of the Soviet Union — a cause that, ironically, the United States funded, pouring $3 billion into the Afghan resistance via the CIA.

Bin Laden became a leader of Arabs living in Afghanistan and a regional hero, but was careful throughout to distance himself from U.S. influence. The war radicalized bin Laden’s politics.

Afterwards, he declared the Saudi ruling family “insufficiently Islamic” and increasingly advocated the use of violence to force movement toward extremism.

Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden of his citizenship in 1994 for his alleged activities against the royal family, after he had left the country for Sudan. He later was expelled from Sudan under U.S., Egyptian and Saudi pressure. In 1996, he took refuge in Afghanistan.

Former mujahideen commanders close to the Taliban say that in Afghanistan, bin Laden bankrolled the hard-line Islamic regime’s capture of Kabul under the leadership of the reclusive Mullah Mohammed Omar. Bin Laden became one of Omar’s most trusted advisers.

Bin Laden is said to personally control about $300 million of his family’s $5 billion fortune. His role as a financier of terrorism is pivotal, experts say, because he has revolutionized the financing of extremist movements by forming and funding his own private terror network.

Bin Laden has devoted not only his own fortune, but his business acumen to the cause, and through a nebulous network he calls the Foundation for Islamic Salvation — which sources say runs money through companies in the United States, Europe and the Middle East — the powerful recluse has funneled money into the promotion of terrorist causes around the world.

Pepe Escobar: Começam hoje 50 anos de guerra de tarifas? 

Trade-War
6/7/2018, Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

Traduzido pela Vila Vudu

Muito mais que primeiro tiro à meia-noite de hoje do que pode converter-se em terrível guerra comercial, a queda de braços de tarifas entre EUA e China deve ser vista no contexto de grande virada no Grande Quadro geopolítico e econômico.

O jogo de passar adiante as culpas, e todos os tipos de cenários de especulação de como pode evoluir a disputa de tarifas, são questões periféricas. O alvo crucialmente decisivo do que hoje se inicia não é algum “livre comércio” que seria disfuncional; o alvo é o projeto “Made in China 2025” – a China autoconfigurada como usina geradora de alta tecnologia equivalente, ou mesmo superando EUA e UE.

É sempre importante destacar que foi a Alemanha que, na verdade, forneceu o molde para “Made in China 2025”, mediante sua estratégia Indústria 4.0.

“Made in China 2025” tem por alvo 10 campos tecno-estratégicos: tecnologia de informação, incluindo redes 5G e cibersegurança; robótica, aeroespaço; engenharia oceânica; ferrovias para vagões de alta velocidade; veículos movidos a novas energias; equipamento elétrico; maquinaria para agricultura; novos materiais; e biomedicina. 

Para que o projeto “Made in China 2025” dê frutos, Pequim já investiu em cinco centros nacionais de produção de inovações e em 48 centros provinciais, parte de um projeto para chegar a 40 centros nacionais até 2025. E em 2030, via uma estratégia paralela, a China já deverá estar estabelecida também como líder no campo da inteligência artificial (IA).

“O Sonho Chinês”, mantra do presidente Xi Jinping, também conhecido como “o grande rejuvenescimento da nação chinesa”, é estritamente ligado não só a “Made in China 2025”, internamente, mas também, externamente, à Iniciativa Cinturão e Estrada (ICE), conceito que dá organicidade à política exterior da China para todo o futuro planeável. E os dois tópicos – “Made in China 2025” e ICE – são absolutamente inegociáveis. 

Em agudo contraste, não se vê nem sinal no horizonte de qualquer projeto “Made in USA 2025”. A Casa Branca parece modular todo o processo como uma batalha contra a “agressão econômica dos chineses”. A Estratégia de Segurança Nacional define a China como principal força que desafia o poder dos EUA. A Estratégia de Defesa Nacional do Pentágono vê a China como “concorrente estratégico que usa economia predatória”. E como chegamos a isso?

Inovação ou morte 

E indispensável conhecer um pouco do contexto-cenário.

David Harvey, em O Novo Imperialismo, recorre a The Global Gamble: Washington’s Bid for Global Dominance de P. Gowan, para chamar atenção para o quanto ambos veem “a radical reestruturação do capitalismo internacional depois de 1973 como uma série de jogadas, tentadas pelos EUA, interessados em manter a própria posição hegemônica nos assuntos econômicos mundiais contra Europa, Japão e, depois, contra o Leste e o Sudeste da Ásia”.

Antes de o milênio acabar, Harvey já enfatizava o modo como Wall Street e o Tesouro dos EUA eram operados pelo Estado como “instrumento formidável de governança econômica para impulsionar os processos de globalização e as transformações domésticas neoliberais associadas.”

A China por seu lado jogou magistralmente seu jogo de reorientação do capitalismo – investindo sem meias medidas no que se pode descrever como “neoliberalismo com características chinesas”, e lucrando o máximo possível da projeção de poder econômico dos EUA via mercados abertos e os membros da Organização Mundial de Comércio.

Agora a China, em velocidade alucinante, está finalmente pronta a investir na projeção de seu próprio poder econômico. Como Harvey já observou há mais de uma década, o próximo passo para o capitalismo da Ásia Oriental seria “afastar-se do muito que depende do mercado norte-americano”, rumo ao “cultivo de um mercado interno”.

Harvey descreveu o programa de modernização massiva da China como “uma versão interna de reorientação espaço-temporal equivalente ao que os EUA fizeram internamente nos anos 1950s e 1960s mediante a suburbanização e o desenvolvimento do chamado Cinturão do Sol”. Na sequência, a China estaria “gradualmente drenando o capital excedente do Japão, de Taiwan e da Coreia do Sul e, assim, reduzindo os fluxos para os EUA”. Já está acontecendo.

O presidente Trump não é exatamente o que se diria um estrategista geopolítico. A razão para as novas tarifas pode ser forçar as cadeias de suprimento das empresas norte-americanas a reduzir o muito que dependem, hoje, da China. Mas o modo como a economia global foi montada não aguenta o desmanche dessas cadeias de suprimento – com a produção sendo des-deslocalizada de volta aos EUA, como diz Trump. O local, local, local também rege a lógica do capitalismo turbinado: as empresas sempre privilegiarão a mão de obra mais barata e os menores custos de produção, não importa onde estejam.

Agora, comparem isso à China que investe em deslocalização da alta tecnologia integrada com centros de excelência norte-americanos. No que se trate da cabeça do combate na linha da inovação entre China e EUA, a estratégica do Zhongguancun Development Group (ZDG) é caso fascinante.

O grupo ZDG estabeleceu vários centros de inovação fora da China. O principal Centro ZGC de Inovação está instalado em Santa Clara, Califórnia, bem perto de Stanford e dos campus de Google e Apple. Há agora um novo centro em Boston à distância de um grito de Harvard e do MIT.

Esses centros fornecem o pacote completo – desde laboratórios que são o estado da arte até – fator crucialmente importante – o capital, mediante um fundo de investimento. A matrix vem do governo de Pequim, pelo tecnodistrito da cidade. E nem é preciso dizer que o grupo ZDG está integralmente alinhado com a ICE e a ênfase que jamais é esquecida na expansão, para “aprender a experiência de outros países, de um ecossistema de inovação”

Isso, num microcosmo, é do que trata o projeto “Made in China 2025”.

Meio século de guerra comercial?

Assim sendo, o que acontecerá?

Sob o atual tsunami de histeria, a análise sóbria que nos vem de Li Xiao, decano da Escola de Economia da Universidade Jilin, é mais que bem-vinda.

Li vai logo à jugular. Destaca o quanto “a ascensão da China é, essencialmente, um ganho de status dentro do sistema do dólar.” Do ponto de vista de Pequim, é imperativo mudar, mas a mudança será gradual. “O objetivo da internacionalização do yuan não é substituir o dólar. No curto prazo, o sistema do dólar é insubstituível. Nosso objetivo para o yuan é reduzir o risco e o custo, sob o sistema do dólar.”

Com muito realismo, Li também admite que “o conflito entre as duas maiores potências prosseguirá por, no mínimo, 50 anos, talvez mais. Tudo o que está acontecendo hoje é apenas um show preliminar, antes do espetáculo principal da história.”

Implícita na metáfora do show preliminar, antes do espetáculo principal, é a ideia de que a liderança chinesa parece interpretar o primeiro tiro do tarifaço, à meia-noite de hoje, como um modo de reaquecer o que se lê na Estratégia de Segurança Nacional dos EUA. A conclusão, para Pequim é uma só e inescapável: agora, os EUA começaram a ameaçar o Sonho Chinês.

Dado que o Sonho Chinês, o “rejuvenescimento da nação chinesa”, “Made in China 2025”, a ICE, o multipolarismo e a China como motor da integração da Eurásia são itens absolutamente não negociáveis, não surpreende que o cenário esteja montado para forte, inevitável turbulência.*******

Anatomia do golpe: as pegadas americanas 

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3/7/2017, Tereza Cruvinel – Conversa Afiada

O golpe em curso no Brasil é sofisticada operação político-financeira-jurídico-midiática, tipo guerra híbrida. E será muito difícil deslindá-la”, diz o jornalista Pepe Escobar. E mais difícil fica na medida em que surgem contradições entre seus próprios artífices. A enxurrada de conversas que Sergio Machado, ex-presidente da Transpetro e um dos operadores do Petrolão, teve e gravou com cardeais do PMDB, induz à ilusória percepção de que o impeachment da presidente Dilma Rousseff foi apenas um golpe tupuniquim, armado pela elite política carcomida para deter a Lava Jato e lograr a impunidade. O procedimento “legal” que garantiu a troca de Dilma por Temer, para que ela faça o que está fazendo, foi peça de operação maior e mais poderosa desencadeada ainda em 2013 para atender a interesses internos e internacionais. E nela ficaram pegadas da ação norte-americana.

Interesses internos: remover Dilma, criminalizar o PT, inviabilizar Lula como candidato a 2018 e implantar uma política econômica ultra-liberal, encerrando o ciclo inclusivo e distributivista. Interesses externos: alterar a regra do pré-sal e inverter a política externa multilateralista que resultou nos BRICS, na integração sul-americana e em outros alinhamentos Sul-Sul.

As gravações de Machado desmoralizam o processo e seus agentes e complicam a evolução do governo Temer mas nem por isso o inteiro teor da trama pode ser reduzido à confissão de Romero Jucá, de que uma reunião de caciques do PMDB, PSDB, DEM e partidos conservadores menores, em reuniões noturnas, decidiram que era hora de afastar Dilma para se salvarem. E daí vieram a votação de 17 de abril na Câmara, a farsa da comissão especial e a votação do dia 11 de maio no Senado.

Um longo caminho, entretanto, foi percorrido até que estes atos “legais” fossem consumados. Para ele contribuíram a Lava Jato e suas estrelas, a Fiesp com seu suporte a grupos pró-impeachment e o aliciamento de deputados, o mercado com seus jogos especulativos na bolsa e no câmbio para acirrar a crise, Eduardo Cunha e seus asseclas com as pautas bombas na Câmara. E também as obscuras mas perceptíveis ações da NSA, Agência Nacional de Segurança dos Estados Unidos, e da CIA, na pavimentação do caminho e na fermentação do clima propício ao desfecho. Os grampos contra Dilma, autoridades do governo e da Petrobrás, os protestos contra o governo, o desmanche econômico e a dissolução da base parlamentar, tudo se entrecruzou entre 2013 e 2016.

Se os que aparecem agora nas conversas gravadas buscaram poder, impunidade e retrocesso ao país de poucos e para poucos, os agentes externos miraram o projeto de soberania nacional e o controle de recursos estratégicos, em particular o petróleo do Pré-Sal. Não por acaso, a aprovação do projeto Serra, que suprime a participação mínima obrigatória da Petrobrás, em 30%, na exploração de todos os campos licitados, entrou na agenda de prioridades legislativas do novo governo.

Muito já se falou da coincidente chegada ao Brasil, em agosto de 2013, de Liliana Ayalde como embaixadora dos Estados Unidos, depois de ter servido no Paraguai entre 2008 e 2011, saindo pouco antes do golpe parlamentar contra o ex-presidente Fernando Lugo. Num telegrama ao Departamento de Estado, em 2009, vazado por Wikileaks, ela disse:. “Temos sido cuidadosos em expressar nosso apoio público às instituições democráticas do Paraguai – não a Lugo pessoalmente”. E num outro, mais tarde : “nossa influência aqui é muito maior que as nossas pegadas”.

O que nunca se falou foi que a própria presidente Dilma, tomando conhecimento dos encontros que Ayalde vinha tendo com expoentes da oposição no Congresso, mandou um emissário avisá-la de que via com preocupação tais movimentos. Eles cessaram, pelo menos ostensivamente. Ayalde havia chegado pouco antes da Lava Jato esquentar e no curso da crise diplomática entre o Brasil e os Estados Unidos, detonada pela denúncia do Wikleaks de que a NSA havia grampeado Dilma, Petrobrás e outros tantos. Segundo Edward , o ex-agente da NSA que denunciou a bibilhotagem, “em 2013 o Brasil foi o país mais espionado do mundo”. Em Brasília funcionou uma das 16 bases americanas de coleta de informações, uma das maiores.

A regra de exploração do pré-sal e a participação do Brasil nos BRICS (grupo formado por Brasil, Rússia, India. Chia e Africa do Sul), especialmente depois da criação, pelo bloco, de um banco de desenvolvimento com capital inicial de US 100 bilhões, encabeçaram as contrariedades americanas com o governo Dilma.

Recuemos um pouco. Em dezembro de 2012, as jornalistas Cátia Seabra e Juliana Rocha publicaram na Folha de São Paulo telegrama diplomático vazado por Wikileaks, relatando a promessa do candidato José Serra a uma executiva da Chevron, de que uma vez eleito mudaria o modelo de partilha da exploração do pré-sal fixado pelo governo Lula: a Petrobrás como exploradora única, a participação obrigatória de 30% em cada campo de extração e o conteúdo nacional dos equipamentos. Estas regras, as petroleiras americanas nunca aceitaram. Elas querem um campo livre como o Iraque pós-Saddam. A Folha teve acesso a seis telegramas relatando o inconformismo delas com o modelo e até reclamando da “falta de senso de urgência do PSDB”. Serra perdeu para Dilma em 2010 mas como senador eleito em 2014, apresentou o projeto agora encampado pelo governo Temer.

No primeiro mandato, Dilma surfava em altos índices de popularidade até que, de repente, a pretexto de um aumento de R$ 0,20 nas tarifas de ônibus de São Paulo, estouraram as manifestações de junho de 2013. Iniciadas por um grupo com atuação legítima, o Movimento Passe Livre, elas ganham adesão espontânea da classe média (que o governo não compreendeu bem como anseio de participação) e passam a ser dominadas por grupos de direita que, pela primeira vez, davam as caras nas ruas. Alguns, usando máscaras. Outros, praticando o vandalismo. Muitos inocentes úteis entraram no jogo. Mais tarde é que se soube que pelo menos um dos grupos, o MBL, era financiado por uma organização de direita norte-americana da família Koch. E só recentemente um áudio revelou que o grupo (e certamente outros) receberam recursos também do PMDB, PSDB, DEM e SD.

Aparentemente a ferida em Dilma foi pequena. Mas o pequeno filete de sangue atiçou os tubarões. Começava a corrida para devorá-la. A popularidade despencou, a situação econômica desandou, veio a campanha de 2014 e tudo o que se seguiu.

Mas nesta altura, a espionagem da NSA já havia acontecido, tendo talvez como motivação inicial a guerra do pré-sal. Escutando e gravando, encontraram outra coisa, o esquema de corrupção. E aqui entram os sinais de que as informações recolhidas foram decisivas para a decolagem da Lava Jato. Foi logo depois do Junho de 2013 que as investigações avançaram. A partir da prisão do doleiro Alberto Yousseff, numa operação que não tinha conexão com a Petrobrás, o juiz federal Sergio Moro consegue levar para sua alçada em Curitiba as investigações sobre corrupção na empresa que tem sede no Rio, devendo ter ali o juiz natural do caso. Moro havia participado, em 2009, segundo informe diplomático também vazado por Wikileaks, de seminário de cooperação promovido pelo Departamento de Estado, o Projeto Pontes, destinado a treinar juízes, procuradores e policiais federais no combate à lavagem de dinheiro e contraterrorismo. Participaram também agentes do México, Costa Rica, Panamá, Argentina, Uruguai e Paraguai. Teria também muitas conexões com procuradores norte-americanos.

Com a prisão de Yousseff, a Lava Jato deslancha como um foguete. Os primeiros presos já se defrontam com uma força tarefa que detinha um mundo de informações sobre o esquema na Petrobrás. Executivos e sócios de empreiteiras rendiam-se às ofertas de delação premiada diante da evidência de que negar era inútil, só agravaria suas penas. O estilo espetaculoso das operações e uma bem sucedida tática de comunicação dos procuradores e delegados federais semeou a indignação popular. Vazamentos seletivos adubaram o ódio ao PT como “cérebro” do esquema.

As coisas foram caminhando juntas, na Lava Jato, na economia e na política. A partir do início do segundo mandato de Dilma, ganharam sincronia fina. Na Câmara, Eduardo Cunha massacrava o governo e a cada derrota o mercado reagia negativamente. A Lava Jato, com a ajuda da mídia, envenenava corações e mentes contra o governo. Os movimentos de direita e pró-impeachment ganharam recursos e músculos para organizar as manifestações que culminaram na de 15 de março. A Fiesp entrou de cabeça na conspiração e a Lava Jato perdeu todo o pudor em exibir sua face política com a perseguição a Lula, a coerção para depor no aeroporto de Congonhas e finalmente, quando ele vira ministro, a detonação da última chance que Dilma teria de rearticular a coalizão, com o vazamento da conversa entre os dois.

No percurso, Dilma e o PT cometeram muitos erros. Erros que não teriam sido fatais para outro governo, não para um que já estava jurado de morte. Mas este não é o assunto agora, nesta revisitação em busca da anatomia do golpe.

Em março, a ajuda externa já fizera sua parte mas as pegadas ficaram pelo caminho. O governo já não conseguia respirar. Mas, pela lei das contradições, a Lava Jato continuou assustando a classe política, sabedora de que poderia “não sobrar ninguém”. É quando os caciques se reúnem, como contou Jucá, e decidiram que era hora de tirar Dilma “para estancar a sangria”.

Desvendar a engrenagem que joga com o destino do Brasil desde 2013 é uma tentação frustrante. Faltam sempre algumas peças no xadrez. Mas é certo que, ainda que incompleta, a narrativa do golpe não é produto de mentes paranoicas. No futuro, os historiadores vão contar a história inteira de 2016, assim como já contaram tudo ou quase tudo sobre 1964.”

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Em tempo: pequeno acréscimo a esse notável texto da notável Cruvinel: o ladrão presidente, quando era um parlamentar do baixo-clero, passou informações sigilosas ao cônsul americano em São Paulo, como demonstrou também o WikiLeaks que flagrou o traidor do Serra. O Temer era tão inexpressivo que a CIA mandava o Consul e não o Embaixador recolher o que ele expelia. – PHA

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