New Eastern Outlook
by F. William Engdahl
I’m feeling more and more in recent months that, as difficult as it may be to believe, our world is moving away from seemingly endless wars. Make no mistake, we haven’t seen the end of wars at all. The dynamic and the war energy is changing, however. Not without a frenzy of self-conceit does the so-called Western World throw forks, china, pots, pans, rolling pins–anything it can get its bloody hands on–like a spoiled child throwing a gargantuan temper-tantrum. It tries to deny this reality over which it has less control by the second. The world is moving away from wars, from an, if-you-will, patriarchal psychosis of control–a matrix of fear, shame, guilt, rage, hate. What is beginning to emerge in what we in the West have egoistically termed the East, is construction, building new great projects to uplift a sector of mankind ignored for more that a thousand years. This transformative positive motion is what, if anything, will save our humankind from the mass death and destruction some in the West so devoutly wish for us.
I want to illustrate this with recent developments out of what was centuries ago called in Chinese, “zhōngguó” or “the center of civilization.” It may well become that again if present trends with China, Russia and other Eurasian nations continue.
China is moving forward with an impressive array of major international infrastructure projects, including with Russia and the other states of the Eurasian Economic Union, even on to the European Union. Beijing is, with customary Chinese speed, linking its economy by land and by sea lanes to all Eurasia, from the East China Sea to the Black Sea, from the Malacca Strait to the Gulf of Finland, to Piraeus in the eastern Mediterranean.
Beijing has just inaugurated its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB, an institution that could soon pale the floundering US-controlled World Bank in funding not wasteful windmills but real infrastructure projects across Asia and into Eurasia. However, Beijing is not waiting for new banks.
China as new Zhōngguó
It’s important to have a clear view to the positive developments in the world. We tend to forget as we are too often hypnotized by the negative. I want to touch briefly on recent developments involving the Peoples’ Republic of China which are potentially transformative for the entire planet if done in a right way, a way that disentangles the Eurasian countries from the destructive and bankrupt Dollar System.
On December 4, at the opening of a two-day Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg South Africa, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China will give $60 billion in assistance and loans for African countries. It will “include $5 billion in zero interest loans and $35 billion in preferential facility and export credit and concessionary loans.” Xi also announced drought aid for the African continent, stating, “China is greatly concerned about the poor harvest caused by El Nino in many African countries and will provide one billion renminbi yuan ($156 million) worth of emergency food aid to the affected countries.”
It’s worth noting that China founded the FOCAC with participation of 40 African nations and their ministers in 2000. In 2006 Beijing hosted the first FOCAC Heads of State Summit in China with participation of 35 African heads of state. At that summit China announced it would make $5 billion worth of concessionary loans to Africa. That major Chinese economic interest in Africa caused shock waves in Washington at the US Treasury and at the US-dominated iMF. China’s then-President Hu later announced the creation of the China-Africa Development Fund to further Chinese investment in Africa with $1 billion initial funding, which he said was expected to grow to US$5 billion in the future.
The Washington response by the Bush-Cheney cabal to China’s economic cooperation with long-neglected IMF-depressed African nations, was to create AFRICOM, a dedicated Pentagon command solely devoted to countering Chinese influence in Africa. How? With wars, Color Revolutions, Arab Spring, destruction of Libya under the fraudulent “Right to Protect” ruse, creation of terrorist gangs in Mali, of Nigeria’s Boko Harem, and so, ad nauseum.
Now, at the Johannesburg second heads of state Summit and the sixth ministerial meeting of FOCAC, Beijing announced it will give an added $60 billion to African states for development projects and aid. Will it benefit Chinese interests? Of course, and why not? Will it benefit Africa? Yes, again. Unlike NATO’s endless wars, construction of infrastructure—railways, water navigation, electric power grids, lifts people up and enhances peace and stability. That’s a basic fact of human history.
Prior to the FOCAC meeting Xi went to Zimbabwe, a long-stabding Chinese ally, where he announced loans to revamp its depressed economy. Ten economic agreements were signed between China and Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe, someone the British have tried repeatedly to oust since 1997. In South Africa, Xi signed bilateral agreements and loan deals worth $6.5 billion, mainly to build South African infrastructure. A total of 26 agreements were signed between South Africa and China, noted South African President Jacob Zuma. South Africa is also a member of the BRICS countries–Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa.
China’s fast road to EU
In addition to growing its economic links to the vast, rich and by-the-West largely neglected African continent, China is moving to secure that its vast One Belt, One Road high-speed railway goes into the countries of the European Union.
On November 26, China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang hosted 16 European leaders in Suhzou in the fourth China-Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) summit. The forum, initiated by Beijing in 2012 saw leaders from China and 16 Central and Eastern European states: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. All those European countries are struggling under the depressed EU economic situation. Chinese media called the meeting a “golden opportunity” to deepen cooperation. Given China’s fascination with gold of late–China has surpassed South Africa to become the world’s largest gold mining country–it could have multiple meanings.
Given the de facto state of near-war and economic sanctions existing between the states of the EU–led by Germany, France, UK and Spain–with China’s close ally, the Russian Federation, China wants to secure completion of its vast Eurasian network of high-speed railways rapidly. One Belt, One Bridge as it is officially known, would as Beijing sees, place China firmly into the large markets of the Europen Union as an urgent priority, as well to boost depressed Chinese economic growth.
The states of Central and Eastern Europe are to be China’s entrepôt to the larger EU markets. Beijing knows it’s merely a matter of time before the warhawks in Washington and Wall Street target China too. Beijing has few illusions about Washington geostrategy, this I know for certain.
Big Infrastructure Projects
China’s Li told the summit participants how China views the region: “Located at the east gateway to Europe and along the routes of the Belt and Road initiative, CEECs enjoy a distinct advantage for enhancing connectivity,” adding that China wants to work with them, “to build the China-Europe land-sea express line and promote connectivity in Europe.”
Xinhua, the official China state news agency, summarizing the results of the summit spoke of, “infrastructure-led all-round cooperation” between China and the CEE states. China is also making a bid to construct railways, roads, and ports in Europe. Concretely, China signed deals with both Hungary and Serbia to build a high-speed rail line between Budapest and Belgrade. Construction will begin before the end of this year, to be completed by 2017. Xinhua described the new railway as “a fast lane for import and export of products between China and Europe.”
China is the world leader in building high-speed (faster than 200 km/hour) rail lines. The country has built more than 20,380 km of high-speed tracks over the past decade, more than the rest of the world’s high-speed rail tracks combined, with another 16,775km (10,424 miles) domestically under construction or in planning. That does not include the external Eurasian lines of the One Belt, One Road Beijing is currently laying down.
China is the world address in rail infrastructure today, while the West, led by the pathetic rail construction record of the USA, falls farther and farther behind. China built the advanced Shanghai Maglev magnetically levitated ultra-high speed train that goes over 400 km/hour. It’s the world’s fastest regular service train that German industry developed in the 1980’s, but which was politically blocked at home in Germany. Initially, China began it’s high-speed rail development with foreign technology transfer agreements with Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The Chinese engineers then re-designed internal components and built indigenous trains that can reach speeds of up to 380 km/h. China now exports Chinese rail technology.
The Hungary-Serbia high-speed railway will be part of a larger “land-sea express passage” linking China and Europe. According to the Chinese government, “This express passage extends from the Piraeus Port of Greece in the south to Budapest, Hungary in the north via Skopje in Macedonia and Belgrade in Serbia.” Though Greece was not part of the China-CEE summit, leaders from the other three– Hungary, Macedonia, and Serbia – met with Li and agreed to work together on the project.
Li also announced that China will invest in constructing and upgrading port facilities in the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black Seas. He stated that “Croatia, Slovenia, Poland, Latvia and Bulgaria have proposed to strengthen cooperation on port development.” Projects will focus on “production capacity cooperation among the ports and industrial parks of the coastal areas of the Adriatic Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea.” Chinese companies will be “the main players in these projects.”
China will use incentive financing to insure that Chinese companies get a decent share of the work. Li said, “China will provide preferential financing support for those projects that use Chinese products and equipment in production capacity cooperation.” He proposed a new “16+1 finance company” to financially support such projects “through business means.” That would avoid the severe EU public debt restrictions. Vazil Hudak, Slovakia’s Minister of Economy, told Xinhua, “The whole region could be interested in larger infrastructure projects like communication, transport or some energy infrastructure between these countries, meaning gas pipelines.”
Little wonder that Washington and the American oligarchs fear they are losing control of the world. China, especially in concert with Russia and the Eurasian states are leading an economic renaissance of a scale not seen in more than a century.
The response of Washington is to offer the world a pathetic Smörgåsbord of wars–wars in the Middle East, wars in Ukraine, political destabilization of Brazil’s President who works closely with China and Russia in the BRICS group of major developing countries. They reply with Color Revolution regime-change wars everywhere imaginable from Uzbekistan to Macedonia, to Venezuela and beyond. The contrast is unavoidable for anyone caring to look. For my side, I infinitely prefer the peaceful building projects to the destroying ones.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.