Monday, 8 February 2016

Is China Being Wooed by Fantasies of Western ‘Acceptance’?

from New Eastern Outlook: In the area of finance and creation of new financial institutions much hope of many nations has been placed on China. Last year China played a catalytic role in helping establish a new BRICS Infrastructure Development Bank to finance infrastructure projects in select emerging economies. Soon after Beijing announced it was creating another Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to finance a part of Asia’s huge infrastructure deficit. Now as the details of the just-launched AIIB become clearer, and as the Washington-based IMF appears finally eager to embrace China with larger voting rights, the question is whether Beijing is being seduced by a desire to be included in the “family” of the Western hegemon powers, the USA and the EU, the “Great White Masters.”

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that Asia will need $8 trillion over the next decade for energy, transportation, telecommunication and water sanitation. Now private investment in infrastructure runs a mere $13 billion a year, most in low-risk projects. Official development assistance adds another $11 billion a year, a shortfall exceeding $700 billion a year.

Early this year, China announced it was turning from the US-dominated IMF and its sister, the World Bank, and creating a new alternative that would presumably operate to address that $8 trillion infrastructure deficit across Asia and Eurasia. Washington was furious. The Obama Administration urged Britain and Germany, France and other major EU Western “allies” to boycott the new bank, to no avail. Washington then, like a petulant school bullyboy, arm-twisted loyal vassal Japan to boycott the membership in the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank. Where do we stand today, some eight months later, as Beijing celebrates the official opening of the AIIB?

Friday, 5 February 2016

TPP Protesters Vow to Keep Fighting

from SBS: Protesters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal say Thursday's signing of the document won't stop them from trying to stop it.

Protesters opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal have vowed to keep fighting despite a crowd of thousands being unable to stop the signing of the controversial agreement.

Hundreds of protesters bearing flags set up camp outside the SkyCity Convention Centre in Auckland where trade ministers from 12 nations signed the deal late on Thursday morning.

As the boisterous crowds grew, they blocked access to nearby streets, hoping to shut the signing down, while a police line guarded the entrances.

Hundreds were still occupying the area in the afternoon amid chants and booming music, despite pleas from organisers to leave.

Earlier, groups temporarily prevented cars from accessing several motorway on-ramps and off-ramps around central Auckland, causing traffic chaos in the city and leading to scuffles with police on an otherwise peaceful day.

Beijing Vs DC: The Battle for Southeast Asia

from New Eastern Outlook: The Strait Times published an opinion piece by the London-based Rob Edens.

Wishfully titled, “South-east Asia fast becoming unfriendly territory for China,” it attempts to portray Southeast Asia as increasingly pivoting West toward Washington, coincidentally just as Washington was “pivoting” East toward Asia.

Edens’ attempts to outline Beijing and Washington’s respective strategies in the region by stating:
On the one hand, China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, for instance, is focused on physical infrastructure; improving road, rail and air networks overland between neighbouring states as a means to oil the cogs of commerce and bring new customers into China’s fold. On the other hand, the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) maintains a discourse of freer trade in the Pacific region, opening up new markets overseas by relaxing tariffs and increasing various standards relating to the process of manufacture.
Lost on Edens appears to be the fact that physical infrastructure built beyond China’s borders becomes a long-term asset for those who cooperate in its construction, while Western “free trade” is in all reality, submission to foreign economic hegemony. Many aspects of “free trade” agreements are in fact, stripped verbatim from treaties that defined Colonial Europe and its subjugation of Southeast Asia.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Xi Jinping's Middle East Tour - The Asia-Pacific Perspective

On this edition of The Asia-Pacific Perspective: China goes on a Middle East tour as the Asia-Pacific gears up for more military drills; Australia goes for cashless welfare; and the Malaysian PM receives a $681 million "gift" from his Saudi friends.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Silk Dragon Takes Persian Road

from Counterpunch: He came, he saw, and he pocketed all the deals that matter. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s tour of Southwest Asia – Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt – could easily be sold anywhere as your typical Chinese-style win-win.

On the PR arena, Xi did a sterling job polishing China’s image as a global power. Beijing scored diplomatically on all counts, obtaining several more layers of energy security (over half of China’s oil come from the Persian Gulf) while expanding its export markets and trade relations overall.

In Iran, Xi oversaw the signing of 17 politico-economic agreements alongside Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Yet another diplomatic coup: Xi was the second leader of a UN Security Council member country to visit Tehran after the nuclear deal struck in Vienna last summer; the first was President Putin, in November. Note the crucial Russia-China-Iran interaction.

To make it absolutely clear, Xi issued a statement just before arriving in Tehran, confirming Beijing’s support for Iran to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). That will solidify for good the key strategic partnership trio working for future Eurasia integration.

Of course, this whole process revolves around One Belt, One Road – the official Chinese denomination of the larger-than-life New Silk Road vision. No other nucleus, apart from Russia-China, offers so much potential in terms of bilateral cooperation; Iran, as much as during the ancient Silk Road uniting imperial China and imperial Persia, is the ultimate hub uniting Asia with Europe.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

China's ICBC Launches Second Branch in Belgium

from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) officially launched its second branch in Belgium on Tuesday, 26th January in Antwerp.

In early 2011, ICBC set up Brussels branch in Belgium. After 5 years of development, ICBC has built up a trustworthy reputation in Belgium with total asset of 1.2 billion US Dollars as a provider of various specific financial services, such as oversea loans against domestic guarantee, ship financing, cross-border RMB business, and UCITS SICAV, among others.

Since the first European branch ever was established in London in 1995, ICBC's business has been expanded in 19 cities of 12 major countries in Europe, including UK, Germany, Luxemburg, Holland, France, Italy and Belgium, building a complete financial service network across Europe.

"Antwerp is the financial and cultural capital of Belgium, as well as one of the biggest ports in the world. Apart from that, it also plays an essential role in China's‘One Belt One Road' initiative,"said Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of ICBC ltd.

He said that the trade between China and Belgium has been growing steadily ever since the two countries established their diplomatic relationship in 1971. Belgium remains an important trade partner within EU for China and China has become the biggest Asian invest partner of Belgium.

As Myanmar Enters a New Era, Washington and Beijing Vie for Influence

Written by Nile Bowie
via New Eastern Outlook:

Myanmar is a country rapidly moving toward uncharted political terrain. By March 2016, the National League for Democracy (NLD) will take power for the first time in history, bringing an end to five decades of rule by the military establishment. Once suppressed by the military junta, the NLD – led by longtime dissident and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (pictured) – has secured an indisputable victory during the country’s November 2015 elections, winning a majority in both houses of Parliament.
The ascent of the NLD comes at a time when Myanmar finds itself at a new strategic crossroads, pulled toward the geopolitical orbit of major powers: the United States and China, as well as India. Since the outgoing military-backed government opened the country to Western investment in 2011, the US has prioritised its relationship with Myanmar as part of its strategy to reassert influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The country has received numerous visits by US high-ranking leaders, including President Obama on two occasions.

China, the country’s neighbour and largest trading partner, has long suspected Washington of seeking to influence Myanmar’s opening to nurture a regime with an antagonistic position toward Beijing. While the NLD positions itself to form a new government, the rise of this political force with a thoroughly pro-Western orientation, which has long anchored itself as a pro-democracy movement lauded throughout the West, begs the question of Myanmar’s place in the current geopolitical scenario.

Aung San Suu Kyi & Military Chief Discuss New Myanmar Gov't Formation

Political Corruption Alive and Well in Malaysia

  Outrage and New Questions After Malaysia PM Cleared in Scandal

from Malaysia's official explanation of the $681 million that ended up in Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank account -- it was an entirely proper gift from friends -- has triggered derision and fresh questions in a country already well-used to allegations of graft.

On Tuesday, Malaysia's Najib-appointed attorney-general cleared the premier of wrongdoing in a scandal that has gripped the nation, declaring that the money was a "personal donation" from the Saudi royal family.

The announcement capped months of evasion by Najib on the source of the money and apparently laid to rest any threat of prosecution by Malaysian authorities.

But Malaysia's opposition, anti-graft activists and social media users pounced on the perceived implausibility of the unexplained Saudi largesse and alleged a government whitewash.

The Saudis themselves have not helped the situation, with The Wall Street Journal quoting a Saudi official saying the kingdom's government had no knowledge of the donation, adding such a royal gift would be "unprecedented".

Senior opposition figure Lim Kit Siang called the episode a "high-water mark" in Malaysia's well-documented history of government corruption and impunity.

"I cannot think of another case in the nation's history where the attorney-general's decision... has been greeted with more scepticism, outrage and scorn," he said.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Big Bad China

from Zero Hedge: It seems like every day we are inundated with news out of China. Investors are already concerned. The offshore renminbi (CNH) is more international than the onshore one (CNY), which is tightly managed by the government. As such, the rising spread (CNH-CNY) between the two may be indicative of mounting skepticism about China’s economy and its markets. Likewise, capital is fleeing the country as hot money flows have accelerated:


In the following sections we will attempt to analyze China’s markets and determine the biggest risks facing its economy. Lastly, we will try to answer the following question: does it matter to us?

As the first week of trading in 2016 came to an end, the Chinese markets had already been halted twice. Newly minted circuit breakers, which have since been suspended, were triggered when China’s main equity index, the CSI 300, fell 7% on two separate occasions. The first selloff was triggered by a rumor that the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) was planning to suspend a short sale ban that has kept a reported ~$185 billion off the market. Subsequently, the CSRC decided to extend the ban in order to calm the markets. The second drop followed a significant devaluation of yuan by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). China has also backtracked on that move. Basically, the Chinese markets are confusing

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Xi Jinping Opens Refinery With Saudi King Salman

from Channel News Asia: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi King Salman on Wednesday (Jan 20) inaugurated a joint-venture refinery, symbolising Beijing's deepening involvement in the Middle East and Riyadh's need for economic diversification.

The event took place in the Saudi capital on the second day of Xi's first visit to the region. He later left for Cairo and will also travel to Saudi Arabia's rival Iran.

The YASREF refinery, in Yanbu Industrial City on the Red Sea, is 62.5-per cent held by Saudi oil giant Aramco, while China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) holds the balance. "YASREF represents both companies' focus on driving downstream growth," the refinery said in a statement.

Billboards on a highway outside the ceremony showed Xi and Salman waving against a backdrop of the refinery.

Saudi Arabia is China's biggest global supplier of crude, and state-owned Saudi Aramco says expansion into refining and chemicals fits the kingdom's goal of economic diversification. The policy has been given added urgency by a plunge in the kingdom's oil revenues.

YASREF is one of five joint-venture refineries in Saudi Arabia. Another four are overseas, including one in Fujian, China. The YASREF refinery shipped its first diesel one year ago and has a capacity to refine 400,000 barrels of Arabian crude per day.

Saudi Aramco and Sinopec also signed a framework agreement on cooperation, reflecting confidence "in the potential opportunities we can create together," said Saudi Aramco president Amin Nasser.