Archive for ‘The BRICs’

February 3, 2015

The shifting world system

Here is a very interesting piece by World Systems Theory guru Immanuel Wallerstein on Putin’s politics in a multi-polar world.

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April 24, 2014

Some links on Ukraine

 

Ukraine oil pipelines

China/Russia pipelines: Reuters on the fossil fuel geopolitics behind the Ukraine conflict

MOSCOW/BEIJING, April 23 (Reuters) – Europe’s plans to reduce its dependence on Russian energy as the Ukraine crisis threatens supplies are spurring efforts by Russia’s top producer, Gazprom, to sign a deal next month to pump gas to China, industry sources say.

The elusive deal, slated to be signed next month when Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit China and seen as vital if Russia is to be a big player in Asian gas markets, would wrap up a decade of talks in which price has been the main obstacle.

“Judging by the speed of work which is under way in Gazprom, I would say that the possibility that the deal would be signed is 98 percent,” a Gazprom source said, adding agreement on what China would pay for the gas was close. [READ THE REST.]

Cutting off Ukraine: The FT on Russia’s risk of killing its golden goose

Arseniy Yatseniuk, Ukraine’s beleaguered premier, claims his country is facing not just military aggression from neighbouring Russia, but “another kind of aggression – aggression through its gas supplies”.

Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine is all too real. President Vladimir Putin admitted last week that gunmen who helped Moscow annex Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea last month were Russian. Few western leaders doubt that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine also include Russian soldiers.

Yet while it is difficult to disentangle the gas dispute from the geopolitical crisis, the accusation of “energy aggression” by Russia and its natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, is less clear cut.

By cutting off gas to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009 amid pricing disputes, Gazprom has hardly endeared itself to Kiev, or to European customers further west – which experienced disruptions to Russian supplies through the massive transit pipelines that run across Ukraine.

Now, paradoxically, Russia seems to be putting maximum pressure on its neighbour’s struggling government, while doing its best to avoid cutting off supplies. [READ THE REST]

Send a message to Putin: WSJ on why a trans-Atlantic energy partnership makes geostrategic sense

Energy has always been central to creating a trade and investment bloc through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. If a TTIP agreement can reduce wide differences in energy prices between Europe and the U.S., Europeans will pay less for energy, while American energy producers will finally be able to profit from the recent energy boom by selling at competitive market prices. Trying to artificially hold down prices has heavy costs for domestic producers, encourages consumption, and dampens energy production over…  [READ THE REST]

September 30, 2013

Does money buy you more power in China or in America?

For anyone that thinks the “People’s [sic] Republic of China” is socialist, check this out from The Economist:

Many Americans grumble about the wealth of their politicians, but they are paupers compared with their Chinese counterparts. The 50 richest members of America’s Congress are worth $1.6 billion in all. In China, the wealthiest 50 delegates to the National People’s Congress, the rubber-stamp parliament, control $94.7 billion. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, is the richest man in Congress, with $355m. China’s richest delegate is Zong Qinghou, boss of Hangzhou Wahaha Group, a drinks-maker, whose wealth is almost $19 billion (including assets distributed to family). Last year Mr Zong was China’s richest man, but was overtaken by Wang Jianlin, who is not a member of the NPC. Wealth can bring problems wherever you are. On September 20th, a man, angry at being refused a job, attacked Mr Zong with a knife near his home in Hangzhou. Mr Zong survived, with nasty cuts to his hand.

[READ THE REST]

July 1, 2011

Chinese imperialism and American technology

In previous posts, I have highlighted the power of Arab oil money in the British and American academy. In this post, we turn to China. The website China Threat has some interesting, if somewhat hysterical, information about some of the ways in which Chinese soft power is exploiting US corporate and academic technology development.

University Tech:

Michigan Professor Questions University’s Ties with China

A professor of aeronautics engineering at the University of Michigan says his university is engaged in transferring sensitive military technologies to China and that the practice is encouraged by the university’s faculty and administrators.
“We are transferring every bit of knowledge and know how that we have to the People’s Republic of China,”   MORE

University of Michigan’s Role in Transferring Anti-Satellite Weapons Technology

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Dr. Daniel Scheeres studies how to rendezvous objects in space such as landing a spacecraft on an asteroid. However, the same technology can be used to shoot down a satellite or rendezvous a hunter killer satellite with a target satellite in orbit. MORE

Corruption

Is China Becoming a Mafia State?

John Garnaut is the China correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age newspapers. He goes into incredible detail about the operations of organized crime in China and the relationship between government officials and organized crime figures.     MORE

Rampant Fraud Threat to China’s Brisk Ascent

 By ANDREW JACOBS Published: October 6, 2010

BEIJING — No one disputes Zhang Wuben’s talents as a salesman. Through television shows, DVDs and a best-selling book, he convinced millions of people that raw eggplant and immense quantities of mung beans could cure lupus, diabetes, depression and cancer.  MORE

Is America at war with China?

WikiLeaks: US vs China in battle of the anti-satellite space weapons

On the night of Feb 20, 2008, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, was on a plane to Hawaii when his telephone rang. They told him the conditions were “ripe” to launch what can now be disclosed was a secret test of America’s anti-satellite weapons, Washington’s first such strike in space for 23 years. That night, the US navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruiser, USS Lake Erie, scored a direct hit on an American spy satellite, known as USA 193. The missile used, a highly sophisticated SM-3, took about three minutes to climb 150 miles above the Earth, where it flew past the satellite before turning back and destroying the target at an impact speed of 22,000mph.
The strike came about a year after the Chinese government had launched its own satellite attack, which started a secret “space war”…                       MORE

China Navy Reaches Far,  Unsettling the Region

New York Times By EDWARD WONG Published: June 14, 2011 photo by Andy Wong
QINGDAO, China — The photographs of Chinese warships speeding between Japanese islands in the Pacific for drills circulated quickly last week, raising what Japan’s defense minister called “serious concern.”MORE
May 23, 2011

Corporate China’s political shadows

Isabel Hilton in the Guardian says British business should be wary of the opaque Communist party role in China’s corporate culture

It was reported this week that China’s sovereign wealth fund is about to receive new capital from the government, adding billions of dollars annually to its already impressive wallet. As China’s economic power continues to grow and countries around the world compete for Chinese investment, the question facing developed countries is not so much what happens when China rules the world, as what will be the impact when China owns the world?

The China Investment Corporation was set up in 2007 to invest some of the $3tn in foreign exchange reserves that have accumulated through trade surpluses – fuelled in part, critics would say, by an artificially depressed exchange rate. It is currently the world’s fourth largest sovereign wealth fund but is growing fast as the Chinese government pursues its twin goals of securing raw materials and energy, and reducing its holdings of US treasury bonds – no longer seen by Beijing as future-proof.

Until 2000 China’s investments outside Asia were small and largely aimed at energy and natural resources in Latin America and Africa. But now China is on a spending spree, buying into mining interests from Australia to Canada and looking for acquisitions that might give them technology, major brands or market access. [READ THE REST]

Other China news: Economy

Just after the State Council acknowledged that the massive Three Gorges Dam has had a negative social and environment impact, the corporation running the damn announced that they came up short in a recent audit. // China has surpassed India as the biggest market for investment-grade gold, based on newly released statistics for the first quarter of 2011. (Although India is still the world’s largest overall consumer of  products.) … The sudden jump in Chinese demand for gold is thought to be driven by fears of inflation. Analysts expect that demand for gold in China will increase in the future. // More tragedy for  workers, as an explosion at a Chengdu plant killed two workers and injured at least ten. // The New York Times reports on a new fad among China’s super rich: illegal helicopters. // In recent weeks, Internet users in China have complained of increasing difficulty accessing overseas websites, in what many see as part of the ongoing crackdown on free expression. In the Global Times, Fang Binxing, the so-called Father of the Great Firewall, attributes the problem to cost-cutting measures by ISPs.

Other China news: Chinese soft imperialism

South Korean media has reported that North Korea’s heir apparent Kim Jong Eun is traveling in China on his first trip overseas since being chosen to take over power from his father, Kim Jong Il.  // China Confirms Visit by Kim Jong II – Wall Street Journal.

Related articles

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April 14, 2011

Socialism or your money back

A few items from the above-named blog:

China’s ghost cities and the biggest property bubble of all time

A couple of months ago, a lot of people were passing around the news about China’s plan to create a megacity that would be home to 42 million people, the so-called “Turn the Pearl Delta Into One” idea. The reporting was generally favorable, painting a picture of economic growth and opportunity — the narrative of a prosperous China, with a growing middle class, that has become commonplace in recent years.

Unfortunately, the view of China’s urban planning strategies from the ground is less shiny. A riveting report from Dateline, an Australian TV show, reveals a disturbing pattern of development for development’s sake — the construction of gigantic infrastructure projects with no regard for human needs. (Hat tip to WalkableDFW.)

Take the New South China Mall, in Dongguan. The Dateline crew took a tour of the place, which has been 99 percent vacant since it opened in 2005, and the result is one of the most depressing things I have ever watched. Six years after its creation, what is touted as the largest mall in the world sits almost empty. One of the very few stores that’s in business is a toy shop, where the wistful owner spends his days dusting children’s bikes that no child will ever ride. He is lucky if he makes one sale a day. [READ THE REST]

Doom and gloomier

British families are on average £910 worse off than they were two years ago. Rising food, clothing and energy prices mean the average British family will have £910 less to spend this year than they did in 2009.The squeeze – which is considered the worst in peacetime for 90 years – is set to continue with a two per cent fall in household disposable income this year. The fall in disposable income is comparable with the savage post-World War One recession which lasted between 1919 and 1921, as a result of a collapse in manufacturing and international trade.The findings also show the fall in household disposable income is sharper than in the 1930s depression.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research forecasts inflation will average 3.9pc in 2011. At the same time, salaries will rise just 1.9pc as unemployment remains high and the public sector makes cut-backs.

Employment lawyers have predicted that older workers and pregnant women will be hit by a fresh wave of job cuts. Paul Griffin, head of employment at DBS Law, said: “The growth of discrimination claims from older workers and pregnant women suggests that employers are now targeting their more expensive staff, despite them being in protected groups. Obviously mistakes are being made in companies as accounts departments win out against human resources.”

Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, invented the toil index, a measure of how many hours the median American must work to pay for an average family home in a school district of average quality.
“During the immediate postwar decades the toil burden for meeting the rent of that median-price home actually declined slightly, from 42.5 hours a month in 1950 to 41.5 in 1970, according to my calculations.… By 2000, the median worker had to work 67.4 hours a month to put his or her family into the median home. “

The Libyan weapons shop-window

To take out Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, Western powers such as France and Italy are using the very aircraft and weapons that only months ago they were showing off to the Libyan leader. Times change, allegiances shift, but weapons companies will always find takers for their goods. The Libyan no-fly zone has become a prime showcase for potential weapons customers, underlining the power of western combat jets and smart bombs, or reminding potential buyers of the defensive systems needed to repel them.

Almost every modern conflict from the Spanish Civil War to Kosovo has served as a test of air power. But the Libyan operation coincides with a new arms race — a surge of demand in the $60 billion a year global fighter market and the arrival of a new generation of equipment in the air and at sea. For the countries and companies behind those planes and weapons, there’s no better sales tool than real combat. For air forces facing cuts, it is a strike for the value of air power itself.

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April 12, 2011

Sheffield families vs the super rich: who flies more often?

Belle leaves a chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce an...

From David Osler:

MILLIONAIRE Tory Oliver Letwin has come out against building new airports because he doesn’t want ‘morepeople from Sheffield flying away on cheap holidays’. However, I suspect that he has missed the primary sources of additional demand for aviation services.

One of the many interesting findings of the 2011 Wealth Report, produced by property consultant Knight Frank in conjunction with Citi Private Bank, is that all Russians worth $100m or more have increased spending on private jets and yachts over the last five years. The same can be said of 93% of super rich Indians, and 70% of high net worth individuals in the Middle East.

Indeed, the private jet market probably has further to rise, according to Tara Loader Wilkinson in Financial News, who quotes the opinions of a leading jet broker:

[T]he Russian & CIS private jet fleet is forecast to triple by 2019, with 650 deliveries scheduled from 2010 – 2019. Similar high demand is also identified in China where deliveries are expected to grow six fold, from 110 to 700 by 2019.

Nor are these people willing to fly on crap aeroplanes, it seems:

But the newly-monied do not want just any old private jets and yachts. Private bankers say the wave of emerging markets consumers have a competitive streak and when it comes to executive transport, big is beautiful.

“The (emerging markets buyers) are buying the newer, bigger, better jets. These, of course, have a higher ticket price.” said Mary Schwartz, head of Aircraft Finance at Citi Private Bank.

March 28, 2011

Real imperialism – the new power cartography remaps Africa

Modernity writes:

Stealing land is not new, but this particular fashion of buying up chunks of African land can only be called imperialism, the Guardian reports:

“Gambella has offered investors 1.1 million hectares, nearly a quarter of its best farmland, and 896 companies have come to the region in the last three years. They range from Saudi billionaire Al Amoudi, who is constructing a 20-mile canal to irrigate 10,000 hectares to grow rice, to Ethiopian businessmen who have plots of less than 200 hectares.

This month the concessions are being worked at a breakneck pace, with giant tractors and heavy machinery clearing trees, draining swamps and ploughing the land in time to catch the next growing season.

Forests across hundreds of square km are being clear-felled and burned to the dismay of locals and environmentalists concerned about the fate of the region’s rich wildlife.

Local government officers have denied claims that people are being forcibly moved to make way for foreign companies.[…]

Ashwin Parulkar writes:

Al Amoudi is not alone in seeing the vast Ethiopian plains as cheap, fertile property ripe for investment. During the past six years, as global food and oil price increases made it more expensive to import food, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states began investing in earnest in Ethiopia and Sudan—in excess of $75 billion from 2005 to 2009, according to the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development. The largest land investor among the Gulf States, the United Arab Emirates, now controls over 1,100 square miles of farmland in Sudan.

India has also emerged as a major player in African agriculture. Last year, Ethiopia’s Minister of Agriculture, Tefera Deribew, visited India to announce his government’s intention to offer 4.4 million acres of farmland to Indian agro-enterprises. According to the government of India, the country’s private sector has already invested more than $4 billion in farmland located in other countries. The first to do so in Ethiopia was Karuturi Global, an Indian-based agri-business known primarily for producing cut roses. In 2010, it acquired a lease for 740,000 acres in Gambella to farm wheat, maize, and rice. Groups of Punjabi farmers are currently negotiating a deal with the Ethiopian government to lease 250,000 acres at astonishingly low rates—$3.60 per acre per year, for 25 to 40 years, with the first five years rent-free.

These deals are part of a land grab taking place all across Africa, a transfer of control unprecedented in the post-colonial era. According to a World Bank report released in January, 48 percent of all land deals struck worldwide between October 2008 and August 2009 involved land in sub-Saharan African countries.

The pace of acquisitions has been stunning. September, a World Bank report revealed that in 2009, some 111 million acres of farmland was acquired globally by foreign investors—nearly 75 percent of it in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to 2008, foreign investors only acquired an average of 10 million acres per year.

India’s minister of commerce has said:

“While the current volume of India-Africa trade stands at $45 billion, we have set a target of $70 billion for 2015. I am confident we will achieve that,” he added.

Modernity continues:

The Torygraph reported on this phenomena in 2009:

“Indian farming companies have bought hundreds of thousands of hectares in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique, where they are growing rice, sugar cane, maize and lentils for their own domestic market back in India.

Its government has given soft loans as aid to support the overseas ventures in what has been described as a challenge to China and Saudi Arabia in the new scramble for Africa. China, South Korea, and a several Arab countries have led the way in creating new African mega-farms to outsource domestic food production and use cheaper labour.

Critics have described the development as modern “piracy” and “land grabbing” from countries that have in the past been blighted by famine and severe food shortages.

South Korea has bought just under 700,000 hectares in Sudan, while Saudi Arabia has signed a deal for 500,000 hectares in Tanzania.”

Among the drivers for the new scramble for Africa are food commodity price rises and the related economics of monoculture agribusiness around foods like palm oil, which is an increasingly ubiquitous ingredient in the world’s diet, despite the ecological devastation it causes. Here’s The Ecologist reporting on one example:

Indonesia’s move to bring in a two-year moratorium on new palm oil plantations to protect its remaining rainforests has seen agribusiness giants like Sime Darby switch expansion plans to Cameroon, Ghana and Liberia

The sudden upsurge in land deals by palm oil companies in Africa could lead to large-scale deforestation and loss of farmland by local communities, NGOs and environmental groups in Africa have told the Ecologist.

The world’s largest palm oil producer Indonesia is due to implement a two-year ban on granting new concessions of land to plantation companies in forest areas. There are also restrictions on the availability of land in Malaysia. This has led companies like Sime Darby, which has more than half a million hectares of palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia, to look elsewhere.

Sime Darby – reported to be the largest palm oil producer in the world – has leased 220,000 hectares of land in Liberia and is considering buying a further 300,000 hectares for palm oil plantations in Cameroon. Despite the Indonesian ban, it still wants to acquire 1 million hectares of plantation land worldwide by 2015. Other rival palm oil giants like Sinar Mar, Olam International and Wilmar International are also tying up land deals in Liberia, Gabon and Ghana.

Another driver is the massive growing biofuel market. Here’s an example from Kenya:

An Italian company has asked the authorities for permission to lease 50,000 hectares there to grow jatropha, whose seeds are rich in oil that can be turned into bio-diesel.

This plant, originally from South America, has long been grown in Africa as a hedge to keep out animals – goats stay well away as it is poisonous. The area affected is community land which is being held in trust by the local council.

Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd is 100%-owned by the Milan-based Nuove Iniziative Industriali SRL. It has leased almost a million hectares in Africa; jatropha oil from a plantation in Senegal is being supplied to the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea. Other companies have leased land for the same purpose in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ghana, as well as in India.

March 24, 2011

The new arms race in a multipolar world

RIYADH. King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdu...

Image via Wikipedia

In the bi-polar world, the two superpowers raced against each other for bigger, more and more deadly weapons. In today’s multipolar world, the race is one which anybody can join. Here are a couple of reports from the side of the track.

  • China has new powerful Dong Feng 16 (DF-16) missiles aimed at Taiwan, according to the island state’s National Security Bureau Director-General, Tsai Der-sheng.
  • Russia has claimed that it will inject USD100 billion into the development of its defence industries during the next decade.
  • General Dynamics Land Systems, a business unit of Ohio, USA-based, General Dynamics, was recently awarded two contracts worth $44 million for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia‘s tank program. The contracts were awarded by the U.S. Army TACOM Lifecycle Management Command on behalf of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. This work is part of a plan by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to upgrade its entire fleet of 314 tanks. The first contract of $37.1 million is to provide materials and labor for the conversion of 42 M1A2 tanks to an M1A2S configuration for the Kingdom. The M1A2S will possess defined capabilities that “increase lethality while limiting obsolescence”. Saudi Arabia is the biggest defence spender in the region, and its tanks are currently being deployed in Bahrain to suppress the pro-democracy movement there.
  • Iran is rapidly and significantly expanding capabilities to accommodate larger missiles and satellite launch vehicles (SLVs), including the Simorgh 3 SLV in construction at Semnan space centre, according to Jane’s analysis of satellite imagery of the site. Tehran spends around $9.3-9.5 billion annually on defence, putting it at no.5 in the region.

Finally, check out this fantastic photo essay from IDEX, the global arms expo in Abu Dhabi.


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March 18, 2011

Chart of the week: Britain’s export gap with the BRICS

Will Straw writes:

Sky News and the Financial Times report that Peter Mandelson will later today outline a £27 billion export gap with the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). The finding comes from a piece of research that my colleagues Sarah Mulley, Amna Silim, and I have done for ippr on the future of globalisation and Britain’s place in the global economy.

The chart below – part of a presentation to be made later today by ippr Director, Nick Pearce, prior to Peter Mandelson’s keynote speech on globalisation – shows the actual volume of Britain’s exports to the four BRIC countries compared to the potential volume if export performance matched Britain’s global share of trade.

[READ THE REST]

Below the fold, recent(ish) trade news from The Gabber:

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