China turns to Turkmenistan for gas

By Chris Gill and Jim Pollard

 

Australian exports of LNG look set to tighten amid tension between Beijing and the Morrison government over multiple issues. It is despite big investments by Chinese oil majors in recent years. Beijing looks to source more natural gas from Turkmenistan via a new pipeline

(AF) Turkmenistan may have a golden opportunity to supply Beijing with more natural gas via a new pipeline, following the slump in relations between China and Australia.

Senior Turkmen officials were in China recently and are said to have discussed further cooperation on natural gas.

But such a move in Central Asia could ruffle feathers with Russia, which is also piping gas to China. It is a bad news for Australian firms exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the same destination. Australian LNG shipments are worth 64-billion-yuan a year (about US$10 billion).

Recently two Chinese LNG importers were told to immediately suspend LNG imports from Australia. Trade with Chinese oil majors that have invested billions in gas projects Down Under has not been affected so far. And given just these two smaller natural gas importers have received the notice, some US media outlets have suggested that this is only a ‘test’ by the Chinese government.

Deteriorating relationship with Australia

It is another shot across the bow at Canberra as ties with Beijing continue to deteriorate. The bilateral relationship is clearly in bad shape. The lowest point in decades for sure.

The Labor Party’s Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said on Tuesday Prime Minister Scott Morrison was so focused winning a domestic political advantage he did not seem to “fully comprehend Australia’s interests in relation to China. The first job of national leaders is the safety of their citizens. Our leaders do not make us safe by beating the drums of war with China,” Wong said.

Part of the problem stems from the fact a Federal election will be staged late this year or in early 2022.

Chinese media kept the needle at Morrison’s belly. They are reporting that there will be a “smooth transition” when the country abandons Australian natural gas, while China and Turkmenistan cement ties with an US$8 billion pipeline and more plans afoot.

Turkmenistan is the second largest country in Central Asia and has a population of 5.6 million. A landlocked country that shares borders with Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. It is playing a key role in China’s Belt and Road scheme.

Data from China’s Ministry of Commerce shows the country imported about 101 million tons of natural gas for an estimated 231.4 billion yuan (about US$36 billion) last year. Imports rose by 5.3% year-on-year, while the money spent decreased by 19%, mainly because natural gas prices fell during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the LNG imported by China last year, the proportion of imports from Australia accounted for 46%. It is valued at about US$10 billion (about 64.3 billion yuan).

China regards Turkmenistan as a long term partner in the natural gas field

On May 10, the two deputy prime ministers of Turkmenistan visited Xi’an for talks with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who emphasized that “China regards Turkmenistan as a long-term partner in the natural gas field”. This little-known landlocked state is the world’s fourth-largest in terms of its proven natural gas reserves. Later, the two parties agreed to consolidate and expand cooperation in the natural gas field.

Work has been continuing on the D line – a fourth line linking to the Central Asian pipeline. The high-level meeting between China and Turkmenistan likely means that it will come online soon.

Expert’s view

Professor K Paik, an expert on Sino-Russian oil and gas cooperation, said China had made a big effort to boost the economics of the natural gas supply from Central Asia. The academic, who is in the process of setting up a Sino-Russian Energy Forum, told ATF China wanted Turkmenistan gas to enable a total of 85 bcm/y of gas to be sent via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – with 15 bcm/y via Pipeline A, the same amount via Pipeline B, plus 25 bcm/y via Pipeline C and 30 bcm/y via Pipeline D.

CNPC paid all the bills for the latest pipeline development. Together with its three domestic trunk pipelines (West-East Pipelines 1, 2 and 3).
“China had difficulty in getting full capacity of pipeline gas from Turkmenistan a couple years ago when the gas supply shortage became a serious problem in China. The core point was Turkmenistan was not happy about the low gas price for their exports. On the other side China was not happy about the burdensome gas price for their imports.

Paik said Turkmenistan is introducing a new gas market by accelerating the TAPI Line. It is with their own investment for 85% of the line’s construction.
“In my view, this is the mistake Turkmeni authority made with regard to construction of the D Line. A pipeline passing through Afghanistan without a proper security protection will be a huge liability. Consequently, Russia saw the opportunity to accelerate its own initiative by promoting a Mongolian route. From Gazprom’s view, Russia’s west Siberian gas supply to China via the Xinjiang route has to compete against Turkmen gas. But the Mongolian route will enter into China’s Bohai Bay gas market at a stroke.”

Reasons for worry in Australia

China’s three big national oil companies – PetroChina, CNOOC and Sinopec – have all invested in the LNG industry in Queensland in northeastern Australia. CNOOC is a partner in Shell’s Curtis LNG project. Sinopec buys the bulk of the LNG from Origin Energy’s Australia Pacific LNG.

PetroChina is a 50-per-cent partner with Shell in the $10 billion Arrow gas venture. It started its first phase about a year ago.

So, with big long-term deals a fair proportion of Australia’s LNG trade with China would appear to be relatively steady.

Natural gas, like iron ore, is one of Australia’s cornerstone industries. Australia’s annual LNG exports account for about 10% of total exports. So, if China, as the largest importer of Australia’s natural gas, only stops importing 30% or so, it could cause some hair pulling.

The writing seems on the wall that Australian LNG exports to China will see diminishing demand.

Survey confirms the world order is shifting, but

China can still learn lessons from America

Tom Fowdy

is a British writer and analyst of politics and international relations with a primary focus on East Asia.

A US-led world order is still preferred by more countries than a Chinese one, says a new survey. However, disillusionment with Washington has risen across the globe due to its military adventurism and handling of Covid.

One of the dominant themes of the 21st century has been the return of ‘great power’ politics. The contest for global supremacy between the United States and China. This battle heated up under Donald Trump, and has continued under Joe Biden. Both are eager to restore US primacy against the perceived challenge from Beijing.

But what do other countries make of it all? Do they prefer an American-led world order, or a Chinese one? Or is the answer more complex, with both countries having appealing qualities?

A comprehensive new survey from the Eurasia Group Foundation, ‘Modeling Democracy’ delivers some fascinating insights, with people in Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland and Russia offering their opinions.

The survey asked probing questions about how they felt about their country’s relationships with the US and China respectively. About the ideals of democracy and other related issues. Perhaps unsurprisingly, support for American leadership continued to heavily outweigh backing for a China for a number of reasons. Yet that did not hide an evidence of growing disillusionment with the US and falling support. Particularly when it comes to what is considered American ‘hard power’.

In China itself, negative perceptions of the US more than doubled, amid general disenchantment with an American-led world order. This is perhaps to be expected, given the scale of hostility Washington has shown against Beijing in the past few years Especially after the Covid-19 pandemic and everything that followed.

Confident and emboldened China

Yet the survey also recognises what many have described as an increasingly confident and emboldened China. The pandemic itself was arguably a turning point. In that China overcame it successfully – while the West lingered in chaos. By avoiding economic decline and introducing the world’s fastest vaccination drive, with more than 500 million doses distributed. It’s no surprise, then, that Chinese people are increasingly confident in their own system and model.

This has not been lost on the rest of the world. The survey shows America’s response to the pandemic has had an influence on popular perceptions of that nation. People who thought the US had handled it poorly 27% more likely to prefer a China-led world order than people who thought it had handled it well.

Other factors credited for Beijing’s appeal included China “sets a good example for national development”. “Does not interfere in the politics of my country”“Can provide my country with economic investment” and “values economic and political stability over individual freedoms”.

And the survey noted that “discontent with both American military adventurism and America’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be a boon to China’s soft power and public diplomacy.”

US has suffered a credibility problem

There is little doubt that the US has suffered a credibility problem. However, it would be misleading to say its appeal has been lost, and its inherent ‘soft power’ is still a strength. Even if the legacy of Trump has damaged global perceptions, many respondents said they preferred an “American-led world”. Because of the US’ economic benefits, its stance on democracy and human rights, and its emphasis on freedom, and, as with China, that it’s a good example of national development.

This was particularly dominant in regional countries where people look up to the US, such as Brazil and Mexico. But also in Nigeria and India. Yet what was most surprising is that skeptical views of America’s democracy stemmed from longstanding allies such as Germany and Japan – established democracies themselves.

The findings have significant implications for how we should understand the battle for supremacy between the US and China. Firstly, America has suffered some fallout, but it continues to appeal in many respects, despite its military exploits. Biden’s main task is to restore an image of American confidence, credibility and resilience in the aftermath of the pandemic and Trump.

China is seen as an alternative for many things the US does not offer. With respect to economics and sovereignty, which matter to many countries. Yet, as a general rule, Beijing is not yet seen as an all-round global leader.

“Might does not make right” lesson

This suggests that, while China has a role to play, an effort by Beijing to fundamentally overturn the values of the international system would not be popular, other than in certain nations, such as Russia and Egypt.

However, this hasn’t prevented Beijing becoming more confident in the belief that its model of governance is more effective than Washington’s. Perhaps the biggest lesson for it to learn is that America’s ‘soft power’ is worth replicating and ‘might does not make right’. Arguably, US movies, culture and imagery continue to wield more power in shaping its role around the world than do attempted regime changes, wars and other aggressive behaviours. If China is to push harder, it needs ‘soft power’ above all.

Scramble for Africa? America and China proxy war


Tom Fowdy

is a British writer and analyst of politics and international relations with a primary focus on East Asia.


A new scramble for Africa? Events in Ethiopia show how America and China are fighting a proxy war for influence on the continent

Washington has long viewed the country as a crucial partner in a key region. However, the new sanctions it’s just imposed on the Addis Ababa government could backfire and push it closer to Beijing.

It’s been a weekend of extraordinary developments in Washington’s relationship with Ethiopia.

On Saturday, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) secured a contract with a consortium of companies to fund the country’s 5G network. However, it is on the condition the money isn’t used on Chinese telecoms giants Huawei and ZTE. 

Then the very next day, the State Department imposed sweeping sanctions over Ethiopia’s government and army. As well as cutting international aid, over what it deems as human rights abuses in the Tigray region, where Addis has been fighting a conflict with a rebel regional government. Bloomberg reports that these sanctions may broaden to include blocking IMF and World Bank lending to the country.

The sanctions represent a potential turning point in US-Ethiopian relations. These have soured since the bloody Tigray conflict erupted last November. Thousands have been killed and about two million people forced from their homes. There are widespread reports of atrocities, ethnic violence, and alleged war crimes committed against civilian populations.

Washington has long viewed Ethiopia as a critical partner in East Africa. Because of fearing that any destabilization in the region could help Islamic militant groups such as Al-Qaeda and al Shabaab, stoke ethnic tensions, and threaten freedom of movement in the Red Sea

How can one make sense of Washington’s contradictory moves toward the country? President Biden has obviously been under some pressure from Congress to act on the civil war. However, the situation is neatly illustrated by one word: China. 

Simultaneously using sanctions and debt

The US wants to make inroads into Africa to thwart and compete with Beijing’s cozy relationships with many countries on that continent. Washington sees its foreign policy there through the lens of this rivalry. When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with leaders of Nigeria and Kenya recently, he warned African nations to be wary of Beijing.

To try to assert strategic dominance, Washington is turning to its classic modus operandi of simultaneously using sanctions as leverage in order to influence Ethiopia’s foreign policy, while using debt as a means to procure political moves in its favor and to strengthen the private sector, particularly against Beijing. 

The DFC, America’s development bank, is one to watch. Established in 2019, it is an arm of the US government created to try to rival China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) in investing in developing countries. It has a more explicit political and ideological angle to it than Beijing’s program. It demands compliance with American strategic preferences in exchange for low interest loans.Also, it forces privatizations to the benefit of US firms. 

The BRI utilizes state owned companies to build projects, whilst the DFC pushes the American private sector. As an example, at the beginning of the year the DFC brokered a deal with the neoliberal government in Ecuador: offering to pay off its debt to China in exchange for signing up to the ‘Clean Network’ initiative (which excludes Huawei and ZTE from the country’s 5G network) and privatizing Ecuadorian oil companies to American investors. 

This partially reflects the pattern of lending brokered by Bretton Woods institutions in the 1980s, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which also leveraged neoliberal economic changes in the 1980s that weakened national economies in Africa but empowered foreign investors in the West. 

Washington accusing China of doing the very things that they do it themselves

It is an interesting contrast, and perhaps an ironic one, from what the US has claimed is “debt trap diplomacy” or “predatory lending” by China. Yet Washington uses conditional loans and sanctions simultaneously with Ethiopia. In a blatant attempt to secure growing leverage over the country. For example, sanctions relief may in time be brokered in exchange for compliance with anti-China objectives, something America has had little luck with in Africa, where many countries have long orientated themselves toward Beijing, not only due to it being a source of easy capital, but because of China’s principle of non-interference. 

This, of course, sets out some of the obstacles ahead for the US in Ethiopia. The sanctions it has imposed will not please Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government. With its army sanctioned, which countries is Ethiopia going to turn to for arms? And which ones likewise support the idea of “sovereignty”? 

The answers are, of course, China and, to a lesser extent, Russia. This may mean while Ethiopia and other countries can leverage US investment, it may come at an unacceptably high price if it comes with political interference. However, it may also provide a tool for African countries to negotiate more squarely than Beijing. This is a deal the Chinese will watch closely. They will certainly be concerned about America making new inroads on the African continent.

In this case, foreign policymakers may dub these new developments a new “scramble for Africa”. That comes with the baggage of denying the agency of African nations themselves in the bid between superpowers to compete for influence. 

Time will tell which superpower will emerge victorious

Either way though, the US has set out a clear strategy on Ethiopia. Weaken the state (one that is often most favorable to China), strengthen the private sector and subsequently use sanctions to impose its own vision on reshaping this African country. Only time will tell what the results are. And which superpower eventually emerges victorious on the African continent.

Europeans froze the largest trade deal with China

Brussels is looking for an alternative in the USA and India

Dmitry Migunov

The European Parliament on May 20 froze the ratification of the investment agreement between the EU and China. The reason was foreign policy friction between Brussels and Beijing. It is not yet clear whether the document will be returned to the vote. A split in relations between two of the three largest economies in the world may prompt the EU to seek other alliances, or perhaps to rely primarily on its own forces and active protectionism. Details – in the material “Izvestia”.

China-EU relations in recent years have been an almost equal combination of love and hate. For the European Union, China was the second most important export market (about € 250 billion a year). Especially for critical industries like mechanical engineering. In turn, the importance of the European market for China was no less important. Although it was inferior to the American one in terms of supply, it grew faster and more stable.

At the same time, Europe has become the most important target for the export of capital from China. Accumulated Chinese investment reached $ 350 billion by the end of 2019, again second only to the United States. Investments in European countries fit perfectly into the Belt and Road project, whose main task was to create in Eurasia a reliable alternative to the United States as a destination for Chinese exports. 

Within this framework, Chinese companies have actively invested in enterprises in Germany, Italy, France, Hungary and other countries. Manufacturers of car tires, household appliances, oil and gas companies, airports and football clubs – it will be difficult to name a field of activity in Europe, wherever a Chinese investor has penetrated, both private firms and corporations with state capital. 

Mutual rhetoric sometimes blunt

Despite this flourishing relationship, mutual rhetoric was sometimes blunt. In March 2019, the European Commission named China as its “systemic competitor.” Given that this happened in the midst of Donald Trump’s declared trade war, this was not good news for China. Later, the conflict was mitigated, among other things, due to the fact that Trump’s anger fell on Europe itself. Americans began to impose trade duties against European countries, threatening retaliation for the introduction of a “digital tax” and other actions in the economy that the previous US administration took as unfriendly.

In December last year, the EU and China signed the largest investment agreement in European history. Its essence boils down to facilitating the access of European companies to the Chinese market, which was able to withstand even the blow of the pandemic (the only large economy that avoided contraction in 2020). Companies that supply high-tech goods to the PRC have received especially favorable working conditions. China, in turn, received guarantees for its investments in the EU, as well as access to the renewable energy market, where the two sides are simultaneously the two largest players and strategic partners by a wide margin.

However, the signed treaty had to go through a difficult and lengthy ratification process. And something went wrong here. First of all, the power has changed in the United States. The new government, at least at the level of rhetoric (and in some places in fact, for example, on the issue of Nord Stream 2), made concessions to the European states. The transatlantic relationship again came to the fore, and China was no longer vital partner.

The diplomatic conflict turned into a reciprocal exchange of strikes when the sanctions imposed on China (not too significant) were followed by a similar targeted response from an Asian country. This is most often the end of the conflicts. This time everything went much further. The European parliamentarians with an overwhelming advantage – with 599 votes out of 687 possible – voted to freeze the ratification of the agreement.

This is not final decision though

Note that this vote is not a final decision and, in fact, has no legal force as such. But the ratification process may be slowed down for a long time. During this time, foreign policy and economic circumstances may well change. And the attitude of individual countries to the agreements.

I must say that the Europeans did not sit idly by all these months. In the course of the trade conflict with the United States, it seemed that the EU and China would inevitably move closer. Brussels is now considering other options for economic integration. The most obvious option is trade agreements with the United States. In early May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the same deal with America that was agreed with Canada last year.… This agreement was already in the air in the middle of the last decade. The parties had already begun negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade Partnership, but in early 2017, the United States canceled a similar trade alliance with the countries of East Asia and Latin America. The last agreement was “killed” at the stage of full readiness. On both sides of the Atlantic they decided that the treaty had no chance at all.

In all fairness, Merkel’s approach is not shared everywhere on the continent. French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly stated that Europe should not rely on other superpowers and should show more independence. Questions can also arise overseas, where, despite all the rhetoric of multilateralism and free trade, slogans like “buy American” are gaining momentum. And the full employment promised by the new American administration is unlikely to be achieved if we give even more privileges to foreign manufacturers in their market.

Protectionism is gaining strength

It is possible that the EU will turn in a different direction. In April, it became known that Brussels is negotiating with India on a global infrastructure plan. That should become a competitor to the Belt and Road. It should include cooperation in third countries, the exchange of scientific and innovative ideas and the drafting of uniform standards, especially in the field of financial sustainability. All this should tie the third largest economy in Asia (and the second in terms of purchasing power parity) more closely to the European Union.

India is not yet a player capable of replacing China and the United States as an economic partner. Rather, an agreement with it could become a demonstration of a course that presupposes self-reliance in Europe. Such a line in the economy is becoming more and more popular, given that protectionism is gaining strength in all regions – and the European Union can in no way be an exception .

Kind nuclear neighbor: What is known about the new project of Putin and Xi Jinping

Об этом сообщает “Рамблер”

By Elena Proshina

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will open a new joint nuclear project between Russia and China on May 19, TASS reports with reference to the Chinese Foreign Ministry . Details of the project are classified. The Chinese Foreign Ministry only announced that the leaders will participate in the presentation via video link. They did not specify what kind of object they were talking about.

Previously, Russia and China collaborated on the construction of four power units at the Tianwan NPP and the CEFR Demonstration Fast Nuclear Reactor. What do they say about the project in Beijing? Konstantin Shchepin, a Russian journalist in China:

“Judging by the open information, we already have a lot of projects in the nuclear power industry. This is the famous Tianwan NPP, which is being built in the Jiangsu province and where more and more power units are being built based on our VVER-1200 reactors. These are uranium enrichment plants in Gansu province. It is said that Beijing and Moscow have long been carrying out a project of a new generation of fast breeder reactors somewhere near Beijing. But there is very little information about this in the official media.

Perhaps this experimental reactor will be officially put into operation. These are my guesses. In Beijing, nothing has been written about this yet, it was the message that went through, everyone was surprised, everyone was inspired, everyone froze in anticipation and opened their eyes – what would it be. But so far the people are perplexed. Maybe this will also start a new project: China and Russia have already quite a long time ago, in my opinion, even last year or the year before, agreed on the construction of nuclear power plants in the northeast of China. It is not clear yet.”

In June 2018, after a visit to China, Vladimir Putin said that the countries had agreed on the construction of two power units of the Tianwan NPP by Rosatom , and also agreed on the construction of another Russian-designed nuclear power plant in China. Construction was scheduled to begin in December 2020.
Representatives of Rosatom and the Chinese National Atomic Corporation have already signed a general contract for the construction of the seventh and eighth units of the Tianwan NPP. According to the head of Rosatom, Alexei Likhachev, in May it is planned to “build the first concrete at the seventh power unit.”

Power unit of the Tianwan NPP launched with the assistance of Russian specialists


The work on the physical start-up of the Tianwan NPP in China was completed on September 30 with the participation of the state corporation Rosatom, the press service of the company reports.
The last stage of work on the launch of the Tianwan NPP was the bringing of power unit 4 to maximum capacity, which was carried out on September 30 with the technical assistance of specialists from the Engineering Division of Rosatom.
Rosatom noted that the physical start-up of the reactor was completed ahead of schedule


Russia and China will build a station on the moon


The Russian and Chinese sides signed a memorandum on the creation of a lunar station. This is stated on the website of “Roscosmos” .

Representatives of the governments of Russia and China – the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin and the head of the Chinese National Space Administration (KNKA) Zhang Kejian – signed a cooperation agreement in the format of a video conference. The parties agreed to be guided by “the principles of parity distribution of rights and obligations” and to use “outer space for peaceful purposes in the interests of all mankind.”

The memorandum specifies that the planned lunar station is intended “for multidisciplinary and multipurpose research work,” and considers the further prospect of the presence of a person directly on the moon. The agreement implies both joint planning, development and implementation of the project, as well as its presentation to the world community.


“Russia and China traditionally strive to develop cooperation in the field of space technologies”, – is specified in the conclusion of the agreement.


The document also implies the cooperation of the Russian mission with the orbital spacecraft Luna-Resurs-1 (OA) and the Chinese mission to explore the polar region of the Moon, Chang’e-7.
At the end of 2020, China, which had previously sent a mission to the moon, planted a national flag on the surface of a natural satellite of the Earth. Thus, the country became the third – after the USA and the USSR – power to plant its flag on the moon.

Russia and China agreed to extend the Neighborliness Treaty


The treaty on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation, which Russia and China have agreed to automatically extend for another five-year period, will be filled taking into account new realities and will give impetus to the development of bilateral relations, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, which is very important. Over the past 20 years, this agreement has laid a solid legal foundation for the healthy, sustainable development of Russian-Chinese relations and contributed to the optimization and modernization of bilateral relations.

We have agreed on the automatic extension of this agreement, and we must constantly give this agreement a new content, taking into account the realities of the era, so that it adapts to the new conditions of Russian-Chinese relations. I think that this agreement will certainly help us to reach new agreements and give a new impetus to the development of relations, ”TASS quotes a statement by the head of the PRC Foreign Ministry, made before the talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

As Wang Yi noted, in recent days, “a handful of European powers have been on the international stage with accusations against China and Russia, but they know that [this is] a lie under a far-fetched pretext, and [once successful] attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of China and Russia have gone far into the past. ” Wang Yi stressed that despite the changing international environment, “our determination to uphold international justice remains unchanged.” “These attempts cannot prevent China from moving forward and cannot change the historical trend,” concluded Wang Yi.


The day before, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in China on a visit. Earlier, Lavrov, in an interview with Chinese media, said that the Treaty of Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation with China “has successfully passed the test of time and the obligations recorded in it are being sacredly fulfilled,” thanks to the document, relations between the countries reached an “unprecedented level.”


Recall that on March 1, the Ministry of Defense of the PRC characterized the Russian-Chinese relations in the military sphere as a partnership in comprehensive strategic interaction. In early January, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that strategic cooperation between Russia and China has no end, no upper limit, and no exclusion zones.

Then in November 2020, Beijing announced China’s readiness “side by side with Russia to jointly oppose one-sided policies, protectionism and hegemony” of states that “strike a blow at international relations and international order.” In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club admitted the possibility of concluding a military alliance between Moscow and Beijing.


September 2020, the Chinese Foreign Minister stressed the special importance of relations with Russia, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a congratulatory telegram to President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Victory in World War II, announced China’s readiness to join forces with Russia for the sake of global peace, security and prosperity for future generations.

Food has become one of the main points of growth in trade between the PRC and the Russian Federation

Trade in food products in recent years has become one of the key points in the growth of economic cooperation between China and Russia, said Russian Trade Representative to China Alexei Dakhnovsky on Tuesday, speaking at the opening ceremony of the Russian pavilion at the SIAL food exhibition.
On Tuesday, within the framework of the SIAL international food exhibition in Shanghai, a joint stand of the Russian Federation was opened; 18 Russian companies are represented on an area of ​​400 square meters.


“Trade in agricultural products and food products in recent years has been one of the key points of growth of bilateral economic cooperation between our countries. China is the largest importer of these products, Russia has something to offer from this range, the high quality of which is in high demand among the Chinese consumer,” Dakhnovsky said, follows from the widespread video recording of the opening ceremony.


He stressed that the pandemic and quarantine measures that exist in China today have certainly had a negative impact on trade in this area. However, according to the trade representative, with the exception of seafood, in the first quarter of this year, the volume of Russian food products exports to China increased by 17.6%.

“Therefore, companies from Russia pay serious attention to their work in the Chinese market and work at the Chinese international food exhibition. We are confident that the products of Russian companies presented here will find their customers. I wish all the participants of the Russian exposition successful work at the exhibition.” added Dakhnovsky.


According to the General Administration of Customs of the PRC, the trade turnover between Russia and China in the first four months of 2021 increased by 19.8% compared to the same period last year and amounted to $ 40.2 billion.


The official representative of the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC, Gao Feng, said that China expects that trade with Russia will reach a new maximum by the end of this year.


At the end of 2020, trade between the two countries fell by 2.9% and amounted to $ 107.76 billion.

China bought helicopters from Russia for $ 2 billion


In 2019, China bought 121 helicopters from Russia for $ 2 billion, the state corporation Rostec reported.


We are talking about 68 Mi-171 helicopters, 18 Mi-171Sh helicopters, 14 Mi-171 helicopters with a VK-2500 engine and 21 Ansat helicopters. All versions of the Mi-171 are produced at an aircraft plant in Buryatia. China plans to supply 86 helicopters with Ukrainian engines.


The cost of only 100 Mi-171 helicopters can exceed $ 2 billion, expert Konstantin Makienko estimated . One “Ansat” can cost China at least $ 3.3 million.


The contracts for helicopters are the largest known with China after Russia supplied China with Su-35 fighters and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, said Vasily Kashin , a spokesman for the Higher School of Economics . There are about 500 Mi-8 or Mi-17 helicopters in operation in China. China also produces its own Z-20 and Z-18 helicopters, but, apparently, their characteristics do not satisfy the army, Kashin suggested.

Chinese Foreign Minister calls relations with Russia “unlimited”


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi commented on the strategic relationship between Beijing and Moscow. They have no “no-go zone” or “upper limit”, RIA Novosti quoted a diplomat who was interviewed by Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television.


The PRC Foreign Minister admitted that last year the Chinese-Russian relations withstood the test of the pandemic and reached a qualitatively new level. At the same time, the countries continue to cooperate on the containment of coronavirus infection and research on the development of vaccines.


“Collaboration in new formats such as digital economy and e-commerce is expanding rapidly,” concluded Wang Yi.

Hydrogen fuels a revolution in Chinese trucks

Analysts say fuel cell electric vehicles are the leading alternatives to internal combustion engine automobiles

By ALAN KIRK

On March 22, a trio of Chinese electric vehicle (EV) companies – Nio, Xpeng, Li Auto, all New York listed – announced that they were hiring investment advisers to assist them with secondary listings in Hong Kong.

Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley have been appointed as Nio is looking to sell a 5% stake, valued at approximately $3.5 billion. Somewhat lower but still comparable valuations for the other two would bring a total of $7.5 billion to Hong Kong.

Surprising?

CNBC stock market guru Jim Cramer, usually unflappable, did a double take on air, also on March 22, commenting on Ark Investment fund manager Cathie Wood’s call of $3,000 per share for Tesla,

“I don’t think there is a fund manager in this country that could get away with this kind of thing other than Cathie Wood.

“But Cathie Wood actually is so good that you start thinking, ok, what is Elon Musk going to do? Maybe he’s got a lot on his mind that she has thought about and …”

And so it went for several more minutes.

The electric vehicle space is jumping and, of course, Musk almost certainly has a lot in mind that will make it even more attractive to investors.

What he’s most likely not thinking about is the large-scale application of hydrogen for EVs. He once called fuel cells “fool cells.”

But while hydrogen fuel cells are just beginning to provide serious competition to battery powered vehicles in personal transportation, they are making a large impact in the heavier vehicle commercial transportation space where large loads have to be carried over long distances.

That’s where hydrogen has the advantage.

And that’s where China, just getting to be competitive with the likes of Tesla in snazzy passenger cars, is poised to seize the lead with hydrogen-powered trucks.

The hydrogen fuel cell is a rare example of a long-established technology turning into a game-changing disrupter. It has powered spacecraft and submarines for decades. However, it made little headway in ground transportation because governments balked at the cost of building fueling infrastructure. And also because the cost of producing the raw materials was prohibitive.

That’s changing in a big way! Mainly because China has made hydrogen-powered ground transport one of the top priorities of its $560 billion a year technology investment budget.

Europe and Japan  Germany has declared 2021 the year of hydrogen technology  are running only slightly behind China. For the next decade or so, battery-powered passenger vehicles will dominate the market for low-carbon substitutes for the internal combustion engine. But batteries can’t power long-range freight transportation by truck and rail, and China is making a decisive commitment to hydrogen.

China’s commitment to hydrogen has drawn the attention of global investors.

In a March 2021 report entitled “China’s gateway to a hydrogen future,” J.P. Morgan research analysts  Han Fu and Stephen Tsui write, “Green hydrogen, a clean form of energy, clearly holds potential to play a critical role in China’s 2060 carbon neutrality ambitions.

“Fuel Cell EVs appear to be emerging as an early use case. This is an opportunity for the China hydrogen ecosystem to develop approaches to overcome technical and economic challenges, necessary for more widespread future applications. Hydrogen plays have been in market focus, and valuations are lofty.”

“The global automotive fuel cell market size was USD1.07 billion in 2020…This market exhibited a stellar growth of 44% in 2020,” according to a Fortune Business Insights study, and “is projected to grow from USD $1.73 billion in 2021 to UD $34.63 billion in 2028 at a stellar compound adjusted growth rate of 53.5% in the 2021-2028 period.”

The Fortune report adds that fuel cell electric vehicles are “the leading alternatives to the widely used internal combustion engine automobiles.” The lion’s share of the growth, will be in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ares Motor CEO Ian Hanna with some Chinese colleagues at the Wisdom Motor plant in Zhangzhou, Fujian, China. Photo: Supplied.

Already largest market

Already the largest market for Plug-in Energy Vehicles (PEV’s) with 3 million on the road. China projects a fleet of 50,000 fuel-cell vehicles (FCV’s) by 2025 and 1 million by 2030, from only 6,000 on the road in 2019.

Beijing listed hydrogen as an energy source in a public law for the first time in its 2020 Energy Law of the People’s Republic of China. It established subsidies for FCV’s through four government departments, with an emphasis on freight and urban mass transit.

China is ready to finance the refueling infrastructure required to make hydrogen-based transport economically viable. And it has a large supply of hydrogen. It is now produced as a waste byproduct by its chemical industry.

According to government directives issued in September 2020, central government subsidies for FCV’s could reach RMB 17 billion. It is depending on how quickly Chinese cities meet their targets for FCV deployment. Local governments are likely to match the central government support. Supporting between 40,000 and 60,000 new vehicles between 2020 and 2023.

China’s commitment to fuel-cell vehicles prompted a scramble by Europe and Japan to put forward their own programs.

Established Chinese automakers as entrepreneurs are launching new ventures to meet the enormous demand for FCV’s projected by the government. SAIC, a state-owned automaker, plans to produce 10,000 FCV’s a year by 2025. More ambitious is the alliance between startup Ares Motors and two established Chinese vehicle manufacturers, Fujian-based Wisdom Motors and Chery Holdings of Anhui Province.

Ares expects to produce 4,000 PEV’s and FCV’s in 2021 at Wisdom’s Fujian facility. And cross the 10,000- vehicle mark within several years.

Large international automakers are gearing up for the Chinese market. Both as OEM’s and as components manufacturers. Toyota set up a joint venture with FAW group in 2019 which will begin to deliver fuel-cell systems for trucks and buses in China in 2022.

The supply chain for FCV components, moreover, is in an early stage of development. The September government directives focused on building infrastructure (mainly refueling stations) as well as developing a robust supply chain.

This includes more efficient capture of waste hydrogen from China’s chemical industry. Also additional hydrogen production facilities, and manufacturing of fuel stacks (the hydrogen storage module for vehicles) as well as engines.

J.P. Morgan analysts explained in their March 2021 report, “With the carbon-neutrality target now in place, we are optimistic that hydrogen can replicate the success of wind/solar power. The H2 addressable market could grow >30x by 2050, to Rmb12tn, and we estimate green hydrogen’s being commercially competitive by 2030.

This expectation is backed by multiple catalysts to spawn H2 development in China, including top-down policy support, technological improvements and economies of scale.”

Hydrogen, to be sure, remains controversial.

In Europe, Volkswagen-owned Scania, one of Europe’s largest truck producers, declared last year that fuel-cell trucks will be too inefficient and costly to compete with the battery-powered alternative. Scania is betting that improvements in battery technology will allow battery-powered trucks to carry a standard 40-ton load for 4.5 hours — far more than today’s batteries can manage.

To travel several hundred miles today, an eighteen-wheeler would have to carry nothing but batteries to power the engine.

Volvo and Daimler have joined forces with Shell to make hydrogen the future commercial standard for trucking in Europe.

Dubbed “H2Accelerate,” the Shell-led program envisions a public-private partnership to create economies of scale for freight FCV’s. With a network of hydrogen fueling stations built out across Europe by the second half of the 2020s. A trade association, Hydrogen Europe, predicted that Europe would have 10,000 hydrogen trucks in operation by 2025 and 100,000 by 2030.

The United States is far behind Asia and Europe.

A former top General Motors engineer, Ian Hanna, believes in pursuing hydrogen and battery technology in tandem. A former head of GM’s systems safety operations in China, Hanna now heads Ares Motors, an ambitious OEM startup.

What distinguishes Ares is a combination of intellectual property for vehicle fuel cells and partnerships with major Chinese manufacturers that allow it to scale up vehicle production very quickly.

“We’ve got prototypes running on the road  with demonstration vehicles that are to be ready by  the end of the year. We are actually going after significant volume for this year in the thousands  of vehicles,” Hanna told Asia Times.

“And it’s with our dual approach. We’re not only a hydrogen fuel cell company. We’re  also a battery electric vehicle [BEV} company. That dual propulsion strategy  allows us to meet customer needs this year.

“The 2021 volumes will primarily be through the BEV’s. The infrastructure is well established and the technologies of course are mature, so the customer’s comfortable  with it. And then long-term we’ll be able to offer  our customers both the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and our BEV vehicles. Only  depending upon  whatever is the best fit for their use.”

Choice of electric battery power or hydrogen fuel cells

Ares’ flagship product is a heavy truck with a choice of electric battery power or hydrogen fuel cells. The hydrogen model offers a 1,000-kilometer cruising range with a standard 43-ton load. Compared with 400 kilometers for the battery-electric vehicle version.

“For a lot of the longer-range customers,” Hanna added, “the BEV truck may not make sense. So we’ll be able to offer them both of those solutions. I think our timing will be right. We will have the customer relationships, as well as the technology to differentiate our company.

“We have our own proprietary fuel cell engines and other technology that we can build and integrate into our trucks. By contrast, competitors are doing that through non-binding partnerships. We’ve developed a lot of that technology, and our partners are part of the Ares family. A lot of our technology comes from established OEMs.

“There’s no reason for Ares to go and reinvent an electronic power system. We have great partners that already  know how to do that really well right now. We will  be  able to hit the ground with significant volume in a very short time.”

A key partnership is with Sunrise Power, China’s premier manufacturer of fuel cells, with whom Ares has a joint-venture laboratory. Ares is working with Sunrise and other partners to build hydrogen refueling stations in Europe and North America as well as China.

According to a company release, “The new Ares energy stations will ensure the infrastructure is in place to support both our BEV and FCEV vehicles.  The energy station will include facilities for charging BEV vehicles, Hydrogen fueling pumps, traditional gas and diesel pumps, and battery swap capability.”

Strong government support and a robust supply chain

The combination of strong government support and a robust supply chain for FCV technology as well as hydrogen fuel makes it possible for a startup like Ares to scale up production rapidly.

“Asia Pacific is projected to hold a major market share due to the encouraging FCEV deployment targets of governments. Coupled with increasing investments in hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Additionally, high fuel stacks manufacturing capacities in the region, owing to the presence of large-scale FC passenger car manufacturers, will also add to the regional landscape.

Ares Motor, a Canadian company with principal operations in China, is seeking a Nasdaq listing in the course of the first half of this year. It also builds city and highway buses, as well as logistic vehicles and autonomous tractors for use in port and dock areas.

Perhaps Ares’ most important advantage is to be located in China. Cost efficiency is the key to the future of hydrogen-powered transport. And the cost of hydrogen itself is the most important variable.

China now produces a third of the world’s hydrogen

China now produces a third of the world’s hydrogen. 20 million metric tons a year. Enough to cover a tenth of the country’s total energy needs. At an estimated fuel consumption of 7.5 kilograms of hydrogen for every 100 miles of road haulage, according to Fuelcelslworks.com, China’s present output potentially could power a truck fleet over 267 billion miles a year of transport. More than enough to meet the country’s present annual 6 billion ton-miles of road transportation.

The cost of hydrogen production is falling. From $6 per kilogram in 2015 to $2 per kilogram in 2025.

China led the world in deployment of cost-efficient solar energy. Many analysts expect China to do the same with hydrogen. A study by Chinese scientists argues that a $2/kg hydrogen price can be achieved quickly through electrolysis of water. It produces the purest hydrogen with the lowest overall environmental impact.

Freight and bus transportation with FCVs becomes economically viable at a hydrogen price of $3/kg. Passenger car FCVs become viable at $2/kg.

Apart from China’s comparatively low production costs for hydrogen, a shift to this fuel source contributes to China’s energy security. As of the first half of 2020 China imported 73% of its oil consumption. Substituting home-produced hydrogen for imported oil is a national security measure as well as an economic and environmental consideration.

China vaccines to S. America isn’t ‘aggression’

China providing vaccines to South America isn’t ‘aggression’ or ‘bullying’, they’re just stepping up where Washington failed

By Tom Fowdy

Americans moaning about China making a play in what they patronisingly call ‘their own backyard’ don’t have a leg to stand on having left Latin America to fend for themselves throughout the pandemic.

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin is bemoaning China’s “vaccine diplomacy” in Latin America. Whilst the United States has suffered from large scale mismanagement of Covid-19, hoarding vaccines and taking a robust ‘America First’ policy to overcome the pandemic which has left close to 600,000 dead, China has taken a leading role in providing assistance to Latin America. Beijing has sent units of Sinovac to both Central and South America. Exporting and donating millions of vaccines to almost every major country in this region excluding Paraguay, who choose to maintain ties with Taiwan.

With the region having faced aggressive variants, most particularly the one originating in Brazil, the nations of Latin America have had nobody else to turn to except China, and to an extent: Russia. This has been much to the disdain of Rogin and the US media in general. They are aiming to keep the blame focused on Beijing who is, he says, “abusing its power at every stage” and “advancing its interests.” Somehow portraying China’s support to the continent as a form of aggression, bullying and expansionism whilst the United States was perfectly happy to sit on the sidelines.

According to an unnamed Biden administration official in the piece: “The countries of the Americas are not dumb, they know they are being leveraged… And when the Americans come in, they will recognize who their friends are.” This of course is a strange, deeply ironic and utterly bizarre comment given the circumstances. One must question, if the United States truly is a “friend” of Latin America, and, if it is, where was it during the peak of the crisis? Washington is barking about China’s involvement in the region on the back of having done literally nothing itself, yet still simply expects these countries to flip towards the United States and push away China when it is finished putting itself first? Why would they ever be so stupid?

Undisputed hegemony over Latin America is the top goal of US security. Washington often describes the region as “its backyard,” revealing rhetoric in itself as it implies ownership. Since the 19th century, the US has pursued a foreign policy strategy called “the Monroe Doctrine” which aims to keep all geopolitical competitors, at that time meaning Britain and France but later extending to the Soviet Union, out of the Western Hemisphere. This has led to policies of long-term interference, election meddling, orchestrated coups, targeted sanctions and outright invasions to punish any state in the area hostile to Washington. It is the bedrock of the hostility towards Cuba, and the efforts to force regime change in Venezuela.

Fast forward to the new era of “Great Power Competition” and the focus is on China’s influence in Latin America, as it provides an alternative source of investment and support to Washington. As suggested by the initial column, the US has suffered some setbacks in the pandemic as it has exposed the more obvious reality that Washington doesn’t really care about the prosperity or wellbeing of Central and South America, it just wants control. This, combined with the disastrous Covid-19 outbreak at home, left the US a mere spectator as China provided support to numerous countries. This was even enough for Jair Bolosanaro, a staunch supporter of the US, to flip away from being anti-Beijing and U-turn on a proposed ban of Huawei in the country’s 5G networks.

As a result, the mainstream media have waged a relentless campaign to discredit China’s vaccines, with a repetitive emphasis on trying to brand the Sinovac product, which has been used widely in Latin America, as ineffective. There is a particular focus on Chile which is currently suffering a strong second wave of the virus. Even though Santiago released a study showing the vaccine in fact does yield positive results, this has not stopped the headlines repeatedly attempting to discredit it. The media spotlight has not been on America’s obvious inaction in the region, but a constant focus on attempting to undermine and question China when the participating countries have been suffering a crisis and had few serious options. Pfizer might be a better vaccine, but America isn’t sharing it and won’t until its own needs are met.

This makes the “true friends” rhetoric all the more ridiculous. Washington claims Latin America as its “backyard” then refuses to do the gardening. Why then, with an attitude like this, would Latin American countries simply boot out China when the United States finally gets around to helping out? Obviously, thanks to geography, the United States will always be the bigger power in the region, but, from the point of view of these countries, they want more, not less options. Why choose one source of help when you can have multiple? Instead of begging for scraps from Washington’s table, why shouldn’t they accept the relief China is offering? And, no, that doesn’t mean they are “switching loyalties” in the zero-sum way it is being depicted. At the end of the day, a catastrophic global crisis has been occurring and America wasn’t there to help, so what right do they have to still expect and demand obedience. This isn’t Chinese aggression or “bullying,” this is a foreign policy failure by two consecutive White House administrations.