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.

Hypocritical US puts pressure on China over the environment…

Hypocritical US puts pressure on China over the environment… but it’s happy for Japan to dump radioactive waste

By Tom Fowdy

The US is framing China as a partner on climate change. However, in reality, its bid to make Beijing reduce emissions is politically motivated. And its approval of Japan’s plans to dispose of Fukushima waste exposes its dual standards.

Despite the growing stand-off between the United States and China, John Kerry is in town to talk climate change. Appointed by Joe Biden as the US special envoy on climate. Kerry landed in Shanghai on Thursday seeking commitment from China on carbon emissions.

The Biden administration has talked about the need to secure ‘cooperation’ from China on tackling global warming, but there’s little good faith to be found. Sparks won’t fly here. The environment is ultimately just another front to vilify Beijing.

Earlier this week, the US raised eyebrows as it gave open backing to Japan’s bid to release contaminated nuclear water from the Fukushima power plant into the sea. Predictably, the move drew angry protest from both China and South Korea. Yet, on the other hand, when Kerry arrived in Shanghai, he said he wanted to hold China to account on its climate pledges. A clear case of double standards in Beijing’s eyes, and also demonstrating that even so-called ‘cooperation’ is being framed with tough talk.

It’s clear the US isn’t asking China to be a partner on climate change. It is in Shanghai solely to make demands and talk down to it.

Scapegoating of China

While the Biden administration is, objectively speaking, more concerned about global climate issues than President Trump ever was, having re-joined the Paris climate accord, scapegoating China on the environment has remained a consistent theme within Washington, and there is a political incentive in doing so.

Despite the fact that China actually files more renewable energy patents than any country in the world. And despite China steaming ahead on electric cars, buses and other sustainable resources. The country is persistently stereotyped by the mainstream media as being a gigantic and notorious polluter. The Trump administration aggressively pursued this narrative in order to ramp up the idea of China as a threat. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even going as far as accusing Beijing of killing people in other countries through air pollution.

Of course, objectively speaking, there is a serious middle ground. We cannot deny the reality that China has an enormous population and the world’s largest industrial base. In terms of global carbon emissions obviously it matters a great deal. One cannot defeat climate change without securing China’s participation.

But one cannot also play down the notion that Beijing is being singled out on this matter. Why was Washington so quick to overlook Tokyo’s proposed dumping of radioactive waste, despite the implications it could have for the ocean? Why is it ignored that there are places with far worse air quality than China such as New Delhi, as well as cities in Bangladesh or Pakistan? Climate change is a global issue, which requires global participation. However, China is being given special treatment.

The goal is to constrain China’s development

The climate change debate is a convenient way to try to constrain China’s development by attempting to force it away from the one thing it needs the most right now, despite its strides in renewables – coal.

As a developing industrial nation, China’s need for energy is constantly surging. Coal is the most affordable and accessible commodity. Making it essential for sustained GDP growth, but it accounts for 40% of its carbon emissions. Renewables matter, but they cannot overnight satisfy the needs of 1.4 billion people and ‘the world’s factory’.

It’s for this reason that China is the largest importer of coal in the world. And so it should come as no surprise that John Kerry is demanding that China stop building new coal-fired fuel stations. A recent study found that if China is to meet its target of zero net emissions by 2060, it needs to reduce most of its capacity.

This makes for a difficult dilemma for China, which has committed to reducing emissions. However, it cannot easily divert from its existing development model. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Therefore, even though Kerry’s visit is depicted as a mission to seek accord, in reality, it is political and subtly confrontational. Plus smacks of hypocrisy, given America’s tolerance of Japan’s Fukushima decision. It’s clear that while the Earth might be warming up, the freezing of the relationship between China and the US continues apace as the new Cold War intensifies.


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


This is the chart that western media does not want you to see

Watch out! Biden wants to save the planet

Technology choices will decisively impact whether climate-pivoted economic policy brings benefit or disaster

By JONATHAN TENNENBAUM

President Joe Biden’s climate plan is a grandiose vision. Combining deliberate echoes of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal with the crash-program approach to development of technology. Exemplified by the Apollo program of the 1960s. If it works, planet Earth and the US economy will be saved at the same time.

Biden has vowed to establish US leadership in saving the planet from an impending climate apocalypse. His appointments of establishment climate activists to high positions in his administration, along with his opening salvos of executive orders, confirm his intention to make climate the central topic in all spheres of US government activity.

He calls it the “Whole of Government Approach to the Climate Crisis.”

Among other things Biden ordered a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of the threat that climate change poses for US national security. He made climate officially the priority focus of US foreign policy. 

One has the distinct impression that the Biden Administration intends to use the climate crisis as an occasion for reasserting the primacy of US power in international affairs. Far beyond rejoining the Paris Agreement on his first day in office, Biden has made clear that the United States will act as global enforcer of CO2 reduction measures. And, needless to say, he intends to focus especially on China. 

Biden has committed himself to making climate the center of US domestic economic policy. The recent executive orders already contain elements of his campaign promise to channel $2 trillion into building a “clean” national infrastructure. And thereby creating millions of new jobs and driving innovation and economic growth.

If all goes according to plan, by 2035 the US should have 100% CO2-free electricity generation. By 2050 total net emissions should reach zero.

“Social Cost System”

Among the first concrete steps is to initiate planning for replacing the entire fleet of over 600,000 vehicles used by federal government and the US Postal Service to zero-emission vehicles.

A key move, which has so far attracted little attention in the news media, is to implement the so-called “social cost system” as a guiding criterion for daily government decision-making. The social cost system is based on attaching a numerical value to the “global damage” attributed to emission of a given amount of carbon dioxide – in the production of a given commodity, for example.

This will have a big economic impact through the choice of products and vendors for government purchases, on which Washington spends about $600 billion a year.

The $2 trillion climate plan – whose funding must, of course, be approved by Congress – would follow on the heels of a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to help the US economy and population recover from the effects of Covid-19.  

All in all, the degree of concentration of a US government on a single theme is practically unprecedented in peacetime. Were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic there would doubtless be much more discussion about this radical course.  People who believe that global warming is the greatest crisis of our time might easily overlook problematic, even ominous implications of declared policies.   

I wish to emphasize that I am not motivated by political opposition to the Biden Administration. Nor, of course, do I oppose rational measures to reduce and eventually eliminate the world’s one-sided dependence on fossil fuels.

One should also keep an open mind in respect to any new administration, which carries contradictory interests and impulses with it into office. It may adjust its course as it confronts reality.

Taking Biden’s declarations very seriously

But there are reasons to take Biden’s declarations very seriously.

Firstly, to all appearances Biden and his close advisors truly believe that the world is headed toward an unprecedented catastrophe through global warming. And that the clock is ticking and that urgent action is necessary to reduce CO2 emissions world wide. Not only the US but other nations as well must do so. Especially the largest COemitters, with China in first place.

Countries that refuse to reduce their emissions by the necessary amounts voluntarily must be forced to do so. The logic is inescapable. 

Secondly, as Biden has emphasized for the United States, replacing the world’s entire fossil fuel infrastructure with “clean technology” over the next 30-40 years creates a new market of colossal dimensions. Assuming that the nations and populations are able to pay for it. 

Thirdly, immense amounts of financial capital have already been committed to the expectation of radical climate policies. CO2 emissions are being monetized and a vast financial machinery created, tying asset valuations to parameters such as “carbon intensity” and “sustainability indices.”

Climate projections are being built into long-term risk strategies and the premium structures of insurance companies. The volume of carbon trade is growing exponentially. With it, the market for climate-linked financial instruments such as green bonds (already at $500 billion) and other so-called green assets.

Shaping global investment patterns and financial flows

Thereby, climate policy becomes a powerful instrument for shaping global investment patterns and financial flows. In his 2020 “Open Letter to CEOs” Larry Fink, the Chairman of the world’s largest asset management company, BlackRock, declared: “I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

In the meantime BlackRock, several of whose executives have been named to high positions in the Biden Administration. And announced that it is making climate change central to its investment strategy for 2021.

Thus, in all probability the Biden Administration will indeed pursue the radical course announced during his campaign and signaled by initial executive orders.

What will that mean?

From the positive side, I have reason to expect that areas of science and technology that are critically important for the future – nuclear fission and fusion, new materials, hydrogen technologies, high-density energy storage, applications of high temperature superconductivity and much more – will receive greater support under the new administration, than has been the case under preceding ones.

This is a crucial point. Leaving many other factors aside, the choice of technologies employed in the promised rebuilding of US infrastructure. Assuming it actually occurs. It will have a decisive impact on whether Biden’s climate-pivoted economic policy will benefit the nation or lead to disaster.

Following this introductory article no. 1, further installments in the series will take up the following concerns:

  • Green imperialism: Is the Biden Administration turning the climate issue into a vehicle for great-power geopolitics? 
  • Will Biden’s climate policy serve, defacto, as a vehicle for financial interests that are positioning themselves to profit from the tectonic shifts in global financial flows, arising from a forced move away from fossil fuels? Is this a “BlackRock Administration”?
  • Will overheated climate measures set the stage for a financial crisis? Major bets are being placed on the future of the world energy system, and market stability faces the dual menaces of a “green bubble” of climate-linked financial assets and a “carbon bubble” of potentially worthless fossil fuel assets.
  • Consider the risk of a California-like horror scenario: economically ruinous over-expansion of so-called renewable energy sources and ideologically-driven environmentalist measures, leading to exploding energy prices, blackouts, economic austerity, productivity losses and growing poverty. Will ill-conceived climate measures generate a political backlash and a resurgence of the Republicans, at latest by the 2024 Presidential elections?
  • Will the United States descend into economic and social crisis when the temporary, government money injections-induced “high” begins to wear off?
  • What’s the danger that ill-conceived measures by the Biden Administration, in the name of saving the planet, will undermine the capability of the United States and other nations to cope with climate changes in the future?
  • At the end I shall make some remarks concerning what a rational approach to the climate issue would look like.

Jonathan Tennenbaum received his PhD in mathematics from the University of California in 1973 at age 22. Also a physicist, linguist and pianist, he is a former editor of FUSION magazine. He lives in Berlin and travels frequently to Asia and elsewhere, consulting on economics, science and technology.

Arctic – What is “sectoral theory”?

What is “sectoral theory” and why are many countries unhappy with it?

Arctic is known to represent the northern polar region of the Earth. It includes the northern outskirts of Eurasia and North America, the Arctic Ocean, and the adjacent Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Although the place is rather harsh, it has long attracted people interest. For a long time, travelers have been attracted by these lifeless lands. 

It is clear that those countries that are washed by the Arctic Ocean had more opportunities for expeditions. The interest here was purely practical: the search for shorter sea routes. The Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage – these routes promised great economic benefits. And the faster the Arctic ice melts, the greater this interest. It is clear that the polar powers dreamed of seizing these routes.

Canada was the first. In 1909, Canada declared sovereignty in the territories located between the North Pole and its northern coast. Then, in 1926, the USSR declared its territory the areas bounded by the meridians 32 ° 4’35 “east longitude and 168 ° 49’30” west longitude. This is how the “sector theory” developed. It says that the Arctic sector is the space, the base of which is the coast of the state. The lateral lines are the meridians from the North Pole to the eastern and western borders of this state. 

Thus, the entire Arctic was divided among themselves by five states: Russia, Norway, USA, Canada, Denmark. Due to its geographical position, Russia was the luckiest of all – the huge length of borders from West to East helped in this. But the United States, for example, has a very small piece of the Arctic pie. Than they are very unhappy.

The “Arctic five” and the rest of the world

And if the “Arctic five” argues about the size of their northern possessions, other countries, generally deprived of the “right to the Arctic”, are extremely unhappy with the very formulation of the question. They consider the “sector theory” unfair, since the Arctic is the property of all mankind. As you might guess, they are not at all worried about the habitat of polar bears. The point here is completely different. 

Calculations show that the Arctic region contains colossal reserves of minerals, most of which are oil and gas. And this, as you know, is the bone of contention that can break the strongest agreements. Moreover, by and large, there are no agreements on the Arctic recognized by all countries. As there are no exact outlines of the boundaries of the Arctic itself.

The problem is complicated by the fact that the Arctic land and water areas have a different legal regime. This causes controversy – for example, about the ownership of the Lomonosov ridge.

The controversy gets hotter every year. This is greatly facilitated by the melting of the Arctic ice. More and more new players are intervening, and hotheads are voicing a variety of ideas. For example, it is no coincidence that the United States started talking about buying Greenland – this, by the way, is a direct path to an additional sector of the Arctic. New icebreakers are hastily being built, without which the development of the Arctic is impossible. Diplomats, and even the military, are preparing new steps. In general, today, the cold Arctic has become the subject of heated debate.

That is why many states refuse to recognize the “sectoral theory” that suited everyone earlier, demanding its revision, or even abolition.

The WHO report into the origin of the coronavirus

Here’s what happens next, says the Australian doctor who went to China

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its report into the origins of the coronavirus, a report I contributed to as a member of the recent mission to Wuhan, China.

The report outlines our now well-publicised findings: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, most likely arose in bats, and then spread to humans via an as-yet unidentified intermediary animal. The evidence we have so far indicates the virus was possibly circulating in China in mid-to-late November 2019. We considered viral escape from a laboratory extremely unlikely.

However, the release of the report prompted governments, including in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, to share their concerns over whether investigators had access to all the data. The joint statement also called for greater transparency when investigating pandemics, now and in the future.

So what happens next?

Our report also recommended what research is needed for a more complete picture of the origins of the coronavirus.

The key focus of this next stage of investigations is looking at what happened before people realised there was a clinical problem in December 2019. Not just in China but in other countries with early cases. Such as Italy and Iran. This would give us a more complete picture of whether SARS-CoV-2 was circulating earlier than December 2019.

For instance, if we just focus on China for now, we know there were influenza-like respiratory illnesses in Wuhan in late 2019. In fact, we looked at data from more than 76,000 cases for the WHO report, to see whether these could have been what we now call COVID-19. But work is already under way to re-analyse those data using different techniques, to see if we’ve missed any earlier cases.

Talks are also under way to see whether blood donations in China in 2019 can be analysed to see if they contain antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. This would tell us whether the people who donated those samples had been infected by the virus. These types of investigations take time.

Then there’s what we can learn from molecular epidemiology (the genetic makeup of the virus and its spread). For instance, if we find a lot of variation in the genetic sequence of early samples of SARS-CoV-2, this tells us there had already been transmission for some time. That’s because the virus doesn’t mutate unless it infects and transmits. We can use modelling to say what might have happened up to three or more weeks beforehand.

Although the WHO report has looked at the role of markets in China in the spread of SARS-CoV-2, we need to re-analyse data and look further afield. Roman Pilipey/EPA/AAP

Linking the data

We also need to link those molecular epidemiology data to actual clinical data. Until now those data have largely been separate. Molecular data held in research or university laboratories and the patient data held elsewhere. We need to make those connections to tell us which infections were related. And how far back in time they go.

There are also many biological samples sitting in laboratories around the world that we need to analyse, and not just in Wuhan. So we have to do a bit of detective work to locate them and analyse them to understand the pattern of disease and to help sort out the origin. There is no central database of samples and what antibodies or genetic material they might contain.

For instance, there are SARS-CoV-2 positive blood donations in the US and France, and cases in Italy, and there’s sewage testing in Spain. These are places with early outbreaks of respiratory illnesses that may help us find out if SARS-CoV-2 was circulating earlier than we first thought.

We also need more studies into the role of frozen food products in transmitting the virus. Although we considered the “cold chain” a possible pathway to transmission, we still don’t know how big a factor this was, if at all.

Finally, there’s ongoing sampling of animals and the environment for signs of SARS-CoV-2 or related viruses. Can we find the parent virus (the one that eventually mutated into SARS-CoV-2) in a bat in a cave somewhere? Where do we look? At bats across Southeast Asia, Central Asia, into Europe? We need to look at the range of these bats and where they live. These types of investigations can take ages.

Cooperation needed

Can we find the virus in an intermediary animal, and if so, what type of animal and where? Again, these are difficult studies to set up.

The key here is to keep trying to work together and avoid the over-politicisation of the whole exercise.

Rather than blaming governments, we need to foster cooperation and trust between investigators, between and within countries. This not only helps us during this pandemic; it’s the key to managing future pandemics. The more cooperative we are, the more likely we are to get the best results. We have to make sure politics doesn’t muck that up.


This article was originally published by The Conversation


Comment by Eurasia News Online

The author is calling for avoiding over-politicisation. However, let’s have a look at the list of countries that are “concerned”:

Governments of Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, United Kingdom, and United States.

What we can see is that four out of the “five eyes” members are on the list. Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States.

Nine of these countries are members of NATO.

Japan and Republic of Korea are effectively occupied territories pretending to have independent foreign policies.

There is no one country from Africa or from South America.

With all respect towards Australian doctor who was part of the investigation, I find it hard not to compare this with the WMD investigation in Iraq. It all sounds like – we will “investigate” till we create certain public perception.

What do you think? Let us know in your comments.

China determined to build iron ore hub in Africa

World’s largest untapped iron ore reserve could be online by 2025, expert says

KEN MORIYASU, Nikkei Asia chief desk editor

There was a time when Japan, like China today, was the rising power in the East. That kept military planners in the West awake at night.

“It is very certain that no other nation at the present time is spending so large a part of its revenue on naval preparations,” military author Hector Bywater wrote in the 1921 book “Sea-Power in the Pacific — A Study of the American-Japanese Naval Problem.”

But Japan had a critical weakness: a lack of steel.

“Since the close of the Great War, shipbuilding in Japan has been seriously hampered by the difficulty of obtaining steel,” Bywater observed in his book. He accurately predicted a naval conflict between Imperial Japan and the U.S. two decades later.

Japan had imported large quantities of American steel under a special agreement between the two governments prior to 1917. Then the U.S. imposed a steel embargo that stemmed the flow to the Asian country.

“So serious has the shortage become of late that the output of tonnage in Japan during 1920 was 25% short of the forecast of 800,000 tons which had been made in January of that year,” Bywater wrote. “This scarcity of steel reacted on the naval program, delaying the launch and completion of ships.”

The armored cruiser Izumo, flagship of the Third Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy, is seen in Shanghai in 1937. Japan struggled to procure steel after the U.S. enacted an embargo in 1917.   © Getty Images

China learning from history

Chinese state planners looking to learn from history would quickly notice that the glaring vulnerability for Beijing today is its dependence on iron ore from Australia. While Beijing has tried to squeeze and punish Canberra for proposing an international investigation into the roots of COVID-19, it has been unable to wrestle itself away from Australian iron ore, which accounts for over 60% of China’s imports.

Australia deepens its connection to the Quad grouping with the U.S., Japan and India, forming a de facto anti-China tag team in the Indo-Pacific. Beijing has found it increasingly uncomfortable to depend so much on Canberra for iron ore. Also the basic material behind its own military buildup.

But that dependence may very well change by 2025, says Peter O’Connor, senior analyst of metals and mining at Australian investment firm Shaw and Partners.

“They are very serious” about diversifying supply and flattening the cost curve of iron ore.

The top focus for China’s diversification push is Guinea. An impoverished but mineral rich country in West Africa. A 110 km range of hills called Simandou is said to hold the world’s largest reserve of untapped high-quality iron ore.

Commodity watchers have known of Guinea’s potential for many years. However, the lack of infrastructure has hamstrung such development efforts. A roughly 650 km railroad would need to be built from scratch. And also a modern port from which the iron ore would be shipped.

Cost calculations have always discouraged potential entrants, such as Rio Tinto. But Beijing has more incentive to carry out the project than mere return on investment calculations. Because China needs to avoid the fate of Japan in the early 20th century.

Infrastructure building – not a problem for China

“Infrastructure is a function of time, money, the willingness to invest and, more importantly, the capability.”

China is building railroads around the globe through its Belt and Road Initiative and has no shortage of experience.

But what about the funding?

China currently buys 1 billion to 1.1 billion tons of iron ore yearly from third parties, O’Connor said.

“For every $1 the Chinese can lower the long-term iron ore price … that’s $1 per ton times a billion. It is a billion dollars of saving per year. It’s not just about diversity, it’s about lowering the price. It is not about the return on equity or return on capital of the actual investment. It is more about the benefit of the longer-term structure of the price.”

The long-term trajectory envisions the price of iron ore dropping to around $60 per ton from around $160 currently.

The project to develop Simandou has been split into four blocks. China holds either a direct or indirect stake in every one of them. The area holds an estimated 2.4 billion tons of ore graded at over 65.5%.

“Extraction of Simandou’s iron ore reserves would transform the global market and catapult Guinea into an iron ore export powerhouse alongside Australia and Brazil,” Lauren Johnston, a research associate at the SOAS China Institute of the University of London, told Nikkei.

“Group of 77 plus China”

If China unlocks Simandou’s reserves and drives a drop in international iron ore prices, “it could see selective commodity markets increasingly driven by intra-developing country dynamics,” Johnston said.

China would find such waters easier to navigate than having to do business with Quad member Australia.

Guinea is this year’s chair of the “Group of 77 plus China” at the United Nations. It is a grouping of 134 developing countries that form a large voting bloc China can depend on. Guinea has actively made statements on behalf of the group since assuming the chairmanship in January.

Johnston predicted that China would be pleased if progress on Simandou were achieved ahead of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. It is to be held in neighboring Senegal this year. It is the first time the Beijing-led gathering — held every three years — will be hosted by a West African country.

China is “preparing the pathway” to develop Simandou, with an expeditious 2025 timetable. That would seem stretched if you’re talking about a Western producer in Australia or Brazil. However, it is entirely plausible that China could be producing in that time frame.”


This article was originally published by NIKKEI ASIA