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Category Archives: Asia

On the Edge of Afghanistan

Of all of Afghanistan’s lawless provinces, Nimruz is perhaps the rawest and most untamed. The desert in southwestern Afghanistan, cornering up against Iran and Pakistan, looks like something out of Mad Max: a post-apocalyptic wasteland where only camel herders and smugglers seem to thrive. Sandstorms kick up without warning, swallowing the horizon in a thick beige mist. Out of the haze, a group of motorcyclists suddenly rides past, their hair stiff with grit and their eyes hidden by goggles.

This is wild country.

On the Edge of Afghanistan

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Posted by on December 2, 2017 in Asia

 

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From the Caucasus to the Balkans, China’s Silk Roads are Rising

The 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress made it clear that the New Silk Roads – aka, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – launched by President Xi Jinping just four years ago, provides the concept around which all Chinese foreign policy is to revolve for the foreseeable future. Up until the symbolic 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, in 2049, in fact.

Virtually every nook and cranny of the Chinese administration is invested in making the BRI Grand Strategy a success: economic actors, financial players, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the private sector, the diplomatic machine, think tanks, and – of course – the media, are all on board.

It’s under this long-term framework that sundry BRI projects should be examined. And their reach, let’s be clear, involves most of Eurasia – including everything from the Central Asian steppes to the Caucasus and the Western Balkans.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/01/from-the-caucasus-to-the-balkans-chinas-silk-roads-are-rising/

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Asia, Economy, Europe

 

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China’s Soccer Push Puts a Storied Team Under Murky Ownership

When the Chinese businessman Li Yonghong bought A.C. Milan, the world-famous Italian soccer club, virtually nobody in Italy had heard of him.

Virtually nobody in China had, either.

Mr. Li had never been named to one of China’s lists of the country’s richest people. The mining empire he described to Italian soccer officials was hardly known even in mining circles.

Nevertheless, Mr. Li seemed to have what mattered most: money. He bought the club in April for $860 million from Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, to clinch China’s biggest-ever soccer deal.

Today, Mr. Li’s acquisition of A.C. Milan appears to be emblematic of a string of troubled Chinese deals.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2017 in Asia

 

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How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads

Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani will hold a summit this Wednesday in Sochi to discuss Syria. Russia, Turkey and Iran are the three power players at the Astana negotiations — where multiple cease-fires, as hard to implement as they are, at least evolve, slowly but surely, towards the ultimate target — a political settlement.

A stable Syria is crucial to all parties involved in Eurasia integration. As Asia Times reported, China has made it clear that a pacified Syria will eventually become a hub of the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — building on the previous business bonanza of legions of small traders commuting between Yiwu and the Levant.

Away from intractable war and peace issues, it’s even more enlightening to observe how Turkey, Iran and Russia are playing their overlapping versions of Eurasia economic integration and/or BRI-related business.

Much has to do with the energy/transportation connectivity between railway networks — and, further on the down the road, high-speed rail — and what I have described, since the early 2000s, as Pipelineistan.

https://www.opednews.com/articles/How-Turkey-Iran-Russia-a-by-Pepe-Escobar-Iran_Iran-Russia-And-China_Pipeline_Pipelineistan-171122-416.html

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Asia, Economy, Europe, Middle East

 

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North Korean Businesses in China Start Countdown as Deadline for Closure Looms

When the Alaska pollock, the “national fish of the Korean peninsula,” started disappearing from menus at Beijing’s North Korean restaurants in late August, it was a sign China’s trade sanctions on Pyongyang had taken effect.

Now, some of the restaurants themselves are on the brink of closure after China ordered all North Korean businesses in the country to wind down by mid-January. This has been Beijing’s sixth and toughest sanction since April 2016 in response to Pyongyang’s repeated ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

“All of our staff will be sent back to North Korea when the restaurant closes in three months,” said a waitress at Unban, a popular restaurant near the sprawling North Korean embassy in downtown Beijing.

The waitress, whose nametag read Jin Runzheng, was mixing a bowl of naengmyeon — North Korean cold noodles served in a tangy iced broth with cucumber, slices of Korean pear, strips of lightly pickled radish and shredded freshwater eel.

https://www.caixinglobal.com/2017-10-27/101162227.html

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2017 in Asia

 

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America’s Wars Are Spreading Chaos in Africa

The Indonesian military killed as many as 1 million suspected communists in the mid-1960s, paving the path for a dictator, Suharto, who ruled the country for more than three decades. Newly declassified documents from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta reveal an extraordinary degree of American complicity in what remains one of the Cold War’s biggest crimes. The U.S. not only ignored information that could have prevented the atrocity; it facilitated the killings by providing the Indonesian military with money, equipment and lists of communist officials.

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-10-30/america-s-wars-are-spreading-more-chaos-in-africa

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in Africa, Asia

 

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Nepal’s Flood Recovery Set to Exclude the Most Marginalised

Floods in mid August in Nepal killed 160 people, destroyed or partially damaged 2,35,000 homes, wiped out roads and bridges, and left farmers across the country struggling to save inundated crops and repair broken irrigation systems. The flooding was spread across the Terai region – the plains that span from east to west along Nepal’s border with India. Initial estimates of the damage are in the tens of billions of rupees, including 5.84 billion Nepali rupees in the agricultural sector, according to the Ministry of Agricultural Development.

https://thewire.in/177243/nepal-flood-recovery-tenant-farmers/

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in Asia

 

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A better political economy of the Rohingya crisis

In the last few weeks, over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a bloody pogrom in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, crossing into Bangladesh. Among the horrified and largely moralistic reactions in the West, some have pointed to economic factors supposedly behind these events. They are right to highlight the importance of political economy drivers of conflict, but their analysis is disappointingly superficial and crude. This post critiques their approaches and briefly outlines a better one.

Vulgar Marxism 101: land grabs and the Rohingya crisis

The most prominent commentator suggesting economic drivers behind the Rohingya crisis is the renowned geographer Saskia Sassen—whose published work I generally admire greatly. Sassen penned an extremely speculative piece for The Guardian in January 2017, and another for the Huffington Post in September 2017, linking the conflict to land grabs. In her lengthy January essay, Sassen suggests that the conflict is “generated by military-economic interests, rather than by mostly religious/ethnic issues”. However, she offered no evidence for this proposition except that the government had designated 1.27m hectares of land in Rakhine for agricultural development. “Expelling them from their land is a way of freeing up land and water”, she asserted. Many Myanmar scholars reacted with some scorn on social media.

http://www.newmandala.org/better-political-economy-rohingya-crisis/

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2017 in Asia

 

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How the DPRK Riddle is Freaking out the US Establishment

The 19th Party Congress has made it very clear that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” – as codified by President Xi Jinping – is China’s roadmap ahead. Not only the strategy graphically eschews those much-lauded “Western values”; it will, in Xi’s own words, offer “a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence.”

Xinhua even dared to venture, “the 21st century is likely to see capitalism lose its appeal while the socialist movement, led by China, rapidly catches up”.

To say this won’t go down very well in the West, especially in the US, may be the understatement of the century – even considering that the Chinese system is more like “neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics.”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/11/06/how-the-dprk-riddle-is-freaking-out-the-us-establishment/

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2017 in Asia, North America

 

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Is the United States Planning to Attack North Korea?

The aircraft carriers USS Nimitz, USS Theodore Roosevelt, and USS Ronald Reagan—three of the most powerful warships in the world—have now converged on the western Pacific in a mighty show of force on the eve of President Trump’s 10-day trip to Asia. The three carriers, along with their accompanying cruisers, destroyers, and submarines—all armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles or other advanced munitions—are capable of raining immense destructive force on any nation targeted by the commander in chief. Not since 2007 has there been such a concentration of US firepower in the Asia-Pacific region. There can be only two plausible explanations for this extraordinary naval buildup: to provide Trump with the sort of military extravaganza he seems to enjoy; and/or to prepare for a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea.

https://www.thenation.com/article/is-the-united-states-planning-to-attack-north-korea/

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2017 in Asia, North America

 

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