Greek Vote opens the door for China and Russia

China State Official Hints Beijing May Bailout Greece”
Tyler Durden
Zero Hedge
 July 2015

While Europe (and much of the west) shakes their heads at Greece’s referendum vote against the EU bailout offer, in the east, the aparatchiki and the mandarins are likely rubbing their hands together in anticipation of a foreign policy coup.

The always thoughtful and often weird folks at Zero Hedge have hinted that Beijing may be planning to step into the Greek Breach with loans, and recently suggested that Russia and China may together form Greece’s bailout.

My bet is that this has been the plan for some time, and that the referendum has simply been a play to lay the domestic political groundwork for that plan to be put into action. When the time comes that there are no more terms to be had from Europe, Alex Tsipras can present the Asian superpowers as the answer to the EU’s austere terms. It would be a fair wager that the Greek people are unlikely to be too picky, as long as they don’t need to cough up any lifestyle changes.

The geopolitical opportunities of having Greece in either a Russian sphere of influence, an Chinese one, or in both are significant. At the very least it would ensure that the Russian Navy and the PLAN would have forward operating bases in the Mediterranean.

This may not happen overnight, or on this round. But Russia and China are playing a long game with Athens (and vice-versa,) one that the EU will likely not ignore as it debates terms for Greece and contemplates problems in Italy and Iberia as well.

When the French Left Fell Out of Love with Maoism

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Sideways Gaze: Roland Barthes’s Travels In China
Dora Zhang
Los Angeles Review of Books
June 23, 2012

I am an unabashed fanboy of the Los Angeles Review of Books, for several reasons. First, the publication was pulled together by a group of literary critics that had been marginalized since Tribune & Company all but disowned serious coverage of the arts in the Los Angeles Times. The very existence of LARB is a thumb in the eye of both the Times and the local alternative press. Perhaps more important, it stands as testament that the vibrancy of culture in California does not depend on the support of mainstream media: the Golden State has become a center of the arts and literature to rival New York and Paris nearly ex nihilio.

The third reason I am such a fan is that LARB under co-founder and publisher Tom Lutz chose Megan Shank as Asia Co-Editor. That Lutz was motivated to give Asia such a profile in the publication spoke volumes both about the publication and the comparative short-shrift the region is given among other mainstream publications. That he chose Shank, who spent six years living in and covering China, speaks volumes about how serious he wants that effort to be.

A great example of the fruit of that effort is Dora Zhang’s excellent review of Roland Barthes’ Travels in China. Zhang offers more than an essay extolling the book’s virtues and vices. What she offers instead is a chronicle of how in the wake of a 1974 trip to China, the elite of the French left fell out of love with Maoist China.

In the process, she holds up a mirror to those of us who, at some point in our lives, believed with perhaps a tad too much credulity that China represented the birth of a new world order. We may sneer at the gullibility of those French Maoists of the 1960s and 1970s, but what of we pale-faced Dengists of the 1990s and 2000s? Did some of us not believe that China would grow rich and strong and change the world, even for the better? Do some of us yet bristle and lash out at those who criticize the Middle Kingdom? And why do we do so?

Even at its most inscrutable moment in modern history as the Cultural Revolution reached its final crescendo in the mid 1970s, China beguiled outsiders. Zhao focuses on Barthes not because he was the least beguiled, but because his disenchantment was incited by small things that with others might have been dismissed or unnoticed. Try as he might, Barthes could never “connect” with China on his terms. I come away from Zhao’s review wondering if each of us, in our own time, will find ourselves disconnected from China, and thence disenchanted.

What then?

The Word on China and the EU

“Results, Regrets, and Reinvention: Premier Wen’s last China-EU Summit
Chen Zhimin
ESPO Policy Brief 6
October 2012

As a part of his valedictory activities in his last year in office, Wen Jiabao conducted two summits with the EU, in February and then in September. As befits the departure of a person like Wen from the world of diplomacy, Chen Zhimin of Fudan University begins with a hopeful note suggesting that relationships are still moving forward.

Nonetheless, Chen does not shy from the dark spots on the body of the China-EU relationship. China remains frustrated that it cannot buy European armaments, that it cannot trade with Europe with the status of a market economy. But these are minor compared to Chinese frustration that despite Chinese help with Europe’s economic crisis, European governments continue to curb Chinese imports. Chen ends his paper with a veiled threat – China’s new leaders may not be so nice about all of this.

I read through the paper hoping that Professor Chen was one of that small cohort of China-based Chinese academics who had discovered a way to speak truth to power. Sadly, there is no such independent voice here. The paper was interesting in that it was an essential restatement of the official line, but Chen goes no further. Sadly, the author fingers himself as a cat’s paw of the central government. We may not expect particular insights from Professor Chen, but we will get a reliable rewrite of the official line.

Sould Europe Pivot?

“Europe’s involvement in East Asian Security: how to engage China
Sebastien Peyrouse
May 9, 2012

The powers of the Pacific are all considering whether and how to change their defense postures to address China’s growing assertiveness. Obama has given us the “pivot.” Australia, too, is trying to determine whether it needs to rethink its doctrine and forces to more openly address the China “threat.” And now, Sebastien Peyrouse, a senior research fellow at the US-Swedish Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies program, wonders whether it is time for Europe to follow suit.

The question may seem frivolous, given Europe’s relative remove from East Asia (at least Australia and the U.S. share a lake with China), and given that the continent’s economic crisis is more likely to send it to China with hats in hand. But Peyrouse offers a series of recommendations that would make Europe an appropriate player in European security.

How Should Europe Dance with India and China?

see Images name

see Images name (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“EU Relations with China and India: Courting the Dragon, Wooing the Elephant
Bernd von Muenchow-Pohl
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
August 23, 2012

As Europe lies all but prostrate in the throes of its creeping crisis, the leaders of the continent are reaching out to the emerging economies of India and China for help. No doubt some Europeans greet this spectacle with a shot of nausea. After all, most of us old enough to remember disco can remember a time when it was the other way ’round.

But I think it was genuine smart strategy and not an reaction to the tides of history that provoked career diplomat von Muenchow-Pohl to write this paper. In it, he urges Europe’s leaders to deal with Asia’s emerging giants with “the right mix of realism and self-confidence.”

What is fascinating here is not the prescriptions themselves, which seem the epitome of level-headed common sense. Instead, what captures the attention is the fact that Dr. von Muenchow-Pohl felt it necessary to give this pep-talk in the first place. As a lifelong diplomat he surely has insights into how Europe’s leaders conduct themselves behind closed doors, and how they frame their negotiation strategies.

The meta-message here is that Europe needs to stop being the supplicant, get some backbone, and deal with China and India in confidence. It won’t be easy: the Asians seem to hold all the cards, and they are surely relishing both their new-found stations and the irony of the role-reversal. But it would do Europe and the world no good to have China and India believe the Old World is weaker than is the case, any more than it would serve to have China and India overestimate what they have to offer.

China’s Negative Eurotude

“When Sisyphus met Icarus: EU-China Economic Relations during the Eurozone Crisis”
Fredrik Erixon

German Marshall Fund of the United States
May 2, 2012

Just as the Eurozone crisis is reaching its peak, the China-Europe relationship is as plagued with problems as that between China and the U.S. While Brussels deserves some blame, author Fredrik Erixon suggests that it is China’s behavior that has soured relations.

China has, apparently, been playing its characteristic game of divide and conquer with Europe, and has put progress on the Sino-EU relationship on hold until after the coming leadership change in Beijing. Erixon argues that both are mistakes, threaten the viability of the EU, and as a result will hurt China in the long run.

China’s Self-Serving Illusion

A 21st Century Myth: Authoritarian Modernization in Russia and China
Lo Bobo and Lilia Shevtsova

Carnegie Moscow Center – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
July 2012

In this short yet thought-provoking work, Carnegie researchers Lo Bobo and Lilia Shevtsova offer what is certain to become a controversial point-of-view, and then likely a growing meme: despite apparent success in the wake of the global financial crisis, the promise of state capitalism is a self-serving illusion.

On China in particular, the authors suggest that the “Beijing consensus” has created success under exceptional circumstances. Far from being an economic model that other countries can emulate, China’s authoritarian modernization is quite likely unsustainable in China itself.

Rather than succumb to gloom and doom, the pair point a way forward. China’s economic success is actually based on economic liberalization, bottom-up reform, and central government improvisation. My reading of Huang Yasheng‘s brilliant (albeit overlong) Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics suggests that Lo and Shevtsova’s argument has merit.

The book argues gently, but the subtext is clear: the recommendations made by the World Bank in their China 2030 report are probably too mild: more must be done to save the Chinese economy from stewing in the juices of economic stagnation, 7% growth notwithstanding.

The authors also make a pointed case to the west: we should not kid ourselves that the biggest threat to Western economic liberalism is authoritarian capitalism. Rather, it is our hesitation to address and repair the fundamental problems that have led to the current crisis.

An excellent read.