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Escobar: The Shape Of Things To Come In China

Escobar: The Shape Of Things To Come In China

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

It’s Lianghui (“Two Sessions”) time – the annual ritual of the Beijing leadership. The stars of the show are the top political advisory…

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Escobar: The Shape Of Things To Come In China

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

It’s Lianghui (“Two Sessions”) time – the annual ritual of the Beijing leadership. The stars of the show are the top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; and the traditional delivery of a work report by the Prime Minister to the top legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC).

The review of the draft outline of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan will proceed all the way to March 15. But in the current juncture, this is not only about 2025 (remember Made in China 2025, which remains in effect). The planning goes long-range towards targets in the Vision 2035 project (achieving “basic socialist modernization”) and even beyond to 2049, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

Premier Li Keqiang, delivering the government work report for 2021, stressed that the target for GDP growth is “above 6%” (the IMF had previously projected 8.1%). That includes the creation of at least 11 million new urban jobs.

On foreign policy, Li could not draw a sharper contrast with the Hegemon: “China will pursue an independent foreign policy of peace” and will “promote the building of a new type of international relations”.

That’s code for Beijing eventually working with Washington on specific dossiers, but most of all focusing on strengthening trade/investment/finance relations with the EU, ASEAN, Japan and the Global South.

The outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for the Chinese economy had already been designed last October, at the CCP plenum. The NPC will now approve it. The key focus is the “dual circulation” policy, whose best definition, translated from Mandarin, is “double development dynamics”.

That means a concerted drive to consolidate and expand the domestic market while continuing to push foreign trade/investment – as in the myriad Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. Conceptually, this amounts to a quite sophisticated, very Daoist, yin and yang balancing.

In early 2021, President Xi Jinping, while extolling Chinese “conviction and resilience, as well as our determination and confidence”, was keen to stress the nation faces “unprecedented challenges and opportunities”. He told the Politburo “favorable social conditions” must be created by all means available all the way to 2025, 2035 and 2049.

Which brings us to this new stage of Chinese development.

The key target to watch is “common prosperity” (or, better yet, “shared prosperity”), to be implemented alongside technological innovations, respect for the environment, and fully addressing the “rural question”.

Xi has been adamant: there’s too much inequality in China – regional, urban-rural, income disparities.

It’s as if in a cool reading of the dialectical drive of historical materialism in China, we would arrive at the following model. Thesis: imperial dynasties. Antithesis: Mao Zedong. Synthesis: Deng Xiaoping, followed by a few derivations (especially Jiang Zemin) all the way to the real synthesis: Xi.

On the Chinese “threat”

Li stressed China’s success in containing Covid-19 domestically; the nation spent at least $62 billion on it. This should be read as a subtle message, addressed especially to the Global South, about the efficacy of China’s governance system to design and execute not only complex development plans but also cope with serious emergencies.

What’s ultimately at stake in this competition between wobbly Western (neo)liberal democracies and “socialism with Chinese characteristics” (copyright Deng Xiaoping) is the capacity to manage and improve people’s lives. Chinese scholars are very proud of their national development plan ethos, defined as SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).

A very good example is how China, in less than two decades, managed to extricate 800 million people out of poverty: an absolute first in History.

All of the above is rarely evoked as Atlanticist circles drown in virtually 24/7 China demonization hysteria. Wang Huiyao, the director of the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, at least had the merit to bring into the discussion Sinologist Kerry Brown of King’s College, London.

Drawing from comparisons between Leibniz – close to Jesuit scholars, interested in Confucianism – and Montesquieu – who only saw a despotic, autocratic, imperial system – Brown re-examines 250 years of entrenched Western positions on China and remarks how is “more difficult than ever” to engage in a reasonable debate.

He identifies three major problems.

1. Throughout modern history, there’s no Western appreciation of China as a strong and powerful nation, and its restored historical importance. Western mindsets are not ready to deal with it.

2. The modern West never really thought of China as a global power; at best as a land power. China was never seen as a naval power, or capable of exercising power way beyond its borders.

3. Propelled by the iron certainty over its values – enter the very much debased concept of “true democracy” – the Atlanticist West has no idea what to make of Chinese values. Ultimately the West is not interested in understanding China. Confirmation bias reigns; the result is China as a “threat to the West”.

Brown points to the key predicament afflicting any scholar or analyst trying to explain China: how to convey China’s extremely complex worldview, how to capture the China story in a few words. Soundbites do not apply.

Examples: explaining how a whopping 1.3 billion people in China have some sort of health security, and how 1 billion enjoy some kind of social security. Or explaining the intricate details of China’s ethnic policies.

Premier Li, delivering his report, vowed to “forge a strong sense of community among the Chinese people and encourage all of China’s ethnic groups to work in concert for common prosperity and development”. He did not specifically mention Xinjiang or Tibet. It’s an uphill task to explain the trials and tribulations of integrating ethnic minorities into a national project amid non-stop hysteria on Xinjiang, Taiwan, South China Sea and Hong Kong.

Come and join the party

Whatever the Atlanticist West’s whims, what matters for the Chinese masses is how the new Five-Year Plan will deliver, practically, what Xi has previously described as “high-quality” economic reform.

Things look good for powerhouses Shanghai and Guangdong – they were already aiming at 6% growth. Hubei – where Covid-19 cases first appeared – is actually targeting 10%.

Based on frenetic social media activity, public opinion confidence in the Beijing leadership remains solid, considering a series of factors. China won the “health war” against Covid-19 in record time; economic growth is back; absolute poverty has been eradicated, according to the original timetable; the civilization-state is firmly established as a “moderately prosperous society” 100 years after the founding of the Communist Party.

Since the start of the millennium, China’s GDP grew no less than 11-fold. Over the past 10 years, GDP more than doubled, from $6 trillion to $15 trillion. No less than 99 million rural people, 832 counties and 128,000 rural villages were the last ones to be extricated from absolute poverty.

This complex hybrid economy is now even engaged in setting up an elaborate, “sweet” trap for Western firms. Sanctions? Don’t be fools; come here and enjoy doing business in a market of at least 700 million consumers.

As I’ve noted last year, the systemic process in play is like a sophisticated mix of internationalist Marxism with Confucianism (privileging harmony, abhorring conflict): the framework for “community with a shared future for mankind”. One country – actually a civilization-state, focused on its renewed historical mission as re-emerging superpower. Two sessions. And so many targets – and all of them achievable.

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/05/2021 - 23:00

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International

Pandas wants to give Latin American businesses buying power in Asia

Pandas connects Latin America’s small businesses directly with Asian manufacturers to reduce logistical problems and high fees often imposed by importers…

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Access to global supply chains can be difficult for small businesses in Latin America, but companies like Meru, which raised funding in March to source and import goods between Mexico and China, and now more recently Pandas, are tapping into overseas relationships and technology to make this easier.

In Pandas’ case, the company is doing something similar to Meru, but starting in Colombia, connecting small businesses directly with Asian manufacturers, so that they can reduce the high fees often imposed by half a dozen importers and intermediaries as well as logistical problems that all businesses are facing right now where inventory is now taking many more months to arrive than during pre-pandemic times.

Co-founders Rio Xin and Marcos Esterli started Pandas just three months ago to provide Asian-origin inventory to micro-businesses in Latin America. Their collective background includes careers at McKinsey and Treinta for Esterli, and McKinsey, with more than seven years spent in China, for Xin, where he told TechCrunch he developed a strong network in the region.

“The main issue that we’ve seen is people who don’t understand the Chinese language or how Chinese manufacturers work and then you add in the logistical problems,” Xin added. “We are able to bridge the breach, while at the same time having our team in China to overcome all these logistics problems.”

Pandas B2B marketplace. Image Credits: Pandas

Here’s how it works: Businesses order products via the Pandas marketplace, touting lower pricing, in which the business can make purchases in a few clicks. Pandas takes it from there, offering one-day-delivery and customer support.

Esterli explained that people in Latin America have been using smartphones for their personal finances and other tasks, but that has not translated as quickly to the business side.

“A lot of customers told us Alibaba was something they wanted to use, but that it was very complicated to figure out,” he added. “We wanted to build an easy solution that was super intuitive because business owners don’t have that time to spend.”

Initially providing basic electronics products — think headphones, accessories and cables — and with a new round of funding, $5.8 million pre-seed, Pandas will move into categories like textiles and home accessories. The company touts the pre-seed investment as “the largest pre-seed financial in Spanish-speaking LatAm to date.”

Third Kind Venture Capital led the round and was joined by Acequia Capital, Picus Capital, Tekton Ventures, Partech, Liquid2 Ventures, Clocktower Technology Ventures, Gaingels and a host of individual investors, including Tul’s Juan Carlos Narvaez, Jose Jair Bonilla from Chiper, Treinta’s Man Hei and Lluís Cañadell, Pablo Viguera from Belvo, Nowports’ Alfonso de los Rios, Sujay Tyle from Merama and Ironhack’s Gonzalo Manrique.

So far in its young journey, the company is growing 100% month over month and has amassed a supplier network of about 300 out of 5,000 in China, Xin said.

In addition to moving into those new inventory categories, the new capital will enable Pandas to scale its operations, technology and product development and make new hires.

Xin expects to be in most of the main markets across Latin America in the next three years. In the meantime, new features coming down the pipeline in the next 12 months include a suite of fintech and analytics tools like financing.

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Government

Monkeypox cases are rising. Should we be worried?

The World Health Organization has said the current outbreak of monkeypox is the largest ever recorded outside sub-Saharan
The post Monkeypox cases are…

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The World Health Organization has said the current outbreak of monkeypox is the largest ever recorded outside sub-Saharan Africa, with cases rising above the 100-mark a few days ago and the UK top of the table with 56 as of yesterday.

Top of the list of concerns is how the virus – which does not spread easily between humans and requires skin-to-skin contact – is spreading so quickly in so many countries in Europe, the Americas and Australia where the disease is not endemic.

There is speculation that monkeypox may be being spread between sexual partners, even though it is not normally considered a sexually-transmitted infection. Thankfully, there have been no deaths reported so far, although the WHO notes monkeypox has a fatality rate of between 3% and 6%.

While health authorities are on alert, the WHO said it thinks the outbreak can be contained and that the overall risk to the population remains low. It also stressed there is no evidence that a viral mutation is responsible for the unusual pattern of infections.

Monkeypox is considered less likely to mutate quickly because it is a DNA virus rather than an RNA virus like influenza or COVID-19.

Several countries including Belgium and the UK are already advising a three-week quarantine period for anyone who contracts the virus and their close contacts.

The increasing case numbers in the current monkeypox outbreak are certainly concerning,” commented Dr Charlotte Hammer, an expert in emerging infectious diseases based at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

“It is very unusual to see community transmission in Europe – previous monkeypox cases have been in returning travellers with limited ongoing spread. However, based on the number of cases that were already discovered across Europe and the UK in the previous days, it is not unexpected that additional cases are now being and will be found, especially with the contact tracing that is now happening.”

Vaccines and drugs are available

Meanwhile, attention is now being turned to other measures to control the outbreak, including the use of vaccines against smallpox – a related virus – in a ‘ring vaccination’ approach designed to control the spread among contacts.

Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication programme can provide around 85% protection against monkeypox, according to the WHO, which notes that one newer vaccine – Bavarian Nordic’s Jyneos – has been approved by the FDA for prevention against both viruses.

There’s also a licensed antiviral drug for monkeypox. SIGA Technologies’ oral drug Tpoxx (tecovirimat) is approved for smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox in Europe, and in the US and Canada for smallpox, although it can be used off-label for the other disease. The US FDA also approved a new intravenous form of the drug last week.

The WHO says there is no need for widespread vaccination, as other control measures like isolation of patients should be enough to curb the spread and in any case supplies of vaccines are limited.

Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to but milder than smallpox, typically beginning with fever, headache, muscle aches and exhaustion. It is transmitted to people from various wild animals, such as rodents and primates, and is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks.

In 2003, the US experienced an outbreak of monkeypox, which was the first time human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is making some Jyneos vaccine reserves available for close contact inoculations, including healthcare workers tending to patients.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said yesterday it had identified 36 additional cases of monkeypox in England, and that vaccination of high-risk contacts of cases is already underway.

“A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men so we are particularly encouraging these men to be alert to the symptoms,” said the agency’s chief medical advisor Dr Susan Hopkins.

“Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service if they have any symptoms.”

The post Monkeypox cases are rising. Should we be worried? appeared first on .

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UK’s Johnson Urges Talks As Unions Threaten “Biggest Rail Strike In Modern History”

UK’s Johnson Urges Talks As Unions Threaten "Biggest Rail Strike In Modern History"

Authored by Alexander Zhang via The Epoch Times,

British…

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UK's Johnson Urges Talks As Unions Threaten "Biggest Rail Strike In Modern History"

Authored by Alexander Zhang via The Epoch Times,

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged rail unions to talk to the government before causing “irreparable damage” with strike action.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT) is holding a ballot of its 40,000 members on plans to strike over jobs, pay, and conditions. The ballot is set to close on Tuesday, and the union has claimed that a yes vote could lead to “the biggest rail strike in modern history.”

Another union, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), has also warned of a “summer of discontent” with similar action on the way unless pay disputes are resolved.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said on Monday:

“Railways are going through difficult times with passenger numbers down. We need to make sure they’re fit for the future.”

He said the government wants “a fair deal for staff, for passengers, and taxpayers” so that “money isn’t taken away from other essential services” such as the National Health Service.

“The prime minister is firmly of the view that unions should talk to the government before causing irreparable damage to our railways—strikes should be the last resort not the first,” he added.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told The Sunday Telegraph that ministers are looking at drawing up laws which would make industrial action illegal unless a certain number of staff are working.

Shapps said the government hopes the unions will “wake up and smell the coffee” and suggested that strikes could put more people off rail travel.

He also accused unions of going straight to industrial action rather than using it as a last resort, adding that railways were already on “financial life support” because of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

Referring to a pledge in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto, which promised minimum services during rail strikes, he said:

“We had a pledge in there about minimum service levels. If they really got to that point then minimum service levels would be a way to work towards protecting those freight routes and those sorts of things.”

Unions have reacted to the threat with anger.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said, “Any attempt by Grant Shapps to make effective strike action illegal on the railways will be met with the fiercest resistance from RMT and the wider trade union movement.”

He said the government needs to “focus all their efforts on finding a just settlement” to the rail dispute rather than “attack the democratic rights of working people.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 05/24/2022 - 02:00

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