Saturday 8th of August 2020

chinapolis versus US hegemony fancy and a tired europe...


Are we reading China the wrong way? For years, our Western governments have treated China like a backwater second rate citizen of the planet... Suddenly Trump sees the "threat". China has been steadily streamlining 1.4 billion people into a powerhouse that can and will challenge the US "superiority", mostly through trade and innovations, quietly, with no other ambition than to be good. Boy, this is annoying to those used to sort out problems with fist fights rather than cooperation...



What is going to happen next? The Hong Kong disruptions are somewhat misunderstood in the West as "demands of democracy" while on the whole it is a bit of a furphy. A furphy? We all know the value of "democracy" alla Americana... where corruption, ruthless competition and sociopathy tends to rule, as we elect a Donald when the choice of Hillary is crap. China is pushing forth nonetheless, despite discreet manipulations of Western government into Hong Kong. While in Australia, we only teach one pacific islander language, the Chinese are teaching SEVEN in their own universities. China is building a megapolis that will turn Honk Kong into a second rate centre. This megapolis will be bigger than Shanghai which already is the second largest population centre in the world. This megapolis will absorb Hong Kong like blotting paper sucks ink, without much noise. Meanwhile we are exhausted... We cannot see beyond our little white picket fence...




Now, this Europe finds itself in crisis. It is no longer the Europe where national thinking is slowly dwindling. It is no longer the Europe that is growing together step by step. It is no longer the Europe in which all countries seem to be committed to democracy forever. The direction of European history would seem to have changed - shifting away from convergence and back to delineation.

What does that mean for the most important of all questions, the question of war or peace? At the moment, it doesn't look at all as though the long period of peace is going to come to an end. There is no reason for alarm. But if the direction of European history is changing, we should take a close look at what that could mean. Not in the immediate future, but in the long term. History is a snail that persistently crawls along its path.

Exactly 80 years ago, the war that changed everything began -- on Sept. 1, 1939, with Adolf Hitler's Germany invading neighboring Poland. Almost six years later, more than 60 million people around the world were dead as a result of the violence, huge portions of the Continent were destroyed, millions of Europeans had been forced from their homes and millions more were plunged into poverty. A state of shock reigned. 

It was the moment at which the direction of history shifted, moving in the right direction at the time. Europe managed to break through the inevitability that old rivalries necessarily ended in war.

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Ian Clark is correct when he writes that “the present state of the ‘hegemony debate’ is, to say the least, confusing” (Clark, 2009, p.24). The aim of this paper is to provide some conceptual and theoretical clarity on the diverse means by which the field of International Relations (IR) understands the concept of hegemony. A secondary aim is to consider what these different theoretical accounts of hegemony have to say about the debate on American hegemony. After reviewing several different definitions of hegemony, I find that the concept embodies two main ideas.

The concept of hegemony

The first is the notion that hegemony entails overwhelming or preponderant material power. The second is the idea that hegemony involves the exercise of some form of leadership. The two notions are in turn, carried over into the discussion of how hegemony is conceptualised by different schools of thought in International Relations theory. The first section of the paper examines how different theoretical approaches in the field comprehend the concept of hegemony. In the second section, I consider what the different theoretical accounts of hegemony offer towards a better understanding of the current debate about US hegemony.

Realists generally define hegemony in terms of first, overwhelming power, and second, the ability to use this power to dominate others. The predominant tendency among realists, however, is to equate hegemony with overwhelming material power. Realists typically identify the most powerful state in the international system as the hegemon; a state that possesses vastly superior military and economic capabilities. Power, according to this view, is synonymous with ‘capabilities’, and the capabilities of a state represent nothing more than the sum total of several loosely identified national attributes. These may include size of population and territory, economic capacity, and military strength.

Two questions about US hegemony have become fundamental today: one, does the maintenance of hegemony continue to serve American interests; and two, is American hegemony in decline?

Closely connected to the idea that hegemony entails the concentration of material capabilities in one state is the related idea that this preponderant state is able to dominate all of the subordinate states. John Mearsheimer, for example, defines a hegemon as a “state that is so powerful that it dominates all the other states in the system”. He adds, “no other state has the military wherewithal to put up a serious fight against it” (Mearsheimer, 2001, p.40). This is similar to the view put forth by Robert Gilpin, who considers hegemony to be a particular structure that has periodically characterised the international system. For Gilpin, a hegemonic structure exists when “a single powerful state controls or dominates the lesser states in the system” (Gilpin, 1981, p.29).

Within the realist literature on hegemony, there is a tendency to conflate hegemony with unipolarity. By definition, unipolar systems are those with only one predominant state. Those who equate hegemony with unipolarity accentuate the overwhelming material power dimension of the hegemon and ignore, or discount, the wilful exercise of leadership. According to this formula, hegemony and unipolarity are essentially synonymous with preponderant material power.

The realist variant of hegemonic stability theory attempts to marry the dual components of preponderant power and the exercise of leadership. The starting point of hegemonic stability theory is the presence of a single dominant state. In addition to preponderant power, hegemonic stability theory argues that one of the roles of the hegemon is to ensure international order by creating international institutions and norms that facilitate international cooperation. Hegemonic stability theory is basically a realist prescription of how to achieve international stability in an anarchical international system. As Gilpin explains, “according to the theory of hegemonic stability as set forth initially by Charles Kindelberger, an open and liberal world economy requires the existence of a hegemonic or dominant power” (Gilpin, 1987, p.72).

Liberal theories of hegemony emphasise the type of leadership that is exercised by the hegemon. Liberal theories do not completely discount the importance of preponderant material power but argue that this alone is insufficient for understanding the concept of hegemony. Liberal theorists are interested in the mechanisms and processes through which hegemony is exercised. Liberal hegemony, according to John Ikenberry, “refers to rule and regime-based order created by a leading state.” He continues, “like empire, it is a form of hierarchical order—but in contrast, it is infused with liberal characteristics” (Ikenberry, 2011, p.70). Ikenberry argues that liberal hegemonic order is based on consensus and is characterised by a high degree of constitutionalism:

“that is, state power is embedded in a system of rules and institutions that restrain and circumscribe its exercise. States enter international order out of enlightened self-interest, engaging in self-restraint and binding themselves to agreed-upon rules and institutions. In this way, order is based on consent” (Ikenberry, 2011, p.61).

In essence, a grand bargain is made between the hegemonic state and the secondary states to create a liberal hegemonic order. The latter willingly agree to participate within the order and the dominant state agrees to place limits on the exercise of its power. For Ikenberry, the maintenance and legitimacy of a liberal international order are contingent upon the hegemon abiding by the rules and institutions that it helped to establish. By exercising leadership in this manner, hegemony is established less by domination and more by consent.

Constructivists, Neo-Gramscians, and the English School all embrace the view that hegemony is about more than just raw material power and domination. For Robert Cox, one of the leading Neo-Gramscians, “dominance by a powerful state may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition of hegemony.” According to Cox, the concept of hegemony “is based on a coherent conjunction or fit between a configuration of material power, the prevalent collective image of world order (including certain norms) and a set of institutions which administer the order with a certain semblance of universality” (Cox, 1981, p. 139).

With the rise of new powers, the growth of right-wing populism, the turn to authoritarianism, and the election of Donald Trump, the durability of the liberal international order is being called into question

Cox combines material power, ideas, and institutions into a comprehensive theory of hegemony. Drawing directly from the work of Antonio Gramsci, Cox argues that hegemony incorporates two elements: force and consent. By conceptualising hegemony as a fit between material power, ideas, and institutions, it is difficult to privilege one set of factors over another. Nevertheless, it is possible to argue that international institutions and the process of institutionalisation are key components of the neo-Gramscian conception of hegemony.  While international institutions embody the material interests of the hegemon, they also, according to Cox, perform an ideological function in that they help to legitimate the norms of world order.

By emphasising the role of ideas, and recognising that the social world is composed of both material and ideational forces, social constructivist conceptions of hegemony are not dissimilar to those put forward by Cox and neo-Gramscians. Constructivists, however, are more inclined to emphasise the ideational aspects of hegemony over the material. While most constructivists support Cox’s adoption of Gramsci, one of the critiques of Cox is that, in the end, he did not sufficiently privilege the ideational component of hegemony.

According to Ted Hopf, Cox’s account is still too materialistic in the sense that ideas continue to be a manifestation of the dominant power’s political-economic interests. Yet for Hopf, the importance of Gramsci’s conception of hegemony is that it helps us understand why the masses go along with and accept a given order (Hopf, 2013, pp. 317-354). Thus, it is not just the ideology of elites that matter, but also how dominant ideas percolate downward and become accepted as taken for granted by the broader public. This is what Gramsci meant by ‘common sense’. The degree to which there is a discursive fit between the ideas propounded by the elites and the common sense of the masses is a key indicator of the exercise of hegemony.

Only time will tell if future US presidents will be able to reclaim a legitimate liberal order

The English School approach to international relations emphasises yet another aspect of hegemony: social recognition. According to this view, hegemony is not equivalent to predominant material power.  Neither is it solely an attribute of the dominant state itself. Rather it is, as Ian Clark puts it, “a status bestowed by others, and rests on recognition by them.” Clark defines hegemony as “an institutionalised practice of special rights and responsibilities conferred on a state with the resources to lead” (Clark, 2009, p. 24).

Building on the work of Hedley Bull and others, Clark proposes that we consider hegemony as an institution of international society. Reasoning by analogy, Clark finds that the institution of hegemony functions in a manner similar to that of the great powers. Just as special roles, functions, responsibilities, and status are bestowed on the great powers, Clark reasons that the same is also true of hegemons. This is one of the reasons he argues that social recognition is a key component of hegemony. The institution of the great powers was not reducible to a set of material assets, but instead rested on a shared normative framework in which others bestowed status and recognition on those who performed a managerial function in international society.

US hegemony

Given the diversity that exists among how the different theories comprehend the concept of hegemony, it is not surprising that there have been endless debates about the character and durability of US hegemony. From the perspective of contemporary American foreign policy, two questions about US hegemony have become fundamental today: one, does the maintenance of hegemony continue to serve American interests; and two, is American hegemony in decline? The answers to these two questions are actually interrelated.

If one believes that hegemony is beneficial for the United States, as proponents of both primacy and liberalism assert, then every effort should be made to maintain it. Conversely, if one does not believe that hegemony serves American interests, which is the position of balance-of-power realists and offensive realists, then instead of pursuing policies to maintain it, the United States should begin adjusting to the reality of inevitable hegemonic decline and the rise of peer-competitors such as China.

One of the advantages of the realist conception of hegemony is its focus on the material basis of hegemony: military and economic strength. Yet even while agreeing that material capabilities are the cornerstone of hegemony, there are a number of contending views on the relative power position of the United States today. A key point of contention in the debate about the durability of American hegemony is the degree to which the United States continues to have unrivalled capabilities.

If one does not believe that hegemony serves American interests, which is the position of balance-of-power realists and offensive realists, then instead of pursuing policies to maintain it, the United States should begin adjusting to the reality of inevitable hegemonic decline and the rise of peer-competitors such as China

In Layne’s terminology, “unipolar optimists believe that American hegemony will last for a very long time and that it is beneficial for the United States and for the international system as a whole” (Layne, 2007, p. 134). The best representatives of this view are William Wohlforth and Stephen Brooks. Wohlforth and Brooks dispute the popular view that China’s rise represents a challenge to US hegemony, insisting that the United States continues to have preponderant material capabilities that are vastly greater than any other state (Brooks and Wohlforth, 2008).

According to Brooks and Wohlforth, American hegemony is beneficial to both the United States and the world primarily because it greatly reduces security competition by rendering the balance of power inoperable and continues to confer significant benefits to the United States. For Brooks and Wohlforth, it is of vital importance that the United States continues to pursue a grand strategy of primacy or “deep engagement” in order to prevent the return of balance-of-power politics, which they argue is not possible in a unipolar system (Brooks, Ikenberry, and Wohlforth, 2013, pp. 7-51).

In contrast, ‘unipolar pessimists’ believe that the United States’ relative power position is declining and view the grand strategy of primacy to be antithetical to American interests. Most structural realists believe that global hegemony is either impossible to achieve or fleeting. Not only is it difficult to dominate the entire globe, but structural realists strongly believe in the prevalence of balance-of-power politics.

Contrary to unipolar optimists, structural realists do not believe that balancing has failed to take place since the dawn of the unipolar moment. Indeed, it is for the very reason that active balancing is taking place especially on the part of China and Russia, that many structural realists argue that the United States needs to abandon the grand strategy of primacy or deep engagement and adopt a grand strategy of restraint or offshore balancing (Posen, 2002, pp. 36-42).

Liberal conceptions of hegemony have much to offer on the debate about US hegemony. Instead of simply emphasising material capabilities, proponents of liberal hegemony accentuate the leadership and institutionalised components of hegemony. However, like unipolar optimists, those adhering to liberal versions of hegemonic stability theory argue that American hegemony is beneficial to both the United States and the world and should be maintained.

The argument is that the United States is better able to pursue a liberal grand strategy – democracy promotion, free trade, interdependence, and multilateral institutionalism – when it has unrivalled capabilities (Ikenberry, 2000). With respect to whether the United States can maintain its unipolar position indefinitely, liberals are, in Layne’s terminology, unipolar agnostics. The question about the durability of American hegemony is not just about trends in the relative distribution of power but about the character of American leadership.

According to liberal conceptions of hegemonic stability theory, US power is not used to dominate others, but rather to provide the leadership that is necessary for an open, liberal international order to exist. This is the crux of Ikenberry’s story of how the United States after World War Two built and maintained a liberal hegemonic order that has produced peace and prosperity for the world. According to Ikenberry, the United States did not use its preponderant power after World War Two to dominate the world and create an empire. Instead, American hegemonic leadership was wisely used to strike a grand bargain and establish the foundations of a liberal international order.

With the rise of new powers, the growth of right-wing populism, the turn to authoritarianism, and the election of Donald Trump, the durability of the liberal international order is being called into question. Yet most liberals remain confident that the liberal international order will endure. Their basic argument is that the rules and institutions the United States helped build under Pax Americana will persist, making it difficult for revisionist states to fundamentally change the liberal international order.

The English School and Social Constructivism move the discussion of American hegemony and unipolarity away from raw material capabilities to the dynamics of legitimacy. Instead of engaging in the endless debate about China’s rise and the future of US power they emphasise the role of legitimacy in maintaining any given hegemonic order. Only time will tell if future US presidents will be able to reclaim a legitimate liberal order or if China is able to provide the legitimacy necessary either to take over leadership of the liberal international order or offer an alternative vision (Schweller and Pu, 2011, pp.41-72).


Brian C. Schmidt

Associate Professor of Political Science, Carleton University

Pearl River DeltaChina Experiments with a New Kind of Megalopolis 

Beijing is building a megacity in the Pearl River Delta that it hopes will one day rival New York and Tokyo. This colossal urbanization project is a bold attempt at metropolitan integration -- and perhaps also a plan by the Chinese leadership to keep Hong Kong under its thumb.

At night, when the sky clears, it's not difficult to guess where the bridge leads. The clouds on the other side of the bay glow orange, illuminated by the city of Hong Kong, with its population of 7 million, just beyond the horizon. Another glow can be seen farther north: the high-tech boomtown of Shenzhen, with 13 million inhabitants. There is a third and fourth patch of light in the sky even beyond that: Dongguan, with 8 million people, and Guangzhou, population 15 million.

In the haze of daylight, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, modern-day China's most recent gargantuan building project, seems to end somewhere out in the open sea. But it actually spans the mouth of the Pearl River Delta, an area that has grown to become the world's largest metropolitan region. The bridge crosses 55 kilometers (34 miles) of open water and has been designed to last 120 years and withstand the ravages of storms and typhoons. It is a monument to a rapidly rising world power. 

Here, in the country's south, is where China's economic miracle began 40 years ago. Small towns became cities and cities became megacities. Some 16 million people lived in the region in 1980. Today, it's home to more than 70 million who, in an area smaller than Lithuania, generate an economic output roughly equivalent to Russia. If the Pearl River Delta were an independent country, it would qualify for membership in the G-20 forum of the world's largest economies. 

But Beijing has even greater ambitions. In February, the Communist Party announced plans to expand the delta into a city of cities that will rival the economic might and modernity of the world's major metropolises, like Tokyo, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. Indeed, that is where China drew inspiration for the name of the project: The Greater Bay Area. 

Chen Yalei hails from the northern part of the delta, from the provincial capital of Guangzhou, once known as Canton. He was 15 years old when he left China for the first time in 1993 and traveled to Hong Kong with a group of gifted students for a mathematics competition. "It seemed unreal," he says. "Everything was so civilized, so clean. Even the weather seemed better than on the mainland. It was another world." 

Today, the 41-year-old Chen lives in Hong Kong as a financial broker and travels regularly between the cities on the Pearl River and across China: "Hong Kong seems small, old-fashioned and expensive today. Shenzhen, on the other hand, feels like Shanghai."

Shanghai (Chinese: 上海, Shanghainese pronunciation: [zɑ̃.hɛ](listen); Mandarin Chinese pronunciation:[ʂâŋ.xài] (listen)) is one of the four municipalities under the direct administration of the central government of the People's Republic of China.[12] It is the most populous urban area in China,[13] and the second most populous city proper in the world (after Chongqing).[14]Shanghai is a global financial,[15] innovation and techonology,[16] and transport hub, with the world's busiest container port.[17] Located in the Yangtze River Delta, it sits on the south edge of the estuary of the Yangtze in the middle portion of the Eastern China coast. The municipality borders the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the south, east and west, and is bound to the east by the East China Sea.[18]As a major administrative, shipping and trading city, Shanghai grew in importance in the 19th century due to trade and recognition of its favorable port location and economic potential. The city was one of five treaty ports forced open to foreign trade following the British victory over China in the First Opium War. The subsequent 1842 Treaty of Nankingand 1844 Treaty of Whampoa allowed the establishment of the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession. The city then flourished as a centre of commerce between China and other parts of the world (predominantly the Occident), and became the primary financial hub of the Asia-Pacific region in the 1930s.[19]During World War II, the city was the site of the major Battle of Shanghai. After the war, with the CCP takeover of mainland China in 1949, trade was limited to other socialist countries, and the city's global influence declined. In the 1990s, the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaopingresulted in an intense re-development of the city, aiding the return of finance and foreign investment to the city. It has since re-emerged as a hub for international trade and finance; it is the home of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, one of the world's largest by market capitalization.[20]Shanghai has been described as the "showpiece" of the booming economy of mainland China;[21][22] renowned for its Lujiazui skyline, and museums and historic buildings, such as those along The Bund, as well as the City God Temple and the Yu Garden.

Chen says that Hong Kong, which for decades was seen as superior to other Chinese cities, won't be able to resist much longer being pulled into the maelstrom of economic and technological advances on the mainland. "Other cities in the delta will also lose their importance when everything here is consolidated," he says. "The Greater Bay Area is a huge opportunity for China." 

China's leadership likes to forge vast plans, not all of which pan out. Long-pursued reform proposals to redistribute responsibilities from the overcrowded capital Beijing to neighboring cities have been delayed. The Shanghai Free-Trade Zone, announced in 2013, has not attracted as many investors as anticipated. In the port city of Tianjin -- where one municipal district was promoted as "China's Manhattan" -- the new skyscrapers have not filled up as expected.

Meanwhile, other plans that might have initially seemed grotesquely oversized, like the multi-trillion-dollar project to build the New Silk Road, are progressing at a pace that has unnerved many in the West. Can China succeed in building a new kind of metropolis on the Pearl River, one that shapes the 21st century, just as New York marked the 20th century and Paris the 19th?

Already, the nine mainland Chinese cities and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao form a unique urban ensemble. Shenzhen has become a center for research and development that ranks alongside Silicon Valley. The area around the industrial city of Dongguan produces one-third of the world's jeans, while Foshan accounts for more than half of all refrigerators and air-conditioning units manufactured worldwide. Hong Kong is Asia's leading financial center and Macao is the largest gambling city in the world, with six times the gaming volume of Las Vegas.

But China is rapidly evolving, and its economic and political rivalry with the U.S. is forcing the country to change its business model. China can no longer merely remain the "the world's workbench." Its companies have to become more productive, efficient and competitive, and to achieve this they need better access to technical expertise and global financial markets.

This poses significant challenges for planners in Beijing. The differences between the mainland and the two former colonies of Hong Kong and Macao, which were returned to China in 1997 and 1999 respectively, go far beyond whether traffic drives on the left or the right. They also have diverging judicial, taxation and administrative traditions. There is free movement of capital and freedom of the press in Hong Kong and Macao, while China has capital control and censorship.

And the social differences are even greater. Hong Kong has an abundance of self-confident young people pushing for democratic reforms, as impressively demonstrated by the protest marches of recent months. On the mainland, there is an equally self-confident, well educated and digitally savvy younger generation that has thus far proved to be more interested in social advancement than in political participation or data privacy protection

"It's bitter for young people in Hong Kong," says Chen, "but there are now at least as many qualified candidates from the mainland for many of the jobs in their city."

Can these different systems and societies be linked? How should competition between these 11 cities be organized without individual regions losing out and, more importantly, without two liberal special administrative zones being forced to merge with the structure of mainland China?

Urban development is largely complete in European and North American cities, and many metropolitan areas there have stagnating populations. At the same time, countries like India, Pakistan, Nigeria and the Philippines are experiencing rapid urbanization. What can they learn from China? Does it make sense to create metropolitan areas with populations of over 70 million people? Or, given the daunting dimensions involved, is it an overwhelming challenge, even for planning-obsessed China? 

Shenzhen: 'It Was So Bad, But It Felt So Good'

It's 9:30 a.m. in Shenzhen. The temperature is 23.4 degrees Celsius (74 degrees Fahrenheit) and the air quality is 34 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter, just above the recommended limit. Traffic is moving at an average speed of 29.3 kilometers per hour, not bad for this time of day, and 4.296 million people are currently in the Longgang district, with the highest density of traffic now at four nodes, flashing yellow and red on a real-time map. The rest of the area is displayed in green and black.

All of these -- and hundreds of other parameters -- can be viewed on a giant monitor in the Longgang district administration's Smart Center, with new information arriving by the minute. At 8:23 a.m., the system located an unauthorized street vendor. At 8:59 a.m., it detected illegally dumped construction debris. And at 9:01 a.m., it reported a suspicious pile of waste.

Longgang is one of China's most modern urban districts, with streetlights and park lighting that adjust their brightness to match the number of cars and pedestrians. There are even sensor-fitted trash cans that are only serviced by garbage collectors when they are actually full.

Longgang is also subjected to continuous surveillance. In the spring of 2017, a couple reported that their three-year-old son Xuanxuan had been abducted. A security camera captured the scene, and it took the police precisely two seconds to identify the kidnapper using facial recognition software. They located the perpetrator and the child on a train shortly thereafter.

The Smart Center collects images, traffic information and movement data from hundreds of thousands of video cameras and mobile devices. During the first six months of 2017, the number of thefts in Longgang declined by more than half. Now, says one staff member, data from the Smart Center is used to clear up 85 percent of all criminal complaints, ranging from traffic offenses to pickpocketing. Just about every corner of public space is under the watchful gaze of a surveillance camera.

Shenzhen is home to the internet company Tencent, network supplier Huawei and battery giant BYD, along with thousands of start-ups. Some of these companies dominate entire districts, with modern skyscrapers and glass facades separated by wide, urban expressways.

Shenzhen's rise began in the 1980s, with reformer Deng Xiaoping's Open Door Policy, which welcomed outside investment, including from the West. A small statue of him testifies to this. Now, the city's economic performance surpasses that of Hong Kong. Shenzhen is a model for many urban areas in China because it can push through reforms even faster than Beijing and Shanghai. A few years ago, the municipal government decided to make all 22,000 taxis electric -- and the conversion was completed by early 2019. Not surprisingly, Shenzhen has become quieter and cleaner.

For neighboring cities in the Pearl River Delta, Shenzhen is both role model and rival. The city is building subways and industrial parks, and recruiting top talent from around the world, all of which is making it both attractive and expensive.

"We've reached a tipping point," says Eric Pan, 36. The entrepreneur from Sichuan Province operates what they call a "makerspace," an incubator for hardware and software engineers with branches in Silicon Valley, Tokyo and, most recently, Berlin. "So far, Shenzhen has thrived thanks to the strength of its synergies," he says. "If you had an idea, you'd find a factory right on the other side of the street that could launch series production."

When he came to Shenzhen 15 years ago, he found a haphazard, creative chaos. "It was so bad, but it felt so good," he remarks. The more organized, efficient and wealthy the city becomes, Pan says, the higher the rents soar.

In October, Pan decided to open another branch office in the neighboring city of Dongguan, which until a few years ago was still known for its notorious sweatshop textile and shoe factories. These companies -- which were located in Hong Kong decades ago, then moved to Shenzhen and finally to Dongguan -- are now transferring to low-wage sites in Myanmar and Bangladesh. In Dongguan, some rents are only one fifth what they would be in Shenzhen, so that's where small savvy businesses are headed.

Of course he appreciates the quality of life in Shenzhen, Pan says, with its futuristic airport offering direct connections to the U.S. West Coast and its proximity to Hong Kong. But he insists that the true city of the future in the Pearl River Delta is Dongguan: a city without a center, a former low-end industrial site undergoing a structural revival, and a place where surprising things still happen. He's not an urban planner, Pan admits, but if he had one suggestion to make to the strategists of the Greater Bay Area, it would be: "Don't overdo it with this plan." 

Guangzhou: Brexit in Reverse

The provincial capital of Guangzhou is located about 140 kilometers up the river from Shenzhen. It takes roughly two hours to drive this stretch by car, but with the high-speed rail connection, the trip is neatly reduced to a subway-like commute of exactly 36 minutes. People like financial broker Chen Yalei, who are perpetually short on time, aren't big fans of the commute, though. The express train station is too far on the outskirts of town for their taste, and the trip to the downtown area takes longer than the ride through the delta.

Almost all the stations in China's high-speed network, which was launched in 2008 and has since expanded to almost 30,000 kilometers, are located on the periphery of the country's cities. This was done on purpose, the idea being that new districts would sprout up near the train stations, creating new jobs in the process. This may be good for future generations, but it makes life difficult for today's commuters.

"Of course, it would be more convenient for the new station to be right in the heart of the city," says Ma Xiangming, 57, chief city planner in Guangdong Province. He recently visited Frankfurt: "That's a city where the distances are right." 

But his country isn't at that stage yet, he says, not even in the Pearl River Delta. Ma sketches a map of China and divides the country into three zones: "west, middle, east -- poor, richer, rich." At the southeastern tip is the Greater Bay Area, the richest of all regions. The plan is for it to become even richer and for that wealth to flow into the hinterlands.

Ideally, he admits, the individual cities would know best what was good for them and their citizens, and where a new residential area or an industrial park should be built. But, he adds, that's not how things work in China: "Here, the central government also has a say and it has ambitious plans." Sometimes, he says, it can take "many years" before Beijing's wisdom is revealed. There's respect and also a touch of resignation in Ma's words: Beijing isn't planning for the present and the individual, but for the future and the masses.

And now, Beijing is also planning for the world. Chen Guanghan, 64, flew in from Tokyo in the morning and will continue on to Singapore in the evening. He has also visited New York, San Francisco and a number of European cities as part of his Greater Bay mission. He has never traveled so much in his 40 years as an economist, he says.

Chen is advising the government on how the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao can grow together economically. The vision he has developed following his travels is a kind of Brexit in reverse: the merging of three complex tax, legal and customs systems, the integration of a global financial center and a gambling city into a single economy.

"Only the European Union is familiar with problems like this," Chen says, adding: "People, goods, information -- everything flows freely in Hong Kong and Macao, while everything is regulated here." In Macao, income tax is 12 percent and in Hong Kong it's 15 percent -- "but here, it's as high as 45 percent." Simply registering a car that is allowed to drive in one of the special administrative areas as well as on the mainland costs a small fortune today, he says.

This will demand a great deal of work, presumably create many new jobs in the three administrations, and, as Chen predicts, generate 7 to 8 percent growth over the next 10 years. That level of growth would be more than current levels in China and Macao and more than twice as much as in today's Hong Kong. People there would especially benefit from the Greater Bay Area, he asserts: "The Hongkongers, because their economy is stagnating, and the people of Macao, because they are short of space and suffering from high rents." 

Macao: The New Prohibition

After Low Hon Man persuaded his wife, they simply swam over. He was 20 years old, lived in a small village on the mainland and wanted to get away from China as soon as possible. That's how he came to Macao exactly 40 years ago.

The contrast was mind-boggling, and echoes of that disparity can still be felt today. On the other side of the border, in China, there was the abject poverty resulting from Mao Zedong's policies. But here was the gambler's paradise of Macao, at the time a "territory under Portuguese administration" and today a Chinese special administrative zone that is bursting at the seams. A total of 670,000 people live on around 30 square kilometers. High-rise apartment buildings with small windows protrude into the sky like silos, while crowds throng the narrow, dark, canyon-like streets.

Low Hon Man, though, has never regretted his decision. His children grew up in the burgeoning prosperity of Macao and now work in local casinos. Meanwhile, he's driving his way toward retirement in a taxi that, like most cabs in Macao, is painted black and looks like an American patrol car. "That's where my son works!" he proudly exclaims as he passes Wynn Palace, one of the baroque gambling halls that American investors have built in Macao.

The casinos are currently generating so much money that Macao has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Once a year, the government pays a bonus to all residents. Low Hon Man's last payment was roughly the equivalent of one month's salary.

"The money comes from the gamblers, and 70 to 80 percent of the gamblers come from China," says Nuno Santos, 37. Santos, one of the few members of his generation who still speak Portuguese, was a policeman on the anti-corruption squad. Now, he works for a casino operator in the "risk & investigations" department, as it says on his business card.

There are strict controls on the flow of capital in China, and officially each citizen is only allowed to export $50,000 dollars a year. Gambling is banned on the mainland, and many Chinese are adept at moving money abroad using unofficial channels. "They try everything," says Santos, adding that "when people were still paying with cards, they smuggled in credit card terminals that were registered in China. Since they now pay almost exclusively with mobile apps, we're investigating online fraud." China's rise to economic power has brought about a new kind of prohibition -- except that money is being smuggled, not alcohol.

The casino city of Macao is not only politically, but also economically dependent on Beijing. When China's President Xi Jinping launched a campaign against corrupt party cadres five years ago, revenues plummeted in Macao, though they have since recovered. Beijing still tolerates the gambling, but it's putting pressure on Macao to shift more toward luxury and family tourism in the future: shopping malls instead of casinos, zoos and amusement parks instead of roulette tables.

But China itself has changed at least as much as Macao since Low Hon Man took a swim in the Pearl River 40 years ago. Low now often drives to the mainland to visit relatives. On his first visit, he admits, he was "shocked" by the prosperity that had taken hold of his village. "Ordinary people are now building three and four-story houses there! They're just as rich as I am!"

He says the economic boom on the mainland is so massive that Macao ultimately won't be able to resist it. "Most of us here have come to terms with it. It's a different story in Hong Kong, though." 

Hong Kong: 'One Country and One and a Half Systems'

In Victoria Harbor, the port of Hong Kong, a dead man was seen floating in the water this spring. The object, a colossal inflatable sculpture by American pop artist KAWS, was a whimsical hybrid of Mickey Mouse and the Michelin man, lying on its back with its eyes closed and its arms and legs stretched out.

You didn't have to be a political activist to interpret this artwork as a symbol of Hong Kong itself, the proud city on the Pearl River Delta, which has always been held up by the Chinese as a model of business acumen, productivity and quality of life - but one which has been losing its leading edge for years now. A sense of resignation, even of paralysis, had taken hold in Hong Kong.

In the past four months, though, this apathy has morphed into activism. A new energy has can be felt in Hong Kong, sparked by the city government's plan to pass a law that would allow the authorities to extradite local residents to the mainland. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in protest. They refuse to allow their city to end up like a dead man in the Pearl River.

Student leader Joshua Wong, 22, one of the city's most prominent political activists, was in jail when the protest movement erupted. He took part in the protests again after his release, but has since been arrested again and is now out on bail. When Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, Beijing pledged that there would be only "one China" in the future, but that the administrative, legal and economic system of the former crown colony would remain untouched for at least 50 years. "One country, two systems" was the policy.

"In reality, today we have one country and only one-and-a-half systems," Wong said earlier this summer. The number of immigrants from the mainland is rising, he said, and an increasing amount of "red capital" from the mainland is flowing into the city. Likewise, Mandarin Chinese is supplanting the Cantonese spoken in Hong Kong. "Some in the pro-Beijing camp here no longer refer to us as Hongkongers. For them, we're all just residents of the Greater Bay Area."

Wong is a staunch opponent of the Greater Bay Area initiative. In his view, it's aimed at the heart of what constitutes Hong Kong: the city's economic independence and the independent judiciary that is still based on British law.

The protest movement achieved a major victory in its bid to defend this justice system this Wednesday, when Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared that she was finally withdrawing the extradition bill, which had been suspended since mid-June. Many young people remain unhappy, and have pledged further protests. 

But challenging China's leadership poses a risk: Beijing's leaders will certainly think twice before they decide to renege on their promises and fully integrate Hong Kong into China before the expiration of the 50-year period of semi-autonomy. But this move cannot be entirely ruled out. 

Wong has no illusions about the influence that China exerts along the Pearl River. As he said in an earlier interview, he sees the speed with which cities like Shenzhen have surpassed Hong Kong, "but the city's future and its international reputation will undoubtedly be decided in the field of economics."

And he noted that Hong Kong's prospects in this area might be better than they seem. Wong points to China's trade dispute with the U.S., its competition with the EU and the financing of the New Silk Road, and said that Beijing needs Hong Kong as an independent, international financial center that gives it the ability to operate globally and influence markets beyond its own planned economy.

Could China's ambition and the rules of global financial capitalism end up rescuing Hong Kong? It's an odd thought, but Hong Kong's unique role as a separate economic entity, governed by the rule of law, is perhaps its best chance to avoid becoming another Chinese city among many others.

Chen Yalei, the financial broker, says Beijing is making a kind of offer to the cities in the Greater Bay Area that they simply can't refuse. "Of course, there will be major shifts and, of course, some of these cities will lose importance while others gain ground." But, he adds, at least for the time being, Hong Kong will remain indispensable, as the financial center of the Pearl River Delta and as China's gateway to the world.

And afterwards? "The reformer Deng Xiaoping created a monument to himself in Shenzhen, and for his successor, Jiang Zemin, it was in Shanghai " says Chen Yalei. "The Greater Bay Area is the project that President Xi Jinping intends to be remembered by in the history books." 



waking up in canberra? you're dreamin'...

Progress on repairing strained ties between Australia and China has "not been satisfactory," according to Beijing's top diplomat. 

Key points: 
  • Wang Yi reportedly said he hoped the relationship would soon be "back on track"
  • Marise Payne said her meeting with the Beijing top diplomat was "productive"
  • The Minister for Foreign Affairs will meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this weekend, where they may discuss the possibility of Australia joining naval patrols


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Australian counterpart Marise Payne on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' summit in Bangkok. 

"During our diplomatic and strategic dialogue in Beijing last November, we agreed to calibrate and relaunch China-Australia relations," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. 

"But the process of improving our ties has not been satisfactory."

Reuters reported Mr Wang said he hoped China's relations with Australia could be "back on track as soon as possible".

Senator Payne described the meeting as "productive" and said it was in neither country's interest that their relationship be "defined by differences".

"We discussed a range of issues including our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, 5G, human rights matters and consular cases," she said in a statement.


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We have no idea, do we?...

paranoid USA...

Die US-Regierung macht sich nach amerikanischen Medienberichten derweil Sorgen, dass China die Katastrophe auf den Bahamas nutzen könnte, um den eigenen Einfluss in der Region auszubauen. Das Nachrichtenportal "Axios" und der Sender NPR berichten, dass Washington erwartet, dass China massive Hilfen für den Wiederaufbau der Inseln zur Verfügung stellen will. Peking könnte die Hilfen gleichsam als "Trojanisches Pferd" nutzen und einen Außenposten aufbauen - vor der Haustür der USA. Miami ist nur 50 Flugminuten von den Bahamas entfernt.


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Meanwhile, according to US media reports, the US government is worried that China might use the Bahamas disaster to build its own influence in the region. The news portal "Axios" and the broadcaster NPR report that Washington expects China to provide massive aid to rebuild the islands. Beijing could use the help as a kind of "Trojan horse" and build an outpost - on the doorstep of the United States. Miami is only a 50 minute flight from the Bahamas.


What about it? Can't the USA provide the cash and expertise to rebuild fast and painlessly?... No... the USA will do like Donald did with Puerto Rico, dragging politics of mud...


I. Project Introduction 

The Postdoctoral International Exchange Program is targeted at excellent international young scientists holding a PhD degree (including those Chinese based in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan of China, as well as young Chinese received a PhD degree abroad and not yet returned to China by the time of application) pursuing postdoctoral research in a Chinese institution. The successful candidates would be co-funded for two years, by the Office of China Postdoc Council (OCPC) and the host institution: an allowances of 200,000 RMB each year shall be provided by OCPC and another 100,000 RMB per year by the host institution/group, which would be used for covering the individual living expenses related to their stay in China, including housing allowances, social insurance and round-trip international travel expenses etc.

300 postdoctoral fellows shall be supported in this program every year.


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China is pushing intellectual development as hard as it can, despite all the obstacles the West (read the USA) is using to prevent such advancement. "Intellectual properties" are contested and China has "bypassed" many such problem by buying the companies that developed products and ideas. Of course Trump is furious about this... Meanwhile, China's ideals are more about cooperation than fist fights...


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western media disinformation about china...

The Western media has begun complaining about Southeast Asia’s collective decision to move forward with 5G network technology from Chinese telecom giant Huawei despite US demands that nations ban all Huawei products.

These demands are predicated on clearly fabricated security threats surrounding Huawei technology. The US itself is a global leader of producing hardware with hidden backdoors and other security flaws for the purpose of spying worldwide.

Instead, the US is clearly targeting the telecom giant as part of a wider campaign to cripple China economically and contain its ability to contest US global hegemony.

Media Disinformation Serves the War on Huawei 

Articles like Reuters’ “Thailand launches Huawei 5G test bed, even as U.S. urges allies to bar Chinese gear,” in title alone confounds informed readers.

The article’s author, Patpicha Tanakasempipat, fails to explain in which ways the US is “allies” with any of the nations of Southeast Asia, including Thailand. The history of US activity in Southeast Asia has been one of coercion, interference, intervention, colonisation and protracted war.

As US power has faded, it has resorted to “soft power,” with its most recent “pivot to Asia” being accompanied by several failed attempts to overthrow regional governments and replace them with suitable proxies.

Considering this, and a complete lack of suitable US alternatives to Huawei’s products, there is little mystery as to why the region as a whole has ignored US demands regarding Huawei.

The article claims:

Thailand launched a Huawei Technologies 5G test bed on Friday, even as the United States urges its allies to bar the Chinese telecoms giant from building next-generation mobile networks.

Huawei, the world’s top producer of telecoms equipment and second-biggest maker of smartphones, has been facing mounting international scrutiny amid fears China could use its equipment for espionage, a concern the company says is unfounded.

Patpicha fails categorically to cite any evidence substantiating US claims. She also fails categorically to point out that there is in fact a glaring lack of evidence behind US claims, just as many other articles across the Western media have predictably and purposefully done.

Vietnam, the Outlier 

The one exception in Southeast Asia is Vietnam. It has sidestepped considering Huawei in favour of US-based Qualcomm and Scandinavian companies Nokia and Ericsson. While the Vietnamese government said its decision was based on technical concerns rather than geopolitics, a Bloomberg article quoted the CEO of state-owned telecom concern, Viettel Group, who claimed:

We are not going to work with Huawei right now. It’s a bit sensitive with Huawei now. There were reports that it’s not safe to use Huawei. So Viettel’s stance is that, given all this information, we should just go with the safer ones. So we choose Nokia and Ericsson from Europe.

The same article would also cite supposed experts who claim Vietnam seeks closer ties with the US in countering China’s growing stature upon the global stage, and ultimately folded to US demands because of this.

This however is unlikely. Vietnam – among all of Southeast Asia’s nations – is not an “ally” of Washington.

The US waged a bloody war against Vietnam at the cost of 4 million lives. The nation still bears the burden of chemical warfare through persistent birth defects as well as swaths of land covered in unexploded ordnance. To this day the US maintains a stable of opposition groups it funds to pressure and coerce the Vietnamese government. The US also invests in groups fanning anti-Chinese sentiment inside Vietnam.

Considering this, Vietnam, by spurning Huawei at the moment, is more likely cynically playing the US and China off one another with this particular move aimed at currying leverage over Beijing and favour with Washington, while at other junctures, Vietnam has made moves to gain leverage over Washington while cultivating closer ties with Beijing.

Not Just Thailand

The same Bloomberg article would note:

Vietnam’s decision to shun Huawei appears to make it an outlier in Southeast Asia, where other countries such as the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia are open to deploying Huawei’s technology.

The irony of this is that the Philippines in particular has been touted by Washington as one of its key partners in provoking China over its claims in the South China Sea. Not only has Manila repeatedly sabotaged or undermined Washington’s efforts in the South China Sea deciding to bilaterally deal with Beijing instead and without US help, it is now openly ignoring US demands to dump Huawei technology.

Malaysia has been another target of US political interference. There were hopes in Washington that after the last Malaysian elections, victorious parties backed by Washington would cut growing ties with Beijing. This did not happen. While some Malaysian-Chinese deals were renegotiated, they continued to move forward nonetheless.

By ignoring US demands that Huawei products be banned and by moving forward with Huawei technology for national 5G infrastructure, Malaysia affirms again that Asia’s future will be determined in Asia by the nations residing there, not by Washington thousands of miles away.

While the US remains a potent geopolitical hegemon with a powerful military and economy, and the means to inflict punishment on nations opposing its agenda across the globe, it is still a hegemon in decline.

The US is not losing to China because it hasn’t been ruthless enough or because its “allies” are not cooperating. It is not losing to China because of anything in particular China is doing to the US. The US is losing because of fundamental flaws in what is an entirely unsustainable and indefensible foreign policy.

Until it fixes those fundamental flaws and adopts a more appropriate foreign policy, it will continue to lose out to competitors like China. Its tech giants like Apple and Qualcomm will continue to lose out to competitors like Huawei. No amount of coercion, threats or acts of malice can change the fact that at a fundamental level, the US has no competitive edge and its power stems more from momentum than from any remaining driving strength.

While nations bide their time for this momentum to diminish, Beijing, Moscow and the capitals of other developing and emerging global powers continue building an alternative global order based on a multipolar balance of power and the primacy of national sovereignty… a global order where, for example, one nation does not get to decide who the rest of the world works with to build their respective telecom infrastructure.


Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


See also:

5G is mucking up weather predictions...

china’s evolution into a scientific superpower...


Chinese ties don’t faze European funders


Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus needs some time to describe all her ties to top-ranked Chinese research institutions.

“Let me think,” says the professor of chemistry at Germany’s Bielefeld University. “At Tsinghua University I’m a member of the advisory board for its clean energy center. At Shanghai Jiao Tong [University] I’m associated with the engineering school. At Nanjing University it’s thermal engineering. And at the CAS [Chinese Academy of Sciences] institute I’m a guest professor in thermal physics.”

Each collaboration, she says, is with a Chinese scientist who spent time abroad before returning to China under the country’s Thousand Talents Program, which aims to recruit researchers, both Chinese and non-Chinese, working in other nations.

That fact alone would probably set off an alarm in the United States. U.S. government officials see such talent recruitment programs as part of a concerted Chinese effort to steal the fruits of federally funded research, and some universities have even dismissed researchers for inappropriate foreign ties.

But government funding agencies in Europe and the United Kingdom harbor fewer suspicions about grantees who maintain robust ties with China. With smaller domestic research enterprises, they have long viewed foreign collaboration as a plus. “There is a lot less paranoia about China in the U.K.,” says John Speakman, a Scottish physiologist who for the past 8 years has spent most of his time at the CAS Institute for Genetics and Developmental Biology in Beijing while retaining his position at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom.

The European Union’s flagship research program, Horizon 2020, does not require researchers to disclose any support from foreign sources, neither when they apply for a grant nor after they receive one. In addition, EU rules explicitly permit grantees to operate a second lab outside their home institution. And in the United Kingdom, an official from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the nation’s main funding agency based in Swindon, explains that “any policies on researchers declaring overseas funding to their employers [are] set by that institution.”

Science found that no European funder has taken steps to address foreign influence that are comparable to what U.S. agencies have done over the past year. The U.S. National Institutes of Health has launched investigations of more than 180 grantees that have prompted at least two U.S. universities to dismiss faculty members, all of Asian descent, for not properly disclosing ties to China or violating the confidentiality of peer review. The U.S. Department of Energy has decided that its scientists cannot participate in China’s foreign talent programs and is weighing a ban on foreign support from China and a few other countries. The U.S. government is pursuing criminal charges against at least two researchers for allegedly hiding ties to China. And the National Science Foundation has added a checkbox to its application designed to flag proposals with a foreign component.

In Europe, however, such foreign connections might even give grant applicants a competitive edge. “If the DFG gets a proposal for a big center and it omits certain locations [outside Germany] where good research is being done, reviewers will point to that,” says Rainer Gruhlich, who heads the North American office of DFG, Germany’s main research funding agency, in Washington, D.C. “They may say, ‘Have you looked at what is happening at this [foreign] university?’ Or even, ‘Why did you invite this investigator to be part of your team when there is a Chinese scientist who is much better?’”


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 See also: 

titanium lapdog...


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meanwhile in the yum cha churches...

A 'landmark win' for China

Silent Invasion is so controversial it almost didn't make it to publication. It was due to be released late last year by Allen & Unwin, but the publisher baulked over concerns it would be targeted by Beijing and its proxies in Australia. Melbourne University Press also turned down the book.

That led Professor Hamilton — the author of half-a-dozen books about climate change, politics and economics — to hit out at what he described as an attempt by the CCP to muzzle public debate in Australia.

"[This is a] landmark win for the Chinese Communist Party's campaign to suppress critical voices," Professor Hamilton wrote to Allen & Unwin chief executive Robert Gorman at the time.

The book was recently acquired by Hardie Grant, run by Sandy Grant, who in the 1980s published the controversial memoir of former British intelligence officer Peter Wright. The publication occurred against the wishes of the British government, which was trying to censor the book.

Mr Grant told the ABC he was aware publishing Silent Invasion may invite the attention of the Chinese Government, but he hoped it would not be serious. "This is a debate being held at the ABC, the New York Times, the London Times; we are just one voice in that, we are hardly a serious thorn in the Chinese Government's side," he said.

Professor Hamilton may also have reason to be concerned about the impact of authoring the book. This week New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered intelligence officers to investigate break-ins at the home and office of prominent NZ China academic Anne-Marie Brady. 

Professor Brady has spent her career researching China's global influence and her 2017 paper, Magic Weapons, caused global waves when it revealed how deeply China had penetrated NZ's Government.


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I am sure that should John Iremonger be alive today, Allen & Unwin would have published the book regardless. 


Now regarding controversial memoir of former British intelligence officer Peter Wright, these memoirs were quite innacurate according to some...