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ASIA PACIFIC:

CHINA:

  • China would accelerate free-trade negotiations with Japan and South Korea, both of which rely on the U.S. for defense, and quickly implement an investment pact reached with the European Union in December. Trump withdrew the U.S. from talks on the trade pact, then known as the TPP, shortly after he took office in January 2021. President Joe Biden’s administration is now seeking to rally what officials are calling “techno-democracies” to stand up to China and other “techno-autocracies.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA


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MIDDLE EAST:

QATAR DIPLOMATIC MOVES:

  • Qatar is stepping up its diplomatic moves in the region, playing its cards in Iran, Lebanon and Syria with the hope of regaining influence after its presence declined in recent years due to overlapping factors. Qatar’s hope of regaining its presence is mainly related to the presence of a new American administration that seems intent on increasing its pressure on the regime of President Bashar Assad and filling the vacuum left by the former administration of Donald Trump, which Russia exploited to control the political process through the Astana talks.

SOURCE: THE ARAB WEEKLY


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SOUTH ASIA:

AFGHANISTAN:

  • European soldiers of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan will not be withdrawn from this war-torn country in May under a conditional peace agreement signed by the Trump administration and the insurgent Taliban in February of last year. There are still some 7,500 NATO troops deployed to Afghanistan.

SOURCE: BUSINESS TIMES


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American Hypocrisy Towards Unauthorized & Violent Protests Must End

American Hypocrisy Towards Unauthorized & Violent Protests Must End

28 JANUARY 2021

American Hypocrisy Towards Unauthorized & Violent Protests Must End

Whenever American administrations change, usually only the heads of various agencies and a few folks below them are replaced. Sometimes this is substantive, other times it’s only cosmetic, but the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the members of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) remain the same.

The Biden Administration is following in the footsteps of the former Trump one by exercising hypocrisy towards unauthorized and violent protests. Both his and Trump’s condemned the violent storming of the US Capitol earlier this month, yet neither has any compunctions about endorsing similar destabilizations whenever they happen in Hong Kong or Russia. The former administration gleefully supported unauthorized and violent protests in China’s Special Autonomous Region against its national security legislation, while the present one is doing the exact same thing regarding imprisoned anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny.

That individual was recently detained for probation violations upon his return to Russia from Germany where he was receiving treatment after being mysteriously poisoned over the summer. He and some Western governments accuse the Russian one of attempting to assassinate him using the banned chemical weapon Novichok, a charge which Moscow vehemently denies. Navalny called for his compatriots to protest nationwide on Saturday in response to his detainment, which several tens of thousands of them did. Approximately three thousand people were detained for participating in these unauthorized protests, which quickly turned violent.

In the run-up to those riots, the Russian government strongly criticized its American counterpart for publishing the locations and times of unauthorized protests on its embassy website. It later slammed embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross for describing the security services’ response as a “concerted campaign to suppress free speech [and] peaceful assembly.” It should be noted that Russian media has shared footage of some participants attacking police and even beating up counter-demonstrators. Russia was also shocked that the unauthorized protests were being advertised to minors through social media.

It’s very disappointing that the Biden Administration is picking up where its predecessor left off, albeit by directing weaponized protests against Russia instead of China like Trump’s did, at least for now. America is further sacrificing its already dwindling soft power standing across the world through such blatant displays of hypocrisy. It cannot condemn similar manifestations of violence disguised as protest at home while enthusiastically supporting such instances abroad. In addition, the Biden Administration’s demand to unconditionally release Navalny and the protesters is a textbook example of meddling in another state’s affairs.

Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be all that surprising for observers. Whenever American administrations change, usually only the heads of various agencies and a few folks below them are replaced. Sometimes this is substantive, other times it’s only cosmetic, but the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the members of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) remain the same. This in turn ensures policy continuation in the strategic sense, though it can of course be altered depending on the political will that the president at the time has to do so, like how Trump pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal for example.

Evidently, President Biden and his team had no such will to stop their predecessor’s plans to support — and arguably even organize to a certain extent — this latest anti-Russian destabilization. They’re notorious Russophobes in the political sense who wouldn’t ever consider the pragmatism of easing pressure on Russia or the soft power benefits inherent in having a consistent stance towards unauthorized and violent protests. This is the absolutely wrong policy to practice since there’s never any excuse for violating international law. It also further erodes the country’s image abroad and could lead to unintended international consequences.

Whether someone’s protesting against national security legislation, allegedly rigged elections, or for the release of a detained blogger, they must always do so peacefully and follow the law. Illegally assembling and committing acts of violence against the security services and counter-protesters, especially while encouraging impressionable youth to de facto function as human shields, is absolutely unacceptable. It’s all the worse when a foreign power is politically supporting these events and even publicly organizing them through its embassy website. If President Biden is serious about change, then he must immediately stop these double standards.


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SOUTH ASIA:

AFGHANISTAN:

  • The US has decreased its number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 2,500, accomplishing a key goal of President Donald Trump as he prepares to leave office next week. Under a plan instituted by Trump the Pentagon is seeking to completely withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by May, but it is unclear if incoming President Joe Biden will continue to implement the policy when he takes office Jan. 20.

SOURCE: ANADOLU AGENCY


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What’s The Future Of Afghanistan After Trump?

What’s The Future Of Afghanistan After Trump?

13 JANUARY 2021

What

Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov is fairly certain that President-Elect Biden won’t do much to turn the tide on outgoing President Trump’s drawdown from Afghanistan despite newly promulgated legislation hindering the prospect of further cuts, but he’s also concerned that US troops might be replaced by private military contractors in a scenario that he warned would be a mistake.

Russia’s Prediction For Afghanistan

Many questions are swirling about President-Elect Biden’s foreign policy upon his impending inauguration next week, but one of the most relevant for all of Eurasia is what his stance will be towards the US’ seemingly never-ending War on Afghanistan. Russian Special Presidential Representative for Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov is fairly certain that President-Elect Biden won’t do much to turn the tide on outgoing President Trump’s drawdown from Afghanistan despite newly promulgated legislation hindering the prospect of further cuts, but he’s also concerned that US troops might be replaced by private military contractors in a scenario that he warned would be a mistake. This is a pretty sound prediction which deserves to be elaborated upon more at length in order to better understand the logic behind it.

The US’ New Central Asian Strategy

The author explained last year how “The US’ Central Asian Strategy Isn’t Sinister, But That Doesn’t Mean That It’ll Succeed”. It was pointed out that Trump’s official vision for the region as articulated by his administration’s “Strategy For Central Asia 2019-2025” sharply contrasts the unstated one pursued by his predecessors. Instead of focusing on terrorist-driven divide-and-rule Hybrid Warfare, it concentrates mostly on peaceful regional connectivity in order to calmly expand American influence into the geostrategic Eurasian Heartland. The non-violent means that are to be relied upon to this soft power end should be commended, though one shouldn’t also preclude the possibility of some elements of the former informal strategies remaining in place, especially following Biden’s inauguration.

The Argument Against Another “Surge”

The former Vice President is bringing a bunch of Obama-era and -influenced officials (back) to the White House, hence why many feared that he might even seriously countenance repeating that administration’s infamous but ultimately failed “surge”. The geopolitical times have greatly changed since then, however, and there doesn’t seem to be any real interest in doing so under the current conditions. Not only is the planet reeling from what the author described as World War C — which refers to the full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes unleashed by the international community’s uncoordinated efforts to contain COVID-19 — but America is on the brink of launching a domestic version of its “War on Terror” in response to Capitol Hill’s storming last week and the US must also adapt to China’s growing leadership role in the world. These take precedence over the Taliban.

Improved US-Pakistani Ties Augur Well For Afghanistan

The author touched upon those last developments as well as the Biden Administration’s lack of trust in the Modi one in his analysis earlier this week for Pakistan’s Tribune Express about “The Three Factors That Will Shape The Future Of US-Pakistani Relations”. It was concluded that bilateral relations will improve as a result of these pressures, which in turn will further reduce the possibility of the US doubling down on its failed War on Afghanistan. The Taliban peace process, for as imperfect as it is, has veritably led to some noticeable results over the past year. Not only would it be a waste for Biden to scrap all of that just for the sake of spiting his predecessor, but it wouldn’t serve much of a grand strategic purpose anyhow considering the progress that’s being made on implementing the Trump Administration’s Central Asian strategy.

Trump & Biden: Different Visions, Shared Interests

In fact, it’s in Central Asia where Trump and Biden have a unique confluence of interests. The former’s economic-driven policy of engagement dovetails well with the latter’s plans to assemble a so-called “Alliance of Democracies”. Both are non-military means for expanding influence and perfectly complement one another. While Biden will probably retain the US’ troop presence in Afghanistan or even slightly increase it for domestic political reasons should he find it convenient to do so, he’s unlikely to devote as much military time and effort to the conflict as Obama did for the earlier mentioned reasons. While the Central Asian Republics don’t practice Western forms of democracy, the US nevertheless subjectively regards them as being different in substance from Russia and China’s governing models, and thus comparatively more “legitimate” to partner with.

The Military-Industrial Complex’s Pernicious Influence

Even so, the US’ powerful military-industrial complex won’t take too kindly to its most direct interests being threatened in the region through the civilian government’s decision to keep troop levels at an all-time low. Bearing this in mind, it makes sense for Biden for execute the Trump Administration’s reported proposal to privatize the conflict through private military contractors (PMCs) as the latter are an important cutting-edge part of the military-industrial complex, albeit one which enables Washington to retain a degree of “plausible deniability”. Many former servicemen transition from the Armed Forces to PMCs upon their honorable discharge because it pays much better, thus making these entities practically one and the same except in the legal sense, with both fulfilling the important task of guarding Afghanistan’s $1 trillion in rare earth minerals.

Concluding Thoughts

Looking forward, Biden (or rather, the power structure behind him) might not make much political progress on resolving America’s War on Afghanistan, but he probably won’t make things much worse either. Rather, this “endless war” might continue to persist, but simply become more and more “forgettable” so to speak. Should he feel that it would be politically convenient to do so in the domestic sense, then he might either slightly raise the troop levels or publicly announce that some of the existing ones will be switch out for PMCs. His intelligence agencies will probably continue to foment low-intensity destabilization scenarios across the region, but likely won’t concentrate too much effort on this as the US’ grand strategic focus shifts elsewhere in light of the new domestic and international conditions in which the fading unipolar hegemon is forced to adapt.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: US, Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan, Trump, Biden, Central Asia.


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MIDDLE EAST:

SAUDI ARABIA-QATAR:

  • Saudi Arabia opened its borders with Qatar for the first time in three years, a leap toward easing a dispute that split the energy-producing region and complicated US efforts to isolate Iran. The steps were pushed through as President Donald Trump prepares to leave office and his successor, Joe Biden, vows to renew diplomacy with Tehran.

SOURCE: HINDUSTAN TIMES


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The Arctic Is America’s Next Theater For The Dual Containment Of Russia & China

The Arctic Is America’s Next Theater For The Dual Containment Of Russia & China

21 DECEMBER 2020

The Arctic Is America

The US Navy’s recently unveiled “Advantage at Sea” doctrine identifies the Arctic Ocean as the next theater for America’s attempted dual containment of Russia and China, to which end the document proposes that Washington resort to desperate means such as deliberately deploying its naval forces in harm’s way for supposed “de-escalation” purposes that actually run the risk of provoking a nuclear war.

America’s “Advantage At Sea” Doctrine

Last Thursday was a very important day for more reasons than one. While the world was watching President Putin’s year-end press conference, the US Navy unveiled its “Advantage at Sea” doctrine. The latter caught the attention of RT for identifying Russia and China as the US’ main rivals, but has since failed to generate any meaningful traction in the Alt-Media Community. That’s a mistake because the document is a must-read in full for anyone who wants to better understand America’s naval strategy across the coming century. After all, the very first words of its foreword ominously read that “Our actions in this decade will shape the maritime balance of power for the rest of this century”, thus emphasizing the supreme strategic significance of this doctrine. There are many aspects of it that can and should be analyzed, but perhaps the most forward-looking among them relates to America’s attempted dual containment of Russia and China in the Arctic Ocean.

Polar Competition

Not much is written about this in the text, but it’s still abundantly clear that this region will become the next theater for that hitherto failed strategy to unfold. Both multipolar Great Powers have near-identical interests there in terms of using what Russia regards as the Northern Sea Route and China considers to be the Polar Silk Road as a shortcut for facilitating maritime trade with Europe. They’re also both very interested in the region’s enormous hydrocarbon deposits too. America is therefore naturally compelled to interfere with both of these goals in a bid to delay its fading unipolar hegemony for as long as possible. It makes its intent transparent by writing the following in the text:

We cannot cede influence in areas of emerging day-to-day competition, including U.S. regional waters and the Arctic. The coming decades will bring changes to the Arctic region that will have a significant impact on the global economy, given its abundance of natural resources and strategic location. China views this region as a critical link in their One Belt One Road initiative. Arctic nations are reopening old bases, moving forces, and reinvigorating regional exercises. These trends will persist in the decades ahead. We must continue to operate forward and posture our forces appropriately.”

The other very few references to the region relate to the geostrategic impact of receding sea ice there, China’s construction of polar icebreakers and other vessels “at alarming speed”, and Beijing’s alleged ambitions to exploit its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) for the purpose of “enabling its forces to operate farther from its shores than ever before, including the polar regions”. There’s also a brief mention of the Coast Guard’s planned acquisition of the “Polar Security Cutter”, but these are the only times that the Arctic or polar regions are mentioned in the doctrine. Nevertheless, they’re sufficient for proving that this is an emerging theater of Great Power rivalry.

Provocative Proposal

What’s so concerning about all of this is that the “Advantage at Sea” doctrine makes a very provocative proposal about the US’ naval posturing across the world, including the Arctic considering its inclusion in the document. The most worrying one involves the observation that “Activities short of war can achieve strategic-level effects”, which is exploited as the basis to claim that “Operating our naval forces far forward—in harm’s way and in contested environments— raises the risks for rivals considering the path of escalation and prevents crisis from escalating into war.” This is supposedly intended to preemptively thwart Russia and China’s “likely attempt to seize territory before the United States and its allies can mount an effective response—leading to a fait accompli”, but it in reality creates the conditions for nuclear war in the worst-case scenario that this reckless move leads to one by miscalculation.

Biden’s Brinksmanship

President-elect Biden will therefore inherit what might perhaps be the US’ most dangerous military doctrine ever of deliberately putting its naval forces in harm’s way for the supposed purpose of “preventing (a) crisis from escalating into war.” In other words, it seeks to provocatively insert US naval forces into the center of a crisis with the expectation that no one will dare to fire upon them otherwise they’d risk triggering nuclear war. This brinskmanship is extremely dangerous and can theoretically play out anywhere across the global ocean, but its potential occurrence in the Arctic could very easily come to involve both of America’s nuclear-armed rivals considering that this is the only place in the world where they have very close overlapping interests as was earlier explained. Since the US is thought by some to already be far behind on this front, it might therefore resort to such desperate measures for the purpose of forcing concessions from its rivals or risking nuclear war.

Concluding Thoughts

The US Navy’s “Advantage at Sea” doctrine doesn’t auger well for global peace, especially considering the fact that it proposes a policy of what can only be described as de-facto nuclear brinskmanship by deliberately inserting its forces into the center of a crisis with Russia and/or China for supposed “de-escalation” purposes. The Arctic Ocean is the point of convergence between all three parties’ naval interests, which thus makes it the theater in which this policy could have the most destabilizing effect. While it’s true that the US could employ it in the Baltic, Black, or South China Seas, none of those would risk involving its other Eurasian rival and thus provoking a truly global crisis like if this played out in the Arctic. America might even prioritize this if it thinks that its nuclear war bluff could lead to the regulation of military forces there since it’s so far behind Russia in this theater that thus stands to gain the most by reverse-engineering that outcome.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: US, Russia, China, Arctic, Brinksmanship, Biden, Trump.


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Western Sahara Is Extremely Important For The Anti-Imperialist Cause

Western Sahara Is Extremely Important For The Anti-Imperialist Cause

16 DECEMBER 2020

Western Sahara Is Extremely Important For The Anti-Imperialist Cause

Most folks never heard about Western Sahara until Trump unilaterally recognized Morocco’s claims to this disputed region of the Maghreb last week in exchange for it agreeing to a peace deal with “Israel”, but it’s actually extremely important for the anti-imperialist cause since its standing is similar to Palestine and Kashmir’s in the eyes of international law.

Trump’s unilateral recognition of Morocco’s claims to the disputed Maghreb region of Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat formalizing its long-held and not-so-secret ties with Tel Aviv caught many observers by surprise who previously weren’t familiar with this unresolved conflict. Palestine and Kashmir are much more globally prominent because of the involvement of nuclear powers and the efforts of some to focus more on the inter-religious optics of these conflicts than their international legal origins. Western Sahara satisfies neither of those two “exciting” criteria, hence why it’s largely been forgotten about by most of the world since the issue first came to the fore of international politics in the mid-1970s.

Francoist Spain’s “decolonization” process saw the totalitarian country refuse to grant independence to the Western Sahara, instead dividing it between neighboring Morocco and Mauritania against the wishes of the indigenous Sahrawi people as represented by the Polisario Front. This group in turn proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic with the support of neighboring Algeria, which has an historic rivalry with Morocco and was also sympathetic to socialist causes such as this one during the Old Cold War. Mauritania eventually abandoned its claims to the disputed region, and after over a decades’ worth of fighting, Morocco and the Western Sahara reached a UN-backed agreement in 1991 to hold a referendum on the region’s political status.

The vote never took place since the two warring sides couldn’t agree on who’s eligible to vote, with the primary problem being Morocco’s insistence on letting settlers participate. Western Sahara is also de-facto divided by a sand wall that the occupying army built to solidify its control over approximately 80% of the territory. With Trump’s unilateral recognition of Rabat’s claim to the entire region (which might eventually be followed by others such as “Israel”), as well as his government’s subsequent decision to move forward with a $1 billion arms deal, it’s extremely unlikely that last month’s end of the 29-year ceasefire will result in any serious gains being made by the Polisario Front.

Russia denounced the US’ political decision as illegal under international law, which is an entirely accurate assessment, but this isn’t expected to have any tangible effect on altering the conflict’s dynamics. Only Algeria could potentially have an impact, but its ongoing domestic political problems over nearly the past two years have forced it to suddenly look inward instead of continue with its traditional policy of presenting itself as a regional leader. Moreover, the US’ planned arms deal might ultimately shift the regional balance of power in a decisive way, especially if “Israel” gets involved too, or at the very least spark a new arms race between Morocco and Algeria as the latter looks to Russia and China for more military support in response.

Amidst all of this, anti-imperialists shouldn’t ever forget the international legal importance of the Western Saharan cause. However one feels about the legitimacy of either side’s claims in the conflict, it’s nevertheless a UNSC-recognized dispute that’s supposed to be resolved by a referendum. The precedent of the US unilaterally abandoning its international legal obligations is disturbing and arguably also destabilizing, though it’s obviously doing this in pursuit of its own national interests as it subjectively understands them. The problem, however, is that this might embolden other claimants over different UNSC-recognized disputed territories across the world to double down on their maximalist positions, thus making it much more difficult to resolve those issues.

Another important point is that international law exists not solely for “moral” reasons like its most passionate supporters claim (since it’s obviously imperfect), but for practical ones related to the necessity of having predictable means to resolve international disputes in order to avoid unintentional escalations that could quickly evolve into larger and more uncontrollable conflicts. Unilateral maximalist claims by one party are troublesome, but they become even worse when they’re supported by self-interested external actors who might also have an ulterior motive to divide and rule the region in question like the US clearly does in the Maghreb, Mideast, and South Asia regarding Western Sahara, Palestine, and Kashmir.

The Western Saharan cause is therefore inextricable from the Palestinian and Kashmiri ones in the eyes of international law, which is why supporters of those two should stand in solidarity with their Sahrawi counterparts. The issue can only legally be settled by a referendum according to the UNSC regardless of one’s personal views towards the conflict, but since that has yet to happen and might very well never occur after Trump’s combined diplomatic-military support for Morocco’s claims gives Rabat no incentive to comply, observers can’t help but be concerned. The only way to remain consistent with supporting Palestine and Kashmir is to support Western Sahara’s UNSC-recognized right to a referendum.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Morocco, Western Sahara, Israel, Palestine, Kashmir, US, North Africa, Maghreb, Trump.


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Here’s How China Survived & Thrived During Four Years Of Trump

Here’s How China Survived & Thrived During Four Years Of Trump

The lesson to be learned is that aggression will always backfire and that cooperation is the only way forward in today’s complex world.

The past four years of US President Trump’s time in office were very challenging for China, ye the country managed to not only survive, but even thrive despite the American leader’s best efforts to thwart its rise. It’s important to study how the People’s Republic managed to succeed in spite of all the obstacles that Trump placed in its path. The resultant insight will show the world that China’s leadership accurately understood the elements of the American challenge and accordingly took the most effective measures to counter them.

Chinese-American relations over the past four years are most popular described against the context of Trump’s trade war, which he decided to wage with the intent of crippling what he wrongly believed was the economic foundation of China’s rise. It’s true that bilateral trade played an enormous role in China’s modern-day development over the past four decades, but the country sought to diversify from its erstwhile dependence on this for pragmatic reasons through the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) that Chinese President Xi unveiled in 2013.

While Trump did make some attempts to obstruct BRI, he focused much more on trying to directly harm the domestic Chinese economy out of the mistaken belief that any externally provoked destabilization thereof through the trade war would catalyze a chain reaction through the global Silk Road network. This was perhaps the most fundamental flaw in his strategy (apart from the obvious one of even waging such an economic war in the first place) because it proves that he completely underestimated the strength of the Silk Roads.

Trump also took a while to realize that China’s economy had diversified quite a lot throughout the past decade and that it was therefore capable of absorbing the artificial shock that the trade war was intended to produce. Once this became unquestionably obvious to him, he tried to expand the trade war into the technological sphere by attempting to curtail the activities of companies such as Huawei, TikTok, and WeChat, albeit to little avail. Those companies are giants in their respective fields and cannot be easily contained.

Again, as the case study of Huawei shows, China had already diversified its economy through the establishment of dozens of new foreign partnerships over the past decade to the point where a system of complex interdependence between the People’s Republic and the rest of the world had already started to take shape. The simple truth is that everyone increasingly needs one another and that only the US and a few of its closest allies are the odd countries left out of this mix due to their increasingly rogue behavior.

As global trends began to suddenly shift in the anti-globalization direction with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump was unexpectedly filled with false hope that he might finally dismantle the Silk Roads and their associated supply chains. Alas, this wasn’t meant to be since the Chinese economy recovered earlier than anyone else’s and subsequently became the engine for revitalizing the global economy. Understanding its responsibility to the rest of the world, China unveiled its new development paradigm of dual circulation.

This model more effectively manages globalization processes for everyone by strengthening the complex interdependence between the Chinese economy and the rest of the world. Circulation within the Chinese domestic economy will drive more foreign direct investment into the country, which will in turn stimulate the global economy’s recovery. This isn’t just wishful thinking either but will be actively practiced in the Asia-Pacific after the recent Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was agreed to by 15 regional states.

Lo and behold, the US found itself outside of the world’s largest trade bloc, and all because of its own counterproductive policies. By being so obsessed with crippling China’s economy, Trump was blinded to the reality that he was actually crippling America’s own. The US is now ironically just as economically isolated as it hoped that China would be by this time, and it’s no one’s fault but Trump’s. The lesson to be learned is that aggression will always backfire and that cooperation is the only way forward in today’s complex world.

EgjymzKXcAEZe3b 

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

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