A Pax Sinica takes shape in the Middle East

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neverfail
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A Pax Sinica takes shape in the Middle East

Post by neverfail » Wed Feb 03, 2021 7:57 pm

The emerging Sinocentric bloc of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan could leave America’s ally India isolated and weak

A “Pax Sinica” is emerging in the Middle East and Central Asia in plain sight, albeit unnoticed by American planners. The main brace of the strategic architecture is an emerging alliance between Pakistan, a Chinese economic dependency, and Turkey, which relies increasingly on China for financing and trade. Chinese media reported the Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Pakistan Jan. 12 to 13th as a key step towards such an alliance. And if Turkey and Pakistan ally, “Iran has no choice but to find a way to join the Turkish-Pakistan camp,” in the view of a Chinese military site reposted by NetEase.

I first raised the prospect of a “Pax Sinica” in the Middle East in 2013, and noted last year that a much-discussed (but so far only discussed) Sino-Iranian investment deal of up to $400 billion was “a move on a global game board in response to American efforts to hinder China’s breakout as a technological superpower.” The Turkey-Pakistan rapprochement of the past several months adds a new dimension to China’s ambitions in the region.

While America focused on the peace agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, China maneuvered among the only three Muslim states with significant military capacity and economic potential. The $2 trillion Belt and Road Initiative will provide the economic foundation for Chinese hegemony from the Indian Ocean to the Black Sea. The emerging Sinocentric bloc of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan will leave America’s ally India isolated and weak, Chinese planners believe. It’s geopolitics played on the principles of Go, whose object is to encircle and isolate the opposing pieces.
Does anyone have a subscription to AT Premium and would like to copy the rest of this essay onto this website?

Ellen
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Re: A Pax Sinica takes shape in the Middle East

Post by Ellen » Fri Feb 05, 2021 3:51 am

Judging from just this piece of the essay, my response would be the sort of response Spengler would have given in the old days, before he became so wrapped up in China's global ambitions.

Why would the Chinese or anyone else think that Chinese investment in the likes of Erdogan's Turkey or the Ayatollah's Iran or Pakistan will produce a worthwhile return on investment? Do the Chinese believe that pouring money with Chinese advisors into ideologically driven regimes necessarily produces good results?

Many developing countries in Africa and elsewhere are discovering that Chinese investment often produces shoddy results (partly the fault of the Chinese and partly of the recipient countries), which then do not generate enough income to allow payback of the debts incurred. This is a big problem now for many countries in the Belt and Road network.

Notice how the Russians have not invested much at all in the Iranian Shiite empire they have helped to facilitate, in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. It's not that they don't have the money. It's that they don't see a ROA (return on assets) in such miserably run and endemically unstable countries.

Spengler is correct in stating that these 3 Muslim countries are probably the only ones out of the 56 Islamic states in the OIC that have any potential at all to become economic (and military) powers. Nonetheless, potential power is not the same as actual power, and so far the actual power of Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan is not impressive.

I follow the Saudi press, in English, and it seems lately to be overpromoting the Crown Prince's grandiose plans for diversification of Saudi Arabia away from oil, and into a broader based productivity and prosperity. Not a single one of the white elephant plans that are being offered to foreign investors, however, strike me as being remotely doable. These are fantasies of a Crown Prince whose fate depends on turning Saudi Arabia into a productive modern, science-based country in the space of 10 years before its money runs out. You can just feel the money running out, like sand through an hour glass, and what has he produced, in his first 5 years. Not much.

Under the Ayatollahs, Iran will never be anything more than a miserable declining country, threatening its neighbors.

neverfail
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Re: A Pax Sinica takes shape in the Middle East

Post by neverfail » Fri Feb 05, 2021 2:16 pm

Ellen wrote:
Fri Feb 05, 2021 3:51 am
Judging from just this piece of the essay, my response would be the sort of response Spengler would have given in the old days, before he became so wrapped up in China's global ambitions.

Why would the Chinese or anyone else think that Chinese investment in the likes of Erdogan's Turkey or the Ayatollah's Iran or Pakistan will produce a worthwhile return on investment? Do the Chinese believe that pouring money with Chinese advisors into ideologically driven regimes necessarily produces good results?

Many developing countries in Africa and elsewhere are discovering that Chinese investment often produces shoddy results (partly the fault of the Chinese and partly of the recipient countries), which then do not generate enough income to allow payback of the debts incurred. This is a big problem now for many countries in the Belt and Road network.

Notice how the Russians have not invested much at all in the Iranian Shiite empire they have helped to facilitate, in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. It's not that they don't have the money. It's that they don't see a ROA (return on assets) in such miserably run and endemically unstable countries.

Spengler is correct in stating that these 3 Muslim countries are probably the only ones out of the 56 Islamic states in the OIC that have any potential at all to become economic (and military) powers. Nonetheless, potential power is not the same as actual power, and so far the actual power of Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan is not impressive.

I follow the Saudi press, in English, and it seems lately to be overpromoting the Crown Prince's grandiose plans for diversification of Saudi Arabia away from oil, and into a broader based productivity and prosperity. Not a single one of the white elephant plans that are being offered to foreign investors, however, strike me as being remotely doable. These are fantasies of a Crown Prince whose fate depends on turning Saudi Arabia into a productive modern, science-based country in the space of 10 years before its money runs out. You can just feel the money running out, like sand through an hour glass, and what has he produced, in his first 5 years. Not much.

Under the Ayatollahs, Iran will never be anything more than a miserable declining country, threatening its neighbors.
Well put, Ellen!

I wondered about Spengler's apparent confidence in the matter even as I read his essay. I knew from other sources that Ergodan's Turkey is teetering on the brink of economic collapse and that Iran and Pakistan are in no better shape. So I very much agreed with your take: but then I remembered the port of Gwador in Pakistani Baluchistan and it all became clear to me:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwadar_Port

I would estimate that there is nothing much in the Baluchistan hinterland to export; not nearly enough to justify such heavy Chinese investment - and the port is physically too far from the populous Indus River basin to serve Pakistan's most productive region. But the PRC does not seem to care or need to do so. Beijing has built an all weather highway across the Himalaya range from western China to terminate at Gwadar.

It is in other words a political investment - another link in China's geopolitical and geostrategic chain abroad.

The PRC government can order their banks to (as with Pakistan) continue to lend money as a lifeline to Iran and Turkey as well. Political investments do not need to return a balance sheet fiscal profit as long as they acheive the useful purpose of yielding China the strategic assets abroad that Beijing craves.
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Ellen, please do not blame Spengler for focusing a lot more on China than he used to. Bear in mind that globally China is now the big story and likely to become more so with then passage of the years. By comparison the Middle east, its concerns and squabbles is merely the little story. :)

Ellen
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Re: A Pax Sinica takes shape in the Middle East

Post by Ellen » Fri Feb 05, 2021 10:32 pm

NF,

I am not disagreeing with you that the rise of China is the big story nowadays. The question really is, which boats are going to rise with the Chinese tide? Or, in cliche form, does the rising Chinese tide lift all boats or some boats, and which specific boats?

The Soviet Union, in its hey day, made all sorts of "political" investments in countries that were basket cases and remained so under the centralized Leninist economic plan imposed on them by Soviet "aid". What was Soviet aid, actually? Mostly militarism, weapons, and a guarantee that a squalid, human capital-destroying regime would stay in place semi-permanently. Recall, this is how the wretched Ethiopian regime survived during the years of civil war with Eritrea and episodic famines every 10 years. Ethiopia is a boom country today largely because of Chinese investment.

The Chinese, by comparison, have not followed the Soviet playbook, mainly because they do not have an ideology to export. Also, because they are too closely tied in with the US economy to fight a real cold war like the Soviets did. The Soviets had an internal, largely autarkic economy that did not require trade with the US, except for wheat (which was a huge weak spot for the Russians). The Chinese, by contrast, are very dependent on exporting consumer goods to Western consumption-oriented societies. They cannot flourish economically without this trade, hence do not have a good cold war option right now.

The Chinese strong point is also their weak point. They must keep the Western consumer societies propped up in order to trade with them. Why China is investing in Pakistani infrastructure may be a political play against India to keep India down. Possibly. Edward Luttwak thinks India is the second main threat to Chinese world dominance (after the US), which is why the Chinese are trying to provoke the Indians across their border recently, and trying to encircle them via Pakistan with strategic but noneconomic investments. We'll see how that works out in the future.

Regarding Israel: China is investing a lot of money in Israeli infrastructure to bypass the Suez Canal ( with the Eilat to Ashdod rail link and upgrading Haifa port). This is now becoming controversial because of the US worry that the Chinese will steal Israeli intel that will hurt the US. But the Chinese are also investing in Israeli hi-tech which is second to none in innovation. The size of a country is not proportional to its contribution to knowledge-based industries. Israel bats way above its weight in hi-tech and biotech. The Chinese ambassador writes flattering op-eds every Israeli Independence Day about the Chinese-Jewish connection benefitting both ancient peoples, etc, etc., even while voting for the PLO at the UN, as in the old days. There is no Chinese investment in the Palestinian areas, though, only crocodile tears at the UN.

I agree though, that the Arab region is a wasteland, economically, and will become even more of one as the oil states run out of liquidity. Its strategic real estate, but not economically productive. Nonetheless, strategic real estate counts for something, as the Chinese understand, see discussion on Pakistan.

Thanks for your interesting observations.

neverfail
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Re: A Pax Sinica takes shape in the Middle East

Post by neverfail » Sat Feb 06, 2021 2:25 am

Ellen wrote:
Fri Feb 05, 2021 10:32 pm
NF,

I am not disagreeing with you that the rise of China is the big story nowadays. The question really is, which boats are going to rise with the Chinese tide? Or, in cliche form, does the rising Chinese tide lift all boats or some boats, and which specific boats?

The Soviet Union, in its hey day, made all sorts of "political" investments in countries that were basket cases and remained so under the centralized Leninist economic plan imposed on them by Soviet "aid". What was Soviet aid, actually? Mostly militarism, weapons, and a guarantee that a squalid, human capital-destroying regime would stay in place semi-permanently. Recall, this is how the wretched Ethiopian regime survived during the years of civil war with Eritrea and episodic famines every 10 years. Ethiopia is a boom country today largely because of Chinese investment.

The Chinese, by comparison, have not followed the Soviet playbook, mainly because they do not have an ideology to export. Also, because they are too closely tied in with the US economy to fight a real cold war like the Soviets did. The Soviets had an internal, largely autarkic economy that did not require trade with the US, except for wheat (which was a huge weak spot for the Russians). The Chinese, by contrast, are very dependent on exporting consumer goods to Western consumption-oriented societies. They cannot flourish economically without this trade, hence do not have a good cold war option right now.

The Chinese strong point is also their weak point. They must keep the Western consumer societies propped up in order to trade with them. Why China is investing in Pakistani infrastructure may be a political play against India to keep India down. Possibly. Edward Luttwak thinks India is the second main threat to Chinese world dominance (after the US), which is why the Chinese are trying to provoke the Indians across their border recently, and trying to encircle them via Pakistan with strategic but noneconomic investments. We'll see how that works out in the future.

Regarding Israel: China is investing a lot of money in Israeli infrastructure to bypass the Suez Canal ( with the Eilat to Ashdod rail link and upgrading Haifa port). This is now becoming controversial because of the US worry that the Chinese will steal Israeli intel that will hurt the US. But the Chinese are also investing in Israeli hi-tech which is second to none in innovation. The size of a country is not proportional to its contribution to knowledge-based industries. Israel bats way above its weight in hi-tech and biotech. The Chinese ambassador writes flattering op-eds every Israeli Independence Day about the Chinese-Jewish connection benefitting both ancient peoples, etc, etc., even while voting for the PLO at the UN, as in the old days. There is no Chinese investment in the Palestinian areas, though, only crocodile tears at the UN.

I agree though, that the Arab region is a wasteland, economically, and will become even more of one as the oil states run out of liquidity. Its strategic real estate, but not economically productive. Nonetheless, strategic real estate counts for something, as the Chinese understand, see discussion on Pakistan.

Thanks for your interesting observations.
We here in Australia have been trading with the PRC for the past half a century and the ongoing boom in our exports to them is like nothing we have experienced since our 1850'5 gold rush - which in its day was of a magnitute to match, even exceed, the better known California rush of 1848-50 in its socio-economic consequences. No other Western country has had as long or as posative an experience with them for at least 40 of those approx. 50 years. Yet over the past year or so they have been imposing selective sanctions on some of our exports (and doing other things to make life harder for us) and this has cost us plenty. In Beijing they object to certain of our foreign policy moves (like supporting our south East Asian neighbours in opposing their seizure of the South China Sea) so they are trying to use the threat of inflicting economic loss (i.e. compulsion) as a whip to thrash us into complying to their will.

The point is that from the demise of Mao (in 1976) until this new boy Xi Jinpeng gained dictatorial power in Beijing several years ago the PRC was ruled by a committee of top Communist Party officials who seemed content to let their country trade internationally in order to make their country and its people richer. But that has now changed. Their new ruler Xi has other ambitions. He wants China to enjoy global power at least to match that of the United States and eventually exceed it.

So yes, unlike the USSR they may not have an idealogy to project abroad but that does not stop them from craving to exercise raw power globally: just like Imperial Germany late in the 19th century which, having become the industrial heavyweight of Europe in a very short space of time then craved an Empire to match those of the British and French.

I know that you are very proud of Israel and its alleged prowess in IT but beware of becoming too smug (in your narrative I notice you already betray a leaning in that direction). The PRC does not believe in fair play or altruism. Their quintessimal ploy seems to be always softly-softly at first but eventually they end up issuing a "foreclosure" notice on those who become reliant on them.

That you will find is likely to be the fate of Ethiopia and when that day comes Ethiopia's current "boom" will turn into an almighty, debt ridden bust. Wait and see!

Which boats will rise?. In the end none of them. The PRC would far prefer to be a successful rent seeker on the rest of the World than a free trader with it. It has always been so. Bear in mind that unless you are Chinese then you are a foreign barbarian. Barbarian peoples traditionally are regarded there as fit only to be ruled and exploited by the ultra-"civilised" Chinese.

Ellen
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Re: A Pax Sinica takes shape in the Middle East

Post by Ellen » Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:23 pm

Thanks for your insights about the Chinese. I am sure you are right about the Chinese approach, if one looks at their historical behavior. And with 5000 years of history behind them, they are no flash in the pan. They have a long history and are aware of it and proud of it. Just as with the Persians, I would not expect them to change quickly or at all, even when they must change for their own good.

China will go into decline faster than people think, though, because of Spengler's favorite obsession - demographics. Their demographics resemble that of Europe and I believe they will end up becoming like Europe with all of its problems, as their population grows old, starts to shrink, and their dynamism starts to fade. Unlike Europe, they will not be able to import people fleeing from exploding or imploding hot spots to plug the demographic gaps. I don't see large numbers of nonChinese wanting to immigrate into China and learn a character language and contend with Chinese culture.

In the long run, India may rise in Asia as China is declining. And India is a whole different kettle of fish. It won't be a threat to anyone except its own Muslim citizens and neighbors. This will be known as "payback" for the past subjugation of Hindus at the hands of the Muslims, but shouldn't interest or disadvantage anyone from the Anglo or Euroworlds, except the PC crowd.

And regarding Israel: I am not worrying that the Chinese will turn out to be too clever for the Jewish State. Benjamin Netanyahu (I am voting against him in the upcoming election, FYI) showed what a small but ambitious country can achieve if it knows how to play the international politics game. He outmaneuvered almost all of his friends and enemies on the world stage, with the exception of Putin, where it looks like a draw, at present. Israel has lots of options and will not be dependent on Chinese investment money. Direct investment is flowing in from the US, China, India, Japan, Korea, a few countries in Europe, and now the Persian Gulf Arab oil states. This is in addition to privately held wealth within Israel itself, which is now considerable.

Surprising to its many enemies and detractors, Israel is the only stable state and polity in the entire Middle East, even including Iran and Turkey. All roads eventually will lead to Jerusalem, and united Jerusalem will never be in any hands other than those of its original founders (ie, it will not be repossessed by either the Chinese or the Arabs or Persians). I am not worried about the future. And, Australia is one of Israel's most loyal friends. Much appreciated.

Jim the Moron
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Re: A Pax Sinica takes shape in the Middle East

Post by Jim the Moron » Sun Feb 07, 2021 12:51 am

"All roads [in the ME] eventually will lead to Jerusalem."

That is evident now, and forever will be. Deal with it, folks.

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