New Silk Road infrastructure projects could bring back a peaceful and prosperous Eurasia
The geopolitical focus of the still young 21st century spans the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf all the way to the South China Sea alongside the spectrum from Southwest Asia to Central Asia and China.
That happens to configure the prime playing ground, overland and maritime, of the New Silk Roads, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The epicenter of global power shifting East is ruffling feathers in some US political circles with a proliferation of parochial analyses ranging from Chinese imperial overstretch to Xi Jinpings Chinese Dream provoking nightmares.
The basic argument is that Emperor Xi is aiming for a global power grab by mythologizing the New Silk Roads.
The BRI is certainly about Chinas massive foreign exchange reserves; the building know-how; the excess capacity in steel, aluminum and concrete production; public and private financing partnerships; the internationalization of the yuan; and full connectivity of infrastructure and information flows.
Yet the BRI is not a matter of geopolitical control supported by military might; its about added geopolitical projection based on trade-and-investment connectivity.
The BRI is such a game-changer that Japan, India and the Quad (US, Japan, India, Australia) felt forced to come up with their own alternative, much-reduced mini-BRIs whose collective rationale essentially lies in accusing the BRI of revisionism while emphasizing the need to fight against Chinese global domination.
The basis of the Trump administrations Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, introduced in October 2017, was to define China as a hostile existential threat. The National Security Strategy (NSS) and the National Defense Strategy (NDS) amplified the threat to the level of a new doctrine.
The NSS states that China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. The NSS accuses China and Russia of wanting to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests. It also accuses Beijing of seek[ing] to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region and of expand[ing] its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others.
The NDS states that Beijing seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.
Thats the new normal as far as multiple layers of the US industrial-military-surveillance-media complex are concerned. Dissent is simply not permitted.
Time to talk to Kublai Khan
Revisionist powers China and Russia are regarded as major double trouble when one delves into the direct link between the BRI and the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). The EAEU is itself one step ahead of the Russia-China strategic partnership announced in 2012, crucially a year before Xi announced the BRI in Astana and then Jakarta.
At the BRI forum in Beijing in May 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin solidified the notion of a greater Eurasian partnership.
The Russian pivot to Asia started even before Maidan in Kiev, the referendum in Crimea and subsequent Western sanctions. This was a work in progress along multiple sessions inside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BRICS and the G-20.
Kazakhstan is the key link uniting BRI, EAEU and the SCO. Russia and Kazakhstan are part of one of the top overland connectivity corridors between East Asia and Europe the other going through Iran and Turkey.
Xinjiang to Eastern Europe by rail, via Kazakhstan and Russia, now takes 14 days and soon will drop to 10. Thats a major boost to trade in high value-added merchandise paving the way for future BRI high-speed rail able to compete head-on with low-cost maritime transport.
As for Moscows drive to be part of the BRI/EAEU economic connectivity, thats only one vector of Russian foreign policy. Another one, as important, is enhanced German-Russian trade/investment relations, a priority also for German industrialists.
China for its part is now the top foreign investor in all five Central Asian stans. And its crucial to remember that Central Asia is configured not only by the five stans but also by Mongolia, Xinjiang and Afghanistan. Thus the SCO drive to solve the Afghan tragedy, with direct participation of major players China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran.
The BRI strategy of forging a pan-Eurasian connectivity/logistical grid naturally poses the question of how Beijing will manage such an open-ended project. The BRI is not even in its implementation phase, which officially starts next year.
Its useful to compare the accusations of revisionism with Chinese history. When Marco Polo reached the Yuan court in the late 13th century he saw a multicultural empire thriving on trade.
It was the Silk Road trade routes and not the projection of military power that epitomized Pax Mongolica. The 21st century Pax Sinica is its digital version. Is Xi a new emperor or a post-modern version of Kublai Khan?
The Yuan dynasty did not control Persia, Russia or India. Persia, a superpower then, linked the Nile, Mesopotamia and the Indus with trade with China. During the Tang Dynasty in the 8th and 9th centuries China also had projected influence across Central Asia all the way to northeastern Iran.
And that explains why Iran, now, is such a key node of the BRI and why the leadership in Tehran wants the New Silk Roads solidified. A China-Russia-Iran alliance of Eurasia integration interests cannot but rattle Washington; after all, the Pentagon defines all those geopolitical actors as threats.
Historically, China and Persia were, for centuries, wealthy, settled agricultural civilizations having to deal with occasional swarms of desert warriors yet most of the time in touch with each other because of the Silk Road. The Sino-Persian entente cordiale is embedded in solid history.
And that brings us to what lies at the heart of non-stop BRI dismissal/demonization.
Its all about preventing the emergence not only of a peer competitor, but worse: a New Silk Road-enabled trade/connectivity condominium featuring China, Russia, Iran and Turkey as powerful across the East as the US still remains across the much-troubled Western Hemisphere.
That has nothing to do with Chinese neo-imperialism. When in doubt, invoke Kublai Khan. (Asian Times)
Photo Credit : Reuters
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Russia to reveal ‘mystery plane’ at MAKS 2021
After months of speculation, that something top secret and special was happening at Russiaâs United Aircraft Corporation, the countdown has begun.
UAC, part of the Russian state corporation Rostec, has teased the reveal of a new fighter jet on July 20, 2021, on the first day of the MAKS 2021 International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky, Aerotime Hub reported.
The upcoming aircraft, dubbed âCheckmate,â could be a light fighter jet âwith a supersonic speed capability and low radar signature,â a source told Russian news agency TASS.
And according to a newly released trailer (attached below), this aircraft could be mainly oriented towards export.
âRussia is one of the few countries in the world with full-cycle capacities for producing advanced aircraft systems, as well as a recognized trendsetter in the creation of combat aircraft,â a Rostec spokesman commented.
âThe new product developed by UAC specialists should arouse genuine interest not only in our country but also in other regions of the world, including our competitors abroad.â
In teasing its release, a press statement by Rostec gave props to Russia as one of the few countries in the world which had âfull-cycle technologies for the production of advanced aircraft systems.,â Newsweek reported.
It says the upcoming unveiling will be of a âfundamentally new military aircraft.â
It also praised Russiaâs status as a world leader in âmaking combat aircraft,â suggesting that the new plane could be a fighter jet.
âWe are convinced that the new product developed by UAC specialists will arouse genuine interest not only in our country but in other regions of the world, including our competitors abroad,â the statement added.
Chess is a motif of the aircraftâs promotion which is surrounded by mystery.
At midnight Monday, the UAC website launched a countdown clock next to an image of a black knight chess piece. It invited web users to âturn the chessboardâ and view a 34-second trailer.
Adding to the intrigue is a tweet in Russian on the UACÂ TwitterÂ account that says: âeverything is easier than it seems. #checkmate. Something is planned.â
Meanwhile, Defenseworld.net noted that Rostec had previously said it was developing a single-engine fighter jet.
It reported that speculation also included other possibilities such as a down-sized Su-57, or a 4.5 generation jet to challenge the F-16 Viper and the Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Block III.Â
The War ZoneÂ also reported that the shadow of an aircraft over water in Rostecâs promotional video was similar to the Mikoyan MiG-35 multirole fighter jet.
There is strong speculation that Russia intends to do a hard sell with India.
For more than a decade, Russia has been attempting to sell the MiG-35 (NATO code name Fulcrum), an upgraded version of the MiG-29 fighter, to the Indian Air Force.
The Indian Air Force was apparently not impressed with the Fulcrum, but Russia has continued to describe India as a prospective buyer.Â
According to The Week Magazine, in May of this year, Russian news agencies reported the Sukhoi design bureau was developing aÂ single-engine fighter.Â
At the time, TASS had reported, âThe Sukhoi company is developing a single-engine light tactical plane with the take-off weight of up to 18 tonnes. The planeâs maximum speed will be above 2 Mach (twice the speed of sound).
âIt will also have super-manoeuvrability and improved take-off and landing performance, thanks to a thrust vector control engine âŠâ
If confirmed as a single-engine fighter, the new fighter could be considered the Russian counter to the US F-35 project, which has been developed with industrial partnerships with multiple nations such as the UK, Australia, Italy and Israel.
That would also make the âCheckmateâ name apt. Especially if the price point is much lower than the F-35 or other US and European fighter jets, currently being offered.
The 2021 edition of the MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon is to take place at Zhukovsky airport near Moscow from July 20 to 25, 2021.
Sources: Aerotime Hub, Newsweek, Defenseworld.net, The War Zone, The Week Magazine
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