#1640 China Explained: From Cars to Computer Chips, Communism to Carbon Emissions, the South China Sea to Space, Communications to COVID, and Clinton to Biden (Transcript)

Air Date 7/5/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left Podcast. China is an undeniable force in the world relating to several major political issues, and to address their influence without a deep understanding of the history, context, and current dynamics would be to invite 100 years of humiliation. 

Sources providing our top takes today include More Perfect Union, Siming Lan, the Financial Times, Our Changing Climate, TLDR News Global, Wendover, and Johnny Harris. Then, in the additional deeper dives half of the show, there'll be more on China's economic foreign policy, the EV wars, the tech and space race, and escalating tensions.

Joe Biden's Radical Worldview - More Perfect Union - Air Date 6-27-24

NARRATOR: In 2000, Clinton normalized trade relations with China, supporting the country's entry into the World Trade Organization. 

ALAN GREENSPAN: The addition of the Chinese economy to the global marketplace will result in a more efficient [00:01:00] worldwide allocation of resources and will raise standards of living in China and its trading partners.

ROBERT REICH: Chinese exports flooded America and really were responsible for a large percentage of the losses of manufacturing jobs in the United States. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: And when the jobs disappeared, the shops, the banks, the people, disappeared too. 

NARRATOR: Between 1998 and 2021, the US lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs due to trade policies.

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: There's no future here with 75 percent of your refrigerators being built in Mexico. 

They promised basically jobs for our kids if they wanted them. That's not happening. 

RANA FOROOHAR: There was a real Faustian bargain that was made in the 1990s onward. We outsourced our entire industrial commons in exchange for cheap stuff.

We decided to stop making things and start consuming things. 

One of the [00:02:00] beauties in some ways of the neoliberal system, at least for those that were buying into it, is that it was simple. As long as share prices were going up and consumer prices were going down, there was no problem. As long as companies were getting richer, things were supposedly fine.

NARRATOR: Amidst all of that wealth creation, America's middle class saw its share of national income decline. 

RANA FOROOHAR: That's the sort of dirty little secret of neoliberalism, which is that, yeah, the pie got bigger, but fewer people got a slice of it. 

All the things that make us middle class: education, health care, housing, the price of these things didn't go down. Indeed, the price of these things rose. At the same time you get a lot of cheap consumer goods, you also get a cost of living crisis. So it's a very dangerous paradox. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: Please welcome the next [00:03:00] president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump! 

TODD TUCKER: It took, I think, essentially the 2016 election, where both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump critiqued that mainstream view for policymakers in Washington to really wake up to the reality of what they had wrought.

DONALD TRUMP: They say Trump is starting a trade war. I say, no, the trade war ended a long time ago, and the United States lost because our leaders didn't take care of our people and our companies. The era Of global freeloading and taking advantage of the United States is over, it's just over. 

RANA FOROOHAR: There was a kind of a "coming to Jesus" moment under Trump, but the problem with the Trump administration is it didn't have any policy prescription for the US itself. It simply said, China's bad, we're going to slap tariffs on China. 

NARRATOR: But at the same time, another, more ambitious policy plan [00:04:00] was being developed elsewhere. A senior advisor to Hillary Clinton was shaken by the loss in 2016. He traveled to Ohio, Colorado, and Nebraska to talk to Americans from across the political spectrum.

The result was a report, "Foreign Policy for the Middle Class," co-authored by Jake Sullivan. 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: My national security advisor, I choose Jake Sullivan, and it helps steer what I call a foreign policy for the middle class. 

RANA FOROOHAR: Biden comes in and says, we need an entirely new philosophy of growth. 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Is based on a simple premise that will reward work, not wealth, in this country. 

RANA FOROOHAR: He's created what some people would call Bidenomics, what some people would call a post-neoliberal world. 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don't buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past. 

RANA FOROOHAR: What this means is that he's decided to prioritize not just share prices and not just consumers, but jobs, [00:05:00] incomes, communities.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Today, we're getting to work to rebuild the backbone of America, manufacturing unions, the middle class. 

NARRATOR: Over the past four years, The Biden administration has quietly translated that worldview into a multi-trillion-dollar set of policies. 

TODD TUCKER: You have to go back to the 50s when the statistics were created to find anything comparable to the level of manufacturing investment that we see right now.

NARRATOR: That investment can be broken down into three pieces of legislation: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, 

a massive infrastructure bill, 

the Inflation Reduction Act, 

helping to fuel a boom in clean energy all across the United States, 

and the Chips and Science Act, 

RANA FOROOHAR: boosting domestic semiconductor production.

We have not seen an infrastructure program this big since the Eisenhower era. We haven't seen ambition that government could do this much, I would argue, since FDR. 

NARRATOR: Under Biden, investment in manufacturing construction has surged to more than triple the average rate of the [00:06:00] 2010s. And those investments are flowing disproportionately to counties where unemployment is highest.

TODD TUCKER: It could be ultimately trillions of dollars that get invested in the economy, targeted not at what private industry is focused on in recent decades, like stock buybacks and other policies that redistribute income upwards. Instead, we're seeing companies invest in real places with real workers for the first time in generations.

MORE PERFECT UNION REPORTER: How's it been? How's it impacted your life? 

WORKER 1: Man, tremendously. My life completely changed, man. I got things now that I never thought I could have. 

WORKER 2: Now we're in a position to where we have 19-, 20-year-old people that are working and are thinking about their future. 

WORKER 3: It set you up for the future, medical, dental, vision, pension, something to fall back on when it's all over with.

NARRATOR: After decades of stagnating wages, these investments are creating well-paid jobs with good benefits. And that's by design. 

TODD TUCKER: There's something called the Investment Tax Credit that's a part of the Inflation [00:07:00] Reduction Act. 

NARRATOR: Think of it like layers in a cake. 

TODD TUCKER: What it does is say that the public sector will help businesses cover 6 percent of their capital costs if they are just investing in a clean energy technology that we find interesting.

But you can get five times that amount if you're also paying prevailing wages, and running apprenticeship programs. You can get an additional 20 percent of that if you're investing in a low income community, 10 percent if you are investing in a community that's been historically reliant on the fossil fuel industry, and an additional 10 percent on top of that if you are using Made in America supply chains.

If you take all of the layers in the cake, companies could see up to 70 percent of their capital costs covered. 

NARRATOR: These types of policies are an attempt to shift companies away from the financial logic that has dominated corporate behavior for decades. 

TODD TUCKER: Take an example like Cleveland Cliffs. This is one of the country's premier steel manufacturers. In recent decades, they've engaged a lot in stock buybacks, to [00:08:00] reward their shareholders. Now they're working with the United Steelworker Union to build clean steel in places across the country. 

NARRATOR: But in a global economy built by decades of free trade, what's to stop jobs like these from getting wiped out again?

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: You're about to get a clear view of China's capacity to build. 

This is a really big moment for the global economy. 

NARRATOR: The US has accused China of a practice called dumping: flooding the market with a surplus of goods, like electric vehicles or solar panels, at artificially low prices. 

JANET YELLEN: We've seen this story before. When the global market is flooded by artificially cheap Chinese products, the viability of American firms is put into question. 

NARRATOR: China has that surplus in part thanks to years of careful planning and massive government subsidies. But weak environmental and labor standards are also a factor.

TODD TUCKER: The worry is that if we are just importing the lowest cost [00:09:00] products, that it will undermine labor standards here at home, and undermine the US economy. 

NARRATOR: Biden has kept Trump's China tariffs in place and recently announced new tariffs on Chinese goods. 

RANA FOROOHAR: I thought Trump was right to put tariffs on China. I think Biden was right to continue them, not for punitive reasons, but because within the current system, China is not playing by the rules 

NARRATOR: of the game.

The Biden administration's tariffs on China are targeted in the same sectors where it's investing at home, like steel, semiconductors, and clean energy. The goal is to protect the jobs created in those sectors from being undercut by cheaper imports. 

RANA FOROOHAR: You simply cannot say, I'm going to outsource the entire clean energy transition to one country and not have any of those jobs in my own country and expect there to be a country left after that.

Just like it took 40 years for neoliberalism to play out, it's going to [00:10:00] take many years and even decades for the post-neoliberal era to play out. You look at, for example, in upstate New York, what's happening with the building of a semiconductor industry from the ground up. That's a 10-year process. 

Big sea changes, like the one we're going through, are complicated. They're complicated to message. 

It's hard to say we're moving from one political economy to another. That's not something that you message on Fox or MSNBC. 

NARRATOR: Biden's new economic worldview hasn't been at the center of most political coverage. Instead, we get coverage like this. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: During his speech, the president made a gaff, saying, quote, Let me start off with two words.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Made in America. Made in America. 

NARRATOR: But there is a coherent policy experiment happening here: a response to decades of neoliberal economics. Whether voters choose to continue that experiment could dramatically shape the future of the American [00:11:00] economy. 

TODD TUCKER: So I think after one term of Trump and one term of Biden, we have a decent sense of how they're going to govern.

Trump broke with the neoliberal era when it came to trade. But he kept in place a lot of neoliberal policies like cutting taxes for the rich and deregulation. 

ROBERT REICH: We've tried neoliberalism. What happened during those 45 years was that wages stagnated, Wall Street exploded, big banks got bailouts. Most Americans really came out on the short end.

And it pains me to say this because I was part of previous administrations. I was in the Carter administration. I was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. I think that these administrations accomplished a lot of good things. But, looking back historically, those administrations did not change the neoliberal consensus.

Joe Biden is changing it.

Why China Doesn't Identify with the West, Explained - Siming Lan - Air Date 9-23-22

SIMING LAN - HOST, SIMING LAN: A question that I got asked the most when I was living in England was: How [00:12:00] do you feel about China's CCP? And as a citizen, how could you put up with a dictatorship and not want to do anything about it? I always felt tongue-tied at the question because I could totally see where people came from. 

PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: The process of democratization 

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: with China's leaders about our deep concerns over religious freedom and human rights. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The progress of those countries in the former Soviet bloc that embraced democracy stand in clear contrast to those that did not. 

SIMING LAN - HOST, SIMING LAN: On an intuitive level, I just knew China was different. But at the time, I couldn't put that in words other than telling people, well, I really wish you get to know China a little bit better.

And that is why in this video, I take it upon myself to explain why China's one party authoritarian rule gained so much consensus among Chinese people; and more importantly, why China seems so resistant to the criticisms from the West when it comes to its political system.

Before I do that, I just want to first point out the value and the thought tradition in the West because that is really important [00:13:00] to understand China and why we have such a big difference. Stay with me here, it will get more interesting. 

For those of you who live in a western democratic society, people tend to have a more independent and autonomous understanding of a person. People are born with natural rights and they have all the freedom to pursue what they want to do, given that they don't harm the interests of other people. If we dig a little bit further, this thought tradition can date back all the way to people like Hobbes, as he famously argued in Leviathan, "I authorize and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition: that thou give up thy right to him, and authorize all his actions in like manner."

Government exists out of consent from people who voluntarily give up their rights so that the government can protect their long-term interests. And so politics is about administering justice and securing human rights. 

The West's concern with the legitimacy of government is furthered by liberal [00:14:00] thinkers like Locke and social contract theories like Rousseau and Tocqueville. These people provide a plethora of intellectual foundation to make sure that the state does not have absolute state power. And that is why in the UK, neither the parliament, nor the judiciary, nor the monarchy has absolute monopoly over political authority. And in America's Constitution, the Bill of Rights, it protects civil liberties like freedom of speech, human rights, private properties, and limit arbitrary state power.

Okay, here's the thing. In China, our political tradition and system remained pretty much the same until 1911 when Qing Dynasty fell apart. And that was only because Chinese people finally realized that Qing government could not defend China from foreign invasion. 

For thousands of years, Chinese people had been living under an imperial system and an all-encompassing school of thought called Confucianism.

Back in the olden days, Confucianism is kind of like Christianity, but [00:15:00] nowadays in China, it is still permeating into every inch of the Chinese society, including politics. Unlike Hobbes and Locke, Confucius taught us to think of ourselves in relation to something else: our family, our society, our community, and our country.

We have a moral code called filial piety. Under this ethical code, children are supposed to be obedient to their parents, wives to their husbands, and people to their rulers. People higher up in the hierarchy are considered as a benign authority, which means that they are meant to take care of their subjects in terms of their well being and happiness.

So that's why when it comes to the ruler of the state, just as a father was expected to make decisions on behalf of his family, so too was the ruler expected to make decisions on behalf of his people. The ideal government for Confucius was government for the people, not of or by the people. 

Naturally, the legitimacy of the government falls [00:16:00] upon its ability to take care of its people. It includes things like economy, safety, and livelihood. If you look at the word "country" in the Chinese language, which consists of two characters, goa and ja; goa means state, and ja means family.

First, we have the state, and then we have families. Without the state, families cannot survive. And that is why, culturally speaking, Chinese people are so used to the idea of knowing your places instead of demanding equal political participation. In a word, we don't have the tradition of citizen participation and democratic ideals. And that predisposes us to accept a strong authoritarian government that uses tradition to bolster its rule. 

Okay, I know now you might be asking, but what about Taiwan? Taiwan is both Confucius and democratic. So they aren't necessarily incompatible, right? 

The second piece of the puzzle is found in the 20th century mainland China. And there's something really important to know. [00:17:00] After the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the time you called "the century of humiliation," China's top priority has always been state building and fighting off the imperialist powers. China at the time was still marred by territorial invasion from foreign powers, burden from all kinds of indemnities from the loss of war, civil strife among the warlords and a raging inflation. On top of that, China did not have a political system to protect its people and reunite the country. We tried the Republic of China in 1912. We also tried constitutional monarchy in 1916. Both of these did not work. Finally, we have two political parties with a bit of power and some vision to rebuild China: the Kuomintang, the GMD, and the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party. Both parties favored an authoritarian one-party government during the war, but for the GMD, Kuomintang, its goal is to use the [00:18:00] authoritarian government to rebuild the country and reunite people before it transitioned into a liberal democracy. For the CCP, its goal is to eliminate class struggle and create an egalitarian, classless Chinese society. Both parties didn't like each other and didn't really put their heart into building a coalition government. So they ended up going to a civil war after Japan was defeated.

At this point, you can safely assume that the direction China took had everything to do with the vision of the CCP. The party's leader, Mao Zedong, at this point was pretty much done with using democracy to save China. And in his famous piece, "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship," you can see this attitude.

From the time of China's defeat in the Opium War of 1840, Chinese progressives went through untold hardships in their quest for truth from the Western countries. In my youth, I too engaged in such studies. For quite a [00:19:00] long time, those who acquired the new learning felt confident that it would save China. But imperialist aggression shattered the fond dreams of the Chinese about learning from the West. It was very odd. Why were the teachers always committing aggression against their pupils? For him, the only path to restore China's greatness was to follow the path of the Soviet Union. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: Mao comes for help to his old Soviet comrades. He is a classic Marxist. He wants Soviet money, Soviet machines, Soviet technicians. A 30-year friendship treaty is signed. China gets a $300 million loan. Later will come machinery and advisors. 

SIMING LAN - HOST, SIMING LAN: Through revolutions to create a classless society and eradicate all the imperialist powers inside China.

In China's early state building, it basically copied the system of the Soviet Union, including its constitution, one party dictatorship, the Leninist centralism to ensure the CCP control, and the land reform to [00:20:00] abolish the private property. The rest is history. 

China is the way it is, not only because it has an intellectual foundation, but also it is a result of wars, trauma, self determination, and international influence. It is also a representation of the proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union. 

I know at this point you might want to argue with me and say, well, all of that doesn't quite excuse the fact that China has suffered so many catastrophes under the CCP government, things like the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution. You know, things like that would never happen in a democratic country, because we have process, we have system, we have accountability. That is a solid point. And I won't even defend it. We have a very flawed system. But we are only looking at how China came about, and why it is still existing, and how it makes sense to its people.

Which lends on to my last point, the reason why China seems so resistant to the [00:21:00] criticisms from the West when it comes to its policies in foreign affairs, politics and economy is because Chinese people share a very, very nationalist narrative towards the past. Remember the term "100 years of humiliation" I talked about when I mentioned the Chinese history, the time when China was invaded by foreign powers, and were suffering from war. That is a big, big part of our collective memory and how we remembered our solidarity. It goes something like this: China as the Zhong Guo, the middle kingdom, had once fallen from grace. And we Chinese people had struggled through the war. Finally, we achieved independence and supercharged our economy. That kind of makes us entitled to having our own values and systems and ways of doing things. It's the interplay of culture, of history and national grievances that make up the [00:22:00] consciousness of the Chinese people today. 

Yes, you can say it: we are proud, resentful and have a boulder of chip on our shoulder.

Has China's Belt and Road Initiative been a success? - Financial Times - Air Date 10-30-23

YUNNAN CHEN: In this period following the global financial crisis, the Chinese government pumps a huge amount of capital into a domestic economic stimulus. So you see massive infrastructure construction, a huge domestic investment in heavy industries. And around, 2011, You're already seeing excess capacity and a bit of an overheated economy. In this period is when we also see the government trying to push companies and exporters to go out to seek more lucrative, better returns in international markets. They also inject capital into China's policy banks and financial institutions, which enables them to provide the financing to support Chinese companies to win these contracts overseas. 

JAMES KYNGE - HOST, FINANCIAL TIMES: It's really extraordinary that over 10 years, nearly a trillion US dollars has been [00:23:00] lent by these Chinese financial institutions for some of the recipient developing countries. Has this made a really big impact? 

YUNNAN CHEN: We've seen huge railway projects, some mega projects as they're called, in the form of standard gauge railways in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya. High speed railways in Southeast Asia, in the case of Jakarta going through Laos. Also several port investments in Kenya, in Pakistan with the China Pakistan economic corridor. And in a lot of these places, this hard infrastructure is also tied into wider investments, a lot of which has also come from Chinese state owned enterprises and private companies.

So you see the establishment of industrial zones, which are trying to bring in greater foreign direct investment. 

JAMES KYNGE - HOST, FINANCIAL TIMES: And so really, that seems like there's been a lot of very positive activity. Have you seen, clear impacts on the ground? 

YUNNAN CHEN: Chinese investments have brought, local employment. They have increased incomes in some [00:24:00] areas, and they also have transform the landscape of cities across Ethiopia, across Africa, for example, in providing this much needed infrastructure. 

JAMES KYNGE - HOST, FINANCIAL TIMES: But there has also been quite a lot of controversy around the BRI. 

YUNNAN CHEN: Infrastructure overall is a very high risk sector. They're very, very long term investments. They take a very long time to really come to break even or to even make money. But what they do serve is a bit more of a public goods function. That said, there have been a certain number of Chinese projects that, have really struggled once constructed in making that economic rationale make sense.

JAMES KYNGE - HOST, FINANCIAL TIMES: What we read about now is that the Chinese government is having to bail out quite a few countries that were part of the BRI. One of the consultancies that we quoted in the Financial Times recently said that over the three years from 2019 to [00:25:00] 2022, the Chinese government was paying out 104 billion US dollars to bail out countries that had fallen down on borrowing through the BRI. How does China feel about being the lender of last resort to these developing countries? 

YUNNAN CHEN: I don't think China is necessarily bailing out the recipient countries rather than bailing out its own banks. In the end, a lot of this finance, it's lent to the borrowing country, but ultimately it goes back into paying China's policy banks or commercial banks. And in the end it is the Chinese contractors that benefit.

JAMES KYNGE - HOST, FINANCIAL TIMES: Well, that's a very interesting point. So in a sense, this money is being lent by China to prevent, defaults by countries to Chinese financial institutions that have lent to the BRI.

YUNNAN CHEN: Exactly. There's been a systematic issue of moral hazard with a lot of these infrastructure projects. You have borrowing countries that. [00:26:00] have wish lists of infrastructure projects that they want to construct. You have Chinese companies who want to win these contracts, and you have Chinese policy banks and financiers who want to support these companies to go out.

And so in all of this, we've seen a period of exuberance, particularly in the early part of the 2010s, and then a bit more of a pullback, particularly after 2016. The critical juncture is when China loses a quarter of its US dollar reserves after the 2015 stock market crisis. And after that, you really see a growing conservatism and a bit more of a pullback and a bit more of a reassessment of the risks the financial sector is taking overseas and also domestically. 

JAMES KYNGE - HOST, FINANCIAL TIMES: Going forward, do you think that the Chinese government is prepared to continue with these BRI bailouts? Are we going to see tens of billions of US dollars every year, being spent by the Chinese government to bail out these BRI projects, or are we going to see something different?

YUNNAN CHEN: Because of the way [00:27:00] in which these banks operate, they're also policy oriented institutions. What that has meant is that there's been a little bit of a kicking the can down the road approach when it comes to dealing with projects that are facing difficulties or borrowers who are struggling to repay the loans. Banks have generally been very unwilling to right down or make any kind of concession or debt relief that requires them to take a hit on their balance sheets. And in turn, I think what we've seen from the central bank is as well, trying to keep these financial institutions afloat and keeping them financially healthy so that they can continue to operate without having to agree to significant cuts or write downs in their portfolio.

Whether that's sustainable, I think, is to be seen. 

JAMES KYNGE - HOST, FINANCIAL TIMES: So what do you think comes now then? is China falling out of love with the BRI? Is China going to stop the lending, to the Chinese? [00:28:00] The BRI projects or are we already seeing actually a decline in the level of lending to BRI? What do you think the future holds for all of this?

YUNNAN CHEN: The impact of COVID, I think, was really already a tail end of a very dramatic decline in overseas official lending. And there's clearly been a bit more of a pullback and a greater risk aversion from China's policy banks, as well as the ability of China's policy insurer to finance and to underwrite this overseas lending.

I don't think this means the end of the BRI as a narrative, and certainly with the forum this month there is still a very top level political commitment to what the BRI represents in terms of China's relations and as a platform to engage with the global south and with developing countries. But the rhetoric has shifted already. We're seeing more mentions of small and beautiful projects, a greater emphasis on a green BRI that's more [00:29:00] sustainable and prioritizes cleaner, greener forms of infrastructure investment.

Why China Isn't the Problem - Our Changing Climate - Air Date 5-5-23

CHARLIE KILMAN - HOST, OUR CHANGING CLIMATE: Asia's most populous country is by far the world's biggest polluter. But here's a little secret, that wasn't always the case. For most of the last two centuries, ever since fossil fuels were siphoned out of the earth and burned into the air, China wasn't even on the map in terms of emissions.

England, and soon after the United States, spent most of the 19th century and all of the 20th century pumping millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere well before China did. Emissions that have locked the world into soaring past the maximum amount of CO2 we can release for 1.5 degrees and even 2 degrees Celsius of warming. Winds stacked up against those two centuries of emissions, China's pollution seems a little less intense. 

This doesn't mean that China's current trajectory isn't worrying, but instead that when we consider carbon emissions, we need to consider them cumulatively. Carbon dioxide can linger in the atmosphere for up [00:30:00] to 300 to 1,000 years. When we look at it from this perspective, the United States and Europe are the real culprits. They account for the most communal emissions since 1750. The United States alone is responsible for a quarter of all the world's historical emissions, while China has emitted just half of that. 

So as much as politicians in the United States like to point at China's current annual emissions and claim that the country has to be doing more, the reality is that the US and its European counterparts were the ones that dug us into this deep climate crisis hole in the first place. That being said, US emissions have been dropping, and it seems like they're handing off the shovel to China, who's now furiously digging us deeper into a hole of climate chaos.

In 2008, China had a smog problem. The Olympics were right around the corner and Beijing looked like this. There were days upon days when people couldn't go outside because the air quality was [00:31:00] too low. But when you glance back through history, China's smog problem was nothing new. Beijing looked very much like LA in 1955 or London in 1952.

But China wanted blue skies for the 2008 Olympics, and in an effort to lighten heavy pollutants spoiling the air, they tightened air quality standards and restricted car use around major cities, initiatives that they continued sporadically and then in force after 2013. This seems to have worked.

While it still exists, China's smog problem has certainly improved as a result, but the coal plants at the source of these dark clouds are still firing away. It's here, at the heart of the coal furnace, where China's emissions problems lie. Coal powers China. Plain and simple. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: China's projected to build as much as 1,230 gigawatts of new coal-fired power capacity until 2025.

CHARLIE KILMAN - HOST, OUR CHANGING CLIMATE: To fuel the massive increase in energy consumption over the last two decades, China has turned to mining and burning coal in its three [00:32:00] northern regions of Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, and Shaanxi. Deemed the coal triangle, these three provinces produce 70 percent of the country's 4 billion ton yearly coal output according to Carbon Breed. Coal that then gets shipped around the country to fuel heavy industry like steel production, as well as fuel the explosion of residential energy use. 

Because the fact of the matter is that China's energy use today is gargantuan. Taken all together, China's population uses 43, 791 terawatt hours of energy per year, which is almost double that of the United States. This coal soaked energy means that China's yearly emissions are substantial. China generated 11.47 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2021 alone, accounting for 27 percent of the whole world's emissions footprint. For perspective, the US accounted for 13. 5%. 

But here's the thing, China is also the most populous country in the world. It's home to almost four times more [00:33:00] people than the United States. So when you narrow down into emissions per person, China is actually pretty efficient. It ranks 48th against the per capita emissions of all other countries. The United States is 14th. So while China's overall emissions and energy use is certainly large, we can't ignore the fact that its people are creating significantly less impact than many other countries—especially if you factor in exports, because China is the factory of the world.

The carbon dioxide churning out of its coal plants is attached to phones and shirts that are bought up by Americans and Europeans thirsty for a good deal. As a piece from Carbon Brief notes, gleaning information from China's state media, the prefecture of Dongguan produces 1 in every 3 toys, 1 in every 5 smartphones, and 1 in every 10 pairs of trainers globally. So when we take exported goods out of the picture, China's emissions drop by 14%, while the United States footprint rises 7. 7%. 

But regardless of China's current emissions, per [00:34:00] person efficiency, or historical responsibility, the fact of the matter is, they are still on an unsustainable path. In part, this is due to their continued construction of bigger and bigger coal plants and expansion of oil pipeline infrastructure across the country, negating any renewable technology expansion, which we'll talk a little bit about later.

In a time when Chinese leadership needs to be doing the exact opposite, they are increasing fossil fuel output. Chinese coal production reached a record high in 2022. That is what's causing a graph like this. Emissions in China are still on the rise, and they need to be rapidly curbed in order to stave off catastrophic climate change, a fact which the Chinese government recognizes and actually seems to be acting on. The question is, are they doing enough? 

The Escalating Sino-Philippine South China Sea Dispute Explained - TLDR News Global - Air Date 6-26-24

GEORGINA FINDLAY - HOST, TLDR NEWS GLOBAL: The South China Sea is a 3.5 million square kilometre bit of sea that lies, unsurprisingly, south of China and Taiwan, in between Vietnam and the Philippines, and north of Brunei and Malaysia. It holds two groups of islands, the [00:35:00] Spratly Islands in the south and the Paracel Islands in the north. The dispute is basically a territorial dispute between those six countries about who has territorial rights in the area. And a lot of the tension revolves around China's somewhat expansive claim.

China claims historic rights to about 80 to 90 percent of the South China Sea via what's known as the Nine Dash Line, which is based on an unofficial 1936 map by Chinese cartographer Bai Meichu. China's claims are clearly inconsistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which China is a signatory, which defines a state's territorial zone as being 12 nautical miles from a state's coast, and it's exclusive economic zone as being 200 miles. For context, the furthermost point of China's Nine Dash Line is about 1200 miles from its shore. 

Obviously, China's claim has also generated some tension with other South China Sea countries, not just because it contradicts their own territorial claims, but also because, at the moment, each of the six South China Sea countries occupies at least one [00:36:00] island in the Spratlys or the Paracels, which they sometimes have to defend from Chinese aggression.

Now in the 1990s and 2000s, this wasn't really a problem, and the various countries didn't really fight over the islands. However, since about 2010, tensions have steadily escalated, largely because that's when the CCP started militarizing and developing the islands, including dredging the nearby seabed to artificially make them bigger.

Now the CCP weren't actually the first to do this. Vietnam and the Philippines, for example, had engaged in similar practices in the past. But the scale of the Chinese program is unmatched, and in the past couple of years, China has also begun developing previously unoccupied features, in violation of an agreement signed by the South China Sea countries in 2011.

The CCP's increasingly forward leaning policy here is probably a reflection of their growing anxieties about trade dependencies. For context, the South China Sea is the second most used sea lane in the world, after the Dover Strait, and something like 60 percent of China's total trade and 80 percent of its oil imports transit [00:37:00] through the region.

Anyway, Chinese policymakers have long worried about the possibility of a trade embargo cutting off their essential imports in the event of a conflict, and controlling the South China Sea mitigates these risks. Beijing's anxieties here have only been exacerbated by the US, which started performing what it describes as freedom of navigation exercises around the area in about 2013, and then stepped up their frequency under Trump. This basically involves US vessels sailing near or around features claimed by China, essentially exercising their rights under the U.N. Charter on the Law of the Sea and asserting the Charter's legitimacy by violating China's illegitimate maritime claims. It's worth noting that this is pretty hypocritical, because the US senate hasn't actually ratified the charter, but it still goes around enforcing it. 

Anyway, tensions have subsequently been on the rise ever since, but things have become especially dangerous between China and the Philippines in the past few months. The China Philippines dispute mostly centers around the second Thomas Scholl, which is basically a protruding [00:38:00] reef about 200 kilometers from Palawan, but more than 1,000 kilometers from China's southern Hainan island. The shoal is widely considered part of the Philippines, and an international tribunal in 2016 ruled that China had no legal rights to the shoal, which lies within the Philippines exclusive economic zone.

The shoal has been occupied by a contingent of Philippine marines since 1999, when the Philippines deliberately ran a World War II era ship called the Sierra Madre aground on the reef to reinforce its territorial claim. These marines have to be resupplied every month or so, and for the past few months, Chinese ships have been trying to interrupt these resupply efforts using increasingly violent tactics, including water cannons, lasers, and even melee weapons.

This is probably because China suspects the Philippines of secretly reinforcing the Sierra Madre, which is sort of falling apart. While Manila denies this, last week the FT reported that officials close to the situation had privately admitted that they had indeed reinforced it. This has provoked irritation from the CCP, which has basically been [00:39:00] waiting 25 years for the ship to disintegrate so they can nick the shoal.

Anyway, things came to a head on Monday last week, when the Chinese Coast Guard rammed a Filipino resupply boat while brandishing makeshift spears, which ended with one Filipino soldier losing their finger. It's not clear from the footage whether or not the Chinese Coast Guard actually boarded the Filipino ships, but comments by Filipino soldiers claiming that their weapons were seized suggests they did, at least temporarily. This would be an unprecedented escalation, but not entirely unforeseen, given that just last week Beijing published new regulations allowing its coast guard to both board and use lethal force against foreign ships in its claimed territorial waters. 

Now, Manila have since said that they don't quite consider the incident to be an act of war. And Filipino President Marcos Jr. has in the past said that it would require the death of a Philippine service member or citizen, "by a willful act", for the Philippines to declare war. 

Nonetheless, this is deeply worrying for two reasons. Firstly, the two sides are stuck in an escalatory spiral. [00:40:00] While they've committed to a bilateral negotiation on the issue sometime in July, it's hard to see these talks coming to a productive conclusion, given that neither side has shown any willingness to give up its territorial claim.

Secondly, the Philippines has a 70 year old mutual defense treaty with the US with a NATO style Article 5 clause. And if Manila did deem Beijing's actions to constitute war, it would oblige the US to get involved. In March, the US secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed that the treaty extended to the South China Sea, and last week, US secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed what he described as America's ironclad commitments to the Philippines. Whilst public comments suggest that China doesn't want war with the Philippines, let alone the US, and World War III still looks overwhelmingly unlikely, if the past few years have taught us anything, it's that escalatory spirals can be surprisingly hard to diffuse.

Why China's Economy is Finally Slowing Down - Wendover - Air Date 3-21-24

SAM DENBY - HOST, WENDOVER: From the perspective of China's central government, this did not appear to be the simple result of high demand clashing with constrained supply. After all, supply was at an all time high. [00:41:00] Almost a quarter of the country's housing units sat empty. There millions upon millions of completely habitable apartments bought and paid for but never inhabited. It just simply did not make sense for a country to simultaneously have some of the highest housing development rates in the world, some of the highest price growth rates in the world, and some of the highest housing vacancy rates in the world. Unless, of course, one considers the rather clear conclusion.

The value of housing had decoupled from its actual utility. It had become so attractive as a store of wealth that it was being traded based on its role as a financial asset, rather than its role as a place to live. This is a familiar and growing phenomenon across the wealthy world. Institutional investors are as involved in residential real estate as ever. But the extent of the issue in China was on another level. In 2018, a full 87% of home buyers already had another residence, indicating that, in a lot of cases, they were buying almost [00:42:00] solely as an investment. 

From the perspective of the central government, this presented two issues. The first was the obvious. Skyrocketing prices made it increasingly difficult for everyone but the country's rich to find a place to live, which, as anywhere, has downstream effects in contracting labor supply even where it's in high demand. But the second issue was the more pressing one. The rapid expansion in vacancy rates demonstrated that the sales prices of property were stretching far beyond their intrinsic value. The prices weren't supported by the actual utility of the housing itself, and they weren't even supported by constrained supply. Rather, they were almost fully supported by the belief that prices would only continue to rise further. That's to say, the housing market had formed into a bubble. So, to avoid letting it burst on its own, the only question was when and how to pop it.

The answer was August 2020. Then, the central government rolled out three red lines: [00:43:00] three rules the property sector would have to follow or else face severe growth restrictions. Each was about reining in financial risk. First, developers couldn't have more in liabilities than 70% of the value of the assets the company itself owns. Second, developers couldn't owe more in debt than the totality of what the company itself is worth in equity. And third, developers couldn't owe more in short term debt than what it has in cash at a given moment. Even if a developer did not violate any of the red lines, they'd be capped at 15% year over year growth in debt, while if they violated one, the cap would be 10%, two, 5%, and if they violated all three red lines, they couldn't grow their debt obligations at all. 

But these three red lines were far from a theoretical threat. Evergrande, after all, had a debt to liability ratio of 81% and a cash to short-term debt ratio of 67%. They were over-leveraged and short on cash, meaning they violated two red lines. And their net debt to equity [00:44:00] ratio was 99.8%, just a hair's breadth from the third red line. And thus, their cycles started to break. Evergrande had millions upon millions of apartments already sold to buyers, yet not completed. To pay builders and suppliers and others to complete these projects, they had to borrow more, yet faced with new restrictions due to their violation of the two red lines, they just simply couldn't. So, their cash reserves dwindled, their existing obligations remained the same, yet they had little ability to reverse course by launching new projects. And even if they could, the market had changed. 

China was both the first and last major economy with significant COVID restrictions. As much of the rest of the world regained a sense of normality, China elected to vaccinate its population with generally less effective, domestic-made, traditional vaccines, as opposed to the more effective, novel mRNA-based jabs used elsewhere. So, to quell the various outbreaks that still arose after widespread vaccination, the country [00:45:00] maintained far stricter COVID policies than the rest of the world. Overall, economic productivity declined, and therefore, the entire economy and each individual's finances took a disproportionate hit. Simultaneously, the country's migrant worker class reversed course.

Individuals who had previously moved from their rural hometowns to cities, seeking brighter economic prospects, returned home. During the pandemic, for the first time in recent history, the quantity of migrant workers in cities declined. While this was accelerated by lower demand for labor in cities during the pandemic, many also pointed to the high costs of housing as why the higher salaries in cities were no longer worth it.

And finally, decades of demographic change were catching up with the nation. The steady decades-long decline in birth rates meant those in China's notably young core home buying age, centered at 29 years old, were beginning to represent a smaller and smaller fraction of the overall population. Even if the overall population stayed steady, for the moment at least, the proportion likely to buy a [00:46:00] home had begun to shrink. 

So, Evergrande not only was prevented from taking on debt, it was also starting to struggle to generate money through additional sales of new projects. The two key money-generating stages in the cycle just were not working like they used to. But they still had debt to pay off and apartments to finish, so, backed into a corner, the company started rummaging for cash. Rather inexplicably, in 2018, it had established an electric vehicle manufacturing division that itself, perhaps even more inexplicably, included a major senior care division, but in 2021, it courted Xiaomi to see if they would buy a majority stake. Talks eventually stalled, and no sale was made. It also reportedly courted buyers for its stake in the championship winning Guangzhou FC soccer club, but considering Evergrande was losing millions of millions of dollars a year through that ownership, it also failed to sell. It was able to sell off its 18 percent stake in an entertainment joint venture with Tencent for $273 million, but this was ultimately a drop in the bucket [00:47:00] compared to what the company needed to right the ship.

So, ultimately, the death spiral began on Monday, December 6th, 2021, not with a bang, and not even with a whimper, but rather, with just simply nothing. That day marked the end of a grace period for already late payments on a set of bonds, but it came and went, without payment, or even an explanation of when payment might come. Then Tuesday passed with nothing more, and Wednesday, and by Thursday, with investors still unpaid, Fitch Ratings, one of the world's big three credit rating agencies, declared Evergrande in default. This was effectively the official, although largely ceremonial, signal to the financial world that they should not lend money to Evergrande, because they might not get it back.

As a property developer, a business model almost entirely centered around debt, default is pretty close to the end of the line. Even if the company could get loans, they'd be at such a high interest rate to offset the risks to the lender that the effective [00:48:00] cost of property development would be uncompetitive relative to the market. In fact, Evergrande did have an easier time than the average company in such a dire situation finding lenders, since many believed the company was too big to fail, such an instrumental part of the Chinese economy that the CCP would bail it out to avoid an economic crisis. 

But that bailout never came. After a year or two sputtering along, restructuring debt, shedding off assets, cost cutting, in January 2024, a court in Hong Kong determined that it was just simply impossible. Evergrande could not be saved, the cycle could not be restarted, and the only option was to strip it for parts and make creditors as whole as possible.

But the crux of China's challenge is that this isn't just an Evergrande issue. While it was the largest, most dramatic example highlighted in international media, the forces that slayed the giant are putting pressure on almost every single property developer. Country Garden, another giant, appears just [00:49:00] months behind Evergrande, and after years on life support, is teetering towards liquidation. Dozens of other developers are in default, and over a hundred billion dollars of debt payments from the Chinese property sector have failed to get paid. 

There are quite a number of forces putting pressure on the Chinese economy—their demographic shift, their deindustrialization, their increasing insularity—but the way the property sector has weaved itself so integrally through the nation means it serves to magnify every single one of those issues. At base, the fact that the sector accounts for an outsized portion of its gross domestic product means it simultaneously can account for an outsized drag on gross domestic product. But it also has a propensity for negatively impacting the demographics of people most central to China's economy. Stock market crashes, for example, have an impact on all, but impact those who have a higher portion of their income in the stock market most, which tends to be wealthier individuals and institutions.

The Chinese property sector, however, is a key [00:50:00] source of savings and investment for the nation's middle class. This demographic is the one most likely to have an outsized portion of their net worth tied up in a single Evergrande apartment that might now never exist. Money has just simply disappeared, and there's a gaping hole in the middle of the Chinese economy.

The Chinese property sector was always going to collapse. Its highly leveraged debt-fueled foundation was never strong enough to support itself in anything but the most gangbusters periods of growth. It was fundamentally flawed from the get go, so some sort of crisis always had to happen. So, what's happening in the Chinese economy is essentially a controlled demolition.

But this does represent a uniquely tenuous position for the central government. The Chinese social contract, unsaid but always understood, is that individuals sacrifice personal liberty in exchange for common economic prosperity. While dissent, of course, appears, since nobody truly gets a choice whether to make that trade off, a huge portion of the population [00:51:00] wholeheartedly believes in this social contract.

After all, it's hard to argue with the means when the end is 800 million people lifted out of poverty. But that's now history. If Xi Jinping can't deliver his end of the bargain, if the common economic prosperity wanes, then the question in everyone's minds is why they should have to deliver theirs.

Our New Global Economy - Johnny Harris - Air Date 12-20-23

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: People in the 90s would have never guessed what direction this story is about to go. The Soviet Union had just fallen. Free trade and global capitalism had unambiguously beat communism. And the magic of the free market was seen as the solution for pretty much everything.

Free trade had just ended global conflict between these great superpowers. Maybe forever. Free trade was eradicating global poverty. Free trade was pushing countries to adopt democracy. And here's Bill Clinton, giddy about how good it's all going, predicting that free trade would bring democracy to China.

BILL CLINTON: The more China liberalizes its economy, the more fully it will liberate the potential of its people. Their initiative, their [00:52:00] imagination, their remarkable spirit of enterprise. And when individuals have the power not just to dream, but to realize their dreams, they will demand a greater say. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: Free trade would prevent our age old human curse—war—by so deeply entangling countries in mutually beneficial deals that it wouldn't make sense to fight. After all, free trade had turned Europe from a continent ravaged by war to this tightly knit group where everyone's holding hands and smiling together. Why wouldn't this naturally just happen to the whole globe?

China continued to make stuff and send it to the United States. Our dependency on them and them on us continued to grow and that would surely prevent any conflict, right? Um, no. It's looking like that's not how it's what's going to turn out. In fact, it's kind of the opposite. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: The new tariffs from both sides went into effect earlier this morning.

The US has imposed 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. 

China is our military's most consequential [00:53:00] strategic competitor and pacing challenge. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: In a relatively sudden shift, governments around the world are undoing a lot of this globalization. This solution to all of our problems, they're rejecting it.

India is paying companies to keep their production within their own borders, especially for important industries like pharmaceuticals and electronics. South Korea is giving taxpayer money to companies to produce green energy infrastructure, instead of waiting for the free market to come build it. Japan is paying companies to move production back to Japan and to move their supply chains away from China.

Australia is using taxpayer money to encourage mining companies to establish the processing of rare earth mineral facilities within their borders instead of abroad. Nigeria is imposing restrictions on foreign goods that they want to see produced domestically, like rice and cement. They don't want to be reliant on other countries.

And then you've got Europe, where tons of countries are investing government money and protecting homegrown industries that have always been directed by the global economy, like energy, agriculture, and [00:54:00] cars. The government getting involved in these markets incentivizes companies and consumers to make and sell these products in-country as opposed to looking abroad at the global market.

And of course, leading out on all of this is the OG of the modern free market global economy—the United States—who is suddenly changing course from how they've been operating all the way up until, like, Obama. Like, Obama spent a great deal of his time trying to increase free trade, especially with Asia, then first under Trump and now under Biden, the US is overhauling its economic policy to turn back some of this free trade. And what's crazy is that both Republicans and Democrats seem to agree that we should do this. And fast. 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There is no reason. We have the capacity. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: Some of these policies include huge government spending bills like the CHIPS Act, which would allocate over 50 billion government dollars to companies that produce microchips here in the United States instead of in Asia where the free market had pulled them to set up.

This is also happening in other [00:55:00] industries that the government has deemed vital, like critical minerals, cars, and clean energy. But they're not just giving subsidies, like, it's not just government money washing down on all these industries. It's also barriers. Biden is imposing tariffs on imports, which protects domestic producers of certain industries because they no longer have to compete with the global market.

They're also banning American companies from selling certain products to China. They're increasing scrutiny on any investment that comes in from places like China. Like, this is a big shift. And the question is, what happened? How did we get from this—free trade heyday that was supposed to usher in world peace—to this?

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: Markets have been whipsawed all morning and now afternoon by this ongoing trade war with China. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: The short answer is one word, the answer to all of this: protection. 

Here's my list of four "protections" that best explain this big shift in economic policy. First, workers, which we already kind of talked about briefly with the [00:56:00] China shock. For all the winners of the global economy, there were lots of losers. And a lot of them were communities who found themselves out of work as their jobs went to cheaper overseas locations. Now, listen: economists argue as to how big of a problem this actually was, and you can read all about it in my sources. But the point is that closed factories and unemployed communities in the Rust Belt have a major psychological effect on people who fear that their jobs might just disappear, either abroad or be taken over by AI. So the government is trying to calm people down by pumping money into certain sectors to keep jobs in America.

The next big realization about the global economy: it doesn't really care much about how much carbon it pumps into our atmosphere. Our world is barreling towards a very real climate crisis, and governments realize they're gonna have to force the market to get serious about things like electric cars, solar panels, and other green infrastructure. The free market is not going to incentivize this. And if it doesn't happen, we're going to have a much bigger problem on our hands. 

[00:57:00] One of the best parts of the global economy is that our products get made by materials that are being tossed around the globe at the perfect time, at the perfect place, to all come together to be made into a final product, all to arrive at a shelf at some store so that we can purchase it. These supply chains are insane, and they cross the entire planet. And it works great, until the world shut down in a global pandemic, leaving people around the world without the products that they either needed, or just kinda got used to having. 

Again, economists argue about how big of a deal this was. A lot of them are like, no, the supply chains held up really well during COVID. But regardless of what some academic economist is saying at MIT, all of us are left with a pretty bad taste in our mouth about supply chains after COVID. The system feels too fragile. A lot of us feel too reliant on a fragile system of far away global connections that could be rocked at any moment, which has led to these protectionist policies that these governments hope will bring supply chains back inside of their borders. 

Okay, finally, and perhaps the most [00:58:00] important explanation in all of this is that Bill Clinton was totally wrong. Free trade didn't incentivize China into a democratic revolution. The world did not join together in one big free trade market, too entangled to fight with each other. In fact, quite the opposite has happened. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: Relations between the world's two largest economies are at their most tense in years. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: After joining the global economy, China got really rich really fast. They've kind of started to challenge the US at its own game, and now they have one of the biggest militaries on the planet, and they use that military to assert their influence around their region. They use their newfound wealth to project influence around the world by building stuff or giving loans to people. And they're kind of trying to dethrone the United States as the one who's calling the shots on the global economic order. 

I made a whole video about this that you can go watch if you want, but the big point here is that the US is worried about the rapid rise of their rival across the ocean. Especially when the rise of that rival is in part fueled by American technology, specifically, these [00:59:00] little silicon chips—microchips—that make weapons smart, and that will be the brains that power the AI revolution. A lot of Joe Biden's protectionist policies are actually just aimed right at China, trying to stop them from using our own tech to get ahead of us. (Again, I made an entire video about microchips, you can go into that. Kind of made a video about a lot of these things.) But yeah, Joe Biden is also trying to get the supply chains for these microchips out of China's neighborhood, meaning out of Taiwan, bringing them back inside our borders to places like New Albany, Ohio, nice and safe in the middle of our continent.

So, you're going to see a lot more moments like this with American presidents or politicians with hard hats on speaking at construction sites. 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Folks, we need to make these chips right here in America to bring down everyday costs and create good jobs. America is back and America is leading the way. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: This last point is kind of a brutal recognition for a lot of people, including me, to be honest, that our [01:00:00] theory that we would all be more peaceful if we were more economically entangled is kind of wrong, at least for now. In fact, these economic entanglements are looking like they might turn into tools of conflict as opposed to preventers of conflict. Like, China has a near monopoly on a lot of the rare earth elements that we need to make a ton of very important products, including military weapons. And if push comes to shove, they could very realistically use this as leverage and cut us off in the exact same way that we cut them off microchips. I mean, this just happened. Vladimir Putin turned off the pipelines that pumped a natural gas into Europe, the gas that is needed to heat the homes and run the factories, showing us that economic entanglements can actually be a weapon and flipping this whole theory on its head.

But yeah, Joe Biden is pouring money into bringing production home and he has a lot of support from all sides of the aisle. This is like economic nationalism. The government is getting involved to undo some of what the free market did in its heyday, which was to distribute [01:01:00] production of stuff where it made the most economic sense, not where it protected people.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: That means we will invent it in America and make it in America. And we're going to make sure we include all of America. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: So, that's where we're at. The world is reacting to some weaknesses that they see in the global free trade system. They're putting up barriers in the name of protection. And no one's really sure what that means. Like, it's kind of hard to not look at this and draw some parallels with the 1930s, when a series of economic crises led countries to put up trade barriers in the name of protection, which then led to ever greater economic strife, leading to unrest and eventually culminating in the Second World War. But don't read too far into that. I'm not trying to, like, do one of those things where I'm like "every hundred years, history repeats itself". That's not what I think is happening here, but there's some similarities that we should probably just keep an eye on.

Final comments on how Joe Biden can become a hero in the wake of his debate with Trump

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips starting with More Perfect Union, explaining the shift in macro economic thinking from Clinton to Biden. Siming [01:02:00] Lan described the history of China to give context for today. The Financial Times looked at China's Belt and Road Initiative. Our Changing Climate put China's carbon emissions into historical context. TLDR News Global explained the escalating tensions with the Philippines in the South China Sea. Wendover broke down China's housing market and their broader economic shutdown. And Johnny Harris thought about the consequences of our changing global economic system. 

And those were just the Top Takes. There's a lot more in the Deeper Dive section.

But before we continue, I wanted to address the fallout of the Trump-Biden debate. It's all anyone can talk about, and so I thought I would too, because I think I have something to say that I am not really hearing anywhere else. 

So skipping past the panic and the circling of the Biden campaign wagons and not wallowing in all of the reasons to fear that Biden will not be reelected by voters, paving the way to a second and much worse Trump administration. [01:03:00] Not even spending time to talk about the extremely legitimate reasons why fans of Biden might not want to depend on him in his condition to be president, not just for the next seven months, but for the next four and a half years. 

Skipping past all that, I want to talk about how inspiring it would have been and still could be if Joe Biden were to fully embrace his role as the transitional figure he pitched himself as. 

He said he wanted to save the country from a second Trump administration and act as a bridge to the next generation. Well, he succeeded in the first goal in 2020. And as we're hearing in the show today, he's acting as much more of a transformational figure in the White House than anyone would have had the right to guess. You can look back in the archives of this show and find predictions dating back years saying that the age of neo-liberalism not only needs to end, but is [01:04:00] destined to end, and soon. And Joe Biden--though I would not have predicted it--met this moment in time and is acting, along with Congress and all of those in his administration whose job it is to actually execute policy priorities, to change the economic direction of the country after four or five decades of bipartisan consensus on free market capitalism. 

Now he's no Marxist and he certainly doesn't have the charisma that Obama did. But somehow his team is managing to deliver potentially era-defining change that is genuinely hard to believe in, and yet is actually happening. 

The ideal scenario for me would have been for Biden to announce that he would not be seeking reelection during his inauguration speech. It would have been inspiring as hell. "You know, I commit to you today four distraction-free years of getting [01:05:00] things done for the American people. I will not be wasting my time thinking about reelection or campaigning. I am here to do the job. Right?"

That's the message. That's what he could have said. 

Meanwhile, there would have been no ambiguity for those seeking to continue the work that he would have started. The American people would have been giving years to get to know the Democrats on deck, waiting to lead the next generation. 

Knowing that Trump would almost certainly run again, it would have been all too easy to guarantee that he would be seen as the old candidate, no longer fit for office, if he ever were, forced to stand opposed to relatively young and exciting Democrats, promising a slate of policies that the majority of people genuinely prefer. It could have been the first lopsided election in decades. 

Meanwhile, long before the debate, polls showed that sometimes as many as three quarters of Americans--so obviously lots of Democrats in there--Felt [01:06:00] that Biden was too old for a second term. Not necessarily too old for his first, not too old to finish out what he started, but too old to go again. And it was in this context that the structural forces of politics hanging on the single fulcrum of Biden's personal decision to run again prevented any would-be viable candidates from having the opportunity to mount a 2024 campaign, because mounting a campaign against Biden would have been fruitless and divisive, and everyone knew it. But a fresh campaign season with new candidates running with the blessing of the president would have been an injection of excitement that voters express themselves to be desperate for every single time they're asked. 

When you choose to run for reelection on the premise that democracy is on the line and start by going against the preference of 75% of the population, it should be immediately apparent that something has gone awry. 

But it's not too late to be an [01:07:00] inspiration. Knowing when to step away is often more heroic than stepping up in the first place. Think of George Washington's decision to not seek a third term as a lesson to the country about the need to move away from monarchy. Think about a parent's decision to step back and knowing that their child has learned the skills they need and is ready to succeed on their own. And the senior citizen who knows when it's time to hand over the car keys for their own safety and the safety of others. These are acts of heroism.

And in the context of democracy, adhering to the will of the people is never a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength to do what is difficult--maybe not what you would even personally want to do--to uphold the ideal of democratic input and representation that every citizen should hold dear. 

Biden has the opportunity now to be that inspiration, to fulfill his promise to be a bridge to the next generation, having completed a successful one-term presidency. Not one that I've agreed with on every issue, obviously, but [01:08:00] that's not the reasonable bar to describe success. 

Politically, these are the options we have before us. If Biden steps aside, he will be endlessly thanked for his service, and his legacy will be remembered in practically glowing terms. 

Under the circumstance, the result of the election could still go in one of two ways. For that eventual ticket of candidates, they will either be hailed as victors, or thanked for their effort, just as Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton were thanked for theirs in recent decades. You may have disagreed with him on some policies or campaign strategies as I did. But there was never the sense that their decision to throw their hats in the ring in and of itself was questionable.

Alternately, though, there is a much darker scenario that would not only irreparably tarnish Biden's legacy, but potentially tear the party apart in a way that made the dustup between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders look tame by comparison. [01:09:00] Not even considering for a moment the disaster that would be a second Trump term, the healing that would have to happen after a Biden loss to Trump would cause chaos in the party at the exact moment in time that the need for unity and resolve would be at its absolute height. And for all of his efforts, all of his decades of service, Biden would not even be thanked. In fact, it would be a large question as to how many people would be able to find it within themselves to forgive him. 

Now on that high note, before we get back to the show, a quick reminder that July is our membership and awareness drive. If you get value out of this show, let this be the time that you decide to chip in to help sustain its production, and tell some friends about it to help grow our base of support. As thanks to those who helped make the show possible, we release weekly bonus episodes in which the production crew here takes center stage to hold conversations on serious topics while also remembering to laugh, even [01:10:00] if it's just so we don't cry sometimes. 

Plus, of course members get ad-free versions of every regular episode. And for this month, memberships are 20% off. So sign up now and keep that discounted price for as long as you keep your membership. 

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And now we'll continue with deeper dives on four topics. 

Next up section a. China's economic foreign policy. Section B the Evie wars section. See the tech and space race and section D escalating tensions.

Kidnappings and ghost towns on China’s Belt and Road: 10 years of Xi Jinping’s masterplan | Dispatch - The Telegraph - Air Date 9-7-23

SOPHIA YAN - HOST, DISPATCH: Khorgos was described as the new Dubai, a one stop shop that would revolutionize global trade, complete with factories producing goods for export, plus warehouses, shopping centers, hotels, and more. And at the center of it all, a dry port [01:11:00] with faster shipping times than routing by sea.

Asset Seissenbank is deputy CEO of the Special Economic Zone, where the dry port is located.

ASSET SEISENBECK: Dubai and Khorgos are located in the center, yeah. It looks same, background are same, yeah. So, yeah, I believe that with the impact of our partners, our government, we will reach the scales and the level of Dubai.

This is a huge strategy, it's a huge plan, infrastructural plan. I mean, I strongly believe that One Belt, One Road will bring For the developing countries, more and more chances to trigger the development of their economy. I believe that these projects will bring for the local people more and more business chances also.

SOPHIA YAN - HOST, DISPATCH: So far, China has emerged the main winner. Porgos allows China to [01:12:00] export more quickly its cheap goods, and export its technical know how. Representatives showed us a factory in the special economic zone backed by investors from Afghanistan. Chinese materials and machines churning out nappies and sanitary pads for export to Russia.

Signs are everywhere that Kazakhstan has not benefited in the same way. The village of Nurkent, built for people working along the border, is a far cry from the urban jungle of Dubai. Only a few thousand residents in a town that was supposed to house more than 50, 000 people by now. We drove around the small settlement in a matter of minutes.

Our footage shows just how little has been built on this side of the border. This monument marks the continued expansion of Nur Kent. The idea was that as border cooperation grew between China and Kazakhstan, that this whole region would flourish. But as you can see, ten years on, [01:13:00] after China launched Belt and Road, it hasn't really delivered on the promised benefits.

Most residents we met enjoy the small town life and prefer Nurkent to stay as it is. A warm community where everybody knows each other, with just a few shops and restaurants right across from the schools. More Chinese influence worries those living just miles from the border.

NURSAPA NURQADYR: I'm concerned because the Chinese do not invade by waging a war. They gradually enter the country, increase their population, and assimilate. They have the resources to buy many things, and they are interested in Kazakhstan land.

SOPHIA YAN - HOST, DISPATCH: Belton Road has been criticized as paving the way for China's regional and military expansion. In Tajikistan, a secret Chinese military base has been built right on the border with Afghanistan and China. BRI hasn't delivered on its promise, and many countries are struggling to [01:14:00] repay loans. Governments are estimated to have hidden debts of at least 385 billion.

China has even taken control of foreign assets when countries are unable to repay loans. One third of BRI projects have been plagued by corruption scandals, labor violations, environmental hazards, or public protests. Nations are now rethinking their involvement. Italy, the only G7 country to join BRI, wants to back out.

Some worry that China's BRI expansion will mean less natural resources for the rest of the world. Increasing use of water in China is just one example. drying up a river that flows downstream into Kazakhstan, Vladimir Muravsky, who leads birdwatching tours has witnessed the water levels fall. 

VLADIMIR MURAFSKIY: For agriculture, for fields.

So what you're in fields [01:15:00] mostly, you know, you've seen that land. So it's a good fertile land, but without water it's nothing, it's just the sand. But with water, yeah, so you can grow anything. 

SOPHIA YAN - HOST, DISPATCH: Are you worried about environmental damage here as China uses more and more water upstream? 

VLADIMIR MURAFSKIY: Sure I am, but, uh, you know, if I'm worried or not worried, Who cares?

Chinese don't care, for sure. Kazakhstan, it's always between, you know, between two empires, Chinese empires and the Russian empire. Here we, in Kazakhstan, we have so much land and area and stuff inside it and, uh, not too many people. 

SOPHIA YAN - HOST, DISPATCH: Those I spoke with fear growing Chinese Kazakh cooperation will put them at greater risk.

Has Africa gained from China's infrastructure plans? - Focus on Africa - Air Date 10-20-23

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: Beijing hosted a big meeting of [01:16:00] leaders from around the world , many of them from Africa. They all had one thing in common. They were part of the Belt and Road Initiative, a long term investment in infrastructure made by China. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched it in 2013 to bolster road, rail, and sea infrastructure in countries China had an economic interest in.

Beijing has invested nearly a trillion US dollars in the initiative, most of it as loans. So how successful has the Belt and Road Initiative, BRI for short, been for the countries that are part of it? The short answer is, it's mixed. We'll take a look at how Zambia fared in a moment, but let's first find out what the intention was of the initiative.

Damali Sali is a trade facilitation expert in Uganda. 

DAMALI SALI: China says that the Belt and Road Initiative is to ensure that there is global infrastructure development so that there is a global connectivity and to facilitate global [01:17:00] trade. So China, I would imagine from their mind, they want to open up bigger markets, probably for their goods and services so that they can access those markets.

In addition to that, they would like to open up pathways within which they can get raw materials to further their industrialization. Africa's perspective on the other hand is that Africa as a continent has a huge infrastructure gap. I was reading a report from Africa Development Bank which said that Africa's infrastructure gap is a hundred billion dollars per annum.

So Africa needs a hundred billion dollars per year to plug that infrastructure gap in order to connect. So we have a lot of trade Corridors like road trade corridors that are mapped out or railway trade corridors that are mapped out infrastructure corridors that are mapped out, but we don't have the funding to do so.

And the traditional funding that's available, say, for example, if you look at the IMF loans from the IMF, only 4 percent of loans. From the IMF actually go to the African continent. 

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: Are there different objectives in different African countries? You know, when they deal with China unilaterally, is it the same strategy that all African countries or Africa as a [01:18:00] region approaches China?

DAMALI SALI: I think it's not the same. And I feel like Africa as a continent, we need to come up, I think, with a framework within which we engage these major bodies. For example, like in East Africa, there are three major infrastructure pieces in which China is important. The first one is the Kenya standard gauge railway.

That's the railway that was supposed to come from Mombasa to Nairobi into Uganda, Kampala. It was supposed to go to Juba, South Sudan, and then go to DRC. Now, China was supposed to fund that entire piece. However, it's funded it from Mombasa to Naivasha. So it never did get to Uganda, won't get to Dubai, won't get to DRC.

Also, in addition to that, they say, at least the Kenyans, if you read any articles around that, they say that it was too expensive, very costly, and It may be difficult for them to repay it back because now it actually stopped, stopped midway. So there's no cargo going back and it was supposed to move cargo from Mombasa into the hinterland and back so that it can pay for itself.

So there is that negotiation that happened now with the Kenyan government and China, which may or may not result into the intended [01:19:00] purpose. 

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: If you look at China's objective in setting up the Belt and Road Initiative, specifically in African countries and African countries and what they had hoped to achieve by embracing China as a funder, as a lender, are there satisfied customers all around?

DAMALI SALI: Infrastructure development takes up quite a bit of time to be able to see the real impact, the real results and everything. In the short term, of course, some of the things that people are seeing or are complaining about is the cost of those arrangements. The cost of those loans, how you're required to pay back.

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: So what are the implications of that for African countries that China is almost the only option here because so many countries are so highly indebted to China and China's economy has been experiencing headwinds as well along with other economies around the world. That puts African countries that rely on China for funding of infrastructural development projects in a very difficult position, doesn't it?

DAMALI SALI: It absolutely does. We need more alternative financing sources because we still have that gap. And if you look at the Africa continental free trade area where we agreed as a continent to trade with each other, [01:20:00] currently Africa only trades with the. Each other only 15 percent of the goods that it actually trades globally only 15%.

If you compare it to Europe, Europe trades with each other 60 percent of the time, and yes, Africa only trades with the other 15 percent of the time. 

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: It's the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. What would you say to optimize this relationship should be happening? 

DAMALI SALI: As a continent, we need to sit down and say, what are our asks from China actually in this infrastructure development for our continent?

What are the asks? What do we negotiate for? What rights do we negotiate for? What are the things we negotiate for around environment, around labor, environmental safeguards, around structuring the loans in a way that will not purely, purely exploitative to that whatever country. And as a bloc, we can negotiate better compared to one country going bilaterally to negotiate.

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: Damali Sali explaining that it's all about trading and negotiating with each other. But let's explore the big D. It's the question that comes up each time you mention Africa and China in the same sentence. Zambia is one of those countries facing a [01:21:00] debt crisis. Ishmael Zulu is a development economist based in Lusaka, and we turn to him to help us understand China's role in Zambia's current economic predicament.

ISHMAEL ZULU: The situation Zambia finds itself in is one in which it is not. able to service its debt. It's debt to GDP ratio had risen to over 100%. So put simply, when we look at the GDP, which refers to how much Zambia is producing as a country compared to what it owes, you find it's over 100%. So Zambia's Gross domestic product.

Well, the last statistic that we have, according to the world bank is 22 billion us dollars and our total debt stock. So this is including internal debt and external debt is over 30 billion us dollars. And most of that is owed to China. A significant proportion is owed to China. However, [01:22:00] our debt is mixed.

So we have euro bonds that we gave out as a country, which constitute a large share of our commercial debt. So it's not only China. 

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: So let's take China because the Belt and Road Initiative is 10 years old. What does China Zambia have to show for what it owes China. 

ISHMAEL ZULU: Yeah. So there have been several infrastructure projects.

Zambia relies, I think over 90 percent of our electricity is sourced from hydroelectric power. And, uh, one of the projects that China was funding is what is known as the climate. KA gorge, lower hydro power project. There was also dual carriageway, and so this is a road that goes from the capital city, Lusaka and Zambia, all the way to the copper belt, which is the mining province.

Another big one was the airport that we currently have the Can account International Airport. 

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: Would you say that for the debt crisis that Zambia finds itself in right now and what was done with the [01:23:00] money that it's worth it? 

ISHMAEL ZULU: It's mixed, so it's definitely mixed. A lot of the projects, so Zambia being a developing country, needed resources to fund its infrastructure development.

Otherwise, many of the developmental goals that we set out to achieve would not be met if we did not have the resources to fund them. However, there have been a lot of concerns, especially. around the transparency of these conversations and how the debt had been procured. Because you'd find that many people were not aware of how these deals were negotiated, what the terms are, what the interest rates are, when we're expected to pay this debt.

This information has not been publicly available for majority of the debts that were procured. And as a result, you would find that there'd been many cases because of that. Secrecy. We saw a lot of inflated prices where you see cases of corruption coming up. 

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: What's China's approach to Zambia's debt [01:24:00] distress?

Will they come down hard on Zambia if Zambia can't pay its debt? 

ISHMAEL ZULU: The challenge with responding to that question is the lack of transparency in the deals that have been signed. So in a positive light, we know that the Chinese president had committed to renegotiate about 6 billion of Zambia's debt. So it shows that there is that willingness and political will to look at the relationship that we have between Zambia between developing countries and China itself.

And there is that room to renegotiate some of those deals. 

AUDREY BROWN - HOST, FOCUS ON AFRICA: On balance would you say that it's been a beneficial relationship and it should continue? 

ISHMAEL ZULU: It's definitely one that should continue given the historical project successes, but definitely moving forward, there is a big, big call for transparency in the way that we are relating with China.

China-Africa Relations in the Era of Great Power Competition - The China in Africa Podcast - Air Date 5-9-24

C. GÉAURD NEEMA - HOST, CHINA IN AFRICA: The progress of an international community in the crisis that we see, for example, in Gaza, makes it really much more difficult today for the West to come with a [01:25:00] narrative to try to kind of lecture African countries.

And it's also opening doors for the narrative for China in Africa, when China is saying that we need to reform the international system. We need a new rule based order because the one that we have right now is much more US western centered than anything else. And because of how we see their behaving, this kind of narrative will start to take shape in Africa, where you have a lot of head of state who say yes, we really don't agree with the way the West does things.

And especially when we saw how they reacted with the war in Ukraine with Russia and the way they behaving right now in Gaza. face toward Israel, you kind of wonder why the double standard and African country when they see that when they listen to that, they're kind of like that makes sense that for us, the international rule based order is not really fair as we it was presented to be.

It's much more hypocritical kind of rule based order. And when China comes and say, you know, you need to support me to have [01:26:00] a new configuration of the rule based order, they kind of say, Yeah, we're gonna go with you. 

OVIGWE EGUEGU: Very good analysis, by the way. Very convincing. The first thing I want to say regarding to that is we don't even need the Russians or the Chinese to come tell us that the system is unfair.

Because since independence till now, generation after generation of leaders, even after independence, we could see how unfair several countries were treated, even in the decolonization process. The reason you have Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Having course today, I've seen all of the agreements and parks with France that they are counseling.

If you read those documents, there's no way you would agree that a sovereign country will sign this or this is even a fair arrangement. So overall, we on our own have been very, very vocal without any foreign partner telling us this is unfair. We know what unfair is because we actually went through colonialism and then the decolonization process.

Was very, very incomplete in several ways. And since we've seen Russia [01:27:00] and China with the West, having a lot of contention in their relationship with China, Russia, trying to build an alternative system, China doesn't, and many countries, I would even say do not recognize the rules based international order, as it is said, because.

Nobody knows what the rules are Exactly. You know, the international, the international law, which we know based on the UN charter, this is what all countries, at least countries who are in the UN system have agreed to. And that is very clear for everyone to see. We know what happens when there's a, where there's conflict somewhere, what organ the UN is supposed to act, and what the role of United Nation Security Council, they came up with United for Peace Formula several years ago.

That is well established, but the rules based international order comes across to anyone who has paid any attention to it, you know, as essentially, and I've described this in a discussion to say, it's like myself and my friends, we set up rules and then we're going to impose it on the [01:28:00] rest of the world.

Without them even knowing what the rules are. So we just decided what the rules would be and when and where it should be applied. So that's a challenge and African countries, in my opinion, they do not want to be cajoled and not, nobody actually wants to be cajoled into such a system. Some people want to play within it if they win.

I told this to a few friends during an event, actually with a US based organization. I said, look, if we had countries like Japan and South Korea in Africa, countries who won under the hierarchy and the system that was created post 45 and even post Bretton Woods, you will find many allies on the continent of Africa.

C. GÉAURD NEEMA - HOST, CHINA IN AFRICA: Definitely. No question asked. 

OVIGWE EGUEGU: But the way it is on the continent of Africa is that you can't find winners of the current system. So why would you not expect champions to emerge from a continent where there were no winners, right? So over the decades, all we've just had is countries who have not been able to industrialized or you're just told you know what you're just [01:29:00] going to be commodity suppliers.

That's fine. 

C. GÉAURD NEEMA - HOST, CHINA IN AFRICA: Let me stop you there for a moment. Is it the international system at fault or is it internal country bad governance at fault in that case? 

OVIGWE EGUEGU: Ah, that's a very interesting question and I would really like us to go in this direction. So let's look at When we left colonial era, many countries nationalized their resources, right?

So we had that in Ghana, we had that in Zimbabwe, in many countries across the continent, they saw that as a way to build some form of industrial base, and then piggyback off protectionism, then they progressively liberalized. There was not a single country that didn't face pushback from the West. And as at the time, the West, is the, and still is to a large extent, the home of foreign capital.

They were the ones that can give you access to technologies. They were the ones that can give you access to capital to invest. In the first place, in this moment, China was not the big player. Then for the USSR to some extent. was an actor, but overall, if the [01:30:00] model that was built when Germany, the United States, France were still industrial powers was importing raw materials from former colonies now to the factories.

Well, that's what African countries were faced with. When you nationalize the money to build your industrial supply chain, it's not going to fall from the sky. You still need to go to where capital was, and capital wasn't coming from the West because they do not want African countries to go in that direction.

So it is not written down as we will not let you industrialize. Or we will not let you go into the local refining of your resources, but it's just by withholding capital that is what you get where there was no alternative. But now if you look at Zimbabwe, for instance, just last week we saw news in Mokoto in Zimbabwe, see what they've been able to achieve, for instance, and what they're trying to do with steel, with lithium.

If you see what Indonesia is also doing with nickel, for instance, Indonesia is able to block nickel export role and say, we want to do this. But why are they able to do it now? Because [01:31:00] they have alternative people who can make those investments. If it was only the West that could put capital into Indonesia, they will not be able to succeed in doing what they are going to do.

C. GÉAURD NEEMA - HOST, CHINA IN AFRICA: So basically, China offered an option for many African producing countries now to kind of have a leverage to be able to exist in that international order by providing capitals to those African countries to start the refining, right? That's what you're saying. If I understand correctly, that China now basically China offered option to African country to have a certain level of agency.

I'm not sure that I agree with the president's statement that had the but withholding capital because I'm not going to get in that debate, but let's face it. Many African country had corruption. We had regime that was richer than the country. We had regime that was embezzling billions of billions of dollars that could have been used for the economy that could have been used for refining that could have been used for processing.

But you're going to see most of those country. I'm going to take Zaire, my country, [01:32:00] DR Congo today. We had president that we had, that was producing a lot, but millions of millions were just embezzled for personal wealth and personal gain. So we cannot just really say that it international rule based order was set against us.

I know it was not set for us for sure that for sure it was not set for us because we are not parts of it when the system was set, we are not parts of it. So basically when you're not there, if something is set, you can assume safely that it not set for your gain. That's. Quite clear for me, but we cannot also say that it was actively walking into making us and keeping us poor.

When we overlook the fact that many of our heads of state were just corrupted. They had money. You take a country like Gabon, you know, money's there, but the picture was there, but you have the bonus family with billions of billions having castle in Europe and everything. That's just beside the point to get back to what you're saying.

Yes, [01:33:00] China arrivals in Africa now today offers that opportunity for many African country producing country since you talk about resources to be in that space where they can now have urgency, they can now ask for refineries, they can now ask for processing Zimbabwe is now winning having first level lithium processing put into the ground last year, up to last year, they're like five to six now lithium processing that are running in the country, which is a good thing.

So Yeah, China has offered that opportunity that I think that many countries are now appreciating in Africa. 

OVIGWE EGUEGU: Yeah, of course, again, they don't offer the agency, all they offer is opportunity and that is why you find in many cases countries are saying, see, I will tell you, there are many, I've spoken to so many people across the continent that they come up as pro China, but to the extent that what they really want is Just to have the China option, because if you're in a system where you're only beholding to only one party kind of hegemony, which we've seen, and we've been at the bottom of the system that's currently changing now, you don't need to [01:34:00] tell an African what his place is in the current world order.

It's very clear. Just look at the last 50 years or having that option. It's precisely why you find so many takers for what China represents.


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now entering section B: the EV wars.

Why China is winning the EV war - Vox - Air Date 6-7-24

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: The first major reason for why China's companies were able to develop their EV battery is due to a huge amount of government support. Roughly 20 years ago, China was on track to become the world's largest importer of oil, so electrifying its car fleet would help it become more energy independent. Not to mention a growing air pollution problem in China's cities, in part due to car emissions.

IIARIA MAZZOCCO: What the EVs had going for them was that the head of the Ministry of Science and Technology was a big believer in this and his sense was that Chinese companies were just never going to be able to compete on internal combustion engine technology. That's how you get this package of policies that really supported what Chinese government defined as new energy vehicles.

ZEYI YANG: Companies making the [01:35:00] cars Can get a subsidy whenever they sell a car. We're also talking about they're getting cheap, like, land leases from the government. They're getting cheap loans from the state owned banks. 

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: According to one estimate, from 2009 to 2022, the Chinese government gave out 29 billion in the form of subsidies, research spending, and tax breaks to the EV industry.

And starting around 2009, Local governments also gave Chinese companies an instant market by contracting them to electrify their bus and taxi fleets. The city of Shenzhen's fleet of 16, 000 buses was electrified by BYD before it became the world's largest EV company. To get consumers on board, governments offered them generous subsidies too, along with other benefits.

SEAVER WANG: Like discounts on charging. favorable parking, traffic congestion related policies that EVs get a break on. EVs actually have a different colored license plate even, so it's very visible. And so people see, Oh, that's an EV. They get all the special treatment. 

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: But the battery wasn't very good in the early days.

And so the Chinese 

IIARIA MAZZOCCO: government goes in and starts [01:36:00] introducing stricter standards on batteries. Saying, well, you only qualify for this credit if your battery density reaches this level. 

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: Consumer EV sales in China exploded. And when it did, the government did something important to protect their own battery industry.

When foreign car companies like GM and Tesla wanted to sell their EVs in China, the government made a rule that their cars must use Chinese made batteries to qualify for consumer subsidies. China's central government phased out consumer subsidies in 2022, but the demand had been created. In 2024, over half of new car sales in China were electric.

ZEYI YANG: This is like a milestone because half is a big thing. It means that the majority of the people are actually preferring EVs over 

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: The second way Chinese battery companies became so dominant is through the supply chain for the battery components. The type of battery that typically goes into electric vehicles is called a lithium ion battery.

The forming components of the battery cell are the cathode, the anode, the electrolyte solution, and a [01:37:00] separator. The cathode is usually packed with nickel, cobalt, and manganese. The anode uses graphite, and the electrolyte is made up of mostly lithium salts. Over the past several years, Chinese companies started acquiring ownership stakes in mines around the world where these minerals exist.

ZEYI YANG: So they're sure that if we control the production, then we control the price. 

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: The effect is that Chinese companies control significant percentages of the world's supply of the minerals needed for batteries. But where China really controls the supply chain are the steps after mining. No matter who mines the minerals, China refines a vast majority of them.

This is the step where factories grind down raw mined materials and extract the desired mineral from it. 

IIARIA MAZZOCCO: It's pretty polluting. That's why you don't see that much refining happening in developed countries. 

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: Chinese plants then also manufactured the vast majority of the four components of the EV batteries, the cathode, the anode, the electrolyte and the separator and put them together to make the battery sell.

IIARIA MAZZOCCO: Because you already had pretty developed manufacturing for [01:38:00] batteries aimed at electronics. So BYD is actually one of those examples. They started by producing batteries for electronics in the 90s and then it got into producing EVs. 

SEAVER WANG: The US was never a battery manufacturing player. Historically speaking, in lithium ion, it was previously Japan and Korea, and China has now superseded both.

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: China's control of the battery supply chain is so encompassing that after the Biden administration passed a rule saying no more than half of the battery's components or minerals could be Chinese sourced to qualify for tax credits, only an estimated 20 percent of EV models qualified. With their market dominance, Chinese companies have been able to lead the world in battery innovation.

In the past two years, Chinese companies figured out how to avoid using the two most expensive battery minerals, nickel and cobalt. They did this by innovating on battery technology called Lithium Iron Phosphate, or LFP. In 2023, CATL announced an LFP battery that could power a car for [01:39:00] 370 miles on just a 10 minute charge.

And BYD has developed their own version of an LFP battery. P battery too. 

ZEYI YANG: It's called blade battery. It's like a very thin, very long blade. Um, but basically they're saying that by using that shape, it can bring more batteries into the same space. So in that way, like the same size of a car can travel farther.

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: Today, LFP batteries are a growing share of all EV batteries. And nearly all of them are manufactured in China. But not for long. CATL has built battery plants in Germany and has plans to build one in Hungary for the European auto market. And Ford ended up finding a home for its CATL battery plant in the town of Marshall, Michigan.

The project has triggered a US house investigation. But if it goes through, it will be the first LFP plant in the US all of these factors have made Chinese EV batteries virtually impossible to avoid in the global transition to electric vehicles. Was there not a viable alternative? 

JIM FARLEY: No, there wasn't. LFP technology is, [01:40:00] is very well developed.

The battery business is a global business. And, um, this was, there were no alternatives. 

LAURA BULT - HOST, VOX: There are some concerns about whether China's government support of the EV industry amounts to unfair global competition, as well as human rights and environmental concerns associated with China's battery industry.

The US is investing their own government support to build up its battery industry. Bloomberg estimated it would cost 82 billion for the US to meet their own domestic demand by 2030. So it might be possible in the future. But that's no help right now when we desperately need to transition to electric vehicles to wean ourselves from fossil fuels.

And US automakers are struggling to give consumers affordable options. So for now, we'll have to decide whether our desire to keep our distance from China outweighs our goals of going electric.

EV Tariffs Won't Stop Chinese Cars - CNBC - Air Date 6-5-24

MICHAEL DUNNE: I'm not exaggerating when I say what China, the challenge that China is presenting the world, including the United States, is unprecedented. You know, in the case of the Japanese and Koreans, when [01:41:00] they came into the United States, We were able to persuade, maybe coerce a little bit, Hey, if you want to sell here, you have to build your transplant here.

But they could own it. And they were our allies and ultimately they were more dependent on us than we were on them. They were, they were more, in China's case, we don't have that kind of leverage with them. 

ROBERT FERRIS - HOST, CNBC: China has the capacity to make half the world's cars, four times as many as the US typically makes.

Annual demand within the country is about 25 million units. That leaves 15 million cars for export. Nearly as many as the US can sell in a good year. China sent five million cars to over 100 countries in 2023, making it one of the largest exporters in the world. 

MICHAEL DUNNE: You see Chinese cars now in virtually every market except for the United States and Canada.

And because there's so much capacity at home and the market at home is, has a price war, the Chinese automakers [01:42:00] themselves are super motivated to To get out and push their products into Europe, the United 

ROBERT FERRIS - HOST, CNBC: States. A mix of favorable policies and a booming economy got them to where they are today. China welcomed foreign automakers into the country beginning in the 1980s, and especially after some policy changes in the following decade.

Rules were simple. Foreign firms could sell cars in the country as long as they partnered with a local Chinese automaker. Chinese firms also made some cross border investments. Chinese automaker Zhili bought Volvo cars from Ford, for example. And finally, many companies are government owned, and even private firms receive generous subsidies.

Notes EV maker BYD received 3. 7 billion between 2018 and 2022, for example. 

MICHAEL DUNNE: In state capitalism, the objective is we're going to build a world powerhouse auto industry. To get there, we need great companies, but always, by the way, at the local, provincial and federal level, we'll also offer all kinds of help.

[01:43:00] So the Western auto maker, look at that and say, How in the world are we competing? 


companies have also built strong products. 

SAM FIORANI: When they came to the Detroit Auto Show 15 years ago, their cars were not competitive. You could see the quality issues with those vehicles as you sat in them, as you played around with them.

Now, the cars are much higher quality. They are very competitive once they're hitting the ground. 

BILL RUSSO: And they pay attention to all the configuration of every seat in the car, not just the driver's cockpit. That's what I think. obsoletes the traditionally designed and styled vehicle. 

ROBERT FERRIS - HOST, CNBC: Bill Russo, a former Chrysler executive, says the Chinese have been extremely successful in developing new business models based around software and services.

Many recent entrants have backgrounds in technology, electronics, and mobile devices markets. 

BILL RUSSO: When the iPhone came, the Nokia products went away quickly. That's what's happening in China now in the car. 

ROBERT FERRIS - HOST, CNBC: American consumers are also receptive to Chinese cars. [01:44:00] Nearly half of respondents in a recent survey said they are familiar with Chinese vehicle brands and 76 percent under the age of 40 said they would consider buying a Chinese car.

Consideration then declined significantly among older consumers. Grappling with this new reality, tariffs have become a popular political tool, especially with former President Trump beginning in 2018. Auto executives at the time, famously Tesla CEO Elon Musk, decried what they considered an imbalance between U.

S. and Chinese trade rules. Lately, it is the Biden administration who is focused on tariffs. First and foremost, EVs. Tariffs on them will increase from 25 percent to 100 percent in 2024. The administration says China's extensive subsidies and non market practices have led to substantial risks of overcapacity.

Chinese EV exports grew 70 percent from 2022 to 2023. They're also raising tariffs on an array of materials used in car making. Lithium ion batteries. [01:45:00] Graphite, magnets, steel, aluminum, and semiconductors. China controls more than 80 percent of certain segments of the EV battery supply chain, the administration said.

That leaves US supply chains vulnerable and risks national security and clean energy goals. Some politicians are pushing for even harder restrictions. The industry's response is mixed. Labor leaders are in support, for obvious reasons. So is the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. The auto industry's major trade association, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk criticized the tariffs, but even he had said earlier in 2024 that without trade barriers, most Western automakers would be demolished by Chinese competition.

They can sell EVs cheaper than the cheapest fuel burning cars. And according to some are way ahead of competition in software and tech, but Russo is skeptical of tariffs. The Trump era trade war may have been a missile aimed at Beijing, But it landed squarely on Detroit, [01:46:00] he once wrote. Two things happened.

First, the trade war drove up the costs of a lot of parts American automakers source from China or elsewhere. GM and Ford both reported that the Trump tariffs in 2018 saddled them each with an additional 1 billion in steel and aluminum costs. Secondly, it likely accelerated the globalization of Chinese companies looking to circumvent trade rules.

By making investments beyond their own borders. 

BILL RUSSO: They're, they're building factories in Mexico. They're building factories all over the world, Africa, middle East, Europe, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Southeast Asia. There's never been a bigger, uh, effort by China to de China eyes its supply chain than right now 

ROBERT FERRIS - HOST, CNBC: if elected Donald Trump pledged to place a 100% duty on any car made in Mexico by a Chinese company.

Policy analysts say doing so would violate the terms of the very agreement Trump made with Mexico. [01:47:00] It might also cause further friction with the country, which in 2023 became the US 's largest trading partner. In any event, executives like Russo argue that these measures are delaying the inevitable.

American firms need to face up to the fact that Chinese companies have extremely competitive and attractive products, and American consumers want them. If 

BILL RUSSO: you can make Aspirational products affordable with configurations that surprise and delight the users of that platform. That's a universal value proposition.

And sorry, Americans buy Chinese stuff and have been for decades, have been enjoying the benefits of that. And in terms of affordability forever, if you shut that off, all you're going to do is make it more expensive. 

MICHAEL DUNNE: There are alternatives. Take a page from what China did 30 years ago when it was just starting out and it said, Hey, you want to come into our market, the United States?

Welcome. But by the way, in order to sell here, you have to manufacture here. You have to build plants here. And when you manufacture here, you have to [01:48:00] form a joint venture with an American company that will own half of the business. Oh, okay. And, um, by the way, we'd like you to export from America too, so that we.

Get extra benefits of you being here. 

BILL RUSSO: We can do the same. That's called flipping the script. The problem isn't that we have to keep them out. The problem is we should let them in to give ourselves the benefits of the DNA that they've been able to create. And then, but do it under a guided process. Do it with policies.

And right now nobody's writing those policies. Nobody's writing policies that allow some of the benefits of globalization and scale and product configurations and technologies to flow back to the Western world. And that's going to really weaken the, it's not going to help the industry. It's going to weaken the industry if we, if we don't allow that to happen.

ROBERT FERRIS - HOST, CNBC: And even though there are no Chinese branded cars for sale in the US yet, more than 100 Chinese owned automotive companies have a presence in the United States [01:49:00] already. They are concentrated in Detroit and Silicon Valley, and there are Chinese auto suppliers scattered across 30 US states. 

MICHAEL DUNNE: But you'd never know it because we don't see Chinese cars on American roads, so it doesn't occur.

No, no, what? That can't possibly be true, but it is. They're here. They're getting ready for the time when it's right to enter and sell their cars to Americans.

The Real Reason The U.S. Doesn’t Want Chinese EVs - The Hustle - Air Date 5-7-24

CAYA - HOST, THE HUSTLE: Let's go back to the 1950s. This is a post war economic boom. Breeding ground for baby boomers and three car companies dominate the US car market. GM, Ford, and Chrysler. And suddenly, this new car company comes into the market in 1957, and then another one around the same time.

Nobody wanted these companies around. The big three didn't want competition. Americans in general were salty. You know, against their enemy from World War Two, so much so that Nissan actually had to change their name and slowly, but surely, these cars picked up popularity because these Japanese cars were reliable and affordable and fuel efficient.

European cars were added to the mix around this time as [01:50:00] well, but those were not your average family car. In 73, the oil crisis came, so US production had just peaked and all Arab exporting countries had banned exports of oil to any country supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Oil prices skyrocketed in America, and even though the embargo ended in 1974, oil prices remained really high through the decade.

And while consumers were happy, US car manufacturers were not. And with pressure from lobbyists and unions, the US government was not too happy about this Japanese car invasion either. In the 80s, Reagan ran his campaign on this agenda to slow Japanese car imports. And it kind of worked. He negotiated export restraints and convinced these Japanese companies to establish manufacturing plants in the US, which meant jobs and some tax money, at least until those workers eventually got replaced, not by other foreign car manufacturing companies, but by machines.

But that's another story. However, the silver lining of the story is that we ended up with better, more fuel efficient, more reliable US made cars. Competition helped the big three [01:51:00] step up their game. It's like the five stages of grief, which we're actually going to revisit soon. By the mid 2000s, Asian automakers accounted for a whopping 40 percent of US car sales.

Meanwhile, the US government was far behind. bailing out Detroit. It's a wound that the government and the economy remember vividly. Since then, American brands and Tesla specifically have acquired a large wedge of the US EV market share. But American brands and European brands have really struggled to make these cars affordable.

But China is a different story. Take BYD for example, China's star player and as of 2024, the largest EV manufacturer in the world. They started as a battery company in 95. This will be important later. They pivoted into cars in 2003, and finally they launched their debut BYDF three in 2005. You can cut a lot of costs when you make your own batteries and you know when you just copy another car's design.

But Peck works. Tesla made an average of $8,200 per car in 2023 and 18% gross margin. [01:52:00] DYD made about $1,700 per car on a 26% gross margin. So. How the hell do they get away with making a car at a fraction of Tesla's production costs? Take this example. This is the BYD Yuan Plus, their crossover SUV, the equivalent to a Tesla Model Y.

At the beginning of 2023, the estimated cost of materials and manufacturing for a Tesla Model Y was 39, 000. The Yuan Plus sells in China for just 16, 000. That is the sale price, which means that the cost of materials of making this car has to be around 13, 000. That's a third Of what Tesla's paying and how different.

You've got your touchscreen, comfortable space, nearly 300 miles of range, and honestly a very decent finish. Much better than what you would get from a 16, 000 car in the US so, is this car cooler than a Tesla? Okay, maybe no. Is there, uh, BYD car floating in space playing David Bowie? [01:53:00] Okay, no, but this is a perfectly fine vehicle.

It's affordable. It's available in Costa Rica and it has all the support and the warranty that you expect from a dealership. So in the case of Tesla, the 61 kilowatt hour battery in a Tesla Model Y is estimated to cost the company around 6, 200. They outsource those batteries to companies like Panasonic, LG, and rumor has it to BYD as well.

BYD was a battery company, remember? So. For the 50 kilowatt hour battery on their Yuan plus. They just make it themselves, and it costs them as little as 3, 000 per battery. Yes, of course, cheaper labor is a factor. Yes, Chinese government subsidies are a factor too. But the bottom line is that really affordable electric cars exist, and we just can't buy them in the US.

 This fresh version, 4x4. Well, it's doing something about it this time. During the 2018 trade war with China, Trump set an additional 25 percent tariff on Chinese made cars. But before you go out [01:54:00] and blame Trump for all this, we should say that the Democrats are very much on the same page about the tariffs to Chinese cars.

And there's a bill currently in the Senate. to raise those tariffs to 100 percent BYD has made it clear that they don't want to enter the US market and the reason is very simple these Chinese companies don't want the trouble of going to a market that doesn't like them that doesn't want them they have plenty of room to get cheap cars to the rest of the world and quite honestly they're making a killing at that market and they're getting stronger and dominating the world in the process so it seems that this time around the US is patching the problem with tariffs Rather than looking to innovate and beat the competition.

Latin American countries generally don't manufacture their own cars. So they are just consumers benefiting from cheaper alternatives. It doesn't really affect their job market, but Japan has also been invaded by Chinese cars and they do care about their own car manufacturing jobs. But instead of patching that with tariffs, they're looking to innovate.

For example, Nissan and Honda are teaming [01:55:00] up to develop their own EVs together. Their auto industry. needs to stay competitive. The US government seems to be playing this very poor balancing act between reducing CO2 emissions and then getting votes, getting re elected, especially from swing states like Michigan, the single state where the most car manufacturing jobs are.

And caught in the very middle of this balancing act, is the US government. is the rest of us as consumers. I mean, it's not an easy problem to solve. On one hand, you can just slap tariffs on the problem, stop Chinese car imports, which preserves American jobs, at least until machines replace them. But that's bad for consumers who have to deal with more expensive cars.

It certainly slows down the country's efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and the US is already far behind the rest of the world on this. But more crucially, I think it puts American car manufacturing at a disadvantage. You see this in Latin America a little bit. People who want a luxury car, they'll generally buy a European car.

And people who want an affordable car, they'll buy Asian. And American cars are kind of stuck in the middle of these two, and they're not winning at [01:56:00] either game. Sure, Michigan votes are crucial to the election. You have to keep those constituents and those unions happy. But this patch policy is handing EV dominance to China on a silver platter.


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Next up, section C: the tech and space race.

China's Space Program is Insanely Ambitious... Here's Exactly How - Astrographics - Air Date 6-14-24

SIMON WHISTLER - HOST, ASTROGRAPHICS: Today, we want to highlight Two missions, Shengzhou 8 and Shengzhou 9. Shengzhou 8, conducted in November 2011, was an uncrewed flight designed to test the docking capabilities of the Divine Vessel.

And where should a Divine Vessel dock? Well, that would be at a heavenly palace, of course. Heavenly Palace 1, or Tiangong 1, is in fact China's own orbiting space lab, active since September 29, 2011. In June 2012, it was time for a crewed mission, Shengzhou 9, to dock at Tiangong 1. Tiangong 1. Tiangong 1. The crew of three included China's first female aut Lou Yang and spent 10 days aboard the Heavenly Palace testing both automated and manual docking systems.

The small orbital space station measuring only 10.4 meters in length was designed to remain in service for only two years [01:57:00] and to remain un crewed for most of that time, Yangon one was DEF facto put in sleep mode in June, 2013 and officially shut down in March, 2016. In September of that same year, the CNSA and the CASC launched a second orbiting lab Ong two, also designed as a temporary state.

On October 19, 2016, the Second Heavenly Palace was visited by the 11th Divine Vessel, crewed by Jing Hai Pen and Chen Dong. The two Taikonauts spent 30 days aboard the tiny station, performing technical experiments and releasing a satellite. But as mentioned, the first two Tiangongs were not designed to last.

Tiangong 1 went through a controlled deorbiting process, eventually plummeting toward Earth and blazing up over the South Pacific on April 2, 2018. Tiangong 2 followed suit in July of the next year. The first two heavenly palaces were much needed dry runs. Transcripts for the establishment of a permanent, fully operational Chinese space station.

This next endeavor kicked off in April 2021, with the launch of the module Tianhe, or Harmony of the Heavens. In July 2022, Tianhe was expanded with the second [01:58:00] compartment, Wentian, or Quest of the Heavens, and the station was completed with its third module, Menqian, Dreaming for the Heavens in October 2022.

Harmony, quest and dreaming have thus completed this new station also called Ang Go. The Palace is under the administration of the Chinese Man Space Agency or CMSA, who has plans to keep it constantly crude by a minimum of three auts for the span of 10 years. Much like the International Space Station, Ang Go will be used to conduct a vast array of scientific experiments in fields such as stem cell and regenerative medicine, or quantum precision measurements in parallel to the Xang J in Tiangong missions.

The CNSA and CASC were also developing the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, named after the moon goddess Chang'e. The main characters in this first phase of the project were the uncrewed lunar orbiters Chang'e 1 and 2. Their role, successfully enacted in November 2007 and October 2010, was to develop a 3D map of the moon's surface to identify an ideal landing spot.

This was in preparation for Phase 2, with two more unmanned crafts, [01:59:00] Chang'e 3 the lead role. Number 3 launched on December 2nd, 2013, propelled into space by Airbus A320. A long marched 3B rocket note the reference to Mao's Long March, a key event of the civil war against Nationalist China. Chang'e 3 would not just orbit around the moon like those bums wanted to, oh no, it was time for a soft landing.

The craft touched down on lunar 14, before deploying its rover, Yutu. And fun fact, in Chinese mythology, Yutu is the pet rabbit of the goddess Chang'e. The engineers at CASC did not fully trust Chang'e 3 to succeed, and thus had kept another lunar lander as a backup. But due to No. 3's success, this humble benchwarmer was promoted to front line player and landed on the Moon on January 3, 2019.

Obviously, it brought along its own perra. But what made the Chang'e 4 mission impressive was the landing spot, the Von Kármán Crater located on the far side of the Moon. The Chinese space agencies had thus achieved a first for humanity, soft landing a craft on the Moon's hidden face. At the time of writing, this successful series has spawned two more installments.

[02:00:00] Chang'e 5 launched on November 23, 2020, and was the first mission in the entire project to return to earth after collecting 1.7 kilograms of samples from the moon's surface. Changi six took off on May 3rd, 2024, and is yet to return. Number six will return to near the Von Carmen crater on the moon's far side for another collection and subsequent delivery of samples.

But why stop at the moon on January the 23rd 2020, the Chinese space agencies launched their first independent mission to Mars Tian when one or Heavenly Questions the craft reached the red planet's orbit on February 10, 2021, from where it deployed a lander and a rover, Zhurong. More heavenly questions will follow.

Tianwen 2 is scheduled to launch in 2025 for a double mission, which may conclude only in the 2030s. The first part of the voyage will be dedicated to collecting material from an asteroid. Tianwen 2 will then sling around Earth for a second collection from a comet. The follow up mission, Tianwen 3, will also lift off around 2030, flying off to Mars.

Its objectives will be to collect rock samples from the Red Planet and return them safely Wave lead to earth for analysis. [02:01:00] Tian when for should follow shortly after with an even more ambitious destination. Jupiter, the remote controlled craft, will conduct flybys of Jupiter and its moons before settling in a around Callisto.

From there, the probe will conduct a rare flyby of the icy planet. In the 2040s, this intense schedule will be made even busier by an expansion of the Changi program scheduled to kick off in 2030. The Chinese space agencies are envisioning five consecutive launches after 2030, which will deliver the necessary components to assemble a permanent base on the Moon South Pole.

This will be entirely robotic at first, but will be joined by a crew of Ticanauts in 2036. This project is similar in scope and timing to NASA's Artemis and Gateway programs, which makes for an exciting race to establish a permanent human presence on the moon. So we're talking about at least eight major launch missions to take place between 2025 and 2036, without taking into account test runs, missions to Tiangong, and satellite launches.

It makes sense that one key priority for CASC is to enhance the cost effectiveness of the launch [02:02:00] phase. To achieve this, it's investing in rockets like the Long March 10 and 11, which are propelled by solid rather than liquid fuel. Solid fueled rockets, in fact, allow for the use of mobile launchers, which are more agile and way cheaper than traditional launch platforms used for liquid fueled rockets.

CASC has also kick started the development of a new version of the rocket Long March 9, which is due by 2030. This new incarnation of the number 9 should have The launch a payload of 150 metric tons to low Earth orbit, or 50 tons to the Earth Moon transfer orbit. More importantly, it will consist of three stages, one of which will be reusable.

And that's the key achievement, as reusability will allow for significant economies of scale. Clearly, making the most of available resources is high up China's agenda. And if you're going to explore space, you may as well make the most of what you find up there. CAI scientist Wang Wei has in fact already conducted a feasibility study to build an end to end logistics system which will scale.

Ban the entire solar system, this system to be operational by the year 2100 will harvest resources such as water from the moon, [02:03:00] or even metals and minerals from near earth, asteroids, Mars, and Jupiter satellites. In other words, it's a grand scale plan for extraterrestrial mining. So how realistic is this?

Only time will tell, but on a possibly more achievable scale, the Chinese Society of Astronauts Space Solar Power Commission, has announced another plan to harvest a less tangible energy source in the words of its director leaning in the future. We are looking at building a space solar power station, which according to the current plan, will possess the power capability of a billion watts.

So the gigawatt level and the mega project will be operational for commercial use. The future Space Power Station will likely have a scale of more than 10,000 tons programs described thus far. Are all rooted in a desire to further space exploration and technological advancement. However, as is often the case with space programs, the shadow of the military looms large.

The People's Liberation Army or PLA oversees many of these programs, and Tiger Norths are routinely recruited from the armed forces in a more direct way. The PLA has been active in developing [02:04:00] satellite systems dedicated to signal intelligence or to assist precision guided weapons. Just to quote a statistic, of all 585 2001 to 2020, 229 had military utility.

One of those launches was for the final satellite in the Beidou network, a navigation system managed by the PLA to rival the more widespread GPS system owned by the United States. And speaking of orbital rivalries in 2020, China unveiled its plans to develop a mega constellation of almost 13,000 satellites, GU Wang, which will challenge the starlink array set up by SpaceX.

The purpose of Gua Wang is to provide fast, reliable internet via satellite across the globe, especially in poorly serviced areas, according to an April, 2023 report by the Washington Post. However, there is. A risk for the Gua Wang Stalin rivalry to spill outside the boundaries of commercial competition.

According to the post Chinese military researchers are concerned that the Stalin Communications Network may quote, pose a major national security threat to Beijing following their successful use in the UK war, hence the Chinese military. May call for the [02:05:00] Guaweng project to be accelerated and weaponized.

According to unnamed Chinese sources, the PLA may call for Guaweng satellites to be equipped with laser and microwave weapons, which, quote, can be used to damage the reconnaissance payloads that may be carried by the Starlink satellites. Or more traditionally, to conduct cyberattacks to paralyze Starlink's communication network.

The Guowen Project and PLA's space capabilities are two topics we will need to expand on in future videos. In fact, every program we touched upon today deserves its own deep dive, so let us know in the comments which one you'd like to see next. For the time being though, we can only conclude that China's plans to explore and exploit orbital and transorbital space are unparalleled.

I don't know if you've heard of it, but it's a game where you have to keep up your game if you want to keep pace with the Chinese space agencies. Are we looking at a future space race? It's our opinion that a new space race has already started, one more complex and unpredictable than the good old variety between the US and the Soviet Union.

More global and regional players have now [02:06:00] entered the fray, besides the United States and China as rival or allies, Russia, Japan, the ESA, India, as well as private enterprises such as SpaceX are all getting in on it. Peace out. While there is the ever present risk of militarization of space, our hope is that an increasingly crowded market will stimulate instead cost efficiencies, research and development, and the advancement of all mankind.

This Is How Huawei Shocked America With a Smartphone - Bloomberg Originals - Air Date 11-17-23

ROSALIE E'SILVA - HOST, BLOOMBERG ORIGINALS: The chip industry distinguishes chips by referring to them in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. That's about half the diameter of a DNA double helix. 

IAN KING: Basically, the smaller you can make a transistor, the better you can make the capabilities of a chip.

If you're looking at Samsung's latest Galaxy, or obviously Apple's iPhone, These devices are going to be based upon chips that are using three nanometer technology. 

ROSALIE E'SILVA - HOST, BLOOMBERG ORIGINALS: US export controls were aimed at keeping China's tech capabilities eight to ten years behind the US but the Kirin 9000S chip found in the Mate 60 Pro demonstrated that it may only be four or five [02:07:00] years behind the world's most advanced technology.

IAN KING: This chip was, was made with seven nanometer production and that is a lot closer to where the industry is, to the state of the art, than the US had been hoping. The 

ROSALIE E'SILVA - HOST, BLOOMBERG ORIGINALS: So, how did Huawei and SMIC pull this off? In recent years, the majority of the world's most advanced chips have come from here, Taiwan. And there's one single company that makes most of them, TSMC.

In the past, the Huawei unit HiSilicon was able to design chips that it delegated TSMC to manufacture and import. The US sanctions stopped that. 

DEBBY WU: China does seem to be able to find its way to find its way. alternatives when there is a lack of Western technologies available. 

ROSALIE E'SILVA - HOST, BLOOMBERG ORIGINALS: The single most important piece of equipment for making the most [02:08:00] advanced chips is what's known as an extreme ultraviolet lithography or an E.

U. V. Machine. It took decades to develop, and each one costs more than 100 million. They're able to etch patterns into chips as small as three nanometers. Only one company in the world makes them. The Dutch firm ASML. ASML 

IAN KING: hasn't been allowed to export its EUV machines to China. Never. It has been allowed to export something called DUV, a different type of technology, an older type of technology.

It was thought that by basically limiting them to that type of technology that they'd never get beyond a certain stage. What we found, and this chip would appear to indicate, is that actually they were able to squeeze the capabilities of this DUV machinery to get way more advanced lines in those pieces of silicon than the U.

S. had hoped. 

ROSALIE E'SILVA - HOST, BLOOMBERG ORIGINALS: Bloomberg reporting [02:09:00] discovered that SMIC did actually use some of these older D. U. V. machines from A. S. M. L. But the key question is whether it can produce a component at scale and efficiently enough to make it cost effective. In fact, the reason the handsets sold out may have had more to do with supply, not enough chips, than demand.

It also means it may be harder to get to the next stage, below 7 nanometers. 

GINA RAIMONDO: I was obviously, I the right word, upset, brave, you know, when I saw the Huawei announcement. The only good news is, if there is any, is we don't have any evidence that they can manufacture 7 nanometer at scale. 

IAN KING: On what's called the China Hawk side of the equation, this is the last chance that America has to cut off China from access to advanced technology.

DEBBY WU: Some Republican lawmakers are now calling for the Biden administration to cut off Huawei and SMIC from American [02:10:00] technologies completely. In 

IAN KING: the short term, there's likely to be a degradation of their capabilities. But if you look at this from a long term perspective, you've given them Every, every incentive in the world to go out and do it themselves.

DEBBY WU: China remains the biggest semiconductor consumer and if the companies like Intel and NVIDIA loses this major market, that means that they could generate significantly less revenue and hurt their ability to continue to innovate and keep the US ahead of China. 

IAN KING: Chinese spending plans on semiconductor have been widely reported to be in excess of 100 billion.

That's three or four times the annual spending of a major chip maker like TSMC. Given that kind of capital, given that kind of patience, there is a chance that they will get to advance capabilities over time.


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And finally section D: Escalating tensions.

Can We Compete With China While Avoiding War? - Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft - Air Date 5-28-24

KELLEY VHLAHOS - HOST, QUINCY INSTITUTE: One of the things that bugs you is that there seems to be a school of [02:11:00] thought that economic competition with China is completely divorced

from the security question. In other words, no one who is supporting, you know, no one who is supporting punishments against against Beijing, whether it be sanctions or against companies or exports into China or the pressuring of allies to isolate Chinese markets or talking about decoupling, whatever veer into the Security well realm when in fact, as you have pointed out to me, supporters of these policies, including the Biden administration, often use national security reasons to justify all of those actions.

The Chinese for their part, do the same thing. Um, you call it a security dilemma in the economic realm. Can you talk more about that? 

JAKE WERNER: I talk to people on both sides of the aisle, um, who, who think that we have real security problems with China. Um, they worry about the possibility of violent conflict. Uh, but they think that we can push [02:12:00] and antagonize China in the economic realm. Without any kind of limit, because it has no danger of building up towards some sort of, uh, war or conflict, uh, in, in some third country.

Um, I think that that, uh, that is quite unrealistic. Uh, we, we look at the history of major great power conflict over the last, uh, Uh, 120 years or so. All of those conflicts were rooted in economic competition. World War I came out of a competition over which country could dominate, uh, markets and raw materials in the colonized world.

 The conflict between, uh, Japan and the United States that led to Pearl Harbor that ultimately came out of a question of who would be able to dominate commerce in China. And of course, the Cold War was also really fundamentally about who would dominate the industrial capacity of Western Europe and Japan.

Um, so we see historically that economic tensions build into security conflict, the most disastrous global conflicts of the last century. [02:13:00] Um, and we see that happening now in the US china relationship. Uh, there is, uh, what is thought on both sides to be a zero sum game. Um, question over who is going to dominate the high value sectors in high technology industries, who is going to dominate the export markets for those goods and who will be able to dominate the sourcing of the raw materials that are necessary to produce those goods.

 Increasingly we're seeing the two sides, uh, in a sort of escalatory arms race in, in, in the economic realm. Um, so I actually, I actually agree with, um, What my co panelists have said, um, quite a bit, uh, actually, uh, the, the issue is rather that I think we need to take into the, into account the very real danger that even as we need to attend to the, the core economic problems in the United States, we also need to figure out a modus vivendi with China so that this doesn't spin out of control into the kind of global conflicts that, uh, that we've seen historically.

And, and how do you do that? I think, I mean, if we, Of course, in capitalism, economic competition is a fact of everyday life. It doesn't always [02:14:00] spin out into a world war that only happens every couple of decades or so. So what makes the difference between everyday economic competition, uh, and the kind of zero sum existential economic competition that leads to war?

Uh, I think it's the choice between, uh, between open competition. On the one hand and exclusion on the other in an open competition, you're constantly meeting your adversary, , in some space, whether that's a sports stadium or, or a political debate or in a commercial market, the competition is constantly renewed.

Uh, there's possibilities for the other side, even if they lose this game to come back and win the next one. Uh, it's an ongoing connection between the two competitors and exclusion is quite different than that. That is severing the connection between the two sides, making sure that there is no competition.

Uh, right now in D. C., everything that we do that antagonizes China, we call competition. But in reality, the vast majority of these things are exclusion. They're actually cutting off competition, whether that's preventing China, Chinese businesses from [02:15:00] buying advanced semiconductors, cutting Chinese businesses out of the American market.

 Making it illegal for Chinese citizens to purchase land in the United States. Um, uh, blocking, uh, the Chinese construction of undersea cables. These are, these are, these are really core vital interests that the United States wants to do these things precisely for, for the same reason that China thinks that they're core vital interests.

Uh, and when you pursue exclusion, around core vital interests, that is incredibly provocative, violently provocative. If it's in some realm that China is interested in and can just sort of like move its efforts elsewhere, fine. That's not a big deal. If it gets to vital interests, then China is going to respond in kind.

And we're already seeing that kind of, uh, escalatory spiral in the economic realm. So I don't, I don't dispute the problems that, uh, that Sagar and David have raised. Um, I, I think they, they require, uh, Very serious attention, but as part of our, our thinking through those things, we also have to find a way to accommodate the desire to grow and to improve the prospects of the people [02:16:00] of both China and the United States.

DAVID GOLDMAN: There's an old joke about the Austro Hungarian empire, that it was a tyranny tempered by incompetence. I think the same can be said about American technology policy towards China. We certainly impose serious costs on China. Yeah. But when, uh, president Trump, I believe in April of 2019, put a ban on higher end chips to Huawei, most American analysts said that will finish off China's 5g program that won't be able to roll it out without the higher end chips.

Well, six years later, China has 3. 8 million 5g base stations and we have a hundred thousand and their 5g is real 5g. It's about three or four times as fast as ours. And that's having a big effect in their industry. They've managed to work around it with lower end chips. Huawei shut down, virtually shut down his handset business because you need the better, the faster chips [02:17:00] to run 5g.

But then, uh, last September they demonstrated that they could produce domestically with the technology they had higher end chips that were good enough to run a 5g smartphone and they could kick the stuffing out of Apple in the Chinese market. So we have not really stopped the Chinese from proceeding with their plan.

We've imposed substantial costs on them. My guess is maybe even a half percent of GDP per year. It's a big cost, but they're willing to pay it. The chief technology officer of Huawei told me in an interview, oh, a year ago, you don't understand the Chinese. The guys are Australian. That's it. If we have a problem, we'll put a thousand engineers on it.

And if that doesn't do it, we'll put 10, 000 engineers on it. And China graduates more engineers than the whole rest of the world combined. So I've got a lot of them. So whenever you [02:18:00] put a specific problem in front of the Chinese, uh, they'll attack it and most of the time they'll solve it where we really shine and the Chinese don't is in the unknown unknowns and innovation. Uh, it's the kind of maverick eccentric antinomian problem with authority rebel that did most of the great innovations of the digital age in the United States. So I convinced that if we pick our spots and we put the resources behind innovation, the way we used to during the cold war, we'll leapfrog China in many areas, but it won't work to try to stay ahead of them or suppress them in every area. It's a matter of picking our spots and being excellent in really key areas. 

Will China And The U.S. Go To War Over Taiwan? - AJ+ - Air Date 6-30-24

SAKHR AL-MAKHADHI - HOST, AJ+: China, officially named the People's Republic of China, is currently recognized by the UN and most [02:19:00] countries in the world. Taiwan, officially named the Republic of China, is only recognized by 12 countries and does not have a seat at the UN. And here's where it starts to get complicated.

The Chinese government says there is only one sovereign nation under the name China, meaning that Taiwan is a part of China. And the Chinese Communist Party is the government of that China, but the elected government in Taiwan insists that Taiwan is already its own country.

To get to the root of this problem, we have to go back in time to 1912, when imperial rule ended in China, and a new government, called the Republic of China, or ROC, was founded. The Nationalist Party became the ruling government of China, while also fighting the Communist Party in a civil war. After nine years of fighting, the two parties paused the conflict to fight against Imperial Japan, when it invaded and occupied the country in 1937.

The [02:20:00] Second Sino Japanese War was fought. Some estimates say that Japanese soldiers raped tens of thousands of women and killed hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians in China's then capital Nanjing.

The conflict is part of what China's government calls its Century of Humiliation, referring to the nearly 100 years of military defeats when China had to cede territory. 1945, foreign powers like Japan, France and Britain. Taiwan was one of the territories ceded to Japan by Imperial China. After Japan surrendered at the end of World War II, Taiwan was returned to the ROC.

When the Communist Party tells its own history, the return of these Chinese territories, including Taiwan, serves as a symbol of victory in its fight against imperialism. 

BRIAN HIOE: I, I think war just begets smart war, and I think with nationalism, oftentimes you just have past tragedies used to justify future military action. Brian Hugh [02:21:00] is a journalist and writer and a founder of New Bloom, an online magazine that focuses on Taiwanese politics and youth. And with regards to these contemporary claims from China over Taiwan.

That could lead to further tragedies, further warfare, and that's also in the name of nation, and territory, and land, and, uh, national glory in that sense. After Japan pulled out of China in 1945, the struggle for power between the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party resumed. 210, 000 Communists are dead or wounded in the battle, while some of the 50, 000 Nationalists wounded are evacuated by air to rear areas.

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: Despite the horde of Communist captives taken, the city All to the rest. The rest is history. The Communist Party's victory in the civil war resulted in the birth of the People's Republic of China, or PRC, and the Nationalist Party moved its government to Taiwan. But that is far from explaining why mainland China is recognized by most countries today and still wants [02:22:00] to claim Taiwan.

SAKHR AL-MAKHADHI - HOST, AJ+: For the next few decades, the PRC and ROC were ruled separately across the Taiwan Strait under authoritarian dictatorships. Mao Zedong led Mainland China from Beijing until his death. On the island off China's southeastern coast, Chiang Kai shek imposed 38 years of martial law in Taiwan, despite local resistance.

That period became known as the White Terror. Those who didn't support a total war with the PRC were labeled and persecuted as communist sympathizers. Tens of thousands of people were arrested for holding different political views from the government. For And at least 1, 200 were executed. For two decades, the two governments exchanged fire across the Taiwan Strait.

The Nationalist Party wanted to retake China, and the Communist Party wanted to squash the ROC's leadership. Neither succeeded. And they both claimed to be the sole government of China. But what did other [02:23:00] countries think? The ROC, led by the Nationalist Party, governing both the mainland and Taiwan, was a founding member of the UN in 1945.

After the Nationalists fled to Taiwan, the UN continued to only recognise the ROC, even though it just controlled Taiwan. After the PRC's founding, other Soviet aligned countries quickly recognised it as the government of China. Later, more and more countries joined them. In 1971, most UN members voted to expel the ROC and instead approved the PRC to represent China.

Let's take a pause and zoom in here. Because the 70s were an important decade When the PRC joined the UN, the US still had not recognized it. In fact, the US has played a big part in the tug of war between China and Taiwan. 

BRIAN HIOE: Taiwan has historically played a role for the US in terms of, uh, regional containment policy.

SAKHR AL-MAKHADHI - HOST, AJ+: [02:24:00] When Japan withdrew at the end of World War II, the Communist Party gained control of northern China. which had partly been held by the Soviet Union. And the US sent troops to make sure the Nationalist Party maintained control of southern China, including Taiwan. After the defeated Nationalists fled to the island, again, the U.

S. sided with them. 

BRIAN HIOE: I think particularly the US historically backed Taiwan in the interests of anti communism and propped up a right wing dictatorship here. 

SAKHR AL-MAKHADHI - HOST, AJ+: During the Vietnam War and the Cold War, Nationalist Party led Taiwan provided regional and non combat military support to the US. American backing was crucial to the Nationalist Party's military and political ambition.

The ROC planned several military offenses on the mainland during the 60s, when Mao's China was suffering from famine and political turmoil. But the operations couldn't be carried out. Due to the lack of US support. Between 1949 and 1965, the US provided Taiwan with nearly 4 billion worth of military and [02:25:00] economic aid.

Before the PRC joined the U. N. in 1971, the US also deliberately delayed its membership from being approved. Then this happened. 

RICHARD NIXON: My hope out of, uh, the beginning that we have made on this journey that many, many Americans, particularly the young Americans who like to travel so much, will have an opportunity to come here as I have come here today with Mrs.

Nixon and the others in our party. In 1972, a US president visited the PRC for the first time after its founding. This became a turning point in US china relations. Entrenched in the Vietnam War and the Cold War, The American government saw an opportunity to finally form relations with the PRC and to isolate the Soviet Union when its rift with China was growing wider.

SAKHR AL-MAKHADHI - HOST, AJ+: The United States recognizes the government of the People's Republic of China as a sole legal government of China. In 1979, 30 years after [02:26:00] the PRC's founding and eight years after it joined the UN, the US officially recognized the PRC. But in classic US tradition, the American government was still It signed the Taiwan Relations Act, which legally mandates the U.

S. to provide arms for Taiwan to defend itself, and says that any attempt to use force against Taiwan would be of grave concern. But it doesn't say whether the US would go to war. What followed after the ROC lost both its U. N. seats, and its official recognition from the US would change Taiwan's course completely.

With the world embracing the PRC, China's then paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, led economic reforms that made China a powerhouse in the US dominated global capitalist system. Meanwhile across the strait, in 1979, tens of thousands of activists and supporters gathered in Taiwan's second largest city, Kaohsiung, to demand press freedom and an [02:27:00] end to one party rule.

Police beat protesters and injured over a hundred people. Leaders of the protest were tried in military court and punished with harsh sentences, including life imprisonment. What is now known as the Formosa Incident kick started the democratic movement in Taiwan. Under public pressure, the government started allowing non nationalist party candidates to participate in national elections.

Martial law started loosening and eventually ended in 1987. For more UN videos visit www. un. org Since then, Taiwan has gone through numerous legislative and government reforms. 

BRIAN HIOE: At the day, there is this anxiety about distinguishing oneself from China. But then I think particularly in contemporary times, that is increasingly tied to that Taiwan is democracy and China is not.

I think a lot of contemporary Taiwan's political identity is very pluralistic, because there are all this diverse influences, whether from that the original Hapsar are indigenous, there's different ways of Han migration, that Taiwan went through the Japanese colonial period, and the KMT period, and so I think that [02:28:00] often leads to the framing that these are all different historical factors that some which are quite tragic contribute to the making of contemporary Taiwanese identity.

SAKHR AL-MAKHADHI - HOST, AJ+: Today, the majority of people in Taiwan identify as primarily Taiwanese, some as both Taiwanese and Chinese, and only 3 percent as primarily Chinese. This shifting identity is reflected in the fact that the Democratic Progressive Party won an unprecedented third term in the presidential election in 2024.

The party built its platform on supporting Taiwan's independence from China, while the Nationalist Party, which has long abandoned its dream of overtaking the mainland, is now seen as the party that favors closer ties with mainland China. The majority of people in Taiwan today want to maintain the current state of de facto, but not formalized, independence.

Though, support for pursuing independence slowly has also increased over the past few decades. 

Sarah Cook on China's Expanding Global Media Influence - Democracy Paradox - Air Date 9-20-22

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: Can you provide an example that surprised you as you were putting together the [02:29:00] research where China clearly overstepped its bounds or did something new to influence media abroad?

SARAH COOK: So, there’s one individual example I can give, but I think part of what really surprised me was the constellation of certain things. So, one example that is new and would not have happened before and stood out and I think connects to the shock of what’s happened in Hong Kong is the fact that Hong Kong authorities are also getting into the business now of threatening news outlets and website servers in other countries. So, for example, one of the reports I actually worked on was the Israel report.

So, a Hong Kong government official wrote to a local web service provider in Israel, because they were hosting a website of Hong Kong democracy activists and asked them to take down the website. Part of what they did was they said, ‘The hosting of this website violates the National Security Law in Hong Kong and your employees could be at risk.’ Because the national security law actually [02:30:00] includes an extraterritorially broad provision. So, the company did initially take down the website. Then there was a brouhaha and a lot of public backlash and they put it back up. Which I think epitomizes the overall findings of the report in some ways of these more aggressive influence efforts but also the corresponding backlash in different countries.

Then I think that company actually said, ‘We’re going to institute better screening of these requests.’ So, then it actually built up a deeper, longer-term form of resilience. But I think that’s just one example of how what’s happening in China and what’s changing in China and Hong Kong does have ripple effects globally. I think the other thing that just surprised me in terms of overall findings is the sheer scale of content placements in mainstream media in country after country, we’ve counted over 130 news outlets of 30 countries that were republishing content that was produced by Chinese state media outlets or the Chinese embassy. So, [02:31:00] these state media outlets are actually formally under the control of the Communist Party’s propaganda department.

So, basically, they’re producing content that’s then being inserted, sometimes labeled, sometimes kind of labeled, sometimes not labeled or deliberately disguised into newspapers, television programs, radio to a lesser extent, because it’s just not as widely used around the world, in country after country in multiple mainstream media outlets. Just the sheer scale of that is really breathtaking. I think there’s other questions about how impactful it is, but that’s just something that a few years ago wasn’t happening on that scale. They’ve really put a lot of effort into it. In sixteen countries we found upgraded or new agreements that were what were facilitating that kind of injection of content. Just the sheer scale of readership and viewership of that is kind of mind boggling to be honest.

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: When did China really start to expand its media footprint? I mean, it feels like it’s been in [02:32:00] recent years, but some of these media outlets like Xinhua have existed for a long time. So, when did it really kind of take its media operations global?

SARAH COOK: So, all of these media outlets for the most part existed within China for a long time. So, Xinhua is a core element of the domestic propaganda apparatus. The foreign influence really started in the Chinese language media space after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, because there was so much support for the protestors among the Chinese diaspora. That really caught the Communist Party by surprise. So, they felt like, ‘Wow, we really need to do something about this.’

That’s when some of these techniques like the inserting of content which they call ‘Borrowing a Boat to Reach the Sea’ where Chinese state sources piggyback onto local media to reach their audiences. That first emerges in the Chinese language space. Getting friendly business people to buy out media outlets started happening in the mid-nineties with some outlets in [02:33:00] Malaysia and in Hong Kong. In the 2000s, you saw it in Taiwan. So, I think you definitely see this element of tactics and experimentation happening in the Chinese language. Then I think what’s newer is that over the last 5-10 years there has been an uptick in trying to expand this globally. Some of this precedes Xi Jinping. Hu Jintao, his predecessor, was actually the first one to really invest some serious money in expanding the Chinese state media outlets in telling them to quote, “Go global.”

Because of some of the filings from the Foreign Agents Registration Act, we know how much money an outlet like the state-run China Daily was spending on inserting content into local US media. There was a huge jump around 2009. It more than doubled in like a couple of years and then it stayed at a very high level of at least a million dollars a year, more than that, even $2 million a year since then. So, it started before Xi Jinping, but Xi Jinping has definitely [02:34:00] emphasized it more. I think in general Xi Jinping is much more aggressive. So, under Hu Jintao there was some of this kind of censorship pressure happening, especially in Chinese language media and major international media and pressure on foreign correspondents.

But now we found in 24 out of the 30 countries local journalists facing some kind of intimidation or pressure or cyber-attacks or cyber bullying related to coverage of China. When I did my first report 10 years ago that just wasn’t happening. So, that kind of evolution into the local mainstream media expansion into so many different languages with a more aggressive approach is something that’s much more recent, maybe in the last five years.

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: Has Xi Jinping changed tactics that they’ve used in terms of China’s media influence campaign throughout his tenure? I mean, how have you seen things change as Xi Jinping has been in power over the course of his 10 years?

SARAH COOK: So, I [02:35:00] would say, I think some of what happens outside China actually mirrors some of what’s happened inside China in that Xi Jinping actually gets the internet. He understands social media. He’s much savvier than his predecessors and he understands how to control it. So, one of the first things he did when he first came to power was there was actually a fairly vibrant social media space and conversation. There were heavily censored topics, but you still had breaking news that was getting ahead of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda apparatus back in 2011-2012. And these are all on domestic platforms, so like Weibo, which is kind of a Chinese version of Twitter, because Twitter is blocked. So, it was already pretty censored, but it was pretty freewheeling. There were some real political and social conversations and sharing of information critical of the government.

So, Xi just squashed that. He came in and basically issued new rules. He arrested and detained some really influential social [02:36:00] media people, even people like businessmen, people who weren’t necessarily political dissidents or anything like that. So, some of these platforms are just a shadow of what they were before in terms of the space for some of the public conversations outside of the control of the Communist Party. And I think that savviness does translate internationally. There’s been a much greater emphasis in investment on local languages, like I said. We’re not just talking about Spanish or Arabic. We’re talking about Hebrew, Romanian, Sinhala, and Swahili. They have accounts and in the 30 countries we looked at, we found at least one account or local diplomatic outreach that was in the local language and in many countries more than one local language.

So, I think that’s one element of savviness and engagement. Now some of that is very genuine about Chinese culture and Chinese food, but then you get some form of falsehood or disinformation or misleading content related to conspiracy theories about the origin of COVID-19 denials and mudding the waters about what’s happening in [02:37:00] Xinjiang or other kinds of anti-American narratives based on not quite full truths. So, I think it’s that there’s engagement, but it’s also more aggressive and covert. So, what we’re seeing overall is we find that the tactics are becoming more sophisticated, more covert, and more coercive. That just really came through as we were going across the sets of different countries and some of the sophistication is in how covert it is.

Some of it is, again, how do you tap into local influencers and get them to repost content? So, there’s often some trickery involved. Some of it is co-opting the local political elites and media owners to suppress coverage of the local outlets. That we found in 17 countries. So, that was actually relatively common where it’s not just the Chinese embassy picking up the phone and telling a journalist not to cover this, but a local official, a ministry representative, [02:38:00] or a media owner who either themselves got a call from the Chinese embassy or have their own business or other interests related to China and find that it’s not a good idea to be publishing this or that report at a particular moment.

Pentagon Ran a Secret Anti-Vax Campaign to Undermine China at the Height of the Pandemic: Reuters - Democracy Now! - Air Date 6-20-24

JOEL SCHECTMAN: Basically, what we found was that when COVID-19 broke out in January, February 2020, obviously, the entire world was not prepared for what was going to happen next. But in certain areas of the national security establishment in Washington, immediately they saw this through the kind of prism of this kind of new cold war with China, right? And the issue is that that had already been heating up. And there’s this idea in Washington now that China and Russia have been just very successful with these kind of information operations, these kind of propaganda campaigns, of the type that the U.S. used to [02:39:00] also do a lot during the Cold War. But there’s this idea that Russia and China had really gotten ahead of the United States in the years since the Cold War. And, you know, in 2016, you have the hacking and leaking during the election to affect the outcome of the election. And there’s this idea that China has really been, like, getting ahead in that sphere, as well, in, like, influencing allies and spreading misinformation.

And that’s the backdrop to what happened in 2020, where COVID breaks out, and then, immediately, or within a few months of the outbreak, China starts spinning this narrative that not only was COVID not created in China, but that it was actually brought to China by the United States military, that maybe it came out of Fort Detrick or maybe it came through a military service member who was participating in a sports competition there. But they start spreading that narrative, and it starts — and, you know, from the Pentagon perspective, there was just [02:40:00] this, like, tremendous anger that this narrative was starting to take hold in other — in countries, you know, like the Philippines and Southeast Asia. And so they felt that they had to strike back.

And the other thing that was going on at that period was that even in the early days of the pandemic, the U.S. was starting to come up with a vaccine response, but one that was going to really put, like, America first. It was a very, like, America-first vaccine policy, whereas very, very early in the pandemic, China came out publicly and said that it was going to try to make its vaccines publicly available in the developing world, right?

And all of this starts to play out in the Philippines, which is a country that traditionally was a very close U.S. ally, right? And traditionally, it’s a very close U.S. ally, but had started to move away under President Duterte, had started to move away from the United States and started to move toward China anyway. And then the [02:41:00] pandemic breaks out, and Duterte cuts this deal with China that it’s going to be first in line for China’s vaccine that’s under development. And at the same time, Duterte says, “OK, I’m going to also get rid of these old U.S. military agreements that we have. They’re no longer relevant.” And so, within the Pentagon and within Washington, there was this fear that they were going to lose the Philippines, so to speak.

And so they launched this secret propaganda campaign in the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia to try to denigrate China’s vaccine. And what made it particularly controversial, I think, or controversial now — right? — to look back at it in hindsight, is that it’s not that U.S. was secretly — not just that the U.S. was secretly denigrating a vaccine at the height of the COVID pandemic, which by itself is kind of problematic, but it was doing this at a time that no other vaccine was going to be [02:42:00] available in the foreseeable future, right? Like, the United States’s vaccines did not become widely available in the Philippines for like 10 months — for 10 months after they got the Chinese one. So the Chinese one was really the only game in town in the Philippines for like almost the first year of — for almost an entire year.

And so, you know, you have Sinovac, which is really the only one that most Filipinos were able to access, and the Pentagon was using these kind of secret social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook to say that this vaccine was harmful, that it was dangerous, that it was at least ineffective, and that China caused the virus to start with, so, ergo, you know, how can he trust any vaccine that comes out of the country that created the virus itself, right? And they were using these kind of fake accounts that sort of purported to be Filipinos and [02:43:00] trying to really stir up this message that, you know, I mean, what’s your track record with Chinese products? Right? They’re all fake, right? You know, what have you seen in your own life? You’ve seen that Chinese products are fake. How can you trust a country that always creates fake products to make a real vaccine? The vaccines are — 


JOEL SCHECTMAN: — going to be fake, too. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: This is extremely significant, given how many people died in the Philippines of COVID without taking the vaccine. I mean, you have that quote in your piece. “We weren’t looking at this from a public health perspective. We were looking at how we could drag China through the mud,” said one senior military officer. How many people died in the Philippines?

JOEL SCHECTMAN: Yeah. So, I’m trying to remember, like, by the end of the — by the end of COVID, how many people passed away. But it was — I mean, you’re talking about a number that reached into — [02:44:00] you know, that reached far past the tens of thousands, right?

And there’s no question — it’s very hard to measure, like, the efficacy of a secret campaign like this and say, OK, how much did it move the needle. But I think if we judged it by its intentions — right? — like, the intention was to make people hesitant to take Sinovac — there’s no question that, to the degree that that was successful, it was incredibly harmful. There’s all kinds of public health research in the Philippines that shows that vaccine hesitancy, specifically towards the Chinese vaccines, led to a large number of deaths, because, again, that was the only vaccine that was available from like February 2021 almost 'til early 2022. It wasn't the only one, but it was almost the only one, right? Like, it was the only one you could reliably get at that point in the country. And the fact that people were so afraid of taking that because of their [02:45:00] history of sort of suspicion towards China really had like a very adverse impact. Now, it’s hard to say exactly how much the Pentagon throwing fuel on that fire, like, how much of an impact that had. But if you judge it by its intentions, to whatever degree they were successful with their intentions, it was incredibly harmful.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: You suggest, toward the end of your piece, Joel, that there is a kind of broader move underway within the U.S. military to get more involved in clandestine propaganda to undermine adversaries like China and Russia — both of these countries, of course, criticized by the U.S. precisely for deploying these methods. Can you explain?

JOEL SCHECTMAN: Yeah. So, like I was mentioning earlier, there is this idea that the U.S. has been flat-footed in sort of responding to Chinese and Russian covert propaganda efforts. And there’s this idea that, you know, [02:46:00] we’ve been like a little bit too hesitant, a little too kind of moralistic in our response. And as a result, we’ve kind of, like, ceded this sort of information space battlefield to them. There’s this idea that we need to kind of fight fire with fire, the United States needs to take the fight back to the adversary in that realm, and that it needs to envision psyops, as they call them, as having a much bigger role in sort of shifting the — you know, kind of shifting the political dynamic — right? — that psyops, their role is not just in a hot, like, war, dropping leaflets, encouraging surrender, but it really needs to be part of this kind of ideological battle and potentially be used to kind of undermine civil society within, like — you know, within our adversaries.



JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: That's going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about today's topic or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send [02:47:00] us a text at 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. The additional sections of the show included clips from The Telegraph, Focus On Africa, The China in Africa Podcast, Vox, CNBC, The Hustle, Astrographics, Bloomberg Originals, The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, AJ+, Democracy Paradox, and Democracy Now! Further details are in the show notes. 

Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing a gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today ay bestoftheleft.com/support or [02:48:00] through our Patreon page. And we're offering a 20% off discount for this month only. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny weekly bonus episodes, in addition to there being no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to you from far outside, the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from bestoftheleft.com.

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