Colonial Legacies and Post-Colonial Realities: Vijay Prashad in Conversation

In this insightful discussion, Vijay Prashad, a prominent Indian historian and commentator, shared his valuable insights on various subjects, including the role of the Indian diaspora in shaping global perspectives on Indian politics and culture, his motivation to study the intersections of imperialism, capitalism, and globalization, and the enduring effects of colonialism on India and other colonized nations. Through his profound knowledge and expertise, Prashad provided thought-provoking perspectives that shed light on significant historical and contemporary issues.

As the Director of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, Prashad continues to shape critical discourse and provoke thoughtful analysis. Prashad has authored numerous influential publications, which serve as intellectual milestones in understanding historical and contemporary issues. With a profound understanding of global politics, Prashad’s works unravel the intricate intersections between power, culture, and resistance, offering invaluable insights into the complexities of our world.

Excerpts of the interview;

Question [Q]: As an Indian historian and commentator, how do you see the role of the Indian diaspora in shaping global perspectives on Indian politics and culture?

Answer [A]: The Indian diaspora is varied, oscillating between people who have almost no politics to people who are adherents of the far-right. There was a time when the Indian diaspora was the home of the Left. The first left-wing Indian political party was established in California in 1913. It was the Ghadar Party. Many of those who were attracted to it later went to the USSR to learn how to become Communists, and then went on to join the Communist movement in India. The Communist Party of India was founded in Tashkent (USSR) in 1920, mostly by emigré Indians, a different kind of diaspora. But, after independence, the nature of migration changed, as sections of the Indian middle-class left the country for economic reasons and their political life mirrored the journey of the Indian middle-class within the country. The middle-class Indian diaspora today is the exact complement of the Indian middle-class inside India.

Q: What motivated you to study and write about the intersection of imperialism, capitalism, and globalization, particularly in relation to the Global South?

A: I was born and brought up in Kolkata, India, which is a city of great marvels but also a city of immense inequality. To people like me, born into education and means, the striking aspect of our lives was the gap between what we experienced and the absolute devastation of poverty that defined the lives of people around us. That social inequality hit me hard and continues to strike me. It is what forced me to learn about why inequality is reproduced, to seek answers from the facts, and therefore to discover that the source of such inequality was the ugly profit-driven system of capitalism that had absorbed wretched hierarchies that predate capitalism, such as the caste system. Why was India not able to transcend the caste hierarchies and the ugliness of capitalism? It was not just because of the greed of the Indian bourgeoise and the landlords, but also due to the immense power of the neo-colonial structure maintained by the former colonial powers. You can’t understand the poverty on the streets of Colombo, for instance, without having a full understanding of the imperialist system.

Q: In your work, you often highlight the impact of imperialism on the countries and regions it has affected. How would you describe the lasting effects of imperialism on India and other colonized nations?

A: Firstly, it is important to note that British imperialism – which ruled India for centuries – stole tens of trillions of pounds from the Indian people. Several economists have tried to calculate this enormous ‘drain of wealth’. Profits made in India and wealth built in India were not reinvested in the country but taken and invested in the United Kingdom. This led to a cascade of underinvestment in India, and therefore the impoverishment of the country. Second, as a consequence of this underinvestment – the lack of use of capital formed in India – was that there was reduced employment opportunities for the people, including lack of investment in agriculture that led to the catastrophic famines of the Victorian Era. Third, the British imperial state in India failed to invest in social development – namely in health and education – which grievously impacted the living conditions of people. When the British were booted out of India, the literacy rate was a mere 13% (in the UK, during the same period, the literacy rate was about 98%). These three impacts – theft of capital to the UK, the underinvestment in Indian agriculture, and the lack of social investment – have had long-term, catastrophic impacts on India.

Q: Some critics argue that anti-imperialist movements and ideologies often romanticize and idealize certain regimes or leaders, even when they may have engaged in oppressive practices. How do you respond to these critiques, and how can anti-imperialist movements avoid falling into this trap?

A: The journey out of the neo-colonial structures is not easy. People in very poor countries, with backward state institutions, struggle to establish their sovereignty over their territory and to create dignity for their people. They face attacks ceaselessly, which often leads beleaguered states to turn inward. The problems within the path of anti-colonial projects are nothing compared to the problems that structure those failures, namely the neo-colonial system. It is convenient for the old colonial powers to point fingers at the problems inside the post-colonial states, but harder for them to accept their own role in creating the enabling conditions for state failure and oppressive practices.

Q: What are some key challenges faced by post-colonial countries in achieving economic and political sovereignty, and how can they address these challenges effectively?

A: The most important challenges are two: first, the obduracy of the old colonial powers who refuse to allow for sovereignty and thereby use any means (including invasions and coups) to hold onto power (even if they allow for flag independence), and second, the theft of wealth by the colonial powers that leaves the new states in a dependent relation to their former colonial rulers, but this time not through political power but through economic interconnections. If a post-colonial state tries to establish its sovereignty over its own territory and raw materials (such as Chile in the early 1970s), it faces economic sabotage and then a coup (1973). This story repeats itself over and over again.

Q: Your work often critiques Western interventionism and imperialism. However, some argue that there are instances where international intervention can be justified, such as in cases of genocide or human rights abuses. How do you navigate this complex ethical terrain?

A: Obviously, there must be room for external intervention in times of genuine genocide. That principle is not established by the United Nations. However, that principle is also misused by the West to fulfill its own aims. For instance, it used the term genocide to justify the destruction of Libya in 2011 (after the bombardment ended, Amnesty International showed that there was nothing like genocide happening in Libya). Furthermore, Western interventions – such as in Iraq – have led to massive destruction (including loss of life and human rights abuses). We need to be very careful when we hear talk of genocide, since the term has been used instrumentally by Western powers to justify their own military interventions for their own narrow imperialist ends.

Q: The concept of “third worldism” has been central to your analysis. Could you explain this concept and its relevance in today’s global context?

A: Actually, I do not use this term, since the term itself is not precise enough. I use the term ‘Third World Project’ to specify the social dynamic set in place at the tail end of the colonial era, when colonized states got together to drive a combined agenda against the neo-colonial system. These states met in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, and then later established the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. This Third World Project was destroyed in the 1980s during the Third World debt crisis, when they lost their political strength due to the devastation of their economies and the use by the West of the International Monetary Fund to damage the integrity of the new states. Today, we have a different context, different possibilities. That is our history.

Q: Marxist ideologies have been widely criticized for their historical association with authoritarian regimes. How do you address these criticisms, and what do you believe is the role of Marxism in building a just and inclusive society?

A: The term ‘authoritarian regime’ is an ideological term. Its most scientific basis was provided by Hannah Arendt in her The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which made the case that fascism and communism are much the same thing. The association between fascism and communism is not only analytically lazy but it performed a task for the Western imperialist states that wanted to defame communism despite the historical role played by the USSR in the destruction of Nazism. So, what do we mean by authoritarian regimes? We do not add in their list the totalitarian regimes set in place by Western imperialism after the coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954), nor the money-driven democracies in the West that have corrupted democracy and driven people into either total social passivity or neo-fascist rage. Marxists stand against these kinds of totalitarianisms.

Q: Climate change is an urgent issue facing the world today. What are your thoughts on the responsibility of wealthy nations in addressing climate justice and supporting the Global South in tackling environmental challenges?

A: My thoughts are not as significant as the treaty obligations of the Western powers, who signed the 1992 Rio framework of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’, which means that they recognize the common problems of environmental destruction and climate change but see that there are differentiated responsibilities based on the historical abuse of the planet by the imperialist powers. This is a treaty obligation. And yet, the West has not lived up to their own obligation. They should be taken to the International Criminal Court for this malfeasance.

Q: Your book “The Darker Nations” focuses on the rise of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Bandung Conference. How do you view the relevance and legacy of these movements in the present-day geopolitical landscape?

A: Today, the context of that period when the Third World Project shone is very different. Certain states in the developing world – China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa – have taken on an important role in global leadership. The establishment of the BRICS (2009) and the emergence of the New Non-Alignment has opened up new possibilities. This opening is built on the legacy of the past, but it does not repeat them. These large states no longer want to accept the claim by the West that their parochial interests are universal. These states want to put forward their own national interests. We have to closely study this New Non-Alignment.

Q: Identity politics has become a contentious topic in recent years. What is your perspective on the role of identity-based movements in social and political struggles, and how can they contribute to broader movements for justice and equality?

A: The term identity politics is very general. Of course, there are historical social hierarchies – such as the caste system and patriarchy – that have to be frontally challenged and defeated. These will take place by broad based struggles against caste and patriarchy. An idea has come to the fore that only the victims of these systems can fight in this struggle. This narrows the fight and makes it weaker. We need to assemble broad based struggles of all people to fight to liberate humanity from wretchedness.

Q: How do you view the relationship between Marxism and anti-imperialism? Do you think Marxism provides an effective framework for addressing the unique challenges faced by post-colonial societies?

A: Marxism is one of the only frameworks that properly addresses the crisis-ridden system of capitalism that produces imperialist tendencies amongst its most powerful countries. No other theory of the world properly explains the cycle of crises and the punctuality of wars. If another theory comes along, let me know.

Q: However, some argue that globalization and capitalism, despite their flaws, have brought significant economic development and lifted millions out of poverty. How do you respond to this argument, and what alternative economic models do you propose?

A: If you look at the UN data, you will find that the country that has lifted the most number of people out of poverty is China. And the Chinese people have not eradicated absolute poverty through globalization and capitalism. They have done so, as our Tricontinental study shows, by the central work of the Communist Party of China and the state apparatus, which in a very studious and clear way went after certain social problems that had to be overcome for poverty to be eradicated. Countries that have weakened state structures – a necessary byproduct of extreme neoliberalism – have seen their poverty rates rise.

Q: Your analysis often focuses on the negative impacts of imperialism and capitalism. However, can you acknowledge any positive aspects or unintended consequences that may have emerged from these systems?

A: Can’t see any.

Q: In your view, what are some key lessons that can be drawn from the history of anti-colonial struggles, and how can they inform and inspire contemporary movements striving for liberation, self-determination, and social justice?

A: The most important lesson is from the hard work of the people who built these movements, their patience in working to establish the mass character of their movements, and the sacrifices they underwent to establish their movements and our freedom. Hard work, patience, and sacrifice: three things that we have to learn for our own times.

Q: In conclusion, as artificial intelligence continues to advance, there are concerns about its potential impact on the global workforce. How do you envision the future of work in a world increasingly driven by AI, and what steps can be taken to mitigate any negative effects on employment?

A: Capitalism necessary applies the latest in science to enhance the productive forces, whose advancement lifts the productivity rate but then eventually leads to crisis upon crisis as the rate of profit falls. This is a cycle of increased productivity and then heightened crisis that has been ongoing since the late 19th century. AI is just the latest in a new technological breakthrough. The only way to mitigate the negative impact of unemployment is to socialize the gains from productivity, which is another way of saying to transcend capitalism and go to socialism.

UN Economist Highlights Global Economic Challenges, Calls for International Unity

A leading UN economist has highlighted key global macroeconomic developments and emphasized the need for stronger international cooperation to address mounting economic challenges.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Tuesday immediately after the launch of the Mid-year Update to the UN’s World Economic Situation and Prospects report, Hamid Rashid, chief of the Global Economic Monitoring Branch at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and lead author of the report, cautioned about the possibility of “slower long-term growth” and indicated that a return to pre-pandemic growth rates remain unlikely both in developed and developing economies.

He warned of a potential prolonged period of “subpar growth,” underscoring the importance of understanding this new economic reality.

The interview delved into the intensified fiscal and monetary policy challenges in the current economic scenario. Rashid described the “trilemma” faced by policymakers in developed economies, who strive to stimulate economic growth, tame inflation, and maintain financial stability.

He acknowledged the difficulty of achieving all three goals simultaneously and explained that policymakers in developing countries, such as China and others, “have more fiscal and monetary space to navigate these challenges.”

Rashid highlighted the risk faced by the largest economies, as they need to maintain a tight monetary stance and tighten fiscal positions, which limit their options for expansionary measures for stimulating economic growth. This presents “a unique challenge” for policymakers in advanced economies.

Discussing the balance between taming inflation, ensuring financial stability, and fostering economic growth and employment while managing international spillover effects, Rashid acknowledged the complexity of the task.

The economist emphasized that policymakers in advanced economies “face challenging trade-offs,” where it may be hard to maintain financial stability while raising interest rates further to tame inflation. Maintaining inflation at the target level will require not only even higher interest rates but also “significant spending cuts,” which will dampen economic growth and have long-term implications.

Rashid further explained the international spillover effects of monetary tightening in the United States, which results in capital outflows from the developing countries and depreciation of their currencies. This, in turn, affects developing countries’ interest rates, cost of capital and investment, “adding an additional layer of complexity to the global economic challenges.”

Shifting the conversation to notable trends and shifts in global economic outlook since the previous report, Rashid highlighted “early signs of financial instability risks,” particularly in the U.S. banking sector. While these risks have been sporadic and not yet been widespread, they “expose vulnerabilities” due to rapid interest rate increases, which impact long-term bond prices and the balance sheets of the banks holding U.S. government bonds.

This “poses significant financial stability risks” that require careful attention, he added.

Regarding central banks’ response to inflation and monetary policy tightening, Rashid emphasized their focus on maintaining low inflation as the primary goal. However, achieving the 2 percent inflation target set by the U.S. Federal Reserve may “come at a high cost.” This includes keeping interest rates high, affecting credit channels and household spending, and potentially leading to lower economic growth. While the possibility of a recession remains uncertain, positive outcomes cannot be ruled out either.

Rashid expressed his key concern for the world economy, highlighting that many developing “countries on the verge of default,” struggling to provide fiscal support to economic growth due to high debt burdens.

He stressed the importance of international cooperation and restructuring debt “to provide more fiscal space for developing countries.”

Rashid called for common understanding and increased international cooperation, particularly with private creditors, to ensure a more equitable and sustainable solution. This would enable developing countries to have the necessary resources to support economic activities and “mitigate the risk of a significant global economic downturn.”

When asked about the projected slowdown in global growth being less severe than previously anticipated, Rashid acknowledged the resilience of household spending and he also cautioned about the ongoing monetary tightening measures. These measures might lead to significant weakening in household spending, resulting in a slight downward adjustment of growth forecasts for 2024.

However, he reassured that the expected recession or slowdown would likely be “shallower and of shorter duration.”

Highlighting the positive developments in the global economic situation since the report’s launch in January, Rashid emphasized an upward revision in growth forecasts.

Initially projected at 1.9 percent, the global economy is now expected to reach 2.3 percent. This positive adjustment is attributed to “the resilience of household spending” in developed economies like the United States and Europe, which account for a significant portion of economic activity.

Additionally, the recovery and reopening of China’s economy have also contributed to the more optimistic growth outlook, Rashid said.

China provides substantial opportunities to ASEAN countries, says Indonesian official


The economic growth and market in China, the world’s second-largest economy with a population of over 1.4 billion people, provide substantial opportunities for ASEAN countries, an Indonesian official has said.

“China’s economic influence is a significant driving force behind the RCEP’s (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) development in 2022,” Deputy for Coordination of International Economic Cooperation under the Indonesian Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, Edi Prio Pambudi, told Xinhua in a written interview during the two-day 42nd ASEAN Summit opened Wednesday.

The RCEP free trade pact comprises 15 Asia-Pacific countries including the 10 ASEAN member states of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and ASEAN’s five trading partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

“China’s participation in the RCEP provides member countries with access to a massive consumer market … offers substantial opportunities for ASEAN exporters,” he said.

Deeming China as an economic powerhouse, the official also said that the inflow of foreign direct investment from China to ASEAN countries “strengthens ASEAN’s economic development.”

The economic official also highlighted China’s key role in ASEAN countries’ integration into global value chains.

“The RCEP introduces the regional value chain that provides greater opportunities for ASEAN’s manufactured products to participate in the global value chain. China, as a significant player in the global production base for manufacturing and high technology products, is and will remain crucial in this context,” said Pambudi.

Noting threats of global geopolitical uncertainties and economic slowdown to ASEAN’s post-pandemic recovery and economic outlook, he expressed the hope that the economic ties between ASEAN and China will deepen to help the regional bloc cope with the situation.

“Strengthening trade facilitation measures, reducing trade barriers, and promoting regional integration initiatives like the RCEP can boost intra-regional trade and enhance ASEAN’s resilience to global economic challenges,” said Pambudi

We Are Living Through a Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding of Human Evolution


There’s a paradigm shift underway in our understanding of the past 4 million years of human evolution: ours is a story that includes combinations with other Homo species, spread unevenly across today’s populations—not a neat and linear evolutionary progression.

Technological advances and a growing body of archaeological evidence have allowed experts in the study of human origins and prehistory to offer an increasingly clear, though complex, outline of the bio-historical process that produced today’s human population and cultures.

For the most part, the public is presented with new findings as interesting novelty items in the news and science coverage. The fuller picture, and the notion that this information has valuable implications for society and our political arrangements, doesn’t usually percolate into public consciousness, or in centers of influence.

But there is an emerging realization in the expert community that humanity can greatly benefit from making this material a pillar of human education—and gradually grow accustomed to an evidence-based understanding of our history, behavior, biology, and capacities. There’s every indication that a better understanding of ourselves strengthens humanity as a whole and makes connection and cooperation more possible.

The process will realistically take decades to take root, and it seems the best way at this point to accelerate that process is in articulating the big picture, and giving people key footholds and scientific reference points for understanding.

I reached out to discuss some of the bigger conclusions that are emerging from the research with Professor Chris Stringer, who has been at the forefront of human evolutionary understanding for decades. Stringer helped formulate the “Out of Africa” model of our species’ origins and continues to pursue pioneering projects at the UK Natural History Museum in London as research leader in human origins in the Department of Earth Sciences.

Jan Ritch-Frel: A good place to start is that we know that today’s humans produced fertile offspring with relative Homo species that had separated from us hundreds of thousands of years ago, and this went on with ancestor species for as far back as scientists are able to trace. This is against a backdrop that for primate species it was possible to produce fertile offspring with other species sharing a common ancestor as far back as 2 million years—with a generally decreasing chance of success across the passage of time and divergence between Homo species.

Chris Stringer: We know that our species produced some fertile offspring with Neanderthals, and with Denisovans. We also have negative evidence that there were limits on infertility between some of the Homo species because we don’t find a lot more evidence of it in our genomes (at least at the level at which we can detect it)—thus matings between more distantly related species either didn’t occur, were not fertile, or we can’t detect them at the level of our current technology.

There are barriers, and we know that in our genomes today, there are areas of deserts where there’s zero Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA. And we know that some of those deserts are in areas that influence things like speech and vocalization, and how the brain works. There are also suggestions that male children may have been less fertile or infertile compared with the female children of those hybrid matings. At the level we can detect it, there is no strong evidence so far of infertility between Homo sapiens and our more distant relatives such as Homo floresiensis or Homo naledi.

So we don’t yet know all of the Homo species which could have hybridized or did hybridize during the last 2 million years, but certainly some of them would have been interfertile. We know that we, Neanderthals, and Denisovans were interfertile, for example.

Ritch-Frel: Unpacking what you’ve said here, it changes the coordinates of how we explain human evolution to ourselves—not a linear progression, but a series of combinations, of different groups that occasionally produced advantages for survival. In some cases, survival for a migrating Homo population could be assisted by hybridizing with a resident species that had survived in a region for hundreds of thousands of years or more, picking up their adaptions—to the immune system, to the ability to process oxygen, or other traits—not to mention the informational exchange of culture and lifestyle.

The more one learns about this, the easier it is to see that the passage of time is better thought of as just an ingredient in the human evolutionary story. With this in mind, it’s easier to grasp how far astray the concept of “primitive” can take us in understanding ourselves and our evolutionary process.

As the world begins to put this information at the center of human education, it’s so important to get the root words right as best we can.

Stringer: “Archaic” and “modern,” “human” and “non-human”—they’re all loaded terms. What’s a human? And there are many different definitions of what a species is.

There are some people who only use “human” for sapiens, and then the Neanderthals even wouldn’t be human. I don’t agree with that, because it means that we mated with “non-humans” in the last 50,000 years, which I think makes the conversation very difficult.

In my view, the term “human” equates to being a member of the genus Homo. So I regard the Neanderthals, rhodesiensis, and erectus as all being human.

And the terms “modern” and “archaic”—these are difficult terms. And I’ve tried to move away from them now because on the one hand, the term “modern” is used for modern behavior, and it’s also used for modern anatomy, so these terms get confused. For example, some ancient human fossil findings have been described as “anatomically modern” but not “behaviorally modern”—I think that’s just too confusing to be useful.

When we look at the early members of a Homo species, instead of having the term “archaic,” as in having “archaic traits,” I think it’s clearer if we use the term “basal.” Basal puts us on a path without the confusion and baggage that can come with terms like “archaic,” “primitive,” and “modern.” In this usage, “basal” is a relative term, but at least one where we can come up with criteria (such as skeletal traits) to delineate it.

It helps here to consider the evolutionary process outside of Homo sapiens. Neanderthals had a process of evolution as well from the period they split off with our common ancestor. Neanderthals at the end of their time were very derived, quite different from how they started potentially 600,000 years ago, and yet under conventional thinking they are called “archaic” (compared with us “moderns”). Over the period of hundreds of thousands of years, they developed a number of new physical features that were not there in the common ancestor with Homo sapiens. For example, they developed a face that was pulled forward at the middle, a spherical cranial shape in rear view—even some of the ear bones were a different shape. And like us, they evolved a bigger brain. The derived Homo neanderthalensis looked quite different from their ancestors 300,000 years earlier.

So let’s scrap the verbal framework of “primitive” and “archaic” and “modern” and go with “basal” and “derived” along both our and the Neanderthal lineage.

Ritch-Frel: Another recent shift in understanding is the story of how we learned to walk. A growing body of research suggests it happened on tree branches and that our arms had a role to play in providing balance.

Stringer: When you look at orangutans and gibbons, who are our close living relatives over in Southeast Asia, we see that when they’re in the trees they already are walking upright, and they branch walk. Some of the tenderest leaves and fruits are out on the ends of branches, so using their longer arms, they will actually walk along the branches, supporting themselves by holding on with one or two hands to the branch above. And then they can also jump across easily from the ends of the branches to the next tree, to carry on feeding.

So the view is that this is a physique that is pre-adapted to bipedalism. Their bodies are already part-adapted to an upright posture, and the pelvis is already in a situation where they can support themselves on two legs. The working idea would be that our ancestors went through a similar stage where they were branch walking, feeding in the trees, beginning to regularly get their body into an upright position. And then when they come down between trees, the trees maybe start to thin out if areas become drier, and they stay upright as they walk between the trees until they get to the next clump of trees.

I don’t think we really have a very convincing evolutionary alternative scenario. Consider that this adaption to bipedalism takes place over millions of years. If you imagine a creature that is on all fours, what’s going to make it start walking upright and do it for long enough for the skeleton to be modified by evolution to become fully bipedal? They have to survive along the way of that process. Very difficult to imagine.

People like Darwin originally speculated that bipedalism came out of the need to use tools or carry things, and it’s certainly useful to do those things, once you are bipedal. But what’s going to modify a skeleton, modify the musculature and all of that, in the way that evolution tells us that primates evolve over the course of generations?

Ritch-Frel: Taking that point as to the origins of learning to walk, it leads into the discussion on two Homo fossil groups found in Southeast Asia, Homo floresiensis on the island of Flores, Indonesia, and luzonensis in Callao Cave on the island of Luzon in the Philippines—and floresiensis with an adult height at somewhere only a bit over a meter tall.

Floresiensis caught the attention of the world public back in 2003. We were presented with the discovery of a “primitive creature,” one that more often gets called an “it” than a person. The more curious members of the public who dig deeper into this discovery are usually told that these “hobbits” were a product of evolutionary dwarfism, often found on islands, where larger creatures are reduced in size from resource constraints and smaller gene pools. Always present in discussions about floresiensis is a focus on their small “primitive” brains. We’re beginning to learn that size may not matter as much as the layout of the brain when we compare ourselves to our ancestors and their core capacities. (I’ll ask you more about this later on.)

More recently, in 2019, archaeologists announced a fossil discovery found almost 2,000 miles away in the Philippines currently given a species name Homo luzonensis that has a lot of similarities to floresiensis.

Until their discovery, it was thought that the first hominins/humans to arrive in Southeast Asia were Homo erectus, who is known to have left Africa about 2 million years ago.

It’s notable that some experts argue floresiensis was able to walk, but not run. And that floresiensis’s humerus, the upper arm bone, was longer than its femur, the upper leg bone. This is typical of a body type adapted for climbing. The wrist bones also point to climbing. That kind of evolutionary branch, I understand, goes back closer to somewhere beyond 2.5-3 million years ago, and would force a rethinking about which Homo species locomotion style first left Africa and possibly set the stage to influence and hybridize with African relatives who came after.

Floresiensis/luzonensis is an area where there is no consensus among the experts—and the public might find the schools of thought illustrative about the frontiers of our understanding about the human evolutionary story.

Stringer: Some experts argue that the most convincing scenario is that the floresiensis material is derived from Homo erectus—that this is a dwarf form of Homo erectus that somehow got to Flores, underwent dwarfing, and… retained some erectus characteristics. We know erectus left Africa approximately 2 million years ago. Some of the dental features of floresiensis have been suggested to be clear evidence of an erectus ancestry. For this idea to work, floresiensis would have needed to have an ancestor who independently developed or redeveloped basal features—features which look more like ancestral features of previously developed species in Africa. As you’ve mentioned, the body proportions, the upper body that seems to show adaptations for climbing. Perhaps floresiensis may have gone back into the trees for feeding. That’s a possibility.

This dwarfing process would have had to occur subsequently in the island migration process in Southeast Asia. That is a scenario which some people who know their Homo erectus fossils will argue is there. That’s one school of opinion on floresiensis.

And on the other hand, you have some experts working along the lines you’ve alluded to, that actually this is evidence of a pre-erectus exit from Africa. A Homo habilis or even an australopithecine grade came out of Africa, somehow got all the way over to Southeast Asia, in terms of fossils we know about, and maybe on Luzon in the Philippines as well for Homo luzonensis. In favor of that, we’ve got these basal features in the wrist bones and in the pelvis and the shoulders, and the smaller brain.

That’s a pretty convincing scenario. But if you agree with that, then you’ve got to conclude that some convergent, or independently similar, evolution in their teeth toward Homo erectus had to happen. Aspects of the skull look erectus-like. Floresiensis has a small face that’s tucked under the cranial vault, which required some derivation. Floresiensis would have had to have both independent similar evolution to erectus, and a return to some more basal elements of their ancestors.

There is a compromise view, that floresiensis is the product of a basal erectus. Some of the erectus skeleton fossils found at a site called Dmanisi in the country of Georgia, they’re much smaller-brained. One of the fossils has a brain size not too different from floresiensis.

We could be starting from an erectus that’s smaller-bodied, smaller-brained, and maybe then it could have gotten across to Flores eventually, and evolved and survived there for more than a million years. We have to bear in mind that we actually don’t know the full anatomy of erectus anyway. So what were the wrist bones like in Dmanisi? Were they like those found in Flores? We simply don’t know yet, because they’re not preserved so far.

In any of these cases you’ve also got the mystery of how they even got to Flores—there are no land bridges there that appear when sea levels drop during ice age periods. The people who argue floresiensis was more closely related to humans via the erectus line suggest there was a capability of maybe using watercraft to get to Flores.

But the other option is that its arrival on Flores was accidental. Tectonically this part of Indonesia is one of the most active areas in the world, caused by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. There was a major tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004. People were found out at sea days later, surviving on clumps of vegetation. That was something that happened in the last 20 years. When you’ve got a time scale of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of years potentially, these “rare” events can happen. We know that’s how many other animals must have gotten across to these islands between Java and Papua New Guinea/Australia.

It’s possible that some ancestors of floresiensis were maybe foraging in mangrove swamps on the coast, and a tidal wave ripped a whole area away, and they’re left in there, and somehow miraculously a few weeks later they arrive on Flores or on another island, because it could have been accomplished in stages. It doesn’t have to be straight all the way to Flores.

Ritch-Frel: Whether floresiensis rafted by design or accident, there is this other piece of evidence that we identify with human advancement—stone toolmaking. Archaeologists found at two sites on the island of Flores tools associated with butchering meat that are 700,000 and even over a million years old.

With floresiensis, we have a body that was perhaps unable to run, able to walk, but better suited for climbing. We have a brain described as tiny, yet able to make tools. Turning to the 2013 discovery of Homo naledi in South Africa, we have 230,000-to-300,000-year-old evidence of another Homo species that had curvature on the finger bones that is associated with primates who spend their time climbing, and also a hand bone structure that allows people to bring complexity in their toolmaking. It has a foot structure similar to ours. Like floresiensisnaledi also has a brain much smaller than ours, but also like floresiensis, it has a similar brain structure. Tools have been found in the area that the archaeologists believe may have been created by naledi.

The archaeological team that is working on the naledi site tells us there is evidence of a culture with traits that we and our cousin species would recognize—returning to the same cave to deposit their dead, and using fire to navigate it. Neanderthals left a record of depositing dozens of their dead in a cave in Spain called Sima de los Huesos about 430,000 years ago. Whether what we are looking at in these caves are cases of mass murder or ritual or something else, we just don’t have the evidence to say. In Bruniquel cave in France, we have evidence of Neanderthal use of fire and potentially habitation in the cave at least 175,000 years ago.

Remembering the dead, of course, is not unique to us. Elephants visit and mourn the remains of their relatives and herd members throughout the decomposition process. Chimpanzee mothers will carry their dead infants with them for days.

Stringer: Naledi is very intriguing. We can explain the survival of floresiensis long term and its divergent evolution in isolation, and Homo sapiens doesn’t get there until maybe the last 50,000 years, and then floresiensis disappears. But in the case of naledi, we’ve got it in South Africa, on a continent where we’re pretty sure Homo sapiens had already evolved, where other Homo species, such as rhodesiensis, were present. And yet naledi is surviving in South Africa with an ape-sized brain successfully, seemingly, and may be spending its time deep in the cave systems there.

I have been one of the critics of the intentional burial disposal idea, because I’ve argued that “How complex could the behavior be of a creature with a brain the size of a chimpanzee or a gorilla?”

But I’m more than happy to be surprised by much greater complexity in Homo naledi when peer-reviewed research makes the case for it (which may be soon).

Ritch-Frel: There’s a big emphasis on the size of the brains of our relatives in the public and expert conversation on human origins, for comparing ourselves to our ancestors and cousins. In the case of floresiensis and naledi, the public conversation keeps returning to how small their brains are. Naledi had a brain size of 600 milliliters; each of us has around 1,300. Could that be a bit of a red herring in terms of their core capacities? Should we be putting more emphasis on the layout of the core brain structures? Does that deserve to get some more emphasis in comparison to us?

Stringer: The whole question of brain size and complexity of behavior, it’s been a long-running debate.

Neanderthals and sapiens have relatively big brains in the Homo family. You can see a rough correlation between increasing behavioral complexity in stone tools and the size of the brain. It’s a rough correlation, not a one-to-one. That’s why I think naledi is going to be very important, because if the research team demonstrates complexity of behavior I think it will certainly put a nail in the coffin of the idea that a small hominin brain can’t accomplish complex things.

Ritch-Frel: Given that, and going back to some of the tree-dwelling morphologies retained, is it fair to wonder now whether the intelligence that humans tend to prize about themselves and use as a marker of our difference from other animals was developed up in trees rather than exclusively on the ground? We know that young chimpanzee females make dolls, for example, with which they simulate child-rearing.

Stringer: I think even looking at chimps and gorillas, they have clear intelligence greater than most other creatures, most other mammals. Certainly it was there in the common ancestor. So I think the common ancestor of us and chimps about 7 million years ago already had complex behavior and potentially even toolmaking behavior at that early stage.

Why not? So I think yes, it could have started to develop in the trees. And as I say, orangutans are intelligent too. So I think the common ancestor would’ve had that degree of intelligence. But there are arguments that by the time we get to Australopithecus, there has been some restructuring of the brain, which implies maybe a reorganization for more complex thought.

Ritch-Frel: We now know that there are at least as many as five distinct human species that were living on Earth as recently as 70,000 years ago: Homo sapiensneanderthalensisdenisovafloresiensis, and luzonensis. And we can demonstrate through several lines of evidence that they not only had different anatomy, but that they also had varying physical capacities, and behavioral traits or tendencies.

A 1-meter-tall human species in Indonesia had a foot that made running difficult. Research tells us that Neanderthals tended to be aggressive, be morning people, have depression; that they would have struck us as dogmatic, and that they had repetitive behaviors.

On top of this, we also know that sapiens across the planet today carry genomic material from hybridizing with at least six Homo species, some of whom we think went extinct as an independent, separate species long before 70,000 years ago. Two of these species we can name, Neanderthal and Denisovan, and the other four science hasn’t named yet—but we have genomic evidence for these “mystery ancestors.”

It’s not yet part of the public conversation, but can you see a future where people might identify themselves and their behaviors as typical of their family, religion, regional origins, and also of their inheritances from ancestor species in an environment where understanding ourselves strengthens the bonds of cooperation and provides us with a universalizing framework of relatability?

Stringer: There’s definitely evidence of sapiens interbreeding with Neanderthals, and that is still thought to be one fairly closely related group of Neanderthals that hybridized with Homo sapiens. But for Denisovans, it’s at least three different population groups of Denisovans who diversified approximately 300,000 years ago that interbred with Homo sapiens in different parts of Asia and Southeast Asia.

And back to your question about identity. Yes, I think that we know from studies of what the Neanderthal DNA is doing in us today that bits of Neanderthal DNA are related, for example, to whether you’re a morning or an evening person. We know that some bits of Neanderthal DNA have given protection against COVID. The age of menopause and the start of menstruation. Addictive behavior appears to be related in some cases to bits of Neanderthal DNA.

There are suggestions that autism, schizophrenia, certainly autoimmune diseases, they also are influenced to an extent by the presence of Neanderthal DNA, and probably we will find similar things for Denisovan DNA. So it’s certainly affecting us, our core biology, our personalities.

And for Denisovans, in some populations there’s double the amount of Denisovan DNA than Neanderthal DNA. Populations in Southeast Asia have Neanderthal DNA at the same level as, say, Europeans or Asians, but they’ve got an additional maybe 4 percent of Denisovan DNA. So theoretically we imagine that’s going to have an even greater effect. We know it affects the immune systems, but it may have other effects as well.

Credit Line: This article was produced by Human Bridges, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

“Spectacular failure” of U.S.-style democracy implementation in targeted countries, asserts expert

Washington’s attempts to impose a U.S.-style democracy on countries like Iraq and Libya using primarily military means have been a “spectacular” failure. These countries are now left in a state of limbo and destruction, a renowned U.S. expert has said.

“The U.S. has been its own worst enemy over these past 20 years in the way it has gone to kind of hammer democracy into shape in these countries using primarily military means or (means of) coercion. It has not worked well. It’s hurting itself in the long run,” Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, told Xinhua in an interview on Friday.

“Democracy, whoever’s style, cannot be imposed with a hammer upon any society. Whatever form of political representation arises in the society from the ground level up, one must understand local circumstances and local situations, and on that basis, build a political representative institution,” said Gupta.

“I’m afraid the U.S. doesn’t have the patience… The U.S. is trying to do this top-down without understanding local societies. And it is pretty much understandable that it has failed and failed spectacularly in many countries on which it has tried to,” he said.

“And I would say beyond the patience, it is doing this for national interest purposes than for really deepening democracy per se,” said Gupta.

Gupta criticized Washington’s intention to hold the so-called Summit for Democracy as an attempt to sow division.

“The whole purpose of democracy is inclusiveness. There is nothing inclusive about it here. This is about trying to create coalitions of the willing to participate in a us versus them competition,” he said.

“That is the real problem behind this because what the Summit for Democracy does is that it does not get down to tackling many of the real issues that we face in the global system today, which requires for a more UN-centered and more inclusive approach to solutions. And that is not where the summit is leading, and that is unfortunate,” said Gupta.

The expert said, “little by little, the summit itself is flagging and losing its vitality.”

Gupta said the Summit for Democracy in 2021 did not produce any “key deliverable. “There was nothing really. It turned into a nice grand show without any meaning,” he said.

The summit is meant “more to divide than unite” because Washington has invited countries to attend “purely on the basis of the U.S. national interests,” he said.

“For some of those countries, if it was a pro-America aligned government, it got an invite. If it was a democracy, but did not have a pro-American government, it was disinvited… Frankly, the era of these democracy summits will be known more for the backsliding in terms of democracy than any real material improvement or deliverables coming out of these summits,” he said.

Earth Hour 2023: A Call to Action for the Health of Our Planet

As lights around the world turned off at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday to mark Earth Hour 2023, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned that the next seven years will be crucial to stop irreversible nature loss and climate change.

This year’s event is needed more than ever to inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action and shine a spotlight on critical environmental issues, the WWF urged.

“Switching off lights is great for creating awareness and celebrating, but we also want people to reflect and act on nature because the challenges we are facing are so big,” Cristianne Close, WWF’s deputy global conservation director, told Xinhua in a recent video interview from Brazil.

“In 2014, the Galapagos Islands banned plastic bags during Earth Hour. In 2019, Indonesia planted thousands of mangroves,” she said.

Now in its 17th year, Earth Hour is the WWF’s flagship global environmental event and was created in Sydney in 2007.

Over the years, it has grown to become the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring individuals, communities, businesses and organizations to take tangible environmental action.

“The climate and the nature crisis are completely linked. We cannot see them as separate. If temperatures are not kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will lose much more nature. Wildlife populations have already plummeted by an average of 69 percent since 1970 and we really need to create awareness of this,” Close said.


Earth Hour has featured many of the world’s most iconic landmarks switching off their lights, from the London Eye in Britain to the Eiffel Tower in France and the 2,000-year-old Colosseum in Italy.

“The two main things we want from governments and businesses is to really implement the transition towards clean energy and phase out fossil fuel. That’s a must for everybody,” Close said.

“Nature is said to be linked to at least 50 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). We depend on nature for economic well-being,” she added.

“That’s why we are calling on businesses and governments to really, really create this awareness. Earth Hour is a way of society signalling to leaders ‘we care’ and we need to do something about it before it’s too late,” she said.

This year, apart from the symbolic “lights off” moment, the WWF is calling on individuals, communities, and businesses across the world to “give an hour for Earth” and spend 60 minutes doing something positive for the planet.

Ideas range from cleaning up beaches, planting trees, cooking dinner with sustainable ingredients, or getting friends together for an Earth Hour event, the WWF said.


This year’s Earth Hour comes hot on the heels of the historic Kunming-Montreal Agreement at COP15, which in December committed the world to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

Close told Xinhua the next seven years will be crucial for ensuring that the decade ends with more nature and biodiversity than when it began, not less.

She also said it was not too late yet to achieve the target and stay under the 1.5 degrees Celsius climate threshold needed to avoid irreversible damage to the planet.

“These are very big policy requests. Now our focus is on implementing them. Translating these high-level policies into national policies and regulations that can be implemented on the local level and help the livelihoods of the people that depend on it,” Close said.

Close also reinforced China’s crucial role in taking action against climate change and nature loss: “We are pleased and thankful for the role that China played with the COP15 presidency in Montreal. China really kept the momentum going.”

“They were really instrumental in allowing 196 parties to reach a consensus for the mission of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030. China really played a strong role,” she said.

The WWF is an independent conservation organization based in Gland, Switzerland, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries and regions.

Its mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature.

Eurozone wages to continue to grow as prices remain high, says Spanish economist

Eurozone wages will keep growing as long as prices remain high, said Raul Ramos, full professor in Applied Economics at the University of Barcelona.

“We all expect prices to stop going up, but while the situation is still far from returning to normal, it’s to be expected that salaries will continue to grow,” Ramos told Xinhua in an interview on Monday, after experts from U.S. bank J.P. Morgan predicted the highest salary rises in 30 years in the eurozone during the first quarter of this year.

In February, the influential financial services group said the wage growth in the eurozone could be as high as 4.5 percent in the first quarter of 2023, the highest figure seen since the first quarter of 1993, exactly three decades ago.

“There are pressures on prices that we haven’t seen since the adoption of the euro, and so salaries are recovering some of the purchasing power they have lost in the past year or so,” the professor explained.

While highlighting the relationship between the high inflation across Europe and rising wages, he rules out the development of a so-called wage-price spiral, in which high prices boost wage rises which in turn fuel higher prices.

“In Spain’s case, many companies are now in the process of negotiating wages, and what we expect is that wages will be set thinking more about how prices will rise during this year rather than how they went up last year,” he explained.

Although the phenomenon of rising wages can be seen across the eurozone, the professor pointed out that each country has its own system for negotiating wages, which is done in Spain by sector via collective bargaining.

“The type of wage negotiations we can expect will be over a long time period so that workers will not lose out, nor will too much strain be put on companies that still haven’t completely recovered from the pandemic and affect them negatively,” said Ramos.

There is still no concrete data on salary increases in Spain, but the recruitment consultancy Michael Page recently predicted that wages in Spain are set to rise by an average of 3.5 percent in 2023.

What’s more, the Spanish government announced on Jan. 31 that the minimum wage in the country will rise by 8 percent, to 1,080 euros (1,154 U.S. dollars) per month, which has a retroactive effect from Jan. 1.

“Raising the minimum wage may not seem the best idea because it can fuel inflation, but it’s also a way to help the lowest-paid workers to maintain their purchasing power. I lean towards it being the right decision at this time when there are no great difficulties in the growth of employment,” said the professor.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has raised its forecast for Spain’s economic growth this year from 1 to 1.4 percent.

Overall, the professor declares himself relatively optimistic for the rest of the year, but he also stresses that the emergence of unforeseen circumstances that could radically change the economic outlook in Europe and Spain cannot be ruled out.

“If we succeed in getting inflation under control and people can overcome their fear of continuing to lose purchasing power because wages cannot match the same rhythm, I don’t think the situation has to be bad, although I do think that a lot will depend on how interest rates develop and how that affects the level of debt of families,” he concluded.

Why China’s position paper on Ukraine crisis annoyed some countries?


To push forward the political settlement of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released last month a paper stating Beijing’s position on the issue.

In the paper, China put forward a 12-point proposal to end the conflict in Ukraine by addressing both the symptoms and the root causes of the crisis, and reiterated the necessity to end the conflict through dialogue and negotiation.

The peace proposal, since being offered, has been welcomed by many countries of the international community. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, hailed the position paper as “an important contribution.”

Yet some Western politicians turned a cold shoulder to the proposal, accusing China of being biased and dismissed the contents of the document as nothing new.

These claims have been refuted by experts and scholars in many countries, who believe the proposal demonstrated China’s commitment to objectivity and fairness as well as its role as a responsible major country in times of grave global challenges.

They argued that in the ever worsening conflict, it is the United States and its NATO allies that cling to the Cold War mentality and have kept on fueling the crisis for their own benefits.


Ali El-Hefny, secretary general of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, also a former Egyptian ambassador to China, said the Chinese paper reflects a policy and a clear vision on international relations that China has always adopted.

It’s a respectful and responsible position of a country with a big presence in the international arena, whether economically or politically, he said.

The paper is built on the necessity of giving up everything provocative, avoiding imposing sanctions and stopping providing Ukraine with all types of arms, which would in the end expand and prolong the war, the secretary general said.

Saeb Rawashdeh, a political analyst at the Jordan Press Foundation, said that on the first anniversary of the escalation of the crisis, China released the document expounding its position on the issue, hoping to promote an early resolution of the crisis through peaceful dialogue.

China’s stance is in line with the universal expectations of peace-loving people around the world, he said.

Some Western countries have consistently failed to play a constructive role in easing the tensions of the Ukraine crisis. Instead, they have continuously imposed sanctions on Russia while arming Ukraine, fueling the crisis, Rawashdeh said.

The motive is to weaken Russia and Ukraine and to benefit from the conflict. This is a typical Cold War mentality, and the real victims are the people of the two countries, who have suffered from the trauma of the crisis, he said.

The high inflation and food shortages resulting from the Ukraine conflict continue to bite. The world will become more turbulent and unstable if the West keeps instigating, he added.

Richard Grenell, former U.S. ambassador to Germany, noted in an article on news website California Globe that China offered “a conceivable starting point” to end the conflict whereas “veteran State Department employees were furious that a year has gone by without a U.S. plan for a peaceful solution.”

The White House is thinking “morning, noon, and night” about how to give Ukraine more military aid, he wrote.

To date, the United States has provided many rounds of aid to Ukraine and allied nations, totaling some 113 billion U.S. dollars. Washington and its allies have already committed nearly 700 tanks and thousands of armored vehicles and 1,000 artillery systems, among other aid to Ukraine.

Xulio Rios, director of the Observatory of Chinese Politics in Spain, said it seems that Western countries are more interested in maintaining the conflict than pushing for a ceasefire and opening negotiations for a political solution.

Meanwhile, China’s approach allows the world to see a viable solution and that will be supported by countries valuing common good for the whole world, he added.


For many observers, the reasons why politicians in some Western countries felt displeased with China’s peace proposal are quite obvious.

Lewis Ndichu, a researcher at Nairobi-based think tank Africa Policy Institute, said The West has been used to realizing “peace” through intervening by providing warfare equipment, intelligence and sending air combat forces, all these will lead to a devastating arms race.

Seeing China playing an increasingly greater role on the world stage, the West is not happy, said Ndichu.

Ang Teck Sin, a political commentator in Singapore, told Xinhua that both Russia and Ukraine suffered heavy casualties and economic losses, but Uncle Sam, who pursues hegemonism and power politics, has seen a rare opportunity to continue to lead NATO and further intensify bloc confrontation.

Washington is actually expanding business for the military-industrial complex, he said. The more volatile the world is and the larger the market will be, and the more resources the military-industrial complex will get to develop more sophisticated weapons, thus creating more conflicts, he noted.

This is a terrible vicious circle. Unfortunately, it is the world that pays for America’s ambitions, the commentator said.

When the United States and its allies are arming Ukraine to the teeth, it is countries like China that have to come forward to remind all as to what is at stake, said Rabia Akhtar, director of the Center for Security, Strategy and Policy Research at the University of Lahore in Pakistan.

Filipe Porto, a researcher at the Brazilian Foreign Policy Observatory, said the attitude of the United States toward China on the Ukrainian issue is self-contradictory. On the one hand, the United States and its allies question and attack China’s relations with Russia, on the other they ask China to use that relationship to play the role they expect in the crisis.

Slovenian sociologist Tomaz Mastnak said the Russia-Ukraine conflict had been provoked, instigated and prolonged by the United States. At least in the short term, the United States is the only country that has benefited from this conflict.

The impact of the conflict on Europe is disastrous. The European economy is being dealt a heavy blow to, and first and foremost, Germany, the European economic engine, is facing “deindustrialization,” Mastnak said.

In his opinion, this situation in Europe is not collateral damage caused by conflict, but one of the goals of the conflict provoked by the United States. It is going to make Europe economically insignificant.


As the world is facing such a prolonged conflict as well as overlapping food and energy crises, China’s proposal, which insists on promoting peace talks, has been widely applauded.

China’s recent initiative to solve the Ukraine crisis politically is very timely and quite helpful, and it is completely in accordance with the UN rules, said Mohammad Reza Manafi, editor-in-chief for the Asia-Pacific news desk of Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

Bambang Suryono, chairman of the Indonesian think tank Asian Innovation Research Center, said the position paper is constructive, necessary and timely.

British political commentator Carlos Martinez said China’s position paper is a powerful contribution to the project of building peace in Europe. While not taking sides, it highlights the crucial elements required for the Ukraine crisis to be brought to a conclusion.

The position paper is closely related to The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper released by China on Feb. 21, as both papers are firmly grounded in international law and the principles of the UN Charter. Both reflect a profound desire for peace and global prosperity; for a community with a shared future for mankind, he said.

Both papers reflect a clear understanding that peace and prosperity require a reorientation of international relations toward multilateralism, cooperation, non-interference, respect for sovereignty and respect for diversity; that hegemonism and Cold War mentality are driving humanity toward a very dangerous future, Martinez emphasized.

Christine Bierre, editor-in-chief of French newspaper New Solidarity, said China’s Global Security Initiative allows people to get to the root causes of the great turmoil and conflicts in the world.

China’s Global Security Initiative and its position paper can have a very positive role in the Ukrainian conflict, he added.

Interview: Today, no one can contain China or stop its development

“I have the warmest, kindest memories from my first visit to China, from my first impressions of the country, and from my cooperation with the leaders of the People’s Republic of China,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told Xinhua in an exclusive interview ahead of his visit to China.

This year marks the 31st anniversary of China-Belarus diplomatic relations, which have been continuously strengthened and upgraded, with solid progress in all-round cooperation through these years.

On Sept. 15, 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Lukashenko met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on the sidelines of the 22nd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The two heads of state decided to elevate bilateral relations to the level of an all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership. China-Belarus relations have reached their highest level in history.

Lukashenko has high hopes for his upcoming visit to China. “I have been to China many times. I am very glad to visit China again in the coming days and meet with the Chinese leader, my old friend President Xi Jinping, a very smart, wise, creative and modern person,” the Belarusian president noted.

During the interview, Lukashenko looked back on his previous visits to China, recalling his first visit to China as the president of Belarus over two decades ago as well as his earlier trips as a member of parliament to China’s special economic zones.

At that time, China was not the same as it is now, he said. “The population was huge… Everyone had to be fed and dressed. China needed to strengthen national defense. Everything was not easy. However, China was determined to achieve all of these,” Lukashenko said.

After visiting China, Lukashenko said he felt that in just a couple of decades China would achieve significant development, so China’s experience should be learned.

The president noted that Belarus had drawn on China’s experience, primarily that regarding special economic zones. “Based on this, we have established several free economic zones, including the Great Stone China-Belarus Industrial Park… China’s experience lay at the heart of it,” he said.

The industrial park mentioned by Lukashenko is the largest project to attract investment in Belarus and a landmark cooperation project within the Belt and Road framework, which was promoted by the two heads of state personally and prized by the two governments. Since the two countries’ leaders visited the industrial park in May 2015, development and construction of the project have forged ahead, and fruitful results have been achieved.

According to the National Statistical Committee of Belarus, the net profit of the enterprises of the industrial park totals 34.1 million Belarusian rubles (13.51 million U.S. dollars) in 2022, up by 144 percent from the previous year.

Reviewing the development of the industrial park in recent years, Lukashenko said that progress has been made despite the COVID-19 pandemic along with other crises and problems. Last year alone, there had been 19 enterprises moving in.

The latest statistics showed that there had been 107 companies in the industrial park by Feb. 22, 2023, with seven new enterprises settling in the park this year.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping once described the Great Stone as ‘a pearl along the Silk Road Economic Belt,'” said Lukashenko, adding that Belarus attaches great importance to the development of the industrial park and provides many preferential policies including tax exemptions. “This is very beneficial for business,” he stressed.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Belarus, as an important transit hub on the Silk Road Economic Belt, was one of the first countries to respond and participate in the initiative.

With the growth of biliteral ties, China and Belarus have seen a boom in trade over the past years. Statistics from the General Administration of Customs of China show that two-way trade surpassed 5 billion dollars in 2022, up by 33 percent year on year.

Lukashenko said that Belarus has a strong machine manufacturing sector. Currently the two countries are engaged in dialogue on issues of industrial policy.

“Today, we are already learning from China’s new technologies, which are of interest to us. And this concerns all sectors, from the biotechnology to national defense. China has made significant progress,” Lukashenko said.

“We are expecting more high-tech enterprises from China to join the industrial park,” he said.

In recent years, China and Belarus have deepened cooperation in the field of scientific and technological innovation.

The Belarusian National Biotechnology Corporation (BNBC) project, a “high-tech full-cycle agriculture project,” which includes the first amino acid manufacturing plant in Belarus and built in cooperation with China, was officially put into operation in the Minsk region on Nov. 4, 2022.

The BNBC is the first amino acid production enterprise in Belarus and the first import-substituting project in the industry of deep grain processing. Lukashenko said that the project would elevate the technological capability of the country and become the locomotive of national development.

Thanks to Xi’s leadership, the project was able to implement, Lukashenko said, adding that “this is highly advanced technology. Not many countries in the world have such production facilities. China has helped us create such a biotech corporation.”

The Belarusian president also mentioned that his youngest son is currently studying biotechnology in a joint training program between the two countries.

China has achieved great development and plays an important role in international affairs, he said, adding that China has become a major country with an independent policy and “today, not a single issue in the world can be resolved without China.”

Expressing his firm belief that China will, as always, pursue an independent foreign policy of peace, Lukashenko said that China’s position paper on political settlement of Ukraine crisis is a testimony to its peaceful foreign policy as well as a new and original step that will have a far-reaching impact all over the world.

On the U.S. downing of a Chinese civilian unmanned airship, Lukashenko called it “a very unfriendly step” and a “show” deliberately staged by the United States for political reasons.

“Today, no one can contain China or stop its development,” the Belarusian president said.

Interview: Hysteria over balloon incident proves US’s inability


Blaming the United States for letting the “balloon incident” unnecessarily create “a very unfortunate effect on Sino-American relations,” Chas Freeman said the implications of the abrupt scrapping of Blinken’s trip to China are threefold, all of which are indicative of the Biden administration’s inability to engage with China meaningfully.

The Joe Biden administration’s hysterical overreaction to a Chinese unmanned civilian airship unexpectedly entering U.S. airspace is proof of the current U.S. government’s inability to overcome domestic pressure and manage the relationship between Washington and Beijing in times of high tension, a former U.S. diplomat has said.

In an interview with Xinhua, Chas Freeman reiterated his criticism of the Biden administration’s strategy toward China that wrongfully prioritizes competition over cooperation and called on the administration to learn from the diplomatic wisdom possessed by the older generation of leaders of both the United States and China that made the normalization of ties between the two countries in the 1970s a reality.

A retired career diplomat, Freeman was a member of then-U.S. President Richard Nixon’s entourage during the president’s ice-breaking trip to China in 1972, serving as the U.S. delegation’s principal interpreter.


Speaking of the so-called “balloon incident,” Freeman highlighted the “clear disconnect” between the initial assessment by the U.S. military and the intelligence community of the non-threatening nature of the airship and the peddling by U.S. politicians of what they speculated to be the craft’s purpose of “espionage.”

“From the beginning, the military said this did not represent a threat of any consequence to U.S. national security. And it was the politicians who began to invent a series of theories about the use of this balloon for espionage,” Freeman said, adding the fact that the arrival of the airship coincided with a polar vortex over North America made him believe that the incident was not something the Chinese side was able to anticipate beforehand. “The course of the balloon may and well have been accidental.”

Despite China’s timely notification — based on an earnest verification — to the United Sates that the airship was used for meteorological research and unintentionally entered U.S. airspace, Washington overreacted to the isolated incident by shooting down the airship, claiming that China has a so-called high-altitude surveillance balloon program and imposing sanctions on Chinese companies it alleged are linked to the program.

“They struck me as hysteria,” Freeman said of U.S. perceptions about and reactions to the incident. It was “a kind of almost psychotic reaction to an event in which facts were set aside and replaced by conspiracy theories.”

Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, had an informal contact with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday in Munich, Germany, where they were both attending the 59th Munich Security Conference participated by world leaders.

“If the U.S. side continues to fuss over, dramatize and escalate the unintended and isolated incident, it should not expect the Chinese side to flinch,” Wang told Blinken when setting forth China’s strong position on the “balloon incident,” according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Freeman said he agreed “completely with the Chinese statement that this was an overreaction” by the U.S. side.

It is “unfortunately not uncommon” for the United States to exaggerate the nature of this unintended accident, he added, given that the country is currently plagued by domestic political polarization.

On the revelation from the Chinese side that the United States illegally flew high-altitude balloons into Chinese airspace multiple times to surveil intelligence information, Freeman said he suspected “maybe there is” a U.S. balloon program that’s still in existence, noting “the United States in the 1950s had a very active program of using balloons for military targeting purposes over the Soviet Union.”

He suggested that the United States and China discuss “what kind of overflight at what altitude is permissible,” so that the flight of high-altitude aerial objects can be governed by either certain “legal standards” or “perhaps some kind of arms control agreement.”


As part of U.S. response to the balloon incident, Blinken postponed his trip to Beijing originally scheduled for early February.

In the view of Freeman, one of Blinken’s intended goals for the planned China trip was “a domestic political posturing” to show Americans at home that the Biden administration was “just as tough on China as the Donald Trump administration was.” Now the “cancellation of the visit did exactly the opposite,” he said.

Blaming the United States for letting the “balloon incident” unnecessarily create “a very unfortunate effect on Sino-American relations,” Freeman said the implications of the abrupt scrapping of Blinken’s trip to China are threefold, all of which are indicative of the Biden administration’s inability to engage with China meaningfully.

“First, it appeared to show that the United States and China cannot talk under conditions of tension,” he said. “That is very unnerving to the world. It is a matter of grave concern not just to Americans and Chinese who follow these things, but to many in other countries.”

 “Second, we showed that we do not know how to manage this relationship in conditions of crisis. And that, too, is a matter of concern,” he said. “And third, we showed not that Mr. Biden was politically strong, but that he was weak. He could not stand up to domestic political pressure.”

“Apparently we are politically paralyzed in the United States and prevented from taking any initiative to address the first two questions: Can we talk? Can we manage the relationship,” said Freeman.

In recent days, the Biden administration’s public messaging on China has been self-contradictory.

In what U.S. media interpreted as a move to contain the further fallout of the balloon episode, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told Politico in a recent interview that she didn’t think U.S.-China relations would be impacted by the incident.

Days later, when Harris was in Munich meeting with leaders of France, Germany and Britain, “the challenges posed by China” was a recurring topic during the respective interactions. It’s hard for anyone not to read into this as a sign of the Biden administration stepping up its alignment with allies against China.

“I have been a critic of the formula that the Biden administration has adopted for U.S.-China relations,” Freeman said.

“They begin by saying we will compete. We are in a competition, but we will cooperate in a few areas where that is mutually advantageous. I think that’s the wrong order. We should be focused on cooperation, and at the same time acknowledge that in some respects we will compete. So the question is the priority that you assign,” he said.

Freeman categorizes competition into three forms — “rivalry,” a positive process where the two competing parties seek to excel and ultimately result in self-improvement by both; “adversarial animosity,” a zero-sum competition like a running race where one party tries to “trip” rather than “outrun” the other party; and “enmity,” a destructive mode where one party fight for the complete annihilation of the other party.

The word “competition,” Freeman said, has been used by the Biden administration as a “euphemism” and in way that makes the concept hardly distinguishable from “animosity and hostility.” The result is that the United States, by failing to accurately describe the status of its relationship with China, has driven bilateral ties into the phase of adversarial animosity.

Freeman lamented the fact that “empathy,” which he said is required in diplomacy and was shown by both the U.S. and the Chinese sides when Nixon visited China, is nowhere to be found among those making decisions on China in the current U.S. administration.

“Empathy is understanding where the other side is coming from, what they believe, how they see things,” Freeman said. “You must understand the other side’s point of view. I don’t see much evidence that there’s much effort being made to do that on the American side.

– Xinhua 

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