In recent days, two pieces of news related to China have widely caught the eyes in Sri Lanka. Early this month, after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sneaky visit to China’s TaiwanMore
The seventeenth G20 Heads of State and Government Summit held in Bali, Indonesia, on 15–16 November stands out as a consequential event from many angles. The international politics is at an inflection point and the transition will not leave unaffected any of the institutions inherited from the past that is drifting away forever.
However, the G20 can be an exception in bridging time past with time present and time future. The tidings from Bali leave a sense of mixed feelings of hope and despair. The G20 was conceived against the backdrop of the financial crisis in 2007 — quintessentially, a western attempt to burnish the jaded G7 by bringing on board the emerging powers that stood outside it looking in, especially China, and thereby inject contemporaneity into global discourses.
The leitmotif was harmony. How far the Bali summit lived up to that expectation is the moot point today. Regrettably, the G7 selectively dragged extraneous issues into the deliberations and its alter ego, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), made its maiden appearance in the Asia-Pacific. Arguably, the latter must be counted as a fateful happening during the Bali summit.
What happened is a negation of the spirit of the G20. If the G7 refuses to discard its bloc mentality, the cohesion of the G20 gets affected. The G7-NATO joint statement could have been issued from Brussels or Washington or London. Why Bali?
The Chinese President Xi Jinping was spot on saying in a written speech at the APEC CEO Summit in Bangkok on November 17 that “The Asia-Pacific is no one’s backyard and should not become an arena for big power contest. No attempt to wage a new cold war will ever be allowed by the people or by the times.”
Xi warned that “Both geopolitical tensions and the evolving economic dynamics have exerted a negative impact on the development environment and cooperation structure of the Asia-Pacific.” Xi said the Asia-Pacific region was once a ground for big power rivalry, had suffered conflicts and war. “History tells us that bloc confrontation cannot solve any problem and that bias will only lead to disaster.”
The golden rule that security issues do not fall within the purview of G20 has been broken. At the G20 summit, the western countries held the rest of the participants at the Bali summit to ransom: ‘Our way or no way’. Unless the intransigent West was appeased on Ukraine issue, there could be no Bali declaration, so, Russia relented. The sordid drama showed that the DNA of the western world hasn’t changed. Bullying remains its distinguishing trait.
But, ironically, at the end of the day, what stood out was that the Bali Declaration failed to denounce Russia on the Ukraine issue. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey give reason for hope that G20 can regenerate itself. These countries were never western colonies. They are dedicated to multipolarity, which will ultimately compel the West to concede that unilateralism and hegemony is unsustainable.
This inflection point gave much verve to the meeting between the US President Joe Biden and the Chinese President Xi Jinping at Bali. Washington requested for such a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, and Beijing consented. One striking thing about the meeting has been that Xi was appearing on the world stage after a hugely successful Party Congress.
The resonance of his voice was unmistakable. Xi underscored that the US has lost the plot, when he told Biden: “A statesman should think about and know where to lead his country. He should also think about and know how to get along with other countries and the wider world.” (here and here)
The White House readouts hinted that Biden was inclined to be conciliatory. The US faces an uphill challenge to isolate China. As things stand, circumstances overall work to China’s advantage. (here , here and here)
The majority of countries have refused to take sides on Ukraine. China’s stance amply reflects it. Xi told Biden that China is ‘highly concerned’ about the current situation in Ukraine and support and look forward to a resumption of peace talks between Russia and China. That said, Xi also expressed the hope that the US, NATO and the EU ‘will conduct comprehensive dialogues’ with Russia.
The fault lines that appeared at Bali may take new forms by the time the G20 holds its 18th summit in India next year. There is reason to be cautiously optimistic. First and foremost, it is improbable that Europe will go along with the US strategy of weaponising sanctions against China. They cannot afford a decoupling from China, which is the world’s largest trading nation and the principal driver of growth for the world economy.
Second, much as the battle cries in Ukraine rallied Europe behind the US, a profound rethink is under way. Much agonising is going on about Europe’s commitment to strategic autonomy. The recent visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to China pointed in that direction. It is inevitable that Europe will distance itself from the US’ cold war aspirations. This process is inexorable in a world where the US is not inclined to spend time, money or effort on its European allies.
The point is, in many ways, America’s capacity to provide effective global economic leadership has irreversibly diminished, having lost its pre-eminent status as the world’s largest economy by a wide margin. Besides, the US is no longer willing or capable of investing heavily in shouldering the burden of leadership. Simply put, it still has nothing on offer to match China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This should have had a chastening influence and prompted a change of mindset toward cooperative policy actions, but the American elite are stuck in the old groove.
Fundamentally, therefore, multilateralism has become much harder in the present-day world situation. Nonetheless, the G20 is the only game in town to bring together the G7 and the aspiring developing countries who stands to gain out of a democratised world order. The western alliance system is rooted in the past. The bloc mentality holds little appeal to the developing countries. The gravitation of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia toward the BRICS conveys a powerful message that the western strategy in conceiving the G20 — to create a ring of subaltern states around the G7 — has outlived its utility.
The dissonance that was on display in Bali exposed that the US still clings to its entitlement and is willing to play the spoiler. India has a great opportunity to navigate the G20 in a new direction. But it requires profound shifts on India’s part too –away from its US-centric foreign policies, coupled with far-sightedness and a bold vision to forge a cooperative relationship with China, jettisoning past phobias and discarding self-serving narratives, and, indeed, at the very least, avoiding any further descent into beggar-thy-neighbour policies.
At the recent Commonwealth for Independent States (CIS) summit held on October 14 in Astana, Kazakhstan, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon expressed previously inconceivable remarks. His public admonishment of Russian President Vladimir Putin to treat Central Asian states with more respect showed the growing confidence of Central Asian leaders amid Russia’s embroilment in Ukraine and China’s expanding regional influence.
After coming under Russian imperial rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, five Central Asian states—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—emerged independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.
While these countries remained heavily dependent on Russia for security, economic, and diplomatic support, China saw an opportunity in their vast resources and potential to facilitate trade across Eurasia. Chinese-backed development and commerce increased after the Soviet collapse and expanded further after the launch of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013.
Billions of dollars in investment, access to Chinese goods, and opening up China’s enormous consumer market allowed Beijing to restructure Central Asian economies. Soviet-era gas pipeline networks, for example, traditionally forced much of the region’s natural resources to flow through Russia to access the European market. The Central Asia-China pipeline and Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline are just some of the newer pipelines built to transport resources to the Chinese market instead.
These developments have added to friction between Central Asian states and Russia. Disputes between Turkmenistan and Russia over gas prices and a mysterious pipeline explosion in 2009 saw Russian gas imports from Turkmenistan decline until they halted completely in 2016, upending Turkmenistan’s access to Europe. Turkmenistan redirected much of its supply to China for the next three years, before a rapprochement with Moscow in 2019 saw imports to Russia resume.
Billions of dollars in investment, access to Chinese goods, and opening up China’s enormous consumer market allowed Beijing to restructure Central Asian economies.
This affair demonstrated the economic opportunities China could provide to Central Asian states that were previously dependent on Russia. Competing Chinese and Russian attempts to supply Central Asia with COVID-19 vaccines was another demonstration of Beijing’s multifaceted approach to increasing its regional influence.
Sensing the inevitability of Chinese investment in revolutionizing regional economies, the Kremlin announced the “Greater Eurasian Partnership” in 2015. This partnership attempted to integrate the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are members of, with the BRI. Though this partnership has only been partially successful, Putin has sought to use Chinese investment to help develop Russia’s Far East.
Russia’s connections to the remaining Soviet political networks and military power in the region have allowed Moscow to contend with China’s growing economic edge in Central Asia over the last two decades. But the increasing international pressure on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine has suddenly upset the traditional “division of labor” between Russia and China in Central Asia. Though still a vital partner to Central Asian states, Russia risks losing greater economic and security ground to China in the coming years.
After cross-border trade between the EU and Russia and Belarus was reduced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for example, China placed renewed focus on developing the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), or “Middle Corridor,” of the BRI. Instead of Chinese trade flowing from Russia into Europe, it is increasingly being transported through Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Turkey. The newly built Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, as well as other projects like the China-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway, will further erode Russia’s importance to the BRI.
On September 14, 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled to Kazakhstan on his first foreign trip since the pandemic began. His destination was symbolic—the BRI was first announced by Xi in Kazakhstan in 2013, and the country has fashioned itself as the “buckle” of the project.
Alongside signing economic deals during his visit in September, Xi vowed to back Kazakhstan “in the defense of its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” This contrasts with Russian political figures who have questioned the validity of Kazakhstan’s statehood in the past, including Putin. Xi then traveled to Uzbekistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on September 15 and 16 and signed deals worth $16 billion with Uzbekistan, dwarfing the $4.6 billion signed between Uzbekistan and Russia.
China’s auto industry has also increased its manufacturing presence and share of the market in Central Asia in 2022, as sanctions have hindered Russia’s production capabilities.
China’s growing military presence in Central Asia has similarly been a major concern for the Kremlin. Over the last decade, China has rapidly increased its arms exports to the region. And though China has conducted bilateral military exercises in Central Asia since 2002 in coordination with the SCO, in 2016 China held its first antiterrorism exercises with Tajikistan, and held the “Cooperation 2019” exercises with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, “marking the first time their national guard units had trained with China on counterterrorism.”
In 2021, Tajikistan also approved the construction of a Chinese-funded military base in the country near its border with Afghanistan—though China’s focus on Tajikistan is “linked more to Afghanistan than to Central Asia as a whole.” However, the use of Chinese private military and security companies (PMSCs) in Africa and the Middle East has also led to concern in Moscow that China’s PMSCs may expand further across Central Asia.
Moscow’s strained military situation became evident in September, when Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, both members of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance, engaged in deadly border clashes. While Russia and the CSTO were unable to calm hostilities, the leaders of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan met on the sidelines of the SCO summit on September 16 to cool tensions.
Nonetheless, several factors inhibit China from eclipsing Russia’s geopolitical influence in Central Asia. Beijing has typically been hesitant to commit military forces abroad and continues to see the Russian military as an asset against instability in the region. The Russian-led CSTO intervention in Kazakhstan in January 2022 showed the Kremlin was capable of stabilizing vulnerable national governments facing social unrest in the region, as well as cementing their authority and international legitimacy.
Russia also operates a military base in Tajikistan, while Kyrgyzstan hosts a Russian military air base. Kazakhstan’s large ethnic Russian minority, meanwhile, holds local economic and political power, and the Kazakh government remains fearful of a Russian military intervention ostensibly to protect them.
Additionally, Russia retains some economic leverage over Central Asian states. Russia conducts billions of dollars worth of trade with them annually and maintains several Soviet legacy projects that have bound Central Asia to it, such as common gas and oil pipelines, waterways, railway networks, and electricity grids. Central Asian states also have some of the largest annual remittance rates in the world, with the remittances from Russia to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan accounting for roughly 30 percent of their gross domestic product in 2021.
The Kremlin also has the ability to shape local perceptions of Russia through its dominant media and social media channels in Central Asia. But positive public opinion toward China across the region steadily declined between 2017 and 2021 for a variety of reasons, especially in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Many Central Asians are concerned over China’s “debt-trap diplomacy,” while large numbers of Chinese workers brought in to develop BRI projects in the region have resulted in deadly protests and clashes with locals.
Competition between China and Central Asian states over scarce regional water supplies, as well as China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, a Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim ethnic group, who “see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations,” have also damaged China’s ties in the region.
Evidently, China’s own obstacles and Russia’s lingering presence in the region have helped sustain the geopolitical balance in Central Asia. But mutual pledges by China and Russia to respect one another’s core interests, most recently repeated in June 2022, have contributed the most to preventing greater agitation in the region. While Beijing and Moscow are destined to compete in Central Asia, careful diplomacy will likely prolong their cautious cooperation.
Ultimately, China remains more concerned with Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the broader Asia Pacific region, while Russia is more preoccupied in its eastern and southern regions, most notably Ukraine.
Russia has so far borne the brunt of U.S.-led efforts to contain their foreign policies. But the launch of the U.S.-China trade war in 2018 under former U.S. President Donald Trump marked a serious turn in the U.S.-Chinese relationship, which has continued under President Joe Biden. The Biden administration (as well as the EU) has criticized and sanctioned China over its policies in Xinjiang, and most recently imposed significant technology export controls on China on October 7.
Heightened tensions with the West will draw China and Russia closer together. While Central Asia is where their interests collide the most, Beijing and Moscow will continue to avoid conflict there to focus on pushing back against Western power elsewhere in the world.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday here during a meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, that as leaders of two major countries, they need to set the right course for bilateral ties.
From the initial contact and the establishment of diplomatic relations to today, China and the United States have gone through 50-plus eventful years, with gains and losses as well as experience and lessons, Xi said.
Noting that history is the best textbook, the Chinese president said that the two sides should take it as a mirror and let it guide the future.
Currently, the state of China-U.S. relations is not in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their people, Xi said, adding that it is not what the international community expects from the two countries either.
As leaders of two major countries, Xi said, the two presidents need to play the leadership role, set the right course for the China-U.S. relationship and put it on an upward trajectory.
A statesman should think about and know where to lead his country. He should also think about and know how to get along with other countries and the wider world, he added.
Emphasizing that in this time and age, great changes are unfolding in ways like never before, Xi said that humanity is confronted with unprecedented challenges.
“The world has come to a crossroads. Where to go from here? This is a question that is not just on our mind, but also on the mind of all countries,” Xi said, noting that the world expects that China and the United States will properly handle their relationship.
Noting that his meeting with Biden has attracted the world’s attention, Xi said that the two sides should work with all countries to bring more hope to world peace, greater confidence in global stability, and stronger impetus to common development.
Xi said that he stands ready to have a candid and in-depth exchange of views with Biden on issues of strategic importance in China-U.S. relations and on major global and regional issues, adding that he also looks forward to working with Biden to bring China-U.S. relations back to the track of healthy and stable growth to the benefit of our two countries and the world as a whole.
The United States has gambled big in its latest across-the-board sanctions on Chinese companies in the semiconductor industry, believing it can kneecap China and retain its global dominance. From the slogans of globalization and “free trade” of the neoliberal 1990s, Washington has reverted to good old technology denial regimes that the U.S. and its allies followed during the Cold War. While it might work in the short run in slowing down the Chinese advances, the cost to the U.S. semiconductor industry of losing China—its biggest market—will have significant consequences in the long run. In the process, the semiconductor industries of Taiwan and South Korea and equipment manufacturers in Japan and the European Union are likely to become collateral damage. It reminds us again of what former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said: “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.”
The purpose of the U.S. sanctions, the second generation of sanctions after the earlier one in August 2021, is to restrict China’s ability to import advanced computing chips, develop and maintain supercomputers, and manufacture advanced semiconductors. Though the U.S. sanctions are cloaked in military terms—denying China access to technology and products that can help China’s military—in reality, these sanctions target almost all leading semiconductor players in China and, therefore, its civilian sector as well. The fiction of ‘barring military use’ is only to provide the fig leaf of a cover under the World Trade Organization (WTO) exceptions on having to provide market access to all WTO members. Most military applications use older-generation chips and not the latest versions.
The specific sanctions imposed by the United States include:
- Advanced logic chips required for artificial intelligence and high-performance computing
- Equipment for 16nm logic and other advanced chips such as FinFET and Gate-All-Around
- The latest generations of memory chips: NAND with 128 layers or more and DRAM with 18nm half-pitch
Specific equipment bans in the rules go even further, including many older technologies as well. For example, one commentator pointed out that the prohibition of tools is so broad that it includes technologies used by IBM in the late 1990s.
The sanctions also encompass any company that uses U.S. technology or products in its supply chain. This is a provision in the U.S. laws: any company that ‘touches’ the United States while manufacturing its products is automatically brought under the U.S. sanctions regime. It is a unilateral extension of the United States’ national legal jurisdiction and can be used to punish and crush any entity—a company or any other institution—that is directly or indirectly linked to the United States. These sanctions are designed to completely decouple the supply chain of the United States and its allies—the European Union and East Asian countries—from China.
In addition to the latest U.S. sanctions against companies that are already on the list of sanctioned Chinese companies, a further 31 new companies have been added to an “unverified list.” These companies must provide complete information to the U.S. authorities within two months, or else they will be barred as well. Furthermore, no U.S. citizen or anyone domiciled in the United States can work for companies on the sanctioned or unverified lists, not even to maintain or repair equipment supplied earlier.
The global semiconductor industry’s size is currently more than $500 billion and is likely to double its size to $1 trillion by 2030. According to a Semiconductor Industry Association and Boston Consulting Group report of 2020—“Turning the Tide for Semiconductor Manufacturing in the U.S.”—China is expected to account for approximately 40 percent of the semiconductor industry growth by 2030, displacing the United States as the global leader. This is the immediate trigger for the U.S. sanctions and its attempt to halt China’s industry from taking over the lead from the United States and its allies.
While the above measures are intended to isolate China and limit its growth, there is a downside for the United States and its allies in sanctioning China.
The problem for the United States—more so for Taiwan and South Korea—is that China is their biggest trading partner. Imposing such sanctions on equipment and chips also means destroying a good part of their market with no prospect of an immediate replacement. This is true not only for China’s East Asian neighbors but also for equipment manufacturers like the Dutch company ASML, the world’s only supplier of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines that produces the latest chips. For Taiwan and South Korea, China is not only the biggest export destination for their semiconductor industry as well as other industries, but also one of their biggest suppliers for a range of products. The forcible separation of China’s supply chain in the semiconductor industry is likely to be accompanied by separation in other sectors as well.
The U.S. companies are also likely to see a big hit to their bottom line—including equipment manufacturers such as Lam Research Corporation, Applied Materials, and KLA Corporation; the electronic design automation (EDA) tools such as Synopsys and Cadence; and advanced chip suppliers like Qualcomm, Nvidia, and AMD. China is the largest destination for all these companies. The problem for the United States is that China is not only the fastest-growing part of the world’s semiconductor industry but also the industry’s biggest market. So the latest sanctions will cripple not only the Chinese companies on the list but also the U.S. semiconductor firms, drying up a significant part of their profits and, therefore, their future research and development (R&D) investments in technology. While some of the resources for investments will come from the U.S. government—for example, the $52.7 billion chip manufacturing subsidy—they do not compare to the losses the U.S. semiconductor industry will suffer as a result of the China sanctions. This is why the semiconductor industry had suggested narrowly targeted sanctions on China’s defense and security industry, not the sweeping sanctions that the United States has now introduced; the scalpel and not the hammer.
The process of separating the sanctions regime and the global supply chain is not a new concept. The United States and its allies had a similar policy during and after the Cold War with the Soviet Union via the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) (in 1996, it was replaced by the Wassenaar Arrangement), the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Control Regime, and other such groups. Their purpose is very similar to what the United States has now introduced for the semiconductor industry. In essence, they were technology denial regimes that applied to any country that the United States considered an “enemy,” with its allies following—then as now—what the United States dictated. The targets on the export ban list were not only the specific products but also the tools that could be used to manufacture them. Not only the socialist bloc countries but also countries such as India were barred from accessing advanced technology, including supercomputers, advanced materials, and precision machine tools. Under this policy, critical equipment required for India’s nuclear and space industries was placed under a complete ban. Though the Wassenaar Arrangement still exists, with countries like even Russia and India within the ambit of this arrangement now, it has no real teeth. The real threat comes from falling out with the U.S. sanctions regime and the U.S. interpretation of its laws superseding international laws, including the WTO rules.
The advantage the United States and its military allies—in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, and the Central Treaty Organization—had before was that the United States and its European allies were the biggest manufacturers in the world. The United States also controlled West Asia’s hydrocarbon—oil and gas—a vital resource for all economic activities. The current chip war against China is being waged at a time when China has become the biggest manufacturing hub of the world and the largest trade partner for 70 percent of countries in the world. With the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries no longer obeying the U.S. diktats, Washington has lost control of the global energy market.
So why has the United States started a chip war against China at a time that its ability to win such a war is limited? It can, at best, postpone China’s rise as a global peer military power and the world’s biggest economy. An explanation lies in what some military historians call the “Thucydides trap”: when a rising power rivals a dominant military power, most such cases lead to war. According to Athenian historian Thucydides, Athens’ rise led Sparta, the then-dominant military power, to go to war against it, in the process destroying both city-states; therefore, the trap. While such claims have been disputed by other historians, when a dominant military power confronts a rising one, it does increase the chance of either a physical or economic war. If the Thucydides trap between China and the United States restricts itself to only an economic war—the chip war—we should consider ourselves lucky!
With the new series of sanctions by the United States, one issue has been settled: the neoliberal world of free trade is officially over. The sooner other countries understand it, the better it will be for their people. And self-reliance means not simply the fake self-reliance of supporting local manufacturing, but instead means developing the technology and knowledge to sustain and grow it.
This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) held its 20th National Congress from October 16 to October 22, 2022. Every five years, the delegates of the CPC’s 96 million members meet to elect its top leaders and to set the future direction for the party. One of the main themes of the congress this year was “rejuvenation” of the country through “a Chinese path to modernization.” In his report to the congress, Xi Jinping, the CPC’s general secretary, sketched out the way forward to build China “into a modern socialist country.”
Most of the Western media commentary about the congress ignored the actual words that were said in Beijing, opting instead to make wild speculations about the deliberations in the party (including about the sudden departure of former Chinese President Hu Jintao from the Great Hall of the People during the closing session of the congress, who left because he was feeling ill). Much could have been gained from listening to what people said during the National Congress instead of putting words in their mouths.
When the Communist Party took power in China in 1949, the country was the 11th poorest country in the world. For the first time since the “century of humiliation” that began with the British wars on China from 1839 onward, China has developed into a major power with the social situation of the Chinese people having greatly improved from their condition in 1949. A short walk away from the Great Hall of the People, where the congress was held, is the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, which reminds people of the immense achievement of the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and its impact on Chinese society.
Xi Jinping became the general secretary of the CPC at the 18th National Congress in 2012 and was elected president of the People’s Republic of China in March 2013. Since then, the country has gone through significant changes. Economically, China’s GDP has almost doubled to become the world’s second-largest economy, growing from 58.8 trillion yuan in 2013 to 114.37 trillion yuan in 2021, and its GDP expanded at a rate of 6.6 percent per year during the same period. Meanwhile, the country’s per capita GDP almost doubled between 2013 and 2021, with China approaching the high-income country bracket. In terms of the world economy, China’s GDP was 18.5 percent of the global total in 2021, and the country was responsible for 30 percent of world economic growth from 2013 to 2021. China also manufactured 30 percent of the world’s goods in 2021, up from more than 20 percent in 2012. This adds to the decades of historically unprecedented growth rate of 9.8 percent per year from 1978 to 2014 since the launching of economic reform in China in 1978. These economic achievements are historic and did not come without their set of challenges and consequences.
While delivering the report at the opening of this congress, Xi spoke about the situation that the Chinese people faced a decade ago: “Great achievements had been secured in reform, opening up, and socialist modernization… At the same time, however, a number of prominent issues and problems—some of which had been building for years and others which were just emerging—demanded urgent action.” He went on to talk about the “slide toward weak, hollow, and watered-down party leadership,” pointing out that “money worship, hedonism, egocentricity, and historical nihilism” were the deep-seated problems in a development process that was “imbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable.” These are significant self-criticisms made by the man who has led the country for the past decade.
A decade ago, in his speech at the 18th CPC National Congress, outgoing Secretary General Hu Jintao mentioned the word “corruption” several times. “If we fail to handle this issue well,” he warned, “it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state.” Xi Jinping’s first task after taking over as general secretary of the CPC was to tackle this issue. In his inaugural speech as the party head in 2013, Xi said he was committed to “the fighting of tigers and flies at the same time,” referring to the corruption that had spread from the high echelons down to the grassroots level within the party and the government. The party launched “eight-point” rules for its members in December 2012, to limit practices such as inconsequential meetings and extravagant receptions for official visits, and advocated “diligence and thrift.”
Meanwhile, a year after the launch of the “mass line campaign” by Xi’s administration in June 2013, official meetings were reduced by 25 percent in comparison to the period before the campaign, 160,000 “phantom staff” were removed from the government payroll, and 2,580 “unnecessary” official building projects were stopped. Over the past decade, from November 2012 to April 2022, nearly 4.4 million cases involving 4.7 million officials were investigated in the fight against corruption. Party members have been investigated. In the first half of this year alone, 24 senior officials were investigated for corruption, and former ministers, provincial governors, and presidents of the biggest state-owned banks have been expelled from the party and given harsh sentences, including life imprisonment.
Hu Jintao’s comments and Xi Jinping’s actions reflected concerns that during the period of high growth after 1978, CPC members grew increasingly detached from the people. During the first months of his presidency, Xi launched the “mass line campaign” to bring the party closer to the grassroots. As part of the “targeted poverty alleviation” campaign launched in 2014, 800,000 party cadres were sent to survey and visit 128,000 villages as part of this project. In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, China successfully eradicated extreme poverty, contributing to 76 percent of the global reduction in poverty till October 2015.
Beyond the party’s self-correction, Xi’s strong words and actions against the corrupt “flies and tigers” contributed to the Chinese people’s confidence in the government. According to a 2020 research paper by Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the overall satisfaction with the government’s performance was 93.1 percent in 2016, seeing the most significant growth in the more underdeveloped regions in the countryside. This rise of confidence in rural areas resulted from increased social services, trust in local officials, and the campaign against poverty.
Right Side of History
At the 20th Congress, Xi Jinping reflected on the history of colonialism—including China’s “century of humiliation”—and the implications this would have for China going forward. “In pursuing modernization,” Xi said, “China will not tread the old path of war, colonization, and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries. We will stand firmly on the right side of history and on the side of human progress.”
Chinese officials routinely tell us that their country is not interested in seeking dominance in the world. What China would like to do is to collaborate with other countries to try and solve humanity’s dilemmas. The Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, was launched in 2013 with the purpose of “win-win” cooperation and development and has thus far built much-needed infrastructure with investment and construction contracts totaling $1 trillion in almost 150 countries. China’s interest in tackling the climate catastrophe is evidenced by its planting of a quarter of the world’s new forests over the past decade and in becoming a world leader in renewable energy investment and electric vehicle production. On the public health side, China adopted a COVID-19 policy that prioritizes lives over profit, donated 325 million doses of vaccines, and saved millions of lives as a result of this. As a result of its initiatives in the public health sector, the average life expectancy of Chinese people was 77.93 years in 2020 and reached 78.2 years in 2021, and for the first time, surpassed life expectancy in the United States—77 years in 2020 and 76.1 in 2021—making this drop “the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”
China’s communists do not see these events without putting them in the context of the long process undertaken by the government toward achieving and ensuring their social development. In 27 years, China will celebrate the centenary of its revolution. In 1997, then-President of China Jiang Zemin spoke about the two centenary goals—the 100-year markers following the founding of the Communist Party (1921) and the Chinese Revolution (1949)—that “underwrite all China’s long-term economic planning programs and contemporary macroeconomic policy agendas.” At that time, the focus was on growth rates. In 2017, Xi Jinping shifted the emphasis of these goals to the “three tough battles”: to defuse major financial risks, to eradicate poverty, and to control pollution. This new congress has gone beyond those “tough battles” to protect Chinese sovereignty and to expand the dignity of the Chinese people.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
Even as Xi Jinping was promising China’s Communist Party’s national congress that China would “resolutely win the battle” in key areas of technology, employees of technology companies in China and elsewhere were being told to down tools. Dozens of the hundreds of executives and engineers with US citizenship or green cards who work in or with China’s semiconductor sector, many of them born in China, have been told by their employers – whether those are foreign or Chinese companies – to stop work while their employers seek clarification of a new US rule that bars US citizens and residents from supporting China’s advanced chip-making industry without a licence.
It is now crystal clear that the US, enabled by a bipartisan consensus in Washington, is determined to stop China upgrading technologically. This has massive implications for Beijing’s ambitions in areas such as artificial intelligence and autonomous driving. The new Chips Act introduced by the Biden administration is accompanied by a 139-page report released by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
The report targets not only US companies’ involvement in selling tech products to China but also US persons (i.e. anyone with a US passport or green card). This puts the many founders of Chinese tech companies who were educated in the US, and acquired a US passport on the way, in a seemingly difficult position. It will also make it much harder for Chinese tech companies to attract talent. Similarly, R&D laboratories set up by some Chinese companies in the US now look vulnerable. Alibaba has research labs in Seattle and Silicon Valley while Tencent also has a research lab in Seattle. And US pressure will be brought to bear to stop Holland’s ASML and Japanese companies from supplying China.
All of the above makes it clear the extent to which China is now treated as “an enemy” of the US. This goes far beyond what used to be called “containment”. It also raises the issue of how long Beijing continues to turn the other cheek since, so far, it has done nothing to make life difficult for American companies operating in China, save for its Covid restrictions, on the view that it wants to keep encouraging foreign direct investment.
The US move on chips also has big implications for TSMC and other Taiwan companies given the amount of semiconductors Taiwan exports to the mainland. Taiwan’s chip (integrated circuits) exports to China totaled $155bn in 2021 and $105bn in the first eight months of 2022, and accounted for 36% and 38%, respectively, of total Chinese chip imports. Indeed, the most interesting aspect of Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip in early August was her meeting with TSMC founder Morris Chang and chairman Mark Liu, most particularly in the context of legislation on semiconductors passed by Congress in late July which will provide $52.7bn in subsidies to encourage chip manufacturers to build factories in America.
TSMC is already building a fab in Arizona. Construction of the factory started in June 2021 and its main facility is now reportedly completed, while production is scheduled to begin in 2024. Under the chips legislation TSMC will be required to transfer its technology to the US.
Unlike previous attempts by the Trump and Biden administrations to target specific Chinese companies from accessing advanced technologies (the ban of Huawei was the classic example), the new rules effectively cover every Chinese entity. They, or their US or foreign suppliers, will have to apply for a licence to gain or provide access to advanced chip technologies.
If the US strategy does prove effective – and the response of a wide range of non-Chinese companies operating in the sector in freezing dealings with China suggests it could be – it would cut China off from the critical building blocks of most 21st century technologies.
Why is the US applying these drastic measures against China’s trade and technology? It’s the fear that China could become not just a manufacturing and import source for US consumers, but a rival in every area to US hegemony over the world economy.
What particularly triggered this new policy on China by the US was the global financial crash and the Great Recession. Under its state-controlled model, China survived and expanded while Western capitalism collapsed. China was fast becoming not just a cheap labour manufacturing and export economy, but a high technology, urbanised society with ambitions to extend its political and economic influence, even beyond East Asia. That was too much for the increasingly weak imperialist economies.
The US and other G7 nations have lost ground to China in manufacturing, and their reliance on Chinese inputs for their own manufacturing has risen, while China’s reliance on G7 inputs has fallen.
According to a recent report by Goldman Sachs, China’s digital economy is already large, accounting for almost 40% of GDP and fast growing, contributing more than 60% of GDP growth in recent years. “And there is ample room for China to further digitalize its traditional sectors”. China’s IT share of GDP climbed from 2.1% in 2011Q1 to 3.8% in 2021Q1. Although China still lags the US, Europe, Japan and South Korea in its IT share of GDP, the gap has been narrowing over time. No wonder, the US and other capitalist powers are intensifying their efforts to contain China’s technological expansion.
China has spent more than $100 bn to fast-track the development of a domestic chip-making industry. It is a critical component of its “Made in China 2025 program,” which set out China’s plans to dominate artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, next-gen information technology, telecommunications, advanced robotics and aerospace, among other technology-related sectors by 2049.
So the US strategy changed. If China was not going to play ball with imperialism and open up its economy completely to foreign investment and continue to expand its technology base to compete with the US, then it had to be stopped. The recently deceased Jude Woodward wrote an excellent book describing this strategy of containment that began even before Trump launched his trade tariff war with China on taking the US presidency in 2016. Trump’s policy, at first regarded as reckless by other governments, is now being adopted across the board, after the failure of the imperialist countries to protect lives during the pandemic.
The aim is to weaken China’s economy and destroy its influence and perhaps achieve ‘regime change’. Blocking trade with tariffs; blocking technology access for China and their exports; applying sanctions on Chinese companies; and turning debtors against China; this may all be costly to imperialist economies. But the cost may be worth it, if China can be broken and US hegemony secured.
The CPC congress emphasized China’s response. “We must adhere to science and technology as the number-one productive force, talent as the number-one resource, [and] innovation as the number-one driving force.”. SoBeijing sees the decision to try to freeze Chinese domestic manufacturing above a defined level of technological advancement as deeply provocative. Forcing China to rely on foreign production for the latest and greatest chips plays exactly into Xi’s fear of “technological vassaldom.” So China is moving towards a more self-reliant growth model.
That is the basis of what the Xi leadership calls a ‘dual circulation’ development mode, where trade and investment abroad is combined with production for the huge domestic market.
The dual circulation model was first formally announced at a Politburo meeting in May 2020 and sets out a rebalancing of the Chinese economy away from “international circulation” (the first kind of circulation on which China has relied, namely, reliance on external demand as a stimulus to growth) towards “domestic circulation,” or increasing self-dependence.
The political hot spot for intense conflict between the US and China is Taiwan. Taiwan (Formosa) was taken over by fleeing Nationalist forces in China after the Chinese communists won the civil war and took control in 1949. From the beginning, the Chinese Communist government and the United Nations recognised Taiwan as part of China. But from the beginning, the Nationalists were backed by the US with funds and arms, first with the aim of overthrowing the Communists on the mainland and later, when that became impossible, to maintain the island’s autonomy from China. And since the rise of the Chinese economy, the US and the rest of the imperialist bloc has encouraged moves by the Taiwanese to build and confirm total independence. Taiwan could then become a permanent thorn in China’s side and also the launchpad for military operations against Beijing in the future.
The Russia invasion of Ukraine has given the US and NATO the excuse to intensify the economic, political and military encirclement of China with Taiwan as its hub. By the broadest definition of military intervention, the US has engaged in nearly 400 military interventions between 1776 and 2019, with half of these operations occurring since 1950 and over 25% occurring in the post-Cold War period. these interventions have revolved around economy, territory, social protection, regime change, protection of US citizens and diplomats, policy change, empire, and regime building. The US backed by an extended NATO, no longer confined to the Atlantic seaboard, sees China as the next area for ‘intervention’ down the road.
The Western media helps by continually talking of China’s so-called ‘aggressive behaviour’ and its crimes against human rights. Whatever the truth in those charges, they are easily matched by the crimes of imperialism in the last century alone: the occupation and massacre of millions of Chinese by Japanese imperialism in 1937; the continual gruesome wars post-1945 conducted by imperialism against the Vietnamese people, Latin America and the proxy wars in Africa and Syria, as well as the more recent invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and the appalling nightmare in Yemen by the disgusting US-backed regime in Saudi Arabia etc. And don’t forget the horrific poverty and inequality that weighs for billions under the imperialist mode of production.
But the economic and political conflict between China and the US is the major geopolitical issue of the 21st century – much larger than the Russia-Ukraine war. US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan summed it up recently. “This is a decisive decade… in which the terms of our competition with the People’s Republic of China will be set.”He continued: “The PRC’s assertiveness at home and abroad is advancing an illiberal vision across economic, political, security, and technological realms in competition with the west,” China must be stopped because “It is the only competitor (to the US) with the intent to reshape the international order and the growing capacity to do it.”
China is at a crossroads in its development. Its capitalist sector has deepening problems with profitability and debt. But the current leadership has pledged to continue with its state-directed economic model and autocratic political control. And it seems determined to resist the new policy of ‘containment’ emanating from the so-called ‘liberal democracies’. The trade, technology and political ‘cold war’ is set to heat up over the rest of this decade, while the planet heats up too.
Views expressed are personal. Click here to read the author’s personal blog, where this piece as a part of a series was originally published
Chinese modernization has broadened the horizon for the development of human society. China’s continuous enrichment and development of new forms of human civilization has inspired more countries and nations to add their own colours to the garden of human civilization, Global Times, a Beijing-based daily newspaper has assessed the historic moment of China, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in its editorial.
“Among the five major characteristics of Chinese modernization summed up by General Secretary Xi, there is one that China has repeatedly stated, and has been proven time and time again, that is, Chinese modernization is the modernization of peaceful development,” the editorial noted.
According to the editor, the bloody and criminal history of some Western countries’ modernization through war, colonization, plunder and other means has brought huge suffering to the world, especially the people of developing countries. The CPC leads the Chinese people to firmly explore a new path to achieve national development and national rejuvenation in a peaceful way, and at the same time better maintain world peace and development through its own development. This is one of the important connotations of the “new model for human civilization.”
“The report stressed that China adheres to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in pursuing friendship and cooperation with other countries. It is committed to promoting a new type of international relations, deepening and expanding global partnerships based on equality, openness, and cooperation, and broadening the convergence of interests with other countries. The CPC always honours its promises. Standing on the right side of history, on the side of the progress of humanity’s civilization, the new path of Chinese modernization will become wider and wider,” it further noted.
Anyone who holds a pragmatic and rational attitude toward China and the world’s development will gain a sense of direction and positive energy from the report. With the irreversible process of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, Chinese modernization will increasingly demonstrate its civilizational significance, the editor predicted.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) has secured historic achievements and seen historic changes in the cause of the Party and the country over the past decade, Xi Jinping said Sunday.
The CPC has taken China on a new journey toward building a modern socialist country in all respects, Xi said in a report at the opening session of the 20th CPC National Congress.
Under the leadership of the Party Central Committee, the entire Party, the military, and the Chinese people were brought together to carry out a great struggle with many new features of the times, he said.
— We have established the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and achieved a new breakthrough in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of our times.
— We have strengthened Party leadership in all respects. Now, our Marxist party of over 96 million members enjoys greater unity and solidarity than ever.
— We have achieved moderate prosperity, the millennia-old dream of the Chinese nation, through persistent hard work. We have, once and for all, resolved the problem of absolute poverty in China, making significant contributions to the cause of global poverty reduction.
— We have put forward the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and made constant progress in enriching and developing a new form of human advancement.
— We have put forward and applied a new development philosophy, worked hard to promote high-quality development, and pushed to foster a new pattern of development. We have brought about a historic rise in China’s economic strength. China has joined the ranks of the world’s innovators.
— We have comprehensively deepened reform with tremendous political courage. The system of socialism with Chinese characteristics has become more mature and well-defined, and China’s system and capacity for governance has been further modernized.
— We have pursued a more proactive strategy of opening up. As a collaborative endeavor, the Belt and Road Initiative has been welcomed by the international community both as a public good and a cooperation platform. China has become a major trading partner for more than 140 countries and regions, it leads the world in total volume of trade in goods, and it is a major destination for global investment and a leading country in outbound investment.
— We have kept to the path of socialist political advancement with Chinese characteristics. We have comprehensively developed whole-process people’s democracy, and made all-around progress in improving the institutions, standards, and procedures of our socialist democracy. A comprehensive framework for law-based governance has taken shape.
— We have established and upheld a foundational system for ensuring the guiding role of Marxism in the ideological domain. There have been overarching and fundamental changes in the ideological landscape.
— We have implemented a people-centered philosophy of development. We have built the largest education, social security, and healthcare systems in the world. We have made further progress in achieving common prosperity for all.
— We have acted on the idea that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. There have been historic, transformative, and comprehensive changes in ecological and environmental protection.
— We have resolutely safeguarded China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests. National security has thus been strengthened on all fronts. The Peaceful China Initiative has entered a new stage.
— We have set the Party’s goal of building a strong military in the new era and upheld absolute Party leadership over the people’s armed forces. With new systems, a new structure, a new configuration, and a new look, the people’s armed forces have become a much more modern and capable fighting force.
— We have fully and faithfully implemented the policy of One Country, Two Systems. We have upheld the policy of One Country, Two Systems, under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong and the people of Macao administer Macao, both with a high degree of autonomy. We have helped Hong Kong enter a new stage in which it has restored order and is set to thrive, and we have seen both Hong Kong and Macao maintain good momentum for long-term stable development. We have put forward an overall policy framework for resolving the Taiwan question in the new era and facilitated cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation. We have resolutely opposed separatist activities aimed at “Taiwan independence” and foreign interference. We have thus maintained the initiative and the ability to steer in cross-Strait relations.
— We have pursued major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics on all fronts. We have promoted the development of a human community with a shared future. China’s international influence, appeal, and power to shape have risen markedly.
— We have made significant advances in exercising full and rigorous Party self-governance. Unhealthy tendencies that had long gone unchecked have been reversed, and deep-seated problems that had plagued us for years have been remedied. We have waged a battle against corruption on a scale unprecedented in our history. We have achieved an overwhelming victory and fully consolidated the gains in our fight against corruption. All this has helped remove serious hidden dangers inside the Party, the country, and the military. The Party has found a second answer to the question of how to escape the historical cycle of rise and fall. The answer is self-reform. We have ensured that the Party will never change its nature, its conviction, or its character.
This story was first published in Xinhua. Click here to read the original post
For some time now, the US and some other Western countries have been misinforming the public about Xinjiang and seeking political manipulation in the name of human rights simply to smear China’s image and contain China’s development, responding to the 51st session of the Human Rights Council that voted down a US-led draft decision on Xinjiang, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson told the media.
“Despite facts and truths, these countries propagated falsehoods on Xinjiang at the Human Rights Council and put together a draft decision on that erroneous basis in an attempt to use UN human rights bodies as a tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs and to serve the agenda of using Xinjiang to contain China. The international community would not be easily misled. Despite pressure from the US and some other Western countries on the member states, the draft decision ended up unsupported by the majority of the Human Rights Council membership, especially many members of the developing world. The agenda pushed by the US and some other Western forces have again failed to gain international support,” the spokesperson added.
“The issues related to Xinjiang are not about human rights. They are about countering violent terrorism, radicalization and separatism. Thanks to strenuous efforts, there has been no violent terrorist incident in Xinjiang for over five consecutive years. The human rights of people of all ethnic backgrounds in Xinjiang are protected like never before. The international community is clearly aware that the ultimate motive of the US and some other Western countries behind their Xinjiang narrative is to contain China and does not like this pattern of using human rights as a pretext to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs. In recent years, nearly 100 countries, including many Islamic countries, have spoken out at the Human Rights Council, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly and elsewhere openly to support China’s just position on issues related to Xinjiang and oppose using these issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs. The facts have proven time and again that politicizing human rights and practicing double standards is deeply unpopular and attempts to use Xinjiang-related issues to keep China down or contain it will get nowhere.”
“The issues that the Human Rights Council truly needs to focus on are the serious human rights violations concerning the US, the UK and some Western forces, including systemic racism and racial discrimination, the rights of refugees and migrants, rampant gun violence, unilateral coercive measures, and massive killings of innocent civilians in overseas military operations. The victims are still waiting for justice to be done and the international community demands accountability. We urge the US and some other Western forces to abandon political manipulation, disinformation and suppression, return to the track of dialogue and cooperation, and make real contributions to the global advancement of human rights.”
Over the weekend, a baseless story, created by Falun Gong linked twitter accounts, went viral on twitter. Without any evidence whatsoever, the rumour stated that there had been an internal coup in China and the Chinese leader was under house arrest, citing an out-of-context video clip of military vehicles in an unspecified location. Despite the fact that the story was complete nonsense in every aspect, it was still widely shared throughout the platform and even trending. Several mainstream media outlets, including CNBC and Newsweek, even reported on the phenomenon. To anyone with a serious knowledge of China, the experience of this saga was, to say the least, frustrating.
But it shouldn’t surprise anyone. This might be the most explicit example of such, but it is by no means the first completely fake story about China that has gone viral on social media, rather it is just one of many that regularly occur. Western audiences are frequently indulged in sporadic fake news and misinformation across social media when it comes to China, exposing their lack of basic knowledge, quick prejudices and critical thinking on the subject. Western media and governments like to try and frame China’s own government as a source of misinformation, but the reality is in fact the exact opposite.
To understand how such fake news proliferates, without going into detail on the various groups and organizations responsible, we should take a look at a neighbouring country as an example: North Korea. Although it is of course an extreme example given its isolation from the outside world and much smaller scope, it is nonetheless a pivotal demonstration of how a country that is poorly understood by the west, abjectly demonized and vilified, and of course, few objective and impartial sources of information exist, becomes a breeding ground for absurd, unverified and even ludicrous rumours which would never fulfil basic standards of reporting for anything in the west itself.
In fact, western audiences literally believed that Kim Jong-un died in 2020, that everyone had to “get his haircut”, that they pretended to win the world cup in 2014, that people get executed for the most minor of misdemeanours and so on. There is no serious fact-checking mechanism whatsoever, which makes the country an easy target for low-information threshold tabloid journalism which exploits the country’s seeming absurdity for readers and clicks. This has only been more deeply compounded in the social media era. When it comes to such countries, western audiences will truly believe anything.
China of course, is a different case altogether but also has many similarities. Despite the fact that it has the world’s largest population and it is otherwise deeply integrated into the world, its government nonetheless becomes a useful target for conspiracy-led reporting due to its opacity and the perceived “secret” nature of the country, which although not like the DPRK, nonetheless attracts western cynicism and prejudice. This has always been present, yet it has got aptly worse with the open US and media-led demonization of the country and media campaign against it which sought to openly frame it as culpable for things such as Covid. The Anti-China agenda has legitimated and emboldened, deliberately often, the spreaders of misinformation, on a much, much larger scale.
As a result, social media has become filled with such falsehoods. Clips out of context purporting to show covid situations in China have often been sporadic, such as claims people are being “welded in their homes”, as well as false material depicting the apparent torture or mistreatment of the Uyghur minority. In 2019, I remember an English person sharing an out-of-context clip of an African child crying, the claim attached to the video was that he was “being forced to learn Chinese”. It was completely false, yet it is just one of many disturbing examples.
Although social media companies often claim they now oppose “misinformation” and even crack down on accounts purporting to push the narratives of China or Russia, they tend to give rumour-mongering accounts against designated enemy countries a free reign to spread misinformation, which has on many occasions been amplified by leading public figures. Likewise, posts on Chinese social media itself, such as Weibo, are frequently cherrypicked in order to frame very specific narratives to portray the country in a bad light.
In conclusion, this farce of a non-existent “coup” is annoying, stupid and ridiculous to anyone who has insight into the topic, but for the public at large, it is a believable and plausible event stemming from an entire misinformation machine dedicated to smearing China wherever possible. It demonstrates the gullible nature of the western public when it comes to understanding these topics, and shows in turn how easy it is for them to be manipulated by even the most obvious falsehoods, let alone the more crafted and sophisticated fakery of the mainstream media at large.
Views expressed are personal