24.02.2017 Author: Phil Butler

The Trump China Gambit: Which Side Will Russia Take?

4534234234234Reports espionage groups in China have been using cyberespionage tactics to attack military and aerospace organizations in Russia fortify suspicions the Chinese cannot be trusted. Russia-China goodwill and economic partnerships now seem more a necessity than a genuine economic union. Here’s a revisionist view on what the Chinese may be up to.

The past American administration’s forcing Russia into an eastward coalition not only reset European economics and policies, the move further empowered the unknown quantity that is genuine Chinese purpose. The nation that has benefitted most from globalization now meets the staunch businessman president. Will pragmatist Vladimir Putin drift back into the western hemisphere if Donald Trump sweetens the world policy pot? I believe Russia will play the role of moderator or balancer in the weeks to come, here’s why.

In our business we have a good deal of interaction with Chinese business people, which effectively amounts to having business with the Communist Party of China. I know this is a bold assertion, but in my opinion the China dragon is unchanged. The move to globalization has only strengthened and modernized a nation with its own interests in the forefront, the costume of capitalist ideals is only, brilliantly, a tool toward an end. Chinese billionaires pulling the strings in the west now, they are billionaires by permission in my view. Try and get a Chinese company to conform to western business practices if you think I am wrong. Money, and container ship loads of it, and the power that goes along is used against westerners – only in a subdued and subversive sort of way. This counter-productivity can be seen on the macro and the micro level. The richer and more influential the Chinese economic machine becomes, the clearer the picture becomes.

One must be rational to understand. China is a Marxist state, and the only reason for her leaders to negotiate with democratic states is in order to gain leverage and power – period. President Trump’s acknowledgement of Taiwan, and the ensuing backlash from Beijing shows us the game is the same all over. America’s foreign policy toward the world’s most populous country seems clear now. Vladimir Putin’s and Russia’s relations though, are a bit more complicated. Since becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 11 December 2001, just about every other nation in the world has lost economically and politically. While all the “loss” can’t be attributed to China’s ruling class, the trillions and trillions of western currencies pumped into China have ruined many people’s lives in Europe, America, and in Russia. This is irrefutable when one considers lost jobs, productivity, and real economic power. The naïve out there will attribute this to other factors, but globalization saw one big winner in the world.

While billionaires and corporations in the west certainly benefitted from China’s manufacturing boom, workers and ordinary citizens lost in the long run. President Donald Trump’s moves to renegotiate NAFTA and his dumping the Trans Pacific Partnership are curatives clearly, for a mess former President Bill Clinton signed America in for, and that western leaders championed. The neo-liberals and neocons the Obama administration super-funded, are rabid now over a lost fire sale. Hillary Clinton and her backers would have finally done western democracies in, and this is not simply my opinion. With Trump’s new isolationism taking shape, look at Chinese propaganda about anti-globalist policies. China’s state television recently broadcast the message:

“China would like to see G20 leaders resist protectionism and instead, seek economic growth through innovation and reform.”

No kidding? China is addicted to supplying the goods of society for North America and Europe now. Turning back the clock of globalism, as the American president seems determined to do, will force the Chinese to spend some of those trillions on China Plan B. It was Bill Clinton who ushered China into the WTO. It was China at center stage of a new globalists world that saw the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world too. Americans and Europeans lost their legacy – a legacy they will never understand now. Currency manipulations, massive trade deficits, if the globalist trend had been allowed to continue, people in the west have swapped places with rice paddy workers, more or less.

When the American administrations stabbed Vladimir Putin in the back instead of performing a real “Russia reset”, we put Russia in a tough spot. Obama and his people know what would happen, or either they were all criminally negligent. With China holding the biggest bankroll of international currency power in the world, and the trillions in US Treasury Bonds and securities, their win has not been blue collar America’s gain. Just how Washington could even suggest this is mysterious at best. China’s GDP is growing at 12% annually (2013) and US GDP lags behind at 2.2% (2013), so Trump’s make America great again (MAGA) motto does make sense. Meanwhile, in Russia growth (1.3%) actually exceeds the EU’s most potent economy in Germany (0.1%). The numbers do not lie, only the liberal politicians do. How in the world can productivity go down, and incomes go up?

Vladimir Putin was forced into selling natural gas to China at cut rate prices in order to buoy the effects of an attack on the ruble, and economic warfare from the west. The man does what any great leader does, what he has to. Putin’s team knows full well the Chinese cannot be trusted to do anything but what China has always done. Whether cloning Russia weapons systems or American smart phones, originality and innovation is simply not something China does well. One way to look at the situation is via what I would call “logical investments”. Take for instance China’s direct investment in construction in the US versus neighbor and supposed partner Russia. $150 plus billion in US projects (American Enterprise Institute) versus $40 billion just across the border tells me “partner” is not exactly the right term for the new “east shift” everybody (including me) was so positive about. As for the Europe-China relationship, the Chinese have invested as much in Algeria as in either France or Germany. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to infer that wherever the most Chinese investment flows to, this is where China’s globalist support is mostly coming from. The UK gets more investment than any country in Europe, along with the US, Australia, and Brazil.

The Harvard Political Review calls China’s vast investments in Africa the “New Colonialism”, and despite the institution’s penchant toward liberalism, the label sticks. China’s first ever overseas military base is also being built at Djibouti in East Africa right across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen. This recent study by the Strategic Studies Institute of the US War College provides a cautionary note for not just the US, but for Russia, Japan, and India as well. I’m no fan of US think tanks, but an unbiased look at all intelligence is advised. Mr. Putin is the most feared and respected leader in the world at this juncture. He did not keep his country in the game making stupid moves. Every strategic assessment I have read says the next incursion into Russia won’t come from Europe or the Middle East, but from China. Putin, Trump, and China’s Xi Jinping are engaged in the big game for sure now. In my view the big confrontation in between America and Russia will not happen, it will be America and China. What matters most is, which side will Russia take?

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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