Let’s you and them fight

As usual in geopolitics, there is more going on behind the scenes than some of the more breathless news reports would suggest:

The Russian forces currently in Syria will take action to restrain Hezbollah and Iranian activity there, according to understandings reached by Israel, the United States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a Jordanian official confirmed to Israel Hayom.

The understandings are the product of behind-the-scenes diplomatic talks that were underway prior to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision this week to withdraw American forces from Syria.

According to the terms of the understanding, Russia will continue to give Israel the freedom to strike Hezbollah and Iranian targets and weaponry that threaten the “balance of power” in Syria. According to the Jordanian official, it was these understandings between Trump and Putin that paved the way for the U.S. decision to pull its forces from Syria.

Other high-ranking Jordanian officials have confirmed that Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia are working together to contain the threat posed by Iran and Hezbollah’s presence in Syria. Several of them emphasized that U.S. officials had made it clear that U.S. intelligence agencies would increase cooperation with Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, particularly on sharing intelligence, in a joint attempt to counter Iran’s attempt to create a contiguous Shi’ite corridor from Tehran to Beirut.

It looks like the Middle East is increasingly going to have to sort itself out, with a little help from nearby Russia. The consequences are hard to predict, but the US withdrawal from Syria almost certainly reduces the risk of conflict between the US and Russia, as well as between the US and its NATO ally Turkey, which threatened earlier this month to launch an offensive against the US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

US wants China to show it the money

Wang Jisi Peking University

From David Cowhig’s Translation Blog, this is a good interview with a Chinese academic regarding the increasingly contentious state of US-China relations. Wang Jisi is Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of his points, he has a very calm and measured perspective on things that I find refreshing:

Zhao Lingmin: Why does Trump want to launch a trade war against China? Is it to hurt China?

Wang Jisi: My understanding is that American entrepreneurs still do not want to withdraw from China. They think they can make a lot of money in China. After all, the Chinese market is big, and in the past 30 or 40 years, some very strong path dependencies have been created – how can such a big and complex supply chain simply move somewhere else? There are not many places to choose from. For the present, these enterprises are opportunistic. They say that they want to exert pressure on China on the US government. On the other hand, they say to China that if you give me preferential policies, I will not leave. I think there are still many American companies see things that way. They have a wait-and-see attitude.

Their feelings about China are complex. On the one hand, they are very dissatisfied with various restrictive policies. On the other hand, they also realize that China is not the only country with these restrictions. Many many developing countries have similar restrictions. If you move your company to Egypt, don’t you think that the Egyptian government will regulate you? When they think about it, China is still good a good place to be. They can make money here. Therefore, they think that they should exert pressure on the Chinese government to continue with reform and open up some more industrial sectors to foreign investment.

Therefore, the reason the United States launched a trade war against China was not to pull out of China or to completely “decouple” from China, but to change China’s behavior so that it can make more money. This conclusion I have drawn from decades of involvement in Sino-US economic and trade relations. Some people in the US government and others in some American companies, however, are also preparing for the worst: decoupling of many of the economic links between China and the United States. This is dangerous.

[…]

Zhao Lingmin: In addition to the trade imbalance, what other causes of US dissatisfaction in the US – China relationship?

Wang Jisi: The US military is unhappy. The military is a big interest group. A few year ago, it did not believe that China was strong enough to pose a threat to the United States, and that China did not mean to truly exclude the United States from the Asia-Pacific region. During the past two years, China has taken a very firm position on the South China Sea issue. The United States has begun to feel that that the Chinese military is much stronger than before. They feel that if the US does not exert pressure on China, it will not have a foothold in the Western Pacific. The military, including the military-industrial complex, are hardliners on China policy. Formerly, when terrorism was the top concern, there was a lot of military spending and a great many companies and others forming a huge chain of interests linked to the manufacture and sale of weapons. Now, by pointing to China, contradictions with China on military security issues can be used to argue for more military spending.

In addition, the Confucius Institutes in the United States have made Americans feel that China’s values are different from those of the United States. China’s promotion of Chinese values in the United States is very difficult for Americans to accept. The ideological contradictions between China and the United States are also reflected their attitudes towards Chinese students and scholars studying in the United States.

I wrote about Confucius Institutes here.

Zhao Lingmin: Some say that the pressure that the United States has put on China was to a great extent the cause of the firm line of Chinese foreign policy over the past several years.

Wang Jisi: I am not here to make political and moral judgments. If we are looking for the cause, it was the change in Chinese policy that led to adjustments in US policy towards China. In recent years, China’s strength has been increasing rapidly along with its international influence. China has increased its operations maintain protect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights. China has put increased pressure on “Taiwan independence” and other splittist forces. China has strengthened the leadership of the Communist Party. The United States has become increasingly uncomfortable with China’s actions and has begun to react strongly. We can expect that these US reactions to Chinese actions will become ever more intense. The US may switch from the defensive to the the offensive.

The cause-and-effect relationship we see today also applies to 1949 and 1979. In those two years, changes in Chinese internal affairs led to big changes in Sino-US relations. Changes in US internal affairs have always had relatively little impact on Sino-US relations despite the many different presidents since then and many different political currents swept the US during those decades. The financial crisis broke out in 2008. That was major event for the United States. Did it cause a major change in Sino-US relations? Not at all.

I very much agree with my colleague Professor Tao Wenzhao that for over 200 years, the United States has never changed its strategic goals for its relationship with China:

  • Free flow of goods and capital, and
  • Free free flow of information and values.

Chinese have always had reservations or imposed boycotts to oppose two goals. We should criticize and have reason to criticize the United States but we should realize that China’s own actions have changed Sino-US relations and US perceptions of China.

China and the Chesapeake-Leopard affair

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou pizza

Pizza delivered to Vancouver home of Meng Wanzhou, who has been released on bail

More information is coming out about the arrest in Canada and possible extradition to the US of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou (Sabrina Meng) – aka the Huawei Affair. The New York Times filled in some of the details yesterday. In a nutshell, US counterintelligence and federal prosecutors have been exploring action against Huawei on national-security grounds as far back as 2010, but the authorities decided it would be easier to go after the telecom giant for financial crimes:

But criminally charging Huawei or its executives for espionage or other security crimes was not likely to be simple. Former federal prosecutors said doing so often risked exposing the sources of confidential information. As a result, they said, prosecutors often look to bring more conventional cases involving crimes such as bank fraud. Think of it as the Al Capone strategy: Prosecutors went after the notorious gangster by charging him with tax evasion. […]

This summer, the prosecutors decided to file criminal charges against Ms. Meng — fulfilling their yearslong goal of going after Huawei executives for allegedly acting as an extension of the Chinese government.

Prosecutors filed the charges, under seal, on Aug. 22, and a federal judge in Brooklyn signed a warrant for Ms. Meng’s arrest. The charges focused, at least in part, on her allegedly tricking at least four banks, including HSBC and Standard Chartered, into facilitating the company’s Iranian transactions.

While Ms. Meng’s main home is in Shenzhen, China, she regularly traveled to Canada; she and her husband own two houses in Vancouver. The authorities figured it was only a matter of time before she traveled there, and the United States and Canada have an extradition treaty.

On Dec. 1, Ms. Meng flew from Hong Kong to Vancouver International Airport, where she stopped for a 12-hour layover before flying to Mexico. As she got off the plane, the Canadian police arrested her.

US action against Huawei is long overdue. The problem is that “personalizing” this issue by targeting one of China’s most famous female executives (ranked #8 on the 2017 Forbes China list of the country’s Top 100 Businesswomen) – who now faces up to 20 years in prison in the US – is an example of shocking jurisdictional overreach that, if the nationalities were reversed, would be viewed by the American public and government as tantamount to an act of war.

Key unanswered question: Did Meng make her fraudulent presentation to HSBC in the US?

The Guardian draws an intriguing parallel between the US mindset here, and that of the US’s former colonial master more than two centuries ago:

Blame the British, as usual. In 1807, in the midst of a struggle with Napoleonic France, HMS Leopard, a Royal Navy ship of the line, attacked, boarded and captured an American frigate, USS Chesapeake, off Norfolk, Virginia. The British claimed their action was justified by the presence on the American ship of four English deserters, whom they arrested. But, for President Thomas Jefferson, it was an outrageous, illegal infringement of the sovereignty and independence of the infant republic, eventually leading to the 1812 war.

It’s fair to say the Americans never forgot lessons drawn from the Chesapeake humiliation – and have been faithfully following Britain’s script ever since. As its power grew, the US, too, assumed the right to extend its national writ beyond its shores. One modern example is the way the US justice department ruthlessly pursues foreign nationals, such as the Scottish hacker Gary McKinnon, who are deemed to have broken US law. McKinnon’s extradition was ultimately blocked in 2012 by Britain’s then home secretary, Theresa May, after a public outcry.

Here’s a bit more about the Chesapeake-Leopard affair:

The Royal Navy’s humiliating attack on the USS Chesapeake left many Americans clamoring for war, but there was little the ill-prepared United States could do to answer British aggression.

“Never since the Battle of Lexington have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present, and even that did not produce such unanimity.”

–President Thomas Jefferson

As his Royal Navy vessel patrolled off the coast of Virginia, Londoner and former tailor Jenkin Ratford and four other crewmen decided to steal a boat and desert to the shores of Norfolk. Ratford later boasted of his escape to the “land of liberty” in Norfolk’s streets, where his contempt incurred the ire of British authorities. They vowed to make an example of the brazen Englishman, who joined the crew of an American frigate, the USS Chesapeake.

In June 1807, the Chesapeake set sail from Norfolk for the Mediterranean. Its decks scattered with cargo and its guns unwisely stowed, the vessel made an appealing target for the crew of a British vessel, the HMS Leopard, who intercepted it off the coast of Norfolk and aimed to take revenge.

When the British commander requested permission to search the ship for deserters, the American commodore James Barron refused to muster his crew for inspection. Moments later, the captain of the Leopard responded with a barrage of broadsides, killing three Americans and wounding eighteen. British officers then proceeded to board the crippled Chesapeake and seized what they had come for: a handful of suspected deserters, including Jenkin Ratford.

The humiliating exchange infuriated the American public. War fever raged up and down the coast of the United States. President Thomas Jefferson maintained that the country was more exasperated than at any time since the 1775 battle at Lexington Green that touched off the War of Independence, “and even that did not produce such unanimity.” With Republicans and Federalists—normally bitterly divided political factions—both clamoring for action, war between Britain and the U.S. seemed imminent.

In reality, however, there was little President Jefferson could do militarily to respond to the British transgression. America’s small navy was already deployed in the Mediterranean checking the Barbary pirates. America’s army had been long since been gutted by Republicans anxious to reduce government spending. As Jefferson bided his time and war fever subsided, he instead pursued economic coercion as an alternative to war. That economic pressure began a few months later with the passage of the Embargo Act.

The exchange between the Chesapeake and the Leopard had other consequences for its participants, however. Commodore Barron was later court martialed; found guilty of “neglecting on the probability of an engagement, to clear his ship for action,” he was suspended from the navy for five years without pay.

And on August 31, 1807, the Royal Navy got its revenge on the tailor who had deserted his vessel. Tried by court-martial for mutiny, desertion and contempt toward a British naval officer, and sentenced to death, Jenkin Ratford met his end—hanged from the fore yardarm of his former vessel, the HMS Halifax.

The Chesapeake-Leopard affair was one of the events that precipitated the War of 1812, in which the British burned down Washington DC. The Americans got their revenge more than a century later, when FDR stripped the British Empire of its life savings in exchange for desperately needed war supplies at the outset of World War II. History has a dark sense of humor.

More on Huawei CFO arrest

We learned last week why the US wants Meng Wanzhou extradited:

With Ms. Meng, 46, seated inside a glass box at British Columbia’s Supreme Court, Mr. Gibb-Carsley laid out what had led to her arrest. He said that between 2009 and 2014, Huawei used a Hong Kong company, Skycom Tech, to make transactions in Iran and do business with telecom companies there, in violation of American sanctions. Banks in the United States cleared financial transactions for Huawei, inadvertently doing business with Skycom, he said.

The banks were “victim institutions” of fraud by Ms. Meng, Mr. Gibb-Carsley said. In 2013, articles by Reuters alleged that Huawei used Skycom to do business in Iran, and had tried to import American-made computer equipment into the country in violation of sanctions. Several financial institutions asked Huawei if the allegations were true, Mr. Gibb-Carsley said.

At the time, Ms. Meng arranged a meeting with an executive from one of the financial institutions, he said. During the meeting, she spoke through an English interpreter and presented PowerPoint slides in Chinese, saying that Huawei operated in Iran in strict compliance with United States sanctions. Ms. Meng explained that Huawei’s engagement with Skycom was part of normal business operations and that Huawei had sold the shares it once held in Skycom.

But there was no distinction between Skycom and Huawei, Mr. Gibb-Carsley said. Huawei operated Skycom as an unofficial subsidiary, making efforts to keep the connection between the companies secret. […]

Ms. Meng’s presentation to the financial institution constituted fraud, Mr. Gibb-Carsley said. Her attorney, David Martin, said the bank was HSBC.

The legal nuances of this are way above my pay grade, but this is definitely a provocative move by the US:

No business executive has EVER been arrested for sanctions violations before — much less someone of Meng’s prominence. This is not law enforcement business-as-usual but a new and dramatic escalation. How on earth could tis have been done without informing POTUS?

===

It surely could have been done without Trump’s knowledge: It is a policy measure masquerading as a criminal justice action. The president is not informed over every extradition request, and this could have been processed at Assistant Secretary level, according to friends who have worked in sanctions enforcement at a senior level.

China appears to have taken a hostage in response:

A former Canadian diplomat has been detained in China, two sources said on Tuesday, and his current employer, the International Crisis Group, said it was seeking his prompt and safe release. […]

“International Crisis Group is aware of reports that its North East Asia Senior Adviser, Michael Kovrig, has been detained in China,” the think-tank said in a statement. […]

The exact reason for the detention, which was made sometime early this week, according to the sources, was not immediately clear.

By the way, those who are inclined to voice their outrage and righteous indignation over this shocking act of American thuggishness might want to consider China’s history of detaining foreign citizens under often dubious circumstances. I would add to this list Mark Reilly, the British head of GSK’s China operations, who spent a year in and out of detention before being deported from China following a secret one-day trial.

Sadly, like anyone facing legal problems in autocratic China, Mr Reilly’s human rights have since been blithely disregarded by the authorities.

For months, he had only limited means to communicate with friends, family, and legal representatives, and was unable to see Louise, Jessica or Jill.

Then, in May, this already perilous situation took a turn for the worse. At a police press conference in Changsha, a 90-minute flight west of Shanghai, Mr Reilly was formally accused of presiding over a ‘massive bribery network’ in which doctors and health officials were illegally paid £320 million over several years.

In scenes reminiscent of a Soviet-era show trial, detectives aggressively dubbed him a criminal ‘Godfather’, who they claimed had greased palms with cash and free holidays, and arranged for associates to be given sexual favours from prostitutes.

They were shocked, shocked to find bribery and sexual favors going on here!

Silk Road to the Atlantic

Port of Sines Portugal

Portugal’s Port of Sines

The Belt and Road Initiative now stretches to the Iberian Peninsula, as Portugal has signed up to promote China’s multi-grillion-dollar mega-boondoggle:

Portugal signed two deals last week during a state visit from Xi Jinping that seemed to undermine efforts elsewhere in Europe to counter Beijing’s influence.

The bottom line: Portugal is not alone in playing nice with Beijing, but these instances show that China, with the promise of big investments, can poke holes in European or Transatlantic efforts to confront it.

Detail: With a wary eye on China, a deal was struck in Brussels last week for closer inspections of foreign investments in “strategic technologies and infrastructure such as ports or energy networks,” per Reuters, which noted there was opposition from countries including Greece, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal.

The deal makes the Port of Sines part of the B&R. Sines, located on the Atlantic coast, handles about half of Portugal’s cargo.

Chinese trade with Portugal is rising and the European country now wants to “attract large-scale industrial investment, notably in the automobile and agro-food sectors”:

Chinese investment accounted for 3.6 per cent of Portugal’s GDP between 2010 and 2016, according to figures from Spain’s ESADE business school.

China now owns a 28 per cent stake in Portuguese energy utility EDP, the country’s largest firm, via China Three Gorges and China’s state-owned international investment company CNIC.

It also has a stake in Portugal’s biggest private bank, BCP, and its leading insurance company, Fidelidade.

US kidnaps daughter of Huawei founder

Wanzhou-Meng

Ok, I don’t think this is the trade war people signed up for:

Canada has arrested the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies who is facing extradition to the United States on suspicion she violated U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.

Wanzhou Meng, who is also the deputy chair of Huawei’s board and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Vancouver at the request of U.S. authorities.

“Wanzhou Meng was arrested in Vancouver on December 1. She is sought for extradition by the United States, and a bail hearing has been set for Friday,” Justice department spokesperson Ian McLeod said in a statement to The Globe and Mail. “As there is a publication ban in effect, we cannot provide any further detail at this time. The ban was sought by Ms. Meng.

A Canadian source with knowledge of the arrest said U.S. law enforcement authorities are alleging that Ms. Meng tried to evade the U.S. trade embargo against Iran but provided no further details.

She is being sought by federal prosecutors based in New York:

Huawei released a statement saying its CFO was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver and is facing charges in “the Eastern District of New York.”

“The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng. The company believes the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion,” the statement said.

How is this even remotely legit? Has Meng even been to the US? I don’t see how the US has jurisdiction here.

We’ll find out more soon, but at first glance this strikes me as extremely dubious, both legally and politically. This is about as dumb as the US trying to arrest Julian Assange, but with far nastier geopolitical implications.

UPDATE: China responds:

Remarks of the Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Canada on the issue of a Chinese citizen arrested by the Canadian side

2018/12/06

At the request of the US side, the Canadian side arrested a Chinese citizen not violating any American or Canadian law. The Chinese side firmly opposes and strongly protests over such kind of actions which seriously harmed the human rights of the victim. The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with the US and Canadian side, and urged them to immediately correct the wrongdoing and restore the personal freedom of Ms. Meng Wanzhou. We will closely follow the development of the issue and take all measures to resolutely protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.

UPDATE: Bloomberg has a good rundown of the situation.

Analysts said it’s more likely the case proceeded separately from the trade talks as part of Trump’s efforts to step up prosecutions against Chinese companies that conduct economic espionage and violate sanctions. In October, the U.S. said Belgium extradited a Chinese intelligence official accused of stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies — an unprecedented development.

Either way, China is almost certain to view Meng’s arrest as a major escalation in the trade war that will foment fears of a wider Cold War between the world’s biggest economies. As part of trade talks, Trump has insisted that China stop providing government support to strategic sectors including artificial intelligence and robotics as part of its “Made in China 2025” policy.

This is misguided. Why would China stop providing government support for strategic sectors? Those sectors are key to China’s future competitiveness in manufacturing and technology. In effect, the US is badgering China to radically change its growth plans out of deference to its chief global rival. China will never do that, even if it agrees to do so on paper. The smart play for US would be to drop its free-trade fantasies and pursue its own industrial policy.

The New York Times lies about North Korea

South Korea Unification Bridge

South Korean soldiers walking on Unification Bridge

The Nation magazine discusses a breathless article by The New York Times that argues that North Korea is pulling a fast one on the US:

Now, [David] Sanger, who over the years has been the recipient of dozens of leaks from US intelligence on North Korea’s weapons program and the US attempts to stop it, has come out with his own doozy of a story that raises serious questions about his style of deep-state journalism.

The article may not involve the employment of sleazy sources with an ax to grind, but it does stretch the findings of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank that is deeply integrated with the military-industrial complex and plays an instrumental role in US media coverage on Korea.

“Controversy is raging,” South Korea’s progressive Hankyoreh newspaper declared on Wednesday about the Times report, which it called “riddled with holes and errors.”

Sanger’s story, which appeared on Monday underneath the ominous headline “In North Korea, Missile Bases Suggest a Great Deception,” focused on a new study from CSIS’s “Beyond Parallel” project about the Sakkanmol Missile Operating Base, one of 13 North Korean missile sites, out of a total of 20, that it has identified and analyzed from overhead imagery provided by Digital Globe, a private satellite contractor.

The NYTimes story draws on the CSIS study to argue that North Korea is performing a “grand deception” by continuing work on its ballistic missile program at 16 secret bases, despite very publicly offering to dismantle a large missile launching site as a sop to the US. The article also points out that Kim is continuing to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons. In other words, Trump got played.

The problem is that the CSIS study in question is based on commercial satellite imagery dated March 29 – almost three months BEFORE Trump and Kim shook hands in Singapore! Moreover, the US and North Korea have not yet reached an agreement on the ballistic missile program, so Kim cannot possibly be cheating by continuing work on said program – if he even is, which is unclear.

Contrary to the impression one would get from a superficial reading of the Times story, the situation seems to be well under control, or at least, moving in the right direction:

South Korean officials are confident the US–North Korea talks will resume, and point to the steps Pyongyang has taken since the Singapore summit. They include North Korea’s decommissioning of a major satellite launch facility; its destruction of the tunnels where its nuclear weapons were tested; its return of American dead from the Korean War; and its unprecedented cooperation with South Korea and the US-controlled UN Command to remove guard posts and firearms in the DMZ.

The only deception here is coming from a certain newspaper. But why? The Nation has a theory:

Here’s where the contractor money that pours into CSIS comes in: Providing the justification for a tougher policy of sanctions and military threats would be very much in tune with the defense and intelligence companies that support the think tank.

Reality is complicated. Until recently, I had always thought of the New York Times as a left-wing, antiwar newspaper. Yet, the left-wing Nation magazine is here criticizing the New York Times for pushing a bogus narrative designed to thwart US diplomacy and justify a more bellicose policy towards North Korea. According to one expert quoted by the magazine, the Times is in effect acting as a mouthpiece for “the most reactionary elements of the US national security and foreign policy establishment.”

It may be that the categories of left-wing and right-wing just aren’t very useful for understanding the world anymore.

Bill Kristol yearns for war

The prominent neoconservative has a fever, and the only cure is more regime change:

Bill Kristol China tweet

As if setting the entire Middle East on fire wasn’t enough, now Kristol proposes to overthrow the government of the world’s largest nation. The fact that people like Kristol have been running US foreign policy for the better part of two decades explains a lot.

Let’s just be clear about what Kristol is calling for here. Despite his later obfuscatory verbiage, he is calling for war. There is no realistic way to remove the Communist Party from power – especially not within the next couple of decades! – without a foreign invasion or civil war. Kristol is not stupid. Presumably, he understands that “regime change” by 2038 means large-scale, violent upheaval.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has over 89 million members, more than the population of Germany, and is deeply entrenched in every aspect of Chinese society. It is not going to give up power willingly. There is no force or group of people that is remotely capable of dislodging the CPC from power, or of governing the country in its wake, now and for the foreseeable future.

It is appropriate that Kristol got “ratioed” for his bloodthirsty tweet, with a ratio of 3.4 thousand comments to 641 retweets. Now Twitter should apply its rules consistently and ban the influential pundit for promoting violence and inciting harm towards others.

Peaceful divorce

US partition red blue

Image by Dicken Schrader (Source)

It’s time to talk about peaceful national divorce. A clever article in New York Magazine maps out a scenario of political devolution in which the US is carved up, amicably, into multiple federations of states, leading to the effective breakup of the Union. You have to read all the way to the end to understand what author Sasha Issenberg is driving at, but suffice it to say that the law of unintended consequences has a field day.

What I find interesting is that the idea of devolving power to states and localities has supporters across the political spectrum:

Even if they don’t use the term, states’ rights has become a cause for those on the left hoping to do more than the federal government will. Both Jacobin and The Nation have praised what the latter calls “Progressive Federalism.” San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera has called it “the New New Federalism,” a callback to Ronald Reagan’s first-term promise to reduce Washington’s influence over local government. “All of us need to be reminded that the federal government did not create the states; the states created the federal government,” Reagan said in his 1981 inaugural address. At the time, Democrats interpreted New Federalism as high-minded cover for a strategy of dismantling New Deal and Great Society programs. Now they see it as their last best hope for a just society.

Calexit has been in the spotlight in recent years, and according to a Reuters survey cited in the article, nearly one-quarter of Americans support the idea of their respective states breaking away. Given the intensely polarized nature of today’s politics, I would not be surprised if that number grows, as more people decide that a mutually agreed breakup is preferable to staying in a toxic relationship.

Of course, dissolving the Union creates a dizzying array of problems. The most obvious of these is that the various pieces of the former USA might go to war with each other. The danger is also geopolitical. At the cost of over 600,000 lives, the Civil War ensured peace on the North American continent for over 150 years. From the 17th century to the early 19th century, the European powers had fought a series of wars on North American soil. A divided continent could once again become a playground for foreign powers, as the smaller and weaker states that replace the US fall under the influence of China, Russia and the EU.

China’s global development empire

China development AidData

China’s global development footprint, mapped according to commitment size (Source: AidData)

The College of William & Mary has put together a handy map of China’s global Marshall Plan:

This online web map by AidData, a research lab at William & Mary in the United States, pinpoints the location of thousands of Chinese-funded development projects across the globe using data from AidData’s Geocoded Global Chinese Official Finance Dataset released September 11, 2018.

With more than 3,485 Chinese Government-financed projects in 138 countries and territories, this dataset is the most comprehensive source of public information ever assembled on the locations and attributes of Chinese development projects worldwide.

Those 3,485 projects implemented between 2000-2014 are worth a total of $273.6 billion in official financing. By way of comparison, the actual Marshall Plan in Europe totaled $12 billion (or $100 billion in 2016 dollars).

On a possibly related note:

In 2011, for example, delegates to the annual session of China’s parliament debated a proposal to seek employment for as many as 100 million Chinese on the African continent. One champion of this idea, Zhao Zhihai, a delegate and researcher at Zhangjiakou Academy of Agricultural Sciences at Hebei province, said: “In the current economic climate, with so many of our people unemployed, China can benefit from finding jobs for them and Africa can benefit from our expertise in developing any type of land and crop.”

–Howard French, China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa