Monday, April 23, 2018

US Decries Chinese High-Speed Rail in Laos

April 24, 2018 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - China's plans to build high-speed rail connecting Kunming in its Yunnan province with the rest of Southeast Asia are already underway. In the landlocked nation of Laos, tunnels and bridges are already under construction.


The United States has, in general, condemned China's One Belt, One Road (OBOR) sweeping infrastructure programme, with US and European policy circles accusing Beijing of what they call "debt trap diplomacy."

Quartz in an article titled, "Eight countries in danger of falling into China’s “debt trap”," would claim:
Beijing “encourages dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty, denying them their long-term, self-sustaining growth,” said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 6. “Chinese investment does have the potential to address Africa’s infrastructure gap, but its approach has led to mounting debt and few, if any, jobs in most countries,” he added.
The report continued, stating:
Some call this “debt-trap diplomacy“: Offer the honey of cheap infrastructure loans, with the sting of default coming if smaller economies can’t generate enough free cash to pay their interest down.
While nations should protect themselves from the dangers of being indebted to foreign interests, the US and supposedly international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are hardly innocent of wielding debt as a geopolitical weapon themselves.

However, while some of China's projects may be questionable, others offer tangible benefits not only for China, but for the regions they will be interlinking.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Future of Asia: China's Economic Opportunities or America's Perpetual Conflict?

April 21, 2018 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - The US recently announced possible plans to deploy thousands of addition US Marines to East Asia as part of the recently revealed 2018 National Security Strategy which designates China along with Russia as the US Department of Defence's "principal priorities."


The Business Insider in its article, "The US is considering sending heavily armed Marines to Asia to counter China," would state:
The possible MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit] deployments could reassure Asian allies that the US is not a waning power in the region, something that has become a concern for partners in the Indo-Pacific.

However, if a nation needs to arrange a token redeployment to convince its allies it isn't a waning power, such gestures seem to only confirm such suspicions.

China is the New "Threat"  

Within the pages of the 2018 National Security Strategy, the US has justified its increasingly direct, adversarial posture towards China by claiming:
China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.
The document continues:
China is leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage. As China continues its economic and military ascendance, asserting power through an all-of-nation long-term strategy, it will continue to pursue a military modernization program that seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.

The paper also makes mention of what it calls an "international order," a reoccurring theme throughout several decades of US policy papers. While this particular paper claims it is "free and open" and "rules-based," other papers have more candidly described it.


Prolific US policymaker and neoconservative pro-war commentator Robert Kagan would claim:
The present world order serves the needs of the United States and its allies, which constructed it. 
In other words, the "international order" is merely the world as the US sees fit. US policy in Asia, attempting to maintain hegemony in a region a literal ocean away from its own shores validates Kagan's interpretation of what "international order" actually means. It is neither "free and open" nor "rules-based" unless it is understood that the world is considered "free and open" for Washington to do with as it pleases, with "rules" used only to constrain the actions of others in order to prevent competition.

In reality, the "international order" is predicated on a more timeless geopolitical maxim, "might makes right." Reflected in the pages of the 2018 US National Security Strategy then, is a United States attempting to cope with the fact that very soon it will no longer be the mightiest in the zero-sum world it created.

Targeting China's "strategic competition" across Asia with a military build-up in East Asia, however, reveals the United States' fundamental weaknesses, its overdependence on military might and its reliance on geopolitical coercion based on outdated administrative institutions similar to those of the bygone British Empire. The US appears to have made its long-term containment policy regarding China based purely on the assumption that it could maintain its military supremacy over China and continue monopolising global economics indefinitely.

It assumed wrong.

Building Together Versus Dividing and Destroying 

In contrast, China is building an alternative order upon economic opportunities, binding Asia together through infrastructure, manufacturing, enterprise and trade. Absent from Beijing's methodology is the political coercion, preconditions and interference ubiquitous throughout US foreign policy.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Vietnam Locks up US-funded Agitators

April 11, 2018 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - Vietnam has tried and imprisoned several members of a US-funded network engaged in sedition across the country. The move follows  trials and prison terms handed out earlier this year for other US-funded operatives meddling in Vietnam's internal political affairs. 

Image: Nguyen Van Dai, recently sentenced to 15 years in prison, is pictured with US Senator and chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI) John McCain in the US Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam. The IRI provides money to foreign agents of US influence and is a subsidiary of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).  
The prison terms for agents of US-funded political meddling in Vietnam come as the US and its European allies continue pushing accusations of Russian meddling. However, unlike the US and Europe's accusations against Russia, agents of US-funded sedition in Vietnam are exposed by extensive evidence, much of which comes from the US government itself. 

The BBC in its April 6, 2018 article, "Nguyen Van Dai: Vietnam jails activist lawyer and five others," would claim:
Six prominent Vietnamese activists have received heavy prison sentences on charges of "attempting to overthrow" the country's communist government. 

Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to 15 years, while the other defendants were jailed for between seven and 12 years, relatives said on Thursday.
The article mentions Nguyen Van Dai and his fellow defendants' role in founding the so-called "Brotherhood for Democracy."

Deutsche Welle in its article, "Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai among six given jail terms," adds that:
Dai founded the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam in 2006 and was sentenced to five years in jail in 2007 for spreading propaganda against the government. While his term was reduced to four years on appeal, his lawyer's license was revoked. 

After his release in 2011, Dai co-founded the Brotherhood for Democracy network in 2013. It included other, formerly jailed dissidents advocating via social media for human rights throughout Vietnam.
DW would also report (our emphasis):
They were all accused of "activities aimed at overthrowing the people's government," according to the indictment issued by the Supreme People's Procuracy in Hanoi last December. The charges included carrying out human rights training, calling for multi-party democracy and receiving funding from foreign groups.

The BBC, DW and other US and European media organisations went through extensive efforts to avoid mentioning US training, funding and other forms of support provided to Nguyen Van Dai and other recently arrested and jailed "activists." The defendants' various website also fail to directly and openly disclose their funding.

However, admissions have been inadvertently made.

Covering Up US-Funding of Sedition in Vietnam  

While the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website lists 11 programmes being funded in Vietnam as of 2017, descriptions are left intentionally ambiguous, failing to disclose any organisation or individual actually receiving the funds. Disclosures for previous years have since been deleted from the NED website.

Opposition website "The 88 Project" in a post titled, "Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 5/2018 – Week of January 29-February 4" would report on the imprisonment of Tran Hoang Phuc, Nguyen Van Dien and Vu Quang Thuan earlier in 2018.

Phuc is admitted to have been a participant in the US State Department's Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). YSEALI indoctrinates young people across Southeast Asia, often helping them organise and fund subversive operations posing as "nongovernmental organisations" (NGOs).