Until not long ago, the Western world lived in the conviction that Liberalism was an end in itself, however, the new context of globalization suggests that political economics once again makes more sense, given that power relations in the economic sphere can no longer be ignored and the idea that world trade is structured on supply and demand appears obsolete.
The world is changing. Situations change, and events and the ways of understanding politics change with them. Instruments change as well: if the aphorism of Clausewitz that war is politics conducted by other means once seemed valid, today we might say that politics (and economics) is war conducted by the means of information.
The threat is no longer limited to what we once thought and conceived in the geographical terms of one superpower attacking another. The threat today is asymmetrical, different, and changes continuously. It travels through the Internet, it is immediate, and above all, it threatens the entire system. It is not aimed at military or political targets but commercial, industrial, scientific, technological, and financial interests instead. This requires intelligence to structure itself around new duties: protect not only the entire system but also the weakest links in the chain of production.
All this requires changes in mentality and in operational processes, as well as continuous updating, especially at a business culture level. Most of all, it requires close interaction between intelligence and the private sector, despite the difficulties this entails.
The crisis we are currently undergoing, together with the industrial and commercial physiognomy characteristic of our era, requires us to consider the idea of “economic warfare” very closely.
It is essentially since the end of the Cold War that the balance of powers has been developed around economic issues: most governments today are no longer interested in occupying territory or dominating other peoples but rather building up technological, industrial and commercial power capable of bringing money and jobs to their own land.
Globalization has transformed competition from “gentle” and “limited” into authentic “economic warfare”.
Although this economic challenge reduces the areas available for military warfare, its ultimate goal of accumulating power and well-being is the same.
The national economic intelligence strategies recently adopted by numerous governments assign their private operatives central roles in maintaining security by providing them with information technology infrastructure and the primary asset in the digital age: data.
The step between protecting private economic activities and protecting national economic interests is a short one indeed.
Economic intelligence consists in coordinating a series of activities: collecting and processing information, monitoring competitors, keeping strategic information secret, and capitalizing knowledge for the purpose of controlling and influencing world economic environment. All this makes it a powerful weapon at the nation’s disposal.
The main players in economic warfare are:
First and foremost, the world’s nations, which remain the most influential regulators on the economic chessboard despite their relative decline in the life of nations and the various restrictions placed over them, such as those imposed by international organizations like the European Union. One important recent change is that now nations must take numerous stakeholders (NGO, international bodies, companies, mass media) into account. At any rate, they uphold the role of arbiter that all the other players only continue to emphasize by regularly imploring their intervention.
The world’s companies, which address the new hyper-competitive geo-economic scenario by using strategic information control as a weapon of competitiveness and economic security.
Civil society: the expansion of discussions on social issues regarding company activities (nutrition and well-being, technological progress and risks to public health industry, and the environment, transport and passenger safety, information technology and individual freedom), the mass use and democratization of Internet, and the growing involvement of the legal system in monitoring business operations, all increase the risks of hacking attacks against companies by hackers from civil society. Including in the public discussion topics such as risks to the environment, sustainable development, socially responsible investment, and corporate social responsibility brings greater importance to the legitimacy of social questions.
The infosphere, which is not a category of physical persons or legal entities but instead a dynamic, that is the aggregate of interventions and messages spread through media and the worldwide web. The infosphere is a particularly insidious instrument similar to an amplifier that continuously jumbles and blends ideas, emotions, and impulses emitted by an infinite number of people without any real dominant subject and exerts a determinant influence – positive or negative as occurs – on individuals and organizations. When launched in the infosphere, a simple statement has the power to trigger ferocious argument, harsh political reaction, media crises, and damage to company reputations. The infosphere can become a particularly effective weapon of destabilization. We must never forget that a brand’s image and reputation are strategic components of the capital of a company that can affect its commercial and financial activities.
Which forms does economic warfare take?
Economic warfare is often confused with economic espionage, which despite being used as one of economic warfare’s weapons is hard to define both because the companies victimized are reluctant to publicize its incursion and because it is hard to circumscribe in juridical terms and therefore difficult to report.
A more commonly practiced form of economic warfare is the purchasing of companies. This may lead to authentic forms of surrounding the industries in any given territory through operations that reflect motivations of financial, economic and technological nature all at the same time.
Yet another form of economic warfare, which is both particularly widespread and insidious, is lobbying; in other words, an influencing strategy aimed directly at public decision-makers assigned to the drafting of regulations. Our nations are particularly plagued by the proliferation of regulations and one strategically important aspect of lobbying is attending and altering the process of creating, interpreting and/or applying regulations and legislative measures and directly or indirectly influencing public powers in every intervention or decision. International trade is largely based on influence, and therefore gaining closer access to decision-making centers has become an obligatory part of commercial competition.
All the practices above are included in influence strategy: influential communication is also the hardest to identify and oppose because it is perfectly legal. “Information war” is based on the following few simple principles that can wreck havoc when marshaled together:
- moral argument, that is the possibility to induce a crisis on the basis of an ethical reasoning;
- offending political correctness by disrupting the day’s cultural and psychological patterns;
- choosing targets, in the sense that the weaker the legitimacy of the adversary’s capital, the more the information attack will provoke escalation in the media;
- the degree of celebrity of the players;
- the criterion of appropriateness or resonance of the environment.
The upheaval of the Western economies’ competitive system is not just a passing thing. A growing number of powers (China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Iran, Russia) is conditioning the rapid shift in international competition. More often than not, the choice of winning dominance in foreign markets prevails over restructuring the nation’s own domestic markets. This demonstrates the extent to which a power strategy can make a decisive difference in the context of economic competition. These new players in international competition hold a different view of the dialectic between power and market, the latter being seen as the primary means to the increment of power. This vision revives the basic principles of political economics, according to which the market is the only path to power and not the other way around that has been demonstrated in numerous cases (such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s use of energy resources for coercive bargaining and blackmail in 2009) and illustrates the limits of the interpretative models of liberal economists whose analyses were focused on the effects of deregulation, mergers, or financial speculation involving gas prices, but fell short of the possible use of gas trade as a weapon.
The process of globalization is irreversible and fairly independent of what governments do. Globalization is one thing, but the ideology of a global free market that may produce a higher growth rate than any other system but gives no importance to how such growth is distributed is another. The argument that the highest capitalistic growth distributes resources in the best possible way, in fact, was never very convincing. Even Adam Smith thought that there were certain things the market could not do and should not do.
Historically speaking, the balanced evolution of world industry was created not by liberalism but by its opposite. The United States and Germany both became industrial powers in the 19th century because they protected their industries until they were able to compete against the dominant economy of the day: Great Britain. Neo-classical economic theories are now in disfavor because the system has come to be disrupted by scarce control over international financial flows and investment procedures.
Now more than ever, we are witnessing a struggle between the forces of capitalism, which tend to overcome every obstacle, and political forces that operate through nation states and are obliged to regulate these procedures. The laws of capitalist development are simple: maximize expansion, profit, and increase in capital. Governments by nature have different priorities instead, and this generates conflict. Furthermore, the dynamic of the global economy is one that does not ensure the stability of its protagonists.
The nation-state system and the economy system coexist in constant tension and must adapt, but if there were no relative stability among states, the instability of a world organized along the lines of transnational economy would only increase. The real problem is not whether governments can control the international corporations operating inside their borders, but whether they are able to exert global control: when companies and governments clash, the latter must negotiate as if there were another nation seated before them.
Like religions and cultures, globalization is only a simplified answer to today’s conflicts and the challenges to security. Globalization has most certainly reduced the importance of military power since the end of the 20th century, whereas security – internal security in particular – has become a global public asset. In the age of information technology, interdependence, and ”smart goods over heavy goods”, the military force offers less and costs more. Economic, technological, and especially communicative competition is more important and determinant than military strength.
The globalization of information has contributed to changing the nature of warfare by making public opinion decisive. In the short term, geo-information has become more important than geo-economy because its effects are immediate and not always governable. This is also a post-Cold War phenomenon.
In this context, the economy is no longer the mechanism of security as it was during Cold War, but on the contrary, security now serves the economy in creating better conditions for the expansion and protection of globalization. The nature of security depends on the situation prevailing in each nation and varies from one region to another, according to the respective level of globalization.
Consequently, it is the process of globalization that has restored political economics to importance and re-sparked a discussion formerly considered closed, according to which the market is the path to power and not the other way around, as it becomes an instrument of power politics in the globalization of exchange. The accumulation of power through economic expansion is the driving force behind the new emerging nations.
Yet today’s economic context must come to terms with new offensive strategies that undermine the industrial basis of the market economy and draw attention to the predatory policies of what may be defined as authentic economic warfare.
It is in this context that all companies, regardless of size, can be said to suffer damage from the absence of an economic security culture that only the use of intelligence, as a tool in analyzing predatory completion, can provide.
Interpreting the notion of national security including also the safeguarding of national interests requires information and security services to be ready to protect big companies or those of strategic significance, which the French refer to as “companies of national strategic importance” or “national champions”. These companies often – but not always – have their own information or security organizations that help them survive fiercer and fiercer competition.
In any case, in the field of economic intelligence the rules between the services of the various nations are more flexible, and it is easier to refer to others merely as competitors, neither friend nor enemy. This field is currently in the process of development, and European economic intelligence is still in embryonic phase.
The evolution of the information society has profoundly modified the frame of conflict. In the opinion of American analysts like John Arquilla and David Runfeldt, experts in netwar at Rand Corporation, the nation that wins tomorrow’s conflicts will not be the one with the biggest bomb, but the one that tells the best story.
In this sense, Americans have been referring to the key concept of information dominance since 1997. Defined as the control of anything that may be deemed information, this doctrine aspires at the moulding of the world by standardizing international practices and regulations to the American model, with the objective of placing decision-making bodies under control.
These experts note that it is sufficient to observe how American public opinion was mobilized during the invasion of Kuwait by a disinformation process planned at military level, or more precisely, at the level of psychological warfare. Information manipulation processes allow certain facts to be marginalized, and for this reason the domination of information has become a top priority in defining American strategy.
We may consider how the war in Iraq demonstrated the importance that manipulating information has assumed in international relations. The accusations made by G. W. Bush against Saddam Hussein regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction represent a textbook case in the history of disinformation.
On the other hand, we must be careful of jumping to conclusions about how cognitive warfare is waged: disinformation, or even worse, the manipulation and authentic distortion of information for the purpose of deceiving your adversary or ally is often mistakenly confused with the production of knowledge conceived to orient the rules of conduct.
In this regard, Harbulot emphasized the profoundly innovative role of information war in terms of strategy and its implications for companies.
It was naturally Harbulot’s intention to use cognitive warfare to protect the economic interests of French companies against their American competitors. If, in fact, conflicts ranging from the Gulf War to the War in Kosovo have demonstrated the overwhelming superiority of American military intelligence overseas, what room for maneuver remains open today for the managers of the intelligence service in Western Europe, who are responsible for defending the geo-economic interests of their nations against American interests? Harbulot’s answer is clear: this room for maneuver is constantly eroding, and a situation of near total paralysis has been reached in certain cases.
Closing this gap means modernizing the thought of Sun-Tzu, the Comintern, and Mao Zedong, and especially that of Winston Churchill, the first Western statesman to have orchestrated a plan for information warfare against Nazi Germany (Plan Jaël). In terms of disinformation, he represents British genius in deceiving the enemy on the dates and locations of invasion landings.
Naturally, the lack of legal provisions regarding the manipulation of knowledge raises serious concern for the economic security of European companies, which must consequently arm themselves with techniques capable of strategically managing economic information.
It is precisely in light of American political-military choices that French strategy discerned the need to define just what information war really is in the strictest terms. The expression used in French strategic context is “cognitive warfare”, which is defined as the capacity to utilize knowledge in circumstances of conflict.
In particular, the French School of Economic Warfare acknowledges in cognitive warfare the conflict between different capacities of obtaining, producing, and/or obstructing determined types of knowledge implicit in power relations that can be defined “weak against weak” or inversely, “weak against strong”.
Numerous examples that come from the world of industry testify that innovation in this field is not always necessarily made by the strongest. Naturally, the United States is the primary artifice of “strong against weak” cognitive thinking, such as, for example, in defense of its position as superpower at both military and informational level. This nation’s way of orienting its own and the other nation’s conduct implies its complete acquisition of the importance of cognitive warfare as the ability to have the images of single powers perceived by the world public opinion, a strong argument in the search for legitimacy that every democracy must acquire in national and international context. The United States has always – but especially after September 11 – stoked the legitimacy of its policies by emphasizing the defense of democracy and the need for global security as reasons to combat anti-democratic forces.
In today’s context of intense competition, destabilization plays a fundamental role. Harbulot suggests considering the example, that has become common practice in economic warfare, of a multinational company that decides to stop a competitor from developing a project in an emerging nation.
A cognitive warfare operation might take the following form:
Identification of the competitor’s weak points in the area in question (weaknesses may vary in nature: bribes paid to authorities, environmental pollution, failures to respect human rights). All the information collected must be verifiable and not give rise to fallacious interpretation.
The choice of the information attack procedure: if the cognitive aspect is considered, the following scenario may be imagined. The director assigned orders funds to be paid into a private foundation supported by the company. A trusted person at such foundation then channels this money to a NGO that has posed itself the objective of protecting the environment. The maneuver consists in then making the NGO aware of this dossier by indirectly providing it with verifiable (and therefore non-manipulated) information on the misdeeds of the competitor multinational. Through its Internet site, the NGO then sends negative messages against the competitor’s project. This is how the chain of knowledge is created. The next step required is knowing how to consciously activate it for the purpose of destabilizing the target.
The chief strength of the information attack lies not in deceiving or misinforming but instead in fomenting a pertinent dispute that has been demonstrated by objective facts. The level of conspiracy is limited to setting up and activating the information chain. The more “grounded” the diatribe is, the harder it will be for the adversary to demonstrate conspiracy, even if only in theory.
It is clear that the spread of new information technologies has brought competition exasperated levels and facilitated cognitive warfare, in such way triggering an unprecedented conflict that, in the opinion of the French analysts, exceeds even that of the Cold War.
Information has become another weapon in the art of war capable of making the difference between winning and losing, regardless of whether the conflict is military or economic.
Changes of such degree impose cultural revolution.
Then there is psychological warfare, one of the principal forms of information war. It is the most sophisticated because it relies essentially on human intelligence, in its capacity to understand possible actions for success by controlling the means of communication.
Little known and scarcely practiced in France, psychological warfare has never received much attention from the military establishment, which has often succumbed to the pressure of events or adversaries, as happened in Indochina and Algeria.
Psychological warfare employs every means available, from disinformation to deceit, from propaganda to interdiction, in clashes of various nature (from the battle against terrorism to conventional warfare and the subsidization of peace) and is moreover directed to public opinion for the purpose of conditioning or manipulating it.
The use of psychological weapons cannot be improvised and is based on an organized operative structure and conducted by specialized personnel and organizations.
Civil communication systems have by now reached levels of performance previously attained only by armed forces and governments. This has led to the accumulation of a critical mass such to enable a lowering of costs. For this reason, even if the conservation of certain autonomous military capacities is foreseen, the development of information systems for defense and intervention depends more and more on civil systems. This creates a vulnerability that might be underestimated in times of crisis or conflict.
The infosphere’s framework has become highly conflictual; information war has become inevitable and is waged with the function of appropriation (intelligence), interdiction (limitation of access to information) and manipulation (intoxication).
Economic intelligence provides a necessary response to a world with no more borders of time or space, where information is immediate and reaction time is zero. A re-organization of structures around the new dimension assumed by the relationship between information and intelligence leads to changes in both the decision-making system and the management of human resources. First and foremost of all, the revolution must be cultural in nature: perceiving information as a weapon to be incorporated into national defense strategy.
Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships
Ever wonder what it is that makes two people click or clash? Or why some groups excel while others fumble? Or how you, as a leader, can make or break team potential? “Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships” (Wiley; May 2018) by Kim Christfort and Suzanne Vickberg, helps answer these questions.
Based on extensive research and analytics, and years of proven success in the field, the Business Chemistry framework was developed to provide a simple yet powerful way to identify meaningful differences between people’s working styles. Launched in 2010 and profiled in a 2017 Harvard Business Review cover story, Business Chemistry explores the individual and collective power of four primary working styles: “Pioneers” who value possibilities and spark energy and imagination; “Guardians” who value stability and bring order and rigor; “Drivers” who value challenge and generate momentum; and “Integrators” who value connection and draw teams together.
Whether the goal is to raise your own level of performance, enhance customer engagement, or become a more effective leader, Christfort and Vickberg offer practical ways to grasp different perspectives, recognize the value they bring, and determine what is needed to excel.
- Manage and motivate different working styles by learning what kinds of interactions and working conditions kill their potential, and what kinds unlock it.
- Build empathy and stronger relationships by recognizing key differences in how people work and what they need to thrive, then flexing your own style accordingly.
- Foster productive interactions among team members, including helping opposite types work better together).
- Mitigate conflicts in the workplace through understanding the four working styles and their proclivities.
- Embrace cognitive diversity on your team and harness it to improve your group’s performance, not undermine it.
- Create powerful relationships with colleagues, customers and everyone else.
“One of our goals in writing this book was to shed light on the untapped potential that exists within many organizations, and provide people with a means to activate it,” said Kim Christfort, managing director, Deloitte LLP, and national managing director of Deloitte’s Greenhouse Experience. “And of course, we wanted to practice what we preach by infusing this book with elements that will appeal to different types—not only practical strategies and relevant data but also colorful stories, evocative images, and some humor too.”
On any given day, professionals interact with many different types of people: some prefer diplomacy while others prefer candor; some focus on the big picture and others hone in on the details; some work methodically and others rapidly. Business Chemistry addresses how to embrace differences and unite across them. Throughout this book, Christfort and Vickberg offer suggestions for creating better business chemistry with colleagues; techniques for managing, motivating, and influencing different types of people; strategies for earning their trust and respect; and ideas for leading teams so that everyone can excel and deliver their best performance.
“One of the unique features of this book is that it’s written by two authors with different perspectives and opposite working styles,” said Suzanne Vickberg, Ph.D., senior manager, Deloitte LLP and applied insights lead, Deloitte’s Greenhouse Experience. “We didn’t try to merge our styles into something neutral. Instead, we took advantage of our differences to create a book that has something to offer for everyone, regardless of their type.”
Deloitte developed the Business Chemistry® system to help provide insights about individuals and teams based on observable business behaviors. Business Chemistry draws upon the latest analytics technologies to reveal four scientifically based patterns of behavior.
Many oil futures denominated in yuan were launched on the Shanghai market at the end of March 2018 and quickly traded for 62,500 contracts – hence for a notional value of 27 billion yuan, equivalent to 4 billion US dollars.
The financial process of the new petroyuan, however, had already begun as early as 2016.
Hence there was obviously the danger of an internal financial bubble in China, but linked to the crude oil price – yet the Chinese government had decided that the fluctuation allowed for those contracts had to be only 5%, with a maximum 10% fluctuation only for the first day of trading.
Furthermore considering the average level of oil transactions in China, we can see that oil and gas imports could back financial operations totalling over 200 billion yuan.
According to industry analysts, the level of Chinese oil imports is expected to increase by approximately 2.1 million barrels per day from 2017 until 2023, which implies that the Chinese market will change the future level of oil barrel prices – be they denominated in dollars or in another currency.
Hence, from now on, China will explicitly challenge the “petrodollar” to create its petroyuan – with an initial foreseeable investment by the Chinese government, which will take place on the sale of a 5% shareholding of Saudi Aramco.
Nevertheless the prospect of an IPO on the Saudi “jewel in the crown” – which was also at the core of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030, all focused on the Kingdom’s economic diversification – has been postponed to at least 2019.
The Saudi Royal Family is not at all homogeneous, both politically and for its different financial interests.
This is demonstrated by the attack – obscure, but thwarted with some difficulty -on Riyadh’s royal palace, launched by some armed units on April 21 last.
Should the sale of a 5% shareholding of Saudi Aramco finally take place, however, it would be the biggest IPO ever.
The magnitude of the deal is huge: according to the latest Saudi estimates, the company is worth 2 trillion US dollars – hence a 5% shareholding is at least equal to 100 billion dollars.
Moreover, China is doing anything to make Saudi Arabia accept payments in yuan – the first step to replace the old petrodollar.
If Saudi Arabia did not accept at least a large share of Chinese payments in yuan, it could be “blackmailed” and witness a decrease in an essential share of its oil exports. Not to mention the fact that – also with reference to Saudi Aramco-as the saying goes, sovereign funds and Chinese state-owned companies have “deeper pockets” than many prospective Western buyers.
Moreover President Trump is doing anything to make the IPO on Saudi Aramco end up in US hands. However, it cannot be taken for granted that he will succeed. In spite of everything, Mohammed bin Salman is not the heir of the old Saudi bilateralism vis-à-vis the United States.
Nonetheless, in his visit to China last March, Prince Mohammed bin Salman already signed contracts with his Chinese counterparts to the tune of 65 billion US dollars – and they are only petrochemical and energy transactions.
Furthermore this major Saudi oil company is considering the possibility of issuing yuan-denominated bonds, at least to cover part of the trade between the two countries.
Moreover, the US imports of Saudi oil have been steadily declining for some time, which makes the US role in the future post-oil diversification of the Saudi economy – the real big deal of the coming years – more difficult.
Over the next few months, however, the Chinese financiers are preparing to launch on the market a yuan-denominated oil future convertible into gold.
According to Chinese sources, it will be open to foreign investment funds and to the various oil companies.
Hence if the use of the dollar is gradually avoided, it will be possible -also for Russia and Iran, for example – to circumvent the sanctions imposed by the USA, the EU and the UN and fully re-enter -precisely through the yuan – the global oil and financial markets.
Moreover, the “petroyuan operation” is rapidly expanding to Africa.
Just recently, we heard about the definition of a three-year currency swap between China and Nigeria worth over 2.5 billion yuan.
As is well-known, the currency swap is a special derivative contract with which two parties exchange interest and sometimes principal in one currency for the same in another currency. Interest payments are exchanged at fixed dates through the life of the contract.
Hence 2.5 billion yuan are exchanged with 720 billion Naira.
Obviously, also in this case, there is no need for either of the two contracting parties to buy US currency for trading and exchanges, while Nigeria is currently China’s largest trading partner in Africa and China is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria.
All this happens in Nigeria, with African exports to China mainly consisting of oil and raw materials, exactly what is needed to keep China’s rate of development (and the yuan exchange rate) high.
The internationalization of the Chinese currency, however, is mainly stimulated by the following factors: the expansion of the cashless economy, which favours large Chinese and global operators such as AliBaba (Alipay) or WeChatPay; the Belt and Road Initiative, which pushes China’s investment and combines it with other monetary areas; the very fast globalization of Chinese banks and their adoption of the SWIFT gpi system; finally the development of the Interbank Paying System between China and the countries with which it trades the most.
Nonetheless there are some factors which still need to be studied carefully.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong is still the largest clearing center for the transactions denominated in yuan-renmimbi – with 76% of all transactions that currently pass through the island still under the Chinese special administration.
Still today the renmimbi account only for 1.61% of all international settlements, while 22 Chinese banks are SWIFT-connected.
Many, but not enough.
Moreover, as much as 97.8% of the yuan trading is still as against the US dollar, while the exchange between the yuan and the other currencies other than the US dollar is worth very little in terms of quantities of cash and liquidity traded.
Still today 80.47% of payments whose last beneficiary resides in China is denominated in dollars.
As to the international renmimbi reserves, it all began when, in September 2016, the International Monetary Fund announced that, for the first time, the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) would include the renmimbi.
In June 2017, the European Central Bank converted the value of 500 million euro into dollars (557 million US dollars) and then into renmimbi – equivalent to 0.7% of the total portfolio of ECB’s currencies, while in January 2018 the German Central Bank decided to include the renmimbi among its reserves.
Nowadays only 16% of China’s international trade is traded in the Chinese currency.
The real problem for the dollar is still the euro.
In fact, the transactions in US dollarsfell from 43.89% of total transactions in 2015 to 39.85% in 2017 while, in the same period, those denominated in euro rose from 29.39% to 35.66%.
However, as Vilfredo Pareto said, currencies are “solidified politics”.
In fact, China wants to use the renmimbi-yuan also in the Pakistani port of Gwadar and in its Free Economic Zone, which is the first maritime station of the Belt and Road initiative.
Furthermore the payments in yuan between China and the USA, which is still China’s largest trading partner – account for 5% only, while Japan – the second largest country by volume of transactions with China – already operates 25% of its transactions with the yuan-renmimbi.
Only South Korea – another primary commercial point of reference for China – does use the Chinese currency for a very significant 86% of bilateral transactions.
Certainly the oil market remains essential for the creation of petroyuan or, in any case, for the globalization of the Chinese currency.
Since 2017 China has overtaken the USA as the world’s largest oil and gas importer.
Furthermore, as early as 2009, the Chinese authorities have criticized the use of the US currency alone as a basis for international trade.
In fact, the Chinese political leadership would like to define a monetary benchmark among the main currencies and later build the progressive de-dollarization of trade on it.
Obviously the expansion in the use of the Chinese currency in global transactions, which peaked in 2015, corresponded to the phase when the yuan was undervalued and gradually and slowly appreciated as against the US dollar.
After the two devaluations of the yuan-renmimbi in the summer of 2015, the profitability of replacing the US dollar with the Chinese currency has clearly diminished.
Moreover, since the possession of the yuan is still subject to restrictions and checks, the globalization of the Chinese currency cannot fail to pass through the full liberalization of China’s currency and financial markets.
A project often mentioned by President Xi Jinping and implemented by the Central Bank, especially with maximum transparency on transactions and the end of the capital “shares”, in addition to the quick acceptance of a price-based financial system.
Moreover, all the currencies with which China trades in the oil markets are still pegged to the US dollar and, for the Chinese authorities, this is another difficulty to replace the US currency.
On the domestic side, the yuan has a big problem: it is a matter of investing Chinese savings, which are currently equal to 43% of GDP.
If we consider a similar investment rate, the Chinese economy is no longer sustainable.
Therefore, either all investment abroad is liberalized – but, for China, this would mean the loss of control over domestic savings – or the yuan becomes a new international currency, thus using it for long-term loans in the Belt and Road Initiative and for creating a market of yuan-denominated oil futures.
Hence, unlike petrodollars, the petroyuan is not a US internal way to use the Arab capital stemming from the energy market, but a large internal reserve of capital to meet the needs of an expanding economy and support China’s fresh capital domestic requirements.
For Swiss banks, however, the flow of renmimbi-denominated contracts will radically change the energy financial market, but in the long run, thus obliging many global investors to invest many resources only in the Chinese financial market.
It is worth reiterating, however, that the Chinese currency has not fully been liberalized yet – nor, we imagine, will it be quickly liberalized in the future.
In essence, China wants to govern its development and it does not at all want to favour the US single pole.
Hence either a small monetary globalization, like the current one, or the large and progressive replacement of the dollar with the renmimbi – but this presupposes the liberalization of the entire financial market denominated in the Chinese currency.
Moreover – but this would be fine for the Chinese government -foreign and domestic investors’ full access to the Chinese capital market should be granted.
It already happened in 2017 but, nowadays, it becomes vital for the geopolitical and financial choices made by President Xi Jinping’s China.
Hence, it is likely that in the future China would play the game that Kissinger invented after the Yom Kippur War, i.e. the game of the dollar surplus in the Arab world that is reinvested in the US market.
Obviously, this has kept the US interest rate unreasonably low with an unreasonably high US trade surplus.
A monetary manipulation made using one’s own strategic and military leverage.
Hence, with petrodollars, the USA has invented the monetary perpetual motion.
Therefore, if most of the Chinese oil market is denominated in yuan-renmimbi, a strong international demand for Chinese goods and services will be created or there will be a huge amount of capital to invest in the Chinese financial markets.
This will obviously change the role and significance of China’s engagement in the world.
With significant effects for the dollar market, which could be regionalized, thus highlighting the asymmetries which currently petrodollars hide: the US super-trade surplus and the simultaneous very low interest rate.
What about the Euro? The single European currency has no real market and it shall be radically changed or become a unit of account among new infra-European currencies.
Circular Economy: New rules will make EU the global front-runner in waste management and recycling
EU Member States approved a set of ambitious measures to make EU waste legislation fit for the future, as part of the EU’s wider circular economy policy.
The new rules – based on Commission’s proposals part of the Circular Economy package presented in December 2015 – will help to prevent waste and, where this is not possible, significantly step up recycling of municipal and packaging waste. It will phase out landfilling and promote the use of economic instruments, such as Extended Producer Responsibility schemes. The new legislation strengthens the “waste hierarchy”, i.e. it requires Member States to take specific measures to prioritize prevention, re-use and recycling above landfilling and incineration, thus making the circular economy a reality.
Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella said: “The final approval of new EU waste rules by the Council marks an important moment for the circular economy in Europe. The new recycling and landfilling targets set a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe. Our main task now is to ensure that the promises enshrined in this waste package are delivered on the ground. The Commission will do all it can to support Member States and make the new legislation deliver on the ground.”
The Commission had originally presented proposals for new waste rules in 2014, which were withdrawn and replaced by better designed, more circular and more ambitious proposals on December 2015 as part of the Circular Economy agenda of the Juncker Commission. These proposals were then adopted and are now part of the EU rule book.
The new rules adopted today represent the most modern waste legislation in the world, where the EU is leading by example for others to follow.
The details of the new waste rules:
Recycling targets for municipal waste
|By 2025||By 2030||By 2035|
In addition, stricter rules for calculating recycling rates will help to better monitor real progress towards the circular economy.
New recycling targets for packaging waste
|By 2025||By 2030|
|Paper and cardboard||75%||85%|
Building on the existing separate collection obligation for paper and cardboard, glass, metals and plastic, new separate collection rules will boost the quality of secondary raw materials and their uptake: hazardous household waste will have to be collected separately by 2022, bio-waste by 2023 and textiles by 2025.
Phasing out landfilling
Landfilling of waste makes no sense in a circular economy and can pollute water, soil and air. By 2035 the amount of municipal waste landfilled must be reduced to 10% or less of the total amount of municipal waste generated.
The new legislation foresees more use of effective economic instruments and other measures in support of the waste hierarchy. Producers are given an important role in this transition by making them responsible for their products when they become waste. New requirements for extended producer responsibility schemes will lead to improving their performance and governance. In addition, mandatory extended producer responsibility schemes have to be established for all packaging by 2024.
The new legislation will place a particular focus on waste prevention and introduce important objectives for food waste in the EU and halting marine litter to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals in these areas.
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