These are interesting times we are living in. But, then, when is it that the “times” are not interesting at all? The European glue seems to weaken. China is flexing her muscles. Trump’s win was nothing short of an upset. IT is but the actions of current U.S. administration that are most worrisome. One can see the very fabric of international relations and economic alliances shifting, and in some cases, distorting. The recent slew of tariffs imposed by the U.S. has sparked fears, and rightly so, whether this is the start of another trade war? We can almost feel a sense of Déjà vu.
When was it last time?
The times were, to say the least, very hard. The Great War had just manifested the extent of destruction conjured by human wrath and technology. As explained in an incisive and exhaustively researched book, Power and Plenty by Findlay and O’Rourke, the war disrupted international trade, market integration and commodity prices. Countries turned protectionist, rabble-rousers took advantage. Excess production, lower product prices and higher tariffs ushered an era of what may be termed as a ‘phase’ of anti-globalization. Protection was on the rise in and outside Europe. The Smooth-Hawley tariff started a tariff war wherein other countries reciprocated by increasing tariffs respectively as well. The results were appalling. After the Smoot-Hawley tariff and the “wrecking ball of Great Depression” U.S. saw its GDP falling as much as by 30 percent and industrial output by 35 percent. Unemployment soared. Such conditions paved the path for people like Hitler to rise to power stoking economic fears and social concerns among the masses and capitalizing (feeding) on their fear.
What is instructive to note here is changes in the economic realm often translate into political and social life as well. Circumstances, of late, including; rise of alt-right, fuming populism and rising Xenophobia bears a testimony of what is mentioned above. Brexit and Trump’s win both had an unavoidable economic dimension, rather a preponderant one, if you may. Netherlands, Italy, Germany even MENA and South Asia are not immune. China with its O.B.O.R is an example of how both the realms are profoundly inter-related.
In this regard, Trump administration’s imposition of tariffs on solar panels and washing machines will have reactions. So will the recent plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. One might say that the reactionary process has already begun. The tariffs on solar panels might slow down the process of shifting to renewables. Steel tariffs are no exception as well. Firstly, in that instead of imposing a global tariff on steel and aluminum there were other options available as well. Second, that there will be mutually-assured-losses in other words U.S. is not all-safe. Last time, in 2002, when President Bush imposed taxes on steel, 200,000 jobs were lost as a result. Thirdly, and most importantly, when it comes to steel China is not the reason at all. Canada contributes more to the import bill in terms of steel as compared to China. In 2016, metals accounted for only 5.1 percent imports from China as per World Bank. If he really wanted to “hurt China” then doing something about machinery and electronics along with furniture and toys, that accounted for 48 percent and 16.5 percent of imports, would have helped. No one is happy from the ban. China is mooting to put tariffs on Soya-beans from United States. China is its biggest market for Soya-beans. Once again, the same logic applied it will not only hurt U.S. but China as well.
Trump has said to slap tariffs on European cars as a retaliation if EU moved for any action against his steel tariffs in the form of taxes.
The fact of the matter is that both countries depend on each other in umpteen ways. Not only both but the whole world too. The leaps in technology, shrinking distances, increased consumer spending has tangled the world in an intricate mesh of interdependencies. It is a web and tweaking even a single strand can make the whole web shake. If this continues Multinationals like Apple and Boeing might suffer as well. This can be like wildfire. Trade wars are not “good and easy to win“. They are dirty and both sides lose.
I hope this is yet another phase in the evolutionary process of globalization. That saner heads will prevail and the stark, unchangeable fact, that the world needs to work together if not for themselves but for the global peace, will be understood and realized. The period (of anti-globalization) mentioned in the start took decades to recover and the world gave a very dear price to pay for this lesson. Let’s not get into that again.
New American extremist armed movements calling for democracy
The American interior has witnessed in recent years (the growth, spread and revival of a number of new armed extremist ideological movements in the American interior), which have come to challenge the authority and orders of the American government similar to its American communist counterpart in previous periods, and aims for a “new revolution” in the face of the American authorities.
The outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic in the American interior has also caused the strengthening of the strength of these American armed movements, as well as the growth of “new armed extremist movements” that challenge the authority and orders of the American government similar to its former American communist counterpart, and the map of these movements and their goals can be traced, as follows:
The emergence of the most dangerous and most important armed movement called the “Boogaloo Movement” against the American government: due to the restrictions imposed due to the outbreak of the virus, it fueled the “Boogaloo Movement” against the American government. And what is new in the “American Boogaloo movement” is its armed tactic, and its “publicly” carrying of rifles and wearing tactical military clothing, and it was the beginning of their mobilization in the US state of “Hawaii” and in the state capital’s buildings to protest against the closure orders, due to the outbreak of (Covid-19). It is the distinctive of the “military appearance” of the “Boogaloo Movement” against the US government, which attracts the most attention. It threatens to wage “civil war”, as an extremist movement that uses “violent, not peaceful armed protests” against the orders of the American state, and has arisen due to the social problems caused by the pandemic to spread violent messages against Washington. The start of its launch was in April 2020, when armed demonstrators went out in separate organized protests in front of government buildings in (Concord and New Hampshire). The point worth noting and analyzing here is that the extremist “Boogaloo” movement is attracting many American youth daily. One of its affiliates said in a post on Facebook that the term “Boogaloo” began as a funny thing, but it evolved into a deeper symbol of “Boogaloo Movement”, by calling for the freedom against the decisions of the American authorities.
On the other hand, the (Three Percenters Militia Movement) appeared in the month of April 2020: those who organized a march at “Olympia headquarters” in the capital, Washington, and the participants in the gathering were keen to wear “Hawaiian shirts” to support the demands of the “Boogaloo extremist armed movement”.
In May 2020, a third extremist movement appeared in the United States, called the “Blue Igloo movement”: which began with a demonstration in Raleigh, North Carolina, and promoted itself on Facebook, and the movement entered into some “armed confrontations” with the state police.
A fourth movement appeared, consisting of armed members called the extremist “Liberty Militia movement”: they are mainly deployed in the state of “Michigan”.
A new fifth movement appeared called “The Rhett E. Boogie Group”: by advocating on Facebook forums, this led to the launch of a movement which invited “Gretchen Whitmer” as a representative of the “Democratic Party”, to address these violent threats.
In March 2020, there were also demonstrations related to the “Neo-Nazis movement” in the US state of “Missouri”: one of those belonging to this extremist movement was killed when the “Federal Bureau Investigations agents” FBI tried to arrest him, for trying to bomb a hospital in the “Kansas City” area. After the outbreak of the Corona virus, the “Neo-Nazis movement” announced that its new goal was to “start a revolution” in the country.
During the month of May 2020, a white supremacist group, known as: the “Associates of Bradley Bunn” appeared in the state of “Colorado”: which prompted the “US Department of Homeland Security” to issue an alert to it. And “Bradley Benn” is a former US Army soldier, who was arrested on May 1, 2020, after the “Federal Bureau Investigations agents” FBI found that there were “four pipe bombs” in his home in Loveland, Colorado, which led some to sympathize with him for his courage, and they formed a movement in his name.
The other armed prominent group in the USA, which has been revived and unified under a given new name of the “White Supremacist Groups”, which has been active since 2019, has been revived, and has declared itself as (an extreme right-wing movement), and includes a group of armed militias.
In general, it is possible to observe and track the goals of these American armed movements and increase their activities, especially after the outbreak of the Corona epidemic and the poor economic conditions in the American interior, and made the beginning through social media, where one of them wrote: “Many individuals are very upset with the way that the USA is managed and the other passed laws that are criminalised to the law-abiding citizens”. Perhaps what is new in the thinking of these American extremist armed movements, according to the study of the “Extremism Program at George Washington University”, is that their discourse goes beyond discussions about combating restrictions, which many protesters describe as “tyranny” to talk and violent radical discourse about “Killing FBI agents” or police officers “to start a war”.
From here, we understand the existence of (a real state of conflict and undeclared polarization within the American interior itself, whose features appeared between the movements of the left and the right and resulted in the carrying of arms and resistance to the American authorities themselves), and this internal American conflict became clear between (the forces of the left and the American right) after the failure of the former President “Trump” in the period of the previous US presidential elections in November 2020, and perhaps this period will be the one (which will establish the next American period and will determine the extent of its democracy globally and even how to deal with rebellious groups and sectors and the opposition of the American people themselves who reject the internal American policies and their undemocratic approach), and it will expose the global American democracy itself to (face difficult tests in front of the minorities who are expected to dominate the American political scene by 2040 according to the expectations of American sociologists, anthropologists and humanists), hence the important question will come, regarding:
(How will the United States of America present itself to the world less than 20 years from now? Especially, in the presence of a real undeclared internal conflict over the American power and governance circles, which threatens the American concept that promotes the idea of democracy and human rights from the narrow American perspective)?!
The Turkey and the U.S. Holiday Season
Guess! Forty-six million turkeys are eaten in the US over the course of a year, a month or a certain day? The surprising answer (or maybe not) is the latter … on the Thanksgiving holiday. It is celebrated in the US on the fourth Thursday in November. Another 22 million are devoured over Christmas and 19 million perish at Easter.
We are a carnivorous culture. If 46 million turkeys stand side-by-side, they make a line some 7,000 miles long or about twice the distance between the East and West coasts. Despite all this, turkey is only the fourth source of protein in the U.S. coming in as it does after chicken, beef and pork.
Nevertheless, almost 1.4 billion pounds of turkey were consumed at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter — to the 46 million Thanksgiving turkeys one can add 22 million for Christmas and 19 million for Easter (2011 figures). About a third of the turkeys are eaten during the holidays and two-thirds over the rest of the year. It adds up to about 230,000 birds in total.
That is the front end for turkeys. But not all the turkey is eaten. The carcass and some of the meat ends up in trash cans. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates a third of global food is wasted. That figure coincides with what the US Department of Agriculture projects for turkeys — 35 percent goes into garbage cans and ends up in landfills.
The average weight of a turkey is 15 lbs. giving us approximately 690 million pounds for the 46 million consumed during Thanksgiving. It also means 240 million pounds goes to the waste dumps.
Turkey is not the only waste — Americans throw away 25 percent more waste during the approximately month-long holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year (think of all the gift wraps, Christmas trees, cardboard boxes, ribbons, sticky tape, etc.). On ribbons also, if people in the U.S. reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon, it would save 38,000 miles of ribbon. And if each family wrapped only 3 gifts in re-used Christmas wrapping paper, the saved paper would be enough to cover 4,500 football fields. All of which might seem to be in the spirit of the grinch that stole Christmas, but the general idea is to think about minimizing waste.
Perhaps all of this is irrelevant in a world in the grip of the covid virus. The essence of holidays lies in the gatherings of friends and relatives, something frowned upon in the age of covid. So, a quiet march to the New Year and a muted “Happy New Year” with a ‘beware of the omicron strain’ under one’s breath.
Such is the world of covid with its frustratingly temporary immunity. Is there a possibility it will eventually become like the common cold, a nuisance with which we learn to live? As it is the latest version i.e. the omicron variant shares its genetic code with the cold virus and is more easily transmissible.
The American Initiative for a “Better World” and its difference with the Chinese Belt and Road
During their summit held at the end of July 2021 in the city of “Cornwall” in Britain, the leaders of the countries (the Group of Seven major economic leaders “G7” led by Washington) have been announced the launch of an ambitious global initiative called “Rebuilding a Better World”. It is internationally, known as:
Build Back Better World (B3W)
The “Rebuilding a Better World” initiative aims to (meet the massive financing requirements for infrastructure needs). The most important differences and distinguishes between (the Chinese initiative for the Belt and Road and the American initiative to build a better world), are highlighted, through:
1) The intense Chinese interest in doing (development initiatives that are not politically conditional, unlike the American tool that sets political goals and conditions as a condition for the work of projects or the provision of loans, as well as China’s interest in infrastructure and community projects), and this is the most obvious and famous reason for the “Belt and Road” initiative, whereas the maps showed China’s roads, railways, and pipelines networks extending with partner countries, in addition to cooperation in (the field of digital technologies, educational and social institutions, and security services), which creates a network of relations that will continue in the future, in contrast to the US case or initiative.
2) We find that while (the leaders of the seven major economic countries neglected to develop long-term strategic plans in their initiative for a better world to serve poor and developing peoples), the vision of the “Belt and Road” has been more clearly manifested through the spread of many other developmental initiatives and the other extensions with it, which include the “Silk Road” for its projects, such as: (The Health Silk Road Initiative to combat “Covid-19”, and the launch of the “Digital Silk” initiative, known as (Information Silk Road).
3) At a time when Washington and its allies ignored the interests of developing countries, China has contributed to (leading the global development initiatives, especially the Healthy Silk Road to help countries affected by the spread of the pandemic), an initiative mentioned for the first time in the (White Book of Chinese Policy in 2015), Chinese President “Xi Jinping” announced officially the “Health Silk Road” that was presented in a 2016 speech delivered by the Chinese President in Uzbekistan, as well as the new road and the most recent Chinese initiative, known as the “Polar Silk Road”, which also known as the “Ice Silk Road”, which stretches across the “North Pole”, it was first highlighted in 2018.
4) In the belief of China to lead global development efforts, in contrast to ignoring the “Better World Initiative”, it was represented in China’s leadership in the field of “climate and environmental governance”, so the Chinese government initiated the launch of the “Green Silk Road Fund”, which was established by Chinese investors to promote (Chinese projects that take into account environmental standards), and the latest and most advanced here is the Chinese announcement of the “Space Silk Road”, which is the development of the Chinese “Beidou” system for artificial intelligence technology, and others.
5) Here, we find that at a time when China’s desire to support and modernize all African and poor countries is increasing, the American initiative, which is alleged to be an alternative to the Chinese plan, has come to China’s interest in projects (the Chinese satellite navigation system), and it is scheduled to be used and developed China as an alternative to GPS services.
6) The American President “Joe Biden” adopted the “Building Better for the World” project, stressing that its mainly focus on the (climate, health, digital sector, and combating social inequality), because the “Belt and Road” initiative – as stated by assistants to US President “Biden” – has transformed from a series of unauthorized projects connected to infrastructure, a cornerstone of Beijing’s foreign policy strategy, and the initiative supported China with raw materials, trade links, and geopolitical influence, so the “White House” wants to engage in projects with greater environmental and labor standards than those funded by China, and with complete transparency regarding financial terms. Perhaps that point raised by Washington towards China comes without (the United States of America presenting concrete evidence of the validity of those accusations to China, as well as Washington’s failure to penetrate deep into the African continent compared to the Chinese side).
7) American reports accuse Beijing of being (the reason for the decline of its influence on the African continent, and the United States faces many obstacles and challenges to regain its influence again in Latin American countries, which considers China as a trading partner and an important and vital investor in the African and Latin region). For example, bilateral trade between Brazil – the largest economy in South America, and China increased from $2 billion in 2000 to $100 billion in 2020. Perhaps this in itself (supports China’s credibility with its development projects to serve African and developing peoples, in contrast to African and Latin rejection, for example, of American influence and penetration in their countries).
8) The most important analytical thing for me is that the relationship of the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” with African countries supports “the call of China and Chinese President “Xi Jinping” towards a multilateral and multipolar world”. Therefore, we find that (China’s agreement with these African countries came in their support for multipolarity in the world, which the United States rejects), while African countries and the developing world mainly welcome the “Belt and Road Initiative”, which meets the needs of economic development in their countries, which the alleged American initiative will be unable to meet.
9) It also represents the Chinese initiative for the Belt and Road (a prelude to the China-Pacific cooperation road to link China and Latin America more closely, through the 21st century Maritime Silk Road from China to Latin America, which the United States strongly opposed, which reduces travel time between them, it works on developing infrastructure and connectivity, and investing in port works and ocean corridors between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Which (made the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean consider cooperation with Beijing a huge investment opportunity and a support for economic and social development plans, as well as an improvement in the region’s competitiveness).
10) It is worth noting that what distinguishes (the Chinese initiative for the Belt and Road from the American Better World Initiative, is its “sweeping popularity globally”), especially if we know that more than 100 countries have joined the Beijing initiative, which made it stronger politically and diplomatically. China signed cooperation documents on Belt and Road construction with 171 countries and regions around the world, and the trade value between China and countries along the Belt and Road amounted to about 1.35 trillion dollars in 2020, accounting for 29.1 percent of the total value of China’s foreign trade which (the United States of America will be unable to provide in light of the current economic crisis, unlike China). The investment cooperation between them amounted to about $17.7 billion, and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce stated that the companies of the “Belt and Road” countries have established 4,294 institutions in China, with an investment value of $8.27 billion.
11) and even came (confessions by well-known American bodies of China’s developmental role in confronting the United States of America), for example, a report by the “American Council on Foreign Relations” confirmed that: “Since the launch of the “Belt and Road” initiative in 2013, Chinese banks and companies have funded and the construction of power stations, railways, highways, and ports, as well as communications infrastructure, fiber-optic cables and smart cities around the world, and if the initiative continues to implement its plans, China will be able to stimulate global economic growth, and meet the needs of developing countries for the long term”. This is an American testimony and a clear acknowledgment of the strength of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and its development projects around the world.
12) It remains to be noted here that (the American attempts to put forward alternative development initiatives for the Chinese Belt and Road is a kind of American political competition with China, so the question here is: Why did the United States not provide real development projects over the past long years), so we understand that the Belt Initiative The road is the largest infrastructure program in the world, and indeed it has become an economic and political challenge for Washington. Experts believe that the preoccupation of the United States with its financial and economic crises has contributed greatly to giving China the opportunity to extend its economic and development influence among the countries of the world. The “Rebuilding a Better World” initiative comes among other US initiatives to try to confront and confront China, such as the Ocos Defense Security Agreement with Britain and Australia, as well as the first meeting of the “Quad Quartet” with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia. The “Biden administration” is also seeking to hold bilateral talks with countries in order to promote the American initiative, and recently talks were held with Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi), especially since India has refused to join the Belt and Road Initiative due to border disputes with China. Therefore, we understand (the targeting of the United States of America to countries with conflict with China to attract them to its alternative initiative, in contrast to the openness of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative to the whole world).
Accordingly, we arrive at an important analysis that says that the term “rebuilding better in the American sense” ignores and neglects development initiatives to serve the people, a better world, which is (an American political initiative rather than a development one such as the projects of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative). Here it becomes clear to us that the American initiative for a better world appears to be (influenced by the slogans and policies of both US President “Joe Biden” and British Prime Minister “Boris Johnson”), Rebuilding Better is the slogan of the American campaign, but without setting specific agreed plans or a timetable for everyone.
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