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The strategies of subversion in the interpretation of the French School of Economic War

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The Brent Spar Case

On February 16, 1995, the British government granted the Shell-UK company authority to sink an oil platform (the Brent Spar) no longer being used off the coast of Scotland. Taking preparation times into account, the sinking was scheduled for the month of June. Several weeks prior to the scheduled date, the international environmentalist organization Greenpeace protested the risk that such sinking posed, affirming that the platform contained 5,000 tons of oil – a dangerous quantity for the marine ecosystem. The English company immediately denied such accusation, in this way dismissing also the idea of an attack against the environment: nearly all the oil contained in the platform had already been transferred to a tanker when the platform was decommissioned in 1991. In reality, only 130 tons of oil remained inside the platform, with uncertain consequences to the ecosystem. Various scientists favorable to the sinking of the platform were then engaged by the British government for the purpose of legitimizing the logic advanced by the Shell Group. Prime Minister John Major announced his position in favor of sinking, claiming that this would be the safest and most economical solution.

Greenpeace launched its media attack beginning with its claims that the scientists engaged by the government were hardly impartial, in light of the absence of any guarantees for the protection of the marine environment and the subjectivity of their opinions. In the meantime, the environmentalist organization had mobilized its German office in Hamburg and Herald Zindler, the head of its action service, who would organize the assault and boarding of the platform together with around 20 militants. The filming of the event was shown around the world. Greenpeace announced its intent to stay aboard the platform until Shell and the British government gave in to its demands. The environmentalist organization also demanded that the platform – and all other platforms destined for dismantling – be brought to land and disassembled for the recycling of composite materials.

During the same period, Greenpeace published a report prepared by a number of independent scientists entitled ”No grounds for dumping: the decommissioning and abandonment of offshore oil and gas platforms” that demonstrated the risks posed by the sinking of the Brent Spar platform due to the fact that “the platform still contained 100 tons of toxic sludge (composed of bio-accumulative chemical products including arsenic, cadmium, PCB, and lead) in addition to 30 tons of radioactive deposits derived from drilling and storage operations in oilfields.”. This report applied the above-mentioned measures to a total of another 416 platforms installed in the North Sea, in such way assessing the pollution in this area at 67,000 tons of stainless steel, 700 tons of lead, 8 tons of PCB, and 1,200 tons of radioactive waste…

Coverage of the conflict in the mass media was intensified by an appeal for European nations to boycott Shell service stations. Protests rapidly reached an unexpected dimension and their success was greatest in Germany, where all the socio-economic categories supported the call, and precisely: the obstetricians’ association, the Kunert company (a leader in the production of hosiery), trade unions, and Protestant churches. By mid-June, Shell’s German subsidiary reported losses to the order of 35 million French francs daily. The fourth-largest subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch petroleum products group controlled 12% of the German service station market and accounted for no less than 10% of the group’s total sales and therefore 10% of its profit. Obliged to negotiate, with the greatest of discretion, the Shell German subsidiary’s General Manager Peter Duncan organized a meeting with Greenpeace Germany Director Thilo Bode. The environmentalist movement capitalized on Europe’s contradictions stemming from England’s particular position in the European Community and the way it was perceived by other nations. The amplitude of reactions in Germany was such that Chancellor Helmut Kohl asked John Major to refrain from sinking the platform during the G7 Summit in Halifax (Canada). On June 20, 1995, the Anglo-Dutch company officially announced that it had abandoned the idea of sinking the Brent Spar platform, which was towed to Norway and moored in a fjord. Shell was required to disburse 230 million francs for the operation. Greenpeace had won.

1.2

On the strength of this victory against the world’s second largest industrial group at the time, Greenpeace felt invincible and announced to the entire world that its next campaign would by the Moruroa Atoll following news of the President of the French Republic’s intention to conduct a series of nuclear tests there. Applying the principle of monitoring media activity without definitively achieving success, Greenpeace continued its information work. After so many shields had been raised in defense of the environment, Shell’s lawyers engaged the Norwegian Det Norske Veritas Foundation to verify all the scientific data on the Brent Spar platform. Thirty-three specialists were asked to submit their individual reports on October 18. All were unanimous in stating that sinking the platform posed no risk. The association learned of the opinions of the specialists engaged by Shell (and in particular its initial conclusions and probable form of disclosure) and realized that it would soon be placed with its back against the wall by the irrefutable logic advanced in the Foundation’s report. Fearing the strong media attention that could be turned against it, the environmental organization based in the Netherlands decided to stage a pre-emptive counter-attack, a technique that consists in applying a principle developed by Sun Tzu: cut the grass beneath your adversary’s feet. In the case at hand, this meant countering the arguments of the Veritas Foundation before such arguments could be used. The public disclosure of the report would have certainly worked as a media bomb with great detrimental effect to Greenpeace at a moment in which its credibility was at stake in the more important action regarding French nuclear tests.

Contrary to the allegations made, the Brent Spar did not contain toxic sludge or radioactive waste in its central duct. The platform had been effectively nearly empty since it was decommissioned in 1991. By taking the initiative, Greenpeace defused the bomb and successfully dodged the accusations of manipulation, disinformation, intellectual dishonesty, and scientific incompetence, and in this way damage to its image was only slight. The procedure is simple and effective: the Greenpeace-UK Director Lord Peter Melchett sent Shell General Manager Christopher Fay a letter of confession in which he admitted having erred in assessing the risk: “I am very sorry. Our calculations were inexact […]. Please accept my apologies for this mistake. [The samples were taken] in the piping that led to the platform’s tanks and not in the tanks themselves…”.

The international press, irked at having been manipulated in this way, inveighed against the environmentalist organization without result, which was in the eyes of the press guilty of having mystified public opinion by using perfectly orchestrated disinformation. Yves Lenoir, a former member of the French committee, denounced the methods used: “This is a typical example of Greenpeace methods that completely invent a scandal without any facts at all.”

2.1

Mobile warfare is the fulcrum of Greenpeace strategy. In his military writings, Mao Zedong defined the “strategic problems of revolutionary war”. One of the most important strategic problems that must be solved regards the relationship between the positional warfare and the mobile warfare. The former must “fight against fixed operation lines and the positional warfare using mobile operation lines and mobile warfare”, the latter must be compatible with the following principle: “battle against the strategy that aims to strike with two fists in two directions at the same time and instead favor the strategy that aims to strike with just one fist in only one direction at any given moment.”

Knowing how to manage transparency: utilizing this register, on that occasion Greenpeace neutralized the logic of dishonest obstinacy and presented itself as an untarnished hero motivated solely by its constructive objectivity. The principle of transparency is one of counter-information’s essential components.

Turning communication into an offensive weapon: the apology letter addressed to Christopher Fay was publically disclosed. This maneuver of no little interest served the objective of publicizing the environmentalist organization’s behavior to public opinion, in particular, to its sympathizers and donators. Greenpeace received involuntary assistance in this from Shell, whose main objective was to amplify the environmentalist association’s failure. The principle of this publicity initiative applied by Greenpeace permitted its message to be oriented in the desired direction and to limit the margins for the adversary’s criticism. For this reason, despite the communication offensive against Greenpeace launched by Shell-UK, Shell-France, and John Major, the perception of its failure in the eyes of public opinion was mitigated by the perception of its sincerity.

Capitalizing on your adversary’s contradictions: acceptance of one’s errors can be immediately placed in better perspective by bringing theirs to light. Parallel to its confession “Greenpeace recalled that some scientists had asked themselves about shortcomings in the information disclosed by Shell”, while also noting the fact that whereas some scientists believed sinking the platform to be more ecological than dismantling it, others were less convinced. Highlighting these contradictions in the scientists’ reasoning made the possibility of making an error in good faith more believable, in this way legitimizing the error made by Greenpeace.

On one hand, every mistake offers the chance for a new learning experience. The mistake made by Greenpeace allowed Shell to raise a related problem: the management of oil and gas platforms no longer utilizable. The attack that was so detrimental to British interests provided the occasion for a constructive contribution to the scientific debate. On the other hand, this war of information between Greenpeace and Shell brought the latter to a contradiction: continuing to harshly attack Greenpeace and exploit the defeat of its science would appear an unjustified exaggeration, especially in light of the latter’s confession. Crushing the environmentalist organization made it impossible for Shell to regain its previous media status. The environmentalist organization’s media skills suggested that it would be better for Shell to have it as an ally than an enemy, and for this reason Shell officially invited Greenpeace to take active part in its “Offshore Europe 1995” conference dedicated to environmental protection.

In order to ensure adequate media coverage for its Brent Spar operation, Greenpeace spent 350,000 pounds sterling to rent satellite communication lines – twice the amount the BBC paid to cover the event. Its days of being a dilettante were long over.

2.2

By adopting a decidedly defensive strategy that continuously confirmed the complete reliability of the sinking operation, Shell expended great energy and obtained only mediocre results, and was never really able to counter the attack of which it was a victim. This fatal outcome for the oil company originated in the falsification of its perception of the theaters of action. Whereas Shell communicated on the basis of tangible, objective reasoning and scientific facts, Greenpeace based its fight on subjective, subversive, pseudoscientific terrain and the enlargement of contradictions. This forced Shell to add arguments of more self-justificatory nature based on objectivity. If the Anglo-Dutch group had mastered the art of polemic and the offensive techniques of information warfare, the final verdict would have undoubtedly been different.

“These new forms of warfare are no less radical than the previous ones, and oblige those under attack  the economic world, the protagonists of civil society to adopt new strategies. In particular, it is fundamentally important to prevent accusatory actions whose effects are irremediable because they are media effects: the pathetic apologies made by Greenpeace will not remedy the injury done to Shell in any way.”.

For most organizations, traditional crisis management and institutional communication models have shown their limits when faced with radicalization and the massive use of new communication technologies. A number of elements of precise and effective response can be derived from the concept of counter-information, which may be defined as the combination of communication actions that thanks to pertinent and verifiable information permits to attenuate, invalidate or turn back an information attack against the attacker. Counter-information differs from the disinformation employed by special services but responds to constraints and requires the same quality as the original information attack, and precisely: preliminary intelligence, mastery of psychological and psycho-sociological mechanisms, skillfulness in the management of communication techniques and principles (including advertising), and close contacts with the mass media, etc.  Hence every prevention of an insidious open information attack requires knowledge and mastery of the offensive techniques of information warfare. The criteria of effectiveness of counter-information are as follows:

–              in order to be credible, counter-information must make an effort to channel open and well-argued information, verifiable and not manipulated information;

–              where, when, how, and to which extent must information be employed? Counter-information is a question of information strategy and management;

–              the adversary’s contradictions and weaknesses must be systematically attacked;

–              the argument in support of attack is all the more incisive when the evidence of the facts presented can be ascertained;

–              communication is linked to the exemplarity of demonstration and the skillful use of spontaneous resonance elements.

The media defeat suffered by Shell Group demonstrates, above all, the limits of a discourse and logic based exclusively on a technical validation of the issues at hand, while also suggesting that counter-information is the only response that permits the mitigation or even the reversal of an embarrassing and untenable situation.

Hostage to its own certainties, Shell Group attempted to wage the battle on apparently favorable ground. Remaining in a strong/weak relationship without taking the initiative, the Anglo-Dutch company was forced to develop a defensive strategy. The oil company’s reaction based on mechanisms of direct conflict provided inadequate response to the powers of persuasion of the environmental protection organization that had acquired mastery in the art of dialectics and rhetoric in the meantime. Despite its initially restricted margin of maneuver, Greenpeace was able to construct global reasoning that publicized the issue with the use of subversive techniques. Its sensational victory is exemplary from various points of view. First and foremost, it demonstrates that no international company may deem itself safe from the risk of substantial destabilization by even an organization with limited means. Many structures today are capable of conducting effective communication campaigns and selecting the resonance amplifiers most appropriate for the exertion of pressure on political institutions. No multinational appears to be dedicating enough attention to these new risks, and some have been victims of similar experiences, such as the French oil company ELF, which was obliged to pull out of an important business project in Chad.

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Effective Investment in China: What Should Be Done When the Situation Gets Complicated?

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Economy Building

The current Chinese economy is facing a complex situation and is under unprecedented pressure to maintain steady economic growth. The growth was only 4.8% in the first quarter, making a poor start to 2022.

Domestic consumption has been in a slump for two years and is still lackluster in the first quarter of this year, with total retail sales of consumer goods growing by only 3.3% year-on-year (in the first quarter) and falling by 3.5% year-on-year in March. In terms of foreign trade, in the first quarter, imports and exports grew by 10.7%, exports by 13.4%, and imports by 7.5%. Compared with last year’s foreign trade data (in U.S. dollar terms), the growth of imports and exports slowed by 17 percentage points compared with the whole of last year, while exports slowed by 14.1 percentage points and imports significantly slowed by 20.5 percentage points.

With consumption and export growth slowing down, investment becomes an important means of stabilizing growth this year. In recent years, there has been a new concept of investment, known as “expanding effective investment”. Compared with the past investment that focused on scale and speed, to improve the effectiveness of investment is to pursue high-quality investment, which can also be seen as part of “high-quality development”. According to China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the active expansion of effective investment is the focus of current macro policy, which will not only boost current demand and cope with downward pressure on the economy, but also help optimize the supply structure and promote high-quality development.

The NDRC called for targeted and effective investment, while resolutely avoiding indiscriminate investment. The state will appropriately advance infrastructure investment, and actively enhance water conservancy, transportation, energy, and other infrastructure construction. It will also strengthen the construction of new infrastructure and enhance the core competitiveness of the manufacturing industry. Additionally, it aims to improve the social and ecological environment, as well as urban infrastructure. The active expansion of effective investment does not mean blindly expanding projects or expanding infrastructure investment, nor imposing massive stimulus through large-scale infrastructure investment. Rather, it means focusing on key areas in economic and social development and carrying out targeted and orderly investment projects that benefit both immediate and long-term interests.

Yet government-driven investment still requires big projects. The NDRC put forward that 102 major projects in the 14th Five-Year Plan should be steadily promoted. In the view of the NDRC, the promotion of these projects is a major measure to actively expand effective investment. In addition, the expansion of effective investment also requires the market to play a major role in mobilizing social investment to participate. For example, within the more than RMB 50 trillion annual fixed-asset investment in China, government investment accounts for a very limited share, while nongovernmental investment accounts for the majority. Government investment plays a guiding role and arouses the proactiveness of social investment.

According to the researchers at ANBOUND, improving the effectiveness of investment starts with an understanding of effective investment itself, and how it can be differentiated in diverse situations.

What then, is an effective investment? As we have pointed out, effective investment is embodied in three aspects. First, it is economically effective. It would not be an investment for the sake of investment, nor to create a pile of debt and turn it into a dead-end project. Investment should be market-oriented, and should not be wholly invested by the state and government. Otherwise, it will cause a crowding-out effect on the private economy and foreign capital and is not conducive to giving full play to the guiding role of financial capital investment. Second, such an investment should be effective in innovation. There is no doubt that effective investment should reflect high-quality development as much as possible and give priority to innovation. In recent years, there has been a large amount of investment in semiconductor chips in China, but a lot of investment has resulted in hundreds of billions of yuan worth of dead-end projects, resulting in the most ineffective waste of investment. Third, it needs to be effective in improving people’s livelihood. Steady economic growth is closely related to the realization of common prosperity. To realize effective investment, the state needs to increase investment in projects related to public subsistence. Investment in the ecological environment, urban renewal, education, medical care, elderly care, and urban public services will all be encouraged.

In particular, under the current economic situation in China, it is impossible to expand effective investment by only undertaking large projects or investing in infrastructure, because such projects will not boost the economy in a broader way. When it comes to boosting effective investment, the policy objective cannot be focused solely on making economic data look good. In addition to the three types of effectiveness mentioned earlier, the following aspects should also be noted:

First, effective investment should be made in a wide range of areas, rather than allowing only a few areas to occupy too many resources. Second, the focus of this round of investment is to stabilize the economy, but stabilizing the economy is not the same as maintaining steady growth. Under the current circumstances, stabilizing the economy is more about ensuring people’s well-being. The investment to be stepped up in 2022 is a bottom-up investment for the macroeconomy, which focuses on ensuring livelihood, basic operation, and social stability. This is different from investments aimed at high growth. Third, the current situation of domestic investment in China should be divided into several stages, namely, stabilizing the economy (basic fundamentals), seeking growth (fundamentals of growth), and seeking development (fundamentals of future growth). In terms of investment priorities, the first one should be promoting consumption, ensuring employment, and guaranteeing the survival of small enterprises. This should then be followed by investments in urban renewal, agriculture, energy, social security, and key industries. Finally, there should be investments in major projects and industries, which are related to the long-term development of the country.

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The Belt and Road Initiative: Innovative Chinese Ideas for a New World Order

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One Belt, One Road is China’s largest infrastructure and investment project. China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy aims to develop economic and social linkages amongst the countries it passes through to revive the ancient Silk Road. Project covers 65% of global population and 40% of global GDP. China’s planned economy grew almost 10% each year from 1978 to 2014.

China initiated the initiative in 2013 to expand its exports and imports. Through this initiative, China seeks to establish trade and social links with other nations and economic blocs. This endeavor focuses on the expansion of the Chinese export markets through bilateral economic ties that will become strategic partnerships and alliances. The yuan is utilized as a trade currency, and one of China’s goals is to raise the rate of trade exchange in this currency, which will assist strengthen the yuan globally while reducing trade exchange costs and settlement times.

For the geopolitical axis, all maritime and land channels were planned to achieve additional geopolitical goals that may lead to future partnerships. More than 100 countries and international organizations have signed Belt and Road Initiative cooperation agreements and invested $5.4 billion in 28 projects in diverse countries. 4,000 rail links connecting China to Asian and European countries were also built. China and other countries have invested $70 billion.

This initiative comprises developing rail networks, oil and gas pipelines, power lines, the internet, and marine infrastructure.

This initiative includes the New Eurasian Land Bridge, The China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor (CICPEC), China–Central Asia–West Asia Economic Corridor (CCAWEC), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM). China will contribute $126 billion if each participant pays for its own infrastructure. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Silk Road Fund give loans.

Half of its six Middle East lines travel through or end on the Mediterranean. China’s foreign policy is to stabilize the Middle East, which is known for wars and terrorism. European optimism and pessimism were split. Chinese funding thrilled Eastern and Central Europe. Germany, France, and many western European countries, especially northern ones, were suspicious.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a direct rival. China’s low interest rates are blamed for developing countries’ debt. In a scathing rebuttal to Trump’s protectionist policies, the Chinese president vowed to reject “protectionism.” All cooperation projects in the initiative would be guided by market principles, according to the Chinese president.

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All About Soybeans and the 5 Highest Soybean Producing Countries in the World

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Eating a balanced diet is one way to maintain health and a healthy lifestyle. The recommended balanced diet has a proportion of 4 healthy 5 perfect meals consisting of staple foods, side dishes, vegetables, fruit and milk or carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats. Of the 5 compositions, the five components are easily found, including protein. The protein we consume can neutralize toxins in the body, help carry out the body’s metabolism and it can maintain fluids in body cavities (Ajeng, 2021). One type of protein that is most easily found in everyday life is food derived from processed soybeans. Soybean is one type of legume that contains protein so that it is used as a protein source that is easily found by the public. Soybeans are consumed in almost all countries in the world, although these countries do not produce soybeans independently but can export from other countries that are soybean producers. Each country has a unique product from soybean. For example, in Indonesia, soybeans are processed into tempeh, tofu, soy sauce and milk. While in Japan soybeans are processed into traditional foods natto, sauces such as miso and shoyu.

Due to the high demand for soybeans in each country, some countries are unable to meet the domestic supply of soybeans, so the option that can be done is to export soybeans from other countries. There are 5 countries that are known as the highest soybean producers in the world, the five countries are:

  1. Brazil

Brazil has the advantage that the climate and soil are very suitable for growing soybeans. So that the Brazilian government continues to expand the land used to increase soybean production every year. Based on World Atlas data, Brazil is listed as the largest soybean-producing country in the world with a total supply of soybeans produced reaching 124 million metric tons in 2019-2020 (Pratomo, 2022). And in 2020/2021 Brazil can hold 37% of world soybean production beating the United States (USA) which is in second position as the highest soybean producing country in the world.

  1. United States of America (USA)

The majority of farmers in America grow soybeans because the large land is supported by suitable climate. American soybean production reached 96.79 million metric tons.

  1. Argentina

Furthermore, the third country as the largest soybean supplier is Argentina. Soybean production reached 51 million metric tons. Argentina itself does not consume soybeans, soybean production is mostly imported and soybean commodities account for 31.8% of Argentina’s import income. Considering that soybean is Argentina’s main import commodity, the government has conducted a lot of research to increase its soybean production (Nur Aini, nd).

  1. China

The fourth position is held by China with soybean production reaching 19.6 million metric tons in 2020/2021. However, despite having a fairly high soybean production, China is also one of the importing countries for soybeans to meet domestic soybean needs.

  1. India

Then the last one in fifth position is India with soybean production reaching 11.9 million metric tons in November 2021. This puts India in the second largest position in Asia as well as contributing 3.9% of global production.

Soybean itself has 4 types, namely white soybeans, black soybeans, yellow soybeans and edamame. Each type of soybean has a function as a raw material for different processed products. Some examples of processed soybeans include: the first is tempeh, tempeh is one of the processed products from soybeans which is made through the process of fermenting a type of fungus in the process of making this tempeh, namely Rhizopus oligosporus. The process of making tempeh is initially carried out by boiling the soybeans for some time then soaking them overnight, adding yeast, packing them and letting them sit for + 48 hours. Tempe is a product that is sensitive to temperature, so in its manufacture it is necessary to pay attention to the amount of yeast added to the temperature. Then the second is tofu, tofu is made from soybeans that are soaked for + 6 hours and then mashed, filtered, the dregs are taken and the remaining water is boiled at a temperature of 70-80 °C then certain ingredients are added to produce a tofu precipitate so that the tofu can be pressed to reduce the water content in the tofu. Then the third is natto, natto is also a fermented product from soybeans. How to make natto, soybeans are washed and soaked for about 12-20 hours so that their size increases. Then the soybeans are steamed for 6 hours. If you use a press pot, the time can be less. The next stage, soybeans are mixed with Bacillus Subtilis bacteria. During this process, cleanliness must be maintained to avoid dirt and other bacteria. Then the mixture was fermented at a temperature of 40 °C for 24 hours. Then the natto is cooled for about a week until it forms fibers (Widya, 2017). And lastly, there is also processed drinking product from soybeans that is easily found in various countries, namely soy milk. Making soy milk is quite easy. First, soak the soybeans for 8 hours, wash and remove the skin. Then the clean soybeans are mashed, filtered and boiled over medium heat. During the boiling process, sugar, vanilla, or other flavors can be added according to taste. In addition to the four types of food and drink above, there are many other processed foods that can be made from soybeans. In fact, apart from being processed food that can be consumed by humans, soybeans can also be processed into animal feed and biodiesel.

With the many benefits that soybeans have as raw material for processed food and animal feed, it is hoped that in the future the soybean needs from every country can be fulfilled because it is estimated that soybean demand will always increase every year. With the proper handling process, it is hoped that in the future countries that can produce soybeans with good quality will emerge so that they can improve the economy of the country and meet the world’s supply of soybeans.

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