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The birth of the modern concept of economic war and Bernard Esambert’s thought

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Without my friend Bernard Esambert there would not certainly be the current concept of “economic warfare”.

 Having studied at the Ėcole Polytechnicque, he is a natural heir to the best Colbertian, Saint-Simonian, positivist – and later Gaullist – tradition – which pervades the background and education of the modern and post-revolutionary French elites, with governments that pass and ruling classes that remain, as it must always be.

 It is no coincidence that, at the beginning of a book he wrote in 1971, Le Trosième Conflict Mondial, Esambert mentioned an old Saint-Simonian song, written by Rouget de Lisle, which glorified science and technology, as the new leaders of peoples after the so-called âge de l’obscurité. Rouget de Lisle, a French army officer, was the poet who wrote the words and music of La Marseillaise.

 Two facts that, symbolically, are certainly not by chance.

 After having been a mining engineer (and the engineering sector is traditionally a great area of recruitment for the intelligence Services and the French senior management) Esambert became a great commis d’Ėtat. Une vie d’influence, just to recall the title of one of his recent books, Une vie d’influence – dans les coulisses de la Ve République.

 Finally, Esambert became a point of reference for Georges Pompidou, who later called him to collaborate with him – as a man of influence – at the Presidency of the Republic.

 As Benedetto Croce – a too much forgotten philosopher – used to say, you can always and only implement “the possible liberalism”, well knowing that the real economy is made up of an agreement between private enterprise and State management, which is the one that always really counts.  

 It has always been and it will always be so. This is the first criterion for setting the scene of an economic warfare which – as Bernard Esambert himself noted for the first time – applies always and everywhere, and is never forgotten, unless severely defeated, even by the modern States that want to win a challenge that always lasts and has never one single face – a warfare, financial, technological, political, cultural and organizational one.

 The economic warfare worked well also in ancient Greece: the overpopulation in Athens; the need for commercial outlets in Central Asia; the expansion of Greeks to Southern Italy, where the Bruttians, after having taken their idols with them, hid in the mountains without ever seeing the sea again.

 The faces of economic warfare are always manifold and all of them always work. Whoever forgets some of them is always bound to lose.

 Certainly there are the current young and brilliant French analysts operating in the intelligence Services and the training sector, who belong to the Ėcole de Guerre Ėconomique (ĖGE) founded precisely by Esambert, based on an old idea developed by Christian Harbulot. There are also the new Italian initiatives in the academic world, all designed more to showing up and flattering the Heads of the intelligence Agencies, for whatever small favours – the usual and often imaginary “small powers” of the Italian academic world, always a bit stingy, after the long season of the roadshow organized by the Intelligence Department (DIS), at the time of the Interior Minister, Marco Minniti, as “Authority responsible for the Intelligence Services”, from 2013 to the end of Renzi’s Government.

 In this regard, we should also recall Ambassador Giampiero Massolo, who was the first supporter of the Italian intelligence services’ roadshow in the Italian academic world – now very badly damaged – more to improve the Agencies’ image than to really seek new recruits for the intelligence Services, which have always well selected their people inside and outside the universities, without any need for chattering or showing off.

 Moreover, as we all know, the young people who were recruited by means of the website sicurezzanazionale.gov.it were quickly dismissed from the Agencies and now vegetate in other sectors of the Public Administration.

 It is not a matter of “young” and “old” people or of creating some fashionable opportunities for declining universities, but rather of ensuring that the whole Italian ruling class endeavours for a well-designed and, above all, stable economic warfare.

 As far as I know, for the time being there exists only one specific Master in Economic Intelligence in Italy, organized by the Institute of High Strategic and Political Studies (IASSP) in Milan. I have been told that also Harbulot participated in it.

But once again, this has nothing to do with the decades-long tradition of intelligence and economic ruling class in France, Great Britain and even the United States, not to mention also the small countries that walked out from the Warsaw Pact, with great intelligence and efforts.

 It was Esambert himself, already present in an old but already usual and obvious Davos Conference – a now well-known fashionable meeting of those who believe they are authoritative people but, indeed, are nothing – who told about the exit of the old General Jaruzelsky, the strong man of the Polish counter-coup to avoid the occupation by a weak Warsaw Pact, when the old Polish General, whose right-hand man was a NATO spy, openly said he wanted Western investment in Poland and was also ready to progressively liberalize the zloty, as well as finally accept the Western business rules and Western capital coming to Poland.

 Obviously subject to the control of the old-but-new-regime.

 Here is the real success of an excellent economic warfare – not the many small stories that the globalized rich people usually tell to their useless and always gauchistes children, since it is fashionable.

  Incidentally, it should be recalled that even Adam Smith, the inventor of “political economy” according to the basic rules of the British global interests of his time, was a free trade theorist in the markets where Great Britain had to settle, but supported the strictest protectionism, just when it came to closing the national or colonial British markets to the attack of the cheap goods of European competitors and, later, of the 13 colonies that were to become independent on the East Coast of North America.

 Here, once again, the problem is scarcity, which just today – as always said by Esambert – seems far away, at least from what Mao Zedong called “the world’s metropolises”.

 However, there is instead the natural and induced scarcity. Nowadays we live in induced scarcity, which does not need wars “for raw materials” –  as the German geopolitics of the 1930s theorized – but it is the induced scarcity of modern consumption, which needs technology, expert management and States capable of expanding strategically, as well as modern factories. Here it is the new and inevitable economic warfare.

 Either we win or lose, but always continuously. In contemporary economic warfare, there is no “declaration of peace”. Quite the reverse.

 This is the real core of the issue. If we can no longer build monopolies by managing scarcity – as always happened when modern capitalism was established, according to  Adam Smith – how can we today favour the national companies and the typical products of our region, if there are no longer real trade wars, such as the penetration of the East India Company in the Far East and in China, or the British oil trade closures in the Middle East, to take Kurdish oil in Haifa when Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, turned the British military navigation from coal into oil navigation, or the operations of the Belgian royal family alone in Congo, or the French possessions in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia?

 The choice of Habib Bourghiba – Mussolini’s guest in Rome – to secretly deal with De Gaulle’s France Libre, when he realized that Rommel and his Afrika Korps were in disarray, can be considered a technique of economic and commercial warfare. He sold his Destour covert network, previously operating with the Axis, in exchange for independence, after the victory of the Western liberal democracies which Habib, indeed, did not like so much.

 Lacking a real effective and modern colonial experience, Italy still does not know how to export its productive potential, which is what really counts.

 From Giolitti’s to Mussolini’s time, Italy treated its colonies as simple ways out for the rural overpopulation, especially when the exit routes to the United States or South America were blocked.

 Italy made the only mistake it should not make.

 It even lost the Libyan oil, which was taken back only with the coup of Gaddafi, a creature of Italy’s intelligence Services.

 The Italian politicians currently in power support the idea of going abroad to transfer our potential for economic warfare either as door-to-door sellers of the all too famous Made in Italy – which, indeed, almost sells itself – or in search of external and distant areas where to make our agonizing small and medium-sized enterprises survive as long as possible, so as to squeeze every last drop of the labour cost differential.

 Either fashion, the brand – now in foreign hands – or begging to prolong the agony of some SMEs which are interesting for political, electoral and financial reasons.

 Two attitudes which are deeply wrong – precisely in substance. As Esambert used to say, every country goes to sell abroad certainly not to repeat the plot of the beautiful 1959 movie by Francesco Rosi, The Magliari, set – not by chance – in Germany, but to win and wipe out its competitors.

 This movie could teach much to the Italian politicians currently bleating for German “help”. They should watch it again and think about the behaviour of the two main characters -masterfully interpreted by Renato Salvatori and Alberto Sordi – who are defeated when trying to antagonize their Polish rivals, the previous “magliari”.

 You never go abroad to propose a factory or a business, but you always go – willingly or unwillingly – to propose a way of doing business, a success story, a lifestyle, a product that must therefore be ipso facto protected, supported, advertised – for which imitations must be stopped, on site and elsewhere, and for which it is necessary to create a stable dependence of the target country and a powerful image in the foreign market of reference.

 Nothing to do with the ramshackle, slow, inefficient, impolitic style – all aimed at simply making a deal, at striking a “bargain” – often characterizing our foreign policy, even in countries that Italy should tread very carefully and in which it should proceed with extreme caution.

 Foreign countries must be conquered with trade, exactly as they could be conquered with a real battled war, if this were possible today.

 In fact, every trade treaty is a peace treaty which, however, must clearly show the will of those who have won, i.e. – in Italy’s specific case – the productive system of those who have come from outside.

 Certainly, today even economic wars are no longer made – at least in principle – to support a market that can absorb our surplus.

 Marx’s old criterion of surplus value, which is certainly useful today as a way to analyse the evolution of modern capitalism.

 As Esambert always says, economic wars are made to create room – outside and inside the old national perimeter – for counteracting and fighting against everybody’s adverse actions – both friends and foes – in our productive system.

 Whoever loses faces – without time limits – the disasters of globalization (uncontrolled immigration, pollution, the classic combination of unemployment and inflation), while whoever wins offloads the problems on his global competitors.

  And again there is no time limit.

 When Spain was still under Franco’s regime, the State of Madrid created an instrument of economic warfare just with SEAT, in 1950, thanks to a small contribution of FIAT capital.

 Later in 1985, SEAT became part of the German group Wolkswagen Aktiengesellschaft – created on the basis of an old project by the Führer.

  The huge Catalan factory was inaugurated in Martorell by King Juan Carlos in 1993.

 FIAT left and VW came in powerfully, with no local or European competitors.

 Was it not an economic warfare operation? Of course it was.

 At that time, Italy was numbed with the Clean Hands judiciary probe and no one noticed that Germany was taking over Spain’s basic industries after the end of the Caudillo’s regime.

 This happened also in other parts of the world.

 Starting from the imprisonment and the related suicide of the old ENI President, Cagliari, until the never resolved issues of Gardini’s death, in the connection between the takeover of Montedison and the fanciful creation of Enimont, the whole Clean Hands judicial investigation was, however, an accelerated operation to sell off Italy’s primary industrial system, pending the fall of the Berlin Wall and the truly endogenous crisis of the Italian political system.

 There was, at first, the sale of primary assets, ranging from the motorway company Società Autostrade to the food holding  SME – of which I had a first-hand experience – and later the redesign of the system of bribes from companies to the political system, which began with ENI’s disruption following Cagliari’s imprisonment, until the creation of a new network of funding to a “new” political system, where all parties were renamed – according to a potentially two-party system – “progressive” and “conservative” or even “liberal”.

Was it not an economic warfare operation? Of course it was. Many large and small companies became attractive to large foreign investors that were favoured, while the Italian State-owned and private companies faded away, struck by the new moralists’ blows.

 What happened, at that time, in Mitterrand’s France or in the Great Britain led by Margaret Thatcher who, however, was ousted from Downing Street by a clique of Tories, involved in a large helicopter business affair?

 We can also recall Liu Tenan, the Chinese Head of the “Development Commission”, expelled from the CPC; Rouhani himself in Iran that saw the 1979 Revolution in danger because of corruption, or Ana Mato, the Health Minister who resigned because of the scandal that in 2014 sullied the reputation of the entire Partido Pupular in Spain –  not to mention the fact at least 2.3% of the world GDP fuels global corruption.

 Can we believe that all this came only from what had happened in Italy?

 Once again the usual moralistic parochialism sets in, a short-lived legacy of the snobbery of Italy’s old Action Party, whose liberal Socialism – taunted by Croce – led Italy to be a pale imitation of Great Britain, the eternal myth of all poor politicians and managers wearing grisaille suits.

 Hence the final formula: the mix of legal and non-legal, advertising, political, military, strategic and monetary protection and support for the local ruling classes, as well as the fair and rational relations with the target country, are called exactly “economic warfare”.

 There is no other way to make foreign policy and establish international relations, even non-economic ones. There is only and always economic warfare.

 Hence, after this explicit and direct phase of the inevitable economic clash for survival between nations, there is the phase in which “companies are used as armies and management and business schools are used as schools for officers”, and entrepreneurs and business leaders are seen as new generals. In fact Akira Kurosawa, the director of the movie Seven Samurai and a descendant from a Samurai family, wanted – in a later movie of 1980, Kagemusha (Shadow Warrior) – to describe Japanese business leaders as new Samurai.

 Every economic action is a “covert” act of war. Every act of war can also be turned into an economic action, which instead of being a cost – unsustainable in the long run – is a real bargain or can even become so.

 Economic warfare shifts the cost of operations onto the victim.

 Attractiveness and competitiveness are now complementary, while Italy is the 7th world exporter of goods, but it only ranks 18th in terms of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the territory.

 The current FDI is an instrument of external hegemony, not a system of national power or of projection of our economic and non-economic power onto the countries that receive our goods or that – in any case – should consume them, instead of our competitors’ products.

 The economic warfare also stems from the fact that all the great Western countries produce more or less the same goods.

 Nevertheless, in Italy 43% of the companies currently listed on the Stock Exchange are owned by foreign businesses. Obviously, there is no direct correlation between the quality of management of the various industries and their ownership. However, do you believe that if a French bank manager has to organize a strategy for his own company, he will pay heed to the large multifarious group of his small investors – as currently happens in Italy – or will he rather consider the ideas coming from some State think tanks in Paris, or possibly from one of his Ministers, or even from a colleague in Lyon or Grenoble?

 According to the 2018 data, in Italy the foreign investors’ shareholdings of listed companies currently amount to 196.4 billion euro, i.e. 43% of the total.

 The shareholdings of listed joint stock companies owned by Italian businesses are worth 25.8%, with the State holding 2.7% of the total portfolio. Hence it is certainly not difficult to imagine that, in this framework of international economic equilibria, Italy would have an extreme need for a policy of economic warfare.

 This also applies to cultural or humanitarian operations.

  Goodness knows what the organization Mèdecins sans Frontières was for France, or the management of the U.S. or Canadian grain overproduction was for the U.S. power projection policy in third countries or in those suffering humanitarian crises.

 Whoever eats your wheat becomes your friend, whoever is saved by your doctors will never make war on you but, above all, will gladly buy your products, when the crisis is over and France or the United States will present local governments with the bill for its humanitarian operations.  

 Moreover, in 2011 the Italian multinationals were as many as 6,500 Italian, while currently they are decidedly fewer and often smaller.

 Not to mention Italy’s cultural and hegemonic penetration – virtually nothing, apart from a few old-style and ramshackle elite operations for socialites.

 We need more than beautiful girls, superstar chefs or art exhibitions. It takes guts to penetrate and hegemonize a distant market. It is an operation in which companies and the intelligence Services shall participate simultaneously, and shall be ever less tied to the cliques of revolving-door government and also less parochial in their actions. Even humanitarian organizations, some universities – less familist than usual – as well as the fashion world, newspapers, TV networks, cinema and all the many other instruments of attraction and seduction shall take part in this operation.

 An operation which, however, must be stable and well-designed, otherwise we risk repeating what happened when an Italian President of the Republic, while visiting the Chinese Great Wall, learnt that the German Prime Minister was coming for a flying visit to Beijing so as to sign an agreement between the German and Chinese large car manufacturers.

 A dinner, some greetings and a quick return to Berlin.

 Unless the full criterion of the “economic warfare” is followed –  as must be done according to Bernard Esambert’s guidelines – Italy will always be relegated to the sidelines of the great global economic development and it will not reap the fruits but only the damage of globalization – as is already currently happening.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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A post-COVID recovery presents significant challenges for the French economy

Kareem Salem

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As France tentatively eases its lockdown measures, the French government is faced with dealing with an unprecedented economic crisis.

The curb in economic activity during the coronavirus pandemic has considerably strained the second biggest economy of the eurozone. During the first economic quarter, the French economy plunged by 5.8% – which factored only one month of confinement where 67 million people were ordered to stay at home.

The resultant health security measures required the French government to act swiftly to prevent redundancies, by launching a partial unemployment scheme ‘chômage partiel’, under which fixed-term workers received partial unemployment benefits from the French government. Public aid was also granted to small businesses to prevent them from going bankrupt during this uncertain period.

Whilst these measures have prevented significant job losses during the confinement, the easing of restrictions now requires the French government to stimulate the economy. Economic activity figures are expected to continue to decline in the second quarter and real GDP is expected to drop by 8% overall this year.

Since the relaxation of the lockdown measures, only non-essential enterprises that can guarantee social distancing practices have been allowed to resume their business activities. The tourism sector, which accounts for8% of national wealth and 2 million jobs, has received 18 billion euros in rescue funds in response to the remaining closure of hotels, restaurants and cafes.

Yet, there are also other strategic sectors that urgently require government support. These sectors include entities operating in the automotive, aerospace and retail sectors. Well-Known French car manufacturers such as the Peugeot group and Renault, have seen their business operations severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic since the lockdown of Wuhan, where their assembly plants are located. Subsequent health restriction measures taken by the French government have also led to a significant 84% decline in their operating sales results due to the closure of car dealerships during this period. 

The standstill of the airline industry has inevitably affected the financial stability of aircraft manufacturers and their supply chains in France. Falling sales have led Airbus to reduce the production capacity of its Toulouse manufacturing plant by and is expected to increase further by June, which will inexorably affect the financial stability of their suppliers. The halt in air traffic is expected to result in the loss of 26000 jobs for Airbus and 85000 for its subcontractors in the Occitanie region.

In the retail sector, entities that were in difficulty before the health restriction measures, also saw their financial situation considerably impeded. Between March and May, the retailer La Halle incurred a loss of 106 million euros in sales. Other prominent retailers, notably NAF NAF, which employs 1170 people and owns 160 stores, has been placed under judicial rehabilitation proceedings – redressement judiciaire.

The precarious predicament of certain sectors requires the French government to intervene to prevent greater financial strain mounting in key strategic sectors. The Minister of Economy and Finance has specified his intention to establish a recovery support package for the automotive and aerospace sector in the coming weeks.

The challenge for Bercy is straightforward – ensure that the recovery package meets the needs of both sectors. This is important considering that the automotive sector accounts for 36%of government revenue while the aerospace sector accounts for 12% of French exports of goods. This inevitably requires Bercy to ensure that stimulus packages for both sectors cover employee job security and the freezing of production taxes for aircraft and car manufacturers in order to alleviate their financial strain. This is particularly important for manufacturers in the aerospace sector, which will continue to be affected by the slow and progressive return of air travel.

The post-pandemic period also requires automobile manufacturers and retail sector entities to restructure their business strategy to regain the competitiveness lost during the confinement. The loss in business activity from the lockdown necessitates entities in these sectors most in difficulty, to extend their working hours and limit the number of vacation days in order to produce new wealth, which will enable them to mitigate the economic losses incurred during the confinement. The production of greater wealth will enable the French State to increase its tax base and thus revenues and repay more rapidly the debt accumulated during the pandemic.

As France tentatively moves out of confinement, it is also important for Bercy to encourage consumers to support French manufacturing entities. It is apparent during the eight weeks of confinement, households saved tens of billions of euros. In this perspective, positive deconfinement results coupled with the ease in lockdown measures will gradually rehabilitate consumer confidence. Providing economic incentives for low-income earners is also necessary to encourage them to purchase a new car, which will help boost the sales growth of car manufacturers.

Recovery also requires the collective support of EU member states. Paris and Berlin are seeking to push forward a 500 billion eurosrecovery fund, in which the European Commission will borrow on the financial markets in order to disperse the recovery funds through grants to European economies hit hardest by the pandemic.Its repayment would be the financial responsibility of the entire block.

Yet the naysayer countries Austria, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, have instantly rejected the idea of greater fiscal integration. The four’s main concernis the plan of Paris and Berlin to propose grants instead of loans. The challenge for Macron and Merkel is to convey to their European partners that this mechanism is important for Europe to recover less painfully from the pandemic and to shield off anti-European and populist sentiment, especially in the block’s southern countries.

For Bercy, the European solidarity fund will provide much-needed respite for French public finances, which have been significantly strained by the chômage partiel provision, which amountsto26 billion euros.

All in all, while the COVID-19 pandemic poses major challenges for the French economy, support of the French government and European collective action, combined with an overhaul of corporate strategy, will enable Europe’s second largest economy to recover from the crisis more rapidly.

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Stimulating the economy sustainably after coronavirus

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Authors: Yao Zhe and Wu Yixiu*

As the Covid-19 outbreak stabilises in China, the central government is starting to talk about protecting the economy as well as mitigating the virus.

On 3 February, the politburo standing committee called for China to “tackle the epidemic with one hand, and develop the economy with the other”, and continue working “to realise the year’s economic and social goals”. It reiterated this approach on 12 February.

This year marks the end of the 13th Five Year Plan, which includes the goal of creating a “moderately prosperous society”. Over the plan period (2016-20), national GDP and average incomes were meant to double compared to 2010. For that to happen, GDP would need to grow around 6% this year. There is no doubt the government will produce a stimulus package to help. But a programme focused on infrastructure such as railways and roads will hamper the country’s transition to a sustainable economy.

Heavy industry on the mend

Covid-19 led to the extension of the Chinese New Year holidays to almost a month, which affected all parts of the economy. For heavy industry, the biggest uncertainty was demand. Downstream manufacturers and property developers have been slow to get back to work and the economy in general is sluggish. With demand not yet recovered, output of the raw materials produced by heavy industry, such as steel and aluminium, has fallen, though not precipitously. Steel mill utilisation rates remain at a normal level of about 70%, with no major reduction in output. First quarter steel output is expected to be down about 3%.

The return to work has picked up since 10 February. Coal consumption at six major power plants has increased slowly but steadily, indicating industry is getting back on track. Work on key infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges resumed on 15 February, with considerable fanfare. Experts answering questions online for the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said that despite widespread stoppages in construction, services and labour-intensive manufacturing, the heavy industries that supply these sectors continued to operate through the Chinese New Year and beyond. It’s not economical, for example, to stop furnaces in a steel factory for a week or two, so these continued to burn while producing less steel.

The analyst Lauri Myllyvirta pointed out that China has excess heavy industrial capacity and the sector will be able to ramp up to meet any increased demand, with industrial output and power consumption soon recovering. Experts have said the epidemic will mean a significant but short-term drop in energy consumption by heavy industry in the first quarter of the year, until the epidemic is brought under control.

Signs of an infrastructure-focused stimulus

Covid-19 is a new challenge for a Chinese economy already facing a slowdown. The government’s usual response to economic pressure is to use public spending to promote investment, particularly in infrastructure, and there are signs this will again be the case.

Tens of trillions of yuan of investment is planned in major projects across China this year, according to figures in the Economic Information Daily. The latest figures indicate that among the batch of special-purpose bonds (SPBs) issued by local governments earlier in the year, about 67% are to the infrastructure sector. SPBs are designed to help local governments inject funds into specific projects, such as irrigation and toll roads, to help boost their economies. Since January, local governments have issued about 950 billion yuan (US$136 billion) of SPBs, accounting for about 73.6% of the front-loaded SPB quota for this year.

Transport and energy infrastructure – including gas pipelines, oil refineries and nuclear power plants – are well represented in the project lists that some provinces have published. For example, Jiangsu province plans to invest 220 billion yuan (US$30 billion) in infrastructure out of the 540 billion yuan that is going into 240 major projects. Of the 233 major projects listed by Shandong province, 25 are road or rail construction and 16 are building projects. Meanwhile, Yunnan province announced an infrastructure construction plan at a recent press conference on Covid-19, including 100 billion yuan for high-speed rail.

Economic analysts expect to see infrastructure investment in China climb by as much as 8% to 9% this year.

Lauri Myllyvirta has calculated that the extended holiday cut China’s carbon emissions in the first two weeks of the lunar new year by a quarter year-on-year. These climate savings may be offset by a government stimulus package favouring infrastructure projects. According to Zhang Shuwei, director of the Draworld Environment Research Center: “If the government eases monetary policy and boosts infrastructure construction, we may see a nationwide increase in the energy intensity of the economy. It’s likely that energy consumption will not be affected, or will even jump quite a bit.”

If an economic stimulus is unavoidable, it should at least be targeted and not run contrary to China’s efforts to improve the structure of the economy. The service sector, which has been rocked by Covid-19, accounts for 54% of China’s GDP and provides huge numbers of jobs. Support tailored to it will be crucial for rebuilding resilience and confidence, and is in line with China’s economic transition.

Sustainable stimulus?

Chinese economists often debate how best to direct public finances in order to stimulate the economy. The coronavirus has brought something new to that discussion, by highlighting that public services like hospitals and schools suffer from a lack of resources and capacity to respond to emergencies.

Former mayor of Chongqing, Huang Qifan, wrote that government spending has long favoured transportation and construction, while overlooking public facilities and services. Huang believes spending on the latter would be a more effective way to boost GDP while also meeting public needs. He thinks government spending should incentivise consumption of public goods and services “to promote sustainable and high-quality economic growth.”

Heilongjiang and Jiangsu provinces are adding public health and other “catch-up” projects to their list of major projects, with funding support for those chosen. Nationally, the decision on whether to make improving the public health and emergency response systems a key target for government investment will be a test for policymakers.

Covid-19 is believed to have spread to humans via wild animal consumption. The public is now more aware of the importance to health of living in better harmony with the natural world. What is less recognised is that as well as bringing us disease, the overexploitation of nature also brings systemic risks that could cause disastrous “black swan” events. Four of the five major risks listed in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report are environmental: climate change, biodiversity loss, extreme weather and the water crisis. As these risks interact rather than stand alone, they could cause a chain reaction.

If we are to increase our resilience, we need to fully understand these risks and ensure the facilities and mechanisms to respond are in place to prevent incidents escalating catastrophically. Environmental risks, like public health risks, need major investment to guard against. There are two aspects to this investment: one is spending on restoring our damaged environment and minimising further damage; the second is investment in environmentally-friendly technologies and industries that can change our mode of economic growth – to increase the “compatibility” of our society and economy with the environment.

How will we restore the economy once the epidemic has passed? If we direct government spending to high-carbon infrastructure construction and heavy industry, as usual, we will place ourselves at huge climate risk. This kind of investment is clearly not sustainable.

According to Zhang Shuwei: “The key is what we see when we look back at the lessons of the epidemic. Will we focus solely on the joy of victory, or acquire an awe at how nature, society and ourselves rely on each other? Our answer will lead us down different paths.”

From our partner chinadialogue

*Wu Yixiu is team leader of chinadialogue’s Strategic Climate Communication Initiatives. Before joining the team she was campaign manager with Greenpeace East Asia responsible for international policies. She also worked as a reporter at the English Service of China Radio International. Yixiu holds a B.A. in History in Fudan University and a master’s degree in Journalism from University of Westminster, London.

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Pandemic Recovery Shape: WWW

Naseem Javed

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Evelyn Dunbar painting 1947

Like a World-Wide-War, the pandemic recovery appears WWW shaped amidst fog of misinformation. It’s a global war of sorts showcased on global stage; nation by nation, multi-layered battlefields, tackling healthcare, economy, upskilling, and social justice with complex or comical dialogues, shielded with expert narratives or proclamations of stupidity avoiding bullets of facts and sciences.  

Casualty counts on battlefields rise with bodies littered across the world, sufferers gasping for the last oxygen and masked combat warriors on frontlines in out of control interactions but all yelling for truth. The highs and lows of competency levels publicly acrobated each day, hastily sensationalized by media, super-glazed by political punditry has created new lower standards of deployments. Equally, it has successfully fertilized the global mindshare to ask serious questions while novelty dances of national leaderships and political behavior picks up new rhythms to fix the old broken systems.  The masses of the new world now want large scale change. American elections ready for battle.

There never ever was a call for all G7 or G100 meeting on Day One of the pandemic, the greatest opportunities to step up on global platform missed. The narcissism prevented such humanistic dialogue; exceptionalism is only worthy when measured to serve humanity, otherwise just self-destructionist.

This unforgiving mistake for not having frank, globally open, scientifically intelligent dialogue, streamed live 24×7 global-access on digital-stage to acquaint global masses is a historic failure. Nation by nation, the politics and science mixture shakedown did not create some fine Angostura cocktails rather it turned into a Molotov. The restless citizenry of the world is hoping for truthful solutions. The irony of this pandemic will not be forgotten but immortalized in heavily casted monumental war memorial remembering  the crisis, the fighters and the lost ones; the wise and not so wise of the battle.

Nevertheless, few leadership teams are handling superbly while majority in visible chaos.

The only reward left amongst the casualty of war, if the global populace of billions can claim of at least acquiring some new wisdom while quarantined, earned as a weapon against tyranny, social justice and fairness to enable some balance on the economical charades and some truth to achieve some equality. In this case, cost of human sufferings may become bearable, otherwise, just a cruel reality wrapped in fakery.

The world must open global all-nation dialogue to tackle complex borderless mankind suffering issues; deep silence only becoming living proofs of incompetency and lack of precise knowledge to articulate on such issues.

The world must set new leadership standards on global crisis management as new challenges;

The omnipresence of the pandemic; whensocial front strikes like a hidden kiss of death; the response demands strict quarantines, the impact resulting in bankrupt economies. The damaged economies stretched, stronger ones counting days, any national shut down over 30 day is like creating a year of depression for that nation. A year-long closing, opening, closing and reopening is unimaginable wave to break down civil and economic structure. It’s a world-wide-war but not yet open for a “global stage daily briefing by global experts” the mankind suffers.

The omnipotence of the fear; when risk of exposure lingers for months and years, creating recovery shaped like WWW demands new thinking and open debates. The economic policies, business protocols, and global trade all in YOYO Economy will go up and down with every major shift and shock reactions unbalancing the progress. The fear if filled with new high quality open debates and discussions designed as constructive upskilling platforms shifts into hope and options and eliminating seek and destroy mentality.

The omnicompetent entrepreneurialism; historically, across the world, entrepreneurs created the origin of economic landscapes; they will do it again, as natural risk takers on earth shattering, mind-bending and life-altering creations for the advancements of mankind.  A quick study of the last 1000 entrepreneurs on global stage will provide the proof and blueprints. How do you uplift national citizenry and upskilling hidden talents, the dead silence from national gatekeepers will eventually turn into higher notes. The national trade groups like Chambers, Associations and government departments with vested interest in local economic development must rise all together with digital platform mobilization.

The post pandemic world will positively overflow with billion new entrepreneurs on march from Asia and all the other global entrepreneurialism suddenly bounce on advanced digital platforms, in an office-less, work-less, retail-less, remote-working, remote-learning, remote-shopping and remote living world; creating brand new solutions.

The omnidirectional thinking; the old-business-world is dying for mostly failing to create local grassroots prosperity; they may finally reemerge with new bloodstreams based on global interconnectivity of global trade and consumption with maximum technology and free platforms. The damage caused over decades already visible for ignoring entrepreneurialism as national hidden assets in local SME and ignoring women entrepreneurs as top quality untapped resource, now the day of lip service are almost over. The workers of the world, the thinkers and alpha dreamers, will go remote and carve out global access and digital paths to thousands of cities for their goods and services and create a far more fluid and rewarding culture of trade and commerce. Futurism is workless but NOT trade-less, study deeply

The critical need for new agents of change; covidism mastery is a new art and science, living the new normal as abnormal new learning, the entrepreneurial business world desperately needs ‘agents of change’ the masters of covidism, the new critical thinkers, the dreamers, complex problem solvers and fighter of better quality work models and economical survival strategies. Something mostly unavailable in universities degrees and critically lacking in the corner-offices of the world, but hidden as unknown talent in the working citizenry of any nation. National mobilization to harness such powers of young and old men and women entrepreneurs, nation by nation will rebuild and foster progress.

Study very deeply; plan next 1000 days very meticulously, as you too may have to answer about your own future, very soon 

Rest is easy

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