On December 31, 2019 the Chinese office of the World Health Organization officially informed of the existence of some cases of pneumonia of unknown aetiology in Wuhan, Hebei.
Subsequently, the Chinese authorities identified a new coronavirus for these pneumonias of unknown aetiology, which was isolated on January 7, 2020.
On January 30, the WHO declared a global public health emergency. In fact, on February 16, as many as 51,857 cases of coronavirus were confirmed in China and 25 countries were already affected by the virus at the time.
In those days, there were 1,666 deaths in China and only 3 outside the country.
At the beginning of the pandemic, marked by the WHO statement, the UN agency experts in China and in the rest of the world officially declared that neither the direction, nor the duration, purpose and extent of the pandemic itself could be predicted at that juncture.
What is certain is that almost all recent pandemics originated in China: suffice to recall SARS in 2002-2003, MERS-Cov (in 2012 and still weakly spread), as well as A/H1N1 between 2009 and 2010 and finally Ebola from 2013 to 2016.
Also in the case of SARS, harsh criticism was levelled at the Chinese government, because the first case was recorded on November 16, 2002, and the WHO was informed only on February 14, 2003.
It was precisely SARS that triggered a radical change of the Chinese ruling classes, not only in the health sector.
What is certain is that currently the economic extent and the interaction between China and the other developed economies is much greater than we could study at the time of SARS.
As is well known, currently China is the second largest economy and the second largest importer of goods in the world, with a total of 1,674 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019. It accounts for 13.7% of global exports.
The restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic mainly concerned the province of Hebei, while 26 of the 31 Chinese regions announced a prolonged lockdown for non-essential industries.
Covid-19 will mainly show its impact in the economic data for the first quarter of 2020, but also the second quarter may be clearly affected if the coronavirus lasts until May 2020, as was the case also with SARS.
Certainly China’s GDP of the first quarter of 2020 has fallen by 6.8%, which is a significant percentage.
The fall in economic activities has therefore been severe and substantial. It affects one of the primary assets of the Chinese regime: the citizens of the Celestial Empire are ensured ongoing and stable GDP and previously unimaginable consumption levels and standard of living, but they must recognize the political system and its hierarchy. They cannot call them into question. That is not up for debate.
However, how will the Chinese economy react to Covid-19, based on what we can currently perceive?
A first effect has been the very net increase in digitalization.
Another effect, which will be recorded ever more also in Western economies, will be the decrease in external projection and hence the increase in the economic and political importance of internal markets, finance and technology.
Moreover, China has never completely abandoned its internal markets to their fate, unlike what many increasingly passive export-led Western economies have done.
Nevertheless, the “re-nationalisation” process of the economy will be clearly visible both in China and in the Western countries, such as Italy, which have blocked their domestic markets to embark on the export adventure all the way. This will happen if there is a ruling class in Italy, which can by no means be taken for granted.
Competitive intensity, which is the pressure of competition between industries in the same sector, will also increase in China.
Consumption will also change, both in China and in the rest of the world, and will be more focused on health and quality and less connected to “image” and glamour. In the near future the successful industries will be ever more no frills, essential-oriented and sensitive to their impact on health.
Probably, it will also saturate needs that nowadays we would still call “post-modern”.
The importance of the private and of the non-profit sectors, however, will increase also in China.
As said above, in China and in the rest of the world the pandemic has strongly accelerated digitalization in the B2C segment (business to consumer), but also in physical transactions (ever less frequent, given the pandemic) and in the B2B segment (business to business).
In China 55% of consumers will keep on buying food and everyday goods online even after the pandemic has ended, but China had already begun to reduce its exposure to world economies long before the outbreak of Covid-19.
Hence reallocation of parts of the supply chain to other economic and political areas and return to the Chinese territory or to the neighbouring countries by many of the sectors which, in the first phase of Chinese globalization, had been projected abroad. This is therefore the end of a project that, until the Covid-19 pandemic, was typical of Chinese politics.
The use of globalization as passive Revolution, just to put it in Antonio Gramsci’s words.
This means China’s imitation of the Western globalization-Americanization models so as to redevelop them with hegemonic aims.
Hence, according to the latest projects developed by their think tanks, it is a real decoupling for China and also for the European Union, i.e. the beginning of a great phase of industrial diversification and new global specialization among productive areas and among nations.
With an “industrial sequence”, however, which is much shorter than the very long “value chains” that have so far characterized the American-led globalization and the structure of world trade.
With specific reference to industrial diversification, it should be noted that in China the highest decile of companies currently captures over 90% of profits, while the average is 70% in the rest of the world.
This maximum verticalization in China is matched by a particular relationship- although less obvious than we can imagine – between the economy and political direction and leadership.
This system will certainly change and many new companies will enter the top ten list of profits, with an internal transformation of the productive systems, many of which are already mature, as well as the entry of new activities in the top companies, such as digital systems, work-replacing technologies, large distribution, entertainment.
Just as the great U.S. crisis in the 1930s – which was overcome only by means of the war spending of World War II – created the great mass and already globalized cinema, currently the pandemic crisis will create a new big market for specialized TV, streaming movies and the Internet.
Furthermore, as shown in a very recent analysis by McKinsey in China, 70% of consumers will look ever more for healthy food, as well as eco-friendly and high-quality products for personal care. Another historic paradigm shift in consumption.
Moreover, at the time of the SARS epidemic, it was China and its state-owned companies that started again economic expansion quickly and with large investment, while nowadays the Chinese private sector is worth 90% of new jobs and two thirds of economic growth.
Hence currently the relationship between politics and economy is changing in China and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is stepping up the privatization of the Chinese economy and the new relationship between the political Centre and the economic decision-making process.
On the political and, above all, strategic levels, the quick containment of the coronavirus pandemic in China, even after the initial difficulties, doubts and slow paces, has triggered – also in the West – a new debate on possibly simplistic, but clear political concepts such as authoritarianism, populism and liberalism, albeit in the classic criteria of these political traditions in the West.
There is a new fact, however, in global politics, i.e. a new correlation between different geopolitical models and geopolitical competition.
The Chinese model emerges as the leading reference point in the vastarea we could call “anti-liberal” or “anti-liberalist”, with China promoting its specific “victory against the virus” to defend and, for the first time, propagandize its specific political system.
No longer the imitation, possibly with “Chinese criteria and characteristics”, of North American and European globalization, but the claiming of a centralist, authoritarian, nationalist and Confucian criterion for the victory against Covid-19.
Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic shows that nowadays, irrespective of our ideology of reference, borders are much vaguer and more porous than we imagined.
Hence we are dealing with a new cold war, albeit with unimaginable limits, while the struggle between political and economic systems becomes a “war of the worlds”, just to borrow from the title of an old science-fiction masterpiece.
Moreover, think what you like, in the United States there is an evident deficit of political leadership, with a U.S. President – the last true modern sovereign – who is wildly unpopular even with his deep state and with a good part of his own ruling classes.
From this viewpoint, China’s ideological and cultural war attack on the United States is technically correct and rational, especially if we look at the clash on duties and tariffs.
The E.U. is undergoing a deep and possibly definitive crisis and certainly nobody outside Europe thinks of the E.U. model as an example.
Moreover, considering South Korea, Japan, China, Singapore and Taiwan, Asia has shown it has tackled the pandemic better than many Western countries.
Hence China wants to maintain, first of all, the shift to Asia, but with a different production formula that the coronavirus pandemic will bring out: more privatizations, different products from those of the old globalization and often better ones, a different distribution network and less productive verticalization.
Hence what will be the future scenarios, in the phase of control and stabilization of Covid-19?
a) The first assumption is the return to the past, i.e. the classic clash between the United States and China to limit each other, while the above described processes are going on with their long time schedules. In the West as in the East, the share of public spending on health will increase and the structure of health protection will change in “liberal and liberalist” countries which, like the United States, spend even more than Italy on healthcare. The hospital system will change also in China and the same holds true particularly for the health early warning system, which has been the real weakness of all the Western and Eastern healthcare networks.
b) We can also imagine maintaining stable Chinese growth under new conditions. The success resulting from the quick containment of the contagion could catalyze a new vast group of sympathizers and supporters vis-à-vis China. There is also the election year in the United States, which would probably witness the shift from President Trump, who has clearly organized his campaign focusing on “China’s faults”, to a more moderate Joe Biden.
c) If this happens, the United Sates will once again have a network of international institutions from which to exercise its hegemony, while maintaining a clear contrast with China in terms of hard power and trade relations.
c) The E.U. could even be part of the game if it succeeds in convincing the United States to distribute the strategic effort more widely than currently, but I do not believe that, apart from a few isolated European leaders, the E.U. can go that far. The E.U. strategic thinking is minimised. The (bad) accountants have won.
Certainly the fight against coronavirus will at first reduce the U.S. military potential in the Pacific and, pending the economic therapy against the Covid-19 crisis, the E.U. will have its economic and strategic survival test. The Maghreb region is now floundering in a definitive crisis and I fear that the pandemic has destabilised the whole region. It is currently hard to predict what the E.U. blind kitten will be able to do in the tense, migration, economic, military and oil situation prevailing in the Maghreb region. But it will always be too little, that is for sure.
Even the major OPEC countries are undergoing a very critical phase, while Russia is carefully controlling its pandemic, which is probably greater than we know. Closure of the oil channels for the E.U., pending the fall in oil barrel prices? Europe would not survive.
Hence the coronavirus is a very quick game changer for the whole world.
Whoever will have greater information and psywar projection power than the others will create a “storytelling” that will be focused both on laying the blame and shame upon the enemy of the moment and on the relative success recorded in the fight against coronavirus precisely by the country that develops the “storytelling”.
Currently, we do not know that the E.U. and, in some ways, the United States have created a narrative suitable for this new viral psywar.
What we can see on the American side is the adaptation of old models previously implemented with Japan, in the early 1990s, or in the propaganda against the “rogue” States in the Middle East or Latin America. The pattern has always been the same: a) you are anti-democratic; b) you have committed a series of offences and crimes, in the private law sense of the term; c) you are a “liar”. The U.S. psywar is subjectivist.
Today President Trump talks about “Chinese virus” and has organized actions against China in international legal fora, but this does not seem to be fully effective at the moment.
In the psywar of “storytelling”, the winner is whoever tells the most fascinating and credible story, which does not mean it is true at all, while whoever files lawsuits, is too aggressive or formally accuses a hypothetical or real enemy, never wins.
Moreover, the issue of Wuhan’s laboratory is more complex than we might think.
Barack Obama had placed a four-year moratorium on the results of the tests in Wuhan, while for years both the United States and France funded the Hebei laboratory, specialized in research on animal viruses, possibly the research that their laboratories could not or did not want to carry out.
In fact, in 2004 France began to build a top security laboratory in Wuhan for research on animal viruses.
The laboratory was inaugurated in 2017, but China kept out the 50 French researchers who had to have access to it anyway.
The Americans took over immediately. It was precisely Anthony Fauci, the Head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), who replaced France in funding – with 3.7 million U.S. dollars – a fully Chinese project on viruses.
In previous years, 7.4 million U.S. dollars had been provided to Wuhan.
These are the facts, as far as we can establish them. But certainly the safety and security issue was primary even for China, after the outbreak of the pandemic.
Pending the ongoing clash between China and the United States, the first geopolitical and strategic scenario developed by the former is that of a limited war between the two superpowers in the South China Sea.
The is also inland China that has long been sending no reassuring signs. There are signs of social destabilization, which do not result into riots, but are well analysed by the Communist Party of China.
Currently China is endeavouring to restore “social peace”, also with ad hoc government structures.
In the minds of the Chinese decision-makers, nothing prevents opposing countries from operating in this context, also with distant operational means and support.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic, President Xi Jinping has spoken of a “people’s war” against the virus.
For the time being, the paradigm of Chinese propaganda is that of efficiency: we do not know where the virus originated, but we were certainly quick to contain the pandemic.
Initially China also left some psywar controls open, because it was believed that, immediately after the pandemic started, people needed some outlets and relief valves.
Nevertheless, the image of efficiency of the Chinese regime was certainly successfully managed abroad, but had some flaws and shortcomings at domestic level.
These flaws and shortcoming come from afar: at the beginning of globalization, the Chinese regime offered Western employers low wages, low unionisation, low levels of environmental protection and a friendly relationship with the regime leaders.
Now that mechanism has inevitably broken down.
The delay in curbing the pandemic did not prevent it from being finally effective, but now the inevitable economic crisis is biting, despite China’s rapidity in responding to it.
The “social credit”, which is the synthesis of every individual’s city and social life, is now in crisis.
Created in 2014, it is a traditional or advanced surveillance system that leads citizens to adopt a better and more “social” behaviour.
For example, the system monitors and punishes citizens’ membership in associations not approved by the Government, delayed debt payment, excessive dependence on video games, poor cleanliness or even lack of kindness towards other citizens.
Obviously, low scoring prevents those who record it from enjoying a whole series of advantages, permits and opportunities.
Incidentally the system had to be definitively perfected in 2020 and also affect companies.
Nevertheless, the U.S. psywar against China, with specific reference to coronavirus, concerns these basic assumption: a) China always has something to hide, which is certainly very severe, although we do not yet know it completely; b) we (the USA) throw many and varied accusations, but China responds only to those that it is interested in refuting everyone has something against China, hence it will necessarily have done something.
China responds with a series of psywar counter-arguments: a) a whole “story” is immediately created which, being complete, tends to ridicule the U.S. attempts. The whole story always insists on rhapsodic allusions. Furthermore, b) the demonstration that also others are upset with China and therefore our (U.S.) accusations against China are founded. But it also demonstrates that there is a conspiracy against China.
A trivial and sometimes rough war of OSINT information.
Then, multiple messages and subliminal messages from both countries.
No Prospects for Denuclearization of North Korea
Analytical pieces—typically prepared by self-professed experts—abound as to whether denuclearization of North Korea could be possible or what its parameters would be. Such ruminations became particularly popular by the end of Donald Trump’s presidency when the negotiations eventually found themselves in deadlock. However, I would rather call it a “freeze,” and while this may not be the best solution to the problem, it is certainly not the worst either.
The crisis over North Korea’s nuclear missile program has been going on for some 15 years, and I would argue that the reason why no practical solution has been found lies in poor positioning. As I have repeatedly noted  North Korea’s nuclear missile program is not the root of the problem that disrupts the traditional world order; rather, it is a consequence of problems that are more global in their dimensions, reflecting the transition from the wonted world order to a new one.
There are a few signs to this new world order. First, some nations abuse the right to decide which state is a democracy and which is not, with the contrived singling out of “rogue states” to be countered through any methods, including those that seem ethically unacceptable. Broken promises are no longer perfidy but military stratagems. When it comes to North Korea, one might recall the Agreed Framework story or how President Kim Young-sam and his administration spared no effort to destabilize the situation in North Korea at a time when it suffered from what has been called the Arduous March. Seoul advocated providing no aid to the starving country, one South Korean official admits while privately talking to the author, in the hope that the famine would spur mass riots and subsequent “reunification.”
The second sign indicative of the new world suggests that international law and major arbitration institutions have lost their authority. UN Security Council resolutions that forbid North Korea to launch any kind of ballistic missiles is a good case in point. Incidentally, this violates the decisions enshrined in a number of other UN documents that guarantee the universal right to explore outer space for peaceful purposes.
The third sign has to do with the crisis of competence, which affects the quality of decision-making on the part of both politicians and subject-matter experts, blurring the line between the real country and its cartoonish propaganda image. This is well illustrated by the case of North Korea: any foolish news report about the country ultimately finds an audience. While the story of Jang Song-thaek being fed to a pack of dogs was debunked fairly quickly, no less fantastic death penalty stories for listening to K-pop are still popular.
Besides, the might of the law has been replaced with the law of the might. The new generation of politicians no longer fears a major war, rendering military conflict—“humanitarian” bombings of “rogue states” in particular—one of the acceptable means for achieving domestic and foreign policy goals.
Finally, under these circumstances, North Korea cannot use the conventional conflict resolution methods, thus being compelled to look for ways to defend itself on its own, especially since the threat of losing sovereignty is by no means hypothetical. Officially, the Korean war is not over, and South Korea’s Constitution still extends the state’s sovereignty to the entire peninsula, demanding that the president promote the country’s unification. What is more, the National Security Act refers to North Korea as an anti-state organization rather than a country. Even relatively liberal populists, such as Roh Moo-hyun and Moon Jae-in, failed to review this concept.
Relying on its nuclear missile program, North Korea sets itself two goals. The first is to achieve minimal and, eventually, guaranteed nuclear deterrence, which would certainly take a belligerent solution to the North Korean problem off the table. The North Korean leadership has certain reasons to believe that only North Korea’s nuclear weapons saved it from the fate of Iraq or Libya. It is well-known that once in a while the U.S. and its allies plan an offensive war against the North, whose elements are drilled at joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises irrespective of their scale.
The second goal is to achieve international recognition and ditch the “rogue state” yoke. Should North Korea theoretically join the “nuclear club,” this will put it on a par with the leading superpowers. This is the principal reason why—despite the UN Security Council’s internal disagreements—the Permanent Five have so far voted unanimously for yet another sanctions package each time North Korea has taken another significant step in developing its nuclear missile program. The current world order is based on the premise that only the five great powers are allowed to possess nuclear weapons. It also relies on the UN’s authority, which would collapse if it became known that at the end of the day North Korea got the UN to “cave in”—following nearly 30 years of condemnation, resolutions and sanctions.
It is no accident that the very term “denuclearization” is under discussion. American conservatives, such as John Bolton and others who adopt a strictly realistic approach, interpret “denuclearization” as meaning nuclear disarmament of North Korea, which should be stripped of all types of WMD and—to boot—of its nuclear program. This entails eliminating the North Korean threat both globally and regionally. In contrast, North Korea, as well as Russia and China, stress that denuclearization should extend not to North Korea alone but to the whole Korean Peninsula, which requires certain commitments on the part of the U.S. and South Korea, up to and including prohibiting U.S. warships carrying nuclear weapons from docking at South Korean ports.
It has to be noted that those who identify with the allegedly liberal approach to international relations view the North Korean issue as highly ideologically charged. Liberal democracy advocates and WASP conservatives alike perceive North Korea as an authoritarian regime imbued with atheistic collectivism, as an “Evil State.” They see it as the pure opposite of the ideal state—an abstract concept that exists in their minds. That, in turn, stimulates an intractable drive towards confrontation, since not only is the “Evil State” incapable of negotiations, such negotiations are impossible in principle. Any deal with such a regime is an unacceptable concession in terms of values, and value-based confrontations are always more inflexible than those political or economic in nature.
During the 2017 crisis, when I believed the probability of conflict really rose beyond 50%, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un emerged as pragmatic leaders, essentially putting the process “on hold.” The jury is still out on how this related to the Russia-China “double-freeze” plan, while each party would certainly have wanted more. Kim Jong Un would have loved to have the sanctions eased, with Donald Trump expecting further concessions. The pause that was achieved, though, allowed both parties a “small profit.” The U.S. president could say that, first, he prevented war and, second, that the sanctions were effective, with no missiles in the air and the U.S. having granted no unacceptable concessions. Kim Jong Un, on the one hand, got a peaceful breather, which allowed him to focus on the country’s economic development, and, second, his commitments were essentially unofficial and did not restrict the development of the nuclear missile program. This could be exemplified by multiple successful launches of short-range missiles as well as by presentations of new types of ICBMs and SLBMs, even though these were not tested.
Yet, since late 2019, both parties have been aware that “things are not going to get better.” In late 2019, Kim Jong Un said it was no use hoping for an easing of the sanctions, while allowing Donald Trump to “sit out” the final year of his presidency with no unnecessary tensions. As of the writing of this article, his moratorium is still in place, although American and South Korean experts believed that several dates came and went when Kim could have raised the stakes, opting for an escalation. I believe that Pyongyang is waiting for the White House to formulate and announce a new North Korean policy. So far, as Roman Lobov puts it, “the door is shut but not locked”; and Choe Song-hui, who seems to be still in charge of North Korea–U.S. relations, has not been dismissed from office and declares from time to time that the North will use force in response to force and amicability in response to amicability. The 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea emphasized that no change in the White House would change the U.S.’s overall hostility towards North Korea, which is why North Korea will hardly make the first step, choosing to wait for truly serious proposals from the U.S.
This is the situation three months into 2021, exacerbated by several additional aspects. The new U.S. president is the first such aspect. Of course, there is some hope that he will follow the same path as Donald Trump once did: a hardliner early in his tenure shifted to a more constructive approach once collided with reality. So far, however, it appears that the logic of factional strife is compelling Biden to go along “the main thing is not to be like Trump” pattern, and that means steering a course towards escalation. Such an approach will provoke North Korea to retaliate. More importantly, such blinders will keep the Biden Administration from rapidly developing a constructive approach to its interaction with the North. In particular, we can see that human rights issues in North Korea, all too valid for the Democrats, were not broached regularly under Trump while they have come under attention once Biden assumed office.
The U.S.-China confrontation is another aspect, which was pronounced to be value- rather than merely politics-based even under Trump. There has been no change to this approach under the new president. The U.S. attempts to restrict and contain China, with this confrontation being part of Russia and China’s more broad confrontation with what is perceived as the West.
I believe such a rift and its would-be consequences deal no smaller blow to the existing world order than Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. First, this reinforces North Korea’s conviction that the current situation makes the country rely on missile sovereignty. Second, rifts in the Security Council give North Korea a certain boost. It does not, however, mean that the Security Council will no longer remain unanimous should the North decide to raise the stakes sharply. Yet, if we consider the U.S.-China confrontation from the point of view of allies of both states, we will see that China could only rely on the North since it has for a long time stressed the two countries’ socialist nature and their friendship based on ideological values. Besides, North Korean media outlets have been condemning the U.S. for criticizing China’s policies. What this means is that China will keep Pyongyang afloat and contain American pressure to denuclearize Kim’s regime unless it decides that North Korea’s actions are too provocative. The same can be said of Russia, although the North Korean issue is less of a priority for Moscow, especially when compared to the post-Soviet states or the Middle East.
The coronavirus pandemic has also affected the global situation. First, self-isolation instituted throughout the country has generated a new spiral of suppositions revolving around the notion that its economic system is about to collapse and that a new Arduous March will ensue. Second, with diplomats and NGOs having left North Korea, gathering data has become more difficult, which has indirectly contributed to growing alarmist sentiments. Finally, we cannot rule out a situation when the North Korean issue may—for a number of countries—become a way to shift attention away from domestic problems, including those related to failures in fighting the coronavirus. In such a situation, any prospects for denuclearization are extremely vague.
The fourth aspect is the level to which North Korea’s nuclear program has advanced, which makes the monitoring methods used for the states that are at the early stages of their nuclear programs ineffective. Since North Korea is a de facto nuclear power, the set of measures intended to ensure complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization, as Vladimir Khrustalyov notes  will essentially demand that North Korea be essentially stripped of its sovereignty as far as the monitoring and checking powers are concerned, with which international inspectors should be vested.
Consequently, today it might be said that one can only go on talking about denuclearization for the sake of talking. It will take a miracle to move things forward. Option one is some fantastic change in the international environment, which would make North Korea no longer feel threatened and thus less reluctant to abolish its nuclear program. That would mean geotectonic rather than merely geopolitical shifts in the existing international security architecture. Option two, just as fantastic, provides for a North Korean Gorbachev who, for some reason, will make the decision to abolish an important component of North Korea’s political myth and its sovereignty guarantees. Harsher options envision denuclearization as a result of regime change, which is of very little probability as well.
Does this mean there is no way out of this predicament and that missile fireworks will follow sooner or later? No, it does not. The possibility of the “double freeze” is still there, and such a “freeze” could continue almost indefinitely. Another possibility requires more efforts as it entails resetting the agenda—while keeping the term “denuclearization”, new strategies would actually focus on arms control. Instead of destroying North Korean nuclear capabilities, efforts would be channeled into restricting it, operating on the premise that the existing capabilities already serve as minimal deterrence. Many scholars adhere to this stance, both in Russia  and abroad, while fully cognizant of the fact that a change in tack will prompt huge resistance, since this would go against the trend of preserving the global status quo. Any attempt to abolish the demand for full denuclearization of states aspiring to the nuclear club “membership” would amount to a crack in the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
On balance, true denuclearization of North Korea would require a radical change in the geopolitical situation in Northeast Asia: once the threat is gone, countermeasures will no longer be necessary. While there is no possibility of such changes, the Russia-China proposal of a “double freeze” settlement remains the most feasible solution, although far from ideal.
The study has been carried out with financial assistance from the RFBR (project No 20-014-00020).
- Asmolov, K.V. The Nuclear Problem of the Korean Peninsula as a Consequence of the Changes in the Global World Order (in Russian) // Paper presented at the All-Russia Academic Conference with International Participation “International Relations in the 20th-21st Centuries: 4th Chempalov Conference dedicated to the 75th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War and the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II. 17–18 December 2020. Yekaterinburg.
- Zhebin, A.Z. The Korean Peninsula: From Denuclearization to Arms Control (in Russian) // Paper presented at the 25th Conference of Korean Studies Specialists from Russia and the CIS. 25–26 March 2021. Moscow
- Khrustalyov, V.V. (Vladivostok, North-East Asian Military Studies Project) On Fundamental Obstacles in the Way of Rapid, Guaranteed, and Irreversible Denuclearization of North Korea (in Russian) // Paper presented at the 8th International Conference “Russia and Korea in the Changing World Order – 2019.” 17–18 May 2019. Vladivostok.
From our partner RIAC
Kissinger Again Warns US, China Heading for Armageddon-like Clash
Last week, Henry Kissinger again warned US-China tensions are a threat to the entire world and could lead to Armageddon-like clash between the world’s two military and technology giants. Surprisingly, some Chinese are interpreting it as a threat to intimidate China in order to “accept and obey” the US-led world hegemonic order.
In January 2015, the peace group CODEPINK dangled a pair of handcuffs in front of the then 91-year old former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at a Senate hearing. Twelve months later, at the February Democratic Debate Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton were seen engaged in a heated duel attacking and defending the acclaimed diplomat respectively. The late writer Christopher Hitchens in his book The Trial of Henry Kissinger warned editors, TV news channel producers and presidential candidates to stop soliciting Kissinger’s “worthless and dangerous” opinions. The never ending outburst of enmity on the part of CODEPINK, Sanders and Hitchens was due to Kissinger’s role in the brutal killings of thousands of civilians, gang rape of hundreds of female detainees, and alleged slaughtering of over one million people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos among countless similar crimes against humanity since the early 1970s.
As documented in “Kissinger and Chile: The Declassified Record,” as some 5,000 people were being detained and tortured in Chile’s National Stadium, Kissinger told the ruthless Augusto Pinochet: “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.” But Sanders-Clinton “spirited exchange” five years ago, as mentioned above, was not confined in Sanders’ words to Kissinger being “one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history” of the United States. Sanders’ rare outburst also included Clinton defending her foreign policy mentor – Kissinger – on China. “[Kissinger’s] opening up China and his ongoing relationship with the leaders of China is an incredibly useful relationship for the United States of America,” Hilary Clinton emphatically pointed out.
Sanders responded disdainfully and berated Clinton for admiring Kissinger. “Kissinger first scared Americans about communist China and then opened up trade so US corporations could dump American workers and hire exploited and repressed Chinese,” Sanders had retorted. On the contrary, no one in Beijing either knows or seems interested in the so-called negative traits attributed to the veteran diplomat who is generally known as the most “influential figure in the making of American foreign policy since the end of World War II.” As according to Peter Lee, editor of the online China Matters and a veteran Asia Times columnist, the CPC leadership value Kissinger as the “symbol, custodian and advocate” of a US-China relationship that is special.
Professor Aaron Friedberg, author of A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia, described the re-opening of relations with China as Kissinger’s greatest achievement. In a review of Kissinger’s massive book On China, Friedberg wrote: “Kissinger’s six hundred pages on China are an attempt to apply the principles of foreign policy realism to the most pressing strategic challenge of our day.” (Emphasis given) However, the approach, taken alone, was far from adequate in anticipating the behavior of an increasingly powerful China on the one hand, and for prescribing an appropriate American strategy to deal with a rising China on the other, Friedberg went on to add.
Since Mao, all successive top Chinese leaders have met with Kissinger one-on-one in Beijing, some even more than once. China’s current President Xi Jinping is no exception. In fact, given the deep esteem with which reform era CPC leadership has been embracing Henry Kissinger, the general wisdom in Beijing is President Xi has horned his diplomatic skills by learning well his (Kissinger’s) oft-quoted aphorism “you don’t go into negotiations unless your chances of success are 85 percent.” Kissinger had first met with Xi in 2007, when Xi, as the party secretary in Shanghai, had received the most frequent foreign visitor to China on a visit to the city. When asked for his assessment of the party’s new general secretary within days of the 18th party congress in November 2012 by the Wall Street Journal, Kissinger had said “Xi Jinping is a strong leader capable of rising up to any challenge.”
In the past four decades of Kissinger-CPC bonhomie, the first decade thanks to Cold War passed off rather smoothly and uneventfully. The second decade ushered in with perhaps the first most serious test for both Kissinger as well as for the US-China relations since the unfreezing of the bilateral ties by Nixon-Kissinger pair in the early 1970s. In June 1989, the CPC rulers used brutal force to crush peaceful student demonstrators at the Tiananmen Square and launched nationwide crackdown on suspected dissidents. Though criticized by the US political elite for “Kowtowing to Beijing” for defending the CPC authorities by saying “a crackdown was inevitable,” Kissinger did influence the Bush administration in imposing comparatively mild sanctions while deflecting congressional pressure for tougher action.
In third and fourth decades respectively, unlike during the first two stages, ideology gradually regained initiative over geopolitics in influencing the bilateral relationship. There are mainly two factors for this. First, from 1979 to the end of the last century, China was relatively weaker than the United States both economically and in military technology. Following China’s rapid economic growth beginning late 1990s and at the turn of the twenty-first century, a section in the US political elite became apprehensive of China’s assertive and highly competitive stance. These concerns soon gave birth to the “China threat theory” which Beijing unsuccessfully tried to pass off as “China’s peaceful rise.”
The second factor has much to do with the world financial crisis in 2008 which resulted in the beginning of decline of the US economy on the one hand, and the unfolding of the seemingly evident intent of the CPC leadership to “eventually displace the US” and “re-establishing their own country as the pre-eminent power in East Asia.” In other words, with Cold War and the Soviet Union both long gone, and China perceived as threatening to soon replace America as the world’s number one economy, the communist rulers in Beijing were under no illusion that the ideologically hostile US was plotting “color revolution” to replace the CPC with democratically elected leaders in the People’s Republic.
The chilling of US-China bilateral relations during the first year of Obama presidency itself, with China replacing Japan to become the world’s second largest economy in 2010 and further hardening of the US stance towards China, and finally the US “pivot to Asia” strategy introduced by the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton – all these were perceived by Beijing as the US “creating political framework for a confrontation with China in order to maintain the global hegemony of American dominance.” Even Kissinger was very much aware of the changing stance in Beijing, as is reflected from what he wrote in On China: “China would try to push American power as far away from its borders as it could, circumscribe the scope of American naval power, and reduce America’s weight in international diplomacy.”
Interestingly, although the most frequent US visitor to China has continued to visit China ever more frequently during the past decade, given the changing nature of polity in both the US and in China – especially the increasing “rivalry” under the Trump administration, it is not incorrect to conclude the Kissinger magic has gradually faded away from the bilateral relationship. It is least surprising therefore last Friday, when the “old friend of China” warned both Beijing and Washington in a speech at McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum in France, that their escalating tensions were leading the world towards Armageddon-like clash, the opinionated, vocal Chinese social media reacted with caution. “Kissinger used the so-called end of the world argument to threaten and intimidate China in order to accept and obey the hegemonic order by the United States,” a blogger responded.
A commentary in Chinese last week pointed out, ever since Trump launched “all out political war” against China, Kissinger has been in subtle and cunning way warning China to “cooperate” with Washington. The signed article entitled “Kissinger Continues to Scare the Chinese People” stated: “For the past two years or more, Kissinger has been repeatedly saying China must continue to compromise and obey the US hegemony and US-led global order. Otherwise, China will face the danger of World War I-like situation.”
To sum up, while calling Kissinger’s veiled threat a bluff, a reader posted in the chat room of guancha.cn – one of China’s most widely read online Chinese language news platform: the old man is a veteran who, more than anyone in China, has interacted with most number of China’s founding leaders. It is therefore his responsibility to explain to the world why most American politicians have failed to co-evolve with China’s leaders, Chinese government and with Chinese people? Why has America relentlessly carried on slandering China? Why America has been consistently accusing, vilifying and provoking China? Mr. Kissinger, please answer. Thank you.”
Post COVID-19, Can China Emerge as the New Global Power?
Authors:Makam Khan Daim and Mohammed Seid Ahmed*
There are many unknowns about the virus and that makes it incredibly challenging for every government to wage war against the common enemy. The politically divided United States was not ready for a crisis like such and is already going through a deep political division that is deviating the superpower’s attention from leading the world. The United has already left multiple multilateral agreements and organizations that it helped create in the first place Trump administration was running the nation without any clear policy goals. Trump’s administration was retreating from world leadership but at the same time reluctant to give up its position as a global superpower. Though the policies of the administration are pulling the US back from years of progress as a global leader. As the world waits for the US leadership in the outbreak of the virus, the administration and supporters downplayed the harsh nature of the virus. The repercussions of failing to contain the virus at an early stage have put the US as the leader in infections and death toll above all the affected countries around the world.
The previous US administration chose to engage in a war of words with China rather than undertaking measures to contain the virus at home and be an example to the world. On the other hand, the Asian nations have taken “draconian” measures in the American eyes but were successful in containing the virus more than any country in the world. China’s has 102,517 cases with 4846 death, the numbers might be disputable for some, however, figures from democratic countries like South Korea and Japan revealed that the Asian nation has successfully contained the spread of the virus. As of May 2nd, 2021, Japan has 82, 425 with just 1493 deaths, Korea has 123,240 cases with just 1833 deaths according to the latest data compiled by the John Hopkins University of Medicine, coronavirus task force. The US on the other hand, in the same timeframe, has registered a staggering 32,392,667infection cases and 576,722 deaths. Although Chinese figures are disputable the recent reopening of all cities and provinces, indicates that the virus is contained, and things are going back to normalcy.
Power is shifting to the East as many political scientists predicted and China as an Asian superpower is in the final stage of preparations to take the role of global leadership. India is the other Asian nation that can contest China, but India’s domestic issues, its relatively weaker economy, and the ever-growing population have been a challenge for the subcontinent to be a serious contestant for China’s activities in a global scale. In fighting this pandemic, the US has missed another opportunity to lead the world and take responsibility as a superpower. The administration’s adherence to the outdated protectionist policies, that is harming American workers, let alone leading the world in the fight against COVID-19, Trump’s denial of the reality and his enablers within the government put the nation in harm’s way and has culminated in the death of thousands of Americans.
New Zealand has come out of the battle against COVID-19 as a winner with its early lockdown and strict measures with the extraordinary leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and her administration. The European nations Italy, Spain, France, and Germany that have been hit hard with the virus are getting a sigh of relief after their worst at the beginning of the outbreak. Their large size aging population have become the victim of the virus, with a series of lockdown and extreme measures they have finally managed to mitigate the likelihood of more deaths related to the virus. Africa to the surprise of lots of people is the last continent that has started to see new cases. Africa’s young population under the age of 35 that makes up over 60 percent of the continent’s population could have worked in favor of Africans because of the viruses’ nature to attack mostly immune compromised and aged population. Nonetheless, the recent increase in testing for instance in Ethiopia is revealing hundreds of cases every day. Now, Ethiopia is reporting 258,062, with just 3709 deaths related to the virus. South Africa and Egypt are among the worst hit countries from Africa, in which the former has reported 1,582,842 cases and 54406 deaths, and the latter reported 228,548 cases with over 43,402 deaths respectively. Although, the death of a single person is painful, with all the indications and data available Africa is surviving this outbreak with fewer casualties. If whether this could be attributed to the nature of the virus or African government’s measures is remained to be seen in further researches and reports in the foreseeable future.
The problems that Africa could face if the infection rate increases drastically are dire, given the continent’s record in poor healthcare infrastructure, scarce of ventilators, hospital beds, small size healthcare professionals in relative to the population size. Developed countries with advanced technology and healthcare system in place have not been able to cope up with the patients’ demand and has been extremely challenging for the government and professionals to fight the virus. It is no brainer the challenges that Africans could face without the infrastructure. Nonetheless, while all the traditional global powers closed their doors and were fighting the pandemic, there is one rising superpower who has emerged to play the global leadership role in the fight with the virus. China has emerged not only as the hotbed for the virus but as a global power who is using the pandemic to project its soft power around the globe and play the role of the so-called “responsible power”.
In conclusion, China would be the winner in this epidemic, because of the measures it took and its quasi-leadership in fighting this pandemic using its soft power. It has already lifted the ban in Wuhan and now things are slowly going back to normal ahead of many other countries, which is beneficial for China to survive the economic fallout. Economists are predicting a global recession following COVID-19, but even if that is the case China will not be the biggest loser, United States, Europe, and the rest of the world are. One thing we all learn from this pandemic is that because of our intertwined interests and living by each other there is nothing that the world could achieve today without the cooperation and collective actions. Time will answer the question that will the United States take the lesson, embrace multilateralism again, and get back to lead?
*Mohammed Seid Ahmed, Freelancer(M.Phil International Relations at Zhejiang University, currently based in California, the US)Mohemmed can be reached at mahmedseid89[at]outlook.com
Myanmar coup: ‘No sign’ of end to brutal crackdown on all fronts
One hundred days since the Myanmar military seized power, the “brutal” repression of protesters has continued, despite all international efforts...
Vaccine inequity posing ‘significant risk’ to global economic recovery
Although the outlook for global growth has improved, the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as inadequate progress on vaccination in...
Attack On Jerusalem – Where Is The International System?
Since mid-20th century the conflict has been referred to as the ‘most intractable conflict’ in the world with the ongoing...
Boko Haram: Religious Based Violence and Portrayal of Radical Islam
Modern-day global and domestic politics have set forth the trend that has legitimized and rationalized the use of religion as...
Cyprus conflict: How could be Resolved and Reunified?
Cyprus conflict has been regarded as one of the conflicts that are so far difficult to find a resolution for...
Bhashan Char Relocation: Bangladesh’s Effort Appreciated by UN
Bhashan Char, situated in the district of Noakhali, is one of the 75 islands of Bangladesh. To ease the pressure...
The Way Out of the Impasse Between Iran & U.S.
On June 18th, Iran will hold its Presidential election. The current Government is led by Iran’s moderates, who are the...
South Asia2 days ago
Has Modi Conceded ‘South Asia’ to the United States?
South Asia3 days ago
India’s Decision to Deport Rohingyas- How Fair?
Russia2 days ago
Russia becomes member of International Organization for Migration
Defense2 days ago
5th Generation Warfare: A reality or Controversy?
Intelligence3 days ago
Security of nuclear materials in India
Economy2 days ago
Eastern Balkans Economic update: Romania’s and North Macedonia’s new data for 2020
Development2 days ago
Conflict Affected Families in Armenia to Receive World Bank Support
Human Rights3 days ago
UN: Stop evictions in East Jerusalem neighbourhood immediately