Anyone with a pulse and a smartphone probably knows by now that the US-China rivalry is heating up these days, and fast. (If you know anyone who doesn’t, get them a Signal subscription.)
Let’s recap the latest drama between the world’s two largest economies. In tech, after squeezing Huawei over 5G, US President Donald Trump now wants to ban TikTok and WeChat. Harsh words — backed up by sanctions — are still flying over China’s crackdown on Hong Kong and its repression of the Uighurs. The US has also waded into the South China Sea dispute, closed China’s consulate in Houston, and stirred up a hornet’s nest by dispatching the highest-ranking official to visit Taiwan in more than 40 years.
Why is this all happening? Because each side, in its own mind, is winning.
Trump’s big swipes at China are good electoral politics: Americans’ distrust of China is at an all-time high, and one of the (very) few things that Democrats and Republicans agree on these days. What’s more, Democrats can’t really push back on Trump’s China approach now that the US intelligence community has said it believes Beijing prefers a Biden victory in November.
For Beijing, the US undermining Chinese tech companies and slapping sanctions on Chinese officials over “internal” matters feeds President Xi Jinping’s nationalist narrative that Washington is preventing China from taking its rightful place as a rising global power. It also explains why Beijing wants to break the (US-dominated) internet, and assert its dominance over all territories where China’s rule is contested — including Taiwan.
However, there’s one area they seem unlikely to mess with for now. Phase I of the US-China trade deal signed in January was hardly a big win for either side, but enough to pause a rapidly escalating trade war that was hurting both US and Chinese businesses (and consumers). (Signal, 8/11/2020)
NOT SO UNITED KINGDOM
Post-Brexit, United Kingdom is not so united , Six months after Britain broke away from the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to stop the breakaway of restive parts of the U.K. On Friday, Mr. Johnson sent his popular Treasury chief, Rishi Sunak, to Scotland, to tamp down nationalist sentiment. There, Mr. Sunak noted that Scottish firms would get 2 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) in loans to survive the lockdown. Another top minister, Michael Gove, visited Northern Ireland with nearly $500 million in aid to help frustrated companies deal with new checks on shipped goods. Experts have long predicted that Brexit would strengthen the forces pulling apart the U.K. But in Scotland, in particular, the pandemic has accelerated those forces. In an average of recent polls, 52.5 percent of people said they would vote for Scottish independence — a swing from the 2014 referendum, when 55.3 percent of Scots voted to stay in the U.K. What it means: This is the first time the polls have consistently shown a majority for breaking away, one polling expert said. Pro-independence feelings have hardened in Scotland during the pandemic because many people there believe that Scotland has done a better job managing the crisis than neighboring England has. Case study: The implications of leaving the bloc are dawning on some of those in Mersham, an area close to Britain’s busiest port where support for Brexit was strong. A 27-acre parking lot is being built to handle trucks amid fears that new trade rules will slow freight movement. (New York Times, 10 Aug 2020)
ZIMBABWE’S CONTINUING ECONOMIC CHAOS
Forgive Zimbabweans for not celebrating “Heroes’ Day” today. The annual commemoration of those who died fighting against white rule comes at a time of great suffering. The value of the local currency has plummeted against the American dollar. Inflation is running at more than 700%. The World Food Programme reckons that 60% of Zimbabweans will soon struggle to get enough to eat. The ruling party, Zanu-PF, blames covid-19. The truth is that it has run the country into the ground. After toppling Robert Mugabe in a coup in late 2017, Emmerson Mnangagwa and his backers in the military have behaved much as he did, manipulating the currency and responding to unrest with repression. In recent weeks journalists and opposition figures have been arrested and allegedly tortured. But as the economy spirals out of control, how long can Mr. Mnangagwa hold on? The veteran of the independence wars may see himself as a hero. Zimbabweans disagree. (The Economist, 8/10/2020)
Banks braced as pandemic poses biggest test since financial crisis | Provisions for loan losses are at the highest in a decade as lenders prepare for large-scale company bankruptcies (© Financial Times UK, 10 Aug 2020) by Stephen Morris and Owen Walker in London and Laura Noonan in Dublin
During the depths of the coronavirus crisis in Europe in late March, Sergio Ermotti remembers sitting in his home study in Lugano, reflecting on the latest financial meltdown to engulf his career as a banker. “If I go through my last eight years, we had a lot of mini-earthquakes, but never of the magnitude of what we are seeing now,” the 60-year-old UBS chief executive says. “This is a crisis that is driven by fear in a different way . . . this time it’s not just about people losing their assets or savings, it’s about their life, it’s about their families. It’s so profound, so different.” Switzerland’s largest bank is weathering the crisis relatively well, considering its share price is down only 10 per cent this year, a more modest fall than any other global lender apart from Wall Street’s Morgan Stanley.
BARR ON URBAN GUERILLA WARFARE
- Attorney General William Barr revealed that the United States is under attack, facing a new form of “urban guerilla warfare.”
- Barr on Fox News’ “Life, Liberty & Levin” on Sunday said that the left’s “lust for power” was the driving force behind this new anti-American assault.
- He added that the media’s false characterization of the “Black Lives Matter” organization as a fed-up activist group was misleading the American people and leaving them vulnerable to what is actually a group of “Bolsheviks” focused on taking over the country and turning it into a communist run country.
- Barr tore into the media for selling a “lie” to the American people in their horrifically biased coverage of the civil unrest caused by these two dangerous groups. (Lifeandlibertynews)
- “We only love what hates us, anything that destroys us is seen as great. There is a desire to destroy truth, history . . . We no longer teach the history of France and we no longer say what our civilization has accomplished. We only talk about our civilization to disparage it.” — Michel Onfray, Le Salon Beige, July 30, 2020 and YouTube, July 17, 2020.
- “France is undergoing reverse colonization. Populations coming mainly from countries formerly colonized by France have settled in France without any intention of integrating. Most of them live in neighborhoods where the laws of Islam now reign and where imams spread hatred of France . . . And in a gesture of submission, the French authorities say that hatred does not emanate from those who kill, but from those who want to react and say that we must put an end to assaults and murders. It is a suicidal attitude.” — Éric Zemmour, YouTube, November 22, 2016 (Guy Milliere, Gatestone, 8/9)
THE NEED FOR A MUTUAL DEFENSE TREATY FOR ISRAEL
“Although the relationship between Israel and the United States has many of the characteristics of a formal alliance – intelligence sharing, regular joint exercises, prepositioned weapons and so forth – the two countries have opted not to sign a traditional mutual defense pact because of Israel’s determination to defend itself by itself and maintain freedom of action in conducting military operations, and because of American reluctance to be dragged into Middle East conflicts.”
However, according to Makovsky, the revival of Iran’s nuclear program and the growing capabilities of its proxies mean Israeli deterrence alone may be insufficient to stave off a regional military conflagration, particularly given “the trend in America towards a retrenchment in the Middle East.” Hezbollah’s arsenal of an estimated 130,000 rockets and missiles is vastly superior quantitatively and qualitatively to its stockpile the last time it fought an all-out war with Israel in 2006. “Unless there’s a regime collapse in Iran, I think we’re heading at some point to a major war between Israel and Iran and Hezbollah.” (Gary C. Gambill, Middle East Forum, 8/10/2020)
Iran Has 125 Outposts and Bases in Syria – Dean Shmuel Elmas (Israel Hayom) — Iran has 125 outposts of its Revolutionary Guards Corps and pro-Iranian militias in Syria, the Turkish research institute Jusoor has revealed.
The Iranians have set up 37 military locations in the Deraa governorate in southwestern Syria, not far from Israel.
There are another 22 Iranian outposts in and around Damascus, 15 in Aleppo, and another 5 each in the Quneitra and al-Suwayda governorates in southwestern Syria.
Fatah, PLO Are Planning a Third Intifada – Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch) — “A popular uprising that will result in a comprehensive intifada” is being planned by Fatah, the PLO, and other Palestinian groups, according to a statement they issued on July 28. Asked by the PA TV host if this would be a “peaceful” and “non-violent intifada,” PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusuf answered in the negative.
Former Israeli Defense Minister: Hizbullah Responsible for Beirut Blast – Neta Bar (Israel Hayom) — A Hizbullah weapons depot that caught fire led to the explosion of the ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut port, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the Saudi outlet Elaph on Friday.
Pro-ISIS Media Center Urges Muslim In The West To Set Forests, Factories, Agricultural Fields, And Buildings On Fire (MEMRI, August 2020)
Friday Sermon In Bojnurd, Iran By Abolghasem Yaghoubi: Pork Contains A Microbe That Weakens One’s Zeal; Just Look At The Westerners – There Is No Difference Between Men And Women There (MEMRI 8/9/2020)
Rhodesia had contributed, per head of population, more in both world wars than any part of the British Empire, including the United Kingdom itself. (“The Rhodesia Syndrome,” Tiberiu Dianu, December 11, 2016)
TO THE POINT
- FAILING DEMOCRACIES – Both Lebanon and Belarus claim to be democracies. The former is very corrupt, as evidenced last week by the massive blast that hit Beirut. Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe, had an election at the weekend. Their president Alexander Lukashenko was returned with 80% of the vote after 26 years in office. That stretches credulity too far.
- We’ve just finished watching the new Perry Mason on HBO. Any resemblance to the old TV series with Raymond Burr is largely coincidental, but not entirely. The new Perry Mason shows how the “crew” came together: Perry and Della Street (now a lesbian), Drake (now black), thanks to PC and the intervening 60 years! There is some nudity in the new series but there is a lot of swearing. I don’t remember any of either in the earlier 271 episodes. All eight episodes are just one story, but a very good one with lots of twists.
- A promising TV series called “Wild Bill” is being shown on TV. I’m curious. The series is based around a US police chief who is sent to Lincolnshire, on the east coast of England, where I come from. Why the English force would need the help of a US cop is beyond me! (The show is being streamed on Britbox.)
- The Epoch Times contains some really good movie reviews by Tiffany Brannan, of movies that are quite old. These words appeared at the end of last week’s article. “Tiffany Brannan is an 18-year-old opera singer, Hollywood historian, travel writer, film blogger, vintage fashion expert, and ballet writer. In 2016, she and her sister founded the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, an organization dedicated to reforming the arts by reinstating the Motion Picture Production Code.”
- Australians too divided for sustained conflict – Former PM Tony Abbott has raised concerns about Australia’s deteriorating strategic situation saying the nation’s economy is not as strong as it should be nor its citizens as united as they need to be. (Politicom 8/10/2020)
- Qatari Press: Reconversion Of Hagia Sophia Into Mosque Is A Historic Step; We Hope To See Prayers At Great Mosque Of Cordoba (Spain) (MEMRI, 8/8/2020)
- Britain in recession as PM warns of ‘bumpy months –
Boris Johnson has said the British economy faces “bumpy months” ahead and has a “long, long way to go” until it sees a return to “economic vitality and health”. GDP figures announced this morning confirmed that the UK has officially fallen into recession for the first time since the 2008 financial crash. The Office for National Statistics has announced earlier this week that about 730,000 jobs have been lost since March.
- Biden names Kamala Harris as running mate — Senator Kamala Harris, the former presidential candidate, has been picked by Joe Biden to be his running mate, making her the first black woman and Asian-American to be selected as vice-presidential nominee. Writing on Twitter, Harris said she was “honored” to join Biden on the Democratic ticket and pledged to “do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.” Biden will face President Donald Trump in the election on 3 November. (The Week, 8/12/2020)
- The Economist Is Sick — Our local library lets me read The Economist before anyone else. Now, in the midst of the virus, there’s a delay of a week as the magazine has to go through quarantine. If I had my own subscription (about $200) I could read it right away. Not only that, but I have to pick up my magazine in the parking lot, without getting out of my car. I have to have the trunk open so library staff can put it in there without any contact with me.