Divided States of America: “Movement has only just begun,” says triumphant Trump

Only thirty-eight days after his violent supporters stormed the US Congress on the Capitol Hill in Washington, former President Donald Trump, accused of inciting this “insurrection”, was exonerated of all the allegations the Democrats had brought against him and impeached him a second time.

This exoneration has thrown up a larger question. Will Trump’s successor Joe Biden become Abraham Lincoln-II?

The impeachment move against Trump came after an angry mob of his supporters stormed the US Congress on January 6, 2021, trying to stop it from certifying the Electoral College results that showed his Democrat rival Joe Biden had defeated him in the November 3, 2020, elections.

On February 13, the Senate (Upper House) acquitted him of all charges of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol after a majority of Republican lawmakers voted him “not guilty”. They refused to vote in favor of the Democrats’ move to punish Trump.

His successor, the 46th President Joe Biden, who took the oath on January 20, was reported to be against Trump’s impeachment as he feared the former President stood to gain, either way: if impeached a second time, his millions of White, conservative supporters could permanently ditch the Democrats; if he won, these same jubilant supporters would make life hell for the new Administration.

Nobody knew it better than Biden as to what Trump’s exoneration means.

Hours after the Senate’s acquittal, he said in a statement: “This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile.”

But he also had to do a balancing act: “While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute.”

Never has America been so divided after Abraham Lincoln’s era in the mid-19th century.

 “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” a triumphant Trump said in a statement, hours after the Senate vote, media reported.

“In the months ahead, I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future.”

While a two-thirds majority (67 votes) was needed in the 100-member US Senate to convict Trump on charges of inciting violence, only 57 Senators voted in favour of holding Trump guilty, while 43 voted ‘not guilty’.

Seven anti-Trump Republican Senators joined the Democrats’ ranks and voted for his conviction in the five-day long trial, making it the most bipartisan impeachment trial in the history of the USA.

Trump described this impeachment trial, his second during his four-year tenure, as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.” “No President has ever gone through anything like it.”

The House of Representatives (Lower House) had impeached Trump on January 13 and sent the charge of inciting an insurrection to the Senate to hold the trial.

“There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” senior Republican leader Mitch McConnell said after voting to acquit Trump.

He said that his vote against conviction was based on a technicality that under the Constitution Trump could not be impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate because he was out of office.

Democrats and their Republican supporters, however, said that although he was no longer the president, he could still be impeached and face the penalty of being barred from running for office.

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Party leader in the Senate, was shocked. He condemned the Republicans who voted against the Trump conviction.

“The failure to convict Donald Trump will live as a vote of infamy in the history of the US Senate,” he said.

“We saw it, we heard it, we lived it,” he said, calling the January 6 incidents a “constitutional crime” witnessed by Senators.

Trump’s second impeachment was quite shorter that his first in 2020 and relied largely on the video footage of his incendiary remarks and storming of the US Congress. His defense argued that he did not incite “what was already going to happen” that day and that his remarks were protected by his right to free speech, as per the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Trump, who had won more than 74 million votes in the election, had, even after being declared defeated, announced that he will continue to be politically active, hinting that he might run again in 2024. He reiterated it on Saturday as well. His massive support base had made the majority of Republican Senators wary of crossing his way.

Post-exoneration, Trump may prove more dangerous to Biden.

“In the months ahead, I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. There has never been anything like it!”, Trump said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the pro-Trump Senators who voted to acquit him, “cowardly”. She however ruled out censuring Trump saying it would let “everybody off the hook”.

“What we saw in that Senate today was a cowardly group of Republicans who apparently have no options because they are afraid to defend their job… respect the institution in which they serve,” Pelosi said at a press conference after the historic but controversial trial.

“What is so important that the political survival of any one of us that (sic) is more important than our Constitution that we take an oath to protect and defend?” she asked, media reports said.

McConnell said that he voted to acquit Trump because “former Presidents are not eligible for conviction.” Shortly after the vote, however, he said the former President was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the January 6 attack.

They (the mob) did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth,” he said.

Like Biden, he was also forced to do a balancing act!

From President-to-Prophet: Xi Jinping emerging as China’s Muhammad!

Across the Muslim world, believers, including children, are taught to follow what Prophet Muhammad, and those close to him, did back in the seventh century. The Hadiths (Traditions) detail how the ideal Muslims’ daily life and beliefs should be like.

Something similar is being attempted in China, where President-for-Life Xi Jinping has emerged almost as a home-grown prophet in a country that has long boasted of atheism.

China has for long been trying to eradicate alien global religions like Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. In Tibet, it tried to erase Buddhism; in Xinjiang and elsewhere, it has been taking tough measures against Islam and Muslims; elsewhere, particularly in Hong Kong, Beijing has made life difficult for Christians.

Quoting Karl Marx, Being called all these religions ‘opiate’ of the masses.

But now China is trying to establish its own “religion”, with Xi Jinping as the First Prophet.

Media reports this week indicated that Chinese schoolchildren are being prompted to study Xi Jinping’s “teachings” ahead of the ruling Communist Party’s centennial celebration in July 2021.

On Wednesday, the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC)’s Central Committee issued new guidelines to accelerate ideological education among the Chinese Young Pioneers, a national youth organization affiliated to the party.

According to these guidelines, all children in primary school and the first two years of secondary school should have at least one weekly class to carry out Young Pioneers activities, and the core training materials for the teaching staff should be what it claims to be “Xi Thought”.

Members of the Young Pioneers should be taught to “firmly bear in mind” the teachings of Xi, and “do what Xi has instructed,” the guidelines said.

In China, everyone from diplomats to executives to even science fiction writers are under pressure to incorporate the broad, often fuzzy tenets of “Xi Thought” into their policies, part of an effort to elevate it alongside Maoism and help consolidate the President’s effort to further cement control, media said.

The guidelines directed that the children be taught that “today’s happy life comes ultimately from the correct leadership of the Party” as well as “from the superiority of our socialist system.”

Strengthening “political enlightenment and forming of values” among children is of strategic importance to make sure the “red genes are passed down from generations to generations,” party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said Thursday, citing the guidelines.

Another state-backed newspaper, the China Daily, cited the guidelines in an article, “Cultivation of Children Seen as Strategic,”, stating that kids are the country’s and the party’s future. The CPC had always made cultivating the country’s in a good manner a “strategic” and “fundamental” task.

The CPC’s guidelines came after Xi’s visit to a village in the south-western Guizhou province which, the state media claimed, had successfully eradicated poverty. Posing for photos with local people from the Miao ethnic minority, Xi greeted the Chinese ahead of the Lunar New Year, which this year falls on February 11. This is significant because, in 2020, millions of Chinese were banned from celebrating the New Year amid the outbreak of “Chinese virus”, COVID-19, at Wuhan.

The Chinese Young Pioneers was founded in 1949 and includes almost all children in China between the ages of six and 14. It has played an “irreplaceable role” in guiding generations of children to follow the instructions of the party, the guidelines claimed.

The guidelines also called for the promotion of exchanges between Young Pioneers in the mainland and children’s’ organizations in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, so as to enhance the “national, ethnic and cultural identity of youth in these areas.”

Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), had also become a cult figure in the 1940s-1970s. His “policies” killed millions of Chinese in different disasters, including the “Great Leap Forward” and the “Cultural Revolution.” His “Little Red Book” had become a Bible for Communists across the world.

The Xi Thought is an attempt to put it on the same pedestal as the Red Book. So much so that Xi Thought and his “philosophy” are invading even science fiction and weather and earthquake predictions.

The “Xi Thought” is being compiled in one place, although the three-volume “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China”, a collection of his speeches, writings, sayings and ideas, is already out. More than 20 applications of Xi Thought on everything from economic management and military reform to controlling the media and the arts that have appeared in state media since 2018.

While ‘Mao Zedong Thought’ stressed toward adapting Marxist-Leninism to a pre-industrial society, Xi Thought is all about maintaining the CPC’s strong control at a time when China is being pilloried as an international villain, and facing the Hong Kong heat spreading all over the country.

Bottom of Form

Barring Mao, no other Chinese leader has had his ideology raised to the level of “thought,” which carries a special meaning in the CPC propaganda. Ultimately, Xi Thought can be whatever Xi thinks he needs to ensure his own rule.

“It seems quite obvious from all signals, that he wants to serve beyond 10 years, perhaps for 20 years,” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Centre for China Studies, who has authored numerous books on Chinese politics. “To remain in power for that long, he needs to consolidate his power base.”

Rip Van Biden: Like Rome, the West laughs and dies!

Many remember stunning, recurring TV coverage of how the freedom-fatigued Americans, indeed others in the West too, repeatedly broke the lockdown protocols imposed to check the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. They risked not only other people’s lives but also their own. This cavalier attitude is a sure sign of a civilization’s fatal embrace of possible death.

Death not with a bang but without a whimper.

Some historians have studied how an epicurean Rome died laughing before it sunk into an ecclesiastical Christianity in the fourth century. Rome did not foresee the Dark Age it was sliding into. Only the collapse of the eight bloody Crusades it launched against the Muslims in the 11th to 13th century could wake it up to  walk into the morning of Renaissance.

On January 6, 2021, America may now have matured into a New Rome. From George Washington to Washington Irving. Like Rip Van Winkle, it finds the world has completely changed and is beyond recognition. Like Winkle, again, America has slept through the civilizational revolution sweeping across the planet. As it wakes up from a long, troubled slumber, it will discover a paradigm shift in the world’s power structure, indeed civilizational design.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden are only symptoms of what ails America—a hysterically-divided society. Trump’s “America First” will alternate with Biden’s ‘Democracy First’ dreams, pulling the US further down. America first made China the world’s workshop; not the workshop is challenging the Chairman’s share-holding strategy!

It is another thing that even China’s dreams of world conquest could remain what they are, pipe dreams. Beijing poured in a fourth of its four trillion dollars foreign exchange reserves to develop ultra-ambitious the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects since 2013 across 70 countries. It focused on marking the vast Eurasian landmass and parts of Africa into an integrated zone, a “world island” to replace the American hegemony by a Chinese one. Pakistan is Beijing’s first overseas colony.

Barack Obama and Trump tried to check this inexorable fall of America in the face of the Dragon’s challenges. But America could not keep even European Union intact and Britain exited, threatening even the existence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), once directed against the former Soviet Union, and now Russia. While Europe slips away, and the Middle East both splitting and boiling, America will have much more on its plate than it could handle.

Trump’s unilateral “America First” policy sparked a costly trade war with China and then he capitulated to Beijing in January 2020, relaxing US duties on Chinese goods in exchange for the Dragon’s insistance that it could not be forced to buy more American goods! Not only this, China also bankrolled a colour-blind Europe, weaning it away from Washington for the first time in 70 years.

Now China potentially has a preferential access to nearly half of all world trade, even without full development of BRI projects and its flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) facing rough weather. Beijing’s ‘inclusiveness’ may mean Washington’s exclusion from Europe and Asia.

Empires usually decline slowly. Trump in the White House was only a manifestation of America’s long suppressed malaise. He was symptom of what Washington was headed to. Like a bull in a china shop, he tried to bend America to his will, rupturing time-tested alliances, tearing up treaties, denying incontrovertible climate science, and demanding respect for American authority with an empty rhetoric that threatened military retaliation or economic reprisals internationally.

Despite his woolly policies, the Republican Party surrendered, corporate honchos admired, and half of the Americans saw in him their saviour.

Then the “Chinese virus” hit America and the rest of the world as Trump and his crackpots belittled the COVID-19 challenge, angered scientists, and did not stop superstitious Americans from even consuming disinfectants and bleach to protect themselves.

Hurtling from one crisis to another.

Then Biden defeated Trump who tried to regain the White House on January 6 through ‘insurrection’ but failed and left it on January 20, 2021, almost announcing a return in 2024.

Salivating at Biden’s lollypops, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and other immigrants are now waiting to crawl into America, as the next dose of nation-cripplers.

In 2019, a survey of the Brookings Institution on the changes in the ethnic proportions of the U.S. population revealed that the number of White population in America declined from 79.6% in 1980 to 60.4% in 2018.

In about 40 years, the Whites dropped 20% while the White under-15 years accounted for only 49.9%, the survey said.

According to this trend, in about the next 20 years, the White population will be less than half of the national population, and Whites under-30 will become a clear minority.

This quantitative change in demographic structure will fundamentally change American politics.

That is, America’s core ethnic nucleus is vanishing faster than ever like the Antarctica’s ice cap.

Watch this space for Biden going the Trump way!

Divided States: ‘Prophesies’ of America’s disintegration!

When, on January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Congress on the Capital Hill in Washington DC, some conspiracy theorists saw in it the beginning of the ‘Divided States of America.’ Several such speculations have been made in the past as well.

Globally, the process of disintegration of a country remains slow, almost imperceptible. A country like America, which lost its ethnic core of “Red Indians” some six centuries ago and had to reconstruct it almost entirely by importing immigrants is not easy to go under.

As long as immigrants from around the planet are ready to flock to the ‘New World’, and America has space to settle them, the US may continue to survive. It has the resources, it welcomes innovation, and it tolerates dissent. These are the basic strength of the world’s only superpower at present. But a lack of ethnic core is also the USA’s major weakness.

In crisis, America sometimes resembles the shape-changing hero portrayed by actor Jim Carrey in the Hollywood blockbuster, The Mask. If an identity crisis between the Whites and others deepens, the panicked immigrants, even after generations, can return to their motherland the way the Jews returned from Europe to Israel a century ago. This may dry up both investment and innovation, the life blood of American economy.

Most other countries, on the other hand, primarily strong because of their ethnic core being the biggest source of cohesion and strength. All others are bracketed together as ‘minorities’ and, in the long run, their importance declines.

Ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, and Russia returned to its ethnic core of Russians, dire prophesies of America’s imminent ‘collapse’ have been made.

For example, a Japanese academic journal carried an article in September 2020 by Kobayashi Koichi, Professor of International Politics at Nagoya University, claiming that the USA is “very likely” to suddenly split and collapse in the next 10 years!

It counted three factors that may split the USA: (1) A deep-rooted racial  discrimination; (2) increasingly exhausted vitality of the internal mechanism of the American democratic system, and (3) the  people’s claims for excessive freedom and the contradiction between reality and capacity.

These three contradictions have become chronic and seasonal diseases that the American society cannot get rid of, it said.

Citing examples of racial discrimination, the journal said racial riots have now spread to the White-dominated areas as well, as rioters can be mobilized quickly due to extensive use of technology.  Also, radical White groups and armed militias have surfaced at many places, as (then) President Donald Trump “fanned the fire all the day”, creating internal and external divisions. “Is it a symptom of America’s structural decline?

According to a 2019 survey of the Brookings Institution, the changes in the ethnic populations of the US are revealing. In 1980, White Americans accounted for 79.6 percent of the population, and the rest were mainly blacks, including Latinos, Asians and other non-whites. In 2018, the Whites’ percentage in population declined to 60.4 percent, and that of the non-Whites soured to nearly 40 percent. Thus, the number of Whites dropped 20 percent in just 40 years.

The White population under 15 years of age dropped from 73 percent in 1980 to 49.9 percent in 2018, If this trend continues for the next 20 years, the Whites will number less than half of the national population, and Whites under-30 will become a clear minority. This quantitative change in demographic structure will fundamentally change American politics.

Now more non-Whites control power both right from the federal to the local levels, and they redistribute economic and social resources through legislation. This fundamental change in political power and social and economic resources will exacerbate social divisions and bring suffering.

Clearly, the ‘ethnic core’ of America has shifted from the Whites to the non-Whites, which got expression in the elections of Barack Obama and Joe Biden as Presidents.

Rapid growth of militant White groups, including the rise of Donald Trump, was because of an intense White fear. No matter who won the 2020 Presidential election, the other side could fall into despair and anger, the Institution said.

The January 6 violence at the US Congress was an expression of this phenomenon.

The global coronavirus pandemic also broke the illusion of the US resilience as the nation became the worst-performing country in the world, as freedom-fatigued people broke the Covid-19 restriction at will.

The present American governance not only does not help, but further worsens the situation. It also allows the original racial, economic and cultural ills to be concurrent and out of control, the survey said.

According to the report, a great schism between the Whites and the Black will be “full of blood and hatred” in the historical shadow of Black Americans’ trafficking, enslavement, exploitation and injustice. The US is a nuclear-armed country with the most nuclear weapons in the world. A possible disintegration of the United States will, therefore, be far more serious than the former Soviet Union’s. “It will be a disaster for mankind, which is unimaginable”.

Such ‘prophesies’ have continued.

Even after the 46th President, Joe Biden, took oath on January 20, 2021, speculations are rife. The hold of non-Whites on the American system has only strengthened, with Vice-President Kamala Harris becoming the first Indian-American, Asian, and woman to grace this second-highest office in Washington. Biden has also appointed, among others, 20 Indian-Americans to higher posts.

The basic DNA of the USA has changed from Europeanization to Orientalization.

And conspiracy theories are, of course, mushrooming.

One such theorist said that the CIA rigged the 2020 Presidential elections and ousted Trump at the behest of the war industry tycoons who felt insecure as the US President brought in too much peace. He waged no new wars, improved the Israeli-Arab relationship, and offered a truce to North Korea. The military-industrial complex may also have ‘contributed’ to Trump’s defeat.

Under Biden, the old regime is back.

Role-reversal: Now Britain wants to hang on to India’s coattails!

How times change!

The East India Company, founded in 1600, continues to be a hated name across the Indian subcontinent which it owned for a century until the 1850s. It became a byword for aggression, oppression, humiliation, exploitation, and massacres. After the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, the British Crown disbanded the EIC after its soldiers rebelled against the Raj, and colonized the entire Indian subcontinent for accelerated exploitation with a clear conscience.

Then the tide turned. In just three decades (1920-1950), the British Empire built over three centuries, disappeared.

In 2005, Mumbai-born entrepreneur Sanjay Mehta bought the dormant EIC. In the next five years, he transmuted the bankrupt Company into a customer brand focused on luxury teas, coffees and food and opened its first store in London’s posh Mayfair area in 2010.

What an irony: an Indian businessman turning around India’s former master!

But a rising India is looking beyond the EIC. And, post-Brexit, a fatigued Britain is reaching out big way to its erstwhile Old Crown Jewel it now sees as a big new market, what with India’s march to become the world’s third largest economy by 2030.

There is reason for this renewed British interest in India.

For some three decades, a considerably weakened Britain remained merely a member of the European Union. It had lost all its grandeur in the World War II, despite being a victor, when its seven-seas-wide empire quickly collapsed.

To revivify itself, London saw in Brexit an opportunity to reclaim its lost glory by striking business deals independently of the EU. Many Brexiters even thought of yet another shot at reviving the British Empire and dominate, if not colonize, the world, again the way Turkey is now attempting to revive the Ottoman Empire which died a century ago.

London wants to build a ‘commanding’ new position in the world but the planet is no longer ready to accept its former colonial master. No one is ready to forget that British achieved dominance through trade in the 18th-20th century period.

The next best option, therefore, seems to be a shared glory!

During the British Empire, India was the Crown Jewel. In the 21st century, New Delhi, built by the British a century ago, is emerging as a new world market.

In the 17th century, the Indian spices attracted EIC. In the 21st, Indian software and other technology, besides markets, is attracting London.

That is why, post-Brexit, Britain is trying to forge an entire new relationship with India. After a trade deal with the EU, a fresh agreement with Japan and a continuation of EU-equivalent trading terms with Canada, Turkey and some other countries, Britain is set to offer a new trade deal with India.

Just before Brexit came into force on January 1, 2021, The Daily Express, a Brexit-supporting tabloid, wrote: “What a way to wave goodbye to Brussels! Boris nearing £100 BN trade deal with India’.

In the fast-changing kaleidoscopic world scenario, the two nations are considering trade worth “as high as £50-100 billion two way which is easily achievable,” according to recent media reports.

The two countries have begun discussions. Indian Commerce minister Piyush Goyal has also hinted about an early harvest deal between London and New Delhi. They are expected to begin with cutting duties on some goods as they work towards a larger free trade agreement. Their initial focus areas include the life sciences, information communications technology, chemicals, services, and food and drink.

Britain is also keen on selling to India its services like banking, insurance, accountancy, and law. India’s wish-list includes an easier visa regime for the movement of its professionals in services. Post-Brexit, however, Indian companies, particularly those in the IT sector, that had made Britain a launchpad to reach out to the Continent, may find it difficult to re-access the EU markets as they did before.

Merchant of Wuhan wears three albatrosses: COVID-19, CPEC, and India

Just when China was plotting to dislodge America to emerge as the world’s first supreme power and used different tactics in different countries to buy them off, it finds being weighed down by the three albatrosses of its own creations in 2020, now haunting it in 2021.

Despite denying role as the epicenter of the “China virus” and claiming success in ‘containing’ the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the Dragon has only Pakistan and North Korea for ‘friends’. It has antagonized almost the entire world, reminiscent of the isolation of Nazi Germany in the early 1940s—like Beijing, Berlin also had only two friends in Rome and Tokyo. Each of China’s action or statement is now suspected and thoroughly scrutinized by the world. Beijing’s carefully built reputation lies in tatters.

Many importers from China, until 2019, mocked only its substandard products; in South Asia, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, China became a byword for everything fake. Now these countries mock Beijing as the manufacturer of its only genuine export: COVID-19!

The pandemic is still spreading across the world in newer variants and wreaking havoc in one country after another. It has already claimed 1.85 million lives and infected over 85.5 million others. China has been unable to convince the world about its claims on the pandemic. And this mistrust is now showing.

Suspicious countries now think multiple times before they import from China—goods, services, assurances or debt— lest Beijing start arm-twisting them like a barbarian Shylock in neo-Shakespearian Merchant of Wuhan. Many have cancelled new orders, or cancelled the old ones. Reports indicate that fresh contracts for supplies are steadily slowing down, leaving huge industrial capacities increasingly redundant in China. Each country is now discovering alternate supply chains, and rejecting Beijing as international business pariah.

After a year-long arrogance, and foolishly uniting its enemies, China now realizes its basic folly: even if it rules the world, how would it force the colonized, pauperized people to buy its products and protect “communism” in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)? It cannot force the world to import and keep communism in power at the same time.

Clearly, COVID-19 is the noose the Dragon is increasingly tightening around its own neck.

Another albatross is the ultra-ambitious, USD 65 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the USD 200 billion Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) conceived by President-for-Life Xi Jinping. It is proving a white elephant for China. A comatose investment.

The much-delayed CPEC’s most-challenging part passes through the Pakistan Army-controlled and terror-infested Baluchistan, Pakistan’s biggest and restive province. With rapidly changing geopolitical equations in the Muslim world, and divided opinion in Pakistan itself, Beijing is cautiously waiting-and-watching efficacy of the whole project afresh.

The progress on CPEC has, therefore, slowed down due to the economic downturn, and restrictions by the IMF’s bail-out programme on fresh borrowings, besides the pandemic, which have all forced Beijing to halt  or slowdown new projects on the CPEC.

The third albatross around China’s neck is India. In May 2020, Beijing tried to divert world attention from the pandemic to the Himalayas. In a quick military action aimed at quicker victory, it tried to redraw the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh and push the international border into Indian (and then Nepalese) territories.

But it found something it had not bargained for: it discovered a resistant and tough India delivering a befitting reply, and ended up its acolyte Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli announcing elections in mid-2021! China has also ‘successfully’ united India, the US, Australia, and Japan against Beijing—and more countries are set to join the Quadrilateral (Quad) group in the Indo-Pacific region, the first step towards an ‘Asian Nato’.

In 2021, China is set to reap the fruits of its ‘investments’ in 2020!

As China tries to colonize Pak, it slows down CPEC!

Even after subtly entangling Pakistan in a debt-trap, China may have realized the humungous cost of colonizing Islamabad, the global terror czar, and has begun slowing down on the USD 60 billion commitment to the ongoing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’s flagship project called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

But this does not mean Beijing will let slip Pakistan away from its vice-like grip: for all practical purposes, Islamabad is now China’s slave.

China has already arranged to take over two Pakistani islands off Karachi—Buddhoo and Bundal— presumably for its new military and naval bases in South Asia, and pressurised Islamabad to hand-over the indirect control of the CPEC to the Chinese officials through the direct control of Pakistan Army generals.

But, for now, Beijing has slowed down on making investments for the CPEC whose “future is not only clouded by China’s apparent new, more conservative lending policy but also Pakistan’s over borrowing, which is fast driving the country toward a debt crisis. Pakistan’s debt to GDP ratio is now at a high 107% of GDP,” analyst FM Shakil wrote in Asia Times last week.

Pakistan has slipped into a debt trap due to the government’s failure to bring reforms, and also weak fiscal management, he said.

According to the Boston University researchers, the overall lending by the state-backed China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China declined from a peak of USD 75 billion in 2016 to just USD 4 billion in 2019. Provisional 2020 figures show that the amount shrunk to around USD 3 billion in 2020, it said.

Several reasons are being attributed to China’s slow down on the CPEC projects. Firstly, the global epidemic of COVID-19 has overturned China’s many plans across the world. Beijing’s global prestige has nosedived and it is now seen as an international bully one would better keep at an arm’s length.

Secondly, the amount of investments in the CPEC is no longer commensurate with the profit it would likely begin paying back in the required time-frame due to plummeted demand and other market forces in the wake of the COVID-19.

Thirdly, the fast-changing geopolitical scenario, including a realignment of Arab versus non-Arab blocs in the Muslim world, led by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, respectively, have created uncertainty about the shape of things to come in terms of energy supply from the Middle East, for which the CPEC was being primarily developed.

With the CPEC becoming increasingly unviable at present, China is slowing down on the mammoth project.

Other reasons behind a rethink are Beijing’s trade war with the US and rampant corruption by the Chinese companies involved in the CPEC.

In other words, the much-trumpeted CPEC is now being seen by some as a white elephant both in China and Pakistan which may become a ticking dynamite for both the militarist and expansionst regimes.

A number of projects planned under the BRI are now stalled or are running behind schedule due to lack of financing. Of 122 announced CPEC projects, only 32 have been completed as of the third quarter of this fiscal year, the report said.

Under the CPEC, Beijing planned to build eight Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in four provinces of Pakistan. Of them, seven SEZs are either still in a pre-feasibility or post-feasibility stages with no tangible development seen on the ground.

Chinese activity is visible only in the Gwadar zone, the Allama Iqbal Industrial City in Punjab, and Rashakai Economic Zone in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Earlier, China was reluctant to invite non-Chinese companies to invest in the SEZs. But the situation has changed with finance drying up. In principle, Beijing has agreed to allow Pakistan to form a new joint venture mechanism with companies other than Chinese state-owned or private enterprises to stimulate the CPEC project progress, including on a multi-billion dollar railway upgrade, the report said.

That is why Pakistan Railways (PR) globally advertised for tender openings to modernize its rail system.

To overcome Beijing’s reluctance to fund it Pakistan recently introduced a bill in parliament to give the army to take near-total control of the CPEC.

China is also concerned about terror attacks being launched by rival factions sponsored by Islamabad but under no control of the Pakistan Army. The Baluchis have also intensified their attacks on the CPEC projects and Chinese nationals working on them, raising the security costs and political risks of the projects.

Shakil said the government’s move to give the military more control over the CPEC aims at mollifying China’s rising security concerns.

Initiated in 2013, the USD 1 trillion BRI is a gargantuan plan of President-for-Life Xi Jinping to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime trade networks to create new routes for China’s strategically vulnerable fuel imports shipped by sea mostly from the Middle East..

But the BRI is not moving as planned and its carefully-drafted plans have gone haywire.

The other reasons for reduced investments by China on the CPEC projects are “structural weaknesses” including opacity, corruption, over-lending to poor countries which led to debt traps, and adverse social, political, economic and environmental impacts.

The much-trumpeted 1,682-km-long Main Line (ML-1) railway project between Karachi and Peshawar is moving at a snail’s pace due to China’s reluctance to fund it at a meagre 1 percent return on investment. Beijing is also unhappy with Islamabad’s decision to curtail the project cost from USD 8.2 billion to USD 6.2 billion due to its rising debt load, according to media reports.

According to media reports, Humayun Akthar Khan, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader who runs the Institute of Policy Reforms (IPR), a Lahore-based think-tank, has revealed that “Pakistan has slipped into a debt trap due to the government’s failure to bring reforms and weak fiscal management.”

In a report, “Pakistan’s debt and debt servicing is the cause of concern…We are in a debt trap that is entirely of our own making. It is a risk to our national security. The government was borrowing to repay the maturing debt, which now seems to be a concern for all the political parties, businessmen and experts.”

Trump-plus-Biden on China: ‘May you live in interesting times’!

The Chinese are known to formulate timeless pearls of literature. For example, when they want to curse someone, they merely say: “May you live in interesting times!”

But they may actually be, as a nation, readying themselves to live in interesting times. Eleven days from now. As 2021 begins.

For, a number of countries have already come together to tame the Dragon, directly or indirectly.

And they are being pushed against a resurgent China by the United States. Irrespective of change of guards at the White House.

China has reason to be worried with what President-elect Joe Biden’s Administration, which will take office on January 20, 2021, is up to.

Last week, Biden signalled that he will follow Trump’s policy on China and Taiwan. His new National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, has called for the intensification of Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) against China in the South China Sea (SCS), marking a potential escalation of Trump’s policy to thwart Chinese expansionist designs in the region, according to Asia Times.

“We should be devoting more assets and resources to ensuring and reinforcing, and holding up alongside our partners, the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” said Sullivan.

Biden’s top advisors have already called for more China-taming freedom of navigation operations and strategic support for Taiwan.

China has long been trying to control the region by launching provocative military and diplomatic offensives in the disputed SCS waters. In the last few years, an expansionist and colonizing Beijing has also gone against several countries in Asia and Africa. Its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is currently engaged in a military standoff against the Indian Army in the Eastern Ladakh sector where skirmished left many dead in mid-2020 when China tried to change borders.

But the real theatre of power-game in the coming years will be the SCS. American warships are now passing through the 12 nautical mile radius of Beijing-occupied islands and land features across the SCS. The frequency of annual FONOPs has increased.

The US has also decided to support the maritime claims of China’s neighbours in the SCS and stepped up assistance to Taiwan.

The outgoing Trump Administration cleared up to USD 5 billion worth of arms sales to Taiwan this year. To counter Chinese expansionist design, America-led Quadrilateral Dialogue (Quad), including India, Australia and Japan, is emerging as the eastern version of NATO. Besides Japan, Britain, France and India have also started conducting FONOPs operations in the SCS and joint naval exercises.

Also, last week, Trump signed legislation to kick Chinese companies off U.S. stock exchanges unless American regulators can review their financial audits, a move likely to further escalate tensions between the two countries.

Trump’s parting kick could affect China’s corporate giants like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and Baidu Inc. Already, Trump has taken strong measures against many a Chinese company, potentially impacting their businesses to the tune of two to three trillion dollars, media reported.

The outgoing US President has for long condemned China’s “unfair trade practices”, and slapped tariffs on billions of dollars in imports. In particular, he dubbed the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 as a “Chinese virus”, something he could not handle properly and which became a major issue against his re-election.

But his last attempt to get many Chinese companies de-listed won bipartisan support in the House of Representatives in December, seven months after the U.S. Senate had cleared it in May. This means that the ‘alien’ Chinese companies will no longer be able to get listed in the US or draw dollars as capital for their growth.

Reacting to this law, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claimed that “It will undermine global investors’ confidence in the U.S. capital markets, its global standing, and hurt U.S. interests.”

Trump’s new law capped steps against China, including limiting travel visas for 92 million Communist Party members. Their 10-year visas would now be reduced to one month.

Reforming Islam: France, China take steps to tighten screws

Two countries that are taking firm steps to detoxify and reform Islam are France and China. Last week, they both took decisive steps, in their own different ways, at a time when Turkey is trying to resurrect the ghost of the Ottoman Empire-cum-Caliphate and the Arabs are doing everything, including befriending Israel, to ward off Ankara from recolonizing them.

Last week, the French government, led by President Emmanuel Macron, finalized a draft law targeting radical Islamism, called a law to “reinforce Republican principles”. This Bill will go the National Assembly, or Lower House of Parliament, in January 2021.

Prime Minister Jean Castex asserted that the proposed law is “not a text against religion, nor against the Muslim religion”, but against radical Islamism, whose objective is “to divide French people from one another.”

France, which has the largest Muslim community in Europe, has been forced to take this step after a series of terror attacks in recent years, particularly after the October beheading of a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty.

The new proposed law envisages stern measures, including school education reforms, to ensure that Muslim children do not dropout. It seeks stricter controls on mosques and preachers, and firm rules against hate campaigns online.

The law, when passed, would ensure increased surveillance of French mosques, including their financing. The government would supervise the training of Islamic preachers (imams), and shutdown mosques receiving public subsidies if they go against “republican principles” such as gender equality. It would also protect moderate community leaders targeted by extremists.

The existing secular laws, or laïcité, which ban state employees from displaying religious symbols like the crucifix or hijab, would now be extended to any sub-contracted public services as well, media reported.

Besides, the government would not allow home-schooling for children over age three. Doctors who routinely issue “virginity certificates” to females would be prosecuted. Polygamous applicants would not be granted residency permits. Officials would separately interview couples before their wedding to ensure that they have not been forced into marriage. Online hate-mongers would be severely punished.

While the French Muslims’ reaction to the proposed laws has been rather muted, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called it an “open provocation”. Also, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top cleric, has called President Macron’s views “racist”.

But the President is unperturbed. “I will not allow anybody to claim that France, or its government, is fostering racism against Muslims.”

Apparently, he is sure of getting re-elected in 2022 as the French people, by and large, are happy with his strong measures. Terrorism has claimed more than 200 lives in France since 2012. A recent nationwide survey revealed that nearly 80 percent of respondents thought that “Islamism is at war with France”.

Another important step against ‘Islamism’ was taken by Beijing, which Islamabad considers its “all-weather friend”.

That the petro-dollars had financed Islamism in Pakistan and made it a global nursery of terrorism since the 1970s is well-known.  Due to its increasing proximity with Turkey and Iran, the Arabs are no longer as Pakistan-friendly as they once were. In fact, the Arabs are forcing Pakistan to repay their debt and taking other measures to tame Islamabad.

This has forced Islamabad to embrace its ‘atheist’ GodFather more tightly, giving Beijing yet another opportunity to squeeze Pakistan.

China will now immediately provide $1.5 billion financing line to Pakistan to help it repay the $2 billion Saudi debt. But this time, Beijing has not sanctioned the loan from its State Administration of Foreign Exchange, commonly known as SAFE deposits, nor has it extended a commercial loan.

Instead, Beijing is providing this loan by augmenting the size of 2011 bilateral Currency-Swap Agreement (CSA), by an additional 10 billion Chinese Yuan or around $1.5 billion, media reports said. This has increased the size of the overall trade facility to 20 billion Chinese Yuan or $4.5 billion.

In other words, China is now Pakistan’s largest creditor and Beijing has successfully trapped Islamabad into an ever-tightening debt-trap.

The trade facility, originally meant to promote bilateral trade in their respective local currencies, has been foolishly used by Pakistan for paying foreign debt.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had, since assuming office in 2018, visited Saudi Arabia twice to secure fresh loans for survival of Islamabad’s tottering economy. The Saudis agreed to provide $ 6.2 billion worth of financial package to Pakistan for three years. This included $ 3 billion in cash assistance and $ 3.2 billion worth of annual oil and gas supply on deferred payments.

The Saudi cash and oil facility was meant for one year, extendable for three years. But, when Pakistan, together with Turkey and Malaysia, tried to set up a non-Arab bloc within the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2019, the angry Saudis claimed back their money ahead of the schedule and also suspended the oil facility.

This forced Pakistan to borrow from China in May this year to repay $ 1 billion out of the $3 billion to the Saudis.

A cash-strapped Islamabad has also been unable to get the suspended $ 6 billion IMF programme restored. Pakistan has been unable to get continued, uninterrupted, foreign inflows.

Lure of foreign money had trapped Pakistan into a vicious circle of terrorism; this same foreign money is set to dismantle the same terror-infrastructure down.

Pakistan will not realize it immediately. But China is sure to extract its pound of flesh by colonizing and deIslamizing Pakistan.

As commies fail, Nepal wants to restore Hindu monarchy

New Delhi: The utter failure of Nepalese Communists, as also other political parties, to deliver over the last few years has resurrected Hindu nationalism in the Himalayan nation where thousands of pro-monarchists joined a mass protest in the capital Kathmandu on December 5, demanding restoration of a constitutional monarchy and declaring the country as a Hindu nation.

Participants in the massive rally chanted slogans demanding the restoration of Nepal as a Hindu nation ruled by a constitutional monarchy for unity and well-being of the people.

“We want the restoration of our Hindu monarchy. We are not being driven by any impulsive feelings. The movement is being led by youths. We would fight for our objectives until we achieve our ends,” media reported, quoting  a demonstrator.

Saturday’s mass protest was the largest after a series of similar protests held in country over the last couple of months. The December 5 demonstration was held under the banner of Rashtriya Nagarik Andolan Samiti (National Civic Movement Committee).

On November 10, many people, under the banner that read “Nationalist Civic Society”, staged a demonstration in Jamal area of Kathmandu, shouting slogans for the restoration of constitutional monarchy and Nepal as a Hindu state.

On November 12 also, Nepal Scholars’ Council organized a demonstration in Biratnagar. A week later, on November 19, many people under the banner of “Independent Nationalist Citizens Far-West” demonstrated in Dhangadhi. It was followed by a protest in Pokhara on November 25 under the banners of “Western Nepali Citizens” and “Nepal Nationalist Group” in Janakpur of Nepal.

On November 29, a similar protest was held in Hetauda under the banner “Restoration of Constitution Movement” and yet another on November 30 in Kathmandu.

A similar protest was planned by Rastriya Prajatantra Party in Jhapa, hometown of incumbent Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

Political observers in Kathmandu say these movements for the restoration of a constitutional monarchy and a Hindu state have arisen due to failure of  various political parties to deliver what they promised.

“When democratic forces don’t live up to expectations– both ruling and opposition parties– then it`s inevitable that some alternative force will try to take its place. That is how I see the revival of this protest,” Biswas Baral, current affairs commentator in Kathmandu, told a news agency.

“Many people are unhappy with the working of the current government. It failed to control the Covid-19 pandemic and prevailing corruption. It also failed to implement federalism. So, there is general disillusionment amongst people. This mass protest could be an expression of that,” he said.

An important symbol of the latest mass movement was an attempt to return to the roots. Protestors displayed placards carrying a photo of Prithivi Narayan Shah, the founding father of modern Nepal, along with national flags. They chanted slogans against the Federal Democratic Republican system that Nepal adopted in 2008 after the abolition of the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy.

Nepal transitioned into a federal democratic republic after the promulgation of a new constitution in 2015.

The first General Election of 2017 brought in the Communist factions to power. However, they not only failed to deliver but also pitted China against the country’s natural and traditional ally, India.

This year, under the incumbent PM Oli, Nepal has virtually become a vassal state of China and turned a Nelson’s eye to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s land grab on Nepalese territory along Nepal-China borders.

This has infuriated a large number of Hindu Nepalese.

Their demonstration against the Communists is only a beginning…