Covid-19: Vaccines as a new global geopolitical weapon

Some nations have suddenly acquired a new weapon to further their geopolitical aims: Vaccines for Covid-19. Some multinational corporations, likewise, are using the once-in-a-century opportunity to make profit out of coronavirus victims.

They all conveniently camouflage their real objectives with high-sounding morals. Profit-making, not life-saving, has always been their mission statement. If anything, the pandemic has exposed all such hypocrites.

Start with Bill Gates, the global ‘idol of philanthropy’. In 2015, he was said to have predicted a pandemic soon. In the recent years, the Microsoft co-founder invested heavily in pharmaceutical sector to emerge as a vaccine czar as well. Despite his philanthropic claims, he would not like to transfer vaccine technology to others, including India, as he believed that it cannot be done without American “grants” and “expertise”. In other words, the developing countries cannot manufacture vaccines without American technology.

Gates, and the US, appeared peeved at India not only indigenously developing Covid-19 vaccines but also exporting these to nearly 70 countries in what became known as ‘vaccine diplomacy’. It was in this backdrop that US President Joe Biden, ostensibly at the behest of American vaccine-makers, invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to starve India of critical American raw material required to manufacture and deliver the vaccines.

India responded with some deft diplomacy of checks-and-balances. It showed a keen interest in Russian and Chinese vaccines instead! This alarmed Washington last week as its plans to contain China with the help of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad)—the anti-Beijing group of four democracies viz, the US, India, Australia, and New Zealand—could go haywire. The Biden administration did a quick course correction to control the damage and, with amazing speed, sent assistance to India.

Not to lag behind, Russia also rushed planeloads of assistance including vaccines to beat the US at its own game. China, which initially tried to wean India away from America, later backtracked. Some 40 countries extended help to India, which is combating a killer second wave of the pandemic, as a pay-back: in the last few months, New Delhi had helped these nations with vaccines via the WHO and business channels.

Why is the US—or for that matter Russia or China—trying to leverage vaccine-making as a geopolitical weapon? This coronavirus is not a one-off epidemic nor is it going to disappear in a hurry. German vaccine-maker BioNTech’s CEO Ugur Sahin had said in December 2020 that the virus will stay with us for the next 10 years. “We need a new definition of normal,” he said. No wonder, influenza is around even after a century, killing some five million people every year.

Clearly, all the Covid-19 afflicted will need effective vaccines, and then booster shots, to combat new variants of Covid-19. In addition, the co-morbidities and side-effects they develop will mean new business opportunities! Covid-19 provides a ‘sustainable’ business model for global pharmaceutical giants!

According to a report by the US health data company, IQVIA Holdings Inc., released last week, the world is going to spend at least USD 15 billion on Covid-19 vaccines until 2025, as the affected countries will have to go for mass vaccination programmes, followed by “booster shots.”

IQVIA, which provides data and analytics for the healthcare industry, said it expected the first wave of Covid-19 vaccinations to reach about 70 percent of the global population by the end of 2022. Booster shots are likely to follow initial vaccinations every two years as per the current data on the duration of effect of the vaccines, media reports said.

America itself is preparing for the possibility that a booster shot will be required between nine and 12 months after the people receive their first full inoculations against the pandemic. Top pharma player Pfizer has also confirmed that these shots may be needed within 12 months.

Quad gallops as Australia thumbs nose at China’s BRI

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is getting fresh steam and may forge ahead in 2021 to formally emerge as the ‘Asian NATO’. Quad, which its prime mover America sees as an instrument to remain the world’s only superpower in the 21st century, got two fillips last week. One, the US-led West arm-twisted India (on the Covid-19 vaccine issue) to end its dilly-dallying and join the four-nation pressure group against Beijing, and two, Australia broke off deals with China’s Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI).

Like NATO, the US-led Quad is a group of four ‘democratic’ countries (USA, India, Japan and Australia), against a ‘dictatorial’ China. More members could be enrolled into Quad once it formalizes as ‘Asian NATO’.

The US attempts to pull in Australia and India as ‘active’ participants in the Quad have begun to bear fruit with Canberra’s decisive steps. Japan, which suffered the American nuclear attacks in 1945, is more cautious.

In the last few months, China has tried to keep India away from Quad. In February, it pulled back the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Eastern Ladakh. This month, it agreed to export Chinese vaccines to India to combat Covid-19, at a time America is trying to leverage its position.

On Australia, however, China is furious, and slammed Canberra’ decision, signalling a worsening of ties between the nations.

The Australian federal government scrapped both the Memorandum of Understanding and framework agreement signed between Victoria (Australia’s south-eastern state) and China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Beijing’s top economic planning body. Foreign Minister Marise Payne described the deals, signed in 2018-19, as “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations.”

Payne’s announcement, which included bans on two other deals between Victoria and the governments of Iran and Syria, is an indication how fast the US is drawing in Australia inside the Quad.

The BRI deals with Victoria, Australia’s small but second-most populous state, aimed to increase Chinese participation in new infrastructure projects.

Condemning the step, Beijing’s embassy in Canberra said it “is another unreasonable and provocative move taken by the Australian side against China.” “It further shows that the Australian government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations—it is bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations, and will only end up hurting itself.”

The Communist Party of China (CPC) mouthpiece Global Times quoted Chen Hong, Director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University in Shanghai, as saying that Australia has “basically fired the first major shot against China in trade and investment conflicts” and that “China will surely respond accordingly.”

In a stern representation lodged with Australia, China has reserved the right to take more action, media quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin as saying on Thursday in Beijing.

Relations between Australia and its largest trading partner have been souring since 2020 when Canberra demanded an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic now known as Covid-19. Beijing has since reacted with trade reprisals, including imposing crippling tariffs on Australian barley and wine while blocking coal shipments. In retaliation, Australia has also made life difficult for Chinese students coming for education, apart from taking other steps.

The Australian move to scrap BRI deals is the first under the new laws passed by the national parliament in December 2020, empowering the Foreign Minister to stop new and previously signed agreements between overseas governments and Australia’s eight states and territories, and also with bodies such as local authorities and universities.

These laws allowed the federal government, currently led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to block or curtail foreign involvement in a broad range of sectors including infrastructure, trade cooperation, tourism, cultural collaboration, science, health and education, and university research partnerships.

Foreign Minister Payne said more than 1,000 arrangements had been made between foreign governments and Australia’s states and territories, local governments and public universities.

But China has still not lost all hopes. The new law may allow the federal government to review and overturn MoUs between Beijing and the state governments of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania in sectors ranging from investment, science cooperation and access to the Antarctic. “I will continue to consider foreign arrangements,” Payne said. “I expect the overwhelming majority of them to remain unaffected.”

Wang Huiyao, an adviser to China’s cabinet and founder of the Center for China and Globalization, described Australia’s move as unwise.

Victoria’s participation in the BRI was a “huge benefit” for Australia, and “if they abandon that, it’s going to take more time for China-Australia relations to recover.”

Last week, America dilly-dallied export of vaccines and their ingredients to India, which is severely affected with the second wave of Covid-19. This dilly-dallying is strategic, and a quid pro quo for New Delhi’s own dilly-dallying to sign up for whole-hearted participation in the Quad.

This story is unfolding…

How pandemics alter geopolitics, create new superpowers?

Pandemics are, perhaps, like Nature’s detergents that cleanse up clogged arteries of Organic Evolution by removing surplus population. These widespread diseases have often changed the course of world history.

Nothing cripples human societies the way diseases do. Pandemics have triggered the collapse of empires, weakened contemporary powers, and institutions, caused social upheavals and ended even wars. They have altered geopolitics, pushed up new players, and unveiled superpowers

Thus, these scourges have had great influence in shaping human society, civilizations, geopolitics, and national politics throughout history.

We can list here some of these pandemics and how they reshaped our known history.

The Justinian Plague was among the deadliest pandemics ever recorded. It broke out in the sixth century in Egypt and spread fast to Constantinople, the capital of the then Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine), at the peak of its imperial glory. The plague was named after the then Byzantine’s Christian Emperor Justinian (482-565 AD). The outbreak spread from Constantinople to both the East and West, and killed an estimated 25 to 100 million people.

The scourge returned, again and again, in waves, in different countries, until 750 AD, paving the way for Islam to replace a weakened Christianity as the dominant faith. The Byzantine army weakened as it failed to recruit new soldiers or maintain military supplies to battlegrounds. It lost one province after another…By the time the plague ended, the empire had lost vast tracts of Europe to the new forces like Germanic-speaking Franks and Syria and Egypt to Islam…

Another pandemic, the deadliest in our recorded annals, which changed the course of history in the medieval era, was the Black Death, or pestilence. It hit Europe and Asia in the 14th century and was estimated to have killed between 75 and 200 million people. In the early 1340s, the scourge struck India, China, Egypt, Syria and some other countries before arriving in Europe in 1347 where it killed about 50 percent of the total population.

It also had lasting economic and social consequences. The pandemic led to large-scale persecution of the Jews in Europe as the Christians blamed the community for spreading the diseases…it continued until the Jews returned to Israel after the Second World War in the mid-20th century.

But the Black Death was also a great leveler. It began to dismantle the old feudal system, improved the wages for workers due to their dwindled numbers, and gave a strong voice to the underprivileged…which led to the emergence of democracy. It also weakened the hold of the Church on the Christians some of whom broke away to form Protestant denominations—and virtually shifted the global power of Christianity to America.

In the early 20th century, the ‘Spanish flu’ we now know as influenza impacted likewise. The pandemic broke out in the last phase of the First World War (1914-18), killing up to 50 million people worldwide. From Europe, it spread to America and Asia. It weakened the war machine of the Germans and Austrians, and dismantled the last Muslim Empire of the Ottomans. India was the worst-hit; it lost about 6 percent of the population, up to 18 million people, crippling the British Empire and its Indian soldiers, and paving the way for the rise of anti-colonial movement, and Mahatma Gandhi.

Similarly, in the early 21st century, Covid-19 has unfolded to reshape geopolitics…in 2021, we are apprehensive of what could happen next. While the pandemic is still unfolding in waves, ebbs and flows, and will take years to settle down with a ‘new normal’, we can make some intelligent guess about its long-term impact.

Some experts have suggested the following three-phased progression: (1) The end of the globalized liberal order; (2) A resurgence of authoritarianism, as in the 1930s; and (3) a China-dominated New World Order.

But this appears simplistic, based as it is on the previous scenarios. Of course the past can guide us to explain the present and push us towards the possible future, we should know that the past would have stayed on if it was perfect.  A study of history can make us historian, not history-maker!

We can make history if learn from past errors and innovate for the future.

Covid-19 can help us understand the emerging scenario.

The fear that we have come to the end of the globalized liberal order appears unfounded; in our world of globalization of economies and internationalization of civilization, this is not possible—even dictatorships promise democracy! No country, not even North Korea or Myanmar, for example, can live in isolation for long, sitting as they are on their own volcanoes; they will have to come to terms with modernity and join the mainstream, or disintegrate and disappear.

Similarly, the authoritarianism of the 1930s cannot return, except in some areas. No country, not even Saudi Arabia, can afford to ignore the calls of modernity. And no country can import only the consumer products of the West but not its socio-political value systems that had created those products in the first place. Science and democracy are Siamese twins.

Which brings us to the ‘belief’ that China can replace America as the sole superpower.

Of course the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has risen phenomenally as an economic powerhouse, but its ancient socio-political infrastructure is unable to absorb so much wealth; it is like a beggar burdened with a jackpot! Internal pressures will eventually prise open the Communist-controlled dying socio-political infrastructure and create a new one.

There is a major difference between China and America; the former is almost entirely full of native population while the latter is almost full of immigrants of different varieties and generations. In the US, the people run the government; in the PRC, it is the other way round.

So China can flaunt its riches and huge population, America is likely to remain ahead of it due to its controlled population constantly requiring immigrants who come with innovations. Thus America will, in all likelihood, continue to remain the planet’s hub of innovations while China will have to make do with its moniker of world’s factory.

Huge population has huge surpluses and it is no longer an asset, but a liability, where it is China or India. What matters is a continuous inflow of working and innovating population, something that made America the world power in the last century.

But America may outsource its powers to the new group, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) it is trying to set up with India, Japan, and Australia, as a remote-control over China.

These democracies will be the real challenge to China in the 21st century.

And this will perhaps be the contribution of Covid-19 to geopolitics.

How Biden plans to speed past, and stop China!

If Joe Biden successfully launches two of his favourite multi-trillion dollar infrastructure projects, in and out of America, he may well go down in history as one of the most successful American Presidents.

In March, he proposed two highly-ambitious infrastructure projects: the first one will challenge China’s mammoth $3.7 trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to commercially connect over 100 countries across three continents; and the other aims to revamp the USA’s ageing infrastructure, pegged at $2.3 billion, in the next eight years.

On the foreign policy front, Biden proposed a ‘democratic’ rival to BRI during a telephonic conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week. He suggested founding an initiative from democratic countries to rival China’s BRI at a time tensions spike between Beijing and the West.

Recently, the US President had declared that he would prevent China from passing the US to emerge the world’s most powerful nation, and he vowed to invest heavily to ensure America prevailed in the ever-growing rivalry between the world’s two largest economies.

“I suggested that we should have, essentially, a similar initiative coming from the democratic states, helping those communities around the world that, in fact, need help”, Biden told reporters, referring to BRI.

Since President-for-Life Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, China has been trying to increase influence by ‘debt-trapping’ some countries, raising concerns among regional powers and the West.

The BRI has, in fact, come as a major geopolitical challenge to the West as China has helped many countries to build infrastructure. China has enrolled over 100 countries for cooperation in the BRI projects like railways, ports, highways and other infrastructure.

As of mid-2020, more than 2,600 projects were linked to the BRI, but 20 percent of them had been “seriously affected” by the global pandemic. Some countries have also pushed back their BRI projects as costly and unnecessary. They forced Beijing to scale back some plans by asking it to review, cancel or scale down commitments, citing concerns over costs, erosion of sovereignty, and corruption. Even the BRI’s flagship project, the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPAC) has virtually stopped mid-way.

While Biden’s ‘BRI-II’ plan is yet to take wings, he has also proposed  another, multi-trillion dollar plan to revamp ageing infrastructure of the USA itself, and position Washington to out-compete Beijing.

The proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan is expected to create millions of ‘good paying’ jobs and rebuild the American infrastructure in what officials deem as a “once-in-a-century capital investment” in America. “By this investment, over the next eight years, we can transform our current and future infrastructure and fundamentally change life for Americans”, officials said.

“If passed alongside President Biden’s Made in America corporate tax plan, it would be fully paid for within the next 15 years and reduce deficits in the years after. This plan will bring public investment as a share of the economy back to where it was in the 1960s, the last time we made transformative investments in our nation’s infrastructure,” they said.

Currently, the US ranks 13th in global infrastructure. Delays caused by traffic congestion alone cost over $160 billion per annum, and motorists are forced to pay over $ 1,000 every year in wasted time and fuel.

The Biden plan proposes to invest $620 billion in transportation infrastructure, which will modernise 20,000 miles of highways, roads and main streets. It will also fix the 10 most economically-significant bridges in need of reconstruction, and repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, reconnecting communities across the country.

Also, it will spark the electric vehicle revolution, building a network of 500,000 Electric Vehicles (EV) chargers, replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles, electrify at least 20 per cent of the yellow bus fleet, and help consumers purchase the vehicles of tomorrow, media reports quoting the White House said.

The plan will make the new infrastructure more resilient to climate change. Some 40 per cent of the benefits of the climate and clean infrastructure investments will flow back to the disadvantaged communities.

As part of the plan, investments of $650 billion will reconnect communities and transform the way Americans live.

The plan will deliver universal broadband access, including to the more than 35 per cent of rural Americans who currently lack access, in addition to the underserved communities that cannot afford it. It will entirely replace the nation’s lead pipes and service lines and reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and childcare centers. It will also lay thousands of miles of transmission lines, making the electric grid more resilient. It will build, renovate, and retrofit more than 2 million homes and housing units.

The plan will also repair schools, community colleges, childcare facilities, and federal buildings, including the veterans’ hospitals. It will cap hundreds of thousands of orphan oil and gas wells and abandoned mines, putting many people to work in communities that have been affected by the market-based transition to clean energy.

The American Jobs Plan will invest $400 billion in the care economy. The plan will support well-paying caregiving jobs that include benefits and the ability to collectively bargain.

Besides, the plan invests $580 billion in Research and Development (R&D), manufacturing and training, and $50 billion in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, securing the US leadership in a global market that supplies critical inputs for almost all goods — from cars to refrigerators to computers.

The US also proposed to fundamentally reform the corporate tax code so that it incentivises job creation and investment in the United States, stops unfair and wasteful profit shifting to tax havens, and ensures that large corporations are paying their fair share, the officials said.

One key element of the plan is to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent. The rate will remain lower than at any point since World War II other than the years since the 2017 tax act.

Immigration: New US laws may help Trump bounce back in 2024

He had hinted that he will return. For now, Donald Trump is, since the accession of President Joe Biden in January 2021, lying low. He has reasons to smile and announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election.

Angry Trumpites—chiefly the conservative Republicans and the White supremacists, in the “Bible Belt”—had created mayhem in Washington DC on January 4, 2021, when the US Congress met to confirm Biden’s election as the 46th President in the November 2020 election, which the outgoing President had dubbed as a ‘massive voter fraud’ perpetrated by the Democrats.

Additionally, within two months, Biden, 78, has proved that he is too old, ageing faster, and forgetful, a deadly combination for any leader, particularly for the President of the “world’s only superpower”. Last November, he broke his leg. This week, he addressed Vice President Kamala Harris as “President”, and stumbled, thrice, while boarding his official aircraft, Air Force One. The White House had a difficult time claiming his ‘good health’, as the video of his stumble went viral all over the world.

In contrast, Trump, 74, is robust, full of energy, and in fighting spirit. Even  leaders of new American ‘Asian NATO’ partner countries are likewise: Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga (72), Indian PM Narendra Modi (70), and Australian PM Scott Morrison (52).

Even China’s President-for-Life Xi Jinping is only 67.

Clearly, Biden is the oldest of them all. And age, and falling health, are catching up with him: in 2024, he will be 81, and Trump 77.

Besides, Trump has reason to be optimistic about his next run, thanks to the new immigration laws the Biden Administration has just got through.

These may potentially open the ‘floodgates’ for foreign immigrants, strengthening Trump’s voter-base. In the next four years, the White Americans would helplessly watch more ‘coloured’ people flooding in from across all borders, including Mexico, and change the very complexion and demographic composition of America.

The US House of Representatives (Lower House of Parliament) has just passed two key bills that would ease getting American citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, some migrant farmworkers and children whose parents immigrated legally to the country, like those under the H-1B visa program. The bills will now go to the Upper House (Senate), which must pass before the President signs to make them law.

Describing it as a critical first step in “reforming” America’s immigration system, President Biden welcomed the passage of the fresh bill, the American Dream, and the Promise Act of 2021. The House passed it on Thursday by 228-197 votes.

It will provide relief to Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and Dreamers, young people who entered the US as children and know no other country. “I support this bill, and commend the House of Representatives for passing this important legislation,” Biden said.

Those known as ‘dreamers’ are basically undocumented immigrants who enter the country as children with parents. The US has nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants from all over the world, including more than 500,000 from India, a policy document issued by the Biden campaign in November 2020, had revealed.

Indian-Americans are the third most influential community in the US. Currently, they constitute about 2 percent of the total population of 331 million, or nearly 7 million. 

Among others, the bill also provides relief for legal dreamers, the foreign-born children of non-immigrant workers, including those on H-1B visas, who lose their legal status once they reach 21 years of age. It would allow many other promising young people to pursue their ‘American Dream’.

The H-1B visa, the most sought after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows American companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations requiring theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

“My administration looks forward to working together with Congress to do the right thing for Dreamers and TPS holders who contribute so much to our country, and to building a 21st-century immigration system that is grounded in dignity, safety, and fairness… to create a path to citizenship for the undocumented population in the United States”, Biden said.

The American Dream and Promise Act establishes a path to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and for certain individuals who either held or were eligible for TPS or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

The majority of these individuals have been in the United States for much of their lives, often with work authorization and temporary protection against deportation.

Five years after attaining full LPR status, individuals are then eligible to apply for citizenship, a path that is supported by nearly 75 percent of the American public, Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera said.

This legislation is protecting Dreamers, TPS, and DED recipients honor the truth that immigrants are the constant reinvigoration of our country, when they come here with their hopes and dreams and aspirations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the original sponsor of the Dream Act said that “the legislative solution was long overdue for Dreamers who have devoted their lives to our country, undocumented migrant farmworkers doing backbreaking agricultural work during this pandemic to keep food on our tables.”

Undocumented immigrants are believed to be one of the largest groups among the immigrant essential workforce, making up 5.2 million essential workers, of which nearly one million are Dreamers, part of the 2019 American Dream and Promise Act, who entered the US as children.

Another legislation, the Farm Workforce Modernisation Act, will allow unauthorized farmworkers to earn legal status in the US and update temporary agricultural worker programs to meet the economy’s needs. It will provide H-2A eligibility to employers having year-round labor needs, which is critical for dairy and livestock.

According to New American Economy, more than 500,000 DACA-eligible immigrants are essential workers, including 62,000 in the healthcare industry alone.

Senator Dianne Feinstein said that since Obama created DACA in 2012 to temporarily protect Dreamers, more than 800,000 individuals have registered for the program. California is home to the most DACA recipients, more than one in four live in our state.

These young people didn’t break the law, many were brought here as babies or small children by their parents. They now go to school, work, and pay taxes here in the United States. They are US citizens in all but name, she said.

The 2024 electoral battle for the next US Presidency, therefore, is expected to be between the old immigrants and the new ones.

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!

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.

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.