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PEPE ESCOBAR: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive @Consortiumnews
Law & Politics
Is this the Age of Anxiety? The Age of Stupidity? The Age of Hybrid
War? Or all of the above?
As right populism learns to use algorithms, artificial intelligence
(AI) and media convergence, the Empire of Chaos, in parallel, is
unleashing all-out hybrid and semiotic war.
Dick Cheney’s Global War on Terror (GWOT) is back, metastasized as a
But GWOT would not be GWOT without a Wild West scarecrow. Enter Hamza
bin Laden, son of Osama.
On the same day the State Department announced a $1 million bounty on
his head, the so- called “UN Security Council IS and Al-Qaeda
Sanctions Committee” declared Hamza the next al-Qaeda leader.
Since January 2017, Hamza has been a Specially Designated Global
Terrorist by the State Department – on par with his deceased Dad, back
in the early 2000s. The Beltway intel community “believes” Hamza
resides “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.”
Remember these are the same people who “believed” former Taliban
leader Mullah Omar resided in Quetta, Baluchistan, when in fact he was
safely ensconced only a few miles away from a massive U.S. military
base in Zabul, Afghanistan.
Considering that Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria, for all
practical purposes, was defined as no more than “moderate rebels” by
the Beltway intel community, it’s safe to infer that new scarecrow
Hamza is also a “moderate”. And yet he’s more dangerous than vanished
fake Caliph Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi. Talk about a masterful example of
A hefty case can be made that the Empire of Chaos currently has no
allies; it’s essentially surrounded by an assortment of vassals,
puppets and comprador 5thcolumnist elites professing varied degrees of
– sometimes reluctant – obedience.
The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed
as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy – as in the
whole episode of designating State Department/CIA regime change, lab
experiment Random Dude as President of Venezuela.
Legendary cultural critic Walter Benjamin would have called it “the
aestheticization of politics,” (turning politics into art), as he did
about the Nazis, but this time it’s the Looney Tunes version.
The case of Venezuela shows that the “all options on the table”
scenario has been de facto aborted by Russia, outlined in an
astonishing briefing by Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian
Foreign Ministry, and then subsequently detailed by Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign
Minister Sushma Swaraj at a crucial RIC (part of BRICS) summit in
China,Lavrov said, “Russia keeps a close eye on brazen US attempts to
create an artificial pretext for a military intervention in Venezuela…
The actual implementation of these threats is pulling in military
equipment and training [US] Special Forces.”
Lavrov explained how Washington was engaged in acquiring mortars and
portable air defense systems “in an East European country, and
mov(ing) them closer to Venezuela by an airline of a regime that is…
rather absolutely obedient to Washington in the post-Soviet space.”
The U.S. attempt at regime change in Venezuela has been so far
unsuccessful in several ways.
Plan A – a classic color revolution -has miserably failed, in part
because of a lack of decent local intelligence.
Plan B was a soft version of humanitarian imperialism, with a
resuscitation of the nefarious, Libya-tested responsibility to protect
(R2P); it also failed, especially when the American tale that the
Venezuelan government burnt humanitarian aid trucks at the border with
Colombia was a lie, exposed by The New York Times, no less.
Plan C was a classic Hybrid War technique: a cyberattack, replete with
a revival of Nitro Zeus, which shut down 80 percent of Venezuela’s
That plan had already been exposed by WikiLeaks, via a 2010 memo by a
U.S.-funded, Belgrade-based color revolution scam that helped train
self-proclaimed “President” Random Dude, when he was just known as
Juan Guaidó. The leaked memo said that attacking the Venezuelan power
grid would be a “watershed event” that “would likely have the impact
of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could
ever hope to generate.”
But even that was not enough.
That leaves Plan D – which is essentially to try to starve the
Venezuelan population to death via viciously lethal additional
sanctions. Sanctioned Syria and sanctioned Iran didn’t collapse. Even
boasting myriad comprador elites aggregated in the Lima group,
exceptionalists may have to come to grips with the fact that deploying
the Monroe doctrine essentially to contain China’s influence in the
young 21stcentury is no “cakewalk.”
Plan E—for extreme—would be U.S. military action, which Bolton won’t
take off the table.
Hybrid war against BRICS member Brazil worked like a charm, but trying
it against nuclear superpower Russia is a completely different ball
game. U.S. analysts, in another case of culture jamming, even accuse
Russia itself of deploying hybrid war – a concept actually invented in
the U.S. within a counter-terrorism context; applied during the
occupation of Iraq and later metastasized across the color revolution
spectrum; and featuring, among others, in an article co-authored by
former Pentagon head James “Mad Dog” Mattis in 2005 when he was a mere
At a recent conference about Russia’s military strategy, Chief of
General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov stressed that the Russian armed
forces must increase both their “classic” and “asymmetrical”
potential. In the U.S. this is interpreted as subversion/propaganda
hybrid war techniques as applied in Ukraine and in the largely
debunked Russia-gate. Instead, Russian strategists refer to these
techniques as “complex approach” and “new generation war”.
@theresa_may Loses Control of Brexit Process as @UKParliament Takes Over @bpolitics
Law & Politics
The U.K. Parliament seized control of the Brexit process from Prime
Minister Theresa May and will now seek to decide how Britain exits the
In a vote late Monday, the House of Commons split 329 to 302 to
schedule votes on a series of alternative strategies, potentially
including a second referendum, keeping the U.K. in the bloc’s customs
union, leaving without a deal and even canceling Brexit altogether.
“It’s essential we should be able to look at all the serious options,
not wild unicorns, but things we could actually do to carry this
process forward,” former Tory minister Oliver Letwin, who proposed the
plan, told Parliament. “We should allow ourselves a couple of days to
do what should have been done over a couple of years.”
“It is disappointing to see this amendment pass,” the Brexit
department said in an emailed statement after the vote. The result
“upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a
dangerous, unpredictable precedent for the future.”
In any event, the clock is continuing to tick down. The EU has ruled
that if Parliament doesn’t approve May’s deal by Friday the U.K. has
until April 12 to come up with a case for a much longer delay to
Brexit, or leave immediately with no agreement.
Having voted to take control, Parliament now has to decide what to do
with it. The first stage is the “indicative votes,” scheduled for
Wednesday. Although the exact format hasn’t been agreed, it is likely
to mean lawmakers voting on a series of Brexit options on a piece of
The idea is that by allowing MPs to vote simultaneously for as many
options as they like, some of the game-playing that has characterized
Brexit votes so far will be avoided.
From a Geopolitical perspective, the big popping over the Radar happened in ChristChurch New Zealand.
Law & Politics
Jacinda Aardern [an agnostic who took her oath of office without a
Bible or mention of God. A living example that to be a humanitarian
you need no dogma; just compassion, love, an open heart and an open
mind @HarounRashid2] shattered the Glass Ceiling into tiny little
pieces. She is the First Western Leader to seek to assert Narrative
control over ''Terror'' The Symbolism of ''A biker gang providing an
escort to a hearse transporting the coffin of Haji Mohammed Daoud
Nabi, killed in New Zealand's twin mosque attacks, to the Memorial
Park Cemetery in Christchurch'' sums things up metaphorically and even
cryptically. She vowed never to utter the name of the twin-mosque
gunman to deprive him of the publicity he craved. She warned social
media companies saying "they are the publisher, not just the postman".
The Prime Minister of New Zealand asserted Narrative Control and
pushed back at what Don Delillo noted
"I used to think it was possible for an artist to alter the inner
life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that
territory," Don DeLillo, Mao II.
If You want to measure a Soft Power Leapfrog, Keep an Eye on the Kiwis
and this remarkably sophisticated epitome of c21st Girl Power Jacinda
Finally let us not forget the Egg Boy. Donations are being sought for
the boy's defense and "to buy more eggs" reports said
The social networks are publishers, not postmen @FT
Law & Politics
The terrorist who this month attacked two mosques in Christchurch,
murdering 50 worshippers, live-streamed a 17-minute video of the
massacre. Within 24 hours, that video had been uploaded 1.5m times on
Facebook. It was also uploaded on YouTube at a rate of one video a
second. Facebook and Google, the owner of YouTube, were quick to react
once the attack had been flagged. Facebook blocked 1.2m of those
videos before they could be viewed, and pulled down the rest. Still,
thousands of people saw the footage as it spread to other sites. In
spite of the swift response, the question remains: why on earth do we
tolerate technology that can be used to inflame hatred and normalise
violence at lightning speed and global scale?
The answer lies largely in a 26-word sentence in Section 230 of the
Communications Decency Act passed by the US Congress in 1996. “No
provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated
as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another
information content provider,” it states. So the likes of Facebook,
Google and Twitter can play by different rules to traditional media
companies, including the FT, which are legally responsible for all the
content they publish.
Of course, not all countries abide by US law nor share the same
extreme instinct for free speech. In New Zealand, the public censor
declared the attacker’s video “officially objectionable”, meaning that
anyone uploading it could be jailed. The police have already begun
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has argued that the tech
companies should be considered “the publisher not just the postman”.
Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, is even pushing for the
issue to be discussed at the next G20 meeting in Osaka in June,
saying: “It is unacceptable to treat the internet as an ungoverned
The balance between free speech and censorship must be the subject of
never-ending debate, fluctuating according to social convention and
law. But society has, in effect, rashly outsourced much of this debate
to the tech platforms. We should not want them to become our official
censors; nor do they appear capable of assuming such responsibility.
But they should be in permanent dialogue with societies around the
world about their rules, practices and services.
The moral ambiguities, practical complexities and human costs of
trying to moderate billions of pieces of online content in near-real
time have been vividly captured in the recent BBC documentary, The
Internet’s Dirtiest Secret: The Cleaners.
Was Google right, for example, to allow videos of Saddam Hussein’s
hanging because the company considered it a historic event? Was
Facebook right to block the account of Illma Gore after her painting
of a naked, meagrely endowed Donald Trump was shared more than 50m
Such decisions depend on human judgment, political sensitivities and
cultural context rather than any algorithm. But the advertising-driven
monetisation machine that powers the tech giants has been built to
strip context from content and reward virality rather than any concept
When human judgment is involved it is often delegated to lowly paid
moderators. The BBC documentary focused on the psychological pressures
endured by Filipino moderators who judge up to 25,000 images a day,
including terrorist beheadings and child pornography.
Mr Kosseff says that Congress had two purposes in adopting Section
230. One was to promote free speech and innovation. The other was to
ensure the tech companies maintained oversight of their content. “They
have utterly failed on that job and did not realise that it was a
two-way contract,” Mr Kosseff says. “Their services have been
weaponised by bad people. They need to put on their big boy pants and
The tech companies appear belatedly to have woken up to the dangers
and are trying to respond. But they still have a long way to go. Until
they fully deliver on their side of the contract, the US Congress
should threaten to revoke Section 230.
Implications for Africa from China's One Belt One Road Strategy @AfricaACSS's @PNantulya
Launched in 2014, One Belt One Road (一带一路), presented internationally
as the Belt and Road Initiative, is China’s signature vision for
reshaping its global engagements. It is strategic and comprehensive in
scope and an essential component of the Communist Party of China’s
(CPC’s) twin objectives of achieving national rejuvenation (zhonghua
minzu weida fuxing, 中华民族伟大复兴) and restoring China as a Great Power
(shi jie qiang go, 世界强国). It now spans three continents and touches 60
percent of the world’s population. The 65 or so countries that have so
far signed on to the program (including approximately 20 from Africa)
account for 30 percent of the world’s GDP and 75 percent of its energy
reserves. Some 50 Chinese state owned companies are implementing 1,700
infrastructure projects around the world worth about $900 billion. One
Belt One Road (OBOR) has been written into the state and ruling party
constitutions as strategic priorities for China to attain Great Power
status by the middle of the 21st century. All of China’s leaders have
advanced this quest since the founding of the People’s Republic of
China, but the pursuit has accelerated under President Xi Jinping.
The end state of One Belt One Road is the building of a “Community of
Common Destiny for Mankind” (人类命运共同体), defined as a new global system
of alternative economic, political, and security “interdependencies”
with China at the center (zhongguo, 中国). For this reason, Chinese
leaders describe One Belt One Road as a national strategy (zhanlüe,
战略), with economic, political, diplomatic, and military elements
(综合国力), not a mere series of initiatives.
OBOR directly supports many elements of China’s national security
strategy. At a macro level, it seeks to reshape the world economic
order in ways that are conducive to Beijing’s drive for Great Power
status. One Belt One Road has two components. The Silk Road Economic
Belt establishes six land corridors connecting China’s interior to
Central Asia and Europe. It includes railroads to Europe, oil and gas
pipelines from the Caspian Sea to China, and a high-speed train
network connecting Southeast Asia to China’s eastern seaboard. The
Maritime Silk Road establishes three “blue economic passages” knitted
together through a chain of sea ports from the South China Sea to
Africa that also direct trade to and from China.
The end state of One Belt One Road is the building of a new global
system of alternative economic, political, and security
“interdependencies” with China at the center.
One Belt One Road also increases Beijing’s control of critical global
supply chains and its ability to redirect the flow of international
trade. Central to these efforts are moves to open new sea lines of
communication and expand China’s strategic port access around the
world. In 2017, Chinese state-owned companies announced plans to buy
or secure majority stakes in nine overseas ports, all located in
regions where China plans to develop new sea lanes. This is in
addition to the 40 ports in Africa, Asia, and Europe in which Chinese
state-owned firms hold stakes worth a combined $40 billion.
China’s return on investment from increased port access and supply
chains is not all about economics. In five cases—Djibouti, Walvis Bay
(Namibia), Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), and Piraeus
(Greece)—China’s port investments have been followed by regular
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy deployments and strengthened
military agreements. In this way, financial investments have been
turned into geostrategic returns.
China’s 13th Five Year Plan, a document adopted in 2017 that provides
long-range implementing guidance in five-year increments, calls for
the “construction of maritime hubs” to safeguard China’s “maritime
rights and interests” as it embarks on laying a “foundation for
maritime Great Power status” by 2020. The centenary of the founding of
the People’s Republic of China, 2049, has been set as the year when it
will become the world’s “main maritime power” (海洋强国). Accordingly,
China’s drive to acquire port access and secure supply lines are
likely to intensify alongside the expansion of the Maritime Silk Road.
In 2010, only one-fifth of the world’s 50 largest deep water ports had
any Chinese investment. By 2019, it had increased to two-thirds. The
China Ocean Shipping Company, which controls most Chinese overseas
port holdings, is now the world’s fourth largest shipping fleet.
Beijing’s merchant marine has quadrupled since 2009 to become the
world’s second largest. It now moves more global cargo that any other
Beijing also plans to use the artery of routes envisaged under OBOR to
reduce China’s dependence on maritime chokepoints that could be
contested by rivals. The PLA is locked in territorial disputes with
Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, the
Philippines, and Brunei, in its so-called “near seas” (jinhai 近海).
This raises the risk that they could create a blockade during a crisis
that would disrupt its shipping. To counter the threat, One Belt One
Road is being positioned to reroute traffic to Chinese-built port
clusters in Sudan, Djibouti, Gwadar, Hambantota, Colombo, and Myanmar
to bypass narrow chokepoints in the South China Sea.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
As a party political instrument, OBOR strengthens Xi’s authority at
home. It is a central element of “Xi Jinping Thought,” which is
inscribed in the state and party constitutions as a guiding
philosophy. This further enables Xi to marshal every resource at his
disposal to see his signature program through.
Funding for One Belt One Road comes from “policy lenders” (政策性银行), so
called because their lending decisions are responsive to presidential
and geostrategic preferences. They include the China Development Bank
and the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank), which have committed
over $1 trillion. The Silk Road Fund holds $40 billion in investment
funds and is supervised by China’s Central Bank. The Asia
Infrastructure Investment Bank, whose remit now includes Africa, has a
capital base of $100 billion. Additional funds come from China’s
foreign exchange reserves and its sovereign wealth fund, which hold $7
trillion and $220 billion, respectively.
To be sure, OBOR faces many problems. First, debates on Chinese social
media tools such as Weibo and Renren suggest that it does not enjoy
broad domestic support. Second, concerns are growing about economic
sustainability in the countries where massive Chinese-funded
infrastructure projects are being implemented, as their governments
take on more debt to pay for them. Third, hostility is rising in many
countries toward policies that favor Chinese workers over locals in
construction and infrastructure contracts. This has been most
prominent in African countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania,
Uganda, and Zambia, to name a few. Fourth, some of Beijing’s rivals in
Asia and around the world are increasingly uneasy about what they see
as an effort to use OBOR to expand China’s military posture and
How Does Africa Fit into the Belt and Road?
The revival of trade routes along China’s ancient Silk Road linking
China to East Africa is being promoted by Chinese leaders as a symbol
of China’s commitment to Africa. According to Xi, Africa stands to
benefit from OBOR because “inadequate infrastructure is the biggest
bottleneck to Africa’s development,” a view that is shared by many
African leaders. Advocates of One Belt One Road also point to the
potential for spinoffs, such as increased private Chinese investments
in tourism, real estate, and agriculture, alongside infrastructure
projects. OBOR is also increasingly seen as a catalyst for African
regional economic integration and competitiveness. A study funded by
the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa found that East
Africa’s exports could increase by as much as $192 million annually if
new OBOR projects are used profitably.
As the early focus of One Belt One Road, East Africa has developed
into a central node in the Maritime Silk Road, connected by planned
and finished ports, pipelines, railways, and power plants built and
funded by Chinese companies and lenders. A standard gauge railway
connecting Mombasa to Nairobi—the biggest investment in Kenya since
its independence—is a flagship OBOR project in East Africa. The
electric railway from Addis Ababa to Djibouti, where China established
its first overseas naval base and has stakes in a strategic deep water
port, is another. From Djibouti, the Maritime Silk Road connects
planned and completed Chinese port clusters in Sudan, Mauritania,
Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe,
Cameroon, Angola, and Namibia. Another route links Djibouti to Gwadar,
Hambantota, Colombo, Myanmar, and Hong Kong. The final arc of this
corridor connects Walvis Bay to Chinese port clusters in Mozambique,
Tanzania, and Kenya before also connecting to Gwadar.
The One Belt One Road network. (Map courtesy of the Mercator Institute
for China Studies)
These revived trade routes help China diversify its supply chains and
create a China–Indian Ocean–Africa–Mediterranean Sea Blue Economic
Passage to connect Africa to new maritime corridors in Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. Beijing’s military posture matches
its expanding maritime and naval reach under OBOR. This is
particularly evident in the Indian Ocean, where China’s planned sea
lanes are heavily concentrated and its rivalry with India is growing.
Africa’s importance to China in this regard stems from its location in
a maritime area in which Beijing hopes to expand its presence and
power projection. Indeed, a decade ago China’s reach in Africa’s
adjacent waters was nonexistent. Today, it is estimated that the PLA
Navy maintains five battleships and several submarines on continuous
rotation in the Indian Ocean. This is set to increase in the coming
decades as India ramps up its own presence in the area.
China’s antipiracy contingents in Africa, its first deployments
outside Asia, have also grown in scope and sophistication since their
debut in 2009. They now feature newer classes of guided missile
frigates, advanced destroyers, and Special Forces whose roles have
evolved to include joint combat drills and patrols, military
diplomacy, and increased naval and maritime cooperation and training.
Senior Chinese military analysts note that the PLA’s participation in
international anti-piracy missions in African seas has strengthened
the capabilities China projects it will need to support OBOR. These
include basing and expeditionary operations, sea lane protection, and
citizen evacuation. All these tasks are in line with what the PLA
calls “historic missions” (历史使命) outside its maritime periphery.
Africa is also an important end user of China’s industrial
overcapacities, particularly coal, cement, steel, glass, solar,
shipbuilding, and aluminum, for use in One Belt One Road projects. In
Kenya, imports of Chinese cement increased tenfold in 2016 while the
Nairobi-Mombasa railway was being built. In 2018, Chinese exports of
steel to Nigeria rose 15 percent, and Algeria tripled its imports of
the product. In 2019, China’s global aluminum exports rose by 20
percent, with exports to Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South
Africa reaching about $46 billion.
The offloading of Chinese excess capacity in Africa has not been
without problems. In East Africa, Kenya has been the hardest hit. In
2017, Kenya’s cement exports to the region dropped by 40 percent due
to the flood of Chinese cement entering the country. That year, the
World Bank warned that Kenya’s economic competitiveness was declining
due to the influx of Chinese excess capacity in Tanzania and Uganda,
its main export destinations. In the past decade, Tanzania and
Uganda’s imports from China increased by as much as 60 percent, while
those from Kenya grew by 4 and 6 percent, respectively, over the same
time period. Kenyan manufacturers have blamed their country’s
declining market share of industrial products on Chinese firms, which
they also accuse of importing raw materials from China and hiring
Implications for Africa
China’s policy of employing Chinese labor for its infrastructure
projects in Africa has resulted in more than 200,000 Chinese citizens
working on OBOR contracts across Africa. This, in turn, creates a
justification for Beijing to take a hands-on approach toward
protecting them, as well as its sprawling investments. The Academy of
Military Science, China’s top military research institute, said in its
latest strategic review that One Belt One Road has increased the need
for a globally focused strategy to protect China’s overseas interests.
Similarly the Communist Party of China has adopted the concept of
“protecting overseas nationals” (haiwai gongmin baohu, 海外公民保护) as a
core Chinese interest.
Given the strategic nature of Chinese investments in Africa, such as
ports, railways, oil and gas pipelines, and power plants, some African
governments view attacks on Chinese interests as a threat to their own
national security. Signed by African leaders in 2018, the current
China-Africa Action Plan, states that the security of “major domestic
economic projects” and “safety of Chinese nationals, Chinese
companies, and major projects” will be prioritized in intelligence,
military, and police cooperation. That year, Uganda became the first
African country to deploy its military to protect Chinese interests in
response to attacks on Chinese nationals by locals. In neighboring
Kenya, China’s security services set up and trained an elite Kenyan
police division to protect the Mombasa-Nairobi railway.
Workers at the Port of Mombasa, Kenya.
Workers at the Port of Mombasa, Kenya. (Photo: Make it Kenya/Stuart Price)
In its attempt to neutralize threats to its investments, Beijing has
also provided technologies to build local capacity for intelligence
collection, surveillance, monitoring, and response. This includes
facial recognition technologies, which were recently supplied to
Angola, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. This is causing apprehension in
Africa, given the tendency for some governments to use intrusive
technologies against political opponents and activists.
Concerns are also being raised about the role of private Chinese
companies in Africa’s security sectors Under Chinese law, the line
between public and private companies is blurred. Private firms are
required to install ruling party branches within their decision-making
structure, a regulation known as guojin mintui (国进民退). This
relationship is tightened by the practice of strictly hiring
demobilized PLA soldiers and former Special Forces, intelligence, and
police officials. Today, around 3,000 ex-military members are employed
in One Belt One Road projects around the world.
Chinese private security firms like DeWe Security and Frontier
Services Group are also increasingly present in places like Angola,
Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, and more recently,
Somalia. Chinese private security contractors mostly work discreetly
with local police, intelligence, and military personnel to secure
Chinese interests and provide advice and strategy on when and how
force should be used. However, in some instances they have been more
overt, such as in the rescue of 29 Chinese hostages in Sudan’s
Kordofan State in 2012. In another instance, ex-PLA soldiers hired by
DeWe evacuated 300 Chinese oil workers caught in a shoot-out between
rival militias in the South Sudanese capital Juba in 2016.
East African countries owe China about $29 billion in loans for
infrastructure, energy, and construction projects.
One Belt One Road has troubling implications for debt sustainability.
According to the Johns Hopkins China Africa Research Initiative, East
African countries owe China about $29 billion in loans for
infrastructure, energy, and construction projects. Beijing appears in
some cases to have attached more importance to acquiring strategic
assets than debt repayment from its partners. In 2017, Sri Lanka
handed over Hambantota port to Chinese state-owned companies on a
99-year lease after defaulting on an infrastructure loan. Pakistan
handed over Gwadar port on a 40-year lease in an arrangement where the
Chinese partner also retained 90 percent of its revenues.
These developments set off alarm bells in East Africa, where
speculation is rife that Djibouti and Kenya, both highly indebted to
China, could lose their ports in a similar fashion. In January 2019,
Uganda’s auditor general warned of the country’s ballooning debt and
the risk that conditions placed on its loans were a threat to its
sovereign assets. The following month, the Kenyan parliament opened a
probe into the circumstances under which the strategic Indian Ocean
port of Mombasa was used as collateral for the loan the government
secured from China’s Exim Bank to build the Mombasa-Nairobi railway.
How Can African Interests Be Protected?
In Africa, debates about One Belt One Road have focused on whether it
can support the continent’s infrastructure needs. The World Bank
estimates that Africa will need up to $170 billion in investment a
year for 10 years to meet its infrastructure requirements. The African
Development Bank has posited that if Africa positions itself well, it
can source some of this from the OBOR and channel it to the African
Union’s infrastructure master plan.
Namibia’s Chinese-built TransNamib Class SDD6 no. 0004. (Photo: Wynand
Can African countries seize these opportunities and mitigate some of
the risks inherent in Beijing’s latest strategy? Accountability and
transparency will be the key to answering that question. The opaque
nature of many OBOR negotiations prevents public and private sector
scrutiny. Parliaments, public protectors, and other oversight bodies
must actively monitor such negotiations, create safeguards, and keep
the public informed. Beijing is sensitive to how host nations perceive
it. When the public is aware, vigilant, and active, OBOR negotiators
can become more responsive to local demands. The lessons of Hambantota
and Gwadar suggest that when accountability and oversight are absent,
the risks of unfavorable agreements, and ultimately default, increase.
One Belt One Road can have positive net benefits for African
countries, but much will depend on whether the China-Africa
relationship can be placed on more equal footing. It is first and
foremost a Chinese geopolitical project designed to advance China’s
grand strategy. The challenge for Africa is in establishing where its
interests converge with China’s, where they diverge, and how areas of
convergence can be shaped to advance African development priorities.
August 19 2013 I have no doubt that the Indian Ocean is set to regain its glory days
Professor Felipe Fernández-Armesto explains why ‘The precocity of the
Indian Ocean as a zone of long-range navigation and cultural exchange
is one of the glaring facts of history’, made possible by the
‘reversible escalator’ of the monsoon.’
I have no doubt that the Indian Ocean is set to regain its glory days.
China’s dependence on imported crude oil is increasing and the US’
interestingly is decreasing. I am also certain the Eastern Seaboard of
Africa from Mozambique through Somalia is the last Great Energy Prize
in the c21st. [President Kenyatta probably posed the question to
Vladimir Putin, whether Russia felt it had a role to play in this
Energy Great Game in East Africa]. Therefore, the control of the
Indian Ocean becomes kind of decisive and with control China can be
shut down quite quickly. A Sine qua non of President Barack Obama’s
pivot to Asia is US/NATO Power Projection over the Indian Ocean.
Ethiopia in talks with China to ease 'serious debt pressure' tied to New Silk Road rail link, envoy says @SCMPNews
Ethiopia is renegotiating billions of dollars in loans from Beijing
for a railway that links the Ethiopian capital to neighbouring
Djibouti, to avoid being buried by “serious” debt woes tied to China’s
controversial infrastructure push, Ethiopia’s top Beijing envoy said.
But despite the increasing debt pressure on Africa’s fastest growing
economy, Ethiopian ambassador to China Teshome Toga Chanaka defended
the ambitious trade and infrastructure plan known as the “Belt and
Road Initiative” against criticism that it is a “debt trap” for
“Those who may think this is an investment that is not worth investing
on the Chinese side, I think that’s wrong because … if you are talking
from an economic rationale, I think it makes a lot of sense,” Chanaka
told the South China Morning Post in an interview last week at his
residence in the Chinese capital.
“This is a very big country with huge potential for both passengers
and cargo freight,” he said. “And eventually as our productivity
increases and our export expands, definitely the cargo freight would
be fully utilised,” Chanaka said. “There’s no question about that.”
Beijing is seeking to build roads, railways, ports and pipelines in
more than 60 countries globally, mostly through state financing, under
the belt and road, an effort to recreate the ancient Silk Road network
of trade routes that connected the East and West.
As a top destination for Chinese loans in Africa, Ethiopia has
received over US$12.1 billion from China’s state policy banks since
2000, according to a report last year by Johns Hopkins University, a
private US research institution.
The Addis Ababa – Djibouti Railway is an important part of the belt
and road scheme in Africa since it connects landlocked Ethiopia to the
sea by linking the capital, Addis Ababa, with the Port of Doraleh, a
multipurpose port just west of the Djiboutian capital Djibouti City,
with terminals for handling oil, bulk cargo and containers.
Chanaka said the two governments were in talks to restructure the
loans for the railway, which opened on January 1, 2018, and
“especially the commercial loan, because it has put serious stress on
our repaying capability”.
“We are negotiating with China as to how to manage the debt, to make
it sustainable and try to reduce some distress that comes from debt …
and there is substantial progress,” Chanaka said. The two sides were
moving closer to making the deal final, the envoy said.
When Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Beijing in September,
he said the Chinese government had agreed to restructure some of its
loan agreements with Addis Ababa, and had extended the period for
repaying the railway debt by 20 years.
The 756km (470-mile) rail link – the first standard-gauge electrified
railway on the continent built with Chinese standards and technology –
was fully financed by Chinese banks and built by two Chinese
Export-Import Bank of China put up US$2.9 billion, or about 70 per
cent, of its cost, according to China’s finance ministry.
Although the investment has left Ethiopia now looking to reduce its
debt load, just over a year after the railway’s opening,
Chanaka maintains it was a wise move to sign up for the project since
it links Ethiopia, a country of 100 million people seeking to become a
significant regional and international trade player, with Djibouti,
the gateway to the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.