Trump warns he could abandon China trade deal as advisers tout progress


February 28, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday warned he could walk away from a trade deal with China if it were not good enough, even as his economic advisers touted “fantastic” progress toward an agreement to end a dispute with the Asian country.

The United States and China have imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of each others’ goods, roiling financial markets, disrupting manufacturing supply chains and shrinking U.S. farm exports.

“I am always prepared to walk,” Trump said in Hanoi, after cutting short a summit meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un that failed to reach a nuclear deal. “I’m never afraid to walk from a deal. And I would do that with China, too, if it didn’t work out.”

The United States had been poised to hike tariffs on some $200 billion in Chinese imports to 25 percent from 10 percent after Friday if no deal was reached by then. But on Sunday, Trump announced that he would delay the hike in duties due to progress in negotiations with Chinese officials last week.

Since then, Trump administration officials have offered few details on the discussions.

“The progress last week was fantastic,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on CNBC on Thursday, noting that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer read Chinese officials “the riot act” in talks last week.

“We are heading toward a remarkable, historic deal,” he added.

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, was similarly upbeat, saying on Fox Business Network that Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He drafted “sketches of an agreement on intellectual property theft and trade … that really makes sense for both parties.”

“If you look at the paperwork we’ve got and the line-by-lines that people have sketched out, it’s just about as favorable as you could hope for,” Hassett said, adding that final details would need to be approved by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

CONTRASTING VIEWS

Lighthizer, Trump’s chief trade negotiator, on Wednesday was more cautious about the negotiations in testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee, saying much more work needed to be done to nail down an agreement and it was too soon to predict the outcome of talks.

He also said the United States would need to maintain the threat of tariffs on Chinese imports for years, even if the two countries strike a deal, a gloomy prospect for companies seeking to end trade war uncertainty.

Lighthizer had said the United States is seeking an agreement that prohibits China from competitively devaluing its currency as part of trade talks, following past manipulations of the yuan.

Adding more details, Kudlow said China would need to report any intervention in the foreign exchange market.

U.S. trade chief sees long-term China challenges

“The documents are very clear: I mean, even things like the currency deal … got no manipulation; they’ve got to report any interventions in the market. That’s part of it,” Kudlow said.

His comments came as the United States won a World Trade Organization ruling that China’s domestic price supports for wheat and rice were excessive and violated WTO obligations.

Trump administration officials have frequently criticized the Geneva-based WTO for its inability to rein in China’s trade practices and non-market economic policies.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, Alexandra Alper and Makini Brice; Editing by Dan Grebler and Susan Thomas

Source: Reuters “Trump warns he could abandon China trade deal as advisers tout progress”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Advertisements

China World Be Stupid to Fight for World Leadership with the US


Bloomberg published a stupid article “China’s Military Seeks New Islands to Conquer” on February 22 by its opinion columnist James Stavridis who Bloomberg holds in high esteem as he is a retired U.S. Navy admiral, former military commander of NATO and dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is also an operating executive consultant at the Carlyle Group and chairs the board of counselors at McLarty Associates.

However the writer’s quite impressive past and present positions, especially his previous high military ranks do not mean that that his opinions are wise; therefore, Bloomberg has to attach a disclaimer to the end of the article: This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

First the title of the article is stupid. China has not conquered any island. Perhaps, the writer means the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea but the artificial islands are built on the reefs China has already had control. Even if the reefs had been conquered by China, China would only have conquered some reefs instead of islands as the artificial islands simply did not exist when China had conquered the reefs

The article mentioned five island chains hinting that China has ambition to conquer any of them but without the least evidence to prove its allegations.

It cannot but conclude with the stupid self-contradiction in its last paragraph. “None of this means the U.S. is locked into an inevitable war with China, despite some foreign-policy mandarins’ predictions to the contrary.” … “But in today’s world, both the U.S. and China have broader global ambitions and larger international trade empires to defend.”

US global ambition for world hegemony is clear to all. If China has the same broader ambition, the two countries might well be locked into an inevitable war contrary to what the writer states.

Fortunately, China is not so stupid as to seek replacement of the US as world hegemon. That is why in fact China is not locked into an inevitable war with the US.

The US itself has found its world leadership (in fact world hegemony) too heavy a burden so that US President Trump has been demanding US allies to increase military spending for their defense to reduce US military expenditures. It is also the reason why Trump has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and threatened trade war with its allies as the US finds that its allies exploit US economic leadership to benefit themselves at US expense. Trump is now pursuing isolationism but lots of US elite like the writer of the article still pursue US world hegemony. As a result, they fear that China will rise to replace the US and have spoken and written a lot about their fear of China. The Bloomberg article is a typical example.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Bloomberg’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-21/china-military-threat-seeking-new-islands-to-conquer.


Stick to Marx not ‘ghosts and spirits’, China warns party members


February 27, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s ruling Communist Party warned party members on Wednesday to stick to Marx and Lenin and not believe in “ghosts and spirits”, in the latest effort to root out superstitious practices.

China officially guarantees freedom of religion for major belief systems like Christianity, Buddhism and Islam, but party members are meant to be atheists and are especially banned from participating in what China calls superstitious practices like visiting soothsayers.

There have been numerous scandals in recent years where senior party members have been accused of involvement in superstition.

A lengthy statement on how best to strengthen the party’s role and its leadership, issued on the official Xinhua news agency, said Marxism was the guiding thought for China and the party. “Resolutely prevent not believing in Marx and Lenin and believing in ghosts and spirits, not believing in the truth and believing in money,” the party statement said.

“Resolutely oppose all forms of mistaken thought that distorts, misrepresents or negates Marxism.”

President Xi Jinping said last year that the party’s decision to stick with the political theories of Karl Marx remained “totally correct”, to mark the 200th anniversary of the German philosopher’s birth.

Chinese people, especially the country’s leaders, have a long tradition of putting their faith in soothsaying and geomancy, looking for answers in times of doubt, need and chaos.

The practice has grown more risky amid a sweeping crackdown on deep-seated corruption launched by Xi upon assuming power in late 2012, in which dozens of senior officials have been imprisoned.

The founder of modern China, Mao Zedong, banned fortune telling and superstition in puritan, communist China after the 1949 revolution, but the occult has made a comeback since the still officially atheist country embraced economic reforms and began opening up in the late 1970s.

In one of the most famous recent cases, China’s powerful former security chief Zhou Yongkang was jailed for life in part due to accusations he leaked undisclosed state secrets to a fortune teller and healer called Cao Yongzheng, known as the “Xinjiang sage” after the far western region where he grew up.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Darren Schuettler

Source: Reuters “Stick to Marx not ‘ghosts and spirits’, China warns party members”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China expresses ‘deep concern’ over India-Pakistan conflict


February 28, 2019

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – A senior Chinese diplomat expressed “deep concern” over the escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan on Wednesday, after the two countries said they shot down each other’s fighter jets.

State Councillor Wang Yi, the Chinese government’s top diplomat made the comments in a telephone conversation with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on its website on Thursday.

Qureshi telephoned Wang to inform him of the latest developments in the conflict and to express hope that China would continue to play a “constructive role” in easing tensions, the statement said.

Wang “reiterated his hope that both Pakistan and India will exercise restraint and earnestly fulfill their commitments to preventing the expansion of the situation,” and said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, the statement said.

India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base on Tuesday, its first inside Pakistan since a 1971 war, after at least 40 Indian paramilitary police died in a Feb. 14 suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

It is the first time in history that two nuclear-armed powers have launched air strikes against each other, while ground forces have exchanged fire in more than a dozen locations.

Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Michael Perry

Source: Reuters “China expresses ‘deep concern’ over India-Pakistan conflict”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


The Military Wants to Use F-35s to Shoot Down Nuclear Missiles


Hopefully we never have to test it with an actual nuke.

Dan Robitzski January 21st 2019

Pew Pew Pew!

The Pentagon recently announced that the F-35, the stealth fighter plane that President Trump seems to think is literally invisible, may soon be equipped with new weapons specifically intended to take down nuclear missiles.

As described in the Pentagon’s official Missile Defense Review from last Thursday, The anti-nuke F-35s would join other measures designed to disable and protect from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) such as laser-equipped drones as well as orbital sensors that can spot and intercept ICBMs after they’ve been launched.

Okay But

It‘s far-fetched to imagine a fighter plane successfully shooting down a missile that travels, at its slowest, 6.5 kilometers per second. The pilot would need to already be near the site of the missile launch, know that it’s going to happen, and operate with a near-zero margin of error, according to Motherboard.

To borrow the words of the fictional character Zoë Washburne from the TV show “Firefly,” it would be like “like throwing a dart” and “hitting a bulls-eye 6,000 miles away.”

The Rub

Thankfully the Pentagon envisions anti-nuke F-35s as a complement, not a replacement, for existing nuclear defense systems. These proposed anti-ICBM F-35s mainly complicate what the F-35, first deployed in combat last Fall, is supposed to be.

As Motherboard points out, different branches of the military have different visions of what the F-35 should do, specifically catered to that branch’s needs. And now, apparently, it’s also supposed to stop any potential hostile nukes.

Source: futurism.com “The Military Wants to Use F-35s to Shoot Down Nuclear Missiles”

Note: This is futurism.com’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Malaysia Wants to Keep $20 Billion ECRL Project if or when Affordable


The Straits Times says in its report “If the price is right then ECRL may go ahead, says Malaysian PM Mahathir”, “The cost of building the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is too much for Malaysia under the current circumstances. Given this, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, there were two options for the country, which was either to bring down the cost and proceed when the price was right or to postpone the implementation of the project.”

I said in my post “China’s Major Belt and Road Project in Malaysia to Remain” on February 22 that China has three alternatives to bypass the Malacca Strait and the railway through three countries Laos, Thailand and Malaysia to the western coast of Malaysia is but one of the alternatives. Kra Canal is perhaps the best geographically but China may not own it for return of its huge investment in the canal. Therefore the rail link through Myanmar to Kyaukpyu, Myanmar at Bengal Bay is perhaps the best alternative as it is shorter and goes through only one country. In addition, China has already built oil and gas pipelines from China to Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu. The three- year survey China conducted for building the pipelines will facilitate the construction of a railway parallel to the pipeline.

Now China has concluded an agreement with Myanmar on building a deep sea port at Kyaukpyu, it will certainly be able to build the railway as Myanmar has greater need for the railway but has to rely on China for funds and technology in building the railway. As a result the major Belt and Road project of ECRL in Malaysia is not so important for China though it facilitates China’s trade with Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries.

I pointed in my previous post the great benefit ECRL will bring to Malaysia:

The railway will facilitate the development of Malaysia’s underdeveloped areas. It will benefit Malaysia much more than China. That precisely proves the benefit of China’s Belt and Road initiative that provides much needed funds for developing countries in building the infrastructures indispensable for their economic development.

That is why Mahathir says that if the cost of ECRL can be reduced to the level affordable to Malaysia, he will proceed with it. Otherwise he will resume the project later when Malaysia can afford it.

The report says that Mahathir blames his predecessor for having incurred too heavy debts so that Malaysia cannot afford ECRL now. It is very clear that China is not to blame.

The report points out that China is cooperative in the negotiations for the reduction of the cost of the project.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Straits Times’ report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/if-the-price-is-right-then-ecrl-may-go-ahead-says-malaysian-pm-mahathir.


U.S. Navy ships pass through strategic Taiwan Strait, riling China


February 26, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States sent two Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait on Monday as the U.S. military increased the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.

The voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.

The movement comes as U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States and China were “very, very close” to a deal to end a months-long trade war that has slowed global growth and disrupted markets.

The U.S. Navy’s passage through the Taiwan Strait also came just days before a summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

The two ships were identified as the destroyer Stethem and Navy cargo and ammunition ship Cesar Chavez, the statement said. The 180 km-wide (112 miles) Taiwan Strait separates Taiwan from China.

There was no immediate reaction from China, which has previously expressed its opposition to such exercises.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Tuesday the U.S. ships had already left the strait, following a northerly route.

Taiwan’s armed forces had kept watch on the sailing and noticed nothing out of the ordinary, so there was no cause for alarm, it said.

Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help defend the island nation and is its main source of arms. The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.

China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers a wayward province of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory.

Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan are likely to factor strongly into this year’s Chinese defense budget, following a stern new year’s speech from President Xi Jinping, threatening to attack Taiwan should it not accept Chinese rule.

China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years and worked to isolate the island internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.

Democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China.

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Yimou Lee in TAIPEI; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul Tait

Source: Reuters “U.S. Navy ships pass through strategic Taiwan Strait, riling China”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.