CLAIRE BERLINSKI, PARIS
🗞 China’s demographic bomb is exploding. Southeast Asia doesn’t trust China. The US flogs its Asia-Pacific plan. North Korea’s Covid numbers don’t add up. And a nine-course meal in Bangkok …
The new framework, which is perceived as an economic correlative of the US Indo-Pacific strategy, is not a Free Trade Agreement, as clarified by the US. Instead, it’s a loose framework that brings together 13 countries to shape rules on key focus areas like the digital economy, trusted supply chains, clean economic growth, corporate accountability, and anti-corruption.
China’s birth rates have continued to plummet. In 2021, they fell to the lowest level since the famine-induced years that followed the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s. As a result, China’s official total fertility rate—or the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to experience current age-specific fertility rates throughout her reproductive years—has declined to 1.3. Some observers believe the true figure to be closer to 1.1, on par with that of other rapidly aging societies in East Asia. …
The rapidity of this population decline has forced significant revisions to official estimates of how fast China will age. When the Chinese government issued its 15-year population development plan in 2016, it projected that China’s total population would not begin to decline until 2030. Now that turning point may likely be reached as early as this year.
In the industrial, heartland of southern China, companies are accelerating the installations of industrial robots because they cannot get enough young workers and labor costs are soaring. … [B]y most measures China’s population challenges are the most urgent and severe in the world. The tremendous pressure on the country’s overwhelmed hospitals and underfunded pension system is already beginning to tell.
📈 Rethinking the link between demography and inflation: Two economists argue that inflation is tied to China’s demography, so it could be around for years to come:
[T]hey argue that over the past forty years it was above all China that disinflated the world by producing and inundating global markets with cheap goods. Favorable demographics provided the country with a huge and rapidly growing labor force willing to work hard for low wages. China’s inclusion in the world’s production and trading networks ended up affecting labor markets in advanced economies as well. In the years leading up to hyper-globalization, Western companies were eager to offshore their production to Asia (and to a lesser extent to Eastern Europe) in order to profit from these areas’ low labor costs.
According to Goodhart and Pradhan, this shift of production led to a weakening in labor bargaining power and, ultimately, to stagnating wages in the West. These trends coincided with the period when, on our side of the world, baby boomers joined the workforce en masse, putting even more downward pressure on wages and prices. … For Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan, the era in which China drove output up and inflation down in the West is over. From now on, they say, it will be doing the opposite.
- China will likely experience a substantial long-term growth slowdown owing to demographic decline, the limits of capital-intensive growth, and a gradual deceleration in productivity growth.
- Even with continued broad policy success, our baseline projections suggest annual economic growth will slow to about 3 percent by 2030 and 2 percent by 2040, while averaging 2–3 percent overall from now until 2050.
- China will still become the world’s largest economy, but it would never enjoy a meaningful lead over the US and will remain far less prosperous and productive per person even by mid-century.
The most straightforward aspect of China’s long-term growth outlook is its stark demographics. The legacy of China’s draconian past population policies and its rapid demographic transition mean China’s population is set to shrink and age rapidly over the coming decades. China’s working age population has been shrinking since the middle of last decade. The latest national census indicates that the fertility rate has fallen rapidly over the past decade to just 1.3 births per woman in 2020—well below the replacement rate of 2.1. This is broadly in line with the lower-case projections of the United Nations, which suggest that by 2050 China’s working age population will have shrunk by roughly 220 million people—about one-fifth of its current level—while rapid aging will see its demographic profile quickly converge on that in Europe, which is itself aging. Over-65s will constitute more than a quarter of the Chinese population by 2050:
🕌⛓ China provides a “glaring example” of how governments are cracking down on religious minorities, a US official said, as the Department of State released its annual report on religious freedom around the world:
“The PRC government continue[s] to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.”
🇨🇦✈︎✈︎ Canadian military aircraft operating in Asia have been buzzed repeatedly by Chinese jets at dangerously close distances:
Canadian armed forces media relations chief Dan Le Bouthillier said that the incidents took place during Operation Neon, Canada’s contribution to the implementation of United Nations sanctions against North Korea. “In these interactions, PLAAF [People’s Liberation Army Air Force] aircraft did not adhere to international air safety norms,” Mr. Le Bouthillier said.
China seeks two main things from the region—one diplomatic and one strategic. Diplomatically, it needs the voting support of Pacific islands at the United Nations. These countries, most of which are small, have an equal vote at the UN. Their support—on issues such as Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, South and East China Seas and human rights—matters to China.
Strategically, China sees Pacific islands as a target of what’s known as “South-South cooperation”—partnerships between developing countries. China’s mistrust of developed countries is deep-rooted and has persisted since the founding of the communist regime in 1949. To reduce the strategic pressure from developed countries, China strives to forge close ties with the developing world.
🔋 The Chinese government released a policy package of 33 stimulus measures to boost the economy in the wake of Covid lockdowns.
🧊 A surprise thaw in US-China relations? Treasury Secretary Yellen’s call to eliminate Trump era tariffs on Chinese imports could bring both sides back from the brink:
China met the lion’s share of the US$6 trillion in consumer demand created by the US government in response to Covid. Removing the tariffs is the one tool at the disposal of the beleaguered Biden administration that would mitigate inflation, the main cause of its plummeting popularity.
The interconnected, archipelagic nature of the Asia-Pacific is such that great power relations must be managed with maturity and restraint, in addition to resolve. In this context, there are numerous positive equilibria defined by constructive and cooperative actions that may enhance collective security and prosperity within the region. That is, states may choose to support common security needs rather than pursue actions that seek to diminish, divide, or coerce. Notwithstanding future developments, the primary limiting factors for peace, security, and stability at present overwhelmingly remain the diverging interests and temperaments among great powers seeking to alter the status quo and the ongoing conduct of relations between them.
🇺🇸 Chongyang Institute of Finance, Renmin University of China: The United States launched a “great encirclement and suppression” against China. How can China prevent it?
The current pattern of US. strategic competition with China can be summarized as five points: step up the construction of a “Indo-Pacific economic and trade circle” encircling China, put financial pressure on Chinese enterprises, attack and slander China in the ideological field, provoke the Taiwan issue by “salami tactics,” and constantly suppress China’s development in the field of military science and technology.
In the coming period, the trend of Sino-US relations will be affected by two major factors. First, the economic strength of China and the United States has changed. As the economic gap between China and the United States gradually narrows, China’s strength in the game against the United States will increase day by day. Second, the differences in the political concepts of China and the United States are embodied in the struggle between “hegemony” in the United States and China’s concept of “community with a shared future for mankind.” …
In order to cope with Biden’s all-round competitive offensive against China, China should give up its illusions and make every effort to prevent the possibility of a final showdown in a high-intensity military confrontation. It should also take the initiative to shape Sino-US relations while adapting to the new normal of tension in Sino-US relations. On the basis of competition, China and the United States should, reflecting the responsibility of major powers, seek the possibility of Sino-US cooperation, establish the awareness of a community with a shared future for mankind, form a consensus on cooperation on key issues, promote the effective development of global governance, especially global data governance, and jointly create a better future for mankind. (My emphasis. In Chinese.)
🩸 It’s the eve of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. A statement from the Mainland Affairs Council of Taiwan:
On June 3, 2022, the eve of the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Incident, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) issued the following statement regarding the violent crackdown ordered by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1989 on the students and protesters demanding political reforms. The MAC expressed its deep regret over the CCP’s failure to reflect on its mistakes and its unrepentant enforcement of mass surveillance, suppression of free speech, and infringement on human rights. The MAC called on the Beijing authorities once again to address the historical facts of the Tiananmen Square Incident with sincerity, embark on political reforms, implement democratic governance, and promote civic participation in its society. Only then will mainland China be able to enhance the well-being of those at home and improve its international image in the eyes of those abroad.
The MAC emphasized that the CCP has been tightening its grip on free speech and imposing restrictions on people’s freedom to consolidate its long-standing one-party dictatorship. The window of opportunities for this situation to change has been shrinking rapidly, and the CCP authorities have repeatedly ignored the voices of concerns from Taiwan and the global community. The CCP has been subjecting the ethnic minorities to arbitrary detention and forced labor in their so-called “re-education camps”; it has scrapped its commitment to rule Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” framework; moreover, it has been clamping down on the democracy and freedom of Hong Kongers with the National Security Law. These atrocities have amounted to a complete disregard of human rights, universal values, and commitments to the international community; totally betrayed the ”people-centered” philosophy of development that the CCP claims to uphold; and constituted the main culprits of the rigid governance of and inherent conflicts in the mainland Chinese society.
China, India, and Pakistan have developed nuclear capabilities as one way to deter conflict with more powerful adversaries: the United States, China, and India, respectively. Each of the states in Southern Asia is expanding its nuclear arsenal and investing in related delivery systems. All aspire to field nuclear triads with assured second-strike capabilities, but China, India, and Pakistan are at very different stages in this process. In making these investments in national security, each state also threatens its less powerful rivals. The result, a “cascading security dilemma,” encourages arms racing, disrupts regional strategic stability, and heightens the risk that crises could cross the nuclear threshold.
🛕⛪️🕌 Indian officials are ignoring or even supporting attacks on people and places of worship, said Rashad Hussain, who heads the US State Department’s efforts to monitor religious freedom around the world, during the release of a report on religious freedom globally.
🇺🇸👎🏼 India described the US State Department report as “unfortunate vote bank politics being practiced in international relations.”
India previously rejected the US religious freedom report, saying it sees no locus standi for a foreign government to pronounce on the state of its citizens’ constitutionally protected rights. The India section of the report avoids giving any opinion on the status of religious minorities, but documents various aspects of it as appeared in the Indian press and the Indian government reports. It also liberally quotes the allegations of various non-profit organizations and minority institutions on attacks on them, but most of the time is quite silent on the results of the investigations being undertaken by the officials.
🇮🇳🕉🗡A series of targeted attacks on Hindus in Indian-administered Kashmir has sent shockwaves through the region’s minority community, forcing hundreds to leave:
The spate of killings of Pandits has reignited protests by the community, who despite assurances of safety by the government, are demanding their relocation outside the volatile region. In a memorandum to the region’s administrate head Manoj Sinha on May 23, Hindu government employees threatened “en-masse resignation” if their demands were not met.
“The recent killing … has left us with no hope and sustaining power to live in these darkest hours,” said the memorandum … “All the valley-posted Kashmiri minority employees should be immediately shifted outside this province to stop any further bloodshed,” it added.
🇮🇳🇺🇦 External affairs minister S. Jaishankar said India was not sitting on the fence about Ukraine; it was simply entitled to its own opinion:
Jaishankar said the country’s foreign policy was not based on accepting a “construct” that it had to side with a power axis, or it belonged to another camp if it did not side with one. “I (India) am one-fifth of the world’s population. I am what, today the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world. Forget the history and civilization bit; everybody knows that. I feel I am entitled to have my own side. I am entitled to weigh my own interests, and make my own choices. My choices will not be cynical and transactional. They will be a balance of my values and my interests. There is no country in the world which disregards its interests.”
🇮🇳🚀 India’s defense ministry awarded a US$424 million contract to state-run Bharat Dynamics Limited to supply locally developed Astra MK-I air-to-air missiles. The missile is expected to reduce India’s dependency on Russian R-77, French MICA, and Israeli Derby beyond-visual-range missiles.
“Aurangzeb severed many heads, but he could not shake our faith,” Modi said during his address. His invocation of the 17th century Mughal emperor was not a mere blip. Aurangzeb Alamgir remained buried deep in the annals of India’s complex history. The country’s modern rulers are now resurrecting him as a brutal oppressor of Hindus and a rallying cry for Hindu nationalists who believe India must be salvaged from the taint of the so-called Muslim invaders.
🤒 India reported 4,041 new Covid-19 infections—the highest single-day jump since March 11—causing fears of a fresh wave. (Paywalled.)
🦘🇮🇳 Why are kangaroos being spotted in India? (Answer: The poor beasts have been smuggled.)
Hours after two injured kangaroos were rescued from near Gajoldoba in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district Friday night, two more were spotted at the Farabari Nepali area in the Dabgram forest range Saturday, sending forest officials into a tizzy. pic.twitter.com/akAVfTvK6I
— Forests And Wildlife Protection Society-FAWPS (@FawpsIndia) April 2, 2022
🧧🇵🇰 China bailed out Pakistan again, agreeing to refinance loans worth US$2.3 billion.
🇵🇰🕳 Soon Pakistan will be next Sri Lanka. What does it mean for India as China’s debt trap grows?
The dynamics of South Asian geopolitics is all set to change in the coming months with Pakistan going the Sri Lanka way, buckling under the debt pressure of China. Many other economies in the region are likely to face similar headwinds considering the economic downturn if the Russia-Ukraine conflict does not abate soon. For India, the economic and political crisis in Pakistan is both a challenge and an opportunity to script a new chapter in geopolitics and geo-economics.
🇵🇰🥷🏻 The Pakistani Taliban has extended a ceasefire with the government in Islamabad following two days of talks with a delegation of Pakistani tribal elders hosted by the Afghan Taliban.
🇮🇳🇦🇫 A team of Indian officials met the acting foreign minister of Afghanistan to discuss bilateral ties and humanitarian aid, the Taliban said, in the first such visit to Kabul since the Taliban seized power.
🇦🇫🥷🏻 The Taliban is maintaining close ties with al-Qaida as they consolidate control over the country. Their main military threat is coming from the Islamic State and guerrilla attacks by former Afghan government security personnel, says the UN.
Soft clouds kiss the mountaintops, as you sip tea from heritage porcelain. Walk to the local village, across a meandering stream to the tune of a blue throated barbet by day, and spend the nights stargazing. Or, sip on a fragrant cup of filter coffee at heritage plantation bungalow …
From the Northern mountains covered in lush tea leaves, as you move to coffee estates in the South, you will find nestled in what is often called the Scotland of India, Coorg, a heritage plantation dating back centuries. Old Kent Estates and Spa, one of India’s oldest coffee plantations, was developed in the 1800s by Lieutenant Colonel WR Wright, an army officer in British India. His oversight and planning transformed the estate from a jungle in which big game thrived to a highly cultivated, thriving estate. After his demise in 1898, the property remained with his descendants until 1964, when it was bought by its present owners, the Thaikappa family, from southern Tamil Nadu. The estate was formerly called Horoor Estate, drawing its provenance from a varietal of Arabica coffee popular with local planters. …
At Ging Tea House, a heritage plantation retreat at Darjeeling, tea meets tradition as visitors can partake of local culture , and immerse themselves in the tea experience: visiting the gardens, witnessing the manufacturing process set by the East India Company, and ending with a tasting of the estate’s range of teas. Built in 1864, the tea house has been tastefully restored keeping its colonial heritage intact, surrounded by manicured private gardens. The six suites are replete with old wooden flooring, exposed rafters on the high ceiling, and period furniture and drapes. The dining room, graceful with antique china, hosts long lunches and three-course evening meals. Breakfast is served on the open deck, which looks over the rolling tea gardens. It is a tapestry of heritage woven with modern comforts.
The region of Bylakuppe has a large concentration of Buddhists. There are many impressive Buddhist monasteries that have been set up here. The practice of Buddhism is taught here at the numerous Buddhist monasteries:
🍛 Central Asia
Kyrgyzstan’s health minister, who recommended a poisonous root as a treatment for coronavirus, has been arrested following a corruption probe linked to the purchase of Covid vaccines:
Prosecutors said on Friday Beishenaliyev was involved in the purchase of more than two million coronavirus vaccine doses over national requirements, proceeds from which “were transferred to offshore accounts”. The money spirited away totalled 1.5 billion soms (US$19 million).
Central Asia celebrates Victory Day amid Russian pressure. A delicate balance between memory and politics:
In mid-April 2022, the Kazakh Ministry of Defense announced that there would be no military parade on Victory Day, and the celebrations would be confined to “military-patriotic events” instead, citing the need to save budgetary funds and prioritize other tasks, despite the 30th anniversary of the Kazakh Defense Forces. Moreover, the so-called Immortal Regiment (Бессмертный полк), the marches to commemorate war veterans, were canceled in some regions of Kazakhstan, sometimes due to a growing negative response, as was the case in Aktau in western Kazakhstan.
🍶 East Asia
🇯🇵🇷🇺🗾 Japan’s tangled territorial dispute with Russia. In northernmost Hokkaido, residents can easily see Russian-held islands that once belonged to Japan. Some still hold out hope for the islands’ return.
🇯🇵🎊👇🏼 Japan recorded record low births, biggest ever population drop. Japan has one of the fastest aging populations on earth, and the country’s closed borders during the pandemic have hastened the shrinkage of its workforce
🇰🇵∓ North Korea’s Covid numbers don’t add up. Given Omicron statistics from elsewhere, North Korea is either massively over-reporting cases or massively under-reporting deaths. Why?
≟🇰🇵∓ It’s been three weeks since North Korea announced its first ever Covid case. The government claims to have the outbreak under control, but the details remain a mystery:
So far, just 70 deaths have been officially reported. This would put North Korea’s Covid fatality rate at 0.002 percent—the lowest in the world. “For a country with a poor healthcare system, where noone is vaccinated, these numbers don’t make sense.”
🇰🇵🍌🍌 North Korea has assumed the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations, which makes exactly as much sense as you think it does.
🍚 Southeast Asia
🇲🇲🪓 While the world is distracted, Myanmar’s junta is terrorizing minorities in the country’s east:
Since seizing power in a coup d’état on February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military has committed massive human rights violations across the country. Armed conflict has erupted or escalated in several regions, including in Kayin and Kayah States, on the country’s eastern border with Thailand. The military’s operations there have reflected its signature policy of collective punishment of civilian communities perceived to support an armed group or, in the coup’s aftermath, the wider protest movement. Amid international inaction and waning global interest, the military has proceeded to attack civilians and civilian infrastructure from the air and the ground, unleashing a new wave of war crimes and likely crimes against humanity that have caused mass displacement and a deepening humanitarian crisis.
🇹🇭๑๒๓ A feud over an online campaign calling for Thai numerals to be scrapped in official documents is about a clash of ideologies:
One one hand, there are the radical conservatives—the Thai-centric, ultra-patriotic camp which believes Thailand, or the “Golden Axe,” belongs at the center of the world. One the other hand there are the progressives who seek to challenge old beliefs. The former takes pride in “Thainess” because they believe Thai culture and language reflects the nation’s exceptional status. Some ultra-conservative individuals take it even further, with an MP candidate for the Thai Pak Dee Party going as far as describing it as the nation as a “beacon of civilization,” its culture as the “flesh and blood’”of its citizens and society, which has a “unique cultural root.” They routinely slam the latter as changchart (“nation hater”) or “rootless” historical revisionists who are detached from the past and and relish in challenging the status quo.
The radicals’ superiority complex can be traced back to the idea of Thai exceptionalism, a myth which they hold close to their hearts. It assumes that Thailand, as the only nation in the region which escaped Western colonization, albeit by giving up chunks of land on its periphery, deserves a higher status among its peers. … Their insular mindset will cost Thai society the opportunity to reinvent itself, which I would argue is actually a better representation of Thainess. It explains why we continue to condone many “Thai-style” practices, such as half-baked human rights and democracy. Without intermixing, Thai culture will only become more stiff and rigid.
🇻🇳🍎📲 Tired of disruptions from Covid lockdowns, Apple is moving some iPad production from China to Vietnam.
Despite its overwhelming contribution to the regional economy, a recent survey of Southeast Asian elites by Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute showed that China was the least trusted country in the region. The same survey lauded the US as the second-most trusted partner, after Japan. …
If China can provide what the US is lacking in Southeast Asia, why doesn’t the country elicit the same amount of trust? Maritime and territorial disputes might be the obvious answer. Yet, the problem stems from the deeper issues of China’s disregard for the value of autonomy and inclusivity in the region. Indeed, China’s regional strategy is driven by flawed assumptions of how diplomacy works in Southeast Asia.
Not much was known about the Islamic State’s new leader for its so-called East Asia province, which encompasses Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and, according to a terrorism monitor, also Thailand. The Diplomat has recently learned the background and source of radicalization of the leader, best known by his nom de guerre Abu Zacharia, the chief of an IS-supporting terror outfit in the the southern Philippines known as the Maute group.
It’s almost time for the Huệ Festival:
🎶🍴A culinary poem: A review of a nine-course tasting meal at Bangkok’s Kavee:
The first dish was Ostra Regal oyster from Brittany, France. The plumpish and fleshy oyster was served in a pool of pink radish olive oil capped with a frosty dollop of fruity-tasting sauce made from bai thammang, an indigenous herb from Southern Thailand.
The second course, a shrimp crudo tartlet, unified prime seasonal ingredients with the chef’s favorite flavours from his childhood. On a tiny crispy pastry cup was a fresh sizable prawn, marinated in citrus juice so the meat tightened and developed a pleasant crunchy exterior while the center retained a superb, sashimi-like quality. Giving the prawn a well-balanced enhancement was a Teochew-style sauce, a tasty emulsion of pickled turnip, ginger, coriander, garlic, fresh chillies, pepper leaves and sesame oil. …
🥢 The CCP is truly at its wits’ end with you …
The well-designed term “American exceptionalism” is in fact an unfounded idea that United States values and policies are positive outliers in the grand scheme of human history, which gives rise to the belief that Americans are superior and therefore entitled to impose their ideals and military foothold in every corner of the world.
This principal dogma is also their justification for implementing some of the most violent and brutal foreign policies in modern history, instigating coups, psychological operations and wars under the false pretense of America’s fight against terrorism in the Middle East or their attempts at “restoring” democratic values by way of regime change.
Just to be absolutely clear, the United States of America is by no means exceptional. One can easily point to a time where some other human civilization had also achieved widespread power, like the Han, Romans, Mongols, British or Russians. In other words, there is little about the US that is nonreplicable despite its global reach today. However, by upholding the term American exceptionalism, politicians can lure the US masses into a false sense of complacency, in a futile attempt at masquerading the dysfunctional state of affairs the country finds itself in, as per the ever-growing US$30 trillion debt and gun, racial, social, drug, and gender crises.
🐼 Today’s animal: The panda
Claire Berlinski is the editor of the Cosmopolitan Globalist.