JEFF J BROWN—Tony is an independent American geopolitical analyst based in Thailand. His work covers world events from a Southeast Asian perspective and promotes self-sufficiency as one of the keys to true freedom. I have been a big fan of Tony’s for several years now and enjoy getting his email alerts. His articles are always insightful and informed. He obviously has a lot of non-mainstream connections around Asia and puts them to good use.
Tony Cartalucci-Land Destroyer talks about Baba Beijing on China Rising Radio Sinoland 171102 Appearing on China Rising—a fraternal site
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Tony is an independent American geopolitical analyst based in Thailand. His work covers world events from a Southeast Asian perspective and promotes self-sufficiency as one of the keys to true freedom.
I have been a big fan of Tony’s for several years now and enjoy getting his email alerts. His articles are always insightful and informed. He obviously has a lot of non-mainstream connections around Asia and puts them to good use. It is Tony who finally clarified for me all the machinations of the Thaksin Red Shirts in Thailand, and his analysis of the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar just tells it like it is. His geopolitical brush is broad, covering the entire Eurasian landmass and beyond. Most importantly, he is fearless in speaking truth to Western empire.
Question 1. Jeff J. Brown (JB): A friend of mine in Britain told me that China’s just finished 19th Party Congress and Xi Jinping’s visionary keynote speech “were all over the media”, which really surprised me. A fellow author in Thailand said that he was hearing quite a buzz among his contacts around the world.
What are you hearing in Thailand? Cambodia? Laos? Myanmar? Philippines, etc.? In these or other countries where you have contacts, are the leaders and politicians aware of the 19th Congress and/or Xi’s speech? What about the national media? The citizens on the streets? What are any of these groups thinking and saying, good or bad?
Answer 1. Tony Cartalucci (TC): There has not been a lot of deep coverage locally regarding the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, but it has been mentioned. However, the meeting itself only summarized regional and global trends that many in the public are already becoming increasingly aware of – and more specifically – in regards to China’s growing ties with its Southeast Asian neighbors. Leaders therefore are clearly aware, because they are the ones inking weapon and infrastructure deals as well as organizing military exercises with Beijing. Here in Thailand particularly, the government just received its first batch of VT-4 main battle tanks from China. Construction has also begun this month on the joint Thai-China high-speed rail project.
Cambodia and Laos are similarly expanding their ties and seeing the results of China’s emerging vision for the region and the world take shape right within their borders.
The public, business owners, and national leadership all seem to agree that if a balance of power can be maintained across Asia Pacific, then the rise of China and these emerging deals will be mutually beneficial for the entire region. What many are worried about, perhaps more quietly, is the notion of exchanging one regional hegemon projecting power from Washington with another from Beijing. So, the emphasis has been on cautious optimism.
Those few voices who are adamantly opposed to China’s rise and the ideas expressed during this most recent meeting are those who depend on and who have primarily benefited from Western influence in Asia. These include an army of pan-regional fronts posing as NGOs funded by the US State Department via the National Endowment for Democracy who spend their time ceaselessly opposing, obstructing, condemning, and disrupting joint projects with China. This includes protesting dams in Myanmar and along the Mekong River, protesting and condemning the purchasing of Chinese military hardware, and virtually anything else done with China that signals the further waning of American hegemony in the region.
Question 2. JB: In my article about Xi’s speech (link at end of question), I said it was a declaration of war against global Western capitalism. Even veteran Communist Party of China (CPC) haters, like Orville Schell, felt compelled to concur:
Answer 2. TC: China, and Russia, both propose a similar and even compatible alternative to the prevailing unipolar world order presided over by Wall Street, Washington, London, and Brussels. The momentum this alternative vision for the future certainly is a big deal.
From a Southeast Asia perspective, the clash between China and America is viewed as more about power and wealth than about ideology. China is a preferred partner not because of its perceived moral or ideological superiority, but because it recognizes, accepts, and has developed its policy around the fact that it lacks the ability to project its power as pervasively and as absolutely as the United States has.
Southeast Asian leaders, in fact, fear a China that ever transforms into a hegemon and so the entire process of pushing the US out of the region and accommodating a growing China is being done to maximize a balance of socioeconomic, military, and political power across the region. In many ways, Southeast Asia hopes to see for wider Asia the same sort of multipolar order the sub-region itself currently enjoys. Beijing has, over recent years, given many positive signals that it also prefers such an arrangement, and realistically, in terms of military power, technology, and economic trends, it appears that is precisely what is and will continue to happen.
China’s rise and the reordering of Asia Pacific as a successful multipolar region would indeed spell the end of America’s unipolar world order. Of course, this is expressed in US policy papers spanning decades. The US has used and will continue to use conflict, terrorism, political subversion, regime change, economic warfare, and the threat of conventional war along China’s peripheries until it either succeeds or is ushered entirely out of the region and away from international relevance. We can already see the sort of disruptions the US plans to use against China playing out in Myanmar, the Philippines, and even in Thailand where now two former prime ministers backed by the United States have fled abroad and are now pursuing – with US assistance – “regime change.”
Question 3. JB: In my article, I suggested that Western empire will not take sitting down Xi’s vision for the 21st century and his offer to work with all countries in a mutually beneficial, non-aggressive, non-colonial partnership. Washington-London-Paris-Tel Aviv might even resort to a hot war with China, to stop its global dream and incessant renaissance.
What is your prognosis for Western empire’s response? What are the chances of it starting a hot war with China? If it does, do you think it is possible that it stays limited to the US and China as adversaries? Or would NATO get sucked in? How about China’s allies, North Korea, Russia and Iran? What would be the tipping point for one side or the other to push the nuclear button?
Answer 3. TC: Predicting the likelihood of a hot war is very difficult. I don’t think anything short of absolute desperation would spur either side to push the nuclear button. The US would likely never directly confront China unless it felt that was the only option left before the window of opportunity closes on American hegemony in Asia Pacific for good.
US interference on the Korean peninsula is so dangerous because the US has long-drafted plans for toppling the government in Pyongyang. From Washington’s perspective, it would be a proxy conflict fought on China’s peripheries, but likely only if they were sure China would not risk directly intervening. Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria may have given US planners pause for thought – but also given Chinese planners impetus to assert themselves. The failures US policymakers are suffering in the Middle East have already diminished America’s imperial aura of invincibility significantly. A similar routing in Asia would be the beginning of the end – not unlike the final years of European colonialism.
Beyond North Korea, we’re more likely to see a continuation of US “soft power” along China’s peripheries. As mentioned before, in Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, and Cambodia particularly, but also in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Baluchistan region, and of course, within China’s borders themselves in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. Taiwan is another pressure point the US will be pressing on continuously until the very last possible moment.
Beyond a World War III scenario, I think we can imagine China’s allies working together to create solutions to address America’s “soft power,” which includes not only political subversion through opposition fronts, media, and agitators, but also terrorism and economic warfare.
The sort of solutions they have already employed themselves individually as far as creating alternative media organizations, their own IT infrastructure including domestic versions of Google and Facebook, as well as counter-terrorism efforts, are already being shared with other nations in this emerging multipolar paradigm.
Question 4. JB: In my article on Xi’s speech, I suggested that the much bandied petro-yuan supposedly coming on line not long after the 19th Party Congress is no coincidence. If pushed heavily, it could conceivably cause a run on the US dollar. It is not China’s style to be drastic and global currency upheaval would hurt both friend and foe. Yet, hydrocarbon behemoths Russia, Iran and Venezuela all sell a lot of the stuff to China. They are staunchly anti-West and are being viciously sabotaged by Western tyranny. So, they have powerful motives to stick it to Uncle Sam.
Answer 4. TC: China may well be doing it to bargain. China has been very patient and measured in all that it does, and anything truly brash would be an unwelcome sign of desperation, not strength. China, Russia, Venezuela, and Iran depend on each other for many reasons – not least among them is the fact that if any were to collapse, it would be one less weight on the scale balancing against the still significant wealth, power, and military might of the United States. Russia understands its overdependence on hydrocarbon wealth and has been diversifying. China also understands energy as a potential weakness, but also a strength. I believe it is well positioned for something even more disruptive than a petro-yuan, and that is its ability to drive a solar-electric paradigm shift. The fact that it is cultivating both options may give us some insight into Washington’s increasing frustration.
Technology is exponentially advancing and such a disruption can come sooner than many might expect. By removing entirely the pillars upon which the Anglo-American empire has stood would be a true coup. But again, as discussed before, solar-electric is not something that can be monopolized in the same way hydrocarbons can – which is a blessing in disguise really – because it will help encourage and preserve, rather than chip away at this emerging multipolar world China is helping to usher in. Question 5. JB: Donald Trump is meeting Xi Jinping in Beijing in just a few days.
Answer 5. TC: America appears more impotent upon the international stage by the month. Trump visiting China will most likely only reinforce the world’s conclusion that America is a loud, but waning global power. Similar visits to Southeast Asia by the US Secretary of State – once celebrated – were treated by both the media and the public like an unpleasant chore. When President Trump returns home, I expect the same sort of concerted regional destabilization the US is undertaking to continue, continued provocations in the South China Sea, and a continued build-up of tensions on the Korean Peninsula – in other words – a dangerous status quo that the region will have to work hard to overcome and do so by removing America’s unwarranted influence from it.
Question 6. JB: Here is a “man on the streets question”. When I talk with mainstream journalists and your average ex-pat business person in Asia, the usual line is that the Chinese are despised and resented everywhere they go to live, work and do business. They say they are greedy, insensitive, overbearing and arrogant. They take over the local economy, make demands and corrupt everyone. They are said to be insular and don’t try to blend in and become a part of the local culture and scene. They are just there to get rich off the locals.
You live in Thailand and have contacts around Asia. What do you make of these claims? Racist paranoia? Half-truths and generalizations based on a few bad apples? Or does the brush paint an accurate picture? Is there a socioeconomic divide? Do the leaders and common people have conflicting impressions?
Answer 6. TC: Much of this ranges from racist paranoia to unfair generalizations based on a few bad apples – and are generally views held predominately by Western expats, not Thais themselves.
Thais for their part understand the importance of China now more than ever – particularly as an alternative and balance against America’s continued and unwelcomed influence in its politics and economics. They welcomed 8.7 million Chinese tourists to their country last year versus only 1 million from the US – the largest number of Westerners to arrive in the country. Chinese businesses are also active in Thailand, and Thai businesses are active in China. There is an exchange of language, culture, and mutual interests taking place on an unprecedented scale, and one the United States will never be able to keep up with because of culture and proximity.
Thais in increasing numbers are learning Mandarin as a second language, both for business opportunities in China and as a means of better serving increasing numbers of Chinese tourists and business owners.
China, for centuries, has already played a significant part of Thailand’s diverse culture. Chinese holidays are observed in Thailand, Chinese food has made a significant contribution to Thai cuisine. As China gets a grip over its explosive growth and wealth – and they are already taking measures to deal with this – the sort of “bad apple” behavior fueling unfair generalizations will diminish and so will these generalizations.
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ABOUT JEFF BROWN
JEFF J. BROWN, Senior Editor & China Correspondent, Dispatch from Beijing
In China, he has been a speaker at TEDx, the Bookworm and Capital M Literary Festivals, the Hutong, as well as being featured in an 18-part series of interviews on Radio Beijing AM774, with former BBC journalist, Bruce Connolly. He has guest lectured at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences and various international schools and universities.
Jeff grew up in the heartland of the United States, Oklahoma, much of it on a family farm, and graduated from Oklahoma State University. He went to Brazil while in graduate school at Purdue University, to seek his fortune, which whetted his appetite for traveling the globe. This helped inspire him to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tunisia in 1980 and he lived and worked in Africa, the Middle East, China and Europe for the next 21 years. All the while, he mastered Portuguese, Arabic, French and Mandarin, while traveling to over 85 countries. He then returned to America for nine years, whereupon he moved back to China in 2010. He lives in China with his wife. Jeff is a dual national French-American, being a member of the Communist Party of France (PCF) and the International Workers of the World (IWW).