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US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping want to discuss each other’s “red lines” at the G20 conference November 14 and 15 in Indonesia, Biden said November 9. It’s not just about Taiwan, where US war ships cross China’s “red lines” constantly. China “is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and… the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that objective,” Biden wrote in the new US Defense Strategy document issued in October.

China says Biden is trying to build alliances aimed at containing China. At the 20th Party Congress, Xi warned that China is “confronted  with drastic changes inn the international landscape, especially external attempts to blackmail, contain, blockade, and exert maximum pressure on China.” A Chinese embassy spokesperson in Washington said China wants to focus on helping “address severe challenges such as world economic sluggishness and disarray in global governance” at the conference in Bali, Indonesia.

The influential Chinese newspaper Global Times editorialized November 13 that “the G20 was established due to global financial crises… When the US was hit by a financial crisis, even with the G7, it couldn't handle it, so there was a real need for it to strengthen coordination and dialogue with emerging countries.” Global Times adds that “the G20 is also a symbol of the transformation from the West having the only say to common governance across the globe… G20 is not an expanded G7… While the latter is just a coterie of rich countries, the former is a sign of multipolarity. The G20 consists of the world's major developed economies and emerging markets, which together account for about 85 percent of the global economy…” It concludes that “the whole world is pinning their hope on G20 to be a catalyst of global economic recovery, especially for developing countries.”

The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, theUnited States, and the European Union. Several are also members of BRICS: Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa. Argentina, Iran and Saudi Arabia are candidates for BRICS membership. Together the BRICS countries comprise well over half the global population, and their combined GDP of $25 Trillion is greater than that of the US at $23 Trillion. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Argentina’s combined GDPs would add about $2.3 trillion. (If Saudi Arabia follows through with joining BRICS, and welcomes Xi in an upcoming visit, it could be a game changer.) Other prospective BRICS candidates include Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, adding their combined GDP of nearly $4 trillion. (The EU, Japan and South Korea have a combined GDP equal to that of the US.)

Stops along the way

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited India November 11, enroute to Indonesia for G20. She made it clear the US goal with G20 is to try to reshape the global economic order so “allies depend on one another for the goods and services that power their economies.” USAID is providing half a billion dollars to finance a US solar manufacturer’s new facility in southern India, specifically to “move away from China,” which leads the world in solar technology. Yellen used the canard of “forced labor” in Xinjiang – an evidence-free claim – to smear China.

India “shows little interest in US overtures,” the Times report says. India refused to join the US campaign against Russia over Ukraine. Its imports from Russia rose 430% since February, mainly due to oil and gas imports from Russia. “There is a layer of apprehension if not outright mistrust in Delhi,” said Eswar Prasad, a former IMF official and professor of trade policy at Cornell University, according to the Times article.

Biden stopped in Cambodia enroute to Indonesia, to attend the East Asia Summit (EAS) there. EAS includes the 10 members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) plus China, Russia, USA, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov represented Russia. At a November 9 press conference a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson highlighted its key challenges are “the attempts by the US and its allies to… bring a confrontational charge to Asia with narrow-bloc instruments of domination…”

The “US better give up attempt to contain China by utilizing Southeast Asian countries,” was the headline of a Global Times November 3 report by top opinion writer Hu Xijin. It said: “The US has always wished to build an anti-China united front in the South China Sea with Japan, Australia, and Southeast Asian countries. Among them, Vietnam is a key US target to rope in. However, Vietnam is clearly aware that the US wants to use it as a pawn, so Hanoi is vigilant while developing relations with the US.” Hu wrote that during Vietnamese leader Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit following the 20th CPC Congress, “Trong reiterated that Vietnam will not allow any country to establish a military base in Vietnam, or join any military alliance, or use force against any country, or work with one country to oppose another.”

A New York Times report November 13 said “ASEAN leaders at the EAS conference reiterated their strong ties with Beijing and issued a joint statement with China supporting the One China Policy, opposing independence for Taiwan.”

“China and ASEAN are each other’s largest trading partner,” a Global Times November 12 report said. Indonesia’s Jakarta-Bandung high speed railway approached 90 percent completion in October. It is “a flagship project of China-Indonesia cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative,” Global Times says. “When fully completed, it will be the first high speed railway in Indonesia and the entire Southeast Asia. This month, the total quantity of freight transported by the China-Laos Railway had exceeded 10 million tons, with the cross-border cargo transportation value hitting $1.7 billion.”

“Security issues”

Biden met in Cambodia with Japanese and South Korean leaders, focusing on “security issues,” a week after the US and South Korea launched their largest ever combined military drills, with hundreds of warplanes from both sides staging mock attacks 24 hours a day for most of a week, involving “about 240 warplanes conducting about 1,600 sorties,” according to a U.S. Air Force statement. The exercises included the USS Ronald Reagan carrier group in the first US-South Korea joint military training involving a US aircraft carrier since 2017.

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The US has more than 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, with another 50,000 in Japan – mainly in Okinawa, with nuclear missiles ready to launch. Anti-base protests are constant. The US is in a “state of permanent war in Asia and the Pacific today,” with 375,000 Indo-Pacific Command personnel scattered across hundreds of military bases in the west Pacific, according to Mark Tseng-Putterman, writing in Monthly Review. He refutes the concept of an “inter-imperial rivalry” between the US and China, which gives false justification of the US militarized posture as “’defensive’ in the face of ostensible Chinese belligerence.” He says this “lazy condemnation of ‘inter-capitalist competition’… obscures the centuries-long project of US Pacific hegemony” that is now being “reconsolidated, operationalized, and expanded” in a hostile Cold War posture aimed at China.

Germany seeks to boost economic ties with China

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz led a high-level business delegation to China November 4, seeking to boost economic ties, in the midst of major economic difficulties caused by the loss of cheap energy from Russia. Xi told Scholz that as large nations with influence, China and Germany should work together during “times of change and turmoil” for the sake of world peace, according China Central TV (CCTV). Scholz heard heavy criticism from German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who threatened to break up Germany’s governing coalition over the Scholz visit. They find support from Germany’s further right CDU party, whose representative, Norbert Roettgen, said “the chancellor is pursuing a foreign policy which will lead to a loss of trust in Germany among our closest partners.” (Which partners might those be?)

Unforgettable Indonesia

The G20’s location in Indonesia recalls the 1955 Conference of Non-Aligned Countries, held in Bandung, Indonesia. The Bandung conference drew 29 non-aligned countries, led by Indonesia, India, Egypt and Yugoslavia. Today a majority of the world’s countries are members of the UN’s Non-Aligned Movement – essentially all of Asia, Africa and Latin America. They’re the ones who abstained or voted against the NATO countries’ vote to condemn Russia this year.

China’s then-Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai was an invited observer to the Non-Aligned conference. He narrowly missed an assassination attempt enroute to Bandung. The Taiwanese assassin was flown out of Hong Kong to Taiwan on a CIA-sponsored aircraft. The attempt took place in the wake of the first Taiwan Straits crisis of 1954-55. This was just after the July 1953 armistice in Korea ended open warfare, but left tens of thousands of US troops there. China recently celebrated its decisive role in stopping the US assault in The Battle at Lake Changjin, the most expensive film ever produced in China.

In 1965, Ten years after the Bandung conference, the US CIA engineered a coup d’etat in Indonesia, known as the “Indonesian genocide.” An estimated one million people were killed in an effort to destroy the left and popular movements in the country. Indonesia’s President Sukarno, who convened the Bandung Conference, was among the dead. The incident is documented in The Jakarta Method, by Vincent Bevins. The book goes on to describe subsequent replications of the strategy of mass murder, against government reform and economic reform movements in Latin America and elsewhere.

Many participants in the G20 conference in Bali will remember these events – especially China.

Biden at COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt

President Biden touched down in Egypt to speak at the COP27 UN climate talks, on the weekend before continuing to Cambodia and Indonesia. A NY Times report November 12 said “he exhorted other nations to follow America’s lead and increase their efforts to make swift and deep cuts to the pollution that is driving climate change.” He highlighted the Inflation Reduction Act, passed earlier this year, which would impose fines of $1500 per ton of methane gas released into the atmosphere.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that “traps about 80 times as much heat as CO2” (NYT 11/12/22). A proposed EPA regulation would cut emissions by 30% by 2030 and eliminate 36 million tons of methane emissions by 2035, Biden said. It raises a question: how much methane escaped from the North Sea when the Nordstream pipelines were destroyed? A Danish official said Nord Stream gas leaks could emit a CO2 equivalent of 14.6 million tonnes (32 billion pounds), similar to a third of Denmark’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps the EU should impose a $1500 per ton fine of $22 billion on the perpetrator – widely assumed to be the US. That would be about a third of the $66 billion the US has so far approved in war aid to Ukraine.

The US and its allies are blocking calls at COP27 for “loss and damage” funding, concerned that it would lead to “unlimited liability,” and is difficult to determine how much it would cost. Estimates of financial costs of weather events in low- and lower middle-income countries are over half a trillion dollars, just for damages between 1998 and 2017. Assessing only the immediate damage, these figures do not include long term economic impacts, such as food insecurity or health disorders. It raises another question: how much is due for a century and a half of western industrialization, and five centuries of colonialism and slavery?

There’s a trust problem for the US at all these global conferences. Power Shift Africa’s founder Mohamed Adow said at the climate conference in Egypt that “Joe Biden comes to COP27 and makes new promises. He’s like a salesman selling goods with endless small print.” In India, Treasury Secretary Yellen found “a layer of apprehension if not outright mistrust.” 

In Cambodia, “ASEAN leaders at the EAS conference reiterated their strong ties with Beijing and issued a joint statement with China supporting the One China Policy, opposing independence for Taiwan.” And in Indonesia, the US finds the G20 to be “a symbol of the transformation from the West having the only say to common governance across the globe… G20 is not an expanded G7.” Joe Biden and his team are finding whole new world out there.