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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/4/18

On The Road to a Post-G20 World

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From Consortium News

Xi and Trump at G20.
Xi and Trump at G20.
(Image by (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks))
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The trade war launched by the Trump administration against China may not have been solved by a two-hour dinner between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at the G20 in Buenos Aires on Saturday. But it may have opened a path towards a drastic realignment.

Way beyond the histrionics surrounding the "family pic" -- and whose nods and winks signaled surefire geopolitical capital -- the G20 walked and talked like a last gasp to "save" the current turbo-capitalist world (dis)order.

The sherpas at the G20 lost sleep for two consecutive nights trying to come up with a final declaration capable of appeasing Trump. As virtually every nation at the G20 supports multilateralism on trade, nobody wanted to upset even more the real Big Boss in Buenos Aires: Xi Jinping.

The climax in any case was the U.S.-China bilateral -- which carried the potential, if things went downhill, to derail the global economy.

The White House spin was on immediate negotiations -- lasting 90 days -- over forced transfers of U.S. technology to China; intellectual property protection; an array of non-tariff barriers; and alleged Chinese cyber "intrusions". If there's no deal, Washington will raise tariffs on Chinese imports to 25 percent.

Now compare that with the key take away from Beijing, with Wang Yi, the vastly experienced Chinese Foreign Minister, describing the dinner conversation as "friendly and candid." There were also no specifics on how substantial the allegedly "immediate" Chinese buying of American agricultural, energy and industrial products will be.

Wang, defiant, outspoken, and an expert on Japan, was promoted to state councillor last year, which means the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now has much more clout over other key Chinese institutions. Last summer, Wang coined a priceless take on Trump's trade war: "The U.S. often says that it is taken advantage of, but this is perplexing. It's like someone who buys a hundred-dollar product in a supermarket, has the product in hand, and then complains that he is a hundred dollars short. Does that logic stand up?"

Applying Sun Tzu

The Chinese negotiation camp though is led by a thoughtful intellectual; Harvard-trained vice-premier Liu He, 66, who directs the all-powerful General Office for the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission. Xi heads the commission but it's Liu, his top adviser on economic policy, who actually runs the daily operations. He's also the top interlocutor of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

In the end, Beijing actually applied some modified Sun Tzu tactics to buy time. It has, in parallel, stalled almost to a whisper the "Made in China 2025" agenda, a plan to boost Chinese domestic industry which the Council on Foreign Relations calls a "real existential threat to U.S. technological leadership."

The imminent Chinese leadership in robotics and artificial intelligence does proceed, of course, but now in dissimulation mode.

It's not that Beijing has never thought about so-called "reforms." Steps were already delineated by the China 2030 report, agreed five years ago between premier Li Keqiang and the World Bank, pointing to a progressive privatization of major state corporations and the banking system.

But this will happen on Chinese, not American, timing. Few, if any, analysts have noted that in the new NAFTA negotiated by the Trump administration with Canada and Mexico, and signed in Buenos Aires, that section 32.10 forbids members to negotiate with "non-market economies." That's code for China. Whatever happens next, Beijing will keep being demonized for "predatory" practices -- the terminology of choice within the Beltway and enshrined in the U.S. National Security Strategy.

Submission Down South

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)

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