Pepe Escobar's "New Silk Road" Oasis or Desert Illusion?

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Posted by Bel Suave Bel Suave

The "Chinese Dream" meets the desert spaces of Taklamakan & the high peaks of inner Asia, while history shoves a "roadblock" in the way of the fast-moving "BRICS N CHINA MEME" EXPRESS!

Tibet and Sinkiang.... and the Central Asian nations that they border upon... form the 'heart of Asia.' The political configurations into which these entities are currently carved up were the result of a patchwork of treaties, gamesmanship, and periodic trade offs that far-off powers made between themselves. The overlap of ethnicities, religions, and longstanding political ties that belie these synthetic boundaries has created cracks and fissures in the status quo before, and could very well do so again.
We will examine the current roster of myths being foisted upon us by a media which, as usual, is complicit in delivering a narrative with little basis in truth. One scribe's take on it gets examined in detail. Because, unlike all the rest of the self-professed 'experts' writing on Asian themes from places distant to that zone...he at least knows the territory - even if lost in the fog!

The far western marches of Imperial China's expanded territorial reach - an inheritance from days of the "Celestial Empire" which it's Communist successors were quick to lay claim to - are an increasingly frequent element in the stories which reach the occidental world through a media focused upon intrigues of modern "Great Games" in the central part of Asia where Atlanticist forces have met little success in combating the declining fortunes of their Empire of Oil & Opium.

China's far west 'autonomous regions' of Sinkiang, Tibet, forming a rim of mountain & desert barriers to communication further west, are a 'final frontier' for the rising Asian giant to occupy and exploit in it's own C21st quest for Manifest Destiny. Through that huge emptiness ran the storied "Silk Road," connecting the commercial centers of the ancient world. Now tales of a new "Silk Road" are being told in the western press...with heavy emphasis upon it's re-establishment as a commercial main artery underpinning a huge trading and political alliance from the North Sea to the South China Sea... one that isolates and cuts out the former Atlantic alliance of western states that has ruled the world for some time past! How much of this talk is hyperbolic disinformation, and how much an accurate rendition of the changing fortunes of competing commercial empires?

Sinkiang within china.jpg

It's an oriental wild west in some ways as daunting as the one which confronted those new world migrants who looked out upon a wilderness of plains, deserts and tall mountain ranges controlled by hostile tribes in the C19th. The Taklamakan desert, a wasteland larger than Germany, is known by the Chinese as the 'desert of death' - its unknown depths are said to be haunted by demons and spirits... can you hear that noise?… the Singing of the Desert. When Marco Polo heard it, he suddenly believed in the old stories of evil spirits. Scientists today call it "singing sand," and point to it's more rational explanation ... as sand grains shuffle down the slopes of certain sand dunes, they produce a deep, groaning hum that reverberates for miles. Perhaps both explanations carry some weight!

No wagon trains, horseback treks, or even camel tracks take the new explorers of this Old World Wild West to their destinations now. The railways, asphalt highways and high altitude flight paths of a modern civilization carry these migrants hours, not months or years of travel. The entire journey can be accomplished without the need to make any commitment to an "Arizona or Bust" mentality. Once there, the new pioneers of the oriental high plains and deserts can expect the creature comforts of home - modern electric grids, vehicles, and sources of entertainment come as assumed elements of the outback adventure! And although exploration for precious metals, amongst other valuable resources to be extracted from that barren landscape is an important cause of that migration, the tools of that extraction are far different from the miner's pick n shovel of old!
China pit

The considerable resources of the Chinese state have been employed to move it's demographic frontiers westwards in wholesale fashion. Entire cities are being built with no existent populations to fill them, transportation networks and pipelines crisscross the vast open spaces, and the modern heavy equipment needed to literally move mountains is being employed to create oases of modern urban infrastructure in the midst of barren vistas. And if the 'red man' still exists in the form of the Uighur Muslim minorities who have inhabited those spaces for a millennium still exist, they are well under way to being also tamed, as a flood of Han immigrants changes the demographic mix to their own favor.

Now, with this work of internal expansion well in hand, the visionaries of the new, C21st Capitalist China Plc. have widened the scope of their plans to extend well past the political boundaries into the even vaster hinterlands of Central Asia... in search of new allies, markets, resources, and possibly, new conquests of the older, imperial kind. It's fair to say that the outreach beyond the traditional geographic extension of China is a major project, with major potential to change the geo-political landscape in the future. But expansion of that truth, into a kind of 'winner take all' chess-match of intrigue and "pivots" is a flawed reading of the entrails. Indeed, this new meme of "Eurasian Trade Zones" is building rapidly into a new cartoonish catch all explanation for all the events of the day... with black and white, good vs evil storylines that eliminate all shades of grey... and all the necessary nuance needed to actually understand current events... rather than simply caricature them!

The "far west" of the North American continent holds a mythological status which resonates clear around the globe, thanks to the power of America's cultural hegemony. For generations of Americans, and many the world over, it equated with the concepts of 'expansion,' 'growth,' 'initiative,' and limitless possibility. Now, as that not so new part of the world grapples with the what it means to lose realtime access to all of those qualities in substance, the same conceptual framework beckons to the myth builders of the Sino-world. For them, as with the American Dreamers, the oriental "far west" is a place that opens onto the future. The "Chinese" Dream is a guiding motif which both fills breasts with pride, and fills the previously uninhabited reaches of China's backyard with new generations of 'pioneers' exploring the resource-rich wastelands with a drive to 'strike it rich!'

As with all such "Dreams," built of intent to foment nationalistic pride, the motifs are mythic, far-reaching, and perilously short on the possibility of fulfillment, for all but a few. Thousands of '49ers' threw down everything they had built up as a stake in the new American Republic, for a ticket or grub-stake westward-ho. They had a wind at their backs that pushed them past every obstacle and delay to get them to the storied placer deposits where some hard slogging at the sluices would produce the reward of a lifetime of and comfort and ease. For every one who found their pot o gold, a hundred others had to look themselves in the eye and ask if there had been any real point to their exodus from the east. Of course, most of them stayed on, and found a way to scratch a living made of more modest expectations than those which had brought them there in the first place.

 Few cast a thought back to those who had never made it at all, their bones scattered across desert spaces, or lost in the jungles of the Darien peninsula where they had sickened and died on the route across the Isthmus to the Pacific. Their"dreams" died, but it was upon their courage and fervor for adventure that a new colossus had been born to the world,... and the "American Century" was birthed... from the cruel displacement of a 'red man' without the means to resist the tide of history.


Unlike the many of late who have thrown their hats into the ring of this new rage of "geopolitical analysis," PEPE ESCOBAR is a credible, investigative journalist of the old school, who writes in elegant style, with a passion for his stories that takes one back to the days when that trade was more than mouthing whatever platitudes come quickest to hand... or bring lucre the faster. That's why his latest read... on a very favorite subject of his... and mine... gives a disturbing premonition of watching yet one more 'good guy' get steered way off course by the prevailing memes which rule the media waves today!

Westward ho on China's Eurasia BRIC road
"... it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger (to the U.S.) emerges capable of dominating Eurasia and thus also of challenging America " Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, 1997 What's in a name, rather an ideogram? Everything. A single Chinese character - jie (for "between") - graphically illustrates the key foreign policy initiative of the new Chinese dream.

Which is not to say that Escobar fails to make a compelling case for viewing the westwards gaze of China's leadership as presaging a major realignment of the power balances - and trade relationships - throughout the entire continent of Asia. Rather, it is to point out that, if one refuses to get caught up in the frenetic momentum of all this talk - of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Silk Road Economic Belt, and New Development Bank, and hype about the BRICs, to instead simply view those mooted projects as one half of a two-pronged movement by which to envelop all of that vast territory into the maws of an existing system of international finance... the view becomes both calmer... and more unsettling. The heavy emphasis upon 'mottos,' symbols and sloganeering which infects and inflects the usually incisive author's piece here is somewhat like seeing a magnificent piece of street art defaced with a less talented person's pedestrian graffitti.

If we step back a pace from all of the strained metaphors, breathless vision, and sweeping ambition, the outlines of something rather less compelling, but more real begin to appear. The fabled Silk Road which crossed Asia as a main artery of trade was actually many roads... to the south, India, west to Persia and Arabia, another stretch to the Caspian and Black Seas. Along it flowed the wealth of civilizations, east and west over centuries that saw the rise... and fall of many different ruling states and trading nations. The resurrection of this storied path - via fast rail and road connections - is a dream of Asia's rising power, China. If it is to become more than a dream, it would need to pass through several barriers that now limit the free flow of trade. Some are geographical... others political. No doubt the former will be more easy to overcome than the later! Which is not to say that the geographical impediments are not awesome... some of the world's highest mountains... and fiercest deserts lie along it's tracks. But man made mountains have a way of being even more insurmountable that natural ones.
Sinkiang within china.jpg

The Taklamakan stretches over 337,000 square kilometers in the centre of the Tarim basin. The vast depression runs nearly 1,200 km from west to east, and is 400 km wide from north to south. It forms an elliptical, semi-open basin in the Lop Nur marsh. Since antiquity, this desert waste was strategically situated along the famous Silk Road's main caravan track joining up China and West Eurasia, with India via the Karakum pass, and Afghanistan, Central Asia and Persia, across the Pamir and the Hindu Kush. It has recently acquired further strategic importance because China is now exploiting its oil and gas fields, as well as mineral wealth.

It endures an extreme dry continental climate. Rainfall does not exceed a 20 mm per year average in its central part, and a 50 mm average on the edges. Precipitation mostly occurs between May and August. The Taklamakan is also a cold desert characterized by drastic temperature changes between winter and summer. Winter lasts six months, during which the Tarim basin is under the influence of high pressure whenever cold air masses drift from Siberia to the high Tibetan plateaus. The rivers freeze, and sometimes a thin layer of snow covers the sand dunes. In the summer, the heat concentrates in the Tarim basin and the mean temperature in July is higher than 26° Celsius in the center of the desert and 24° Celsius on the edges. The highest maximum temperatures are 40° and 36° Celsius, respectively. Due to low pressure the atmospheric conditions are more unstable in warm summers than in cold winters. The cyclonic flow causes frequent winds, violent sand storms, and suspended dust.

This harsh natural environment is even exceeded in severity by that of other parts of the Chinese 'far west.' A far and still "wild west' that the current regime in Beijing would like us to believe is an intrinsically manifest part of it's natural suzerainty; but that history dictates we consider that claim with at least a grain of salt. In the high Himalayas and plateau of Tibet we reach probably the toughest region to survive in of any inhabited part of Asia. Extremes of climate seem to have also bred extremes of culture: the persistence of that variety of Buddhism which goes by the name Tibetan represents an annoying thorn in the side of the Han hegemony equal to the refusal of Sinkiang's Uighur Muslim minorities to assimilate into the great Sino-cultural sea, the way so many other streams have over time. The time spent 'pacifying' Tibet through the 1950's and 60's did result in the end to overt challenges to it's authority in those spaces, and the "Hanification" both there and in Muslim Sinkiang which followed, has achieved the goal of marginalizing those indigenous populations in their own homeland.

But the march beyond those frontiers in search of further buffers... or even tributaries, could still end up being imperial overreach for the ambitious expansionists in Beijing. As Afghanistan has proved... many times over and right up to the present moment, if a foreign power invades the heartland of a culture that has stayed resilient in it's expression of autonomy over time, even the most modern technology and troop support can be nullified by the stubborn resistance of they who refuse to give up what matters most to them. The ethnic and religious minority groups of both Sinkiang and Tibet bear the same stamp of stubborn resistance... and the geographical setting in which to employ that resistance to the maximum.

It is within the framework of that unsettled background that the dynamics of the current "Great Game" have been playing out - the program to create a proxy army of discontented jihadis out of the Muslim population in all of the Central Asian nations takes it's focus from this milieu of China's disaffected western minority populations. Both Russia and China have been targets of the deliberate effort to destabilize their border zones via a Muslim insurgency which creates a climate of distrust amongst the populace and sets those minorities against the central governments. When the pretensions of the Turkish neo-Ottomans in Ankara to their 'pan-turkic' world are thrown into that mix, the fuse is lit for an explosive confrontation in the midst of all the talk of peaceful trade development and harmonious interchange! That is the reality hiding behind the great surge of Silk Road chatter - and perhaps it is awareness of that reality which has provoked our author into the trance shared by so many of his lessers... the black and white East vs West storyline being pushed everywhere by the medias... mainstream or 'alternative'!

Pepe peppers his story with items clearly lifted from the current Sino regime's playbook for marketing the 'westwards ho' theme. Referencing the "post-modern remix of the Tang, Sung and early Ming dynasties – as Beijing deftly and recently stressed via a superb exhibition in the National Museum of China" is a good way to reinforce the theme of continuity and constructive engagement which the polished 'pr' handlers in Beijing can turn to good use when presenting to the rest of the world.However, lost to all save the very observant is the irony of that reference. T'ang China, fatally weakened by the internal An Lu-shan Rebellion in the 750s had become reliant upon those same Uighur Turks whom they work hard to marginalize today. They were the only effective fighting force in the service of the T'ang government, and their troops garrisoned the sensitive frontier between China and Tibet. A Tibet which, of the time was itself an aggressive expansionist state, moving upon China's weak western territories - which succumbed easily to the attacks of those fierce mounted horsemen. In the ebb and flow of Empires... and Imperial ambitions, the hinterlands of Ancient China quite often became not just lost to barbarian invaders, but were the breeding grounds of new Empires, which like that of the Mongols, grew so powerful as to invade and overcome the Chinese heartland itself!

 Much of the propaganda, in other words, upon which modern China, communist or otherwise, has based it's territorial claims in the west, and now it's expansionist rhetoric, is subject to historical inspection which fails to it bear out! The incessant pretensions to ever-victorious campaigns and annexations in the far west of Imperial China's hinterlands mask a different truth. Many a failed Chinese general came back from those western campaigns in disgrace, sometimes with terminal consequences! The chauvinistic slant of modern Sino-historicism cannot disguise those facts, anymore than the triumphalist Atlanticist storyline can hold up under historical scrutiny!
It's perhaps an even greater irony which lurks behind Escobar's willing repetition of the Chinese propaganda line that the man who was responsible for that famous rebellion - An Lushan himself - was a general of Turko-Persian descent, considered the Empire's most able military leader, and in rebelling against the Tang Empire, took many Han with him. The Emperor himself was only able to save his skin through hiring 20,000 Arab mercenaries to defend his capital! Throughout the whole interim, the Chinese were subject to crushing defeats at the hands of those whom they had previously lorded over, and displayed much less statecraft than that of many of the "Barbarian" kingdoms which they so disdained! Tibetans, Turks, Arabs and even Yunnanese rebels all treated the Tang Emperors of Heaven to bitter lessons in humility, which may have all been forgotten in these modern times, but no less maintain their salutary meaning for those who study the entrails of history!

When those same Turks of the former Uighur Empire had been converted from Manicheans to Muslims, the historical antecedents of the present geopolitical tension in the region were put into play. Turned back from final attempt at westward expansion when Kao Hsien-chin was defeated by Ziyad b Salih's Arab army at the Battle of Talas, the Chinese were content to loosely control their sometimes tributaries in what is now Sinkiang and Tibet, through alliances and treaties of suzerain-vassal nature, allowing the commercial pipeline for their exports to be handled by the correspondent middlemen of the Islamic Empires which now abutted their own. As with the Sogdian Buddhist traders of centuries before, the trade in silks, jade, lacquerwares and pottery was carried by caravans through all manner of regions and climates, till reaching the west and being exchanged for Byzantine gold and Persian silver. That version of the Silk Road... China through to Persia, the Persians(or their Arab inheritors)on to Rome, lasted for many centuries... until superseded by the superior logistics of the sea route. Equally, the steady commercial and cultural interchange which had flowed between India and China had gone through Tibetan hands, and their famous caravans reaching into Szechuan and Yunnan were a steady enterprise right through to the era of the Last Emperor! The powerful martial traditions of the Khamba nomads and the rest of the 'brigands' of the Tibetan western marches represented a chilling terror for many generations of Chinese soldiery..up to and including the final decades of the last century!

No less than a highway of commerce, the Silk Road of the past was a highway of cultural interchange and ideas, necessarily two way in nature. The impact of other Asian cultural and spiritual traditions upon the Middle Kingdom may be played down at present, but once again, reference to the historical record brings a rich legacy of influences that worked upon Sino-culture to degrees now only poorly understood and appreciated. That florescence of Buddhist philosophy which streamed out of India to the west and north... creating a culture zone of huge dimension... was not slow in reaching China, via the Silk Road entrepos of Kashgar, Kucha, and Turfan, as well as from Lhasa and the Kham centers. As well as Islam, Nestorian Christianity filtered through the Pamirs, from the west, and took root along the oases of that Silk Road route. Now that China has seized hold of a measure of economic stability with which to rebuild it's cultural legacy, the opportunity for a remix of that two way traffic of ideas may be nigh... and productive of an pan-Asian cultural renaissance that will shrug off the chains of empty Occidental materialism with a reinvigorated sense of the storied past that the Silk Road really represents... not a mere highway of merchandise, but a magic carpet of mankind's most fruitful cultural interchanges. We can always hope!

That bit of historical reprise was necessary to our story here, in order to continue into the present, minus the baggage of certain platitudes that cannot hold up under scrutiny. With the stage reset, more in keeping with the true historical situation, we can proceed to a review of Pepe's vision of the "Eurasian" future.


The vision which he almost breathlessly propounds here -In the past, China had a unifying infrastructure enterprise like the Great Wall. In the future it will have a major project of unifying Eurasia via high-speed rail. When one considers the breadth of this vision, depictions of Xi striving to be an equal of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping sound so pedestrian.... is a rather overwrought picture of communications networks and energy projects which might seem more at home coming from the pen of 'communications consultants' hired to push a plan. In the short term, yes a lot of infrastructural improvements and connecting arteries are bound to increase the economic advantage China has in playing on home turf... but, the seeds of conflict built into any real push to increase their weight in the affairs of other Asian countries will not be long in showing if the patterns of the past - both recent and ancient - are any indication. The attitude of countries like Vietnam towards their giant neighbor's ambitions are indicative of the wariness that it's western neighbors are bound to have towards being bound too tightly to the adjoining giant. The advantages of playing two sides are well known to all of the Central Asia despots who gain the throne in those countries... and they would be as loath to see a unitary power in their region as they are to let the Atlanticists have total command of their economies and futures now.

Therefore, the numerous authors currently pushing the theme of "BRICS" "SCO" "EURASIAN UNION" alliances are guilty of making claims as to the perceived interests of all these independent Asian nations contrary to both common sense and the way the game of diplomacy is actually played. It would be hard to imagine Escobar in the same category of lightweight authorship as they - he simply knows better! Which is why it's so startling to see him parroting the line of those so deficient in understanding of the subject upon which they write!

Parallel to that fallacious and mischievous narrative, the notion of Sino-Russian alliance is also a huge canard being overplayed to ridiculous degree. Those with insufficient grounding in the many tensions and fractures in relations between those two - even when operating under the same loose management, as in the Stalin-Mao era- are doomed to mistake rational common interest for love at first sight. If commercial ties can and will be strengthened ... the high speed rail is one example of a rational expansion of this... it is implausible to present that as an "alliance"... anymore than the past twenty years of strengthening Germano-Russian commercial ties has required operating under the aegis of "alliance" of any kind! The over the top rhetoric as to Xi and Mao is an example of just how badly Escobar wants to spin his theme into something more than it is.

A Eurasian Union of the core states of the former USSR is a necessary consolidation for Russia of it's own sphere of (competing)influence vis a vis China. To spin that into a pan-Asian strategic alliance is the height of folly. Anyone interesting in having a nuanced view of the topic needs check into the thoughts of the accomplished Indian M K Bhadrakumar, to see how objective analysis looks!

Russia, China - neither allies nor rivals
There have been some wild theses lately, including among the Indian pundits and think tankers, that consequent upon Russia' s tensions with the West, Moscow has 'pivoted' to China in strategic terms and a Sino-Russian axis is steadily taking shape in world politics and that these two 'Eastern" powers are all set to challenge the United States.
M K Bhadrakumar

Similarly, misrepresenting the fragile links China is building with Islamic Pakistan, and the former Persian Empire now rebranded as "Iran" as to be capable of allowing the Chinese to 'project their power in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf is an insupportable stretch. While the Islamic belt of countries welcome China as a potential counterweight to the "Great Sheitan" of the West, they are all too aware of their own history, and jealous of their past glories, to countenance too close alliance with a former competitor, and, at times, enemy. Look instead for a rising tide of internal support within that belt for a regional alliance of independent states, similar to what was originally planned for the Non-Aligned Nations before that alliance was hijacked and destroyed by agents from within. Resurrection of that past effort of invoking the natural national interests of Asian, African, and non-aligned European countries has more potential... and relevance, to what comes next for Asia, than the over-wrought visions of scribes who have no standing in the region other than as occasional visitors. (I'll be writing more about that forgotten 'third wind' element of Asia's history soon as well! Lost in all the dialectical noise is the fact that an option outside of both those phony polarities will be sought for by Asian nations who are not disposed to be aligned with either!)

Pepe must be granted exception from that category of pretender, based upon his previous fine performances. But it is not possible for him to stand upon those laurels whilst spinning stories of supposed alliances that are merely fabrications formed by and for the same shadowy powers whom he believes himself implacably opposed to in spirit and action! The tired meme of "American Empire" versus Asian developing nations must be dispensed with. The real puppetmasters behind that canard... and the proxy Empire which America has become in abandoning it's own interests to work on behalf of those of others, are known to all concerned. There is no reason to avoid connecting all the dots, no matter how alluring is the siren song of "Sino-BRICS" SUPERLATIVES! To keep that reputation for outstanding journalistic integrity intact, Escobar will need bear down upon the real stories which Asia offers the independent witness, rather than soak upon the prevailing memes!

There's no doubt that Pepe Escobar remains in a category far above that of the various 'fact-lite' scribblers who inhabit this new slot of geopolitical pretension to journalism. There are many who write in a manner far more damaging to truth. Perhaps the most odious of these occidental hustlers is a man who bilks his subscribers every month for a reprinting of the thoughts of others similarly uninformed - already published on the web for free! Just one example will serve as to show readers what a hodgepodge of misinformation can be packaged and sold as 'analysis' these days. And one comment of mine is enough to rest the case indicting him and his accomplices in a serial game of deceit!
So, now that we have both reprised the history of the Central Asian zone, and dispelled notions of imminent Continent-wide Eurasian alliances - along with the arrival of unicorns and panda bears- what's left? I suppose we could take a stab at some speculation upon the future, with the caveats mentioned as our guide! Without resort to the histrionics, the cheerleading, or the facile and misleading black n white, good versus evil, bad America against good Easterners memes, what can we draw out of the mix of current events and historical record to gain some sense of where things may go, in a region that will surely be the focus of contemporary geopolitical rivalries for some time to come, but remains a black hole in terms of accurate reportage and understanding in the Occident.

First off, the awareness of these efforts towards mythologizing, at the expense of understanding, the Asian world can immunize us to the competing narratives which are currently monopolizing the subject matter. If we just stick to the facts... that continental Asia is drawing an increasing amount of the worlds' wealth towards it, as well as continuing to account for the greater part of it's population, we can see that the future trajectory of the region is towards greater and greater influence in the way our world is governed and trade is directed. This can no doubt breed resentments, as well as competition on the part of those who would resist a concentration of power and influence in eastern hands. If the nations which make up the alliance of the NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION have lost both competitive advantage and demographic heft to Asian rivals, that can bring about both the urge to accommodate to that situation - via new alliances and trade patterns, and attempts to truncate that loss via efforts to damage the advancement of those same Asian rivals. Unknown to those who paint only in the stark colors of black and white, those reactions can(and will!) be going on contemporaneously!

What's even further from the ken of the grayscale scribes is an understanding that powerful yet hidden financial forces can have a hand in the fortunes of both 'sides' of the battle for dominance... such that the superficial appearance of struggle and strife may mask a grander plan hidden to the eyes of those uninitiated in the manner in which elites play the game. If we delete the dialectical framework from our formula of investigation, the dualities of this supposed battle between opposing forces, the empirical evidence can lead to different conclusions than that of the common east vs west storylines! If we take, for instance, the increasing debt loads and declining competitiveness of the western nations to signal a decline in their fortunes relative to the rising fortunes of Asia, we can well understand the need for restructuring of global trade mechanisms and the bodies which govern them. As institutions subservient to the will of Washington,the IMF/World Bank are often seen as expressions, and tools of that power's intent to tilt the board in it's favor. But what too few find time to do, in extending that line of thinking, is to ask - if Washington itself is in the thrall of others than those who supposedly elect it's government, who is to say that the forces behind the creation of an "opposing" set of institutions are not one and the same?

The military adventurism of the NATO alliance all over Asia is certainly another marker of Atlanticist efforts to disallow Asian nations the sovereignty which nation states can by charter be expected to enjoy. Yet the temptation to turn those facts into a battle of good vs evil and east vs west must be resisted... in favor of a wide-angled, triadic view of the landscape. This 3-D lens allows the observer an opportunity to catch the nuances of politics which get lost in the cartoon frames of the consensus narrative. Many of the most flagrant examples of manipulation and interference in the internal affairs of neighbors are to be found within Asia itself... no outside help needed!

The recent example of Turkish meddling in neighbor Syria's affairs is a prime example - while both in the NATO alliance... and attempting to project 'regional power' as leading Islamic state, the Turkish ambition to meddle is in reality based upon a frenetic drive to wipe out a hundred years of living within the mainstream of western culture and trade, in favor of a neo-Ottoman sultanate that would sweep all minorities and non-Sunni streams of Islam out ... in favor of an overbearing monolithic State which recognizes no divergence and punishes all plurality as heresy! The bellicose and barbaric nature of this quest is recently underlined by it's leader's taking sharp exception to Shia Iran's projection of it's own regional power in the neighborhood, and now Yemen. Having sullied relationships with just about every country in the region, the Turks now are willing to push their insane pan-Turkist orthodoxy to confront even China with the presence of their agents stirring up trouble amongst the Moslem Uighurs - recruiting jihadis from their ranks for employment in Syria and even elsewhere! Although this bit of mischief is tied into the machinations of the westerners "Asian pivot" - it is in essence a conceit of the ultra-nationalists in Ankara, who have thrown all caution to the winds in their mania for adventurism.

As an example of the intricacies of inter-Asian frictions and rivalries it stands in sharp relief to the facile representation of an Asia united in blissful harmony. The blustery announcements from uninformed armchair 'experts' in the Occident that 'Turkey is joining the AIIB" have little in the way of real connection with, or relevance to, the issues on the ground which will far more realistically determine relationships between Asian states than all the pr releases they can gobble up and spew back to their subscriber base!

Kazakh Uighurs React to Xinjiang Violence

Caught in the middle of all of this great gaming are the nations of Asia themselves; some, like Vietnam, or Thailand, Iran, or Georgia, for instance, ethnically unified countries without extension internal divisions which can be exploited by outside entities. Others, like India, Iraq, or Syria, are agglomerations of multi-ethnic populations which have potentially explosive elements to their mix - elements being worked upon in the present moment to produce mayhem and destruction. While we might wish for all this outside meddling to stop, that would be akin to being so credulous as to believe that the official statistics and statements put out by governments world-wide represent an accurate picture of things. Tis simply not the way the world works!
To continue using our 3D vision to discern what is really real in the Asian dimension, the tropes which would paint the Chinese regime as both a benevolent Daddy Warbucks to the rest of the world's developing states, and a stalwart defender of 'free markets,' financial transparency and ethical offshore development become quickly tarnished under close inspection. What replace these fantasies is a recognition of a competing imperial power hungrily snapping up global resources, assisting it's state owned companies in buying up industrial enterprises and influence instead of actually providing no strings 'aid' for developing nations, and treating 'the natives' in the countries which they 'exploit' in the same tried n true manner as any other colonialist powers of the past.

The fact that Chinese commercial FDIs are more often than not the outliers of state policy - given that most of the companies doing the investing are state-owned in one form or other - is not lost on the countries where these enterprises set up operations. Many have learned from watching Chinese management teams entangle themselves in destructive confrontations with workers that the expected gain from such foreign investment is a double edged one at best. Confrontations between mine owners and miners which get the host state involved with police control measures do not give those states much margin for pretending that the welcome foreign exchange from these projects comes without strings. Many such projects have involved either the importation of Chinese workers or the contractual obligation for use of Chinese construction and design firms instead of local ones. The aura of benevolence and altruistic motivations which surrounds discussion of Asian investment banks and aid programs gets quickly dispelled upon inspection of real life situations in which Chinese offshore investment has take place. In painting these new investment and aid institutions as fundamentally different than and opposed to the IMF/World Bank models, enthusiastic supporters of this new narrative are simply talking through their hats! We cannot therefore, be content to let the obligation towards factual presentation that good journalism requires go out the window in favor of rah rah rhetoric and propagandizing.

China, Russia, and the rest of the Asia nations are building ties that will, over time, come to represent a new rearrangement of commercial and political alliances. The existence of large infrastructural schemes such as the high speed rail links are part of the New Silk Road Project and integral to that evolving project. But those who become part of the re-arrangements will be doing so as states that have no bottom line interest in simply moving out of one frying pan into another. The longstanding and natural competitions and frictions between these ancient powers are not going to go away because of cute slogans and compelling visions. They will interact as friendly rivals, commercial competitors, and military allies according to the needs of the moment and the particulars of the parties in power at any given time. With this much more diffused view of the future of Asia in mind, there is a possibility of making some measured guesses as to how that future might look, in terms of trade as well as financial governance. But that they are guesses needs be stressed. Those who quote from 'official sources... be they governmental... institutional... or otherwise, in defense of some position which is supposed to be the final say so of what comes next are merely pretending to be able to divine something that they cannot, and in ignorance of the manner in which these sources are often misleading by design! Indeed, it is the height of naivete to suppose that the bankers or politicians of one part of the world operate in a fundamentally different manner - or even - without the same guiding hand as in another!

Varmints in the Tater Patch
“BRICS” and the “CHINA GOLD” m
emes as Crime Scene
Bel Suave

Those many writers like Pepe Escobar who accurately tally the evidences of deep state politics that appear in any scrutiny of the governments and institutions of the occidental world seem to be disposed to ignore the probability that the same phenomena manifests within the governments and institutions of the orient. This leaves the impartial observer with a feeling of dissonance - why is it posed that one government is different than the other? As I wrote elsewhere, a couple of months back: "There are few, if any states in which multiple factions do not compete for influence and power within the framework of government. More often than not, these competitions are hidden from the public eye, either to project an image of a unity that does not in fact exist... or because the originators and sponsors of the factions are external to the country - exposure of which fact would be ruinous to each side.

Now that China, and to a slightly lesser degree, Russia, have been painted by certain elements in the West as "white knights' or at very least resistors to the hegemonic powers of western finance capitalism, it is important to retrace what is known about the presence of this same phenomena of "deep state" politics in those two countries - in order not to be swept up into this new "public relations" effort which tries to control public perception in order to advance goals that may be hidden from our view.... the assumption that China is forming a bloc with other countries throughout the world with which to challenge and replace the existing hegemonic power - rather than participating in the re-formation of that same power structure to better enable its' longevity - is one not based upon any decisive evidence we can use to discard the one possibility, in favor of the other! "

Instead of presupposing that one set of countries is free of the kind of contaminating elements which are generally acknowledged to be part of every western nations politics, we need to be aware not only that hidden elites have been a factor in the histories of nations both east and west, for time out of mind, but that the same elements controlling from behind the scenes in the occident could very well be doing the same in the orient! And whilst I would be happy to believe a country like Russia, for instance, to be free of the contaminating influence of international monopoly finance cartels, there is no substantial evidence which points us to such a conclusion - or that allows us to void the default wariness which should by now come naturally to any who watch the international gyrations of politicians - of all stripes - pulled by invisible strings of influence!

Held hostage to the monopolizing of the media stage by western-based scribes who literally have no idea of the subjects upon which they offer up to their readers their 'expert' opinions,[see here and here and here... for how examples of how bad it can get!] the occidental audience in search of informed intelligence about the real Asia is left high and dry.
The embargo on real insight and journalistic integrity in the occidental media - msm or 'alternative' ... it matters not a whit ... is so bad that when I conveyed my own modest impression of what the future might hold for Asia and the role of currencies -

"The desire of Chinas' current elite to gain full inclusion into the club which wields dominant power at this time should not be confused with the aspirations of China and the Chinese as an eastern civilization. We know that the members of that elite, and the administrative/financial cadre which supports it years are predominately western in orientation - having been guided and/or trained by westerners since at least the creation of the CCP. This is reflected in their policies of the moment.

It's only natural that the horizons of their collective imaginations would be bound by that background... it only been less than 50 years since the state apparatus in the hands of Maoist culture-revolutionaries attempted to smash all record and respect for the traditions and values of that civilization! The country is still in recovery from that trauma. When the healing is completed, that period of intellectual submission to the western world will be replaced by a newborn awareness of China's place in it's own world - Asia - and the forgotten ties which were cultivated via the trade routes of land and sea.

The Battle of Talas, which stopped Han expansion westwards also allowed for Islam's expansion into all of Central Asia, and subsequent isolation of China from the west. A trade bloc of gigantic proportion was created via this Islamic expansion - underpinned by the concept of gold/silver currencies as expression of divine law and natural justice, in the eyes of it's adherents.

Adoption of unrestricted debt/usury finance in western Christendom resulted in a profound breach between it's peoples and those of the East; one which, to date, has only been "papered over" via economic subjugation of the entirety of Asia. Continuation of that phase further is clearly untenable - we can all agree on that! What come next is what's under discussion here. In my opinion, the Chinese will inevitably move closer to accommodation and synchronization with that huge bloc of their neighborhood still carrying that monetary tradition - underneath the detritus of a couple of centuries of indenture to the West. SDRs may be a brief phase along the path to that stage of integration... we can only speculate"

a few months back, as a comment on the blog of one of the 'writers' most favored by those who seek to inform themselves about the doings of the wider world.... it was summarily executed... to never appear in print! WESTERN "ALTERNATIVE" MEDIA - an alternative form of monoculture! Those who accept the premise that they are being offered impartial, informed analysis of the geopolitical situation of Asia are truly mistaken. As well as being taken to the cleaners by disinfo agents willing to indulge that hunger for information via the most wild speculations and rantings. They have no standing in the world of the real. There's a whole subset of folks who have set themselves up as analysts - bankrolled by bullion houses - catering to people who hold gold in the occident. As there are no other sources of information on the current events which can effect that items price and prospects, these scribblers have a free hand to dish out whatever they like, packaged as 'analysis', without fear of being gainsayed no matter how shallow the grasp of subject. In the example below, we have a fellow who apparently goes to a 'derivatives conference' in China last May, and writes it up as another

What is China Up To With All This Gold?
China is planning to change the landscape of world gold markets and strengthening the renminbi through supporting it by gold. Therefore it's in the interest of the People's Republic Of China that not only Chinese individuals hoard gold, but the central bank as well. ...A new global currency setup is being conceived.

indication of gold's coming strong price performance and significance. It apparently never crosses his mind that the subject of derivatives and gold is hardly a happy one for those who follow the doctrinaire approach which dictates that physical supply-demand=price discovery, as the paper gold which derivatives are designed to represent is both a mediator and nullifier of that equation. A slew of derivatives trading experts have been working in China for years now to accustom that country's financial cadre to the ins and out's of such speculative investment vehicles - and their potential as control mechanisms for markets of all descriptions. The process of financializing China's economic engines in the same way as the west's have been is well under way. As a result those who regard China as somehow a 'kinder gentler' kind of trader ... with a built in penchant for free markets and fair trading... have so far lost the thread as to be entirely out of the game! With the control that these financial devices can give them, it fair to suppose that the Easterners will be looking to have the means to control markets to their own advantage in the future... including the precious metals. That advantage is not one that would give a sense of comfort and assurance to any thinking investor in the western world. But that's surely the way the story is spun! The blind leading the bling... so to speak.

We need instead to be content in saying .... we know that Asian countries - led by Russia and China - have been accumulating supplies of gold for some years now....without claiming to know how much... or exactly why. However, their adding to these reserves as a matter of state policy has been interpreted in a variety of ways that have no place in real financial reportage or judicious geopolitical analysis. The speculations and theories as to 'what it all means' have reached the point of silliness - a botched effort at puzzle piecing which leaves a welter of scattered pieces bent and deformed from being jammed into patterns that do not fit together!

The kernel of truth in all this dross remains the same. We will see a re-balancing of power in trade as well as political influence throughout the next period - it will involve perhaps new mechanisms for global commerce - the SDR option on the table, the gold backed trade note option, a multi-currency system of trade resolution to replace the $ hegemony, even commodity-based trade settlement schemes have all been mooted. Asia will be at the very heart of the deliberations which take place over these choices... but whether united in one voice.. or even speaking in it's own voice rather than that of foreign masters, has in no way been determined. The 'inscrutable orient' of past legend remains so in the present, save to those prepared to travel it's innumerable tracks and byways... in the flesh!

Those who pretend to 'know' which of the many mooted options, or which combination of them, will be employed in the future are charlatans playing to their selected audiences. Their shell games will all be slowly ground down and crushed under the weight of evidence brought forward against their specious pontifications and poorly researched claims. Haunted by the inner demons of complicity in a game of disinformation and deceit, the spirits of these false scribes are doomed to wander in a desert of their own making.... unaware of the oases of facticity that shelter the more modest ambitions of those who would prefer travel the writer's caravan routes unburdened by such sins against truth in media. And so I offer this slender essay, in the spirit of Peter Fleming, brother of Ian, whose wonderful book, One's Company, remains the standard of writing which informs, entertains, and leaves the reader honestly in awe of the way a wanderlust for truth can take hold of any man... making the inscrutable east come alive in a desert of lies!

"The recorded history of Chinese civilization covers a period of four thousand years.
The Population of China is estimated at 450 million.China is larger than Europe.The author of this book is twenty-six years old. He has spent, altogether, about seven months in China.He does not speak Chinese." - from the preface to Peter Fleming's One’s Company

From an age of more modest - yet infinitely more accomplished writers - to an era of boastful scribes who preen and strut - but - without the slightest knowledge of their subject. How far we have fallen.
Bill Evans Trio - Turn Out The Stars
From a live date, close to the end of another giant's career. The "singing sands' of majic hands Music to travel by.

UPDATE: Another top gun in the geopolitical analysis world has weighed in with a doppelganger of Pepe Escobar's piece! William Engdahl cut's and pastes an identical quote from Zbigniew Brzezinski ... and waxes enthusiastic about the same high speed rail line... whilst lambasting the usual suspects! Is the black & white disease the new Ebola? Is there a cure? Looks to me like an Engdahl post is going to be in the works...

China and Russia Firm Ties With High Speed Rail Link | New Eastern Outlook
The growing fusion of economic self-interest between Russia and China has just taken another major step forward with the final decision by Beijing and Moscow governments to build a critical link in a high-speed rail infrastructure that will connect Beijing and Moscow.

But in the meanwhile, here's an excellent example of how this same subject can be written about.... minus the rhetoric and false flag storylines... from one of my favorite 'old hands' at the diplomacy game ... again! Might be some remedial education in the works for our high-flyin scribes who have crash-landed the BRICS BALLOON here!