Pope Francis may be the rock star. But once again, the real heart of the action is all about Russia and China — those prime “threats” to Exceptionalistan, according to the Pentagon.
Where’s Benjamin’s Angel of History when we need him? His gaze is now certainly focused on the home of the brave. Francis may have brought the House down in DC, but it’s Xi Jinping who really rocked da house in the West Coast, while Putin gets ready to be crowned the new King of New York. Who’d imagine that the New Great Game in Eurasia could be so fun?
Calling Frank Underwood
Even before Putin talked new world order geopolitical business at the UN, China’s Xi Jinping was talking Silicon Valley business with, well, the whole Silicon Valley elite. It’s all in the photo, delightfully deconstructed by the South China Morning Post.
This is where the action is — much more than in what Xi may have discussed with Obama; cyberspace piracy, spying, new Japanese laws on defense, the environment. China needs top IT to turbo-charge not only the internal market but also key nodes of the New Silk Roads.
Even Facebook was allowed to bow to the Red Emperor. Mark Zuckerberg, in suit and red tie, talked to Xi for less than a minute, in Mandarin, at Microsoft’s campus. Side by side was none other than a smiling Lu Wei – who controls China’s Great Firewall, which blocks, among others, Facebook. As a priceless aside, here’s Internet-alert Lu Wei calling all and sundry to “sail into the future with mutual benefit and win-win.”
Barely blinking while he bought 300 Boeings for lunch, Xi’s real howler in the West Coast was his House of Cards gambit.
Referring to Beijing’s massive crackdown on graft, he said, “We have punished tigers and flies … It has nothing to do with power struggles. In this case there is no House of Cards.”
Non-biased China hands all interpret the anti-corruption campaign as essentially a clean up of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) so it may continue to rule ad infinitum. It’s the party, stupid. So obviously there’s a “hard rain’s gonna fall” component, because resistance from powerful interest groups is immense.
The irruption of House of Cards was predictable. Much more than a nod to Netflix, this was about China. According to GlobalWebIndex, no less than over 200 million Chinese have been using VPNs to get to Netflix and watch the season 3 of House of Cards on streaming video.
Millions among these are Beijing residents, comfortably middle class; and that includes a lot of Party heavyweights – such as the head of the anti-corruption committee, Wang Qishan, a huge fan of Frank Underwood. Check out this priceless Global Times piece showing how House of Cards heavily draws from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
On top of it, season 2 of House of Cards was already China-intense, featuring cyber-war, the South China Sea and currency manipulation. Sharp Chinese viewers inevitably compared factional fighting in Washington with Beijing’s anti-graft campaign, which, so far, has nailed 80,000 functionaries, at least 90 high-caliber politicians and 30 PLA generals. China Daily didn’t measure its words — stating that House of cards represents a “mirror” of these Chinese functionaries.
Xi knew exactly who his audience was when he invoked US soft power — tremendously popular in China — to send a message. And he also knew that even when the American system is critically eviscerated — as in House of Cards — the fascination quotient of US soft power remains unbeatable. If you can’t beat them, join them. Why not instrumentalize House of Cards as Beijing deploys its own version of The Art of War?
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And now, live from New York, it’s Putin The Great.
Last week on Asia Times we saw how if there’s going to be some solution to the Syrian tragedy, it’s all Putin’s fault. (Not) reacting to it, the Obama administration remained mired in its proverbial bewilderment – or perplexity.
Finally, the White House was forced to announce that the coin finally dropped on Obama, and he will talk to Putin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Right on cue, a senior adviser to Bashar al-Assad started spinning that the US and Russia had reached a “tacit agreement” on ending the mess in Syria.
Quick recap. Putin started it all by refusing “Assad must go” as a prerequisite for peace negotiations. Then he turbo-charged the military build up in Latakia; proverbially, once again, neither the Pentagon nor the White House ever saw it coming.
So this is what Putin accomplished even before Obama saw the light and decided to talk:
1) Forget about a Libya-remixed NATO war on Syria. 2) Forget about a Sultan Erdogan-driven no-fly zone over areas controlled by Damascus. 3) Out with the old world order. This is how the emerging new world order should work, and Russia is also driving it.
Putin’s speech on Monday at the UN General Assembly will be about “the joint struggle against terrorism” (as branded by TASS). One should expect abundant apoplexy, much more than perplexity, all across the Washington/New York axis.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, last Sunday on Russian TV, already clarified the themes at the heart of the speech; the unipolar world order, and the absolute necessity of the “joint struggle against terrorism,” which” must be waged without double standards.”
Lavrov was very sharp when referring to” unilateral coercive measures” — and not only as far as Russia is concerned. In his own words:
“Nowadays, you know, our Western partners, primarily, under the influence, perhaps, of American mentality, are losing in general the culture of a dialogue and the culture of achieving diplomatic solutions. The Iranian nuclear program was a bright – and even very bright – exception. In most other cases – in conflicts that continue to flare up in the Middle East, in North Africa – they try to resort to measures of military intervention, as was the case in Iraq and Libya, in violation of UN Security Council decisions, or to resort to sanctions.”
Expect Putin to talk about all of it in detail. But the showstopper will be, predictably, Putin on Syria. In Lavrov’s words:
“We have declared that we will be helping the Syrian leaders, as we help the Iraqi leaders, or the leaders of other countries who are facing the threat of terrorism. And our military-technical cooperation pursues exactly these objectives. Of course, the supplies of arms [by Russia], they have been going on, they are going on [now] and they will continue. Their [supplies] are inevitably accompanied by our specialists that help put the according equipment up, help to train Syrian [military] personnel to handle these weapons and there are absolutely no mysteries and no secrets [in all of this].”
And yes, Putin will call the usual suspects — from Turkey to the GCC petrodollar gang — to help Assad “without indoctrinations or double standards” in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And he will demonstrate how the refugee crisis was not created by Assad, but by the fake “Caliphate.” As far as these refugees from the Sykes-Picot-smashed Middle East are concerned, it’s up to the EU to deal with them. In Lavrov’s words:
“Russia has been fulfilling all her obligations under the international conventions. All those who fall under the category of refugees, we take in, and we will take into the Russian Federation, sometimes even going beyond the criteria that is applied. I refer to the refugees from Ukraine, there are about one million [in Russia]. We sympathize with our European neighbors with regard to the problem that they have been facing, and I believe that they will solve it [on their own].”
Last but not least, Putin will make it very clear Russia never again will be fooled into signing dodgy documents such as UNSC Resolution 1973, which legitimized R2P in 2011 via that legendary “no-fly” zone over Libya, with the corollary of NATO bombing the country into a wasteland run by militias. No wonder deranged R2P groupie Samantha Power wants to kick Russia out of the Security Council. Who needs a shoe-banging Khrushchev? Black (Apoplexy) Monday will definitely be a riot.
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