America’s corporate media reveled this week in the arrival of Pope Francis, the honest-speaking prelate for peace and care for the poor. The Catholic Church’s papa toured the East Coast, making media splashes in New York and in Washington, D.C. where he cared for a lame duck (the President) and visited the sick (Congress…Okay, we saw that as an online joke gone viral).
Meanwhile, with less media attention but primary economic and political importance, leaders of the strongest three (China, India and Russia) of the BRICS five countries (also Brazil and South Africa) have invaded both the U.S. and United Nations to strut their economic potential and political prowess.
China’s President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both entered on the West Coast to meet with the influential high-tech community. Xi also purchased 300 Boeing aircraft to boost the airplane-manufacturing industry.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin came to New York, also the final destination for Xi and Modi. All gathered today (Monday) at the United Nations for its 70th General Assembly, where Xi told the UN on Saturday that China would be investing billions in poor countries. Xi and President Obama addressed the UN General Assembly today, followed by Putin, who had earlier held an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, broadcast Sunday evening.
All three BRICS leaders, Xi, Putin and Modi, had their private meetings with Obama, Xi and Modi in Washington. Obama and Putin were scheduled for a tense session Monday at the UN.
Here’s a brief overview of what BRICS’ Big Three are up to, especially in relation to the U.S. We’ll look primarily at China, the globe’s second-largest economy behind the U.S. China is experiencing economic problems as it strives for a “new normal” that moves away from exports and concentrates on farming and production for China’s citizens, including the growing middle class. And also at Russia, suffering from low oil prices and economic sanctions. And both Xi and Putin experiencing shoving matches with Obama as the U.S. tries to control those countries’ destinies and remain the lone superpower.
India, meanwhile, has been working hard to remain on good terms with all three of those countries. Modi has been taking advantage of his membership in BRICS by expanding trade agreements with Russia and China. But he’s also looked to do that with the U.S., including efforts to stir American investment as he visits the West Coast, Washington, and New York.
We might also point out that Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff spoke to the UN General Assembly on Monday. Her country is in dire economic straits including failing currency and drought. It will be intriguing to see what help might come from her speech and time spent with other BRICS leaders.
China and the U.S.
The media has stressed Obama and Xi agreeing on efforts at economic and cybersecurity cooperation. But there are deep rifts between them.
From Xi’s view, U.S.’s hegemony practices have undermined the global economy and peace. The global meltdown of 2008 was spurred by Congress and President Clinton approving legislation that catapulted the $600 trillion derivatives industry and removed Glass-Stegall protections that opened the banking industry to Wall Street’s wolves. BRICS in general and China in particular responded by efforts to move away from the U.S. dollar and American global economic control. You can read about BRICS’s efforts in our column here.
Meanwhile, the U.S. under Obama has attempted to stymie China’s rise as an economic power. The American president has kept China out of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership, a U.S. effort to control economic growth in and beyond the Pacific region. Obama also tried to sabotage China’s effort at forming the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by discouraging European countries from becoming investors; but he failed at that. And led by neocons within the Obama Administration, the U.S. has been saber-rattling, trying to control waterways in the Pacific while China’s efforts there have been rising.
China has responded to the U.S. primarily through economic measures. The U.S. has pursued a policy of holding a place as the world’s lone superpower through attempting to militarily control the energy resources in Eurasia and by the National Security Agency (NSA) spying on foreign leaders, including American allies. China, however, has pursued a stated international policy of non-interference in other countries’ affairs, while offering to invest economically in other nations via financial support of infrastructure and forming trade agreements.
China has countered the U.S. efforts not only through foreign investment and forming the AIIB, but also through BRICS, which established two banks to counter America and its global economic control through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. You can read about that effort here.
Xi carried forward that attitude in his Monday speech to the U.N., noting that China had no desire to be the world’s lone superpower, but wants to cooperate with all nations in a world where small nations are treated on a par with large countries.
Russia and the U.S.
First, let’s make clear who Russia and the U.S. are: Both claim to be democracies, while evidence shows more and more that both are now oligarchies. We wrote about that issue here.
Putin came to the U.N. this weekend after increasing military aid to Syria in its internal battle against ISIS and other rebel groups. He, of course, did this with purpose, knowing he would be addressing the U.N. and also meeting with Obama, who wants to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Putin.
It seemed pretty clear from Obama’s address to the U.N. Monday that he’s not backing down from wanting to get rid of Assad. Putin obviously will not accept that, saying publicly on “60 Minutes” that Assad is the legally elected leader of Syria, and no foreign nation has a right to determine his future; only the Syrian people have that right.
Putin is also obviously unhappy about U.S. supporting overthrow of the democratically elected, pro-Soviet regime in Ukraine and coordinating that with moving NATO forces closer to Russia’s borders. This, combined with Obama’s and the European Union’s implementing economic sanctions against Russia, in an effort to undermine Putin’s power, has the Russian leader angered but unbowed.
This effort at undermining Putin, however, creates a problem with China, for both the U.S. and Europe. China is trying desperately to end its dependence on coal, a major polluter of China’s skies as it built its economy over more than two decades. Putin is helping wean China slowly off coal, in the last year having signed major agreements to provide both oil and natural gas to Xi’s country of 1.1 billion people. This, and other trade agreements, have brought Putin and Xi close together.
The sanctions on Russia also must have not made Xi happy. He stated publicly earlier this year that China would provide economic support to Russia if sanctions began to negatively affect Moscow.
Here’s the major problem with all this:
We’ve noted before that the U.S. has developed a 30-year plan to refurbish its nuclear arsenal for $1 trillion. Russia recently responded to that by saying it was increasing its strength with 40 nuclear missiles which can avoid nuclear defense systems. China noted in a military position paper earlier this year it was preparing to militarily support its economic investments globally, and had increased its nuclear deterrence efforts.
We looked at this problem with a wary eye in a column headlined: “Nukebuild: This Will Not End Well”.
This should be particularly worrisome as the globe moves closer and closer to another economic meltdown, due to not only the large derivatives market, but also surging private and public debt. Which in turn could lead political policymakers to begin blaming other countries, pushing them closer to direct conflict.