T2B21: Xiden 6


It’s increasingly clear that technology companies have outside power and that power has only increased in 2020. Take a look at Amazon’s stock performance relative to the S&P 500:

Biden will have to do something about the Tech giants and there might even be bipartisan consensus for federal intervention. Francis Fukuyama et.al. have an essay in Foreign Affairs that shares some ideas on how to do so. TLDR; create middleware. Not so sure about that solution, but we need to have this conversation stat.

The Chinese Perspective on BRI

The most confusing thing I read was that the Belt in the BRI stands for the land routes connecting China with other parts of Eurasia while the Road in BRI stands for sea routes. The belt is the road and the road is on water.

As you might expect,

The Chinese government has a website on the topic

I am just going to cut and paste some snippets from the website with my commentary.

More than two millennia ago the diligent and courageous people of Eurasia explored and opened up several routes of trade and cultural exchanges that linked the major civilizations of Asia, Europe and Africa, collectively called the Silk Road by later generations. For thousands of years, the Silk Road Spirit-”peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit”-has been passed from generation to generation, promoted the progress of human civilization, and contributed greatly to the prosperity and development of the countries along the Silk Road.

👆🏾Note how it frames the BRI as a Eurasian thing from the very beginning. Think about this way: if the current framing of the ‘West’ has Europe, North America and Australia/NZ in it and everyone else arrayed around the western pole, Eurasia breaks the western framing of geopolitics and asserts Eurasia as the natural center of the human universe. With China as the center of Eurasia of course.

The initiative to jointly build the Belt and Road, embracing the trend toward a multipolar world, economic globalization, cultural diversity and greater IT application, is designed to uphold the global free trade regime and the open world economy in the spirit of open regional cooperation.

👆🏾The Chinese are explicitly casting themselves as the natural trustees of neoliberal capitalism. They don’t need to worry about authoritarian nationalism because that’s already the nature of the Chinese state which sees itself as capable of managing the contradiction between nationalism and globalism.

The Belt and Road Initiative aims to promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, establish and strengthen partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road, set up all-dimensional, multitiered and composite connectivity networks, and realize diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in these countries.

👆🏾Must have been written by someone with a Harvard MBA who went on to work for McKinsey. See neoliberal globalization above.

The Initiative is harmonious and inclusive. It advocates tolerance among civilizations, respects the paths and modes of development chosen by different countries, and supports dialogues among different civilizations on the principles of seeking common ground while shelving differences and drawing on each other’s strengths, so that all countries can coexist in peace for common prosperity.

👆🏾The key word for me is ‘civilization’ (spelt the American way, which tells you something). BRI framing unit is civilization first (mentioned twice) and country second. Clever twist on Huntington’s thesis on the clash of civilizations.

The Initiative follows market operation. It will abide by market rules and international norms, give play to the decisive role of the market in resource allocation and the primary role of enterprises, and let the governments perform their due functions.

👆🏾Capitalism rules the world, we are the best stewards of that system.

The Belt and Road run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other, and encompassing countries with huge potential for economic development.

👆🏾Guess who isn’t included?

We should promote cooperation in the connectivity of energy infrastructure, work in concert to ensure the security of oil and gas pipelines and other transport routes, build cross-border power supply networks and power-transmission routes, and cooperate in regional power grid upgrading and transformation.

We should jointly advance the construction of cross-border optical cables and other communications trunk line networks, improve international communications connectivity, and create an Information Silk Road. We should build bilateral cross-border optical cable networks at a quicker pace, plan transcontinental submarine optical cable projects, and improve spatial (satellite) information passageways to expand information exchanges and cooperation.

👆🏾Energy and information rule the world and there’s need for global infrastructure for both. Will China pay for universal access to energy and information?

We welcome companies from all countries to invest in China, and encourage Chinese enterprises to participate in infrastructure construction in other countries along the Belt and Road, and make industrial investments there. We support localized operation and management of Chinese companies to boost the local economy, increase local employment, improve local livelihoods, and take social responsibilities in protecting local biodiversity and eco-environment.

👆🏾Whatever we pay for will be made by our companies and to start with by our people but we will employ some of you as well. I hope you get the point: while this is an official document and carefully worded so that no one can poke major holes, it reveals quite a bit of how China sees its place in the world and the role of the BRI in it.