International panorama: Trump’s trade war against China, ''Asian Davos'' and weak LAS
Former Soviet diplomat Yulduz Khaliullin on the absence of stability in the world. Series 16
Soviet and Russian diplomat Yulduz Khaliullin dedicated his next column in Realnoe Vremya to events happening in the Far East and the Arab world. Our columnist talks about Beijing's trade war against Washington, Asian Davos, Syrian problem and the upcoming LAS summit.
Trade war between USA and PRC
The USA and China are in a trade war. According to statistic data, in 2016, the USA purchased Chinese goods for $470bn. 18% of all Chinese export go to the USA. PRC purchased only energy equipment for $130bn from the Americans, which strongly confuses Washington. In the Americans' opinion, technological export from the USA to PRC takes place, which allegedly reduces their security in relations with Beijing.
According to some data, now China is ahead of the USA in the digital economy. Now PRC is second in robotics (after the United States).
Trade deficit of the USA in comparison with PRC was about $350bn. After aluminium and steel sanctions, the USA announced they wanted to impose tariffs on 1,300 types of Chinese goods again. If earlier steel and aluminium duties gave the USA an opportunity to win $60bn, after implementing tariffs on new goods, the Americans can get another $100bn. In turn, PRC announced it imposed tariffs on 106 types of American goods. In fact, the sum isn't considerable: about $3-4bn.
Some observers call these relations not a trade war but rather a ''trade dance''.
China, in turn, expresses its interest in developing trade and economic relations with the whole world. A conference, which has already been called ''Asian Davos'', took place in Chinese Hainan Island in the south in the first week of April. Representatives of financial, trade and economic circles of tens of countries gathered at the forum. As the media (for instance, SCMР) report, PRC Chairman Xi Jinping gave a speech where he told about China's openness to the world and loyalty to globalisation policy.
A quarter-century ago (in the early 1990s), architect of Chinese reforms Deng Xiaoping also went on a trip to the south of the country. But this tour turned out to be further attenuation of the country's control over the economy and boosted China's economic boom. It's remarkable the ''Asian Davos'' coincided with the 40 th anniversary of the beginning of the reforms that resulted for China in a rapid economic growth. This is why the Chinese want to move forward.
With Washington's attitude to trade and economic relations, the Chinese want to create a platform to enter markets of Latin America, Africa and Central Europe. There are projects to turn Hainan Island into second Hong Kong. Possibilities of creation ''prosperity zones'' have being discussed in the country in the last months. The goal is to show that Hainan is a potential industrial and trade centre.
In addition, the island also gains growing strategic importance. Naval bases are also expanding: facilities to receive missile carriers are built there. These bases are aimed to support China's efforts to resist the USA in western regions of the Pacific Ocean. In this respect, we can say a parade of major naval forces has been organised under Xi Jinping in the south PRC these days. Tens of Chinese ships showed Beijing's determinacy to protect its borders along the Pacific Ocean and put external pressure on Taiwan officials, so that those will kept in mind they were an indispensable part of China.
Will Putin and Trump meet?
The escalation of the situation in Syria causes certain tension. The mass media talk about the possible bombardment of the territory of Damascus and a series of regions controlled by Bashar Assad by the United States more and more under the guise of that Assad allegedly used chemical weapons in the city of Douma. On the other hand, Russian officials at different levels – UN Security Council, defence and foreign ministries – warned about dangers of such an attitude of Washington.
The media pay attention to the fact that while US President Donald Trump posts on Twitter, Russian President Vladimir Putin took a calmer pause on Syria. Foreign newspapers wrote the presupposed meeting of Trump with Putin, which the very US president insinuated after the phone talk with the Russian leader, was supposedly on the edge. These processes are linked with the new stage of confrontation in Syria, which is more dangerous after the defeat of separatists in SAR. As it's known, Russia, Syria and partially Iran made the decisive contribution to the debacle of ISIS terrorist group.
''LAS is a weak political organisation''
The 29 summit of the League of Arab States (LAS), which includes 22 countries, was to open on Sunday, 15 April. This forum will take place against a background of the general tense situation – not only in Syria and Iraq but also in Yemen. This all was a source of serious danger at different points of the Arab world. There is an opinion that the issue of Syria's return to the league will be raised.
According to some data, eight-nine countries (out of 22) supposedly support Syria's return to this organisation. Morocco, Kuwait, Algeria, Oman, Palestine are among them. For this reason, Lebanese newspaper Ad-Diyar doesn't exclude the presidents of Egypt and Iraq can play a decisive role to return Syria to the LAS.
In my opinion, the LAS is a weak political organisation that can't regulate even inter-Arab relations. I will remind that the membership of Syria in the LAS was interrupted 7 years ago, in 2011, right after anti-government demonstrations. This is not good for either the league's prestige or resolution of general Arab problems. Saudi Arabia and several rich Persian Gulf countries have a decisive meaning. They show the course of the organisation and support US allies in favour of the USA. This association did nothing to prevent the American aggression against Iraq in 2003, almost approved the destruction of the regime in Lebanon, the war in Yemen and Syria, turned a blind eye to the massacre of Shias in Bahrein.
And Syria was one of the main founders of the League of Arab States. When SAR was expelled from the organisation, only two countries – Lebanon and Yemen – voted against this. We will know soon what a decision on Damascus the leaders of the Arab countries will make.