Beyond the triumphal frenzy: Mixed picture on the anti-Russian front

Beyond the triumphal frenzy: Mixed picture on the anti-Russian front

After all the euphoric war victory hype in the West that it is now so united, the world would condemn Russia, Finland and Sweden will join NATO, an EU oil embargo against Russia would be decided, gas could easily be obtained from Qatar, yes maybe a gas embargo right away and impose a comprehensive energy embargo on Russia, that the Ukrainians are on the rise and have irrepressible forces, a more mixed picture has emerged since Ukraine won the Eurovision contest but lost Mariupol. After Selensky demanded the reconquest of all areas, while the Ukrainian intelligence chief considered this as unrealistic, the latter is now facing the same fate what Putin did with his generals who „failed“ in Ukraine – he was fired, and even a court case and tribunal was instituted against him . But this is now continuing with the heavy arms deliveries from the USA, after Biden, despite the $40 billion land and lease program, now announced that he would not deliver any US katuchas (Stalinorgeln)  to the Ukrainians, since they could also use them to shell Russian territory, what you can not exactly see as a vote of confidence. Apparently there is a fear that a desperate Ukraine could resort to desperate actions in order to draw the USA and NATO directly into the war, as was already the case with demands for no-fly zones. Maybe Biden  just wants to make it clear to Putin that heavy weapons only will be delivered to the extent that the conflict remains limited to the territory of Ukraine and cannot even potentially be expanded against Russia, i.e. they only want to wage a proxy war based on the example of Vietnam or other proxy wras. Means:  A Kind of a gentlemen’s agreement. Maybe some bellicoses might again accuse Biden of as „appeasement,“ but they don’t do. The oil embargo didn’t work either. The EU had to consider Orban-Hungary and other states´interests, which only signed the oil embargo on oil transport by ship, but not by pipeline, especially since the Druzhba pipeline, through which 1/3 of Russian oil flows, remains untouched. Although a 6-point sanctions program was approved, it did not meet Robert Habeck’s expectations and he warned of „disunity in the EU“. A review of the book “Raw material power Russia. A Global Energy History” by the Eastern European historian Jeronim Perović in the FAZ describes the oriogin of the gas- and oil dependency:

“Moscow once stood in for the Arabs

The war against Ukraine has made it clear to everyone in Western Europe how dependent they are on Russia for energy. The story begins with the search for an alternative to Middle Eastern oil. Germany says goodbye to coal, oil and gas from Russia. A few months ago it was a question of when gas would first flow through the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline. Since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine on February 24, the German government has now wanted to become independent of Moscow as quickly as possible. Energy transition and diversification of energy sources in a hurry. At the same time, very few Germans were aware that to date more than half of the coal and gas and a third of the oil in this country come from Russia. And Germany is far from being the only country in the European Union whose energy supply is dependent on supplies from the east. But how did it happen? The Eastern European historian Jeronim Perović analyzes in his new book “Raw material power Russia. A Global Energy History” Soviet and Russian energy policy over the past hundred years. Ironically, Russia’s rise to become a major oil supplier in Europe has to do with Western Europeans looking for alternatives to Middle Eastern oil in the 1970s. In October 1973, as a reaction to Western support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War, the Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cut oil production, increased prices accordingly and imposed an embargo on America and other allies of Israel. The search for new suppliers made Europe dependent on oil from the Soviet Union instead of oil from the Middle East. According to Perović’s basic thesis, economic and energy policy considerations have influenced the dynamics of East-West relations far more than previous research suggests. In doing so, he focuses primarily on Moscow’s thinking, which had a pragmatic approach to energy, especially during the Cold War. For example, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, who was in office from 1964 to 1982, agreed to cooperate with the West in order to obtain foreign currency from the export of oil and gas and to enable the development of raw material sources in Siberia. The Soviet Union needed hard money, pipes and modern production technology from America and Western Europe and offered natural gas in return. Critics of the plans in the Soviet Union argued that energy supplies supported the capitalist system and the ideological enemy.(…)

It is correct that despite the Cold War there were cooperations on both sides, but you have to see that under Schmidt and Kohl the cooperation and energy dependency were never taken to the extreme as under Schröder and Merkel, even though the “change through trade “slogan of the Ostpolitik remained, especially since the former always assumed a strong Bundeswehr and NATO would be a guarentee for peace.. Schröder, on the other hand, wanted to make World East policy (Weltostpolitik) , bring Russia and China into the G 7 to form a Eurasian G9, to bring Germany into play as an “honest broker” between the transatlantic states and Eurasia, thereby giving Germany a central role and also a seat on the UN Security Council in return. That wasn’t Merkel’s agenda, but under her the maxim of globalism „It’s the economic, stupid“ that has been in force since Schröder and Clinton and the even older maxim of change through trade were valid, as were the cheapest suppliers in the international supply chain stark in contrast to John Mearsheimer’s offensive realism paradigm „Security trumps economy“. No sign of diversification among the „flawless democrats“.

Now they want to become independent of Russian oil and gas, but what does independent mean? For the foreseeable future, until the EU wants to become a green hydrogen technology world power in 2050, there is still quite a bit of time and for the time being new dependencies are emerging: now from the Qataris, who with the Muslim Brotherhood of the Greater Middle East, Erdogan-Turkey and also Hamas form an axis, especially since in competition with the LNG axis of the Mediterrean Gas Forum consisting of the USA Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt (Lebanon), which was established under US Secretary of State Pompeo, including the LNG terminal in Greece, in addition to the armament of Greece among other things e.g.  the new military base in Alexandriapopoulis. These new dependencies can also generate new conflicts on the part of the Qataris and their allied Erdogan Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood in the Greater Middle East in the future. And who actually says that US LNG could not be used by a re-elected Trump or a Trumpist EU-hating Republican as a means of exerting pressure or as a weapon against the competitive power EU? All taboo topics that are better not addressed so strategically in times of need, since it is first about independence from Putin’s gas and oil and not about independence per se, which Germany could not achieve in the foreseeable future. The energy transition media matron Dr. Kempfert, on the other hand, warbles nothing but happy and optimistic messages through her colorful hippie glasses of renewable energies, also that Schäuble’s proposal for the Greek crisis at the time will now be taken up and not Greece, but Portugal should now serve as the new Desert Tech and solar park for European green hydrogen technology. However, there are no concrete numbers, while Habeck clearly says that things are getting “pumpy” and “we are all getting poorer”.

But there is also a lot in the dark about NATO’s Northern enlargement front around Finland and Sweden. Erdogan has presented a 10-point catalog of demands for his approval, which includes everything from the delivery of F 35s to the extradition of PKK people, and at the same time he has now started an offensive in Northern Syria against the YPG in order to get the green light from NATO—as Litmus test and beyond the actual 10-point list of demands seems to intend NATO approval for future neo-Ottoman conquests. The extraditions demanded are a number of dissidents who certainly have nothing to do with the PKK, so Erdogan wants approval for his suppression of all political, including Turkish dissidents, beyond  Turkey and thus centrally wants to attack the democratic and constitutional value community of NATO and the EU. Likewise, his offensive in Northern Syria, beyond the planned fight against the YPG, could also simply be land grabs and further land seizures for his hoped-for neo-Ottoman empire, which he wants to rule with the Muslim Brotherhood. The only thing missing is that Erdogan hopes that NATO will agree to further Turkish conquests and a fall of Assad after the Russians have partially withdrawn, perhaps also to the removal of the Russian military bases in Syria for their Russian Mediterranean policy. Conversely, it is questionable whether Putin would agree to a fall of Assad and Turkish expansion in Syria – despite all the hostility to NATO. At the same time, Erdogan mediates between Ukraine and Russia, Russia and NATO, and also wants to enable Ukrainian grain exports, which means that he could also go down in history as the world savior of the so-called „Global South“, which is threatened by hunger, especially since these countries, unlike the rest of the West, are by no means Russia so condemn or join the sanctions front.

In any case, it is likely that Erdogan has presented Putin with a list of demands, just like did with NATO, in order to get the best benefit for himself and his Neo-Ottomanian Empire. In addition, his coalition partner from the MHP/Gray Wolves Bahceli openly proposes Turkey’s exit from NATO and a Turkish-dominated military alliance with Arab states. It remains to be seen whether Erdogan will agree to a northward expansion of NATO and what price NATO will have to pay for this.

While India has not condemned Russia, nor participated in sanctions, even buying Russian oil cheaply, another interesting piece of news was:

“Space Cooperation To Be Enhanced by New BRICS Joint Committee With China Leading the Members

Griffin Davis , Tech Times 26 May 2022, 12:05 pm

Space cooperation will soon be enhanced by the new joint committee created by BRICS members; Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. 

Thanks to the Joint Committee on Space Cooperation, BRICS countries, as well as other interested space agencies, can now work together when it comes to data sharing fields and remote sensing satellite observations. 

Zhang Kejia, the China National Space Administration Head, said that China leads this space cooperation enhancement effort. 

During the recent virtual meeting, Kejian announced that they would guide the new joint committee when it comes to using the BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation. 

Space Cooperation To Be Enhanced by New BRICS Joint Committee

According to Financial Express‚ latest report, BRICS‘ Joint Committee on Space Cooperation will allow the five-member countries to enhance climate change solutions, environment protection efforts, as well as disaster prevention and mitigation. This new joint committee was already hinted at in 2021 after BRICS members signed an agreement on the Cooperation on BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation. 

The sat formation is specifically made by state-owned satellites, such as Gaofen-6 and Ziyuan III 02 (China), Kanopus-V type (Russia), Resourcesat-2 and 2A (India), and CBERS-4 (China and Brazil).  

Other Space Efforts by China

Aside from leading the new BRICS joint committee, CGTN reported that China is also busy exploring outer space and achieving major space breakthroughs.

One of these is the development of a new renewable energy-storing coating material that can absorb heat from the sun during the daytime. After that, it will release the heat energy to store cold energy at night.  

If you want to see further details about this space renewable energy tech of China, you can visit this link.

Previously, the commitment made by U.S. President Joe Biden and Japan PM Fumio Kishida will soon allow NASA to include Japanese astronauts on its upcoming Artemis mission. 

On the other hand, the National Reconnaissance Office decided to fund companies focusing on Earth Observation tech.

On the one hand it is interesting that India, despite the conflicts with China here, accepts its leadership in the space program. Nevertheless, one should not overemphasize this, because despite all the sanctions, Western-Russian cooperation is still being continued at the ISS. In addition, no critical military component appears to be involved in the hoped-for and alleged Space Quad. Also interesting, but not surprising, is the development of Sino-Russian foreign currency trading. Although it is currently exploding, whether this can be the basis for a new multipolar currency system alongside or against the dollar remains at least questionable for the time being:

“Yuan-Ruble Trading Surges as America’s Rivals Rebuff Dollar

  • Direct trading between Russian, Chinese currencies up 1,067%
  • Nations seek to protect their economies from U.S. sanctions

Bloomberg News

30. Mai 2022, 23:40 MESZUpdated on31. Mai 2022, 09:45 MESZ

The emerging multi-polar world now includes foreign-exchange markets — as China and Russia, the biggest challengers to U.S. supremacy, boost direct trading between their currencies.

Monthly volumes on the ruble-yuan pair have surged 1,067% to almost $4 billion since the start of the war in Ukraine as the two nations seek to reduce their reliance on the dollar and boost bilateral trade to overcome current and potential U.S sanctions. The spike coincides with a rally in the ruble to a five-year high against the yuan.

That’s a sign Russians are increasingly turning to Chinese goods to replace stalled Western imports and international brands that have vanished from store shelves. For China, it creates the latest boost for the internationalization of the yuan just when growing tensions with the U.S. are slowing that process.

“The main players in the yuan-ruble market are corporations and banks, but there is also a growing interest from retail investors,” said Yuri Popov, a currency and rates strategist at Sberbank CIB JSC. “The volume on the Moscow Exchange’s spot market has surged. This is due to sanctions concerns, as well as the intentions of Russia and China to encourage the usage of national currencies in bilateral trade.”

At the same time, China has to accept setbacks on the Pacific front after its hoped-for military base on the Solomon Islands, after Biden implemented IPEF, AUKUS and Quad and now many South Pacific island states no longer see China’s win-win as such, but rather fear insular mini-Ukraines or to become Beijing´s future colonies:

 „Treaty with Pacific States: Fear of China

China’s planned agreement with ten countries in the Pacific has failed for the time being. No wonder, because cooperation with Beijing can become problematic. The South Pacific has played a role for some time in the great geopolitical game that China and the United States have started. In textbook fashion, Beijing is trying to gain strategic access to the maritime hinterland of Australia and New Zealand, a region traditionally allied to the West. On the one hand, this is part of Beijing’s attempts to gain influence around the world (New Silk Road), on the other hand, a counter-movement to western alliances in the Indo-Pacific (most recently the AUKUS pact between the USA, Great Britain and Australia). Security issues and natural resources In some of the ten Pacific countries under discussion, however, the roast has been smelled. The planned cooperation agreement with China has failed for the time being. It’s one thing whether you work together on climate protection and fisheries, which is of great importance for the small island kingdoms, or whether it’s about security issues and natural resources. Every history book tells you how easy it is to become a pawn on the chessboard of the great powers. Cooperation with Beijing can also be problematic from an economic point of view, as some countries in other regions have already experienced. You shouldn’t be „too scared and too nervous,“ the Chinese foreign minister advised his new partners. They have a reason.

Meanwhile the CCP and the Global Times as other outlets try to portray Biden`s IPEF as a geopolitical tool which was “doomed to fail” and not be a match to RCEP and BRI (which were not geopolitical tools of the CCP for a new Sino-centric multipolar world order):

“Indo-Pacific Economic Framework: A geopolitical Weapon Masquerading as Economic Agreement

He Jun

On the afternoon of May 23, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in Tokyo. The White House said that the newest economic vision for the Asia-Pacific region consists of 13 initial members, including India, in a grouping that accounts for 40% of the world’s GDP. Apart from the U.S., the other 12 initial members are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. In terms of geopolitical ties, IPEF crosses multiple geo-economic organizations including North America, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, South Asia (India), and more.

The framework proposed by the U.S. consists of four pillars: the first is to establish fair, high-standard and binding rules in areas of digital trade, labor and the environment; the second is to improve the resilience and security of supply chains in key industries such as chips, high-capacity batteries, medical products, and critical minerals; the third is to promote high standards of infrastructure, decarbonization and green technology development; and the fourth is taxation and anti-corruption. According to the U.S. government, the IPEF will help the U.S. and Asian economies work more closely together in these areas.

The Associated Press says the IPEF’s attractiveness is in doubt because it does not offer preferential terms for access to the U.S. market and has made no commitments on tariffs, due to concerns of protectionist sentiment within the U.S. „IPEF has no tariff reduction and no access to the U.S. market,“ said one Japanese international trade director, adding that „we don’t see the benefits of the emerging economies of Southeast Asia joining IPEF“. Critics of the IPEF say the framework lacks any incentives – such as lower tariffs – to attract other countries to join. According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a leading U.S. foreign policy think tank, some Indo-Pacific signatories will be disappointed because the agreement will not include preferential terms to help them access the U.S. market. In fact, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has pointed out to members of Congress as early as March 31, that the IPEF, which is intended to target China, would not include a free trade agreement and therefore would not reduce tariffs for its members.

The framework is not a trade agreement in the “traditional sense“ and for the initial IPEF member governments, especially for the main driver, the United States, it is not limited to economic objectives. The U.S.-led IPEF of the Biden administration is intended to reduce the strategic gap caused by the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). At the launch, Biden said, „We’re here today for one simple purpose: The future of the 21st-century economy is going to be largely written in the Indo-Pacific — in our region“. As can be seen, such a view on the global economic organization is heavily influenced by geopolitics.

The grouping’s future substantive role, according to ANBOUND experts, will be that of a geopolitical tool disguised with economic carrots. The U.S. has made no secret of the fact that one of the main goals is to decrease China’s economic dominance in the Indo-Pacific area. China is one of the world’s largest trading nations and has close economic and trade ties with all major global economies. ln 2021, China’s trade with its top five trading partners ranked as follows: ASEAN, trade volume of RMB 5.67 trillion; EU, trade volume of RMB 5.35 trillion; U.S., trade volume of RMB 4.88 trillion; Japan, trade volume of RMB 2.40 trillion; and South Korea, trade volume of RMB 2.34 trillion. As a result, an Indo-Pacific economic and trade international organization that excludes the world’s second-largest economy appears odd from an economic and commercial perspective.

However, in the practical sense, if the framework is to balance the economic, trade, and geopolitical ambitions of Washington, it may cause some role distortion for member states. Traditional allies such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand are among those where the U.S. can clearly impose its geopolitical footprint. However, ASEAN countries, and to some extent, Japan and South Korea, will have to consider their economic and trade relations. India on the other hand, will perhaps remain relatively independent. Previously, Asian leaders had made two major demands: first, they did not want to be compelled to choose sides between the United States and China, and second, they wanted to be able to negotiate an agreement on trade and investment access to the U.S. The second point is currently unmet, while the first may not go as planned by the U.S.

On the other hand, China requires a pragmatic approach to this problem. Beijing will need to pay heed to what the U.S. is concocting with this move which intends to alienate China on the geopolitical front with the use of the framework. It should also not exaggerate the economic and trade implications of this grouping. In this era of deglobalization and geopolitical dominance, it is no longer possible to completely free the economy and trade from the influence of politics.

In such a world, and faced with the United States-driven geopolitical framework, ANBOUND researchers believe that the more important issue for China is its opening up and development, which should not be centered towards self-isolation, but stick to „dual-circulation“ and „self-reliance“. As long as China remains open and cooperative, and participates in the build-up of more international economic and trade “circles of friends” (e.g. in the RCEP framework, China is in such a circle with ASEAN, Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand), the influence of the IPEF that excludes China will be significantly less effective.

Final analysis conclusion

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, led by the United States, is essentially a geopolitical tool disguised as an economic framework. To compete with similar economic and trade circles that exclude China, Beijing will need to maintain sufficient economic openness, as well as sustained and stable economic growth.

But there are other Asian voices which claim:

“China is not worried about the IPEF – but it should be

The fact that 13 countries joined the US‘ Indo-Pacific Economic Framework even with few details unveiled reflects concern over China’s rising influence and assertiveness

Danson Cheong

China Correspondent In Beijing

(From left) Japan PM Fumio Kishida, US President Joe Biden and India PM Narendra Modi at the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. PHOTO: REUTERS


MAY 30, 2022, 5:00 AM SGT

Of the 13 countries that have expressed interest in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), 10 count China as their top trading partner.

Eleven of these countries are part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact with China, which came into effect this year and is expected to give intra-regional trade a US$42 billion (S$58 billion) boost.

Turning to Asean (seven Asean countries have joined the IPEF), China’s goods trade with countries from the regional bloc reached a record US$878.2 billion last year, according to Chinese Customs data, more than double Washington’s US$380 billion.

As these numbers show, when it comes to economics and trade in the Asia-Pacific, Beijing is firmly in the lead.

So when US President Joe Biden unveiled his administration’s long-awaited economic strategy for Asia last week, Chinese experts such as Dr Xu Liping were unruffled.

„We can be calm and confident,“ said Dr Xu, director of the Centre for South-east Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

„Look at how much we trade with Asean. We are the top trading partner of most of these countries… as long as we continue with this kind of win-win cooperation, we don’t have to be afraid of the US‘ IPEF, because in the end, countries will choose what benefits them.“

Dr Xu’s comments reflect a certain confidence in Beijing’s economic heft, and a belief that China is so embedded in the supply chains and the economic fortunes of countries in the region that America’s attempt to reassert its economic weight will not amount to much.

But the region’s response to the IPEF also bears important lessons for Beijing.

American re-engagement

Unveiled by Mr Biden in Tokyo, the IPEF is his administration’s strategy to step up its economic engagement with the Asia-Pacific – after the US walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact in 2017.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing on the IPEF launch that the framework marked a turning point in „restoring US economic leadership in the region and (presents) Indo-Pacific countries (with) an alternative to China’s approach“.

But the IPEF is not a free trade agreement – it will not include provisions for market access or tariff reductions.

Instead, the framework focuses on four pillars: trade (which covers the digital economy), supply chain resilience, clean energy infrastructure, and anti-corruption measures.Dr Deborah Elms, executive director of the Singapore-based Asian Trade Centre, said the US „wants to show that it is ready and willing to engage economically with Asia“, yet because of domestic political constraints and a belief that traditional free trade agreements do not benefit American workers – the IPEF was what it landed on.

So far, apart from the US, 13 other countries have signed on – Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

These countries can pick which pillars to sign up to, and negotiations fleshing out the details will now begin – which have been slated to take between 12 and 18 months.

Eye on China

What the IPEF will eventually look like is still unclear, but familiar contours are taking shape. Similar to its broader Indo-Pacific strategy, Washington wants to bolster partnerships to counter China’s growing influence.

Chinese experts like Dr Xu see elements of the IPEF clearly geared towards excluding or diminishing China’s economic influence – pointing out, for instance, that Washington wants to dictate standards for digital trade, rules on labour and environmental practices, which countries might use as new conditions for trade with China further down the line.

And when Washington talks about supply chain resiliency, what it really means is moving supply chains out of China, said Dr Jayant Menon, a senior fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, and former lead economist of the Asian Development Bank.

„It’s quite clear that resilience should not be interpreted in a literal or even economic sense. This is a geopolitical instrument to try to promote re-shoring or friend-shoring,“ said Dr Menon, referring to a concept where supply chains or companies are situated in partners or like-minded countries.

„The tariffs in the trade war with China also had the same motivation; this is to some extent the trade war evolving.“

To Dr Menon, the IPEF signals a broader shift in thinking in Washington, from engagement – with the hope that this will lead to change within China, in this case, in its trade behaviour – to exclusion.

„That’s a worrying sign for me. It’s not going to be good for either China or the US, and particularly not good for this region. The South-east Asia region is heavily dependent on China, because its supply chains are still China-centred and that’s not going to change,“ he said.

„What you are going to do is raise costs and lose market share and this will feed through to lower growth and lower incomes in this region.“

What’s in it for the region?

Those facts combined are going to make the IPEF a hard sell to countries in the region, particularly in South-east Asia, where countries are already wary of the framework being used as a political tool.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo had said last week that partner countries that agree to the „high standards“ will be able to attract „sources of public and private capital flowing from the United States into the region“, as well as American businesses looking to diversify away from China.

But for most countries, the IPEF „will be seen as a poor consolation prize in place of what they really want: concrete market access commitments from the US“, said Hinrich Foundation senior research fellow Stephen Olson.

Some countries have signed on hoping that the US will eventually be enticed to a deeper, more ambitious agreement in the region, he said.

But he added that it was still difficult to imagine the IPEF would allow the US to „displace the pre-eminent economic role China plays in the region“, without market access provisions or effective enforcement mechanisms to ensure whatever is agreed is impleme

The thing is, the US had an agreement that the regional countries wanted – the TPP, before then President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2017.

In contrast, Beijing is part of the RCEP, which accounts for a third of global gross domestic product, and aims to eliminate close to 90 per cent of tariffs within the bloc in 20 years.

China is also actively trying to deepen its economic links with countries – it has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, a digital trade pact between Singapore, New Zealand and Chile.

Continuing to invest in the region and increase interdependence is the „ultimate insurance policy for China“, said Dr Menon.

„If this region sees its economic fortunes as closely linked to and heavily dependent on China, they are not going to forgo that.“

US as a counterbalance

Considering China’s economic links with IPEF member countries, the complexities of negotiations that lie ahead, and what looks to be a very ambitious timeline to conclude them, Dr Xu says it is still a „question mark“ whether or not the IPEF will get off the ground.

But if there is one thing that should concern Beijing, it should be the level of traction that Washington has got even when few details about the IPEF are known.

Dr Xu admits that the number of countries signing up had exceeded his expectations, but he put it down to the US‘ political and diplomatic influence.

A more likely reason is that this reflects the widespread concern over China’s rising influence and assertiveness.

This looks to be what China is really worried about – that Washington’s strategy to encircle it is gaining momentum. The IPEF adds to partnerships such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprising Australia, India, Japan and the US, and the Aukus security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the US.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has accused Washington of using the IPEF to „build walls, create division and stoke confrontation“, and pushing countries to choose between the US and China.

And China is also pushing back and building partnerships of its own – courting Pacific island nations and calling for the expansion of the Brics bloc of emerging economies beyond the current configuration of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

China’s economic heft is undeniable, especially in South-east Asia, but it is equally clear that countries there are loath to become Chinese vassals.

Their response to the IPEF reveals a hard truth that China must accept: As Beijing’s influence grows, so will a desire for Washington to play a greater counterbalancing presence.”

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