Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
March 19, 2021
Mr. President: There is something decidedly unsettling about the Xi Jinping regime in
China. First, the Uighur problem: the central government has trampled on the rights
of Uighurs to maintain their culture and practise their religion. Any resistance leads to
re-education camps, and we all know what that means.
Next, the muscle flexing: The Indians complained about an incursion into Indian
territory in Ladakh adjoining Tibet, while the Taiwanese resent the overflights by
fighter jets. And as the U.S. distances itself from Iran, the Chinese are walking in with
aid and presumably securing direct access to the oil fields in the Gulf.
They already have a naval base at Gwadar in adjoining Pakistan. Developing a string
of them would bring de facto control of Gulf oil traffic supplying important U.S. allies
like Japan not to mention friends like Malaysia in the ASEAN compact.
Further west on the westward tip of the Arabian peninsula, the Chinese have an
important relationship going back over a half century with Yemen. During this period
they have provided considerable humanitarian and economic aid.
Across to Africa, where China's involvement is viewed positively by most Africans, who
cite the help received in infrastructure development and job creation. The two
decades old Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is scheduled to meet again this
coming September in Dakar, Senegal, when Chinese and African officials will reflect
on the relationship -- China's dealings with African countries are on a government to
government basis. Despite a late start compared to European countries with their
long colonial ties, China has become Africa's largest trading partner while US trade
with Africa has dipped.
China is also moving into America's backyard. It has already become the largest
Latin American country's prime export market. Brazil now exports three times as much
to China ($67.7 billion in 2020) as it does to the U.S. ($21.6 billion) which comes in
second, and its exports to China total $35.5 billion.
China is also Chile's largest market constituting 24.3 percent ($22.57 billion) of
exports, and is at the same time increasing investment there. Not surprising in the
least given that the country has vast stores of copper. And right next door to the U.S.
is Mexico, to which China was able to export $45.4 billion worth of goods in 2019 while
importing about $7 billion.
At a time when economies are hurting due to Covid-19, China's continuing purchase
of products from South America have helped mitigate the hardships. In the process,
China has become South America's leading trade partner.
China's ambitions are clear. It wants to be the world's leading power: economically,
militarily and technologically. That the U.S. has been complicit (through a
lackadaisical attitude to technology transfer or to China's thrust into markets
worldwide) without substantive preparedness or a countervailing response to its
global challenges only helps China achieve its aims.
Is the US then destined to lose this contest with China? It is what often happens
between a rising power and a complacent leading one.