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Possible Reestablishment of Vatican-China Relations

Vatican Bishops’ Praise of China Foreshadows Possible Reestablishment of Vatican-China Relations

Feb. 9, 2018 –The statements by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, who, speaking to {Vatican Insider} after a visit to China, characterized the country as extraordinary, raised some hackles from anti-China circles in the Catholic Church. “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs,” Sanchez Sorondo had said after visiting China. “Instead there is a positive national consciousness.” “Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese,” he said.

While he praised China for upholding the Paris climate agreements, he also obviously, during the course of his visit to China, received more of an insight into what China is doing to advance the lives of their people. Sanchez Sorondo’s visit to China was part of an ongoing round of diplomacy between the Vatican and China, which is aimed at resolving the key issue of the appointment of Catholic bishops, a major point of dispute between the Vatican and China. Sanchez Sorondo’s statements has been heavily criticized by some conservative Catholic circles, including Hong Kong’s retired cardinal, Joseph Zen. But it is strongly supported by Pope Francis, who would like the Vatican to assume full legal responsibility for China’s estimated 13 million Catholics. Zen has also said that if the Pope comes to some arrangement with the Chinese government, he will also fall in step with the arrangement.

The diplomatic activity of Pope Francis has been receiving regular coverage in the Chinese press, including the more conservative {Global Times}, to whom Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo had also spoken. Just recently Pope Francis made the unusual decision to retire two bishops in China who had not previously received the approval of the Chinese government, which has also raised an outcry by church conservatives, covered extensively in Breitbart News. The Breitbart coverage was attacked today in a {Global Times} editorial by Ai Jun, who called Sanchez Sorondo’s statements “the perspective of an authoritative religious figure” which were helpful “in contradicting misunderstandings of China.” “The overwhelming majority of Catholics in China have full access to freedom of religion while abiding by Catholic doctrine and China’s rule of law,” Ai Jun writes. “Chinese Catholics are no different from Catholics in other countries simply because they live in a socialist nation, which reflects the fact that the Chinese government respects their religious freedom and provides them with enough room for religious activities.” Most of the Catholic bishops now in China have been accepted by the Chinese government and the Vatican, but there are still many exceptions in the “underground church”.

Negotiations are ongoing as to the procedure of the appointment of bishops. But a resolution of the issue could lead to the re-establishment of relations between Beijing and Rome which have been broken for the last 70 years.

Egypt: Fresh Vegetables Grown in the Desert

Chinese company, Sinomach Heavy Industry Corp., is building what is described as the world’s largest greenhouse complex in the Egyptian desert. The site is within two hour’s drive from Cairo, CGTN reported yesterday. The complex, which when complete will consist of about 3,000 greenhouses, will grow vegetables and fruit, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers. This was decided in consultation with Egyptian agricultural experts, Hou Huicong, the deputy project manager explained. The water for the crops will come from a sub-branch of the Nile River, and ditches will be built to divert water to the greenhouses.

Components for the greenhouses have been produced in 80 factories in China that have been working on the project since July. On this ambitious schedule, operation of the greenhouses is expected this year. This accelerated timetable can be met, said Sun Guiding, purchase manager for the project, because, “We mobilized almost all resources producing agricultural appliances in China. Many are working around the clock.”

The $400 million project is the product of an agreement signed with the Egyptian government last May.


Pakistan PM Abbasi — BRI More Than Infrastructure

Pakistani Prime Minster Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) Wednesday, praised the quality and scope of the BRI.

“We strongly recognize the vision of China and President Xi Jinping…. We believe the Belt and Road Initiative is perfectly in sync with the WEF theme of creating `shared future in a fractured world.’ It is much more than just a partnership on infrastructure and it will cause significant improvement in lives of people from different countries.” He said half of humanity lives in the region of the Silk Road. He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has started to show results in Pakistan with a major increase in manufacturing and exports. “The key principles are financial stability and lessening of environmental impact and Pakistan being a more responsible global citizen,”

Wang Yi to China-Celac Summit: BRI Cooperation is the “Golden Key that Unlocks a Brighter Future for Both Sides

Jan. 25 -In his opening speech to the Second Ministerial Summit of the China-Celac Forum, held in Santiago, Chile on Jan. 22, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi laid out an exciting perspective for the future of relations between these two regions of the world: China and the Latin American and Caribbean nations (LAC), the latter grouped in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac).

Posted today to the Chinese Foreign Ministry website, the speech, entitled “Join Hands Across the Ocean in a New Era,” describes, among other things, the essential points of the final 2019-2021 Action Plan, whose text is not yet available. He emphasizes that “China stands ready to share in the development dividends with all other countries and achieve common prosperity together with fellow developing countries… The consensus we will reach on Belt and road cooperation at this meeting will be reflected in a special declaration…. As we see it, China and LAC countries are well placed to take full advantage of the BRI.”

The mission of China’s diplomacy, he said, “is to work with all other countries to forge a new form of international relations, featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation… The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China is aimed at providing the world with public goods… {Geopolitical contest or zero-sum game is neither our purpose nor our practice.} We invite all countries, big and small, to discuss the BRI as equals…” [emphasis added]

Wang outlined five key areas that will be the basis of cooperation between China and the LAC countries, emphasizing that Belt and Road cooperation “will be a `golden key’  that unlocks a brighter future for both sides… I think it would be appropriate to compare China-LAC cooperation to a fruit tree. If we can nourish it with Belt and Road cooperation, it will be more exuberant and bear more fruit, both bilaterally and collectively…” The five areas include:

1) building a transportation network connecting lands and oceans, emphasizing China’s support “in building the bioceanic railway and bioceanic tunnels, and open more sea routes and direct air links… China also stands ready to conclude Belt and Road agreements with more LAC countries, and launch more Belt and Road projects with a view to reaping an `early harvest;’

2) fostering a large market that is open and beneficial to both sides;

3) developing competitive and sovereign home-grown industries, based on the most advanced technologies. “China has the equipment, technology, funding and training opportunities you need. Our two sides may speed up industrial cooperation, work to build logistics…  broaden financing channels… and explore establishment of a consortium of development financial institutions, and build more industrial parks and special economic zones;”

4) “seize the opportunity of innovation-driven growth. Enhance coordination between the Belt and road Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan and development strategies of LAC countries, and build a China-LAC online Silk Road and a digital Silk Road. Both sides “may advance cooperation in the emerging areas such as aerospace and aviation… China is ready to help train more researchers from LAC countries through the China-LAC Science and Technology Partnership and the China-LAC Young Scientists Exchange Program.”

5) Extensive exchanges, especially in cultural and people-to-people areas. “China is ready to share more governance experience with LAC countries, enhance… exchanges between our political parties” and other national organizations of media, youth, etc. as well as establish more culture centers in each other’s countries and more Confucius Institutes in LAC countries “to deepen mutual understanding and friendship.”

Wang concluded: “As a Chinese poem reads, `True friends value their promises to each other and will travel a thousand miles to be together.’ Let us make this meeting a new starting point in our relations, seize the opportunity offered by the Belt and Road Initiative, and join hands across the ocean to open a splendid new era of China-LAC relations.”

The U.S. Must Join China’s Belt and Road In Developing The Caribbean and Central America


Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche made the following comments on Jan. 16, 2018.

Concerning the controversies around what President Trump did or did not say, we absolutely have to remain on the high ground, which means emphasizing Lyndon LaRouche’s “Four Laws” and that the United States must join the New Silk Road. 

Now, what that actually means is that it should be obvious to anybody that you cannot solve the problem of immigrants in the United States, or the drug epidemic, without bringing development to the Central American and Caribbean countries in particular. There are many places which are not “shitholes,” but they are hellholes.  For example, according to the FAO the level of chronic undernourishment, ie hunger, in Sub-Saharan Africa is 22.7% of the total population, which is the worst in the world. The second worst region is the Caribbean, where it averages 17.7%. But in Haiti}, an absolutely unbelievable 47% of people have permanent hunger, and 80% are living in poverty. And the whole Caribbean is very far from being a luxury cruise paradise: for the people living there, it’s a complete hellhole, as is most of Central America. [See Figures 1 and 2, which compare select physical-economic parameters of Haiti and El Salvador with Spain.]

Figure 2

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

The only way you can address that is, obviously, what China is already actively doing with their Belt and Road Initiative, for example in Panama, where they are now building a high-speed railroad from Panama City to the border with Costa Rica.  And China is also the only country which is seriously helping Haiti, announcing a $5 billion plan to rebuild Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti.

So this requires the whole Belt and Road Initiative, not just one project or two. China has proposed on the highest level for Spain and Portugal to be bridges for the Belt and Road to Ibero-America and the Caribbean, and both Iberian governments have already agreed that they do not just want to be the western end of the New Silk Road, but they want to actively be the bridge to the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations in Ibero-America and also in Africa.

We are working right now on writing up this whole question of extending the New Silk Road into all the Americas, as part of our updated global study on “The New Silk Road Becomes the World Land-Bridge:” to build a high-speed railroad from the southern tip of Ibero-America, Chile and Argentina, all the way through the Darién Gap and the Bering Strait, connecting with the Eurasian infrastructure program (see Figure 3).

Figure 3

Figure 3

Now, one of the big problems there, is a geopolitical leftover that a number of Central American and Caribbean countries still have diplomatic ties with Taiwan and not with the People’s Republic of China. Panama recently switched that and agreed to support the One China policy, and obviously this is a big concern for the Chinese, who are constantly confronted with efforts to not recognize the One China policy. As a matter of fact, they recently complained that Marriott Hotel and other firms are talking about Macau and Hong Kong and Tibet as “other countries,” as if they would not belong to China.  So this is a question of accepting the sovereignty of China, which obviously has a lot to do with how they respond.

The situation is economically so severe that you cannot just try to build up from below, but you have to leapfrog and get the productivity level of this whole region up by orders of magnitude. There are obvious angles. For example, you have in French Guiana, which is actually not a sovereign country but a colonialist department of France to the present day, the European Space Agency’s launch site in Kourou, which is very close to the Equator. But then you also have the Brazilian Space Agency’s launch site, in a place called Alcantara, which is even closer to the Equator. These situations are not without problems, but they already represent a very important scientific capacity, and that could be made into a regional project, a science-driver for the entire Caribbean Basin region (see Fig. 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4

Then you have the expanded Panama Canal, the planned Nicaragua Canal, and, as Lyndon LaRouche has often stressed, if you build all of these canals, including the Kra Canal in Thailand, you are really talking about a single world ocean, which would eliminate many of the geopolitical chokepoints of the British.

So we have to really push this, that the United States must join the New Silk Road. This would include building major projects in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, including in Ponce on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, which could become a major port and shipping point for the Maritime Silk Road. Building a deep-water port there would open the whole transport corridors into the Gulf and East coasts of the United States. Connected with that, the Maritime Silk Road would do something similar in Mariel, Cuba, where there is also the plan to build a deep-water port. And since this is very close to the United States, it should all really be integrated into one big project.

One-Third of Global GDP Growth Past Year Occurred in China, According to UN Report

The Chinese economy alone contributed about one-third of global growth in 2017, as measured in GDP monetary terms, according to the “World Economic Situation and Prospects 2018” released last month by the United Nations.

The UN report points to the transformation which the Chinese economy has undergone, from the former global leader in cheap mass-producted exports, to an increasing producer and exporter of
high-value goods:

The first half of 2017 witnessed a surge of 93.4% in exports of drones, for example. There was a rise of 32.5% in automobile exports, and a considerable increase in the export of other high value-added products such as mechanical and electronic equipment for manufacturing. By providing medium and high-end products of high quality at reasonable prices, China is delivering larger dividends to the world. In recent years, many foreign media have paid attention to China’s advances in science and technology. World-leading technologies, including the mobile internet, artificial intelligence and Big Data, are serving not only as new drivers of China’s growth, but also contributing to global scientific and technological progress. Meanwhile, China’s telecommunications, computer and information services are being exported, creating new miracles of economic development in other developing economies including those of Africa.

On the other hand, China’s vast market and economic vitality have created huge demand for the goods of other countries—which is important, the UN report states, because world economic growth remains “sluggish” (sic) and de-globalization keeps growing. The Belt and Road Initiative and other public goods, offered by China to the world, have greatly promoted international trade and investment and, at the same time, provided new guidance for economic globalization, the said United Nations report documents. In 2017, China announced an additional 100 billion yuan investment in the Silk Road Fund, and, in the first 11 months of the year, China invested more than $12 billion in countries along the Belt and Road, making an important contribution to world economic development.

The Central Economic Work Conference recently held in Beijing stressed high-quality development, sending a clear message that China continues to be a main driver powering world economic growth and stabilizing world economic development, sharing the dividends of China’s economic development with the rest of the world.

China Releases New Poverty Statistics: 30 Million Remain To Be Lifted Out of Poverty

The total number of Chinese still living in poverty was 30 million at the end of 2017, according to official statements made on Jan. 5 by the Director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, Liu Yongfu. Xinhua reported that Liu explained that this means there was a two-thirds reduction of the number of poor over the last five years, since in 2012 there were 98.99 million poor. Since the official number repeatedly used by Chinese officials for 2016 was 43 million poor, this means that 13 million or so were lifted out of poverty in 2017 alone.

Liu added that “to lift the remaining 30 percent of poor people out of poverty will be the toughest”–a point that President Xi Jinping has repeatedly made. Liu stated that the work will now shift to targeted and precise measures: “We will work to foster local industries, create new jobs, relocate residents in poor areas and strengthen aid to the aged, the disabled and people seriously ill.”

Receiving special attention will be some 30,000 villages where more than 20% of the population is poor. “We will step up support, partly by sending more central and provincial cadres to those villages who will work there for normally two years,” said Xia Gengsheng, another official of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

Vice Premier Wang Yang said at another meeting last week that 2018 will be a key year for the battle against poverty.

The eyes of the entire world are on China in this historic battle against poverty, not just over the stunning specific results already achieved, but as a proof of principle of an underlying optimism: yes, it {can} be done. If in China, why not everywhere?

South Korea President Embraces Belt and Road Initiative

Dec. 16 – During his four-day visit to China, which concludes today in the city of Chongqing, South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced that he and President Xi Jinping have agreed “to actively look for ways of actual cooperation between China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative (BRI)” and South Korea’s own foreign policy initiative–the “New North” and “New South” policies–which seek greater economic and diplomatic cooperation with Eurasian as well as with Southeast Asian nations. Especially in light of Japan’s shift over the past several months toward the Belt and Road, Moon’s announcement is of great strategic significance, reflecting a move away from Western policies of geopolitical confrontation which today threaten to blow up the North Korean situation. As Moon stated explicitly, the Belt and Road holds the potential to bring peace and prosperity to the region.
In their broader discussions, the two leaders committed themselves to strengthening their bilateral relationship, and agreed to abide by the principles of mutual respect and regard for each other’s core interests. This is the basis for true “win-win” collaboration, Xi Jinping said, adding that he wants to promote the alignment of the BRI with Seoul’s development strategy.

That Moon made his announcement on the BRI in Chongqing is also important as this bustling city is a communications hub in western China that is “a pivotal location for China’s Belt and Road Initiative,” {Global Times} reported Dec. 15. Speaking at a business forum there, Moon elaborated further, according to a transcript of his speech cited by Yonhap News Agency. “I am confident a link between the One Belt, One Road Initiative and New North, New South policies will lead to peace and joint prosperity in the region and become a strong wave that spearheads the development of all of humanity,” he said.
For example, he detailed, “If the connection between an inter-Korean railroad and the Trans-Siberian Railway that South Korea is actively pursuing, meets China’s trans-China, Mongolia
and Russia economic corridor, [then] the rail, air and sea routes of Eurasia will reach all corners of the region,” Moon said.
Moon also called for efforts to build what he called a “digital Silk Road” between the two countries to assist the development of their IT industries and the fourth industrial revolution. Overseas markets are another key area of cooperation, he said. “I will actively support the joint advance of South Korean and Chinese firms into third countries,” he stated, and emphasized the importance of cooperation among countries in the region. (Japan’s Prime Minister Abe last week offered joint Japan-China funding of development projects in third countries.) Seoul and Beijing have already agreed to launch negotiations for an expansion of their free trade agreement (FTA), he reported, to include the service and financial sectors. The trade agreement went into effect in late 2015, but currently deals with products only. Lastly, Moon said, South Korea will work to strengthen its cooperation with China’s key regional governments, including Chongqing. “I believe economic cooperation between South Korea and Chongqing will greatly contribute to China’s development of [its] west, as well as balanced development of China, and I promise the South Korean government will do its utmost to boost their cooperation,” he told Chongqing’s Mayor Chen Miner.

China Provides Credit for Iranian Rail Upgrade

Dec. 17 -China has opened a $1.7 billion credit line for Iran for the electrification of the 926 km railway running from Tehran to Mashhad in the east of the country. The terms are excellent: Two-thirds of the cost will be financed by the Chinese government at a very low interest rate, and the remaining third will be covered by Chinese insurer Sinosure (China Export and Credit Insurance Corp.), according to Iran’s Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development.

Five months ago, Iran signed an agreement with China National Machinery Import and Export Corp. (CMC) to carry out the electrification and upgrading, which is projected to take up to four years. The route is already double-tracked, but with electrificaiton, the speed will increase from 160 kph to 200 kph. Iran’s English-language {Financial Tribune} in reporting the credit agreement today, adding that CEO of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways Saeed Mohammadzadeh reports that when finished, the railroad–which forms part of the New Silk Road–will have the capacity to transport 25 million passengers and 10 million tons of cargo per year.

Iran’s goal is to electrify all of its rail by 2025.

Poland Hosting Silk Road Rail Summit in March

Dec. 18, 2017 -The {Rail Freight} journal reports that Poland is hosting the first Rail Freight Summit next year, in the city of Wroclaw. Recent developments, {Rail Freight} writes, have pushed the New Silk Road — also known as One Belt, One Road — to the forefront of the Europe-Asia logistics corridors, what they mean for Poland and the other countries along the growing number of routes, not least China. As part of this development, Poland has become an increasingly vital hub for rail freight services, often as an interchange for container train services coming via Russia and Belarus, run by dozens of operators. The summit will review developments so far and look to the future to see the benefits that can be realized for all stakeholders, including rail operators, logistics firms, and all those involved in the supply chain.

The summit is taking place from March 20-21, and day one will start with a technical visit, enabling visitors to meet some of the people behind the logistical chains in Poland. The second part of the day will features keynote speeches on the meaning of the Silk Road & Poland, and the implications of the One Belt, One Road project for Eastern Europe. Day two begins with a focus on the ambitions of China, followed by sessions on how to connect the Silk Road routes and stops, and the business case for Poland and beyond. The summit is being jointly hosted by {Rail Freight} and Nieuwsblad Transport, and sponsored by Nunner Logistics.

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