"Produced by the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), Global Strategic Trends (GST) is an examination of the strategic context that faces defence and the challenges and opportunities it provides for the Ministry of Defence (MOD)".Click here
"This is the 4th edition produced by DCDC as part of the Global Strategic Trends programme, and describes how the period out to 2040 will be a time of continuing transition, characterised by uncertainty, challenge and opportunity. The document gives a detailed consideration of how climate change, global inequality, population growth, resource scarcity and the shifting balance of global power will transform the strategic context and create persistent, complex, global challenges."
Updated to 17 October, 2013, the DCDC document covers much of the grounds highlighted in the National Intellignce Council (NIC) Report's "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds" dated December 2012. Click here
Both the DCDC and the NIC research documents serve as an up-todate strategic tour d'horizon of global trends, threats and opportunities in the coming decades.
Greetings! May I wish you peace and progress in a troubled world.
With the Ukraine face-off between Russia and the West, the world is now a very different place. I am not just talking about Russia's "near-abroad". I am referring to the possible emergence of a new Cold War.
Will this drive Russia closer to China, the latter's expanding eastern Siberia settlement notwithstanding? Will the United States have to re-balance its Asian Pivot, given changed global dynamics, strained financial and military resources and a war-weary electorate? Will this unfold a new era of Chinese diplomacy? How will the Grand Chessboard be playing out?
As for China, with a slowing economy, shadow banking risks, worsening ecological strains, and uncertain foreign relations, what is the outlook for 2014 and beyond? Would China and the United States be able to seize the opportunity of stabilizing the world's monetary and economic systems? Will blue skies ever return to China's cities? How realistic is the "China Dream"?
Meanwhile, e-commerce and re-shoring are changing businesses and banking paradigms. High-speed rail and a "Golden Age of Gas" are reshaping geopolitics and geo-economics.
On the above topics and more, I hope you may find some food for thought in the following analyses -
What next over Ukriane? (An analytical commentary)
A Second Cold War looms in the horizon (An analytical commentary)
Ukraine caught in Russia's tussle for power with the West (My Op-ed in the South China Morning Post)
Grand Chessboard over Ukraine's Future (An analytical commentary)
Khodorkovsky arrives in Germany (My radio interview on BBC World Service)
The Future of Europe and the Ukrainian crisis - George Soros (Gist of his interview with Spiegel)
A New Era of Chinese Diplomacy Unfolds?(Will China dominate or lead the world? An analytical commentary)
Global Dynamics of the China Dream and Possible Turkish-China Relationship in a New Silk Road to Renaissance (My 8,701-word research Paper accepted for presentation at an international conference at Cambridge University, UK)
Japan should have the courage to face its past (My Op-ed in the South China Morning Post)
China's Human Rights Report on the United States (My interview on on RT, Russia's premier English-language TV channel)
How the United States and China could help stabilize the world's monetary and economic systems (An analytical commentary)
Challenges of a Rising China
Will China dominate the 21st Century? (An analytical commentary)
In defense of the Communist Party of China (CPC) - by Eric X Li, venture capitalist and political scientist on TED (A subsequent more balanced debate )
Is there growing tension within China's Communist Party? Would a Rising China start a war? (An analytical commentary)
Third Plenum - Bold Reforms for the China Dream(A presentation to the Samurai Group, a Japanese business network in Hong Kong)
Why is it getting harder for Beijing to govern?(A review of Professor David M Lampton's book “Following the Leader: Ruling China, From Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping”, University of California Press, 2014)
Technology and Business
China's Economy - Outlook for 2014 (My feature article for The Global Analyst, a business journal based in India)
World Wide Web - Global Force for Good? (My appearance on a TV panel discussion on Inside Story with Aljazeera English Channel)
High Speed Empire - China's global rail ambitions (A feature report in Foreign Policy)
How technology will transform Asia's and potentially the world's finance and banking (A Working Paper by Senior Fellow Andrew Cainey of the Fung Global Institute)
Next-Shoring: A CEO Guide (A Mckinsey Quarterly report )
Blue Skies for China’s Cities - A multi-dimensional strategy (My presentation at the International Green Economy Association Conference in Beijing, 18-19, January, 2014)
Forging a Sustainable Future for the Mekong (A report by ChinaDialogue, an international environmental journal)
Watch the beauty and majesty of Earth from above ("Home" , a visually-stunning and emotionally-touching film produced in 2009 by Goodplanet.org)
Cheer up and chill out
If too much serious reading gets you down, here is a repertoire of inspirational music videos which may provide you with an uplift in spirits
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Speaking and lecturing opportunities
Throughout the year, subject to mutual agreement, I am open to invitations for speaking engagements or visiting lectures worldwide on China-related topics. The following suggestions may be of interest -
The China Dream and the Third Plenum
The Ascent of the RMB, the Chinese currency
How technology, rural land reform, and financial liberalizasion would revolutionize banking services in China
A business networking and speaking platform in Hong Kong
As an Advisor to the Denmark-based Executives’ Global Network (EGN) Hong Kong, may I extend to you the opportunity of fielding a suitable speaker for an EGN event in Hong Kong? This will be entirely at our cost with acknowledgement of your support or that of your organization, provided that we are not asked to cover any speaking fee, travel or accommodation expenses.
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Chairman and CEO, Andrew Leung International Consultants Limited (Founded in London) Brain Trust Member, The Evian Group (global think-tank), Lausanne, Switzerland Senior Analyst, Wikistrat, an online global strategic consultancy Gerson Lehrman Group (Global Experts) Council Member International Expert, Reuters Insight Community of Experts, Thompson Reuters China Futures Fellow, Berkshire Publishing Group, Massachusetts, USA Distinguished Contributor, Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance (ATCA) (global think-tank) Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA) Elected Member, Royal Society for Asian Affairs Visiting Professor, London Metropolitan University Business School Visiting Professor, Sun Yat-sen University Business School, China (2005-10) Senior Consultant, MEC International Global Commercial Agent, Changsha City, China Member, Board of Advisors of Denmark-based Executive Global Network (EGN), Hong Kong Member, Board of Advisors of The Global Analyst, India Member, Board of Multitude Foundation, a HK-registered charitable trust (The following until 19 May 2010, on permanent relocation back to Hong Kong) Governing Council Member, King’s College London, UK (2004-2010) Advisory Board Member, China Policy Institute, Nottingham University, UK (2005 -2010) Founding Chairman, China Group, Institute of Directors City Branch, London, UK (2006-2010) Vice Chairman, 48 Group Club, UK (2008-2010) Committee Member of RSA, London Region, UK (2006-2010)
Included in UK's Who's Who since 2002 Awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star (SBS) in the July 2005 Hong Kong Honours List
The Arctic Region is looming as an epochal game changer. As the Arctic ice melts, a cornucopia of energy and other resources are open to possible scramble. Moreover, the Northern Passage of Canada as well as the sea passage north of Russia are likely to become more navigable, opening up much shorter sea routes for international trade that may circumvent the sea ports in the Asia-Pacific, as depicted by a Brookings Institution introductory YouTube video
It's opportune that the United States will be assuming chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, taking the opportunity to enhance Arctic governance. A Brookings Energy Security Initiative Report "Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic - A Leadership Role for the U.S." dated March 2014 outlines some recommendations.
This game-changer was heralded by Trausti Valsson in his book "How the World Will Change with Global Warming", University of Iceland Press, 2006. It was featured in my blog of 6 September, 2008 under How Green geopolitics and geo-economics will change China and the World.
As China has no legal right to any territorial claim in the Arctic Circle, the Middle Kingdom is likely to lose out in terms of claims on Arctic resources. What is even more important, the global gravitas of China's Pacific container ports is likely to wane. On the other hand, Arctic shipping routes will provide China with alternative sea routes bypassing Pacific Ocean "choke points" controlled by the United States. Click here
Hence China has been proactive in joining the Arctic Council as an approved Observer, alongside with other Asian countries i.e. India, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore. Click here
Be that as it may, the ecology of the Arctic is vital to the ecosystem of the whole planet, including ocean acidity, climate-changing currents, food chains and species survival, not to mention other global revulsions of Climate Change. There is thus irrefutable argument that the Arctic should remain a common heritage, which the Arctic "sovereign countries" should hold in trust for mankind.
It is therefore to be hoped that coming discussions to enhance Arctic governance will not morph into agreeing a plan to divide up the potentail sploils of Energy and Resource in the Arctic. More importantly, the opportunity should be taken of formulating a global agenda for the custody in trust of this relatively unspoilt treasure of Mother Earth
A recent interview with George Soros on The Future of Europe was conducted by Spiegelcorrespondent Gregor Peter Schmitz. Parts of it appear in their book,The Tragedy of the European Union: Disintegration or Revival?, just published by PublicAffairs.
At the interview, Soros discussed the Ukrianian crisis at length. He reckons that Putin's aggressiveness is really a sign of weakness, due to less than apparently solid popular support at home and vulnerability of the Russian economy. Nevertheless, he suggests that it would serve no useful purpose in pushing the impasse over the precipice. The question is how to resolve the situation hopefully safeguarding the West's advantage.
While agreeing that financial sanctions could work if properly targetted at financial inflows into Russia, Soros thinks that the West should put greater store in shoring up the finances of Ukraine and integrating it more vigorously into the economies of the European Union. This can be achieved in concert with an adequate IMF financial package as well as much closer economic, trade and investment links with the EU.
Soros also thinks that the EU doesn't have to have a confrontational relationship with Russia. Now with massive mutual investment and trade flows having become a reality, both the EU and Russia stand to benefit from a more benigh yet balanced relationship.
Click here for the full text of the Spiegel interview.
Soro's idea to achieve a more stable Europe tallies with Zbigniew Brzezinski's "Strategic Vision" for the United States to re-shape the global order, involving a re-balance of a "Complex East" and creation of a "Larger West", hoping to bring Russia (along with Turkey) into a Europe more amenable to Western norms. Click here
However, reality seems to dim the hope for a U.S.-led European order. One of Putin's closest advisors, Professor Aleksandr Dugin, a geostrategic and ideological theorist, recently published his visualization of three possible scenarios over the Ukrainian crisis, all interwined with the global order. One of these assumed Russia buckling under Western pressure, the second, armed conflict spiralling into global Armageddon, and the third, which he dubs “the Russian Spring,” featuring Russia leading a peaceful revolution across Europe, freeing the continent from alleged America-led Atlanticism, liberalist hegemony and Western financial oligarchy supported by dollar supremacy. Click here
Putin's latest aggression over Ukraine underlines the resurgence of Russian revanchism. In the circumstances, it seems that Brzezinski's America-led European vision is becoming even more difficult, if not totally unreal.
Notwithstanding the face-off between Russia and the West over Ukraine, the possibility of a Second Cold War emerging in Europe is often dismissed on grounds of Russia's perceived economic weakness, her vulnerability to sanctions, and declining support in the global commons. In short, the premiss is that unlike the last Cold War, Russia's hard power is now no match to America's economic and financial clout, supported by military supremacy. How valid is this thinking?
First,let's draw a comparison with China. The Middle Kingdom's military, notwithstanding recent rapid modernization and expansion, remains decades behind the United States. But is this sufficient to maintain the Age of Pax Americana? The answer is no. The reason is that with a more interconnected and globalized world, warfare takes many forms and is increasingly asymmetric and localized. China's A2/AD (anti-access, area denial) capabilities comes to mind, despite America's eleven ultra-modern aircraft-carrier battle groups and extensive global outposts. If American superiority is not stopping China's power projection, why should it stop an aggressive Russia on Putin's home turf? Moreover, if push comes to shove, Russia still possesses one of the world's most destructive arsenals with continental delivery abilities.
Second, following collapse of the former USSR, Russia is admittedly only a fraction of her former Cold War self. But she is in possession of a formidable weapon - an "empire of energy supply crisscrossing Europe. (See "Pipelines of Empire" on Forbes online by no less an eminent strategic thinker than Robert D Kaplan, an advisor to the Pentagon).Click here In anticipation of possible falling European demand for Russian energy, Putin is developing a much closer, though still guarded, relationship with China, the world's largest energy consumer for many decades to come. Russia became President Xi's first overseas port of call, where the two sides agreed to triple Russian oil exports to China to 45-50 million tonnes, possibly by 2018, making China sooner or later the largest consumer of Russian oil. This insurance policy is of no avail for the current Ukraine crisis. But likewise, short of an infrastructural miracle across Europe, it seems far-fetched to claim that American shale gas could replace Russian energy in Europe anytime soon.
Third,barring immediate security threats or a world-war, for which no world power has sufficient political appetite or financial firepower, nations treasure foremost the economy with all the jobs implied. For China, her global gravitas comes from the mere fact that 126 nations around the globe have China as the largest trading partner, compared with 76 in the case of the United States. Yes, Russia is no China. It doesn't trade as much. But she can hurt economies with her vast energy supplies to Europe, at least for now.
Fourth, Russia's influence in Central Asia is unmistakable. Witness the expanding regional reach of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Russia is a founding Member along with China. Current Members include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, with Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan as Observer States; Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey as Dialogue States; and ASEAN, CIS states, and Turkmenistan as Guest Attendees. Moreover, the SCO has vastly widened its original scope to include trade, economic, diplomatic, cultural and military exchanges. In particular, there is a strong Islamic connection running through many of its Members at a time when Islamic influence in the world is on the ascendant. Turkey is anxious to become a full SCO member.. The strategic importance of Turkey, being a key member of NATO, goes without saying. This country connects Asia with Europe and is part of a "Larger West" conceived by Zbigniew Brzezinsky, a doyen of American foreign policy, as a key for America to maintain global balance (Strategic Vision, America and the Crisis of Global Power, Basic Books, New York, 2012)
Fifth,Russia may be weak with an aging and shrinking population. But as a vast country straddling two continents, she possesses immense wealth of natural resources, let alone territorial claims of reserves of resources in the Arctic Ocean.
Sixth,speaking of the latter, with the Canadian Northern Passage becoming more and more navigable with global warming, alternative trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific shipping routes along the northern Russian coast are likely to become viable in the coming decades. These are likley to connect the rest of Europe through the Davos Strait and the Denmark Strait on both sides of Greenland. When this eventually happens, it would buttress Russia's strategic position at the expense of traditional shipping routes (and ports) in the Asia-Pacific. (How the World Will Change with Global Warming, Trausti Valsson, University of Iceland Press, 2006).
Seventh,ideology no longer dictates outcomes. China and Russia have embraced capitalism, or at least state capitalism. Meanwhile, global gravitas has shifted from the West to the East. The G20 now counts more than the G8. According to research by BBVA, a Spanish bank, the EAGLEs (Emerging and Growth Leading Economies, including Turkey) and NEST countries (upcoming-EAGLEs) are together expected to contribute 68% to world growth between 2012-2022. China and India are each expected to contribute a higher share than the U.S. The G7 economies together will add a mere 16%. Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2050, the six EAGLEs combined economic weight, what may be called the E6, would be over two and half times more than the economies of US, Japan, United Kingdom and Germany combined. (Annual Report 2013, Economic Outlook - Eagles, BBVA, Madrid, March 2013. Click here
Eighth,Putin regards the collapse of the former USSR only as a temporary set-back. He harbors a strong ambition to restore Russia to its formal eminence, if not preeminence, given the country's sheer size, resources and cultural heritage. Putin and many Russians remain unconvinced that Russia is so broke that the country can no longer stand up to the West or for that matter for its desired place in the world order of the 21st Century. It is evident that Putin is proving to be a far-visionary global strategist compared with many of his Western peers.
The ideological and power dynamics of the past Cold War will not be replicated. But Ukraine is a lynchpin of Putin's Russian re-aggrandizement. With the West's enforced isolation of Russia, a Second Cold War is beginning to loom in the horizon.
As both Russia and the West are putting more military chips on the table, it seems that not only the future of Ukraine, but security and stability of the entire Eastern Europe if not the whole world hang in the balance.
The reality, however, remains that both sides don’t want and can’t afford an all-out war. Obama’s hands are tied with a war-weary electorate, budget constraints, an economy barely starting to recover, and increasing pressure on America’s Asian commitments. So, apart from using non-military leverage including visa bans and asset freezes, the West is unlikely to open fire.
For Putin, Russia's economy and finances are not at the best of times, with gas prices plummeting and risks of falling European energy demand being lured away by possible America’s exports of excess shale gas. So both sides have openly stated that military options remain the last resort.
Putin’s control over Crimea is a fait accompli. Not only are the miniscule Ukrainian forces there all being rounded up, but the vast majority of the Crimean people are of Russian extraction The Crimea leader asserts that more than 80% of the people there would support joining the Russian Federation. Click here
Likewise, there is a pro-Russian culture in eastern Ukraine increasingly resistant to Kiev interference, although most would still prefer Ukrainian unity. Click here
For both sides, the stakes are high. Click here It is not just Ukraine. For Putin, it is a lynchpin of his dream to restore the past glories of the former USSR through forming a "Eurasian Union" to rival the European Union. For the West, it may spell the beginning of the end of NATO’s credibility. Yet, both sides are likely to stop short of actually pulling the trigger, sabre rattling notwithstanding.
So what seems an attractive leverage for both sides is the public opinion card. For Putin, the largely-predictable outcome of Sunday’s referendum in Crimea is set to boost his bargaining chips. With rising protests on both sides in eastern Ukraine, the option remains open to Putin of suggesting a plebiscite to determine its future. The prospect dangles of eastern Ukraine becoming not exactly like Crimea but perhaps an extraordinarily autonomous region independent of Kiev's diktats, making it remain under Russian economic and political influence. Meanwhile, he is likely to continue to de-legitimize the interim Kiev government.
For the West, while rattling up NATO’s military postures to show muscle, Obama is likely to highlight Putin’s illegal strong-armed occupation of Crimea and his “engineered” Crimean referendum, undermining the legitimacy of Putin’s plot.
An excellent article of 6 March in the Washington Post suggests why Crimean independence or annexation may not be such a good idea for Russia. The arguments are largely centered on three fronts: (a) burden to Russia of having to support Crimea financially; (b) generating fear amongst small countries in the neighborhood likewise with sizable Russian populations; and (c) the chicken may come home to roost on Russian soil in sparely-inhabited eastern Siberian witnessing expanding migrant Chinese settlement from across the border. The risk is that one day, China may turn the table on Russia as sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
On the other hand, as regards (a), if a cash-strapped Kiev can afford to support Crimea financially, so should the Kremlin. As regards (b), certain neighbours' fears are valid but they are unlikely to sever inherent ethnic and economic links to Russia. The risk that they may tilt towards China instead does not seem inevitable, not least because of perceptions that Turkic Uyghurs are not getting a very good deal in China. As regards (c), a resurgent Russia will serve for now to dilute America's capability to contain China in the Asia Pacific. So China is unlikely to stir any trouble in Russia's eastern under-belly, natural expansion of Chinese settlements notwithstanding.
It is unlikely that such a serious strategist as Putin would not have done his sums properly before plotting his moves in Crimea, including the advanced referendum.
An interesting twist is raised in an article of 10 March in The Diplomat, an online platform on international relations, by a researcher with the Tsinghua University School of Public Policy and Management. It advances a case for China’s involvement, perhaps in concert with some other BRICS members or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), helping to broker a deal with Russia to stabilize the situation. This, according to the article, would mean replacing the interim Kiev government with a new one more representative of the aspirations of pro-Russian people, a highly autonomous Crimea, and an eastern Ukraine driven by BRICS-led investment and more independent of Kiev. While the article’s allusion to a future solution for Taiwan is at best comparing apples with oranges, its suggested deal with Russia does not seem altogether impracticable.
Indeed, John J. Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and author of "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics", suggests in the New York Times here that Putin's legitimate security concerns with an enlarging NATO be recognized and that a cooperative deal with Russia is preferable to pushing this vast country into an ant-West camp with China, "the only genuine potential rival to the United States."
Professor Mearsheimer's suggestions chime with an early Op-ed of 6 March by Henry Kissinger in the Washinton Post here . Kissinger proposes a “Finland model” to solve the Ukrainian crisis, comparing the Scandinavian country’s fierce independence while maintaining cordiality with Russia. This consists of (a) letting the Ukrainian people to choose their collective future, including with Europe; (b) not letting Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as this would unnecessarily provoke Russia; (c) Ukraine’s freedom to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people, hopefully opting for reconciliation between the various regions and avoiding institutional hostility towards Russia and (d) in exchange for Russia’s recognition of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Crimea’s autonomy is to be reinforced in elections to be held with international observers. The process would include removing any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.
Kissinger’s formula would no doubt help to de-escalate the rising tensions over Ukraine. Whether it could ensure that Crimea remains intact under Ukrainian sovereignty remains to be seen, as Putin seems to have stacked the cards in his favour.
Meanwhile, the world is waiting to see how Putin would move on Crimea’s Sunday referendum. However, it seems unlikely that he is going to back down or reveal his cards in any way before the referendum has taken its course.
Ukraine has now become a proxy Grand Chessboard between Russia and the West.
Over the years, Vladimir Putin has been building Russia's empire of energy pipelines throughout continental Europe. Download Russia's pipelines to EuropeDownload EU Imports of Russian Gas In the north, the Druzhba pipelines extend through Belarus to Poland and Germany. In the south, they pass through Ukraine to Central Europe and the Balkans to Italy. This gives Russia immense leverage over a host of European countries. Those heavily dependent on Russian energy include countries in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, Finland and Turkey.
Ukraine remains a key transit country for Russia’s energy supply to Europe. In aggregate, Russia provides about a quarter of the natural gas consumed in the European Union, of which some 80% is carried through pipelines across Ukraine.
Building on this powerful energy network, Putin harbours a vision of a "Eurasian Union" Click here conceived during his third term as Russian President. It hopes to capitalize on the success of the Eurasian Customs Union between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to embrace other former Soviet Union member nations, growing them into a "powerful, supra-national union" of sovereign Eurasian states.
It is possible that the vision goes beyond Eurasia. It was reported that at a November 2011 round table in Moscow organised by the ruling United Russia party, Russian political scientist Dmitry Orlov opined that membership could be extended to countries with historical, political or cultural ties, such as Finland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cuba and Venezuela. Click here
Ukraine is a lynchpin for Putin's Eurasian blueprint. As part of Ukraine, Crimea, where Sevastopol is the base for Russia's Black Sea Fleet, is at the core of Russia's Eurasian power projection. So the loss of Ukraine to the fold of the West would undermine Putin's Eurasian dream.
For the West, Ukraine’s about-turn presents a hard-won opening for bringing the country, or at least its anti-Russian western part, into the fold of the European Union.
However, a bankrupt Ukraine would soon implode without a substantial financial lifeline. According to an analysis in YaleGlobal, an online platform for international and Asian studies, Ukraine is likely to need $35 billion for economic survival. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) comes up with only $5 billion while the EU offers only $610 million in “macro-financial assistance.”
Former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinsky, a doyen of US foreign policy, calls for Germany to lead the EU in mounting a financial rescue. He hopes Russia could also do its part. Click here
Brzezinsky is an advocate for the United States to maintain global leadership through a "Larger West" with the ultimate aim of integrating Russia into the Western fold. (Zbigniew Brzezinsky, Strategic Vision, America and the Crisis of Global Power, Basic Books, New York, 2012) Click here Embracing Ukraine first would be an incremental tactical move on the Grand Chessboard.
Russia has suspended the remaining $12 billion of its $15 billion December bailout for Ukraine. Would Russia be persuaded to re-open the spigot? It may, if a deal could be struck to maintain its influence in the whole of Ukraine, perhaps through a less anti-Russia leadership at Kiev. However, any bow to Russian influence is unlikely to be accepted by the people in Western Ukraine. Nor is Russia likely to agree to pay and to smooth the way for Ukraine's ultimate entry into the fold of the European Union. The prize is not just Ukraine. It's Putin's Eurasian dream.
Meanwhile, Western Ukrainians see their hope of closer ties with the European Union re-kindled. They also want to hunt down ousted President Viktor Yanukovych for civilian massacre, corruption and betrayal. On the other hand, pro-Russia Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are getting more and more agitated with the power seizure by an anti-Russian Kiev leadership. The viability of Russia’s Black Sea port is staring Putin in the face.
Peoples on the two parts of Ukraine seem now to be poles apart, torn by opposite aspirations, not to mention different language and cultural links. However, although as pointed out by The Economist, Ukraine is a "Tale of Two Countries" here, there is considerate support even in the pro-Russia eastern part for national unity.
As a strategic counterweight against a resurgent Russia, the United States has been pushing for the creation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union, which is expected to become potentially the world's largest trading bloc. Additionally, America's "shale gas revolution" opens up the possibility of future supply of U.S. energy to Europe, undercutting the stranglehold of Russia's extensive European pipelines.
In response to the risks of falling European demand for Russian energy, Russia is developing a much closer, though still guarded, relationship with China, the world's largest energy consumer for many decades to come. Russia became President Xi's first overseas port of call, where the two sides agreed to triple Russian oil exports to China to 45-50 million tonnes, possibly by 2018, making China sooner or later the largest consumer of Russian oil. Click here
But these are longer-term counterweights for both Russia and the United States. They are unavailable in arresting a fast-developing crisis.
On the pretext of protecting Russian citizens in Ukraine, Putin has put the Russian military on full alert and is deploying armed forces to Crimea. But is Russia likely to restore the status quo ante in Kiev by force? This extreme action does not seem likely. This is because the Yanukovych regime has crumbled. The people in Western Ukraine have clearly spoken by taking to the streets. It’s no use reclaiming a ticking time-bomb. Moreover, excessive military aggression will backfire on Russia’s weak economy, vulnerable to energy demands in Europe Click here
For the West, immediate options are limited. The European Union is not equipped militarily or financially against such a formidable adversary as Russia. Nor is war between America and Russia conceivable. Short of economic and other sanctions, America’s hands are tied with a war-weary electorate, severe budget constraints, and rising pressures on the U.S. Pivot to Asia, including not least an unpredictable North Korea and volatile situations in the East and South China Seas.
Reality therefore dictates that both sides are likely to explore the next best alternative at minimum costs. For Russia, in the rush of events, a bird in the hand may be worth two in the bush. Putin may therefore feel inclined to grab the best of a bad bargain by engineering a Yugoslavian split of Ukraine one way or another, perhaps through Crimea's (if not Eastern Ukraine’s) call for independence. Then, with levers of a financial bailout and energy supplies, he may hope to gradually bring the western part of Ukraine back into the Russia sphere of influence.
Crimea independence will split the country, and may not be the best option for any side, including the peoples themselves. However, while Russian control of Crimea is to be condemned for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and unity, this is almost a fait accompli. Ironically, if this serves to push Western Ukraine closer to the European Union, this messy outcome may not be too undesirable to the West from a cost-benefit perspective, sanctity of national unity notwithstanding.
Sadly, as with Syria, the Ukrainian peoples in many ways may not be full masters of their own fate. They are liable to having to negotiate their future on a much larger Grand Chessboard involving the world's powerful stakeholders.
"Shale gas should make the world a cleaner, safer place" - The Economist, 6 August, 2011 Click here
The Map of the Golden Age of Gas shows that China and America have respectively the world's largest and second largest technically recoverable shale gas reserve. The IEA scenario chart shows that the share of unconventional gas, including shale, is increasing from 12% in 2008 to 25% of global gas production by 2035.
An Economist Intelligence Unit report 2011 (Table 1-3) shows China has the world's largest technically recoverable shale gas resources at 1,275 trillion cubic feet, ahead of the United States at 862 tcf. China lags behind the U.S. in shale gas technology and has still to roll out a comprehensive plan to grow the market and achieve economy of scale. These difficiencies, however, are not insurmountable. Click here
Shale gas is set to become a gloabl game-changer as it defines the global energy landscape, with epochal repercussions in geopolitics across the globe. For starters, it will significantly reduce global oil dictatorship of the Middle East (Chapter 6 - Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas Friedman, 2009) as well as change energy game plans in the United States and China.
China's shale gas reserves are located in much more difficult geological terrain. Moreover, shale gas extraction is extremely water-intensive with high risks of aquifer contamination. So a water-scarce and water-polluted China has to figure out how best to square the circle.
The following reports contain useful data and ideas for the future, addressing broader issues of the environment, Climate Change, governance, and energy geopolitics.
"Abundant Shale Gas Resources: Some Implications for Energy Policy" dated April, 2010 by Stephen P.A. Brown, Steven A. Gabriel, and Ruud Egging, a Background Paper for the Resources for the Future and National Energy Policy Institute project “Toward a New National Energy Policy: Assessing the Options” Click here
Are we entering a Golden Age of Gas? Special Report, World Energy Outlook 2011, International Energy Agency. Click here
World Shale Gas Resources: An Initial Assessment of 14 Regions Outside the United States, U.S. Energy Information Administration, 5 April, 2011 Click here
Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas "Special Report on Unconventional Gas", World Energy Outlook 2012, International Energy Agency Click here
Edge Debate, ""Shale Gas: A game changer?", 23 April, 2012 Click here
"China has high hopes for shale gas"", Worldwatch Insitute, 16 August, 2012 Click here
Central China Will Be the Battleground Where- Shale Gas Competes With New Low-Cost Coal Supplies, ChinaSignPost, a strategic analysis organisation -28 Sept, 2012
"China's Growing Natural Gas Insecurity and the Potential of Chinese Shale Gas", John Seaman, IFRI, a leading Paris-based global think tank, April, 2013 Click here
"From Sunset to New Dawn", an article in The Economist, 16 November, 2013, shows how a golden age of gas would help turn America's industry and economy around, creating millions of new jobs across many sectors. Click here
"China's shale gas revolution - Will it take off?" - A report dated 17 January 2014 in China Dialogue, a publication on China's environment, shows how western energy companies are flocking to China to help unlock its shale reserves. Click here
China's defining moment appears to have arrived. The Middle Kingdom has just launched a surprisingly wide range of ambitious reforms. The Chinese currency has overtaken the euro as the world's second most used currency for trade finance. The nation is assertively posturing a great power status in the region.
Would China be able to transform the nation by 2020? Would China's rise re-set the world order for better or worse? How does the Chinese Communist Party work? Would China be able to overcome herculean problems of corruption, inequalities, local government debt, vested interests, ecological sustainability, and rising citizen aspirations? How would China be able to turn the economy and society around towards the middle-class and consumers? How soon would the RMB become fully convertible and how likely is it to become a leading reserve currency? Is a Golden Age of Gas, including shale gas, also descending on a urbanized China in quest of a green future?
These and many other challenging questions of our time may draw some food for thought in the following collections of analyses, presentations, reference materials and TV interviews.
The inexorable tilt of China's Rise - Op-ed article published in New Insight of the South China Morning Post, dated 14 October, 2013. The original analysis with footnotes is here
China Dream - Reality and Repercussions - Feature articlepublished in The Global Analyst's First Anniversary October 2013 issue (pp. 34-41)
Will the Third Plenum deliver a transformed China by 2020? - An analysis
China's air defense zone a test case for Great Power relations - My Op-ed article in the South China Morning Post dated 10 December
Public ouster of North Korea's No.2 is an ill omen - A commentary
No Asian century without global amity - Op-ed article in the South China Morning Post dated 11 November 2013.
Will China’s Rise re-set the world order? - Guest lecture at the City University Hong Kong on Wednesday 30th October, 2013
Possible Turkish-Chinese Partnership on a Silk Road Renaissance by 2023 - Joint article published in the Summer 2013 Turkish Policy Quarterly
Japan and China: A Clash of Empires? - TV discussion panel on Inside Story with Aljazeera English on 3 November 2013
China’s economic success and its ideological implications for the world order - Presentation to the Royal Commonwealth Society in Hong Kong on 18 September, 2013
With risks of a US default, China calls for a "de-Americanized world" - Live TV interviewson 14 October and 16 October with RT (Russia Today of Moscow)
The real story behind Abe and Park's strange body language - An analysis
What does the US government shutdown mean for China? - Live TV interview with RT on 3 October
Nicanagra's Canal set to marginalize the Panama Canal - An analysis
Energy and the environment
"Understanding China's Arctic policies" - An analysis of the think-piece dated 14 November in The Diplomat
Shale revolution in the Golden Age of Gas - Presentation at the Low Carbon Earth Summit 2013 in Xi'an, 26-28 September as Speaker and forum chair
China's choking pollution - Is there a cure? TV interview on Inside Story with Aljazeera English dated 22 October 2013
The Golden Age of Gas - A collection of key references
Enforcing China’s RMB4.5 trillion Planned Green Economy -An analysis
Economy, finance and the RMB
The Ascent of the RMB - My full-length research paper (5,730 words, excluding Abstract and footnotes)
China - Grim forecasts not supported by determined push for economic transformation - Op-ed article in the South China Morning Post of 19 August 2013
China: from shadow banking to full currency convertibility by 2020 - Article in The Global Analyst, India
A fully convertible yuan is possible by 2020, but only if reforms can succeed - Op-ed article in the South China Morning Post on 22 July, 2013
Pilot Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) - It's what you don't see that counts - An analysis
Can China maintain growth and overcome the Middle Income Trap by 2020? An analysis
China may not need to give up one-party rule any time soon? An analysisof an Intelligence Squared debate in London - A critique of the Intelligence Squared motion debate "Western liberal democracy would be wrong for China"
What does Bo Xilai's harsh sentence tells us? An analysis
Trial of Bo Xilai - what is it all about? Live radio interview on Voice of Russia on 22 August whilst on vacation in London
How long can the Communist Party survive in China? An analysis
How China's leadership is tempered - A cartoon video that went viral