4:32 PM, Feb 18, 2015 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Venezuelan leader, Nicolas Maduro, have much more in common than failing economies, populist rhetoric, and a penchant for extra-judicial political maneuvers: they are both the first and second (respectively) highest recipients of Chinese lending in Latin America—a region that, between 2005 and 2013 has received more than $100 billion in loan commitments from Beijing. As China’s economy begins to slow, however, both leaders may find another commonality to add to the list: tattered political careers.
To date, China has lent Venezuela more than $50 billion, ostensibly for infrastructure, mining, and energy projects. (Maduro is notoriously vague on where bolivar notes end up.) With OPEC in the midst of an oil war with the United States, China's loan to Venezuela—repayable in oil—is suddenly becoming exceedingly difficult to pay back. This explains—paradoxically—why Maduro was able, during a recent visit to Beijing, to secure $20 billion in “investments” from the Chinese. Quite simply, China has financed too much to risk a Venezuelan implosion, which, with inflation rates at 64%, an economy that contracted by 2.8% in 2014, oil trading under $50 a barrel, and commodity shortages throughout the country, seems increasingly likely. In what appeared to be a last-ditch effort to revive a flagging economy, Venezuela announced this past Tuesday the creation of a new foreign-exchange market called the “Marginal Foreign-Exchange System” (or, Simadi), allowing for a free-floating exchange rate. 24 hours later, the market responded, with Venezuelan dollar-denominated bonds tumbling.
China is doubtless keeping close eye on these developments and is certainly less likely to agree with an increasingly desperate Maduro that “God will provide.”
Second in line for Chinese loans is Argentina, which has received over $14 billion since 2007, the majority of which has gone to transportation and energy projects like China also happens to be Argentina’s second largest trading partner after Brazil, and recently signed 22 economic cooperation deals with the country. Overlooking some tone-deaf tweets from Kirchner last week, relations between the two appear as strong as ever. And yet, Kirchner’s latest trip to Beijing, like Maduro’s, resulted in more “investments” from Beijing—no cash. (Financial figures where not disclosed.)
Argentina’s social and economic turmoil at home mirror the domestic problems in Venezuela. Kirchner has recently been the target of some not-so-subtle allegations regarding her involvement in the murder of Alberto Nisman, the federal prosecutor in charge of investigating the 1994 car bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people. Four days before his death, Nisman had filed a report accusing the Argentine government of covering up Tehran’s role in the bombing in exchange for—you guessed it—economic favors. It is looking increasingly likely that Kirchner will face formal charges for her alleged involvement. Coupled with recent failures to pay back interest holders of Argentina’s defaulted debt, an outright refusal to pay initial creditors, and, again like Venezuela, commodity shortages, Beijing has little reason to feel confidence Buenos Aires.
A recent editorial in The Buenos Aires Herald warned of the negative impacts Kirchner’s pro-Sino policies might have once China’s economy begins to slow. With a Washington relationship characterized last year by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson as “in a difficult period”, Argentina may soon discover why mocking China is not so funny.
Meet Kim Yong-chol, the man who keeps the secrets.10:07 AM, Feb 4, 2015 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
If Pyongyang has an equivalent to the late Richard Helms, the Nixon era director of central intelligence who kept the secrets on Vietnam and Iran, that would be Kim Yong-chol, a four-star general and Kim Jong-un confidante. Kim, a former bodyguard of late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, is now the director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB).
11:10 AM, Feb 3, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Even as a report has come out that "talks about talks" are taking place with North Korea regarding denuclearization, recent
Raised the FBI's concern.8:30 AM, Feb 3, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
ABC reports on suspicious visas being fast-tracked -- and the role played by the top Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid. First, the report explains the program:
America should 'attack' North Korea's 'infrastructure' 7:01 PM, Dec 28, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Senator Lindsey Graham said on CNN earlier today that China was likely involved in the hack attack on Sony.
"I can't imagine anything this massive happening in North Korea without China being involved or at least knowing about it,"the Republican senator said on CNN.
Jan 5, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 17 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook has never expected the Obama administration to be on the right side of history when it comes to free trade. However, when the administration quietly announced the week before Christmas that it was imposing massive new tariffs on certain Chinese goods, we admit to being astonished, despite our capacious sense of cynicism about what motivates this White House.
Another climate conclave comes and goes.Dec 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 16 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Nicholas Stern is one of the world’s über-environmentalists, the author of the famous Stern Review, a 700-page study released by the British government in 2006, which concluded, “Climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent response.” Eight years on, Stern professes himself satisfied that the 13-day, 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate, concluded last week in Lima, Peru, is an important step towards a new agreement at the climate change summit to be held in Paris in December 2015.
12:48 PM, Dec 18, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Buried in the avalanche of Cuba and North Korea news was this revealing tidbit about the Obama administration's environmental priorities:
The Obama administration will set duties on solar products from China and Taiwan that combined could exceed more than 200 percent, adding fuel to a renewable-energy clash between the U.S. and China.
6:29 AM, Dec 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Chinese equivalent of the Nobel Prize, the Confucius Peace Prize, has been awarded to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
"Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro is this year's winner of the Confucius Peace Prize, China's alternative to the Nobel Prize," reports the Associated Press.
Xi lowers the boom on Hong Kong.Dec 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 14 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
With the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing safely over and regional leaders departed, China’s new strongman Xi Jinping decided to lower the boom on Hong Kong. Police there began clearing the barricades last week from the city’s main thoroughfare with the students in apparent retreat. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, widely perceived as Beijing’s puppet, was quoted by Reuters as promising “resolute action” and warning students not to return to occupation sites.
12:00 AM, Nov 15, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
There is more than might have been, but a lot less than first meets the eye. That describes the climate deal struck this week by President Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping in their private two-day meeting following a gathering of 19 Asian Pacific leaders in Beijing. The very fact of a deal is more than even well-informed observers expected.
7:25 AM, Nov 12, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Late last night, the White House announced a carbon deal with China. As the Washington Post explains:
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and President Obama struck a deal Wednesday to limit greenhouse gases, with China committing for the first time to cap carbon emissions and Obama unveiling a plan for deeper U.S. emissions reductions through 2025.
7:37 AM, Nov 11, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
President Obama told the president of China he wants to "take the relationship to a new level."
Obama, who is visiting China as part of a global summit, attended an event at the residence of Chinese president Xi Jinping Tuesday. According to the pool report, Xi told Obama he wanted to work more closely with the Americans, and the American president agreed.