6 November 2022

Solar Energy’s Biggest Problem Has Just Been Solved

Will Lockett

Solar energy is simply incredible. It has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any energy source, is by far the cheapest energy we have ever had, and, unsurprisingly, is the most popular renewable energy. However, it also has a horrific and mostly unheard-of dark side that has the potential to decimate vast ecosystems. For years, this shady aspect of solar power has threatened to derail the solar movement, but a recent breakthrough may have just resolved this sorry situation. So, has solar energy been saved from itself?

Firstly, what is this dark side to solar power?

Well, I have already covered this in detail in my article “Solar Power’s Toxic Secret.” So, if you want a deep dive, go there. But the gist of it is that solar panels don’t last forever. After about 20–30 years, their output drops off a cliff, and they need to be replaced.

One of the significant issues here is that solar panels contain a lot of very toxic materials, such as cadmium, and due to their complex construction, they are insanely hard to dispose of properly, let alone recycle. This means that when companies or individuals look to dispose of their old panels, they either can’t find a place to dispose of them properly or can’t afford to. This has led to countless panels being bumped improperly, and these toxic materials then leach into the surrounding environment and cause havoc.

The New Japan-Australia Security Agreement – Analysis

Ryan Ashley

(FPRI) — The Oct. 22 meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Perth mostly made the news thanks to the peculiarly Australian greeting awaiting the Japanese prime minister, a hug with a koala and photoshoot with matching green vests. Behind the cuddly animals and pageantry, though, lies a new agreement that is deepening one of the Indo-Pacific region’s most important strategic partnerships.

Kishida visited Western Australia to sign an updated security cooperation agreement that makes Australia one of Japan’s closest defense partners, arguably second only to the United States. Australia, in turn, is signaling that it is fully committed to making Japan its closest security partner outside of its traditional anglophone relations with the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand. The rapidly deepening Australia-Japan strategic relationship highlights the importance of several important trends for Indo-Pacific security, namely the increased popularity of “minilaterals,” a rise in security arrangements between American allies, and the importance of energy security.

The US has funneled more than $1 billion into Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul with zero accountability


The U.S. government has funneled more than $1.1 billion in taxpayer dollars into Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021 with minimal oversight or accountability according to the watchdog responsible for overseeing U.S.-led reconstruction efforts there.

A new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) notes that the watchdog, for the first time since it was established in 2008, is unable “to provide Congress and the American people with a full accounting of this U.S. government spending due to the non-cooperation of several U.S. government agencies.”

Those agencies include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Treasury Department, which “refused to cooperate with SIGAR in any capacity” during the watchdog’s regular audit of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The State Department, which only shared “high-level funding data but not details of agency-supported programs,” still administers funds there.

US-China report recommends backchannel diplomacy with Chinese military

Bryant Harris

WASHINGTON — A report commissioned by the congressionally mandated U.S.-China commission suggests Congress fund backchannel military diplomacy with Beijing, citing growing gaps in Washington’s knowledge of personnel matters and reform efforts in relation to the People’s Liberation Army.

A report on PLA personnel from BluePath Labs, requested by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, advocates for nongovernmental and quasi-governmental dialogues with the Chinese military. The U.S.-China commission is due to issue its full set of recommendations to Congress on Nov. 15 in its annual report.

“While the current state of U.S.-China bilateral relations is not conducive to exchanges in this area, Congress should work with the Department of Defense to reestablish Track 1.5 and 2.0 military dialogues with China if conditions support,” the report states. “Given the increasingly closed nature of China’s information sphere, properly planned and managed interactions could be enormously helpful in better understanding the inner workings of the PLA.”

China's Rare Earth Metals Monopoly Could Be Coming to an End


After decades of geopolitical tensions over access to oil, the transition to clean energy is setting up a global competition over another natural resource: rare earth elements.

The 17 metals, which aren't scarce but are hard to find in economically viable concentrations, are significant to greening economies of the future and the defense industrial base of the United States and others.

America's heavy reliance rare earth imports—indispensable in the production of wind turbines and electric vehicles, but also advanced fighter aircraft and precision-guided munitions—has been identified as a serious strategic vulnerability, especially at a time when the global supply chain is comprehensively dominated by its foremost rival, China.

The U.S. lists dozens of critical minerals including rare earths as vital to its economic security: lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese for EV batteries; copper and aluminium for power grids; dysprosium and terbium for missiles and jet engines; as well as neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium for magnets and semiconductors.

Putin Just Discovered the Limits of His Power


Russia's climbdown from blocking grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports followed pressure from emerging economies and shows Vladimir Putin cannot bend the Global South to his will, a think tank has said.

In a marked U-turn, the Kremlin said it would rejoin the grain-export corridor after threatening to abandon the UN-brokered deal, following a drone attack on its warships in the port of Sevastopol in Crimea.

But Oxford Economics released an assessment saying that Moscow had acted after pressure from emerging economies that "got the upper hand over Russia's efforts to weaken Ukraine's economy."

Vladimir Putin’s failed strategy


As the first 250 days of Russia’s war in Ukraine have proved again, the logic of strategy is paradoxical. It has never been linear, as in the Roman Si vis pacem para bellum: if you want peace prepare for war. Because the logic of strategy is paradoxical, it is very easy to be wrong in matters of peace and war, and very hard to be right.

That was the first lesson of the war: Putin collided head-on with the paradoxical logic of strategy. Military alliances need a shared enemy. Once the Cold War ended, Nato became weaker and weaker, because diverse interests — including the desire to spend less — naturally arose once there was no enemy to threaten all. Nato became so weak that in Europe there was talk of a military alliance without the US. Only irrelevant Leftists said this straight out, but many mainstream politicians across Europe kept hinting that the time had come for Nato to be replaced by a European Union alliance.

By February 2022, Nato was evidently no longer strong enough to deter Russia, so Russia attacked Ukraine. Because Russia attacked Ukraine, Nato suddenly had a threatening enemy, and the alliance quickly became strong once more. Many Nato countries sent military aid to Ukraine rapidly, which was essential materially, and very encouraging morally. Some of it was for show, but much was useful and some was just smart. Norway, for example, immediately sent 5,000 LAW hand-launched anti-tank rockets. Old, cheap and limited in range but the perfect weapons for the first days of this war, because anybody could use them even without training. Just point and shoot at an armoured vehicle.

Will Biden Gamble on a Ukraine Coalition?

Douglas Macgregor

When Napoleon Bonaparte began his 1812 campaign to conquer Russia, he led the largest “coalition of the willing” in history. In addition to its French core, Bonaparte’s army of more than 400,000 consisted of Italian, Dutch, German, and Polish soldiers. They were at best unenthusiastic. Frankly, other than the French, only Napoleon’s Polish allies were truly eager to march on Moscow.

By the time Bonaparte’s multinational force reached Moscow, paralyzing cold, ruinous battles, exhaustion, disease, and poor logistical planning reduced the original invasion force to less than half of its original strength. It was not long before Prussia and its North German allies defected to the Russians while the remainder (minus the Poles) deserted or died on the march home.

Today, the Biden White House appears to be considering the use of a multinational force aimed at Russia. The NATO alliance is unable to reach a unanimous decision to intervene militarily in support of Ukraine in its war with Russia. But as signaled recently by David Petraeus, the president and his generals are evaluating their own “coalition of the willing.” The coalition would allegedly consist of primarily, but not exclusively, Polish and Romanian forces, with the U.S. Army at its core, for employment in Ukraine.

A Proposal to End the Russo-Ukrainian War

Mark N. Katz

With Russian forces performing so poorly in Ukraine, it is not surprising that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov recently spoke about how Moscow is “ready” to negotiate an end to the war. Lavrov indicated that Russia has two conditions for an agreement, however, he also made clear that Moscow hopes to gain from negotiations with the West what it cannot win on the battlefield from Ukraine.

As reported by Newsweek, one of Lavrov’s conditions for negotiating is that the West “fully take into account the interests of the Russian Federation and its security.” Another is that the West would need to “offer us some serious approaches that will help defuse tensions.” The first of these two conditions amounts to a Russian demand that the West (especially the United States) accept at least some of Moscow’s territorial claims in Ukraine as well as that Ukraine does not join NATO. The second condition appears to be a demand that the United States and other Western governments come up with a mechanism to enforce Ukrainian acceptance of any agreement between Russia and the West ending the conflict.

Assessing the New Semiconductor Export Controls

Matthew Reynolds

On Friday, October 7, the U.S. Commerce Department announced a sweeping list of new export controls targeting China’s semiconductor and supercomputing industries in two separate rules. In a four-page summary, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) described the rules as intended to restrict China’s “ability to both purchase and manufacture certain high-end chips used in military applications.” The new controls impose unprecedented licensing requirements on the sale of advanced chips, software, and—perhaps most critically—a wide range of semiconductor manufacturing equipment (SME) used to produce advanced chips. The controls are remarkably comprehensive in scope. They require exporters of SME, providers of the parts needed to produce or maintain SME, and even certain U.S. persons who wish to support the production or development of semiconductors in China to obtain permission from the U.S. government before doing so.

Q1: What’s behind the Biden administration’s new export controls?

A1: On September 16, U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan, in remarks at the Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP) Global Emerging Technologies Summit, announced a major shift in the strategy underpinning U.S. export controls against China. Sullivan stated that the United States would no longer focus primarily on using export controls to maintain “‘relative’ advantages over competitors in certain key technologies.” Instead, he declared that the United States “must maintain as large of a lead as possible.” The previous paradigm of export controls had allowed adversaries to move up the critical technology frontier at a deliberate lag of a few generations behind the United States. The U.S. government now appears intent on blocking China’s ability to advance in certain semiconductors that have specific critical applications. This strategic shift is taking place against the backdrop of China devoting immense resources to advance its semiconductor sector, with some success, and implementing its military-civil fusion doctrine, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish civilian end-users from military end-users.

General Winter Knocks at the Door

Lawrence Freedman

Winters loom large in the military history of Russia and Ukraine, famously when they were fighting together as part of Imperial Russia against Napoleon and then as part of the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. Winter is about to return and with it questions about how it will affect this war – whether in the impact of energy shortages and high prices in Europe, the vulnerability of ordinary Ukrainians after Russia has done its utmost to deprive them of the ability to keep the lights on and stay warm, and then the troops at the front, shivering in their tents, unable to function properly.

The onset of winter is already starting to shape thoughts about military strategy. It encourages the generals to look for ways to win their battles before manoeuvre becomes too difficult, and their logisticians to worry about how to get the necessary kit forward so that operations can continue. It creates pressure to speed up before everything slows down. It is not the only reason for the current sense of urgency, for both sides are finding it difficult to sustain this war, but it is one of them. Another factor is the growing worry that if things carry on as they are, and especially if Russia faces defeat, then something truly terrible will happen. Before we can assess the impact of winter, we therefore need to consider the fears of escalation.

U.S. State and Local Governments Still Buy Banned Chinese Tech

Jack Corrigan and Michael Kratsios

National security leaders have long warned that technologies produced by Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese companies could be used as conduits for foreign espionage, hacking, and other nefarious activities. But state and local government agencies across the United States are still purchasing and installing this dangerous equipment. If U.S. policymakers do not construct a more unified defense against foreign technology threats, the country will remain vulnerable to potentially devastating attacks.

U.S. government agencies have been forbidden from using equipment from Huawei, ZTE, and three other Chinese companies designated as national security threats since 2019, and policymakers have been sounding the alarm on these firms since at least 2012. But in a recent report we published with Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, we found state and local officials have continued installing products from these companies in the networks of schools, hospitals, transit systems, utility departments, and other government facilities nationwide.

Xi’s China Is Good—and Bad—for the United States

Stephen M. Walt

It’s now a cliche to say we are in a new era of great power competition, but that doesn’t make it untrue. The new U.S. national security strategy, the recently released national defense strategy, and the imposition of draconian export controls on advanced computer chips and related technologies make it abundantly clear that the Biden administration sees China as a long-term strategic rival. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his associates appear to have a similar view. Fasten your seat belts: It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Considering this situation, how should we interpret the recent 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)? It provided abundant grist for professional China-watchers, including moments of drama such as what appeared to be the public humiliation of Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao. Xi received an unprecedented third term in power, solidified his grip by appointing more loyalists to key positions, sidelined economically oriented technocrats in favor of officials with a more statist orientation, and likely made himself president for life. As Kevin Rudd notes, economic growth and development are no longer the top priorities; national security and preserving the authority of the CCP are.

The Evolution of America’s China Strategy


CAMBRIDGE – In its new national security strategy, US President Joe Biden’s administration recognizes that Russia and China each present a different kind of challenge. Whereas Russia “poses an immediate threat to the free and open international system … [with] its brutal war of aggression,” China is the only competitor to the US “with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to advance that objective.” The Pentagon thus refers to China as its “pacing challenge.”

Now that Chinese President Xi Jinping has used the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to consolidate his power and to promote his ideological and nationalist objectives, it is worth reviewing the evolution of America’s China strategy. Some critics see the situation today as proof that Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were naive to pursue a strategy of engagement, including granting China membership in the World Trade Organization. But while there was certainly excessive optimism about China two decades ago, it wasn’t necessarily naive.

German Companies Ignore Major Risks in China

Simon Hage, Martin Hesse, Michael Sauga, Benedikt Müller-Arnold

A few weeks ago, German industry executives clashed with Robert Habeck. At an internal, high-level roundtable, the German economy minister warned them against "naivety" in their dealings with China. Protests followed promptly, especially from Siegfried Russwurm. The president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) considers the market to be indispensable simply because of its sheer size. The federation's stance is that the industry doesn't need any advice from the minister.

Sources who attended the meeting say Habeck quickly backpedaled, saying he said he didn't want his words to be interpreted as an accusation. Nor was he calling for German corporations to withdraw from China. However, it would be desirable for companies to increasingly tap into other markets – as counterweights to the People's Republic.

Business leaders responded to the minister's wish with a shrug of the shoulders. "With very few exceptions," said one industry representative, "no one wants to shut down their business in China." And, he says, they have already long since been looking around for opportunities elsewhere in Asia.

The episode shows that industry leaders and politicians lack a common understanding on how to best deal with Germany's most important trading partner in the future. The recent makeshift settlement of a dispute in Germany's coalition government over whether the Chinese state-owned shipping company Cosco should be allowed to acquire a stake in a Hamburg port terminal and the upcoming trip by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to visit state and party leader Xi Jinping have cast new light on the issue. To what degree do German companies need to uncouple themselves from autocratically governed countries? And to what extent can they still engage in business with them?

The doctrine of "transformation through trade," to which Germany adhered for decades, was exposed as an illusion by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a truth that even Germany's president accepts. "We must become less vulnerable and reduce one-sided dependencies," Frank-Walter Steinmeier told public broadcaster ARD, "and that applies to China in particular."

Germany has seen trade with the People's Republic quadruple since 2005, but during that same period, China has developed into a full-blown dictatorship. The West's hopes for further market-economy reforms have been dashed. President Xi Jinping, who had his power cemented last week at the 20th Party Congress, is fully committed to a state-controlled economy. "Henceforth: Marx gets precedence over the markets," says Jörg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. In his opening speech, he notes, Xi mentioned "Marx" 15 times, but the market only three times.

The world's second-largest economy after the United States is increasingly resembling a fortress in which domestic players are favored. The situation is becoming increasingly unpredictable due to the concentration of power in Xi's hands, warns Ismail Ertug, deputy head of the Social Democrats' party group in the European Parliament and a member of the Delegation for Relations with the People's Republic of China. The targeted persecution of the Muslim Uighur minority, aggression toward Taiwan and the increasing escalation in relations with the U.S. – all these will provoke reactions from the West sooner or later, Ertug says. Business leaders would thus be well advised to seek alternatives, he says, "the sooner the better."

But do Germany's corporate leaders even have an alternative? And what might such an alternative look like? Or are they simply hoping everything will turn out just fine in the end?

There is, in other words, a great deal of uncertainty, as the Chancellery's planning for the Beijing trip has shown in recent weeks. On November 3, Scholz is scheduled to land in Beijing to meet Xi for a day in the Chinese capital. A delegation of business leaders is to accompany him. It's actually a must-attend event for all company leaders who maintain relations with the People's Republic. When Angela Merkel would fly to China as chancellor, they pulled out all the stops to get on board the government plane.

The situation is different this time: As of last Wednesday, it was still unclear which business executives would accompany Scholz at all. Powerful representatives such as Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius or Martina Merz, the head of Thyssenkrupp, aren't joining him, nor is Deutsche Post CEO Frank Appel. Officially, some have said they have scheduling issues, others have given no reason at all. For many, the trip is simply coming at an inopportune time, even if no one wants to admit it openly. Images with Chinese leadership so soon after Xi's martial display of power at the October 22 party congress might not go over so well.
"What is important is that there is straight talk during Scholz's trip."

Leaders of some major blue chip German firms who are accompanying Scholz to Beijing, including Siemens CEO Roland Busch, BASF CEO Martin Brudermüller and Merck CEO Belén Garijo, don't share those fears. Personal exchange is vital at the moment, says Siemens, despite significant differences of opinion on specifics. "Sticking your head in the sand isn't an option," says one participant who asked not to be named. Especially given that some corporations have grown desperately dependent on the Chinese market.

Others wanted to join on the trip but didn't get invites, including representatives of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA). The expectations are even greater for the chancellor there. "What is important is that there is straight talk during Scholz's trip," says VDMA Executive Director Thilo Brodtmann. He says Scholz should "also address issues such as respect for human rights." He adds that VDMA is "fed up with the unequal treatment of companies in China." If that doesn't change, he says, "we will have to review our economic interests and put up more resistance to the Chinese."

The rift between politics and industry is revealed whenever Chinese corporations want to invest in German companies or infrastructure – be it the highly controversial takeover of Augsburg-based robot manufacturer Kuka in 2016 or, most recently, Cosco's planned investment in a port terminal in Hamburg. Whereas critics such as Habeck are warning about new dependencies, Scholz was persuaded by the argument of port logistics company HHLA that prohibiting the investment would jeopardize "long-standing and trusting customer relationships" with the Chinese partner. The German government ultimately approved the deal under pressure from the chancellor – on the condition that Cosco will only obtain a minority stake of less than 25 percent.

The federal government's kid-glove approach to China has irritated some within the business community. As recently as June, Habeck's ministry was admonishing companies that they had "a responsibility to respect human rights when they invest in countries like China." But such criteria no longer seem to play a role in the selection of Chinese investors for Germany infrastructure. Following the Cosco decision, calls from politicians for corporations to keep a critical distance from China's regime are likely to ring rather hollow.

At the same time, it has long been clear, at least to Germany's leading industry association, that the business community must find a new approach. The goal of free, open markets can no longer be maintained if systemic competitors like China enter the competition with state backing and a geostrategic claim to power. In an as yet unpublished policy paper, the BDI proclaims a "watershed moment." It might come as a slight surprise, but the association is calling for the greater politicization of industry. The BDI not only wants to bring corporate interests into the political arena – it also urges its members to take security considerations into account in addition to profit margins. With "weighty economies like China," especially, "cooperation needs to be redefined," says BDI head Russwurm.

The association recommends that companies should "diversify their import and export partners in critical segments in order to fundamentally enable a rapid shift to other markets." In the supply of raw materials, for example, "dependence on China is already greater than for oil or natural gas from Russia," the paper states. It calls for a "three-pillar raw materials policy" to identify additional supplier countries, promote more materials in Germany and drive the recovery of raw materials through recycling. The goal of all these measures must be to "strengthen Europe's sovereignty," the report states.

The paper is also surprising because the BDI is going against some of its own members, for whom pivoting away from China isn't even an option. The discord within the association can hardly be concealed: The member companies are oscillating between pulling back from China and even deeper integration in the Chinese market.

Volkswagen: Hooked

VW is part of the latter group. Ralf Brandstätter has the most important job outside of Germany's in Volkswagen's global empire. Since August, he has been responsible for more than 30 plants with more than 90,000 employees in China. Europe's largest automaker sells more than one in three cars in the People's Republic, and no other foreign market generates comparably high profits. Accordingly, Brandstätter doesn't think much of calls for the company to break away from the country. "We will not deliberately downgrade our strong market position in China," the VW board member says, conducting the interview by video chat from "V-Space," VW's glass edifice in Beijing.

Recently, the company came under criticism, including internally, for its heavy dependence on business in Asia. The supervisory board spoke of a "cluster risk" in China. Jörg Hoffmann, the head of the IG Metall trade union as well as the vice chairman of the VW supervisory board, also openly questioned the VW plant in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese apparatus systematically discriminates against the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, locking them up in re-education camps. Hoffmann said it would be necessary to examine "whether it would be right to end activity there."

But VW is currently far from suspending its operations in Xinjiang. Although Brandstätter is planning a visit to the plant in the region later this year "to get a picture of the situation on the ground myself," he says he isn't sure what to expect. But there are no plans to withdraw from the controversial plant. Too much is at stake for Volkswagen.

While the other two major sales markets – Europe and the U.S. – continue to slump, car sales in China have increased by 15 percent industry-wide this year. In other words, the People's Republic is once again the only glimmer of hope in an otherwise dangerously weak global economy. Companies that don't do business there are doomed to shrink.

Even China-critical employee representatives concede that the billions in profits from the People's Republic also secure jobs in Germany. That's because cars sold in China are partly developed in Germany. The high unit numbers increase profit per vehicle. Doing business with China, Brandstätter says, "makes us more competitive on the world market."

But what if one day this engine of growth fails because of a geopolitical escalation? Xi makes no secret of his plans for "reunification" with the independent, U.S.-protected island country of Taiwan. The head of state said at the party congress that a peaceful solution would be preferred, but he would "never promise to renounce the use of force."

Forcible annexation would be a disaster for the entire global economy. Taiwan is considered the center of the global microchip industry. If China cuts the global supply of semiconductors, car production in Germany would grind to a halt - a horror scenario. All parties involved in the Taiwan issue are "striving for de-escalation," VW executive Brandstätter believes. "No one wants to risk a military confrontation."

VW, like other automakers, is pursuing a dual strategy. The company wants to see cars in China as long as it can. But in order to prevent exposing itself entirely to China, the company is currently investing 7 billion euros in the world's second largest car market, the U.S. But some other industrial sectors actually want to further expand their China share. Chemicals giant BASF, for example.

BASF: The China Offensive

Martin Brudermüller has little understanding for the discussion about the correct China policy. "At the moment, society and the media are looking for every opportunity to report negatively about China," the man the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper once described as BASF's "John Wayne" rumbled at a press conference last Wednesday. His presentation served to justify the China strategy of the global market leader he heads.

The gas crisis, permanently higher energy prices in Europe, weaker demand in Germany – all this shows "how important it is to have a balanced regional setup," Brudermüller said.

He says he doesn't consider the setup of his own company to be balanced at the moment. Its footprint in China is too small. The company generates 40 percent of its revenues in Europe, but only 15 percent in China. From Brudermüller's point of view, that's a glaring disproportion given that the People's Republic will soon account for half of global chemical production.

In response, the BASF CEO wants to invest a whopping 10 billion euros in a new compounds site, a state-of-the-art factory in the southern Chinese city of Zhanjiang. It plans to dramatically increase its business operations in the autocratically led country in the long term. Brudermüller admits that BASF does see risks in China. On the other hand, he says, you have to ask "what kind of risk is a company taking by giving up on half of the world market?"

It's a view that isn't shared by all in German industry. Specialty chemicals manufacturer Laxness, for example, is pulling back on its China operations, at least as far as its own production facilities are concerned. The former Bayer subsidiary operates a large factory near Shanghai for engineering plastics, which are used primarily in the automotive industry.

Laxness now wants to spin off the entire division into a joint venture in which the company would hold only a minority stake, with the remainder going to a financial investor. The rationale is that this will make the company less dependent on cyclical fluctuations.

As a result of the trade war with the U.S., parts of chemical production would move out of China and relocate – to Vietnam, for example, Laxness believes. Recently, the company has shown a preference for larger acquisitions in the U.S. And competitor Evonik is focusing its Asian expansion on Singapore rather than China.

Brudermüller, who headed BASF's Asian business from Hong Kong for 10 years, is no stranger to such caution. As recently as September, he spent three days in the country – and was enthusiastic about its "unbroken dynamism." The BASF boss says he doesn't want to give politicians advice but that what Berlin needs more than a change of course in its China policy is for Germany and Europe to work out a "resilience strategy." He says a global analysis could reveal where dependencies, untapped potential and deficiencies exist. There would be "a China chapter, but also a Germany chapter" in which to read what needs to change.
"We have to ask ourselves whether it would be wise in the current situation to have only a China growth strategy."

In Europe, Brudermüller is already taking action. He has just announced plans to save 500 million euros a year, with more than half of that coming from Ludwigshafen in Germany, also at the expense of jobs. However, he doesn't want to change his company's plans in China.

That combination is causing growing resentment within the company. "If Mr. Brudermüller were to push the expansion plans for China even further and at the same time not show any strategic perspective for the sites in Europe, that would not be acceptable," says Michael Vassiliadis, a union boss and the longest-serving member of the supervisory board at BASF. He says he expects the management board to develop solutions that go beyond mere staff reductions and shape the future. "If BASF loses Europe, it could kill the company."

Vassiliadis criticizes BASF for publicly making itself the "frontrunner" in German industry for a continuation of the past China strategy. "I caution against putting all our eggs in one basket and underestimating the geopolitical risks." He says the 10-billion investment was a "bet that growth in China will continue linearly for a long time like a law of nature," which is by no means certain. Several stable pillars are important for a company like BASF, he says, and innovations and investments in the green transition need to be made globally. "We have to ask ourselves whether it would be wise in the current situation to have only a China growth strategy."

Vassiliadis' push is a plea to seek opportunities in Europe rather than increasing exposure in China. Especially given that competition with China certainly creates new opportunities for Europe's companies.

Siemens Energy: The Challenged

At Siemens Energy, many aren't happy about the growing skepticism toward China. Fears of espionage and the misuse of data by the regime in Beijing could even pay off for the German company.

In the global energy industry, Siemens Energy is regarded as a model German company. It wants to change radically in the next few years, hoping to move away from fossil technologies such as gas-fired power plants, to converters, transformers, lines for wind power or hydrogen – high technologies that Germany needs for its own energy transition and that can help defend its status as a leading export nation.

It's necessary, too: In recent years, wind power specialists from China have been pushing into Europe, and six of the world's 10 largest wind turbine manufacturers now come from the country. Conversely, the Chinese have largely kept Europe suppliers out of their own energy business. China is sealing off its own market – and at the same time exporting its state-supported energy technology all over the world, Siemens Energy CEO Tim Holt says, critically.

The wind turbine manufacturer is therefore pinning a lot of hope on stricter political regulation. For months, the German government has been working to exclude Chinese suppliers from tenders for critical infrastructure, an exclusion it wants to expand to include energy networks in the future. If that were to happen, then so-called converter platforms, transformer stations on the high seas, would no longer be allowed to rely on Chinese technology. Network equipment supplier Huawei has already been the focus of a similar lockout. It has been banned from supplying parts of Western mobile phone network coverage.

Germany, so the lesson goes, will have to seal itself off and become a little bit more like China in order to protect itself from the People's Republic.

Defending Taiwan Vs. Defending Ukraine: What’s The Difference?

Anthony W. Holmes

Eight months into Russia’s attempted annexation of Ukraine there remains a chorus of conservative commentators who argue that our military support for NATO and materiel support for Ukraine enable China.

Pre-invasion, we were warned not to take our eye off China. Asia specialists lamented that Ukraine would distract America from China and Taiwan. After the invasion, a lone U.S. senator voted against allowing Sweden and Finland to join NATO because it was a “legacy commitment” in Europe with no role in a China fight.

In a series of illogical but common threads, cable commentators and podcast pundits lectured that preparing for war with China was a national security imperative while aiding Ukraine was warmongering. They rhetorically asked when Congress would start putting America’s needs ahead of President Zelensky’s. Satirical articles and memes have exploded of Zelensky wearing gold chains and shamelessly asking for more money to fund, for example, a diamond coated swimming pool. Support for Ukraine is broadly called a “cult.”

US curbs on microchips could throttle China’s ambitions and escalate the tech war

Laura He

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s push to “win the battle” in core technologies and bolster China’s position as a tech superpower could be severely undermined by Washington’s unprecedented steps to limit the sale of advanced chips and chip-making equipment to the country, analysts say.

On October 7, the Biden administration unveiled a sweeping set of export controls that ban Chinese companies from buying advanced chips and chip-making equipment without a license. The rule also restricts the ability of “US persons” — including American citizens or green card holders — to provide support for the “development or production” of chips at certain manufacturing facilities in China.

“The US moves are a major threat to China’s technological ambitions,” said Mark Williams and Zichun Huang, analysts at Capital Economics, in a recent research report. The analysts pointed out that the global semiconductor industry is “almost entirely” dependent on the United States and countries aligned with it for chip design, the tools that make them, and fabrication.

Germany’s leader and top CEOs have arrived in Beijing. They need China more than ever

Michelle Toh and Anna Cooban

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in China on Friday with a team of top executives, sending a clear message: business with the world’s second-largest economy must continue.

Scholz met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People after landing in the capital Friday morning and was received by Premier Li Keqiang in the afternoon.

Joining Scholz for the whirlwind one-day visit is a delegation of 12 German industry titans, including the CEOs of Volkswagen (VLKAF), Deutsche Bank (DB), Siemens (SIEGY) and chemicals giant BASF (BASFY), according to a person familiar with the matter. They were expected to meet with Chinese companies behind closed doors.

The group entered China without undergoing a mandatory seven-day hotel quarantine standard for most arrivals. Images showed hazmat-clad medical workers greeting Scholz’s jet at Beijing’s Capital International Airport to test the official delegation for Covid-19 upon their arrival.

Why is the Left so Afraid of Twitter?

Alan M. Dershowitz

A campaign is currently underway by left-wing organizations and politicians to demand that Twitter, now owned by Elon Musk, continue its practice of censoring hate speech and other "objectionable" postings.

A letter sent to Twitter's top 20 advertisers, signed by 40 activist organizations, including the NAACP, the Center for American Progress, GLAAD and the Global Project Against Hate and extremism, contained the following veiled threat:

"We, the undersigned organizations call on you to notify Musk and publicly commit that you will cease all advertising on Twitter globally if he follows through on his plans to undermine brand safety and community standards, including gutting content moderation."

Japan Is About To Unlock The Ultimate Energy Source

Will Lockett

Amongst the hustle and bustle of Tokyo city you’d be forgiven for forgetting the raw natural power that exists in Japan. For just offshore, deep in the ocean, lies a monster with ungodly strength. It has remained untouched and undisturbed for millennia. But now scientists want to harness this power to save Japan. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about Godzilla, though he may still be down there somewhere. Instead, I’m talking about deep sea turbines, as Japan is the first country to try and harness the potential of ocean currents. But why has Japan turned to the sea for power? What are the benefits? And what are the risks? Could this be an energy revolution?

Geologically speaking, Japan is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. With extensive mountain ranges, geothermal springs, volcanoes, fault lines and near-shore deep sea trenches. However, their incredible landscape has made solar farms and offshore wind turbines challenging as there isn’t the available space or suitable seabed near where energy is needed. This is also why Japanese cities are so famously cramped — the landscape boxes them in.

Russia’s Nuclear Weapons May Be Useless

Will Lockett

Putin seems to be on a nostalgia trip and is desperately trying to relive his Cold War days. Not only has he sparked a deadly war to try and reclaim the old Soviet state of Ukraine, but he is also throwing nuclear threats at the West left, right, and centre. In fact, these nuclear threats are why NATO hasn’t been able to support Ukraine’s independence as much as they want to, given that they can’t risk starting a global nuclear war that could wipe out humanity as we know it. Fortunately, thanks to a quirk of nuclear physics, there is a chance that Putin’s nuclear weapons have been rendered useless. But how? And what does this mean for Ukraine and NATO?

To fully understand why Russia’s nuclear weapons might be a dud, we first need to understand what type of nuclear weapons Russia has.

Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, with 4,447 active strategic nuclear weapons and 1,912 tactical nuclear weapons in reserve (all of which are ready to be rolled out quickly). The difference between these two types of weapons is surprisingly small, but they have a massive impact on how they are used and the logistics surrounding them. Strategic nuclear weapons are what you might consider a “typical” nuclear weapon, i.e., an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) designed to wipe out a city on the other side of the world. Russia’s ICBMs have many designs and have a yield (the size of the explosion measured in an equivalent explosion in tonnes of TNT) of 300–800 kilotonnes. For reference, 300 kilotonnes is enough to destroy the whole of Washington. Tactical nuclear weapons are far smaller and can be fired from artillery guns as shells or from small truck-mounted missile launchers, meaning they have a range of up to 1,500 km. This is due to the fact that they are designed to be used in active combat against the military, so rather than destroying a distant city, they are intended to eliminate specific positions, bases, or military infrastructure. As such, they also have a much smaller yield of 1–50 kilotonnes.

Ukraine War, 29 October, 2022: Q&A

Tom Cooper

A little bit later than originally planned, here another ‘update’. That is: there’s not really that much to report about the fighting (by all respect for those that lost their homes or family members in latest Russian attacks on Ukraine): not only that both sides — but: especially the Fool in Kremlin and his Keystone Cops — are reporting next to no details, are reporting lots of PR-nonsense, while the fighting has slowed down due to bad weather and mud.

Generally, a lot is going on, but not as much as back in August and September. At least there are no major movements by either side. Primary reason: bad weather, resulting in rain and mud.

Thus, let me address diverse of questions that came up the last week: I’ll provide a ‘brief update’ on tactical situation as I go, too.1.) Quality of reporting by the GenStab-U?

This is slightly better than that by the Keystone Cops in Moscow, no doubt, but it also contains less details, and is ‘less direct’. For example:

Biden's Diesel Fuel Shortage: Cold Comfort

Lawrence Kadish

During World War II, the Allies' aerial assault on the Nazis did not begin to have the strategic means to bring the enemy to its knees until Germany's oil reserves were destroyed and it was unable to refuel its tanks. Then, as now, destroying the energy infrastructure of an adversary can bring about the destruction of a nation. America's current enemies have not forgotten that historic lesson.

Which is why Americans should view with alarm the unconscionable news reported by industry analysts that we are facing a severe shortage of diesel fuel this winter.

Understandably, we have been focused on the price of gasoline, but it is diesel that actually runs America. It is diesel that powers America's freight trains, trucks, freighters, barges and buses. It is the fuel that runs our farming and construction equipment. And for many, diesel is the fuel that heats their homes.

UN Sides with China Despite Its Own Report Condemning Xinjiang Abuses

Lawrence A. Franklin

The recent United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) vote -- rejecting the West's proposal to debate China's possible "crimes against humanity" in its treatment of its Muslim minority in Xinjiang -- covered up Beijing's gruesome treatment of its Uyghur Population. This vote, saving face for the Chinese Communist Party at its recently concluded 20th National Congress, shields the Chinese regime's true nature and indicates its increasing influence in international affairs.

The 19 to 17 vote with 11 abstentions was a stinging defeat for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who had released on August 31 a damning report on China's inhuman treatment of Xinjiang's Uyghurs.

The failure to publicly expose via debate Communist China's horrific abuses in Xinjiang also is testament to the betrayal of their Islamic Uyghur brethren by Muslim-majority members of the UN Human Rights Council. These Islamic countries -- Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Indonesia and Sudan -- voted against efforts to debate the resolution. Turkey, in solidarity with its ethnic Turkic kinfolk, the Uyghurs, voted "Yes," to consider the matter for debate.

Germany Selling Critical Infrastructure to China

Judith Bergman

"Against the advice of his ministers, the chancellor apparently wants to increase dependence on China. This sell-out of German infrastructure would be a mistake. German ports do not belong in Chinese hands, especially since Europeans can't take a stake in ports in China." — Jens Spahn, Christian Democratic Union party, Twitter, October 20, 2022.

Out of 95 ports, 22 are in Europe, 20 in the Middle East and North Africa, 18 in the Americas, 18 in South and Southeast Asia, and nine in sub-Saharan Africa. Just three Chinese companies, among them COSCO Shipping Ports, account for the operations of 81% of those ports.

In Greece, COSCO has completely taken over Piraeus, Greece's largest port.

Scholz, regardless of the hard lessons that Germany has had to learn with regard to German dependence on Russian gas, has a state visit to China coming up in early November with a German business delegation; letting the COSCO deal fall through would not look good while trying to attract lucrative business deals. China is a key trading partner for Germany: In 2021, it was Germany's top trading partner for the sixth consecutive year.