This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, November 14, 2014:
Nowhere was President Obama’s shrinking influence in world affairs more apparent than when he opened the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing earlier this week by announcing an “agreement” with China’s “paramount leader,” Xi Jinping, to extend visas in both countries from one year to ten. The enhancements will have little real world impact but they served to give Obama the appearance of being a player.
A U.S. visa only serves as preliminary permission to seek admission to the United States. Final admission remains, as it always has, in the hands of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who, after questioning and investigation of the nonimmigrant’s purposes, will then issue a Form I-94. That form serves as the official government document authorizing the alien’s stay in the country.
Nevertheless, Obama made the most of it:
One country’s prosperity doesn’t have to come at the expense of another. If China and the United States can work together, the world benefits.
At present fewer than 2 million of the 100 million Chinese who travel abroad come to the United States, contributing an estimated $21 billion to the economy and, according to the president, supporting more than 100,000 jobs in the sectors serving them. But under the new enhancements that number could quadruple, he said, bringing an estimated $85 billion into the economy and requiring a workforce of 400,000 workers to serve their needs while they are here. He also touted the dubious advantage of closer relationships between Americans and Chinese in the process:
This agreement could help us more than quadruple those numbers … which will benefit our economies [and] bring our people together.
His announcement came on the heels of the CIA-negotiated deal with North Korea to release two American hostages, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller on the previous Saturday. It turns out that CIA Director James Clapper himself hopped aboard a plane on a secret mission last week to call on Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s “supreme leader” to work out the details.
Obama’s challenges were many and he largely left the summit on Wednesday empty-handed. His shuffle off the world stage is now nearly complete.
On his agenda were the following: China’s human rights abuses that continue apace, its alleged currency manipulation in world markets, the freedom uprisings in Hong Kong (also aided and abetted by the CIA, according to some insiders), the hacking into US government and defense agency computers by the Chinese government, putting the finishing touches on the odious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and attacking once again the non-issue of global warming while trying to keep a straight face.
He did manage to escape with some modest tariff reductions that apply to the high-technology industry, but that was all. China will continue polluting the air (although no one noticed, as Xi had ordered all vehicle traffic and industry to halt in Beijing for several days prior so attendees could see the sky), which will continue to kill millions of its people, it will continue hacking into US computers, it will continue its horrific human rights abuses, and it will continue to oppress those uprisings in Hong Kong. In other words, he left with precious little to brag about when he returns home.
He was in way over his head. He was playing footsie with a couple of the most corrupt, contemptible, and hardened criminals on the planet: the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (colloquially called China’s “paramount leader”), Xi Jinping, and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Much is already common knowledge about Putin: his 16 years as an officer in the Soviet Union’s KGB, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before entering “politics.” For readers unfamiliar with the horrendous abuses suffered by innocents during his reign, one need only peruse briefly Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, published in 1962. So abusive has Putin been since his rise to the top of the heap in Russia that the 2011 Democracy Index stated that under his rule Russia has suffered a “long process of regression [that] culminated in a move from a hybrid to an authoritarian regime.” For his thuggery Russia was excluded from the G8 group, which used his annexation of Crimea as its primary excuse.
What many don’t know is that he has a rival in Xi Jinping. On November 15, 2012, Xi was elected to the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of Central Military Commission by the 18th Central Committee. The very next day, he paraded before the press showing off his new uniform and the new Standing Committee, which had, overnight, been reduced in number from nine to seven, and containing none of those from the previous day.
In March 2013, he was elected President of the People’s Republic of China by the 12th National People’s Congress in Beijing, receiving 2,952 votes for, one vote against, and three abstaining. In light of the overnight disappearance of those belonging to the Standing Committee, one wonders where those four individuals not voting for him now reside.
What’s important to know is that Putin and Xi have been working closely together over the last two years to cobble together something called The Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, which neatly excludes the United States – and Obama – from participation. As The Wall Street Journal explained:
Mr. Obama’s goals are increasingly challenged by Mr. Xi’s own vision and the closer ties that the Chinese leader is forging with [Russia’s President] Mr. Putin.
The two have developed a rapport, having met at least 10 times over the past two years, and are trying to build closer economic ties through transport links and energy deals.
They have already inked deals to supply natural gas from Western Siberia to China that have the potential of exceeding the volumes of gas already being shipped to Europe. And there is word that Russia is offering Chinese investors the opportunity to purchase significant ownership interests in “some of our biggest production assets,” according to a Kremlin transcript.
As Obama disappears off the world stage (on Wednesday he left for Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to see if his message might be better received there), it’s clear that his influence is negligible. Although accused of his own brand of thuggery in the United States, he is an amateur when compared to the major players in the game. That he even wanted to try to play their game speaks volumes about the lame duck inhabiting the White House during his waning days.
Business Insider: US wants China ‘to do well’, Obama says in announcing visa deal
New York Times: Obama Arrives in China on Trip With Complex Agenda
The Wall Street Journal: Obama Seeks Common Ground With China at APEC