Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Renminbi rising: China’s ‘de-Americanized world’ taking shape?

China’s leadership will soon usher in bold reforms to support a domestic consumption-driven economic model, and globalizing the renminbi as an alternative store of wealth to the US dollar is at the center of the strategy.

The scathing commentary published by China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency calling for a ‘de-Americanized world’ was undoubtedly music to the ears of many in the developing world. The article – published during the recent fiscal deadlock – accused Washington of abusing its superpower status by engaging in unwarranted military conflicts, engineering regime changes with impunity, and mishandling its status as the issuer of the world reserve currency by exporting risk abroad. Xinhua’s commentary also called for drastic reforms of the IMF and World Bank to reflect the growing muscle of the developing world, and most significantly, “the introduction of a new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant US dollar.”

The planned reforms led by the Xi Jinping administration in Beijing should be viewed through the lenses of the position taken by this article, with the end goal being the full convertibility and internationalization of the renminbi.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

BitTorrent ethics: Punishing piracy or criminalizing sharing?

If you live in a densely populated modern city, there is a strong chance that wireless network transmissions that are in breach of copyright law could be around you at this very moment.

The decentralized network architecture known as peer-to-peer (P2P) communications allows files of all kinds to be shared over the internet with other users without monetary exchange, and millions utilize this technology on daily basis. To some, this kind of exchange represents a new paradigm shift in sharing arts and culture that has the potential to empower new content producers who would have otherwise been consumers, while giving rise to a new decentralized economic model. To those who have a stake in maintaining the pre-eminence of copyright laws over the means of distribution, the millions who utilize these new habits of consumption are likened to renegade sea-bandits in arms – pirates – and they need to be stopped.

Most file-sharing is utilized through BitTorrent, and involves a host website that supports an index of .torrent files that can be downloaded in separate client applications. The content itself is not stored on a single centralized hard drive, but rests on the individual hard drives of millions of users who share their files through a P2P network, making file-sharing very difficult to regulate. The kinds of files that are shared range from films and music to software and e-books. All of it is done without monetary exchange, just as one would share the same kind of content with a friend. Much like the printing press, cassette recorders, VCRs, cable television, mp3 players and the like, the film studios of Hollywood and the recording industry view such innovations as an existential threat to their industries - and file-sharing has become the present day object of a witch-hunt led by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its counterpart, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Ready to detonate: Saudi-backed rebels strap bombs to Geneva-2 talks

As Syria’s rebels refuse to take part in Geneva-2, Saudi Arabia has emerged as the primary state-backer of rebel groups now trying to escalate the Syrian conflict and topple Assad by force.

When Vladimir Putin met with Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia in August, the newly appointed Intelligence Chief reportedly tried to cut a deal with Moscow by promising to buy billions in Russian arms and pledging not to challenge Russian gas sales to Europe in exchange for withdrawing support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Though later refuted by the Kremlin, the media reports suggested that Bandar told Putin to forget about any political solution to the Syrian conflict.

In addition to being the main propagator of a militant anti-Shiite form of Islam that many rebel fighters subscribe to, the Saudi monarchy has become the chief financier of anti-Assad movements aimed at toppling the Syrian government and weakening its allies in Iran and Hezbollah. Russian diplomatic sources claim that the August 21 chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus was carried out by a Saudi-black op team with support from the Liwa Al-Islam group, a hardline militia headed by the son of a Saudi-based Salafi cleric.

Following the attack in August, Saudi Arabian diplomats pressured Obama to take military action – the collective message was, "You can't as president draw a line and then not respect it."

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Friday, 11 October 2013

PM kidnapping fiasco: ‘Liberated’ Libya is chaos-state

Although the detention of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan only lasted a few hours, it was a bold indication of the country’s deepening instability since the civil war that toppled strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. In the early hours of October 10, militants whisked Zeidan out of a luxury suite in the Corinthia Hotel, regarded as one of the most secure places in Tripoli, without a shot being fired. The gunmen who abducted the prime minister belonged to one of the many former rebel militias now interwoven into Libya's fragmented power structure as an improvised police force. Militants were angered by the capture of suspected militant Abu Anas al-Liby, who was abducted days earlier off the streets of Tripoli by US Special Forces in connection to the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Prime Minister Zeidan was held over suspicion that he allowed al-Libi’s abduction to take place, despite publicly raising concerns over the illegality of the snatch to US authorities. Reports indicate that Zeidan's abductors were not willing to let him go, and that another militia – calling itself the 'Reinforcement Force' – intervened and freed the prime minister by force. The Libyan leader escaped unharmed, certainly the best scenario that could have resulted from this crisis. Information trickled out slowly in the tense few-hour period during which Zeidan’s whereabouts were unknown, and had allied militias not come to his aid, the situation could have spiraled into a hostage crisis or worse.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

No sunshine: Preemptive strike rationale deepens N. Korean status quo

Seoul and Washington have signed a new military pact that provides for carrying out preemptive strikes on North Korea, a move that will only deepen mutual distrust and damage inter-Korean cooperation. In stark contrast to the hardline saber-rattling that ensued following Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February, ties between the two Koreas have simmered significantly in recent months with the reopening of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex in September after five months of closure.

Still, diplomatic exchanges always seem go nowhere, and often end in finger-pointing. Since coming to power earlier this year, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has further entrenched the policies of her deeply unpopular predecessor, Lee Myun-bak, with a harder military stance on Pyongyang. Seoul’s posturing recently culminated in a massive military parade showcasing homemade cruise missiles capable of hitting targets anywhere within North Korea, as well as Israeli-made Spike missiles that have been deployed right on the tense Northern limit line separating the two countries. Seoul plans to spend nearly $1 billion dollars on enhancing its missile defense capabilities over the next year.

Following a recent meeting between Chuck Hagel and the South Korea’s Defense Ministry, the so-called "Tailored Deterrence Strategy" has been rolled out, detailing the protocol for a preemptive strike on North Korea in the event of Pyongyang’s impending usage of WMDs. According to the doctrine, Seoul can employ not only conventional strikes and missile defense capabilities, but also the American nuclear umbrella. Starting from 2014, the US Air Force will begin flying surveillance drones near North Korean borders to gather intelligence data.

Pyongyang hasn’t exactly applauded this news, and has fired back, promising to preempt any strike by attacking first. The scenario is a familiar one – Seoul and Pyongyang armed to the teeth, promising mutually assured destruction and war in one of the world’s most densely populated and economically productive regions.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

‘Shutdown’: China’s Xi upstages Obama’s Asia pivot

When the clock struck midnight on October 1st, there was plenty more optimism in Beijing than in Washington. In China, people gathered in Tiananmen Square to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s founding. In the US, the situation was much grimmer.

A kabuki theatre of incompetence that brought about a federal government shutdown, has failed hundreds of thousands of government employees while cutting billions on social programs spending. Now Washington faces the very real scenario of a default. The problems posed by the US domestic situation are so dire that Obama was forced to cancel high-profile trips to Asia-Pacific countries, in fear of the debt ceiling crashing down on his presidency. Obama was supposed to visit the APEC Summit in Bali, the ASEAN meeting in Brunei, as well as pay visits to Malaysia and the Philippines – two countries that feature prominently in the “Pivot to Asia” policy unveiled in 2011. Instead, he sent the court jester, John Kerry, in his place.

With Obama’s wings clipped and Air Force One grounded, China’s President Xi Jinping swooped in and stole the show, cutting billion-dollar deals on landmark visits to Indonesia and Malaysia, and securing the spotlight for the APEC and ASEAN conferences. While Xi came arm-in-arm with his classy wife for a massive charm offensive that topped headlines in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, Obama twiddled his thumbs in the Oval Office and played the blame game with Republicans, like truculent teenagers. Given the extreme value placed on the concept of saving or losing face in Chinese culture, this can only be a “paper tiger” moment for Obama when viewed through the lens of Beijing. Obama’s no-show is yet another symbolic indication of the winds of global power blowing eastward, as the two largest economies vie for influence in military affairs and markets throughout the Asia-Pacific region: this century’s global locomotive for economic development.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Netanyahu fear mongering over Iran to mask Israel's lack of legitimacy

The Israeli Prime Minister may have left his cartoon bomb at home, but his latest appearance at the UN contained no shortage of dubious claims aimed at strangling the nascent US-Iran rapprochement in its cradle.

Just three days after the historic phone call between US President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani, hopes for a thaw in relations between the two countries were dashed when Obama confirmed that military options were still on the table during a press conference with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. In his eloquent address to the General assembly, Rouhani explicitly cited the "military options on the table" position as being an illegal and ineffective contention, prior to explicitly declaring, "peace is within reach." Obama's unwillingness to deviate from his dominant line comes as no surprise looking back to his excessively uni-polar and exceptionalist address to the general assembly. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif immediately decried Obama's flip-flop, and urged Washington to show consistency in dealing with Iran to promote trust - a unexceptional plea that will most likely prove to be too much for Washington to adhere to.

Whatever glimmers of pragmatism employed by the Obama administration in its dealings with the incumbent administration in Tehran at the start of the general assembly were overshadowed by Washington's unshakeable bond with Israel as Netanyahu visited the White House and took to the podium as the final speaker. Obama is not quite transparently about to turn his back on the "warmongering pressure groups" Rouhani warned that would enact measures to maintain the status quo in his address. For those radicals who dominate the political establishment in Tel Aviv, the coherent and temperate Rouhani is incomparably more troublesome than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose bellicosity allowed Israel to more plausibly sell its anti-Iran narrative. As many journalists and always analysts point out, following Israel's tirades, Tel Aviv has Iran accused of being "months away from the bomb" for over two decades.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.