Helga Zepp-LaRouche, president of the SchillerInstitute international think tank, “urged the U.S. to join theBelt and Road Initiative during a forum that shed light on theprinciples and scope of China-proposed global developmentinitiative,” China Daily, the national English-languagenewspaper, reported Tuesday.
China Daily cited Zepp-LaRouche’s videotaped message tothe forum held by the Schiller Institute and the P.R.C. Consulatein Glendale two days ago, on the subject of “China’s Belt andRoad Initiative — A Historic Opportunity for the U.S.A.”
“`We want to cooperate with the Belt and Road Initiative,but we emphatically insist that the U.S. must be a part of it,’Zepp-LaRouche told the forum, which was attended by diplomatsfrom China, Belgium and Kenya, as well as representatives oflocal government,” the paper reported.
“Zepp-LaRouche praised China’s reform and opening-upefforts, which she said has not only transformed Chinaeconomically, but also allowed China to help other developingcountries overcome underdevelopment and poverty. ‘Now, the Westshould not be upset about it, because they could have done thesame thing. Why didn’t the U.S. and Europe develop Africa, LatinAmerica, and most of the Asian countries?’ she asked.”
Notably, China Daily reported that in his presentation onthe BRI to the forum, China’s Deputy Consul General in LosAngeles Shi Yuanqiang said that while the U.S. government did notsend any representatives to the Second Belt and Road Forum forInternational Cooperation this year, U.S. Embassy representativesdid attend, and “in fact, the U.S. had the largest group ofdelegates among all the countries at the second forum.”
Shi emphasized that countless opportunities are availablefor American corporations through BRI projects, China Dailyreported.
CGTN anchor Yang Rui interviewed Helga Zepp-LaRouche and Bill Jones during their recent China trip, which was aired on June 13 for the “Yang Rui Dialogue” program, headlined “BRI Incentives and Risk Assessment.” A transcript is provided below.
YANG RUI: The Belt and Road Initiative has been thrust intothe media limelight for several years. With more and morecountries onboard now, China will not be the party that dictateswhere the cooperation is heading. For all parties’ commoninterests, China will inevitably undergo a range of policyadjustments along the way, to ensure the Initiative deliverswin-win results that are long-lasting and sustainable. But, whatis behind some of the criticisms against the Initiative, and whatcan the BRI us? Unilateralism undermines world economicpatterns. To discuss this issue and more, I’m happy to be joinedin the studio by Helga Zepp-LaRouche, founder and President ofthe Schiller Institute, and Bill Jones, Washington bureau chiefof Executive Intelligence Review.
That’s our topic. This is “Dialogue.” I’m Wang Rui.
Welcome to our show. Do you think the rest of the world hasdeveloped a better understanding about the Belt and RoadInitiative after so many years of debates, discussions and mediafanfare since 2013?
HELGA ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Well, I would think that the people ofAsia, for sure. I just attended the Conference on Dialogue ofAsian Civilizations, and the reaction to Xi Jinping’s speech wasreally extraordinary, because people realized that they areparticipating in the evolution of a completely new system ofinternational relations, which is overcoming geopolitics. Ithink people are sick and tired of confrontation and war as a wayof solving problems, and they appreciate very much that everyconflict on the planet can be solved through dialogue. So, Ithink this is very well understood in Asia, in Africa, even someof the Europeans are becoming very enthusiastic. As matter offact 22 of 28 EU nations are already cooperating. So I think therest will be a question of time.
YANG : But it seems the top concern of the EU about the BRIhas been the issue of transparency. Bill, what do you make oftheir concerns?
WILLIAM JONES: I think a lot of it is a tempest in ateapot. The Belt and Road Initiative has been transparent to thepeople who are receiving the investment, who are benefitting fromit. There is also an issue that people can see what’s happeningon the ground, with the improvement of the general conditions oflife of the people who are recipients of the Belt and RoadInitiative. The reason that there’s this objective is, however,that people are concerned, on the one hand, that it has been aChinese initiative, not an initiative taken by the EuropeanUnion. It is also breaking with the policies of the EU and ofthe West generally, of demanding conditionalities for anyinvestment that’s made in places like Africa, India, and Asia.China has been intent on building infrastructure: They don’tdemand certain conditions which are not necessary, and they’renot concerned about the different political systems that exist inthose countries: The goal is to improve the lives of the people,and people can see that on the ground. And the objections thatare raised to the so-called “transparency” issues, I think arejust an attempt to stop the momentum that has been created.
YANG : Helga, it seems, some of the member states of theEuropean Union are starting to break the silence, by standing upto the BRI memorandum, such as Italy, which indeed surprisedtheir American friends. Do you think what Italy has done, islikely to trigger a similar domino reactions that the Britishauthorities had done before the rest of the European Union hadfollowed suit, regarding the AIIB?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: I think the Italian memorandum ofunderstanding with China can be the model for the relations ofall European countries with China, not only in the bilateralagreement, but to have a joint mission, for example, to developthe continent of Africa. Africa will have 2.5 billion by theyear 2050, and either the Europeans join hands with China andother nations to industrialize the African continent, or you willhave the biggest refugee crisis ever in history. And the Italiangovernment, especially Prime Minister [Giuseppe] Conte hasalready advocated that Italy intends to take the lead to bringthe Europeans into cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative.And the good thing is that, contrary to what some people think,Conte also has a good relationship with President Trump.
So I think the strategic question, number one, is how do weget development among many nations in the world, but finally, theUnited States must be brought into the Belt and Road Initiative,because if you don’t do that, there is the danger of theThucydides Trap. But I think the Italian government is play avery constructive role in all of these questions.
YANG : Secretary Pompeo has been selling the idea, whereverhe goes, that China will be a threat. Why are we so bad?
Now, when we look at, say, our investment in theinfrastructure building in Africa, it seems to amount to aproject, a mega one, of industrialization, a massive project ofindustrialization. What about the consequences arising from, forexample, the trade war that is just started between the UnitedStates and China? What do you think of the impact of this tradedispute between Washington and Beijing upon Africa, and ourbusiness presence there?
JONES: It’ll be absolutely disastrous, because it willhinder, it will place an obstacle in the free development of theBelt and Road Initiative; it’ll raise suspicions that really haveno basis whatsoever. And it’s disastrous for the United States,itself: President Trump is not going to be able to create astrong economy in the United States through trade embargoes ortrade tariffs. He has to invest in infrastructure, he has toinvest in science and technology. And there are certain attemptsto do that now, over the last couple of weeks, in terms of thespace program in the United States and the attempt to have adiscussion with the Democrats over infrastructure. But if hedoesn’t bring down these tariffs, if he doesn’t create a goodrelationship with China, this is not going to work.
China, in fact, can help in building infrastructure: Theycould invest in an infrastructure bank in the United States withmuch of the money that is now held in Treasury bills, in order tobuild high-speed rail in the United States. The U.S. economy isgoing down, not because of trade, and not because of China, butbecause of a failure of governments over decades, in investing inindustry and technology.
YANG: The idea of a China threat covers many things, such asideology. Well, many say that the Cold War is making a comeback.So, does it mean, Helga, that many African countries have to takesides?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: The Chinese model is very attractive to theAfrica countries, because it shows a way of how to overcomepoverty, the miracle which China has undergone in the last 40years is admired by many Africans, and they are now demanding tobe treated more equally by the Europeans. They don’t want tohear Sunday sermons and words about human rights and goodgovernance, and no investment. They demand from the Europeans,direct investment and not development aid which disappears intothe pockets of the NGOs.
So, I think we are in a period of transformation, whereeither the West finds its way back to better traditions, like thehumanist periods of the Classical period of 200 years ago, wherethere was actually a much larger affinity between the moralvalues of the European classics and China. For example, if youlook at the similarity between Confucius and Friedrich Schiller,after whom the Schiller institute is named, they have the sameidea of the moral improvement of the population. Confucius talksabout the aesthetical education of man; Xi Jinping has put a lotof emphasis recently on the aesthetic education of the students,because the goal of this is the beauty of the mind, and this isthe ideal which used to be the case for Europe, and for the earlyAmerican republic! The problem with the West is that, as you cansee in the United States, they have turned away to a very largedegree, from the ideas of their early historical period. Butthey’re going down: The West is in a moral collapse, the economyis far from being in such a great shape as they say, and thestatistics would say. So it’s really a question for the West tochange.
And I think there are many countries, you mentioned some inEurope already, which absolutely are willing to find a new model.I think it’s not so much a question of choosing; I think we arewitnessing the creation of new paradigm of internationalrelations, where the best of all countries and traditions mustcome into it.
YANG: Increasingly, there’s no question that much of thestrength that China can project into a continent like Africawould largely depend on the construction of “soft power.” What doyou know about Confucius schools in Africa? Why do you think theUnited States considered things we teach Confucius schools in theUnited States a threat, whilst it seems these schools are verypopular in the African continent?
JONES: Well, you see in the United States, there is a groupof people, some of whom are in the Trump Administration of aneoconservative bent, who have never come to terms with the factthat China will become a major industrial power. And they haveinitiated a major campaign similar to what was done during theMcCarthy era, to blacken China’s name on all levels — in thearea of economy, in the area of culture, in the area of socialgovernance. And so you have this situation where major scholars,who are most knowledgeable about the United States are now beingrestricted from coming to the United States! And this is a veryserious thing, because, it’s not only that we agree to disagree,but we must also find the common interests: We’re all on thesame globe, we have major problems that we have to resolve, notleast of which is population alleviation not only in China, butpopulation alleviation in the world. And we need populationalleviation in the United States: We haven’t talked about thatfor 40 years. That should be on the agenda. And China’sinitiative, to try to educate Americans about the ideas ofConfucius and to learn the Chinese language, which is a basicelement in learning another culture is learning their language,the Confucius Institutes have been very important in providing ameans of learning the Chinese language. Chinese right now,still, is one of the most important second languages in whichschoolchildren are trying to learn, because they realize this isgoing to become the most important language.
YANG: Language learning is fast becoming an instrument inbuilding interconnectivity, a very critical idea for ourunderstanding of the BRI. During the Cold War, the former SovietUnion was accused of spreading its ideology of communism. Today,one major factor that has prevented United States fromundertaking an all-out Cold War against China, the rising power,is that China is not as aggressive as the Soviet ideology: Wewant to build a community of shared future.
So, do you think what the United States is concerned with,holds any water? Where do you stand about the issue of ideology,of course, in the context of how to build a soft power, and theestablishment of Confucius Institutes?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Well, I think that what China is doing is amoral model of improving the livelihood for people, but alsodemanding that the people improve. Xi Jinping has talked aboutthe role of the artists, that they have to uphold the morality ofthe population. I think that one of the reasons why certaingeopolitical factions in the West are so negative, is because theliberal system has reached a point of degeneration, whereeverything is allowed, every perversion, every new pornography,every new violence, the entertainment “industry” in the West hasreally become terrible! And I think that the people who aremaking their profit with these kinds of things, they don’t likethe idea that somebody says, you should be morally a betterperson.
But I think we have reached a point in history, where, youknow, we are at the end of an epoch. I don’t think that thechanges we are experiencing are just the Chinese model versus theliberal model. But I think that we are experiencing a change asbig, or bigger than the difference between the Middle Ages inEurope and modern times, which will mean completely differentaxioms. And I think what Xi Jinping discusses in terms of the“shared community for the one future of humanity” it is reallythe idea of how you can put the interest of the one mankind aheadof any national interest. So, I think the way to look at thepresent situation is, where do we want to be in a 100 years fromnow? We will have fusion power. We will have the ability tohave limitless energy; we can create new raw materials out ofwaste by separation of the isotopes. We will have space travel.We will have villages on the Moon.
So, I think that at that time, humanity has to be one, orelse we will not exist! Take the recent imaging of the blackhole: This was only possible — first of all, it proved thegeneral relativity theory of Einstein, which is a wonderful thingall by itself, because it will mean new breakthroughs in science,at all levels. But, this was only possible, because you hadeight radio telescopes at different points in the world, inSpain, in Chile, in the United States, in the Antarctic, whichtogether could make this image! You could not have done such aproof of a physical principle of the universe by only one countryalone. And I think that that particular incident of imaging theblack hole, gives you a taste of the kind of cooperation mankindwill have in the future. And the key question is, do we getenough people to understand that in time, to make this jump?
YANG: Thank you so much. You’re watching “Dialogue,” withMme. Helga Zepp-LaRouche, founder and President of the SchillerInstitute, and Bill Jones, Washington bureau chief of ExecutiveIntelligence Review.
Welcome back: The BRI would not only cover the Sub-Sahararegion. Most countries in the South — I’m talking aboutSouth-South cooperation — would benefit from infrastructurebuilding. Let’s do a case study: Hambatota Port in Sri Lankahas caused many debates as to whether China has developed aconspiracy theory, whether the Western media concerns about the“debt trap” would hold any water? I would like to have yourthoughts very quickly.
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: I think this is turning the truth upsidedown. Because if you look, why is Africa underdeveloped? Fivehundred years of colonialism, and then about 70 years of IMFconditionalities. If you look at the 17 poorest countries inAfrica, which are in danger of defaulting, only in 3 of them isChina involved, but all the rest are indebted to the Paris Club.So the debt trap was created by the IMF before, and China isactually giving many grants and —
YANG: Do you agree, Bill?
JONES: I do agree with that. I think we’ve seen the debtsituation spin out of control, long before the BRI. We haveneeded international financial reform that we have been talkingabout, that Helga’s husband, Lyndon LaRouche has pointed out fordecades, prior to his recent death, of trying to change thefinancial system, in order to create credits for infrastructure,instead of credit for repayment of old debt. These countries inAfrica have been saddled with debt by the IMF, not by China. Asa matter of fact, most of the countries that are in the biggestdanger of their debt being a problem, are those which are notinvolved in the BRI — countries in Africa. And therefore, whathas to be done, is really a reform of the international financialsystem, in order to perhaps even write off some of this debt, andto insist, as we go forward, that any debt that’s given out willgo to increase the physical production capabilities of thesecountries, because if it does that, then it’s debt that’s goingto be repaid. But if it goes to repay old debt, or if it’s thecasino society that we’ve known over the last 20 years, it’sgoing to become a bubble, and we’ve got to change the way we dobusiness in that respect.
YANG: What about financing vehicles, Bill? Is that a majorissue for the beneficiary countries?
JONES: What we actually need is the creation of somethinglike an infrastructure bank in the United States, which wouldallow China to help invest in infrastructure there. Foreigndirect investment by China now becomes something of a problem,because of the atmosphere that has been created by the neo-cons;but otherwise, China could help with this. China has a differentorientation toward finance. Chinese finances to the Belt and Roadgo to transportation infrastructure. It brings the countriestogether, it creates a greater production capacities, and it hasbecome, I think, a template for how a functioning, how a healthyfinancial system has to operate. We’ve got to get away from whatused to be called the “bankers’ arithmetic,” in which moneychased after more money. The money has got to be used to financephysical economy, and then it becomes a means of growth for thepopulation, and is no problem in terms of repayment, because thepopulation becomes richer.
YANG: I wonder if you have followed very closely thedevelopment between Malaysia and China, on the construction ofthe east coast railway link, that has a lot to do with how we dorisk assessment, political and legal; and this helps us go backto one of the earlier questions on the issue of transparency. Sodo you think this poses a serious challenge to the prospects ofthe BRI in developing countries, some of which are youngdemocracies, according to Western standards?
JONES: Well, I think a lot of this is a matter of alearning curve that the BRI has been through over the last fiveyears. The Malaysia situation was unfortunate, but it haslargely been resolved, and it’s been resolved because China hasbeen very flexible in dealing with the countries on the BRI, andI think they have a clear indication, a clear orientation forimproving the situation in the countries in which they areinvolved. And if problems arise, or if discrepancies occur, Ithink they have shown a willingness to diplomatically resolve theproblem to the benefit of the countries that are involved. Andthey have to do that.
Look, a lot of mistakes were made by the Western countriesin terms of initial attempts to industrialize Africa, and as aresult of that, they left. They left Africa in the dust. Chinais there, there may be some mistakes in individual cases, butChina learns the lessons and does not leave, and this is theimportant thing: Because the fortitude of continuing with theproject, which is the most important project for mankind today isabsolutely necessary, and I think the Chinese government hasshown the fortitude necessary to move forward on this.
So, yes, problems may occur. They have occurred in thepast. They have been resolved, and I think they will be resolvedin the future, if they would occur again.
YANG: The last two remaining questions will be about, firstof all, the alleged westward expansion of the BRI through theEurasian continent. The other, of course, is the Maritime SilkRoad: Do you think this idea of a Maritime Silk Road, Helga, willhelp ease tensions further between China and other countries thathave competing claims on the maritime stakes in southeast Asia?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: I think the combined concept of the BRI andthe Maritime Silk Road is really a program for the reconstructionof the world economy. And in the beginning, people said, “thisthis railway from east or west or north or south, more beneficialfor China or for Russia?” And I kept saying, “don’t worry aboutit, take it a couple of years from now and all of these networkswill grow into one.” This is why we published this report “TheNew Silk Road Becomes the World Land-Bridge.” Because, if youlook at it from the standpoint of the evolution of mankind, it isvery natural that eventually the infrastructure will reach allcontinents, will open up all interiors, will connect the maritimeconnections. And for example, Portugal and Spain and Greece andItaly, these are countries that want to be not only the hub forthe Eurasian Land-Bridge on the land line, but they also want tobe hubs for the maritime connection, connecting to all thePortuguese-speaking, Spanish-speaking countries. So, I thinkthis will also grow into a World Land-Bridge connection.
YANG: Bill, what do you think of the connection, betweenChina’s BRI and President Putin’s vision for the EurasianEconomic Union?
JONES: I think they will tend to converge, not on allpoints, but in the basic orientation, because what PresidentPutin wants to do, is to take those countries which have beentraditionally associated with Russia and create some kind ofcommon economic entity. But, the Belt and Road is providing theinvestment for all of these countries, including Russia, whichbenefits tremendously from it. And therefore, there is a meansof really bringing together the two most important countries inEurasia around a common goal of developing infrastructure,transportation infrastructure, and improving the conditions oflife in all these countries. So I think there is thisconvergence going on that will become greater with time.
Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche discusses her recent trip to China where she participated in the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, May 15-16 in Beijing, keynoted by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Zepp-LaRouche and host Bill Jones discuss what’s actually at stake in the so-called US-China trade war, and how it’s possible to be resolved in a win-win manner for both nations. She warns that there is no benefit for the West to try to contain a nation like China, who has made so many contributions to human civilization. The only path forward that will be mutually beneficial for both countries, and their populations, is one of cooperation and overcoming the “Clash of Civilization” strategy of the western neo-cons.
Under the title: “U.S.-China Ties Key to WorldEconomy Growth,” UrduPoint in Pakistan on May 24 covered HelgaZepp-LaRouche’s interview with Sputnik. The interview was alsocovered in a Pakistani community newspaper, the Jago Timesbased in northwest Texas, May 25th.
“The state of relations between Washington and Beijing willdetermine the path of the global economic output in the nextdecade,” Helga Zepp-LaRouche, the leader of the GermanBürgerrechtsbewegung Solidarität, or Civil Rights MovementSolidarity party, told Sputnik. “The key to the future of theworld economy is the relation between the U.S. and China, whichalready has more than 300 million middle class consumers, anumber that will double in a decade,” Zepp-LaRouche said.
The upward trend of Chinese imports presents a chance forthe United States to reduce trade deficit between the twonations.
“China will import $40 trillion worth of imports in the nextfew years. All of this will offer excellent opportunities for theU.S. to reduce the trade deficit with China by exporting intothat growing market and will very likely be subject of a dealbetween Trump and Xi Jinping,” the politician added.
Peru’s signing an MOU joining the Belt and RoadInitiative during the Second Belt and Road Forum forInternational Cooperation April 25-27 has set into motion hugeeconomic development projects which China has been offering.
Peru’s Volcan mining company and China’s port and shippinggiant COSCO signed an agreement on May 13 to construct a megaportin Chancay, 50 km north of Lima. Chancay is a natural deepwaterharbor (maximum water-depth of 16 meters), capable of handlingtoday’s largest ships, but currently with no commercial portcapacity. Now it is to be developed into the biggest port onSouth America’s Pacific Coast, and serve as a “continental hub”for cargo between South America and China, with two specializedterminals able to handle container, bulk, roll-on/roll-off andgeneral cargo. Projected completion is in 28 months, with anestimated 9,000 jobs (1,500 direct and 7,500 indirect) created inthe process.
The signing ceremony was attended by Peru’s President MartinVizcarra and Transportation Minister Maria Jara, and COSCO’sChairman Captain Xu Lirong and Managing Director Zhang Wei, andreceived great national media coverage.
“COSCO Shipping will jointly cooperate with Peru to developthe Port of Chancay into an important hub port in Latin Americanear the Pacific Coast, which will promote regional economicdevelopment. It will become the new link and bridge for trade andeconomic exchanges between China and Peru,” Captain Xu said atthe signing.
President Vizcarra called the signing
“a milestone. Based onmutual connectivity of the Belt and Road Initiative, thecompanies from China and Peru jointly invested and developed theChancay Project, which lays a solid foundation for Peruvianeconomic development,” he said.
“The construction of the Port ofChancay will contribute to regional development, and we expect todevelop the Port of Chancay into one of the most important ‘hub’ports in South America, and a logistics center near the PacificCoast, which will promote regional trade and trade between Chinaand the Latin America.”
This new “regional hub” begs the question of the continentalrail network which has yet to be built. Not surprisingly,President Vizcarra raised the bioceanic part of that railnetwork, in a recent interview with Reuters. Vizcarrasuggested that China — among others — could be a naturalpartner to help finance and build the bioceanic railroad, becauseit would be purchasing its products. He referred to the CentralRoute, connecting Brazil and Peru through Bolivia.
This statement by the President of the Schiller Institute was distributed at the opening of the 68th UN General Assembly in New York.
by Helga Zepp-LaRouche President of the Schiller Institute
We all know that the current economic order in the world only allows a very small percentage of the population to live a life of luxury, that only a relatively small percentage live decently, that many languish in inhumane poverty, while what Pope Francis called “hidden euthanasia” is widespread.
Only a few people know that, just a few weeks ago, mankind avoided by a hair’s breadth the danger of extinction in a thermonuclear war, because that would have been the consequence of an escalation following a military strike against Syria.
Both of these dangers, which threaten the very existence of the human species, are ultimately the result of the economic system of globalization, in which “anonymous decisions” — signed by high-level officials — sacrifice man’s unique dignity and his life to mammon, the god of lucre.
The diplomatic initiative around Syria raises the hope that the danger of a regional and possibly world war has been once again averted. But as urgent as war avoidance is, it is not enough. If we, as a species, are to have a future, we need a real perspective for peace, a completely new paradigm, that leaves behind for once and for all the geometry of solving crises through war, and replaces it by defining the common goals of mankind.
Is it not in the interest of all people on this planet to ensure energy security and raw material security as quickly as possible, and by so doing to overcome an essential cause of hunger and of the war danger? Is it therefore not in the interest of all people and all nations to launch the best possible crash program for the use of thermonuclear fusion, along the lines of the “Manhattan Project” for developing the atomic bomb during the Second World War, but this time for peaceful purposes and for the good of all mankind?
Likewise, it is high time to put the legitimate demand of the Non-Aligned Movement for a just world economic order back on the agenda. Such a new order could begin with the proposal of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the latest SCO conference, to build the new Silk Road as the basis for peaceful cooperation among all the countries along that route. This proposal is totally in line with the proposal for a Eurasian Landbridge that the Schiller Institute advanced in 1991, in reaction to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. That concept has been expanded, in the meantime, to an international Landbridge to bring people together, which has gained many friends and supporters throughout the world. Such a worldwide infrastructure and development program would hoist us onto the next higher economic platform where hunger and underdevelopment could be eliminated forever.
If the nations united in the UN General Assembly decide to replace the profoundly immoral and unjust system of globalization by an order allowing an alliance of sovereign Republics — in the tradition of John Quincy Adams — to work together in the common interests of mankind, our civilization can enter, consciously, into the next phase of evolution.
Why should that not be possible? We are the only creatures who, thanks to human creativity, can consciously improve the basis of our existence through scientific and technological innovation, and thus raise our living standards and life expectancy. Likewise, we are the only species which can scientifically determine with precision where the next step of research into the physical order of creation must lie, to ensure the continued existence of our species in the universe.
The Earth is not a closed, entropic system with finite resources. Our solar system and our galaxy are only a tiny part of the universe, which develops itself anti-entropically. What is wonderful about our order of creation is that there exists a verifiable concordance between the laws of the macrocosmos — the universe — and of the microcosmos — our creative reason — which is expressed in the physical power of our immaterial ideas.
What we need today more than anything else is tender love for mankind, an audacious vision for the future which looks at our planet from the perspective of astronauts and cosmonauts who see no borders, but only one mankind, while at the same time looking to the stars.
Friedrich Schiller said as much in his poem, and Ludwig van Beethoven in his 9th Symphony put those words to music:
Every man becomes a brother Take this kiss throughout the world! Brothers, o’er the stars unfurld Must reside a loving father.
Our tormented mankind needs courageous leaders, committed to the mission of leading the world out of the danger zones of destruction into a better future, which is within reach!
[Transcript included] Helga Zepp-LaRouche gave an excellent 42-minute video interviewto GBTimes’ Senior Editor Asa Butcher on May 10. GBTimes is aChinese multimedia site based in Finland, and established toenhance a dialogue between China and Europe.
GBTimes: We’ll begin. I’m going to focus on the Belt andRoad Initiative today, following on from the Forum in Beijinglast week. If you could describe your feelings on the outcome ofthe Forum that concluded last week in Beijing.
HELGA ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Oh, I think it was very a reallyimportant progress as compared to the first Belt and Road Forum.The first Belt and Road Forum was filled with optimism and theknowledge of all the participants that we were experiencing thebirth of a new system of international relations — that wasalready extremely important. But I think the Second Belt andRoad Forum saw a consolidation of that, so you have actually anew system of international relations which is overcominggeopolitics, and I think this is one of the most importantoutcomes, apart from, naturally, the enormous economicdevelopment which was presented. But I think the idea that youhave a system which has a win-win possibility for everybody tocooperate, is the way to overcome geopolitics, and that is theremaining danger, which after all, caused two world wars in thelast century. So this is a real breakthrough for humanity.
GBTimes: There’s been a growing criticism and backlashagainst the BRI. Do you think this is misunderstanding,suspicion toward this new system? What are your thoughts onthat?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: It’s actually a temporary phenomenon,because the funny thing was, here you had the largestinfrastructure program in history, ever, with enormous changesfor Africa, for Latin America, for Asia, even for Europeancountries, and the Western media and think-tanks pretended it didnot exist for almost four years! And then, all of a sudden, theyrealized, “Oh, this is really growing so rapidly; it is includingmore than 100 countries.” So they started what I think was acoordinated attack, slandering the Belt and Road Initiative, witharguments which I think can all individually can be proven to bea lie. It comes from the old geopolitical effort to control theworld by manipulating countries against each other, and with theBelt and Road Initiative, I think that possibility is vanishing,and that’s why they’re so angry and hysterical.
GBTimes: What could China do to reduce this demonization ofthe BRI?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: I think China is already doing a lot. Forexample, even Handelsblatt, which was very negative towards theBelt and Road Initiative in the past, they had to bring anarticle which brought out the fact that the whole argument thatChina is putting the countries of the third world into a “debttrap” is not holding. For example, the IMF just released figuresthat there are 17 African countries which may not be able to paytheir debt, but China is only engaged in 3 of them, and all ofthe others have huge debts to the Paris Club and to other bigWestern banks — so, who’s putting whom into a debt trap?
All of these arguments will be very easy to counter-argue,and the more China makes known its beautiful culture, people willbe won over. Because the beauty of Chinese painting, ofClassical music, it will win over the hearts. And the mostpeople understand what China is actually doing, the less theseattacks will be possible to maintain.
GBTimes: The attacks are more on China than on the Belt andRoad Initiative, you say?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Well, yes. They’re on China because Chinais the major motor behind it. And some of the attacks were thatChina is supposedly an autocratical dictatorship, andsurveillance state and all of these things. But first of all,concerning surveillance, I think the NSA and the GCHQ haveoutdone anybody already. And naturally China has a system whichuplifts the morality of the people: This is based on theConfucian tradition, and for some of the very liberal people inthe West, that is already too much, because it disturbs theiridea that everything goes, everything is allowed, and from thatstandpoint, any kind of emphasis on morality is too much forthese people.
GBTimes: Isn’t sometimes criticism of new ideas andinitiatives healthy? It’s what we understand here in the West, wedon’t openly unquestionably accept new things. We do question,and we are a little bit cynical sometimes.
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: It’s superfluous. It’s a waste of energyand it distracts people from accomplishing what needs to beaccomplished: Namely, to overcome poverty in Africa, in LatinAmerica, even in Europe. You know, Europe has 90 million poorpeople, and I have not seen a plan by the European Union toovercome poverty by 2010, which China intends to do with its ownpoor people.
So I think it’s a waste of energy, and it comes from what Icall, when people put on geopolitical spectacles and haveneocolonial headphones, then they see and hear the world quitedifferently from what it is, namely, they only project their ownviews.
GBTimes: Having been writing about China for the last 5-7years, it has made a dramatic entrance onto the world stage, whenI started writing about it many years ago. And the speed of itsarrival, the size of the investments, it can scare a lot ofcountries — just family and friends who don’t know much aboutChina, they want to know about my job where I’m introducing Chinato the West, as this bridge. There’s a lot of amisunderstandings. Do you think some of it comes from thisignorance? And how could that be changed?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: I have the feeling that everybody who was inChina, either as a tourist or as a business person, investing ortrading, they all come back and they have a very, very positiveview. People are impressed about what they see, the reallyincredible fast train system. Then, if you go in the region ofShenzhen, Zhuhai, Guangdong, Macao, Hong Kong, this is thepowerhouse of the world economy, not just the Belt and RoadInitiative.
Compare that with the decrepit infrastructure in the UnitedStates or many parts of Western Europe, for example. Less thantwo years ago, I was in Zhuhai at a conference, and we visitedthis bridge between Hong Kong and Zhuhai and Macao, linking thisentire triangular: And this bridge was built, I think, in sixyears or eight years, including planning! Now, in Germany, wehave a famous bridge between Mainz and Wiesbaden, which has beenin repair for almost six to eight years, and it’s still notready!
So, I think if people go to China, they come back and theyare completely impressed, because they see that in China, peoplehave now virtues, like industriousness, ingenuity, creativity —these are all values we used to have in the West, like when theGermany economic miracle was made in the postwar reconstruction,these values and virtues were German. But now, no longer. Now,we have all kinds of other crazy ideas, and therefore China istaking the lead.
So the people who go to China come back with a positiveimage, and those who have not been, naturally, they’re scared bythe negative reports in the media. So the more people canactually go and form their own image, the better.
GBTimes: I have myself, I’ve seen a disconnect betweenChina and Chinese society, and then the role of the Chinesegovernment, the more negative side that gets covered about in theWestern media. Do you think, for instance, with the BRI is justa way to legitimize the Chinese leadership in the world, and toraise it up to the same level that is given to the othercountries? Do you think that’s acceptable?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Well, it is a challenge. Some of the Westerninstitutions talked about that there is now a competition of thesystems, meaning the Chinese state model and the Western freemarket model. And in one sense, it is true; the only problem isthat if you have the neo-liberal system, especially after thecrisis of 2008, only favoring monetarist interests — the banks,the speculators — and the gap between the rich and the poorbecomes ever wider, naturally, then, if you have a country wherethat is not the case, namely, China having a policy which isoriented toward the common good, an increasing well-to-do middleclass of 300 million people, which in 5-10 years will be 600million people, and obviously the vector of development isupward, naturally that is regarded as a threat by the neo-liberalestablishment, which only takes care of its own privileges.
So in a certain sense, the challenge does exist, but I thinkthere is the possibility of a learning process, so one can behopeful that even some elements of the Western elites willrecognize that China is doing something right.
GBTimes: What do you think China could learn from theWestern mode? And vice versa, what do you think the two couldlearn from one another?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: I think China can learn a lot from the West,but I’m afraid to say, not from the present, contemporaries, or,there is very little to learn. Naturally, ESA cooperating withthe Chinese space agency, there is a lot of exchange possible.But in terms of general, cultural outlook, I think China has togo back about 200 years to find positive things in Europe, or theUnited States, for that matter. You know, European Classicalculture can be an enormous enrichment for China, but these arecomposers who are Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, orgreat poets. But these are all things which, unfortunately arenot dominating the cultural outlook of most Europeans andAmericans today. So there has to be a dialogue across thecenturies, and then both sides can profit from each other.
GBTimes: In a sense, you’re very pessimistic about theWestern stands at the moment. Do you think China is the onlyoption available to the West at the moment?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: No, I’m not pessimistic, I’m just sayingthat you see that some of the elites, or so-called elites, arehardened in their view. You have others who are absolutelyrecognizing that the whole mankind needs to cooperate together innew ways, for example, Switzerland. You know the President ofSwitzerland, who participated in the Belt and Road Forum justsigned a memorandum of understanding, not only for Switzerland,but for a whole group of Central and Eastern European countries,which Switzerland is representing in the internationalorganizations.
So there is a big motion. You have Italy signing amemorandum of understanding with China, on the development ofAfrica. Greece wants to be the gateway between trade from Asia,through the Suez Canal all the way into Europe. Portugal andSpain want to be the hub for the Portuguese- and Spanish-speakingpeople around the world.
So there is a lot of dynamics and motions, I’m justreferring to some of the monetarist views and those people whotalk about the “rules-based order” all the time, but what theyreally mean is austerity.
So, I’m not talking about the West in general. I think theWest — I’m an optimist about the potential of all human beings— I’m only talking about certain parts of the establishment inthe West.
GBTimes: You mentioned Italy and Switzerland. Howsignificant is it that they signed up to the BRI now?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: I think this is extremely important. Firstof all, Italy, as you know, is the third largest economy inEurope. The north of Italy is highly industrialized and has alot of industrial capability; many hidden champions actually arein northern Italy. So, if such a country is now, as the first G7country, officially joining with a memorandum of understanding,this can become the model for all of Europe. And Prime MinisterGiuseppe Conte who just participated in the Belt and Road Forumcame back and said exactly that: That Italy plans to be theleader in bringing about a better relation between China andEurope. So I think this is extremely important.
And Switzerland, even if it may be a small country, they areindependent; they are sovereign, they are not part of theEuropean Union. And President Maurer just declared, or hisspokesman, that they do not need advice from the European Unionbecause they can make their own policy. So, I think this is alla new, healthy spirit of self-consciousness and self-assertion,which is very good, and can be indeed a sign of hope foreverybody else.
GBTimes: How do you see it impacting Europe, theirparticipation in the BRI, in the short term, and perhaps in thelonger term?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Well, there are different learning curves:Some are quicker, others are slower. For example, the so-calledfour big countries — that does not include Italy — that didnot send heads of state or government, but only ministers, Spain,France, Germany, and I think Great Britain, by not sending theirheads of state sort of expressed their reservation. But theneven the German Economic Minister Altmaier, who on the first dayof the Belt and Road Forum basically said, “we have to havetransparency and rules,” with the usual kind of arguments, butthe next day, he said something much more positive. He said: Oh,this was much better than I expected, the Chinese are actuallytrying to solve problems, and I will come back in June with alarge delegation of businessmen. So, I actually find this quitegood. It shows that eventually, I think, I hope, reason willprevail.
GBTimes: I think some of the obstacles for Westerncountries, is like Turkey refusing to participate because of theUighur problem; that there are other issues that aren’t relatedto the Belt and Road, that China has to overcome first.
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: All of these problems will eventually besolved, because I think the key to solving of any regional,ethnic, historical cultural problem is development. If peopleactually see the advantage of turning non-developed countries orareas into prosperous ones, into having more youth exchange,young people understanding each other, people-to-people exchange,dialogue of cultures, bringing forth the best tradition of eachculture; plus, naturally, real improvement of living standards,longevity, I think that even if not all develop with the samespeed, we are at a tremendous change of an epoch of humancivilization. The idea of these local and regional conflictswill eventually not be there any more.
If I just can point to the fact that now the eightradio-telescopes working together, being able to make, for thefirst time, images of the black hole in a galaxy which is 55million light-years away, proving that Einstein’s theory ofgeneral relativity was actually correct — now, that, for me isthe sign of the future: Because this image could not have beenmade by one country alone. It needed telescopes sited in Chile,in Spain, in the United States, in the Antarctic, and you neededthe whole world actually working together to make such atechnological breakthrough possible.
I think that that will be the kind of relationship peoplewill have to each other in the future, and I think this is whatXi Jinping really is the kind of thing he means when he says, “ashared community for the one future of humanity.” Because thecommon interest will eventually come first, and then everythingelse will fall into place.
GBTimes: Another one of the criticisms was currently “allroads lead back to Beijing” rather than a multilateral approachto BRI, where it’s between other country, it always leads back toChina at the moment. Do you think that is a problem?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: I don’t know. First of all, I think Russiahas a big influence, I think the African countries are becomingmuch more knowledgeable and confident about their own role. Thereare many Africans who speak that, in the future, Africa will bethe new China with African characteristics. So, I think it’s allchanging very quickly, and those people who complain that thereis too much Chinese influence, well, then they should bring intheir active, creative contribution, and define what the newplatform of humanity should be.
And I think China has said many times, and I have absolutelyevery confidence that that is the case, that they’re not tryingto export their social model, but that they’re just offering theexperience of the incredible success of the last 40 years of theform in opening-up, and basically tell developing countries,“Here, if you want to have our help in accomplishing the samething, we are willing to provide it.” And naturally, thecountries of the developing sector, which had been neglected, oreven treated negatively by colonialism, by the IMFconditionalities, when they now have the absolute, concrete offerto overcome poverty and underdevelopment, why should they nottake it?
So, I think all these criticisms are really badly coveredefforts to hide their own motives. I really think China is doingthe best thing which has happened to humanity for a very longtime, and I think the Belt and Road Initiative is the onlylong-term plan for how to transform the world into a peacefulplace. And I think that should be applauded and people shouldhave a cooperative approach.
GBTimes: My next question was going to be, how confidentare you that the BRI will pay off for China, but I get the sensethat you’re very confident.
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Oh, I think it already paying off! First ofall, it makes it more easy for China to develop its own westernand internal regions, because they are now sort of integratedinto the Belt and Road transport routes to Europe, to CentralAsia, integrating the Belt and Road Initiative with the EurasianEconomic Union, and hopefully eventually also the European Union.So I think it is already bringing benefits to China.
And from an economic standpoint, the more a country exportshigh technology goods and technologies, the more than becomes amotor to develop one’s own industry even to high levels. So it’slike a self-inspiration, so to speak, and that is already payingoff. That’s what any country should do.
GBTimes: You mentioned technology: It’s also the digitalSilk Road, Digital Belt and Road. Of course, China has a lot ofcontrol over its internet, on the Great Firewall: How much of abarrier do you think that will be for countries to buildrelationships via the Belt and Road Initiative?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: You mean the G5 question and Huawei?
GBTimes: Well, partly that, too, but also the control ofthe internet inside of China, which is difficult for Westerncompanies to do business, to establish themselves, as there are alot of controls there. Do you think that could be a barrier, aspart of the digital Belt and Road, that’s also being discussed.
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Well, I think there can be ways of makingarrangements which are satisfying to everybody. This wholequestion of “digital control” and so forth, is highlyexaggerated, because, if you look at who is controlling theinternet, you have the big firms, Apple, Google, Facebook, andthey are very linked with the Western government’s. You know, ina certain sense, after the scandal of the NSA listening intoeverybody’s discussions, which erupted a couple of years ago andwhich was never changed or remedied or anything, we are living ina world where that already happening. And I think China is notdoing anything more than the NSA or the already mentioned GCHQdoing that in the West.
So I think the fact that China has a competitive system, tothis Western system is what causes all of this debate. Becausethe people who had the control of the internet first, they shouldlike to keep it that way, and they regard China as a competitor,which they don’t like, but that’s a fact of reality now.
GBTimes: One question I have is why do you think the Beltand Road Initiative is needed, when there’s the AsianInfrastructure Investment Bank, now? Do you think the two aremutually exclusive, or do they work together?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: No, I think the Belt and Road Initiative hasmany financing mechanisms. You have the AIIB, you have the NewSilk Road Fund, you have a lot of the Chinese banks themselveswhich are doing the investment. I have been advocating for avery long time, that the West should modify its own creditinstitutions to work on a similar principle. Now, that would beactually very possible, because the American System of economy asit was developed by Alexander Hamilton, who created the firstNational Bank as an institution for issuing credit, that isactually very close to what China is doing. As a matter of fact,I would even go so far as to say, that the Chinese economic modelis much closer to the American System, as it was developed byAlexander Hamilton, and then revived by Lincoln, by Henry C.Carey, by Franklin D. Roosevelt; so if the United States wouldsay, we create our own national bank; and Germany, for example,would say, we go back to the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, theCredit Institution for Reconstruction, which was used for thereconstruction of Germany in the postwar period, which was also astate bank, — or it still is a state bank — then you could havea new credit system, whereby each country would have their ownnational bank; you would have clearing houses in between them tocompensate for duration of investment, or the differences betweensmall and large countries with lots of raw materials, or not somuch — you need these clearinghouses. But you could create anew credit system, a New Bretton Woods system with fixed exchangerates, having a stability in the system which the Western systempresently does not have.
So, I think that the more countries go to these kinds ofcredit financing of projects the more stable this new system willbecome.
GBTimes: Do you think the United States will ever becomepart of the Belt and Road Initiative, under the Presidency ofDonald Trump, or perhaps whoever is voted in next
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: That’s actually the big question, you know:Will the rise of China be answered by the United States, eitherwith a war, the Thucydides trap which some people have mentionedas a danger? There were in history twelve cases where a risingpower overtook the dominant power up to that point, and it led towar; and there were four cases where it happened in a peacefulway. Now, China, first of all, has offered that neither of thesetwo options should occur, but they have offered a special greatpower special relationship model, based on the acceptance of theother social model’s sovereignty, non-interference. And I thinkTrump with his America, First policy is more inclined to respondto such a model than the previous administrations of Obama andBush, who had these interventionist wars in the Middle East andeverywhere else for exporting their system of so-called“democracy” and human rights.
So I think President Trump has said very clearly that hewants to have a good relationship with China. He calls PresidentXi Jinping his friend all the time. And I think the presenttrade negotiations actually, in my view, demonstrate that theUnited States would suffer tremendously, if they would try todecouple from the Chinese economy. They probably would suffermore than China, because China is much more capable, in my view,to compensate for the loss of the relationship with the UnitedStates.
But I think that the hopefully reasonable way would be tosay, “OK, let’s use the foreign exchange reserves of China whichthey have in terms of U.S. Treasuries; let’s invest them throughan infrastructure bank in the United States, to help to modernizeAmerican infrastructure.” And that would be an urgent need,because if you look at the U.S. infrastructure, it’s really in aterrible condition, and President Trump, who is talking today, Ithink, with the leading Democrats Pelosi and Schumer on a newinfrastructure legislation; the sums which are discussed here,from what I have heard so far, are so small! First of all, theRepublicans don’t want to have Federal spending; the Democratsare talking only about “repair,” and small issues.
So, what is lacking in these discussions is a grand design,where you would take the approach China has taken for themodernization of its infrastructure: To have fast train systemsamong all the major cities, to have slow-speed maglev trains forintra-urban transport. Now, you could take that same approachand modernize the entire infrastructure of the United States. Andif China would, in turn, off that U.S. companies would integratemore into the projects of the Belt and Road around the world, itwould be beneficial for both. Some American companies are alreadydoing that, like Caterpillar, General Electric, Honeywell, butthat could be a real incentive for the United States to go in tisdirection.
Hopefully it will happen that way, because if not, I think aclash between the two largest economies would be a catastrophefor the whole world: So, let’s hope that the forces of good willall work together to get to this positive end.
GBTimes: Let’s talk about the Schiller Institute itself asa think tank. What is your day-to-day role in the promotion ofthe Belt and Road Initiative? How do you work to support it?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Oh, you know, this all goes back to thelife’s work of my husband, who died recently: Mr. LyndonLaRouche; who spent, actually, the last 50 years, to work on veryconcrete development projects. The first such project wepresented in ’76 in Paris. This was a comprehensive plan for theinfrastructure development of all of Africa. Then we workedtogether with the President of Mexico José López Portillo on aLatin American development plan — this was ’82. We worked withIndira Gandhi on a 40-year development plan, and also in thebeginning of the ’80s, we developed a 50-year development planfor the Pacific Basin. And then, when the Berlin Wall came down,and the Soviet Union disintegrated, we proposed to connect theEuropean and Asian population and industrial centers throughdevelopment corridors, and we called that the EurasianLand-Bridge.
So we have been engaged in these kinds of big projects forthe transformation of the world economy for the last decades, andnaturally, we proposed it to China in the beginning of the ’90s.I attended a big conference in ’96 in Beijing, which had thetitle, “The Development of the Regions along the EurasianLand-Bridge.” And China, at that time, declared the building ofthe Eurasian Land-Bridge the long-term strategic aim of China by2010. Then, naturally, came the Asia crisis in ’97, so the wholething go interrupted.
We were very happy when Xi Jinping announced the New SilkRoad in 2013, because, in the meantime, we had kept working forthis. We had many conferences, actually hundreds ofconferences and seminars all over the world. So this is has beenone major point of what the Schiller Institute has been doing forthe last decades. So naturally, we are very happy that now, whatwas only planning on our side is now being realized by the secondlargest economy in the world, and therefore, it becomes reality:And that makes quite happy.
GBTimes: Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’veasked my questions and a lot more. Is there anything we haven’ttouched upon, you’d like to talk about?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: We could talk a little bit more about theculture of the New Silk Road.
GBTimes: Please — in what way?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: Well, I think that the New Silk Road, or theBelt and Road Initiative, it’s not just about economics andinfrastructure. But I think equally important, if not moreimportant, in my view, is the cultural side of it: That it couldlead and will hopefully lead to an exchange of the besttraditions of all cultures of this world. And by reviving thebest traditions, like Confucianism in China, Beethoven inGermany, and Schiller; Verdi in Italy, and so forth and so on, itwill ennoble the souls of the people, and I think that that isthe most important question right now, because I agree withFriedrich Schiller, according to whom this institute is named:That any improvement in the political realm can only come fromthe moral improvement of the people. And therefore, I think it’salso very interesting to me that President Xi Jinping hasemphasized the aesthetical education as extremely important,because the goal of this is the beautiful mind of the pupil, ofthe student.
Now, that is exactly what Friedrich Schiller said, who inthe response to the Jacobin Terror in the French Revolution,wrote his Aesthetical Letters in which he develops hisaesthetical theory, which I find is in great cohesion with whatXi Jinping is saying; and that has also to do with the fact thatthe first education minister of the Chinese Republic studied inGermany, and he studied Schiller and Humboldt; his name was CaiYuanpei — I’m probably pronouncing it wrong again — but hewas the first president of the Beijing University, and I thinkthere is a great affinity, a much greater affinity between thethinking of the aesthetical education as it is discussed by XiJinping and as it does exist in the Schiller-Humboldt traditionin Germany, in particular. I would just hope that that kind of adialogue could be intensified, because then I think a lot of theprejudices and insecurities about the other culture woulddisappear, and you would bring back and bring forth the best ofall sides.
GBTimes: How could this be accomplished, do you think? Whatsort of forms?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: You can organize conferences, you can moreconsciously make the poetry known — I think poetry is very, veryimportant, which is naturally not so easy, because as Schillersaid, you have to be a poet in two languages to do justice to thepoetry of one language. You could have more conscious theaterperformances, not just as an entertainment but involvingstudents, children, adults, and make more exhibitions, make moredeep-level understanding of the other culture.
I think China is doing an enormous amount of that, but Iwould have still some suggestions to make it more thanentertainment, because many people go to these things, and theydon’t quite “get it” what it’s all about; and then, it was nice,but the deeper philosophical, poetical, musical meaning could bemade more pedagogically intelligible, and I think that would be away of opening the hearts of more people, because they wouldrecognize what treasures are there to be discovered.
GBTimes: Do you have any closing words on the Belt and Roadyou’d like to share with our readers?
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: I think we are probably the generation onwhom later generations will look back to, and say, “Oh! This wasreally a fascinating time, because it was a change from an epochto another one.” And I have an image of that, which is, thischange that we are experiencing right now, is probably going tobe bigger than the change in Europe between the Middle Ages andmodern times. In the Middle Ages you had people believing in awhole bunch of axioms, the scholastics, Aristotelianism,witchcraft — all kinds of strange beliefs — and then, becauseof the influx of such thinkers as Nicholas of Cusa, or theItalian Renaissance, the modern image of man, of science andtechnology, of the sovereign nation-state, all these changeshappened, and they created a completely different view of theimage of man and of nature, and the universe, and everything wecall “modern society” was the result of this change.
Now, I think we are in front, or the middle of such anepochal change, where the next era of mankind will be much, muchmore creative than the present one, and that’s something to lookforward to, because we can actually shape it, and we can bringour own creative input into it. And there are not many periodsin history when that is the case: So we are actually lucky.
It is difficult to gain a visceral sense of the immensity of energy involved in an asteroid or comet impact on Earth. Although asteroids and comets can range anywhere from meters to many kilometers in diameter[ref]All sizes of comets or asteroids will be given in the length of the diameter of the object, unless otherwise noted. E.g., a “1 km asteroid” refers to an asteroid with a diameter of 1 km across.[/ref] (imagine Mt. Everest falling from the sky!), the actual effect of an impact is greatly enhanced by the enormous speeds involved. The total kinetic energy released in such a collision is the product of the mass of the impactor multiplied by the square of the velocity, and the impact speeds range from 10 to 70 km/second, or 20,000 to 150,000 miles per hour![ref]For comparison, a typical passenger jet travels at around 500-600 mph (~250 m/s); the speed of sound (at sea-level) is about 770 mph (343 m/s); and the fastest jet ever flown (unmanned) was NASA’s X-43A scramjet, which reached mach 9.8, which is 7,500 mph or 3.1 km/s.[/ref]
For example, take two notable cases: 1) the impact of an extremely large object, ~10 km, creating the 180 km diameter Chicxulub crater in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, formed around 65 million years ago, which may have helped put an end to the dinosaurs; and 2) the Tunguska event in Siberia, Russia, in 1908, which, though believed to have been caused by a much smaller object, only about 30-50 meters across, resulted in local devastation. These two significant cases will help provide a sense of a range of possible scenarios.
Based on studies of Mexico’s Chicxulub crater, it has been estimated that a roughly 10 km object, hurtling at around 20 km/s (~45,000 mph), slammed into the Earth ~65 million years ago. Though the exact details of the effects are left to models and simulations, we can certainly get an idea of the scale of destruction: mega-tsunamis[ref]Megatsunami is a term used to describe a tsunami that has wave heights which are much larger than normal tsunamis. They originate from a large scale landslide or collision event, rather than from tectonic activity. A recent example is the 1958 Lituya Bay megatsunami, near Alaska, which resulted in a wave hundreds of meters high, the largest known in modern times.[/ref] thousands of meters high; an expanding cloud of boiling dust, vapor, and ash; rock and other surface material ejected out of the atmosphere, raining back down over a huge area, redhot from its atmospheric re-entry; and shock waves that trigger volcanic eruptions and earthquakes around the entire globe.
To give a rough sense of scale, the energy released by such an impact is estimated to be in the range of 100 million megatons of TNT, 20,000 times larger than public estimations of the entire global thermonuclear weapons stockpile (see table I). In addition, besides the immediate effects of collision, an impact this large would launch so much dust and debris into the atmosphere that a dust cloud would cover the entire planet, blocking out the Sun for years: the impact winter, only one of many possible long-term, global effects.
Fortunately, the Chicxulub case represents an extreme, and relatively rare threat. Such large impacts, though more destructive, are much less frequent than smaller impacts. As will be expanded shortly, our neighborhood in the Solar System is populated with many asteroids and comets; however, the frequency of impact by these objects, generally, is inversely proportional to their size. Nevertheless, while a big object, in the range of 1 km or larger, can create massive global damage, even a relatively small object, can cause significant damage.
One often-cited example of an impact thought to be caused by a smaller object is the Tunguska event, in which a sudden explosion leveled roughly 80 million trees over an area of 2,150 square kilometers in Siberia, Russia. Though some mystery and debate still surrounds this 1908 case, the most well-supported theory is that the blast was due to a comet or asteroid exploding as it impacted the atmosphere, disintegrating before it could hit the Earth’s surface, and generating a massive blast wave.[ref]Though the Tunguska event drew and has continued to draw intense interest and study, no unambiguous, single impact crater has been found. For example, there is some evidence that it could have been generated by a massive release and explosion of natural gas from underneath the Siberian crust. In any case, we investigate the asteroid-impact theory in this report.[/ref]
Setting aside any lingering debates on the subject, studies have been conducted to determine what size asteroid or comet could have flattened 80 million trees over a region the size of a major metropolitan area. The results of these studies have shown that an object only 30-50 meters across could have generated such a blast wave.[ref]See, Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society: An Interdisciplinary Approach, Peter T. Bobrowsky, Hans Rickman, Springer, Feb 21, 2007 – 546 pages.[/ref]
In order to put the range of threats further into perspective, this table presents a comparison of the levels of energy released from various types of events, both manmade and natural.
Structure and Composition
It is also highly important that we determine the physical composition of the interplanetary bodies. Some of the deeper implications of this will be discussed in the sections on defense options and exploratory missions, but here we must note that not all of these objects are structurally similar. Some are almost solid iron-nickel, some solid rock, while many others are loose piles of smaller objects held together by their gravity (sometimes referred to as flying rubble piles).
The next question is, where do these objects come from? Our solar neighborhood is much more populated than you may realize. Here, we concentrate only on two specific classes of objects: near-Earth objects and long-period comets. The classical image of our Solar System, four inner planets, then the asteroid belt, followed by four outer planets, while true, does not present the full picture. As Johannes Kepler indicated, and as Karl Gauss proved, there is a major discontinuity between Mars and Jupiter separating the inner from outer planets, which is the home of the majority of the asteroids in our Solar System. However, in addition to this “main belt” of asteroids, there are other populations of asteroids and comets. Some share Jupiter’s orbit. Some dwell in between Saturn and Uranus. Many populate the area of the inner planets, including around Earth.
The most successful way to further investigations of the ordering of the entire Solar System will be an elaboration of the methodological approach of Kepler and Gauss, the great minds who discovered the ordering of the Solar System. Instead of starting from pairwise interactions, we must investigate the Solar System as a single, harmonic system, taking a top-down view of the orbital systems and subsystems. Ultimately, applying those methodological considerations will be the key to improving our understanding of the orbits, and determining well into the future what bodies may threaten our planet.
Consider, first, a class of objects known as near-Earth objects (NEOs). This class of potentially threatening objects are mostly asteroids, but include some short-period comets.[ref]The comets included in the near-Earth objects grouping (sometimes referred to as short-period comets) have dramatically different orbits than the long-period comets mentioned above. Some of these short-period comets can have orbits that are similar to that of asteroids, and constitute a small part of the total near-Earth object population.[/ref]
The defining character of NEOs is that they orbit the Sun in paths that are either in the same general region as the Earth’s orbit, or can even cross the Earth’s orbit on a regular basis, raising the possibility of a collision with the Earth at some point in the future.
Though not all NEOs pose a threat to the Earth, a large number could. Of these, a number have orbits which come within 0.05 AU of the Earth’s orbit, and are large enough to cause damage to the Earth. These are referred to as potentially hazardous objects (PHOs).[ref]AU stands for astronomical unit, the average distance from the Earth to the Sun. It is used as a standard measure of distance in the Solar System. Also don’t be fooled by the image above, as bodies in the Solar System orbit within a thin volume, not a flat plane. Two orbits that may look like they intersect, when drawn on paper, may not, because one could be above the other.[/ref] This particular class of objects are of great concern for government agencies and scientific organizations all over the world, who have set out to find and track them, in order to identify potential threats, and to give advanced warning time to prepare defensive actions if needed.
Before going into the current estimations of the NEO population, how to observe and track them, as well as defense options, we must first identify a second class of potentially threatening objects, long period comets (LPCs). The orbits of these comets are completely different from those of NEOs. Whereas NEOs spend their entire life in the inner Solar System, long period comets spend the vast majority of their lifetime out in the farthest depths of the Solar System (often well beyond the orbit of Pluto.) The extreme ellipticity of some of these distant creatures can take them on rapid trips through the interior of the Solar System, and possibly across Earth’s orbit.
These create a number of significant problems for defending the Earth. First, the key to planetary defense is early detection. While we have had success in detecting NEOs which populate the inner region of the Solar System, it is basically impossible, with present technology, to see the vast majority of these long period comets when they are farther away. Not only does this dramatically shorten warning times, but, since the majority of these comets take hundreds of thousands of years to complete a single orbit around the Sun (some even take millions of years), we know little to nothing about the nature of the long period comet population. In addition, from what we do know, they are often very large, and can have impact speeds of up to about 70 kilometers per second (over 150,000 mph), significantly greater than asteroids.[ref]Remember that the energy released on impact goes up with the square of the speed. To give one example, the 70 km/second impact speed of a comet, going three and a half times faster than the 20 km/second impact speed of an asteroid of the same size, would deliver over 12 times more energy.[/ref]
Currently, compared to NEOs, we see far fewer long period comets passing our region of the Solar System, so it is expected that their impacts with the Earth are much less frequent. However, they have hit the Earth in the past, and if one were on a future impact trajectory, its great speed, large mass, and undetectability until close to the Earth would make it a particularly dangerous global threat. These are the type of bodies that could eliminate all human civilization with one impact.
There is also reason to believe that the population of long period comets which pass into the interior of the Solar System is not completely random. The current hypothesis is that these long period comets may originate from an extremely distant spherical structure surrounding the Sun, at the farthest reaches of the Solar System, known as the Oort cloud. Presently we do not have the observational capability to see comets that far away (a 10 km object at 10,000 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun is hard to spot), but it is thought that the number of large comets (larger than 1 km) in the Oort cloud is in the range of trillions.
Since they extend so far beyond the Solar System, these comets become sensitive to galactic factors. Other stars coming close to our Solar System can perturb the Oort cloud, changing the orbits of potentially millions of comets. Beside individual influences, at these distances, the gravitational effect of the Sun is less dominant and the general gravitational field of the galaxy begins to have an influence—an effect which varies as the galaxy evolves, and as our Solar System travels through it.
Even though our current scope of understanding regards these galactic processes as having slow, long-term effects, they are the type of considerations that mankind must begin to take into account at this stage. First and foremost, there is still little in the way of solid knowledge about these outer regions of the Solar System, and much less known about our Solar System’s relationship with our galaxy and how those galactic changes affect us here on Earth. There are many theories and models, but as we are reminded by the fact that recent readings from the two 35-year old Voyager spacecraft continue to surprise the scientific community, we cannot assume that we understand these neighboring regions, or the solar-galactic interactions, until we go out and investigate.
If there is some doubt as to why mankind has an imperative to understand our solar and galactic environment, let long period comets draw for us a larger neighborhood.
While our current capability to defend against the threat of long-period comets is limited, the state of our knowledge of near-Earth objects is less uncertain.
Population and Impact Frequency Estimations
Due to their close orbits, near-Earth objects can be observed and tracked with Earth-based and space-based telescopes. Following on a few decades of observation programs, astronomers have developed a significant catalogue of known near-Earth objects. Depending on how well and for how long each individual NEO is observed, computer models can be used to extrapolate each NEO’s orbit and trajectory, years or decades into the future.[ref]Obviously, the more observations of an object we have, and the better those observations are, the better the forecast will be. Still there are certain subtle effects which require greater investigation, such as composition, spin rates, and non-gravitational effects, such as an uneven heating/emission action referred to as the Yarkovsky effect. Moreover, there are questions about the methodology of the computer models themselves: they generally rely on only a few dozen large bodies to model the field through which the others pass.[/ref] These multi-decade extrapolations are crucial, since the key to defense against a potentially threatening asteroid is having as much advanced warning time as possible.
Presently, we are far from having discovered and tracked every NEO, and that must be done. The limited population that has been characterized by current surveys has been used to extrapolate statistical estimations of the expected total NEO populations. For example, in September 2011, a NASA-led team published updated estimations of NEO populations based on the data obtained from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope.
Since then, various estimates continue to be refined as increasing amounts of data from Earth-based telescopic surveys are received. One of the more recent available estimates was released in April of 2012, and presented by the head of NASA’s NEO program, Lindley Johnson, at a May 2012 Workshop on Potentially Hazardous Asteroids.[ref]http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/2011_AG5_LN_intro_wksp.pdf ; April 17, 2012, Alan B. Chamberin (JPL).[/ref]
As is clear in table 2, we have been rather successful in identifying most of the larger NEOs. Of the discovered populations, some fit the specific category of potentially hazardous objects, meaning that their orbits come close to or even directly cross the Earth’s orbit. Currently, 152 of the discovered 850 near-Earth asteroids larger than 1 km are classified as PHOs, although none are expected to collide with Earth over the coming century. This is important, since 1 km is a rough division line between objects which would create truly global effects if they struck the Earth, and objects whose impact would produce a local or regional effect.
Still, this leaves the vast majority of medium and small-sized objects undiscovered: ~80% (over 21,000) of the middle-sized NEOs, ranging from 100 to 1000 meters; and ~99.5% of smaller NEOs, 30-100 meters (recall that the Tunguska-sized event is associated with objects in the range of 30-50 meters).
Any of these undiscovered objects could already be on a short-term collision course with Earth, unbeknownst to us. Some are guaranteed to be, at some point in the future. We are still essentially flying blind through our populated region of the inner Solar System.
Further analysis has provided estimations of the frequency with which various sized NEOs and comets impact the Earth.[ref]For example see, Catastrophic Events Caused by Cosmic Objects; 2008, Springer; Chapter 2, “Size-frequency distribution of asteroids and impact craters: estimates of impact rate.”[/ref] As implied by the NEO population estimates referenced above, and as indicated in the graph on the preceding page, there is a direct relationship between the size of the NEO, the population level, and the impact rate.
These estimations of NEO populations and impact frequencies are still approximations, and should only be taken as temporary reference points, paving the way for more rigorous investigations. We cannot entrust human lives, or potentially human civilization, to betting on statistics which purely extrapolate from past events. They can be utilized in limited applications where useful, but only on the path to obtaining a principled—causal—understanding of the system. This requires both a dramatic expansion of our observational systems and our space-faring capability generally, as well as renewed methodological approaches to understanding the organization of the Solar System, and its relationship with the galaxy. Reliance on statistical extrapolations from the past leaves mankind completely blind to unexpected shifts away from present trends, driven by the development and evolution of the Solar System and galaxy—a process driven by future changes.
The extraordinary attendance of governments, heads of state and government, and thousands of businesses at the Second Belt and Road Forum, comparing with the largest international meetings in history, was already proof that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has expanded greatly since the first BRF in 2017 and is now an unstoppable new paradigm of economy. After the Second BRF, certain myths of “backfire” and “criticism” in Asia also fell away.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed gave interviews in which he expressed full confidence in the BRI and surprise at its scope. Speaking to Bernama News Agency April 28, he said:
“We feel that the [One Belt, One Road] OBOR initiative is not a domination plan by China, which would end up being controlled by China. Instead, it is a policy developed by all the countries, and not only focused on China. Previously … including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, developed countries made the proposals and asked us to accept them. This is not like that; the forum attendees are from small countries and they are sitting with China…. They sit together at the same level, and talk about how to develop infrastructure projects.”
In an interview with China’s TV network CGTN, Dr. Mahathir said he had thought the Belt and Road was an infrastructure project for Asia, forecasting large-scale Chinese investment and exports into Malaysia.
“Now it is quite clear that it is, practically, a worldwide project … to improve connectivity and infrastructure development all over the world…. I’m very glad I’m here, because now I understand better the character of the project. China has a lot of new technologies, and we need these technologies.”
Indonesia’s investment minister, Harvard graduate Tom Lembong, who had been critical of China’s rail investments, told South China Morning Post that Indonesia has
“found China’s openness to its feedback on improving the Belt and Road Initiative highly encouraging…. I believe in the next 5 to 10 years, BRI will stimulate additional investment in probably tens of billions of dollars [in Indonesia].”
In Europe, Italy and Austria are joining Portugal in planning issuance of “Panda Bonds” — infrastructure bonds issued by other countries in yuan, to be issued into China’s bond market. Even Germany Economics Minister Peter Altmaier found the Beijing forum “better than expected,” and is headed back with a Mittelstand delegation.
On Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met Russia’s President Putin, Ethiopian PM Abiy, IMF Director Christine Lagarde, and Egyptian President Al Sisi.
“The series of bilateral meetings was concluded by the wonderful dinner offered by President Xi to myself and to the Italian delegation that accompanied me,” Conte wrote on his Facebook page.
“I am very satisfied by the strengthening of economic and trade relations between Italy and the Chinese Republic and, personally, by the friendship which is being consolidated with President Xi Jinping. And I am proud that in the final release of the Belt and Road Forum, many of the Italian suggestions have been adopted, among which [are] the references to financial and social sustainability, protection of human rights and of intellectual property.”
“The Silk Road, I repeat, is a great opportunity for Italy, a challenge which we happily accepted through the signing of the MoU, in a framework of European principles and level playing field and with the maximum of guarantees for security of our strategic infrastructures. We opened the way for other European partners which are now getting ready to join this major infrastructural connectivity.”