Tanzania, D.R. Congo, South Africa
Africa feeds Chinese dragon
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first visit to Africa on March 24 highlighted China’s increasing influence over African resources. Considering that Xi was officially sworn in as president a mere 10 days prior to the visit, the trip also showed where China’s economic focus lies.
Xi’s tour sent him from Tanzania to South Africa, then on to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The choice of nations was not coincidental. All three nations are serving to further China’s trade dominance of the African continent and thus to propel the Chinese economy to new levels.
Some African nations will advocate China’s actions as an effort to foster mutual economic growth and encourage independent, sustainable development for their nations. However, examining China’s involvement will show that it is the one getting the better end of the deal. Any benefits to the Africans are coming as a side benefit to China’s purposes.
The first stop on the president’s tour was Tanzania, where he spoke before Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in Dar es Salaam. Since the African country’s departure from British rule in 1961, China has invested in over 100 vital economic initiatives, many of which have been agriculture-based. These initiatives have helped Tanzania build a more solid economic foundation. Why the generosity from China? The truth is, Sino-Tanzanian relations benefit Tanzania short-term, China long-term.
In building Tanzania’s infrastructure, China plays the “good Samaritan,” helping a poor nation that lacks the means to construct roads and railways across the nation. But what do these roads and rails carry? Raw goods that flow straight to the docks, onto a ship, and off to China.
China is Tanzania’s largest trading partner and second-largest source of investment. Bilateral trade reached us$2.47 billion in 2012, up 15.2 percent from the year before. China has exploited Tanzania’s lack of basic consumer goods, exporting necessary items for Tanzania’s day-to-day functioning in exchange for the nation’s valuable minerals.
China was once a small economic power itself. It was embraced as a friend, a nation that could replace the European influence. Most African nations have not awakened to the fact that since China has grown to become the second-largest economy on Earth, it is capable of throwing its weight around and making demands.
The second nation the Chinese president visited was South Africa, meeting with President Jacob Zuma. Last year, trade between these two nations was a massive $59.9 billion. That equates to nearly a third of all Sino-African trade.
While there has been much trade between China and South Africa, it hasn’t come without some resistance to Chinese advancements in the nation. According to the South African Institute of Internal Affairs, “Chinese investment in S.A. is smaller than S.A.’s into China. Despite the strong Chinese appetite for S.A. mining resources and the attractiveness of its open market, S.A.’s significantly more complex socio-economic structure … has largely constrained the expansion of Chinese interests in Africa’s largest economy” (Aug. 29, 2010). Xi’s tour through South Africa is another indication of China’s intensifying desire to loosen South Africa’s constraints and to increase Beijing’s investment in the country.
One nation that will undoubtedly see more of China in the coming months is the Democratic Republic of Congo.
China imported 5.4 billion tons of oil from the Democratic Republic of Congo last year. While this is a comparatively small amount—only 2 percent of China’s imports—there is room for expansion. The Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the largest and deepest ports in West Africa. The only thing this underdeveloped nation needs is capital.
The recently elected Chinese president’s visit to these three nations sheds light on the booming economic power’s broader strategy for Africa. Chinese imports from Africa are skyrocketing. 2012 saw China import an immense $113 billion worth of materials from Africa. It holds the title of Africa’s largest trading partner.
China is growing. It consumes more raw materials than ever because of its industrial and economic boom. It is gazing hungrily at resource-rich Africa and planning its future expansion. China has an important role to play in the fulfillment of prophecy in the latter days. Read Russia and China in Prophecy and see for yourself what China is planning to do with the resources it is devouring.
Falklanders make voice heard
On March 10-11, the debate on whether the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina or Britain went to the polls in a referendum. Ninety-two percent of eligible voters showed up, and 99.8 percent voted to remain a British overseas territory. Argentina is suffering terrible economic woes, so the government is trying to distract the population by focusing on the Falklands. It may not have the islanders’ support, but it does have America’s support, which has repeatedly called on Britain to sit down and talk to Argentina about the islands. Britain wants the fate of the islands to remain in the hands of the islanders. As Britain loses its allies, and the cost of defending the islands keeps rising, expect British support to waver as well.
Falklands on pope’s radar
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner met with Pope Francis on March 18, becoming the first head of state to converse with the new pontiff. Kirchner asked the pope to intervene in the dispute over the Falklands. Before Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope, he made statements to the effect that the British were usurpers who wrongfully took the Falklands from Argentina. Expect the world’s first Latin American pope to strengthen alliances between Europe and Latin America, at the expense of Britain and the United States.
End of an era
World leaders paid their last respects to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on March 8. Chávez’s death has left the country in uncertainty. Venezuela is deeply divided, and Chávez’s death could usher in big changes for the government in Caracas. Both opposition leader Henrique Capriles and incumbent Nocolas Maduro are seen as being more friendly to the Catholic Church, which Chávez had suppressed within the country. Following Pope Francis’s election, Maduro credited Hugo Chávez for swaying Jesus to inspire the College of Cardinals to elect the first South American pope. “Some new hand arrived and Christ said, ‘Now is the opportunity for South America,’ it seems to us,” Maduro said. Regardless of the election outcome, Bible prophecy says that soon, Europe and Latin America will draw much closer—cemented together by the Catholic Church.
EU moving in on Africa
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso met with the chairman of the African Union (AU) on February 20 to emphasize the importance of strengthening EU-AU ties. Barroso stressed Europe’s commitment to the economic development of African nations and cited the EU intervention in Mali as an example of joint EU-AU security policy. Expect the emerging European empire to continue pushing south and east into North Africa and the Middle East.
U.S. losing ground to China on Africa trade
Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware warned on March 7 that America is losing ground to China on African trade. He called for an early renewal of trade benefits for Africa as part of a broader strategy to counter growing Chinese investment and influence. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs said in a report, “China, which has made dramatic inroads across the continent in recent years, may undermine or even counter value-driven U.S. goals in the region.” He said that this should be “a wake-up call for enhanced American trade and investment.” Meanwhile, Scott Eisner, vice president of African affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the United States “probably has a small window in the next couple of years before China, India and Brazil take over all the ownership on the continent and trade relations are theirs to own.” Keep watching the race for African trade; global struggles for natural resources are prophesied to intensify in the near future.
Arming the Middle East
Germany exported €1.42 billion (us$1.88 billion) worth of weapons to the Arabian Gulf during 2012, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported February 22. In 2011, that figure was only €570 million ($751 million). Two thirds of those exports went to Saudi Arabia, an increase of 900 percent. The rest went to Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. More than €1 billion went to border security equipment for Saudi Arabia. The newspaper claimed it received the data after a formal question from Germany’s Left Party.
Earlier in the month, German media reported that the government had given Saudi Arabia permission to buy €1.5 billion ($2 billion) worth of patrol boats, enough to buy 60 to 150 vessels.
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote as early as 1994 that Saudi Arabia would be among several Middle Eastern countries to ally themselves with Germany. His forecast was based entirely on biblical prophecy, since back then, German arms trade with Saudi Arabia was almost non-existent. In the entire decade of the ’90s, Germany sold the Saudis 36 reconnaissance tanks and 100 diesel engines. Now, Germany is using strategic arms sales to build an alliance of anti-Iranian nations across the Middle East. The explosion of its arms trade in the region is gaining the attention of the world—and should strengthen readers’ faith in the accuracy of the Bible’s prophecies. For more information on this alliance, see our article “Next in Line, Please” in the December 2012 Trumpet.
Naval presence encircling Iran
Germany has deployed the frigate Hamburg to the waters off Iran’s coast. Both the choice of vessel and its patrol zone are significant. The Hamburg, Germany’s latest and most advanced air-defense frigate, reportedly employs stealth technology and sensors that can detect stealth-equipped targets. The Hamburg has joined Carrier Strike Group Eight, which sails with the uss Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. Its mission includes war games with the U.S. Navy, according to German-Foreign-Policy.com, the second time the Bundesmarine has joined the U.S. Navy for such a function. German-Foreign-Policy.com claims, “Experts believe that German war ships will practice this function more often in the future” (March 5; translation ours). This is in keeping with the defense strategy of German elites: to gradually encircle Iran and to bide their time until they are ready for a swift reaction to Iran’s ongoing push against Europe.
Political party calls for EU superstate
The European Commission should expand its powers to become a fully fledged European government. That’s the position of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (spd) in a draft of its manifesto that was reported by the German media on March 9. Germany’s second-largest party reportedly wants to transform the European Union into a superstate, with its new government elected by the European Parliament. It also recommends adding a second chamber to the parliament that would represent national (formerly sovereign) governments. The spd could do well in Germany’s September elections. Current polls show Angela Merkel and her allies receiving 45 percent of the vote, and the spd and its ally receiving 43 percent, so it is currently too close to call. Regardless, all of Germany’s major parties are pro-EU. Watch for this type of vision of a European superstate to become more popular.
Euro crisis brings down governments
Protests triggered by rising energy prices forced Bulgaria’s government to resign on February 20. “The people gave us power, and today we are returning it,” Prime Minister Bojko Borisov said—just a day after insisting that he would not step down. “I will not participate in a government under which police are beating people,” he said. “Every drop of blood is a shame for us.” Bulgaria’s currency, the lev, is pegged to the euro. Bulgaria has been planning to join the euro in 2015. Although protesters voiced other grievances against the government, many of the country’s problems trace back to the euro peg. Combined with local factors, the social problems that arose from the ongoing euro crisis are to blame for bringing down the Bulgarian government.
Just a week after Bulgaria’s prime minister was forced to resign, the prime minister of Slovenia was also forced out of office. Defectors from his own party joined with the opposition to force Janez Jansa out of office in a no-confidence vote. Alenka Bratusek, leader of the largest opposition party, succeeded Jansa, becoming Slovenia’s first female prime minister. Slovenia is a eurozone member and is struggling with its banking system and economy. The fall of the government is another example of the destabilizing power of the euro crisis. The chain reaction has affected several countries already, and will continue to spread as long as Europe suffers from staggeringly high unemployment rates.
A Middle East ‘peace pipe’
Iranian and Pakistani officials met on March 11 for the groundbreaking ceremony of a controversial gas pipeline that defies U.S. sanctions. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari shook hands and prayed together following the announcement of the deal. When it is completed in late 2014, the “peace pipeline” will run the 700 miles from Assaluyeh in southern Iran to Nawabshah in Pakistan. Iran will then be able to pump 750 million cubic feet of natural gas per day into Pakistan, meaning plenty of cash for Iran. Iran has the second-largest natural gas reserve in the world, yet international sanctions hinder its ability to sell the resource. For President Ahmadinejad, the pipeline is a lifeline serving to sidestep the sanctions.
Supplying Hamas with missiles
Iran successfully tested two types of short-range missiles in military operations on March 9 during a three-day drill by ground forces in the country’s southwestern province of Khuzestan. The two missile types were the Fajr-5 and the Nazeat-10.
The Fajr-5 made global headlines when a number were launched in the missile barrage from Gaza into Israel in November. Hamas forces in Gaza readily admit they get weapons from Iran. The Fajr-5 can travel about 45 miles; the Nazeat-10 can reach up to 62 miles.
In 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead to stem Gaza-based attacks, but Hamas came back stronger than ever in 2012, using rockets such as the Fajr-5. Israel’s response, Operation Pillar of Defense in late 2012, again failed to wipe out the enemy.
Watch Iran and its allies. Missiles developed and tested in Iran invariably find their way to the Gaza Strip, where they are launched not at practice targets, but at Jews.
Women fear Tahrir Square
After two years of the “new Egypt,” sexual harassment in the country has increased beyond pre-revolution levels. Egyptian women are now walking city streets in fear of attack and exploitation in a way they never did before. It is yet more evidence that Egypt’s “new and improved” government is a far cry from the democracy the Western world hoped for.
Since February 2011, 531 acts of sexual harassment have been reported in Cairo. Some victims blame President Mohamed Morsi and claim that their attackers are sent by people seeking to quell any uprising against his administration. Women make up a large portion of protesters; if they can be frightened off the streets, protests will lose numbers and their momentum will slow. In December, soldiers were caught on camera stripping a female protester and dragging her through the streets. Scenes such as this have become more common in post-revolution Egypt.
As the current administration pushes a more radicalized agenda, watch for the women in the country to suffer under more oppression. This abuse should be setting off alarm bells worldwide that the Egyptian democracy project has failed.
Arab Spring fever stirs
Protests were held in Bahrain on February 4, the second anniversary of the beginning of unrest in the small Middle Eastern nation. The day of protesting, demonstrations and street fighting led to the death of a 16-year-old and numerous arrests as police attempted to suppress the uprising. Numerous Shiite
opposition factions have been protesting in an attempt to pressure the ruling Sunni monarchy into relinquishing some of its political power. The king has made some concessions, and talks between the monarchy and opposition factions began on February 10, but so far there has been little headway.
This tiny nation serves as a strategically both to neighboring Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and to the United States, which uses the country to launch
operations in the Persian Gulf. Just 150 miles or so across the Gulf, Iran would like nothing more than to see the Sunni government overthrown and a more pro-Iranian Shiite government take control. This could upset the balance in Saudi Arabia and ultimately force America’s military presence out of Bahrain. The tiny island nation may be small, but it is perfectly placed to help tip the scales in the Middle Eastern balance of power.
The truce is over
On March 11, Pyongyang officially nullified its 1953 truce that ended the Korean War. The North’s intensifying provocations appear due in part to the desire of Kim Jong-un—who recently rose to power—to prove himself worthy to his hardline military. In February, Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear weapons test, prompting the UN to impose new sanctions on the isolated rogue state. The North responded by threatening preemptive nuclear attacks on South Korea and the U.S. In 2010, North Korean artillery killed four South Koreans, and also sunk a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang was only slapped on the wrist for those incidents; it appears to believe it can antagonize again without retaliation from the U.S. If North Korea increases its provocation and America continues to struggle for an effective response, it may signal to China—and Russia, Iran and other nations—that they too can afford to push the U.S. around.
To patrol the Mediterranean
The Russian Navy plans to resume a permanent presence in the Mediterranean Sea, a source in the General Staff said on February 26. It is slated to begin in 2015. President Vladimir Putin has been rebuilding Russia’s influence in its former Soviet periphery and beyond; Moscow’s plan for the Mediterranean reflects an intensification of these efforts.
Stealth frigate launches amid tensions
China launched the first ship in a new class of stealth missile frigates, the country’s state media reported on February 26. The launch comes during ongoing disputes between China and neighboring nations over Beijing’s maritime claims. The People’s Liberation Army Navy is building 20 Jiangdao-class frigates to replace less-advanced models and to boost China’s ability to conduct patrols and escort vessels in parts of the South China and East China seas, disputed water that Beijing claims. China has made no attempt to disguise its goal of extending its navy’s global reach, and nations of Asia are taking note. China launched its first aircraft carrier last year, and the navy has injected its fleet with a growing number of nuclear submarines and ultra-modern surface ships. The West is concerned about China’s mushrooming naval might, and rightly so.
On March 13, China’s parliament formally elected Xi Jinping as the nation’s new leader, placing the final seal of approval on a generational transition of power. Xi’s appointment as president came four months after he was appointed as both chairman of the Central Military Commission and general secretary of the Communist Party, giving him all three top offices—party, army and state—through which he is expected to rule for the next decade. Xi has demanded complete loyalty from the military and other officials, and has scorned any turn toward Western-style political liberalization. China has been traveling in this direction for some time, in one sense. But its new president/military ruler could use his consolidated powers to take China toward unprecedented belligerence.
‘You and I are good friends’
On his first foreign trip as president on March 22, Chinese President Xi Jinping honored Russia, highlighting the importance of Beijing’s warming ties with Moscow. The visit signaled that Russia and China want to boost their collective power as a geopolitical and financial counterweight to Washington. Russian President Vladimir Putin has long worked to diminish America’s international power, and China is irate about the U.S.’s expanded military and economic presence in its backyard. Moscow and Beijing have joined forces to thwart Western-backed measures in the Syrian war, and Russia has loyally backed China’s support of North Korea. Putin said Xi’s visit “will give Russian-Chinese ties a new and powerful impulse.” Xi replied that he and Putin “always treat each other with an open soul. … You and I are good friends.” Watch for Russia and China’s lockstep movement across the global stage to continue, and for it to give European nations more impetus to rally behind Germany.