How to follow global events

How to follow global events, by Alasdair Macleod.

It can be bewildering when a casual observer tries to follow global events, something made more difficult by editorial policies at news outlets, and the commentary from most analysts, who are, frankly, ill-informed. …

Understand that characteristics which may apply to one side do not necessarily apply to the other. For example, financial analysis that applies to the US economy does not necessarily apply to China’s. Do try to remain neutral and objective, analytical and unbiased.

Remember the old stockbroker’s adage: where there’s a tip, there’s a tap, meaning that the dissemination of information is usually designed to promote vested interests.

The list of don’ts is somewhat longer.

  • Don’t believe what governments say, because they will tell you what they want you to believe.
  • Don’t believe anything coming out of intelligence services: if the information is good it is highly unlikely to come your way, and if good information does come your way, it will be indistinguishable from conspiracy theories.
  • Don’t believe conspiracy theories because they are almost never true.
  • Don’t believe government statistics; in fact, you shouldn’t rely on statistics at all, except in the broadest sense.
  • Don’t believe western analysts, financial or otherwise, particularly when commenting on China or Russia.
  • Don’t believe the mainstream media; it usually toes the establishment line, something we recognise of the Chinese and the Russians, but not in our own organisations.
  • Don’t be swayed by nationalism or patriotism: remember Dr Johnson’s aphorism, that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel (he was referring to those who invoke it).

The article goes on to offer a big picture view of today’s geopolitics. Recommended if you have the time. Some excerpts:

Bearing these rules in mind, let us begin with America, and her position in the world because everything else flows through her accelerating descent from post-war influence.

America’s global dominance, unquestioned after the dissolution of the old USSR, is now being challenged by China, which plans to absorb the whole Eurasian continent within its commercial sphere of influence.

Before President Trump assumed office in January 2017, the threat to America’s hegemony was not widely seen as a public issue, and her policy was to protect US interests through diplomacy, trade, and military presence. Covert operations were used to destabilise regimes which were deemed to be a threat to American interests, particularly in the Middle East, but also in Ukraine, an important buffer-state between Russia and NATO member states in Europe. …

[Trump] was elected to overturn the tired policies of the Clintons, Bushes, and Obama. America was to become introspective in its foreign relationships, reversing the established globalisation trends. …

China’s recovery from the poverty of Maoist communism has been remarkable. It has achieved this by embracing capitalism, while retaining strict political control. It is said that the Chinese leadership observed the successes of Singapore and Hong Kong, driven mainly by Chinese businessmen. It understood that by copying their economic models of laissez-faire capitalism and with an authoritarian government they could improve the lives and wealth of ordinary people, from which the state ultimately derives its power…

China is still improving its own infrastructure and is in the process of moving hundreds of millions of citizens from being trapped in menial agricultural and unskilled factory jobs into joining a growing city-based middle class. China now has more than a hundred cities with over a million people, some of which are mega-cities. We have all heard of Shanghai which has 34 million. Few of us know of Guangzhou which has 25 million, the same as Beijing.