BEIJING â€" China's Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, completed a tour last week of four South American countries â€" Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile â€" that marks a turning point between the Asian power and the Latin American region.
With his arrival in Brazil on the second day, May 19, Li unveiled a major achievement: a Chinese-Brazilian agreement that includes 35 separate projects amounting to a total of $53 billion. The deals include building infrastructure, finance, aviation, agriculture, renewable energy, telecommunication, and other high-tech sectors, among which are the much talked about "Two-Oceans railway" and the "Belo Monte hydroelectric dam." It is in such deals that we see a shift in China's way of working in Latin America.
Linking the Atlantic Ocean on the Brazilian coast to the Pacific Ocean on Peruâ€™s coast, the Two-Ocean Railway will be 5,000 kilometers long, with a total investment of over $10 billion and five years of construction time. Unlike previous Chinese companiesâ€™ foreign cooperation programs, this project not only involves engineering contracting, but also the post-construction operation.
The two countriesâ€™ joint statement stressed the crucial importance of the railway project for South Americaâ€™s goal of creating an integrated infrastructure network across the continent.
Peruvian newspaper El Comercio called the railway linking the two oceans "the new Silk Road to Latin America." Peruâ€™s Ambassador to China, Juan Carlos Capuñay, pointed out this railway's importance to the country for helping to facilitate trade between Peruâ€™s coastal region and inland areas, as well as promoting trade with the Asia-Pacific region.
As for China, once the railway is built, it will no longer need to send ships through the Panama Canal to import bulk commodities such as soybeans and iron ore from Brazil and Argentina.
Ultra high voltage
Currently under construction, the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam will be Brazilâ€™s second largest hydroelectric dam complex, and marks the first time that China exports an ultra-high-voltage transmission project. In February 2014, Chinaâ€™s State Grid Corp and Brazilâ€™s Eletrobras formed a 51% to 49% consortium and successfully won a bid to build and operate a 30-year franchise on a transmission line running from the Belo Monte Amazon dam in northern Brazil to the southeast of the country. This is the first ultra-high-voltage transmission line on the American continent; and the 2,084-kilometer transmission line is estimated to be ready in 2017.
As Renato Baumann, a Brazilian international affairs expert, put it, Brazil would have preferred developing its own large projects, unfortunately it has been "out of breath" in recent years, and funding from China is essential.
Currently in preparation for the 2016 Olympics, Brazilâ€™s economy is predicted to shrink one percent this year. Not only will the $50 plus billion of investments promised by Prime Minister Li provide immediate support to the countryâ€™s shrinking economy, but it will also upgrade Chinaâ€™s investment in Latin America.
Compared with Chinaâ€™s so-called â€œfirst-generation investment,â€ which mainly involved trading raw materials, China is now focusing on heavy industries and deals to build infrastructure.
Such a transition is prompted in part by the decline in commodity prices in the past two years. Latin America was once one of Chinaâ€™s raw materials bases. In addition, taking on project contracting and operations help China achieve its goal of expanding globally. Investing farther along on the industrial chain not only reduces risks and increases profits, but it can also upgrade Chinaâ€™s industry back at home.
The four countries on Prime Minister Li's tour makes up 57% of the continentâ€™s trade volume with China. Meanwhile China has a growing interest in increasing its direct investments in the region and, in particular, in construction projects such as roads, bridges and railways.
As Chinese government data shows, at the end of 2014, Chinaâ€™s direct investment in Latin America totaled around $99 billion.
For the first time, in January this year, leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Beijing to attend the first Latin America Forum. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that in the next 10 years China will invest $250 billion in Latin America.
Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.
[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]
Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine
The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:
Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?
In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.
This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.
Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."
Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.
No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.
According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.
Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.
Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.
— Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos
• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.
• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.
• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.
• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.
• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.
• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.
• Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.
"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.
After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.
What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia
While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.
👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.
🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.
⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."
— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."
An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! email@example.com