One month ago, we were surprised to read how, despite a suppressed appetite for energy amid its housing crash and economic downturn (for which “zero covid” has emerged as a convenient scapegoat for emperor Xi), China has been soaking up more Russian natural gas so far this year, while imports from most other sources declined.
In July, the SCMP reported that according to Chinese customs data, in the first six months of the year, China bought a total of 2.35 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) – valued at US$2.16 billion. The import volume increased by 28.7% year on year, with the value surging by 182%. It meant Russia has surpassed Indonesia and the United States to become China’s fourth-largest supplier of LNG so far this year!
This, of course, is not to be confused with pipeline gas, where Russian producer Gazprom recently announced that its daily supplies to China via the Power of Siberia pipeline had reached a new all-time high (Russia is China’s second-largest pipeline natural gas supplier after Turkmenistan), and earlier revealed that the supply of Russian pipeline gas to China had increased by 63.4% in the first half of 2022.
What was behind this bizarre surge in Russian LNG imports, analysts speculated? After all, while China imports over half of the natural gas it consumes, with around two-thirds in the form of LNG, demand this year had fallen sharply amid economic headwinds and widespread shutdowns. In other words, why the surge in Russian LNG when i) domestic demand is just not there and ii) at the expense of everyone else?
“The increase in Russian LNG could be a displacement of cargoes going to Japan or South Korea because of sanctions, or weaker demand there,” said Michal Meidan, director of the China Energy Programme at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
One thing that was clear: China wanted to keep its arms-length gas dealing with Russia as unclear as possible, which is why the General Administration of Customs of China stopped publicizing the breakdown in trade volume for pipeline natural gas since the beginning of the year, with spokesman Li Kuiwen confirming that the move was to “protect the legitimate business rights and interests of the relevant importers and exporters”.
Well, we now know the answer: China has been quietly reselling that evil, tainted Russian LNG to the one place that desperately needs it more than anything. Europe… and of course, it is charging a kidney’s worth of markups in the process.
As the FT reported recently, “Europe’s fears of gas shortages heading into winter may have been circumvented, thanks to an unexpected white knight: China.” The Nikkei-owned publications further notes that “the world’s largest buyer of liquefied natural gas is reselling some of its surplus LNG cargoes due to weak energy demand at home. This has provided the spot market with an ample supply that Europe has tapped, despite the higher prices.”
What the FT ignores, perhaps intentionally, is that it’s not “surplus” – after all, if it was Chinese imports of Russian LNG would collapse. No – the correct word to describe the LNG that China sells to Europe is Russian.
Going back to the story, the details are intuitive: with Russian pipeline gas to Europe effectively shuttered…
… Europe’s imports of LNG have soared 60% year on year in the first six months of 2022, according to research firm Kpler.
Some more details:
China’s JOVO Group, a big LNG trader, recently disclosed that it had resold an LNG cargo to a European buyer.
A futures trader in Shanghai told Nikkei that the profit made from such a transaction could be in the tens of millions of dollars or even reach $100mn.
China’s biggest oil refiner Sinopec Group also acknowledged on an earnings call in April that it has been channelling excess LNG into the international market.
Local media have said that Sinopec alone has sold 45 cargoes of LNG, or about 3.15mn tonnes. The total amount of Chinese LNG that has been resold is probably more than 4mn tonnes, equivalent to 7 per cent of Europe’s gas imports in the half year to the end of June.
Make no mistake: all of this “excess” LNG was soured in part or in whole in Russia, but since it has been “tolled” in China, it is no longer Russian. It is instead – drumroll – Chinese LNG.
The good news is that the 53 million tonnes that the bloc purchased surpasses imports by China and Japan and has brought Europe’s gas-storage occupancy rate up to 77%.If this continues, Europe is likely to reach its stated goal of filling 80% of its gas storage facilities by November (at which point it will start draining the reserves at a breakneck pace to keep warm during the winter). But while China’s economic slump has brought much-needed relief to Europe, it comes with a major footnote. As soon as economic activity bounces back in China, the situation will quickly reverse, and Beijing will no longer re-export Russia LNG to keep Europe warm.
Hilariously, it also means that instead of being dependent on Russia for gas, Europe is now becoming dependent on Beijing instead for its energy – which is still Russian gas, only this time imported from China – which makes a mockery of US geopolitical ambitions to defend a liberal international order with its own energy exports.
Worse, while Europe could buy Russian LNG for price X, it instead has to pay 2X, 3X or more, just to virtue signal to the world that it won’t fund Putin’s regime, when in reality is is paying extra to both Xi and to Putin, who is collecting a premium price thanks to the overall market scarcity.
Amusingly, without expressly stating it, the FT does imply that Europe is buying Russian LNG by way of China:
If Russia ends up exporting more gas to China as a means to punish Europe, China will have more capacity to resell its surplus gas to the spot market — indirectly helping Europe.
Why not just admit the obvious – that China is helping Russia skirt sanctions as both countries get very rich in the process? Because then the FT’s own judgment – after all, the newspaper is a conduit of the neoliberal thinking that demanded a complete embargo on Russian energy, an embargo which even the WSJ now admits (see “Russia Confounds the West by Recapturing Its Oil Riches“) has backfired spectacularly – would be put into question.
FT’s flaws aside, the newspaper is correct that the longer this kind of circuitous bypass of Russian sanctions by a hypocritical Europe (which signals its virtue so loudly when the adversary is Russia but doesn’t dare say peep when it’s China) continues, the bigger China’s influence on Europe will be:
The more desperate Europe becomes about its energy supplies, the more China’s policy decisions will have the power to affect the bloc. As Europe attempts to wrestle out of its dependence on Russia for energy, the irony is that it is becoming more dependent on China.
In the end, all Europe has done is replace one energy master (as Trump warned in 2018) with another, even though both are joined at the hip and laughing at the stupidity of Brussels which, under the sage advice of a petulant Scandinavian teenager, made all of this possible just in time for China – which together with Putin now determines Europe’s daily energy intake – to invade Taiwan without a peep from Europe’s virtuous signalers.This post originally appeared at Zero Hedge
Zelensky Asks Spirit Cooker Marina Abramovic to be Ambassador for Ukraine, Help ‘Rebuild Schools’
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is recruiting spirit cooker Marina Abramovic to serve as an ambassador for Ukraine and help “rebuild schools.”
Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Marina Abramovic, the performance artist, to be an ambassador for Ukraine.
Ms Abramovic, a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion, said the Ukrainian president had asked for her help in rebuilding schools.
[…] ”I have been invited by Zelensky to be an ambassador of Ukraine, to help the children affected by rebuilding schools and such.”
She added: “I have also been invited to be a board member of the Babyn Yar organisation to continue to protect the memorial.”
The Holocaust memorial centre to Jews murdered by Nazis in Ukraine was damaged by Russian missile attacks in March last year.
The “bombing” of the Babyn Yar memorial was confirmed to be a lie last year.
Ms Abramovic installed her work Crystal Wall of Crying at the memorial centre in Kyiv four months before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
The wall, 40 metres long and three metres high, is made of coal and has large quartz crystals sticking out of it. Visitors can touch the installation, which mirrors the western wall in Jerusalem.
Zelensky said last year his goal is to turn Ukraine into a “Greater Israel.”
In Dec 2022, Zelensky made a deal with BlackRock’s Larry Fink to help “rebuild” Ukraine after the war and just last week the Biden regime announced Penny Pritzker would become their Special Representative for “rebuilding” Ukraine.This post was originally published by Information Liberation
Report: Elon Musk ‘Turned Off’ Starlink to Thwart Ukrainian Drone Attack on Crimea
Musk himself said he actually declined a request to turn additional satellites on.
A new biography on Elon Musk claims that Musk “secretly ordered his engineers to turn off his company’s Starlink satellite communications network near the Crimean coast last year to disrupt a Ukrainian sneak attack on the Russian naval fleet,” though Musk himself said he actually declined a request to turn additional satellites on.
Elon Musk secretly ordered his engineers to turn off his company’s Starlink satellite communications network near the Crimean coast last year to disrupt a Ukrainian sneak attack on the Russian naval fleet, according to an excerpt adapted from Walter Isaacson’s new biography of the eccentric billionaire titled “Elon Musk.”
As Ukrainian submarine drones strapped with explosives approached the Russian fleet, they “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,” Isaacson writes.
Musk’s decision, which left Ukrainian officials begging him to turn the satellites back on, was driven by an acute fear that Russia would respond to a Ukrainian attack on Crimea with nuclear weapons, a fear driven home by Musk’s conversations with senior Russian officials, according to Isaacson, whose new book is set to be released by Simon & Schuster on September 12.
Musk’s concerns over a “mini-Pearl Harbor” as he put it, did not come to pass in Crimea. But the episode reveals the unique position Musk found himself in as the war in Ukraine unfolded. Whether intended or not, he had become a power broker US officials couldn’t ignore.
The new book from Isaacson, the author of acclaimed biographies of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein, provides fresh insights into Musk and how his existential dread of sparking a wider war drove him to spurn Ukrainian requests for Starlink systems they could use to attack the Russians.
After Russia disrupted Ukraine’s communications systems just before its full-scale invasion in February 2022, Musk agreed to provide Ukraine with millions of dollars of SpaceX-made Starlink satellite terminals, which became crucial to Ukraine’s military operations. Even as cellular phone and internet networks had been destroyed, the Starlink terminals allowed Ukraine to fight and stay connected.
But once Ukraine began to use Starlink terminals for offensive attacks against Russia, Musk started to second-guess that decision.
“How am I in this war?” Musk asks Isaacson. “Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars. It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes.”
Musk was soon on the phone with President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, the chairman of the joint chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley, and the Russian ambassador to the US to address anxieties from Washington, DC, to Moscow, writes Isaacson.
Meanwhile, Mykhailo Fedorov, a deputy prime minister of Ukraine, was pleading with Musk to restore connectivity for the submarine drones by telling Musk about their capabilities in a text message, according to Isaacson. “I just want you—the person who is changing the world through technology—to know this,” Fedorov told Musk.
Musk, the CEO of electric carmaker Tesla and private space exploration firm SpaceX, replied that he was impressed with the design of the submarine drones but that he wouldn’t turn satellite coverage back on for Crimea because Ukraine “is now going too far and inviting strategic defeat,” according to Isaacson.
Musk did not respond to CNN’s request for comment but did respond to the story on Twitter/X.
“The Starlink regions in question were not activated,” Musk said. “SpaceX did not deactivate anything.”
The Starlink regions in question were not activated. SpaceX did not deactivate anything.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 7, 2023
“Both sides should agree to a truce,” Musk said. “Every day that passes, more Ukrainian and Russian youth die to gain and lose small pieces of land, with borders barely changing. This is not worth their lives.”
Both sides should agree to a truce.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 7, 2023
Every day that passes, more Ukrainian and Russian youth die to gain and lose small pieces of land, with borders barely changing. This is not worth their lives.
“There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol,” he said in a follow-up tweet. “The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor. If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”
There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 7, 2023
The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor.
If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and…
Wishful thinking doesn’t win wars— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 8, 2023
Ironically, the Ukrainian military (and by extension the war) is being kept alive entirely due to Starlink. If not for Starlink, Ukraine would have been forced to go to the negotiating table a long time ago.
That said, Musk still deserves credit for advocating for peace while the bloodthirsty neocons running our government are doing everything in their power to escalate the war.
Civil Unrest Fears Grow As Youth Unemployment Accelerates
In nearly every country in the world, youth unemployment is much higher than general unemployment.
Unfortunately, the pandemic only exacerbated matters. During a crucial stretch of their early careers, young adults were locked out of entry-level jobs, destroying their ability to pick up work experience and potentially impacting their long-term earnings.
Now, nearly three years after COVID-19 first hit, young adults from some countries, like China, are struggling to find jobs. Using data from the OECD and the National Bureau of Statistics of China, Visual Capitalist’s Pallavi Rao and Niccolo Conte chart out the youth unemployment rate for 37 countries.
Ranked: Countries With the Highest Youth Unemployment
At the top of the list, Spain has the highest youth unemployment in the OECD, with nearly one in three young adults unable to find a job.
ℹ️ Unemployed people are those who report that they are without work, are available for work, and have taken active steps to find work in the last four weeks. The youth unemployment rate is calculated as a percentage of the youth labor force.
A mismatch between educational qualifications and the labor market has been cited as a significant reason for Spain’s lack of employed adults between the ages of 15–24.
Meanwhile, the country’s reliance on temporary contracts and dependence on seasonal sectors—like tourism—to generate jobs are some of the many reasons for its persistently high reported unemployment across demographic groups.
Listed below is the youth unemployment rate for all the OECD countries, and China, as of the second quarter of 2023.
|2||🇨🇷 Costa Rica||27.1%|
|18||🇨🇿 Czech Republic||13.7%|
|20||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||11.4%|
|28||🇺🇸 United States||8.0%|
Announced in June, China’s youth unemployment rate has climbed to 21.3%, a meteoric rise since May 2018, when it was below 10%. The Chinese economy is in the midst of a slowdown and its steadily climbing youth unemployment prompted the government to suspend age-specific unemployment data for the near future.
On the other side of the spectrum, in Japan, only 4.2% of young adults are without a job. A key reason for this is Japan’s shrinking and aging population that’s made for a tight labor market.
Youth Unemployment: Men vs Women
In most OECD countries, it’s common to see young men experiencing a higher unemployment rate compared to young women.
This contrasts with the trend across all age groups in the OECD, where the unemployment rate is 6.3% for women and 6% for men.
We visualize the countries in the dataset with the biggest gaps in youth unemployment below.
There is no singular reason that explains this common gap.
Across the OECD, more young women opt for tertiary education than young men, which may lead to better employment prospects. At the same time women are overrepresented in the health and social welfare sectors—both growing rapidly thanks to an aging population—that may make it easier for them to find jobs.
Why Does Tracking Youth Unemployment Matter?
Aside from being an indicator of general opportunities within a country, youth unemployment is a key metric to track, because it can be a bellwether for future economic prospects.
High rates of youth unemployment also correlate to brain drain within a country, as young adults move elsewhere to find better jobs.
Finally, large increases in unemployed youth have historically led to the potential of civil unrest, which makes it a politically-charged metric to identify and monitor for governments.This post was originally published at Zero Hedge
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