The Belt and Road concept harks back to the Silk Road of yore and hence to Marco Polo, so it makes sense that the first major country in what used to be called Western Europe to indicate a willingness to sign on is Italy. Of course, it is entirely possible that Marco never visited China. That was the view of eminent Sinologist Frances Wood who wrote a book on the subject once. But apparently the vision of the Venetian connection with China resonates with younger Italians and suggests to them that the road to China is one paved with gold. Maybe it is. With its economy in disarray, a lifeline from China would surely look attractive to Rome. It’s all very well for the US and others to criticize, but it’s a re-run of Africa. If you don’t provide an alternative, you can’t blame countries for looking elsewhere. In this case, East.
Huawei is shaping up as the pivotal issue in terms of countries around the world deciding on who their best friend is. Germany appears to have decided to allow Huawei to participate in the auction of 5G systems installation. But of course, they can either win the auction or not be chosen. Another Huawei-related item which sparked our interest during the week was confirmation that the company has a mobile phone operating system waiting in the wings ready to roll out if the legal proceedings and other activities in the United States should result in it no longer being able to make use of US technologies, obviously including Google’s Android. That was presumably the key issue that forced ZTE to declare complete closure before Trump saved them. Would users around the world accept Huawei phones that were NOT running Android?
In other news, back in the early 2000s, Beijing used to regularly extend public holidays as a way of boosting consumer spending. It hits most employers, but helps the retail economy. Well, after a break of 15 years or so, they’re going to do it again this year with the May holiday being extended from one to four days. Including this year the 100th anniversary of the May 4 demonstration in Beijing that marked a whole new China. How time flies.
Have a good weekend.