High-speed couriers

Two recent events are reminiscent of a past one. Last March, the ex-Mexican ambassador to China (2007-2013) caused uproar with his declarations. Knowingly ignoring tradition and sweetened procedural expressions, he did not hesitate to accuse China of insufficiently repressing the enormous flux of ephedrine transported illegally from Guangdong to his country. The raw materials for narcotics arrive undisturbed from Chinese triads to drug traffickers, generating an immense circulation of money and profits. If it were proven that ephedrine production occurred in Chinese factories, the ex-Mexican diplomat sustains, then it’s unacceptable that Beijing continues to claim that it’s a “problem concerning the Mexican authorities.” The skirmish is now attenuating due to an upcoming agreement that’s more commercially acceptable. In fact, Mexico is about to conclude a public tender for the supply of a high-speed railway network—the first in the country—and associated construction materials. The only contenders are Chinese companies associated with corresponding Mexican companies. There’s no doubt that it’s a matter of affirming China’s prestige after similar events in Thailand and Turkey, where a transport line has been running between Istanbul and Ankara since last year. Since its first foray in 2008, China has built more than 10,000 km of high-speed rail, the most extensive in the world. The agreement with Mexico is further evidence of China’s willingness to contradict its reputation of producing low-quality and low-cost goods. In this case as in many others, it’s a high-tech joint venture. In any case, according to the most well-informed analysts, Beijing is bringing an astute operation to term., that takes advantage of a casual conception of international business. High-speed technology was acquired through sometimes-difficult partnerships with giant European and Japanese producers who aspired to manage the modernization of railways directly. Instead, China appropriated this technology and demonstrated itself to be capable of exporting it, conceding unreachable conditions for competitors in Mexico.

 The return to narcotics was, however, marked by unprecedented declarations from the Indonesian Military Chief of Staff. General Gatot Nurmantyo recaptured the ex-Mexican ambassador’s concepts and identified the principal producers and distributors of drugs operating in China. His words were unequivocal; he pointed the finger at “the international conspiracy to destroy the young generation of Indonesians, and rob nations of their best future talents.” They’re heavy affirmations, furthermore from a country that repressed the strong and envied Chinese minority in the past.  Even so, the numbers confirm Indonesia’s concerns. Arrests and confiscations of shipments from China are growing, as well as consumption: in 2005, 1.5% of the population used illicit substances; today, the rate has doubled, and therefore involves 5 million people. Obviously, making legal judgments is impossible; in any case, objections to relations with China surface more and more. Contrasts are now emerging that had been muted by reciprocal convenience. Maybe other resentments are emerging, maybe China arouses more worries than hope, or maybe its ascent is not a neutral model.