Two weeks ago, investors began worrying that the Chinese government would raise interest rates in order to keep the reins on inflation as the Chinese money supply outstrips production. If it happened, it would be a sign that China’s recovery from the global financial crisis was faltering, since increasing rates would reduce the amount of capital available for investment and growth. That would mean reduced Chinese demand for many foreign imports, chief among them crude oil.
Immediately, the price of crude began to fall, between January 19th and January 29th shedding over 6% of its value.
Russian stocks immediately fell as well, dropping well over 5% of their value during the same span. The Goldman brokerage house issued a warning to investors to abandon their Russian positions in order to avoid being caught in a wicked backlash.
Russia was revealed, once again, to be a helpless slave of the crude oil markets even though it is ranked as the 55th least globalized of 60 major world economies because of the relentless isolationist policies of Vladimir Putin. That is a true testament to the pathetic weakness of the economy Putin has built.
Russia’s Thugboat Diplomacy
Last week, Russian military forces opened fire on two defenseless Japanese fishing boats in the Kuril island chain north of Japan. The boats returned home riddled with bullet holes. Any number of the fisherman could easily have been killed.
The lessons to be learned from this atrocity are many.
Maria Gromakova in China
Global Voices reports:
The common notion that the Internet empowers those with democratic and liberal values is occasionally challenged by stories coming out of Russian online communities. The blogosphere can certainly be a place where people share valuable content with wide audience, but it can also become a platform for attacking virtual identities. Unfortunately, availability of information and growing connections between virtual and real personalities make online harassment as real as it gets.
Maria Gromakova, a young blogger from St. Petersburg, experienced the evil potential of the Internet first hand. Constant attacks of Russian radical nationalists on her blog turned Maria’s life into a living hell and made her and her small family leave Russia.
Maria studied philology at St. Petersburg University where she concentrated on teaching Russian to foreigners. She also played at a local theater and worked as an anchor at a local TV station. In 2007, Maria started teaching Russian at one of the universities in China. There she met Bo, a professional athlete and her future husband.
Maria has been keeping a blog on Livejournal.com [RUS] since 2005. Colorful posts about life in China quickly made her online diary popular with more 1,500 regular subscribers to the blog posts.
Justine Henin, Russian Killer
Of the five titles on offer at this year’s Australian Open grand slam tennis tournament, Americans won over half of them: women’s singles, women’s doubles and men’s doubles.
Russians? They won exactly zero. Ouch.
Two Chinese female players made the semi-finals. As for the “dominant” Russians? None made it that far. Double ouch.
But the worst news for Russia didn’t come from the USA or China, it came from Belgium, in the person of Justine Henin.