venerdì 5 settembre 2014

Rare earths, corruption and mafias, and raison d'État.

The white and black street are the same thing

They have absurd names, cacophonous and unpronounceable, are 17; or better to specify Scandium and Yttrium + 15 other items belonging to the family of lanthanides such as Promethium, Dysprosium, Lutetium, Europium, Gadolinium. 

Not all know that they exist but, especially in the West, in the world of consumerism, all of us use them every day. I'm talking about the rare earths elements, those minerals that are found in nature and have particular chemical characteristics that make them indispensable for an incredible array of applications in the fantasy world of new technologies: hard disk, satellites, lasers, digital cameras, wind turbines, fluorescent lamps, and much more military interest.
The largest producer in the world in terms of extractive capacity is, to date, the Republic of China, with about 45% of the total availability. Obviously, in this context, in the context of market economy, the PRC acts in a regulated international market taking advantage of its  position connected to the extraction capacity. The know-how and the capacity of influencing global price are both economic factors being part of a specific geopolitical dossier, such as that of the gas or the capacity of  purchasing foreign debts.
In this context, it is clear that the government has the predominant interest of manage this dossier without any interference due to the fact that it falls within the perspective of national security.
So far everything seems to fall in the canons of the normal prerogatives of each sovereign state, but going deeper on this interesting topic it turns out that the Chinese government has a problem: the alleged interference of organized crime, corrupting public officials appointed to manage mining of rare earths elements, competes with the central power. Inviting to pay attention to the doubtful formula I used deliberately: alleged. That China has a crime problem is well known but that the Chinese government will denounce the capacity of organized crime to conduct such a business was least expected. Even more ironic is the fact that led to the discovery of the interest for this criminal business. In fact, at the central level "... have become realized ..." at some point that does not add up; in 2010, the quotas set for the extraction of 89,200 tons were extracted but it turned out about 119, why? The culprit was appointed to be of course the  organized crime operating in the regions of extraction capable to  corrupt of local officials and thus play an extractive illegal smuggling illegal smuggling of the product. The issue has forced the central government to announce measures against corruption that till now we do not know if and how much has been effective.
To what extent is it possible that the reading of the facts is this? This is the question to fully assess the news itself.
Of course we know that this is a very sensitive issue and, as I said - strategic - so it cannot be treated lightly; we know that a strongly authoritarian regime has in the exercise of administrative structures thorough its control his real strength; yet we know that the PRC is linked in the field of rare earths elements by international trade agreements within the W.T.O. framework that also bind to the fulfillment of existing contracts; we know that the economic policy of “cap and trade” favors the limitation of the good circulation in order to act on the price; and finally we know, and who has not thought about this aspect it is good to do it early, the Chinese security services are among the most efficient in the world and therefore cannot underestimate this issue.
All this being said, do we still believe that the local organized crime has been able, although in agreement with corrupt officials, to managing extraction from mine sites, processing of raw material, placing on the market and the transfer abroad of tons of these minerals?
It 'obvious that organized crime has played a role but not the one presented by Chinese authorities.
The organized crime in this case seems to have been a reasonably actor serving the higher interests - and of course unmentionable – for the state (cfr. Machiavelli). It is at least unlikely that the central government had been unaware of what was happening in the mining areas, it is more logical to think that organized crime was using as a scapegoat on which to impose the large production surplus in excess of the amount agreed at the international level in order to not shake off the price torn to buyers.
In this case, and once again, it is clear that the states, and all states without exception, need organized crime.
Everything depends on the circumstances.

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