søndag 17. oktober 2021

hina fires hypersonic nuke ‘right round the Earth’ as terrifying display of advanced weapons ‘leaves US reeling’

CHINA has fired a hypersonic missile around the globe with the US left reeling by the terrifying display of military strength. US intelligence and military officials were reportedly left stunned after China launched a rocket in space carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle which circled the globe before before speeding towards its target. The nuke-capable missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles when it was secretly launched in August, intelligence sources told the Financial Times.

But the chilling test has alarmed US officials and shows how China has made astonishing progress on the development of its hypersonic weapons, sources said. A hypersonic missile travels five times faster than the speed of sound and can reach distances of up to 1,500 miles, with Russia using the technology to build cutting-edge missiles in recent years.

Asian superpowers have been scrambling to build the powerful weapons in a terrifying arms race. An Asian national security official and a Chinese security expert close to the People’s Liberation Army said the weapon in China was being developed by the country's Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics. A number of rocket launches have been publicly announced by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology - but the hypersonic missile test in August was reportedly kept secret.

China, coal and COP26: can the world’s biggest emitter give up its dirty habit?

When he was a little boy in the 1980s, Wang Xiaojun was taught to be proud of his home town of Lüliang in the north-western Chinese province of Shanxi. Shanxi is China’s biggest coal-producing region, and Lüliang was a significant base for the army during the second world war.

Nestled in the mountains of the dusty Loess Plateau, Lüliang, a city of 3.4 million people, has had less to shout about in recent years. A series of corruption scandals in the city brought down several high profile officials shortly after President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013; there are concerns over the high number of babies born with congenital defects, blamed by experts on air pollution; and, last week, a huge flood forced coal mines to close just as China scrambles to tackle its energy crunch.

Coal is the main source of power generation in China, but Xi has vowed to change that. The country has been the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions for more than a decade now. A year ago, Xi pledged his country’s carbon emissions would peak by 2030, then achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Last month, he announced China would stop building new coal-fired projects overseas in a move that analysts say could be pivotal in tackling global emissions.

Rare 19th-century images show China at the dawn of photography

Before the arrival of photography, the Western imagination of China was based on paintings, written travelogues and dispatches from a seemingly far-off land. From the 1850s, however, a band of pioneering Western photographers sought to capture the country's landscapes, cities and people, captivating audiences back home and sparking a homegrown photography movement in the process.

Among them were the Italian Felice Beato, who arrived in China in the 1850s to document Anglo-French exploits in the Second Opium War, and Scottish photographer John Thompson, whose journey up the Min River offered people in the West a rare look into the country's remote interior. These are just some of the figures whose work features in a 15,000-strong photo collection amassed by New York antiquarian and collector Stephan Loewentheil. His 19th-century images span street scenes, tradespeople, rural life and architecture, showing -- in unprecedented detail -- everything from blind beggars to camel caravans on the Silk Road.

Countries in Asia are placing orders for a new drug to treat coronavirus. Poorer nations could miss out again

During the global scramble to secure vaccines, many countries in Asia-Pacific were slow off the mark. This time, they're not making the same mistake. Countries around the region are rushing to place orders for the latest weapon against Covid-19: an antiviral pill that isn't even authorized for use yet.

Molnupiravir -- produced by US pharmaceutical company Merck -- is being heralded as a potential pandemic game changer, especially for those unable to get vaccinated. Merck is seeking US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization for the drug -- and if it's granted, the capsule will become the first oral antiviral treatment against Covid-19.

Already, at least eight countries or territories in the Asia-Pacific region have signed deals or are in talks to procure the drug, according to analytics company Airfinity, including New Zealand, Australiaand South Korea, all of which were relatively slow to start their vaccine programs. Experts say while the pill looks promising, they worry some people will use it as an alternative to vaccines, which still offer the best protection.

Myanmar army general Min Aung Hlaing excluded from leaders' summit

The army general who seized power in Myanmar in February has been excluded from an annual summit of regional leaders later this month. The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) agreed to invite a non-political representative from Myanmar instead of Gen Min Aung Hlaing. It is a unprecedented move for the 10-member bloc, which traditionally avoids interfering in its members' affairs.

Myanmar's military junta said it was "disappointed" with the decision. Asean said the military had not done enough to end the turmoil in Myanmar. In August, Gen Min Aung Hlaing named himself prime minister and said the country's state of emergency would be extended as fighting between the army and militia forces opposed to the military coup continued.

lørdag 16. oktober 2021

An insider’s view of China’s Communist Party: Corruption and capitalist excess

In recent months, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, has been promoting a new ideological-political framework called “common prosperity.” On the surface, the campaign is directed at blunting, even reversing, China’s pronounced income inequality. As Xi told Chinese officialsearly this year, “We cannot let an unbridgeable gulf appear between the rich and the poor.”

Some observers see this as a striking move to the left by Xi as he pursues a controversial third term as Communist Party leader next year. Sensing the mounting frustration of Chinese citizens as they navigate the social tensions sparked by new technologies and the proliferating number of billionaires who created them, Xi might be tacking back to the party’s socialist roots to shore up its legitimacy, not to mention his own political future.

This view is hard to sustain after reading Desmond Shum’s remarkable new memoir, “Red Roulette: An Insider’s Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption, and Vengeance in Today’s China.” The Chinese Communist Party depicted in Shum’s firsthand account is the epitome of capitalist excess, with the sons and daughters of high-ranking party officials going on global shopping and gambling sprees, spending the vast sums their parents and relatives amassed through rampant corruption, influence-peddling, ruthless political maneuvering and backstabbing.

Early Warning Brief: Factional Strife Intensifies as Xi Strives to Consolidate Power

More evidence has emerged of a ferocious power struggle between China’s supreme leader, President Xi Jinping and powerful factions and personages including former Vice-President Zeng Qinghong and current Vice President Wang Qishan. Not-so-subtle instances of in-fighting among these influential figures and their cliques have emerged in the wake of the revelation last month by the semi-official NetEase and Sohu websites that several senior officials in the political-legal apparatus, which includes the police, the secret police and the courts, had plotted “sinister and treacherous” actions against a top party leader, generally thought to be Xi (See China Brief, September 23). (These articles have since been deleted from the Internet).

The factional back-stabbing has worsened even as the economy battles strong headwinds. In the wake of the near-bankruptcy of Evergrande Group, one of the largest real-estate conglomerates in the world, more property and financial firms are reportedly unable to service their multi-billion yuan debt burdens.

China’s Factory Children and Their Splendid, Closed-Off Youth

Sometimes, when he is in a nostalgic mood at night, Pan Yizhi will sit up, light a cigarette, open his computer, and browse satellite imagery on Baidu Maps, carefully tracing the highways, railways, and rivers around his hometown. Faces and stories from his past begin to appear. He grew up on the grounds of a factory complex with the mysterious code number “475,” also known as the Liaoning Xiangdong Chemical Plant, in northeastern China. Originally built in 1947 in a different province — and called a brewery to mask its true purpose of gunpowder production — the factory was part of China’s military industry.

For Pan and others from his generation, such factories were a unique environment to grow up in. Isolated from the outside world, they provided workers and their families with everything — schooling, health care, entertainment. But as China’s planned economy was dismantled, so were the factories. Pan’s “475” has sat abandoned for years.

He now leads the “Children of Factories and Mines Group” on the social media platform Douban. Communal life as they knew it may no longer exist, but Pan and other members find it difficult, whether willingly or unwillingly, to shake off the past.

Chinese Workers Bring New Weapon to Overtime Fight: A Spreadsheet

Fed up with long work hours, thousands of Chinese employees have joined an online campaign called “Worker Lives Matter,” renewing a debate over mandatory overtime and revealing a sample of working hours at major Chinese companies. On Thursday, a grassroots online database that asks Chinese employees to report their actual working hours went viral on GitHub, a Microsoft-owned platform that allows developers to share code and help each other build software. As of Friday, the survey has over 5,000 respondents, including employees from major tech companies like Tencent, Alibaba, and ByteDance.

Github was home to 2019’s “996.ICU” campaign, which challenged the notoriousschedule that asks workers to be in the office “9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.”

“The campaign is initiated by Chinese programmers to address the current situation where overtime work is prevalent and unregulated in companies, including tech firms,” read a manifesto attached to the latest campaign, adding it was created by anonymous developers in China. “We workers need lives as well,” it states.

‘My father will go down like the captain of the Titanic’: life on the Pacific’s disappearing islands

Francis Tony is buried on an island that is shrinking. The sea breaks on a shoreline that is now less than five metres away from his simple gravesite on Toruar Island in the Solomon Sea. But his son Christopher Sese says the family have no plans to move Tony’s bones to a new gravesite.

“My father will be like the captain of the Titanic. When Toruar Island goes down, he will go down with it,” he says.

Toruar lies in the Saposa Islands group, south of Bougainville, in the east of Papua New Guinea. While the nearby Carteret Islands drew international attention a decade ago, with some saying residents had become the first climate refugees, there are a number of island groups around Papua New Guinea that are disappearing or becoming uninhabitable due to rising sea levels.

Why China's climate policy matters to us all

China's carbon emissions are vast and growing, dwarfing those of other countries. Experts agree that without big reductions in China's emissions, the world cannot win the fight against climate change. China's President Xi Jinping has said his country will aim for its emissions to reach their highest point before 2030 and for carbon neutrality to be achieved by 2060.

But he has not said how China will achieve this extremely ambitious goal. While all countries face problems getting their emissions down, China is facing the biggest challenge. Per person, China's emissions are about half those of the US, but its huge 1.4 billion population and explosive economic growth have pushed it way ahead of any other country in its overall emissions.

China became the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2006 and is now responsible for more than a quarter of the world's overall greenhouse gas emissions. It is expected to come under intense scrutiny at the COP26 global climate summit in November over its commitments to reduce these. Along with all the other signatories to the Paris Agreement in 2015, China agreed to make changes to try to keep global warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, and "well below" 2C.

COP26: China's Xi Jinping unlikely to attend, UK PM told

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been warned by officials that China's President Xi Jinping is unlikely to attend the COP26 climate summit in November. UK government sources confirmed a report in The Times that Mr Johnson had been advised the Chinese leader was not expected to come. However Chinese officials reportedly have not entirely ruled out a change of plans.

COP26 takes place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November. Leaders from around the world will meet to discuss how to minimise global temperature rises caused by human activity. President Xi's attendance at COP26 has long been in doubt. It is thought he has not left China since early 2020. Government sources said Chinese officials had not been definitive about the President's travel plans and they accepted it was possible Xi could change his mind and come at the last minute to surprise the summit.

"They want to be seen as green leaders so I wouldn't rule it out," one Whitehall source said.

End to China’s estate market boom could spell trouble for the economy

In China today, the buzz is all about how the government there too has stumbled into an energy crisis with widespread power cuts. Yet this and other supply shocks will eventually pass, while the $300bn (£218bn) of debt enveloping China’s second biggest property developer, Evergrande, is of greater significance. It suggests China’s long housing boom is over, and bodes badly for the increasingly troubled economy, with implications for the rest of the world too.

China’s real estate market has been called the most important sector in the world economy. Valued at about $55tn, it is now twice the size of its US equivalent, and four times larger than China’s GDP. Taking into account construction and other property-related goods and services, annual housing activity accounts for about 29% of China’s GDP, far above the 10%-20% typical of most developed nations.

Real estate busts can be as painful as the preceding booms were exuberant. China, however, has only known growth as its previous housing welfare system was transformed from the 1990s onwards. A protracted housing downturn is now poised to add to the Chinese economy’s other mounting headwinds, with significant and unpredictable implications.

Apple takes down Quran app in China

Apple has taken down one of the world's most popular Quran apps in China, following a request from officials. Quran Majeed is available across the world on the App Store - and has nearly 150,000 reviews. It is used by millions of Muslims. The BBC understands that the app was removed for hosting illegal religious texts. The Chinese government has not responded to the BBC's request for comment.

The deletion of the app was first noticed by Apple Censorship - a website that monitors apps on Apple's App Store globally. In a statement from the app's maker, PDMS, the company said: "According to Apple, our app Quran Majeed has been removed from the China App store because it includes content that requires additional documentation from Chinese authorities". "We are trying to get in touch with the Cyberspace Administration of China and relevant Chinese authorities to get this issue resolved".

The company said it had close to one million users in China. The Chinese Communist Party officially recognises Islam as a religion in the country.

Hammered by Blackouts, China’s Rust Belt Grinds Down

Recently, the entrance road to Xingcheng Powder Metallurgy Company is unusually dark at night. The only lights left on are those of the guard hut, leaving the rest of the facilities, a sizable factory that makes automotive gears, obscured by darkness.

“We turned off the streetlights to save power,” a security guard at the company, located in the coastal city Huludao, tells Sixth Tone.

Like many cities across China’s coal-dependent northeast, Huludao is in the middle of an energy crisis. Since September, high coal costs and inflexible electricity prices have caused shortages that forced local governments to implement rolling blackouts for energy-intensive industries. The shortages made national news when, starting Sept. 23, they became so “severe” that power to residential areas was cut unannounced to prevent the grid from collapsing, provincial authorities said.

fredag 15. oktober 2021

China’s Power Problems Expose a Strategic Weakness

A bread company can’t get all the power it needs for its bakeries. A chemicals supplier for some of the world’s biggest paint producers announced production cuts. A port city changed electricity rationing rules for manufacturers four times in a single day.

China’s electricity shortage is rippling across factories and industries, testing the nation’s status as the world’s capital for reliable manufacturing. The shortage prompted the authorities to announce on Wednesday a national rush to mine and burn more coal, despite their previous pledges to curb emissions that cause climate change.

Mines that were closed without authorization have been ordered to reopen. Coal mines and coal-fired power plants that were shut for repairs are also to be reopened. Tax incentives are being drafted for coal-fired power plants. Regulators have ordered Chinese banks to provide plenty of loans to the coal sector. Local governments have been warned to be more cautious about limits on energy use that had been imposed partly in response to climate change concerns.

“We will make every effort to increase coal production and supply,” said Zhao Chenxin, the secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, at a news briefing on Wednesday in Beijing.

In China, Home Buyers Who Went All In Say They Want Out

China is trying to cool its costly and dangerously debt-ridden housing market, where high prices and go-go levels of borrowing and spending are increasingly seen as a national threat. But as the troubles of a major property developer and its $300 billion mountain of debt drive a government effort to contain the peril, Beijing risks hurting a major driver of its crucial economic growth engine: home buyers like He Qiang.

Mr. He was so optimistic about property in China that he bought an apartment from that property developer, China Evergrande Group, then became a real estate agent himself, selling the company’s apartments to hundreds of other families. “It was the peak of Evergrande’s glory,” Mr. He said.

Evergrande: The rise and fall of a Chinese tycoon

Evergrande founder Xu Jiayin was born into rural poverty in a small town in 1958. He grew up on a dirt town during Mao Zedong's disastrous Cultural Revolution. Aged 37 in 1996, he established Evergrande then known as the Hengda Group. Within just two decades, tycoon would rise to become China's 15th richest man. His wealth has plunged by 80 per cent in four years with firm owing $400billion.

The billionaire tycoon behind Chinese beleaguered property giant Evergrande grew up in poverty before rising to become one of the world's richest men. Xu Jiayin, a former steel factory technician, was just 37 when he founded Evergrande in 1996 in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. The company chairman was born into rural poverty in October 1958 in the Gaoxian township, north of Wuhan, growing up in a hut with dirt floors.

His childhood in the Henan province was shaped by China's disastrous decade-long Cultural Revolution which outlawed free market capitalism and entrepreneurs like the kind he would grow up to be.