mandag 6. desember 2021

China attacks ‘US-style democracy’ prior to Biden summit

China has launched a campaign to discredit what it calls US-style democracy in advance of the first of Joe Biden’s two “summits of democracy” later this week.Over recent days, official Chinese media outlets and diplomats have made a string of scathing attacks on the US governing system, calling it “a game of money politics” and “rule of the few over the many”.

They also touted China’s one-party governing model, calling it “socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics” and “a whole-process democracy”. On 4 December, Beijing issued a lengthy paper entitled “China: Democracy That Works”. The paper was dismissed by many western China watchers, who pointed out that under China’s system of government, political opposition to the ruling Communist party is not allowed.

ITF 'does not want to punish a billion people' by suspending China tournaments in Peng Shuai row

The governing body of tennis, the International Tennis Foundation (ITF), has not suspended tournaments in China because it "does not want to punish a billion people," its president said Sunday. The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced an immediate suspension of all tournaments in China, including Hong Kong, in response to Beijing's silencing of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai's sexual assault allegations. The ITF -- which organizes grand slam events, annual team competitions for men, women and mixed teams and sanctions major tournaments -- has been facing calls to do the same.

One of China's most recognizable sports stars, Peng publicly accused a former top Communist Party official, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, of coercing her into sex at his home three years ago in a since-deleted social media post dated November 2. Peng was immediately muffled by blanket censorship and disappeared from public view for more than two weeks.

Asia-Pacific wants to live with Covid. Omicron is threatening those reopening plans

Little is known about the potential dangers posed by the Omicron coronavirus variant but concern over its spread is already threatening to wreck reopening plans in Asia-Pacific. After more than 20 months of strict border controls and restrictions on daily life, many countries in the region had tentatively started to loosen up and live with Covid -- months after their European and North American counterparts fully reopened. But it took only a matter of days to change that.

Last month, after South African scientists detected a new variant, dozens of nations imposed travel bans on visitors from several southern African countries. Some countries in Asia-Pacific have gone further by extending mandatory quarantines or shutting their borders to almost all foreign travelers.
Scientists in the United States say it will take at least two weeks to know more about how the variant impacts vaccine efficacy and Covid treatments. As public health experts wait for the data, governments across the Asia-Pacific region aren't taking any risks. Many are acting quickly over concerns the new Omicron variant could spread into their territories, even in places with already-strict border rules or high vaccination rates.

China wants to return to 'zero-Covid.' But cases have been above zero for seven weeks

As the world grapples with the new Omicron coronavirus variant, China is determined as ever to eliminate Covid-19 within its borders -- but it hasn't been able to achieve that ambitious goal for the past seven weeks. Since October 17, China has reported at least one locally transmitted case everyday, as local outbreaks continue to flare up one after another with increasingly short intermissions.

While its caseload pales in comparison with those of many countries -- including the United States, which is averaging more than 100,000 new cases a day -- the unceasing flareups underscore the growing challenge China faces to keep infections at zero.

For more than a year, China has been highly efficient in curbing local outbreaks with mass testing, snap lockdowns, vigilant surveillance and extensive quarantines -- all the while keeping the border tightly sealed. As proof of the success of these measures, not a single Covid-related death has been reported in the country since late January.

China’s communists bash US democracy before Biden summit

China’s Communist Party took American democracy to task on Saturday, sharply criticizing a global democracy summit being hosted by President Joe Biden next week and extolling the virtues of its governing system. Party officials questioned how a polarized country that botched its response to COVID-19 could lecture others, and said that efforts to force others to copy the Western democratic model are “doomed to fail.”

The harsh rhetoric reflects a growing clash of values that has been thrust into the spotlight as China rises as a global power. The question is whether the United States and other leading democracies can peacefully co-exist with a powerful authoritarian state whose actions are at odds with the Western model that emerged victorious at the end of the Cold War.

The pandemic exposed defects in the American system, said Tian Peiyan, the deputy director of the Communist Party’s Policy Research Office. He blamed the high COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. on political disputes and a divided government from the highest to the lowest levels. “Such democracy brings not happiness but disaster to voters,” he said at a news conference to release a government report on what the Communist Party calls its form of democracy, which is firmly under party control.

Taiwan, Slovakia hold talks as island firms ties with Europe

Senior officials from the Slovak Republic are in Taiwan for talks on deepening ties with the island in the highest-level visit by the EU-member country since it opened a representative office in Taiwan in 2003.

The visit by the delegation, which began Sunday, follows a mission last month by members of the European Parliament to the self-ruled island, which is also claimed by China. It comes amid growing support for the island democracy, which China says is territory to be annexed by force if necessary. “The fact that we are here today despite the pandemic is because we are determined and committed to working with Taiwan,” said Lucia Kišš, director general for Economic and Development Cooperation at Slovakia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, she called Taiwan “one of the most important investors” for the country.

China tries to reassure on Evergrande as default fears rise

China’s central bank expanded the supply of money for lending Monday as Beijing tried to reassure its public and investors the economy can be protected if a troubled real estate developer’s $310 billion mountain of debt collapses. Evergrande Group’s struggle to turn assets into cash has prompted fear a default might chill Chinese lending markets and cause global shockwaves. Economists say the ruling Communist Party can prevent a credit crunch but it wants to avoid sending the wrong signal by bailing out Evergrande in the middle of a campaign to force companies to cut debt Beijing worries is dangerously high.

The People’s Bank of China said it released 1.2 trillion yuan ($190 billion) for lending by reducing the amount of money banks must hold in reserve. Beijing was expected to show support for lending after Evergrande warned Friday night it might run out of cash, but the central bank made no mention of the company, which it earlier accused of reckless borrowing.

“The company must be punished,” said economist He Fan at Peking University’s HSBC Business School.

China attacks potential US diplomatic boycott of Olympics

China on Monday threatened to take “firm countermeasures” if the U.S. proceeds with a diplomatic boycott of February’s Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused U.S. politicians of grandstanding over the issue of not sending dignitaries to attend the events that China hopes will showcase its economic development and technological prowess. Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing, Zhao said such a move would be an “outright political provocation,” but gave no details on how China would retaliate.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said he is considering a boycott, under which American athletes would still compete, and an announcement is expected this week. Supporters of such a step cite China’s poor record on human rights as justification, saying China is using the games to whitewash its ill treatment of civil rights activists, political dissidents and ethnic minorities.

China ‘modified’ the weather to create clear skies for political celebration

Chinese weather authorities successfully controlled the weather ahead of a major political celebration earlier this year, according to a Beijing university study. On 1 July the Chinese Communist party marked its centenary with major celebrations including tens of thousands of people at a ceremony in Tiananmen Square, and a research paper from Tsinghua University has said an extensive cloud-seeding operation in the hours prior ensured clear skies and low air pollution.

The Chinese government has been an enthusiastic proponent of cloud-seeding technology, spending billions of dollars on efforts to manipulate the weather to protect agricultural regions or improve significant events since at least the 2008 Olympics.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar court sentences ousted leader to four years jail

Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to four years in prison, the first in a series of verdicts that could jail her for life. She was found guilty on charges of inciting dissent and breaking Covid rules under a natural disasters law.

Ms Suu Kyi faces 11 charges in total, which have been widely condemned as unjust. She has denied all charges. She has been in detention sincea military coup in February which toppled her elected civilian government. It is not clear when or if Ms Suu Kyi will be placed in prison. She is being held at an undisclosed location. Co-defendant Win Myint, the former president and Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party ally, was also jailed on Monday for four years under the same charges.

‘Patriots Only’: Hong Kong’s New Election System in Action

At this time, Hong Kong is usually buzzing with political activity. Every four years, in the run up to elections for the Legislative Council (LegCo) – the city’s parliament – the streets would come alive as hopeful politicians take part in animated campaigns to win supporters, shouting promises into megaphones in a sea of colorful banners.

This year, there is no such energy on display.

The upcoming LegCo election in late December will be the second major election to take place after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law (NSL) on the city last year, a law that criminalized broad forms of dissent. Originally scheduled for 2020, right at the heel of a large-scale pro-democracy movement, the election was postponed to this year by authorities, who cited coronavirus-related concerns.

The China-Iran Strategic Partnership: 40 Years in the Making

The Middle East continues to be one of the most dynamic regions of the world as it undergoes economic, geopolitical, and security changes influencing not only countries in the Persian Gulf, but also global powers that are vying for influence. Relations between Iran and China are key driver in the changes currently underway.

Cooperation between these two nations is not new and has been developing in its current context since the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). Their pragmatic friendship took root during this war, establishing the foundation for a partnership that today is strengthening Iran’s economic and regional position and gives China a strategic foothold in the Middle East. This is immensely important within the context of China-Iran relations, and within the broader framework of China’s challenge to U.S. hegemony.

How One Apartment Block Tells the Story of Modern Shanghai

The construction of the Embankment Building was a landmark event in 1930s Shanghai. Owned by the real estate mogul Victor Sassoon, it was the first high-rise condominium to be built alongside the Suzhou Creek — or anywhere else in China.

Feted as “the first apartment building in the Far East,” the art-deco block represented the height of modernity at the time. Inside its massive concrete shell, the architects crammed 194 apartments, and around 20 maids’ rooms on each of its six floors. Another two stories were set aside for businesses. Since then, the building has borne witness to nearly nine decades of Shanghai’s turbulent modern history. It remained standing through the Sino-Japanese War and the battle for Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War. In 1938, the tower was also used to house thousands of Jewish refugees who had fled persecution by Nazi Germany.

During this period, the Embankment Building embodied the social structure of Old Shanghai — both its cosmopolitanism and its colonialism. Until the end of the Second World War, it was dominated by foreign white-collar families and their Chinese nannies.

Japan Approves Record Extra Defense Budget

The cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio approved on November 26 773.8 billion yen ($6.7 billion) defense spending in the fiscal 2021 supplementary budget amid growing military threats from North Korea, China, and Russia. Including U.S. Forces realignment-related expenses allocated for mitigating impacts on local communities, this marked a record figure for defense appropriations in history in an extra budget.

Combined with the nation’s highest-ever 5.34 trillion yen initial budget for fiscal 2021, started in April, the total defense budget for this fiscal year reached more than 6 trillion yen for the first time, hitting a record high for the seventh straight year and surpassing the long-standing cap of 1 percent of gross domestic product.

søndag 5. desember 2021

Mike O'Sullivan: The Red Curtain - China Cuts Itself Off From The World

For personal reasons Ireland is one of my touchstones when trying to understand the ways in which the world is changing, and more generally it is an interesting laboratory to witness the effects of the rise and fall of globalization on a small open economy. Globalization has markedly changed Ireland such that the Ireland of the 20th century is drifting steadily out of the collective memories of Irish people. In the middle of the 20th century, the country had few active trade and diplomatic links, something that led the writer Seán Ó’Faoláin to remark that ‘Ireland …is behind a Green Curtain that we have been rigging up for the last thirty years – thought proof, world proof, life proof’.

That is a remark on a country that was waiting to be reconnected with the world, but it recently came to mind when thinking of China.

Top Space Force official: China is developing space capabilities at 'twice the rate' of US

Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations for the US Space Force, said Saturday China is developing its space capabilities at "twice the rate" of the US. On a panel of US space experts and leaders speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in a panel moderated by CNN's Kristin Fisher, Gen. Thompson warned China could overtake the US in space capabilities by the end of the decade.

"The fact, that in essence, on average, they are building and fielding and updating their space capabilities at twice the rate we are means that very soon, if we don't start accelerating our development and delivery capabilities, they will exceed us," Gen. Thompson said, adding, "2030 is not an unreasonable estimate."

Afghanistan: Taliban warned against targeting former security forces

The US and a host of allied countries have called on the Taliban to end the targeted killings of former members of Afghan security forces. In a joint statement, the 22 nations demanded that the Islamist regime respect its pledge not to harm former government or security personnel. "We are deeply concerned by reports of summary killings and enforced disappearances", the statement says.

It follows a damning report on killings and abductions by the Islamist regime.Released by the Human Rights Watch earlier this week, the report documented more than 100 executions and abductions of former Afghan government officials since the Taliban took control of the country almost four months ago. It also documented the murder of 47 members of the Afghan security forceswho surrendered to, or were captured by, the Taliban between 15 August and 31 October. This is despite the regime's assurance that previous government workers would not be harmed.

The short joint statement was issued by the US and signed by the UK, European Union and a further 19 countries. It outlined their deep concerns over the report's findings and called on all cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to be fully investigated.

lørdag 4. desember 2021

Biden is right that global democracy is at risk. But the threat isn’t China.

If the Biden administration has a foreign policy doctrine, it’s surely the president’s oft-stated vision that democracies are locked in a must-win historic battle with autocracies. “I predict to you your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy, because that is what is at stake,”Joe Biden intoned in his first news conference as president.

To give substance to that focus, the administration this coming week will convene the first of two planned Summits for Democracy. The virtual gathering of leaders from more than 100 countries is designed, according to a State Department announcement, to “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.” Implicitly, it is a show against authoritarianism, especially in China.

There are many good reasons to host such a gathering. It’s smart politics, fulfills a campaign commitment and counters the perception, fostered by President Donald Trump, that America is no longer interested in promoting democracy and human rights. But as a geopolitical instrument, drawing lines between democracies and autocracies is not only certain to disappoint — it’s also a deeply flawed organizing principle for America’s approach to the world.