søndag 21. juli 2019

Echoes from the Himalayas: A turbulent rising China!

I have witnessed with dismay China’s aggressive and strategic investment in intellectuals and opinion makers around the world to doctor its global image. The wooing process starts with lavish receptions and orchestrated visits to regions under Chinese control, including Tibet; from then on the patronage continues. The dividends are obvious from the rising number of pro-China intellectuals and the biased Chinese propaganda being churned out on a regular basis in both the Indian and Western press.

China’s desire for global dominance is most visible in its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative – a global China-centric development strategy proposed in 2013 and targeted for completion in 2049, touching 152 countries and international organizations in Asia, Africa, Middle East, Europe and the Americas.

This image of China as a global power needs to be juxtaposed with the growing dissent within. China’s enforcement of its doctrines with absolute disrespect for ethnic identity and human rights is responsible for the increasing tension and defiance in Xinjiang and Tibet. In the case of Hong Kong, it is particularly due to the gradual erosion of China’s ‘One country, two systems’ commitment.

Hong Kong braces for another round of mass demonstrations

Police and demonstrators braced for more mass protests in Hong Kong on Sunday, the latest in weeks of unrest in a political movement that shows few signs of slowing. A planned march on Sunday marks the seventh consecutive weekend when residents have come out en masse against the government. The protests, which began over a now suspended extradition bill, have turned into a wider democracy movement in the Chinese territory.

Ahead of Sunday’s march through the city centre, police built water barriers around their headquarters and set a security cordon around the government complex. Metal fences, garbage bins and other street materials, which demonstrators have dismantled and made into makeshift barricades in past protests, have been removed. Workers have also glued bricks onto the ground to ensure they are not used as weapons. On Sunday morning, some had already begun protesting. Hundreds of social workers and others staged a demonstration near the government complex in Admiralty in central Hong Kong.

US calls on China to stop ‘bullying behaviour’ in the South China Sea

The US on Saturday expressed concern over reports that China is hampering other countries’ oil and gas activities in the South China Sea and accused Beijing of acting like a bully. The State Department said such acts by China -- it did not say when they are alleged to have happened -- threaten regional peace and security. It said these acts were interfering in particular with Vietnamese oil and gas exploration and production.

“As Secretary Pompeo noted earlier this year, ‘by blocking development in the SCS through coercive means, China prevents Asean members from accessing more than US$2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves,’” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement, referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Asean is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Prague mayor’s feud with China risks boiling over

A simmering feud between the Czech Republic's capital city and China risks boiling over, with Beijing warning Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib to stop undermining relations between the two countries — or else. On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news conference in Beijing that Hřib and his city administration had taken measures that affected China’s sovereignty and interests, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Hřib, a Czech Pirate Party politician, has flown the Tibetan flag at the capital's city hall, met with the Taiwanese representative to the Czech Republic and said he would end the 'sister city' accord agreed by the previous Prague administration and Beijing. He also rejected the so-called One China policy, an approach under which many countries, including the Czech Republic as well as the EU, do not recognize Taiwan and do not maintain formal diplomatic relations with its government.

Hong Kong protesters ‘went to Taiwan in June’ to explore options for asylum

Hong Kong extradition bill protesters went to Taiwan to explore the possibility of seeking asylum there in June – before the legislature was stormed, according to sources based on the self-ruled island. “Around mid- to late June, a group of students came to Taiwan to research their options for seeking refuge and the conditions for them to remain here under Taiwanese law, at a time of peril in Hong Kong,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity. The Hong Kong students did not stay for long and returned to the city after exploring the possibilities in Taiwan, according to the source.

How Huawei conquered the Faroe Islands

An unlikely challenger has emerged in the race to deliver 5G internet services: the Faroe Islands. «The Faroese are traditionally seen as humble folk, but in this I’m being very un-Faroese,» said Jan Ziskasen, CEO of state-owned Faroese Telecom, the larger of two telecommunications companies on the islands. “I want us to be No. 1 in the world.”

The string of picturesque islands in the North Atlantic already has one of the fastest 4G mobile networks on Earth. Now it wants to be among the leaders in the rollout of the next generation, which promises lightning-fast access to the web and vast capacity for data transfers. There are strong signs that these are not empty aspirations. But now, U.S. spying charges against Chinese technology giant Huawei may derail the Faroese 5G rollout — forcing the island nation to pick between its state-of-the-art phone system and European political priorities.

China will determine the future of Venezuela

While Beijing is an indispensable economic and political partner to Caracas, the Latin American nation is also very important to China. China views the oil-rich socialist country as a significant trading partner and a geopolitical ally in its main political and economic rival US's backyard. Moreover, the investments Beijing made in the country in the last couple of decades made Venezuela an important component in China's future economic prosperity and energy security.

Cooperation between China and Venezuela began to grow significantly following Hugo Chavez' ascent to power in 1999. Following Chavez' death in 2013, the good relations between the two nations continued under Maduro's presidency. From 2000 to 2018, the trade between the two countries increased more than 20-fold and the value of Chinese direct investment to the country reached $6bn. Meanwhile, the total value of Chinese loans to Venezuela surpassed the $60bn mark.

Hong Kong’s Approach to Protesters: No More Concessions

Hong Kong’s leader will not be making further concessions to the city’s protesters, two of her top advisers said, as the government digs in despite several large demonstrations over the past month and more planned for Sunday and the coming weeks. Carrie Lam, the region’s chief executive, will focus instead on hearing from various sectors of the Hong Kong population and drafting a broad policy address for delivery in mid-October, said Bernard Chan, the convenor of her Executive Council, or cabinet, in an interview on Friday.

Mr. Chan’s remarks — and similar comments by Regina Ip, another Executive Council member, in a separate interview — indicate that Mrs. Lam’s administration is confident that it can weather further protests, despite several recent violent clashes and signs that the economy could suffer.

Over Local Objections, China Muscles Into Belarus

There are no banners, no slogans or even raised voices, never mind fists. But, for more than a year now, hundreds of protesters have gathered each Sunday to feed pigeons in Lenin Square and, in a heavily camouflaged show of dissent, to display their hostility to a Chinese-funded lead-acid battery factory that they say will spew deadly toxins into the air and groundwater.

The factory, already built on the outskirts of the western city of Brest but waiting permission to start production, has become a symbol of what its opponents see as an unhealthily close relationship between Beijing and the government of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has held power in Belarus since 1994.

Like President Vladimir V. Putin of neighboring Russia, Mr. Lukashenko brooks little dissent. He has also, like the Russian leader, looked increasingly to China for money and inspiration: Europe has lost of much of its sheen as an economic model, but China offers an example of how authoritarian politics can mix with robust economic growth.

lørdag 20. juli 2019

China’s population numbers are almost certainly inflated to hide the harmful legacy of its family planning policy

China’s official demographic figures, including the now-cliched “country of
1.4 billion people”, seriously misrepresent the country’s real population landscape. The real size of China’s population could be 115 million fewer than the official number, putting China behind India in terms of population. This massive error, equal to the combined populations of the United Kingdom and Spain, is a product of China’s rigged population statistics system, influenced by the vested interests of China’s family planning authority.

This is not alarmist talk: Hong Kong is heading for a breakdown in law and order

Last week in Hong Kong, a well-respected businessman told me that as the city’s recent cycle of violence escalated, he had started receiving emails from overseas friends asking about his well-being and expressing concerns about the  city’s overall safety.

On Tuesday, Charles Li Xiaojia, chief executive of stock market operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, told reporters international investors had voiced concerns about the fallout from the protestsagainst the now-defunct extradition bill. Fortunately, no one had yet voted with their feet by leaving Hong Kong, he added. Alas, that may change as the city braces for more violent protests in the coming weeks and months, particularly if last Sunday is any indication and political crisis cannot be averted.

Malaysia Is Standing Up To China

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad is standing up to China, at home and at sea. The South China Sea, that is. That raises geopolitical risks for financial markets in the region. At home, Malaysia has dared to do something Sri Lanka, Pakistan, The Maldives and the Philippines didn’t: canceling or re-negotiating inflated Chinese projects. This week, Malaysia seized more than 1 billion ringgit ($243.5 million) from a bank account of state-owned China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering (CPP) over failed pipeline projects, according to a Reuters report. And back in April, China agreed to trim the cost of East Coast Rail Link project by one-third.

Why Are Some Muslim Countries Standing in Solidarity With China?

In a recent statement to the United Nations, 37 countries came together to defend China, commending the country’s human rights record and denying rampant allegations of its persecution of Uighur Muslims. Of this list, close to half of the signatories came from Muslim nations.

China has simply “undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang,” the letter claims. The re-education camps, which has garnered media coverage in recent years, were referred to as “vocational education and training centers.” The letter rounded off its argument by citing the lack of terrorist attacks in the region over the past three years, according to Reuters.

Confusion builds over U.S. ban on Chinese surveillance technology

Contractors who buy and install Hikvision and Dahua surveillance systems told U.S. officials on Friday that an ambiguous law that bans purchases from the two Chinese companies could harm their businesses. Contractors voiced their confusion at a U.S. General Services Administration meeting about the provision in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, that prohibits federal agencies from purchasing new equipment from those Chinese companies.

The deadline to comply with the ban on purchasing new equipment is Aug. 13.

Taiwan to blacklist Chinese tech firms

Taiwan is taking cues from the US on how to clamp down on Huawei and other major electronics companies, with a blacklist of Chinese companies and products soon to be gazetted by the Executive Yuan. The big names on the upcoming list include Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi, Oppo and Zhejiang-based CCTV and surveillance system manufacturer Hikvision, whose overseas business has been weighed down by controversies and espionage accusations. As well, Taiwan’s national security experts are understood to have also identified a number of tech startups and suppliers that may pose a significant threat to the island. Blacklisted firms will be banned from bidding on any government procurement orders.

China could use same ploy to help Han become president

The top brass of Taiwan’s Kuomintang party has high hopes that Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu can erase the ignominy of the presidential election defeat in 2016, when Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party seized leadership of the self-ruled island state. This time, the bigwigs of the Beijing-friendly KMT believe that, by riding on the coattails of the party’s victories in Taiwan’s regional elections late last year, the populist Han has a decent chance to grab the presidency in January and end Tsai’s time in power. Beijing’s cadres certainly concur with these views, as they reportedly devised plans to help Han clinch the position of mayor in Kaohsiung, a traditional DPP stronghold.

Coalition of the willing builds in South China Sea

A coalition of the willing is building in the South China Sea as European powers bolster the United States and its Asian allies’ freedom of navigation operations vis-à-vis China in the hotly contested waterway. While Europe’s military footprint in the area is still modest, the presence of a growing number of like-minded powers in China’s adjacent waters highlights shared concerns about Beijing’s strategic ambitions for the area.

Europe’s entry also arguably gives greater international legitimacy to Washington’s freedom of navigation and overflight operations in the area, maneuvers China has consistently branded as illegal and a violation of its sovereignty.

fredag 19. juli 2019

Chinese Businesses Are Changing Cambodia. And Not for the Better.

On June 22, in Sihanoukville, a port city in southwest Cambodia, a Chinese-owned building under construction collapsed, killing at least 28 people, all Cambodians. The owner had undertaken the construction without the required permit, and defied orders to cease work. But given the breakneck pace of Chinese-backed construction in the city, and the lack of oversight and standards, tragedies like this seemed inevitable.

Read more