tirsdag 19. mars 2019

Italy takes a chance on Belt and Road

Attending the first Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in 2017, the previous Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni stopped short of signing up to join the global mega-project, as no other European Union country had shown interest. However, a lot has changed since Italy’s populist right-wing government took over last June, and Rome has formally announced that it will participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) after three high-level visits to Beijing

As a country that connects Europe and Africa, Italy is on its way to becoming a prime BRI destination, which will decisively put the contemporary version of the old Silk Road on the ground. In 2018, the EU announced an exclusive mega-project of its own, the “EU Corridor,” as a suitable alternative. Setting aside this option, Rome is determined to participate in the Chinese mega-project instead. Engaged in preliminary negotiations, Rome is about to clinch a deal with Beijing and sign some memoranda of understanding during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Italy at the end of March.

EU dilemma: how to deal with China

Facing China’s irresistible rise all across the chessboard, and under relentless US pressure, the not exactly democratic EU leadership is on a backbreaking exercise to position itself between a geopolitical/geoeconomic rock and a hard place. The 28-member EU holds a crucial meeting next week in Brussels where it may adopt a 10-point action plan detailing, in a thesis, the terms of an equitable economic relationship with China going forward.

This will happen as Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Italy and then France – ahead of the very important, annual China-EU summit in Brussels on April 9, to be co-chaired by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Sweden: RSF urges Chinese ambassador to stop harassing media

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns repeated attacks by the Chinese embassy against Swedish journalists and insists that diplomatic missions have no say in the editorial content of media in their host country.

“But why is he so harsh?” This is a question that Swedish journalists keep asking in reference to Chinese ambassador to Sweden, Gui Congyou, who has embarked on a “truth” crusade against the country's media since taking office in August 2017. The ambassador, who developed his career between the Chinese Embassy in Russia and the Department of European-Central Asian Affairs of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seems to have trouble understanding that in Sweden, a country ranked second in the RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, journalists are not subject to censorship.

Unless democracies take action, China will set the terms of the next industrial revolution.

In the 19th century, global power belonged to those who controlled the seas. In the 21st, it will belong to those who rule over our digital highways.If the West fails to take swift action, the world’s autocrats and non-democratic states — led by China — will be the ones to win this race.

A divided and sluggish West has failed to keep up with strategic gluts of Chinese investment, and its disjointed approach on how to manage overtures by Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has laid bare a dangerous lack of strategy.

Across Europe, responses range from wariness — in Denmark, for example — to a more open attitude in Hungary, Italy and the Czech Republic. Even within the Anglophone “Five Eyes” intelligence community, governments can’t seem to agree on how to respond to the threat of potential “backdoors” in Huawei’s technology. The United States, Australia and New Zealand have taken a restrictive approach, while the United Kingdom insists it can mitigate potential risks — much to Washington’s chagrin.

mandag 18. mars 2019

Curbing Authoritarian Influence in Europe - A Conversation

In this episode, featured guest Andrea Kendall-Taylor reflects on the shifting landscape for democratic governance in Europe and assesses the impact of Russia and China’s authoritarian influence as they converge with one another and with other illiberal actors around the region. Andrea Kendall-Taylor is a senior fellow and director of the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Christopher Walker, NED vice president for studies and analysis, and Shanthi Kalathil, senior director for NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, cohost the conversation.

Tiananmen Mothers Hit Out at Communist Party's 'Rewriting of History' After Massacre

«Thirty years ago, heavily armed troops imposing martial law slaughtered unarmed students and citizens with machine guns and tanks," said the Tiananmen Mothers group's open letter, timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC). "But ever since, the authorities have been rewriting history."

Weeks of student-led mass protests on Tiananmen Square, symbolised by the "Goddess of Democracy" effigy, were styled a "counterrevolutionary rebellion" and "political turmoil" by the ruling Chinese Communist Party after late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping sent in the tanks. Ever since they lost loved ones in the bloodshed, the letter said, the group's members have been among the most surveilled citizens in China, often kept under house arrest during politically sensitive times, and followed by police.

Chinese Exchange Student Seeks Political Asylum After Public Denunciation of Xi

A Chinese exchange student studying on the democratic island of Taiwan has sought political asylum after live-streaming criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping's removal of presidential term-limits last year.Li Jiabao, 21, made the move after criticizing constitutional changes made by Xi in March 2018 that effectively allow him to rule indefinitely.

"I am in a lot of danger right now, so I am hoping that the Taiwan government will grant me political asylum," he said. "I also call on the Taiwan government to pass the refugee bill as soon as possible." He said he acquired his views by bypassing the complex system of blocks, filters and human censorship known as China's Great Firewall, and viewing content on social media sites like Twitter and YouTube, which are banned to most Chinese internet users.

Cambodia, China Launch Annual ‘Golden Dragon’ Joint Military Exercise, Deepening Ties

The exercise, which began Wednesday after two weeks of rehearsals, will feature more than 250 Chinese and 2,500 Cambodian military personnel drilling over the course of 15 days at the Chum Kiri Military Shooting Range Training Field in Kampot province’s Chum Kiri district.

Significantly larger than last year’s joint exercise, the Golden Dragon drills are expected to include armored trucks, tanks, and helicopters, as well as artillery and mortars, and will focus on combating terrorism in addition to running rescue operations during natural disasters, before ending with a March 27 closing ceremony overseen by Defense Minister General Tea Banh.

søndag 17. mars 2019

Modernising military remains top priority as China boosts defence spending to US$175.98 billion after announcement in Two Sessions

China’s modest defence budget increase this year shows that modernising the military will remain a top priority for Beijing amid a slowing economy and the trade war with America, analysts say. Military funding will rise to 1.18 trillion yuan (US$175.98 billion) in 2019, up by 7.5 per cent from last year, according to the budget report released on Tuesday at the opening of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. Although that is less than the 8.1 per cent defence spending increase in 2018, it is above the 6 to 6.5 per cent economic growth forecast for 2019.

Forget the Mexico border, the new US military budget is focused on ‘China, China, China’

Chinese bombers. Chinese hypersonic missiles. Chinese cyberattacks. Chinese anti-satellite weapons. To a remarkable degree, the 2020 Pentagon budget proposal is shaped by national security threats that acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan summarised in three words: “China, China, China.” The US is still fighting small wars against Islamic extremists, and Russia is considered a serious concern, but Shanahan wants to shift the military’s main focus to what he considers the more pressing security problem of a rapidly growing Chinese military.

China’s flattery of Xi Jinping has gone too far

In the preceding two weeks, China’s “two sessions” – the annual meetings of the country’s national legislature and the top political advisory body – have gone through the usual but important routine of hearing and approving Premier Li Keqiang’s annual government work report outlining China’s economic growth targets for the year; the budget; statements by the top judge and the top prosecutor; as well as a new foreign investment law.

But judging by the blanket coverage on official media, top on the minds of the nearly six thousand deputies at the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference was showing allegiance to President Xi Jinping, who is also the head of the Communist Party.

The Sinophile driving Italy’s hopes of a New Silk Road deal with China

When Xi Jinping visits Italy next week, Rome’s hopes of joining China’s global trade and infrastructure plan will rest heavily on the shoulders of a powerful Sinophile who has ignored international warnings not to put too much trust in China. Michele Geraci, the undersecretary of state for economic development in Italy’s far-right coalition government, has been tasked by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to reach a memorandum of understanding with Beijing – for Italy to take part in the “Belt and Road Initiative” – during Xi’s March 22-24 visit.

Bokanmeldelse: Beundringsverdig om Kinas mektige leder

Hver dag strømmer flere tusen mennesker til en avsidesliggende landsby i Shaanxi-provinsen i Kina. Liangjiahe finnes knapt på noe kart. Men nå har myndighetene strukket en splitter ny firefelts motorvei til landsbyen, for massene må fram.

Forfatter Sun Heidi Sæbø har også besøkt den. Her bodde Xi Jinping, Kinas myndige leder, i noen år som ung mann. Som så mange av sine jevnaldrende ble han under Kulturrevolusjonen sendt ut av storbyen for å «herde» seg i det virkelige livet. Disse årene, fra 1969 til 1975, ble visstnok formative i hans liv. «Mine sju år der ga meg noe hellig», skal han ha sagt. «Senere i livet, når jeg sto overfor nye utfordringer eller en ny jobb, tenkte tilbake, og det var som om jeg kunne høre Shaanxi-folket synge på jordene.»

China’s Slowdown Already Hit Its Factories. Now Its Offices Are Hurting, Too.

The job fair in the Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen offered a white-collar future for a country that rose to economic greatness on the strength of its assembly lines, bulldozers and cranes. Technology, financial and real estate companies pitched jobs in sales, engineering, accounting and logistics. A $150,000-a-year salary, said one poster, “isn’t just a dream.”

But for many job seekers, it still seemed like one. At one end of the event hall, two dozen candidates sat dejectedly under a banner that read, “Hope you find a good job soon.” “Job hunting,” said Hou Hao, a 28-year-old accountant who could not find a position that matched her previous $2,700-per-month salary, “now feels like being constantly slapped in the face.” 

China’s slowdown, which has idled factories and construction sites, is rippling through its offices. Educated, white-collar workers are being hit with job cuts and shrinking paychecks. Even big technology companies like JD.com, the online retailer, and Didi Chuxing, China’s answer to Uber and one of the world’s most valuable start-ups, have not been spared. 

Why China Silenced a Clickbait Queen in Its Battle for Information Control

She was known as China’s clickbait queen, an irreverent blogger who prescribed shopping to combat sadness (“better than sex, orgasms, strawberry cake”) and makeovers to win back cheating husbands (“men are visual animals”). But late last month, Ma Ling, a blogger who commanded an audience of more than 16 million people, went conspicuously silent.

In the battle for control of the Chinese internet, the authorities had designated Ms. Ma a threat to social stability, pointing to an article she published about a young man with cancer whose talent and virtue were not enough to overcome problems like corruption and inequality. The state-run news media accused Ms. Ma of circulating false information, and her social media accounts were wiped from the internet.

Cao Shunli died five years ago. She stood up to China on human rights, and so must we

Five years ago today, Chinese activist Cao Shunli died in a Beijing hospital surrounded by police. Her ordeal began in September 2013, when she tried to fly to Geneva to attend a session of the UN human rights council (UNHRC). Cao had submitted information on extralegal detention and torture in China to the UN and expressed the hope that if she could get even “50 or 100 words” into a UN report, “many of our problems could start to get addressed”.

Cao never made the flight. Police took her away at the airport, detained her for six months, and denied her medical treatment despite repeated warnings from her lawyer that her health was deteriorating, until it was too late. Doctors at the hospital expressed shock at her condition; it seemed she had simply been left to die in her cell. No state agent has been punished for her death.

Beijings menn er desperate etter respekt. Når Vesten slår tilbake, virker det

Den nasjonale folkekongressen i Kina har tilbrakt to uker med å bekymre seg over økonomien. Men ett prosentpoeng lavere økonomisk vekst er det minste av problemene deres. Det siste året har ikke vært snilt mot mennene i Beijing. Etter lenge å ha opplevd en maktlekkasje mot øst, slår Vesten nå tilbake. Først og fremst er det press på Kina for å modifisere praksisen med proteksjonistisk handel og industrispionasje. Trump-administrasjonen har gitt beskjed til Xi-administrasjonen om å endre det de holder på med eller betale en høy pris. Handelsforhandlingene skrider frem henimot nye regler.

Read more

torsdag 14. mars 2019

European Union calls for united trade and tech front against ‘rival’ China

The European Union is urging its leaders to take a tougher stand on mounting China-related trade, technology and geostrategic concerns, a major step that could overshadow the country’s relations with Europe for years to come, analysts said. Following Washington’s lead, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, released a paper on Tuesday which for the first time labelled China an “economic competitor” and “a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance”. 

The paper urged EU leaders meeting in Brussels next week to adopt a 10-point action plan that would establish a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship with China while solidifying the resolve of the 28 EU member states to counter the Asian country’s influence, the bloc’s top trading partner.