fredag 17. januar 2020

US officials ground drones over espionage fears

US officials may put an end to a civilian drone programme because of their concerns about the unmanned aerial vehicles that are made in China. The officials are apparently worried that the Chinese-made drones could be used to spy on people in the US. After a volcano exploded in Hawaii in May 2018, US scientists used drones to save a man from the lava: "Follow the drone," they said. He made it through the jungle.

Drones save people. They also map terrain, survey land and inspect pipelines. The scientists use drones for these and other purposes on a daily basis, and they have bragged about their successes in the field. Many of the aircraft are made by Chinese companies, though. They are now grounded because of concerns about espionage.

The drones had been deployed for years by the scientists and others at the US Department of the Interior, a federal agency that manages national parks and other duties. But the head of the federal agency, David Bernhardt, is apparently now worried that the drones could be used for espionage.

China's economic growth hits 30-year low

China's economy grew last year at the slowest pace in almost three decades. Official figures show that the world's second largest economy expanded by 6.1% in 2019 from the year before - the worst figure in 29 years. The country has faced weak domestic demand and the impact of the bitter trade war with the US. The government has been rolling out measures over the past two years in an attempt to boost growth.

It comes after almost two years of trade tensions with the US - although hopes of a better relationship with America have seen improvements in manufacturing and business confidence data. This week Washington and Beijing signed a "phase one" trade deal. However, analysts remain unsure whether those recent gains will continue. In response to the lower growth rate, Beijing is now widely expected to roll out yet more stimulus measures.

Chinese birth rate falls to lowest in seven decades

China's birth rate has fallen to its lowest since the formation of the People's Republic of China 70 years ago - despite the easing of the one-child policy. The birth rate was 10.48 per thousand in 2019 - the lowest since 1949, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The number of babies born in 2019 dropped by 580,000 to 14.65 million.

The country's birth rate has been falling for years - posing a challenge for the world's second biggest economy. Despite the birth rate falling, a lower death rate meant China's population hit 1.4 billion in 2019, inching up from 1.39bn. China's birth rate is lower than the US which stood at 12 per thousand people in 2017 (the most recent data available), but higher than Japan's figure of 8. The overall global birth rate was 18.65 in 2017, according to the World Bank.

'They tried to stifle the voices of our children': Meet the women protesters who have been occupying a New Delhi street for a month

Only a month ago, 50-year-old mother Bahro Nisa was a regular New Delhi shopkeeper, making a living selling cold drinks to tourists visiting one of Asia's biggest mosques. She had never protested a day in her life -- but on December 15, that all changed. She saw images on television of police appearing to assault students protesting at the prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMI) in the Indian capital against a controversial law that fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslim minorities from select countries.

That night, Nisa and others headed to the residential Muslim area of Shaheen Bagh to express their solidarity with the students -- and oppose the controversial law that was passed on December 11 and came into effect last week. She has come every day since -- and even quit her job so she could stay full time.

Protests and a weakening economy spell a rocky road ahead for India's Narendra Modi

Eight months ago, Narendra Modi was being hailed as India's most popular leader in decades.
His incumbent Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a general election by a landslide in May, increasing its share of the vote on its impressive 2014 win. Now, he's facing the biggest challenge yet to his political supremacy.

Over the past few weeks, protesters across India have taken to the streets to oppose a new citizenship law that they say discriminates against Muslims. Demonstrations have continued, despite official bans on public gatherings and the risk of violence, which has already cost the lives of more than 20 protesters. But neither Modi -- nor the protesters -- show any sign of backing down. Speaking at a rally in New Delhi in December, the Prime Minister said the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which came into effect on Friday,had "nothing to do with the Muslims of the soil of India."

Documenting the Tragedy in Xinjiang: An Insider’s View of Atajurt

It was a cold February day in Kazakhstan. Outside a small village house in Qarabulaq, a village near Taldykorgan in Almaty province, as many as a hundred people gathered, waiting since the early morning to enter. Inside the house, volunteers with Atajurt — myself included — recorded close to 60 video testimonies from people whose loved ones had been detained in Chinese prisons, concentration camps, and forced labor factories. 

After personally conducting about 40 of the interviews (it was my personal record with Atajurt), translating from Kazakh into English and Turkish, I collapsed with exhaustion at the end of the day. There were still people waiting outside to tell their stories.

US, Japan Hold Naval Exercise in East China Sea

The United States and Japan conducted a one-day naval exercise on January 13 in the East China Sea. The exercise involved the lead ship of the U.S. Navy’s newest class of amphibious assault ships, the 45,000-ton USS America, designated Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) 6, and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Oosumi-class amphibious transport dock ship JS Kunisaki, home-ported at Kure Naval Base in Hiroshima.

Are China’s South China Sea Artificial Islands Militarily Significant and Useful?

Are China’s seven artificial islands in the Spratly Group in the South China Sea liable to complicate U.S. freedom of maneuver in a conflict in East Asia? In a recent article at War on the Rocks, Gregory Poling makes the case that the islands have “considerable military value for Beijing,” contrary to some conventional wisdom that has written off the value of these facilities in a conflict.

Poling’s argument is a convincing corrective to the conventional wisdom that these facilities — built on top of reclaimed land and quickly too — would be a strategic liability for Beijing in a conflict. In peacetime, these outposts serve to allow China coercive leverage as it bolsters its “nine-dash line” claim in the South China Sea, where the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and Taiwan maintain territorial claims (and Indonesia maintains a disputed exclusive economic zone claim).

torsdag 16. januar 2020

Try as It Might, Germany Isn’t Warming to Huawei

Few companies have elicited as much controversy in recent months as the Chinese electronics giant Huawei. Like many other states, Germany is presently faced with the choice of whether or not to involve Huawei in its rollout of the new fifth-generation (5G) mobile telecommunications networks – a critical infrastructure for future industrial and technological development. 

Due to its economic and political clout, Berlin’s choice of companies to supply 5G network components will likely set an example for other European states to follow. But for more than a year, Germany has been locked in an increasingly fierce political debate about this issue that shows no signs of abating.

Why does the choice of Huawei as a 5G network supplier arouse so much controversy in Germany?

A student was too poor to buy enough food. Her death has raised poverty concerns in China

A college student who experienced malnutrition because she was too poor to afford adequate food has died in southwestern China, sparking concerns about poverty in the world's second largest economy. Wu Huayan, 24, died at the Affiliated Hospital of Guizhou Medical University in the city of Tongren on Monday, a spokesman for the hospital confirmed to CNN, while declining to provide a reason for her death.

A third-year student at Guizhou Forerunner College, Wu was 135 centimeters tall (4.4 feet) and weighed just 21.6 kilograms (48 pounds), according to a statement by the Tongren municipal government in October. She captured national attention that month, when her story was told in Chinese media.

Putin may be following Xi's lead, but he's nowhere near as secure as the Chinese leader

Two decades after he first took power, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears poised to stay on for the foreseeable future. But as he delicately rearranged his country's government in order to do so, he may have been looking enviously across the Altai Mountains to China, where his close ally Xi Jinping achieved the same power grab with apparent ease.

While Xi's 2018 move to drop term limits on the presidency and clear the decks to serve for life may have involved much internal politicking within the Chinese Communist Party, it was presented to the country as a fait accompli. Since then, the Party has only coalesced even tighter around Xi, ramping up the propaganda about him and giving him yet more titles, including one previously only held by Mao Zedong, that of "people's leader."

US-China trade deal: Five things that aren't in it

The US and China have finally - after almost two years of hostilities - signed a "phase one" deal. But it only covers the easier aspects of their difficult relationship, and only removes some of the tariffs. The biggest hurdles are still to come, and could stand in the way of a second phase agreement - one that would in theory remove all of the tariffs, bringing some much needed relief for the global economy, which is in the interests of all of us.

What's not in the phase one deal tells us where the flashpoints are in the US-China relationship - and what could derail the second round of negotiations. So what didn't make it into the agreement?

Why are Chinese fishermen finding so many 'submarine spies'?

At first it seems like a quirky, what-are-the-chances-of-that headline: "China rewards fishers who netted foreign spy devices." But behind that headline in Chinese state media, there is a different - and more intriguing - story.

Firstly, this wasn't two or three fishermen receiving awards. It was 11 - one woman, the rest men - who found seven devices in total. Secondly, this wasn't the first time fishermen from Jiangsu had found "spy drones". In 2018, some 18 were rewarded for finding nine devices. There was also a ceremony a year earlier. And thirdly, the rewards were huge - up to 500,000 yuan ($72,000; £55,000) - around 17 times the average disposable income in China.

So where do the "submarine spies" come from? What do they do? Why are they valuable? And why are Chinese fishermen finding so many?

Trump signs China trade pact and boasts of 'the biggest deal ever seen'

Donald Trump has signed the first phase of a new trade agreement with China after two years of tension between the two superpowers that have rattled economies around the world. Trump said: “Today, we are taking a momentous step towards a future of fair and reciprocal trade. Together we are righting the wrong of the past.”

“At long last Americans have a government that puts them first at the negotiating table,” he said. “This is the biggest deal anybody has ever seen.”

Trump and China’s chief trade negotiator, Liu He, signed the deal at a packed press conference, attended by Ivanka Trump, much of Trump’s cabinet, Henry Kissinger, and media and business leaders including Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman of Blackstone, and Ajay Banga, the president of Mastercard. The signing came hours after Democrats named the team that will prosecute Trump in an impeachment trial that starts early next week.

'Regret and unhappiness': China offers muted response to US trade deal

Reaction in China to the US trade deal has been muted, with state media playing down news of the agreement signed in Washington and adopting a conciliatory tone.On Wednesday, Donald Trump and the Chinese vice-premier, Liu He, signed an initial pact that hits pause on more than two years of escalating trade tensions. China pledged to buy more US products while the US called off additional tariffs on Chinese goods, among other measures agreed between the two sides.

While the US president hailed the pact as “the biggest deal anybody has ever seen,” Chinese officials and state media described it in much more cautious terms. President Xi Jinping described the new agreement as a sign that the US and China can resolve their differences with dialogue, stating in a message delivered by Liu that the two countries had “made progress” and should “properly address each others’ concerns” to push bilateral ties on the “right track”.

Former EU envoy investigated over China spying claims

A former German diplomat who worked in the EU’s institutions is under investigation along with two lobbyists on suspicion of spying for the Chinese government. Nine homes and offices in Brussels, Berlin, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria have reportedly been raided by police on behalf of the German federal prosecutor’s office.

The investigation, led by Germany’s attorney general, Peter Frank, is examining the activities of the diplomat since he moved into lobbying two years ago, along with two employees of a second such firm, Der Spiegel reports. A spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office confirmed the investigation into suspected espionage but declined to offer any details beyond stating that there had not been any arrests.

Professor Arne Jon Isachsen: Kina er ikke så lett å bli klok på

Midtens rike er ikke så lett å bli klok på. Hvilket krever en særlig stor grad av årvåkenhet i embetsverket og hos norske politikere som nå forhandler frem en handelsavtale med Kina.

First Xinjiang, now Tibet passes rules to promote ‘ethnic unity’

Regulations to “strengthen ethnic unity” will take effect in Tibet in May, four years after similar rules were introduced in Xinjiang, according to Chinese state media. Officials in Xinjiang have occasionally cited similar regulations as justification for crackdowns on the region’s ethnic Uygur community.

Tibet’s people’s congress, the autonomous region’s legislature, endorsed the rules on Saturday to take effect from May 1, the official Tibet Daily reported on Sunday. The report did not release the full text of the regulations, saying only that they contained “dos and don’ts” for the local governments and society to promote ethnic unity. Other neighbouring provinces, including Yunnan and Qinghai, approved similar regulations last year.

According to Tibet Daily, the regulation requires all levels of government, companies, community organisations, villages, schools, military groups and religious activity centres be responsible for work on ethnic unity.