torsdag 6. august 2020

China’s Panchen’ Makes Rare Visit to Tibet’s Capital Lhasa

Tibet’s Panchen Lama, a senior Buddhist monk hand-picked by Beijing to replace a candidate more widely recognized by Tibetans as authentic, paid a rare and largely unnoticed recent visit to Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa, where he was received by government officials, reports in Chinese state media said. Gyaltsen Norbu, called Gyaincain in Chinese, arrived in Lhasa on July 31 and was greeted by Chinese authorities, students, and civil servants, and later went to pray on Aug. 3 in Lhasa’s Jokhang temple, media sources said.

Few in Lhasa appear to have been aware of the Panchen Lama’s visit, though, a city resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week. Access to the Jokhang and Lhasa’s central Barkhor old town area are usually tightly restricted, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“But a few days ago even more police were deployed there than usual. Gyaltsen Norbu was probably visiting then,” the source said, adding, “Not many Tibetans know about the China-appointed Panchen Lama, and only those who don’t know his background will care much about him.”

Chinese Workers and Gamblers Illegally Stream Into Laos to Avoid Quarantine

Laos has detained and deported hundreds of Chinese nationals in recent months for illegally entering the country to sidestep a mandatory 14-day coronavirus quarantine period and head straight to casinos to gamble or work, sources in the country told RFA. Most of the illegal border crossers are tourists bound for casinos in northwestern Bokeo province’s Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, a gambling and entertainment district that caters mainly to Chinese tourists that has been described as a de-facto Chinese colony.

To avoid a 14-day quarantine required for legal arrivals at official border crossings, the visitors from China skirt border checkpoints on foot by taking smaller roads, or take small boats across rivers. Lao and China share a porous 250 mile (420 km) border. “In July, almost 300 Chinese sneaked into Luang Namtha province without passports. They were going to the casino in Bokeo province,” A member of the Luang Namtha provincial Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Control and Prevention told RFA’s Lao Service.

China Uses 'Friendship Associations' to Extend Influence Among Overseas Elites: Report

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is "co-opting" foreign nationals via friendship associations to expand its overseas influence in Europe, amid growing concerns over Beijing's intensive lobbying and propaganda campaigns far beyond its borders, according to a recent report.

An Aug. 4 report published by the Washington-based think-tank, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), said Beijing uses foreign nationals in a number of ways to promote its views in the corridors of power overseas."This study finds that the coopted foreigners, who enjoy influence, convening power, and connections, serve the CCP’s aims in several ways, subtle and otherwise," the report said.

Such people "parrot the party’s talking points, deflect narratives harmful to Beijing’s image, host public events that showcase the party’s virtues, promote trade and investment, encourage technology transfers, and voice support for changes in European policies favorable to China," it said, citing case studies of the EU-China Friendship Group, the ItalyChina Friendship Association, and the Czech-China Chamber of Collaboration.

While the organizations concerned have no obvious formal connection to the Chinese government, they are a part of the "united front" system through which the CCP maintains its grip on power at home and seeks to further its agenda abroad, the report said.

onsdag 5. august 2020

US-China relations: militaries carry out missile tests as tensions continue to simmer

China and the United States have conducted ballistic missile tests as the two nations remain locked in a bitter rivalry. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force fired two missiles – a DF-26 and a DF-16 – during a recent exercise, the official Chinese military news website reported on Tuesday. It did not give an exact date for the tests.

The DF-26 has a range of 4,000km (2,500 miles) and is China’s first conventionally armed ballistic missile capable of striking Guam, a US territory in the western Pacific. The  DF-16 is the PLA’s most accurate short to medium range ballistic missile, designed to hit targets in Japan, including the US military bases in Okinawa. “We are in a highly alert state for combat, to ensure our actions are prompt and precise,” Liu Yang, the commander of the brigade that carried out the tests, was quoted as saying. The brigade also took part in an exercise to test their emergency response to an incoming nuclear attack, the report said.

Why the new US ‘China scare’ is big on pressure, short on vision

US China-bashing has turned increasingly muscular across the political aisle. US allies are being cajoled or pressured to fall in line, and China is now targeted as the US’ No 1 existential threat. Gone are hopes that China could become a “responsible stakeholder” in a US-led global order. Its alleged  trade malpractices, technologicaland military advances, foreign policy assertiveness, and perceived regime repressiveness, have inflamed a McCarthyist “China scare”.

There is a lurking belief that “communist” China harbours a secret long-term strategy to replace the United States as the global superpower. Accordingly, China must be pushed back across the board, regardless. For example, the US stripped Hong Kong of its special status, choosing to treat it as no different from mainland China, without waiting to see how the new national security law is implemented.

China ready for US talks at ‘any time, any issue and any level’

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China was willing to restart talks with the United States on any level about any issue, in a departure from increasingly heated rhetoric by both countries in recent months. In an interview with state news agency Xinhua on Wednesday, Wang also said that China was not trying to become another US and that it would act in a calm and rational manner.

“We are willing to start frank and effective communications with the US and respond calmly and rationally to the impulsiveness and restlessness of the US,” Wang was quoted as saying. “We can restart the communication channels with the US on all levels and in all fields any time, and any issues can be brought to the table.”

Secret footage shows Uighur man’s detention inside Chinese prison

Rare footage and text messages secretly sent by a detained Uighur man show chilling evidence of human rights violations by China, as global scrutiny of the situation in Xinjiang grows. According to reports by the BBC and the Globe and Mail, Merdan Ghappar, a successful model on the e-commerce platform Taobao, was detained after having spent over a year in prison on a drugs charge his supporters said was trumped up.

In January, the 31-year-old Uighur was taken back to Xinjiang by police where he was hooded, shackled and held in a crowded police cell with 50-60 prisoners. Videos and text messages reportedly sent by Ghappar provide a detailed account of his detention and the shocking conditions he says he witnessed, including teenage boys being hooded and beaten, and of the widespread use of “four-piece suits” – combined restraints that are criticised by human rights groups. Ghappar has not been heard from since March.

US health chief to make most senior visit to Taiwan in decades

United States Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will lead a delegation to Taiwan, his office announced Tuesday, in a high-level trip that is almost certain to anger Beijing, which claims the self-governing island as part of its territory. The trip, scheduled "in the coming days," will be the highest level visit by any US Cabinet official to the island since 1979, when Washington broke official ties with Taiwan to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing, said a statement from the US Health and Human Services (HHS) Department.

The high-profile trip is likely to worsen relations between Beijing-Washington, which have nosedived this year to their lowest point in decades. For years, tensions and rivalries have simmered between the world's two largest economies over trade, technology and geopolitics, but the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a further blow to their already strained ties.

During his visit, Azar will meet with senior Taiwan counterparts, Covid-19 responders and experts on behalf of US President Donald Trump to discuss the global pandemic response, US-Taiwan partnership and the island's role as a "reliable global supplier of medical equipment and critical technology," according to the statement.

Jonathan Swan reveals the simple secret to exposing Trump's lies: basic follow-up questions

Jonathan Swan, a reporter for Axios, has revealed the magic words that expose President Donald Trump's lies for what they are.
In an interview that aired Monday night on "Axios on HBO," Swan demolished some of Trump's most dishonest talking points with a powerful tactic that has rarely been used by the people Trump has allowed to interview him.

tirsdag 4. august 2020

Anders Magnus: TikTok – så kan du være i lomma på en fremmed makt

Hva er det med TikTok truer sikkerheten? Appen registrerer IP-adressen og telefonen eller maskinen du bruker for å se på videoene. Gir du tillatelse finner den ut eksakt hvor du er, kontaktene dine og telefonnummeret. Også det du driver på med på appen blir lagret jevnlig. I en rettslig stevning i California hevdes det også at TikTok i skjul lagrer og overfører biometriske data. Det vil si at den kan gjenkjenne ansiktet til brukeren. Men – mye av dette er jo det samme som Facebook og Google driver på med!

Jeg har ingenting til overs for at de sosiale mediene og nettleserne samler inn alle slags opplysninger om oss. Vi har sett hvor stor skade de kan gjøre som plattform for å spre falsk informasjon. Autoritære regimer har brukt dem til påvirkning av velgere i mange land. Kanskje en av de største truslene våre liberale demokratier står overfor. Men akkurat dette korrespondentbrevet skal dreie seg om TikTok.

India's Narendra Modi to lay foundation stone at divisive Ayodhya temple despite rise in coronavirus cases

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to lay a foundation stone for the construction of a Hindu temple at a holy site that's been at the center of the country's most politically and culturally divisive land dispute. Modi is due to lay a 40 kilogram (88 pound) silver brick at the site Wednesday in a ceremony attended by 175 dignitaries in Ayodhya, a town in Uttar Pradesh state.

For decades, Hindu groups have campaigned for a temple to the god Ram be built at the site where a 16th-century mosque stood before it was demolished by right-wing groups in 1992.  The destruction of the Babri Masjid by Hindu extremists sparked some of the worst violence seen in India since independence, with more than 2,000 people killed in nationwide rioting. 

After years of legal battles, India's Supreme Court in November 2019 granted Hindu groups permission to build the Ram Temple at the centuries-old Ayodhya holy site, effectively ending the dispute.  But Wednesday's ground laying ceremony is going ahead as India's coronavirus cases spiral, with around 50,000 new infections recorded every day for the past five days.

Opinion: America's Gang of Four has spoken, but it doesn't understand US-China reality

The Gang of Four has now spoken. Over the past month or so, in a virulent polemic against communism reminiscent of the Red-baiting of the 1950s, four top officials of the Trump administration have delivered a series of well-orchestrated tirades against China.

National security adviser Robert O'Brieninitially focused on China as an ideological threat. FBI Director Christopher Wray next addressed espionage. Attorney General William Barr did the economics piece. And then Secretary of State Mike Pompeobatted cleanup and pulled it all together in a full frontal attack delivered on July 23 at the Nixon Library in California -- providing an uncomfortable bookend to the opening up of US-China relations that President Richard Nixon initiated with his historic visit to China in 1972.

Why Microsoft wants to buy TikTok

TikTok is scrambling to keep its American presence alive, and Microsoft has emerged as a potential, albeit unlikely, savior.  Microsoft (MSFT) on Sunday said it is pushing forward with talks to acquire TikTok, following a conversation between CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald Trump, who previously threatened to ban the app in the United States. 

The transaction could be complicated and difficult to accomplish. And Microsoft has in recent years shifted its strategy away from consumers toward businesses.  Still, analysts say the deal is almost certain to be worthwhile for both companies.  It's clear why TikTok would be interested in the deal: Trump has said he will ban the app if it doesn't find an American buyer by September 15. Microsoft may be TikTok's only hope. While other Big Tech firms might seem like a more natural fit to acquire TikTok — Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) are facing antitrust scrutiny that would likely get in the way of an acquisition. 

Multiple analysts have described the acquisition as a potential "coup" for Microsoft — an opportunity to scoop up one of the world's fastest growing social media platforms at a time when TikTok may be desperate to make a deal.

China state media accuses US of trying to steal TikTok

Chinese state media this week is blasting Washington for what it calls the United States' "nasty" treatment of TikTok — the wildly popular video-sharing app that has become emblematic of worsening US-China relations.  "The US' decoupling from China starts [with] killing China's most competitive companies," wrote the Global Times, a state-run tabloid, in an editorial published Monday. "In the process, Washington ignores rules and is unreasonable."

A weekslong debate about the future of TikTok — which is owned by Bejing-based tech firm ByteDance — came to a head over the weekend when US President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app from operating in the United States. Policymakers have repeatedly expressed concern that TikTok could pose a threat to national security should the data it collects on its US users end up in the hands of the Chinese government. TikTok, though, has said it stores its data outside of China and that it would resist any attempts by Beijing to seize the information.

By Monday, Trump said he would be open to allowing a US company to buy TikTok, albeit with the unusual caveat that any deal would have to include a "substantial amount of money" coming to the US Treasury. Washington State-based Microsoft(MSFT) has emerged as a potential buyer, and has said it is pursuing a purchase.

Who Will Be China’s Next Premier?

Who would have imagined street stalls could grab so much attention in China? Premier Li Keqiang’s comments about expanding street stalls to promote employment and the apparent pushback by Xi Jinping’s allies against his proposal have also revealed something that has become an afterthought in the Xi era: the power and importance of the country’s premier.

Li’s days as premier are limited – in fact, a little less than 1,000. When the National People’s Congress (NPC) amended China’s constitution in 2018 to remove term limits for the positions of president and vice president, it left the two-term limit for the premier unchanged. Li will have to either retire a bit early (he will be 67 at the 20th Party Congress in 2022, an age at which Politburo-level Chinese politicians usually receive a new five-year term) or move to a different position, for example chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC or the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, similar to what Li Peng did in 1998. Because of the focus on what Xi will do in 2022, an important question has been ignored: Who will take Li Keqiang’s place?

mandag 3. august 2020

Beijing is well positioned to continue growing its influence in Central Asia, though some challenges remain ahead.

Over the last decade, China cemented its position as a consequential actor in Central Asia. Motivated to increase regional connectivity, diversify sources of energy imports, and safeguard its western territories, China invested heavily in trade and infrastructure projects in Central Asia. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, became the cornerstone of China’s rising power in the region. The COVID-19 pandemic, which upended many regional economies, offers China an opportunity to reevaluate its overall strategy. China’s post-COVID plans for Central Asia will need to not only consider its ability to push forward with the BRI, but also wrestle with obstacles that have hindered its progress in recent years.

In the post-pandemic era, Chinese influence in Central Asia vis-à-vis other powers will only increase. No other regional or global power will be capable of matching China’s capacity to invest in the region. Faced with no real alternatives to Beijing’s lending power, Central Asia’s dependency on China will only increase.

Donald Trump is a bigger threat to the US than coronavirus or China

The biggest threat America faces is not the coronavirus or China. Science and common sense will bring the pandemic under control within the next year. China is a much bigger challenge as Beijing tries to export its model of surveillance-enabled totalitarianism, but its bullying of Taiwan, herding of its ethnic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang into internment camps, and efforts to crush democracy in
Hong Kong have finally forced more countries to stand up to Beijing.

To keep this momentum intact, the White House will need to stop antagonising allies and supporting autocrats. We all know this won’t happen unless Trump is thrown out of office. Trump will continue to attack anyone not supporting his re-election bid and try to undermine confidence in the November 3 poll’s result.

Court in China's Shandong Jails Rights Activist Yu Xinyong

Yu Xinyong was sentenced to four-and-a-half years' imprisonment by the Lixia District People's Court in the provincial capital Jinan, which found him guilty of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," a charge often used to prosecute peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. The court found that Yu had gathered others to caused public disturbances in Jinan, Zibo, and other places in Shandong, disturbed public order and participated in "so-called rights defending" over a prolonged period.

A source close to Yu who asked to remain anonymous said he had helped some of the most vulnerable people in the province lodge petitions and complaints with government departments. "Some of the victims [in these cases] had no way to resolve their complaints through normal channels," the source said. "So Yu went to government departments with them to try to stand up for social justice." "He played a coordinating role, so that officials and petitioners would have a better way to resolve complaints about unjust treatment," the source said.

A defense attorney hired by Yu's family withdrew from the case last month, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, and an officially approved rights lawyer was appointed instead, the source said.