Tag Archives: G7

China: Daily Scan, December 21, 2021

Xi stresses improving Party regulations to safeguard Party’s leadership, governance: Xinhuanet
December 20, 2021

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has stressed the important role of the Party’s internal regulations in maintaining the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee. The regulations are also vital to the Party’s long-term governance and the country’s enduring prosperity and stability, said Xi, also Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, in an instruction to a national meeting on the work of the Party’s internal regulations held in Beijing Monday. Click here to read…

Chinese FM sums up China’s foreign relations in 2021: Xinhuanet
December 21, 2021

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday delivered a speech at a symposium on the international situation and China’s foreign relations in 2021. During the past year, the world has witnessed a persistent and unchecked pandemic, accelerating changes unseen in a century and a period of turbulence and transformation globally, Wang said while addressing the symposium, co-hosted by the China Institute of International Studies and the China Fund of International Studies in Beijing. Click here to read…

China sets to build fusion energy research facility: Xinhuanet
December 21, 2021

China is building a research facility to incubate core technologies used in power generation of fusion energy that powers the sun. The facility in the pipeline, called “Comprehensive Research Facility for Fusion Technology” (CRAFT), is a platform on which engineers develop and test fusion energy reactor’s key components. Click here to read…

Chinese underwater acoustic communication machine achieves long-distance transmission: Xinhuanet
December 20, 2021

A Chinese-made underwater acoustic communication machine has achieved long-distance transmission at a high rate. The acceptance test of the sample machine showed that the underwater acoustic communication machine, developed by a research team from the Ocean College of Zhejiang University, realized 90 percent of transmission rate at a speed of 3.07 KBps (kiloBytes per second) over 14 km. Click here to read…

China endeavors to turn construction waste into resources: Quishi
December 20, 2021

At China Construction Fourth Engineering Division Corp. Ltd.’s construction site in Guangzhou, capital of south China’s Guangdong province, residual waste is ground into fine aggregates and turned into bricks permeable to water. The construction project is able to process 500 cubic meters of solid waste for eight consecutive hours per day on average, with the waste processing and recycling rate reaching 40 percent to 50 percent, said Niu Yongxu, manager of the project. Click here to read…

Huawei releases scenario-based solutions to facilitate digital transformation of industries: People’s Daily
December 21, 2021

Chinese tech giant Huawei has launched 11 scenario-based solutions for customers from different industries to satisfy their individualized demands for digital transformation, aiming to respond to challenges, take opportunities and create new value in these industries together with its partners. To achieve digital transformation, enterprises need to develop digital platforms as a foundation and focus on business restructuring with the aim of supporting the success of their main business, noted Tao Jingwen, Huawei’s Board Member. Click here to read…

China strives to keep employment stable: People’s Daily
December 20, 2021

Facing the COVID-19 impact and downward pressure of the economy, China is looking to keep employment stable. As measures keep rolling out to ensure people get jobs, more policies are needed to cope with the COVID-19 impact. Employment bears the brunt of the downward pressure on the economy, said Lian Ping, chief economist at Zhixin Investment Research Institute, noting that it is crucial to give priority to employment in economic and social development as well as macro policies. Click here to read…

Local legislatures should make suggestions from public transparent: China Daily
December 21, 2021

Suggestions from deputies to local people’s congresses — local legislative bodies — should be publicized in an appropriate manner, according to a draft amendment. Whether the suggestions are accepted and how deputies aim to resolve problems should be made transparent after being reported to the standing committees of the congresses, the draft amendment to the Organic Law of the Local People’s Congresses and Local People’s Governments said. Click here to read…

China expected to extend regulatory crackdowns into 2022: Reuters

December 21, 2021

After China’s year of unprecedented crackdowns, roiling markets and halting deals, bankers and lawyers expect tighter scrutiny to continue in 2022 but say clearer rules will give investors some certainty about the regulatory environment. Over the past year, Beijing has clamped down on antitrust violations, banned private tuition groups, reined in property developers’ debt binge, and made some offshore listings close to impossible. Click here to read…

China cuts benchmark lending rate for 1st time in nearly 2 years: Kyodo
December 20, 2021

China’s central bank cut its benchmark lending rate on Monday for the first time in nearly two years to prop up the slowing economy, in a sharp contrast to the United States and other major economies that are moving to tackle inflation. In recent months, the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have been inclined to tighten their monetary policy in an attempt to curb steep inflation stemming partially from a spike in global material prices amid hopes for post-pandemic economic recovery. Click here to read…

G7, EU, Five Eyes condemn Hong Kong elections while US sanctions five Chinese officials: South China Morning Post
December 21, 2021

The Group of Seven (G7) and European Union on Monday voiced “grave concern” over the outcome of Hong Kong’s recent Legislative Council elections, following a similar condemnation by the Five Eyes alliance and Washington’s decision to sanction five Chinese officials for allegedly undermining the city’s semi-autonomous status. The blitz of criticism pointed to Beijing’s overhaul of local electoral systems in March to ensure only “patriots” hold office as an unacceptable restriction of voter choice. Foreign ministers of the seven countries and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell issued a joint statement about their “grave concern over the erosion of democratic elements” in Hong Kong. Click here to read…

China’s Big Tech crackdown: number of apps falls 40 per cent over 3 years amid new data laws and clean-up campaigns: South China Morning Post
December 21, 2021

Chinese smartphone users have seen the number of apps available to them fall by 38.5 per cent over the past three years, with the most precipitous drop coming this year amid the country’s crackdowns on Big Tech platforms and internet content, showing how China’s fortified market structure has taken a toll on the digital sector.The total number of apps in Chinese app stores fell to just 2.78 million by October of this year, down from 4.52 million at the end of 2018, according to a South China Morning Post review of data compiled from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). The fall in the total number of apps is partly a sign of China’s maturing app market. WeChat, Tencent Holdings’ social network with 1.2 billion monthly active users globally, has dominated social media in China for years. Click here to read…

Global Developments and Analysis: Weekly Monitor, 11 October- 17 October

Economic

China’s Xi calls for progress on property tax in drive for prosperity

In an essay in the ruling Communist Party journal Qiushi, published by the official Xinhua news agency on Oct 15, Xi called for China to “vigorously and steadily advance” legislation for a property tax. China has mulled such a tax for over a decade but faced resistance from stakeholders including local governments themselves, who fear it would erode property values or trigger a market sell-off. Such a tax could curb rampant speculation in the housing market, which is currently under intense global scrutiny as developer China Evergrande Group struggles with a debt crisis. Xi also warned against government over-promising on social welfare amid a push to achieve what he called “common prosperity” by mid-century.”Common prosperity” is a broad policy drive to narrow the gap between rich and poor. It has involved a wave of regulatory crackdowns on excesses in industries including technology and private tuition. The gap between people’s income and consumption should be narrowed to a “reasonable range” by mid-century, Xi said. But Xi also said that the government should not make promises it could not deliver on and avoid the “trap” of “welfarism” and helping the lazy. “The government cannot take care of everything,” he said. Click here to read…

China’s Li Keqiang acknowledges slowing economic growth, but says Beijing has the ‘tools’ to cope with headwinds

China has “adequate tools” to tackle the economic challenges facing the country, including the nation’s current power crisis and high commodity prices, Premier Li Keqiang said on Oct 14. Though economic growth has slowed in the third quarter due to a number of factors, the government was confident China could meet its growth target of “above 6 per cent” for 2021, Li said at the opening of the Canton Fair in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou. “We have adequate tools in our toolbox to cope with such challenges, including the energy and electricity supply strains,” he said, adding policymakers would also strive to keep inflation in check. China would promote innovation in cross-border e-commerce and logistics and boost international cooperation in trade digitisation, including by building a number of related enterprises in the Greater Bay Area. The provincial secretary for Guangdong read out a letter from President Xi Jinping in which he said China is willing to join hands with the rest of the world to uphold true multilateralism and build an open international economy. Before Covid-19, the 2019 spring session of the trade expo attracted 195,454 foreign buyers from 213 countries and regions across the world. The top five sources of buyers were from Hong Kong, India, the United States, South Korea and Thailand. Click here to read…

Kishida launches flagship panel to look into wealth redistribution

Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida launched a flagship council on Oct 15 to work out a strategy to tackle wealth disparities and redistribute wealth to households, in what he describes as a “new form of capitalism.” The move is a crucial part of Kishida’s economic policy that combines the pro-growth policies of former premier Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” stimulus measures and efforts to more directly shift wealth from companies to households. It also came in the wake of Kishida’s decision on Oct 14 to dissolve parliament and set the stage for an election where fixing the pandemic-hit economy will be the focus. “In order to achieve strong economic growth, it’s not enough to rely just on market competition. That won’t deliver the fruits of growth to the broader population,” Kishida told a news conference on Thursday, calling for the need for stronger government-driven steps to distribute more wealth to households. The panel will hold its first meeting later this month and aim to come up with interim proposals by year-end so they can be reflected in tax reform discussions for next fiscal year, Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa told reporters on Oct 15. Click here to read…

Gas Crisis Prompts Fresh Proposals From EU

The European Union is considering new measures, including joint purchases of gas to build up the bloc’s strategic reserves, to help alleviate future energy crises like one the continent now faces. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, laid out various actions on Oct 13 that could be taken at EU or national level to prevent energy price shocks. The measures include emergency income support for families who can’t afford their energy needs, tax and levy cuts, industry-wide support for companies and efforts to work with international partners on gas supplies to ease price pressures. EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said the bloc was tightening its surveillance work alongside member states to clamp down on any possible gas market “manipulation or speculation”. The Commission is also tabling ideas for steps the EU might implement in the coming months to help cushion future supply shocks. Ms. Simson said the EU would also look at voluntary joint procurement of gas to build up storage reserves, which currently cover around 20% of the EU’s annual demand. She ruled out for now setting minimum storage requirements for gas—as there currently are for oil reserves. Click here to read…

Inflation Surges Worldwide as Covid-19 Lockdowns End and Supply Chains Can’t Cope

Rising inflation is triggering anxiety around the world as a surge in demand following the easing of Covid-19 lockdowns has been confronted by supply bottlenecks and rising prices of energy and raw materials. The sharpest consumer-price increases in years in many countries have evoked different responses from central banks. More than a dozen have raised interest rates but two that haven’t are those that loom largest over the global economy: the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. Their differing responses reflect differences in views about whether the pickup in prices will feed further cycles of inflation or will instead peter out. Which view is right will do much to shape the trajectory of the global economy over the next few years. The large central banks are relying on households showing faith in their track records of keeping inflation low, and the expectation that there are enough under-utilized workers available to keep wage rises in check. Other monetary authorities aren’t sure that they have yet earned that kind of credibility as inflation. In poorer countries, a larger share of spending usually also goes to essentials such as food and energy that have seen the largest price rises, so policy makers are quicker to tamp down on inflation. Click here to read…

G-20 pledges help for Afghan humanitarian crisis at special summit

The Group of 20 major economies is determined to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, even if it means having to coordinate efforts with the Taliban, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Oct 12 after hosting an emergency summit. U.S. President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many European leaders took part, but Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not dial in, suggesting differing international positions on the emergency. Draghi said the absence of the latter two leaders did not undercut the importance of the meeting organized by Italy, the current G-20 chair. “This was the first multilateral response to the Afghan crisis … multilateralism is coming back, with difficulty, but it is coming back,” Draghi said. There was unanimous agreement among the participants about the need to alleviate the crisis in Afghanistan, where banks are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have soared, leaving millions at risk of severe hunger. Much of the aid effort will be channelled through the United Nations, but there will also be direct country-to-country assistance, despite a refusal by most states to officially recognize the hard-line Taliban government. Click here to read…

G7 finance officials say CBDCs should support, ‘do no harm’ to monetary and financial stability

G7 finance officials on Oct 13 endorsed 13 public policy principles for retail central bank digital currencies, saying they should be grounded in transparency, the rule of law and sound economic governance, the US Treasury Department said. “Innovation in digital money and payments has the potential to bring significant benefits but also raises considerable public policy and regulatory issues,” Group of 7 (G7) finance ministers and central bankers said in a joint statement. “Strong international coordination and cooperation on these issues helps to ensure that public and private sector innovation will deliver domestic and cross-border benefits while being safe for users and the wider financial system.” The finance officials met in person, with some joining by video, in Washington on Oct 13 during the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank under the leadership of British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak. Any CBDC must support, and ‘do no harm’ to, the ability of central banks to fulfil their mandates for monetary and financial stability. In their joint statement, the G7 officials said central bank money in the form of central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, would complement cash and could act as a liquid, safe settlement asset and an anchor for the payments system. Click here to read…

‘Made in China’ chip drive falls far short of 70% self-sufficiency

The Chinese government’s goal of meeting 70% of its semiconductor needs through domestic supply remains a long way off, private-sector research shows, with an estimated self-sufficiency rate of 16% last year despite an all-out government push to boost production. The government has laid out a slew of measures to achieve one of President Xi Jinping’s policy priorities, including stepping up investment by state-backed funds focused specifically on the industry. The largest of these is the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, dubbed the “Big Fund,” set up in the fall of 2014 and tasked with supporting Made in China 2025. The Big Fund has boosted the profile of NAND flash-memory maker Yangtze Memory Technologies. It has also invested heavily in material and equipment supply chains for Semiconductor Manufacturing International, or SMIC, helping to grow the company into a leading Chinese chip foundry. The government also rolled out tax and other incentives for chipmakers last year. Yet China sourced only 16% of its semiconductors domestically last year, data from market research firm IC Insights shows. The figure is even lower, at 6%, after excluding foreign companies with facilities in China, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix. Click here to read…

Indonesia turns to state coffers as China-led rail project’s costs soar

When Indonesia awarded the contract for the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway to a Chinese consortium six years ago, the project was supposed to be completed by 2018 with no financial contributions or guarantees required from the Indonesian government. But with construction years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued a decree Sept. 6 that lets the government put state funds into the project — negating one of the biggest perks that had led Indonesia to choose the Chinese proposal over a Japanese alternative. Much of the rail link’s woes stem from poor initial planning, which failed to identify all the ways the project could go wrong. Indonesia originally expected construction to cost $5.5 billion but had increased its projection to $6.07 billion as of January, five years since the project broke ground. A more recent review by Kereta Cepat Indonesia China, a joint venture among Indonesian state-owned enterprises, Chinese rail companies and the operator of the project, pegged the cost at no less than $7.97 billion. Before China secured the project, Japan had proposed building a shinkansen-style rail link from Jakarta to Bandung costing $5.29 billion at current rates, via 40-year official development assistance (ODA) loans. Click here to read…

Japan needs secret patents to guard national security: LDP’s Amari

Japan needs a way to keep patents with national security implications from being made public, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s new secretary-general told Nikkei on Oct 12, bringing intellectual property into Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s economic security push. This should be included in economic security legislation set to be submitted to parliament in 2022, Akira Amari said, warning that current law could “become an obstacle to securing a technological advantage.” While patent filings in Japan are generally made public after 18 months, other countries can block the release of applications involving technology with potential military uses, to keep them out of the hands of foreign countries or terrorist groups. In certain cases, the authorities provide compensation for forgone revenue from licensing, for example. Amari also advocated replacing nuclear power facilities nearing the end of their 40-year life span with small modular reactors, which are reputed to be safer and to take less time to build. The latest draft of the government’s basic energy plan calls for nuclear to be 20% to 22% of the power generation mix in fiscal 2030 but provides no details on the number of facilities needed for that goal. Click here to read…

Nuclear hawks under Kishida threaten Suga’s renewables push

Pro-nuclear lawmakers now hold key positions under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, sparking concern that he will stray from the prior administration’s focus on renewables to help achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. New ministers in charge of Japan’s efforts to fight climate change and energy issues under the Kishida administration have vowed to stick with the net zero targets. In October 2020, then Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to achieve the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 amid fanfare. He upped the ante in April by announcing that Japan would aim for a 46-percent reduction by 2030 from fiscal 2013 levels in the run-up to a session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Japan had previously targeted a 26-percent reduction. The Suga administration also spelled out the principle of prioritizing renewables such as solar and wind power over all other energy sources in government programs. The new Basic Energy Plan drafted by the Suga administration made no mention of nuclear power-related projects despite pressure from pro-nuclear lawmakers within the LDP and the nuclear industry. LDP lawmakers who support nuclear energy are unhappy about the Basic Energy Plan, which said Japan will “reduce its dependence on nuclear energy as much as possible.” Click here to read…

Strategic

US accuses China of deviating from ‘minimal nuclear deterrence’ strategy

China is deviating from its minimal nuclear deterrence strategy, the US State Department charged on Oct 18, after a report that Beijing had recently tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile. “We are deeply concerned about the rapid expansion of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China’s] nuclear capabilities, including its development of novel delivery systems,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a briefing about a Financial Times report on Oct 16 that China had launched a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August. Denying the FT report earlier on Oct 18, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman called the launch “a routine test of a space vehicle to verify the technology of their reusability” and said that the launched object “was not a missile” with a military purpose. Price declined to comment on what information the US government had concerning the test but appeared to dismiss any attempts to play down its significance. He cited a US count of “at least” 250 ballistic missile launches by China in the nine months through September. “This is especially concerning … given the PRC’s lack of transparency into its evolving nuclear posture. Click here to read…

Time for a harder defence line on China’s borders amid ‘challenges on almost every side’

China faces increasingly serious challenges at its land and sea borders on almost every side and must urgently reinforce its defences in these regions, according to a Chinese military researcher. The assessment from Ouyang Wei, a retired professor with the PLA National Defence University, comes as the US steps up its military presence in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, and uncertainties grow on China’s land borders with India, Afghanistan, Myanmar and North Korea. In a report published by Beijing-based think tank the Grandview Institution, Ouyang said the country was facing encroachment, secession and terrorism in some border areas. “The struggle to safeguard national unity and territorial integrity, to fight against secession and terrorism in border areas, tends to be a long game, and will be even more so now with a new period of instability in the Taiwan Strait,” he said. Ouyang said that to address the challenges, China could upgrade defence infrastructure along the coast, including its air defence identification systems and underwater warning facilities. Click here to read…

Israel claims ‘right’ to strike Iran ‘at any moment’ to prevent it from obtaining nukes, FM Lapid says after meeting with Blinken

Israel reserves the right to attack Iran at any time of its choosing, under the pretext of stopping it from acquiring a nuclear weapon, Tel Aviv’s FM Yair Lapid said after meeting with his American and Emirati counterparts. Addressing reporters after a sit-down with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Washington on Oct 13, Lapid insisted that Tehran must not be allowed to obtain the bomb, saying the issue was at the “center” of his visit. Though Iran has long maintained it has no interest in developing nukes, Lapid vowed that Israel would stop its supposed “race to the bomb” by any means necessary. “Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment and in any way. That is not only our right, but also our responsibility,” he said. “Iran has publicly stated it wants to wipe us out. We have no intention of letting this happen.” While the FM also spoke of improved ties with Arab neighbours through a series of normalization deals struck last year and noted that Israel had “turned the cold peace with Egypt and Jordan into a warm peace,” much of his prepared remarks focused on Iran. Click here to read…

Israel greenlights deal to double freshwater supply to Jordan in major new sales agreement between the two states

Israel’s minister of infrastructure, energy and water, Karine Elharrar has announced that Tel Aviv has formally signed off on a deal to double its freshwater supply to Jordan, in a bid to bolster “good neighbourly relations.” The deal comes months after Israel announced plans to sell 50 million cubic meters of water to Jordan, as part of renewed efforts to build cooperation between the neighbouring states by addressing a major area of disagreement which has persisted since the 1994 peace deal. Having travelled to Jordan for a signing ceremony, Elharrar said in a tweet that the deal was “an unequivocal statement” that Tel Aviv wants to secure “good neighbourly relations” with Amman. Landlocked Jordan, much of whose lands are desert, is believed to be the second-most water-insecure country in the world, according to the US-based think tank Century Foundation. The country has relied on water-supply cooperation with Israel and its antecedents dating back over a hundred years. Under the 1994 peace deal agreed between them, Israel agreed to sell Jordan 45 million cubic meters of water a year at a reduced price, with more available at 65 cents per cubic meter for one year, and then at a higher price again for a further two years. Click here to read…

Iran, Venezuela to sign 20-year cooperation accord

Iran will sign a 20-year cooperation accord with Venezuela when President Nicolas Maduro visits Tehran “in the next few months”. In a joint press conference with his Venezuelan counterpart Felix Plasencia in Tehran on Oct 18, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian announced the news and added that a joint economic cooperation commission, which will be formed in Iran’s capital before the end of the year which, will finalise the details of the agreement.“All of this confirms that relations between the two countries are on the rise,” Amirabdollahian said, adding that some of the agreements made earlier on cooperation on a wide range of issues, including energy, are currently being implemented. Plasencia’s visit to Iran came shortly after Reuters news agency reported on Oct 16 that an Iran-flagged super tanker, carrying two million barrels of heavy crude provided by the Venezuelan state-run oil firm, was about to set sail for Iran. The vessel had reportedly arrived in Venezuela last month carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian condensate. Click here to read…

Syrian government, opposition to start drafting constitution

The Syrian government and opposition groups have agreed to start drafting new constitutional provisions during renewed United Nations-mandated negotiations in Geneva this week. “The two co-chairs now agree that we will not only prepare for constitutional reform, but we will prepare and start drafting the constitutional reform,” UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said at a brief news conference on Oct 17. The drafting committee is comprised of 45 members from the Syrian government, opposition, and civil society. They have not met since last January. “We concluded that we were not making sufficient progress, and that we could not continue the way we have been working,” Pedersen said. “Since then, close to nine months, I’ve been negotiating between the parties, trying to establish a consensus on how we are going to move forward.”In January 2018 at the Russia-hosted Syrian peace conference in Sochi, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution until September 2019, equally represented by the Syrian government, political opposition, and civil society. A smaller committee of 45 individuals of that same proportion is tasked with negotiating and drafting the new constitutional provisions. Click here to read…

Analysis: How Judge Bitar’s probe shook Lebanon leaders

When the Lebanese government announced more than a year ago that the probe into the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port would be conducted domestically, few expected that senior officials would be charged. But even fewer expected that the lead investigator, Judge Tarek Bitar, could rattle the country’s entrenched leadership, which for decades has reigned with impunity and routinely quashed legal investigations that may hold it accountable. More than 200 people were killed and some 6,500 wounded when hundreds of tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate fertiliser stored in the port for years ignited on August 4, 2020. The explosion wrecked large parts of Beirut and continues to haunt Lebanon, as the country struggles with an economic meltdown that plunged three-quarters of its population into poverty. No officials have been convicted yet. Bitar’s persistence to pursue senior political and security officials, despite their attempts to de-legitimise and remove him, has put the country on notice. On Oct 14, a protest in Beirut by Hezbollah and Amal supporters calling for Bitar’s removal turned into a bloodbath when unidentified snipers fired at the crowd from rooftops, triggering a gun battle that last for more than four hours. Seven civilians and combatants died. Click here to read…

Saudi Arabia ‘at the top’ of China’s Middle Eastern diplomacy

Relations with Saudi Arabia are at the top of China’s Middle Eastern diplomacy efforts, the Chinese foreign minister told his Saudi Arabian counterpart in a call on Oct 17. Wang Yi said China had always given priority to its relations with Saudi Arabia and was willing to be a long-term and reliable partner, according to a readout issued by the Chinese foreign ministry soon after his conversation with Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. Wang said China was ready to work with Saudi Arabia to deepen connections between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030”. He added that China would continue to play a constructive role in promoting the resumption of negotiations on the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal. “China has always maintained an objective and fair position on the Iran nuclear issue and committed itself to maintaining the international nuclear non-proliferation system and safeguarding the security and stability of the Gulf region in the Middle East, without any self-interest or geopolitical considerations.”At a meeting in Tashkent in July, Wang told his Saudi Arabian counterpart that China opposed external forces pointing fingers at Saudi Arabia under the banner of human rights and democracy. Click here to read…

Russia suspends NATO mission after staff expelled

Russia will suspend the activities of its diplomatic mission to NATO and close the alliance’s offices in Moscow in response to its expulsion of eight Russians in a row over spying. The moves, announced on Oct 18 by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, are set to plunge relations between Moscow and the transatlantic security body to new depths when they take effect at the start of next month. Lavrov also announced that NATO’s military liaison and information offices in Moscow would be closed, saying accreditations would be recalled at the beginning of November. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile said the expulsions were not linked to a particular event but claimed the eight individuals’ activities were not in line with their accreditations. He said NATO needed to be vigilant in the face of “malign” Russian activity and described relations with Moscow as at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Stoltenberg cited Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border and what he said were violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as evidence of “aggressive actions”. However, the council has been largely non-functioning since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Click here to read…

U.S. calls Cambodia opaque over Chinese activity at navy base

The United States on Oct 13 accused Cambodia of lacking transparency about Chinese construction activities at its biggest naval base and urged the government to disclose to its people the full scope of Beijing’s military involvement. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Oct 13 made public what it said were satellite images showing construction in August and September of three new buildings and the start of a new road. U.S. embassy spokesperson Chad Roedemeier in a statement said that any foreign military presence at Ream would violate Cambodia’s constitution and undermine regional security. “The Cambodian people deserve to know more about the project at Ream and to have a say in this type of military agreement, which has long term implications for their country.”Cambodia’s ties with the United States have frayed in recent years over U.S. allegations its ruling party is persecuting its opponents, and concerns about China’s growing influence. A year ago, Cambodia said it had razed a U.S.-funded facility at the Ream naval base to allow for further expansion. The United States said Cambodia had a year earlier turned down its offer to repair the base. Click here to read…

China’s top leaders set date for key meeting next month

The Politburo on Oct 18 decided to hold the sixth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee from November 8 to 11, state news agency Xinhua reported. It said the leadership had sought feedback on the resolution on the party’s “major achievements and historical experience” and it would be reviewed during the plenum. The leaders concluded that while much progress had been made over the past 100 years since the party was founded, it must stay vigilant to achieve the goal of “national rejuvenation” by the middle of this century, according to the report, which called it an “irreversible process”. The November meeting will be important for President Xi Jinping to reinforce the official narrative of the party’s rule and his leadership status ahead of next year’s twice-a-decade national congress, when a major reshuffle is expected. According to observers, the resolution will become an important political document that could chart the direction of China’s ruling party for the next few decades – it has previously adopted just two similar resolutions, both at critical junctures in its history. Click here to read…

Analysis: The man who knew too much of Xi’s power plays is out

On Oct. 2, a major heavyweight with direct knowledge of President Xi Jinping’s long power struggle abruptly fell from grace. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Chinese Communist Party’s top anti-graft body, announced that former Justice Minister Fu Zhenghua has been placed under investigation on suspicion of “serious disciplinary violations.” Fu, 66, is an incumbent member of the party’s elite Central Committee. The crackdown on an influential figure who has overseen the judiciary and police has sent immeasurable shock waves through China’s political world. Fu was behind the investigations that put countless people behind bars. Now that Fu himself has been placed under investigation, doubts could also arise about the legitimacy of his past investigations. It is a momentous development. “My impression was that he was a technocrat who started with case investigations and rose through the ranks,” said one party source. “But this is a case of a man who knew too much. He was forced to leave, in quite a ruthless manner. Now, anything could happen.” One example of Fu’s work was the investigation into Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the party’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee. Click here to read…

U.S. carrier hosts 12 senior Indian officers at Malabar ‘Quad’ drill

Members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — the U.S., Japan, Australia and India — wrapped up joint defence drills in the Indian Ocean on Oct 14, further strengthening their security partnership amid China’s growing military clout in the region. The second phase of the annual Malabar exercise, which included all four Quad members for the second straight year, had begun Oct 11, according to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. On the final day, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, the U.S. Navy’s top commander, hosted 12 senior Indian Navy officers aboard the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier. Those visiting included Indian Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Karambir Singh and Vice Adm. A.B. Singh, commander in chief of the Eastern Naval Command. “This visit to Carl Vinson during Malabar was an important opportunity to see firsthand the integration between our two navies at-sea,” Gilday said in a U.S. Navy news release. “By our navies continuing to exercise together, as we are doing right now alongside Japanese and Australian naval forces, there is no doubt our partnership will only continue to grow. Cooperation, when applied with naval power, promotes freedom and peace, and prevents coercion, intimidation and aggression,” he said. Click here to read…

Kishida includes Quad, China in first calls; South Korea on hold

The Quad security alliance took center stage in new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s first phone calls with foreign leaders, leaving South Korea in the cold. Kishida spoke first with U.S. President Joe Biden, followed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, both on Oct. 5. He talked with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Oct 08 before participating later that day in a teleconference with all three of them, bringing together the leaders of the Quad nations. Biden is the first leader Kishida would like to meet face to face, the prime minister said on a TV Tokyo program Oct 11. Kishida also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Oct 07 and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Oct 08. The Xi call occurred prior to the conversation with Modi, avoiding the appearance of Kishida consulting with the entire Quad before speaking to the Chinese leader. But the Japanese prime minister has yet to call South Korean President Moon Jae-in, underscoring the deep deterioration in relations between the two countries. Kishida will speak with leaders of more than 10 countries over roughly a month. Click here to read…

Countries call for urgent action on biodiversity with ‘Kunming Declaration’

More than 100 countries pledged on Oct 13 to put the protection of habitats at the heart of their government decision-making, but they stopped short of committing to specific targets to curb mass extinctions. Chinese Environment Minister Huang Runqiu told delegates to a U.N. Biodiversity Conference in the city of Kunming that the declaration they adopted was a document of political will not a binding international agreement. The Kunming Declaration calls for “urgent and integrated action” to reflect biodiversity considerations in all sectors of the global economy but crucial issues – like funding conservation in poorer countries and committing to biodiversity-friendly supply chains – have been left to discuss later. With plant and animal species loss now at the fastest rate in 10 million years, politicians, scientists and experts have been trying to lay the groundwork for a new pact on saving biodiversity. In a previous agreement signed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010, governments agreed on 20 targets to try to slow biodiversity loss and protect habitats by 2020, but none of those targets was met. At the heart of efforts to save nature is a call by the United Nations for countries to protect and conserve 30% of their territory by 2030 – a target known as ’30 by 30,’ which the conference acknowledged though it was not clear to what extent host China backed it. Click here to read…

Kishida says Fukushima wastewater release can’t be delayed

Japan’s new prime minister on Oct 17 said the planned mass disposal of wastewater stored at the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant cannot be delayed, despite concerns from local residents. Speaking at his first visit to the facility since taking office, Fumio Kishida said his government would work to reassure residents nearby the plant about the technical safety of the wastewater disposal project. “I felt strongly that the water issue is a crucial one that should not be pushed back,” Kishida told reporters after the tour. The government and TEPCO announced plans in April to start releasing the water into the Pacific Ocean in the spring of 2023 over the span of decades. The plan has been fiercely opposed by fishermen, residents and Japan’s neighbours, including China and South Korea. Contaminated cooling water has continued to leak from the damaged reactors since the disaster. The water has been pumped up from basements and stored in about 1,000 tanks which the operator says will reach their capacity late next year. Japanese officials say disposal of the water is indispensable for the plant cleanup, and that its release into the ocean is the most realistic option. Click here to read…

ASEAN downgrades Myanmar presence in summit in major rebuke

Southeast Asian foreign ministers have agreed to downgrade Myanmar’s participation in an upcoming summit in their sharpest rebuke yet of its leaders following a Feb. 1 military takeover. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations will invite a non-political representative instead of Myanmar’s military leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the grouping’s chair Brunei said Oct 16. ASEAN foreign ministers held an emergency meeting late Oct 15 after Myanmar refused to cooperate with the bloc’s crisis envoy, Brunei Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof. He was appointed in August to mediate in the crisis but abruptly cancelled a trip to Myanmar this week after he was told he would not be able to meet with Suu Kyi and others as he wanted. Myanmar contended Erywan could not meet with people facing legal proceedings such as Suu Kyi and deposed President Win Myint or with entities that have been declared illegal, Brunei said in a statement. The statement from the ASEAN ministers said they were concerned about the impact of the Myanmar crisis on regional security and about the “unity, credibility and centrality of ASEAN as a rules-based organization.” Click here to read…

Air strikes target capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray; 3 civilians dead

Ethiopian military air strikes hit the capital of the Tigray region and killed at least three people, witnesses said on Oct 18, returning the war abruptly to Mekelle after several months of peace. Ethiopia’s government, however, dismissed the reports.The raids, confirmed by two humanitarian workers, came days after a new military offensive was launched against the Tigray forces who have fought Ethiopian and allied forces for nearly a year. Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesman for the Tigray authorities who lives in Mekelle, told The Associated Press a market was bombed on a busy shopping day and many people were wounded. Another resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the first air strike occurred just outside the city and three children from the same family were killed. The resident said at least seven people were wounded in the second attack, which also badly damaged a hotel. Mekelle has not seen fighting since late June, when the Tigray forces retook much of the region and Ethiopian troops withdrew. Since then, Ethiopia’s federal government has called all able citizens to crush the Tigray fighters who dominated the national government for 27 years before being sidelined by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Click here to read…

Nigeria’s Gangs Raised Millions by Kidnapping Children. Now the Government Can’t Stop Them

In the forests of northwest Nigeria, loosely organized criminal gangs that raised funds kidnapping schoolchildren are now flush with arms and operating beyond the reach of an increasingly fragile state. In some instances, government officials in Africa’s most populous nation have been paying the gangs to return stolen weapons and kidnapped personnel, according to confidential documents and interviews with senior military officials, soldiers and independent mediators, and one of the gang leaders. Nigeria’s government—still battling Islamic State militants in the northeast—refers to the lesser-known criminal groups in its northwest as “bandits.” But soldiers, intelligence officers and mediators who have visited their camps describe a surfeit of munitions. “Criminal factions appear to be better equipped with larger-capacity advanced weaponry than national security agencies,” said a confidential internal report presented to the president in July. Nigeria’s Air Force said in a statement that allegations it had made payments to armed bandits were “fake news.” Several senior security officials described mass kidnapping for ransom as Nigeria’s primary new security crisis. Click here to read…

Medical

G20 officials back fairer vaccine distribution

G20 trade ministers on Oct 12 promised to work towards a fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by lifting export restrictions and making the trade system more transparent. Their final statement, adopted after a meeting in southern Italy, was a sign of the return of multilateralism, said Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio.”We have to ensure that there is greater circulation of vaccines and that there are production factories in the developing countries,” French trade minister Franck Riester said. While more than 6 billion vaccine doses have been produced and administered worldwide, only 1.4 percent of people in poor countries have been fully vaccinated, compared to 58 percent in rich countries, World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said earlier in October. Ahead of the WTO’s ministerial conference set for November 30 to December 3 in Geneva, she called on members to agree on a strong response to the pandemic based on a fairer sharing of the vaccines. Riester said another issue was getting vaccine-makers to waive intellectual property rights to allow production around the world. Click here to read…

EU becomes largest Covid vaccine exporter, shipping ‘over one billion’ doses worldwide

Having shipped at least a billion jabs since the global rollout began in December 2020, the bloc has been the biggest exporter of Covid vaccines, European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen has announced. Delivering a statement on Oct 18, von der Leyen outlined the scale of the EU’s Covid vaccine distribution scheme. It has so far shipped doses to more than 150 countries. “Very clearly, the European Union is the largest exporter of Covid-19 vaccines,” she stated, marking the bloc’s “important milestone” of having delivered “over one billion” doses in the past 10 months. The EU has been working to send Covid vaccines around the globe since December 2020, primarily to larger nations, but also to smaller, poorer ones that are vulnerable to the virus. The milestone has been passed despite the EU having introduced a mechanism that monitors and potentially limits vaccine exports, with the measure being extended from an initial September deadline to the end of 2021. According to the EC, the EU is currently sending at least every second dose produced in the EU abroad. Last month, the bloc agreed to send a further 200 million doses to Africa and to low-income countries. Click here to read…