Tag Archives: Indonesia

VIF Neighbourhood News Digest: March 28, 2022

Afghanistan
US Hopes for Reversal by Islamic Emirate on Girls’ Education: Tolo News

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan said on Saturday he is hopeful that there will be a reversal of the Islamic Emirate’s u-turn on girls’ education in the coming days.“I am hopeful that we will see a reversal of this decision in the coming days” Thomas West, US special representative for Afghanistan, said at the Doha Forum. Click here to read…

Mullah Baradar Calls for Afghan Self-Sufficiency: Tolo News

First Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said that the aid provided by international donors will alleviate urgent needs for a short period of time, but said that the ministries must work toward self-sufficiencyClick here to read…

Qatar, Indonesia sign letter for providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan: The Khaama Press

Qatar has announced that they have signed a letter of content with Indonesia based on which both the countries will cooperate in providing humanitarian and development assistance to the people of Afghanistan. Click here to read…

Impoverished Afghan families; private schools, universities lose students: The Khaama Press

Owners of private schools and universities in the Afghan capital Kabul complain that they have lost 60% of their students as the new educational year has just begun across Afghanistan. Click here to read…

Bangladesh
It’s delightful to see achievements of Bangladesh- The Daily Star

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he is willing to work with Bangladesh to push the China-Bangladesh Strategic Partnership of Cooperation to new heights. Click here to read…

Voter list update begins on May 20- The Daily Star

The Election Commission (EC) will start updating the voter list from May 20 and this would be the last registration of prospective voters before the 12th parliamentary election. Click here to read…

Protesting price hike of daily essentials: LDA hartal in progress- The Daily Star

Half-day hartal, announced by Left Democratic Alliance (LDA) in protest of the price hike of daily essentials, has begun across the country. Click here to read…

Bridge lies with no approach roads- The Daily Star

People of several villages under two unions in Dhanbari upazila have been suffering immensely for long as the bridge over the Bangshi river does not have approach roads on either sideClick here to read…

A big leap in tech industry- The Daily Star

Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City likely to get $1.3b investment by 2025Click here to read…

Mass media employees bill to be placed at JS today- The Daily Star

Information Minister Hasan Mahmud will place the Mass Media Employees (services and conditions) Bill-2022 at JS today. Click here to read…

Bangladeshi exporters worry as global brands cancel Russian orders over Ukraine invasion- Benar News

Bangladeshi businesspeople are jittery about the future of bilateral trade with Russia, saying that international sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine are disrupting their exports of key products such as ready-made garments. Click here to read…

Bhutan
Taiwan-donated oxygen concentrators, face masks, arrived in Bhutan- Focus Taiwan

A total of 2,000 Taiwan-donated N95 respirators and 50 oxygen concentrators have arrived in Bhutan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Sunday, amid a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections in the Himalayan kingdom. Click here to read…

Expansionary fiscal policy pushes debt-to-GDP ratio to 138.8 percent- Kuensel

The country’s outstanding external debt increased to a record high of 138.8 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the end of the fiscal year 2020-21 from the previous high of 121 percent. Click here to read…

Businesses to seek more relief measures- Kuensel

Most of the businesses would not be able to repay loans or operate if the relief or monetary measures are discontinued after June 2022, according to Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) President Tandy Wangchuk. Click here to read…

Chilies from southern districts to hit market by April end- Bhutan Times

Despite initial delay in plantation due to pest infection and cold waves, chilly growers in the south are hopeful that their chilies will hit the domestic market by April endClick here to read…

Govt. to recruit doctors from Myanmar- Bhutan Times

With critical shortage of health specialists and their services becoming even dearer in the country, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has initiated the process to recruit foreign doctors from Myanmar on a contract basis which will extend for two years. Click here to read…

Nepal
Chinese Minister Wang completes three-day visit, returns home- Himalayan

China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi returned home today after completing his three-day visit to Nepal. Click here to read…

Wang urged to get China border opened- Himalayan

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met CPN-UML Chair KP Sharma Oli and CPN-Maoist Centre Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal separately today. Click here to read…

Nepal to receive 11.4 billion rupees in Chinese aid- Himalayan

The government of the people’s republic of China will provide more than Rs 11.40 billion in grant assistance to the Government of Nepal under financial and technical assistance. Click here to read…

Tiktok: A tool to win elections- Kathmandu Post

TikTok has been misused by propagandists to spread the political narrative in Southeast Asia. Click here to read…

Main opposition harbours hope to defend pole position, through poll

alliances- Kathmandu Post

UML leaders put on bold faces but are looking deep for opportunities to fight upcoming local elections in collaboration with friends and foes. Click here to read…

(Opinion) Fixing the broken parts in Nepal-China ties: kanak Mani Dixit- Nepal Times

Foreign Minister Wang Yi must use his Kathmandu visit to clear the growing distrust between Beijing and Kathmandu, and seek to better understand Nepal, including its age-old links to Tibet. Click here to read…

Nepal Army Day marked in Kathmandu- Republica

Nepal Army organized a special ceremony to observe the Nepal Army Day and Maha Shivaratri festival at Tundikhel, Kathmandu on Tuesday. Click here to read…

China opposes attempt to engage Nepal in geopolitical games: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi- Nepal Live Today

“China believes that all countries are equal regardless of size, and respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries.” Click here to read…

Maldives
India-Maldives launch initiatives to expand security ties to protect S Indian Ocean: Economic Times

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is on a two-day trip to the Maldives, said on Sunday that “India and Maldives share a deep and abiding friendship. Click here to read…

Explained: What’s behind the new anti-India campaign in the Maldives?: Indian Express

The theme of the rally was “India Out”, a slogan coined two years ago by protesters who claimed that the MDP government led by President Ibrahim Solih had “sold out” the Maldives to India. Click here to read…

Myanmar
China And Pakistan Stepping Up Engagement with Myanmar, And That’s Bad News for India – Swarajyamarg

With global attention focused on the crisis in eastern Europe, China has surreptitiously stepped up its engagement with Myanmar’s junta and has also got Pakistan involved as its proxy to supply arms and munitions to the southeast Asian nation. Click here to read…

Myanmar’s crimes against the Rohingya warrant UN intervention – The Guardian

Now that the US has finally accepted that Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Rohingya Muslims amounts to genocide (Rohingya refugees welcome US decision to call Myanmar atrocities a genocide, 22 March), the UN should enact its responsibility to prevent and respond to this most serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. Click here to read…

Myanmar army denies Rohingya genocide, says some individuals may have committed crimes – US News

Myanmar’s military did not commit genocide against minority Rohingya Muslims during 2017 operations in Rakhine state, but crimes may have been committed by personnel on an individual level, an army spokesman said on Thursday. Click here to read…

Myanmar military deliberately killed civilians after coup: Report – Aljazeera

Myanmar’s military and police deliberately killed civilians opposed to its rule in the six months following the coup in February 2021, in a policy that amounts to crimes against humanity, according to new research published on Thursday. Click here to read…

Armed Forces Day Spotlights Atrocities – Human Rights Watch

Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day on March 27, 2022, is an opportunity for foreign governments to take stronger action against the military’s widespread abuses, Human Rights Watch said today. Click here to read…

Massive Military Regime Convoy Arrives in Western Myanmar – The Irrawaddy

A Myanmar military convoy consisting of 80 vehicles including artillery and armored vehicles has arrived in Mindat in southern Chin State, according to the Chinland Defense Force (CDF), a local resistance group fighting the regime. Click here to read…

Drug use on rise in Rakhine under the current government – Narinjara

Rakhine State has been witnessing the increase of illegal drug uses, including WY stimulants, under the current administration of military backed government, allege locals. Ko Aung Chae, a resident of Buthidaung locality, claimed that the use of drugs among teenagers was on rise in their township, which is located in northern Rakhine. Click here to read…

Japan’s ‘Special Relationship’ With Myanmar Has Abetted Decades of Military Rule – The Irrawaddy

That “special relationship”—when it comes to aid, investment and involvement in the so-called peace process—has so far resulted in little more than making sure that the Myanmar military remains firmly entrenched in power. Click here to read…

Pakistan
PM Imran says ‘foreign-funded conspiracy’ out to topple his govt, claims to have evidence in writing: Dawn

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday claimed that the opposition’s no-trust move is part of an alleged “foreign-funded conspiracy” hatched against his government over his refusal to have Pakistan’s foreign policy be influenced from abroad. Click here to read…

NA to deliberate on no-trust move today: The Express Tribune

The much-anticipated session of the National Assembly to deliberate on the no-confidence motion filed against Prime Minister Imran Khan by the opposition parties will be held today (Monday). Click here to read…

Gas crisis to hit country in summer too: The News

After the Singapore based LNG trading company GUNVOR backed out of delivery of four LNG cargoes that were to be delivered in the remaining four months, in April, May and two in June of its five-year contract ending in July 2022, and the decision of Pakistan LNG Limited not to procure spot LNG cargo for April at the price of $34.677 per MMBTU offered by Vitol Bahrain in the bids opened on Friday, it seems the country would now experience a gas crisis even in the summer season. Click here to read…

Sri Lanka
India asks Sri Lanka to release fishermen, fishing boats from custody: Economic Times

India expressed its readiness to work together with Sri Lanka for joint research to enhance the productivity of the Palk Bay fisheries. Click here to read…

S Jaishankar Lands in Sri Lanka For Bilateral Talks, BIMSTEC Summit: NDTV

This is his first visit to the island nation since India extended an economic relief package to bail Sri Lanka out of the current economic crisis. Click here to read…

China: Daily Scan, March 16, 2022

Xi’s speech on Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference to be published: Xinhuanet
March 15, 2022

A speech by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, at a central conference on the work of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) marking the 70th anniversary of the organization will be published. Click here to read…

Int’l flights to Shanghai rescheduled amid COVID-19 resurgence: Xinhuanet
March 15, 2022

China’s aviation regulator said Tuesday that to alleviate the pressure on epidemic prevention and control in Shanghai, 106 international flights of 22 air routes scheduled to arrive in the city will be diverted elsewhere from March 21 to May 1. Click here to read…

China urges U.S. to take concrete actions to ease situation in Ukraine: Xinhuanet
March 15, 2022

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Tuesday urged the United States to make tangible efforts to ease the situation in Ukraine. Spokesperson Zhao Lijian made the remarks at a daily press briefing in response to a question on recent allegations reportedly made by an unnamed U.S. official on relations between Russia and China with regard to the Ukraine crisis. Click here to read…

China-Bangladesh trade to resume growth: Xinhuanet
March 15, 2022

Bilateral trade between China and Bangladesh will resume growth with the implementation of Bangladesh’s 2021-2024 export policy and duty-free access to China for 98 percent of Bangladeshi products, Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming has said. Click here to read…

China’s Jilin Province reports 1,456 new local COVID-19 cases: Xinhuanet
March 16, 2022

Northeast China’s Jilin Province, hit hard by the COVID-19 resurgence, registered 1,456 confirmed locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the local health authority said Wednesday. On Tuesday, the province also reported 397 local asymptomatic carriers, according to the provincial health commission. Click here to read…

Consumer protection platform in China’s Tibet recovers huge losses: Xinhuanet
March 15, 2022

Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region retrieved total economic losses of 11.4 million yuan (about 1.8 million U.S. dollars) for the region’s consumers via its consumer protection platform in 2021, local authorities said Tuesday. Click here to read…

China to tighten regulation on e-cigarettes: Xinhuanet
March 15, 2022

China’s State Tobacco Monopoly Administration has issued a regulation that aims to strengthen supervision on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). The country will implement license management for e-cigarette production, wholesale and retail entities starting from May 1, according to the regulation. Click here to read…

China fines actor Deng Lun for tax evasion: Xinhuanet
March 15, 2022

Chinese actor Deng Lun has been fined for tax evasion, the Shanghai municipal tax service said Tuesday in a statement. Shanghai’s tax authorities found that the actor evaded individual income tax between 2019 and 2020 by using fictitious business deals to convert the nature of the incomes. Click here to read…

BRI to foster faith in economic cooperation: Quishi
March 15, 2022

China’s unwavering efforts to promote joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative will convey more confidence and strength to the international community on global economic cooperation despite rising external uncertainties and challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical conflicts, analysts and experts said.

The BRI, the world’s largest international cooperation platform with an increasing number of members, is expected to make more contributions to global economic recovery, they said. Click here to read…

China to give more rural residents access to tap water: China Daily
March 15, 2022

China aims to increase the proportion of rural residents that have access to tap water to 85 percent by the end of this year, the Ministry of Water Resources said. The ministry will make accelerated efforts to promote the construction of water supply projects in rural China, according to a document outlining the ministry’s key tasks for this year that was unveiled on Monday. Click here to read…

China releases post-disaster reconstruction plan for flood-hit Henan: China Daily
March 15, 2022

China’s State Council has approved an overall plan for recovery and reconstruction work in flood-hit regions in Central China’s Henan province after torrential rains in July last year caused heavy casualties and property losses. Click here to read…

Shanghai adds 202 new COVID-19 infections: China Daily
March 16, 2022

Shanghai reported 202 new locally transmitted COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, 197 of whom were asymptomatic. Health authorities announced on Wednesday that 139 individuals tested positive during quarantine while the rest were identified during testing of people with potential exposure. Click here to read…

China’s Jilin province reports 1,456 new local COVID-19 cases: China Daily
March 16, 2022

Northeast China’s Jilin province, hit hard by the COVID-19 resurgence, registered 1,456 confirmed locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the local health authority said Wednesday. On Tuesday, the province also reported 397 local asymptomatic carriers, according to the provincial health commission. Click here to read…

Chinese FM supports Indonesia to keep Ukraine crisis off G20 agenda: Global Times
March 15, 2022

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said that although the Group of 20 (G20) is a major forum for international economic cooperation, it is not an appropriate forum to discuss the Ukraine crisis. Click here to read…

Pharmacies, online shops to offer antigen self-test kits nationwide amid soaring COVID-19 infections: Global times
March 15, 2022

After China approved COVID-19 antigen self-test kits for public use and approved 11 such products from local companies, a number of online service platforms including Alipay, Meituan and JD.com as well as local pharmacies rolled out pre-order services nationwide on Tuesday. The recent Omicron-fueled surge has led to cases soaring to more than 15,000 in just half a month in 28 provinces around the country. Click here to read…

India’s new envoy to China assumes office amid welcoming voices, expectations to improve ties: Global Times
March 14, 2022

India’s new ambassador to China Pradeep Kumar Rawat assumed office on Monday amid welcoming voices and expectations from many Chinese following signs of positive momentum from the recently-concluded military talks to resolve border issues between the two countries. Click here to read…

China’s consumer rights gala exposes problems of internet security and food safety: Global Times
March 16, 2022

China’s consumer rights gala held on Tuesday to mark the World Consumer Rights Day exposed cases of violations of consumer rights in various sectors, including internet security, food safety, livestreaming, blind boxes and beauty clinic training among others. Click here to read…

Evergrande’s electric vehicles approved for sale: Global Times
March 15, 2022

China’s industry regulator has given China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group approval to begin sales of its first electric car model, according to an official document . Vehicle sales and delivery are expected to be completed within the year, though it still faces fierce competition from rival automakers, experts claimed. Click here to read…

China’s soaring COVID infections fuel concern about cost of containment: Reuters
March 15, 2022

China posted a steep jump in daily COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, with new cases more than doubling from a day earlier to hit a two-year high, raising concerns about the rising economic costs of its tough measures to contain the disease. Click here to read…

Chinese EV maker BYD raises prices citing jump in raw materials costs: Reuters
March 16, 2022

Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker BYD Co Ltd (002594.SZ) late on Tuesday said it would raise prices on its cars by 3,000-6,000 yuan ($471-942), citing the rising cost of raw materialsClick here to read…

China reports another 3,000 Covid-19 cases as latest surge continues: South China Morning Post
March 16, 2022

China reported more than 3,000 new domestic Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, a drop from the previous day’s 5,100 infections, which had been the biggest rise in the country’s daily tally since the pandemic’s early stages in 2020. The National Health Commission (NHC) reported 3,054 new local cases on Wednesday – 1,860 people with symptoms and 1,194 without. Click here to read…

US-China tech war: Silicon Valley faces ‘difficult battle’ as Beijing ramps up tech spending: South China Morning Post
March 15, 2022

Growing state financial support for hi-tech industries, backed by long-term development targets and a huge pool of engineers, could give China an edge over Silicon Valley within the decade, analysts say. Beijing has its sights set on establishing a world-leading tech industry to boost economic self-reliance and make the country more resilient to external pressure amid heightened rivalry with the United States. Click here to read…

China: Daily Scan, December 2, 2021

China to accelerate training of high-quality workers, skilled talent: Xinhuanet
December 1, 2021

China will speed up efforts to train high-quality workers and talent with technical skills, a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided on Wednesday. A plan for vocational skills training during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025) was reviewed and approved at the meeting. Click here to read…

China to clear arrears owed to SMEs, ensure wage payment to migrant workers: Xinhuanet
December 1, 2021

China will take measures to clear arrears owed to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and ensure migrant workers’ wages are paid on time and in full, the State Council’s Executive Meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided on Wednesday.The meeting noted the relatively fast increase in the accounts receivable of SMEs and rising incidences of delinquent payment this year due to the complex and challenging circumstances at home and abroad, sporadic COVID-19 cases in multiple places and other factors. Click here to read…

China rolls out multiple measures to enrich rural residents’ cultural life: Quishi
December 2, 2021

In fully implementing the rural vitalization strategy, China has emphasized cultural and ethical advancement and improvement in social etiquette and civility in rural areas while boosting the economic development of these areas and improving the living standards of rural residents. Various regions across China have constantly promoted the development and prosperity of rural culture by improving infrastructure, introducing high-quality cultural resources into villages, and scientifically protecting and utilizing traditional rural culture. Click here to read…

85 pct of China’s population to speak Mandarin by 2025: Xinhuanet
December 1, 2021

The number of Chinese people who speak Putonghua, or Mandarin Chinese, will be increased to 85 percent of China’s population by 2025, according to a recent circular. The circular, released by the Ministry of Education, stressed the fundamental role that schools play in the teaching of the standardized Chinese language and characters. Click here to read…

Former senior provincial official under probe: Xinhuanet
December 1, 2021

Zhang Jinghua, former deputy secretary of the Jiangsu Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), is being investigated for suspected severe violations of discipline and law. The investigation is being conducted by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission, according to a statement released on Wednesday. Click here to read…

China firmly opposes Abe’s remarks on Taiwan: People’s Daily
December 2, 2021

China on Wednesday expressed strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent remarks on Taiwan. “Abe, in disregard of the basic norms governing international relations and the principles set out in the four political documents between China and Japan, flagrantly made irresponsible remarks on Taiwan and stirred in China’s internal affairs,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily press briefing. Click here to read…

Antarctic meteorological stations start formal operation: People’s Daily
December 2, 2021

Two more meteorological stations of China in the Antarctica began formal operation Wednesday to help the country obtain long-term and continuous observational data on the continent, said the China Meteorological Administration. The two automatic stations, located at China’s Antarctic research bases, Kunlun and Taishan stations, were set up by China’s Antarctic expedition teams in 2017 and 2012, respectively. Click here to read…

Celebrities’ promotion of vegetarian lifestyle meets with criticism, mockery online: Global Times
December 1, 2021

Some Chinese entertainers’ promotion of people adopting a vegetarian lifestyle on social media recently met with widespread criticism and mockery online, as many netizens claimed such a lifestyle is not healthy for the public, and they decried the celebrities’ blind worship of the West. Zhang Jingchu and Tao Hong, both well-known Chinese actresses, appeared in a 45-minute documentary, during which they promoted the idea that eating vegetables is healthy while eating meat is cruel and unnecessary from a nutritional perspective. Click here to read…

Chinese embassy urges nationals in 3 provinces of DR Congo to evacuate immediately: Global Times
December 1, 2021

The Chinese Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) issued an urgent notice requesting Chinese nationals in the three eastern provinces of DRC — Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu — to report their information to the embassy and evacuate immediately after a number of vicious cases of armed robbery and kidnapping of Chinese nationals took place in the region. Click here to read…

China builds UAV-based marine meteorological observation system: China Daily
December 2, 2021

China has made a major step forward in building an airborne marine meteorological observation system based on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), a vital step to strengthen its meteorological services capabilities. The China-developed Wing Loong-10 UAV has successfully completed a scientific research and experiment test mission on marine meteorological observation on Nov 27. It pioneered in the country the use of one UAV platform to conduct the multi-modes metrological collaborative observation. Click here to read…

WTA pulls tennis tournaments from China over Peng Shuai’s ‘silencing by Beijing’ in wake of sexual abuse remarks: South China Morning Post
December 2, 2021

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced on Wednesday that it would suspend all of its tournaments in China, a dramatic escalation in the global reaction to Beijing’s censorship of an explosive sexual assault claim by Chinese tennis pro Peng Shuai. “In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete [in China] when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,” Steve Simon, the WTA’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. Click here to read…

China’s manufacturing advantage at risk as restrictions mount and competition intensifies, leading engineer warns: South China Morning Post
December 2, 2021

Years of imitating others’ innovations and relying on imports are among the reasons China is still a long way from becoming a hi-tech manufacturing powerhouse, according to a leading engineer who advises the Chinese government. “The next 15 years will be a critical period for our nation’s manufacturing industry to grow stronger,” Chen Xuedong, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said at an event in Beijing on Saturday. Click here to read…

China protested Indonesian drilling, military exercises: Reuters
December 1, 2021

China told Indonesia to stop drilling for oil and natural gas in maritime territory that both countries regard as their own during a months-long standoff in the South China Sea earlier this year, four people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The unprecedented demand, which has not previously been reported, elevated tensions over natural resources between the two countries in a volatile area of global strategic and economic importance. Click here to read…

Global Developments and Analysis: Weekly Monitor, 18 October- 24 October

Economic

Fight terror risks in overseas projects with shared intelligence, Chinese ex-security official says

Countries should step up intelligence sharing to protect overseas investments, according to a former senior Chinese public security official, as Beijing faces greater risks to its belt and road projects. “In the face of challenges, countries need to establish a concept of mutual security,” Chen Zhimin, China’s vice-minister for public security until 2017, told a panel organised by the Beijing-backed Boao Forum in Changsha, Hunan province, on Oct 25. “[Nations should] agree to share intelligence, rules, education and experiences – including hi-tech and big data components – on security matters, in order to achieve a new model of global development,” said Chen, also a former vice-minister of internet regulators the Cyberspace Administration of China. He is currently a member of the country’s top advisory body. China’s latest five-year plan identified “protecting the rights and interests of Chinese overseas investments” as a key goal to ensure national “economic security”, acknowledging that there were increasing risks and uncertainties regarding the safety of China’s wide range of overseas projects under its Belt and Road Initiative. Click here to read…

G-7 trade ministers call for ridding supply chains of forced labour

Ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies agreed Oct 22 to seek to eliminate forced labour from global supply chains, taking a stance seen as in line with Western criticism of China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. The joint statement from the G-7 trade meeting in London marks the first time the group has endorsed import restrictions and other trade policy tools to stop forced labour. The ministers voiced concern about states imposing forced labour on vulnerable groups. While not calling out China by name, the statement follows months of Western denunciation and sanctions imposed on Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. The group also seeks to promote due diligence by companies in order to identify and prevent human rights violations within supply chains. In addition, the G-7 ministers adopted digital trade principles to guide members on promoting the free transfer of data across borders. Ministers shared concerns about multinationals being compelled to keep servers in countries they operate in and called for a ban on forced disclosures of source codes. Click here to read…

China’s SOEs beat hamstrung private sector in profits

China’s state-owned enterprises have pulled ahead of the private sector in profitability this year, as private businesses grapple with an array of challenges including regulatory crackdowns, cash crunches and soaring material costs. Big state industrial companies logged 1.77 trillion yuan ($275 billion) in total profits for the first eight months of 2021, up 87% on the year, compared with a 34% rise to 1.64 trillion yuan for their private counterparts, government data shows. The category covers enterprises in manufacturing, mining and similar industries with more than 20 million yuan in annual revenue from their main operations. If this continues, the state sector could beat the private sector in full-year profits for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008. The trend has raised alarms about the repercussions of President Xi Jinping’s emphasis on strengthening state enterprises, dubbed guojin min tui — “the state advances, the private sector retreats.” While Xi said in April 2020 that reform of state-owned companies was needed, he also asserted that the sector could not be “denied or diminished.” It also underlines the hurdles to China’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership, which bars members from favouring state enterprises. Click here to read…

Xi’s ‘Common Prosperity’ in Theory and Practice

The publication in the party’s theoretical journal, “Seeking Truth,” appears partly aimed at reassuring investors and entrepreneurs spooked by novel language about “rationally adjusting” excessive incomes in the original mid-August readout of Mr. Xi’s speech, which came at the height of Beijing’s campaign to rein in its internet giants. The expanded remarks still contain such language, but the tone and structure contain some marked differences. Mr. Xi forcefully addresses entrepreneurship right near the top, saying that “common prosperity depends on hard work” and innovation and that law-abiding entrepreneurs should be particularly encouraged. The newly released remarks also warn about the dangers of “welfarism” and government dependence—language that was absent from the original readout. In theory, there is a fair amount for investors to like here: most important, it shows that Mr. Xi understands the importance of incentives—and that the rapidly escalating regulatory campaign over the past year risks damaging entrepreneurship. The speech also fits with Beijing’s long standing skepticism about big outlays for social services, as opposed to infrastructure or carrots for businesses like cheap land. The problem, of course, is that this is all happening in the lead-up to the 20th Party Congress next fall. Click here to read…

China Plans Property-Tax Trials as It Targets Speculation

China said it would conduct five-year property-tax trials in some regions of the country as Beijing looks for ways to rein in real-estate speculation and distribute wealth more evenly. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the country’s top legislative body, passed the tax-pilot program on Oct 23, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The State Council, China’s cabinet, is expected to disclose details in the next few months, including which regions this initiative will cover and how the tax rate will be set, people familiar with government deliberations said. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has long sought to impose a nationwide property tax to curb housing speculation, bring down runaway prices and reduce the financial burden on families already strained by rising education, medical and other costs. But his broad property-tax push has met heavy resistance from within the ruling Communist Party, including both the elites and its rank-and-file members. An initial proposal to test-run the tax in some 30 cities has been scaled back to around 10 cities, according to people familiar with the deliberations. A new law aimed at advancing the tax across the country likely won’t be finalized until around 2025, the last year of the current five-year development plan, the people said. Click here to read…

China’s Indonesian coal imports hit record amid power crisis, Southeast Asian nation now biggest supplier

Indonesia is now overwhelmingly China’s biggest overseas supplier of coal, with shipments hitting a record last month after Beijing loosened curbs on imports to tackle its power crisis. Cargoes of coking, thermal and brown coal from the Southeast Asian nation surpassed 21 million tonnes in September, from just over 17 million tonnes in August, and now account for about two-thirds of China’s total imports, according to customs data. Chinese buyers have been forced to tap other suppliers of the fuel to replace Australian exports banned almost a year ago after political relations with Canberra soured. But hopes that Mongolia could supply more coal – particularly the higher quality produced by Australia and used by steel mills – were dashed as coronavirus pandemic restrictions in China’s neighbour saw cargoes sink below 1 million tonnes, according to the data. Indonesia’s benchmark coal price has hit record levels, bolstered by a surge in demand since June, when Beijing pledged to raise imports in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to head off the power crisis that is now gripping the country. Late last year, China struck a three-year deal with Indonesian miners for US1.5 billion of the fuel as Beijing sought long-term options to displace Australian supplies. Click here to read…

Japan to lobby Saudi, UAE, and other oil nations to boost supply

Japan will urge petroleum-producing nations to raise output and ease the soaring global oil prices that have hurt both corporate earnings and household budgets. The plan to lobby oil producers, in collaboration with the International Energy Agency, is based on directives by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Tokyo also looks to offer state support for affected industries, as officials from relevant ministries met Oct 18 to discuss ways to address the oil price rally. “The government as a whole will respond swiftly to make sure there is no disruption to industry or the daily lives of citizens,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, who attended the meeting. Tokyo will work with the IEA to ask Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other major oil producers to boost output. Koichi Hagiuda, the trade and industry minister said after Oct 18’s meeting that he intends to talk with oil producing nations ahead of the OPEC Plus meeting set for early November. DaishiroYamagiwa, Japan’s economic revitalization minister also attended Oct 18’s meeting. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi spoke by phone Oct 18 with Kuwaiti counterpart Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, asking for the Persian Gulf country’s cooperation toward stabilizing the market including via greater crude production. Click here to read…

Semiconductor giant TSMC’s decision to cooperate with Washington’s chip data request fuels anger in China

The decision by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) to comply with a US request for information has stirred anger and uneasiness in China over fears that Washington could use the information to sanction Beijing, even though the Taiwan chip maker said it will not reveal confidential client information to the US government. TSMC, the single-most important player in the global semiconductor industry, said in a statement on Monday that it will “respond to” a request by the US Commerce Department seeking information from companies in the chip supply chain, a list that also included South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and US chip firm Intel. While the US government said its request was aimed at finding out reasons for the chip shortage – and no Chinese company was directly involved – the move has raised alarm bells in China. Xi Chen, an academic committee member at Peking University’s Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding, said earlier that the data could potentially help Washington impose sanctions on Chinese companies in a more precise way. The decision by TSMC to comply with US sanctions on Huawei Technologies Co devastated the Shenzhen-based company’s smartphone business. Click here to read…

Toyota testing hydrogen combustion engines in race cars

Toyota said Oct 25 it is testing hydrogen combustion engines in race cars as it works toward using the technology in commercial products. Such engines burn hydrogen as fuel instead of gasoline much like rockets. The Japanese automaker said testing the technology in race cars will allow it to collect data and try to fix problems on-site. Toyota Motor announced earlier that it was developing a hydrogen combustion engine, which Ford Motor and other automakers have also developed. Vehicles powered by such engines are different from fuel cell vehicles that use hydrogen to create electricity, and from electric or hybrid vehicles. ”We want to propose multiple options to meet regional needs,” Naoyuki Sakamoto, chief engineer of the hydrogen-powered engine Corolla model, said in an online news conference. Sakamoto declined to say when the hydrogen combustion engine may become a commercial product, acknowledging further development are needed to address its so far limited driving range. Infrastructure for fuelling such vehicles is another obstacle. One advantage of hydrogen engines is that minimal adjustments are needed from regular internal combustion engines, except for the fuel piping and injection systems. The use of hydrogen as fuel comes with some risk concerns, but hydrogen fuelling stations are operating across Japan, with no major accidents so far. Click here to read…

Biden and Democrats Push for Budget Deal This Week as Rifts Remain

President Biden and Democratic congressional leaders raced on Oct 25 to strike a compromise on a domestic policy and climate package, pushing for a vote within days even as critical disagreements remained over health benefits, paid leave, environmental provisions and how to pay for the sprawling plan. Negotiators were closing in on an agreement that could spend around $1.75 trillion over 10 years, half the size of the blueprint Democrats approved earlier this year, as they haggled with centrist holdouts in their party who are pressing to curtail the size of the bill. They have coalesced around a plan that would extend monthly payments to families with children, establish generous tax incentives for clean energy use and provide federal support for childcare, elder care and universal pre-kindergarten. An array of tax increases, including a new wealth tax for the country’s billionaires, would pay for the initiatives. But a final deal remained elusive amid disputes over the details of potential Medicare and Medicaid expansions, a new paid family and medical leave program, programs to combat climate change and a proposal to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Click here to read…

Saudi Arabia pledges 2060 target of net-zero emissions

One of the world’s largest oil producers, Saudi Arabia, announced Oct 23 it aims to reach “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, joining more than 100 countries in a global effort to try and curb man-made climate change. The announcement, made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in brief scripted remarks at the start of the kingdom’s first-ever Saudi Green Initiative Forum, was timed to make a splash a little more than a week before the start of the global COP26 climate conference being held in Glasgow, Scotland. Although the kingdom will aim to reduce its emissions, Prince Mohammed said the kingdom would do so through a so-called “Carbon Circular Economy” approach. That approach focuses on still unreliable carbon capture and storage technologies over efforts to actually reduce global reliance on fossil fuels. The announcement only pertains to Saudi Arabia’s efforts within its national borders. Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates — another major Gulf Arab energy producer — announced it too would join the “net zero” club of nations with a target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The UAE says it is home to three of the largest solar facilities in the world and is the first country in the Middle East to deploy nuclear power. Click here to read…

Strategic

Chinese, Russian navy operation cuts through 2nd Japan strait

Chinese and Russian naval vessels for the first time passed through a second strait in waters off the Japanese archipelago simultaneously on Oct. 22. A fleet of 10 naval vessels consisting of five from each country traversed the Osumi Strait, located between Kyushu and Tanegashima island, into the East China Sea, Japan’s Defense Ministry announced the following day. The same fleet on Oct. 18 moved through the Tsugaru Strait, separating the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, into the Pacific Ocean, meaning it has now travelled halfway around the Japanese archipelago. As well as being the first time Chinese and Russian naval vessels have passed through the two straits at the same time, it is also unusual for such a large number of vessels to simultaneously sail through a strait in waters off the Japanese archipelago. The move was an apparent attempt to put military pressure on Japan, according to a Japanese government source. China and Russia are believed to be trying to counter repeated joint military drills Japan is conducting with the United States and other countries. Click here to read…

Wang Yi offers 5 suggestions on improving China-Japan ties at Beijing-Tokyo Forum

As next year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered five suggestions to guide bilateral relations at the 17th Annual Beijing-Tokyo Forum via video in Beijing on Oct 25. He highlighted the importance of rebuilding mutual trust, upgrading cooperation, managing differences, expanding exchanges and enhancing coordination. Supported by China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO) and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and jointly held by the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration and Japan’s think tank Genron NPO, the 17th Annual Beijing-Tokyo Forum opened on Oct 25 in Beijing and Tokyo at the same time in dual online and in-person formats. Issues from history, the Taiwan question and other issues bear on the political foundation of bilateral relations, said Wang. He urged the two sides to abide by the principles and spirit of the four political documents between China and Japan, warning that Japan should not be vague on the issues, let alone try to cross the bottom line. Second, China and Japan should upgrade cooperation to achieve higher levels of mutual benefits as the fundamentals of mutual needs and complementary advantages remain unchanged, said Wang, noting that the potential for cooperation is still huge. Click here to read…

Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops

Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government on Oct 25 announced it is to form new armed forces for the country including soldiers from the previous regime’s military. The former Afghan military and Western-backed government collapsed on Aug. 15 when President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan as the Taliban took control in a lightning offensive while the US and its allies were withdrawing troops after 20 years on the ground. In September, the Taliban appointed an interim government in Afghanistan, declaring the country an Islamic emirate. Defense Minister Mullah Mohammed Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, announced the formation of new armed forces on Oct 24, in an audio message released by the Defense Ministry. Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News: “Army is a priority and urgent need of the country. The Islamic emirate would work on forming an empowered army that would be responsible for protecting Afghans and would have the ability to defend the peace of Afghanistan at any cost.” He said that the new army would be comprised of Taliban fighters and soldiers of the former regime. However, there was no comment on whether the formation of the new armed forces would be supported by other countries. Click here to read…

AUKUS spurs French strategic review with tilt toward Japan, India

France is reviewing its Indo-Pacific approach after being blindsided by the AUKUS alliance that scuttled its submarine deal with Australia, a French official said in Tokyo on Oct 19, with Paris keen to strengthen ties with Japan and India. Philippe Errera, the French Foreign Ministry’s director-general for political affairs and security, was visiting Japan with Alice Guitton, director-general for international relations and strategy at the Ministry for the Armed Forces, to meet with their Japanese counterparts and lay the groundwork for a “2+2” ministerial-level meeting by the year-end. France has also been boosting ties with India in recent years. In 2019, the two countries accelerated their strategic convergence with a two-day summit in Paris, which led to joint military exercises and India agreeing to buy French fighter jets under a contract worth 7.9 billion Euros ($9.2 billion). Together with Japan and India, “we note a convergent vision on the fact that the Indo-Pacific stakes are not reduced to military competition with China,” and should include areas such as economy and health, Errera said. For Paris, considered the most proactive proponent of an Indo-Pacific approach within the European Union, the increasingly tight-knit Anglosphere may be a motivation to shore up its own security presence. Click here to read…

Why Dubai plans to build infrastructure in Kashmir

The government of Dubai, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, recently inked an agreement with India to ramp up infrastructure investment in Jammu and Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said the deal will see Dubai building infrastructure in the troubled region including industrial parks, IT towers, multi-purpose towers, logistics centres, a medical college and a specialized hospital. “The world has started to recognize the pace (at) which Jammu and Kashmir is traversing on the development bandwagon,” Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal said in a statement. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman and CEO of DP World Dubai, told media in Srinagar: “We are committed to connect Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of India. We know how to do that, we know the obstacles.” No figure for the value of the accord was given but Sulayem pointed out that the investments by his firm will be part of the Modi government’s “Make in India” initiative. This is the first investment agreement by a foreign government involving Kashmir since New Delhi scrapped the region’s special status in 2019. Click here to read…

Myanmar threatens to skip ASEAN summit over junta chief’s exclusion

Myanmar’s junta threatened on Oct 25 to skip an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit after the bloc said that the country’s military chief could not attend over doubts about the government’s commitment to defusing a bloody crisis. Myanmar has been in turmoil since the generals ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February coup, triggering nationwide protests and a violent crackdown on dissent. Earlier this month, ASEAN – under international pressure to broker a diplomatic solution to the conflict – excluded junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from a forthcoming leaders’ summit. The exclusion from the Oct 26 to Oct 28 meeting in Brunei “broke ASEAN principles”, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun told local media on Oct 25. He confirmed that the bloc had instead invited a “non-political” representative – director general of the foreign affairs ministry Chan Aye. “But we aren’t sure whether to attend or not … Attending it could affect our country’s sovereignty and image,” the spokesman said. ASEAN issued the rare rebuke to Myanmar after the junta rebuffed requests that a special envoy meet with “all stakeholders” in the country – a phrase seen to include deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Click here to read…

U.S. National Security Advisor met representatives of Myanmar’s shadow government

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met on Oct 26 with representatives of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), set up by opponents of army rule, the White House said late on Oct 26. In the virtual meeting, Sullivan reiterated continued U.S. support for the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar and discussed ongoing efforts to restore the country’s path to democracy with NUG representatives Duwa Lashi La and Zin Mar Aung, the White House said in a statement. Sullivan expressed concern over the military’s violence and said “the U.S. will continue to promote accountability for the coup”, according to the White House. Protests and unrest have paralyzed Myanmar since the Feb. 1 coup, with the military accused of atrocities and excessive force against civilians. The junta blames the unrest on “terrorists” allied with the shadow government. Recognizing Myanmar’s junta as the country’s government would not stop growing violence, the outgoing United Nations special envoy on Myanmar said earlier on Oct 26. Click here to read…

Kishida orders Japan NSC to weigh strike capability after North Korean launch

Japan’s National Security Council will consider having the country secure the capability to strike enemy missile bases in response to an imminent attack, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Oct 19 after the group met to discuss North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch. “We reaffirmed that we will consider all possible options, including enemy base strike capabilities,” in a planned update of Japan’s national security strategy, Kishida told reporters. Tokyo is analyzing Oct 19’s launch by Pyongyang with an eye on the possibility that the test involved a submarine-launched ballistic missile, he said. “For the security of Japan and the region, we cannot overlook North Korea’s striking progress in nuclear and missile-related technology,” Kishida said. Kishida and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno were away from Tokyo at the time of the launch for the first day of campaigning ahead of this month’s lower house parliamentary election. Both cut short their speaking schedules and returned to the capital. The prime minister said Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki was on call to handle any problems that arose in his absence. Click here to read…

N Korea rattles from walking skeletons, not sabres

It’s probably no coincidence that North Korea’s test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Oct 19 came just as the country’s military was reported to have begun investigating soldiers’ “nutritional status.” After all, if the “human bullets” who have vowed to protect the leader are getting so few calories it affects their readiness to fight, it makes sense to distract enemies from that sign of national weakness and focus on a new and shiny, non-human projectile that will give the enemies something to worry about. Seoul-based Daily NK reported that it had learned from “a source in the North Korean military” that leader Kim Jong Un “issued an order on October 9 calling for improvements in ‘logistics and soldiers’ health’ during October and November.” This is the period when the military is preparing for the winter months and for winter training. The General Political Bureau and Ministry of Defense in response to Kim’s order are investigating not only wintertime food supplies for the Korean People’s Army (KPA), but also “the state of ‘frailty’ among soldiers due to malnutrition,” the specialty news organization said. Click here to read…

US and Taiwanese officials meet to discuss ‘meaningful’ UN role for island

US and Taiwanese officials discussed plans to allow the island to “participate meaningfully” at the United Nations on Oct 22 in the latest move to upgrade Washington’s relationship with the island. The US State Department said in a statement released on Oct 24 that “high-level representatives” of the US State Department and Taiwan’s foreign ministry had discussed “expanding Taiwan’s participation at the United Nations and in other international fora”. “The discussion focussed on supporting Taiwan’s ability to participate meaningfully at the UN and contribute its valuable expertise to address global challenges, including global public health, the environment and climate change, development assistance, technical standards, and economic cooperation,” the statement said. “US participants reiterated the US commitment to Taiwan’s meaningful participation at the World Health Organization and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and discussed ways to highlight Taiwan’s ability to contribute to efforts on a wide range of issues,” it continued. The talks came just days ahead of President Xi Jinping’s speech at the UN on Oct 25 to mark the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic taking China’s seat at the UN. Taiwan, under the name of the Republic of China, had held the Chinese seat until then. Click here to read…

Taiwan rides soft power wave as democracies sour on China

Taiwan cannot match the economic or military might of China. Yet as Beijing doubles down on its belligerent words and actions toward its smaller neighbour, Taiwan is reaping the benefits of soft power as China’s image declines. Harvard University announced last week it has relocated its overseas Mandarin program from Beijing to Taipei — a shift that its student paper reported was “due to a perceived lack of friendliness from the host institution, Beijing Language and Culture University.” Harvard’s decision could spur other universities with programs in China to make similar moves and comes at a time when countries and organizations are beginning to recalibrate their approach to China and reconsider their view of Taiwan. Some in Beijing appear aware that China has a major image problem — one that is at least partly of its own doing. Three days after Harvard’s announcement, Fu Ying, a former diplomat and current chair of the National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, gently suggested in a People’s Daily column on Oct 21 that China could improve its image abroad. Carefully quoting Chinese leader Xi Jinping throughout, Fu’s column could be interpreted as a subtle critique of the more combative diplomatic posture Xi has encouraged. Click here to read…

EU-Taiwan relations: MEPs push for stronger partnership

MEPs hail Taiwan as a key EU partner and democratically in the Indo-Pacific, one that contributes to maintaining a rules-based order in the midst of an intensifying rivalry between the major geopolitical actors in the region. To step up cooperation, the text adopted by MEPs stresses the urgent need to launch an “impact assessment, public consultation and scoping exercise” for an EU-Taiwan Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA). Members highlight the importance of trade and economic relations between the EU and Taiwan, including on matters relating to multilateralism and the World Trade Organization, technology such as 5G, public health, and essential cooperation on critical supplies like semiconductors. The report expresses grave concern over China’s continued military belligerence, pressure, assault exercises, airspace violations and disinformation campaigns against Taiwan. MEPs urge the EU to do more to address these tensions, to protect Taiwan’s democracy, and the island’s status as an important EU partner. Parliament insists that any change to mainland China-Taiwan cross-strait relations must be neither unilateral nor against the will of Taiwanese citizens. Finally, Members propose changing the name of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan to ‘European Union Office in Taiwan’ in order to reflect the broad scope of EU-Taiwanese ties. Click here to read…

China law tightens land borders amid regional tensions

China’s top legislative body on Oct 23 passed a law to strengthen the country’s land borders amid rising tensions with India over disputed territory and concerns over a possible influx of Islamic extremists from Afghanistan. Under the new law, the People’s Armed Police Force and the Public Security Bureau, which are in charge of maintaining public order in China, can be mobilized to guard borders in addition to the People’s Liberation Army. The forces will look to handle serious incidents, terrorism and illegal crossings in border regions. The law also stipulates that weapons can be used against people illegally crossing borders if they engage in violence, as well as banning the use of drones and model airplanes near borders without permission. The law, passed by National People’s Congress Standing Committee, specifies that infrastructure facilities for transport, communication, surveillance and defense can be built on the Chinese side of its borders. It also stipulates that no organization or individual can build durable structures near borders without China’s approval. A provision on the protection of water resources is believed to have been made with India in mind. The law states that the national and local governments are obliged to take measures to protect the stability of trans-boundary rivers and lakes. Click here to read…

US nearing a formal agreement to use Pakistan’s airspace to carry out military operations in Afghanistan

The Biden administration has told lawmakers that the US is nearing a formalized agreement with Pakistan for use of its airspace to conduct military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, according to three sources familiar with the details of a classified briefing with members of Congress that took place on Oct 22 morning. Pakistan has expressed a desire to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in exchange for assistance with its own counterterrorism efforts and help in managing the relationship with India, one of the sources said. But the negotiations are ongoing, another source said, and the terms of the agreement, which has not been finalized, could still change. The US military currently uses Pakistan’s airspace to reach Afghanistan as part of ongoing intelligence-gathering efforts, but there is no formal agreement in place to ensure continued access to a critical piece of airspace necessary for the US to reach Afghanistan. The air corridor through Pakistan to Afghanistan may become even more critical if and when the US resumes flights into Kabul to fly out American citizens and others who remain in the country. Click here to read…

President Erdogan, cabinet discuss expulsion of 10 allied envoys

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct 25 backed down from his threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors over their joint statement of support for a jailed civil society leader. Erdogan said during the weekend he had ordered the envoys to be declared persona non grata for seeking the release of prominent philanthropist Osman Kavala, 64, detained for four years on charges of financing protests and involvement in an attempted coup. He spoke after the United States and several of the other concerned countries issued identical statements saying they respected a UN convention that required diplomats not to interfere in the host country’s domestic affairs. Erdogan said the new statement “shows they have taken a step back from the slander against our country”, adding: “They will be more careful now.” The envoys from Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the US called last week for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”. Erdogan said – after chairing a cabinet meeting devoted to the crisis – spoke of his “duty as head of state to give the necessary response” to foreign violations of Turkey’s sovereign rights. Click here to read…

Sudan security forces arrest PM Abdalla Hamdok, ministers

Security forces in Sudan have arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several other members of the country’s civilian leadership, the information ministry said, as a military officer dissolved the transitional government. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a general who headed the Sovereign Council, a power-sharing ruling body, announced a state of emergency across the country and dissolved the council and the transitional government. Hamdok was arrested and moved to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the coup, said the information ministry, still apparently under the control of Hamdok’s supporters. The arrests on Oct 24 prompted thousands of people to take to the streets in the capital, Khartoum, to demand the release of the political leaders amid reports of clashes and gunfire. Soldiers were stationed on the streets of Khartoum and restricted civilians’ movements, as protesters opposed to the military takeover carried the national flag and burned tyres across the city. Footage broadcast by the Al Jazeera Mubasher television channel showed protesters moving past barricades and entering the street surrounding military headquarters in Khartoum. The footage also showed soldiers standing by as protesters passed them and marched down the street. Click here to read…

Bangladesh police arrest 450 people linked to attacks on Hindu homes and religious sites in worst unrest for over a decade

Bangladeshi police have arrested 450 people following attacks against Hindus in the Muslim-majority country in some of the worst unrest in over a decade, which has seen Hindu religious sites vandalized and homes destroyed. Authorities logged 71 cases linked to violence during the major Hindu festival of Durga Puja across different parts of Bangladesh, the police’s assistant inspector general said on Oct 18. In the last five days 450 people have been arrested in connection with attacks on puja venues and temples, as well as Hindu homes and businesses, and for spreading rumours on social media during the religious holiday, local media reported. The senior police official added that the number of arrests and incidents could increase as investigations are still ongoing. The United Nations’ resident coordinator in Bangladesh, Mia Seppo, condemned the turbulence on the same day: “Recent attacks on Hindus of Bangladesh, fuelled by hate speech on social media, are against the values of the Constitution and need to stop”. She also called for the government to ensure an impartial probe and the protection of minorities. Click here to read…

EU says to hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’

The EU’s top negotiator will meet his counterpart from Tehran this week in Brussels for talks on restarting negotiations over Iran’s nuclear deal, a spokesman for the bloc said on Oct 25. The EU and world powers are scrambling to try to get negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 accord back on track after the election of a hard-liner in Tehran. Iran’s chief negotiator on the deal, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, wrote on Twitter that he would be in Brussels on Oct 27 “to continue our talks on result-oriented negotiations.”EU spokesman Peter Stano said the meeting would involve the bloc’s lead negotiator Enrique Mora, who visited Tehran earlier this month to push Iran to restart full negotiations. Stano said the EU’s diplomatic service was “sparing no efforts to resume talks of all parties in Vienna.” But the Vienna-based talks through intermediaries made little headway, before being interrupted by the election of hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s president and suspended for the last four months. The EU acts as coordinator for the deal that also involves Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia. Click here to read…

How Egypt turned the page with a comeback on the regional stage

Egypt has experienced a decade of upheaval since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, contending with two revolutions, environmental pressures, and more recently the economic challenges of COVID-19. And yet, this most populous of Arab countries, straddling the African and Asian continents, has emerged from the turbulence with a new sense of purpose and a desire for greater engagement with the region and the world. It has been announced that Egypt is a nominee to host the COP27 UN climate conference for 2022 — a distinction that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. This October not only marks the 48th anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel; 40 years ago on October 6, President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamist extremists during the annual victory parade in Cairo. For many in the Middle East, Sadat’s positive legacy is a work in progress: The Egypt-Israel peace process, Egyptian economic development and political liberalization, the Palestinian peace process, and overcoming the challenge of violent extremism. Egypt struck the jackpot in 2015 with the discovery of a giant reservoir known as Zohr, which has developed into one of the largest single gas fields in the Middle East. Click here to read…

Medical

EMA greenlights new Pfizer-BioNTech manufacturing sites and Covid vaccine formula as it mulls extending jab for ages 5-11

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved two additional manufacturing sites for the production of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid vaccine, as well as a new formula, as it considers rolling out the shots for those aged five to 11. In a statement issued on Oct 18, the EU’s drug regulator revealed that its human medicines committee (CHMP) has given its seal of approval for two additional manufacturing sites for the production of Comirnaty, the Covid-19 jab developed by the US-German partnership of Pfizer and BioNTech. The agency also said that the CHMP “approved a ready-to-use formulation of Comirnaty” with changes to “provide improved storage, transport and logistic options for vaccine distribution and administration.” The new formulation will be available in a phased rollout starting early next year. In a separate notice on Oct 18, the EMA said it has started evaluating an application to extend the use of Comirnaty to minors aged between five and 11. The watchdog said it will review data on the jab, including an ongoing clinical study conducted on this age group in order to make the decision. This will then be forwarded to the European Commission, which will make a final ruling. Click here to read…

China battles new COVID-19 outbreak with eye on Beijing Winter Olympics

Tens of thousands of people in northern China were placed under strict stay-at-home orders on Oct 25 as authorities sought to stamp out a growing COVID-19 outbreak in the run-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics. Residents of the Chinese capital were also advised not to leave the city unless necessary, although regular transport services out of the city continued as normal. China reported 39 new cases on Oct 25, bringing the tally from the latest Delta variant-linked outbreak to more than 100 cases over the past week. The numbers are extremely low compared with most other places in the world, but China has pursued a zero-case strategy throughout the pandemic and authorities are determined to stamp out the latest outbreak with the Winter Olympics just over 100 days away. Several housing compounds in the capital have been locked down, and organizers on Oct 24 indefinitely postponed a marathon at which 30,000 runners were expected. And at a press briefing on Oct 24, Xu Hejian, vice minister of Beijing’s publicity department, advised people against large gatherings and “unnecessary” travel out of the capital. Click here to read…

Some Russian regions shut workplaces as daily COVID-19 cases hit new peak

Russia reported its highest single-day COVID-19 case tally since the start of the pandemic on Oct 25 as some regions imposed a workplace shutdown to combat a surge in infections and deaths. Faced with worsening disease rates and frustrated by the slow take-up of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine by its own population, authorities are introducing stricter measures this week to try to slow the spread of the pandemic. President Vladimir Putin last week declared that Oct 30 to Nov 7 would be paid non-working days but said every region could extend that period or start it earlier depending on the epidemiological situation. Six regions, including the Samara and Perm regions east of Moscow, began their non-working days on Monday (Oct 25), TASS news agency reported. From Oct 28, Moscow will introduce its tightest lockdown measures since June 2020, with only essential shops like supermarkets and pharmacies remaining open. Authorities in St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, said COVID-19 restrictions would not be lifted until at least 80 per cent of its population was vaccinated, RIA news agency reported. Nationwide, only about a third of the population has been inoculated. 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…