Tag Archives: WTO

Global Developments and Analysis: Weekly Monitor, 08 November – 14 November 2021

Economic
China Bought Italian Military-Drone Maker Without Authorities’ Knowledge

In 2018, a Chinese state-controlled company bought an Italian manufacturer of military drones. Soon after, it began transferring the company’s know-how and technology—which had been used by the Italian military in Afghanistan—to China. The Italian and European authorities had no knowledge of the move, revealing how Beijing is skirting weak investment-screening in Europe to acquire sensitive technology. Italian authorities say they stumbled on Alpi’s China links during a separate investigation. The takeover fits a pattern, analysts say, of Chinese state firms using ostensibly private shell companies as fronts to snap up firms with specific technologies that they then shift to new facilities in China. The company, based in the northern Italian town of Pordenone, manufactures light aircraft and mini drones called Strix. The drones, which were used by the Italian Air Force in Afghanistan, can be carried in a backpack, be deployed quickly by a single operator, and provide surveillance even at night, according to the company’s website. China was likely less interested in the drone aircraft itself than a specific element, such as its night-vision sensor or its data-link technology, said Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Click here to read…

Chinese traditional medicine growth in Africa threatens wildlife

The Beijing-backed expansion of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in many African countries risks fuelling the illegal wildlife trade and threatens the future of some of the world’s most endangered species, a new report has warned. The growth of the TCM market, coupled with the perception of Africa as a potential source of TCM ingredients, is a “prescription for disaster for some endangered animal species, such as leopards, pangolins and rhinos”, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which investigates wildlife and environmental crime, said in the report published on Nov 10. China has been promoting traditional medicine, which dates back more than 2,500 years, alongside its flagship Belt and Road Initiative, which is developing road, rail and other major infrastructure projects across Africa. While most treatments are plant-based, demand from the industry has been blamed for pushing animals, including pangolins and rhinos, to the brink of extinction. “Ultimately, the unfettered growth of TCM poses a serious threat to the biodiversity found in many African countries, all in the name of short-term profit,” EIA Wildlife Campaigner Ceres Kam said in a statement. “Any utilisation of threatened species in TCM could potentially stimulate further demand, incentivise wildlife crime and ultimately lead to overexploitation.” Click here to read…

Worst yet to come for China’s housing market as new home prices fall by most in 6 years

New home prices in China fell by the most in six years in October, as analysts warned a deeper correction is yet to come. The average price across 70 cities dropped 0.25 per cent from the previous month, according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Nov 15. That was much larger then the 0.08 per cent decline in September and the biggest monthly drop since 2015. Fifty-two of the 70 cities tracked saw new homes prices slide, while the cost of a lived-in home declined in 64 of them, the data showed. “China’s home price correction is likely to persist until the second quarter of 2022 because of a dip in the confidence of buyers,” said Raymond Cheng, head of China and Hong Kong research at CGS-CIMB Securities. Last week, Fantasia Holdings Group became the latest home builder to default, failing to pay off a US$205.7 billion bond that was due on October 4. China’s property market, which accounts for a quarter of gross domestic product by some metrics, has deteriorated since May as policymakers and monetary authorities have moved to cool the speculative fervour underpinning it. Click here to read…

WTO comes closer to ending overfishing

The World Trade Organization (WTO) chief said on Nov 15 significant progress had been made toward a long-elusive agreement to end subsidies that reward overfishing, as negotiators scramble to clinch a deal within weeks. “Time is short and I believe that this text reflects a very important step toward a final outcome,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who took the reins of the global trade body in March, said in a statement. Her comment came after Colombian Ambassador Santiago Wills, who chairs the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations, presented a revised negotiating text following intense talks. He said trade diplomats would begin poring over the latest version “clause by clause” on Nov 16, in a bid to smooth out any wrinkles before ministers gather for a high-level meeting at the end of November, at which they hope to clinch a deal. For the past two decades, WTO member states have been discussing the need for a deal banning subsidies that contribute to illegal and unregulated fishing, as well as to overfishing that threatens the sustainability of fish stocks. Global fisheries subsidies are estimated at between $14 billion and $54 billion a year, according to the WTO. Click here to read…

Dalian port, China’s main cold chain import hub, affected by latest outbreak

As Dalian, a major port city in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, faced its third cold-chain related COVID-19 outbreak in recent days, local cold-chain product importers told the Global Times on Nov 14 that they are facing strengthened quarantine rules, which could further push up costs for imported products and lead to a decrease of aquatic imports in the near future. The city recorded 235 new confirmed cases from November 4 to Nov 13, characterized by clusters of companies, families and schools. The first identified case in the resurgence was said to be related to a cold-storage facility, which makes it the third cold-chain related outbreak in the city. Dalian is an important cold-chain storage and transportation base in China, with more than 600,000 employees who handle imported cold-chain products. The facility is the biggest cold storage in China, accounting for nearly one-third of the country’s cold-chain goods storage capacity, according to a CCTV report. Nearly 70 percent of imported cold-chain goods enter China through Dalian’s port. Industry analysts cautioned that the outbreak in Dalian is likely to affect the circulation of cold-chain food in the domestic market. Click here to read…

EU to rival China’s Belt and Road with overseas infrastructure plan

The European Union will announce a new overseas infrastructure investment framework this week to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The “Global Gateway” will emphasize sustainability and the EU’s values to strengthen ties with partners. In the Indo-Pacific, the framework is set to focus on digital connectivity as the 27-nation bloc looks to increase engagement with the region. According to a draft of the “European Strategy of Global Gateway Partnerships” seen by Nikkei Asia, the framework will focus on five areas, with the emphasis dependent on geographic region: digital transition, clean energy transition, transport, people-to-people connections, and trade and resilient supply chains. “These investments must be comprehensive, secure and sustainable, with the aim of bringing countries, societies and people closer together, enabling the twin green and digital transitions in line with the EU’s values, especially democracy, rule of law and human rights,” the draft states. The flagship of the framework for the Indo-Pacific region will be “digital partnerships with key like-minded countries,” such as on promoting regulations around artificial intelligence. The draft states it is in the EU’s interest to ensure global connectivity develops “in line with Europe’s norms, standards and values.” Click here to read…

Samsung’s Lee visits US ahead of likely US$17 billion Texas chip plant decision

Samsung Electronics vice-chairman Jay Y. Lee is visiting North America in his first high-profile trip after serving jail time for bribery, with a decision imminent on the company’s planned US$17 billion US chip plant. Lee left Seoul on Nov 14 and his trip to Canada and the US is expected to coincide with a decision on the location of the new plant, Yonhap and other local media said. A site in Texas’ Williamson County near the city of Taylor, offered the better incentives package among various sites Samsung has been considering for the new chip plant that is set to make advanced logic chips, sources previously told Reuters. Since Samsung vice-chairman Kim Kinam confirmed the chip plant plan in May, Samsung has been comparing incentives and working out who pays what in convoluted land and other agreements, while also considering the available amount of stable utilities such as water and electricity, one of the sources with knowledge of the matter said. A winter storm in the first quarter hit Samsung’s chip plant in Austin, Texas, laying bare the importance of stable utilities, as a shutdown caused by blackouts affected wafers corresponding to around 300-400 billion won (US$254-US$339 million) of damages. Click here to read…

Japan kicks off debate on $265bn stimulus including batteries, chip factory

The Japanese government has kicked off discussions on an economic stimulus package estimated at more than 30 trillion yen ($265 billion), starting with a debate in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s council on a “new capitalism” that balances growth and wealth distribution. The council, led by the prime minister himself and a top priority for his government, on Nov 08 issued recommendations in four areas: innovation, startups, digital society and economic security. It urged Japan to launch a 10 trillion-yen fund for universities by the end of March and to provide support for storage batteries for renewable energy and large-scale production of electric-vehicle batteries. Also proposed is the development of small modular nuclear reactors and multiyear aid for a new semiconductor device plant in Japan by a “top” Taiwanese chipmaker — a veiled reference to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s plans for a factory in Kumamoto Prefecture. Many of the recommendations drew from a growth strategy compiled by former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in June. But it also reflects the Kishida government’s distribution-oriented economic agenda, which includes more tax benefits for companies that raise wages and higher pay for workers in nursing and childcare. Click here to read…

Manufacturers rue dependence on China for supplies of magnesium

Global manufacturers are facing another headache in their supply chain after the price of magnesium spiked and highlighted their vulnerability to policy shocks in China, which accounts for 80% of the world’s production. The metal is an essential raw material for aluminium alloys, which are used in car parts such as gearboxes, steering columns and fuel tank covers. It is also widely used in steel production to help remove sulphur. But churning out magnesium is energy intensive, and China’s late-September power crisis was a wake-up call to industry. As Chinese authorities-imposed electricity cuts to meet environmental targets, operations were suspended in some areas of Shaanxi Province, home to 60% of China’s magnesium output. Prices of coal and ferrosilicon, an alloy containing iron and other substances that is also used to produce magnesium, were soaring at the same time, driving magnesium prices to a record $10,000 per ton before power was restored and Beijing allowed more coal mining. The last time magnesium prices surged was in 2008, when Beijing imposed restrictions on industry in the hopes of having a blue sky during the Olympic Games. The price rose to $6,500 per ton, a record high at that time. Click here to read…

ASEAN’s digital economy projected to hit $1tn by 2030

The digital economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is on track to grow to $1 trillion by 2030, as millions of new internet users fuel online businesses in fields including e-commerce and virtual finance, says a new Google-led report. Released on Nov 10, the annual report on digital trends in the 10-country bloc published by the U.S. technology giant, Singapore state investor Temasek and consultancy Bain & Co., said 40 million new internet users came online this year within the region. That raised internet penetration in ASEAN to 75%, with eight in 10 of the new users having bought something online at least once. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, 60 million new digital consumers have been added to the bloc’s internet economy, with 20 million joining in the first half of the year alone, the report highlighted — contributing to a total digital consumer population of 350 million. The findings laid out in the report set the stage for years of rapid growth for ASEAN’s internet unicorns — startups worth $1 billion and more — like superapp providers Grab and GoTo, as well as for Southeast Asia’s largest listed company, Sea Group. Click here to read…

UAE, opening oil and gas summit, says no unplugging from hydrocarbons

Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) Chief Executive Sultan al-Jaber said on Nov 15 the world could not “simply unplug” from hydrocarbons and that the oil and gas industry needed to invest over $600 billion a year until 2030 to meet expected demand. He was addressing the ADIPEC oil and gas conference which opened in Abu Dhabi on Nov 15 following U.N. climate talks in Glasgow that ended with a deal that for the first-time targeted fossil fuels as the key driver of global warming. “The global community has just concluded COP26 and, on balance, it was a success,” al-Jaber said, repeating a call for a pragmatic approach to combating climate change while ensuring global energy security. “If we are to successfully transition to the energy system of tomorrow, we cannot simply unplug from the energy system of today. We cannot just flip a switch,” he said. Al-Jaber, who is also industry and advanced technology minister of the United Arab Emirates, which will host COP28 in 2023, said ADNOC planned to increase its production capacity to 5 million barrels per day by 2030 while working to reduce its carbon intensity. He said ADNOC was expanding its carbon capture and storage capacity from 800,000 tonnes per year to 5 million, and as of January, would use nuclear and solar for its grid power. Click here to read…

Strategic
Biden and Xi set 1st virtual summit for early next week

President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold their first virtual summit on Nov 15 evening, U.S. time, to discuss cooperation and competition, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Nov 12. The two leaders will “discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC, as well as ways to work together where our interests align,” the statement said, referring to China by its official name, the People’s Republic of China. The much-anticipated first summit — happening 300 days into the Biden administration — comes as tensions mount over Taiwan, while the two sides seek cooperation on topics such as climate change. The online meeting also occurs days after the U.S. and China made a surprise declaration at the United Nations COP26 climate conference in Scotland outlining how the two powers would take joint steps to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Xi also may use the meeting on Nov 15 to invite Biden to the Winter Olympics, CNBC reported. Were he to accept, some might accuse Biden of walking back that criticism. Click here to read…

China reacts with fury to US lawmakers’ Taiwan visit

China has responded angrily to a visit by a US delegation to Taiwan, warning Washington that it was “playing with fire” by “colluding” with pro-independence forces on the island during a period of high tensions with Beijing. The Chinese foreign ministry issued a strongly worded rebuke on Nov 10 to the visit by US lawmakers, cautioning that such “risky and provocative actions” were “doomed to end in failure.” “Colluding with Taiwan independence forces is a dangerous game and playing with fire will result in burning themselves,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing, describing the visit as a “clumsy performance.” The group had arrived in Taipei Nov 09 evening on a US Navy aircraft – prompting China’s military to conduct “combat readiness police patrols” in the direction of the Taiwan Strait in response. There has been little public information offered about the trip’s purpose. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry revealed that the visit had been arranged by the American Institute in Taiwan – which is thought to be America’s de facto embassy on the island. Although the ministry said it was providing “necessary administrative assistance,” it did not comment on either the politicians’ identities or their itinerary. Click here to read…

South China Sea: Beijing keen to make code of conduct gains for 30th anniversary of China-Asean ties

China has pushed for a breakthrough in a South China Sea code of conduct and offered a continued supply of Covid-19 vaccines for Asean countries, in the lead-up to a summit meeting this month. In talks in Beijing on Nov 14 with top diplomats from the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the summit to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Beijing becoming an Asean “dialogue partner” would be a milestone. “This summit will be a meaningful milestone and will set a direction and plan for the next 30 years of our relationship,” Wang said. The summit is expected to take place virtually this month between Chinese President Xi Jinping and top leaders from Asean countries. Regional observers said a key issue would be whether all members agreed to China’s bid to upgrade relations with Asean to a comprehensive strategic partnership, an idea Wang unveiled in June. Wang was quoted in an official statement following the meeting saying China wished to use the opportunity with Asean countries to overcome pandemic challenges, aid economic recovery and growth and to defend economic globalisation as well as regional stability, integration and prosperity. Click here to read…

Duterte’s daughter to run for VP with ex-dictator’s son

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter on Nov 13 registered her candidacy for vice president in next year’s elections and was chosen as the running mate of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the late dictator’s son, in an alliance that has alarmed human rights activists. Sara Duterte backed out this week from her reelection bid as mayor of southern Davao city then took the place of a largely unknown vice-presidential candidate of her political party, Lakas CMD, in a maneuver that allowed her to seek the second-highest post even after a deadline lapsed for candidates in the May 9 elections. Marcos Jr. filed his papers at the Commission on Elections last month. His party, Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, named Sara Duterte on Nov 13 as his running mate.In a chaotic turn of events that bolstered speculations of a discord between the president and his daughter, the elder Duterte suddenly trooped to the elections commission Nov 13 to accompany his former aide, Sen. Bong Go, who shifted his vice-presidential candidacy to a presidential run. Philippine presidents and vice presidents are elected separately and could forge an alliance even if they run under different political parties. If they’re elected from rival camps, they often end up in a hostile relationship. Click here to read…

Dalai Lama: China’s leaders ‘don’t understand variety of cultures’

Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama criticized the leaders of China on Nov 10 saying they “don’t understand the variety of different cultures” there and there is too much control by the main Han ethnic group. But he also said he had nothing against “Chinese brothers and sisters” as fellow humans and he broadly supported the ideas behind Communism and Marxism. The 86-year-old Dalai Lama, taking part in an online news conference anchored in Tokyo, was answering a question about whether the international community should consider boycotting the Beijing Winter Olympics over the suppression of minorities, including those in the western region of Xinjiang. “I know Communist Party leaders since Mao Zedong. Their ideas (are) good. But sometimes they do much extreme, tight control,” he said from his base in India, adding he thought things would change in China under a new generation of leaders. “Regarding Tibet and also Xinjiang, we have our own unique culture, so the more narrow-minded Chinese Communist leaders, they do not understand the variety of different cultures.” Noting that China consisted not only of ethnic Han people but also other, different, groups, he added: “In reality, too much control by Han people.” Click here to read…

China’s Xi Gains Power as Communist Party Designates Him a Historic Figure

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has formally etched his name alongside the greatest figures in the annals of Communist Party history, paving the way for him to strengthen and extend his rule over the world’s most populous country. China’s most senior officials approved a resolution on the party’s accomplishments since its founding 100 years ago that portrays Mr. Xi as a core leader who has “promoted historic achievements and historic changes.” The decision puts him on equal footing with revolutionary patriarch Mao Zedong and market reformer Deng Xiaoping, the only other leaders who enjoyed enough power to push through resolutions on the party’s history. The elevation of Mr. Xi’s official status was a centerpiece of the annual fall gathering, or plenum, of nearly 350 full and alternate members of the Communist Party’s Central Committee in Beijing, according to the communiqué. The resolution ensures longevity for Mr. Xi’s agenda and armors him against criticism because that would require challenging the party’s narrative of history. “Not everyone in the party is convinced that this centralization authority and the valorization of a supreme leader is the best way to build the party and strengthen China,” said Timothy Cheek, a professor at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia. Click here to read…

Who will be China’s next premier? Key meeting may offer clues

The biggest question to be answered in this week’s high-profile Chinese Communist Party meeting will likely not be who is being set up to succeed President Xi Jinping, but who will be the next second in command. The closely watched, four-day sixth plenary session of the party’s 19th Central Committee kicked off Nov 08 in Beijing, where it is widely believed Xi will lay the groundwork for realizing his third term in power and give high positions to members of his inner circle. Shanghai Party Secretary Li Qiang and Guangdong Province Party Secretary Li Xi are set to be transferred to Beijing for top national leadership roles following the plenary session, according to a Nov 12 article in the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao. The report did not elaborate on their next roles. However, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will retire from his current position in March 2023. Many see either Li Qiang or Li Xi being installed first as a vice premier and later take over from Li Keqiang. Hu Chunhua, one of the four sitting vice premiers, is well qualified to become the next premier. But Hu is also regarded as a standard bearer for the Communist Youth League, a faction that Xi has largely sidelined due to their solidarity. Click here to read…

Afghan black market for visas thrives as embassies stay shut

Many embassies in Kabul remain closed following the collapse of Afghanistan’s previous government, fueling a black market for visas sought by citizens desperate to leave the country. The Taliban’s takeover of the capital in August forced thousands of Afghans to flee the strife-torn nation but many remain and are willing to pay exorbitant sums to buy a visa. The new government restarted issuing passports in October. Significant numbers of Afghans are being targeted for their past association with the government or coalition forces. Over 125,000 people have either been evacuated or have fled. Media professionals and women, including their families, are particularly motivated to leave as they can no longer work or study safely. Visa prices in Afghanistan have increased exponentially since the fall of Kabul. Nikkei spoke with multiple travel agents who confirmed that visas that earlier cost between $20 to $80 are now going for more than $1,000, mainly to cover bribes. Most foreign embassies have been closed since August. The few still open include Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, and hopeful emigrants are giving thousands of dollars upfront to sketchy operators who have no way — or intention — of obtaining the coveted documents. Click here to read…

Blinken says Qatar to handle US interests in Afghanistan

The United States on Nov 12 agreed to set up an interests section in Afghanistan under Qatar, assisting US citizens following the shuttering of the embassy during the Taliban takeover. Welcoming his Qatari counterpart to Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed an agreement that established Qatar as the United States protecting power in Afghanistan” with the Gulf ally to establish a US interests section at its Kabul embassy. “Let me again say how grateful we are for your leadership, your support on Afghanistan, but also to note that our partnership is much broader than that,” Blinken told Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-ThanQatar, home to a major US military base, has played a major role both in the diplomacy and the evacuations as the United States ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan. Around half of the 124,000 Westerners and Western-allied Afghans flown out in the waning days of the US military involvement transited through Qatar. The Qataris earlier played host to negotiations between the United States and Taliban that led to the February 2020 agreement for the United States to withdraw troops. Since the Taliban takeover, US embassy operations in Kabul have been relocated to Qatar. Click here to read…

‘Turkic world’ wants a voice in the new global order

Leaders of six Turkic states — spanning Central Asia, the Caucasus and Asia Minor — plus Hungary gathered in a tightly secured island in Istanbul on Nov 12, agreeing to explore further cooperation and integration amid fears that the instability in Afghanistan could spill over into the region in forms of radicalism, terrorism and migration. Heads of state from the Turkic-speaking countries of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan gathered for the eighth summit of the Turkic Council, officially known as Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States. Hungary has observer status with the group. The council also welcomed Turkmenistan as a new observer, bringing together the full Turkic family. Turkmenistan embraces a “permanent neutrality” policy and has avoided becoming a full member to such groupings. The leaders agreed to change the council’s name to “Organization of Turkic States,” and to set further rules on becoming an observer or the new status of “partner.” The rebranding of the group comes at a time when powers such as China and Russia gear up to fill in the void after the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan. The group’s six Turkic countries have a cumulative gross domestic product above $1 trillion, with a combined population of about 160 million. Click here to read…

Iran, Turkey hope to sign ‘cooperation road map’ in Erdogan visit

Iran and Turkey will continue high-level diplomatic talks to draft a “long-term cooperation road map” to boost ties, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has announced. “We hope to finalise the road map in a future visit to Tehran by Mr [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, the eminent Turkish president,” Amirabdollahian said on Nov 15, standing next to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at a news conference in Tehran, without announcing a specific date for the visit. This was the first high-level visit to Iran by a Turkish official since President Ebrahim Raisi began his first term in office about three months ago. It was also the first visit Amirabdollahian has received since testing positive for COVID-19 in early November. The Iranian foreign minister said he and Cavusoglu discussed bilateral ties, the region – especially Afghanistan – and international relations. As “pragmatic” governments, he said, Tehran and Ankara agreed to work together to remove barriers on the way of expanding trade, energy, environment and consular ties while also facilitating private sector trade. “I’d like to emphasise that the two countries’ relations are deep, historical and intimate, and in developing these ties, we will pay special attention to this,” Amirabdollahian added. Click here to read…

Is Iran losing some of its grip on Shia militias in Iraq?

Soon after the drone attack aimed at assassinating Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iran joined the ranks of countries condemning the attack. Tehran, which wields considerable military influence in Iraq, rushed Esmail Qaani, the leader of the elite Quds Force to Baghdad to calm the most dramatic escalation in months between the state and the pro-Iran militia groups. It is not clear whether Iran had previous knowledge of this attack, but Tehran’s subsequent stance following the assault suggested that the attack at least went ahead without Iran’s full endorsement. At a tumultuous time when Iran’s influence in Iraq seems to be on the decline, Tehran’s once-firm grip on the Shia militias in the country is again brought into question. Although no groups have yet claimed responsibility, security sources and analysts believe pro-Iran militia groups are the likely culprits behind the attack that came after the humiliating defeat of pro-Iran blocs in the October elections. Despite its murky background, the attack nonetheless elevated the escalation to a worrying level. “Had the assassination been successful, we’d be looking at a potential full-blown intra-Shia conflict,” Raad Hasan, a Baghdad-based Iraqi politics watcher, told Al Jazeera. Click here to read…

Abe becomes head of largest faction in Japan’s ruling party

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Nov 11 became head of the largest faction within Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party upon his return to the intraparty bloc following a nine-year absence. Abe was officially named successor to Hiroyuki Hosoda, a former chief cabinet secretary, by faction members during a meeting Nov 11, a day after Hosoda was elected speaker of the House of Representatives. In 2012, Abe left the faction, then led by the late former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, before his second stint as prime minister, and had not joined an intraparty bloc even after stepping down from the post in September last year. “I would like to dedicate my best effort, together with all of you, in order to pass on to the next generation a Japan that we can be proud of,” said Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. The faction, founded in 1979 by the late former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, has about 90 lawmakers and has produced four prime ministers — Yoshiro Mori, Junichiro Koizumi, Abe and Yasuo Fukuda — since 2000. Hosoda resigned as faction leader on Nov 09 and called for Abe to succeed him. Click here to read…

Democrats Fear Steep Losses in 2022 Midterm House Races

Alarm bells are ringing in the Democratic Party as it prepares to defend its narrow House majority in the 2022 midterm elections. When a progressive firm last month polled Black voters, a key Democratic constituency, it found less than half saying their lives had improved under President Biden. A second Democratic-allied firm found that among new voters who backed Mr. Biden in 2020 in competitive states, nearly one-third now thought it would be good if Republicans took over Congress. The party’s loss in the Virginia election for governor this month, and a surprisingly narrow win for governor of New Jersey, have added to the evidence of malaise among important groups of Democratic voters. Compounding the party’s challenge are sinking approval ratings for Mr. Biden, retirements by House incumbents and expected Republican gains from the post-census redrawing of House district lines. “If House elections had to be held on the day of the Virginia elections, we would have lost 50 seats,’’ said Lanae Erickson, who leads political research at Third Way, a centrist Democratic group. Click here to read…

US bombers conduct refueling exercises over Australia

American long-range B-1B Lancers took part in joint air drills with the Australian Air Force, including refueling and other combat training, part of a long-term plan to strengthen military ties between the two countries. The mission involved air-to-air refueling of two US B-1B bombers with Australian KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport craft, as well as drills with Aussie P-8 Poseidon patrol planes, all of which took place on Nov 08 over the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Darwin Base far in the country’s north, also known as the Top End. This exercise builds upon the regular and increasing interaction between Australia and the United States and sets the scene for expanded force posture initiatives in the coming years. The American planes flew some 6,000km (3,700 miles) from the US’ Diego Garcia base in the Indian Ocean to participate in the drills, which also saw the planes rehearse “multiple combat mission profiles,” Australia’s military said. On their way to Darwin Base, the two B-1s met with a pair of KC-30As over the Timor Sea off Australia’s northern coast and were refueled mid-air at an altitude of 30,000 feet, providing the planes with “the range to complete their mission.” Click here to read…

Poland and Germany can’t handle migrant crisis on Belarus border alone – German interior minister

Poland and Germany won’t be able to deal with the migrant crisis on the Belarus border on their own, German caretaker Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said, urging all EU members to unite in protecting the block’s frontiers. “We must help the Polish government secure their external border. This would actually be the task of the European Commission. I’m now appealing to them to take action,” Seehofer told Bild newspaper on Nov 09. We have to stand together. Poland or Germany can’t deal with this on their own. Some 3,000 migrants from the Middle East and Africa, who are looking to make it into Poland and request asylum in the EU, are currently besieging the border between Poland and Belarus. Seehofer has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of using those people “to destabilize the West,” calling on “all EU states” to unite to counter those attempts. In late June, Lukashenko said Belarus would no longer be holding back migrants seeking to reach the EU through its territory. The move was in response to sanctions, including restrictions on airspace, imposed by Brussels on Minsk after Belarus grounded an Irish Ryanair flight with opposition blogger Roman Protasevich on board in May. Click here to read…

World Leaders Pressure Libya to Hold Elections on Time

US Vice President Kamala Harris and other world leaders gathered in Paris on Nov 12 to make a diplomatic push in support of coming elections in Libya that could make or break the peace process in a country that has been torn apart by war and political crisis for a decade. Ms. Harris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and other European and Middle Eastern leaders joined the summit, which ended with a statement urging Libyans to hold the election as scheduled on Dec. 24. French officials have argued that holding the election on time will provide a definitive solution to Libya’s political crises since the 2011 ouster and death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. “We stress the importance for all Libyan stakeholders to commit unequivocally to the holding of free, fair, inclusive and credible presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December 2021,” the world leaders said in a declaration drafted for release Nov 12 afternoon. Anyone who tries to obstruct the election process would be referred to the United Nations for possible sanctions, the statement also said. The conference comes as some Western officials fear that a dispute among rival Libyan factions over the election’s timing, legal basis and rules threatens to unravel a United Nations-brokered cease-fire that ended a 14-month war last year. Click here to read…

US sanctions Eritrean army, ruling party over Ethiopia conflict

The United States has sanctioned the Eritrean military and the country’s ruling party for “contributing to the crisis and conflict” in Ethiopia, which has displaced more than 2.5 million people and killed thousands. In a statement on Nov 12, the US Treasury Department said it was sanctioning the Eritrean Defence Forces and the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, as well as other individuals and entities. The Eritrean military’s presence in Ethiopia, the department said, “is an impediment to ending the ongoing fighting and increasing humanitarian access”. “We condemn the continued role played by Eritrean actors who are contributing to the violence in northern Ethiopia, which has undermined the stability and integrity of the state and resulted in a humanitarian disaster,” Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M Gacki said in the statement. The sanctions come just days after United Nations political chief Rosemary DiCarlo warned that Ethiopia risks “descending into widening civil war”. The Ethiopian government’s conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began a year ago and has accelerated in recent days, with a nationwide state of emergency declared this month and residents of the capital, Addis Ababa, told to be ready to take up arms to defend residential areas. Click here to read…

Medical
France releases new advice on Moderna Covid jab

France’s public health authority has advised against giving people under 30 Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, citing higher risks of heart inflammation post-inoculation. Instead, the body recommends Pfizer’s jab for this group. Drawing on recently published data, France’s health authority, the Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS), said the risk of myocarditis from Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty “appears to be around five times lesser… compared to Moderna’s Spikevax jab” in young people in an opinion published on Nov 09. Cases of myocarditis mainly occur within seven days of vaccination, more often after the second dose, and in men under the age of 30, the notice read. HAS, which acts as an advisor to the French health sector but does not have the power to ban medicines, said the recommendation would apply to first and second doses, as well as a third “booster shot” while it awaits additional data. For the French population aged 30 and over, however, the body said it backs the administration of Spikevax in this group, stating that its efficacy was slightly higher than Pfizer-BioNTech’s jab. Last month saw Nordic nations place varying restrictions on Moderna’s vaccine. Iceland has made the widest suspension of the jab, with its health authorities halting its use across its whole population. Click here to read…

Austria starts lockdown for unvaccinated; police to randomly check residents on street for 10 days

Austrian police have been ordered to stop and check individuals on the streets to enforce a lockdown on people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine. Starting on November 15, people who cannot show proof of vaccination and are caught going into cinemas, gyms or shops face fines starting at US$573 (500 euros). Business owners could be fined US$4,100 (3,600 euros), according to the Interior Ministry. The country needs to raise its “shamefully low vaccination rate” of less than two-thirds of the population, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said at a press conference in Vienna. “We are not taking this step lightly. But unfortunately, it’s necessary”. The main committee of parliament approved the lockdown on Nov 14. About 65 per cent of Austria’s almost nine million people are vaccinated, below the EU average of 67 per cent, while daily increases in infections have hit records this week. Schallenberg called again on those who have not yet been vaccinated to get jabbed. Hundreds gathered outside the chancellery building for his announcement in a noisy protest, waving banners that read “No to mandatory vaccination” and “Our body, our freedom to decide”. Click here to read…

Beijing Winter Olympics venue restricted to 20% capacity over COVID-19 fears: Report

A major Beijing Winter Olympics venue will only let in one-fifth the spectators it normally holds due to COVID-19 fears, Chinese state media reported. With less than 100 days to go to the Games, China is bracing for a major challenge to its zero-COVID strategy as thousands of international athletes and officials descend on its capital after months of strict border controls. The National Aquatics Centre, the main curling venue, will allow “no more than 1,000 people” – 20 per cent of its capacity – to attend 2022 Winter Olympics events, manager Yang Qiyong told the state-run Global Times in comments published on Nov 13. The venue, built to host water sports during the 2008 Summer Olympics, was dubbed the “Water Cube” for its striking box-like design. It got a new nickname – the “Ice Cube” – after being refitted for the Beijing Winter Games. All staff at the venue have received booster COVID-19 jabs, and backup personnel will be deployed to “take over if anyone has an epidemic-related problem”, Yang added. Coming just six months after the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Games, the Winter Olympics will be held from Feb 4 to 20 in a “closed loop” bubble. No spectators from outside China will be allowed to attend. Click here to read…

China: Daily Scan, October 21, 2021

China to further intensify relief policy support for smaller businesses: Xinhuanet
October 20, 2021

China will take a multi-pronged and targeted approach to step up relief to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), the State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided on Wednesday. Click here to read…

Workshop of Beijing Xiangshan Forum to open soon: China Military
October 20, 2021

The workshop of the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, gathering experts and scholars from nearly 20 countries and international organizations, is slated to be held from Oct. 25 to 26. With the theme of upholding win-win cooperation and promoting global security governance, the event will be attended by experts and scholars from countries including the United States, Russia, France, Britain, and India, as well as international organizations. Click here to read…

China’s Liaoning appoints acting governor: China Daily
October 20, 2021

Li Lecheng was appointed deputy governor and acting governor of Northeast China’s Liaoning province on Wednesday. The appointment was made at the 29th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th Liaoning Provincial People’s Congress, the local legislature. Click here to read…

Tibet to further expand opening-up, foreign cooperation: China Daily
October 21, 2021

The central authorities will continue to support the Tibet autonomous region in expanding opening-up and foreign cooperation, and will assist the region in deepening Belt and Road cooperation with neighboring countries, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday. In an event held in Beijing by the Foreign Ministry to promote Tibet,Wang said the region has become an important window for China’s opening-up and cooperation with the outside world. Click here to read…

‘Moscow format’ talks highlight China-Russia coordination on Afghan issue, conspicuous US absence: Global Times
October 20, 2021

The “Moscow format” talks on Wednesday highlighted the prominent role of China-Russia coordination on the Afghan crisis when the US and some Western countries chose to evade responsibility, experts said, as Moscow gathered 10 countries and the Taliban to focus on the developing political and military situation in Afghanistan. Click here to read…

Trains and flights canceled in northern Chinese cities amid strengthened COVID-19 prevention and control measures: Global Times
October 21, 2021

Over 50 percent of flights and a dozen rail routes were canceled in northern Chinese provinces that have reported COVID-19 infections. China upgraded prevention and control measures after several areas in the country have reported domestically transmitted confirmed cases and asymptomatic patients since Sunday. Click here to read…

China’s tech crackdown will see ‘more substantial progress’ by year’s end, Beijing vows: South China Morning Post
October 20, 2021

Chinese authorities say progress is being made in their efforts to clean up the financial irregularities created by privately run tech giants and other industrial capitalists, while doubling down on vows to ensure that funding is available to struggling private businesses amid rising costs and a broad economic slowdown. Guo Shuqing, party chief of the People’s Bank of China, pointed to promising “initial results” in the ongoing clampdown on tech giants, in an interview that Communist Party mouthpiece Xinhua published on Tuesday. Click here to read…

China’s power crisis: Zhejiang the latest province to float electricity prices after Beijing eases restrictions: South China Morning Post
October 21, 2021

Zhejiang province is the latest regional government to raise electricity prices and change peak-demand hours following Beijing’s announcement it would liberalise electricity pricing in response to China’s power crisis. The move follows in the footsteps of the southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong province, which hiked prices last month by as much as 25 per cent during peak-demand for industrial users. Click here to read…

China’s ‘unfair trade practices’ draw heavy fire at WTO trade review: South China Morning Post
October 21, 2021

China was accused of a laundry list of trade felonies and economic bullying during a series of attacks by other nations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva on Wednesday, laying bare growing geopolitical rifts and widening schisms in the multilateral trading system. The United States, European Union, Japan, Britain, Australia and Canada took part in the pile-on at China’s first WTO trade policy review since 2018, according to a well-placed source. Click here to read…

U.S. China ambassador nominee Burns takes tough line on dealings with Beijing: Reuters
October 20, 2021

President Joe Biden’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, took a tough line on dealings with China at his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, saying “genocide in Xinjiang,” abuses in Tibet, and bullying of Taiwan must stop. Burns, calling China the United States’ “most dangerous competitor”, said Beijing is “blasting past” its pledge to maintain only a minimum nuclear deterrent, and added that Washington should work with allies in Europe and elsewhere to build economic leverage. Click here to read…