China says most rocket debris burned up during reentry

China says most rocket debris burned up during reentry

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In this April 29, 2021, file photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a Long March 5B rocket carrying a module for a Chinese space station lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China’s Hainan … more >

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Associated Press

Sunday, May 9, 2021

BEIJING (AP) — China‘s space agency said a core segment of its biggest rocket reentered Earth’s atmosphere above the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and that most of it burned up early Sunday. 

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who tracked the tumbling rocket part, said on Twitter, “An ocean reentry was always statistically the most likely. It appears China won its gamble. But it was still reckless.”

People in Jordan, Oman and Saudi Arabia reported sightings of the Chinese rocket debris on social media, with scores of users posting footage of the debris piercing the early dawn skies over the Middle East.

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Usually, discarded rocket stages reenter the atmosphere soon after liftoff, normally over water, and don’t go into orbit. 

China‘s official Xinhua News Agency later clarified that reentry occurred Sunday at 10:24 a.m. Beijing time. “The vast majority of items were burned beyond recognition during the reentry process,” the report said. 

Despite that, NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson issued a statement saying: “It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”

The roughly 30-meter (100-foot) long rocket stage is among the biggest space debris to fall to Earth. China‘s space program, with its close military links, hasn’t said why it put the main component of the rocket into space rather than allowing it to fall back to earth soon after discharging its payload, as is usual in such operations. 

The Long March 5B rocket carried the main module of China‘s first permanent space station — Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony — into orbit on April 29. China plans 10 more launches to carry additional parts of the space station into orbit.

An 18-ton rocket that fell last May was the heaviest debris to fall uncontrolled since the former Soviet space station Salyut 7 in 1991.

China‘s first-ever space station, Tiangong-1, crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 2016 after Beijing confirmed it had lost control. In 2019, the space agency controlled the demolition of its second station, Tiangong-2, in the atmosphere. Both had been briefly occupied by Chinese astronauts as precursors to China‘s permanent station, now under construction. 

In March, debris from a Falcon 9 rocket launched by U.S. aeronautics company SpaceX fell to Earth in Washington and on the Oregon coast.

China was heavily criticized after sending a missile to destroy a defunct weather satellite in January 2007, creating a large field of hazardous debris imperiling satellites and other spacecraft.

___

This story corrects the time the rocket fell on Sunday at 10:24 a.m. Beijing time, not 7:24 p.m. Saturday.

___

Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre in Dubai contributed to this report.

Chinese in Iraq blocked from flying home after virus cases

Chinese in Iraq blocked from flying home after virus cases

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By

Associated Press

Friday, May 7, 2021

BEIJING (AP) – Employees of two Chinese state-owned companies in Iraq are blocked from returning to China for two months after 14 coworkers flew home with the coronavirus, Beijing’s embassy in Baghdad said Friday.

China has repeatedly suspended the rights of airlines to fly certain routes after infections were found among their passengers. But a decision to target Chinese citizens working for state-owned companies abroad is unusual.

The 14 employees who flew home with the virus in April worked for China Power Construction Corp. in Rumaila and for the China Machinery Engineering Corp. in Basra, the Chinese Embassy said on its social media account.

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Beijing suspended issuing health codes to other employees on those projects for two months, the embassy said. That blocks them from boarding flights to China.

Failure to detect the virus before the employees boarded two Iraqi Airlines flights “caused a serious risk of importing the epidemic,” the statement said. It gave no details of whether they passed the virus to anyone in China.

The ruling Communist Party has lifted most restrictions on travel and business within China since declaring the virus under control last March. It is gradually easing controls on travel into and out of the country.

Health codes, carried on smartphones, are used in China to track whether individuals have been infected or have visited high-risk areas.

Once the suspension is lifted, the employees in Iraq will be required to undergo virus tests within 48 hours of boarding a flight, the embassy said.

Also Friday, the Chinese air regulator said Iraqi Airlines’ flights from Baghdad to Guangzhou would be suspended for two weeks due to the incident.

The air regulator also announced two-week suspensions of routes flown by Air France, Rwanda Airlines and Bangladesh’s US-Bangla Airlines because infected passengers were found on their flights.

China rejects G-7 criticism on human rights

China rejects G-7 criticism on human rights

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China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin gestures during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Friday, July 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) more >

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Associated Press

Thursday, May 6, 2021

BEIJING (AP) — China’s government on Thursday rejected criticism of its human rights and economic record by foreign ministers of the Group of Seven major economies and accused them of meddling in its affairs.

The Foreign Ministry also rejected an appeal by the G-7 diplomats for Taiwan, the island democracy Beijing claims as part of its territory, to be allowed to participate in the World Health Organization.

The statement Wednesday by G-7 diplomats in London “made groundless accusations” said a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin. He accused them of “blatantly meddling” in China’s affairs.

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China strongly condemns it,” Wang said at a press briefing.

The officials from the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada said they were “deeply concerned” about Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur and other minorities. But they announced no formal joint action in response to reports of mass detentions, forced labor and forced sterilization.

The Biden administration wants to assemble a coalition to respond to China’s economic and strategic assertiveness. But some European governments are more cautious about dealing with the government of an important export market.

Beijing rejects complaints that it mistreats minorities and says camps in Xinjiang are for job training to promote economic development and combat radicalism among the western region’s predominantly Muslim population.

China also was irked that G-7 governments for the first time unanimously recommended Taiwan be allowed “meaningful participation” in the WHO. Wednesday’s statement cited Taiwan‘s success in controlling the coronavirus.

The communist Beijing government says Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949 after a civil war, has no right to conduct foreign relations or participate in global bodies as a sovereign government.

Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, including the activities of the World Health Organization, which is composed of sovereign states, must be handled in accordance with the one-China principle,” Wang said.

G-7 governments should be working on improving access to coronavirus vaccines for developing countries instead of “making accusations and interfering with other countries in a condescending way,” Wang said.

“Attempts to disregard the basic norms of international relations and to create various excuses to interfere in China’s internal affairs, undermine China’s sovereignty and smear China’s image will never succeed,” he said.

EU plans tightening foreign investment, with eye on China

EU plans tightening foreign investment, with eye on China

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By RAF CASERT

Associated Press

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union is planning to tighten rules on foreign investment in its 27 members and boost production autonomy for sensitive strategic goods, two measures bound to hit China – amid already precarious relations between the two massive trading powers.

The moves comes at a time when the ratification of a business investment deal with Beijing hangs in the balance because of a rapidly deteriorating political climate over accusations that China abuses an ethnic minority.

Brussels has long been unhappy about Chinese subsidy-driven imports driving European producers out of business, and on Wednesday promised rules to make sure that EU industries would no longer be undercut by foreign investors that have faced slacker rules up to now.

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Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said that with the proposal, the EU is “closing a gap in our rule book to make sure that all companies compete on an equal footing.”

Battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU economy has taken an unprecedented hit. The virus also laid bare dependencies on strategic products in sensitive sectors, from energy to heath, in which the EU wants to become far more autonomous. That also would come at a cost to Beijing.

EU officials drew up a list of 137 products of high dependency in such sectors as raw materials, active pharmaceutical ingredients and products essential to move the bloc closer to its climate change goals.

“About half of imports of these dependent products originate in China,” said EU Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis. He called on industry to push through a “diversification of suppliers.”

The planned EU measures on clamping down on trade distortions through foreign subsidies would also affect China. Under the current system in the 27-nation bloc, a massive market of 450 million consumers, subsidies granted by non-EU governments like China do not face the same vetting as those from EU nations.

“Companies have been free to use foreign subsidies to buy up businesses here in Europe. Some have been able to undercut their competitors in public tenders not because they are more efficient, but because they get financial support from foreign countries. And that’s not fair,” said EU Vice President Margrethe Vestager. “It has to stop.”

The moves comes as relations are at a low ebb. In March, the EU imposed asset freezes and travel bans on a group of Chinese officials in Xinjiang, where Beijing has been accused of rights abuses. China retaliated by slapping sanctions on 10 Europeans, including lawmakers and academics, and four institutions. Beijing said they had damaged China’s interests and “maliciously spread lies and disinformation.”

Amid such an atmosphere, the fate of the investment deal tentatively agreed in December remains unclear. The long-awaited business investment agreement followed seven years of intense discussions.

The EU hopes the agreement, known as CAI, will help correct an imbalance in market access and create new investment opportunities for European companies in China, by ensuring they can compete on an equal footing when operating in the country.

Dombrovskis said, however, that the tentative agreement, which still needs ratification by the European Parliament among others, is still is far from a done deal, especially because of the sanctions.

“The next steps concerning the ratification of a Comprehensive Agreement of Investment will depend on how the situation evolves,” he said.

G-7 calls out China over rights at virus-shadowed meeting

G-7 calls out China over rights at virus-shadowed meeting

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, attends a press conference with India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar following a bilateral meeting in London on Monday, May 3, 2021. (Ben Stansall/Pool Photo via AP) more >

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By JILL LAWLESS

Associated Press

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

LONDON (AP) – Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy industrialized nations on Wednesday accused China of human rights abuses and economic mischief, but offered little concrete action to deal with an increasingly forceful Beijing.

The top G-7 diplomats meeting in London said they were “deeply concerned” by China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim population and other minorities, which includes mass internment in “re-education” camps, forced labor and forced sterilization.

But the U.K., the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan committed only to tackling forced labor “through our own available domestic means,” which could range from public awareness campaigns to laws for businesses, rather than through collective action.

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While the Biden administration in the U.S. is keen for a strong stand against China’s rising economic and political assertiveness, some European G-7 members are more cautious, and the G-7 joint statement stressed the need for a working relationship with Beijing.

The G-7 ministers criticized China for “arbitrary, coercive economic policies and practices” and urged it to stick to international trade rules and “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

At their first face-to-face meeting for two years, the top diplomats sought unity to deal with increasing challenges from China and Russia, smoldering conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Ethiopia and the heavy toll the pandemic is taking on the world’s poorest countries.

The G-7 ministers called for “co-ordinated action and global solidarity” to help the world recover from the pandemic, and backed “affordable and equitable global access” to coronavirus vaccines and treatments. But wealthy countries have been reluctant so far to give up precious vaccine stocks until they have inoculated their own populations.

The group also condemned Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea and its “malign activities aimed at undermining other countries’ democratic systems.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was flying to Kviv after the G-7 meeting to demonstrate strong U.S. backing for the country’s response to Russian aggression.

The U.K. pushed to hold the meeting in person to give the rich countries’ club a jolt of energy after a period marked by the health crisis of the pandemic and rising nationalism around the world. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is also seeking to project a dynamic “Global Britain” image in the wake of the country’s departure from the European Union.

Delegates at Lancaster House, a grand London mansion, observed social distancing, sat behind transparent screens in meetings and were tested daily for the virus. Even so, India’s foreign minister was forced to go into self-isolation after members of his country’s delegation tested positive for COVID-19.

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted that he was attending “in the virtual mode” as a ”measure of abundant caution” after being told he might have been exposed to the virus.

Organizers insisted there was little risk to the rest of the delegates.

India is not a G-7 member but was invited along with fellow democracies South Korea, Australia and South Africa as a guest.

India is experiencing a vast outbreak of COVID-19, with 382,315 new confirmed cases and 3,780 reported deaths in the last 24 hours, in what is widely believed to be an undercount.

The guest nations’ delegations didn’t attend the conference on Tuesday, though Jaishankar has held meetings in London with officials including British Home Secretary Priti Patel and the American secretary of state.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said that “we have no reason to believe any of our delegation is at risk.”

The U.K. is due to host the group’s leaders at a summit in Cornwall, southwest England, in June.

Johnson, who attended the gathering briefly on Wednesday defended the decision to hold the foreign ministers’ meeting in person despite the virus.

“I think it’s very important to try to continue as much business as you can as a government,” the prime minister said.

Boris Johnson South China Sea carrier deployment to project Britain power

Britain strives to project power with carrier deployment to South China Sea

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The HMS Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth Naval Base on Saturday for exercises off Scotland before a 28-week trip through the Pacific that will take the Royal Navy to more than 40 countries. (Associated Press) more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Post-Brexit Britain is thrusting itself into 21st-century great power competition with the deployment of a massive carrier strike group through Asia and the bitterly contested South China Sea this month, marking the Royal Navy’s most ambitious mission since the Falklands War of the early 1980s.

It’s the clearest example to date of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to reinvent and reenergize British foreign policy as the nation emerges from its divorce from the European Union with grand ambitions of once again becoming a major player on the world stage. Having largely played a supporting role to the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere during the post-9/11 counterterrorism era, regional analysts say, London is turning its attention to the east as China continues its rapid ascent as a global military and economic powerhouse.

Like the U.S., Australia and other allies around the world, the United Kingdom has a vested interest in ensuring that the critical waterway of East Asia does not fall under full Chinese control. The naval mission through the South China Sea, the same type of “freedom of navigation” expedition that the U.S. has become known for in the region, is a clear sign of Britain’s willingness to reassert itself.

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But the mission has even deeper significance. It’s Britain’s first major military excursion since formally exiting the EU. Although a deployment of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its accompanying flotilla had long been in the works, analysts say, the timing of the voyage is no accident.

“This all needs to be viewed in a post-Brexit lens,” said Leah Scheunemann, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative.

“They’re trying to re-find their footing vis-a-vis the United States, and vis-a-vis Europe,” said Ms. Scheunemann, who previously served as country director for the United Kingdom and Ireland at the Pentagon. “Because of historic ties to the Indo-Pacific and historically the strength of their naval assets, specifically, there definitely is the view that this is a little bit of going back to the past, regaining that glory” of the heyday of the British Empire.

The British Navy’s 28-week trip through the Pacific will cover 26,000 nautical miles with visits to more than 40 countries, officials said. Led by the Queen Elizabeth, a fleet of submarines, destroyers, anti-submarine frigates and other vessels also will set sail. A U.S. Navy destroyer and a frigate from the Netherlands will accompany the British strike group.

“When our carrier strike group sets sail … it will be flying the flag for ‘global Britain,’ projecting our influence, signaling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow,” U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said last week. “The entire nation can be proud of the dedicated men and women who for more than six months will demonstrate to the world that the U.K. is not stepping back but sailing forth to play an active role in shaping the international system of the 21st century.”

‘Renewed commitment’

Mr. Johnson, who owes his office and strong parliamentary majority largely to the politics of Brexit, in March laid out his “Global Britain” plan as the nation’s post-Brexit road map. Now disentangled from the EU and able to make foreign policy decisions entirely on its own, Britain will center its future on a “robust position on security and resilience” and a “renewed commitment to the U.K. as a force for good in the world,” the proposal reads in part.

Brexit skeptics argued that Britain’s clout going it alone will pale beside the combined heft of EU membership, but Mr. Johnson appears determined to prove them wrong.

As a key member of NATO, the U.K. will remain a major player in the U.S.-European effort to blunt Russian aggression on the continent. While all British forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan as part of the joint U.S.-NATO pullout, the U.K. still is expected to be involved in counterterrorism efforts, particularly if more hot spots emerge in Africa and the Middle East.

Britain, which this week is playing host to foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations and will welcome Mr. Biden and fellow G-7 leaders to Cornwall next month, also is deeply involved in the push to renegotiate an international deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

The most pressing challenges of the next several decades, however, all revolve around China.

The U.K. plan to push back militarily and economically on Chinese expansion has met with an especially chilly reaction in Beijing. Across the region, the effort also is likely to stir memories of Britain’s long, complex history in the theater, from its colonization of Hong Kong to the 19th-century opium wars with China.

Chinese officials have made no secret that they disapprove of the Royal Navy’s move through the Pacific.

China hopes that countries outside the region will respect the aspiration of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability and promote cooperation for development, and refrain from taking actions that could complicate the situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters last week when asked about the mission.

As its military encroaches further into the South China Sea and invests heavily in new warships, fighter planes and cutting-edge weapons, Beijing also is using its vastly ambitious Belt and Road economic initiative to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into infrastructure projects in developing economies around the world. That effort has helped China cultivate new alliances in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere while ensuring that dozens of countries are now in debt — financially and politically — to the Chinese Communist Party.

Nations such as Pakistan that were once under British control now have a burgeoning partnership with China.

Meanwhile, Chinese companies such as Huawei are playing a leading role in key 21st-century technological infrastructure such as 5G networks. The U.S. and U.K. have taken steps to ban Huawei products in their nations’ networks largely out of suspicion that Chinese equipment contains secret “back doors” that could be used to eavesdrop and gather intelligence.

In Washington, Britain’s involvement in Pacific freedom of navigation operations and a broader pushback against China is welcome news for the Biden administration, which is eager to enlist allies in the fight. In a speech to Congress last week, President Biden said he recently told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. and its allies will not cede the region to Beijing. He also said the U.S. and its partners oppose Chinese human rights abuses such as the treatment of minority Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.

“I also told President Xi that we’ll maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, just as we do with NATO in Europe: not to start a conflict, but to prevent one,” Mr. Biden said. “I told him what I’ve said to many world leaders: that America will not back away from our commitments — our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms and to our alliances.”

Philippine diplomat apologizes for profanity toward China

Philippine diplomat apologizes for profanity toward China

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FILE – In this Feb. 6, 2020, file photo, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. gestures during a senate hearing in Manila, Philippines. Locsin apologized Tuesday, May 4,2021, after tweeting an obscene phrase demanding China get out of … more >

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By JIM GOMEZ

Associated Press

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Philippines‘ foreign secretary apologized Tuesday after tweeting an obscene phrase demanding China get out of Philippine-claimed territory in the South China Sea in an outburst that annoyed the Philippine president.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. blasted China with the profanity on Monday, when the Department of Foreign Affairs announced it had protested the Chinese coast guard’s “shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuver and radio challenges” of Philippine coast guard ships patrolling and carrying out exercises from April 24 to 25 at disputed Scarborough Shoal.

Locsin also compared China to “an ugly oaf” which was “forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend.”

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Locsin said he was apologizing only to his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to ensure their friendship would continue. “I won’t plead the last provocation as an excuse for losing it; but if Wang Yi is following Twitter, then I’m sorry for hurting his feelings, but his alone,” Locsin tweeted.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has nurtured friendly ties with China and its leaders since taking office in 2016, expressed his irritation in televised remarks Monday night.

“Just because we have a conflict with China does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful,” Duterte said. “We have many things to thank China for the help in the past and its assistance now.”

China has donated and sold COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines, which has struggled to secure enough doses to immunize up to 70 million Filipinos amid tight global supplies. Unlike Western governments, China also has not criticized Duterte’s bloody anti-illegal drug crackdown, which has left thousands of mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed human rights groups.

The Philippines has issued dozens of diplomatic protests to China over the territorial dispute. Locsin and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have also issued increasingly acerbic remarks against Chinese actions in the disputed waters, despite Duterte’s friendly overtures to Beijing.

The escalating feud between Manila and Beijing started after more than 200 Chinese vessels suspected by Philippine authorities to be operated by militias were spotted in early March at Whitsun Reef. Lorenzana and Locsin demanded the vessels leave, then the government deployed navy and coast guard vessels to the area. China said it owns the reef and the Chinese vessels were sheltering from rough seas.

Many of the Chinese vessels have left Whitsun, about 175 nautical miles (325 kilometers) west of the Philippine province of Palawan, but several have remained moored in the area, part of a shallow atoll partly occupied by China and Vietnam. The Philippine government says the reef is within an internationally recognized offshore zone where Manila has exclusive rights to exploit fisheries, oil, gas and other resources.

While being careful with his pronouncements on China, Duterte blasted two respected former Philippine officials who have criticized his handling of the country’s territorial conflicts with Beijing. He used expletives and called former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio “idiotic.”

Del Rosario and Carpio were among the Philippine officials who brought the country’s conflict with China to international arbitration in 2013. The arbitration tribunal ruled largely in favor of the Philippines based on the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and invalidated China’s claims to virtually the entire South China Sea on historical grounds. China refused to participate in the arbitration, ignored the 2016 ruling and continues to defy it.

Xi Jinping adopts Mao Zedong title ‘helmsman,’ claims ultimate authority

Xi claims ultimate authority, adopts Mao’s title ‘helmsman’

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In this Jan. 6, 2020, file photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping stands during a welcome ceremony for Kiribati’s President Taneti Maamau at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File) more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Monday, May 3, 2021

Chinese President and Communist Party General-Secretary Xi Jinping continues to consolidate power and has reached new status, adopting the title “helmsman,” a descriptor not used since Mao Zedong and denoting ultimate authority, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Army Lt. Gen. Scott D. Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said Mr. Xi’s increased power will fuel the Chinese military’s drive to create forces more powerful than those of the United States in the coming years.

“I think Xi is firmly in control of the party, of the military and every aspect of Chinese society,” Gen. Berrier told the Senate Armed Services Committee in testimony late last week.

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In his prepared remarks, Gen. Berrier said a Chinese Communist Party Central Committee meeting in October marked a significant shift in Mr. Xi’s power.

“The ensuing communique likely signaled Xi’s singular political position within the party, declaring him the ‘core navigator and helmsman,’ an invocation not used since Mao Zedong,” the three-star general said.

The most famous sobriquet of Mao, founder of the Chinese Communist Party and hero of the Chinese Revolution, was “Great Helmsman.” Mr. Xi’s use of the term highlights what analysts say is his plan to consolidate his rule under an extreme Chinese version of communism.

Gen. Berrier said the CCP session outlined the party’s economic and military goals, including renewed efforts to shift the economy to developing high-technology industries. “Beijing believes that China remains in ‘a period of important strategic opportunities,’” he said.

Larry Ong, a senior analyst with the U.S.-based Chinese political risk consultancy SinoInsider, said the addition of the titles used by Mao are part of Mr. Xi’s drive to consolidate his power indefinitely.

“By ‘borrowing’ from Mao, Xi is looking to boost his ‘power-prestige,’ or ‘quan wei’ — the sum total of an official’s formal and informal power, authority and prestige,” Mr. Ong said, adding that use of the title does not mean Mr. Xi wants to become a new Mao.

Under Mr. Xi, China has pursued military expansion abroad and increased political control domestically. The State Department this year declared Beijing engaged in genocide against minority Uyghurs in the western province of Xinjiang.

Militarily, China has stepped up naval and aircraft pressure in neighboring seas against rival claimants to disputed waters. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin in recent days have issued sharp criticism of Beijing’s assertiveness in the region.

“It will not have escaped the attention of anyone here that as China’s role in the world grows and changes, the differences between our systems — and the interests and values that shape those systems — are becoming harder to reconcile,” Ms. Ardern told a China business summit Monday in Auckland.

Alarm bells

Beijing has also set off alarm bells within the Pentagon over stepped-up military provocations against Taiwan, the island democracy with close U.S. ties. Mr. Xi has declared reuniting Taiwan with the mainland a core interest and has dispatched military aircraft and warships around Taiwan in large numbers in recent weeks.

Mr. Xi became Communist Party general secretary and chairman of the Central Military Commission, the ultimate power position, in 2012. He initially was slated to serve two five-year terms.

But in 2018, Mr. Xi changed party rules to eliminate term limits, paving the way for him take on a third term next year or even a fourth term after that.

The term limits were set up when Deng Xiaoping was CCC leader and were meant to prevent another dictator like Mao from creating a personality cult and imposing totalitarian control.

Mao ruled China from 1949 until his death in 1976 with devastating results, including actions that historians say caused the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese through policies of political extermination, forced collectivization and other policies.

China experts say Mr. Xi’s hold on power is less certain because of the party’s history of factionalism.

No known power factions are following Mr. Xi’s purge of thousands of officials and military leaders who could have challenged his authority.

That was carried out by eliminating rivals from two political power centers known as the “Shanghai faction,” led by those associated with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and the “Central Party School faction” under President Hu Jintao, Mr. Xi’s immediate predecessor. Mr. Xi thoroughly purged a third faction within the People’s Liberation Army of perceived rivals, along with officials from the other factions.

As a “princeling,” the offspring of a high-ranking party official, Mr. Xi cobbled together his own support base by eliminating rivals from the other power centers.

“Nine years after Xi Jinping took office, we can now say that a ‘Xi faction’ is emerging,” said Mr. Ong. “If Xi does take a third and even fourth term, he will lay a foundation that would allow the ‘Xi faction’ to dominate the regime in a similar fashion to what the Jiang faction did in the previous two decades.”

China watchers say the remnants of the Jiang faction remain the greatest threat to the Xi regime and will try to stop Mr. Xi in the lead-up to the 20th Party Congress next year, when the question of a third term will still give them influence, Mr. Ong said.

Analysts also noted recent remarks published in Macao by former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao suggesting renewed infighting between Mr. Xi and the Hu Jintao faction. The New York Times exposed Mr. Wen in 2012 for allegedly using his power to amass a fortune worth $2.7 billion.

Last month, Mr. Wen wrote an article praising his mother, Yang Zhiyun, who made $120 million as part of the corruption scandal.

The report by Mr. Wen set off viral discussions on China’s vibrant social media that were promptly censored.

Analysts say the incident may have less to do with a perceived political rivalry with Mr. Xi than with the fact that Mr. Wen was accused years ago of using his relatives to amass wealth, believed to be a common road to riches for top party officials.

Rooting out rivals

Miles Yu, a senior State Department policy planning official in the Trump administration, said Mr. Xi has rooted out all opposition to his rule and is moving toward creating a totalitarian system.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping is a die-hard communist who believes in the ideology,” he said in a recent interview.

Mr. Yu said the Trump administration countered what he said was Beijing’s manipulation of successive American administrations by pushing back against false narratives and by leveraging the advantages of the U.S. free and open system against the authoritarian Chinese model.

“In reality, the Chinese regime at its core is fragile and weak, fearful of its own people and utterly paranoid about confrontation from the West, especially the United States,” he said.

The CCP is seeking survival in power and then domination, regionally and eventually globally. Chinese domination has been cast in state propaganda as a “community with a share future for mankind” under Mr. Xi and his “China Dream” ideology.

The survival-dominance narrative of Mr. Xi is a break from the policy of earlier Chinese leaders spelled out as “bide our time; building our capabilities” when China’s military and economy were far smaller than they are today.

Mr. Xi also used China’s handling of the pandemic to consolidate power despite international outcry against Beijing for its handling of the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak that soon engulfed the world.

“Unfortunately, most Chinese people on the mainland would not know that Beijing had mishandled the pandemic due to CCP propaganda,” Mr. Ong said.

China’s elites understand they are in the pandemic together and may not use it as an excuse to challenge Mr. Xi.

“Moreover, the party is currently capitalizing on the pandemic to advance its global domination agenda,” Mr. Ong said. “And part of this involves promoting its ‘successful’ handling of the pandemic and so-called institutional advantages.”

U.S. ‘far left’ susceptible to Chinese government’s COVID-19 disinformation: Report

U.S. ‘far left’ susceptible to Chinese government’s COVID disinformation: Report

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Visitors wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk by a statue featuring Winter Olympics figure skating on display at the Shougang Park in Beijing, Sunday, May 2, 2021. Chinese tourists are expected to make a … more >

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By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Monday, May 3, 2021

Americans on the far left, including “Trump administration critics” and “capitalism skeptics,” are most likely to have soaked up Chinese government disinformation about the origins of the coronavirus, according to a new report by a prominent U.S. think tank.

The report by the RAND Corporation builds on claims by U.S. intelligence and State Department officials that China and Russia seized on the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in subversive, state-run media and other operations aimed at discrediting the U.S. and promoting their respective global agendas.

“Both countries attempted to tarnish the reputation of the United States by emphasizing challenges with its pandemic response and characterizing U.S. systems as inadequate,” according to the report circulated to journalists on Monday.

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“Both countries disseminated messages through a wide variety of channels and platforms, including social media” and both “falsely accused the United States of developing and intentionally spreading the virus,” the report said, adding that Moscow and Beijing “appeared to differ in their principal goals.”

“Russia aimed to destabilize the United States,” while “China aimed to protect and enhance its international reputation,” the report said.

Circulation of the roughly 70-page RAND document comes a year after U.S. officials first highlighted Chinese and Russian disinformation efforts around COVID-19 — operations officials have described as also being backed by Iranian government efforts to project bogus claims aimed at smearing America’s image on the world stage.

In an exclusive March 2020 interview with The Washington Times, the head of a key State Department counterdisinformation office outlined how Beijing, Moscow and Tehran were using a vast web of social media accounts, fake news outlets and state-controlled global satellite media to promote lies by academics and, at times, government officials to blame Washington for the pandemic.

Lea Gabrielle, who was then serving as special envoy heading the department’s Global Engagement Center, told The Times that U.S. officials were particularly concerned about Chinese government efforts to push disinformation about the pandemic in a bid to make China appear as a superior global power to the United States.

Beijing, Ms. Gabrielle said at the time, was “engaged in an all-out aggressive campaign to try to reshape the global narrative around the coronavirus, essentially to the degree of trying to provide an alternate reality.”

Other news outlets picked up on the developments, with The New York Time reporting weeks later that Beijing was being “more overtly aggressive” than Moscow in its disinformation campaign.

The RAND report circulated Monday homed in on efforts that were made by Chinese officials early in the pandemic to amplify Russian disinformation about COVID-19s origins.

“Chinese Foreign Ministry official Zhao Lijian retweeted an article from a Kremlin-linked source, Global Research, stating that the virus originated in the United States and was brought to China by the U.S. military,” the report noted. “Chinese media also suggested that the United States was covering up the true start date of the virus spread in the United States to obfuscate the truth about the virus’s origins.”

Consensus among scientists is that the virus began in China and that the Chinese government has for more than year been blocking U.S. and other international efforts to investigate its origins. While Beijing disputes such claims, an investigation last year by The Associated Press found the Chinese government was strictly controlling all research into the virus’ origins.

The RAND report, meanwhile, analyzed nuanced differences in Russian and Chinese disinformation campaigns, as well as audience susceptibility to both.

“China-linked messaging was more uniform across different outlets; this suggests that operators did not attempt to target specific polarized audiences or to purposefully appeal to a wide variety of audiences in the United States,” the report said. “However, during the time frame that we analyzed (January 2020 to July 2020), messages critical of the U.S. response to the pandemic might have resonated with critics of the Trump administration, those on the left of the U.S. political spectrum, and those concerned with the federal pandemic response.”

“It is also possible that some of the messages about the origins of the virus could be attractive to conspiracy theory enthusiasts with different political views and affiliations,” the report added. “Overall, China-linked messaging could be of interest to U.S. audiences on the farther left of the political spectrum — Trump administration critics, conspiracy enthusiasts, and capitalism skeptics among them.”

China nuclear buildup faster than expected, U.S. now believes

China nuclear buildup faster than expected, U.S. now believes

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In this Oct. 1, 2019, file photo spectators wave Chinese flags as military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) **FILE** more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Thursday, April 29, 2021

China’s military is advancing its nuclear arsenal and delivery systems so fast the Defense Intelligence Agency has had to move up its estimate of when Beijing will double its warhead stockpile, the general in charge of military intelligence told Congress on Thursday.

In wide-ranging testimony, DIA Director Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats that China and Russia are actively using information warfare surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine Western governments.

The three-star general said the DIA last year estimated the People’s Liberation Army would double its stockpile of nuclear warheads, which the agency has said was in the “low 200s,” by the year 2030.

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“Since then, Beijing has accelerated its nuclear expansion and is on track to exceed our previous projection,” he said. “PLA nuclear forces are expected to continue to grow with their nuclear stockpile likely to at least double in size over this decade and increase the threat to the U.S. homeland.” No new estimate of the number of warheads was made public.

Gen. Berrier said the nuclear buildup is part of a “massive military modernization” by Beijing and is being “accelerated as a deterrent,” he added.

China’s nuclear forces include an array of ground-based mobile missiles, nuclear missile submarines and bombers that provide the Chinese government with a large nuclear force.

On the coronavirus, Gen. Berrier said its origin in China is unclear but DIA analysts believe the initial outbreak began either from infected animals or a laboratory accident. The pandemic will continue until up to 80% of the global population will either be infected or vaccinated, he predicted, and “several countries that had successfully slowed transmission are now reporting resurgences.”

So far, 263 COVID-19 vaccines are in development worldwide, and Gen. Berrier said both China and Russia are engaged information warfare programs during the pandemic “to undermine Western governments, attack coalitions and compel economic and political outcomes in their favor.”

China has attempted to divert international attention from its handling of early days of the pandemic outbreak in 2019 and 2020 by claiming the virus may have originated outside the country, including possibly at a U.S. Army laboratory. 

Russia has sought to undermine public confidence in the effectiveness of U.S. vaccines through disinformation campaigns. 

On the nuclear front, China is diversifying its arsenal with various weapons and systems in addition to increasing numbers, Gen. Berrier stated. The buildup grew out of military exercises that helped commanders understand which options-provide the most viable nuclear capabilities in the shortest amount of time.

The production speed up was mandated under a Chinese Communist Party communique issued in October 2020, which outlined plans for creating what the general described as “high-level strategic deterrence.”

Gen. Berrier said DIA analysts assess that  China is working to narrow the gap in the U.S. qualitative edge in nuclear forces, or to either match or exceed U.S. capabilities. 

China is also about to complete deployment for the first time of a nuclear triad with a new strategic bomber that will fire air-launched ballistic missiles, he said.

For submarines, Beijing has fielded six second-generation ballistic missile submarines that will be capable of doing continuous at-sea deterrent patrols with missiles that can strike the United States from areas of the South China Sea. 

Gen. Berrier said the new DF-17 hypersonic cruise missile also could be outfitted with a nuclear warhead.

“That poses a significant risk,” he said. “The speed at which those weapons travel makes it very, very difficult to track in their entire trajectory.”

Mark B. Schneider, a nuclear expert with the National Institute for Public Policy and former Pentagon official, said the low 200s warhead estimate is almost certainly too low, considering China’s missile expansion in recent years. 

He estimates that the combined nuclear and non-strategic warhead stockpile in China could be as high as 3,000.

China has traditionally been extremely secretive about its nuclear forces,” he said in a recent article in Real Clear Defense.Mr. Schneider said recent Strategic Command testimony indicates the warhead expansion is the result of deployments of China’s  DF-41 missiles, which  can carry up to 10 warheads each.

“A major reassessment of China’s nuclear capabilities is long overdue. If China has about 1,000 nuclear warheads in 2030, this would represent a very serious threat. If it already has about 1,000 nuclear warheads today and is increasing that number, this would be even more alarming,” Mr. Schneider said.

Beijing also has placed some of its nuclear forces on a higher alert status that Gen. Berrier described as “launch-on-warning.”

In the past, Chinese warheads had been stored separately from missiles.

The DIA testimony echoed the concerns raised last week in House testimony by Adm. Charles Richard, commander of the Strategic Command, who also warned about what he termed a “breathtaking” Chinese nuclear expansion.

“We are seeing this very rapid expansion of Chinese capabilities,” Adm. Richard said.

The worrying systems include increased numbers of road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, along with many new solid-fueled missiles in silos.

“A solid-fuel rocket is very responsive, and that, coupled with their new nuclear command and control, gives them a launch under warning or launch under attack capability that right now only the U.S. and the Russians possess,” he said.

Adm. Richard said the expansion is so rapid that he informed briefers at Strategic Command that any information on the Chinese nuclear forces that is more than a month old needs to be reassessed.

 

Nuclear deterrence for China needs upgrade

Nuclear deterrence for China needs upgrade

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The Pentagon is focusing too much on surprise nuclear attacks and not enough on scenarios with Russia or China, according to Senate testimony. (Associated Press/File) more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The American strategy for deterring nuclear war is outdated and needs to be revised to address more likely scenarios, such as nuclear conflict growing out of a conventional war with China or Russia, according to Paul Bracken, a political science professor at Yale University.

Mr. Bracken told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that too much attention is focused by military and defense officials on the most unlikely nuclear war scenarios. Some 90% of strategic military efforts today seek to deter surprise nuclear attacks from China or Russia, with 10% focused on an accidental war, he said.

“I believe that we have, relatively speaking, too much deterrence against the surprise attack,” Mr. Bracken said. “So I do not mind reducing deterrence of this in favor of increasing attention to other contexts and scenarios. That the United States could be fighting on the doorstep of nuclear weapon states — areas bristling with much larger numbers of weapons than today — is the real deterrence challenge.”

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The dangers of nuclear conflict have increased as the Cold War standoff between Washington and Moscow is now complicated by China‘s large-scale nuclear buildup, Russia’s new, exotic strategic arms and the expansion of other nuclear arsenals.

“We now are in a multipolar nuclear world,” Mr. Bracken said. “It isn’t just Russia with the bomb anymore. China is doubling its nuclear forces, according to the director of national intelligence. Pakistan could have 300 weapons in 10 years. If China and Pakistan expand, it is hard to believe that India will not respond accordingly.”

Russia, for its part, is building a high-speed underwater drone with a 100-megaton warhead that will be the largest nuclear bomb ever deployed, capable of creating tsunamis that can destroy cities and ports. Moscow and Beijing are building large forces of short- and medium-range nuclear missiles, upping the ante that a future conventional conflict will go nuclear.

North Korea is expected to have 150 nuclear weapons in 10 years, along with long-range missiles capable of ranging U.S. targets, and shorter-range systems targeting Japan and South Korea.

Mr. Bracken sees China‘s nuclear might as among the most worrying sources for inducing a future strategic war as China builds a triad of nuclear missiles, missile submarines and bombers. Academic studies of China‘s nuclear strategy misunderstood Beijing‘s relatively small nuclear warhead stockpile and its declared “no first use” policy.

“This narrow framing of the problem needs serious reconsideration,” Mr. Bracken said.

Mr. Bracken said it is not clear whether China has developed the doctrine and policies needed for the use of nuclear arms and whether they would be used if conflict breaks out over Taiwan or on the Korean Peninsula.

“Reading Chinese nuclear doctrine as I have convinces me that they haven’t thought this through,” he said. “China‘s declared nuclear doctrine doesn’t cover a wide range of possibilities beyond what it was narrowly written for.”

Beijing‘s vastly expanded nuclear power, he said, provides the Chinese Communist Party with new opportunities for political coercion and blackmail.

“It may be intended to deter U.S. conventional intervention by posing nuclear risks to offset new U.S. technologies like cyber and super-precision strike,” Mr. Bracken said.

Key to Beijing‘s strategic calculus is the 1958 Taiwan crisis, when Chinese communist and nationalist forces squared off at the islands of Quemoy and Matsu on the east coast of China across from Taiwan. The skirmish was China‘s Cuban missile crisis because the U.S. at the time had nuclear weapons on Taiwan.

Declassified documents from the crisis reveal that the U.S. Air Force was prepared to use nuclear weapons to counter a Chinese assault on the islands. President Eisenhower, however, rejected the use of nuclear arms, even if Beijing invaded the outer islands. The lack of backing from Moscow and the inability to deter a U.S. nuclear attack launched Beijing on its drive for a nuclear arsenal.

NAVAL EXPERT WARNS OF CHINA‘S ‘DECADE OF DANGER’

The next 10 years will be a period of intensifying conflict between the United States and China below the level of a kinetic war, according to Andrew S. Erickson, professor of strategy at the Naval War College. Beijing is engaged in extensive “gray zone” operations in the seas around China that have increased tensions.

“Fortunately, the United States and its allies and partners can likely avoid great power war with China,” Mr. Erickson told the newsletter The Wire China. “Instead, the situation we’re likely to face over the next few years — in what might be called a ‘decade of danger’ — are periods of friction, tension, and even crisis.”

Peacetime gray zone conflicts are reflected in China‘s drive to advance disputed maritime claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea, as well as undermining regional states’ rights and interests. Gray zone military and quasi-military operations are designed to avoid triggering a direct military conflict.

The operations take the form of incidents in international waters and in some cases are defused with little impact.

“At other times, China acquires control of additional physical territory or maritime zones in the process,” Mr. Erickson said.

The seizure of Scarborough Shoal in the Spratly Islands in 2012 is a key example. China used its coast guard and maritime militia forces to prevent the Philippine government from enforcing environmental regulations inside Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

The Obama administration failed to take any action against the Chinese for the Scarborough seizure, setting off a massive Chinese island-building campaign and maritime territory seizure campaign based on the Scarborough Shoal model.

Chinese harassment of U.S. Navy vessels has also highlighted the gray zone war.

The most serious incident was the 2009 harassment of the USNS Impeccable surveillance ship in the South China Sea that was confronted by five Chinese ships and forced to leave the area.

“Again, unfortunately, the U.S. apparently never imposed a cost for this unlawful, unacceptable PRC behavior,” Mr. Erickson said. “Nor did the U.S. government even publicly state that China‘s maritime militia had been involved.”

The Chinese maritime activities are part of a concerted effort by Beijing to control the region near its coasts by “winning without fighting.”

“It’s a gradual process. But over the course of years, combined with the fortification of the PRC’s South China Sea outposts, something very significant is happening over time,” Mr. Erickson said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price did not answer directly when asked this week whether the United States’ 40-year policy of engaging China in the hope of prompting liberalization of the communist regime had failed. The Trump administration undertook a major shift in U.S. policy by adopting a hard line on Beijing, and several of the Trump policies have been adopted for now by the Biden administration.

“We have always said is that it is a relationship that is multifaceted,” Mr. Price told reporters. “It is a relationship that will have competitive elements. It is a relationship that will have adversarial elements. And it is a relationship that will have some cooperative elements.”

Overall, the U.S.-Chinese relationship is “predicated on competition,” he said.

“Our goal in not only engaging with Beijing, but also with our partners and allies and also here at home, harnessing our domestic sources of strength, is to be able to compete and ultimately to outcompete with China,” Mr. Price said. “This is an approach that, while it has human rights at the center, it is not an approach that requires any rose-colored glasses about the nature of the PRC, the nature of its leadership.”

Pressed on whether conciliatory policies toward China were misguided, Mr. Price declined to say.

“I’m not going to speak to previous administrations. I’m going to speak to this administration’s approach, and that’s precisely our approach. It is a clear-eyed, principled approach to the PRC that recognizes competition at the center of that relationship.”

Mr. Price said the administration still hopes to cooperate with Beijing on some issues, including climate change, arms nonproliferation and Iran.

Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

China mutes reaction to Zhao’s Oscars as South Korea lauds Youn

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Director/Producer Chloe Zhao, winner of the award for best picture for "Nomadland," poses in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, Pool) more >

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By Huizhong Wu

Associated Press

Monday, April 26, 2021

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Chloé Zhao’s history-making Oscars sweep, winning best director and best picture, is being met with a muted response in her country of birth, and even censorship.

Zhao’s “Nomadland” is the second film directed by a woman to win a best picture Oscar. She is the first woman of color and second woman ever to win the Oscars for best director.

Yet, in China, where Zhao was born, her history-making success has not been trumpeted or celebrated. State media in China remained silent as of Monday afternoon, with no mention of her win by either CCTV and Xinhua, the two main state-run outlets.

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Instead, there was even censorship. A post announcing Zhao’s directing win by film magazine Watch Movies, which has over 14 million followers on the ubiquitous Weibo microblog, was censored a few hours after it appeared Monday morning. A hashtag called “Chloe Zhao wins Best Director” was also censored on the platform with users coming across an error message saying, “according to relevant laws and regulations and policies, the page is not found.”

Some users resorting to using “zt” to post about Zhao, using the initials of her full name in Chinese, Zhou Ting. Typing in Zhou’s name in Chinese on Weibo brought up only unrelated posts from the beginning of April. A search for “Oscars” showed only official posts from the South Korean and U.S. embassies.

Douban, an app popular with film buffs, banned searches for “Nomadland” and “Zhao Ting” saying that “the search results could not be displayed in accordance to relevant laws and regulations.” Multiple discussion threads about Zhao’s win were deleted on the app as well. A news article on WeChat, the largest messaging app in the country, was also deleted.

Still, the news of her wins spread onto the Chinese internet, with individual web users and bloggers cheering Zhao. Many took note of her acceptance speech, in which Zhao quoted a line from a poem written in the 13th century that she, like many other Chinese children, had memorized as a child, which translates as, “People are good at birth.”

In stark contrast, South Korea’s Youn Yuh-jung, who won over audiences playing the grandmother in “Minari” could still be searched on the Chinese internet. Youn nabbed best supporting actress award, becoming the first Korean performer to win an Oscar.

And in Youn’s home of South Korea, “Actor Youn Yuh-jung” topped Twitter’s trending list while other South Korean celebrities quickly offered their congratulations. Lee Byung-hun, a South Korean actor known abroad for his role as “Storm Shadow” on the “G.I. Joe” series, posted a photo of Youn clutching an Oscar trophy. “Impossible is just an opinion,” he wrote on the post. Bae Doona from the acclaimed Netflix series “Kingdom” and a well-known South Korean actor Kim Hye-soo also congratulated Youn on their social media accounts.

Zhao faced a nationalist backlash in March when she won a Golden Globe for best director, with internet users in China questioning whether she could be called Chinese and some saying she had insulted her home country in comments on the political system. China’s press, television and social media are tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party, either directly or through self-censorship, and online criticism can frequently result in calls for boycotts of entertainers or name brands.

Before the backlash in March, the film was slated for an April 23 release in China according to local media, but it did not open last week and there was no official word on a release. Employees at two cinemas in Beijing said they did not know of any upcoming showings of the film.

Offline, however, some celebrated Zhao’s win and offered congratulations.

“Wow that’s incredible-winning a world’s top award as a Chinese person,” said Zhou Lu, 35, who worked at a publisher in Beijing. She said she had not heard of Zhao before, however, but would plan to watch the film.

Others pointed out that the nationalism should not have a place in the discussion about the film.

“Her win is deserved, and it has nothing to do with her country or her ethnicity,” said Victory Dong, a 19-year-old college student who uses Douban.

But Dong did not feel any particular connection with Zhao just based on her country of birth. “She is a global citizen, I am not.”

AP Entertainment Writer Juwon Park in Seoul, South Korea, and AP news assistant Caroline Chen in Beijing contributed to this report.

EU joins U.S. in criticizing China provocations to the Philippines

‘Endanger peace and stability’: EU joins U.S. in criticizing China’s provocations

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Chinese vessels are moored at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea. The Philippine government has summoned the Chinese ambassador to press a demand for Chinese vessels to immediately leave the reef claimed by Manila in the disputed South China Sea and … more >

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By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Updated: 4:30 p.m. on
Sunday, April 25, 2021

The European Union joined the U.S. in criticizing China’s ongoing maritime provocations toward the Philippines in the South China Sea over the weekend, with Brussels accusing Beijing of making waves that “endanger peace and stability in the region.”

“The EU reiterates its strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order,” the bloc said in reference to a biting standoff near the waterway’s vital global shipping routes.

Roughly 200 Chinese vessels have been massed for weeks near an area of the South China Sea known as Whitsun Reef, which is situated within the exclusive economic zone claimed by the Philippines.

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With the Chinese ships accused of blocking the Philippines from accessing the reef, Manilla has responded by flying warplanes over the area, triggering fears in Washington of a potential escalation.

Biden administration officials have said they stand by America’s alliance with the Philippines and would regard any attack on any Philippines territory as covered under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the treaty in an early April phone call with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin. During the call, the two “shared concerns with the massing of [People’s Republic of China] maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea, including at Whitsun Reef,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement at the time.

Mr. Price said they also “reiterated their calls on the PRC to abide by the 2016 arbitration ruling issued pursuant to the Law of the Sea Convention,” a reference to a ruling by the United Nations-backed body known by the acronym “UNCLOS,” which disputed Chinese sovereignty claims over most of the South China Sea back in 2016.

During his early April call with Mr. Locsin, Mr. Blinken specifically “reaffirmed the applicability of the 1951 U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty to the South China Sea,” Mr. Price said.

With that as a backdrop, Reuters has reported that the Philippines on Friday protested to China over its failure to withdraw its “threatening” boats believed to be manned by maritime militia around the disputed Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls the Julian Felipe Reef.

The EU issued its statement Saturday, saying “tensions in the South China Sea, including the recent presence of large Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, endanger peace and stability in the region.”

Chinese officials have sharply denied that Beijing is engaged in a provocation over Whitsun. In early April, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian appeared to tell reporters that the massing of Chinese ships near the reef was normal.

“It is a customary practice running over a thousand years for Chinese fishing boats to work and shelter in relevant waters,” he said. “I don’t know why relevant sides refer to the Chinese fishermen as ‘maritime militia.’ It shows malicious intent driven by ulterior motives.”

EU, US, UK, Canada target China officials over Uyghur abuses

EU, US, UK, Canada target China officials over Uyghur abuses

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European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks to the media prior to a meeting of the European Foreign Affairs Ministers, at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Monday, March 22, 2021. (Aris Oikonomou, Pool Photo via AP) more >

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By LORNE COOK

Associated Press

Monday, March 22, 2021

BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States on Monday launched coordinated sanctions against officials in China over human rights abuses in the far western Xinjiang region, provoking swift retaliation from Beijing.

The EU targeted four senior officials in Xinjiang. The sanctions involve a freeze on the officials’ assets and a ban on them traveling in the bloc. European citizens and companies are not permitted to provide them with financial assistance.

The 27-nation bloc also froze the assets of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, which it describes as a “state-owned economic and paramilitary organization” that runs Xinjiang and controls its economy.

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British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the measures were part of “intensive diplomacy” by the U.K, the United States, Canada and the 27-nation EU to force action amid mounting evidence about serious rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim people.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that “a united transatlantic response sends a strong signal to those who violate or abuse international human rights, and we will take further actions in coordination with likeminded partners.”

“We will continue to stand with our allies around the world in calling for an immediate end to the PRC’s crimes and for justice for the many victims,” Blinken said.

China responded immediately to the EU‘s move, slapping sanctions on 10 European individuals and four institutions that it said had damaged China’s interests and “maliciously spread lies and disinformation.”

Initially, China denied the existence of camps for detaining Uyghurs in Xinjiang but has since described them as centers to provide job training and to reeducate those exposed to radical jihadi thinking. Officials deny all charges of human rights abuses there.

Xinjiang had been a hotbed of anti-government violence, but Beijing claims its massive security crackdown brought peace in recent years.

China’s Foreign Ministry denounced the EU sanctions as “based on nothing but lies and disinformation” as it issued its own retaliatory measures.

The ministry announced sanctions against 10 individuals and four institutions, saying that they and their family members would be barred from entering mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao and cut off from financial dealings with those areas.

Among those targeted was Adrian Zenz, a U.S.-based German scholar who has publicized abuses against minority groups in China’s regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. China has said companies and individuals have petitioned to sue Zenz, but it wasn’t clear who the plaintiffs were or how they would pursue legal action across borders.

Others targeted for sanctions include five members of the European Parliament: Reinhard Butikofer, Michael Gahler, Raphael Glucksmann, Ilhan Kyuchyuk and Miriam Lexmann.

The ministry did not say what measures would be taken against the organizations. They were listed as the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union, where the 27 national envoys decide foreign and security policy; the EU Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights; the German-based Mercator Institute for China Studies; and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in Denmark.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting of foreign ministers, expressed dismay at China’s reaction and said the EU‘s sanctions respect the “highest standards of rule of law.”

“Rather than change its policies and address our legitimate concerns, China has again turned a blind eye, and these measures are regrettable and unacceptable,” Borrell said.

“There will be no change in European Union determination to defend human rights and to respond to serious violations and abuses,” he added, and described the coordination between the EU, Britain, Canada and the U.S. as “perfect.”

The new EU sanction system is similar to the Magnitsky Act – Obama-era legislation that authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets and ban them from entering the United States.

As part of Monday’s move, the EU also imposed sanctions over repression in North Korea, “extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Libya, torture and repression against LGBTI people and political opponents in Chechnya in Russia, and torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings in South Sudan and Eritrea,” a statement said.

Those targeted in Libya were Mohammed Khalifa al-Kani, leader of Libya’s notorious al-Kaniyat militia, and his brother Abderrahim al-Kani, a member of the same militia. Both are accused of committing extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances between 2015 and June 2020 in the town of Tarhuna, which they had controlled for years.

Since their escape from Tarhuna last summer following a military defeat, dozens of mass graves have been discovered and attributed to al-Kaniyat militiamen. Last year, the U.S Treasury targeted al-Kaniyat and its leader over the same alleged crimes.

___

Christopher Bodeen in Beijing, and Noha ElHennawy in Cairo, Egypt, contributed to this report.

Philippine defense chief asks Chinese flotilla to leave reef

Philippine defense chief asks Chinese flotilla to leave reef

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In this March 7, 2021, photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard/National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, some of the 220 Chinese vessels are seen moored at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea. The Philippine government expressed concern after spotting more than … more >

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By JIM GOMEZ

Associated Press

Saturday, March 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Philippine defense chief on Sunday demanded more than 200 Chinese vessels he said were manned by militias leave a South China Sea reef claimed by Manila, saying their presence was a “provocative action of militarizing the area.”

“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement, adding without elaborating that the Philippines would uphold its sovereign rights.

A government watchdog overseeing the disputed region said about 220 Chinese vessels were seen moored at Whitsun Reef, which Beijing also claims, on March 7. It released pictures of the vessels side by side in one of the most hotly contested areas of the strategic waterway.

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Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin tweeted late Sunday the Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over the Chinese presence.

The reef, which Manila calls Julian Felipe, is a boomerang-shaped and shallow coral region about 175 nautical miles (324 kilometers) west of Bataraza town in the western Philippine province of Palawan. It’s well within the country’s exclusive economic zone, over which the Philippines “enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources,” the government watchdog said.

The large numbers of Chinese boats are “a concern due to the possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safety of navigation,” it said, although it added that the vessels were not fishing when sighted.

Chinese fishing fleets have long been suspected of being utilized as maritime militias to help assert Beijing’s territorial claims, although China has played down those claims.

Philippine military chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the military’s “utmost priority remains to be the protection of our citizens in the area, particularly our fishermen, through increased maritime patrols.”

Chinese Embassy officials did not immediately issue any comment. China, the Philippines and four other governments have been locked in a tense territorial standoff over the resource-rich and busy waterway for decades.

Critics have repeatedly called out President Rodrigo Duterte, who has nurtured friendly ties with Beijing since taking office in 2016, for not standing up to China’s aggressive behavior and deciding not to immediately demand Chinese compliance with an international arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing’s historic claims to virtually the entire sea. China has refused to recognize the 2016 ruling, which it called “a sham,” and continues to defy it.

“When Xi says ‘I will fish,’ who can prevent him?” Duterte said two years ago as he defended his nonconfrontational approach, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“If I send my marines to drive away the Chinese fishermen, I guarantee you not one of them will come home alive,” Duterte said then, adding that diplomatic talks with Beijing allowed the return of Filipinos to disputed fishing grounds where Chinese forces had previously shooed them away.

Duterte has sought infrastructure funds, trade and investments from China, which has also donated and pledged to deliver more COVID-19 vaccines as the Philippines faces an alarming spike in coronavirus infections.

Chinese put positive spin on Alaska summit with U.S.

Chinese put positive spin on Alaska summit with U.S.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Thursday, March 11, 2021. China’s ceremonial legislature on Thursday endorsed the ruling Communist Party’s latest move … more >

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By David R. Sands

The Washington Times

Saturday, March 20, 2021

It featured a rancorous, barb-filled first act, but the two-day summit of top U.S. and Chinese officials played to surprisingly positive reviews in China‘s state-controlled press Saturday.

Commentators praised the Chinese delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Communist Party foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi, for refusing to back down in the face of what they said were unwarranted U.S. criticisms and breaches of protocol, while claiming the actual, closed-door talks had been far more useful than Thursday’s public session might have suggested.

China, U.S. hold timely, helpful high-level strategic dialogue” was Saturday’s headline in the Chinese state news service Xinhua, which noted Mr. Yang’s post-summit briefing remarks that the talks had been “direct, frank and constructive.”

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Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor of the nationalist state-controlled Global Times, also expressed satisfaction with the results of the two-day summit, which included U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, as an exercise in air-clearing and boundary-setting.

“I believe China and the U.S had a really good quarrel during their Alaska talks on Friday,” Mr. Hu wrote in an op-ed piece.

The Chinese side, he said, showed the new Biden administration that Beijing will stand up for its interests and reject criticism of its domestic policies. But he added the heated opening of the summit cleared the way for progress on more substantive issues.

“After such a public quarrel, I believe the two sides’ subsequent dialogue will be more rational and pragmatic,” Mr. Hu wrote. “… The two countries and the world’s public opinion were very pessimistic about the Alaska talks’ prospects. After the quarrel, the expectations are even lower. However, it is really possible that the final result could turn out to be better than expected.”

Diao Daming, a U.S. policy expert at China’s Renmin University, told the Global Times that “we should not be overly pessimistic about the dialogue despite the tough opening.”

He noted the rhetoric was far more heated and confrontational in the depths of the Cold War and “we eventually improved China-U.S. ties.”

“We should be patient,” he added. “China is much more powerful than in the 1950s, so we should be confident to continue the talks and actively shape bilateral ties.”

Added Zhang Jiadong, a professor at the Center for American Studies, Fudan University: “The sharp opening is necessary and inevitable in terms of both politics and public opinion. Both sides hope to gain an advantage in the negotiation. The talks are already an achievement even without concrete results.”

China‘s often highly nationalistic “netizens” were more critical online of the U.S. side’s performance in Alaska, calling the American diplomats arrogant and even highlighting reports that the senior Chinese officials were offered only instant noodles for lunch on the summit’s first day.

New Pentagon No. 2 warns of China threat

Deputy Defense Secretary Hicks warns of China threat

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In this Oct. 1, 2019, file photo spectators wave Chinese flags as military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) **FILE** more >

Print

By Mike Glenn

The Washington Times

Saturday, March 20, 2021

A day after Chinese diplomats traded angry barbs with their U.S. counterparts in face-to-face meetings in Alaska, new Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks on Friday lashed out at Beijing during a virtual speech at the National War College in Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Hicks, the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, said China’s policies and recent actions constitute a threat to regional stability and to the rules-based international order. She stressed the common refrain in the Biden administration that China is the “pacing challenge” of the United States going forward.

China “has adopted a more coercive and aggressive approach to the Indo-Pacific region. In 2020 alone, Beijing escalated tensions with its neighbors — Australia, Japan and the Philippines,” she said. “Beijing has demonstrated increased military confidence and a willingness to take risks.”

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China was involved in an armed confrontation last year with India along their disputed border that resulted in a loss of life on both sides. It also has clamped down on any dissent in Hong Kong with oppressive national security laws, Mrs. Hicks said.

Beijing is the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system,” she said. 

Bipartisan support for a policy that recognizes China as the primary international competitor for the United States is crucial, Mrs. Hicks said.

“The U.S. military along with its allies and partners must have the capability to outmatch the,” People’s Liberation Army, she said. “The Department of Defense should be confident it will continue to receive the support required to sustain our edge.”

U.S. Indo-Pac commander seeks budget boost to confront China

‘Our greatest strategic threat’: U.S. commander seeks budget boost to confront China

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The commander of the Pentagon’s Pacific Command told Congress on Tuesday the military in Asia needs $4.7 billion to improve defenses to counter the growing challenge from China.

Adm. Philip S. Davidson, who will soon be retiring as the four-star commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the balance of power in Asia is shifting in China’s favor as Beijing adds missiles and other military forces to its arsenal while U.S. forces have remained largely stagnant.

“The PRC represents our greatest strategic threat,” Adm. Davidson told lawmakers. “Its rapidly advancing capabilities and increasingly competitive posture underscore its drive to become a regionally dominant, globally influential power.”

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The funding sought for fiscal year 2022 would be part of a new Pacific Deterrence Initiative. A total of $2.2 billion was funded last year by the Trump administration in what the admiral called a “good start.”

Adm. Davidson said Guam is particularly vulnerable, as revealed in a Chinese military video that simulated a bomber strike on the Pacific U.S. territory. The command wants to deploy the new Aegis Ashore ground-based missile defense system and other missile defenses to better defend the island and deter China.

As China’s military power grows, there is an increased risk that Beijing will seek to unilaterally alter the geopolitical landscape in Asia, the admiral added.

“The greatest danger is the erosion of conventional deterrence,” he said.

The admiral said the U.S. needs new offensive and defensive weapons in order to deter China from seeking to launch any type of military action in the region. China also is “vastly improving” its cyber warfare capabilities, as well, Adm. Davidson said.

In his prepared statement, Adm. Davidson said China is pursuing a rapid, comprehensive military buildup in all domains – land, sea, air, space, cyber and information.

China “focuses particular attention on PLA Navy (PLAN) and PLA Air Force (PLAAF) modernization, which it sees as key to projecting power and achieving great-power status,” he said.

Portions of a military report to Congress made public during the hearing projected that China will have three aircraft carriers deployed in Asia by 2025, compared to one U.S. aircraft carrier, six amphibious warships to two American amphibious ships, and 54 warships to just six U.S. ships.

Unless the U.S. military increases its force structure in the area, “the Chinese will have much greater capacity than we have” in the coming years, the admiral said.

The commander also noted that China has adopted an increasingly aggressive posture toward Taiwan, one that he described as a “particularly stark” approach.

“Over the past year, Beijing has pursued a coordinated campaign of diplomatic, informational, economic, and — increasingly — military tools to isolate Taipei from the international community and if necessary, compel unification with the PRC,” he said.

The Chinese military amplified its activities near and around Taiwan last year through such steps as using H-6 bombers to fly around the island and conduct aircraft crossings into the island’s air defense zone.

“I worry that [the Chinese] are accelerating their ambitions,” he said.

Xi Jinping warns Chinese military to increase readiness

Xi Jinping warns Chinese military to increase readiness

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Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a plenary session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Monday, March 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil) more >

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By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Tuesday that China faces a “largely unstable” security situation, telling the country’s military commanders they must be “prepared to respond” to complex threats that may arise suddenly.

The comments, which coincide with growing concern in Washington over increased military spending and posturing by China’s communist party-controlled government, came during annual legislative sessions in Beijing on Tuesday.

As China‘s president, Mr. Xi heads the country’s Central Military Commission. According to a report by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on his remarks during a panel discussion at the legislative sessions, Mr. Xi said the Chinese military needs more technological innovation, including a “high-level strategic deterrence and a joint combat system.”

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“The current security situation of our country is largely unstable and uncertain,” Mr. Xi said. “The entire military must coordinate the relationship between capacity building and combat readiness, be prepared to respond to a variety of complex and difficult situations at any time, resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, and provide strong support for the comprehensive construction of a modern socialist state.”

The Hong Kong-based SCMP noted that Mr. Xi’s comments came days after Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe also called for a boost of the country’s military readiness, saying China’s national security had “entered a high-risk phase.”

“We must comprehensively improve military training and preparedness for battle so as to increase our strategic capabilities to prevail over our strong enemies,” the defense minister said on Saturday, according to the SCMP.

Gen. Wei also warned that U.S. containment efforts against China can be expected to “last throughout the process of China’s national rejuvenation,” SCMP said.

Bloomberg News separately reported that top Chinese generals on the Central Military Commission have called in recent days for a boost in military spending by Beijing to prepare for a possible confrontation with the United States.

Joe Biden takes U.S. national security strategy to the left — with nods to Donald Trump

Biden takes U.S. national security strategy to the left — with nods to Trump

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President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden step off Marine One before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The Bidens are en route to Houston to survey damage caused by severe … more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Monday, March 8, 2021

NEWS ANALYSIS:

President Biden and his administration plan a leftward shift in U.S. national security strategy while adopting some America-centered policies of the Trump administration such as countering technology theft by China.

Officials sketched out the first concrete outlines of the strategy last week, just weeks into Mr. Biden’s term. When completed, the approach will include policies favoring gender identity, climate change and racial justice — key themes espoused by those in the left wing of the Democratic Party.

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A major thrust of the strategy will be backing international alliances and partnerships, renewed contacts with international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, and signing international agreements on arms control and other issues.

“Under the Biden-Harris administration, America is back. Diplomacy is back. Alliances are back,” Mr. Biden said as the interim guidance report was made public last week.

“But we are not looking back. We are looking irrevocably toward the future and all that we can achieve for the American people — together.”

The guidance report issued by the White House will be used by federal agencies and departments as the road map for a major strategic policy review.

“We confront a global pandemic, a crushing economic downturn, a crisis of racial justice, and a deepening climate emergency,” the report begins. Other threats include “rising nationalism” and a decline in democracy in the face of growing rivalries with China, Russia and other authoritarian rivals.

In addition to traditional threats such as those posed by China, Russia and terrorist groups, the strategy review cites “climate change, infectious disease, cyberattacks and disinformation.”

Mr. Biden directed those working on the strategy to make it reflect a global defense of “equal rights of all people — of women and girls, LGBTQI individuals, indigenous communities, people with disabilities, and people of every ethnic background and religion.”

The acronym LGBTQI is the latest in the lengthening list of liberal gender identity groups adopted by the administration: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex people.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the fully fleshed-out strategy will be released later this year. He mentioned five areas of emphasis: leveraging alliances; backing the U.S. middle class; maintaining U.S. technology prowess; bolstering democracy; and using military power to bolster diplomacy.

“We need a strategy that covers both transnational threats and great power competition,” Mr. Sullivan told a group of pundits last week. “That’s the strategy this guidance lays out. The strategy has China very much in mind, but not only China in mind.”

Mr. Sullivan said he hopes for less-confrontational competition with China and “like-minded market democracies that are setting the rules and standards for advanced technologies going forward and not authoritarian regimes.”

Protecting theft of intellectual property will remain a top priority, Mr. Sullivan said.

The Trump administration revealed in a 2017 report that Chinese technology theft and legal acquisition cost the United States as much as $600 billion annually.

Obama and allies

An overriding theme will be a renewed emphasis on strategic alliances. Critics are already warning that the global approach bears a faint echo of the Obama administration’s euphemistically dubbed “leading from behind,” when Mr. Biden was vice president.

Unlike President Trump’s “America First” strategy, Mr. Biden’s approach lacks a catchy moniker.

Mr. Biden’s campaign mantra was “Build back better,” which emphasized economics, reengagement with international institutions and modernization of military power.

Some elements of the forthcoming strategy will align with those of the Trump administration.

On issues such as halting Chinese technology theft and countering Beijing’s efforts to export its authoritarian system around the world, the administration is vowing to pursue similar policies.

The guidance describes China as “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.”

“By bolstering and defending our unparalleled network of allies and partners, and making smart defense investments, we will also deter Chinese aggression and counter threats to our collective security, prosperity, and democratic way of life,” the guidance says.

Support for democratic Taiwan and efforts to promote freedom of navigation against Chinese military encroachment also are mentioned. The administration insists it will not go easy on Beijing.

“When the Chinese government’s behavior directly threatens our interests and values, we will answer Beijing’s challenge,” the guidance states. “We will confront unfair and illegal trade practices, cyber theft and coercive economic practices that hurt American workers, undercut our advanced and emerging technologies, and seek to erode our strategic advantage and national competitiveness.”

Mr. Biden also is vowing to halt U.S. participation in “endless wars” — a term that Mr. Trump favored.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken seemed to channel the previous administration last week when he announced “foreign policy for the American people.”

Mr. Blinken said in a speech Wednesday that the first goal will be to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, address the economic crisis it has spawned and build “a more stable, inclusive global economy.”

Foreign policy will also “tackle the climate crisis and drive a green energy revolution,” he said.

Second to the last on Mr. Blinken’s list of 10 foreign policy challenges is China.

“Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be,” he said. “The common denominator is the need to engage China from a position of strength.”

The secretary of state also vowed that American foreign policy will be bipartisan.

On arms control, the guidance suggests plans to revive the Obama policy of reducing the role of nuclear weapons as an element in U.S. strategy. That could put into doubt the Pentagon’s hopes of spending tens of billions of dollars to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The administration also will seek to negotiate arms agreements with both China and Russia despite Beijing’s refusal to engage in nuclear arms talks.

Talking points

Retired Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, said the interim guidance is positive in some respects but repeatedly emphasizes liberal talking points.

References to voting rights, clean energy and racial justice are “only tangentially related to national security,” he said.

The retired three-star general said the guidance appears to reject “the naivete of the Obama era when the administration hoped for ‘deeper and more effective partnerships’ with countries like China and Russia.”

“Biden’s interim guidance rightly calls out China for becoming more ‘assertive’ and identifies Beijing and Moscow as having ‘invested heavily in efforts meant to check U.S. strengths and prevent us from defending our interests and allies around the world,’” said Gen. Spoehr, a former deputy commander of U.S. Forces Iraq.

Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Biden strategy report contains some positive bipartisan elements but other parts repeat missteps by the Obama administration.

“Re-entering the controversial Paris Climate Agreement and making concessions to start negotiations with Iran are not in the best interest of our national security,” Mr. McCaul said in a statement. “Nor are policies that will stoke divisive culture wars or promote a porous southern border.”

Another national security expert, retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, agrees that the guidance is long on rhetoric but fails to match the Trump administration’s emphasis on strategic strength.

“One gets the sense this rushed document was more about domestic political posturing than in producing a robust, whole-of-government statement of American national security, as was the Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy,” Capt. Fanell said.

The major shortcoming, he said, relates to Asia, where “language regarding China comes across as ambiguous at best.”

“The document repeatedly refers to China as becoming more ‘assertive,’ but never once does it describe the PRC as an existential threat to the United States and our allies,” Capt. Fanell said.

Repeated calls for working, engaging and holding “meaningful dialogue” with Beijing also raise concerns.

“This is worrisome, given the past performance of appeasement many within the Biden Asia team have demonstrated over the years,” he said.

While emphasizing alliances, the guidance makes no reference to the landmark formation of the “Quad,” which the Trump administration did much to promote.

Mr. Biden is expected this week to hold his first virtual meeting with the group, which comprises the United States, Japan, India and Australia.

Miles Yu, a former State Department policymaker and aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said the idea that the Trump administration abandoned alliances is false.

“We put an enormous effort into building alliances through discussion and persuasion,” Mr. Yu said, “often with allies that did not view China the same way we did.”

Mr. Yu said the Biden strategic guidance reflects the recognition of the Trump administration regarding the threat posed by China.

“Our policies reflected the great awakening of the entire nation regarding the profound threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.

The policies also produced laws toward China that reflected “extraordinary bipartisanship in an age of extraordinary partisanship,” Mr. Yu said.

Alex Gray, until January the chief of staff to National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, said the recognition of China in the guidance as the most significant great-power competitor to the U.S. represents continuity from the Trump administration.

“While the interim document uses different language and perhaps a softer tone, it is unmistakable that great-power competition with China and Russia will remain the organizing principle of U.S. national security in the years ahead,” he said.

The real question is whether the Biden administration will follow through on the need to modernize the U.S. military to bolster its competition with China or succumb to those in the administration and on Capitol Hill who favor military cuts. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, is openly questioning the idea that the U.S. can build up a military strong enough to “dominate” China.

“The document leaves important questions unanswered about the future trajectory of Pentagon spending, which Beijing and our allies and partners are watching closely,” Mr. Gray said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Mr. Biden to roll back what he termed the “dangerous practice” of the Trump administration’s backing of Taiwan.

“We urge the new U.S. administration to fully understand the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue,” Mr. Wang said in a speech Sunday, “and completely change the previous administration’s dangerous practices of ‘crossing the line’ and ‘playing with fire.’”

Taiwan President Tsai visits naval base amid Chinese threats

Taiwan President Tsai visits naval base amid Chinese threats

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By

Associated Press

Monday, March 8, 2021

KEELUNG, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited a naval base on Monday to thank sailors and marines for their dedication to protecting the island amid renewed threats from China, vowing not to allow the loss of “any single inch” of territory.

In remarks during her visit to the 131st Flotilla in the northern port of Keelung, Tsai said the bravery of servicemembers “demonstrated the determination of Taiwan’s national armed forces to defend the sovereignty of our country.”

“We can’t yield any single inch of our land,” Tsai said.

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Tsai‘s tough talk comes amid stepped-up Chinese military exercises and near-daily incursions by Chinese military aircraft into airspace close to Taiwan. China claims the island, which broke away amid civil war in 1949, as its own territory and threatens to use its massive military to bring it under Beijing’s control.

China accuses Tsai and other members of her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party administration of undermining security in the Taiwan Strait. Beijing cut off contacts over her refusal to recognize the island as a part of China and has sought to pressure her through diplomatic isolation and economic measures.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday also demanded the Biden administration in the United States reverse former President Donald Trump’s “dangerous practice” of showing support for Taiwan, saying China’s claim to the self-governing island democracy is an “insurmountable red line.”

Following Wang’s remarks, the U.S. State Department expressed concern about Chinese attempts to intimidate Taiwan, stating “Our support for Taiwan is rock-solid.”

Separately, Wu Qian, a spokesperson for China‘s Defense Ministry, reiterated that China would not “renounce the use of force and reserve the right to take whatever measures are necessary.”

Tsai has made boosting Taiwan’s indigenous defense capacity a central pillar of her defense policy, while also buying billions of dollars in weapons from the U.S., including F-16 fighter jets, armed drones, rocket systems and missiles capable of hitting both ships and land targets.

China tells Biden to reverse ‘dangerous practice’ on Taiwan

China tells Biden to reverse ‘dangerous practice’ on Taiwan

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a remote video press conference held on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, Sunday, March 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) more >

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By JOE McDONALD

Associated Press

Sunday, March 7, 2021

BEIJING (AP) – China’s foreign minister warned the Biden administration on Sunday to roll back former President Donald Trump’s “dangerous practice” of showing support for Taiwan, the island democracy claimed by Beijing as its own territory.

The claim to Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949, is an “insurmountable red line,” Wang Yi said at a news conference during the annual meeting of China’s ceremonial legislature.

The United States has no official relations with Taiwan but extensive informal ties. Trump irked Beijing by sending Cabinet officials to visit Taiwan in a show of support.

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“The Chinese government has no room for compromise,” Wang said.

“We urge the new U.S. administration to fully understand the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue” and “completely change the previous administration’s dangerous practices of ‘crossing the line’ and ‘playing with fire,’” he said.

President Joe Biden says he wants a more civil relationship with Beijing but has shown no sign of softening Trump’s confrontational measures on trade, technology and human rights. Surveys show American public attitudes turning more negative toward China, which is seen as an economic and strategic competitor.

Wang gave no indication how Beijing might react if Biden doesn’t change course, but the ruling Communist Party has threatened to invade if Taiwan declares formal independence or delays talks on uniting with the mainland.

Wang’s comments in a wide-ranging, two-hour news conference reflected Beijing’s increasing assertiveness abroad and rejection of criticism over Hong Kong, the northwestern region of Xinjiang and other sensitive topics.

Wang defended proposed changes in Hong Kong that will tighten Beijing‘s control by reducing the role of its public in government. He dismissed complaints that erodes the autonomy promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997.

The changes announced Friday follow the arrest of 47 pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong under a national security law imposed last year following months of anti-government protests.

Beijing needs to protect Hong Kong’s “transition from chaos to governance,” Wang said.

The proposal would give a pro-Beijing committee a bigger role in picking Hong Kong legislators. That would be a marked reduction of democracy and Western-style civil liberties in Hong Kong. Mainland officials say they want to make sure the territory is controlled by people deemed patriots.

“No one cares more about the development of democracy in Hong Kong than the central government,” Wang said. He said the changes will protect the “rights of Hong Kong residents and the legitimate interests of foreign investors.”

Also Sunday, Wang rejected complaints Beijing’s treatment of predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang amounts to genocide.

Human rights researchers say more than 1 million people, many of them members of the Uyghur minority, have been sent to detention camps. Chinese officials say they are trying to prevent extremism.

“The so-called existence of genocide in Xinjiang is absurd. It is a complete lie fabricated with ulterior motives,” Wang said. He blamed “anti-China forces” that he said want to “undermine the security and stability of Xinjiang and hinder China’s development and growth.”

China sets growth target ‘over 6%,’ tightening Hong Kong control

China sets growth target ‘over 6%,’ tightening Hong Kong control

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Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Premier Li Keqiang arrive for the opening session of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) more >

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By Joe McDonald

Associated Press

Thursday, March 4, 2021

BEIJING (AP) — China’s No. 2 leader set a healthy economic growth target Friday and vowed to make the nation self-reliant in technology amid tension with the U.S. and Europe over trade and human rights. Another official announced plans to tighten control over Hong Kong by reducing the public’s role in government.

The ruling Communist Party aims for growth of “over 6%” as the world’s second-largest economy rebounds from the coronavirus, Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech to China’s ceremonial legislature. About 3,000 delegates gathered for its annual meeting, the year’s highest-profile political event, under intense security and anti-virus controls. It has been shortened from two weeks to one because of the pandemic.

The party is shifting back to its longer-term goal of becoming a global competitor in telecoms, electric cars and other profitable technology. That is inflaming trade tension with Washington and Europe, which complain Beijing‘s tactics violate its market-opening commitments and hurt foreign competitors.

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Li promised progress in reining in climate-changing carbon emissions, a step toward keeping President Xi Jinping‘s pledge last year to become carbon-neutral by 2060. But he avoided aggressive targets that might weigh on economic growth.

The NPC meeting focuses on domestic issues but is overshadowed by geopolitics as Xi’s government pursues more assertive trade and strategic policies and faces criticism over its treatment of Hong Kong and ethnic minorities. The ruling party has doubled down on crushing dissent as Xi tries to cement his image as a history-making leader reclaiming China’s rightful place as a global power.

An NPC deputy chairman, Wang Chen, said a Hong Kong Election Committee dominated by businesspeople and other pro-Beijing figures will be given a bigger role in choosing the territory’s legislature. Wang said the Election Committee would choose a “relatively large” share of the now 70-member Legislative Council.

That came after a spokesman for the legislature on Thursday said Beijing wants “patriots ruling Hong Kong,” fueling fears opposition voices will be shut out of the political process.

Li, the premier, said Beijing wants to “safeguard national security” in Hong Kong.

Also Friday, the government announced a 6.8% rise in military spending to 1.4 trillion yuan ($217 billion) amid territorial disputes with India and other neighbors and ambitions to match the United States and Russia in missile, stealth fighter and other weapons technology.

That is less than the double-digit increases of earlier years but a marked rise in real terms when inflation is close to zero. Foreign analysts say total military spending is up to 40% more than the reported figure, the world’s second-highest after the United States.

China became the only major economy to grow last year, eking out a multi-decade-low 2.3% expansion after shutting down industries to fight the virus. Growth accelerated to 6.5% over a year earlier in the final quarter of 2020 while the United States, Europe and Japan struggled with renewed virus outbreaks.

The 6% target is higher than expectations for the United States and other major economies but less than the 7%-8% forecasters expected Li to announce.

That suggests Beijing is “shifting focus from quantity to quality of economic growth,” said Chaoping Zhu of J.P. Morgan Asset Management in a report.

Beijing might allocate resources to environmental protection and other initiatives “to boost China’s long-term growth potential,” Zhu said.

Li vowed to “work faster” to develop tech capabilities seen by Communist leaders as a path to prosperity, strategic autonomy and global influence. Those plans are threatened by conflicts with Washington over technology and security that prompted then-U.S. President Donald Trump to slap sanctions on companies including telecom equipment giant Huawei, China‘s first global tech brand.

The ruling party’s latest five-year development blueprint says efforts to make China a self-reliant “technology power” are this year’s top economic priority.

The party sees “technological self-reliance as a strategic support for national development,” Li said.

Li promised to pursue “green development” following Xi’s pledge last year to ensure China’s carbon emissions peak by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. That will require sharp increases in clean energy in an economy that gets 60% of its power from coal and is the world’s biggest source of climate-changing industrial pollution.

He promised to reduce carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 18% over the next five years. That is in line with the previous five-year period’s goal, but environmentalists say Beijing needs to do more.

“It defers some of the most important questions to the future,” said Li Shuo of Greenpeace.

Li repeated official promises to promote “peaceful growth of relations” with Taiwan but announced no initiatives toward the self-ruled island that split with the mainland in 1949 after a civil war.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory and has threatened to invade if it tries to make its de facto independence official. Li said the mainland will “resolutely deter” any activity “seeking ‘Taiwan independence.’”

This year’s legislative meeting is being held mostly by video links to keep Chinese leaders, delegates and reporters separate as an anti-virus measure.

The ruling party earlier announced it achieved its goal of doubling economic output from 2010 levels by last year, which required annual growth of 7%. Xi has talked about doubling output again by 2035, which would imply annual growth of about 5%, still among the highest for any major economy.

As Xi has sought to cement his image, China has doubled down on repression of dissent in ways that could stifle innovation.

The ruling party’s desire for the prosperity produced by free-market competition also clashes with its insistence on playing a dominant role in the economy and strategic goals of reducing dependence on other countries.

Beijing will promote “domestic circulation,” Li said, a reference to official pressure on industries to use more Chinese-supplied components and technology and rely less on foreign inputs, even if that increases costs.

That emphasis on self-reliance and the conflict with Washington has fueled fears the world might split into separate U.S., Chinese and other industrial spheres with incompatible technologies, less competition and higher costs.

The goal of “decoupling them from foreign technology” is “more likely to harm productivity than help it,” Mark Williams of Capital Economics said in a report this week.

___

AP writers Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, and Zen Soo in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

___

This story corrects the current size of the Hong Kong legislature to 70 members, not 35.

Pew survey shows hardening American attitudes toward China

Pew survey shows hardening American attitudes toward China

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Associated Press

Thursday, March 4, 2021

BEIJING (AP) – New polling from the Pew Research Center shows strong negative attitudes among Americans toward China, with almost nine out of 10 adults seeing the country as hostile or a danger to U.S. interests.

Negative feelings have increased over human rights, economic friction, China’s authoritarian Communist Party political system and perceptions that China wishes to supplant the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower, according to the survey results released Thursday.

Respondents specifically cited Chinese actions in Hong Kong, where Beijing has been accused of demolishing freedom of speech and opposition politics, and in Xinjiang, where it has imposed a police state and detained more than 1 million members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups.

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China‘s growing military power, technological prowess and alleged cyberattacks on U.S. targets were also cited as concerns. It said 64% of respondents described economic relations between the countries as “somewhat or very bad.”

Respondents also said they had less confidence in U.S. President Joe Biden’s ability to handle China than on other foreign policy issues such as dealing with terrorist threats, climate change and decisions about the use of force.

While Biden says he wants a more civil relationship with China than under his predecessor, Donald Trump, he has shown no sign of softening tough measures on trade, technology and human rights, along with U.S. support for Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory.

Chinese officials routinely attribute negative perceptions about China to inherent prejudice, ignorance or political self interest.

Pew said 89% of Americans “consider China a competitor or enemy, rather than a partner.” A total of 48% responded that limiting China’s power and influence is a top priority, up from just 32% who felt that way in 2018.

Opinions in the Pew survey were drawn from a random online sampling of 2,596 U.S. adults conducted from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7. The margin of error was given as 2.7 percentage points.

Negative perceptions of China were especially pronounced among respondents who identified as Republicans or Republican-leaning, with 72% saying it was more important to get tougher with Beijing than to build a strong economic relationship, compared to 37% for Democrats.

Many more Republicans also saw China as an enemy and wanted to limit numbers of Chinese studying in the U.S., although Republicans and Democrats were essentially united in their support for promoting human rights in China and in feeling that China‘s human rights policies are a “very serious problem for the U.S.”

On the issue of handling the COVID-19 pandemic, survey respondents gave the U.S. and China roughly equal marks, with 43% saying China had done a good job and 42% saying the same about the U.S. However, 58% said the U.S. had done a bad job of handling the outbreak, while just 54% said China had done a bad job.

Pew said few Americans “put much stock” in Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Only 15% have confidence in Xi to do the right thing regarding world affairs, whereas 82% do not -– including 43% who have no confidence in him at all,” Pew said in a summary of its findings.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday said the Trump administration and “anti-China forces in the U.S.” had “grossly slandered and discredited China, willfully provoked confrontation and division, spread political viruses, and seriously poisoned the public opinion of both countries.”

“We hope that the U.S. will look at China and China-U.S. relations objectively and rationally, adopt a rational and pragmatic policy toward China, move in the same direction as the Chinese side, do something to enhance mutual trust and cooperation with China, and bring the bilateral relations back to the track of healthy and stable development,” Wang said at a daily briefing.

US-China tensions threaten global climate change efforts

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FILE – In this Jan. 27, 2021, file photo, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington. The world’s hopes for curbing climate change hinge on action by two giant … more >

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By CHRISTINA LARSON and ELLEN KNICKMEYER

Associated Press

Thursday, March 4, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – The world’s hopes for curbing climate change hinge on action by two giant nations whose relations are deteriorating: China and the United States. The two countries both say they are intent on retooling their economies to burn less climate-wrecking coal, oil and gas. But tensions between them threaten their ultimate success.

China and the United States are the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 carbon polluters, respectively, pumping out nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes that are warming the planet’s atmosphere.

The fast cuts in carbon needed to stave off the worst of climate change are all but impossible unless these countries work together and basically trust each other’s pledges. During the Trump administration, the U.S. used China‘s emissions as an excuse not to act, and in the past China pointed to U.S. historical emissions as a reason to resist action.

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New details of how quickly China plans to reduce carbon emissions will be revealed Friday when Beijing releases its next Five Year Plan. And in April, President Joe Biden is expected to announce the United States’ own new targets for emissions cuts.

The U.S. and China both have appointed veteran envoys as their global climate negotiators, John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua. But while the two senior statesmen worked well together in laying groundwork for the 2015 Paris climate accord, now they face new challenges.

U.S.-China climate diplomacy threatens to be overshadowed by what the United States sees as Beijing’s menacing policies toward Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea, conflict over human rights and trade, and U.S. claims of Chinese espionage.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials are upset about restrictions imposed by the Trump administration on trade, technology, Chinese media and students in the U.S., and the State Department’s declaration this year that atrocities against China‘s Muslim minorities are a “genocide.”

Kerry, a secretary of state under President Barack Obama who was brought back to be Biden‘s climate envoy, recently told reporters: “Those issues” with China “will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate. That’s not going to happen.” But Kerry also called the climate “a standalone issue” with China, drawing criticism from China and from some human-rights advocates in the U.S.

Can climate talks between the two countries survive their other geopolitical battles?

“That’s, I think, the huge question,” said John Podesta, who oversaw the Obama administration’s climate efforts and is close to the Biden administration.

“Can you create a lane where you get cooperation on climate” while more contentious issues are dealt with separately? Podesta asked. “Or do they wind up interfering?”

Xie Zhenhua may help the odds. With his appointment as climate envoy last month, Xie is reprising the role he held during pivotal U.N. climate conferences that struck the world’s first major commitments on reducing emissions from fossil fuels.

Prior to his appointment, Xie led a research effort at Tsinghua University in Beijing to map ways for China to stop contributing to global warming by midcentury. His research underpinned President Xi Jinping’s surprise pledge in September that China planned to go carbon neutral by 2060 – the first time the country announced a net-zero target.

Joanna Lewis, an expert in China energy and environment at Georgetown University, called Xie “a visionary, and very influential in setting China’s domestic policy targets,” as well as a skilled negotiator.

Xie’s appointment “was a huge overture toward the United States, and particularly to John Kerry,” said Angel Hsu, an expert on China and climate change at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Biden has pledged the U.S. will switch to an emissions-free power sector within 14 years, and have an entirely emissions-free economy by 2050. Kerry is also pushing other nations to commit to carbon neutrality by then.

Behind the dry numbers, massive spending on infrastructure and technology is needed to switch to a more energy-efficient economy, running on wind, solar and other cleaner-burning fuels. And Biden has a narrow majority in Congress to push his agenda, with Republicans, as well as some Democrats, opposing his plans.

Climate scientists say countries need to move fast to avert catastrophic temperature rises.

In 2019, coal accounted for 58% of China’s total primary energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Last year, as China‘s government directed economic relief money to infrastructure projects during the pandemic, the country actually upped its net power capacity from coal – by about the equivalent of 15 Hoover Dams, or 30 gigawatts – according to the Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. China also funds building of coal-fired power plants abroad, partly to build influence.

Many experts question whether the construction of coal-fired plants is driven by demand, or simply meant to stimulate the economy during a downturn. Either way, the brand-new coal plants have consequences.

“Every new coal plant that China builds is basically locking in carbon emissions for the next 50 years,” said Georgetown’s Lewis.

The most important questions now, said Deborah Seligsohn, an expert in Chinese governance and air pollution at Villanova University, are: “How soon can China’s carbon emissions peak, and at what level?”

She is watching closely to see what targets are incorporated in the next Five Year Plan, and into China’s updated pledges for emission cuts under the Paris climate accord.

The key, climate negotiators say, will be making it worth China‘s while – financially and in terms of its international standing – to slow down its building and funding of new coal plants and speed up spending on clean energy.

Biden has reached out to European allies as a first step, trying to build consensus among China‘s trade partners about market and trade-based rewards and disincentives as a way of prodding China to reduce reliance on coal.

“None of these countries are wanting to save the planet and be completely selfless about this,” Christiana Figueres, who helped broker the landmark climate deal in 2015, told The Associated Press. “Only if it also serves their interest.”

___

Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City. AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

Biden brings no relief to tensions between US and China

Biden brings no relief to tensions between US and China

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In this Feb. 27, 2021, photo, President Joe Biden speaks on the economy in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) more >

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By MATTHEW LEE

Associated Press

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden took office promising to move quickly to restore and repair America’s relations with the rest of the world, but one major nation has yet to see any U.S. effort to improve ties: China.

From Iran to Russia, Europe to Latin America, Biden has sought to cool tensions that rose during President Donald Trump’s four years in office. Yet, there have been no overtures to China.

Although the Biden administration has halted the ferocious rhetorical attacks and near daily announcements of new sanctions on China that had become commonplace under Trump, it has yet to back down on any of Trump’s actions against Beijing.

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This persistent state of low-intensity hostility has profound implications. China and the United States are the world’s two largest economies and the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Their power struggle complicates global efforts to deal with climate change and recover from the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden‘s tough stance has its roots in the competition for global power, but it’s also a result of the 2020 presidential election campaign in which Trump and his allies repeatedly sought to portray him as soft on China, particularly during the pandemic that originated there. There’s also little appetite from lawmakers in either party to ease pressure on China.

Thus in their first month in office, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have reaffirmed many of the Trump administration’s most significant steps targeting China, including a determination that its crackdown on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in western Xinjiang region constitutes a “genocide” and a flat-out rejection of nearly all of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Nor has the new administration signaled any let-up in Trump’s tariffs, restrictions on Chinese diplomats, journalists and academics in the U.S. or criticism of Chinese policies toward Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong. It’s also critical of Beijing’s attempts to further its increasing global influence through telecommunications technology, social media and educational and cultural exchanges.

Biden‘s nominee to head the CIA, William Burns, was explicit about his concerns over many of these issues at his confirmation hearing Wednesday. And, the newly confirmed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, made a point of highlighting her unease with the state of affairs and pledged to combat Chinese attempts to exert undue pressure on other countries at the U.N.

The backdrop is clear: The United States is convinced that it and China are engaged in a duel for global dominance. And neither is prepared to back down.

China has sounded at times hopeful that Biden will reverse what foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said were Trump administration actions that “caused immeasurable damage to the relationship between the two countries.”

Those remarks followed a speech in which China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, demanded that Biden’s administration lift restrictions on trade and people-to-people contacts and cease what Beijing considers unwarranted interference in the areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

Wang urged the U.S. to “stop smearing” the reputation of China’s ruling Communist Party. “We hope that the U.S. policy makers will keep pace with the times, see clearly the trend of the world, abandon biases, give up unwarranted suspicions and move to bring the China policy back to reason to ensure a healthy, steady development of China-U.S. relations,” he said.

But the anti-China rhetoric hasn’t eased. Top Biden administration officials have vowed to use American power to contain what many Democrats and Republicans see as growing Chinese threats to U.S. interests and values in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

They have all repeatedly referred to China as a strategic rival or foe, not a partner or potential friend, and have also evinced their belief that America must “outcompete” China.

“Outcompeting China will be key to our national security in the decades ahead,” Burns said at his confirmation hearing. “China is a formidable authoritarian adversary, methodically strengthening its capabilities to steal intellectual property, repress its own people, bully its neighbors, expand its global reach, and build influence in American society.”

“It is hard for me to see a more significant threat or challenge for the United States as far out as I can see into the 21st century than that one. It is the biggest geopolitical test that we face,” he said.

At least some Asia hands in the United States see Biden as moving slowly toward potential reengagement with China in part because he wants to shore up his domestic position and make clear the U.S. is not a victim of Chinese predation.

“They are restraining themselves from the normal syndrome of a new administration running into problem-solving with China,” said Danny Russel, who was assistant secretary of state for Asia during the Obama administration and is now vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Russel said Biden is “sending out messages that have the effect of showing he’s not soft on China, that he’s not a patsy for China, that he isn’t so desperate for a breakthrough on climate change that he’s going to trade away our national security interests.”

Chinese academics see little difference in Biden’s approach.

“Continuity takes precedent over adjustment and change,” said Zhu Feng, professor of international relations at elite Nanjing University.

Biden will have to deal with a China that is far more powerful and influential than under past U.S. administrations, said Yu Wanli, a professor of international relations at Beijing Language and Culture University.

“There has been huge deviation between what they believe China is and what China really is,” Yu said. “Their China polices are based on illusions, which must result in some bad consequences. It takes time for them to come back to reality.”

Apart from its support for Taiwan, the U.S. views China’s policies in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and elsewhere as matters of human rights, whereas China sees them as questions of sovereignty, Yu said. “Frictions will still exist, and the pattern will still be the same.”

Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns

Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns

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FILE – In this Dec. 23, 2020, file photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a Sinovac worker checks the labeling on vials of COVID-19 vaccines on a packaging line in Beijing. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers … more >

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By HUIZHONG WU and KRISTEN GELINEAU

Associated Press

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – The plane laden with vaccines had just rolled to a stop at Santiago’s airport in late January, and Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, was beaming. “Today,” he said, “is a day of joy, emotion and hope.”

The source of that hope: China – a country that Chile and dozens of other nations are depending on to help rescue them from the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccine to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots.

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Amid a dearth of public data on China’s vaccines, fears over their efficacy and safety are still pervasive in the countries depending on them, along with concerns about what China might want in return for deliveries. Nonetheless, inoculations with Chinese vaccines have begun in more than 25 countries, and the shots have been delivered to another 11, according to AP’s tally, based on independent reporting in those countries along with government and company announcements.

It’s a potential face-saving coup for China, which has been determined to transform itself from an object of mistrust over its initial mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak to a savior.

“We’re seeing certainly real-time vaccine diplomacy start to play out, with China in the lead in terms of being able to manufacture vaccines within China and make them available to others,” said Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University.

China has said it is supplying “vaccine aid” to 53 countries and exports to 27, but it rejected a request by the AP for the list. Beijing has denied vaccine diplomacy, and a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said China considered the vaccine a “global public good.” Chinese experts reject any connection between the export of its vaccines and the revamping of its image.

China has targeted the low- and middle-income countries largely left behind as rich nations scooped up most of the pricey vaccines produced by the likes of Pfizer and Moderna. And despite a few delays of its own, China has largely capitalized on slower-than-hoped-for deliveries by U.S. and European vaccine makers.

Like many other countries, Chile received far fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine than first promised. Chinese company Sinovac acted quickly, sending in 4 million doses.

The choices are limited for Chile and many other low- and middle-income countries. Vaccine deployment globally has been dominated by rich nations, which have snapped up 5.4 billion of the 7.8 billion doses purchased worldwide, according to Duke University.

China’s vaccines, which can be stored in standard refrigerators, are attractive to many countries that may struggle to accommodate the ultracold storage needs of vaccines like Pfizer’s.

Sinovac and Sinopharm rely on a traditional technology in which a live virus is killed and then purified, triggering an immune response. Some countries view it as safer than the newer, less-proven technology used by some Western competitors that targets the coronavirus’ spike protein, despite the lack of publicly available safety data on the Chinese vaccines.

In Europe, China is providing the vaccine to countries such as Serbia and Hungary — a significant geopolitical victory in Central Europe and the Balkans, where the West, China and Russia are competing for political and economic influence. Hungary is the first EU country to use a Chinese vaccine.

But China’s vaccine diplomacy will be only as good as the vaccines it is offering, and it still faces hurdles.

“The Chinese vaccine, in particular, there was insufficient data available compared to other vaccines,” said Ahmed Hamdan Zayed, a nurse in Egypt who overcame his initial reluctance and got Sinopharm’s vaccine.

Sinopharm, which said its vaccine was 79% effective based on interim data from clinical trials, did not respond to interview requests.

Chinese vaccine companies have been “slow and spotty” in releasing their trial data, compared to companies like Pfizer and Moderna, said Yanzhong Huang, a global health expert at the U.S. think tank Council for Foreign Relations. None of China’s three vaccine candidates used globally have publicly released their late-stage clinical trial data. CanSino, another Chinese company with a one-shot vaccine that it says is 65% effective, declined to be interviewed.

There is also confusion around Sinovac’s efficacy. In Turkey, where Sinovac conducted part of its efficacy trials, officials have said the vaccine was 91% effective. However, in Brazil, officials revised the efficacy rate in late-stage clinical trials from 78% to just over 50% after including mild infections.

An expert panel in Hong Kong published data submitted by Sinovac to health regulators that showed the vaccine was just over 50% effective.

Globally, public health officials have said any vaccine that is at least 50% effective is useful.

Receiving countries are also worried that China’s vaccine diplomacy may come at a cost. In the Philippines, where Beijing is donating 600,000 vaccines, a senior diplomat said China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, gave a subtle message to tone down public criticism of growing Chinese assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea.

The senior diplomat said Wang didn’t ask for anything in exchange for vaccines, but it was clear he wanted “friendly exchanges in public, like control your megaphone diplomacy a little.” The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue publicly.

Still, the pandemic’s urgency has largely superseded hesitations over China’s vaccines.

“Vaccines, particularly those made in the West, are reserved for rich countries,” said one Egyptian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. “We had to guarantee a vaccine. Any vaccine.”

___

Associated Press researcher Chen Si in Shanghai, and AP reporters Patricia Luna in Santiago, Chile; Sam Magdy in Cairo; Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines; Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia; Justin Spike in Budapest, Hungary; Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia; and Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

William Burns backs CIA AI to counter China

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William J. Burns, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency director, said China is investing heavily in artificial intelligence and machine learning. (Associated Press) more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

William J. Burns, the veteran diplomat tapped to be the next CIA director, says he will follow through with the agency’s plans to adopt artificial intelligence technology to counter the large and aggressive activities of Chinese spies.

Mr. Burns, who appeared at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday, was asked in pre-hearing questions about the agency’s “quick adoption” of artificial intelligence to “help to mitigate the numerical advantages of the Chinese intelligence services, as well as increase efficiency and exposure for its workforce.”

The committee also said the use of AI at the CIA is critical because China poses a threat of “technological authoritarianism that threatens the U.S. technological dominance and our more principled use of technology.”

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Mr. Burns said China is investing heavily in AI and machine learning technology to bolster its intelligence and counterintelligence capabilities. Artificial intelligence involves gathering large amounts of data and then exploiting the data with advanced computers and software.

The CIA “must meet this challenge by transforming how it collects, analyzes, and disseminates intelligence,” he said in his written answers. “I understand that CIA has devised an [artificial intelligence/machine learning] strategy to achieve this goal, is working closely with the leading AI/ML firms in the country, and will drive the adoption of AI/ML technologies across the [intelligence community].”

Members of the Senate committee have expressed concerns that the CIA’s traditional focus on secrecy and security over new technology will delay adoption of AI know-how.

Ashley Deeks, a University of Virginia Law School professor, noted that China‘s drive for total information awareness could hamper U.S. intelligence collection.

“If the Chinese government can recognize every person on the street and easily track a person’s comings and goings, this will make it even harder for foreign intelligence agencies to operate inside the country,” she stated on the blog Lawfare.

“Not only will U.S. and other Western intelligence agents be even easier to follow (electronically), but the Chinese government will also be able to identify Chinese nationals who might be working with Western intelligence services — perhaps using machine learning and pattern detection to extract patterns of life. China‘s facial recognition efforts thus facilitate its counterintelligence capacities,” she added.

The lawmakers’ written questions from the committee also disclosed a new threat to human spying operations overseas known as “ubiquitous technical surveillance” (UTS) measures.

The reference includes the masses of information obtained by nations like China from both U.S. government and private-sector networks that U.S. officials say is being used by Beijing’s counterintelligence services to identify American and other foreign agents.

China stole sensitive information on federal government officials in the Office of Management and Budget hack that began in 2013. Other major data breaches took place against the health care provider Anthem involving the theft of records on millions of Americans.

Mr. Burns said as CIA director he would launch a “multipronged, integrated comprehensive approach, leveraging all CIA elements to get ahead of the threat” posed by high-tech surveillance.

“I plan to engage my counterparts throughout the government, as well as our allies abroad, to share strategies and solutions for addressing how ubiquitous collection is exploited by our adversaries,” he said. “This will require CIA to adapt its tradecraft, generate smarter technology and properly leverages all available data.”

CHINESE HACKING TO CONTINUE

Chinese-based hackers carried out aggressive technology theft and espionage operations against U.S. targets last year despite the pandemic, according to a cybersecurity firm.

CrowdStrike stated in its annual report that the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease from Wuhan only slightly diminished Wuhan-based hackers from conducting operations. Other Chinese hackers conducted operations aimed at stealing American cutting-edge research for virus vaccines.

“China-based adversaries continued targeted operations throughout 2020 that largely aligned with historic focuses on espionage, intellectual property theft and surveillance,” the report said. “Chinese adversaries enhanced their cyber capabilities through ongoing tool development and sharing, while maintaining their status as one of the most prolific state-sponsored cyber actors on the planet.”

According to the report, computer network intrusions monitored by the company identified at least 11 Chinese adversaries and seven suspected activities originating from China. The hacking efforts aligned with information and technology development objectives outlined in the Chinese Communist Party’s 13th Five-Year Plan.

The operations focused on a wide range of targets with a strong emphasis on computer penetrations of organizations in the telecommunications, government, health care and technology sectors.

The hackers involved in telecommunications attacks were similar to those in 2019 and were dubbed “Wicked Panda,” “Circuit Panda” and “Phantom Panda.” In September, the Justice Department indicted seven people in China on charges in Wicked Panda cyberattacks including one that boasted of having links to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, the intelligence services.

The indictments covered over 100 companies in the United States and abroad, including software developers, computer hardware manufacturers, telecommunications companies, video game companies, social media firms, universities, think tanks and foreign governments.

The CrowdStrike report said the U.S. legal offensive had “relatively little impact” on Chinese hacking, noting that Wicked Panda cyberattacks resumed weeks after the September indictments.

The report warned that high-level military hacking from China against foreign military, defense, academic and think tank targets will continue in the coming months.

China‘s cyber operators are also likely to continue enabling the widely reported human rights abuses against Tibetans and Uighur minorities, domestic and abroad, through aggressive surveillance measures including mobile device targeting, compromise of personal email accounts and devices, and ongoing access to upstream providers,” the report said.

CHINA’S ANTI-U.S. AMBASSADOR TO DEPART

Cui Tiankai, Beijing’s outspoken anti-American ambassador to Washington, will be leaving his post, according to a U.S. government source.

Mr. Cui, posted in Washington since 2013, has promoted Chinese propaganda themes in speeches, in television appearances and on social media and defended what the State Department has determined is genocide against ethnic Muslim Uighurs in western China.

“The real threat in Xinjiang, up until very recently, was very clear,” Mr. Cui, 68, told CNN on Feb. 8. “First, the threat of terrorism. There were thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, hurting and even killing thousands of innocent people from all ethnic groups, Han people, Uighur people and others. So people have a strong demand that their safety and security should be guaranteed. That’s what we have done in the last few years.”

Mr. Cui said he visited some of the camps, which he called training centers, where as many as 1 million Uighurs and other minorities have been imprisoned. The ambassador said the camps are meant to end poverty in addition to countering terrorism.

“I’ve been to Xinjiang myself, more than once in the last few years,” he said. “I have seen all these things with my own eyes. I even visited some of the vocational training centers. They are just like a campus. Not a labor camp, but campus.”

The BBC reported recently that Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have been engaged in systematic destruction of the Uighurs as a people and crimes have included systematic rape of women.

Tursunay Ziawudun, a Uighur victim who spent nine months in a Chinese concentration camp, told the news agency: “Their goal is to destroy everyone, and everybody knows it.”

POST ON WUHAN VIRUS ORIGIN

The Washington Post last year published stories that ridiculed the idea that the coronavirus behind the global pandemic originated in a Wuhan laboratory linked to the Chinese military.

The newspaper, which has shifted sharply to the left under Amazon founder and owner Jeff Bezos, ran a Jan. 29, 2020, story with the headline “Experts debunk fringe theory linking China‘s coronavirus to weapons research.”

“Some of the speculation has centered on a virology institute in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began,” the story read, adding “one fringe theory holds that the disaster could be the accidental result of biological weapons research.”

Fast-forward to Tuesday. The Post opinion page that day published an editorial calling for American spy agencies to release classified intelligence on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), considered a potential source of the coronavirus outbreak.

The State Department released some intelligence on Jan. 15 revealing that several workers at the institute were sickened with COVID-19-like symptoms in the autumn of 2019, before the first known reported case of the disease in December 2019.

“Did the virus leap directly from an animal host in nature to humans, which many scientists believe is highly likely, or from an inadvertent leak or accident at a Chinese laboratory, possibly the WIV?” the Post editorial asked. “The answers will be important to prevent a future pandemic and must be pursued vigorously, even though China covered up the early stages of the pandemic and has advanced dubious theories to suggest it originated beyond China‘s borders.”

The State Department also revealed that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has conducted secret biowarfare research for the Chinese military — contrary to claims of institute officials that all work there was civilian.

“The truth matters, and the United States should not hide any relevant evidence,” the editorial said.

Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

Lam backs Hong Kong electoral changes excluding opponents

Lam backs Hong Kong electoral changes excluding opponents

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In this Jan. 26, 2021, file photo, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to reporters’ questions during a press conference in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File) more >

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By Zen Soo

Associated Press

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave her clear support Tuesday to electoral reforms that would likely further exclude opposition voices and cement Beijing’s control over the semi-autonomous Chinese city’s politics.

Her comments came a day after a top Beijing official signaled major changes would be coming to ensure Hong Kong is run by “patriots,” a sign that China intends to no longer tolerate dissenting voices, 23 years after the former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule with a promise it could maintain its own rights and freedoms for 50 years.

Following China’s imposition of a sweeping national security law on the city last year, authorities have moved to expel members of the city’s Legislative Council deemed insufficiently loyal and rounded up veteran opposition leaders on charges including illegal assembly and colluding with foreign forces. Government critics and Western governments accuse Beijing of going back on its word and effectively ending the “one country, two systems” framework for governing the dynamic Asian financial hub.

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Lam said political strife and unrest in the city, including anti-government protests in 2019 as well as protests in 2014, showed there were always some people who are “rather hostile” to the central authorities in China.

“I can understand that the central authorities are very concerned, they do not want the situation to deteriorate further in such a way that ‘one country, two systems’ cannot be implemented,” Lam said at a regular news briefing.

The Hong Kong government on Tuesday also said it plans to require district councilors – many of whom are directly elected by their constituents and tend to be more politically independent – to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong as a special region of China. Currently, only the chief executive, high officials, executive council members, lawmakers and judges are required to take an oath of office.

Those who are found to take the oath improperly or who do not uphold the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, will be disqualified and barred from running for office for five years, according to the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Erick Tsang.

Opposition figures swept district council elections following the 2019 protests and the Beijing authorities have since sought to prevent them from exerting influence on other aspects of the political system.

The move comes after an oath-taking controversy in 2016 ion which six pro-democracy lawmakers were expelled from the legislature after court rulings that they had not properly pledged allegiance because they mispronounced words, added words or read the oath extremely slowly.

Hong Kong’s legislature is expected to deliberate the draft legal amendments on March 17.

On Monday, Xia Baolong, director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said Hong Kong could only be ruled by “patriots,” which exclude those who lobby other countries for foreign sanctions and “troublemakers.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin added to those assertions Tuesday, saying that “people in important positions, holding important powers and shouldering important administration responsibilities must be staunch patriots. It is a matter of course.”

The electoral changes are expected to be discussed and possibly passed at next month’s meeting of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, and its advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

They will likely take the form of a redistribution of votes in the 1,200-member electoral commission that selects Hong Kong’s chief executive, subject to Beijing’s veto. The commission is composed of voting blocs intended to represent Hong Kong’s various economic, educational and social sectors, along with its largely Beijing-dominated political institutions. The one exception is the 117 commission members drawn from among the city’s 458 local district councilors.

With all other commission members deemed to be firmly under Beijing‘s control, speculation has risen that the 117 district council votes will be transferred to another bloc, possibly that of Hong Kong’s representatives to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, ensuring that they will follow Beijing’s directives.

It remains unclear whether Lam, who is deeply unpopular among Hong Kong’s population, will seek a second five-year term in next year’s poll.

Another possibility is that China will close what it calls “loopholes” in the election for members of the Legislative Council, now entirely dominated by pro-Beijing legislators since opposition deputies resigned en masse last year after four were expelled for being insufficiently loyal to the government. Lam postponed elections for the council last year, citing concerns over COVID-19, in a move largely seen as designed to prevent an opposition victory.

Of the 70 members of the council, half are directly elected from geographic constituencies while the rest are drawn from trade and other special interest groups. Changes could include preventing district counselors from also sitting in the body or simply raising the requirements for loyalty and patriotism above the already stringent levels they are set at now.

China urges US to lift trade restrictions, stop interference

China urges US to lift trade restrictions, stop interference

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A woman wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus sits near a screen showing China and U.S. flags as she listens to a speech by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Lanting Forum on … more >

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Associated Press

Sunday, February 21, 2021

BEIJING (AP) – China‘s top diplomat called Monday for new U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to lift restrictions on trade and people-to-people contacts while ceasing what Beijing considers unwarranted interference in the areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi‘s comments at a Foreign Ministry forum on U.S.-China relations come as Beijing presses the new administration in Washington to drop many of the confrontational measures adopted by former President Donald Trump.

Trump hiked tariffs on Chinese imports in 2017 and imposed bans and other restrictions on Chinese tech companies and academic exchanges as he sought to address concerns about an imbalance in trade and accusations of Chinese theft of American technology.

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Trump also upgraded military and diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy claimed by China as its own territory, while sanctioning Chinese officials blamed for abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and a crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong.

“We know that the new U.S. administration is reviewing and assessing its foreign policy,” Wang told diplomats, scholars and journalists at the Lanting Forum. “We hope that the U.S. policy makers will keep pace with the times, see clearly the trend of the world, abandon biases, give up unwarranted suspicions and move to bring the China policy back to reason to ensure a healthy, steady development of China-U.S. relations.”

While Biden has pledged reengagement and a more civil tone in U.S. diplomacy, its unclear whether he will make any fundamental changes in Washington’s policies toward Beijing. China faces more opposition than ever in Washington due to its trade record, territorial disputes with neighbors, and accusations of technology theft and spying. Taiwan enjoys strong bipartisan support, as do criticisms of China’s human rights record, especially on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

In his first address before a global audience Friday, Biden said the U.S. and its allies must “prepare together for a long-term strategic competition with China.”

“Competition with China is going to be stiff. That’s what I expect, and that’s what I welcome, because I believe in the global system Europe and the United States, together with our allies in the Indo-Pacific, worked so hard to build over the last 70 years,” the president said in remarks delivered virtually to the annual Munich Security Conference.

As is standard in Chinese foreign policy, Wang put the onus for improving relations squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. and offered no direct proposals for major breakthroughs, even while encouraging increased dialogue.

Wang said China had “no intention to challenge or replace the United States” and was ready to peacefully coexist and seek common development.

Wang urged the U.S. to “stop smearing” the reputation of China‘s ruling Communist Party and to “stop conniving at or even supporting the erroneous words and actions of separatist forces for Taiwan independence and stop undermining China‘s sovereignty and security on internal affairs concerning Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.”

He said the U.S. should reactivate all levels of dialogue that he said the U.S. had effectively halted under the Trump administration, and boost cooperation on major bilateral and international issues. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the global economic recovery are the three biggest issues on which the sides can cooperate, he said.

On trade, Wang said China would defend the rights of U.S. companies while hoping the U.S. would “adjust its policies as soon as possible, among others, remove unreasonable tariffs on Chinese goods, lift its unilateral sanctions on Chinese companies and research and educational institutes and abandon irrational suppression of China‘s technological progress.”

The U.S. should also lift restrictions on media, educational and people-to-people exchanges to reverse sharp declines in numbers of Chinese studying in the U.S. and visits by Chinese for tourism or business, Wang said.

“I hope that the two sides will work together to steer the giant ship of China-U.S. relations back to the course of sound development toward a bright future with boundless prospects,” he said.

While the tone taken toward the U.S. by high-ranking diplomats such as Wang, senior foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and President Xi Jinping himself appears more positive than under Trump, China‘s Foreign Ministry spokespeople have remained combative.

At a briefing on Friday, spokesperson Hua Chunying contrasted the freak winter weather striking Texas with the robust social and economic interactions seen in China over the just-passed Lunar New Year holiday, without offering any show of sympathy.

“All this has given us a deeper understanding of what human rights truly mean and how to better protect them. We are more convinced that we are on the right path and have every confidence in the future,” Hua said.