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The India-China, Himalayan Puzzle

It was straight from an Orientalist romantic thriller set in the Himalayas: soldiers fighting each other with stones and iron bars in the dead of night on a mountain ridge over 4,000 meters high, some plunging to their deaths into a nearly frozen river and dying of hypothermia.

In November 1996, China and India had agreed not to use guns along their 3,800 km-long border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which sports an occasional tendency to derail into a Line Out of Control.

Yet this was not just another Himalayan scuffle. Of course there were echoes of the 1962 Sino-Indian war – which started pretty much the same way, leading Beijing to defeat New Delhi on the battlefield. But now the strategic chessboard is way more complex, part of the evolving 21st Century New Great Game.

The situation had to be defused. Top military commanders from China and India finally met face to face this past weekend. And on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed they “agreed to take necessary measures to promote a cooling of the situation.”

The Indian Army concurred: “There was mutual consensus to disengage (…) from all frictions areas in Eastern Ladakh.”

A day later, the breakthrough was confirmed at a videoconference meeting of the three foreign ministers of Russia, India and China, also known as the RICs: Sergey Lavrov, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar    and Wang Yi. President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping Xi will meet in person on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Saudi Arabia next November.

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/06/25/pepe-escobar-the-india-china-himalayan-puzzle/

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in Asia

 

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China Is Losing India

At a seaside summit in southern India in October 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to take relations between their two countries to “greater heights” in the next year. The Asian neighbors—which together contain over a third of the world’s population—promised to work more closely in 2020, the 70th anniversary of formal ties between the two nations. Officials outlined 70 joint activities, ranging from trade and military delegations to academic studies of ancient civilizational links, all intended to strengthen Sino-Indian cooperation.

But instead of deeper ties, 2020 has highlighted the growing rivalry between China and India. Since early May, Chinese and Indian troops have been facing off at multiple points on the remote, rugged, and often disputed border between the two nations. The situation escalated on June 15 when Chinese and Indian soldiers clashed in the Galwan Valley. At least 20 Indian soldiers died in the skirmish, along with an unknown number of Chinese troops (China has yet to disclose any casualty figures). According to the Indian government, China precipitated the fighting by seeking to change the status quo on the boundary, advancing into or hindering Indian patrols in territory that both countries claim. Chinese officials, meanwhile, blamed India for instigating the violent face-off.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/2020-06-22/china-losing-india

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in Asia

 

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Why China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy is a mistake

Chinese diplomats have long had a reputation as well-trained, colourless, and cautious professionals who pursue their missions doggedly without attracting much unfavourable attention. But a new crop of younger diplomats are ditching established norms in favour of aggressively promoting China’s self-serving Covid-19 narrative. It is called

diplomacy – and it is backfiring.

Soon before the Covid-19 crisis erupted,

instructed the country’s diplomatic corps to adopt a more assertive approach to defending China’s interests and reputation abroad. The pandemic – the scale of which may have been far smaller were it not for the local Wuhan authorities’

https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3088462/chinas-wolf-warrior-diplomats-are-being-more-reckless-trump-thats

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2020 in Asia

 

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L’origine del nuovo focolaio a Pechino è ancora un mistero

Il 10 giugno un uomo è andato dal medico a Pechino perché aveva la febbre e i brividi. È risultato positivo al Sars-cov-2 e il giorno dopo è stato ricoverato in ospedale. Così è finito un periodo di 55 giorni consecutivi senza nuovi casi di covid-19 in città e da allora il focolaio si è espanso. Secondo Xinhua, l’agenzia di stampa del governo cinese, finora 356mila persone sono state sottoposte ai test e sono stati confermati 137 casi di covid-19.

Il 18 giugno sono stati registrati 21 nuovi contagi, in leggero calo rispetto ai 31 del giorno precedente. Le autorità hanno chiuso tutte le scuole, gli hotel e i ristoranti nelle zone più a rischio, e hanno isolato 32 complessi residenziali. Il 16 giugno il livello di risposta all’emergenza è stato alzato da tre a due e anche se non è stato imposto il lockdown in città, gli abitanti sono invitati a non spostarsi.

https://www.internazionale.it/notizie/2020/06/18/pechino-focolaio-coronavirus

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2020 in Asia

 

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The friendly Mr Wu

When Candace Claiborne arrived in Beijing in November 2009 to work for the US State Department, her employer was already on edge. The American embassy had just moved from a building at the heart of the city’s diplomatic district to a ten-acre walled compound farther from the centre, a $434m fortress that projected both power and fear. The complex featured shatterproof glass, multiple checkpoints and a moat. To prevent Chinese agents from bugging offices, whole sections of the building had been shipped in from America, a tactic used previously when several floors of the US embassy in Moscow had to be razed following a breach in the 1980s. Even with all the safeguards, it turned out that two American construction workers had passed details about the building to China’s intelligence services. The news rattled policymakers in Washington, DC, who were watching China’s rapid economic and political rise with trepidation. The work environment that Claiborne would inhabit for the next three years included frequent security briefings and warnings about the cunning of China’s intelligence services. “I always tell the men, ‘Go look in the mirror. No beautiful woman, attractive woman, goes up to 50-year-old men,’” said one State Department official.

Though the embassy’s security staff had much to worry about, Claiborne was not an obvious source of concern. A 53-year-old mother of four grown children, Claiborne had the poise and manner of someone used to disciplined work. As a young woman she had dreamed of becoming a ballerina, and worked toward this goal with such dedication that she was admitted to the prestigious Washington School of Ballet. She came from a family committed to service – one brother went into the air force and another into the FBI – but Claiborne decided to follow her dream, and packed up her leotards to move to New York. She had some small victories, but the dance world was cut-throat and sustained success eluded her. After an ill-fated marriage, Claiborne ended up following her siblings into the family business. She became one of the hundreds of unlauded but vital administrators trained by the State Department to keep diplomats’ calendars, prepare agendas for meetings and take notes. Claiborne worked in the part of the embassy that handled classified information, and had top-secret security clearance.

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/the-friendly-mr-wu

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2020 in Asia, Reportages

 

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China’s Bargain on Global Influence Is Paying Off

This spring, President Donald Trump declared that he would halt U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, previously more than $400 million annually—and he announced this right in the midst of a global pandemic. A week later, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged another $30 million—which would nowhere near make up for the shortfall (not to mention that China still owes the organization $60 million in membership dues, an amount the WHO expects to get later this year). But the moment was a clear case in point for China’s success at checkbook diplomacy, in which the amount matters less than the message: You can’t count on the U.S., but you can count on us.

America was, until Trump ordered a review of the contributions, the single largest state funder of the WHO—China was contributing just over a 10th of what the U.S. was. Yet for years now, even before Trump accused the WHO of being too “China-centric,” American officials worried that China kept somehow buying more influence, with less money, around the world.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/05/china-global-influence-who-united-states/611227/

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2020 in Asia

 

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Covid-19 was a chance for a reset in Hong Kong. Instead, the crackdown continues

Hong Kong is living through two traumas at once: after nine months of civil unrest – sparked by a now-aborted extradition law – that saw increasing violence from protesters and the police force, the former British colony was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The territory has been faring relatively well so far (with 1,041 confirmed cases and four deaths at the time of writing), in large part thanks to the scarring experience of Sars in 2003. This meant that as soon as news of a novel strain of coronavirus in mainland China started to spread, most people decided not to wait for official guidelines and began wearing masks, minimising social outings, and washing hands and homes with increased frequency and thoroughness.

The government, on the other hand, prevaricated for reasons that were hardly connected to public health. Back in October 2019, citing colonial-era emergency laws, the authorities banned wearing a mask in public to prevent protesters hiding their identity as they took part in unauthorised marches (or authorised marched that got banned halfway through). But the administration wasn’t willing to budge. It took a few contradictory press briefings before Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, accepted that surgical masks for preventing the spread of the coronavirus would be allowed – while maintaining that they would remain forbidden at protests.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/04/covid-19-reset-hong-kong-crackdown-continues-democracy

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2020 in Asia

 

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Confronting China

Instead of using all the powers of the US federal government to limit the ravages of COVID-19, President Donald Trump’s administration is wasting precious time and energy blaming China for the spread of the virus. Pundits speak of a new cold war. But if the United States really intends to confront China in a struggle for global leadership, Trump is botching it badly.

Even as the Chinese government is showering countries around the world with supplies to combat the pandemic, and even sending medical teams, Trump cut off air travel from Europe without even bothering to inform America’s European allies. Since March, the Chinese government has contributed $50 million to the World Health Organization, while Trump, claiming that the WHO is “China-centric,” has frozen US funding.

When G7 foreign ministers held a video conference to discuss a common strategy to fight COVID-19, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s contribution was to insist that the pathogen be called “Wuhan virus,” after the Chinese city of its presumed origin. Fed up with Trumpian antics, the other ministers ended the conference without a conclusion.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/money-and-intimidation-not-enough-for-china-global-leadership-by-ian-buruma

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2020 in Asia

 

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Inside the Dystopian, Post-Lockdown World of Wuhan

Every workday at Lenovo’s tablet and phone factory on the outskirts of Wuhan, arriving employees report to a supervisor for the first of at least four temperature checks. The results are fed into a data collection system designed by staff. Anyone above 37.3C (99.1F) is automatically flagged, triggering an investigation by an in-house “anti-virus task force.”

Daily routines at the facility, which reopened on March 28 after stopping for over two months because of the coronavirus pandemic that began in this central Chinese city, have been entirely reengineered to minimize the risk of infection. Before returning to the site, staff members had to be tested both for the virus and for antibodies that indicate past illness, and they had to wait for their results in isolation at a dedicated dormitory. Once cleared, they returned to work to find the capacity of meeting rooms built for six reduced to three and the formerly communal cafeteria tables partitioned off by vertical barriers covered in reminders to avoid conversation. Signs everywhere indicate when areas were last disinfected, and robots are deployed wherever possible to transport supplies, so as to reduce the number of people moving from place to place. Elevators, too, are an artifact of the Before Times; everyone now has to take the stairs, keeping their distance from others all the way.

Presiding over all these measures one Sunday in mid-April was Qi Yue, head of Wuhan operations for Beijing-based Lenovo Group Ltd. Qi, who’s 48, with closely cropped hair and a sturdy frame, had been visiting his hometown of Tianjin, in China’s north, when the government sealed off Wuhan from the rest of the country on Jan. 23. It had taken him until Feb. 9 to get home—and he was only able to make it by buying a train ticket to Changsha, farther down the line, and begging the crew to let him get off in Wuhan. His job was now to bring the factory slowly back to life while emphasizing vigilance. Compared with keeping the virus out of the plant, he said, “how much production we can deliver comes second.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-04-23/wuhan-s-return-to-life-temperature-checks-and-constant-anxiety

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2020 in Asia, Reportages

 

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COVID-19: Confucius is Winning the Coronavirus War

As the Raging Twenties unleash a radical reconfiguration of the planet, coronavirus (literally “crowned poison”) has for all practical purposes served a poisoned chalice of fear and panic to myriad, mostly Western, latitudes.

Berlin-based, South Korean-born philosopher Byung-Chul Han has forcefully argued the victors are the “Asian states like Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore that have an authoritarian mentality which comes from their cultural tradition [of] Confucianism.”

Han added: “People are less rebellious and more obedient than in Europe. They trust the state more. Daily life is much more organized. Above all, to confront the virus Asians are strongly committed to digital surveillance. The epidemics in Asia are fought not only by virologists and epidemiologists, but also by computer scientists and big data specialists.”

That’s a reductionist view and plenty of nuances should apply. Take South Korea, which is not “authoritarian.” It’s as democratic as top Western liberal powers. What we had in a nutshell was the civic-mindedness of the overwhelming majority of the population reacting to sound, competent government policies.

https://www.opednews.com/articles/1/COVID-19-Confucius-is-Win-by-Pepe-Escobar-China_Confucius_Coronavirus-Pandemic_Covid-19-200417-305.html

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2020 in Asia

 

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