Category : Asia

(WSJ) Walter Russell-Mead–Global Tensions Spur a Sea Change in Japan

What happens in Tokyo matters. Japan is America’s single most important ally, and the strategic bond between the two powers is the foundation of America’s position in the Indo-Pacific. Japan’s decision to double down on its American alliance while building up its own capabilities is a major setback for China’s effort to reshape East Asia. In the Philippines and Southeast Asia, Japanese investment and trade help counter China’s economic power. Japanese diplomacy, less hectoring and more culturally sensitive than America’s sometimes abrasive preaching on issues like human rights, is often more effective in Asian capitals. The steady development of closer Japanese relations with India and Australia has been a major factor behind the rapid evolution of the Quad.

Much remains to be done. Japanese-Korean relations, despite some improvements under South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, remain difficult. Japan itself, with a stagnant economy and the highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, will be hard put to sustain the necessary military buildup.

But at this point it is the U.S. that must do more to secure the peace of East Asia. Given the long military supply lines across the Pacific and the likely difficulty of providing supplies if hostilities break out, the U.S. should position substantial quantities of weapons and supplies in the region. American as well as Taiwanese and Japanese officials told me that current stockpiles are woefully insufficient.

Beyond that, Washington still needs a regional economic strategy. Expanding economic integration between the U.S. and friendly Asian economies is an essential dimension of any long-term policy for the Indo-Pacific.

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Posted in Asia, Foreign Relations, Japan, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General

(Church Times) Bishop Smith condemns human-rights abuses in China

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has condemned the “wide range of human-rights abuses” committed in China against Christians and other religious groups.

He was speaking in a debate that he initiated in the Grand Committee of the House of Lords on Thursday.

Dr Smith said that he had been almost reluctant to call the debate because of his long-held admiration for China and its people. “Yet I feel I cannot remain silent in the face of such a wide range of human-rights abuses,” he said.

There was “a vast cultural gulf” between the UK and China, he continued, which was laid bare in President Xi’s speech last month to the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, in which the President had said: “We will . . . continue to take the correct and distinctively Chinese approach to handling ethnic affairs. . . We will remain committed to the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt to socialist society.”

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Posted in Anthropology, China, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Church Times) Archbishop of Canterbury prays for unity and stability under new PM Rishi Sunak

Last week, the racial-justice officers for the diocese of Chichester, the Revd Martha Mutikani and the Revd Dr Godfrey Kesari, called on the Church of England to “embrace minority communities” and “give them much more space” in leadership roles….

Delivering “Thought for the Day” on Radio 4’s Today Programme on Tuesday morning, the Rector of St James’s, Piccadilly, the Revd Lucy Winkett, said that “to acknowledge the UK’s first Hindu Prime Minister is a source of great significance and positivity, whatever the party politics, and to mark with gladness that a person of Global Majority Heritage, practising a faith that is followed by 1.2 billion people around the world, has become the first among equals in the British constitution.

“Given this, the very best thing that citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever their ethnicity, background or religion, can do, to honour this significant moment, is to expect the highest standards of integrity and courage,” Ms Winkett continued.

Mr Sunak took his oath as an MP on the Bhagavad Gita. In an interview with The Times in July, he said of his faith: “It gives me strength, it gives me purpose. It’s part of who I am.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Hinduism, India, Other Faiths, Politics in General

(Economist) Controversial new research suggests SARS-CoV-2 bears signs of genetic engineering

Erik van Nimwegen, from the University of Basel, says there are only small scraps of information and it is “hard to pull anything definitive out of that”. He adds, “one cannot really exclude at all that such a constellation of sites may have occurred by chance”. The authors of the paper concede this is the case. Kristian Andersen, a professor of immunology and microbiology, at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, described the pattern, on Twitter, as “random noise”.

Any conclusion that sars-cov-2 was engineered will be hotly contested. China denies the virus came from a Chinese lab, and has asked for investigations into whether it may have originated in America. Dr Washburne and his colleagues say their predictions are testable. If a progenitor genome to sars-cov-2 is found in the wild with restriction sites that are the same, or intermediate, it would raise the chances that this pattern evolved by chance.

Any widely supported conclusion that the virus was genetically engineered would have profound ramifications, both political and scientific. It would put in a new light the behaviour of the Chinese government in the early days of the outbreak, particularly its reluctance to share epidemiological data from those days. It would also raise questions about what was known, when, and by whom about the presumably accidental escape of an engineered virus. For now, this is a first draft of science, and needs to be treated as such. But the scrutineers are already at work.

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Posted in China, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of William Carey

Merciful God, who didst call William Carey to missionary work in India and didst endue him with a zeal for thy Word that led him to translate Scripture into many local languages and dialects: Give us a heart for the spreading of thy Gospel and a thirst for justice among all the peoples of the world; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who sheds thy light and peace throughout humanity, and who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, India, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Henry Martyn

O God of the nations, who didst give to thy faithful servant Henry Martyn a brilliant mind, a loving heart, and a gift for languages, that he might translate the Scriptures and other holy writings for the peoples of India and Persia: Inspire in us, we beseech thee, a love like his, eager to commit both life and talents to thee who gavest them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, India, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer, Turkey

(WSJ) Xi Jinping’s Quest for Control Over China Targets Even Old Friends

Xi Jinping became China’s most formidable leader in decades through a campaign of anticorruption purges that sidelined opponents and suppressed any potential challenge, real or perceived, to his power.

Some political watchers thought the purges would ease once he settled into his role. Ten years into his tenure, his methods have only grown more sophisticated and pervasive.

Targets in the disciplinary crackdown include a retired member of the Communist Party’s top leadership and a sitting Politburo member. Party enforcers punished some 627,000 people for graft and other offenses last year, roughly four times the number in 2012, when Mr. Xi took charge, according to party data.

Mr. Xi now often uses subtler methods as well, such as taking down officials’ associates with disciplinary probes and replacing them with his own protégés, party insiders say. He also reassigns opponents to less important roles, or switches their portfolios to separate them from their power bases.

Few are beyond Mr. Xi’s reach. That includes one of his oldest friends, Wang Qishan, who became China’s vice president in 2018, a ceremonial sinecure widely seen as a reward conferred by Mr. Xi.

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Posted in China, Politics in General

(Economist Leader) An obsession with control is making China weaker but more dangerous

This is evident in Mr Xi’s response to covid-19. China’s initial lockdown saved many lives. However, long after the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China still treats every case as a threat to social stability. When infections crop up, districts and cities are locked down. Compulsory movement-tracking apps detect when citizens have been near an infected person, and then bar them from public spaces. It goes without saying that no one thus tagged may enter Beijing, lest they start an outbreak at a politically sensitive time.

Some hope that, once the congress is over, a plan for relaxing the zero-covid policy may be unveiled. But there is no sign yet of the essential first steps to avoid mass deaths, such as many more vaccinations, especially of the old. Party propaganda suggests that any loosening is a long way off, regardless of the misery and economic mayhem that lockdowns cause. The policy has failed to adapt because no one can say that Mr Xi is wrong, and Mr Xi does not want China to be dependent on foreign vaccines, even though they are better than domestic ones.

Such control-freakery has wider implications for China and the world. At home Mr Xi makes all the big calls, and a fierce machinery of repression enforces his will. Abroad, he seeks to fashion a global order more congenial for autocrats. To this end, China takes a twin-track approach. It works to co-opt international bodies and redefine the principles that underpin them. Bilaterally, it recruits countries as supporters. Its economic heft helps turn poorer ones into clients; its unsqueamishness about abuses lets it woo despots; and its own rise is an example to countries discontented with the American-led status quo. Mr Xi’s aim is not to make other countries more like China, but to protect China’s interests and establish a norm that no sovereign government need bow to anyone else’s definition of human rights. As our special report argues, Mr Xi wants the global order to do less, and he may succeed.

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Posted in China, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(ProPublica) How a Chinese American Gangster Transformed Money Laundering for Drug Cartels

Adm. Craig Faller, a senior U.S. military leader, told Congress last year that Chinese launderers had emerged as the “No. 1 underwriter” of drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere. The Chinese government is “at least tacitly supporting” the laundering activity, testified Faller, who led the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military activity in Latin America.

In an interview with ProPublica, the now-retired Faller elaborated on his little-noticed testimony. He said China has “the world’s largest and most sophisticated state security apparatus. So there’s no doubt that they have the ability to stop things if they want to. They don’t have any desire to stop this. There’s a lot of theories as to why they don’t. But it is certainly aided and abetted by the attitude and way that the People’s Republic of China views the globe.”

Some U.S. officials go further, arguing that Chinese authorities have decided as a matter of policy to foster the drug trade in the Americas in order to destabilize the region and spread corruption, addiction and death here.

“We suspected a Chinese ideological and strategic motivation behind the drug and money activity,” said former senior FBI official Frank Montoya Jr., who served as a top counterintelligence official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “To fan the flames of hate and division. The Chinese have seen the advantages of the drug trade. If fentanyl helps them and hurts this country, why not?”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Mexico, Politics in General

(SCMP) Xi Jinping may ‘recalibrate’ after miscalculation of siding with Russia, Henry Kissinger says

After watching China’s “no limits” partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin fall well short of expectations, the stage is set for President Xi Jinping to tilt at least modestly toward the United States after the 20th party congress, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said on Monday.

“Xi gave a rather blank check to Putin,” Kissinger said at the Asia Society in New York. “He must have thought the invasion would succeed. He must need to recalibrate.”

A slow easing of US-China tensions could begin as early as next month at the Group of 20 summit of economic nations in Indonesia when Xi and US President Joe Biden are expected to meet.

Xi almost certainly expected Putin to be successful after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine – an offensive that has revealed deep weaknesses in the Russian military – and wants to avoid seeing a wall of Western opposition against China develop in the way it has against Russia, potentially raising questions at home, Kissinger said.

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Posted in China, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(CT) Vijayesh Lal–Brother Andrew Changed Me. His Approach Can Change India.

He counseled me to trust God for my provision and that God will take care of the ones he calls. But he also narrated his own life experience, when his wife asked him if the needs of the family were not met, what would he do? He had answered, “I would go back to the factory.” But he encouraged me by letting me know that he never had to do so; God had always provided.

As someone who delivered the precious Word of God to the church that needed it the most, Brother Andrew understood the importance of reading and studying the Bible as well as other books that can educate and disciple the believer. “Go through the Word of God and let the Word of God go through you,” he would tell us. He used to say that every Open Doors base should have a modest library where people can read and learn about ministry and topics in general.

Brother Andrew was very well read and informed. That is what perhaps helped him to focus on areas where many were oblivious. From the Iron Curtain to the “bamboo curtain” of China, from the Communist context to the context of the Muslim world, he always sought to carry Jesus and his gospel to people in need. He believed in the ministry being “lean and mean” and was not afraid to explore new frontiers or to have views that were less popular.

As I look back today, I am thankful to God for Brother Andrew and his life. For his simplicity and his matter-of-fact attitude, but most of all for his example in his obedience to Christ that allowed him to impact millions.

When he was once asked what he would like his epitaph to be, Brother Andrew answered, “He did what he couldn’t.”

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Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, India, Missions

(FT) India bans leading Muslim group over terrorism accusations

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has outlawed a leading Muslim group and its affiliates for five years, accusing it of links to terrorist organisations, in a move that is likely to foment the country’s deepening communal tensions.

The banning of the Popular Front of India on Wednesday followed the arrests in recent days of more than 200 of its members and searches of top leaders’ houses and offices.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said the PFI was involved in “serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional set up of the country [and] disturbing public order”. 

The ban extended to eight other groups that work on behalf of the Muslim minority population, which makes up about 200mn of India’s almost 1.4bn people. Those organisations included the Rehab India Foundation, the Campus Front of India, the All India Imams Council, the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, and the National Women’s Front.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, India, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(Economist) China’s Ponzi-like property market is eroding faith in the government

The 120km train ride between the cities of Luoyang and Zhengzhou is a showcase of economic malaise and broken dreams. From the window endless, half-built residential towers pass one after another for the duration of the hour-long journey. Many of the buildings are near completion; some are finished and have become homes. But many more are skeletons where construction ceased long ago. Developers have run out of cash and can no longer pay workers. Projects have stalled. Families will never get their homes.

The train ride through China’s heartland helps to explain one of the country’s biggest crises in recent memory: the public’s loss of confidence in the government’s economic model. For decades the property industry has been symbolic of China’s rise. Private entrepreneurs have made vast fortunes. Average people have witnessed their net worth soar as home values trebled. Local governments have filled their coffers by selling vast tracts of land to developers. An astonishing 70% of Chinese household wealth is now tied up in real estate.

To undermine trust in this model is to shake the foundations of China’s growth miracle. With sweeping covid-19 lockdowns and a crackdown on private entrepreneurs, this is happening on many fronts. But nowhere is it clearer than in the property industry, which makes up around a fifth of gdp….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

(CT) 4 Sri Lankan Christians Seeking Their Nation’s Rebirth

on July 9, after months of taking to the streets, Sri Lanka protesters successfully pressured President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign and flee the country. Demonstrations began in early April as prices of fuel, food, and medicine began to soar.

Gotabaya’s tenure, which began in 2019, failed to mitigate much of the damage that his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa had put in place when he served as president from 2005 to 2015. Corruption and disastrous economic policies characterized their respective administrations. COVID-19 dealt the final blow to an already struggling, poorly managed economy, with Sri Lanka even defaulting on external debt for the first time in its history. No one in the island nation of 22 million people has emerged unscathed.

“For the first time in my living memory, the protests have united people from all walks of life and all ethnic and religious communities,” said Christian political blogger and International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) leader Vinoth Ramachandra.

This includes Christians, who comprise 7.4 percent of the population (evangelicals comprise less than 2 percent). Despite suffering persecution and scores of casualties in 2019 terrorist attacks, many have felt compelled to come alongside their countrypeople in this political moment….

In this series, CT profiles four Christian leaders [Andrew Devadason, Amal Kumarage, Nadishani Perera, and Godfrey Yogarajah] who have spent their lives investing in the betterment of Sri Lanka and have been working hard in this moment for the nation’s rebirth within their own spheres of influence.

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Posted in Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka

(Economist) How al-Qaeda and Islamic State are digging into Africa

“The al-Qaeda terrorist infrastructure we faced in 2001 is long since gone,” said Ken McCallum, head of mi5, Britain’s security service, last year, shortly before Kabul fell. But that infrastructure shows signs of revival, according to a un monitoring team. Al-Qaeda has an “advisory” role with the Taliban, it notes. Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (aqis) has 180-400 members, many of whom recently fought alongside the Taliban.

“We don’t have evidence that there is any nascent international attack capability that is starting to blossom in Afghanistan,” says Edmund Fitton-Brown, the un team’s co-ordinator. But he notes that Mr Haqqani, as interior minister, oversees citizenship, passports and travel. “This could be a longer game plan” that could lead to fresh acts of terrorism by the likes of al-Qaeda anywhere, planned in Afghanistan.

That will depend on whether the Taliban rein it in, fearful of the consequences of another attack mounted from Afghan soil. But what already distinguishes al-Qaeda’s position today, compared with 2001, is the breadth of its activity. In recent years the movement has become remarkably decentralised….

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Posted in Afghanistan, Africa, Terrorism

(Nikkei Asia) China forcing political critics into psychiatric hospitals: report

Chinese authorities are pushing political critics into psychiatric hospitals where they are subjected to electroshock therapy and forced drugging nearly a decade after the country passed laws against such abuse, a new report said on Tuesday.

The study published by Madrid-based rights group Safeguard Defenders drew on the testimony of 99 people over a period of seven years, with alleged victims saying they were also placed in isolation for long periods and tied to beds where they were forced to lie in their own excrement.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

(PS) Richard Haas–Xi Jinping’s Guns of August

….the focus on Pelosi’s visit is misplaced. The important question is why China responded not just by denouncing the trip, but with import and export bans, cyberattacks, and military exercises that represented a major escalation over anything it had previously done to punish and intimidate Taiwan.

None of this was inevitable. The Chinese leadership had options. It could have ignored or downplayed Pelosi’s visit. What we saw was a reaction – more accurately, an overreaction – of choice. The scale and complexity of the response indicates that it had long been planned, suggesting that if the Pelosi trip had not taken place, some other development would have been cited as a pretext to “justify” China’s actions.

China’s increasingly fraught internal political and economic situation goes a long way toward explaining Xi’s reaction. His priority is to be appointed to an unprecedented third term as leader of the Communist Party of China; but the country’s economic performance, for decades the principal source of legitimacy for China’s leaders, can no longer be counted on as growth slows, unemployment rises, and financial bubbles burst. Xi’s insistence on maintaining a zero-COVID policy is also drawing criticism domestically and reducing economic growth.

Increasingly, it appears that Xi is turning to nationalism as a substitute. When it comes to generating popular support in China, nothing competes with asserting the mainland’s sovereignty over Taiwan.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Economist) How to prevent a war between America and China over Taiwan

America and China agree on very little these days. Yet on the subject of Taiwan, at least in one regard, they are in total harmony. The status quo surrounding the self-governing island, which China claims and whose thriving democracy America supports, is changing in dangerous ways, say officials on both sides. War does not look imminent, but the uneasy peace that has held for more than six decades is fragile. Ask them who is at fault, however, and the harmony shatters.

That much is clear from the crisis triggered this month by a visit to Taiwan by the speaker of America’s House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. She was well within her rights, but her trip was provocative. It infuriated the Chinese Communist Party. One of Ms Pelosi’s predecessors had visited the island in 1997, but China’s top diplomat claimed that American “saboteurs” had wrecked the status quo. After Ms Pelosi left, China fired missiles over the island and carried out live-fire drills that encircled it, as if it were rehearsing for a blockade.

Since the previous stand-off in 1995-96, America, China and Taiwan have all grown uneasy with the ambiguities and contradictions—the status quo, if you will—on which peace precariously rests. China, especially, has bared its teeth. If the world is to avoid war, it urgently needs to strike a new balance.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Taiwan

(NYT) In Turbulent Times, Xi Builds a Security Fortress for China, and Himself

Over informal, private meals with American leaders, China’s Xi Jinping let his guard down a little. It was a decade ago, relations were less strained, and Mr. Xi, still cementing his power, hinted he worried about the Chinese Communist Party’s grip.

Speaking privately with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Xi suggested that China was a target of “color revolutions,” a phrase the party adopted from Russia for popular unrest in the name of democracy and blamed on the West. The recent “Arab Spring” uprisings across the Middle East had reinforced his concerns that China was vulnerable to public anger over corruption and inequality, both of which the country had in abundance.

“Xi couldn’t have been more forthright that China is beset by malevolent forces and internally prey to centrifugal forces,” said Daniel R. Russel, a former senior American diplomat who accompanied Mr. Biden to China in 2011.

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Posted in China

(NY Times Op-ed) Asfandyar Mir–America’s Gross Miscalculation of the Taliban

…there is no escaping the fact that Al Qaeda continues to fester under the Taliban. This means that the U.S.-Taliban engagement of the past several years has failed. That engagement was predicated on the belief that the Taliban — which hosted Bin Laden before Sept. 11 — would change their ways, seek better relations with the world and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist safe haven. Al-Zawahri’s sanctuary in Kabul makes clear that America can’t rely on the Taliban’s word.

Unsurprisingly, the Taliban see the targeting of al-Zawahri in Kabul as a blow to their honor and a violation of Afghan sovereignty and the U.S.-Taliban agreement of 2020, and they could respond by stepping up support to Al Qaeda and allied terrorist groups in Afghanistan. (The U.S. government says the Taliban have violated tenets of the agreement by hosting Al-Zawahri.)

Al-Zawahri’s successful targeting in Kabul doesn’t mean that the threat is now over. If anything, it demonstrates that Al Qaeda is resurfacing in Afghanistan and that despite sanctions, the Taliban are comfortable, secure and enabling threats against the region and the Western world.

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Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(Telegraph) Accidental nuclear war with China a ‘growing risk’ warns Sir Stephen Lovegrove, the UK’s national security adviser

The West and China could “miscalculate our way into nuclear war”, the UK’s national security adviser warned on Wednesday night.

Sir Stephen Lovegrove said Britain had “clear concerns” that Beijing was expanding and modernising its nuclear arsenal, adding that China’s “disdain” for arms control agreements was a “daunting prospect”.

In a hardening of the UK position, Sir Stephen warned that the world may no longer have the Cold War safeguards that prevented nuclear war with the USSR and raised the prospect of an “uncontrolled conflict” between China and the West.

He said the world was entering a “dangerous new age of proliferation”, with threats from genetic weapons, space-based systems and lasers.

“We should be honest – strategic stability is at risk,” Sir Stephen said in a speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “We need to start thinking about the new security order.”

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Posted in China, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General

(WSJ) Walter Russell Mead–The Iran Nuclear Deal’s Convulsive Death

If the U.S. is going to develop an effective response to this combination of strategic threats, our political leaders will have to move beyond finger pointing and blame games over the fate of the JCPOA. Republicans can say justly that Mr. Obama’s decision to sign something as consequential and controversial as the Iran nuclear deal without the bipartisan support needed to get a treaty ratified in the Senate was a historic mistake. Democrats can reasonably riposte that Mr. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal made everything worse. Such matters can be left to the historians. The question before us now is not who was right in 2015 or 2018. It is what we do next.

Mr. Biden has repeatedly said that allowing Iran to build nuclear weapons is not an option. If his administration fails to hold that line, the consequences for American power in the Middle East and globally would be profound and perhaps irreversible. If America attacks Iranian nuclear facilities and finds itself stuck in yet another Middle Eastern quagmire, the effects at home and abroad will also be dire. China and Russia would take advantage of America’s Middle East preoccupation to make trouble elsewhere, and U.S. public opinion would be further polarized.

Few presidents have faced policy choices this tough or consequential. It’s understandable if not commendable that the administration postponed the day of reckoning for so long, but as the dead-cat stink intensifies, Mr. Biden is coming closer to the greatest test of his career.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Iran, Politics in General, President Joe Biden, Russia

(NYT) Chinese officials apologize for breaking into homes to search for Covid cases

Local officials in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou have issued a rare apology after community workers broke into dozens of homes to look for people who had tested positive for the coronavirus and others deemed close contacts, triggering harsh criticism on social media.

The government of the city’s Liwan district said in a statement that the workers picked locks to enter 84 units in an apartment complex. They had been searching for residents they believed were hiding to avoid being sent to quarantine centers. Under China’s zero-tolerance approach to Covid, all positive cases and close contacts must be sent to centralized quarantine facilities for a number of days.

Photos on social media showed broken locks in front of apartment doors, and the government said the locks were later replaced. It added that the head of the neighborhood had apologized to the residents individually and had promised unspecified compensation.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

‘I urge Anglicans to pray for peace in Sri Lanka’ – Archbishop Welby’s message to Church of Ceylon

As this crisis worsens, I call on the Anglican Communion to pray fervently for peace and for all the people of Sri Lanka. It is only a few years since the end of a catastrophic civil war; this crisis is a reminder that reconciliation is indispensable for future stability. Reconciliation involves justice in the economy as well as healing of memories. May God bring

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Sri Lanka, Violence

(BBC) Sri Lanka: President Rajapaksa to resign after palace stormed

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has announced he will step down after protesters stormed his official residence and set the prime minister’s house on fire.

Neither the PM nor the president were in the buildings.

Hundreds of thousands descended on the capital Colombo, calling for Mr Rajapaksa to resign after months of protests over economic mismanagement.

Mr Rajapaksa will step down on 13 July. PM Wickremesinghe has agreed to resign.

Parliamentary speaker Mahinda Abeywardana said the president decided to step down “to ensure a peaceful handover of power”.

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Posted in Asia, Politics in General, Sri Lanka, Violence

(Bloomberg) David Fickling And Ruth Pollard–When the Weather Gets Hot Enough To Kill

On an April day in 1905, the scientist J.S. Haldane descended hundreds of feet into a Cornish tin mine to find out if he could cook himself to death.

Amateur researchers had long known that humans have an extraordinary ability to withstand dry heat. One 18th century experimenter found he could tolerate temperatures up to 115 degrees Celsius (240 Fahrenheit), hot enough to cook steaks. But the moist, saturated air in the Dolcoath mine, dug through hot rock deep below the water table, seemed to change things. Though the temperature never climbed above 31.5C, Haldane’s body temperature and pulse rose with each minute, hitting feverish levels before he ascended after three hours. “It becomes impracticable for ordinary persons to stay for long periods” when the humid temperature rises above 31C, he wrote.

That finding hasn’t significantly changed over the years since — but our atmosphere has. As the climate warms, conditions once experienced only in saunas and deep mineshafts are rapidly becoming the open-air reality for hundreds of millions of people, who have no escape to air conditioning or cooler climes. After a few hours with humid heat above 35C — a measure known as the wet-bulb temperature — even healthy people with unlimited shade and water will die of heatstroke. For those carrying out physical labor, the threshold is closer to Haldane’s 31C, or even lower.

Brajabandhu Sahu knows the physical signs all too well. A street vendor selling foods like dosa, idli and uttapam on the corner of two busy roads in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, he’s surrounded at times by what feels like a wall of fire from which he cannot escape. When the day is at its hottest, his head spins, his heart races, his skin blisters and the waves of nausea are constant. The moisture-laden winds that blow in from the Bay of Bengal put citizens in this region at particular risk.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, India, Science & Technology

(Economist) Who’s afraid of TikTok? The world’s most exciting app is also its most mistrusted

With its wholesome dancing and lip-syncing videos, TikTok once billed itself as “the last sunny corner on the internet”. Since launching just five years ago the app has brought a warm glow to its 1bn-plus users, as well as an icy dash of competition to the social-media incumbents of Silicon Valley. With its rise, a part of the tech industry that had seemed closed to competition has been cracked wide open.

Yet even as TikTok delights consumers and advertisers, others believe the sunny app has a dark side. ByteDance, its owner, has its headquarters in China, whose government is addicted to surveillance and propaganda—making it a worrying place for a media app to be based. As TikTok’s clout grows and as elections loom in America, there is a brewing bipartisan storm in Congress over its supposed role as a “Trojan horse”.

The hype about TikTok is justified—and so are the concerns. The app has transformed competition in social media. Yet unchecked, it presents a security risk to the Chinese Communist Party’s enemies. Finding a way for TikTok to operate safely in the West is a test of whether global business and the global internet can remain intact as us-China relations deteriorate.

Beneath TikTok’s simple interface lies fearsomely advanced artificial intelligence (ai). Its knack for learning what people like helped TikTok sign up its first 1bn users in half the time it took Facebook. In America the average user spends 50% longer on the app each day than the typical user spends on Instagram. TikTok’s revenues are expected to reach $12bn this year and $23bn in 2024, drawing level with YouTube’s. Young creators are flocking to the app—along with some older ones. This week The Economist joined TikTok (no dancing, we promise).

The effect on competition has been dramatic. In 2020 American trustbusters sued Facebook, now known as Meta, for its alleged dominance of social media. Today such worries look eccentric; Meta has been particularly hard-hit as tech stocks have taken a beating, and the firm is re-engineering its products to mimic TikTok. America often accuses China of copycat capitalism. Now the boot is on the other foot.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Asia, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(BBC) China: MI5 and FBI heads warn of ‘immense’ threat

The heads of UK and US security services have made an unprecedented joint appearance to warn of the threat from China.

FBI director Christopher Wray said China was the “biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security” and had interfered in politics, including recent elections.

MI5 head Ken McCallum said his service had more than doubled its work against Chinese activity in the last three years and would be doubling it again.

MI5 is now running seven times as many investigations related to activities of the Chinese Communist Party compared to 2018, he added.

The FBI’s Wray warned that if China was to forcibly take Taiwan it would “represent one of the most horrific business disruptions the world has ever seen”.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NYT front page) How China Polices the Future: An Unseen Cage of Surveillance

The more than 1.4 billion people living in China are constantly watched. They are recorded by police cameras that are everywhere, on street corners and subway ceilings, in hotel lobbies and apartment buildings. Their phones are tracked, their purchases are monitored, and their online chats are censored.

Now, even their future is under surveillance.

The latest generation of technology digs through the vast amounts of data collected on their daily activities to find patterns and aberrations, promising to predict crimes or protests before they happen. They target potential troublemakers in the eyes of the Chinese government — not only those with a criminal past but also vulnerable groups, including ethnic minorities, migrant workers and those with a history of mental illness.

They can warn the police if a victim of a fraud tries to travel to Beijing to petition the government for payment or a drug user makes too many calls to the same number. They can signal officers each time a person with a history of mental illness gets near a school.

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Posted in China, Science & Technology

(Washington Post Op-ed) China’s military expansion is reaching a dangerous tipping point

Top military leaders from the United States and China met last weekend at a forum in Singapore, where they attempted to manage mounting tensions between the superpowers. But throughout Asia, there’s growing fear that China’s drastic military expansion will soon result in Chinese regional military superiority, which could embolden Beijing to start a war over Taiwan.

That sense of urgency was palpable at last week’s Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual conference of diplomats, officials and experts from across Asia, organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. Over three days of discussions a common sentiment emerged: China is racing to become the dominant military power in Asia in the next few years — and if it succeeds, Beijing is likely to use force to attempt to subdue Taiwan’s democracy. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has dispelled any notion that revisionist dictatorships can be deterred by anything short of a superior opposing military force.

In recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that China plans to achieve military parity with the United States in Asia by 2027. As the Chinese military advances in both technology and territorial presence, leaders in the People’s Liberation Army are now openly threatening to attack Taiwan and promising to fight anyone who attempts to intervene. Beijing is speeding up its plans, and the United States risks falling behind.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General