Category : China

(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

(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

(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

(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

(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

(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

(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

(Economist) Beijing and Shanghai are still trying to get a grip on covid-19

Since the beginning of June, when the authorities in Shanghai lifted a months-long lockdown, many aspects of life in the city have returned to normal. The once-deserted freeways around China’s financial hub are again full of traffic. The white-collar workers who moved into their offices during April and May have at last returned home. The number of cases of covid-19 found outside quarantine has dropped to single digits. Just one was detected on June 13th.

But Shanghai’s officials are still on edge. Many residential communities reopened only to be locked down again when a positive case, or merely a close contact of one, was found in their vicinity. Residents continue to be taken away to quarantine centres if they live in the same building as someone infected. A case linked to a hair salon on a heavily travelled thoroughfare resulted in hundreds of people being whisked into isolation and several housing compounds being locked down. The city ordered most of its 25m residents into mass testing on June 11th and 12th.

This is what the new version of China’s “dynamic zero-covid” campaign looks like. Rolling “micro-lockdowns” and mass testing are meant to replace economically destructive citywide lockdowns. The strategy is supposed to be more targeted, finding and quarantining individual positive cases and their close contacts within hours. But calibration is proving difficult.

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Posted in China, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(W Post) Beijing chafes at Moscow’s requests for support, Chinese officials say

Russian officials have raised increasingly frustrated requests for greater support during discussions with Beijing in recent weeks, calling on China to live up to its affirmation of a “no limits” partnership made weeks before the war in Ukraine began. But China’s leadership wants to expand assistance for Russia without running afoul of Western sanctions and has set limits on what it will do, according to Chinese and U.S. officials.

Moscow has on at least two occasions pressed Beijing to offer new forms of economic support — exchanges that one Chinese official described as “tense.” The officials familiar with the talks spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

They declined to share specifics of Russia’s requests, but one official said it included maintaining “trade commitments” predating the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, and financial and technological support now sanctioned by the United States and other countries.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Economy, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

([London] Times) Chinese police told to shoot Uighurs who try to escape camps

Uighur prisoners in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang are to be shot on sight should they try to escape from “re-education” camps where they are said to be arbitrarily detained, according to leaked police documents.

A cache of police files allegedly obtained by hackers and shared with foreign media also reveals the faces of nearly 3,000 people, including children, who appear to have been detained because of their religion.

According to the BBC, the official files outline an internal police protocol that “describes the routine use of armed officers in all areas of the camps, the positioning of machineguns and sniper rifles in the watchtowers and the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy for those trying to escape”.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) Biden Officials Divided Over Easing China Tariffs to Slow Inflation

The Biden administration is split on whether to pare back tariffs on imports from China in an effort to cut consumer costs and reduce inflation, as the White House gives renewed consideration to a step that has divided officials.

On one side of the debate within the administration are Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who favor easing the tariffs on some of the roughly $360 billion annually of Chinese imports put in place under the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

On the other are Trade Representative Katherine Tai and others who are reluctant to relinquish U.S. leverage over China in a continuing effort to reshape Chinese economic behavior, according to the people.

President Biden has been undecided on the question but has recently revisited the issue as the White House looks to reduce the highest inflation in four decades, according to one of the people. The discussions come as the administration on Tuesday started a legally required review of the Trump-era duties. The U.S. Trade Representative is required to study the impact on tariffs first imposed in 2018 on the economy after four years.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

(NYT front page) Inside China’s Zero-Covid Fortress, Xi Admits No Doubts

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, waved at crowds of giddily cheering students. He held meetings with Olympic Games officials, economic policymakers and European leaders. He toured a tropical island.

But there was a revealing gap in Mr. Xi’s busy itinerary last month, exposing the predicament that Covid is creating in a politically crucial year when he hopes to extend his hold on power. He stayed behind the scenes when it came to China’s biggest, most contentious lockdown since the pandemic began.

Throughout April, Mr. Xi gave no public speeches focused on outbreaks in China as its biggest city, Shanghai, shut down to try to stifle infections, and then Beijing went on alert after a burst of cases. Nor did Mr. Xi directly address the 25 million residents of Shanghai who have been ordered to stay at home for weeks, despite their complaints of scarce food, overwhelmed hospitals and confusing zigzags in mass quarantine rules.

“He wants to deliberately keep a certain distance in from Shanghai,” said Deng Yuwen, a former editor of a Communist Party newspaper who now lives in the United States. “No doubt, he’s doing a lot about fighting the pandemic behind the scenes, but of course he does not want to be directly drawn into the mess in Shanghai.”

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Posted in China, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(NYT) China’s Covid Lockdown Outrage Tests Limits of Triumphant Propaganda

Immediately after Beijing said it had detected a new coronavirus outbreak, officials hurried to assure residents there was no reason to panic. Food was plentiful, they said, and any lockdown measures would be smooth. But Evelyn Zheng, a freelance writer in the city, was not taking any chances.

Her relatives, who lived in Shanghai, were urging her to leave or stock up on food. She had spent weeks poring over social media posts from that city, which documented the chaos and anguish of the monthlong lockdown there. And when she went out to buy more food, it was clear many of her neighbors had the same idea: Some shelves were already cleaned out.

“At first, I was worried about Shanghai, because my family is there, and there was no good news from any of my friends,” Ms. Zheng said. “Now, Beijing is starting, too, and I don’t know when it will land on my head.”

Anger and anxiety over the Shanghai lockdown, now in its fourth week, has posed a rare challenge for China’s powerful propaganda apparatus, which is central to the Communist Party’s ability to stifle dissent. As the Omicron variant continues to spread across the country, officials have defended their use of widespread, heavy-handed lockdowns. They have pushed a triumphalist narrative of their Covid response, which says that only the Chinese government had the will to confront, and hold back, the virus.

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Posted in China, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(NYT) Shanghai Seethes in Covid Lockdown, Posing Test to China’s Leadership

Parents have organized petitions, imploring the government not to separate children infected with the coronavirus from their families. Patients have demanded to speak with higher-ups about shoddy conditions at isolation facilities. Residents have confronted officials over containment policies that they see as unfair or inhumane, then shared recordings of those arguments online.

As the coronavirus races through Shanghai, in the city’s worst outbreak since the pandemic began, the authorities have deployed their usual hard-nosed playbook to try and stamp out transmission, no matter the cost. What has been different is the response: an outpouring of public dissatisfaction rarely seen in China since the chaotic early days of the pandemic, in Wuhan.

The crisis in Shanghai is shaping up to be more than just a public health challenge. It is also a political test of the zero tolerance approach at large, on which the Communist Party has staked its legitimacy.

For much of the past two years, the Chinese government has stifled most domestic criticism of its zero tolerance Covid strategy, through a mixture of censorship, arrests and success at keeping caseloads low. But in Shanghai, which has recorded more than 70,000 cases since March 1, that is proving more difficult.

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Posted in China, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(Nikkei Asia) Czar Vladimir Putin is divorced from reality: Niall Ferguson

These are miscalculations, not signs of madness. They’re the kind of miscalculations you make if you are very divorced from reality, because you lead the life of a czar, in vast — if hideous — palaces, surrounded by people who are terrified of you and tell you what they think you want to hear. If I put myself in Putin’s position, I don’t think he’s trying to resurrect the Soviet Union. He’s looking back even further and trying to bring back the Russian Empire, with himself as “Czar Vladimir.”

It’s an ideology of conservative, orthodox nationalism that Putin offers, that has nothing to do with the Soviet legacy. A lot of people get this wrong.

He has a huge incentive to speed up the defeat of Ukraine, using more brutal methods if that’s what it takes. Because if he doesn’t win, then I think his position at home will become very vulnerable.

If I’m him, the crucial thing now is to achieve victory over Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian army as fast as possible so that we can get to some peace negotiation from a position of strength. In that negotiation, Putin might be willing to make some concessions to get the sanctions reduced or removed.

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

(Bloomberg Opinion) Hal Brands–China Placed a Losing Bet on Vladimir Putin

For one thing, Putin’s attack has underscored the financial and technological dominance of the Western world. There is simply no precedent for the speed and severity with which the U.S. and its allies have punished Putin, almost totally isolating Russia from the global economy.

Sanctions are inflicting severe damage on Russia; a stock-market collapse, import problems and a debt default all loom. China is watching from the sidelines as the world’s leading democracies have shown the willingness and ability to pummel international aggressors economically. Although China, with a larger, more diversified, more globally integrated economy, is a far harder target that Russia, Xi must be wondering what economic carnage awaits his country if it attacks Taiwan.

Second, Russian aggression has activated antibodies to Chinese power. Japan, Singapore and Taiwan joined the anti-Putin sanctions team because they worry that unchecked aggression in Europe will tempt Beijing to make moves in the Pacific. If Putin sets a precedent of successful conquest, Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida has said, “it will have an impact on Asia, as well.”

Warnings that Beijing might use force against Taiwan in the next few years no longer seem so hyperbolic, which means that Putin’s gambit could result in more determined, multilateral containment of China.

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

(NYT) ‘No Wavering’: After Turning to Putin, Xi Faces Hard Wartime Choices for China

Now it appears that Mr. Xi’s display of solidarity may have, possibly unwittingly, emboldened Mr. Putin to gamble on going to war to bring Ukraine to heel.

A retracing of Beijing’s trail of decisions shows how Mr. Xi’s deep investment in a personal bond with Mr. Putin has limited China’s options and forced it into policy contortions.

Before and shortly after the invasion, Beijing sounded sympathetic to Moscow’s security demands, mocking Western warnings of war and accusing the United States of goading Russia. Over the past two weeks, though, China has sought to edge slightly away from Russia. It has softened its tone, expressing grief over civilian casualties. It has cast itself as an impartial party, calling for peace talks and for the war to stop as soon as possible.

The quandaries for China, and Mr. Xi, remain.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

Meir Soloveichik for Eric Liddell’s Feast Day–Finding God in the Olympic Footrace

While Americans rightly exult in the achievements of U.S. medalists, “Chariots of Fire” also serves as a reminder that athletics and even patriotism only mean so much. When Liddell is informed that a qualifying heat takes place on Sunday, his Sabbath, he chooses not to compete in that race. The camera cuts from athletes at the Olympics to Liddell reading a passage in Isaiah: “Behold the nations are as a drop in the bucket . . . but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings, as eagles. They shall run, and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” David Puttnam, a “Chariots of Fire” producer, wrote me that the verses were “specifically selected by the actor, the late Ian Charleson, who gave himself the task of reading the entire Bible whilst preparing for the film.”

The Isaiah passage is liturgically important for Jews: Parts of it are declaimed in synagogue on the Sabbath when we read God’s command to Abraham to leave the center of civilization and found a family, and a faith, in a new land. Isaiah reminds Jews that Abraham’s children have encountered much worse than what Harold Abrahams experienced. While most nations now rest on the ash heap of history, the biblical Abraham’s odyssey continues. The countries competing in today’s Olympics come and go, while those who “wait upon the Lord” endure.

“Chariots of Fire” also offers a message for people of faith who have grown troubled by the secularization of society and the realization that they are often scorned by elites. Like Liddell, we may be forced to choose religious principle over social success. Hopefully, however, we will be able to use our gifts to sanctify this world. As Liddell’s father told his son in the film: “Run in God’s name, and let the world stand back in wonder.”

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Posted in --Scotland, China, Church History, History, Missions, Religion & Culture, Sports

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Eric Liddell

God whose strength bears us up as on mighty wings: We rejoice in remembering thy athlete and missionary, Eric Liddell, to whom thou didst bestow courage and resolution in contest and in captivity; and we pray that we also may run with endurance the race that is set before us and persevere in patient witness, until we wear that crown of victory won for us by Jesus our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in --Scotland, China, Church History, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer, Sports

(WSJ) Beijing Weighs How Far to Go in Backing Putin on Ukraine

China’s top leaders have spent days weighing how far Beijing should go to back Russian President Vladimir Putin and how to manage a partnership many call a marriage of convenience as opposed to one of conviction.

With the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine looming, China’s final arbiter of power—the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee led by President Xi Jinping —has largely disappeared from public view.

Behind closed doors, according to people with knowledge of the matter, one topic of intense discussion is how to respond to the Russian-Ukraine crisis and back Moscow without hurting China’s own interests.

The brooding has gone on for more than a week, practically since Mr. Putin got on a plane back to Moscow after meeting with Mr. Xi and attending the Feb. 4 opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics. The unusually extended discussion underlines how urgent and delicate the situation is for Beijing despite Mr. Xi’s public stance of support for Russia.

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Posted in China, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine