Category : China

(Economist) China’s birth rate continues to fall

Despite the recent efforts of its government, China’s birth rate is falling. According to data released on January 18th by the National Bureau of Statistics, there were 10.6m births in 2021, 1.4m fewer than the previous year. For five consecutive years population growth has slowed, and last year the number of deaths, at 10.1m, approached the number of births, suggesting that the population may soon start to shrink.

This is a headache for the Chinese Communist Party. Its leaders worry that an ageing population and shrinking workforce will dent the country’s economic growth. After decades of a one-child policy designed to limit population growth, the government has tried to change gear. In 2016 couples were allowed to have a second child for the first time in more than 35 years—and last year the limit was upped to three. The government now tells its people, particularly women, that it is their patriotic duty to have more children. There are plenty of inducements to encourage more energetic procreation, too, including more state-funded childcare and better protection against workplace discrimination for women. Employers often illegally ask women about their childbearing plans in job interviews; some even force female recruits to sign contracts promising not to have children for several years.

Read it all (registration).

Posted in Children, China, Marriage & Family

(Nikkei Asia) China hoards over half the world’s grain, pushing up global prices

Less than 20% of the world’s population has managed to stockpile more than half of the globe’s maize and other grains, leading to steep price increases across the planet and dropping more countries into famine.

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Posted in China, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

(BBC) Pillar of Shame: Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square statue removed

A famous statue at the University of Hong Kong marking the Tiananmen Square massacre was removed late on Wednesday.

The statue showed piled-up corpses to commemorate the hundreds – possibly thousands – of pro-democracy protesters killed by Chinese authorities in 1989.

It was one of the few remaining public memorials in Hong Kong commemorating the incident.

Its removal comes as Beijing has increasingly been cracking down on political dissent in Hong Kong.

The city used to be one of few places in China that allowed public commemoration of the Tiananmen Square protests – a highly sensitive topic in the country.

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Posted in Art, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Hong Kong, Politics in General

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Lottie Moon

O God, who in Christ Jesus hast brought Good News to those who are far off and to those who are near: We praise thee for awakening in thy servant Lottie Moon a zeal for thy mission and for her faithful witness among the peoples of China. Stir up in us the same desire for thy work throughout the world, and give us the grace and means to accomplish it; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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

(Telegraph) Is the world is at the most dangerous strategic juncture since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard thinks so

While Britain’s political class is distracted by a Downing Street party, the world is at the most dangerous strategic juncture since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

The West faces escalating threats of conflict on three fronts, each separate but linked by unknown levels of collusion: Russia’s mobilisation of a strike force on Ukraine’s border, China’s “dress rehearsal” for an attack on Taiwan, and Iran’s nuclear brinkmanship.

Each country is emboldening the other two to press their advantage, and together they risk a fundamental convulsion of the global order.

You have to go back yet further to find a moment when Western democracies were so vulnerable to a sudden change in fortunes. Today’s events have echoes of the interlude between the Chamberlain-Daladier capitulation at Munich in 1938 and consequences that followed in rapid crescendo, from Anschluss to the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Iran, Politics in General, Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine

(WSJ) China Seeks First Military Base on Africa’s Atlantic Coast, U.S. Intelligence Finds

Classified American intelligence reports suggest China intends to establish its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean in the tiny Central African country of Equatorial Guinea, according to U.S. officials.

The officials declined to describe details of the secret intelligence findings. But they said the reports raise the prospect that Chinese warships would be able to rearm and refit opposite the East Coast of the U.S.—a threat that is setting off alarm bells at the White House and Pentagon.

Principal deputy U.S. national security adviser Jon Finer visited Equatorial Guinea in October on a mission to persuade President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his son and heir apparent, Vice President Teodoro “Teodorin” Nguema Obiang Mangue, to reject China’s overtures.

“As part of our diplomacy to address maritime-security issues, we have made clear to Equatorial Guinea that certain potential steps involving [Chinese] activity there would raise national-security concerns,” said a senior Biden administration official.

The great-power skirmishing over a country that rarely draws outside attention reflects the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The two countries are sparring over the status of Taiwan, China’s testing of a hypersonic missile, the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and other issues.

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Posted in Africa, America/U.S.A., China, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Economist Leader) What the Omicron variant means for the world economy

The final danger is the least well appreciated: a slowdown in China, the world’s second-biggest economy. Not long ago it was a shining example of economic resilience against the pandemic. But today it is grappling with a debt crisis in its vast property industry, ideological campaigns against private businesses, and an unsustainable “zero-covid” policy that keeps the country isolated and submits it to draconian local lockdowns whenever cases emerge. Even as the government considers stimulating the economy, growth has dropped to about 5%. Barring the brief shock when the pandemic began, that is the lowest for about 30 years.

If Omicron turns out to be more transmissible than the earlier Delta variant, it will make China’s strategy more difficult. Since this strain travels more easily, China will have to come down even harder on each outbreak in order to eradicate it, hurting growth and disrupting supply chains. Omicron may also make China’s exit from its zero-covid policy even trickier, because the wave of infections that will inevitably result from letting the virus rip could be larger, straining the economy and the health-care system. That is especially true given China’s low levels of infection-induced immunity and questions over how well its vaccines work.

Read it all (registration).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Economy, Globalization, Health & Medicine

(Bloomberg) Disney+ Omits ‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Episode in Hong Kong

On Disney+, which launched in Hong Kong on Nov. 16, episodes 11 and 13 of season 16 are viewable in the Chinese territory, but not episode 12, which first aired in 2005. That episode was available over the weekend in Singapore, where Disney+ launched earlier this year.

“This is the first notable time an American streaming giant has censored content in Hong Kong,” said Kenny Ng, an associate professor specializing in film censorship at Hong Kong Baptist University.

“Basically, the whole story is for streaming companies to be more tailored to a Chinese audience and to not offend the Chinese government,” he added. “This is likely to continue in the future with more companies with financial interests in China.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Movies & Television

(WSJ) Walter Russell Mead–China and Russia form an entente to hobble America, with a little help from Iran.

Asia First does not mean Asia Alone. That is the hard lesson the world is busy teaching the Biden administration and the U.S. In Europe, American diplomats last week scrambled to respond to Belarus’s weaponization of migration on its border with Poland, warned that Russia is positioning itself to invade Ukraine, and worked to defuse a crisis in the western Balkans. In the Middle East, as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tried to reassure key allies about America’s continuing commitment to their security, U.S. naval forces participated with Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in the unprecedented joint Arab-Israeli military exercises in the Red Sea.

This shift from an Asia First policy to Global Engagement isn’t something the Biden administration is voluntarily choosing. It is a change forced on the U.S. by the actions of adversaries who believe that by keeping America off-balance and overcommitted, they can hasten the process of American decline.

President Biden’s original plan to focus on Asia made good political sense. Progressive Democrats are dead-set against the military spending and political engagement that a truly global American foreign policy would require. And it isn’t only progressive Democrats who are weary of endless wars, freeloading allies, and American diplomatic and sometimes military engagement in faraway hot spots like the western Balkans and Sudan. If we could get Iran back into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal and reach at least a temporary understanding with Russia on some issues, Team Biden hoped, reduced engagement in Europe and the Middle East would help make a tougher China policy easier to sell back home—and to pay for.

Team Biden is right about that. Unfortunately, China, Russia and Iran understand the situation as clearly as the White House does, and these powers want Mr. Biden and the nation he leads to fail.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia

(AP) Pentagon rattled by Chinese military push on multiple fronts

China’s growing military muscle and its drive to end American predominance in the Asia-Pacific is rattling the U.S. defense establishment. American officials see trouble quickly accumulating on multiple fronts — Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal, its advances in space, cyber and missile technologies, and threats to Taiwan.

“The pace at which China is moving is stunning,” says Gen. John Hyten, the No. 2-ranking U.S. military officer, who previously commanded U.S. nuclear forces and oversaw Air Force space operations.

At stake is a potential shift in the global balance of power that has favored the United States for decades. A realignment more favorable to China does not pose a direct threat to the United States but could complicate U.S. alliances in Asia. New signs of how the Pentagon intends to deal with the China challenge may emerge in coming weeks from Biden administration policy reviews on nuclear weapons, global troop basing and overall defense strategy.

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

(WSJ) Elbridge Colby–The Fight for Taiwan Could Come Soon

The U.S. and China are engaged in a “strategic competition,” as the Biden administration has put it, with Taiwan emerging as the focal point. But an ascendant view inside the administration seems to be that while China represents a serious economic, political and technological challenge to American interests, it doesn’t pose a direct military threat. This is a very imprudent assumption that could lead to war and, ultimately, American defeat. To avoid that disastrous outcome, the U.S. must recognize that China is a military threat—and conflict could come soon.

What makes China an urgent military threat? First, Beijing has made clear it is willing to use force to take Taiwan. Subordinating the island isn’t only about incorporating a putative lost province—it would be a vital step toward establishing Chinese hegemony in Asia. And this isn’t mere talk. The Chinese military has rehearsed amphibious attacks, and commercial satellite imagery shows that China practices large-scale attacks on U.S. forces in the region.

Second, China doesn’t merely have the will to invade Taiwan, it increasingly may have the ability to pull it off. China has spent 25 years building a modern military in large part to bring Taiwan to heel. China now has the largest navy in the world and an enormous and advanced air force, missile arsenal and network of satellites. This isn’t to say China could manage a successful invasion of Taiwan tomorrow—but Beijing could be very close. It will be “fully able” to invade by 2025, Taiwan’s defense minister said recently. China’s military power is improving every month.

Third, China may think its window of opportunity is closing. Many wars have started because one side thought it had a time-limited opening to exploit. Certainly this was a principal factor in the outbreaks of the two world wars. Beijing may reasonably judge this to be the case today.

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

(WSJ) Does Taiwan’s Military Stand a Chance Against China? Few Think So

The concern that China might try to seize Taiwan is preoccupying American military planners and administration officials. Few of them think Taiwan’s military could hold the line.

Soldiers, strategists and government officials in Taiwan and the U.S. say the island’s military is riven with internal problems, many of which have built up over years of calm and economic prosperity and now are eating away at Taiwan’s ability to deter China.

Among the most pressing concerns are poor preparation and low morale among the roughly 80,000 Taiwanese who are conscripted each year and the nearly 2.2 million reservists.

Xiao Cheng-zhi, a 26-year-old from central Taiwan, said his four months of basic training that ended last year mainly involved sweeping leaves, moving spare tires and pulling weeds. Aside from some marksmanship training, he said, his classes were meaningless.

Mr. Xiao dismissed his cohorts as strawberry soldiers, a term used in Taiwan to describe young people raised by overprotective parents who bruise easily. While he said he is willing to serve, he doubted the island would stand much chance against China’s People’s Liberation Army.

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

(Foreign Affairs) John J. Mearsheimer: The Inevitable Rivalry–America, China, and the Tragedy of Great-Power Politics

Although their numbers have dwindled, advocates of engagement remain, and they still think the United States can find common ground with China. As late as July 2019, 100 China watchers signed an open letter to Trump and members of Congress rejecting the idea that Beijing was a threat. “Many Chinese officials and other elites know that a moderate, pragmatic and genuinely cooperative approach with the West serves China’s interests,” they wrote, before calling on Washington to “work with our allies and partners to create a more open and prosperous world in which China is offered the opportunity to participate.”

But great powers are simply unwilling to let other great powers grow stronger at their expense. The driving force behind this great-power rivalry is structural, which means that the problem cannot be eliminated with clever policymaking. The only thing that could change the underlying dynamic would be a major crisis that halted China’s rise—an eventuality that seems unlikely considering the country’s long record of stability, competence, and economic growth. And so a dangerous security competition is all but unavoidable.

At best, this rivalry can be managed in the hope of avoiding a war. That would require Washington to maintain formidable conventional forces in East Asia to persuade Beijing that a clash of arms would at best yield a Pyrrhic victory. Convincing adversaries that they cannot achieve quick and decisive wins deters wars. Furthermore, U.S. policymakers must constantly remind themselves—and Chinese leaders—about the ever-present possibility of nuclear escalation in wartime. Nuclear weapons, after all, are the ultimate deterrent. Washington can also work to establish clear rules of the road for waging this security competition—for example, agreements to avoid incidents at sea or other accidental military clashes. If each side understands what crossing the other side’s redlines would mean, war becomes less likely.

These measures can only do so much to minimize the dangers inherent in the growing U.S.-Chinese rivalry. But that is the price the United States must pay for ignoring realist logic and turning China into a powerful state that is determined to challenge it on every front.

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

(AP) China vows no concessions on Taiwan after Joe Biden comments that he would defend it if attacked

China on Friday said there is “no room” for compromise or concessions over the issue of Taiwan, following a comment by U.S. President Joe Biden that the U.S. is committed to defending the island if it is attacked.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reasserted China’s longstanding claim that the island is its territory at a daily briefing after Biden made his comment a day before at a forum hosted by CNN.

China has recently upped its threat to bring Taiwan under its control by force if necessary by flying warplanes near the island and rehearsing beach landings.

“When it comes to issues related to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, there is no room for China to compromise or make concessions, and no one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Wang said.

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

(WSJ) Writer Liu Cixin On How His Visions Of The Future Collide With Reality

What is the biggest technological shift we’ll see in the future?

It’s definitely going to be artificial intelligence. I don’t think AI will overtake humans in the short term, but it will have a profound impact on society. Recently, I stayed at a hotel near Beijing, and I didn’t encounter a single human worker during my stay. From checking in to ordering takeout, there wasn’t a single human interaction, everything was done on apps and with AI-powered bots.

This is more and more common in China. I used to think that AI would displace simple and repetitive jobs, but now I think the opposite: It will replace more “senior” positions like doctors, lawyers, teachers and stock analysts. On the other hand, it’s the jobs that are more labor intensive that will be harder to replace. I renovated my house recently, and needed an electrician to rewire the entire living room. I really can’t see a situation where AI can replace that kind of a job in the short term.

But AI’s effect on people will be sweeping, and an issue we will have to grapple with in the very near future. We’re past the agricultural and industrial age and firmly stepped into the era of AI.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, China, Globalization, Poetry & Literature, Science & Technology

(FT) US has already lost AI fight to China, says ex-Pentagon software chief Nicolas Chaillan

The Pentagon’s first chief software officer said he resigned in protest at the slow pace of technological transformation in the US military, and because he could not stand to watch China overtake America.

In his first interview since leaving the post at the Department of Defense a week ago, Nicolas Chaillan told the Financial Times that the failure of the US to respond to Chinese cyber and other threats was putting his children’s future at risk.

“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion,” he said, adding there was “good reason to be angry”.

Chaillan, 37, who spent three years on a Pentagon-wide effort to boost cyber security and as first chief software officer for the US Air Force, said Beijing is heading for global dominance because of its advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber capabilities.

He argued these emerging technologies were far more critical to America’s future than hardware such as big-budget fifth-generation fighter jets such as the F-35.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) In America’s Next War, Machines Will Do the Thinking

TH: Where do you think that the Pentagon most needs to engage these innovative companies and people? Is it AI? Unmanned systems? Communications networks?

CB: All of it, but primarily autonomy. Autonomy — enabled by artificial intelligence, edge computing and other technologies — allows you to operate at scales and speeds that you simply cannot do under the traditional model of big, expensive, heavily manned systems that, no matter how much money you throw at them, will only be able to do a limited number of things. The problem is that China has been developing very precise capabilities to disrupt, disable, degrade and destroy those limited numbers of big things. This is our strategic problem. This is why our future force needs larger numbers of cheaper, more autonomous systems.

We’re not talking about photon torpedoes and intergalactic space travel. We’re talking about systems that are already in existence; that are imminently fieldable if we move with the right sense of urgency.

TH: In your book, you wrote a bit about the ethics of this and taking the human out of the “kill chain.” Is that something that’s going to happen?

CB: Yes, in time human beings will need to rely more on intelligent machines to help them understand, decide and act in warfare.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Books, China, Defense, National Security, Military, Science & Technology

(NYT) The End of a ‘Gilded Age’: China Is Bringing Business to Heel

Chinese tech companies are reeling from regulation. Nervous creditors are hoping for a bailout for China’s largest developer. Growing numbers of executives are going to jail. An entire industry is shutting down.

For China’s leader, Xi Jinping, it’s all part of the plan.

Under Mr. Xi, China is reshaping how business works and limiting executives’ power. Long in coming, but rapid in execution, the policies are driven by a desire for state control and self-reliance as well as concerns about debt, inequality and influence by foreign countries, including the United States.

Emboldened by swelling nationalism and his success with Covid-19, Mr. Xi is remaking China’s business world in his own image. Above all else, that means control. Where once executives had a green light to grow at any cost, officials now want to dictate which industries boom, which ones bust and how it happens. And the changes offer a glimpse of Mr. Xi’s vision for managing the economy, ahead of a political meeting expected to solidify his plans for an unprecedented third term in charge.

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Posted in China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(SCMP) Chinese scientists eye hypersonic weapon able to ‘fry’ telecoms systems in 10 seconds

Defeat an army without a fight and without casualties? Quite possible, if a new type of hypersonic weapon proposed by a team of rocket scientists in China becomes reality.

Designed to generate intense electromagnetic pulse capable of wiping out communication and power supply lines, the weapon would have a range of 3,000km – about the distance from China’s east coast to Guam. Cruising at six times the speed of sound, it would cover this distance in 25 minutes.

Unlike ballistic missiles, it would stay within the earth’s atmosphere to dodge space-based early warning systems, while using active stealth technology to avoid detection by radars on the ground, according to the team of researchers at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing.

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Posted in China, Military / Armed Forces, Science & Technology

(AFP) Living with Alzheimer’s: China’s health time bomb

Doctors diagnosed Chen with Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, where people suffer impaired cognitive function including memory loss, eventually needing full-time care.

Approximately 10 million people have been diagnosed with the degenerative — and incurable — brain disorder in China, which accounts for approximately a quarter of the world’s cases.

As the country’s population is rapidly aging, this figure is expected to soar to 40 million by 2050, according to a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The report warned this surge in cases would cost the economy $1 trillion each year in medical expenses and lost productivity as caregivers drop out of the workforce.

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, China, Health & Medicine

(WSJ) China’s Biggest Movie Star Was Erased From the Internet, and the Mystery Is Why

Zhao Wei spent the past two decades as China’s equivalent of Reese Witherspoon, a beloved actress turned business mogul.

She directed award-winning films, sold millions of records as a pop singer and built a large following on social media, amassing 86 million fans on Weibo, China’s Twitter -like microblogging site. She also made a fortune as an investor in Chinese technology and entertainment companies.

Today, the 45-year-old star has been erased from the Chinese internet. Searches for her name on the country’s biggest video-streaming sites come up blank. Her projects, including the wildly popular TV series “My Fair Princess,” have been removed. Anyone looking up her acclaimed film “So Young” on China’s equivalent of Wikipedia wouldn’t know she was the director; the field now reads “——.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Asia, Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(Washington Post) Xi Jinping’s crackdown on everything is remaking Chinese society

The orders have been sudden, dramatic and often baffling. Last week, “American Idol”-style competitions and shows featuring men deemed too effeminate were banned by Chinese authorities. Days earlier, one of China’s wealthiest actresses, Zhao Wei, had her movies, television series and news mentions scrubbed from the Internet as if she had never existed.

Over the summer, China’s multibillion-dollar private education industry was decimated overnight by a ban on for-profit tutoring, while new regulations wiped more than $1 trillion from Chinese tech stocks since a peak in February. As China’s tech moguls compete to donate more to President Xi Jinping’s campaign against inequality, “Xi Jinping Thought” is taught in elementary schools, and foreign games and apps like Animal Crossing and Duolingo have been pulled from stores.

A dizzying regulatory crackdown unleashed by China’s government has spared almost no sector over the past few months. This sprawling “rectification” campaign — with such disparate targets as ride-hailing services, insurance, education and even the amount of time children can spend playing video games — is redrawing the boundaries of business and society in China as Xi prepares to take on a controversial third term in 2022.

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Posted in China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(NYT front page) ‘They Have My Sister’: As Uyghurs Speak Out, China Targets Their Families

She was a gifted agricultural scientist educated at prestigious universities in Shanghai and Tokyo. She said she wanted to help farmers in poor areas, like her hometown in Xinjiang, in western China. But because of her uncle’s activism for China’s oppressed Muslim Uyghurs, her family and friends said, the Chinese state made her a security target.

At first they took away her father. Then they pressed her to return home from Japan. Last year, at age 30, Mihriay Erkin, the scientist, died in Xinjiang, under mysterious circumstances.

The government confirmed Ms. Erkin’s death but attributed it to an illness. Her uncle, Abduweli Ayup, the activist, believes she died in state custody.

Mr. Ayup says his niece was only the latest in his family to come under pressure from the authorities. His two siblings had already been detained and imprisoned. All three were targeted in retaliation for his efforts to expose the plight of the Uyghurs, he said.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) The Christian Heart of Hong Kong Activism

Joseph Cheng, 71, used to be one of Hong Kong’s busiest activists: a familiar presence in the media and a leading figure in several pro-democracy organizations. After retiring in 2015, the former political-science professor planned to live out his remaining days in the city. But Mr. Cheng’s life—a microcosm of Hong Kong’s recent history—has been turned upside down.

Last year’s so-called national-security law reclassified much ordinary activism as a criminal offense. On April 10, two days after I spoke to Mr. Cheng, authorities handed down sentences for campaigners including the media tycoon Jimmy Lai (14 months in prison) and the “father of Hong Kong democracy,” Martin Lee (a suspended sentence). Since then, the arrests have continued and Mr. Lai’s newspaper Apple Daily has been shut down.

Fearing prosecution, Mr. Cheng and his wife moved to Canberra, Australia, in July 2020. “It’s a quiet life,” he tells me. “Sometimes it’s a little bit lonely.” Because of Covid, his family members in Hong Kong can’t visit. “You feel bad to see friends arrested, prosecuted, sentenced to prison. But I understand that there is very little I can do.”

Mr. Cheng was born in 1949 to Chinese parents who had fled the civil war. He has, in turn, held the British colonial government to account as a leading member of the pressure group Hong Kong Observers; campaigned for political reform under Chinese rule; and now finds himself in de facto exile. He is also a practicing Catholic, and his career is a reminder of the remarkably strong Christian influence on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) China’s Propaganda Goes Viral With Videos of Happy Uyghurs

Recently, the owner of a small store in western China came across some remarks by Mike Pompeo, the former U.S. secretary of state. What he heard made him angry.

A worker in a textile company had the same reaction. So did a retiree in her 80s. And a taxi driver.

Pompeo had routinely accused China of committing human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, and these four people made videos to express their outrage. But they did so in oddly similar ways.

“Pompeo said that we Uyghurs are locked up and have no freedom,” the store owner said in his video. “We are very free now….”

Read it all (note please that the above is the title on the print edition).

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General

(Politico EU) Meet Wu Dao 2.0, the Chinese AI model making the West sweat

A new artificial intelligence model developed by Chinese researchers is performing untold feats with image creation and natural language processing — making rivals in Europe and the U.S. nervous about falling behind.

The model, dubbed Wu Dao 2.0, is able to understand everything people say — the grammar too — but can also recognize images and generate realistic pictures based on descriptions. It can also write essays and poems in traditional Chinese, as well as predict the 3D structures of proteins, POLITICO’S AI: Decoded reported.

Developed by the government-funded Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence and unveiled last week, Wu Dao 2.0 appears to be among the world’s most sophisticated AI language models.

Wu Dao 2.0’s creators say it’s 10 times more powerful than its closest rival GPT-3, developed by the U.S. firm OpenAI.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Science & Technology

(NAR) In China’s Communist Party, white collars now outnumber blue

For the first time ever, the number of professionals registered with the century-old Communist Party of China has exceeded the number of factory and farm laborers in its ranks, showing the changing nature of the self-described vanguard of the working class.

The Communist Party had nearly 32.19 million members who can be classified as white-collar workers at the end of 2019, according to data from its organization department, topping the 32.01 million registered industrial and service workers.

The Communist Party, which on July 1 will mark the 100th anniversary of its founding, states in its constitution that it “is the vanguard of the Chinese working class.” Article 1 of the national constitution says the “People’s Republic of China is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants.”

But Takashi Suzuki, associate professor of Chinese politics at Aichi Prefectural University in Japan, said that “with laborers and farmers no longer in the mainstream, the Communist Party is losing its identity as a political organization.”

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Posted in China

(NYT front page) China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births in Xinjiang

When China’s government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community in the region of Xinjiang to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisis from a declining birthrate. But in the Xinjiang region, China is forcing them to have fewer, tightening its grip on Muslim ethnic minorities and trying to orchestrate a demographic shift that will diminish their population growth.

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Posted in Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Women

(CNBC) China’s greenhouse gas emissions exceed those of U.S. and developed countries combined, report says

China’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 exceeded those of the U.S. and the developed world combined, according to a report published Thursday by research and consulting firm Rhodium Group.

The country’s emissions more than tripled during the past three decades, the report added.

China is now responsible for more than 27% of total global emissions. The U.S., which is the world’s second-highest emitter, accounts for 11% of the global total. India is responsible for 6.6% of global emissions, edging out the 27 nations in the EU, which account for 6.4%, the report said.

The findings come after a climate summit President Joe Biden hosted last month, during which Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his pledge to make sure the nation’s emissions peak by 2030. He also repeated China’s commitment to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury and urged countries to work together to combat the climate crisis.

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

(FT) China set to report first population decline in five decades

China is set to report its first population decline since the famine that accompanied the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s disastrous economic policy in the late 1950s that caused the deaths of tens of millions of people.

The current fall in population comes despite the relaxation of strict family planning policies, which was meant to reverse the falling birth rate of the world’s most populous country.

The latest Chinese census, which was completed in December but has yet to be made public, is expected to report the total population of the country at less than 1.4bn, according to people familiar with the research. In 2019, China’s population was reported to have exceeded the 1.4bn mark.

The people cautioned, however, that the figure was considered very sensitive and would not be released until multiple government departments had reached a consensus on the data and its implications.

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