Tag: China

Biden’s ‘Buy America’ policy affects US trade ties, Beijing hints at the possibility of new Cold War
Asia Pacific Focus

Biden’s ‘Buy America’ policy affects US trade ties, Beijing hints at the possibility of new Cold War

On Monday, US president Joe Biden signed a new executive order to focus on enhancing the US manufacturing and industrial sector. The Democratic president signed the executive order to promote the country’s long-standing ‘buy America’ policy. Biden used it to eliminate legal loopholes that limit the federal agencies in providing a favorable push to “Made in America” products. Biden’s order stands in line with his predecessor Donald Trump’s ‘America first’ policy.

While emphasizing about the existing ‘Buy American Act of 1933’, Biden said that the new order would make federal agencies to prioritize buying goods produced on US soil, but “these preferences have not always been implemented consistently or effectively”.

An official from the Biden administration said, “The dollars the federal government spends… are a powerful tool to support American workers and manufacturers. Contracting alone accounts for nearly $600 billion in federal spending.”

“I don’t buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Biden told reporters before signing the order. “American manufacturing was the arsenal of democracy in World War II and it must be part of the engine of American prosperity now.” But Biden’s vision for American domestic industry sparked conflict with one of its biggest trade rival, China.

Chinese Premier Xi Jinping called out against Biden’s protectionist policies and warned against the emergence of a new ‘cold war’, if the trend continues. Speaking at the World Economic Forum event, Xi said that nations should adopt a multilateral approach to combat the ongoing economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, instead of promoting reverse globalization, and favoring “decoupling and seclusion”.

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Though Xi avoided directly mentioning US or Biden’s executive order his words made it clear that his nation would not adhere to the dictates of the new administration in Washington. “To build small circles or start a new cold war, to reject, threaten or intimidate others, to wilfully impose decoupling, supply disruption or sanctions, and to create isolation or estrangement will only push the world into division and even confrontation” Xi said.

Xi added, “No global problem can be solved by any one country alone. There must be global action, global response, and global cooperation.” Besides, the Chinese President proposed the creation of an open world economy, which would “uphold the multilateral trading regime, discard discriminatory and exclusionary standards, rules and systems, and takedown barriers to trade, investment, and technological exchanges.”

The Chinese leader also condemned the bully behavior employed by one nation to take advantage of others, hinting at US formidable purchasing power. He said, “State-to-state relations should be coordinated and regulated through proper institutions and rules. The strong should not bully the weak. Decisions should not be made by simply showing off strong muscles or waving a big fist”.

EU-China agreement invites criticism for its hasty giveaway and overlooking Beijing’s human rights record
Asia Pacific Focus

EU-China agreement invites criticism for its hasty giveaway and overlooking Beijing’s human rights record

Members of European Parliament MEPs criticized the EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement (CIA) and the hurried manner in which it got formalized. Many slammed German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for her determination to secure the deal, overlooking not only Beijing’s questionable human rights record but also risking the EU’s ties with Washington. The agreement was seen by US and UK officials as nothing less than a geopolitical blunder. The Union pressed for the deal to be finalized by the end of 2020.

The report, presenting the complete analysis of the agreement, called it the worst negotiated deal as it provided the EU with the minimum additional market access along with “next to no means” to force Chinese authorities for the eradication of forced labor. The report published by the Institut Montaigne highlighted that the European Commission oversold the deal, mainly due to persistent pressure from Merkel. 

The report’s author François Godement said that the agreement could spur tensions between the bloc and US over its differences with regard to China’s human rights situation. Washington strongly slammed Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim minority community, Uyghur. On Tuesday, the newly appointed secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told the Senate that US needed to toughen its stand against China as the communist nation was committing genocide in Xinjiang province. His statement hinted at US adoption of tough trade approach towards Beijing.

Europe still has some hope, as MEPs hold the right to ratify the agreement but it would take about a year’s time to do so. European Parliament, which is currently reviewing the agreement, would be passing a motion next week condemning the way the agreement was processed hurriedly, reducing the EU’s support towards global human rights.

With regard to the motion, Godement said that the EU would “regret the fact that the decision for a political conclusion of the comprehensive agreement on investment (CAI) has not reflected the European parliament’s requests in previous resolutions on Hong Kong for using investment negotiations as a leverage tool aiming at preserving Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as well as its basic rights and freedoms”.

Godement objected to the deal on the basis that it permitted China “to build on Europe’s claims to have advanced its values while escaping enforcement and remedies on the issues that are at the heart of current public debates: environment and labor”.

He added: “Given China’s track record, it is impossible to rely on goodwill to implement commitments and unwise to believe that on key issues, a top-down political process between both parties can be substituted to legal arbitration… On WTO-plus issues, the deal fails to put a secure mechanism of implementation in place”.

Is geopolitics impacting the global telecom supply chain?

Is geopolitics impacting the global telecom supply chain?

Global telecom supply chain: Huawei is among the biggest tech giants and owner of the 5G patent, in contrast to the Western firms. However, stopping Huawei’s access to 5G chipsets from US semiconductor firms can hurt the American economy and moderate the 5G expansion. Closing doors on China would additionally disable the 5G future development.

Analyst for 5G Markets, Leo Gergs, referred to how ABI’s study “shows that forbidding Huawei and ZTE from 5G arrangements and confining their admittance to silicon and semiconductor supply chains will have extreme ramifications on economic performance. Besides, restricting these Chinese companies will hamper 5G and 6G R&D.” 

5G is designed to provide high-speed data transfer at a large scale for future applications. However, since the Federal Communications Commission ordered the Chinese telecom goliaths Huawei and ZTE as the national security threat, it could repress their 5G plans.

Since, December 12, 2019, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the U.S. have chosen to ban Chinese company Huawei’s products. In 2020, the UK also annnounced that all Telecoms companies should stop using Huawei hardware in the 5G mobile network from Sept. The UK administration’s announcement came before the law was passed, which later banned the Chinese company from the telecom network.

Huawei has been a market leader in telecom infrastructure and hence is the largest buyer of such equipment. However, since the row over US national security threat, the outbreak of coronavirus, India- China border issue, and many more reasons, many nations have criticized China. It led to more imposed sanctions by the US or cut business ties with them by many nations. 

However, the future will tell if geopolitics will impact the global telecom supply or not. On Dec 15, 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) Chairman Mukesh Ambani, during a historic virtual ‘Collaborating for Digital India’ last year discussed the 4G and 5G technology, RIL-Facebook association, and the part businesses can play in building India’s future economy. 

The Facebook CEO praised Reliance for bringing the 4G revolution in India and that 5G was presently another big venture for the company.

China censures the US trade ban on products in Xinjiang region over forced labor
Asia Pacific Focus

China censures the US trade ban on products in Xinjiang region over forced labor

US trade ban: The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced a ban on imports of China’s tomato and cotton products in the Xinjiang region over forced labor on Wednesday. 

On Thursday, China dismissed the decision and demanded Washington to drop the decision of banning cotton and tomato imports over forced labor allegations.

The ban adds to the numerous sanctions that were imposed by the Trump administration on Chinese products, companies, and officials over national security concerns and human rights complaints.

The US and China tensions soar higher during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic as the blame game began over the origin of the virus. 

A Chinese Foreign Ministry representative claimed without proof that the U.S. military brought the infection to China, while President Trump over and over called it a “Chinese virus.” 

The latest ban on the trade of cotton and tomato from China’s Xinjiang region was declared by its Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday following the UK and Canada presented similar actions. 

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) additionally criticized China for repressing Uygurs people in a human rights report and stated that the human rights situation in China is exacerbating.

The ban applies to raw fiber, textile, and apparel produced using Xinjiang’s cotton. It additionally applies to items made in other countries, Reuters revealed. 

On Thursday, the Chinese authorities, including the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and the Foreign Ministry (FM), asserted solid resistance to the prohibition, calling it an interference in the domestic affairs of China.

The forced labor accusation is a big lie, and it will damage the global business chain, the Chinese authorities added. 

The Chinese FM representative Zhao Lijian express that the forced labor allegation is the century’s biggest lie that the US and some Western nations made.

“The US is attempting to bolster its own farming advancement by setting such trade bans, including constraining China,” Zhu added, taking note that China could likewise consider countermeasures against the US government since forced labor issues exist in America too.

In a press conference on Thursday, Zhao reported that forced labor existed in the US as well, pointing towards Texas prisoners who were reportedly forced to work without pay for 12 hours to create masks during the COVID-19 outbreak, The Global Times reported.

China tightening its hold on Hong Kong elections: Report
Asia Pacific Focus

China tightening its hold on Hong Kong elections: Report

Hong Kong elections: China is planning to take further actions to curb pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong elections

A week after Hong Kong authorities arrested 53 pro-democracy activists in the territory, media reports are pointing at a further crackdown by China in the country to curb dissent.

These lawmakers, lawyers and activists were arrested under Hong Kong’s six-month-old National Security Law, on the charges of participating in unofficial primaries for pro-democracy candidates for the territory’s elections last year. Beijing termed the primaries “illegal” and a “provocation” of the electoral system in the semi-autonomous territory.

Amid this development, the People’s Daily newspaper, mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party, on Tuesday said that those people who will be found disloyal would not be allowed to run for the office. Chinese state media added that actions will be taken to ensure that anti-China and trouble-making forces are out of Hong Kong elections. 

In the aftermath of the imposition of the controversial security law in June 2020, authorities have targeted the media, arrested tens of political figures and activities, disqualified lawmakers, frozen their assets, seized their documents, phones and computers. Hundreds of activists have also fled into exile to avoid arrests.

World governments and international institutions have condemned Beijing’s actions to subvert democracy in the territory. The United Nations also raised alarming concerns over the arrest of 53 leading figures in Hong Kong, calling for their immediate release. 

Meanwhile, Beijing has continued to deny its action to curb freedom and human rights in the Asian financial hub.

As a report by the South China Morning Post newspaper last month, Chinese authorities are aiming to curb the limited influence of pro-democracy leaders on the 1200-person election committee that selects Hong Kong’s chief executive, such that candidates will require Beijing’s approval to contest in the elections. With the Chinese authorities seeking other changes in the electoral structure of Hong Kong, elections are expected to be delayed further.

While the Legislative Council elections were scheduled to take place in September 2020, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam postponed them citing health risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the legislative council has largely reduced to a pro-Beijing body after mass resignations, arrests and disqualification of pro-democracy lawmakers since the introduction of the security law.

As per reports, the standing committee of the National People’s Congress is scheduled to hold meetings between January 20 to 22 to decide the fate of elections in Hong Kong. 

After China allows entry to its research team, WHO wary of any concrete conclusions into Covid-19 origins and whereabouts
Asia Pacific Focus

After China allows entry to its research team, WHO wary of any concrete conclusions into Covid-19 origins and whereabouts

Covid-19 origins and whereabouts: After almost a year full of denials and negotiations, China authorized visit of WHO’s research expert team on Monday, but reservations remain in place as to how much access would they be really given on the investigative mission into origins of SARS-CoV-2 virus. Health expert associated with the WHO (World Health Organization) said that expectations must be set really low as to what definitive conclusion would be gathered by the WHO’s expert research team that is on its first visit to China. 

Dr. Dale Fisher, chairperson of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, that is coordinated by WHO, said, “I would be inclined to set the expectations of a conclusion very low for this visit. I think it’s an important meeting but it shouldn’t be overrated in terms of an outcome this time.” Fisher also participated in a WHO mission last year to Wuhan, China. 

The whole visit of WHO team has been a big diplomatic issue laced with negotiations up till the last moment, when Chinese authorities denied visa approval to team members few days before departure. Chances are that these hurdles will keep on popping up even when the mission is under progress. WHO expert scientists believe that meeting their Chinese counterparts is essential to understand the virus background, as they have been studying the virus since the beginning. 

WHO investigators are expected to arrive on Thursday as per the Chinese authorities but their itinerary hasn’t been confirmed by The National Health Commission. 

Beijing is currently under strict lockdown in an effort to wade off the last group of cases. On Monday, China recorded 103 cases which is its biggest daily spike in over five months. Hebei province surrounding Beijing is continuing to see rise in cases. 

Explaining WHO’s mission, Marion Koopmans, team member and Dutch virus expert said, “It starts with a mapping exercise of all the work that’s been done. That’s important because that may already help us direct in a certain direction for follow-up questions. We’ve been asked to discuss with our colleagues in China to work through as an actual scientific expedition.” 

Koopman added, “I don’t believe it is about blaming China. It’s about understanding and learning for the future of our global preparedness.”

China sat at the centre of huge conspiracy where it was accused of dangerous cover up of the Covid-19 virus when it first emerged in late 2019 in Wuhan. 

Ukraine stuck in vaccine geopolitics amid coronavirus pandemic

Ukraine stuck in vaccine geopolitics amid coronavirus pandemic

Vaccine Geopolitics: To begin with, the first talks with Pfizer company and other Western vaccine manufacturers to get early shipments imploded after the Trump administration restricted vaccine exports. Presently, chances are only if President-elect Joe Biden takes office, the soonest commercial purchase of Western vaccines will be possible, The New York Times reported.

The pace of Covid disease in Ukraine has eased back in recent weeks with over 7,000 new cases reported every day. Since the start of the pandemic, 19,712 Ukrainians have passed away due to the infection. Ukraine declared a nationwide lockdown beginning from this weekend.

The immunization situation has generated an information war in Ukraine, which has been stirred up by Russia. TV broadcasting pro-Russian perspectives along with politicians have blamed President Zelensky for permitting Ukrainians to cease to exist of a difficult refusal to procure medication from an enemy nation. 

The nation is already battling with a tug of war between East and West in European political issues, which has presently become a point of convergence in the geopolitics being played on the covid-19 vaccine.

According to The New York Times, Lyudmyla Boiko’s family has just had a frightening, and deadly, experience with the Covid pandemic. 

A few relatives acquired the virus, and her daughter-in-law’s mom passed away. Presently, Ms. Boiko, a 61-year-old working at the Botanical Garden in Ukraine, is profoundly stressed over her husband’s health, which has medical conditions yet has not yet contracted the disease. She is placing her faith in an immunization. 

“I don’t mind where the vaccine is delivered as long as it’s safe, “Wellbeing ought to be the priority, Ms. Boiko stated.” 

Ukraine’s situation has grabbed the attention of Russia’s state-controlled media sources, who have underlined Ukraine’s Western partner’s failure to help in the time of need and offering the Russian Sputnik V vaccine as the alternative. 

Ukraine’s leaders, who have raised concerns over the efficacy and safety of the Sputnik V instead opted for China, purchasing its first vaccine in a rushed arrangement by the end of December 2020. 

“Russia, as usual, utilizes this in its crossover battle, as a data weapon,” Maksym Stepanov, Ukraine’s health minister stated over a phone interview about the nation’s work towards immunizing its populace. “He stressed, that the vaccine issue has been politicized.” 

The Russian insult has shocked Ukrainian health authorities; however, there is little they can do to counter it without an elective vaccine stock. 

“Russia is seeking an aggressive policy for the vaccine,” Oleksandr Linchevsky, former deputy health minister stated. “It’s in Russia’s governmental interest that Ukraine gets the vaccine from somewhere else soon as possible,” he added.

Ukraine, with a populace of 42 million, is expecting to get 8,000,000 vaccine injections under the Covax program that provides middle and low-income nations. However, those doses are scheduled to arrive in March.

Before the banning of vaccine exports from the United States, Ukraine had been in talks with Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson to accelerate delivery. However, the negotiations are in process, the delivery time is deferred.

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky has scarcely contained his shock at his nation ending up far back in the line for immunizations in spite of its uncertain geopolitical situation.

Pompeo threatens China with sanctions over Hong Kong detentions
Asia Pacific Focus

Pompeo threatens China with sanctions over Hong Kong detentions

Pompeo threatens China: In response to China’s detention of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong on Wednesday, including a US citizen, John Clancey, US threatened to issue sanctions against those involved in the arrest. On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the China’s crack down of power over protestors and said he was “appalled” by the arrest of an American citizen. In a strong message to Beijing, which might lead to retaliation, Pompeo said, “The United States will not tolerate the arbitrary detention or harassment of US citizens.” 

Pompeo called the act  an “outrage and a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party’s contempt for its own people and the rule of law.” He said, “The United States will consider sanctions and other restrictions on any and all individuals and entities involved in executing this assault on the Hong Kong people.”  Besides, the US Secretary of State added that Washington might even “explore restrictions against the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the United States, and take additional immediate actions against officials who have undermined Hong Kong’s democratic processes.”

Timing of Pompeo’s statement did not play out in his favour as the detention in Beijing was followed by barbaric intervention of Trump supporters in Congress, in a bid to overturn the Presidential election results, which otherwise claimed Joe Biden as the country’s next President. On Thursday, Trump finally conceded his defeat and accepted that Joe Biden, who is due to be sworn in on Jan. 20, would succeed him.

The entire episode at US Capitol was enough for Chinese state media to mock at its rival’s internal affairs, especially when Washington has been pointing fingers at state of affairs in Hong Kong. On Friday, Beijing accused Washington of holding  “double standards.”

“In Hong Kong, violent actions are described as a ‘beautiful sight,’ in the U.S., people involved in this chaos are called ‘mobs’,” said The Global Times, a state-owned tabloid.

With respect to Pompeo’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it a serious interference in China’s internal affairs. He said, “China will take all necessary steps to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and security interests. The United States must pay a heavy price for its mistakes.” He also warned Washington “to stop its crazy provocation” and added that “whoever plays with fire will burn himself.”

On Wednesday, Chinese authorities took about 53 activities and politicians in its custody, under the new security law. The American human rights lawyer Clancey, who was later granted bail along with few others on Thursday, said that the pro-democracy supporters would “continue to work for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.”

Besides US, many rights groups including Amnesty International also slammed the Chinese authorities for misusing the national security law. The rights group said that the arrests were “the starkest demonstration yet of how the national security law has been weaponised to punish anyone who dares to challenge the establishment”. 

Maya Wang, Chinese senior researcher at Human Rights Watch said, “Beijing once again has failed to learn from its mistakes in Hong Kong: that repression generates resistance & that millions of HK people will persist in their struggle for their right to vote and run for office in a democratically elected government”

According to the handover of the former British colony to China by the British regime in 1997, it was decided that the semi-autonomous territory would be operated by Beijing under “one country, two systems” principle. Of late, Beijing started pressing greater control over the city, drawing criticism that Hong Kong’s freedoms were under threat.

Why Taiwan Is The Moot Point In Sino-American Dynamics?

Why Taiwan Is The Moot Point In Sino-American Dynamics?

Sino-American Dynamics: The ‘nobody’ that Taiwan has been, it is going to derive a kind of prominence it has never seen before. As the small island develops its prowess in the semiconductor manufacturing trade, it is going to its closest ally the United States huge competition. It is worth noting that the United States has dominated the semi-conductor market for a long time. 

A recent visit planned by the US envoy to the United Nations to Taiwan, did not go well with Beijing. China accused America of crossing its line and disrupting Chinese sovereignty that continues to claim ownership on Taiwan. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft will visit Taiwan; something that is should be seen as a clear provocation of the ‘One China’ policy, as there is change of guard at the White House. 

The US has never recognized the sovereignty of Taiwan but treats it as a point of irritation against China. Ironically, some 17 countries worldwide still shows Taiwan the respect it deserves. The United Nations does not and still considers Taipei’s legitimate government to be running from Beijing. While China has been claiming its right on Taiwan, it has made no moves to physically claim this small but significant island. 

Taiwan continues to be a crucial link in the semiconductor supply chain and the 22nd largest economy in the world. Surprisingly, it has let US dictate terms of trade with itself, without acknowledging it as an independent nation. 

Taiwan has not dominated significant international presence. But geopolitically, it has strategic importance to both the United States and an increasingly assertive China. In no way can US afford Taiwan to be taken over by China; because if that was to happen, China would instantly become a Pacific power.

As political analysts predict, it will take no time for China to get down to controlling some of the world’s most cutting-edge technologies, and have the ability to choke off oil shipments to Japan and South Korea. This could further lead it to leverage a strong demand to close down the U.S. military bases in both countries as well. 

Indeed, Beijing would likely be able to force the U.S. out of Asia after all. It is no surprise, then, that Taiwan had been of the rare issues on Capitol Hill where the Congress continued to pass pro-Taiwan legislation. 

More importantly, Taiwan needs to assert its sovereignty in order it can grow itself in a level playing ground. 

China blocks WHO research team entry to study SARS-CoV-2 virus origin
Asia Pacific Focus

China blocks WHO research team entry to study SARS-CoV-2 virus origin

China blocks WHO research: WHO stands shocked as its team has been blocked from entering China to investigate origin of SARS-CoV-2 virus leading to coronavirus pandemic. China has cited the reason of visa approvals of team officials, which is still pending, for entry denial. 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO (World Health Organization) has expressed his disappointment and consternation over China’s disapproval of the global organization’s team. He said, “I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members have already begun their journeys, and others were not able to travel at the last minute.” 

He added, “But I have been in contact with senior Chinese officials. And I have once again made it clear that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team.” 

It has been months now that WHO has been trying to send its team comprising of experts from many countries to China. The talks regarding this have been on table with Chinese officials since July. One of the prime objective of this investigative study is to determine the whereabouts of virus and how it leapt through species into humans. 

It has been made clear that the team is going to head to Wuhan to investigate the earliest cases of Covid-19, and not probe the ‘claims’ that the virus was developed in Chinese labs. This baseline has been outwardly criticized by US, as President Donald Trump has been downright blaming China for pandemic. 

Two members of the WHO team who had to travel long journeys have already started their journeys. But later it was made clear that Chinese authorities haven’t approved their visas. Dr. Mike Ryan of WHO said that the team was working closely with Chinese counterparts with the understanding that they will be deployed on Tuesday. One of the two members has returned back mid-journey while other is in transit in a third country. 

The team is hoping the whole development as “just a logistical and bureaucratic issue that can be resolved very quickly.” 

Back in 2002-2003, havoc was wrecked across the world as SARS, another coronavirus, had emerged in China. The global crisis back then laid open the need of transparency and cooperation among nations, and this was the only way through which world could get hold of the situation and emerge from the health crisis. The situation was also well understood by China back then, after which it worked on and reorganized its health ministry and healthcare framework. But the outlook of Beijing in current pandemic is nothing but a ‘closing of mind’. 

The current need of coming together of all countries to fight this global crisis has been overpowered by the geopolitics. The hostilities developed and exponentiated during pandemic is now getting in way of determining the background of virus origin. Geopolitics and trade wars must not get in way of the current need of working together to emerge victorious from the crisis and not let humanity suffer. 

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