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China pips US as leader in scientific research output

The Japanese NISTP report also found that Chinese research comprised 27.2 per cent of the world’s top 1 per cent most frequently cited papers….reports Asian Lite News

China has overtaken the US as the world leader in both scientific research output and “high impact” studies, according to a report published by Japans science and technology ministry.

The report, which was published by Japan’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTP) on Tuesday, found that China now publishes the highest number of scientific research papers yearly, followed by the US and Germany, the Guardian reported.

The figures were based on yearly averages between 2018 and 2020, and drawn from data compiled by the analytics firm Clarivate.

The Japanese NISTP report also found that Chinese research comprised 27.2 per cent of the world’s top 1 per cent most frequently cited papers.

The number of citations a research paper receives is a commonly used metric in academia.

The more times a study is cited in subsequent papers by other researchers, the greater its “citation impact”, the Guardian reported.

The US accounted for 24.9 per cent of the top 1 per cent most highly cited research studies, while UK research was third at 5.5 per cent.

China published a yearly average of 407,181 scientific papers, pulling ahead of the US’s 293,434 journal articles and accounting for 23.4 per cent of the world’s research output, the report found.

China accounted for a high proportion of research into materials science, chemistry, engineering and mathematics, while US researchers were more prolific in research into clinical medicine, basic life sciences and physics, the Guardian reported.

The report was published on the day US President Joe Biden signed the Chips and Science Act, legislation that would authorise $200 billion in research funding over 10 years to make US scientific research more competitive with China.

ALSO READ: US rethinks steps on China tariffs  

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US rethinks steps on China tariffs  

President considering a combination of eliminating some tariffs, launching a new “Section 301” investigation into potential areas for additional tariffs, and expanding a list of tariff exclusions to aid US companies that can only get certain supplies from China…reports Asian Lite News

China’s war games around Taiwan have led Biden administration officials to recalibrate their thinking on whether to scrap some tariffs or potentially impose others on Beijing, setting those options aside for now, according to sources familiar with the deliberations.

President Joe Biden has not made a decision on the issue, officials said. His team has been wrestling for months with various ways to ease the costs of duties imposed on Chinese imports during predecessor Donald Trump’s tenure, as it tries to tamp down skyrocketing inflation.

It has considered a combination of eliminating some tariffs, launching a new “Section 301” investigation into potential areas for additional tariffs, and expanding a list of tariff exclusions to aid US companies that can only get certain supplies from China.

The tariffs make Chinese imports more expensive for US companies, which, in turn, make products cost more for consumers. Bringing down inflation is a major goal for Biden, a Democrat, ahead of the November midterm elections, which could shift control of one or both houses of Congress to Republicans.

But Beijing’s response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit last week to Taiwan triggered a recalculation by administration officials, who are eager not to do anything that could be viewed by China as an escalation while also seeking to avoid being seen as retreating in the face of the communist country’s aggression.

Nancy Pelosi (Picture Credits: https://twitter.com/SpeakerPelosi/status/1554496902812602370)

China’s military for days took part in ballistic missile launches and simulated attacks on the self-ruled island of Taiwan that China claims as its own.

“I think Taiwan has changed everything,” said one source familiar with the latest developments in the process, details of which have not been previously reported.

A senior administration official made clear Biden had not reached a decision.

“The president had not made a decision before events in the Taiwan Strait and has still not made a decision, period. All options remain on the table,” the official said. “The only person who will make the decision is the president – and he will do so based on what is in our interests.”

With the most forceful measures regarding tariff relief and tariff escalation largely on the back burner for now, focus is on the so-called exclusions list.

The Trump administration had approved tariff exclusions for more than 2,200 import categories, including many critical industrial components and chemicals, but those expired as Biden took office in January 2021. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has reinstated only 352 of them.

The Biden administration’s next steps could have a significant impact on hundreds of billions of dollars of trade between the world’s two largest economies.

US industries from consumer electronics and retailers to automotive and aerospace have been clamoring for Biden to eliminate the duties of up to 25 percent as they struggle with rising costs and tight supplies.

The tariffs were imposed in 2018 and 2019 by Trump on thousands of Chinese imports valued then at $370 billion to pressure China over its suspected theft of US intellectual property.

Some senior administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, had argued the duties were imposed on “non-strategic” consumer goods that had unnecessarily raised costs for consumers and businesses, and removing them could help ease rampant inflation. Tai argued the tariffs were “significant leverage” that should be used to press China for changes to its behavior.

Multiple factors, in addition to China’s Taiwan response, have complicated the administration’s deliberations.

As US officials considered getting rid of some of the tariffs, they sought reciprocal rollbacks from Beijing and were rebuffed, two sources said. A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.

One of the sources, who said a unilateral removal of some US tariffs on Chinese imports has been put on hold, said this was done in part because China failed to show any willingness to take reciprocal actions or meet its “Phase 1” trade deal commitments.

That deal, reached at the end of 2019 with the Trump administration, required China to increase its purchases of US farm and manufactured goods, energy and services by $200 billion in 2020 and 2021 over 2017 levels.

China fell well short of these commitments, which included a $77.7 billion two-year increase in imports of US manufactured goods, including aircraft, machinery, vehicles and pharmaceuticals.

The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that China effectively bought none of the extra goods it promised. Beijing blamed the COVID-19 pandemic, which began just as the deal was signed in January 2020.

The US Trade Representative’s office is now in the midst of a statutory four-year review of the tariffs imposed by Trump, which could take a few more months to complete. Final public comments on whether to keep them in place are due by Aug. 23.

Union groups led by the United Steelworkers have urged labor USTR to keep the tariffs on Chinese goods in place to help “level the playing field” for workers in the United States and reduce US reliance on Chinese suppliers.

Biden has been concerned about rolling back tariffs in part because of labor, which is a key constituency for him, and because of China’s failure to buy the products it had agreed to purchase, according to the first source. The White House has declined to lay out a timeline for when a final decision will be made.

ALSO READ: Will Lanka stand up to China on spy ship row?

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Will Lanka stand up to China on spy ship row?

China is also aware that the mood in Sri Lanka is fairly anti-China and also anti-Gotabaya Rajapaksa as people are questioning whether expensive Chinese infrastructure projects…reports Rahul Kumar

By mounting pressure on Sri Lanka to accept a research ship, which India calls a spy ship, Beijing is testing the depth and the mood in the new Sri Lankan administration of President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Experts say that by insisting that Sri Lanka invite the Yuan Wang 5 tracking and survey vessel to dock at the Hambantota Port on August 11 for a week, China has shown duplicity in its relations with Sri Lanka. Though China has not stepped forward to help Sri Lanka – which is grappling with public discontent and a grave financial crisis since the beginning of this year, Beijing is definitely asserting itself on the new administration in Colombo.

China is also aware that the mood in Sri Lanka is fairly anti-China and also anti-Gotabaya Rajapaksa as people are questioning whether expensive Chinese infrastructure projects – the airport in Hambantota, the Lotus tower in Colombo and many others – were for the benefit of Sri Lanka or the Chinese companies. Sri Lanka had to give away the Hambantota Port on lease to China for 99 years after it could not pay off the debt incurred on the construction of the port.

Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at South Asian University, Dhananjay Tripathi says: “Sri Lanka is caught in a quandary. It cannot refuse China because it is under a pile of debt. Also, by giving a nod to the entry of the ship we can see that there is a strong Chinese influence in the current administration”.

Tripathi says that there will also be a section in India’s neighbouring countries that will be anti-India. “We have a section that opposes India in Sri Lanka as well. But I feel that India should ignore such voices. Over time these voices will get neutralised”. Many anti-India sentiments are driven by personal political agendas as well external forces, he added.

India has, largely, been the only country to have come to Sri Lanka’s aid since the beginning of this year with nearly $4 billion in lines of credit (LoC) and humanitarian aid. Colombo’s repeated requests for help went unheard in Beijing.

Regarding the comments made by the outspoken Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Monday, Tripathi says: “It is very cunning of China to use a third country to spy on India. If Sri Lanka is a sovereign country with the right to develop relations with other countries, India too is a sovereign State with a genuine right to express its concerns over the arrival of a spy ship”.

In a regular foreign ministry briefing on Monday, Wang had said that it was “completely unjustified for certain countries to cite the so-called ‘security concerns’ to pressure Sri Lanka.” He was indirectly referring to India.

India had last week asked Sri Lanka to defer the ‘Yuan Wang 5’ research ship’s docking at the commercial port of Hambantota over fears that the ship will be detrimental to India’s defence and economic interests in the Indian Ocean region.

Military experts say that the ship is one of China’s latest space-tracking ships which can monitor satellites, missiles and rockets, and hence India’s concerns.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

ALSO READ: China concludes Taiwan drills

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China-led mining in Myanmar fuels rights abuses, pollution

Though China is the world’s largest producer of rare earth minerals, it buys the ore from neighbouring Myanmar, exploiting its cheaper labour….reports Asian Lite News

Chinas outsourcing of rare earth mining to Myanmar has prompted a rapid expansion of the industry there, fuelling human rights abuses, damaging the environment and propping up pro-juna militias, according to a new report published by rights group Global Witness.

The report, entitled “Myanmar’s Poisoned Mountains”, used satellite imagery to determine that what amounted to a “handful” of rare earth mines in Myanmar’s Kachin state in 2016 had ballooned to more than 2,700 mining collection pools at almost 300 separate locations, covering an area the size of Singapore, by March 2022, slightly more than a year after the military seized power in a coup, RFA reported..

Global Witness found that China had outsourced much of its industry across the border to a remote corner of Kachin state, which it said is now the world’s largest source of the minerals used in green energy technologies, smartphones and home electronics.

“Our investigation reveals that China has effectively offshored this toxic industry to Myanmar over the past few years, with terrible consequences for local communities and the environment,” RFA quoted Global Witness CEO Mike Davis as saying.

The local warlord in charge of the mining territory, Zakhung Ting Ying, has become the “central broker” of Myanmar’s rare earth industry, the report said, along with other leaders of militias loyal to the military regime, making backroom deals with Chinese companies that are illegal under the country’s laws.

Global Witness noted that the processes used to extract heavy rare earth minerals have polluted local ecosystems, destroyed livelihoods and poisoned drinking water. It said multiple health issues reported near the rare earth mines in China have also been reported by residents living close to the mines in Myanmar.

Global Witness said that its findings come amid a huge increase in demand for the minerals as production of green energy technologies ramps up. Sales of processed rare earth minerals for magnet productions are expected to triple by 2035.

The group warned of a high risk that the minerals are finding their way into the supply chains of major household name companies that use heavy rare earths in their products including Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors, Siemens and Mitsubishi Electric, RFA reported.

The US Geological Survey estimates that about 240,000 tons of rare earth minerals were mined globally in 2020, with China accounting for 140,000 tons, followed by the US with 38,000 tons and Myanmar with 30,000 tons.

Though China is the world’s largest producer of rare earth minerals, it buys the ore from neighbouring Myanmar, exploiting its cheaper labour.

Myanmar exported more than 140,000 tons of rare earth deposits to China, worth more than $1 billion between May 2017 and October 2021, according to China’s State Taxation Administration.

ALSO READ: China concludes Taiwan drills

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China to provide $181 million aid to Nepal

Besides providing a new batch of economic assistance to Nepal, both sides also reached several other agreements and understanding…reports Asian Lite News

China has announced to provide an 800 million yuan ($181 million) aid to Nepal for this year.

The announcement was made by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his meeting with his Nepal counterpar Narayan Khadka in Qingdao on Wednesday.

Khadka is on a three-day visit to China at the invitation of Wang, who is also the State Councillor.

The trip comes at a time during simmering tensions between China and Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island last week.

During the meeting, Khadka reiterated Nepal’s unwavering commitment to ‘One China Policy’ and assured that the Nepali territory will not be allowed to be used for any activity against Beijing.

In his address, Wang reiterated China’s continued and unconditional support to Nepal’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and assured to support in the country’s development endeavours as per the priority of the government in Kathmandu, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry here.

Besides providing a new batch of economic assistance to Nepal, both sides also reached several other agreements and understanding, the Ministry added.

As Nepal is witnessing a crippling shortage of chemical fertiliser, China has agreed to provide it.

Upon Nepal’s request, China has assured that it will positively consider providing chemical fertiliser and to study the feasibility of establishing a chemical fertiliser plant in Nepal, said the Ministry.

“The State Councillor agreed to assist Nepal’s agricultural sector. He also agreed to encourage Chinese investment in developing manufacturing capacity of Nepal and enhance cooperation in the export of Nepali tea and traditional medicinal herbs,” the statement said, adding that Khadka and Wang decided to establish a joint mechanism for Covid-19 control in border ports.

They also agreed to open Rasuwa-Kyerung and Tatopani-Jangmu ports for two-way trade which was hit by the pandemic.

The ports are the major trading zones between Nepal and China.

The two sides also agreed to utilise the Hilsa-Pulang port for one way trade which will take place as soon as the fresh wave of Covid-19 pandemic in Tibet is controlled.

“In support of people being affected by disasters and natural calamities in different parts of Nepal, Wang announced to provide Nepal with 3 million yuan worth of disaster relief materials as per Nepal’s request. China will also provide Nepal with additional 2 million yuan worth of medical items and logistics,” the Ministry statement said.

The State Councillor also announced that China will provide additional Covid-19 vaccines and pandemic related medical assistance as much as Nepal may require

Wang announced that China would provide support to the establishment of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cells (CAR T cells) manufacturing laboratory in Civil Service Hospital to treat blood cancer and provide necessary training to Nepali health professionals.

The Civil Hospital was built by Chinese assistance.

Wng further said that all the remaining Nepali students who wish to return to China can proceed for visa procedures, while fulfilling the health protocols, to resume their studies.

Both sides agreed to form a bilateral technical committee to do necessary preparation towards the functioning of existing mechanism of Nepal-China Joint Boundary Inspection Committee.

Nepal and China have some issues over boundary dispute in some places.

ALSO READ: China concludes Taiwan drills

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China concludes Taiwan drills

Military training and other preparations will also continue, the PLA command said, adding that it would “resolutely protect” China’s sovereignty and territorial integrit….reports Asian Lite News

China’s military exercises around Taiwan have been “successfully” completed for “the time being”, the eastern command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced, easing a crisis that had escalated fears about the risk of armed conflict.

Through joint military operations by the armed forces in the sea and air space around the island, the combat capability of the army had been “effectively tested”, dpa news agency quoted the PLA as saying on Wednesday evening.

However, changes in the situation in the Taiwan Strait would continue to receive close attention and “regular patrols” are planned.

Military training and other preparations will also continue, the PLA command said, adding that it would “resolutely protect” China’s sovereignty and territorial integrit.

In response to a visit to Taiwan by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi last week, China had been conducting large-scale military exercises around the self-governing island.

It was originally announced that the “combat exercises” were to end on Sunday, but they were then extended.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence said late Wednesday that its armed forces will flexibly adjust their stance in accordance with threats posed by the enemy and the regional characteristics.

According to the Ministry, as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, 10 Chinese navy warships and 36 warplanes were detected in the region surrounding Taiwan over the course of the day.

Among them, 17 Chinese jet fighters crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, it said.

Earlier, China had again threatened to take Taiwan by military means if necessary.

“We will work with the greatest sincerity and exert our utmost efforts to achieve peaceful reunification,” it said in a white paper on the Taiwan issue published by the Chinese government on Wednesday morning.

“But we will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures.”

China has repeatedly made similar threats regarding Taiwan in the past.

“We want to make it clear here that the people of Taiwan hope to see peace. We don’t provoke, We don’t escalate conflicts. Taiwan will never retreat when we defend sovereignty and national security,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday afternoon at a meeting of her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan’s government agency on policy dealings with Beijing, said that the white paper conveyed false statements.

The MAC clarified that the fact of the status quo is that Taiwan insists that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are not subordinate to each other and Taiwan rejects the model of “One Country, Two Systems” that Beijing used to bring Hong Kong back under its control.

The Council urged Beijing to acknowledge Taiwan’s constitutional system, which upholds democracy and freedom, and urged it further not to violate Taiwan’s sovereignty.

The Council also called on democratic partners in the world to continue to support Taiwan.

The Chinese leadership rejects official contact by other countries with Taiwan because it regards the island as part of its territory.

Taiwan, on the other hand, has long seen itself as independent.

ALSO READ: China reiterates threats to Taiwan

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China reiterates threats to Taiwan

The latest tensions were triggered last week by a visit to Taipei by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who travelled there despite Beijing’s fierce opposition….reports Asian Lite News

Amid the continuing tensions over Taiwan, China on Wednesday again threatened to take the democratic self-governing island by military means if necessary.

“We will work with the greatest sincerity and exert our utmost efforts to achieve peaceful reunification,” dpa news agency quoted a white paper on the Taiwan issue published by the Chinese government as saying.

“But we will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. Use of force would be the last resort taken under compelling circumstances. We will only be forced to take drastic measures to respond to the provocation of separatist elements or external forces should they ever cross our red lines.

Photo taken on Aug. 5, 2022 shows a Taiwan military vessel as seen from a warship of the navy of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during the navy’s combat exercises and training in the waters around the Taiwan Island. The Eastern Theater Command on Friday continued joint combat exercises and training in the waters and airspace around the Taiwan Island. (Photo by Lin Jian/Xinhua/IANS)

“Let there be no doubt, we will tolerate no foreign interference in Taiwan, we will thwart any attempt to divide our country, and we will combine as a mighty force for national reunification and rejuvenation.

“The historic goal of reuniting our motherland must be realized and will be realised,” it said.

China has repeatedly made similar threats regarding Taiwan in the past.

The latest tensions were triggered last week by a visit to Taipei by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who travelled there despite Beijing’s fierce opposition.

In response, China launched war games including live-fire drills in six maritime areas around Taiwan.

The Chinese leadership rejects such official contact by other countries with Taiwan because it regards the island as part of its territory.

Taiwan, on the other hand, has long seen itself as independent.

ALSO READ: India takes a dig at China in UN

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India takes a dig at China in UN

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj on Tuesday said the practice of placing holds and blocks on listing requests without giving any justification must end…reports Asian Lite News

Taking a dig at China, India has told a UN Security Council meeting chaired by Beijing that it was “most regrettable” that genuine and evidence-based proposals to blacklist some of the world’s most notorious terrorists are being placed on hold, saying such “double standards” are rendering credibility of the Council’s sanctions regime at an “all-time low”.

In June, China, a permanent member of the UN and a close ally of Pakistan, had put a hold, at the last moment, on a joint proposal by India and the US to list Pakistan-based terrorist Abdul Rehman Makki under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj on Tuesday said the practice of placing holds and blocks on listing requests without giving any justification must end.

“An effective functioning of the Sanctions Committees requires them to become more transparent, accountable and objective. The practice of placing holds and blocks on listing requests without giving any justification must end,” she said.

Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting on ‘Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts’ chaired by permanent-member and Council President for the month of China, Ms Kamboj said, “It is most regrettable that genuine and evidence-based listing proposals pertaining to some of the most notorious terrorists in the world are being placed on hold.”

“Double standards and continuing politicisation have rendered the credibility of the Sanctions Regime at an all-time low. We do hope that all members of the UNSC can pronounce together in one voice, sooner than later, when it comes to this collective fight against international terrorism,” she said.

Abdul Rehman Makki is a US-designated terrorist and brother-in-law of Lashkar-e-Taiba head and 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

It was learnt that New Delhi and Washington had put a joint proposal to designate Abdul Rehman Makki as a global terrorist under the 1267 ISIS and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council but Beijing placed a hold on this proposal at the last minute.

Earlier also, China, an all-weather friend of Islamabad, had placed holds and blocks on bids by India and its allies to list Pakistan-based terrorists.

In May 2019, India had won a huge diplomatic win at the UN when the global body designated Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist”, a decade after New Delhi had first approached the world body on the issue.

A veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, China was the sole hold-out in the 15-nation body on the bid to blacklist Masood Azhar, blocking attempts by placing a “technical hold”. All decisions of the committee are taken through consensus.

Stalemate in India-China talks

While India pushed for a comprehensive disengagement, China’s refusal to discuss Demchok and Depsang had stalled all further progress in talks

The stalemate in the talks between India and China to end the standoff in Eastern Ladakh continues with no breakthrough in the 16th round of Corps Commander talks held last month.

In the interim, the two sides agreed to maintain the “security and stability” on the ground in the Western Sector along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a joint statement issued had said.

“The two sides agreed to stay in close contact and maintain dialogue through military and diplomatic channels and work out a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest,” the statement said. The talks were held at Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Indian side and lasted for over 12 hours.

Building on the progress made at the last meeting on March 11, 2022, the two sides continued discussions for the resolution of the relevant issues along the LAC in the Western Sector in a “constructive and forward looking manner.”

Stating that they had a frank and in-depth exchange of views in this regard, in keeping with the guidance provided by the State leaders to work for the resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest, the statement added: “The two sides reaffirmed that the resolution of remaining issues would help in restoration of peace and tranquility along the LAC in the Western Sector and enable progress in bilateral relations.”

While an agreement for disengagement from Patrolling Point-15 was close by in the last few rounds of talks, China’s refusal to discuss other friction areas, Demchok and Depsang, maintaining that they are not part of the current stand-off, has stalled any progress. India has been insisting on comprehensive disengagement and de-escalation to end the ongoing standoff in eastern Ladakh.

Since the stand-off began in May 2020, the two sides have so far held 15 rounds of senior military commander talks with disengagement undertaken from both sides of Pangong Tso in February 2021, and from PP 17 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area in August, in addition to Galwan in 2020 after the violent clash. The 15th round of Corps Commander talks took place on March 11, 2022.

ALSO READ-Why Beijing must link One-China Policy with One-India policy

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China is warning US with extended drills around Taiwan

Taiwan is a critical part of the global supply chains dealing with microchips and semiconductors, which go into everything ranging from mobile phones to electric cars…writes Atul Aneja

China’s decision to extend military drills around Taiwan, is an effort to sharpen the message to the United States not to join the island territory in a possible war with Beijing.

On Monday, China’s eastern theatre command announced that it was extending the military manoeuvres surrounding Taiwan, which began following the controversial visit to the territory by the US House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The four-day exercises which were to terminate on Sunday, were an effort to demonstrate that China could blockade the island and disrupt global trade.

Taiwan is a critical part of the global supply chains dealing with microchips and semiconductors, which go into everything ranging from mobile phones to electric cars.

In the last four days, the Chinese had curated their exercises to send some unvarnished messages to deter Taiwan and more so, the United States, from interfering in case Beijing decided to capture the territory, which it has designated as its own.

Photo taken on Aug. 5, 2022 shows a Taiwan military vessel as seen from a warship of the navy of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during the navy’s combat exercises and training in the waters around the Taiwan Island. The Eastern Theater Command on Friday continued joint combat exercises and training in the waters and airspace around the Taiwan Island. (Photo by Lin Jian/Xinhua/IANS)

According to China’s logic, Pelosi’s visit would further encourage forces inside Taiwan to declare independence-a clear violation of the one-China principle. China has declared that apart from Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang are also its inalienable territorial units. It cites Hong Kong and Macao as examples of “peaceful unification”-a template that Taiwan must also follow or face the possibility of a military takeover.

Before announcing the extension of the exercise, the Chinese had fired 11 ballistic missiles. Five of them fell in the sea east of Taiwan, the Taiwanese foreign ministry said. By targeting the area, China was apparently showing intent to stop the US seventh fleet from joining Taiwan in the war against China through the Taiwan straits.

Located between China’s Fujian province and the main Taiwan island, the Taiwan strait at its narrowest point is only 160 kilometres wide.

Based in Yokosuka in Japan the Seventh Fleet deploys massive fire power comprising 50-70 ships, 150 aircraft and 27,000 Sailors and Marines.

Two of the missiles were fired into the sea southwest of Taiwan near the Bashi Channel. The Bashi channel is part of the Luzon strait, which separates the orchid island of Taiwan from the Philippines. Significantly, several undersea cables that carry data and telephone traffic to southeast Asia pass through the channel, making it a prized target to disrupt the internet in the region.

Besides, the Bashi channel is crucial for the transit of US aircraft carriers from the South China Sea to the Philippine Sea to the north. By trying to demonstrate their missile reach, the Chinese are trying to send the message that they can delay the arrival of US firepower by at least a week, during which the military operation to take over Taiwan could apparently conclude.

The extended round of the exercise that began on Monday included anti-submarine drills, to deter the US from using these highly potent underwater platforms.

In trying to enforce a blockade, the Chinese have been attempting to exercise control over the territory’s key ports. These include the Keelung Port and Taipei Port in the north, the Taichung port, Kaohsiung port in the south and Hualien Port in the east. “If the PLA exercises take a long time, it will constitute a substantial blockage of Taiwan,” Global Times, the garrulous mouthpiece of the CPC, quoted a Chinese military expert as saying.

The PLA’ s drills this time are “comprehensive and highly targeted,” showing the determination of resolving the Taiwan question once and for all, another Chinese military commentator Song Zhongping told the daily.

The drill should be viewed as a war plan rehearsal, Song said, “In the event of a future military conflict, it is likely that the operational plans currently being rehearsed will be directly translated into combat operations.”

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

ALSO READ: Why Beijing must link One-China Policy with One-India policy

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China’s ‘debt-trap’ pushing Laos to economic crisis

The 418-km Laos-China railway is a joint venture between Beijing Railway group and two other Chinese government-owned companies with a 70 per cent stake and a Laotian state company with 30 per cent…reports Asian Lite News

Laos, a south-east Asian nation is at a high risk of default as the country has taken huge loans from China to build its large-scale infrastructure projects, giving new momentum to the ‘debt trap’ diplomacy.

Laos is at high risk as it is deeply indebted to China for large-scale infrastructure projects, financial experts said.

And the international rating agency Moody’s downgraded Laos’ credit rating to Caa3 in mid -June, citing “a very high debt burden and insufficient coverage of external debt maturities by (foreign exchange) reserves.” The agency warned that Laos’ default risk will remain high, The Singapore Post reported.

According to the report published by the World Bank in April, preliminary estimates indicated that Laos’ total public and publicly guaranteed debt reached 88 per cent of gross domestic product in 2021. The debt is valued at 14.5 billion US dollars, about half of which is owed to China on loans to fund projects including the China-Laos railway.

The 418-km Laos-China railway is a joint venture between Beijing Railway group and two other Chinese government-owned companies with a 70 per cent stake and a Laotian state company with 30 per cent.

According to the website, in December 2021 when the Chinese railway build was launched, foreign experts raised questions about the potential benefits to Laos beyond serving as a channel for Chinese trade and that too at a heavy cost.

It also pointed out that the Kunming-Vientiane railway is a link in a possible future network to connect China with Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore. That would give southern China more access to ports and export markets. Laotian leaders hoped that the railway will energize their isolated economy by linking it to China and markets as far away as Europe

The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and others had cautioned that harnessing the full economic potential of the railway line will depend on the successful enactment of various changes genuinely linking the railway to the Lao economy at large.

People who were displaced from their homes to make way for the railway had complained they were paid too little. Environmentalists said that the construction damaged natural habitats and threatened endangered species in Laos, which already is a centre for wildlife trafficking.

The Laos-China railway has linked China’s poor southwest to foreign markets but piled on potentially risky debt. Laos hoped that the railway would reduce transportation costs and boost exports and tourism. According to news reports, Laos incurred a 1.9 billion US Dollars debt for the project, an additional obligation that may push Vientiane to seek some grace from Beijing on repayment.

The World Bank forecasts that Laos’ economy will grow by 3.8 per cent this year but warns this will not be enough to generate the fiscal revenue needed for the government to pay its foreign debt. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Why Beijing must link One-China Policy with One-India policy