The EU and Taiwan must partner up in the fight against disinformation

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

If the two could join forces in their endeavours, it is possible that they could fuel regional development in Southeast Asia and elsewhere within the Global South where China has developed influence and a rooted footprint via its Belt and Road Initiative, Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy writes.


In May, G7 leaders, meeting at the 2023 Hiroshima Summit, agreed that a “growing China that plays by international rules would be of global interest”. 

Their call, for continuing multilateral engagement with Beijing did, though, request that China not conduct interference activities aimed at undermining the integrity of democratic institutions, and that the country should do more to press Russia on its military aggression in Ukraine.

Conversely, at this month’s Belt and Road Forum of International Cooperation in Beijing, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the deepening of their mutual political trust, praising the close strategic coordination of the two countries. 

This followed Xi’s March visit to Moscow when the two leaders reinforced their ambition to remake the liberal international order, with the Chinese leader reassuring his “dear friend” that they are driving changes “that have not happened for one hundred years”.

This deepening of relations captures a new geopolitical reality, which many in Europe are still struggling to comprehend.

Sino-Russian cooperation a growing concern?

Looking eastwards, Europeans now see two former foes, China and Russia, bound together by their shared fear of liberal democracy. 

These regimes want to upend the world order so that it marries with their authoritarian agendas. 

The bilateral meeting between Xi and Putin on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum this month left no question about Beijing’s desire to curate and present an alternative worldview to the Global South, while strengthening its strategic alignment with Russia.

The meeting also consolidated Putin’s support towards China’s positioning on international affairs, in line with the Global Security Initiative, which Xi designed to help China achieve global primacy against a perceived backdrop of Western inhibitors.

The scale of Sino-Russian cooperation is vast, multi-faceted, and developing at speed. For, not only are their militaries and economies now in a state of synergy, their diplomats and state-controlled media are also collaborating closely. 

Chinese state-media and official social media channels routinely amplify selected pro-Kremlin narratives and are also platforming Russian media sanctioned by the West.

This growing strategic partnership is forcing the EU to finally get serious about its claims to rethink ties with China – and, by association, with Russia – in what European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the de-risking of trade and political relations. 

China is changing, and “moving into a new era of security and control”; it is time for Europe to change, too.

Brussels needs a defensive toolbox — Taiwan can help

How this can be effected, though, is still at a fragmented stage of development, and was a key point of discussion at this year’s Budapest Forum. The EU High Representative Josep Borrell has urged the bloc and its member states to work with democratic partners around the world to fight information manipulation by authoritarian regimes.

This is an important step, which marries with wider efforts to position the EU as an independent voice and force on the world stage.

By focusing on Russia and China as key foreign actors in information manipulation and interference, the EU continues to invest in strategic communication, vital to defend democracy.

But it is essential that closer coordination at home is supported by a defensive toolbox for economic security and stronger cooperation with like-minded international partners, including Taiwan, if the bloc is to effectively push back at China and Russia’s developing orbit. 

What is needed most to boost the immune system of democracies is a whole-of-society approach and an inclusive global conversation with the developing world.


The learning pools from Taiwan, and its response to Chinese aggression, are particularly important. For, here, over decades, democracy has withstood a barrage of disinformation and hostility from China. 

And, as a testament to the island nation’s strength, it has developed an approach that reflects the collective will of society and encourages a civic spirit that empowers citizens to feel that they hold the reigns of their democracy. 

This has extended to emerging and digital technologies, which are now seen through the lens of individual citizen interest, rather than benefiting those of the country’s political class.

Can the EU lead into action?

This has established a two-way trust, which, today, not only sees Taiwan hold the status as a pivotal node in the global semiconductor supply chain but also boasts a radically transparent democratic system of government. 

The lessons for Europe are numerous, and it is in the EU’s interest to explore Taiwan’s open and technologically driven governance and its expertise in media literacy. 


For the past decades, the government has invested in education to empower its citizens to make informed decisions about what they see and read. Together, the EU and Taiwan and other democratically-minded countries could develop a networked system that would undercut the space for authoritarian regimes to corrupt information streams with falsehoods.

The two, and others committed to this cause, should partner up and help anchor developing countries in democracy and limit China’s negative clout, mindful that significant infrastructure investment needs will remain across the Global South. 

Europe’s Global Gateway forum, for one, seeks to boost secure links in digital, energy, transport and education along with democratic values, while Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy has committed to integrating its capacity in digital technology to promote a digital New Southbound initiative. 

If the two could join forces in their endeavours, it is possible that they could fuel regional development in South East Asia and elsewhere within the Global South where China has developed influence and a rooted footprint via its Belt and Road Initiative.

All of this points to the necessity for Europe to be more global-minded in its policy, and to take on the role of upholding not just its own, but other, developing democratic ecosystems. 


Understanding the long-term consequences of information manipulation by authoritarian regimes to the rules-based order will be key to the future of global democracy. 

The question is: is the EU prepared to fundamentally change its position, and lead in this action?

Dr Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy is Assistant Professor at National Dong Hwa University in Hualien, Taiwan and the author of “Europe, China, and the Limits of Normative Power”.

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At BRICS meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

In this video framegrab of a feed distributed by South Africa’s Presidency, China’s Xi Jinping joins other BRICS leaders for a virtual meeting of leaders of developing countries on Novemnber 21, 2023.
| Photo Credit: AP

All parties involved in the Israel-Palestinian conflict should immediately ceasefire and suspend hostilities, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared on November 21. At the same meeting of the BRICS group, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar condemned the killing of civilians in the conflict, but stopped short of echoing the Chinese demand for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Also read: Israel-Hamas war, Day 46 LIVE updates November 21, 2023

Addressing the extraordinary virtual meeting of the grouping on the Gaza crisis, Mr. Xi called for safe passage for humanitarian relief and pressed for an end to the forced relocation of the Gaza Strip’s civilian population. The supply of water, energy, and electricity must also be restored in the Palestinian enclave, which has been battered by Israeli bombs, he emphasised.

Two-state solution

The Chinese President said that the only way out of the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian crisis is to implement the two-state solution, “restore the legitimate rights of the Palestinian nation”, and establish a sovereign and independent State of Palestine. He cautioned that without a fair solution of the Palestinian question, there can be no lasting peace and stability in West Asia.

Beijing’s declaration is significant as it comes soon after the Foreign Ministers of the Arab League and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia and Jordan met with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the Chinese capital. They had called for a halt to the hostilities that have left more than 11,000 people in Gaza dead, a third of them children, and about 1.7 million homeless.

Mr. Xi urged all parties in the raging conflict to stop “all violence and attacks targeting civilians and release civilian detainees” to stop the loss of any more lives. He urged Israel to stop targeting Palestinian civilians “as a collective punishment”. The Chinese President also called on the international community to take concrete steps to prevent any further escalation of the conflict that could impact the stability of the entire region.

India condemns civilian deaths

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not attend Tuesday’s virtual summit of the BRICS-Plus grouping that was held to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict. The External Affairs Minister represented the PM at the virtual meeting and expressed India’s concern about the situation in Gaza and called for “direct and meaningful negotiation” between the Israeli authorities and the Palestinians.

“The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza is causing immense human suffering, including to civilians, the elderly, women, and children. We welcome all efforts of the international community towards de-escalation. Right now there is an urgent need to ensure that humanitarian aid and relief effectively and safely reach the population of Gaza,” Mr. Jaishankar said, adding that all hostages should be released. “We believe there is a universal obligation to observe international humanitarian law,” he said.

The Minister “strongly condemned” the death of civilians, though he stopped short of calling for a ceasefire. Earlier, in a joint press conference, both Mr. Jaishankar and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong had called for the political aspirations of the Palestinian people to be addressed by implementing a two-state solution. “Australia has, under this government, expressed its view that settlements are contrary to international law and unhelpful for the two-state solution,” Ms. Wong said.

Divergent views

It is understood that Prime Minister Modi declined to attend the summit due to other commitments, including the campaign for the Rajasthan Assembly election. The decision to skip an appearance with the other leaders of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa grouping also indicates New Delhi’s discomfort with deliberations that were likely to be critical of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Unlike all the other countries in the grouping, India has taken a stand that is closer to that of the United States and other western countries, by not demanding that Israeli forces cease fire, and abstaining from a UN General Assembly vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire; all the other BRICS-Plus members voted in favour. 

The BRICS-plus meeting, an “extraordinary joint meeting on the Middle East situation” convened by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, included the group’s soon-to-be inducted new members: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

South Africa wants war crimes probe

South Africa and Israel have stepped up a diplomatic war, with the South African government formally referring Israel to the International Criminal Court to be investigated for alleged “war crimes” over its bombardment of the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the October 7 Hamas terror attacks. After South Africa recalled all its diplomats from Tel Aviv, and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) supported a motion in parliament calling for the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria to be shut down, Israel recalled its Ambassador to South Africa for “consultations” on Monday, citing the “latest statements”. 

In contrast, the strongest comment by Mr. Modi thus far, made at the Voice of Global South summit last week, was a “strong condemnation” of civilian deaths, and a call to focus on “restraint, dialogue, and diplomacy”. 

The BRICS meeting comes amidst moves by various members of the grouping to build pressure on the UN Security Council’s permanent members to pass a resolution calling for a complete halt in the bombing of Gaza. Last week, the UNSC had passed a resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” and the release of hostages; it did not call for an outright ceasefire. Israel, which lost about 1,200 citizens in the October 7 attacks, says it is seeking out Hamas command and control centres and a return of about 240 hostages that are still believed to be in Hamas custody. 

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Biden tells Asia-Pacific leaders US ‘not going anywhere’ as it looks to build economic ties

President Joe Biden on Thursday made America’s case to national leaders and CEOs attending the Asia-Pacific summit that the United States is committed to high standards in trade and to partnerships that will benefit economies across the Pacific.

“We’re not going anywhere,” he declared.

Fresh off his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden also told business leaders that the US was “de-risking and diversifying” but not “decoupling.” from Beijing.

But he did not mince words in suggesting the US and friends in the Pacific could offer businesses a better option than China.

He also noted that US economies had invested some $50 billion in fellow Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies in 2023, including in clean energy technologies, aviation and cybersecurity.

“This is not all kumbaya but it’s straightforward,” Biden said. “We have real differences with Beijing when it comes to maintaining a fair and level economic playing field and protecting your intellectual property. ”

Biden sought to send a clear message about American leadership as business leaders grapple with the risks of doing businesses in the midst of wars in the Middle East and Europe and a still shaky post-pandemic economy.

He was also spending time on Thursday letting Indo-Pacific leaders know that the US is committed to nurturing economic ties throughout the region.

Biden later posed for the traditional “family photo” with other leaders of APEC, the group that includes 21 economies.

Biden in his remarks to the CEOs sought to highlight his administration’s efforts to strengthen ties with the region. APEC members have invested $1.7 trillion in the US economy, supporting some 2.3 million American jobs.

US companies, in turn, have invested about $1.4 trillion in APEC economies.

Later, during talks with APEC leaders at a working lunch, Biden spoke about efforts funded by his Inflation Reduction Act to improve sustainability, climate change and clean energy infrastructure in the US.

“I encourage everyone around this table to also take strong national actions,” Biden said. “It will take all of us to meet this moment.”

The US hasn’t hosted the annual leaders’ summit — started in 1993 by President Bill Clinton — since 2011. The group met virtually in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Leaders did gather in Bangkok last year, but Biden skipped the summit because his granddaughter was getting married, and he sent Vice President Kamala Harris in his place.

The annual leaders’ conference brings together heads of nations and other top economic and diplomatic leaders.

Biden told those who gathered Wednesday evening at a welcome party — including Russia’s representative, Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk — that today’s challenges were unlike those faced by previous APEC leaders.

Biden also sought to underscore that he was seeking to responsibly manage the United States’ strained relationship with China one day after he and Xi sat down for more than four hours of talks at bucolic Filoli Estate outside of San Francisco.

“A stable relationship between the world’s two largest economies is not merely good for the two economies but for the world,” Biden said. “A stable relationship. It’s good for everyone.”

Demonstrations in and around APEC continued on Thursday. Hours before leaders were to gather at the Moscone Center for the summit, protesters calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war were detained by police after shutting down all traffic over a major commuting bridge heading into San Francisco.

After decades of trade built on the premise of keeping prices low, accessing new markets and maximizing profits, many companies are now finding a vulnerable global economy.

The Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflicts aren’t helping matters.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed frailties in their supply chains. Climate change has intensified natural disasters that can close factories.

The Israel-Hamas war and Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion have generated new financial risks, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence could change how companies operate and displace workers.

Xi too, met with American business leaders — at a $2,000-per-plate dinner Wednesday evening. It was a rare opportunity for the business leaders to hear directly from the Chinese president as they seek clarification on Beijing’s expanding security rules that could choke foreign investment.

“China is pursuing high-quality development, and the United States is revitalizing its economy,” he said, according to an English language translation.

“There is plenty of room for our cooperation, and we are fully able to help each other succeed and achieve win-win outcomes.”

He signaled that China would send the US new giant pandas, just a week after three from the Smithsonian National Zoo were returned to China, much to the dismay of Americans.

There are only four pandas left in the United States, at the Atlanta Zoo.

Biden and Xi understand that the complicated ties between the two nations have major global impacts. Their meeting Wednesday at a Northern California estate was in part an effort to show the world that while they are global economic competitors, the US and China aren’t rivals seeking conflict.

With his characteristic optimism, Biden sketched a vision of leaders who manage competition “responsibly,” adding, “That’s what the United States wants and what we intend to do.”

Xi, though, was gloomier about the state of the post-pandemic global economy. China’s economy remains in the doldrums, with prices falling due to slack demand from consumers and businesses.

“The global economy is recovering, but its momentum remains sluggish,” Xi said. “Industrial and supply chains are still under the threat of interruption, and protectionism is rising. All these are grave problems.”

White House officials said Biden has been bolstered by signs the US economy is in a stronger position than China’s and that the US was building stronger alliances throughout the Pacific.

Part of that is through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, announced during a May 2022 trip to Tokyo. It came six years after the US unilaterally withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that was signed by 12 countries.

The new framework has four major pillars: supply chains, climate, anti-corruption and trade. There won’t be any official trade deals to announce — the “framework” label allows Biden to bypass Congress on any agreements reached with the 13 countries. Work on three of the four pillars had been completed.

While US allies are still are looking to hammer out comprehensive trade agreements with Washington, Biden administration officials are underscoring that IPEF has helped the US and partners take action at a far faster clip than traditional trade deals.

“Most trade negotiations take years to complete,” said Mike Pyle, Biden’s deputy national security adviser for international economics.

“The issues that are at the cutting edge of the global economic conversation, issues like supply chains, clean energy, good government —- we have struck agreements around them in just 18 months, with a full set of IPEF partners.”


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Taiwan set to dominate talks as Xi meets Biden in San Francisco

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet US counterpart Joe Biden in San Francisco on Wednesday for the two leaders’ first face-to-face meeting following a turbulent 12 months for US-China relations. Taiwan, a long-term source of disagreement between the two nations, is expected to top the agenda.

The two heads of state will meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Californian city, their first encounter since a meeting on November 14th 2022, in Bali.  

Positive momentum following the G20 summit was swiftly derailed by various spats that brought relations between the US and China to their lowest level in years.  

The US shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon over its territory in February 2023, an incursion the US described as “unacceptable”.  

China said US accusations amounted to “information warfare”, and delayed a planned visit to the People’s Republic by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

A cumulation of trade tensions and sanctions also contributed to bring relations to their lowest points in decades before a flurry of high-level diplomacy, including Blinken’s eventual trip to Beijing in June, signalled ambitions on both sides to mend ties. 

Wednesday’s meeting is likely being seen as an opportunity to “calm relations, to not inflame things further in context full of difficult and tense and inflamed issues,” says Astrid Nordin, Lau Chair of Chinese International Relations at King’s College London. 

“We’re not trying to decouple from China. What we’re trying to do is change the relationship for the better,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, shortly before heading to San Francisco.

Semiconductors, climate agreements, and fentanyl trafficking are all expected to be on the agenda for the talks. “But from Beijing’s perspective, the most important issue in the US-China relationship will be over Taiwan,” Nordin says. 

Taiwan is critically important in the relationship between China and the USA because of its geostrategic location and its symbolism,” adds Steve Tsang, Director of the China Institute at SOAS University of London.  

Symbolism, geopolitics 

Taiwan will take part in this week’s APEC forum under the name “Chinese Taipei”. While the island’s democratically elected leadership maintains it is an independent country, China claims it as a province of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). 

In the past year and a half, Taiwan has faced increased military pressure from Beijing, raising fears China intends to fulfil its ambition to “unify” Taiwan with the mainland and using force if necessary. 

Read moreMore than 100 Chinese warplanes and nine navy ships spotted around Taiwan


At the same time, the US has bolstered its support for Taiwan with a high-profile visit from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August 2022 and by increasing its capacity to buy US weapons

Taiwan matters to the US as a “symbolic issue of providing support for a democratic ally in the face of potential hostile invasion”, says Nordin. “A US president would not want to be the person who stands aside and just looks on if that happens.” 

Biden has been more outspoken than his predecessor in his rhetorical support for Taiwan and its self-governance. 

The island is also geographically significant for the US with a strategically advantageous position off the Pacific coast of China, linking in alliances with nearby Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.  

For China, the stakes are also high. Reintegration of Taiwan into the PRC is a question of national identity, unity and security. 

Historically, China considers Taiwan not only part of China but also part of its “First Island Chain” – a first line of defence off the Pacific coast, “the taking of which will not only secure China’s Eastern Seaboard but also enable the Chinese navy and air force to project power into the Pacific”, says Tsang. 

In recent years, “Xi Jinping has been more explicit than previous generations of leadership that he does not want to leave the status quo [in Taiwan] for the next generation,” says Nordin. 

‘Getting back on a normal course’

For decades, China has shown little appetite for military intervention in Taiwan, instead proposing that it be integrated into the PRC under a “one country, two systems” formula, that was used for Hong Kong. 

The US has also found ways to appease both China and Taiwan: it recognises Beijing as the government of China and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan under the “One China” policy.  

At the same time it has a “robust unofficial relationship” with Taiwan and has pledged military support under the Taiwan Relations Act were the island’s security to come under threat.   

As such, forced unity with Taiwan “can only happen if China can either deter the US from interfering or defeat the US forces sent to help Taiwan defend itself”, says Tsang.  

Either scenario would mean that China had “devastated the US’s credibility in the Asian Pacific”, he adds.  

So, what hope for compromise when the two leaders meet on Wednesday? 

“Neither party will yield to the other on Taiwan,” Tsang says. “The best any US president or Chinese supreme leader can do over Taiwan is to ease tensions by making noises that enable the other side to turn the temperature down.”   

But the fact that the leaders are meeting at all is a sign of political will to reduce the heat after a tumultuous 12 months.  

“There’s been a lot of work going on over summer in preparation for this meeting and the fact that it is now culminating in face-to-face talks might be a sign that there has been some stabilisation in the US-China relationship” adds Nordin.  

Asked what he hoped to achieve at the meeting, Biden said he wanted “to get back on a normal course of corresponding; being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another if there’s a crisis; being able to make sure our military still have contact with one another”.

Despite positive noises, any agreement on a way forward in Taiwan is, Nordin says, “highly unlikely”.  

“But what there might be is a de-escalation in rhetoric and scope for both nudging closer to a stabilisation of the status quo. The absence of worsening, perhaps, is something to aspire to in this scenario.” 

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Former Chinese PM Li Keqiang dies of heart attack

Former Premier Li Keqiang, China’s top economic official for a decade, died Friday of a heart attack. He was 68.

Li was China’s No. 2 leader from 2013-23 and an advocate for private business but was left with little authority after President Xi Jinping made himself the most powerful Chinese leader in decades and tightened control over the economy and society.

CCTV said Li had been resting in Shanghai recently and had a heart attack on Thursday. He died at 12:10 am Friday.

Li, an English-speaking economist, was considered a contender to succeed then-Communist Party leader Hu Jintao in 2013 but was passed over in favor of Xi. Reversing the Hu era’s consensus-oriented leadership, Xi centralised powers in his own hands, leaving Li and others on the party’s ruling seven-member Standing Committee with little influence.

As the top economic official, Li promised to improve conditions for entrepreneurs who generate jobs and wealth. But the ruling party under Xi increased the dominance of state industry and tightened control over tech and other industries. Foreign companies said they felt unwelcome after Xi and other leaders called for economic self-reliance, expanded an anti-spying law and raided offices of consulting firms.

Li was dropped from the Standing Committee at a party congress in October 2022 despite being two years below the informal retirement age of 70.

The same day, Xi awarded himself a third five-year term as party leader, discarding a tradition under which his predecessors stepped down after 10 years. Xi filled the top party ranks with loyalists, ending the era of consensus leadership and possibly making himself leader for life. The No. 2 slot was filled by Li Qiang, the party secretary for Shanghai, who lacked Li Keqiang’s national-level experience and later told reporters that his job was to do whatever Xi decided.

Known for easygoing style

Li Keqiang, a former vice premier, took office in 2013 as the ruling party faced growing warnings the construction and export booms that propelled the previous decade’s double-digit growth were running out of steam.

Government advisers argued Beijing had to promote growth based on domestic consumption and service industries. That would require opening more state-dominated industries and forcing state banks to lend more to entrepreneurs. Li’s predecessor, Wen Jiabao, apologized at a March 2012 news conference for not moving fast enough.

In a 2010 speech, Li acknowledged challenges including too much reliance on investment to drive economic growth, weak consumer spending and a wealth gap between prosperous eastern cities and the poor countryside, home to 800 million people.


Li was seen as a possible candidate to revive then-supreme leader Deng Xiaoping’s market-oriented reforms of the 1980s that started China’s boom. But he was known for an easygoing style, not the hard-driving impatience of Zhu Rongji, the premier in 1998-2003 who ignited the construction and export booms by forcing painful reforms that cut millions of jobs from state industry.

Li was believed to have supported the “China 2030” report released by the World Bank and a Cabinet research body in 2012 that called for dramatic changes to reduce the dominance of state industry and rely more on market forces.

Support for economic reforms

In his first annual policy address, Li in 2014 was praised for promising to pursue market-oriented reform, cut government waste, clean up air pollution and root out pervasive corruption that was undermining public faith in the ruling party.

Xi took away Li’s decision-making powers on economic matters by appointing himself to head a party commission overseeing reform.

Xi’s government pursued the anti-graft drive, imprisoning hundreds of officials including former Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang. But party leaders were ambivalent about the economy. They failed to follow through on a promised list of dozens of market-oriented changes. They increased the dominance of state-owned banks and energy and other companies.

Xi’s government opened some industries including electric car manufacturing to private and foreign competition. But it built up state-owned “national champions” and encouraged Chinese companies to use domestic suppliers instead of imports.

Borrowing by companies, households and local governments increased, pushing up debt that economists warned already was dangerously high.

Beijing finally tightened controls in 2020 on debt in real estate, one of China’s biggest industries. That triggered a collapse in economic growth, which fell to 3% in 2022, the second-lowest in three decades.

Li showed his political skills but little zeal for reform as governor and later party secretary of populous Henan province in central China in 1998-2004.

Reputation for bad luck

Li earned the nickname “Three Fires Li” and a reputation for bad luck after three fatal fires struck Henan while he was there. A Christmas Day blaze at a nightclub in 2000 killed 309 people. Other officials were punished but Li emerged unscathed.

Meanwhile, provincial leaders were trying to suppress information about the spread of AIDS by a blood-buying industry in Henan. Li’s reputation for bad luck held as China suffered a series of deadly disasters during his term.

Days after he took office, a landslide on March 29, 2013, killed at least 66 miners at a gold mine in Tibet and left 17 others missing and presumed dead. In the eastern port of Tianjin, a warehouse holding chemicals exploded August 12, 2015, killing at least 116 people.

A China Eastern Airlines jetliner plunged into the ground on March 22, 2022, killing all 132 people aboard. Authorities have yet to announce a possible cause.

Li oversaw China’s response to COVID-19, the first cases of which were detected in the central city of Wuhan. Then-unprecedented controls were imposed, shutting down most international travel for three years and access to major cities for weeks at a time.

PM during pandemic

In one of his last major official acts, Li led a Cabinet meeting that announced November 11, 2022, that anti-virus controls would be relaxed to reduce disruption after the economy shrank by 2.6% in the second quarter of the year. Two weeks later, the government announced most travel and business restrictions would end the following month.

Li was born July 1, 1955, in the eastern province of Anhui and by 1976 was ruling party secretary of a commune there.

Studying law at Peking University, he was the campus secretary of the ruling party’s Communist Youth League, an organization that launched the political careers of former party leaders Hu Jintao and Hu Yaobang. He was a member of the League’s Standing Committee, a sign he was seen as future leadership material.

After serving in a series of party posts, Li received his Ph.D. in economics in 1994 from Peking University.

Following Henan, Li served as party secretary for Liaoning province in the northeast as part of a rotation through provincial posts and at ministries in Beijing that was meant to prepare leaders. He joined the party Central Committee in 2007.


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Questions swirl around Xi’s motives after a second top minister disappears in China

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu has not been seen in public for more than two weeks. The disappearance of this top official close to President Xi Jinping comes two months after that of now-former foreign affairs minister Qin Gang, and follows the dismissal of a pair of influential military generals. For some observers, Li’s vanishing is likely linked to corruption, while others see it as a sign of intense political battles hidden from outside eyes.

Where is Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu? The top military official has not been heard from in more than two weeks, as noted by the Financial Times in an article published on Friday. 

The general last appeared in public at the third China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in Beijing on August 29. Li had not left China since a trip to Moscow and Minsk earlier that month. 

Beijing is keeping quiet about the disappearance. The only official clue emerged when Vietnamese authorities said that Li’s ministry last week cancelled his trip to Hanoi for “health reasons”. 

But sources in Washington offered a different explanation. Speaking to the Financial Times on condition of anonymity, several US officials said that Li could be the target of a corruption investigation, which could have prompted Chinese authorities to discreetly remove the defence minister from his post just six months after his appointment by President Xi.

Reuters reported on Friday that Li is under investigation by Chinese authorities, citing 10 people described as being familiar with the matter.

Beijing seems to have undertaken a summer clean-up in the ranks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“There are signs that a vast anti-corruption campaign is ongoing targeting the PLA,” said Carlotta Rinaudo, a China specialist at the International Team for the Study of Security (ITSS) Verona. 

In July, Xi himself announced the dismissal of two officials from the PLA’s Rocket Force, a military branch responsible for the development of highly strategic ballistic missiles. 

In early September, the president of the army’s military court was sacked. Beijing did not give an official reason for this “unexpected shakeup”

However, when it comes to China’s armed forces, corruption is still the chief suspect.

“PLA corruption has been a problem since China opened to the world, economically, in the 1980s”, said sinologist Marc Lanteigne of the Arctic University of Norway. “Going back 20 years, there has been scandal about generals getting rich by selling access and influence.”  

‘No one is safe’

Since he came to power in 2012, Xi has made the fight against corruption in the military’s ranks an absolute priority. “He is obsessed with fighting corruption in the PLA,”, said Rinaudo.  

“When Xi Jinping’s father was rehabilitated, it helped him land a job as a mishu. It’s a Chinese term that means literally a ‘book of secrets’ and [designates a] personal assistant who has access” to a military general’s “secrets”, she explained, referencing the purging and later return to favour of Xi’s father Xi Zhongxun.

“It was a perfect spot to see the extent of the corruption in the PLA.”

The recent clean-up – including the defence minister’s disappearance – could be the latest manifestation of Xi’s anti-corruption crusade. 

The fact that the president did not hesitate to let go of a minister he had appointed in March who “certainly is seen as a Xi loyalist”, as Lanteigne said, would appear to demonstrate the president’s determination.  

“No one is safe,” said Rinaudo. 

She said that Li’s profile also fits in well with a major corruption case in the military.

“Around 2017-2018, he worked for the equipment development department, which … is considered one of the most corrupt because of the huge amount of money they have access to,” she said. 

However, Li’s disappearance doesn’t fit neatly within the narrative of a major anti-corruption effort – China’s president has never been discreet in his fight against corruption in the military. “It’s an accomplishment he is very proud of,” said Lanteigne. 

It is possible that Xi has opted for silence because he doesn’t want to draw too much media attention to a matter that tarnishes a man who is supposed to be close to him.

“It really calls into question the control Xi Jinping has on his inner circle and his ability to pick the right person,” said Lanteigne. 

But Li’s disappearance also recalls another recent episode at the highest level of the state. In July, former foreign minister Qin Gang also disappeared – for more a month. Qin was officially sacked at the end of that month without any reason being given. The ex-minister has not reappeared since. 

After the wave of disappearances of billionaires and business leaders in recent years, it could be the turn of senior political officials. The recent silent sackings reflect major “infighting between administrations or even factions” in China’s government, said Lanteigne. The behind-the-scenes cacophony conflicts with the image of control that Xi exercises on his government. 

Anxiety, not strength 

But the political situation in China has been tense since the end of Beijing’s “zero Covid” policy, which was preceded by demonstrations “that took the government by surprise because of how strong they were”, said Lanteigne. The dismissals are “maybe a reaction to the impression of a loss of control by Xi over the situation”, he said. 

“In a way, getting rid of a loyalist is a demonstration of strength from Xi,” said Rinaudo. 

Internationally, the disappearances create an impression of anxiety rather than strength, according to both experts interviewed by FRANCE 24. US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel even poked fun at the situation, comparing it to mystery writer Agatha Christie’s novel “And Then There Were None”, in which one character after another disappears. 

“Both of these ministers are responsible for projecting power outside of the country,” said Lanteigne. “The impression that there is some internal turmoil behind this is not helping the government to demonstrate China is in a position to play an active role on the world stage.”

From a diplomatic point of view, “it’s creating some doubt about who is in charge for foreign diplomacy”, said Rinaudo. 

However, the likely isolation of the defence minister could ultimately benefit Beijing. Since 2018, Li has been on the list of people targeted by US sanctions for having sold military equipment to Russian entities that were sanctioned by the US.

“Having a defence minister on a Washington sanction list was a bad thing for [China-US] relations,” said Rinaudo. “Now that he is gone, it could ease the tensions.” 

What’s more, Li “is a hawk who was very aggressive … about China’s territorial dispute and relations with the West”, said Lanteigne. For the Arctic University professor, the appointment of his successor will be a very good indicator of Xi’s state of mind. If the new defence minister is a moderate, it could be a sign that Beijing wants to improve its relations with Washington. 

This article is a translation of the original in French. 

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Your guide to the New Delhi G20 summit

Leaders of the richest countries will meet this weekend in India to discuss the world’s biggest issues. But there’s a high chance the power clashes between them will overshadow global problem solving.

New Delhi’s crowded streets have been repaved. Buildings and walls have been painted with bright murals. The city is abloom with flowers.


The reason? The G20 summit.

This weekend leaders of the world’s richest and most powerful countries will attend the two-day conference in the Indian capital.

Since India took over the G20 presidency for 2023, it hasn’t been able to build consensus for a joint statement in any of the previous key discussion points. One of the main hurdles has been Russia and China’s objections to the wording referring to Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The prospect of the summit ending with the usual agreement between member states and a joint leaders’ declaration may seem dim, but that’s all the more reason to keep an eye on what goes on at the weekend.

Here’s your go-to guide on what to look out for at this year’s summit.

Emerging economies might be uniting against the West

The new kids on the BRICS economic bloc may help to shift the usual dominating sphere of influence away from the West.

The group, named after its founding members (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), formed as a way to amplify the voice of those emerging economies on the global stage and promote trade and development between them.

Now, with the incoming addition of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the UAE, BRICS’s growing influence on the global economy is sure to be “on the table” of the G20 summit, according to economist Dennis Snower.

Snower, who is president of the non-profit Global Solutions Initiative, suggested it’s possible the world is drifting from a position of global cooperation, as initially envisaged under the G20, to one where countries in separate blocs cooperate amongst themselves and compete or are even in conflict with other blocs.

The latter scenario “would be a disaster,” Snower said.

The biggest fear is that global issues — like climate change, international safety, cyber security and nuclear disarmament — that require every country to row in the same direction, take a backseat.


“Both developed and developing countries are necessary to solve these problems. They each have their comparative advantages and need one another”, Snower explained. “One hopes very much that this alliance of developing countries [BRICS] is done in the spirit of global problem solving.”

“There is a terrible danger that different power blocs will seek to exert influence in their own narrow interests instead of for the global common good,” he added.

The ‘long shadow’ of war in Ukraine

There’s an issue that has cast a “long shadow” over G20 meetings so far: the war in Ukraine, according to Snower.

The conflict has certainly driven an even bigger wedge between global powers.

On one side, Ukraine fights with the support of the European Union and the United States. Russia stands on the other, propped up by assistance from China, one of its closest allies.


This year, these two countries have so far blocked binding agreements at all major G20 discussions, stemming from their objection to calling the Ukrainian conflict a war.

While Russia’s invasion is one of the biggest crises of recent history, countries must learn to put their differences aside when working on other global issues, according to Snower.

“This war is an important problem, but it should not keep us from finding collaborative solutions in other areas that are not related to it”, he said. “The next generation will not forgive us if we say we have forgotten about climate change because of the war in Ukraine.”

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin won’t attend the summit in India since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him in March for alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.

China’s President Xi Jinping is also skipping the event, Beijing announced on Monday. Premier Li Qiang will lead the country’s delegation in his stead.


There’s been no official explanation for Xi’s absence, but some analysts say it could stem from a desire to stay on the same page as Russia regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

Besides, relations between China and host India aren’t the best. The two have a long-standing border dispute and New Delhi is currently holding military exercises along the border with its northeastern neighbour.

India has also recently deepened its trade, technology and military ties with the US, China’s long-time rival.

So, with all these power conflicts between countries, it remains to be seen if they can reach a consensus by the end of this weekend’s summit.

The future is never certain, but in case the leaders can’t see eye to eye, there is another fruitful option.

In the end, it’s not all or nothing

It wouldn’t be the first time the G20 members haven’t all agreed with the leaders’ declaration, which reflects the countries’ joint commitment to the priorities discussed during the summit.

Until 2017, “it was assumed that everything in the G20 is always settled by consensus”, Snower said. Before the group’s summit in July that year in Germany, then-US President Donald Trump said the country would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

Despite the difficult circumstances, the German G20 Presidency succeeded in embedding the Paris Agreement into the bloc’s policies while still maintaining dialogue with the US.

In the 2017 leaders’ declaration, 19 of the members remained fully committed to climate action, and a paragraph laying out the US’s deviating position made it possible for a passage on climate policy to be adopted in the joint statement.

“Germany wrote history with the 19 + 1 rule,” Snower said.

Even though India might face two recalcitrant opponents in Russia and China, there would still be “18 members who could focus on a lot of global problems without getting distracted by the issues that separate them”, Snower explained.

So, following in Germany’s footsteps, why not an 18 + 2 rule this time?

“Disagreements would be noted, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” Snower said.

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Biden issues an executive order restricting U.S. investments in Chinese technology

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on August 9 to block and regulate high-tech U.S.-based investments going toward China— a move the administration said was targeted even though it reflected an intensifying competition between the world’s two biggest powers.

The order covers advanced computer chips, micro electronics, quantum information technologies and artificial intelligence. Senior administration officials said that the effort stemmed from national security goals rather than economic interests, and that the categories it covered were intentionally narrow in scope. The order seeks to blunt China’s ability to use U.S. investments in its technology companies to upgrade its military while also preserving broader levels of trade that are vital for both nations’ economies.

The United States and China appear to be increasingly locked in a geopolitical competition with a conflicting set of values. Biden administration officials have insisted that they have no interest in “decoupling” from China, yet the U.S. also has limited the export of advanced computer chips and kept the expanded tariffs set up by President Donald Trump. China has engaged in crackdowns on foreign companies.

Mr. Biden has suggested that China’s economy is struggling and its global ambitions have been tempered as the U.S. has reenergized its alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the European Union. The administration consulted with allies and industry in shaping the executive order.

“Worry about China, but don’t worry about China,” Mr. Biden told donors at a June fundraising event in California.

The officials previewing the order said that China has exploited U.S. investments to support the development of weapons and modernize its military. The new limits were tailored not to disrupt China’s economy, but they would complement the export controls on advanced computer chips from last year that led to pushback by Chinese officials. The Treasury Department, which would monitor the investments, will announce a proposed rulemaking with definitions that would conform to the presidential order and go through a public comment process.

The goals of the order would be to have investors notify the U.S. government about certain types of transactions with China as well as to place prohibitions on some investments. Officials said the order is focused on areas such as private equity, venture capital and joint partnerships in which the investments could possibly give countries of concern such as China additional knowledge and military capabilities.

J. Philip Ludvigson, a lawyer and former Treasury official, said the order was an initial framework that could be expanded over time.

“The executive order issued today really represents the start of a conversation between the U.S. government and industry regarding the details of the ultimate screening regime,” Mr. Ludvigson said. “While the executive order is limited initially to semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies, and artificial intelligence, it explicitly provides for a future broadening to other sectors.”

The issue is also a bipartisan priority. In July by a vote of 91-6, the Senate added as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act requirements to monitor and limit investments in countries of concern, including China.

Yet the reaction to Mr. Biden’s order on August 9 showed a desire to push harder on China. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said the order was an “essential step forward,” but it “cannot be the final step.” Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Mr. Biden should been more aggressive, saying, “We have to stop all U.S. investment in China’s critical technology and military companies — period.”

Mr. Biden has called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator” in the aftermath of the U.S. shooting down a spy balloon from China that floated over the United States. Taiwan’s status has been a source of tension, with Mr. Biden saying that China had become coercive regarding its independence.

China has supported Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, though Mr. Biden has noted that the friendship has not extended to the shipment of weapons.

U.S. officials have long signaled the coming executive order on investing in China, but it’s unclear whether financial markets will regard it as a tapered step or a continued escalation of tensions at a fragile moment.

“The message it sends to the market may be far more decisive,” said Elaine Dezenski, a senior director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “U.S. and multinational companies are already reexamining the risks of investing in China. Beijing’s so-called ‘national security’ and ‘anti-espionage’ laws that curb routine and necessary corporate due diligence and compliance were already having a chilling effect on U.S. foreign direct investment. That chilling now risks turning into a deep freeze.”

China ‘gravely’ concerned about US order on foreign investment

China’s Commerce Ministry said it is “gravely concerned” about the United States’ signing of an executive order that will prohibit some new U.S. investment in China in sensitive technology, and said it reserves the right to take measures.

It said it hopes the U.S. will respect the laws of the market economy and the principle of fair competition, and refrain from “artificially hindering global economic and trade exchanges and cooperation”.

China’s strong economic growth has stumbled coming out of pandemic lockdowns. On August 9 its National Bureau of Statistics reported a 0.3% decline in consumer prices in July from a year ago. That level of deflation points to a lack of consumer demand in China that could hamper growth.

Separately, foreign direct investment into China fell 89% from a year earlier in the second quarter of this year to $4.9 billion, according to data released by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

Most foreign investment is believed to be brought in by Chinese companies and disguised as foreign money to get tax breaks and other benefits, according to Chinese researchers.

However, foreign business groups say global companies also are shifting investment plans to other economies.

Foreign companies have lost confidence in China following tighter security controls and a lack of action on reform promises. Calls by Xi and other leaders for more economic self-reliance have left investors uneasy about their future in the state-dominated economy.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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Joe Biden, Xi want to see a ‘much better relationship’, says former U.S. ambassador

The U.S. and China are working to stabilise their relationship but face challenges from persisting mistrust to the Taiwan issue. Max Baucus, former U.S. Ambassador to China, says in an interview that both sides should consider making unilateral actions to build confidence rather than be tied down by reciprocity. Washington, he suggests, should, as a start, repeal sanctions on the Chinese Defence Minister, which has emerged as a stumbling block in restarting military dialogues. On Taiwan, he says both sides should work to maintain the status quo. While the U.S. is building closer security ties with allies as well as partners such as India to counter China, the key challenge in the region, he says, lies on the trade and commercial front. Excerpts from an interview.

Where are U.S.-China relations heading at the moment? We are clearly seeing stepped up engagement by both sides. Are you optimistic after Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit last month to Beijing?

After Bali [when Presidents Biden and Xi met in November 2022], things went south. A lot of people were telling the administration, ‘hey, this isn’t working too well’, and there were also people probably telling the Chinese leadership that this isn’t working too well.

I do think both President Biden and President Xi want to get a much better relationship because they both know that’s important for their country’s future, in terms of economics, science, global health. So that’s why they orchestrated that meeting. I also think this [engagement] is to pave the way for President Xi to go to APEC [in San Fransisco in November] and to visit in a way that he feels good to be in the United States, and maybe meet with President Biden.

But at the end of the day, it’s deeds, not words. That’s most important. I would say constantly when I was serving in Beijing: ‘Tell us what’s your aspiration? Do you want to be the hegemon? I don’t care what you say, but are you going to show that you don’t want to be the real hegemon?’ They would listen, but I never got a response. But that’s fine. You just keep making the point. When I was serving over there, I developed what I call my ‘three Ps’. With China, you have to be patient, positive, persistent. Stick with the message. And, after a while, things start to fall into place.

There appeared to be a meeting of minds between Presidents Biden and Xi in Bali. Things then went downhill. What went wrong?

When I was in the Senate, I would often go home to my state of Montana. I would say, when I get back to Washington, I’m going to do A, B, C, all these great things. But when I come back, thud, it’s the bureaucracy of Washington. It’s very, very hard to break through. It’s just hard to get stuff done. So what I think happened is President Biden and President Xi went home. The follow up takes extreme discipline. But things fell apart, with the incident with the balloon, whatever it was.

How did the ‘spy balloon’ row end up having such a huge impact, including cancelling Secretary Blinken’s planned trip which, of course, later went ahead?

It was very unfortunate. It was visual – a physical object – and not a concept, it’s not sanctions or the entities list. It was a balloon, and it was from China. It was so unfortunate that a small development like that below things so much out of proportion.

President Biden often mentions the need for “guardrails” in the U.S.-China relationship. What are your thoughts on what those guardrails should be?

We talk about ‘a small yard and high fence’. The trouble is, it is getting to be a pretty big yard and a high fence. I think the idea of guardrails is a little negative. I’d rather just find areas where we really work together in basic cooperation, and just do that. And then the guardrails will take care of themselves. I think that too often with the U.S. and China, reciprocity can get in the way. Sometimes you cannot wait and you have got to take the first step, if the U.S. or China were to take some unilateral actions to show good faith, not expecting reciprocity.

For instance, you have the Chinese Defence Minister who is sanctioned. I can understand why the Defence Minister did not want to meet with Secretary [of Defence] Austin. To me, it’s a no-brainer to repeal that sanction. But even that is going to be extremely hard because of the politics. A couple of months ago, I was talking to former [Chinese] Ambassador Cui Tiankai and said, why can’t China take some unilateral action that showed good faith? He said it is too hard. The same is true with the U.S. But once it happens, it is going to have a positive effect.

Beijing also seems to have a fundamental issue with the Biden administration’s emphasis on competition, that competition is going to be an essential part of the relationship. How do both sides get around this apparently fundamental difference?

When Secretary Blinken gave his first big policy speech, I recall there were three points: building the U.S. strong, for instance with infrastructure, the CHIPS Act and so on; working with our allies, which I understand; and third, it was about competing. There wasn’t a fourth on cooperation. I think the real question to ask is, what does compete mean? Does it mean we are going to win? This is because the more that compete means winning, the more it’s going to upset the other side, as they are going to want to win. And then we’re in the soup. The effect here is much less cooperation.

Competing sounds good on the surface, but too few people ask the next question, what does that really mean? It should be asked frequently. I’ve asked that question frequently, and I haven’t gotten an answer. I think it is one of the key questions, and exposes a kind of undisciplined thinking.

The other big issue is Taiwan. Secretary Blinken in Beijing reaffirmed the ‘one China policy’, but China has recently accused the U.S. of ‘hollowing’ it out, especially after Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

don’t think the U.S. understands that Taiwan is an existential and non-negotiable issue for China. I think too few journalists know very much about the one China policy and its evolution. It’s easy for members of Congress, for [Nancy] Pelosi, to go over [the August 2022 visit strained relations]. She should not have. It’s such a freebie for them to say because they are not the executive branch, they can. I think the better approach to Taiwan – Deng Xiaoping had it right – was to put the issue on the shelf. 

What U.S. and China should do is to maintain the status quo. The Taiwanese don’t want war, they say, ‘we like our country, don’t make things difficult.’ I think what happened with Senator Kevin McCarthy [who hosted President Tsai in California instead of travelling to Taiwan as he had initially planned] was orchestrated. The Pelosi visit didn’t go too well, and both sides said, well, let’s find a nuance and have McCarthy meet Tsai Ing Wen in California, not have a joint session [of congress for Tsai in Washington] and so on. It could have been much, much worse. 

What is your impression of the Biden administration’s outreach to allies and partners such as India, as part of its broader China policy?

The Biden administration is happy to see strong alliances. When I was in Beijing, the most important geopolitical matter across my desk was the Trans Pacific Partnership. Ambassadors from Southeast Asian countries would say you have got to pass that, because if you’re here , then we could more easily push back against China. If you are not here, it’s harder for us to push back. This leads to a deeper point which is critical. And that is that the U.S. should push more to enhance commercial ties with countries, trade, investment, and so forth. Too much is wrapped up in political headlines, and often that is only background.

Finally, you have been championing closer people-to-people ties with China even while political ties are strained. How have the political problems affected what you are doing?

When I was in college, I had attended overseas campuses in France. At the end of six months, I realised that I hadn’t learned anything. I decided not to come home, but to stay in Europe. So I got myself a knapsack, and I hitchhiked around the world
for one full year, Europe, Africa and Asia. We were getting off a boat in then Bombay. This was 1963. I went to Delhi, where I stayed at the YMCA and somebody told me that the Prime Minister sees Americans on Thursdays. I ride over to the Prime Minister’s residence. They put me in a room and five minutes later, in walked Prime Minister Nehru out of the blue and he spent 25, 30 minutes talking to me. It was during the Chinese border crisis and you could tell it was weighing on him. He was very friendly. That trip I took opened my eyes. It was an epiphany. That trip encouraged me to get into public service.

When I returned to the United States from Beijing, I wanted to encourage more students to travel and therefore I set up a public policy institute in Montana to get the kids involved, travel. So that’s why we are here [in June, the institute brought the first group of American students to China after the pandemic, at the invitation of the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF)].

I feel very lucky to have had two of the best jobs in the world. One, representing my home state of Montana in the U.S. Senate. Second, representing the United States in Beijing. Before I went over, I read Henry Kissinger’s book on China, which was kind of my Bible on how to approach the relationship. People asked me, did you like your job in China? I loved it for two reasons. One, the people, industrious, hard-working, getting things done, the energy. Second, because of the reward of working on the US China relationship. It’s so important. Many people have spoken of the importance of US China relationship for the well being of our kids and our grandkids. It’s true. The better the U.S. and China get along, more likely that our kids and grandkids will have a better future. So I’ve dedicated myself to all of this.

As the world gets more complicated,  with the rise of populism in many parts of the world, especially since there is now greater tension between U.S. and China, it’s even more critical that we work harder. The real key is communication and travel, getting to know people in other countries. Americans don’t understand Chinese. Americans haven’t been to China. U.S. government officials don’t know China very well, in my judgement, because they haven’t spent much time in China. This may be trite but it’s true. Especially now, because so many people are enamoured with social media. Going on the Internet and reading about a place is not the same by any stretch of the imagination. That makes people lazy. With communication and travel, there will be a better understanding of what can be done to find solutions, how we can compromise and understand the nuances and the shades of grey, rather than the black and white polarisation that otherwise occurs.

This article is available on our e-paper platform exclusively on The Hindu International Edition.

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Blinken Set To Travel To Beijing Amid Continuing U.S.-China Strains

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, a long-time confidant of President Joe Biden, will travel to Beijing amid continuing strains in relations between the world’s two largest economies as part of a trip that begins on June 16, the State Department said in a statement today.

“While in Beijing, Secretary Blinken will meet with senior PRC (People’s Republic of China) officials where he will discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the U.S.-PRC relationship,” the statement said. “He will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters, and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges.”


Neither side has said whether Blinken, a journalist and lawyer earlier in his career, would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. One likely topic would be a possible Xi visit to the U.S. for a meeting of APEC leaders in San Francisco in November. Blinken last week just concluded a trip to Saudi Arabia, where members of the Gulf Cooperation Council later gathered to express warm support of Arab-China business amid a big push by Beijing to expand its ties to that region.

Blinken’s visit follows the postponement of a planned trip earlier this year after an alleged spy balloon from China floated over the U.S. heartland in February, creating a political uproar in Congress. China later targeted U.S. companies in the mainland on security grounds, including due diligence and research firms Bain and Mintz Group, and announced an anti-espionage law to take effect on July 1 that American businesses fear could cover many routine business activities.

Biden last month called the balloon “silly” and has faced criticism for not making public an investigation into the matter. However, adding to pressure on already strained ties, the U.S. this week acknowledged that China has set up a spy base in Cuba, and added 31 Chinese companies to a list of businesses engaged in activity that hurt American security.


U.S. business leaders looking to the China market as an offset to slow economic growth at home will privately support any lowering of tension between the two countries, though try to avoid any public comments owing to fears of being questioned by the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, a knowledgeable former diplomat said. That Congressional group is “committed to working on a bipartisan basis to build consensus on the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party and develop a plan of action to defend the American people, our economy, and our values,” according to its website.

The overall atmospherics of the U.S.-China economic relationship have improved somewhat following a series of high-level government meetings between the two countries. Daniel Kritenbrink, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and China’s Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu held meetings on June 5 that both said were productive. China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in Washington last month followed by a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai in Detroit on the margins of an APEC trade gathering. Those meetings followed talks in May between U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan with Chinese Communist Party Politburo Member and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi in Vienna.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon — both with business interests in China — have also visited the country in recent weeks. (See related post here.) Bill Gates reportedly arrived in Beijing today.

Tension soared after a Taiwan visit by then U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi last August prompted Beijing to cut back official contacts with the United States and to launch military drills around the island. The mainland claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, a democratically run economy of 24 million people that is one of the world’s most important semiconductor manufacturing centers.

In November, a meeting between Biden and Xi in Bali led to expectations the relationship between the two countries was going to stabilize. Relations plunged again, however, following the spy balloon incident.


During the first term of the Obama Administration, Blinken was national security advisor to then-Vice President Joe Biden, according to Blinken’s State Department biography. “This was the continuation of a long professional relationship that stretched back to 2002,” it notes, when Blinken began his six-year stint as Democratic staff director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Then-Senator Biden was the chair of that committee from 2001 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009.

Earlier in his career, the department said, Blinken, a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School, was a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies from 2001 and 2002. Before joining government, he also practiced law in New York and Paris. Blinken earlier was a reporter for The New Republic magazine.

See related posts:

China’s “Fits And Starts” Economy Needs Private Sector Boost — Matthews Asia’s Andy Rothman


Forbes China Global 2000: China’s Ranks Thin As Real Estate Woes Persist

Elon Musk Visit To Beijing Highlights Business Role In U.S.-China Ties


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