Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  2-6.8.2021, No. 877  
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Foreign Policy

China to provide 2 billion COVID vaccines globally (China Daily)
President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that China will provide a total of 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the world this year, in the latest effort to honor its commitment to make vaccines a global public good by ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability. He also said that China will donate $100 million to the COVAX global vaccine initiative for the distribution of vaccines to developing countries. Xi made the announcements in a written speech delivered to the first meeting of the international forum on COVID-19 vaccine cooperation. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted the meeting on Thursday via video link. About 30 parties, including nations' ministers and representatives of the United Nations, other international organizations and enterprises, participated. As one of the five measures announced by Xi at the Global Health Summit in May to further support global solidarity against COVID-19, the forum aims to provide a platform for countries that develop and produce vaccines, as well as companies and other stakeholders, to explore ways of promoting fair and equitable distribution of vaccines around the world. Noting the repeated resurgence and frequent mutations of the coronavirus, Xi said in his written address to Thursday's meeting that he expected the forum to make new progress in promoting fair access to vaccines, inject new momentum into cooperation and solidarity among developing countries, and contribute to mankind's early victory against the virus. China will continue to help developing countries deal with the pandemic to the best of its ability and will work with the international community to advance international vaccine cooperation and build a community with a shared future for mankind, the president said. Since Xi vowed at the virtual opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly last year to make China's COVID-19 vaccine development and use a global public good, Chinese vaccines have gained increasing recognition across the world and have been granted approval for emergency use by the World Health Organization and more than 100 countries. According to the Foreign Ministry, China has provided more than 750 million doses and concentrates to over 100 countries and international organizations so far. China has provided more doses to developing countries than anyone else and has vaccine cooperation partners all over the globe. With the support of the Chinese government, Chinese vaccine companies have started joint production in many countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan and Mexico, with production capacity exceeding 200 million doses. Ruan Zongze, executive vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said that Thursday's meeting helped to address the biggest challenge now facing global cooperation-the uneven accessibility and affordability of vaccines. "While poor countries struggle to find vaccines, rich countries have pre-purchased more vaccines than they will ultimately need. Such inequality of vaccine distribution has hindered global cooperation on jointly fighting the virus," Ruan said. By promoting international vaccine cooperation, China is playing a leading and active role in building a global community of health for all with practical actions, he said. ^ top ^

PLA holds large drills amid military threats (Global Times)
At a time when the US is holding large-scale military exercises targeting China, and several countries including the UK, Germany and India plan to send or have already sent warships to the South China Sea, China announced it will hold a military exercise from Friday to Tuesday in the South China Sea, setting up a vast navigation restriction zone some observers said resembles a drill conducted last year in which the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly conducted live-fire "aircraft carrier killer" anti-ship ballistic missiles exercises. While details on the upcoming drill remain speculative, it will serve as a response to the recent provocations, demonstrating that China has "hunting rifles ready against the wolves" that hunger for China's core interests, experts said. China will hold a military training in the South China Sea from Friday to Tuesday, and other vessels are prohibited from entering the navigation restriction zone, read a notice released by the Maritime Safety Administration on Wednesday. The coordinates provided in the notice show that the exclusion zone stretches from waters off the southeast of Hainan Island to a majority of waters around the Xisha Islands, meaning that the exercise area is larger than even the Hainan Island, the National Defense Newspaper reported on Thursday. The notice did not give more details on the exercise, but a Taipei-based news agency reported that the PLA launched anti-ship ballistic missiles in the South China Sea in a similar exercise last year. Last year's exercise, conducted from August 24 to 29, also featured a navigation restriction zone in almost the same location and of similar size announced by the Maritime Safety Administration. US media outlets then quoted US defense officials as saying that China launched four medium-range ballistic missiles into the South China Sea in that exercise, landing in an area between Hainan Island and the Xisha Islands. This was widely interpreted by overseas media as the PLA testing anti-ship ballistic missiles, presumably "aircraft carrier killers" - the DF-21D and the DF-26. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Senior Colonel Wu Qian said at a regular press conference on August 27, 2020 that recent Chinese military exercises were routine and did not target at any country. Based on publicly available information, it could be said this year's PLA drill in the South China Sea will likely feature anti-ship exercises, Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times on Thursday. Both ship-based and land-based anti-ship missiles, including the missiles in the DF series, have a long range, and that is why the exercise requires such a large area, Xu said, noting that this year's exercise could be an enhanced version based on the one conducted last year. Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday that the PLA is advocating the concept of joint operations featuring multiple military services, which could include the PLA Rocket Force, and another live-fire anti-ship ballistic missile exercise is possible this year. If not, the exercise would likely feature joint maritime and aerial forces, Song said. "These exercises have already become routine near Chinese waters, with the aim of honing the PLA's capabilities to fight and win wars under realistic combat scenarios," Song said. Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Thursday that while another "aircraft carrier killer" test is possible, it is still difficult to tell only by the navigation restriction notice. It could instead feature ship-based, submarine-based or aircraft-based anti-ship missiles, or ship-based air defense missiles, Fu said, noting that the number of participating warships and warplanes could also be a factor to the large exercise zone. China's second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, was in the South China Sea for exercises last week, US media outlet reported, citing foreign satellite images. Pointed warning No matter what training subjects will be featured in the upcoming exercise, it comes at a time when China is facing military provocations from the US and several other countries. The US kicked off on Tuesday the Large Scale Exercise 2021 naval and amphibious exercise billed as the largest of its kind in 40 years, US military media outlet the Stars and Stripes reported, saying that it aims to send a message to Russia and China. Featuring units in 17 different time zones, the exercise attempts to show that the US can simultaneously address challenges in the Black Sea, eastern Mediterranean Sea, South China Sea and East China Sea and shut down efforts to spread US military forces thin, and that the US can prevent China from reunifying the island of Taiwan or landing on the Diaoyu Islands, the report quoted a US scholar as saying. The US has also been holding the Large Scale Global Exercise 21 with UK, Australian and Japanese forces since Monday, the US Indo-Pacific Command said. A UK aircraft carrier strike group led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier sailed through the South China Sea on Monday, with a German warship, the Bayern frigate, setting sail on the same day also for the South China Sea. India is another country that plans to send warships to the South China Sea, as four Indian destroyers and a frigate will be deployed for a two-month period to Southeast Asia, the South China Sea and the western Pacific, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing the China-India border question since clashes last year. Against this backdrop, China's large-scale exercise in the South China Sea is a pointed response that warns these provocateurs, Song said. They are like hungry wolves that have been frequently stirring up troubles and challenging China's core interests, Song said. "China holding military exercises is like readying a hunting rifle and striking back at the wolves," Song said, noting that a good rifle is necessary. Xu said that the PLA's exercise has perfect timing, as it will show on a strategic level that China is not afraid of anyone, and even warships from a hundred countries coming to the South China Sea will not shake its determination to safeguard national sovereignty and security. Of all those countries, the PLA exercise is a warning to the US, which is the one that rallied the gang, Xu said. It is a common understanding among foreign and Chinese military analysts that the PLA has the upper hand if a war breaks out on China's doorsteps, be it in the South China Sea, the East China Sea or the Taiwan Straits, even against powerful opponents like the US and its allies. The large-scale exercise in the South China Sea is not the only drill the PLA will conduct, as the Maritime Safety Administration has announced several more drills in the Bohai Strait, the Yellow Sea, and other locations in the South China Sea. From Monday to August 13, China and Russia will hold the Zapad/Interaction-2021 exercise in the Qingtongxia Combined Arms Tactical Training Base in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which will feature more than 10,000 personnel, multiple types of aircraft, artillery pieces and armored equipment with the aim of testing joint reconnaissance, early warning, electronic information attack and strike capabilities. In addition to displaying China' and Russia's roles as major powers in jointly safeguarding regional peace and stability in Central Asia following the US' irresponsible troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the joint exercise will also enhance military cooperation under the context that both countries are facing suppression by the US, a Chinese expert on international affairs who requested anonymity told the Global Times. ^ top ^

Interference in China's domestic affairs counterproductive: former U.S. ambassador (People's Daily)
Foreign countries' interventions in China's domestic affairs will only be counterproductive, former U.S. Ambassador to China Stapleton Roy has said, criticizing the U.S. abuse of power in global issues. In an interview with the U.S. magazine The Wire China on July 25, Roy said the so-called sanctions imposed by Washington on the use of cotton originating in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region "will not have a substantial impact on China, but will only harm its own interests." Roy, who helped set up the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and served as the U.S. ambassador to China from 1991 to 1995, said the United States, after becoming the world's only superpower, is expanding day by day and paying the price for the abuse of power both domestically and abroad. ^ top ^

Russian troops to operate modern PLA equipment for 1st time in joint exercise, 'shows mutual trust' (Global Times)
Chinese and Russian troops have been eagerly preparing for the upcoming Zapad/Interaction-2021 exercise in China, with the participating Russian servicemen provided with modern weapons and equipment of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) for the first time in a move Chinese experts said displays high level of mutual trust and will enhance joint combat capabilities of the two militaries. In preparation for the exercise scheduled from August 9 to 13 in the Qingtongxia Combined Arms Tactical Training Base in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, servicemen of the Russian military contingent from the formations and military units of the Eastern Military District for the first time mastered modern models of military equipment and weapons of the PLA, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a news release on Tuesday. Military personnel of the Russian Air Defense Forces were learning how to drive and use weapons on a medium wheeled tank and an armored vehicle of the Chinese army, the Russian Defense Ministry said, The Russian troops were provided with the PLA's Type 11 wheeled assault gun and Type 08 infantry fighting vehicle, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Wednesday. Training was held with the direct participation of military instructors of the PLA ground forces in several stages with theoretical training, classes on electronic simulators, as well as practical driving and shooting, both individually and as part of units, according to the Russian news release. A number of practical trainings will take place, with the participation of units of Russian and Chinese troops in the near future, with aviation units of both sides also taking part, it said. During the Kavkaz-2020 strategic drills held in Russia in September last year, Chinese troops for the first time used main battle weapons and equipment provided by the Russian military, including the T-72B3 tank, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle and Igla-S air defense missile, CCTV reported at that time. Chinese and Russian troops' exchanges of each other's weapons and equipment in joint exercises are a reflection of mutual trust, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday. This will allow both sides to better understand each other's way of combat and form better tacit understandings in future joint military operations and antiterrorist missions, he said, noting that the two militaries' weapons and equipment can support each other and lead to better cooperative moves. All participating Russian troops and equipment have arrived in Ningxia by Saturday, including five Su-30 fighter jets, CCTV reported on the day. Chinese troops, including army aviation, special operations and air defense forces have also been in intensive preparations for the exercise. In a recent rehearsal to the exercise, an Army Aviation brigade affiliated with the PLA Xinjiang Military Command dispatched Mi-171 transport helicopters and carried not only soldiers of a special operations brigade, but also Lynx all-terrain assault vehicles for airborne combat, the PLA Western Theater Command revealed in a news release on Wednesday. PLA air defense forces will deploy and are training with the HQ-17, one of the PLA's most powerful brigade-level field air defense missile systems, CCTV reported on Tuesday. It will be complemented by the Type 95 4-barrel 25-mm-caliber anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile system, according to the report. The Zapad/Interaction-2021 exercise was announced by the Chinese Defense Ministry at a regular press conference on July 29. A total of more than 10,000 personnel, multiple types of aircraft, artillery pieces and armored equipment will be dispatched mainly from the PLA Western Theater Command and Russia's Eastern Military District in the exercise, with the aim of testing joint reconnaissance, early warning, electronic information attack and strike capabilities. The purpose of the exercise is to consolidate the comprehensive strategic partnership in a new era, deepen the pragmatic cooperation and traditional friendship, and further display the determination and ability of both sides to combat terrorist forces and maintain regional peace and security, the Chinese Defense Ministry said. It is the first time that China will host a joint drill with another country since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, and this indicates a new level of military-to-military cooperation as well as high level political mutual trust, a Chinese expert on international affairs who requested anonymity told the Global Times. The exercise is also expected to display China and Russia's roles as major powers in jointly safeguarding regional peace and stability in Central Asia following the US' irresponsible troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, while also enhancing military cooperation under the context that both countries are facing suppression by the US, the expert said. Since 2018, China has participated in the Vostok-2018, Tsentr-2019 and Kavkaz-2020 strategic drills in Russia. ^ top ^

Wang Yi calls for economic integration in East Asia (Global Times)
Further integration among ASEAN, Japan, South Korea and China is vital to the region, particularly as many Asian countries are facing economic challenges amid the recent coronavirus resurge, experts said on Wednesday, following Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's latest call for more cooperation among the region's countries. Wang called for "economic integration" among ASEAN, Japan, South Korea and China amid the pandemic crisis. He made the comment at the 22nd ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting, which was held by video on Tuesday. During the meeting, Wang stressed specific directions where Southeast Asian countries should cement their cooperation. For one thing, he urged countries to take the 10+3 cooperation mechanism's 25th anniversary as an opportunity to formulate a 2023-2027 work plan, in order to plan ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korean's future roadmap of cooperation. Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Asia stays cohesive based on the principle of mutual benefits, and the 10+3 mechanism is at the core of regional cooperation. "With the mechanism, the region can mobilize resources and wisdom to jointly combat the impact of the continuous COVID-19 pandemic, while overcoming economic difficulties," Li said. Wang also elaborated upon the direction of East Asia's economic cooperation in the future. For example, he said the countries should strive to implement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as soon as possible to speed up the process of regional economic integration. He called for building a barrier against the pandemic in East Asia. According to Wang, China has provided over 750 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to other countries and regions, and will provide additional 110 million doses in the next four months, as well as providing $3 billion in aid. Wang also called on regional countries to accelerate regional digital transformation, make good use of East Asian countries' market size, and vigorously carry out practical cooperation on artificial intelligence and digital economy. Gu Xiaosong, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, said that many Southeast Asian countries, like Vietnam, are likely to fail to meet their economic targets this year with the coronavirus resurgence, as those countries are highly dependent on manufacturing which is affected by the pandemic. According to media reports, Apple and Samsung suppliers in Vietnam are making local workers sleep on factory floors to keep the industry rolling while preventing pandemic resurgence, which experts said reflects those countries' dependence on Original Equipment Manufacturer business. "Whether those supply chains would be unharmed depends on how the pandemic will evolve in the next few months. If the pandemic is not controlled, it's possible that many supply chains might move out of Vietnam, and the economic losses will be huge," Gu said, saying that the case applies to other Asian countries like Indonesia as well. Under such circumstances, it's vital that those countries strengthen cooperation with China, one of the few countries whose trade and economic situation remains relatively undisturbed, experts said. "China's trade and investment could help many countries offset their economic losses amid the pandemic while kick-starting economic recovery. On the other hand, China is virtually the only country which has the inclination to churn out a large number of vaccines and ready to donate them without any additional political conditions," Gu said. The RCEP, which provides a cooperative framework under which preferential policies like zero tax will be rolled out, will cement Asia's economic interaction, experts said. They also stressed that the economic integration between China and many Asian countries has already grown so tight that it can't be harmed by external disruption, like the US provocation or protectionist calls. "Not only has China and ASEAN developed close ties in labor division of industry chains, but also China has grown to be a key market for many Asian countries, such as the Philippines' agriculture products. For export-orientated countries, they will not drift apart from China just because of external pressure," Liu Xiaoxue, an associate research fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. ^ top ^

The common interests behind China and the Taliban's talks in Tianjin (SCMP)
No sooner had US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman left Tianjin after tense talks with Chinese officials last week, than a Taliban delegation arrived at the same hotel from Afghanistan. It was a clear message that Beijing will forge its own strategy with its neighbour after calling the US policy towards the war-torn country a failure. As the September deadline for the withdrawal of US troops approaches, relations between China and the resurgent group were elevated on Wednesday, with Beijing's assurance that it will back the Taliban's role in Afghanistan's security and reconstruction. "The Taliban in Afghanistan is a pivotal military and political force in the country, and is likely to play an important role in the process of reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during talks with the delegation led by Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The talks were held in the same Tianjin hotel where Sherman met Wang and other foreign ministry officials on Monday. Sherman called on Beijing to cooperate with the US on regional issues, including Afghanistan and Iran. The US has intensified air strikes against the Taliban, which has seized at least half the country. "The withdrawal of US and Nato troops is basically a representation of the failure of US policies towards Afghanistan," Wang said. China's official stance on the Afghanistan issue was to uphold the principles of "Afghan-owned" and "Afghan-led" and oppose interference from foreign forces, he said. Diplomatic observers said China was still far from recognising the group as the legitimate government, but was preparing for the possibility that it would take over if national reconciliation failed. Closer ties with the Taliban are seen by Beijing as crucial for its counterterrorism efforts and economic interests in the region. "The Afghan Taliban can play a unique role in restraining the security threat imposed by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) to China, due to the Taliban's connection with the group," said Gu Dingguo, a research fellow at East China Normal University specialising in studies of China's neighbours. Beijing holds the ETIM responsible for violent attacks in Xinjiang, and Wang pressed Baradar in Tianjin for an assurance that the Taliban would cut its ties with the group. Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said after the meeting that Baradar had pledged Afghan soil would not be used to pose a threat to China's security. "The Taliban is the main object that China wants to stabilise in the national reconciliation talks in Afghanistan. Reaching national reconciliation is significant to Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, the road map of which passes through Central Asia. The spillover of Afghan turmoil to other countries in the region will pose a great threat to the vision," Gu said. The belt and road infrastructure plan involves six major economic corridors – which include special economic zones and energy and transport infrastructure. Two of them cross Central Asia – the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The former connects China with the Arabian Peninsula, passing through five Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – and 17 West Asian countries. The latter extends from Kashgar in China's Xinjiang region to Pakistan's Gwadar port, delivering roads, pipelines and optical cables. The CPEC gives China an alternative route for oil and gas from the Middle East and Beijing has called for a "substantive expansion" of the route to include Afghanistan. China's engagement with the Taliban serves the interests of both sides, according to Richard Ghiasy, a senior fellow at the Leiden Asia Centre in the Netherlands. "China has fully come to realise that there can be no sustainable peace in Afghanistan without a political role for the Taliban. After all, 20 years, trillions of dollars, and a huge military could not eliminate the Taliban," he said. "In the case of Afghanistan, the Chinese authorities must surely be hoping for a political settlement and power sharing architecture that is inclusive and represents the interests of all Afghans. If not, then anti-Taliban [ethnic] forces will continue to fight for their beliefs and freedom and a sustainable peace will still be distant." For the Taliban, engagement with and recognition from China was a boost to its legitimacy, he added. Yan Wei, an international relations professor at Northwest University in China, said it was necessary for both the Taliban and China to engage each other, given the group's heavy influence in Afghanistan. But he said Beijing remained cautious about the Taliban and the engagement was limited. "If the Taliban overthrew the current government and came to power, the premise of China's recognition of its regime is that it can be widely recognised by the international community." Both Yan and Gu said China's greatest hope for Afghanistan was not a Taliban government, but rather national reconciliation, seen as more likely to bring peace and stability to China's neighbouring area. "After all, the Taliban have long-standing ties with extremist religious forces in Central Asia and outside the region. The possibility that the Taliban will establish a theocracy like they did in the 1990s can't be ruled out," Yan said. "Despite the positive signal the Afghan Taliban recently released, it can't be guaranteed that their promise can be realised after they take over power, given the composition of the group is complicated and there are divergences within it. It remains a question whether those hardliners influenced by extremist forces can match their words and deeds after taking power." Gu added: "China prefers to deal with a regime that separates politics and religion, and hopes to see the Taliban become a political party that participates in politics which also recognises the current government." But Derek Grossman, a senior defence analyst with the Rand Corporation, said China would prefer any outcome that met its two national interests – maintaining stability in Xinjiang and natural resource extraction in Afghanistan. "First, the hope in Beijing is that the Taliban, if they retake power in the coming weeks or months, will rein in any Islamic extremist forces who might support perceived separatists in China's northwestern province of Xinjiang," he said. "China wants to access natural resources under Afghanistan's mountains, which are estimated according to one report in 2014 to be valued at nearly one trillion dollars. Afghanistan, however, will only become accessible to China if it can first be stabilised. So, that could mean national reconciliation would be acceptable if Afghanistan becomes more stable as a result, but it could alternatively mean Beijing would be OK with the Taliban retaking power." Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen earlier this month called China a "welcome friend" and vowed to protect Chinese investors and workers in Afghanistan, saying it would not allow China's Uygur separatist fighters to use Afghanistan as a safe hub. An earlier Taliban delegation to Beijing in 2019 met Deng Xijun, the then-special representative for Afghanistan. The two sides have also held multiple low-profile meetings over the years, which have been reported by media outside China, but rarely confirmed by Beijing. "China, along with the US, used to help the Taliban fight the former Soviet Union in 1990s, and has maintained relatively close relations with the group ever since," Gu said. "Engaging the Taliban can also help China strengthen its influence in the Islamic world, where the US has few friends." According to Grossman, one reason for the Taliban's engagement with China is because the group does not want Beijing to unite with other powers in a bid to contain it. "The Afghan Taliban does not want to see China leveraging its close partnership with Pakistan to in turn put pressure on the Taliban," he said. "Taliban attacks on Chinese interests in Afghanistan could result in heightened tensions between Beijing and Islamabad. If the latter does not commit enough to stopping attacks, then China and India might have a new-found common interest to undermine or eliminate the group." Gu said the Taliban needed China's help in various aspects, including the reconciliation talks with the Afghan government and the economic reconstruction of the country if it seized power. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Chinese vaccine developers target delta variant (China Daily)
A handful of Chinese COVID-19 vaccine developers said recently that they have obtained the highly contagious delta variant and geared up to develop vaccines targeting the new strain, which has spread to more than 130 countries and regions. Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products, based in Guangdong province, said on Wednesday that it has isolated several delta strains as part of its research program aimed at creating a new version of its inactivated vaccine that will specifically target the variant. The company said it will soon evaluate them against requirements set for human-use vaccines in order to screen for suitable ones in preparation for manufacturing. The company's first-generation inactivated vaccine was approved for emergency use in China in May. Laboratory tests show it can generate good neutralizing effects and provide protection against emerging variants. An unnamed employee from the company told Shenzhen Special Zone Daily that it will continue to push for research into variant-specific vaccines and mass production, and will strive to diversify its technologies. Zhu Tao, chief scientist at CanSino Biologics, said during an online event on Thursday that it is keeping a close eye on virus mutations. He said the company's adenovirus vector vaccine technology can be quickly mobilized to develop and produce vaccines against emerging variants, adding that CanSino has already launched such work. Last week, Yang Xiaoming, president of Sinopharm's China National Biotech Group, said the company had accelerated research into new vaccines designed to tackle variants, assessing their efficacy and safety in preclinical studies. Yang Guang, chief business officer of Sinovac Biotech, said earlier that it has acquired samples of the beta, gamma and delta strains-three of the four new strains listed by the World Health Organization as variants of concern. "We are exploring new vaccines targeting the delta strain based on our established and mature technologies, procedures and standards that have been applied to the first-generation dose," she said. "We are looking forward to publishing relevant data in the future." Zhong Nanshan, a prominent respiratory disease expert, said in June that different types of vaccine technologies should be used to explore the creation of anti-variant vaccines. By early last month, the National Medical Products Administration had approved 22 COVID-19 vaccines using five different technologies for clinical trials. Four vaccines have been given conditional approval and three have been approved for emergency use. Despite the progress reported by manufacturers, a health expert said a number of uncertainties remain in the use of new jabs against variants. Feng Zijian, a researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told China Newsweek, a weekly magazine, that the length of development will depend on the requirements of drug regulators, especially whether it is possible to grant authorization after completing the first two stages of clinical trials, which takes one to three months. "It will take longer if the top drug regulator requires completion of all three phases of human trials," he said, adding that drug regulators will take into consideration the fact that some new vaccines only replace the old strain with a new one without altering their core production technologies. Feng said that issues such as when to begin manufacturing new vaccines targeting variants and how to incorporate them into the current immunization plan are still being discussed. He said new vaccines can either be used as a booster shot to increase immunity in the vaccinated population or be delivered as normal doses to the unvaccinated. Flu warning As China battles the COVID-19 epidemic, health experts have warned about emerging flu threats that might sweep the nation as the weather gets colder later this year. At a recent national conference, leading experts pointed out the potential threats posed by flu this year and called for inoculation preparations. Wang Dayan, director of Chinese National Influenza Center, said data shows that for two consecutive months, flu-like cases in China's outpatient clinics have exceeded the number in the same period in the past three years. The flu epidemic was at a low level last year because people took nonpharmacological intervention measures, including hand washing, masking and social distancing to prevent and control COVID-19, but their preexisting immunity against flu may decline and getting vaccinated against influenza is becoming important, health authorities said. ^ top ^

Nanjing COVID-19 surge flattens, proves China's preventive measures effective in fighting Delta variant (Global Times)
Nanjing in East China's Jiangsu Province, which has been hit the hardest by a new wave of COVID-19 since mid-July, has seen a flattening curve of daily infections, as the city reported single-digit case numbers for three consecutive days. Experts said that the trend indicates that Nanjing's outbreak has been brought under control, and the preventive measures have proven effective even in the face of the more vicious Delta variant. Nanjing reported four new confirmed local cases on Wednesday, bringing the total infection number to 227 since the epidemic broke out from the local airport on July 20, the city's health commission said at Thursday's media briefing. On Tuesday and Monday, the city reported five and three new cases, respectively. A number of areas in two blocks of Nanjing have downgraded their risk levels from medium to low, the commission said. Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times on Thursday that the trend suggests the Nanjing outbreak has been brought under control. "With the timely and accurate measures to cut off the transmission chain, contain the virus spread, and vaccination, we are confident to curb the COVID-19 spike even in the face of the Delta variant," Wang noted. The Nanjing Public Health Medical Center has built a new oxygen supply facility, realizing full-flow high-pressure oxygen supply in the ICU ward, and further improving the ability to treat patients with COVID-19. Nanjing's neighboring city of Yangzhou, which has also become an "eye of the storm" in the latest coronavirus flare-up, is still struggling with daily surges. The city registered 36 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total local case number to 162. It is worth noting that of the 162 cases, 9 suffered severe symptoms while 2 are in critical conditions. To fight the epidemic effectively, Jiangyin, another city in Jiangsu, has completed the functional examination of the Huoyan lab, or the "piercing eyes" lab, which only took a day to build. It is specially built to increase nucleic acid testing capacity, with a daily throughput reaching 30,000 tubes of samples, China Central Television reported. Some 87 highway entrances and exits have been closed in Jiangsu, as well as 31 national and provincial highways. The province registered 40 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, four of which were from Nanjing and 36 others from Yangzhou. There are currently 396 confirmed locally-transmitted patients being treated at local designated hospitals. ^ top ^

Fire and fury: the young Chinese hawks chosen to take on Washington (SCMP)
While the tense exchanges in Tianjin last week between Chinese and American diplomats underlined the deepening crisis between the world's top two economies, it also put a spotlight on two rising stars in China's diplomatic corps. Qin Gang, China's new ambassador to the United States, made a rare appearance at Foreign Minister Wang Yi's meeting with US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman on Sunday, just two days before leaving for Washington, according to people with knowledge of the event. But Xie Feng, China's newly appointed vice foreign minister in day-to-day charge of American affairs, was the one making headlines with his fiery remarks during the four hours of talks with Sherman. In an unusually blunt message directed at the second-ranking American diplomat, he denounced the administration of President Joe Biden for singling Beijing out as an "imaginary enemy", and demanded that China be treated as an equal. "The hope may be that by demonising China, the US could somehow... blame China for its own structural problems," state media quoted him as saying. With both Beijing and Washington struggling to come up with a winning strategy in the post-engagement era, Xie and Qin are expected to work together to perform frontline roles in managing China's increasingly belligerent ties with the US in the years to come. Observers say their promotion signals the rise of a new generation of Chinese diplomats, with Beijing accelerating its efforts in recent months to inject fresh blood into the country's ageing senior diplomatic line-up ahead of the Communist Party's National Congress next year. As a result, five of China's six deputy foreign ministers and most ambassadors of similar protocol rank were born after 1963. Just three years ago, over half of the top-ranking diplomats and ambassadors were at least at the retirement age of 63. While his rebuke of Washington's China containment strategy met with applause among the country's increasingly nationalist audience at home, Xie's hawkish turn took many of his acquaintances by surprise. Xie, a former ambassador to Indonesia and the foreign ministry's envoy in Hong Kong until January, is known in China's foreign service to be rational, media-savvy and meticulous, with a clear understanding of what President Xi Jinping wants from his diplomats. Xie Feng is China's newly appointed vice foreign minister in day-to-day charge of American affairs. Photo: Phoenix TV via AP Video "Xie was recognised for his work in Hong Kong. He has demonstrated the struggle spirit [that Xi has called for] at a challenging period," said a diplomat who is familiar with the situation, referring to the mass protests in Hong Kong in 2019. "That's why he was called back to Beijing to be put in charge of US affairs." Unlike Qin, 55, who made a name for himself over 15 years ago as a sharp-tongued foreign ministry spokesman and has since enjoyed a high-profile career, Xie has been groomed as a US expert, working through the diplomatic ranks since the early 1990s. At 57, both Xie and his predecessor Zheng Zeguang, who became China's ambassador to Britain in December, specialised in US-China relations, serving as the second-ranking diplomat at the Chinese embassy in Washington. Zheng and Xie were also previously seen as contenders for the top Washington job, while Qin has barely had any exposure to handling US affairs. A native of the city of Yangzhou in the eastern province of Jiangsu, Xie joined the foreign service in 1986 after graduating from China Foreign Affairs University with a law degree. He served twice in the Chinese mission in Washington, including a stint in the early 2000s under the ambassadorship of Yang Jiechi, who later became China's foreign minister and is now a top aide to President Xi Jinping. He rose to head of the ministry's department of North American and Oceania affairs in 2010 after a second stint in the US as minister, the embassy's second-ranking official, under former ambassador Zhou Wenzhong. Previously considered a dove, Xie turned increasingly combative during his stint in Hong Kong, especially after US-China ties took a confrontational turn under former president Donald Trump. A Hong Kong tycoon, who knows Xie personally but did not want to be named, said Xie's approach was typical of the Wolf Warrior-style diplomats who followed Beijing's policy instructions attentively. "When he first arrived [in Hong Kong] in 2017, there were very few combative lines from him. But as the US-China tensions escalated in 2018 and Hong Kong was engulfed in a turmoil from 2019, his tone changed substantially, reflecting Beijing's tough stance," he said. Kurt Tong, former US consul general to Hong Kong, described Xie as "very dynamic and confident", but not as knowledgeable about Hong Kong as his predecessors. Tong, who met Xie regularly as America's top diplomat in Hong Kong, said the foreign ministry office in the city, which had kept a low profile since the handover, became increasingly active around the time Xie was posted there. "Xie worked hard to keep in the spotlight, and to make sure that Beijing didn't forget about him, including using self-promotion videos and diplomatic delegation visits to cities in the mainland to boost his profile," said Tong, a partner at The Asia Group. "Unlike his predecessor, he was not so knowledgeable about Hong Kong. He did not seem so interested in the city, and seemed eager to get back to Beijing." China's 'wolf warrior' diplomacy counterproductive, says former Australian PM Turnbull For Xie and Qin, who arrived in Washington on July 28, their immediate task will be to halt the cycle of disengagement and engineer a summit. The world is watching closely whether the high-stakes, first face-to-face meeting between Xi and Biden goes ahead soon, a sign of how serious the rival powers are about de-escalating tensions. But analysts cautioned that given Xi's absolute control over major decisions, Qin, Xie and most of China's top diplomats would have limited sway over the direction of bilateral ties. They also voiced concerns about the trajectory of US-China relations as economic and diplomatic decoupling gathers pace. "Each day we see cold warish behaviour by both sides including efforts to outmanoeuvre each other through the use of proxies while avoiding head-on collision," said Gal Luft, a co-director of the Washington-based Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. "We should not be shy in using the term and apply many of the lessons from the previous cold war in the hope that this time again the great power competition remains restricted." Since Biden took office six months ago, tensions between China and the US have escalated on almost every front, with Biden largely inheriting his predecessor's China policy and toughening his stand against Beijing. Biden has used the China card to paper over the political divide and economic woes at home and reestablish American leadership around the world, framing the rivalry as a long battle for democracies to check the rise of authoritarianism led by China. China, meanwhile, has turned increasingly authoritarian at home and assertive abroad. Tapping into nationalist sentiment, Xi denounced in July the US-led international coalition against China as presenting unprecedented challenges and adversity for the country's rise to global power. "The hardening of Biden's approach on China was largely driven by domestic needs in the US, especially considering the stakes at the mid-term elections next year," said Huang Jing, dean of the Institute of International and Regional Studies at Beijing Language and Culture University. "Beijing in a sense understands what Biden is going through because China's US and external policy is also largely based on its domestic considerations." He said Xie's tough comments should not be overstated because they were aimed mainly at China's domestic audience. "Xie is not among top-level officials in the Chinese government hierarchy and he has no other choice but to act assertively and deliver messages as instructed by his bosses," Huang said. The State Department's official statement on Sherman's China trip could indicate that Washington did not take Xie's comments seriously, with no mention of the talks with Xie or the lists of Chinese demands. "[Xie] was obliged to do the dirty work and present a laundry list of demands and accusations to satisfy the Chinese public," Huang added. Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington, also said Beijing's confrontation was more of a tactic and the Biden administration was more interested in stabilising relations. "China detects this. And it sees a transient moment of advantage to pay the Americans back" in its own talking down mode, he said. "But the Chinese lashed out in Tianjin not because they see a bilateral relationship in impending jeopardy, but rather because of their confidence that the relationship is on a trajectory that can cushion and sustain their orchestrated blow." There was no question that Beijing would want to project a muscular foreign policy entering into the party congress cycle, Gupta said. "The bilateral relationship is still in a slow process of repair, and both parties are still straining to move beyond the phase of laying down 'red lines' to get to the point where they can start to reassure the other of their intentions," he said. "This is a hard slog but not an unachievable one. And there are smart diplomats on both sides who, at their political masters' directions, could pull this fine balance off." The rise of Xie and Qin, among a generation of younger and more assertive Chinese diplomats, runs parallel with the nationalist shift in China's diplomacy in recent years. Empowered by the hardening of Washington's China policy and Beijing's confidence in its own rise and the inevitable decline of Western powers, the past few years have seen the rise of a large cohort of Wolf Warrior ambassadors and senior diplomats. While their overtly combative posturing has pushed many countries away, especially China's neighbours and partners, their promotion appears to have received the blessing from the leadership, underlining the country's highly centralised decision-making and Xi's dominant role. Worse still, after nearly 50 years of dialogue and engagement which has largely failed to mould China in America's image, mistrust and antagonism reign, with officials, especially those at the decision-making level, barely talking to each other. "It is difficult to assess whether the younger and louder Chinese diplomats are actually shaping China's more aggressive foreign policy, or just reflecting an aggressive tone that is set by higher party officials – and being rewarded for echoing that approach. It may be a bit of both," Tong said. Zhao Tong, a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, said that for their own careers, diplomats had incentives to promote a more assertive communication style that the top Chinese leadership advanced. With Chinese people accepting the official narrative that Washington has been solely responsible for the deterioration of bilateral ties and its improvement, "Chinese diplomats would be hard pressed to escape the influence of such a domestic mainstream view", he said. "The worsening of the bilateral ties is fundamentally a result of divergent ideologies and values between the two political systems in China and the United States. This means the two sides won't be able to achieve a substantially better relationship, no matter which diplomats are put in senior positions," Zhao said. ^ top ^

Xi Focus: Rural vitalization in full swing (China Daily)
Capitalizing on its victory in eradicating absolute poverty, China is ramping up efforts to propel rural vitalization, which is "a major task in realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," as President Xi Jinping put it. "Promoting rural vitalization on all fronts will be no easier than the anti-poverty battle," said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission. The rural vitalization strategy was proposed as a key move for the development of a modernized economy at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2017. After the country successfully eradicated absolute poverty, the focus of work concerning agriculture, rural areas and farmers has shifted to promoting rural vitalization. To realize this goal, the country has been working to foster rural industries, promote the application of agricultural technologies and build beautiful countryside. ENRICHING FARMERS: NO ONE LEFT BEHIND When visiting a company producing Tibetan carpets during an inspection tour of northwest China's Qinghai Province in June, Xi stressed efforts to better integrate industrial cultivation and enterprise growth with employment, rural vitalization and ethnic unity. The carpet factory is a typical case demonstrating that the local specialty industries have been crucial to underpin rural vitalization. China's rural areas saw steady growth of industries in the first half of this year. A total of 50 modern agricultural industrial zones, 50 industrial clusters with distinctive strengths and 298 towns with strong agricultural industries were established across the country, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. AGRICULTURE: TECHNOLOGY-LED China's "No. 1 central document" for 2021, the first policy statement released by the central authorities each year, highlighted the role of science and technology in rural vitalization. When visiting a tea farm at the foot of Mount Wuyi in Fujian Province in March, Xi stressed more efforts in implementing the arrangements to dispatch technical professionals to rural areas and help with local development. The farm is run by a team led by Liao Hong, a professor at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University. By interplanting tea with soy bean and oilseed rape, the team has not only increased yields, but also improved the soil and tea quality. Tea produced by the farm could fetch a price 30 percent higher than average products. Hundreds of thousands of agricultural professionals are working at the grassroots across the country, injecting strong impetus into the high-quality development of the agricultural industry. China's summer grain output hit a record high this year. The acreage, yield per unit area and total yield all registered year-on-year growth. Special high-quality wheat plantation accounted for 37.3 percent of the acreage, 1.5 percentage points higher than last year, data from the ministry showed. BEAUTIFUL COUNTRYSIDE: BETTER LIVING ENVIRONMENTS Apart from boosting local industries in rural areas, Xi also attaches great importance to improving rural living environments to ensure rural residents have better access to high-quality services and facilities. "Toilet revolution" has been put high on agenda to make the countryside more livable. By the end of 2020, more than 40 million rural household toilets had been renovated since China launched a three-year rural living environment upgrade campaign in 2018, with the penetration rate of clean toilets achieving 68 percent in China's rural areas, statistics showed. Rural "toilet revolution" will continue to be an important task of rural vitalization in the next five years, Xi said last month in an instruction on the work to advance the campaign. He called for solid progress in light of local conditions and in a scientific manner while avoiding formalism and waste of resources. Besides this, rural household waste treatment and sewage treatment are also deemed important works in rural vitalization. Li Haimei, a villager in the mountainous area of the southwestern province of Guizhou, saw the dry toilet at her home, which used to be next to the pigsty, rebuilt into a bathroom with a flush toilet and shower fittings in 2020. Li and her husband, who had been working in cities away from home, have decided to stay in the village and start a homestay and restaurant this year. "We will turn to tourism for a living at our doorstep as the improving village conditions are attracting more visitors." ^ top ^

Xi Focus: Building a peace-loving world-class military (Xinhua)
When extremely heavy rainstorms devastated central China in July, it was hard not to notice the troops of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on dams, reservoirs and riverbanks -- the most dangerous areas in the battle against floods. They rushed to the forefront answering the Party's call, fixed dam breaches, evacuated residents in danger, and blasted barriers to release floodwater. The Party's flag flew over the field, and banners on their trucks read "People First, Life First." This provides a glimpse of how the PLA is fulfilling duties in the new era. A strong country must have a strong military, as only then can it guarantee the security of the nation, said Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission. Over the past few years, the PLA is redoubling the efforts to build a peace-loving world-class military that obeys the Party's command, can fight and win, and maintains excellent conduct. In his latest speech, Xi reiterated that the Party must command the gun. Firmly following the Party's leadership is the fundamental reason why the PLA triumphed over all kinds of trials and tribulations, and advanced from victory to victory, according to Xi. MODERNIZATION FOR PROTECTING PEACE China aims to basically complete the modernization of its national defense and the people's armed forces by 2035, and fully transform its armed forces into world-class forces by the mid-21st century. Major structural changes took place in the armed forces after late November 2015, when Xi unleashed a sweeping military reform. He attaches great importance to military training. Combat capability was established as the "sole and fundamental" benchmark of the military. Only those capable of fighting can stop battles, and only those prepared for war don't have to fall into war, said Xi. "We must put all of our mind and energy in honing the combat capability, and ensure that we are fully prepared, able to fight and capable of winning any time the Party or the people are in need," said Xu Dawei, a military officer, whose brigade works on drone technology. As China keeps building up its national defense and armed forces, the defensive nature of the country's national defense policy remains unchanged. "This is written into the National Defense Law, becoming a basic, abiding and long-term policy we uphold," said He Lei, a national lawmaker and former deputy head of the Academy of Military Sciences. International public security goods were also provided during the PLA's recent exchanges and cooperation with its counterparts around the world. Over the past 30 years, China has sent over 40,000 peacekeepers to 25 UN peacekeeping missions, according to a white paper on China's United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Operations released last September. China is the second-largest contributor to both peacekeeping assessment and UN membership fees, and the largest troop contributor among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, said the white paper. China never seeks hegemony or expansion and firmly opposes hegemonism and power politics, Xi said. Instead, the Chinese military has tasked itself with the mission of building a community with a shared future for humanity, taking an active part in international disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in the wake of COVID-19. Since February this year, China's armed forces have provided 25 batches of COVID-19 vaccine assistance to armed forces of over 20 countries including Pakistan, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Sudan. The Chinese military will always be a staunch defender of world peace, said Xi. ^ top ^

State Council sets up investigation team to carry out truthful review of Henan flood disaster that killed 302 (Global Times)
The State Council, China's cabinet, on Monday set up a task force to investigate the torrential rains and floods that killed 302 and caused massive losses in Central China's Henan Province. The team will carry out a scientific, truthful and comprehensive investigation and review of the disaster response to summarize experiences for the future, give disaster reduction advice and punish any potential dereliction of duty. Experts say a credible investigation is crucial in responding to people's questions and is an important way to rebuild the local governments' credibility. As the result of one of the most deadly accidents caused by natural disaster, the death toll rocketed to 302 as of Monday since downpours and floods hit Henan in mid-July, and 50 are still missing, the provincial authority said at a Monday press conference. Provincial capital Zhengzhou suffered the highest casualties of 292, with 47 missing. Among them, 189 died due to floods and debris, 54 due to collapsed houses, and 39 due to underground inundations. Among the deaths, the inundation of a subway train that killed 14 and the Beijing-Guangzhou Tunnel inundation that killed six received the most attention. After the disaster, some asked whether sufficient attention had been paid to the rainstorm forecasts, and whether the disaster response could have been better handled and some deaths could have been avoided. Henan governor Wang Kai said at the press conference on Monday that the floods were a major test and exposed shortfalls in governance, vowing to learn a lesson from the disaster and strengthen flood control and urban management. Wang expressed deep condolences to the victims of the disaster, and to the workers who gave their lives while carrying out flood control and rescue. Credible answers needed The rainfall disaster in Henan is believed to be one of the most deadly incidents caused by a natural disaster in recent years, after the capsized cruise ship Eastern Star sank in the Yangtze River on June 1, 2015. The cruise ship accident resulted from severe convective weather, leading to 396 deaths and 46 missing. Investigation reports are expected to cover the entire process of the disaster response, including pre-warning, emergency planning and coping measures, and to cover deaths in underground spaces, the issue of greatest concern to the public. On July 20, water inundated Line 5 of the Zhengzhou Metro, one of the busiest subway lines in the city, forcing the train to stop between Shakou Road Station and Haitansi Station. More than 500 passengers on board were trapped in neck-deep water for nearly four hours. Fourteen people died after torrential rains flooded the subway. The tragedy drew reflections nationwide that decisive measures and precautions must be taken to avoid similar misfortune Setting up the task force reflects the utmost importance the State Council attaches to such a major disaster causing heavy casualties and property losses, a professor surnamed Zhang from Peking University told the Global Times on Monday. The unexpected disaster reminds us that we should not underestimate natural disasters that we have rarely experienced, and the relevant drills as well as quick responses can be never absent in order to minimize casualties and damage, said Zhang. The flood will lead to a major reassessment and approval of the entire emergency management and response regime in Zhengzhou, but it will take time, considering the current resurgence of COVID-19 in the city, which is challenging the city's governance resources, Zhang noted. Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times that the Henan floods exposed loopholes in both administrative management as well as construction and maintenance of flood control. On July 20, the Zhengzhou meteorological department issued a total of 10 red alerts for rainstorms. Guidelines for red alert, the highest warning signal, require the suspension of rallies, classes and businesses (except for special industries), and all emergency responses are required. But the red alerts failed to raise the local governments' alarm in Henan. Some Zhengzhou residents reached by the Global Times said that they did not receive notices of school or business suspensions until July 21, and many people continued to commute as usual. Sending a task force is a strong signal from the central government that it is probing misconduct in this Zhengzhou disaster, and tells the public that the local governments cannot remain blind to the questions raised. Traditional ways of mourning the dead and honoring the heroes of disaster relief in past decades are not enough to end public doubts, Gao Jianguo, an expert from China Association for Disaster Prevention, told the Global Times on Monday. "Restoring the credibility of the local governments by giving transparent and responsible feedback and reflecting on the whole process in the post-disaster period is crucial," Gao noted. Reflections for future Cities other than Zhengzhou also suffered casualties amid urban waterlogging. With some rural areas still ramping up water drainage and victim resettlement efforts, statistics on losses could be further updated. Xinxiang city to the north of Zhengzhou on the other bank of the Yellow River, where some villages are still flooded, registered seven deaths and three missing. Two people died in Pingdingshan city and one died in Luohe city. Some 14.5 million people in 150 counties in Henan have been affected by the disaster. Resident evacuations peaked at 1.47 million while some returned home later. As of Monday, 933,800 people were relocated. About 89,000 houses collapsed and 1.09 million hectares of farmland were impacted, of which 253 hectares suffered complete devastation. Direct economic losses from the downpours, floods and inundation totaled 114.3 billion yuan ($17.7 billion), according to press conference. Historic rainstorms started to hit northern parts of Henan Province from July 16, setting new daily and hourly precipitation records. Weather forecast organs said that rainfall in Zhengzhou on July 20 were close to the city's average annual precipitation. Analysts said that Henan, which has mostly suffered drought in the past, does not have rich experience in dealing with sudden floods and severe downpours as some southern China cities do, but netizens' doubts have prompted the government to come up with an answer. "Were warnings fully delivered to residents? Was the transportation system suspended in time? Are emergency plans for the underground system well designed? Did the 'sponge city' with its huge investment maximize its capacity? The Zhengzhou government may have to give the answers," said Gao, stressing that these reflections are essential for future improvements. Experts also called for reflection on intra- and inter-coordination between different departments. "Even though the government had made a preparedness plan, some local officials failed to make decisive decisions when people were in danger of dying," Ma Jun said, referring to the Zhengzhou metro tragedy, where floods broke the water retention wall and rushed into the subway station, trapping more than 500 passengers and killing 14 at the end. Experts have also advised carrying out reevaluation and redesign of some urban planning and infrastructure in Zhengzhou, such as the Beijing-Guangzhou Tunnel, which can be equipped with two-way emergency lanes. When water is found in the tunnel, pumping operations should be arranged immediately and the tunnel entrance should be closed according to the crisis level, Wan Yanhua, a professor of urban planning at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times on Monday. Flood control standards should also be improved in key areas such as hospitals, after at least two large hospitals in Zhengzhou suffered heavy losses in the disaster, Wan noted. The investigation into the unprecedented natural disaster-induced incident has to be factual, systematic and comprehensive, and respond in detail to the key questions raised by the public, Wang Hongwei, a professor at the Renmin University of China's School of Public Administration and Policy, told the Global Times on Monday. ^ top ^



Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway hosts its first military transport mission (Global Times)
The newly opened Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region recently hosted its first military transport mission, a move analysts said on Wednesday served as a boost to the capability of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). New recruits at a combined arms brigade affiliated with the PLA Tibet Military Command recently took a Fuxing bullet train on the railway to an exercise field at an elevation of 4,500 meters,, a news website affiliated with the PLA, reported on Wednesday. This is the first time the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway, an important part of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, has hosted a troop transport mission, and marks another step forward on the systematic development of China's military transport, said. Opening on June 25 as the first bullet train line in Tibet, the 435-kilometer railway connects Lhasa with the city of Nyingchi. It takes only about three and a half hours for a one-way ride, cutting almost half the time it takes to travel between the two cities by road. Trains are a key means to transport military personnel, equipment and supplies on a large scale, as it can serve to complement road transport, which is slower but can transport more, and air, which is faster but can transport less, a Chinese military expert who served in Tibet told the Global Times on Wednesday, requesting anonymity. Roads to and in Tibet are long and built under challenging environments including complex terrains and high altitude, and traveling such a long distance could cause troops to suffer from fatigue, and aircraft sometimes cause altitude sickness in plateau regions and have limited transport capacity, said the expert, who had traveled with both during her service in Tibet. Railways were challenging to build there, but have been completed. They are a fast, convenient and efficient option that can bypass some of these problems, the expert said. The military use of the railway is normal national defense development and not related to any ongoing situations, observers said. China and India have just wrapped up the 12th round of corps commander level meeting over the border question, and a joint press release from both countries' defense ministries on Monday said the meeting was constructive and further enhanced mutual understanding. Despite recent media reports suggesting new troops and more advanced weapons were being deployed to border regions, the joint press release of the meeting showed that both sides are committed to resolving the question through talks, and there will not be another standoff or conflict, Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times. ^ top ^



China's public security ministry opposes U.S. Senate passing Xinjiang-related bill (People's Daily)
China's Ministry of Public Security has voiced strong dissatisfaction with and resolute opposition to a Xinjiang-related bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate. The passage of the so-called Uygur Forced Labor Prevention Act is a further move by the United States to contain China by disrupting Xinjiang, the ministry said in a statement. The claims such as "mass arbitrary detention," "torture" and "high-technology surveillance" are pure fabrications, it said, adding that these are meant to smear China, hold down relevant Chinese individuals and entities, interfere in China's internal affairs, and undermine Xinjiang's stability and development. The statement pointed out that Xinjiang now enjoys economic prosperity, ethnic unity and harmony, social stability, and freedom of religious belief. People of various ethnic groups are living safe and happy lives in the region. China's public security departments are committed to law-based crackdowns on all law violations and crimes, including terrorist and separatist activities. They will make utmost efforts to safeguard the basic rights of the people of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang, including their rights to subsistence and development, the statement said. The United States slanders China by maliciously accusing it of "violating human rights" for what are usual measures to prevent and contain crimes, it said. By doing so, the United States' real intention is to bolster the terrorist and separatist forces of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and instigate separatism and unrest in Xinjiang, it added. "We reiterate that we will resolutely fight all sorts of illegal and criminal activities in accordance with the law and resolutely safeguard Xinjiang's security and development interests," it said. ^ top ^

China's Xinjiang posts foreign trade growth in H1 (Xinhua)
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region registered a year-on-year growth of 19.1 percent in its foreign trade in the first half of this year, local customs said Thursday. The total import and export value of Xinjiang reached 65.87 billion yuan (about 10.19 billion U.S. dollars) during the period, said Urumqi customs. The region's total import and export value to countries along the Belt and Road reached 56.65 billion yuan, up 23.1 percent, accounting for 86 percent of its total foreign trade. Among them, Kazakhstan remained the largest trading partner of the region, with the import and export value witnessing an increase of 14.3 percent. The region's trade with members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership also witnessed a rapid growth momentum, totaling 4.66 billion yuan, up 23.9 percent. The foreign trade with Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Thailand grew by 359.5 percent, 176.7 percent, 31.1 percent and 117.1 percent, respectively. ^ top ^

Xinjiang cotton growers buoyant as prices rise (China Daily)
As cotton plants growing on large areas of farmland owned by a cooperative in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region started to blossom this month, prices for the crop continued to rise. There was also increased confidence among the region's growers despite an ongoing boycott of Xinjiang cotton initiated by some Western countries over allegations of forced labor. Rising prices and increased demand have ended the fears of growers in the region such as Ouyang Deming, chairman of the Demin Cotton Growers Cooperative in Shaya county, about the future of the industry, which is key to Xinjiang's development. More than 50 percent of the farmers in the region grow cotton, and over 70 percent of them are members of ethnic minority groups. China is the world's second-largest cotton producer and Xinjiang is the nation's largest producer of the plant. The region is well-known for its premium, long-fiber cotton, which is popular in domestic and global markets. Xinjiang manufactured 5.2 million metric tons of cotton during the 2020-21 season, accounting for 87 percent of the nation's total production. ^ top ^



Hong Kong's financial system has proven its resilience: Carrie Lam (Xinhua)
Hong Kong's financial system has proven its resilience during the social unrest and the pandemic, Carrie Lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), said Wednesday at an online forum. Hong Kong has unrivaled connectivity with the mainland's financial markets and offers direct two-way access through stock and bond connect programs, as well as the future wealth management connect program, Lam said when speaking at a webinar attended by more than 500 participants from the Singaporean business community. Lam encouraged Singaporean enterprises to consider listing in Hong Kong and to set up a presence here to tap the opportunities in the financial sector including those in green finance. With the implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong and improvements to the electoral system, stability has been restored in Hong Kong society and the legitimate rights and freedoms of the people and businesses are safeguarded, she said. The unparalleled strengths of Hong Kong under "one country, two systems" make it an ideal gateway for Singaporean businesses to tap into the opportunities in the mainland markets, Lam said. The webinar is part of the efforts of the HKSAR government in reaching out directly to overseas business communities and the chief executive has attended such events with the European Union, Japanese and New Zealand communities in recent months. ^ top ^



Macao to close amusement venues, second time since epidemic began (Global Times)
Starting from Thursday, Macao Special Administrative Region will close some of its amusement venues after four COVID-19 infections were discovered. This marks the second time the city has shut down its amusement facilities since the epidemic began. Amusement venues including cinemas, theaters, massage parlors and night clubs in the city will be closed to prevent the virus from spreading, the COVID-19 coordination center in Macao announced on Wednesday. Ho Iat Seng, Chief Executive of Macao SAR said casinos are not included into the policy as the SAR government will not take one-size-fits-all policy. The reason for closing amusement venues and not casinos is because wearing masks in former places cannot be guaranteed. If any casino reports a new case, the government will immediately close it. Macao will likely return to normality in 14 days if the city has no unidentified source of transmission, Ho said. The last time Macao closed its amusement venues, including casinos, was in February 2020, it lasted for 15 days. Gaming stocks suffered a setback on Wednesday morning in the wake of the Macao local infections. Wynn Macau Ltd (01128) fell 6.39 percent; SJM Holdings (00880) fell 5.82 percent; Galaxy Entertainment (00027) declined 5.2 percent; and Sands China Ltd (01928) fell 4.82 percent as of press time. The four COVID-19 infections are from one family. Prior to their confirmation, the father and the mother had been to Zhuhai and Zhongshan in South China's Guangdong Province and their daughter had travelled to Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. The gene sequencing showed the four were infected with the Delta mutated variant, according to the official website of the Macao SAR government. Macao acted swiftly after the four infections by rolling out mass nucleic acid tests throughout the city. A total of 41 testing stations will run 24 hours starting from Wednesday to test all residents and tourists in Macao within three days. Before Macao announced the shutdown, activities within museums, libraries and cultural venues were immediately cancelled. People who intend to leave Macao must hold negative nucleic acid test results taken within 24 hours. Media reports said long queues in front of testing stations were seen on Tuesday night. Along with the city-wide tests in Macao, Zhuhai, where the confirmed patients in Macao had been to, also started to test all its residents starting from Tuesday night, the anti-epidemic team in Zhuhai said. Starting from Wednesday, Hong Kong SAR also announced those from Macao or had been to Macao in recent 14 days will face a 14-day home quarantine and mandatory testing for five times. ^ top ^



Mainland vows countermeasures to Biden's 1st Taiwan arms sales (Global Times)
The Biden administration's first arms sales to the island of Taiwan has received US State Department approval, which observers said was "not surprising" as Biden administration is doggedly playing the "Taiwan card" despite the already straining ties. Citing the Pentagon, Reuters reported Thursday that the deal included the potential sale of 40 155mm M109A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer artillery systems, 1,698 precision guidance kits for munitions, spares, training, ground stations and upgrades for previous generation of howitzers, to the island of Taiwan in a deal worth up to $750 million. Citing the island's defense authorities, Reuters reported that the howitzers would help its ground forces increase their "capacity for speedy reaction and fire support." The arms sales were a vicious provocation and in line with US strategy to create trouble for China in the Indo-Pacific. But no matter what weapons and equipment the US sells to the island, it cannot tilt the military capacity gap across the Taiwan Straits, not to mention that the howitzers to be sold this time are outdated weapons and will only become live targets for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) if a war breaks out in the Straits, experts said. Self-propelled howitzers cannot play their intended role when the armed forces on the island of Taiwan cannot seize air superiority or control the sea, as they will only become live targets of the PLA if they are deployed into the frontline or coastal positions in a potential war, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times. While the self-propelled howitzers boast a certain level of mobility, they cannot escape attacks by a combination of multi-role fighter jets, bombers, attack helicopters, rockets and ground troops since they will have no cover, analysts said. The US Army is already gradually losing its interest in the M109 howitzers, Wei pointed out. The US is not really helping the island of Taiwan boost its military capability with the arms sales, but is seeing the island as a recycling bin for outdated weapons and equipment, and earning unreasonably high profit from it, while also stirring up more trouble across the Straits, Wei said. Such a weapon will not be able to change the fact that the PLA holds overwhelming advantages over the military of the island of Taiwan, analysts said. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday slammed the arms sales, noting China will resolutely take legitimate and necessary counter-measures. Information of the deal, the first arms sales of the Biden administration, was released as early as April by the Taiwan island. Its proceeding to Congress came a bit later than the Trump administration's first arms sales to Taiwan, which was in June 2017, and was worth $1.4 billion. Weapons sold this time were less radical and provocative than a 2020 deal approved by the Trump administration, which included 135 precision-guided cruise missiles, mobile light rocket launchers and air reconnaissance pods that can be attached to fighter jets. But Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for US Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, warned of the possibility that the Biden administration would escalate provocations by selling more aggressive weapons as it has no intention to ease the strained China-US relations by being restrained on the Taiwan question. The US on July 19 landed a civilian version of a military aircraft on Taiwan island, loading and unloading cargo, media reported. Before that, a C-146A Wolfhound landed at Taipei Songshan Airport on July 15 and stayed for 34 minutes, and three US politicians arrived in Taiwan island on June 6 in a C-17 Globemaster III military transport plane instead of a civilian plane that normally performs such tasks. Xin noted the US' real goal is to create trouble for Chinese mainland via Taiwan, even if such moves would send the wrong signal to Taiwan secessionists and further strain the already sensitive situation. Also serving US strategy of stirring up trouble in Indo-Pacific, the US has been mobilizing allies to increase activities around the South China Sea and Taiwan Straits. US navy admiral John Aquilino claimed on Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum that US military operations came in response to China's actions associated with Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Aquilino wanted to justify US operations against China by fabricating "a threat," but citing Hong Kong and Xinjiang only demonstrated the nature of the US military — blatant interference in China's internal affairs, Xin noted. ^ top ^



China agricultural product wholesale prices edge up (China Daily)
The wholesale prices of China's agricultural products edged up Thursday, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. The latest China agricultural product wholesale price index came in at 114.2, up 0.3 points from the previous working day. By 2 p.m. Thursday, the average wholesale price of pork, a staple meat in China, declined 1.4 percent to 21.68 yuan (about 3.35 U.S. dollars) per kg, and that of eggs rose 0.6 percent to 10.46 yuan per kg. The average wholesale price of 28 key types of vegetables tracked by the government climbed 1.1 percent from the previous working day, while that of six key types of fruits went down 3 percent. The wholesale price index is compiled on the basis of data collected from around 200 agricultural wholesale markets and is updated daily based on the weighted average of price indices for goods including vegetables, fruits, aquatic products, livestock products, cereals and edible vegetable oil. ^ top ^

China drawing up policy guidelines on data sector (Global Times)
China is drawing up a policy paper on data industry, an effort to accelerate the country's economic digitalization while strengthening protection of data security, two industry observers told the Global Times. The document will be made public later this year at the earliest, according to Chinese financial media "The effective use of big data is vital to China's economic development. Developing data trading markets can help the country to mature its efficient allocation of resources and create more value," Liu Gang, director of the Nankai Institute of Economics, and chief economist at the Chinese Institute of New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Strategies, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Statistics show how China's digital development has contributed to its economy. The value-added of China's digital economy jumped from 9.5 trillion yuan ($1.47 trillion) in 2011 to hit 39.2 trillion yuan in 2020, with its proportion of GDP soaring from 20.3 percent to 38.6 percent, according to the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. While the country is planning the blueprint for data sector, multiple local governments have set up their own data exchange centers. On Tuesday, the Beijing International Big Data Exchange, which was established in March, announced the first batch of 10 cooperation partners, including the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing Internet Court, the big data center at State Grid, and China Unicom. Tech hub Shenzhen in Guangdong Province is also preparing for a data exchange with the participation of commercial banks and data infrastructure suppliers, and will cover the Greater Bay Area, which includes Hong Kong and Macao, media reports said. Boasting abundant big data and a large population, China's high level of digitalization is yielding benefits from the great attention from policy level and the era of digital transformation, Liu Xintian, CEO of Shandong Data Exchange Co, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Taking the company's business as an example, Liu said that it mainly deals with public data, finance and credit data. "We are also building an industrial big data platform for Shandong Province, out of the need for companies to share data in their industries. "Many industrial companies have built their own data centers, but they lack a data circulation mechanism in their industry," he said. However, most local governments in China are mindful of the lack of relevant laws and regulations, industry observers said. In addition, "we have to improve core technologies including algorithm development capabilities, an ultra-high-speed data transmission network and blockchain technology. Interdisciplinary talent is also needed," Liu said. According to IDC, the data scale of China as a proportion of the global figure will increase from 23.4 percent in 2018 to 27.8 percent by 2025, when it will be at the highest level in the world. ^ top ^

China ramps up market regulation of food, medicine (Xinhua)
China has expanded its list of illegal and dishonest market behaviors in the food, medicine and special equipment sectors, the country's market regulator said Wednesday. The list focuses on those sectors that are directly related to people's life, health and safety, said the State Administration for Market Regulation. The enlarged list, which comes into force on Sept. 1, is expected to help tighten the crackdown on market irregularities and acts of dishonesty, the administration said. The country has also stepped up measures to optimize its credit-based market-regulation mechanism, such as strengthening information disclosure and encouraging credit repair, according to the administration. ^ top ^

State Media Commentary That Sunk Gaming Shares Removed, Then Restored With Less Gusto (Caixin)
Shares in Chinese gaming firms plunged Tuesday after a state newspaper published an article criticizing what it called the "spiritual opium" of gaming addiction, before clawing back some of their losses after the article temporarily vanished from the web. The price of Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s Hong Kong-listed shares fell by as much as 10.8%, its biggest fall in a decade, before recovering slightly in the afternoon to close down 7.07% at HK$441.40 ($56.76). Elsewhere on the bourse, NetEase Inc. plummeted by 15.7% before ending the day down 8.47% at HK$144.80, while Bilibili Inc. declined by 14.3% before finishing down 4.19% at HK$640.50. The scare came as jittery investors contend with Chinese government crackdowns on sectors ranging from ride-hailing to education, which have roiled markets and erased hundreds of billions of dollars from company valuations. The article in the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the official Xinhua News Agency, said gaming addiction was harming children's academic and personal development, adding that the condition was "commonly referred to as 'spiritual opium' and 'electronic drugs.'" It was later taken offline, but was subsequently restored without those terms. The piece cited a government report published last month that found 13.2% of child mobile gamers in China play for an average of more than two hours per day, a rise of 0.7% since 2019. The article singles out Tencent's market-leading title "Honor of Kings," describing it as "the most popular online game among students" and citing an unnamed survey respondent who said some of their classmates played it for up to eight hours per day. Hours after the original piece was published, Tencent said that it will reduce the amount of time that minors can spend playing "Honor of Kings" from one and a half hours to one hour during non-holidays and from three hours to two hours during holidays, adding that it will also ban children under 12 from making in-game purchases. The internet giant also said it may later extend the rules to its other games and called for an industrywide debate on whether to completely prohibit children under 12 from playing online games. It did not mention the commentary in its statement. Neither NetEase nor Bilibili have commented publicly on the opinion piece or the stock price volatility. None of the three above companies responded to Caixin's requests for comment. China is the world's largest video game market, according to PwC. In a report published last week, the consultancy estimated that the industry will generate revenue of $359 billion this year and $437 billion by 2025. But analysts have said investors are shying away from the sector amid China's sweeping crackdown on the country's technology firms. "Investors are concerned that other sectors could be affected by the government's social policy, and gaming addiction is a potential target," wrote Chelsey Tam, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar, in a note last week. Dramatic policy shifts by Beijing in recent weeks have pummeled the share prices of firms in fields ranging from e-commerce to edtech. Tencent shed $170 billion of its market value in July, more than any other firm in the world, according to figures from Bloomberg. China has previously sought to control excessive internet use among young people by restricting their ability to purchase items in online games, requiring companies to make users register with their real names and identities, and limiting how much time children are allowed to spend playing games. In June, Beijing rolled a new child protection law that bars companies from offering addictive online products and services to minors. Real-name registration has already met its basic targets in combatting internet addiction, but the country will treat the issue "with the utmost importance" to ensure "positive results," Yang Fang, a vice director of the publishing bureau at the Communist Party's publicity department, said last week. ^ top ^



Foreign Minister holds virtual meeting with Finnish counterpart (Montsame)
Minister of Foreign Affairs B.Battsetseg on August 3 had a virtual meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Finland Pekka Haavisto to discuss relations and cooperation between the two countries. Minister B.Battsetseg voiced her interest in stepping up trade and economic cooperation and expanding relations in environment, forest management, renewable energy, education and science. The Ministers also discussed cooperating within the United Nations and other international organizations and providing mutual support in the organizations' elections. ^ top ^


Embassy of Switzerland

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
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