Trump’s govt expects China to increase spending on nuclear weapons

A new Pentagon report predicts that China will “at least double” the size of its nuclear warhead stockpile over the next decade as it pursues its own nuclear triad to conduct nuclear strikes by land, sea and air.

China’s modernization and expansion of its nuclear force is part of a broader effort aimed at matching, and in some cases surpassing, the United States military by 2049 as the dominant power in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the Pentagon’s annual “China Military Power” report to Congress that was released Tuesday.

The report said the number of Chinese nuclear warheads is currently estimated to be slightly more than 200 and includes those that can be fitted to ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

This is the first time the Pentagon has stated a specific number of Chinese warheads, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Chad Sbragia told reporters this week.

“We’re certainly concerned about the numbers,” Sbragia said, “but also just the trajectory of China’s nuclear developments writ large.”

U.S. capabilities

The United States’ nuclear arsenal, with an estimated 3,800 warheads in active status, would still dwarf the Chinese arsenal. The U.S. has submarines and aircraft capable of delivering a nuclear strike, along with intercontinental ballistic missiles on land.

China lacks the ability to launch nuclear weapons from the air, but the Pentagon said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) publicly revealed the H-6N bomber as its first nuclear capable air-to-air refueling bomber late last year.

In the past 15 years, the Chinese Navy has constructed 12 nuclear submarines, six of which provide China’s first “credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent,” according to the report. By the mid-2020s it will likely build a new, guided-missile nuclear attack submarine that could provide a secret land-attack option if equipped with land-attack cruise missiles.

China has declined urgings from the Trump administration to join the U.S. and Russia in a deal to limit strategic nuclear arms. Without China’s added participation, the U.S. appears poised to let an existing U.S.-Russia arms treaty known as New START expire in February 2021.

‘Rule-breaking behavior’

Last week, U.S.Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned that the world’s “free and open” system forged in the wake of World War II was under attack by what he called China’s”rule-breaking behavior”in the Indo-Pacific region. He spoke in Hawaii ahead of travel in the Indo-Pacific region to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on Wednesday.

Esper called the Indo-Pacific region the “epicenter” of great power competition, vowing not to “cede an inch” to countries that threaten international freedoms, in an apparent dig at China.

Amid Chinese military exercises last week, Beijing fired four medium-range ballistic missiles from mainland China into the disputed waters of the South China Sea, a U.S.defense official told VOA.

The Pentagon issued a statement of concern, saying China’s actions “stand in contrast to its pledge to not militarize the South China Sea and are in contrast to the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms.”

China warns Germany and France against involvement in ‘war’ with Hong Kong

China firmly opposes the moves by Germany and France, which politicize Hong Kong’s judicial cooperation, interfere in China’s internal affairs and violate international law and basic norms governing international relations, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian during Thursday’s press conference.

The remarks come after China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)’s decision to suspend its extradition agreements with Germany and France.

Before the decision, Germany and France unilaterally announced the suspension of the implementation of the Surrender of Fugitive Offenders (SFO) agreement and halted the ratification of the relevant agreement with the HKSAR, respectively.

Zhao said that the wrongful acts of Germany and France undermine the basis of the HKSAR’s judicial cooperation with foreign countries, and deviate from the purpose of judicial cooperation to uphold justice and the rule of law.

“For this reason, China decided that the HKSAR suspended the implementation of the SFO agreement between the HKSAR and Germany and shelved the SFO agreement between the HKSAR and France,” Zhao added.

The HKSAR signed the SFO agreement with Germany in May 2006, and that with France in May 2017. The SFO agreement between the HKSAR and Germany entered into force in April 2009, while the SFO agreement between the HKSAR and France was still pending before it was shelved.

Why Trump must ban Tik Tok in the US

U.S. President Donald Trump is banning the use of the TikTok app, widely used by Americans particularly teenagers, because of China’s perceived role in the pandemic, which he routinely describes as the ‘China flu,’ or more recently the ‘China plague.’

How depriving millions of young Americans from using the TikTok app, putting 1,500 U.S.-based TikTok employees out of work, and financially impacting the Chinese tech firm ByteDance’s shareholders, who owns TikTok, will punish China is unclear.

China’s role in the Covid-19 pandemic is being examined by an international investigatory body as part of an overall investigation into how and where the virus originated. The investigation is supported by both the United States and China.

The president however, with an election looming in 3 months, is pushing against China, with the TikiTok ban echoing ‘a broader, anti-China stance within the Republican Party ahead of the November elections,’ according to a Washington Post report published on Sunday.

“China has long been the United States’ greatest geopolitical foe and a focus of derision in Rust Belt states that were decimated by the hollowing out of our manufacturing base,” Cliff Sims, a former Trump White House aide told the ‘Post. “Trump capitalized on this in 2016.”

“Now unfavorable views toward China are at an all-time high because of Covid-19. So when you combine the geopolitical realities with the domestic politics, it makes perfect sense for the president to continue ratcheting up the rhetoric and making moves to confront China head-on,” Sims said.

The policy does not seem to be restricted to the president, his supporters in the Congress, particularly the Senate, and in the wider Republican party seem to be on board too.

“We write to raise concerns about TikTok, the Chinese social-media service, which could enable the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to engage in influence operations against the United States, including operations designed to interfere with our elections,” a number of Republican senators including Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) said this week in a letter to administration officials.

While President Trump appears to have finally decided on Friday night that the TikTok ban will go ahead, he had been flip-flopping on the issue most of the day.

Asked on Friday before boarding Marine One whether a decision on TikTok would come that day, Mr Trump replied: “We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things. There are a couple of options. But a lot of things are happening, so we’ll see what happens. But we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok.”

The alternatives it has emerged included a possible sale to another party such as Microsoft.

Regardless, by Friday night while on board Air Force One after a trip to Florida, the president told reporters: “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.”

The president went on to say he did not favor a sale of TikTok to another party.

The move comes at a time when the Trump administration is also confronting Huawei – China and the world’s, largest smartphone maker – with a raft of measures. Mr Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have accused Huawei of spying on U.S. citizens and stealing their data.

The proposed shutdown of the TikTok platform, which has still not been officially announced as of Sunday, comes during a week in which the heads of the world’s four largest technology companies appeared before Congress.

Rep. Greg Steube asked the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, “Do you believe that the Chinese government steals technology from U.S. companies?”

Only one of the 4, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, said that he did, but did not reference any instances or experience with his company.

“I think it’s well documented that the Chinese government steals technology from American companies,” Zuckerberg told the hearing.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon, the world’s richest man, however had a contrary view. I’ve “heard many reports of that,” though he added that “I haven’t seen it personally,” according to a CNN report.

The Apple chief Tim Cook, in his reply to the question, said. “I know of no case [of] ours where it occurred … I can only speak to firsthand knowledge.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai replied: “I have no firsthand knowledge of any information stolen from Google in this regard.” (Pichai later corrected his answer, acknowledging a China-linked cyberattack on Google in 2009 in which the company said some of its intellectual property was stolen).

When Steube followed up his question about Chinese interference, asking the CEOs what recommendations they could make to Congress to “better protect” American companies from “aggression and government intervention abroad” in places such as China and Europe, the four CEOs declined to answer. After the question was asked, none of the four replied. Fifteen seconds later Steube yielded his time.

Zuckerberg in his testimony sounded an ominous note. “If you look at where the top technology companies come from, a decade ago the vast majority were American,” he said. “Today, almost half are Chinese.”

U.S. technology companies will likely be the only beneficiary of the elimination of TikTok from U.S. shores.

“Without TikTok, American advertisers would again be left with few choices. Competition would dry up and so too will an outlet for America’s creative energy. We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda, our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy. Consumers can only benefit from the growth of healthy, successful platforms like TikTok and we will fight to continue to give American creators, users and brands an entertaining outlet for many years to come,” the platform’s CEO Kevin Mayer said on Wednesday in a blog.

Mark Zuckerberg when asked about the app in his appearance before Congress the same day, described TikTok as one of Facebook’s main competitors.

Not for long, it seems.

China warns NZL, suspends agreement the UK, Australia and Canada

China announced Tuesday the suspension of Hong Kong’s extradition treaties with Canada, Australia, and the UK in response to the similar decisions by those countries, said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The three countries all expressed their concern over the newly enacted national security law for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) before declaring the suspension of their extradition treaties with Hong Kong.

According to Wang, the move was gross interference in China’s internal affairs and a severe violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations.

“The wrong action of Canada, Australia, and the UK in politicizing judicial cooperation with Hong Kong has seriously hurt the basis of judicial cooperation,” said Wang.

Earlier Tuesday, New Zealand also suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. China has lodged its grave concern and strong opposition to the decision made by New Zealand, said Wang.

Wang urged New Zealand to correct its wrong decisions immediately, adding China reserves its right to make a further response.

Chinese Embassy in New Zealand also made its response in a statement on Tuesday.

It stressed that Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Hong Kong affairs are entirely China’s internal affairs and allow no foreign interference.

The Chinese side urges the New Zealand side to abide by the international law and the basic norms governing international relations, immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs in any form to avoid further harm to China-New Zealand relations, said the statement.

What experts say about China’s countermeasure

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Friday the diplomats of the U.S. consulate general in Chengdu interfered in China’s internal affairs and engaged in activities that were not in line with their diplomatic identities.

Wang urged the U.S. to withdraw its decision to close China’s consulate general in Houston and make efforts to bring bilateral ties back on track, adding that the Chinese side has lodged representations with the U.S. many times.

China has ordered the U.S. to close its consulate general in southwest China’s Chengdu City in response to U.S. directive for China to shut its consulate general in Houston, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

China

Image shows the US embassy in Beijing and Consulate offices in other parts of  China

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the decision was a justifiable and necessary response to the unreasonable act of the U.S. on July 21 of abruptly asking China to close its consulate general in Houston by Friday.

The U.S. consulate general in Chengdu was established in 1985, and it covers the southwestern part of China, which includes Sichuan Province, Tibet Autonomous Region and Chongqing Municipality.

Following China’s decision of countermeasure, experts have said that the core principle behind the decision is seeking equality in diplomatic exchanges while China is also avoiding sending out a strong message of a divided China-U.S. relation.

Shen Yi, an expert on U.S.-related issues at Shanghai-based Fudan University, told the Global Times that the move sent a clear signal to the U.S. that China does not intend to damage the Sino-U.S. relations, but it will surely fight back this kind of abrupt move.

If China does nothing in the beginning, it runs the risk of gradually being trapped into a situation of having to making compromises for each move made by the U.S., Shen said.

Meanwhile, Li Haidong, a professor with the Institute of International Relations Studies under China Foreign Affairs University, told the news outlet that China is also dealing with the issue in a restrained way that tries to prevent a sudden escalation of China-U.S. tensions.

He said that among all the U.S. embassy and consulates general in China, the Chengdu consulate general covers relatively smaller scale of regions and thus it would only affect a limited number of U.S. citizens and enterprises.

China retaliates against Trump’s decision to close its embassy in Houston

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Friday the diplomats of the U.S. consulate general in Chengdu interfered in China’s internal affairs and engaged in activities that were not in line with their diplomatic identities.

Wang said the Chinese side has lodged representations with the U.S. many times. He urged the U.S. to withdraw its decision to close China’s consulate general in Houston and make efforts to bring bilateral ties back on track.

Wang added that China’s consulate general in Houston is still running so far.

China has ordered the U.S. to close its consulate general in southwest China’s Chengdu City in response to U.S. directive for China to shut its consulate general in Houston, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the decision was a justifiable and necessary response to the unreasonable act of the U.S. on July 21 of abruptly asking China to close its consulate general in Houston by Friday.

Shortly after the announcement, Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin said on Twitter that China had ordered the U.S. side to vacate the consulate in 72 hours and notified them at 10 a.m. on July 24. The consulate will be shut at 10 a.m. local time on July 27.

The ministry said that the U.S. provocation has seriously violated international law, basic norms of international relations, as well as relevant provisions of the China-U.S. consular treaty.

It has severely damaged the Sino-U.S. relations, the statement said.

“The current situation in China-U.S. relations is not what China desires to see, and the United States is responsible for all this,” the statement said. “We once again urge the United States to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track.”

The move, according to the U.S. State Department, was to “protect Americans’ intellectual property and private information.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the announcement on Wednesday and urged the U.S. to recall its wrong decision.

Lionel Vairon, a former French diplomat, said in an op-ed published with CGTN that this is the U.S.’s containment policy, trying to pressure China with every opportunity.

“Since the last six months, you’ve seen that for the listed companies, you’ve seen that for students, you’ve seen that for technology exchanges, you’ve seen that in telecoms, you’ve seen that on Tibet and so on. We see Hong Kong today,” Vairon said. “And this is just one more way to pressure China.”

China issues new warning to the United States

China strongly condemns the U.S. for asking China to close its Consulate General in Houston, Texas, urging it to recall its wrong decision or there will be countermeasures, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.

The U.S. abruptly asked China to close its Consulate General in Houston in 72 hours starting July 21. The move, according to U.S. State Department was to “protect Americans’ intellectual property and private information.”

In response, China said the decision is a political provocation made by the U.S., which has seriously violated international law, basic norms of international relations as well as relevant provisions of the China-U.S. Consular Treaty, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

The unilateral announcement on closing China’s Consulate-General in Houston, according to Wang, is an upgraded action that escalates tensions between China and the U.S. to an unprecedented level.

According to Wang, the U.S. government has long blamed China and smeared it by taking unprovoked attack against the country’s social system and by targeting, intimidating and even arresting Chinese students in the United States.

Wang also refuted the U.S. claim of unequal relations between the two countries and the so-called China’s infiltration into the U.S., pointing out that it is the United States that has repeatedly set restrictions against Chinese diplomats, opened diplomatic bags from China without permission and seized China’s articles intended for official use.

China’s Consulate Generals have already received several death threats and even bombs, the spokesperson added.

China has always adhered to its policy of non-intervention; infiltration or interference has never been the norm for China’s diplomacy, stressed Wang.

China’s diplomatic presence in the U.S. has always been committed to improving mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples, Wang reiterated, and once again urged the United States to recall its wrong decision.

On Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry also warned its citizens studying in the U.S. to “be on guard” for arbitrary interrogations and detention.

“Recently, U.S. law enforcement agencies have stepped up arbitrary interrogations, harassment, confiscation of personal belongings and detention targeting Chinese international students in the US,” said the foreign ministry in a statement.

Xi Jinping calls for more effective risk-control measures

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for all-out efforts in rescue and relief operations in flooded areas across the country and stressed that ensuring people’s lives and safety is a top priority.

Noting that the flood control situation is tough and has entered a critical period, Xi ordered local governments in flood-hit areas to fulfill their responsibilities, and go to the frontlines to examine the situation first-hand and better protect people’s lives and properties.

Relevant departments should strengthen overall planning and coordination, as well as allocate rescue forces and disaster relief supplies in a scientific manner, he added.

The Chinese president also urged the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police Force (PAP) to actively participate in rescue and relief efforts.

He said relevant departments should also carefully plan post-disaster reconstruction and restore production and life order as soon as possible while stepping up efforts to flood control and disaster-relief work.

Ceaseless efforts should be made to help flood-affected residents and to stop people from returning to poverty due to the disaster, President Xi demanded.

China on Sunday upgraded its emergency response to floods from Grade III to Grade II, and some 37.89 million people in 27 provinces, including Jiangxi, Anhui, Hubei, and Hunan provinces, have been affected. A total of 141 people were killed or are missing because of the floods.

Celebrity who inspired HK riots to appear in court for illegal assembly charge

Hong Kong police charged 13 people, including media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan for participating in, organizing and inciting others to participate in illegal assembly last year.

The accused were summoned to appear before the court on Monday afternoon.

People convicted of the offense of unlawful assembly could face up to five years of imprisonment in Hong Kong.

Lai is now facing at least seven charges and he will also appear in court on August 19 for offense of criminal intimidation.

A Hong Kong court on Friday dismissed an application from Jimmy Lai Chee-ying asking to leave the city temporarily. This was the second time Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily and media group Next Digital, had applied to lift the travel ban.

The 72-year-old was arrested for being suspected of violating Hong Kong’s Crimes Ordinance by verbally intimidating a man during an assembly on June 4, 2017 in the Eastern District on Hong Kong Island. He was also suspected of violating Hong Kong’s Public Order Ordinance by participating in an unauthorized assembly between Wan Chai and Central on August 31, 2019.

In May, Jimmy Lai was allowed to be released on a 4,000 Hong Kong dollars-bail while waiting for the trial. He is not allowed to leave Hong Kong and must report to the police every Wednesday. At the time he applied to be able to travel out of Hong Kong, but that request was withdrawn. The High Court only allowed him to drop the requirement of a weekly visit to the police station.

Teacher detained and punished after student’s death

A primary schoolteacher whose student jumped to her death after her class in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, was given serious warnings from the Party on Wednesday for her misconduct.

The teacher, Yuan Dengmei, was accused by the student’s parents of insulting their daughter during a writing class, which led to the girl jumping to her death from the fourth floor of a school building on June 4.

Yuan was also found to be running private writing classes after school for profit and violating the work ethics of teachers. She has been demoted from her current post at the Hebin Elementary School in the city’s Jintan district, and all her illegal earnings from the writing classes will be confiscated, according to the district’s educational bureau.

The student, 10-year-old Miao Kexin, was an optimistic fifth grader, according to her parents. Miao’s mother applied for a new account on the microblogging service Sina Weibo after her daughter’s death, which was named “Miao Kexin the world’s cutest”, to express their suspicions over Yuan’s behaviour.

Yuan was accused of criticising one of Miao’s essays, saying it lacked “positive energy” and deleting large chunks of descriptive writing in it without giving reasons or advice for the revisions.

The parents claimed that their only child, who went to school with joy that day, would never have committed suicide if Yuan had not abused her. They demanded a thorough investigation of the girl’s death.

However, investigations launched by local educational authorities showed that Yuan did not insult Miao before her suicide, though she had twice urged her to rewrite the essay.

They drew the conclusion after investigating three teachers, 45 students and six parents, and writing a 115-page report.

But Yuan admitted in a written explanation that she slapped Miao’s face in October after finding she missed some homework and didn’t perform well academically.

Some former students of Yuan’s who had already graduated from the school reported online about how they were verbally and physically abused by Yuan years ago.

“She insulted me frequently, even if I didn’t make any mistakes,” wrote Feng Hongwei, 26, one of Yuan’s former students. “She took off my pants and spanked me once. One of her colleagues also witnessed that she poured tea on my face. It still hurts me deeply though many years have passed.”

Feng co-operated with the investigation team, which contacted him after he posted his experience on the internet. Other students also claimed that Yuan once threw books at their faces, slapped them and pinched their eyelids.

The principal of the school, surnamed Li, said that the school will strengthen safety education, and lectures will be given to tell the students how precious their lives are.

The health commission of Jintan district has offered psychological counseling to all the teachers and Miao’s classmates.

TikTok to lose Australian fans over fears of data breach

Following India and the US, several Australian legislators are proposing to ban TikTok as they too fear the app was being used by the Chinese government to collect users’ data, reported the South China Morning Post.

Recently, Liberal Senator Jim Molan said TikTok was being “used and abused” by the Chinese government.

Labor Senator Jenny McAllister has reportedly demanded the TikTok’s representatives to face the Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media.

While TikTok continues to refute the allegations, the move has sparked questions on whether China can really get access to users’ data from TikTok.

The South China Morning Post reported that though the TikTok owner ByteDance have constantly claimed that its data is stored in servers in the US and Singapore but it is not a difficult task for the Chinese government to get access to the data.

In January, the company was reported as saying: “You should understand that no data storage system or transmission of data over the Internet or any other public network can be guaranteed to be 100 per cent secure.”

Further, if a TikTok user decides to delete their content from their device, or even a certain country’s government imposes a ban on the app, the data would not be retrospectively erased. It is because once the information is transferred, it is impossible to retract without the help of the company.

EU leaders urging China and Hong Kong to embrace peace

Two of the European Union’s most powerful individuals said Thursday that the 27-nation bloc will continue to discuss human rights and the rule of law with China after Beijing imposed a new security law on Hong Kong.

But Ursula von der Leyen, who heads the EU’s executive commission, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stopped short of threatening sanctions against China or offering asylum to Hong Kong dissidents, as others in the West have done.

“We will continue to seek dialogue and conversation with China about this,” said Merkel, whose country took over the EU’s rotating six-month presidency this week. Stressing that ties with China are of “strategic importance” to the European Union, the German leader said it was important to have “a relationship of trust where one can openly say one’s opinions to each other with mutual respect.”

“And there will be differences of opinion, but I hope also common results,” Merkel added. Asked whether Germany would consider offering asylum to Hong Kong dissidents, the chancellor replied that German asylum law “is there for people everywhere.”

“That means, I don’t currently see that we need to do anything beyond that,” she said. European Commission President Von der Leyen, whose arm of the EU represents the entire bloc in trade talks with Beijing, said it was in both sides’ interests to maintain the special status of Hong Kong.

“One-sixth of Chinese exports of goods go to Europe, and China sells goods worth 320 billion euros ($359 billion) to Europe alone every year,” she told reporters in Brussels and Berlin.

“Hong Kong is still the most important hub for China’s economic exchange with Europe, not least because of the city’s (…) special status and the stability and the cosmopolitanism that this city has,” von der Leyen said.

“Both sides should have a strong interest in ensuring that this level of cooperation at least continues.”

She added that “if Europe takes a confident and takes a united position, it will have a long-term effect on China.” The Chinese government has lashed out at what it considers foreign meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs, after the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday joined the Senate in rebuking China over its crackdown in Hong Kong by approving a bill to impose sanctions on groups that undermine the city’s autonomy or restrict freedoms promised to its residents.

Did China use coronavirus to amass wealth?

Under President Xi Jinping, China has looked to take up a role as the leading power in the world. While Beijing has begun its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, Europe has been crippled.

With the EU failing to quickly support member states from the coronavirus pandemic, China has used a “divide and rule” approach to gain influence on the continent.

China has sent aid to Greece, Italy and sent a medical team to Serbia leading to the country’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic claiming European solidarity no longer exists.

With China looking to strengthen its foothold in the EU, professor Steve Tsang from the School of Oriental and African Studies, warned Europe now has a serious problem on its hands due to the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and due to Beijing’s infrastructure plans for the continent.

He told Express.co.uk: “Europe has a problem.

“And the problem is with some of the eastern European countries.

“China is essentially trying a divide and rule approach to the EU.

“Some of the EU countries are being enticed to be much closer to China and to break away from European norms.

“And that is a serious problem.

“The pandemic hasn’t helped but the problem with the pandemic is not so much in eastern European countries as it is with Italy.”

While China has sent support to certain countries during the coronavirus pandemic, Beijing has also launched its Belt and Road plan which stretches into eastern and central Europe.

The plan, sometimes called the New Silk Road, was launched in 2013 and involves the proliferation of infrastructure and investment in almost 70 countries.

In 2012, China launched an agreement with 17 central and eastern European countries.

These countries are on the frontline of the Belt and Road plan and which has seen states such as Hungary turn towards Beijing due to its clashes with Brussels.

Italy, Europe’s third-largest economy also announced it was joining the initiative last year prior to its clashes with the EU over the coronavirus.

Such is the fallout from the lack of support from the EU during the pandemic, 52 percent of Italians asked between March 20 and April 12, claimed China was now the country’s greatest ally.

In contrast, Germany and France were voted as the two highest enemies of the country in a poll from Italian market researcher, SWG.

Such is the fear of Chinese influence in the bloc, the €500billion (£448billion) put forward by France and Germany included a specific demand for an industrial policy to stop investment from third countries.

NATO this month also stated its apprehension of the growing dominance and military development of Beijing.

Trade war

In a stark admission, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged nations to strengthen the alliance in order to stop any potential threat from China.

Although he stated China was not an enemy, he demanded a more unified approach to any outside threat to the alliance.

He said: “Ultimately, we must stand up for a world built on freedom and democracy.

“The rise of China is fundamentally shifting the global balance of power, heating up the race for economic and technological supremacy, multiplying the threats to open societies and individual freedoms and increasing the competition over our values and our way of life.”

India declares 20 soldiers dead in the ongoing war with China

At least 20 Indian soldiers have been killed in a violent face-off with Chinese forces on the disputed border, the Indian army has said, in a major escalation of a weeks-long standoff in the western Himalayas.

In a statement, the army said on Tuesday that 17 “critically injured” Indian troops succumbed to their wounds, in addition to an officer and two soldiers who had died earlier.

The troops died “in the line of duty at the stand-off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain … taking the total that were killed in action to 20”, the statement said.

Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged in the areas where the clashes took place, the statement said, adding that India is firmly committed to “protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation”.

The incident marks the deadliest clash between the nuclear-armed neighbours in decades.

Tensions flare on a fairly regular basis between the two regional powers over their 3,500-kilometre (2,200-mile) frontier, which has never been properly demarcated.

Thousands of troops from the two nuclear-armed neighbours, backed by armoured trucks and artillery, have been involved in the latest face-off since May in the Ladakh region, bordering Tibet.

Indian officials say Chinese soldiers crossed the boundary at three different points, erecting tents and guard posts and ignoring verbal warnings to leave. That triggered shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights.

Army officers and diplomats have held a series of meetings to try to end the impasse, with no breakthrough.

Meanwhile, China accused India of crossing a “disputed border” between the two countries, according to a report by the AFP news agency.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Indian troops crossed the border line twice on Monday, “provoking and attacking Chinese personnel, resulting in serious physical confrontation between border forces on the two sides”.

“We again solemnly request that India follows the relevant attitude and restrains its front line troops,” he said. “Do not cross the border, do not provoke trouble, do not take any unilateral action that would complicate the border situation.”

Beijing has lodged “strong protests and solemn representations” to New Delhi, Lijian said.

China’s foreign ministry confirmed there had been a “violent physical confrontation” on Monday in the border area. It made no mention of casualties but India’s foreign ministry said there had been casualties on both sides.

China executes man who murdered wife in Shanghai

A Shanghai man who killed his wife and hid her body in a freezer for three months was executed on Thursday, the Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People’s Court said.

Zhu Xiaodong, 30, was accused of strangling Yang Liping, also 30, during a dispute at their home in Shanghai’s Hongkou district on Oct 17, 2016.

The couple registered for marriage in December 2015.

In the two months before Yang’s death, Zhu bought books about death and murder and purchased the refrigerator that was later used to store Yang’s body.

Yang Liping and husband 2

After killing her, he wrapped the body in a red quilt and hid it in the fridge on the balcony for 105 days, during which he posed as his wife on social networking sites and in text messages to her parents and friends, according to the court.

Zhu turned himself in to the police on Feb 1, 2017, after inviting his parents over for dinner and confessing his guilt.

During a hearing at the Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People’s Court on August 23, 2018, Zhu pleaded guilty and said he was “willing to accept all punishment in line with the law”.

After he was sentenced to death, Zhu requested lighter punishment because he had turned himself in, confessed and expressed remorse for the murder, which he claimed was caused by marital and family discord.

At the second hearing at Shanghai High People’s Court on July 5, 2019, he was found guilty of premeditated murder, with the court citing the fact that Zhu stored Yang’s body in the refrigerator for three months.

It also found that Zhu transferred 45,000 yuan (S$8,800) from Yang’s bank account to his account and used her credit card to purchase luxury goods and pay for daily expenses and trips in China and abroad costing over 100,000 yuan.

A police investigation showed he had used Yang’s identity card to check into hotels while accompanied by different women.

The court upheld the original death sentence, saying there was sufficient evidence that Zhu had premeditated the murder and committed the crime in an extremely cruel way.