Michael Pillsbury, Director for Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute, joined ‘America’s Newsroom’ to weigh in on China ‘aggressive’ impact, calling it a ‘dangerous situation that the Biden team is very much aware of.’
“The Chinese, in their comments on the Biden administration, say that there are two factions, there’s kind of a continuity with President Trump group that wants to be tough or even tougher on China. But there’s also a softer group that wants to cooperate, work together on climate change,” said the author of “Hundred Year Marathon.”
Pillsbury explained further that China notices the “split” within the Biden administration, adding that he’s worried about China’s “saber-rattling about Taiwan.”
Pillsbury reacted to a piece by the Wall Street Journal detailing China’s message toward the United States that they are “equal.” The piece titled, “China’s Message to America: We’re An Equal Now” goes in-depth on China’s plans to challenge the United States as the “global leader.”
“As Biden administration officials expected in their first meeting with Chinese counterparts, Yang Jiechi, Mr. Xi’s top foreign-policy aide, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi asked them to roll back Trump-era policies targeting China. Beijing wanted to restore the kind of recurring “dialogue” Washington sees as a waste of time, say U.S. and Chinese officials briefed on the Alaska meeting,” the piece says.
The piece went on to say, “Mr. Yang also delivered a surprise: a 16-minute lecture about America’s racial problems and democratic failings. The objective, say Chinese officials, was to make clear that Beijing sees itself as an equal of the U.S. He also warned Washington against challenging China over a mission Beijing views as sacred—the eventual reunification with Taiwan.”
Pillsbury said that though a “global world order” was set up by the United States in 1945, the Russians and Chinese want to challenge that world order.
“This is a strange challenge coming from these two powers. And when they bring in Iran, I mean, Iran is the source of their oil and gas. It’s got a lot of money to buy weapons. They see it as the main way to tie down the Americans in the Middle East.”
Pillsbury concluded, “So we’re heading into troubled waters.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said Sunday on Fox News that China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are the “new axis of evil” and that the communist regime in Beijing is “testing the Biden administration.”
(CNN)The efficacy of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines is “not high” and authorities are weighing options to bolster protection — including mixing different shots, China’s top disease control official has said.”The protection rates of existing vaccines are not high,” Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told a conference in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Saturday.He listed two options to solve the problem: one is to increase the number of doses, or adjust the dosage or interval between shots; the other is to mix vaccines developed from different technologies.
Gao’s remarks are a rare public admission from the country’s top health official that the efficacy of China’s coronavirus vaccines is not ideal — and improvements are needed to boost protection.
Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at the National Vaccines and Health conference in Chengdu, Sichuan province Saturday.China has positioned itself as a leader in Covid-19 vaccine development and distribution, promoting and supplying its vaccines to countries all over the globe, including Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Turkey and Brazil.
“More than 60 countries have approved the use of Chinese vaccine. The safety and efficacy of Chinese vaccine is being widely recognized by various countries,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a news conference in March.The relatively low efficacy rate of Chinese vaccines, however, could hamper credibility and dent Beijing’s so-called vaccine diplomacy.
The two pharmaceutical firms that supply the majority of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines to the world have not published comprehensive clinical trial data in medical journals on their vaccines’ effectiveness. But from the interim results announced by the companies, their efficacy falls far behind the new type of vaccines developed in the West that use mRNA to trigger an immune response.The CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac, a private company, was found to have an efficacy rate of just 50.4% in clinical trials in Brazil. Another trial in Turkey showed it was 83.5% effective. State-owned Sinopharm said its two vaccines have efficacy rates of 79.4% and 72.5%.In comparison, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have efficacy rates of 97% and 94%, respectively.In March, the United Arab Emirates started offering a third dose of a Sinopharm vaccine to residents who failed to generate sufficient antibodies after two shots.
China opens its borders to foreigners who take Chinese shots, as geopolitical vaccine silos emergeIn that sense, Gao’s comments on the relatively low efficacy of Chinese vaccines were merely stating a well-known fact — but it was the first time a high-level official in China had publicly acknowledged it.The Chinese CDC chief’s remarks also come as China is aggressively ramping up its vaccination drive at home. As of Friday, the country has administered more than 160 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine. It is aiming to inoculate 40% of its 1.4 billion population by the end of June.”What struck me most was that the suggestion of the relatively low efficacy rates of Chinese vaccines appears to be a deviation from what the Chinese state and social media has said. The official narrative portrays Chinese vaccines as both safe and effective,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who posted Gao’s speech on Twitter over the weekend.As Gao’s comments gained traction on social media and made international headlines, Chinese censors quickly scrubbed discussions online, and state media swiftly put out an interview with Gao to walk back his comments.Global Times, a state-run nationalist tabloid, quoted Gao as saying reports about his admission were “a complete misunderstanding.””The protection rates of all vaccines in the world are sometimes high, and sometimes low. How to improve their efficacy is a question that needs to be considered by scientists around the world,” Gao was quoted as saying.
Huang, the expert on China’s public health, said the quick repudiation by the Global Times suggested Chinese authorities will not tolerate any challenge to their official narrative.”Gao’s remarks were just an occasional aberration,” he said.
Russia and China are moving into ever closer alliance. While there is no evidence of direct collusion over Ukraine and Taiwan, presidents Putin and Xi are doubtless fully aware of each other’s actions, which have an identical, mutually reinforcing effect: putting the wind up Joe Biden’s untested US administration.
What’s now unfolding could be portrayed as the ultimate fulfilment of George Orwell’s nightmarish vision, in his dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, of a world divided geographically, politically and militarily into three rival super-states: Oceania (North America plus Britain), Eurasia (Russia and Europe), and Eastasia (China).
Publication of Orwell’s book in 1949 coincided with the formation of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) and the emergence of Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union as a nuclear-armed power. It also saw the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong. Yet these were early days.
Orwell’s prediction of an endless, three-way global confrontation proved premature. China needed time to develop. The Soviet Union eventually imploded. The US, declaring a unipolar moment, claimed victory. Yet today, by some measures, Orwell’s tripartite world is finally coming into being. 2021 is the new 1984.
This is where truly global danger lies – in the hazy gap between words and deeds in the intensifying trilateral struggle between superpowers
Advocates of a multipolar world will say this is too simplistic, and that the strategic balance is more subtle and complex. Tell that to people in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and occupied Crimea, who face a deeply unsubtle Russian military build-up along the “line of contact”.
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The consensus among analysts is that Putin is not about to invade. So what is he up to? Apologists suggest he was provoked by a Ukrainian decree last month declaring the re-taking of Crimea, seized by Russia in 2014, to be an official government objective – and by renewed talk of Ukraine joining Nato.
A more banal explanation is that Moscow is pressurising Kiev to break the stalemate in the so-called Minsk peace process – after the latest Donbas ceasefire collapsed. Putin enjoyed a big, but fleeting, ratings boost after Crimea’s annexation. Last month, he used a lavish televised rally marking its seventh anniversary to recapture lost popularity.
It seems he failed. Russians are preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic (and the incompetent official response), falling incomes, and a worsening socio-economic outlook. More than ever, Putin’s Soviet empire restoration project appears irrelevant, especially to younger people.
Putin is under fire at home from supporters of the much-persecuted opposition activist, Alexei Navalny, and over corruption allegations. Only 32% of Russians trust their president, according to a recent Levada Center poll. Seen this way, the Ukraine build-up looks like a calculated distraction for domestic political purposes.
Yet Putin may also be deliberately testing US and European resolve. He will not have forgotten how George W Bush pledged undying support to Georgia’s newly democratic government in 2005, then ducked out when war erupted with Russia in 2008.
As analyst Ted Galen Carpenter noted last week, Biden’s White House has likewise affirmed “unwavering US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea”. This looks, at best, like a hostage to fortune, and at worst, a cruel deception.
“The parallels between Washington’s excessive encouragement of Ukraine and Bush’s blunder with respect to Georgia are eerie and alarming,” Carpenter wrote. The US and Nato would no more go to war with Russia over eastern Ukraine than they would to save South Ossetia, he suggested. And if they did, well, that’s world war three right there.
This is where truly global danger lies – in the hazy gap between words and deeds in the intensifying trilateral struggle between superpowers. Will Putin, goaded by Biden’s “killer” insult and numerous intractable disputes, call the US president’s bluff? On the other side of the world, will Xi?
China’s surly leader looks like a man prone to brooding. He has suffered many slights at the hands of the west, including accusations of genocide in Xinjiang, brutality in Hong Kong, and aggression in the seas around China. What drives him now as his forces besiege Taiwan?
One answer is that Xi may also hope to divert attention from domestic problems. Maybe he faces unseen challenges within China’s communist party. More probably, he would like to mark July’s centenary of the founding of the CCP by finally conquering what was the last redoubt of Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists.
Taiwan reunification would seal Xi’s legacy. Ever closer personal, strategic and military ties with Putin’s Russia mean that he would face no pushback from that quarter, and some applause. The Taiwanese vow to fight, but cannot prevail alone. Only the Americans really stand in his way.
Is Xi simply trolling the Washington proles? Or will he defy them and make a move on Taiwan soon? The Orwellian nightmare for Biden and the west would be a simultaneous Russian invasion of Ukraine and a Chinese attack on Taiwan.
Oceania’s choice: a war on two fronts, or humiliation all round. Welcome to Winston’s world.
Recent sandstorms that shrouded Beijing in a post-apocalyptic orange haze and intensive droughts in other parts of the country are bringing into stark relief the challenges China faces from rising temperatures induced by the climate crisis.
The widespread sandstorms that pelted the capital and spread as far as central China for several days in mid-March and again at the end of the month were brought on by lower than average snow cover and precipitation, as well as higher than normal temperatures and winds across Mongolia and northern China.
The combination provides perfect conditions for creating sandstorms and could signal more frequent dusty weather as temperatures climb in the region.Advertisement
“Although the sandstorms were mainly caused by natural factors, they remind us there is only one Earth for mankind,” Liu Youbin, a spokesman for the environment ministry, told a press conference in Beijing.
“We must give great importance to ecological protection and construction and strengthen international cooperation,” he said.
Since 1978 China has been trying to combat encroaching sands from the Gobi Desert region by planting a series of forest strips through its northern areas. This “Great Green Wall” has been somewhat effective at reducing erosion and slowing desert expansion, but does little to knock down high-altitude dust blown in from afar.
“Hotter summers and shorter winters with less snowfall will likely lead to general declines in moisture levels of the soil [across the region], making it more prone to being scoured by winds and carried far away, and threatening China’s laudable tree-planting efforts,” said Darrin Magee, a professor of environmental studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the US and an expert on China’s water resources.
“Climate change will almost certainly exacerbate the sandstorm issue for north-east China,” he said.
While the sandstorms are a natural occurrence, there are a number of human factors at play that contribute to the intensity besides the climate crisis.
“In the places where the sand is originating from, both recent overgrazing and desertification have contributed to the desertification of the grasslands of Mongolia,” said Liu Junyan, a Beijing-based climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia.
“I think one of the most important things is to stop overgrazing, and this is something the Chinese government has done in the past two decades in parts of northern China,” she said.
For Magee, the impact of grazing from semi-nomadic herders in Inner Mongolia and Tibetan areas is more overblown than other industrial factors that lead to depleted groundwater and drying in the region.
“A few thousand herders practising what herders have done for centuries are clearly not the problem,” he said. “Continued high rates of groundwater extraction for mining, industry and agriculture in northern China don’t help, either, and unfortunately I find it increasingly difficult to believe that climate change buffers, green belts or inter-basin water transfers will really have an impact.”
Major water transfer projects such as the South-to-North series of canals and pipelines are mainly for supplying water to heavily populated cities such as Beijing or increasingly industrialised agriculture zones near those cities, and do little to restore depleted groundwater.
Besides the sandstorms, parts of China have recently been hit by severe drought, including the eastern coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian, which were mainly dry from October last year through February, with some respite in March.
Further south, China’s economic powerhouse of Guangdong province and the largely rural province of Guangxi have also suffered under drought conditions since late last year, with authorities here increasingly resorting to cloud seeding to induce rainfall.
Liu Junyan hopes that the twice-postponed UN biodiversity conference known as Cop15, scheduled to be held in Kunming, Yunnan, in mid-October, can highlight the interactions between climate change, water resources and biodiversity.
According to studies of temperature increases across China, Yunnan is the province with the most climate-related warming over the past decade and has been affected by frequent droughts in recent years.
“I was recently in Yunnan to check out the weather, and it’s even more horrible than in previous years,” Liu said. “On the whole, the government still doesn’t consider that climate change has a big, big impact on biodiversity.”
During the March 23-24 meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) council, Anthony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, encouraged NATO members to join the U.S. in viewing China as an economic and security threat to the U.S. as well as to NATO countries, thereby expanding NATO’s areas of focus to include the Pacific. This is a dangerous move that must be challenged.
To gain insight into what transpired at the March NATO meeting, we can look to a roadmap for NATO’s future, which was released last fall. The report, entitled “NATO 2030: United for a New Era,” is intended to be a guide for the military alliance in meeting the challenges it will face in the next decade. In the report, released in November, the “independent group” of five advisers from 10 NATO countries identified 13 challenges and threats to NATO in the next decade.
This new proposed roadmap for NATO reflects an alarming expansion: It is as much about China and the Asia/Pacific region as it is about NATO’s traditional area of operations and concern, Europe and Russia.
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Although the group identified the number one threat to NATO as Russia, China was named as threat number 2.
The document brings the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into the Pacific and attempts to provide a justification to expand and strengthen “partnerships” in the Asia/Pacific region. NATO already has four “partners” in the Pacific through bilateral agreements with Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. As NATO partners, Australia and New Zealand have deployed many troops under the NATO banner in Afghanistan, while Japan and South Korea have had reconstruction and development projects in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the United States, NATO’s mega-member, has military bases all over the Pacific, including in Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, Guam, Singapore and Hawaii that are used by NATO “partners” during regional war drills.
U.S. Secretary of State Blinken, in his address on March 24 to NATO members, strongly rebuked China and urged NATO allies to join with the U.S. in this adversarial position.
Blinken said the U.S. wouldn’t force its European allies into an “us-or-them choice,” but he then implied the opposite, emphasizing that Washington views China as an economic and security threat, particularly in technology, to NATO allies in Europe.
“When one of us is coerced we should respond as allies and work together to reduce our vulnerability by insuring our economies are more integrated with each other,” Blinken said.
Blinken cited China’s militarization of the South China Sea, use of predatory economics, intellectual property theft and human rights abuses.China has a total of 13 military bases worldwide. For perspective, the United States has over 800 military bases around the world.
In his March 24 press conference after the meetings of the North Atlantic Council and after U.S. Secretary of State Blinken’s statement, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg focused on primarily on Russia but echoed Blinken’s oppositional rhetoric regarding China. While saying “We don’t regard China as an adversary,” Stoltenberg nevertheless continued to spell out specific reasons NATO agrees with the U.S.: “The rise of China has direct consequences to our security…. So, one of the challenges we face as we now have this forward looking process with NATO 2030 is how to strengthen and how to work more closely together as allies, responding to the rise of China.”
NATO’s concerns about Chinese military expansion include the construction of nine naval bases on atolls in the South China Sea and an increasing number of ships: China now has the largest navy in the world, with 350 ships and submarines, including over 130 ships. In comparison, the U.S. Navy has 293 ships as of early 2020, but U.S. naval ships have substantially more firepower than Chinese Navy ships.
While China’s military budget has increased dramatically in the past decade, it still amounts to only one-third of the military budget of the U.S. and is very small compared to the combined military budgets of NATO members and partners.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s 2019 estimates show the U.S. military budget of $732 billion is 38 percent of global military expenditures, while China’s $ 261 billion is 14 percent and Russia’s military budget of $61 billion is 3.4 percent. Six of the 15 highest military global spenders are members of NATO: the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and Canada. Together, these six accounted for 48 percent ($929 billion) of global military expenditure. Total spending by all 29 NATO members was $1035 billion in 2019.This new proposed roadmap for NATO reflects an alarming expansion: It is as much about China and the Asia/Pacific region as it is about NATO’s traditional area of operation.
China has a total of 13 military bases worldwide, including the 9 on atolls in the South China Sea. For perspective, the United States has over 800 military bases around the world.
Meanwhile, NATO is also raising alarm about China’s economic Belt and Road Initiative, which includes a “belt” of overland road and rail corridors and a maritime “road” of shipping lanes and ports.
NATO Members Increase Military Presence to Counter “Threat” From China
The groundwork has already been laid for NATO’s expansion into Asia: The dominant and continued presence of the United States in the Pacific has given NATO a permanent foothold in the region. The Obama administration’s “Pivot to Asia” was a NATO stepping-stone for increased military actions in the region.
For many years, NATO countries have participated in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world’s largest naval exercise held every two years in Hawaii. In 2020, the COVID-modified RIMPAC had ships from 25 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam. China participated in the 2014 RIMPAC with four ships and in 2016, but was disinvited in 2018 due to its military activities in the South China Sea.
The United Kingdom and France have increased their presence in the Indo-Pacific. At the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018, French and British defense ministers announced they would sail warships through the South China Sea to challenge China’s military expansion. The Shangri-La Dialogue is a security forum attended by defense ministers and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific states and is named for the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore where it has been held since 2002.
Subsequently, the United Kingdom deployed the HMS Albion to conduct freedom of navigation exercises near the Paracel Islands in August 2018 and conducted its first joint exercise with the United States in the South China Sea in 2019. NATO member France has exclusive economic zones in the Pacific around its overseas territories and in February 2021, France conducted a patrol through the South China Sea with a nuclear attack submarine and two other navy ships as a part of its freedom of navigation exercises.
Additionally, the U.S. military is already reorienting much of its military equipment and war maneuvers to the Pacific. The U.S. Army’s longstanding massive land maneuvers “Defender” exercises in Europe will be in the Pacific in 2021. Meanwhile, the U.S. Marine Corps is reorganizing its forces in the Pacific to be “fast moving counterweights to China’s growing navy fleet.”
NATO’s new strategy in the Pacific is for Marines, as well as small Army units, to operate in “littoral operations or operations around shorelines from the islands around the Western Pacific in small units with ship-killing missiles.” The Corps is testing missiles fired from these smaller vehicles, which according to the Marine Corps, will “make it incredibly hard for the enemy to find us. … We will have dozens and dozens and dozens of these platoons and vehicles placed strategically throughout the region.”
In 2021, Hawaii will become the home of the Marine Corps’s first Marine Littoral Regiment, with initial operating capability in 2023. The Hawaii-based 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment will be composed of 1,800- 2,000 Marines from the 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, which has about 3,400 Marines.
Currently, the Marines have two regiments on Okinawa and one in Hawaii. In the next two years, the new strategy calls for one littoral regiment each on Okinawa, Hawaii and Guam.
The new strategy not only redesigns units but is also redesigning the sea transportation to move the forces around the Pacific. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Light Amphibious Warship, a proposed new class of Navy vessel, will be between 200 and 400 feet long and cost $100 million. The Navy wants to have 28 to 30 of these amphibious ships, which will have the capability to pull up onto beaches. How many ships would be based in Hawaii, Guam and Okinawa remains unclear, as is where they would practice beach landings in the islands, which will be watched closely by local environmental activists.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is building new bases in the Pacific. In 2020, the president of Palau, a small Pacific island nation of a population of only 17,000, offered his country as a new base of operations for the U.S. military in the Pacific. The U.S. has already constructed a runway and has increased the number of U.S. Navy ships using Palau’s ports. The Trump administration quickly sent the secretary of defense and secretary of the navy to consolidate the agreement. Palau already receives extensive funding from the U.S. through an economic and defense agreement called the Compact of Free Association.
U.S. military operations from other Pacific islands have increased in recent years. U.S. nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and their accompanying escorts of 10 ships and B-2 nuclear-equipped bombers operate daily from the U.S. territory of Guam on “freedom of navigation” sea drills and overflights of Taiwan, Okinawa, Japan and South Korea.
The Chinese military has responded with its own naval drills in the South China Sea and air armadas of 18 aircraft flying to the edge of Taiwan’s air defense zone during the Trump administration’s increased diplomatic engagement and military sales to Taiwan, an island the People’s Republic of China (PRC) considers as a renegade province of the PRC.
The level of air and sea confrontation in the Western Pacific between the U.S. and NATO forces and China has increased dangerously over the past two years, and it’s only a matter of time until an accident or purposeful incident presents a potential war incident that can lead to horrific consequences.
As NATO advisors name China as the number two threat to the organization after Russia, the U.S. top diplomat echoes their rallying call as the U.S. military ramps up its forces in the Pacific region. These worrisome developments suggest the U.S. will continue to play a leading role in pushing NATO to train its sights on China, which will heighten the dangerous confrontation in the Western Pacific.
‘It looks like the end of the world’: China’s worst sandstorm in a decade chokes Beijing
“This is the most intense sandstorm in China in the past 10 years,” China’s National Meteorological Center said Monday.00:00 /01:05TAP TO UNMUTE
March 15, 2021, 5:42 AM PDTBy Yuliya Talmazan and Nicole Yang
China’s capital city woke up to yellow skies Monday as the biggest sandstorm the country has seen in a decade swept through it, sparking new health fears.
The thick brown dust shrouded Beijing‘s iconic landmarks, including the Forbidden City, and downtown skyscrapers at times disappeared from view, enveloped by clouds of sand.
The visibility in the capital was reduced to less than 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), China’s English-language news agency CGTN reported, forcing residents who dared venture outside to wear improvised headgear to protect their faces.
Traffic was snarled and more than 400 flights out of the capital’s two main airports were canceled, The Associated Press reported.
The Beijing Meteorological Observatory warned that the elderly, children and people suffering from respiratory conditions should stay inside. It said city residents should wear masks, gauze or other dust-proof products when going out and wash their faces when they return home.
Schools were also told to suspend any outdoor activities.
“It looks like the end of the world,” Beijing resident Flora Zou, 25, who works in fashion, told Reuters. “In this kind of weather, I really, really don’t want to be outside.”
China’s National Meteorological Center issued a yellow alert Monday morning, saying sand and dust coming from neighboring Mongolia would affect 12 provinces and regions across the north, from Xinjiang in the far northwest to Heilongjiang in the northeast and Beijing.
“This is the most intense sandstorm in China in the past 10 years, and the area affected by the sandstorm is also the most extensive in the past decade,” the center said in a memo on its website.
The sandstorms were expected to shift south toward the Yangtze River delta and should clear by Wednesday, China’s environment ministry said.
Beijing typically faces sandstorms in March and April due to its proximity to the massive Gobi Desert, as well as deforestation and soil erosion throughout northern China.
China has been trying to reforest and restore the ecology of the region to limit how much sand is blown into the capital.
Beijing has planted a so-called “great green wall” of trees to trap incoming dust, and has also tried to create air corridors that channel the wind and allow sand and other pollutants to pass through more quickly.
The city and surrounding regions have also been suffering from relatively high levels of pollution in recent weeks.
Yuliya Talmazan reported from London, Nicole Yang from Hong Kong.
Hong Kong (CNN)China is assembling an increasingly offensive military and expanding its regional footprint, as Beijing steps up efforts to supplant American military power in Asia, a top US commander warned Congress on Tuesday.”I cannot for the life of me understand some of the capabilities that they’re putting in the field unless it is an aggressive posture,” Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of US Indo-Pacific Command, said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.”I see them developing systems, capabilities and a posture that would indicate that they’re interested in aggression,” Davidson said.Adm. Philip Davidson, head of US Indo-Pacific CommandDavidson, who in the hearing defended budget requests for billions of dollars of new weaponry in the Pacific, said the increased investment was necessary to deter Chinese military ambition in the region.Content by RV ShareMillennials are flocking to RV’s like never beforeWe’ve been inside for almost a full calendar year, meaning that your roamin’, ramblin’ clan of wanderers could be suffering from some serious cabin fever.Describing China as “the greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st century” Davidson said Beijing has been carrying out increasingly threatening moves, citing Chinese military activity around Taiwan, along its disputed border with India and even around US islands in the Pacific.”I’m worried that they’re accelerating their ambitions … to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order, which they’ve long said that they want to do that by 2050. I’m worried about them moving that target closer,” Davidson said.China is adamant its military is defensive.”The development of China’s national defense aims to meet its rightful security needs and contribute to the growth of the world’s peaceful forces,” the country’s 2019 defense white paper said. “China will never threaten any other country or seek any sphere of influence.”
Analysis: China has built the world’s largest navy. Now what’s Beijing going to do with it?Concerning Taiwan, the self-governed democratic island that China claims as its sovereign territory, Davidson said Beijing may make a move to take control of it in the near future. “I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact in the next six years,” he said, adding that the threat to Taiwan is increasing while the US’ ability to deter Chinese actions is “eroding.”Asked if it is necessary for the US to defend Taiwan, Davidson said inaction would damage the US’ international status and harm its credibility as a defense partner.Mainland China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of a bloody civil war in 1949 but Beijing has vowed to never allow the island to become formally independent and has refused to rule out the use of force if necessary.”Taiwan is an inalienable part of China,” Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Wu Qian said in January. “The PLA will take all necessary measures to resolutely defeat any attempt by the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists, and firmly defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”Citing Taiwan and Beijing’s territorial disputes with neighbors, Wu on Sunday defended China’s just-announced 6.8% increase in military spending for 2021, saying that “the world is not peaceful and our national defense must be strong,” according to state media.
‘Guam is a target today’
While China’s military has long been upping its presence close to its shores, in places like Taiwan and the South China Sea, Davidson revealed it is becoming more active around the US Pacific Island territories.”We’re seeing Chinese naval deployments of service task groups and submarines that make circumnavigations of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas,” he said.He also cited a Chinese propaganda video that depicted bombers hitting Andersen Air Force Base on Guam as well as Beijing’s robust ballistic missile forces, which are well within reach of the Micronesian island from the Chinese mainland.US military aircraft stationed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, perform an “Elephant Walk” to showcase combat readiness on April 13, 2020.”Guam is a target today. It needs to be defended,” Davidson said, pointing out the island is home to 170,000 US citizens. “Their defense is homeland defense.”To that end, the admiral said Congress needs to fund the Aegis Ashore missile defense system, at a cost of about $1.6 billion, for the island.Current missile defense on Guam is provided by the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, but Davidson said it does not provide 360-degree coverage that would be required to answer possible threats from missile-armed Chinese ships, subs and planes.”We have to demonstrate that any ambition that China might have and any threat it might put forth towards Guam would come at cost,” he said.
Diamond democratic alliance
The Aegis Ashore plan is part of the Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a $27 billion five-year plan to upgrade US forces around the region.Besides the Aegis system, the Pentagon also requested new radar defenses for Hawaii; more intelligence and reconnaissance assets; more munitions; more Navy, Air Force and Marine troops in the region; and more training and exercises with allies and partners.Those partners include members of the four-nation Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a strategic forum of the US, Japan, India and Australia.
Biden looks to be in ‘lockstep’ with allies on ChinaDavidson on Tuesday referred to that grouping as a “diamond of democracies” in the Indo-Pacific.The leaders of those four countries will meet virtually on Friday, in the highest level meeting yet for what to date has been an informal grouping.Davidson said Tuesday he hoped the organization could “build into something bigger.””Not in terms of security alone, but in terms of how we might approach … the global economy, critical technologies like telecommunications and 5G, collaboration on the international order — just much to be done diplomatically and economically,” he said.The US commander’s testimony came as Chinese leader Xi Jinping called on his nation’s armed forces to “focus on combat readiness” while setting out military goals for the next five years, according to a report from the state-run Xinhua news agency.”Highlighting the ‘instabilities’ and ‘uncertainties’ in China’s current security circumstances, Xi said the whole armed forces must always be ready to respond to all kinds of complex and difficult situations, resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and provide strong support for fully building a modern socialist country,” the Xinhua report said.
Slowing the pace of climate change and getting “tough” on China, especially over its human-rights abuses and unfair trade practices, are among the top priorities President Biden has announced for his new administration. Evidently, he believes that he can tame a rising China with harsh pressure tactics, while still gaining its cooperation in areas of concern to Washington. As he wrote in Foreign Affairs during the presidential election campaign, “The most effective way to meet that challenge is to build a united front of U.S. allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviors and human rights violations, even as we seek to cooperate with Beijing on issues where our interests converge, such as climate change.” If, however, our new president truly believes that he can build an international coalition to gang up on China and secure Beijing’s cooperation on climate change, he’s seriously deluded. Indeed, though he could succeed in provoking a new cold war, he won’t prevent the planet from heating up unbearably in the process.
Biden is certainly aware of the dangers of global warming. In that same Foreign Affairs article, he labeled it nothing short of an “existential threat,” one that imperils the survival of human civilization. Acknowledging the importance of relying on scientific expertise (unlike our previous president who repeatedly invented his own version of scientific reality), Biden affirmed the conclusion of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that warming must be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels or there will be hell to pay. He then pledged to “rejoin the Paris climate agreement on day one of a Biden administration,” which he indeed did, and to “make massive, urgent investments at home that put the United States on track to have a clean energy economy with net-zero [greenhouse gas] emissions by 2050” — the target set by the IPCC.
Even such dramatic actions, he indicated, will not be sufficient. Other countries will have to join America in moving toward a global “net-zero” state in which any carbon emissions would be compensated for by equivalent carbon removals. “Because the United States creates only 15 percent of global emissions,” he wrote, “I will leverage our economic and moral authority to push the world to determined action, rallying nations to raise their ambitions and push progress further and faster.”
China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases right now (although the U.S. remains number one historically), would obviously be Washington’s natural partner in this effort. Here, though, Biden’s antagonistic stance toward that country is likely to prove a significant impediment. Rather than prioritize collaboration with China on climate action, he chose to castigate Beijing for its continued reliance on coal. The Biden climate plan, he wrote in Foreign Affairs, “includes insisting that China… stop subsidizing coal exports and outsourcing pollution to other countries by financing billions of dollars’ worth of dirty fossil-fuel energy projects through its Belt and Road Initiative.” Then he went further by portraying the future effort to achieve a green economy as a potentially competitive, not collaborative, struggle with China, saying,
“I will make investment in research and development a cornerstone of my presidency, so that the United States is leading the charge in innovation. There is no reason we should be falling behind China or anyone else when it comes to clean energy.”
Unfortunately, though he’s not wrong on China’s climate change challenges (similar, in many respects, to our own country’s), you can’t have it both ways. If climate change is an existential threat and international collaboration between the worst greenhouse gas emitters key to overcoming that peril, picking fights with China over its energy behavior is a self-defeating way to start. Whatever obstacles China does pose, its cooperation in achieving that 1.5-degree limit is critical. “If we don’t get this right, nothing else will matter,” Biden said of global efforts to deal with climate change. Sadly, his insistence on pummeling China on so many fronts (and appointing China hawks to his foreign policy team to do so) will ensure that he gets it wrong. The only way to avert catastrophic climate change is for the United States to avoid a new cold war with China by devising a cooperative set of plans with Beijing to speed the global transition to a green economy.
Why Cooperation Is Essential
With such cooperation in mind, let’s review the basics on how those two countries affect world energy consumption and global carbon emissions: the United States and China are the world’s two leading consumers of energy and its two main emitters of carbon dioxide, or CO2, the leading greenhouse gas. As a result, they exert an outsized influence on the global climate equation. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), China accounted for approximately 22% of world energy consumption in 2018; the U.S., 16%. And because both countries rely so heavily on fossil fuels for energy generation — China largely on coal, the U.S. more on oil and natural gas — their carbon-dioxide emissions account for an even larger share of the global total: China alone, nearly 29% in 2018; the U.S., 18%; and combined, an astonishing 46%.
It’s what will happen in the future, though, that really matters. If the world is to keep global temperatures from rising above that 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, every major economy should soon be on a downward-trending trajectory in terms of both fossil-fuel consumption and CO2 emissions (along with a compensating increase in renewable energy output). Horrifyingly enough, however, on their current trajectories, over the next two decades the combined fossil-fuel consumption and carbon emissions of China and the United States are still expected to rise, not fall, before stabilizing in the 2040s at a level far above net zero. According to the IEA, if the two countries stick to anything like their current courses, their combined fossil-fuel consumption would be approximately 17% higher in 2040 than in 2018, even if their CO2 emissions would rise by “only” 3%. Any increase of that kind over the next two decades would spell one simple word for humanity: D-O-O-M.
True, both countries are expected to substantially increase their investment in renewable energy during the next 20 years, even as places like India are expected to account for an ever-increasing share of global energy use and CO2 emissions. Still, as long as Beijing and Washington continue to lead the world in both categories, any effort to achieve net-zero and avert an almost unimaginable climate cataclysm will have to fall largely on their shoulders. This would, however, require a colossal reduction in fossil-fuel consumption and the ramping up of renewables on a scale unlike any engineering project this planet has ever seen.
The Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University, an influential Chinese think tank, has calculated what might be involved in reshaping China’s coal-dependent electrical power system to reach the goal of a 1.5-degree limit on global warming. Its researchers believe that, over the next three decades, this would require adding the equivalent of three times current global wind power capacity and four times that of solar power at the cost of approximately $20 trillion.
A similar transformation will be required in the United States, although with some differences: while this country relies far less on coal than China to generate electricity, it relies more on natural gas (a less potent emitter of CO2, but a fossil fuel nonetheless) and its electrical grid — as recent events in Texas have demonstrated — is woefully unprepared for climate change and will have to be substantially rebuilt at enormous cost.
And that represents only part of what needs to be done to avert planetary catastrophe. To eliminate carbon emissions from oil-powered vehicles, both countries will have to replace their entire fleets of cars, vans, trucks, and buses with electric-powered ones and develop alternative fuels for their trains, planes, and ships — an undertaking of equal magnitude and expense.
There are two ways all of this can be done: separately or together. Each country could devise its own blueprint for such a transition, developing its own green technologies and seeking financing wherever it could be found. As in the fight over fifth generation (5G) telecommunications, each could deny scientific knowledge and technical know-how to its rival and insist that allies buy only its equipment, whether or not it best suits their purposes — a stance taken by the Trump administration with respect to the Chinese company Huawei’s 5G wireless technology. Alternatively, the U.S. and China could cooperate in developing green technologies, share information and know-how, and work together in disseminating them around the world.
On the question of which approach is more likely to achieve success, the answer is too obvious to belabor. Only those prepared to risk civilization’s survival would choose the former — and yet that’s the choice that both sides may indeed make.
Why a New Cold War Precludes Climate Salvation
Those in Washington who favor a tougher approach toward China and the bolstering of U.S. military forces in the Pacific claim that, under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist regime has become more authoritarian at home and more aggressive abroad, endangering key U.S. allies in the Pacific and threatening our vital interests. Certainly, when it comes to the increasing repression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang Province or pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, there can be little doubt of Beijing’s perfidy, though on other issues, there’s room for debate. On another subject, though, there really should be no room for debate at all: the impact of a new cold war between the planet’s two great powers on the chances for a successful global response to a rapidly warming planet.
There are several obvious reasons for this. First, increased hostility will ensure a competitive rather than collaborative search for vital solutions, resulting in wasted resources, inadequate financing, duplicative research, and the stalled international dissemination of advanced green technologies. A hint of such a future lies in the competitive rather than collaborative development of vaccines for Covid-19 and their distressingly chaotic distribution to Africa and the rest of the developing world, ensuring that the pandemic will have a life into 2022 or 2023 with an ever-rising death toll.
Second, a new cold war will make international diplomacy more difficult when it comes to ensuring worldwide compliance with the Paris climate agreement. Consider it a key lesson for the future that cooperation between President Barack Obama and Xi Jinping made the agreement possible in the first place, creating pressure on reluctant but vital powers like India and Russia to join as well. Once President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement, that space evaporated and global adherence withered. Only by recreating such a U.S.-China climate alliance will it be possible to corral other key players into full compliance. As suggested recently by Todd Stern, the lead American negotiator at the 2015 Paris climate summit, “There is simply no way to contain climate change worldwide without full-throttle engagement by both countries.”
A cold war environment would make such cooperation a fantasy.
Third, such an atmosphere would ensure a massive increase in military expenditures on both sides, sopping up funds needed for the transition to a green-energy economy. In addition, as the pace of militarization accelerated, fossil-fuel use would undoubtedly increase, as the governments of both countries favored the mass production of gas-guzzling tanks, bombers, and warships.
Finally, there is no reason to assume a cold war will always remain cold. The current standoff between the U.S. and China in the Pacific is different from the one that existed between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in Europe during the historic Cold War. There is no longer anything like an “Iron Curtain” to define the boundaries between the two sides or keep their military forces from colliding with each another. While the risk of war in Europe was ever-present back then, each side knew that such a boundary-crossing assault might trigger a nuclear exchange and so prove suicidal. Today, however, the air and naval forces of China and the U.S. are constantly intermingling in the East and South China Seas, making a clash or collision possible at any time. So far, cooler heads have prevailed, preventing such encounters from sparking armed violence, but as tensions mount, a hot war between the U.S. and China cannot be ruled out.
Because American forces are poised to strike at vital targets on the Chinese mainland, it’s impossible to preclude China’s use of nuclear weapons or, if preparations for such use are detected, a preemptive U.S. nuclear strike. Any full-scale thermonuclear conflagration resulting from that would probably cause a nuclear winter and the death of billions of people, making the climate-change peril moot. But even if nuclear weapons are not employed, a war between the two powers could result in immense destruction in China’s industrial heartland and to such key U.S. allies as Japan and South Korea. Fires ignited in the course of battle would, of course, add additional carbon to the atmosphere, while the subsequent breakdown in global economic activity would postpone by years any transition to a green economy.
An Alliance for Global Survival
If Joe Biden genuinely believes that climate change is an “existential threat” and that the United States “must lead the world,” it’s crucial that he stop the slide toward a new cold war with China and start working with Beijing to speed the transition to a green-energy economy focused on ensuring global compliance with the Paris climate agreement. This would not necessarily mean abandoning all efforts to pressure China on human rights and other contentious issues. It’s possible to pursue human rights, trade equity, and planetary survival at the same time. Indeed, as both countries come to share the urgency of addressing the climate crisis, progress on other issues could become easier.
Assuming Biden truly means what he says about overcoming the climate threat and “getting it right,” here are some of the steps he could take to achieve meaningful progress:
* Schedule a “climate summit” with Xi Jinping as soon as possible to discuss joint efforts to overcome global warming, including the initiation of bilateral programs to speed advances in areas like the spread of electric vehicles, the improvement of battery-storage capabilities, the creation of enhanced methods of carbon sequestration, and the development of alternative aviation fuels.
* At the conclusion of the summit, joint working groups on these and other matters should be established, made up of senior figures from both sides. Research centers and universities in each country should be designated as lead actors in key areas, with arrangements made for cooperative partnerships and the sharing of climate-related technical data.
* At the same time, presidents Biden and Xi should announce the establishment of an “Alliance for Global Survival,” intended to mobilize international support for the Paris climate agreement and strict adherence to its tenets. As part of this effort, the two leaders should plan joint meetings with other world leaders to persuade them to replicate the measures that Biden and Xi have agreed to work on cooperatively. As needed, they could offer to provide financial aid and technical assistance to poorer states to launch the necessary energy transition.
* Presidents Biden and Xi should agree to reconvene annually to review progress in all these areas and designate surrogates to meet on a more regular basis. Both countries should publish an online “dashboard” exhibiting progress in every key area of climate mitigation.
So, Joe, if you really meant what you said about overcoming climate change, these are some of the things you should focus on to get it right. Choose this path and guarantee us all a fighting chance to avert civilizational collapse. Opt for the path of confrontation instead — the one your administration already appears headed down — and that hope is likely to disappear into an unbearable world of burning, flooding, famine, and extreme storms until the end of time. After all, without remarkable effort, a simple formula will rule all our lives: a new cold war = a scalding planet.
An unoccupied lifeboat drifts near Kodakarajima island. Japanese authorities are racing to find dozens of missing sailors from a cargo ship that sank in a typhoon.
10th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters/AFP via Getty Images
A second crew member has been found alive from a ship carrying livestock that capsized and sank during a typhoon off the southern coast of Japan. But another storm expected to hit the area over the weekend is likely to hamper the search for 40 other people still missing.
The Gulf Livestock 1, a 450-foot ship with a cargo of some 5,800 cows en route from New Zealand to China, issued a distress call early Wednesday Japan time near the island of Amami Oshima, north of Okinawa. The ship’s “mayday” was sent from an area affected by Typhoon Maysak, a powerful Category 4 storm.
Japan’s coast guard said Friday that it had rescued Jay-nel Rosals, a 30-year-old Filipino deckhand. Another crew member, chief officer Edvardo Sareno, who was initially identified as Sareno Edvarodo, was located on Wednesday.
Edvardo Sareno, a 45-year-old chief officer from the Philippines of the capsized ship The Gulf Livestock 1, is seen being rescued by Japan’s coast guard on Wednesday. So far, he is one of two survivors from the vessel’s crew of 43.
Japan Coast Guard, 10th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters
Rosals was wearing a life jacket and floating in a raft, the coast guard said without elaborating on his condition.
The two found alive are among the 39 crew listed as being from the Philippines. Two others are from New Zealand and two from Australia.
Earlier, a third crew member, who was not identified, was recovered from the water unconscious and facedown, a spokesman for the coast guard said, according to The Associated Press. The man was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Searchers also said they had found a fuel slick on the sea surface and dozens of floating animal carcasses.
After Sareno’s rescue on Wednesday, he told rescuers that the Gulf Livestock 1 was hit broadside by a large wave, capsized and sank. He managed to jump overboard wearing a life jacket but said he did not see any others escape from the sinking ship.
He reportedly asked rescuers: “I’m the only one?”
“I’m so sorry … [I’m] so lucky,” Sareno said, according to the AP.
The Panamanian-flagged vessel is owned and operated by the United Arab Emirates-based Gulf Navigation, which issued a statement about the disaster that was carried by media on Friday.
“Our hearts go out to those onboard and their families at this time,” a Gulf Navigation spokesman said. “We also express deep regret for the sad loss of the livestock onboard. We are monitoring the situation closely and working closely with those involved in rescue efforts. We pray that there are other survivors.”
Typhoon Haishen, bearing down on the same general area affected by Typhoon Maysak earlier this week, was likely to complicate the search for any remaining survivors. Japan’s Meteorological Agency forecasts that by Sunday, Haishen will passnear Okinawa, just south of where the Gulf Livestock 1 went down. The JMA said the storm has the potential to be even more dangerous than Maysak.
Guayaquil, Ecuador: Ecuador’s armed forces say dozens of vessels from a predominantly Chinese fishing fleet operating near the Galapagos Islands have turned off tracking systems to prevent monitoring of their activities.
Of around 325 ships still fishing in the waters near the ecologically sensitive Galapagos, 149 have at some point in recent months cut off communications, Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Darwin Jarrin said.
Some had also changed the vessels’ names to avoid supervision, he said.
“In this period, 149 ships have turned off their satellite systems … we know the name of the ships,” Jarrin said during a press conference. He declined to identify the vessels.
The complaint comes as the South American nation is seeking to prevent unsustainable fishing off its coast while also avoiding a confrontation with China, its largest financier and a major market for its shrimp export business. In 2017, it apprehended a Chinese-flagged vessel with 300 tonnes of shark and fish on board.
A representative of the Chinese embassy declined to comment.
Ecuador says the fleet has not entered its territorial waters. But environmentalists say this type of fishing allows vessels to take advantage of the abundant marine wildlife that travels in the waters between the Galapagos and the mainland.
“It is a breach [of protocol] on the high seas, because they do not want us to know what they are doing and the activities they carry out,” said Defence Minister Oswaldo Jarrin.
He said turning off satellite equipment violated rules created by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), a group of international agencies that promote sustainable fishing.
The New Zealand-based South Pacific RFMO, one of the organisations that provides guidance on fishing practices in the area, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Since 2017, the Chinese fishing fleet has arrived in the summer months to the outskirts of the Galapagos protected area, attracted by marine species such as the giant squid or the hammerhead shark, the latter of which is threatened species.
China has promised a “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal fishing, and it has authorised the Andean country to supervise the vessels.
It has also proposed a fishing moratorium in the area near the Galapagos between September and November, though the fleets usually leave the area before that period begins.