Friday, September 17, 2021

African Union Calls for End to Vaccine Nationalism

By Xinhua

Sep 16, 2021 06:43 PM

Participants attend the 33rd ordinary session of the assembly of heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, Feb. 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

Rich countries should end vaccine nationalism that is to blame for a supply crunch in Africa and slowing down efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the continent, experts said at a webinar on accelerating COVID-19 vaccination in Africa on Wednesday.

Michel Sidibe, the African Union's special envoy for the African Medicines Agency, said that the rich North has a responsibility to stop hoarding vaccines that has been counterproductive to the pandemic fight. He stressed that vaccine equity is key to averting the emergence of new coronavirus strains, hastening recovery and strengthening the resilience of Africa's public health systems.

Speaking at the webinar convened by the Brookings Institution, Sidibe noted that Africa's battle against the pandemic has suffered headwinds amid vaccine nationalism.

Agnes Binagwaho, vice chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity and former Rwandese minister for Health, noted that delayed vaccination could lead to a 3 percent loss to Africa's GDP.

She faulted some rich nations that have explored the possibility of third booster shots, saying the move will only deny low-income countries in Africa the opportunity to immunize high-risk groups.

Aloysius Uche Ordu, director in the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings Institution, said there was an urgency to address vaccine nationalism and price hikes having constrained supply in Africa where new variants have derailed a return to normalcy besides exerting pressure on public health facilities.

Vending Machines Bring Safe, Cheap Water to Nairobi Slums

By Reuters

Sep 14, 2021 07:13 PM

Slum residents stand among strewn rubbish in Nairobi's Mukuru -kwa-Njenga slum in Nairobi, Kenya on July 6, 2010. Photo: AFP

In the 30 years that Josephine Muthoni has lived in Nairobi's Mukuru slum, she has never had a steady supply of clean water.

The only way to get water was from vendors dotted around the slum, who charge exorbitant prices for the often polluted water they buy from government water points or steal straight from the municipal pipes, the 62-year-old mother of nine explained.

Muthoni said filling a 20-liter jerry can cost as much as 50 Kenyan shillings ($0.45) - a potentially crippling amount in a city where the majority of slum dwellers earn less than $1.9 a day, according to the World Bank.

The more than 600,000 residents living in one of Nairobi's largest slums have struggled with water access for years, a problem exacerbated by frequent bouts of city-wide water rationing, which has been ongoing since 2017.

But soon, Mukuru residents will be able to fill a jerry can with clean water for as little as 50 Kenyan cents, using token-operated vending machines that the city government is installing in an effort to ease the slum's water stress.

With the new system, residents will receive plastic tokens - similar to key fobs - that they can charge using the M-Pesa mobile money platform.

They then insert the tokens into a machine at one of the 10 water stations being set up around Mukuru, and select how much water they would like to dispense.

Kagiri Gicheha, an engineer at the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), which is helping develop the system, said the project is in the final stages, only awaiting the installation of the vending machines.

The dispensers, each costing 200,000 shillings, mean Mukuru residents will no longer be at the mercy of the slum's informal, exploitative water market, Gicheha said.

Until the system is operational, residents can fetch clean water for free from boreholes that have been dug for the project, each of which will feed up to four water dispensers.

Since starting the project in April 2020, the city government has drilled nearly 200 boreholes across five Nairobi slums and hopes to expand to more areas depending on funding and demand, Gicheha said.

Cheap, clean, reliable 

Officials decided to launch the system in Mukuru after seeing the success of a similar program run by the local nonprofit Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum.

Currently, there are 23 machines dispensing water to Kibera residents, who pay two shillings to fill a jerry can, said Johnstone Mutua, a program officer at the grass-roots group.

Maureen Adhiambo, a 28-year-old mother of three in Kibera, says the vending machines cost half of what she used to pay water vendors and finally offer her a reliable source of water.

"[Before], the queues were too long and water would come only once a week," she said.

Mutua said the first attempt at setting up a water vending system was in Mathare slum in 2015.

Risky walk for water 

Fueled by explosive population growth, demand for water in Kenya's capital has shot up over the past decade, but broken municipal water pipes and frequent drought leave the city chronically thirsty.

While residents need more than 810,000 cubic meters daily, the city's dilapidated water infrastructure can only supply 526,000 cubic meters, according to figures from the NCWSC.

Across Kenya, the water crisis hits hardest in slums, where nearly half the urban population lives, according to the World Bank, and where homes are not connected to the water grid.

Before the vending machine project came to Mukuru, Gideon Musyoka, an elder of one of the villages inside the slum, said the taps at the government water points rarely flowed and when they did, the water was often tainted by raw sewage.

For women, the search for water was time-consuming, expensive and dangerous, exposing them to sexual assault or rape. 

"Women were almost getting used to being raped, even in broad daylight, as they went to water points to fetch water," said Muthoni, the Mukuru resident.

Efficiency 

Jamlick Mutie, an independent water and sanitation expert working in Nairobi's slums, applauds the water dispensers as a safe, affordable and efficient solution.

Mutie noted that at the subsidized cost of 25 shillings per cubic meter, Mukuru residents will be able to buy water for less than half what other Nairobi residents pay to get it piped into their homes.

Efforts to get clean water to the slums are especially urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with health experts pointing to handwashing as one of the best ways to curb the spread of COVID-19, he said.

The price of the water is enough to cover the costs of maintenance and electricity to run the machines, making the project sustainable, he added.

The biggest challenge, Mutie warned, is protecting the machines from the cartels who see the project as a threat to their business.

To discourage tampering with the vending machine pipes, the charity built an aerial water network, suspending the pipes overhead rather than burying them underground, and is encouraging the government to do the same in Mukuru, he said.

Musyoka, the village elder, said having abundant, clean water is something many of them never could have imagined.

"Seeing water in Mukuru slums is what we call magic. Now, we can say that people are clean and healthy," he said.

Reuters

‘SCO Family’ Shows Unique Value: Global Times Editorial

By Global Times

Sep 18, 2021 12:51 AM

SCO Photo:VCG

The 21st meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Friday. Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the summit by video link. The SCO will launch procedures to admit Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar as new dialogue partners of the SCO and admit Iran as a member state. The SCO has welcomed a new round of expansion. The "SCO family" has shown its strong vitality and broad development prospects.

There is no Western country in the SCO member states. Turkey, a dialogue partner of the SCO, is the only member of NATO related to the SCO. In the 20 years since the SCO's establishment, the West has been constantly badmouthing and questioning it. Proud Westerners believe that the SCO will not last long, but the SCO has walked a path far beyond their expectation. Today, the SCO has become the most extensive and populous comprehensive regional cooperation organization worldwide. It is full of vitality. On the contrary, NATO, the largest political and military organization led by the West, is regarded as experiencing a "brain death" by itself.

Why? Fundamentally, it is because the SCO is practicing real multilateralism which is in the common interest of everyone. The original intention of the SCO was to seek consensus and win-win situation. It aims at resolving problems, not to unite to deal with anyone, nor is it a geopolitical tool dominated by a major power. When the SCO was established, the founding member states profoundly summarized their successful cooperation experience and creatively proposed the Shanghai Spirit - mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and pursuit of common development. When facing problems, SCO members would negotiate to reach a consensus and there is an equal vote for every country, whether big or small.

The West has gouged the heart of a gentleman with their own mean measures, and it will inevitably misjudge the SCO. There are huge differences between SCO member states, observer states and dialogue partners. There are complicated disputes and even conflicts among them. For example, India and Pakistan are both SCO member states. However, the SCO did not fail due to their participation, nor did China and Russia fight each other as two major powers, as the way some Westerners expected. This shows that the SCO members have found their greatest common ground in an effective way. This important institutional experiment in the non-Western world after the Cold War has increasingly demonstrated its unique value.

The SCO's achievements are remarkable. Taking 2020 as an example, the competent authorities of SCO member states destroyed more than 50 terrorist groups and prevented more than 40 terrorist attacks, effectively combating the "three evil forces" - terrorism, extremism and separatism - drug smuggling and transnational organized crime. In 2020, the total economic value and foreign trade of SCO member states had increased by 11 times and 8 times, respectively, compared with the beginning of its establishment. There have been no serious armed conflicts or wars in Central Asia over the past 20 years. The SCO has played an important role in preventing wars.

On Friday, leaders of the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization member states also held a joint summit on the Afghan issue by video link. They discussed how to help the Afghan people overcome difficulties and jointly maintain the peace and stability that is "more valuable than gold." The constructive role that the SCO can play in the Afghan chaos has become more prominent. All the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, as well as Afghanistan itself, are under the framework of the SCO. 

Making good use of platforms such as the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group can actively promote the smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan, and guide Afghanistan to build a broad and inclusive political structure. It can also guide Afghanistan to pursue a prudent and moderate domestic and foreign policy, resolutely combat all forms of terrorism, get along well with neighboring countries and really embark on the path of peace, stability and development.

The SCO's positive role and NATO once again constitute a sharp contrast regarding the Afghan issue. NATO is indeed an expert in causing havoc. The US and the West ran away leaving a mess in Afghanistan. Now the SCO, out of a high sense of responsibility, comes to help Afghanistan. It's clear which one is good.

EU Eyes Geopolitical Power in 2021 SOUA, Loses Faith in US

By Ai Jun

Sep 16, 2021 08:46 PM 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during a debate on "The State of the European Union" at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on September 15. Photo: AFP

EU's 2021 State of the Union Address (SOUA), delivered by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday, can be seen as a vow of the bloc - time to get real to make the EU a geopolitical power. 

Compared to the 2020 edition of the SOUA, much of which was about the anti-pandemic fight, this year, COVID-19 is no longer an overwhelming theme. A number of coordination plans among EU members and proposals on global cooperation have been raised. The EU has regained confidence, regardless of the still-lingering economic pressure. 

Von der Leyen applauded the EU's achievements in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, announced a new European Chips Act, a new Social Climate Fund, a new Afghan Support Package, stressed the EU need of a European Defense Union, and unveiled EU's new connectivity strategy called Global Gateway. "We are entering a new era of hyper-competitiveness," she said, suggesting Europe become "a more active global player."

The EU is no longer satisfied with being a major economic player. It hopes to turn into a vital polar of strategically autonomous geopolitical forces in the world. This is the vision signaled by von der Leyen when she swore to lead a "geopolitical commission" soon after assuming office. 

The most prominent example is that the EU has voiced multiple times its wish to boost the unions' own defense capability. "Europe can - and clearly should - be able and willing to do more on its own," von der Leyen noted on Wednesday, announcing that under the upcoming French presidency of the EU Council, a "Summit on European defence" will be convened. 

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is clearly a catalyst for the EU to take big steps forward on strengthening its defense. Europe opposes not only the withdrawal but also the way it was done. More importantly, many Europeans believe that the Afghan pullout is a sign that the US is returning to isolationism and becoming increasingly unreliable. So they want to reduce their dependence on Washington, Feng Zhongping, director of Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Science, told the Global Times. 

The EU and the US may seem to have coordinated closely on global affairs, especially on China strategy, but divergences between them are growing. 

Ganging up, the EU wishes to protest the West's advantage in the global order, while the US aims at maintaining its own hegemony, Sun Keqin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times. Economically, Washington has been promoting a "decoupling" with China, but most European countries are against the call, as they will only sacrifice their own development opportunities and practical interests. US President Joe Biden has been trying to heal the wounds in the transatlantic relationship, yet he has achieved little. Disputes ranging from the North Stream 2 project to Iran policy still exist. 

Their value diplomacy may seem to be gaining momentum. For instance, von der Leyen proposed a ban on products made by forced labor, without naming names on Wednesday. On the same day local time, the US announced the creation of AUKUS, a trilateral security partnership among Australia, the UK and the US, to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia to patrol the Indo-Pacific. China was also not mentioned, but everyone knows who the new alliance is targeting at. 

Nevertheless, it could be only a coincidence that these two cases occurred on the same day. The EU's tough rhetoric about China may be increasing, but it won't dare to go to extremes like the US has done, Sun said. Some observers are also concerned whether the EU's policy toward China will change after German Chancellor Angela Merkel steps down. "At the government level, a U-turn will not come," according to Feng, as there will be at least one major political party in the future coalition government, and a major party won't make subversive moves. 

European diplomacy is driven by two wheels - interests and values. Once value diplomacy impacts interests, a pendulum effect will emerge. 

When the Western media outlets cover the Global Gateway, they tend to claim that its goal is countering the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This may partly be true. But don't overlook this fact - the EU is not interested in relying on a US-initiated Build Back Better World; it wants a "BRI" of its own. 

EU's aim to become a geopolitical power is not only a response to the era of major power competition, but also the result of losing confidence in the US. They will keep cooperating under the framework of alliance. Unfortunately, the framework is getting rickety. 

GT Voice: Naïve Australia Foots the Bill for US Gambit

By Global Times

Sep 16, 2021 07:38 PM

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

Australian taxpayers have every reason to demand an answer from the Morrison administration as to why ordinary Australians always end up paying for America's cold war gambit.

The US, UK and Australia announced Wednesday the trio would form a new trilateral security system for "ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific." As part of the security pact, known as AUKUS, the US and the UK have pledged to provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, according to media reports.

While the Biden administration officials claimed that the new security partnership is not specifically targeting China, almost all the Western media analyzed the move is a major step towards countering China's growing clout in the region.

In response, the Chinese embassy in the US said Thursday that the three English-speaking countries should "shake off their cold war mentality and ideological prejudice."

While we have never had any illusions about the Morrison government's political inclination, it is still surprising to know that they could be so obedient and "selfless" in opening their own coffers to pay for and slavishly serve US interests.

Among all of the US allies, the decision Australia made to acquire submarine technology from the US is the clearest indication of Canberra's support for Washington's idea of an international system to contain China's economic rise. 

As an independent nation to become a pawn of the US, the stakes are just too high for Canberra. Australia could face the most dangerous consequence of being cannon fodder in the event of a military showdown in the region.

What's even more ridiculous is that Australia also needs to foot the bill for playing the role of cannon fodder, and trashing its relationship with France, whose leaders must be annoyed to suddenly learn that its $90 billion submarine contract with Australia may be cancelled. 

The contract Australia inked with French shipbuilder Naval Group in 2016 to build a new submarine fleet was considered one of the world's most lucrative defense deals. Now with the new AUKUS security alliance, the money will eventually go to the US. 

This is not the first time the US has thrown Morrison into an awkward position. For a time, Australia has been losing its Chinese market share to the US and other economies. While officials in Canberra have been accusing China of "economic coercion," it is Canberra that decided to abandon the previously friendly relations with Beijing, by discriminating Chinese investment, ousting Chinese companies, and meddling China's internal affairs.  

The most pressing issue for the Australian economy now is to diversify its economic development by focusing on technology and advanced manufacturing so as to create more jobs. Typically, lucrative defense contracts for American contractors would not be part of such a plan. But as Canberra falls into a well-set US trap, its industrial transformation and development plans will suffer while defense lobbyists in Washington reap the rewards.

The US cold war gambit is a trap that will deprive its allies that are naïve enough to fall for the illusion of receiving economic dividends from the US, while also hoping to retrain the benefit that come from China's development when it comes to economic and trade cooperation. There is no way for China to develop economic ties with a country that treats it as an enemy. There is no path to future prosperity for an Australia which chooses to isolate itself from the region's largest economy. 

AUKUS Gives Canberra Special Treatment, a Psychological Blow for Japan, India as Quad Members

By Yang Xiyu

Sep 18, 2021 12:44 AM

Photo: GT

The US, the UK and Australia on Wednesday announced that they will form an enhanced trilateral security partnership called AUKUS. It seems that Australia, as a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the Quad, has won some "special treatment" from Washington compared with the other two members of the Quad - Japan and India. On September 24, US President Joe Biden will host the Quad Leaders Summit at the White House. 

AUKUS will have a huge psychological impact on Japan and India. The establishment of AUKUS shows that although the three countries are all under the Quad framework, the US' position toward Australia is very different from that toward Japan and India.

First of all, Australia is the hub of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, with the Indian Ocean to its west and the Pacific Ocean to its east. The US has many military bases and allies in the Northern Hemisphere, but its global strategic alliance network in the Southern Hemisphere seems to be relatively weak. 

AUKUS will support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines and enabling its patrol of nuclear-powered submarines in the Indo-Pacific region. This time, the US has taken advantage of AUKUS and the close US-UK alliance to further strengthen Australia's political advantage in the US alliance network. Neither India nor Japan has such geopolitical competitiveness.

The US has been trying to rope in India. Washington's main purpose is to extend its Asia-Pacific strategy westward to the Indian Ocean. However, India is interested in its Act East policy. Although Washington and New Delhi may have common interests, the two sides still have significant differences as well.

Although India has closely followed the US strategically in recent years, it seems that the US has repeatedly disappointed India. Some Indian people have started to question whether the US will unconditionally support India in a critical moment. This being the case, India will not completely turn to the US side like Australia. Washington and New Delhi have different political needs. After all, India does not want to become another ally of the US. It has bigger ambitions - it even wants to become "another US." 

As for Japan, its alliance with the US can be an advantage. However, Japan's domestic political and legal conditions do not meet the US' needs. After the end of WWII, Japan adopted a non-nuclear weapon policy - a policy popularly articulated as the Three Non-Nuclear Principles of non-possession, non-production, and non-introduction of nuclear weapons.

As AUKUS will share core technology and intelligence, some analysts believe that the US may focus on helping Australia develop its military strength and make it a US "guard dog" in Asia. Although Japan has always dreamed of winning this title, it lacks the practical conditions and the US does not have such a will.

AUKUS will definitely affect the strategic choices of Japan and India. Japan, India and Australia were nominally equal partners of the US under the Quad framework. But suddenly, the US offered special treatment to Australia. This is a blow for India and Japan, although the two countries shouldn't have expected Washington to share sensitive core technologies with them.

By launching AUKUS, the US aims at building a more solid and broad foundation for its Indo-Pacific Strategy. According to the US' vision, AUKUS and the Quad should complement each other. Washington wants to rope in its allies from both the Eastern and Western hemispheres into the Indo-Pacific Strategy. 

But this is only the US' wishful thinking. Objectively speaking, at least in the foreseeable future, the psychological blow of AUKUS on Japan and India will last for a period of time. The US administration has not reached a balance between its own interests and those of its allies and partners. AUKUS' negative impact on the Quad and the US itself will outweigh its positive impact.

The author is a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

So France is Furious: Now What?

By RYAN HEATH  09/17/2021 10:25 AM EDT

Send tips and thoughts to rheath@politico.com or follow Ryan on Twitter.

SEPARATING FACTS FROM FURY IN FALLOUT FROM AUKUS

Well that escalated quickly.

What was supposed to be a happy agreement to share cutting-edge tech among English-speaking democracies has sparked trans-Atlantic (and trans-Pacific) fury.

The lack of agreement among Western democracies on how to confront China — while not unduly pissing it off — is on full display.

Paris thinks the Biden administration is turning into Trump in sheep’s clothing: “unilateral, brutal, unpredictable” in the words of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Getting caught up in those headlines is not very productive: So here’s a guide to separating fact and fiction around the defense partnership, and what happens next.

FACT: Australia has chosen the U.S. over China. In practice, Canberra has always been on the U.S. side, but it’s now definitively dropped the idea that it doesn’t have to choose sides between the world’s superpowers (watch this hilarious video about Aussie twisting and turning). Still missing: a rationale around why Canberra is happy to export record amounts of iron ore ($39 billion last year) to China, some of which goes towards steel for Chinese weapons.

FACT: France is furious — and has blind spots. You’d also be angry, too, if you found out via a POLITICO article (as the Élysée Palace did) that you were gazumped on a $60 billion submarine deal. But Australia was already angry with France before it finally ditched the agreement: partly because the cost of the deal had skyrocketed since it was signed in 2016; partly because the subs were going to arrive only in 2035; and also because they were conventional subs rather than nuclear-powered — not as good as the ones offered by Washington, or even the ones the French use themselves. Australia just wants to be the seventh country with a nuclear-powered submarine: after the U.S., U.K., China, Russia, India and France.

FACT: Other democracies want in on the deal, or support it, including India (which loves the idea of other bad cops on China patrol), and Canada’s Conservatives: party leader Erin O’Toole says if he wins Canada’s tight election race on Monday he will push to join AUKUS. I guess that would make it a CAUKUS. France also feels burned because it has territory and 300,000 citizens next door to Australia: in New Caledonia.

FACT: France is looking for compensation. “The cake is canceled” notes my Paris Playbook colleague Elisa Braun (what is it with French power brokers and cake?), but Paris is already making plans to collect a fat check from Canberra. “We’re studying all avenues” said Defense Minister Florence Parly.

FICTION: There’s permanent damage with France, which is cutting off American social ties for now, including the dramatic cancellation of a military gala marking the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes that was to happen today at the French embassy in Washington. The gala is off, sure, but what’s still on today is an event at the embassy with retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a down-sized event is still going ahead on a French destroyer in Baltimore, and a third with a French submarine in Norfolk.

FICTION: Australia is now an undersea power. Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher points out: “as of Thursday, Australia has no (signed) agreement with anyone to build any new submarines whatsoever. China has 66 submarines. It’s expected to have 10 more by 2030, six of those nuclear powered, according to the US Office of Naval Intelligence. By that time, Australia will have exactly as many subs as it has today, which is the same number it had a quarter-century earlier” (six diesel-powered subs commissioned in the 1980s).

FICTION: China’s claim that the deal undermines regional stability. Nonsense! Beijing is lashing out, saying the subs deal “gravely undermines regional peace and stability, aggravates the arms race and hurts the international non-proliferation efforts.” While this week’s events are not going to help get the U.S. and China back on speaking terms, there’s no reason to think Chinese nuclear subs help peace but Australian subs wouldn’t. Beijing is angry that, for once, it was out-maneuvered, while arguing that everyone should ignore the international treaty it broke on Hong Kong, and its routine aggression towards Taiwan.

Biden Angers France, EU with New Australia, UK Initiative

By MATTHEW LEE

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s decision to form a strategic Indo-Pacific alliance with Australia and Britain to counter China is angering France and the European Union. They’re feeling left out and seeing it as a return to the Trump era.

The security initiative, unveiled this week, appears to have brought Biden’s summer of love with Europe to an abrupt end. AUKUS, which notably excludes France and the European Union, is just the latest in a series of steps, from Afghanistan to east Asia, that have taken Europe aback.

After promising European leaders that “America is back” and that multilateral diplomacy would guide U.S. foreign policy, Biden has alienated numerous allies with a go-it-alone approach on key issues. France’s foreign minister expressed “total incomprehension” at the recent move, which he called a “stab in the back,” and the EU’s foreign policy chief complained that Europe had not been consulted.

France will lose a nearly $100 billion deal to build diesel submarines for Australia under the terms of the initiative, which will see the U.S. and Britain help Canberra construct nuclear-powered ones.

As such, French anger on a purely a commercial level would be understandable, particularly because France, since Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, is the only European nation to have significant territorial possessions or a permanent military presence in the Pacific.

But French and European Union officials went further, saying the agreement calls into question the entire cooperative effort to blunt China’s growing influence and underscores the importance of languishing plans to boost Europe’s own defense and security capabilities.

Some have compared Biden’s recent actions to those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, under Trump’s “America First” doctrine. That’s surprising for a president steeped in international affairs who ran for the White House vowing to mend shaken ties with allies and restore U.S. credibility on the world stage.

Although it’s impossible to predict if any damage will be lasting, the short-term impact seems to have rekindled European suspicions of American intentions — with potential implications for Biden’s broader aim to unite democracies against authoritarianism, focused primarily on China and Russia.

Just three months ago, on his first visit to the continent as president, Biden was hailed as a hero by European counterparts eager to move beyond the trans-Atlantic tensions of the Trump years. But that palpable sense of relief has now faded for many, and its one clear winner, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is on her way out.

Since June, Biden has infuriated America’s oldest ally, France, left Poland and Ukraine questioning the U.S. commitment to their security and upset the European Union more broadly with unilateral decisions ranging from Afghanistan to east Asia. And, while Europe cheered when Biden pledged to return to nuclear negotiations with Iran and revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, both efforts remain stalled nine months into his administration.

The seeds of discontent may have been sown in the spring but they began to bloom in July over Biden’s acquiescence to a Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline that will bypass Poland and Ukraine, and a month later in August with the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that left Europe scrambling to keep up after it had expressed reservations about the pullout.

Then just this week, Biden enraged France and the European Union with his announcement that the U.S. would join post-Brexit Britain and Australia in a new Indo-Pacific security initiative aimed at countering China’s increasing aggressiveness in the region.

Unsurprisingly, China reacted angrily, accusing the U.S. and its English-speaking partners of embarking on a project that will destabilize the Pacific to the detriment of global security. But, the reactions from Paris and Brussels were equally severe. Both complained they were not only excluded from the deal but not consulted on it.

The White House and Secretary of State Antony Blinken say France had been informed of the decision before it was announced on Wednesday, although it was not exactly clear when. Blinken said Thursday there had been conversations with the French about it within the past 24 to 48 hours, suggesting there had not been an in-depth consultation.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in June extolled the “excellent news for all of us that America is back,” expressed “total incomprehension” at the announcement of the initiative. “It was really a stab in the back,” he said. “It looks a lot like what Trump did.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the comparison. “I would say the president doesn’t think about it much,” she told reporters. “The president’s focus is on maintaining and continuing our close relationships with leaders in France, with the United Kingdom, with Australia and to achieving our global objectives, which include security in the Indo-Pacific.”

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell echoed the French minister’s complaints. “I suppose that an agreement of this nature was not cooked up the day before yesterday. It takes a certain amount of time, and despite that, no, we were not consulted,” he said. “That obliges us, once again … to reflect on the need to put European strategic autonomy high on the agenda.”

Indeed, the 27-member European Union on Thursday unveiled a new strategy for boosting economic, political and defense ties in the Indo-Pacific, just hours after the announcement by the U.S., Britain and Australia. The EU said the aim is to strengthen and expand economic relations while reinforcing respect of international trade rules and improving maritime security. It said it hopes the strategy will result in more European naval deployments to the region.

U.S. officials brushed aside the French and EU complaints on Thursday.

“There are a range of partnerships that include the French and some partnerships that don’t, and they have partnerships with other countries that don’t include us,” Psaki said. “That is part of how global diplomacy works.”

Speaking alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Australian defense and foreign ministers, Blinken said there “is no regional divide” with Europe over Indo-Pacific strategy. “We welcome European countries playing an important role in the Indo-Pacific,” he said, calling France a “vital partner.”

But how closely they will work together remains to be seen.

—-

AP writers Darlene Superville, Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

France Recalls Ambassadors to US, Australia over Sub Deal

By SYLVIE CORBET

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 file photo, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks in Weimar, Germany. France said late Friday, Sept. 17 it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after Australia scrapped a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.(Jens Schlueter/Pool Photo via AP, file)

PARIS (AP) — America’s oldest ally, France, recalled its ambassador to the United States on Friday in an unprecedented show of anger that dwarfed decades of previous rifts.

The relationship conceived in 18th century revolutions appeared at a tipping point after the U.S., Australia and Britain shunned France in creating a new Indo-Pacific security arrangement.

It was the first time ever France has recalled its ambassador to the U.S., according to the French foreign ministry. Paris also recalled its envoy to Australia.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.

He said Australia’s decision to scrap a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology is “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”

Ambassador Philippe Etienne tweeted the announcements are “directly affecting the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”

The Biden administration has been in close contact with French officials about the decision to recall Etienne to Paris, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said.

“We understand their position and will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance,” she said in a statement. “France is our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners, and we share a long history of shared democratic values and a commitment to working together to address global challenges.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price also stressed the value the U.S. places on its relationship with France and expressed hope that talks between the two sides will continue in the coming days, including at the United Nations General Assembly next week.

Macron, however, for the first time since he came into office in 2017, won’t be making a speech to the annual meeting of world leaders. Le Drian will instead deliver the French address.

The decision to recall the ambassador represents a shocking turnaround for France under Macron, who — after an increasingly bitter relationship with former President Donald Trump — warmly clasped hands with Biden at a G-7 summit in June and confirmed that “America is back.”

Macron has not yet commented on the issue. The recall is his boldest foreign policy move yet in a four-year presidency in which he has sought to strengthen France’s diplomatic footprint and role in European policy-making, and to rally France’s neighbors around his vision for a Europe less dependent on the U.S. military umbrella.

France has pushed for several years for a European strategy for boosting economic, political and defense ties in the region stretching from India and China to Japan and New Zealand. The EU this week unveiled its plan for the Indo-Pacific.

Earlier Friday, a top French diplomat, who spoke anonymously in line with customary government practice, said that Macron received a letter from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday morning announcing the decision to cancel the submarine deal.

French officials then decided to reach out to the U.S. administration “to ask what was going on,” he said. He added that discussions with Washington took place just two to three hours before Biden’s public announcement.

Le Drian on Thursday expressed “total incomprehension” at the move and criticized both Australia and the U.S.

“It was really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” he said. “This is not done between allies.”

He also compared Biden’s move to those of Trump under his “America First” doctrine.

Paris had raised the issue of the Indo-Pacific strategy during the June 25 visit to Paris of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expressing the importance of its submarine program with Australia, the French diplomat said.

“We said that it was for us a very important and critical component in our Indo-Pacific strategy,” he said. Blinken met with Macron during the visit.

The French diplomat said Australia never mentioned to France its will to shift to nuclear-powered submarines, including during a meeting between Macron and Morrison in Paris on June 15.

A recall of ambassadors is highly unusual between allied countries.

In 2019, Paris recalled its envoy to neighboring Italy after the country’s leaders made critical public comments about the French government. Last year, France recalled its ambassador to Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Macron needed mental health treatment.

___

Aamer Madhani in Washington, Edith Lederer at the United Nations and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to the story.

France Says Australian Submarine Deal with U.S., U.K. Is a Slap In the Face. And It Is.

Biden's snub raises the question of whether the U.S. and Europe have a future together — at least one in which America can be relied upon as a constant partner.

00:22 /01:19

Sept. 17, 2021, 4:41 PM EDT

By David A. Andelman, author of "A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy and the History of Wars That Might Still Happen"

PARIS — The French government is done mincing words. All the diplomatic niceties between two allies in a relationship going back more than two centuries to the very birth of the American republic, one that managed to survive even the turmoil of the Donald Trump presidency, have gone out the window. The United States has stabbed France in the back.

What irritates French leaders just as much is that Blinken himself was supposed to be a confirmed francophone and a sharp contrast to predecessor Mike Pompeo.

When the Biden administration this week persuaded Australia to enter a deal giving it state-of-the-art nuclear-powered submarines with development help from the United States and Britain, scuppering a 50-year $66 billion contract for diesel-powered subs from France, it was just the final nail in a coffin that Trump began building more than five years ago.

This action is designed to form a bulwark against China in the Pacific but by excluding France, which has its own deep stakes in the region, cuts to the very heart of the NATO alliance and whether the U.S. and Europe itself have a future together — at least one in which America can be relied upon as a constant partner. Above all, it confirms many French (and European) fears that Biden is not a real break from Trump but merely a continuation of many of the American-centric policies that have been gradually isolating the U.S. from many of its longest-standing and most loyal allies.

A close aide to President Emmanuel Macron put it to me this way in a conversation in the Élysée Palace before Biden’s latest move even became known: “I think Europeans were expecting a big shift with Biden coming into office in terms of international relationships. And what we're just experiencing now is a continuum.”

America’s sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving several French citizens behind, as well as the dragged out efforts to get the United States to return to the Iran nuclear deal, from which France and the other signatories never withdrew, have only intensified this feeling of playing second fiddle, foreign ministry officials have told me.

What was especially irritating — probably too anodyne a term to accurately describe France’s attitude today — to the French was the fact that the entire submarine negotiations were conducted in the deepest secrecy, and Paris was notified only hours before the world learned of the deal.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to put some lipstick on this pig when he told reporters in Washington Thursday, “We cooperate incredibly closely with France on many shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also beyond, around the world. We’re going to continue to do so. We place fundamental value on that relationship.” But as he pronounced these soothing phrases, he was flanked by the foreign and defense ministers of Australia. Not a French face in the room, beyond a few astonished reporters.

What irritates French leaders just as much is that Blinken himself was supposed to be a confirmed Francophone and a sharp contrast to predecessor Mike Pompeo. Blinken was raised in Paris and educated at the premier bilingual school in Paris, the École Jeannine Manuel, before heading off to Harvard. Now the growing sense across France is that he has utterly betrayed them.

The French Embassy in Washington, led by the brilliant diplomat Philippe Étienne, put out an impolitic statement in response to the move that evoked memories of the Trump years: “The choice to exclude an ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”

Étienne’s predecessor, Gérard Araud, was blunter: “The world is a jungle. France has just been reminded of this bitter truth by the way the US and the UK have stabbed her in the back in Australia.”

France was a key power in Asia coming out of its colonial days and still wants to be seen as a major international player, not just in Europe but globally. But the United States is seeking to restore its own pre-eminence in the east, and the nuclear move sets back French efforts to take a leadership role in opening a constructive, if cautious, relationship with China that would include lucrative trading arrangements and offer a different approach from the hostility that seems to have punctuated the Biden administration’s relations with Beijing.

As such, there were immediate repercussions to the Biden administration’s action. France recalled its ambassador Friday afternoon. Before that, France summarily canceled a gala for Friday night at its sprawling embassy in Washington to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes, the most crucial naval battle of the American Revolution.

The longer-range impact could be more pernicious. In September 2017, Macron observed that Europe was “seeing a gradual and inevitable disengagement by the United States, and a long-term terrorist threat with the stated goal of splitting our free societies.” The answer, he suggested, was simple: “In the area of defense, our aim needs to be ensuring Europe’s autonomous operating capabilities” — its own joint military force, independent of the U.S. This enraged Trump, but today the Biden administration seems to be doing little to improve matters, or make moves toward such a European system less likely.

Moreover, the ostensible reason for the new American nuclear contract was to send a strong message to China during a time of increasingly tense relations. But the move undermined the unified Western front that is as important as any weapon in keeping the threat of China at bay.

And Asia isn’t the only geopolitical battlefield where the U.S. needs strong allies. As the U.S. shocked France by its Australian deal, Macron himself proudly announced that French military forces had killed Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, leader of the Islamic State group in the Greater Sahara, who was responsible for the death of four American soldiers in Niger in 2017.

One French diplomat put it to me quite succinctly: “This is how you thank us?”

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ghana’s GDP Records 3.9 Percent Growth in Second Quarter

By Xinhua 

Sep 16, 2021

Accra

Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) recorded 3.9 percent growth in real terms in the second quarter (Q2) of 2021, according to official data Wednesday.

The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) said in the GDP report that the latest growth rate was encouraging.

“This is indicative of a gradual normalization of economic activities after the devastating impact of COVID-19 in 2020,” said the GSS.

The economic output in Q2 marks the third consecutive quarter of positive growth after contractions recorded in Q2 and Q3 of 2020. 

Ghana’s Vaccination Drive Will Boost Domestic Tourism

By GNA 

Sep 17, 20210

In 2019, Ghana’s tourism sector raked in US$3.3 billion in revenue with a total of 1.3 million tourists arriving in the country,

This was chiefly due to the organisation of the “Year of Return” initiative.

However, the unprecedented global travel restrictions coupled with stay-at-home orders since the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic reduced the gains made by two-thirds in 2020 and depressed the tourism value chain indicators.

Ghana is desirous of complementing global efforts of reviving the tourism industry through policy interventions, such as digitization of products and services, sites upgrade, promotion and marketing drives and aggressive revitalization of domestic and regional tourism.

Education and increase in vaccinations

This desire can only be achieved if the country is able to increase its COVID-19 vaccination drive.

The country must be able to vaccinate two-thirds of its population to meet the expectations in the tourism sector.

Any Projections?

Experts have projected that the Travel and Tourism industry cannot return to pre-COVID-19 arrival levels until 2023 or later.

Therefore, domestic and regional tourism drive present the only opportunity and, a magic wand to revolutionize and increase numbers of visitors at the Ghanaian attractions.

Statistics indicate that domestic tourism reduced significantly from about 600,000 visitors in 2019 to about 200,000 in 2020.

The expectations, relying on the current enthusiasm of Ghanaians to visit their country’s tourist sites, are that general visitations will increase to reduce the gap created by global travel restrictions.

Recommendations

There should be continuous use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and religiously monitored for compliance, while hand washing, hand sanitizing, and social distancing should and must be regular practices.

The digitization of tourism products and services agenda by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC) and the Ghana Tourism Authority to increase domestic and international tourism should be vigorously pursued.

Re-thinking the future of Ghana’s tourism should be considered through collective participation in tourism investment and financing to improve the resilience of the sector and take everyone on board.

Training for informal tourism practitioners is necessary for inclusive growth since service delivery is largely provided by the tourism private sector.

Another policy measure to revitalize the Ghanaian destination is the launch of the campaign, “Experience Ghana, Share Ghana” which was launched in June this year by the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Mohammed Awal.

It was to build on the current “See, Eat, Wear, and Feel Ghana” and intended to accelerate the pace of tourism through a renewed focus on domestic visitations by the people living in Ghana.

Pak Jong Chon Guides Firing Drill for Inspection of Railway Mobile Missile Regiment

Pak Jong Chon, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau and secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, guided an inspection firing drill of a railway mobile missile regiment.

Among the spectators were officials of the Department of Political Leadership over Military Affairs and the Department of Munitions Industry of the WPK Central Committee, leading officials of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army and the defence science research sector.

The Eighth Party Congress, as part of the effort for establishing a new national defence strategy, organized a railway mobile missile regiment to increase the capability for dealing intensive blows in a simultaneous and multiple way to the threatening forces in case of necessary military operations and to markedly enhance the capacity for coping with various kinds of threat in a more active way.

The firing drill was aimed at confirming the practicality of the railway mobile missile system deployed for action for the first time, assessing without prior notice the combat readiness and capability for performing firepower missions of the newly-organized regiment and attaining proficiency in the action procedures in actual war.

The railway mobile missile regiment took part in the drill with a mission to strike a target area 800 kilometres away after moving to the central mountainous area at dawn on September 15.

The regiment finished rapid manoeuvre and deployment according to the norm of operation and action procedures of the railway mobile missile system, and accurately struck the target in the East Sea of Korea according to the firepower mission.

Pak Jong Chon appreciated that the firing drill for inspecting the regiment was successfully conducted in line with the strategic and tactical plan and intention of the Party.

Saying that the railway mobile missile system serves as an efficient counterblow means capable of dealing a heavy multiple and simultaneous blow to the threatening forces through separate firepower missions in different parts of the country, he called upon the army and relevant sector to steadily improve tactical plans for properly applying the system according to the topographical conditions and actual situation of the country.

He discussed in detail the matter of making the railway mobile missile regiment acquire operational experience for actual war and reorganizing it as a railway mobile missile brigade in a short time in the future.

He said that the deployment of the railway mobile missile system for action in accordance with the line and policy on modernizing the army set forth at the Eighth Party Congress is of very great significance in increasing the war deterrent of the country.

2021-09-16

History of the Sun Goes On

The history of the DPRK, which started holding President Kim Il Sung in the highest esteem as the father of the Korean nation in its early days, was carried forward under the leadership of Chairman Kim Jong Il.

Kim Il Sung was a peerlessly great man whom the Korean people greeted for the first time in their 5 000-year-long history and the Sun of mankind who performed immortal exploits which will shine for all eternity in history by leading the Korean revolution and the cause of global independence along the road of victory.

Kim Jong Il was another peerlessly great man who stood in the vanguard of the effort to creditably carry forward and complete the revolutionary cause of Juche pioneered on Mt Paektu, out of infinite loyalty to Kim Il Sung’s ideology and cause.

The history of the Sun goes on in the DPRK under the leadership of the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, unaffected by the passage of time.

In his treatise, The Great Comrade Kim Il Sung Is the Eternal Leader of Our Party and Our People, published on April 20, Juche 101 (2012) to mark the centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, he stressed: To hold Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in the highest esteem for all ages and creditably carry forward and accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche bequeathed to us by them is the revolutionary duty and noble moral obligation of our Party and people.

Regarding as his revolutionary duty and noble moral obligation to hold the great leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in the highest esteem for all eternity, General Secretary Kim Jong Un of the Workers’ Party of Korea ensured that they are preserved in their lifetime appearances in the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun which has been laid out as a solemn supreme sanctuary of Juche in reflection of the ardent desire of the Korean people and the revolutionary peoples of the world, and that they are invariably held up at the highest posts of the WPK and the state, thereby performing an undying feat in realizing the cause of immortalizing them.

Having formulated the revolutionary ideas of the great leaders as Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism and the eternal guiding ideology of the revolution, the General Secretary proclaimed the modelling of the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism as the ultimate programme of the WPK, and has strengthened and developed the Party, the state and the army remarkably into those of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il boundlessly faithful to their ideas and cause.

Attaching the greatest importance to the work of implementing the ideas of the great leaders and their lifetime instructions thoroughly and without any deviation or concession, he brings their ideas and intentions into brilliant fruition and wisely leads the effort to solve all the problems arising in the revolution and construction in the same way as the great leaders had done.

Bright is the road ahead of the Korean revolution, and the history of the Sun will keep going on for ever under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.

Son Ryong Son, researcher at the Academy of Social Sciences

2021-09-14

Japan's Dangerous Moves for Overseas Expansion

Japan is speeding up its militarization.

Recently, the Japanese government allocated 5 479 700 million ¥ for "defense budget" for the year 2022, the highest-ever in history, and decided to expend from the budget 6.7 billion ¥ for remodelling the escort ships Izumo and Kaga of the maritime "Self-Defence Force" into aircraft carrier grade ships for loading F-35B.

Japan plans to carry out the ship-borne test flight of F-35B after finishing the first remodelling of Izumo within this year, while working hard to develop an ultra-hypersonic missile targeting neighbouring countries.

This is part of the dangerous arms buildup to realize the wild ambition for reinvasion by turning the SDF into an offensive force that has discarded the cloak of "exclusive defence".

Japan inflicted tremendous war damage on humankind in the last century, and that is why it was denied the right to engage in a battle or war and the right to possess combat force under international and domestic laws.

Nevertheless, it has secretly built up military power for overseas aggression bit by bit, touting "exclusive defence" outwardly and avoiding the eyes of the international community inwardly.

The operational scope of the SDF with the world-level offensive capabilities has reached even space beyond the boundary of the archipelago, and its war equipment and capability for fighting an actual war are now capable of performing a war anytime and anywhere.

Japan is being hell-bent on possessing aircraft carrier and developing ultra-hypersonic missile, long-range attack means which are banned by its constitution. This betrays the fact that Japan has come to an evermore undisguised and reckless stage in realizing its ambition for reinvasion.

The war criminal state obstinately insists that ships that are not carrying fighters all the time can't be considered to be attack carriers. This is a shameful trick to cover up the unconstitutional and aggressive nature of its arms buildup.

Military experts, ever since the launch of Izumo, have commented that it is not an escort ship for carrying helicopters of defensive purpose but is a semi-carrier that is able to turn into a carrier with preemptive attack capability anytime as it has take-off and landing deck, hangar, aircraft elevator and all other conditions necessary for being an aircraft carrier.

Clear is the conclusion.

At present, Japan is considering having the descendants of militarist-minded samurais and the latest fighters aboard the aircraft carriers and going abroad to invade the continent. The beefing up of the SDF is little short of the preparations for reinvasion.

If the Japanese rulers persistently cling to their wild ambition for reinvasion and overseas expansion despite the rejection and warning by the international community, the future of Japan will end up in ruin for sure.

KCNA

2021-09-16

Universal Beijing Off to a Good Start amid Cold Ties; Defying 'Anti-US' Stereotype Painted by Western Media

By Zhao Yusha in Beijing and Xie Jun in Shanghai

Sep 15, 2021 12:14 AM

Visitors to the Universal Beijing Resort take photos of a light show at  Hogwarts Castle in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter zone on September 3 during its trial opening. The park started ticket pre-sales on Monday at midnight, with tickets for the official opening day on September 20 snapped up in half an hour. Photo: VCG

Harry Potter rides, the Jurassic World Adventure and Minion Land… Chinese social media platforms were flooded with posts and photos posted by the lucky visitors to the Universal Beijing Resort theme park during its trial opening starting September 1. This is a rare time in a long while when an America-themed topic has attracted such obvious and widespread praise in China. 

The popularity enjoyed by the theme park is in sharp contrast with the cold shoulder given to the Sina Weibo account of the US Embassy in China, which will be flooded with negative comments whenever the account posts something. There has been no public backlash toward the park, which is contrary to the "pervading anti-US nationalism" in China portrayed by Western media. Why is that?

Donning a Harry Potter cloak, a magic wand in one hand, a giant glass of Butter Beer in the other, 30-year-old Liu Chenxi said Tuesday that the day she spent cosplaying at the resort's Wizarding World of Harry Potter zone had given her the most happiness she's felt in a long time.

Liu was surprised to find others dressed just like her, drinking the same beer. "It's like I've found my tribe, and they're all living in Hogwarts."

"I was super fascinated about Harry Potter when I was a child. Being there in the Universal Beijing Resort threw me right back to that kind of carefree happiness, which can only be felt in one's childhood," Liu told the Global Times.

The park started ticket pre-sales to the public on Monday midnight. People stayed up late for the moment and tickets for the opening day of September 20 were snapped up within half an hour. A few hours later, tickets for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays were sold out. The ticket sales system crashed once due to the excessive number of visits. Tickets prices range from 418 yuan ($66.34) to 748 yuan.

Zones based on popular properties in China such as Harry Potter and the Transformers Metrobase featuring the evil Megatron attracted long lines. But there are some Universal firsts, including the Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness.

Li Wei, 43, despite not having Harry Potter in his childhood, enjoyed his day out at the park, the first Universal Studios theme park in China. "It's a place where you can spend the whole day having fun with your family," he said.

Li's 5-year-old son loved the Kung Fu Panda zone and spend the longest time there. "They are really dedicated to catering for Chinese consumers, and they took care to really appeal to Chinese people. And foreign employees there speak fluent Chinese. All the slogans are in Chinese. Really convenient!"

Qin Gang, Chinese Ambassador to the US, shared his experience of a rollercoaster ride at Universal Beijing Resort before he left for the US. He tweeted that his rollercoaster ride has reminded him of "the shape of China-US relations. After all the tumbling and shakes, the rollercoaster came to a soft landing.

Anti-US sentiment?

The theme park, involving hundreds of billions yuan of investment, is co-invested by a Beijing-based state-owned company and Comcast NBC Universal broke ground in 2001 in the southeast suburbs of Beijing, when China and the US were about to walk hand in hand in a closely intertwined period of cooperation. It opened at a time when the bilateral relationship has hit the lowest point in decades.  

When the two countries are locked in a series of conflicts, ranging from human rights to trade, Western media and think tanks have portrayed Chinese society as consumed with "anti-US" sentiment. Yet the great popularity of the Universal Beijing Resort, and the huge success of other US companies, including Starbucks and Shanghai Disney Resort, indicate otherwise. 

Starbucks, for example, saw revenues in the Chinese mainland grow 45 percent to $910 million in the third quarter of 2021 fiscal year. The company's speed of opening new shops in the mainland also caught up with pre-pandemic levels, when the beverage firm opened 162 new shops from April to June 2021, bring the total number of stores in the mainland to 5,135, according to Starbucks' latest financial report. 

Executives from Shanghai Disney Resort have also expressed confidence and expectations for the mainland market's potential. The US entertainment giant, which recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of its Shanghai theme park, has seen robust business with the park's attraction to domestic customers not impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.  

"Shanghai Disney resort has exceeded our expectations since Day 1 and it has expanded faster than any Disney theme park in our company's history," Josh D'Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products said via a video speech recently. "We're committed to continuing our investment... I'm incredibly optimistic about the future of Shanghai Disney resort," he said.  

Joe Schott, president and general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort also disclosed at a recent celebration activity that the resort is actively pushing further expansion and progress in the mainland, such as partnering with China Eastern Airlines to launch another Disney theme plane soon.

By 2020, more than 83 million trips were made to the tourist region centered on Shanghai Disneyland since it opened in 2016, and the resort sold 5.77 million stuffed toys. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shanghai Disneyland received 5.5 million tourists in 2020, and revenue was 52 percent of the previous year. However, it saw the best recovery of all theme parks worldwide.  

Liu Ya, who lives in Shanghai and is a frequent visitor to Shanghai Disney, told the Global Times that enjoying US theme parks does not necessarily mean embracing its culture overall. 

She said the US' entertainment culture, advanced technology and academic system are attractive, yet she also feels the US is being "obnoxious" when it invaded Afghanistan, attempts to thwart China's development by imposing technology blockade and "touches our nerves by playing the Taiwan and Xinjiang cards."

Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University said that Chinese society is not nearly as "hotheaded" as Western media portray and instead is rather "rational." "Chinese people are inclusive. We embrace whatever is good for us and we welcome foreign companies that respect our culture."

The Peking University professor called it "cultural confidence," and said the US who labels everything affiliated with China as Beijing's attempt to "infiltrate" because Washington lacks cultural confidence.

'Public opinion means market'

"There's never been a systematic and overall anti-US sentiment in China. When the Chinese public denounces the US crackdowns or smears against China, they target US government… From a cultural level, people from the two countries can relate to each other in many ways, for instance, Starbucks, McDonald's and KFC are part of our lives. Also, 'made in China' products are the backbone of Americans' daily lives," Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times. 

The expert said jokingly that "some US politicians have been clamoring for decoupling, then they should first ask Starbucks where it will relocate its more than 5,000 shops in China."

In a recent report published by the American Chamber of Commerce in China in March, which surveyed many US companies with business in China, 61 percent of the surveyed US firms saw China has their top investment priority and expressed confidence in the prospects of China further opening up to overseas companies. 

Some 56 percent of the respondents said they made money in the Chinese market in 2020, and about 75 percent of the US companies said they are optimistic about achieving growth in China in the next two years, as well as China's economic recovery trend. 

Yet Zhang warned that hostile US policies are already eating up positive Chinese public opinion. 

According to a poll released in May, an overwhelming 74 percent of Chinese respondents said they held a negative opinion against the US after President Joe Biden took office. 

"Bilateral ties spiraled down rapidly during the Trump administration, and Biden took a similar stance, doing nothing substantial to fix ties. Yet the US needs to understand positive Chinese public opinion means market for the US companies," Lü said.

Echoing Lü, Zhang said that smooth people to people and cultural exchanges serve as a small window that assuages the tension between Beijing and Washington. "If the US keeps going down the current path, that small window will eventually close, and at that time there will be no way back."

As he wandered around Universal Beijing Resort, local resident Hu An was amazed by the number of visitors and their spending power. "Only a fool chooses to steer away from China," he said.

Quad Summit Will See Limited Concrete Outcomes as US, Japan, India, Australia are 'Four Ward Mates with Different Illnesses': Experts

By Yang Sheng and Fan Anqi

Global Times

Sep 15, 2021 12:18 AM

The US is reorganizing its allies and partners to fix its image as "the leader" when it found increasing difficulties worldwide such as the Afghan issue, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Quad summit next week is another try made by US President Joe Biden, but Chinese experts said on Tuesday that the summit will make no big change on its hostility against China though the statement released by the White House about the summit didn't mention China. 

Biden will host the first-ever Quad Leaders Summit at the White House on September 24. "Biden is looking forward to welcoming to the White House Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan," according to the White House statement released on Monday.

The Quad Leaders will focus on deepening our ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combating COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, the statement said.

The Quad leaders also had a virtual meeting in March, and the summit scheduled to be held next week is in-person. 

Lü Xiang, an expert on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday that "the summit is just another show with limited concrete outcomes. The US, Japan, India and Australia are just like four wardmates with different illnesses but stay in the same ward."

"These four countries share topics for discussions but they have different stances. The US hasty pullout from Afghanistan caused huge loss to India; Australia refused to make promise on coal mining for the climate change issue; Japan is now facing a chaotic political situation, and being unwisely provocative toward China due to Taiwan question," so the US is hard to make them perfectly reorganized, Lü said.

Suga's term as the leader of the ruling party of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party - and by default Japanese prime minister - ends on September 30. He has said he would not run in the next election for party leader. So to what extent Biden could reach sustainable agreements with Suga is a question.

India suffered from great loss in Afghanistan, since the return of the Taliban make India's huge inputs to the former US-formed government produce no outcomes at all, but New Delhi swallowed the bitter consequence without complaint to the US, said Lin Minwang, a professor at the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University.

"Because India has decided to lean to the US side, the US can still coordinate with India even after its irresponsible decision in Afghanistan that made New Delhi pay a heavy price, Lin noted. 

Although the China-Australia ties are still intense, according to Reuters, China has lobbied the Australian parliament to help it join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Tuesday that it's possible that Australia would provide some supports to China in joining CPTPP in exchange for China to reopen its market to Australian products, especially before the election next year, fixing trade ties with China would be a major political achievement for the ruling party of Australia.

Chen noted that the Quad won't change its hostility toward China but if Australia has wisdom and intention to fix ties with China, it's likely to see the both sides use the CPTPP issue as a chance to ease tension. 

After the phone call between Chinese and US leaders on Friday, the international community is expecting the two biggest economies of the world to ease tension but it seems like the US is unlikely to change its hostile attitude toward China immediately, and the summit next week could be a chance for Biden to unify its allies on attitude to China in the next stage, to balance competition and cooperation, said experts. 

Biden is expected to call for a summit on boosting the global supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, according to US news outlets. The summit will be held during the UN General Assembly later this month, the VOA reported. 

The Washington Post reports the topics will include coordination among world leaders to collectively tackle the health crisis and address inequities, including the slow rate of vaccinations in the developing world.

Chinese FM Stresses Efforts in Safeguarding Peace in South China Sea After Rejecting Port Visit of German Warship

By Global Times

Sep 16, 2021 07:32 PM

Zhao Lijian. Photo: VCG

China urges non-regional countries to respect regional countries' efforts in safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea, and to play a constructive role on the issue, a spokesperson for Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday in response to China's decision to decline a German warship from docking at a Chinese port. 

Zhao Lijian, a Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, said at the routine press conference that the South China Sea situation has maintained stability via joint efforts of China and ASEAN members. But recently certain non-regional countries frequently deploy military aircraft and warships to the region to show off their power, stir up trouble and deliberately created conflicts on maritime issues in the name of "freedom of navigation," Zhao said.  

China is unwavering in its determination to safeguard the country's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and will continue to negotiate and properly handle differences with concerned countries, Zhao Lijian said at the routine press conference. 

Zhao pointed out that China attaches great importance to the development of comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Germany, including cooperation between the two militaries. China is willing to carry out friendly exchanges on the basis of mutual respect and mutual trust, Zhao said, noting it is hoped that relevant parties will create a good atmosphere for this.

Germany in August sent a warship to the South China Sea for the first time in almost two decades,  joining other Western nations in expanding its military presence in the region, Reuters reported. The warship "Bayern" was planned to stop over in Shanghai as it passed through the South China Sea. Berlin said Beijing rejected the request "after a period of reflection."  

Global Times 

Japan's Massive Drills Intend to Challenge China's Sovereignty Militarily

PLA can deal with US-Japan alliance in conflicts over Taiwan, Diaoyu Islands

By Yang Sheng and Liu Xuanzun

Sep 15, 2021 11:08 PM

Warships attached to a destroyer flotilla with the navy under the PLA Eastern Theater Command steam in astern formation in waters of the East China Sea during the realistic training on April 23, 2021.Photo:China Military

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) on Wednesday started nationwide exercises involving all units for the first time in nearly 30 years in an attempt to boost deterrence and strengthen its capabilities. Japanese media said such a massive move is to deal with "China's ramped-up regional assertiveness." But Chinese experts noted that Japan is trying to display its hard power to serve the US Indo-Pacific strategy to contain China militarily.

But Chinese military experts warned that Japan does not have the ability to deter China in a military conflict over China's territories like the Diaoyu Islands and the island of Taiwan, and a military conflict with China will bring destructive consequences to the country. 

Right-wing political forces in Japan have been lying to the Japanese public about the essence of the Diaoyu Islands issue and Taiwan question. Now the Japanese public holds unreasonable hostility and bias against China, and this is why the massive drills targeting China could win support for Japanese politicians. But to what extent Japan would intervene militarily, the US has the final say, analysts said, adding that China is prepared for the worst-case scenario - the US and its allies, including Japan, launch an all-out military intervention to interrupt China's national reunification.   

The JGSDF Exercise '21, scheduled from Wednesday to the second half of November, was organized to strengthen the JGSDF's deterrence and response capabilities by ensuring JGSDF's readiness towards threats to Japan, the JGSDF said in press releases last week.

As the largest exercise since 1993 that all units of JGSDF participate in, the exercise focuses on preparation as a basis for various operational movements and consists of five training courses, namely, deployment preparation, deployment training, mobilization training, logistics and medical training and system communication training, the releases said.

The JGSDF last conducted exercises of this scale in 1993 after the Cold War ended. Around 100,000 personnel, 20,000 vehicles and 120 aircraft will join the drills, which will also involve Japan's Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces as well as a US Army landing ship.

A total of 12,000 personnel and 3,900 vehicles from two GSDF divisions based in Hokkaido and in the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan, as well as a brigade in western Japan's Shikoku region, will start an expeditionary mission to the Kyushu region in southwestern Japan next week.

The troops will carry defense equipment during the mission, including tanks, to several training grounds in Kyushu by land and sea. Private trucks, ferries and railways will also be used in the exercise.

The training subjects indicate that one of the main objectives of the drill is to mobilize a large number of troops and equipment from across Japan to the country's southwestern region, where is closest to the Diaoyu Islands and China's island of Taiwan, observers said.

While the combat aspects of the exercise have yet to be revealed, the mobilization aspects seem to be the key focus, as Japan is practicing transporting its main forces including heavy equipment like tanks by land and through maritime transportation methods, both military and civilian. That also includes US support, a Chinese military expert who asked for anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Amphibious landing and island seizure must be part of the exercise, the expert predicted.

Liu Jiangyong, vice dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that such massive drills were arranged during the term of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, adding that the drills with the Quad countries and other Western countries recently serve the goal of "showcasing Japan's hard power and loyalty to the US Indo-Pacific strategy." 

While the JGSDF is the main force in the exercise, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, the US Army in Japan and civilian transport units will also join the drill, according to the releases.

To respond to attacks on the islands, transportation capacity that enables quick and large-scale deployment is the key, Japan's Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi was quoted by the Yomiuri Shimbun as saying at a press conference on the exercise on Friday.

The exercise would last about two months, which means Japan is looking to finish large-scale nationwide troops mobilization to the location where it deems a military conflict could break out with China within that time frame, the anonymous expert said.

China can closely monitor the development and progress of the Japanese exercise and get to know how the Japan Self-Defense Force conducts this mobilization, the expert said, noting that if  this happens again, this could be a sign that Japan is preparing for war and the PLA should stay vigilant.

Taiwan and Diaoyu Islands

Many media reports from Japan, the US and the island of Taiwan said that the Japanese drill is aimed at China over the Diaoyu Islands and the island of Taiwan.

"Kishi has deep connections with the Taiwan separatist authorities, and he called for a security dialogue between Japan, the US and the DPP separatist authorities, and he is also Abe's brother. So it's not surprising that this kind of Japanese politician will try to use the Taiwan question to add tensions to China-Japan ties," Liu noted.

Japan's exercise will hone its troops' combat capabilities at a time when Japan is facing an election, and when Japanese right-wing forces and the US are instigating a continued, strong stance on China over the Diaoyu Islands and the island of Taiwan regardless of the election result, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Japan is also hyping the so-called China threat theory so it can have an excuse to break the limit of its pacifist constitution, Song said.

While the scale of the exercise seems to be large, Japan's military strength is far below that of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in almost all aspects, the anonymous military expert said.

If a military conflict breaks out over the Diaoyu Islands, or if Japan interferes in the Taiwan question militarily, the Japan Self-Defense Forces will have no chance to win, either on the ground, in the air or at sea, the anonymous expert said, noting that military bases from which Japan sends troops would also be destroyed.

However, in such scenarios, Japan will unlikely confront China alone, as the US will very likely interfere as well, since the US-Japan alliance should be viewed as a whole, Song said.

From this perspective, the Japanese exercise could also be a part of a bigger picture involving the US military, observers said, noting that the US troops stationed in Japan is also part of the drill.

Japan held joint military exercises with countries like the US, Australia, the UK and India in the past month, and hosted maritime replenishment for a US Coast Guard ship in the East China Sea in late August.

China is paying close attention to the situation, and the PLA is holding intensive exercises to boost combat capabilities in realistic scenarios with the most complex situations, Song said.

Even if the PLA has to face the most powerful enemies, it is capable of and confident in safeguarding China's national sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests, experts said.

Liu said letting Japan conduct exercises also shows that the US, after its failed mission in Afghanistan, wants its allies to do more when it's suffering from the mess, and the Afghan issue proves that the military intervention launched by the US, NATO and other US allies can't even win a war against the Afghan Taliban. So when they try to contain major powers like China and Russia, they knew how tough the mission would be.

Will Afghan Taliban Honor its Promise to China to Make Clean Break with ETIM?

Militants scatter overseas as Islamic State power wanes

By GT staff reporters

Sep 16, 2021 06:33 PM

Taliban members are seen in Mazar-i-Sharif, capital of northern Balkh province, Afghanistan, Aug. 31, 2021. Photo:Xinhua

 "Where have the members of the 'East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)' gone after leaving Afghanistan? How many of them are staying in the country?" These are the questions people are asking after the Afghan Taliban spokesperson said in an exclusive interview with the Global Times that many ETIM members had been told to leave Afghanistan. The topic has drawn broad attention in both China and overseas. The Chinese government has reiterated its concerns over the terrorist group as it has been posing a direct threat to China's national security. 

As one of the most dangerous and extremist terrorist groups that aim to split the Xinjiang region from China, the ETIM has been accountable for hundreds of terror attacks in China, especially in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. And its members are developing close ties with international terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, and they are working to solicit Uygur people or people of other ethnic groups from Xinjiang to join the "global jihad." 

Over the past few decades, ETIM militants have scattered across Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and other countries in the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. Their presence has posed a threat to the global anti-terrorism work. Experts on security reached by the Global Times said that there might be several hundreds of ETIM members staying in Afghanistan right now and whether the Afghan Taliban will keep its promise to crack down on the ETIM remains uncertain. 

Moreover, given the possibility that terrorist forces in the Middle East and Central Asia may be stimulated by the Afghan Taliban takeover and the US withdrawal, the pressure on Afghanistan's neighboring countries has greatly increased. This calls for more cooperation from regional countries. 

Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which also focuses on anti-terrorism, were scheduled to meet on Thursday in Tajikistan for a summit that would grapple with the region's increasingly uncertain security situation. 

Complicated relations

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times on September 9, the Afghan Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said that many ETIM members had left Afghanistan because the Taliban had categorically told them that Afghanistan can't be used to launch attacks against other countries.

However, Shaheen did not mention the exact number of ETIM members that had left and number of those who are still in the country. Chinese security experts have warned that even a small number of them will still pose a threat to China's security.  

According to a report from the UN Security Council released in May 2020, the ETIM is located mainly in Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Kunduz and Takhar. "Approximately 500 fighters of the group operate in the north and north-east of Afghanistan, primarily in Raghistan and Warduj districts, Badakhshan, with financing based in Raghistan."

According to data from Pakistan, there may be around 200 to 300 ETIM members in Afghanistan currently. "Although they form paramilitary forces, as long as they exist, the unstable factor for terrorist activities exist," Li Wei, an expert on national security and anti-terrorism at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

As they have been squeezed in Afghanistan, ETIM members are moving to neighboring countries, including Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Shu Hongshui, a professor from the Northwest University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times. 

The Badakhshan province, which shares a border with Tajikistan, is the major place for the ETIM members in Afghanistan. Reuters reported in February 2018 that the US strikes in northern Badakhshan province destroyed Taliban training camps which supported militant operations by the ETIM at the border with China and Tajikistan. 

Shu also noted that in June, around 200 ETIM militants fought with the Taliban in Khash and Jorm of Badakhsha. Currently, a small group of ETIM militants live in the Takhar province near the Baharak town.

In recent years, as the power of the Islamic State (IS) and other international terrorist organizations waned, the ETIM also changed its living areas overseas. The exact number of ETIM members is hard to know but "its core members are living in countries, including Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey. More of them stay in Syria than in Afghanistan and have been keeping a low profile in recent years," Zhang Jiadong, a professor with the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

Zhang noted that Afghan Taliban spokesperson Shaheen's interview with the Global Times revealed that the Afghan Taliban knows who the ETIM members are, where they are located, and that it has contacts with them.

In response to Shaheen's remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a press conference on September 10 that China has expressed serious concerns over the ETIM to the Afghan Taliban on multiple occasions. The Afghan Taliban attaches importance to this and has made solemn pledges. We hope they will honor their words, make a clean break with the ETIM and other terrorist groups, and take effective measures to resolutely crack down on these terrorist organizations within its territory. In the meantime, they should step up coordination and cooperation with neighboring countries to forestall spillover effects, and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a hotbed, harbor or source of terrorist forces. 

Many experts expressed their concerns and said that whether the Afghan Taliban will cut its ties with the ETIM remains to be seen, given their complicated relations. 

Shu noted that the ETIM may have cooperation with the Afghan Taliban. Since its establishment, the ETIM has used Afghanistan as a training base. The Afghan Taliban used to offer support - money, vehicles and arms - to the ETIM leader Hasan Mahsum and members who joined the "global jihad." 

During its previous ruling of Afghanistan, among the Taliban militants were a group of around 320 ETIM members from China's Xinjiang region. The Afghan Taliban also helped train the ETIM members, including on how to execute suicide bombs and make explosive devices. In return, the ETIM militants would fight with the Taliban when needed.

Shu also noted that in June, around 200 ETIM militants fought with the Taliban in Khash and Jorm of Badakhsha. In August, around 100 ETIM militants went into the Takhar province to cooperate with the Taliban and they now live in the area near the Baharak town. 

Although the ETIM has cooperation with the Taliban, it's unstable. Shu noted that there are a few differences between the two: the Afghan Taliban's political goal is to build a country while the ETIM seeks regime changes; the Afghan Taliban has no relationship with the US, but the ETIM gets support from the US; and the Afghan Taliban hopes to get China's support while the ETIM is anti-China.

After the Afghan Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, their divergence with the ETIM has widened but "it does not mean they are in the same boat. We need to make further observations of their complicated relations and interactions," said Shu.

Will the Afghan Taliban fulfill its promise to China? 

Zhang says given that ETIM has a limited sphere of influence in Afghanistan, it is hard to be eliminated. "Even if the Taliban wanted to make good on their promise, it's hard since it's unable for the Taliban to fully control the grass-roots militants and tribe leaders. We cannot rule out the possibility that the ETIM may find better soil to grow in the country ruled by Sharia law."

Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, thinks that ETIM members in Afghanistan still have some influence. It may not be easy for the Taliban to fully cut ties with all ETIM members in Afghanistan as it may hurt other military militants that used to support it.

However, despite the complicated relationship between the Afghan Taliban and the ETIM, one thing is clear: As the ETIM issue relates to China's core interests, without proper handling, it may cast obstacles for future relations between China and the Afghan Taliban.  

Terrorism in nature

Listed as a terrorist group by the UN Security Council on September 11, 2002, the ETIM, also known as "Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP)," is an organization that used violence to further its aim of setting up a so-called independent "East Turkistan" within China. Since its establishment, it has formed close ties with international terrorist organizations which pose a threat not only to China's national security but also the global anti-terrorism work. 

According to a document released by the Information Office of the State Council in January 2002, from 1990 to 2001, domestic and overseas "East Turkistan" forces conducted at least 200 terror attacks in China, causing 162 deaths of residents of different ethnic groups, government officials and religious figures, and injured more than 440. 

In recent years, the ETIM has set up bases outside China to train terrorists and has dispatched its members to China's Xinjiang region to plot and execute terrorist acts. There is also evidence that ETIM members took steps to plan attacks against the interests of the US, including the United States Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, according to the UN Security Council. 

"The ETIM, by virtue of its nature and activities, is definitely a terrorist group. It has plotted and committed terrorist attacks in China and the neighboring countries," Li Wei said, noting that when the IS was rampant, the number of people solicited by the ETIM to leave China to join the "global jihad" reached around 5,000.

Li's words echoed the information given by Li Jun, an official from China's state counter-terrorism bureau in May 2015 at a forum with ASEAN countries. Li Jun noted that encouraged by online propaganda and arranged by the ETIM, some extremists illegally crossed the border from China's Yunnan and Guangxi, entering countries in Southeast Asia with the help of local gangs, then flied to Turkey with fake identities under the help of the ETIM members and went into Syria using the Syria-Turkey border to join wars. 

After two to three months' training, they returned to Turkey, Li Jun noted. He said that according to the information China had gathered, around 300 Chinese extremists fight in Syria and most of them are affiliated to the ETIM branch and some joined other terrorist organizations. 

The ETIM is one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations among the "East Turkistan" terrorist forces. In 2003, China identified a list of terrorist organizations, including the ETIM, the "East Turkistan Islamic Party," "World Uyghur Youth Congress," and "the East Turkistan Information Center."

Moreover, many of the "East Turkistan" terrorist organizations have sought "transformation" since 2001, and the ETIM members whitewashed themselves as activists by setting up NGOs with support from the US and the West. They incite confrontations among ethnic groups in Xinjiang to stir up violence, smear China's policies in Xinjiang as "suppressing ethnic groups" and cater to US' geopolitics to hype "human rights" issues relating to Xinjiang, Li noted.

For example, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), a US-based anti-China organization established in 2004, was transformed from the World Uyghur Youth Congress (WUYC) - a terrorist organization categorized as such by Chinese authorities. Dolkun Isa, leader of the WUC, was also from the WUYC. 

The ETIM militants are scattered across Iraq and Syria. Some of them have whitewashed their identities and become members of NGOs or "human rights" activists living in Western countries, including Germany and Turkey, and some Southeast Asian countries, Zhu told the Global Times. 

No matter where these members are, they pose a threat to China's national security. Although they are incapable of splitting the Xinjiang region from China, they may still incite domestic extremists to conduct terror attacks, Zhu said. 

Given its damage, why is the ETIM terrorist organization so hard to eliminate? Many experts say that one major reason is the double standards adopted by the West and the US. 

Li noted that influenced by the changes of US polices toward China and the US' double standards on anti-terrorism, the ETIM changed itself after 2001. After their overseas living space was temporarily squeezed by the US-led war on terror following the 9/11 attacks, ETIM members began to shift their focus on China to earn support from the West.

Due to their double standards, the US and the West deliberately misinterpret China's anti-terrorism efforts. They accuse China of targeting a certain group of people. 

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 under the banner of anti-terrorism exposed its "fighting against terrorism" as just an excuse to promote US-style democracy and values - all of these gave hope to the ETIM terrorists as they believed that as long as they are targeting the Chinese government, they can earn support from the West, Li said. 

No matter what the US does, it can't change ETIM's nature of terrorism or the practical threat the terrorist organization poses to China and the world. 

Experts noted that the US withdrew from Afghanistan abruptly but left a messy situation in the country and increasing terrorist threats to regional countries. In order to avoid terrorism spillover from Afghanistan, regional countries, including China, need to work more closely.