China implemented the most comprehensive mechanism to control Covid-19 compared the most of the Western countries, Dr Anil Jasinghe, a driving force behind the Covid-19 control in Sri Lanka said. He severedMore
Washington’s attempts to impose a U.S.-style democracy on countries like Iraq and Libya using primarily military means have been a “spectacular” failure. These countries are now left in a state of limbo and destruction, a renowned U.S. expert has said.
“The U.S. has been its own worst enemy over these past 20 years in the way it has gone to kind of hammer democracy into shape in these countries using primarily military means or (means of) coercion. It has not worked well. It’s hurting itself in the long run,” Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, told Xinhua in an interview on Friday.
“Democracy, whoever’s style, cannot be imposed with a hammer upon any society. Whatever form of political representation arises in the society from the ground level up, one must understand local circumstances and local situations, and on that basis, build a political representative institution,” said Gupta.
“I’m afraid the U.S. doesn’t have the patience… The U.S. is trying to do this top-down without understanding local societies. And it is pretty much understandable that it has failed and failed spectacularly in many countries on which it has tried to,” he said.
“And I would say beyond the patience, it is doing this for national interest purposes than for really deepening democracy per se,” said Gupta.
Gupta criticized Washington’s intention to hold the so-called Summit for Democracy as an attempt to sow division.
“The whole purpose of democracy is inclusiveness. There is nothing inclusive about it here. This is about trying to create coalitions of the willing to participate in a us versus them competition,” he said.
“That is the real problem behind this because what the Summit for Democracy does is that it does not get down to tackling many of the real issues that we face in the global system today, which requires for a more UN-centered and more inclusive approach to solutions. And that is not where the summit is leading, and that is unfortunate,” said Gupta.
The expert said, “little by little, the summit itself is flagging and losing its vitality.”
Gupta said the Summit for Democracy in 2021 did not produce any “key deliverable. “There was nothing really. It turned into a nice grand show without any meaning,” he said.
The summit is meant “more to divide than unite” because Washington has invited countries to attend “purely on the basis of the U.S. national interests,” he said.
“For some of those countries, if it was a pro-America aligned government, it got an invite. If it was a democracy, but did not have a pro-American government, it was disinvited… Frankly, the era of these democracy summits will be known more for the backsliding in terms of democracy than any real material improvement or deliverables coming out of these summits,” he said.
As lights around the world turned off at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday to mark Earth Hour 2023, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned that the next seven years will be crucial to stop irreversible nature loss and climate change.
This year’s event is needed more than ever to inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action and shine a spotlight on critical environmental issues, the WWF urged.
“Switching off lights is great for creating awareness and celebrating, but we also want people to reflect and act on nature because the challenges we are facing are so big,” Cristianne Close, WWF’s deputy global conservation director, told Xinhua in a recent video interview from Brazil.
“In 2014, the Galapagos Islands banned plastic bags during Earth Hour. In 2019, Indonesia planted thousands of mangroves,” she said.
Now in its 17th year, Earth Hour is the WWF’s flagship global environmental event and was created in Sydney in 2007.
Over the years, it has grown to become the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring individuals, communities, businesses and organizations to take tangible environmental action.
“The climate and the nature crisis are completely linked. We cannot see them as separate. If temperatures are not kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will lose much more nature. Wildlife populations have already plummeted by an average of 69 percent since 1970 and we really need to create awareness of this,” Close said.
Earth Hour has featured many of the world’s most iconic landmarks switching off their lights, from the London Eye in Britain to the Eiffel Tower in France and the 2,000-year-old Colosseum in Italy.
“The two main things we want from governments and businesses is to really implement the transition towards clean energy and phase out fossil fuel. That’s a must for everybody,” Close said.
“Nature is said to be linked to at least 50 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). We depend on nature for economic well-being,” she added.
“That’s why we are calling on businesses and governments to really, really create this awareness. Earth Hour is a way of society signalling to leaders ‘we care’ and we need to do something about it before it’s too late,” she said.
This year, apart from the symbolic “lights off” moment, the WWF is calling on individuals, communities, and businesses across the world to “give an hour for Earth” and spend 60 minutes doing something positive for the planet.
Ideas range from cleaning up beaches, planting trees, cooking dinner with sustainable ingredients, or getting friends together for an Earth Hour event, the WWF said.
NO TIME TO WASTE
This year’s Earth Hour comes hot on the heels of the historic Kunming-Montreal Agreement at COP15, which in December committed the world to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
Close told Xinhua the next seven years will be crucial for ensuring that the decade ends with more nature and biodiversity than when it began, not less.
She also said it was not too late yet to achieve the target and stay under the 1.5 degrees Celsius climate threshold needed to avoid irreversible damage to the planet.
“These are very big policy requests. Now our focus is on implementing them. Translating these high-level policies into national policies and regulations that can be implemented on the local level and help the livelihoods of the people that depend on it,” Close said.
Close also reinforced China’s crucial role in taking action against climate change and nature loss: “We are pleased and thankful for the role that China played with the COP15 presidency in Montreal. China really kept the momentum going.”
“They were really instrumental in allowing 196 parties to reach a consensus for the mission of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030. China really played a strong role,” she said.
The WWF is an independent conservation organization based in Gland, Switzerland, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries and regions.
Its mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature.
by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor
During an exclusive interview with our diplomatic affairs editor at his New Delhi office, Ivan Konovalov, Charge de Affairs a.i. at the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of India (concurrently in Sri Lanka), expressed his belief that Ukraine would achieve more victories on the battlefield this spring. He emphasized that the Ukrainian people have never desired to engage in war but were compelled to defend themselves against the aggression of Russia. Konovalov asserted that this conflict is imperialist in nature, indicating that Russia’s actions are driven by a desire for territorial expansion and control.
Furthermore, Konovalov stated that the victory of Ukraine would represent a triumph for democracy across the globe, as it would be a victory for the principles of self-determination and the right of nations to decide their own fate. He highlighted the importance of recognizing that the conflict in Ukraine is not merely a regional issue but rather a struggle for values that are fundamental to the democratic world. Ultimately, Konovalov’s comments underscore the ongoing importance of supporting Ukraine in its efforts to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Excerpts from the interview;
Sri Lanka Guardian (SLG): You are playing a key role in these extraordinary times to protect Ukraine’s national interests; What challenges do you and your teammates face as a diplomat representing a country now at war with neighbouring Russia?
Ivan Konovalov (IK): Our small in comparison but capable team in the Embassy is working hard to change the perception of Ukraine in the countries of our accreditation – India, Bangladesh Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal. It’s a priority for Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, as it is stated by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to work closer with the countries of Global South on different aspects of cooperation.
SLG: Exactly one year ago, Russia launched a limited military action against your country calling it “demilitarisation and denazification”. Please give a brief overview of the situation as this conflict has completed a year.
IK: First of all let us please use the right words (terms) and timings. It’s not just a conflict, and it’s not a limited military action. It’s Russian full scale war against Ukraine or Russian aggression against Ukraine. Russia is aggressor, Ukraine is a victim of Russian aggression.
In 2014 Russia started this war with illegal annexation of Crimea and further Russian aggression in the East of Ukraine.
So we have 9 years of Russian war against Ukraine and 1 year of full scale aggression against Ukraine.
As of now Ukrainian Armed Forces could kick out Russian occupiers from 40% of territories occupied since February 2022. This spring will bring more victories on the battlefield for Ukraine.
SLG: Some people are arguing that Ukraine is fighting someone else War; in fact, Ukraine is a “scapegoat”, they say. May I have your take, please?
IK: Ukrainians have never chosen war, it was imposed by Russia. This war is imperialist in its nature, one should understand this. Russia couldn’t accept the collapse of Soviet Union and if they conquered Ukraine – that would be just a first step, they would continue this barbaric practices with other countries which they consider to be the sphere of their interests.
We are fighting for our freedom and independence. we fight against Russia protecting others in Europe from this threat and our partners understand this very well.
Ukraine as any other democracy in the world wants to decide its destiny without external dictatorship which Russia tries to impose through our history.
We have our own will to join the EU and NATO as we consider ourselves as an integral part of Europe.
SLG: At the beginning of the conflict, both countries tried to find a solution through negotiation. Do you still believe that Ukraine can find a solution through negotiation? If not, what is the way out?
IK: Moscow has no intention for peace. When they talk about negotiations it means they want time to regroup and replenish supplies and further relaunch their attack on Ukraine. It’s obvious.
Negotiations can happen and should happen one day. But the reason for the negotiations about future peace deal can only begin after unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine within the internationally recognised borders including Crimea. This is also stated in the UN General Assembly Resolution as of 23 February 2023, which was supported by 141 countries.
SLG: What is the outcome of the 10 points peace formula introduced by your president but unfortunately, rejected by Russia stating that the formula is the basis for negotiations?
IK: Russia has not yet shown any readiness to bring a lasting peace, and continues to perpetrate international terrorism, commit genocide against Ukrainians, and commit war crimes.
The Peace Formula’s ten elements, which may be followed collectively or individually, have the potential to bring about long-term peace in Ukraine, Europe, and the globe. We welcome countries from all across the world to join us in making it a reality.
The EU has approved President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula and committed to actively working with Ukraine to put it into action, which demonstrates that the Formula is completely consistent with core European values and ideals.
Ukrainian Peace Formula is based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any country, with any aggression against a sovereign country being completely unacceptable and those responsible for any
such acts facing justice.
SLG: Do you think NATO and Western countries, who are pouring military equipment, will stand with Ukraine to find a lasting solution soon?
IK: We are deeply grateful to all our allies and all peace-loving states of the world for their support in our fight against evil. Russia has to be defeated so this won’t repeat in future. Our partners are clear – they will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes, till the victory.
Victory of Ukraine is a victory of a democratic world.
SLG: You are representing Ukraine in South Asia; tell us your take on the responses you have from the countries here.
IK: The countries of our accreditation don’t support Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and this is very important. We are grateful for this position. I believe there is much more we can do to deepen our relationship on the mutually beneficial basis.
Eurozone wages will keep growing as long as prices remain high, said Raul Ramos, full professor in Applied Economics at the University of Barcelona.
“We all expect prices to stop going up, but while the situation is still far from returning to normal, it’s to be expected that salaries will continue to grow,” Ramos told Xinhua in an interview on Monday, after experts from U.S. bank J.P. Morgan predicted the highest salary rises in 30 years in the eurozone during the first quarter of this year.
In February, the influential financial services group said the wage growth in the eurozone could be as high as 4.5 percent in the first quarter of 2023, the highest figure seen since the first quarter of 1993, exactly three decades ago.
“There are pressures on prices that we haven’t seen since the adoption of the euro, and so salaries are recovering some of the purchasing power they have lost in the past year or so,” the professor explained.
While highlighting the relationship between the high inflation across Europe and rising wages, he rules out the development of a so-called wage-price spiral, in which high prices boost wage rises which in turn fuel higher prices.
“In Spain’s case, many companies are now in the process of negotiating wages, and what we expect is that wages will be set thinking more about how prices will rise during this year rather than how they went up last year,” he explained.
Although the phenomenon of rising wages can be seen across the eurozone, the professor pointed out that each country has its own system for negotiating wages, which is done in Spain by sector via collective bargaining.
“The type of wage negotiations we can expect will be over a long time period so that workers will not lose out, nor will too much strain be put on companies that still haven’t completely recovered from the pandemic and affect them negatively,” said Ramos.
There is still no concrete data on salary increases in Spain, but the recruitment consultancy Michael Page recently predicted that wages in Spain are set to rise by an average of 3.5 percent in 2023.
What’s more, the Spanish government announced on Jan. 31 that the minimum wage in the country will rise by 8 percent, to 1,080 euros (1,154 U.S. dollars) per month, which has a retroactive effect from Jan. 1.
“Raising the minimum wage may not seem the best idea because it can fuel inflation, but it’s also a way to help the lowest-paid workers to maintain their purchasing power. I lean towards it being the right decision at this time when there are no great difficulties in the growth of employment,” said the professor.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has raised its forecast for Spain’s economic growth this year from 1 to 1.4 percent.
Overall, the professor declares himself relatively optimistic for the rest of the year, but he also stresses that the emergence of unforeseen circumstances that could radically change the economic outlook in Europe and Spain cannot be ruled out.
“If we succeed in getting inflation under control and people can overcome their fear of continuing to lose purchasing power because wages cannot match the same rhythm, I don’t think the situation has to be bad, although I do think that a lot will depend on how interest rates develop and how that affects the level of debt of families,” he concluded.
To push forward the political settlement of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released last month a paper stating Beijing’s position on the issue.
In the paper, China put forward a 12-point proposal to end the conflict in Ukraine by addressing both the symptoms and the root causes of the crisis, and reiterated the necessity to end the conflict through dialogue and negotiation.
The peace proposal, since being offered, has been welcomed by many countries of the international community. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, hailed the position paper as “an important contribution.”
Yet some Western politicians turned a cold shoulder to the proposal, accusing China of being biased and dismissed the contents of the document as nothing new.
These claims have been refuted by experts and scholars in many countries, who believe the proposal demonstrated China’s commitment to objectivity and fairness as well as its role as a responsible major country in times of grave global challenges.
They argued that in the ever worsening conflict, it is the United States and its NATO allies that cling to the Cold War mentality and have kept on fueling the crisis for their own benefits.
CHINA’S UKRAINE PEACE PROPOSAL IMPARTIAL AND VIABLE
Ali El-Hefny, secretary general of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, also a former Egyptian ambassador to China, said the Chinese paper reflects a policy and a clear vision on international relations that China has always adopted.
It’s a respectful and responsible position of a country with a big presence in the international arena, whether economically or politically, he said.
The paper is built on the necessity of giving up everything provocative, avoiding imposing sanctions and stopping providing Ukraine with all types of arms, which would in the end expand and prolong the war, the secretary general said.
Saeb Rawashdeh, a political analyst at the Jordan Press Foundation, said that on the first anniversary of the escalation of the crisis, China released the document expounding its position on the issue, hoping to promote an early resolution of the crisis through peaceful dialogue.
China’s stance is in line with the universal expectations of peace-loving people around the world, he said.
Some Western countries have consistently failed to play a constructive role in easing the tensions of the Ukraine crisis. Instead, they have continuously imposed sanctions on Russia while arming Ukraine, fueling the crisis, Rawashdeh said.
The motive is to weaken Russia and Ukraine and to benefit from the conflict. This is a typical Cold War mentality, and the real victims are the people of the two countries, who have suffered from the trauma of the crisis, he said.
The high inflation and food shortages resulting from the Ukraine conflict continue to bite. The world will become more turbulent and unstable if the West keeps instigating, he added.
Richard Grenell, former U.S. ambassador to Germany, noted in an article on news website California Globe that China offered “a conceivable starting point” to end the conflict whereas “veteran State Department employees were furious that a year has gone by without a U.S. plan for a peaceful solution.”
The White House is thinking “morning, noon, and night” about how to give Ukraine more military aid, he wrote.
To date, the United States has provided many rounds of aid to Ukraine and allied nations, totaling some 113 billion U.S. dollars. Washington and its allies have already committed nearly 700 tanks and thousands of armored vehicles and 1,000 artillery systems, among other aid to Ukraine.
Xulio Rios, director of the Observatory of Chinese Politics in Spain, said it seems that Western countries are more interested in maintaining the conflict than pushing for a ceasefire and opening negotiations for a political solution.
Meanwhile, China’s approach allows the world to see a viable solution and that will be supported by countries valuing common good for the whole world, he added.
WESTERN HEGEMONIC SCHEME KNOWN TO ALL
For many observers, the reasons why politicians in some Western countries felt displeased with China’s peace proposal are quite obvious.
Lewis Ndichu, a researcher at Nairobi-based think tank Africa Policy Institute, said The West has been used to realizing “peace” through intervening by providing warfare equipment, intelligence and sending air combat forces, all these will lead to a devastating arms race.
Seeing China playing an increasingly greater role on the world stage, the West is not happy, said Ndichu.
Ang Teck Sin, a political commentator in Singapore, told Xinhua that both Russia and Ukraine suffered heavy casualties and economic losses, but Uncle Sam, who pursues hegemonism and power politics, has seen a rare opportunity to continue to lead NATO and further intensify bloc confrontation.
Washington is actually expanding business for the military-industrial complex, he said. The more volatile the world is and the larger the market will be, and the more resources the military-industrial complex will get to develop more sophisticated weapons, thus creating more conflicts, he noted.
This is a terrible vicious circle. Unfortunately, it is the world that pays for America’s ambitions, the commentator said.
When the United States and its allies are arming Ukraine to the teeth, it is countries like China that have to come forward to remind all as to what is at stake, said Rabia Akhtar, director of the Center for Security, Strategy and Policy Research at the University of Lahore in Pakistan.
Filipe Porto, a researcher at the Brazilian Foreign Policy Observatory, said the attitude of the United States toward China on the Ukrainian issue is self-contradictory. On the one hand, the United States and its allies question and attack China’s relations with Russia, on the other they ask China to use that relationship to play the role they expect in the crisis.
Slovenian sociologist Tomaz Mastnak said the Russia-Ukraine conflict had been provoked, instigated and prolonged by the United States. At least in the short term, the United States is the only country that has benefited from this conflict.
The impact of the conflict on Europe is disastrous. The European economy is being dealt a heavy blow to, and first and foremost, Germany, the European economic engine, is facing “deindustrialization,” Mastnak said.
In his opinion, this situation in Europe is not collateral damage caused by conflict, but one of the goals of the conflict provoked by the United States. It is going to make Europe economically insignificant.
CHINA’S POSITION WIDELY ACCLAIMED
As the world is facing such a prolonged conflict as well as overlapping food and energy crises, China’s proposal, which insists on promoting peace talks, has been widely applauded.
China’s recent initiative to solve the Ukraine crisis politically is very timely and quite helpful, and it is completely in accordance with the UN rules, said Mohammad Reza Manafi, editor-in-chief for the Asia-Pacific news desk of Iran’s official news agency IRNA.
Bambang Suryono, chairman of the Indonesian think tank Asian Innovation Research Center, said the position paper is constructive, necessary and timely.
British political commentator Carlos Martinez said China’s position paper is a powerful contribution to the project of building peace in Europe. While not taking sides, it highlights the crucial elements required for the Ukraine crisis to be brought to a conclusion.
The position paper is closely related to The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper released by China on Feb. 21, as both papers are firmly grounded in international law and the principles of the UN Charter. Both reflect a profound desire for peace and global prosperity; for a community with a shared future for mankind, he said.
Both papers reflect a clear understanding that peace and prosperity require a reorientation of international relations toward multilateralism, cooperation, non-interference, respect for sovereignty and respect for diversity; that hegemonism and Cold War mentality are driving humanity toward a very dangerous future, Martinez emphasized.
Christine Bierre, editor-in-chief of French newspaper New Solidarity, said China’s Global Security Initiative allows people to get to the root causes of the great turmoil and conflicts in the world.
China’s Global Security Initiative and its position paper can have a very positive role in the Ukrainian conflict, he added.
“I have the warmest, kindest memories from my first visit to China, from my first impressions of the country, and from my cooperation with the leaders of the People’s Republic of China,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told Xinhua in an exclusive interview ahead of his visit to China.
This year marks the 31st anniversary of China-Belarus diplomatic relations, which have been continuously strengthened and upgraded, with solid progress in all-round cooperation through these years.
On Sept. 15, 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Lukashenko met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on the sidelines of the 22nd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The two heads of state decided to elevate bilateral relations to the level of an all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership. China-Belarus relations have reached their highest level in history.
Lukashenko has high hopes for his upcoming visit to China. “I have been to China many times. I am very glad to visit China again in the coming days and meet with the Chinese leader, my old friend President Xi Jinping, a very smart, wise, creative and modern person,” the Belarusian president noted.
During the interview, Lukashenko looked back on his previous visits to China, recalling his first visit to China as the president of Belarus over two decades ago as well as his earlier trips as a member of parliament to China’s special economic zones.
At that time, China was not the same as it is now, he said. “The population was huge… Everyone had to be fed and dressed. China needed to strengthen national defense. Everything was not easy. However, China was determined to achieve all of these,” Lukashenko said.
After visiting China, Lukashenko said he felt that in just a couple of decades China would achieve significant development, so China’s experience should be learned.
The president noted that Belarus had drawn on China’s experience, primarily that regarding special economic zones. “Based on this, we have established several free economic zones, including the Great Stone China-Belarus Industrial Park… China’s experience lay at the heart of it,” he said.
The industrial park mentioned by Lukashenko is the largest project to attract investment in Belarus and a landmark cooperation project within the Belt and Road framework, which was promoted by the two heads of state personally and prized by the two governments. Since the two countries’ leaders visited the industrial park in May 2015, development and construction of the project have forged ahead, and fruitful results have been achieved.
According to the National Statistical Committee of Belarus, the net profit of the enterprises of the industrial park totals 34.1 million Belarusian rubles (13.51 million U.S. dollars) in 2022, up by 144 percent from the previous year.
Reviewing the development of the industrial park in recent years, Lukashenko said that progress has been made despite the COVID-19 pandemic along with other crises and problems. Last year alone, there had been 19 enterprises moving in.
The latest statistics showed that there had been 107 companies in the industrial park by Feb. 22, 2023, with seven new enterprises settling in the park this year.
“Chinese President Xi Jinping once described the Great Stone as ‘a pearl along the Silk Road Economic Belt,'” said Lukashenko, adding that Belarus attaches great importance to the development of the industrial park and provides many preferential policies including tax exemptions. “This is very beneficial for business,” he stressed.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Belarus, as an important transit hub on the Silk Road Economic Belt, was one of the first countries to respond and participate in the initiative.
With the growth of biliteral ties, China and Belarus have seen a boom in trade over the past years. Statistics from the General Administration of Customs of China show that two-way trade surpassed 5 billion dollars in 2022, up by 33 percent year on year.
Lukashenko said that Belarus has a strong machine manufacturing sector. Currently the two countries are engaged in dialogue on issues of industrial policy.
“Today, we are already learning from China’s new technologies, which are of interest to us. And this concerns all sectors, from the biotechnology to national defense. China has made significant progress,” Lukashenko said.
“We are expecting more high-tech enterprises from China to join the industrial park,” he said.
In recent years, China and Belarus have deepened cooperation in the field of scientific and technological innovation.
The Belarusian National Biotechnology Corporation (BNBC) project, a “high-tech full-cycle agriculture project,” which includes the first amino acid manufacturing plant in Belarus and built in cooperation with China, was officially put into operation in the Minsk region on Nov. 4, 2022.
The BNBC is the first amino acid production enterprise in Belarus and the first import-substituting project in the industry of deep grain processing. Lukashenko said that the project would elevate the technological capability of the country and become the locomotive of national development.
Thanks to Xi’s leadership, the project was able to implement, Lukashenko said, adding that “this is highly advanced technology. Not many countries in the world have such production facilities. China has helped us create such a biotech corporation.”
The Belarusian president also mentioned that his youngest son is currently studying biotechnology in a joint training program between the two countries.
China has achieved great development and plays an important role in international affairs, he said, adding that China has become a major country with an independent policy and “today, not a single issue in the world can be resolved without China.”
Expressing his firm belief that China will, as always, pursue an independent foreign policy of peace, Lukashenko said that China’s position paper on political settlement of Ukraine crisis is a testimony to its peaceful foreign policy as well as a new and original step that will have a far-reaching impact all over the world.
On the U.S. downing of a Chinese civilian unmanned airship, Lukashenko called it “a very unfriendly step” and a “show” deliberately staged by the United States for political reasons.
“Today, no one can contain China or stop its development,” the Belarusian president said.
Blaming the United States for letting the “balloon incident” unnecessarily create “a very unfortunate effect on Sino-American relations,” Chas Freeman said the implications of the abrupt scrapping of Blinken’s trip to China are threefold, all of which are indicative of the Biden administration’s inability to engage with China meaningfully.
The Joe Biden administration’s hysterical overreaction to a Chinese unmanned civilian airship unexpectedly entering U.S. airspace is proof of the current U.S. government’s inability to overcome domestic pressure and manage the relationship between Washington and Beijing in times of high tension, a former U.S. diplomat has said.
In an interview with Xinhua, Chas Freeman reiterated his criticism of the Biden administration’s strategy toward China that wrongfully prioritizes competition over cooperation and called on the administration to learn from the diplomatic wisdom possessed by the older generation of leaders of both the United States and China that made the normalization of ties between the two countries in the 1970s a reality.
A retired career diplomat, Freeman was a member of then-U.S. President Richard Nixon’s entourage during the president’s ice-breaking trip to China in 1972, serving as the U.S. delegation’s principal interpreter.
“THEY STRUCK ME AS HYSTERIA”
Speaking of the so-called “balloon incident,” Freeman highlighted the “clear disconnect” between the initial assessment by the U.S. military and the intelligence community of the non-threatening nature of the airship and the peddling by U.S. politicians of what they speculated to be the craft’s purpose of “espionage.”
“From the beginning, the military said this did not represent a threat of any consequence to U.S. national security. And it was the politicians who began to invent a series of theories about the use of this balloon for espionage,” Freeman said, adding the fact that the arrival of the airship coincided with a polar vortex over North America made him believe that the incident was not something the Chinese side was able to anticipate beforehand. “The course of the balloon may and well have been accidental.”
Despite China’s timely notification — based on an earnest verification — to the United Sates that the airship was used for meteorological research and unintentionally entered U.S. airspace, Washington overreacted to the isolated incident by shooting down the airship, claiming that China has a so-called high-altitude surveillance balloon program and imposing sanctions on Chinese companies it alleged are linked to the program.
“They struck me as hysteria,” Freeman said of U.S. perceptions about and reactions to the incident. It was “a kind of almost psychotic reaction to an event in which facts were set aside and replaced by conspiracy theories.”
Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, had an informal contact with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday in Munich, Germany, where they were both attending the 59th Munich Security Conference participated by world leaders.
“If the U.S. side continues to fuss over, dramatize and escalate the unintended and isolated incident, it should not expect the Chinese side to flinch,” Wang told Blinken when setting forth China’s strong position on the “balloon incident,” according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Freeman said he agreed “completely with the Chinese statement that this was an overreaction” by the U.S. side.
It is “unfortunately not uncommon” for the United States to exaggerate the nature of this unintended accident, he added, given that the country is currently plagued by domestic political polarization.
On the revelation from the Chinese side that the United States illegally flew high-altitude balloons into Chinese airspace multiple times to surveil intelligence information, Freeman said he suspected “maybe there is” a U.S. balloon program that’s still in existence, noting “the United States in the 1950s had a very active program of using balloons for military targeting purposes over the Soviet Union.”
He suggested that the United States and China discuss “what kind of overflight at what altitude is permissible,” so that the flight of high-altitude aerial objects can be governed by either certain “legal standards” or “perhaps some kind of arms control agreement.”
“APPARENTLY WE ARE POLITICALLY PARALYZED”
As part of U.S. response to the balloon incident, Blinken postponed his trip to Beijing originally scheduled for early February.
In the view of Freeman, one of Blinken’s intended goals for the planned China trip was “a domestic political posturing” to show Americans at home that the Biden administration was “just as tough on China as the Donald Trump administration was.” Now the “cancellation of the visit did exactly the opposite,” he said.
Blaming the United States for letting the “balloon incident” unnecessarily create “a very unfortunate effect on Sino-American relations,” Freeman said the implications of the abrupt scrapping of Blinken’s trip to China are threefold, all of which are indicative of the Biden administration’s inability to engage with China meaningfully.
“First, it appeared to show that the United States and China cannot talk under conditions of tension,” he said. “That is very unnerving to the world. It is a matter of grave concern not just to Americans and Chinese who follow these things, but to many in other countries.”
“Second, we showed that we do not know how to manage this relationship in conditions of crisis. And that, too, is a matter of concern,” he said. “And third, we showed not that Mr. Biden was politically strong, but that he was weak. He could not stand up to domestic political pressure.”
“Apparently we are politically paralyzed in the United States and prevented from taking any initiative to address the first two questions: Can we talk? Can we manage the relationship,” said Freeman.
In recent days, the Biden administration’s public messaging on China has been self-contradictory.
In what U.S. media interpreted as a move to contain the further fallout of the balloon episode, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told Politico in a recent interview that she didn’t think U.S.-China relations would be impacted by the incident.
Days later, when Harris was in Munich meeting with leaders of France, Germany and Britain, “the challenges posed by China” was a recurring topic during the respective interactions. It’s hard for anyone not to read into this as a sign of the Biden administration stepping up its alignment with allies against China.
“I have been a critic of the formula that the Biden administration has adopted for U.S.-China relations,” Freeman said.
“They begin by saying we will compete. We are in a competition, but we will cooperate in a few areas where that is mutually advantageous. I think that’s the wrong order. We should be focused on cooperation, and at the same time acknowledge that in some respects we will compete. So the question is the priority that you assign,” he said.
Freeman categorizes competition into three forms — “rivalry,” a positive process where the two competing parties seek to excel and ultimately result in self-improvement by both; “adversarial animosity,” a zero-sum competition like a running race where one party tries to “trip” rather than “outrun” the other party; and “enmity,” a destructive mode where one party fight for the complete annihilation of the other party.
The word “competition,” Freeman said, has been used by the Biden administration as a “euphemism” and in way that makes the concept hardly distinguishable from “animosity and hostility.” The result is that the United States, by failing to accurately describe the status of its relationship with China, has driven bilateral ties into the phase of adversarial animosity.
Freeman lamented the fact that “empathy,” which he said is required in diplomacy and was shown by both the U.S. and the Chinese sides when Nixon visited China, is nowhere to be found among those making decisions on China in the current U.S. administration.
“Empathy is understanding where the other side is coming from, what they believe, how they see things,” Freeman said. “You must understand the other side’s point of view. I don’t see much evidence that there’s much effort being made to do that on the American side.
An investigation by the UN Security Council into the explosions that blew up the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines in September 2022 is a high global priority, said Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned economist, on Tuesday.
“The destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines on Sept. 26, 2022, constitutes an act of international terrorism and represents a threat to the peace,” Sachs told the Security Council in a briefing.
“It is the responsibility of the UN Security Council to take up the question of who might have carried out the act in order to bring the perpetrator to international justice, to pursue compensation for the damage parties, and to prevent future such actions,” he said.
The consequences of the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines that linked Russia and Germany are enormous. They include not only the vast economic losses related to the pipelines themselves and their future potential use, but also the heightened threat to transboundary infrastructure of all kinds — submarine internet cables, international pipelines for gas and hydrogen, transboundary power transmission, offshore wind farms and more, said Sachs, who is the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.
“The global transformation to green energy will require considerable transboundary infrastructure, including in international waters. Countries need to have full confidence that their infrastructure will not be destroyed by third parties. Some European countries have recently expressed concern over the safety of their offshore infrastructure,” he noted.
There is only one detailed account to date of the Nord Stream destruction — the one recently put forward by U.S. investigative journalist Seymour Hersh ostensibly based on information leaked to Hersh by an unnamed source, said Sachs.
Hersh attributes the Nord Stream destruction to a decision ordered by U.S. President Joe Biden and carried out by U.S. agents in a covert operation. The White House has described Hersh’s account as “completely and utterly false,” but did not offer any information contradicting Hersh’s account, and did not offer any alternative explanation, he said.
Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and some other senior U.S. officials made statements before and after the Nord Stream destruction that showed the U.S. animus toward the pipelines, he noted.
The destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines required a very high degree of planning, expertise, and technological capacity, he said, adding that as a number of senior officials have publicly confirmed, an action of this sort must have been carried out by a state-level actor.
Only a handful of state-level actors have both the technical capacity and access to the Baltic Sea to have carried out this action. They include the United States, Russia, Britain, Poland, Norway, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden — either individually or in some combination.
A recent report by The Washington Post revealed that the intelligence agencies of NATO countries have privately concluded that there is no evidence whatsoever that Russia carried out this action. It is also in concord with the fact that Russia had no obvious motive to carry out this act of terrorism on its own critical infrastructure. Indeed, Russia is likely to bear considerable expenses to repair the pipelines, said Sachs.
Three countries have reportedly carried out investigations of the Nord Stream terrorism — Denmark, Germany, and Sweden. These countries presumably know much more about the circumstances of the terrorist attack. Sweden, in particular, has perhaps the most to tell the world about the crime scene, which its divers investigated. Yet instead of sharing this information globally, Sweden has kept the results of its investigation secret from the rest of the world. Sweden has refused to share its findings with Russia and turned down a joint investigation with Denmark and Germany, he said.
“In the interests of global peace, the UN Security Council should require these countries to immediately turn over the results of their investigations to the UN Security Council,” Sachs said.
American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has termed the Nord Stream bombing, which he says was done by the United States, the “dumbest” act from Washington in years, an Indian news website Firstpost reported.
Hersh reported that the United States planted the bombs on the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic sea, which carried Russian gas to Germany, during the Baltops joint military drill in June last year, and the Nord Stream pipeline was blown apart in a series of explosions in August, the news website said.
“I think the consequences politically for us (the United States) are enormous,” Hersh was quoted in an interview as saying.
He said the long-term effect of the sabotage would be “horrific” for Europe, adding that the act “cut into the notion that they can depend totally on America, even in a crisis,” the website said.
Hersh noted that the United States always wanted to isolate Russia to prevent it from selling oil and gas to the European Union.
According to the website, Hersh feels that the United States saw energy alternatives for Europe as a “threat,” and the Biden administration feared that Europe would “walk away” from the Ukrainian crisis if it felt the need for Russian fuel carried by the pipeline, which was under sanctions.
“The fear of losing European support in the Ukraine conflict made the U.S. to take out the only option Europe had should it want to restart buying fuel from Russia,” Hersh argued.
The White House has denied Hersh’s claim as “complete nonsense” but Hersh said that his information was accurate, said the website.
The American journalist slammed the U.S. mainstream media for looking the other way on his expose. Hersh singled out the New York Times and Washington Post for refusing to “run a word” on the story and ignoring calls for an international investigation into the Nord Stream blasts, said the website.
He said that he would carry on his expose on how the United States blew up the fuel lines without considering the adverse effect it would have on Europe in the winters, the website said.
According to Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize winner, last June, the U.S. Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines three months later.
The recent report by a famed U.S. journalist on the involvement of the U.S. Navy in the Nord Stream explosions is “credible” and is consistent with several existing facts, a renowned scholar has said.
American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said last week on the U.S. portal Substack that the U.S. Navy was involved in the Nord Stream explosions.
According to Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize winner, last June, the U.S. Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines three months later.
“I have long hypothesized that the U.S. Government carried out this action, and Hersh’s account adds to the likelihood of that hypothesis,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, in an emailed interview with Xinhua.
The professor has listed 11 facts corresponding to Hersh’s report.
First and second are “the long-standing vociferous U.S. opposition to Nord Stream and the extensive record of U.S. covert operations against the infrastructure of other countries,” he said.
U.S. President Joe Biden last year publicly warned that in the event of a Russian military campaign, the United States would end the pipeline, declaring, “I promise you we will be able to do it,” said the economist.
Fourth, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland warned in 2022 that Nord Stream “would not move forward” if Russia launches operations, he added.
Moreover, “very few countries, if any, other than the United States have the technical capacity to carry out such an attack without immediate detection,” said Sachs.
He also listed Sweden’s remarkable unwillingness to reveal the results of its own investigation into the explosions, and the silence in mainstream Western media regarding Hersh’s report, as two facts that can explain his hypothesis.
The eighth fact is that “Western intelligence agencies have admitted that there is no evidence whatsoever that Russia carried out this act,” he said.
The celebration by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who deemed the pipeline destruction a “tremendous opportunity” to wean Europe from Russian gas, and by Nuland, who called the damaged Nord Stream 2 “a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea,” also add to the possibility of the United States orchestrating the destruction, said the professor.
Lastly, Hersh’s credible and detailed account has yet to be refuted other than possibly in minor details, he said.