World The US and its G7 allies are confronting China. How worried should Beijing be?
The real issue with the COVID-19 lab leak theory? The US isn't spying on China like it used to, experts say
The scarcity of CIA spy networks on the ground in China could prevent U.S. intelligence from determining if Beijing is covering up a Wuhan lab leak.Some of the nation’s top spymasters have warned for years, mostly behind closed doors, that one of the most critical components of their overall information-gathering effort – known in spy parlance as human intelligence or "humint" – has been decimated in recent decades by Beijing’s aggressive efforts to shut down these networks.
Editor's note: CNN will be launching the Meanwhile in China newsletter on June 21, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country's rise and how it impacts the world.
United States President Joe Biden's plan to unite Washington's closest allies and take on China just scored a big political win. But it's going to take a lot more than words to curb the advance of the world's second largest economy.
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China has cut its global tech champions down to size, cracking down on antitrust abuses and undue risk taking. But the heavy-handed approach could backfire on Beijing by stifling an entrepreneurial spirit that has proven vital to the country's rapid economic rise.Several tech companies have been investigated in the past few months over alleged monopolistic behavior or other breaches of consumer rights. The ongoing probe — which President Xi Jinping has personally endorsed as necessary to maintain "social stability" — has led to record fines for some tech titans and massive overhauls for others. More than $600 billion has been wiped off the value of the biggest tech stocks in recent months.
The US joined the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Canada this weekend to deliver the Group of Seven's strongest condemnation of China in recent decades. The G7on just about every sore spot, from allegations of human rights abuses and forced labor in Xinjiang to ongoing political disputes over Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea. The world's wealthiest democracies also pushed for a renewed independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19, and promoted a green alternative to China's Belt and Road, Chinese President Xi Jinping's expansive plan to boost its trading influence.
The rhetoric, at least, is a step forward for a US president who has been trying to bring his diplomatic partners together to counter what Washington sees as its biggest threat to trade, tech and other issues of strategic importance. Former US President Donald Trump talked tough on China and slapped the country and its prized companies with sanctions. But Trump never really presented a united front with US allies, often burning bridges rather than building them.
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After reports of Uyghur disappearances in some major Arab countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, some of China's ethnic Muslims fear they are no longer safe in parts of the Islamic world.Ahmad dropped Amannisa off at a friend's house that day in February 2018, promising to pick her up later. He never came back.
The G7's announcement doesn't include a ton of concrete steps forward. For example, the group is forming a task force to explore what it called the— a private-sector led plan to "help narrow the $40+ trillion infrastructure need in the developing world" that's clearly set up as a challenge to Belt and Road. But it has yet to lay out how much the program would cost, which is expected to be funded by US government finance groups, the private sector and the G7 countries.
Similarly, the communique's calls for China to "respect human rights and fundamental freedoms" in Xinjiang and Hong Kong came with little detail on how to follow through with action, nor did it offer any practical means of safeguarding the stability of the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
China still fired back against the statement, accusing the G7 of deliberately slandering China" and "arbitrarily interfering in China's internal affairs." The Chinese Embassy in London called it a "a serious violation of the basic norms of international relations."
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There are a couple of reasons Beijing should be watching its back.
Some Trump-era sanctions were effective at curtailing China's technological rise — look, for example, at its campaign against Huawei, which watched as its smartphone and 5G businesses were battered by restricting its access to American tech, along with US pressures on Europe and elsewhere to bar the company from extending its reach.
Under Biden, the United States recently expanded a ban on American investment in dozens of Chinese firms. And US lawmakers are advancing a bill that would pour hundreds of billions of dollars into American technology, science and research in yet another challenge to China.
"Irreconcilable differences regarding values and growing frictions with China's mercantilist and authoritarian model will continue to drive polarization and competition," said Alex Capri, a research fellow at Hinrich Foundation and a visiting senior fellow at National University of Singapore. He added that "values-driven" frameworks from the West around infrastructure development, trade and supply chain networks are "clearly emerging."
China's children may be next in line for COVID-19 vaccines
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — If China is to meet its tentative goal of vaccinating 80% of its population against the coronavirus by the end of the year, tens of millions of children may have to start rolling up their sleeves. Regulators took the first step last week by approving the use of the country's Sinovac vaccine for children aged 3 to 17, though no announcement has been made about when the shots will start. Children have been largely spared the worst of the pandemic, becoming infected less easily than adults and generally showing less severe symptoms when they do catch the virus.
"Human rights standards around privacy and freedom of speech, fair labor standards and a clean environment will serve to further alienate Beijing," Capri said.
Such tensions have already played out on a global stage, with many Western companies facing pressure to limit business in China because of concerns about forced labor. In turn, some firms have faced boycotts within China for denouncing the government's handling of Xinjiang. And just before the G7 summit kicked off, China passed a law to counter foreign sanctions, a symbolic warning that any counter measures taken by the West will be met with strong retaliation.
Even so, it may be tough for the G7 nations to contain China. This weekend, democratic leaders aired serious differences over how best to approach China, as the United States, Britain and Canada urged stronger action against China's authoritarianism than their allies did.
European countries reluctance to go too hard on China may stem in part from a strong economic reliance: From 2010 to 2019, Germany received €22.7 billion ($27.5 billion) in Chinese foreign direct investment, while Italy received €15.9 billion ($19.2 billion) and France received €14.4 billion ($17.4 billion, according to the Mecrator Institute of China Studies. Even the UK — where relationships with China have been deeply strained over the last couple of years — received €50.3 billion (US$60.9) in such investment. And many of those countries, like Germany, rely on partnerships with China to drive other industries, such as autos, and to provide huge markets for their exports.
This was one of the worst weeks for China on the world stage in a while
The worst thing for China is for America and its allies to get their act together. Biden is doing that in Europe and the Senate is backing him up.In Washington, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate set aside their differences to pass a $250 billion industrial policy bill aimed at preparing US commerce and government for competition with Beijing. And while on a diplomatic trip to Europe, President Joe Biden is reinvigorating our ties to our allies in Europe, the G7 group of nations, and NATO. On the top of the agenda in these meetings is the question of how to counter an aggressive, totalitarian China on the rise.
"Ultimately, the European Union's desire for strategic autonomy and Biden's hunt for allies to primarily counter China will create natural barriers to cooperation," analysts at Eurasia Group wrote in a note last week ahead of Biden's trip.
- South Korea will who have received their Covid-19 vaccine shots overseas from its mandatory two-week quarantine, health authorities said on Sunday.
- A houseplant with just nine leaves has sold for a on a New Zealand auction site.
- China has unveiled of its Mars rover exploring the surface of the red planet, with state media hailing it as a sign of the mission's "complete success."
- Meanwhile, the US government has spent the past week , after a French company that part owns and helps operate it warned of an "imminent radiological threat," according to US officials and documents reviewed by CNN.
Deadly blast triggers bad memories at an awkward time for Xi
China's top leaders have ordered an urgent investigation after 12 people were killed and more than a hundred injured in a gas explosion on Sunday in central China's Hubei province.
Images from the scene in the Zhangwan district of Shiyan City showed blackened streets covered in debris, with at least one building completely gutted by the blast.
The cause of the explosion is under investigation, according to local authorities, and China's leadership has wasted no time in pressing for a thorough inquiry.
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Editor's note: CNN will be launching the Meanwhile in China newsletter on June 21, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country's rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here. © Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP During a visit to Moscow in 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping called Russia's Vladimir Putin his "best friend." Russia and China couldn't stop boasting about their "unbreakable friendship" ahead of Vladimir Putin's summit with US President Joe Biden this week.
In a statement published shortly after the incident by state news agency Xinhua, Chinese President Xi Jinping said those responsible for the blast needed to be "held accountable."
Xi also called for a wide-ranging check of safety standards across the country to ensure Chinese citizens are protected.
China has a long history of deadly industrial accidents. On May 26, eight people were killed by a blast incaused by illegal explosives. Three days later, were injured when a raw materials pipeline exploded at an oil refinery in Shenzhen.
Worst of all for the government, Sunday's blast in Hubei will trigger memories of the series of explosions in Tianjin in 2015, which killedand raised serious questions over whether enough was being done by authorities to protect China's citizens.
Xi has made it clear political considerations are on his mind. In his statement reported by Xinhua, the Chinese President said it was important to "maintain overall social stability and create a good atmosphere for the Party's centenary."
With the July 1 celebrations for the Communist Party's 100th anniversary just weeks away, Beijing doesn't want any more industrial accidents to overshadow its big day.
Photo of the Day
Remembering the patriot: Dragon Boat races were held across China over the weekend to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The traditional Chinese holiday commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet and minister who lived more than 2,000 years ago.
US-China rivalry is extending from Earth into space. That poses a challenge to American dominance .
Editor's note: CNN has today launched the Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country's rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here. © Yang Zhiyuan/VCG/Getty Images The Shenzhou-12 spacecraft is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 17, 2021 in Jiuquan, Gansu Province of China. China launches the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft, carried on the Long March-2F rocket, to Chinese Tiangong space station. When it comes to the intensifying rivalry between the United States and China, the sky is by no means the limit.