Seeing China reds under the beds in the Philippines - Asia Times

MANILA – As tensions rage and tangle over disputed areas of the sea, Spanish authorities are turning their attention to alleged Chinese influence operations aimed at tracing down and monitoring important installations and structures on Philippine soil.

Legislators from north Spanish provinces have lately sounded the alarm over the immediate, significant flood of Chinese learners into Cagayan, which has just been ruled by an openly pro-Beijing governor.

However, the intriguing situation of Alice Guo, a recently elected president in a small town close to Clark Air Base and other important military installations, has sparked public concern about possible Chinese” sleeper cell” agents stationed at or close to various strategically important locations throughout the nation. &nbsp,

Major Spanish authorities are now openly advocating for the expulsion of Taiwanese diplomats reportedly involved in influence operations on Asian soil, which have officially targeted not less than a major Philippine admiral, adding to the paranoia and fear.

The result is a worrying and swift decline in diplomatic diplomatic relations as the two parties drift toward a possible military conflict in the South China Sea, a conflict that could quickly entice the US and its supporters into the fray.

When Chinese online gaming companies, officially known as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations ( POGOs ), started popping up near strategically important locations across Metro Manila under the leadership of Beijing Rodrigo Duterte, concerns about China’s influence operations in the Philippines were first raised.

Around several important Asian bases, including Camp Aguinaldo, where the Philippine Army and the National Defense Department’s workplaces are located, Camp Crame, where the Philippine National Police’s headquarter is located, and the Philippine Air Force and Navy’s and headquarters, were a total of 130, 000 Foreign workers and virtual casino operators.

Then- national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon warned at the time that a large number of Chinese citizens, many of whom were reputedly “undocumented” or entered the country under “false documentation”, posed a national security threat.

The Philippine national security chief warned in 2019 that “you’d start getting worried when a whole building, condominium, tower is occupied by just one nationality.”” Some unwelcome activities could transpire there, so we need to prevent those,” he added.

You would start to wonder what they are doing if you saw something like a rotation of people entering and leaving [of buildings in POGO areas ] every eight hours, he added, raising concerns about the opaque nature of the Chinese online casinos.

An aerial photo depicting the earlier location of Chinese- run POGOs and the Philippine military’s headquarters. Source: Defense Forum

Delfin Lorenzana, the then-president of the Philippines, went so far as to openly advocate for the relocation of all Chinese online casinos into” self-contained hubs” far from crucial national security facilities.

” ]I ] t’s very easy for all these]Chinese ] people to perhaps shift their activities to spying…They are near]our military facilities ]”, the then- defense chief warned at the time.

The Duterte administration resisted suggestions for closing or moving the Chinese gambling dens because the POGOs generated an estimated US$ 4.1 billion between 2016 and 2019.

Interesting is that the pro-China leadership, which had vehemently opposed the proliferation of online casinos because they were frequently used as launching points for criminal activities targeting the mainland and beyond, even resisted pressure to close the POGOs. &nbsp,

Fast forward to the present: the arrest of Bamban Mayor Alice Guo has sparked a new wave of concern over potential Chinese sleeper agents.

The small-town mayor had to work overtime to provide even the most basic documents, such as her birth certificate, school transcripts, and any tangible documentation of her immigration to the Philippines during a recent Senate hearing.

She has been accused of involvement in illegal Chinese casino activity, including having a relationship with the Hong Sheng Gaming Technology company, which was detained on suspicion of illegal operations in February of this year and given a new name in March of that year. Guo has denied the allegations.

” She lied. She lied in a number of questions. The fact that she denied having a connection with Hong Sheng when it was already stated in the municipal government’s document that she is the current head, according to Senator Risa Hontiveros, who presided over the hearing on Guo’s sensational case.

It” catches one’s attention,” especially because, according to our research, foreigners enter certain nations using a similar procedure. Eventually, they pretend to be locals and then do various tasks &nbsp, — some of which are not desirable”, the senator said, implying that Guo may be part of a Chinese influence operation.

In addition, Philippine authorities are looking into the rapid rise in the number of Chinese students in Cagayan, which, like Guo’s town of Bamban, houses important military installations. &nbsp,

Authorities claim that in Cagayan province there are more than 4, 000 Chinese students enrolled in universities, an unusually high number given the relatively small number of urban centers and educational facilities in the northern province close to Taiwan.

A resolution earlier this year highlighting” an alarming increase in the number of Chinese citizens coming into the province of Cagayan as students enrolled in universities” was co-authored by Joseph Lara, a Cagayan representative, and Faustino Dy V, a representative from Isabela province, which also hosts Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement ( EDCA ) military sites used by US forces.

As the paranoia spreads, there is also growing scrutiny of Filipino individuals, especially military personnel, who were educated in China.

When China claimed to have a recording of a sworn special arrangement with Vice-Rear Admiral Alberto Carlos regarding disputed land features in the South China Sea, alarm bells rang out in particular.

He is the top Philippine naval commander in charge of the Philippines ‘ western islands and occupied features in the South China Sea, having previously attended a program under China’s People’s Liberation Army- Navy. &nbsp,

Alberto Carlos, the vice-admiral, trained in China. Image: WESCOM

Chinese authorities have openly called for the expulsion of Chinese diplomats who are alleged to be in violation of both domestic and international law, as well as the Chinese’s claims of a secret agreement, including transcripts of its supposed exchanges with the Philippine admiral.

In a provocative statement released last week, Philippine National Security Advisor Secretary Eduardo Ano said,” Those in the Chinese Embassy who have violated Philippine laws and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and those who have carried out these malign influence and interference operations must be removed from the country immediately.” &nbsp,

Without a doubt, the embassy’s actions constitute serious violations of international relations and diplomatic relations, he said, citing the Philippines ‘ Anti-Wire Tapping Act in response to China’s alleged eavesdropping of confidential conversations with a top Philippine naval official.

Teodoro urged those responsible for recording the alleged conversation to be kicked out of the country on May 15 because their alleged deeds would contravene the country’s wiretapping laws.

Teodoro, the secretary of defense of the Philippines, has supported the arrest of Chinese diplomats who have been interrogated and engaged in deception. He said in Filipino,” We must find out who is accountable for this and remove them from the Republic of the Philippines.”

All indications point to a new and risky nadir in Philippine-China relations, one that could lead to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and increase the risk of miscalculation and potential deadly clashes in the South China Sea.

Follow Richard Javad Heydarian on X at @Richeydarian

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BJP's anti-Muslim rhetoric has deep, dark historical roots - Asia Times

More than 960 million people have registered to cast ballots in India over the course of six months, making this the largest poll in the world.

Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi is heading the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) campaign and traveling extensively throughout the nation to deliver a message that he hopes will win the party’s overwhelmingly in the election.

He is both a well-known and controversial number. Modi’s remarks are drawing heating for their anti- Arab rhetoric. At a campaign rally on April 21, 2024, he referred to Muslims as “infiltrators“.

He later doubled down on those remarks, suggesting that if India’s largest opposition group, the Indian National Congress, came to power, the success of Hindus had been snatched and given to communities that “have to some children”, a relatively lightly veiled reference to Indian Muslims.

Such language highlights a dread that Modi and the BJP have frequently stoked: that Muslims may pose a significant risk to India’s Hindu-majority population.

Although Modi has since claimed that his conversation did not specifically address Muslims, his thoughts were undoubtedly taken as they were.

To some observers, the speech serves as an indication that the BJP campaign’s campaign is trying to secure a two-thirds supermajority in Parliament. According to the discussion, Modi is trying to combat voter apathy by appealing to the group’s Hindu foundation in the face of rising economic inequality and youth unemployment.

As an Indian writer of public health, I think it is crucial to understand how anti-Muslim language came about and how it fits with growing concerns about the Hindu majority’s decline in India.

Doubts of a Muslim acquisition

Political and administrative picture has been a source of skepticism in India since the days of English colonialism.

In 1919, the American granted Indians a limited company, American politicians were allowed to create legislation in specific fields, such as health care and education, but not on law and order.

After the 1931 population, Indian leaders – primarily Hindus, but also some Muslims – and American officials expressed concern about the ostensibly quick rate of population growth in India, which at the moment was growing by over 1 % annually.

These officials started promoting new birth control methods to American women, in keeping with similar efforts around the world.

However, colonial officials and Hindu administrators had to deal with the fact that Indians of all religions were averse to birth control propaganda in order to effectively persuade a large number of women to adopt household planning practices.

These skepticisms stemmed from social practices that were prevalent in both Hindu and Muslim communities, including marriage, baby marriage, and seclusion practices.

Policies that attempted to stifle American women’s standard lives, including birth control, were widely regarded as harmful forms of imperial control.

Role of British settlers

Hindu nationalist organizations created a unique narrative while the English used these social practices and suspicions to make the claim that all Indians were to blame for the rapid population growth and the accompanying poverty and hunger.

These border organizations, which gained popularity as a political power in the 1930s, popularized the notion that procedures that promoted people rise were particularly widespread among the Muslim community.

The Indian National Congress group and the Muslim League were at odds with one another at the same time. The League was established in 1906, but it soon started pressing for a independent country for Indian Muslims in the late 1930s.

Before the American era, there were divisions in American society. British colonial leaders made these personalities and divisions more restrictive by categorizing Indians into caste and religion, putting different communities in conflict with one another.

The British were able to defend the notion that Indians were capable of self-government and progressive politics without the supervision and control of colonial rule.

Although the American emigrated from India and Pakistan in 1947, growing Hindu-Muslim tensions after division continued to influence home planning propaganda in separate India.

Hindu separatists had anticipated the establishment of a one country with Hindu majority rule. In this context, they saw the establishment of Pakistan as a country and nation-state for South Asian Islamists as a huge failure and a reduction for India.

Also, the majority of Hindu guys and some women served as post-partition leaders and officials in India because the majority of the educated and wealthy Muslim classes ended up in Pakistan.

In the wake of the colonial period views of Muslims, Indian policymakers and administrators created and put into practice health care and education coverage. Preexisting views of Muslim hyperfertility in American policymakers specifically grew more deeply ingrained after split.

Population control applications

Officials at all levels of government assumed that the adoption of birth control may be lessened as India’s second significant population control program was launched in 1951.

In fact, the factors that influenced the rate of absorption of IUDs, oral contraceptives, and tubectomies in postindependence India were more influenced by geographical ( whether people lived in rural or urban regions, were from the country’s north or south ), as well as school position.

Population control has been one of the main objectives of Indian policymaking since 1951 as part of a campaign to end poverty and promote public health. However, the misconception that Indian Muslims are unwilling to participate in population control measures has fueled the perception that Islam is” superstitious” or “backward” in the eyes of the public.

This stereotyping has been felt by Indian Muslim communities across the country, particularly in northern India, according to research. Muslims claimed to be disproportionately targeted by population control initiatives.

These worries among the Muslim community grew more severe as a result of the state’s aggressive forced sterilization policy under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 1970s.

Using religion for politics

Modi’s party, the BJP, was formed in 1980 but failed to win significant elections until the 1990s.

In the 1980s and 1990s, their main organizing pushed for the destruction of a mosque built by Mughal emperor Babur in Ayodhya, which is renowned as the site of Rama’s birthplace.

In 1992, Indian Hindu fundamentalists attacked the wall of the 16th-century Babri Masjid Mosque with iron rods at a contentious holy site in the city of Ayodhya. Photo: Asia Times files / AFP / Douglas E. Curran

The BJP promoted fears of a Muslim demographic dominance in India by promoting demands for” taking back” the land on which the Babri Masjid was built with worries of a Muslim majority.

But such fears are unfounded. Despite the Muslim minority growing from 11 % in the mid- 1980s to 14 % today, its representation in Parliament has actually declined, from 9 % in the mid- 1980s to 5 % today.

Since the BJP took control of India in 2014, party leaders have relied on historical reassurances about projected increases in the number of Muslims to help them win successive state and national elections and pass laws like the Citizenship Amendment Act, which discriminates against Muslims.

BJP leaders have accused Muslim men of forcibly converting Hindu women to Islam through “love jihad,” a fabricated claim that Muslim men deceive Hindu women to increase their demographic appeal.

The most recent iteration of a long history of Hindu demographic fears has proved to be a lasting one thanks to Modi’s most recent statement making reference to” those who have too many children.”

Clemson University’s assistant professor of history is Archana Venkatesh.

This article was republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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China’s gray zone social media war comes to America - Asia Times

China uses a variety of “gray zone” strategies to combat a number of adversaries while being fairly intense and no egregiously aggressive. One such technique is used within the United States: cultural media-based hidden influence operations.

Recently, Foreign government-related action has grown more alarming. &nbsp, Previously the principal danger was People’s Republic of China ( PRC ) propaganda lulling the US into uncritical acceptance of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP ) foreign policy agenda. &nbsp, Nowadays, the Chinese government is adding its mass to the troops tearing at America’s national material from the inside.

Prior to recently, the primary goals of PRC-sponsored social media messages directed at Americans were to foster a positive perception of China and its current state and to advance Beijing’s point of view on issues involving Taiwan’s social relationship with China, the treatment of Tibetans and Uighurs, and the restrictions of civil liberties in Hong Kong. &nbsp,

The language used in social media posts was comparable to what US-based Chinese officials were saying when they gave speeches and TV discussions or wrote articles for magazines.

This contrasted with the communication promoted by the Russian government, which usually denigrated the US government and exacerbated deeply entrenched private social and political issues in the US, suggesting that the Russian government’s intention was to foster social unrest in America.

This appeared to be in line with the individual Russian and Chinese relations with the US. &nbsp, Vladimir Putin wanted to hurt the United States. &nbsp, He held strong animosity over

  • the loss of Russia’s great power status in the 1990s,
  • degrading US treatment of Russia as a result of the growth of NATO and disrespect for Russian tastes as America engaged in wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria,
  • the release in 2016 of the thus- called Panama Papers, which Putin&nbsp, said&nbsp, was an effort by the US government to offend him, and
  • punishment from the US against Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea. &nbsp,

Putin is likely to welcome an economic decline and lawlessness in America.

On the other hand, China needed American to keep purchasing Chinese products, sending Chinese students to school, and bringing cutting-edge systems there. Thus, the purpose of Chinese strategic communication was to end any threats to American business continuity.

The United States has continued to try to develop good sentiments toward China. &nbsp, During the 2022 election battle in the United States, PRC- linked entities&nbsp, promulgated messaging&nbsp, friendly of China- pleasant prospects in a few political races. To support the Chinese propaganda about Xinjiang and another contentious political issues, TikTok has produced, promoted, and distributed brief videos to millions of its users.

However, there is now a much lighter component to PRC communication.

The US director of national intelligence&nbsp, notes&nbsp, “growing]PRC] efforts to actively exploit perceived US societal divisions”, through which” the PRC aims to sow doubts about US leadership]and ] undermine democracy”.

According to&nbsp, Clint Watts, general manager of Microsoft’s Threat Analysis Center,” More recently, ]PRC government ] efforts have shifted to exploiting existing partisan divides in the US”, including” the Chinese actually going into US audience spaces, masquerading as Americans and posting inflammatory content around current events or social issues or political issues”.

A&nbsp, report&nbsp, by Microsoft published in April 2024 found attempts by the PRC to” stretched conspiratorial narratives on various social media platforms” .&nbsp, Accounts that appear to be CCP- affiliated “post about contentious US regional issues such as global warming, US border policies, substance use, immigration and cultural tensions”.

As an example, these messages said the dangerous August 2023 fires in Maui, Hawaii resulted from the US defense testing a “weather weapon” .&nbsp, Foreign- linked accounts also published speculation that the US government&nbsp, caused&nbsp, the disaster of a coach in Kentucky in November 2023 and was “hiding things” in the aftermath.

Microsoft concluded that the apparent objective of such posts is “encouraging mistrust of and disillusionment with the US government” .&nbsp, In another&nbsp, report&nbsp, also published in April 2024, Microsoft’s Threat Analysis Center assessed that Chinese government- sponsored social media activity “aims to destabilize” the US and other democracies.

There are two key factors contributing to the change in the content of PRC-promoted messaging in the social media platforms used by Americans.

The first was the coronavirus pandemic. &nbsp, Just before the virus began to severely impact the United States in early 2020, US President Donald Trump was &nbsp, praising&nbsp, the Chinese government for its counter- pandemic response and&nbsp, touting&nbsp, a bilateral agreement that was supposed to end the” trade war” and restore normalcy to US- China trade relations. &nbsp,

As US fatalities mounted, however, Trump&nbsp, blamed&nbsp, China for unleashing a “plague” on the US. &nbsp, The PRC government responded by ratcheting up its criticism of the US government. &nbsp,

Chinese officials and government- controlled media not only decried the botched management of the pandemic in the US but extended the critique to add the argument that America’s political system is&nbsp, broken&nbsp, and that the US&nbsp, does not&nbsp, deserve&nbsp, a role in global leadership. In PRC strategic communication, greater emphasis on these themes grew to be a new standard.

Russia’s expanded invasion of Ukraine, which started in February 2022, gave it a second boost. &nbsp, The war pulled China into stronger diplomatic support for its” no limits” quasi- ally. This has resulted in a closer harmonisation between the propaganda messages from Russia and China. &nbsp, The Chinese government, for example, &nbsp, repeats&nbsp, the Russian position that NATO is responsible for causing the war.

Russia and China are working to delegitimize US influence and the liberal political outlook that threatens both Xi Jinping and Putin as the conflict in Ukraine has intensified the sense among the democracies of an increasingly dangerous authoritarian bloc.

Researchers have &nbsp, found&nbsp, large numbers of China- linked social media accounts spreading pro- Trump and anti- Biden messaging, suggesting that China prefers Trump over Biden as the next US president.

Which of the two major party presidential candidates for the Russian government is unquestionably the best option for the Russian government. Trump has frequently criticized US aid for Ukraine as well as the NATO alliance and has consistently held a friendly and respectful stance toward Putin.

For Beijing, however, the question is more complicated.

Biden’s significant, foreseeable negative effects on the PRC. He would continue to thwart Chinese requests for more open access to US markets and technology. The Biden administration continued to impose tariffs on Chinese imports from the Trump era and stifled China’s access to cutting-edge technologies. &nbsp, Biden’s team has also repaired and strengthened US alliances in the Asia- Pacific region, obstructing PRC domination.

Trump, however, poses a risk to China. Trump is respectful and respectful toward Xi and has occasionally uncritically absorbed CCP views like” Korea actually used to be a part of China.”

Trump, on the other hand, appointed advisors to the White House during his first term that significantly weakened US policy toward China. Trump himself has at times harshly criticized China, as during the pandemic. &nbsp, He recently&nbsp, said&nbsp, he might increase tariffs on Chinese imports into the US to over 60 %. &nbsp, At his worst, Trump might be worse for China than Biden.

Has Beijing’s top leadership now decided that if America descended into chaos, its interests were best served by pursuing a compromise? Given that CCP officials continue to say that their goal is to give China the best chance to extract wealth and know-how and not Washington stop worrying about national security.

They also want Americans to feel less confident in supporting the world’s liberal democratic system of government. &nbsp, Chinese leaders want to fortify their country against demands for political liberalization.

This is part of the reason why the PRC government keeps&nbsp, harping&nbsp, on the importance of the” Bali consensus” in US- China relations. According to Beijing, this” consensus” is a list of five policy renunciations that Biden agreed to during his meeting with Xi in Bali in 2022, one of them his assurance that” the United States does not seek to change China’s system” .&nbsp, ( There is no parallel list of policies that China renounces in the Chinese summary of the meeting, and the US&nbsp, official readout&nbsp, does not include a list of five US renunciations. )

It is ironic and expected that the Chinese government is a part of such a campaign.

It is ironic because Beijing so&nbsp, often&nbsp, and so&nbsp, strenuously&nbsp, insists&nbsp, that” China never interferes in the affairs of other countries” .&nbsp, PRC officials specifically deny that China ever has or ever will attempt to influence the US electoral process, &nbsp, saying&nbsp, the accusation indicates American “paranoia” and a penchant for” slinging mud at China to divert attention” from US governance failures.

A covert attempt by the Chinese government to subvert an adversary’s government is not surprising, because the Chinese government is already preoccupied with the threat of subversion. &nbsp, The 2013 internal PRC government memo&nbsp, Document No 9&nbsp, summarizes the Xi regime’s fear of” Western anti- China forces” overthrowing China’s political system by smuggling in liberal ideas and values.

The document argues that CCP authorities must “ensure that the media leadership is always firmly controlled by someone who maintains an ideology similar to the Party’s Central Committee” and that they must “allow absolutely no opportunities or outlets for incorrect thinking or viewpoints to spread.”

PRC leaders and the government-controlled media frequently mention the threat posed by” color revolutions” and place “hostile foreign forces” or “black hands” in China’s internal conflicts, which are in fact caused by dissatisfaction with Chinese colonization or CCP oppression.

Beijing will not fail to use the same tactic against its own adversaries if the Chinese government believes subversion from the outside is potentially effective.

Poor judgment and cynicism are attested by the numerous PRC officials’, including Xi, broken promises to behave ethically in international affairs. &nbsp, To dissuade Beijing from continuing to meddle in American politics, a US response is justified.

As with other Chinese gray zone operations, however, hitting back is problematic. The PRC does not hold real elections or hold open debate on domestic political issues, and China forbids the social media platforms the PRC uses to reach American audiences. &nbsp, &nbsp, &nbsp, &nbsp,

A possible proportionate US response would be to attack the ruling regime’s fear of losing legitimacy in the eyes of the Chinese population. &nbsp,

Xi’s government has already suffered a decrease in prestige because of widespread public&nbsp, pessimism&nbsp, about the government’s ability to successfully manage China’s economy, plus fresh bad memories of the government’s counter- Covid policy, which included draconian lockdowns followed by acquiescence to a mass die- off.

In 2012, a&nbsp, New York Times&nbsp, article&nbsp, documented the immense wealth built up by family members of PRC Premier Wen Jiabao. &nbsp, The expose clearly jabbed a raw nerve in Zhongnanhai, the Chinese government&nbsp, scrambled&nbsp, to censor the story and discussion of it, officially called it false and later expelled a&nbsp, New York Times&nbsp, reporter as retaliation.

Top-ranking Chinese leaders of the present are similarly susceptible to damaging revelations about their personal hypocrisy ( such as sending their children to American colleges ) from a trustworthy foreign source.

In normal times, the US could disregard Chinese social media influence operations as insignificant. Unfortunately, this Chinese push comes at a time when US domestic politics are polarized, conspiracy theories are prevalent, and procedures and institutions that are crucial to the proper operation of US democracy are in decline.

PRC interference reinforces harmful trends that are already occurring. This vile influencing behavior could lead to outcomes that Beijing may regret as well as be bad for America under such circumstances.

Denny Roy is a senior fellow at the East- West Center, Honolulu.

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China unveils property stimuli amid falling sales - Asia Times

After falling in house sales and purchase in the first four months of this year, China released an extraordinary bundle of measures to encourage homebuyers to enter markets on Friday. &nbsp,

The People’s Bank of China ( PBoC ) said it will establish a nationwide program to unleash 300 billion yuan ( US$ 41.5 billion ) in cheap funding to help state- owned- enterprises ( SOEs ) buy unsold homes.

The minimum down payment ratios for first-time purchases were reduced from 20 % to 15 %, and second-time purchases were reduced from 30 % to 25 %, according to the PBoC and the NFRRA. &nbsp, &nbsp,

Additionally, it stated that first and second home loan rates will be abolished nationwide at the lowest rate possible. &nbsp,

According to the central bank, central bank branches is then set lower mortgage rates in accordance with local circumstances. Financial corporations should set the minimum borrowing costs based on their business climate and customer threats, it remarked.

From May 18, the PBoC may also reduce the mortgage rates of the individual accommodation retirement account, a long-term cover savings plan made up of required regular deposits by both employers and employees, by 0.25 percentage points.

Stocks of the Hong Kong-listed Chinese engineers increased on Friday after many of them more than doubled in value during the week that ended Thursday. &nbsp,

Shares of China Vanke Co increased 19.4 % to close at HK$ 6.84 (88 US cents ) on Friday while shares of Sunac China rose 25.9 % to HK$ 1.85. &nbsp,

Agile Group gained 24.3 % to 92 HK cents while Guangzhou R&amp, F Properties surged 12.7 % to HK$ 1.33. &nbsp,

Poor house figures

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Statistics ( NBS ) released new economic data for January- April 2024 on Friday.

In the first four weeks, China’s estate investment fell 9.8 % year- on- yr to 3.09 trillion yuan. For the 23rd subsequent month, the number has been declining.

In January-April, investment in residential real estate decreased by 10 % to 2.34 trillion yuan from last year.

New home sales fell 28.3 % to 2.81 trillion rmb for the same time. New home sales slumped 31.1 %. &nbsp,

New home sales size decreased 20.2 % to 293 million square feet. New home sales level decreased by 23.8 % year over year.

In April, the average home price in 70 largest Chinese cities fell 3.1 % from a year ago, according to the NBS. It’s the biggest year-on-year drop since November 2014, in terms of terms of year on year.

” March and April are a classic great time, but both new house sales and sales volume have decreased year-on-year over the course of that time, demonstrating how severe the Chinese home markets are right now,” said Wang Xiaoqiang, chief scientist with the Zhuge Real Estate Data Research Center. &nbsp,

Wang claimed that new home sales volume in the first four months of this year decreased by 26.4 % from the same time last year, when most Chinese cities still adhered to Covid laws.

Zhang Hongwei, founder of Jingjian Consulting, said property activities may improve if some urban commercial banks start offering mortgage borrowers10- 20 % discounts in the coming few months. &nbsp,

SOE home purchases&nbsp,

He Lifeng, the vice president of China, stated at a teleconference on Friday that the government will make more efforts to address the risks associated with unfinished commercial housing projects, ensure the delivery of housing projects, and encourage the reduction of property inventory in the markets.

He claimed that local governments are permitted to purchase unsold homes at fair prices and turn them into affordable or rental housing units.

In the upcoming year, 21 national banks, including China Development Bank, policy banks, state-owned commercial banks, Postal Savings Bank of China, and joint-stock commercial banks, will be given loans worth 300 billion yuan at an interest rate of 1.75 %, according to PBoC Deputy Governor Tao Ling. The period of time can be extended four times. &nbsp,

She stated that the central bank will provide loans to national banks to cover 60 % of the scheme’s lending, allowing them to lend SOEs an additional 200 billion yuan, increasing the total to 500 billion yuan.

She suggested that national banks should grant loans to SOEs designated by local governments in accordance with market rules, while local governments should make their own decisions about whether to join the scheme.

” The SOEs for home purchases will be designated by local governments”, Tao said. ” They must not be local government financing vehicles ( LGFVs ) or companies related to local governments ‘ shadow financing” .&nbsp,

China’s total local government debt, including LGFV loans and shadow credit, was about 90- 110 trillion yuan, or 75- 91 % of the country’s GDP in 2022, according to a research report published last November by the 21st Century China Center of the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego. &nbsp,

Read: China to reboot markets with SOE home purchases

Follow Jeff Pao on X: &nbsp, @jeffpao3

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Bangladesh: Where a US ambo can still captivate a nation - Asia Times

I recently came across reports about the possible appointment of a fresh US ambassador to Bangladesh while scrolling through Twitter on a new morning. Peter Haas may also go down as the most influential US minister in Bangladesh’s new history, but David Meale appeared to be on the verge of taking over.

Actually for a brief moment, the idea of a foreign minister exerting major impact in a democratic country of 180 million might look strange. But Bangladesh’s history of political instability has created opportunities for additional actors to act, exercise their authority and form the country’s course in many ways.

I had a casual conversation with a reputed senior journalist who I viewed as a mentor, and this unpleasant reality first came to mind. Over tea and biscuits, he dropped a facts weapon:” Faisal”, he said, “remember, in Bangladesh, just three people truly hold influence: the Prime Minister, the Indian High Commissioner and the US Ambassador”.

Years later, as my monitoring expanded from focusing on business and equipment to focusing on the wider social scenery, I realized his words were deep wisdom. They were unquestionably accurate.

Consider the time leading up to Bangladesh’s January 2024 federal election. For more than a year, the US Ambassador’s every shift was monitored and scrutinized below by a captivated state. Has accurred to prominence in news stories, yet for seemingly unimportant things like a home excursion to neighboring India.

Ambassador Haas was elevated to a prophecy position on chat shows and YouTube programs run by expelled Bangladeshis and well-known experts. Individuals hoped he would intervene and stop Bangladesh from becoming an totalitarian state.

Under the Biden administration, the expectation was that he would somehow re-establish voting right and a functioning democratic system, enabling Bangladesh to experience real politics, something the US supports internationally.

Haas a family brand

Well, that assumption on Haas was n’t simply false. Following the US’s sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and seven of its major former leaders only three months prior, he arrived in Bangladesh in March 2022.

A Bangladeshi military unit called RAB was accused of serious human rights violations, including judicial killings and disappearances involving political opponents of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has for the past ten and a half decades been in power in the South Asian country with an extraordinary iron grip.

Ambassador Haas had a huge success in Bangladesh since his appearance, giving prior consideration to meetings with human rights organizations and significant political parties. His numerous press appearances have been covered extensively in relation to the importance of completely, fair, and all-royal elections.

Some economists believed that his statements reflected a change in US plan. They saw it as a departure from examining Bangladesh only through the lens of India, as had been assumed for a while.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( BNP ) gained new life as a result of the perceived support of the US. The group held significant rallies all over the country despite being plagued by various politically motivated legal cases brought against its users.

Regular Bangladeshis anticipated a better outcome in the future vote after going through two contested elections with restricted voting rights.

When the US made a fresh card plan for Bangladesh in late March of last year, the anticipation increased. According to that plan, the US would impede its visa applications for those found to be obstructing the election process. The news had a major influence on Bangladeshi world.

This is because Bangladeshis who are looking for education or employment opportunities have long sought out the US as their best place. It’s also broadly understood in Bangladesh that the US has considerable control over the government’s connections with other world powers, including the European Union, UK, Canada and Australia.

A restriction on US visa may also make it harder to obtain permits from these nations.

All kinds of rumors and rumors were fueled by the US card policy’s large nature. Popular due to a restricted local media environment, Bangladeshi protesters in exile published unfounded names of politicians allegedly targeted in untrue lists.

People are ruminating about potential US intervention in the long-running Awami League government in daily conversations and online.

With the new visa regulations, US Ambassador Haas has become a key figure in discussions about what the opposition parties have called “restoring democracy” in Bangladesh.

Seen as an embodiment of a potential US intervention, his popularity skyrocketed. Golam Maola Rony, the leader of the BNP, humorously described this situation as “god in the sky and Haas on earth” to protect them from oppression on a TV talk show.

The general public opinion of the US and Haas had grown to such a high level that when Israel began launching a disproportionate offensive against Palestinians in retaliation for Hamas ‘ attack, criticism of the US remained almost nonexistent, even among Islamic political parties.

This was unprecedented, as Bangladeshis were seen demonstrating against the US government in previous instances where anything happened in Palestine, knowing that Israel would be left in the middle of the Middle East without the US’s support.

Reality bites back

In mid- November, Bangladesh’s Election Commission declared the January 7 poll schedule. The BNP’s request that the election be held under a neutral caretaker government, a system that the country’s High Court had abolished, was not received.

In response, the party was adamant about avoiding the election based on its previous polls, where it won only seven out of 300 seats in a contest that was widely regarded as highly rigged. No free and fair poll could be conducted under a partisan government, it was certain.

As the BNP and its allies ‘ street protests grew more frequent throughout the nation, there was a period of unrest. Increased police response and legal proceedings followed these protests.

Coinciding with this political tension, the vital readymade garment ( RMG) sector, responsible for over 80 % of the country’s export earnings, was shaken by demonstrations demanding a minimum wage increase. Tragically, some workers lost their lives during these protests.

Adding to the anxieties, the US announced a new policy, the” Memorandum on Advancing Worker Empowerment, Rights, and High Labour Standards Globally”. With this directive, the US was able to impose sanctions, trade restrictions, and visa restrictions on nations that violate labor rights. Many Bangladeshis saw this as a potential threat of broad economic sanctions aimed at the RMG sector.

During that tense period, US Ambassador Haas’s actions became a constant source of national attention. Every action taken by the US ambassador and embassy was subject to thorough analysis, which led to speculation and conflict of interest.

By spreading false information, social media and even major news outlets exacerbated the situation. The investigation soared to the point where some national newspapers turned the story into a speculative one about Ambassador Haas’s family’s trip to India before Christmas.

The outcome of the January 7 election was a foregone conclusion right away because the main opposition party had boycotted, but all political parties and regular people had high expectations for the US’s reactions.

Within a day of the results, the US publicly criticized the fairness of the election while being concerned about opposition members ‘ arrests. It also emphasized the US’s” commitment to continued partnership with Bangladesh.”

According to the US, this partnership aims to “promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region, support human rights and civil society in Bangladesh, and strengthen people-to-people and economic ties.”

Begrudging acceptance

The absence of a US or other international intervention was seen by Awami League politicians as a disapproving of the results of the election by the West. The opposition eventually grasped the same reality: there would n’t be a US- led push to remove the Awami League government.

Finally, most analysts and activists were forced to accept the new political environment in the old setting after months of online activism and commentary. Some political pundits and analysts, however, are still dissecting the US’s moves and trying to make a sense out of its Bangladesh policy.

Should it adopt a more lenient stance or adopt a tougher strategy to encourage democratic reforms? Will it completely abandon its values-based approach in favor of a purely interest-driven strategy, or will it make an effort to strike a balance between the two principles?

The common people’s intense interest in the US, its foreign policy toward Bangladesh, and more recently, the American ambassador have all waned. Ambassador Haas quickly became a focal point for hundreds of millions of Bangladeshis for a while, likely without realizing it.

Many people thought of him as the embodiment of the supposed values-based relationship between the US and Bangladesh. That will most likely have ended with his coming departure and the lack of US-motivated change.

Faisal Mahmud is a Dhaka- based journalist.

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Sasakawa keeping China-Japan military lines open - Asia Times

This week, Chinese military officers are visiting their Japanese counterparts, raising hopes for more stable diplomatic relations or at least greater experience with how to deal with any unforeseen crises. What it probably wo n’t do, however, is make any fundamental change in their East Asia stand- off.

On May 14, a committee of 20 People’s Liberation Army ( Army ) senior officials arrived in Japan for six weeks of markets with Japan Self- Defence Forces rivals. It is the first PLA visit to Japan in four decades, thanks to the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.

The trip will stop at the Ministry of Defense in Tokyo, Komaki Air Base close to Nagoya, and Maizuru Naval Base in the Japan Sea, west of Kyoto. The more significant US bases at Yokosuka, on Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan are not on the PLA’s tour plan.

Chinese officers last traveled to China in July 2023, but Beijing’s subsequent set reciprocal visit to Japan was postponed because it was upset that Japan had decided to release waste from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Water is stored at Fukkushima in three different ways. At the back of this photo, two different types of above-ground water tank can be seen, and the workers are employed in an underground store lake. Photo: Wikipedia

The Japan-China Field Officer Exchange Program was established in 2001 by the privately held Sasakawa Peace Foundation, a non-profit firm with a headquarters in Tokyo.

Reverse visits were originally intended to be conducted every year, but the two parties ‘ tumultuous feud over command of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and subsequent controversy surrounding the Covid crisis ended everything.

However, 26 visits involving some 400 officials have taken place so far under the plan, with PLA representatives even paying calling on Japan’s Ground Self- Defense Force (army ), Chinese companies and actually farming villages.

In May 2023, amid tensions over the situation in the South China Sea and Taiwan, the foundation’s honorary chairman, Sasakawa Yohei, told The Diplomat that” At times like this, it is effective for the private sector to create a window for mutual understanding. It’s very important to hobnob together and have informal conversations. Even in the world, this military exchange is unique.

China’s Communist Party- run Global Times, known for its nationalistic stances, also favors the officer exchange program.

The China Institute of International Studies research fellow Xiang Haoyu, who believes that the resumption of bilateral military exchanges is a positive development that contributes to the rebuilding of trust, was quoted in an article published on May 14.

” China- Japan relations have started to bottom out and the beginnings of a gradual rebound,” according to the report from last year. While negative factors affecting bilateral relations, especially Japan’s dumping of nuclear- contaminated wastewater and some Japanese politicians ‘ hyping of]the ] Taiwan question, still exist, both sides have maintained some exchanges and gradually restored relations”, said Xiang. &nbsp,

That may be an optimistic or even opportunistic take on the actual situation, but it does offer some insight into China’s official position on the matter. The PLA officers ‘ visit received a scant amount of coverage in the Japanese press.

The Nippon Foundation and the Japanese motorboat racing organization were the foundations of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in 1986. &nbsp,

The Nippon Foundation’s history dates back to 1951, when Sasakawa Ryoichi persuaded the Japanese Diet to pass the Motorboat Racing Law, which authorized gambling at motorboat races to raise money for projects like the rebuilding of Japan’s maritime industry.

Sasakawa Ryoichi, a well-known right-winger, was a major player who forged a name for himself in rice speculating, mining, and other endeavors. In the 1930s, he used his wealth to finance a private air squadron. In 1939, he and his squadron flew to Rome to meet Mussolini, whom he called a “perfect fascist”. He gave his aircraft and related equipment to the Japanese military in 1941.

Sasakawa became an independent candidate for free speech in the Diet in 1942. He spent much of the war years in Manchuria and China, where he is rumored to have started highly profitable smuggling operations many years ago. He gets nowhere with that idea.

Sasakawa allegedly pushed the American occupation authorities into detaining him after the war for “instigating aggression, nationalism, and hostility against the United States.” He was the author of a book defending their actions after three years spent with the leaders of wartime Japan, seven of whom were hanged.

He then turned to anti- communist political activity and philanthropy. He and Syngman Rhee, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the unification church’s founder, and Chiang Kai-shek, who were in good terms.

The Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation was established in 1962, and it was granted the legal authority to administer grants made from motorboat racing proceeds. Naturally, Roy Sasakawa assumed the role of chairman.

The Nippon Foundation was given its new name in 2011 after working with the UN on maritime law, contributing more than US$ 70 million to the WHO’s fight against leprosy, and funding other philanthropic initiatives.

Sasakawa Ryoichi passed away in 1995 at the age of 96. One of his three sons is Sasakawa Yohei. In 2011, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation was transformed into a public interest incorporated foundation, which is one type of Japanese non- profit organization.

In June 2023, Sasakawa Yohei ( C ) holds a press conference. Image: Facebook Screengrab

In addition to these four regionally focused funds, the Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund, the Sasakawa Pan Asia Fund, the Sasakawa Middle East Islam Fund, and the Sasakawa Japan- China Friendship Fund, it contributes to international exchange and cooperation.

Through the joint disaster prevention, rural health activities, and the military field officer exchange program described above, the Japan- China Friendship Fund aims to promote peace and mutual development between Japan and China.

Sasakawa Ryoichi created the Sasakawa Japan- China Friendship Fund as a means of “promoting permanent peace and mutual understanding between China and Japan.” At present, it serves as a back channel to China at a time of escalating tensions.

Follow this writer on&nbsp, X: @ScottFo83517667

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US opens door for China advances in the Pacific - Asia Times

China and the US are competing for wet real estate, underwater resources and military edge among the South Pacific’s secluded island nations, a powerhouse contest to gain influence over their economies, airstrips, seaports and security forces.

China is commonly perceived as expanding its Belt and Road system across the Pacific’s wet” Blue Continent” to finally reach North, Central, and South America plus Antarctica, all the while empowering Beijing’s military, businesses, global policies and politics.

China won a victory on May 2 when the strategically important Solomon Islands elected pro-Beijing Prime Minister Jeremiah Manele, 55, a former foreign minister in the country’s once-friendly state of incoming prime minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Because the two nations had signed a diplomatic Solomon Islands Security Agreement in 2022, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and their allies were now concerned.

The China-Salomon Islands agreement, according to critics, might enable Beijing to establish a military base on the islands, which are 2, 000 kilometers east of Australia. According to China and the Solomon Islands, the agreement would certainly lead to the establishment of a Chinese military center on the country’s 900 smaller islands or its six main islands.

In the event of an armed conflict between the big forces, Manele, the next foreign secretary, told Parliament in 2022,” We are no stupid to ask for a military base, as we ourselves could be the goal of a military attack in the future.”

He said,” Having a stable Solomon Islands is also about ensuring stable and prosperous Pacific region.”

China trained the Solomon Islands ‘ police, provided water cannon vehicles and boosted their anti- riot tactics after unrest, some of it anti- Chinese, disrupted the islands.

Protests, riots, arson and looting erupted in 2021 after the Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 2019 when Manele was foreign minister. Australia, under its joint security pact with the Solomon Islands, sent police to the islands ‘ capital Honiara to quash the civil unrest.

On November 26, 2021, as rioting broke out in Honiara’s Chinatown and thousands of people refused to comply with a government lockdown order, flames rose from buildings. Photo: Asia Times Files / AFP via Getty Images / Charley Piringi

Manele was expected to maintain Solomon Islands ‘ friendly relations with China, which dramatically improved under the leadership of incoming prime minister Sogavare, who chose Manele as a candidate for prime minister. The Solomon Islands will be “friends to all, and enemies to none”, Manele said.

China’s recent construction of an airfield on Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon Islands, evoked chilling reminders of America’s World War II Battle of Guadalcanal to seize it from Japan.

Guadalcanal Island was the first major US military offensive to stop Japan from using the Solomons to bomb ships passing between the US and Australia in 1942.

Under intense enemy fire, US forces scurried west across the Pacific to defeat Japan after capturing control of the Solomon Islands and other island nations.

Today, many of the Solomon Islands ‘ 720, 000 citizens say they favor Manele not for his international stance, but in hopes his Ownership, Unity and Responsibility ( OUR) Party will upgrade the islands ‘ poor health care, transportation infrastructure, electricity supply, schools, employment opportunities, housing and other daily needs.

The Solomon Islands is one of the world’s poorest nations. To enable Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company, to build mobile telecommunications towers on its islands, China granted the Solomon Islands a$ 66 million loan.

The Solomon Islands and Australia also provided funding for Huawei’s 2018 contract for underwater telecommunication cables to and from the islands.

In a meeting billed as a” Ministerial Dialogue on Police Capacity Building and Cooperation Between China and Pacific Island Countries in Beijing,” the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and the Cook Islands sent delegates to hear China’s plan to strengthen law enforcement and security cooperation in 2023.

In a joint 2023 statement, the Solomon Islands reportedly agreed to Beijing’s positions on Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet.

” China has been on the front foot across the Pacific for many years, doing trade and security deals with island countries, while the US is only now stepping up with new embassies opening in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tonga”, said Ben Bohane, a Vanuatu- based Pacific political analyst and photojournalist.

From the perspective of islands, the competition has given them for the first time as various powers try to court them, including Arab nations like Israel, Japan, and even India, according to Bohane in an interview.

Meanwhile, on the island nation of Kiribati, a” Chinese police delegation team works with the Kiribati Police Service to assist a community policing program, and martial arts kung fu, and an IT ( information technology ) department, assisting our crime database”, Kiribati’s acting Police Commissioner Eeri Aritiera told Reuters in February.

About a dozen uniformed Chinese police officers landed for a six-month rotation in 2023 and have since been updated.

When asked about Kiribati and China, the US State Department told government-run Voice of America (VOA ) in February,” We do not believe importing security forces from [ China ] will help any country.” After excluding Taiwan, Kiribati established relations with China in 2019 and is located two hundred kilometers south of Hawaii.

China is considering how to finance the reconstruction of Kanton Island, a coral atoll in Kiribati, which had been a major stopover for military and commercial aircraft during World War II.

Kanton will now be a tourist destination that Chinese tourists visiting other islands would enjoy visiting, according to China and Kiribati. If financed and built by China, the airstrip on Kanton would be for passenger flights, including within Kiribati’s chain of islands, but not for military use, Kiribati said.

Kiribati also receives financial assistance from the US, Canada, Japan, the European Union and others.

” Australia is supporting the Kiribati Police Service with major upgrades to its policing infrastructure, including a new barracks and headquarters and radio network”, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Department told Reuters in February.

The International Dateline intersects the Equator, and Kiribati’s islands are splattered across the map in four different areas.

Some islands are east of the dateline, while others are west of it, and some islands are north of the Equator, while others are below it.

One of the largest exclusive economic areas on earth is Kiribati, which asserts more than 3.5 million square kilometers of territorial rights in the Pacific Ocean.

” Pacific countries have long felt their infrastructure needs have not been met, so it is difficult for them to tell island nations not to accept assistance from China if traditional partners like Australia, New Zealand, and the US do n’t provide the wharves, roads, and airports,” Bohane said.

Under The Compacts of Free Association ( COFA ), Washington exerts some control over three island countries: Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau.

Palau’s Rock Islands. Palau, a tiny island nation in the Pacific, established one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the world, claiming to be interested in protecting the ocean for future generations. And the country’s Covid- free. Photo: The Pew Charitable Trusts

The Pentagon has the power to land troops and weapons on COFA’s territories under the agreement, which was signed in 2023, and to prevent other nations from doing so. Many COFA citizens who enlisted in the US armed forces as a quick way to become Americans after serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries are familiar with the US military.

After feeling economically exploited and destabilized by China’s overwhelming wealth, Palau President Surangel Whipps reportedly requested from the Pentagon to construct ports, bases, and airfields on its islands.

Under COFA, the US agreed to pay$ 7 billion over the next 20 years in assistance to Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau. In February however,” the funding was dropped from the security supplemental in the US Senate, under pressure from conservatives who wanted to lower costs”, VOA reported.

” With no amendment process permitted, the funds could not be added back in”.

A mangled COFA could wreck the islands ‘ confidence in US backing, critics said. It “opens the door for China to make similar overtures to the COFA nations”, Hawaii’s Senator Mazie Hirono warned.

The US West coast is protected from China’s eastern shores by a Three Island Chain, a theory that was developed in the US during the US-Korea War to protect against China and the Soviet Union.

Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo, and other islands in the increasingly militarized and contested South China and East China seas are included in the First Island Chain.

Further southward, the Second Island Chain connects Guam with the Mariana Islands, Palau, Yap, and islands farther south.

The Third Island Chain runs south from the Aleutian Islands, through the center of the Pacific and the Hawaiian Islands, to American Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand.

Since 1978, Richard S. Ehrlich, an American foreign correspondent reporting from Asia and the recipient of Columbia University’s Foreign Correspondents ‘ Award, has been based in Bangkok. Excerpts from his two new nonfiction books,” Rituals. Killers. Wars. &amp, Sex. — Tibet, India, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka &amp, New York” and” Apocalyptic Tribes, Smugglers &amp, Freaks” are available here.

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Squad ditches Quad to keep US heat on China - Asia Times

In early April 2024, the fleets of four nations —Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States — held a seafaring training in the South China Sea.

Australia ‘s&nbsp, Warramunga, Japan ‘s&nbsp, Akebono, the Philippines ‘&nbsp, Antonio Luna, and America’s Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and – as they said in a joint&nbsp, statement – to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law”.

For Exercise Balikatan 2024, boats from the Philippines and the US operated alongside American and European naval forces a few weeks later, between April 22 and May 8.

For this Balikatan (” make- to- back” ), over 16, 000 forces participated in an area of the South China Sea that is outside the territorial waters of the Philippines. The Coast Guard of the Philippines participated in Exercise Balikatan along with the warships of these countries.

This is important because it is the ships of the Coast Guard that most often&nbsp, encounter&nbsp, Taiwanese ships in these global waters, portion of which are disputed between China and the Philippines.

Although China is not named in the standard documents accompanying these exercises, they are undoubtedly intended to be a part of the growing military action the US is engaged in along China’s maritime border. &nbsp,

The Philippine Navy&nbsp, BRP Lake Caliraya, was simultaneously attacked and sunk during the Balikatan practice by the military arteries from the Philippines and the United States. The Philippine National Oil Company gave the ship, which was made in China, to the military in 2014 as a donation.

The notion that it was the only ship in the Philippines ‘ army that was made in China did not go&nbsp, unnoticed&nbsp, within China. Colonel Francel Margareth Padilla- Taborlupa, a director of the military forces of the Philippines, &nbsp, said&nbsp, that this was “purely coincidental”.

The four major countries ‘ defence ministers met in Honolulu, Hawaii to explain the political repercussions of these martial exercises off China’s beach during Balikatan.

Australia’s Richard Marles, Japan’s Kihara Minoru, the Philippines ‘ Gilberto Teodoro, and the United States ‘ Lloyd Austin met for their next meeting to discuss their engagement in the region that they call the Indo- Pacific.

The officials ‘ public relations team began using the name” Squad” to send to these four nations just before the start of this appointment. Although they did not officially announce the establishment of a new alliance in East Asia, this fresh moniker merely serves as a de facto denotation of its life.

From Quad to Squad

In 2007, the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States met in Manila ( Philippines ) to establish the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue ( or Quad ) while their militaries conducted Exercise Malabar in the Philippines Sea.

The Quad did not initially involve the Philippines, whose president at the time—Gloria Arroyo—was trying to&nbsp, improve&nbsp, ties between her country and China.

The Quad did not develop because Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was angry with Washington’s growing antagonism towards Beijing. The Quad revived in 2017, when more in&nbsp, Manila, with a more honest plan to operate against China’s Belt and Road interests in the region, which subsequently- US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson&nbsp, called&nbsp, “predatory economics”.

The US has been frustrated with India’s pain with the kind of pressure battle the US has been launching against China and Russia over the past two decades. India refused to stop buying discounted Russian energy, which was a pragmatic decision during an election period ( although India’s purchase of Russian energy has &nbsp, declined&nbsp, over time ).

When asked if India may consider being a NATO part, India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar&nbsp, said&nbsp, that India does not promote the “NATO mentality”.

The US government was irritated by India’s reluctance to engage in the full-fledged New Cold War with China, which led to the decision to leave the Triple and form the Club with the more resolute and determined Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

It is important to observe, however, that in April India&nbsp, delivered&nbsp, a batch of hypersonic BrahMos cruise missiles to the Philippines, sold for US$ 375 million and produced by a joint venture between wings manufacturers in India and Russia.

The fine print of the package does not hide the possibility that these weapons might be used in the fresh pressure campaign against China.

Pivot threats

Since its “pivot to Asia”, the US has sought to inspire China. The US trade war that began in 2018 generally fizzled out due to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its attempt to build the superior production lines to avoid US trade regulations ( for example, when the US tried to prevent China from importing silicon chips, the Chinese&nbsp, developed&nbsp, their own production capability ).

The US’s campaign to pressure Taiwan into being at the forefront of its efforts has also failed. The inauguration of Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching- te on May 20 brings to the helm a man who is&nbsp, not interested&nbsp, in pushing for Taiwan’s independence, only 6 % of Taiwan’s population&nbsp, favors&nbsp, unification with China or independence, with the rest of the population satisfied with the status quo.

The US moved its gunsights to the Philippines because it was unable to create the necessary controversies about Taiwan. Although the Philippines and China disagree on the status of several islands in the waters between them, these disagreements do not suffice to compel either nation to go to war.

In April 2024, former president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte&nbsp, recalled&nbsp, that when he was president ( 2016- 2022 ),” there was no quarrel. We can return to normalcy. I hope that the ruckus can be stopped because Americans are the ones who are urging the Philippine government to go out and find a conflict and, perhaps, start a war there.

In March, President Marcos&nbsp, said&nbsp, that he is” not poking the bear” and does not want to “provoke” China. However, the Squad’s formation two months later indicates that the Philippines has now taken Taiwan as the country’s frontline for US provocations against China.

China’s vice chair of its Central Military Commission, Zhang Youxia, &nbsp, warned&nbsp, against “gunboat muscles”. ” Reality has shown”, he said,” that those who make deliberate provocations, stoke tensions, or support one side against another for selfish gains will ultimately only hurt themselves”.

This article was produced by&nbsp, Globetrotter and is republished with kind permission.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, journalist and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is also an editor of&nbsp, LeftWord Books &nbsp, and the director of&nbsp, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

He has written more than 20 books, including&nbsp, The Darker Nations&nbsp, and&nbsp, The Poorer Nations. His latest books are &nbsp, Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism&nbsp, and ( with Noam Chomsky ) &nbsp, The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U. S. Power.

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China tech shares hint at economic green shoots - Asia Times

Strong tech company results are obscuring China’s gross domestic product ( GDP ) data, which some analysts believe will indicate better days for Xi Jinping’s largely underperforming economy.

China’s standard data readouts these weeks can make for disturbing reading. Deflationary pressures are making headlines, but there are n’t any indications of a clear and sustained acceleration.

Case in point: news on Friday ( May 17 ) that China’s consumer spending lost steam in April, rising just 2.3 % year on year versus 3.1 % in March.

Industrial output accelerated, while, expanding 6.7 % over the same time. The discrepancy demonstrates how the Chinese market is still reliant on global demand and the uneven nature of growth.

According to Lynn Song, chief economist for Greater China at ING Bank,” the history of this week’s statistics is that of prevailing prudence by households and the private sector, as financial sales and fixed property purchase came in weaker than expected.”

Alibaba Group, Tencent Holdings, and another Chinese tech behemoths are, however, presenting a pleasant counternarrative of financial green stems that suggest Beijing’s signal initiatives are gaining some sway.

Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, reported its biggest annual growth increase in the first quarter, with net income rising 10 %. Gaming giant Tencent, meanwhile, reported a 62 % surge in net profit.

Example abound among other island computer systems, suggesting Beijing’s efforts to achieve this year’s 5 % GDP growth target are fairly working.

They even mention Team Xi’s renewed assurance that the country’s government is finally committed to resolving the housing crisis that is the source of the country’s sagging consumer prices and uncertain economic prospects.

According to UBS’s planner Meng Lei, current property sales and fresh starts have yet to reach bottom, while total earnings have remained pressured despite subdued demand in the first quarter.

China’s home shortage will remain to stymie growth in 2024. Image: Twitter Screengrab

However, Meng predicted that as house exercise stabilizes and inflation recovers, earnings will increase as inflation and household income rise.

Venu Krishna, a planner at Barclays, continues,” The club for the party to offer has been set very high, but the Big Tech basics still look good below and we think there’s room to run over the next pair of rooms.” Post-quarter income from the largest companies in the S&amp, P 500, and now the big tech adjustments have increased even more.

This year, Xi’s group unveiled plans to address real land troubles some economists compare to Japan’s 1990s awful- product debacle. According to reports, Beijing is reportedly coercing local governments and state-owned corporations to purchase thousands of properties that have not been sold.

Strong efforts to clear China’s extensive undisclosed housing stock may significantly increase consumer and business confidence.

Reversing the turmoil narrative had likewise stifle Xi and Premier Li Qiang’s ability to boost capital markets, rebalance growth engines toward new products and services, and create more potent social safety nets. The former effort is essential for influencing customers to invest more and keep less.

In a fresh document, JPMorgan asserts that” we believe this could be a game change in the sense that home sales may at least maintain rather than worsen.”

Franklin Templeton also cited positive indicators that the real estate nightmare is coming to an end in a note to clients. The signs that” Chinese authorities have been easing home purchase restrictions – these restrict buyers to purchases in their home province and/or limit the purchase of a second property” and that” they have been lowering mortgage interest rate floor limits” encourage this.

As Beijing addresses economic headwinds more forcefully, count Michael Burry among the China tech optimists. The investor made famous by the book&nbsp,” The Big Short” &nbsp, upped his bets on Alibaba and in the first quarter of this year.

According to recent filings, JD is the top holding by Burry’s Scion Asset Management, with its stake in the e- commerce giant increasing by 80 % in the first quarter, representing an additional 50, 000 shares.

Burry, who saw the 2008 US subprime crisis coming better than peers, has seen a zigzag in China tech investments recently.

Burry’s most recent bets demonstrate the cautious yet discernible return by global investors as China’s stock market shifts from a US$ 7 trillion rout from a 2021 peak to January 2024.

Among Burry’s new holdings is in search engine giant Baidu, sometimes likened to China’s Google. Those on which he’s scaling back include Amazon, Google parent Alphabet and Warner Bros Discovery.

Of course, the decisions of one investor do n’t make or break global investment trends. It’s interesting that a well-known value investor known for his grave warnings and cataclysmic predictions is bullish on a sector that many Western peers have left for dead in recent years.

According to Brendan Ahern, chief investment officer at KraneShares, a provider of exchange-traded funds in China,” we believe many Asia-focused investors who have been overweight India and Japan are becoming concerned about India’s high valuations and Japan’s continued currency weakness.”

According to Ahern,” China’s equity market could benefit from investors shifting profits from high-value markets to low-value markets.”

People pass by the Tencent headquarters in Shenzhen, in the Guangdong province of southern China. Photo: Asia Times Files / AFP / Noel Celis

It also highlights the dangers of Xi and Li failing to take bold financial decisions at the moment. Since 2015, a well-established cycle of boom-bust cycles has plagued Chinese markets. In the summer of that year, Shanghai shares plunged 30 % in just a few weeks.

Many top fund managers have found that success in bolstering capital markets, increasing transparency, and reducing the dominance of state-owned enterprises has been too inconsistent since then. Xi’s headline- grabbing clampdown on tech platforms, including Alibaba and Tencent, beginning in late 2020 and arguably still ongoing, also torpedoed confidence in the sector’s future profitability.

And so John Woods, chief investment officer for Asia at Lombard Odier, speaks for many when he worries China’s equity rally is at odds with fundamentals.

” The equity rally may be driven by a combination of fear of missing out, hopes of a Chinese economic recovery, Beijing’s pro- growth policy stance, foreign investor rotation from US and Japan stocks, as well as attractive valuations, particularly in technology- related names”.

Furthermore, Woods notes,” the stability and consistency of Hong Kong’s dollar peg to the US dollar also offers foreign investors some confidence. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities would like to sustain the rally with policy proposals. The most recent proposal would exempt individual mainland investors from a 20 % tax on Hong Kong-listed dividends.

Yet the rally” seems to be expectation- based and liquidity- driven”, Woods says. ” Whether it can continue largely depends on China’s corporate revenue outlook”.

And the broader economy’s ability to turn the corner. The good news is that the first-quarter earnings for China’s major tech companies are encouraging signs of green growth.

According to Allianz Global Investors, “tighter control of costs has fed through into improved bottom-line profitability. While top- line growth has generally been as muted as expected.” A notable increase in dividend payouts has been witnessed in addition to the improved earnings picture. The dividend hikes have, to an extent, been spurred by a recent regulatory push, but from a fundamental perspective, there certainly appears to be room to increase dividends”.

The bad news is that Xi’s reform team has a lot to prove in light of the market’s frequently wild gyrations since 2015.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley, for example, counsel caution about the upside for mainland shares. ” We see near- term technical overbought signals, which could deter further buying by global quant funds”, they write. Consumption and the housing market” could continue to be under pressure” due to” continuing pressure on deflation and corporate earnings.”

The same goes for financial reforms. Along with China’s ever-present regulatory risks and concerns about growth, tech shares are subject to headwinds as a result of worries about the property crisis and the yuan asset exodus.

This latter dynamic is being complicated by the US Federal Reserve’s reluctance to ease interest rates, extending the “higher for longer” era for yields.

The success of Huawei Technologies&nbsp and other companies in avoiding US sanctions designed to stifle the sector has contributed to the bull case surrounding China technology.

How China Inc. has been catalyzed by US presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden to innovate and advance up the value-added scale is one of the potential unintended consequences of attempts to undermine the semiconductor industry.

US sanctions were characterized as “double-edged sword,” according to Bernstein analyst Qingyuan Lin. It “may stifle China’s progress in cutting-edge regions, and they also compel it to expand its supply chain, pursue self-sufficientness, and prosper in sectors that benefit from increased domestic substitution.”

However, Xi’s success in promoting private sector innovation over outdated state-owned enterprises depends on whether Chinese tech shares gain a wider audience. In theory, Beijing must do so more quickly and credibly to establish equal playing fields, strengthen capital markets, promote transparency, and strengthen corporate governance.

And, of course, to end a property crisis that has China in global headlines for all the wrong reasons. Beijing is now asking SOEs to purchase unsold property, which would introduce non-commercial distortions in a market already fraught with them. This is significant because it is already rife with them. &nbsp,

In February, Premier Li called for “pragmatic and forceful” steps aimed at “boosting confidence”. He urged policymakers to” concentrate on addressing real-world problems that concern both consumers and businesses.”

President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Qiang. Photo: Xinhua, China

Li’s comments came around the time Beijing statisticians were confirming the lowest annual&nbsp, foreign direct investment&nbsp, since 1993— just$ 33 billion in 2023. The figure, which records monetary flows involving foreign- owned entities in China, was 82 % lower than the 2022 tally.

Xi’s efforts to rebuild confidence have been hampered by MSCI’s earlier this year decision to remove dozens of Chinese companies from multiple indexes. The action highlighted the need for reform as investors look for less risky places to invest, including Japan, which is nearby.

The trick is to take the lessons learned in 2015 and subsequent years.

At the time, Xi’s Communist Party loosened rules on leverage, reduced reserve requirements, delayed all initial public offerings, suspended trading in thousands of listed companies and allowed mainlanders&nbsp, to use apartments as collateral to buy shares. Then, Xi’s government rolled out advertising campaigns to buy stocks out of&nbsp, patriotism.

Given the severity of the property crisis and deflationary pressures of the present, it seems as though merely providing stimulus will be less effective this time.

Another issue is the US’s continued efforts to slow China’s growth as a tech superpower. Biden unveiled a new round of tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles earlier this week, totaling 100 % of Trump’s.

Biden also slapped new taxes on mainland solar cells, batteries, construction cranes and medical equipment as well as steel and aluminum.

Team Xi has already stated that it will “take resolute measures to defend its rights and interests.” That could, in turn, see Biden up the sanctions ante ahead of the November 5 election, putting China’s tech industry on edge.

The next wave of restrictions, it seems likely, will attempt to stymie China’s ambitions in the field of artificial intelligence. Already, the specter of heavy- handed regulation – and Xi’s party putting its own priorities ahead of tech development – are clouding China’s AI future. &nbsp,

Even before Biden’s latest tariffs, analysts at Barclays were doubtful about China’s ambitious goal of reaching 70 % self- sufficiency in semiconductors by 2025. The endeavor is still “at the start of a very long journey”, Barclays says.

China is indeed moving quickly toward a faster transition of its economy, moving away from property to technology and services. Tech profits are telling the story, and they are piqued by optimism in some circles that the economy is moving on a more dynamic, value-added path.

Follow William Pesek on X at @WilliamPesek

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US ban on Russian uranium could backfire - Asia Times

The Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, which prohibits the transfer of unirradiated low-enriched uranium ( LEU) produced in the Russian Federation or by a Russian object, is then signed into law by US President, Joe Biden.

Discounts may be granted to let the trade of minimal amounts of LEU, under specific circumstances, until January 1, 2028. The Department of Energy ( DOE ) is authorized by the new legislation to grant waivers authorizing the total volume of Russian uranium imports that are within the export restrictions established by an earlier anti-dumping treaty between the Department of Commerce and Russia, which expires in 2027.

There are forecasts for the need and grant of exemptions. ” No one will try” to enforce the law without granting discounts, says Alexey Anpilogov, a Soviet political scientist and professional in nuclear energy – “because American nuclear reactors produce low power. Additionally, the natural transition that was initiated in the United States requires the survival of nuclear power as a carbon-neutral industry.

A longer past

Russian-enriched uranium has a long record of US issue. The US nuclear power market launched an anti-dumping petition in 1991 to stop the flow of cheap Russian enhancement services into the US following the Soviet Union’s collapse. The US Department of Commerce and Russia’s Ministry of Atomic Energy ( now Rosatom ) signed the Russian Suspension Agreement ( RS A ) in 1992 as a result of this. Russian enriched plutonium imports were formalized by the contract. It was amended in 2008 and 2020.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, Russia has been supplying about 24 % of enriched uranium used to fuel the US fleet of 94 commercial reactors, with 12 % coming from Germany and 11 % from the UK. US production accounts for 27 %.

According to the US DOE, Russia accounts for roughly 44 % of the world’s uranium enrichment capacity and supplies about 35 % of US imports of nuclear fuel.

Production for the United States Enrichment Corporation ( USEC ) stopped in 2001. Following its debt in 2014, USEC re-joined as Centrus Energy Corp. Centrus works as a dealer of enriched uranium, sourcing international supplies for US and worldwide clients, while developing innovative spinning technologies with the intention of restoring US home uranium enrichment capabilities.

According to Centrus’s 2023 monthly statement to the US Securities &amp, Exchange Commission, Russia’s Tenex is Centrus’s largest provider, followed by French business Orano. Tenex and Centrus have agreements to provide Russian enhancement service until 2028.

Centrus has stated in full that it will obtain waivers from the minister of power and other relevant government agencies in order to keep supplying LEU to its customers. ” It is questionable whether any cancellation may be granted and, if granted, whether any exemption may be granted in a timely manner”, it noted. The Company anticipates having sufficient cash to assistance its business activities for at least the upcoming 12 weeks.

Urenco’s facility in New Mexico, which started operations in 2010, is the only professional enhancement procedure in the US. Urenco is cooperatively owned by the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

Urenco approved an investment to increase the number of enriched products at its center in the Netherlands at the end of next year. Urenco received a$ 96 million ($ 245 million ) grant earlier in May to construct a new uranium enrichment facility at its Capenhurst site in northwest England.

Apart from Russia, additional countries with enhancement potential include Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, the Netherlands, North Korea, Pakistan, and the UK. Some are nowadays seeking to expand their infrastructure.

Russia is currently the only commercial source of the more highly enriched high-assay low-enriched uranium ( HALEU) fuel that many of the small and advanced reactors are currently in the design stage need.

Some companies in the US, with national aid, are in the process of producing HALEU. Under a 2019 deal with &nbsp, DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Centrus licensed and built a new sequence of 16 centrifuges at Piketon, Ohio, to exhibit production of &nbsp, HALEU. The Piketon presentation project second produced HALEU for next-generation reactors last year, and it intends to increase production to 900 kilograms soon. But, this is nowhere near enough to fill the gap that will be left &nbsp, if Russian products cease. &nbsp,

Enthusiasm in the Biden presidency

The ban has piqued the interest of US authorities. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan quoted as saying that the new law “re-establishes America’s authority in the nuclear industry. It will help safeguard the future of our electricity industry. And it will help to boost the United States ‘ record-breaking$ 2.72 billion in federal money, which Congress just appropriated at the President’s request, and send a strong message to market that we are committed to long-term progress in our nuclear industry.

Sullivan noted that the law likewise fulfills international goals, such as a US announcement last year that the United States and Canada, France, Japan, and the UK would invest$ 4.2 billion to increase their potential for advancement and change. ” With these resources from Congress, we have nicely- exceeded that commitment and are working with business to understand this ambition”, Sullivan said. &nbsp,

The  ban, according to Board, “brings us one step closer to developing a reliable source of nuclear energy that will be necessary for the United States and its allies to triple nuclear power by 2050, creating thousands of high-paying work along the way.” &nbsp,

Squeezing the industry

Concerns about fuel supplies &nbsp were having an impact on the myriad of companies that have created designs for small and advanced modular reactors, some with significant government support, even before the ban became law. Although the majority of companies are still in the design phase, many still have very optimistic goals for deploying their first reactors by 2030. &nbsp,

For instance, the US TerraPower and GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy-developed Natrium technology includes a 345 megawatt liquid-sodium-cooled fast reactor with a distinct molten-salt-based energy storage system. &nbsp, Along with PacifiCorp and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, members of the demonstration project team include engineering and construction partner Bechtel, Energy Northwest, Duke Energy and nearly a dozen additional companies, universities and national laboratory partners.

Natrium is one of two Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program ( ARDP ) projects that DOE has supported in a competitively selected manner. In order to launch a demonstration unit by 2028, the company had originally intended to use Russian-provided HALEU fuel to start operation in 2028. However, concerns about &nbsp, Russian HALEU deliveries have pushed the commissioning date to 2030.

The uranium ban legislation expires at the end of 2040. While one of its goals is to undermine Russia’s position as the world’s leader in terms of nuclear fuel and technology, Russian officials have been quick to point out that the world market is likely to suffer the most from its most detrimental effects.

Kremlin reaction

Rosatom, a state nuclear corporation in Russia, described the ban as a discriminatory political move that would threaten the world’s exchange for enriched uranium but not prevent Russia from expanding its global business.

Russian nuclear industry is not in any danger from the ban, according to Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin.” It’s difficult for Americans to compete with us on the international market,” he added. According to Peskov, “our nuclear industry is one of the most developed in the world.” ” We will continue to develop this industry”.

Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, &nbsp, said:

The Administration continues to pursue its stillborn strategy of economic devastation. The current attack, which will impact both Russia and the world market for uranium fuel used in nuclear power plants, will cause fresh shocks in international economic relations. Uranium exporters and importers ‘ delicate relationship is in jeopardized. Washington is putting its own economy at risk by having a sufficient level of national enrichment capacity. Additionally, the financial losses for Russia will be much greater than for the United States.

The world leader

Rosatom is the world leader&nbsp, in terms of the number of nuclear reactor construction projects being undertaken simultaneously, with three units in Russia and 33 abroad.

Moreover, its foreign projects all involve ongoing technical support, training and 60- year- long fuel supplies. Rosatom has also become Brazil’s exclusive supplier of enriched uranium products since 2023. This long-term partnership with Brasilia replaces previous imports from European and Canadian consortiums. &nbsp,

Rosatom’s foreign projects include:

  • The four-unit Akkuyu NPP in Turkiye Akkuyu is being constructed.
  • the four-unit El Dabaa NPP is undergoing construction in Egypt.
  • four more units at Kudankulam NPP in India, with promises of further contracts,
  • four units in China, and
  • two units in Bangladesh.

Several countries in sub- Saharan Africa including Burkina Faso, Mali, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Ethiopia also have agreements related to nuclear energy with Rosatom. It is also negotiating with Sri Lanka and South Africa. It is finishing up the construction of a research reactor and laboratory complex in Bolivia. &nbsp,

Anpilogov, the expert quoted in the third paragraph of this article, claimed that the ban would mean that the US would no longer be able to replace Russia’s LEU and HALEU deliveries for a while. He also stated to the Sputnik news agency that the US would be unable to replace the US with a quarter or even a third of all American nuclear generation.

He emphasized that, if the DOE should fail to issue waivers, the US nuclear fuel market could collapse, leading to skyrocketing costs of enriched uranium. He also suggested that US businesses might use “gray schemes” to buy Russian nuclear fuel, disguised as contracts with French or other foreign companies. &nbsp, &nbsp,

” Back in the 1980s, the Americans de facto destroyed their enrichment industry because it was ineffective, being based on old gaseous- diffusion technologies”, said Ampilogov, who is president of Russia’s Foundation for Support of Scientific Research and Development of Civil Initiatives Research. They spent 30 years purchasing Russian uranium at a relatively low price. The cornerstone of America’s nuclear energy generation ca n’t be abandoned through a simple vote in Congress”.

After launching a similar initiative in 2019, Ampilogov pointed out that it took the US about four years to produce the first 20 kilograms of HALEU. He noted that the planned UK enrichment plant is only expected to start producing its first batch of HALEU in 2031, and that” a lot is going to change on the market” by that time.

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