On April 25, the symbolic date of Anzac Day, when Australia pays homage to its war dead, the new Defense Minister Peter Dutton said that a conflict with China over Taiwan should not ” be sidelined, ”adding that Australians must be“ realistic ”in the face of tensions. In the region.
In another Anzac Day message, senior Australian Home Secretary Mike Pezzullo told his staff that “free nations” once again wanted to beat the “drums of war.”
Days later, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $ 580 million in military upgrades. A week later, several newspapers published a confidential briefing from Australian Major-General Adam Findlay to special forces soldiers, in which he said a conflict with China was “very likely.”
The idea that Australia is waging a war against China on its own is ludicrous. Australia’s military spending last year was around $ 27 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China was estimated 10 times higher, for the same period, at around $ 252 billion, the second highest in the world.
Relations between Canberra and Beijing have been frozen for nearly a year, since Morrison and his government infuriated their Chinese counterparts by publicly calling for an investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, Australian exports to China – including coal, wheat and wine – have faced crippling hurdles.
The Australian government has taken action to confront Beijing over allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian joined in. a state media chorus highlighting Australia’s poor human rights record on refugees and Indigenous Australians.
But much of Australia’s war rhetoric is actually driven by domestic politics, said Yun Jiang, editor-in-chief at Australian National University’s China Center in the World. The Morrison government is under pressure over allegations it mismanaged the rollout of its Covid-19 vaccine and may seek to change direction.
“Focusing on an outside enemy has generally been quite effective in uniting the sentiments of the public and rallying around the government,” she said. “I think it is irresponsible of the government to talk about it as this. War is a very serious matter. “
The Australian government’s comments may, however, reflect real concerns about the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan – a conflict that could ultimately involve the entire Asian region and even the United States. But that terrifying prospect, Yun said, is likely the reason other U.S. allies closer to Beijing’s sphere of influence, like South Korea and Japan, fail to echo Canberra’s aggressive language.
China keeps talking about Bill and Melinda Gates divorce
Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce sent shockwaves across China, where the Microsoft co-founder has reached a level of fame unlike almost every other Western entrepreneur.
The hashtag “Bill Gates divorce” had generated more than 810 million views and 65,000 chat messages on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo by Wednesday – far exceeding the 91 million views accumulated when the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, divorced MacKenzie Scott in 2019.
Chinese Weibo users have worried about everything from how the couple would divide their massive fortunes to whether the divorce would affect Microsoft or their foundation. Through their philanthropic organization, the couple spent $ 53.8 billion on global health, poverty reduction and other initiatives. (Bill Gates is worth around $ 146 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and the couple are committed to giving the vast majority of their wealth to charity.)
Even leading tech figures in China have joined the conversation: Kai-fu Lee – the former director of Google China, who helped found Microsoft Research Lab Asia, a hugely influential network in China – said that it was hard for him to believe the news. Bill and Melinda are “the most affectionate couple I’ve seen among famous entrepreneurs,” he said in a Weibo article.
The intense interest may, in part, be an unintended result of Microsoft’s Chinese strategy. While Bill Gates no longer runs Microsoft, the company has spent decades building goodwill with Beijing. Its products have a huge presence in China, even as other Western tech companies have been blocked. And that likely contributed to Bill Gates’ personal draw – he now has over 4.1 million subscribers on Weibo, numbering 1.7 million Tesla CEO Elon Musk and 1.4 million Chief Apple. Tim Cook.
– Par Laura He
- An Indian court compared the deaths of Covid-19 patients due to oxygen shortages to ‘genocide’.
- The Pentagon is tracking a Chinese rocket that is expected to enter Earth’s atmosphere this weekend.
- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly told his cabinet that he alone could take an oath in public, after a minister told China to “get the f ** k out” of Philippine waters.
- New Zealand lawmakers will debate human rights violations in Xinjiang on Wednesday, but must avoid the word “genocide” at the insistence of the ruling Labor party, the opposition party said.
- Meanwhile, in China, the number of women who say they regret getting married has more than doubled since 2012, according to a new government survey.
The EU-China agreement on a razor’s edge
When the European Union and China signed a preliminary investment agreement in December, after years of negotiations and against a last-minute lobbying effort from Washington, it appeared to be a diplomatic coup for Beijing.
But the devil is in the details, especially when those details have to be ratified by the European Parliament.
This was always going to be the toughest hurdle for the trade deal to cross, with many prominent lawmakers fiercely critical of China’s human rights record and alleged built-in forced labor safeguards. to the agreement.
After the EU joined the US and UK in sanctioning Chinese officials for abuses in Xinjiang, Beijing hit back, doing the same for 10 European politicians, sparking immediate calls for the trade deal be abandoned.
“The Chinese regime is committing a crime against humanity. EU sanctions target criminals and entities responsible for systemic atrocities against Uyghurs. In response, Chinese countermeasures are a direct attack on our democratic institutions, ”MEP Raphaël Glucksmann said in a statement. last month.
On Tuesday, the agreement seemed shaky: AFP, the French news agency, quoted Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice-president of the European Commission, as saying that “the environment is not conducive to the ratification of the agreement ”.
In a statement, a Commission spokeswoman appeared to step back, but admitted that the ratification process “cannot be separated from the evolving dynamics of the wider EU-China relationship”.
Photo of the day
Get back in shape: Acrobats perform at the May 1 Holiday Show on May 3, 2021 at a mall on the outskirts of Beijing, China. The country’s economy is once again showing signs of growth now that the coronavirus is largely under control.