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Withdrawal from Afghanistan and other hotspots is long overdue

Editor's note: Stephen Ndegwa is a Nairobi-based communication expert, scholar and lecturer at the United States International University-Africa, author and international affairs columnist. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.The U.S. has made what looks like a final decision that it will now unequivocally withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. It is not by coincidence that the date marks exactly 20 years since the coordinated terrorist attacks on American soil by the Al-Qaeda terrorist group in 2001.In obvious wrathful vengeance, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 ostensibly to rout the Al-Qaeda terrorist outfit run by the accused late Osama Bin Laden, who had shifted the operations of his broad-based militant Islamist organization to the country under the patronage of the Taliban militia.Although the dynamics at play are apparently fluid, politics has played a big role in the reigning confusion caused by shifting timelines for the withdrawal. For instance, on December 1, 2009, then President Barack Obama ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan, while at the same time ironically pledged to begin the withdrawal of troops in 18 months. Then Vice President Biden also said on Twitter on October 12, 2012 that the U.S. will leave Afghanistan in 2014.Despite repeated promises during his one term in office, former President Donald Trump with his America First policy did not manage a complete draw-down of foreign troops still in war zones in some parts of the world. Trump left office on January 20, with his November 2020 promise of further troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq still in abeyance.Sadly, the U.S. has paid a steep price for the intervention in Afghanistan. An article published in the New York Times by Sarah Almukhtar and Rod Nordland on December 9, 2019 titled, "What Did the U.S. Get for $2 Trillion in Afghanistan?" stated "there is little to show for it."According to the article, by 2019 more than 2,400 American soldiers and over 38,000 Afghan civilians had died in the war. The Taliban still control much of the country and the country remains one of the world's major sources of refugees and migrants. So, what was the invasion about if the socioeconomic and political crisis in Afghanistan has actually worsened in the last two decades?Local boys follow U.S. soldiers from the 506th Infantry patrolling through the streets of the capital of Wardak Province, Afghanistan. /GettyCertainly, the withdrawal was long overdue. What we cannot tell, however, is precisely what took the superpower an inordinately long time to implement the decision. The disgraceful exit of America in the country is reminiscent of the high cost of its involvement in the 19-year misadventure in the Cold War-era – Vietnam War. By the time the U.S. pulled out its troops from Vietnam in 1973 after a resounding defeat, 58,318 Americans had lost their lives compared with the loss of 3.4 million lives including mostly Vietnamese civilians.There are a couple of pertinent issues we need to interrogate in order to judge the effectiveness of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. First is whether the heavy U.S. presence achieved its aim of stemming terrorist attacks emanating from the country, both at home and abroad. Second is the real reason behind sustaining its most expensive war both in casualties and financial expenditure. Third is the overall future of Afghanistan after U.S. withdrawal.Although loath to admit it, the Biden administration must be feeling like a yoke has been yanked from its neck. There was no moral justification for the superpower to occupy Afghanistan in the pretext of destroying what it said was a citadel of terrorism. Observers say it was another red herring similar to the alleged search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by U.S. and its allies.It was a selfish move that ignored the feelings of the Afghans, even as it was clothed in alleged noble intentions. The U.S. intervention may have curtailed major terrorism attacks in the U.S., but it did not stop the escalation of terrorism in other parts of the world.Amid the withdrawal which starts May 1, uncertainty still exists, which is the reason behind U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's impromptu visit to Afghanistan on April 15. Nevertheless, his reassurance to the Afghan government of U.S. commitment to the country's security sounded hollow, knowing too well that he did not put money on the table for the massive reconstruction needed from America's longest war.Blinken's promises were non-committal, falling short of saying it as it is – Afghans are on their own from now on. The true situation of what is happening beyond the photo ops is reflected by MP Naheed Farid's remarks during Blinken's visit, who told reporters, "my views are very pessimistic," in relation to what the future portends.The withdrawal should act as precedence for the long overdue withdrawal of U.S. troops from other security hotspots where it has implanted its military. This includes Iraq, Syria and Cuba's Guantanamo Bay detention camp since 2002.Ultimately, it should be reiterated that the age of blatant interference in the internal affairs of other countries belongs to a bygone era. This should only happen in cases sanctioned by the international community through the United Nations, and not unilaterally like America and some of its powerful allies have been wont to do.(CGTN)

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India's vaccinations fall from peak as infections hit record

India's daily COVID-19 vaccinations have slowed from their record high early this month while new infections have set a record in eight of the past nine days, government data show, underscoring a lack of doses in the country.After giving and selling tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad, India has suddenly found itself short of shots. It has abruptly changed rules to allow it to fast-track vaccine imports, having earlier rebuffed foreign drugmakers like Pfizer (PFE.N). read moreVaccinations peaked at 4.5 million doses on April 5 but have averaged about 3 million a day since then, according to the government's Co-Win portal to coordinate immunisations.The country of 1.35 billion people has reported the most number of coronavirus cases in the world this month, flooding hospitals with patients and filling crematoriums and cemeteries with the dead. Its caseload has widened to 14.3 million, the most after the United States, with 174,308 deaths. read moreThe ferocious second surge, which overtook the pace of the first in a matter of weeks, had sent people rushing to vaccination centres, but many centres are now rationing supplies as output fails to meet demand.India is vaccinating only people aged above 45 years, having started the campaign in the middle of January with health and then other front-line workers. It has so far administered 115.5 million doses, the most in the world after the United States and China, though it ranks much lower when accounting for population.Many states have sought an expansion of the inoculation drive to include all adults as cases rise, but the government has said doses are "finite", although enough to cover the identified groups.The government said on Friday the country had a stock of about 30 million doses. Going by India's immunisation trend in the past week, that will be enough to last 10 days.As supplies tighten, India this week gave emergency authorisation to Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and imports to cover as many as 125 million people will start this month.The government has also urged Pfizer, Moderna (MRNA.O) and Johnson and Johnson (JNJ.N) to sell their shots to India and has made rules easier for them.India has also allowed biomedical research body Haffkine Institute, based in the western state of Maharashtra, to produce the home-grown shot Covaxin as developer Bharat Biotech struggles to boost its output.The AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine, locally made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), accounts for more than 91% of total doses given in the country. Production ramp-up at SII, the world's biggest vaccine maker, has been delayed by a raw-material shortage.(Reuters)


China's GDP expands record 18.3% in Q1 amid domestic, global demand recovery

China's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded at a record pace of 18.3 percent year on year during the first quarter of this year as it rebounded from a historic contraction a year earlier, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed Friday.China recorded a year-on-year contraction of 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020, when the country had to pause its economic activities to contain the spread of COVID-19, setting the stage for a dramatic rebound this year. A soar in March exports of over 30 percent year on year, benefiting from a recovering global economy, was the most recent example of this base effect. The official data fell between the estimations range, beating the lower forecast of 17.9 percent from a Nikkei survey and 18 percent from a Macquarie poll but weaker than the higher end of 19 percent from a Reuters poll. China's recovery has been led by robust exports, benefiting from the global economic recovery along with greater vaccination efforts and a steady pickup in domestic consumption.  Retail sales increased 34.2 percent from a year earlier in March, stronger than the 33.8 percent jump seen in the first two months of the year and outperforming the growing pace of industrial output, which registered at 14.1 percent in March. On a quarterly basis, China's economic growth during the first quarter slowed to 0.6 percent from a revised 3.2 percent in the previous quarter, the data showed.Aided by strict epidemic control measures and emergency relief for businesses, "first into the pandemic, first out" momentum has enabled China to continue a steady recovery. The country's economy grew 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter and 2.3 percent for the entire year – making it the only major economy to expand in 2020.(CGTN)


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New U.S. guidelines on contacts with Taiwan hurt its own interests

Editor's note: Zhou Wenxing is an assistant professor at Nanjing University's School of Government and a research fellow at the University's Huazhi Institute for Global Governance. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price introduced new guidelines for U.S. government interactions with the Taiwan authorities in a press statement on April 9. According to Price, the newly released guidelines "liberalize guidance on contacts with Taiwan," and "provide clarity through the Executive Branch on effective implementation of our 'one-China' policy."These guidelines enable more U.S. engagement with the island by encouraging working-level meetings with Taiwanese officials in federal buildings or at Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, the island of Taiwan's representative office in America, U.S. State Department spokesman said on Friday.While restricting U.S. interactions with the Taiwan region to the unofficial level and setting some "guard rails" so as not to complicate U.S.' "one-China" policy, the new guidance has undoubtedly marked a significant step towards the violation of the "one-China" policy that previous bipartisan administrations since Richard Nixon have endorsed.The former Donald Trump administration is clearly an exception. Determined to launch and win the alleged new Cold War against China, the U.S. government played the Taiwan card rampantly from 2017 to 2021. For example, the Department of State had approved arms sales to the island of Taiwan worth more than $18 billion last year. Congress also played a progressive role, proposing many new Taiwan-related legislation, in which many acts advocate for the so-called "defense partnership" with the island.President Joe Biden is believed to be different from his predecessor in terms of U.S. policy toward China and on the Taiwan issue. Biden and his foreign policy aides have manifested that the new administration is poised to compete with China. But they also emphasized that they do not want confrontation with China, adding that conflict is not inevitable. Moreover, President Biden claimed more than once that his administration is ready to work with China "when it's in America's interests to do so."Nevertheless, the new guidelines, which were made following a review as stipulated in the so-called Taiwan Assurance Act that was signed into law by President Trump in December 2020, just broke President Biden's commitment to both pursuing cooperation and avoiding conflict with China.Firstly, the new guidance meddling with China's domestic affairs by further "hollowing" U.S. "one-China" policy has cast a shadow over the prospect of cooperation with China. This would hinder the Biden administration from achieving its foreign policy blueprint of "Make America Lead Again."To regain its leadership on global affairs, the U.S. must be competent in properly handling regional and global issues, including controlling pandemic, climate change, economic growth, and regional security. But the Biden administration knows it clearly that without China's cooperation it is impossible to solve those tricky issues, given China's growing political, economic as well as political influence.More importantly, the new policy measure indicates that the U.S. government has been doubling down efforts on "strategic clarity" vis-à-vis "strategic ambiguity" over its "security commitment" to Taiwan. This is likely, on the one hand, to send out wrong signals to the Taiwan authorities and embolden them to seek separatism.On the other hand, the U.S. seems to underestimate China's firm resolve and ability to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The collusion between the U.S. and the Taiwan region at the cost of China's national interests reminds us of the recent memory of 1995-96 Taiwan Strait's crisis.In other words, the new guidelines are bound to further destabilize the volatile region across the Taiwan Strait that has already witnessed much instability and "cold peace" over the past few years since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities took office in 2016. Should the DPP authorities take any radical agendas for "independence," the U.S. is very like to be drawn into a conflict in the Taiwan Strait.In a nutshell, the new U.S. guidelines dedicated to deepening interactions with the Taiwan region to serve its interest in the near term would just hurt its interests in the long term. Provocative moves as such are neither conductive to a prospect of seeking cooperation nor one of avoiding conflict with China.The Biden administration failed to escape the foreign policy "traps" set by the Trump administration. Rather, it is following the latter's lead on the Taiwan issue, to a large extent. If it really wants to "Make America Lead Again," the Biden administration should abandon policy legacies left behind by its predecessor by reassessing and reversing these policies on the Taiwan issue.(CGTN)


How to stop the poverty pandemic

Editor's note: Lindsay Coates is Managing Director of BRAC's Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative. John Floretta is Global Deputy Executive Director of MIT's Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). The article reflects the authors' opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.Globally, extreme poverty is increasing for the first time in 20 years. Although some poor countries are now receiving COVID-19 vaccines, the pandemic is set to drive nearly 150 million people into extreme poverty by the end of 2021, reversing decades of progress.But the world has a huge opportunity to help prevent this outcome, and not only through more generous aid and vaccine distribution. Lower-income countries also need assistance in adapting and scaling more robust social protection and livelihood programs. Such initiatives build resilience, enabling people to weather future economic crises. And collaborations between enterprising non-profits and researchers can help guide the way.Careful, high-quality research to evaluate the effectiveness of specific social policies and programs in different contexts has increased markedly in the past two decades. A particularly rigorous approach known as randomized evaluation employs a methodology similar to that of medical trials to assess the real-life effects of promising innovations.This research has identified a range of effective measures to reduce extreme poverty, including schemes to enroll more girls in school, help the unemployed find jobs, and support voters in making more informed election choices. The tremendous value of this research was recognized in 2019 when the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to three of its pioneers, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of MIT andMichael Kremer of Harvard.A vivid example of how social policy research-and-development collaborations can make a real difference to those whose livelihoods have been upended by the pandemic is the Graduation Approach, whose effectiveness Banerjee and Duflo have studied.Established and led by BRAC, the largest NGO based in the Global South, the Graduation Approach involves a holistic sequence of interventions that are evidence-based, highly adaptable to local contexts, and designed to meet the multidimensional needs of people in extreme poverty.Graduation participants are provided with an income-generating asset such as a cow, a sewing machine, or a cash transfer. In addition, they receive wraparound support for the following 18-36 months, including training on how to generate income from the asset, life skills coaching, consumption support, access to a savings account, and links to government assistance.BRAC previously collaborated with a team of economists from the London School of Economics on a randomized evaluation to study the Graduation program's impact on poverty in rural Bangladesh. The results were impressive: the move to self-employment increased the poorest participants' earnings by an average of 37 percent over four years. But could the approach be effective and scaled in other contexts?To answer this question, nonprofits working in seven countries, from Pakistan to Peru, were trained to run the program while rigorous evaluation continued. Researchers from MIT's Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action conducted six concurrent randomized evaluations in each country. These coordinated studies found the Graduation Approach to be one of the most effective of the evaluated programs for helping people propel themselves out of extreme poverty.In nearly every country, Graduation program participants improved their economic outcomes. They successfully launched small businesses, and their increased income led them to explore other ways to make money. Participants also reported improved psychological well-being, including an increased sense of hope. A follow-up study published in November 2020 found that these positive effects persisted for up to 10 years after the program ended.People maintaining social distance to enter a lab in Mexico, January 22, 2021. /CFPTo date, BRAC has reached more than 2.1 million households in Bangladesh, where the program originated, with a "graduation" rate of 95 percent. As of 2018, more than 100 organizations in nearly 50 countries have piloted or implemented Graduation programs.The Graduation Approach's worldwide expansion and proven ability to break the cycle of extreme poverty shows that designing innovative programs, collaborating with researchers to test them rigorously, and establishing trusted partnerships with governments can result in great strides toward scaling up the most effective schemes.High-quality research demonstrating the Graduation Approach's effectiveness across contexts helped BRAC, J-PAL, and other partners convince donors and governments that the model can help vulnerable people create sustainable livelihoods and make social protection policies more inclusive and effective.As BRAC scales Graduation globally through direct implementation and with partners, it has identified important lessons that can inform similar efforts. Above all, adherence to the key underlying principles driving a program's impact is essential, while also adapting the model to each context. An ethos of learning and critical self-evaluation is central to program success, as Graduation's 20-year evolution in Bangladesh has shown.And by examining a program's effects on different population groups and continuing to tweak and test its components, like the size and type of livelihood packages provided, we can continue to leverage research to empower people in extreme poverty.The scale of the Graduation Approach after years of iteration and evaluation points to areas where philanthropy and aid can be especially useful. These include investment in social policy innovations, rigorous evaluation of whether and how they work, and partnerships with governments to apply globally sourced knowledge to their own programs.Our experience shows that innovative and evidence-based approaches, when executed well, can dent poverty. With the pandemic threatening to reverse hard-won global gains, the need for policy-relevant research, and for scaling effective solutions, has never been more urgent.(CGTN)


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Empty middle airplane seat could cut COVID-19 exposure by 57%: CDC

A vacant middle airplane seat could cut the risk of exposure to coronavirus by 23 to 57 percent compared with a full flight, according to a study on physical distancing onboard released on Wednesday.Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kansas State University based their findings on laboratory modeling of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, on single-aisle and twin-aisle aircraft in November 2020.The research is backed by results of a separate investigation of coronavirus transmission on a 10-hour international flight in March 2020, in which 16 people were infected, they said. That study found 75 percent of infected passengers were seated within two rows of a symptomatic passenger.U.S. airlines blocked middle seats early in the pandemic but have gradually opened them up, citing studies showing low transmission risk if everyone onboard wears a mask. Delta Air Lines is lifting its seating block beginning May 1.(CGTN)


Cyber sabotage isn't the way to resolve the Iran nuclear issue

The Iranian uranium enrichment facility in Natanz was hit by cyber sabotage on April 11 in a provocation that media reports attributed to Israel's powerful Mossad intelligence agency. The site experienced a power blackout and reportedly also an explosion, though nobody was injured.Tehran swiftly blamed Tel Aviv, while the latter's politically embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cryptically vowed that "I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel. Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran's aggression and terrorism."The Iranian nuclear issue is very complex and rife with lots of emotion, considering the region's preexisting tensions. The Islamic Republic has the UN-enshrined right to develop peaceful nuclear energy, though it lacks the right to develop nuclear weapons like some of its adversaries have suspected it of intending to do according to various timelines that haven't ever been fully confirmed.Tehran claims that it harbors no such intentions and that claims about its nuclear weapons ambitions are information warfare. However, Tel Aviv and some of its regional partners don't believe anything their adversary says about this issue.The perplexing problem was seemingly resolved with the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015. But it was short-lived after former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement several years later on the pretext that it didn't serve his country's interests.That's debatable since the prior administration clearly believed that this was in their national interest; otherwise, they wouldn't have invested so much time and energy in promulgating that pact. Nevertheless, that development greatly destabilized the region and proverbially reopened Pandora's Box.The Joe Biden Administration is presently attempting to explore a compromise whereby the U.S. might lift some of the unilateral Trump-era sanctions in exchange for Iran reversing its recent nuclear-related moves. But Tehran demands that Washington return to the pre-Trump status quo of removing all such sanctions without preconditions.Talks are ongoing, and it's unclear what their outcome will be, especially since Iranians are going to the polls later this summer and any perceived compromise on the ruling authorities' part might decisively shift electoral sympathies toward their factional rivals who are considered by many to be more conservative.Former U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement after signing it in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2018. /VCGThe Natanz cyber sabotage attack occurred in the midst of all of this, thus further complicating an already complex and ultra-sensitive issue. If the reports and speculation about Israel's involvement are true, then it would represent a dramatic escalation in tensions between it and Iran.It would also show Israel's willingness to resort to unilateral measures, just short of the kinetic ones that many feared for years that it might be plotting, to roll back Iran's peaceful nuclear energy development that Tel Aviv suspects is just a cover for developing nuclear weapons.Given this state of affairs, it's factually inaccurate to describe Iran as a so-called rogue state like many mainstream Westernmedia tend to do. The Islamic Republic only restarted its uranium enrichment activities in response to U.S.' unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA.In other words, it was a tit-for-tat action, not part of any preplanned plot to undermine the deal. However, Israelmight have planned far in advance to carry out the cyber sabotage it's accused of committing, considering that such attacks usually require plenty of prior planning.This observation suggests that it's actually Israel and not Iran that should pay more attention to its own actions. Instead of placing its trust in the same United Nations that's responsible for Israel's own existence, it was accused of unilaterally going behind the back of its international partners to engage in what Iran dramatically described as "nuclear terrorism."If Israel is sincerely the peace-loving state it claims to be, especially when trying to contrast itself with regional rivals like Iran, it must immediately return to international norms, trusting instead in diplomacy to ensure its interests.(CGTN)


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14 killed in jihadist attack on Nigeria military base

Jihadists killed 14 security personnel and civilians in an attack on a military base in northeast Nigeria's Borno state on Wednesday, security sources told AFP.Suspected Boko Haram fighters in trucks fitted with machine guns launched a dawn raid on the army base in the town of Damboa, sparking intense fighting.Sources said six soldiers, four police officers and two members of a government-backed militia were killed along with two civilians."We lost six soldiers in the attack while six others were injured," a military officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.The officer claimed 13 insurgents were killed by a fighter jet as they fled the area.The leader of an anti-jihadist militia said the civilians who died were among more than 50 local residents hit by shrapnel after rocket-propelled grenades fired by the jihadists hit nearby homes.Nigeria's decade-long jihadist insurgency has killed 36 000 people and displaced two million others inside the country, and spilled into neighbouring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.The United Nations has complained of a surge in violence in the conflict zone in recent weeks.Anger has been growing among local residents about the army's failure to stem the attacks despite repeated claims from officials that the insurgency has been defeated.(CGTN)


One dead, multiple injured shot near skate park in California

A 23-year-old male was shot dead and five others were injured following a shooting at a party near a skate park in Tulare County, California, late Wednesday night, ABC News reported citing local police.The conditions of the other shooting victims are unclear, including a 7-year-old girl who is suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, police said at a press conference.Police said a "solo suspect shooter" walked up to the party and fired multiple rounds.(CGTN)


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China unveils top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2020

A list of the top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2020 was released on Tuesday by the National Cultural Heritage Administration.The Jingtoushan ruins in east China's Zhejiang Province have been included on the list. Archaeologists have said the 8,000-year-old shell mound is the earliest and most deeply buried shell mound site across China's coastal areas.The Shizhuang site in central China's Henan Province, which consists of the remains of 28 granaries dating back about 4,000 years, was also listed. The site is believed to be home to some of the country's earliest centralized grain storage facilities.The list also includes the Zhaoguodong site in Guizhou, the Shuanghuaishu site and Xuyang Cemetery in Henan, the Sangmda Lungga tomb site in Tibet Autonomous Region, among others.The notable findings were selected from a shortlist of 20 archaeological discoveries, covering major academic fields including the origin of modern humanity and civilization, the study of the Xia culture, the formation and development of a unified and multi-ethnic country, and the archeology of the Silk Road, said Song Xinchao, deputy head of the administration.The findings were presented to the public both online and offline at the press conference where the archaeological discoveries were announced.(中国网英文)


Virtual symposium discusses Chinese literary giant Jia Pingwa

More than 300 participants gathered virtually across Asia, Europe and North America on Friday to celebrate one of China's literary giants: Jia Pingwa. In attendance were Jia himself, along with publishers, translators, booksellers, scholars and readers across three continents.The event, titled Jia Pingwa – Master storyteller of Rural China, was held with the support of the China National Tourist Office's initiative, 'Rediscover China in the UK'. It explored the fascinating literary history of this Shaanxi native and how the mountains and rivers of his home province inspire his writings, as well as offering a survey of his books in English translation.Born in 1953 and living and working in Xi'an, Shaanxi, Jia is one of the biggest names in modern Chinese literature. He has written more than twenty novels, as well as a series of essay collections and short stories. In his writing, he tackles a range of pithy subject matters, among them rural poverty, trafficking of women and China's Cultural Revolution.Among those who spoke at the event was Nicky Harman, winner of the 2020 Special Book Award of China and the 2015 Mao Tai Cup People's Literature Chinese-English translation prize, who has turned her talents to the writing of many of China's best authors, including A Yi, Yan Geling and Xinran. She has also translated Jia Pingwa's Broken Wings (2019 ACA Publishing) and Happy Dreams (2017 Amazon Crossing). She gave a fascinating analysis of Jia's works in English translation and his place in China's literary landscape.Christopher Payne, Associate Chair of English and Chinese Translation at the University of Toronto, and translator of Jia's latest title The Mountain Whisperer, talked about a few of the challenges posed by translation, and introduced us to some of the more interesting characters that he encountered while translating Jia's generational saga. Christopher has previously worked on co-translating the critically-acclaimed novels Decoded and In the Dark by Mai Jia and collaborated with Olivia Milburn to bring Jiang Zilong's magnum opus, Empires of Dust, to an Anglophone audience.The Mountain Whisperer is the epic tale of a funeral singer who bears witness to many of the violent and traumatic events that took place in China during the 20th century. From the civil war and the founding of the PRC, through to the Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution and opening-up era, Jia explores these developments through the eyes of ordinary, fallible people – soldiers, peasants, petty tyrants and local officials – many of whom seek to use the era's rolling political campaigns and purges to satisfy their own petty desires and ambitions.The seminar was wrapped up by Dr Robin Gilbank of Xi'an Northwest University who explored some of the culinary delicacies of Shaanxi, which feature heavily in Jia's works.The talk was part of Sinoist Books' newest initiative, The International Chinese Authors in Translations Symposium, which aims to host biannual talks about some of the best authors of China and their works in translation.(中国网英文)


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China qualifies for 2021 Olympic Games with 4-3 victory over S. Korea

China has qualified for the Olympics women's football tournament with a 4-3 victory over South Korea.(CGTN)


70% of Japanese want Tokyo Games cancelled or delayed: poll

More than 70 percent of people in Japan want the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled or delayed as the coronavirus pandemic rolls on, a Kyodo News poll showed on Monday, just over 100 days ahead of the planned start of the Games.The survey showed 39.2 percent want the Games scrapped, while 32.8 percent favor another delay. Only 24.5 percent of respondents want the world's largest sporting event to go ahead as scheduled.Tokyo on Monday began a month-long period of quasi-emergency measures to blunt a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections driven by virulent mutant strains.Tokyo 2020 is holding an online volunteer training in Tokyo, Japan, April 10, 2021. /CFPMore than 92.6 percent of respondents felt anxiety about the resurgence of infections, the Kyodo survey conducted from April 10 to 12 showed.While vaccination shots for people aged 65 and above began at some 120 sites across the country on Monday, the imported doses are still in short supply and the pace of inoculations is unlikely to stop the latest wave of infections.The survey found that about 60 percent of people were dissatisfied with Japan's progress on vaccinations.Spectators are seen wearing face masks as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, taking photos of the Olympic torch in Mie Prefecture, Japan, April 7, 2021. /CFPMeanwhile, the Tokyo Olympic torch relay is underway in Nara Prefecture on Monday, with 109-year-old woman Shigeko Kagawa becoming the oldest Olympic torch bearer.Kagawa, who was born in 1911, took the record from Aida Mendes of Brazil who walked with the Rio Olympic torch in Macapa, Brazil when she was 107 years old in June 2016.Kagawa is the second centenarian to attend the Olympic torch relay since it started on March 25. Shitsui Hakoishi, a 104-year-old barber, carried the flame in the rain on March 28, 2021, in Nasukarasuyama, Tochigi Prefecture.But the world record is expected to fall next month when Kane Tanaka, the world's oldest living citizen, is set to carry the Olympic torch.Tanaka, 117, is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest person in the world and was already Japan's senior citizen.She is due to carry the flame when it passes through Shime in Fukuoka Prefecture on May 12.(CGTN)


Science&Militarymore >>

FBI launches operation to remotely remove Microsoft Exchange server backdoors

A Texas court has authorized an FBI operation to “copy and remove” backdoors from hundreds of Microsoft Exchange email servers in the United States, months after hackers used four previously undiscovered vulnerabilities to attack thousands of networks.The Justice Department announced the operation on Tuesday, which it described as “successful.” It’s believed this is the first known case of the FBI effectively cleaning up private networks following a cyberattack.In March, Microsoft discovered a new China state-sponsored hacking group — Hafnium — targeting Exchange servers run from company networks. The four vulnerabilities when chained together allowed the hackers to break into a vulnerable Exchange server and steal its contents. Microsoft fixed the vulnerabilities but the patches did not close the backdoors from the servers that had already been breached. Within days, other hacking groups began hitting vulnerable servers with the same flaws to deploy ransomware.The number of infected servers dropped as patches were applied. But hundreds of Exchange servers remained vulnerable because the backdoors are difficult to find and eliminate, the Justice Department said in a statement.“This operation removed one early hacking group’s remaining web shells which could have been used to maintain and escalate persistent, unauthorized access to U.S. networks,” the statement said. “The FBI conducted the removal by issuing a command through the web shell to the server, which was designed to cause the server to delete only the web shell (identified by its unique file path).”The FBI said it’s attempting to contact owners of servers from which it removed the backdoors by email.Assistant attorney general John C. Demers said the operation “demonstrates the Department’s commitment to disrupt hacking activity using all of our legal tools, not just prosecutions.”The Justice Department also said the operation only removed the backdoors, but did not patch the vulnerabilities exploited by the hackers to begin with or remove any malware left behind.Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department commented by press time.(TC)


'Game-changing' PPE recycling turns masks and gowns into school chairs

Specialist thermal heating machines which convert used PPE into reusable plastic blocks within one hour have been installed inside five NHS hospitals.The equipment, developed in Cardiff, allows hospital waste such as gowns, curtains and single-use masks to be turned into metre-long blocks on site.They are then collected, processed and re-developed into a range of new products including school chairs and toolboxes.Image: Hospital waste such as gowns, curtains and single-use masks waiting to be recycledThe machines have been developed by Cardiff-based company Thermal Compaction Group.Matt Rapson, the firm's environmental director, said: "We are taking what is designated as single-use plastic out of what is a very expensive waste stream for the NHS, reclaiming the plastics and engineering it back into an inert source of polypropylene which is then reused into multiple products."The machines thermally compact polypropylene, a material widely used in plastic PPE.St Woolos Hospital in Newport Wales, Queens Hospital in Burton, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Harrogate Hospital and the Royal Cornwall Hospital are all using the machines.The company says 11 other NHS hospitals are due to receive the equipment, which reduces the physical size of the waste by 85%.Mr Rapson said: "We have a number of trusts now using our machines and specifically to take out the plastics which have become a huge problem in the current pandemic."You take Royal Cornwall Hospital for instance, they're using 10,000 masks a day."The Royal Cornwall was one of the first hospitals to start using the new PPE machine.Roz Davies, the general manager of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust Care Group, said: "We hope this will be a real game changer in the way we tackle single-use PPE, not only for us here in Cornwall but across the UK and beyond."The use of masks has grown extraordinarily this year but now we have the option to recycle them, as well as other items such as theatre wraps and gowns that would previously have been transported out of Cornwall for specialist incineration."Since the pandemic began, tens of thousands of tonnes of PPE waste have been created.In March last year the World Health Organisation called on governments and manufacturers to increase single-use PPE production by 40%.One Facebook survey of 4,500 people carried out by estimates that 53 million single-use facemasks are being used in the UK each day - equivalent to around 55,000 tonnes in the 12 months to March 2021.It's a significant amount of waste - but still a small proportion of the 220-million tonnes of waste the UK produces each year.How close is the government to reaching its vaccination target?Stephen Freeland, a policy advisor at the Environmental Services Association, says although there has been an increase in PPE waste, overall the amount of medical waste has actually fallen due to cancelled routine operations and procedures: "There has been an increase in PPE that we're all well aware of."But the waste management system has coped, it's a very resilient system. We are not talking about huge amounts of volumes of material compared to the overall amount that we're handling as a whole in any given year."Sky News finds out whether climate change is to blame for Cyclone Seroja and we speak to the Italian architect 3-D printing houses out of clay.Sky News has launched the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.Hosted by Anna Jones, The Daily Climate Show will follow Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.The show will also highlight solutions to the crisis and show how small changes can make a big difference.(Skynews)


Businessmore >>

Chinese online platform enterprises pledge to safeguard market order

A group of Chinese internet platforms on Wednesday pledged to operate lawfully and abandon the "pick one out of two" strategy.Baidu,, Sina Weibo, Bytedance, Pinduoduo and Xiaohongshu are among the first 12 companies that made the pledge in letters of commitment.For three straight days starting Wednesday, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) will publish 34 internet platform companies' letters of commitment to fair market competition.China's top authorities for regulation of markets, cyberspace and taxation on Tuesday hauled in 34 of the country's largest internet service providers for a meeting.The meeting, hosted by the SAMR, the China Cyberspace Administration and the China Taxation Administration, pledged to continue to crack down on internet platforms abusing their dominant market positions in a joint meeting.The officials said that China required enterprises operating on internet platforms to respect and obey the rules. They ordered platforms to comprehensively rectify problems within a month and establish a new order of platform economy after Alibaba Group's case.Last week, Alibaba was fined 18.23 billion yuan ($2.78 billion) for indulging in monopolistic behavior as the country upped the ante on its crackdown on monopoly.(CGTN)


APD | CICT-HB Expands Overseas with Acceleration of China's Economic Transformation and Upgrading

After China’s Taiwan and Southeast Asia, the next step of expansion for CICT-HB (Hubei Information Technologies Investment) is Europe. It has its own “blueprint” on overseas business layout.“The size of our fund is 8 billion yuan, with 3 billion yuan of investment. The estimated total investment is 20 billion yuan, and the first phase is 5 billion yuan,” said Zhang Lei, director of the CICT-HB.Headquartered in Wuhan and founded in 2019, this investment company specializes in information, communication, technology and other fields, covering its main businesses including equity investment, merger, acquisition and reorganization, debt investment and other capital-related businesses.With strong competitive advantage in finance, part of which comes from the China Information Communication Technologies Group (CICT), a leading company in China's communication industry, CICT-HB mainly engages in overseas mergers and acquisitions related to CICT's businesses.At present, CICT-HB has branch offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and plans to set up wholly-owned subsidiaries in Singapore and Germany.CICT-HB has members formerly employed by the World Bank, McKinsey, Morgan Stanley and other international organizations, who have led and participated in investment projects totaling more than 30 billion yuan. Their rich resources and connections can facilitate the company to expand globally in R&D, production and marketing.According to Zhang, CICT-HB has invested nearly 3 billion yuan in the Chinese mainland in recent years, mainly in the semiconductor industry. Last year, it invested more than 800 million yuan in a chip company.With its focus shifting to the overseas market, CICT-HB has started to undertake some overseas projects, mainly with semiconductor companies with a scale of between 2 billion yuan and 10 billion yuan.The Southeast Asian market is its first target."Politically speaking, Southeast Asian countries are more friendly to China compared with European countries. Especially under the influence of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s image for them is improving," Zhang explained."Also, the Southeast Asian market already has certain basis. And they have fewer restrictions on Chinese companies, especially in the semiconductor industry," he added.Malaysia is one of Asia's most important semiconductor export markets, only smaller than Chinese mainland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Chinese Taiwan. Singapore's government has adapted its strategy on the semiconductor industry, offering a multi-billion-dollar incentive package to attract foreign investment. Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries also have certain basis in the industry.The Chinese Taiwan market is the second target. "Taiwan's semiconductor industry is relatively mature and its manufacturing share in the world is relatively high." Zhang said.After these two markets, CICT-HB plans to enter Europe, and now schedules to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary in Germany.With the rapid development of globalization, Chinese enterprises are playing increasingly important roles. Hu Qimu, a commentator of Asia Pacific Daily, said that with China's growing economic strength and industrial competitiveness in the global market, the trend of Chinese enterprises going global will inevitably change from goods and labor to capital and technology; from traditional infrastructure and labor-intensive capacity cooperation to new digital infrastructure and technology-intensive capacity cooperation; from product and capital export to international research and development cooperation and global digital governance cooperation.CICT-HB's overseas forays is an vivid example of this trend. Focusing on developing emerging industries with high technology content and added value such as the semiconductor industry, the company is committed to promoting the future development and industrialization process of information, science and technology, and 5G technology, which is in line with the general trend of Chinese enterprises going global, promoting technological upgrading while expanding the market.Hu stressed that in this process, enterprises will face a more complex international business environment, and geopolitical risks will have a more profound impact on transnational operations. Therefore, it is urgent for the government to provide policy support for these enterprises.Firstly, create a desirable host country atmosphere for enterprises to go global through national multilateral economic and trade cooperation mechanisms. Secondly, the tax burden of enterprises should be reduced from two aspects: overseas income and international double taxation. Thirdly, in terms of financing, encourage enterprises to participate in international cooperation on production capacity, resource and energy development, infrastructure construction, and international technology research and development by means of policy-based loans.(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)


chinamore >>

Rescue underway for 21 trapped in flooded coal mine in NW China

Rescuers began drilling holes on Tuesday while accelerating discharging the water of a flooded coal mine in northwest China.Eight people have been rescued and 21 still trapped underground after a coal mine was flooded in Hutubi County of Hui Autonomous Prefecture of Changji, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regionon Saturday.(CGTN)


China's Tencent Cloud launches first data center in Indonesia

Tencent Cloud, the cloud business of Chinese tech giant Tencent,said on Monday that it launched the first internet data center (IDC) in Jakarta of Indonesia, the latest addition to its growing infrastructure network spanning across 27 regions and 61 availability zones.As one of the fastest growing public cloud markets in the Asia Pacific, Indonesia has a compound annual growth rate of 25 percent and is expected to increase its market size to $800 million by 2023, and the new IDC is positioned to fulfill the growing need for cloud services in Indonesia and the Asian-Pacific region.Poshu Yeung, senior vice president of Tencent Cloud International, saidthat "given that Indonesian population structure is younger, it has a huge internet demographic dividend and its mobile internet market is quickly developing." The company also announced its plan to launch a second IDC in Indonesia within one year.Tencent Cloud has beefed up its global push over recent years amid rising overseas demand and fierce competition domestically. The company'soverseas data centers have entered countries such as Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, India, Russia, the U.S., Canada and Germany.According to research firm Canalys,Tencent Cloud had 15 percent of China's cloud market in 2020, afterAlibaba Group and Huawei Cloud which holds 40 percent and 17 percentmarket share in China respectively.This March, Tencent Cloud signed a memorandum of understanding with Bahrain's Economic Development Board to launch an IDC in Bahrain by the end of 2021.In the global cloud computing race, Amazon Web Services' market share in cloud infrastructure market amounted to 31 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, exceeding the combined market share of Microsoft and Google.For the Chinese side, data from Canalys indicated that Alibaba Cloud grew 54 percent in the quarter to account for 6 percent of the world total market.(CGTN)


The Belt and Roadmore >>

Belt and Road Initiative paves way for win-win cooperation between China and Czech

By APD Writer He WeiIn July last year, the first China-EU freight train departed from Prague, captial of Czech,to Yiwu, a city in east China’s Zhejang Province. The new cargo train service marked the official launch of “the Belt and Road Initiative” in Czech. Thanks to joint efforts of both sides, the economic and trade ties between China and Czech Republic is heading for a bright future.During the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May 2017, two months before the opening, China signed the Memorandum of Understanding to Jointly Coordinate and Promote Cooperation and Project Implementation with Czech. According to the memorandum, more efforts will be made to set up a China-Czech Cooperation Center under the Belt and Road initiative, a key project bank and a cooperation platform, integrate domestic and foreign resources, as well as adjoin and implement projects On the sidelines of the The Working Conference of China-Czech Jointly Coordinating and Monitoring Cooperation Plan and Projects under the Framework of the “Belt and Road Initiative”, Liu Jielei, vice chairman of the Czech-China Friendship Association, told the Asia Pacific Daily (APD) that besides geographic advantage, Czech enjoys a sound investment environment because of its stable domestic policies, friendly policy toward China, lower business taxes and labor cost than that of in other European countries.The "Yixin’ou (Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe) cargo train, which began in Yiwu, was hailed as an important bridge linking Asian and European continents and a signficiant achievement in the early stage of the initative by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xu Jie, general manager of Rongsheng Travelling (Czech) Investment Co., Ltd., said because of its important location, they have launched two projects including the Czech-Chinese Technology Business District (CCTBD) project and the South Moravia Chinese Herbal Spa Project in Prague during the past two years, stressing that initial success has been achieved thanks to the initiative.Transalated by Hu Yahui(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)


Work conference held in Yiwu for China, Czech to coordinate their efforts in promoting Belt and Road Initiative cooperation

By APD Writer He Wei The conference, which jointly organized by the western development department of the National Development and Reform Commission and the second foreign policy department of the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade kicked off on June 6, 2018. It is of great significance in implementing the plan for China-Czech cooperation and promoting bilateral communication and cooperation. Both sides took a review on the development of the plan and held a talk over the cooperation prospects on trade, finance, think tank and projects. The priority work of the China and Czech cooperation in the next phase was discussed during the conference.Both sides reached an agreement on enhancing the cooperation on the field of policy coordination, facility connectivity, economic and trade, investment, finance and culture aiming at boosting the economy of both countries and benefiting the people. Almost 100 people from government officials, financial institutions, think tanks  and enterprises of both countries attended the conference.(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)