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China Expels 3 Wall Street Journal Reporters After “Sick Man of Asia” Opinion Headline

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  • China announced it will deport three Wall Street Journal reporters after a separate writer for the newspaper published what the Chinese government called a “racist statement.”
  • The article the Chinese government is referring to is titled, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
  • That article, which is largely about the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, calls the Communist Party weak, but also invokes the use of a historical phrase many in China deem to be racist.
  • This is the first time the Chinese government has deported multiple reporters from a single news organization since the era of Mao Zedong.

China Expels Three WSJ Reporters

The Chinese Government is revoking the visas for three Wall Street Journal reporters after the newspaper ran an opinion piece titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”

Denouncing the headline and article as racist, an official with China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the three reporters now have five days to leave the country. 

“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and maliciously attacks China,” he said.

“The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with WSJ and made our solemn position clear,” that official continued. “China demands the WSJ recognize the severity of its mistake, make an official apology and hold the persons involved accountable. Meanwhile, we reserve the right to take further actions.”

This is the first time the Chinese government has deported multiple reporters from a single news organization since Mao Zedong’s rule, though the Communist Party did ban a BuzzFeed reporter in 2018 and a different WSJ reporter in 2019.

However, none of those three reporters who are now being expelled from the country wrote that column. In fact, they didn’t have anything to do with it aside from working at the WSJ. The article was actually written by Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russel Mead.

Why Is the Communist Party Calling the Column Racist?

The article, which is about the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, begins by challenging the might of the coronavirus against Beijing’s influence and power.

“The mighty Chinese juggernaut has been humbled this week, apparently by a species-hopping bat virus,” Mead says in the column. “While Chinese authorities struggle to control the epidemic and restart their economy, a world that has grown accustomed to contemplating China’s inexorable rise was reminded that nothing, not even Beijing’s power, can be taken for granted.”

The article then continues by calling China’s initial response “less than impressive,” insulting Wuhan’s action by calling it “secretive and self-serving.” Mead also says while the national government reacted vigorously, its response has also been seemingly ineffective at stopping the virus.

He adds that “the performance to date has shaken confidence in the Chinese Communist Party at home and abroad.” Mead ends by saying “that China’s power, impressive as it is, remains brittle.”

While the Chinese Government is no stranger to censoring those critical of it, the article’s headline seemed to strike a different cord.

The term “sick man of Asia” began as a different phrase: “sick man of Europe;” however, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “sick man of Asia” was to describe internal conflict within the Chinese government. That conflict then led to a weakened government. Because of that, China was then forced to sign a number of unequal treaties with imperial powers such as Japan, Russia, and Western powers.

To this day, the phrase is particularly hated in China. In fact, in the 1972 film Fist of Fury, a character portrayed by Bruce Lee smashes and rips up a sign carrying the words “sick man of Asia” while in front of a group of Japanese men.

Chinese Citizens Double Down on Racism Claims

Because of the phrase’s historical use, many Chinese people have also echoed criticisms of racism, saying that the term “sick man”  stereotypes them as disease-ridden and unclean.

“…this article will further encourage racism and discriminatory [behavior] towards all Chinese, and possibly all east Asians in the US or outside the country,” one person said in the comments section under Mead’s article.

“Content is not necessarily all wrong but definitely a bit salty – but I get it,” another person said before adding: “However, I must say that the title is quite misleading, if not utterly offensive.” 

The WSJ Stands By Its Opinion Department

In a statement, WSJ publisher William Lewis stressed the division between the News and Opinion departments at the newspaper while also criticizing China’s decision to remove the three reporters from its country. 

“We are deeply disappointed with today’s announcement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expel three Wall Street Journal news reporters,” Lewis said in a statement posted to Twitter. “This opinion piece was published independently from the WSJ newsroom and none of the journalists being expelled had any involvement with it.”

In that statement, Lewis also noted the Opinion Department “regularly” publishes pieces that people both agree and disagree with.

“However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst Chinese people, which we regret,” he added. 

Lewis then ended his statement by asking China’s Foreign Ministry to reinstate the visas for those three reporters. 

Meanwhile, Mead also posting to Twitter, insinuated that he did not write the headline that was ascribed to his article. 

“…a word to my new Chinese followers: at American newspapers, writers typically do NOT write or approve the headlines,” Mead said. “Argue with the writer about the article content, with the editors about the headlines.”

U.S. Labels Major Chinese Media Outlets as Government Operatives

The Chinese Government’s decision to expel the reporters comes one day after U.S. State Department labeled five major Chinese state-run media outlets as government operatives.

Those five outlets include Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and The People’s Daily.

“There is no dispute that all five of these entities are part of the [Chinese] party-state propaganda news apparatus and they take their orders directly from the top,” an unnamed State Department official told reporters.

“We all know these guys have been state-controlled forever, but that control has gotten stronger over time, and it’s far more aggressive,” that reporter added. 

Now, employees of those agencies will be required by the State Department to register as consular staff, though the U.S. has noted that it won’t impede their reporting activities.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (South China Morning Post) (NPR)

International

India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People

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The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.


Bridge Collapses

After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people. 

According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125. 

During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.

“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.

Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government. 

Shifting Blame

In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.

“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.

The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.

“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.

Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters. 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (VICE) (CNN)

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Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals

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Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.


Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies

Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.

Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.

The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.

For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.

An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”

Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.

As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.

Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.

The Arc of History Bends Toward China

Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.

Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.

Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.

At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.

Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.

Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.

Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.

Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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Elon Musk Walks Back Threat to Cut Ukraine’s Starlink Internet Service

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Although the satellites have been invaluable for Ukrainian military operations, outages have left soldiers without communication devices in recent weeks.


Let Them Eat Satellites

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Saturday that his company would continue funding internet service for Ukraine after declaring that he would have no choice but to cut it off the day prior.

“The hell with it,” he tweeted. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the often jocular billionaire was being sarcastic, but in response to another Twitter user he said, “We should still do good deeds.”

SpaceX’s Starlink satellites help the Ukrainian military operate drones, receive intelligence updates and communicate out in the field, which is vital since many regular internet and cellular phone networks have been destroyed by Russia.

At least 20,000 satellite terminals have been donated to Ukraine since the spring, but SpaceX has footed the bill for a small minority of them. According to a letter the company sent to the Pentagon last month, around 85% of the terminals were paid for in part or in full by the United States, Poland, and other entities, who also covered some 30% of the internet connectivity.

SpaceX claimed in the letter that Starlink services for Ukraine would cost over $120 million for the rest of the year and nearly $400 million for the next 12 months.

“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” it said.

The company, therefore, requested that the Pentagon take over funding for the satellite terminals.

Earlier this month, Musk claimed on Twitter that Ukraine’s Starlink services had cost SpaceX $80 million so far.

On Friday, following CNN’s publication of the SpaceX letter, Musk reaffirmed that his company “cannot fund the existing system indefinitely, *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households.”

He added, however, that it was not seeking to recoup past expenses.

On Monday, Politico reported that the Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.

Starlink Leaves Ukraine’s Soldiers Stranded

Ukrainian troops experienced “catastrophic” outages in their Starlink communication devices in recent weeks, according to a Financial Times report earlier this month.

The services reportedly stopped functioning at critical moments, such as when soldiers breached the front lines into Russian-controlled territory or engaged in pitched battles.

“They were acute in the south around the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, but also occurred along the frontline in eastern Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk,” an official told the outlet.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to annex all four regions and held referendums widely considered to be a sham justification for his conquest of the Donbas.

The regions are also the focus of a massive Ukrainian counteroffensive that has sent Russian troops scrambling in recent weeks.

One Starlink donor reportedly believed the outages were a result of SpaceX’s efforts to block Russian forces from misusing Starlink terminals.

As Ukrainian soldiers liberated Russian-occupied territory, the sources said, public announcements of their gains lagged behind, and so did Starlink’s coverage.

Another official told the outlet that connection failures were widespread and led to panicked calls from soldiers to helplines.

Musk responded to the report by tweeting, “As for what’s happening on the battlefield, that’s classified.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (Financial Times)

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