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A Wary Chinese Dragon and a Reluctant Lebanese Government

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Since China’s historic “Belt and Road” initiative was announced in 2013, several countries in the region, including Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, have raised the question of moving east in order to benefit from this massive initiative, which is expected to break the vicious cycle of crises that these countries have been mired in for decades.

The Chinese initiative aims to connect China to Europe by constructing billions of dollars of infrastructure along the Silk Road. Ports, highways, railroads, and industrial zones are all included in this initiative. More than 120 countries are involved in this massive Chinese project, which aims to increase China’s exports to the world’s major markets.

On December 31, 1955, China and Lebanon signed a trade agreement in order to develop the goodwill between the peoples of Lebanon and China via commercial relations and economic cooperation between their two nations, on the basis of equal and mutually beneficial advantages. China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which aims to connect Asia, Europe, and Africa via land and sea trade routes, is based on the idea that these connections are mutually beneficial to all parties involved.

The initiative is based on open collaboration and does not engage in protectionism; is devoted to mutual benefit and win-win and does not engage in a zero-sum game; moreover it does not interfere with politics. It doesn’t create new laws; instead, abide with international conventions.

Agreements on “joint promotion” were signed by the Chinese government and the Lebanese government in September 2017 to promote cooperation in this area. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, both countries will work together in areas of mutual interest such as transportation and logistics; infrastructure development; investments in renewable energy; and cross-cultural exchange.

Prior to the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding, the two countries signed numerous agreements in various fields, including the Maritime Transport Agreement (1996), the Activation and Protection of Mutual Investments (1997), the Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation Agreements (1997-2016), the Civil Air Transport Agreement (1997), a cultural agreement (2002-2005), and several agreements in this field that resulted on December 2, 2019 in laying the foundation stone for this Memorandum of Understanding.

Despite the growing ties between Lebanon and China, the Lebanese have yet to make a decision on whether to move east, more specifically to China, or keep the strong ties and bonds with western governments, such as the US and France, for political reasons related to the sectarian system, as well as economic and commercial interests of some actors or parties active in these areas.

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When it comes to Lebanon’s relationship with China, some have shifted the focus from economics to politics, either by advocating a complete shift of the country’s economic focus from the United States to China, or by warning about the potential consequences of expanding relations with the Chinese side. In both circumstances, the connection shifts from national interests to ideological advantages. The Arab countries and Lebanon have never had an issue with China, neither in trade, culture, or politics; China has dozens of major projects in many Arab countries without these countries turning to the east or fearing any US encroachment.

China also contributes to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, in addition to its cultural, educational, and artistic agreements with Lebanon. We can see the positive return of the partnership with China in the tremendous progress in technological projects and infrastructure in Egypt, for example; or Algeria’s ports; Morocco’s industrial sector; Kuwait’s oil and communications industries; Saudi Arabia’s oil and communications industries; and the United Arab Emirates’ energy and agriculture industries.

“Sanctions were not threatened against Lebanon because of China’s growing trade ties with Lebanon, which amount to nearly $2 billion a year in exports to Lebanon compared to barely $60 million in industrial exports from Lebanon to China,” the American side said.

China is a powerhouse with the second-largest economy in the world, whereas Lebanon is a small nation with economic difficulties and a big trade imbalance. On the other hand, it is situated in a strategic location that allows it to serve as a gateway between the Middle East and Europe. So, there is the potential for significant economic and commercial entanglements between China and Lebanon, which might be beneficial to both nations.

More than ten billion dollars’ worth of development projects, including cleaning the Litani River and resolving the country’s electricity crisis were offered to Lebanon’s government by China. Other offers included getting China to participate in the oil and gas sector, turning Lebanon into a Chinese regional financial centre, and expanding the port at Tripoli. Because the United States has rejected any involvement for China in Lebanon, the Lebanese side was not enthusiastic about these initiatives.

Chinese ties with the Middle East are based on mutual benefit, common gain, cooperative growth and a win-win situation. China does not attempt to exert influence in the region. On the other hand, China’s new Ambassador to Lebanon, Qian Minjian, notes that Lebanon’s government and political parties have expressed a positive willingness to deepen practical cooperation with China within the Belt and Road Initiative framework; he stresses that the Chinese side always seeks to cooperate with Lebanon within the Belt and Road Initiative, with a commitment to do so.

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Chinese and Lebanese diplomatic relations began in 1971, but commercial ties between the two countries date back to 1955, when the first trade agreement was signed between them, noting that these relations date back more than two thousand years ago.

Those who downplay China’s global economic, technological, and financial influence in contrast to the growing American influence and refuse to support Lebanon’s expansion or deepening of its ties with China on this pretext do not provide clear or logical answers about international expectations that China will hold the top economic position in the world. China’s strategic Belt and Road Initiative will have drawn dozens of countries and thousands of globally successful institutions and companies by 2030, parallel to the success of the United States and its Western allies in preventing this project from launching and progressing despite the campaigns they launched to stop it. As a result, the media and propaganda are likely to disparage it and doubt its merits for the countries participating in it.

Lebanon failed to accept or consider the Chinese offers or projects presented to it. Based on its long and distinguished history of relations with China in the economic, commercial, cultural and technical fields, and in order to avoid repeating Iraq’s failed experience in repudiating a strategic partnership agreement with China under the influence of the US; therefore, the Lebanese government should be more aware in dealing with the Chinese in the future and not miss more opportunities.

When there are objections or reservations about the interests of monopolistic powers and activities or external political demands, especially American ones, this means more political and economic confusion in Lebanon and a waste of a historical opportunity that may not be repeated while Arab or foreign alternatives remain conditioned by suspicious political demands, in addition to its lack of transparency and waving a new colonial era as a matter of economics.

Via MD

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Analysis

Mainland Chinese Forces Launch ‘Blockade’ Drills Around Taiwan: A Show of Force or a Warning?

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Introduction

In a move that has sent ripples across the Taiwan Strait, mainland Chinese forces have begun conducting “blockade” drills around Taiwan, just three days after the inauguration of William Lai Ching-te as the new Taiwanese leader. The drills, which involve the PLA army, navy, air force, and rocket forces, are aimed at testing joint combat capabilities and have been seen as a show of force by Beijing. This development comes on the heels of Lai’s first speech as Taiwanese leader, which was met with fury in Beijing. In this article, we will delve into the details of the drills, the context in which they are taking place, and what they might mean for the future of Taiwan-China relations.

The Drills: A Display of Military Might

The drills, which are scheduled to last for two days, are being conducted in the Taiwan Strait and involve a range of military assets, including warships, fighter jets, and missile systems. The exercises are designed to test the PLA’s ability to blockade Taiwan, a move that would effectively cut off the island from the rest of the world. The drills are being seen as a demonstration of the PLA’s military might and its ability to project power in the region.

The Context: Lai’s Inauguration and Beijing’s Fury

The drills come just three days after William Lai Ching-te was inaugurated as the new leader of Taiwan. Lai, who is known for his pro-independence stance, used his inaugural speech to reiterate his commitment to Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy. The speech was met with fury in Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland. Lai’s speech was seen as a provocation by Beijing, which has long been wary of Taiwan’s moves towards independence.

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Beijing’s Response: A Warning or a Threat?

The drills can be seen as a response to Lai’s speech and a warning to Taiwan not to pursue its independence agenda. Beijing has long used military exercises as a way to signal its displeasure with Taiwan’s actions, and the current drills are no exception. However, the scale and scope of the exercises suggest that Beijing may be going beyond a simple warning and is instead making a more explicit threat.

Implications for Taiwan-China Relations

The drills have significant implications for Taiwan-China relations, which have been tense for decades. The exercises are a reminder of the military imbalance between Taiwan and China, with the PLA boasting a significantly larger and better-equipped military. The drills also underscore the risks of a military conflict between Taiwan and China, which would have far-reaching consequences for the region and the world.

Regional Reactions

The drills have drawn reactions from across the region, with many countries expressing concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China. The United States, which has a long-standing commitment to Taiwan’s defence, has been particularly vocal in its criticism of the drills. Japan and South Korea, both of which have their territorial disputes with China, have also expressed concern about the exercises.

Conclusion

The “blockade” drills conducted by mainland Chinese forces around Taiwan are a significant development in the ongoing tensions between Taiwan and China. While the drills can be seen as a show of force by Beijing, they also underscore the risks of a military conflict between the two sides. As the situation continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how Taiwan and China will navigate their complex and often fraught relationship.

Timeline of Events

  • May 20, 2024: William Lai Ching-te is inaugurated as the new leader of Taiwan.
  • May 20, 2024: Lai delivers his inaugural speech, reiterating his commitment to Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy.
  • May 23, 2024: Mainland Chinese forces begin conducting “blockade” drills around Taiwan.
  • May 23, 2024: The drills draw reactions from across the region, with many countries expressing concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China.
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Key Players

  • William Lai Ching-te: The new leader of Taiwan, known for his pro-independence stance.
  • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA): The military forces of mainland China, which are conducting the “blockade” drills around Taiwan.
  • The United States: A long-standing ally of Taiwan, which has expressed concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China.
  • Japan and South Korea: Countries in the region that have their own territorial disputes with China and have expressed concern about the exercises.

Key Terms

  • Blockade: A military tactic in which a country’s ports or borders are closed off to prevent the movement of goods or people.
  • Joint combat capabilities: The ability of different branches of the military to work together seamlessly in combat situations.
  • PLA army, navy, air force, and rocket forces: The different branches of the People’s Liberation Army, which are participating in the “blockade” drills around Taiwan.

Sources

  • “Mainland Chinese forces start ‘blockade’ drills around Taiwan 3 days after Lai speech.” South China Morning Post, May 23, 2024.
  • “Taiwan’s new leader William Lai vows to defend democracy and sovereignty.” BBC News, May 20, 2024.
  • “China launches military drills around Taiwan in response to new leader’s inauguration.” The Guardian, May 23, 2024.
  • “US expresses concern over China’s military drills near Taiwan.” Reuters, May 23, 2024.
  • “Japan and South Korea express concern over China’s military drills near Taiwan.” Nikkei Asia, May 23, 2024.
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Analysis

Putin Emphasizes the Crucial role of China in Russian Foreign Policy and Trade.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised China’s role in global politics and its close relationship with Moscow, calling it of “premier importance” in Russian foreign policy. In an interview with Xinhua, Putin commended Beijing’s efforts to maintain regional stability and promote peaceful conflict resolution. He also highlighted the “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” between the two countries, which has strengthened significantly in recent years.

The comments come as Putin prepares to visit China for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, where he is expected to discuss trade and economic ties between the two nations. China is Russia’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching a record high of $108 billion in 2018. Both countries have also been working together on major infrastructure projects, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Northern Sea Route.

Putin’s remarks reflect the growing importance of China in Russian foreign policy, as Moscow seeks to strengthen its ties with Beijing amid strained relations with the West. The two countries share a common interest in challenging US global dominance and promoting a multipolar world order.

Putin’s Praise for China’s Peace Efforts

Putin praises China's peace efforts in an interview, emphasizing its importance in Russian foreign policy and trade

Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised China’s peace efforts in an interview with Xinhua, highlighting the country’s “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” with Russia. Putin commended Beijing’s commitment to resolving global issues through peaceful means, citing its role in the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the Syrian conflict.

Putin also emphasized the importance of the partnership between Russia and China in promoting regional and global stability. He noted that the two countries share similar views on many international issues, including the need to strengthen the role of the United Nations in maintaining peace and security.

The Russian leader’s comments come amid growing tensions between China and the United States, as well as concerns over Beijing’s military expansion in the South China Sea. However, Putin’s remarks suggest that Russia sees China as a key partner in its foreign policy objectives, particularly in the areas of trade and economic cooperation.

Overall, Putin’s praise for China’s peace efforts underscores the importance of the strategic partnership between the two countries, and highlights China’s growing influence in global affairs.

Strategic Partnership Between Russia and China

Putin emphasizes China's significance in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised China’s “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” with Moscow, citing the two countries’ close cooperation in both trade and politics. In an interview with Xinhua, Putin commended Beijing’s efforts to promote peace and stability in the region, and emphasised the importance of China in Russian foreign policy.

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Trade Relations

The trade relationship between Russia and China has grown rapidly over the past decade, with bilateral trade reaching $108 billion in 2020. In recent years, the two countries have signed a number of major agreements to deepen economic ties, including a $400 billion deal to supply Russian natural gas to China over 30 years.

Political Alliances

Beyond economic cooperation, Russia and China have also formed close political alliances in recent years. The two countries have worked together to promote a multipolar world order and to counterbalance what they see as US dominance in global affairs. In addition, Russia and China have strengthened their military ties, conducting joint military exercises and signing a number of defence agreements.

Overall, Putin’s comments reflect the growing importance of China in Russian foreign policy. As the two countries continue to deepen their strategic partnership, it is likely that their cooperation will extend to new areas, including technology, energy, and infrastructure.

China’s Role in Russian Foreign Policy

Putin emphasizes China's pivotal role in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

China has become an important partner for Russia in terms of foreign policy and trade. In an interview with Xinhua, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised China’s efforts to maintain peace and stability in the world. Putin also highlighted the “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” between Russia and China, which he believes is a key factor in maintaining global security.

The two countries have been working together on a number of initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The BRI is a massive infrastructure project that aims to connect China with Europe and other parts of Asia through a network of roads, railways, and ports. Russia has been a key partner in this project, with plans to build a high-speed railway between Moscow and Beijing.

In addition to the BRI, Russia and China have also been working closely together in the SCO, which is a regional security organisation that includes other countries such as India, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan. The two countries have been working together to combat terrorism, extremism, and separatism in the region.

Overall, China’s role in Russian foreign policy has become increasingly important in recent years. The two countries share a common vision for a multipolar world, and their partnership has helped to counterbalance the influence of the United States and other Western countries.

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Future Prospects for Sino-Russian Cooperation

Putin emphasizes China's key role in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

As Putin highlighted in his interview with Xinhua, the strategic partnership between China and Russia has reached an unprecedented level. This partnership has been strengthened by the two countries’ shared commitment to promoting peace and stability in the world.

One area where Sino-Russian cooperation is expected to continue growing is in the field of trade. The two countries have set a target of reaching $200 billion in bilateral trade by 2024, up from $108 billion in 2018. To achieve this goal, both sides have been actively promoting investment and trade in key sectors such as energy, agriculture, and technology.

Another area of cooperation is in the field of international affairs. China and Russia have been working closely together to promote multilateralism and uphold the principles of the UN Charter. They have also been coordinating their efforts to address global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation.

In addition, the two countries have been deepening their cultural and people-to-people exchanges. This has been facilitated by initiatives such as the China-Russia Year of Media Exchange and the China-Russia Youth Friendly Exchange Year.

Overall, the future prospects for Sino-Russian cooperation are promising, as both countries continue to deepen their strategic partnership and work together to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the world.

Implications for International Relations

Putin emphasizes China's significance in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

Putin’s praise for China’s peace efforts and strategic partnership with Russia has significant implications for international relations. The strong relationship between the two countries could potentially shift the balance of power in the world, with China’s growing influence being a key factor.

The strategic partnership between Russia and China has already had an impact on the world stage, with the two countries working together on issues such as Syria and North Korea. This partnership could also have an impact on the global economy, with the two countries working to increase trade and investment.

Furthermore, the partnership between Russia and China could have implications for other countries, particularly those in the West. As Russia and China continue to strengthen their relationship, it could lead to a shift in global alliances and a realignment of power.

Overall, Putin’s comments highlight the growing importance of China in Russian foreign policy and trade. As the two countries continue to work together, the implications for international relations could be significant, potentially leading to a shift in the global balance of power.

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Baidu Executive Resigns After Controversial “I’m Not Your Mum” Outburst

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Recently, a senior executive at Baidu, which is China’s most popular search engine, resigned from her position due to a public scandal. The videos that surfaced on social media showed her behaving inappropriately and disrespectfully towards her subordinates, which caused widespread outrage among the public. This incident has triggered a broader discussion about workplace culture and the treatment of employees in China’s tech industry, highlighting the need for better practices and ethical standards.

The executive in question, Wang Zhi, who served as Baidu’s head of public relations, posted several videos on the popular Chinese social media platform Weibo, in which she could be seen reprimanding and mocking her subordinates. In one particularly controversial clip, Wang can be heard saying, “I’m not your mum, so don’t expect me to take care of you like one.”

The videos quickly went viral, with many viewers expressing outrage at Wang’s behavior and the apparent lack of respect she showed towards her employees. The backlash was swift, with many calling for Wang’s resignation and criticizing Baidu for allowing such conduct to occur within the company.

The Resignation and Baidu’s Response

On May 10, 2024, Baidu announced that Wang Zhi had resigned from her position as head of public relations, effective immediately. In a statement released to the media, the company acknowledged the incident and stated that it did not condone the behavior displayed by Wang in the videos.

“Baidu takes this matter very seriously and does not tolerate any form of disrespect or mistreatment of our employees,” the statement read. “We have accepted Ms. Wang’s resignation and will be conducting a thorough review of our internal policies and procedures to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”

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The resignation comes at a time when Baidu, like many other tech companies in China, is facing increased scrutiny over its treatment of employees and workplace culture. In recent years, there have been growing concerns about the long hours, high-pressure environments, and lack of work-life balance that are common in the industry.

The Wider Implications

The Wang Zhi incident has shone a spotlight on these issues and has prompted many to question whether the tech industry in China is doing enough to protect the rights and well-being of its employees. Some have argued that the pressure to perform and the fear of losing one’s job can lead to a culture of fear and intimidation, where employees are afraid to speak up or challenge their superiors.

Others have pointed to the broader societal expectations and cultural norms that may contribute to the problem. In China, there is a strong emphasis on hierarchy and respect for authority, which can make it difficult for employees to challenge their superiors or speak up about mistreatment.

The Need for Change

Despite the challenges, many believe that change is necessary and that the tech industry in China must take steps to address these issues. Some have called for stronger labor laws and better enforcement of existing regulations, while others have argued for a shift in corporate culture and a greater emphasis on employee well-being.

One potential solution that has been proposed is the implementation of more robust employee training and development programs, which could help to foster a more positive and supportive work environment. By investing in their employees and providing them with the tools and resources they need to succeed, companies like Baidu could help to create a more engaged and motivated workforce.

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Another key area that needs to be addressed is the issue of work-life balance. Many tech companies in China have been criticized for their long working hours and lack of flexibility, which can take a toll on employees’ mental and physical health. By implementing policies that prioritize work-life balance and provide employees with more support and resources, companies could help to create a more sustainable and healthy work environment.

Conclusion

The resignation of Wang Zhi from Baidu is a significant event that has shone a light on the broader issues facing the tech industry in China. While the company’s swift action in accepting her resignation and promising to review its policies is a positive step, there is still much work to be done to address the underlying problems.

By prioritizing employee well-being, fostering a more positive and supportive work culture, and implementing policies that promote work-life balance, companies like Baidu can help to create a more sustainable and successful tech industry in China. It is a challenge that will require commitment and collaboration from all stakeholders, but one that is essential for the long-term success and well-being of the industry and its employees.

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