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Coronavirus vs. Social Distancing: A changing paradigm of social interaction

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ISLAMABAD : The large scale global outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has brought about drastic changes in pattern of cultural and social interactions almost in every society as from greetings to meetings a deliberate attempt of ‘social distancing’ is made to halt the spread of virus.

The virus is primarily transmitted through direct contact with infectious person or with droplets of the infected person’s cough or sneeze, or touching the surface that has cough or sneeze droplets. And later on touching mouth or face with the infected hand as the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for several hours.

Therefore, in order to curb the menace of deadly virus, the sudden social change is witnessed in the mode of interaction. The change is somehow a cultural sock in Pakistani society. People are slowly getting adapted with the changing scenario of new social norms of greetings. However, it wouldn’t be possible to break the chain of virus without embracing the fast changing paradigm of social interactions.

As a responsible member of the world community, Pakistan has taken bold and timely steps to impose restrictions on gatherings, social and political activities by locking down the routine works, educational institutions and public transport operations. Thus people have been restricted to their homes to follow precautionary measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread.

The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has been named as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) – ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. The COVID-19 has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its cross-border spread.

The public is time and again sensitized to ensure at least six feet distance while interacting with each other. They are also asked to avoid handshake and hugging during meeting with one another. Only the responsible move of individual members in line with the government instructions can ensure safety of the collective wellbeing of the society.

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The virus which emerged in Wuhan city has later gripped other parts of the country. The Chinese government has locked down the entire city and established various quarantines to accommodate around 12 million people. After getting the situation from bad to worse, the movement of around 60 million people turned stagnant while the city has shown a deserted look.

According to Pakistan’s real-time updates data portal for COVID-19 till filing of the feature, the virus has so for infected 6, 49,024 people and caused deaths to 30,277 people worldwide. Likewise, in Pakistan, so for a total of 1, 495 cases and 12 deaths of coronavirus have been reported: Punjab 557, Sindh 469, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 188, Baluchistan 133, Gilgit-Baltistan 107, Islamabad 39 and AJK 02. The portal has also reported the recovery of 25 coronavirus patients in the country.

Talking to APP, General Surgeon, Nowshera Medical Complex, Dr. Fazal Ghani said, “Extraordinary situations always ask for extraordinary measures, especially when it comes to public health safety.” While urging people to frequently wash hands with soap and avoid contacting with sick people and animals, he said, in the existing social structure and combined family system; one has to be more careful about the precautionary measures.

Dr. Fazal Ghani said that people should avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands while knowledge, attitude and practice can safeguard the masses from infection of coronavirus. “Only strict precautions can help us protect from the spread of virus”, he added.

Sherafsar Khattak, a social worker who formed groups of volunteers in Sawal Dher, Mardan to sensitize public on protective measures against coronavirus said, “It is now a national obligation for each and every Pakistani to strictly adhere the government instructions against the virus.” He said that due to the prevailing situation of coronavirus cases in the country, people have been sensitized enough on social distancing.

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Muhammad Uzair Khan, a college lecturer, said that in the wake of coronavirus, the indoor restricted people have got an opportunity to stay with parents, kids and relatives. He said that social distancing has not been maintained as such due to high level of socialization and social norms of the society.

Islamabad based philanthropist Saud Shah Roghani who distributed thousands of masks among the people has said that after the COVID-19 has become a global issue, the prevailing social custom of greetings had undergone a drastic change. He, however, urged the government to keep on sensitizing the masses on social distancing for breaking the chain of the virus.

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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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