France signs deals with China but warns against ‘pillaging’

Chinese President Xi Jinping, second right, shakes hands with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, third left, and other members of the French delegation, as French President Emmanuel Macron, third right, looks on at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 09 January 2018
0

France signs deals with China but warns against ‘pillaging’

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron oversaw the signing Tuesday of business deals worth billions of dollars, seeking better trade ties even as France’s finance minister boasted of rejecting those investments he likened to “pillaging.”
The two sides signed deals in the nuclear, aviation and other key sectors on the second day of Macron’s first state visit to China.
Macron, who has positioned himself as the leading voice of the European Union, came to Beijing to discuss an ambitious agenda with Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades.
“We are at a crucial point in the world,” Macron said alongside Xi after overseeing the signing ceremony, pointing to the common challenges presented by climate change and terrorism.
Xi said the two countries would “work hand-in-hand” and hold more high-level talks on trade. He also welcomed Macron’s endorsement of his cherished One Belt, One Road project, a $1 trillion revival of ancient Silk Road land and sea trading routes.
The deals included a memorandum of understanding for French energy giant Areva and Chinese counterpart CNNC to build a €10 billion ($12 billion) nuclear spent fuel reprocessing plant in China.
European aerospace giant Airbus announced an agreement with Chinese partners to increase production of its A320 jet in Tianjin to six aircraft per month.
Chinese online retailer JD.com announced plans to sell French goods worth €2 billion ($2.4 billion) to Chinese consumers over the next two years, including high-end wine and cognac.
China also agreed to lift a 16-year-old embargo on French beef within six months, Macron said.
Macron, accompanied by some 50 French business leaders, has laid on the charm during his visit, giving Xi a horse from the Republican Guard as a gift. He also delighted Chinese social media users by releasing a video of him learning to say his climate slogan — “Make the planet great again” — in Mandarin.
But France, which runs a €30 billion ($36 billion) deficit with China, wants to “rebalance” its trade relationship with Beijing and, like other European nations, has demanded reciprocal access to the huge Chinese market.
US and European firms also complain about being forced to hand over intellectual property secrets in order to gain market access.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who traveled with Macron, told reporters he has rejected “many” Chinese projects in France.
“We accept long-term investments, not pillaging investments,” Le Maire said.
In a keynote speech on Monday, Macron urged the EU to take part in Xi’s Silk Road initiative, though he warned that it should not create a “new hegemony” for Beijing.
Xi, who had already hosted Macron and his wife Brigitte for dinner on Monday night, treated the French leader to a military honor guard at the Great Hall of the People before their meeting.
It is the first state visit by a European leader since China’s Communist Party congress in October, which further strengthened Xi’s grip on power. He was formally handed a second term and his name was enshrined in the party’s constitution.
Beijing has praised Macron’s decision to choose China for his first state visit to an Asian nation. US President Donald Trump visited the Chinese capital in November and was given a lavish welcome.
Earlier, Macron and his wife were accompanied by students from the French international school and a French historian as they strolled through the red-walled palaces of former Chinese emperors at the Forbidden City.


Guantanamo prison takes on geriatric airs

Updated 13 min 17 sec ago
0

Guantanamo prison takes on geriatric airs

  • The population still imprisoned at the military base in Cuba range from middle-aged to elderly
  • With a budget of $12 million, a prison annex has been transformed into a public hospital, complete with modern equipment

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba: The controversial Guantanamo Bay prison still houses 40 aging inmates — and with no plans to close it, many of them will probably remain there until they die.
The population still imprisoned at the military base in Cuba range from middle-aged to elderly — the oldest inmate is 71 — so the prison with a history of torture has taken on some airs of a geriatric facility.
The US Army — directed to ensure Guantanamo can stay open at least another 25 years — has revamped parts of the institution home to terror suspects to include a dedicated medical center and operating rooms.
“There has been a lot of thought put into what preparing for an aging detainee population looks like and what infrastructure we need to have in place to do that safely and humanely,” said Anne Leanos, the public affairs director for Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
With a budget of $12 million, a prison annex has been transformed into a public hospital, complete with a radiology room equipped with an MRI scanner, as well as an emergency room and three-bed intensive care unit.
During a journalist visit to the new clinic, a walker sits in the corner of a room, which has a hospital bed, wheelchair and medical equipment akin to any other infirmary.
But there is no window, and wire mesh serves as a partition, recalling that this is still very much a detention center.
Congress will not allow sick prisoners to travel to the United States for treatment: Guantanamo inmates are considered highly dangerous by the government, which accuses them of participating in various attacks including those of September 11.
No prisoner needs a wheelchair yet — but if the need arises, the clinic is prepared with ramps.
Patients suffer from ailments common for their age: diabetes, hypertension, gastrointestinal diseases and motor disorders.
The second-floor psychiatric ward is equipped with two cells converted into consultation rooms.
A third, completely empty cell is padded and serves as the isolation room for prisoners experiencing psychotic episodes.
Like any staff deployed to Guantanamo, prison psychiatrists usually stay just nine to 12 months on site, limiting the scope of their interaction with prisoners.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visits Guantanamo about four times a year to make sure the prison is complying with detention standards and to assess detainees’ treatment.
Since the infamous detention center opened in 2002, nine inmates have died: seven committed suicide, according to the military, while one died of cancer and another had a heart attack.
The largest contingent — 26 inmates — at the military complex have never been charged with anything, but are considered too dangerous to be released.
One “highly compliant” inmate was on a “non-religious fast,” at the moment of the visit — a euphemism used at the prison to describe hunger strikes prisoners regularly observe in protest.
Acts of rebellion are fairly common — and base commander Admiral John Ring said one inmate was currently under disciplinary action.
“These are the ones that could not be released,” said Ring. “Many of these gentlemen are still at war with the United States.
“Any act of resistance, no matter how small — they are still fighting the war through these minor acts of resistance.”