China says no ‘backroom deals’ in new Silk Road initiative

Above, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on March 5. Xi pledged $124 billion for the Belt and Road initiative at a summit last May. (Reuters)
Updated 08 March 2018
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China says no ‘backroom deals’ in new Silk Road initiative

BEIJING: China’s huge Belt and Road initiative to build a new Silk Road will respect global rules and be free of “backroom deals,” the foreign minister said on Thursday, defending a key policy of President Xi Jinping’s.
Unveiled in 2013, the Belt and Road project is aimed at connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
Xi pledged $124 billion for the plan at a summit last May but it has faced suspicion in Western capitals that it is intended more to assert Chinese influence than Beijing’s professed desire to spread prosperity and that it will mostly benefit Chinese companies.
Visiting China in January, French President Emmanuel Macron said Belt and Road could not be “one-way.”
Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Belt and Road was a “sunshine initiative” that was open and for all to benefit from.
“Everything will operate in the sunshine,” Wang said. “There is no domination by one party; everyone participates equally. There are no backroom deals; there is openness and transparency. There is no winner-takes-all; only seeking win-win mutual benefit.”
Wang pointed to what he said were several already very successful Belt and Road-linked projects, including building power plants in Pakistan and China’s operation of Greece’s largest port at Piraeus.
“China and France have joined hands to build a nuclear power station in Britain, becoming a model for cooperation in new high-tech projects for the Belt and Road,” he said, referring to the Hinkley Point scheme, which British Prime Minister Theresa May initially put on hold when she came to office in 2016.
Wang said China was committed to best international practice.
“Belt and Road is a global public good, and of course respects international rules. It is a global platform for cooperation, and naturally will run according to market rules,” he added.
“It won’t only benefit China. Even more, it will bring benefit to the world.”


South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

Updated 47 min 15 sec ago
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South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

  • The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule

NAIROBI: South Sudan will vaccinate key health workers against Ebola close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, which faces a new epidemic, the World Health Organization said Monday.
The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule, the UN agency said in a statement.
South Sudan is one of several countries bordering the vast DRC, where the new outbreak of the highly contagious viral disease had since August claimed 271 lives by December 6, according to Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga.
A total of 2,160 doses of the experimental vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV have been allocated to South Sudan for a program starting on December 19. This trial vaccine is not yet licensed but is considered safe and provided “under the compassionate-use guidelines in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC,” the WHO said.
Like neighboring Uganda, where similar measures have been taken for health personnel, South Sudan has declared a state of alert because of the risk that Ebola may be carried into its territory. At present, no cases have been reported, according the WHO.
The experimental vaccine first went on trial during the terrible epidemic of Ebola that ravaged parts of West Africa between the end of 2013 and 2016, at a cost of more than 11,300 lives. The disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids from other people or infected animals.
The vaccine was created by Canadian public health specialists at the National Microbiology Laboratory and is considered highly effective by the WHO, but it works only against the Ebola virus-Zaire strain, confirmed in the outbreak in the DRC.
South Sudan has been torn by civil war for five years in a conflict that has left nearly 400,000 dead. More than four million people — about a third of the population — have fled.
The main belligerents signed a peace accord in September, but the work of humanitarian organizations remains complicated and dangerous.
Participants in the vaccination program have been trained on rVSV-ZEBOV and undertaken a simulation exercise. Meanwhile, the Ebola preparedness contingency plan covers measures ranging from screening travelers, community engagement and provision for safe and dignified funerals, the WHO said.