Biden calls Xi as US-China relationship grows more fraught

US President Joe Biden (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (AP/Shutterstock)
US President Joe Biden (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (AP/Shutterstock)
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Updated 10 September 2021

Biden calls Xi as US-China relationship grows more fraught

Biden calls Xi as US-China relationship grows more fraught
  • The White House is hopeful the two sides can work together on issues of mutual concern despite growing differences

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden spoke with China’s Xi Jinping on Thursday amid growing frustration on the American side that high-level engagement between the two leaders’ top advisers has been largely unfruitful in the early going of the Biden presidency.
Biden initiated the call with Xi, the second between the two leaders since Biden took office. It comes at a moment when there is no shortage of thorny issues between the two nations, including cybersecurity breaches originating from China, Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and what the White House has labeled as “coercive and unfair” trade practices by the Chinese.
But Biden’s aim with his call was less focused on any of those hot-button issues and instead centered on discussing the way ahead for the US-China relationship after it got off to a decidedly rocky start in his tenure.
The White House said in a statement the “two leaders had a broad, strategic discussion in which they discussed areas where our interests converge, and areas where our interests, values, and perspectives diverge.”
The White House is hopeful the two sides can work together on issues of mutual concern — including climate change and preventing a nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula — despite growing differences.
Beijing, however, has pushed back against US pressure and increasingly has suggested it could remain broadly uncooperative until Biden dials down criticism on what it deems Chinese internal matters.
Nearly eight months into his presidency, Biden and his aides’ efforts to call out China on a litany of concerns while trying to find common ground on other matters has proven a fraught strategy.
Ahead of the call, a senior administration official said the White House has been unsatisfied with early engagements with the Chinese.
The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said White House officials were hopeful that Xi hearing directly from Biden could prove beneficial.
The White House official said Biden made clear to Xi that he had no intention of moving away from his administration’s policy of pressing China on human rights, trade and other areas where it believes China is acting outside international norms.
High-level engagement in the early going has been most notable for each side blasting the other with recriminations.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned Biden climate envoy John Kerry that deteriorating US-China relations could undermine cooperation on climate change. Wang told Kerry, who was visiting Tianjin for climate talks with his Chinese counterparts, by video link that such cooperation cannot be separated from the broader relationship and called on the US to take steps to improve ties, according to the Foreign Ministry.
In July, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman faced a long list of demands and complaints, including accusations that the US was trying to contain and suppress China’s development. Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng urged the US “to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy.”
In March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan had heated exchanges with Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi when they met with top Chinese officials in Anchorage. At that meeting, Yang accused the US of failing to deal with its own human rights problems and took issue with what he said was American hypocrisy.
Biden from the start of his presidency has sought to put greater focus on China, rallying allies to speak in a more unified voice about Beijing’s human rights record, its trade practices and its military’s increasingly assertive behavior that has unnerved US allies in the Pacific. He sees Beijing as the most significant economic competitor to the United States and a growing national security concern.
But the president has also expressed hope that his long-running working relationship with Xi, one that dates back to when he served as Barack Obama’s vice president, could pay dividends in the two nations cooperating on certain critical issues.
The White House said the leaders during the call agreed to engage “openly and straightforwardly” on issues where the nations are at odds and where there is agreement.


Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back

Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back
Updated 6 sec ago

Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back

Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back
  • Theaters opened to half capacity, following the guidelines released last month
  • Mumbai city has been one of the country’s worst-affected by the pandemic
MUMBAI, India: Movie theaters in India’s entertainment capital Mumbai reopened on Friday after more than 18 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the last of the many virus restrictions to go amid a decline in infections.
Theaters opened to half capacity, following the guidelines released last month, but struggled to lure the public back and mostly re-released earlier hits. Many shows were running with fewer audiences, movie ticketing portal BookMyShow showed.
To minimize the danger of the virus, only those with COVID-19 vaccination certificates or with a “safe status” on the state-run health app will be allowed to enter the theaters. Masks and temperature checks are mandatory and no food or beverages will be allowed inside.
Theaters elsewhere in the country are already running shows.
Mumbai city has been one of the country’s worst-affected by the pandemic but has gradually reopened following a decline in both COVID-19 cases and deaths. Cinemas there, however, are among the last public places to reopen — a hugely symbolic move in the country’s financial capital also known for its Bollywood film industry.
Every year, the $2.8 billion industry produces more than 2,000 films. Bollywood’s success over the years has embedded moviegoing into India’s contemporary culture and been a boon for the economy.
The restrictions imposed on movie theaters to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have hurt operators. But the industry is expected to rebound. Indian filmmakers have lined up major big-ticket releases ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, when sales peak and audiences flock to theaters.
The return to cinemas in Mumbai comes a day after India celebrated its one billionth COVID-19 vaccine dose. About half of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people have received at least one dose while around 20 percent are fully immunized, according to Our World in Data.
India witnessed a crushing coronavirus surge earlier this year but life has swung back to normal. Markets buzz with activity, foreign tourists are allowed again and the country is gearing up to celebrate Diwali.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said India’s vaccine drive is an example of what it can achieve if the citizens and the government come together with a common goal. He said the milestone has silenced India’s critics.
“Injecting 1 billion doses is not a mere figure but a reflection of the country’s determination. India has scripted a new chapter in its history. The world will now take India more seriously after this landmark,” Modi said in a speech that was televised live across the country.
Modi also exhorted people to buy Indian-made goods to boost the economy, which is expected to gain from the festival season purchases.
“There are some among us who only trust foreign brands even for everyday necessities. The success of Made in India vaccines is a paradigm shift,” he said.

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack
Updated 22 October 2021

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack
  • The attackers shot dead some victims and stabbed others with knives

BALUKHALI, Bangladesh: Attackers killed at least seven people in an assault Friday on an Islamic seminary in a Rohingya refugee camp on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, police said.
The attackers shot dead some victims and stabbed others with knives, a regional police chief told AFP. The killings came amid mounting tensions after a Rohingya community leader was shot dead outside his office in the camps three weeks ago.


4 killed in Washington state shooting

4 killed in Washington state shooting
Updated 22 October 2021

4 killed in Washington state shooting

4 killed in Washington state shooting

TACOMA, Washington: Four people were killed in a shooting in Tacoma on Thursday afternoon, police said.
The Tacoma Police Department said on Twitter at about 5:30 p.m. that two females and one male had died at the scene and that a male was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.
At about 6:30 p.m., police said on Twitter that the person taken to a hospital had died from his injuries. The victims appeared to be adults, police told The News Tribune.
Police said the shooting happened on the 4200 block of Everett Street, near the city’s Eastside neighborhood.
Police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow told the newspaper that the shootings happened in an alley behind a residence and that at least one victim was found in the street in front of the residence.
Police called it an active scene and asked people to stay away from the area. Detectives and crime scene technicians were at the scene.
No further information was immediately available.


Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins

Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins
Updated 22 October 2021

Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins

Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins
  • At least 30 health workers were treated for gunshot injuries, the nurses’ union said
  • At least 30 people have died since June in some of the worst unrest in the southern African country’s history

MANZINI, Eswatini: Africa’s last absolute monarchy Eswatini on Thursday banned protests as regional mediators landed in the kingdom amid rumbling pro-democracy demonstrations.
A demonstrator died in hospital on Thursday from gunshot wounds suffered the day before when security forces opened fire on a protest, according to unions.
At least 30 health workers were treated for gunshot injuries, the nurses’ union said.
Railways workers led new protests on Thursday in the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland.
“Due to the spate of violent cases during protests, I have stopped all city and town municipals from issuing permits to hold protests,” Public Works Minister Prince Simelane told a news conference.
Internet access was limited, with Facebook completely shut off for a second day.
“Images that are coming from Eswatini are very disturbing indeed, and we can see that the political temperature is very hot,” Jeff Radebe, head of the mediators sent to the country by the 16-nation Southern African Development Community, told South Africa’s public broadcaster.
The Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union said in a statement that nurses and other workers who had converged on a public park in Mbabane, “were met with unprecedented show of force by the police and the army.”
“They were brutally dispersed and scattered all over the capital. As they were running, they were shot with live ammunition.”
The 30 injured were among more than 80 reported hurt on Wednesday in pro-democracy protests that have flared nationwide.
Radebe said the kingdom’s “issues are very complex,” and the team was “going there with an open mind, ensuring that we hear all views, so that at the end of the day the people of Eswatini... come up with a lasting solution.”
The latest flare-up in demonstrations has run for more than two weeks, spearheaded by students, civil servants and transport workers.
King Mswati III is Africa’s last absolute monarch, who enjoys flaunting his wealth and showering his 15 wives with lavish gifts.
Yet he rules over one of the poorest countries in the world, where nearly two-thirds of the population lives in poverty and a quarter of adults have HIV.

In a statement, the Communist Party of Swaziland said the situation at the largest government hospital in Mbabane on Wednesday resembled a “war zone.”
Hospital floors were “drenched in blood,” said the party, adding that police “invaded the hospital, shooting even nurses as they attended to the injured, worsening the situation.”
The nurse’s union said security forces kept shooting at nurses into the evening, even as they were traveling to work night shifts at hospitals.
“Clearly these blood-thirsty imbeciles, brood of vipers are hell-bent to kill nurses and the nation in defense of an ailing government,” the union said, calling on members not to treat any injured soldiers or police.
Five high-school students arrested during protests were arraigned on terrorism charges on Thursday for their role in the democracy push. Prosecutors accused them of burning down a police post.
At least 30 people have died since June in some of the worst unrest in the southern African country’s history.
 


Biden says US would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked

Biden says US would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked
Updated 22 October 2021

Biden says US would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked

Biden says US would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked

BALTIMORE, Maryland: US President Joe Biden said on Thursday the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense and had a commitment to defend the island China claims as its own territory.
“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall when asked if the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense.
Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world,“
“What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.
Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding that China will be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory, which should be taken by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.