For two days straight, Chinese military officials have been delivering a message of triumph to the public. The exercises with which the People’s Liberation Army is punishing Taiwan for hosting US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi feature “multiple firsts”, they gloated on state television.
“Our firepower covers all of Taiwan, and we can strike wherever we want”, said Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. “We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces”.
The Pelosi visit to Taipei, the first in 25 years by a Speaker of the House, was designed to demonstrate support for the country in the face of what many in the US believe to be a growing threat of a Chinese invasion.… Seguir leyendo »
The UN has called it the world’s first climate-change-induced famine. Madagascar’s government agrees it is a result of the west’s carbon-fuelled lifestyle. A number of scientists and experts disagree, saying it is actually a consequence of poverty and poor governance.
For the people of southern Madagascar, unaware of the international furore, it is known simply as kere — the hunger.
Soanavorie Tognemare, a resourceful 22-year-old who lives with her husband and two toddlers , did everything she could to keep her children alive. “I fed cactus fruit and wild leaves to my children”, she says, holding her two-year-old daughter, Haova, who was at one point diagnosed as being severely malnourished.… Seguir leyendo »
Marlies Jakob was one of dozens of ordinary Germans who took part in a phone-in show on Deutschlandfunk radio last week about sanctions against Russia. Her intervention should alarm policymakers from Paris and Brussels to Berlin.
Jakob said she was prepared to take cold showers and wear three sweaters in winter if that would stop Russia’s war against Ukraine. But, she insisted, “the opposite is true”, adding: “Thanks to sanctions . . . prices are rising and Russia is raking it in as never before”.
She wasn’t the only one to hold that view. A listener called Werner Bauer said people might support punitive measures against Moscow for now, but as soon as higher energy prices start to feed through “the mood will change completely”.… Seguir leyendo »
Has the high price of food passed a peak? Even before the UN-brokered grain deal between Kyiv and Moscow gave the green light last week for shipments to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, food commodity prices had been plummeting. Fears of recession, a bumper harvest in Russia and hopes of revived grain trade flows have pushed prices lower.
But the price declines do not mean the food crisis is over. Analysts say the underlying factors that drove markets higher are unchanged. The ongoing war is only one of a multitude of problems that could sustain higher hunger rates for many years to come.… Seguir leyendo »
As evening draws in across Turkey’s frontier with Syria, the trickle of traffic passing through the Öncüpınar border checkpoint turns into a stream. Through one channel, dusty trucks, their loads long emptied, rumble northwards back into Turkey. Through another, Turkish civil servants and aid workers head home after a day’s labour in the war-devastated neighbouring country.
SUVs ferry weary traffic police and hardy looking bomb disposal experts. Minibuses deliver health workers and teachers who disembark to show their identity documents to immigration officials. Yet more vehicles carry customs and religious affairs officials. Virtually every arm of the Turkish state appears to be present during the commute back from northern Syria into Turkey’s Kilis province — even sports ministry staff.… Seguir leyendo »
The ancient Greeks pioneered a range of innovations to cool their houses during the summer, planting trees to provide natural shade and designing buildings to limit which spaces felt the full blast of the sun’s rays.
Thousands of years later, their descendants are drawing upon the same kind of ideas to cool down the city of Athens. One of Europe’s hottest cities, Athens is a densely built-up urban sprawl that suffers from a deficit of green space. City planners are looking at ways to create more shade, such as widening pavements and planting more trees.
But that creates some modern dilemmas the ancient Greeks did not have to think about.… Seguir leyendo »
The 350m Lotus Tower that looms over the skyline in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo is one of the tallest buildings in South Asia. Funded by a Chinese state bank and designed to look like a giant lotus bud about to burst into flower, it was intended to be a metaphor for the flourishing of Sri Lanka’s economy and the “brilliant future” of the bilateral co-operation between Beijing and Colombo.
Instead, the tower has become a symbol of the mounting problems facing China’s overseas lending scheme, the “Belt and Road Initiative”. The construction suffered from lengthy delays and an allegation of corruption levelled by Sri Lanka’s then-president Maithripala Sirisena against one of the Chinese contractors.… Seguir leyendo »
The last time the European Central Bank raised interest rates in 2011 it was forced to reverse the move within months as the eurozone was plunged into a wrenching debt crisis. The market panic that followed only subsided after Mario Draghi, then head of the ECB, declared it would do “whatever it takes” to save the euro.
Fears of a similar outcome are front of mind for many as current president Christine Lagarde prepares the ECB’s first rate rise in 11 years. The move, to be announced on Thursday, will come alongside a new bond-buying plan that the central bank hopes will prevent rising borrowing costs from sparking another eurozone debt meltdown.… Seguir leyendo »
Hundreds of defence and aerospace executives will this week descend on an airfield in southern England along with ministers, generals, air marshals and hangers-on, to attend the industry’s version of the Glastonbury music festival.
This year, they will meet with a renewed sense of purpose. Until it was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Farnborough International Airshow has been a regular event for more than seven decades. But for the first time in many years, the industry is relishing the prospect of a flood of money coming its way.
The war in Ukraine has prompted European governments to reverse the course of years of shrinking defence spending.… Seguir leyendo »
In a more optimistic era, the overthrow by Sri Lankans of a feckless government they blamed for their country’s economic collapse might have been called a Velvet Revolution. It began last Saturday when tens of thousands descended on the largest city Colombo and poured into public buildings, including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence, amid chants of “Gota, go home”.
The president had fled for his safety, but in scenes reminiscent of many 20th-century regime collapses, the crowds hunkered down in the palace, sitting behind the president’s desk, bathing in his pool, and showering in his bathrooms.
By week’s end Rajapaksa was indeed gone — first on a military jet to the Maldives, then to Singapore, from where he finally tendered his resignation via email.… Seguir leyendo »
Russia has been at war in Ukraine for almost five months but “has not started anything in earnest yet”, President Vladimir Putin said last week just days after his troops seized Lysychansk, the last city in the eastern Luhansk province still under Kyiv’s control.
The capture of the town was an important milestone in Putin’s campaign to take the whole of Ukraine’s Donbas region. It was also a much-needed morale-boosting victory. While some of Moscow’s forces were rewarded with a rest, others were ordered into the next offensive — a three-pronged attack from the north, east and south-east towards the important Donbas cities of Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut.… Seguir leyendo »
The asphalt-covered industrial park on the marshlands between Newark, New Jersey and Manhattan looks like a promising place to grow cracked pavement or broken glass. Yet something more appetising is sprouting inside one of its warehouses: strawberries.
Amid the persistent thrum of air conditioning units and beneath the glow of fluorescent lights, berries of exquisite flavour are on display alongside trays of aromatic leafy greens. They are monitored by an array of machines and laptop-toting technicians clad in white jumpsuits, who occasionally speak of “dialling in” certain “flavour profiles” or “optimising” yield. As a scene of nature being mastered by technology, it is both impressive and a bit unsettling.… Seguir leyendo »
Standing in a landscape of sand and scrub that rolls to the horizon, General Mahamadou Abou Tarka dabs sweat from his forehead and points north to Niger’s frontier with Mali and west to Burkina Faso.
“There’s a vacuum on the other side”, he says, referring to the lawless regions in the countries abutting Niger’s restive Tillabéri region. Across the invisible border, the Malian and Burkinabe states barely function, the general says. Swaths of territory have been overrun by terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
“Mali is a failed state. Burkina is failing”, says Abou Tarka who, as head of Niger’s High Authority for the Consolidation of Peace, advises his civilian government on the fight against a hydra-headed terrorist threat, much of it spilling over hundreds of miles of unpoliced frontier.… Seguir leyendo »
Ethan Buchman, co-founder of blockchain network Cosmos, is doing his best to sound stoic. Since January, the collapse in cryptocurrency prices has wiped 80 per cent off the value of the atom tokens that underpin Cosmos, slicing $10bn from their total worth.
“Some people get shaken out, some people get scared”, Buchman says of the price collapse in the tokens, which are used to secure the network. “But others see it as an opportunity to double down on what they believe in”.
“It is always a scary moment for everybody [when markets crash]”, adds Joseph Lau, co-founder of another blockchain company, Alchemy.… Seguir leyendo »
In the summer of 1998, the Japanese currency slid to its lowest level against the dollar since the calamitous burst of the economic bubble seven years earlier. A senior finance ministry official, Haruhiko Kuroda, cautioned that an excessive fall in the yen was negative for the Japanese economy.
Nearly one-quarter of a century later, Kuroda is the governor of the Bank of Japan and sounding a familiar refrain as the yen continues its descent through a 24-year low, again breaking the level of ¥137 against the dollar and leaving traders uncertain when the slide will stop.
“The recent rapid acceleration of the yen’s decline is not desirable”, Kuroda said last month, following discussions with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.… Seguir leyendo »
For US president Joe Biden, it was “historic”. France’s Emmanuel Macron hailed it as “unprecedented for Europe since the second world war”.
“The most important conclusion that Vladimir Putin needs to draw from what’s happened the last few days here in Nato and previously in the G7 is that we are totally united”, said Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister.
The hugs, handshakes and bonhomie this week at Nato’s annual summit in Madrid and a G7 meeting in Germany represented a new high-water mark of western unity against Russia in response to the war in Ukraine — the apogee of an alliance rejuvenated by conflict on its borders.… Seguir leyendo »
As he battled to save his job this month, Boris Johnson warned his MPs not to get into “some hellish, Groundhog Day debate about the merits of belonging to the single market”. Brexit, he warned his mutinous party in a sweaty House of Commons meeting room, was settled.
Later that day, Johnson limped to victory in a confidence vote, but only after 41 per cent of his MPs had voted to oust him from Downing Street. He is safe for now but the defining project of his premiership — Brexit — still hangs like a cloud over Britain’s fragile economy.
Johnson may not want his party “relitigating” Brexit but neither does Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour party, around a third of whose supporters voted Leave in the 2016 referendum.… Seguir leyendo »
The world’s most-watched central banks are finally stamping down on a surge in inflation. But this week it became clear that they know this comes at a cost.
From the UK, where the Bank of England raised interest rates for the fifth time in as many meetings, to Switzerland, which bumped up rates for the first time since 2007, policymakers in almost every major economy are turning off the stimulus taps, spooked by inflation that many initially dismissed as fleeting.
But for the big two in particular — the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank — the prospect of sharply higher rates brings awkward trade-offs.… Seguir leyendo »
For almost three decades, the World Trade Organization has been lowering barriers to trade and smoothing the path of globalisation. Yet its ministerial meeting in Geneva this week could result in something that would do the opposite: new tariffs.
As the summit begins, trade ministers from the WTO’s 164 members have yet to agree whether to continue a 25-year-old moratorium on customs duties for ecommerce.
If India, South Africa and Indonesia continue their opposition it will expire at the end of the meeting on Wednesday, permitting countries to impose charges on messaging apps, video calls and data flows.
If an organisation whose purpose is to make global trade easier allows a new protectionist measure, says Jane Drake-Brockman of representative group the Australian Services Roundtable, “the WTO will have lost the plot”.… Seguir leyendo »
When Joe Biden pledged last month to intervene militarily if China were ever to attack Taiwan, his comment was met with a harsh response from Beijing.
“If the US continues to go down the wrong path”, a foreign ministry spokesperson said, “the US will have to pay an unbearable price”.
The phrase was widely read as a warning about war. The same day, China and Russia flew a joint nuclear bomber exercise near Japan.
The exchange was the latest in a spiral of martial messaging between the US and China. It was also a reflection of the mounting fears in Washington, Taipei and among US allies that Beijing could try to annex Taiwan in the next few years.… Seguir leyendo »