Huge trade partner and ‘systemic rival.’ Europe has a China problem

But a souring relationship with an increasingly unpredictable Beijing, regret about the price Europe has paid for getting too close to Russia, and rising geopolitical tension has some EU officials considering whether the bloc should start to reduce its exposure.

A lot has happened since the last time an EU president — appointed by the leaders of the 27 EU member states — met with Xi in person four years ago.

The Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and tit-for-tat sanctions between China and EU lawmakers have strained relations since. The United States, which imposed controls on exports of semiconductors to China in October, is reportedly exerting pressure on Europe to adopt a similarly hard line.

Michel’s spokesperson, Barend Leyts, said in a statement last week that Michel’s visit provides a “timely opportunity” for Europe and China to engage on matters of “common interest.” He did not specify which subjects would be discussed.

But some within Europe are growing wary of close relations with China. The bloc has been badly burned this year by its historic reliance on Russia as its main energy supplier, and diversification has shot up the political agenda.

The receiving station for the now-defunct Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline stands at twilight on February 02, 2022 near Lubmin, Germany. Nord Stream 2, which is owned by Russian energy company Gazprom, was due to transport Russian natural gas from Russia to Germany before Berlin halted the project's certification in February after Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Those concerns bubbled up last month when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz flew to Beijing with a delegation of top business leaders to meet Xi, a move intended to shore up Germany’s second biggest export market after the US.

The bloc is in a similar bind.

“Any problems you have from a political and strategic level [between the EU and China], they tend to spill over to the economic level,” Ricardo Borges de Castro, associate director at the European Policy Centre, told CNN Business.

‘Too big to fail’

Both sides have a lot invested in their partnership. The total value of the goods trade between China and Europe hit €696 billion ($732 billion) last year, up by nearly a quarter from 2019.

China was the third largest destination for EU goods exports, accounting for 10% of the total, according to Eurostat data. China is Europe’s biggest source of imports, accounting for 22% in 2021.

“The European market’s importance as a destination for Chinese exports is around double that of the Chinese market for Europeans,” Jörg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China (ECCC) wrote in a September report.

Overall, the relationship is simply “too big to fail,” according to Borges de Castro. Europe is not seeking to decouple from the lucrative Chinese market, he added.

“I don’t see [the EU’s strategy] as a decoupling strategy. I think the EU strategy, for the moment, is a diversification strategy… the lesson [from Russia] is that you cannot have a single provider,” he said.

Machinery, vehicles, chemicals, and other manufactured goods account for the vast bulk of goods traded between the two powers, according to Eurostat.

“European companies have done extremely well here and the overall long term outlook is very positive,” ECCC Secretary General Adam Dunnett told CNN Business, adding that he expects European company revenues to keep growing in China over the next decade.

There are areas where Europe is dependent on Beijing, namely for the supply of rare earth metals required to make hybrid and electric vehicles, and wind turbines. Europe’s solar panels are also mostly manufactured in China.

But those dependencies shouldn’t be exaggerated, Dunnett said.

“When you look at some of the broader things that China exports to the EU such as furniture and consumer goods, a lot of those things you can get elsewhere,” he said.

The US-China chip war is spilling over to Europe
Even so, the United States may exert more pressure on Europe to pull away from China, Borges de Castro noted. In early October, Washington banned Chinese firms from buying its advanced chips and chip-making equipment without a license.
Benjamin Loh, the head of Dutch chipmaker ASM International, told the Financial Times on Wednesday that the US was “putting a lot of pressure” on the Dutch government to take a similarly tough stance.
The pressure may already be beginning to show. Germany last month blocked the sale of one of its chip factories to a Chinese-owned tech company because of security concerns.

‘Systemic rival’

Economic ties between Brussels and Beijing, though mutually beneficial, have frayed in other ways in recent years.

Last year, Chinese direct investment into the European Union dropped to its second lowest level since 2013, only behind 2020, according to analysis by the Rhodium Group, a research firm. It has fallen almost 78% since 2016.

“The level of Chinese investment in Europe is now at a decade low,” Agatha Kratz, director at Rhodium Group, told CNN Business, citing Beijing’s strict capital controls and greater scrutiny by EU regulators.

EU investment into China has also become more concentrated. Between 2018 and 2021, the top 10 European investors in China, including those from the United Kingdom, made up almost 80% of the continent’s total investment in the country, Rhodium Group data shows.

And just four German companies — automakers Volkswagen (VLKAF), BMW, and Daimler (DDAIF), and chemicals giant BASF (BASFY) — made up more than one third of all European investment in those four years.
An investment deal between Beijing and Brussels was shelved last year after EU lawmakers slapped sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses, prompting China to retaliate with its own penalties.
The deal, agreed in principle in 2020 after years of talks, was designed to level the playing field for European companies operating in China, who have long complained that Beijing’s subsidies have put them at a disadvantage.

EU diplomats said in April that a “growing number of irritants” were hurting relations, including China’s tacit acceptance of Russia’s war in Ukraine. They have described China as “a partner for cooperation and negotiation, an economic competitor and a systemic rival.”

‘Covid carousel’

The most pressing issue for European businesses in China, according to Dunnett, is its stringent zero-Covid policy.

“For the last year, it’s been the Covid carousel, [the] Covid rollercoaster,” he said. “Every time you think [it was] about to open up, something pulls us back,” he added.

Over the weekend, thousands of protestors took to streets across China in a rare series of demonstrations against the country’s strict Covid controls. Some restrictions have since been lifted in Shanghai and other major cities.

Beijing’s uncompromising approach is helping to further dampen foreign investment in the country, especially among smaller companies, Raffaello Pantucci, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a security research group, told CNN Business.

“The general business environment in China is perceived as becoming harder to navigate, and while companies still feel they have to engage given its size and potential, increasingly small to medium sized companies are giving up,” he said.

Laura He contributed reporting.

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Landslide leaves at least two dead and dozens missing in Brazil



CNN
 — 

A landslide in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná killed at least two people and left dozens missing on Wednesday, according to officials.

A landslide, which followed heavy rainfall, affected Brazil’s BR-376 highway, CNNE reports. Authorities believe mud buried six trailers, and up to 15 vehicles on the highway, as it tumbled on a 200 meter (656 foot) stretch of the road.

A fire department representative told local media that they estimate that between 30 and 50 people could be missing.

The representative added that military police, firefighters, civil defense teams and rescue dogs are assisting with rescue efforts and the cleaning of embankments.

An aerial view shows a landslide on the BR-376 highway after heavy rains in Parana state, Brazil.

The heavy rains also caused flooding and flash floods in other coastal municipalities.

There are 680 people and more than 500 houses affected, some of them destroyed, according to the official balance.

According to Reuters, landslides blocked access to Paranagua, a major port for grains and sugar shipments.

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Why Saudi Arabia is hosting one of the world’s biggest raves

Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in the Middle East newsletter, a three-times-a-week look inside the region’s biggest stories. Sign up here.


Abu Dhabi, UAE
CNN
 — 

Electronic music, strobe lights, glittered faces and hundreds of thousands of people in mixed-gender gyrations are all part of a new kind of ritual in Saudi Arabia that didn’t exist just three years ago.

The kingdom’s Soundstorm music festival, which began in 2019, is back again for its fourth year and will start on Thursday.

In just five years since Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on musical events, the kingdom’s concert scene has arguably outshined even that of Dubai, long seen as the Gulf region’s premier entertainment hub.

The country that has been better known as the birthplace of Islam than a rave capital has gone through a tremendous makeover since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS) took control of the everyday running of the kingdom in 2017. Soundstorm is an eye-catching symbol of that change.

For three days every winter, hundreds of thousands of people from across Saudi Arabia and the region descend on a desert site outside the capital Riyadh to listen to some of the top Western and Arab acts .

The rave is a manifestation of the ethos behind Saudi Arabia’s socioeconomic transformation, according to Anna Jacobs, a senior analyst at the Crisis Group think tank. “(It) is a particularly powerful example because it seeks to bring together young people and women from across Saudi Arabia and the world,” she said.

David Guetta, Post Malone and Bruno Mars are just a few of the stars performing at this year’s event, which prides itself as being “the loudest festival in the region,” aiming to “amplify the unseen” as it supports local and international music in the Middle East. Tickets cost between 149 riyals (around $40) for a single day and 6,699 riyals (around $1,800 ) for a three-day VIP treatment.

The festival reportedly welcomed 730,000 partygoers last year. By contrast, Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival, considered North America’s biggest dance music festival, had an attendance of over 400,000 this year.

An event like Soundstorm was inconceivable in the country just six years ago, when the notorious religious police would roam the streets and censure Saudis for mixing with the opposite sex or flouting social norms. But it is now part of a liberalization initiative spearheaded by MBS, the kingdom’s de facto ruler. It accompanies a series of steps to relax social rules, including lifting the ban on women’s driving and reining in the religious police.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia established the General Entertainment Authority in tandem with Vision 2030 – the crown prince’s plan to diversify its economy beyond oil, which accounts for more than half of the government’s revenue. Among its goals was to almost double household spending on cultural and entertainment activities within the kingdom. Riyadh is now seeing more than $64 billion in entertainment investment, reported Arab News, with a significant proportion of that going to the live music industry.

Vision 2030 prides itself on offering “world-class entertainment” and says that it has organized up to 3,800 entertainment events in the country, attended by more than 80 million people.

“The whole principle about allowing festivals is to provide youth with domestic entertainment and local tourism opportunities so they don’t need to travel abroad in search of fun,” said Ali Shihabi, a Saudi author and analyst.

Some conservatives may find the festival unacceptable, Shihabi said, but given that youth make up the majority of the country’s population, they remain the primary beneficiaries.

Around two-thirds of Saudi Arabia’s population is 34 years old or younger, according to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics. Analysts say it’s the youth that MBS needs to placate, not the conservatives.

Alcohol continues to be banned in the kingdom, as are sexual relations between men, and unmarried couples.

The festival is not, however, without international criticism and accusations of whitewashing the kingdom’s human rights record. Last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that performers should either “speak up” about Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations or not attend the festival at all.

“Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars hosting massive entertainment and cultural events in a deliberate (attempt) to whitewash the country’s abysmal human rights record and the Soundstorm music festival is no different,” Joey Shea, a researcher at HRW told CNN. “The creation of the country’s local entertainment industry was accompanied by waves of arbitrary arrests of dissidents, activists, human rights defenders and ordinary Saudi citizens.”

Shihabi rejects the argument that the festival whitewashes the country’s rights record, saying that it “has little to do with any global image and is purely focused on servicing local needs.”

Mdlbeast, the organizers of Soundstorm, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Some however argue that opening up countries to international norms and values can allow for better discussion on human rights shortcomings.

“I think there is a way for these major international events – whether that be the World Cup in Qatar or music festivals in Saudi Arabia – to help open public discourse to critical debate,” said Jacobs.

“They can help cultivate healthy criticism and discussion around human rights issues in the region,” she added, “and as the Gulf continues to solidify its position as the region’s center of gravity, I think this is what we will see.”

The families of Iran’s World Cup football team had been threatened with imprisonment and torture if the players failed to “behave” ahead of the match against the United States on Tuesday, a source involved in the security of the games said.

Following the refusal of Iranian players to sing the nation’s national anthem in their opening match against England on November 21, the source said that the players were called to a meeting with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The source said that they were told that their families would face “violence and torture” if they did not sing the national anthem or if they joined any political protest against the Tehran regime.

Here’s the latest:

  • The Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization said on Tuesday that at least 448 people have been killed in the unrest surrounding the protests. CNN cannot independently verify the death toll.
  • Members of the activist art group Pussy Riot wore shirts in support of Iranian protesters at Tuesday’s World Cup game between Iran and the United States in Doha.
  • Two Iranian footballers were freed from detention on Tuesday, according to reports. Voria Ghafouri, who was facing charges of incitement against the regime, was released on bail, reported Iranian judiciary news site Mizan News. And a former member of Iran’s national team, Parviz Boroumand, who was arrested during protests in Tehran, was also released, according to state news agency IRNA.
  • French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna announced Monday that a third tranche of European Union sanctions against Iran is “being prepared” over the ongoing repression of protests.

Qatar to send 2 million tons of LNG to Germany in new energy deal

QatarEnergy signed a deal on Tuesday that will allow Germany to receive flows of Qatari liquefied natural gas (LNG) over a period of at least 15 years, Qatar’s state news agency QNA said. The deal is the first of its kind to Europe from the expansion project of Qatar’s North Field, the world’s biggest gas field, and is meant to make up for some of the shortage triggered by Russian supply cuts.

  • Background: Until the Ukraine war, Germany was heavily reliant on Russian gas. Talks with Qatar have been in the works for months, as Germany and other European countries try to find alternative energy sources as the market tightens following sanctions on Russian supplies. The contract provides Germany with two million tons of LNG annually and the first shipment is due in 2026.
  • Why it matters: Tensions were high this month as Germany ramped up its criticism of Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, questioning its human rights record and later opposing the Gulf country’s ban on the rainbow-colored armband. Europe’s biggest economy has been running short on natural gas, with German economy minister Robert Habeck previously saying that rationing could not be ruled out ahead of the coming winter.

US State Department approves potential anti-drone system sale to Qatar for $1 billion

The US State Department has approved the potential sale of an anti-drone system to Qatar in a deal valued at $1 billion, Reuters cited the Pentagon as saying on Tuesday. The principal contractors will be Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman Corp, the Pentagon said.

  • Background: The potential sale approval comes after US President Joe Biden earlier this year designated Qatar as a major non-NATO ally of the US, granting special status to a key friend in a turbulent region. Separately, Qatar has also played a role in the Iran nuclear talks and in relations with Afghanistan, where Washington’s interests were represented by the small Gulf country.
  • Why it matters: The approval comes as the use of drones rises in Middle East warfare. In 2019, a drone attack blamed on Iran knocked off half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Iran, which has friendly relations with Doha, has also been accused by the US of supplying Russia with drones in its war with Ukraine. The Pentagon said the proposed sale will improve Qatar’s capability to meet threats by providing electronic and kinetic defeat capabilities against drones.

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fear Turkish ground invasion could start in a week

The head of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday said a Turkish ground invasion could take place in a matter of days if Turkey does not see forceful opposition to a military incursion from countries such as the US and Russia.

  • Background: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a recent series of airstrikes against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, and has warned that a ground operation will soon follow. The operation is meant to target Kurdish groups that Turkey believes were behind a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul earlier this month.
  • Why it matters: The SDF’s backbone is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey considers a wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and seeks to eliminate. But the group has been instrumental in the fight against ISIS since 2014 and has warned that a Turkish assault will complicate the fight against the militants. It is unclear if the US will heed its calls to restrain Turkey. The US has reduced the number of patrols with SDF ahead of a possible incursion.

Qatar’s World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi said that between 400 and 500 migrant workers have died as a result of work done on projects connected to the tournament – a greater figure than Qatari officials have cited previously.

In an interview with Piers Morgan which aired on TalkTV on Monday, Al-Thawadi was asked about the number of migrant workers fatalities due to construction for the World Cup and said: “The estimate is around 400, between 400 and 500.

“I don’t have the exact number, that’s something that’s been discussed. One death is too many, it’s as simple as that.”

In November 2022, a government official told CNN there had been three work-related deaths on World Cup stadiums and 37 non-work-related deaths.

Read more:

  • The US men’s team advanced to the knockout stage with a hard-fought victory over Iran. US President Joe Biden celebrated the win by saying, “They did it. God love ‘em” and not all Iranians were lamenting their team’s loss.
  • The match between Portugal and Uruguay was briefly interrupted by a pitch invader waving a rainbow flag on the field at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on Monday.
  • US captain Tyler Adams apologized on Monday after being told an Iranian journalist that he had been pronouncing the country’s name incorrectly as “EYE-RAN” instead of “ee-RON.”
A rendition of the Rashid Rover provided by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre.

On Thursday, the UAE is set to become the first Arab country to launch a mission to the moon. The Rashid Rover will begin its trip from Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida where it aims to land on the lunar surface in the coming months.

Beginning construction in 2017, the solar-powered rover has been developed by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and is named after the emirate’s late ruler Sheikh Rashid Al Saeed.

The rover will take a low-energy route and is expected to land on the lunar surface in March 2023. The vehicle will be delivered by the Japanese HAKUTO-R lander and will touch down on the Atlas crater.

It will spend one lunar day (equivalent to 14.75 days Earth time) where it will analyze the plasma of the moon’s surface and conduct experiments on lunar dust. It will then spend another lunar day in which it will attempt to survive the moon’s harsh environment, before decommissioning.

The launch aims to be the first step in the UAE’s greater space prospects. By 2117, the country aims to have a colony built on Mars’s surface. “We are starting small,” Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager of the Emirates Lunar Mission at the MBRSC, told CNN. “But we hope that this small step will be eventually the starting point to reach our targets.”

The UAE launched a mission to Mars in February last year.

By Ollie Macnaughton

A boy shows his support for Brazil as people at the

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China’s Zhengzhou, home to world’s largest iPhone factory, ends Covid lockdown


Hong Kong
CNN Business
 — 

The central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, has lifted a five-day Covid lockdown, in a move that analysts have called a much-needed relief for Apple and its main supplier Foxconn.

Zhengzhou is the site of “iPhone City,” a sprawling manufacturing campus owned by Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn that normally houses about 200,000 workers churning out products for Apple

(AAPL)
, including the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max. Last Friday, the city locked down its urban districts for five days as Covid-19 cases surged there.

Foxconn’s massive facility is not part of the city’s urban districts. However, analysts say the lockdown would have been detrimental to efforts to restore lost production at the campus, the site of a violent workers’ revolt last week.

“This is some good news in a dark storm for Cupertino,” Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, told CNN Business, referring to the California city where Apple is based. “There is a lot of heavy lifting ahead for Apple to ramp back up the factories.”

Ives estimates the ongoing supply disruptions at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou campus were costing Apple roughly $1 billion a week in lost iPhone sales. The troubles started in October when workers left the campus in Zhengzhou, the capital of the central province of Henan, due to Covid-related fears. Short on staff, bonuses were offered to workers to return.

But protests broke out last week when the newly hired staff said management had reneged on their promises. The workers, who clashed with security officers, were eventually offered cash to quit and leave.

Analysts said Foxconn’s production woes will speed up the pace of supply chain diversification away from China to countries like India.

Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities, wrote on social media that he estimated iPhone shipments could be 20% lower than expected in the current October-to-December quarter. The average capacity utilization rate of the Zhengzhou plant was only about 20% in November, he said, and was expected to improve to 30% to 40% in December.

Total iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max shipments in the current quarter would be 15 million to 20 million units less than previously anticipated, according to Kuo. Due to the high price of the iPhone 14 Pro series, Apple’s overall iPhone revenue in the current holiday quarter could be 20% to 30% lower than investors’ expectations, he added.

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US calls for the release of Cambodian labor activist Chhim Sithar

The United States on Tuesday said it was deeply concerned by Cambodia’s arrest of union leader Chhim Sithar and called for her release and that of other detained trade unionists.

The State Department said Sithar, whose union has been in a year-long dispute with the NagaWorld casino, was arrested after returning to Cambodia from a labor conference in Australia.

It said Cambodian authorities had previously interfered with workers’ rights by detaining union leaders and workers protesting the termination of NagaWorld employees.

“We urge Cambodian authorities to release Chhim Sithar and all detained trade unionists exercising their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, drop charges against them, and move to constructively resolve their disputes,” the department said in a statement.

The State Department also reiterated a call for the release of US citizen Theary Seng and said the Cambodian government should uphold labor rights obligations and mediate a resolution between NagaWorld and the union.

Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer and human rights activist, was among 60 opposition figures jailed in June on charges of conspiring to commit treason, after a mass trial condemned by the US and rights groups as politically motivated.

Chhim Sithar is head of the Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld and was at the forefront of a strike at Cambodia’s biggest casino, facing off against scores of riot police at protests in Phnom Penh.

A statement released on Monday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights on behalf of 69 civil society groups said Sithar was arrested on Saturday and accused of violating bail conditions that allegedly prohibited her from leaving the country.

It said Sithar was released on bail in March following a previous January arrest and that neither she nor her lawyers were informed of any bail conditions.

Employees of the NagaWorld casino, which is run by Hong Kong-listed Nagacorp, began protesting in December against the layoff of 365 workers in the wake of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Police called the strike illegal and said the protests threatened public security. NagaWorld described the layoffs as unavoidable.

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China launches 3 astronauts to new space station

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CNN
 — 

Three astronauts lifted off to China’s nearly completed space station on Tuesday, marking the beginning of the country’s long-term presence in space.

It’s a major achievement for China’s ambitious space program, which has explored the far side of the moon and Mars. The milestone also means the aging International Space Station’s role as the sole venue for continuous human occupancy in Earth’s orbit is coming to an end.

The three astronauts launched aboard the Shenzhou-15 spacecraft at 11:08 p.m. local time (10:08 a.m. ET) on Tuesday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-15 spacecraft is expected to dock with the Tiangong Space Station about 6.5 hours after launch.

The arrival of the three astronauts — Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu — will mark the first crew rotation on the space station, with two teams overlapping for five to 10 days before the Shenzhou-14 crew, who landed at the station in June, returns to Earth.

The Shenzhou-15 mission will finish the orbital outpost’s construction, expected by the end of December, and launch the first stage of “its application and development,” Ji Qiming, assistant to the China Manned Space Agency director, said at a press conference on Monday, according to state media Xinhua.

During the mission, according to state media, the crew will also conduct more than 40 experiments and tests in the fields of space science research, space medicine and space technology, as well as three to four extravehicular activities — performed by astronauts in space suits.

(From left) Chinese astronauts Zhang Lu, Deng Qingming and Fei Junlong attend a prelaunch ceremony at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on November 29.

Once construction is completed, the space station is expected to last for 15 years. China plans to launch two crewed missions and two cargo missions to the station every year, according to the CMSA.

Tiangong, which means heavenly palace, is smaller than the International Space Station but similar in its modular design. The new space station will typically house three rather than six astronauts.

Officials at NASA have said it will retire the ISS, which is a collaboration between the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency, in 2030.

However, Russia has threatened to quit the ISS starting in 2024, which would make operating the ISS difficult, said Dr. Stefania Paladini, a reader in economics and global security at Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom.

“There is no clarity about the future of the ISS after 2024. While the US seems committed to extend its life until 2030, Russia threatened to withdraw its participation after that date, (which would) make it extremely challenging to continue flying the ISS,” said Paladini, author of “The New Frontiers of Space: Economic Implications, Security Issues and Evolving Scenarios.”

“The Chinese Space Station may … end up remaining the only human presence in Earth’s orbit for a while.”

The new space station is expected to host around 1,000 scientific experiments during its life span.

Most of the experiments taking place on board the Tiangong will involve research originating from China, but the country has invited experiments from international researchers, including how cancer tumors react to zero gravity.

China’s astronauts have long been excluded from the ISS, due to US political objections and legislative restrictions. However, CMSA astronauts have trained with their counterparts at the European Space Agency.

It’s not clear whether China would welcome astronauts from other countries to its space station, but Molly Silk, a doctoral researcher at the University of Manchester in the UK focused on China’s space program, said she thought it very likely that international astronauts would visit in the coming years.

“Several European astronauts have been learning Chinese in order to better cooperate with their Chinese counterparts, which suggests that a visit to the CSS could be on the cards. Pakistan has also been trying to coordinate with China to send their first astronaut to space,” she said.

“This project demonstrates to the world that China has both the vision and capabilities to pull off such an immensely challenging feat. The CSS will not only allow for China and other nations to conduct experiments in space, but acts as an important checkpoint for China’s planned international research base on the moon.”

Earlier this year, the space station’s two laboratory modules — Wentian and Mengtian — docked along the Tianhe core cabin, the main living space for the astronauts.

The Mengtian lab was launched by China’s massive Long March 5B rocket, remnants of which made an uncontrolled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere in early November.

It was the fourth uncontrolled reentry for a Long March 5B rocket since China’s space agency started flying it two years ago, as the vehicle was designed without the necessary equipment to steer itself to a safe landing.

Officials at NASA have slammed China for taking unnecessary risks. However, Tuesday’s launch involved China’s smaller Long March-2F rocket, used for human space flight, which experts have previously said is less likely to produce hazardous debris.

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‘White paper’ protests: China’s top stationery supplier says it’s still selling A4 sheets


Hong Kong
CNN Business
 — 

The rare protests that spread across China over the weekend often featured demonstrators holding pieces of blank white paper, a phenomenon that has caused problems for the country’s top stationery chain.

In a symbolic protest against censorship, young demonstrators held up sheets of white paper — a metaphor for the critical social media posts, news articles, and outspoken online accounts that have been wiped from the internet as thousands of people took to the streets.

The unprecedented uprising, which has been largely ignored by the Chinese state media, saw demonstrators calling for an end to strict Covid lockdown measures and political freedoms.

On Monday, shares of M&G Stationery, a household name with more than 80,000 retail outlets across China, tumbled as much as 3% after a document widely circulated on Chinese social media said the company would ban the nationwide sale of A4 white paper sheets both online and offline, starting Tuesday.

A4 refers to a standard paper size commonly used in countries outside of the United States and Canada.

M&G Stationery is based in Shanghai and sells its products in over 50 countries and regions around the world, according to the company’s website. It’s currently listed on Shanghai Stock Exchange, and has a market cap of $6 billion.

The document shared on social media said the ban was to “maintain national security and stability” and “prevent outlaws from hoarding a large amount of A4 white paper and using it for illegal subversive activities.” It also said the company “strongly condemns the recent ‘white paper movement’” in various cities in China.

Shortly after its stock fell, M&G Stationery said the document circulating online was fabricated and that the company had notified the police, according to a filing published on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s website.

“The company’s current production and operation are all normal,” the stationery supplier said.

After M&G issued its filing, some social media users said they weren’t able to order A4 white paper sheets from the company’s online stores.

“If the rumor is false, then why doesn’t its Taobao store support the delivery of A4 paper to many parts of China?” said a Weibo user with the IP location in Liaoning province. Taobao is one of China’s largest e-commerce platforms, owned by Alibaba Group

(BABA)
.

Another user with the IP address in Shandong province said the delivery could fail if one’s address is in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Following the stock exchange filing, shares in M&G Stationery clawed back some losses, but were still down 1% at Monday’s close. On Tuesday, the stock rebounded, in line with broad market gains.

The protests were triggered by a deadly fire last Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of the far western region of Xinjiang. The blaze killed at least 10 people and injured nine in an apartment building, leading to public fury after videos of the incident appeared to show lockdown measures had delayed firefighters from reaching the victims.

The city had been under lockdown for more than 100 days, with residents unable to leave the region and many forced to stay home.

Videos showed Urumqi residents marching to a government building and chanting for the end of lockdown on Friday. The following morning, the local government said it would lift the lockdown in stages, but did not provide a clear time frame or address the protests.

That failed to quell public anger and the protests rapidly spread beyond Xinjiang, with residents in cities and universities across China also taking to the streets.

In recent days, vigils and demonstrations expressing solidarity with protesters in China have been held around the world, including in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

Global markets fell on Monday as investors were concerned about the protests in China denting growth in the world’s second-largest economy and exacerbating global supply chain disruptions. US, European and Asian markets closed broadly lower.

But Hong Kong and mainland Chinese markets rebounded Tuesday, with gains accelerating after the State Council, China’s cabinet, announced that the health authorities would hold a press conference in the afternoon about Covid measures.

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Jimmy Lai trial: Hong Kong to ask Beijing to rule on use of foreign lawyers in national security cases


Hong Kong
CNN
 — 

Hong Kong’s leader said he’ll ask Beijing to determine whether foreign lawyers can work on national security cases in the city, a move with repercussions for the upcoming trial of jailed pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

The announcement came Monday, hours after the Court of Final Appeal (CFA), the city’s highest court, upheld a lower court’s verdict to allow British barrister Timothy Owen to represent Lai in a landmark national security case that had been due to start on Thursday.

Lai, 74, is the most high-profile critic of Beijing charged under Hong Kong’s sweeping national security law and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on charges of colluding with foreign forces. He also faces one charge under a colonial-era sedition law.

The government had sought a “blanket ban” on foreign lawyers working on national security cases, except in exceptional circumstances, which would have seen Owen removed from the case.

When the CFA ruling went against the government, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said Monday he would ask China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to intervene.

According to a statement, Lee wants Beijing to decide whether lawyers who are “not qualified to practise generally” in Hong Kong can participate in national security cases.

Lee’s move follows repeated attempts by Hong Kong’s Department of Justice to prevent Owen from representing Lai.

“At present, there are no effective means to ensure that a counsel from overseas will not have conflict of interest because of his (national interest),” Lee told a news conference. “And there are also no means to ensure that he has not been coerced, compromised or in any way controlled by foreign governments, associations or persons.”

This would be the sixth time the NPCSC has made an interpretation on Hong Kong’s laws since the city was handed over from Britain to China 1997.

Lee said the government will seek an adjournment to Lai’s trial during the process.

Lai, whose pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily was forced to shut down after a police raid last year, has been remanded in custody for almost two years. He was sentenced to 13 months in prison in 2021 for participating in an unauthorized protest.

In August, the tycoon requested to hire Owen to lead his defense, which sparked a legal debate over whether foreign lawyers should take up legal representation on national security law cases.

British King's Counsel Timothy Owen at Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal on November 25, 2022.

Since the handover, Hong Kong has maintained the common law system inherited from British rule.

Its independent judiciary and rule of law have long been deemed key to the city’s success as a global financial center. The city’s legal system allows overseas judges in the city’s courts, and lawyers from other common law jurisdictions can work on cases where their expertise is needed.

However, China’s ruling Communist Party moved to bring Hong Kong in line with its authoritarian rule by bypassing the city’s legislature to implement the security law in response to anti-government protests that rocked the city in 2019.

Cases under the legislation are handled by a dedicated branch of the Hong Kong police and designated national security judges, raising concern about Beijing’s potential influence on proceedings.

The Hong Kong government has repeatedly denied criticism that the law has stifled freedoms, claiming instead it has restored order in the city after the 2019 protests.

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China’s lockdown protests: What you need to know


Beijing
CNN
 — 

China has moved quickly to suppress demonstrations that erupted across the country over the weekend, deploying police forces at key protest sites and tightening online censorship.

The protests were sparked by anger over the country’s increasingly costly zero-Covid policy, but as numbers swelled at demonstrations in multiple major cities, so too have the range of grievances voiced – with some calling for greater democracy and freedom.

Among the thousands of protesters, hundreds have even called for the removal of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who for nearly three years has overseen a strategy of mass-testing, brute-force lockdowns, enforced quarantine and digital tracking that has come at a devastating human and economic cost.

Here’s what we know.

The protests were triggered by a deadly fire last Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of the far western region of Xinjiang. The blaze killed at least 10 people and injured nine in an apartment building – leading to public fury after videos of the incident appeared to show lockdown measures had delayed firefighters from reaching the victims.

The city had been under lockdown for more than 100 days, with residents unable to leave the region and many forced to stay home.

Videos showed Urumqi residents marching to a government building and chanting for the end of lockdown on Friday. The following morning, the local government said it would lift the lockdown in stages – but did not provide a clear time frame or address the protests.

That failed to quell public anger and the protests rapidly spread beyond Xinjiang, with residents in cities and universities across China also taking to the streets.

So far, CNN has verified 20 demonstrations that took place across 15 Chinese cities – including the capital Beijing and financial center Shanghai.

In Shanghai on Saturday, hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil on Urumqi Road, named after the Xinjiang city, to mourn the fire victims. Many held up blank sheets of white paper – a symbolic protest against censorship – and chanted, “Need human rights, need freedom.”

Some also shouted for Xi to “step down,” and sang The Internationale, a socialist anthem used as a call to action in demonstrations worldwide for more than a century. It was also sung during pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing before a brutal crackdown by armed troops in 1989.

China’s zero-Covid policies have been felt particularly acutely in Shanghai, where a two-month long lockdown earlier this year left many without access to food, medical care or other basic supplies – sowing deep public resentment.

By Sunday evening, mass demonstrations had spread to Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Wuhan, where thousands of residents called for not only an end to Covid restrictions, but more remarkably, political freedoms. Residents in some locked-down neighborhoods tore down barriers and took to the streets.

Protests also took place on campuses, including the prestigious institutions of Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Communication University of China, Nanjing.

In Hong Kong, where a national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 has been used to stifle dissent, dozens of people gathered on Monday evening in the city’s Central district for a vigil. Some held blank pieces of paper, while others left flowers and held signs commemorating those killed in the Urumqi fire.

People hold sheets of blank paper in Hong Kong as a comment on government censorship.

Public protest is exceedingly rare in China, where the Communist Party has tightened its grip on all aspects of life, launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent, wiped out much of civil society and built a high-tech surveillance state.

The mass surveillance system is even more stringent in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is accused of detaining up to 2 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in camps where former detainees have alleged they were physically and sexually abused.

A damning United Nations report in September described the region’s “invasive” surveillance network, with police databases containing hundreds of thousands of files with biometric data such as facial and eyeball scans.

China has repeatedly denied accusations of human rights abuses in the region.

Protesters march in Beijing on November 27.

While protests do occur in China, they rarely happen on this scale, nor take such direct aim at the central government and the nation’s leader, said Maria Repnikova, an associate professor at Georgia State University who studies Chinese politics and media.

“This is a different type of protest from the more localized protests we have seen recurring over the past two decades that tend to focus their claims and demands on local officials and on very targeted societal and economic issues,” she said. Instead, this time the protests have expanded to include “the sharper expression of political grievances alongside with concerns about Covid-19 lockdowns.”

There have been growing signs in recent months that the public has run out of patience with zero-Covid, after nearly three years of economic hardship and disruption to daily life.

Isolated pockets of protest broke out October, with anti-zero-Covid slogans appearing on the walls of public bathrooms and in various Chinese cities, inspired by a banner hung by a lone protester on an overpass in Beijing just days before Xi cemented a third term in power.

Earlier in November, larger protests took place in Guangzhou, with residents defying lockdown orders to topple barriers and cheer as they took to the streets.

While protests in several parts of China appear to have largely dispersed peacefully over the weekend, authorities responded more forcefully in some cities.

The Shanghai protests on Saturday led to scuffles between demonstrators and police, with arrests made in the early hours of the morning. Undeterred, protesters returned on Sunday, where they met a more aggressive response – videos show chaotic scenes of police pushing, dragging, and beating protesters.

The videos have since been scrubbed from the Chinese internet by censors.

One Shanghai protester told CNN he was one of around 80 to 110 people detained in the city on Saturday night. He described being transferred to a police station, having his phone confiscated and biometric information collected before being released a day later.

CNN cannot independently verify the number of those arrested.

A crowd surrounds a police vehicle in Shanghai, China.

Hear protesters in China call for Xi Jinping’s resignation

Two foreign reporters were also briefly detained. BBC journalist Edward Lawrence was arrested in Shanghai on Sunday night, with a BBC spokesperson claiming he was “beaten and kicked by the police” while covering the protests. He has since been released.

On Monday, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said Lawrence had not identified himself as a journalist before being detained.

Michael Peuker, China correspondent for Swiss public broadcaster RTS, was reporting live when he said several police officers approached him. He later posted on Twitter that the officers took him and his cameraman into a vehicle, before releasing them.

Police form a cordon  during a protest in Beijing on November 27.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson deflected questions about the protests on Monday, telling a reporter who asked whether the widespread displays of public anger would make China consider ending zero-Covid: “What you mentioned does not reflect what actually happened.”

He also claimed that social media posts linking the Xinjiang fire with Covid policies had “ulterior motives,” and that authorities have been “making adjustments based on realities on the ground.” When asked about protesters calling on Xi to step down, he replied: “I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned.”

State-run media has not directly covered the demonstrations – but praised zero-Covid, with one newspaper on Sunday calling it “the most scientifically effective” approach.

In recent days, vigils and demonstrations expressing solidarity with protesters in China have been held around the world, including in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

As news of the protests made international headlines, foreign government officials and organizations voiced support for the protesters and criticized Beijing’s response.

“We’re watching this closely, as you might expect we would,” said US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on Monday. “We continue to stand up and support the right of peaceful protest.”

China Protest White Paper 2 SCREENGRAB

Why protesters in China are holding up white paper

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told reporters the Chinese government should “listen to the voices of its own people … when they are saying that they are not happy with the restrictions imposed upon them.”

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) also said on Monday that it condemned “the intolerable intimidation and aggression” directed toward member journalists in China, in an apparent reference to the foreign journalists who were detained.

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China protests: At the heart of protests against zero-Covid, young people cry for freedom

A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country’s rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here.



CNN
 — 

For the first time in decades, thousands of people have defied Chinese authorities to protest at universities and on the streets of major cities, demanding to be freed not only from incessant Covid tests and lockdowns, but strict censorship and the Communist Party’s tightening grip over all aspects of life.

Across the country, “want freedom” has become a rallying cry for a groundswell of protests mainly led by the younger generation, some too young to have taken part in previous acts of open dissent against the government.

“Give me liberty or give me death!” crowds by the hundreds shouted in several cities, according to videos circulating online, as vigils to mark the deaths of at least 10 people in a fire in Xinjiang spiraled into political rallies.

Videos circulating online seem to suggest China’s strict zero-Covid policy initially prevented emergency workers from accessing the scene, angering residents across the country who have endured three years of varying Covid controls.

Some protesters chanted for free speech, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and other political demands across cities from the eastern financial hub of Shanghai to the capital Beijing, the southern metropolis of Guangzhou and Chengdu in the west.

CNN has verified protests in 16 locations, with reports of others held in dozens of other cities and universities across the country.

HONG KONG, CHINA - NOVEMBER 28: People hold sheets of blank paper in protest of COVID restriction in mainland as police setup cordon during a vigil in the central district on November 28, 2022 in Hong Kong, China. Protesters took to the streets in multiple Chinese cities after a deadly apartment fire in Xinjiang province sparked a national outcry as many blamed COVID restrictions for the deaths. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Protesters take to Hong Kong’s streets in solidarity with mainland

While protests in several parts of China appear to have largely dispersed peacefully over the weekend, some met a stronger response from authorities – and security has been tightened across cities in a country were authorities have far-reaching surveillance and security capabilities.

In Beijing, a heavy police presence was apparent on Monday evening, a day after protests broke out there. Police vehicles, many parked with their lights flashing, lined eerily quiet streets throughout parts of the capital, including near Liangmaqiao in the city’s central Chaoyang district, where a large crowd of protesters had gathered Sunday night.

When asked Monday whether “the widespread display of anger and frustration” seen across the country could prompt China to move away from its zero-Covid approach, a Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed suggestions of dissent.

“What you mentioned does not reflect what actually happened,” said spokesperson Zhao Lijian, who added that authorities had been “making adjustments” to their Covid policies based on “realities on the ground.”

“We believe that with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people our fight against Covid-19 will be successful,” he said.

Demonstrators hold up blank sheets of paper during a protest in Beijing on November 28.

In a symbolic protest against ever-tightening censorship, young demonstrators across China held up sheets of white paper – a metaphor for the countless critical posts, news articles and outspoken social media accounts that were wiped from the internet.

“I think in a just society, no one should be criminalized for their speech. There shouldn’t be only one voice in our society – we need a variety of voices,” a Beijing protester told CNN in the early hours of Monday as he marched down the city’s Third Ring Road with a thin pile of white A4 paper.

“I hope in the future, I will no longer be holding a white piece of paper for what I really want to express,” said the protester, who CNN is not naming due to concerns about repercussions for speaking out.

The United Nations on Monday urged Chinese authorities to guarantee people’s “right to demonstrate peacefully,” Secretary General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said at a daily briefing.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said China’s ruling Communist Party should “take notice” of the protests.

“Protests against the Chinese government are rare. And so when they do happen, I think it’s worth us taking note, but more importantly, I think it’s incumbent on the Chinese government to take notice of its own people,” Cleverly told reporters.

Throughout the weekend, censors moved swiftly to scrub videos and photos of the protests from the Chinese internet, though the startling images made headlines worldwide.

In online commentaries, Chinese state media made no mention of the protests, instead focusing on the strengths of Beijing’s anti-Covid policies, emphasizing they were both “scientific and effective.”

But to many protesters, the demonstrations are about much more than Covid – they’re bringing together many liberal-minded young people whose attempts to speak out might otherwise be thwarted by strict online censorship.

A Shanghai resident in their 20s who took part in the candlelight vigil in the early hours of Sunday said they were greeted by other young people holding white papers, flowers and shouting “want freedom” as they walked toward the makeshift memorial.

“My friends and I have all experienced Shanghai’s lockdown, and the so-called ‘iron fist’ (of the state) has fallen on all of us,” they told CNN, “That night, I felt that I could finally do something. I couldn’t sit still, I had to go.”

They broke into tears quietly in the crowd as the chants demanding freedom grew louder.

“At that moment, I felt I’m not alone,” they said. “I realized that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.”

Shanghai residents held a candlelight vigil to mourn the victims of the Xinjiang fire on November 26.

In some cases, the protests have taken on an even more defiant tone and openly called for political change.

During the first night of the demonstrations in Shanghai, a crowd shouted “Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!” in an unprecedented, direct challenge to the top leader. On Sunday night, some protesters again chanted for the removal of Xi.

In Chengdu, the protesters did not name Xi, but their message was hard to miss. “Opposition to dictatorship!” chanted hundreds of people packing the bustling river banks in a popular food and shopping district on Sunday evening, according to videos and a participant.

“We don’t want lifelong rulers. We don’t want emperors!” they shouted in a thinly veiled reference to the Chinese leader, who last month began a norm-shattering third term in office.

According to the participant, the crowd also protested against revisions to the party charter and the state constitution – which enabled Xi to further cement his hold on power and scrap presidential term limits.

Much like in Shanghai, the gathering started as a small candlelight vigil for people killed in the fire in Urumqi on Thursday.

Demonstrators in Chengdu held a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Xinjiang fire on November 27.

But as more people gathered, the vigil turned into a louder arena to air political grievances.

“Everyone started shouting these slogans very naturally,” the participant said. “It is so rare that we have such a large-scale gathering and demonstration. The words of mourning didn’t feel enough, and we had to shout out some words that we want to say.”

To her, the experience of suffocating censorship inevitably fuels desire for “institutional and spiritual freedom,” and mourning the victims and demanding democracy and freedom are two “inseparable” things.

“We all know that the reason why we have to keep undergoing lockdowns and Covid tests is that this is a political movement, not a scientific and logical response of epidemic prevention,” she said. “That’s why we have more political demands other than lifting lockdowns.”

The Chengdu protester said she felt encouraged by the wave of demonstrations sweeping the country.

“It turns out there are so many people who are wide awake,” she said. “I feel like I can see a glimmer of light coming through ahead.”

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