A video shot by an Indian soldier and shared on social media showed soldiers from both nations engaged in fistfights and stone-pelting at the LAC.
Even as the standoff between Indian and Chinese armies continues in the Himalayan region of Ladakh for eight months now, the local administration’s decision to reopen the Pangong Tso lake for tourism has come as a glimmer of hope for the local residents.
On Sunday, the administration of the newly-created federal territory of Ladakh opened the world’s highest saltwater lake, almost a year after it was closed for tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions followed by the military standoff along the disputed border between the two Asian giants.
Both sides accuse each other of intruding across the loosely-demarcated de facto border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), with Pangong Tso, located 14,000 feet (4,270 metres) above sea level in Ladakh, being one of the flashpoints.
The standoff began in May last year after a scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese troops at the lake, resulting in 11 soldiers being injured on both sides.
The military standoff intensified a month later when 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops were killed in hand-to-hand combat on June 15, 2020 – the worst clashes between the two forces in decades.
The LAC dividing the two nuclear-armed nations passes through the landlocked 135km (84 miles) long, boomerang-shaped lake, which is 6km (3.7 miles) wide at its broadest point. One-third of the lake falls under the Indian territory while the remaining area is under Chinese control. The western end of Pangong Tso lies 54km (33 miles) southeast of Leh, the main city in Ladakh region.
Welcome move, say locals “The majestic Pangong Lake has been reopened for tourists starting January 10. So, get inner line permit (ILP) and visit this spellbinding lake,” the local administration said in its announcement on Sunday.
The move has revived hopes among the locals of a good upcoming tourism season in the Himalayan region.
“It’s a really good news because the Pangong Lake is one of the most visited places for tourists in Ladakh. It will definitely help the local tourism industry,” Kochak Stanzin, an elected councillor from the region, told NoRM‘s known Media
Stanzin, who represents Ladakh’s Chushul constituency where the Pangong Lake is located, said 60 percent of Leh’s population depends on tourism. He invited the tourists to visit the frozen lake before winter ends.
Though tourism was hit globally due to the coronavirus pandemic, its impact was felt harder in Ladakh where tourism season is squeezed to just a few months, mostly from April to mid-October, due to the freezing winters in the region.
Delex Namgyal, a travel and tour operator in Leh, told NoRM‘s known Media over the telephone that the timing of the reopening of the lake for tourists could not have been better since January and February are the months when bookings for the summer season begin.
“The timing is good. It will give a positive message that Ladakh is opening up for tourists,” said Namgyal, adding that almost 80 percent of Indian tourists arriving in Leh visit the lake.
While just a few thousand tourists visit Ladakh during winters, Namgyal said that number can go up to more than 250,000 during summers.
Tsewang Yangjor, a hotelier in Leh, told Al Jazeera 2020 was a “disastrous year” for the local tourism industry and they are “happy that things are improving and the lake has been opened for the tourists”.
“I think the situation [along China border] might be normal now and that is why they have decided to give permit [to visit the lake],” he said.
India-China tensions But the situation along the LAC is far from normal, with both sides deploying a large number of troops along the Himalayan frontier. Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks between the two nations have failed to end the standoff.
The decision to reopen the Pangong Tso lake came a day before India handed back a Chinese soldier apprehended along the southern bank of the lake after he transgressed into the Indian side.
India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Tuesday said relations with China have been “profoundly disturbed” after last year’s deadly border clash.
China and India fought a war in 1962 and continue to be engaged in several disputes along the 3,488km-long (2,167 miles) frontier they share. Yet, the two countries have remained focused on expanding commercial relationships despite the tensions.
Though happy with the Ladakh administration’s decision to reopen the lake situated along the tense India-China border, tour operator Namgyal has a word of caution: “The standoff can still have a negative impact [on tourism] if the situation worsens.”
The world’s two biggest economies have traded blows over the coronavirus pandemic, trade and technology competition, espionage, human rights and media freedoms under US President Donald Trump’s tenure.
Beijing on Friday lashed out at a claim by the US intelligence chief that China is the “greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide”, calling it a “hodgepodge of lies”.
The war of words comes as relations between the two superpowers have spiralled to their lowest point in decades and as Washington unveiled travel restrictions for members of the Chinese Communist Party.
US Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Thursday that Chinese spies were using economic pressure to influence or undermine US legislators.
“The People’s Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide since World War II,” he wrote.
Beijing hit back angrily on Friday.
“[Ratcliffe] only continues to repeat lies and rumours to slander and discredit China, and wantonly play up the Chinese threat,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
“I think this is yet another hodgepodge of lies that the US government has been cooking up lately.”
Hua also accused the US of being “engaged in a Cold War mindset, advocating major power competition, and wantonly expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal”.
The US has repeatedly stressed that China is a grave threat to national security and Western democratic values, while China has accused the US of seeking to contain its rise through unlawful means.
Under the new US travel rules, visas issued to party members and their immediate family will remain valid for just one month, and for a single entry.
Previously some visas were issued that permitted unlimited entries and could remain valid for as long as 10 years.
The United States shut down the Chinese consulate in Houston in July, calling it a centre of espionage and harassment of Chinese nationals in the US.
In retaliation, Beijing ordered the US to vacate its consulate in Chengdu.
Hua on Friday called for the United States to “stop damaging US-China relations and US-China mutual trust and cooperation”.
The explosion, sparked by a fire in Tianjiayi’s fertiliser factory, flattened the surrounding industrial park, blew out windows and dented metal garage doors of buildings as far as four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the site.
A Chinese court jailed 53 people on Monday after convicting them on charges including bribery and negligence over a massive chemical factory explosion in eastern China last year that killed 78 people.
The blast in Jiangsu province in March 2019 was one of the worst industrial accidents in the country in recent years and led to the closure of the plant.
Executives and employees of Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical company received sentences ranging from 18 months to twenty years in prison, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
A handful of local officials also received jail terms.
The court in Jiangsu’s Yancheng city found that the company knowingly produced and stored hazardous chemicals and waste material despite “storage venues that did not meet safety requirements”.
It also found that six local government agencies — including the city’s environmental protection authorities — had falsified documents in order to hide the risk posed by Tianjiayi’s activities, with some officials accepting bribes.
Deadly industrial accidents are common in China, where safety regulations are often poorly enforced.
In 2015, massive chemical blasts in the northern port city of Tianjin killed at least 165 people.
Xi’s message came more than two weeks after several other major countries had congratulated Biden.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday congratulated Joe Biden on his US election victory, state media reported.
In his telegram, Xi said both countries should “stick to no conflict or confrontation, mutual respect, (and) the spirit of win-win cooperation” in order to promote the “noble cause” of world peace and development.
US-China relations have hit historic lows in recent months, as the two superpowers have traded barbs over a variety of issues including the trade war, espionage allegations, human rights, media freedoms and tech rivalry.
Both countries have repeatedly attacked each other’s handling of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, with Washington blaming China’s lack of transparency during the initial outbreak in Wuhan late last year.
Xi added that the “healthy and stable development of US-China relations accords with the fundamental interests of both peoples”.
Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan also sent a congratulatory message to Kamala Harris on her election as US vice president, Xinhua news agency reported.
Beijing had previously offered low-key congratulations to Biden and Harris on November 13, well after several major countries had congratulated the president-elect on his victory after days of turmoil and anticipation as votes in key states were finalised.
“We understand the US election results will be confirmed based on US law and procedure,”said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin during a routine briefing at the time.
Chinese media’s response to Biden’s victory since the result was confirmed earlier this month has been similarly muted.
Once again, a tough approach to China is central to Trump’s bid for office with the US set to go the polls on November 3.
In April 2017, US President Donald Trump entertained his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, his luxury golf resort in Florida.
On his way to the White House, China had been one of Trump’s favourite targets.
“We are going to have a very, very great relationship,” the businessman-turned-politician said after the meeting.
A few months later, Xi feted Trump with a state dinner in Beijing’s Forbidden City, the first foreign leader to be given such an honour.
The two events marked the peak of a relationship that has come undone amid intensifying disputes over trade, technology, maritime claims, human rights and the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus that was first identified in China late last year has spread across the globe and the United States is now the world’s worst-affected country.
“It’s probably the worst relationship that they have had since the two established diplomatic relations,” said Adam Ni, Director of the China Policy Centre, an Australian think-tank based in Canberra. “The situation is quite bleak.”
The growing rivalry between the world’s two biggest powers has been felt across the Asia-Pacific, among the US’s traditional allies as well as smaller powers that have for years tried to balance support from the American superpower, alongside deepening ties with China.
“It’s not competition any more,” said Thomas Daniel, a senior analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, referring to the US-China dynamic. “It’s turning more and more adversarial. It’s complicating things for us in Southeast Asia especially for those states that want the US to be constructively engaged in the region.” Absence felt
Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was feted on regular trips to the Asia Pacific and a regular guest at meetings of key regional groupings.
His signature Asian strategy – the pivot – was designed to nurture ties across the region but also to pursue engagement with China and cooperation on key issues.
Trump, in contrast, has been notable by his absence, and his disdain for the multilateralism that leaders in Asian capitals view as vital to the region’s long-term peace and stability. After attending the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2017, he has not been to the event since.
He has flirted with authoritarian leaders such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un while – touting “America First” – playing hardball with allies such as South Korea in demanding they “pay their way” for the cost of stationing thousands of US troops in the country.
And despite his hardening approach to China, Trump appears to have retained some admiration for Xi.
According to his former National Security Adviser John Bolton, during a meeting in Tokyo last year, Trump asked Xi for his help in the US election. Trump has denied the allegation.
Such capricious and transactional decision-making has only added to the confusion about the US commitment to a region it insists is of strategic importance.
But there is also increasing concern about China, which has sought to expand its influence through initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative and escalated activities in disputed areas such as the South China Sea, which it claims entirely as its own.
Beijing now occupies remote reefs and outcrops where it has built military installations and deployed the Coast Guard and maritime militias in support of its fishing fleets, unsettling the littoral states that also claim the parts of the sea closest to their shores.
Toughened response The Trump administration has shown a greater willingness to respond to such actions.
The US Navy conducted 24 freedom of navigation journeys through the South China Sea between May 2017 and July 2020. That same month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China’s claims in the sea were “unlawful”, further hardening the US approach.
“You won’t see them cheering on too loudly from the side lines, but there are some who have misgivings about what China is doing, especially in regard to issues such as the South China Sea or along the border with India,” said Joseph Liow, Research Adviser at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“But at the same time these states do not want to jeopardise relations with China because the economic relations they have are broader and deeper and they don’t want to compromise this relationship.”
The Trump administration has also responded more boldly to developments in Xinjiang – where the UN estimates about one million Uighurs are being held in camps that China describes as vocational skills training centres necessary to fight ‘extremism’ – and Hong Kong, where Beijing imposed a sweeping National Security Law in June after nearly a year of anti-government protests.
In both cases, the US has imposed targeted sanctions and in Hong Kong withdrawn the special financial status the territory once enjoyed.
An anonymous Japanese government official wrote in the journal The American Interest in April, that Trump’s more assertive response was preferable to Obama’s strategy of trying to engage China.
“For countries on the receiving end of Chinese coercion, a tougher US line on China is more important than any other aspect of US policy,” the diplomat wrote. “Asian elites – in Taipei, Manila, Hanoi, New Delhi – increasingly calculate that Trump’s unpredictable and transactional approach is a lesser evil compared to the danger of the United States going back to cajoling China to be a ‘responsible stakeholder’.”
Taiwan, claimed by China as its own, has been the target of increasingly assertive behaviour by Beijing since Tsai Ing-wen was first elected president in 2016 (Trump was also the first US president to accept a congratulatory call from a Taiwanese leader).
The US, which is bound by law to support Taiwan even as it maintains formal ties with Beijing, has been selling advanced weaponry to the island and encouraging Taipei to modernise its military, as China steps up air and sea activity across the straits.
“It is true that during President Trump’s first term, US-Taiwan relations have improved quickly,” Chieh-Ting Yeh, Vice Chairman of the Global Taiwan Institute told NRM‘s known Media, noting the improvement also reflected Tsai’s “principled but measured approach to diplomacy” and “most importantly the increasing aggressiveness of the Chinese Communist Party”.
Rare consensus Yeh stressed the US approach to Taiwan also had broad support across Washington.
“US-Taiwan relations are not determined simply by the whim of President Trump,” he said.
Analysts note the approach to China is one of the few areas of agreement in domestic politics.
“Getting tough on China has become a source of rare bipartisan consensus in a polarised political climate,” wrote Hui Feng, a senior research fellow at Australia’s Griffith University, observed in an academic website, The Conversation. “In fact, even if Trump loses the election to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, a fundamental U-turn in US-China relations is still unlikely.”
Biden, a former vice president under Obama who met Xi several times when he was in government, has said that under his administration the US would lead by the “power of its example” rather than the “example of its power”.
But while he has recruited many former Obama officials to his team, he has also promised a more robust approach to China. He has even referred to Xi as a “thug”.
“No-one thinks it will Obama 2.0,” Liow said. “There is a steady and escalating drumbeat in pushing back on China, but they will want to work with China on a number of issues such as health and climate change where there is a convergence of interests.”
A Biden administration is expected to return the US to the international organisations abandoned by Trump and rejoin the Paris Climate agreement.
Analysts also expect the US under Biden to invest more in its relationship with like-minded democracies including Australia, Japan and South Korea. In the latter, Biden’s campaign has accused Trump of treating alliances like “protection rackets” in his attempt to get more money out of Seoul.
“If Biden wins, expect the Blue House to breathe a sigh of relief,” wrote Linde Desmaele, a researcher at the KF-VUB Korea Chair affiliated with the International Security Cluster of the Institute for European Studies of Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in a recent policy brief.
Whoever does emerge the victor in Tuesday’s poll, it is unlikely that the relationship between the two global giants can return to what it was. The US has changed. And so has China. In the Asia-Pacific diplomats are preparing for four more challenging years.
Chinese government debt is set to be included on a key global bonds index, which could see tens of billions of dollars of foreign investment in the country’s increasingly internationalised financial markets.
The move by FTSE Russell comes as trading in China becomes an increasingly controversial move in Washington as relations between the superpowers grow increasingly fraught.
But analysts said the attraction of higher yields — the yield on 10-year Chinese government bonds is 2.4 percentage points higher than US Treasuries — and a relatively stable currency have made the country an attractive prospect for investors.
Inclusion in the World Government Bond index, which could begin next October if approved, means CGBs will be a must-have asset for investment giants such as pension funds desperate for good returns as the global bond market is battered by the virus pandemic.
Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor at the central People’s Bank of China said international investments in the Chinese market had grown more than 40 percent over the past three years, with 2.8 trillion yuan ($410 billion) of Chinese bonds currently held by international investors.
Goldman Sachs said inclusion could see up to $140 billion floods into the debt market.
AxiCorp strategist Stephen Innes said the move was “big news” which would open up China’s bond market to “a broader band of passive investors”.
FTSE Russell, which is owned by the London Stock Exchange, decided against including Chinese debt in the index last year owing to several worries such as liquidity and the settlement of transactions, but it said the concerns had been addressed.
In the statement its CEO Waqas Samad said authorities had “worked hard to enhance the infrastructure of their government bond market”.
Jason Pang of JP Morgan Asset Management said that while foreign ownership of CGBs had risen to around nine percent from two percent in recent years, it is still well below the 15-30 percent seen in other Asian markets.
But he added: “It is increasingly clear that China bonds’ globalisation is simply a matter of time, further accelerated by increasingly accessible hedging options that enable investors to manage risk.
“Over the past 20 years, China’s bond market has grown more than sixtyfold to nearly $14 trillion.”
The Chinese economy has largely bounced back after a virus-induced sharp economic shock seen earlier in the year, with most people back to work after the government brought the disease largely under control through lockdowns and mass testing.
China warns of necessary measures to safeguard interests of its companies after US bans downloads of TikTok and WeChat.
China has accused the United States of “bullying” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app, TikTok, and effectively blocked the use of the messaging super-app, WeChat.
Separately, Beijing also launched on Saturday a mechanism enabling it to restrict foreign entities that it deems a threat to its sovereignty and security, in a development seen as retaliation to US penalties against other Chinese companies such as telecom giant Huawei.
The latest Chinese moves come as tensions with the US escalate on a range of issues from trade and human rights to the battle for tech supremacy.
In a statement on Saturday, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce condemned Washington’s decision on Friday to ban TikTok and WeChat from US app stores, saying: “China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease its wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order.”
It then warned: “If the US insists on going its own way, China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”
The US Department of Commerce announced the bans in response to a pair of executive orders signed in August by US President Donald Trump, in which he said the two Chinese-owned apps presented a threat to the country’s national security.
China and the companies, however, have denied US user data is collected for spying.
WeChat app would lose functionality in the US from Sunday onwards, while TikTok users will be banned from installing updates but could keep accessing the service through November 12.
WeChat developer Tencent Holdings called the order “unfortunate” and said it “will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the US ways to achieve a long-term solution”.
The owners of TikTok, which has 100 million users in the US, said it will challenge “the unjust executive order”.
‘Very, very popular’ Friday’s order follows weeks of deal-making over TikTok, with Trump pressuring ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations to a domestic company to satisfy Washington’s concerns over TikTok’s data collection and related issues.
California tech giant Oracle recently struck a deal with TikTok along those lines, although details remain foggy.
Trump said on Friday said he was open to a deal, noting that “we have some great options and maybe we can keep a lot of people happy,” suggesting that even Microsoft, which said its TikTok bid had been rejected, might continue to be involved, as well as Oracle and Walmart.
Trump noted that TikTok was “very, very popular,” said “we have to have the total security from China,” and added that “we can do a combination of both”.
ByteDance has now asked a US judge to block the action against it, according to Bloomberg News.
Amid the escalating row, the Chinese commerce ministry issued on Saturday regulations for its “unreliable entity list” aimed at foreign companies it says endangers its sovereignty, security or development interests.
Companies that end up on the list could be banned from importing or exporting from China, and may be barred from investing in the country. Other measures include imposing fines, entry restrictions on employees into China, and revoking their work or residence permits.
The launch of the “unreliable entities list” ups the ante in the escalating commercial fight with the Trump administration, which has used its own “entity list” to bar Huawei from the US market on national security grounds.
The Chinese announcement did not mention any specific foreign entities, but in May, state-run tabloid Global Times reported the measures would target such US companies as Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc, Qualcomm Inc, while suspending purchases of Boeing Co aeroplanes.
Authorities will set up a working mechanism and an office to help implement work related to the list, the ministry added.
Foreign firms could be removed from the list if they correct their behaviours and take steps to eliminate the consequences of their actions, it said.
Thousands of people in northwest China have tested positive for a bacterial disease after a leak from a state-owned biopharmaceutical plant making animal vaccines last year.
Health officials in Lanzhou city said 3,245 people had contracted brucellosis, a disease often caused by close contact with infected animals or animal products that can bring about fevers, joint pain and headaches.
Another 1,401 people tested as an early positive for the disease, and health authorities said there was no evidence of person-to-person transmission so far.
Chinese authorities found a biopharmaceutical plant had used expired disinfectant in its production of Brucella vaccines for animals between July and August last year — meaning the bacteria was not eradicated in its factory exhaust.
Contaminated gas from the China Animal Husbandry Lanzhou Biopharmaceutical Factory in Lanzhou formed aerosols containing the bacteria, and this was then carried by wind to the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute, infecting nearly 200 people there as of December last year.
More than 20 students and faculty members of Lanzhou University, some of whom had been to the institute, subsequently tested positive as well, according to Xinhua news agency.
Lanzhou’s health commission said Friday that sheep, cattle and pigs were most commonly involved in the spread of the bacteria.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, person-to-person transmission of brucellosis is “extremely rare” but some symptoms may reoccur or never go away.
These include recurrent fevers, chronic fatigue, swelling of the heart or arthritis.
The factory — which apologised earlier this year — has had its brucellosis vaccine production licence revoked, Lanzhou authorities said.
Compensation for patients would start in batches from October, according to local authorities.
In joint statement, Wang Yi and S Jaishankar say current situation in border areas not in the interest of either side.
The foreign ministries of China and India agreed in a joint statement on Friday that their troops must quickly disengage from a months-long standoff at their long-disputed Himalayan border.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar met on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation foreign ministers’ meeting in Moscow to try and end the dispute, the most serious in decades at the undemarcated border.
“The two Foreign Ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed therefore that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions,” the statement said.
Separately, China’s foreign ministry said it would maintain communications with India through diplomatic and military channels and commit to “restoring peace and tranquillity” in the disputed border area.
Elaborating on the Moscow meeting, China said Wang had told Jaishankar that the “imperative is to immediately stop provocations such as firing and other dangerous actions that violate the commitments made by the two sides”.
All personnel and equipment that have trespassed at the border must be moved and frontier troops on both sides “must quickly disengage” in order to de-escalate the situation, Wang added.
“This deal is significant but on the other hand I am still cautious. Let’s wait and see what transpires in the next few weeks and months. That will be the crucial test,” said Sumit Ganguly, a professor of political science at Indiana University in Bloomington, the United States.
This deal is significant but on the other hand I am still cautious. Let’s wait and see what transpires in the next few weeks and months. SUMIT GANGULY, A PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT INDIANA UNIVERSITY
“I think both sides have considerable reasons to de-escalate,” he told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media.
“In the case of India, the economy has cratered in the wake of the COVID crisis and the shambolic handling thereof. And consequently India can ill afford to devote significant resources to the military at this particular juncture,” he said.
“The Chinese did not want it to become a major distraction as their economy is finally recovering, and they are focused on the November elections in the US.”
Speaking on the five-point agreement between the two countries, Ganguly said they would probably involve withdrawing troops from eyeball-to-eyeball contact with one another.
“They would involve reducing certain kinds of actual deployment of artillery and other weaponry along particular band of territory.”
‘State of puffing’ The Global Times, a tabloid controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, took a more strident tone in an editorial published ahead of the two ministers’ meeting.
“The Chinese side must be fully prepared to take military action when diplomatic engagement fails, and its front-line troops must be able to respond to emergencies, and be ready to fight at any time,” the paper said.
It accused India of holding a grudge over the 1962 conflict, and described the country as in “an unprecedented state of puffing”.
Wang and Jaishanka’s meeting took place after a border clash earlier this week when each accused the other of firing in the air during a confrontation on their border in the western Himalayas, a violation of long-held protocols on the use of firearms on the sensitive frontier.
The Chinese ministry said the two countries reached a five-point consensus on reducing tension in the area including the need to abide by existing agreements to ensure peace.
Beijing accuses New Delhi of ‘severe military provocation’ but India denies its soldiers crossed the disputed border.
China and India have accused each other of firing shots on their flashpoint Himalayan border in a further escalation of military tension between the nuclear-armed Asian rivals.
The relationship between the two countries has deteriorated since a hand-to-hand combat clash in the Ladakh region on June 15 in which 20 Indian troops were killed.
Experts fear the latest incident will intensify a months-long standoff between the Asian giants that erupted in late April.
Beijing’s defence ministry accused India of “severe military provocation”, saying soldiers crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western border region on Monday and “opened fire to threaten the Chinese border defence patrol officers”.
“According to the Chinese side, Chinese troops approached the India side for negotiations, and then they say some Indian troops fired at the Chinese side,”
“As a result, China’s military said it was forced to take countermeasures – although we don’t know what those countermeasures were, or if there were any casualties,” she added.
India denies transgression New Delhi was swift to give its own account, accusing Chinese border forces of “blatantly violating agreements” and firing “a few rounds in the air” to intimidate their Indian rivals.
“It is the PLA that has been blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres,” the Indian army said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Despite the grave provocation, (our) own troops exercised great restraint and behaved in a mature and responsible manner,” the statement said.
Reporting from New Delhi NRM said that, according to India, “China’s army was trying to close in on one of India’s positions – and that when they [China] were dissuaded by their own troops, they fired in the air”.
The countries fought a brief border war in 1962 but, officially, no shots have been fired in the area since 1975 when four Indian troops were killed in an ambush.
A spokesperson for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) gave no specifics and did not report casualties, calling on India to investigate the incident.
China’s western military command said the incursion occurred on Monday along the southern shore of Pangong Tso Lake in the area known in Chinese as Shenpaoshan. On the Indian side, the area is known as Chushul, where the two countries’ local military commanders have held several rounds of talks to defuse the tense standoff.
Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the Western Theater Command of the PLA, said India had violated agreements reached by the two countries and warned their actions could “easily cause misunderstandings and misjudgements”.
China’s foreign ministry said Indian troops had illegally crossed the LAC and had been the first to fire shots. “This is a serious military provocation,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.
Late last month, India said its soldiers had thwarted the Chinese military’s moves “to change the status quo”, also on the southern shore of Pangong Lake, in violation of a consensus reached in past efforts to settle the standoff. In turn, China also accused Indian troops of crossing established lines of control.
Both sides have sent tens of thousands of troops to the disputed Himalayan border, which sits at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres (13,500 feet).
Their troops have had several showdowns since the June 15 clash. China has also acknowledged it has had casualties but not given figures.
Detailed border protocols in place for peaceful disengagement seem to have broken down since the June clash. India’s military has also reportedly changed its rules of engagement, allowing troops to carry guns.
Military commanders and diplomats have held several rounds of talks since July to reduce tension, but have made little progress to calm the border tensions.
Last week, defence ministers from the two countries spoke in Moscow on the sidelines of an international meeting – with both sides later releasing rival statements accusing each other of inflaming the showdown.
And earlier this week, an Indian minister said New Delhi had alerted China to allegations five men had been abducted by the PLA close to the disputed border in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh
Saudi Arabia cuts its oil prices to Asia amid falling energy demand as economies struggle to recover from coronavirus.
Oil prices were trading down more than 1 percent on Monday after hitting their lowest since July, as Saudi Arabia made the deepest monthly price cuts for supply to Asia in five months and optimism about demand recovery cooled amid the pandemic.
Brent crude was at $42.11 a barrel, down 55 cents or 1.3 percent by 06:42 GMT, after earlier sliding to $41.51, the lowest since July 30.
US West Texas Intermediate crude skidded 64 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $39.13 a barrel after earlier dropping to $38.55, the lowest since July 10.
The world remains awash with crude and fuel despite supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known as OPEC+, and government efforts to stimulate the global economy and oil demand. Refiners have reduced their fuel output as a result, causing oil producers such as Saudi Arabia to cut prices to offset the falling crude demand.
“Sentiment has turned sour and there might be some selling pressure ahead,” Howie Lee, an economist at Singapore’s OCBC bank said.
The Labor Day holiday on Monday marks the traditional end of the peak summer demand season in the US, and that renewed investors’ focus on the current lacklustre fuel demand in the world’s biggest oil user.
China, the world’s biggest oil importer which has been supporting prices with record purchases, slowed its intake in August and increased its products exports, according to customs data on Monday.
‘So many uncertainties’ “There are so many uncertainties with regard to the Chinese economy and their relationship with key industrialized countries, with the US and, these days, even Europe,” Keisuke Sadamori, director for energy markets and security at the International Energy Agency told the Reuters news agency.
“It’s not such an optimistic situation – that casts some shadow over the growth outlook.”
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, cut the October official selling price for Arab Light crude it sells to Asia by the most since May, indicating demand remains weak. Asia is Saudi Arabia’s largest market by region.
In August, the OPEC+ group eased production cuts to 7.7 million barrels per day after global oil prices improved from historic lows caused by the coronavirus pandemic cutting fuel demand.
Oil is also under pressure as US companies increased their drilling for new supply after the recent recovery in oil prices.
US energy firms last week added oil and natural gas rigs for the second time in the past three weeks, according to a weekly report by Baker Hughes Co on Friday.
Hundreds take to the streets to demonstrate against the postponement of legislative election and the new security law.
More than 30 people have been arrested by Hong Kong police as riot officers swoop in on pro-democracy protesters – opposed to the postponement of the local legislative election – with rounds of pepper balls.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets on Sunday in the Asian financial hub to demonstrate against a new national security law imposed by China and the postponement of the legislative poll.
Sunday was meant to be voting day for the city’s partially elected legislature, one of the few instances where Hong Kong voters get to cast ballots.
But Chief Executive Carrie Lam on July 31 postponed the election for one year, citing a surge in novel coronavirus cases. Critics say her government worried the opposition would gain seats if voting was held as scheduled.
The poll would have been the former British colony’s first official vote since Beijing imposed the new security legislation in late June, which critics say aims to quash dissent in the city.
Anti-government protests have been held in Hong Kong almost every weekend since June 2019. They erupted over opposition to a proposed extradition law and spread to include demands for greater democracy and criticism of Beijing’s efforts to tighten control over the city.
Police fire pepper balls Thousands of police were stationed around the bustling Kowloon Peninsula on Sunday as marchers waved placards and chanted popular anti-government slogans such as, “liberate Hong Kong”.
One woman was arrested during a protest in the Kowloon district of Yau Ma Tei on charges of assault and spreading pro-independence slogans, the police department said on its Facebook page. It said such slogans are illegal under the newly enacted National Security Act.
Police fired pepper balls at protesters in Kowloon’s Mong Kong neighbourhood, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.
Some 30 other people were arrested on suspicion of illegal assembly and two were arrested for disorderly conduct, police said.
In the Jordan neighbourhood, protesters raised a banner criticising the election delay, the Post said. It put the number of arrests at 33.
“I want my right to vote,” activist Leung Kwok-hung, popularly known as Long Hair, was quoted as saying. The newspaper said Leung was later arrested.
Reporting from the city, Noble Reporters Media said many people were also carrying out individual acts of defiance across the city, carrying banners or chanting slogans, to protest the new law.
“These acts are remarkable because these individuals are doing that in the face of the sweeping national security law, which makes chants like that, saying things like that illegal,” he said.
“The demonstration was also an unconventional one as people tried hard to blend in with regular shoppers in the heart of the city, and occasionally chanted slogans or make the hand sign of the opposition.”
Limited gatherings Anti-government demonstrations have declined this year mainly because of limits on group gatherings and the security law that punishes actions China sees as subversive, secessionist, “terrorist” or colluding with foreign forces.
Hong Kong has reported about 4,800 coronavirus cases since January, far lower than in other large cities around the world. The number of new daily infections has fallen substantially from triple digits in July to single digits currently.
While street protests have largely lost momentum, anti-government and anti-Beijing sentiment persists, with China’s offer of mass coronavirus testing for Hong Kong residents prompting calls for a boycott amid public distrust.
Gatherings are currently limited to two people. Police have cited such restrictions in rejecting applications for protests in recent months, effectively preventing demonstrations.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a guarantee of autonomy but critics say the new law undermines that promise and puts the territory on a more authoritarian path.
Supporters of the new security law say it will bring more stability after a year of often-violent anti-government and anti-China unrest and it plugs loopholes in national security left by the city’s inability to fulfil a constitutional requirement to pass such laws on its own.
Facing pressure from the US, China wants to develop its own chip-making technology, sources tell Bloomberg.
China is planning a sweeping set of new government policies to develop its domestic semiconductor industry and counter Trump administration restrictions, conferring the same kind of priority on the effort it accorded to building its atomic capability, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Beijing is preparing broad support for so-called third-generation semiconductors for the five years through 2025, said the people, asking not to be identified discussing government deliberations. A suite of measures to bolster research, education and financing for the industry has been added to a draft of the country’s 14th five-year plan, which will be presented to the country’s top leaders in October, the people said.
China’s top leaders will gather next month to lay out their economic strategy for the next half decade, including efforts to ramp up domestic consumption and make critical technology at home. President Xi Jinping has pledged an estimated $1.4 trillion through 2025 for technologies ranging from wireless networks to artificial intelligence. Semiconductors are fundamental to virtually every component of China’s technology ambitions — and an increasingly aggressive Trump administration threatens to cut off their supply from abroad.
“The Chinese leadership realizes that semiconductors underpin all advanced technologies, and that it can no longer dependably rely on American supplies,” said Dan Wang, technology analyst at research firm Gavekal Dragonomics. “In the face of stricter U.S. restrictions on chip access, China’s response can only be to keep pushing its own industry to develop.”
Shares in several major Chinese chipmakers gained. Shanghai Fudan Microelectronics Group Co. finished 4.3% higher in Hong Kong. On mainland bourses, Will Semiconductor Ltd. — the second most valuable listed Chinese chip firm — rose almost 10%. Xiamen Changelight Co. closed 14% up while Focus Lightings Tech Co. jumped 5.6%.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which is responsible for drafting the tech-related goals, did not reply to a request for comment.
China imports more than $300 billion worth of integrated circuits each year and its semiconductor developers rely on U.S.-made chip design tools and patents, as well as critical manufacturing technologies from U.S. allies. But deteriorating ties between Beijing and Washington have made it increasingly difficult for Chinese companies to source components and chipmaking technologies from overseas.
The U.S. government has blacklisted dozens of China’s tech companies so they can’t buy American parts, and slapped bans on ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat. In the case of technology giant Huawei Technologies Co., the Trump administration sanctioned the company and pressed allies to ban the company’s equipment from their telecom networks.
This month, Huawei, the country’s largest handset maker, will even lose access to chips from the likes of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. under new American regulations that prohibit suppliers anywhere in the world from working with the company if those suppliers use American equipment. The tighter rules have raised the urgency of building domestic alternatives in Beijing.
Third-generation semiconductors are mainly chipsets made of materials such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride. They can operate at high frequency and in higher power and temperature environments, and are widely used in fifth-generation radio frequency chips, military-grade radars and electric vehicles.
Since no single country now dominates the fledgling, third-generation technology, China’s gamble is its corporations can compete if they accelerate research into the field now. Global leaders such as U.S.-based CREE Inc. and Japan’s Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. are just beginning to grow this business, while Chinese tech giants such as Sanan Optoelectronics Co. Ltd. and state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corp. have made inroads on third-generation chipsets.
The country’s other chipmakers, which include Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., Will Semiconductor Ltd. and National Silicon Industry Group Co., may benefit more broadly from the state support.
“This is a sector about to see explosive growth,” Alan Zhou, managing partner of Fujian-based chip investment fund An Xin Capital Co., told an industry forum last week. Because of China’s increasing demand and investment, this is an area that could create a “world-class Chinese chip giant.”
Case against media tycoon dates back to 2017 and is not related to his arrest under China-imposed national security law.
A court in Hong Kong has declared media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai not guilty of criminal intimidation, ending one of several cases against him after his high-profile arrest under a new national security law.
Thursday’s verdict was for a case that dates back to 2017 and was unrelated to his arrest last month.
Lai, who is a key critic of Beijing, had used foul language when confronting a reporter from Oriental Daily News, a major competitor to Lai’s tabloid Apple Daily.
Police, however, only charged him in February this year.
The mainland-born media magnate had pleaded not guilty.
He smiled after the verdict was read out and shook hands with supporters who filled the courtroom.
Lai’s case comes after he was arrested for suspected collusion with foreign forces on August 10, making him the highest-profile person to be arrested under the Beijing-imposed law.
The 71-year-old had been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he met officials including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor”.
After Lai’s August arrest about 200 police officers searched the office of his Apple Daily newspaper.
The national security law punishes any act China considers subversion, succession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. Critics say it crushes freedoms, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged anti-China, pro-democracy protests last year.
Lai’s Apple Daily has vied with pro-Beijing Oriental Daily for readership in the special administrative region. In 2014 the Oriental Daily published a fake obituary of Lai, claiming that he had died of AIDS and many types of cancer.
Prosecutors in the case said Lai had intimidated the Oriental Daily reporter.
Lai’s lawyers said Lai had been followed by reporters for three years and his comments were not intended to harm the reporter but expressed his exasperation.
Lai is also facing separate court cases for illegal assembly relating to anti-government protests last year.
The US says Chinese diplomats will need approval to visit US universities and hold cultural events.
The United States has said senior Chinese diplomats will now be required to secure State Department approval before visiting US university campuses and holding cultural events with more than 50 people outside embassy grounds in a move that drew condemnation from Beijing.
Washington has cast the move as a response to what it said was Beijing’s restrictions on American diplomats based in China. It comes as part of a Trump administration campaign against alleged Chinese influence operations and espionage activity.
The State Department said it also would take action to help ensure all Chinese embassy and consular social media accounts were “properly identified”.
“We’re simply demanding reciprocity. Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access that Chinese diplomats in the United States have, and today’s steps will move us substantially in that direction,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news briefing on Wednesday.
Rising tensions The Chinese Embassy in Washington condemned the move as a “gross violation” of Vienna Conventions that govern diplomacy.
The US should “correct its mistakes, revoke the relevant decisions, and provide support and facilitation for Chinese diplomats in the US to carry out the relevant activities,” the Global Times, a state-run tabloid, reported the embassy as saying.
The US has been taking steps to restrict Chinese activity in the country in the run-up to the November presidential election, in which President Donald Trump faces a strong challenge from Democratic challenger Joe Biden and where he has made a tough approach to China a key foreign policy platform.
Relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate amid disputes over trade, Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, Hong Kong and the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has blamed China for failing to adequately respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
The US has recorded the most cases and deaths in the world and Trump’s handling of the pandemic has become a key campaign issue after the president pushed for a lifting of restrictions designed to curb the spread of the virus.
Despite Trump’s previous affinity for Chinese President Xi Jinping, his administration has been ratcheting up up restrictions and sanctions on Chinese officials, government agencies and companies since last year, beginning with travel limits imposed on diplomats, and registration requirements for Chinese media outlets.
In June, the US ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, which prompted Beijing to force the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu.
University ‘threats’ Pompeo on Wednesday also revealed that Keith Krach, the State Department’s under-secretary for economic erowth, had written recently to the governing boards of US universities alerting them to alleged threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
“These threats can come in the form of illicit funding for research, intellectual property theft, intimidation of foreign students and opaque talent recruitment efforts,” Pompeo said.
He said universities could ensure they had clean investments and endowment funds, “by taking a few key steps to disclose all (Chinese) companies’ investments invested in the endowment funds, especially those in emerging-market index funds.”
On Tuesday, Pompeo said he was hopeful Confucius Institute cultural centres on US university campuses, which he accused of working to recruit “spies and collaborators”, would all be shut by the end of the year.
Last month, Pompeo labelled the centre that manages the dozens of Confucius Institutes in the US “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence” and required it to register as a foreign mission.
The State Department announced in June it would start treating four major Chinese media outlets as foreign embassies, calling them mouthpieces for Beijing.
It took the same step against five other Chinese outlets in February, and in March said it was slashing the number of journalists allowed to work at US offices of major Chinese media outlets to 100 from 160 due to Beijing’s “long-standing intimidation and harassment of journalists”.
Report says China aims to double its arsenal from current level of about 200 warheads in next decade, US has over 6,000
China is expected to at least double the number of its nuclear warheads over the next 10 years – from an estimated figure in the low 200s it has now – and is nearing the ability to launch nuclear attacks by land, air and sea, a capacity known as a triad, the Pentagon has revealed.
The annual report to Congress on China’s military marks the first time it has put a number to China’s nuclear warheads. The Federation of American Scientists has estimated that China has about 320.
The Pentagon said the growth projection was based on factors including Beijing having enough material to double its nuclear weapons stockpile without new fissile material production.
“We’re certainly concerned about the numbers … but also just the trajectory of China’s nuclear developments writ large,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defence for China, told reporters.
The annual report comes as the US Congress debates the pending $700bn defence authorisation bill amid rising tensions between the two countries.
Reporting from Washington, DC, Noble Reporters Media learnt the bill amounts to three times China’s annual defence budget.
She said US President Donald Trump’s Republican allies want some of the money to cover potential nuclear testing, which is opposed by the Democrats.
Nuclear triad capacity In his statement, Sbragia said China was also nearing completion of its nuclear triad capacity, as it develops an air-launched ballistic missile that would have nuclear capability.
The report said that in October 2019, China publicly revealed the H-6N bomber as its first nuclear-capable air-to-air refuelling bomber.
Washington has repeatedly expressed its desire to expand an Obama-era nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia to include China instead of simply extending the pact, known as New START, when it expires in February.
China has shown no interest in joining the negotiation.
In July, a senior Chinese diplomat said Beijing would “be happy” to participate in trilateral arms control negotiations, but only if the US was willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level.
Earlier this year, the Communist Party-backed tabloid Global Times said Beijing needed to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time.
In an interview with Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) on Wednesday, China analyst Andrew Leung said China’s nuclear posture was “largely defensive”, adding that even if China doubled its nuclear warheads, from 300 to 600, it would still be only a tiny fraction of the US arsenal.
“The US is said to possess something like 6,000 nuclear warheads, and the US has much more extensive military bases, with about 800 bases in more than 20 to 30 countries around the world. And so, even if China built some bases, it’s still way behind the US.”
Russia has roughly 4,300 warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association advocacy group, said China’s growing nuclear arsenal should not be used as an excuse for the US and Russia to not extend New START.
It “further reinforces the importance of extending New START and the folly of conditioning extension on China and China’s participation in arms control,” Reif added.
Tensions have been simmering between China and the US for months.
Washington has taken issue with China’s handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak and moves to curb freedoms in Hong Kong. The increasingly aggressive posture comes as President Donald Trump bids for re-election in November.
Another source of tension has been Taiwan. China has stepped up its military activity around the democratic island Beijing claims as sovereign Chinese territory, sending fighter jets and warships on exercises nearby.
The Pentagon report, based on 2019 information, said China’s military continued to “enhance its readiness” to prevent Taiwan’s independence and carry out an invasion if needed.