Is it Right to Hold China Accountable for COVID-19?
Global speculation about China’s role in this pandemic. Let me make one thing clear, I do not believe that COVID-19 has been a man-made biological weapon, created in a Chinese laboratory, or any laboratory, for that matter.
There seem to be growing speculation and conspiracy theories by the day however-Australian and American governments alike, putting China and the WHO in the crossfire. Scott Morrison was astounded as to why wet markets in China have re-opened.
America and Australia-such beacons of democracy.
Yet, Can we hold China accountable at all for the global pandemic? Is there something to answer for?
Last night, Trump announced that he had seen evidence to show China had created the virus in a lab.
Even if there was a conclusion, that the virus was man made-and there has not been quite the opposite. How would it be known to be from a Chinese lab? Does it come with a sale tag?
It goes without saying that Trump has a chip on his shoulder about China, and even more so now that his response to the pandemic will ultimately decide upon the upcoming election.
Why he seems to think China is a scapegoat, to be the most effective game-changer; is a discussion for another day.
China’s figures as it stands for the global pandemic, are currently at 84,373 cases and 4673 deaths. This is far from believable. For a country where the first outbreak was recorded, and that had to shut down for almost three months it is not tangible that they would have only seen, just under 5000 deaths. In the United Kingdom alone, we are in the 9th week of the outbreak, the 6th week of lockdown, and already we have nearly 27,000 deaths, and we are nowhere near the population of China at 1.4 billion (Wikipedia, 1st May 2020).
It is widely known that China has an oath to secrecy and reputation-ally hides the truth, even in the face of a global pandemic. You only need to look at the social media coverage coming out of China to see how heavily it is being policed and censored on a daily basis. (BBC News, 7th February 2020) They did however report the virus to the WHO on 27th December 2019 (Express, Hardtalk, Sackur, 1st May 2020), and their reaction was totalitarian-they have apparently seen no new cases, enabling the country to re-open. However, how much this is true, is questionable.
Yet a country that censors the thoughts and feelings of its’ own people on such a level, during a crisis that will have taken their families cannot be trusted.
Of course, we cannot confirm whether China did indeed have more deaths than those reported, but we can listen to the stories. Pictures of corpses lying in cities, forgotten and alone. And transmissions of doctors crying out a warning for the rest of the world-silenced by China’s republic (BBC News, 7th February 2020), before China had decided to report the disease. There seem to be different reports as to when the Chinese doctor: Dr. Li Wenliang blew the whistle, some say the 27th of December and some on the 30th. Whenever it was, the Chinese authorities did not report to the WHO until 31st December (Express, Hard Talk, Stephen Sackur). In the meanwhile, accusing Dr. Li of salacious rumors. The man has since died.
I think it is fair to say that Dr. Li would not have taken to the media if he believed the Chinese government to have taken what he had to say seriously. Chinese culture very much upholds status and power above all else.
There have also been reports via the morning tv program ‘This Morning’ with Phillip and Holly: whereby a British ex-pat living in China, contracted the disease in November. The Chinese authorities may have known about this virus for a month.
The UK Ambassador for China has denied the virus to have emerged from Wuhan on the BBC’s Hardtalk program, the epicenter of the Chinese outbreak. The UK ambassador did not answer the journalist’s question, put to him during the Hardtalk program. Stephen Sackur asked if the ambassador agreed whether it was important to review the Chinese reaction at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, which led to a pandemic. The ambassador answered that they would have to “agree to disagree”. The ambassador is speculative about whether the virus originated in Wuhan. Yes, this is speculative, but Sackur was asking him if he thought the response in China needed to be reviewed. Perhaps that was a more difficult question to sidestep. He then went on to say that China had reported the outbreak as early as they could-in reference to the same question.
The fact is, we cannot say for certain by all means, that the pandemic originated in China-there have been symptom-related reports in Dubai as early as September last year and other locations; but we can say there is evidence that the epidemic was not dealt with quickly enough. This may have prevented the disease from even spreading, or having the ground to reproduce.
One thing that can be said, I do think the Chinese dealt with the virus admirably, once they did act: building hospitals in a week and closing down their entire 1.4 billion population-who were not even allowed out for food. This was all coordinated through designated community managers. Something to be admired, and reflected upon in our own handling, for future times to come.
Where the virus originated, we may never know, yet we are all affected by this and we must all come together on this. It will not be beaten by accusations and what has been seen as growing racism towards the Chinese. Reports of tourists being spat upon, not to mention the growing unease I witnessed prior to the lockdown in the UK.
Yes, it is not the first time that a highly infectious disease has come out of China and has come out the wet markets that are so integral to this ancient, and largely agricultural nation.
It is of no surprise either, that such a scenario would arise when coagulating both wild animals and water, which were present at the Wuhan wet market. (Marron, National Geographic, 16th April 2020).
SARS, back in 2003, also came out of a wet market in China. (Ellis, Vox, 6th March 2020) Bird Flu in 2013 also emerged in China, and it was also linked to wet markets. (WHO
It is not rocket science to pertain this: water is a haven for bacteria and I have witnessed what these wet markets are like; having lived in Thailand for three years. Everything is washed down at the end of the market: tables, chairs, floor, drapings, everything-with the discarded food-before people have left, and you could easily be wearing sandals. You can imagine then, that anything infectious-if it can live in water, can travel, and can immediately spread if it makes the jump from animal to surface. Polio anyone?
I also understand the significance behind the wet market, which is a fresh food market: serving the deep culinary traditions of old cultures.
In contrast, we are now in a different time.
We all have to be held accountable, not just the Chinese. The very those that blame the Chinese, have also got some questions to ask of themselves.
The UK Chinese ambassador-Liu Xiaoming said:
“This is not the first time that some politicians want to play world police. This is not the era of ‘gunboat diplomacy. This is not the era when China was still a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. This is the third decade of the 21st century. Those people cannot understand it. They think they still live in the old days when they can bully China and the world. If the WHO does not act their way, they stop their support and criticise the WHO to be ‘China-centric’. That’s simply not right. (The Guardian, Wintour, 30th April 2020)
That is simply not right.
It is widely being reported and remarked upon, that the WHO has allowed the re-opening of wet markets in China, however, the WHO is not able to control governments and can only advise. They are currently advising the ban of wild animals in wet markets, and regulations in order to run them.
Misinformation is almost as contagious as COVID-19, it would seem.
At the end of the day, China is responsible for its’ people and how they run their wet markets, for as we have all experienced-we are all connected and it has a knock-on effect upon us all. They are accountable in their practices and in their response-which are both admirable and questionable. Hopefully, they will be able to come to terms with this.
They are not alone.
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China’s Growing Foothold in the Middle East -The Rise of a New SuperPower
Overcoming the setback of the COVID pandemic, China is well on its way to establishing its foothold as the new superpower. And the most recent of its interest – The Middle East.
After trapping under-developing countries in South Asia and Africa in its debt trap, the dragon is searching for a new ally. An ally with equal resentment with the west and who can support China is becoming the next America, hence Saudi Arabia.
The Glamorous Welcome of President Xi Jinping on the Middle Eastern Soil
Saudi Arabia rolled out the purple carpet when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Riyadh in December 2022.
Xi Jinping’s journey to Saudi Arabia is his first since 2016, and it is only his third trip abroad since the coronavirus outbreak started. Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Saudi Arabia for a three-day visit that made dozens of agreements for trade, technology, and the economy.
The timing of Xi’s three-day trip to Saudi Arabia is a bit perplexing. The organization of oil-producing countries’ refusal to boost output and the West’s decision to cap the price of Russian oil may indicate that China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia have aligned anti-Western policies.
Considering the warm welcome of Xi Jinping by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and a number of agreements and summits heralded, the White House urged – China’s efforts to sway world events are “not favorable” to the international system.
According to a US spokesperson, the United States is aware of China’s efforts to increase its global influence. Moreover, the USA is well aware that the Middle East is undoubtedly one of those areas where China wishes to expand its influence.
Beijing’s focus on Riyadh may concern the US and its western allies as China is improving its relations with Middle East countries, which are growing further in weapon and oil supply.
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The $30 million Deal with the New Superpower
The signing of 35 investment agreements worth $30 million between China and Saudi Arabia has dramatically improved the two nations’ commercial ties.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Chinese President Xi presided over the signing of the agreements. The first was an alignment plan between the nations’ Vision 2030 and the Belt and Road Initiative.
Moreover, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the energy minister of Saudi Arabia, and He Lifeng, the head of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, signed a memorandum of understanding on hydrogen energy.
Notably, Chinese cooperation in nuclear energy, security, space, and technology was the highlight of all agreements. China is fostering this relationship with Saudi Arabia, in the region that was formerly under American influence.
During the three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, President Xi addresses a speech in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The leaders and representatives from the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were present.
China is one of the biggest oil importers from Saudi Arabia, and the President indicated an unorthodox view during this speech. Mr. Xi specified using the Shanghai Petroleum and Natural Gas Exchange to settle oil and gas contracts in Chinese currency.
Crude oil, typically valued in US dollars, is exported by Saudi Arabia more frequently than any other country. Moves away from the US dollar could weaken the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency. However, Saudi Arabia is unlikely to make significant changes because it pegs its currency to the dollar.
China and Saudi Arabia both hailed Mr. Xi’s visit as a historic occasion as the relations that were once limited to oil-based were extended into sales, technology transfers, and infrastructure projects.
The Pressure on the USA in the MiddleEast
Due to deteriorating relations with the US and other Western countries, China seeks to strengthen ties with Middle Eastern nations during Xi’s visit. The links between China and Saudi Arabia are hurting the USA economically and globally.
Saudi Arabia has been a loyal ally of the US for a long time. But recently, its connections with China have significantly created pressure on the USA.
Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia in the summer to calm skeptical friends and reaffirm American engagement in the Middle East. The President ensures the leaders of Arabs in Riyadh that the United States won’t withdraw and let China, Russia, or Iran fill the void.
But he was unable to persuade the Saudis to increase oil output. Instead, Arab would shortly spearhead a plan to reduce oil production by almost 2 million barrels per day as part of an agreement with Russia.
Along with Saudi Arabia, the US has strained ties with China. Saudi Arabia and China have also adopted stances about the Ukraine War that differ from those of the West.
Both parties have refrained from backing sanctions against Russia. Riyadh has repeatedly maintained that Moscow is a significant energy-producing partner who needs to be engaged on OPEC issues.
UAE: Growing Influence of the New Superpower
In the United Arab Emirates, relatively youthful and forceful leaders are now in charge of the Gulf. Although these nations still significantly rely on the United States for their needs in terms of national security and the sale of weapons.
Although the entry of China into the Middle East has raised concerns and competition among western countries, the United Arab Emirates is taking advantage of the competition.
Moreover, Prince Mohammed wants to reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil exports by diversifying the country’s economy. He wants to develop a new Saudi military industry as part of a bigger plan to increase the kingdom’s independence and economic might.
Prince is also planning to diversify the country using new technologies and improve internal infrastructure innovatively. China is regarded as a crucial ally in developing the nation’s defenses and infrastructure since it can offer the necessary expertise and technology.
On the other hand, China’s priority is energy, which depends on a steady flow of fossil fuels to function. China has been alert since price fluctuation due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year. As well as a Chinese energy crisis last year resulted in blackouts that shut down companies and towns.
China is therefore acting wisely by trading steady fuel exports for technology, nuclear energy, and space technology with Saudi Arabia.
Nevertheless, Xi’s trip to Saudi Arabia showed that Saudi Arabia and the other Arab nations have options. And they will keep using their growth strategy for international stakeholders to their advantage.
China to Arrest USA Autonomy over Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arab officials have already said that they have never supported polarization. Saudi Arabia is only striving for the nation’s interest; their interests are in the West and the east too.
However, the young lead of Saudi Arabia is searching for an alternative to enhance the nation’s economy without relying on oil exports. And China has a good chance to arrest US autonomy over Arab countries by providing all required help.
The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US as it stands right now is fickle. However, China and Saudi Arabia’s strong alliances make it the ideal time for China to seize the chance to replace the United States as Saudi Arabia’s primary trading partner.
The new relationship will not only weaken the USA’s influence in the region, but it will also hurt the US superpower’s global image.
Who is Winning the Microchip War: India or China?
The world is running out of computer chips. And due to the unprecedented shortage of electric chips and semiconductors, a new microchip war is brewing between the two largest manufacturers: India & China.
But, who is winning it? Here’s an explainer:
The Semiconductor Crisis: Explained
Semiconductors are used to make integrated circuits. These microchips are the lifeblood of all electronic appliances, from smartphones, laptops, and gaming consoles to supercomputers and modern weapons.
Powering the technological evolution over the last two decades, the demand for semiconductors has skyrocketed. However, the 2020 pandemic halted the chips’ manufacturing, sparking a global semiconductor crisis.
The crisis was so bad that Apple lost 6 billion dollars in revenue, Maruti had to cut down 40% of its production, and Mahindra had to cut down 20% of its production. Due to chip shortages, the auto industry has already lost 100 billion dollars in revenue.
Even though production has resumed, manufacturers are still unable to fill out the shortage caused by COVID.
So, why is there a sudden shortage of semiconductors and their impact on different industries?
The Rush of people with Electronic Gadgets
The first reason for the shortage is that the industry had already been growing rapidly and was already on the brink of shortage. According to the semiconductor industry association, more than 100 billion integration circuits are used daily worldwide.
The market is so huge that the industry’s biggest players, including Intel, Micron, Nvidia, and Qualcomm, can’t keep up with the demand, given the enormous size of the market.
The Microchip War & Impact of Covid-19
Lockdown-induced online work dramatically increased demand for electronic devices. But with the manufacturing and transportation services primarily halted, demands outstripped supply.
Another the reason why the shortage is so difficult to recover is that manufacturing a microchip typically takes more than four months. Additionally, microchip manufacturers need giant factories with dust-free rooms, multi-million-dollar machines, molten tin, and lasers.
Since manufacturing cannot be increased on such short notice, the wait times for chips increased alarmingly. The situation has worsened so severely that the waiting time spiked from 11.8 weeks in September 2019 to 21 weeks in August 2021.
Consequently, the market value of semiconductors grew over 20% ($600 billion) in 2021.
Hence, the radical difference in supply and demand has turned the table, and this is why companies from various areas across the world from various sectors have started facing production issues.
The four major industries that have furiously faced the heat of crisis are auto, LED lighting, consumer electronics, and the appliance industries.
What is the position of India in the semiconductor market?
Despite homing big heads like Intel, Micron, and Samsung housing and R&D centers in India. India doesn’t have a significant chip manufacturing industry.
When looked at India’s semiconductor trade situation, India became the 13th largest importer of semiconductor devices in the world in 2020, with $2.38 billion in semiconductor device imports.
And now comes the story’s climax behind the semiconductor war between India and China.
The terrifying part is that about 68.1% of India’s semiconductors were imported from China in 2020. Followed by 40% in and 26% from Hongkong in 2022.
So, what is India doing to fix the situation and reduce its dependence on China? And How is India indirectly in the position of war with China in the semiconductor industry?
India Vs. China: The Microchip War
The roots of India & China’s microchip war can be traced back to the Quad Summit.
During the quad summit conference held by US president Joe Biden on the 24th of September 2021 debated on how to tackle several aspects of economic challenges that come through different countries’ economic development. And one such aspect was the semiconductor shortage in the world.
Long story short, chip manufacturing is a complex process requiring multiple steps. So if each country sets up five divisions for five different processes, it is both costly and time-consuming.
Because of this, India, Australia, Japan, and the US have chosen to work together to execute only those processes that best suit their strengths while transferring the remaining ones to other nations.
That means the US will design the semiconductor; Japan will provide resources to make semiconductor that is raw materials and chemicals like silicon wafers and ICs. While Australia will come up with an electronic supply chain as it has access to critical materials and advanced mining.
Meanwhile, India has many skilled engineers and laborers for cheap assembling and manufacturing.
So, in the quad summit US, Japan, Australia, and India joined hands to build a robust semiconductor supply chain based on their strength to eliminate their dependence on China, Hongkong, and Taiwan.
Thus India’s INR 76000 cores production incentives program is indirectly threatening Chinas mega semiconductor chip industry.
Will the Microchip Program Really Benefit India?
The US is very well aware of future weapons and is acting smartly to overcome China in supercomputing and AI tech. That’s why the US wants semiconductor technology to be kept away from the hands of China.
Hence in October 2022 US banned all semiconductor exports to China. Alongside baning all the technologies that China can use against the US.
The US does not want China to develop weapons that may use against the US military. Consequently, fostering India to come up with semiconductor manufacturing to cut the wings of China in the field of making chips.
As discussed above, the US is king in designing the chips, but with sanctions on exporting any such technology from the US, China will face heat.
While the US has joined hands in the quad summit to design semiconductors for India, here comes the answer to that incentive program.
Is India Winning the Microchip Chip War?
Over the next two years, the Indian government plans to establish 20 semiconductor plants. To tackle the shortage of semiconductor Government of India has lined -up with attractive incentive support for companies engaged in silicon conductors, photonics, semiconductor packaging, compound semiconductor manufacturing, sensors fabs, and semiconductor design.
Moreover, India is also tying up with Taiwan and encouraging semiconductor companies to manufacture semiconductors in India by providing land at affordable prices for their setup.
India is in an overstated circumstance where it is a semiconductor-importing nation and is about to switch to a semiconductor-exporting nation. Here is some heat in China. And that sparks an unintentional semiconductor war between China and India.
What Xi Jinping Aims, Acquires – The Return of Persistent President￼
The results of China’s presidential election were known to the entire globe, and especially to the citizens of China. In the wake of the recently concluded party congress in Beijing, Xi Jinping has established himself as the kingmaker.
Xi Jinping was a driving force behind the repeal of presidential term limits in 2018, which opened the door for him to hold the position of leader for life if he desires.
Xi Jinping has broken the previous history by accepting a third term as party leader and significantly enhanced the concentration of power at the organization’s top.
But what does the persistent president’s return means for China and the world? Here’s a detailed insight.
“The World Development needs China…”. – Xi Jinping
After being elected as president of China for the third consecutive term in a closed-door election, Xi Jinping stated in his first address to the audience, “China cannot develop in isolation from the world. The world’s development also needs China,”
This quote shows how China focuses on its growth to have a more prominent global effect as a superpower.
Additionally, Xi Jinping, with the proceedings of the new term, wants to focus on achieving economic, industrial, and technological goals. That will give the Chinese economic and technological sector a competitive edge to become the next prominent superpower.
However, the road ahead toward leading China as a top superpower for Xi Jinping needs to be smoother. There are unresolved domestic problems, economic difficulties, and hostile international relations with neighbors like Taiwan and India. One of his biggest concerns would be his relationship with rival America.
Nevertheless, Xi Jinping continues to hold the view that despite numerous challenges in becoming a superpower, the Chinese people would always support and remain steadfast on this side.
“On the road ahead, no matter high winds, choppy waters, or even dangerous storms, the people will always be our most solid support and strongest confidence,”President Xi Jinping
Two Countries Share a Friendship with ‘No Limits’ – Xi Jinping on Relationship with Russia
Mr. Putin will need China, said Alicia Garcia Herrero, head economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis. Russia must continue importing semiconductors from China to keep military, industrial, and civil needs operational.
Due to restrictions from US and European alliances, Russia has no choice but to export chips from China to operate for civil and military purposes.
Chip export from China to Russia more than doubled to roughly $50 million in the first five months of 2022 compared to a year earlier. While exports of other components like printed circuit boards also witnessed a double-digit percentage increase.
However, Xi Jinping raised concerns over the Russia-Ukraine war during his visit to an international summit in Uzbekistan with President Putin.
The focus, though, was on Putin’s oblique acknowledgment of Chinese “concerns” regarding the invasion.
“We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis,”Putin, Russian Presidnt
Nevertheless, China has been cautious in its interactions with Moscow to avoid falling victim to any potential sanctions and alienating other nations, such as those in Central Asia, with China forging economic links.
Yet, with the ongoing trade across two borders of China and Russia, Xi Jinping’s thought over Russia’s invasion clearly — supports the friend firmly in the backend while criticizing and commending Russia in front of the world.
“Regard science and technology as our primary productive force” – Xi Jinping
The most potent president of decades in China, Xi Jinping, at the opening of the meeting, straight away displayed China’s powerful ambitions and reliance on science and technology.
Violating a tradition that had been in place for 40 years, six out of politburo’s 25 members now have a background in science. Compared to just one person in the previous politburo, who had no members with education or experience in science or technology.
And there was a significant turnaround of the party’s top leadership after Xi Jinping was reinstated as general secretary for a third term.
Xi Jinping’s choices emphasize building up Beijing’s powerful military and technological capabilities so that China can defend or resist any pressure from the US and its allies, especially when it comes to enforcing territorial claims over Taiwan.
Moreover, China is also expected to prioritize research and development in aerospace and space science. To boost the aerospace and space science workforce, China aims to bring back Chinese scholars who are currently abroad or hired by foreign researchers.
Such initiatives and endeavors unequivocally show China’s priority for science and technology in the years to come. In 2021, China spent around 2.8 trillion yuan, 2.4% of China’s GDP, on Research and Development.
However, the current five-year plan for the nation sets a target of an annual increase of more than 7% every year.
“China must strengthen the unity of all ethnic groups.”
As western countries continue to charge Beijing with committing genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghur population in the region, China’s president, Xi Jinping, visited Xinjiang for the first time in eight years.
A supra-governmental group subject to US sanctions, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) was inspected by the president, who lauded the organization’s “excellent progress” in reform and growth.
Nevertheless, President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Xinjiang area comes out as more deliberate than opportunistic as the ruthless tactics employed by the Chinese government against the Uyghur minority in the northwest Xinjiang province have been brought to light by a cache of leaked documents and images.
Uyghurs are allegedly forced to unlearn their culture and religion via a network of institutes run by Chinese authorities in the area. The exposed documents state that
China has a shoot-to-kill policy for Uyghurs who attempt to flee the internment centers. The materials also go against the Chinese government’s claim that the Uyghurs willingly attend the facilities.
However, China’s Foreign Ministry has rejected the allegation and said the Media is spreading lies and rumors.
Though China was seriously condemned by the UN and western countries, knowing such ruthless behavior of China towards minorities is nothing new. Such criticism compelled President Xi Jinping to travel to Xinjiang, a region he hadn’t been to in eight years.
However, the future of the oppressed Uyghur Muslims and other minority communities under Vi Jinping’s third term is still uncertain.
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