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Why China Has Bet On A Bigger (And Nastier) BRICS To Challenge The West

The BRICS economies' inclusion of new members like Iran may not make business sense, but it fits with the Sino-Russian strategy of drawing states of the Global South into their orbit in open confrontation with the U.S. and the rest of the West.


BUENOS AIRES — Last month's summit in Johannesburg of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), leading to a decision to expand the club, felt like geopolitical déjà vu. It recalled the 1960s Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of Third World states that refused, apparently, to take sides in the Cold War, either with the capitalist West or Soviet-led communism.

NAM neutrality was limited, often deceptive, and became obsolete with the fall of the Communist bloc in the late 1980s. The dilemma of what was then called the Third World — now, the Global South — was in the stance it should take toward Russia, the successor state to the Soviet Union that shared few of its traits and goals. Ideologically, the end of communism confused NAM: It didn't know what to do with itself.

That is until now, with an apparent resuscitation of its spirit in BRICS (formed in 2009). Yet the idea of equidistance ends there, as BRICS is led by Russia and communist China and increasingly a part of their open challenge to Western hegemony.

Its founders include Brazil, which has its own agenda, and India. Both states have adopted their own versions of neutrality in the Ukrainian crisis, first in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine,then after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in Feb. 2022.

So far, says Oliver Stuenkel, a professor at Brazil's Getulio Vargas Foundation, the two states have resisted Russia's systematic bid to use an explicitly anti-Western vocabulary in BRICS documents. This, he says, would explain the vague tone of the group's resolutions.

South Africa, the last member to join the group (in 2010), is a lesser power in terms of economy and political clout. But it symbolizes the worldwide spirit the group would come to embody.

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China's Removal Of Missing Foreign Minister Qin Gang Is The Latest In A Long List Of "Disappeared"

A movie star, a tennis player, a tech billionaire — and now the Foreign Minister: the Chinese Party's parallel justice system does not discriminate when it comes to hushing down figures deemed "subversive."

This article was updated on July 25, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.


In which countries can a foreign minister literally disappear without anyone asking any questions?

Blatantly dictatorial regimes may first come to mind — like the Kim dynasty in North Korea, or Syria with the Assad clan. But not necessarily the world's second most powerful economic and military power, holder of a veto at the UN, whose political and social model is seen by many as an alternative to a West deemed in decline.

I'm talking of course about Xi Jinping's China, where the "eclipsing" of the country's foreign minister brings back memories from another era, when leaders disappeared from photos with the Great Leader Mao Zedong — erased "by hand" in that pre-Photoshop age.

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How France Is Resisting The U.S. Push To Use NATO Against China

NATO has turned its focus from Ukraine to Asia, as American officials try to prepare a united front in case Taiwan is invaded. But consensus may not be possible as another key member, France, has its own strategy.


PARIS — A few years ago, when the applications of Ukraine and Georgia to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were first being discussed, a newspaper cartoon showed the leaders of those two countries wondering: “What is the Atlantic?”

The same cartoon could be drawn again today, with the meeting in Vilnius of the 31 alliance members with the leaders of four Asia-Pacific countries: Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. There’s no need to look far to find the reason for their presence: China.

Along with Ukraine, and Volodymyr Zelensky’s anger that NATO accession will not happen now, China is firmly on the Vilnius Summit agenda. It’s clear that Washington is behind the push for the Alliance to become increasingly more involved in Asian affairs. One more sign that China remains the U.S. priority, despite the war against Russia.

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India v. China v. Everyone Else: The Battle For The Future Begins (And Ends?) In Asia

Two Asian giants are facing each other: China, whose economic and military power is no longer in doubt, and India, whose weapon is demography and who dreams of being the equal of its Chinese rival. The effects will reverberate everywhere.


PARISThe 21st century will be Asian. There's a virtual consensus around this statement. But which Asia are we talking about? For some time now, the question has been raised: Chinese Asia or Indian Asia? Does the rivalry between the two Asian giants risk jeopardizing the prospects of the Asian continent?

At the end of June, during an international conference held in a big hotel on the French Riviera, I was able to witness first-hand — as a privileged observer — the fierce but nonetheless "muscular" exchanges between Indians and Chinese.

"At the end of this century, given the respective demographic trends of our two countries, there will be 650 million more Indians than Chinese," said one Indian delegate.

A Chinese delegate responded with the same matter-of-factness: "With a simple 2% growth rate, China will create in 10 years the equivalent of India's wealth."

Not surprisingly, the Indians put forward the demographic might, the Chinese the economic one.

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Pierre Haski

China-Taiwan: Between Election Maneuvering And Dress Rehearsals For War

The Chinese military's encirclement of Taiwan is above all a political move, not a tactical one. War is unlikely for now: Beijing still has other cards to play in the crisis. But if these fail, anything is possible.


BEIJING — No one, not even China (despite how it may seem), nor the United States or Taiwan, want war in the region. But for the past three days, the world has watched a game of intimidation around this island of 24 million inhabitants, which has become, as The Economist described it a few years ago, "the most dangerous place in the world."

The means deployed by the Chinese People's Liberation Army are considerable, including the Shandong aircraft carrier, the pride of the Beijing navy, as well as the new J-15 fighter jet. The maneuvers, which included repeated violations of the Taiwanese air identification zone, are like a dress rehearsal for a possible Chinese invasion of the island.

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Pierre Haski

China, The West And Macron's "Third Way" For Cooling Global Tensions

The French President begins a three-day visit to China. He has the difficult task of forging a "third way" for Europe between U.S. and Chinese interests in an increasingly polarized world.


PARIS — Do not send the wrong message.

This is the main issue at stake in French President Emmanuel Macron's three-day visit to China. He must not send the wrong message about Ukraine but instead pretend to believe in Chinese mediation. He must not misunderstand the more global issue of China-Europe relations at a time when Beijing and Washington are increasingly at odds with each other.

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Emmanuel Macron chose to invite Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, to join this trip. This is obviously an important gesture because it avoids a bilateral trap between the Chinese giant and each of the 27 European states, where the balance of power with the European Union is more favorable.

The moment is decisive. The country that the French president is returning to, after three years of absence due to the pandemic, is no longer the same. It has taken off and now places itself as the opposing superpower to the United States, as the only country capable of standing up to a hegemonic America. Russia appears to be weakened by its war in Ukraine, forced to recognize that it is China that now embodies the dissident pole against the West.

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Philippe Le Corre

Macron Goes To China — Old And New Reasons Xi Jinping Can't Ignore Europe

On a visit to China this week, French President Emmanuel Macron will try to improve the image of French companies and to renew diplomatic ties with Beijing, which may be the most pivotal outside player in the Ukraine-Russia conflict.


PARIS — In the midst of the war in Ukraine, and as clouds gather over Chinese-American relations, will French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to China help restore diplomacy to its rightful place?

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During his first trip to China in 2018, the French president promised to visit every year. He returned only once, at the end of 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted global travel.

Macron is headed back to China on Wednesday. He will first try to restore the image of French companies in a country where foreign brands have lost popularity. French companies Alstom, Auchan and Carrefour have left China, while others quietly wonder whether they have a future in a country focused on encouraging its national champions.

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Yann Rousseau

Yes, Xi Jinping Is Now More Powerful Than Mao Zedong Ever Was

After being re-elected as head of the Communist Party last year, the Chinese leader has been unanimously re-elected to another five-year term as head of state. Now, wielding more power than any other past Chinese communist leader, he wants to accelerate the rise of Chinese influence around the world.


BEIJING — Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has been re-elected to a third five-year term at the head of the world's second largest economic power. Nobody was surprised.

The vote took place during a legislative assembly convened to rubber stamp decisions of the authoritarian power, during which 2,952 parliamentarians unanimously approved Xi's re-election before rising, in perfect choreography, to offer a prolonged standing ovation to their leader. As usual, Xi remained completely neutral in the face of the enthusiasm.

His victory was a mere formality after his re-election last fall as the head of the all-powerful party, which controls all of the country's political institutions, and after legislative amendments to erase term limits that would have forced him out.

Xi Jinping, who took over the presidency in 2013, "is now the most powerful leader in the history of the People's Republic, since its founding in 1949. Institutionally, he holds even more power than Mao Zedong," says Suisheng Zhao, a professor and Chinese foreign policy expert at the University of Denver.

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*Rubén M. Perina

How Argentina Has Become China's Foothold In Latin America

China has become one of Argentina's most important trading partners and is increasing its military bases in the country. As China seeks to challenge the liberal world order, Argentina risks rifts with other key allies.


BUENOS AIRES — There was a media furore worldwide in February over the sighting and subsequent downing of mysterious Chinese balloons by the U.S. coastline. The unnerving affair naturally raised a question mark in countries beyond the United States.

Here in Argentina, currently run by a leftist administration with leanings toward Russia and China, we might pertinently wonder whether or not the secretive Chinese base set up in the province of Neuquén in the west of the country in 2015-17 had anything to do with the communist superpower's less-than-festive balloons. It is difficult to say, of course, given the scarcity of information on the base, but the incidents are an opportunity to revise China's presence in Argentina.

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Xian Zhu and Feiyu Xiang

As COVID Explodes, An Inside Look At China's Gray Market Of Generic Drugs

COVID infections have skyrocketed since China eased restrictions as public health policy has not been able to keep up. Unable to find medications, many have turned to generic drugs of questionable safety. It's the culmination of a longstanding problem.

BEIJING — When her grandfather joined the millions of infected Chinese, Chen quickly decided to buy COVID-19 drugs to limit the effects of the virus. She woke up early to shop on Jingdong, one of China’s biggest online shopping websites, but failed in snatching the limited daily stocks made available.

Fearing COVID's effect on her grandfather, who suffers from dementia, she contacted an independent drug agent and bought a box of generic pharmaceuticals.

With China having suddenly ended its zero-COVID policy, infections have peaked. According to the latest estimates by Airfinity, a British medical information and analysis company, severe COVID outbreaks happened over Chinese New Year with 62 million infections forecast for the second half of January.

In a press conference held by China's State Council on Jan. 11, COVID-19 pills were mentioned as part of the new epidemic control mechanisms. In late 2021, Pfizer developed Paxlovid, the world's first potent COVID drug, with one 100 mg white ritonavir and two 150 mg light pink nirmatrelvir tablets taken every 12 hours. China imported the first batch of Paxlovid for clinical use in March 2022 and included it in the ninth edition of the treatment protocol.

But the first 21,200 boxes of Paxlovid were dispersed to only eight provinces, and no further information is available on where the drug ended up and how much it was used.

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Zhenming Wang

A Perfect Storm Of China-Taiwan Hostility: Will It Snap In 2023?

The past year has added new elements into the showdown across the Taiwan Strait, from Nancy Pelosi's visit to the war in Ukraine to Xi jinping's power grab. Now we may be reaching a tipping point that could lead to a military showdown, even if the question of when is still wide open.


TAIPEI — To predict what might happen in the Taiwan Strait in 2023, one needs to bear in mind the profound influence of three significant geopolitical events in 2022: the Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. member of Congress Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan — followed by China's retaliatory military exercise — and, finally, Xi Jinping’s historic third term as president.

The common belief is that Xi Jinping aims to unify Taiwan in his next 10 years (or more) of rule.

These three developments have both advantages and disadvantages for Taiwan. Chinese optimism that Taiwan could be taken over in a matter of days has been brought down to earth as the world watches the Russian army continue to lose ground in Ukraine — suggesting China may have to rethink plans to attack Taiwan.

While China will not easily abandon its plans to take Taiwan by force, the outcome of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will certainly force China to be better prepared — meaning that unless something very serious happens, China will not start a war soon. After all, many key weapons of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are not yet in service, and it will take years to build a cohesive military force.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also had a negative impact on Taiwan. The U.S. supplied a large amount of arms and ammunition to Ukraine, resulting in the delayed delivery of equipment previously purchased by Taiwan. This seriously undermines Taiwan's plans to strengthen its national defense and deter China.

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Jieyi Zheng

Between Xi Jinping And Pope Francis, China's Catholics Are Still Stuck In Limbo

An agreement between the Vatican and Beijing was quietly renewed recently. However, China still views Catholicism with a mix of deep suspicion and general distraction. Meanwhile the faithful and pastors are caught between two very different worlds.

At a mass on the Assumption of Mary, the Italian priest broke the bread and gave half of it to Liu, an underground priest from China. This simple and solemn rite symbolizes communion with Jesus and the unity of the Catholic Church. But it was only when Liu left his country that he could undertake the rite with a foreign priest, who was also not allowed to preach in China.

The atheist Chinese Communist Party considers religion to be a spiritual opium, and accuses Catholicism in particular of being an accomplice of Western imperialism. The Beijing-backed Catholic Patriotic Association began electing and consecrating its own bishops since 1958, attempting to satisfy the desire of the faithful while severing the link between Chinese Catholics and the Pope.

In order to resolve the plight of Chinese Catholics, after the efforts of three popes, the Vatican and Beijing signed a two-year Provisional Agreement on Nomination of Bishops in 2018. On Oct. 22, when the world’s eyes were focused on Xi Jinping’s groundbreaking third term as president, which is also the expiry date of the previous agreement, the Vatican immediately announced the renewal of the agreement for another two years.

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