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Zelensky At G20, China COVID Riots, 8 Billion Humans

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives in Bali, Indonesia, to take part in the G20 meeting which kicks off today.

✍️ Newsletter by Sophia Constantino, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Grüezi!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Ukraine is the focus as G20 meeting kicks off in Bali, protests against COVID restrictions turn violent in China, and human population crosses the 8-billion threshold. And hold that green smoothie: for German daily Die Welt, alternative medicine specialist Edzard Ernst dispels misconceptions about all things detox.

[*Swiss German]

💡 SPOTLIGHT

Business tips, free speech, racism: A Nigerian writer's China diaries

The deepening ties between China and Africa are a hot topic, but the voices we hear are usually the same — white and Western. So what does China look like to an African? asks Bai Rui in Chinese language media The Initium. Nigerian journalist Solomon Elusoji is the best person to ask.

China's increasing trade links with Africa have become the most discussed bilateral relationships of the twenty-first century.

But the opinions we hear are usually white and Western. Solomon Elusoji, a Nigerian journalist, is in a unique position having spent extended periods of time in China. His perspective adds one that is oddly missing from a widely discussed topic — the voices of Africans.

In 2018, at the age of 23, Elusoji was sent to China by his editor at Nigeria's daily newspaper, This Day.

"I knew nothing about China at the time, besides the fact that it was a Communist regime, and a militarized country like North Korea," he says. "To me it is just a faraway country, where African merchants would go purchase cheap products and sell them back in Africa."

Elusoji was sent to China by a program sponsored by the China-Africa Press Center, which was eventually funded by China's Foreign Ministry. Clearly, the initiative is part of China's grand diplomatic plan in Africa. Elusoji was given the instructions "to help African journalists understand Chinese media, politics and society."

"When I began to understand China, I came to realize that there is such a different world out there, with realities that would completely not correspond with mine. Being at the edge of discovery, I wanted to know what it was like there.”

Inspired by adventure and the unknown, Elusoji went to China. The experience proved to be colorful as well as formative, while his understanding of China has been revolutionized as a result. After returning to Nigeria in 2019, he wrote about his experiences in a book, Traveling with Big Brother: A Reporter's Junket Across China.

After accepting the opportunity to report and study in Beijing, Elusoji did what any young journalist would do before a once-in-a-lifetime adventure: he wolfed down a huge amount of information about China.

"All the news and books I found about China were written by white males, and it was almost impossible to find anything written by Africans."

"I don't think a Westerner would be blown away by the infrastructure there when being in China, for example," Elusoji says.

But when Elusoji arrived in 2018, he was astounded by the urban landscapes when he disembarked his plane in Beijing. "It's a bit like magic... skyscrapers piercing the night sky. The wide roads, the finely intricate flyovers, the almost sacred grandeur of the city... my view of China has been reset." Indeed, this is one of the main points of China's projection of soft power in the developing world – ambitious infrastructure projects that contain transformative power.

The lack of diversity in views of China in the English-speaking world can be very limiting, Elusoji commented. He said the Western media's approach to China is too dominated by the U.S.–China confrontation, which mostly pre-defines the role of individual countries and regions on the chessboard of power confrontation – such as the poverty and helplessness of Africa and the revisionist power of China as a rising power.

"This has no depth and obscures the real issues," he says.

One example Elusoji cites is Beijing's notion of the "right to development" as part of global politics and human rights, a concept that has been promoted almost shrilly over the past few years. For the most part, this has been dismissed by the Western media. It is often seen merely as a challenge to Western notions of human rights and political freedom. However, "for people from Africa, where most people are poor, the concept doesn't necessarily sound like a bad idea."

Elusoji is careful not to pick one side or the other. The issue is big, complex and intertwined with a past as a colony and a competing vision of the future. Perhaps, in any case, this dichotomy is wrong. "As a journalist, I probably put the most emphasis on political freedom... but at the same time I understand that economic freedom can be a powerful thing. The two can co-exist."

However, having lived in China, Elusoji was led to a clear conclusion. "Indeed, Africa has a lot to learn from China." In the book, Elusoji explores that on a deeper level. While staying in China, he found himself observing and "wondering what could have been done [in Africa]." There was a sense that China was doing something right, while too many African countries were on a path of wasted hope.

This often stems from poverty as well as corrupt politics. "Time and time again, African governments have failed their populations, choosing the latter between the people and power," says Elusoji. This is a problem that has deeply affected relations between China and Africa. Ultimately, according to Elusoji, the success or failure of this bilateral relationship will be determined by how African governments approach it. In other words, Sino-African relations need to be more grounded in the realities of African politics than is usually the case for it to work.

"Of course, China is good for Africa. China has the capacity to be useful for Africa's economic development... the issue of getting rid of distractions allows us to focus on the real issue, which is to give Africa control over its own destiny... what matters, really, is the way in which Africa should come to the fore?"

There is one issue that profoundly shakes relations between China and Africa — racism.

It is a complex issue, and Elusoji is somewhat resistant to using the term in the context of China's attitude to Africa. "The word 'racism' is closely associated with slavery and colonialism," he says, "and I would associate racism with whiteness and the West. For example, I find it hard to imagine a black man being racist against a white man, or a Chinese being racist against a black man. Racism exists in a very strong political and social context."

The Chinese government does show respect when it comes to Africa, far more than what Western countries have been doing all along. As Elusoji points out, African leaders visiting Beijing often enjoy a red carpet greeting. And China's engagement with Africa is not accompanied by demands on the latter's way of governing their countries. "There's a lot of talk about Chinese expansionism in Africa, but that's not the same thing [as the reality]," Elusoji concludes.

Noting that racism in China is "subtle, difficult to articulate and easy to ignore," he also points out that underneath the propaganda machine's insistence on equal brotherhood between China and Africa, there is an implicit narrative that China is "helping" Africa, a narrative that further contributes to the perception that Africans are poor and inferior.

However, Elusoji remains unclear on how to deal with this issue.

"Racism in China is a big problem, something that is very bad for many Africans living in China. But what can you do about it? What leverage do we have to deal with it? So many people just ignore it and go on with their normal lives."

Essentially, Elusoji believes that "African countries need to become better versions of themselves", which links to his argument that African countries need to "come to the fore" in China-Africa relations.

He believes that good governance and solid economies in Africa will be the antidote to the racist sentiments that linger in China, Europe and the world. At this level, bilateral relations between China and Africa offer an opportunity to overcome racism, provided that African governments manage the relationship properly and make the most of the opportunities available to strengthen Africa.

Since returning to Nigeria's seaport and largest city, Lagos, in 2019, Elusoji has become increasingly active in the community of African journalists who are interested in or have spent time in China. He uses Twitter to discuss China, human rights, development and other issues, and continues to work with Nigerian media to cover China-related stories.

The reaction to his reporting and his new perspective on China received mixed reviews from across Nigeria. Many heartily appreciate the new perspective he projects on China, a country often considered mysterious and unknowable, while others see him as "some kind of Chinese agent".

"In general, I think a lot of Nigerians want to know more about China, but there are not enough reasons to make such an effort. For example, because of the language barrier," Elusoji says. "But ultimately, China will play a huge role in the world economy and politics in this century, especially as it relates to the development of African countries. For better or worse."

Bai Rui / The Initium

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Zelensky tells G20 now is time to push Russia, as Macron leans on Xi Jinping: Russia’s war with Ukraine is dominating the annual G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky spoke via video remote, outlining the Ukrainian tough push for peace, in which Russia withdraws immediately from Ukraine and compensates it for damages. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron met with China’s leader Xi Jinping, calling for countries to unite against the war in Ukraine.

• Guangzhou residents revolt against lockdown: Following the Chinese city of Guangzhou's worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began, violent riots have broken out as residents protest compulsory stay-at-home orders from China’s zero-Covid policy.

• Iran death sentences: After two months of protests following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22-year-old Iranian woman who was detained by morality police, the first death sentence has been given to a person involved in the protests. Human rights groups warned the government would be taking part in “hasty executions”, and at this point, at least 20 people are currently facing charges punishable by death.

• Japan economy shrinks: Japan’s GDP shrank an unexpected 0.3%, as the world’s third biggest economic power is struggling from a global recession, weaker yen and higher import costs.

• U.S. to open investigation into Shireen Abu Akleh killing: After the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May sparked international outrage, the FBI has decided to open its own investigation into the shooting death.

• “Equal Pay Day” in EU: Tuesday marks Equal Pay Day across Europe — a symbolic day calculated on the basis of the gender pay gap figures, highlighting that women in the EU are paid on average 13% less than their male counterparts. Progress has been slow to decrease the wage gap between genders, narrowing by just 2.8% in the last decade.

• Putting the “ok” in Djokovic: The Australian government is overturning a ban on unvaccinated tennis champion Novak Djokovic and will grant the Serb player a visa so he can play at January 2023 Australian Open.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

The People's Daily (Rénmín Rìbào), a daily newspaper run by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party reports on the highly anticipated meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Bali — their first in-person encounter since Biden took office. After a three-hour talk on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Biden said he believed “there need not be a new Cold War” and that he didn’t think there was “any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan.”

#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS

8 billion

According to a projection from the United Nations, today marks the day the world’s population reaches 8 billion people. The milestone, which comes only 11 years after humanity crossed the 7-billion mark, is due to the “gradual increase in human lifespan owing to improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine. It is also the result of high and persistent levels of fertility in some countries”. Countries in Asia have accounted for most of the growth in the past decade. The UN also predicts the global population will peak at around 10.4 billion people in the 2080s and remain at that level until 2100.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Purge at your peril: Too many detox treatments come with hidden dangers

Teas, colon cleansing, and even ear candles … the market for alternative detox solutions has never been more lucrative. But as expert Edzard Ernst explains in German daily Die Welt, not only are their reported benefits unproven, the treatments can also be dangerous.

💊 In medicine, the word “detox” means a course of treatment to remove all traces of a drug from an addict’s body. In alternative medicine, however, it refers to any process that is supposed to rid the body of poisons or toxins. Not only is it often ineffective, but it can also even be dangerous. This definition naturally raises the question: What poisons does a detox target? The answer, ostensibly, is all kinds of toxins that are produced by our own metabolism, or come from the environment, prescription medicines or our diets.

💪 The detox myth is now so firmly rooted that even mainstream companies that otherwise have nothing to do with alternative medicine are offering products such as detox teas. What’s more, detox devotees claim all kinds of health benefits – that these treatments boost energy and wellness, slow down the aging process, strengthen the immune system, allow them to burn fat faster, reduce allergies and other illnesses, as well as making skin, hair and nails healthier.

⚠️ Many people think, well, at least these treatments don’t cause any harm. But that assumption is not entirely true. Firstly, it is clear that they damage our bank balance. Secondly, every single treatment has side effects, some of which are significant. One example is the detox program promoted by Scientology, which relies on high doses of vitamins and minerals and has even been linked to deaths. In the U.S., the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has issued multiple warnings about detox therapies.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“Putin’s aim is to leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter.”

— NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that Russia should not be underestimated, telling reporters in The Hague that the coming months will be difficult for Ukraine after the country successfully recaptured Kherson from Russian forces.

📸 PHOTO DU JOUR

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives in Bali, Indonesia, to take part in the G20 meeting which kicks off today.

— Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Sophia Constantino, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet


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This Happened—December 4: Woodrow Wilson Makes A Historic Trip

Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, serving from 1913 to 1921, during a period when the U.S. came into its role as a global power. His accomplishments would include the first-ever presidential trip to Europe.

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