When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

THE GLOBAL TIMES
The Global Times is a daily tabloid newspaper published in Chinese and English.
photo of Senegal President Macky Sall coming out of his airplane
eyes on the U.S.
Alex Hurst

Eyes On U.S. — When African Leaders Go To Washington, China Is In The Room

-Analysis-

Some 100 of the most important political eyes in Africa aren’t turned towards the U.S. this week — they’re in the U.S. For the first time in eight years, the White House is hosting 49 African heads of state and leaders of government (and the Senegalese head of the African Union) for a U.S.-Africa summit. Not invited: any nation that has recently undergone a military putsch, or otherwise not in good standing with the African Union, like Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Sudan.

It’s only the second such summit, after Barack Obama held the inaugural one in 2014. For African nations, it’s a chance to push for trade agreements and international investment, as reports FinancialAfrik, as well as to showcase their most successful businesses. According to RFI, dominant in its coverage of West Africa, on the agenda are: fighting terrorism, climate change, food security, and a financial facility intended to facilitate African exports to the U.S.

These themes are recurrent in national coverage and official diplomatic communiqués, from the likes of Cameroon (whose communiqué pointedly notes the U.S.’s “lack of colonial history” in Africa), which is seeking to regain access to the the U.S. market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, to Madagascar, which as an island nation, is particularly concerned with climate change.

To receive Eyes on U.S. each week in your inbox, sign up here.

But is the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and the accompanying nice talk all just cynical cover for what are, in fact, purely U.S. strategic interests in its wider global competition with China? That’s certainly the message from Chinese media — but also a point of view either echoed, or simply acknowledged as matter of fact, by African voices.

“No matter how many fancy words the U.S. uses, the country still sees Africa as an arena to serve its strategic goal of competing with China,” Liu Xin writes for China’s state-run Global Times.

Indeed, for the U.S., the summit is a chance to move past the disinterest — if not outright disdain — that the Trump administration showed for Africa at a time when both China and Russia were ramping up their economic and military presence on the continent. Even if Biden Administration officials have been eager to talk about Africa on its own terms, the “long shadow” of China is everywhere, writes Kenya’s The Standard.

There is more than simply a U.S.-China competition at work.

The U.S. is playing “catch up,” writes The Standard, having fallen behind China when it comes to foreign direct investment in Africa, and must convince African countries that it is a better partner than China. The Nairobi-based daily isn’t coy about Africa’s growing strategic importance, leverage, and need to be wooed, writing, “The continent, whose leaders often feel they’ve been given short shrift by leading economies, remains crucial to global powers because of its rapidly growing population, significant natural resources, and a sizable voting bloc in the United Nations.”

Cognizant of the UN voting bloc that African countries constitute, the Biden administration is eager to court their support for Ukraine, but maintains that irrespective of outcome, it wants Africa to have a louder international voice — perhaps, as Al Jazeera reports, by making an African nation a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Finally, for Malcom Biiga, writing in the regional Francophone magazine Jeune Afrique, there is more than simply a U.S.-China competition at work, and the timing of the summit can’t be disconnected from France’s pullback from West Africa, in particular the announcement this year of the end of its military mission in Mali. “As anti-French sentiment grows larger across Africa, the U.S. is giving it a go with a charm offensive,” Biiga says. It’s not so much competitively “thumbing its nose" at French President Emmanuel Macron, but an expression of Washington’s worry that Russia or China will step in to fill France’s void — reminding readers that Russian military contractor group Wagner has done exactly that in Mali.

As Cameroonian research Paul Simon-Handy told RFI on Tuesday, the U.S. “is trying to define its own strategic vision [in Africa] while remaining a strategic ally of France [in the region].”

Biiga, meanwhile, concludes his analysis of the African leaders’ collective pilgrimage to Washington by wryly pointing out that neither President Joe Biden nor Vice President Kamala Harris has yet to visit Africa.

— Alex Hurst

In other news …

📰  UP, FRONT PAGE AND CENTER

U.S. scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced that they have — for the first time — created a net positive amount of energy from fusion. It could be a major breakthrough in the search for near limitless clean energy. The experiment used enormous, high powered lasers to start the reaction. Even if actual electricity generation on a large scale remains a long way off, for the Italian daily LaRepubblica, it’s the very first glimpse of a “spark” from the future.

⚜️ AMERICAN EXPORT

“We need an Anglo-American cultural detox,” writes a worried Montréal columnist, otherwise les Québecois risk becoming “Anglo-Americans who just speak French.”

It’s tough being an 8-million person linguistic island in the middle of a 350-million strong North American anglophone ocean … Referencing a professor friend who queried his students about Christmas movies and realized that none of them had any francophone references (like cult comedy films Le Père Noël est une ordure or Les Bronzés font du ski), Loïc Tassé doesn’t just fret about a loss of Québecois culture, but proposes solutions: more public financing of French language movies, books, and music, and introducing more francophone writers (possibly even in English translation) in school courses.

🎅🏻🎄 SO AMERICAN?

Germans are known to take their Christmas sehr seriously. And should they wish to expand their merry horizons and “celebrate it like in the USA,” Focus came up with a handy list of typically American customs for its readers. Some are well known (cookies and milk for Santa, hanging up socks, etc.) and others … less so.

Case in point, the “Christmas pickle,” which the weekly magazine says probably originated in Germany, and wherein a small cucumber (or cucumber-like ornament) is hidden among the other Christmas tree decorations. Guests and children are then invited to look for said Weihnachtsgurke, with the person finding it being awarded an extra present.

Hmmm? It seems most American readers will be as interested as Germans to discover this supposed popular tradition ...

Photo of F-16 Fighting Falcons line up on the runway before taking off during Surge Week at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea
Geopolitics
Dan Wu

Old Witch Farce, No Fly Zone:  Specter Of Pelosi Taiwan Trip Raises Heat In Region

A phone call Thursday between Presidents Xi and Biden may have avoided adding tensions to U.S.-China relations, but now all attention will be back on the question of whether Nancy Pelosi lands in Taipei next month for a meeting that Beijing has been warning against and the Chinese media stirs the pot.

It's not quite "Nixon goes to China," but the question of whether U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan is already stirring geopolitical tensions, and sparking rhetorical bluster from Beijing's official channels, as well as media and social networks.

Following The Financial Times' report on July 19 of a planned trip, Pelosi herself has still not confirmed whether she will be the most senior Congressional figure to make an official visit to Taiwan in 25 years. But that hasn't stopped continuous speculation and threats, and even insults, coming from mainland China.

The possibility of a visit also further complicated an already highly charged call Thursday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first since March.

Watch VideoShow less
Macron, Part Deux: France And The World React In 22 Front Pages
Geopolitics

Macron, Part Deux: France And The World React In 22 Front Pages

Newspapers in France and around the world are devoting their Monday front pages to Emmanuel Macron's reelection as French president.

Emmanuel Macron won a second term as president of France, beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen by a wide 58.5-41.5% margin ... oui, mais.

Watch VideoShow less
New Variant, Same Story? The Vicious Circle Of Our COVID World
Coronavirus
Anne-Sophie Goninet

New Variant, Same Story? The Vicious Circle Of Our COVID World

As we learn yet another Greek letter through the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, around the world the new wave is starting to sound very familiar.

It’s been another 72-hour global moment.

It came in the days after the news first broke last Friday that B.1.1.529, named Omicron, had been identified by scientists in South Africa and assessed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has supplied a series of these collective worldwide “moments:” from the first wave of lockdowns to the discovery that the vaccines were effective to the Delta variant’s new wave of infections.

Watch VideoShow less
Bank Of China booth in Lusaka, Zambia
Zambia
Lisa Lane

Triple Murder In Zambia Feeds Growing China-Africa Tensions

From hospital beds in Mali to ventilators in Algeria to an airlift of supplies deliver by Ethiopian Airlines, China has used the pandemic to cement its economic footprint across the African continent. As socio-economics researcher Hicham Rouibah told Le Monde, "Chinese companies have seized the opportunity of COVID-19 to try to restore their image tarnished by scandals."

From 2013 to 2018, bilateral trade between China and Africa multiplied by 11, with Chinese investors rising to fourth among foreigners in Africa and thousands of Chinese businesses opening across the continent. Still, this soft power has not come without pushback. Last year in Algeria, Hirak Movement protestors called out financial embezzlement by the country's elites, which involved Chinese companies given contracts for large public works projects.

Now, those in countries with some of the weakest medical infrastructure to handle a pandemic are directing blame at China. Oby Ezekwesili, the co-founder of Transparency International and former vice-president of the World Bank, launched the #ChinaMustPay campaign last month, demanding that the Asian superpower cancel debts in Africa. Ezekwesili, who is Nigerian, wrote in Jeune Afrique: "This unjustified suffering of the poor and vulnerable caused by the actions of a relatively rich and powerful country demands a new system to fight global inequality."

Africa's economic growth is down from 2.9% in 2019 to 1%, with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimating more than 300,000 people could die of coronavirus. #ChinaMustPay is demanding the cancelation of more than $140 billion in loans from Chinese banks and contractors over the past two decades. Further, the campaign is calling for the formation of an international consortium including the African Union Commission, G20 countries, United Nations, the World Bank and IMF to assess the damage caused by the pandemic and the compensation due.​

Payback time? — Photo: Monart

In some African countries, tensions with Chinese business owners have even turned violent. Three Chinese nationals were murdered last month in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. According to the Chinese Embassy in the Republic of Zambia, the victims, a garment factory owner's wife and two employees, were killed in the warehouse by two male and one female suspects. The perpetrators then robbed the company and set a fire to destroy the evidence, according to the preliminary investigation of the Zambian police.

China is being blamed for bringing the pandemic into Zambia via France.

The Chinese daily Global Times reported that the COVID-19 outbreak has increased the tension between Chinese businessmen in Zambia and the locals because the latter "misunderstood epidemic measures adopted by some Chinese companies," such as prohibiting employees from going outdoors. This is reportedly said to be one of the motives for the murders.

The Global Times also quoted a Chinese resident in Zambia as saying that Miles Sampa, the mayor of Lusaka, plays a role in provoking tension between Chinese residents and the locals with his frequent criticism of China.

In a tribune he wrote in the Lusaka Times on May 24, Sampa said that 100 Zambian workers of a Chinese cement plant had been "held hostage" and not allowed to go home for eight weeks under the pretext of the coronavirus. He called this "slavery reloaded," and blamed China for bringing the pandemic into Zambia via France.

A Twitter post showing Mayor Sampa closing down a Chinese restaurant also garnered thousands of views. "You are discriminating against the blacks because you still serve the Chinese," said the mayor to the Chinese restaurant staff. "And your prices are all in Chinese, not in English. It's illegal. This is not Wuhan!"

Public health workers protesting in Barcelona, Spain
REUTERS
Bertrand Hauger

Angry Nurses, Doctors' Orders: Time To Rethink Healthcare

Skeptical. Overwhelmed. Disappointed. Exhausted. Helpless. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, healthcare workers have felt it all. But in recent weeks, doctors and nurses around the world have added one adjective to their list of feelings: angry.


In Europe, the mood has indeed shifted from the images of people applauding their medical heroes every night, from the balconies of Paris, London or Madrid. Even before some began turning the regular clapping sessions into purekitsch, health workers on the frontline were wondering if it all rang a bit hollow.


In France for instance, a country once famous for its second-to-none public health system, that initial grumpiness has quickly turned into bonafide ire, with demands for better pay for health staff and reform of the country's hospitals escalating into tense confrontations with authorities. French President Emmanuel Macron — whose father was a neurology professor and mother, a physician — experienced it first-hand, as he got into a fiery exchange with self-confessed "desperate" nurses at Paris' Pitié-Salpêtrière. Macron conceded a rare mea culpa, admitting his government had "made a mistake in the strategy" of reforming the national hospital system, asLe Monde reported. Still, his renewed promises for in-depth reform have been met with skepticism by frontline health professionals. Partly to blame, perhaps, is the announcement in March that staff battling the pandemic would receive a bonus of up to 1,500 euros, which some saw as a band-aid measure when massive investment in the health system is required. "That's nice, we'll take it," as one of the Pitié-Salpêtrière nurses told Monsieur le président. "But what we need is salary revaluation."


Similar scenes of frustration took place next door, in Belgium — the country with the highest COVID-19 mortality rate — when the staff of Brussels' Saint-Pierre Hospital turned their backs on Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès during an official visit. Most of the silent outrage over the Belgian government's handling of the pandemic was directed at a controversial decree, in early May, that allowed unqualified staff to undertake nursing duties. Here too, new promises were made, with Wilmes saying she did not want to see a post-coronavirus world where the health sector was "reduced to what it was before," Belgian broadcaster RTBF reports.


Other scenes of rising anger were registered in Mexico, where hundreds of health workers deplored the country's lack of adequate protective material; in India, where critics note that Mumbai shortages of hospital beds weighed on medical staff after years of chronic underinvestment in healthcare; and in Egypt, where deaths among healthcare professionals is the most brutal sign of what one called a "complete collapse" of the medical system.


Back on European balconies, some have deplored how the clapping for medical workers grows dimmer every evening. So many doctors and nurses had stopped listening long ago.

The elbow bump has been widely used across the world
THE GLOBAL TIMES

Eyebrows, Nods And Elbow Bumps: Handshake Alternatives Around The World

Humans have been greeting each others with handshakes for thousands of years. Are we witnessing the end to pressing the flesh, and giving some skin? "I don't think we should shake hands ever again," declared Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the key members of the US coronavirus task force, in a Wall Street Journal podcast.

So is we must shelve the shake, what should we do when we greet a friend, a colleague or family member? From reviving old traditions to inventing new ways of greetings, alternatives to handshakes are showing up around the world:

  • In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has encouraged citizens not to use handshakes, hugs or hongi (a traditional noses-pressed Maori greeting) but to perform instead the "east coast wave", even demonstrating it during a press conference, reports The New Zealand Herald. Also known as the "Kahungunu wave" as it is common in Ngāti Kahungunu Maori iwi (tribe), it consists of raising the eyebrows while looking at someone in the eyes, with a subtle upward movement of the head.

  • In China, a traditional gesture called "zuoyi", bowing with hands folded in front, has made a public comeback in the eastern city of Quzhou. Officials were asked to use this gesture during local plenary sessions, as well as students in 117 schools,The Global Timesreports. This formal custom dates back from China's imperial era thousands of years ago. The country also popularized the "Wuhan shake," or how to say hello with your feet, after an online video went viral.

  • In many countries, a handshake is also a means to seal a business deal. That is how traders traditionally operate in Garissa County, Kenya, when they sell animals in livestock markets. But Kenyan health officials are now giving them a safer option that doesn't require physical contact: a "stick-shake". The Ministry of Health has published a picture of a health worker demonstrating how to use sticks as a substitute for the traditional handshake at a goat market.

No handshake, use shaka instead — Photo: Brian Schatz

  • The elbow bump has been widely used across the world and seems to be favored especially by politicians (who are famous hand shakers...or "flesh pressers' as we say in English) , from state officials in Indonesia to European health ministers. Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even dubbed it the "corona shake".
  • Hawaiians are used to hugs, kisses or "honi", with foreheads touching. But officials like Hawaii US Senator Brian Schatz have been urging citizens to use the "shaka" to help prevent the virus from spreading, reports local news channel KITV. The gesture, which consists in curling the three middle fingers and extending the thumb and pinky finger, is a symbol of friendship and compassion in the Hawaiian culture and was widely popularized by surfers.
Watch VideoShow less
Burning refinery in Balongan, Indonesia, where a massive fire has injured at least 6.
BBC

The Latest: Myanmar Toll Tops 500, Suez Unstuck, Mafia Fail

Merhaba!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where the death toll among pro-democracy protesters tops 500 in Myanmar, Suez Canal gets unstuck at last, and a mafioso's love of food (and tattoos) is his downfall. Le Monde also reports from Belarus, where Lukashenko's regime is doing everything it can to avoid new mass protests.*Turkish

• Myanmar protests top 500 deaths: Myanmar protesters launch a "garbage strike" by leaving trash at intersections in Yangon to oppose military rule, as the death toll among pro-democracy protesters surpasses 500.

• Britain won't share vaccines for now: Already far outpacing European neighbors' vaccination rollouts, the UK said today it won't send any vaccines to other countries until all of its adult population gets the jab. Canada meanwhile suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine for those 55 and younger while it investigates rare cases of blood clotting.

• World leaders' call: In an article published in several international newspapers, 24 world leaders are calling for a global pandemic treaty to improve cooperation and transparency in case of future outbreaks. China, the United States and Russia were absent from the signatories of the letter.

• Bolsonaro reshuffle: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has replaced six ministers in a major cabinet reshuffle as he faces mounting pressure amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

• Suez Canal reopens: Traffic resumes in Egypt's Suez Canal after the stranded container ship Ever Given, which blocked the canal for nearly a week, was finally freed by salvage teams.

• Google's "eco-friendly" routes: Google Maps app will start directing drivers along "eco-friendly" routes that are estimated to generate less carbon emissions based on traffic and other factors.

• Mobster chef betrayed by tattoos: A fugitive Italian mafia member was arrested in the Dominican Republic after he was identified through his body tattoos … on his Italian cooking videos on YouTube.

Watch VideoShow less