Obamao
Obamao
Wang Chong*

BEIJING - From the Huangyan Island, known also as the Scarborough Shoal, to the Diaoyu Islands, the Chinese territorial waters have been anything but calm. And inevitably, the shadow of the United States has been present behind all this. These so-called island disputes are actually a game between two great powers.

After a period of observation, the United States has finally showed its card. In reference to the Sino-Japan Diaoyu Islands dispute, America said that it “has no position,” that is, it will not be taking sides. But on the other hand, it explicitly pointed out that the Japan-US Security Treaty is applicable to the Diaoyu Islands. In other words, if China ever gets into conflict with Japan over the issue, it is America’s obligation to help Japan.

This has always been the consistent position of the United States over this issue. Last year, when I interviewed Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense at the time, during his visit to Beijing, he said the same words and gave some prerequisites. As long as the Diaoyou Islands’ administrative power belongs to Japan, the Japan-US Security Treaty would be applied. That is to say, though America takes no stand on these islands’ sovereignty, it nonetheless recognizes that executive power is attributed to Japan.

America is also actively involved in the Sino-Philippines dispute in the South China Sea. On July 12, the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum held a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Phnom Penh. It is reported that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked China to agree to engage in “code of conduct” negotiations with legal binding effect over the issue, so as to “avoid disputes.”

The report also stated that Hillary Clinton pointed out that the states concerned need to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Yang Jiechi, China’s Foreign Minister, refuted this by saying that China’s actions are based on international law as well as historical precedent.

The Kyodo News Agency reported that conflict currently exists between China, Vietnam, and the Philippines over the South China Sea issue – and the intention of Hillary Clinton’s speech is to “contain China.”

Containing China is obviously America’s strategic intention. Historically any superpower has always harbored ill-feeling towards the developing power rising behind it. It fears being overtaken and losing its privileges. The magnificent Roman Empire and Great Britain were like this. America is certainly no exception.

Looking at its past behavior, the United States has always fulfilled its duty to its allies, whether it’s Japan, the Philippines or South Korea. I once talked to a senior American diplomat about the Korean Peninsula issue and I asked him what will America do if the two countries go to war? He told me without any hesitation that according to America’s agreement with South Korea, the United States will certainly send its troops.

However, if we look at specific issues, America treats its allies differently depending on its closeness to them, while also considering China’s reaction. To Japan, the United States intends to guide and assist it on one hand, while on the other hand it also intends to prevent it from re-emerging. The United States wishes to see Sino-Japanese disagreement, but not war, and that the two nations contain each other.

As for the Philippines, they are really just “perennial losers,” America doesn’t expect that it will pose China any threat, but just create some trouble. What the United States sees is that, through the South China Sea disputes, a united solidarity of the regional ASEAN countries is formed against China, so that ASEAN as a whole body will invite America to intervene in Asia-Pacific affairs.

All this is pretty obvious. The challenge for China is to determine where America’s bottom line is. That is, were China to go to war because of a territorial water dispute, how fast and to what extent would the United States intervene?

As for America, it urgently needs to know how much more patience China has, and what is the range covered by China’s “core interests”? Will China suddenly go to war in these disputes because of its domestic politics or economic factors?

By contrast, thanks to its powerful military strength, America holds a relatively clear attitude. A stabilized formation counterbalancing China in the Asia-Pacific would be agreeable to the United States whereas open conflicts would not be. As a commercial empire, stability is advantageous for its business. But a certain extent of tension is beneficial to its sales of arms.

Meanwhile the Chinese attitude over the past few years gives an erratic feeling. The low-profile tactics put forward by Deng Xiaoping have been overwhelmed by the uproar of nationalism thanks to China’ rising strength.

A few years back, because Chen Shui-Bian, the Taiwanese president was engaged in promoting Taiwan independence, pressure in the Taiwan Strait prevented Chinese mainland from attending to other affairs. With the stabilization of the Taiwan issue and the relative decline of America’s strength, China has designated the South China Sea as its core interest in 2010. The problem is that as long as it’s China’s core interest, the United States will always take a certain degree of measures in response.

Of course, whether it’s the Diaoyu Islands or Huangyan Island, China ought to adhere to its principles in territorial disputes. More importantly, on the basis of upholding its principles, it should be more confident and more transparent.

However, the Chinese people are more accustomed to gentleness rather than toughness. They are inclined to speak about principles rather than address specific matters. They tend to react according to the situation in a timely manner and to stay calm without haste. This is prone to cause some fantasies about China’s determination in defending its territories.

With the continuing territorial waters disputes, China’s strategy might need to be clearer. Since a Sino-US struggle is clearly unavoidable, China might as well set a clear objective and confidently inform America of its short-term, medium-term and long-term actions -- and under which circumstances will China “no longer restraint itself.”

This will at least reduce the chance of miscalculation and accidental conflict, and also dissuade countries such as the Philippines from pursuing their wild fantasies.

*Senior fellow at Beijing Foreign Studies University

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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