The World Today for April 06, 2017


The Art of Trade

The leaders of the world’s two largest economies are meeting each other for the first time today. One has no doubts about their agenda.

“It is all about trade,” President Donald Trump told the Financial Times in an interview about his meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, on Thursday.

Trump has accused Beijing of benefiting from unfair trade practices that have decimated American manufacturing, the New York Times reported.

But China’s alleged currency manipulation – undervaluing the yuan to make its exports cheaper – has taken an interesting turn in recent days.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, the yuan has indeed given China a competitive edge by moving downward relative to other currencies like the euro. But there’s one notable exception: the yuan has steadily appreciated against the greenback since January.

Trade is not the only point of contention between the two powers, however.

The ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, for example, might come under scrutiny in Florida.

China has continuously denied militarizing the islands it has constructed in the sea ostensibly for civilian purposes.

CBS News reported, however, that these denials fly in the face of reports that China has installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on the islands.

North Korea – in particular the Hermit Kingdom’s controversial nuclear ambitions – are also slated for discussion.

Last week, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told journalists the US was pressuring China – as North Korea’s most prominent diplomatic and economic benefactor – to take a firmer stance on the country’s nuclear program.

That was part of Washington signaling it intends to take “a tough bargaining position” on China should Beijing fail to pile the pressure on Pyongyang, wrote CNN.

That tougher stance could include the US taking unilateral action against North Korea, as the Guardian reported. Or the US might alter trade relations with China to coax Beijing into getting tough with Pyongyang.

The discussions need not be adversarial, however, wrote Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass in a Boston Globe op-ed.

A trade war would only hurt China’s slumping economy, wrote Haass. Xi doesn’t need a conflict on the Korean peninsula, either. The US and China have never been in conflict like the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Why should they start now?

The art of the deal involves knowing what one’s counterpart in negotiations stands to lose or gain. If Trump keeps China’s needs in mind, Xi might just do the same.


The Other Red Lines

Far from the war in Syria, the European Union parliament has developed its own set of “red lines” for Britain’s proposed withdrawal from the EU – but the fate of Gibraltar did not figure among them.

EU legislators on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution demanding that Britain make “substantial progress” in deciding the rights of three million EU citizens already living in Britain, the exit bill and what will happen to the border in Northern Ireland before the EU will consider inking a deal on trade, Agence France-Presse reported.

In saying so, the EU effectively rejected British Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for those issues to be negotiated in tandem.

The resolution also says the EU will accept a transitional deal to ease the effect of Britain’s exit from the EU’s single market in 2019, but that it should be limited to three years.

However, the resolution omitted any reference to Gibraltar – a British territory to which Spain also lays claim – though EU President Donald Tusk’s draft guidelines had suggested giving Spain final say over whether any eventual trade deal applies to the territory.

Carnage From a Forgotten War

South Sudanese refugees continued to stream into Uganda on Wednesday with stories of government forces targeting civilians in the country’s brutal civil war.

Hundreds of refugees fled the border town of Pajok after government troops allegedly killed at least 17 people were killed, Reuters reported.

Some were shot as they tried to flee. Others had their throats slit before their bodies were strung up from door frames, the agency said.

The government has denied that its Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces targets civilians and insisted that the operation in the border town was intended to flush out anti-government rebels.

Renewed fighting in South Sudan – which descended into civil war after President Salva Kiir fired vice president Riek Machar in 2013 – has caused the biggest refugee exodus in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, as soldiers on both sides are engaging in so-called ethnic cleansing, according to the United Nations.

On Tenterhooks

Hindu vigilantes beat a Muslim man to death for transporting cattle in northern India earlier this week, sparking fears of escalating communal violence following the selection of a firebrand Hindu cleric to lead the country’s most populous state.

A mob of around 200 vigilantes stopped six vehicles transporting cows on a highway between New Delhi and Jaipur, Rajasthan, and pulled five men onto the road for a brutal beating. Pehlu Khan, 55, died of his injuries on Tuesday, the New York Times reported.

Cow slaughter is illegal in all but a handful of Indian states, as Hindus hold cows to be sacred. But far-right Hindu nationalists have long used the issue to exacerbate tensions between Hindus and Muslims – which periodically spills over into deadly riots. Some see the latest incident as evidence that such groups have been energized following the selection of a Hindu nationalist cleric named Yogi Adityanath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in March.


Becoming A Chicken

Curious about the amount of time it would take for those eggs you used in your omelet this morning to hatch into baby chicks? Well, look no further.

French performance artist Abraham Poincheval has taken on the challenge. He sealed himself in a glass vivarium last week at the Palais de Tokyo Museum in Paris and is attempting to incubate 10 eggs using his own body heat, Reuters reported.

“I will, broadly speaking, become a chicken,” said Poincheval in the lead-up to his endeavor.

Poincheval has explored how different species experience time with his art before. In 2014, he spent two weeks inside a hollowed-out bear sculpture eating only worms and beetles to mimic an ursine diet.

This time around, he’s changing his diet as well by eating ginger and other herbal supplements to keep his body temperature up so that the eggs under him won’t grow cold.

The gonzo artist speculated that his “happening” will last from 21 to 26 days, roughly the time it should take for his brood to hatch.

“In the end, maybe the borders between man and animal are more porous than we imagine,” said Adelaide Blanc, the curator of the show.

Click here to take a peek at the exhibition.

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