The World Today for June 09, 2020

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Turning a Battleship Around

US Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, recently said that letting Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei build a 5G network in Britain would be like allowing the Soviet Union to build the West’s submarines during the Cold War.

Cotton recently told British parliamentarians during a defense committee testimony in London that a Huawei-built 5G mobile phone network could track F35 fighter jets, the Guardian reported.

Such fears have led British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to scale back a plan to let the company update the country’s communications infrastructure.

The US is also trying to claw back China’s influence on the American economy. President Donald Trump recently announced a $354 million contract to a Virginia startup to create pharmaceuticals and other medicinal ingredients. The Washington Post quoted administration officials who said the move would cut down on American dependence on vital supplies from China and other “pollution havens, sweatshops and tax havens.”

The US’ attempt to decouple its economy from China and its pressure on the rest of the world to follow is because China did not follow the international playbook when it comes to international institutions, for example, downplaying the number of its coronavirus infections to the World Health Organization, say analysts.

China has “chosen instead to exploit the free and open rules-based order and attempt to reshape the international system in its favor,” the White House wrote.

World Politics Review columnist Edward Alden is skeptical that Johnson and Trump’s measures would have the impact they desire. Previous generations of American leaders worked hard to integrate China into the world economy. Now they probably won’t be able to reverse the momentum that has enriched the world’s most populous country, turning it into a manufacturing center with a massive – and growing – middle class.

Hong Kong is also a point of contention. Johnson recently offered residents of the city British citizenship if they need to flee as China cracks down on the pro-democracy movement in the financial hub, CNN reported. Australia has sided with the UK in the dispute.

Europe, however, is reluctant to follow the American and British lead to sanction China for its heavy-handed approach to pro-democracy protests (or anything else), Politico noted. The Germans and others might be leery of Huawei’s 5G network, but they don’t want to lose Chinese business. That’s why Europe bowed down to Chinese pressure to mute their criticism of the country regarding coronavirus disinformation, Reuters reported.

The Europeans’ engagement might even be more effective in influencing China’s hand in Hong Kong. European investments flow into the city because of its open society and free market. That money then shifts to mainland China. If new Chinese security rules change Hong Kong’s business climate, the Europeans could pull out.

African nations also owe China an enormous amount of money for the massive infrastructure projects that China has financed on the continent. Africans want debt relief, but that’s unlikely to happen, Voice of America reported. The negotiations will continue – the two sides are bound to each other.

Many people want to reverse globalization. Marriages are actually easier to dissolve.



Heroes and Villains

The toppling of a statue depicting a slave trader in the port city of Bristol has sparked a debate over one of the darkest chapters in Britain’s history, Reuters reported Monday.

Anti-racism protesters on Sunday tore down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century merchant and philanthropist that made his fortune from trading African slaves. The demonstrators then threw the statue into the harbor.

The destruction of the statue has reignited the debate over monuments related to Britain’s imperialist past, which have until now mostly been confined to marches and petitions.

Historians say previous attempts to recognize the pain caused by the legacy of slavery have failed.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman called the destruction of the statue a criminal act.

Winston Churchill, who led Britain in World War II, has also come under scrutiny: His statue on London’s Parliament Square was defaced with graffiti that read, “Churchill was a racist.”

Historians have said that the renowned prime minister expressed racist views and was responsible for denying food to India during the 1943 famine which killed more than two million people.

The new debates mirror controversies in the United States over statues of Confederate figures from the Civil War.


A Deeper Attraction

Vietnamese lawmakers ratified a landmark trade deal with the European Union Monday, a pact aiming to attract investors that want to move factories away from China, the Associated Press reported.

Under the agreement, the EU will lift 85 percent of its tariffs on Vietnamese products and will gradually reduce the rest over the next seven years. For its part, Vietnam will remove 49 percent of its import duties on EU exports and remove the rest over 10 years.

Analysts said that the implementation of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement “can’t come at a better time,” as the country slowly recovers following lockdowns to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“It also showed other countries, including the EU, the negative impact of relying too much on China in their product value chain,” said economist Pham Chi Lan.

Lawmakers also ratified a second deal that will give EU companies equal treatment with domestic bidders when competing for public contracts.

The Southeast Asian nation is the EU’s second-largest trading partner in the region, with bilateral trade equaling $56 billion last year.


A Way Back

New Zealand lifted nearly all of its coronavirus restrictions Monday after it reported no new COVID-19 cases in 17 days, the BBC reported.

The island nation moved to level one, the lowest of a four-tier alert system designed to curb the spread of the virus.

The new rules will allow schools and workplaces to reopen and permit public gatherings such as weddings and funerals. Social distancing will not be mandatory but is encouraged.

Borders, however, will remain closed to foreign travelers. New Zealanders coming from abroad still need to go through a 14-day quarantine.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the lifting of restrictions “a milestone,” stressing that it will not be an “easy path back to pre-Covid life.”

New Zealand recorded 1,154 confirmed cases and 22 deaths since the virus arrived in late February.


The Influence

Bumblebees are known to be excellent pollinators and a new study has found they can also be very persuasive: They can trick plants into flowering early when deprived of pollen, the BBC reported.

The hairy bees will begin nibbling distinctively-shaped holes on the leaves of flowerless plants, which trigger the plants to blossom sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

Researchers were perplexed by this behavior and failed to achieve the same results when they replicated the damage done to the plants.

The findings showed that the bees also didn’t eat or use the bit-off material, nor did they damage plants that provided pollen.

“It’s possible that the bees also have some cue that they are providing to the plants that is specific to the bee,” suggested co-author Consuelo De Moraes. “And that could be secretions that we don’t know about but it’s something that we plan to investigate.”

Meanwhile, researchers are also considering the idea that plants are driving the behavior.

It is vital for plants that depend on pollination to have their flowers on display when the pollinators are buzzing around, wrote the broadcaster. It could be that some plants have developed a strategy to bloom when they recognize that the bee is nibbling on its leaves.

Scientists say that regardless, it’s important to understand the relationship between the plants and the bumblebees to help the creatures survive in the face of climate change.

“I think it’s fascinating how much we still don’t know about organisms that we think we know really well,” said De Moraes. “It absolutely increases our sense of wonder at the cleverness of nature in all its many forms.”

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET:

  1. US: 1,961,185
  2. Brazil: 707,412
  3. Russia: 476,043
  4. UK: 288,834
  5. India: 267,046
  6. Spain: 241,717
  7. Italy: 235,278
  8. Peru: 199,696
  9. France: 191,313
  10. Germany: 186,233

Source: Johns Hopkins University

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