US - China conflict amidst global spiral of Covid-19 | Daily News

US - China conflict amidst global spiral of Covid-19

Hong Kong City at night.
Hong Kong City at night.

There is a major international confrontation rising between the US and China hugely affecting world affairs, as the Covid 19 spread in the world goes past 13,500,000 and deaths soar at 583,359. The United States remains the country with the highest infections 3, 617,040 and more than 140,000 deaths.

President Donald Trump has scrapped Hong Kong’s special status with the US, which will have a major negative impact on trade with the US. The US is also strongly critical of China’s military build up over the South China Sea, and announced sanctions against Chinese politicians who it says are responsible for human rights violations against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

Speaking in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said the executive order was intended to “hold China accountable for its aggressive actions against the people of Hong Kong. No special privileges [for Hong Kong], no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies,” he said.

President Donald Trump wears a face mask

The US action on Hong Kong follows the new National Security Law adopted by China to deal with pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which is strongly criticised by western countries.

The increasing antagonism with China by the US President Trump is also seen as part of the tactics in the Trump re-election campaign for a second term as president, where he is now trailing behind the Democratic rival Joe Biden.

China has strongly opposed the US moves, and vowed to retaliate on the US ending Hong Kong’s preferential status and imposed sanctions on Chinese officials on Human Rights issues. China’s Foreign Ministry described the decision as a “gross interference” in its domestic affairs and said the country would impose retaliatory sanctions to “safeguard China's legitimate interests”.

“The US attempt to obstruct the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong will never succeed,” the statement said. “We urge the US side to correct its mistakes, refrain from implementing the act and stop interfering in China's internal affairs in any way. China will firmly respond if the US goes ahead.”

Hong Kong - China

Hong Kong’s largest business group has warned the city’s position as a hub of global trade could be tarnished after US President Donald Trump’s decision to strip it of its preferential treatment, and sanction individuals and entities deemed to have helped erode its autonomy.

The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, with about 4,000 corporate members, said the decision would cause more uncertainty and concerns for a city already in the midst of a recession exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It also creates uncertainty and concerns about what the US and its allies might do next,” and “We are disappointed with such retaliatory actions, which can only exacerbate the economic hardship of the Hong Kong people, rather than help them,” the business group’s CEO, George Leung Siu-kay, said.

Covid 19 spread and protests

Latin America has seen a huge spread of the Covid 19 virus with Brazil being the world’s second largest infected country - 1,926,824 sharply rising and nearly 75,000 deaths, with many not reported. Peru, Chile and Mexico also have very high infections with major threats to the economies in the Latin American states and social disorders.

India now ranks third in the infections - 968,876, as the spread of the virus continues. Midweek, after 32,696 fresh cases were registered within a span of 24 hours, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced. The death toll stood at 24,915. Russia ranks next with 745,193 infections and 11,753 deaths.

More than 20 states in the US are having increased infections, with Florida, Texas, California and Arizona having very high rates. Several states are now turning back on the relaxation of lockdowns, and calling on people to ensure social distancing. There is a major debate in the US over the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of Covid 19, and the White House is critical of its own Task Force on the pandemic, who are warning of a major spread of the virus in the coming months.

Africa is also seeing a rise in Covid infections, with South Africa ranking highest. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa passed the 300,000 mark midweek, after 12,757 new cases were reported in 24 hours bringing the total to 311,049.

South Africa is the eighth most affected country globally in terms of caseloads. The rainbow nation surpassed the United Kingdom, Spain and Iran in infection rates but has low mortality figures compared to the trio. South Africa’s health minister said the number of deaths is at 4,453 and recoveries is 160,693.

Health officials expect an increase in infections as the country is currently in its winter season known for the influenza virus.

Several countries have seen major protests with numbers of new coronavirus cases. In Israel, which had initially controlled the spread of the virus with good results, saw thousands of protesters rallied in Tel Aviv, and many more protesting outside PM Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem. The protests were led by the anti-corruption Black Flag movement, and demonstrators focused on Israel’s deteriorating economic situation brought by the pandemic. The country’s unemployment rate hit 21% this week, and surveys have shown public trust in the government’s handling of the health crisis plummeting.

Protests erupted into violence in Serbia’s capital - Belgrade - sparked by the government’s plans to impose a curfew to curb a dramatic surge in the Covid-19. Authorities dropped the plan after two nights of rioting, and reimposed a ban on indoor or outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

In Bulgaria, anti-government protests have flared up again as coronavirus cases continue to rise. The economic problems caused by the pandemic have also drawn more attention to allegations of corruption among political leaders.

Huawei - UK and US

Amidst the rising China - US confrontations, the UK government announced a series of measures to remove the Chinese phone-maker Huawei from the UK's 5G mobile networks.

It will ban UK mobile providers from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after the end of this year, and they will have to remove all of its 5G kit from their networks by 2027.

The UK government had previously said Huawei could be involved in the project, but changed its mind following growing security concerns about China, and the new warnings issued by the US.

Huawei was founded in 1987 in Shenzhen, southern China, by Ren Zhengfei, a former army officer. It started making communications equipment for mobile phone networks and is now a global leader, employing 180,000 workers. It is the world's second-largest smartphone supplier after Samsung, with 18% of the market - ahead of Apple and others.

The US says Huawei could be used by China for spying, via its 5G equipment. It points to Mr. Ren's military background and Huawei's role in communications networks to argue it represents a security risk.

Washington has banned US firms from doing business with Huawei (for example, designing and producing chips) and wants its allies to ban it from their 5G networks. Australia and New Zealand have joined the US.

For the UK, pressing ahead with using Huawei equipment could have affected vital UK-US trade talks (after Brexit), and the US warned such a decision could risk future security co-operation.

Deciding to ban Huawei from 5G in the UK, could risk Chinese retaliation such as a possible cyber attack.

Many countries are preparing to move from 4G to more advanced 5G mobile networks. Download speeds 10 times faster than today, will radically change how we work, communicate and stream videos.

In theory, controlling the tech at the heart of these networks could give Huawei the capacity to spy or disrupt communications during any future dispute. This is important, as more things - from self-driving cars to fridges, baby monitors and fire alarms become connected to the internet.

But removing Huawei equipment from the networks will have a significant impact on the roll-out of the UK's 5G technology.

The UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said it would be delayed by two to three years and with added costs of up to £2bn.

The Chinese government has said it is “strongly opposed” to the UK's “groundless” ban of Huawei's 5G kit. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying added Beijing would “take measures to safeguard” the “legitimate interests” of Chinese companies.

President Trump has welcomed the UK move. “We convinced many countries, many countries - and I did this myself for the most part - not to use Huawei because we think it's an unsafe security risk,” the US leader said.

France - Bastille Day

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a Bastille Day parade on Tuesday that was rededicated to celebrating the heroes of the fight against Covid-19, including medical workers, cashiers and postal workers.

A major fall in fertility rates worldwide is set to have a drastic impact on societies.

He said the ceremony was a “symbol of the commitment of an entire nation” in the fight against Covid-19.

For the first time since 1945, French authorities called off the annual military parade along the Champs-Élysées that usually marks the storming of the Bastille fortress at the start of the French Revolution in 1789. Instead, just 2,000 soldiers – half the usual number – gathered at the Place de la Concorde for a pared-down ceremony in which workers on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic were given pride of place.

Acknowledging signs of a resurgence of the virus that has already killed more than 30,000 people in France, Macron said he wanted face masks to be made compulsory in enclosed public spaces as of August 1 — a measure advocated by prominent doctors in recent days. “We will be ready in the event of a second wave,” the French president said, pledging to step up testing and tracing efforts. Macron also said that France would be among the first countries to receive any future vaccine developed by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.

Despite billions of euros pledged to minimise the economic damage caused by the pandemic, questions remain over how Macron's administration will foster recovery from a recession expected to destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs. The French president said his government's “massive” recovery plan would reach €100 billion ($114 billion), on top of more than €460 billion spent so far to limit the economic damage of a costly two-month lockdown.

Macron promised subsidised contracts for youths struggling to enter the job market and payroll tax freezes for companies that hire young workers. He also advocated restraint on company dividends, tying it to the possibility that companies may ask employees to take pay cuts.

Fertility drop

A major fall in fertility rates worldwide has been observed by researchers, when the world is ill-prepared for the global crash in children being born, which is set to have a “jaw-dropping” impact on societies, say researchers.

Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century.

Japan's population is projected to fall from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million by the end of the century.

Italy is expected to see an equally dramatic population crash from 61 million to 28 million over the same timeframe.

They are two of 23 countries - which also include Spain, Portugal, Thailand and South Korea - expected to see their population more than halve.

China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years’ time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will then take its place. The UK is predicted to peak at 75 million in 2063, and fall to 71 million by 2100.

Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80.

The fertility rate - the average number of children a woman gives birth to - is falling. If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall.

In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 - and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100.

As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century.

The fall in fertility rates is being driven by more women in education and work, as well as greater access to contraception, leading to women choosing to have fewer children. In many ways, falling fertility rates are a success story. 

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