May 2019

China poses no threat to any country

China’s limited defense spending to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity poses no threat to any other country, a spokesperson for the annual session of the country’s national legislature said Monday. “China will adhere to the path of peaceful development and adopt a defense policy that is defensive in nature,” said Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress, at a press conference. “Whether a country is a military threat to others or not is not determined by its increase in defense expenditure, but by the diplomatic and national defense policies it adopts,” he noted. China has maintained a single digit growth rate in its budgeted national defense spending since 2016, following five consecutive years of double digit increase. Its budgeted growth rate stood at 7.6 percent in 2016, 7 percent in 2017 and 8.1 percent in 2018. While the national defense spending in some major developed countries accounted for more than 2 percent of their GDP, the ratio was only about 1.3 percent for China in 2018, according to Zhang. “China maintains a reasonable and appropriate growth rate in its defense expenditure to meet its demand in safeguarding national security and military reform with Chinese characteristics,” he said.

The third part of the exhibition is a scroll from

The third part of the exhibition is a scroll from NMA’s own collection exploring the strong Chinese-Australian connection, Harvest of Endurance Scroll. The scroll is an artistic representation of two centuries of Chinese contact with and migration to Australia. A total of eight meters of the 50-meter scroll will be on display. “It shows the history of Chinese people in Australia,” said Michael Pickering, senior curator of NMA. “This painting basically marks the period of time in the 1970s and 1980s when they were at the transition from Chinese engagement through individual immigration to a time when political recognition raised the profile.” NMA signed a memorandum of understanding with NMC in 2011. Last July, a 150-piece “Old Masters” art exhibition with Australian indigenous artists opened in NMC. Shan Wei, who had not started his work in NMC then, went to the exhibition twice as a visitor. Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye said at the opening ceremony on Thursday evening that cultural exchange is an important part of bilateral relations between China and Australia. “Art knows no boundary and exchanges can bridge gaps,” he said. “The more our cultural exchanges are conducted, the deeper our two peoples understand each other. It is my sincere wish that cultural institutes in our two countries could join hands and make even greater contribution to the development of Sino-Australia relations,” he said. According to Yang Zhi, minister-counselor for culture at the Chinese Embassy in Australia, told Xinhua that the preparation for the exchange exhibitions took almost three years. “These exhibitions brought the cultural exchanges of China and Australia to a new height,” he said. “In recent years many Australian culture institutes visited China, and vice versa. Such exchanges shortened the distance between our two peoples, and enhanced mutual understanding.”

 They didn’t think of anything else but finding New Cheese.

 ”Because, we didn’t cause this problem.” Hem said. “Somebody else did this and we should getsomething out of it.”Haw suggested, “Maybe we should stop analyzing the situation so much and just get along and findsome new Cheese.””Oh no,” Hem argued. “I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”While Hem and Haw were still trying to decide what to do, Sniff and Scurry were already well ontheir way. They went farther into the maze, up and down corridors, looking for cheese in everyCheese Station they could find.   They didn’t think of anything else but finding New Cheese.   They didn’t find any for sometime until they finally went into an area of the maze where they hadnever been before: Cheese Station N.   They squealed with delight. They found what they had been looking for: a great supply of NewCheese.   They could hardly believe their eyes. It was the biggest store of cheese the mice had ever seen.   In the meantime, Hem and Haw were still back in Cheese Station C evaluation their situation. Theywere now suffering from the effects of having no Cheese. They were becoming frustrated andangry and were blaming each other for the situation they were in.   Now and then Haw thought about his mice buddies, Sniff and Scurry, and wondered if they hadfound any cheese yet. He believed they might be having a hard time, as running through the mazeusually involved some uncertainty. But he also knew that it was likely to only last for a while.   Sometimes, Haw would imagine Sniff and Scurry finding New Cheese and enjoying it. He thoughtabout how good it would be for him to be out on an adventure in the maze, and to find fresh NewCheese. He could almost taste it.    The more clearly Haw saw the image of himself finding and enjoying the New Cheese, the more hesaw himself leaving Cheese Station C.   ”Let’s go!” he exclaimed, all of a sudden.   ”No,” Hem quickly responded. “I like it here. It’s comfortable. It’s what I know. Besides it’sdangerous out there.””No it isn’t,” Haw argued. “We’ve run through many parts of the maze before, and we can do itagain.””I’m getting too old for that,” Hem said. “And I’m afraid I’m not interested in getting lost and makinga fool of myself. Are you?”With that, Haw’s fear of failing returned and his hope of finding New Cheese faded.   So every day, the littlepeople continued to do what they had done before. They went to CheeseStation C, found no Cheese, and returned home, carrying their worried and frustrations with them.

Passing down tradition

“I’m actually from the first batch of young people to return home to start a business. I came back to repay my family, who had scraped together money to give me a better education, so I wanted to do something to benefit the stockade,” said Lai. “I was planning to build a road for the village with my savings, then it occurred to me to organize them to weave.” She then thought that with more and more young people working in the city, the precious heritage passed down from their ancestors was in danger of being lost. “We were so proud when our cloth first appeared in the Paris Fashion Week in 2013, and people started to noticed that the cloth was from Rongjiang in Guizhou, which is also indigo dyed,” said Lai. However, Lai has turned down opportunities to work with top global luxury brands on many occasions, because they wanted her to change the traditional weaving methods, and Lai believed this would not be helpful in preserving Dong cloth weaving skills. “My million yuan in debt does not make me a noble person. I care more about not losing the precious skills from my ancestors,” said Lai.

When Sir Robert Peel, in 1841, after a memorable opposition of ten years, acceded to office

When Sir Robert Peel, in 1841, after a memorable opposition of ten years, acceded to office, sustained by all the sympathies of the country, his Irish policy, not sufficiently noticed amid the vast and urgent questions with which he had immediately to deal, was, however, to the political observer significant and interesting. As a mere matter of party tactics, it was not for him too much to impute Irish disturbances to political and religious causes, even if the accumulated experience of the last ten years were not developing a conviction in his mind, that the methods hitherto adopted to ensure the tranquillity of that country were superficial and fallacious. His cabinet immediately recognized a distinction between political and predial sources of disorder. The first, they resolved into a mere system of agitation, no longer justifiable by the circumstances, and this they determined to put down. The second, they sought in the conditions under which land was occupied, and these they determined to investigate. Hence, on the one hand, the O’Connell prosecution: on the other, the Devon commission.
This was the bold and prudent policy of a minister who felt he had the confidence of the country and was sustained by great parliamentary majorities; and when the summoner of monster meetings was convicted, and the efficient though impartial manner in which the labours of the land commission were simultaneously conducted came to be bruited about, there seemed at last some prospect of the system of political quackery of which Ireland had been so long the victim being at last subverted. But there is nothing in which the power of circumstances is more evident than in politics. They baffle the forethought of statesmen, and control even the apparently inflexible laws of national development and decay.
Had the government of 1841 succeeded in its justifiable expectation of terminating the trade of political agitation in Ireland, armed with all the authority and all the information with which the labours of the land commission would have furnished them, they would in all probability have successfully grappled with the real causes of Irish misery and misrule. They might have thoroughly reformed the modes by which land is holden and occupied; have anticipated the spontaneous emigration that now rages by an administrative enterprise scarcely more costly than the barren loan of ‘47, and which would have wafted native energies to imperial shores; have limited under these circumstances the evil of the potato famine, even if the improved culture of the interval might not have altogether prevented that visitation; while the laws which regulated the competition between home and foreign industry in agricultural produce might have been modified with so much prudence, or, if necessary, ultimately repealed with so much

International energy market uncertainties may complicate the Fed’s interest rate decision

The US Federal Reserve changed its hawkish stance in the March Fed meeting by signaling no rate hikes this year. Moreover, even US President Donald Trump and his top economic advisor Larry Kudlow have been calling on the Fed to cut interest rates these days. However, to change the direction for its monetary policy, the Fed needs to ensure that inflation won’t rise significantly. Nevertheless, there is considerable upward momentum in energy prices, one of the most influential factors for inflation. The international market has recorded a noticeable increase in oil prices so far this year. The average oil price in January was $56.6 per barrel, up by $2.6 or 4.8 percent from $54 per barrel in December 2018. The increase in the entire first quarter was even sharper. The price for the representative West Texas Intermediate crude oil jumped from $47.96 on January 4 to $61.59 per barrel on April 1, indicating a gain of 28.4 percent in the first quarter. While the Trump administration may hope that energy prices will maintain at low levels, Saudi Arabia aims to push oil prices to at least $70 per barrel by slashing production. In February, Jihad Azour, director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the IMF, said that Saudi Arabia would need oil priced at $80 to $85 per barrel to balance its budget this year. According to information provided by industry sources, Saudi Arabia’s first goal is to raise the oil price to $70 per barrel by reducing production, even at the cost of losing some market share. As for Iran, sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the country have already curbed its production and exports of oil and gas, and such sanctions may be further tightened. Since May 2018, US oil sanctions against Iran have removed about 1.5 million barrels of Iranian oil exports from the market. On April 8, Trump designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, the first time the US has named another nation’s army as a terrorist group. Iran’s Supreme Council quickly responded by designating US forces a terrorist organization. With the escalating frictions between the two, it is very likely that the US will tighten oil sanctions against Iran, thus further reducing the supply in the global oil market. In Venezuela, economic difficulties have crippled the country’s oil production and export capacity, despite having the largest proven oil reserves in the world. Political turmoil will further disrupt the country’s oil production and exports. As the largest oil producing and exporting country in North Africa, Libya is now on the brink of a civil war, which may also affect its oil output.

It was a long time before I met the author of the notes.

One Sunday morning, I was told that someone was waiting for me in the office. The young person who answered the rectory door said that it was “the woman who said she left all the notes.” When I saw her I was shocked, since I immediately recognized her from church but had no idea that it was she who wrote the notes. She was sitting in a chair in the office with her hands folded in her lap. Her head was bowed and when she raised it to look at me, she could barely smile without pain. Her face was disfigured, and the skin so tight from surgical procedures that smiling or laughing was very difficult for her. She had suffered terribly from treatment to remove the growths that had so marred her face. We chatted for a while that Sunday morning and agreed to meet for lunch later that week. As it turned out we went to lunch several times, and she always wore a hat during the meal. I think that treatments of some sort had caused a lot of her hair to fall out. We shared things about our lives. I told her about my schooling and growing up. She told me that she had worked for years for an insurance company. She never mentioned family, and I did not ask. We spoke of authors we both had read, and it was easy to tell that books are a great love of hers. I have thought about her often over the years and how she struggled in a society that places an incredible premium on looks, class, wealth and all the other fineries of life. She suffered from a disfigurement that cannot be made to look attractive. I know that her condition hurt her deeply. Would her life have been different had she been pretty? Chances are it would have. And yet there were a sensitivity and a beauty to her that had nothing to do with looks. She was one to be listened to, whose words were so easy to take to heart. Her words came from a wounded but loving heart, very much like all hearts, but she had more of a need to be aware of it, to live with it and learn from it. She possessed a fine-tuned sense of beauty. Her only fear in life was the loss of a friend. How long does it take most of us to reach that level of human growth, if we ever get there? We get so consumed and diminished, worrying about all the things that need improving, we can easily forget to cherish those things that last. Friendship, so rare and so good, just needs our care-maybe even the simple gesture of writing a little note now and then, or the dropping of some beautiful words in a basket, in the hope that such beauty will be shared and taken to heart. The truth of her life was a desire to see beyond the surface for a glimpse of what it is that matters. She found beauty and grace and they befriended her, and showed her what is real.

Seeing the light in a land of darkness

A young graduate from Wuhan recounts his sense of wonder after working at the bottom of the world, Wang Ru reports. Li Hang had an experience that you could say lit up his life. The PhD graduate from Wuhan University saw the light in the South Pole, the aurora australis. “I was astounded. It seemed to move like a swimming whale. But it comforted me emotionally, relieving my solitude and dullness. I thought it was a gift from heaven.” He photographed the natural phenomenon. Auroras are produced when the outer sphere of the atmosphere is disturbed by solar wind. He has more than 100,000 photos of the scenes he witnessed during the approximately 500 days he spent at the bottom of the world. Li was not on a pleasure cruise. He was working hard as part of China’s 31st and 32nd polar expeditions to the South Pole. At the time he was pursuing a doctoral degree on survey engineering at the Chinese Antarctic Center of Surveying and Mapping, Wuhan University. He stayed in Antarctica from October 2014 to April 2016, and some of his photos were published last year by leading publications in the field, Nature magazine in Britain and Science magazine in the United States. Li’s laboratory has a long-term project which sends students or teachers to the South Pole every year for scientific investigation. He signed up for it immediately when offered the opportunity. He says he was “lucky” to be chosen in early 2014 and then received training before he embarked on the journey at the end of that year. Normally, China’s Antarctic teams are separated into two groups. The first, with 200 or 300 people, stays only during the relatively warm “summer” season (roughly November to January). The other group stays longer for the winter but has just dozens of people. Li and his group members spent most of their time at the Zhongshan scientific research station. He says the temperature there can reach 1 C to 4 C in the warm season and-40 C to-30 C in the cold season. “The polar day (when the sun does not set) happens in the warm season and lasts for about two months. During the time examiners were busy completing more tasks. But we lived a slower pace of life in the cold season, especially during polar nights, for safety considerations,” says Li. They were busy there, he says, since they had to do everything by themselves besides their obvious scientific tasks, like cooking, cleaning and disposing of the rubbish.

Interview: Chinese scientist urges international collaboration to combat climate impacts in Pan-Third Pole region

Tandong Yao, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told a session of the United Nations Science, Policy, and Business Forum on the Environment in Nairobi that global warming has led to melting of glaciers, resulting in extreme weather events that have affected livelihoods of millions of people in the region. “Urgent international cooperation is required to study and find solutions to reverse the environmental changes,” he said. Yao noted that the Chinese government has taken measures to combat effects of global warming on the Pan-Third Pole region. The Third Pole region is centered on the Xizang Plateau and extends over 5 million square kilometers with an average elevation of over 4,000 meters. It is regarded as the Water Tower of Asia. Yao said the environmental changes being witnessed in the Third Pole region and the surrounding areas have been linked with global climate systems. Chinese scientists are already cooperating with their peers in the affected central Asian region as well as those from United Nations agencies, the United States, Germany, France and Sweden. The degradation of the Pan-Third Pole region is a global concern, given that it extends over 20 million square kilometers and is home to over 3 billion people, Yao said. The Pan-Third Pole region is exposed to drastic climate change, with the melting of glaciers causing environmental disasters associated with extreme weather events like floods, droughts and ice avalanches, he said.

Venezuela expels German ambassador

Venezuela on Wednesday declared German ambassador in Caracas persona non grata for meddling in its internal affairs and ordered he leave the country in 48 hours. The expulsion of Daniel Martin Kriener “is due to his repeated acts of interference in the country’s internal affairs,” Venezuela’s foreign ministry said in a statement. Kriener was reportedly among a handful of ambassadors who went to the airport on Monday to greet Juan Guaido on his return from a tour of Latin American countries that support Venezuela’s right-wing opposition movement. Guaido declared himself “interim president” in January. The United States immediately recognized Guaido’s temporary presidency. Germany followed suit early February. The Venezuelan government believed that Washington’s approval of Guaido as the country’s interim leader aimed to oust the current administration, and open up its vast oil reserves as well as gold deposits to U.S. corporations. “Venezuela is irrevocably free and independent, which is why actions by diplomatic representatives that implicate meddling in matters that are the exclusive realm of the Venezuelan people and state authorities are not and will not be allowed,” the ministry said. European countries should “adopt a constructive balanced attitude” toward Venezuela’s political crisis, instead of “encouraging the path of coups and violence (and) facilitate a peaceful and negotiated solution between the Venezuelan camps,” it added.