China, dollar take toll on prices



After a bumpy 2020, Australian meat producers and exporters face headwinds in 2021.

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China received more foreign investment last year than U.S., U.N. says


Employees work on the production line of WEY Tank 300 SUV at a factory of Great Wall Motors on January 19, 2021 in Chongqing, China.

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

The Chinese economy brought in more foreign direct investment than any other country last year, knocking the United States from its perch atop the list.

China brought in $163 billion in inflows last year, compared to $134 billion attracted by the U.S., the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development wrote in a report released on Sunday. In 2019, the U.S. received $251 billion in inflows and China received $140 billion.

Overall, the report found that foreign direct investment tanked globally, as the Covid-19 pandemic brought countries large and small to virtual stand-stills.

FDI plunged 42% in 2020, to $859 billion, a 30% drop from even the depths of the 2009 financial crisis. The economic measure accounts for investments in a country made by people and businesses in other countries, such as the construction of a factory or the opening of a satellite office.

Developed countries were hit harder last year than so-called “developing” countries. Investment in the U.S. fell 49%, slightly less than the developed country average of 69%.

FDI in developing countries fell a comparatively moderate 12%. China, included on that list, actually saw a small increase of 4% in its inflows.

The European Union saw FDI decline by two-thirds, according to the report, with the United Kingdom seeing no new inflows. The U.K. has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus.

China managed to largely get coronavirus under control within its borders last year, despite being the first nation to be hit with the deadly disease.

Strict lock down measures, early mass testing and an abundance of personal protective equipment have been credited for the country’s relatively low death toll.

Since the start of the pandemic, China has had fewer than 100,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and suffered about 4,800 deaths from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The U.S., which has a much smaller population, has had nearly 25 million cases and more than 400,000 deaths.

Despite China surpassing the U.S. in the flow of foreign direct investment in 2020, the total stock of foreign investment remains much larger in the U.S. than in China, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Other economic data have also suggested that China has borne the brunt of the pandemic more nimbly than its peers. Beijing reported 2020 GDP growth of 2.3% earlier this month, and is expected to be the only major economy to report a positive annual growth rate.

The United Nations report comes one day before China’s President Xi Jinping will deliver an address at a virtual gathering of the World Economic Forum. President Joe Biden is not expected to attend the event.

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Lines Form in Beijing as China Ramps up COVID-19 Testing



Long lines formed in parts of Beijing, China, on January 22, as mass COVID-19 testing was launched following consecutive days of new cases. Chinese state media reported that two Beijing districts – Dongcheng and Xicheng – had begun testing on Friday, with the aim of testing more than 2 million residents over the weekend. This footage shows a long queues of people on Friday. The National Health Commission reported a total of 103 new cases of coronavirus on mainland China on the same day. This weekend marks one year since the Chinese city of Wuhan was placed under a two-and-a-half month lockdown in a bid to quarantine the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: Luke Giles via Storyful

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China targets Australia’s human rights record at UN


At the height of diplomatic tension between Canberra and Beijing in November last year, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted a fabricated image of a special forces soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child with its head wrapped in an Australian flag.

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A week earlier, Chinese embassy officials in Canberra had briefed that China’s foreign ministry planned to target Australia’s human rights record on Indigenous affairs and aged care in response to a list of 14 decisions taken by the Australian government including: calling for an inquiry into the coronavirus, banning Huawei from the 5G network and foreign interference laws.

China’s representative to the UN Third Cycle of Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights on Australia followed up on the threats this week.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday night that China’s representative proposed that Australia should take actions to combat racial discrimination, hate speech and protect the rights of migrants.

She said that Australian authorities should carry out a thorough investigation into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces operating overseas, “bring perpetrators to justice, end impunity and prevent recurrence of these crimes”.

The Australian government-initiated Brereton report found Australian special forces soldiers allegedly committed 39 murders in Afghanistan.

In a barb targeted at the deteriorating relationship between the two countries, Hua said the Morrison government should “stop using disinformation and making politically-motivated and groundless accusations against other countries”.

In June, Foreign Minister Marise Payne accused China and Russia of spreading disinformation during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We hope that Australia will take the opinions of the international community seriously, face its human rights issues squarely, and take concrete measures to improve its human rights situation and contribute to the sound development of the global human rights cause,” Hua said on Thursday night.

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Elaine Pearson, the Australia director at Human Rights Watch said UN member countries have rightly criticised Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and questioned why incarceration rates of First Nations peoples remain so high.

“The UN review made it clear that the Australian government hasn’t followed through on some of its key past pledges to the UN Human Rights Council,” she said in a statement after Australia’s appearance before the universal periodic review on Wednesday.

“It’s disappointing to see the Australian government doubling down on policies that have caused immense harm to asylum seekers and have been repeatedly condemned by UN officials and other governments,” Pearson said.

“While Australia has abandoned its responsibilities towards these people, it’s good to see the rest of the world has not.”

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China says firmly opposes new U.S. sanctions





FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags fly along Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House in Washington January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

January 15, 2021

BEIJING (Reuters) – China firmly opposes new sanctions by the United States on its companies, the foreign ministry said on Friday, after the Trump administration added nine Chinese firms to the Pentagon’s list of companies with alleged ties to the Chinese military.

Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the comment at a news briefing in Beijing.

(This story corrects to remove reference to South China Sea measures)

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)




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China labels Pompeo a ‘doomsday clown’ and Uyghur genocide claims ‘wastepaper’


A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has called outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper”.

The allegations of abuses against Muslim minority groups such as the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region are “outright sensational pseudo-propositions and a malicious farce concocted by individual anti-China and anti-Communist forces represented by Pompeo”, spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing on Wednesday.

“This American politician, who is notorious for lying and deceiving, is turning himself into a doomsday clown and joke of the century with his last madness and lies of the century.”

Mr Pompeo’s announcement on Tuesday does not require any immediate actions, although the US must take the designation into account in formulating policy toward China.

China says its policies in Xinjiang aim only to promote economic growth and social stability.

Biden administration should ‘view China rationally and objectively’

Mike Pompeo says China is trying to “destroy” Uyghur Muslims.(AP: Andrew Harnik)

US President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign declared, before the November presidential election, that genocide was occurring in China’s western Xinjiang region.

A spokesman for Mr Biden’s transition team declined to comment on a possible genocide determination before the new administration took office this week.

Ms Hua said over the past four years the Trump administration had meddled in China’s internal affairs and “done its best to suppress, smear, and discredit China” causing “serious damage to the US-China relationship”.

“I think this situation is not in the interest of the people of China and the United States, nor is it the wish of people of insight, including the ordinary American people, who want to see the healthy and stable development of China-US relations,” she said.

“I hope China and the US could meet each other halfway in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, to promote [the] China-US relationship, and to make the China-US relationship back to a healthy and stable track as soon as possible.”

‘Genocide’ designation the latest of a series of US measures

A Uyghur woman and children sit on a motor-tricycle after school.
The Chinese Government has been accused of imposing forced abortions and sterilisations in Xinjiang.(AP: Andy Wong)

The US has previously spoken out and taken action on Xinjiang, implementing a range of sanctions against senior Chinese Communist Party leaders and state-run enterprises that fund repressive policies in the vast, resource-rich region.

Last week, the Trump administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang, with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labour.

Many of the Chinese officials accused of having taken part in repression are already under US sanctions. The “genocide” designation means new measures will be easier to impose.

Tuesday’s move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken to ramp up pressure on China over issues ranging from human rights and the coronavirus pandemic to Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

China has responded with its own sanctions and tough rhetoric towards the US.

According to US officials and human rights groups China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of prison-like political indoctrination camps.

People have allegedly been subjected to torture, sterilisation and political indoctrination in addition to forced labour as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority.

Media organisations have reported on widespread forced birth control among the Uyghurs in 2020, including the mass sterilisation of Muslim women, even while family planning restrictions are loosened on members of China’s dominant Han ethnic group.

China has denied all the charges, but Uyghur forced labour has been linked by media reporting to various products imported to the US, including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors.

Responding to a question about China’s treatment of Uyghurs, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was up to the courts to determine cases of genocide.

Academic says pressure on China working

James Leibold, a specialist in Chinese ethnic policy at La Trobe University in Melbourne, said international pressure appeared to have had some effect on Chinese policies in Xinjiang, particularly in prompting the Government to release information about the camps and possibly reducing mass detentions.

“So hopefully we’ll see a continued continuity with regards to the new [Joe Biden] administration on holding China to account,” Mr Leibold said.

“And hopefully the Biden administration can bring its allies along to continue to put pressure on the Chinese Government,” he said.

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Vaccine shipments to EU slow as Turkey, China put foot on accelerator



FILE PHOTO: Corina Naujoks, member of a German Red Cross mobile vaccination team injects the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at an employee of a retirement nursery in Dillenburg, Germany, January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

January 15, 2021

By Francesco Guarascio and Andrius Sytas

BRUSSELS/VILNIUS (Reuters) – Some EU nations are receiving fewer than expected doses of coronavirus vaccines as U.S. pharmaceutical firm Pfizer slows shipments, while Turkey and China race ahead with inoculations to stem surging worldwide infections.

Six EU countries described the delay as unacceptable and said it impacted the credibility of the whole vaccination process.

Spooked by a fast-spreading variant first detected in Britain, governments in Europe have imposed tighter and longer lockdowns and curbs. They are pinning hopes on vaccines being rolled out across the continent.

But even when inoculations start en masse, pressure on health systems is not expected to lift for months, or until most people within a population get the shot.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer with German partner BioNTech started being delivered in the EU at the end of December. U.S. biotech firm Moderna began delivering its shot this week.

Yet about one third of the 27 EU governments cited “insufficient” doses at a video conference of health ministers on Wednesday, a person who attended the virtual meeting told Reuters.

In a letter sent on Friday, six EU governments asked the European Commission to pressure Pfizer-BioNTech “to ensure stability and transparency of timely (vaccine) deliveries”.

“This situation is unacceptable,” said the letter, seen by Reuters, signed by the health ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

“Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she had spoken to Pfizer and been reassured that scheduled deliveries will be made in the first quarter of 2021.

Pfizer said there would be a temporary impact on shipments in late January to early February caused by changes to manufacturing processes to boost production.

“Although this will temporarily impact shipments in late January to early February, it will provide a significant increase in doses available for patients in late February and March,” Pfizer said in a statement.

TURKEY PUSHES AHEAD

The German health ministry said Pfizer has informed the European Union that it would temporarily reduce deliveries due to construction work at its plant in the Belgian town of Puurs.

Belgium said it expected to receive only around half of the planned doses of the Pfizer vaccine in January. Lithuania said it was told this week its supplies would be halved until mid-February.

Pfizer and BioNTech have two contracts with the EU for the supply of up to 600 million doses this year. They have agreed to deliver 75 million doses in the second quarter and more later in the year.

Moderna has committed to delivering 10 million doses by the end of March and 35 million each in the second and third quarter. Another 80 million doses are also to be delivered this year but without a clear timetable yet.

Turkey, not an EU member, said it had vaccinated more than 600,000 people in the first two days of administering shots developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, among the fastest rollouts in the world.

“We are an experienced country in implementing nationwide inoculation programmes … We will win the battle with the pandemic together,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

Turkey vaccinated more people on the first day of its programme on Thursday than France had in nearly its first three weeks.

Rising infections are turning up the heat on China to strengthen its own pace of vaccination at home, even as it has been exporting millions of doses of vaccines to countries including Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil.

In the first nine days of January, about 4.5 million doses were given nationwide in China, triple the number given from July to November, Reuters calculations based on official data show. By Jan. 13, more than 10 million doses were given.

Two Chinese firms, Sinovac and Sinopharm, have developed vaccines. Sinopharm shipped more than 10 million doses domestically by Jan 4, while Sinovac delivered more than 7 million doses by Jan 10.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will on Friday outline his plan to ramp up vaccinations after an early rollout by the Trump administration which he called “a dismal failure”.

Biden has promised to get 100 million vaccine shots into the arms of Americans during his first 100 days in office.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux across the world; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Peter Graff)



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As WHO fumes at western drugmakers, China fills void on Covid-19 vaccines


For months, the World Health Organization has called on countries to come together to ensure a fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines among rich and poor nations. Now it’s starting to lose patience.

On Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said drug manufacturers had prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries, where profits are highest, rather than submitting full dossiers to get the greenlight from the global health body. He said that could delay distribution through Covax, a WHO-backed initiative that aims to supply vaccines to poorer countries.

“The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure,” Tedros said. “Even as they speak the language of equitable access, some countries and companies continue to prioritize bilateral deals — going around Covax, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue. This is wrong.”

The WHO’s struggles have opened the door for China to start ramping up its vaccine diplomacy, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledging last week to hand out more than a million doses during a swing through Southeast Asia. That amounted to a geopolitical win just before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has vowed to put the US back in the WHO following Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the organization last year.

“China’s ‘mask diplomacy’ in 2020 is being followed in 2021 by ‘vaccine diplomacy,’” said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. “The aims remain the same: to win friends and influence countries in Southeast Asia and bury the memory that the pandemic started in China a year ago.”

Antony Blinken, Biden’s pick for secretary of state, told lawmakers on Tuesday the US is preparing to join Covax and look at “how we can help make sure the vaccine is equitably distributed.” Biden officially takes over on Wednesday in the US.

China’s vaccines have received some high-profile endorsements, with Indonesian President Joko Widodo receiving the Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shot on live television last week in the world’s fourth-most populous nation despite inconsistent efficacy data. Brazil also began distributing 6 million Sinovac doses on Monday — an about-face for President Jair Bolsonaro, who had been an outspoken critic of Chinese vaccines last year.

Source: Bloomberg

‘Can no longer wait’

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who last month said his country wouldn’t use any vaccines that weren’t approved by the WHO, last week reversed course and accepted one million vaccine doses from China. He cited widespread use in places like Indonesia, Egypt and China, noting that Wang had received the vaccine and is still “in good health and can travel places.”

“For the need to defend our nation and protect our people from this deadly epidemic, we can no longer wait,” Hun Sen said in a message published in a cabinet newsletter on Friday. “We are reversing what I said last time about accepting only vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization.”

Because they lack regulatory bodies with the capacity to scrutinize scientific data, many developing countries have traditionally relied on the WHO’s list of approved vaccines to know which shots they can permit for local vaccination drives.

At the end of 2020, the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine was the first, and so far only, shot to receive emergency validation from the WHO since the outbreak began a year ago. With no low-income countries producing their own vaccines, richer nations have secured 85% of Pfizer’s vaccine and all of Moderna Inc.’s, according to London-based research firm Airfinity Ltd.

While China has pledged to support the WHO’s efforts, its vaccines are not among those procured by Covax. A spokesperson for Sinovac said the company has began submitting data to the WHO for a pre-qualification of its coronavirus vaccine, known as CoronaVac. A group of WHO inspectors has also traveled to China and will inspect its production facilities after completing quarantine, the spokesperson said.

Covax still plans to distribute 2 billion doses around the world by the end of this year, with enough to protect 3% of the population in all participating countries by July, according to an emailed response to questions. The facility has said it will consider procuring any candidate vaccine that meets global standards set by the WHO.

Among the 11 candidates that it can tap for distribution, two — Moderna Inc.’s shot and the one developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford — are ready for rollout and are being administered in countries like the US and UK It’s unclear why Covax has not yet started distributing those vaccines as well.

Tedros’s statements castigating companies for prioritizing rich countries where they can make the most profit indicates that the global health body sees the delay as stemming from the companies.

AstraZeneca said on Dec. 30 that it was seeking the WHO’s greenlight, known as the body’s Emergency Use Listing, “for an accelerated pathway to vaccine availability in low and middle-income countries.” A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what stage the process is at.

Covax’s rollout could begin “as early as February pending favorable regulatory outcomes and the readiness of health systems and national regulatory systems in individual participating economies,” said Iryna Mazur, a spokesperson at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is co-leading Covax.

Thailand bought 2 million doses from Sinovac, and China promised to donate a total of 800,000 doses to the Philippines and Myanmar during Wang’s diplomatic push last week.

During a visit to Manila, Wang drew praise from Philippine officials after committing to completing China-funded infrastructure projects including a $400 million bridge and a $940 million cargo railway project.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte this week chided a group of senators who scrutinized the government’s plans to buy Sinovac, after previously threatening to terminate a Visiting Forces Agreement with the US if it failed to deliver at least 20 million vaccines immediately. “No vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte said last month of the military deal — a threat he has made before without following through on.

“Coronavirus vaccines have clearly become a political football in the increasing U.S.-China cold war,” said Paul Chambers of Naresuan University’s Center of Asean Community Studies, who has researched geopolitics in Southeast Asia for about two decades. “The daunting delay in the launching of Covax is exactly the opportunity that China is using to initiate and expand its supply of Sinovac to developing countries.”

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China should have acted ‘more forcefully’ early



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Starbucks’ Howard Schultz Asked By China to Aid American Chinese Relations



Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks and the man credited as the brains behind the company’s rocket to worldwide success in the 1990s, was asked by China’s President Xi Jinping to aid him in repairing the strained relations between his country and the United States. AP has revealed that an official letter was sent by the President of China to Mr. Schultz with the request.

The letter was revealed last Friday by the official Xinhua News Agency and was described as a rare direct communication from China’s leader to a foreign business figure. According to the report President Xi wrote to encourage both Howard Schultz and Starbucks “to continue to play an active role in promoting Chinese-U.S. economic and trade cooperation and the development of bilateral relations.” Starbuck’s opened its first Chinese outlet in 1999 and Schultz is reportedly still a frequent traveler to that country.

To say that the diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China have hit a forty year low after the four years of Donald Trump’s Presidency would be an understatement. President Trump made a trade war with China a central part of his campaign and imposed new tariffs on Chines goods.

The American President also attempted to ban the activities of Chinese companies like TikTok whose app was barred by the U.S. Department of Commerce last summer. This was done because American authorities accused the Chinese government of using its companies – which are all owned in partnership with it – including social media apps to somehow spy on American interests. But a Federal court temporarily suspended the ban and the new Joe Biden administration is expected to undo it.

President Trump said that China was forced to pay for the new tariffs. But economists explained that in actuality it was the American consumer who needed to foot the bill in higher prices. And when the Chinese retaliated with their own new tariffs President Trump backed down.

Political observers believe that as President Joe Biden will reverse many of President Trump’s executive orders regarding China and move to improve relations between the two nations. But this might not be such an easy thing to do.

Howard Schultz released a statement about President Xi’s letter saying that he truly believes that, “Starbucks best days are ahead in China and that the values of creativity, compassion, community and hard work will guide the company toward an even greater business and community contribution, while continuing to build common ground for cooperation between our two countries.”

He did not, however, comment on the exact content of the letter itself which still remains a mystery. Should Mr. Schultz agree to offer assistance it would not be the first time that a business leader would serve as a diplomatic representative. History is filled with such examples, including Israeli and Emirati business people meeting in secret before their two nations established full ties last summer.

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