Connect with us

Emerging Markets

China manoeuvres near Taiwan fuel concerns of potential attack



China has stepped up its military posturing around Taiwan over the past week, a trend that is set to fuel growing concerns that Beijing might move closer to attacking the island.

Taiwan and Japan on Monday both reported incursions into their respective air defence identification zones, the first simultaneous announcement from Taipei and Tokyo.

Taiwan said that ten Chinese military aircraft, including fighters and an anti-submarine warfare aircraft, had flown into its ADIZ, while Japan recorded an ASW plane inside its zone just east of Taiwan.

The parallel manoeuvres followed the largest-ever incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone last Friday, when 20 Chinese aircraft, including bombers and fighters, entered the area.

The forays came as Washington has begun to ready for the growing risk of a war over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its sovereign territory. Senior US officials fear that China is flirting with the idea of seizing control of Taiwan, a scenario that would almost certainly drag in Washington and some of its allies.

Monday’s incursions also followed the arrival in Taiwan of the US ambassador to Palau, alongside the Pacific island nation’s president. Palau is one of 15 countries that have diplomatic relations with Taipei rather than Beijing, and the visit was an unusually bold move compared with the restraint Washington has long practised with regard to sending its diplomats to Taiwan.

Surangel Whipps, president of Pulau which is one of just 15 countries to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, travelled to Taipei last week with the US ambassador to his country. The joint visit was considered a bold move by the US © AFP via Getty Images

Friday’s manoeuvres came after the US and Taiwan announced an agreement under which their coast guards would co-operate.

Some experts interpreted the Chinese military’s moves as a gradual step-up but agreed that the manoeuvres also featured new patterns of behaviour.

The People’s Liberation Army has flown more regular sorties into the south-western corner of Taiwan’s air defence zone, where the Taiwan Strait meets the Bashi Channel, since last summer. This is a crucial corridor for the Chinese military into the open waters and airspace of the western Pacific.

The territory would be essential for submarine warfare in any conflict over Taiwan, which explains why anti-submarine warfare aircraft have been involved in most of the almost-daily incursions. But while the forays usually consisted of short, straight flights in and out of the ADIZ, ASW aircraft flew all the way past the southern tip of Taiwan into the western Pacific and back over the past week.

“These latest [incursions] are more about political messaging than about military operational significance,” said Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, former chief of the general staff of Taiwan’s armed forces. “Flying around Taiwan is not a breakthrough for them. They operated circular flights with H6 bombers when I was in office.”

“I believe that this time, they did not have enough time to prepare,” Lee added. “So in order to express their determination towards the US, they flew out into the western Pacific but did not do a full circle.”

Map of East China Sea air defence identification zones

Some analysts, however, saw the latest moves as an escalation.

“Y-8 and Y-9 aircraft have not done this before,” said Su Tzu-yun, an analyst at the Institute for National Defence and Security Research, a think-tank backed by Taiwan’s defence ministry, referring to the ASW flights. “We are going to see more of that as they start to expand the scope of their regular operations from the south-west of Taiwan to the south-east.”

The incursion reported by Japan also followed an unprecedented approach. A patrol aircraft and a surveillance plane flew in a northern direction off Taiwan’s east coast before turning back and leaving Japan’s ADIZ through the Miyako Strait, Tokyo said.

The Miyako Islands, a tiny archipelago between Okinawa and Taiwan, have been a hotspot for Chinese air force manoeuvres in recent years because the Strait — as with the Bashi Channel — is one of the PLA’s main air and sea corridors to the open Pacific. Four of the five Chinese air incursions reported by Japan over the past year have occurred in this area.

In previous manoeuvres, Chinese aircraft flew only relatively short sorties to the south-east of the Miyako Islands before turning back. Monday’s flights marked the first time they had flown so close to Taiwan’s east coast, where the largest hardened shelters for protecting military aircraft against missile and air attacks are located in a mountainside in the town of Hualien.

“With its regular operations in the south-western corner of Taiwan ADIZ, the PLA has already changed the status quo and asserted that ‘This is my backyard’. They have even included this area in their annual training plan,” said Lee.

People familiar with Taipei’s military strategy said if the PLA expanded a regular presence to the airspace east of Taiwan, it would undermine the island’s security in a much more drastic manner.

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Emerging Markets

Toyota faces Thai bribery probe over tax dispute




Toyota is under investigation in Thailand over allegations that consultants hired by the world’s largest carmaker tried to bribe local officials in a tax dispute, according to Thai authorities, court documents and a person with knowledge of the matter.

The probe followed a filing last month in which Toyota revealed that it had reported “possible anti-bribery violations” related to its Thai subsidiary to the US Department of Justice and Securities Exchange Commission.

Toyota is one of the biggest foreign investors in Thailand, where it makes a large range of cars, vans and pick-up trucks for the local market and for export. The country is Toyota’s biggest manufacturing hub in south-east Asia. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, car sales had been strong in a market, where it has a 31 per cent share.

This month, Thailand’s Court of Justice said in a statement that it would take action against any of its judges found to have taken bribes. The statement, which the court described as a move to “clarify facts” in a news report on a foreign website, directly referenced a tax dispute involving Toyota.

“If the Court of Justice has received information or explicitly found that any judge committed an act of corruption to their duty, whether it is about bribery or not, the Court of Justice will resolutely investigate and punish any action which dishonours judges, undermines the neutrality of the court, or causes society [to] lose faith in the Thai justice system,” it said.

According to the court, the case involved a tax dispute worth Bt10bn ($320m) between Toyota Motor Thailand and tax authorities over imports of parts for its Prius hybrid model. 

The affair dates back to 2015, when Toyota’s Thai subsidiary was accused by local customs authorities of understating taxes by claiming that the imported Prius vehicles were assembled from completely knocked down kits, or imported parts that were later assembled in Thailand.

CKDs would have been subject to a discounted tax rate under a Japanese-Thai free trade agreement, but if the cars were fully assembled before being imported they would have attracted a much higher rate. 

Toyota appealed against a decision by customs authorities to impose a higher duty in 2015, but lost. 

Thailand’s Court of Justice has said that it had accepted a petition to review the case, but had not yet begun hearing it.

In its regulatory filing last month, Toyota warned that the US investigations regarding its Thai subsidiary could result in civil or criminal penalties, but the company has not disclosed any detail on the allegations.

In a statement, Toyota said it was co-operating with the investigations and declined to comment on the tax dispute in Thailand. “We take any allegations of wrongdoing seriously and are committed to ensuring that our business practices comply with all applicable government regulations,” it said.

The SEC and the DOJ declined to comment.

Source link

Continue Reading

Emerging Markets

Boris Johnson cancels India trip after Covid cases surge in country




UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s trip to India this month has been cancelled as the country battles a new variant and a surge in coronavirus cases that is overwhelming hospitals.

A joint statement by the British and Indian governments said the decision to scrap the visit scheduled for next week was prompted by the “current coronavirus situation”.

The trip, during which Johnson had hoped to discuss the prospects of a closer trading partnership with India, was initially planned to run for four days but had been scaled back. The two leaders will speak remotely instead, with plans to meet in person later this year.

The cancellation came as India’s capital city region has been put under lockdown and authorities have prohibited the use of oxygen except for essential services, as the country battles a surge in coronavirus cases that is overwhelming hospitals.

India continues to set single-day records of coronavirus cases, reporting more than 273,000 new infections and 1,619 deaths on Monday, with the number of new cases growing by an average of 7 per cent a day, one of the fastest rates in any big country.

The surge is believed to be linked to a new B.1.617 variant that was first discovered in the country.

British health officials are investigating whether the variant should be reclassified from a “variant under investigation” to a “variant of concern” following the discovery of 77 cases in the UK.

“To escalate it up the ranking we need to know that it’s increased transmissibility, increased severity, or vaccine-evading, and we just don’t have that yet, but we’re looking at the data on a daily basis”, Dr Susan Hopkins, a senior medical adviser at Public Health England, said on Sunday.

Officials in Delhi announced it would impose a strict lockdown for a week, following Mumbai and other cities that have already placed curbs on movement.

States are running short of beds, drugs and oxygen, leading the central government to restrict use of the gas. “The supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers is prohibited forthwith from 22/04/2021 till further orders,” the central government said.

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, said “oxygen has become an emergency” in the region because its quota had been diverted to other states. He warned there were “less than 100 ICU beds” available.

The new restrictions have been imposed even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata party have hosted huge political rallies and allowed religious festivals attended by tens of thousands of maskless people in recent weeks.

Amit Shah, India’s home minister, told the Indian Express newspaper that he was “concerned” about the variant and the “surge is mainly because of the new mutants of the virus”. But he was “confident we will win” over the disease and said there was not yet a need to impose a national lockdown.

Bed shortages in India have forced authorities to re-establish emergency coronavirus hospitals in banquet halls, train stations and hotels that had been shut down following the previous peak in September. Crematoriums in the state of Gujarat and Delhi are running 24 hours a day, while cemeteries are running out of burial spaces.

Coronavirus patients have also been struggling to access medicines. More than 800 injections of remdesivir, an antiviral drug commonly used in India as part of Covid-19 treatment, were stolen from a hospital in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, at the weekend.

India is also facing a vaccine supply crunch and has frozen international exports of jabs to meet domestic demand. New Delhi pledged on Friday to increase monthly production of Covaxin, a vaccine made by Indian manufacturer Bharat Biotech, to 100m from 10m by September. The government also said last week that it would fast-track the approval of foreign vaccines in an attempt to boost supply and cleared Russia’s Sputnik V for use in the country.

The majority of the more than 120m Indians that have been vaccinated have received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab manufactured by Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer. The Serum Institute has struggled to increase its monthly capacity of more than 60m doses a month due to a fire at its plant earlier in the year and equipment supply shortages from the US.

Additional reporting by John Burn-Murdoch in London

Source link

Continue Reading

Emerging Markets

The limits of China’s taming of tech




The record fine handed out this month to Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce giant, was a welcome step toward combating anti-competitive behaviour. The $2.8bn penalty put Alibaba and other tech companies on notice that creating siloed fiefdoms designed to trap customers and merchants within their ecosystems will not be tolerated.

It was addressing a longstanding problem. Many of China’s ecommerce companies operate “walled gardens” that prevent interactions with rival platforms. For example, Alibaba’s Taobao ecommerce app keeps users from paying for goods using the payment app of rival Tencent. Tencent’s social media app, WeChat, prevents clips from being shared directly from ByteDance’s video-sharing app. 

Last week China’s internet and market regulators signalled the seriousness of their intent. They gave tech companies one month to fix anti-competitive practices, telling them to conduct “comprehensive self-inspections” and “completely rectify” problems, following which they would need to publicly promise to abide by the rules. The aim is create a commercially open and competitive internet.

It is tempting to argue that regulators in the west could take a leaf out of China’s book. But to hold China up as an example of competitive best practice would be to ignore the elephant in the room. Although Beijing is giving its monopolistically-minded internet companies — which are almost all private enterprises — a rap on the knuckles, it shows no sign of applying the same standards to vast swaths of the economy that have been dominated by state-owned giants for decades. 

The market dominance of these behemoths of state capitalism is an issue that affects not only domestic competitors but also foreign multinationals that operate in China. A trenchant joint paper last week from the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank, and the Rhodium Group, a consultancy, took aim at the increasingly unfair advantages that this system gives China.

While it is true that China has opened up sectors such as financial services to foreign capital in recent years and allowed foreign brands to win market share in luxury goods and pharmaceuticals, broad sectors of the economy remain fully or partially closed or to overseas investors. 

Often the barriers erected to block or stymie competition are informal. Authorities can deliberately favour domestic companies in public procurement, are more ready to grant approval for licenses, subject foreign firms to arbitrary inspections or require them to re-engineer products to meet idiosyncratic domestic standards.

Such drawbacks are not new. But they are taking on an extra urgency as Chinese companies become leaders in an increasing number of industries and the country’s technological prowess draws level with the US and Europe in a list of industries. The key problem now, says the ECFR/Rhodium report, is that Chinese multinationals are using the advantage of a protected home market to build up resources that they then deploy in competition with western counterparts abroad.

This sets the scene for friction. China should extend its anti-monopolistic scrutiny from its own privately owned internet companies to several state-dominated sectors of its economy, taking care to open to foreign multinationals as much as domestic competitors. If it decides against doing this — as is likely — it will be furnishing Europeans and Americans with ammunition to argue against extending access to Chinese corporations in their own markets.

Source link

Continue Reading