Biden and Xi to Talk Taiwan



News Desk, Barta24.com
Biden and Xi to Talk Taiwan, Photo collected.

Biden and Xi to Talk Taiwan, Photo collected.

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping today (Friday) for the fifth time since taking office at a time when tensions have ratcheted up once again over Taiwan.

On the other hand, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to visit the island—which China claims as its own territory—has been met with both public and private admonitions from Chinese officials. So great is the potential for missteps, the U.S. military is reportedly preparing multiple scenarios to cover potential security risks that go with the trip.

Pelosi has shown no signs of scrapping the trip (which, considering the precarious position of the Democratic Party ahead of the November midterm elections, could be her last as Speaker).

On the contrary, she’s begun extending invitations to other lawmakers to join her. Rep. Gregory Meeks, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has been asked to come, as has Rep. Michael McCaul the most senior Republican on the committee (McCaul has already declined, citing prior engagements).

Although Biden has not publicly remarked on whether Pelosi should travel, he has hardly been circumspect on the issue of Taiwan. In May, he said the United States would defend the island if it came under attack from the Chinese military in remarks that received the now customary walking back from U.S. national security officials.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, said that the timing of Pelosi’s Taiwan trip particularly risks a Chinese response: Nationalistic sentiment will be higher in August, when China celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, as will party politics, as senior Chinese officials make their annual pilgrimage to the resort town of Beidaihe. It’s all part of a lead-up to the 20th Party Congress in October, where Xi is expected to be named to a third term.

“There’s still jockeying for various personnel selections and Xi Jinping cannot be seen as weak on an issue like Taiwan,” Glaser said.

Writing in Foreign Policy Journal on Tuesday, Mike Chinoy questioned the merits of a trip that seems “very much symbolism over substance.”

And in Wednesday’s China Brief, FP’s James Palmer highlighted Pelosi’s trip from the perspective of Beijing, where officials and media nurse a strong dislike for the House speaker.

As well as geopolitics, Biden and Xi are likely to discuss economic competition, including whether to end some Trump-era tariffs on Chinese goods. On Tuesday, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby described the 2020 U.S.-China agreement as “a shoddy deal,” but Biden is still undecided on what to do instead. The U.S. president is in the process of “working this out with his team,” Kirby said.

It also comes as U.S. lawmakers are trying to take a leaf out of China’s book and roll out state support for key industries. The CHIPS act, which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday, plans to invest $54 billion in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and research. Its supporters say it will help reduce U.S. reliance on China, as well as boost U.S. competitiveness in a strategically important area of the global economy.

Meanwhile, climate change policy, one of the bright spots of cooperation between the countries, is also on the agenda, but how much Biden can bring to the table is questionable considering his signature climate bills have so far failed in Congress.

That may be about to change, however, as late last night, Sen. Joe Manchin seemed set to reverse his opposition to climate spending and said he would back $369 billion of climate and energy funding as part of the freshly-minted Inflation Reduction Act.

The two sides have maintained a high-level engagement on the subject. Environment Minister Huang Runqiu visited Washington earlier this month for talks with the U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, EPA chief Janet McCabe, and California governor Gavin Newsom. Huang’s visit made him the most senior Chinese official to visit the U.S. capital since Biden became president.

Expert Glaser listed some positive developments to look out for once both sides publish their readouts, including progress on risk reduction efforts between the two countries, statements from both sides about wishing to avoid a military crisis, as well as any movement on strategic stability talks—which have so far remained stagnant.

Although Glaser doesn’t expect today’s call to solve Taiwan’s anxieties in one go, it might reignite efforts to calm tensions and reduce the chances of U.S.-China military conflict. “There seems to be a lack of appreciation for how potentially dangerous this is,” Glaser said. “I hope this is a real wake up call.”

World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow



News Desk, Barta24.com
World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow

World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow

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The tide of international opinion appears to be decisively shifting against Russia, as a number of non-aligned countries are joining the United States and its allies in condemning Moscow’s war in Ukraine and its threats to the principles of the international rules-based order.

According to media reports, Western officials have repeatedly said that Russia has become isolated since invading Ukraine in February. Until recently, though, that was largely wishful thinking. But on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, much of the international community spoke out against the conflict in a rare display of unity at the often fractured United Nations.

The tide had already appeared to be turning against Russian President Vladimir Putin even before Thursday’s U.N. speeches. Chinese and Indian leaders had been critical of the war at a high-level summit last week in Uzbekistan. And then the U.N. General Assembly disregarded Russia’s objections and voted overwhelmingly to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be the only leader to address the body remotely, instead of requiring him to appear in person.

That shift against Russia accelerated after Putin on Wednesday announced the mobilization of some additional 300,000 troops to Ukraine, signaling the unlikelihood of a quick end to the war.

Putin also suggested that nuclear weapons may be an option. That followed an announcement of Russia’s intention to hold referendums in several occupied Ukrainian regions on whether they will become part of Russia.

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Socrates and the life worth living



Oscar Davis, Bond University
Socrates and the life worth living

Socrates and the life worth living

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Socrates was notoriously annoying. He was likened to a gadfly buzzing around while one is trying to sleep. The Oracle of Delphi declared him the wisest of all human beings. His life and death would go on to shape the history of Western thought.

And yet he proclaimed to know nothing. The genius of Socrates lay in his professed ignorance of what it means to be human.

Socrates (469-399 BCE) grew up in Athens over two and half thousand years ago. At the time, the Athenians were recovering from a devastating war with the Persians. As they rebuilt, the military general and politician, Pericles, championed democracy as the form of government to bring Greece into its Golden Age.

The Athenians practised a direct (as opposed to representative) form of democracy. Any male over the age of 20 was obligated to take part. The officials of the assembly were randomly selected through a lottery process and could make executive pronouncements, such as deciding to go to war or banishing Athenian citizens.

The Athens of Pericles flourished. Bustling crowds of traders from around the Mediterranean gathered at the port of Piraeus. In the Athenian agoras – the central marketplaces and assembly areas – the active social and political lives of the Athenian citizens would inspire the mind of Socrates.

Socrates teaches us that philosophical contemplation prepares us for the good life. The experience of aporia – in all of its discomfort and disruption – is the very catalyst of wonder. The philosopher, the lover of wisdom, is anyone who dares to escape the cave and look upon the sun, anyone who lives for the values Socrates died for.

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Putin signals a coming escalation



News Desk, Barta24.com
Putin signals a coming escalation

Putin signals a coming escalation

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Vladimir Putin accelerated his war effort in Ukraine yesterday and announced a new campaign that would call up roughly 300,000 additional Russian troops.

In a rare address to the nation, the Russian president made a veiled threat of using nuclear weapons. “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” Putin said. “This is not a bluff.”

His comments appeared to be a shift in his domestic strategy to the war. Ukraine said Putin’s remarks reflected his desperation: Russia’s military has suffered humiliating setbacks this month.

It also seemed to be an effort to startle the U.S. and its Western allies into dropping their support. But at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Western leaders looked undeterred. President Biden said the U.S. and its allies would “stand in solidarity” against Russia and accused Moscow of violating the U.N. charter.

Protests erupted across Russia in response to the “partial mobilization,” and at least 1,252 people have been detained. Russians also rushed to buy one-way flights out of the country.

Experts say Russia currently has 200,000 troops, or fewer, in Ukraine. Putin’s campaign would more than double that, but those called up need training and weapons.

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Britain buried Queen Elizabeth II



News Desk, Barta24.com
Britain buried Queen Elizabeth II

Britain buried Queen Elizabeth II

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Queen Elizabeth II was buried in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, next to her husband, Prince Philip. It concluded the period of official mourning — a time of unifying grief and disorienting change.

The state funeral began with a majestic service at Westminster Abbey. International dignitaries and about 200 people who had performed public services joined members of the royal family.

The queen’s coffin then moved through London in a procession as tens of thousands of people watched. “They don’t make them like her anymore,” one woman said. “She was a one-off.”

The funeral closed with a more intimate service and private internment. Before the final hymn, the crown jeweler removed the imperial state crown, the orb and the scepter from the queen’s coffin and placed them on the altar. The lord chamberlain broke his wand of office and placed it onto the coffin, a symbol of the end of his service, to be buried with the sovereign.

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