U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meeting leaders in Taiwan despite warnings from China, said Wednesday that she and other members of Congress in a visiting delegation are showing they will not abandon their commitment to the self-governing island. “Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” she said in a short speech during a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. “America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.” China, which claims Taiwan as its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments, announced multiple military exercises around the island and issued a series of harsh statements after the delegation touched down Tuesday night in the Taiwanese capital Taipei. Taiwan decried the planned actions. Read: US House Speaker Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, defying Beijing “Such an act equals to sealing off Taiwan by air and sea … and severely violates our country’s territorial sovereignty,” said Captain Jian-chang Yu at the National Defense Ministry’s media briefing Wednesday morning. Pelosi’s trip has heightened U.S.-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress because of her high-level position as leader of the House of Representatives. She is the first speaker of the house to come to Taiwan in 25 years, since Newt Gingrich in 1997. Tsai, thanking Pelosi for her decades of support for Taiwan, presented the speaker with a civilian honor, the Order of the Propitious Clouds. “Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai said. “We will firmly uphold our nation’s sovereignty and continue to hold the line of defense for democracy.” Tsai later said in a news conference, “Military exercises are unnecessary responses.” Shortly after Pelosi landed, China announced live-fire drills that reportedly started Tuesday night, as well as a four-day exercise beginning Thursday in waters on all sides of the island. China’s air force also flew a relatively large contingent of 21 war planes, including fighter jets, toward Taiwan.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was believed headed for Taiwan on Tuesday on a visit that could significantly escalate tensions with Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory. Pelosi is on an Asian tour this week that is being closely watched to see if she will defy China’s warnings against visiting the island republic, a close U.S. ally. China has vowed to retaliate if Pelosi becomes the highest U.S. elected official to visit Taiwan in more than 25 years, but has given no details. Speculation has centered on threatening military exercises and possible incursions by Chinese planes and ships into areas under Taiwanese control. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington’s betrayal “on the Taiwan issue is bankrupting its national credibility.” “Some American politicians are playing with fire on the issue of Taiwan,” Wang said in a statement. “This will definitely not have a good outcome ... the exposure of America’s bullying face again shows it as the world’s biggest saboteur of peace.” A plane carrying Pelosi and her delegation left Malaysia on Tuesday after a brief stop that included a working lunch with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, It was unclear where it was headed, although local media in Taiwan reported that Pelosi would arrive on Tuesday night. The United Daily News, Liberty Times and China Times — Taiwan’s three largest national newspapers — cited unidentified sources as saying she would spend the night in Taiwan. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment. Premier Su Tseng-chang didn’t explicitly confirm Pelosi’s visit, but said Tuesday that “any foreign guests and friendly lawmakers” are “very much welcome.” Barricades were erected outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei where Pelosi was expected to stay amid heightened security. China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be annexed by force if necessary, has repeatedly warned of retaliation if Pelosi visits, saying its military will “never sit idly by.” “The U.S. and Taiwan have colluded to make provocations first, and China has only been compelled to act out of self-defense,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters Tuesday in Beijing. Hua said China has been in constant communication with the U.S. and made clear “how dangerous it would be if the visit actually happens.” Any countermeasures China take will be “justified and necessary” in the face of Washington’s “unscrupulous behavior,” she said. Unspecified hackers launched a cyberattack on the Taiwanese Presidential Office’s website, making it temporarily unavailable Tuesday evening. The Presidential Office said the website was restored shortly after the attack, which overwhelmed it with traffic. “China thinks by launching a multi-domain pressure campaign against Taiwan, the people of Taiwan will be be intimidated. But they are wrong,” Wang Ting-yu, a legislator with the Democratic Progressive Party, said on Twitter in response to the attack. China’s military threats have driven concerns of a new crisis in the 100-mile (140-kilometer) -wide Taiwan Strait separating the two sides that could roil global markets and supply chains. The White House on Monday decried Beijing’s rhetoric, saying the U.S. has no interest in deepening tensions with China and “will not take the bait or engage in saber rattling.” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby underscored that the decision whether to visit Taiwan was ultimately Pelosi’s. He noted that members of Congress have routinely visited the island over the years. Read:China’s Xi warns Biden over Taiwan, calls for cooperation Kirby said administration officials are concerned that Beijing could use the visit as an excuse to take provocative retaliatory steps, including military action such as firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan, or flying sorties into the island’s airspace and carrying out large-scale naval exercises in the strait. “Put simply, there is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing U.S. policy into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait,” Kirby said. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also urged China to “act responsibly” if Pelosi proceeds with the visit. “If the speaker does decide to visit, and China tries to create some kind of a crisis or otherwise escalate tensions, that would be entirely on Beijing,” he told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York. “We are looking for them, in the event she decides to visit, to act responsibly and not to engage in any escalation going forward.” U.S. officials have said the U.S. military would increase its movement of forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific region if Pelosi visits Taiwan. U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group were in the Philippine Sea on Monday, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations. The Reagan, the cruiser USS Antietam and the destroyer USS Higgins left Singapore after a port visit and moved north to their homeport in Japan. The carrier has an array of aircraft, including F/A-18 fighter jets and helicopters, on board as well as sophisticated radar systems and other weapons. Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the Communists won a civil war on the mainland. The U.S. maintains informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan even as it recognizes Beijing as the government of China. Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step U.S. leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi, head of one of three branches of the U.S. government, would be the highest-ranking elected American official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. The flight tracking site Flightradar24 said Pelosi’s aircraft, a U.S. Air Force Boeing C-40C, was the most tracked in the world on Tuesday evening with 300,000 viewers. Pelosi has used her position in the U.S. Congress as an emissary for the U.S. on the global stage. She has long challenged China on human rights, and sought to visit Taiwan’s island democracy earlier this year before testing positive for COVID-19. Pelosi kicked off her Asian tour in Singapore on Monday as her possible visit to Taiwan sparked jitters in the region. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong “highlighted the importance of stable U.S.-China relations for regional peace and security” during talks with Pelosi, the city-state’s Foreign Ministry said. This was echoed by Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi in Tokyo, who said stable ties between the two rival powers “are extremely important for the international community as well.” The Philippines urged the U.S. and China to be “responsible actors” in the region. “It is important for the U.S. and China to ensure continuing communication to avoid any miscalculation and further escalation of tensions,” said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Teresita Daza. China has been steadily ratcheting up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan. China cut off all contact with Taiwan’s government in 2016 after President Tsai Ing-wen refused to endorse its claim that the island and mainland together make up a single Chinese nation, with the Communist regime in Beijing being the sole legitimate government. On Thursday, Pelosi is to meet with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo in Seoul for talks on security in the Indo-Pacific region, economic cooperation and the climate crisis, according to Kim’s office. Pelosi is also due to visit Japan, but it is unclear when she heading there.
Flooding and extreme high temperatures have caused multiple deaths in eastern China as summer heat descends earlier than usual. Record-high temperatures have been reported in Zhejiang province, just east of the global business hub of Shanghai, topping out above 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday. The neighboring coastal provinces of Jiangsu and Fujian were also suffering under high heat, while Henan, Sichuan and Heilongjiang further inland saw many hospitalized for heat stroke, with an as-yet unreported number of deaths. Read: China sees record rains, heat as weather turns volatile Floods have also struck much of the country, with three people reported killed and five missing in Sichuan province’s Pingwu county as of midday Wednesday. One person was reported dead and eight missing in Heilongjiang in the northeast. Experts say such extreme weather events are becoming more likely because of climate change. Warmer air can store more water, leading to bigger cloudbursts when it’s released. Hundreds of thousands in south-central China have already been displaced by flooding. The flooding adds to economic woes brought on partly by stringent “zero-COVID” measures restricting travel and disrupting supply chains.
The United Nations estimated Monday that the world’s population will reach 8 billion on Nov. 15 and that India will replace China as the world’s most populous nation next year. In a report released on World Population Day, the U.N. also said global population growth fell below 1% in 2020 for the first time since 1950. According to the latest U.N. projections, the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and a peak of around 10.4 billion during the 2080s. It is forecast to remain at that level until 2100. The report says more than half the projected increase in population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries: Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania. The report, “World Population Prospects 2022,” puts the world's population at 7.942 billion now and forecasts it will reach 8 billion in mid-November. John Wilmoth, director of the U.N. Population Division, said at a news conference to release the report that the date when the U.N.’s projection line crosses 8 billion is Nov. 15. But, he noted, “we do not pretend that that’s the actual date … and we think that the uncertainty is at least plus or minus a year.” Nonetheless, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called 2022 a “milestone year,” with “the birth of the Earth’s eight billionth inhabitant.” “This is an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates,” Guterres said in a statement. “At the same time, it is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another.” The report projects that next year India, with a current population of 1.412 billion, will surpass China, with a current population of 1.426 billion, but Wilmoth said there is more uncertainty about that date than the Earth reaching 8 billion inhabitants on Nov. 15. Read:Rising incomes more harmful to environment than population growth: UN report Wilmoth said the U.N. moved the date forward from 2027, especially as a result of China’s 2020 census. India had been planning its census in 2021, but he said it was delayed because of the pandemic. The U.N. will reassess its projection after it takes place. The U.N. projects that in 2050 the United States will remain the third most populous country in the world, behind India and China. Nigeria is projected to be No. 4, followed by Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil, Congo, Ethiopia and Bangladesh. Russia and Mexico, which are in the top 10 most populous countries in 2022, are projected to lose their ninth and 10th spots in 2050. “The population of 61 countries or areas are projected to decrease by 1% or more between 2022 and 2050,” the report says. “In countries with at least half a million population, the largest relative reductions in population size over that period, with losses of 20% or more, are expected to take place in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine.” In other highlights, the report said global life expectancy improved almost 9 years from 1990 — to 72.8 years for babies born in 2019 — and is projected to reach 77.2 years in 2050 as death rates continue to decrease. But in 2021, it said, life expectancy in the world’s poorest countries lagged 7 years behind the global average. As for gender balance, the report says, “Globally, the world counts slightly more men (50.3%) than women (49.7%) in 2022.” “This figure is projected to slowly invert over the course of the century," it says. “By 2050, it is expected that the number of women will equal the number of men.” The share of working age people between ages 25 and 64 has been increasing in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia and in Latin America and the Caribbean “thanks to recent reductions in fertility,” the report says. The U.N. said this “demographic dividend” provides an opportunity for accelerated economic growth for those countries. In another trend, the report said, “the population above age 65 is growing more rapidly than the population below that age.” “As a result, the share of global population at age 65 and above is projected to rise from 10% in 2022 to 16% in 2050,” it said. Wilmoth said high life expectancy and very low levels of fertility and birth rates in European countries, Japan, North America, Australia and New Zealand are driving the tendency toward rapid population aging, and eventually potential population declines. As a result, over the next few decades, international migration “will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries,” the report said. “By contrast, for the foreseeable future, population increase in low-income and lower-middle-income countries will continue to be driven by an excess of births over deaths,” it said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Chinese counterpart on Saturday in a new effort to try to rein in or at least manage rampant hostility that has come to define recent relations between Washington and Beijing. Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi were holding talks in the Indonesian resort of Bali, a day after they both attended a gathering of top diplomats from the Group of 20 rich and large developing countries that failed to reach consensus over Russia's war in Ukraine and how to deal with its impacts. Wang and Blinken were discussing a range of contentious issues from tariffs and trade and human rights to Taiwan and disputes in the South China Sea. Just two days earlier, the two countries' top military officers had faced off over Taiwan during a virtual meeting. “In a relationship as complex and consequential as the one between the United States and China, there is a lot to talk about and I’m very much looking forward to a productive, constructive conversation,” Blinken said as the pair headed into the closed-door meeting. Read: USA announces new actions to support intl students' careers Wang said “it is necessary for the two countries to maintain normal exchanges” and “to work together to ensure that this relationship will continue to move forward along the right track.” He echoed frequent Chinese lines about remaining committed to the principles of “mutual respect,” “peaceful coexistence” and “win-win cooperation.” That, he said, "serves the interests of the two countries and two peoples. It is also the shared aspiration of the international community.” U.S. officials said ahead of time they don’t expect any breakthroughs from Blinken's talks with Wang. But they said they are hopeful the conversation can help keep lines of communications open and create “guardrails” to guide the world’s two largest economies as they navigate increasingly complex and potentially explosive matters. The United States and China have staked out increasingly confrontational positions, including on Ukraine, that some fear could lead to miscalculation and conflict. The U.S. has watched warily as China has refused to criticize the Russian invasion, while condemning Western sanctions against Russia and accusing the U.S. and NATO of provoking the conflict. The Biden administration had hoped that China, with its long history of opposing what it sees as interference in its own internal affairs, would take a similar position with Ukraine. But, it has not, choosing instead what U.S. officials see as a hybrid position that is damaging the international rules-based order. At the G-20 meeting, Wang made an oblique reference to China's policy on global stability, saying “to place one’s own security above the security of others and intensify military blocs will only split the international community and make oneself less secure,” according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. On Thursday, China's joint chiefs of staff chairman Gen. Li Zuocheng upbraided his U.S. counterpart Gen. Mark Milley over Washington's support for Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province. Li demanded that the U.S. cease military “collusion” with Taiwan, saying China has “no room for compromise” on issues affecting its “core interests,” which include self-governing Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary. “China demands the U.S. ... cease reversing history, cease U.S.-Taiwan military collusion and avoid impacting China-U.S. ties and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” Li said. Also read: Russia and China slam NATO after alliance raises alarm At the same time, Li was also quoted in a Defense Ministry news release as saying China hoped to “further strengthen dialogue, handle risks, and promote cooperation, rather than deliberately creating confrontation, provoking incidents and becoming mutually exclusive.” China routinely flies warplanes near Taiwan to advertise its threat to attack, and the island’s Defense Ministry said Chinese air force aircraft crossed the middle line of the Taiwan Strait dividing the two sides on Friday morning. The meeting between Li and Milley followed fiery comments by Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe at a regional security conference last month that was also attended by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Wei accused the United States of trying to “hijack” the support of countries in the Asia-Pacific region to turn them against Beijing, saying Washington is seeking to advance its own interests “under the guise of multilateralism.” At the same meeting in Singapore, Austin said China was causing instability with its claim to Taiwan and its increased military activity in the area. In May, Blinken incurred Chinese wrath by calling the country the “most serious long-term challenge to the international order” for the United States, with its claims to Taiwan and efforts to dominate the strategic South China Sea. The U.S. and its allies have responded with what they term “freedom of navigation” patrols in the South China Sea, prompting angry responses from Beijing.
Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming has urged the people of Bangladesh to remain cautious saying the US interference may harm Bangladesh's apparel industry. In the video message "A Minute With Ambassador," Ambassador Li said he had noticed that a certain readymade garments (RMG) industry association in Bangladesh recently alerted its members to the risks associated with cotton from China due to the US allegation of "forced labour in Xinjiang." He said Washington uses this lie about Xinjiang to smear and defame China, with the ultimate goal of containing the country. "The reason why I brought it up here today is that if Bangladeshi people are not cautious enough, this lie may hurt the country's RMG industry as well," said Ambassador Li. The envoy said he also noticed that the alert was issued following a meeting between the association and two representatives from "Indo-Pacific Opportunity Project" affiliated with some US agency. The so-called "forced labour in Xinjiang" is a complete lie, the envoy said. "It is now circulating on the internet that two US diplomats previously posted in Guangzhou reportedly confessed in 2021," Ambassador Li said. He quoted the diplomats as saying: "Nothing is wrong about Xinjiang, but to attack their human rights policies is an effective means to make Xinjiang break away from the international industrial chain, and to make Uyghurs unhappy, turbulent and then fight against the Chinese government." This disclosure echoes a statement made by a former high-rank US official in 2018, the ambassador said.
From the snowcapped peaks of Tibet to the tropical island of Hainan, China is sweltering under the worst heatwave in decades while rainfall hit records in June. Extreme heat is also battering Japan, and volatile weather is causing trouble for other parts of the world in what scientists say has all the hallmarks of climate change, with even more warming expected this century. The northeastern provinces of Shandong, Jilin and Liaoning saw precipitation rise to the highest levels ever recorded in June, while the national average of 112.1 millimeters (4.4 inches) was 9.1 % higher than the same month last year, the China Meteorological Administration said in a report Tuesday. Read:South China floods force tens of thousands to evacuate The average temperature across the nation also hit 21.3 degrees Celsius (70.34 Fahrenheit) in June, up 0.9 C (1.8 F) from the same period month last year and the highest since 1961. No relief is in sight, with higher than usual temperatures and precipitation forecast in much of the country throughout July, the administration said. In the northern province of Henan, Xuchang hit 42.1 C (107.8 F) and Dengfeng 41.6 C (106.9 F) on June 24 for their hottest days on record, according to global extreme weather tracker Maximiliano Herrera. China has also seen seasonal flooding in several parts of the country, causing misery for hundreds of thousands, particularly in the hard-hit south that receives the bulk of rainfall as well as typhoons that sweep in from the South China Sea. China is not alone in experiencing higher temperatures and more volatile weather. In Japan, authorities warned of greater than usual stress on the power grid and urged citizens to conserve energy. Japanese officials announced the earliest end to the annual summer rainy season since the national meteorological agency began keeping records in 1951. The rains usually temper summer heat, often well into July. On Friday, the cities of Tokamachi and Tsunan set all-time heat records while several others broke monthly marks. Read: Heavy flooding, landslides destroy buildings, roads in China Large parts of the Northern Hemisphere have seen extreme heat this summer, with regions from the normally chilly Russian Arctic to the traditionally sweltering American South recording unusually high temperatures and humidity. In the United States, the National Weather Service has held 30 million Americans under some kind of heat advisory amid record-setting temperatures. The suffering and danger to health is most intense among those without air conditioning or who work outdoors, further reinforcing the economic disparities in dealing with extreme weather trends.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday is hosting a virtual summit with the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa collectively known as the “BRICS,” amid rising concerns over the global economic outlook and a growing political divide between Beijing and New Delhi. While no agenda has been issued for the talks, Ukraine is likely to feature heavily in the background. China has refused to condemn Russia's invasion while criticizing sanctions brought against Moscow. India has bought large amounts of Russian oil at a heavy discount, and South Africa abstained on a United Nations vote condemning Russia's actions. Along with Xi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are scheduled to join the two days of discussions. China has sought to use the BRICS meetings to further its vision of an alliance to counter the U.S.-led liberal democratic world order while expanding its economic and political footprint. Read: China says Ukraine crisis has sounded alarm for humanity That has produced few tangible results, but Xi remains committed to the idea of an alternative — and principally authoritarian — global governance mode, investing heavily in countries like Cambodia while cracking down on civil rights in Hong Kong and boosting its military to assert its claims in the South China Sea and threats to annex Taiwan by force. In an address to the BRICS Economic Summit on Wednesday, Xi said the conflict in Ukraine has “sounded an alarm for humanity,” continuing its formal position of neutrality while backing its ally Russia. Xi said imposing sanctions could act as a “boomerang” and a “double-edged sword,” and that the global community would suffer from “politicizing, mechanizing and weaponizing” global economic trends and financial flows. “Economic globalization is an objective requirement for the development of productive forces and an irresistible historical trend,” Xi said. In a recorded video, Bolsonaro made no mention of any country and said that “the current international context is a cause for concern because of the risks to trade and investment flows to the stability of energy supply chains and investment." “Brazil’s response to these challenges is not to close itself off. On the contrary, we have sought to deepen our economic integration," he added. The BRICS collective was founded in 2009 when the countries were seen as the potential engine for future global economic growth. Since then, South Africa and Brazil have seen their economies become mired in crisis while China’s growth has sharply declined and Russia has become embroiled in its invasion of Ukraine and punishing economic sanctions imposed by the West. China and India have meanwhile feuded over their disputed border and New Delhi’s defense partnership with the U.S., Japan and Australia in what is known as “The Quad.” Skirmishes along the frontier resulted in a major standoff in 2020 leading to casualties on both sides.
India and other Asian nations are becoming an increasingly vital source of oil revenues for Moscow despite strong pressure from the U.S. not to increase their purchases, as the European Union and other allies cut off energy imports from Russia in line with sanctions over its war on Ukraine. Such sales are boosting Russian export revenues at a time when Washington and allies are trying to limit financial flows supporting Moscow’s war effort. India, an oil-hungry country of 1.4 billion people, has guzzled nearly 60 million barrels of Russian oil in 2022 so far, compared with 12 million barrels in all of 2021, according to commodity data firm Kpler. Shipments to other Asian countries, like China, have also increased in recent months but to a lesser extent. In an interview with The Associated Press, Sri Lanka’s prime minister said he may be compelled to buy more oil from Russia as he hunts desperately for fuel to keep the country running amid a dire economic crisis. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday said he would first look to other sources, but would be open to buying more crude from Moscow. In late May, Sri Lanka bought a 90,000-metric-ton (99,000-ton) shipment of Russian crude to restart its only refinery. Read: WTO holds big meeting to tackle vaccines, food shortages Since Russia’s invasion in late February, global oil prices have soared, giving refiners in India and other countries an added incentive to tap oil Moscow is offering them at steep discounts of $30 to $35, compared with Brent crude and other international oil now trading at about $120 per barrel. Their importance to Russia rose after the 27-nation European Union, the main market for fossil fuels that supply most of Moscow’s foreign income, agreed to stop most oil purchases by the end of this year. “It seems a distinct trend is becoming ingrained now,” said Matt Smith, lead analyst at Kpler tracking Russian oil flows. As shipments of Urals oil to much of Europe are cut, crude is instead flowing to Asia, where India has become the top buyer, followed by China. Ship tracking reports show Turkey is another key destination. “People are realizing that India is such a refining hub, taking it at such a cheap price, refining it and sending it out as clean products because they can make such strong margins on that,” Smith said. In May, some 30 Russian tankers loaded with crude made their way to Indian shores, unloading about 430,000 barrels per day. An average of just 60,000 barrels per day arrived in January-March, according to the Helsinki, Finland-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an independent think tank. Chinese state-owned and independent refiners also have stepped up purchases. In 2021, China was the largest single buyer of Russian oil, taking 1.6 million barrels per day on average, equally divided between pipeline and seaborne routes, according to the International Energy Agency. While India’s imports are still only about a quarter of that, the sharp increase since the war began is a potential source of friction between Washington and New Delhi. The U.S. recognizes India’s need for affordable energy, but “we’re looking to allies and partners not to increase their purchases of Russian energy,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after a meeting of U.S. and Indian foreign and defense ministers in April. Meanwhile, the U.S. and its European allies are engaged in “extremely active” discussions on coordinating measures, perhaps forming a cartel, to try to set a price cap on Russian oil, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday. The aim would be to keep Russian oil flowing into the global market to prevent crude oil prices, already up 60% this year, from surging still higher, she said. Read: UN elects new council members including Japan, Switzerland “Absolutely, the objective is to limit the revenue going to Russia,” Yellen said, indicating the exact strategy had not yet been decided on. While Europe could find alternative sources for its purchases of about 60% of Russia’s crude exports, Russia also has options. India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, has emphasized his country’s intention to do what is in its best interests, bristling at criticism over its imports of Russian oil. “If India funding Russian oil is funding the war … tell me, then buying Russian gas is not funding the war? Let’s be a little even-handed,” he said at a recent forum in Slovakia, referring to Europe’s imports of Russian gas. India’s imports of crude from Russia rose from 100,000 barrels per day in February to 370,000 a day in April to 870,000 a day in May. A growing share of those shipments displaced oil from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, most of it going to refineries in Sika and Jamnagar on India’s western coast. Up until April, Russian oil accounted for less than 5% of the crude processed at the Jamnagar oil refinery run by Reliance Industries. In May, it accounted for more than a quarter, according to Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. India’s exports of oil products like diesel have risen to 685,000 barrels per day from 580,000 barrels per day before the invasion of Ukraine. Much of its diesel exports are sold in Asia, but about 20% was shipped via the Suez Canal, headed for the Mediterranean or Atlantic, essentially Europe or the US, said Lauri Myllyvirta, a lead analyst at CREA. It’s impossible to quantify the exact amount of Russian crude in refined products being shipped out of India, he said. Still, “India is providing an outlet for Russian crude oil to get through the market,” he said. China’s imports also have risen further this year, helping Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government record a current account surplus, the broadest measure of trade, of $96 billion for the four months ending in April. It’s unclear if such exports might eventually be subject to sanctions meant to cut the cash flowing to Russia. Regarding the sanctions, “Are those measures effective? And if not, how is the oil market working around them?” Myllyvirta said.
China on Sunday launched a new three-person mission to complete assembly work on its permanent orbiting space station. The Shenzhou 14 crew will spend six months on the Tiangong station, during which they will oversee the addition of two laboratory modules to join the main Tianhe living space that was launched in April 2021. Their spaceship blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert at 10:44 a.m. (0244 GMT) atop the crewed space flight program’s workhorse Long March 2F rocket. Fifteen minutes later, it reached low Earth orbit and opened its solar panels, drawing applause from ground controllers in Jiuquan and Beijing. The launch was broadcast live on state television, indicating a rising level of confidence in the capabilities of the space program, which has been promoted as a sign of China's technological progress and global influence. Commander Chen Dong and fellow astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe will assemble the three-module structure joining the existing Tianhe with Wentian and Mengtian, due to arrive in July and October. Another cargo craft, the Tianzhou-3, remains docked with the station. READ: Boeing capsule lands back on Earth after space shakedown The arrival of the new modules will “provide more stability, more powerful functions, more complete equipment,” said Chen, 43, who was a member of the Shenzhou 11 mission in 2016, at a press conference Saturday. Liu, 43, is also a space veteran and was China’s first female astronaut to reach space aboard the Shenzhou 9 mission in 2012. Cai, 46, is making his first space trip. China’s space program launched its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, making it only the third country to do so on its own after the former Soviet Union and the U.S. It has landed robot rovers on the moon and placed one on Mars last year. China has also returned lunar samples and officials have discussed a possible crewed mission to the moon. China’s space program is run by the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, prompting the U.S. to exclude it from the International Space Station. Chen, Liu and Cai will be joined at the end of their mission for three to five days by the crew of the upcoming Shenzhou 15, marking the first time the station will have had six people aboard.