Marionet of poppenspeler: wat kan Li Qiang als premier van China naast de grote leider Xi?

Zoals verwacht is Li Qiang vandaag benoemd tot premier van China. Als trouwe vazal van president Xi Jinping en met goede banden met het bedrijfsleven zou hij een goede tussenpersoon kunnen zijn. Maar de vraag is hoeveel ruimte Xi hem gunt.Leen Vervaeke11 maart 2023, 04:45

Li Qiang (tweede van links) in gesprek met president Xi Jinping dinsdag tijdens het Volkscongres in Beijing.  Beeld AP
Li Qiang (tweede van links) in gesprek met president Xi Jinping dinsdag tijdens het Volkscongres in Beijing.Beeld AP

Een pragmatische, liberale en doortastende politicus: dat zijn de vaste beschrijvingen van Li Qiang, de nieuwe premier van China. De voormalige partijchef van Shanghai is een vertrouweling van Xi Jinping, maar ook een pleitbezorger van ondernemers. Hij haalde autobedrijf Tesla naar China, hij was verantwoordelijk voor Shanghais technologiebeurs, en pleitte ooit zelfs in een interview voor een ‘kleine overheid’.

Li’s aanstelling tot premier, die zaterdag op het Volkscongres werd bevestigd, lijkt goed nieuws voor privéondernemers in China die na jaren van zerocovidbeleid en overheidsingrijpen een opsteker kunnen gebruiken. Maar de vraag is of Li (63) veel invloed op het beleid kan uitoefenen. Onder Xi Jinping is het Chinese premierschap uitgehold, en bij de lockdown van Shanghai heeft Li Qiang laten zien dat hij zijn pragmatische en liberale inborst zo aan de kant schuift als leider Xi dat wil.


Looks like China is looking for problems with USA

China says U.S. should change attitude or risk conflict

By Ryan Woo

BEIJING, March 7 (Reuters) – The United States should change its “distorted” attitude towards China or “conflict and confrontation” will follow, China’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, while defending its stance on the war in Ukraine and defending its close ties with Russia.

The U.S. had been engaging in suppression and containment of China rather than engaging in fair, rule-based competition, Foreign Minister Qin Gang told a news conference on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting in Beijing.

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“The United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted,” said Qin, a trusted aide to President Xi Jinping and until recently China’s ambassador in Washington.

“It regards China as its primary rival and the most consequential geopolitical challenge. This is like the first button in the shirt being put wrong.”

Relations between the two superpowers have been tense for years over a number of issues including Taiwan, trade and more recently the war in Ukraine but they worsened last month after the United States shot down a balloon off the U.S. East Coast that it says was a Chinese spying craft.

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The U.S. says it is establishing guardrails for relations and is not seeking conflict but Qin said what that meant in practice was that China was not supposed to respond with words or action when slandered or attacked.

“That is just impossible,” Qin told his first news conference since becoming foreign minister in late December.

Qin’s comments struck the same the tough tone of his predecessor, Wang Yi, now China’s most senior diplomat after being made director of the Foreign Affairs Commission Office at the turn of the year.

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“If the United States does not hit the brakes, and continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailment, which will become conflict and confrontation, and who will bear the catastrophic consequences?”

U.S. officials often speak of establishing guardrails in the bilateral relationship to prevent tensions from escalating into crises.

Qin likened Sino-U.S. competition to a race between two Olympic athletes.

“If one side, instead of focusing on giving one’s best, always tries to trip the other up, even to the extent that they must enter the Paralympics, then this is not fair competition,” he said.


Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang at a news conference in Beijing

[1/2] Journalists attend a news conference by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China March 7, 2023. REUTERS/Thomas Peter12

During a nearly two-hour news conference in which he answered questions submitted in advance, Qin made a robust defence of “wolf warrior diplomacy”, an assertive and often abrasive stance adopted by China’s diplomats since 2020.

“When jackals and wolves are blocking the way, and hungry wolves are attacking us, Chinese diplomats must then dance with the wolves and protect and defend our home and country,” he said.

Qin also said that an “invisible hand” was pushing for the escalation of the war in Ukraine “to serve certain geopolitical agendas”, without specifying who he was referring to.

He reiterated China’s call for dialogue to end the war.

China struck a “no limits” partnership with Russia last year, weeks before its invasion of Ukraine, and China has blamed NATO expansion for triggering the war, echoing Russia’s complaint.

China has declined to condemn the invasion and has fiercely defended its stance on Ukraine, despite Western criticism of its failure to single Russia out as the aggressor.

China has also vehemently denied U.S. accusations that it has been considering supplying Russia with weapons.


Qin said China had to advance its relations with Russia as the world becomes more turbulent and close interactions between President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, anchored the neighbours’ relations.

He did not give a definite answer when asked if Xi would visit Russia after China’s parliament session, which goes on for one more week.

Since Russia invaded its southwestern neighbour a year ago Xi has held talks several times with Putin, but not with his Ukrainian counterpart. This undermines China’s claim of neutrality in the conflict, Kyiv’s top diplomat in Beijing said last month.

Asked whether it was possible that China and Russia would abandon the U.S. dollar and euro for bilateral trade, Qin said countries should use whatever currency was efficient, safe and credible.

China has been looking to internationalise its currency, the yuan, which gained popularity in Russia last year after Western sanctions shut Russia’s banks and many of its companies out of the dollar and euro payment systems.

“Currencies should not be the trump card for unilateral sanctions, still less a disguise for bullying or coercion,” Qin said.

Reporting by Yew Lun Tian, Laurie Chen, Ryan Woo and the Beijing Newsroom; Writing by Martin Quin Pollard; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Tom Hogue

Xi Jinping to tighten Communist party’s grip

If China starts supplying arms to Russia, sanctions will come and economic growth in China will quickly come to an end.

The NPC, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, will gather this weekend to approve far-reaching changes, and Xi’s unprecedented third term as president

Amy Hawkins Senior China correspondent

@amyhawk_Fri 3 Mar 2023 01.53 GMT

Xi Jinping is preparing a profound overhaul of China’s government and party institutions at this year’s National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s rubber-stamp parliament, which begins its annual session on Sunday.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Communist party (CCP) trailed changes of “far-reaching significance” that are expected to include a reorganisation of the bodies tasked with managing the financial and technology sectors, as well as state security. The changes will all have one goal in mind: to strengthen the party’s control.

Xi is China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. At the CCP congress in October, he was anointed as party secretary and head of the military commission for a third term, after abolishing the two-term limit in 2018, paving the way for him to rule for life. That will be reaffirmed at this year’s NPC when Xi is granted his third term as president.

For posts not held by Xi, the two-term limit still applies. Li Keqiang, the premier, is expected to be replaced by Li Qiang, who was elevated to the number two position of the Standing Committee of the CCP in October. Li Qiang, a close ally of Xi and his former chief of staff, was the party secretary for Shanghai during the gruelling lockdown that was imposed on the city for two months in 2022.

The sudden promotion of a cadre who did not previously hold a senior government position is indicative of the extent to which Xi values loyalty above convention and experience.

He Lifeng, another Xi ally, is expected to be appointed as vice-premier responsible for economic policy, as well as being considered for the role of party chief of the People’s Bank of China. One of the rumoured changes is the establishment of a new party committee that would oversee the central bank and other financial institutions. Such a change, with He at the helm of the government and the central bank, would centralise decision-making under Xi.

“Under Xi the party and government have been pushed together. The government has become less distinct and less effective,” said Richard McGregor, a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute thinktank, and author of a book about the CCP.

China's President Xi Jinping
China’s President Xi Jinping is free to rule for life. Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Another rumoured change is that the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of State Security could be removed from the State Council’s portfolio, and placed under the oversight of a newly created, party-controlled, internal affairs committee. “By moving so many of these core functions away from the oversight of the state, it would arguably weaken the state while greatly strengthening the power of the party’s Central Committee and, of course, Xi Jinping himself,” said Patricia Thornton, a professor of Chinese politics at Oxford University.

Last week the CCP and the State Council published a joint opinion on legal education. The document calls on state institutions to “persist in following Xi Jinping Thought” on the rule of law and that schools should “oppose and resist western erroneous views” such as “constitutional government” and “independence of the judiciary”.

Some analysts expect the opinion to be formalised in some way at the NPC. The language in the opinion echoes that of the “Two Establishes” and the “Two Safeguards”, CCP slogans that establish Xi and his ideology as the “core” of the party. The “Two Safeguards” were added to the party charter in 2022.

The NPC is also due to consider amendments to the legislative process. One of the proposals is to allow laws to be passed on an “emergency” basis. Changhao Wei, a ​​research fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center, said the provision “should be a cause for concern to those who value legislative openness and predictability, for the draft doesn’t define ‘emergency’ or tie it to existing emergency response mechanisms, so the legislature has complete discretion to decide whether an emergency exists.”

Aside from the political changes, the NPC will also announce the government’s GDP growth target for the year ahead. Analysts expect it to be between 5% and 6%, which would be a significant improvement on the 3% achieved last year.


FBI director says COVID pandemic ‘most likely’ originated from Chinese lab

Department of Energy has also concluded COVID-19 pandemic likely originated from lab leak in China

By Adam Sabes | Fox News

Wray: COVID-19 origins most likely caused by Chinese lab ‘incident’

FBI Director Christopher Wray discusses the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic on “Special Report.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by a lab leak in Wuhan, China.

“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News in an interview that aired Tuesday. “Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab.” 

“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing. And that’s unfortunate for everybody,” he added.

Wray said the FBI has specialists who focus on “the dangers of biological threats, which include things like novel viruses like COVID, and the concerns that they [are] in the wrong hands [of] some bad guys, a hostile nation state, a terrorist, a criminal.”


FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, Dec. 2, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, Dec. 2, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (AP Photo / Carlos Osorio)

He also said that the Chinese government has been trying to block investigative work into the origins of the coronavirus.

Wray’s comments come after the Department of Energy has also recently assessed that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by an accidental lab leak in China.


China would be mad if it choose to backup the 2 East European losers

Amy Hawkins Senior China correspondent

@amyhawk_Mon 27 Feb 2023 14.14 GMT

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus and close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, is due to visit Beijing on Tuesday for a meeting with Xi Jinping, in a high-profile trip symbolising the widening gulf between the US and China over the war in Ukraine.

US officials spent the weekend reiterating their concerns that Beijing is considering sending lethal weapons to Russia, amid China’s attempts to position itself as a peacemaker and deny that it would provide arms to Moscow.

Speaking to ABC News on Sunday, Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, said the US was “watching closely” for any such shipment, which Beijing “hadn’t taken off the table” as a possibility.

William Burns, the director of the CIA, said in an interview with CBS News on Sunday that the US was “seriously concerned should China provide lethal equipment to Russia”.

“We don’t have evidence of a final decision to do that … all we’re trying to emphasise is the importance of not doing that,” Burns said.

On Friday, China published a 12-point “position paper” on the war in Ukraine, calling for peace and positioning itself as a neutral peacemaker in the conflict. However, the paper reiterated Beijing talking points that criticised the use of sanctions and “expanding military blocs”, an apparent reference to Nato. China has echoed Russia’s claim that the war in Ukraine was provoked by Nato’s expansion close to Russia’s borders.

The paper also urged all parties to refrain from nuclear escalation, a position that Beijing shares with the US and other western leaders.

China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but has also tried to position itself as a peacemaker. Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general, has said that China lacks credibility for such a role.

The US’s increasingly vocal statements about China potentially sending weapons to Russia came after Der Spiegel reported last week that the Russian military was in negotiations with Xi’an Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology, a Chinese drone manufacturer, to produce kamikaze drones for Russia. The company denied having any business dealings with Russia.

“China’s policy to the war is the policy of declaring neutrality, supporting Putin, and paying no price,” says Steve Tsang, the director of the Soas China Institute in London. With the repeated public statements about sending weapons to Russia, the US may be trying to make clear to the Chinese that providing dual-use technology, which could have military applications, would be damaging to Chinese interests. “It is never crystal clear to the Chinese what will trigger sanctions,” said Tsang.

The US is trying to remove any doubt. Military assistance to Russia “will come at real costs to China”, Sullivan said on Sunday.

Western sanctions would cause “colossal damage both economically and politically to Xi’s leadership”, said Yu Jie, a senior research fellow on China at the Chatham House thinktank.

US politicians are increasingly unified in their opposition to Beijing, which will be on show at a House of Representatives committee meeting on Tuesday on dealing with the strategic threat posed by China.

Beijing is keen to reset its ties with Europe, an important trading partner. Chinese exports to the EU were worth €472bn (£416bn) in 2021. Last year China’s economic growth was just 3%, the worst since 1976 and a figure that Xi is keen to boost by opening up China’s borders and restoring economic relations with important trading partners. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, are expected to visit Beijing in the first half of this year.skip past newsletter promotion

Vladimir Putin holds talks with China’s President Xi Jinping via a video link from Moscow, Russia, 30 December 2022.
Vladimir Putin holds talks with China’s Xi Jinping via a video link from Moscow, Russia, 30 December 2022. Photograph: Sputnik/Reuters

President Joe Biden has dismissed China’s peace plan as containing nothing “beneficial to anyone other than Russia”. However, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, said that “the fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing”.

Bobo Lo, a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, said Washington’s increasingly vocal warnings about China’s support for Russia is an attempt to tell Europe that “Beijing may seem to be playing nice, but it hasn’t changed its stripes”.

That much was clear when China blocked the G20 from issuing a joint statement condemning the war in Ukraine on Saturday.

Xi’s meeting with Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, is seen internationally as a sign of where China’s sympathies lie. Last week China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, told his Belarusian counterpart that China would support Belarus in opposing any “illegal” sanctions on Minsk. China has not responded to calls from Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to have a meeting with Xi to discuss China’s proposals.

In the coming months, Xi is expected to visit Putin in Moscow.

CIA chief: China considering supplying weapons to Russia

CIA chief: China considering supplying weapons to Russia

The US intelligence service CIA is convinced that China is considering supplying weapons to Russia for the war against Ukraine. That says CIA director Bill Burns in an interview with the American TV channel CBS News.

He stressed that Beijing has not yet made a final decision. By sharing the information, the US government wants to influence China’s decision, Burns confirmed. He calls the possible arms deliveries a “very risky and ill-advised gamble” by Chinese President Xi.

US Secretary of State Blinken said last weekend that China is considering supplying weapons. He did not give details, but Blinken warned that it would have “serious consequences”. Beijing reacted strongly to Blinken’s statements and said it had no plans for arms transfers.

China sees itself as a neutral party in the war, but the West thinks otherwise. Beijing sees this as Russia’s most important ally, which, despite the Russian aggression, has still stood behind Moscow.


De Amerikaanse inlichtingendienst CIA is ervan overtuigd dat China overweegt wapens te leveren aan Rusland voor de oorlog tegen Oekraïne. Dat zegt CIA-directeur Bill Burns in een interview met de Amerikaanse tv-zender CBS News.

Hij benadrukte wel dat Peking nog geen definitief besluit heeft genomen. Door de informatie te delen wil de Amerikaanse regering de beslissing van China beïnvloeden, bevestigde Burns. Hij noemt de mogelijke wapenleveranties een “hele riskante en onverstandige gok” van de Chinese president Xi.

De Amerikaanse minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Blinken zei vorig weekend al dat China overweegt om wapens te leveren. Details gaf hij niet, maar Blinken waarschuwde wel dat het “ernstige gevolgen” zou hebben. Peking reageerde fel op Blinkens uitspraken en zei geen plannen te hebben voor wapenleveringen.

China ziet zichzelf als neutrale partij in de oorlog, maar het Westen denkt daar anders over. Dat ziet Peking als Ruslands belangrijkste bondgenoot, die ondanks de Russische agressie nog altijd achter Moskou is blijven staan.

CIA-directeur Bill Burns

NOS news

Zelensky is open to talks with China

Ukrainian President Zelensky is visiting Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez in Kyiv today. After the visit, Zelensky said in a press conference that a meeting between Ukraine and China would be welcome; even though Zelensky says he has not yet seen a Chinese peace plan. China, according to the United States, plans to deliver war material to the Russians. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg also said earlier today that there are “signals” that China wants to send weapons to Russia and warned Beijing today not to do so. US Treasury Secretary Yellen reinforced the warning today by saying there will be “serious consequences” for the Chinese government, as well as for Chinese banks and companies, if China decides to support Russia or ignore sanctions against Russia.

US is tracking a suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon . . .

  CCP gets more and more brutale, they are preparing something  

A suspected Chinese high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Montana on Wednesday, February 1, 2023. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP)Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette/APCNN — 

The US is tracking a suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental United States, defense officials said on Thursday, a discovery that risks adding further strain to tense US-China relations.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the US government has been tracking the balloon for several days as it made its way over the northern United States, adding it was “traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

Speaking on background, a senior US defense official said senior military officials had advised President Joe Biden not to shoot it down due to fear the debris could pose a safety threat to people on the ground.

“We are confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the [People’s Republic of China],” the senior defense official said. “Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration.”

While the balloon’s current flight path carries it over “a number of sensitive sites,” the official said it does not present a significant intelligence gathering risk. The balloon is assessed to have “limited additive value” from an intelligence collection perspective, the official added.

The US, the official said, is “taking steps nevertheless to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information. We are also tracking what abilities it could have in gaining insights, and continue to monitor the balloon as it was over the continental United States.”

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The US believes Chinese spy satellites in low Earth orbit are capable of offering similar or better intelligence, limiting the value of whatever Beijing can glean from the high-altitude balloon, which is the size of three buses, according to another defense official.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference with Egypt's Foreign Minister (not pictured) in Cairo, on January 30, 2023. - Blinken kicked off a Middle East trip in Cairo focussed on urging calm amid an escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Blinken under pressure to push China on role in lethal fentanyl trade when he visits Beijing

“It does not create significant value added over and above what the PRC is likely able to collect through things like satellites in low Earth orbit,” the senior defense official said.

The US government has engaged with the Chinese government both through the Chinese embassy in Washington and the US diplomatic mission in China, according to the official.

US national security officials have constantly warned about Chinese espionage efforts and the balloon’s presence in the US comes at a sensitive moment with Secretary of State Antony Blinken expected to travel to Beijing in the coming days, a significant trip meant to follow up on President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last year.

Biden has declared China “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge” and competition between the two global superpowers is intense. Tensions have flared in recent years over the self-governing island of Taiwan, China’s human rights record and its military activities in the South China Sea, among a host of other issues.

Biden was briefed and took advice not to shoot balloon down

The president has been briefed on the balloon’s movements and requested military options on how to deal with it, according to a senior administration official.

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Biden took Milley’s advice not to order the balloon shot down and the official stressed that it does not pose a military threat emphasizing that the administration acted “immediately” to protect against the collection of sensitive information.

The senior defense official mentioned reports from Wednesday about a “ground stop” at Billings Airport in Montana, and the “mobilization of assets, including F-22s.”

“The context for that was, it would put some things on station in the event that a decision was made to bring this down while it was over Montana,” the official said. “So we wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area.”

In this handout photo provided by the Command Public Information Office, Western Mindanao Command, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III, right, walks with Western Mindanao Commander Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, left, as he arrives Camp Don Basilio Navarro in Zamboanga province, southern Philippines on Wednesday February 1, 2023.

US military to gain expanded access to Philippines bases in efforts to counter China

However, it was ultimately the “strong recommendation” of senior military leaders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, not to shoot it down due to the risk to safety of people on the ground.

“Why not shoot it down? We have to do the risk-reward here,” the official said. “So the first question is, does it pose a threat, a physical kinetic threat, to individuals in the United States in the US homeland? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a threat to civilian aviation? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a significantly enhanced threat on the intelligence side? Our best assessment right now is that it does not. So given that profile, we assess the risk of downing it, even if the probability is low in a sparsely populated area of the debris falling and hurting someone or damaging property, that it wasn’t worth it.”

Montana is home to fields of underground Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile silos, one potential target for Chinese espionage.

The senior defense official said on Thursday that if the risk level changes, the US “will have options to deal with this balloon.”

We have communicated to [Chinese officials] the seriousness with which we take this issue. … But we have made clear we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people and our homeland.”

This story is been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis and Nectar Gan contributed reporting.