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The World This Week
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Visit to China

  GP Team

The World This Week #261, Vol. 6, No.15
21 April 2024

Manoranjan Kumar and Femy Francis

Germany and China: Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Beijing Visit
Manoranjan Kumar

What happened?
On 16 April, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. During his three-day visit (13-16 April), he was accompanied by a delegation of German officials (including ministers of agriculture, environment, and transportation) and business leaders, and he also held talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang. He also visited the German companies with substantial investments in China, such as Bosch, engaging with trade representatives and officials in key industrial hubs such as Chongqing in southwest China, as well as Shanghai and Beijing. 

On 16 April, President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of "common ground" for working together in the long term with a strategic perspective. He said that "there is no fundamental conflict of interest between China and Germany and that both sides do not pose a security threat to each other. Mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Germany is not a 'risk' but a guarantee for the stability of relations and an opportunity to shape the future."  

What is the background?
First, the Sino-German relations. Historically, Germany and China have maintained a robust and multifaceted relationship characterized by extensive trade ties, high-level diplomatic engagements, and cooperation in various fields. On the economic front, China is one of Germany's most important trading partners, with bilateral trade volumes reaching a significant level. In 2023, both nations exchanged EUR 254.1 billion worth of goods, making Germany China's biggest trading partner, the United States and the Netherlands. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), In 2022, China exported USD 152 billion to Germany, including computers, electric vehicles, lithium batteries, textiles, and broadcasting equipment. During the last 27 years, the exports of China to Germany have increased at an annualized rate of 11.1 per cent, from USD 8.96 billion in 1995 to USD 152 billion in 2022. In the same year, Germany exported USD 109 billion to China; it included cars, motor vehicles, parts and accessories, and chemical products. During the last 27 years, Germany's exports to China have increased at an annualized rate of 10.9 per cent. The relationship also faced challenges, such as intellectual property rights, market access barriers, and concerns over fair trade practices, which have occasionally strained their ties. During the recent trip, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz advocated for the interests of German companies facing mounting challenges in competing within the Chinese market. He played a delicate balancing act as Berlin navigates between economic interests and geopolitical concerns. 

Second, the European Union's position on China. The EU sees China as a partner for cooperation, an economic competitor and a systemic rival. However, EU-China relations have become increasingly complex due to growing challenges. China's approach has shifted, becoming less open to the world and more repressive domestically while adopting a more assertive stance abroad. The recent trip marked the German Chancellor's first visit (overall second) to China following the EU's adoption of a "new strategy for China" last year. This strategy urged Germany to mitigate its reliance on Chinese goods. Additionally, Chancellor Scholz articulated the escalating concerns within the European Union regarding the influx of Chinese goods being sold at a loss, potentially transforming the region into a dumping ground for such products. The European Commission is conducting multiple investigations into Chinese green technology exports, such as battery electric vehicles, which it contends have benefited from state subsidies. These probes aim to assess the potential adverse effects on local producers within the EU. China's manufacturing push in green sectors, including electric cars and solar panels, has sparked trade disputes with Europe and the US, where such industries also received government support. However, with 5,000 German companies active in the Chinese market, Germany would lose more than many of its European partners if Beijing retaliated against the European Union.  

Third, the impact of the Russian-Ukraine war. Beijing's support for the Kremlin in the Ukraine war has severely affected the EU, including Germany. The spike in energy prices has hampered the German economy, and its weaknesses have exposed a reliance on China for growth. The war has impacted Germany's core interests, and indirectly, it has damaged the sanity of the entire world order.

What does it mean?
First, the economic interest is foremost for Germany. Despite the discussion on various issues between the two leaders during the visit, Germany's priority is to protect its business interests in China. The anti-subsidy investigation by the European Commission on Chinese firms has worried Germany as their motor vehicle companies have heavily invested in China. German businesses will suffer the most if the EU imposes higher tariffs on Chinese exports and Beijing retaliates. The German economy is stumbling as last year it contracted 0.3 per cent, and the prediction for the current year could be better. 

Second, the Chinese interests. The industrial and supply chains of China and Germany are deeply intertwined, and the markets of both countries are highly interdependent. So, Germany's commitment to China in the trade realm favours both. Beijing is actively seeking foreign investment to revitalize its economy, which a slowdown has hampered in the housing sector. This visit has reaffirmed the bilateral relations between the world's second and third-largest economies. Also, it gives China leverage to strengthen its influence in Europe, particularly amidst tensions with the United States.

It’s the economy, stupid
Five Takeaways of Chancellor Scholz’s visit to Beijing

Femy Francis

On 13 April, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz started his three-day visit to Beijing. He was accompanied by an entourage of executives from German companies, high-profile state secretaries and ministers. He met Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang and discussed the interest of German companies in China and expressed his concerns regarding the market and economy. Both leaders called for mutually beneficial cooperation.

Xi asserted that China-Germany relations have no “risks,” rather they serve as a guarantee of a stable relationship while reflecting on their 10th anniversary of strategic partnership. He said: “There is no fundamental conflict of interest between China and Germany and they do not pose a security threat to each other.” Scholz also affirmed the upholding of a multilateral international order with China and rejected confrontation while advocating for free trade policies. 

Mercedes Benz group executive, who was part of Scholz high-level delegation Ola Kaellenius said: “We will continue to invest in China, strengthen cooperation with our Chinese partners, promote electrification as well as digital transformation, and continue to contribute to Germany-China economic and trade cooperation.” The meeting focused on establishing a stable working relationship with China to further Germany’s economic interests and ambitions. 

There have been a few criticisms regarding  Scholz’s visit as he walked on a tightrope to not disrupt the economic ambition by instigating tough questions on domestic politics and human rights conditions in China.

Following are the five takeaways from his visit:

1. The importance of economy and trade for Germany
The economic stakes trump all, China is Germany's biggest trading partner and remained the top partner for eight years straight. The economic partnership is worth EUR 254.1 billion, with German exports to China being worth USD 104 billion. Germany has also heavily invested in 84 companies in the southwestern region of China, constructing and developing the Chongqing region. The hydrogen-fuel-cell plant operated by Bosch a German company was also the first place Scholz visited in Chongqing. The delegation that went with Scholz focused on encouraging German-China economic cooperation, where BMW CEO Oliver Zipse asserted that there are more opportunities in China rather than risks. This comes at a time when the EU is investigating subsidies on Chinese electric vehicles. The tone of the visit echoed the sentiments of the high-level German industrialist delegation as they sought to further economic cooperation with China in the face of a shrinking economy.

2. Germany’s search for a level playing field
Scholz during his visit asserted for “open and fair” competition between China and European companies. He said that while the German market welcomes Chinese-made cars, it vehemently opposes the dumping, overcapacity and violation of intellectual property rights. Scholz stated that at some point, there will be Chinese-made cars in Germany and Europe, and China will have to ensure that the competition is fair. 

In 2024, a German Chambers of Commerce in China survey found that two-thirds of German businesses expressed they faced “unfair competition” in and with China. The US Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen also voiced similar concerns. Where overcapacity and dumping of cheap products not only affect the competition but also the quality of the product. This has led to massive product dumping by China in Africa and other Southeast Asian countries, devastating the local market.

3. Ignoring human rights issues and Ukraine
During the visit, the human rights issues and the Ukraine war were sidelined. The German Chancellors barely mentioned the human rights issues in China, something that was expected. On the Ukraine war, Scholz asked China to stop selling goods to Russia as they could be used for military advantage. To which Xi expressed that China has no party in the Russia-Ukraine war and that it has consistently promoted talks of peace. 

Human Rights Watch called the trip a “wasted opportunity,” where Germany ignored the long and egregious human rights violation records. It stated that Germany’s China strategy should have learned from its Russia experience that abusive governments make unreliable partners.

4. Germany’s nuanced position on China vis-à-vis its EU partners
Germany’s approach to China is different from the EU’s, the German approach to China stands to be contrary to the rest of the European Union countries and the US. Facing a shrinking economy, Germany desperately wants to stabilise ties with its largest trading partner. For other European Union countries, Chinese investments and cooperation are looked through the lens of scepticism, while Germany wants to embrace China. Scholz's visit echoed the sentiments of economic powerhouses of Germany as he campaigned for them in China. 

5. Xi’s Red Carpet to Germany
Xi on China-Germany relations and future, the visit observed a friendly undertone as both leaders discussed the future of their bilateral cooperation. Xi outlined that China and Germany are the second and third largest economies in the world and that consolidation of their cooperation is not only vital for their mutual development but has a significant impact on the Eurasian continent and even the world. He saw their bilateral relationship as mutually beneficial and asserted that there is no “risk” but only opportunities. 

President Xi also noted that both countries supported free trade and economic globalization and called for vigilance against protectionism, hinting at the West. Xi saw the meeting as an economic road to Europe amidst strong “decoupling” threats by the West. Germany’s willingness to work with China backs their claim of not being a risk, Xi intends to extend this cooperation not only for economic gains but to defuse negative narratives surrounding Chinese investments and trade.

TWTW Regional Round-ups
News from around the World

Akriti Sharma, Rohini Reenum, Padmashree Anandhan, Anu Maria Joseph, Femy Francis, Dhriti Mukherjee, Shamini Velayutham, Akhil Ajith, Vetriselvi Baskaran and Sneha Srendran

China: Calls for a ceasefire and supports Palestine’s full UN membership
On 18 April, Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Yi called for an immediate ceasefire and extended support for Palestine’s full UN membership ahead of the upcoming UNSC vote. Global Times analysts mention the increased political and moral pressure on the US and Israel, thereby leading to global isolation. Wang Yi’s statements come during a bilateral meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Jakarta. Wang calls for an immediate setup of the humanitarian relief mechanism to provide aid to Gaza and calls for a two-state solution to the escalating situation. US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that “the US opposes a Palestinian push for full membership at the UN, as it backs statehood but only after direct negotiations with Israel.”

China: Half of Chinese cities are shrinking because of water extraction and building weight, reports BBC
On 19 April, according to a report in BBC, around half of China’s major cities are sinking due to water extraction and increased building weight caused by their rapid expansion. Scientists mention the rapid rise of sea levels leading to flooding and threatening the lives of millions of people. BBC mentions a study by some Chinese universities that aims to understand the problem of sinking cities in China. They researched a population of two million in 82 cities using Sentinel-1 satellites to measure vertical land motions. The study revealed that 45 per cent of urban areas are subsiding by more than 3mm per year between 2015-2022. It also said that 16 per cent of urban lands are sinking faster than 10mm a year. Scientists mention that the major reasons for sinking are groundwater loss, geology, and building weight. They also highlight the presence of urban transportation systems and excessive mining for minerals and coal, which leads to city subsidence. McGrath mentions that urban areas will soon be exposed to severe flooding arising from subsidence and rising sea levels due to climate change.

China: Controversial Chinese marathon win of He Jie probe
On 16 April, VOA reported on the controversial win of the Chinese long-distance runner He Jie. The Beijing Half Marathon is facing a probe as a video went viral where three African runners allowed and even deliberately slowed to let, He win the race. The video showed all three African runners Kenya’s Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat, and Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu Bikila letting He in front as they approached the finish line together, they gestured He to pass in front of them to win the race. Once the video went viral the Mnangat said that he let him win because the Chinese runner is his friend and refused that any monetary reward was given or promised. He then later changed his statement and said it let him win because they were hired as pacemakers and were not there to compete.

China: Ampace is the largest Chinese exporter of battery storage systems, reports SCMP
On 18 April, the South China Morning Post reported on the growing Chinese industry of batteries under Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL) as it looks to dominate internationally. Ampace, part of Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL), is investing heavily in the energy storing system and the “batterfication” of tools. A researcher at Ampace said that there is a huge demand for diverse applications of energy storage and they want to carve out their space. In three years, the company has been able to establish itself in the global home energy storage market. Shenzhen Gaogong Industry Research (GGII) found that China has shipped over 20 gigawatt hours of residential energy storage system and Ampace was the largest manufacturer of it accounting for 30 per cent of it. The company recently launched an Ampace C5 that can be used commercially and for industries at a reduced cost of 46 per cent.

Taiwan: TSMC to charge customers extra for making chips outside Taiwan
On 19 April, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) plans to charge customers extra for manufacturing chips outside of Taiwan. CEO of TSMC, CC Wei, said: “If a customer requests to be in a certain geographical area, the customer needs to share the incremental cost.” TSMC’s price increase comes after governments and companies are diversifying their risks by sourcing chip supplies outside of Taiwan. The price rise also comes as TSMC’s profit predictions are expected to slide down due to rising power costs at its main manufacturing base in Taiwan, the impact of Taiwan’s 3 April earthquake, and a slower rise in 3nm manufacturing efficiency.

Taiwan: Outgoing President Tsai announces Lin as the next Foreign Minister
On 16 April, while addressing New Zealand delegation in Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen introduced Lin Chia-lung as Taiwan’s new Foreign Minister. She added that the incumbent Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, will become the secretary-general of the National Security Council. Tsai’s steps marked a shift in the announcements being made by the incoming government. Presidential Office spokesperson said President-elect Lai Ching-te’s team would confirm any new government appointments. Opposition KMT party member Ma Wen-chun said that Tsai’s deep involvement in national security issues will continue to exert her influence behind the scenes. Lin served as an adviser to the National Security Council in the early 2000s under then-President Chen Shui-bian. Lin also served as an ambassador for Tsai’s digital New Southbound Policy initiatives between Taiwan and 18 countries across Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Australasia.

North Korea: Pyongyang welcomes Belarus delegation to strengthen bilateral relations
On 18 April, a Belarusian delegation visited Pyongyang to improve bilateral relations with North Korea. During the meeting, North Korea criticized the US for imposing “lawless sanctions pressure.” The Belarusian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Evgeny Shestakov and discussed bilateral cooperation with his counterpart Lim Chun Il on sectors of economy and culture and mutual support on the global stage. The diplomatic visits come after North Korea lifts COVID-19 restrictions.

South Korea: President Yoon accepts the public sentiment after the general election results
On 16 April, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said that he and his government accepted the public sentiment on the recent 10 April general election. The recently concluded elections led to the win of the opposition party and its control over the National Assembly for the next four years. He urged the government to refine existing domestic policies to enhance their effectiveness in addressing the people’s livelihoods and warned against populist policies such as cash allowances. He also said that he would focus on major reform drives on labour, education, public pensions, and the medical sector. According to The Straits Times, President Yoon did not address the careless nomination of former defence minister Lee Jong-sup as the envoy to Australia. The ruling People Power Party won 108 seats out of 300 in the National Assembly in recent general elections, leaving the party stressed against the opposition’s majority. Yoon said in a cabinet meeting that he would cooperate with the National Assembly to make key policy changes.

Japan: Records 6.4 magnitude earthquake
On 17 April, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) reported a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in the southern part of the country. The Bungo Channel between the Kyushu and Shikoku islands was the epicentre of the quake. Separately, an earthquake of six magnitude was recorded in Ehime and Kochi prefectures. No casualties were reported. A government spokesperson, Yoshimasa Hayashi, confirmed the safety of one of the operational Ikata nuclear reactors in Ehime prefecture.

Japan: Foreign Minister expresses concerns over Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel
On 14 April, Tokyo expressed concerns regarding Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel and warned of potential escalation of conflict in the region. Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said: “This attack is one that further worsens the current Middle East situation. We are deeply concerned and strongly condemn this sort of escalation.” This comes after Iran launched drones and missiles at Israel on 13 April in retaliation for an Israeli air strike on its embassy in Syria. The minister’s statement also stressed the need for diplomatic steps to prevent any further deterioration of the situation. The Straits Times reports Japan’s heavy reliance on oil, with 95 per cent of the crude imported from the Middle East region.

Australia: Plans to boost defence budget
On 17 April, Australia announced its plan to boost defence spending by AUSD 50.3 billion over the next decade against a potential US and China conflict in the Pacific. Australian Minister of Defence Richard Marles stated that the upgraded defence budget prioritises long-rage missiles, drones and warships. According to the ministry, it would only begin after five years and aim to increase defence spending from the current two per cent to 2.4 per cent of the GDP by 2034. Forty per cent of the funding would be allocated to the navy, including surface fleets, AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines, and Ghost Shark undersea drones. AUSD 74 billion would be allocated for missile programmes. The remaining AUSD 18 billion would be allocated to upgrade military bases in northern Australia.

Maldives: President says Opposition wishes to overthrow his government
On 18 April, Maldives’ President Mohamed Muizzu claimed that the Opposition aimed to overthrow his government even as they claimed that they were trying to hold the government accountable. He emphasized that this is widely understood to be a violation of democratic principles and urged the public to prevent the Maldives from being destabilized. He also stressed that if the opposition MDP came to power, there would be no development in the country given that they had failed to do so during the five years they had been in power. The President made the comments at a PPM-PNC campaign rally for the parliamentary elections in Fuvahmulah City. 
India: One among 17 crew members of MSC Aries arrives back to India from Iran
On 18 April, Ann Tessa Joseph, a deck cadet on the Iran-detained MSC Aries ship returned to India. According to the Ministry of External Affairs: “The Indian Mission in Tehran remains seized of the matter and is in touch with the remaining 16 Indian crew members of the container vessel,” adding that the crew was healthy and in touch with their families. Meanwhile, Iran’s ambassador to India, Iraj Elahi, stated that the Indian sailors were not detained and were unable to go to the beach owing to bad weather. He added that the crew were free to leave Iran whenever they wished to do so. 
India: 16 crore citizens set to vote in phase 1 of the largest democratic exercise in the world
On 19 April, more than 16 crore Indians moved to cast their votes in the first phase of the 102nd Lok Sabha elections in the country. The first phase includes voting in all 39 Lok Sabha seats of Tamil Nadu, five seats of Uttarakhand, 12 seats in Rajasthan, eight in western Uttar Pradesh, and six seats in Madhya Pradesh. The Lok Sabha elections which end on 1 June will see 1625 candidates (1491 men and 134 women) vying for wins in their respective seats. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the opposition Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) are major contenders with the former looking to secure a third term while the latter hopes to break the BJP’s winning streak. The ruling party has used the ‘Viksit Bharat’ (Developed India) agenda to woo voters by highlighting the work done in the last 10 years. The Congress, the largest party in the INDIA bloc, has relied on emphasizing unemployment, inflation, misuse of government agencies, and growing dangers to the secular nature of the country to win the support of the people.
Sri Lanka: Plans to resume talks with creditors
On 17 April, The Hindu reported on the Sri Lankan government authority’s decision to restart the talks with International Sovereign Bond (ISB) holders to finalize the debt treatment plan. This will take place once the World Bank’s spring meetings in Washington DC wind up.  Sagala Ratnayake, Senior Adviser to the President on National Security and Chief of the Presidential Staff stated: “We are confident that we will be able to talk to ISB holders and come to a final settlement before the IMF holds their next meeting in June where Sri Lanka’s third tranche will be released.” The country, after failing to reach a consensus with the deal put forward by ISB holders, is now trying to negotiate for better terms along with financial and legal advisors. It has already reached “in principle limit” with bilateral creditors like India and Paris Club members, part of the country’s Official Creditor Committee. China excluded itself from this issue, however assured to look after the state's debt problems.

Afghanistan: Continuous rains and flash flooding lead to loss of material and property
On 13 April, Aljazeera reported that continuous heavy rains for three days and flash flooding has resulted in the loss of life and material in Afghanistan. The primary information revealed that 33 people had died and 27 had been injured. Additionally, 600 livestock have died and houses and roads have been damaged. The rains have also led to the flooding of agricultural land. The most affected provinces are: Western Farah, Herat, southern Zabul and Kandahar. Afghanistan has witnessed some extreme events in recent times, for instance an unusually dry winter this year and heavy snowfall in western Afghanistan in February. This led the United Nations warning last year that “Afghanistan is experiencing major swings in extreme weather conditions.”

Turkmenistan: Updates its liquefied gas supply infrastructure
On 20 April, facilities used to receive, store, and transport liquefied gas generated by the "Turkmengaz" State Concern are being updated in Turkmenistan. According to the State News Agency of Turkmenistan, Deputy Prime Minister Batyr Amanov reported on this during a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers. The state company is rebuilding the needed infrastructure in order to guarantee a continuous supply of the required volumes of petroleum products. The effectiveness of these facilities' production processes is increased when the right supplies and technological tools are provided. Within this framework, Amanov made particular recommendations. Following his review of the report, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov underlined the significance of liquefied gas production in the country and its dependable export to international markets. The recommendations were approved by the head of state, who also gave the Deputy Prime Minister instructions to strengthen the facilities for receiving, storing, and transporting this kind of product by doing the necessary work.

Armenia: Agrees to return villages to Azerbaijan
On 19 April, after waging two wars since the fall of the Soviet Union, Armenia has agreed to restore numerous villages to Azerbaijan, which both sides claimed was a significant step toward a peace agreement. Aykhan Hajizada, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, announced on X that Armenia will return four villages close to their shared border that had been “under occupation” since the early 1990s, describing the development as a "long-awaited historic event". Though abandoned, the settlements hold strategic value due to their proximity to Armenia's main route heading north towards its border with Georgia, which is used for much of its trade, and to the pipeline that supplies it with Russian gas. The deputy prime ministers of the two countries presided over the meeting that resulted in the agreement. To reach a peace agreement following over thirty years of conflict, mostly focused on the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, Azerbaijan has been demanding the return of the settlements.

Azerbaijan: Russia withdraws peacekeeping forces from Karabakh
On 18 April, officials from both countries announced that Russian forces were leaving the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, where they had been stationed as peacekeepers since the end of a war in 2020.  Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, acknowledged news of the withdrawal during a conference call with the media, but he provided no other information. The head of Azerbaijan's presidential administration's foreign policy, Hikmet Hajiyev, also affirmed the withdrawal and stated that both nations had consented to it. Although Hajiyev did not explain the reason for the army withdrawal, it seemed unnecessary given that Azerbaijan had taken back total control of the area the previous year.
Israel: Targets Iran’s military factory
On 19 April, according to Reuters, in retaliation to Iran’s drone attack, Israel has targeted a military factory which belongs to the Iranian army in Isfahan. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that there has been no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites. IAEA in its X post stated: “Chief Rafael Grossi continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts.”

Israel: PM plans to carry out ground invasion on Rafah
On 18 April, in addition to announcing that Israel will carry out a land operation on Rafah in southern Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu has informed western diplomats that Israel will target Iranian interests rather than Tehran's proxies in its planned retaliation for Iran's missile and drone volley.  The Israeli prime minister has attempted to reassure worried friends that Israel will respond to Iran with moderation. He has also promised to provide Gaza with an abundance of aid and to make sure that residents and humanitarian organizations have enough time to evacuate Rafah, which is the final safe haven for at least 1.4 million displaced Palestinians. On 17 April, before meeting with Netanyahu, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron conceded that Israeli action against Iran was now imminent.

Israel: Targets Palestinians in Gaza
On 16 April, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Interior and National Security, seven law enforcement officials and two bystanders were killed in an Israeli army attack in Gaza. The Israeli air strike had destroyed a mosque in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. The strike left several women and children wounded. Separately, 11 people were killed in an Israeli strike in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza.
Palestine: US vetoes draft resolution for full membership in UNGA
On 18 April, the US vetoed a draft resolution which suggested granting Palestine a "full membership" at the UN General Assembly (UNGA). 12 members voted in favour while the UK and Switzerland abstained. Robert Wood, Deputy US Ambassador to the UN, stated: "The United States continues to strongly support a two-state solution. This vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood."
Iraq: Explosion kills a member of PMF
On 20 April, according to a ministry of interior official, one member of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) was killed and eight others were injured in a massive explosion that occurred at the military facility. The army claimed it was investigating and that no warplanes were in the skies at the time, but the force commander claimed it was an attack, according to Reuters. Earlier, two security sources said that the explosion at the Kalso military installation, which is located around 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Baghdad, was the result of an airstrike. According to Reuters, Abdul Aziz al-Mohammedawi, the PMF’s chief of staff, visited the scene and “reviewed the details of the investigative committees present in the place that was attacked,” the organization claimed in a statement. The military in a statement stated: “The air defence command report confirmed, through technical efforts and radar detection, that there was no drone or fighter jet in the airspace of Babil before and during the explosion.”.
Jordan: King Abudullah meets Iraq’s President Rashid
On 15 April, His Majesty King Abudullah met Iraq President Abdul Latif Rashid. The meeting was also attended by His Royal Highness (HRH) Crown Prince Hussein. According to the Royal Court statement, the leaders discussed the current developments and rising tensions in the region that will lead to further escalation which threatens regional stability. The leaders also urged the need to push for an immediate halt of the hostilities in Gaza and to work towards a comprehensive solution to address the Palestinian issues. The King further stressed the need to protect civilians in Gaza as well as the free flow of humanitarian aid to the needy. Both leaders have also expressed their rejection of “settler violence” against the Palestinians in the West Bank and holy sites in Jerusalem. The statement further stated that His Majesty had acknowledged Iraq’s role in the region, adding “Jordan’s support of its security and stability and adding that the security of Jordan and Iraq is one.” The bilateral talks further highlighted the importance of expanding people to people to contact across all the sectors, especially in energy, trade, and industry as it bolsters the economic partnerships in developing sectors.
Yemen: US destroys drones and missiles aimed at Israel
On 15 April, the US asserted that it had destroyed several drones and six ballistic missiles aimed at Israel from Iran and Yemen. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said before launch, the US forces targeted more than 80 “one-way” attack drones and seven Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) on the ground. The CENTCOM in X stated: “Iran’s continued unprecedented, malign, and reckless behavior endangers regional stability and the safety of U.S. and coalition forces.” It further added that “CENTCOM remains postured to support Israel’s defense against these dangerous actions by Iran. We will continue to work with all our regional partners to increase regional security.” Separately, on 14 April, the British security firm Ambrey said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had intercepted a UAV launched from Yemen near Eilat. Ambrey further recorded unprecedented “Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)interference” near Eilat. The IDF said that it had used a “seaborne missile defense system” for the first time to target a drone launched from the Red Sea.
Lebanon: Blast in the border targets Israeli troops
On 16 April, the Israeli army said that it killed a senior commander of Radwan Force, Hezbollah’s elite unit in the Kfar Dounin area in southern Lebanon. Separately, on 15 April, according to the Israeli military, several soldiers were wounded in a blast in Lebanon near the Israeli border. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack and added that it had set “explosive devices” targeting Israeli troops who crossed into Lebanon. In a statement, the group asserted that it had planted explosive devices in the Tel Ismail area, in southern Lebanon. An Israeli military official said that “four troops” were injured in the blast.
Qatar: Embassy in the US responds to a lawmaker threat to reassess US and Qatar relationship
On 16 April, the Qatar embassy in the US in an official statement said that it was “surprised” by the remarks made by the US lawmaker Steny Hoyer and his threat to “re-evaluate” the US’s relationship with Qatar. On 15 April, Hoyer called Qatar to urge Hamas to accept the ceasefire proposal that is in favor of the Israeli government and threatened to analyze the ties between Qatar and Hamas “if it does not do so.” Hoyer statement read: “Hamas has also sought to use its intermediary Qatar which has long helped finance, back, and house the terrorist organization to exact greater concessions from Israel.” In response, the Qatari embassy asserted that it “shares” Hoyer’s frustration over the slow progress of truce talks however it stated that Israel and Hamas are responsible for securing a deal. The statement from the embassy read: “Blaming and threatening the mediator is not constructive, especially when the target is a friend and major non-NATO ally that presently hosts 10,000 US troops and America’s largest military presence in the Middle East.”
UAE: Dubai airport re-opens after massive rain
On 18 April, following devastating storms that pounded the United Arab Emirates and its neighbors, operations at Dubai International Airport are still significantly hampered.  On 16, the storm battered the United Arab Emirates, inundating parts of the bustling international airport as well as highways.  Thus far, 20 people have died in Oman and 1 in the UAE from flash floods.  A few inbound planes were able to resume, but overall, Dubai International Airport, a significant hub for travel is having trouble operating. Officials at Dubai International Airport announced that while departure aircraft were still being delayed, inbound planes from foreign airlines were now being received at Terminal 1.  Afterwards, they declared that check-in for Emirates and flydubai flights was now open at Terminal 3.

Burkina Faso: Three French diplomats expelled
On 16 April, Burkina Faso expelled three French diplomats for alleged “subversive activities.” The diplomats included two political advisers at the French embassy in Ouagadougou. They were asked “to leave the territory of Burkina Faso within the next 48 hours.” On 18 April, France responded that the expulsion was based on “unfounded” allegations.

Nigeria: Amnesty International calls to block Shell oil business sales
On 15 April, Amnesty International called on the Nigerian government to stop the UK-based oil and gas company, Shell, from selling its onshore oil businesses in the country. The group stated that the sales should be blocked until human rights in the Niger Delta are protected. It added that the company must provide funds to address the environmental pollution it has caused, which is worth USD 2.4 billion. Frequent oil leaks in the region had caused contamination of the groundwater sources.

Nigeria: Inflation hits highest in three decades
On 15 April, the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the annual inflation reached the highest level in three decades, increasing to 33.2 per cent from 32 per cent in February. The rising cost of food ingredients including bread, grains, dairy, eggs, meat, and vegetable oil is the major trigger of inflation. Increasing energy costs additionally contributed to the rise. The Nigerian Central Bank has increased the borrowing rates twice during the past two months; however, these gains are yet to be witnessed.

Central African Republic: Renewed ties with France
On 17 April, the Central African Republic (CAR) President, Faustin-Archange Touadera, met with French President, Emmanuel Macron, in Paris. Both countries agreed to boost bilateral cooperation and revive strained ties. The France-CAR relations took a downturn after CAR began leaning on Russia for military and political support. According to a joint statement following the meeting, both countries “aim to establish the framework of a constructive partnership that respects the sovereignty of the state.” The statement added that the cooperation would “contribute to stability, strengthen national cohesion as wide as possible and support the economic and social development of the country [CAR].”

Georgia: Parliament passes the media bill in the first reading
On 17 April, a large number of protestors gathered in Tbilisi after the lawmakers passed a bill considered controversial imposing control on media and non-commercial organisations. The bill mandates such organisations that receive more than 20 per cent of funding from foreign entities to register and therefore categorised as “foreign agents.” In the parliament, the bill was passed in the first reading with 83 in favour from the member of Georgian Dream party while opposition parliamentarians refrained from voting. The protests and objection from the opposition come as they consider the bill to limit the freedom and functioning of civil society and media organisations and create a block towards the country's entry into the EU. EU foreign policy representative, Josep Borell, warned: “The final adoption of this legislation would negatively impact Georgia's progress on its EU path.”

Poland: President Duda meets Trump to discuss Ukraine and NATO defence budget
On 17 April, Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda held a meeting with former US President, Donald Trump on the NATO spending and global issues. In the meeting, Duda suggested raising the defence expenditure threshold from two to three per cent of GDP, as this would align with Trump’s earlier accusation of European members not meeting the contribution limit. They also discussed the conflict in Ukraine, and Israel and on topics in achieving world peace. For Trump, this will be the second meeting after hosting Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Prime Minister in March. After the meeting, Trump said: “He's done a fantastic job and he's my friend…We're behind Poland all the way.”

Russia: Announces to withdraw its forces from Nagorno-Karabakh
On 17 April, according to Politico, Russia announced a complete withdrawal of its forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, directing all its resources to fight its war on Ukraine. After six months of an Armenian forced exodus from Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region, the Russian announcement was made, as confirmed by the Kremlin Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov. Russia stationed 1960 soldiers with hundreds of units of armoured personnel and military equipment to monitor the 2020 ceasefire between the two countries, due to a war that followed the fall of the USSR. Russian forces did not act when Azerbaijan launched its attack against Armenians in the unrecognised republic, causing a major humanitarian crisis and forced fleeing of Armenians. This growing rift between Armenia and Russia has prompted the former to push for a closer integration with the EU.

Europe: EU Summit commences with discussions on wars in Ukraine and Gaza
On 17 April, according to Deutsche Welle, the 27 EU leaders attending the EU Summit in Brussels discussed the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, and the Iran-Israel tensions as part of Israel’s war against Hamas. Originally meant to discuss the state of economic competitiveness in Europe, the two-day summit will urge “all parties (in the Middle East) to exercise utmost restraint.” the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell stated that the EU would consider furthering sanctions against, with French President Emmanuel Macron adding that the bloc’s “duty is to expand these sanctions,” particularly targeting entities involved in drone and missile production. Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky will join the summit through video conference primarily to urge his European partners to provide the required air defence systems against Russian attacks. The European Commission President, sUrsula von der Leyen stated that the bloc was facing threats from a “new league of authoritarians” for which they must take the “next leap forward” on “defence and security.”

Europe: EU plans to invest EUR 3.5 billion for ocean protection
On 16 April, according to Deutsche Welle, the European Union pledged EUR 3.5 billion for the protection of the world’s oceans and to promote sustainability through initiatives in 2024. The initiatives were announced during the “Our Ocean” conference in Greece, by Virginijus Sinkevicius, the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries. The conference aims to support 14 investments and one reform targeting sustainable fisheries in Portugal, Poland, Greece and Cyprus worth EUR 1.9 billion. An additional EUR 980 million will be alloted for investments against marine pollution in Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Italy and Spain, under the EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Argentina: Formal request to join NATO made amid efforts to better ties with the West
On 18 April, Argentina formally requested to join NATO as a global partner, as part of Argentine President Javier Milei’s bid to enhance ties with the West and attract investment. NATO’s Deputy General Secretary, Mircea Geoana, and Argentina’s Defence Minister, Luis Petri, held talks in Brussels during which Geoana said he welcomed Argentina’s request. NATO membership, currently limited to countries of Europe, Turkey, Canada, and the US, would give Argentina access to advanced technology, security systems, and training. Geoana noted how “Argentina plays an important role in Latin America,” and that “closer political and practical cooperation” could benefit both sides. Milei’s government has in the last four months been trying to return Argentina to prominence in the global economy, and is considering seeking security benefits through more enhanced ties with Western countries.
Haiti: Coalition of 20 civil groups raise demand for billions of dollars in reparations from France
On 18 April, a coalition of civil groups said that France should repay billions of dollars in reparations to Haiti in order to cover a debt that formerly enslaved people were made to pay in exchange for recognizing the island’s independence. In 1804, Haiti became the first in the region to win its independence, but France later imposed reparations for lost income that was fully repaid in 1947. The coalition of 20 non-governmental groups who were in Geneva for a UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD), explained that they wanted a new independent commission to oversee the restitution of debt, with the money being directed to public works in Haiti to help a transnational council restore security. Haitian civil society activist Monique Clesca noted that it is “important is that it's time that France recognises this and we move forward.” Though the exact amount is disputed, and the New York Times has estimated Haiti’s loss to be USD 21 billion, the proposal’s backers maintain that the amount is higher.
Brazil: President Silva recognizes two more Indigenous territories
On 18 April, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva officially recognized two more Indigenous territories, granting them legal protection as reservations to be protected from invasions by illegal loggers, gold miners, and cattle ranches. He also decided to not sign off on four other territories as they were yet to be cleared by the farmers or socially vulnerable people currently occupying them. Lula had pledged to recognize as many reservations as possible after coming to power, and has so far recognized ten Indigenous territories after taking office for the third non-consecutive term in January 2023.
Canada: Budget proposes increase in spending for Millennials and Gen Z
On 16 April, while announcing the annual budget, Canada’s Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, said that the wealthiest Canadians should pay more, with the tax revenue being invested in education, housing, jobs, and mental health services. Around CAD 53 billion will be part of new spending, mostly directed towards Millennials and Generation Z in the form of housing, student grants, rent subsidies, and work placement programmes. As per Freeland, while giving the youth the opportunity to build a comfortable lifestyle had “always been the promise of Canada,” it is currently difficult for them to afford the lifestyle of their parents despite working hard. Over CAD 250,000 worth capital gains will be taxed at 66.7 per cent, raising nearly CAD 20 billion in revenue over the course of five years. Freeland noted that the hike in tax may result in grievances, and stated: “But before they complain too bitterly, I would like Canada’s 1 percent – Canada’s 0.1 percent – to consider this: What kind of Canada do you want to live in?”
The US: 28 employees fired by Google for protesting cloud contact with Israel
On 16 April, Google fired 28 employees after a sit-down protest over the company’s contract to provide cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) services to the Israeli government. The No Tech for Apartheid group occupied Google’s offices in California and New York to protest the contract, known as Project Nimbus, which is worth USD 1.2 billion. Videos on social media showed police arresting employees in the office of Google Cloud’s CEO, Thomas Kurian. Later on 18 April, Google in a statement said that physically impeding employees was a “clear violation” of its policies and “totally unacceptable behaviour.” A spokesperson for Google added that “law enforcement was engaged to remove” the protests after they reused “multiple requests to leave the premises.” Individual investigations then resulted in the termination of 28 employees, and investigations will continue. The tech giant denied that Project Nimbus had any relations to weapons or intelligence services. Google CEO Sundar Pichai issued a warning saying that while the company has a “culture of vibrant, open discussion,” it is a “business, and not a place to act in a way that disrupts coworkers.” He also asserted that the company is not a “personal platform” where employees can “fight over disruptive issues or debate politics.” No Tech for Apartheid said claims that the protestors were violent were a “lie,” and that protestors received an “overwhelmingly positive response and shows of support” from co-workers. 

UAE  floods, the US jury on Trump, UNSC vote on Palestine, Chernihic missile attack, Solomon Island elections, Croatia elections
Neha Tresa George, Sayeka Ghosh, Vetriselvi Baskaran 

The UAE Floods
On 15 April, the United Arab Emirates recorded the heaviest rain in 75 years, with more than 140 millimetres. Heavy rains are unusual in UAE, an arid Arabian Peninsula country, except during the winter months. The heavy rains damaged the infrastructure, vehicles, and businesses and disrupted air travel. Dubai International Airport, the world's second busiest airport, struggled to continue its operations, with the flights getting delayed or diverted. The drainage systems became overwhelmed, flooding out neighbourhoods and the nearby cities. Vehicles were abandoned on roadways; malls and schools across the UAE were shut. Oman, which is UAE's neighbour, also experienced heavy downpours, which killed almost 18 people.

The primary reason for the downpour was a storm system passing through the Arabian Peninsula and moving across the Gulf of Oman. Some have suggested that increasing temperatures and the cloud seeding as probable causes. Cloud seeding has been practiced in the UAE for decades to address water shortages.

The US Jury on Trump
On 19 April, twelve jurors and six alternates were sworn in for the Manhattan trial of former American President Donald Trump. The final selection was made after the lawyers thoroughly examined the jury pool's social media posts, political views, and personal views to decide who could exercise fair judgment. Over the weeks, dozens of jurors were excused after saying they could not be impartial or had other commitments. 

Referred to as the Hush Money Case, it is one of the four criminal cases against Trump. It revolves around the accusation that Trump has falsified 34 business records in connection with a payoff to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress. According to the prosecutors, Michael Cohen, Trump's attorney, paid USD 130,000 to Daniels, which Trump then reimbursed in the name of legal expenses. If he is convicted, he faces up to four years in prison, although there is no guarantee he will get time behind bars. 

UNSC Vote on Palestine
On 18 April, the UNSC drafted a resolution recommending 193 member states in the UN General Assembly that "the State of Palestine be admitted to membership." The US vetoed the UNSC to deny the Palestinians full membership in the UN. The 12 council members of the UNSC voted for the resolution, with UK and Switzerland abstaining. 

The US justified its stance and stated: "The United States continues to strongly support a two-state solution. This vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood, but instead in an acknowledgement that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties." In response, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas criticised the United State's veto by stating it "unfair, unethical, and unjustified." 

Chernihiv Missile Attacks
On 17 April, the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv was attacked by three Russian missiles, killing 17. Chernihiv lies near the border with Russia and Belarus and is 150 km north of the capital Kyiv. Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky, reiterated his plea to the Western countries for air defence systems. He desperately asked for support on social media, stating, "This would not have happened if Ukraine had received sufficient air defence equipment and if the world's determination to resist Russian terror had been sufficient."  

Solomon Islands Elections
On 17 April, the Solomon Islands held a general election for the 12th Parliament. Initially planned for 2023, the Parliament voted in 2022 to delay it. The opposition denounced the postponement as anti-democratic and a "power grab." The Solomon Islands Election Commission CEO Jasper Highwood Anisi stated: "All voting progressed as planned across the country." The Solomon Islands Democratic Party (SIDP), led by Opposition Leader Matthew Wale, and the Democratic Alliance Party (DAP), led by former Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela, established the Coalition for Accountability, Reform and Empowerment (CARE) to contest the election. 

Croatia Elections
On 17 April, the Republic of Croatia held its early parliamentary election to elect the members of the 11th Sabor. The government before the elections consisted of a coalition between the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Bridge party. As per the Al Jazeera reports, the results of the 90 per cent of ballot counting, the ruling right-wing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) headed by Andrej Plenkovic emerged as the largest party, winning 61 seats in the 151-seat Parliament, but fell short of a majority. The opposition coalition, led by the Social Democrats (SDP), a centrist left-wing alliance headed by President Zoran Milanovic, captured 42 seats, while the right-wing Homeland Movement secured 14 seats. The result shows the need for coalition talks during a period of instability, and the final results will be paused until next week as a rerun is to take place in two polling stations. The Homeland Movement Party is expected to be the kingmaker in deciding the next government. 

17 April 1895: The Treaty of Shimonoseki, ends the first Sino-Japan War (1894-95) 
Nupur Priya

On 17 April 1895, the Qing Dynasty of China, long considered a regional giant, signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, marking a humiliating defeat at the hands of a rapidly modernizing Japan. The treaty ended the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and was a significant turning point in East Asian power dynamics.

A brief note on the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)
The war took place over their supremacy in Korea. The latter was China's client state, but Korea's strategic location and its coal and iron treasure charmed Japan. With a successful modernization program, Japan emerged as a major power influencing young Koreans. On the other hand, China influenced the royal family by sponsoring the officials around them. 

War broke out on 1 August 1894. The mighty Chinese Army surprisingly lost to a modernized and better-equipped Japanese army

The Treaty of Shimonoseki and the shift in Asia's power equation leading to the rise of Japan
Peace negotiations started officially on 20 March at Shimonoseki in Japan. Under the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which had 11 articles, China recognized "the full and complete independence of Korea" and ceded the island of Taiwan, the adjoining Pescadores islands, and the southern portion of the Liaodong Peninsula in Manchuria (however, the Liaodong Peninsula was returned to China by the Triple Intervention of Russia, France, and Germany). The treaty also made the Chinese pay substantial war indemnities to Japan and gave Japan trading privileges on Chinese territory.

The demise of China due to decaying military and internal strife forced it to relinquish Korea, cede territories of Taiwan and other islands and pay a steep price. On the contrary, a new Japan rose with its impressive military prowess and fueled expansionist ambitions. Japan's victory solidified its position as a rising power in Asia. The defeat of China had a domino effect in the form of internal revolutionary movements in China, which eventually toppled the Qing Dynasty.

The Treaty of Shimonoseki marked a turning point in world history with the rise of Japan.

17 April 1975: Khmer Rouge captures Phnom Penh in Cambodia, establishing the Pol Pot regime

On 17 April 1978, under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge, captured Phnom Penh in Cambodia, ending years of insurgency and guerilla warfare inserting, but establishing the Khmer Rouge to power. It resulted in a reign of terror that would haunt Cambodia for years to come.

A brief note on Cambodia and Khmer Rouge in the 1970s
Khmer Rouge was the armed wing of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. It operated mostly in remote jungles and mountain areas in the country's northeast, along its border with Vietnam, which was at the time immersed in its civil war. after the then monarch of Cambodia, Prince Norodom Sihanouk was overthrown in 1970 in a military coup by Marshal Lon Nol, a Cambodian politician who had previously served as prime minister. As the monarch became popular among Cambodians, the Khmer Rouge gained traction. For the next five years, a civil war between the right-leaning military of pro-American government, and those supporting the alliance of Prince Norodom and the Khmer Rouge raged in Cambodia.

The rise of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge
Pol Pot spent time in France and became a member of the French Communist Party. He returned to Cambodia in 1953, and joined the communist movement, beginning his journey to power as one of the world's most despised dictators. The Khmer Rouge, aided by the North Vietnamese, began to fight Lon Nol's army on the battlefield. But by the end of 1972, the Vietnamese had left Cambodia and handed over most of the war's tasks to the CPK. In 1973 the Khmer Republic government with the US help dropped half a million tons of bombs on Cambodia, almost killing 300,000 people and pushing them to join the Khmer Rouge to fight the government. 

Eventually, the Khmer Rouge seized the advantage, after gaining control of 85 per cent of territory in the countryside. On 17 April 1975, it captured Phnom Penh. However, The Khmer Rouge chose not to restore authority to Prince Norodom, instead handing control to the Khmer Rouge's commander, Pol Pot.
Pol Pot isolated Cambodia from the rest. Inspired by the tribal way of self-sufficient living, he forcefully moved around 2 million people from cities to rural areas to undertake agricultural

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