What’s going on between India and China?

What’s going on between India and China?

This week's skirmishes between Indian and Chinese forces in a disputed Himalayan border area represent the deadliest flare up between the two regional powers in many decades.

The two foes have been locked in a bitter border dispute for years, yet recurrent flare-ups have tended to be resolved through diplomacy. The spark that ignited the clashes this time seems to be a recent Indian infrastructure development, including a road to a remote Indian army base which New Delhi argues falls on its side of the Line of Control.

Though details remain murky, after the last rock was thrown Tuesday, at least 20 Indian troops were dead, while the People's Liberation Army also reported some "casualties" on its side, but stayed mum on the numbers.


How did we get here? India and China, the world's two most populous states and two great powers in Asia, have long viewed the other cautiously. Since China thrashed India's army in a border war in 1962, the two rivals have enjoyed a cold peace for the most part. But as Beijing and New Delhi have continued to compete for influence on many fronts across South Asia, the two nuclear powers are more often bumping up against one another in the remote borderlands, as well as elsewhere in South Asia.

The power of personality. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, first elected in 2014, India has tried to project a muscular nationalism at home and abroad. As part of this strategy, Modi has stoked national pride by talking tough on longtime rival Pakistan, which has cozied up to Beijing in recent years. (China, for its part, has endeared itself to Islamabad by pledging a whopping $60 billion to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — a network of roads, pipelines and a crucial port.)

In asserting an expanded regional role for his country, Modi has made clear to China's leaders that there are limits to India's willingness to resolve ongoing conflict through peaceful negotiation. Consider that last year, after protracted skirmishes broke out in the contested western Himalayas in 2017, Modi moved unilaterally to carve out a chunk of Kashmir long contested by India, Pakistan, and China, placing it under direct rule from New Delhi. Unsurprisingly, this move irked Beijing, which said that it undermined its territorial sovereignty. Increasingly wary about China's dominance on its doorstep – in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka – Modi signed a $3.5 billion arms deal earlier this year with the United States, a useful ally against Beijing.

Recent clashes also come as China has doubled down on its own territorial ambitions across Asia. Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has stoked national pride in China's expanded military and economic influence and declared a "new era" for China's role in the world. This is part of what he has called the "great rejuvenation" of the Chinese state.

In recent months, as international attention has focused squarely on COVID-19, Beijing has gotten bolder, clamping down on Hong Kong's autonomy and clashing with Indonesian, Malaysian, and Vietnamese vessels in the disputed South China Sea – and probing Indian lines in the Himalayas, which led to this week's clashes.

No one wants an escalation. Both sides say they are keen to deescalate the situation, since this confrontation comes with costs and risks for both sides. But neither government wants to appear to be the first to back down, and a meeting between military officials on Wednesday failed to break the border standoff. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi warned that the death of scores of Indian forces "will not be in vain."

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

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