German chancellor urges Chinese industry bosses to play fair in EU market

The chancellor of Germany has urged industry bosses in China to play fair by not overproducing cheap goods or infringing copyright rules. Speaking on a three-day visit to China, where he is travelling with leading business representatives and three government ministers, Olaf Scholz said he, in turn, would encourage the European Union not to be driven by self-interested protectionism, in which governments restrict international trade to help domestic companies. Scholz was seen to be treading a careful path, driven by European concerns that Chinese goods are being dumped on the…

Far Beyond the Pasturelands review – on the trail of the ‘Himalayan Viagra’

Every year, thousands of Nepalese villagers make their way to the Himalayan foothills in search of a fungus called yarsagumba. Known for its aphrodisiac properties, the elusive substance sells in China for a price higher than gold. Following Lalita, a young mother among the countless trekkers, this intimate documentary from Maude Plante-Husaruk and Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis paints a stirring portrait of a community exploited by modern commerce. Living in the largely agrarian village of Maikot, a wistful Lalita thinks back on her adolescent dreams of going to university, but an early…

China continues to persecute family of dissidents unlawfully, finds report

China continues to unlawfully target the families of activists and dissidents, despite a pledge to end the practice of collective punishment, a Chinese human rights group has said in a report. The persecution, which includes intimidation and harassment, forced evictions, travel bans, criminal proceedings against family members and preventing children from attending school, has affected people across China and the diaspora community for decades, the report by the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said. Acts of collective punishment are prohibited in international human rights law. As recently as 28…

As Solomon Islands’ election looms, China’s influence on the Pacific country draws scrutiny

China’s influence in the Pacific is being scrutinised as ally Solomon Islands prepares to hold elections this month, with two candidates indicating they would seek to review a controversial security pact between the two countries. Ties between China and Solomon Islands have deepened under prime minister Manasseh Sogavare, who is hoping to secure another term in the vote on 17 April. Solomon Islands, one of the poorest countries in the Pacific, relies heavily on partners including Australia and China for development aid and support. Beijing’s assistance ranges from infrastructure development,…

China reaffirms ties with North Korea in high-level meeting

A top ranking Chinese official reaffirmed ties with North Korea during a meeting in Pyongyang on Saturday with the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, China’s state media reported, in the highest-level talks between the allies in years. The visit by Zhao Leji, who ranks third in the ruling Communist party hierarchy and heads the ceremonial parliament, came as North Korea has test-fired missiles to intimidate South Korea and its ally, the US. The Xinhua news agency reported that Zhao told Kim at the meeting concluding his three-day visit that China, North…

Dynamic in South China Sea is changing through growing US and Japan ties, says Philippines president

A cooperation agreement by the Philippines, the United States and Japan will change the dynamic in the South China Sea and the region, the Philippine president has said, while seeking to assure China it was not a target. “I think the trilateral agreement is extremely important,” Ferdinand Marcos Jr told a press conference in Washington on Friday, a day after meeting President Joe Biden and the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, in the nations’ first trilateral summit. “It is going to change the dynamic, the dynamic that we see in…

The Chinese émigrés leaving the pressures of home for laid back Chiang Mai

Approaching her mid-30s, Xiong Yidan reckons that most of her friends are on to their second or even third babies. But Xiong has more than a dozen. There is Lucky, the street dog from Bangkok who jumped into a taxi with her and never left. There is Sophie and Ben, sibling geese, who honk from morning to night. Boop and Pan, both goats, are romantically involved. Dumpling the hedgehog enjoys a belly rub from time to time. The list goes on. Xiong nurtures her brood from her 8,000 square metre…

Canada spies under pressure over foreign meddling reports

Canada’s spy agency is under pressure after Justin Trudeau and his closest advisers say they were never made aware of a report that Beijing “clandestinely and deceptively” interfered in both the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. Canada is in the midst of a contentious public inquiry “examining and assessing” foreign interference by China, Russia, and other foreign states and non-state actors, and this week the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, testified under oath about the steps his government took to respond to the threat of meddling. In his appearance, which lasted…

‘The old days are no more’: Hong Kong goes quiet as security laws tighten their grip

“Ideas are bulletproof”. Three words, stamped out in multicolour tiles above a doorway, represented one of the last vestiges of Hong Kong’s once vibrant literary spaces. On 31 March, Mount Zero, a beloved independent bookstore in Hong Kong, closed its doors for the final time. Hundreds of Hongkongers came to say goodbye. The bookshop, which opened in 2018, took its slogan from the 2005 film V for Vendetta; the eponymous antihero’s Guy Fawkes mask occasionally appeared during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. Mount Zero’s closure, which was announced after what the…

China and Taiwan are destined for ‘reunification’, Xi tells former president

Xi Jinping has met the former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou, in what analysts said was an attempt to promote peaceful unification as the only alternative to military annexation of Taiwan. Ma, who was leading a student delegation to China, met Xi in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People, a venue typically reserved for foreign leaders meeting with senior Chinese officials. Xi used the meeting to emphasise his belief that Taiwan and China were destined for what he terms “reunification”. “External interference cannot stop the historical trend of reunion…