Axios World

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July 01, 2021

Welcome back to Axios World.

  • Heads-up: We're off Monday, but Dave will be back in the saddle next Thursday.
  • In tonight's edition, we've got the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, a Putin telethon, a respite in the Brexit sausage wars and more (1,741 words, 6.5 minutes).

1 big thing: Xi's fiery centenary

Xi Jinping
Photo: Li Xueren/Xinhua via Getty Images

Donning a gray Mao suit and gazing out onto Tiananmen Square, Xi Jinping pledged today that the Chinese people "will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave" them.

  • "Anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads bashed bloody against a Great Wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Xi declared to a crowd of 70,000.
  • It was a day of pageantry and patriotism that featured impeccable rows of waving flags, marching troops and singing children, all in the same square where the Chinese government attacked its own people in 1989.

Why it matters: On the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, its most powerful leader in generations was unrepentant about authoritarian China's place in the world.

  • The 68-year-old Xi praised China's rebound from COVID-19, reflected on the "historic transformation" in living standards under the CCP, and reaffirmed the party's "unshakeable commitment" to retaking Taiwan.
  • In one of several thinly veiled digs at the West, Xi said the party welcomes "constructive criticism" but "won’t accept sanctimonious lectures from self-styled preachers."
Chinese parade for CCP centenary
Members of a People's Liberation Army ceremonial band march in Tiananmen Square. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The nearly two-hour festivities kicked off with a performance of the popular propaganda song, “Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China,” and spilled over onto the social media app Weibo, where 49 of the top 50 trending topics were related to the centenary, per the Wall Street Journal.

  • "Heads bashed bloody" was one of them, racking up over 900 million views on Weibo, according to the Washington Post. Oddly enough, the official English version of Xi's remarks released by state media translated the blunt phrase to "collision course."
  • Sarah Cook, research director for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Freedom House, tells Axios that it was "striking" to see the conflation of the CCP and China "in almost every sentence" of Xi's speech — a theme revealing of the party's tightening grip over the country of 1.4 billion.
  • It also points to the message Xi will bring when he seeks a precedent-breaking third five-year term at the 20th Party Congress next year: Nobody can divide the CCP from the people it governs, and the CCP is not going anywhere. 
Xi giving a speech in Tiananmen Square
Xi waves above a portrait of Mao Zedong. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

2. How others see 100 years of CCP rule

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

The CCP's propaganda apparatus was out in full force for months leading up to today, blanketing the country with "patriotic" imagery and media as it faces record unfavorable views abroad, according to new polling from Pew Research.

  • "A lot of people around the world, per those surveys, don't think the CCP is very 'lovable,'" Cook tells Axios, a reference to Xi's recent request for his "wolf warrior" diplomats to tone down their confrontational rhetoric.
  • "[W]hen you're talking about the messaging and the propaganda, they need to do it because they need to whitewash over a very harsh reality," she adds.

Why it matters: President Biden is seeking to rally a global coalition to challenge Beijing over its abuses, including its genocide in Xinjiang, crackdown in Hong Kong, saber-rattling toward Taiwan, and coercive economic practices all over the world.

By the numbers: In 15 of the 17 advanced economies polled by Pew, more than 80% of respondents said China does not respect the personal freedoms of its people.

  • Negative views of China hit historic highs in 10 of those advanced economies in either 2020 or 2021, as fallout spread from Beijing's early cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The majority of people in 15 of 16 countries would prefer a closer economic relationship with the U.S., rather than with China. Singapore is the one exception.

Between the lines: China has few friends in the West these days, but it continues to command loyalty and influence in the developing world. It's there, where China views itself as a leader and success story, that the CCP's propaganda is especially valuable.

  • China relies on governments with whom it shares deep economic ties for support at forums like the UN Human Rights Council, where members routinely sign dueling statements condemning or defending Beijing's human rights abuses.
  • A prime example is Pakistan, where Prime Minister Imran Khan has railed against Islamophobia in the West while refusing to condemn China's detention of 1 million Muslim minorities.
  • "Without that electoral democracy, [China] has actually fared much better," Khan told China's state-run media recently. "For me, it is probably more remarkable than any electoral democracy."

Go deeper ... Mapped: Where China wields the most influence

3. Putin's marathon

Putin
Putin at his annual phone-in. Photo: Sergei Savostyanov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Vladimir Putin spent four hours yesterday fielding questions from Russians at an annual phone-in, which was interrupted at various points — if you can believe it — by cyberattacks.

  • Driving the news: The Russian president made some interesting comments about last week's standoff in the Black Sea, where he claims a U.S. spy plane was monitoring how Russia would react to a British warship entering waters near Crimea.
  • The U.K. has denied that it entered Russian waters or that Russia fired at its ship, claiming that it was "conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law."

"It was clearly a provocation, a complex one involving not only the British but also the Americans," Putin said, according to an AP translation.

  • "Even if we had sunk that ship, it is hard to imagine that the world would have been on the verge of World War III because those doing it know that they could not emerge as victors from such a war," he added.
  • A spokesperson for U.S. European Command denied Russia's characterization of the incident, but told AP: "We are operating in and watching everything in the Black Sea region, as we always do."

Go deeper: Other telethon highlights (via Reuters)

Bonus: Where in the World?

Satellite view of country
Screengrab via Apple Maps

A United Nations buffer zone slices down the center of this capital city, which remains partitioned 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

  • Bonus point if you can name the only country in the world that recognizes the de facto state that governs much of this area.

Scroll to the bottom for the answer.

4. Global news roundup

Vigil for Indigenous remains
A vigil in a field where unmarked graves were discovered at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School on the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada. Photo: Geoff Robins/AFP via Getty Images

1. A number of cities scrapped Canada Day celebrations today after the discovery of 182 more human remains at a former residential school for Indigenous children.

  • Why it matters: Over 1,000 unmarked graves have now been found at three different schools since May. Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has described the forced Catholic schooling of Indigenous children until 1979 as nothing short of "cultural genocide."

2. Children are "bearing the brunt" of Lebanon's economic collapse, which may rank as one of three worst financial crises globally since the mid-19th century, Axios' Shawna Chen writes from a new UNICEF report.

  • By the numbers: More than 30% of children went to bed hungry and skipped meals in the past month. 77% of households don't have enough food or money to buy food.
  • The big picture: Lebanon has not had a working government since Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s Cabinet resigned days after the deadly Beirut explosion last August, a disaster that protesters blamed on ruling class corruption.

3. 130 countries around the world — including, crucially, China and India — have agreed on a global minimum corporate tax rate proposed by the U.S., a major breakthrough years in the making.

  • Why it matters: Corporations will have to pay a tax rate of at least 15% no matter where they operate in the world. The OECD framework includes penalties for companies and jurisdictions attempting to bypass the rule.

5. U.K. and EU declare "sausage war" ceasefire

Illustration of a dove clutching sausage links instead of an olive branch.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The European Union agreed yesterday to extend a grace period that allows nonfrozen meats to be shipped from Britain to Northern Ireland, staving off a sausage ban that had threatened to plunge the two sides into an all-out trade war.

  • Why it matters: The seemingly inane dispute over food standards has exposed the paradox of Northern Ireland in a post-Brexit world, five years after the referendum that changed the United Kingdom forever.

The big picture: Northern Ireland is part of the U.K. but has remained aligned with EU rules in order to ward off the threat of sectarian violence, which was partially fueled in the late 1900s by border checks with the Republic of Ireland.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson merrily agreed to stick a customs border in the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, in order to put an end to three years of stalled negotiations with the EU and fulfill the promise of Brexit.
  • The result, just six months after the end of the post-Brexit transition period, portends a future relationship in which teething problems turn permanent and grudging partners become bitter rivals.
  • "How would you like it if the French courts stopped you moving Toulouse sausages to Paris?” Johnson asked French President Emmanuel Macron at the recent G7 summit, in one of the tamer salvos of the rhetorical sausage wars.

Worthy of your time: On the 100th anniversary of the six counties of Northern Ireland being carved out by the British empire, Irish writer Susan McKay reflects on the future of the Protestant statelet.

  • "Well on its way to having a Catholic majority, the country’s once-dominant political force — unionism — now finds itself out of step with the community that traditionally gave it uncritical support," McKay writes in the New York Times.
  • "The writing is on the wall. While the process by which Ireland could become unified is complicated and fraught, one thing seems certain: There isn’t going to be a second centenary for Northern Ireland. It might not even last another decade."

6. Florida condo collapse reverberates through Latin America

Memorial for Surfside victims
A memorial for the missing Surfside victims. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Image

Several residents of the 12-story condo that collapsed in Surfside, Florida, last week had fled oppressive regimes in Cuba and Venezuela, Marina E. Franco of Noticias Telemundo writes in Axios Latino.

Why it matters: Miami is more than 70% Latino and has historically offered refuge from some of the hemisphere’s turmoils.

  • Among the 18 dead: Hilda Noriega, 92, who fled Cuba right after the Revolution in 1960. She had lived in the condo for two decades.
  • Among the 145 missing: Maricoy Obias-Bonnefoy, 69, and Claudio Bonnefoy, 85, who is related to former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

Go deeper.

7. Stories we're watching

Hong Kong protester
A brave pro-democracy protester in Hong Kong risking arrest. Photo: Viola Kam/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  1. Israel asks Biden to hold off on reopening Jerusalem consulate
  2. Top Serbian security officials convicted at Hague for Bosnia war crimes
  3. Myanmar government to release 2,300 prisoners
  4. WHO declares China malaria-free
  5. Court orders ex-South African president Jacob Zuma to be arrested
  6. Historic heat wave sparks ferocious wildfires in British Columbia

Quoted:

"It's coming home."
— England fans everywhere after the men's national soccer team defeated Germany 2-0 to advance to the Euro quarterfinals. The slogan comes from perhaps the catchiest sports anthem of all time.

Answer: Nicosia, Cyprus. Turkey is the only country in the world that recognizes the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which considers North Nicosia its capital.