Tuesday, October 1, 2019

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70 years: #China's contributions to the world

By Wu Jinduo 

China has spent 70 years exploring a suitable road for its development, and it has simultaneously spent those 70 years continuously contributing to global progress. Since China's reform and opening-up began in 1978, the country has experienced rapid and sustained economic growth. 

The nation has formed a set of development models with Chinese characteristics through the advantages of a low-cost labor force, high capital accumulation and investment rates, continuous education investment and human capital accumulation, thereby joining the global industrial chain and reaping dividends now. It has also made unprecedented contributions to economic development, poverty eradication, environmental governance, scientific and technological innovation and international multilateral cooperation.

China has become the main engine of the world's economic growth. According to data from the UN, China's GDP in 2018 totaled $13.61 trillion, accounting for 15.86 percent of the global GDP. At constant prices, China's GDP grew by 6.6 percent year-on-year in 2018, twice the average global GDP growth which was recorded at 3.03 percent year-on-year. IMF data shows that China's contribution to world economic growth in 2018 was 21.74 percent, which is much higher than that of the US (16.25 percent) and the eurozone (8.24 percent). 

In 1980, China's contribution to world economic growth was only 5.22 percent. This figure has tripled in the past 40 years. World Bank data shows that China's annual contribution rate to world economic growth was 1.39 percent between 1961 and 1978, and 16.28 percent between 1978 and 2017. Although it was slightly lower than the US' contribution rate from1978-2017 (17.14 percent), it was significantly higher than it was before the reform and opening-up.

Over the past 20 years, China's contribution rate to world economic growth has been catching up to that of Japan, Asia's most developed country, and the US, the world's most developed economy. According to World Bank data, China's share of world GDP (9.22 percent) began to exceed that of Japan (8.63 percent) in 2010, and the gap between China and US has been narrowing since 2003.China's contribution rate to world economic growth has surpassed Japan's since 1992 and the US since 2006. By the PPP method, China's contribution rate to world economic growth has surpassed Japan's since 1992 and the US since 2005.

China's infrastructure network is becoming more and more comprehensive, and China provides diversified investment and financing-system assistance for infrastructure construction in many countries.

The 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China also celebrates the country's rapid development in infrastructure construction. At the end of 2018, China's highway mileage was 4.85 million km, of which 143,000 km were highways, ranking first in the world. China's high-speed railway totals 30,000 km, also ranking first in the world. Its railway business mileage is 132,000 km, ranking second in the world. Under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has signed increasing numbers of win-win cooperation projects. By the end of August 2019, 136 countries and 30 international organizations have signed 195 cooperation documents with China. From 2013-18, China accumulated roughly$90 billion in direct investment for countries along the BRI. China's financial institutions have now constructed a long-term, stable and sustainable diversified financing system for national construction projects, providing financial guarantees for infrastructure construction in many countries. 

Furthermore, China has made great contributions to poverty alleviation globally. It was the first country to achieve the standard of poverty reduction laid out in the UN's Millennium Development Goals. In 1978, China's poverty-stricken rural population was 770 million, compared with 16.6 million in 2018. The incidence of poverty also dropped sharply from 97.5 percent in 1978 to 1.7 percent in 2018. Poverty reduction in China has accelerated the process of global poverty reduction. China's organized, planned and large-scale poverty alleviation development, especially the implementation of its prevision poverty-alleviation strategy, provides a model for global poverty reduction. 

Since 2015, China has fought to win the battle against poverty, and subsequently introduced top-level, four-pillar and eight-pillars trategies to alleviate poverty. It has established a complete policy system, a comprehensive mobilization system, a supervision and inspection system, and an assessment system for poverty alleviation. 

According to current poverty-alleviation standards in China's rural areas, the rural poor population decreased by more than 80 million people from 2013-2018, according to the official introduction of the Poverty Alleviation Office of the State Council. The incidence of poverty dropped from 10.2 percent to 1.7 percent. In 2013, 436 of China's 832 poverty-stricken counties had been lifted out of poverty. The number of people who experience reduced poverty has now stabilized between 8 and 10 million, which is a great achievement in the poverty reduction drive. In the future the difficulties of poverty alleviation will continue. There are higher costs of poverty alleviation in Western China, particularly in plateau alpine and arid desert areas, and in many areas of Southwest China where there is lack of fertile soil, economic development, highway construction and safe drinking water. Building a well-off society as a whole in 2020 will be a challenging target for China. 

China's desertification control provides a model for ecological control in arid areas worldwide. China's forest cover increased from 12.7 percent in 1976 to 22.96 percent in 2018. After years of efforts, the greening campaign in Northwest China has achieved great results. From 1978-2018, the total carbon sequestration of deforestation in Northwest China, North China and Northeast China amounted to 2.32 billion tons, equivalent to 5.23 percent of China's industrial carbon dioxide emissions during the same period. China has been attempting to control its desertification for many years. In recent years, a new technological combination of grass squares, desert algae and artemisia glue has been adopted, encouraging sandy soil to coagulate rapidly. The effects of scientific and technological desertification control are becoming increasingly clear.

From combating desertification to combating poverty, China is constantly looking for effective ways to deal with socio-environmental issues. Its ecosystem has been transformed from a vicious cycle to a virtuous one. With years of efforts and achievements, China has provided a valuable model for ecological governance in desert-climate areas around the world. At the same time, its control of desertification has led tens of millions of people out of poverty- a result which has been recognized by the international community.

China is also the world's largest contributor to global ozone-layer protection. At present, China holds more than 50 percent of the total ozone-depleting substances in developing countries. 

Finally, what is too important to be ignored is that China is approaching the cutting-edge level in the fields of information technology, communications, robotics and artificial intelligence. As China continues to open its market and integrate into the world, its technology innovations will spill over worldwide. With the gradual integration of science and technology into everyday life, China's new "four great inventions," online shopping, mobile payments, shared bicycles and high-speed rail, also provide convenience to more and more people around the world.

I hope my film’s Netflix release makes #Pakistanis see Abdus Salam beyond his #Ahmadi faith


I hope my film’s Netflix release makes Pakistanis see Abdus Salam beyond his Ahmadi faith.

Nobel laureate Abdus Salam remains a controversial figure in Pakistan because of his Ahmadi faith. But now, my documentary will finally be seen where it matters most.

As Netflix releases my documentary Thursday on Pakistani physicist and Nobel laureate Abdus Salam, I recall how after the fifth screening of Salam – The First ****** (Muslim) Nobel Laureate at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival last September, a young woman approached me in the lobby. She was of Pakistani origin. She thanked me for making this film. I could see that the film had visibly moved her.
She had travelled a long distance to attend the screening. Her voice shaking with emotion, the woman confided in me that her father was killed in Pakistan when two Ahmadi mosques were attacked in Lahore in 2010. That’s when it dawned on me how important and iconic the story of Abdus Salam is to so many people in Pakistan and elsewhere.
Now, its Netflix release on 3 October will fulfill our singular goal of having this film seen widely in Pakistan and across the world — for people to know the journey of a man of science and religion who achieved great feats and was ostracized by his own countrymen.

The trigger

The making of this film has been a long an arduous journey, mostly championed by the steadfastness of its Pakistani-origin producers Omar Vandal and Zakir Thaver.
Omar Vandal is a senior scientist at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Zakir Thaver is a science enthusiast and television producer. Both were colleagues on a US university campus when they decided to embark on a journey to make this film. Filmmaker Mira Nair recommended them to find a director to helm the project, and they found me through a mutual acquaintance.
When they approached me to direct it in 2016, they had already spent twelve years collecting archival material and raising funds by all means necessary.
Until then I had known very little about Abdus Salam. Having studied physics in my undergraduate years in college and directed another film about a physicist, I had known the name as he was from the sub-continent. But beyond that my knowledge about him was limited.
What instantly triggered my interest in the project was the complex and layered character of the “man” Abdus Salam. He was a child prodigy who came from a remote village and rose to great prominence purely on the basis of his intelligence and his ability to navigate the echelons of power and politics with charisma and tact.
Despite innumerable obstacles and Pakistan rejecting him for his faith, he seemed adept at navigating two worlds at every stage in his life. He reconciled the East and the West, the traditional and the modern, the religious and the scientific, the exiled and the citizen, without much conflict.
This drew me in as a filmmaker and storyteller and ignited my interest in exploring the contradictions and revealing the layers that make Abdus Salam a towering figure even today.

The distribution challenge

After a challenging year in the editing room, the documentary was completed in 2018. It had its first public screening at a science film festival in Santa Barbara, California, where it won the best film award. Since then, it has won several international awards, and has been screened at more than 30 cities across the world.
From Sri Lanka to the Czech Republic to Holland to India, wherever we have screened the film, it has moved people to tears and inspired many. The response has been overwhelming.
Despite its success at many international film festivals, it was a challenge to get the film distributed, either via a broadcast medium, theatrical release or a streaming platform. Many attempts were made to get an American distributor, but there were no takers. Even many A-list film festivals rejected the film, probably because the story was not “western”, “American” or “edgy” enough.
I sometimes used to make a snide comment when addressing an audience after a screening, saying that Salam was discriminated when alive and is still being discriminated against in death.
After almost a year of trying relentlessly, we approached Vista India, a Mumbai-based digital partner, which showed great interest in representing the film and eventually took it to Netflix.

Why Pakistan should watch the film

Unfortunately, due to the volatile political and religious climate in Pakistan, the one place the film would have the greatest significance did not get to see it widely.
But now with the Netflix release, this goal will be achieved, circumventing any censorship or blockade.
And we hope people in Pakistan will embrace this film and restore Abdus Salam’s stature and respect, which is long overdue. Abdus Salam remains a controversial figure in Pakistan for his Ahmadiyya faith. We hope our film will open eyes to see him beyond this aspect.
The violation of human rights of minority communities has continued unabated in the subcontinent. From our political leaders to common citizens, tribalism dominates people’s minds. Religion is used to divide and disenfranchise people on a regular basis. Right-wing nationalism and religious extremism creep into the minds of even the most educated and powerful — thus, sowing the seeds of hate and animosity among different communities.
As filmmakers, we know we cannot change the world with one film. We would be delusional and egotistical if we thought we could.
But what we can certainly do is provoke a discussion, shine light in darkness and force people to consider an alternative that is just and humane.
The producers of Salam are of Pakistani origin and I was born in India. Abdus Salam was born in British India, but eventually migrated and was laid to rest in Pakistan. People in both India and Pakistan carry the painful legacy of Partition.
Although India and Pakistan speak of war more than peace, we hope our small joint contribution to the world speaks of peace, science and humanity more than anything.
Abdus Salam once famously said, “Scientific thought and its creation are the common and shared heritage of mankind”. He said this at a time when the world was bogged down by the Cold War, and parochialism was at its most extreme. It showed that Salam was always thinking global.
This is the message I took away from his life. Science tells us we are much bigger than our differences and ourselves.

Pakistan’s new UN envoy Munir Akram is ‘girlfriend basher’, India hater and war monger


Akram, who was Islamabad’s envoy at the UN from 2003 to 2008, had once called India ‘mother of terrorism’ and Kashmir 'India’s Afghanistan'.

Munir Akram, who is now Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United Nations in New York, is not just another Pakistani diplomat. He is maverick, known to be outspoken, sometimes even rude — and ferociously anti-India. He also has the distinction of once being labelled as a ‘diplo-basher’ by the US in an assault case.
Akram is also known for his strong language. Sample this for instance: When India once charged Pakistan with cross-border terrorism, he had said it was engaged in Kashmir’s “Freedom Struggle”. Akram even accused India of being the “mother of terrorism”.
A veteran diplomat and currently a columnist with Pakistan’s leading English daily Dawn, Akram was Islamabad’s envoy at the UN from 2003 till 2008.
While at the UN, Akram routinely lashed out at India over the issue of Kashmir.
During the 58th General Assembly session in 2003, attended by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Akram had said what India called “cross-border terrorism” was basically “Kashmiri Freedom Struggle”.
This was in response to India’s then Political Counsellor at New York Harsh Vardhan Shringla, now India’s Ambassador to the US, who had said Pakistan’s claim on combating terrorism was 1 per cent intention and 99 per cent pretension.
Akram had also attacked Vajpayee for rejecting then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s “action plan” and said India was the “mother of terrorism”.

Cut to 2019

After the scrapping of Article 370 that granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Akram wrote an article in Dawn on 18 August in which he called Kashmir “India’s Afghanistan”.
“India’s war in occupied Jammu & Kashmir is over 70 years long. It has been fought by an occupation force of 7,00,000, seven times the maximum number of troops deployed at any time by the Soviet Union or US-Nato in Afghanistan. The Kashmir war will end only when New Delhi realises that it cannot break the will of the Kashmiri people and that it is doing grievous damage to the Indian state. This future is visible now,” he wrote.
His anti-India columns received much appreciation from the Pakistani Army, and one such article titled ‘The new Great Game’ was especially lauded by former Pakistani military spokesperson Asim Bajwa.
Akram had once said “the most proximate impediment to India’s quest for Great Power status remains Pakistan”.
“So long as Pakistan does not accept India’s regional pre-eminence, other South Asian states will also resist Indian diktat. India cannot feel free to play a great global power role so long as it is strategically tied down in South Asia by Pakistan,” he wrote in a Dawn article in 2014.
On September 29, after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech at the UNGA where he spoke about a preemptive “bloodbath” in Kashmir once restrictions are lifted, Akram wrote an article in Dawn in which he referred to the speech as “impassioned, eloquent and substantive”.
“In contrast to Pakistani leaders of the last decade, whose presence at the UNGA was little noted and even less influential, Imran Khan was warmly acknowledged at every event he attended in New York and sought out by the leaders of UN member states, international organisations, global corporations and the mainstream media,” he said.

When Akram called Salman Khurshid a ‘rented Muslim’

Akram was known for his vitriolic statements, sometimes uncouth, even against the Muslim population of India. A case in example is when as a spokesperson for Pakistan’s foreign ministry, Akram called former Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid as “kirai ka Muslim” (rented Muslim).
Always wearing an angry look on his face, as if he is going on a war, Akram had once called India the “sick man of Asia”. His brother, Zamir Akram, was also a trendy diplomat who had served India.
In a rather funny incident, then Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri admitted in his voluminous book, Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove, that during the annual UNGA session in 2005, President Musharraf and Kasuri were looking forward to meeting the then Indian PM Manmohan Singh and foreign minister Natwar Singh on the sidelines.
However, after Musharraf’s speech at the UNGA, the Indian side turned ice cold because of a “hard-hitting” speech delivered by Musharraf, who had a year ago spoken about extending an olive branch to India and even sit for a dialogue on Kashmir, and New Delhi had agreed to it.
But the mood changed after Musharraf’s speech, in which he said India was trying to delegitimise the Kashmir struggle and was taking advantage of international anti-terrorist sentiment that became prevalent after 9/11. Kasuri later admitted in his book that the speech was written by Akram, who was a rabid India-basher, and neither Musharraf nor Kasuri had vetted it beforehand.

Accused of assaulting live-in partner

In 2003, when Pakistan was batting for a seat at the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member, Akram got embroiled in a major controversy, leading to the US State Department asking Islamabad to take away his diplomatic immunity.
This happened after Akram’s reported live-in partner Marijana Mihic had made a distress call to police at 1:36 am in December 2002, complaining that she was assaulted by him. But she changed her statement, when the police reached the couple’s “luxury townhouse”, and said she got injured after she fell down.
Meanwhile, the then city commissioner-in-charge of United Nations issues Marjorie Tiven wrote to the US Mission in New York on 26 December, demanding that Akram’s immunity be removed.
In an interview to the New York Post, Akram had said, “My government sent me here to represent my country. I came to stay — and my government wants me to stay.”
Owing to lack of evidence and Mihic’s refusal to press charges, no action was taken against Akram and he continued to remain Pakistan’s envoy to the UN until 2008.

#Pakistan - #Chaman blast and implications

On the day when neighbouring war-torn Afghanistan showed resilience and observed a by and large peaceful election despite glaring Taliban threats, militants struck in the border town of Chaman in Balochistan and killed senior leader of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) Maulana Mohammad Hanif and two others. The explosion, detonated with remote control in the main bazaar of Chaman, also left 11 other people injured. The police say the blast aimed at the life of Maulana Hanif, an influential cleric of the town and deputy general secretary of the JUI-F. On the appeal of the party, a partial shutdown was observed across the province to mourn the death of their leader. So far, no group or organisation has come forward claiming responsibility for the attack. Frontier Corps and police personnel are also clueless about the culprits. The death of the maulana also attracted widespread condemnation from politicians from both the treasury and the opposition benches of Balochistan assembly.
Balochistan has been in the news for target killing in recent days. In last month, in Kuchlak, two prayer leaders were killed, and of them one turned to be the brother of Afghan Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada. The other deceased was also an Afghan citizen and had been the imam of the mosque for many years. Though no word has come from the security forces regarding the killing of those Afghan leaders in Balochistan, it is widely believed the attacks were the outcome of the internal fighting in the Taliban ranks. Those days, Afghan Taliban were negotiating a peace deal with the US in Doha, which has met a tragic end. The JUI-F has never been a known player in Taliban related affairs. Their rival, the late Maulan Samiul Haq, however, was known as the father of the Taliban. So, apparently it is hard to relate Maulana Hanif’s death with Taliban affairs. The fact already established, in the wake of the killings in Kuchlak, is that Taliban elements are present in the province. Their presence will keep creating multiple security challenges to the writ of the government and local populations, such as the Shia Hazara.
The occasional resurgence of militants points to the reality of the presence active cells of militants in Balochistan. The conduct of the JUI-F in the wake of its leader’s killing is very mature as it has not blamed any quarters unless some irrefutable proof is found. The party is in the middle of preparation for its political battles in Islamabad. Keeping crime and politics apart is the sign of political maturity.

#PAKISTAN - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari meets Shehbaz Sharif

Yousaf Raza Gillani, Nayyar Bukhari, Sherry Rehman, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Naveed Qamar and Mustafa Nawaz Khokar are part of PPPs delegation. From PML-N Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Rana Tanveer, Amir Muqam and Marriyum Aurangzeb are attending the meeting.Deputy Chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwalla and Farhatullah Babar also part of the meeting.
The meeting is scheduled at 2 pm at former CM’s residence in Islamabad as per the sources. Notably, the agenda of the meeting will be the political situation in the country along with the opposition’s march against the government.
A day earlier, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal had urged Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to postpone the Azadi March to Islamabad to November citing time required for preparation.Talking to reporters in Rawalpindi after seeing his father Asif Ali Zardari, who is in Adiala Jail, on Monday Bilawal said it is the high time to send the puppet rulers and incompetent government home.Few days back, Bilawal Bhutto affirmed that PPP and JUI-F are on same page and want want to send the current PTI government back home but the tactics and strategies would be different for this very purpose. However, PML-N sides JUI-F to launch the Azadi March in order to dispose off the government.
A day earlier, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal had requested Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to postpone the Azadi March to Islamabad to November citing time required for preparation.Speaking to the media, Iqbal said that JUI- F has been preparing for eight months but PML- N would be requiring some more time to mobilize its party workers.
Noting that the PML-N had already promised to support the Azadi March earlier, the party leader maintained that in order to have the party workers come out in full force, it was necessary for the Azadi March to be deferred to November.
Iqbal requested that an All Parties Conference (APC) be called to set the action plan for the JUI March or the Azadi March. He further added that the PML-N would reach out to Fazl and his party in this regard, he added.

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