China’s population time bomb is about to explode

“the CCP has recently adopted policies intended to encourage the young generation to have more children. However it’s proving much more difficult to achieve this than it was to bully people to have less. A measure of Xi’s desperation is his de facto order last May that China’s 2 million military personnel must take part. The rest of the population are unimpressed by the various material incentives to increased fertility.
Like it or not, following Xi’s prolonged, ineffective Zero Covid lockdown the young people of China are increasingly inclined to passive resistance to the Party’s transactional interference in their private lives. Since the pandemic hit, Chinese social media have been full of nihilistic, disaffected exchanges between young people about the gap behind Xi’s fabricated ‘China Dream’ and their own hopeless existence. No amount of state censorship has stifled this.

The realities are stark. Last year, 11.6 bn Chinese graduates tried to enter the workforce. One in five is likely to remain unemployed. Others who did find work are victims to an obsolete ethic of unrewarded hard work and sacrifice. They prefer to do the bare minimum and abandon vain hopes of career advancement, an approach known as “lying flat”. Xi has singled this idea out for strong criticism but has nothing to offer in return. Worse still, in one speech he told the young five times to toughen up and learn to “eat bitterness”. They are not the least impressed by his exhortation to ‘seek self-inflicted hardships’ in the new economic normal.

Increasingly, Chinese people realise that their leaders have abandoned all pretence of a reliable social contract in justification for single-party rule. Neither they, nor the free citizens of Taiwan, have the least faith in talk of China’s “glorious rejuvenation”.”

Toy manufacturers’ shift from China is no child’s play

“Toy makers grappling with surging costs in China are finding no easy options when it comes to shifting production to cheaper centres elsewhere.
Six years ago, monopoly maker Hasbro approached Indian durable goods and aerospace supplier Aequs to sub-contract.

“They said if you can get into toy manufacturing, now we’re looking to shift millions of dollars worth of product from China to India,” Rohit Hegde, Aequs’ head of consumer verticals, told Reuters. “We said: as long as we can get at least about $100 million of business in the next few years, we can definitely invest in it.”

Fast forward to today and Aequs makes dozens of types of toys for Hasbro and others including Spin Master in two 350,000-square-foot facilities in Belgaum, India.

But Hegde and other manufacturers acknowledge that India and other countries cannot match China for efficiency”

“Still, for toy manufacturers including Hasbro and Barbie doll maker Mattel, the risks of relying on China for most of their production were highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Chinese ports struggled to export goods and were periodically shut down, leaving shipments stranded.

Soaring labour costs in China had already been driving manufacturers across industries to diversify production geographically.”

“setting up to source from other countries can take 18 months if a company is buying product from a contract manufacturer, and up to three years if a firm is building a new factory from scratch, Rogers said.”

India begins to flex its naval power as competition with China grows

“India is widely publicizing the deployments, signaling its desire to assume a wider responsibility in maritime security to the world and its growing maritime ambitions to regional rival China.
“It is a message to China that, look, we can deploy such a large force here. This is our backyard. Though we don’t own it, but we are probably the most capable and responsible resident naval power,” Chawla said.

The Indian navy has helped at least four ships, three of which were attacked by Houthi rebels and another that Washington blamed on Iran, a charge denied by Tehran. It has also conducted several anti-piracy missions.”

“India has not joined the U.S.-led force battling the Houthis.

On Jan. 26, the Indian guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam assisted the crew of a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker in fighting a fire after it was hit by a missile in the Gulf of Aden. About 10 days earlier, the Visakhapatnam responded to a distress call by the U.S.-owned Genco Picardy merchant vessel following a drone attack in the same waters.

“Maritime security has not been a strong pillar of India’s foreign policy engagements in a way we are beginning to see now,” said Darshana M. Baruah, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “China is a factor in this.”

The rivals are already locked in a military standoff along their disputed border high in the mountains.

China has built up its presence over the years in the Indian Ocean, a key route for its energy supplies. It has the world’s largest navy by number of ships, more than three times the size of the Indian navy. China also operates a powerful fleet of large coast guard ships and what is referred to as its maritime militia consisting of fishing vessels that cooperate with the coast guard in asserting territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Beijing has deepened its engagement in the Indian Ocean mainly through infrastructure deals with India’s neighbors, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and most recently the Maldives.”

The Big Flaws in That Study Suggesting That China Manipulates TikTok Topics

“The latest wave of fearmongering about TikTok involves a study purportedly showing that the app suppresses content unflattering to China. The study attracted a lot of coverage in the American media, with some declaring it all the more reason to ban the video-sharing app.”

“But there are serious flaws in the study design that undermine its conclusions and any panicky takeaways from them.
In the study, the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) compared the use of specific hashtags on Instagram (owned by the U.S. company Meta) and on TikTok (owned by the Chinese company ByteDance). The analysis included hashtags related both to general subjects and to “China sensitive topics” such as Uyghurs, Tibet, and Tiananmen Square. “While ratios for non-sensitive topics (e.g., general political and pop-culture) generally followed user ratios (~2:1), ratios for topics sensitive to the Chinese Government were much higher (>10:1),” states the report, titled “A Tik-Tok-ing Timebomb: How TikTok’s Global Platform Anomalies Align with the Chinese Communist Party’s Geostrategic Objectives.”

The study concludes that there is “a strong possibility that TikTok systematically promotes or demotes content on the basis of whether it is aligned with or opposed to the interests of the Chinese Government.”

There are ample reasons to be skeptical of this conclusion. Paul Matzko pointed out some of these in a recent Cato Institute blog post, identifying “two remarkably basic errors that call into question the fundamental utility of the report.””

“the researchers fail to account for differences in how long the two social networks in question have been around. Instagram launched nearly 7 years before TikTok’s international launch (and nearly 6 years before TikTok existed at all) and introduced hashtags a few months thereafter (in January 2011). Yet the researchers’ data collection process does not seem to account for the different launch dates, nor does their report even mention this disparity. (Reason reached out to the study authors last week to ask about this but has not received a response.)
The researchers also fail to account for the fact that Instagram and TikTok users are not identical. This leads them “to miss the potential for generational cohort effects,” suggested Matzko. “In short, the median user of Instagram is older than the median user of TikTok. Compare the largest segment of users by age on each platform: 25% of TikTok users in the US are ages 10–19, while 27.4% of Instagram users are 25–34.”

It’s easy to imagine how differing launch dates and typical-user ages could lead to differences in content prevalence, with no nefarious meddling by the Chinese government or algorithmic fiddling by Bytedance needed.”

China Has New Full-Scale Target Of America’s Ford Supercarrier

“China has constructed a new aircraft carrier target on a sprawling range in the northwestern end of the country that is a dead-ringer for the U.S. Navy’s newest supercarrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford. The target underscores the People’s Liberation Army’s continued focus on expanding and refining its ability to engage American carriers and other warships over long distances, which includes a growing arsenal of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles. This is all part of China’s evolving anti-access and area denial strategy across much of the Western Pacific.”

China warns US against escalating strikes on Houthis

“China is warning the U.S. against escalating its attacks on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, as the conflict in the Red Sea increasingly threatens both Beijing’s economic and diplomatic interests.
The Houthis’ months-long campaign to restrict maritime traffic moving through key Middle East waterways is a particular threat to China, which is heavily reliant on the Suez Canal and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait to move Chinese products to European markets. China is also more dependent than the U.S. on oil and gas imports from countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Qatar.

“China is concerned about the escalating tension in the Red Sea and calls on relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint to prevent the conflict from escalating,” Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning told reporters on Friday. “China calls on relevant parties to play a constructive and responsible role in keeping the Red Sea safe and stable, which serves the common interests of the international community.”

China declined to join a U.S.-led coalition of forces, called Operation Prosperity Guardian, which began policing the Red Sea last month.

On a broader level, the growing military exchanges between the U.S. and Houthis threaten China’s Mideast diplomatic interests. Last spring, Beijing stunned Washington by brokering a normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Houthis’ primary military backer. The deal was based, in part, on Iran’s commitment to China to cut off military supplies to the Yemeni militia and constrain Houthi attacks on Saudi and international targets.

But Tehran in recent weeks has praised the Houthis’ Red Sea operation, and Iran’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has embedded personnel among the Yemeni militia’s forces, according to U.S. and Arab officials.”

“The Pentagon announced Tuesday that they interdicted a vessel off the coast of Somalia last week that was ferrying Iranian-manufactured ballistic missile and cruise missile components to the Houthis.”

Hamas fights with a patchwork of weapons built by Iran, China, Russia and North Korea

“many of the images show Hamas militants toting weapons that appear to be relatively new, evidence the group has found ways of getting arms past the air-and-sea blockade of the Gaza Strip — possibly by boat, through tunnels or concealed in shipments

The ruling-party candidate strongly opposed by China wins Taiwan’s presidential election

“Ruling-party candidate Lai Ching-te emerged victorious in Taiwan’s presidential election on Saturday and his opponents conceded, a result that will determine the trajectory of the self-ruled democracy’s relations with China over the next four years.
China had called the poll a choice between war and peace. Beijing strongly opposes Lai, the current vice president who abandoned his medical career to pursue politics from the grassroots to the presidency.

At stake is peace, social stability and prosperity on the island, 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the coast of China, which Beijing claims as its own and to be retaken by force if necessary.

While domestic issues such as the sluggish economy and expensive housing also featured prominently in the campaign, Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party’s appeal to self-determination, social justice and rejection of China’s threats ultimately won out. It is the first time a single party has led Taiwan for three consecutive four-year presidential terms since the first open presidential elections in 1996.”

Hong Kong Police Targeting Overseas Activists and Speech

“Hong Kong is using its national security law to arrest and prosecute critics residing in the United States. The Hong Kong police recently announced cash bounties of HK$1 million ($128,000) for information leading to the arrest of five young activists. The targets—Frances Hui, Joey