China Issues Rare, Strongly-Worded Defense Of Russia Over US “Bullying” Sanctions
It’s been no secret that over the past half-decade China and Russia have grown closer, even becoming unlikely allies (unlikely given historic 20th century antagonism), in the face of Washington pressure and sanctions on officials in both countries.
This growing cooperation on military, economic and infrastructure development fronts has now reached the next unprecedented step of Beijing publicly defending Russia, vociferously condemning the next round of proposed US sanctions on Moscow officials.
China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday stated it “strongly opposes” new sanctions on top Russian officials, saying US Congressional leaders are using human rights as a “pretext” for ensuring attempts at improving US-Russia relations fail. “The US hegemonic and bullying practices are rejected by Russia and China and will meet rejection and opposition from more and more countries,” the Monday statement said.
“China is strongly against Washington applying unilateral sanctions under the pretext of protecting human rights” given that it “violates the provisions of the UN Charter and acts contrary to generally accepted norms of international law,” spokesperson Hua Chunying said in Beijing.
The statement suggested it’s another example of the United States’ unilaterally ‘bullying’ behavior (as Chinese officials have increasingly referenced), and that “a growing number of countries” oppose Washington’s attempts to punish Moscow while waiving the flag of human rights.
The new sanctions in question were part of anti-Russian legislation packaged into the US defense spending budget for 2022. Specifically they target 35 top Russian officials, including the mayor of Moscow and Health Ministry head Mikhail Murashko. The legislation also makes continued reference to ‘election interference’ and other such usual accusations against the Kremlin.
Beijing issuing such a high level public defense of Putin’s Russia comes as China is under a similar human rights spotlight as well, particularly over its Hong Kong crackdown of the last few years, and widespread reports of Uighur minority ‘reeducation camps’ in northwest Xinjiang region. Typically the foreign ministry has deployed the “double standard” and hypocrisy charge in response to Washington criticisms of China.
China firmly opposes the US unilateral sanctions on the Russian side. The US hegemonic and bullying practices are rejected by Russia and China and will meet rejection and opposition from more and more countries. @mfa_russiapic.twitter.com/h97RD3zgym
This fresh defense of Russia points to the two countries deepening their united front against their common enemy, also after joint military drills have in recent years been ramped up. Add to this both the US and UK navies lately deploying a more active presence in contested waters South China Sea and near Taiwan, and its recipe for potential major military confrontation between the West and a Russia-China alliance.
The US has no plans to ask permission from the Taliban if it decides to bomb Afghanistan in the future, the Pentagon said in its latest statements addressing the issue.
Since the withdrawal, the US has maintained that it has “over the horizon capabilities” to carry out airstrikes in Afghanistan. But even though the Taliban is leading the new Afghan government, the Pentagon has no plans to coordinate with them on potential airstrikes.
“We retain all necessary authorities to execute over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations, and we remain confident in these capabilities moving forward,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Military Times.
“Without speaking to specific rules of engagement surrounding airstrikes, there is currently no requirement to clear airspace with the Taliban, and we do not expect that any future over the horizon counterterrorism strikes would hinge on such a clearance,” he said.
The last known US airstrike in Afghanistan took place on August 29th in Kabul, which killed 10 civilians, including seven children. The Pentagon initially claimed the strike targeted ISIS-K, but it was forced to admit that only civilians were killed in the bombing.
Musk Publicly Praises China For Second Time This Month At Conference Held By China’s Cyberspace Administration
The latest leg of Elon Musk’s China ass kissing tour commenced this weekend in the form of a pre-recorded stream at the World Internet Conference, which was hosted by the Cyberspace Administration of China.
This marks the second instance this month where Musk took an opportunity to praise China for its work in the EV space.
Musk said that China was the “global leader in digitalization” during the event, CNBC reported.
Musk also continued by saying that Tesla would be expanding their investments in China: “My frank observation is that China spends a lot of resources and efforts applying the latest digital technologies in different industries, including the automobile industry, making China a global leader in digitalization. Tesla will continue to expand our investment and R&D efforts in China.”
The Tesla CEO also called out data protection, reassuring those listening that Tesla stores certain types of data locally.
“At Tesla, we are glad to see a number of laws and regulations that have been released to strengthen data management,” Musk said.
He continued: “Tesla has set up a data center in China to localize all data generated from our business here, including production, sales, service and charging. All personally identifiable information is security stores in China without being transferred overseas. Only in very rare cases, for example, spare parts orders from overseas is data approved for transfer internationally.”
We don’t know about you, but that sure makes us feel better.
Recall, we pointed out days ago when Musk praised Chinese automakers – also known as Tesla’s competition – as “the most competitive in the world”. Musk also said China had “great potential” as a nation for electric vehicles.
In another pre-recorded appearance at the World New Energy Vehicle Congress, Musk said: “I have a great deal of respect for the many Chinese automakers.”
Data security was also a topic Musk talked about, stating that it was the “cornerstone” of the EV industry as it develops.
Then Musk appeared to make a backhanded allusion that Tesla would be turning over whatever data the CCP wanted: “Tesla will work with national authorities in all countries to ensure data security of intelligence and connected vehicles. With the rapid growth of autonomous driving technologies, data security of vehicles is drawing more public concern than ever before.”
Musk continued: “Public sentiment and support for electric vehicles is at a never before seen inflection point because they know it is the future.”
There are over 60 container ships full of import cargo stuck offshore of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but there are more than double that — 154 as of Friday — waiting to load export cargo off Shanghai and Ningbo in China, according to eeSea, a company that analyzes carrier schedules.
The number of container ships anchored off Shanghai and Ningbo has surged over recent weeks. There are now 242 container ships waiting for berths countrywide. Whether it’s due to heavy export volumes, Typhoon Chanthu or COVID, rising congestion in China is yet another wild card for the trans-Pacific trade.
Volatile trade flows
Congestion in Chinese ports that slows the flow of exports is bad news for U.S. importers but it could temporarily alleviate pressure on the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
“The devil in these things is the whiplash effects,” Simon Sundboell, founder of eeSea, told American Shipper. “What you’d rather have is more stability, not these swings, and I think what everybody fears is that the swings will become even more volatile. When the system is already this stretched, all of these unexpected events can be a causal factor in congestion.”
Ships follow the money
A major driver of congestion on both sides of the Pacific Ocean: Landside capacity (terminals, trucking, rail, warehousing) is limited, but the vessel capacity of a single ocean trade lane is highly flexible.
While the number of ships in the world is finite, operators can shift ships to wherever they make the most money. And the trans-Pacific is now a particularly lucrative trade: Spot rates including premiums can top $20,000 per forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU).
“These assets [ships] are super-mobile,” said Sundboell. “What’s happening now is the opposite of what dogged the industry for the past 20 years. Five years ago, people were asking: How can the trans-Pacific rate drop from $2,000 to $1,500 [per FEU] in the space of just six days? It was because you could take a vessel from one place and sail it someplace else, and suddenly there were more ships and a price war and rates dropped.
“Now we’re seeing the opposite,” he said. As ship operators pile more capacity into the trans-Pacific, congestion rises, delays mount, the incentive for shippers to pay premiums is supported, and all-in rates remain at record highs.
Surging number of services
According to eeSea, the number of Far East-West Coast services has surged from 48 in January to 67 this month. In contrast, the number of services on this lane stayed fairly steady last year, at 42-46.
In addition, ships are being drawn from other trades to serve as “extra loaders” (ships that perform one-off voyages). In some cases, multiple ad hoc ships are doing multiple round trips — a hybrid of an extra loader and a scheduled service.
“We’re definitely seeing carriers pulling ships from Asia-Middle East and Asia-Africa and putting them into the trans-Pacific trade,” said Sundboell.
“Whether it’s for one round trip as an extra loader or whether it becomes semipermanent, I don’t even think the carriers know themselves right now. They’re just playing the market and if it makes more economic sense to take a ship from the Middle East and put it in the trans-Pacific, they’ll do it, whether it’s for one month, three months or six months — which is why nobody knows what this network is going to look like six months from now.
“The line managers in Copenhagen and Geneva and Marseille are looking at yields per container and costs per container. And not just per container. They’re looking at it per day, and per container-TEU [twenty-foot equivalent per]-mile.”
Trans-Pacific ships getting smaller
Yet another driver of increased trans-Pacific congestion: There are not only more ships, but the ships are getting smaller, meaning that more vessels are needed to carry the same TEUs.
According to eeSea, the average capacity of ships serving Asia-West Coast services was 8,601 TEUs in January and is 7,125 TEUs currently, a decrease of 17%.
Smaller average vessel size “would definitely slow things down further,” said Sundboell.
Some operators have added trans-Pacific capacity by buying ships in the secondhand market or leasing them in the charter market. Most of the ships available for purchase or charter in 2021 have been in smaller size categories.
Liner companies’ switching of capacity from other trades is also pulling down average size, because the trades being cannibalized use lower-capacity ships. “The reason you have smaller vessels coming in is that they’re taking them from the Middle East and Africa trades,” said Sundboell.
How does this end?
Ship operators can put as many ships as they want into the trans-Pacific to chase record spot rates, leaving other trades short. But ultimately, the imbalance should self-correct.
“It becomes something that balances itself out,” explained Sundboell, noting that if ships are removed from other trades, rates in those trades would rise to the point where it would entice ships back.
“At a certain point, the rates of the trades you’re leaving increase too much or the cost of having the ships sitting at anchor becomes too much [in terms of lost future cargo],” said Sundboell.
In Q1, when anchorages filled off Los Angeles/Long Beach, carriers were unable to get enough ships back to Asia in time to load cargo, so they had to “blank” (cancel) a large number of sailings, which reduced congestion in Q2.
Given the extreme anchorage situations both off China and Southern California, a repeat of the blank-sailing scenario seems likely in Q4 – a worrisome prospect for importers.
Lack of visibility
But even companies like eeSea that track blank sailings cannot definitely say what will happen in Q4.
In the first half of 2020, when carriers were blanking sailings due to lockdown-induced demand drops, they announced voyage cancellations months in advance, providing an important signal to the market. This year, there is far less notice, because blank sailings are being caused by congestion, not lower forward demand.
According to Sundboell, “For November, there are only eight blank sailings [on Asia-West Coast] and only three in December, but that is just because the carriers have not communicated them yet. We only put a blank sailing into our system when it is confirmed by the carrier.”
Pre-COVID, he said, carriers believed they were tied down by long notice periods for service changes. “But corona gave them a platform to take out capacity with short notice,” said Sundboell. “Now they’re trying to get more capacity in, but they’ve definitely taken the liberty of being both more volatile with their capacity and with the ‘forecasting’ of their service.
“And I think that’s what’s causing the frustration among the BCOs [beneficial cargo owners; the shippers]. A BCO hates having to be forced to get used to the fact that the vessel is always 10 days late — or that they won’t even know when it’s coming. I don’t think that’s what the carriers are aiming to do, but they’ve certainly found wiggle room to change services on short notice that they’ve never had before.”
Lawyers & Scientists Are Building A Case For Why Natural Immunity Should Be Treated Same As Vaccination
Now that at least one employer in the health-care field – Michigan’s Spectrum Health – has decided to accept proof of natural immunity from prior infection as reason to waive its vaccination mandate for all employees, legal expert (and the reporters who love to quote them) are wondering: will the legality of proving natural immunity potentially win out in court?
The answer to that question, they say, will depend – as all things COVID-related do – on “the science”, that nebulous and frequently shifting concept of how prior infection impacts immunity to new variants (and whether vaccine’s do as well).
According to a report in Yahoo Finance, the notion that natural immunity is superior is already gaining support in the legal world. Presently, a handful of studies from different countries offer a conflicting view of whether natural immunity actually is superior to vaccinated immunity, or a combination of prior infection and vaccination
Since it’s likely the federal government’s aim to roll out vaccine mandates that cover practically every US worker (they’re not too far off already), the issue of natural vs. vaccine immunity and whether some individuals should receive exemptions based on their antibody levels almost certainly be adjudicated in the federal courts.
“I think that a judge might reject a rule that’s been issued by a body, like the U.S. Department of Labor or by a state, that has not been sufficiently thought through as it relates to the science,” Erik Eisenmann, a labor and employment attorney with Husch Blackwell, told Yahoo Finance.
As we reported when it was first published,a report out of Israel suggests that natural immunity could be many times more effective than the Pfizer vaccine at preventing infection with the delta variant. That study has yet to be peer-reviewed, however, and the world is anxiously awaiting the results.
However, another peer-reviewed study cited by the CDC looks at dozens of cases in the US where certain people who tested positive for COVID never ended up generating the antibodies, which, science dictates, are necessary to fend off future infection.
The CDC also published a study of 246 Kentucky residents, concluding that vaccination offers higher protection than a previous COVID infection. The CDC said the study went through a “rigorous multi-level clearance process” before submission, but now some are concerned it’s slightly out of date since it pre-dates the rise of delta.
But as far as supporting natural vs. vaccinated immunity goes, this study is another big one: A C A June study by the Cleveland Clinic and Washington University tracked 52,238 Cleveland Clinic employees found that within 1,359 previously infected and unvaccinated people, none contracted a subsequent COVID-19 infection over the five-month study. The findings led authors to conclude that prior infection makes a person “unlikely to benefit from COVID-19 vaccination.”
Then there’s this:
In a smaller study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine and published in Nature, senior author Ali Ellebedy, PhD, an associate professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology, found antibody-producing cells in the bone marrow of 15 of 19 study subjects 11 months after their first COVID-19 symptoms. “These cells will live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives. That’s strong evidence for long-lasting immunity,” Ellebedy said.
The legal and scientific standards are intertwined here, but as more data develops that appears to validate the argument that natural immunity is at least as effective as vaccinated immunity, it’s more likely that lawyers will succeed in convincing judges that the standard should be “immunity by any means.”