China’s Xi Jinping Kicks Off Congress With Formal Election in Ally’s Province
Xi Jinping was formally elected Thursday as a delegate to an important Communist Party Congress this year, when he will seek to consolidate power as a representative of a province which is run by an ally and a candidate for promotion. While a foregone conclusion, as party members are chosen for their loyalty and ability to follow instructions, Xi’s election formally starts for him China’s most important political event of the year, the Congress, as he has to be a provincial delegate to attend. State media did not explain why Xi would be representing Guizhou—in China’s Parliament he represents the commercial hub of Shanghai—but the province’s top official, Chen Miner, is a trusted confidant of Xi.
As Zeal for China Dims, Global Companies Complain More Boldly
Sui-Lee Wee, NEW YORK TIMES
When Amazon announced its entry into the Chinese cloud computing market last year, Chinese state media celebrated it as “a strong signal” that “there is tremendous room for foreign firms to expand in the Chinese market as long as they comply with local regulations.” Today, cloud computing is the latest area of contention between China and increasingly frustrated global companies. In late March, a group of more than 50 American lawmakers sent a letter to the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, taking direct aim at China’s restrictions on cloud computing. They wrote that current and draft regulations would force the transfer of valuable intellectual property to Chinese companies and effectively bar foreign cloud service providers “from operating or competing fairly in China.”
China Launches First Cargo Spaceship, Marking Milestone
Emily Feng, THE FINANCIAL TIMES
China has launched its first domestically engineered cargo spacecraft, a crucial step in Beijing’s goal to launch and resupply a manned space station by 2022. The mission of the Tianzhou-1, China’s biggest and heaviest spaceship to date, is to dock with the Tiangong II space lab, launched in September 2016, and conduct in-orbit refueling—a big technical challenge. Sustaining a manned space station would be the crowning achievement of China’s ambitious space program, whose budget, though dwarfed by that of the US, is set to triple by 2026. China’s manned space station, if launched as planned in 2022, would become the only one in orbit when Nasa’s International Space Station is retired from service in 2028.
Activity Spotted at North Korea Nuclear Test Site: Volleyball
William J. Broad, NEW YORK TIMES
Analysts who examine satellite images of North Korea reported on Wednesday that they had spotted some unexpected activity at the country’s nuclear test site: active volleyball games in three separate areas. The surprising images were taken on Sunday as tensions between the United States and North Korea seemed to spike. The Korean Peninsula pulsed with news that the North was preparing for its sixth atomic detonation and that American warships had been ordered into the Sea of Japan as a deterrent, even though the ships turned out to have sailed in the opposite direction. The volleyball games, played in the middle of that international crisis, were probably intended to send a message, analysts said, as the North Koreans are aware that the nuclear test site is under intense scrutiny. But what meaning the North wanted the games to convey is unclear.
Putin-Linked Think Tank Drew Up Plan to Sway 2016 US Election
Ned Parker, Jonathan Landay, and John Walcott, REUTERS
A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 US presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former US officials told Reuters. They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what US intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. US intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, after the election. The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office.
Retired Military Leaders Urge Trump to Engage With Cuba
Ellen Mitchell, THE HILL
More than a dozen retired military officers are urging the Trump administration to keep normalizing relations with Cuba to strengthen US national security interests. In a letter sent Thursday to White House national security adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, 16 retired military officers ask the administration to continue to expand US-Cuba relations made under former President Barack Obama in travel, terrorism, border control, environmental protections and trade. Earlier this month several of the retired officers traveled to Cuba to meet with government officials over four days. On a call with reporters prior to the letter’s release, the officers said Cuban officials expressed security concerns and fears “that perhaps the progress that’s been made in regard to diplomatic relations and easing of travel restrictions will revert to the way it was prior to 2014.”
Many Poor Venezuelans Are Too Hungry to Join Anti-Government Protests
Anatoly Kurmanaev and Kejal Vyas, WALL STREET JOURNAL
President Nicolás Maduro has lost support among the legions of poor Venezuelans that once backed the late Hugo Chávez, but they have largely shown little interest in joining the opposition-led protests that have convulsed the country the past three weeks. Many of the impoverished residents of the vast slums that ring Caracas and other major cities are angry about a collapsing economy and food shortages. But Venezuela’s political unrest remains mostly confined to middle-class enclaves, underscoring the struggle the opposition here faces in trying to unseat an increasingly authoritarian government. Until the slums rise up, Mr. Maduro will likely hang on, analysts say.
Venezuela Opposition Launches New Protests a Day After Three Deaths
Venezuela’s opposition renewed nationwide protests on Thursday to pressure the government of President Nicolás Maduro to hold elections and improve a collapsing economy, a day after three people were killed in similar demonstrations. However, crowds were smaller than the hundreds of thousands of people who flooded the streets of Caracas and provincial cities on Wednesday, the latest and largest in several weeks of protests against what Maduro’s opponents condemn as a lurch toward dictatorship. Government officials dismiss the protests, characterized by street barricades and clashes with security forces, as violent and lawless efforts to overthrow Maduro’s leftist government with the backing of ideological adversaries in Washington. At about midday on Thursday, a few thousand people protested in Caracas, although opposition lawmakers accused security forces of using excessive teargas and force to block the marches.