Xi Jinping’s Fandom Helps Fuel China’s World-Beating Splurge On Soccer M&A
Sidney Leng, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
Soccer-related mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity in China in recent years has outpaced that of the rest of the world by a wide margin, partly due to the fandom of the country’s leader. Between 2014 and 2016, mainland companies put €2.15 billion into investments in soccer teams, or more than half the total global investment tracked by British cross-border M&A consultancy ThinkingLinking. Based on the firm’s examination, China spent more than the remaining 40 countries combined, far outspending the No. 2 investor, the United States. The soccer buying spree partly reflects Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s ambitious goal of making China a global football superpower before 2050. In 2011, Xi, an avid fan, revealed his dream: that the nation would someday qualify for, host and win the World Cup.
Chinese Investment In Africa: Beijing’s Testing Ground
David Pilling, FINANCIAL TIMES
The China-Africa relationship—partly spontaneous and partly the fruit of an orchestrated push from Beijing—is shifting the commercial and geopolitical axis of an entire continent that many western governments had all but given up on. While Europeans and Americans view Africa as a troubling source of instability, migration and terrorism—and, of course, precious minerals—China sees opportunity. Africa has oil, copper, cobalt and iron ore. It has markets for Chinese manufacturers and construction companies. And, perhaps least understood, it is a promising vehicle for Chinese geopolitical influence. Many, including some Africans, are suspicious of what they see as a neocolonial land grab, in which companies acting as proxies for the Chinese state extract minerals in return for infrastructure and finance that will saddle governments with large debts. The behavior of Chinese actors in Africa, in common with those from the west, has often fallen short of the exemplary.
GE Opens Laos Office, Its 10th In Southeast Asia
Expanding its presence in Southeast Asia, General Electric recently opened an office in Laos. It will be the base for a local team headed by Sinnasone Boulom, chief country representative for GE Laos. GE president and chief executive Wouter Van Wersch noted at the opening that Laos was one of the fastest-developing members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with a projected economic growth rate topping 7 percent. “Laos is in the process of building critical infrastructure to advance its modernization plans,” he said. “We look forward to contributing to the country’s development by bringing our technologies, expertise and experience to support initiatives in energy, healthcare, aviation and more.”
University of Virginia Student Otto Warmbier, Said To Be In a Coma, Released From North Korea
Anna Fifield and Karen DeYoung, THE WASHINGTON POST
University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier has been medically evacuated from North Korea in a coma after being detained for 17 months, his parents told The Washington Post on Tuesday. Warmbier, 22, is due to arrive home in Cincinnati on Tuesday evening, after a stop at a US military facility near Sapporo, Japan. The family said they were informed that North Korean officials had told American envoys that Warmbier became ill with botulism sometime after his March, 2016, trial in North Korea, where he was serving a 15-year-sentence for “hostile acts against the state.” The North Korean account, the family said, claimed Warmbier then fell into a coma after being given a sleeping pill. The Warmbiers said they were told their son has remained in a coma since then.
North Korea’s Military Offers Security Contracts For Private Business Owners
RADIO FREE ASIA
Officials on military bases in North Korea are moonlighting as security contractors, according to sources, assigning soldiers to guard private vehicles and freight in return for cash used to maintain operations and line their own pockets. A source told RFA’s Korean Service that he had recently made use of the unofficial service while transporting goods for his business in a rental car. “I stopped over at a military base at night and parked my car there, then stayed at an inn that soldiers guided me to,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It costs much more to have soldiers guarding private vehicles and goods, but it is much safer than self-guarding them somewhere else. The soldiers not only guard private vehicles and goods, but also introduce inexpensive inns for us.”
Taiwan Reacts Defiantly As Panama Switches Diplomatic Ties to China
Simon Denyer, THE WASHINGTON POST
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen reacted angrily Tuesday to Panama’s decision to shift diplomatic ties to China, insisting that Taipei will never bow down to threats and intimidation from Beijing and is determined to uphold its sovereignty. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced on television Monday evening that he was establishing diplomatic ties with China and breaking with Taiwan, saying he was “convinced this is the correct path for our country.” He added that China constituted 20 percent of the world’s population, has the second-biggest economy, and is the second-biggest user of the Panama Canal. The move comes as Beijing steps up efforts to isolate Taipei internationally since last year’s election of Tsai. Panama is the second country to break with Taiwan since Tsai’s election last year, following the small African islands of Sao Tome and Principe.
Venue For Trump Speech Could Send Powerful Message To Castro Regime
Susan Crabtree, THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON
The venue for a major Cuba policy speech President Trump is expected to make in Miami this Friday will send a powerful message to the Castro regime, sources said. The White House has reportedly chosen Miami’s Manuel Artime Theater, a former church that takes its name from a member of the Fidel Castro’s rebel army who later became the political leader of the Brigade 2506 land forces in the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. If the Artime Theater is chosen as the site for Trump’s speech, it will signal that the new president is going to take a “more confrontational stance to the Cuban government,” a member of the Cuban exile community told the Washington Free Beacon.
Former NBA Player Dennis Rodman Arrives In North Korea
Eric Talmadge, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dennis Rodman, the former NBA bad boy who has palled around with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, flew back to Pyongyang on Tuesday for the first time in Donald Trump’s presidency. He said he is “just trying to open a door” on a mission that he thinks his former “Celebrity Apprentice” boss would support. Rodman, one of the few people to know both of the nuclear-armed leaders, sported a black T-shirt advertising a marijuana cyber-currency as he talked to reporters briefly before his flight from Beijing to the North Korean capital. Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, he said, “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.” Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, which have accomplished little in terms of diplomacy and served mainly to create publicity for the former athlete.
Venezuela: Protesters Set Fire to Supreme Court Building As Crisis Deepens
Anti-government protesters set fire to the supreme court in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday. This is the twelfth week of upset in the country, as protesters demand the resignation of leader Nicolás Maduro and call for elections. The supreme court Monday voted to reject a motion that would prevent Mr. Maduro from rewriting the country’s constitution. Violence broke out in protests at the Supreme Court over a bid to change the constitution, and Venezuela’s chief prosecutor said on Monday her family had been threatened and followed by intelligence agents since she split with the government. Fanned by anger at triple-digit inflation along with shortages of food and medicine, protests have grown smaller but more violent over the past two months, with at least 67 killed and thousands injured.