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China rules medical gear market

China rules medical gear market

Alarmed at China’s stranglehold over supplies of masks, gowns, test kits and other front-line weapons for battling the coronavirus, countries around the world have set up their own factories to cope with this pandemic and outbreaks of the future.

When the outbreak subsides, those factories may struggle to survive. China has laid the groundwork to dominate the market for protective and medical supplies for years to come.

Factory owners get cheap land, courtesy of the Chinese government. Loans and subsidies are plentiful. Chinese hospitals are often told to buy locally, giving China’s suppliers a vast and captive market.

Once vaccines emerge, demand will plummet. Factories will close. But Chinese companies are likely to have the lowest costs by far and be best positioned for the next global outbreak.

“The Chinese have been successful weaving global personal protection equipment dominance with supply-chain command and control,” said Omar Allam, a former Canadian trade official trying to establish production of in-demand N95 medical respirators in his country.

China’s grip on the market is a testament to its drive to dominate important cogs in the global industrial machine.

For years, China’s leaders have worried that the country depended too much on foreign sources for everything from medical supplies to microchips to airliners. It has used subsidies, economic targets and other government inducements to emerge as a powerhouse in those important industries.

When Chinese leaders grew concerned about pollution and dependence on foreign oil, for example, they helped local makers of solar panels, wind turbines and high-speed rail equipment clobber the competition. They have taken similar steps to dominate industries of the future, like the next generation of wireless data transmission, known as 5G.

The state’s heavy involvement in its economy has led to waste and graft that could slow China’s growth. But the policies have often proved effective in building industries that can withstand losses and tough foreign competition. Medical supplies may be similar.

“There will be massive consolidation after the epidemic,” said Howard Yu, a professor of management and innovation at the Institute for Management Development, a business school in Switzerland. “It will be exactly the same dynamics as in green energy, 5G and high-speed rail.”

Before the pandemic, China already exported more respirators, surgical masks, medical goggles and protective garments than the rest of the world combined, the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated.

Beijing’s coronavirus response has only added to that dominance. It increased mask production nearly 12-fold in February alone. It can now make 150 tons per day of the specialised fabric used for masks, said Bob McIlvaine, who runs a namesake research and consulting firm in Northfield, Illinois. That is five times what China could make before the outbreak, and 15 times the output of US companies even after they ramped up production this spring.

American companies have been reluctant to make big investments in fabric manufacturing because they worry that mask demand will be temporary. But Texas required on Thursday that most residents wear masks in public places, part of a broader embrace of face masks in recent days.

“It is a huge mistake to assume that the market will disappear,” McIlvaine said.

Ma Zhaoxu, vice-minister of foreign affairs, said that from March to May, China exported 70.6 billion masks. The entire world produced about 20 billion all of last year, with China accounting for half.

Other countries now want self-reliance. Earlier in the pandemic, China sometimes decided which countries received crucial supplies and demanded profuse and public thanks in exchange.

President Emmanuel Macron of France pledged in March to produce homegrown masks and respirators by the end of this year. Peter Navarro, President Trump’s industrial policy adviser, has begun a push for the federal government to buy American-made pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

China, however, has a head start.

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InternationalNews

Freddie stamp to honour ‘rock royalty’

Freddie stamp to honour ‘rock royalty’

Farrokh Bulsara, the Parsi boy who found world fame as Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the Queen, may be gone but he has certainly not been forgotten.

Not only does his music live on but now Royal Mail in the UK has brought out a set of 13 new stamps, including one featuring Mercury live in concert in 1986, to honour “rock royalty”.

According to Royal Mail, “the band’s list of musical achievements is rivalled by few… the band’s legacy continues to inspire.

“Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2021, Queen becomes only the third music group to have a dedicated stamp issue — following on from the Beatles in 2007 and Pink Floyd in 2016.”

Philip Parker of Royal Mail said: “With their truly original, theatrical sound and effortless ability to mix musical styles, Queen are rock royalty. We pay tribute to one of the most loved bands of all time with these stunning stamps.”

Mercury’s former bandmate, Roger Taylor, 70, said of the stamps: “Wow! What an honour. We must be really part of the furniture now!”

And Brian May, 72, added: “It’s particularly poignant to look at this collection of images — now that we are all in a world dominated by a coronavirus, in which none of this could have happened. Somehow it will be a way of persuading myself that it really did all happen!”

The musical genius who made it all possible was Farrokh Bulsara, who was born to Parsi parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara, in Zanzibar on September 5, 1946, and spent much of his childhood at schools in Bombay — at St Peter’s School, a British-style boarding school for boys, in Panchgani, and at St Mary’s School. He showed an early interest in western pop music and also started calling himself “Freddie”.

After a brief return to Zanzibar in 1963, the family settled in London in 1964. Today, there is a blue plaque at 22 Gladstone Avenue, Feltham, the family first home, put up by English Heritage, which says: “Freddie Mercury (Fred Bulsara) 1946-1991 Singer and Songwriter lived here.”

He changed his name to “Freddie Mercury”, formed the Queen in 1970 with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, and came to be hailed as one of the most flamboyant and greatest lead singers in the history of rock music. He wrote numerous hits, including Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody to Love, We Are the Champions, Don’t Stop Me Now, and Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

In the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, there is a scene in which a family member scolds Mercury.

“So now the family name is not good enough for you?”

“I changed it legally,” Mercury responds. “No looking back.”

However, his sister Kashmira Bulsara explained in 2014: “I think what his Zoroastrian faith gave him was to work hard, to persevere, and to follow your dreams.”

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InternationalNews

Corona lingers in air: Experts counter WHO

Corona lingers in air: Experts counter WHO

The coronavirus is finding new victims worldwide, in bars and restaurants, offices, markets and casinos, giving rise to frightening clusters of infection that increasingly confirm what many scientists have been saying for months: the virus lingers in the air indoors, infecting those nearby.

If airborne transmission is a significant factor in the pandemic, especially in crowded spaces with poor ventilation, the consequences for containment will be significant. Masks may be needed indoors, even in socially distant settings. Healthcare workers may need N95 masks that filter out even the smallest respiratory droplets as they care for coronavirus patients.

Ventilation systems in schools, nursing homes, residences and businesses may need to minimise recirculating air and add powerful new filters.

The World Health Organisation has long held that the coronavirus is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets that, once expelled by infected people in coughs and sneezes, fall quickly to the floor.

But in an open letter to WHO, 239 scientists in 32 countries have outlined the evidence showing that smaller particles can infect people, and are calling for the agency to revise its recommendations. The researchers plan to publish their letter in a scientific journal next week.

Even in its latest update on the coronavirus, released June 29, WHO said airborne transmission of the virus is possible only after medical procedures that produce aerosols, or droplets smaller than 5 microns.

Proper ventilation and N95 masks are of concern only in those circumstances, according to WHO. Instead, its infection control guidance, before and during this pandemic, has heavily promoted the importance of handwashing as a primary prevention strategy, even though there is limited evidence for transmission of the virus from surfaces. (The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention now says surfaces are likely to play only a minor role.)

Dr Benedetta Allegranzi, WHO’s technical lead on infection control, said the evidence for the virus spreading by air was unconvincing.

But interviews with nearly 20 scientists — including a dozen WHO consultants and several members of the committee that crafted the guidance — and internal emails paint a picture of an organisation that, despite good intentions, is out of step with science.

Whether carried aloft by large droplets that zoom through the air after a sneeze, or by much smaller exhaled droplets that may glide the length of a room, these experts said, the coronavirus is borne through air and can infect people when inhaled.

“I do get frustrated about the issues of airflow and sizing of particles, absolutely,” said Mary-Louise McLaws, a committee member and epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

“If we started revisiting airflow, we would have to be prepared to change a lot of what we do,” she said. “I think it’s a good idea, a very good idea, but it will cause an enormous shudder through the infection control society.”

In early April, a group of 36 experts on air quality and aerosols urged WHO to consider the growing evidence on airborne transmission of the coronavirus. The agency responded promptly, calling Lidia Morawska, the group’s leader and a longtime WHO consultant, to arrange a  meeting.

But the discussion was dominated by a few experts who are staunch supporters of handwashing and felt it must be emphasized over aerosols, according to some participants, and the committee’s advice remained unchanged.

Dr Morawska and others pointed to several incidents that indicate airborne transmission of the virus, particularly in poorly ventilated and crowded indoor spaces. They said WHO was making an artificial distinction between tiny aerosols and larger droplets, even though infected people produce both.

“We’ve known since 1946 that coughing and talking generate aerosols,” said Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech.

Scientists have not been able to grow the coronavirus from aerosols in the lab. But that doesn’t mean aerosols are not infective, Dr Marr said: Most of the samples in those experiments have come from hospital rooms with good air flow that would dilute viral levels.

In most buildings, she said, “the air-exchange rate is usually much lower, allowing virus to accumulate in the air and pose a greater risk.”

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InternationalNews

America loves India, says Donald Trump

America loves India, says Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump has said that America loves India as he thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for greeting him on the occasion of the 244th Independence Day of the United States.

The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4th—is a federal holiday in the US commemorating the publication of the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776.

Prime Minister Modi on Saturday congratulated President Trump and the people of the US on the country’s 244th Independence Day, saying as the world’s largest democracies “we cherish freedom and human enterprise that this day celebrates”.

“I congratulate US President Donald Trump and the people of the USA on the 244th Independence Day of the USA,” Modi tweeted.

Responding to the greetings from the prime minister on the popular micro-blogging site, Trump said in a tweet: Thank you my friend. America loves India!”

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The Twitter exchange between the leaders of the world’s oldest and largest democracies were welcomed by people from both the countries and it went viral on the social media.

The world is witnessing the unbelievable bond and love between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi – America and India, the two largest democracies of the world, said Al Mason, co-chair of the Trump Victory Indian-American Finance Committee.

“America is blessed to have you Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India as our valued friend. America and India – the two largest democracies in the world! God’s blessings to you as you lead India,” popular African-American singer Mary Millben tweeted.

Kudus to both leaders for cementing such a solid relationship, which can weather any storm, he added.

India loves America too, tweeted one Gurdeep Singh.

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InternationalNews

Kanye West says he’s running for President in 2020 elections

Kanye West says he’s running for President in 2020 elections

Rapper Kanye West has announced that he is running for the office of President this year.

The multiple Grammy winner took to social media on country’s 244th Independence Day (July 4) to share the news.

“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States!” West wrote on Twitter using a hashtag #2020VISION.

If he were to launch a campaign for the upcoming elections on November 3, West will go up against President Donald Trump, of whom he has been a vocal supporter, and Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden.

According to NBC, during a speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2015, West said he was planning on running for president in 2020.

The recording artiste also opened up about taking a political plunge as recently as November 2019.

“When I run for president in 2024, we would’ve created so many jobs that I’m not going to run, I’m going to walk,” he had said at an event.

The “Power” hitmaker and his wife, reality TV star Kim Kardashian have often visited Trump at the White House in the last few years.

West has also often been spotted wearing the signature Trump campaign ‘Make America Great Again’ cap.

On his announcement, he received backing from Kardashian, who retweeted his post with an emoji of the American flag, and Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

“You have my full support!” tweeted Musk.

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Divisive Trump in ‘culture war’ warning

Divisive Trump in ‘culture war’ warning

Standing in a packed amphitheatre in front of Mount Rushmore for an Independence Day celebration, President Trump delivered a dark and divisive speech on Friday that cast his struggling effort to win a second term as a battle against a “new far-Left fascism” seeking to wipe out the nation’s values and history.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging and his campaign faltering in the polls, his appearance amounted to a fiery reboot of his re-election effort, using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the Left that he portrayed as inciting mayhem and moving the country towards totalitarianism.

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” Trump said, addressing a packed crowd of sign-waving supporters, few of whom wore masks. “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”

Trump barely mentioned the frightening resurgence of the pandemic, even as the country surpassed 53,000 new cases and health officials across the nation urged Americans to scale back their Fourth of July plans.

Instead, appealing unabashedly to his base with ominous language and imagery, he railed against what he described as a dangerous “cancel culture” intent on toppling monuments and framed himself as a strong leader who would protect the Second Amendment, law enforcement and the country’s heritage.

The scene at Mount Rushmore was the latest sign of how Trump appears, by design or default, increasingly disconnected from the intense concern among Americans about the health crisis gripping the country. More than just a partisan rally, it underscored the extent to which Trump is appealing to a subset of Americans to carry him to a second term by changing the subject and appealing to fear and division.

“Most Presidents in history have understood that when they appear at a national monument, it’s usually a moment to act as a unifying chief of state, not a partisan divider,” Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, said before the speech.

Most politicians, including former Vice-President Joseph R. Biden Jr, the presumptive Democratic nominee, this year were forgoing any of the traditional holiday parades and flag-waving appearances. The vast majority of fireworks displays in big cities and small rural towns have been cancelled as new cases reported in the US have increased by 90 per cent in the past two weeks.

As he travelled to South Dakota for the huge fireworks display at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Trump, however, had a different message: The sparkly, booming show must go on at all costs in the service of the divisive message and powerful images he wants to promote.

“We will not be tyrannised, we will not be demeaned, and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people,” Trump said, referring to his political opponents and their supporters.

Under the granite gaze of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, Trump announced plans to establish what he described as a “vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live,” an apparent repudiation of the growing pressure to remove statues tied to slavery or colonialism.

As he arrived, Air Force One performed a flyover of Mount Rushmore.

His campaign promoted the stunt online, calling him “the coolest President ever”.

In the amphitheatre below, few in the packed crowd practiced any social distancing as people waved signs that referred to CNN as the “Communist News Network”.

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Nepal PM hints at split in ruling party

Nepal PM hints at split in ruling party

Facing growing demand for his resignation, Nepal’s embattled Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has said that the ruling communist party is facing a grave crisis, indicating that it may split soon, according to a media report on Sunday.

Oli, at an emergency meeting of the cabinet at his official residence, told the ministers that some of our party members are also trying to remove President Bidya Devi Bhandari from the power, My Republica newspaper quoted a senior leader as saying.

“Now, conspiracies are being hatched to remove me from the post of Prime Minister and party chairman,” the Prime Minister said on Saturday, adding that he will not let it happen.

The ruling party is facing a grave crisis, Oli said.

After Oli’s remarks about the conspiracy to impeach the President, three former Prime Ministers — Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’, Madhav Nepal and Jhanalanth Khanal — met Bhandari and clarified that the rumour about the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leaders trying to remove her from office were untrue, The Kathmandu Post reported.

On Saturday, a crucial meeting of the NCP’s 45-member powerful Standing Committee to decide the political future of Oli was postponed until Monday to allow more time for the top leadership to iron out their differences over his style of functioning and anti-India statements.

During the cabinet meeting, a defiant Oli said that he will not be forced to accept the party’s Standing Committee decision.

He also urged the ministers to make their position clear whether they support him or not.

“I had to make a quick decision to prorogue the budget session of Parliament last week after coming to know that some of our party members were hatching conspiracy to register an impeachment motion against the President at Parliament,” Oli told the ministers.

Surya Thapa, the Prime Minister’s press aide, said that the PM invited the ministers to share the latest political developments in the country.

Prior to the meeting, Oli held a one-on-one meeting with President Bhandari at her office in Maharajgunj.

Oli’s statement comes at a time when the intra-party rift in the NCP is at its peak after majority of the party’s Standing Committee members and Central Secretariat members demanded his immediate resignation from the post of Prime Minister and party chairman, accusing the government of failing to live up to the people’s expectations.

He has accused NCP executive chairman Prachanda of non-cooperation in running the government while Prachanda is accusing Oli of imposing hegemony in the party.

Prime Minister Oli, 68, last week claimed that there have been various kinds of activities in the “embassies and hotels” to remove him from power.

He said some Nepalese leaders were also involved in the plot after his government redrew the country’s political map by incorporating three strategically key Indian territories — Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura.

Raising baseless accusations against India and leaders of his own party by the Prime Minister was not appropriate, a senior leader of the party quoted Prachanda as saying during the Standing Committee meeting last week.

Prachanda has time and again spoken about the lack of coordination between the government and the party and he was pressing for a one-man one position system to be followed by the NCP.

The differences between the two factions of the NCP — one led by Oli and the other led by Prachanda — intensified after the prime minister unilaterally decided to prorogue the budget session of Parliament last week.

In May 2018, when Oli and Dahal announced formation of the Nepal Communist Party, they had reached a gentleman’s agreement to lead the government in turn, two-and-a-half years each.

But according to the November 2019 agreement, Oli would lead the government for the full five-year term and Dahal would run the party as executive chairman .

Dahal has maintained that Oli failed to uphold the spirit of the November 2019 agreement, hence he should abide by the May 2018 gentleman’s agreement, making way for him to lead the government.

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Hong Kong security chief

Hong Kong security chief

Beijing has appointed an official who became prominent during a clampdown on protests in a Chinese village as director of its new national security office in Hong Kong, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

Zheng Yanxiong, 56, most recently served as the secretary general of the Communist Party committee of Guangdong province, an economic powerhouse bordering Hong Kong. He is among a host of officials appointed by Beijing in recent months as it tightens control over the former British colony.

The new security agency was established under national security legislation imposed by China this week on Hong Kong that will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.

During Zheng’s tenure as party chief of the Guangdong city of Shanwei, authorities clamped down on protesters in 2011 in a village under its jurisdiction, named Wukan.

Thousands of residents had sought compensation for land requisitioned by the government and elected a committee to represent their rights. They also aired their grievances to foreign media.  Video clips that were leaked from an internal government meeting at the time showed Zheng harshly criticising the villagers and calling foreign media“rotten”.

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Historian quits after slavery comments

Historian quits after slavery comments

David Starkey, one of Britain’s most eminent but controversial historians, has been forced to resign as an Honorary Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, after he had told a Right wing website: “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there? An awful lot of them survived.”

This would have been an unwise remark at the best of time, but Starkey, 75, who excels in being as provocative as possible, appeared deliberately to invite a backlash in the heightened tension created by the Black Lives Matter movement. And he got it.

Fitzwilliam College, where Starkey once took a First in history as an undergraduate, was supposed to discuss its links with the historian at a meeting on Wednesday.

But after a chat with the college’s master, Sally Morgan, on Friday, it issued a statement: “The Master has accepted Dr David Starkey’s resignation of his honorary fellowship with immediate effect.

“Fitzwilliam prides itself in leading the way in Cambridge in opening access to higher education for under-represented groups. Our student and academic bodies are diverse and welcoming to all. We do not tolerate racism.” In other words, Starkey jumped before he was pushed.

Incidentally, Fitzwilliam Hall, the precursor to Fitzwilliam College, includes Subhas Chandra Bose among its alumni from 1919. He is said to have written home at his surprise — and pleasure — at finding white staff polishing his shoes. But that was then and this is now.

Starkey is also being dropped by his publishers, HarperCollins, because of his “abhorrent” views, while Hodder & Stoughton, which published Starkey’s 2015 book Magna Carta, said it would also not publish him again.

Canterbury Christ Church University’s vice-chancellor Rama Thirunamachandran  announced Starkey’s role as visiting professor was being terminated with immediate effect. And Lancaster University launched a review of Starkey’s status as an honorary graduate.

The Mary Rose Trust, which runs a museum, said it was “appalled” by Starkey’s comments, adding it had accepted his resignation.

The former Pakistani origin chancellor Sajid Javid upped the stakes by tweeting: “We are the most successful multi-racial democracy in the world and have much to be proud of. But David Starkey’s racist comments are a reminder of the appalling views that still exist.”

Nicholas Guyatt, a lecturer at Cambridge, added: “Can’t speak for my employer but as someone who teaches history at Cambridge I’m ashamed of our connections with David Starkey and urge both the university and Fitzwilliam College to cut all ties with him.”

There are those on the right who will invariably stick up for Starkey: “Whither free speech if a white academic is not allowed to voice his opinions, however unpalatable?”

Speaking by video from his home, Starkey, who has been a prominent historian on radio and television, made his ill-judged comments on Tuesday on a programme called Reasoned, which is hosted by Darren Grimes, the founder of pro-Brexit campaign group BeLeave.

During the interview, Starkey, who is known for his books on Tudor England, claimed that the Black Lives Matter protests, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, had been characterised by “violence” and “victimhood”.

He described the pulling down of statues as “deranged”.

Talking about US race relations, he said: “Slavery in the South was substituted for by a system of organised repression – economic, social and everything else – in the form of segregation. But that’s never been true in Britain. In other words, we’re having a false history forced upon us.”

Starkey said: “As for the idea that slavery is this kind of terrible disease that dare not speak its name, it only dare not speak its name, Darren, because we settled it nearly 200 years ago.

“We don’t normally go on about the fact that Roman Catholics once upon a time didn’t have the vote and weren’t allowed to have their own churches because we had Catholic emancipation.”

He pointed out: “An awful lot of them (black people) survived and again there’s no point in arguing against globalisation or Western civilisation. They are all products of it, we are all products of it.

“The honest teaching of the British Empire is to say, quite simply, it is the first key stage of our globalisation. It is probably the most important moment in human history and it is still with us.”

When asked what he would say to BLM activists who want to “decolonise the curriculum”, Starkey replied: “You cannot decolonise the curriculum because you, Black Lives Matter, are wholly and entirely a product of white colonisation. You are not culturally black Africans. You would die in seconds if you were dumped back in black Africa because you wouldn’t know how to cope. You’re a product yourselves of cultural and racial mix.”

It’s not the first time Starkey has been involved in a public race row. In 2011, the BBC received nearly 700 complaints about Starkey’s claim that “whites have become black”, during a BBC TV Newsnight discussion about riots in the UK

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Pakistan will complete CPEC at all costs, says PM Khan

Pakistan will complete CPEC at all costs, says PM Khan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed on Friday that his government would complete the ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at “any cost” as the USD 60 billion project is a manifestation of the all-weather friendship between the two countries.

Addressing a meeting held here to review progress on the CPEC projects, Khan said it is an excellent project for Pakistan’s socio-economic development and the “gigantic multi-faceted initiative would guarantee a bright future for the nation”, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Lauding the performance of the CPEC Authority, he said measures must be taken to improve its working as well as capacity.

The corridor is a manifestation of Pakistan-China friendship and the government will complete it at any cost and bring its fruit to every Pakistani, Khan said.

Khan’s statement came a day after Chinese Foriegn Minister Wang Yi discussed the CPEC projects with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi during a phone conversation.

Wang called for the two countries to speed up the projects under the CPEC to help Pakistan’s economic recovery. He also hoped that the Pakistani government would provide more protection for Chinese companies and citizens working in the country.

The CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China”s ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

A Chinese official last month admitted that the majority of the projects under the BRI are either adversely or partially affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

About a fifth of the projects under the BRI, which aims to boost trade and investment across Asia, Africa and Europe to further China”s global influence, had been “seriously affected” by the pandemic, according to Wang Xiaolong, director-general of the foreign ministry”s international economic affairs department.

About 40 per cent of the projects were “adversely affected”, and a further 30-40 per cent were “somewhat affected”, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted Wang as saying.

The projects which were disrupted included the CPEC, it said.

The CPEC is a collection of infrastructure and other projects under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013. Originally valued at USD 46 billion, the projects were worth USD 62 billion as of 2017.

India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The BRI was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.

The BRI is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments all over the world.

The initiative also led to allegations of smaller countries reeling under mounting Chinese debt after Sri Lanka gave its Hambantota port in a debt swap to China in 2017 on a 99-year lease.

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