Archive for ‘Chindia Alert’

19/12/2018

Kolkata derby: Inside the East Bengal v Mohun Bagan rivalry

Fans make their way to the Salt Lake Stadium
East Bengal share the Salt Lake Stadium with rivals Mohun Bagan

Most people would assume an Indian sporting fixture that regularly attracts more than 100,000 people could only be one thing: a game of cricket.

But tell that to the people of Kolkata, who on Sunday gathered at the city’s Salt Lake Stadium for the latest instalment of the ‘Boro Derby’, as East Bengal took on Mohun Bagan in what might well be the most well-attended, fiercely competitive and historically significant derby you’ve never heard of.

This was the 366th meeting of the sides – it has been played 134 more times than the Merseyside derby – and consumes the city, which is regarded as the game’s spiritual home in a country of 1.3bn people.

Here, we take you inside a match steeped in tradition, watched by ‘ultras’ and regarded as a battleground for identity in India’s third-biggest city.

A game with its place in history – and the record books

Mohun Bagan, founded in 1889, are one of the oldest football clubs in Asia. Their landmark victory while playing barefoot over the East Yorkshire Regiment in 1911 was the first time a local club had defeated a European one, ending years of British dominance in the early stages of the game in India.

This victory is considered a key event in India’s fight for independence, so much so that the anniversary of the game on 29 July is recognised annually as ‘Mohun Bagan Day’.

The rivalry was born in 1920, when East Bengal were founded by a frustrated chief executive of Mohun Bagan. Complaining that his team chose not to select a star player for a big game, he decided to start a rival club in the same city, taking the player with him and forming East Bengal.

Like so many classic city rivalries, the derby’s lasting significance is rooted in the battle lines drawn off the pitch between the sides since their first meeting in 1925. The city’s native population has tended to follow Mohun Bagan, with its immigrant communities from the eastern side (modern-day Bangladesh) opting for East Bengal.

This social and political rivalry is at the derby’s heart, dividing the Bengali football population into either the green and maroon of Mohun Bagan or the yellow and red of East Bengal.

Ninety seven years later, the ‘Boro derby’ (‘boro’ meaning ‘big’ in Bengali) has created its fair share of history. Most notably, it holds the record for the highest attended sports fixture in India, with more than 130,000 people watching the 1997 derby, a 4-1 win for East Bengal.

Bhaichung Bhutia, still the only Indian to have played football in England, scored a hat-trick that day. He is the top scorer in the history of the derby with 19 goals, and has notoriously played for both teams during his career.

Bhaichung Bhutia in action for East Bengal
Bhaichung Bhutia, pictured in action for East Bengal in 2004, joined Bury in 1999

‘Today there are no good words, only bad ones’

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal play in India’s I-League, the older and more traditional of the nation’s two top-flight football divisions. With both teams in the bottom half of the table, this particular meeting was all about local pride.

“I didn’t sleep a minute last night – I never can the night before the derby,” said one of the co-founders of the East Bengal Ultras group.

“All week we’ve been preparing and planning and on the day of the game, hour by hour, it gets more and more tense. If we don’t win the derby, it’s turmoil for us.”

The Ultras unveiled their ‘Tifo’ – “we’ve been making this for the past three days and nights” – strapping the giant rolled-up banner to the roof of a car to be delivered to the stadium.

Fans hold aloft their 'Tifo'
The Tifo reads: ‘need I say more?’ or ‘do you understand sir?’ and it depicts a Bengali comedian plus sugar, milk and tea. It refers to a classic jibe between the two sides.

“It’s a kind of playful insult to the Mohun Bagan fans,” he continued. “You’ll see for yourselves later on the reaction it gets.”

The derby presents the chance for the fans to compete as well as the players, with the historic identity and class differences taking centre stage.

“People are lovely here usually but on matchdays it’s different,” stated one of the fans, only half jokingly.

“Swearing and insults are part of the Bengali football culture sometimes. Today there are no good words, only bad ones.”

Another fan spoke of how important this game is not just to the Kolkatans, but to the whole identity of the game across the country.

Kolkata is a city of 4.5m people, but its footballing reach spreads across India. There are fan groups for these clubs in states around the nation, and people travel thousands of miles for the derby, not to mention the millions that tune in to live television coverage.

“These two teams are the backbone of Indian football historically, and these games still get more headlines and media coverage than anything else,” he said.

“More people care about this result than about the national team, or pretty much all of the other clubs put together.”

Fans make their way to the Kolkata derby
Kolkata becomes a sea of colour on derby day
Fans outside the stadium
Fans fill the streets, bringing an unplanned halt to drivers’ progress

Streets closed, insults thrown, riot police watch on

As kick-off drew nearer, the colours of the two teams became increasingly visible, flags held aloft by groups of supporters or fluttered from car windows.

It was a classic pre-match scene but everything was louder, brighter and busier. Street traders painted faces and sold replica shirts as fans shuffled towards the colossal Salt Lake Stadium, the cost of entering a modest 300 Rupees (equivalent to £3.33). Not bad for the biggest derby on the continent.

East Bengal’s Ultras completed their signature ‘Corteo’ (procession), with hundreds of fans marching down the main road in a haze of smoke and drums. The streets became unofficially closed, traffic stopping and residents gathering to witness the colourful display.

Countless flatbed trucks and jeeps cruised towards the stadium, full to the brim with standing supporters, waving flags and chanting into loudhalers.

Vehicles full of rival fans found themselves toe to toe in the traffic, exchanging songs and insults as the noise levels grew.

Hordes of riot police watched on, but the mood was one of excitement and anticipation, despite occasional tensions.

‘Who cares about the league? We’ve won the derby!’

Inside the gigantic oval stadium, East Bengal’s ‘Tifo’ drew screeches from the disapproving Mohun Bagan contingent. Everywhere you looked, there were greens, reds and yellows stuck to every surface.

A tense beginning to the game was ended by Mohun Bagan’s opening goal, a well-worked cross leaving an easy tap in for the Mariners. Their half of the ground erupted as the Bengal side fell silent, but they sought revenge swiftly, equalising from a flowing move four minutes later.

The momentum was with the Bengals as the game progressed, and their 44th-minute strike (a sublime scissor-kick finish) saw the red-and-yellow half of the stadium happier as the whistle blew, with the score 2-1 to East Bengal.

Half time was a whirlwind, a trip to the concourse offering a range of pop-up food and drink options, ranging from a blend of Indian snacks to American-style sports refreshments, not to mention replica jerseys for 500 Rupees (just over £5).

Fans tuck in to the half-time food
There was plenty of food but not a beer in sight as fans buzzed around beneath the stands during the break

The second half was equally frenetic, a combination of beautiful passing moves and scrappy route-one football. A skilful nutmeg from an East Bengal striker led to a scything tackle from Bagan’s captain, already on a yellow card, leaving the Mariners down to 10 men and sending the crowd into a frenzy. When East Bengal scored from the resulting free-kick, the yellow-and-red half of the stadium erupted yet again.

Despite a spirited Mohun Bagan fightback – and a second goal that ensured a nervy final 15 minutes – East Bengal held on for a 3-2 win. It was their first triumph in seven derby matches (spanning 33 months, a fan reliably informed me), and the celebrations that followed lasted long into the Kolkata night.

As the vast Salt Lake Stadium emptied, there were groups clad in red and yellow dancing, singing and embracing one another. Despite the occasional moment of tension (the presence of the police or Mohun Bagan fans often flaring tempers), it was a joyous end to a dramatic and emotional derby day.

“This is what it’s all about,” concluded one of the Ultras group. “For years this game has been the battleground for identity in this city, through times of occupation, independence, war and immigration. It gives us a chance to validate our place here.

“Football is the way we bond, and the way we fight. Who cares about the league or where we finish, because we’ve won the derby again.”

East Bengal fans celebrate
East Bengal’s win took them up to fifth in the I-League, six points adrift of leaders Chennai City
East Bengal fans celebrate
Victory gave East Bengal’s fans a rare chance to celebrate at their rivals’ expense
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19/12/2018

Hamid Ansari: ‘Love-struck’ Indian home after Pakistan jail ordeal

Hamid Ansari reunited with his family
Image captionHamid Ansari reunited with his family at the border on Tuesday

An Indian man held for six years in Pakistan after illegally entering the country has returned to his family.

Hamid Ansari was convicted on charges of spying after he was found with a fake Pakistani identity card.

But his supporters said he had entered the country to pursue “blind and stupid” love with a woman he met online.

It is not clear, however, if he ever met the woman he crossed the border for.

Ansari was greeted at India’s Wagah border by his family, government officials and journalists.

His return ends a years-long ordeal for his family who fought to first track him down, and then secure his release.

Though officially convicted in 2015, Ansari had been in Pakistani custody since 2012.

His jail term officially ended on Sunday, but his release was delayed because legal formalities had not been completed.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence and the partition of India in 1947 and regularly jail each others citizens.

Who is Hamid Ansari?

Hamid Ansari is the youngest son of Fauzia Ansari, the vice-principal of a Mumbai college, and banker Nihal Ansari.

In November 2012, the 33-year-old had just started a new job as a lecturer at an educational institute when he told his parents that he was going to Afghanistan for an interview with an airline company.

But a few days after he landed in the Afghan capital Kabul, Ansari went missing.

हामिद अंसारी के माता पिताImage copyrightFAUZIA ANSARI

His family says that he stopped communicating with them, and his phone number was switched off.

Activist Jatin Desai, who has been at the forefront of efforts to get Ansari released, told BBC Hindi that that the family had then checked his laptop, where they discovered that he had been communicating with several people from Pakistan via email and social media.

They had also realised that he was in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of the country.

So why did he go?

“Blind and stupid love,” according to Mr Desai.

In comments to India’s Mumbai Mirror newspaper, Mr Desai said that he first met Ansari when he had approached him about six months before his disappearance, asking for help with getting a Pakistani visa. He claimed he wanted to marry a woman in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who he had met online.

“I had a big laugh when he told me that he wanted to marry a woman in a place notorious for honour killings. I told him to stop being stupid and concentrate on his career,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

But the determined Ansari reportedly reached out to people in Pakistan, who apparently told him he could enter the country through Afghanistan more easily.

He entered through Torkham in Afghanistan after obtaining a fake Pakistani identity card under the name Hamza.

Then, according to documents released later, he was arrested from a hotel in Kohat city, where the girl he had come to find reportedly lived.

How did his release come about?

After his family was unable to trace his whereabouts in Pakistan, they reached out to government officials and activists for help.

Among them was Mr Desai, who has been working for many years to secure the release of both Indian and Pakistani prisoners jailed in each others countries.

A Pakistani journalist – who was later detained for a long period – managed to get in touch with Hamid’s mother in Mumbai and filed a missing person’s petition in court on her behalf.

She played an important role in encouraging a government commission on enforced disappearances to investigate his case.

As a result, security agencies, in early 2016, eventually admitted that Ansari was in their custody and had been jailed.

Hamid Ansari
Image captionAnsari pictured before he went to Pakistan

The Indian Express newspaper quoted official sources as saying that the Pakistan government did not allow any Indian officials to meet Ansari for the entire six years,

His release now is being seen as a “humanitarian gesture” by the new Pakistan government, led by Imran Khan.


The reaction from Pakistan

Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Islamabad

The morning headlines on Pakistani television channels were unanimous: “Indian spy released after completing prison term,” they said. But the reality may not be as stark.

Hamid Ansari was missing for well over three years before it was disclosed that he’d actually been picked up by an intelligence agency and sentenced to three years by a military court for espionage.

Since the military court records remain secret, it is not clear what the actual evidence was. But investigations conducted by the human rights cell of the Supreme Court and hearings held at Peshawar High Court found Mr Ansari’s account of events to be reliable in the light of evidence put before it.

At one point, Mr Ansari’s lawyer even pleaded that he should be charged for illegal entry only and that espionage charges be dropped. But the Peshawar court refused this in the end on grounds that it had no jurisdiction to overturn the ruling of a military court.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman on Monday still described Ansari as an “Indian spy” but the narrative in India is very different.

However given Mr Ansari trespassed into Pakistan at a time when militancy was at its peak, and the fact that he is an Indian national, the military court actually took a rather lenient view of his case, observers here say.

19/12/2018

Transgender women pray at India’s Sabarimala temple

The transgender women pray at the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala stateImage copyrightA S SATHEESH
Image captionThe transwomen were accompanied by some 20 police officers

Four transgender women have been allowed to pray at an Indian temple at the centre of a bitter row over whether women should be permitted to enter.

Despite a Supreme Court ruling allowing women devotees into the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala state, they have been blocked repeatedly by mobs.

The transgender women, all wearing black sarees, were allowed to enter on Tuesday under police protection.

The temple has historically been closed to women of “menstruating age”.

The group of transgender women had been blocked from accessing the temple on Sunday by police, citing security concerns.

Image captionThe four joined prayers at the temple on Tuesday

Before September’s Supreme Court ruling, transgender women were allowed to enter the shrine, but since the decision – which sparked violent protests – some police officials had suggested that transgender women should dress as men in order to gain access.

They refused and took their case to a committee set up by the Kerala High Court.

The panel agreed that they could pray at the shrine, and temple officials also said they did not object to the transgender women because they do not menstruate.

‘We followed the rituals’

The earlier ban on women between the ages of 10 to 50 entering the Sabarimala shrine was in place partly because the temple deity, Lord Ayyappa, was a bachelor, the shrine’s management had said.

The court ruling ending the ban led to security concerns as women, including activists, were met with protests from members of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other allied organisations.

These organisations wanted tradition to be followed, despite the ruling of the court on 28 September based on the fundamental rights of women.

Image captionTheir presence was not met with protests or resistance, police said

One of the transgender women, 33-year-old Trupthi, told BBC Hindi on Tuesday that women like her were “very much part of Hinduism” and were respected as such.

“I am very happy that we were able to pray [to Ayyappa]. We are devotees… we had followed all the rituals that a pilgrim should follow to visit the shrine,” Trupthi said.

She added that the other transgender women to pray at the shrine were Ananya, 26, Renjimol, 30, and Avantika, 24.

They were accompanied by some 20 police officers, but their presence at the temple was not met with protests or resistance, police said.

19/12/2018

Indian drug inspectors seize J&J Baby Powder samples – source

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Drug inspectors have seized samples of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) Baby Powder from a factory in northern India, an industry source said on Wednesday, following a Reuters report that the firm knew for decades that cancer-causing asbestos lurked in the product.

The person, who was not authorised to speak with media and so declined to be identified, said the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) took samples from the firm’s Baddi plant in Himachal Pradesh state late on Tuesday.

J&J India did not have any immediate comment on the seizure. A CDSCO spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson said the Reuters article, published on Friday, was “one-sided, false and inflammatory”.

“Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe and asbestos free,” the U.S. company said. “Studies of more than 100,000 men and women show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease. Thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove our Baby Powder has never contained asbestos.”

Surendranath Sai, a regional drug officer in the southern state of Telangana, on Wednesday said he had instructed inspectors to seize samples there.

“On the basis of the news report, we are alerting staff to pick up samples. We will test them in a drug control lab here,” said Sai. “We will take action accordingly. Certainly we are worried because millions of babies may be affected.”

Earlier, the Times of India quoted an official source as saying 100 drug inspectors had been assigned to examine different manufacturing facilities, wholesalers and distributors linked to J&J India, starting early on Wednesday.

A health ministry spokeswoman declined to comment when contacted by Reuters, however a senior official at the ministry said the report was worrying.

“We are concerned about it and will take action,” the official told Reuters, declining to be identified citing the sensitivity of the matter. The official did not elaborate on what kind of action.

On Tuesday, a CDSCO spokeswoman said the Reuters report was “under consideration” but it was too early to say whether a formal investigation would be launched into the baby powder that is ubiquitous in India, a country of 1.3 billion people.

A Reuters examination of company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, showed that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, Johnson & Johnson’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.

The documents also depicted successful efforts to influence U.S. regulators’ plans regarding limiting asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on talc’s health effects.

Johnson & Johnson said on Monday it planned to buy back up to $5 billion (3.95 billion pounds) of its stock, after $40 billion was wiped from its market value following the Reuters report.

19/12/2018

ISRO launches GSAT-7A satellite that will improve communications for armed forces

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will launch the country’s newest satellite GSAT-7A, which will give a boost to the defence forces’ communication capabilities, from Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota on Wednesday.

INDIA Updated: Dec 19, 2018 16:21 IST

HT Correspondent
Isro,GSAT-7A,satellite
In the third mission in just over a month, the space agency will launch the 2,250 kg operational communication satellite from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre. (AP)

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) on Wednesday launched the country’s newest satellite GSAT-7A, which will give a boost to the defence forces’ communication capabilities, from Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota on Wednesday.

In the third mission in just over a month, the space agency launched the 2,250 kg operational communication satellite from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 4.10pm on Wednesday.

The satellite was carried by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-F11 (GSLV-F11), Isro’s 35th communication satellite and the 13th flight of the GSLV rocket to orbit.

The GSLV-Mk II rocket launched the satellite into the temporary orbit after a flight of nearly 20 minutes. The rocket will be taken into the geostationary or circular orbit using the onboard propulsion system and it will take few days after the separation from the launcher to reach its orbital slot.

“GSLV F11 is Isro’s fourth generation launch vehicle with three stages. The four liquid strap-ons and a solid rocket motor at the core form the first stage. The second stage is equipped with high thrust engine using liquid fuel. The Cryogenic Upper Stage forms the third and final stage of the vehicle,” the space agency said on its website.

According to reports, GSAT-7A has been built exclusively for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army and will add to the forces’ communication capabilities.

The satellite will allow IAF to interlink its ground radar stations, airbases and airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft, and reduce the reliance on on-ground control stations for drones, they said. It will also boost the air force’s network-dependent warfare capabilities, enhancing its abilities to operate globally.

Wednesday’s mission will be the space agency’s last mission for this year. This year, Isro launched GSAT-11 on December 5 on a European vehicle from French Guinea’s Kourou, GSAT-29 on November 14 on its GSLV-MkIII vehicle and the ill-fated GSAT-6A on March 29 from Sriharikota.

The launch of Chandrayaan-2 and the PSLV-C44 remote-sensing satellite launch are among the seven missions lined up in 2019.

19/12/2018

British businesses lured by India’s ‘golden opportunities’

India’s large workforce and improving infrastructure have made it an enticing place to invest
India’s large workforce and improving infrastructure have made it an enticing place to invest
FRANCIS MASCARENHAS/REUTERS

Britain is the largest western investor in India, with businesses channelling $26 billion into the country in the past 18 years.

Companies based in the UK contributed 7 per cent of all foreign direct investment into India last year as their expenditure grew by $847 million, according to research by the CBI, the lobby group, and Grant Thornton, the accounting firm.

British businesses, particularly manufacturers, services providers and retailers, have been increasing their presence in India over recent years. This is partly because of the country’s large workforce, improving infrastructure and the business-friendly policies implemented under Narendra Modi, its prime minister since 2014.

Foreign direct investment is when companies buy capital, such as factories or machines, in a foreign country or purchase assets or shares that give investors control in a foreign business.

Increasing corporate investment is welcome news for Britain’s trade relations with India as it looks to its trading partners outside of the European Union before Brexit in March. Both the UK and EU have said that they want to increase trade flows with India.

British investment in India is ahead of that of the United States and the Netherlands, which contribute 6 per cent to the total. In the EU, the UK invests more than Germany, which contributes 3 per cent, and France, which represents 2 per cent. Worldwide, Britain is behind only Mauritius, Singapore and Japan.

The report, Sterling Assets: Britain Meets India, said that about 40 per cent of British companies had made new investments in India last year, creating more than 50,000 new jobs. British firms are believed to have created about 423,000 jobs in India since 2000.

“There’s no question that India will be a vital trading partner as the UK charts a new future out the EU,” Shehla Hasan, CBI director for India, said. She said that there was a “golden opportunity” for UK companies thanks to economic reforms that she said made India more attractive to entrepreneurs and established businesses.

More than half of British companies operating in India are in the services sector, such as restaurants and hotels, while about a third are manufacturers, which include factories. The chemicals industry has received the lion’s share of British investment in India since 2000 at $12 billion, followed by the drugs and pharmaceuticals sector, at $8.8 billion, and services, at $7 billion.

Since 2000, the state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, has attracted the largest share of British investment.

Central bank chief quits
Urjit Patel resigned as government of India’s central bank on Monday (Callum Jones writes). Mr Patel, who has been grappling with ministerial criticism of the bank’s policies, cited “personal reasons” for his departure.

Raghuram Rajan, a former reserve bank governor, raised concerns over the “impasse” that had pushed his successor to quit. He said: “I think this is something all Indians should be concerned about because strength of our institution is really important.”

19/12/2018

Google China: Has search firm put Project Dragonfly on hold?

China, Google, Project Dragonfly
Image captionGoogle’s plans for a Chinese search engine have reportedly halted

Google has reportedly “effectively ended” plans for a censored search engine in China.

The Intercept, which revealed the existence of Project Dragonfly in August, says Google has been “forced to shut down a data analysis system it was using” to feed the project.

And access to data “integral to Dragonfly… has been suspended for now, which has stopped progress”.

Google said it had no immediate plans to launch a Chinese search engine.

A Chinese woman's face appears behind a Google logoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionGoogle has faced protests about the search engine it was working on for China

What is The Intercept reporting?

Citing internal Google documents and inside sources, the Intercept says Project Dragonfly began in the spring of 2017 and accelerated in December after Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, met a Chinese government official,

An Android app with versions called Maotai and Longfei were developed and could be launched within nine months if Chinese government approved, it says.

Using a tool called BeaconTower to check if users’ search queries on Beijing-based website 265.com would fall foul of China’s censors, Google engineers came up with a list of thousands of banned websites, including the BBC and Wikipedia, which could then be purged from the Dragonfly search engine.

But members of Google’s privacy team confronted the Dragonfly project managers, saying the system had “been kept secret from them”.

And after several discussions, “Google engineers were told that they were no longer permitted to continue using the 265.com data to help develop Dragonfly, which has since had severe consequences for the project”.

China, Google, Project DragonflyImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionGoogle’s Project Dragonfly is reportedly on hold in China

What are the issues with launching a search engine in China?

The so-called great firewall of China is notorious for not allowing its citizens free access to all the content available on the internet.

China has in the past two years imposed increasingly strict rules on foreign companies, including new censorship restrictions.

Some Western sites are blocked outright, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Certain topics such as the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 are also completely blocked.

References to political opposition, dissidents and anti-Communist activity are also banned as are those to free speech and sex.

Any search engine in China would have to comply with the Chinese government’s strict rules on censorship.

Presentational grey line

Analysis

by Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter

Even with this news today, I don’t think Google’s ambitions in China are over – just stalled.

Sundar Pichai has clearly decided that China is too important (and lucrative) a market to pass up and so, while Dragonfly has met a significant bump in the road – thanks to its own privacy team, the company will almost certainly find a new approach to serving the Chinese market.

But in doing so it might do serious harm to its brand.

Now more than ever, US technology companies are under pressure to act in the interests of both America and Americans.

Bowing to Beijing’s demands with whatever Project Dragonfly morphs into will be a stain on Google’s principles and its reputation.

Presentational grey line

How advanced were the plans?

We learned from Mr Pichai’s recent appearance on Capitol Hill that more than 100 engineers had been working on the project at one point in time.

When quizzed by lawmakers on the plans, he said: “Right now, we have no plans to launch in China.”

He said all efforts were “internal” and did not currently involve discussions with the Chinese government.

In response to further questions, Mr Pichai said the company would be “fully transparent” with politicians if it released a search service in China.

The BBC understands Project Dragonfly never reached the point of having a full and final privacy review by Google.

A letter from more than 300 Google employees in November, co-signed by Amnesty International, asked the company to halt the project entirely.

China, Google, Project Dragonfly
Image captionGoogle’s Project Dragonfly is reportedly on hold in China

Why does Google want to get back into China?

Quite simply, China is the biggest internet market in the world.

Google launched a search engine in the authoritarian state in 2006, google.cn.

Google was compliant with the Chinese government’s censorship requirements at the time but the search company pulled the plug in 2010, citing increasing concerns about cyber-attacks on activists.

Despite its main search engine and YouTube video platform being blocked, Google still has more than 700 employees and three offices in China and has been developing alternative projects.

Its Google Translate app for smartphones was approved in China last year.

It also invested in Chinese live-stream game platform Chushou in January and has launched an artificial intelligence game on the social media app WeChat.

19/12/2018

China’s staggering 40 years of change in pictures

Forty years ago, China introduced major economic reforms – lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and leading to it becoming the second-largest economy in the world.

Here’s the story of how China changed – in pictures.

1. Wheels and more wheels

This is what Chang’an Avenue – a major street in the capital Beijing – looked like in 1978.

Four decades on, the street looks pretty different.

Car ownership in China has soared – there are now over 300 million registered vehicles in the country – while bike ownership has dropped.

It’s a result of China’s urbanisation and economic growth – but has also come at a price.

Frequent traffic jams in many cities have led to licence plate quotas being imposed.

And the World Health Organization says more than a million people in China die every year due to air pollution.

2. Money money money

Compare a 1978 shop window…

… with one from this decade.

As China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has skyrocketed, its shopping habits have changed too.

Chinese shoppers are among the world’s highest consumers of luxury goods.

President Xi Jinping emphasised China’s economy – and how it had transformed people’s lives – during a long speech on Tuesday marking the anniversary of the economic reforms.

“Grain coupons, cloth coupons, meat coupons, fish coupons, oil coupons, tofu coupons, food ticket books, product coupons and other documents people once could not be without have now been consigned to the museum of history,” he said.

“The torments of hunger, lack of food and clothing, and the hardships which have plagued our people for thousands of years have generally gone and won’t come back.”

Image captionApple is a popular brand in China – though not as popular as Huawei

There’s even a political element to this. As Chinese consumers have grown richer, they’ve become increasingly influential.

Several companies have been forced to apologise after offending Chinese sensibilities, and while foreign brands are generally coveted in China, more and more shoppers are starting to say they prefer local brands.

It’s a sentiment that Mr Xi also touched on in his speech, when he said: “China is increasingly approaching the centre of the world stage.”

“No-one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done.”

3. Families and children

Life has changed significantly for children of the 2010s, compared to children of the 1970s.

Image captionA family enjoy tea in a park in Guangzhou, 1978

For starters, they are likely to live longer – China’s life expectancy was 66 back in 1978, and is now about 76.

They’re also more likely to have a better education – literacy rates increased from 66% in the early 1980s to 95% in 2010.

For most Chinese children in the 1970s, going on an overseas holiday would have been almost unthinkable. Today China has the world’s largest number of outbound tourists – who spend billions of dollars while abroad.

Image captionA girl celebrates the golden week national holiday with her dad in October 2018

Chinese students are now also more likely to end up studying abroad.

According to Chinese government figures, China is currently the world’s largest source of international students.

One thing hasn’t changed as much as the government would like though – the birth rate.

In 1979 – a year after starting economic reforms – the government imposed a one-child policy to try and curb population growth.

Birth rates were declining anyway – but the controversial policy was harshly enforced in some cases.

Couples who violated the policy could face punishments ranging from fines and the loss of employment to forced abortions and sterilisation.

China’s population, like those of many other developed countries, is now ageing.

In 2015, the government decided to end the one-child policy and allow couples to have two children.

There is even speculation that the policy may be relaxed further – to allow three or more children – in the near future.

But many Chinese millennials see having more children as too expensive – or a burden on their careers.

4. To market, to market

As economies change, so do people’s diets, and what they want to spend their money on.

Here’s a marketplace in the central city of Xi’an, back in 1978.

And here’s what some of Xi’an’s street markets look like now.

Many of the signs are advertising meat dishes – and statistics show meat consumption in China has risen significantly over the past few decades.

Pork, for example, used to be considered a luxury food reserved for special occasions – now, figures suggest the average Chinese person will consume about 40kg of pork per year.

19/12/2018

How Greenland could become China’s Arctic base

A town in typical Greenland style is pictured - brightly-painted wooden walls and triangular roofs covered in snow are the main features of these sparsely dotted homes
Image captionGreenland’s capital, Nuuk, needs investment – but could it come from China?

China is flexing its muscles. As the second richest economy in the world, its businessmen and politicians are involved just about everywhere in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Now, though, China is taking a big interest in a very different part of the world: the Arctic.

It has started calling itself a “near-Arctic” power, even though Beijing is almost 3,000km (1,800 miles) from the Arctic Circle. It has bought or commissioned several ice-breakers – including nuclear-powered ones – to carve out new routes for its goods through the Arctic ice.

And it is eyeing Greenland as a particularly useful way-station on its polar silk road.

A map is seen on a curved globe surface of the earth -Greenland is marked on the top, just a short distance from the North Pole, also marked - and China's location has two extremely large nations of Mongolia and Russia between it and the pole

Greenland is self-governing, though still nominally controlled by Denmark.

It is important strategically for the United States, which maintains a vast military base at Thule, in the far north. Both the Danes and the Americans are deeply worried that China should be showing such an interest in Greenland.

Least densely populated place on Earth

You’ve got to go there to get an idea of how enormous Greenland is.

It’s the 12th-largest territory in the world, 10 times bigger than the United Kingdom: two million square kilometres of rock and ice.

A vast frozen swathe of Greenland is seen in this aerial shot
Image captionMost of Greenland is covered in permanent ice – a vast frozen wilderness

Yet its population is minuscule at 56,000 – roughly the size of a town in England.

As a result, Greenland is the least densely populated territory on Earth. About 88% of the people are Inuit; most of the rest are ethnically Danish.

In terms of investment neither the Americans nor the Danes have put all that much money into Greenland over the years, and Nuuk, the capital, feels pretty poor. Denmark does hand over an annual subsidy to help Greenland meet its needs.

Every day, small numbers of people gather in the centre to sell things that will generate a bit of cash: cast-off clothes, children’s schoolbooks, cakes they’ve made, dried fish, reindeer-horn carvings. Some people also sell the bloody carcases of the big King Eider ducks, which Inuits are allowed to hunt but aren’t supposed to sell for profit.

China’s air power

At present you can only fly to Nuuk in small propeller-driven planes. In four years, though, that will change spectacularly.

The Greenlandic government has decided to build three big international airports capable of taking large passenger jets.

China is bidding for the contracts.

Media captionAirport officials say the planned work is a huge project – but an important one

There’ll be pressure from the Danes and Americans to ensure the Chinese bid doesn’t succeed, but that won’t stop China’s involvement in Greenland.

Interestingly, I found that opinion about the Chinese tended to divide along ethnic lines.

Danish people were worried about it, while Inuits thought it was a good idea.

The Greenlandic prime minister and foreign minister refused to speak to us about their government’s attitude to China, but a former prime minister, Kuupik Kleist, told us he thought it would be good for Greenland.

But the foreign affairs spokesman of the main Venstre party in the Danish coalition government, Michael Aastrup Jensen, was forthright about Chinese involvement in Greenland.

“We don’t want a communist dictatorship in our own backyard,” he said.

Much-needed wealth

China’s sales technique in other countries where its companies operate is to offer the kind of infrastructure they badly need: airports, roads, clean water.

The Western powers that once colonised many of them haven’t usually stepped in to help, and most of these governments are only too grateful for Chinese aid.

But it comes at a price.

Media captionThe former prime minister says someone – anyone – has to invest in Greenland

China gets access to each country’s raw materials – minerals, metals, wood, fuel, foodstuffs. Still, this doesn’t usually mean long-term jobs for local people. Large numbers of Chinese are usually brought in to do the work.

Country after country has discovered that Chinese investment helps China’s economy a great deal more than it helps them. And in some places – South Africa is one of them – there are complaints that China’s involvement tends to bring greater corruption.

But in Nuuk it’s hard to get people to focus on arguments like these.

What counts in this vast, empty, impoverished territory is the thought that big money could be on its way. Kuupik Kleist put the argument at its simplest.

“We need it, you see,” he said.

19/12/2018

Senior CPC official meets Turkish Justice and Development Party delegation

CHINA-BEIJING-YANG JIECHI-TURKISH DELEGATION-MEETING (CN)

Yang Jiechi(R), a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, meets with a delegation of the Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is led by its deputy chairman Cevdet Yilmaz, in Beijing, capital of China, on Dec. 18, 2018. (Xinhua/Ding Lin)

BEIJING, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) — Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Tuesday met with a delegation of the Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which was led by its deputy chairman Cevdet Yilmaz.

Yang, also director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, said China is willing to work with the Turkish side to implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state during their sideline meeting at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

He said the CPC is willing to make joint efforts with the AKP to deepen the exchange on the experiences of managing the party and the country so as to promote bilateral ties.

Hailing China’s achievements since reform and opening-up 40 years ago, Yilmaz said the AKP is ready to enhance communication and exchange with the CPC to promote bilateral cooperation in fields including the economy, trade, tourism, and anti-terrorism.

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