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Xi Jinping is looking for ways to hold on to power, while Ilon Musk is concerned about Japan's demographics

14-9-2022 |

Fresh - freshly squeezed news from the international press. We prepare it 3 times a week.

BBC: China and Russia - friends forever?

China's leader Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin will discuss the war in Ukraine and other "international and regional topics" at their meeting later this week, the Kremlin says.

Photo: RIA News/Alexey Nikolskiy

The two will meet in Uzbekistan at a summit that will show an "alternative" to the Western world, the Kremlin said.

Mr Xi is making his first trip overseas since the beginning of the pandemic.

China's leader is seeking a historic third term while Mr Putin's relations with the West are at rock bottom over Ukraine.

Mr Xi is beginning his three-day trip in Kazakhstan on Wednesday. He will then meet Mr Putin on Thursday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Samarkand, which will run from 15-16 September.

Mr Putin will also meet other leaders including those of India, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran - but his meeting with China's leader "is of particular importance," said Kremlin foreign policy spokesman Yuri Ushakov.

He said the summit was taking place "against the background of large-scale political changes".

China and Russia have long sought to position the SCO, founded in 2001 with four ex-Soviet Central Asian nations, as an alternative to Western multilateral groups.

Mr Xi's visit comes amid a fresh set of lockdowns in China, where his zero Covid policy is still in place. While the rest of the world has opened up, learning to live with with the virus, Beijing continues to shut down entire cities and provinces every time there is a spurt in cases.

Mr Xi last left China in January 2020 to visit Myanmar - just days before the first lockdown came into effect in Wuhan. He has remained in China since then, leaving the mainland only once in July this year to visit Hong Kong.

Mr Putin is also making a rare foray abroad. His meeting with Turkish and Iranian leaders in Tehran in July was only his second foreign trip since Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

This is the two leaders' second meeting this year - they last met at Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.

Following the February meeting, the two leaders issued a joint statement saying the friendship between their countries had "no limits". Russia invaded Ukraine days later - an action China has neither condemned nor voiced support for. Beijing, in fact, has said both sides are to blame.

China is not part of the international sanctions against Russia and trade between the two countries has continued to grow. Indian and Chinese imports of Russian oil have soared since the Ukraine invasion.

China too has seen its relations with the West and especially the US sour in recent months following tensions over self-ruled Taiwan. China claims the island as part of its territory.

China watchers say Mr Xi's decision to leave China after more than two years, despite significant domestic challenges - crippling lockdowns and a faltering economy - show his confidence in his leadership.

Analysts expect him to be re-elected for an unprecedented third term at the upcoming Chinese Communist Party Congress in October.

Reuters: Armenia and Azerbaijan - the old conflict is flaring up with renewed vigour

Fresh clashes erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia on Wednesday as international efforts intensified to end violence that killed nearly 100 soldiers in the deadliest fighting between the ex-Soviet republics since 2020.

The Armenian defence ministry accused Azerbaijan, which is backed politically and militarily by Turkey, of firing artillery, mortar and small arms in a fresh attack.

"The situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border remained tense," the defence ministry said.

At least 49 Armenian and 50 Azerbaijani military were killed on Tuesday in clashes along the countries' border, prompting an appeal for calm from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both sides blamed each other for the fighting .

The clashes have raised fears of another major armed conflict in the former Soviet Union while Russia's military is tied up with the invasion of Ukraine.

A full-fledged conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan would risk dragging in Russia and Turkey, and destabilise an important corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas just as confrontation over Ukraine disrupts energy supplies.

Azerbaijan accused Armenia, which is in a military alliance with Moscow and home to a Russian military base, of firing mortars and artillery against its military units. It said that two civilians had been injured since the clashes erupted.

"Our positions are periodically being fired against at the moment," Azerbaijan's defence ministry said. "Our units are taking the necessary response measures."

Reuters was unable to immediately verify battlefield accounts from either side.

The flare-up in violence has triggered international concern, with Russia, United States, France and the European Union calling for restraint and stepping up diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held separate calls with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijaini President Ilham Alyiev to urge them to end military action.

The Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), to which Armenia had appealed after the clashes erupted, dispatched a delegation to assess the situation on the border.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting for decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but which until 2020 was populated and fully controlled by ethnic Armenians.

France24: EU stays on Ukraine's side

Europe's fears of a long winter with scarce energy supplies because of Russia's war in Ukraine are expected to top an annual speech by EU chief Ursula von der Leyen today.

The "State of the European Union" address to the European Parliament is to focus on ways her European Commission can mitigate the looming crisis, which is being worsened by soaring inflation.


Among those listening to the speech will be Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky, invited as von der Leyen's guest of honour.

"The courage of the Ukrainian people has touched and inspired the world. Europe will stand with you every step of the way," von der Leyen tweeted alongside photos of her and Zelenska in Strasbourg.

Energy measures mooted ahead of von der Leyen's speech were a price cap on imported Russian gas, emergency compensation for consumers, a levy on non-gas electricity producers and an appeal for European households and businesses to cut back on power use.

Some of the responses -- especially the idea of capping gas prices -- have become bogged down by differences between EU member states, which will likely result in a less ambitious package than von der Leyen had sought.

European politicians accuse Moscow of trying to extort the EU over energy, as Russia tries to hit back at Western sanctions that pose long-term risks to its economy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said a week ago it was "impossible" to isolate Moscow and vowed to cut gas and oil deliveries to countries imposing a price cap.

Russian giant Gazprom has shut the Nord Stream gas pipeline that supplies Germany, Europe's export powerhouse.

EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson told MEPs on Tuesday: "There is no magic wand to bring prices back to the pre-war levels. But with a targeted emergency package we can ease the pressure on prices and help citizens.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin -- whose country is joining NATO because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine -- said that Putin was trying to "blackmail" Europe.

She urged EU partners to stand up to Moscow and to stick together, including by imposing more sanctions.

The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told MEPs that European consumers were "going to have to adjust heating habits" in the months ahead.

"If that is the price we have to pay in order to attain and achieve our energy independence then we're doing so, we're on the path to it," he said.

The Guardian: Marriage is losing its popularity in Japan

Rise in people aged 18-24 who don’t intend to marry has consequences for Japan’s low birth rate and depopulation concerns

A record proportion of men and women in Japan say they do not intend to marry, a trend experts have warned will undermine efforts to address the country’s population crisis.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security – a government-affiliated body in Tokyo – said the results of its 2021 survey, published this month, would add to concerns about the low birth rate.

According to the survey, 17.3% of men and 14.6% of women aged between 18 and 34 said they had no intention of ever tying the knot – the highest figure since the questionnaire was first conducted in 1982.

In that survey, taken just before the rise of the bubble economy in the mid-1980s, just 2.3% of men and 4.1% of women said they would never marry.

The decline in marriages has had consequences for Japan’s birth rate as it faces the prospect of dramatic depopulation and a shrinking workforce and economy.

Experts have attributed the trend to several factors, including a growing desire among young working women to enjoy the freedoms that come with being single and having a career.

Men say they also enjoy being single, but also voice concern over job security and their ability to provide for a family. Experts have called on the government to make it easier for women to return to work after having children and to address Japan’s notoriously long working hours.

Asked what constituted an “ideal” lifestyle for women, almost 40% of surveyed single men and 34% of single women cited the ability to balance a career with raising children. In a sign of shifting attitudes towards gender roles, less than 7% of men said they would like their future spouse to stay at home to look after the family.

The number of babies born in Japan in 2021 fell by 29,231, or 3.5%, from the previous year to a record low of 811,604, the health ministry said in June. The number of marriages fell by 24,391 to 501,116, the lowest figure since the end of the second world war.

Government data released in May showed that Japan’s population fell by a record 644,000 last year – the 11th consecutive year of decline.

The data prompted an intervention from Elon Musk, who warned that Japan would “cease to exist” unless it relaxed rules on immigration and did more to promote a healthier work-life balance.

Picked and squeezed for you: Irina Iakovleva