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PBS NewsHour

Xi Jinping celebrates China’s rising power — and his own

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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Xi Jinping opened China’s twice-per-decade Communist Party Congress today with a lengthy list of his achievements during his first five-year term, and his vision of where he hopes to take his nation.

But beyond the words, Xi is asserting power like no Chinese leader in decades.

William Brangham reports.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The applause, the music, it was a reception befitting the commanding role that Xi Jinping has taken since being named party leader five years ago.

He opened today’s proceedings by hailing reforms he’s put in place, and proclaiming a — quote — “new era for China.”

PRESIDENT XI JINPING, China (through interpreter): The Chinese nation has realized a great leap, from declining in modern history to twisting its fate fundamentally and continuously moving to prosperity.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Over 3.5 hours, Xi laid out his vision to shape the nation of 1.4 billion people into what he called a — quote — “great modern socialist country” over the next three decades.

PRESIDENT XI JINPING (through interpreter): Achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be no walk in the park, and it will take more than drumbeating and gong-clanging to get there. The whole party must be prepared to make more arduous, strenuous efforts.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Susan Shirk is chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego.

SUSAN SHIRK, University of California, San Diego: Xi Jinping has a vision of China’s role in the world that is much more ambitious than anything we have seen before, talking about China kind of moving toward the center of the world and having a lot more influence than it did before.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In his address, Xi largely ignored the question of political reforms in China, and he didn’t mention President Trump or North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

But in a rare move, he did acknowledge that with global demand weakening, there were challenges facing China’s export-driven economy.

PRESIDENT XI JINPING (through interpreter):  While China’s overall productive forces have significantly improved and in many areas our production capacity leads the world, the more prominent problem is that our development is unbalanced and inadequate.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Xi was one of the first foreign leaders to meet with President Trump.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The relationship developed by President Xi and myself, I think, is outstanding.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That was decidedly warmer than Mr. Trump’s past criticism of China and its economic and trade policies.

But other U.S. officials are more critical of Beijing’s actions.

REX TILLERSON, Secretary of State: China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today criticized China’s aggressive displays of economic and military power, particularly its expansion on man-made islands in the South China Sea.

REX TILLERSON: We will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order, and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.

SUSAN SHIRK: I think there are things to worry about in Chinese foreign policy that are mostly related to these maritime sovereignty issues and to a kind of bullying in Asia, but the global ambition could turn out to be positive.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Susan Shirk says China has filled a vacuum left by the United States’ withdrawal from global agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accords.

Perhaps the most important thing to watch for in the next few days is who Xi establishes as his likely successor.

SUSAN SHIRK: That is why there is a lot of speculation now that he may be trying, much like Putin, to stay on beyond his normal term or to rule behind the scenes even after he retires.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Trump will be traveling to Beijing to meet Xi next month.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

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The battle for Mosul is over, but this hidden ISIS danger could lurk for years

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HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: The de facto capital of the Islamic State, Raqqa, in Syria fell yesterday to U.S.-backed forces.

However, the largest city the militants once held was Mosul in Iraq. They were ousted from it in July after a brutal 10-month-long fight that killed thousands.

Now a new major task: finding and destroying the ISIS mines, booby-traps and bombs that litter the city.

Special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports from Iraq.

MARCIA BIGGS, Special Correspondent: It was once a center of learning for over 6,000 students of technology, agriculture, and medicine.

Today, Mosul Technical Institute’s classrooms are burnt to the ground, laboratories reduced to rubble, and books charred and shredded. It’s one of the city’s five universities ravaged by the Islamic State and the battle to oust it.

Now that the battle is over, a new danger looms, the trail of land mines and booby-traps left by ISIS.

So this is the wire, and this is where it was buried.

CHRISTIAN, Team Leader, Janus Global Operations: Yes, they would cut the asphalt, and then they lay the wire in and put the main charge here.

MARCIA BIGGS: We spent the day with Christian, a team leader from Janus Global, a security and risk management firm hired by the U.S. government to sweep and clear major areas of unexploded ordnance and mines.

He’s not allowed to show his face or use his last name, for security reasons.

CHRISTIAN: There’s actually two more on that road before we get to the target building that have to be excavated and/or rendered safe.

MARCIA BIGGS: So, the first building you have to clear, you have got to get rid of the IEDs on the road to that building?

CHRISTIAN: Yes.

MARCIA BIGGS: It’s a long process.

CHRISTIAN: It is, but that’s what makes it interesting.

MARCIA BIGGS: The United States has sunk $30 million this year into clearing former ISIS territories all over Northern Iraq. Under this program, Janus has already cleared 727 buildings, removing 3,000 IEDs, which they say ISIS was producing on assembly lines at an industrial scale.

But State Department officials and experts say the number of unexploded ordnance in Mosul itself is unprecedented.

What’s your first line of attack, in terms of trying to clear Mosul?

CHRISTIAN: Our priority is more the community, rather than the individual, you know, infrastructure. You have got schools, power, sewer, water, so that the area can accept people back into it. And then, once this stabilization phase is over, we can move into the individual homes, so that they can be safer.

MARCIA BIGGS: Clearing Mosul is a process that they say could take years, even decades. So Janus is training local Iraqis to do the job, sending them out as a front-line search team, then investigating and removing any suspicious items themselves.

CHRISTIAN: We’re not going to be here the whole time, so when we — it’s our time to leave, they will have the capacity built from us, and the mentoring we have done, so that they can do it on their own.

MARCIA BIGGS: How are they doing?

CHRISTIAN: They’re — a lot of them are very apt to learn. They’re quick. They’re smart.

MARCIA BIGGS: Fawzi al Nabdi is the team leader for the Iraqi local partner. He’s cleared mines all over Iraq for the last six years.

CHRISTIAN: What you got?

FAWZI AL NABDI, Team Leader, Al Fahad Company (through interpreter): We are ready for this, because it’s my job and I love it. The Americans are here to complete our work and to help us. They have greater experience than we do. If we find any mines, we have to stop and they will investigate it and make a plan to remove it.

MARCIA BIGGS: But he says Mosul is the biggest project he has ever seen, and we’re told it could take at least a month to just get the campus cleared of mines. Only then can they start cleaning it up, so that students can resume classes, this itself a huge task.

ISIS fighters closed the university back in 2014, and used it as a military base. As coalition forces pounded ISIS targets, this seat of higher learning became a battleground.

Ghassan Alubaidy is the institute’s dean.

GHASSAN ALUBAIDY, Dean, Mosul Technical Institute (through interpreter): ISIS used our university to manufacture mines and bombs. For this reason, it was the target of airstrikes in the beginning. They struck the institute nine times, and they struck our workshops, too. Now we can’t use them.

MARCIA BIGGS: The former commander of coalition forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, recently listed 81 locations where bombs were dropped, but had not yet exploded.

Facilities used to make weapons were often on the list of high-value targets for the coalition. So now those places are twice as likely to contain dangerous items.

So, this was once a workshop for electrical engineering students. You can still see the lab tables here. It was hit by an airstrike in 2015. Afterwards, members of the university staff found bomb-making instructions among the rubble. This was likely an ISIS bomb-making factory, and judging by the crater, a high-value target.

Despite the damage, Dean Alubaidy says he will hold classes this fall in alternate buildings, until the campus is ready. He’s expecting registration to be in the thousands, students who lost three years of education during the fighting and don’t want to lose another one.

GHASSAN ALUBAIDY (through interpreter): On our Facebook pages, we found a great number of students posting that they were full of encouragement to come back. For us, it was unbelievable. We couldn’t imagine it, to see how many students wanted to start again, how they were dreaming of the first day of classes, when they could sit in front of teachers again and start to live their lives again.

MARCIA BIGGS: Next door, Mosul University has already started classes. Students even volunteered to help in the cleanup.

But across the river, West Mosul was the site of ISIS’ last stand and bore the brunt of the battle. It’s densely packed Old City, with its flattened buildings, is a challenge for mine-sweeping.

FAWZI AL-NABDI (through interpreter): Most of the homes here were full of mines. And just here in front of us, a man with two kids came back to his home, and when he opened the door, the bomb killed him and his kids.

MARCIA BIGGS: Ahmed Younes fled back in early July with only the clothes on his back. Residents have been virtually banned from returning to his neighborhood on the outskirts of the Old City, but Ahmed said he got special permission, in order to retrieve some personal items.

AHMED YOUNES, Local Resident (through interpreter): We came on our own. We got permission to come, but they are not responsible if anything happens to us.

MARCIA BIGGS: Right now, there is no plan to begin clearing the Old City or even to determine how many mines there are. It is still out of bounds to anyone but the Iraqi security forces.

So the Janus team is focusing on progress in the rest of the city, building by building, bomb by bomb.

CHRISTIAN: Whoever made this device had a set goal. And to allow him to win, people get hurt. So you kind of compete against him to be better than him to take it out before it can do any harm.

MARCIA BIGGS: So, you feel like you’re winning the battle against ISIS?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, one IED at a time.

MARCIA BIGGS: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Marcia Biggs in Mosul, Iraq.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Tune in later.

Frontline’s latest film, “Mosul,” was on the ground filming the fight as it unfolded street by street and house by house. That’s tonight on PBS.

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As Rohingya refugees continue to flee from persecution, here’s how you can help

A Rohingya refugee girl poses with a chicken at the Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Photo
         by Jorge Silva/Reuters

A Rohingya refugee girl poses with a chicken at the Balukhali refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Photo by Jorge Silva/Reuters

More than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled their homes since August to escape systematic violence at the hands of government soldiers in Myanmar. The U.N. has called the actions taken by Myanmar forces against the group “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

A report released by Amnesty International on Wednesday documents widespread rape, killings and burnings of Rohingya across the Rakhine State in Myanmar. The report includes extensive interviews of Rohingya refugees who tell stories of live burnings, sexual violence and mass shootings at the hands of soldiers.

To escape persecution, Rohingya refugees are fleeing in droves to neighboring Bangladesh, a country described by some as a reluctant host for the thousands of refugees behind its borders. Conditions within Bangladesh show refugee camps beyond capacity, as organizations struggle to keep up with humanitarian aid.

Find out more: Rohingya Muslims have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, though they’ve lived in the area since the 12th century. They are not considered one of the country’s official ethnic groups. As such, their lack of official identity bars them from government services and travel.

Officials from Myanmar, a majority Buddhist state, claim Rohingya are actually immigrants from Bangladesh to justify their exclusion of the group. This most recent burst of violence comes from Myanmar’s crackdown following clashes with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). After the government declared ARSA a terrorist organization, the retaliation escalated into hundreds of Rohingya villages.

Where to give: BRAC, a top-ranked NGO based out of Bangladesh, is scaling up humanitarian efforts for clean water, health, sanitation and child care for refugees from Myanmar. You can learn more about their efforts here.

An emergency appeal was made by the Disasters Emergency Committee for immediate crisis relief funds. DEC distributes funds to 13 member aid organizations.
UNHCR, UNICEF and Save the Children have donation pages dedicated to the crisis, as does the International Rescue Committee. CNN’s Public Good page provides a user-friendly resource to find NGOs that match your giving goals.

To give to starvation relief, try Action Against Hunger or the World Food Programme.

Be sure to research organizations receiving your financial contributions, not only to find the best organization aligned with your goals, but also to avoid potential scams. For the latest information on aid organizations and charities, visit GuideStar or Charity Navigator to ensure your donations are going in the right direction.

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Tillerson: ‘Heartbreaking’ reports of suffering in Myanmar

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is condemning reported atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and he says those responsible — perhaps the country’s military — will be held accountable.

Tillerson says accounts of the suffering of the Rohingya are “heartbreaking” — and that if those reports are true, then “someone is going to be held to account for that.”

Tillerson — who’s set to visit South Asia next week — is urging the Myanmar government to improve humanitarian access to the population in western Rakhine state.

Amnesty International has accused Myanmar’s security forces of killing hundreds of men, women and children during a systematic campaign to expel the Rohingya. More than 580,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since late August.

“We really hold the military leadership accountable for what’s happening,” Tillerson said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “What’s most important to us is that the world can’t just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in that area.”

He also called Wednesday for the U.S. and India to expand strategic ties. He pointedly criticized China, which he accused of challenging international norms needed for global stability.

He said the world needed the U.S. and India to have a strong partnership. The two nations share goals of security, free navigation, free trade and fighting terrorism in the Indo-Pacific, and serve as “the eastern and western beacons” for an international rules-based order which is increasingly under strain, he said.

Both India and China had benefited from that order, but Tillerson said India had done so while respecting rules and norms, while China had “at times” undermined them. To make his point, he alluded to China’s island building and expansive territorial claims in seas where Beijing has long-running disputes with Southeast Asian neighbors.

“China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for,” Tillerson said in an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

He added that the U.S. seeks constructive relations with China but “won’t shrink” from the challenges it poses when it “subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries, and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.”

U.S.-India relations have generally prospered in the past decade, in part because of their shared concerns about the rise of China. While President Donald Trump has looked to deepen cooperation with China on addressing the nuclear threat from North Korea, he’s also sought a closer relationship with India, which shares U.S. worries on Islamic extremism.

“In this period of uncertainty and angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. I want to make clear: with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace and prosperity, the United States is that partner,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson said the U.S. wants to help improve India’s military capabilities, and also improve security cooperation among the region’s major democracies, which included Japan and Australia.

Tillerson said the U.S. and India were leading regional efforts on counterterrorism. He called for India’s archrival Pakistan “to take decisive action against terrorist groups based within their own borders that threaten its own people and the broader region.”

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