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Beijing chosen to host 2022 Winter Olympics

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xi-jinpingAFP1

 

Kuala Lumpur: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing which hosted an “exceptional” Summer Games in 2008 and promises to do even better this time.

Beijing won 44 nods against Almaty’s 40 in the IOC voting with one abstention, becoming the first ever city to host both summer and winter Olympics, reports Xinhua.

In the 2022 Games voting, the secret ballot by 85 IOC members was conducted twice, first electronically and then on paper, after it was discovered that the electronic system had malfunctioned.

The Games will be divided between the capital and the city of Zhangjiakou — which is 118 miles north-west of Beijing and will host the snow events.

The Chinese capital and its co-bidder Zhangjiakou erupted with joy as IOC president Thomas Bach announced the winner at the 128th IOC session at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s passion for the Games in a video speech played during Beijing’s final presentation to the IOC members early in the afternoon.

“The 2022 Olympic Winter Games if held in China will boost exchanges and mutual understanding between the Chinese and other civilizations of the world, encourage more than 1.3 billion Chinese to engage in winter sports with interest and passion and give them yet another opportunity to help advance the Olympic Movement and promote the Olympic spirit,” Xi said.

“The Chinese government highly appreciates the Olympic Values and the IOC’s initiative of reform. We will honour all the commitments we have made and fully implement the Olympic Agenda 2020.”

A 12-member Beijing panel made a passionate presentation six hours earlier. Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong and former NBA star Yao Ming also weighed in.

The panel explained how the bid met the Olympic Agenda 2020 principles, promising athlete-centred, sustainable and economical Games, while giving much more: an opportunity to grow winter sports in the world’s most populous country, as well as a buzzing environment of a modern city and sporting action at the foot of the Great Wall.

Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, bowed out with grace. Its message of a compact Games with atmosphere and a wintry setting was not quite enough to get it across the line.

Modern, quick and efficient transport is a key element of the Beijing 2022 bid. An integral part of the government’s Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Intercity Rail Master Plan, the construction of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed rail link began last year and will be fully operational by early 2019.

Yanqing is only 20 minutes from Beijing while Zhangjiakou is just 50 minutes away from the capital city.

Beijing 2022 will re-use 11 of 12 competition and non-competition facilities post-2008 including four iconic venues — Bird’s Nest National Stadium, Water Cube National Aquatics Center, Wukesong MasterCard Center and the China National Convention Center (CNCC).

Air quality and snow conditions are regarded as two of the major challenges for Beijing, but the bid officials have given an answer and solution to all the concerns.

In an effort to tackle air pollution, Beijing upgraded its coal-fired heating system in urban areas to natural gas heating system and closed down heavy-polluted plants. Neighbouring city Tianjin and provinces including Hebei adopted similar measures.

Lack of natural snow was considered as a disadvantage for the 2022 host. But the climate conditions in Zhangjiakou’s Chongli county, where cross country, freestyle and other skiing events will be held, won’t be a concern.

“In last snow season in the Chongli resort, the snowfall is 70 centimetres, so that’s enough for Winter Olympics Games,” said Zhangjiakou Mayor Hou Liang.

(IANS)

 

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Conflict and Diplomacy exercise on the South China Sea

Many nations have urged Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which sets maritime zones of control based on coastlines.

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Chinese territory
China, whose contentious claims to more than 95 percent of the region—first espoused by the nationalist government in 1947
One-third of global maritime traffic. An estimated $5 trillion in annual trade. Six claimant nations. One body of water. And that’s just on the surface.

Welcome to the South China Sea, the geographic commons of Southeast Asia’s navigable rimland. Its 3.5 million square kilometers of underlying bedrock contain oil and natural gas deposits that, by official U.S. estimates, are at least equal to Mexico’s and, by some contested Chinese estimates, might be second only to Saudi Arabia’s. Also, home to lucrative fisheries and supply routes that carry 80 percent of China’s crude imports, the territorially disputed region may be the most strategically important waterway of the 21st century.

Tracing shorelines of sprawling, hard-to-govern archipelago nation-states to the south, the sea is bound to the north by China, whose contentious claims to more than 95 percent of the region—first espoused by the nationalist government in 1947—cite ancient maritime records.

For centuries, these waters also have been vital to the economic survival of neighboring Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

The waters are also prized by regional non-claimants. For U.S.-allied Japan and South Korea, situated far to the north, South China Sea shipping lanes provide access to trade-intensive waters of the Indian Ocean, via which more than half of their respective energy needs are met. For non-claimant Indonesia, Natuna Sea fishing grounds along the southern fringe of the contested region hold vital natural gas reserves.

Many nations have urged Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which sets maritime zones of control based on coastlines. The United States, which has signed onto UNCLOS without ratifying it, often relies on the international agreement to settle territorial disputes.

China has refrained, invoking intertemporal laws based on the deep historical record, such as archaeological findings on disputed reefs and islands. At best, China views U.N.-backed codes of maritime governance as incompatible with domestic laws; at worst, it sees them as instruments of Western hegemony designed to undercut its expanding influence as a world power.

China
Even after the global pressure, China has been adamant on its stand on South China Sea. Wikimedia Commons

On the horizon

If Asia’s astonishing economic growth of the past two decades continues, however, regional stability will remain a matter of global consequence. Beyond China’s increasingly assertive land grabs and island-building campaigns—some 1,300 hectares of tiny islets have been landfilled to sustain mostly military infrastructure, including runways long enough to accommodate bombers—low-level skirmishes between Chinese naval patrols and civilian fishing fleets from neighboring countries could spark international conflict.

In July, a five-judge panel in The Hague unanimously rejected the legal basis of nearly all of China’s maritime claims. Within weeks, China’s Supreme People’s Court issued a regulation stating a “clear legal basis for China to safeguard maritime order,” in which Beijing vowed to prosecute any foreigners found fishing or prospecting in disputed waters.

Other means of settling complex territorial disputes also appear ineffective. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ long-delayed code of conduct for the South China Sea, which Beijing officials said they would finalize in 2017, would do little to resolve conflicting claims of sovereignty. Much like the Hague-based tribunal’s ruling, any legally binding ASEAN declaration would lack meaningful mechanisms of enforcement.

While the United States has long said it does not take an official position on South China Sea disputes, it steadily criticizes China’s behavior there and plans to expand defense alliances with countries that have overlapping claims. By 2021, U.S. Navy officials plan to expand the Pacific Fleet’s overseas assigned forces by approximately 30 percent.

As President Donald Trump assumed office, some observers speculated that, like his immediate predecessors, he might be called upon quickly to handle another South China Sea crisis. Just months into his first term, former President George W. Bush faced an international dispute triggered by a midair collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet near Hainan Island.

Less than seven weeks after former President Barack Obama took office, Chinese ships and planes confronted the USNS Impeccable, a surveillance ship in waters south of Hainan, and ordered it to leave. The U.S. said that it had the right to be there and that the ship was harassed, while Beijing defended its actions. Obama responded by sending a guided-missile destroyer to protect the Impeccable.

Such incidents, engineered or otherwise, are likely to continue defining the dispute as it unfolds in real time. Until broader questions of maritime sovereignty are resolved, the waterway promises to remain a fulcrum upon which the geopolitics of international trade, and thus the global economy, pivots. We’ll keep close tabs on developments here as they occur. VOA