Heatwave shatters Southeast Asia records in April

The effects of recent extreme weather in Southeast Asian countries are far-reaching, from school closures to drought and health advisories. While climate change is part of the problem, this year it was made worse by the cyclical weather pattern called El Nino. VOA’s Chris Casquejo explains.

Australian researchers say enzyme could help lower lower CO2

SYDNEY — Australian scientists say they have discovered how an enzyme “hidden in nature’s blueprint” could help develop climate-resilient crops able to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

An Australian study, by researchers from Australian National University and the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, focuses on a type of bacteria researchers call “tiny carbon superheroes.” 

Cyanobacteria, a type of algae-like bacteria also called blue-green algae, are found in fresh and coastal waters, as well as oceans.  They are commonly known for their toxic blooms in lakes and rivers.  

Through the process of photosynthesis, Australian scientists say, they capture about 12% of the world’s carbon dioxide each year. 

Their study says a carbon dioxide-concentrating mechanism in cyanobacteria lets them turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into sugars for cells to eat more quickly than most standard plants and crops.

Until now, the Australian team was unaware how critical an enzyme in cyanobacteria, called carboxysomal carbonic anhydrase, was to the process. The study says the mystery of how the enzyme maximizes the cyanobacteria’s ability to extract atmospheric carbon dioxide has been solved.

Ben Long, a senior lecturer in molecular plant biology at Australia’s University of Newcastle and is the study’s lead author.

He told VOA that the aim is to engineer crops that can absorb more greenhouse gases.   

“We are actually interested in utilizing this CO2-concentrating mechanism from cyanobacteria, which we know is a remarkably efficiently system for capturing CO2 and we want to engineer that into plant cells to make plant cells able to capture CO2 far more effectively and efficiently,” Long said.

The research says that engineered plants that are more efficient at capturing carbon dioxide could increase crop yield, making global food systems that are more resilient to climate change. 

Long says the findings should be part of international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.  

“Every technology has to be brought to bear to try to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce CO2 in the atmosphere and I think to date we have not really focused much on those potential biological applications to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Long said.

The study has been published in the journal Science Advances.

Scholar called ‘Putin’s brain’ attacked on Chinese internet

Washington — Aleksander Dugin, a Russian nationalist ideologue and strong supporter of President Vladimir Putin, has been bombarded with attacks on Chinese social media, where netizens criticized and mocked his Russian expansionist views that had once included the dismembering of China.

Two years after Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine, pro-Russia sentiment has been prevalent on Chinese internet.

But the backlash against Dugin has revealed a less mentioned side of what has so far appeared to be a cozy alliance between Beijing and Moscow — hostility between Chinese nationalists and their Russian counterparts, the result of centuries of territorial disputes and political confrontations that Beijing has been reticent about displaying publicly in recent decades.

On May 6, Dugin opened an account on two of the most popular Chinese social media apps Weibo, China’s X, formerly known as Twitter, and Bilibili, a YouTube-like video site.

In the first video posted on both Weibo and Bilibili, Dugin greeted the Chinese audience and praised Beijing’s economic and political achievements in recent decades.

In the same video, he also criticized an article published in April in The Economist by Feng Yujun, director of Russian and Central Asian studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. Feng said in the article that Russia will inevitably lose the Ukraine war.

Dugin countered that Feng and some Chinese people underestimated Russia’s “tenacity and perseverance.”

The video was quickly condemned by Chinese citizens, who posted comments such as “Russia must lose,” which received thousands of likes.

“This is an extremist who is extremely unfriendly to China and has made plans to dismember China,” another message posted by a Weibo user named “Zhixingbenyiti” said.

Dugin, 62, was born in Moscow. In the 1980s, he became an anti-communist dissident.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he began to promote Russian expansionism. He believes that Moscow’s territorial expansion in Eurasia will allow it to counter Western forces led by the United States.

In his 1997 book, Foundations of Geopolitics, Dugin wrote that dismembering China was a necessary step for Russia to become strong. People within Putin’s inner circle have reportedly shown interest in Dugin’s writing, which gave rise to his nickname “Putin’s brain.”

However, Dugin’s attitude toward China has changed significantly in recent years. In 2018, he visited China for the first time. In a speech at Fudan University, he praised China’s economy, culture and leadership in the fight against colonialism.

He also changed his previous support for containing China and said in a speech that China and Russia could work together to “form a very important and non-negligible containment/pull effect” on Western powers.

Dugin is now a senior fellow at Fudan University’s China Institute and one of the columnists for China’s nationalist news organization, Guancha.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Dugin said in a column that the alliance between China and Russia would “mean the irreversible end of Western hegemony.”

Philipp Ivanov, a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute, told VOA that “Dugin is an opportunist. As the Ukraine war dramatically accelerated the alignment between China and Russia, his position started to change, resulting in his current attempt to engage with China’s intellectual and broader community.”

Ivanov also thinks Dugin’s influence on the Kremlin has been exaggerated.

Since joining Chinese social media, Dugin has gained more than 100,000 followers on Weibo and 25,000 followers on BiliBili. He has published fewer than five posts on Weibo, but nearly every one of them has more than 1,000 comments, most of which criticized him.

Under a post in which Dugin supported Putin on his fifth presidential term, people responded with comments such as “Russia is about to lose the war” and “The gates of hell are waiting for you.”

Wang Xiaodong, China’s most influential nationalist scholar, shared a Weibo post he made two years ago criticizing Dugin and Chinese pro-Russian groups.

“Introducing Dugin’s ideas is not because I worry that the Kremlin will implement his ideas; He has the intention but not the strength! I just want to tell the Chinese people how some Russians, including elites in the powerful departments, view China. Do we Chinese need to risk our lives for them?” the post read.

Ivanov was not surprised by the attacks on Dugin on the Chinese internet.

“While Chinese netizens may support Putin’s anti-Western/anti-US agenda, they are skeptical or outright negative about Russia’s assault on an independent country’s sovereignty and Russian expansionism, nationalism and chauvinism (which Dugin represents),” he told VOA in an email.

He said the history of China-Russia relations is predominantly about confrontation, competition and mistrust.

Among the attacks on Dugin, many netizens also brought up former Chinese territories that Russia occupied in the past 200 years.

“For the sake of ever-lasting friendship between China and Russia, please return Sakhalin and Vladivostok,” one Weibo comment posted by “lovejxcecil” read.

Although China has not been involved in the war, the Russia-Ukraine war has been a hot topic on the Chinese internet.

According to Eric Liu, a former Weibo censor, Dugin’s joining the platform undoubtedly brought more traffic to Weibo. However, it also means that Weibo needs to invest more resources in censorship to prevent him from making remarks that Beijing considers sensitive.

“He is a foreigner. He has no idea about China’s ‘political correctness’ or where the boundaries are,” Liu said. “This risk will have to be taken care of by Weibo, which brought him in.”

On Thursday, Dugin posted on Weibo that China and Russia could achieve “anything” together. His comment section has been turned off. 

US arrests American and Ukrainian in North Korea-linked IT infiltration scheme

WASHINGTON — U.S. prosecutors on Thursday announced the arrests of an American woman and a Ukrainian man they say helped North Korea-linked IT workers posing as Americans to obtain remote-work jobs at hundreds of U.S. companies.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) said the elaborate scheme, aimed at generating revenue for North Korea in contravention of international sanctions, involved the infiltration of more than 300 U.S. firms, including Fortune 500 companies and banks, and the theft of the identities of more than 60 Americans.

A DoJ statement said the overseas IT workers also attempted to gain employment and access to information at two U.S. government agencies, although these efforts were “generally unsuccessful.”

An earlier State Department statement said the scheme had generated at least $6.8 million for North Korea. It said the North Koreans involved were linked to North Korea’s Munitions Industry Department, which oversees development of the country’s ballistic missiles, weapons production, and research and development programs.

An indictment filed in federal court in Washington last week and unsealed on Thursday said charges had been filed against Christina Marie Chapman, 49, of Litchfield Park, Arizona; Ukrainian Oleksandr Didenko, 27, of Kyiv; and three other foreign nationals.

A Justice Department statement said Chapman was arrested on Wednesday, while Didenko was arrested on May 7 by Polish authorities at the request of the United States, which is seeking his extradition.

The State Department announced a reward of up to $5 million for information related to Chapman’s alleged co-conspirators, who used the aliases Jiho Han, Haoran Xu and Chunji Jin, and another unindicted individual using the aliases Zhonghua and Venechor S.

Court records did not list lawyers for those arrested and it was not immediately clear whether they had legal representation.

The head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Nicole Argentieri, said the alleged crimes “benefited the North Korean government, giving it a revenue stream and, in some instances, proprietary information stolen by the co-conspirators.”

The charges “should be a wakeup call for American companies and government agencies that employ remote IT workers,” she said in the statement.

It said the scheme “defrauded U.S. companies across myriad industries, including multiple well-known Fortune 500 companies, U.S. banks, and other financial service providers.”

The DoJ said Didenko was accused of creating fake accounts at U.S. IT job search platforms, selling them to overseas IT workers, some of whom he believed were North Korean. It said overseas IT workers using Didenko’s services were also working with Chapman.

Didenko’s online domain, upworksell.com, was seized Thursday by the Justice Department, the statement said.

The DOJ statement said the FBI executed search warrants for U.S.-based “laptop farms” – residences that hosted multiple laptops for overseas IT workers.

It said that through these farms, including one Chapman hosted from her home, U.S.-based facilitators logged onto U.S. company computer networks and allowed the overseas IT workers to remotely access the laptops, using U.S. IP addresses to make it appear they were in the United States.

The statement said search warrants for four U.S. residences associated with laptop farms controlled by Didenko were issued in the Southern District of California, the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Eastern District of Virginia, and executed between May 8 and May 10.

North Korea is under U.N. sanctions aimed at cutting funding for its missile and nuclear weapons programs and experts say it has sought to generate income illicitly, including through IT workers.

Confidential research by a now-disbanded U.N. sanctions monitoring panel seen by Reuters on Tuesday showed they had been investigating 97 suspected North Korean cyberattacks on cryptocurrency companies between 2017 and 2024, valued at some $3.6 billion.

The U.N. sanctions monitors were disbanded at the end of April after Russia vetoed renewal of their mandate.

A research report from a Washington think tank in April said North Korean animators may have helped create popular television cartoons for big Western firms despite international sanctions. 

Protesters disrupt Google conference over Israel AI contract

Protesters disrupted Google’s annual conference this week over the tech giant’s deal providing artificial intelligence and other services to the Israeli government. Matt Dibble reports from Mountain View, California. Camera: Matt Dibble.

Kenya conference showcases technology to help people with disabilities

In Africa, about 15% of the population faces disability challenges despite advancements in technology. Limited infrastructure and high cost of assistive tech create barriers to digital access, leading to exclusion. A conference in Nairobi this week aims to help change that. Mohammed Yusuf reports.

Webb telescope uncovers merger of two massive black holes from early universe

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA — The Webb Space Telescope has discovered the earliest known merger of black holes.

These two gigantic black holes and their galaxies consolidated just 740 million years after the universe-forming Big Bang. It’s the most distant detection ever made of merging black holes, scientists reported Thursday.

One black hole is 50 million times more massive than our sun. The other is thought to be similar in size, but is buried in dense gas, which makes it harder to measure.

Until now, astronomers weren’t sure how supermassive black holes got so big.

The latest findings, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, suggest mergers are how black holes can grow so rapidly — “even at cosmic dawn,” said lead author Hannah Ubler of the University of Cambridge.

“Massive black holes have been shaping the evolution of galaxies from the very beginning,” Ubler said in a statement.

Launched in 2021 as the eventual successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Webb is the biggest and most powerful observatory ever sent into space. A joint U.S.-European project, the infrared observatory surveys the universe from a location 1.6 million kilometers from Earth.

China property shares jump on report of government plans to buy homes

HONG KONG — Shares of Chinese property developers rallied on Thursday after a report that China was considering a plan for local governments across the country to buy millions of unsold homes from distressed companies to ease a protracted property crisis. 

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index closed up 4.9% to the highest since November 24. The sub-index has gained around 30% since mid-April, when the market started speculation that more supportive measures would be rolled out to stabilize the ailing sector after months of disappointing home sales. 

Defaulted private developer Fantasia and KWG Group jumped 63% and 40%, respectively, while state-backed Sino-Ocean Group surged 46%. 

Hong Kong’s markets were closed on Wednesday for a public holiday. They have been catching up to gains in mainland property shares since the previous day. 

China’s CSI 300 Real Estate index firmed 3.5% on Thursday, following a 2.2% rise on Wednesday.  

Bloomberg News said on Wednesday the State Council was gathering feedback on the preliminary plan from various provinces and government bodies after a meeting of the ruling Communist Party leaders in late April called for efforts to clear mounting housing inventory. 

Local state-owned enterprises would be asked to help purchase unsold homes from distressed developers at steep discounts using loans provided by state banks, according to the report, which added that many of these homes would be converted into affordable housing. 

China’s housing ministry, central bank, the National Financial Regulatory Administration and the Ministry of Natural Resources scheduled a news briefing Friday afternoon about the supporting policies to ensure housing delivery, according to a notice on Thursday. 

Bloomberg News said in a separate report on Thursday that the State Council plans to hold a meeting with key officials from the housing ministry, financial regulators, local governments and state banks on Friday morning to discuss the property market, including a proposal to clear excess housing inventory. 

Reuters could not independently verify the reports.  

China’s property sector slipped into a debt crisis in mid-2021. Since 2022, waves of policy measures have failed to turn around the sector, which represents about a fifth of the economy and remains a major drag on consumer spending and confidence. 

Over the past years, some local governments already announced plans to buy unfinished or unsold homes from developers and turn them into social housing, but the scale has been small. 

Authorities also in recent weeks ramped up policies intended to clear the stock of unsold housing. Large cities such as Beijing and Shenzhen have eased home purchase restrictions, with some allowing homebuyers to “swap” to a new home from an old one. 

“We believe this could be a game changer in the sense that property sales may at least stabilize rather than turn worse,” JPMorgan said in a report, referring to the reported plan in consideration. 

The bank, however, added it is skeptical about whether the scale would be large enough to trigger a market recovery unless the funding would come from the central government. 

Nomura said if local governments could acquire a meaningful volume of unsold homes from developers, it would help resolve the inventory issue and channel fund flows to the credit-trapped private companies, said Nomura.  

This, in turn, would support construction activities and alleviate the sector’s downward spiral, it said. 

However, some have been concerned about the lack of housing demand in smaller cities, with worries surfacing that such a plan would further weigh on the financial health of local governments.  

Local governments are already more than $9 trillion in debt and pose a major risk to China’s economy and financial stability. 

“It would only work in higher-tier cities but not lower-tier ones; where would the buyers come from?” said an analyst from another Asian bank, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media. “Telling local governments in those cities to buy inventory would just burn their balance sheet.” 

TSMC says no damage to its Arizona facilities after incident

TAIPAI, TAIWAN — Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC said Thursday there was no damage to its facilities after an incident at its Arizona factory construction site where

a waste disposal truck driver was transported to a hospital.

Firefighters responded to a reported explosion Wednesday afternoon at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company plant in Phoenix, the Arizona Republic reported, citing the local fire department.

TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker whose clients include Apple and Nvidia, said in a statement none of its employees or onsite construction workers had reported any related injuries.

“This is an active investigation with no additional details that can be shared at this time,” it added.

TSMC’s Taipei-listed shares pared earlier gains after the news and were last up around 0.8% on Thursday morning. TSMC last month agreed to expand its planned investment by $25 billion to $65 billion and to add a third Arizona plant by 2030.

The company will produce the world’s most advanced 2 nanometer technology at its second Arizona facility expected to begin production in 2028.

Fewer US overdose deaths reported last year, but experts still cautious

NEW YORK — The number of fatal overdoses in the U.S. fell last year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data posted Wednesday.

Agency officials noted that the data is provisional and could change after more analysis, and that they still expect a drop when the final counts are in. It would be only the second annual decline since the current national drug death epidemic began more than three decades ago.

Experts reacted cautiously. One described the decline as relatively small and said it should be thought of as part of a leveling off rather than a decrease. Another noted that the last time a decline occurred — in 2018 — drug deaths shot up in the years that followed.

“Any decline is encouraging,” said Brandon Marshall, a Brown University researcher who studies overdose trends. “But I think it’s certainly premature to celebrate or to draw any large-scale conclusions about where we may be headed long term with this crisis.”

It’s also too soon to know what spurred the decline, Marshall and other experts said. Explanations could include shifts in the drug supply, expansion of overdose prevention and addiction treatment, and the grim possibility that the epidemic has killed so many that now there are basically fewer people to kill.

CDC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Debra Houry called the dip “heartening news” and praised efforts to reduce the tally, but she noted that “there are still families and friends losing their loved ones to drug overdoses at staggering numbers.”

About 107,500 people died of overdoses in the U.S. last year, including American citizens and noncitizens who were in the country at the time they died, the CDC estimated. That’s down 3% from 2022, when there were an estimated 111,000 such deaths, the agency said.

The drug overdose epidemic, which has killed more than 1 million people since 1999, has had many ripple effects. For example, a study published last week in JAMA Psychiatry estimated that more than 321,000 U.S. children lost a parent to a fatal drug overdose from 2011 to 2021.

“These children need support” and are at a higher risk of mental health and drug use disorders themselves, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which helped lead the study. “It’s not just a loss of a person. It’s also the implications that loss has for the family left behind.”

Prescription painkillers once drove the nation’s overdose epidemic, but they were supplanted years ago by heroin and more recently by illegal fentanyl. The dangerously powerful opioid was developed to treat intense pain from ailments such as cancer but has increasingly been mixed with other drugs in the illicit drug supply.

For years, fentanyl was frequently injected, but increasingly it’s being smoked or mixed into counterfeit pills.

A study published last week found that law enforcement seizures of pills containing fentanyl are rising dramatically, jumping from 44 million in 2022 to more than 115 million last year.

It’s possible that the seizures indicate that the overall supply of fentanyl-laced pills is growing fast, not necessarily that police are whittling down the illicit drug supply, said one of the paper’s authors, Dr. Daniel Ciccarone of the University of California, San Francisco.

He noted that the decline in overdoses was not uniform. All but two of the states in the eastern half of the U.S. saw declines, but most Western states saw increases. Alaska, Washington and Oregon each saw 27% increases.

The reason? Many Eastern states have been dealing with fentanyl for about a decade, while it’s reached Western states more recently, Ciccarone said.

Nevertheless, some researchers say there are reasons to be optimistic. It’s possible that smoking fentanyl is not as lethal as injecting it, but scientists are still exploring that question.

Meanwhile, more money is becoming available to treat addiction and prevent overdoses, through government funding and legal settlements with drugmakers, wholesalers and pharmacies, Ciccarone noted.

“My hope is 2023 is the beginning of a turning point,” he said. 

Beijing vows retaliation against Biden’s hikes of tariffs on Chinese imports

New Zealand researchers say artificial intelligence could enhance surgery

SYDNEY — Researchers in New Zealand say that artificial intelligence, or AI, can help solve problems for patients and doctors.  

A new study from the University of Auckland says that an emerging area is the use of AI during operations using so-called “computer vision.”

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, says that artificial intelligence has the potential to identify abnormalities during operations and to unburden overloaded hospitals by enhancing the monitoring of patients to help them recover after surgery at home.

The New Zealand research details how AI “tools are rapidly maturing for medical applications.”  It asserts that “medicine is entering an exciting phase of digital innovation.”

The New Zealand team is investigating computer vision, which describes a machine’s understanding of videos and images. 

 

Dr. Chris Varghese, a doctoral researcher in the Department of Surgery at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland, led the AI research team.

He told VOA the technology has great potential.

“The use of AI in surgery is a really emerging field. We are seeing a lot of exciting research looking at what we call computer vision, where AI is trying to learn what surgeons see, what the surgical instruments look like, what the different organs look like, and the potential there is to identify abnormal anatomy or what the safest approach to an operation might be using virtual reality and augmented reality to plan ahead of surgeries, which could be really useful in cutting out cancers and things like that.”

Varghese said doctors in New Zealand are already using AI to help sort through patient backlogs.

 

“We are using automated algorithms to triage really long waiting lists,” he said. “So, getting people prioritized and into clinics ahead of time, based on need, so the right patients are seen at the right time.”

The researchers said there are limitations to the use of artificial intelligence because of concerns about data privacy and ethics.

The report concludes that “numerous apprehensions remain with regard to the integration of AI into surgical practice, with many clinicians perceiving limited scope in a field dominated by experiential” technology.

The study also says that “autonomous robotic surgeons…. is the most distant of the realizable goals of surgical AI systems.”

Biden quadruples tariffs on Chinese EVs

WASHINGTON — In a bid to revive domestic manufacturing, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he is imposing a drastic tariff increase on Chinese electric vehicles and new levies on computer chips, solar cells and lithium-ion batteries. 

“We’re not going to let China flood our market making it impossible for American auto – auto manufacturers to compete fairly,” Biden said. “I will do it by following international trade laws.”

Tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, or EVs, will be quadrupled to a 100% rate. Solar cell and semiconductor imports from China will be subject to a 50% tariff, double the current rate. The rate on certain steel and aluminum imports will increase to 25%, more than triple the current level.

The tariff increase will cover $18 billion in Chinese products. Tariffs on EVs, steel and aluminum, and solar cells will take effect this year, and next year for chips. 

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the administration has provided pre-notification to Beijing. 

“We have made clear this is not about escalation,” she said. “This is about the consequences of decades of economic policy and the need for the United States to defend our rights.” 

The move is designed to offset “China’s unfair practices and subsidies and level the playing field for U.S. automakers and auto workers,” National Economic Adviser Lael Brainard told reporters Monday ahead of the announcement.

“China is simply too big to play by its own rules,” she said. “China is using the same playbook it has before to power its own growth at the expense of others by continuing to invest, despite excess Chinese capacity, and flooding global markets with exports that are underpriced due to unfair practices.”

China’s “forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft” have contributed to its control of the majority of global production for the critical inputs “creating unacceptable risks to America’s supply chains and economic security,” the White House said.

Responding to the U.S. announcement, China said Tuesday the move “will seriously affect the atmosphere of bilateral cooperation.”  

“The U.S. is essentially using the ‘overcapacity’ narrative to kneecap other countries’ strong industries and practice protectionism and trample on market principles and international trade rules in the name of “fair competition.’ This is nothing but bullying,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing Tuesday.

Tough on China

The move follows a three-year review of the policies of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, who is the Republican presumptive presidential nominee. Both candidates have used their campaign events to compete in showing who is tougher on China ahead of the November election.

“My predecessor promised to increase American exports and boost manufacturing, but he did neither. He failed,” Biden said. 

The former president said Tuesday that the Biden administration’s new tariffs will not be enough to compete against Beijing.

“China’s eating our lunch right now,” Trump said, adding that Biden should slap tariffs on “much more than electric vehicles.”

“They’ve also got to do it on other vehicles and they have to do it on a lot of other products,” Trump told reporters as he entered court for his hush money trial in New York. 

Asked by reporters on Trump’s comment about China eating America’s lunch, Biden responded, “He’s been feeding them a long time.”

The Trump campaign hit back, calling Biden’s action a “weak and futile attempt to distract from the grievous harm his insane Electric Vehicle mandate is doing to the U.S. auto industry.”  

“The fact that these tariffs do not apply to gas-powered cars and trucks but only to Chinese EVs shows that this has nothing to do with protecting American Workers,” Trump campaign press secretary Karoline Leavitt said in a statement. “It’s all about Crooked Joe’s agenda of killing gas-powered automobiles while forcing Americans into ultra-expensive Electric Vehicles they don’t want and can’t afford.”

Asked by VOA to respond to such criticism, Tai said the tariffs are “designed to be strategic and not chaotic. They are designed to be effective and not emotional.” 

Preempting future increases

Currently, the United States imports almost no EVs from China, but the Biden administration is trying to preempt potential future increases, said Rachel Ziemba, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, or CNAS.

The tariffs hit on sectors where the administration has been investing on with industrial policy tools like the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, Ziemba told VOA, referring to Biden’s climate and energy legislation, and legislation to boost domestic semiconductor research and manufacturing.

“In a sense, these tariffs are part of a policy initiative to make sure that Chinese companies can’t benefit from that U.S. government subsidy,” he said.

The move is likely to increase friction between the world’s two largest economies and not likely to change Beijing’s behavior.

“China opposes unilateral tariffs that violate WTO rules and will take all measures necessary to defend our legitimate rights and interests,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang said.

Biden reiterated he wants “fair competition with China, not conflict.” He said the U.S. is in a stronger position to win because of the investments his administration has made to revive domestic manufacturing.

According to a 2022 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, China spent more on industrial policy ($248 billion) than it did on its defense spending ($240 billion) in 2019.

 

China spends far more on supporting its industries than any other economy in CSIS study, and more than twice as much as the U.S.

Anita Powell contributed to this report.

New TB vaccine being tested in South Africa holds hope for millions

A groundbreaking clinical trial is underway in South Africa, marking a pivotal moment in the fight against tuberculosis. The new vaccine could become the first to help prevent pulmonary TB, the most common form of the disease, in adolescents and adults. It would be the first new TB vaccine in more than a century. Zaheer Cassim has the story.

LogOn: Robots play bigger roles in marine workforce

Seafaring robots are increasingly used for tasks ranging from ocean exploration to rescue missions. Matt Dibble has the latest in this week’s episode of LogOn.