IN the words of US secretary of state Antony Blinken, Washington’s ties with Beijing is America’s “most consequential and complex relationship”.

That diplomatic relationship has once again been put to the test after Blinken this weekend ­postponed a trip to China after a spat over the ­appearance of a high-altitude Chinese spy balloon currently making its way across the US.

Perhaps to help avoid the threat of ­constantly escalating rhetoric, China ­issued an unusually quick and contrite statement in an effort to ease tensions.

“The Chinese side regrets the ­unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” it said, adding that China would continue to communicate with American authorities and “properly handle this unexpected situation”.

But such gestures do little to disguise or gloss over the real extent to which Sino-American relations have been strained for some time.

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Indeed, had Blinken’s visit gone ahead, it would have made him the most senior US official to visit China in more than four years. For, even long before the ongoing spy balloon spat, ties between ­Washington and Beijing have been mired in the worst state since the US and China established diplomatic relations in 1979.

While the US Department of State has been at pains to point out that the ­postponement of Blinken’s trip is just that – and that a new trip will be organised as soon as possible – there’s no escaping the fact that the two remain at loggerheads over a whole range of issues.

From China’s frustration with US ­President Joe Biden’s efforts to restrict its ability to obtain advanced US ­technology to Beijing’s refusal to condemn ­Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there are any ­number tensions.

Writing recently in a blog for the US think tank the Council On ­Foreign ­Relations, retired American ­diplomat ­Robert D Blackwill outlined the ­dangerous course that both countries are embarked upon.

“China and the United States are in a competitive downward spiral that if not reversed could drastically damage the two countries and damage the rest of the world. In short, they currently chisel away at the world order,” warned Blackhill.

By far though, it’s the thorny issue of China’s perceived territorial ambitions and aggressive military activity around Taiwan that remains among the most ­contentious of issues.

Only these past weeks in the most ­dramatic warning yet from a senior ­military officer about the likelihood of a conflict over Taiwan a top American air force general Mike Minihan, head of US Air Mobility Command, predicted that the US and China will probably go to war in 2025 over the island.

In a leaked private memo obtained by NBC News, Minihan wrote: “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025.”

By way of explanation for his prediction, Minihan outlined how China’s leader Xi Jinping, having now secured his third term as Communist Party general secretary, set his war council in October 2022.

The fact that Taiwan’s presidential ­elections are in 2024 will offer Xi a ­reason, Minihan wrote, adding that the 2024 ­presidential elections in the US would create a “distracted America” that would benefit the Chinese president.

“Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025,” Minihan concluded.

That Minihan’s comments came barely a week before Blinken’s now postponed China visit certainly set the cat among the pigeons diplomatically speaking.

The National: Former president Donald Trump posted 'SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON'Former president Donald Trump posted 'SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON'

Perhaps too it contributed to China’s ­decision to send out a “message” of its own in the shape of what Beijing described as a ­“civilian airship used for research,” that just happened to find its way over ­Montana and the city of Great Falls, near which are one of three US air-force bases that operate and maintain Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles that America would launch in the event of war.

Some analysts have suggested that the balloon was either directed towards the US by mistake, or that the intention was for it to be discovered, as a means of ­reminding Washington to be on its guard.

There’s certainly no doubt that it got the Americans’ attention. While the ­Pentagon kept tabs on the balloon, the leaders of the new US bipartisan China Select ­Committee called it a “violation of American sovereignty”.

Former president Donald Trump, meanwhile, posted “SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!” on his Truth Social media platform.

Whatever China’s aims were, it put paid to Blinken’s effort to stabilise tensions and that’s what really matters.


In less than a week, he has lost $100 billion. Gautam Adani, India’s richest man and the world’s third-richest who heads up the conglomerate Adani Enterprises is now at the centre of a financial storm that has rocked the country. 

It began less than two weeks ago when shares of his company were due to go on sale on January 25 in India’s largest ever secondary share offering.

But then along came the US-based investment firm Hindenburg Research, which published a report accusing  the Adani group of decades of “brazen” stock manipulation and accounting fraud.   Within days, the Adani Group issued a 413-page rebuttal, calling Hindenburg’s report “all lies” and a “calculated attack” on India itself.

The Adani Group said it had always been in “compliance with all laws”.  But none of this has reassured investors, and now apart from the future of the billionaire and his business empire, something bigger is on the line. In short, India’s probity in corporate governance and a wider political fallout.  

Throughout the rise of his business empire, Adani has always said his companies’ goals chimed with  India’s needs. To that end, he has often relied on his longstanding partnership with India’s powerful leader, Narendra Modi.  

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For some time, Adani has brought his private companies which span ports, power, food and more into alignment with one politician more closely than any business giant before him.  The saga has cast a light on the relationship between India’s business and political elite. It also brings into question whether India, faced with accusations of crony capitalism, can become a global economic power like its nearest Asian competitor, China. 

Not surprisingly many observers and opposition politicians say what the Modi government does next has great stakes for India at a pivotal moment in its development.  

“The pride of India is not the wealth of one industrialist,” says Mahua Moitra, an opposition MP who has pressed regulators to investigate Adani’s companies in recent years.  

“The pride of India lies in the robustness of its institutional structures,” Moitra told the Financial Times, adding: “There are huge issues flagged now that may affect millions of retail investors in this country.”  

Some of Modi’s political opponents already smell blood and see an opportunity to catch him out at a vulnerable moment even if they have little chance of dislodging him in next year’s election. 

Last Friday parliament was suspended for a second day running as opposition figures demanded answers as to what regulators knew about the Adani Group’s finances. What comes next is uncertain as Adani executives have been dispatched around the world to reassure nervy investors. 

“Adani’s difficulties only underscore the limited progress India has made in taming the excessive power of its growing band of super-rich ‘Bollygarch’ tycoons and the way in which they use political connections to their advantage,” was how James Crabtree, who authored

The Billionaire Raj, summed the whole affair speaking to Time magazine.   Fraud and failure are not the image Modi will want to convey of an India that is now the world’s fifth-largest economy. This saga though has a long way to run yet. 


WHO would ever want to be a policeman in the troubled Caribbean country of Haiti? According to Haitian human rights group RNDDH, 78 police officers have been killed since prime minister Ariel Henry came to power in July 2021, with an average of five each month.  

In recent weeks, many police officers decided enough was enough, taking to the streets in protest against the recent killing of their colleagues by armed gangs that are expanding their grip across  the country.  

But many analysts of this anarchic nation say that while not all police officers are involved, a substantial number have connections with the  gangs – making them part of the problem, not the solution.  

So bad is the current situation in the country that in a recent survey, around seven in 10 people in Haiti said they backed the proposed creation of an international force to help the national police fight the gangs that all but run the country.  

More than a third of those surveyed said since 2021, they knew someone in their neighbourhood,  family, or workplace who had been killed. More than 70% said their movements in the capital Port au Prince had been limited by gang presence and 83% said they lost income. 

The creation of an international force is a view also supported by the United Nations envoy to Haiti, Helen La Lime, who says that Haiti’s police will not win a fight against criminal gangs without more international support, including the key deployment of a rapid action force.  “We could act with more urgency; I think the international community needs to,” said La Lime.

“We will not win the fight without significant levels of additional support.  “The only thing that Haitian people are really preoccupied with right now is security, is being able to survive to the end of the day.” 

Discussions about the deployment of such a force are said to be stuck on which country would take the lead. There is scepticism too from many who cite abuses from past missions and questions surrounding a force backing the administration of the prime  minister, which has been without democratically elected representatives since early January.  

Just a few days ago, four men accused of having played a key role in the assassination of Henry’s presidential predecessor Jovenel Moise were transferred to the US, where they will face charges. Moise was shot dead at his home in the capital late last year by a hit squad of mainly foreign mercenaries. 

There is, it seems, for now, no end in sight to Haiti’s violence. 


Springtime will see an election in Turkey. Viewed from the perspective of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s a ballot he will welcome given that multiple public and private polls appear to show that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has hit a two-year high following a huge boost in spending and steps that have benefitted millions of voters ahead of the elections due in May.  

But while Erdogan might be viewed favourably by many at home, he continues to do little to endear himself with Nato, of which Turkey is a member. The war in Ukraine might have brought a degree of renewed solidarity to the alliance but Turkey stands alone in not only maintaining cordial relations with Moscow but threatening to block the candidacy of Sweden.

Last Wednesday, Erdogan insisted that Turkey looks positively on Finland’s application for Nato membership – but does not support Sweden’s bid.  “Our position on Finland is positive, but it is not positive on Sweden,” Erdogan said of their Nato applications in a speech to his AK Party deputies  in parliament. 

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the trans-Atlantic defence pact after Russia invaded Ukraine but faced unexpected objections from Turkey and have since sought to win its support. The bottom line here is that Ankara wants Helsinki and Stockholm in particular to take a tougher line against residents linked to movements that it considers anti-Turkish terrorists, mainly the Kurdistan Workers’  Party (PKK).  

The three countries struck a deal last summer, and Finland and Sweden say they have done what they promised. Yet Turkey says it is not enough. But many observers are now of the view  that Nato should stand firm  against what some have described  as Turkey’s blackmail over the  Nordic countries’ candidacy. 

Last week, the US entered the fray with a bipartisan group of senators, insisting Congress cannot support the $20 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey until Ankara ratifies the Nato memberships of both Sweden and Finland.  It was the first time Congress explicitly and directly linked the F-16 sale to Turkey with the Nato accession bids of the two Nordic countries.

In all, the spat gets messier by the day and at the worst possible moment as Nato seeks to close ranks in support of Ukraine against a likely imminent Russian offensive on the battlefield there.