June 16, 2019
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China reaches 800 million internet users

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China’s internet population has now grown beyond 800 million, according to the latest data from the Chinese government.

A new report [in Chinese] issued by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) put the number of people in China with access to the internet at 802 million. The agency — which is a branch of the Ministry of Industry and Information and is responsible for controlling the .cn country code — estimates that 29.68 million people in China came online for the first time in the second half of 2018.

For some context, the U.S is estimated to have around 300 million internet users. The number of internet users in China is now more than the combined populations of Japan, Russia, Mexico and the U.S., as Bloomberg noted.

The new statistic takes internet adoption in the country to 57.7 percent, with 788 million people reportedly mobile internet users. That’s a staggering 98 percent and it underlines just how crucial mobile is in the country.

Other notable data points from the report include:

  • 21 percent of China’s internet users are also online banking users
  • 71 percent used online payments or e-commerce services
  • 74.1 percent used short video applications, which include ByteDance’s Douyin app (known as TikTok outside of China)
  • 30.6 percent used bike sharing apps
  • 43.2 percent used taxi-booking apps
  • 37.3 percent used the internet to reserve buses and trains

The growth of China’s internet also puts pressure on the government to maintain its policy of control over information that appears online.

It is common knowledge that Western services such as Twitter and Facebook are inaccessible in Mainland China, but the government has also cracked down on local services that include Toutiao, which is run by new media firm ByteDance, which is currently talking to investors to raise $2.5-$3.5 billion. ByteDance was ordered to shutter a parody app it operated in China while four news and content apps were suspended from the App Store and Google Play for offending authorities. ByteDance responded by doubling its content moderation team and developing stronger systems for checking content.

Apple has also been caught in the crosshairs. The company reported purged thousands of apps from the App Store in China recently. Last year it removed more than 50 VPN apps, which can be used to circumvent China’s internet censorship system, because they are deemed to be illegal in China.

US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson in Vietnam for historic visit

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Hanoi: A US aircraft carrier arrived in Vietnam on Monday for the first time since the end of the war, as the former foes bolster military ties in the face of Beijing’s build-up in the disputed South China Sea.

The USS Carl Vinson will make a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that will include a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant sprayed over large swathes of land by the US during the Vietnam war.

But ongoing tensions in the South China Sea loom over the trip as Beijing continues to build artificial islands capable of hosting military installations — much to the chagrin of Vietnam and other claimants to the sea.

Though the US is not a claimant to the resource-rich waterway, it has long lobbied for freedom of navigation in the sea to counter China’s growing influence.

Analysts say the port call, which follows a visit to the Philippines last month, is a chance for the United States to flex its military muscle in Asia.

“It’s a US push… to demonstrate a massive naval presence in the South China Sea area to China, that the US is staying engaged,” Vietnam expert Carl Thayer told AFP ahead of the trip.

Vietnam remains the most vocal claimant in the region after the Philippines backed off under China-friendly President Rodrigo Duterte. Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea.

Duterte has refused to implement a landmark 2016 international tribunal ruling in Manila’s favour over its competing claims with Beijing.

“The Philippines has just rolled over, China is continually militarising and if the US doesn’t maintain a presence in the region, Vietnam’s got nowhere to hide,” Thayer said.

The visit is also being touted as a key landmark between the former bitter enemies, whose relations have seen an extraordinary turnaround since the end of the war in 1975.

Though US ships have regularly docked in Vietnam in the past, this is the first time an aircraft carrier will make a port call to the country.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said the visit will “contribute to maintaining peace, stability, security, cooperation and development in the region”.

The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson is home to 5,300 sailors, pilots and crew and 72 aircraft and will be in Danang — once a key US airbase — until its departure on Friday.

The visit includes friendly basketball and soccer matches between US sailors and locals, along with an orphanage visit and navy band concerts.

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Egypt’s army kills 10, arrests 400 in Sinai operation, reports state TV

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International News: Egyptian security forces killed 10 militants in an exchange of fire and arrested 400 suspects, including foreigners, in a continuing crackdown in Sinai, the army said in a statement carried by state TV on Tuesday.

Based on army statements, around 38 militants have been killed since the latest offensive to crush insurgents blamed for a string of attacks began.

Egypt launched a major security operation on Friday involving the army and police against “terrorist and criminal elements and organisations” across the country, according to the army spokesman.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is seeking re-election in March, ordered the armed forces in November to defeat militants within three months after an attack on a mosque killed more than 300 people, the deadliest such violence in the Arab world’s most populous country.

The insurgency poses the greatest challenge to the government in a country that is both the most populous in the Arab World and a main regional ally of the United States.

Sisi was elected for his first term in 2014 after the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against his rule.

PM Narendra Modi in the UAE: Burj Khalifa, Dubai Frame glow with tricolour

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India: In an extraordinary gesture of friendship, the United Arab Emirates(UAE) on Friday evening lit up the iconic Burj Khalifa and Dubai Frame in Dubai, and Abu Dhabi’s iconic ADNOC building and Emirates Palace in Indian flag colours. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE which is home to a huge Indian diaspora, on Saturday evening — his second visit after August 2015.

During his visit, the PM will hold talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, who was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day in 2017. The Prime Minister will also hold talks with Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. Following this, several agreements include in areas like finance and skills development are likely to be signed.  Modi is scheduled to interact with UAE and Arab CEOs in Dubai on the economic opportunities in India.

“At the invitation of the leadership of the UAE, I will be addressing the 6th edition of the World Government Summit in Dubai where India is the guest country of honour,” Modi said, who will visit Dubai on Sunday before travelling to Oman.

Taking to Twitter, Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri shared the pictures of the buildings and hailed the “nice gesture by our gracious hosts in Abu Dhabi”.

PM Modi to inaugurate Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple; 20,000 sq m complex likely to be completed by 2020


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India’s challenge at Winter Olympics ends as luger Shiva Keshavan ends career with 34th-placed finish

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Pyeongchang: India’s winter sports poster boy Shiva Keshavan today brought the curtains down on his over two-decade international career with a 34th-place finish in the men’s luge singles event of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics here. Taking part in his sixth and last Olympics, the 36-year- old Keshavan produced the best timing of his campaign as he covered the 1,344 metre track at the Olympic Sliding Center in 48.900 seconds in his third round heat. The effort put him at 30th in the third heat among 40 competitors and 34th overall after three rounds. Since Keshavan finished outside the top 20 after three runs, he did not get to compete in the fourth and final run, which decided the medals.

Keshavan was also 34th overall after the two rounds held yesterday and he maintained that position today. His aggregate time in the three runs stood at two minutes and 28.188 seconds.

Unheralded Austrian David Gleirscher won a shocking gold while Chris Mazdzer of the United States bagged a historic silver, the first men’s singles luge medal ever from his country.

Johannes Ludwig of Germany took the bronze medal.

As soon as Keshavan crossed the finishing line, he made a broad smile towards the seizable Indian supporters, including his family members. He lifted his sled over his head and waved to the crowd for one last time.

The Indian supporters were holding the national flags and placards which had ‘Go Shiva’ and ‘Nothing can stop the fire’ written on them.

The man from Vashisht near Manali has been the face of winter sports in the country for more than two decades, and had said just before the Pyeongchang Games that this Winter Olympics will be the last international event of his career.

This was not though his best ever performance in a Winter Olympics. His best was the 25th place finish in the 2006 edition in Turin, Italy.

Son of an Indian father from Kerala and an Italian mother, Keshavan was born and brought up in Manali. He was just 16 years of age when he first took part in the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan in 1998. Since then he has taken part in each of the Winter Olympics.

He is the reigning Asian champion in luge and the speed record holder. He has won Asian Luge Championships in 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017.

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