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Press review: Will the WHO evaluate its COVID-19 blunders and China lashes out at US

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, April 30
World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva EPA-EFE/MARTIAL TREZZINI
World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva


Izvestia: WHO set to evaluate blunders in handling COVID-19

The World Health Organization is ready to be guided in its work by requests from G20 leaders to evaluate its mistakes on a global scale. However, the WHO’s goal is to take care of the health of all people throughout the world regardless of their race or political views, the UN agency told Izvestia commenting on the recent demand by the US and French presidents that the organization should be reformed.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump warned that Washington would halt funding for the organization, accusing it of failing to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and concealing vital information on the outbreak in Wuhan, China. The European External Action Service (EEAS) also published a report blaming Beijing, but shortly after the text was revised. However, experts told Izvestia that the current developments won’t globally change economic cooperation between the EU and China, if Chinese-US ties worsened.

"Some European countries will now join the claims against China, namely France, but the Europeans have always been more cautious in taking any anti-Chinese restrictions," said Vasily Kashin, a leading researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the Far East.

The specialist also emphasized that each EU country has its own relations with China, but most of them receive Chinese investment and therefore Beijing has enough buttons to push to pursue its policy. Besides, China has its own tools of how to gain Europe’s favor since it is a major exporter of medical supplies, which is of crucial importance right now.

Unlike the US, the Europeans have a milder policy on China, and Beijing is also interested in boosting economic ties with them, since it has too many conflicts with Washington, said Vladimir Scheitser, who heads the social and political research department at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Europe.

According to Kashin, the prospects of Europe’s stance amid worsening US-Chinese relations are quite clear now, given that China has been actively ramping up its "diplomatic incursion" into the EU. The present accusations against China are reminiscent of the allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election, which was the starting point for the deterioration of ties, the expert noted.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China bashes US for spreading coronavirus fake news

China’s Foreign Ministry stated that the Trump administration was concealing its failures in fighting COVID-19 and sought to shift the blame on others. This is just one episode in Beijing’s propaganda campaign in response to the attempts by Trump and other leaders to lay financial claims against China for the damage caused by the pandemic. The toughest criticism came from Australia, which suggested sending inspectors to Wuhan, China, where experiments on bats were conducted. According to experts, many Asian and European countries won’t back America’s steps because of their reliance on China, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Anticipating the deterioration on external fronts, the Chinese authorities turned to think tanks and scientists in their own country with a call to build the most effective strategy to respond to its main potential adversary. Meanwhile, Beijing instructed its propaganda bodies and diplomatic missions not to leave unanswered the attacks of Western politicians and the media against China. "US politicians are shamelessly lying," Spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry Gen Shuang told a briefing.

"The conflict between America and China at first led to a trade war. Then many experts in China hoped that America was just struggling for its economic benefits and this confrontation would be eased by concessions and then China could buy years or maybe decades for its calm development. The pandemic showed that US-Chinese contradictions were structural and could not be overcome by Beijing’s unilateral concessions. So, now we see a bipolar world forming, which will be apparently created by the middle or the end of the 2020s," said Alexander Lomanov, Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

According to the expert, China is unable to convince the whole world that it’s right. "The American power of persuasion towards its allies in the region - Japan, Australia, South Korea - will always surpass China’s power of persuasion. But there are a large number of countries where American rhetoric does not draw sympathy. Opposing groups will be formed. We are witnessing the creation of a future world: one center of future bipolarity is being formed around the US, and the other around China," Lomanov said.


Vedomosti: Gazprom could see major losses in export revenues

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom predicts that the volume of pipeline gas exports will significantly decline compared with last year, Head of the Financial and Economic Department Alexander Ivannikov said, commenting on the company’s financial report under the 2019 International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Vedomosti writes. The company expects that its exports will reach 166.6 bln cubic meters at an average annual price of $133 per 1,000 cubic meters. However, these figures could change depending on the market situation, he noted.

Last year, Gazprom supplied Europe (Turkey included) with 199.2 bln cubic meters of gas, with an average price of nearly $204 per 1,000 cubic meters. Gazprom’s export revenues from these supplies totaled nearly $40.8 bln. But starting from early 2020, the company faced a whole number of problems on its key export market. In accordance with the figures outlined by Ivannikov, this year Gazprom’s export revenues could be nearly halved to $22.1 bln.

This is explained by an unusually warm winter and the excessive volume of fuel reserves in Europe. With the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and attempts to stop the spread of the virus through restrictions, gas consumption in Europe had decreased. In addition to the excessive volume of gas in Europe’s underground storage facilities, this again led to falling prices on the market. Subsequently, demand declined in all sectors, except for public utilities.

Gazprom is not expecting a quick recovery of the market, according to Ivannikov. By the middle of summer, the price of supplies could decrease to $70 per 1,000 cubic meters. However, by the end of the year the trend could change and prices could be restored to nearly $130, he noted.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Biden clinches Clinton’s endorsement, but loses voter confidence

The coronavirus pandemic has seriously changed the US presidential race. Former Vice President Joe Biden secured a confident victory in the Democratic Party’s mail-in primaries in Ohio. Biden also won the endorsement of Hillary Clinton. However, opinion polls are showing an alarming picture for Biden. Voters doubt whether he could win the pre-election marathon and outperform Donald Trump given the present conditions, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

In early April, it seemed that the pandemic could have played into Biden’s hands. Americans apparently did not like the fact that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was growing and many of them blamed Trump. But now people are sick and tired of the lockdown. The president’s policy, aimed at gradually lifting all restrictions and restoring the economy, is winning more support.

While Trump is appearing on screens every day and is making optimistic speeches, concerns have not been alleviated that the health of the 77-year-old Biden might hinder his election campaign.

"The mouthpiece of the Democrats now are the leader of their faction in the Senate Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. Biden has retreated into the shadows. He has disappeared from the public. This arouses concerns of voters what will happen this autumn when there will be the election struggle and probably, a second wave of the pandemic," Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies Vladimir Vasilyev said.

Meanwhile, the US has started lifting some coronavirus restrictions. Eight states headed by Republican governors have not barred citizens from moving freely. In May, at least four states (Alaska, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina) will ease the quarantine. According to Vasilyev, it’s highly likely that Trump could resume his canvassing trips in the regions. "In view of this, Biden will have to accept the challenge and also meet with voters. And this poses some risk."


Izvestia: Russia to create platform for quantum Internet

Russia is actively working on creating a quantum Internet. The ITMO (Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics) National Research University jointly with Russian Venture Company (RVC) and based on Russian Railways infrastructure will establish a platform for a quantum Internet. Some 300 mln rubles ($4 mln) will be earmarked for this ambitious project. This software will make it possible to transmit confidential information of different types and volume, RVC told Izvestia.

The creators of this platform expect that their first clients will be financial organizations, state corporations, production enterprises and infrastructure facilities. Quantum cryptography will ensure the highest degree of data protection, market sources say.

"In the future, the ITMO Leading Research Center plans a large-scale implementation of its developments in Russia and will make it a logistic and communication center between Europe and Asia and guarantee quick and safe transmission of information for real sectors of the global economy," RVC’s Director General Alexander Povalko said. The global quantum industry is just forming, he told the paper. Currently, complex platform decisions have been developed only in China, and therefore the new project is unique for Russia, Povalko noted.

Over the past 10 years, the volume of data transmission has grown 50-fold and by the end of 2020 the number of devices integrated into the cyber physical system of IoT (Internet of things) will increase to 20 bln in the world, RVC predicts. Therefore, the demand in effective, quick and safe communications channels will rapidly grow.


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