On May 22, 2020 China will organize its largest institutional political assembly, the National People’s Congress. Institutionally, it should have been held on March 5, but it had been postponed to May 22.
There are two obvious meanings underlying this political choice, which results directly from President Xi Jinping.
The first and most evident is the return to full normalcy, after the now officialised end of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei and of the other minor ones. Secondly, it is the sign of a rediscovered political, organizational and economic operation, pending a confrontation between China and the United States that is expected to become ever less easy to resolve on both sides, but also strongly decisive for the new world geo-economic equilibria.
There will be about 5,000 delegates from all areas of the country representing the 56 constitutionally recognized minorities who,over a period of about ten days, will institutionally define the annual budget, the country’s annual and multi-year economic goals, as well as some important bills. It is a Congress that establishes China’s “global strategy”, albeit in a concrete and simple way.
Certainly there is still the block on the entry of Chinese coming from other countries, but workers have returned to factories and almost all schools and universities have been reopened, as well as shops, although there are signs of possible new spreading of Covid 19, which so far the Chinese government has not neglected at all.
The attention will be obviously focused on the Central Government’s Report, which in this case will certainly be needed to have the necessary consensus and support from all regions in the country, so as to avoid both the danger of factionalism, which is central to the CPC’s theory and practice, and above all to provide economic and organisational consistency and unity to all the work that peripheral areas shall carry out on their own.
This is a typical mechanism of the Third International’s tradition.
I was once confidentially told by Deng Xiaoping, who also came from one of the recognised minorities, that they did not want Communism as it was achieved elsewhere, but just Socialism, albeit with Chinese characteristics.
Without bearing this in mind, even today little is understood of the Chinese political system and of its medium and long term goals.
At economic level, in fact, in the first quarter of 2020 China’s GDP fell by 6.8% compared to the same period of last year.
The sharpest economic downturn since 1976, when Mao Zedong died and the GDP decreased only in that period, and later started to always grow again by 1.6%.
A final important sign to Western analysts was sent by President Xi Jinping on May 18 last, at the Assembly of the World Health Organization.
Obviously the first signal follows the vast diplomacy of support and economic and health collaboration, which characterized China immediately after the outbreak of the Wuhan epidemic-pandemic.
In other words, President Xi Jinping wants to eradicate the idea that the Covid-19 virus is only “made in China” – an idea that characterizes the great “fake news” that has alarmed the United States and so far collected 116 adhesions to the request – recently made by the EU – of an independent study on the virus origins and on the new ways of spreading among human beings it has shown.
The first information and economic goal pursued is to avoid – first and foremost – the worldwide defamation of China, of its economy and of its reliability, and also avoid having to pay large sums of money for repairing the damage caused by Covid-19, should some countries, just like the United States, want to resort to this legal-administrative and insurance instrument to achieve their real goal, i.e. preventing China from playing – for a sufficiently long time – its current role as global competitor at economic, political and military levels.
Hence, as President Xi Jinping clearly stated at the WHO Assembly, China does not feel to be and is not responsible for any life lost in the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Xi Jinping also added that China reacted as quickly as possible – as opposed to the slowness of action in other Western countries – thus clearly perceiving the threat posed by the pandemic. The President also said that it was China that first spread the sequencing of the entire virus genome, through the usual procedures, i.e. the official transmission of data to the WHO.
Therefore, President Xi’s speech at the WHO is intended to reaffirm China’s centrality. This will certainly be reaffirmed also at the forthcoming National People’s Congress, but with another secondary objective, i.e. to underline the isolation of the USA and its “factionalism”, just when China is regaining – after the pandemic – the primary role it has played in recent years as the leading country of the new globalization, while Donald Trump’s “America First” policy is isolating the United States from the EU and from China itself and is reproposing an old “Cold War” tension with the Russian Federation, as well as finally rebuilding fences and spreading polemics in the Middle East and Latin America. Self-isolation or probably an old-style and “out of time” perception of the US global role, which is still inevitable but must be rethought without solemn and currently useless memories of the past.
This is the other communication, economic and political goal of China’s current and future actions, in this phase when the Covid-19 still appears to be retreating.
Deng Xiaoping told me so very clearly.
He told me they wanted Socialism, not Communism. In Deng’s mind, in fact, Communism is Western stuff. Indeed, the Chinese Communists had rightly interpreted Marx, who did not want the transition to Socialism and the structural end of capitalism in the peripheries of the world but, if anything, in its evolved centre, namely Germany and Great Britain. According to the CPC’s documents, Togliatti and Gramsci – before him – had “made mistakes”.
And certainly not out of servility towards the USSR that, at the time, was an unavoidable point of reference for the Italian Communist party (PCI).
Hence we should never think that the CPC stopped studying Karl Marx’s texts, albeit with creative intelligence.
Quite the reverse. Nowadays Marxism is often mentioned in China, as the theory for shifting – within capitalism – from the production of goods and services to mass financialisation that the Chinese government currently uses, above all, to propose – with extreme caution – its entry into the world market.
And Deng, who was always a dear personal friend, is now one of the two true historical references for President Xi Jinping, together with Mao Zedong.
Hence unification of China, together with the still necessary Great Modernization, in addition to those established by Deng Xiaoping at the beginning of post-Maoism, which was never real Communism, because it never set as its goal the transformation of the remaining global capitalist world, but its penetration, with Chinese and, above all, national objectives and styles.
Moreover, just to eliminate again this brand of “Made in China” virus and of adverse actions and hacking against the websites of Western research centres – which is an accusation made by the EU – President Xi Jinping has clearly stated that- when discovered and tested – the therapies should become “global public goods”.
Another strong signal sent by China to the West is clear: do not think you can make the usual big deal with the future anti-Covid19 vaccine because when we have it anyway – and we will probably have it before you – we will distribute it as free patent and we will not ask for additional costs or fees.
It is easy to imagine what could be the propaganda and geopolitical result for China in this case, which would find itself distributing modern and above all free anti-viral vaccines to all the regions, in Latin America, in Asia and in Europe itself, which have been radically and further impoverished by the pandemic.
What could Westerners say in this case? Could they say their vaccine is cheap, but better?
It is easy to imagine the effects of this counterfactual propaganda.
It is also easy to imagine the potential geopolitical impact of such an operation.
At the next upcoming National People’s Congress another political and economic weapon of Chinese propaganda is and will be the reaffirmation of China’s political, scientific and financial contribution to the World Health Organization, just as the United States has declared that its contributions to the WHO have been frozen.
Where there is a “void”, the Chinese fill it. Westerners have left on their own, but they have lost both a possible ally and a major source of information. Bad choice. Opponents must be penetrated and not be cursed with a ritual that is very closely related to that of Protestant sects or American new religions such as Scientology. The eighteenth-century-style sectarianism is not a good way for spreading a political message – just think of the neo-evangelical sects that made Bolsonaro’s electoral fortune in Brazil.
Hence, for the Chinese, simultaneous implementation of Sun Tzu’s rules and the Thirty-Six Stratagems.
Finally, however, President Xi Jinping has not rejected the idea of a “large world analysis” on Covid-19, but regarding the global responses to the pandemic, not only the vague theories on its territorial origin.
These are the guidelines that, in all likelihood, we will see in action at the forthcoming National People’s Conference.
But there are two other essential political signs from China that we must consider: one is the core of the future Chinese expansion, which is still Africa – another great void of Westerners that China is filling strategically and economically – and the other is the new Chinese attention- and of President Xi, in particular – paid to the Great South of the world. A legacy of Mao’s Thought.
In the policy line, already established for the national People’s Congress to be held on March 5 last, there are some rather new aspects: firstly, the new deadline for the eradication of absolute poverty throughout the country, which has been postponed for the meeting to be held next Wednesday, while the deadline for China to become a leading nation in technological innovation is still 2035. The same holds true for 2050, the deadline for the project to turn China into a world leader.
In other words, to make Deng Xiaoping’s Fourth Modernisation, the military one, the axis of China’s real technological, civil and organizational transformation.
Throughout China, the Covid-19 pandemic has in fact stepped up processes that had already been defined in the past by the central Government: firstly, the acceleration of digitalization, which has obviously been favoured by the “lockdown” that China has adopted – as happened in almost all European countries and the United States, where the closure of companies and distribution has forced consumers to inevitably resort to e-commerce.
Obviously, also in China, as elsewhere in the world, greater attention has been paid to what is still called – who knows for how long – “national interest”.
However, this has not happened in the EU countries on the verge of bankruptcy, such as Italy itself, where any aid provided by the other EU Member States is only for their own gain, since they are obviously just waiting to swallow up what remains of Italian SMEs, and the huge colossal private savings of Italians, to rescue their banks.
In Italy an incompetent ruling class is waiting for ambiguous aid such as the ESM or the future, equally ambiguous, slow, vague and unclear “Recovery Fund”, as it was charity, generous donations and gracious concessions from old friends.
Another structural factor of the Chinese economy triggered by the pandemic has been a greater level of technological and financial competition among the countries affected, and also among Chinese companies themselves in their domestic market, which has obviously grown in importance and has largely replaced reduced exports and also imports, actually blocked by the combination of the pandemic and the trade war between China and the United States.
Socialism that makes once again “substitution economy”, as was the case in the 1950s.
Another economic factor that the pandemic has reactivated or accelerated, in China as elsewhere, is the major role of the private sector and the no-profit sector.
This will certainly be at the core of the next National People’s Congress, which sees local, ethnic and political autonomies strongly represented. Nevertheless, it mainly represents – ina politically significant way – also some technical-scientific elites, fully integrated in the CPC, which, however, have a strong influence both on the Party and on the “inner circle” of President Xi Jinping.
President Xi wants to avoid China losing it dominant role in the world as a result of the now hopefully ended pandemic. Indeed, he wants to redesign it at a time when, due to past and present mistakes, the productive, social and healthcare system of the United States and part of the EU shows strong failures, which immediately spill over and affect what were once called the “productive forces”.
As President Trump said, the United States has harshly asked for a gradual “decoupling” – albeit fast and certain – of the American companies from China. Due to the very characteristics of the current Chinese economy, however, President Xi Jinping knows all too well that – whatever happens to the Chinese economy today and in the immediate future – the Global Value Chains (GVCs), on which China cannot but fully rely, are all semi-destroyed.
A few months ago, Chinese companies were among the largest companies in the world to applyfor “force majeure” certificates to terminate existing supply contracts in the world.
Certainly, the real attack by Trump’s America on the Chinese economy will be launched through the new Global Value Chains, which, almost certainly, will now encircle China, but will no longer penetrate it.
China will play its cards which – as we will see soon – will also be played at the forthcoming National People’s Congress, with a network of probable internal Chinese marginal areas that will very fiercely compete with the new probable external pro-USA network of new CGVs which -we imagine – will pass through India to Vietnam, and through Taiwan, to India and obviously Japan. This is the reason for Taiwan’s recent “revival” as an unlikely geo-economic opponent of China, upon US clear indication.
Another issue that will be surely well explored by the next National People’s Congress – with President Xi Jinping who will be able to strongly innovate the Chinese economy, even with a higher rate of liberalization – is that of strengthening the State, so as to make it ever more effective as a “power multiplier” and as developer of a national policy line, “with Chinese characteristics” – exactly as Deng Xiaoping repeated to me – which combines military, finance, productive economy, diplomacy and intelligence Services, with a view to winning the real war of China today, i.e. the war against the USA which, however, no one will ever fight on the ground and with the old means of “classic” military power.
High time for India to Reconsider the One-China Policy
Sino-Indian bilateral relations have seen major challenges in the recent years, beginning with the Doklam crisis to the current pandemic situation. The sugar-coated rhetoric of Beijing proved to be mere duplicity after tensions erupted along the Line of Actual Control where soldiers of both the states clashed in mid-2020, resulting in the martyrdom of several Indian jawans including a commanding officer. The other side also saw several casualties, though Beijing has kept the actual count under wraps. More recently, China suspended the state-run Sichuan Airlines cargo planes carrying medical supplies to India for 15 days citing the deteriorating situation in India due to COVID-19. This was after the Chinese government promised all the necessary help for India to battle the pandemic.
The People’s Republic of China under the leadership of Xi Jinping has been maintaining an aggressive posture with India even while making calls for ‘maintaining peace’. Its support for all-weather friend Pakistan has attained new peaks when it proclaimed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative passing through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, a territory claimed by India, despite New Delhi’s staunch opposition. It is in the light of all these events that the calls of the strategic community in India to review the recognition of One China policy has gained some attention.
India’s Sensitivity versus China’s Duplicity
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) under the Communist Party of China (CPC) claims itself as the only representative of the Chinese nation including the territories of Tibet and Taiwan among others. Any country having formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, also known as Republic of China shall be seen by China as challenging its sovereignty. The same parameter applies to any country recognizing Tibet or similar ‘autonomous regions’ under the Chinese control. This is known as the ‘One China Principle’ or ‘One China Policy’. India was one of the first countries to recognize the PRC in 1949 after the civil war as well as to accord recognition to its occupation of Tibet. However, China claims the whole of India’s Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Tibet’, a claim that India has always rebuffed. Moreover, it occupies Aksai Chin which it captured during the 1962 war as well as the Shaksgam valley, ceded illegally to it by Pakistan in 1963.
Even after the war and the re-establishment of cordial bilateral relations, China has continued to repeat its illegitimate claims and nibble into India’s territory. India’s protests fell on deaf ears and this is despite India recognizing the One China Policy. India stopped mentioning the policy since 2010 in its public announcements and publications, however, without repealing it. Taking undue advantage of this China pays little concern to Indian sentiments. This view in India, to challenge China’s One China Policy, has been strengthened by aggressive diplomatic postures of China as well as its regular incursions along the disputed border while continuing to support Islamabad on all fronts – overtly and covertly, encircling India.
The government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to give in to the bullying attempts by China by allowing the Army to go ahead with offensive countermeasures against Chinese incursions in 2017 as well as in 2020, in addition to taking measures including banning dozens of Chinese mobile applications. It has also started actively taking part in initiatives like Quadrilateral Dialogue as well as strengthening relations with ASEAN states. However, a dominant section within the strategic community in India feel that these measures are not enough to knock China into its senses.
Challenging the One China Policy
The most significant among the measures suggested in this regard has been to review India’s adherence to the One China policy. In an atmosphere where China does not recognize the One India policy comprising of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territories, experts argue the need of reciprocity. Initiatives such as providing greater global visibility and access for Tibetans including the 14th Dalai Lama, using Buddhist history and traditions as a trump card since New Delhi has the advantage of having the Dalai Lama on its side, provides legitimacy for India unlike China. India can facilitate the appointment of the next Dalai Lama and extend protection for the existing and the next Dalai Lama. The repeal of the recognition for Chinese occupation of Tibet can also send major tremors in Beijing but that seems to be a distant dream. The new democratic Tibetan government under President Penpa Tsering should be given greater official acknowledgment and publicity. India has already taken small steps in this regard by acknowledging the involvement of the elite Special Frontier Force (SFF), majorly comprising of exiled Tibetans, in a game changing operation to shift the balance against China during the recent border crisis. The funeral of an SFF commando attended by a Member of Parliament and leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Ram Madhav was an overt signaling to China that Indians are not refraining from openly recognizing Tibetan contributions to the state of India. Another sensitive issue for China is the Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslims being allegedly tortured and deprived of their basic human rights in the ‘re-education camps’ by the CPC and a state sponsored genocide being carried out against them. India can take up the issue vigorously at international forums with like-minded countries, increasing the pressure on China. Similarly, the pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong, pro-Mongol movements such as the protest against Mandarin imposition in the school curriculum of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, can also be encouraged or given moral support. India, a country which upholds its virtue of unity in diversity must take a strong stand against the ‘cultural assimilation’ or ‘liberation’ as the Chinese say. This is nothing but cultural destruction imposed by China using the rhetoric of ‘not being civilised’ and branding the non-Han population as barbaric in China and the regions it illegally occupies.
India can also stir the hornet’s nest by engaging more formally with the Taiwanese leadership. Taipei has always been approached by New Delhi keeping in mind the sensitivities of China in mind. However, it does not have to do so for a power that bullies both the nations with constant threats and provocations by its action. It is a well-known fact that Taiwan is a center of excellence in terms of the semi-conductor industry and high-end technology. Engaging more with Taiwan will not only hurt Beijing, but also will help India counter the strategic advantage possessed by China in terms of being the major exporters of electronic goods and telecommunication hardware to India. India can also attain more self-sufficiency by boosting its own electronics industry using the Taiwanese semiconductor bases. India can use this leverage to shed its overdependence on China in critical sectors, balance the trade deficit to some extent, while also securing its networks from Chinese intelligence. India must also focus on working with the states having stake in the South China Sea such as Philippines and Malaysia who regularly face aggression in their airspace and Exclusive Economic Zones from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces and China’s maritime militia, questioning their territorial sovereignty, imposing the One China Policy. New Delhi must pressurize China by working with the western nations, whose legislators have openly declared support for the Tibetan President in exile, to question China’s occupation of Tibet and attempts at homogenizing the population. Long term measures and strategies will have to be sought to end the dependence on China while seeking alternatives and becoming self-reliant over time.
However, India will face several serious challenges to implement the above-mentioned measures. There is a deep lack of mutual trust among major powers like USA, UK, France and Russia through whom India can build a coalition. The American President Joe Biden is seemingly interested in partly co-operating with China and has a softer stance unlike the former President Trump. Nevertheless, the QUAD is a welcome step in this regard and India must undertake a greater role in pressurizing China through such forums, albeit not openly. India also has a serious issue of possibly having to incur heavy economic losses on having to limit Chinese goods and investments and finding similarly cheap and easy alternatives. These fault lines are exactly what is being exploited by China to its advantage. Thus, the Indian state and its diplomacy has the heavy task of working between all these hurdles and taking China to task. However, since China seems remotely interested in settling the border disputes like it did with its post-Soviet neighbours in the previous decades and instead gauge pressure against India. So, New Delhi will have to pull up its sleeves to pay back China in the same coin.
The views expressed are solely of the author.
Who would bell the China cat?
If the G-7 and NATO china-bashing statements are any guide, the world is in for another long interregnum of the Cold War (since demise of the Soviet Union). The G-7 leaders called upon China to “respect human rights in its Xinjiang region” and “allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy” and “refrain from any unilateral action that could destabilize the East and South China Seas”, besides maintaining “peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits”.
China’s tit-for-tat response
The Chinese mission to the European Union called upon the NATO not to exaggerate the “China threat theory”
Amid the pandemic, still raging, the world is weary of resuscitating Cold War era entente. Even the G-7 members, Canada and the UK appear to be lukewarm in supporting the US wish to plunge the world into another Cold War. Even the American mothers themselves are in no mood to welcome more coffins in future wars. Importance of the G-7 has been whittled down by G-20.
Presumptions about the China’s cataclysmic rise are unfounded. Still, China is nowhere the US gross National Product. China’s military budget is still the second largest after the US. It is still less than a third of Washington’s budget to be increased by 6.8 per cent in 2021.
India claims to be a natural ally of the G-7 in terms of democratic “values”. But the US based Freedom House has rated India “partly free because of its dismal record in persecution of minorities. Weakened by electoral setbacks in West Bengal, the Modi government has given a free hand to religious extremists. For instance, two bigots, Suraj Pal Amu and Narsinghanand Saraswati have been making blasphemous statements against Islam at press conferences and public gatherings.
India’s main problem
Modi government’s mismanagement resulted in shortage of vaccine and retroviral drugs. The healthcare system collapsed under the mounting burden of fatalities.
Media and research institutions are skeptical of the accuracy of the death toll reported by Indian government.
The New York Times dated June 13, 2021 reported (Tracking Corona virus in India: Latest Map and case Count) “The official COVID-19 figures in India grossly under-estimate the true scale of the pandemic in the country”. The Frontline dated June 4, 2021 reported “What is clear in all these desperate attempts is the reality that the official numbers have utterly lost their credibility in the face of the biggest human disaster in independent India (V. Sridhar, India’s gigantic death toll due to COVID-19 is thrice the official numbers”, The frontline, June 4, 2021). It adds “More than 6.5 lakh Indians, not the 2.25 lakh reported officially are estimated to have died so far and at best a million more are expected to die by September 2021. The Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that actual Indian casualties may be 0.654 million (6.54 lakh), not the official count of 0.221 million (2.21 lakh as on May 6 when the report was released. That is a whopping three times the official numbers, an indicator of the extent of under-reporting”.
Epidemiologist Dr. Feigl-ding told India Today TV on April, 16, 2021 that “actual number of COVID-19 cases in India can be five or six times higher than the tally right now” (“Actual COVID-19 cases in India may be 5 to 10 times higher, says epidemiologist. India Today TV April 16, 2021).
India’s animosity against China is actuated by expediency. There is no chance of a full-blown war between China and India as the two countries have agreed not to use firepower in border skirmishes, if any. Modi himself told the All-party conference that not an inch of Indian territory has been ceded to China. In May this year, the Army Chief General M M. Naravane noted in an interview: “There has been no transgression of any kind and the process of talks is continuing.”
It is not China but the Quad that is disturbing unrest in China’s waters.
History tells the USA can sacrifice interests of its allies at the altar of self interest. India sank billions of dollars in developing the Chabahar Port. But, India had to abandon it as the US has imposed sanctions on Iran.
Xinjiang? A Minority Haven Or Hell
While the G7 meets under the shadow of Covid 19 and the leaders of the most prosperous nations on earth are focused on rebuilding their economies, a bloodless pogrom is being inflicted on a group of people on the other side of the world.
In this new era, killing people is wasteful and could bring the economic wrath of the rest of the world. No, it is better to brainwash them, to re-educate them, to destroy their culture, to force them to mold themselves into the alien beings who have invaded their land in the name of progress, and who take the best new jobs that sprout with economic development. Any protest at these injustices are treated severely.
Amnesty International has published a new 160-page report this week on Xinjiang detailing the horrors being perpetrated on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Amnesty has simultaneously announced a campaign on their behalf.
Persecution, mass imprisonment in what can best be described as concentration camps, intensive interrogation and torture are actions that come under the definition of ‘crimes against humanity’. More than 50 people who spent time in these camps contributed first-hand accounts that form the substance of the report. It is not easy reading for these people have themselves suffered maltreatment even torture in many instances.
The UN has claimed that 1.5 million Muslims (Uighurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Tajiks) are in these internment camps and China’s claims of re-education camps made to sound as benign as college campuses are patently false.
People report being interviewed in police stations and then transferred to the camps. Their interrogation was frequently conducted on ‘tiger chairs’: The interviewee is strapped to a metal chair with leg irons and hands cuffed in such a manner that the seating position soon becomes exceedingly painful. Some victims were hooded; some left that way for 24 hours or more, and thus were forced to relieve themselves, even defecate, where they sat. Beatings and sleep deprivation were also common.
Activities were closely monitored and they were mostly forbidden to speak to other internees including cell mates. Trivial errors such as responding to guards or other officials in their native language instead of Mandarin Chinese resulted in punishment.
Amnesty’s sources reported the routine was relentless. Wake up at 5am. Make bed — it had to be perfect. A flag-raising and oath-taking ceremony before breakfast at 7 am. Then to the classroom. Back to the canteen for lunch. More classes after. Then dinner. Then more classes before bed. At night two people had to be on duty for two hours monitoring the others leaving people exhausted. You never see sunlight while you are there, they said. That was because they were never taken outside as is done in most prisons.
The re-education requires them to disavow Islam, stop using their native language, give up cultural practices, and become Mandarin-speaking ‘Chinese’.
Such are the freedoms in Xi Jinping’s China. If China’s other leaders prior to Mr. Xi effected moderate policies in concert with advisers, it is no longer the case. Mr. Xi works with a small group of like minds. He has also removed the two-term or eight-year limit on being president. President for life as some leaders like to call themselves, then why not Mr. Xi. His anti-democratic values make him eminently qualified.
An enlightened leader might have used the colorful culture of these minorities to attract tourists and show them the diversity of China. Not Mr. Xi, who would rather have everyone march in lockstep to a colorless utopia reminiscent of the grey clothing and closed-collar jackets of the Maoist era.
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