Blinken in China calls for US companies to be treated fairly

Today's headlines: Extreme heat in South Asia and Southeast Asia force the authorities to close schools. Indian Prime Minister Modi said that he has invited Pope Francis to India. South Korea's GDP is up. Turkmenistan restricts the public expression of religion. Russia's state-owned company Gazprom is set to sponsor a Hungarian football club.


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on a visit to Shanghai where he urged China to treat US companies fairly. During his stay, Mr Blinken is expected to discuss a wide range of issues with his Chinese hosts, from international trade to military communications, especially China’s support for Russia’s war on Ukraine. This follow news reports that a Russian ship allegedly carrying ammunition from North Korea was moored in a Chinese port. In Shanghai, Blinken also met with American and Chinese students, stressing the importance of intercultural exchanges for mutual understanding.


The Bank of Korea announced that gross domestic product grew by 1.3 per cent in the first quarter of the year thanks to increased construction activity and higher private spending. This is better than expected. South Korea is currently struggling with inflation and high borrowing costs, with the economic situation contributing to the defeat of the conservative alliance in this month’s parliamentary elections.


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a television interview with a Kerala TV station, said that he had invited Pope Francis to visit India. Elections begin tomorrow in the southern Indian state, home to the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara churches, where Christians represent 18 per cent of the 33 million population. The local Legislative Assembly is dominated by the Communist Party and the Indian National Congress.


In the Philippines, a recent extreme heat wave has compelled local authorities to close some schools, forcing some 7,000 children to take online lessons. Some 30 people have died so far in Thailand, where the heat index (human-perceived temperature) has hit 52 Celsius. Schools in Bangladesh were also closed, forcing 33 million children to stay home. Reopening is not expected before Saturday at least.


In Turkmenistan, the authorities are further restricting the public expression of religious sentiments. The government warns that "those who observe religious rites in an exaggerated way or wear clothing that is too explicitly linked to their faith will not be admitted to the workplace" and risk dismissal.


Russia’s oil giant Gazprom, which lost 84 per cent of its export markets in Europe and related trade advantages, has decided to sponsor Hungary’s reigning football champions, Ferencváros, which will compete in next year’s Champions League. For Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, there is nothing wrong with that.