Chinese Surveillance, Bolton Book, North Korea: Your Thursday Briefing

Chinese Surveillance, Bolton Book, North Korea: Your Thursday Briefing

Chinese Surveillance, Bolton Book, North Korea: Your Thursday Briefing

Chinese Surveillance, Bolton Book, North Korea: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering China’s plan to build high-tech surveillance with DNA, a tough spot for Modi and Xi and stories of memorable meals out.

China’s police have been collecting the samples since late 2017, according to a new study published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a research organization, based on documents also reviewed by The New York Times.

The police say they need the database to catch criminals and that donors consent to handing over their DNA. Critics warn it could tempt officials to punish the relatives of activists and dissidents, and say that citizens feel pressured to participate.

The database would allow China to expand its high-tech surveillance net, which already includes advanced cameras, facial recognition and artificial intelligence.

Details: The authorities went door to door and to schools, collecting blood samples. Some men and boys said in interviews and social media posts that they were told they would be punished if they refused. Authorities are aiming to collect samples from 35 million to 70 million men and boys, according to the report.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence and issued a stern warning after 20 Indian soldiers died in a border clash with Chinese troops: “India wants peace, but if provoked India is capable of giving a befitting reply.”

China also pledged to avoid a broader conflict, but the foreign minister pointedly told his Indian counterpart that India “must not underestimate China’s firm will to safeguard territorial sovereignty.”

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and Mr. Modi probably did not intend to ignite the clash on their border, high in the Himalayas, but the leaders now confront a military crisis that could spin dangerously out of control, our correspondents write.

They are both ambitious, nationalist leaders, eager to assert greater roles for their countries. Neither wants to risk losing face.

Context: The violence has been decades in the making. Here’s a look at how both countries got to this juncture.

In “The Room Where It Happened,” John Bolton, the former U.S. national security adviser, claims the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump should have been expanded to include other troubling actions. (Here’s our book critic’s review.)

Here are a few of the explosive allegations about Mr. Trump’s foreign policy in the book:

  • President Trump asked President Xi Jinping of China to buy a lot of American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year’s election. He writes that Mr. Trump was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win.”

  • During Mr. Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s leader, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Mr. Bolton a note disparaging the president, saying, “He is so full of shit.” A month later, Mr. Pompeo dismissed the president’s North Korea diplomacy as having “zero probability of success.”

  • According to an excerpt published by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump said Mr. Xi should go ahead with building internment camps for Uighurs, a Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang region. He said he thought it was “the right thing to do,” according to Mr. Bolton.

  • Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Mr. Trump apparently refused to issue a statement, saying: “Who cares about it? I’m trying to make a deal. I don’t want anything.”

Restaurants are about much more than food, as people have discovered during the pandemic. We lost a theater of experience. The Times asked several renowned writers to recount their most memorable meals out. The results are hilarious, sweet and often hunger-inducing.

Alexander Chee dished on waiting tables for celebrities in ’90s New York. Adam Platt looked back on Sunday family dinners at a Mongolian barbecue in Taiwan. And Bill Buford recalled the bouchons in Lyon, France — eateries that feel “like a vacation from yourself.”

North Korea: Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, has taken a leading role in speaking for the nation as tensions flare with South Korea. The 32-year-old wields influence and is seen as a potential candidate to replace her brother in patriarchal North Korea.

U.S. protests: In an extraordinary session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday, George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, urged the world body to investigate the killing of black people by the police in the United States. The session was called by African countries.

Wang Zhenhua: A Shanghai court on Wednesday sentenced the billionaire real-estate developer and philanthropist to five years in prison for child molestation. The case spurred soul searching about how China handles child abuse, and the sentence was criticized on social media as too lenient.

Snapshot: Above, a platypus getting an exam at a wildlife hospital in Mosman, New South Wales. After fires in Australia ravaged the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, zoo workers rescued seven of them. Now, the platypuses are home again, a little plumper than before, and are part of a study to better understand their species.

What we’re reading: This excerpt from Kevin Kwan’s new novel in Vanity Fair. In “Sex and Vanity,” the “Crazy Rich Asians” author revisits the nuances of Asian-American identity, this time in Capri and New York.

Cook: It’s time for French fries. This recipe involves soaking the potatoes to destarch them before blanching and frying, to achieve a heavenly crispness.

Listen: Lil Baby’s new song “The Bigger Picture” addresses police violence and racism. It’s part of this week’s playlist along with tracks by John Prine, Raphael Saadiq, Ambrose Akinmusire and others.

Do: Wearing a mask while exercising can affect your workout. Here are some tips on finding the right mask for exercising in crowded spaces.

At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.

Two days before George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody, The Times’s Opinion section published an editorial by Brent Staples that now looks prophetic. It urged the U.S. military to rename 10 military bases in the South that are named for Confederate officers.

In the weeks since Floyd’s death, the issue of Confederate iconography has exploded. Protesters have toppled statues of Confederate leaders. NASCAR has banned the Confederate flag from its events. And a Senate committee, defying President Trump, voted to direct the Pentagon to begin the process of renaming the 10 bases.

“If you write about something long enough, the moment comes around when people can grasp it,” said Mr. Staples, whose coverage of race won a Pulitzer Prize last year. “It may be after Trump leaves, but I think this matter is rolling downhill with tremendous speed.”

The 10 bases are among the more than 1,700 Confederate monuments and other named tributes nationwide. The list includes an Alabama high school named for Jefferson Davis; Washington and Lee University in Virginia; and 11 statues in the U.S. Capitol.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
Carole Landry helped write this briefing. Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh wrote the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the killing of Rayshard Brooks.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: “___ Boots Are Made for Walkin’” (1966 hit) (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for The Times Magazine and creator of the 1619 Project, joined Oprah Winfrey to discuss the collective grief of black Americans.

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