Messi’s mega move to PSG is an expensive piece of political propaganda

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Football: Lionel Messi has agreed to join PSG after 17 seasons with Spanish giants Barcelona. He scored 672 goals in 778 total appearances for the side - here are some of the best.

Football: Lionel Messi has agreed to join PSG after 17 seasons with Spanish giants Barcelona. He scored 672 goals in 778 total appearances for the side - here are some of the …

Lionel Messi openly wept in his final press conference as a Barcelona player and you’d have struggled to find someone in Catalonia who didn’t shed tears with him.

The Argentine arrived at La Masia, Barcelona’s fabled youth academy, as a 13-year-old boy in need of medical treatment to help him grow because he suffered from growth hormone deficiency. He left Camp Nou as a 10-time LaLiga champion, a four-time Champions League winner and a six-time Ballon d’Or recipient.

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Messi’s upsetting exit from Barcelona was the result of the club’s financial mismanagement, which saw its expenditure on player wages balloon beyond what it could afford. The finger cannot be pointed at LaLiga officials for taking a firm stance on preventing Barcelona re-signing Messi. Rather, the blame lies squarely at the feet of those in power at the Blaugrana. Their inability to control their spending has cost them the greatest player to ever wear the Barcelona jersey.

But Barca’s loss is Paris Saint-Germain’s oh-so-sweet gain. PSG tied Messi down to a two-year deal, with the option for a third on a salary of $AUD55 million a season.

But Messi hasn’t just signed for PSG. He’s part of something much bigger. The footballer has become a very expensive piece of political propaganda.

PSG is one of only two state-owned clubs in football. The French club is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, which is a subsidiary of Qatar Investment Authority. QIA just so happen to be the state-run sovereign wealth fund in Qatar.

As for the other state-owned club in football? That would be Manchester City - a club that came very close to signing Messi themselves this time last year. They are owned by the UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Qatar won the race to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in controversial circumstances. Allegations of bribery swirled as fans did a double-take when finding out the country would play host to the biggest football feast on the planet.

The nation found a way to upset the apple cart by forcing the World Cup to be hosted in November due to soaring temperatures in the European summer months. This places the tournament smack bang in the middle of domestic seasons right across Europe, creating a few headaches for football’s biggest leagues.

One cannot discuss the Qatar World Cup without mention of its human rights record. More than 1000 workers, many of them migrants from India and Nepal, have lost their lives while building stadiums for the World Cup. In March, players from Germany, Norway and the Netherlands wore shirts before World Cup qualifiers voicing concerns over human rights after The Guardian reported at least 6500 migrant workers had died in Qatar since it won hosting rights in 2010.

By playing for PSG, Messi is front and centre of Qatar’s PR push to give it more legitimacy on the world stage – which sport plays a significant role in.

As Daniel Storey wrote for iNews this week: “The 2022 World Cup, PSG’s progression, sponsorship deals with other super clubs; all were elements of sportswashing that sought to improve the superficial reputation of a state and sought to switch focus from the inherent problems within it.

“For them, Messi is the perfect bridge between PSG and the World Cup. There may be pressure for him to become an unofficial ambassador for the tournament.

“Messi has chosen a football club and a means of prolonging his high-level success. But Messi has also chosen Qatar, implicitly or otherwise. He is the new poster boy for a state sportswashing its way to global acceptance.”

Global Professor of Eurasian Sport at Emlyon Business School in Paris, Simon Chadwick, also spoke of Messi’s importance to Qatar’s political ambitions.

“Its government is not afraid to use football as the means to achieving other political ends, of which PSG’s signing of Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Neymar is a prime example,” Chadwick wrote for The Conversation.

“It also symbolised how the government in Doha sees football as part of its soft power armoury, a way of engaging global audiences intrigued by the signing of football’s best talent.

“Some will view Lionel Messi signing for PSG in the same way. His expected contribution to the club’s success will ensure that Qatar’s projection of soft power continues, while the status, image and reputation of ‘brand Qatar’ are further burnished.”

James Dorsey, author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, believes the deal is Qatar yet again flexing its financial muscle in the region.

“Diplomatic ties have been restored but Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are still not as cordial and getting Messi ahead of City is a big thing statement; a feather in the cap ahead of the World Cup,” Dorsey told Dawn newspaper.

It’s not Messi’s first foray into playing an ambassadorial role for Qatar. Barcelona were sponsored by the Qatar Foundation from 2011 to 2013, then Qatar Airways from 2013 until 2017. Both companies featured on the front of Barcelona’s famous jersey.

But the switch to the French capital is a more significant and overt power play than just wearing a jersey.

Messi’s move to PSG reflects a sad reality about the shifting tides of football, as the rich grow richer while the rest fight over what little scraps remain. It’s a sorry state of affairs for the so called “beautiful game”.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on July 27, 2021

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CCTV: US Deputy Secretary of State Sherman concluded her visit to China yesterday. How does China see her trip to Tianjin? Has China achieved its expected outcomes from the meeting and talks?

Zhao Lijian: The trip to Tianjin by Deputy Secretary Sherman is another important diplomatic interaction between China and the US after the dialogue in Anchorage. During her brief 24-hour stay, Ms. Sherman spent altogether six hours in the meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and talks with Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng. We can say that the two sides had deep and thorough conversations and enhanced mutual understanding.

China made clear its views on the current China-US relations in the meeting and talks. China-US relations face severe difficulties and challenges. There is a big question mark on whether bilateral ties will head to conflict and confrontation or improvement and development. The US needs to think carefully and make the right choice.

China made clear its attitude to the China policy of the new US administration. It pointed out that this administration has in general inherited its predecessor’s erroneous China policy, constantly challenged China’s bottom line, and stepped up containment and suppression on China. China firmly opposes such practices and has made resolute responses.

The Chinese side pointed out that the erroneous China policy comes down to the US side’s misguided perception about China, its view of China as an “imaginary enemy”, the primary rival, and increasingly an adversary. It is this perception that drives the US to hype up the competitive, collaborative and adversarial rhetoric, the notion of “a position of strength” and the so-called “rules-based international order”. This perception can also be found behind erroneous words and acts that interfere in China’s internal affairs, slander and smear China, and undermine China’s interests. China urges the US side to come to an objective and correct understanding of China, change course by redressing mistakes, work with China on the basis of mutual respect, seek fair competition and peaceful co-existence, and return to a rational and pragmatic China policy. China always believes that a sound and stable China-US relationship not only serves the interests of both parties, but is also the common aspiration of the international community.

The US talked about “responsible management” of bilateral relations during this visit. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi underlined three basic demands as bottom lines on how to effectively manage differences and prevent China-US relations from getting out of control. The first is that the US must not challenge, slander or even attempt to subvert the path and system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The second is that the US must not attempt to obstruct or interrupt China’s development process. The third is that the US must not infringe upon China’s state sovereignty, or even damage China’s territorial integrity.

The US also talked about setting “guardrails” for bilateral relations. The Chinese side stressed that any norm of behavior in China-US relations must be discussed and agreed on by both sides. It must be based on equality and mutual benefit and guided by safeguarding the interests of both sides. It must be binding on both parties and cannot be barriers set by the US unilaterally for China.

During the meeting and talks, the Chinese side solemnly elaborated on China’s position on issues relating to study of origins of SARS-CoV-2, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and cybersecurity, sternly rebuking US fallacies and putting forward clear demands. China also gave the US two lists, as I said yesterday, one consisting of 16 items detailing erroneous US policies, words and actions that should be redressed, another containing 10 key individual cases of particular concern.

The two sides also exchanged views on some international and regional issues including climate change, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Korean Peninsula, Afghanistan and Myanmar. On these issues, China and the US have sound cooperation and there is broad space for both to work together. That being said, China also pointed out explicitly that cooperation must be based on mutual trust and premised on mutual benefit. The US needs to show sincerity and create conditions for cooperation. It cannot expect to harm China’s interests on one hand while hoping for unconditional cooperation from China on the other.

Differences and somewhat tense encounters are commonplace in diplomacy. Both sides believe that the meeting and talks are candid, in-depth and constructive. Both agree on the utmost importance of maintaining communication between China and the US and the need for more frank and sincere dialogues.

China News Service: How does China envision China-US relations after this visit by Deputy Secretary Sherman?

Zhao Lijian: A choice needs to be made to decide the direction of China-US relations. China has a clear view on it. As State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated, we should try to find a way through dialogue for two major countries different in system, culture and stage of development to coexist peacefully and even achieve win-win results. Whoever tied the knot is responsible for untying it. The US side needs to change course, work with China on the basis of mutual respect and embrace fair competition and peaceful coexistence with China. After all, a healthy and stable China-US relationship serves the interests of both sides and will be good news for the world as well.

Global Times: According to reports, on July 26, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin visited the southern Kuril Islands and proposed establishing a special economic zone free of most taxes and customs duties to attract foreign investment there. The Japanese side has strongly protested this. Does China have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I have noted relevant reports. This is a bilateral issue between Russia and Japan and should be properly handled by the two sides. At the same time, it is China’s consistent belief that the outcomes of the victorious Anti-Fascist War should be earnestly respected and upheld.

CCTV: According to a recent Ipsos poll, 36% of Americans say US democracy is in crisis; 50% think it is facing serious challenges; 75% believe the “political system can become less divisive and more constructive”; 71% want ordinary people to “have more of a voice”. The polling result is deemed to be a reflection of persistent problems besetting the US democratic system which cast a cloud over its future. Could I have your comment?

Zhao Lijian: Just look at their so-called “democracy”. Some US politicians have been pretentiously portraying their country as a “beacon of democracy”. They are obsessed with interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and engaging in ideological infiltration under the guise of democracy, while what they really need to pay attention to is issues with democracy at home!

In addition to the Ipsos poll you mentioned, a YouGov poll in June shows that only 31% Americans are optimistic about the future of American democracy, while 59% are “dissatisfied with the way American democracy is working”. Another poll indicates that 67% of Americans believe American democracy is “under threat”, and 52% think the nation “is headed in the wrong direction”.

As an old Chinese saying goes, “one who lives under the roof knows it when it leaks; one who lives among the folk knows it when the government policy is wrong”. Democracy is a common value of all mankind. The key yardstick to judge whether a political system is good or not lies in whether it can bring political stability, social progress and better livelihood, and whether it is endorsed and supported by the people.

With numerous problems at home, the US is in no position to impose its so-called model of democracy on others with an condescending air of arrogance and prejudice. Still less does it have the right to use the banner of “democracy” to form small cliques targeting specific countries, and malign or even demonize other social systems. The US ought to heed the appeal of its people, reflect on itself, and acknowledge and solve problems with its own democracy.

AFP: It has been reported that Vice Foreign Minister Qin Gang is leaving today for the US to assume the role of the new Chinese ambassador to the US. Can you confirm this?

Zhao Lijian: We appreciate your interest. Relevant information will be released in due course.

Yonhap: The ROK and the DPRK have decided to resume previously suspended channels of communication. Recently the two heads of state have also penned letters to each other. Analysts believe this has prepared the ground for the resumption of dialogue between the north and the south. Does China have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I noted that the DPRK and the ROK have reached consensus on resuming communication channels, restoring mutual trust and improving relations with one another. As a close neighbor to the Korean Peninsula, China always supports the DPRK and the ROK in improving their relations and advancing reconciliation and cooperation through dialogue and consultation. We hope these latest consensus and measures will play a positive role in improving and growing the DPRK-ROK ties.

Prasar Bharati: All India Seafarers Union has said China has imposed an unofficial ban on commercial vessels with Indian crew. They said that China is not allowing such ships with Indian crew to berth at Chinese ports. This is happening since March. Can you please confirm this? Do you have any response to this?

Zhao Lijian: We can confirm after verification that China has never imposed the so-called “unofficial ban” you mentioned. Relevant reports by Indian media are not true.

China recalls Lithuania ambassador over Taiwan office row

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Beijing, Aug 10 (AP) China on Tuesday recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and expelled the Baltic Sea nation’’s top representative to Beijing over the country’’s decision to allow self-governing Taiwan to open an office in Lithuania under its own name.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory without the right to diplomatic recognition, although the island maintains informal ties with all major nations through trade offices that act as de facto embassies, including in the United States and Japan. Chinese pressure has reduced Taiwan’’s formal diplomatic allies to just 15.

Taiwan and Lithuania agreed last month that the office in the capital Vilnius — set to open this fall — will bear the name of Taiwan rather than “Chinese Taipei,” the term used in other countries in order not to offend Beijing.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement called on Lithuania to “immediately rectify its wrong decision, take concrete measures to undo the damage, and not to move further down the wrong path."

The statement referred to “potential consequences” for Lithuania if it allowed the office to open, but gave no details.

Along with intensifying diplomatic pressure, China has stepped up threats to bring Taiwan under its control, dispatching fighter jets and warships around the island.

“We also warn the Taiwan authorities that ‘‘Taiwan independence’’ is a dead end and any attempt at separatist activities in the international arena is doomed to fail," the statement said.

“The Chinese Government and people have unswerving determination to achieve reunification of the country. The red line of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity shall not be crossed," it said.

Taiwan courted ties with Eastern European nations following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, citing their past experiences under authoritarian rule and embrace of multiparty democracy and liberal values.

China leveraged its growing economic and diplomatic clout to ensure such relations were only unofficial, although that hasn’’t tempered Taiwan’’s desire to find new openings.

In February, under pressure from China, Guyana canceled permission for Taiwan to open a trade and investment office in the South American country.

China in recent years has engaged in diplomatic feuds with nations from Norway to Australia over trade, human rights, political interference, intellectual property rights and even the search for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taiwan’’s first-ever representative office abroad to bear the name of Taiwan was established in Somaliland in 2020. The last time Taiwan established a representative office in Europe was in 2003 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (AP) CPS

Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI