The science behind the sixth seal: Revelation 6:12

The science behind the earthquake that shook Southern New England

Did you feel it? At 9:10 am EST Sunday morning, a Magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck just south of Bliss Corner, Massachusetts, which is a census-designated place in Dartmouth. If you felt it, report it!

While minor earthquakes do happen from time to time in New England, tremors that are felt by a large number of people and that cause damage are rare.

Earthquake Report

The earthquake was originally measured as a magnitude 4.2 on the Richter scale by the United States Geological Surgey (USGS) before changing to a 3.6.

Earthquakes in New England and most places east of the Rocky Mountains are much different than the ones that occur along well-known fault lines in California and along the West Coast.

Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts fall nearly in the center of the North American Plate, one of 15 (seven primary, eight secondary) that cover the Earth.

Earth’s tectonic plates

Tectonic plates move ever-so-slowly, and as they either push into each other, pull apart, or slide side-by-side, earthquakes are possible within the bedrock, usually miles deep.

Most of New England’s and Long Island’s bedrock was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent 500-300 million years ago, raising the northern Appalachian Mountains.

Plate tectonics (Courtesy: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Fault lines left over from the creation of the Appalachian Mountains can still lead to earthquakes locally, and many faults remain undetected. According to the USGS, few, if any, earthquakes in New England can be linked to named faults.

While earthquakes in New England are generally much weaker compared to those on defined fault lines, their reach is still impressive. Sunday’s 3.6 was felt in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire.

USGS Community Internet Intensity Map

While M 3.6 earthquakes rarely cause damage, some minor cracks were reported on social media from the shaking.

According to the USGS, moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the region every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt roughly twice a year.

The largest known New England earthquakes occurred in 1638 (magnitude 6.5) in Vermont or New Hampshire, and in 1755 (magnitude 5.8) offshore from Cape Ann northeast of Boston.

The most recent New England earthquake to cause moderate damage occurred in 1940 (magnitude 5.6) in central New Hampshire.

What would be the consequences of the Bowls of Wrath: Revelation 16


What would be the consequences of a nuclear war and how to protect yourself

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki precedent

01/03/2022 – 13:47 CST

The Russian military operation in Ukraine has raised questions over the potential consequences of the conflict and whether any of the countries would reach the point of using nuclear weapons during the war.

Russia, the United States, France, the UK, China and India are the countries which possess such weapons, while Israel is also believed to do so and Pakistan is the only Islamic state that has nuclear bombs.

Putin activates the ‘nuclear protocol’

The measures that are being taken against Russia have led president Vladimir Putin to order that the country’s nuclear deterrent forces are put on high alert.

In the event a nuclear attack occurs, it is not known what kind of consequences it could have for the population, nor the response that could be produced by the countries opposed to Putin’s attack.

In fact, there is only one precedent in history. On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The main consequences of this attack is not exactly known since the figures vary. There is some information that indicates that a total of 210,000 people could have lost their lives.

Long-term consequences

The problem with nuclear weapons attacks is everything that occurs in the aftermath. The Enola Gay B-29 bomber dropped ‘Little Boy’ atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6. That bomb, containing 64 kilos of Uranium 235, exploded at a height of 600 meters – a deflagration that represented the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT.

The explosion generated a heat wave of more than 4,000 Celsius in a radius of approximately 4.5km. The city was completely destroyed in a radius of 10 km2 and the explosion could be felt more than 60km away. Some 60,000 buildings in the city were destroyed by the blast and heat-generated fires lasted up to seven days.

Three days later, another B-29 aircraft, the Bockscar, dropped the ‘Fat Man’ on Nagasaki and the device exploded 500 meters above Japanese soil. A 4,500 kilo bomb with six plutonium 239, which was not pure and it is believed that only one was fused, but the explosion was enough to generate energy equivalent to 21,000 kilos of TNT.

Although its explosion was greater, it didn’t affect the city as much as Hiroshima due to its orography. Following the bomb dropped at Hiroshima, 92 percent of the people who were within a radius of 600 meters from ground zero lost their lives.

Five years after the bombings, cases of leukaemia increased dramatically, and 10 years after the bombings, many survivors developed thyroid, breast, and lung cancer at rates higher than normal.

Difficult to protect yourself

Given the consequences of the attack on Japan almost 80 years ago, it is difficult to agree on a way to effectively protect yourself from a nuclear attack. Taking shelter in an isolated place, reinforced with concrete and brick can be a solution. A place where there should be food to spend some time and ways to communicate with those outside the building.

There are also anti-radiation suits, which are special plastic jumpsuits that protect against atomic particles that are lethal to humans. However, these types of suits are expensive and they are not available to everyone.

The Ukraine war shows the limits of Babylon the Great: Daniel 7

A police officer stands in front of a large American flag as the sun rises in Jersey City, New Jersey, on September 11, 2021. 

The Ukraine war shows the limits of US power

America is still a superpower. But in the face of Russia, the US is not almighty.

By Jonathan  Mar 1, 2022, 8:00am EST

Russia has violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and international law. The US response has been economic: sanctions against Russia that are the largest ever and yet simultaneously unlikely to alter the shape of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

So, how should we think about the US as a superpower in 2022?

It’s too early to draw broad conclusions about what war in Eastern Europe means for the future of America in the world. But there are enough clues to suggest that America’s power has limits, and indeed it always has. With the Soviet Union’s demise, the United States achieved global dominance for a brief unipolar moment. Then President George W. Bush squandered it through destructive (and expensive) misguided regime-change wars. Subsequent presidents gaslit the American public on progress in the Middle East in two conflicts that killed hundreds of thousands. Despite all those unforced errors, the United States remains a superpower, though the limits of non-military power have been exposed.

Thomas Pickering, who served as ambassador to Russia from 1993 to 1996, says that the “caricature” of America as a superpower has obscured the way most Americans think about how the world works.

As a career diplomat over four decades, Pickering witnessed America’s global position change from the Cold War to the breakup of the Soviet Union to the height of US supremacy at the turn of the millennium. “If your assumption is that a superpower can do anything, anywhere, anytime it wishes, without suffering the consequences of risk and uncertainty, then you misperceived the current world situation,” he told me.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, explained

A superpower is not infallible and omnipotent. The United States will not send in troops but has shipped hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons to Ukraine, shepherded an international coalition to institute wide-ranging economic sanctions, and encouraged tech companies and global organizations like FIFA and the Olympics to pursue the cultural isolation of Russia. And yet the United States, even with the world’s largest military and most robust economy, has not been able to induce Russia toward a different path. So, Putin continues to deploy his army toward Kyiv. And stopping that incursion does not appear to be something America has the power to change without risking nuclear war.

Superpowers need to pick their battles and engage in the same tough choices as any other country — especially when confronted with an adversary with nuclear capability, such as Russia. And rather than grasping the complexity of world affairs, many Americans have internalized the shibboleths that the US has never lost a war and that the US never compromises with enemies, especially during a conflict. Neither is true.

Both factors show that, as a country, the United States has failed to recognize its own constraints, some of which have long existed and are simply accentuated by Russian aggression.

How the unipolar moment ended

When the Cold War ended in the ’90s, the United States possessed unrivaled economic and military power. Scholar Francis Fukuyama claimed the “End of History” and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asserted the centrality of American exceptionalism in her coinage, “the indispensable nation.”

Some argue that that unipolar moment was overstated. “Look, the Americans suffered from hubris after the end of the Soviet Union,” said Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor who has written widely about American power. “The unipolar moment, I think, was always illusory.”

At the end of the Cold War, the US did continue to hold itself out as the guarantor of security. “The United States appointed itself as responsible for peace, security, and democracy in Europe,” Stephen Wertheim, a historian of US foreign policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told me. In response to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the United States, through NATO, took military action against Serbia. The intervention was relatively limited, and the outcome of it was a successful projection of US might.

But that unilateral moment, real or imagined, was short-lived.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, were not what challenged that global supremacy, argues Wertheim. Rather, it was the 20 disastrous years of overreach in America’s response. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan exposed the limits of US power.

It could be said that Osama bin Laden understood something about Americans that they didn’t understand about themselves, namely that in reaction to heinous terror attacks America would overreact. With the invasion and occupation of two countries, the US would face two decades of blowback that tore at the country’s seams, that undermined democratic values through the war on terrorism at home and abroad. “Basically, with the Iraq invasion, we bite off more than we can chew, and we get a comeuppance,” said Nye.

The United States, mired in the Middle East and Afghanistan, continued to expand its role as global policeman through a network of US bases and military commitments that, counterintuitively, detracted from US power. It’s at this time that China began to rise as a counterbalancing force and Russia reemerged as a power in Europe.

“As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have obvious problems, we start to enter into a gradual period of decline in belief that the United States can reshape other societies,” Wertheim explained. “One problem is that this led us to make commitments to Ukraine. That means that we suffer a loss of prestige when we don’t make good those commitments.”

President Joe Biden speaks about the end of the war in Afghanistan from the White House on August 31, 2021.

Now that the US is caught in a potential face-off with a nuclear superpower, it is clear that perhaps the biggest failure of recent years has been the de-emphasis on arms control and the reduction of nuclear weapons worldwide. President Barack Obama, who in his early life was a staunch anti-nuclear activist, negotiated a new START Treaty in 2011, which curbs and monitors the US and Russia’s nuclear warheads. That’s now been extended to 2026, but more is needed. Over decades, Washington and Moscow allowed the arms control regime to decline, which culminated in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the important 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces.

“Slowly, the structures that kept US-Russian military competition visible and predictable fell away,” said Heather Hurlburt, of the think tank New America. “At the same time, Beijing” — itself a nuclear power — “is building up its arsenal and making it very clear that it’s not interested in the US-Soviet arms control model.”

And other global crises, such as the pandemic, have exposed the inability of the US to lead as the indispensable nation.

The lesser-discussed dynamics that have undermined US power

Now the United States and Europe are waging an economic war against Russia. Underneath that, one can see America’s failure to imagine a post-oil economy or a globally urgent set of policies to address the climate crisis. Even as sanctions hobble Russia, the international market depends on Russian energy resources — with inevitable knock-on effects that damage everyone else.

The human rights rhetoric from American leaders has also deluded Americans. Most US presidents, with the exception of Trump, have spotlighted abuses worldwide. But they have not stopped the American way of doing hefty business with prominent abusers like Russia and China. Europe also got comfortable with this equation, as Maximilian Popp writes in Spiegel International. It’s a contradiction that has empowered authoritarians like Putin.

While the US has failed to act assertively on the global crises that it cannot avoid — climate and pandemic, to name only two — the diplomatic corps have also been hollowed out. Trump can be blamed for some of this disintegration but not all of it.

Europe has wondered whether the problem wasn’t only Trump but, at its core, America. This is especially the case after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer. “The Afghanistan thing got to a deeper worry that they have about American power,” said Jeremy Shapiro of the European Council on Foreign Relations. Though European leaders may be muted about this issue now, he told me that there are concerns about American competence because of polarization in Washington, “because the Republicans and Democrats are playing domestic politics with everything.”

US democracy and America’s capacity to promote human rights worldwide are connected, says Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America. “It’s now hit home at a much deeper level, that those two things are intertwined and that our democracy is seen as teetering and crumbling at the edges, that we cannot be an effective force for democracy globally,” she told me.

A country that has depended on its standing as an economic force and a democratic authority worldwide is at its weakest and most dysfunctional in half a century or more. Hurlburt calls it “self-inflicted decline.” The combined result is that the US is effectively not showing up.

It’s good that Biden has ruled out putting US troops into Russia’s new war in Europe, a potentially endless conflict for a country that took two decades to leave Afghanistan. That decision lays bare a reality that American foreign policy circles have too often ignored. As Hurlburt put it, “Gravity applies to us just like everybody else.”

The Power of the Russian Nuclear Horn

Russian heavy flamethrower system TOS-1 fires during the International Military Technical Forum Army-2018 in Alabino, outside Moscow, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018.

Thermobaric rockets: Russia’s most fearsome weapon that could destroy a city block in a single shot

Russian heavy flamethrower system TOS-1 fires during the International Military Technical Forum Army-2018 in Alabino, outside Moscow, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. – Copyright Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

By Julie Gaubert  with AFP  •  Updated: 01/03/2022 – 08:00

As the fighting in Ukraine intensifies in its largest cities, fears are rising that a war of attrition will mean an escalation of violence and the use of ever more deadly weapons.

On Saturday, a CNN correspondent captured footage of what appeared to be a TOS-1 heavy flamethrower system being transported to the Ukrainian border near the Russian city of Belgorod.

Nicknamed “Buratino” in reference to the Russian version of Pinnochio – because of its long, pointed nose – the TOS-1 is a 24-tube 220 mm multiple rocket launcher and one of the most fearsome weapons in Russia’s arsenal.

What particularly raised eyebrows in CNN’s footage was the weapon the TOS-1 is used to launch: vacuum bombs, also known as thermobaric rockets.

What is a thermobaric weapon?

The word thermobaric comes from the combination of the Greek words thermos, ‘heat’, and baros meaning ‘pressure’. In practice, this weapon combines shockwaves and vacuums to produce a high-temperature explosion.

“It’s a weapon that, when it explodes, will release its explosive – or its fuel – and will create an overpressure effect that’s going to end up in a much greater detonation and be really devastating because of the shock wave,” Jean-Marie Collin, expert and spokesperson for ICAN France, the French branch of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons, told Euronews Next.

The need to use such a weapon is “this ability to create an overpressure that will create an extremely strong shock,” he explained.

It can instantly turn several city blocks into smouldering rubble with a single shot.

The TOS-1 was first deployed by Russia in Afghanistan in the 1980s and most recently in Chechnya and Syria, designed to take out infantry, bunkers, fortifications, and vehicles.

Collin traces them back further.

“The first uses go back to the Second World War. And it’s also been used quite a bit in the wars, unfortunately, in Iraq or Afghanistan, most likely as well. So the use of a thermobaric weapon is something that, unfortunately, is used in different conflicts,” he said.

While the US also makes these types of weapons, Russia is believed to have detonated the biggest yet in 2007, creating an explosion equivalent to 39.9 tons.

Back in 2015, Dave Majumdar, the Defence Editor for the website The National Interest, explained that “Buratino can obliterate a roughly 200 m by 400 m area with a single salvo. In other words, it can instantly turn several city blocks into smouldering rubble with a single shot”.

How dangerous are they?

In February 2000, a report from Human Rights Watch sounded the alarm about the devastating effect of thermobaric weapons, quoting a study made by the US Defence Intelligence Agency.

“The [blast] kill mechanism against living targets is unique—and unpleasant. (…) What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction [vacuum], which ruptures the lungs. (…) If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel,” the study said.

“Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide, are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as with most chemical agents”.

Those near the ignition point are obliterated. Those at the fringe are likely to suffer many internal, thus invisible injuries.

US Defence Intelligence Agency 

The study described that symptoms could be more dangerous in confined spaces.

“Those near the ignition point are obliterated” the study detailed. “Those at the fringe are likely to suffer many internal, thus invisible injuries, including burst eardrums and crushed inner ear organs, severe concussions, ruptured lungs, and internal organs, and possibly blindness”.

For Collin, the impact is still very different from a nuclear bomb.

“A nuclear weapon is still a weapon of mass destruction whose use has long-lasting consequences, which is not the case with a thermobaric or conventional weapon system, even though this weapon system can obviously create a lot of injury and destruction,” he told Euronews Next.

“A nuclear weapon is something that truly destroys all life in the place where it was used. We’re talking about the power that is multiplied by several tens”.

ICAN’s response to nuclear threat

ICAN, the winner of the Nobel Prize in 2017, denounced the invasion of Ukraine on Sunday, describing it as Vladimir Putin’s “dangerous game”.

“President Putin is playing a dangerous game by placing nuclear weapons on combat alert. Our campaign strongly condemns this action and we call for an immediate ceasefire, as well as the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine,” Collin said in a statement sent to the AFP.

“The world is approaching a nuclear catastrophe, so we urge all nuclear-weapon states to remove their arsenals from alert status and refrain from threatening to use their arsenals,” he added.

ICAN has stressed that “any use of nuclear weapons would cause catastrophic humanitarian suffering and the fallout – radioactive, economic, political, will be harming people for generations”.

China Rattled by The Rising Nuclear Horns: Daniel

China Rattled by Calls for Japan to Host Nuclear Weapons

March 1, 2022 at 9:51 am EST By Taegan Goddard 72 Comments

“China has reacted angrily to calls by Japan’s influential former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, for Tokyo to consider hosting US nuclear weapons in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising concern over Chinese aggression towards Taiwan,” The Guardian reports.

“Abe, who presided over record defense budgets before resigning in 2020, said Japan should cast off taboos surrounding its possession of nuclear weapons following the outbreak of war in Europe.”

Is Babylon the Great Doomed To Become A Second-Rate Country?

China floating solar copy
The world’s largest floating solar power plant at Huainan, China, at 40MW. China leads the world in … [+] SUNGROW POWER SUPPLY

Is America Doomed To Become A Second-Rate Country? Even In Nuclear?

James Conca

A new data-rich report by the National Science Foundation (NSF) confirms China has overtaken the United States as the world’s leader in several key scientific measures, including the overall number of papers published and patents awarded. U.S. scientists also have serious competition from foreign researchers in certain important fields.

That loss of our previous leadership in these areas raises an important question for U.S. policymakers and the country’s research community, according to NSF’s oversight body, the National Science Board (NSB). “Since across-the-board leadership in [science and engineering] is no longer a possibility, what then should our goals be?” NSB asks in its recent policy brief The State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2022.

NSB’s white paper hints at an answer by highlighting several factors it considers essential for maintaining a healthy U.S. research environment. The nation, it says, must sustain excellence in basic research; foster a scientific workforce more diverse in race, gender, and geography; and support high-quality precollege science and math education. The board also calls for forging closer ties between academia and industry, keeping borders open to promote international partnerships, and promoting ethical research practices.

Achieving those goals won’t be easy, says Julia Phillips, an applied physicist who chairs the NSB committee that oversees Science and Engineering Indicators and is now retired after a long career at AT&T Bell Laboratories and the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories.

“It would be the height of hubris to think that [the United States] would [continue to] lead in everything,” Phillips says. “So, I think the most important thing is for the United States to decide where it cannot be No. 2.”

At the top of her priorities is sustaining the federal government’s financial support of fundamental science. “If we lead in basic research, then we’re still in a really good position,” she says. But the government’s “record over the last decades does not give me a lot of cause for hope.” For example, Phillips says she is not optimistic that Congress will approve pending legislation that envisions a much larger NSF over the next 5 years, or a 2022 appropriations bill that would give NSF a lot more money right away.

The United States trailed China in contributing to the growth in global research spending over the past 2 decades – China 29% United States 23% South Korea& Japan 9% Other Asia 7% Other 14% European Union 17%.

This falling behind is nowhere more obvious, and concerning, than in the area of nuclear, both nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

The world’s first pebble bed reactor, Unit 1 of China’s Shidaowan nuclear power plant, has started feeding power to the grid in Shandong province, while construction on Unit 2 continues. The PBR units are high-temperature gas-cooled reactors with a 200-megawatt generation capacity and a core made of graphite pebbles filled with a special type of fuel.

The United States is going to build a pebble bed reactor as well, by X-energy, which should come online somewhere around 2029.

The world’s first pebble bed reactor (HTR-PM), Unit 1 of China’s Shidaowan nuclear power plant in … [+] NNSA

The China National Nuclear Corporation has started building its first small modular reactor (SMR) on the island province of Hainan, at its Changjiang nuclear power plant (at bottom of map). China’s own design, the Linglong One will be about 125 MW, it will take about 5 years to build, and it will generate about a billion kWh/year.

Again, the United States is going to build an SMR as well, by NuScale, which should come online somewhere around 2029.

China has correctly decided to diversify its nuclear sector as a way to attain real energy security and to achieve any reasonable level of decarbonization, as suggested by all leading climate scientists from James Hansen on down. China has 53 nuclear reactors in operation, 18 under construction, and another 120 planned by 2035 – mostly big ones, not just small modulars – and are well on the way to achieving that number. They know that nuclear is the best energy source to replace coal and they have a lot of coal.

China now has the largest manufacturing base in the world, including super-large forges necessary for expanding nuclear power. China has also established the first national institute dedicated to nuclear science. They are not likely to let that scientific community wither like we have done here.

Completely separate from nuclear power, is nuclear weapons. China spends more on defense than any other country except the United States. The Pentagon estimates that China’s nuclear arsenal will quadruple by 2030. While still much smaller than ours, it will be much more modern and flexible. And they won’t stop until they completely surpass the United States and Russia, probably by mid-century.

China has the longest bridges in the world. Shown here is the 27-km Qingdao Haiwan Bridge. DR. BERND GROSS

China is only the third country to put a man in space and to fly a spacecraft around the moon, landed a robotic sampler and return mission on the lunar surface, and have a spacecraft orbiting Mars. China will soon have an orbiting space station.

China certainly has one of the top cyber-intelligence agencies. China is investing more in ultra-high voltage transmission lines and smart grid technologies than everyone in the world. They also built the world’s longest bridge of any type and have many bridges in the top tier.

This is the kind of initiative that America showed in the 20th Century and that led to our becoming the greatest nation on Earth. We won WWII. We won the Cold War.  We knew that investments in infrastructure, science and engineering pay off bigtime, injecting about 3 or 4 dollars into the economy for every dollar spent.

But we forgot about all that looking at silly cat pictures on Instagram and investing in the illusion of bitcoin.

So…what happens now?

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn

James Conca

Even the China Horn Turns Against Russia: Daniel 7

Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. China publicly opposes any act that violates territorial integrity but over the past week has echoed Putin’s argument that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is a response to Nato’s eastward expansion. Photograph: Alexei Druzhinin/AP

‘They were fooled by Putin’: Chinese historians speak out against Russian invasion

An open letter written by five historians denounced the war. They hope to persuade Beijing to make their stance clearer

Vincent Ni China affairs correspondentSun 27 Feb 2022 22.04 EST

For Xu Guoqi, a Chinese historian, Beijing’s reluctance to denounce Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is alarming. “I’m a historian of the first world war. Europe sleep-walked into a huge conflict over 100 years ago, which also had had enormous consequences for China,” Xu said. “The world may be at the point of no return again”.

But looking at how Chinese diplomats are responding to it, and how Chinese people have talked about it on social media in the past week, he said, “I’m afraid it seems we still have not learned the lessons of the past tragedies. As a historian I’m very disappointed.”

On Saturday morning, five renowned Chinese historians – Xu included – wrote an open letter denouncing Russia’s action on its neighbour and calling for peace. The authors of the letter hope to persuade Beijing to make its stance clearer: that what Russia is doing is wrong, and China should say it out loud.

“What will this war lead to? Will it lead to a large-scale world war?” the historians asked. “Great catastrophes in history often started with local conflicts… We strongly opposed Russia’s war against Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of a sovereign state by force … is a violation of the norms of international relations based on the United Nations charter and a breach of the existing international security system.”

In public, China opposes any act that violates territorial integrity. China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, articulated this position again in a late-night post published on his ministry’s website on Friday. But over the course of the past week, as civilians were killed and western sanctions intensified, Beijing continued to echo Putin’s argument that Moscow’s action is a response to Nato’s eastward expansion.

As Chinese historians, we do not wish to see China being dragged into something that will fundamentally harm the current world order

Xu Guoqi

“Do they genuinely believe in that? Is it worth [it] for China to undermine its own credibility to defend the indefensible? I’m afraid they were fooled by Putin,” Xu said, emphasising that he and his colleagues wrote this letter because they love the country, and they do not wish a potential worldwide tragedy to stall China’s future.

“This is simply a black and white matter,” he continued. “This is an invasion. As the Chinese saying goes: you cannot call a deer a horse. As Chinese historians, we do not wish to see China being dragged into something that will fundamentally harm the current world order. For the love of mankind, world peace and development, we should make this clear.”

But Xu and his colleagues’ open letter was quickly taken down by internet censors after two hours and 40 minutes online. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, pro-war Chinese trolls denounced the authors – who are based in Nanjing, Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai – as “shameful” and “traitorous”. “Why did you not say anything during the west’s invasion in Iraq,” one quipped sarcastically.

Is Beijing changing its thinking?

It is difficult to gauge the public opinion in China, but in the past few days, while Beijing’s diplomats struggle with a coherent argument, many Chinese nationalists expressed their admiration of Putin online. Some called the Russian leader “the greatest strategist of this century”. Others said China should leverage the current situation to “take Taiwan back”.

But at the same time, censors are not taking down all anti-war posts, either. On WeChat, for example, many have also been discussing the situation in Ukraine. On Sunday, as Putin ordered his military to put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert, some users posted a 1994 statement in which China urged all nuclear-weapon states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against states that do not have them, including Ukraine.

There is a long history of Chinese intellectuals speaking out, individually or collectively, on major domestic and international issues, including in ways that challenge official policies, said Prof Jeff Wasserstrom, a historian of modern China at the University of California, Irvine. “Sometimes the risks involved are small but at other points it is truly daring to engage in this time-honoured practice.”

But Wasserstrom said the five prominent Chinese historians’ letter was particularly noticeable because of the tightening of the freedom of speech on Chinese campuses – both on the mainland and in Hong Kong – in recent years. Several high-profile Chinese academics have been barred from teaching.

As the war intensifies, there are signs that Beijing may be changing its thinking. On Friday, China abstained at the end of the UN security council vote condemning the Russian aggression. Western diplomats saw this as a sign that Beijing is increasingly uneasy at being seen as defending Putin’s action, which has drawn worldwide condemnation.

On Sunday, the Chinese envoy to Kyiv, Fan Xianrong, stressed in a video address that China respected Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also urged Ukraine-based Chinese nationals not to reveal their identity or display any signs of their nationality, reversing his embassy’s earlier advisory that encouraged citizens to stick the national flag on their cars.

“Sooner or later, they’ll have to come to [their] senses,” Xu said. “The Chinese are very pragmatic. They need to understand they are a big beneficiary of the current world order, under which China also prospered. This is an opportunity for all of us to demonstrate we are a real responsible stakeholder.”