Asia in Review Archive 2019 (July – December)

China (People’s Republic)

Date of AiR edition

News summary

03 September 2019

Philippines and China agree to put aside South China Sea dispute as Duterte meets Xi

(ls) On the occasion of the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte visiting China’s Xi Jinping in Beijing, the two leaders agreed to continue dialogue, work on a code of conduct for the South China Sea by 2021 and operationalize a joint oil exploration deal. Regarding the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2016 decision, rejecting China’s wide-reaching claims over parts of the South China Sea, Duterte told Xi that the ruling was “final, binding and not subject to appeal”. Xi, however, reiterated China’s decision to ignore it. [Straits Times 1]

The two presidents eventually “agreed that while their variant positions will have to remain,” they should not derail the “amity” between their two countries. [Rappler]

Despite Duterte’s strategy of rapprochement over the recent years, Sino-Philippine relations suffered a major blow in June after a suspected Chinese militia vessel sunk a Filipino fishing boat in the Reed Bank, followed in recent weeks by growing incursions by Chinese surveillance vessels and warships into Philippine waters. Ahead of Duterte’s visit, however, China eased bilateral tensions by issuing a formal apology for the incident. [Straits Times 2]

The two sides are currently exploring a two-track approach, exploring first a non-controversial deal in “undisputed” areas as a confidence-building measure towards a brokering a more contentious deal in areas of overlapping claims, particularly the energy-rich Reed Bank. Under a service contract, the Philippines would retain sovereignty to the maritime area and reap 60% of the project’s profits. [Asia Times]

03 September 2019

China-USA relations: New round of tit-for-tat tariffs

(dql) The trade war between USA and the USA has reached a new stage of escalation, as a new tit-for-tat tariffs on each other’s exports have come into effect this weekend, with Washington imposing 15% tariffs on 110 billion USD worth of Chinese goods and Beijing increasing duties on 75 billion USD of U.S. imports. Further dimming for the prospects for a trade talks expected to held later this month, both sides announced to add new tariffs in December. [Reuters] [Forbes]

In latest developments, China’s Ministry of Commerce confirmed  on Monday that China has lodged a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organization over the latest U.S. import duties, while the USA and Poland on the same day signed an agreement to tighten guidelines of 5G network security in the European country, a move aimed to block Huawei Technologies and other Chinese telecommunications firms from its networks. [Aljazeera] [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, Russian mobile operator MTS has teamed up with Chinese tech giant Huawei for a 5G pilot scheme in Moscow in which for the first time the super-fast network will cover almost the entire city. This move is and the above mentioned US-Polish agreement clearly signals the emerging technology split between East and West along the border between Poland and Russia. [Russia Today]

03 September 2019

China expels Wall Street Journal reporter

(dql) Last week, Chinese authorities denied renewal of press credentials for a Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent known for this critical coverage of the President Xi’s rise to power, China’s Xinjiang policy and assertive foreign policy. The move, which effectively forces the journalist to leave the country due to the ensuing non-renewal of his visa, comes weeks after the journalist co-authored a report on ongoing investigation of Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies into a naturalized Australian cousin of President Xi over alleged money laundering and high-stakes gambling. [Wall Street Journal]

03 September 2019

China/Hong Kong: Students boycott school and university after violent protest weekend

(dql) Defying a government ban, anti-government protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong’s city center for the 13th consecutive weekend of protests. In the course of the protest violence erupted Saturday night as police and protesters faced off in the worst clashes since demonstrations began in the city in June. [CNN]

On Sunday afternoon thousands of demonstrators converged on the airport, blocking access to the world’s third busiest airport by passenger numbers, before police intervened and dispersed the crowd. [Aljazeera]

In a latest development, thousands of students have boycotted the first day of the new term to hold rallies and protest against the now shelved, yet not formally withdrawn extradition bill, adding new pressure on embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her government which, however, continues to be backed by Beijing, according to statements of China’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday. [The Guardian] [Sohu, in Chinese]

Meanwhile, during his visit to Hong Kong-neighboring Guangdong province China’s Public Security Minister Zhao Kezhi called on the country’s police to “be on high alert for all kinds of subversive infiltration and sabotage activities, and resolutely crack down on all violent and terrorist activities” and “do an excellent job in safeguarding our ‘southern gate’” alluding to Hong Kong and its protest’s possible influence on Guangdong province. [South China Morning Post]

Date of AiR edition

News summary

Web links

23 July 2019

Another winner of the U.S.-China trade war: Bangladesh

(ls) Not only Southeast Asian countries are largely benefiting from the trend to divert production bases due to the U.S.-China trade war. [AiR 3/6/2019] Also Bangladesh, which is the world’s second-largest garment exporter, has seen the value of its overseas sales rise to a record $40.5 billion in the year ended June 30, coinciding with Trump boosting tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. The tit-for-tat trade war has seen American and Chinese orders for more than half of the 1,981 tariffed products so far being re-routed to other countries. [Bloomberg]

23 July 2019

Another winner of the U.S.-China trade war: Bangladesh

(ls) Not only Southeast Asian countries are largely benefiting from the trend to divert production bases due to the U.S.-China trade war. [AiR 3/6/2019] Also Bangladesh, which is the world’s second-largest garment exporter, has seen the value of its overseas sales rise to a record $40.5 billion in the year ended June 30, coinciding with Trump boosting tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. The tit-for-tat trade war has seen American and Chinese orders for more than half of the 1,981 tariffed products so far being re-routed to other countries. [Bloomberg]

23 July 2019

Another winner of the U.S.-China trade war: Bangladesh

(ls) Not only Southeast Asian countries are largely benefiting from the trend to divert production bases due to the U.S.-China trade war. [AiR 3/6/2019] Also Bangladesh, which is the world’s second-largest garment exporter, has seen the value of its overseas sales rise to a record $40.5 billion in the year ended June 30, coinciding with Trump boosting tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. The tit-for-tat trade war has seen American and Chinese orders for more than half of the 1,981 tariffed products so far being re-routed to other countries. [Bloomberg]

16 July 2019

Another winner of the U.S.-China trade war: Bangladesh

(ls) Not only Southeast Asian countries are largely benefiting from the trend to divert production bases due to the U.S.-China trade war. [AiR 3/6/2019] Also Bangladesh, which is the world’s second-largest garment exporter, has seen the value of its overseas sales rise to a record $40.5 billion in the year ended June 30, coinciding with Trump boosting tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. The tit-for-tat trade war has seen American and Chinese orders for more than half of the 1,981 tariffed products so far being re-routed to other countries. [Bloomberg]

16 July 2019

China-Canada relations: Canadian citizen arrested in China

(dql) Further straining relations between China and Canada, Chinese authorities have detained a Canadian student for alleged drug offences, as confirmed on Monday 

The two countries’ relations have been steadily worsening since the arrest of two Canadians in December who were later charged with espionage. Their arrests has been widely seen as a retaliatory move of Beijing for the arrest by Canada that same month of a senior executive at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei that the United States has declared a security threat. Chinese courts, furthermore, have sentenced two other Canadians to death on drug-related charges. [New York Times] 

16 July 2019

China-gifted frigate arrives in Sri Lanka

(jk) China has gifted a frigate to the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) which will be in charge of diverse operations of the SLN, such as offshore patrol, environment monitoring or anti-piracy combat. It is considered to be the SLN’s most advanced ship. In addition to the vessel, the PLA Navy has conducted training for over 100 Sri Lankan naval officers in China. [SLGuardian]

16 July 2019

China-Germany relations: First Chinese-German joint medical drill on NATO territory

(dql) China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is currently conducting its first joint medical exercise with the German military (Bundeswehr) in Germany, with deployment of PLA armored medical vehicles and involving about 100 PLA medics and 120 support personnel from the Bundeswehr.

The exercise is conducted at Feldkirchen, Bavaria, which is around 200 kilometers away from the headquarters of United States European Command in Stuttgart, and comes at a time when relations between Berlin and Washington are strained over a range of issues, including US demands for an increase of Berlin’s defense spending and Germany’s support for Russia’s gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. [Stars and Stripes]

While the exercise is of low military significance, it marks a foray into NATO territory symbolically underscoring China’s growing efforts to gain foothold and influence in Europe.

For an account on China’s efforts to increase influence in Germany through organized students see Didi Kirsten Tatlow in [The Atlantic].

16 July 2019

China and Russia supporting Cuba to upgrades railway infrastructure

(hg) Cuba’s railway system which has suffered from a lack of maintenance and new equipment due to both an inefficient state-run economy and a crippling US trade embargo is about to be upgraded with the help of the US’ major geostrategic adversaries Russia and China, setting another sign of a reverse trend of global influence expansion. After Cuba has received 80 Chinese-made rail cars this spring, Havana has now signed a US $1 billion deal with Russia to modernize its railways. [Business Times]

16 July 2019

Russia and China about to close gaps in military advancement – are they partially even ahead?

(hg) Hypersonic weapons – glide vehicles and missiles – are among the most advanced weapon systems of our times granting those who have them a decisive strategic edge against powers lagging behind the relevant state-of-the-art applications. In recent years, Russia and China have developed a stunning range of hypersonic weapon platforms that could partly brought them ahead of what the US is currently able to field –  something outright unthinkable a decade ago.

An assessment of the Russian and Chinese hypersonic capabilities vis-à-vis the US is provided by a recent report of the [National Defense Magazine] whereas the [New Scientist] observes the emergence of an outright arms race with the rivaling great powers aiming to get an edge in the development of hypersonic weapons that, according to the New Scientist, is already heading out of control.

16 July 2019

China to buy more Russian SU-35?

(hg) China and Russia seem to consider another purchase of Russia’s advanced Su-35 fighter jets, ignoring U.S. sanctions again after Beijing already bought two dozen of the jets for some USD 2.5 billion. After the sale was responded by the first-ever use of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act both countries’ leaders announced to work harder to minimize their dependence on the US Dollar. [Newsweek]

16 July 2019

China’s air craft carrier future: Russian support could be crucial

(hg) After China’s first commissioned aircraft carrier – the 001–  has been a rather symbolic commitment to China’s aspirations as a future global power, China has developed more capable carriers like the CV-16 and 002 which are using the ski jump technique. Now, China is about to build up a serious carrier fleet over the coming years.

Since this year, Chinese carrier development seems to have entered a new stage, whereby focus is put on catapult carriers like the 003 and its successors. [The Diplomat]

This development is complemented by the deployment of J-15 fighter jets that have to be accommodated by the new carriers. Insofar, China will have learnt an important lesson from France. Its only carrier Charles de Gaulle is so slow due to its insufficient nuclear power based propulsion system that it does not create enough headwinds to reliably launch the aircraft which severely hampers the carrier’s combat capability.

While the Chinese navy needs a sufficiently strong nuclear reactor to catapult the super heavy F-15 fighter jets from its future carriers though it has not the necessary experience in building this kind of miniature reactors needed for ships. This capability, however, has developed in Russia long ago for icebreakers which could make the case for another crucial Sino-Russian arms cooperation. [South China Morning Post]

16 July 2019

Russia and China are expanding influence in Central Asia

(hg) As the U.S. struggles to exit the Afghan war – the longest war fought by the US in its entire history – Russia and China are vying for influence in Central Asia, a region that is rising with the ongoing Eurasiazation of the world, the twin processes of a growing together of Eurasia and the shift of the global center of gravity in its direction. Russia and China are now the powers dominating international efforts to support the Central Asian state’s fights against Islamic militants and the provision of diplomatic avenues for peace talks, tasks with which the US has failed miserably in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. [Wall Street Journal]

In the recent Afghan peace talks between Russia, china, the US, Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban, India was notably absent. Although India invested heavily in Afghanistan and remains the most popular foreign actor in the country, Delhi was absent and could not made its concerns heard in the peace talks. [Times of India]

Russia, on the contrary, has gained significant diplomatic heft through its role in both the Syrian as well as the Afghan peace process. China, which is running a lower profile, also gains through its new role which reinforces one of the central rationales of its Belt and Road Initiative which aims at gaining support of Muslim population countries for Beijing’s efforts in maintaining control of its own domestic Uighur Muslim-Turk population.

In total, while the US is a leaving power, Russia and China are gaining influence in correlation with Central Asian continuously gaining geopolitical weight itself. Notably is especially both countries’ increasing diplomatic posture vis-à-vis the West.

16 July 2019

War with Iran Could Disrupt US Strategy to Confront Russia and China

(hg) With the US and Israel pushing against Iran, Russia and China are again put on the same side in a major conflict scenario [Newsweek 1] after the Syrian debacle and the Russian-Sino support for the US beleaguered Venezuelan Maduro administration. [Newsweek 2]

In this situation, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has warned that a war with Iran would have “significant impact” on the overall National Defense Strategy which is aimed at great power competition with Russia and China and whose implementation would be delayed and disrupted if the US would wage war against Iran. [Military Com]

Given the fact that Iran forms a crucial piece in the Chinese BRI strategy could, however, also give way to the claim that to attack Iran would mean to concomitantly place a serious strike against long-term Chinese interest as well. In this light, a war against Iran could be claimed as a forceful and preemptive operationalization of the National Defense Strategy. In this light, the Army Chief’s assessment might not be shared by everyone dealing with the National Defense Strategy.

16 July 2019

China-US trade war: Beijing announces lowest economic growth since 1992

(dql) Signaling impacts of the trade war with the USA, China’s economic growth has slumped to its lowest level in nearly three decades. According to government figures, China’s gross domestic product grew at 6.2% in the quarter April to June, the slowest quarterly growth rate since 1992 and down from 6.4% in the previous quarter. [New York Times]

US President Trump took the latest data on the slowing economic growth in China as proof for the impact of US tariffs while warning that Washington could put on more pressure on China amid efforts to resume trade talks. [Reuters]

China’s top negotiator in the trade talks with the Trump administration, meanwhile, assured at a symposium of local government officials and business representatives in Nanjing that China’s “macroeconomic indicators of growth, employment and consumer prices are all within normal ranges” and that “the pressure on the economy is the result of cyclical, institutional and structural factors, a normal phenomenon in the development of the economy.” [Xinhua, in Chinese] [South China Morning Post]

16 July 2019

China: International community divided over Beijing’s Xinjiang policy

(dql) Countries across the globe are divided over their assessment of China’s Xinjiang policy. While a group of 22 countries issued a joint letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concerns about “arbitrary detention in large-scale places of detention, as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang” [Human Rights Watch], 37 others states acknowledge China’s human rights achievements “by adhering to the people-centered development philosophy and protecting and promoting human rights through development” as well as its counter-terrorism efforts where “China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers.” [Reuters] [Global Times]

For an overview of “condemning” and “defending” countries see [CNN].

16 July 2019

Russia, China, Iran & Venezuela – “Crypto Rogues” to challenge US financial control

(hg) Some of the US’ most notable geopolitical adversaries – Russia, China, Iran & Venezuela – are adding a new dimension to current efforts to end the primacy of the dollar. After all, dollar dominance has enabled the U.S. to deploy tools of financial coercion and economic sanctions against its adversaries. According to a revealing report of the American Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), under the title ‘Crypto Rogues U.S. State Adversaries Seeking Blockchain Sanctions Resistance’, the four US’ geopolitical adversaries are building new systems for transferring value that work outside of conventional banking infrastructure and are based on the blockchain technology and its crypto-currency applications. By developing alternative payment systems for global commerce the four countries seek to reduce the potency of unilateral and multilateral sanctions to complement traditional sanctions evasion schemes.

Noteworthy, the report also points at the US dollar regime as such as the ultimate target of the move. A relevant scenario in line of this strategy would emerge if other nations could be convinced to use such a state-based digital currency to conduct trade in the adversary’s major commodity export, such as oil. [FDD]

Similar to these developments, India and Russia have also agreed on a new payment system through their national currencies to handle their multi-billion-dollar defense deals in an attempt to avoid US sanctions over India’s purchase of the Russian S-400. [Bloomberg]

See the full FDD report [here]. 

16 July 2019

The battlefields of a future military conflict over global hegemony 

(hg) Two likely battlefields in a coming military conflict will be the outer space and the cyber space.

A recent [MIT technology Review] examines the present risks and capabilities of a military conflict in the outer space with a focus on the US, China and Russia and raises the question if a space war between the US and China has already begun.

Especially the US are currently debating how to revamp its military space capabilities with US President Trump having called to create even a separate space force as a fifth military branch added to the army, navy, air force and marines. For critical voices see [Breaking Defense], on the background of the debate two recent pieces in [War on the Rocks 1] [War on the rocks 2]. 

Similar to the US efforts, France has just announced for this September the creation of a space command as a part of the Air Force, which will replace France’s existing Joint Space Command and will be commissioned with the task of defending the country’s satellites. [The Verge] The French Air Force, according to President Macron, will eventually be renamed as Space and Air Force. Additionally, France will spend 3.6 billion Euro on the renewal of military satellites. [Russia Defense]

Meanwhile, India is also developing its own space warfare capabilities and has, as a show of force, used a missile earlier this year to destroy a satellite orbiting the Earth [Business Standard]. As a recent backlash for India’s space capabilities, the launch of a spacecraft intended to land on the far side of the moon has just been aborted due to a technical glitch however [Time].

On China’s space force see a report on [Defense One].

Concerning cyber warfare, “the Islamic Republic of Iran and China are standing in a united front,” according to the Iranian ICT Minister. After a bilateral meeting in Beijing to discuss “common challenges” in the face of “U.S. unilateralism,” he announced the Sino-Iranian cooperation “to confront U.S. unilateralism and hegemony in the field of IT” and artificial intelligence. [Forbes]

16 July 2019

Outlooks for the global order in the aftermath of the G-20 summit

(hg) The aftermath of the G-20 summit gives a good opportunity to have a look on current developments and discussions pertaining the future pattern of a shifting world order.

Striking is the variety of possible scenarios amid an overall situation shaped by great power competition and a continuing waning of the established liberal international order. Noteworthy are especially contemplations of more counter-intuitive pattern of cooperation and alignment surrounding the currently apparent Sino-US divide.

Under the impression of apparently friendly encounters between US President Trump and his Russian and Chinese counterparts, Putin and Xi, Michael Ivanovich suggests on CNBC that Washington has begun a process with Russia and China “that could create a new world order”.

According to him, Trump, being on reelection campaign, is seeking positive news and avoiding conflicts – for now. Yet, the author underlines how high the stakes actually are. To “pick a fight with Russia and China” would create an existential threat to humanity which would be firmly rejected by the American public according to him. Instead, the commentator sees that “Trump may have started a process of enduring world peace” based on the alternative to either cooperate in a global triumvirate or to perish with the rest of world altogether. The idea is a new American world order built around the “three key players whose economic and civilizational interests call for peaceful co-existence”. Thus, what begins as a rather opportunistic reelection strategy of the US President is envisioned to eventually emerge as a geopolitical move with “an enormous potential for creating a new world order based on the foundations enshrined in America’s inspired and written United Nations charter.” [CNBC]

While the existential threat of a major war will certainly weigh heavy in the planning centers of the great powers, the G-20 encounters between the US, China and Russia seem to be largely overestimated though.

The South China Morning Post highlights another, entirely different scenario with the Asian ‘big three’ – Putin, Modi and Xi – joining hands in the so called RIC grouping (Russia, India, China). [South China Morning Post 1] Here, the author focuses rather on the trilateral meeting between the leaders ahead of the Trump-Xi meeting. Before, Xi called on his Asian peers to take “global responsibility to safeguard the fundamental interests of these [three] countries and the world” vis-à-vis US protectionism and unilateralism. This vision of a Sino-Russian-Indo hegemony was underpinned by Xi’s call on the other BRICS states to stand against “illegal and unilateral sanctions”. [South China Morning Post 1]

The RIC concept behind this view, which seems to be more founded than a future US, China, Russia triumvirate, goes back to the late 1990s when former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov suggested the RIC strategic grouping as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.” From the Russian perspective the vision was to “end [Russia’s] subservient foreign policy guided by the U.S.,” and “renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.” [The Diplomat 1]

The greatest variable in the RIC calculus as a basis for a newly emerging world order is, obviously, India. Looking back at good and strategically still important bilateral relations with Russia from which it receives much of its arms, India also joins the ‘Quad’, the partnership between the US, Japan, Australia to counter a China, which is and will remain Delhi’s strategic competitor in India’s South Asian backyard with competing interests in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Mauritius while India’s arch enemy Pakistan has become one of Beijing’s core allies. [For the defense dimension of the Sino-Indian competition in Sri Lanka see The Diplomat 2] Nevertheless, the Trump administration has hardly left anything out to temper the momentum in the more recently warming relationships between India and the US with the Russian S-400 and Iranian oil as the biggest bones of contention among others.

What the G-20 summit has reflected indeed is the crucial position India might take on the global stage if it fosters closer relations with either the Quad or the RIC grouping as a sort of swing state in the quest for global hegemony and order as a recent article in the [South China Morning Post 2] exemplifies. After all, India and China do not only compete but also border at each other in the vibrant larger space of Eurasia where they share partners such as Iran whose present fate is likely to resemble everything what those harboring anti-American affects in India could claim.

There are, however, a number of contentious issues between Beijing and Delhi, even beyond the geopolitical dimension. While Beijing has just warned Delhi to not interfere in the choice of the next Dalai Lama [Economic Times], the Indian army chief had to deny rumors that PLA soldiers intruded Indian territory as Chinese citizens protested at Ladakh’s Line of Actual Control (LAC) between China and India after some Tibetans hoisted Tibetan flags on the Dalai Lama’s birthday. [India Today]

Compared to India-China relations, Sino-Russian relations are much closer and growing almost by day. In this context, Saud Bin Ahsen points out in the [Daily Times] why the Russian-Sino partnership will be durable referring to a common understanding on the question of governance, both countries strive for a central role in global affairs as the flip-side of a strong anti-hegemonism concerning the West to which they underscore their historical differences while policymakers and analysts in both countries increasingly claim that the West has never changed its imperialist Cold War mindset. Both countries, according to this view, have experienced the global financial crisis of 2008 as a historic turning point and reflection of the West’s inner weakness. Both governments see each other, moreover, bound together due to the perception of shared threats from the West, reinforced by positive experiences in both younger history, where they found each other on the same side in international conflicts, while foreign policy differences have been kept in line and away from public discussion. Moreover, both countries’ economies are largely complementary while both are gaining from a large Eurasian economic sphere. [Daily Times] For a similar view, that, however, hints also at some limits in bilateral relations between Russia and China see the [National Interest].

The current tensions between NATO member Turkey and the US over Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 that just materialized in the missile defense system’s delivery highlights the volatility of the present alignment pattern in the US led alliance. The move might even lead to an exit of NATO’s second biggest army to join a Russian, Chinese, Iranian axis as a worst case scenario for the West which would make a US rapprochement with Russia and China even less likely. [Wall Street Journal] [Breaking Defense]

This current notion of volatility in Western alliance structures is also reflected in relations between the US and one of its most important if not the most important ally, Japan. While it seems at least possible that a post-Abe Japan could leave the alliance with the US in favor of a rapprochement with China, Grant Newsham has recently analyzed the possibility of an ending of the U.S.-Japan defense treaty on initiative of President Trump himself who threatened the Abe government to do so. [Japan Forward]

Another, more radical possibility concerning the future alignment pattern in a newly emerging global order would be a US-Russian rapprochement putting Russia against China and leaving at least parts of Europe finally to the Russian sphere of influence. In march this year, President Trump has indeed announced that a strong U.S.-Russia alliance would result in a better world given a “tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia,” as Trump tweeted one day after he had what he described as a very positive phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin adding: “The World can be a better and safer place. Nice!”

A bit more than a year ago, Harry J. Kazianis from the Center for the National Interest saw the “very real possibility that the stars could align for Russia and America to take on China in the future” adding “stranger parings have occurred in the past.” [The American conservative] And indeed, this is exactly what no other than Henry Kissinger had also recommended President Trump to do: to work with Russia to contain a rising China. [The Daily Beast]

What seems clear, to sum up, is that the pattern that will eventually emerge will not be based on cordial relationships only, nor will they exclude antagonistic notions. The pattern of a new global alliance order will be based on more shared than dividing interests and might be facilitated by personal preferences of key actors and, to a certain degree, be eased by shared visions and values. The countries calling the shots are the US and China, which will align themselves with other powers to create a sufficient world correlation of forces to dominate the rest if it is not possible to replace strategic multilateralism with a truly normative multilateral order. This however, seems more utopian today than ever after the end of the Cold War.

 

16 July 2019

China: Critic of Communist Party arrested over terrorism allegations

(dql) Underscoring the Chinese government’s continued crackdown on political dissent, a prominent Chinese activist was detained early July on suspicion of promoting terrorism. A former member of the now-defunct New Citizens Movement which called for democracy and government transparency, the activist has been known in particular for his public calls on officials to disclose their wealth in 2014 for which he was sentenced to two years in jail in 2014. [Channel News Asia]

16 July 2019

China/Hong Kong: Anti-extradition bill marches continue

(dql) Violent clashes erupted between Hong Kong police and protesters at the end of yet another demonstration against the controversial extradition bill on Sunday. According to local police and health officials, over 40 people were arrested during the clashes while 28 others sought emergency medical treatment. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose resignation the protesters demand, described protesters who fought with police over the weekend as “rioters”, a move that is likely to raise tensions. [Aljazeera] [Channel News Asia]

The march was the protesters’ latest in a string of demonstrations since June 9 and the first major expression of public sentiment since Lam declared the bill “dead” but stopped short of withdrawing it last week. [New York Times] [South China Morning Post]

In a latest development, hunger strikers led a march to Government House on Monday evening to demand a conservation with Chief Executive Carrie Lam to urge her to “respond to the people”. The activists went on hunger strike two weeks ago. Their demands include a complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, the creation of an independent body to investigate police behavior during the protests, the retraction of the “riot” designation of the June 12 protests, as well as an unconditional release of all arrested protesters. [Hong Kong Free Press]

9 July 2019

Indonesia’s Chinese-language presence to be revived?

(hg) Indonesia has a long history of anti-Chinese sentiments culminating in the 1965 killings that targeted among other thousands of Chinese. In the aftermath, under Suharto all Chinese-language education and private media were banned. The end of the Suharto regime saw the instigation of racially charged riots against Chinese people again. More recently, after enraged Muslims massively campaigned against former Jakarta mayor Ahok – a Chinese – who was eventually sentenced in 2017 for blasphemy, caused fear among Chinese again. However, there are signs of a different trend as well. Against the background of a rising China and a BRI increasingly involving Indonesia, there are, at current, signs of careful renaissance of Chinese media and language education in the country. [South China Morning Post]

9 July 2019

Chinese and Laotian Communist parties’ joint theory seminar

(hg) The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) held their eighth theory seminar in China’s southeastern city of Xiamen. The seminar focused on exploring laws of socialist   modernization in both countries and was attended by Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and also a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee. The seminar also served to exchange views on building of a community with a shared future for China and Laos. [Xinhua]

9 July 2019

Chinese and Laotian Communist parties’ joint theory seminar

(hg) The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) held their eighth theory seminar in China’s southeastern city of Xiamen. The seminar focused on exploring laws of socialist   modernization in both countries and was attended by Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and also a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee. The seminar also served to exchange views on building of a community with a shared future for China and Laos. [Xinhua]

9 July 2019

Chinese and Laotian Communist parties’ joint theory seminar

(hg) The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) held their eighth theory seminar in China’s southeastern city of Xiamen. The seminar focused on exploring laws of socialist   modernization in both countries and was attended by Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and also a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee. The seminar also served to exchange views on building of a community with a shared future for China and Laos. [Xinhua]

9 July 2019

China-USA relations II: Washington seeks extradition of Chinese Swiss resident accused of economic espionage 

(dql) The United States wants Switzerland to extradite a Chinese researcher accused of helping his scientist sister steal secrets worth 550 million USD from British multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The accused worked at Basel-based Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research until 2014. His sister, a Chinese-American scientist, last year pleaded guilty at the U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania to stealing secrets from GSK. [Reuters]

9 July 2019

China-USA relations I: Thorny path to trade deal as Beijing insists on tariffs to be scrapped 

(dql) While Chinese and US trade officials are set to meet for trade talks in this week [Business Day] after US President Donald Trump and his counterpart Xi Jinping agreed at the G20 Summit in Osaka to resume tradtlks after their breakdown in May, China is asserting its negotiation position after announcing last week that all tariffs on Chinese imports added by the United States during the trade war must be scrapped as a pre-condition for a possible deal to end the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. [CNBC]

Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stressed in his speech at the World Economic Forum last week the “need to maintain equal consultations, seek common ground, while shelving or managing our differences, and forge synergies” in the face of the “intensified negative impact of protectionism” on the world economy. [World Economic Forum]

9 July 2019

China: Surveillance app installed in mobile phone of Xinjiang travelers

(dql) According to findings of a group of media outlets China’s border authorities routinely install a surveillance app on smartphones of travelers who enter Xinjiang by land from Central Asia. The app, which is installed when the phones are inspected, gathers personal data from phones, including text messages and contacts, and also checks whether devices are carrying visual or auditory material which match any of more than 73,000 items listed within the app’s code, including Islamic State publications, recordings of jihadi anthems and images of executions. [New York Times] [The  Guardian]

The findings underscore Xinjiang’s transition into a police state where the government has been employing high-tech surveillance and enormous manpower to monitor and subdue the area’s predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities.

9 July 2019

China/Hong Kong: Anti-extradition law protesters back on the streets again 

(dql) ln the latest of a series of protests against the currently suspended extradition law tens of thousands marched last Sunday again to demand a complete withdrawal of the bill and the resignation of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam. [South China Morning Post] [Quartz]

In latest development, China’s PLA declared that it will not interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs. [Reuters]

2 July 2019

China and Japan’s Pragmatic Peace

(dql) Despite the fact that Sino-Japanese relations remain problematic due to structural constraints including an ongoing standoff in territorial disputes in the East China Sea, mutual military distrust, and Japans critical stance toward China’s Belt and Road initiative, both countries have been focusing on stability and a pragmatic peace in their relationship for the sake of economic output for the past years. The driving cause for this lies in the US-China rivalry which does not allow Beijing to have adversarial relationships with both Washington and Tokyo at the same time forcing Beijing to scrap its traditional policy of islolating Japan, J. Berkshire Miller argues in [Foreign Policy].

2 July 2019

Duterte backtracks on statement that China can fish in Philippines’ exclusive waters

(cl) On Friday, Philippines’ President Duterte walked back statements that China could fish in Philippine waters after he was accused of waiving his country’s rights to its territories, which his critics say exposes him to impeachment. His remarks came as debates raged over the sinking early this month of a small Philippine fishing boat by a steel-hulled Chinese trawler. [Straits Times] The Philippines President has also threatened opponents with prison if they try to impeach him. [Reuters]

Previously on Wednesday, Duterte said that China could fish in parts of the South China Sea where the Philippines holds exclusive rights, claiming that he was giving China this “privilege” out of friendship, and for the funding and trade relations it extended to his government. [Bloomberg]

Despite Duterte’s reassurance that he would not yield his country’s sovereignty, government officials warned that allowing China to fish in Philippines’ exclusive economic zone violates the Constitution. In particular, a top court judge said that Duterte does not have the authority to waive economic rights to areas that can be utilised only by Filipinos under the Constitution. [Inquirer.Net]

Previously, Senators had objected to Duterte’s decision to agree to China’s suggestion for a joint inquiry into the June 9 ramming incident. A presidential spokesperson said Duterte agreed to China’s proposal for a joint inquiry only with the help of a “neutral country”. [Straits Times]

2 July 2019

China: Missile test series in the South China Sea

(dql) Citing unnamed US officials, CNBC reports that China has been conducting a series of anti-ship ballistic missile tests the South China Sea since last Wednesday. [CNBC]

The tests follow last week’s passage of China’s aircraft Liaoning through the Taiwan Strait. [South China Morning Post]

2 July 2019

China-USA relations: Xi and Trump agree to resume trade talks at G20 Summit

(dql) On the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka last week, Chinese and U.S. presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump reached an agreement to resume trade talks between the world’s two largest economies which broke down in May. Furthermore, Trump announced to refrain for the time being from adding tariffs on 300 billion USD worth of Chinese import – while not lifting current tariffs – as well as to allow US companies to continue to sell to Chinese tech giant Huawei, effectively reversing a ban the U.S. Commerce Department imposed in May. [CNBC] [AiR 3/5/2019]

In the aftermath of this agreement, China published shortened nationwide negative list for foreign investment on Sunday, reducing the items off limits to foreign investment from 48 down to 40, and removed and relaxed ownership restrictions in seven major sectors including shipping agencies, gas and heat pipelines in cities with more than 500,000 people, cinemas, value-added telecoms, and oil and gas exploration and development. The list will come into force on July 30. [Asia Times]

In a latest related development, Chinese Premier announced that China will bring forward plans to scrap foreign ownership limits on financial companies by 2020. [Bloomberg]

The moves signal China’s efforts to open up its domestic market, a major issue in the trade negotiations between China and USA.

2 July 2019

China: Christian underground church raided

(dql) According to China Aid, non-governmental Christian nonprofit based in Midland, Texas, Chinese government authorities last week raided a Christian underground church in the southern province of Guanxi and arrested the church’s leader and worshippers. [China Aid]

The move is the latest signal of a continued crackdown on underground churches which are not affiliated with state-run church organizations.

Meanwhile, the Holy See last Friday issued guidelines in response to requests from Chinese clergy to provide orientation with regards to the civil registration of clergy with the Chinese government. The guidelines reflect the Vatican’s attempt to walk a fine line between its desire to lift Chinese priests from the status of underground priests on the one side and securing Catholic doctrine among clergy in the face of increasing state control over religions on the other. While the guidelines give advise under which circumstances clergy should register, they stress the “the Holy See does not intend to force anyone’s conscience”,  normal feature”. On the other hand, the Holy See understands “that the experience of clandestinity is not a normal feature“ and views “registration […] as having the sole aim of fostering the good of the diocesan community and its growth in the spirit of unity” while re-assuring that it “continues to ask that the civil registration of the clergy take place in a manner that guarantees respect for the conscience and the profound Catholic convictions of the persons involved”. [Asia News]

2 July 2019

China: Xi grants prisoner amnesty ahead of anniversary of China’s founding

(dql) The 70th anniversary of China’s founding is casting its shadows before. In order signed by himself Chinese President Xi Jinping has granted amnesty to prisoners falling under nine categories of prisoners, including convicts who fought against the Japanese in World War Two, those aged over 75 and with serious physical disabilities, or convicts who had previously been named model workers.

Corresponding to upholding the anti-corruption campaign, convicts of embezzlement and taking bribes, are excluded from the amnesty. The same applies to prisoners sentenced for endangering national security. [South China Morning Post]

This year’s amnesty is the second under Xi Jinping’s rule after 2015 when prisoners were pardoned on the occasion of the end of the Chinese-Japanese war. Prior to Xi, only Mao Zedong granted amnesties.

2 July 2019

China/Hong Kong: Protesters and police clash during rally on day of anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China

(dql) In another huge rally within weeks against the controversial extradition law of the Hong Kong’s government and against what is seen as Beijing’s tightening grip on the city [AiR 4/6/2019], hundreds of thousands of protesters on Monday took to the streets in downtown Hong Kong as the city government was conducting a ceremony to mark the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China. In the course of the large-scale march a group of hundreds of protesters clashed with police after storming the city’s parliament at midnight. The police was able to clear the parliament using tear gas to disperse the protesters.

In the early hours of Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is under pressure over demands for a complete withdraw of the extradition bill and her own resignation, condemned the violence and announced to take legal actions against offenders. [CBS] [Hong Kong Free Press]