Asia in Review Archive 2019 (July – December)

China (People’s Republic)

Date of AiR edition

News summary

31 December 2019

Cambodia: Airstrip stirs more suspicions about China’s plans 

(jk) Dara Sakor in Cambodia is located in the countries south along its coastline facing the Gulf of Thailand. For a while now, it has been a “Chinese investment zone that comprises 20 percent of Cambodia’s coastline”, and construction is booming. [Japan Times] [Asia in Review No. 30, July/2019, 4]

Recent Chinese activity there and “other nearby Chinese projects [are] stirring fears that Beijing plans to turn this small Southeast Asian nation into a de facto military outpost.” Among the projects and due completion next year, are not only hotels and restaurants, but also crucial infrastructure projects such as port facilities and the Dara Sakor International Airport, set to become the longest runway in Cambodia. Chinese assurances of all infrastructure being purely for civil use has done little to dispel concern over the military or dual-use possibilities that come with building and running such infrastructure. [The New York Times]

31 December 2019

China-constructed Port City Colombo off Sri Lanka’s coast – strategic competitors are looking closely 

(jk) A Chinese-built island off Colombo, which is intended to become a kind of special economic zone, has been completed and officially handed over to Sri Lanka earlier this month. [Dredging Today] Critical observers see the strategic location of the island as the main reason for the Chinese investment and are particularly worried about the economic zone requiring “a new legal regime and regulations that some observers are likening to the ‘one country, two systems’ formula China uses with Hong Kong”, which would also require a change to the country’s constitution. The US and its allies fear a dual-use or even a purely military facility to be eventually set up there by China. [Nikkei Asian Review

31 December 2019

China-India relations: Huawei gets Indian government’s ok to participate in 5G trials

(dql) The Indian government allowed Chinese telecom company Huawei Technologies Co to participate in trials for 5G networks.  India’ move comes amid efforts of the USA to lobby allies to refrain from using Huawei’s network equipment in their 5G networks. [Economic Times]

31 December 2019

Russia, China and Iran launch war games in Indian Ocean

(jk) Russia, China and Iran launched their first joint naval exercise this week in the Indian Ocean extending as far as the Gulf of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the major choke points for global oil supplies. China and Iran have previously held exercises there in 2017.  [Financial Times] [Navy Times]

31 December 2019

China challenges US in telecommunication and space

(dql) China announced the completion of its satellite-based radio-navigation system network “Big Dipper” within the first half of 2020 to rival the U.S.-operated Global Positioning System (GPS). The move is a significant challenge to the U.S. hegemony over telecommunications infrastructure in an encompassing process of decoupling between China and the USA. [Tech Crunch]

Furthermore, China launched its hitherto biggest rocket, the Long March 5, deploying the Shijian 20 communications satellite in the designated orbit. With this 34th space launch of the year, China has carried out more space launches than any other country, including the United States with 27. [] [South China Morning Post]

Shortly before, US President Trump signed into law the “National Defense Authorization Act 2020 for Fiscal Year 2020” which officially establishes the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces. Trump called “space [..] the world’s newest warfighting domain. Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. And we’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough.” [No. 52, December/2019, 4]

31 December 2019

Malaysia/Indonesia: Muslim protests against China’s treatment against Uighurs

(jk/fs) Hundreds of Muslims gathered in Kuala Lumpur to demonstrate against China’s mistreatment of its Muslim Uighur minority. Protesters mainly consisted of members of two Muslim groups, the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (ABIM) and the hardline pro-caliphate group Hizbut Tahrir Malaysia (HTM). Two representatives, one of each group, went to the People’s Republic of China’s embassy, but were declined entry.

HTM spokesman Abdul Hakim Othman demanded from the Malaysian government “to provide help to the Muslims of China as much as possible, including providing them space here if they should wish to seek protection”. Furthermore, he urged the government to suspend all political and economic ties with China and, in case of increasing hardships for fellow Muslim, even to issue a military warning of “jihad”. [MalayMail]

In Indonesia, in similar protests, over a thousand Muslims marched towards the Chinese embassy as well

While the Indonesian Security Minister told the government had summoned the Chinese Ambassador to explain the situation Xinjiang. [The Straits Times]

In mid-November this year, New York Times reported that more than 400 internal documents of the People’s Republic of China were leaked, revealing details of the brutal and organized crackdown of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, including the detention of more than one million people in internment camps. [Asia in Review No. 47, November/2019, 3]

31 December 2019

Taiwan: Anti-infiltration law against China passed

(dql) Less than two weeks ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections in which the relations to China play a decisive role, Taiwan’s legislature passed an anti-infiltration law to counter perceived threats from China.

The move concludes years-long efforts to combat what many in Taiwan view as Beijing’s efforts to influence politics and the democratic process by means of illicit funding of politicians and media and other underhand methods. [Reuters 1]

In November, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had initiated a renewed push for the legislation which proposes a maximum penalty of seven years in prison for requesting and engaging with external “infiltration sources” to endanger Taiwan’s political system and its democratic procedures. The main opposition party, the Kuomintang, has slammed the legislation as a politically motivated move of President Tsai Ing-wen and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to gain votes in the presidential and legislative elections. [AiR No. 48, November/2019, 4] [Reuters 2]

31 December 2019

China liberalizes draconian punishments for sex workers

(dql) China’s legislature scrapped the so-called “custody and education” punishment system, an extra-judicial system of forced labor under which the police were allowed to hold sex workers and their clients without charge for up to two years. Prostitution, however, remains illegal punishable with up to 15 days in detention and fines of maximum 5,000 yuan (715 USD). [Reuters]

31 December 2019

China to rewrite Bible, Quran and other religious books  

(dql) The Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top legislative advisory body, confirmed last week an order of the Communist Party of China in late November that requires the Bible, the Quran and other religious books to undergo editorial revisions to ‘reflect socialist values.’ Paragraphs deemed contradicting beliefs of the Party will be amended or re-translated. [Daily Mail]

The move comes amid growing criticism over Beijing’s Uighur policy in Xinjiang and tightening ideological control over religion in the country at large.

In a related development, Wang Yi, a Protestant pastor and founder of one of China’s largest unregistered churches who openly criticized the Communist government, was sentence by a court to nine years in prison on charges of inciting subversion of state power and illegally operating a business. [Amnesty International]

Wang was among dozens of churchgoers and leaders of the church detained by police in December 2018. Most were subsequently released. [The Independent] [AiR 2/12/2018]

31 December 2019

China/Hong Kong: Protests continues into the New Year

(dql) In Hong Kong Christmas was marked by anti-government protests with protesters blocking roads, occupying shopping centers and vandalizing businesses deemed to be sympathetic to the government. Riot police used tear gas and fired pepper balls to disperse the crowds. [CNN]

Meanwhile, the city experiences protests on this New Year’s Eve facing more than 6000 police officers deployed to control them. [South China Morning Post]

After more than seven months of unrest, protests are thus seamlessly continuing into the new year with a solution of the political crisis still being unforeseeable as both sides seem unwilling to compromise.

24 December 2019

India’s strategy in the China-Russia-USA triangle

(jk) India wants to be a Eurasian power, it has close military ties with Moscow and important economic ones with Beijing. The US, at the same time, is a strategic counterweight. Balancing it all is a difficult task. [Limes Online]

24 December 2019

Malaysia challenges Chinese claims in South China Sea

(fs/ls) Malaysia consolidates its position in terms of the disputed South China Sea’s geographical marking. The country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Saifuddin Abdullah, said “Kuala Lumpur has the sovereign right to claim whatever there is within our waters” and “for China to claim that the whole South China Sea belongs to China” is “ridiculous”. [AlJazeera]

Earlier this month, Malaysia filed a formal submission seeking clarification on the 322 kilometers economic zone to the UN’s Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. To this China responded that the submission had “seriously infringed on China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea” and requested the responsible body not to consider the request. [UN] [South China Morning Post]

In the South China Sea region, Indonesia was the first country to submit information on the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nm in the northwest area of Sumatra Island in 2008. In 2009, Vietnam and Malaysia jointly submitted claims relating to an area in the south of the SCS. At the same time, Vietnam also lodged a partial submission on the northeast area of the South China Sea to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). Both submissions dismissed the possibility of continental shelves generated by the insular features in the Spratly and Paracels. [The Diplomat]

24 December 2019

China backs Russia’s veto against UN Security Council resolution extending cross-border aid to Syria

(dql) China has backed Russia in its veto against a UN Security Council resolution that would have extended for a year cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria. A competing Russian resolution also failed. [Reuters]

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo harshly criticized both countries calling their move “shameful”, adding: “To Russia and China, who have chosen to make a political statement by opposing this resolution, you have blood on your hands”. China hit back criticizing the USA for “politicizing humanitarian issues”.

Currently, humanitarian aid reaches Syria through U.N.-designated checkpoints in Turkey and Iraq without the formal permission of the regime in Damascus. That authority, however, will expire on January 10. [The Guardian][VOA]

24 December 2019

China, Japan, South Korea agree to promote dialogue between USA and North Korea 

(dql) At a trilateral summit in Chengdu this week, China, Japan and South Korea have vowed to work together to help promote the North Korea-US dialogue to end North Korea’s nuclear program. South Korean President Moon Jae-in confirmed in a joint news conference that “the three countries, agreed to continue close communication and cooperation toward denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

The pledge comes amid the looming year-end deadline set by Pyongyang for Washington to change what it considers as a policy of hostility. The meeting is also a chance for Beijing to flex its diplomatic muscle and to present itself as weighty broker between Tokyo and Seoul whose ties have hit rock bottom in recent months over trade issues and disputes over compensation payment for South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s rule over the Korean Peninsula 1910-1945. [Aljazeera][Reuters]

24 December 2019

China slams US National Defense Authorization Act 2020

(dql) US President Trump last Friday signed into law the “National Defense Authorization Act 2020 for Fiscal Year 2020” with a record high total budget of 738 billion USD covering 658.4 billion USD for base Pentagon spending and 71.5 billion USD for war operations. The Act also officially establishes the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces which Trump hailed as “big moment,”, adding “[b]ecause space is the world’s newest warfighting domain. Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. And we’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough. [CNBC][White House]

The Act, which contains a number China-critical legislation, ‘has prompted strong objection by Beijing criticizing the Act’s “negative contents distorting and smearing China’s military development and on issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang as well as prohibited purchase of Chinese products”. Beijing also expressed “deep concerns” over the creation of the space force USA viewed as “a serious violation of the international consensus on the peaceful use of outer space, undermin[ing] global strategic balance and stability, and pos[ing] a direct threat to outer space peace and security.” [Washington Post][Xinhua][The Hill]

24 December 2019

China: Student flash mob protest against new Fudan University charter

(dql) A video clip of a flash mob of students at Shanghai’s Fudan University, one of China’s leading universities enjoying the reputation of one of the country’s most liberal schools, draws attention to continued efforts of the Chinese Communist Party to tighten ideological control over universities.

In the clip, which went viral on Chinese social media and was then censored, students are singing the Fudan University anthem which includes a reference to “scientific independence” and “freedom of thought”. The students are widely seen as expressing their discontent over changes to the University’s charter which came into effect in early December, according to a notice of the Ministry of Education last week. The changes include – among others – the removal of the wordings “free thinking” and “academic independence”. The governance at the University, so far in the hands of “teachers and students” and under “democratic management”, has been placed in the new version of the charter with the “Chinese Communist Party Fudan University Committee” and its “chancellor”. [Reuters] [South China Morning Post] [Baidu, lyrics of Fudan University anthem, in Chinese]

24 December 2019

China/Hong Kong: Rallies against crackdown on protest fundraising platform and in support of Xinjiang Uighurs

(dql) Thousands took to the streets in Hong Kong on Monday after police froze 9 million USD in funds, raised to support the anti-government protests, and arrested four people accused of misusing the fund to launder money last week. Ongoing police investigation focuses on Spark Alliance, a non-profit online platform set up in 2016 which has been able to solicit millions of USD to support the protests. Spark Alliance condemned the police actions as “smear tactics” by the police. [South China Morning Post] [Reuters]

In another rally on Sunday, hundreds of people joined a demonstration expressing their solidarity with the Uighurs in Xinjiang. A banner reading “Today Xinjiang, tomorrow Hong Kong” was set up on the stage at the demonstration venue. [Hong Kong Free Press]

In an earlier development, motions to invoke special legislative powers to investigate alleged brutality of police in handling the protests were voted down by the majority of pro-establishment lawmakers in the Legislative Council. The motions were initiated by pro-democracy lawmakers and referred to the protest on June 12 when protesters attempted to disrupt the second reading of the now-withdrawn extradition bill in the Legislative Council, resulting in the police firing hundreds of tear gas rounds, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds to disperse crowds. [EJ Insight]

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at a ceremony held on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Macau’s handover to Chinese rule, reassured Beijing’s uncompromising stance against interference of foreign forces with Hong Kong and Macau, while praising Macau for manifesting the “manifold shining points of ‘one country, two systems’” including love for China and a firmly established basic law. Xi’s praise for Macau is widely seen as a call upon Hong Kong to emulate Macau. [Asia Times] [Xinhua, in Chinese]

17 December 2019

India to appoint Chief of Defence Staff as Indian-Chinese regional rivalry continues

(lf/ls) India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modhi has announced to nominate a first Chief of Defence Staff (CDF) who will supervise all three structures of the Indian military. The appointment is expected to be made this month. [Economic Times 1]

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy expelled a Chinese research ship from Indian waters in the Andaman Sea, which is considered a gateway through the Malaca Straight from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean has been challenging India’s traditional position as the regional power in recent years, which has certainly contributed to the CDF appointment. However, the move also needs be seen in relation to growing tensions with Pakistan over the Kashmir question. [South China Morning Post]

At the same time, India and France have agreed to expand their military cooperation and jointly patrol the Indian Ocean. This agreement comes due to concerns of the expanding presence of China at Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. The Hambantota port is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects, which was leased to China for 99 years after Sri Lanka saw itself unable to pay back the debt. [Economic Times 2]

Another BRI element in Sri Lanka, Colombo Port City, which is an artificial island off Colombo, has officially become part of the county. The BRI infrastructure project is expected to attract business and investments from abroad. It is the largest FDI project Sri Lanka has seen so far. [NIKKEI – Asia Review].

17 December 2019

Japan hits out at China on South China Sea

(dql) Just a few days ahead of his trip to Beijing to visit his Chinese counterpart, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono, who is tipped to become successor of Prime Minister Abe, used surprisingly sharp rhetoric to openly attack China for its actions in the South China Sea and waters close to Japan. Speaking at the Doha conference on Monday, Kono blamed China for “unilateral and coercive attempts to alter the status quo based on its own assertions that are incompatible with the existing international order”, and demanded that aggressors “expanding their spheres of influence beyond their borders by force […] must be forced to pay cost.” [NHK]

17 December 2019

China and Russia propose partial removal of sanctions against North Korea 

(dql) China, together with Russia, has reportedly called on the U.N. Security Council to lift sanctions to allow Pyongyang export statues, seafood and textiles, traditionally important revenue sources for North Korea. Beijing and Moscow described the move as attempt to encourage stalled talks between the USA and North Korea.

Washington, however, expressed disagreement on the proposal arguing that the it was premature as North Korea was still “threatening to conduct an escalated provocation, refusing to meet to discuss denuclearization, and continuing to maintain and advance its prohibited weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.” [CNBC]

North Korea, meanwhile, does not shy away from further escalating already heightened tensions with the USA and declared that it will make use the recently tested new technologies to develop a strategic weapon to counter the US nuclear threat. The chief of the North Korean military’s General Staff added that Pyongyang has “stored up a tremendous power” and the military is fully ready to carry out any decision of leader Kim Jong-un. [Korea Herald]

17 December 2019

China and USA agree on terms of “Phase One” trade deal 

(dql) Last week China and the USA have reached an agreement on the terms of a “Phase One” trade deal which provides for a rollback of some tariffs on Chinese imports and a commitment by Beijing to substantially increase purchases of American farm goods and other products and services “over the next two years in a total amount that exceeds China’s annual level of imports for those goods and services in 2017 by no less than $200 billion.”

US President Trump confirmed last Friday the withdrawal of his threat to imposed 15% tariffs on about 160 billion USD of Chinese imports which were supposed to come into effect last Sunday. In response, Beijing dropped its plan of retaliatory tariffs due to take effect that same day, including a 25% tariff on U.S.-made autos.

Furthermore, Washington announced to halve duties on 120 billion USD in Chinese imports imposed in September from 15% to 7.5%, while tariffs of 25% on 250 billion USD worth of Chinese goods will remain unchanged. [Los Angeles Times] [Reuters]

17 December 2019

China has highest number of imprisoned journalists in 2019, report says

(dql) China is facing another critical account of human rights. According to a report of the New York-based independent non-profit, non-governmental organization Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), China has jailed the highest number of journalists in 2019, with 48 out of a total of 250 worldwide and followed by Turkey with 46 and Eqypt and Saudi Arabia with 26. [CPJ]

Meanwhile, an inofficial survey has revealed appalling conditions of detention centers in China under which many detainees are held. [South China Morning Post]

17 December 2019

China/Hong Kong: Lam reassured backing from Beijing while foreign experts quit cooperation in IPCC’s investigation of police conduct during protests

(dql) In the first skirmishes since three weeks, anti-government protesters and police clashed on Sunday when masked youths targeted shopping centers in Hong Kong and police responded with tear gas. [The Guardian]

Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping on Monday reassured his support for embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a meeting with her on Monday, praising her for “upholding the ‘one country, two system’ principle, governing according to the law and doing a work of great hardship during the most serious and difficult time since Hong Kong returned to China,” adding that Lam’s demonstrated courage and performance of one’s duty has received full acknowledgement of the Party’s Central Committee. [Xinhua, in Chinese]

In an earlier development last week, a panel of foreign experts hired to ensure the objectivity of an investigation into allegations of excessive force by Hong Kong police during recent protests announced that it was stepping down citing a lack of authority and capabilities of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), the city’s police watchdog, to conduct an independent probe. [New York Times]

In response to the foreign experts’ move, Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary, the city’s No 2 official, announced that the government might review the IPCC’s role after international. [South China Morning Post]

While the IPCC, whose inquiry is set to be delivered early next year, is responsible for overseeing the Commissioner of Police’s handling and investigation of reportable complaints against the force, it currently has no power to summon witnesses or force police to provide evidence.

The set up of an independent agency to investigate police conduct during the protests is one of the five demands of the protesters which Lam so far has refused to accept.

10 December 2019

Philippines-China dispute: ICC rejects jurisdiction

(ls/nj) The Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor has ejected the Philippines’ case against China for violations in the West Philippine Sea from the Court’s docket, citing lack of jurisdiction, stating that the crimes allegedly committed “do not fall within the territorial or otherwise personal jurisdiction of the Court” since the alleged actions took place outside the Philippine territory. Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had filed the communication in March on behalf of Filipino fishermen. They named Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials as respondents. [Rappler]

The office of President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed the ruling, saying that it will continue to pursue negotiations with Beijing to resolve existing disputes. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China’s extensive claims to the South China Sea. Duterte, however, has refused to invoke the arbitral ruling and instead opted to seek engagement with Beijing about the unresolved maritime dispute. [Philippine Canadian Inquirer]

The ICC’s preliminary investigation against Duterte and other officials over allegations of crimes against humanity committed in the course of the government’s “war on drugs” continues meanwhile. 

10 December 2019

Bangladesh: China offers 2.13 billion USD in new loans

(jk) The decision by China to loan more money to Bangladesh came after a meeting of a Bangladesh-China Joint Working group in Dhaka this week. The group was established to look into the lacking progress of 27 projects involving around 20 billion USD that China promised to provide during President Xi’s visit to Bangladesh three years ago. 

One of the two new projects that both countries are supposed to sign in June includes critical infrastructure, i.e. “strengthening the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh’s power grid network.” [The Daily Star]

10 December 2019

India and China hold ‘Hand-in-Hand’ military exercise

(jk) Notwithstanding India’s attempts to reduce Chinese influence as indicated above, regular joint military exercises between the two nations continue. 

The eighth edition of the joint exercise focussing on countering terrorism under a United Nations mandate is conducted in Northwest India from 7-20 December. Involved are around 130 personnel from the Tibet Military Command and an Indian contingent of similar size. 

Last year, the exercise was also conducted in December, but in 2017 it did not take place due to the military stand-off between the two armies at Doklam. [The Statesman 1]

Later this month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to visit India to hold boundary talks with India’s National Security Advisor. [The Statesman 2]

10 December 2019

South Korea calls for China’s support in denuclearization process amid bleak prospects for US-North Korean talks

(dql) During the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to South Korea last week, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in called for China to play am important role in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, while Wang urged to established stronger strategic communication between Beijing and Seoul. [South China Morning Post]

The statements come amid concerns that the US-led denuclearization diplomacy will fall apart after North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations at the weekend declared that denuclearization is off the negotiating table with the United States. [CNBC]

10 December 2019

Japan to buy East China Sea island to strengthen position against China

(dql) In a move to deepen Japanese-US military cooperation and to strengthen Japan’s defense capability in the East China Sea, Japan will purchase Mageshima Island for 146 million USD, an uninhabited outcrop 34 kilometers from the southernmost Japanese main island of Kyushu, according to an announcement of the government last week. 

The island will be used for US Navy and Marine Corps planes to simulate aircraft carrier landings, but might also be used as a permanent base for Japan’s Self Defense Forces to boost Japan’s position along the East China Sea where Japan and China are in dispute over islands.  [CNN]

Meanwhile, Japanese and US soldiers kicked off on Monday eight-day exercises to train combat cooperation involving the use of cyber attacks and electromagnetic weapons. [NHK]


10 December 2019

China: Huge investment in El Salvador infrastructure signed

(dql) Reflecting China’s growing role in Central America, China and El Salvador last week agreed that China will provide support for several major infrastructure projects in El Salvador including a stadium and water treatment plant.  Both sides, however, did not disclose the investment amount.

El Salvador broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and switched to China in August last year. [South China Morning Post]

For an account of China’s growing technology influence in Latin America see [Pan Daily].


10 December 2019

China: Foreign computer equipment and software banned from government and public offices

(dql) Amidst ongoing trade negotiations with the USA in which technology issues play a crucial role, China has reportedly ordered all government offices and public institutions to remove foreign computer equipment and software over the next three years. 

The move is seen by observers first as a response to measures taken by the Trump administration to curb the use of Chinese technology in the US and its allies and second as part of efforts of the Chinese government to strengthen reliance on home-made technologies. The latter is fueling concerns of economic decoupling between China and the USA. [Financial Times]

10 December 2019

China: Anger over House of Representatives’ approval of Beijing-critical “Uighur Act” 

(dql) Following President Trumps signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act [No. 49, December/2019, 1] late last month, the US House of Representatives last week approved another China-critical bill: the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act of 2019 which calls on the president to condemn abuses against Muslims and demand the closure of mass detention camps in Xinjiang. It also provides for sanctions, including asset freezing and banning from entering US soil, against senior Chinese officials viewed as “responsible for” or “knowingly engaged in serious human rights abuses against Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and elsewhere in China” and specifically identifies among those the Xinjiang Communist party secretary and politburo member Chen Quanguo, widely believed to be the mastermind behind the implementation of the police state in Xinjiang since he took over power there in 2016. [Deutsche Welle][Congress, USA]

The move prompted harsh reactions from China’s Foreign Ministry and state media outlets condemning the legislation as interference in domestic affairs of China, insisting that “Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnicity or religion, but about fighting violence, terrorism and separatism” and accusing Washington’s lawmakers of “harbor[ing] evil intent”  and of using Xinjiang as pretext to “undermine Xinjiang’s prosperity and stability and curb China’s development.” [Telegraph] [Reuters] [The Guardian]

10 December 2019

China on NATO’s watchlist

(dql) At the NATO meeting last week, marking the 70th anniversary of the alliance, 29 leaders pledged to  work together against Russia as threat to Euro-Atlantic security and against terrorism as threat to all.  China’s rise, meanwhile, presents “both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance,” as stated in the joint declaration. [Euractive]

According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, NATO leaders will attempt to have China incorporated in an international arms control regime. To experts, however, this plan will be an uphill battle as China has repeatedly turned down proposals to be included in the now-defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and Russia. [Defense News]

With regards to Russia, Stoltenberg stated that NATO needs to improve its relationship with the country. French President Macron who had call the NATO brain dead in the run up to the meeting echoed Stoltenberg’s statement saying that “not everyone considered Russia an ‘enemy’ and that although Russia is a ‘threat in certain areas’, it is also a neighbouring country and partner in other areas.” [Euronews]

10 December 2019

Pakistan: Allegations against justice system bowing to Chinese economic pressures 

(jk) After work has begun earlier this year on a large human trafficking case in Pakistan, investigators recently compiled a list of over 600 Christian women and girls who were allegedly trafficked to China to be sold as brides or work as prostitutes. 

Despite evidence warranting further investigations and prosecutions on both the Pakistani and Chinese side, officials now seem to be shutting down the investigation, allegedly in order not to jeopardise trade relations with China. [The Washington Post]

According to one report, investigators are being transferring to different areas to prevent them from pursuing the case. Back in October, 31 Chinese nationals accused of human trafficking were acquitted by at a trial after which it was said that several women brought by police to testify “were bribed or threatened to remain silent.” [National Review]

10 December 2019

China: Regime-critical ex rights lawyer detained

(dql) Prominent former Chinese rights attorney Qin Yongpei, who is known for his frank criticism of the Chinese government on social media and was disbarred last year, was arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”.  The move is widely seen as a sign of the continued crack down on political dissent in China. [The News]

10 December 2019

Hong Kong protest: Mass rally followed by failure of planned citywide anti-government strike

(dql) A day before the six-month anniversary of the anti-government protests and two weeks after the landslide victory of the pro-democracy camp in the district elections [No. 48, November/2019, 4], hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Sunday in Hong Kong to continue pressing the city’s government fulfilling their five demands including full withdrawal of the anti-extradition bill; an independent investigation of police conduct; retracting the riot charges against protesters; amnesty for arrested protesters; and universal suffrage. The protest organizers estimated a turnout of 800,000 while police said 183,000 joined the rally at its peak. [CNBC] [Reuters]

Meanwhile, a citywide strike planned for Monday to mark the six-month anniversary of the anti-government protests fell through as protesters stayed home ignoring the call for the demonstration of which the organizers said it would paralyze the city. [South China Morning Post]

In an earlier development, last week a motion to remove Chief Executive Carrie Lam on grounds of dereliction of duty failed to obtain the approval of the Legislative Council after a vote of 26 for to 36 against. Despite being crushed, the impeachment bid, initiated by lawmakers of the pro-democracy camp, represents the politically most high-profile measure since the start of the protest in June. [Radio Free Asia]

3 December 2019

Indonesia: Chinese ‘fake cop’ scam leads to mass arrest

(nj) Indonesian police arrested 85 Chinese suspects who are accused of running a ‘fake cop’ scam with the majority of the victims living in china. The fraud lured the victims with promising investments or simply pushing them into paying large amounts of money to fake police officers or prosecutors. Suspects are believed to have moved to Indonesia or other countries in the region because they fear a harder crack down by the Chinese government.

The latest scam is estimated to have cheated its victims out of USD 2.5 million, with similar scams occurring in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.  [South China Morning Post]  [The Straits Times]

3 December 2019

Free download: CJCL Special issue on constitution-making in Asia-Pacific

(ls) A special issue on contemporary constitution-making in Asia-Pacific is available for temporary free download from Oxford’s Chinese Journal of Comparative Law. The issue contains articles on Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Bhutan. [Chinese Journal of Comparative Law]

3 December 2019

New Sri Lankan government wants Hambantota port back from China, commits to India

(ls) Despite expectations that the newly elected Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, will establish closer relations with China, the new government announced that it wants to undo the previous regime’s 99-year lease of the southern port of Hambantota to a Chinese venture in return for $1.1 billion. That arrangement was made after it had turned out that it would be difficult to pay back the loans taken from China to build the project. Now, an economic adviser to the new government, citing national interests, said that it would be best if “we pay back the loan in due course in the way that we had originally agreed.” Whether China concurs with this remains to be seen. [Business Standard]

Meanwhile, on the first foreign visit by Gotabaya Rajapaksa to New Delhi, India extended two additional lines of credit worth $450 million for infrastructure and counter-terrorism. After a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gotabaya stated, “whilst with India the cooperation is multifaceted with priority given to security-related matters, with other counties the initiatives for cooperation are by and large, economic and commercial.” He also said that he would not allow any third force to come in between cooperation with India. Modi replied that “Sri Lanka is not only India’s closest neighbor but most trusted friend.” [The Wire] [Eurasia Review]

India and Sri Lanka traditionally have close cultural and historical links. Still, New Delhi had watched with concern the growing ties between Colombo and Beijing, particularly when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power between 2005 and 2015. Observers consider that China will remain important for Sri Lanka in terms of aid and economic cooperation, whereas ties with India will continue to be marked by unavoidable ups and downs. [Straits Times]

3 December 2019

North Korea’s heavy reliance on China’s trade

(dql) Data presented Korea International Trade Association have revealed that North Korea’s trade reliance on China has jumped more than fivefold since 2001. While China’s proportion of the North’s overall external trade stood at 17.3% in 2001, it rose to 91.8% in 2018.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang reportedly launched two unidentified projectiles last week, the latest of 13 weapons tests so far this year. The test is seen as attempt to press the USA to meet the year-end deadline set by North Korea to offer a new initiative to salvage nuclear talks.  [CBS]

3 December 2019

China and Vietnam vow to work together on peaceful solution in disputed waters

(dql) Last week, China and Vietnam held a vice-ministerial level meeting to discuss border cooperation on land and maritime issues. Beijing and Hanoi agreed to join efforts for a peaceful resolution in disputed waters. 

The meeting came after earlier in November the months-long Vanguard Bank standoff between China and Vietnam had ended, but also after Vietnam announced that it, while prioritizing bilateral dialogue, was also considering the possibility of filing a complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague over China’s claims. [South China Morning Post]

3 December 2019

China-Australia relations: Canberra to set up anti-China Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce

(dql) In a move likely to strain Chinese-Australian relations, the Australian government announced the set up of a high-level intelligence task force to combat foreign interference. The new taskforce would involve all top intelligence agencies of the country as well as the Australian Federal Police “to disrupt and deter anyone attempting to undermine our national interests”. [South China Morning Post]

While the announcement did not mention any target country, the move comes amid accusations against China of attempting to “take over” Australia through foreign interference, including a plan to plant a Chinese spy in the parliament. [ABC]

3 December 2019

China and Russia launch landmark gas project

(dql) In a sign of increasingly close relations and growing cooperation between China and Russia, both countries on Monday launched a giant pipeline project on Monday, worth 363 billion USD and stretching over 3,000 kilometer. [Deutsche Welle]

The launch comes at a time of worsening relations between Russia and the West with the former facing sanctions from the USA and the EU over Crimea.

3 December 2019

China-USA relations: Beijing counters US Hong Kong Act

(dql) Meanwhile, Beijing retaliated against Washington’s Hong Kong Democracy and Human Rights Act with suspending visits of U.S. military ships and aircraft to Hong Kong. It also announced to sanction U.S. non-government organizations held responsible for encouraging protesters to “engage in extremist, violent and criminal acts.” [CNBC]

Last week, US President signed the Act following its passage in the both Houses of Congress. The Act requires the State Department to annually review whether Hong Kong retains enough autonomy in making decisions related to human rights, law enforcement and other areas to enjoy special US trade treatment. Furthermore, it also would provide for sanctions against officials found responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong. [New York Times] [No. 48, November/2019, 4]

3 December 2019

China: New regulation requires face scan for mobile phone registration

(dql) On 1 December a regulation of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of September this has come into force requiring a face scan when registering mobile phone services, in addition to providing a copy of the identity card.

According to the Ministry the regulation is supposed to “protect the legitimate interest of citizens in cyberspace” by using artificial intelligence and other technologies to secure that the faces of customers buying new SIM cards match their identity documents. Critics, however, have raised concerns over a deepening of China’s already far-reaching surveillance regime. [South China Morning Post] [Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China, in Chinese]

3 December 2019

China/Hong Kong: Violence return to protests

(dql) Following the district elections last week [No. 48, November/2019, 4], which saw violence pause for the first time in months of unrest, clashes between protesters and police returned during protests this past weekend. The demonstrators reasserted their five demands, including universal suffrage for Hong Kong’s leader and legislature and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality during the protest. So far, the city’s government has only accepted one of those demands by withdrawing the extradition law. [ABC].

In support of the protest movement, over than 1,000 Hong Kong advertising workers on Monday staged a rally in the city to begin a week-long strike to be held over lunchtime until Friday. The strikers vowed advertise during the strike time the “yellow economy” of pro-democracy shops and restaurants. [Hong Kong Free Press]

In a latest development, pro-democracy lawmakers have presented a draft bill to amend the Public Order Ordinance. It calls for a change of the definitions of unlawful assembly and riot as well as for a reduction of the relevant punishments from maximum five years to maximum six months for former offense and from maximum ten years to maximum three years for rioting. [South China Morning Post]

26 November 2019

Video: India Nepal Relations in Shadow of Chinese Influence 

(jk) A conversation with a former Indian ambassador to Nepal who looks at the historical evolution of India-Nepal relations and argues that the concern over increasing Chinese involvement in Nepal, and resulting threats to India, are exaggerated. While he sees “legitimate areas of concern”, India should seek avenues for cooperation with both. [The Wire]

26 November 2019

G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting agrees on urgent reform of WTO

(dql) Amid the ongoing trade dispute between China and the USA and in the face of an undermined trust in the multilateral framework, foreign ministers at the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting on Friday and Saturday in Nagoya agreed on an urgent reform of the World Trade Organization and discussed improvements of its dispute settlement system.

The absence of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, foreign minister of the world’s largest economy, raises questions pertaining to the significance of the G20 framework in general. [Mainichi]

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi used the platform for a fierce attack against the US protectionism and unilateralism, calling the USA “the world’s biggest destabilizing factor” and accusing it of “bullying” China. [CNBC]

26 November 2019

Book excerpt: “Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia, and the Cold War”

(ls) In her new book, Historian Zhou Taomo looks at the complex ties between China and Indonesia in the cold war. Zhou argues that migration and activism by ethnic Chinese were major forces shaping the relations between Beijing and Jakarta. The South China Morning Post has published some excerpts. [South China Morning Post]

26 November 2019

U.S.-China competition reflected in relations with Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand

(ls) On the occasion of U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s visit to Vietnam, the United States announced that it will provide Vietnam with another coast guard ship, the second within two years. The announcement is also a message to the Chinese government as Esper stated on the same occasion that “China’s unilateral efforts to assert illegitimate maritime claims threaten other nations’ access to vital natural resources, undermine the stability of regional energy markets, and increase the risk of conflict.” [Reuters]

Before, Esper visited the Philippines where he vowed more support for the country’s efforts to modernize its military and improve maritime security. He also emphasized that the U.S. would continue to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea. [South China Morning Post]

As reported last week, the Thai government also promised further cooperation with U.S. armed forces as Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Secretary Esper signed a US-Thailand Joint Vision Statement. Nonetheless, Prayuth also said he “adheres to the one-China policy and is willing to actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative.” Cooperation would include support in equipment and technology, joint exercises and joint training. [Khaosod English]

26 November 2019

China: Draft regulation on disclosure of cyber security threat information

(dql) The Cyberspace Administration of China is soliciting public opinions on its draft regulation on the disclosure of information about cyber security threats released last week. According to China’s top internet regulator, the regulation aims at protecting information about cyber security threats from being exploited by prescribing that cyber security information which could be used to harm normal network operations or expose network vulnerabilities are not to be disclosed without prior reporting to the police and local security departments.

The regulation has raised concerns that the requirement of reporting will lead to delays in notifying affected individuals and companies as well as to limiting media coverage of cyber security dangers. [Technode] [South China Morning Post]

26 November 2019

China’s economy: Strong state sector to stay

(dql) Signaling that China will not bow to foreign pressure to reform its state-economy sector, leading party officials have announced that the country’s economy would continue to rely on state-owned enterprises to cope with “international pressure and risks” and to play an important role in providing social responsibilities. [South China Morning Post 1] [South China Morning Post 2]

The US and European Union – China’s biggest trade partners – have repeatedly criticized Beijing for its failure to reform the state sector and to allow the private sector to play a bigger role in the economy and foreign companies  to access some industries dominated by state-owned firms.

26 November 2019

China/Hong Kong: Pro-Beijing camp crushed in district elections

(dql) In a clear sign of Hong Kong’s citizens’ discontent with their government, Hong Kong’s district elections on Sunday, seen as a referendum on the city’s government after six months of protests, resulted in a landslide victory for the pro-democracy camp which won 17 out of 18 district councils and at least 347 of the 452 seats. The elections scored a record turnout of 71% or close to three million voters compared to 1.5 million in the previous elections.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that the government would respect and reflect the results of the elections, but stopped short of offering concessions to the protesters’ demands including direct popular elections for the Hong Kong’s leadership and legislature and an independent investigation  into police conduct against demonstrators.[The Independent] [Straits Times] [Nikkei Asian Review]

Meanwhile, according to New York Times, Beijing has established a crisis command center on the mainland side of the border to Hong Kong, and plans to sack the director of Liaison Office in Hong Kong, indicating dissatisfaction with the crisis management of the Office. [New York Times]

In an earlier development last week, the US House of Representatives passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a day after the Senate’s passage of the Act. The Act, now up to US President to sign or veto, would require the State Department to annually review whether Hong Kong retains enough autonomy in making decisions related to human rights, law enforcement and other areas to enjoy special US trade treatment. Furthermore, it also would provide for sanctions against officials found responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong. [Hong Kong Free Press]

In response, China’s Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. Ambassador to protest against the passage of the Act accusing the Congress of interfering in an internal Chinese matter, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting slammed  Washington for using domestic law to “‘crudely interfere’” in China’s internal affairs, trying to damage ‘one country, two systems’ and Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.” [Reuters] [CNBC]

19 November 2019

Nepal rejects Indian and Chinese maps that apparently appropriate Nepalese territory

(ls) India has released a new official political map at the beginning of November, which has been stirring criticism in Nepal recently, including from Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The updated map of India includes a major Nepali claim, an area known as Kalapani. However, this is not an entirely new development as India’s national mapping authority has been including the Kalapani and Navidhang areas in its maps since 1905, disregarding Nepal’s territorial sovereignty and a 1816 treaty between Nepal and the then East India Company. [The Diplomat]

In addition, protesters also took to the streets of Kathmandu after a recent government report indicated that China had encroached on Nepalese land. According to the document released by Nepal’s Survey Department, four districts sharing a border with China – Sankhuwasabha, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk and Humla – were seen losing territories as Beijing expanded its road projects. [South China Morning Post]

The incidents vividly illustrate Nepal’s sandwiched position between India and China, which are, however, both seeking to deepen ties.

19 November 2019

China: Leaked documents reveal insights into crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang

(dql) New York Times reports that it has been leaked more than 400 internal documents of the Chinese Communist Party which reveal insights into the policy and treatment of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region where China is facing accusations of a brutal crackdown on the country’s Muslim minority including the detention of more than one million people in internment camps for the purpose of ideological re-education.

Among others, the documents contain a series of unpublished speeches of President Xi Jinping in which, according to the report, he called for an “all-out ‘struggle against terrorism, infiltration, and separatism’ using the ‘organs of dictatorship,’ and showing ‘absolutely no mercy’.” The leak also includes directives and reports on the surveillance and control of the Xinjiang Uighur population. [New York Times]

19 November 2019

China/Hong Kong: University campuses become stage of violent protest

(dql) Since last week universities in Hong Kong have become the stage of the city’s anti-government protests, after hundreds of protesters attempted to block riot police from entering Chinese University Hong Kong throwing bricks and petrol bombs at police which in return used tear gas and rubber bullets. The standoff between protesters and police is continuing in this week, with Hong Kong Polytechnic University having been occupied by radical demonstrators since the weekend riot. [New York Times] [South China Morning Post]

In a move that sparked controversy PLA soldiers at the weekend appeared in the city for a clean-up operation. It was the first time troops have been seen on the streets since the protests began in June. Pro-democracy activists raised concerns over the move interpreting it as attempt to intervene in the city’s affairs. [Hong Kong Free Press]

Amid the ongoing unrest, which is in its sixth month, the city’s government has announced that Hong Kong has entered recession for the first time in a decade after the economy contracted for a second month in a row while a court ruled the ban on face masks, which the city’s government introduced last month after invoking emergency legislation, unconstitutional. [Reuters] [Deutsche Welle]

12 November 2019

Mongolia: Hundreds of Chinese citizens detained in crackdown on cybercrime

(dql) Mongolian local authorities announced that 800 Chinese citizens have been arrested on various charges including illegal gambling, fraud, computer hacking, identity theft and money laundering. [Reuters]

12 November 2019

Philippines stamping Chinese “Nine-Dash Line” passports again

(ls) The Philippines has resumed stamping Chinese passports with pages that display a map showing Beijing’s expansive claim (the Nine-Dash Line) over the disputed South China Sea. In 2012, the Philippines had stopped stamping the passports during a months-long stand-off over a disputed shoal. Immigration officials were instead ordered to stamp a separate sheet of paper inserted into Chinese passports. The Philippines now cited “security concerns” for resuming the stamping and insisted that it was not a diplomatic retreat. [Straits Times]

12 November 2019

Pakistan and China agree to move CPEC to natural resource sectors

(jk) China and Pakistan reportedly agreed that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will shift from infrastructure projects to resource exploitation, including copper, gold, or oil and gas. The move will anger forces in particular in Balochistan, where a sentiment persists that the state exploits the province and especially its resources without leaving it its fair share. [Business Standard]

12 November 2019

China: Advancing air force weapons

(dql) Citing a military source close to China’s PLAAF, the South China Morning Post reports on China’s new H-6N strategic bomber seen for the first time during the rehearsal to the 1 October military parade and believed to be capable of carrying CJ-100 supersonic cruise missiles or the WZ-8 supersonic stealth spy drone, expanding its maximum strike range to 6,000km. [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, China is continuing improving its supersonic J-10 fighter jets while at the same time developing the J-20 and other new fighter types. [Asia Times]

12 November 2019

China and Europe: Xi Jinping’s visit to Greece, Macron in Beijing

(dql) Strengthening its foothold in Europe, China concluded with Greece 16 memorandums of cooperation during President Xi’s visit this week, including an agreement on state-owned China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) investing three billion USD over the next five years on the port of Piraeus, the entry and transhipment point for Chinese-manufactured goods to Europe. [Aljazeera]

During French President Macron’s visit to Beijing last week, China and France signed deals worth 15 billion USD covering among others areas of aeronautics, energy and agriculture. [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, China and the European Union also last week reached an agreement to expand protection of trade in high-end agri-food products to 100 products, from 10 products which were protected under the GI agreement in 2012. Known as Geographic Indications (GI), the products within the agreement enjoy special protection from imitations and usurpation in order to preserve reputational links. European GI’s include among other wines, cheeses and whiskey, while Chinese GI’s cover products such as tea, ginger and spices. [Eureporter]

12 November 2019

China: World Bank to cut funding for educational project in Xinjiang

(dql) The World Bank announced that it would scale back development work in Xinjiang following speculation that a 2017 50 million USD loan for a vocational education project was linked to the funding of Muslim detention camps. While the World Bank said that its project review launched in August could substantiate those claims, first made in a Foreign Policy magazine report, the decrease of funding was a precautionary measure, with the involved five schools coming under “enhanced supervision.”

China has been facing international criticism over its treatment of the Uighurs in the tightly-controlled northwestern Xinjiang region with rights groups and experts claiming that over one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been interned in re-education camps in Xinjiang, where they are being tortured and forced to renounce their religion. [Channel News Asia]

12 November 2019

China set for its national crypto-currency?

(dql) China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) last week reversed its 2017 order to close the rapidly growing number of local exchanges trading crypto-currencies, along with a ban of new initial coin offerings, by taking off bitcoin mining or other virtual currency mining activities from an initial list of categories of industries to be eliminated from China. The new list will take effect from Jan 1, 2020. [Coindesk]

The move indicates the Chinese government’s significant shift towards the country’s crypto-currency and is seen by analysts as paving the way for the introduction of China’s Digital Currency Electronic Payment. [Decrypt]

In a related development, Global Times reports that China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) has broadened its pilot cross-border financing blockchain platform to cover 19 provinces and cities, up from nine, with 6,370 transactions processed from SAFE’s inception to October and 6.8 billion USD worth of loans issued. [Global Times]

12 November 2019

China/Hong Kong: First protest-related death

(dql) Marking the first protest-related death, a Hong Kong student died on Friday from injuries after falling from a building during clashes between police and protesters earlier last week. [Washington Post]

Two further incidents during violent protests on Sunday and Monday in Hong Kong that left over 60 people injured signal an intensifying of the already volatile situation in the city. While an anti-government protester was shot by police, a pro-Beijing supporter was doused in a flammable liquid and set on fire after arguing with protesters. Both are in critical condition. [BBC] [South China Morning Post]

5 November 2019

Human rights groups criticise East Asia Summit for not including human rights issues

(jk) Rights groups criticised the state of human rights protection in Southeast Asia in particular over the weekend as they pointed out that the big summits, such as the East Asia Summit, do not include official discussions or statements on the deteriorating human rights situation in the region.

Human rights watch and other organisation expressed grave concern over the fact the Rohingya crisis, the war on drugs in the Philippines, the punishment of the LGBT community or enforced disappearances of activists were largely ignored throughout the summit. [Bangkok Post]

The Rohingya refugee crisis, although not in these terms, was mentioned at length in the final statement of the 35th ASEAN Summit however. ASEAN leaders noted their desire to

facilitate the safe, secure and dignified return displaced persons currently in Bangladesh to

Rakhine State from which they fled. [Chairman’s Statement Of The 35th ASEAN Summit] At the same time, they commended the work of AICHR, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights [for background on AICHR, see this article in CPG’s COM Online Magazine 4/2019]

5 November 2019

Victim’s tale of time in Xinjiang prison 

(jk) [Focus Taiwan’s] report on the experiences of a female prisoner who says she has spent 15 months inside a Chinese “re-education” camp in Xinjiang.

5 November 2019

RCEP: 15 countries (RCEP minus India) declare they have agreed and will sign in 2020

(jk) During the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) summit in Bangkok on Monday, 15 countries (The ASEAN-ten, Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) agreed to all 20 chapters of the RCEP and stated that they were “willing to sign” the deal in 2020.

All participating countries agreed to make efforts to resolve the remaining issues surrounding India’s concerns, so it too, can participate. [The Korea Herald]

Despite the positive spin on this development, it will remain a disappointment that RCEP could not be completed and signed by the end of this year as it was initially (if very optimistically) stated.

This disappointing if not entirely unexpected outcome was underscored by the US decision to downgrade US representation at the East Asia Summit, also held in Bangkok this past weekend. It was the first time since the EAS was established in 2005, that a country at the summit was represented by an official below the rank of foreign minister. Instead the US sent the new National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien, as the Special Envoy to the upcoming EAS and the US-ASEAN Summit. [ISEAS Commentary]

5 November 2019

Chinese deal with Solomon Islands strengthens its hand in the Pacific

(jk) Chinese companies will build and control important infrastructure such as power and port facilities, roads, rail and bridges on Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, as part of a US$825 million deal to revive an abandoned gold mine. New details emerged on the deal that was announced in September, just after the Solomon government announced a switch of diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing. [Reuters]

Earlier in October, it was also announced that the People’s Republic of China had leased the island of Tulagi from Solomon Islands – a strategically relevant base for base for commercial or military activity. [ASPI Strategist]


5 November 2019

“Phase One” U.S.-China trade agreement postponed after Chile canceled APEC

(jk) After Chile has canceled major global summits on the economy and environment in the coming weeks due to unrests in the country, US President Trump will now not be able to sign a first-step trade deal with China as had been hoped for. US White House officials had said there were plans to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping to sign a “phase one” trade pact in preparation for a more comprehensive trade deal next year at the scheduled Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. [Washington Post]

Although no alternative concrete arrangements to sign a phase-one, or any agreement at all, have been made, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He spoke with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday, indicating that alternatives are being discussed. [China Daily] Despite the APEC cancellation, signing a phase-one deal is likely, but the question of how substantial it will be and how fast one can proceed to the next phase, remain.  

5 November 2019

PRC: Beijing extends benefits for Taiwanese weeks before Taipei election

(jk) The PRC government has announced “26 measures” that will grant Taiwanese people and businesses more equal treatment with mainlanders. The measures are designed to attract more people and business from Taiwan to the mainland but are being dismissed by the government in Taipei’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) as a mere attempt to buy political support ahead of the elections in January. A similar package, containing 31 measures, was decided upon back in March, but according to the MAC, the measures had not been executed properly.

Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, responded with a tweet, written in simplified Chinese:  “China’s Taiwan Affairs Office came out with 26 measures and last year there were 31 – it looks like there are so many measures. But we in Taiwan do not need one country, two systems, so there is really no need to be so polite. Giving your people more freedom is also good!” [Focus Taiwan, South China Morning Post]

5 November 2019

PRC: CCP’s Central Committee holds Fourth Plenum of the 19th Party Congress in Beijing

(jk) The anticipated fourth plenum held in Beijing last week came to a conclusion, widely regarded as having focussed mainly on doubling down on current developments and refrained from indicating any meaningful changes. Most importantly, as there was a lot of talk about changes in leadership or even indications of who may follow Xi Jinping as President, no major changes occurred in the end. 

By and large, the plenum focussed on the notion that the Party needs to lead everything and the advantages of the PRC’s system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. [Sinocism, Radio Free Asia]

5 November 2019

PRC: China launches 5G in major cities

(jk) Three of China’s big telecom companies started selling 5G plans starting at around 20 USD per month on November 1 [Reuters]. The new mobile phone networks are up to 100 times faster than before and the technology promises to support many new technological innovations such as autonomous driving. China now has the largest commercially operating 5G network in the world, with country’s largest provider, China Mobile, which has 900 million subscribers, saying it will be able to offer 5G services in over 50 cities this year. [Al Jazeera]


5 November 2019

Hong Kong: Joshua Wong barred as candidate for District Council Elections

(jk) Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s well-known pro-democracy activist, was barred last week from running in district council elections to be held later in November. The number of candidates in local elections that are from the pro-democracy camp have increased in Hong Kong since the beginning of the ongoing protests against the increasing control of the PRC government, but thus far, no other candidates have been banned.

Wong will not be able to stand in the elections for his “advocacy of self-determination” of Hong Kong which does not comply with “requirements of the relevant electoral laws, since advocating or promoting ‘self-determination’ is contrary to the content of the declaration that the law requires a candidate to make to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR,” according to a government statement.

Wong rose to the top of the pro-democracy movement in 2014 when he was part of the student leadership of the umbrella movement. To him, his ban all but proves the PRC’s manipulation of elections in Hong Kong. [Hong Kong Free Press] A number of District Council  representatives is also involved in the election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive from a pre-selected pool of candidates.


29 October 2019

Russia silently returns to South Asia to balance the US and China

(jk) Moscow announced its return by supporting India on the Kashmir issue after New Delhi abrogated Article 370, calling it an internal matter of India. A close look at Russia’s moves in South Asia, from Afghanistan to Bangladesh reveals that Moscow is positioning itself as an independent actor in the region, bold enough to balance both the US and China.” [Observer Research Foundation]


29 October 2019

South China Sea: Philippines lifts moratorium as Vietnam prepares for new tensions with China 

(ls) The Philippines will lift a 2018 moratorium on foreign scientific research in its exclusive economic zone so it can exploit marine resources. The previous ban was issued in February 2018 on an area called the Benham Rise, which the United Nations in 2012 declared part of the Philippines’ continental shelf. This year, two Chinese research vessels were spotted in Philippine-controlled waters, which became the subject of a diplomatic protest in August. In another incident, the Philippines protested the presence of more than 100 Chinese fishing vessels. Earlier this month, however, the Philippines welcomed the Russian oil firm Rosneft to explore the waters. [Reuters 1]

Meanwhile, a Chinese oil survey vessel that has been in the center of a tense standoff with Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea left Vietnamese-controlled waters after more than three months. According to observers, it is likely that now China will send an oil rig to drill in the area where the vessel had conducted seismic surveys in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, which could result in a sharp rise of tensions. However, also Vietnam has partnered up with Rosneft. [Reuters 2]


29 October 2019

Nepal refuses China on extradition treaty and is protecting Tibetan exiles 

(jk) As previously reported, a couple of weeks ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping made important visits to two of China’s direct neighbours, India and Nepal [Asia in Review, No. 42, October/2019, 3].

While Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not discuss political topics such as Kashmir and focused on improving economic exchanges, Xi and Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari announced a “strategic partnership of cooperation featuring ever-lasting friendship for development and prosperity”, signed a number of MoUs, and celebrated promises of investing around US$500 million in different development projects [India Today], including US$21 million for the Nepalese Army in “disaster relief materials” over the next three years [Reuters]. It was the first Chinese president in 22 years to visit the country, and a rail link with Tibet was one of the focal points of the visit.

Nepal is home to thousands of exiled Tibetans, and their treatment has long been an issue of tension. After the visit however, it is important to point out that Nepal refused to conclude an extradition treaty that China was apparently after. [The Economic Times]


29 October 2019

China-USA relations: Mike Pence hawkish speech 

(dql) Amid ongoing trade negotiations between China and USA, in which both sides “have come close to finalizing parts of a phase one deal”, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, [CNBC] US Vice-President Mike Pence in hawkish speech delivered last week at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington made it clear that Chinese-US relations are defined by a structural and systematic rivalry by calling China a “strategic and economic rival” in a “great power competition that is under way”.

Praising US President Trump’s “clear eyed visions of the US-China relationship” and “bold and decisive actions to correct the failed policies of the past to strengthen America”, Pence sharply criticized Beijing on a wide range issues, including intellectual property theft, militarization in the South China Sea, pressure on democracy in Taiwan, which he described as “better path for all Chinese people”, increasing intervention in Hong Kong and curtailing the rights of Hong Kong people, and repression of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang. Nevertheless, Pence stressed that the US does not intend to decouple from China, but seeks “engagement with China and China’s engagement with the wider world but engagement in a manner consistent with fairness, mutual respect, and the international rules of commerce.” [Reuters][Straits Times] [Youtube]


29 October 2019

China set to crack down on manipulated economic data  

(dql) In an attempt to clamp down on submission of fraudulent economic data, the Chinese government has announced a reform of the current statistics law. According to the bill released last week for feedback of the public, harsher punishments will be introduced for local leaders, mayors and governors will be sacked if found guilty of cheating.

The move comes amid growing skepticisms over the credibility official economic data. New figures for China’s of 6% economic growth in the third quarter of this year released by the National Bureau of Statistics’ were challenged by an outspoken Chinese economist citing an increase of government revenue of 3% from a year earlier and a drop in corporate profits from January to August to 1.7%. [South China Morning Post]


29 October 2019

China passes new cryptography law

(dql) China has passed a new cryptography law in a move to regulate the utilization and management of cryptography, facilitate the development of the cryptography business and ensure the security of cyberspace and information, according to [Reuters].

The law, effective on January 1, 2020, was endorsed on Saturday by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and came shortly after President Xi Jinping’s urged the country to speed up research and investment into the development of blockchain technology to allow China to “occpupy a commanding height in innovation and gain new superiority in this industry”. [Xinhua 2, in Chinese] [South China Morning Post]

The law is likely to pave the way for the rollout of China’s digital currency and signals an intensifying technology race between China and the US. [Technode] [beincrypto]


29 October 2019

China/Hong Kong: Police shift to early intervention tactics in curbing protesters violence

(dql) Amid violence during last weekend’s protest rally [Reuters], the Hong Kong police admitted at a press conference on Monday that, in order to curb violence in the city, they have switched to more aggressive tactics of early intervention, including intercepting masks-wearing or  black-dressed during stop-and-search operations in MTR stations, on the streets and in targeted vehicles. The police also announced that front line staff are now wearing white tags allowing identification of their unit and section. [South China Morning Post]

In an earlier development last week, Hong Kong’s High Court issued an interim injunction on a Department of Justice’s request to help protect police from doxxing by banning the publication of personal information and photographs of police officers and their families without their consent. Rights activists raised concerns over this “serious restriction of freedom of expression.” [Quartz] [Deutsche Welle]

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has been banned from running in the upcoming district council elections on 24 November citing his advocacy of Hong Kong’s ‘self-determination’ as a breach of electoral laws of the city. Wong denounced his disqualification as “political screening and censorship.”[Hong Kong Free Press]


22 October 2019

Maritime terrorism in Asia: An assessment

(ls) A paper published by the Observer Research Foundation evaluates the possibility of an increase in maritime terrorist violence in Asia. Based on an analysis of recent incidents, it argues that the vulnerability of high seas shipping to criminal acts of violence and the weak and inconsistent nature of maritime governance raises the possibility of a terrorist strike in the Asian littorals. [ORF]


22 October 2019

Don’t make us choose: Southeast Asia in the throes of US-China rivalry 

(jk) This report from the Brookings Institution describes aspects of the US-China rivalry across a number of major summits and fora from late 2018 to 2019, including major ASEAN  summits, the Second Belt and Road Forum in April 2019 and the Shangri-La Dialogue in May and June. It further looks at the particular experience of Southeast Asia in dealing with this great power rivalry and why it is instructive more broadly. [Brookings]


22 October 2019

How the PRC pushes its agenda in Myanmar’s media

(jk) [Myanmar now] provides an interesting deep dive into some of the People’s Republic of China’s strategies to push for media outlets in Myanmar to peddle pro-Beijing narratives.


22 October 2019

Singapore and China sign defence agreement to scale up army and navy exercises and to establish regular dialogue

(jk) Singapore is hedging its bets and continues to strive for cooperation with both the US and China. In a recent move, Singapore and China signed a defence agreement increasing bilateral military exercises, mutual logistics support and establish regular dialogues between their defence ministers. The Singaporean Defence Minister signed the agreement in Beijing after it had been agreed to in principle at the Shangri-La dialogue earlier this year. [Channel News Asia 1]

Just prior to the defence minister’s trip to the PRC, Singapore’s PM designate Heng Swee Keat and other 4th Generation leaders just visited China last week for a series of high-level talks. [Channel News Asia 2]


22 October 2019

Vietnam: DreamWorks movie banned for displaying Chinese “nine-dash line”

(jk) The Vietnamese government has banned screenings of a DreamWorks animated movie, after finding that the film contains a map showing the controversial U-shaped dotted line, indicating China’s claims over the South China Sea. Other affected countries, such as the Philippines or Malaysia have also criticised or ordered to cut the scene from the movie, and after about a week, Malaysia has followed suit and also decided not to screen the movie. The so-called “nine-dash line” is a common feature on Chinese maps and even passports, but other countries reject Beijing’s claims which have no basis in contemporary international law. [Reuters]

22 October 2019

Taiwan builds Kamikaze drones against China

(dql) Taiwan is reportedly building suicide drones aimed at striking targets in China in the case of an attack by the People’s Liberation Army. The Chien Hsiang drone targets in particular the S-400 missile system China is acquiring from Russia. [Taiwan News] 

China’s defence minister, meanwhile, declared on Monday at the Xiangshan Forum that resolving the “Taiwan question” was China’s greatest national interest, adding that no force could prevent the country’s “reunification”, while separatist activities will go nowhere. [Voice of America China, in Chinese]

22 October 2019

South Korea to increase defense spending and cooperate with China in denuclearization of Korean peninsula 

(dql) Amid stalled talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, President Moon Jae-in announced this week that South Korea will increase defense spending by seven percent to over 42 billion USD in 2020 to safeguard the country’s “self-determination” by “strong defense”. [i24News/AFP]

The announcement comes after earlier this month North Korea tested an underwater-launched ballistic missile, one of the most provocative among the various weapons tests in the recent months. [AiR No. 41, October/2019, 2]

Meanwhile, Beijing and Seoul on Monday agreed on a joint effort to push for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The agreement was reached at the first bilateral high-level defence talks since 2014 after their suspension in the wake of tensions over Seoul’s plans to allow the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. [South China Morning Post]

22 October 2019

China-Japan relations: First joint maritime exercise in 11 years

(dql) In a first since 11 years, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted goodwill exercises with China’s navy involving the Japan’s destroyer Samidare and China’s guided-missile destroyer Taiyuan which tested radio communications and other coordination procedures. [NHK]

22 October 2019

Chinese-Turkish irritations over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria

(dql) Irritations in the relations between China and Turkey over Ankara’s ground offensive in northern Syria are emerging, after Beijing last week urged Ankara to stop its military action and to return to diplomacy. The Turkish Ambassador to China rejected the criticism and called on Beijing to understand and support his country’s fight against terrorism.  [Economic Times][South China Morning Post]

In the recent past China-Turkey relations have been burdened by Beijing’s treatment of  the Turkic Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang.

22 October 2019

China-USA tensions set to rise over WTO case and Hong Kong legislations of House of Representatives

(dql) Amid positive statements on both Chinese and US side on progress in trade talks [Straits Times] [South China Morning Post], including on the issue of a dispute resolution mechanism, China is seeking the World Trade Organization’s permission for 2.4 billion USD in retaliatory sanctions against the United States for failing to comply with a WTO ruling dating back to the Obama-era on tariffs Washington put on Chinese solar panels, wind towers, and steel cylinders. [Channel News Asia]

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed by unanimous voice vote four pieces of legislation, certain to further complicating the countries relations: the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, requiring the U.S. secretary of state to certify annually Hong Kong’s autonomy in order to continue to enjoy special treatment that has allowed it to be a major financial center; the Protect Hong Kong Act, banning commercial exports of military and crowd-control items that Hong Kong’s police could use against demonstrators; a non-binding resolution which recognizes the city’s  relationship to the United States, slams Beijing’s “interference” in its affairs, and supports Hong Kong residents’ right to protest; and another non-binding House resolution praising Canada’s actions related to Washington’s request to extradite Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada in December. [Reuters]

In response, Beijing and Chinese state media denounced the House’ passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act as a interference in China’s internal affairs, demanding the US to “immediately stop pushing the Hong Kong-related act.” [Global Times] [The Guardian]

In a related development, China’s Defense Minister, in thinly veiled warning against the United States at the Xiangshan forum in Beijing, warned that “[i]nterference in the affairs of other regions, and the internal affairs of others, inciting colour revolutions, and attempts to overthrow the lawful government of other countries are the true causes of wars and turbulence in some regions.” [Straits Times 2]

This year’s Beijing Xiangshan Forum –  a conference on regional security and defence issues and China’s answer to Shangri-La Dialogue security forum – from 20-22 October was attended by more than 1,300 people, including 23 defense ministers, representatives from 76 official delegations and eight international organizations, as well as experts and observers. [Xinhua]

22 October 2019

China/Hong Kong: Unrest continues

(dql) Anti-government protests on Sunday and on Monday went violent as demonstrators and police clashed as Hong Kong endured the 20th consecutive weekend of unrest. [New York Times] [South China Morning Post]

Signaling continuing discontent with embattled Lam, opposition lawmakers earlier laws week thwarted her annual address at the first session of the city’s legislature since the start of the protest in June forcing her to resort to a pre-recorded speech in which she reiterated her commitment to “One country, two systems” and rejection of demands for Hong Kong’s independence. In a subsequent press conference Lam also denied electoral reforms for the city, one of the five core demands of protesters. [BBC]

Meanwhile, referring to the growing violence of the protest Beijing accused foreign forces of “encouraging this sort of violence in the streets with the aim of destabilising Hong Kong, sowing chaos… to wipe out the historic progress made since the one-country-two-systems policy was applied.” [Hong Kong Free Press]

15 October 2019

Are China and Bhutan close to striking a Doklam deal?

(jk) [The Print], citing a “top government official” claims that “China and Bhutan are working out something with regard to their dispute in the Doklam plateau. The status quo is being maintained and both sides (India and China) are holding on their positions as per the de-escalation move,” which, if true, would mean that China were to keep the territory it has “claimed” since the Doklam stand-off two years ago.

In 2017, China moved into Bhutanese territory and began building a road in a strategically dangerous location for India. Indian forces then stepped in and physically prevented the road building to continue. After about two months, Chinese agreed to stop building the road and retreated a couple of hundred metres. This “holding line” could now become the “working boundary.” 

15 October 2019

Chinese President visits Nepal

(jk) After Xi’s India visit (above), he went on to Kathmandu to meet and discuss Beijing’s infrastructure development programme there. Among the more ambitious projects are a 70-km rail link that will connect Gyiron in Tibet with Nepal’s capital city and a proposed 28-km road tunnel that will more than halve the distance from Kathmandu to the Chinese border.

The visit was controversial for Nepal is traditionally a close ally of India and this was the first such visit in over two decades. The geopolitical and domestic political shifts of late are affecting Nepal which is looking to diversify its external relations.

Xi and Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari announced a “strategic partnership of cooperation featuring ever-lasting friendship for development and prosperity”. A number of MoUs were signed, in addition to a promise of investing around US$500 million in different development projects. [India Today]

An additional point of contention is the fact that Nepal is home to thousands of exiled Tibetans, who are facing and increasingly tough communist government that is moving closer to Beijing and “would never allow any anti-Chinese forces to operate in Nepal”. [South China Morning Post 1] [South China Morning Post 2]

15 October 2019

Pakistan- India- China: Imran Kahn’s China Visit and Modi-Xi meeting

(jk) For the third time in a year, Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan visited Beijing last week. While Pakistan has been one of the largest recipients of Chinese BRI investment, its financial input has dropped sharply (77%!) over the past fiscal year. [Bloomberg Despite the economic slowdown, China has been supportive of Pakistan, not least with regards to the ongoing situation Kashmir vis-a-vis India. The visit came just days before Chinese President Xi was scheduled to meet Indian PM Modi.

PM Khan was accompanied by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who met with Senior Chinese Generals. China has long been supportive of Pakistan’s army and plays an active role in most of Pakistan’s defence deals. A recent one included support to build and sell (not least by handing out a loan to the purchasing party) JF-17 fighter jets to Myanmar. [Nikkei Asian Review]

The India Summit, a two-day informal summit in India that followed, saw a lot of public “understanding” of each other’s policies and sensitivities, as well as commitments to boost economic ties. The leaders addressed the trade deficit India has with China (some $53bn) and also India’s ongoing concerns over a lack of market access to the Chinese market and the Regional Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP). The issue of Kashmir was not discussed. [Al Jazeera] Ahead of Xi’s arrival, police detained the chief of the Tibetan Youth Congress and 11 Tibetan students who were allegedly planning to protest during the visit.

On more general level, an interesting recent background paper describes how Pakistan and China are driving Indian defence policy and how the Indian defence sector must reform to stay relevant. [KAS]

15 October 2019

Taiwan: President’s message of defiance to Beijing on National Day

(dql) Hardening her anti-China stance, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in her speech on the National Day last week accused China of “challeng[ing] free, democratic values and the global order through a combination of authoritarianism, nationalism, and economic might,” adding that under these conditions “Taiwan has become the first line of defense for democratic values.”

Tsai’s remarks come ahead of the presidential elections in January. Benefitting from the developments in Hong Kong, she is far ahead of her Kuomingtang contender Han Kuo-yu with approval rating at 41% in latest polls. [Nikkei Asian Review]

15 October 2019

China: On Beijing’s ‘data-driven power expansion’

(dql) A recently released policy brief claims that China is “engag[ing] in data collection on a massive scale” aimed to “support its efforts to shape, manage and control its global operating environment, and to generate cooperative and coercive tools of control.” It cites Global Tone Communications Technology Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned enterprise supervised by Central Propaganda Department, which claims to be able to collect “10 terabytes of data per day (equivalent to 5 trillion words of plain text) as part of its ‘cross-language big data’ business, and 2–3 petabytes annually (equivalent to 20 billion photos on Facebook)”, “contributing to state security and intelligence data collection”. [ASPI]

15 October 2019

China-USA trade relations: Preliminary deal reached

(dql) Beijing and Washington reached a preliminary deal to ease the trade war, with US President announcing on Friday a “very substantial phase one deal”, adding that both sides have “come to a deal on intellectual property, financial services, a tremendous deal for the farmers – a purchase of from $40-50 billion worth of agricultural products.” Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin confirmed that a threatened tariff hike, scheduled to take effect next week, has been suspended. [CNN]

15 October 2019

China/Hong Kong: Rally for U.S. Bill Supporting City’s Autonomy

(dql) Following another violent protest weekend, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters rallied in Hong Kong to call for Washington to pass Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The bill, if passed, will impose penalties upon Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials found guilty of infringing upon “basic freedoms” in the city, including freeze of their US-based assets and denial of entry into the US. Apart from that it would require Washington to review whether the Hong Kong should continue to enjoy economic and trade privileges under the 1992 US-Hong Kong Policy Act. [Hong Kong Free Press]

For the Act see [House.Gov]

Meanwhile, China’s state broadcaster CGTN cited Chinese President Xi Jinping saying during his visit to Nepal on Sunday “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones,” adding that “[…] any external forces backing such attempts dividing China will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming!” [Reuters]

8 October 2019

China continues to interfere with Vietnamese fishers within Vietnam’s EEZ

(jk) According to Vietnamese media outlets, Chinese ships continue to harass and chase away local Vietnamese fishermen fishing within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In a latest incident over the weekend, three Chinese vessels drove away a Vietnamese fishing boat and prevented it from fishing just over 110 nautical miles off the coast of central Khanh Hoa Province. Similar incidents keep occurring according Vietnamese media. Last week, a Chinese speedboat prevented Vietnamese fishermen to recover their vessel after it sank in the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China. [VNExpress]

As for the broader tensions between Vietnam and China, Vietnam expert Carlyle Thayer lays out three broad options for the Vietnamese leadership to consider:  (1) continue to muddle through by “cooperating and struggling” with China; (2) back down in order to relieve unrelenting Chinese pressure, the precedent set in the Repsol case in July 2017 and March 2018; and (3) counter-balance Chinese pressure by stepping up security and defence cooperation with the United States by agreeing to raise bilateral relations to a strategic partnership in the near future. [Radio Free Asia]

8 October 2019

India: No academic cooperation with China without prior approval

(ls) India’s University Grants Commission (UGC) has instructed its universities not to enter into academic cooperation agreements with Chinese institutions unless they obtain prior approval by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs. The new rule applies to Memoranda of Understanding, educational exchange programmes, agreements or other joint declarations of intent. Existing cooperation agreements will also need to be approved. Whether the move just means a step to mere monitoring or indicates a trend toward reduced cooperation remains to be seen in the future. [South China Morning Post]

8 October 2019

China’s foothold in South America: Peru’s largest electric company to be sold to China

(dql) US-based energy infrastructure company Sempra Energy announced last week that it would sell its Peruvian businesses for 3.59 billion USD to a unit of China Yangtze Power International Co, including its 83.6 percent share in Luz del Sur, the largest electric company in Peru.

Sempra also announced a memorandum of understanding with state-owned China Three Gorges (CTG) Corporation on potential cooperation in supplying LNG to support China’s growing demand for natural gas. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

8 October 2019

China-USA relations: Washington blacklists Chinese companies ahead of trade talks

(dql) Ahead of high-level trade talks scheduled for this week, the US Commerce Department on Monday has added 28 Chinese public security bureaus and companies on a US trade blacklist including corporations specializing in video surveillance, facial recognition and artificial intelligence. Affected companies include Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co., two of the world’s largest video surveillance firms, as well as AI giants SenseTime Group Ltd. and Megvii Technology Ltd., both backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. [New York Times] [Engadget]

The citing as reason their implication “in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.” [US Department of Commerce]

In an earlier statement last week, US Secretary Pompeo, speaking during a brief tour through the Western Balkans, warned against “the risks of Chinese investment and sensitive technologies” as well as of “China’s bribe-heavy strategy for infrastructure deals.” [Aljazeera]

Meanwhile, during Pompeo’s subsequent visit to Athens, the United States and Greece at the weekend signed an updated defense-cooperation pact to increase joint U.S.-Greece and NATO activity at Larissa, Stefanovikio, and Alexandroupoli as well as infrastructure and other improvements at the Souda Bay naval base. Pompeo was quick to reassure that the deepening defense relations with Greece, a traditional bitter rival of Turkey, was not related to increased tensions between Washington and Istanbul in the recent past. [RadioFreeEurope]

8 October 2019

China/Hong Kong: Long weekend of violence in the wake of new anti-mask law

(dql) In an attempt to quell escalating violence in the city, Hong Kong’s government last week invoked the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) for the first time since half a century to put into effect on Saturday a law banning masks during public assemblies. According to the law people concealing their face in meetings and marches, including lawful ones, in a way that prevent identification, commit a criminal offense punishable by one year of imprisonment. [Hong Kong Free Press] [Inkstone News]

Chief Executive Carrie Lam justified the move with its “deterrent effect” against violent behavior which would help police officers to fulfill their duties. In response to critics fearing last week’s invocation of the ERO would open the door for more draconian regulations, Lam announced on Tuesday that the government is not considering to use emergency powers for introducing further laws [CNBC] [South China Morning Post 1]

The ERO allows the chief executive to impose any measures necessary “in the public interest” on occasions of emergency or public danger. [Hong Kong Government]

Expressing their anger against this move and defying the law, masked protesters from Friday to Monday took to the streets in Hong Kong with radical groups again clashing with police. The protests left banks and stores associated with mainland China vandalized, government buildings and train stations trashed, while police were targeted with petrol bombs. Police responded with tear gas and baton-charged the crowds. [South China Morning Post 2]

In a first direct interaction with forces of the People’s Liberation Army in four months of anti-government demonstrations, a crowd of a few hundred shone lasers at barracks of the PLA in Kowloon district. [Reuters]

Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was outspoken in recommending Hong embattled Leader Lam to step down saying at a conference in Kuala Lumpur: “Her conscience says that the people of Hong Kong are right in rejecting the law but, on the other hand, she knows the consequences of rejecting the law. […] But for the administrator, I think, the best thing to do is resign.” [Channel News Asia]

1 October 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s ruling party reassures rejection of Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula

(dql) Ahead of the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan in January, in which the relationship to Taiwan is expected to play a decisive role, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) passed a resolution during its annual national congress Saturday, reaffirming its rejection of China’s “one country, two systems” formula which Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated in his speech on the occasion of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC on Tuesday. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanhwile, China and Kiribati have established diplomatic relations, days after the Pacific island nation cut its links with Taiwan. [South China Morning Post] [AiR No. 39, September/2019, 4]

1 October 2019

Japan-European Union relations: Tokyo and Brussels sign infrastructure to counter China

(dql) In a move widely seen as a measure to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative, Japan and the European Union last week signed an infrastructure deal centering at coordinating their repesctive transport, energy and digital projects across the globe. The agreement, believed to be backed by a 65 billion guarantee fund, banks and private investors, calls for “transparent procurement practices, the ensuring of debt sustainability and the high standards of economic, fiscal, financial, social and environmental sustainability”. [Reuters] [EEAS]

1 October 2019

Japan: China listed as bigger threat than North Korea in latest Defense White Paper

(dql) In its Defense White Paper 2019, released last week, Japan’s Defense Ministry, called “Chinese military developments […] a serious security concern” referring to China’s “unilateral, coercive attempts to alter the status quo based on its own assertions that are incompatible with existing international order” while at the same time “strengthening capabilities in the domains of space, cyberspace and electromagnetic spectrum in addition to nuclear, missile, naval and air forces.” The White Paper places China ahead of North Korea, which is constitutes “a serious and imminent threat to the security of Japan,” while “Russia’s military activities are trending upward in the Far East” to which “[c]ontinued attention needs to be paid.”  [Ministry of Defense, Japan]

The assessment of China comes at a surprise in the light of improving ties between both countries.

1 October 2019

China: Mixed views on the Middle Kingdom around the world

(dql) According to new research by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., released on Monday, the views of China by people around the world are mixed. While a median of 41% in a total of 32 countries covered by the Center’s Global Attitudes Survey expressed a favorable opinion of China, a median of 37% stated an unfavorable opinion.

Highest percentages of ‘unfavorable’ views of China are recorded for Japan (85% of survey respondents), Sweden (70%) and Canada (67%), while highest ‘favorable’ results are found in Russia (71%), followed by Nigeria (70%) and Lebanon (68%).  

The survey was conducted with close to 35,000 people between May 13 to Aug. 29, 2019. [Pew Research Center]

1 October 2019

China-USA trade relations: Conciliatory steps on ground, fierce verbal sparring at the UN General Assembly

(dql) Ahead of expected high-level face-to-face trade talks this month, China and USA fired against each other in a heated verbal exchange at the UN General Assembly last week. While US President Trump accused China of breaking promises when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and of unfair trade practices including “massive market barriers, heavy state subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping, forced technology transfers and the theft of intellectual property and also trade secrets on a grand scale”, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi countered that “[t]ariffs and provocation of trade disputes, which upset global industrial and supply chains, serve to undermine the multilateral trade regime and global economic and trade order,” adding that “China will not ever be (cowed) by threats, or subdued by pressure.” [Reuters] [Straits Times]

At the same time, China’s Ministry of Commerce confirmed that China has resumed the purchase of US farm goods with tariffs on those imports to be waived, in response to the Trump administration’s earlier decision to exempt many Chinese products from tariffs imposed in 2018. Both sides also confirmed that they are in close communication over the upcoming trade talks. [CNBC 1]

In a latest development, the White House dismissed reports about Washington considering delisting Chinese companies from United States stock exchanges as “fake news”. [CNBC 2]

1 October 2019

China: 70th anniversary of PRC founding celebrated with massive military parade

(dql) The Chinese government on Tuesday celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China with military parade in Beijing displaying the country’s latest technology reportedly involving 160 aircraft and 580 pieces of military equipment, as well as 15,000 military personnel. [Xinhua 1] [Xinhua 2]

Among the showcased weapons was a new hypersonic ballistic nuclear missile of which analysts believe that it is capable of breaching all existing anti-missile shields deployed by the United States and its allies. [Aljazera]

Less spectacular President Xi Jinping’s speech in which he expressed confidence that “today a socialist China stands rock-firm in the East of the world, and there is no force that can shake the position of our great country, no force that can obstruct the advancing of the People’s Republic of China.” He added that “on the path forward we have to adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, […], and comprehensively carry out and implement the Party’s fundamental theory, guidelines and strategy.” Addressing Hong Kong, Xi stressed that ‘one country, two systems’ must be strengthened and Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability.” [CNWest, in Chinese]

1 October 2019

China/Hong Kong: Violent protests ahead of PRC’s 70th anniversary

(dql) Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Tuesday, Hong Kong last weekend witnessed again violence and chaos, as police resorted to teargas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and water cannon to respond to protesters who threw bricks and petrol bombs back at the police and started street fires on Sunday. [Reuters]

According to South China Morning Post, over 100 protesters were arrested at this weekend, the 17th weekend of unrest which also marked the fifth anniversary of the start of the 2014 “Umbrella” protests. [South China Morning Post 1]

On Monday, police arrested three prominent activists suspected of conspiracy to storm Hong Kong’s legislature building on July 1 which marked Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. [South China Morning Post 2]

In a latest development, protesters took to the streets on Tuesday, calling for Oct. 1 to be designated a “Day of Grief”. [CBS News]

Earlier last Thursday, Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam faced a critical crowd at a public dialogue with some 130 people, initiated by the government as part of a series of meetings in attempt to reconnect with society and mitigate public anger. Of the 30 participants given a chance to speak, about a dozen called for an independent inquiry into the police’s use of force while others demanded the government to accept all five demands to include, apart from independent inquiry, withdrawing of the extradition bill, retracting the classification of protesters as “rioters” in the context of the 12 July protests, amnesty for arrested protesters, and universal suffrage for both the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive. [Straits Times]

24 September 2019

Thai Princess Sirindhorn to receive China’s Friendship Medal

(jk) Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the second daughter of late King Rama IX, will receive China’s Friendship Medal next month as the PRC celebrates its 70th anniversary for her efforts in the relations between the two countries. [South China Morning Post]

24 September 2019

China holds keel laying ceremony for Royal Thai Navies’ first Chinese submarine 

(jk) The keel laying ceremony, signalling the beginning of the construction of the vessel, was held earlier this month in Wuhan, China by Chinese shipbuilding group CSIC (China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation). The purchase of the submarine from China was approved back in January 2017 and the first delivery is set for 2023. [Naval News]

The same Chinese company has earlier this month publicised that an agreement with the Royal Thai Navy has been signed on the construction and sale of a Type 071E amphibious transport dock ship. The vessel is set to become Thailand’s biggest warship and according to the company, the deal will “substantially deepen collaboration in the arms trade and also help strengthen regional peace and stability.” [China Daily]

24 September 2019

Sri Lanka: Presidential candidate Rajapaksa vows to forge closer ties with China

(ls) Sri Lankan presidential nominee Gotabaya Rajapaksa would restore relations with China, the country’s top lender, if he wins the November 16 election. Opposition politician Rajapaksa, who is the brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, is widely seen as the frontrunner in November’s election due to his popularity among Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist majority for his role in ending a 26-year civil war in 2009. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s ruling United National Party (UNP) will name its candidate this week. Ties between Colombo and Beijing soured when current president Sirisena, upon his election in 2015, suspended all Chinese investment projects, citing allegations of corruption, overpricing and violation of government procedures. [Reuters] [Xinhua]

24 September 2019

The Maldives’s renewed partnership with China in the spotlight

(ls) The Maldives’ Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid met Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his first official visit to China. The meeting demonstrates the importance of the Maldives as a partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Under the former president Abdulla Yameen, the Maldives forged a close partnership with China, which financed key developmental projects. The current administration came to power after criticizing the mounting debt owed to China and quickly moved to repair relations with India. [Maldives Independent]

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party fears the debts to China could run as high as $3 billion and risk sinking the economy. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi insisted that the Maldives are not caught in a debt trap and that China’s cooperation with the Maldives aims to promote the well-being of the Maldivian people, without political intentions and without seeking geopolitical interests. [Reuters]

24 September 2019

China: European business lobby calls for ‘competitive neutrality’ of Chinese state

(dql) In its latest report on business conditions in China released on Tuesday, the European Chamber of Commerce in China has demanded China to fulfill its promises of reforming its state-owned enterprises sector and to introduce a system of ‘competitive neutrality’ ensuring equal treatment of state, private and foreign firms pointing to a ‘resurgent state-owned economy’ reflected in more funding, government contracts, and subsidies provide to SOEs than ever before resulting in Europeans squeezed out and global economic standards flouted. [South China Morning Post] [Reuters]

24 September 2019

On Geopolitical alignments and the future of Sino-Russian friendship

(hg) On September 18, a three-day Sino-Russian heads of government meeting ended in Moscow. One of the most significant outcomes were the diplomatic messages of President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang on both countries’ perception of the geopolitical chessboard. [TASS]

24 September 2019

China: Increased government oversight of Companies

(dql) In a latest of tighter ties between state and private sector, the Hangzhou city government is assigning to local companies to “coordinate the resolution of any government affairs and to open the information and communication flow.” Targeted by what the city government calls ‘New Manufacturing Industry Plan” are city’s largest 100 enterprises, including Alibaba and automaker Geely. [The Paper, in Chinese]

For a critical view on this move as either pro-active measure of the government to increase state control over companies over concerns of private companies undermining its ability to control the  country’s business sector see [Forbes] and [Financial Times].

24 September 2019

China: Nationwide loyalty test for Chinese journalists to be introduced

(dql) According to a South China Morning Post report, Chinese state media journalists are set to undergo a nationwide examination testing their loyalty to President Xi Jinping which will be held after ‘pilot test’ in October. 

To be taken by around 10.000 reporters and editors from China’s 14 state-run online media outlets, the test will consist of five sections with one containing questions on President Xi Jinping’s political thought. Only those passing the text will have their press passes updated. [South China Morning Post]

24 September 2019

China/Hong Kong: First government/citizen dialogue session announced amid escalating protests

(dql) Protests in Hong Kong continue with no signs of abating as demonstrators took to the streets for the 16th consecutive weekend of unrest and tensions escalating a week ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Riot police responded to protesters vandalizing metro stations and setting improvised barricades on fire with teargas, pepper spray and bean bag rounds on protesters. [CNN]

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive on Monday announced the official launch of the dialogue platform between government and citizens, with the first session slated for Thursday this week to which 150 people from the community will be invited based on computer lot drawing from a total of more than 20000 people who had registered for the meeting. [China.Org]

17 September 2019

South China Sea: New arrangements between Philippines/Malaysia and China

(ls) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said his that Xi Jinping has offered Manila a controlling stake in a joint energy venture in the South China Sea if it sets aside the 2016 international arbitral award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration which did not recognize the Chinese claims. Under this condition, China would agree to be the junior partner in a joint venture to develop gas deposits at the Reed Bank, located within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said that a preliminary agreement between China and the Philippines would avoid stating which country was entitled to the gas. [Reuters 1]

If the arrangement is realized, the decision will also be of relevance for Malaysia and Vietnam, who are in similar disputes with China over the extension of their EEZs. Malaysia, for its part, has agreed to set up a joint dialogue mechanism with China for the disputed parts of the South China Sea. In July, China and Malaysia already resumed construction on a train project in northern Malaysia, which is part of China’s Belt and Road plan. [Reuters 2]

17 September 2019

Beijing hosts Balochistan leaders to gain support for CPEC

(jk) Earlier this month, China invited a delegation of political and tribal leaders from Balochistan to China. Beijing is looking to promote its infrastructure push in the region after it has experienced significant blow-back as regularly documented in previous issues of Asia in Review. After the visit, it was reported by pro-China outlets that the Balochistan leaders had vowed to protect CPEC in their region, but only time will tell if there is anything substantial to this unlikely claim. [Nikkei Asian Review]

17 September 2019

China: More autonomy for local legislatures?

(dql) According to Xinhua news, China is set to undertake a major reform of its local government system as the Commission of Legislative Affairs of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee plans to propose to the NPC to expand the scope of law making power on the local level. 

Until the reform and opening up, the NPC was the only body with legislative powers. Since 1979, legislative powers have been delegated to people’s congresses on provincial-level and their standing committees. With the 2015 amendment of the Legislation Law all cities with subordinate districts are allowed to make local regulations, restricted to urban management and environmental and cultural protection.  [Xinhua] [South China Morning Post]

17 September 2019

China/Hong Kong: Another violent weekend of protest

(dql) In the latest round of anti-government protests at the 15th straight weekend of unrest, Kong Kong police and protestors clashed outside a main government building on Sunday, after the latter defied a police ban by marching through the central business district where police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters who blocked roads and threw petrol bombs. [Reuters]

Earlier on Saturday, anti-government protesters also clashed with pro-Beijing supporters who waved Chinese flags, sang the national anthem and cheered on riot police underscoring a trend in recent weeks in which pro-China groups have become more vocal in supporting the Hong Kong government and the police. [Aljazeera] [ABC]

Meanwhile, hundreds of social work students and social workers on Monday took to the streets to rally against what they see as disregard of the role of Hong Kong’s social workers by the police, after at least 14 of them, who have mediated in clashes with anti-government protesters over the past three months, have been arrested. [South China Morning Post]

In a latest development, Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced to kick-start next week an official program of dialogue with up to 200 randomly selected citizens next week to, in an attempt to reconnect with the public in order to resolve the political crisis. [Hong Kong Free Press]

10 September 2019

China offers funds for Philippines infrastructure drive

(jd) As China-Philippine relations continue to sour over China’s increased presence along the disputed islets in the South China Sea, China has pledged to help fund a $169 billion infrastructure renewal drive.

This offer comes a week after Philippine President Duterte met with Chinese President Xi and Chinese Premier Li. During the meeting, Xi also mentioned that this should be accompanied with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. [VOA News] [AiR 36, September/2019, 1]

10 September 2019

China-Germany relations: German Chancellor in China

(dql) During Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 12th visit to China, companies of both countries signed 11 deals in the areas of aircraft construction, shipping, energy, finance, insurance and other types of cooperation. While both sides celebrated the deals and re-affirmed their commitment to multilateralism and free trade, trade German-Chinese trade relations are burdened by Berlin’s move last year to lower the threshold at which the German government can launch security probes into acquisitions by foreign companies, leading to a sharp fall in Chinese investments in Germany. [Financial Times]

Apart from witnessing the signing of these deals, Merkel exchanged with Chinese Premier Li on the Hong protests. While the former called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, the latter stressed that the “Chinese people have the capability and wisdom to manage well our own affairs.” [South China Morning Post]

In a related development, Beijing has lodged representations with Germany after the German Foreign Minister met today with Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of the Hong Kong protest movement. [Channel News Asia]

10 September 2019

China-India relations: Delhi to challenge Beijing in the South China Sea

(dql) China’s is to face growing challenge by India over the influence in the South China Sea after India and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding under which a new Indo-Pacific sea route will extend from the port city of Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East, to Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India with the shipping route partly traversing the South China Sea. The move marks a new era of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region between the two countries. The MoU follows the New Delhi’s agreement to purchase Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile systems and signals a further deepening of Indian-Russian relations. [South China Morning Post] [India Today] 

For an assessment of prospects and potentials of a third order centered on Indo-Russian line next to the US-led order and the China-led order see [The Diplomat]. 

Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Minister during his visit to Pakistan described the China-Pakistan relationship as ‘rock solid’ and re-affirmed China’s support in safeguarding Pakistan’s sovereignty and  territorial integrity and iterated opposition to any unilateral action as well as the measures, by India, that could further complicate the situation. [South China Morning Post 2]

10 September 2019

China/Hong Kong: Protesters call for US support after Lam’s withdrawal of extradition bill

(dql) Despite the announcement of the official withdrawal of the extradition bill by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam last Wednesday, anti-government protesters again took to the streets in the city this weekend. Leading protest figure Joshua Wong criticized that the withdrawal was “too little too late” and insisted that Lam has to accept all demands including a stop of prosecution of protesters, the retraction of the designation of protesters as rioters, an independent inquiry into police conduct and free election. [Hong Kong Free Press][BBC]

The 14th consecutive weekend of anti-government protests saw again multiple clashes between police and protesters. In the course of the march protesters, waving US flags, gathered near the US consulate to call for the passage of the amendment bill to the ‘Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992’. Among others, the bill that is moving through the US Congress calls for sanctions against officials in mainland China and Hong Kong suppressing freedoms in the semiautonomous Chinese territory, as well as for an annual assessment of the status of Hong Kong’s autonomy to decide whether or not to grant Hong Kong special trade and business privileges. [South China Morning Post] [Quartz] For the text of the bill see [Congressional-Executive Commission on China]. 

The Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times denounced the bill as “deep intervention in Hong Kong affairs” insisting that “China has the ability to move forward getting rid of US interference. […] The city’s future will depend on how strong China is, and not on US attitude toward Hong Kong.” [Global Times]

Echoing recent assertive statements of Beijing on the protests in Hong Kong [AiR No. 36, September/2019] [No. 35, August/2019], President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, urged in a speech at the Central Party School last week young and middle-aged party officials to “fight and overcome with determination any risks and challenges harming the CPC leadership and the socialist system, China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests, the core and fundamental interests of the country and the people, or hinders the realization of the two centenary goals and the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.” [Xinhua, in Chinese]

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]