Asia Communique

'Wolf Warriors' in international arena — China frets about population — PLA holding positions in Eastern Ladakh — Zhurong on Mars

Note: I will stop using the number order for the weekly newsletter.

‘Wolf Warriors’ in the international arena

An artist named Wuheqilin has made a computer-generated graphic image that mocks the recent G-7 meeting held in London. The image shows an Indian Sepoy standing in one corner with an IV line in his right hand. The image is a commentary on the Eight-Nation Alliance formed by Western powers during the Boxer Rebellion.

Katsuji Nakazawa wrote in Nikkei Asian Review that this type of narrative takes a leaf from the “Wolf Warrior” approach.

“Because it was Deng who established the party's traditional rules, including a collective leadership system to prevent dictatorship and a 10-year limit on the top Chinese leader.

Xi three years ago pushed through a revision to the national constitution, scrapping the limit of two five-year terms Chinese presidents were allowed to serve.

But if the Deng-era rules are not destroyed, Xi will have to overcome obstacles if he is to remain as China's top leader beyond the party's next national congress in 2022, and further concentrate power in his hands.

If Xi is to usher in a “new era” in every sense of the term, undermining Deng's authority is necessary”, wrote Katsuji Nakazawa in an op-ed in Nikkei Asian Review.

Chinese Communist Party has always placed special emphasis on the century of humiliation. World War Two also plays an important role in the CPC’s imagination of international relations. I would recommend reading Rana Mitter’s new book China’s Good War.

“China’s Good War begins with the academics who shepherded the once-taboo subject into a wider discourse. Encouraged by reforms under Deng Xiaoping, they researched the Guomindang war effort, collaboration with the Japanese, and China’s role in forming the post-1945 global order. But interest in the war would not stay confined to scholarly journals. Today public sites of memory—including museums, movies and television shows, street art, popular writing, and social media—define the war as a founding myth for an ascendant China. Wartime China emerges as victor rather than the victim,” a summary of China’s Good War.

There is a new investigation by the Associated Press and Oxford Internet Institute into China’s use of Twitter.

“A seven-month investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute, a department at Oxford University, found that China’s rise on Twitter has been powered by an army of fake accounts that have retweeted Chinese diplomats and state media tens of thousands of times, covertly amplifying propaganda that can reach hundreds of millions of people — often without disclosing the fact that the content is government-sponsored,” said the investigative report by AP.

“They were also slavish in their devotion, sometimes replying to more than three-quarters of all the ambassador’s tweets. Most weeks, the fake accounts generated at least 30 to 50% of all retweets of Ambassador Liu and the Chinese Embassy in London,” the report added.

Yang Jiechi has published an interesting essay on China’s foreign relations in the party journal, Qiushi. The essay was published to mark the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China.

“General Secretary Xi Jinping firmly grasped the general development trend of China and the world and made a series of major thesis that the world is undergoing major changes unseen in a century, and my country's development is still in a period of important strategic opportunities, and put forward the promotion of building a community with a shared future for mankind and building a new type of international relations,” wrote Yang Jiechi

‘First, focus on opposing hegemonism and the threat of war, expand friendly cooperation with foreign countries, and put forward important theoretical ideas such as the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”, the “Middle Zone”, and the “Third World”. In the 1950s, my country, India and Myanmar agreed to use the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence as the basic principles governing mutual relations. In the late 1950s and early 1960s and in the 1970s, Chairman Mao Zedong successively proposed the strategic thinking of dividing the “two intermediate poles” and “third world”’ wrote Yang Jiechi.

China frets about population

“China's population on the mainland reached 1.41178 billion, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Tuesday, citing data from the seventh national census” Xinhua reported.

The official number for population released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics is: 1.41178 billion.

“The average annual growth rate was 0.53% over the past 10 years, down from a rate of 0.57% between 2000 and 2010 - bringing the population to 1.41 billion.

The results add pressure on Beijing to boost measures for couples to have more babies and avert a population decline,” said the BBC.

“The people cautioned, however, that the figure was considered very sensitive and would not be released until multiple government departments had reached a consensus on the data and its implications”, Financial Times had earlier reported.

FT has reported that China will likely release 1.37 billion as the population figure. But the number seems to have been revised later. China found additional 40 million people!

Tibetans appoint new Sikyong

In India and worldwide, the Tibetan community has elected Penpa Tsering as the new Sikyong (President) to Tibetan Government-in-Exile.

“He formally announced Sikyong candidate Penpa Tsering with 34,324 votes as the new elected Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration in accordance with article 69 of Tibetan electoral rules and regulation,” said a report by Central Tibetan Administration.

Penpa Tsering (PT) has extensive experience working in the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.

“PT has sound knowledge of the Tibetan Administration in Exile. He was also the chairman of the drafting committee of the Charter of Tibetans in Exile,” said an op-ed in Tibet Sun.

Tsering has served as the speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in the past. Tsering is also fluent in Tibetan as opposed to his leading opponent Aukatsang Kelsang Dorjee.

“The successor to the Dalai Lama is chosen through a Tibetan Buddhist concept, and it’s a deeply religious matter, and the Dalai Lama alone is responsible for his reincarnation,” Penpa Tsering told Hindustan Times in an interview.

PT had received enough votes to declare victory earlier in April, but the announcement was delayed because of a legal dispute.

Based on my reading of Tsering’s speeches and the conversation with the Tibetan community, I can safely conclude that PT believes in a Middle Way approach to Tibet’s future.

China lands Zhurong on Mars

On May 15, China became the third country to land a rover on Mars. Zhurong — god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology — is also called Tianwen-1.

“This is another milestone advance in our country’s aerospace endeavours,” said Xi Jinping.

“You have had the courage for the challenge, have strove for excellence and have brought our country to the global forefront of interplanetary exploration,” Xi added.

“The mass of Zhurong is about 240 kilograms or roughly 530 pounds. That is a bit heftier than the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that NASA landed on Mars in 2004, but only about one-fourth the mass of the two currently operating NASA Mars rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance.

Days after the touchdown, the rover will roll off the lander. Like Spirit and Opportunity, Zhurong will be powered by solar panels, which are retractable so that they can periodically shake off any accumulated dust. For Perseverance and Curiosity, nuclear batteries turn heat released by the decay of radioactive plutonium into electricity,” reported New York Times.

Is there more to China’s Type 075 warship?

“Defence experts said the two digits put the LHD on a par with the country’s flagship aircraft carriers, signalling the important role the docks are expected to play in China’s blue-water navy ambitions.

They said the double-digit identifier indicated that the 40,000-tonne Type 075 LHD’s rank and role was more than important than that of other amphibious warships. That is despite not having ship-borne vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fixed-wing aircraft similar to the Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey multi-role tilt-rotor warplanes on US warships” reported SCMP.

Reuters was in Xinjiang, and they found some disturbing details.

“Reuters visited more than two dozen mosques across seven counties in southwest and central Xinjiang on a 12-day visit during Ramadan, which ended on Thursday.

There is a contrast between Beijing's campaign to protect mosques and religious freedom and the reality on the ground. Most of the mosques that Reuters visited had been partially or completely demolished,” reported Reuters.

What’s China doing in Bangladesh?

China’s ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming remarked at a press conference in Dhaka, saying “Obviously, it will not be a good idea for Bangladesh to participate in this small club of four because it will substantially damage our bilateral relationship”. The Chinese ambassador was talking about the Quad.

The remarks weren’t received well in Dhaka.

“We're an independent and sovereign state. We decide our foreign policy. But yes, any country can uphold its position,” Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told reporters.

“Member countries of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), an informal security grouping of the US, Japan, Australia and India, are now seeking to seduce Bangladesh to be part of their Indo-Pacific efforts, according to media reports. Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming said on Monday that China-Bangladesh bilateral ties would be substantially damaged if Dhaka engaged with Quad, according to a report of The Times of India,” reported Global Times.

My impression is that Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe may have raised the issue of Quad during his recent visit to Bangladesh.

There is no invitation for Bangladesh to join Quad based on the available information.

India and China’s reaction to Israel-Palestine tensions

Implementing the “two-state solution” is the fundamental way out, said Wang Yi.

“China will host an open debate on the Palestine-Israel conflict in the Security Council tomorrow, and we hope that all parties can make a concerted effort on this. China believes that the Security Council should reconfirm the “two-state solution” and urge both Palestine and Israel to resume peace talks on the basis of the “two-state solution” as soon as possible”, said Wang Yi.

The Israel-Palestine conflict trended heavily on Weibo, Baidu and WeChat.

“Wang Yi clarifies China's position on Palestine-Israel conflict” was viewed 3.85 million times on Baidu.

Wang Yi raised the ongoing conflict at a special meeting on the Israel Palestine conflict held at the United Nations Security Council on May 16.

“The UNSC has failed to make a unanimous voice due to the obstruction of one certain country. China calls on the United States to shoulder its due responsibilities, adopt a fair stand, and support the UNSC in playing its due role in easing the situation, rebuilding trust, and political settlement,” said Wang Yi.

“Wang said that, since China assumed the rotating presidency of the UNSC, it has made responding to the current tensions in the Middle East a top priority and pushed the UNSC to deliberate on the Palestinian question many times”, reported Xinhua.

At the same session of the UNSC, India called “for an immediate de-escalation of the situation between Israel and Palestine”.

“Immediate de-escalation is the need of the hour, so as to arrest any further slide towards the brink. We urge both sides to show extreme restraint, desist from actions that exacerbate tensions, and refrain from attempts to unilaterally change the existing status quo, including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood,” India’s Ambassador to the UN, T.S. Tirumurti, said at the Security Council meeting on Sunday.

PLA holding positions in Eastern Ladakh

This week, we saw a new open-source analysis that suggests that PLA is staying put at Rutog and other locations along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. This doesn’t bode well for ongoing India-China border talks. We don’t have a date for the 11th round of India-China border talks.

“As these three lessons show, the future of the strategic competition is not yet written. Thus far, India has suffered unequal strategic costs from the Ladakh crisis. Chinese troops continue to camp on previously Indian-controlled land, and worse, India may jeopardise its long-term leverage in the more consequential Indian Ocean Region. But if India’s leaders honestly and critically evaluate the crisis, it may yet help to actually brace India’s long-term position against China,” wrote Arzan Tarapore in The Hindu.

Open-source satellite imagery:

“Indian media maliciously discredited China's oxygen generators over quality problems” was a leading trend on Weibo. The trend was viewed 140 million times. The same trend was in 4th place on Baidu.

“India needs to restore deterrence if it wants to stop China from attempting to nibble at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and changing its status quo, noted strategic affairs expert and former National Security Adviser and foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said on Saturday” reported NDTV.

The decision to withdraw from the Kailash range may have been a blunder by the military and the Indian political leadership.

Meanwhile, the India-China relations are in conflict in other spheres as well.

Indian companies are frustrated about the hike in prices of COVID-19 supplies. China, in response said the prices have adjusted to the high demand for these supplies.

The Drone Dealer — The Wire China

Don’t Miss Out

“The Pentagon has failed to provide Congress a legally required report on Chinese language corporations with army ties, as US president Joe Biden neared a call on whether or not Individuals might spend money on such teams.

Congress required the Division of Protection in January to supply a report by April 15. However the Pentagon advised lawmakers it has missed the deadline, based on two folks aware of the report” reported Financial Times.

“Po­lice froze the as­sets of me­dia ty­coon Jimmy Lai un­der na­tional-se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion, in­clud­ing his ma­jor­ity stake in a news­pa­per that is a fierce critic of Chi­na’s gov­ern­ment” reported Wall Street Journal.

“Sources say assets include all 70 per cent of Lai’s shares in his Next Digital media firm and holdings in three other firms; total figure worth US$64 million”, reported SCMP.

I have recently written a column about Beijing’s growing hold on Hong Kong’s media. Read here.

“More than 40% of expats surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong say they're considering moving away from the former British colony as China's influence grows and the city continues to enforce stringent quarantine rules”, reported CNN.

‘In his recorded talk, Duterte said: “We have a stand here. And I want to state it here and now again, that our ships that are on Pag-asa and elsewhere, we will not move an inch backwards,”’ reported SCMP.

“You can kill me but here I stay, this is where our friendship will end” SCMP added.

“The report by the Washington-based think-tank CSIS seen by the Financial Times identified 70 deals in 41 countries between Huawei and governments or state-owned enterprises for these services from 2006 to April this year. Cloud infrastructure usually refers to the installation of data centres, while e-government mainly involves automating administrative functions such as licensing, healthcare, legal records and other government processes,” reported Financial Times.

“News reports and video blogs by journalists and television show hosts who attended Bajwa’s off-the-record briefing cited anonymous top national security sources as saying they did not see India’s point-blank refusal to reinstate article 370 as a serious impediment to talks. Downplaying it as a mere change of the Indian government’s internal nomenclature, the sources said they were more concerned about New Delhi’s attempts to change the demography of Muslim-majority Kashmir,” reported SCMP.

China increases spending 500% to influence America — Axios

“Beijing is giving Sweden one last chance to reverse its ban on telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co., a Chinese state media outlet said, before it could retaliate against rival Ericsson AB”, reported Wall Street Journal.

Movers and Shakers

The China Challenge: Beijing Faces Long Odds in Quest to Overtake the US — Michael Schuman

How China made Canada a global node for narcos and cyber-criminals — Sam Cooper

Business Street

China's number of new investors grew in April at slowest in 13 mths — Reuters

SoftBank to expand Vision Fund portfolio to 500 companies — Nikkei Asian Review

Off-Track Reads

Asia’s Anti-Colonialist Journey — Thomas Meaney

Taiwan’s tribes have their day in court (and lose) — The Economist


The Impact of Covid-19 on China’s Belt and Road Initiative: A Conversation with Agatha Kratz — China Power

Upcoming Watch

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in will visit the White House for talks with Biden on Friday.

China’s three telecommunication companies, China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom, will be delisted from New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The delisting follows the investment restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.