Asia Communique

Xi mentions hypersonic weapons — Washington on lab leak theory — CCTV military reports

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“National laboratories, national scientific research institutions, high-level research universities, and leading science and technology enterprises are all important components of the national strategic science and technology forces. They must consciously fulfill the mission of high-level science and technology independence and self-reliance, and produce more strategic and key scientific and technological achievements,” said President Xi Jinping

On May 28, Xi Jinping spoke at the 20th Academician Conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the 15th Academician Conference of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the 10th National Congress of the China Association for Science and Technology at the Great Hall of People in Beijing.

But PLA Daily didn’t mention some of the remarks by Xi Jinping.

“Major achievements have been made in national defence scientific and technological innovation. National defence technology strongly supports the research and development of major weapons and equipment, the first domestically-made aircraft carrier was launched, and the fifth-generation fighter aircraft, the J-20, officially entered service. The Dongfeng-17 ballistic missile has been successfully developed, and my country is at the forefront of hypersonic weapons,” said Xi Jinping, as reported by Xinhua.

In 2019, China showcased the new DF-17 during a parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the PRC. I am not aware of recent remarks in which Xi Jinping has mentioned hypersonic weapons.

“The rapid development of emerging technologies represented by information technology and artificial intelligence has greatly expanded the scope of time, space and people's cognition. Mankind is entering an era of intelligent interconnection of all things with the ternary integration of “human, machine and things”. The rapid development of basic research and applied research in biological sciences.”

Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji and Han Zheng — members of the politburo standing committee — attended the meeting.

Various state media outlets widely covered the remarks and the event.

On May 24, Huawei issued a statement clarifying that the company doesn’t build — or want to build — cars. The statement came after rumours about Huawei’s foray into electric cars was circulated on social media.

CGTN published a rebuttal to the Foreign Policy article by Robert Barnett, showing China’s village construction “inside” Bhutan.

Xi Jinping talks on the phone with Nepalese President Bhandari — Xinhua

“State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi was invited to attend the Munich Security Conference’s “China Session” in Beijing on the 25th and delivered a speech, focusing on China's development, China's relations with the world, and China-EU cooperation. China's position” reported Xinhua.

Washington’s turn to lab leak theory

President Biden ordered the US intelligence community to determine the origins of COVID-19. Biden said the intelligence community should “redouble” the effort. In the last edition, I had discussed the new call from scientists to reexamine the lab leak theory. The call was based on some elements of the COVID-19 virus that can’t yet be explained as being of natural origin. But there is no single consensus yet about these elements that scientists have pointed out.

President Biden said that one element of the intelligence community supports the lab leak theory while the other two elements support the natural origin theory.

But amidst these calls, a new tone can be sensed from the US Senate and House intelligence committees. The US intelligence community comprises 18 organisations, and all of them are under the Director of National Intelligence. All of these organisations are supposed to respond to requests from the US Senate and House intelligence committees. Democrats are in control of both these committees.

The Republican side of the House Intelligence Committee has claimed that there is “significant circumstantial evidence” to support the lab leak theory. The Republic side of the committees has continued to call for considering the lab leak theory. But it’s the democratic side of these committees that has now decided to take a closer look. Reuters has confirmed that both the Senate and the House intel committees are investigating the origins of COVID-19.

“It is absolutely accurate the intelligence community does not know exactly where, when, or how the COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially,” said Director of National Intelligence, Haines. But Hines’ remarks aren’t radically different from what has been said.

Democrat Mark Warner has asked “spy agencies about various issues related to the pandemic, including whether it could have been started in a laboratory accident or originated with animals”. Warner leads the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“I am not convinced about that, I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,” said Dr Fauci.

Dr Fauci’s remarks have given the Democratic side confidence to pursue the lab leak theory.

“For the first time, Democrats are open to entertaining their argument that the Biden administration needs to exert diplomatic pressure on Beijing to release data from the Wuhan lab”, reported Politico.

A comparison of these remarks and other evidence suggests that William Burns’ agency might be leaning towards the lab leak theory. In contrast, other agencies under ODNI support the natural origin theory.

‘The bill, spearheaded by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), gives the ODNI 90 days to declassify "any and all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of the coronavirus disease”’ reported The Hill.

“Members of a World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of Covid-19 urged the United Nations agency’s member states to mandate a second phase of research, warning that time was running out to examine blood samples and other important clues in China regarding when, how and where the pandemic started.

The researchers also called for the U.S. to share with the WHO any intelligence supporting the hypothesis that the Covid-19 virus might have spilled from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, saying they had already unsuccessfully asked Washington for that information. The first confirmed cases of Covid-19 emerged in Wuhan in December 2019,” reported WSJ.

“Agencies are believed to have few human intelligence sources in China. Gathering data there has focused on trying to recruit on the dark web, where Chinese employees can share secrets anonymously,” reported The Times.

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Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port City bill

On May 20, Sri Lanka passed a $1.4 billion Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill. The bill would make way for foreign investments. Some experts believe the bill will give China complete access to the port and, in the process, undermine Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. But we don’t the details of the bill yet to say conclusively what China’s involvement means.

‘“If it is only a commercial venture then that is their [Sri Lanka’s] choice… We will continue to engage Sri Lanka while watching our national interest,” said a government source in New Delhi, awaiting the final version of the Bill whose blueprint the Sri Lankan Parliament’s Speaker signed on Thursday. The ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act’ is yet to be made public’ reported The Hindu.

‘Constitutional experts and opposition legislators argue that the 269-acre “financial hub”, coming up on reclaimed land adjoining Colombo’s seafront, would enjoy, besides a tax-free status, immunity from Sri Lankan law. Sections within Sri Lanka, including from the political opposition, trade unions and the influential Buddhist clergy, see it as a “threat” to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty’ reported The Hindu.

“India on Thursday said it is keeping an eye on the China-backed Colombo Port City project in Sri Lanka that is being touted as a big-ticket investment drawing scheme which would boost the island nation’s economy”, reported Live Mint.

US resident sought by China for comments freed in Dubai — AP News

“Even if India would like to deepen its military cooperation with the US, certain cooperation such as opening military bases to the US is not an option for India, Song said”, reported Global Times.

CCTV military reports

1) [Noon National Defense Military] A new type of air defence missile and a new type of rocket launcher for a fire regiment of the Xinjiang Military Region is installed in the plateau training force — May 28

This report highlights a new type of Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL). The MRL appears to be a modified version of PR-50 Sandstorm with 122mm rockets. But unlike the PR-50 Sandstorm, there is no additional battery. The chassis seems to have been modified for the high altitude combat deployment.

One can also notice that the truck isn’t as long as the original PR-50 Sandstorm. I believe that modification will be suitable for deployment in the high altitude region.

Along with the rocket launcher, the news report also talks about a new radar air defence system. The reporter on CCTV mentions that the radar system strengthens the capabilities of the rocket launcher.

2) The Xinjiang Military Region's large-scale "new development", offensive high and thick defence! — May 28

[Noon National Defense Military] Directly hit the front line of the exercise and an army aviation brigade in the Xinjiang Military Region at an altitude of 5,000 meters! Karakorum multi-ball type actual combat drill — May 28

Another report showcased a Z-10 attack helicopter shooting a target. The video also shows the Z-10 targeting a hillside during the same exercise.

The Z-10 displayed in the exercise is a modified version that Janes have already reported.

China’s mysterious H-20 strategic bomber ‘may be able to strike second island chain’ — SCMP

“Regarding the issue of “Indo-Pacific strategy”, China always believes that no strategy should go against the trend of the times of peaceful development and deliberately exaggerate conflict and confrontation,” said PLA spokesperson.

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Don’t Miss Out

“The late tycoon Stanley Ho died of illness on 26th May last year at the age of 98. As the Feng Shui master pointed out that there was no suitable day for burial last year, the coffin of Stanley Ho was transferred to TWGHs Coffin Home on 17th July in 2020 for temporary storage, and was only buried in the family’s Chiu Yuen Cemetery today” reported Dimsum Daily HK.

“U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai had a candid exchange on trade issues Wednesday night with her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, Ms Tai’s office said. Ms Tai discussed the administration’s guiding principles on trade policy and her continuing review of the U.S.-China trade relationship in a virtual meeting, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said. Ms Tai raised concerns, her office said, though it didn’t go into any detail. Ms Tai said she expected further discussion with Mr Liu.

A statement from China’s Commerce Ministry described the call Wednesday as “candid, pragmatic and constructive.” It also said both sides had agreed to keep communicating,” reported WSJ.

“A Chinese cargo spacecraft carrying equipment and supplies successfully docked with the core module of the country's future space station on Sunday, state media said.

A Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft -- loaded with essentials such as food, equipment and fuel -- blasted off late Saturday from the Wenchang launch site on Hainan island, the Xinhua news agency reported” reported RTHK.

‘In a pre-recorded speech to the forum, former US treasury secretary Henry Paulson said some “strategic decoupling will be necessary to protect national security”’ reported SCMP.

“China sent a friendly signal for talks between Chinese and US defence ministers when US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin took up his post on January 22, but this was never met with a response, and Austin later requested to meet with another leader in the Central Military Commission, which is an unprofessional and unfriendly act of disregarding diplomatic protocol and international common practice, a Chinese source said on Monday, in response to a recent media report claiming China rebuffed Austin's requests for high-level military talks” reported Global Times.

“In a phone call on Monday with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rowhani, the Chinese leader (Xi Jinping) said he supported Iran’s “reasonable demands” in efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers,” reported SCMP.

Turkey and Nepal will set up consulted in Chengdu, Chinese state media outlets have reported.

“Vietnam has discovered a new coronavirus variant that’s a hybrid of strains first found in India and the U.K., the Vietnamese health minister said Saturday. Nguyen Thanh Long said scientists examined the genetic makeup of the virus that had infected some recent patients and found the new version of the virus. He said lab tests suggested it might spread more easily than other versions of the virus,” reported France 24.

Tibet can’t be used as leverage by India with China, needs resolution: President-elect Tsering — The Print

Social Talk

China is currently facing a rise in COVID-19 cases in southern China provinces. On Baidu, “Guangzhou epidemic virus spreads fast and has strong spreading power” (广州疫情病毒传播快传播力强) was the number one trend on May 29. On May 30, “Vietnam discovers a mixture of mutant strains of the new coronavirus” (越南发现新冠病毒变异毒株混合体) was the fourth trend on Baidu.

Visuals of people lining up to get vaccinated in Guandong and Guangzhou have circulated on Wechat and Weibo.

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Movers and Shakers

Wolf Warriors Killed China’s Grand Strategy — Sulmaan Wasif Khan

Understanding China Is Getting Harder Every Month — James Thorpe

Tom Tugendhat on Why China Moved Too Early — The Wire China interview with Tom Tugendhat

The Indo-Pacific Regional Order: Elusive Equilibrium — Nirupama Rao

Business Street

Yuan’s Strength Seen Continuing as Dollar Weakens — Caixin

Upcoming Watch

Huawei will launch its operating system called Harmony OS on June 2.

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