Asia Communique — Week 15

India and China ninth round of talks — EU-China investment pact — Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea remain tense

Happy New Year!

Asia Communique will continue on the path to bring you weekly coverage of the latest news from China, India, and the rest of Asia. I have been swamped for most of 2020, and that will be the case for 2021. Please let me know if you would like to receive the newsletter twice in a week. We can explore that option moving forward. Thank you for your support!

Even more “brilliant glory” in 2021 — Xi

“We must continue to struggle and move forward courageously to create even more brilliant glory,” Xi Jinping said during the New Year address.

“2021 is the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China. The century-long journey has been magnificent, and at the beginning of the century, the heart will grow stronger with time. From Shikumen in Shanghai to South Lake in Jiaxing, a small red boat carries the trust of the people and the hope of the nation. It has crossed the rapids and turbulent waves, and has become a giant ship that leads China's steady and long journey. The CPC bears its eternal great cause in mind, and the centenary only ushers in the prime of life. We adhere to putting people at the centre, stay true to our original aspiration, keep our mission well in mind, break the waves and sail out for our journey ahead, and we will certainly realise the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” added Xi Jinping.

“We know that some in the United States are uneasy about China's rapid development. However, the best way to keep one's lead is through constant self-improvement, not by blocking others' development. We don't need a world where China becomes another United States,” said Wang Yi in a year-end interview with CGTN.

India and China ninth round of talks

“China and India are having consultations on holding the 9th round of the corps commander level meeting, a military spokesperson said on Thursday,” reported Xinhua.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs had earlier confirmed that the 9th round of talks was being planned.

Chinese Ministry of Defence spokesperson’s statement on December 31.

记者:中印两军11月举行第八轮军长级会谈后,双方就继续推动中印边界西段实控线地区脱离接触等问题保持了沟通。近日有印度媒体报道,第九轮军长级会谈即将举行。请中方予以证实。

谭克非:中印两军第八轮军长级会谈以来,双方聚焦一线部队脱离接触保持协商,加强部队管控,边境地区局势总体稳定。中方愿继续与印方保持军事和外交渠道沟通。希望印方与中方相向而行,切实落实军长级会谈共识,采取务实措施推动边境局势进一步降温缓和。双方正就举行第九轮军长级会谈进行协商。

“Since the eighth round of commander level talks between the Chinese and Indian armies, the two sides have focused on the disengagement of front-line forces, maintained consultations, strengthened military control, and achieved overall stability in the border area. China is willing to continue to maintain military and diplomatic communication with India. It is hoped that India and China will work together, earnestly implement the consensus reached at the military commander level talks, and take pragmatic measures to further cool and ease the border situation. The two sides are holding consultations on holding the ninth round of military commander level talks.”

“It is true that in order to reduce the standoff between India and China, talks were taking place on a military and diplomatic level. But no success has been achieved so far. There will be a next round of talks on a military level which can take place anytime. But no meaningful outcome has come and there is status quo,” said India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

India and China had held the 20th WMCC meeting on border affairs on December 18. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had referred to WMCC meeting in an interview with ANI.

An analysis of open-source imagery suggests that the Indian Army may have made strategic gains in Pangang Tso and Spanggur Tso gap areas.

The pictures appear to have been taken before snow cover. It is hard to verify the date of these pictures since there is no access to original metadata. At this point, we can say that it isn’t clear if the Indian Army is indeed in control of heights at Finger 5 and 6 in Pangang Tso areas. The possibility of Indian Army controlling parts of the Spanggur Tso gap is relatively higher - based on the evidence.

This week, Indian Air Force Chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria had said that India’s SU-30MKIs equipped with BrahMos missiles if used along with refuellers could target the “string of pearls.” The term “string of pearls” is used for China’s geopolitical strategy to encircle the Indian Ocean region with military installations at critical locations.

“Data on online smartphone shopping has shown that Indians bought 17 lakh more Chinese devices this October than they did last year. This despite calls to boycott Chinese products and support ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ amid the ongoing tensions between India and China at the Line of Actual Control and the Indian government banning over 200 Chinese apps” reported The Print.

“China firmly opposes the U.S. Act on Tibet that you asked about. Tibet-related issues, as part of China's internal affairs, bear on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and allow no interference by any external forces. The Chinese government is determined to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests. We urge the U.S. side to stop exploiting relevant issues to interfere in China's internal affairs, and take no actions to implement articles in the Act that target China and hurt China's interests, so as to avoid further damaging China-US cooperation and long-term development of bilateral relationship” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in response to the recent signing of the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 by President Trump.

“The Foreign Affairs Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, condemned on Wednesday America's Tibet Policy and Support Act, which was added to the $1.4 trillion spending bill that President Donald Trump signed into law last Sunday, and voiced strong condemnation of and firm opposition to Washington's meddling in China's internal affairs,” reported CCTV.

The Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 will deter China from interfering in selecting the next Dalai Lama.

How the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation ended up in Congress’s $900 billion relief bill — WaPo.

“According to sources, the Ministry of external affairs has initiated diplomatic talks to rescue 39 Indian sailors stuck in China. Two cargo vessels with a total of 39 Indians on board have been on anchorage in Chinese waters as they were not allowed to unload their cargo though some other ships have managed to do so. On December 25, China had said that there is no 'link' between stranded,” reported Times of India.

Why China Is Winning Against India - Sushant Singh in Foreign Policy

China to conduct military exercise

China will conduct a year-end military exercise in an area next to China’s Hainan province.

“According to three separate notices released on Tuesday night, access to the waters surrounding Hainan – China’s southernmost province – in the South China Sea will be restricted during the military training,” reported South China Morning Post.

The notice by Hainan Maritime Safety Administration can be found here.

China Maritime Safety Administration posted three notices HN0127, HN0128, and HN0129 notifying commercial ships about the exercise.

As I had reported in the previous edition, US’s B-1B bombers recently conducted an operation in the South China Sea.

“Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Dec. 31 local time, or Dec. 30 in the continental United States,” reported USNI News.

“China's third aircraft carrier, a newly developed frigate with integrated electric propulsion system, aircraft carrier-based stealth fighter jets and more could make their first appearances in 2021, military observers predict,” reported Global Times. We know that Global Times likes to create some hype around military news but China has been working on the 3rd aircraft carrier for a while now.

People's Daily Online People's Science and Technology had published a report citing an article by U.S. Naval Research Institute which said “the People’s Liberation Army has made progress on its third aircraft carrier.”

“In response, Snr. Col. Tan remarked that to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Some people in the US still hold the outdated Cold War mentality and the narrow-minded zero-sum game, hypothesize other countries as threats, frequently incite disputes and conflicts, and undermine the international system and order,” said Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson in response to a US Navy report.

“The second “Intelligent Warfare” seminar was recently ranked at the National Defense University, with more than 80 representatives from the entire military participating” reported Xinhua.

“This seminar was sponsored by the National Security Institute of the National Defense University, dedicated to developing the impact and challenges of artificial intelligence military applications on global strategic stability and military security, and exploring ways to accelerate development” added Xinhua.

‘With the approval of Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission, the Central Military Commission issued the “Provisional Regulations on the administration of officers in active service”, as well as the “Interim Provisions on the selection of officers for active service”, “Interim Provisions for training and training of officers in active service”, “Interim Provisions for the assessment of officers in active service”, Interim Provisions for the promotion and appointment of officers in active service”, “interim regulations for the exchange of officers in active service, and temporary retirement of active officers”’ reported Xinhua.

The U.S. Navy’s Loss of Command of the Seas to China and How to Regain It - War on the Rocks

EU-China investment pact

“Chinese President Xi Jinping and European leaders on Wednesday announced that the two sides have completed investment agreement negotiations as scheduled,” reported Xinhua.

China and the European Union have been negotiating an investment deal since 2014. The pact is called the “Comprehensive Agreement on Investment”.

“Beijing has had to make what the EU called an “unprecedented commitment” to provide commercial certainty and predictability, with wide access for an array of European companies to the hitherto heavily restricted Chinese market” reported Stuart Lau for SCMP.

“The agreement will provide greater market access, higher level of business environment, stronger institutional guarantees and brighter cooperation prospects for mutual investment,” said Xi Jinping.

China is trying to sell the investment agreement as a big victory. But Chinese state media hasn’t mentioned the “commitments on forced labour and the ratification of the relevant ILO fundamental Conventions”. European Union believes that binding provisions could help change China’s behaviour towards forced labour in Xinjiang.

“But China has a long history of ratifying human rights treaties and ignoring them. Critics question whether the E.U., having made a deal, will be in a strong position to stop that from happening again,” reported Washington Post.

“The implementation of the commitments in the Agreement will be monitored at the level of Executive Vice President on the side of the EU and Vice Premier on China's side. The State-to-State dispute resolution mechanism underpinning the agreement meets the highest standards found in existing EU trade agreements,” said EU Commission press statement.

Timeline of China-EU investment agreement negotiations — Xinhua

Five Things to Know About the New China-EU Investment Agreement — Caixin

Don’t Miss Out

“India and Pakistan today exchanged, through diplomatic channels simultaneously at New Delhi and Islamabad, the list of nuclear installations and facilities, covered under the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between India and Pakistan,” said a statement by Ministry of External Affairs.

The exchange of nuclear installation sites takes place on the 1st January of the calendar year. India and Pakistan signed an agreement in 1988 to exchange a list of their key nuclear installation. The Non-nuclear aggression agreement between India and Pakistan seeks to reduce the risk of attack by one side on other’s nuclear installation - intentionally or otherwise. If you want to learn more about nuclear deterrence issues in Southern Asia, I will encourage you to take Stimson Centre’s course: Strategic Learning: Deterrence in Southern Asia.

“The Court of Final Appeal (CFA) on Thursday reversed the decision to allow Jimmy Lai to live under house arrest ahead of trials for an alleged national security offence and fraud, cancelling the media tycoon's bail and remanding him in custody again,” reported RTHK.

“China announced on Thursday that it had granted conditional marketing authorization for its first self-developed COVID-19 vaccine.

The inactivated vaccine, which got the approval from the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA), is developed by the Beijing Biological Products Institute Co., Ltd. under the China National Biotec Group (CNBG), which is affiliated with Sinopharm” reported Xinhua.

“Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a phone conversation with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday, with both sides pledging to further strengthen the Sino-Pakistani all-weather strategic cooperative partnership.

Wang said that on the very last day of 2020, it is of great significance for China and Pakistan to communicate as “ironclad” friends, whose all-weather strategic cooperative partnership has stood the test and maintained a strong development momentum in the face of major changes unseen in a century and a once-in-a-century pandemic” reported Xinhua.

“Online games developed by Tencent were reinstated on the app store of Chinese telecom giant Huawei late on Friday hours after being removed over a cooperation dispute.

Huawei earlier in the day said the removal of the games was in response to a “big change” by Tencent on December 31 to how the companies work with each other, without offering details. In a statement, the company said its decision followed an assessment by its legal team and was based on the premise that Tencent is unilaterally asking to discontinue cooperation,” reported CGTN.

“American companies will have to pay higher taxes on some of the products they import from China, as the tariff exclusions that had shielded many businesses from President Trump’s trade war expired at midnight on Thursday,” reported NYT.

Movers and Shakers

For Beijing and New Delhi, 2020 Was the Point of No Return — Harsha V. Pant

What’s Worse Than 2020 in America? — Sadanand Dhume

Off Track Reads

How a cataclysmic plague marked the end of Ming China — SupChina

Business Street

NYSE to Delist China’s Major Telecom Operators — WSJ

Tata grabs bigger slice of AirAsia and India's airline industry — BBC

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