Asia Communique — Week 19

Antony Blinken speaks to Yang Jiechi — China deploys T-99A tank at the LAC — Taiwan Strait in US-China relations — Coup in Myanmar

I was recovering from a workout injury last week and had to abandon the newsletter because of that. The newsletter will be published every week in the future.

Thank you for your support!

Blinken speaks to China’s Yang Jiechi

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Yang Jiechi, Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Foreign Affairs Commission's Office. This makes it a first contact between the new US administration and China.

“Secretary Blinken stressed the United States will continue to stand up for human rights and democratic values, including in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and pressed China to join the international community in condemning the military coup in Burma. The Secretary reaffirmed that the United States would work together with its allies and partners in defence of our shared values and interests to hold the PRC accountable for its efforts to threaten stability in the Indo-Pacific, including across the Taiwan Strait, and its undermining of the rules-based international system” said a statement released by the US State Department.

There was an interesting inconsistency in the Chinese statement — in one sentence — which may have been intentional.

“Blinken reiterated that the United States will continue to pursue the one-China policy and abide by the three Sino-US joint communiqués. This policy position remains unchanged” said the statement in Chinese.

“Blinken reiterated that the U.S. side will continue to pursue the one-China principle and abide by the three Sino-U.S. joint communiqués, and this policy stance has not changed,” said the statement in English.

But it should be noted that in the same Chinese statement Yang Jiechi said “Yang Jiechi said that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive core issue in Sino-US relations, and it concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The US should strictly abide by the one-China principle and the three Sino-US joint communiqués.”

“The test on Thursday was the fifth land-based anti-ballistic missile (ABM) technical test China has publicly announced and the fourth land-based mid-course ABM technical test publicly known” reported CGTN.

“Mid-course is the most vital phase in the interception of a ballistic missile, and a mid-course ABM means intercepting the missile while it is in its free flight phase outside of the atmosphere, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times” added CGTN.

Biden may make his Pacific strategy through cooperation with China — CGTN

China deploys Type-99A tank

On February 2nd, India’s Times Now claimed that they had accessed an exclusive video that shows that China “continues to build up military assets close to the LAC.”

But I dug into the open-source material and compared the video to PLA’s recent media production. Times Now clipped parts of the video made by PLA’s media department and shared it on their broadcast. The Times Now story was widely shared by many politicians, experts and journalists in India.

The above image shows Type 15 tank was deployed for the first time close to Lake Pangang Tso. The state media reports also confirm the deployment of Type 99A tanks.

Besides the problem of attribution, it is hard to say when the video was shot. The temperature in Ladakh at this time of the year is close to minus 20. The landscape looks very different than what’s visible in the video.

In another video shared by CCTV, we can see China’s infrastructure development next to Spangur Tso. I was able to identify the location on Google Earth.

This video shows the trucks that were taking Chinese new year presents for the frontline troops. The hashtag “New Year's goods delivered to the front line of the plateau” #新春年货送抵高原边防一线# trended on Weibo, and over 1.8 million users viewed it.

In a separate video shows China’s Type-99A tanks being moved towards the Pangang Tso lake.

Chinese state media confirmed the deployment of the T-99A tank to the frontline.

“On February 3, CCTV’s National Defense Military News reported a video of the transportation of Chinese New Year goods for the Karakorum frontline troops in the Western Theater. The audience unexpectedly discovered that the 99A main battle tank and the Type 04 infantry fighting vehicle appeared in the images of the frontline troops” reported Xinhua.

An interesting aspect of this story is the kind of language used by Xinhua in Chinese.


‘Now the question is, can India understand the nature of 99A as the strongest beast? If we blindly believe in the combat effectiveness of the old Soviet tanks, there will be a comedy of T-72 being “canned”’

We usually hear this type of stark tone from Global Times, and Xinhua’s tone is very conservative.

“The disengagement talks, because it is a very complicated issue because it depends on troops, you have to know the geography [like] which position and what is happening, this is being done by the military commanders,” India’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said at an event recently.

Taiwan Strait in US-China relations

“Six Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan's southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Thursday, the fifth day Beijing has sent at least four aircraft into the airspace since U.S. President Joe Biden took office” reported Focus Taiwan (CNA).

One expert told Focus Taiwan that these intrusions that targeted at the new Biden administration. “The observation was made in a paper by Hung Tzu-chieh (洪子傑), an assistant research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR)” reported Focus Taiwan (CNA).

“The sand-dredging is one weapon China is using against Taiwan in a campaign of so-called grey-zone warfare, which entails using irregular tactics to exhaust a foe without actually resorting to open combat. Since June last year, Chinese dredgers have been swarming around the Matsu Islands, dropping anchor and scooping up vast amounts of sand from the ocean bed for construction projects in China” reported Reuters.

Read full Reuters’ Investigative story here.

In the recent call with Yang Jiechi, Secretary Blinken mentioned that the US will hold China “accountable for its efforts to threaten stability in the Indo-Pacific, including across the Taiwan Strait, and its undermining of the rules-based international system”.

“The United States thanked Taiwan on Friday for help on resolving an auto chip shortage that has snarled production, but there was no discussion on prioritizing the making of these chips, Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-Hua said after a high-level meeting” reported CNBC.

India’s 2021 budget

On February 1, India’s Finance Minister presented the federal budget in the Indian Parliament.

“Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has presented the Union Budget 2021-22 in Parliament. In significant changes to the taxation process, Sitharaman announced the scrapping of income tax for senior citizens under certain conditions, new rules for removal of double taxation for NRIs, and a reduction in the time period of tax assessments among other measures. Startups will get an extension in their tax holiday for an additional year” reported Indian Express.

“A new Development Finance Institution (DFI), with a starting capital of $2.7bn, will be set up to help fund large-scale infrastructure projects. This is expected to kickstart spending and offer some relief to banks, which are reeling from a mountain of debt” reported the BBC’s Nikhil Inamdar.

“The overall defence budget for 2021-22 was hiked marginally by around 1.4%, but there was a nearly 19% rise in capital outlay for military modernisation even as official data showed that an additional unbudgeted  ₹20,776 crore was spent to buy military hardware in the face of the Ladakh border standoff with China” reported Live Mint.

“In conclusion, this can only mean that while there may be an above-average hike in the defence budget for the financial year 2020-21, it is bound to fall short of the services’ desired requirement,” an expert wrote in The Wire.

Coup in Myanmar

“The military’s mouthpiece channel, Myawaddy TV, has announced that acting President U Myint Swe has declared the country to be under a nationwide state of emergency for one year under Article 417 of the 2008 Constitution” reported Irrawaddy News.

“Three weeks before Myanmar’s military commander took power in a coup, he met the Chinese government’s top diplomat in an exchange that pointed to potential support as Myanmar faces the prospect of renewed Western sanctions” reported Reuters.

The hashtag “Myanmar has released some detained government officials" was trending on Baidu. The hashtag was on the second spot on February 2.

Everyone expected that Chinese state media would play down the coup in Myanmar, but no one really thought they headline to read “Myanmar military announced a major cabinet reshuffle hours after a state of emergency was declared on Monday”.

Security Council Press Statement on Situation in Myanmar

Don’t Miss Out

“In a response, Wang on Friday argued that the BBC has repeatedly attacked and smeared the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government using ideology, which seriously deviates from the basic principle of balanced and objective media reporting. Wang urged the BBC to apologize over relevant reports, saying that China reserves the right to take further measures,” reported Global Times.

“The review, of more than 40 publicly available documents and research papers in Chinese and English, shows BGI’s links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) include research with China’s top military supercomputing experts. The extent of those links has not previously been reported,” reported Reuters.

“Chinese coast guard vessels on Saturday entered Japan's territorial waters near the China-claimed Senkaku Islands for the first time since its new coast guard law took effect this month, officials said” reported Nikkei Asian Review.

“India is restoring 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, a senior government official said Friday evening, 18 months after imposing a sweeping communications blackout in the Muslim-majority region in an attempt to curb the spread of potential backlash over New Delhi’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s semiautonomous status in August of 2019,” reported Tech Crunch.

“Nepali traders have accused China of conducting an 'undeclared trade blockade' as their merchandise-laden container trucks have not been allowed to cross the border into Nepal for the past 16 months,” reported Kathmandu Post.

“OfCom said the company that owns the UK licence for China Global Television Network (CGTN) doesn't have day-to-day control over the channel, which is against its rules.

Star China Media Limited (SCML), which owns the licence, "did not have editorial responsibility" over the English-language satellite news channel, Ofcom said” reported the BBC.

“The China-WHO joint team in Wuhan held talks on Thursday with those who've recovered from COVID-19, bereaved families affected by the virus, community workers and other residents” reported CGTN.

AP Interview: China granted WHO team full access in Wuhan — Associated Press

Movers and Shakers

How to Keep U.S.-Chinese Confrontation From Ending in Calamity — Foreign Affairs

Will Biden Have to Choose Between U.S. Interests and Human Rights? — Foreign Policy

Off Track Reads

Chinese scientists use sound waves to increase rainfall on Tibetan Plateau — SCMP

Business Street

Kuaishou, TikTok’s Chinese nemesis, surges 194% on IPO debut — Tech Crunch

China’s Luckin Coffee files for bankruptcy in US — Financial Times


Inside The Biden Administration's Policy On China And Taiwan — NPR

The End of Democracy in Myanma‪r‬ — NYT

Upcoming Watch

Chinese people around the world will celebrate Chinese New Year on February 12.