Asia Communique — Week 22

Chinese netizens punished — Taiwan: semiconductors to pineapples — What’s going on in Myanmar?

Personal news: I will be starting a fortnightly column on China for ThePrint.in from next week. I know the newsletter has been long in length over the past week, but I will be sticking to the weekly edition for now.

Chinese netizens punished

Last week China revealed the names of soldiers that died during the clash in Galwan Valley. The Chinese social media was abuzz with speculation about the clash following the revelations. China has charged and investigated a total of seven netizens for their “offensive remarks”.

A 19-year-old male with the surname Wang who currently lives outside of China was charged for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” — a loose legal term used by Chinese law enforcement. Wang’s username on Weibo is @TSCB8.

Chinese law enforcement has also used a 2018 law that prohibits any act of diminishing the “heroes and martyrs”.

A man named Tian from Maoming city in Guangdong was investigated for “illegal remarks that defame heroes who defended the Chinese border”. Tian made his remarks in a WeChat group.

Another Weibo user with more than 2 million followers with a surname Qiu — and a name on Weibo as Labixiaoqiu online — was found guilty of making a false claim and smearing martyrs.

“Netizens “Labixiaoqiu online” maliciously distorted the truth on Sina Weibo, slandered and detracted from the illegal remarks made by 5 heroes defending the country and defending the border, causing extremely bad social impact. The Nanjing Public Security Bureau attached great importance to it and immediately launched an investigation. On the evening of February 19, Qiu Moumou (Male, 38 years old, from Nanjing, with the online name “Labixiaoqiu online”) was arrested..

After review, Qiu Moumou confessed to gaining the attention of netizens, distorting facts on Weibo, slandering and slandering 5 heroes and soldiers defending the border.”

You can read about the other cases in SCMP’s story.

A Weibo user who goes by the name “Master Su” has been actively following the India-China border stand-off. A Chinese netizen has informed me that “Master Su” may have ties to the PLA. “Master Su” made some interesting remarks about the June 15 clash in a podcast-like recording uploaded to Guancha.cn.

Here are some of the highlights of what “Master Su” claims in the audio recording:

The Chinese side believes that the military commander’s talks on June 6 had reached an agreement. Still, Colonel Babu of the Indian Army’s 16th Bihar regiment took many soldiers with him to confront the PLA. There is speculation on Chinese social media — and by military commentators such as Professor Jin Yinan of the People’s Liberation Army National Defence University — that Colonel Babu’s actions were motivated by his intention of getting a future promotion.

Watch Professor Jin Yanan talk about the Galwan clash (enable subtitles):

We can’t take Professor Jin Yanan — or other Chinese media commentator’s — views at face value, but this gives us an insight into how they view the Galwan clash. The theory about Colonel Babu is most likely the Chinese version of the “rogue commander” narrative that we have seen Indian analysts cite.

“The list, bluntly titled “An Inventory of Speech Crimes in China in Recent Years,” detailed what happened to those who questioned Beijing’s official account of the June clash between Chinese and Indian forces at their disputed border in the Himalayas”, Li Yuan wrote in a story for NYT about action against Chinese social media users.

China Persecutes Those Who Question ‘Heroes.’ A Sleuth Keeps Track — NYT

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and State Councillor Wang Yi spoke over the phone.

“Wang said that the rights and wrongs of last year's situation in China-India border areas are very clear, and profound lessons should be drawn from the past.

Recently, India has vacillated and even moved backwards over its policy on China, which has affected and disrupted bilateral pragmatic cooperation, Wang said, noting that it goes against the interests of both sides,” Xinhua reported.

“Chinese and Indian front-line troops have completed disengagement in the Pangong Lake area, and the situation on the ground gets much better. Both sides should cherish the hard-won result, consolidate current progress, keep the momentum of talks, further ease tensions, improve the border management and control mechanism, advance boundary negotiations and enhance mutual trust, to realize peace and tranquility in the border areas” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

Bloomberg reported that some defence officials in New Delhi think that the “creation of non-militarized areas works in Beijing’s favour”.

Earlier this week, Reuters reported citing sources that India has approved some of the Chinese investments put on hold due to the border stand-off.

But the sources clarified that no blanket approval had been given to Chinese investments in India.

“Recently, three FDI proposals were approved by the Indian government. These investments were being routed through Hong Kong. Two of these are Japanese companies, and one is a promoter of Indian origin. These FDI proposals were in connection with sports goods, paints and watches,” reported CNBC, citing sources.

Taiwan: semiconductors to pineapples

Taiwan’s semiconductor industry was experiencing a boom because of the shortage of supply from China. But then came the drought.

“Taiwan's tech manufacturers fear their output is under threat from the island's worst drought in decades, risking more turmoil for global supply chains already strained by shortages of semiconductors and other key components”, reported Nikkei Asian Review.

China’s “grey zone” warfare activity against Taiwan has grown in recent times.

“China's "grey-zone" warfare targeting Taiwan is now at its highest level, which could signal a full-scale invasion, local military experts warned Thursday.

Shu Hsiao-huang (舒孝煌), an analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), said that in grey-zone conflicts, the participants rely on unconventional tools, tactics and the use of non-state entities that do not cross over into formal state-level aggression” reported Focus Taiwan.

But an analyst from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ research institute said that China is in “no position to take Taiwan by force”.

“One reason is that domestic political risks are high if the use of force is not successful. Victory is not yet a forgeone conclusion — having prepared for conflict with the mainland for decades, Taiwan has toughened its ability to defend itself. Taiwan’s will is strong. Polls show that 80 per cent of Taiwanese people are willing to defend the island by force,” wrote Cui Lei of the China Institute of International Studies.

A different kind of twist this week was China’s decision to ban pineapples from Taiwan. Who bans pineapples!

“The Chinese customs agency said it made the decision after various types of mealy bugs were found in several batches of fresh pineapples Taiwan sent to the mainland in 2020”, reported Focus Taiwan.

What’s going on in Myanmar?

“Each night for more than a week, unregistered flights between Yangon and Kunming have been transporting unknown goods and personnel from China to Myanmar. The military regime that’s now in charge of Myanmar is trying very hard to hide the flights. The Chinese government and Myanmar Airways have claimed the planes were carrying seafood exports. However, the details of the flights in question make that highly unlikely,” said Susan Hutchinson in a report for ASPI Strategist.

China Is the Myanmar Coup’s ‘Biggest Loser’ — The Atlantic

Don’t Miss Out

“The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary, Erick Tsang, said on Saturday that the government still intends to hold the Legislative Council elections on September 5, that is, unless the central government has other plans for the SAR”, reported RTHK.

Movers and Shakers

How Xi Jinping Is Reshaping China and What It Means for the West — WSJ

Off Track Read

Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State — New Yorker

Upcoming Watch

The 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will meet in Beijing from March 4. The meeting is also known as “Two Sessions” after the National People’s Congress's meetings and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference’s meeting held at the same time.

Early reporting has suggested that there will not be a GDP target set for this year’s Two Sessions. The NPC may look to make some changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system to ensure only “pro-Beijing patriots” are elected.

This year’s Two Sessions is important because of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China.