Asia Communique — Week 24

Sinicisation of Minzu — Rare earth metals in China — First Quad summit — NPC: key developments

National People’s Congress: Key developments

1) China has approved the 14th five-year plan.

2) NPC approved the changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system.

On March 7, Xi Jinping met lawmakers from Qinghai as part of the 4th session of the 13th National People's Congress.

“Efforts should also be made to strive for new achievements in the protection of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau ecology, and sustainable development”, Xi said.

According to the approved five-year plan at NPC, China will accelerate the construction of multiple dams on the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo, also known as the Brahmaputra. The dam's construction on the Brahmaputra river at close proximity to Arunachal Pradesh will definitely raise alarms bells in New Delhi.

“strive to begin construction [of the dams] this year,” said Che Dalha, deputy Communist Party chief of western China’s Tibet autonomous region.

“Comprehensive planning and environmental impact assessments for the project should be approved as soon as possible,” he added.

NPC: What We Learned From China’s Biggest Political Meeting — Bloomberg

“India has expressed concerns over four planned dams on the upper and middle reaches. However, some officials say that constructions may not impact the quality of the Brahmaputra’s flows to a large extent,” reported Hindustan Times.

“Wang Haijiang, deputy to the National People's Congress and commander of the Tibet Military Region, believes that adhering to the principle of war leading construction, strengthening the overall planning of war construction, and going all out to promote the implementation of the 14th five-year plan for our army's construction, is to formulate the construction plan according to the needs of war, strengthen the awareness of overall planning, and realize the positive interaction and complement of war and construction” reported Xinhua.

The Tibetan delegation holds a plenary meeting — The Paper

You can read the translation of the new Five-Year plan here.

First Quad leader’s summit

“US President Joe Biden on Friday will meet virtually with leaders of Japan, India, and Australia, the White House said on Tuesday,” reported Xinhua.

“State-to-state exchanges and cooperation should help enhance mutual understanding and trust among regional countries, instead of targeting against or undermining the interests of any third party. We hope relevant countries will follow the principles of openness, inclusiveness and win-win results, refrain from forming closed and exclusive "cliques" and act in a way that is conducive to regional peace, stability and prosperity”, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson in response to the upcoming meeting of the Quad.

“The U.S., Australia, Japan, and India are on the verge of joining hands to build a rare-earth procurement chain to counter the dominance China plays in supplying these crucial elements to makers of everything from smartphones to high-performance motors to EV batteries”, reported Nikkei Asian Review.

A Global Times report said that the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue might use the meeting to target Huawei.

“Experts interpreted their moves at such a point as "all bluff and bluster" but warned that further containment of the Chinese tech giant might be talked about during the meeting by the US and its allies,” wrote Zhang Dan of Global Times.

CGTN invited former PLA Colonel Zhou Bo to discuss the significance of Quad.

“None of the four countries would like to sacrifice their own interest for the other three countries,” said Zhou Bo.

The technology supply chain relies on China for rare earth metals like neodymium which goes into lithium batteries used in electric vehicles. China has a booming electric vehicle industry, and the growing market share of EV poses a threat to the supply chain currently dominated by China.

“The 21st meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held on 12 March 2021. The Indian delegation was led by an Additional Secretary (East Asia) from the Ministry of External Affairs. The Director General of the Boundary & Oceanic Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the Chinese delegation,” according to a statement by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

Sinicisation of Minzu

There was a lot of focus on the Minzu regions of China at the NPC. The Sinicisation of Minzu regions isn’t a new topic, but China’s growing outward assertiveness and sovereignty claims have renewed focus on these regions.

“Compared with the neighbouring countries and regions in the Himalayas, the starting point of Tibet's development in modern times has been lower than that of them, but the speed and prospects of Tibet's development are beyond reach,” said Zhu Xiaoming, former party secretary and researcher of the China Tibetology Research Center in an exclusive interview with a reporter from China News Agency recently.

China appointed Panchen Lama Erdeni Chökyi Jeb is a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

“Tibet’s poverty alleviation results are a historic leap for the Tibetan people; for the people of the whole country, it is a historic achievement; for the entire human history of the world, it is also a great miracle,” said Erdeni Chökyi Jeb.

“I feel that the changes in Tibet are not only the material improvement of economic and social development but also the internal change of ideology. The farmers and herdsmen sincerely thank General Secretary Xi Jinping, the Party, the great motherland, and the socialist system. It also transforms gratitude into practical actions to be the guardians of the sacred land and the builders of happy homes,” added Erdeni Chökyi Jeb.

Don’t Miss Out

‘US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold talks with top Chinese officials next week in Anchorage, Alaska, the State Department announced on Wednesday, a meeting that America’s top diplomat said would not herald further high-level talks unless it could yield “tangible outcomes”’ reported SCMP.

“Alibaba, though, appears destined for softer treatment. Officials familiar with Beijing’s thinking said regulators don’t want to crush a technology powerhouse popular with both Chinese households and global investors—as long as it disassociates itself from its flashy and outspoken founder and aligns itself more closely with the Communist Party” reported WSJ.

“The flight logs, compiled with data from Radarbox, a flight-tracking company, also dispelled rumours that he has fled China to Singapore or been put under house arrest. Instead, they suggest that Ma continues to have access to his Gulfstream jet, which has a range that could easily carry him as far as New York or London,” reported Financial Times.

“India’s telecoms department said on Wednesday that after June 15, carriers can only buy certain types of equipment from government-approved “trusted sources” and said New Delhi could also create a “no procurement” blacklist. Huawei is likely to feature on this embargoed list, the two officials, who declined to be named, told Reuters” reported Reuters.

China Regulator Fines Tencent, Baidu, Others Over Investment Deals — WSJ

“India and China have called upon World Trade Organization (WTO) members to address long-pending concerns over public stockholding and special safeguard measures, to check against a surge in farm imports, on priority, as member countries sought to bridge differences ahead of a meeting of ministers later this year” reported Times of India.

“Caroline Wilson’s article in Chinese was posted on the official WeChat account of the British embassy in Beijing last week, amid already tense relations between Britain and China on issues such as Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the media”, reported SCMP.

“A U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer transited through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, the third by a U.S. battleship since President Joe Biden assumed office in January”, reported Focus Taiwan.

Social Talk

The hashtag “US will further restrict supplier’s access to Huawei” #美将进一步限制供应商向华为供货# was a leading trend on Weibo. 19 million users viewed the hashtag at the time time of writing.

Movers and Shakers

China’s New Five-Year Plan Is a Disappointment — Foreign Policy

America Will Only Win When China’s Regime Fails — Foreign Policy

The Road from Galwan: The Future of India-China Relations — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Xi’s Devotion to ‘Ethnic Unity’ Is Cause for Concern — Bloomberg

Business Street

Grab Is in Talks to Go Public Through a SPAC Merger — WSJ

Upcoming Watch

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will be in India from March 19-21. Austin will also visit Japan and South Korea before visiting India.

“This trip is about working to revitalize our alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, in particular with Japan and South Korea,” the Pentagon spokesperson said.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will start his visit to Japan and South Korea.

After the Asia trip, Antony Blinken — along wth Jake Sullivan — will head to Alaska to meet with China’s Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi.