Asia Communique — Week 26

Xinjiang cotton controversy — Lavrov in Beijing — Vaccination troubles — North Korea fires missiles

You can read my latest column for The Print:

Joe Biden’s first contact with China runs into Communist Party’s propaganda war — The Print.

I write a fortnightly column Eye On China for The Print.

Xinjiang cotton controversy

The US, UK, EU, and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights violations in Xinjiang on March 22. These sanctions marked the first time that the UK and EU imposed directed sanctions on China since the Tiananmen Square Crackdown.

China imposed retaliatory sanctions against several EU and UK officials. China may sanction Canadian Conservative Party member Michael Chong in the coming days, according to Global Times.

China didn’t take these actions lightly and waged a social media campaign against clothing brands such as H&M for their boycott of cotton from Xinjiang. But H&M’s statement on Xinjiang cotton at the centre of the social media controversy was made in 2020. I assess that this was China’s way of retaliating against the US, EU, UK, and Canada’s sanctions.

“The United Kingdom (UK) imposed unilateral sanctions on relevant Chinese individuals and entity, citing the so-called human rights issues in Xinjiang. This move, based on nothing but lies and disinformation, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China's internal affairs, and severely undermines China-UK relations,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement.

‘The message being sent to the U.K. and Europe is that by “siding with the U.S., they will not do themselves any good,” said Wang Yiwei, director of the Center for European Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. China aims to eliminate the influence of these individuals, which removes them as stumbling blocks to future cooperation, he said,’ reported Bloomberg.

The hashtag “I support Xinjiang cotton” was viewed 5.15 billion times and received 32 million comments on Weibo.

“Delisting of H&M in Joy City Chengdu” was viewed 290 million times on Weibo. The hashtag was based on the removal of H&M signage in Chengdu.

Chinese celebrities broke off their ties to H&M over the statement. The hashtag “Huang Xuan terminates cooperation with HM” trended at number 1, and “Victoria Song terminates cooperation with HM” trended on number four on Weibo.

Chinese e-commerce stores such as Alibaba, Taobao and JD.COM removed H&M, Nike, Addidas and other brands from their offering.

“The Chinese people do not allow some foreign companies to eat Chinese food and smash Chinese bowls,” said Hua Chunying, Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

Russia’s Lavrov in Beijing

“However, these objective developments, which are leading to the formation of a truly multipolar and democratic world, are unfortunately being hindered by Western countries, particularly the United States,” said Russian FM Lavrov during his visit to Beijing.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Beijing came after the US-China summit in Alaska ended on a sour note.

“In the face of rapid changes in the international situation, carrying out timely strategic communication and coordination is not only important to China and Russia but also beneficial to the world, In the face of rapid changes in the international situation, carrying out timely strategic communication and coordination is not only important to China and Russia but also beneficial to the world,” said Wang Yi during a meeting with Lavrov.

“Moscow and Beijing should work together to resist American sanctions by becoming more self-reliant in science and technology and moving away from the US dollar for trade,” Lavrov said.

“Aquilino noted that various studies predict that China might decide to launch a military strike against Taiwan sometime between now and 2045” said a Pentagon report.

“Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, on Monday arrived in east China's Fujian Province for inspection.

Xi visited an intelligent management centre in the Wuyishan National Park, an eco-friendly tea garden, and a park dedicated to Zhu Xi, a renowned Chinese philosopher in the 12th century, in Nanping City on Monday afternoon,” reported People’s Daily.

“The Tibet Military Region adopts the method of "one sentry, one case" to formulate a poverty relief plan for the grassroots,” said a headline on the front page of People’s Daily.

On March 26, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence said that 20 PLA aircraft entered Taiwan’s ADIZ.

“various studies predict that China might decide to launch a military strike against Taiwan sometime between now and 2045,” said Navy Adm. John Aquilino.

“My opinion is this problem is much closer to us than most think,” Aquilino added.

US Sec Def in India

US’s Pentagon Chief Llyod Austin was in India for a visit.

‘The United States Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, following his meeting with Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday, said India is an important ally in the rapidly shifting international dynamics and his visit to New Delhi conveys the Joe Biden administration’s “strong commitment towards their partners in the region”’ reported Indian Express.

“In New Delhi, where Mr. Austin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the defence minister, Rajnath Singh, senior U.S. defence officials said that Indian leaders spoke mostly about their concerns regarding China. It was only toward the end of their talks that the issue of Pakistan — India’s neighbour and traditional main enemy — came up” reported New York Times.

North Korea fires new missiles

“North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on Thursday morning, conducting its first such launch in a year and putting pressure on the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden”, reported Kyodo News.

“North Korea said Friday it test-fired new tactical guided projectiles the previous day, as U.S. President Joe Biden warned necessary action could be taken against Pyongyang if it ratchets up tensions,” said Kyodo News in a different news report.

North Korea’s Arsenal Has Grown Rapidly. Here’s What’s in It — NYT

North Korea claims 'new tactical guided' missiles launched — BBC

Vaccination troubles in Asia

Indian vaccine makers will delay the supply of COVID vaccines to the COVAX program and countries which have signed contracts. The decision comes after the Government of India asked the vaccine manufacturers to prioritise vaccination for Indian citizens as COVID-19 cases have surged again.

“India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, said on Friday it would make domestic COVID-19 inoculations a priority as infections surge and had told international buyers of its decision”, reported Reuters.

“Shivshankar Menon, a former Indian foreign secretary, doubts that efforts at vaccine diplomacy alone, even when deftly handled, will do much to increase either China or India’s influence or standing. People see through claims of altruism, he says. But at least the Quad reflects an effort to do something for the global good—a collective response that has been all too rare in this pandemic,” wrote The Economist.

China has said that they will fast-track the visa applications of those foreign nations who have been inoculated with the Chinese vaccine.

Don’t Miss Out

“Six more ancient sacrificial pits and more than 500 relics are the latest discoveries from the 3,000-year-old Sanxingdui Ruins. A gold mask was among the items found on the historic site. Situated in the city of Guanghan, southwest China's Sichuan Province, the Sanxingdui Ruins site is considered one of the most significant ancient remains found in the 20th century,” reported CGTN.

“New Discoveries of Chinese Archaeology in 2020” Announced in Beijing — Xinhua.

A joint Chinese-Egyptian team is excavating the archaeological site of Montu Temple in Luxor, Egypt.

Interview: New discoveries at Sanxingdui Ruins great achievement for world: archaeologists —Xinhua

“This formal inclusion of India in the peace deliberations, which until now had seen New Delhi participating only along the margins despite its strong interests in Afghanistan and its growing partnership with the country, may alter the calculus of other regional players as well as the Taliban and the Afghan government,” wrote Harsha Pant and Kriti Shah in Foreign Policy.

Movers and Shakers

50 Years After Independence, Bangladesh Bursts Into Geopolitics — C. Raja Mohan

There Will Not Be a New Cold War — Thomas J. Christensen

Business Street

Tencent-Backed Linklogis Seeks $1.1 Billion in Hong Kong IPO — Bloomberg

TSMC: how a Taiwanese chipmaker became a linchpin of the global economy — FT

Off-Track Reads

3,000-Year-Old Gold Mask, Silk Linked to Enigmatic Civilization Found in China — Smithsonian

Tibet was independent in fact and in law — Sunday Guardian Live

While India and China bicker, ethnic-Chinese Indians move away — The Economist