Asia Communique — Week 27

Qingming Festival — China and South Asia this week — Myanmar’s plight — Tensions in South China Sea

Read my latest column for The Print: H&M, Nike, Adidas cancelled? China can control social media, but not consumer behaviour

Qingming Festival and hero worship

Qingming Festival — or the tombs-weeping — day is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated by Han Chinese groups in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and other regions of the world. On this day families remember spirits of the past, especially deceased elders of the family.

“Only by respecting heroes will other heroes emerge, and only by hailing them will more appear in their place,” Xi Jinping said on the occasion of the Qingming Festival.

Global Times — as expected — has published profiles of the four PLA soldiers who died during the clash in Galwan Valley on the occasion of the Qingming Festival.

‘“Come to my dream, child," relatives of martyr Wang Zhuoran, a People's Liberation Army soldier who sacrificed himself in China-India border clash in June 2020, cried at Wang's tomb located in the martyr's cemetery in Luohe, Central China's Henan Province, on Saturday’ reported Global Times.

“There are more than 20 million martyrs in China in the modern times but only about 1.96 million of them can be identified with names” Global Times reported quoting Xinhua.

China continues to use its anti-defamation law targeting those who slander martyrs and heroes.

Son 'meets' father who was martyred in Indian border clashes — CGTN

“China is likely to see 49.7 million railway passenger trips from Friday to next Monday during the upcoming holiday travel rush, according to the national railway operator” Shanghai Daily reported.

Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) revealed that his organisation is working on a policy that will require “will require the confidential departments to promote the declassification of defence-related scientific and technological achievements in the near future so that the highly-valued achievements can be brought to the market”.

“A unified recruitment examination for civilian positions in the Chinese military has been scheduled for May 23, according to an official statement.

This year's recruitment will be launched by the Political Work Department of the Central Military Commission. Applicants can register for the examination through the official website of "Military Talent Net" between April 7 and 13” reported Xinhua.

“The former head of one of China’s largest weapons manufacturers is under investigation for alleged corruption offences, according to the Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog” reported South China Morning Post.

Xinjiang fall out continues

Chinese state media havs waged a campaign to persuade the world that “there is no genocide in Xinjiang. The campaign isn’t new but the state media has produced more documentaries, interviews, and news segments to promote “positive views” of the situation in Xinjiang.

But the campaign has only had limited success because of the poor communication strategies adopted by the state media.

“At a meeting, late last month officials from China’s Foreign Ministry and the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department raised the example of Hong Kong, and talked about the need to push back on Xinjiang as international attention has shifted to the Uyghurs, according to people briefed on the proceedings” reported WSJ.

H&M issued a new statement in which the company didn’t even mention Xinjiang cotton.

H&M got into trouble in Vietnam for drawing the nine-dash line on a map. Vietnam wasn’t happy with H&M.

Chinese state media’s new documentary on Xinjiang which tries to paint the detention of Uyghurs as a fight against terrorism.

The War in the Shadows: Challenges of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang — CGTN (documentary)

Wang Yi on diplomatic rendezvous

Wang Yi was in Middle East over the past week to meet several leaders. Later in the week Wang Yi met several ministers from Southeast Asian countries in China’s Fijian province.

“Starting from March 24, China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been on a tour of the Middle East to strengthen relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman” reported CGTN.

“Senior diplomats from Beijing and Teheran have signed and spoke highly of a long-awaited, landmark plan for bilateral comprehensive cooperation, and they also voiced a shared objection to unilateral sanctions and bullying imposed on the two countries” reported China Daily.

“Among the highlights, China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran over the next 25-years in exchange for oil to fuel China’s economy. 

In another deal with the United Arab Emirates, China will partner with an Abu Dhabi company to produce annually up to 200-million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, Sinopharm. It’s the first production of the Chinese vaccine outside the country” reported CGTN.

How China’s Middle East charm offensive succeeded despite affecting little change — SCMP

China and South Asia this week

“A batch of Sinopharm vaccines arrived in Sri Lanka from China on Wednesday as part of a donation by the Chinese government to the island nation” reported Xinhua.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping said Monday that China stands ready to work with Sri Lanka to boost bilateral cooperation and provide robust impetus for the latter's post-pandemic economic recovery and sustainable development” reported Xinhua.

How China Lends is a new report by AIDDATA lab at William and Mary. The data provides an insight into the 100 loan agreements Chinese state owned entities and government agencies have forwarded to 24 developing countries.

“Expansive cross-default and cross-cancellation provisions give Chinese lenders more leverage over borrowers and other creditors than previously understood, the study said” reported The Straits Times.

“China has also actively and properly handled the relationship with Pakistan, and the situation in their border areas has been mitigated lately. This, coupled with the beginning of strategic dialogues between China and the US after Biden took office, has created a regional environment for the amelioration of India-Pakistan relations. Whether this relationship will turn for the better from now on mainly rests with New Delhi’s sincerity, and two issues are critical here” said Cheng Xizhong.

“The border disputes can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiations... In case of an incident, a timely communication through military and diplomatic channels should be undertaken to avoid any action that may complicate or escalate the situation. We should strengthen confidence-building measures to jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas. The lesson of last year’s border incident is profound and such incident should not be repeated” said Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong.

“Nepal's Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Monday lauded China's contribution to the world in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic after a batch of Chinese vaccines arrived in the Himalayan country” reported Xinhua.

Tensions in South China Sea

“The Philippines’ defence chief said on Sunday China was looking to occupy more areas in the South China Sea, citing the continued presence of Chinese vessels that Manila believes are manned by militias in disputed parts of the strategic waterway” reported Reuters.

Wang Yi met with Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin in Nanping City, Fujian Province on Friday.

“China is willing to work with the Philippines to fully implement the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and promote the consultation on a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, said Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi” reported CGTN.

Myanmar’s plight

Horrific stories of violence perpetrated by Myanmar’s junta continue to emerge.

“Several sources on the Chinese border reported that troops were gathering in Jiegao, opposite the Shan State border town of Muse (Myanmar)” reported The Irrawaddy.

“The witnesses recently told The Irrawaddy that seven civilians, including those who spoke to CNN reporter Clarissa Ward at Mingaladon market, were detained on Friday afternoon. Among the arrested were Ma Nay Zar Chi Shine, Ma Yin Thet Tin and Ma Phoo Mon Kyaw” reported The Irrawaddy.

If you are interested in learning about the intricacies of the current crisis in Myanmar, I will highly recommend following Avinash Palival on Twitter.

Don’t Miss Out

“Jimmy Lai, the owner of the outspoken Apple Daily tabloid; Martin Lee, the octogenarian founder of the city’s Democratic Party; and five former pro-democracy lawmakers were found guilty in a ruling handed down by a district judge. They face up to five years in prison. Two other former lawmakers charged in the same case had pleaded guilty earlier” reported Associated Press.

The headline in SCMP about the arrest read as: “Hong Kong protests: Jimmy Lai, Martin Lee, five former lawmakers convicted over unauthorised 2019 march from Victoria Park”

“China's ByteDance has told an Indian court that a government freeze on its bank accounts in a probe of possible tax evasion amounts to harassment and was done illegally, according to a filing seen by Reuters” reported Reuters.

“Elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry will be held from March 27 and the results will be announced on May 2. Bengal will vote in eight phases - March 27, April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29. Tamil Nadu and Kerala will vote in a single round on April 6. Puducherry will also vote on the same day. Assam will vote on March 27, April 1 and April 6. Polls will be held for 294 seats in West Bengal, 234 seats in Tamil Nadu, 140 seats in Kerala, 126 seats in Assam and 30 seats in the union territory of Puducherry” reported NDTV.

“Hong Kong’s legislative elections are to be postponed again to this December to allow for Beijing’s electoral changes to be rolled out, Legislative Council (LegCo) President Andrew Leung told the press on Tuesday” reported Hong Kong Free Press.

Movers and Shakers

China’s Unrestricted War on India — Brahma Challaney

China Wants a ‘Rules-Based International Order,’ Too — Stephen Malt

The Liberal Order Begins at Home — Robin Niblett and Leslie Vinjamuri

Don’t Divide the World Between Democracies and Autocracies — Daniel Depetris

Off-Track Read

The Vietnamese Recovery Is Made in America — Wall Street Journal

Upcoming Watch

India will join other Quad countries in the France-led joint naval exercise, La Pérouse from April 5 to 7. The exercise will take place in Bay of Bengal.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be in New Delhi for a visit from April 5-6.

The shareholders of China Telecom will decide on Friday if the IPO listing in Shanghai should go ahead.