Asia Communique — Week 29

Japan's Suga in DC — India-China border talks hit roadblock — Climate change and China

Japan’s Suga held talks with Biden

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met President Biden in Washington DC for the first in-person meeting with a world leader.

“President Biden and Prime Minister Suga exchanged views on the impact of China's actions on peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world, and shared their concerns over Chinese activities that are inconsistent with the international rules-based order, including the use of economic and other forms of coercion. We will continue to work with each other based on universal values and common principles. We also recognize the importance of deterrence to maintain peace and stability in the region. The Relay of Life on the Karakoram Plateau” said a joint statement issued after the meeting between Biden and Suga in Washington.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is likely to visit Washington DC for a meeting with President Biden in May.

“A U.S.-Japan alliance that the two leaders aim to build up against China is based on an obsolete Cold War mentality and doomed to fail.

Acting solely out of self-interest, Biden and Suga made an unacceptable statement about China after a meeting in Washington, showing their miscalculations over China, which contradict the trend of the times,” said an editorial in Xinhua.

“Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Friday that Japan and the United States should take China's concerns and demands seriously, avoid moves that interfere in China's internal affairs and undermine China's interests, and refrain from forming a clique targeting China” reported Xinhua.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng gave an interview to Associated Press.

“The U.S. side describes China as "the most serious competitor", and defines the relationship as competitive, cooperative and adversarial. We do not quite agree. It disproportionately stresses competition and confrontation, and plays down cooperation. Such an approach is too negative and lacks a forward-going spirit,” said Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng.

Read the full text here.

Also, read new details about India’s six new nuclear-powered attack submarine project, which is about to receive approval.

“The international community has come to our support and said, yes, there is an international order which every nation must follow,” Gen. Rawat said, adding, “That’s what we have been able to achieve, and we are trying to gather support from other nations.”

“In my mind, China should be a country of fairness and justice. It should always respect humanity, people’s hearts and the nature of human beings. According to Apple Daily, it should always have youthfulness, freedom, and a fighting spirit,” former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao wrote in an article published by Jornal Orientacao de Macau.

India-China border talks hit roadblock

With little significant progress at disengagement in Hot Springs and other key areas where PLA continues to be deployed, some details have emerged what’s going on.

‘A highly placed source, involved in decision-making all of 2020, told The Sunday Express that at Patrolling Point 15 and PP-17A in Hot Springs and Gogra Post, the Chinese “had agreed earlier” to pull back troops but “later refused to vacate”. In the recent talks, according to the source, China said India “should be happy with what has been achieved”,’ according to the Indian Express.

“For movement there, you don’t require paved roads, you can move on gravel tracks. There, the reaction capability is faster,” the source said, adding that “they are much inside the Indian side”, reported The Indian Express.

India Today reported citing sources that China’s HQ-9 air defence systems continue to be deployed in Eastern Ladakh.

“The Chinese surface-to-air missile batteries, including their HQ-9 air-defence system with a strike range of 250 km, continue to be deployed close to Indian territory in Ladakh.

Top government sources told India Today TV that the Indian agencies are closely monitoring these
air-defence batteries, which may pose a threat for Indian fighter aircraft and helicopters operating in the region,” reported India Today.

“Altitude sickness is a common problem that has been affecting troops stationed on the plateau for a long time,” said a PLA Daily report, according to SCMP.

“in addition to 2 million paid internet commentators, the CCP today draws on a network of more than 20 million part-time volunteers to engage in internet trolling, many of whom are university students and members of the Communist Youth League (CYL; 共产主义青年团, gongchan zhuyi qingnian tuan),” writes Ryan Fedasiuk in China Brief for Jamestown Foundation.

“The “Belt and Road” should be the road of cooperation, health, recovery, and growth. On the evening of March 29, President Xi Jinping pointed out in a telephone conversation with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya that China is willing to work with Sri Lanka to steadily promote key projects such as Colombo Port City and Hambantota Port, and promote high-quality joint construction of the “Belt and Road”. To provide a strong impetus for the economic recovery and sustainable development of Sri Lanka after the epidemic,” Xinhua quoted Xi Jinping in an article about the 2021 Boao Forum.

“Filing about a dozen petitions at Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on Thursday, opposition parties, civil society groups, and labour unions challenged a recently-gazetted Bill on the Chinese-backed Port City in capital Colombo, arguing it “directly affects” Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. The cases are scheduled to be heard by the top court on Monday,” reported The Hindu.

“The experience of the past few decades has repeatedly proved that highlighting differences will not help solve the problem and will also erode the foundation of mutual trust. The border dispute is an objective reality and should be given sufficient attention and taken seriously. However, the border issue is not the whole of China-India relations and should be placed in an appropriate position in bilateral relations. The two sides must persist in dialogue on an equal footing, manage and control differences, and resolve them through consultations, and not allow differences to become disputes,” said China’s ambassador to India Sue Weidong during a webinar.

“China’s military has stepped up efforts to recruit more Tibetans amid the dragging border standoff with India on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), holding special recruitment drives across Tibet Autonomous Region since the beginning of the year, people familiar with developments said” according to a Hindustan Times report.

Personally, I believe the agencies are trying to highlight China’s paranoia around India’s ethnic Tibetan special units. But it’s not the case that China is trying to recruit ethnic Tibetan soldiers for the first time. Campaigns to recruit Tibetan soldiers have a long history. My investigation into PLA media sources revealed that PLA and PAP (Peopel’s Armed Police) have intensified recruitment campaign targeted at Tibetans since 2013. Even during the recent military stand-off, we have seen images of Tibetan soldiers in PLA which was confirmed by the Tibetan origin names along with the images.

Explained: Where are Hot Springs and Gogra Post? What are their strategic significance? — The Indian Express

Climate change and China

On Friday, Xi Jinping held a climate summit with France and Germany via video link.

“I announced that China will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060,” Xi said at the summit.

“Responding to climate change is the common cause of all humanity, he said, adding that it should not be a bargaining chip for geopolitics, a target for attacking other countries, or an excuse for trade barriers”, Xi added at the summit.

US and China want to draw a separation between climate change-related matters and their strained bilateral relationship.

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry completed his tour of China on Friday. Kerry held talks with Xie Zhenhua, China's special envoy for climate change.

“Moving forward, China and the United States are firmly committed to working together and with other Parties to strengthen implementation of the Paris Agreement. The two sides recall the Agreement's aim in accordance with Article 2 to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C,” said a US-China joint statement on climate change.

“An American delegation, tasked by United States President Joe Biden to reaffirm the U.S.' commitment to its partnership with Taiwan, wrapped up a three-day visit to Taipei shortly before noon Friday”, reported Focus Taiwan.

The timing of John Kerry’s visit to China and the unofficial delegation’s visit to Taiwan tells you that Biden’s advisors want to repeat what China has practised for years. Biden will continue to maintain pressure on China.

China-U.S. Cyber-Nuclear C3 Stability — Carnegie Endowment and Shanghai Institute for International Studies joint report

Don’t Miss Out

“Ant Group is exploring options for founder Jack Ma to divest his stake in the financial technology giant and give up control, as meetings with Chinese regulators signalled to the company that the move could help draw a line under Beijing's scrutiny of its business, according to a source familiar with regulators' thinking and two people with close ties to the company” reported Reuters.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s team have applied to delay the extradition hearing to the second half of the year. The hearing into determining Meng’s extradition is supposed to start in May. But we will have to wait and watch how the judge treats the latest application by Meng’s legal team. Meng Wanzhou’s legal team has documents from HSBC collected through a court proceeding in Hong Kong. Those documents may be behind the request to delay Meng’s hearing.

‘U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn, New York, had ruled that thousands of pages of classified documents turned over by the U.S. government to Huawei’s defence lawyers couldn’t be shared with anyone in China or with Meng, but federal prosecutors said Wednesday that recent filings by the CFO in her extradition case show she’s had access to them.

‘“Huawei is circumventing the restrictions properly established in the U.S. criminal case,” and using the evidence materials “to assist Meng in her repeated attempts to conduct a trial on the merits in Canada,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Solomon said in a letter filed with the court’ reported Caixin.

“Penpa Tsering, 53, has been elected the new president of Tibetan government-in-exile, becoming the second Sikyong (president) to hold the political power after Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama delegated the powers to a democratically elected government of the exiled community”, reported The Week.

The current Sikyong of Tibetan government-in-exile is on his last trip to the US in an official capacity. Penpa Tsering’s victory has yet to be officially announced by Central Tibetan Administration.

A letter from the Dalai Lama to Mao — Claude Arpi’s blog

“A total of 25 Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, the most on any single day so far this year, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said the same day,” reported Focus Taiwan.

“A Chinese diplomat has said it is unfair to label them and their colleagues as “Wolf Warriors” when they are only reacting to aggressive posturing from the United States”, reported SCMP.

“You never knew what Trump would do next,” the same diplomat said without revealing their name.

“China’s GDP grew 18.3% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021 on the low comparison base from the same period last year amid the Covid-19 outbreak, official data showed Friday.

Economic growth gained momentum in the wake of a record 6.8% contraction in the first quarter last year but was slightly slower than the median estimate of 18.8% (link in Chinese) growth in a Caixin survey of economists” reported Caixin.

A Sina Military blogger analysed satellite imagery of a potential US nuclear submarine tracking China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier.

“However, judging from the two satellite photos, the long wake of the US ship shows that it is sailing at high speed and rushing towards the Liaoning ship, which is more in line with the characteristics of destroyers trying to intersect at high speed”

The blogger concluded that it is unlikely that the asset seen in the imagery is a nuclear attack submarine but rather an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

Movers and Shakers

How the Quad Can Match the Hype — Dhruva Jaishankar and Tanvi Madan

India Embattled — Sumit Ganguly

The limits of China’s taming of tech — Financial Times editorial board

The Taliban Are Ready to Exploit America’s Exit — Carter Malkasian

Off-Track Reads

Weibo is 'treating the incels like the royal family' — The Protocol

Populism with buttons: How a Chinese military overcoat came to symbolize an era — Sup China

Social Talk

The hashtag “Chinese scholar hits Nathan Law on the BBC” was a prominent trend on Twitter-like platform Weibo. The hashtag was video 81 million times (and growing) at the time of writing the newsletter.

The hashtag was based on a BBC panel discussion with Victor Gao and Nathan Law as guests. Victor Gao attacked Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law during the discussion and called Law a “fugitive”.

Business Street

India’s Razorpay raises funds at $3 billion valuation ahead of Southeast Asia launch — Tech Crunch

Trip.com Group shares open up 4.85% in Hong Kong debut — Reuters

Upcoming Watch

China’s Boao Forum for Asia annual conference began on April 18 and will last until April 21.

“Over 2,000 people will be attending in person, making it the first major meeting to be held offline this year in the world. A Chinese state leader will address the conference virtually Tuesday morning, while another leader will physically attend and participate in a meeting with domestic and American entrepreneurs,” reported Bloomberg.