Asia Communique - Week 12

Jimmy Lai denied bail — India and China accuse each other — Geopolitics of Mount Everest

The newsletter continues to evolve. Please do share your feedback about what you like and don’t like as much. All suggestions are welcome.

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Jimmy Lai denied bail

“Media tycoon Jimmy Lai has again been denied bail by West Kowloon Court on Saturday after he was charged under the national security law,” reported RTHK.

“Hong Kong teenage activist Tony Chung, already awaiting trial under the national security law, has been convicted in a separate case of desecrating the Chinese national flag and taking part in an unlawful assembly more than 18 months ago,” reported Hong Kong Free Press.

In Hong Kong, activists, politicians and journalists have been targeted under the new National Security Law.

“China has detained a Bloomberg News employee on suspicion of endangering national security, the US news agency said Friday.

Haze Fan, a Chinese citizen, was taken from her home by plainclothes security officials on Monday, Bloomberg said, shortly after she was last in contact with one of her editors,” reported AFP.

India and China accuse each other

We still don’t have a date for the next round of talks to resolve the border stand-off at the Line of Actual Control.

“The merits of the events in the China-India border area is very clear, and the responsibility rests entirely with India. China has always strictly abided by the agreements signed between China and India, committed to resolving border issues through negotiations” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

Hua Chunying added “At the same time, China is determined to safeguard China's territorial sovereignty. We hope that the Indian side will meet the Chinese side halfway and do more that is conducive to unity, cooperation and common development.”

“Our position has been very clear and has been articulated several times in the past. The situation that we have seen since the last six months has been a result of the actions of the Chinese side which has sought to effect a unilateral change in status along the LAC in eastern Ladakh,” said India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson in response.

“External affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday India was being tested and that he was confident that it would meet the national security challenge along the contested border amid the stalemate with China over the eastern sector of Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)” reported The Hindu.

“What has happened in eastern Ladakh was not actually in China’s interest as it has significantly impacted public sentiment in India,” said Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar.

Chinese media have also covered Minister Jaishankar’s remarks.

On December 8, a video of a clash between PLA and the Indian Army was leaked on Weibo and eventually shared on Twitter. The terrain has no snow insight, which means that the video was shot at least before August.

“Israeli Ambassador to India Ron Malka and his Bhutanese counterpart Vetsop Namgyel signed the final agreement normalizing ties on Saturday night,” reported Jerusalem Post.

“The countries’ foreign ministries held secret talks over the past year towards the goal of forging official ties, which included delegations from Jerusalem to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, and Thimphu to Jerusalem,” reported Jerusalem Post.

Chinese state media prominently reported on Israel’s establishment of the relationship with Bhutan. Earlier in November, Germany had announced the establishment of diplomatic relations with Bhutan.

China wants to establish direct diplomatic relations with Bhutan, but India wouldn’t accept such an arrangement. There is no sign that Bhutan is interested in direct diplomatic relations with China besides the negotiation over their boundary dispute.

“Connectivity through Myanmar, the centrepiece of India’s Act East policy, is hobbled by insurgencies in both countries and tardy decision-making. The India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral is moving at a snail’s pace and requires a loop line through Mizoram to bypass insurgencies in Nagaland and Manipur. The multi-modal Kaladan project, from Sittwe port to Mizoram through Rakhine and China, has been disrupted by the Arakan Army, reportedly aided by China after it failed to block the project,” wrote Maj Gen Ashok K Mehta in The Tribune.

China and Pakistan conduct joint air drills -- with eye on India - Nikkei Asian Review

Farmer’s protest in India

The negotiations between the government and the farmers remain in a deadlock.

“Farmers protesting against the Centre's three new farm laws blocked the Delhi-Jaipur National Highway on Sunday even as the central government expressed hope that the conflict will be resolved after the next round of talks to be held soon,” reported India Today.

As we would expect, Chinese state media have tried to amplify the chaotic protest currently happening on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Here is a video explainer about the farmer’s protest that was shared on Weibo (Chinese).

Chinese state media have said that farmer’s have been “inspired by communism.”

People’s Liberation Army

President Xi Jinping made noteworthy remarks on Friday at a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

At the study session, Xi spoke about “10 requirements for pursuing a holistic approach to national security.”

“The second is to adhere to the path of national security with Chinese characteristics, implement the overall national security concept, adhere to the organic unity of political security, people’s security, and the supremacy of national interests, take people’s security as the purpose, political security as the foundation, and economic security as the foundation to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, prevent and resolve major security risks, and provide a strong security guarantee for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” reported Xinhua.

Special Report-China launches 'gray-zone' warfare to subdue Taiwan - Reuters.

Read the review of a new book titled China Nightmare in Foreign Policy.

Geopolitics of Mount Everest

China and Nepal reached a consensus on the new height for Everest. On the surface, the process of deciding the height appears to be a scientific exercise, but there is more to the story. Chinese call Mount Everest “Mt. Qomolangma.”

“Xi Jinping pointed out that China and Nepal reached a consensus last year on the joint announcement of the new height of the peak. For more than a year, the two countries' surveying teams have overcome all kinds of difficulties, solidly carried out their work, and finally reached a conclusion on the snow surface height of Mount Qomolangma based on the International Height Reference System. Xi Jinping said today, he, together with President Bhandari, on behalf of China and Nepal, officially announced to the world that the new height of Mount Qomolangma is 8,848.86 meters,” according to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

High politics: Why Mount Everest’s new height is as much about diplomacy as measurements - The Independent.

How geopolitics settled a geographical point - The Hindu (podcast)

Leaked Communist Party of China membership database

“After significant investigation we found the original server was an open-source MYSQL database. Our team, ignoring the copy given to us by IPAC, found the same document dated April 16, 2016 and tracked it across social media. Our assessment is that it was uploaded to private chatrooms, frequented by activists from a range of backgrounds including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Falun Gong. Users had reformatted the data into an Excel spreadsheet. It was co-leaked with data from the Jangxi Youth League,” wrote Robert Potter and David Robinson in The Australian.

The database was originally brought to the attention of a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. Robert Potter and David Robinson then independently analyzed the database.

I will not share the database via the newsletter since there are some concerns about privacy violation. Readers can find a copy of the database online.

A word of caution:

Some comments about the database:

I would highly recommend reading this article in FT that suggests China might be trying to rethink Belt and Road Initiative.

Don’t Miss Out

“China has again bailed out Pakistan as it agrees to immediately provide $1.5 billion financing line to repay the $2 billion Saudi Arabia debt, sources” reported The Express (Pakistan).

“An alliance of 11 opposition parties, known as the Pakistan Democratic Movement, demonstrated in the central city of Lahore on Sunday, in the culmination of the first phase of protests before a planned march on the capital of Islamabad in January to pile pressure on Khan’s government,” reported Al Jazeera.

“China and India edged forward in their commitment to lower carbon pollution on Saturday (Dec 12), issuing a string of promises that experts said fell short of action needed from the two emerging giants,” reported Reuters/Channel News Asia.

“Justin Trudeau may have a fan following in North America. But for the Indian government, the Canadian prime minister is a massive pain in the neck. No other Western politician creates so much friction,” wrote Sadanand Dhume for the Wall Street Journal.

“The full text of a secret deal between Switzerland and China that allowed Chinese security officials access to the country at Swiss taxpayers’ expense has been revealed for the first time as the government pushes to renew it.

The five-year “readmission agreement,” which was signed in 2015 and expired on Monday, lays out terms for Chinese agents to travel to Switzerland and interview suspected Chinese nationals that Swiss authorities wished to deport,” reported The Guardian.

“S&P Dow Jones Indices on Thursday became the second major index provider to remove some Chinese companies from its index products following a Trump administration executive order, in the latest market disruption from persistent Sino-U.S. tensions,” reported Reuters.

“Taiwan will submit an application to join the revamped version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership once it has finished informal consultations with its existing 11 members, talks which are ongoing, the island's foreign ministry said,” said RTHK.

“A former high officer in Canada’s border agency has denied destroying documentation of its handling of Meng Wanzhou, one of a series of accusations levelled by the Huawei Technologies’ executive’s lawyer in her extradition case on Friday,” reported South China Morning Post.

Movers and Shakers

China’s Radical New Vision Of Globalization — James Crabtree

The U.S. Can’t Check China Alone — Odd Arne Westad

Off Track Read

China’s Policy Banks Are Lending Differently, Not Less — The Diplomat

Huawei worked on several surveillance systems promoted to identify ethnicity, documents show — Washington Post

The Tibetan Filmmaker Fighting to Put Minority Stories on Screen — Sixth Tone

Business Street

Sequoia and KKR lead ByteDance funding round that values it at $180 billion - Reuters

TikTok ban ignites boom in Indian short-video apps - Nikkei Asian Review

Upcoming Watch

On Monday, there will be a hearing to review the ban on TikTok. A US judge had earlier approved an injunction to stop the ban on TikTok from taking effect.