Asia Communique - Week 9

China on Bhutanese territory "controversy" - Week of summitry in Asia - Twists in Meng Wanzhou's trial (exclusive)

India-China: Another round of border talks planned

“India and China will soon hold another round of talks aimed at achieving complete disengagement and full restoration of peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the external affairs ministry said on Thursday,” Hindustan Times has reported.

This week, Hindustan Times also reported, “China has surreptitiously undertaken a large military infrastructure upgrade in the central, Sikkim and eastern sectors with simultaneous strengthening of surface-to-air missile sites, an increase in unmanned aerial vehicle numbers, and an expansion of airbases in Tibet while the world’s attention has been focused on Beijing’s hostile moves on the line of actual control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh and its tense stand-off with India, according to people familiar with the matter.”

If you read between the lines, we can safely say that the two militaries' disengagement isn’t anywhere close.

“As India and China continue deliberations on a proposed disengagement and de-escalation plan to end the stand-off in eastern Ladakh, the Army has completed building extreme weather habitat for thousands of additional troops to remain deployed through the harsh winter.” The Hindu reported.

Chinese professor Jin Canrong claimed that the People’s Liberation Army had used a “microwave-based” directed energy weapon against the Indian Army. Indian Army has called the claim “baseless.” Read my thread on Twitter about Jin’s claim.

There is trouble brewing in the internal politics of Nepal - China is part of the story. Read Kathmandu Post’s story.

A week of summitry

“Fifteen countries spanning the Asia-Pacific region on Sunday signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, creating the world's largest trading bloc that promises to help speed up the members' post-pandemic growth,” Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Nikkei Asian Review added, “An exception was India, which was initially involved in the negotiations but withdrew last year, as it was reluctant to open up its agricultural and other key sectors.”

“Further efforts should go into pursuing higher-level opening-up with more emphasis on institutional openness, according to a statement released following a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang,” Xinhua reported.

RCEP countries have left the door open for India to join the agreement in the future.

RCEP trade pact shows multilateralism has to be revitalized - China Daily

“India did not join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal because it would have had “negative consequences” though the country is interested in a “fair and balanced” free trade pact with the European Union (EU), external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday,” Hindustan Times reported.

Leaving RCEP was a short-sighted decision, says former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran - The Hindu

BRICS summit was held on Tuesday, November 17, via a video link. President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi were face-to-face for the second time in recent weeks - virtually, though.

“Countries Guilty Of Supporting Terrorism Must Be Punished,” said PM Modi.

Full text of Xi Jinping’s remarks at the BRICS summit.

Full text of Chinese President Xi Jinping's remarks at the 27th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting - Xinhua

BRICS has tremendous untapped potential in trade, says scholar - Xinhua (interview with B.R. Deepak, a China expert at the Center of Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University)

CGTN journalist’s tweet starts “controversy”

CGTN’s Shen Shiwei had tweeted, saying, “Now, we have permanent residents living in the newly established Pangda village. It's along the valley where 35 km south of Yadong county. Here is a map to show the location.”

NDTV’s Vishu Som retweeted the tweet and said, “This is an astounding tweet with clear evidence of a CHINESE LANDGRAB WITHIN BHUTANESE TERRITORY, app. 9km from the India-China face-off site in Doklam. The map shown here by @shen_shiwei, a senior journalist with Chinese state media, indicates this village is 2 km inside Bhutan.”

“In tweets that have since been deleted, Shen Shiwei, a senior producer with Chinese CGTN News, posted the images this morning of the village established in what he said was the Doklam area and later indicated the precise location of the settlement,” said Vishnu Som in NDTV.

Bhutan has denied that China has “encroached” on its territory.

“There is no Chinese village inside Bhutan,” said Major General Vetsop Namgyel, Bhutan’s Ambassador to India. Let’s keep in mind that.

I will encourage you to read Bhutanese journalist Tenzing Lamsang’s Twitter thread, explaining why we can’t say that China has constructed a village on Bhutanese territory.

The incident confirms that China will continue to use this hybrid strategy to settle communities on southern Tibet's edges and lay claim to unresolved border areas.

Following the Doklam military stand-off at the trijunction between India, China, and Bhutan, President Xi Jinping had encouraged herding families to “safeguard territory.”

“Chinese President Xi Jinping has encouraged a herding family in Lhunze County, near the Himalayas in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown. He acknowledged the family's efforts to safeguard the territory, and thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area,” Xinhua had reported in 2017.

I believe several journalists and analysts jumped to the conclusion too soon on this story.

Nathan Ruser’s Twitter thread.

Original Twitter thread by NDTV’s Vishnu Som.

And, Chinese social media users are heavily invested in Sikkim's history since the Doklam stand-off. Here is a recent blog post about Princess Coocoola of Sikkim that was shared on WeChat.

New images of Yarchen Gar, Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Nyingma school, show that China has demolished half of the monastic complex.

Key witness refuses to testify in Meng trial

“A retired Canadian police officer is refusing to testify at Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearing in Vancouver, amid claims by Meng’s lawyers that Canadian authorities were involved in a covert evidence-gathering exercise against her at the behest of American law enforcement,” Ian Johnson of South China Morning Post has reported.

“Retired RCMP Staff Sgt. Ben Chang was living and working in the Chinese gambling haven of Macau when his name first arose about Meng's extradition proceedings last fall as the officer who dealt with demands for information from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation,” reported the CBC.

“Do I regret that Canada followed its laws? Do I regret that Canada lived up to a long-standing extradition treaty with our closest ally? Absolutely not,” Prime Minister Trudeau said in response to a question at the APEC summit.

“I've also got some questions for the Canadian side. First, why Canada is the only country that "abides by" its extradition treaty with the US on this matter? The United States has extradition treaties with many countries. Second, do other countries that have such treaties with the United States not abide by their obligations? Third, why don't they do what Canada does? This is because they don't want to be part of the US' dirty scheme and to serve the US' self-interest at the expense of their own people,” Zhao Lijian said in response to Trudeau’s remarks.

A lawyer with expertise in extradition law has told me that this will be a crucial phase in Meng’s trial, and this could be the “final leg” in the trial. The hearing was only supposed to last for two weeks, but it appears that the court proceedings could continue until mid-December.

Since most experts believe that Joe Biden’s China policy will continue some of the trends from Trump's presidency, the Meng case may not feel the impact of Biden's presidency in a major way.

I will continue to bring you updates on this critical story.

Joe Biden’s China policy will be a mix of Trump’s and Obama’s – The Economist

Trump Launched A Trade War Against China. Don't Look To Biden To Reverse It - NPR

'Witness safety' concern raises questions about key witness decision not to testify in Meng Wanzhou case - CBC

“Today, Canada’s military is seriously inadequate. Canada's national defense requires the help of the United States, which means that the United States has indirectly controlled Canada,” China’s National Defense Times said.

Don’t Miss Out

“The first U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue opened in Washington, D.C. Friday with the signing of a memorandum of understanding that will lay the groundwork for deeper and more comprehensive economic cooperation ahead, according to Taiwan's representative office in the United States” Taiwan’s CNA has reported.

Members of the Five-Eyes alliance issued a joint statement criticizing Beijing for the dismissal of Hong Kong lawmakers.

“No matter how many eyes they have, five or ten or whatever, should anyone dare to undermine China's sovereignty, security and development interests, be careful not to get poked in the eye," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on November 19.

Instead, if we translate Zhao Lijian’s statement from the original, he said something far harsher.

“不管他们长“五只眼”还是“十只眼”,只要胆敢损害中国的主权、安全、发展利益,小心他们的眼睛被戳瞎!”

“No matter if they have "five eyes" or "ten eyes" as long as they dare to harm China's sovereignty, security, and development interests, be careful that their eyes are blinded!”

“Beijing has issued an extraordinary attack on the Australian government, accusing it of "poisoning bilateral relations" in a deliberately leaked document that threatens to escalate tensions between the two countries,” Sydney Morning Herald has reported.

Off-Track Reads

China’s Detention of Entrepreneur Raises Fresh Concerns About Vulnerability of Private Firms – WSJ

https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-detention-of-entrepreneur-raises-fresh-concerns-about-vulnerability-of-private-firms-11605873610 - WSJ

Chinese EV Maker Nio Is Accelerating Too Fast - WSJ

https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinese-ev-maker-nio-is-accelerating-too-fast-11605696137

China’s Stumbling Sprint to Semiconductor Self-Sufficiency - CAIXIN

https://www.caixinglobal.com/2020-11-20/chinas-stumbling-sprint-to-semiconductor-self-sufficiency-101630701.html

Huawei, 5G, and the Man Who Conquered Noise - WIRED

https://www.wired.com/story/huawei-5g-polar-codes-data-breakthrough/

For China, Ending Poverty Is Just the Beginning - Foreign Affairs

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2020-11-19/china-ending-poverty-just-beginning

A U.S.-China Space Race Is Good For Humanity - Intelligence Squared (video)

https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/us-china-space-race-good-humanity

Upcoming Watch

The 24th meeting of the China-Russia Prime Minister’s Regular Committee Meeting will be held on November 24 by video. China’s Vice Premier Hua Chunhua will participate in the meeting.

India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla will visit Nepal from November 26 to 27.

From 21–22 November, the 15th G20 summit will be held virtually. Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping have confirmed their participation.

Correction: The 15 countries signed the RCEP agreement on Sunday, November 15. The previous edition had indicated that 15 countries had signed RCEP at the moment of publication. My apologies.

Have a great weekend!