Covid Outbreak - Afghan Neighbours Summit - China-EU Summit - Lavrov's Visit -Economic Woes - BRICS Summit & LAC - Human Genetic Resource Guidelines - New Provincial Chiefs - Fu Zhenghua Expelled
I thought that before we get into the newsletter today, I’d share some data points from our Global Outlook Survey. The survey gathered responses from a chosen set of strategic affairs experts and the public at large in order to get a sense of Indian thinking on foreign policy issues.
We conducted the survey late last year, but I think the findings offer insights into India’s policy choices and dilemmas amid the war in Ukraine. You can access the full survey report here. But I am sharing some snapshots below.
I. India-China Ties
April 1, 2022, marked the 72nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and China. On this occasion, the Chinese Ambassador to India tweeted:
“Today marks the 72nd anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties b/t #China & #India. Let’s stick to long-term perspective, win-win mentality & cooperative posture, keep the development of bilateral relations on the right course & bring more benefits to our peoples.”
Last week, during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit, S. Jaishankar categorically stated that restoring normalcy in the bilateral relationship will “obviously require a restoration of peace and tranquillity [on the LAC]”.
On March 31, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, said that the 15th round of the China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting was positive and constructive.
Wu commented that:
“The two sides reiterated that the settlement of the remaining issues would help restore peace and tranquility in the area and promote the development of bilateral relations.” Wu also pointed out that “the China-India border issue is a matter between China and India. The two sides have agreed to properly handle the border issue through negotiation and consultation, firmly opposing interference from a third party.”
The Chinese officials also remain hopeful that the Indian Prime Minister will attend the BRICS Summit to be held in China next year. The South China Morning Post quoted Lin Minwang, a professor in South Asia studies at Fudan University, who argued that:
“India is using it [BRICS Summit] as leverage in its border negotiations. However, there are many uncertainties – for example, if the US imposes sanctions on India for buying Russian S-400 [missile systems], it is more likely that Modi would visit and attend the summit.”
The Post also quoted Long Xingchun, president of the Chengdu Institute of World Affairs, who said, “China would not accept India’s disengagement plan, although their similar position on the Ukraine conflict could slightly ease tensions.”
Further, “it only means their traditional friendship with Russia is not affected by the West. India sees China as the biggest threat, which means it has a lot of common interests with the US in dealing with China, not Russia.”
In an article in the South China Morning Post, Zhou Bo, a senior fellow of the Centre for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University, argued that:
“Because the US resents India’s attitude towards Russia, India will have to review its relationship with the US. Apart from the border issue, China and India have more in common and our similar stance on the Russia-Ukrainian war is a good example.”
An article in the Global Times argued that the recent visits by western officials to New Delhi exposed US’ limited leverage over India. It said that:
“India has been sanctioned by the US before. And India must be aware that many of the benefits that the US and the West have promised to India are just lip service and will not be delivered. New Delhi is expected to learn lessons from the Ukraine crisis and Washington’s related moves toward India and review its relations with India. Instead of blindly following the US, pursuing its own interests and adhering to its independent foreign policy can help India maximize its own value.”
China’s insistence on pushing the “same or similar position” on the Ukraine-Russia war is an attempt to exploit the divide between India and the US on the issue. This sits well with the BRICS agenda.
As this editorial from the Global Times assesses:
“In light of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, what is happening in Europe right now shows that if China and India want to build their own order of lasting peace and development, they cannot rely on the US-dominated West, let alone forming an alliance with them. That leaves cooperation and common development as the most viable option for the two largest developing countries in Asia.”
However, as Jaishankar’s quick refutation of Wang’s assessment last week shows, it is unlikely that New Delhi will make a common cause with China absent the restoration of the pre-April 2020 status quo.
China and India are partners rather than rivals, and should help each other succeed instead of undercutting each other. This is a strategic judgment made by China after careful consideration, and India has repeatedly expressed its agreement with this view. It is true that there are boundary issues left over from history between China and India, which sometimes affect and challenge bilateral relations. At the same time, we firmly believe that as mature and rational neighbours, we should place the boundary issue in its appropriate position in our bilateral relations and not let it define or even hinder the overall development of bilateral relations. We propose that China and India should take a long-term view of bilateral relations, take a win-win view of each other’s development and participate in the multilateral process in a cooperative manner. This constructive thinking can stand the test of time and conform to the historical logic of Sino-Indian exchanges.
“During this visit, I had an in-depth exchange of views with Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval. Both sides believe that the continued stagnation of Sino-Indian relations is not in the fundamental interests of the two peoples and is not conducive to regional peace and stability. We should adhere to the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries that ‘the two countries are not threats to each other but opportunities for each other's development’, properly solve practical problems of common concern, handle and manage differences over the years, and promote the steady and sustainable development of bilateral relations. Restoring peace and tranquillity along the border areas is in line with the common aspirations of the two countries. It is necessary to achieve regular management and control on the basis of disengagement on the ground, take effective measures to implement the important consensus reached so far on lowering military levels, confidence-building measures and not using force in the areas along the Line of Actual Control. Both sides believe that China and India share similar or similar positions on major international and regional issues, and should strive to understand and support each other so as to provide more positive energy in the turbulent world. During our meeting, NSA Doval used a metaphor. He said that just as rocks can’t stop rivers from rushing forward, differences between the two sides should not change the positive trend of bilateral relations. I believe that, in the face of the complicated and ever-changing international situation, India and China should not only work together to remove the stones that hinder our bilateral relations, but also meet each other halfway, so that the trickle of India-China friendship can converge into the mighty trend of the times, break through various obstacles and rush in the right direction.” 中印是伙伴而不是对手，应相互成就而不是相互消耗，这是中方深思熟虑后做出的战略判断，印方也多次表示认同这一看法。中印之间确实存在历史遗留的边界问题，时而对双边关系带来影响和挑战。同时我们坚定认为，作为成熟理性的两大邻国，我们应把边界问题置于双边关系适当位置，不应用边界问题定义甚至阻碍双边关系的整体发展。我们提出中印要以长远眼光看待双方关系，以共赢思维看待彼此发展，以合作姿态参与多边进程，这一建设性思维经得起时间检验，符合中印交往的历史逻辑。此访期间同印度外长苏杰生、国家安全顾问多瓦尔深入交换意见。最突出的感受是，双方都认为，中印关系继续停滞不前，不符合两国人民根本利益，不利于地区和平稳定。应坚持两国领导人“中印互不构成威胁，互为发展机遇”的重要共识，妥善解决共同关注的现实问题，处理管控好多年来存在的分歧，助力双边关系平稳可持续发展。恢复边境地区的和平安宁符合两国的共同愿望，要在现地脱离接触基础上实现常态化管控，采取有效措施落实好在实控线地区降低军事水平、建立信任措施、不以武力相威胁等迄今达成的重要共识。双方都认为中印在重大国际和地区问题上有着相近或相似立场，应努力相互理解、相互支持，为动荡不定的世界提供更多正能量。会见中，多瓦尔国家安全顾问打了一个比喻。他说正如山石不能阻挡溪流顺势而下，双方的一些分歧也不应改变两国关系发展的大势。我认为，面对当前复杂多变的国际地区形势，印中双方不仅要共同努力搬开双边关系中的石头，还应相向而行，使印中友好的涓涓溪流汇聚为浩荡的时代潮流，冲破各种阻碍，朝着正确的方向奔涌.
II. Covid outbreak in China
According to a report in CGTN, 103,965 local COVID-19 cases were reported in China's 29 provinces in March. The report was confirmed by a National Health Commission official speaking at a news briefing on Friday. Approximately 90% of the cases were recorded in the northeastern province of Jilin and the coastal metropolitan area of Shanghai. Faced with criticism for continuing with the “Zero-Covid strategy,” officials maintained that the policy would remain in place.
“I'm still confident that we can achieve the goal of dynamic zero,” said Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Of course, we need to act together and find better ways to monitor the spread of the virus.” In fact, if one is to read the political messaging in the People’s Daily, there is tremendous stress on sticking to the Zero-Covid strategy.
In March, more than 1.24 billion individuals in China were completely immunised, according to government data.
A Reuters report announced that Shanghai, China’s commercial hub, was put on lockdown on Friday. The city’s 26 million people are currently under confinement. Shanghai officials abandoned a targeted strategy on Sunday and ordered a two-stage shutdown after the total number of new local cases closed in nine days reached over 13,000. According to authorities, the number of new daily cases increased by one-third on March 29 compared to the previous day.
The city has been under lockdown for more than a month, even though it was only supposed to last a few days. The majority of the city's public transportation has been halted, and non-essential businesses such as restaurants and retail centres have been forced to close. Residents are being subjected to rounds of nucleic acid testing while under lockdown, performed by healthcare staff wearing hazmat suits. They are only permitted to leave their residences for the testing. Officials have requested residents to line up two metres apart for testing.
A local official told a press conference on Saturday that around 14 million Shanghai citizens were tested on Friday for nucleic acid testing in Puxi, districts west of the Huangpu River, as part of the city's second phase of closed-off administration.
Tesla, the American electric vehicle manufacturer, has prolonged a production standstill at its Shanghai facility, after a production halt that began on Monday, March 28th. Volkswagen's Shanghai partnership with SAIC Motor likewise paused operations at its facility between April 1 and 5. Meanwhile, the Shanghai New International Expo Center, which normally hosts trade fairs like the Shanghai Autoshow, has been transformed into the city's largest central quarantine centre, with over 15,000 beds.
Amid the rising cases and subsequent lockdowns, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee convened a meeting on March 17 to discuss better epidemic control.
All local authorities and government departments should "always put people and their lives first, adhere to the dynamic zero-COVID approach with science-based and targeted measures, and contain the spread of the virus as soon as possible," Xi, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said at the meeting. Xi emphasised the need of taking effective measures to achieve maximum effect in prevention and control at the lowest feasible cost, while limiting the effects on economic and social development as much as possible.
Meanwhile, according to a Taiwanese news website called United Daily News, Luo Yijun, deputy head of the medical response team of the command centre, confirmed a case of a new variant, Omicron XE in Taiwan. He confirmed that it was a woman from Czech Republic who travelled into the region on March 18. The Omicron XE variant is a mixture of Omicron variants, BA 1 and BA 2. He said that there were 700 cases of the XE variant found in the United Kingdom.
On social media:
Residents of Shanghai have gone to social media to protest, questioning the feasibility of China's zero-tolerance stance to COVID-19 in the country's most populated city. Citizens shared videos and photographs of congested quarantine centres. Authorities have posted appeals for assistance with medical care and procuring food.
Users on the social media site Weibo urged officials to reconsider the zero-COVID policy after Xinhua's official Weibo account lauded the dynamic zero-COVID approach as the most beneficial for economic and social growth. The post encouraged everyone to strive hard towards it so that the struggle against the Covid-19 epidemic may be won. Many people commented on the article, advocating a reassessment of a two-year-old plan that is producing problems for the public. Eventually, the post was removed.
Many postings on Weibo have appeared demonstrating the excessive price increase in vegetables as a result of pandemic control efforts. The majority are from Shanghai and Shenzhen.
III. Economic Woes
Activity in Chinese manufacturing and services simultaneously contracted in March for the first time since the height of the country's Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, adding to the urgency for more policy intervention to stabilize the economy.
The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.5 from 50.2 in February, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Thursday, while the non-manufacturing PMI eased to 48.4 from 51.6 in February.
The last time both PMI indexes simultaneously were below the 50-point mark that separates contraction from growth was in February 2020, when authorities were racing to arrest the spread of the coronavirus, first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
There’s clearly deep concern about the state of the economy. At this week’s State Council meeting, three issues were reportedly discussed — first, comprehensively strengthen workplace safety, resolutely prevent major accidents and making the most of government bonds to expand effective investment. The key phrase in all of this for me was this: “no policy that adversely affects market expectations will be introduced.”
Xinhua reported that the meeting demanded efforts to investigate the cause of the China Eastern Airlines plane crash and advance the settlement of the aftermath. All attendees of the meeting stood in silence to pay tribute to the victims of the plane crash.
Then the readout from the meeting offers this assessment:
“The meeting noted the growing complexities in the international landscape, new challenges facing domestic development and increasing downward pressure on the economy. When formulating this year’s macro policies, various changes both in and outside of China have already been taken into account in a forward-looking way. Keeping the economy running stably in the first quarter and the first half of the year is crucial to achieving the target set for the whole year. It's imperative to swiftly implement the decisions and plans of the Party Central Committee and the policy steps laid out in the Government Work Report. The task of ensuring stable growth needs to occupy an even more prominent position. Coordinated moves will be taken to keep growth stable, promote structural adjustment, and carry out reform. Policies for keeping the economy stable should be introduced whenever possible, and no policy that adversely affects market expectations will be introduced. Contingency plans to cope with greater uncertainty will be drafted.” (The Chinese language version of this bit is here: 要抓紧落实中央经济工作会议精神和《政府工作报告》举措，坚定信心，咬定目标不放松，把稳增长放在更加突出的位置，统筹稳增长、调结构、推改革，稳定经济的政策早出快出，不出不利于稳定市场预期的措施，制定应对可能遇到更大不确定性的预案.)
And this is what’s being proposed:
“The meeting noted that, under the principle of keeping the macro leverage ratio generally stable, 3.65 trillion yuan of special-purpose bonds for local governments will be newly allocated for this year. In a bid to strengthen cross-cyclical adjustment, an advance quota worth 1.46 trillion yuan had been disbursed at the end of last year pursuant to law. Going forward, efforts will be made to deliver the remaining local government debt quota at a faster pace, prioritising regions with a strong position for debt service and sufficient candidate projects. ‘The advance debt quota allocated last year shall all be issued by the end of May, and the quota set for this year shall all be issued by the end of September,’ Premier Li said. "We must ensure that investment funds stay with projects they are allocated to. The launch and construction of projects will be expedited to generate more economic activities as quickly as possible.”
“With both immediate and long-term benefits in mind, investment in improving people's livelihood and strengthening areas of weakness will be scaled up, and construction of new infrastructure and other high-level projects that will enhance development sustainability supported. The usage of special-purpose bonds will be widened as appropriate. With priority given to projects involving transportation, energy, ecological protection, government-subsidized housing and other areas, public service projects that can generate certain returns will also be supported. Reform-oriented measures and market-based approaches will be applied to leverage the catalytic role of special-purpose bonds in attracting more investment from the private sector and supporting investment from private business. Treasury bonds and local government bonds will be issued in a well-coordinated way to maintain an appropriate scale of treasury funds and ensure the fiscal resources needed for primary-level governments to implement tax refunds and tax and fee cuts and improve people's livelihood. Purchase of treasury bonds by overseas medium- and long-term funds will be encouraged, and relevant preferential tax policies will be well implemented. The financial system should strengthen collaboration to ensure the orderly issuance of government bonds and support financing for project construction.”
IV. Region Watch
China hosted the third summit of Foreign Ministers from Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries, including, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan with Indonesia and Qatar attending as guests. The dialogue mechanism, championed by Beijing and Islamabad, is conceived to support ‘Afghanistan’s peaceful and stable development’ - dichotomous to China’s strict policy of “non-intervention” in other's domestic matters.
'China has all along respected Afghanistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and is committed to supporting Afghanistan’s peaceful and stable development,' President Xi Jinping said in his remarks at the meeting.
While President Xi made no mention of human rights abuses by the country’s Taliban leaders, a joint statement issued after the meeting noted the importance of ensuring women’s rights and children’s education and safeguarding the rights of all ethnic groups. China’s foreign minister, meanwhile, called on the United States to unfreeze Afghan assets held abroad and end sanctions on the government.
This chunk from the joint statement is also worth noting. It says that the parties,
stressed terrorism as a key factor affecting stability in Afghanistan, condemned all forms of violence and terrorist attacks, and reiterated that ISIS, Al-Qaeda, ETIM, TTP, BLA, Jondollah, Jaish-Al-Adl, Jamaat Ansarullah, IMU and other terrorist organizations must not be given any place on the Afghan territory. Called on relevant Afghan parties to take more visible steps to make a clean break with all forms of terrorist forces, monitor free movement of all terrorist organizations, and to firmly fight and eliminate them including through dismantling of their training camps, to ensure that Afghanistan would never again serve as a breeding ground, safe haven or source of proliferation for terrorism. Urged relevant Afghan parties to safeguard the security and legitimate rights and interests of foreign citizens and institutions in Afghanistan. Reaffirmed readiness to strengthen counter-terrorism and security cooperation among neighboring countries, build a united front against terrorism. Noted the initiative of the Republic of Tajikistan on “security belt”around Afghanistan. Tighten border control, prevent terrorist forces from fleeing across borders, and stay committed to safeguarding security and stability in the region. Expressed readiness to conduct counter-terrorism and security cooperation with Afghanistan to help it build counter-terrorism capacity. Encouraged relevant Afghan parties to take concrete actions against cultivation, production and illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs in order to crack down on organized crime to free Afghanistan from the scourge of drugs.
Minister Wang also attended a meeting of special envoys for Afghanistan from China, the United States and Russia, a group known as the Extended Troika. At that forum, Wang reiterated his position, arguing that practical measures need to be taken. Neither the President nor the Minister delivered specifics on prospective Chinese assistance.
China has frequently voiced its desire to grow the BRI into Afghanistan and is seeking to develop copper mining there. But it has made little progress so far, often citing security challenges posed by the region. Afghanistan is going to need more than self-serving pledges from ‘allies’ as its economy is driven further into ruins by the crisis in Ukraine.
Does support from Beijing imply recognition of the Taliban leadership? Even while it withholds diplomatic recognition, Beijing making efforts to bring a sort of recognition by consolidating its influence in the country. Analysis suggests that it has promised to provide the Taliban with surveillance equipment and to set up a state-controlled network of radio and television stations.
China is unlikely to be the first to recognise the Taliban government. Beijing said recognition of the group as the legitimate government of the war-torn nation would come ‘when conditions are ripe’. At present, the Taliban has been unable to display substantial progress on key fronts and backtracked on critical decisions, leaving the international community fuming. The Taliban needs to do more if it wants assurances to turn into actions, and to win diplomatic acceptance.
V. China-EU Summit
Xi Jinping met with European leaders for the 23rd EU-China summit on April 1. The summit was divided into two parts, with an hourlong meeting with Xi and a two-hour meeting with Li Keqiang. The Chinese readouts of the meeting with Xi Jinping indicate that Beijing continues to seek wedges between the US and Europe. For instance, the readout says that:
“President Xi pointed out that the Ukraine crisis has come on top of a protracted COVID-19 pandemic and a faltering global recovery. Against such a backdrop, China and the EU, as two major forces, big markets and great civilizations, should increase communication on their relations and on major issues concerning global peace and development, and play a constructive role in adding stabilizing factors to a turbulent world…Noting the consistency and continuity of China’s EU policy, President Xi called on the EU to form its own perception of China, adopt an independent China policy, and work with China for the steady and sustained growth of China-EU relations.”
A more detailed readout from the Chinese side further added:
“President Xi stressed that China and the EU should act as two major forces upholding world peace, and offset uncertainties in the international landscape with the stability of China-EU relations. The two sides need to take the lead in defending the international system with the UN at its core, the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and jointly reject the resurrection of rival-bloc mentality and oppose attempts at a new Cold War, with a view to maintaining world peace and stability. President Xi pointed out that China and the EU should act as two big markets promoting shared development, and deepen economic globalization through open cooperation. China will stay committed to deepening reform and further opening up. China welcomes European business investment and expects the EU to provide a fair, transparent and nondiscriminatory environment for Chinese business investment and development in Europe. The two sides need to seek greater synergy between their development strategies and explore more complementarity between China’s new development philosophy and paradigm and the EU’s trade policy for open strategic autonomy.”
On Ukraine, the readout says that “President Xi shared his views on how to settle the Ukraine crisis under the current circumstances:”
“First, promoting peace talks. China supports the EU’s efforts toward a political settlement of the Ukraine issue, and has been encouraging peace talks in its own way. Peace talks are the only viable way to prevent an escalation of tensions. The international community should keep creating favorable conditions and environment for the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and make room for political settlement, rather than add fuel to the fire and heighten tensions.” The second point after this was about “preventing a humanitarian crisis on a bigger scale.”
“Third, fostering lasting peace in Europe and the Eurasian continent. The root cause of the Ukraine crisis is the regional security tensions in Europe that have built up over the years. A fundamental solution is to accommodate the legitimate security concerns of all relevant parties. In this day and age, global and regional security frameworks should no longer be built with a Cold War mentality. China supports Europe, especially the EU, in playing a primary role, and supports Europe, Russia, the US and NATO in holding dialogue to face up to the tensions that have built up over the years and find solutions, so as to build a balanced, effective and sustainable security framework in Europe.” — Quick thought: This message on regional architectures is also meant for the Indo-Pacific. Also, I think this is as clear as Beijing will get that it does not want to get directly involved in negotiations around the Ukraine war.
The final paragraph has Xi warning about the impact of the crisis on the global economy. This underscores the sense of concern within Beijing about the impact on its own external environment. “The current global economic configuration is the result of longstanding efforts by all countries. It is an integral whole. Parties should cherish this outcome, and must not let the global economic system be disrupted at will, still less allow attempts to politicize or weaponize the world economy as a tool to serve one’s own agenda, as such attempts will trigger serious crises in global finance, trade, energy, technology, food, industrial and supply chains, among others. Many are worried that the current situation may wipe out the fruits of international economic cooperation gained through decades of efforts. Should the situation continue to worsen, it may take years, if not decades, to get things back on track.”
Here’s the Ukraine war-related information from the EU’s readout of the summit:
“The EU highlighted that its key priority is to stop Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, emphasised the importance for Russia to allow humanitarian access and safeguard humanitarian corridors, and refrain from targeting the civilian population and infrastructure. The EU called on China to support efforts to bring about an immediate end to the bloodshed in Ukraine, consistent with China’s role in the world as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and its uniquely close relations with Russia. The EU pointed out that the international sanctions against Russia were imposed with the sole purpose of stopping Russia’s aggression and despite a significant economic impact on the EU and its partners globally. Any circumvention of the effects of the sanctions or any aid provided to Russia would prolong the bloodshed and lead to even greater losses of civilian lives and economic disruption. The EU will work with its partners to bring Russia and those responsible for Russia’s war against Ukraine and for any violations of international and international humanitarian law to account. Any attempts to circumvent sanctions or to aid Russia by other means must be stopped.”
Earlier in the week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in China. Xinhua’s report on the Lavrov-Wang Yi meeting said:
“Noting that China-Russia ties have stood the new test of a changing international landscape, Wang said the relationship has maintained its correct direction and shown strong resilience. ‘Both sides have a firmer will to develop bilateral relations, and stronger confidence to advance cooperation in various areas,’ Wang said. China is willing to work with Russia to push the relationship to a higher level in the new era, guided by the important consensus between the two heads of state, Wang said. For his part, Lavrov said the strategic communication between the two heads of state has played an important role in ensuring the stable development of bilateral relations and promoting a multi-polar world. He said Russia is willing to work with China on the international and multilateral arena to promote the multipolarization process, oppose hegemony and power politics, and uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Lavrov informed the Chinese side of the Russia-Ukraine talks, saying Russia is committed to easing the tensions, continuing peace talks with Ukraine, and maintaining communication with the international community. Noting that the Ukraine issue has a complicated history, Wang said China supports Russia and Ukraine in overcoming difficulties to continue their peace talks, supports the positive outcomes achieved in the negotiations so far, and supports the deescalation of the tensions as soon as possible and the efforts of Russia and other parties to avoid a large-scale humanitarian crisis. From a long-term perspective, lessons should be taken from the Ukraine crisis, and all parties' legitimate security concerns should be responded to on the basis of mutual respect and indivisible security, he said. He called for establishing a balanced, effective and sustainable European security structure through dialogue and negotiation in order to realise lasting peace in Europe. The two sides also exchanged views on other multilateral affairs such as the Asia-Pacific situation and the BRICS mechanism.”
Let me add to this a comment from the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s press conference from this week::
Reuters: Before the Beijing Olympics started, the Chinese and Russian Presidents said that the two countries’ cooperation would have no limits. Now if we are widening cooperation now, what does that mean and how much are we widening it in which areas?
Wang Wenbin: There is no limit to China-Russia cooperation in the pursuit of peace, no limit to our efforts to safeguard security, and no limit to our opposition to hegemony. China-Russia relations feature non-alliance, non-confrontation, and non-targeting of any third party.
Finbarr Bermingham’s report for SCMP on the summit meeting informs us that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the media after the meeting that:
“we exchanged very clearly opposing views. This is not a conflict. This is a war. This is not a European affair. This is a global affair.” She added that “we made very clear that China should, if not support, at least not interfere with our sanctions” of Russia “and that equidistance is not enough; that active engagement for peace is important and that each player should play its role.”
The report further informs that the meeting with Li Keqiang “were dominated by issues like trade grievances – including China’s alleged coercion of Lithuania – climate change cooperation, and human rights concerns.” In the chat with Xi, the report informs, “the EU requested that Xi speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, given that the two leaders had had no direct contact since the war began. Xi referred to Ukraine as one of three major crises coming ‘one after another’, along with the coronavirus pandemic and a global economic recovery, that he described as "‘long and torturous’.” — Let’s see if Xi actually calls Zelensky.
My final input on China and the Ukraine war is to point to Zhong Sheng commentaries in the People’s Daily this week. These have been around the theme of looking at the war through the lens of “US hegemony.” Essentially, these make it very clear who Beijing blames for the war and the prism that it is looking at these developments.
Wang Yi also spoke about China’s views on the Ukraine war during the engagement with foreign ministers who were attending the Afghanistan neighbours meeting. He said:
“I have had intensive and in-depth exchanges with my counterparts on the Ukraine issue in recent days. All parties expressed their understanding of China’s position and made positive comments on China’s role,” Wang said. “Our position is consistent. In dealing with all hotspot issues, China stands for peace, dialogue and justice. Our attitude is also clear, we strive to play a responsible and constructive role in dealing with all challenges.”
He also added this:
“Fifth, China adheres to consolidating peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. China is committed to the policy of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness in its neighborhood. China is wary of the United States using the Indo-Pacific strategy to instigate a bloc confrontation in the region. China works to accelerate regional integration and cooperation, and safeguard the hard-won development momentum.”
VI. Human Genetic Resource Guidelines
A very detailed draft guideline on China's human genetic resources was released by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of China on March 22. The draft is open for public consultation till April 21. Highlights from the draft guideline are given below.
Highlights of MOST Guidelines on Human Genetic Resources:
Governed under Biosecurity Law (中华人民共和国生物安全法) and Data Security Law (中华人民共和国数据安全法) of PRC.
A national survey on genetic resources will be conducted every five years (Article 25).
Management of human genetic resources within that region
S&T committees and bureaus of provincial governments
S&T Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC)
What is allowed? - "rational use of human genetic resource"
Develop the biomedical industry
Key Requirements in the guidelines
Ethical review: of collection, preservation, utilization, and other works.
Safeguarding rights and interests: the processes mentioned above should respect the privacy rights of genetic resources providers and should obtain informed consent.
Technical compliance: with technical specifications of relevant scientific research activities.
Qualifications: This provision in Article 11 bans foreign organizations and individuals to collect or preserve China's genetic resources and places a ban on providing Chinese genetic resources abroad. Article 12 of the guidelines also defines "Foreign Units." The exact provision is given below:
"The collection, preservation, and external provision of China's human genetic resources within the territory of our country must be carried out by our nation's scientific research institutions, institutions of higher learning, medical institutions, and enterprises (hereinafter referred to as "Chinese units"). Overseas organizations, individuals, and institutions established or actually controlled by them (hereinafter referred to as "foreign units") must not collect or preserve our nation's human genetic resources within the territory of our country, and must not provide our nation's human genetic resources abroad." [在我国境内采集、保藏和对外提供我国人类遗传资源必须由我国科研机构、高等学校、医疗机构和企业（以下称"中方单位"）开展。境外组织、个人及其设立或者实际控制的机构（以下称"外方单位"）不得在我国境内采集、保藏我国人类遗传资源，不得向境外提供我国人类遗传资源]
Unlike the State Council regulation in 2019, there is a provision for international cooperation. Article 14 mentions that to carry out international cooperative research, cooperation should fulfill principles of "equality and mutual benefit, good faith, joint participation, and share results." Such cooperation will be based on a mutually signed "clear and scientific" agreement in accordance with the law. Furthermore, Article 15 also mentions that such cooperation shall ensure that Chinese units and their researchers participate in research throughout the process and substantively during the period of cooperation, and that all records and data and information in the course of research are fully open to Chinese units, and that backups are provided to Chinese units.
There are Provisions for patent sharing and sharing of international cooperation rights and interests, detailed conditions for special cases where data had to be transported outside China, and conditions of the permit for the same.
There is also provision for open use of genetic information by foreign organizations and individuals and sending data aboard in emergency cases. However, it should pass the security review of the MOST.
First of all, this is a draft guideline, not the final one. Hence, there might be some changes in the final version whenever it is released. Still, this guideline gives a pretty good idea of the direction of the Chinese government's thinking on matters related to human genetic resources. These guidelines are based on 2019 regulations issued by the State Council of China. The Chinese government had released these regulations in 2019 after the international controversy over Chinese Researcher He Jiankui's claim to have created the world's first gene-edited babies.
Human genetic resource generally refers to any substance that contains human genes. This includes organs, cells, tissues, hair follicles, etc. The definition of human genetic resources in the guideline also includes genetic resource information. This means the information and data generated from human genetic resource materials.
A key change from council regulation in 2019 to 2022 MOST guidelines is that the 2019 regulations are outright banned. Look at this official release on State Council's website:
"Foreign organizations and individuals, as well as organizations directly controlled by them, are not allowed to collect or preserve China's human genetic resources, nor is providing such resources abroad."
However, the MOST guideline has a provision to send data abord for emergency cases, provided such transfer is approved by MOST. The current guideline also includes provisions for international cooperation. But again, there are conditions for international cooperation agreements, data sharing backup, administrative licensing, etc.
The inclusion of the Data Security Law could indicate that the Chinese government views human genetic resources data on par with data generated by platforms, services, devices, etc. This also implies that the government views human genome data as a strategic resource.
Interestingly, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), one of the organizations tasked with the management of the genetic resources within Xinjiang, has been sanctioned by the US Department of Treasury for involvement in human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. XPCC is a paramilitary organization under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“The investigation showed that Fu had totally betrayed his ideals and faith, never genuinely stayed loyal to the Party and people, displayed an "extremely inflated political ambition," and attempted to attain personal political goals unscrupulously, said the anti-graft body statement. He was involved in the self-serving clique of former vice minister of public security Sun Lijun. He engaged in falsification and even deceived central authorities on major issues, which had undermined the centralized, unified leadership of the Party, said the statement.”
Speaking at the Islamabad Security Dialogue, Zhao Kezhi said: “In the face of the current complicated and turbulent international and regional security situation, the new security concept featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security is of great practical significance and value to the resolution of security issues in Asia…China is willing to actively advocate and firmly implement the new vision of security, work with other parties to cope with various security risks and challenges, jointly safeguard security and stability in Asia, and promote the building of a community with a shared future for humanity that enjoys universal security.”