Tibet Visit - Xi Thought Series - China-Pak FMs Meet - Henan Floods - PD Piece on Galwan - Wang Criticises the EU - 3-Child Policy - HK Sedition Arrests - China-US Talks - India's Military Rebalancing
I hope this finds you all well. It’s a busy Sunday at home this week, with babysitting being my primary task. So I’m doing a shorter version of the newsletter. Shibani’s Region Watch section is a must read today for the coverage of the China-Pakistan foreign ministers’ meeting, among other things.
Should be back to normal functioning next week. Also, if you are interested, do check out this chat I had with my colleague Pranay Kotasthane on my book Smokeless War. We talked about a lot of things other than just the book, so it might be of interest even if you’ve already gotten tired of me talking about the book.
I. Xi Jinping’s Tibet visit
This came out of the blue and is his first visit to the region since he assumed power in 2012. Xi went to Nyingchi and then took the train to Lhasa. The coverage was strangely delayed in official media. But the big point is that Xi “stressed fully implementing the guidelines of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for governing Tibet in a new era and writing a new chapter of lasting stability and high-quality development for the plateau region.” Here’s more of the points he made:
people of all ethnic groups had jointly contributed to the development of Tibet and written the history of Tibet. Through its course, the history provided ample examples of exchanges between Tibetan and other ethnic groups.
Tibet is at a new historical starting point of its development, and the Party's leadership must be upheld and the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics must be followed.
The publicity and education work of building public awareness of ethnic unity and progress should be combined with the education work concerning core socialist values, patriotism, anti-secessionism, history, and Marxist concepts.
He called for strengthening exchanges and interactions among ethnic groups, as well as building a stronger sense of identification with the country, the Chinese nation, the Chinese culture, the CPC, and socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Here’s CCTV’s Friday evening bulletin on the visit, and below is PD’s front page on Saturday morning.
While we are on the subject, here’s a Twitter question that I thought was interesting to think about. Are there any good books that you folks can recommend on understanding authoritarianism?
Some coverage that’s worth reading:
II. PD Piece on Chen Hongjun
For the first time since the standoff began in Eastern Ladakh last year, we had such a feature piece on the situation in PD. This one talked about Chen Hongjun. Chen was the commander of a motorized infantry battalion under a border defense regiment. This is in line with Chen being honoured on July 1 and the idea that he should serve as a role model. Important to note that there was also a long Xinhua feature about Chen, which I covered in this newsletter last week.
The story begins on an emphatic note, telling the reader about the snowy peaks of the Karakoram range. “This is the western frontier of the motherland and the front line of guarding peace and tranquility,” it says. 这里是祖国的西部边陲，也是守卫和平安宁的一线.
Soon, we get to the operative party that discusses the events in Galwan Valley in June 2020. The narrative is this:
“In June, 2020, the relevant foreign troops openly violated the consensus reached with us and set up tents across the line. In accordance with the practice of handling border incidents and based on an agreement previously reached between the two sides, Qi Fabao, the regimental commander, took only a few officers and soldiers to solve the problem through negotiations in all earnestness. They waded through the waist-deep waters of the river to negotiate. During the negotiations, the other side ignored our sincerity, hiding and mobilizing a large number of troops with premeditation, trying to force us to give up by virtue of having outnumbered us. After learning that Qi Fabao had been besieged, Chen Hongjun rushed with reinforcements to the scene of the confrontation and into the crowd. He did so, braving the enemy’s ‘stone rain’ and ‘array of clubs.’ Fighting bravely, he successfully rescued Qi Fabao, but he himself never came out.” 2020年6月，有关外军公然违背与我方达成的共识，越线搭设帐篷。按照处理边境事件的惯例和双方之前达成的约定，某边防团团长祁发宝本着谈判解决问题的诚意，仅带几名官兵，蹚过齐腰深的河水前出交涉. 交涉过程中，对方无视我方诚意，早有预谋地潜藏、调动大量兵力，企图凭借人多势众迫使我方退让. 赶到对峙点增援的陈红军，在得知团长祁发宝被围困的消息后，带人冲入人群营救，冒着敌人的“石头雨”“棍棒阵”，奋不顾身、英勇战斗，成功营救出祁发宝，而他自己却再也没有出来. 回顾那场战斗，一名指挥员动情地说，我官兵上下同欲、生死相依是这次战斗以少胜多的关键所在.
The rest of the piece is a bit of an emotional biography of Chen.
It ends by telling us that on the first anniversary of the Galwan Valley clashes, PLA troops on the frontline “once again came to the place of sacrifice of the martyrs” with a vow on the cliffs of the Galwan Valley: “大好河山寸土不让” dàhǎo héshān cùntǔ bù ràng - Great rivers and mountains, never yield an inch of territory.
Now, there was some confusion in the Indian press, which picked up a Global Times English report, which in turn had drawn from the PD piece. But the GT report had said that at one point that “Chen Hongjun sacrificed his life to the frontline defense confrontation with India in the Galwan Valley in June 2020, along with four of his comrades-in-arms…” Indian media outlets picked this up to say that China has adjusted the Galwan death toll from 4 to 5.
GT corrected themselves later to say:
“Chen Hongjun sacrificed his life to the frontline defense confrontation with India in the Galwan Valley in June 2020, along with three of his comrades-in-arms...”
Folks sitting outside may want to believe that this is official media chicanery. But that would be an incorrect conclusion. The PD report does not in anyway suggest that five soldiers were killed. This was a GT thing. And my experience of having worked in state media tells me that often this sort of stuff can happen because reports get translated and then sent for English improvements to foreign employees. At this point, phrases can get reworked and sentences restructured. This output again gets vetted, but things can get lost in translation and communication. In a nutshell, often incompetence, oversight and lack of communication between the reporter and English editor are more likely the reality than an elaborate game of smoke and mirrors. Also, I hope this is a reminder to Indian media to not overstate the reliability and significance of Global Times.
III. Xi Thought - Three-Child Policy - Wang’s Mideast Tour
A quick round-up of some of the domestic report that I covered in my People’s Daily Tracker this week.
the Central Committee and State Council’s decision on improving birth policies (Xinhua English report) to promote long-term and balanced population development. The document talks about the “three-child policy” in the following context:
“China’s population is expected to enter a stage of moderate aging during the 14th Five-Year Plan period, and then a stage of severe aging around 2035. This will have far-reaching consequences for economic development and society.” 预计“十四五”期间我国人口将进入中度老龄化阶段，2035年前后进入重度老龄化阶段，将对经济运行全领域、社会建设各环节、社会文化多方面产生深远影响.
“It then says that implementing the three-child policy and supporting measures will help maintain a moderate population and labor force scale in the future, give full play to the basic, overall and strategic role of population factors, and provide effective human capital support and domestic demand support for high-quality development.” 实施三孩生育政策及配套支持措施，有利于未来保持适度人口总量和劳动力规模，更好发挥人口因素的基础性、全局性、战略性作用，为高质量发展提供有效人力资本支撑和内需支撑.
The document says that the general trend in society is to have fewer children and provide them with better education. “Economic burdens, child care and women's concern about career development have become the main factors restricting fertility.” 群众生育观念已总体转向少生优育，经济负担、子女照料、女性对职业发展的担忧等成为制约生育的主要因素. The policy aims to address these issues.
You can read the full breakdown here.
PD this week also carried a series of articles in Q&A format to talk about Xi Jinping Thought. It’s really difficult to summarise the five pieces that I covered from Monday to Friday in my PD tracker. But let me try brief takeaways for each piece:
the first piece emphasises that Marxism is the Party’s Guiding Ideology and Xi Thought is 21st Century Marxism; ergo, it is guiding ideology. This one also heaps tremendous praise on Xi as someone who has demonstrated “extraordinary theoretical courage, outstanding political wisdom and strong missionary commitment of a Marxist statesman.”
the second piece tells us that Xi Thought “is not only a systematic theoretical system, but also a strategic system to guide” China. It also has this paragraph, which offers much praise for Xi’s foreign and security policies. Do note that the India-China border situation is described as a “clash/conflict.”
“The CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core have scientifically grasped the profound and complex changes in the international and domestic situation, adhered to the bottom-line thinking, enhanced the sense of urgency, and made overall plans for development and security. They have put the prevention and resolution of major risks in a more prominent position and have effectively resolved the risks and challenges in the economic, scientific and technological, social, network and diplomatic fields. They have dared to struggle and excel in the context of a series of major issues such as the Sino-US economic and trade frictions, the sovereignty dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, the Sino-Indian border conflict, the maintenance of sovereignty and rights and interests in the South China Sea, as well as those involving Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and human rights, vigorously defended China's sovereignty, security and development interests, and won the strategic initiative.” 以习近平同志为核心的党中央科学把握国际国内形势发生的深刻复杂变化，坚持底线思维，增强忧患意识，统筹发展和安全两件大事，把防范化解重大风险摆在更加突出位置，有效化解了经济、科技、社会、网络、外交等领域的风险挑战，在中美经贸摩擦、钓鱼岛主权争议、中印边境冲突、南海主权和权益维护以及涉港、涉台、涉疆、涉藏、人权等一系列重大问题上敢于斗争、善于斗争，有力维护了我国主权、安全、发展利益，赢得了战略主动.
the third piece tells us that Xi, in arriving at his Thought, “has paid attention to grasping the laws of history and development trends from the prisms of history, reality and the future…” Again, this is more about the man than the idea. For instance, Xi Thought is described as “problem-oriented,” which “embodies the superb leadership and governance skills of General Secretary Xi Jinping in understanding, analyzing, and solving problems…” We also learn that “un-depth study and implementation of Xi Jinping's socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era is the primary political task of the whole party at present and in the future…”
the fourth piece talks about what’s new in the “new era.” A key part of this is the international situation.
“Fundamentally speaking, the unprecedented great changes we are experiencing is the inevitable result of the contradictory movement of productive forces and relations of production worldwide, reflecting the general trend of the development of human civilization. This big change is the transformation from a unipolar world with a de-facto ‘monopoly’ to a multipolar world with synergy and co-governance. Unilateralism has become increasingly unpopular, multipolarity has become an unstoppable trend of the times, and China has become an important force in the process of multipolarity in the world. This big change is the transformation of the development path of modernization from a unitary system to pluralistic system. In the eyes of the world, especially in the eyes of Westerners, modernization means Westernization, but the socialist modernization path pioneered by China shows a new possibility to realize modernization. The big change is the transformation from a world in which socialism suffered from serious twists and turns to scientific socialism coming to life in the 21st century. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe, the Western world was eager to claim that history had ended with the capitalist system, but instead, the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics has declared the end of the ‘end of history’.” 纵横不出方圆，万变不离其宗。从根本上说，从根本上说，我们正在经历的百年巨变，是世界范围内生产力和生产关系矛盾运动的必然结果，反映了人类文明发展的大趋势. 我们正在经历的百年未有之大变局，是世界范围内生产力和生产关系矛盾运动的必然结果，反映了人类文明发展的大潮流大趋向。这个大变局，是从事实上“一家独大”的单极世界向协同共治的多极世界的转变。单边主义越来越不得人心，多极化成为不可阻挡的时代潮流，中国成为世界多极化进程中的一支重要力量。这个大变局，是现代化发展路径从一元走向多元的转变。在世人眼中特别是在西方人眼中，现代化就是西方化，而中国开创的社会主义现代化道路，展现了实现现代化的全新可能。这个大变局，是从世界社会主义遭受严重曲折向科学社会主义在21世纪焕发勃勃生机的转变。苏联解体、东欧剧变后，西方人迫不及待宣称历史已经终结于资本主义制度，结果却是，中国特色社会主义的巨大成功宣告了“历史终结论”的终结.
the fifth piece talks about the change in the principal contradiction. The response to this is that over time with the growth in the economy, the concern has shifted from “backward social production.” Now the issue is the people’s “yearning for a better life.” This entails “higher requirements for material and cultural life, but also increasing desire for democracy, rule of law, fairness, justice, security, and a better environment.”
Wang said that he and his hosts have agreed to strengthen strategic communication and coordination, continue to support each other on issues involving their respective core interests and major concerns, and make new contributions to the building of a China-Arab community with a shared future.
He spoke about the importance of BRI and said that “we all agree that it is urgent to realize peace and stability in the Middle East and all parties should work together to find a permanent solution.”
China and the Arab states hold that the origin tracing of the virus is a scientific issue, which should be carried out by professionals in a scientific manner, Wang said, adding that politicization of the pandemic should be rejected.
He talked about vaccine nationalism and pandemic diplomacy.
Trampling on the sovereignty of other countries in the name of democratic transformation is an unpopular practice, Wang said, noting that instigating ‘color revolutions’ and forcing regime changes are even more harmful. He spoke about this in the context of Syria.
He said that
“China and other developing countries have always supported each other, vigorously boosted the democratization of international relations, world multi-polarization and economic globalization. Developing countries have also always extended valuable support to China over the issues concerning China's core interests, and become China's strong reliance, he said. China and other developing countries should resolutely defend fairness and justice, safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity, oppose hegemonism and power politics, practice genuine multilateralism, and resist a minority group imposing its rules on the international community.”
The PD story adds some other interesting comments. For instance, it has Wang saying that these three countries were “the first Arab countries to establish diplomatic relations with New China, and they are old friends worthy of China's trust. They all made positive contributions to China's restoration of its legitimate seat in the United Nations in those years, and their support for China's core interests has always been unwavering.”
Wang says that based on his visit, he understood that “the struggle of the Chinese Communist Party has important reference value, which is prominently reflected in the fact that the success of a country’s governance cannot be separated from independent path exploration, a strong leadership core, people-centred approach, and overall development and security.” 他们表示中国共产党的奋斗历程具有重要参考价值，突出体现在一个国家治理的成功离不开自主道路探索，离不开坚强领导核心，离不开以人民为中心，离不开统筹发展与安全.
“While the ordinary Syrian people are worried about economic issues because of sanctions, some countries are talking about protecting Syria’s human rights, displaying only hypocrisy.” 当叙利亚老百姓因为经济制裁而为大饼发愁的时候，有些国家却大谈保护叙利亚的人权，展现的只有虚伪. He added that the international community should urge the United States and the West to immediately lift all unilateral sanctions and economic blockades against Syria.
He also talked about the Israel-Palestine issue, emphasising that “it is the responsibility of the Chinese side to promote peace and stop violence.”
IV Region Watch
Following the terror attack that claimed nine Chinese lives in northern Pakistan last week, it would appear that forces hostile to China’s presence in Pakistan have upped the ante. Beijing, according to anonymous sources in Pakistan, is unlikely to remain patient and has hinted at modifying its strategy to deal with opposition. Amid the speculation of whether the incident will lead to radical change in how China addresses security threats it faces in Pakistan, both countries displayed a united front in Chengdu at the third strategic dialogue. Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi “vehemently condemned” the attack as the two,
“expressed their firm resolve to expose the culprits and their reprehensible designs through the ongoing joint investigation, give exemplary punishment to the perpetrators, ensure comprehensive safety and security of the Chinese projects, nationals and institutions, and prevent recurrence of such incidents”,
Intelligence sources believe that Chinese workers at several China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects are arming themselves seeing as Pakistani security forces have failed to protect them. This, however, is a matter of concern in areas where there is friction between the foreigners and locals.
At the strategic dialogue, Wang and Qureshi promoted an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and reconciliation process and outlined a five-point joint plan on Afghanistan. The official statement focused on the need for a peaceful and stable South Asia and China made it a point to reiterate its “…firm support to Pakistan in safeguarding its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence…” in reference to Pakistan’s dispute with India over Kashmir. Both the issues of Afghanistan and Kashmir were also referenced in the joint statement issued after the talks.
On Afghanistan it said that:
“The two sides reaffirmed their support for the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan, are willing to expand economic and trade exchanges with Afghanistan, and support Afghanistan in enhancing its independent development capabilities.”
On Kashmir, it said that:
“Pakistan informed China of the deterioration of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, including Pakistan’s concerns, positions and current urgent issues. The Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left over from history between Pakistan and India. This is an objective fact and should be properly resolved through peaceful means in accordance with the UN Charter, relevant resolutions of the Security Council and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation.”
Meanwhile, we continue to witness Bangladesh’s tactful approach to the Sino-Indian geopolitical rivalry in the region. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said the China-led South Asian initiative for COVID-19 vaccines and poverty alleviation was not meant to exclude India. The Foreign Minister told The Hindu that Bangladesh,
“...asked, how about India, and the Chinese [government] said this forum is open to India and India is welcome. In fact, even at the Foreign Minister’s meeting which included Pakistan, they said India would be welcome to join,”
Should this be seen as a tilt towards India? Might be too soon to call it either way but one thing is certain, Bangladesh is holding its own.
Momen also told reporters about a proposal made to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, at a meeting in Tashkent last week. Dhaka would like Moscow to drive a trilateral initiative with Myanmar. This comes a month after the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming said Beijing would try its best to facilitate swift repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar. Momen believes that Russia can yield favourable results in negotiations of Rohingya repatriation after the China-led effort seems stalled.
Staying with the Sino-Indian rivalry, Nepal is presumed to attempt diplomatic balance in dealing with India and China under its new leadership. After months of political uncertainty, Nepal's new Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba won a vote of confidence in parliament last week. Kunal Purohit, however, found that Deuba’s appointment is expected to bring Kathmandu closer to New Delhi once more after his predecessor favoured ties with Beijing. China’s state-backed nationalist tabloid too has acknowledged Deuba as a “pro-India leader”. The Maldives, on the other hand, has taken a clear stand. The Foreign Minister hinted disappointment towards Beijing in an interview with The Economic Times,
“China did not invite Maldives for their two recently launched initiatives on vaccines and poverty alleviation Centre and yet described these initiatives as South Asian initiatives for some strange reason,” Abdullah Shahid told ET.
The Minister’s statement comes just one week following President Xi Jinping's phone call with Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih, in which China expressed a desire to build its relationship with the island nation. The Chinese Embassy in Male also witnessed a protest against the treatment of Muslims last week.
V. Other Stories
Death toll rises as passengers recount horror of China subway floods/ A China Subway Flood Survivor’s Harrowing Experience: ‘I May Not Be Able to Get Out’/ In Flood-Stricken Zhengzhou, Questions About the Number of Missing
While on the floods, this thread from the LA Times’ Alice Su is worth going through. Nationalism can be a dangerous tiger to ride.
“On Sunday, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman – the US’s second-highest-ranking diplomat – will meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin, China in what looks set to be tense talks dominated by friction on a number of fronts. Last Monday, US President Joe Biden – along with NATO, the European Union, Australia, the UK, Canada, Japan and New Zealand – slammed China for a wide-reaching cyberespionage campaign, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken said posed ‘a major threat to our economic and national security’.”
Later in the week on Friday, China took what it said were “reciprocal countermeasures” to “impose sanctions on seven US individuals and entity according to the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, including former US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Louis Ross, Chairman of US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) Carolyn Bartholomew, former Staff Director of Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Jonathan Stivers, DoYun Kim at National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, senior program manager of the International Republican Institute (IRI) Adam Joseph King, China Director at Human Rights Watch Sophie Richardson, and Hong Kong Democratic Council.”
U.S.-China Goods Trade Booms as If Virus, Tariffs Never Happened/ Chinese Suppliers to Apple, Nike Shun Xinjiang Workers as U.S. Forced-Labor Ban Looms/ China Breached Dozens of Pipeline Companies in Past Decade, U.S. Says
Chinese foreign minister: EU diplomacy is ‘contradictory’ - Excerpt below:
“Beijing has stepped up criticism of Europe’s ‘triple position’ policy on China which simultaneously considers the Asian superpower a partner, competitor and systemic rival. ‘The EU's triple positioning for China is mutually contradictory and cancels itself out,’ Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Maltese counterpart Evarist Bartolo in the Chinese city of Chengdu on Friday. ‘China and Europe are partners, not competitors,’ said Wang, according to a statement issued by the Chinese government. ‘China and Europe have neither serious conflicts of interest, nor historical imbroglios’.”
Children’s tales of sheep and wolves incite sedition, HK police say - Excerpt below:
“Hong Kong police arrested five people on Thursday on sedition charges, saying that children’s books they had published featuring wolves and sheep as characters were aimed at inciting hatred towards the city's government amongst youngsters…Police said one book, ‘Defenders of the Sheep Village’, was connected to the protests. In the story, wolves want to occupy the village and eat the sheep, who in turn use their horns to fight back. Those arrested were members of a speech therapists’ union who produced books for children. Police said the five were two men and three women aged between 25 and 28. They did not identify them by name.”
Finally, do check out this explainer/report on Indian military rebalancing in Ladakh by ThePrint