India is set to overtake China as the most populous nation in the world, says the United Nations. China’s Minister of National Defence of China Li Shangfu visits Moscow and praises Russian President Vladimir Putin. Taiwan officials ask the US to ‘tone down their rhetoric on the semiconductor supply chain threat. Chinascope brings you the highlights of stories from China – and the world.
China over the week
In recent weeks, the world has been fixated on how far Beijing will go to support Moscow’s war in Ukraine. Earlier in the week, China’s new Minister of National Defence of China Li Shangfu was in Moscow on his first visit, where he met Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and other senior Russian officials. It’s not unusual for the Chinese defence ministers to make their first visit to Moscow as that’s been the custom for some time.
But Li has courted controversy in the past. He was sanctioned by the US in 2018 for transactions with the Russian government’s export arm, Rosoboronexport, while leading the People’s Liberation Army (PLA’s) Equipment Development Department.
The Chinese side released a statement about Li’s discussions with Putin and his officials.
“First, implement the important consensus reached by the heads of state and deepen practical cooperation.”
“The second is to strengthen strategic communication between the two militaries and enhance military mutual trust. The third is to implement global security initiatives and maintain world peace,” said PLA spokesperson Tan Kefei.
The PLA spokesperson also mentioned, “improving the mechanism of cooperation between the two militaries and expand the theater of operations.” From the discussion, we can conclude that Russia’s dependence on China for military support in any kind is likely to increase – for now through training and non-lethal assistance.
While in Moscow, Li called Putin “an extraordinary state leader”. He added in his remarks that the Russian president had made “important contributions to promoting world peace and development”. Li’s remarks praising Putin weren’t published by Chinese state media but instead widely circulated on a Chinese short-video platform owned by NetEase.
Did Li commit to supplying Moscow with the lethal-aid Kremlin had requested? We don’t know yet.
But there’s a new revelation— a request by Russia’s Wagner Group to supply ‘ammunition and equipment’ was rebuffed by Beijing, according to leaked US documents.
The request made in early 2023 by Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin didn’t receive any response from Beijing, reported Financial Times citing the leaked US intelligence documents.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s visit to China was in the making for some time after he managed to defeat his main opponent Jair Bolsonaro.
Beijing sees a strong ally in Lula who has been a longtime proponent of an anti-US stance in international politics.
“China welcomes more high-quality products from Brazil into its market. China will actively explore the greater synergy between its Belt and Road Initiative and Brazil’s reindustrialization strategy,” said president Xi.
During his visit to Shanghai, Lula made a rhetorical statement about ending dollar trade hegemony, which has piqued the interest of many.
“Every night I ask myself why all countries have to base their trade on the dollar,” said Lula in his speech at the New Development Bank in Shanghai.
The hype about China’s renminbi replacing the domination of the US dollar as the reserve currency is blown out of proportion.
“Currently, there is little evidence of [yuan]-denominated trade settlement that does not directly involve China, except possibly between Russia and a few other countries,” said a new report released by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday.
China’s demographic decline has made headlines lately. And now India has overtaken as the world’s most populous country.
“When assessing a country’s demographic dividend, we need to look at not just the size but also the quality of its population. Size matters, but what matters more is talent resource. Nearly 900 million out of the 1.4 billion Chinese are of working age and on average have received 10.9 years of education,” said Wang Wenbin, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.
The racial undertone of the spokesperson’s comment was noted by experts. The narrative of suzhi cited in Wang’s remarks makes the racist connotation rather explicit because it looks down upon racialised non-Chinese people as ‘inferior’.
India surpassing China in terms of population size has also started conversations on Chinese social media.
The hashtag “India will become the most populous country in the world” was viewed 170 million times on Weibo.
“Congratulations to India for becoming the most populous country,” said a Weibo user.
Some users tried to justify a lean demographic for China’s economic progress.
“There are advantages in having fewer people, but on the whole, there may be disadvantages as well. The most obvious thing is that housing prices will continue to fall in cities where the population has plateaued,” said a user from Guangdong province.
Also read: Why China is struggling with international travel—geopolitical tensions, economic timidity
China in world news
Taiwan makes almost 90 per cent of the most advanced semiconductors. It’s an industry that has been supported by the US since Beijing’s threat weighed down on the island nation.
But Taiwan is now realising the cost of exaggerating the threat of disruptions to the semiconductor supply chain.
Taiwanese officials have quietly urged their US counterparts to “tone down their rhetoric” on the dangers of relying on chips manufactured in Taiwan, reported Bloomberg.
Taiwanese officials are concerned about remarks made by visiting Republican lawmaker Michael McCaul, who said Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is a strategic asset “very vulnerable to invasion”.
Taiwan’s economic prosperity is underpinned by the industry, which will likely be disrupted if Beijing invades Taiwan.
Taipei has realised that by exaggerating the threat to the semiconductor supply chain, the island might be shooting itself in the foot as countries look to develop alternative supply chains to offset the challenge posed by Beijing’s militarism.
Almost five months after the 17th round of Corps Commander level talks, the latest 18th round of talks between top military commanders from India and was held at the Chushul-Moldo meeting point. The India side was led by Lt Gen Rashim Bali, Commander of the 14 Corps. Further details about the outcome of the talks is awaited.
Also read: China’s new strategy for Taiwan-US meet–show Xi as peacemaker, not rile up domestic protesters
Must read this week
Frozen Frontiers: China’s Great Power Ambitions in the Polar Regions – Matthew P. Funaiole and Brian Hart Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and Aidan Powers-Riggs
It’s All about Networking: The Limits of Renminbi Internationalization – Gerard DiPippo and Andrea Leonard Palazzi
China publishers ditch US books as geopolitical tensions mount – Sun Yu and Nian Liu
What Should India Do Before the Next Taiwan Strait Crisis? – Vijay Gokhale