Friday, 2 December, 2022
HomeOpinionChinascopeA flag, a theatre—On Chinese Martyrs' Day, PLA’s signal to India across...

A flag, a theatre—On Chinese Martyrs’ Day, PLA’s signal to India across Ladakh, Sikkim

Ahead of the crucial 20th Party Congress, Xi Jinping told the CCP to prepare for a ‘great struggle’.

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Xi Jinping asks the Communist Party to prepare for a “great struggle” on National Day. Karakorum theatre and Tibet in sharp focus on Martyrs’ Day. And is Chinese State media switching to using Xizang as the name for Tibet? India Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar says relations with China aren’t “normalised”. Chinese ambassador to India puts forward four proposals. Chinascope brings you the news from a busy week of political events in China – and around the world.

China over the week

China’s National Day celebrations on 1 October this year had a different meaning as we approach the 20th Party Congress. Ahead of the celebrations, Xi Jinping signalled the direction of his politics in an article penned for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) political theory journal, Qiushi.

“Comrades! Today, we are closer, more confident, and capable of realizing the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than at any time in history,” wrote Xi in a Qiushi article published on 30 September.

Xi told the CCP to prepare for a “great struggle”.

“The great struggle, the great project, the great cause, and the great dream are closely linked, interconnected, and interact with each other. Among them, the new great project of party building plays a decisive role,” Xi added.

Xi and the top leadership of the CCP attended the National Day celebration, also known as Martyrs’ Day, in Tiananmen Square. The event was largely symbolic where Xi honoured past military heroes and people’s heroes who bravely sacrificed their lives for the cause of liberation of the Chinese people, according to Xinhua News.

At the State Council’s banquet to mark the National Day, Premier Li Keqiang said China is determined to forge ahead under the leadership of Xi Jinping, even under severe domestic and international pressure. Xi didn’t make a speech at the event.

Also read: Xi Jinping aims to seize complete control over internet to curb dissent

On the Taiwan issue, Li said China will promote “peaceful and integrated development of cross-strait relations” and achieve reunification with the mainland. The ‘reunification’ of Taiwan with the mainland is one of the primary goals of national rejuvenation.

People across China celebrated National Day with a week-long public holiday called Golden Week. On Martyrs’ Day, all branches of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hosted events across theatre commands to honour the past.

Karakorum, across from Ladakh, was mentioned as a notable theatre for the PLA in Chinese State media’s reporting on National Day. The four soldiers from China’s official list who died during the Galwan clash were also remembered.

The PLA sent another signal to India on National Day. The Red Army Division of the Xinjiang Military District raised the Chinese national flag at the site of the Qiudijiangela post (or “Dangqi Mountain”) next to the Spangur Tso Lake in the Ladakh region. An article was published on the front page of the PLA Daily on 2 October about the flag-raising ceremony at the Qiudijiangela post.

The post is known for the giant CCP flag painted next to the rock cliff, and the Chinese State media describe the site as “Party Flag Mountain”.

The People’s Liberation Army media network published a video on 1 October showing border guards patrolling along Gamba County, across from Sikkim. In September 2021, Xi Jinping wrote a letter to the soldiers of a particular battalion in Gamba County and gave the title of “Plateau Frontier Guard Model Camp” to a Gamba battalion of the Tibet Military Region regiment. The letters are now stored at a museum in the Gamba Dzong town. A PLA reporter showed the letters Xi sent to the soldiers stationed in Gamba while travelling with the patrolling guard along the Sikkim border.

Chinese State media is about to launch a blitz as we are just over two weeks away from the 20th Party Congress. It has published a complete list of delegates attending the 20th Party Congress.

The PLA will likely go through a leadership change during the event. Rod Lee, the US-based expert on the PLA, has made some predictions about the changes in the Chinese military leadership.

Meanwhile, Chinese State media is trying to promote the pinyin name of Tibet, ‘Xizang’, in English articles. Until now, it used ‘Tibet’ when referring to the region, which is ‘bod’ in Tibetan. The change seems to be part of the effort to further Sinicise Tibet.

“Global Times’ reports are now salted with casual references to ‘Xizang’. A report back in January, about China’s construction of a bridge across Tibet’s Pangong Lake that has prickled border tensions with India, noted that ‘Xizang still lags behind other provinces of China’ and that ‘infrastructure construction is essential to development’,” wrote David Bandurski of the China Media Project.

Also read: Here’s how rumours of Xi Jinping’s ‘arrest’ and ‘coup’ started

The trend isn’t new as some Chinese diplomats have made it a practice to refer to Tibet as ‘Xizang’ on Twitter.

“Troops under the PLA Xizang Military Command held flag-raising ceremonies on Saturday morning to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the PRC,” wrote Zhang Meifang, Chinese consulate general in Belfast.

But what’s notable is that only Global Times in English has picked up the practice, others like China Daily and People’s Daily continue to use Tibet. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs started to use Xizang in early 2022.

The early signs of the change may portend a more wholesale shift in reference to Tibet. We just don’t have enough evidence to prove a radical shift is underway.

China’s declining economic prospects have been in the news for a while. But now, the yuan, also called Renminbi, has hit a record low against the dollar.

“The yuan fell to a record low against the dollar offshore, while its onshore rate was around levels not seen since the 2008 financial crisis,” Bloomberg reported. Two reasons can explain the weakening yuan, the US federal reserve’s tightening because of the rising inflation and the flailing Chinese economy.

Also read: China wants its military to develop ability to seize Taiwan by 2027

China in world news

Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar was in Washington DC last week to address some of the growing differences over India’s response to the Ukraine war. While in DC, the minister said the relationship with China was far from ‘normalised’ as Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong had suggested.

“No, look, I think, if the spokesperson [sic] of a foreign ministry were to say something, I would urge you to seek comment from the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of the corresponding country,” said Jaishankar.

Sun had earlier said “phase of emergency response since the Galwan Valley incident” and the border situation was “normalised”.

Sun also put forward four proposals for China-India relations.

First, both sides should “promote mutual understanding and trust”. Second, win-win cooperation between the two. Third, “properly handle differences and sensitive issues”. Fourth, “strengthen coordination and collaboration”. All four were vague talking points that China has proposed in the past.

Since the publication of the integrated review, the UK has tried to send messages to the diplomatic community about its internal pivot towards the Indo-Pacific. Now, the new foreign secretary under Prime Minister Liz Truss, James Cleverly, has tried to convey the same message in a public address.

“Because China is a major global actor and driver of growth. It has lifted literally millions of people out of poverty. But the lessons I take from watching China across my lifetime, is that when China departs from global rules and norms, when it aligns itself with aggressive countries like Russia – its standing in the world suffers. Now China will always have a choice about the direction it wants to take,” said James Cleverly in Singapore at the Milken Institute’s Asia Summit.

Pew Research Center’s public opinion tracker is one of the more reliable metrics to access changing views about China worldwide. We know from past Pew surveys that views on China have continued to become more negative around the world. But we didn’t know how the negative views were linked to Xi Jinping.

Now, Pew has concluded that views about China turned negative globally under Xi Jinping. Sweden, followed by France, topped the list of countries where the people have “no confidence at all” in Xi.

“In both the U.S. and Australia, when respondents were asked an open-ended question on what they think about when they think about China, some specifically highlighted China’s leadership or Xi in particular,” said the report.

Also read: No war no peace in PP15 but China wants more in Depsang Plains, Charding-Ninglung Nala

Must read this week

How to defend yourself against Chinese economic coercion — Q&A with Bonnie Glaser – Jeremy Goldkorn

Out of Control – Sushant Singh

China Reins In Its Belt and Road Program, $1 Trillion Later – Lingling Wei

In China’s Hinterlands, Young Women Can’t Find a Man. Literally – Fan Yiying and Gu Peng

The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist, currently pursuing an MSc in international politics with a focus on China from School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. He tweets @aadilbrar. Views are personal.

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