Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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Ahead of INS Vikrant launch, PLA media pushes propaganda. Calls it ‘serving with sickness’

PLA’s official website mentions 4 capability deficits that INS Vikrant still faces. Meanwhile, India-China tensions rise in Sri Lanka.

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China is rife with hot speculation over the upcoming 20th Party Congress. Drought and heatwaves disrupt life. More US senators visit Taiwan. The People’s Liberation Army ratchets up propaganda on India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. A Chinese vlogger explains how India failed to reform its agriculture sector. Chinascope brings the big and breaking news from China – and the world.

China over the week

The season of speculation about President Xi Jinping’s quest to secure a third term is fuelling the search for signs to explain what’s coming next.

A Chinese buzzword capturing Xi’s power in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been on a relative decline through August, wrote China Media Project’s David Bandurski. ‘Liang ge queli’ (Two establishments) is a phrase promoted to cement Xi’s place at the ‘core’ of the CCP. Chinese politicians seeking to curry favour with Xi extensively used the phrase in February and March in their articles in People’s Daily.

This was followed by the National People’s Congress where top leaders tried to cosy up to Xi by repeating the phrase in their columns. Now, its relative decline can be explained by the conclusion of the Beidaihe meeting and cementing of the future political roles — the time to sycophantly praise Xi has passed. We will see if the use of the phrase picks up again in September ahead of the 20th Party Congress.

Meanwhile, Bill Bishop of Sinocism has analysed the overall mentions of Xi Jinping in People’s Daily through June and July. “In July, Xi Jinping appeared in a total of 683 articles in the People’s Daily. This was slightly down for the 713 articles the general secretary recorded in June. But it was still far above his May level of 600,” wrote Bishop in his popular newsletter.

We need to wait and see what the decline in the use of Liang ge queli means. But we shouldn’t read the sign as any challenge to Xi’s authority. “Forget about it,” wrote veteran China journalist Dexter Roberts.

“Don’t read the latest gossip about Li challenging Xi as anything more than gossip. Xi almost certainly will continue on to a third term, making history as the most powerful Chinese leader in generations,” wrote Roberts in his new column for SupChina.

Meanwhile, heatwaves and the historic drought are making things worse. Southern China is currently experiencing the longest period of drought since the country started maintaining the record 60 years ago.

Visuals of wildfire in Chongqing circulated widely on Chinese social media. The hashtag “Chongqing mountain fire” was viewed 2.74 billion times on Weibo.

China is now trying to use the rain-seeding drones to end the drought in the Sichuan province — the country’s breadbasket — and other worst-hit regions. The drought is likely to have an impact on the cropping season in Sichuan and other areas. It has raised concerns about food security.

“As of last Sunday, the drought had affected at least 2.46 million people and about 2.2 million hectares of agricultural land in nine provinces along the Yangtze river basin, including Sichuan and the neighbouring metropolis Chongqing, according to the ministry of water resources,” South China Morning Post reported.

The drought and the heatwave have pushed China to fall back on coal power to plug the gap in the energy supply. Businesses in southern regions have been told to reduce their power consumption.

Also read: 1 in 5 Chinese youth unemployed. And the smart ones are going for CCP bureaucracy jobs

Eye on Taiwan

On 26 August, US Senator Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee arrived in Taiwan on a three-day visit. On Friday, she met President Tsai Ing-Wen and affirmed her support for Taiwan’s freedom and democracy.

Earlier, Nancy Pelosi had traveled to Taiwan in August. Just a few days ago, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb had led a delegation, which was followed by another comprising cross-party Japanese politicians led by Keiji Furuya on a three-day visit.

As Blackburn concluded her visit to Taiwan, the US Navy sent two guided missile cruisers — the USS Antietam and the USS Chancellorsville of the 7th fleet — through the Taiwan Strait. The US 7th fleet said that the cruiser “transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State”.

The PLA Eastern Theatre Command has continued to conduct live-fire exercises, including one on 26 August, and several PLA aircraft have flown into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone over the past days.

Meanwhile, an analysis by Reuters suggests that Beijing is trying to blur the median line with Taiwan — an ‘imagined’ line on the Taiwan Strait separating the two countries. “They want to increase pressure on us with the end goal of us giving up the median line,” a Taiwanese official told Reuters.

But Beijing has more to worry about than merely blurring the median line. A report on the impact of the potential Taiwan conflict in the future says that almost $2.6 trillion could evaporate from the global market. The report was shared with China’s State Council, according to Nikkei Asian Review, where it shocked many.

The report, prepared by China’s national security agencies — Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of State Security — says that the Chinese economy could suffer severely if the US, Europe, and Japan impose targeted sanctions on China over the Taiwan conflict.

Getting bitter towards INS Vikrant

As the Indian Navy is preparing to launch its first indigenously built aircraft carrier INC Vikrant, the PLA media has tried to undermine the carrier’s capabilities through propaganda articles.

“Although India has great expectations for the first indigenously produced aircraft carrier, in fact, the aircraft carrier still faces many problems, and it will take time to develop a complete combat capability….Even so, the aircraft carrier design still has major flaws. During the previous sea trial, the aircraft carrier had obvious pitching under high-speed sailing, and the bow was up and down,” said an article published on PLA’s official website. The title of the article reads: “Indian-made aircraft carriers may serve with ‘sickness’.”

The article mentions four capability deficits that INS Vikrant still faces despite being prepared for the launch. The byline of the article has a nom de guerre, which suggests that the original author is affiliated with the propaganda department of the PLA.

Besides the high seas, the India-China geopolitical competition is intensifying in Sri Lanka. Recently, China’s ambassador to Sri Lanka published an article about Yuan Wang 5’s docking at Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka with snarky remarks against India.

“Looking back at the great history of the island, Sri Lanka overcome aggression from its northern neighbour 17 times, colonization by the west for 450 years, and an anti-terrorism war for nearly 3 decades, is now still standing in the world bravely and proudly,” Qi Zhenhong wrote.

Indian high commission in Colombo responded to the article by tweeting, “His view of Sri Lanka’s northern neighbour may be coloured by how his own country behaves. India, we assure him, is very different.”

Also read: Hu Chunhua has a chance at Chinese premiership and why it will have implications for India

China in world news

The India-China border dispute may appear to be stuck in an impasse, but that’s not really what’s going on. The Indian Army is looking to acquire and deploy a fleet of light tanks under ‘Project Zorawar’ in the high-altitude areas in Ladakh – a signal meant for China.

“Light tanks will have firepower at par with the existing ones, and they are being procured to ensure quick deployment and boost the agility of the force as the ‘threat’ along the northern borders is likely to remain in the ‘foreseeable future’,” said a source speaking to news agency Press Trust of India (PTI).

China had inducted Type 15 light tanks into Xinjiang Military District in 2021, which have been seen conducting exercises close to the PLA installations near Rutog and Ngari Gunsa.

Meanwhile, Chinese defence ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei asked ‘third parties’ not to interfere in the India-China border dispute.

The India-China Friendship Association (ICFA) may appear like a benign organisation, but the entity is part of China’s strategy to gain political influence in India. In an eye-catching development, Leader of the Opposition in Karnataka Siddaramaiah clarified that he declined the invitation to join the ICFA event held on 28 August because of ideological differences.

A day earlier, Siddaramaiah had tweeted saying, “I had declined the invitation of India-China Friendship Association to participate in their event which will be held tomorrow. It is surprising to see my name despite declining it.” Despite declining the invitation, his name still appeared on the invitation.

For over a decade, the US has demanded access to audit reports of Chinese companies listed on Wall Street. Beijing has consistently denied the request on the grounds of national security. This week, Washington and Beijing reached an agreement that would give US regulators access to Chinese audit reports. But there is scepticism in some corners as experts believe that Beijing is unlikely to share everything about its companies.

The agreement will, for now, allow Chinese companies to remain listed on the US stock market as regulators had threatened delisting if the audit reports weren’t shared.

Must read this week

Song Jiaoren and broken promises of the Chinese republic – James Carter

A litany of economic woes but in China politics rules – Jabin Jacob

Biden-Xi Meeting Unlikely to Halt U.S.-Chinese Slide – James Carter

India in China

A popular Chinese vlogger, Gu Zhixuan, made a video asking why India wants to feed the world when it is facing a food shortage. The vlog was viewed over 82,000 times on Weibo and 26,000 times on YouTube.

“The RSS can help Modi build latrines in rural areas, but when small farmers came out to protest when three bills were passed, it didn’t stand on Modi’s side. The RSS is at odds with the BJP on land acquisition and retail opening and has also directly criticized the Modi government for its obsession with attracting foreign investment and improving the business environment. It can be said that although Hindu nationalism has helped Modi in grassroots control, it has greatly delayed the reform,” Gu Zhixuan said in his video.

hashtag “Why can’t India feed the world” started trending on Weibo.

The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist. He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. He tweets @aadilbrar. Views are personal.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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