The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will be held on 16 October. China calls the UN report on Xinjiang ‘disinformation by the US’ and maintains silence on the news inside the mainland. The third most powerful Chinese leader, Li Zanshu, is set to travel to Russia, Mongolia, South Korea and Nepal. Foreign minister S. Jaishankar turns down Beijing’s offer. The US is to sell more than $1 billion worth of arms to Taiwan. Chinascope dives into what happened in China — and the world — this past week.
China over the week
The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee has finally decided on a date to kickstart its 20th National Congress — 16 October. The delegates will gather in Beijing where President Xi Jinping will likely be appointed for a third term.
Alfred Wu Muluan of the National University of Singapore has a bold prediction about a fourth term for Xi. “He will increase the percentage of his supporters, particularly from Fujian and Zhejiang [where Xi previously held top positions], in the politburo … He can then count on their support for his fourth term in five years’ time,” Wu said in an interview.
During the 19th National Congress, Xi introduced face-to-face meetings to pick the new leadership and chucked out the straw poll process, which was introduced during the 17th congress in 2007. According to Wang Xiangwei of South China Morning Post (SCMP), we know from mounting evidence that past conventions matter less. But those past conventions have been completely overhauled by Xi. I wrote a column about the new style of promoting his friends that Xi prefers.
The National Congress, though subject to speculation, will be symbolic as leaders are likely to have cut deals before they meet in Beijing on 16 October. SCMP has published an interactive multimedia graphic about how close the top Chinese leaders are to Xi. It’s worth taking a look.
Chinascope will continue to bring you the news and rumours about elite Chinese politics in lead-up to the National Congress.
If we point the finger at the topic which put China’s new nationalism and Xi Jinping’s national security-driven state identity on a global stage, the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang would come up first.
The much-awaited Xinjiang report by Michelle Bachelet, the former UN high commissioner for human rights, was released on 31 August, the day Bachelet retired from her position. The missing report on Xinjiang after her visit to the province had raised questions. Some would argue that the evidence for human rights abuses and even genocide began emerging back in 2016-17.
The Chinese state media didn’t directly mention the UN’s Xinjiang report. Instead, it criticised the US for ‘disinformation’ against China. The state media have called the publication of the report “coercive diplomacy”.
“This so-called assessment is orchestrated and produced by the US and some Western forces and is completely illegal, null and void. It is a patchwork of disinformation that serves as a political tool…to strategically use Xinjiang to contain China,” its foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
China has consistently called for following the UN-led international order but ignored the UN’s criticism of its Xinjiang policy.
On 18 August, the Chinese state media criticised the US Special Rapporteur, Tomoya Obokata, a Japanese academic based in the UK, for allegedly lying about forced sterilisation in Xinjiang.
The publication’s report doesn’t mean Bachelet has put out everything her team learned during their investigation.
According to Politico, which cited diplomatic sources, the report’s section on the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women was “watered down” at the last minute. The subject of forced sterilisation irks Beijing as the evidence provided in testimonies by Uyghurs has supported claims of genocide, something Chinese state media has denied.
CCP’s third most powerful leader, Li Zanshu, will begin his multi-nation trip on 7 September. He will travel to Russia, Mongolia, Nepal, and South Korea during his 11-day tour, according to Xinhua News Agency. In Moscow, Li will attend the 7th East Economic Forum chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Li is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and chairman of the 13th Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament. He is set to retire from his party position, but may keep his position in the NPC.
China in world news
Beijing nowadays offers New Delhi pantomime tropes like “Asia for Asians” and “Asian century”, concepts that India may obliquely promote because of its colonial experience. But that’s where the party-state misunderstands New Delhi’s interests.
Recently, external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s remarks supporting the “Asian century” were praised by the Chinese state media. But the minister clarified his views in an address at the launch of the Asia Society Policy Institute on 29 August.
“When we speak of a rising Asia, the term Asian Century naturally springs to mind. To the sensible and sober, that signifies a greater weight for Asia in the overall global calculus. To the polemical, however, it has overtones of triumphalism with which India at least should not be comfortable,” Jaishankar said.
He also called out China’s strategy of keeping Asia “less cohesive and interactive” without mentioning the country’s name.
“In fact, the concept itself is a reflection of divided Asia, as some have a vested interest in keeping the region less cohesive and interactive. That the global commons and the international community are better served by collaborative endeavours like the Quad apparently leaves them cold. Developing even a basic strategic consensus in Asia is, therefore, clearly a formidable task,” he added.
The comments capture the difficulty of bringing ASEAN and some other East Asian countries into an expanded version of the Quad — making an Asian security architecture possible — to counter China.
Jaishankar’s speech is worth a read for anyone wanting to understand New Delhi’s views on addressing the China challenge in Asia.
Ahead of her four-day visit to India starting today, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had something to say about the growing rivalry between India and China in South Asia.
“And I always feel that yes, if there is any problem between China and India, but I don’t want to put my nose to that. I want the development of my country and because India is our next-door neighbour, we have a very good relationship. We had many bilateral problems, it’s true, but we solved many problems… you know that,” Hasina said during an interview with news agency ANI.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Daily has published an editorial blaming India for “border provocations” by hosting joint military drill with the US in Uttarakhand.
“By inviting external forces to conduct joint military drills in Auli, which is less than 100 kilometers from a disputed part of the Sino-Indian border, India is unwisely complicating the volatile situation, and unnecessarily making it more difficult to restore peace and tranquility along the border,” said the China Daily editorial with no byline.
People might have already started to forget Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, but Washington has its mind on supporting Taiwan to defend itself. On Friday, the US approved the arms sale to Taiwan with over $1.1 billion in advanced weaponry, the biggest under President Joe Biden.
Taiwan will purchase Harpoon missiles for coastal defence, AIM-9X missiles for air defense and radar technology to support its C4ISR capabilities.
Meanwhile, Taiwan is dealing with Chinese PLA drones flying close to its Kinmen Island. Taiwanese premier said the Island’s military had shot down a PLA drone, which flew from mainland-controlled Xiamen city towards an islet controlled by the Taiwanese military.
Germany might be a latecomer to the Indo-Pacific, but Berlin wants to double down on its regional presence.
Eberhard Zorn, German Army chief, has said his country would expand its military presence in the Indo-Pacific by sending more warships and troops to join military drills alongside its partners.
Germany is signalling a departure from its previous timid approach toward China by strengthening its presence in the region. Germany is said to be working on a government-wide China strategy to review investments and reduce dependence on China.
The new German ambassador to India, Philip, has added to the chorus started by the German Army chief.
“We should not forget that China claims that Arunachal Pradesh is part of China, which is outrageous in a way, and we see very clearly that the infringement at the border is extremely difficult and should not be accepted,” Ackerman said in his first briefing to the press.
Must read this week
The Two Faces of China’s Surveillance State — Josh Chin and Liza Lin
Why the Scientific Revolution Did Not Occur in China — Ya Shalong
India in China
This past week, a topic which has caught the attention of Chinese social media is India surpassing the UK to become the fifth largest economy. The hashtag “India becomes fifth largest economy” was viewed 140 million times on Sina Weibo. Some Weibo users congratulated India for surpassing the UK’s overall GDP.
A financial blogger from Zhejiang asked how India’s stock market has performed so well since 2016 as the UK’s economy went into a relative decline since Brexit.
“The strength of India’s Asan should not be underestimated,” wrote the blogger from Zhejiang.
A blogger from Shaanxi said India was taking advantage of the current geopolitical environment to develop its economy.
“In the past few years, India has taken advantage of China and the US wrestling with each other, making a fortune in silence, and developing fast, and has improved its strength a lot. The demographic dividend is India’s biggest advantage. We compare the age division of the Indian population, and we can see that India is now in the stage of the demographic dividend, which was our previous status,” wrote the blogger from Shaanxi.
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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.
This is a weekly round-up that Aadil Brar writes about what’s buzzing in China. This will soon be available as a subscribers’-only product.
(Edited by Prashant)