In this week’s Chinascope, we look at China’s new land border law, controversy over Beijing’s upcoming property tax, Caixin’s removal from an approved list of news sources, and the detention of famous Chinese pianist Li Yundi.
China over the week
In a move that can be interpreted as an attempt to legally formalise China’s recent actions along the border areas of India, the country, on Saturday, passed a law called ‘Land Border Law of the People’s Republic of China’ which will come into effect on 1 January 2022.
The law is directly targeted at countries that share a border with China and has direct implications for India’s ongoing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). “The state and its land neighbors shall, in accordance with delimitation treaties, delineate land borders on the spot and conclude demarcation treaties. Boundary demarcation treaties shall be approved by the State Council in accordance with legal provisions,” says the text of the law. “If the personnel illegally crossing the border are members of the armed forces, they shall be dealt with by the relevant military agencies,” the law adds.
The border affairs traditionally have been the responsibility of the Central Military Commission and various branches of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The move to assign the border affairs to State Council is largely symbolic because the council follows the will of the Communist Party, and the formal separation between the party and the state is merely emblematic.
According to Article 20 of the law, “The state shall set up boundary markers to mark land borders on the spot.” The inspection, surveying, delineation, and setting up boundary markers should be organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with the State Council and other military agencies, it adds.
State Council is the body that administers all aspects of passing laws and bureaucracy. The council is currently headed by Li Keqiang. Keqiang is the premier (prime minister) and the head of the State Council.
The news started a trend on Weibo – the hashtag “The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress voted to pass the Land Border Law” was trending across the Chinese social media platform Sunday.
Continuing along the issue of border areas, there is a new visual investigation into the India-China border dispute in the Doklam area by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The project primarily utilises satellite imagery from 2017 to 2021 for areas of human influence and likely military positions and infrastructure, which were marked and annotated.
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With all the developments that have the potential to alter foreign relations, China also has internal issues to address. The Wall Street Journal reported citing sources that President Xi Jinping is facing resistance from within the party over his plans of implementing a nationwide property tax.
Xi Jinping had assigned the task of rolling out the tax to Han Zheng who is the most senior vice-premier and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Saturday, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the State Council will enact a property tax in select regions of the country in a pilot plan.
In a past edition, Chinascope told you about a draft document by the National Development and Reform Commission, which reiterated the exclusion of non-state entities from investing in news media enterprises.
Recently, China also removed its most prominent financial news magazine Caixin from a list of trusted sources.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which was founded in 2014, acts as the central control and oversight agency for all media-related issues. The CAC published a new list of approved news sources, which can be republished on other news platforms. Caixin and The Economic Observer were missing from the list of approved sources. They “no longer meet the requirements, have poor daily performance, and lack influence,” the CAC said about the sources that were removed from the list.
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Chinascope has told you in the past about the ongoing campaign against celebrities. Chinese pianist Li Yundi has become the latest victim.
Li Yundi was detained on the allegations of hiring a sex worker. Beijing’ Chaoyang District Police published a post on Weibo saying they had detained an individual named Li on prostitution-related charges. The State media later confirmed that the detained person was Li Yundi. According to Chinese law, Li could remain under detention for 10 to 15 days.
Li Yundi was banned from posting on Weibo and several brands have severed ties with him. Li was also censored from a reality TV show and his face wasn’t visible in the latest broadcast of the show on Chinese television.
Li’s detention was a topic of intense discussion on Chinese social media. A hashtag, “Li Yundi was arrested for prostitution”, was viewed 3.4 billion times on Weibo. The topic generated discussion on the merits of imposing criminal charges for prostitution.
Meanwhile, Chinese businessman Jack Ma was spotted in Europe this past week, the first time since regulators launched an antitrust probe into his company in 2020.
Alibaba’s Jack Ma appeared in Europe during his first overseas trip in more than one year. The SCMP reported that Ma is in Europe for a study of agriculture and business-related meetings. Ma is said to have traveled to Europe on his superyacht, which was tracked by open-source enthusiasts, as the yacht made its way to Europe from China.
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China in world news
In one of the latest skirmishes between the UK and China, British foreign secretary Liz Truss said that Britain shouldn’t become strategically dependent on China. Truss gave a wide-ranging interview to The Telegraph during her visit to New Delhi.
“We’re winning the battle for economic influence for those countries that believe in free enterprise, that believe in democracy, as opposed to non-market economies which include China,” Truss told The Telegraph.
Politics aside, China’s relationship with the United States’ basketball championship has grown complex since the 2019 comment on the Hong Kong protest by Daryl Morrey of Houston Rockets. China even blocked the broadcast of National Basketball Association (NBA) games because of the remarks. But the NBA is back in the news.
NBA team Boston Celtics was censored from the Chinese internet after the team’s player Enes Kanter posted a video advocating Tibet independence. Kanter called Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator” in a tweet and said in his video message that Tibetans inside Tibet aren’t allowed to practice their culture or learn their own language.
Kanter was censored from the Chinese internet following his remarks and some replays of Celtics’ games were deleted.
Continuing along US-China ties, Foreign Affairs magazine published a survey of opinion by international relations experts from around the world about the US foreign policy towards China. Experts were asked the question, “Is U.S. Foreign Policy Too Hostile to China?”. Out of those surveyed, 24 experts said they disagreed with the statement.
US’ National Counterintelligence and Security Center has told its businesses in key sectors such as artificial intelligence and biotech to beware of Chinese companies. The agency warned the businesses about attempts to obtain technology and data. “If you are going to do business and collaborate, be smart about it,” said Michael Orlando, acting director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.
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What you must read this week
The Inevitable Rivalry – John Mearsheimer
What did China test in space, exactly, and why? – James Cameron
“As the most sensitive part of China-India relations, the border issue is known as the ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging over the two countries, restricting the healthy development of relations between the two countries. Once a border confrontation occurs, public opinion in India will amplify the negative factors out of habit and thereby strengthen the harmfulness of this sharp sword,” wrote Guan Peifeng, Professor of the Collaborative Innovation Center of National Territorial Sovereignty and Maritime Rights, Chinese Institute of Border and Ocean Research, Wuhan University.
India in China
An article published by Sina Finance about India’s record-breaking share market bull run was read over 2,40,000 times on Weibo. The article talks about the rise of retail investing in India and its implications for the stock market. The article called the Sensex “the best performing market in Asia”.
“Although Indian residents are entering the market fast, the number of individual investors in the Indian stock market is still small compared to the total population of 1.3 billion,” says the article.
This week, Chinascope recommends listening to a conversation between Toronto Star journalist Joanna Chiu and Madeleine O’Dea. The podcast discusses Chiu’s new book China Unbound.
The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist, currently pursuing an MSc in international politics with 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 Srinjoy Dey)