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China sends two drones in one week around Taiwan but calls US the ‘empire of hacking’

The grey zone tactics adopted by the People’s Liberation Army against Taiwan allowed Beijing to coerce the enemy without escalating direct military tensions.

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Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang revisits India but makes no progress in ending the border deadlock. A Chinese cybersecurity firm calls the US the ‘empire of hacking’. Qin resumes the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral cooperation mechanism. Beijing sends a TB-001 drone around Taiwan for the second time in a week. Chinascope looks at Chinese foreign policy in action in India and Pakistan.

China over the week

Chinese foreign policy’s new focus on disrupting US power in non-Western countries was displayed as Qin visited Myanmar, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan this week.

Qin attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)’s Foreign Minister’s Summit on 5 May in Goa, where he met with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar. The Chinese foreign minister was in India for the second time after his March visit to the G20 Foreign Minister’s Summit.

Following Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu’s visit to India last month, expectations for a proper border resolution were already running low. And Qin only repeated Li’s assertion that the situation at the border is ‘generally stable’.

“China-India border situation is generally stable. The two sides should continue to implement the important common understandings reached between leaders of the two countries, consolidate existing outcomes, strictly abide by relevant agreements and protocols, work to ease and cool down the border situation, and maintain sustained peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” said Qin.

“The two sides should continue to implement the important consensus reached by the two countries’ leaders, consolidate existing achievements, and promote the further cooling of the border situation,” he added.

The hashtag “Qin Gang Meets with Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar” was viewed over 1 million times on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

Also read: China is making national security a priority, starting with crackdown on open source data

Beijing’s statements following Qin’s bilateral meeting with Jaishankar don’t give us any new insight into the border talks. Instead, Chinese State media has communicated the cost of India aligning with the US’ security agenda. 

“The [Joe] Biden administration clearly wants to use India to contain the development of China’s influence, but this strategy has not gone well. On the one hand, after the impact of the [Covid-19] epidemic in India, people’s lives are difficult and economic development has ‘stagnated’. What India needs is ‘recuperation’ rather than a conflict with China on the border,” said an op-ed published by the official account of news portal

Joseph Torigian, Global Fellow at the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program, says Beijing is pursuing a dual strategy of deterring India’s close ties with the US while shrinking New Delhi’s strategic options.

“What’s changing now is that the competition between the United States and China is intensifying at precisely the moment that leaders in New Delhi are concluding Beijing following the Galwan incident. The future remains to be seen, as China will be concerned about pushing India too far in the direction of the United States, but also will want to make India’s relationship with the US costly,” said Torigian in an interview with The Hindu.

After the Goa leg of the trip, Qin went off to Pakistan, where he met Chief of the Army Staff Syed Asim Munir and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

“China firmly supports Pakistan in achieving unity and stability as well as its self-reliant economic development and terrorism-crackdown efforts. China is willing to promote high-quality development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and strengthen military exchanges and defence cooperation,” said Qin during the meeting with Munir.

In Islamabad, Qin reinitiated the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral cooperation mechanism along with Bilawal and the Afghan interim government’s acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi.

“China has been attaching great importance to the friendship with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is willing to work with the two sides to implement the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, share development opportunities, jointly meet security challenges, and promote regional stability and prosperity,” said Qin.

The geopolitical game of shadows between the US and China may be the most intense in cyberspace – tucked away from the public eye. Beijing has now accused the US of carrying out cyberattacks meant to target China, other Southeast Asian countries, and Europe.

The report titled ‘Empire of Hacking: the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) — Part I’ jointly published by China’s National Computer Virus Emergency Response Centre and cybersecurity company 360 Total Security, was extensively covered by the Chinese State media. Even the Chinese foreign ministry commented on the report.

“The international community needs to stay on high alert against these moves. The large number of real cases in China and other countries disclosed by the report once again testifies to the CIA’s cyber attack activities around the world over the years,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.

360 Total Security, whose parent organisation is the software company Qihoo 360, was blacklisted in 2020 by the US Commerce Department for assisting Beijing’s mass surveillance attempts on the country’s Uyghur minority.

The grey zone tactics adopted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) against Taiwan, just like cyberattacks, allow Beijing to coerce the enemy without escalating direct military tensions.

In a new grey zone activity, China sent two drones in one week around Taiwan. The drone circled Taiwan for the second time on 3 May, making many ask if such intrusions were to become normal. The first reported instance of drone encirclement was on 28 April.

Taiwan’s Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng is treating the drone intrusion into its 12-nautical mile airspace as a ‘first strike’. However, the two drones that flew close to Taiwan avoided intruding into the 12-nautical-mile boundary.

Defence Minister Chiu said he “does not wish for war to break out in the Taiwan Strait, which will be very tragic.”

Meanwhile, CIA chief Avril Haines has said that Chinese President Xi Jinping still wants to unify Taiwan with the Chinese mainland through peaceful means.

Haines made these remarks during a testimony on worldwide threats to the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt Gen Scott Berrier.

Haines also said an invasion of Taiwan by China would halt the semiconductor supply chain, which is essential for all electric devices – and cause over $1 trillion in annual losses.

Must read this week

TikTok spied on me. Why? – Cristina Criddle

Washington isn’t listening to business on China any more – Adam Tooze

How China Engages South Asia: Themes, Partners and Tools – Constantino Xavier and Jabin Jacob

The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist. He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. He is currently a MOFA Taiwan Fellow based in Taipei and tweets @aadilbrar. Views are personal.

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

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