A screen shows Xi Jinping speaking at a light show marking the centenary of the Chinese Community Party in Hong Kong, China, on 1 July 2021 | Photographer: Chan Long Hei | Bloomberg
A screen shows Xi Jinping speaking at a light show marking the centenary of the Chinese Community Party in Hong Kong, China, on 1 July 2021 | Photographer: Chan Long Hei | Bloomberg
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In this week’s Chinascope, we will look at China’s Galwan clash propaganda, hidden debt, controlling the algorithms, the investigation against former justice minister and other leading stories.

China over the week

Chinese state media produced a propaganda broadcast on Martyrs’ Day remembering the PLA soldiers who died in the Galwan Valley clash on 15 June 2020. Since 2014, China has marked 30 September as Martyrs’ Day to remember the Chinese soldiers who fought wars with Japan and Korea in the 1950s.

PLA soldiers visited the frontline of the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, where they sang the Chinese national anthem. The theatrics at the border were supposed to send a message to India.

In continuation of imposing control on algorithms, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has set a three-year timeline to tame the algorithms used across the Internet platforms. The CAC notice is titled “Strengthening the Comprehensive Management of Internet Information Service Algorithms”.

“In three years, gradually establish a comprehensive algorithm security governance system with a sound governance mechanism, a sound supervision system, and a standardized algorithm ecology,” says the notice.

The regulation is targeted at Internet companies and has a national security and ideological angle. Beijing justifies the national security argument of the algorithm control by drawing parallel between adherence to Communist Party and its ideology to long term “prosperity” of China.

The Chinese Communist Party’s internal disciplinary body is investigating former justice minister Fu Zhenghua.

Chinese state media announced Zhenghua’s detention for “serious violations of discipline and law”. He became the deputy director of the Social and Legal Affairs Committee of the CPPCC National Committee.

In 2018, he was appointed as the justice minister despite rumours implicating him in corruption scandals. Xi Jinping had trusted Fu with a probe into the former head of internal security Zhou Yongkang in 2013, a case which was most discussed among the anti-corruption movement. The news about the investigation was a top trend on search engine Baidu and social media platform Weibo.

This past week, AidData – a research lab at William and Mary University – revealed the increase in Chinese “hidden debt” offered by state-owned banks and state-owned enterprises. The research has discovered $385 billion in external debt owed by 42 countries, which adds up to 10% of the GDP of these countries.

AidData’s Banking on the Belt and Road report for the first time has given a global view of the Chinese “hidden debt”. A large share of the funding offered is classified as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) funding by China. BRI is China’s signature development financing project that critics believe is designed to “trap” developing countries into unsustainable debt levels.

China has responded to the revelations without mentioning the AidData report.

“All major external debt indicators were within the internationally recognized thresholds, and China’s external debt risk is under control,” said the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Saturday.


Also read: China just promoted a military general targeted at India. And Weibo chatted about Modi in US


In related news, Goldman Sachs revealed Chinese local government debt has grown to $8.2 trillion at the end of 2020. The debt is almost 52% of China’s GDP.

Over the week, real estate giant Evergrande missed another debt payment of $47.5 million due on Wednesday. In the last edition of Chinascope, we told you about Evergrande’s continuing debt problems.

And, in the week, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) celebrated its 72nd National Day. PRC was founded on 1 October 1949, after Mao Zedong’s speech in Tiananmen Square.

On PRC’s National Day, Beijing set a record by sending 38 jets across the Taiwan Strait. People’s Liberation Army Air Force intruded into Taiwan’s ADIZ (air defence identification zone).

Following the record-setting incursion, PLA once again intruded into Taiwan’s ADIZ on 2 October. The PLA set another record by carrying out two sorties across the Taiwan Strait. The tally of the sorties on 2 October added to 39 PLA aircraft crossing the Taiwan Strait for the.

“The Taiwan Air Force responded by scrambling planes to monitor the Chinese aircraft, issuing radio warnings, and mobilizing air defence assets,” the Taiwan Ministry of Defence said.

China is facing an energy crunch because of the shortage of coal supply and Beijing’s carbon neutrality commitment.

Factories in 20 of the 31 provinces across China have suffered power loss and are having to shut down production for a few hours – even cities have faced power cuts. Energy production has grown expensive because of the trade tussle, after which China banned the import of coal from Australia.

Beijing wants a tight control on the narrative around Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” campaign. An article by blogger Li Guangman, which had made news because of its radical tone, continues to unnerve Beijing. Chinascope had explained the controversy the article created.

“A Beijing-based media source told the South China Morning Post earlier about verbal instructions from media regulators, that Li’s piece had had too negative an impact and should be toned down,” wrote SCMP reporter Jun Mai.

As the origins of the Covid-19 virus continues to be debated, Xi Jinping has called for improvement in biosecurity control in the first study session of the Politburo.

“Traditional biosecurity issues and new biosecurity risks overlap with each other; foreign biological threats and internal biological risks are intertwined and coexist. Biosecurity risks have many new features, China’s biosecurity risk prevention and control and governance system still have shortcomings and weaknesses,” said a summary of Xi Jinping’s remarks at the study session.

China has criticised the US’s call for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 in the Wuhan city and instead suggested the investigation should have a global focus.


Also read: After the gaming crackdown, China to target cosmetics industry


China in world news

The Joe Biden administration is set to unveil its China trade policy next week. US trade representative Katherine Tai will speak at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington DC, where she will announce the policy.

Tai recently told Politico in an interview that the Biden administration will “build” on tariffs imposed by the Donald Trump administration under the “trade war” with China.

China has backed North Korea’s call to revise the international sanctions imposed on DPRK. Hua Chunying has called on the US to “revise sanctions that are related to humanitarian aspects”.

North Korea recently tested a hypersonic missile, a capability that only a select group of countries have deployed so far. China is one of the candidates that may have helped North Korea with its hypersonic missile programme – others being Russia and Iran.

What you must read this week

Evergrande Is a Convenient Villain for Xi – Richard McGregor

How a Forgotten Religion Shaped China – Mao Ming

A History of the Islamic State’s Media Warfare Against China – Lucas Webber

The inside story of the Peace Corps in China – Daniel Schoolenberg

Expert talk

“After Japan returns to the era of short-lived regimes, one of the bigger problems is that relations with neighbouring countries will continue to decline and the Japanese state will become more and more isolated in East Asia,” said Chen Yan, Executive Dean of the Japanese Enterprise Research Institute (China).

India in China

A video of the farmers’ protest in Barnala (Punjab) was viewed 60,000 times on Weibo. “Indian farmers raised “anti-Modi, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist enterprise” slogans at the rally, said the account that posted the video.

Podworld

How the Chinese state handles labour unrest, with Manfred Elfstrom – Sinica Podcast

Key Takeaways From AidData’s New Report on How China’s Finances the BRI – China in Africa Podcast

Upcoming watch

China will mark the 110th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution on Sunday. The 1911 Xinhai Revolution ended China’s last imperial dynasty.

This is a weekly round-up that Aadil Brar will write about what’s buzzing in China. This will soon be available as a subscribers’-only product.

(Edited by Prashant)

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