Thursday, 27 January, 2022
HomeOpinionChinascopeChinese citizens gushed over Galwan valley on Weibo, Indian Army-PLA sweet exchange...

Chinese citizens gushed over Galwan valley on Weibo, Indian Army-PLA sweet exchange on Baidu

Chinascope — The Week Behind The Wall is everything you need to know about what’s happening in China this week.

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In this week’s Chinascope, we look at the People’s Liberation Army raising a flag in the Galwan Valley, China naming 15 places inside Arunachal Pradesh, Covid-19 lockdown in Xi’an, China’s growing surveillance on Twitter, and other leading stories from China – and the world.

China over the week

Chinascope is starting the new year with an action-packed edition.

Beijing’s tensions with New Delhi have continued into the new year after a Chinese flag was raised in the Galwan Valley. The news became a major social media trend in China. The timing of the ceremony is important because China’s new Land Border Law came into effect on January 1. The new law will staunchly enforce China’s sovereignty and establish more villages in border areas.

The video of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers sending a New Year ‘message’ to India and raising a Chinese flag in Galwan Valley was initially shared by Global Times on Chinese social media platform Weibo at 11:35 am Beijing time. Shen Shiwei, a State media journalist, tweeted that the flag raised in Galwan was “special” since it had been flown over Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The search trend “Heroes of Galwan valley send New Year’s greetings” was the second top trend on search engine Baidu. A hashtag “Galwan valley heroes send congratulations on New Year” started trending on Weibo when the video was shared. It was viewed 2.24 million times and continued to grow.

The video was subsequently shared by other Chinese State media organisations, including the official Xinhua News Agency. The video shows a flag-raising ceremony, and soldiers shout slogans wishing everyone a happy new year. “We pledge to the motherland that we will guard the border,” PLA soldiers added in their message.

The messaging used in the video suggests that the video was intended for the domestic audience. Beijing wanted to let New Delhi know that the border stand-off is far from over. The PLA has used the exact location in the past for similar types of symbolic ceremonies.

The clip also carried narration of old footage of the Galwan clash in June 2020, which the State media has used in the past.

On the same day, the Indian Army and PLA exchanged sweets and other gifts at Hot Springs and Demchok in eastern Ladakh, and Nathula and Kongra La in north Sikkim. On Sunday, the story about the exchange of sweets began trending on Baidu. The hashtag “Chinese and Indian soldiers exchange greetings and sweets at the border” was the fifth top search trend on the platform, and was viewed 4.5 million times.


Also Read: This Nagaland hashtag trended on Weibo. And Xi wants China’s religions to first follow CCP


Meanwhile, India’s Ministry of Defence said the Indian Armed forces were reorganised and realigned along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in response to the infrastructure build-up by the People’s Liberation Army.

“Force levels in areas where disengagement has yet to take place have been adequately enhanced. Threat assessment and internal deliberations have resulted in reorganisation and realignment of forces in keeping with the Army’s mandate of ensuring territorial integrity and to cater for the major augmentation of the People’s Liberation Army forces and military infrastructure,” said the Ministry of Defence in a statement.

If the video of Chinese soldiers raising a flag wasn’t enough, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a notice this past week about using the ‘correct’ place name for 15 locations in Arunachal Pradesh.

Out of the 15 locations, eight are residential areas, four mountains, two rivers and the well-known Sela mountain pass in Arunachal Pradesh. China refers to Arunachal Pradesh as “Southern Tibet”.

“In accordance with the relevant regulations of the State Council on the management of geographical names, our ministry and relevant departments have standardised some geographical names in Southern Tibet. The second batch of publicly-used place names in southern Tibet (15 in total) is now officially announced,” said the notification by the ministry.

As expected, the Narendra Modi government wasn’t happy about the names assigned to locations inside Arunachal Pradesh.

“Arunachal Pradesh has always been, and will always be, an integral part of India. Assigning invented names to places in Arunachal Pradesh does not alter this fact,” the Ministry of External Affairs responded.

Both countries are also witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases.

China’s ‘zero-Covid’ policy has gone into full force in Shaanxi province’s Xi’an city. Over 13 million residents of Xi’an are under a strict lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 variants after a cluster of cases were discovered. So far, the city has reported 1,451 cases of Covid-19 since the recent wave of infections began emerging on December 9.

Bizarre scenes in Xi’an showing individuals being publicly shamed for violating Covid-19 restrictions were shared on Chinese social media.

Chinese officials have acknowledged they are finding it difficult to deliver food to people in Xi’an. All residents were told they would receive food supplies. Officials have asked major e-commerce companies such as JD.com and Meituan to stabilise the prices of food commodities after residents complained about the mark-up in prices.

Along the lines of strict restrictions, China has yet again successfully clamped down on another news organisation that’s gone against its wishes.

Until recently, media freedom in Hong Kong was considered a beacon in East Asia. Beijing has swiftly used the National Security Law to stop any kind of critical reporting.

This past week, Hong Kong’s national security police raided the offices of Stand News — an independent news outlet. The organisation stopped operating after its assets worth $78 million were frozen by Hong Kong authorities. Stand News was one of the most dynamic news outlets that extensively covered the 2019 Hong Kong protest movement. The ex-editors of Stand News were charged under a colonial-era sedition law and were denied bail. Stand News has ceased all operations.


Also Read: Xi Jinping wants Chinese artists and writers to practise ‘morality’. And a big editor quits


China in world news

Taiwan isn’t just a point of contention between Beijing and Washington DC but also Tokyo.

China and Japan will establish a military hotline to “defuse potential crises over disputed islands and the Taiwan Strait”, according to Japanese officials.

The agreement to establish the hotline was reached during a two-hour phone call between Japanese defence minister Nobuo Kishi and Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe.

On a virtual front, the steady increase in the use of Twitter by Chinese citizens over VPNs has worried Beijing over the past two years. Now we have learned about Beijing’s mission to monitor Twitter and Facebook for anti-CCP content.

The New York Times revealed the existence of sophisticated software used by Beijing to track comments by a Chinese student in Australia. Chinese police summoned the student’s father, recorded it on video and shared it with the NYT. Simply posting a message like “I stand with Hong Kong” as a Chinese citizen could get you into trouble.

Another related investigation by the Washington Post has confirmed the existence of software to collect domestic data and “collect data on foreign targets from sources such as Twitter, Facebook and other Western social media”. The Washington Post analysed the tenders that show the development of a network of State media entities developing opinion monitoring systems for the Chinese state.

Chinese State-run Global Times Online won a three-year contract worth $531,000 to provide a “China-related foreign media and journalist opinion monitoring system”.

“Now we can better understand the underground network of anti-China personnel,” an analyst working in the Beijing-based opinion-monitoring unit told The Washington Post.

The implication for anyone on Twitter, Facebook or any other platform is that Big Brother in Beijing is watching you.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s ‘brotherly’ romance with Beijing has been in the news lately. Musk has even said that “maybe I am partly Chinese”.

This past week, Beijing complained to the United Nations space agency that Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites were on a collision course with China’s space station.


Also Read: Historic Chinese resolution whitewashes Mao legacy, puts Xi Jinping at centre stage


What you must read this week

And Then There Were Five David Bandurski

China’s Reform Generation Adapts to Life in the Middle Class Peter Hessler

Podworld

For this week, Chinascope recommends listening to a podcast episode with Damien Ma of Marco Polo on forecasting the property market in China and the things you may want to watch ahead of the 20th National Party Congress later this year.

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)

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