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Chinese officials will have a secret meeting with Xi. The big problem? Tesla cars on street

BRICS summit was an opportunity for China to present its accommodating side, but Xi Jinping pushed his rhetoric on countering the ‘Western-led international order’.

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India and China clash at the BRICS summit. Chinese state media call out the US’ double standard on purchasing Russian oil. What’s the story behind media “pen-names”? Chinascope tells you all.

China over the week

The BRICS summit was an opportunity for Beijing to present its accommodating side, but President Xi Jinping pushed his rhetoric on countering the “Western-led international order”.

“Some countries are trying to expand military alliances to seek absolute security, coercing others to choose sides and ignoring their rights and interests to pursue self-reliance. If this dangerous momentum is allowed to develop, the world will be more volatile,” Xi said.

The final BRICS statement called for talks between Russia and Ukraine but didn’t support the Kremlin or Zhongnanhai’s talking points.

A day before the BRICS summit, India’s ambassador to China, Pradeep Kumar Rawat, met the Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, Wang Yi.

“Wang noted that the two neighbours should put the border issue in an appropriate position within bilateral ties and seek solutions through dialogue and consultation,” according to Chinese state media’s readout of the meeting.

On Wednesday, the Chinese state media trended a hashtag — ‘The White House’s response to China and India’s purchase of Russian oil is a strong contrast’ — with a video of the White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby responding to two separate questions by journalists about China and India’s purchase of Russian oil. Weibo users commented on the video by calling out the US for its double standards of criticising China for its oil purchase while letting India off the hook.

Xi Jinping will attend the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover on 1 July. In recent weeks, we have learned about the previously unpublished account of the negotiations between the UK and China over the handover of Hong Kong. Louisa Lim, a former journalist based in Hong Kong, wrote about the “unofficials”, a group of previously unnamed Hong Kong residents who were assigned to mediate between China and the UK. The “unofficials” had warned Margaret Thatcher that Beijing would not honour its commitment to 50 years of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Fast forward to 2022, the 1997 warning seems to be coming true as the National Security Law slowly destroys Hong Kong’s autonomy.

After the 1 July Hong Kong visit, Xi will start preparing for the annual secretive conclave in Beidaihe. Authorities have prohibited the entry of Tesla cars into the coastal resort town, which hosts the two-week-long summer conclave of Chinese officials. The Chinese national security agencies have previously expressed concerns about Tesla cars’ data collection ability and banned them from entering key military bases.

This year’s Beidaihe summit is particularly important as top officials are likely to broker deals among themselves ahead of the National Party Congress in November. Xi is set to assume the unprecedented third term in office as most analysts don’t foresee any significant challenge to his bid.

The US Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe vs Wade judgment sparked off a debate on Chinese social media.

The hashtag “US Supreme Court cancels constitutional right to abortion” is the sixth trend on Weibo, viewed more than 740 million times.

Weibo users said the US doesn’t respect the aspirations of the common people and commented how abortion rights in China were far more progressive.

But the debate in China isn’t that straightforward with Beijing trying to increase the rapidly falling birth rate.

Another major international news became a top trend on Weibo.

A Russian Duma politician named Andrey Gurulyov recently said on a TV broadcast that ‘London should be bombed first’ if World War III starts. The news was the second most viewed trend on Baidu while a related hashtag was viewed 110 million times on Weibo. Some Weibo users commented on the story by saying Tokyo should be the second city to be bombed after London.

Meanwhile, other users said people shouldn’t promote such views as the war between Russia and the UK will come to China, and condemned the Russian official’s comments.

The seasoned China watchers know the importance of bylines in Chinese state media. In China, a not-so-secret system of “pen names” is used by government departments and individuals. China Media Project, a research programme at the University of Hong Kong, explains how Chinese officials have used pen names to voice their views while ensuring their identity remains a secret.

“Such ‘propaganda codes’ or ‘homophonous pen names’ are in fact quite common in the Party-state media, and in the halls of power. They form an internal system of not-so-secret codes by which those in positions of power, both departments and individuals, can voice their official positions and put their stamp on a course or policy,” wrote David Bandurski, director of China Media Project.

Also read: Xi missing from front pages of CCP’s People’s Daily, experts reading between the lines

China in world news

The surveillance state in China is no secret, but we have only heard about the daily monitoring of citizens through tell-tale signs. Now, a year-long New York Times investigation has revealed the scale of China’s surveillance of its citizens by the sprawling police state.

“Phone-tracking devices are now everywhere. The police are creating some of the largest DNA databases in the world. And the authorities are building upon facial recognition technology to collect voice prints from the general public,” the NYT report said. “DNA, iris scan samples and voice prints are being collected indiscriminately from people with no connection to crime,” said the NYT report.

A recent tip-off following the arrest of two Chinese nationals trying to cross over into Nepal led to an investigation into a club. The three-storey 70-room club was located at village Gharbara along the Yamuna Expressway in an area with no concrete road. “The club called Tiangsheng Rianjen (‘heaven on earth’) was stocked with Chinese products and served mainly Chinese expats,” The Hindu newspaper’s Vijaita Singh reported.

Xue Fei, a Chinese national running the club, had a fake Indian passport. Xue is currently being interrogated in an Uttar Pradesh jail. “The interrogation was done in English. He said it was very easy to cross over from India to China and China to India — ‘just pay Rs 20,000 and you are on either side of the border’. He said that when it came to corruption, both India and China are the same,” The Hindu reported.

Must read this week

The Balance of Soft Power – Maria Repnikova

‘A Lifelong Journey’: A family saga through China’s past five decades – Brian Wu

Experts this week

“Supply chain movement is an inevitable trend. China should have confidence in this aspect, but also be prepared to face severe challenges. We are now “intercepting in the front and pursuing in the rear”. Especially with the launch of the ‘Indo Pacific economic framework’ by the United States, it intends to isolate China, separate China from the current global industrial chain and supply chain, and then clearly show the strategic goal of replacing China with Southeast Asian countries and India. Previously, we have also mentioned many times that this coincides with India’s goal of replacing “made in China” with ‘made in India’,” wrote Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the South Asia and China Center, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

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)

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