Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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Chinese response to border stand-off with India is to construct more highways along LAC

Presence of Huawei cellular towers near US missile base in Wyoming has led FBI to start digging into land purchases going back to the Obama administration.

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Beijing plans to build new highways along the LAC. The FBI is investigating Huawei for listening in to the US’s most secure government communications. Xi Jinping asked European leaders to visit China, but the foreign ministry says he didn’t. Didi Chuxing was fined $1.2 billion after a year-long investigation. Chinascope brings you top news stories and expert views from China for this week.

China over the week

China has cited concerns over India’s infrastructure projects as one of the reasons behind its military buildup in Ladakh. Now, the Beijing government has announced to construct a new highway through Aksai Chin to boost economic productivity. On 1 July, Chinese premier Li Keqiang announced the plan under which Beijing will build 461,000 km of highways and motorways by 2035.

Last week, Beijing released new details of areas where the national highways will be constructed. Two new planned highways will spark concerns in New Delhi – G695 and G684.

The proposed highway G695 will connect Lunzhe County in Tibet with Mazha in Xinjiang. However, we don’t have the exact route of the planned highway. But a popular science blogger claims that the G-695 will pass through Depsang plains, Galwan Valley, Kongka Pass, and Pangong Tso. The new highway will pass closer to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) than the existing G-219 highway, which connects Tibet with Xinjiang.

The bridge under construction on the Pangong Tso will be part of the G695, according to the science blogger with over two million followers on Weibo.

“Priority should be given to opening up border national highways such as G219 and G331, so as to achieve the basic elimination of out-of-class and pending passages; steadily promote the construction of strategic backbone passages out of Xinjiang and into Tibet, and improve the quality of Sichuan-Tibet Highway G318,” said Beijing government’s ‘National Highway Network Planning’ document.

Another new highway which will pass through the strategic region is the G684. This highway will link Mazha town in Xinjiang with Khunjerab Pass at the border of China and Pakistan.

G219 is the existing Chinese highway that passes through Aksai Chin. When completed, G219, G695 and G684 will connect the large swathes of Tibet and Xinjiang with higher reaches of the Karakoram plateau at the border with Pakistan. The proposed highways will connect the existing network with strategic locations allowing greater connectivity between those locales through a network of connecting road systems.

Beijing has always had concerns about relying on G219 as the only artery connecting Tibet with Xinjiang.

China’s construction plan has major implications for India as the current stand-off is likely to continue and puts the prospects of a negotiated settlement through the ongoing talks into question.

Despite 16 rounds of talks between India and China to resolve their border stand-off, there are no signs Beijing is planning to vacate the territory PLA occupied in 2020. A day after the talks concluded at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point, PLA carried out an air drill over Pangong Tso – sending a clear signal to New Delhi.

Currently, there are large-scale military exercises underway in the Tibet Military District and the Xinjiang Military Districts – across from Eastern Ladakh.

Last Monday, we learned that top European leaders were invited to China to meet President Xi Jinping, according to a report by the South China Morning Post. Invitations were sent to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, according to a source who spoke to SCMP.

The Chinese foreign ministry has denied the story, saying, “I wonder where they got the information. I can tell you that this is fake news.”

A senior diplomat described the invitation as, “He wants, I think, something like a coronation ceremony where the leaders of the world come to Beijing to pay tribute to Xi the third, like Napoleon the third,”. Xi Jinping is likely to secure the third term later this year, and the unnamed senior diplomat has suggested the Chinese side wanted European leaders to be present in Beijing when that happens.

Once a thriving Chinese company, Didi Chuxing found itself in trouble when Beijing decided to investigate the company over its decision to list at the New York Stock Exchange.

Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing company, was slapped with a $1.2 billion fine for data violations. The hashtag “Didi was fined 8.026 billion yuan” was the second search trend on search engine Baidu and was viewed 27 million times on Sina Weibo.

“Didi has failed to perform its duty to maintain cyberspace security, data security, and personal information protection … bringing serious risks to national cyberspace security and data security,”

Also read: Russia-Ukraine war has brought Putin to the negotiating table. China has new plans for BRI

China in world news

The UK government has blocked the sale of vision-sensing technology to a Chinese company, citing security concerns. The planned deal was to be signed between Beijing Infinite Vision Technology Company and the University of Manchester.

The Sunday Times, quoting business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, reported that there was “potential that the technology could be used to build defence or technological capabilities which may present a national security risk to the United Kingdom”. The sensors, named SCAMP-5 and SCAMP-7, use high-speed processors, which can be used in virtual reality, robotics and other surveillance technologies, as per the report.

Chinese telecom company Huawei has been hit by fresh controversy. This time over the presence of Huawei cellular towers near the US’s strategic missile base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We have learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been investigating Huawei going back to the Barack Obama administration to get to the bottom of Chinese land purchases near strategic sites.

“But when US counterintelligence officials began digging into the details, they found numerous red flags. The pagoda, they noted, would have been strategically placed on one of the highest points in Washington DC, just two miles from the US Capitol, a perfect spot for signals intelligence collection,” the CNN has reported.

Before CNN revealed the extent of the investigation, Reuters was the first to report about the existence of the probe by the US Commerce Department.

After the delay in his original plan to visit Taiwan in April, Nancy Pelosi is now planning to visit Taipei, a move which has put Beijing on a high alert. China has expressed their “stark private warnings” to the Joe Biden administration officials, according to Financial Times. 

“Six people familiar with the Chinese warnings said they were significantly stronger than the threats that Beijing had made in the past when it was unhappy with US actions or policy on Taiwan,” reported Financial Times.

Though Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is yet to confirm the details of the visit, Nancy Pelosi has declined to disclose the dates of her travel, citing security concerns. Experts have pointed out that Pelosi’s visit could spark a crisis like the 1995-6 Cross-Strait military action by Beijing when then-Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui was given a visa to visit his alma mater, Cornell University.

Meanwhile, Mark Milley, the US joint chief of staff, has commented on China’s growing coercive activities.

“The number of Chinese intercepts at sea and in the air has increased significantly over five years,” Milley said on his way to Jakarta.

Also read: Don’t be surprised by China ignoring LAC at G20 meet. It’s a feature, not a bug

Experts this week

“Immediately after Russia launched a special military operation against Ukraine in February 2022, we could see some limitations of India’s diplomatic strategy. The US and the West were competing to pressure India to ‘stand on the right side of history’. India doesn’t agree, and of course has not compromised. Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar has repeatedly criticised the US and the hypocrisy of the US and the West. This kind of counterattack seems to let us see the side of India’s diplomatic independence. But how far can India go in this pursuit of Asian unity? Actually, we are not sure,” said Lin Minwang, Researcher at the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University during his special conversation with Zhang Weiwei, Distinguished Professor of Fudan University, on Dragon TV.

Zhang said during the same conversation, “Now I find it quite interesting. Look at India’s neutral attitude after the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Some of them feel we can keep a distance from the United States. Russia has done a good job, and China has also done a good job. So, these forces are going up a bit, and I think we’ll see how it develops next.”

Must read this week

China reckons with its first overseas debt crisis — James Kynge, Kathrin Hille, Ben Parkin, and Jonathan Wheatley

China’s Strategy Needs Study, Not Assumptions — Cornell Overfield

Upcoming Watch

Indonesian President Joko Widodo will meet Xi Jinping during his visit to Beijing on Tuesday, July 26. President Jokowi will become the second major foreign leader to meet Xi since the pandemic started in 2020. Putin is the only other major foreign leader he has met since then.

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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