Financial industry executives criticise Beijing’s Covid-19 and economic policies. Chinese social media users react to attacks in Karachi. India seizes the assets of Xiaomi India. Chinascope brings you stories from China – and the world – as they unfolded.
China over the week
President Xi Jinping has said that China should give a ‘full play’ to capital by focusing on its ‘positive role’. Xi was speaking at a meeting of the Politburo on Saturday.
Despite underscoring the importance of capital, Xi did try to warn people about letting private capital flow like ‘water’.
“Capital is like ‘water’. Laissez-faire will lead to disaster; timely and reasonable guidance can benefit one party. Correctly understand and grasp the characteristics and behavioural laws of capital, comprehensively improve the efficiency of capital governance, and educate and guide capital entities to practice the core socialist values,” said Xi during the Politburo meeting.
Xi’s remarks come when China’s economy is in the doldrums as the central government is trying to shore up factory production. But people haven’t forgotten Xi’s common prosperity programme, which was at the front and centre of ensuring equitable growth of the Chinese economy. Though common prosperity has slowly disappeared from press releases and Xi’s statements. Common prosperity wasn’t even mentioned in the Chinese version of the Xinhua story, but it was there in the English language version of Xi’s remarks.
It is becoming difficult to justify the direction of Xi’s ‘common prosperity’ campaign as business leaders have started speaking up about the health of the Chinese economy.
Weijian Shan, founder and chair of one of Asia’s biggest private equity investors, has criticised the Chinese government’s economic policies, resulting in a “deep economic crisis” on the scale of global financial crash.
Weijian isn’t the only business executive who has spoken up. Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, has said that Beijing’s zero-Covid policies are slowly destroying the economy.
“The current lockdown is even more extreme than in early 2020, and the economy is crashing almost as hard. Freight traffic volumes in the Shanghai metropolitan area plunged by 81% year-on-year in the first three weeks of April,” said Wuttke in an interview.
It is still rather rare for business leaders like Weijian and Wuttke to speak in the fashion they have done.
The attack on Confucius Institute in Karachi has left the Chinese public looking for answers. Three staff members who died in the attack were Huang Guiping, who once served as deputy dean of the School of Foreign Languages at Sichuan Normal University; Ding Mufang, a teacher; and Chen Sai, a volunteer teacher. Another Chinese national, Wang Yuqing, sustained injuries but survived the attack.
The hashtag “Pakistan Confucius Institute shuttle bus hit by the terrorist attack on campus” was viewed 16.1 million times on Weibo. Pakistan’s president made a special visit to the Chinese embassy in Islamabad to share his condolences. A related hashtag was viewed 24 million times on Weibo.
Chinese state media published an article by Pakistani authors blaming British colonisation as the root cause of the Baloch secessionist movement.
The tensions between the US and China are often articulated in a statement by unnamed official sources, but a stark example was revealed this week.
A viral video showed a PLA fighter bomber pilot named Gao Zensong ready to “pull the trigger” to “expel” a foreign vessel in the South China Sea.
“I am the air force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. You have entered the control area of the Chinese air force. Please leave immediately. Otherwise, you will be responsible for the consequences,” Gao said in the video broadcast by state-run CCTV. The video was viewed 50 million times on Weibo.
On 27 April, the PLA spokesperson said the Chinese navy had expelled the guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson, which had sailed through the Taiwan Strait a day before.
Chinese internet censors find it particularly difficult to digest criticism from celebrities and influential business leaders.
The social media presence of Wang Sicong, son of Chinese property magnate Wang Jianlin, was scrubbed from the Chinese internet. Wang, who had 40 million followers on Weibo, openly criticised the government’s Covid policies in Shanghai, including the use of China’s state-sanctioned medicine for treating the disease.
The Chinese foreign ministry has announced that it would be willing to allow some Indian students to return.
Also read: Xi Jinping races to secure third term, jails corrupt officials, clamps down on social media
China in world news
The US officials held “top-level talks” with their UK counterparts over reducing the chances of China launching a war against Taiwan, according to the Financial Times.
“One of the people said the Taiwan meeting spanned everything from how the UK could do more diplomatically with Taipei to discussions about boosting deterrence in Asia. It also included talks about what role the UK would play if the US ended up in a war with China over Taiwan,” Financial Times reported citing unnamed sources.
Despite a slight lull in India-China relations, things haven’t yet entirely resolved themselves.
India’s Enforcement Directorate on Saturday announced that they had seized Chinese telecom giant Xiaomi’s assets worth Rs 5,551 crore under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
The directorate said that Xiaomi was making remittances to three foreign entities, one of which was a Xiaomi entity. The directorate has alleged that Xiaomi hasn’t availed any services from the entities to which the royalty payment was remitted. Xiaomi India has been under the ED’s investigation since February.
“We have studied the order from government authorities carefully. We believe our royalty payments and statements to the bank are all legit and truthful,” Xiaomi India said.
Experts this week
“Western countries such as the US and Europe have a set of rhetoric for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Wherever the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through, and wherever there is a BRI project, they will hype China for plundering local energy and resources and portray the Chinese people as looters and loan sharks, and the locals as looted victims of so-called “debt traps”. Including the Indian media which also spreads the same propaganda. At present, the publicity statements of the Baluchistan Liberation Army are the same as that of the United States, the West, and India. It is possible that BLA is to please these countries to gain more support,” wrote Liu Zongyi, senior fellow and secretary-general of the South Asia and China Center, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
India’s neutral position on the war in Ukraine has become a matter of discussion worldwide. India’s position has had an impact on its relations with China.
Sinica Podcast’s Kaiser Kuo spoke to Manjari Chatterjee Miller, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Manoj Kewalramani, chairperson of the Indo-Pacific Research Programme and a China studies fellow at the Takshashila Institution, about how the war in Ukraine is shaping India-China relations.
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 Prashant)