China ignores the crisis along the Line of Actual Control at the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Indonesia’s Bali. Chinese nationalists ‘celebrate’ former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination. A Chinese fighter jet intruded into Indian territory, and a Chinese border town got 5G network coverage. Chinascope brings you a 360-degree view of stories about China that changed our world.
China over the week
G20 foreign ministers gathered in Bali for high-powered diplomacy. China and India’s foreign ministers Wang Yi and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met amid ongoing border tensions. The readout of the meeting issued by the Indian side mentions the discussion on the unresolved border stand-off in Ladakh, but the Chinese readout doesn’t mention the border dispute.
“Whether the crisis can be effectively managed and controlled is related to national security, and it is necessary to comprehensively use political, military, diplomatic, economic, public opinion and other means to guide the development of the crisis in a direction that is beneficial to oneself,” a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) op-ed had said in 2018 following the 19th National Party Congress.
Diplomacy is a tool in China’s overall military strategy. So it’s time we stop being surprised by the omissions of the border stand-off by the Chinese side. It’s a feature, not a bug.
While in Bali, Wang Yi drew a comparison between Taiwan and Ukraine. “Some countries emphasise the principle of sovereignty on the Ukraine issue, but they continue to challenge China’s sovereignty and the one-China principle on the Taiwan issue, and even deliberately create tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
Another crucial meeting in Bali was between the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Wang Yi.
“The self-contradictions and say-do gap in the US policy toward China reflect serious miscalibration of its views on the world, on China, on China-US relations, and on interests and competition. Many people thus argue that the United States is taking on growing China-phobia. If such threat inflation continues unchecked, the United States’ China policy will only lead to a dead-end that offers no way out,” said Wang during his meeting with Blinken.
A Chinese PLA aircraft flew very close to the friction point in Eastern Ladakh during the last week of June, according to sources. The incursions come when the PLA is conducting military exercises in the Xinjiang Military Region across Eastern Ladakh. The exercise activities cited by unnamed sources in the Indian media have also been covered in the Chinese state media broadcasts.
China’s activities across the border are disrupting the Indian Army’s operational procedures.
The Indian Army is facing problems with radio communication along LAC due to China’s rollout of 5G network on its side of the border, sources have told The Indian Express.
The developments, we have learned through unnamed sources in the media, are very well reported by China. The country has been leading a tremendous effort even before the border stand-off in 2020.
On 1 July, a press conference on the “economic and social development achievements of the Ali area” was held at the Propaganda Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region Committee in Lhasa. The focus was the development of 25 power projects in border villages at the cost of 170 million yuan.
Also read: Xi missing from front pages of CCP’s People’s Daily, experts reading between the lines
“Shiquanhe Town has achieved full 5G network coverage, and the 4G signal coverage, optical fibre and broadband access rates in administrative villages have reached 100%, 99.31%, and 98.62%, respectively,” said Tibet News Network about the press conference on 1 July. Shiquanhe town in Gar county is less than 60 km from Demchok, one of the Indian areas PLA has encroached since 2020. And this PLA presence is being negotiated through diplomatic talks.
The development of China’s infrastructure projects — and more recent 5G network — in Ngari has been covered in Chinese media since 2019.
The China challenge requires a proactive bureaucratic retooling rather than a reactive solution-finding approach.
And former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination was the most discussed topic on Chinese social media platforms, including Weibo and WeChat.
The hashtag ‘Abe has no vital signs’ was viewed 1.7 billion times on Weibo. Another hashtag, ‘Abe shot,’ was viewed 1 billion times and the hashtag about him being treated in the ICU 330 million times. On Friday, seven of the top ten trends on Weibo and 14 of the 15 trends on Baidu were related to the shooting of Abe.
Social media users expressed a sense of glee over Abe’s death. His views on the history of Japan’s aggression against China have made him unpopular on the mainland. But there were others who disagreed with the popular sentiment.
“It’s hard to believe that there are people in Japan who behave like this?” said a Weibo user from Jiangsu.
However, other social media users were ‘overjoyed’ by the killing, which was expected given the history of hostilities between the two nations.
Chinese state media tried to ignore the news of Abe’s death. Home pages of Xinhua, People’s Daily and Beijing Daily mentioned it briefly, towards the lower half of the page. Xinwen Lianbo, China’s official news broadcast, didn’t even mention the assassination on the day it happened.
President Xi Jinping sent his condolences to Abe’s family almost 24 hours after the assassination. Henry Gao, a law professor and an observer of Chinese politics, said the exact terminology used in Xi’s condolence message wasn’t the same as the ones used for Vietnamese leader Le Kha Phieu, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and others.
The social media chatter on Abe’s death wasn’t the only major news from Chinese cyberspace. A hacker advertised the data of one billion Shanghai residents on an obscure forum. After usual doubts about the authenticity of the data, experts confirmed that the leak was one of the biggest known hacks of China’s government database.
“The vast trove of Chinese personal data had been publicly accessible via what appeared to be an unsecured backdoor link–a shortcut web address that offers unrestricted access to anyone with knowledge of it–since at least April 2021, according to LeakIX, a site that detects and indexes exposed databases online,” CNN has reported.
China tried to restrict the news of the leak. For instance, the hashtag ‘Shanghai data leak’ was censored on Weibo.
Also read: PLA published an article on Indian Navy. China’s eyes are on INS Vikrant
China in world news
In the past weeks, we have heard about China’s Xiaomi facing an investigation into its business practices in India. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is now investigating another company – Vivo. The ED raided Vivo’s 48 locations and its 23 related entities, which resulted in the blocking of 119 bank accounts holding $58.76 million.
ED alleges that Vivo ‘remitted’ almost 50 per cent of its turnover, which amounts to Rs 62,476 crore, to China to avoid paying taxes in India.
The raid may make it seem that India’s stance towards Chinese companies has become entirely hostile. But that’s not correct.
India approved 80 foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals by Chinese entities on 29 June, according to data accessed through the Right to Information Act (RTI). The government received 382 proposals from Chinese companies, of which 80 were approved, claimed the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade in an RTI response.
The US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation has been outspoken about counter-intelligence challenges posed by China. But the FBI and UK’s MI5 issued an unprecedented statement on the challenge posed by China.
“The widespread Western assumption that growing prosperity within China and increasing connectivity with the West would automatically lead to greater political freedom has, I’m afraid, been shown to be plain wrong. But the Chinese Communist Party is interested in our democratic, media and legal systems. Not to emulate them, sadly, but to use them for its gain” said the joint statement issued in London during a special event.
Also read: Restricting citizens’ entry-exit to targeting academia, China grows more authoritarian
Must read this week
China, India and the contest for global supply chains — Antara Ghosal Singh
The next wolf warriors: China readies new generation of tough diplomats — Richard McGregor and Neil Thomas
There is a growing market for self-defence training in China. Mark Dreyer and Haig Balian of the China Sports Insider Podcast spoke to Yonina Chan, who manages the Beijing chapter of the renowned Israeli self-defence system Krav Maga. Chinascope recommends listening to the conversation.
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 Zoya Bhatti)