PLA soldiers are learning Hindi at their military post on the South bank of Pangong Lake. Two Chinese social media users apologised for commenting on the PLA’s Galwan casualties. Xi Jinping tells EU leaders to develop an “independent” view of China. The Omicron spread getting out of hand in Shanghai. Chinascope brings you leading stories from China as they happened.
China over the week
Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a phone call with European Council presidents Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen on 1 April, said, “It is hoped that the EU will develop an independent understanding of China, pursue an independent policy towards China, and work with China to promote the steady and long-term development of China-EU relations.”
The EU’s top priority is to stop the war and protect the Ukrainian people.
In times of crisis, dialogue is needed more than ever.
That's why the EU and #China focused on what can be done to end this war as soon as possible.#EUChinaSummit pic.twitter.com/jEh3CuRIpt
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) April 1, 2022
“China supports the EU’s efforts to resolve the Ukraine issue politically… The international community must continue to create conditions and environment for the Russia-Ukraine negotiation process and open up space for a political settlement, instead of fueling the fire and intensifying conflicts,” Xi said on the call.
On Sunday, China reported 13,287 new cases of Covid-19. Shanghai hospitals are flooded with Covid patients, with almost the entire city now under lockdown.
There is growing controversy around China’s classification of asymptomatic cases. A conversation between a Shanghai resident and the local CDC office questioned the government’s “zero-Covid” policy approach. City hospitals are now being asked to reopen their emergency wards.
Videos have also surfaced showing toddlers being separated from their parents at a medical facility, angering the public.
When Li Qixian, a travel blogger, posted pictures of a veteran’s tombstone from Kangxiwa cemetery, he never thought he would end up in prison. Li was sentenced to seven months in jail and made to publicly apologize this week.
“We must respect heroes and martyrs and sincerely cherish their memory. I hope everyone can take this as a warning, and deeply understand that the Internet is not a place outside the law, and everyone should be responsible for their own words and deeds,” a report by Legal Daily News quoted Li.
Chen Mouying, another Chinese resident, had to apologize on the orders of a district court in Hangzhou city over his remarks about Xiao Siyuan, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldier who died in the Galwan clash with the Indian Army.
“February to April 2021, Chen Mou posted a total of 20 inappropriate comments on the martyr Xiao Siyuan under some media Weibo accounts, slandering his image and his reputation,” said the Linping District People’s Procuratorate of Hangzhou City.
Public discussions around the PLA casualties in the June 2020 clash remain a sensitive topic in China.
During foreign minister Wang Yi’s recent visit to Delhi, there was speculation that China might be willing to step back on its position in Eastern Ladakh. That seems unlikely as PLA soldiers stationed at the Qiudijiangela post on the south bank of Pangong Lake are now learning Hindi – they aren’t going anywhere.
“Hum Chini Sainik hain. Yeh humare commander hain. Hum batcheet kare (We are Chinese soldiers. This is our commander. Shall we talk)?” a PLA soldier named Xu Shihu wrote in his notebook, broadcast by CCTV-7, China’s military TV network. Xu is an English teacher from Hexi University.
“Mastered Hindi in 4 months! He negotiated with foreign troops on the front line of border defence,” said the headline of the state media broadcast. ‘Foreign troops’ is a reference to the Indian Army.
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was keeping a low profile since her return from Canada, made her first public appearance on 28 March. Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei and was detained in Canada over violations of Iran sanctions. She was released after over two years of court proceedings. Soon after her public appearance, Meng was announced as the new rotating chair of Huawei.
Also read: Xi’s China isn’t just caught up with Ukraine, Taiwan. Someone’s disrupting Russia ties too
China in world news
Sir Jeremy Fleming, the head of the UK’s cyber intelligence entity GCHQ, has warned China about closely aligning with Russia. During his visit to Australia, Fleming said that China’s aspiration to become the leading power is “not well served by a close alliance with a regime that wilfully and illegally ignores” international law.
“Russia understands that, long term, China will become increasingly strong militarily and economically. Some of their interests conflict; Russia could be squeezed out of the equation,” said Fleming.
The head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John “Lung” Aquilino, and two other senior US military officials were also in Australia on March 28. The agenda of Aquilino’s visit was to enhance the US-Australia cooperation on “space and the cyber domain as the Indo-Pacific allies strengthen efforts to counter China.”
Aquilino spoke to Financial Times ahead of the visit to Pine Gap, a top secret US-Australia intelligence facility close to Alice Springs.
Aquilino was accompanied by General James Dickinson, head of US Space Command, and Lieutenant General Charles “Tuna” Moore, the deputy head of US Cyber Command.
Australia recently announced a new Defence Space Command in January. The visits by the senior US and UK officials to Australia are a sign of a realignment of the joint efforts to counter China both in cyber and space domains.
US federal prosecutors have charged a Chinese agent with illegal attempts to work with US law enforcement officials to repatriate US and Canadian residents to China. Sun Hoi Ying is accused of collaborating with a New York-based law enforcement officer and private investigator. This is a rare case in which we have seen the long arm of Chinese law enforcement working with a “private eye” to harass dissidents and US residents. “We’ve never seen them go this far before,” said Roman Rozhavsky, an FBI agent.
“The defendant allegedly travelled to the United States and enlisted others, including a sworn law enforcement officer, to spy on and blackmail his victims,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Matthew Olsen.
What you must read this week
Analysis: How Ukraine has been Nazifized in Chinese Information Space? — Jerry Yu
Experts this week
“I have visited all South Asian countries. In the 1980s, China-India relations had many conflicts due to various reasons, but other countries, such as Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, have very good friendships with China. An important reason is that India always bullies these countries, China really respects others, so it has won friendship, and it has grown close to people’s hearts over time,” said Zhang Weiwei, Distinguished Professor of Fudan University, during a conversation with Lin Minwang, China’s leading South Asia expert.
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)