Shanghai residents outrage over food shortage and protest against the Covid lockdown. Beijing may be accelerating the production of its nuclear weapons arsenal. Xi Jinping asked the athletes who participated in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games to ‘carry forward the Olympics spirit’. Chinascope brings the latest stories from China that shaped our world this week.
China over the week
Shanghai was once seen as a potential model for the Chinese mainland to live alongside the coronavirus. Not anymore. The outrage pouring on social media because of the lack of food supplies and the lockdown imposed on the city is unprecedented. Almost 26 million residents of Shanghai are currently under a lockdown. The hashtag “Shanghai epidemic” has been viewed three billion times over the last 30 days.
Videos of people protesting and stealing food from a supermarket have emerged across various Chinese social media platforms, including Weibo and WeChat. The videos were widely circulated on Twitter. The censors redoubled their efforts to remove “negative” commentary about the food crisis unfolding in Shanghai.
“I just bought some supplies. I can’t stand this video, someone hit pregnant women in Songjiang Jiuting Community. The collective protest. The neighbour next door has been diagnosed for two days and has not been transported for treatment. What happened to you, Shanghai!” wrote Carlyle, a prominent media personality with over 1.96 million followers. Sina Weibo later censored the message.
“In Jiuting, Songjiang, Shanghai, many people gathered and shouted in unison: “Send materials, send materials, send materials…”, hoping to get much-needed food, vegetables and other materials. The order at the scene is quite chaotic!! Hope the epidemic will pass soon!” said a Weibo user. This message too was removed.
The censors tried to share positive stories by making hashtags such as “May supermarkets in Shanghai resume business” trend on Weibo.
The lockdown has spared no one in Shanghai. Even billionaire Kathy Xu Xin struggled to buy milk and bread.
Zong Ming, the vice mayor of Shanghai, apologised for not meeting people’s expectations and became emotional. The hashtag “Shanghai vice mayor sobs during the speech” was viewed over 840 million times on Weibo.
Shanghai has built over 100 makeshift hospitals for treatment of Covid-19 patients with over 160,000 beds, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Things weren’t always as bad in Shanghai. Because of how the city had tackled the spread of the virus, President Xi Jinping had even considered giving Shanghai “leeway to tackle local outbreaks”, considering the public anger against the zero-Covid policy, according to a source who spoke to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). But the plan seems to have hit a roadblock as the Omicron variant has driven up the cases.
According to people familiar with the thinking of Chinese leadership, Beijing is accelerating the process of building up its nuclear arsenal over the fear of conflict with the US. The shift in thinking came in early 2020 as the “US government’s stance towards Beijing hardened,” WSJ reported.
Though Beijing’s efforts predate the Russia-Ukraine war, sources have said the Ukraine conflict has hardened the Chinese leadership’s views. “Ukraine lost its nuclear deterrence in the past, and that’s why it got into a situation like this,” a retired Chinese military officer said.
“Beijing believes Washington would consider attacking mainland China with nuclear weapons because the US military faces challenges defending Taiwan against the People’s Liberation Army using conventional weapons,” sources told WSJ. They added that Beijing will maintain its no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, Xi Jinping held a commendation conference in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing where the CCP Central Committee and the State Council feted 148 athletes who participated in the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games.
“On the field of competition, Chinese athletes are not afraid of strong opponents, fight tenaciously, and win glory for the country,” Xi said in his remarks at the conference.
China in world news
China’s hypersonic missile DF-17 was rolled out in 2019 during the parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the PRC. The US, UK and Australia are teaming up to co-develop hypersonic missile technology under the AUKUS security pact. On 5 April, leaders issued a joint statement reaffirming “our commitment to AUKUS and a free and open Indo-Pacific”.
“We also committed today to commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities and expand information sharing and deepen cooperation on defence innovation,” said the statement.
US Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell will likely travel to the Solomon Islands as the nation plans to ink a security pact with Beijing, Financial Times reported.
Chinascope told you earlier about a draft security pact between the Solomon Islands and Beijing, potentially allowing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to deploy its forces on the island.
“It’s a pretty broadly scoped agreement that seems to leave the door wide open for future deployment of People’s Republic of China security and military forces to the Solomon Islands,” a US State Department official told Financial Times.
A US Congressional delegation was supposed to visit Taiwan soon, but the trip had to be rescheduled after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tested positive for Covid-19. Before the trip was rescheduled, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the US alone will “bear consequences for a visit”.
Must read this week
How Is China Expanding its Infrastructure to Project Power Along its Western Borders? — ChinaPower
Experts this week
“To put it bluntly, India is now targeting China, it is willing and can stand with the United States, Australia, Japan and other countries; but for Russia, it does not participate, and its attitude is evident. Of course, even if India does not participate in the sanctions against Russia in the Russian-Ukrainian war, it does not mean that it fully supports Russia. India has a very good relationship with Ukraine. In fact, it is in a similar situation to China. Western sanctions against Russia,” said Pan Guang, director of SCO Research Center, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, during an interview with Guancha. The interviewer suggested that Wang Yi’s recent visit to New Delhi was a success as both countries were willing to put aside their differences over the border issue. But New Delhi disagrees with this framing of the visit.
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)