In this week’s Chinascope, we look at Xi Jinping’s new training order to the People’s Liberation Army, India’s frustrations with Beijing’s demands, the neighbour’s stake in the Kazakhstan protests, India’s $87.80 million tax demand on Xiaomi, and other major stories from China.
China over the week
Chinese State media reported that President Xi Jinping had issued the mobilisation training order to the entire Chinese army. “To comprehensively promote the transformation and upgrading of military training, and to train elite soldiers who can fight well,” said the order. This is the fifth consecutive year that Xi has issued the training order to the whole of the army. The order was largely viewed as a symbolic action by the President until April 2020, when the mobilisation of the PLA along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was linked to the training order. The order emphasizes the importance of science and technology in future warfare and training.
Besides the training, China’s infrastructure build-up at the LAC was another major development this past week.
Snehesh Alex Philip, ThePrint’s Senior Associate Editor, recently reported that China is building a bridge over the Pangong Tso Lake in the Khurnak area. The Ministry of External Affairs responded sharply to the news. “This bridge is being constructed in areas that have been under illegal occupation by China for around 60 years now,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
Meanwhile, India is frustrated with China’s response to requests for holding the next round of border talks.
China appears to want Russia to mediate the negotiations with India. Hu Shisheng, a Senior Research Fellow and the Director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceanic Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, wrote that Russia’s involvement would “enable more active strategic interactions among the three countries, which would also increase the stability factor in general Sino-Indian relations.”
The 14th round of talks between India and China are likely to be held on 12 January.
Xi’an Covid-19 cases have started dropping after a recent spike. The local authorities claim they have brought the pandemic under control in the city.
A journalist named Jiang Xue has published an account of Xi’an under lockdown. She writes about how people are struggling to get food supplies.
Chinese authorities censored the diary on popular social media app WeChat for “violating regulations.”
Users have compared Jiang’s account to Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary about her experience of living through the first Covid-19 lockdown in Wuhan.
The anti-government unrest in Kazakhstan has captured headlines around the world. China has a stake in maintaining stability in the country. China is Kazakhstan’s second-largest trading partner, and their total bilateral trade was worth $22.94 billion in the first 11 months of 2021.
Xi has even sent a message to the Kazakh president to reassure him of China’s support.
“China strongly rejects any attempt by external forces to provoke unrest and instigate ‘colour revolutions’ in Kazakhstan, as well as any attempt to harm the friendship between China and Kazakhstan and disrupt the two countries’ cooperation,” said Xi Jinping, according to Xinhua.
Colour revolution is a term used in China for protest movements instigated with the support of ‘foreign forces’. The term was repeatedly used on Chinese social media as the users tried to make sense of the unrest. “Nearly 4,000 terrorists detained in Kazakhstan” was another trend on Weibo, viewed over 7,03,000 times. A user published an article with the headline “From Hong Kong to Kazakhstan, colour revolutions by the US are getting worse and worse”.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is a former Kazakh diplomat who became President in 2019 after Nursultan Nazarbayev stepped down from his 26-year-long reign.
There are 56 Chinese projects worth about $24.5 billion in Kazakhstan, which will be completed in 2023. Kazakhstan also acts as a transitory land port for rail freight that China sends to Europe under its Belt and Road Initiative. But it’s not the economy that’s the main driving force here. China’s interest is in maintaining stability in the province of Xinjiang, which neighbours Kazakhstan.
Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi visited the Maldives on Friday. He is on a five-nation trip to Eritrea, Kenya, the island nation of Comoros, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. New Delhi will watch Wang’s visit to the region very closely.
China and Maldives inked an agreement to facilitate a 30-day visa-free travel for Maldivians once the Covid restrictions are lifted. Wang and Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid inked other agreements as well, including ‘economic technology, infrastructure, seawater desalination, medicine and public health’. According to Xinhua, both countries pledged to build projects under Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative.
On Saturday, Wang Yi arrived in Colombo for a two-day visit as Sri Lanka finds itself in a dire debt crisis. The country is facing a foreign currency crunch as Covid-19 has shuttered most tourism-related businesses.
According to Sri Lankan officials, Wang is likely to offer further grants to Colombo during the visit.
“They will look for more business opportunities, fishing in the troubled waters of economic doldrums in the country,” said a political analyst named Ranga Kalansooriya.
China in world news
Thanks to Beijing, Tokyo and Canberra nowadays share a growing sense of camaraderie.
Japan and Australia have signed the landmark Reciprocal Access Agreement during a virtual summit. The agreement creates a legal basis for the entry of troops into each other’s territories with a simplified process.
The growing defence ties between Tokyo and Canberra are a direct challenge to Beijing, with which they have a tough relationship. Both countries – along with India and the US – are part of the Quadrilateral Dialogue, a grouping seen as a counterweight to China. The US is the only other country that has a similar defence agreement with Japan.
India has asked Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi’s India division to pay $87.80 million in import taxes following an investigation by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence. The investigation discovered that Xiaomi India hadn’t added royalty and licence fees in the payment to Qualcomm USA and Beijing Xiaomi Mobile Software Co Ltd.
“By not adding ‘royalty and licence fee’ into the transaction value, Xiaomi India was evading customs duty being the beneficial owner of such imported mobile phones, the parts and components thereof,” said a statement by the government.
What you must read this week
For Chinese Workers in Indonesia, No Pay, No Passports, No Way Home – Xu Zhenhua
As Beijing Takes Control, Chinese Tech Companies Lose Jobs and Hope – Li Yuan
Experts this week
Zhang Xiaokang wrote an article that was widely read and shared on Chinese social media. It’s unclear what their affiliation is, and it said, “Why are we talking about the naming of this counter-attack? Because the issue of the naming of operations is essentially the concept of waging war. The most important thing in the concept of war is to distinguish the nature of war. The nature of wars in human history can be divided into two categories: just wars and unjust wars. In 1962, the China-India border self-defence was a counterattack by the People’s Liberation Army’s frontier defence forces. In order to promote a fair and reasonable solution to the Sino-Indian border issue, the army stood in self-defence and conducted a just war against the invading enemy in the Sino-Indian border area.”
The US Army recently began describing China as a “pacing challenge”. Christine Wormuth, Secretary of the US Army, gave a keynote address on the US Army’s views on the China challenge. Chinascope recommends listening to the episode with remarks by Secretary Wormuth published by China Power Podcast.
SupChina’s Kaiser Kuo spoke to David McCourt, a sociologist who studies the ‘China watchers’ community and has conducted a sociological study on it. It’s a fascinating discussion about ‘China-watching’ and the people involved. Chinascope recommends listening to the conversation.
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 Humra Laeeq)