Xi extends support for Moscow’s ‘sovereignty and security’ in a phone call with Putin. China launches its third aircraft carrier ‘Fujian’. Astronomers refute the claim that Chinese scientists are finding alien signals. India and China talk at the BRICS NSAs meeting. Chinascope brings you the major news stories of the past week from China – and the world.
China over the week
The silent communication lines between Beijing and Moscow were disrupted this week with a birthday greeting and reaffirming of support for each other. President Xi Jinping spoke to President Vladimir Putin over the phone on the former’s birthday on 15 June. Xi’s birthdate is a well-kept secret — neither Xi nor the Chinese State media have acknowledged the date — and the Chinese President is always vague about his early years. The press statements of the call between the two leaders didn’t mention Xi’s birthday.
The call was the second contact between Xi and Putin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Xi Jinping pointed out that since the beginning of this year, in the face of global turmoil and changes, China-Russia relations have maintained a good momentum of development. The economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has been advancing steadily, and the Heihe-Blagoveshchensk highway bridge has been opened to traffic, opening a new channel for connectivity between the two countries” said the readout of the call published by Xinhua.
The phone call between Xi and Putin wasn’t the only point of contact between the two sides.
On Friday, Xi attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum via video link.
“It is important that we strengthen ‘soft connectivity’ of development policies and international rules and standards, reject attempts at decoupling, supply disruption, unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure, remove trade barriers, keep global industrial and supply chains stable, tackle the worsening food and energy crises, and revive the world economy,” said Xi during his address to the forum.
The forum was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart K. Tokayev.
Xi’s latest contact with Putin – and the address at the St. Petersburg Forum – is fresh evidence of Beijing’s indirect assistance of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by extending support for Moscow’s “sovereignty and security”.
After a series of delays, China has launched its third aircraft carrier named Fujian with the hull number ‘18’. The carrier was launched at China Shipbuilding Corporation’s Jiangnan Shipyard. “Xu Qiliang awarded the naming certificate to the chief officer of the receiving unit, and jointly cut the ribbon for launching our country’s third aircraft carrier with military and local leaders,” reported Xinhua.
The launch of the carrier created a splash on social media trends as well. The hashtag “we have three aircraft carriers” was the number one trend on Baidu.
As Chinascope has told you in the past, the aircraft carrier will be tested over the next two years before it will be deployed in a combat-like scenario.
The June 15 anniversary of the Galwan clash was remembered in India through social media posts and op-eds. In China, the State media and government departments reminded the public about their version of the clash on a frigid night in Galwan two years ago.
Chinese military channel CCTV-7 published a short clip from a documentary titled Motherland Engraved, which was released in February.
The clip shows Chen Xiangrong, one of four who died on the night of the clash, while his colleagues express their regret at “not taking more photos of Chen Xiangrong”.
The video was posted by CCTV’s Military Channel on Weibo and was viewed over 4.64 million times.
But that wasn’t the only way China remembers its Galwan soldiers.
A ceremony titled ‘Learning the Heroes of Defending the Country and Guarding the Frontiers and Carrying forward the Karakoram Spirit’ was held in Yancheng District, Luohe City, Henan Province. The family of Wang Zhuoran, was present at the Luohe City event.
For the regular readers of Chinascope, it may seem like there is always another PLA-related development. In the last edition of the newsletter, we learnt about Beijing’s 25 fighter jets at the LAC. But sometimes, the non-experts writing headlines can turn a minor fact into a breaking new story when it is really not that.
Xi Jinping signed a military order on 14 June titled ‘Outline of Military Non-War Military Actions (Trial)’, which made top headlines within a few hours. International media concluded that Xi’s order means that the PLA can carry out operations other than during war – they were hinting Taiwan. A close reading of the order reveals that Xi suggested mobilising troops for disaster relief, pandemic control, terrorism or other non-traditional security threats.
As always with China, we need to read the fine print.
Another story from China that had people around the world intrigued was about unexplained signals captured by the FAST telescope – read ‘aliens’. But astronomers burst the bubble.
“These signals are from radio interference; they are due to radio pollution from earthlings, not from E.T.,” wrote Dan Werthimer, chief technologist at the University of California, who was one of the paper’s authors on the unusual signal.
Well, no alien civilisation for us – we have each other for now.
China has now built an 825 km Hotan-Ruoqiang railway line completing the 2,700 km loop of the Taklamakan desert, which will now make access to Xinjiang easy. The railway line completes the final stretch, which will now entirely circumnavigate the treacherous Taklamakan desert.
The China State Railway Group announced the completion of the railway line connecting Ruoqiang county in the southeastern region of Xinjiang with Hotan city in the west.
The completion of the railway will facilitate the transportation of cotton, walnuts, red dates and minerals. But the questions about China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang remain unaddressed. Several multi-national companies are in the process of diversifying their supply chain away from Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is in the news for other reasons as well. The former party secretary of Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo, has taken up the post as the deputy head of the Central Rural Work Leading Group.
Chen was rumoured to have been picked to join the elite ranks of the Politburo Standing Committee, but that now looks unlikely. Analysis by Macro Polo, a Paulson Institute think tank, says that Chen’s new position means he is unlikely to join the coveted group of elite Chinese politicians.
Macro Polo has designed an interactive web page to keep track of Chinese leaders and officials who are getting promoted or demoted ahead of the National Party Congress in October or November of this year.
Also read: Smaller nuclear warheads make nuclear terrorism realistic. China, US, Russia must sit together
China in world news
Since the March meeting between Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission General Office Yang Jiechi and the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the US-China geopolitical tensions require regular ‘health check’ to avoid direct conflict.
Yang and Sullivan met again on 13 June in Luxembourg to discuss the US-China relations.
“The Taiwan issue concerns the political foundation of China-US relations, and if it is not handled properly, it will have subversive effects. This risk not only exists but will continue to rise as the United States engages in ‘using Taiwan to control China’ and the Taiwan authorities engage in ‘relying on the United States to seek independence”, Jiechi told Jake Sullivan during the meeting.
On 15 June, Jiechi hosted the virtual meeting of the National Security Advisors from BRICS countries. NSA Ajit Doval attended the meeting ahead of the 24 June BRICS leaders’ virtual meeting. India’s Ministry of External Affairs didn’t issue a statement on the meeting, but the Chinese foreign ministry responded to a journalist’s question about the BRICS NSA meeting during the regular press conference.
“The Meeting of BRICS National Security Advisers and High Representatives on National Security is an important platform for BRICS countries to enhance political and security cooperation,” said Wang Wenbin, the foreign ministry spokesperson.
Following the meeting of NSAs, President Xi is set to host the 14th BRICS Summit in Beijing on 23 June. The theme of the virtual summit will be ‘Foster a Global Development Partnership for the New Era to Jointly Implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,’ according to the Xinhua News Agency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is most likely to attend the virtual summit.
Besides the BRICS summit, India has backed China’s initiative to conduct a “joint border operation” in 2023. China will organise the event called ‘Solidarity-2023’, said a statement by India’s Border Security Force.
An investigation by the BBC’s African Eye Team has revealed shocking details about a popular video-making industry in China which promotes black African children to repeat racist statements.
In February 2020, a video of kids somewhere in Africa saying, “I am a black monster, and my IQ is low” went viral in China and resulted in a backlash on social media. BBC Africa Eye reporters Runako Celina and Henry Mhango traced the location of the video to Malawi, where they unearthed the dark secret of an industry that promotes video messages by African children and adult catered for a Chinese market.
As expected, the Chinese embassy in Malawi was quick to deny these charges. “BBC, please dial West for racism” said a headline of an op-ed published by China Daily.
Also read: Two years after Galwan, Black Top, China changes military strategy—by recruiting Tibetan youth
Must read this week
Expert Voices: Timothy Cheek – CCP Watch
China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War – Zongyuan Zoe Liu
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 Anurag Chaubey)