In this week’s Chinascope, we look at Xi Jinping telling writers and artists to practice ‘morality’, Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin stepping down, Taiwan holding a referendum, and other top headlines from China – and the world.
China over the week
China is tightening control on the work of artists, actors and writers – and President Xi Jinping wants them to hold up ‘morality’
Xi’s push to reshape China took another turn this week when he told writers and artists to practice morality and build a “socialist cultural power”. Xi made the remarks in his address to the Federation of Chinese Literary and Art Circles in Beijing.
“Literature and art should be popular, but it must not be vulgar or kitsch. Literature and art want to thrive, but they shouldn’t become advocate of bad habits,” said Xi Jinping during his address.
Chinascope told you about State actions against Chinese celebrities in a cultural crackdown that saw the downfall of singer Kris Wu and pianist Yi Lundi. Another celebrity who has become top news in China is Hu Xijin.
The controversial editor-in-chief of State-run Global Times (Huánqiú Shíbào in Chinese) Hu Xijin announced on his social media accounts that he would retire from his role.
“Lao Hu will turn 62-years-old after the new year, and he will retire. I have gone through the formalities for the retirement, and I no longer serve as the editor-in-chief of Global Times. I will continue to contribute to the development of the Global Times and do my best for the party’s news public opinion work,” he said.
Lao Hu is Hu Xijin’s popular name on social media, which means “old Hu”.
China Media Project, a well-regarded source of insider knowledge about the Chinese Communist Party, reported citing sources that Hu was removed. Though it isn’t clear why.
Hong Kong’s Tsingtao Daily reported that Global Times will establish the post of president to “strengthen political orientation”. Another speculation that could explain Hu Xijin’s departure is the bungled Peng Shuai campaign to show everything was fine with her case. Peng Shuai is a Chinese tennis star who accused former Chinese politician Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault and then disappeared. Global Times was at the forefront of a poorly managed campaign related to the Peng case.
Meanwhile, winter in the Himalayas may appear calm, but the India-China border stand-off is far from resolved.
The People’s Liberation Army published propaganda images of a simulated nuclear, biological and chemical attack in Tibet. “A glimpse of the actual combat exercise of a joint brigade in the Tibetan Military Region,” said the title of the article. A close analysis of the images shared published in PLA Daily reveals that the exercise isn’t recent.
Foreign Policy Magazine reported citing senior US defence officials that Pentagon is concerned about China’s military build-up close to the border with India. That story was later updated with satellite imagery of China’s H-6 bomber at Golmud Airport in Qinghai province.
The Taiwan situation has also become tense, and its internal politics has increasingly become central to the US-China conflict. Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wants to grow ties with the US, but the main opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT) doesn’t.
Taiwan held a referendum on four issues – nuclear power, pork imports, conservation of algal reefs, and if future referenda should be held along with national elections. The voters supported DPP’s position on all four issues in the referendum that saw a low voter turn out with only 41 per cent of eligible voters showing up at polling stations.
Pork import is a sensitive topic that has polarised Taiwan politics. The approved proposal would allow pork import from the US — under a trade deal — with trace amounts of an additive substance called ractopamine. The KMT opposed the trade deal.
Another talking point in strategy circles is China’s ties with Russia. It has increasingly intrigued experts as both countries have sought to challenge the international order led by the US and its allies.
President Vladimir Putin and Xi held a virtual summit Wednesday and pledged to grow their ties. “Although the world has undergone turbulent changes, China-Russia ties have shown new vitality and energy,” Xi Jinping said during the summit.
Putin revealed that he will attend the Beijing Winter Olympics in person and will likely become the first leader to meet Xi in over two years. Xi hasn’t left the Chinese mainland since his State visit to Myanmar in January 2020.
China in world news
China’s breakneck advancement on its hypersonic missile programme has set off alarm bells in New Delhi.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that India must immediately develop hypersonic cruise missiles to maintain “minimum credible deterrence against its enemies”. Though Singh didn’t mention China in his speech, the timing of the remarks suggests the proposed hypersonic missile programme was in response to recent developments.
The US, and some allied countries, consider Huawei’s technology cheap but unreliable on cybersecurity standards. But Huawei contests the claim and has asked for evidence to prove the allegations. This past week some new evidence surface to support the allegations.
The Washington Post revealed that Huawei helped multiple Chinese provinces in their surveillance programmes. Postshared the details of 3,000 internal PowerPoint slides, which outlined a surveillance programme developed by Huawei with partner vendors.
Huawei’s troubles didn’t end with The Washington Post story.
Bloomberg later reported citing sources that Huawei was responsible for “sophisticated intrusion” into Australia’s telecommunication networks in 2012. The report said Australian officials informed the US about the breach and several national security officials received briefings on the matter from Australian and US agencies.
The flurry of revelations isn’t just a coincidence. The US has pulled together its diplomatic resources to convince its allies and partners about cutting ties with Huawei.
The UAE recently announced that they had suspended talks over a $23 billion deal to buy 50 F-35s from the US. The source of tension between the UAE and the US is Abu Dhabi’s reliance on Huawei for its networking requirements. The Joe Biden administration wants Abu Dhabi to remove all Huawei equipment and believes that Huawei’s presence could leak sensitive data from the F-35 jet. Chinascope told you about a planned Chinese military facility in UAE.
Huawei wasn’t the only Chinese company that made the news this past week.
US Treasury and Commerce Department collectively added over 40 Chinese companies to the “Chinese military-industrial complex companies” entity list and the US export entity list.
DJI and several other Chinese companies were added to the US Treasury Department’s military ties entity list to enable biometric surveillance of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. The Treasury Department’s ‘non-SDN Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies list’ is a relatively new entity list that explicitly targets companies with ties to Chinese military or law enforcement.
What you must read this week
Xi Jinping’s Leadership Style: Micromanagement That Leaves Underlings Scrambling – Josh Chin
China’s Soccer Dream Has Turned Into a Debt-Addled Nightmare – Feng Zhen
Experts this week
“In addition to China and the United States, there are Europe, Russia, Japan, and South Korea, ASEAN, and the broader developing world, although the formation of ‘gangs’ has been fierce for a while, a considerable number of countries are unwilling to choose sides in the Sino-US struggle. If we control and use it well, the vast intermediary force will be an important driving force for the peaceful reunification with Taiwan,” wrote Feng Shaolei, director of Russian Studies Centre at East China Normal University.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress will meet in Beijing on Monday to review several bills, including the Women’s Rights and Interest Protection bill.
This week, Hong Kong residents will vote in the first “patriots-only” election for the limited seats on the legislative council after Beijing’s new National Security Law came into force.
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 Neera Majumdar)