The coronavirus cases are rising again as China emerges from the zero-Covid policy. Funeral homes in Beijing are packed because of alleged Covid-linked deaths. Chinese experts comment on the clash in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang sector. Japan doubles military spending with an eye on China. Chinascope looks at China’s internal and external developments and the recent clash at the LAC.
China over the week
After announcing the retreat of the zero-Covid policy last week, coronavirus cases are again surging in major urban areas of China.
Chinese mainland reported 2,229 new local symptomatic cases on Saturday and 2,028 cases on Sunday. The recent surge has affected Beijing and Shanghai urban areas, among other regions.
Though China hasn’t officially reported any Covid-19 deaths since 4 December, the funeral homes in Beijing are allegedly packed with bodies. We don’t know how many individuals have died from Covid-19, but some reporters in Beijing have confirmed deaths linked to the virus.
“It’s also unclear how many people are dying from the virus. An AP reporter who visited the Dongjiao Funeral home was told by relatives that at least two people cremated there had died after testing positive,” wrote Dake Kang, Associated Press’ Beijing reporter.
The situation is so dire that Chinese state media outlet Caixin reported that two veteran Chinese journalists have also died because of the virus.
The Beijing government has been promoting the idea of treating Covid symptoms at home and telling people to take Lianhua Qingwen – a traditional Chinese medicine – as a remedy.
After Beijing dramatically ended the zero-Covid policy last week, there has been growing anxiety about vaccinating the elderly and other vulnerable groups.
China’s rollback of the policy and new cases have once again raised questions about the efficacy of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines. The US-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has projected one million deaths if China lifts Covid restrictions.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the recent spike in cases in China isn’t due to the lifting of restrictions as the cases were surging before the restrictions were lifted.
There is growing speculation that the surge is linked to a new subvariant of Omicron called BF7.
The clash between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has started a discussion among China’s national security and international relations community about the current chapter of border tensions with India.
“My superficial observation is that the occurrence of this incident may have been mainly provoked by Indian frontline officers and soldiers, who are more inclined to adopt such a proactive strategy of provocation.
“Because from my observation of high-level officials in India, since the second half of this year, the Modi government hopes that China-India relations will pick up, so Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar has been saying on international occasions that only when China and India come together can the Asian century be realised,” said Liu Zonyi, senior fellow and secretary general of South Asia and China Center, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, about the Arunachal Pradesh incident.
“The Dongzhang area is located in the eastern section of the Sino-Indian border, which is on the Chinese side even according to the illegal ‘McMahon Line’. The Indian Army has been adopting an ‘encroachment policy’ in the border area, constantly occupying strategic high points and setting up posts, and stirring up trouble here. When we visited the area, we went to the Dongzhang waterfall, where the Indian Army was vigilantly watching the movement of our group on the other side of the river.
“The Indians were advancing up from Chagyu in 1999 when there was a long standoff, but the Indians still established a position at Dongzhang Falls and stayed put. Until 2009, we local people could still go around under the waterfall and graze our livestock in the Dogol pasture. After that, the Indians blocked it, so it was impossible to cross,” added Liu.
Other experts have also tried to articulate how India’s China policy is evolving.
“Third, the ‘chaser’ mentality. India is well aware that China’s overall national strength has far been stronger than that of India. This has led India to try and seize opportunities in the process of reshaping the global economy to amplify its own advantages to become a new base of global manufacturing and a global economic power. This has led to policies such as ‘Make in India’ to catch up with China,” wrote Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University.
The Telegraph has now reported that instances of border clashes between the Indian Army and the PLA are ‘regularly covered up’, according to Indian Army sources. “They have happened on average two or three times a month, recently, and the incursions have increased in frequency over the last two years,” Joe Wallen and Samaan Lateef reported.
After the border clash, India on Thursday tested the nuclear-capable AGNI-V. And the Chinese state media tried to downplay its significance.
“First, the range of the missile does not meet intercontinental ballistic missile standards. The ‘Agni-5’ missile has a maximum range of 5,500 kilometres, which is far from meeting the requirement of an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of more than 8,000 kilometres. Therefore, it is at best a long-range ballistic missile, not an intercontinental ballistic missile,” said a report by Guancha news network.
Also read: Counselling, mental health seminars — how China is helping troops cope with combat stress
China in world news
If you thought that US-China relations would experience a thaw after President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping’s meeting in Bali, think again.
The US has now added 36 Chinese semiconductor companies to the entity list, which means the American companies will find it difficult to acquire an export license to sell the chips to customers in China.
The prominent company on the list is Yangtze Memory Technologies, which has been accused of supplying chips to Chinese telecom company Huawei and violating export control rules.
Following the end of World War II, Japan’s defence and foreign policy adopted a pacifist position. As part of the policy, Japan maintained their defence spending of 1 per cent of their GDP.
But the security environment began to change with China’s economic rise close to 2013 when the Senkaku Islands dispute flared up.
Japan has now doubled their defence spending to address the China challenge in the biggest jump since World War II. Japan will increase their defence budget by $7.3 billion in the fiscal year 2023, which will make up to 2 per cent of Japan’s GDP.
“Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government passed revisions to three key security documents after months of debate, outlining a tough new stance in a region where China continues to flex its military muscle near Taiwan, North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats remain unceasing, and Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine has stoked fears that others in Asia could take a page from their playbook,” reported Japan Times.
Japan has ambitions of developing nuclear weapons capability to address challenges posed by China and North Korea. We will have to see if the increased defence spending will help Japan realise its aspirations.
One factor that pushed Japan to revise its defence spending is Taiwan.
This week, the US has taken steps to further arm Taiwan with the latest $858 billion defence bill. On Thursday, the US Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, which has provisions to arm Taipei. The US will provide as much as $10 billion in financing and grants to the country over the next five years. The defence authorisation will also allow the US president to redirect US’s existing defence stock towards Taiwan if China launches an assault or carries out other kinds of aggression.
Also read: Chinese are coming for biggest breach in India’s defences. Our politics is far from ready for them
India’s China policy is again in sharp focus following the reported incursion by the PLA in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang sector. India’s former ambassador to China, Vijay Gokhale, has been at the forefront of articulating the contours of India’s China policy. Gokhale spoke to Srinath Raghavan, contemporary historian, about the evolution of India’s China policy and transformations in Chinese society. Chinascope recommends listening to the conversation.
Must read this week
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The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist. He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. He tweets @aadilbrar. Views are personal.
(Edited by Ratan Priya)