Wang Yi raises eyebrows with New Delhi visit

India refused to take the bait after the surprise stopover from China’s Foreign Minister

ChinaDiction was founded by Chris Taylor, a long-time observer of China, Taiwan and cross-strait affairs. China is many stories. ChinaDiction brings them to you three times a week. Free. Below is the newsletter from March 28. Click here for the ChinaDiction website.

Minister Wang Yi unexpectedly stopped over in New Delhi, but India is not taking the bait on anything that China China has to offer except extracting its troops from China’s northern borders.

Unannounced, shrouded in mystery, as they say, does anyone know what Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was up to in India after he touched down on Thursday and he left Friday? Whatever it was, India gave the impression of bristling against engagement with China, with which it has border disputes.

The Guardian reports that the United Kingdom’s …

10-strong delegation has been in discussion with India since January and was planning to visit Delhi and Rajasthan, but the Indian high commission is understood to have raised objections at the last minute.

Boris Johnson spoke with Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on Tuesday in an attempt to use his influence to persuade India to take a more robust position over the Russian invasion. India has not imposed sanctions or even condemned Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware.

Britain is concerned – among other issues – that India’s central bank is in discussions about a rupee-rouble trade arrangement with Moscow that would allow Russia and India to evade financial sanctions and enable trade between the two nations.

FM Wang also fumbled just days before his visit in Pakistan, where he made remarks about Kashmir that India reacted to almost immediately.

Foreign Ministry handout (Chinese language) quoted Wang as saying:

China and India should put the border issue in its proper place in bilateral relations and should not apply the border issue to define or even affect the overall development of bilateral relations.

The two-day visit comes a day after the ministry of external affairs (MEA) hit out at him over remarks he made about Kashmir at a meeting in Pakistan.

“We reject the uncalled reference to India by the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi during his speech at the opening ceremony,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

Relations between India and China are at best uneasy. A standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Ladakh border, and what was basically a brawl between Chinese and Indian troops, leaving 20 Indians dead in the Galwan Valley in June 2020, is still fresh in India’s memory.

China may have sent an envoy to India in an attempt to win support for its Russia-China vision of a new international order and to increase friction between the so-called Indo-Pacific world of the United States, Australia, Japan and India.

India won’t have it. As the following tweet reveals, India is proceeding with – at best – caution. India has its own reasons for neutrality on Ukraine. They’re not equivalent to China’s.

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Shanghai Starts Phased 7-Day Lockdown
Tall order as Shanghai fights Covid-19 outbreak. Photo: Barry Tan | Pexels

In a slight change of plans over a chaotic week, Shanghai has decided to go into a two-phase lockdown over nine days in an attempt to test everyone in the city of approximately 26 million. It’s China’s biggest lockdown since Wuhan two years, and probably the biggest city shutdown in history.

According to multiple media reports, Shanghai’s financial district of Pudong (east of the river) will be locked down from this morning (March 27) until April 1, when Puxi (Shanghai’s sprawling downtown) will go into lockdown on Friday. The aim is to test every city inhabitant over nine days. The Associated Press reports:

Residents will be required to stay home and deliveries will be left at checkpoints to ensure there is no contact with the outside world. Offices and all businesses not considered essential will be closed and public transport suspended.

Daily cases spiked to 2,600 in the city on Sunday, up from a handful a day at the beginning of the month.

The New York Times reports:

Wu Fan, an official of Shanghai’s Health Commission, stressed in a news conference on Saturday that the city cannot enter a full-scale lockdown. ‘Because Shanghai is not only Shanghai for the people of Shanghai, but it also plays an important role in the national economic and social development, and even has an impact on the global economy,’ she said. Wu implored the citizens to treat the current screening process seriously, so that the city could resume normal life efficiently and at minimal cost.

Xi’an and Shenzhen, both massive cities, were also recently shut down. Can China’s no-holds-barred approach work? It appears to have done so so far, but the BA.2 variant of Omicron is highly contagious. A writer trapped in the bubble that is modern China reports from Beijing for The Economist’s 1843:

To be ill in zero-covid China has become a form of deviancy. Beijing residents who develop a temperature above 37.3°C, for any reason – including as a side-effect of having a Covid vaccination – are supposed to report to a fever clinic to have their blood drawn and screened for antibodies, their chests scanned, and nose and throat swabs taken for nucleic-acid tests. Self-treatment can lead to arrest, if someone with a high temperature is later found to be positive for the virus. Two pharmacies in suburban Beijing lost their licenses after selling fever-reducing medicines to a couple without logging their names in a virus-tracking database.

In a separate article The Economist notes:

Chinese leaders think their policy a huge success. The Economist estimates that the country’s death rate from Covid is 5% of America’s. The Chinese economy has expanded by 10.5% in the past two years, compared with 2.4% in America and 0.4% in advanced economies generally. China’s Covid controls ‘demonstrate the advantages’ of the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and the socialist system, boasts Xi Jinping, the president. All the signs are that his people tend to agree.

That was before the highly contagious Omicron variant BA.2. recently ripped through Hong Kong, which previously also had a zero-Covid policy.

No matter what Beijing says, this is not a long-term solution. No matter how strictly their enforced, rolling lockdowns of cities of 10+ million are, it can’t go on forever against an evolving invisible virus.

Meanwhile, rumors have it that patriotic dancers and singers who aim to rouse the spirits of China’s inundated health workers are annoying health workers, who have enough to do as it is.

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Other News
Reverberations Over the Proposed Security Deal with the Solomons continues to rumble
Map: Wiki Commons

It’s becoming such a heated debate in Australia that Queensland newspaper, The Courier-Mail suggests that Australia invade the Solomons if its proposed security agreement with China is signed and sealed.

That’s Australia’s right talking, and the draft security agreement is obviously caused for concern because, according to the leak, the deal would go far beyond Australia’s bilateral treaty with Solomon Islands.

Many of the draft’s provisions are being criticized as vague, or – in the case of Article 1 – perhaps too specific, reports The Conversation.

Article 1 provides that Solomon Islands may request China to ‘send police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces to Solomon Islands in circumstances ranging from maintaining social order to unspecified ‘other tasks agreed upon by the Parties.’

This should be viewed in light of violent riots in Honiara, capital of the Solomons last year, when Chinese businesses were targeted.

Part of article 5, which appears to be describing a non-disclosure agreement, is also riling Australia:

Without the written consent of the other party, neither party shall disclose the cooperation information to a third party.

Old assumptions about how power and influence are exercised in the Pacific need urgent re-examination – as does our [Australia’s] assumption that explicitly ‘competing’ with China advances either our interests or those of the Pacific.

The point being here that this Australia (and New Zealand) confrontation is not just about Canberra and Beijing. Australia should consider improving its understanding of the geopolitics of the South Pacific. This is not a situation in which the Solomons are up for sale to the highest bidder. If it was, Australia would no doubt be on a losing proposition.

As a professor of International Security at Adelaide University, Joanne Wallis, said in a tweet thread on Friday:

My plea to Australian security analysts today – before you comment on the *draft* security agreement between Solomon Islands and China ask yourself: (1) am I acknowledging that Solomon Islanders have agency and are not passive dupes?

Minister of Defense says Taiwan’s Military Conscription Should be Raised to One Year
A military tunnel in Hualien in eastern Taiwan. Photo: Wiki Commons

This is old news – last Wednesday – but it appears Taiwan will extend its conscription, officially, to one year from four months for all able-bodied men.

Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng told Taiwan lawmakers last week that the current four months would be insufficient in the event of a real invasion.

The legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee said it would continue to discuss military service and combat training. Don’t expect anything to happen overnight – there will be countless debates and rivers of ink spilled over the subject in the coming months. Don’t forget, as recently as 2013, Taiwan was debating abolishing conscription after a conscript died in military detention.

The military are not exactly regarded with high esteem in Taiwan, so expect calls for comprehensive reforms, including the possible inclusion of women in conscription, which will be a cry from the margins and unlikely to be supported any time soon in island democracy.

As the South China Morning Post notes:

Previously, governments under the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the main opposition Kuomintang had cut compulsory service from more than two years to the current four months, moves made to please younger voters as tensions eased between Taipei and Beijing.

The mood among young people shows signs of shifting. They are no longer opposed to only economic concessions in negotiations with Beijing – they’ve been watching scenes from the invasion of Ukraine and obviously thinking, “This could happen here.”

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Uyghur Rights Project Warns of Increased Safety Risks for Uyghurs in the Middle East
Image: Uyghur Human Rights Project

The Uyghur Human Rights Project has released a report, Beyond Silence: Collaboration Between Arab States and China in the Transnational Repression of Uyghurs, in the wake of warming relations between China and Saudi Arabia (the report can be read abridged here and in full here. The full version is 49 pages – just a warning it’s rather a long read.

The report writes:

We have arrived at our upper estimate of 292 Uyghurs detained or deported from Arab states since 2001 in part through data from the China’s Transnational Repression of Uyghurs Dataset, a joint initiative by the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs and the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

The report continues:

At least six Arab states – Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – have participated in a campaign of transnational repression spearheaded by China that has reached 28 countries worldwide.

The report writes that “for Uyghurs in their homeland, links to Arab states can be potentially fatal.” Sadly, it’s increasingly the case, that actually being in the Arab states they have connections that bring risk:

Al-Azhar Mosque and University, one of the jewels of the Islamic world, has stood in Cairo for over a thousand years. It hosts the most prestigious program in Sunni Islamic studies as well as a thriving Arabic literature studies program. But in July 2017, the pride of Islamic education was struck by the heavy hand of China’s secularism. On July 1, in collaboration with the Chinese Party-state, Egyptian authorities rounded up Chinese nationals of Uyghur descent.1 More than 191 Turkic people from the Uyghur Region (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region)2 most of them studying at Al-Azhar University, were detained. We identified 65 individuals who were sent to China either via deportation or “voluntarily” after receiving ominous messages from both their relatives and Xinjiang Public Security Bureau officers. Chinese intelligence officers reportedly joined Egyptian security services in Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison to interrogate Uyghur students.3 According to a lawyer representing the students, many of them were physically assaulted, in addition to being denied food or water for extended periods.

How does it work?

By internationalizing algorithmic surveillance systems used in the Uyghur Region – namely the Integrated Joint Operating Platform (IJOP). These systems mine personal data from residents in the Uyghur Region and produce verdicts on whether individuals are “trustworthy” to the Chinese Communist Party. Any connection to an individual in a blacklisted country is grounds for detention and ‘re-education.’ Simply living in these countries may result in immediate detention after crossing the border into PRC territory, as outlined in a CCP document leaked with the ‘China Cables’ in 2019.27 Since 2017, Party-state officials have called for Uyghurs in Arab states to return home, denying them the appropriate paperwork to travel anywhere other than the PRC. In some cases, the authorities have orchestrated arrests with Arab security services.

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