Keeping your finger on the pulse of a rapidly changing China is like playing a never-ending game of mahjong amid swirling Winds, Dragons and Seasons. To help you navigate the course, China Factor is rolling out a weekly update on the stories you cannot afford to miss.
Foreign Policy gets the ball rolling with an excellent essay by Craig Singleton, of the Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He highlights how China’s autocratic leader Xi Jinping is “ghosting” American President Joe Biden.
It has been six months since the two leaders last spoke … in the interim, Beijing has blamed busy schedules and even balloons for the extended lapse in leader-to-leader engagement.
“All the while, Xi found time to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and host high-level diplomatic delegations from France, Germany, and Brazil. Having exhausted every possible excuse, China acknowledged that it might not want” a cozy chat “at all.”
Eventually, they will have to talk the talk if not walk the walk. As Singleton pointed out:
Truth be told, Xi cannot avoid Biden forever, and sooner or later the two leaders will speak again. But as long as these open-ended engagements are wedded to a policy of coexistence rather than reciprocity, they could lead to the very rupture the Biden administration is desperately seeking to avoid.
Joe Ciolli, a deputy executive editor at the Insider’s business desk, has spotlighted the “one crucial industry where China is crushing the United States.” The Insider newsletter warned:
The US and China are locked in a battle to control the future of tech – and there is one big spot where Beijing dominates: electric batteries. The winner of the battery war will control not only the electric-vehicle market but also dictate how the West can transition to green energy. More here.
The New York Times has also waded into the high-tech rivalry between Beijing and Washington. In the Times’ Morning Briefing, it said:
Despite billions in Western investment, China is so far ahead in making batteries for electric cars that the rest of the world may take decades to catch up.
Better reach for the shock absorbers.
Back to Foreign Policy, James Palmer’s China Brief focused on library censorship in Hong Kong. It is not quite book-burning, but it is close. FP revealed:
Thousands of volumes, including critiques of communism and unapproved accounts of Chinese history, have disappeared from shelves of the city’s libraries in the last year.
“Since Beijing’s national security law took effect in Hong Kong, authorities have gradually implemented a mainland-style censorship, threatening the city’s once-vibrant cultural and political heritage.”
Should we be surprised? No. After all, Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” policy has been strangled after Beijing imposed a national security law on the city in 2020.
Finally, a view from Beijing from the Center for China & Globalization, a think tank. Included in a CCG briefing was a speech by Long Yongtu, who was China’s chief negotiator in World Trade Organization talks. He insisted that there is only one “boss” and that is the United States:
China does not seek to change the existing international order, and what is the core of [that]? It is that the United States is the boss. China has no intention to challenge or displace the United States.
Not sure if President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party Xicophants would agree with that assessment.