Welcome to the 21st edition of Between The Lines. This week we look at why the rhetorical bullets are flying between Beijing and Washington. Time to pull on that flak jacket. Also, we focus on how China can peel Apple and the “gagging” of Hong Kong. Let’s get started.
It was amazing that Wu Qian managed to keep a straight face after firing a salvo of verbal volleys in denouncing the US Defense Department’s annual report.
Last week, the Pentagon papers warned that Beijing plans to rapidly expand its nuclear forces while upgrading and upsizing the People’s Liberation Army, Navy, and Air Force.
On October 25, China’s Defense Ministry hit back through Senior Colonel Wu at a media briefing. In a statement, reported by state-controlled Global Times, he said:
We express our strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to this report. [It] exaggerates and hypes the non-existent ‘Chinese military threat’.
“China [has always] insisted on a path of peaceful development and follows a defensive policy. The US report disregards facts, fabricates stories, [and] uses vague rhetoric [to] misinterpret China’s [strategy],” Wu added.
Clarity instead of confrontation came in the shape of a report by Business Insider:
China, the report says, has accelerated ‘its development of capabilities to strengthen the PRC’s ability to fight and win wars’ against a ‘strong enemy’.
“[That was] a reference to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s expectations for the armed forces and rhetoric on China’s primary rival: the United States,” Business Insider stated.
To put this into perspective, President Xi’s regime has threatened to invade Taiwan after conducting exhaustive military drills around the island democracy for the past two years amid saber-rattling in the South China Sea.
Apple risks being out-Foxed by Beijing
Is Apple finally facing the crunch after being dragged into the high-tech battle between Beijing and Washington?
The two-trillion-dollar American mega group has close production links with China’s largest private-sector employer, Foxconn. So, what happened at the weekend must have sent shivers down the collective spine of the suits in Silicon Valley.
On Sunday, state media announced that Taiwan-based Foxconn was being investigated by Chinese authorities for “tax audits” and “land use.” The move came just “weeks after founder Terry Gou announced his bid for Taiwan’s presidency.” Cue breaking news site Axios:
“This is a shot across the bow – a message to Foxconn [and its] customers, alerting them that if relations between China and the US get worse, these companies could incur costs,” Chris Miller, of Tufts University in Boston and author of Chip War, told Axios.
For the record, Foxconn or Hon Hai Precision Industry employs 800,000 workers in China. It has also enjoyed tax breaks and favorable land-use levies in the world’s second-largest economy, Business Insider reported.
China tightens its grip on Hong Kong
Hong Kong is now bound and gagged. Earlier this week, the city’s Chief Executive John Lee announced plans to increase national security.
The former deputy commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force has gradually smothered the once free-wheeling metropolis in a blanket of surveillance after Beijing imposed a draconian security law in 2020. At a media briefing on October 25, Lee warned:
The 2019 riots, black violence, and the attempted color revolution happened because of the obvious vacuum situation on legislation regarding national security.
“We have to learn this through pain … The Hong Kong national security law also requires Hong Kong to enact Article 23 [of the Basic Law] as quickly as possible,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in mainly peaceful pro-democracy protests four years ago. Beijing’s reaction was to orchestrate a vicious crackdown. As Radio Free Asia reported last month:
More than 10,000 people have been arrested and at least 2,800 prosecuted in the wake of the 2019 protest movement, mostly under public order charges. At least 230 have been arrested under the national security law.
“According to the US-based Hong Kong Democracy Council, 1,618 of those defendants are classed as political prisoners – peaceful critics of the government,” RFA pointed out.
And finally …
Sensitive soul Xi Jinping is “looking for someone to blame” for China’s property meltdown and the economic aftershocks. Check it out on The Wall Street Journal.