12 points ChinaDiction #82
But, in a nutshell, 1 point: We're with Russia
Complete with an East Kyiv and a West Kyiv, just like old times in Berlin. Source: mad, hyper-nationalist Chinese on Twitter who goes by the name of Zhao DaShuai 无条件爱国 (Unconditional Patriot, in Chinese).
Everyone has had the weekend to consider China’s peace plan.
No, as ChinaDiction suggested Friday morning, there was no speech by Xi Jinping; just a 12-point position paper that makes it clear China’s beef is with the US and (NATO) and that it’s aligned with Russia on the latter’s war in Ukraine.
Bloomberg (via MSN):
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, speaking on CNN, brushed off the Chinese proposal, saying it should have ended after the first bullet point, which calls for ‘respecting the sovereignty of all countries.’
‘This war could end tomorrow, if Russia stopped attacking Ukraine and withdrew its forces,’ he said.
Yes, the “peace paper” called for an immediate ceasefire, but it also called for an end to sanctions, and the scrapping of a “cold war mentality.”
An academic cautiously put it to the Wall Street Journal (paywall):
‘The paper itself suggests that China wants to get involved as part of diplomacy and political settlements,’ said Li Mingjiang, an associate professor of international relations at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. ‘At the same time, it tries very cautiously not to undermine any significant strategic interests that China has in partnership with Russia.’
But as the New York Times (paywall) puts it, all the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has done is to rehash its long-held position on the conflict while avoiding words such as “invasion” and “war” while trying to come across as the reasonable partner by posturing for peace.
Said Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Friday, “Any proposal that can advance peace is something that’s worth looking at.”
But, like his European counterparts, he expressed skepticism about the Chinese position. Speaking in an interview with “Good Morning America” … he said: ‘China’s been trying to have it both ways. It’s on the one hand trying to present itself publicly as neutral and seeking peace, while at the same time it was talking up Russia’s false narrative about the war.’
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told the South China Morning Post.
‘You have to see [the paper] against a specific backdrop. And that is the backdrop that China has taken a side by signing an unlimited friendship right before invasion of Ukraine started, she said, referring to a cooperation agreement signed by Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in Beijing on February 6 last year.
Meanwhile, the G20 was gridlocked in India, according to the BBC, over “conflict” semantics:
Finance ministers of the world's largest economies have failed to agree on a closing statement following a summit in India, after China refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Beijing declined to accept parts of a G20 statement that deplored Russia's aggression "in the strongest terms".
India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the media after the meeting that opposition from China and Russia prevented the nations from issuing a joint statement.
She revealed that the two nations also rejected the inclusion of a line, which stressed that the situation in Ukraine is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.
The swearing of eternal brotherhood by Xi and Putin just before the latter invaded Ukraine aside, China’s Putin-appeasing peace offering to the world on the first anniversary of war on Europe’s doorstep may well auger – and ChinaDiction hopes not – our slide into a long and bitter conflict that ranges far beyond Ukraine.
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The US seems unable to agree on whether China may or may not supply Russia with arms of some kind, but appears to be in agreement that it would react “strongly” if China did.
Last week the New York Times reported:
On ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday, Mr. Blinken said he had shared concerns with Mr. Wang that China was considering providing weapons and ammunition to aid Russia’s campaign in Ukraine, and that such an action would have ‘serious consequences’ for the U.S.-Chinese relationship.
‘To date, we have seen Chinese companies — and, of course, in China, there’s really no distinction between private companies and the state — we have seen them provide nonlethal support to Russia for use in Ukraine,’ Mr. Blinken said.
‘The concern that we have now is, based on information we have, that they’re considering providing lethal support,’ he added. ‘And we’ve made very clear to them that that would cause a serious problem for us and in our relationship.’
A week later, US President Joe Biden said he was not particularly concerned that China would sell arms to Russia, according to the Financial Times.
‘I don’t anticipate a major initiative on the part of China providing weaponry to Russia,’ Biden said in an interview at the White House.
Biden added, however, that he “would respond” if Beijing did so, as rumors continued per CNN.
US intelligence officials have collected information in recent weeks … that suggests China is now leaning towards providing the equipment. The US and its allies last week began publicly warning about China’s potential military support to Russia in an effort to deter Beijing from moving ahead with it and crossing a point of no return in terms of being seen as a pariah on the world stage, US officials said.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported over the weekend that Republican Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC News’s “This Week” that intelligence reports suggested China may be considering sending 100 drones to Russia.
‘We can’t throw our head in the sand and ignore this,’ McCaul added. ‘Otherwise, the Russians will be on the Polish border and Chairman Xi will invade Taiwan.’
China to launch 13,000 satellites to compete with Starlink
Starlink Mission. Photo: Official SpaceX Photos via WikiCommons.
According to the South China Morning Post China plans to build a satellite network in near-Earth orbit to rival, or “stifle,” as the report puts it, “Elon Musk’s Starlink.”
The project has the code name “GW”, according to a team led by associate professor Xu Can with the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Space Engineering University in Beijing. But what these letters stand for is unclear.
Stab in the dark by ChinaDiction, GW … “Great Wall?”
China has been concerned for some time about the SpaceX Starlink satellite internet network and its implications for US intelligence and has considered lasers and high-powered microwaves to disable them, according to The Register.
A paper in the February edition of Chinese journal Command and Control Simulation, titled ‘The impact of the Starlink constellation on space situational awareness and countermeasures’, was penned by researchers from the People's Liberation Army Space Engineering University in Beijing.
As for putting its own rival network into space, it’s unknown at this point how China would pull it off. Adds The Register:
The paper doesn't specify how China will get the job done. The Middle Kingdom's space program is achieving success with more complex missions like the construction of its space station, Mars missions, and journeys to the Moon, but China currently cannot match SpaceX's launch schedule. Seven missions took off for the American concern in February 2023 alone – four of them dedicated to launching Starlink satellites.
Nor can China re-use rockets, which is SpaceX's whole big thing.
With its focus on the SpaceX threat, the paper doesn't mention Amazon's plan for its own "Kuiper" constellation of over 3,000 satellites, or other similar plans.
Lab leak theory strikes again
The Wall Street Journal issued a cautious new report over the weekend stating that “the US Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak.”
The report added that the agency conclusion was “low confidence,” leading to some heated debate on Twitter as to what exactly “low confidence” means – some arguing a small number of strong sources; some maintaining a large number of dubious sources.
The WSJ adds:
The FBI previously came to the conclusion that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with ‘moderate confidence’ and still holds to this view.
The lab leak versus natural zoonotic spillover debate has been raging since early 2020 and has taken on theological dimensions in some quarters (ChinaDiction has repeatedly taken the position that a lab leak is plausible, if not the leading origin candidate given the absence of evidence for a spillover event).
The latest news can be read as a sign that a Covid-19 lab-leak origin story is finally edging out of the Twilight Zone “conspiracysphere” and into the mainstream.
Alina Chan, Scientific Advisor at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and coauthor of Viral, a book on the origins of Covid-19:
The loggerheads debate is far from resolved, but as the New York Times (which has until now been editorially very much in the natural spillover camp) reports:
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, declined to confirm the intelligence. But he said President Biden had ordered that the national labs be brought into the effort to determine the origins of the outbreak so that the government was using ‘every tool’ it had.
Renaissance man mystery solved?
Bao Fan, China Renaissance’s missing chairman, has been helping out with an investigation by “certain authorities,” according to a report by Bloomberg.
‘The board [of Renaissance] has become aware that Mr. Bao is currently cooperating in an investigation being carried out by certain authorities in the People’s Republic of China,” the firm said. Renaissance will “cooperate and assist with any lawful request” from the relevant Chinese authorities, if and when they are made, it said.
Bao’s abrupt disappearance has unnerved China’s business elite and fanned speculation the nation’s finance industry is set to face increased scrutiny. As chairman of China’s pre-eminent tech-focused investment bank, the veteran dealmaker has broad connections across various business sectors and has been a go-to financier for some of the country’s biggest companies.
It’s not unusual for heads of corporations to go missing in China and for the corporation in question to later announce they’re assisting with graft inquiries. Such assistance doesn’t generally lead to better prospects for the graft-inquiry assistant.
The Greater Sinosphere
No electoral interference here …
Justin Trudeau. Photo: Andrea Hanks - The White House.
Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents viewed by The Globe & Mail reportedly reveal that:
China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 federal election campaign as Chinese diplomats and their proxies backed the re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals … and worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered to be unfriendly to Beijing.
Drawn from a series of CSIS intelligence-gathering operations, the documents illustrate how an orchestrated machine was operating in Canada with two primary aims: to ensure that a minority Liberal government was returned in 2021, and that certain Conservative candidates identified by China were defeated.
According to the Toronto Sun Trudeau – rather than immediately calling for an investigation into China’s actions – has gone into “Donald Trump hyperbolic mode, claiming that we have ‘the best and robust elections in the world.’”
He reportedly expressed concern that CSIS was leaking to the media.
‘It’s certainly a sign that security within CSIS needs to be reviewed. And I’m expecting CSIS to take the issue very seriously,’ Trudeau said.
Commentary in Canada’s National Post accuses Trudeau of “impotency” in the face of Chinese electoral meddling, given it has worked to his party’s advantage, adding:
That the regime of Chinese President Xi Jinping was beavering away in an attempt to surreptitiously interfere in Canada, seeking political influence, technological gains and economic benefit, is not new. Global News reported that as early as 2017, Trudeau was warned by national security officials of China’s efforts to infiltrate ‘all levels of government.’
Fortunately, it’s difficult to imagine such a thing happening elsewhere in the democratic world – say, in Australia, where party politics are also polarized over China’s influence: benign or malevolent – or just highly lucrative?
Manila accuses Chinese ships of incursions (again)
China coast guard vessel CCG-5304. Photo: Philippines’ Coast Guard.
The Philippine Coast Guard stated it had spotted a China Coast Guard ship and “at least 26 suspected Chinese maritime militia vessels during a fly-over in the area around Ayungin [Second Thomas Shoal] and Sabina Shoals in the South China Sea” last week, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).
The area is well within the Philippine [exclusive economic zone] EEZ where Manila has exclusive rights to the sea resources.
The incursion took place as Adm Michael Gilday, chief of US naval operations, was on a two-day visit to Manila.
Gilday said that the US is “committed and focused” on conducting joint patrols with the Philippines in the South China Sea.
Last year in March, April and June, the Philippines filed several protests against what it called “swarming” by Chinese fishing vessels near Whitsun Reef.
The latest photos from the coast guard revealed similar formations of vessels at sea.
The long drought in the south
Taiwan’s Wu River in 2021; drought conditions in southern Taiwan are persisting through to the present. Photo: Kai3952; WikiCommons.
In 2021, they were calling it “Taiwan’s worst drought in half a century,” with the New York Times reporting:
The monthslong drought has nearly drained Taiwan’s major reservoirs, contributed to two severe electricity blackouts and forced officials to restrict the water supply. It has brought dramatic changes to the island’s landscape: The bottoms of several reservoirs and lakes have been warped into cracked, dusty expanses that resemble desert floors. And it has transformed how many of Taiwan’s 23.5 million residents use and think about water.
Al Jazeera reported at the time that the problem was at least partly to blame due to changing weather patterns and Taiwan’s dependence on typhoons to fill up its reservoirs and keep the island topped up:
Typhoons meet about half of Taiwan’s annual water needs, but they will be less reliable as climate change has already begun to affect not only their pathway across the Asia Pacific, but also their intensity, according to a groundbreaking report released this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
‘Right now, the IPCC report says in the Pacific, typhoon pathways will go north and that means while on average three to four typhoons hit Taiwan now, it will maybe be less in the future. It’s a warning to Taiwan. Climate change is not only about this year next year but 10 years or 20 years later,’ said Chi-Ming Peng, the founder WeatherRisk, Taiwan’s first private weather-focused company.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Central Weather Bureau reports it’s been more than 1,200 days since Taiwan experienced a typhoon, according to Focus Taiwan.
Chiayi and Tainan are the hardest hit at present:
Water pressure in Chiayi and Tainan will be lowered while supplies for certain commercial uses in Tainan will be limited starting March amid concerns over a drought, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said Saturday.
The ongoing drought conditions will not affect Taiwan’s essential chip sector.
But, back in 2021, the New York Times headline was “Taiwan Prays for Rain.”
Senior independence advocate passes away
Koo Kwang-min (Gū Kuānmǐn, 辜寬敏), former presidential advisor, independence activist and philanthropist, passed away this morning (Monday), as the Taiwan News puts it …
… a day before Taiwan commemorates the 228 Massacre, a historical event where Taiwanese rose up and challenged the authoritarian Kuomintang (KMT) regime. Fearing reprisal for his involvement in the protest, Koo would later spend two decades of his life living in exile in Japan.
Known as “the godfather of Taiwan independence,” Koo’s passing was remembered by Vice President Lai Ching-te (Lài Qīngdé, 賴清德), who took to his Facebook page today, describing Koo as “a passionate supporter of Taiwan throughout his life, and also a dedicated humanitarian.”
Ex-colonel sentenced as spy
The Taipei Times reports that the Kaohsiung District Court sentenced a former army colonel, Hsiang Te-en (Xiàng Déēn, 向德恩) to 7-1/2 years in jail for taking bribes and spying for China.
Hsiang in November last year was accused of signing a document of surrender with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), posing with the document in military attire and pledging assistance, to the best of his abilities, in the event of an invasion.
Hsiang headed the Kaohsiung-based Army Infantry Training Command’s Operations Research and Development Division.
Beware New Year’s blessings from abroad
The Tibetan Review reveals that Chinese authorities have been ransacking Tibetan homes for evidence of Tibetan New Year (Losar) messages from abroad, citing a report by Radio Free Asia published on February 23.
The report said cellphone checks and home raids were being carried out in Lhasa, Shigatse and Chamdo, the three largest cities in what China has demarcated as Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
Exile Tibetans who called their relatives and friends to exchange Losar pleasantries have been greeted with refrains; they were told not to contact them as this could land them in trouble with the Chinese surveillance state apparatchiks.
Imagine the uproar from China if Chinese abroad got similar checks from local authorities while celebrating “Chinese New Year.”
It’s remarkable – put modern design software into the hands of a former president and anything can happen.
Chen Shui-bian – the man who swept aside the KMT at the head of the Democratic Progressive Party DPP) in 2000 – has had no professional input. His images might be described as rawly individual – jarring, disjointing, evocative of the nebulous nature of Taiwan’s simultaneously bold and tenuous identity.
ChinaDiction’s favorite is the conceptual work that symbolizes “Taiwan values” – yes, that’s Chen, bottom-left, riding a swordfish while simultaneously squatting in contemplation, his chin propped on what appears to be a cane.
Hopefully, China’s Taiwan Affairs office has a team working on the works’ hidden meanings.
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