It's official ChinaDiction #85
The National People's Congress has reelected Xi Jinping as PRC president for a third five-year term – unanimously (2952-0).
It’s the world’s biggest parliament and it votes as one. Photo: WikiCommons
Apart from granting Xi his third term, the “Two Sessions” have largely been about consolidating party power, setting military spending targets (up by 7.2%) and making China more self-reliant – oh, and setting a GDP growth target of 5%.
See all this against a background of the US increasingly – by the day, it sometimes seems – constraining Chinese technological and territorial expansion/projection.
Xi takes rare direct aim at US
Speaking to China’s political elite, General Secretary Xi Jinping uncharacteristically let fly at perfidious foreign powers on Monday, fingering the US in particular as trying to deny China breathing space, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Western countries—led by the U.S.—have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression against us, bringing unprecedentedly severe challenges to our country’s development,” Mr. Xi was quoted by state media as saying on Monday.
By directly accusing the U.S. of seeking containment, a term loaded with Cold War meaning, Mr. Xi appears to be associating himself more closely with nationalist rhetoric—widely used by lower-ranking officials and state media—that attacks Washington, at a time when bilateral tensions continue to simmer over trade, technology, geopolitical influence and discordant views on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The English-language version of Mr. Xi’s speech reported by Xinhua didn’t refer to containment or the U.S. Instead, it quoted him telling fellow officials to “have the courage to fight as the country faces profound and complex changes in both the domestic and international landscape.”
Foreign minister warns of ‘inevitable conflict’
China Foreign Minister Qin Gang. Photo VOA via WikiCommons.
China and the US are unavoidably heading into conflict if the US doesn’t “hit the brakes” on its concerted efforts to “contain” China’s rise, Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned this week, The Guardian reports.
’If the US doesn’t hit the brakes and continues to barrel down the wrong track, no amount of guardrails can prevent the carriage from derailing and crashing, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation,’ Qin Gang said on Tuesday.
Qin decried the US position that it was looking for peaceful solutions, arguing “in reality, the US side’s so-called competition is all-out containment and suppression, a zero-sum game where you die and I live.”
The minister also defended China’s close relationship with Russia, describing them as “an example for global foreign relations.”
‘With China and Russia working together, the world will have a driving force,’ he said. ‘The more unstable the world becomes the more imperative it is for China and Russia to steadily advance their relations.’
Exterminate the brutes!
The National Review reports that Chinese “wolf blogger” (who has been endorsed by Xi Jinping himself in the past) Zhou Xiaoping has called on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) to create a “blacklist” of Taiwan secessionists to be executed.
Zhou, in a post to the social-media site Weibo, discussed his CPPCC proposal to order the creation of a ‘Taiwan Province Separatist Forces Blacklist’ to be posted publicly, according to a translation of his post by Han [Yang, see below]. This would be a list of Taiwanese individuals to be hunted down and killed in the aftermath of an invasion.
Think of the CPPCC as a kind of shadowy consultative sister body to the CPC itself – it may not do much, but it’s very influential.
Australia-based political commentator and former Chinese diplomat Han Yang tweeted ahead of the National Review piece:
And there’s a Weibo link for readers of Chinese.
The buck stops here
Billionaire investor Mark Mobius is cautioning investors to be “very, very careful” about investing in China after he discovered he can’t get his money out of the country, reports Reuters.
‘I have an account with HSBC in Shanghai. I can't take my money out. The government is restricting flow of money out of the country,’ Mobius, founder of Mobius Capital Partners, told FOX Business in an interview published on March 2.
‘I can't get an explanation of why they're doing this ... They're putting all kinds of barriers. They don’t say: No, you can't get your money out. But they say: give us all the records from 20 years of how you made this money ... This is crazy."
Somebody should have warned Mobius before he dipped his toes into the China market that if you’re not prepared for “crazy” you’d better take your money elsewhere.
The Greater Sinosphere
Red alert down under
Cartoon: the Global Times.
On Monday Australia woke to shock-horror headlines in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age: “Red Alert” the broadsheets shouted; Australia faces the prospect of war with China within three years “and we’re not ready.”
This happens every now and again. Australia likes to imagine itself as living in harmony with its Asian neighbors, and it bristles at any suggestion that it’s a lackey of US hegemony, which makes the issue of US commitment to defending its first-island chain “client states” prickly.
Then some think tank, or some dusty old Sinologist, comes out and reminds everybody that being part of the Asia Pacific isn’t all holidays in Bali and raw minerals to China – not to mention “pan-Asia cuisine,” which is a thing Down Under (think Peking duck and phad Thai).
The old-school leftish Labor position is that if Australia keeps its head down and kowtows to almighty Beijing, it will all work out.
Take Paul Keating – retired but unable to shut up – for example, who refers to Taiwan as a “civil dispute,” as if the entire Taiwan issue can be shelved because it’s “between the Chinese,” no matter how loudly those pesky islanders shout, “But we’re not Chinese!”
In the meantime, to be sure there’s a lot of tabloid fear-mongering going on in the Herald/Age headline and the story, but it is time to switch gears and engage in rational discussion of the fact that if Taiwan falls it’s a total game-changer for the entire region and Australia is part of that – for the good times and the bad times.
It’s impossible to say whether Australia will be drawn into a war with China within three years, but if there’s a war with China – and it looks increasingly likely – Australia will be drawn into it, like it or not.
Being prepared. might not be such a bad idea.
Perth Mint caught ‘doping’ its bars
The one-tonne gold coin at the Perth Mint, if the latter is to be trusted. Photo: GordonMakryllos; WikiCommons.
Australia’s ABC reports that the “historic Perth Mint” is facing facing a potential A$9 billion (US$5.4 billion) recall of gold bars after selling diluted or "doped" bullion to China and then covering it up, according to a leaked internal report.
It’s something of a story and worth reading the ABC report in full, but basically the world’s biggest producer of newly minted gold – and the only government-backed mint in the world – began “doping” (adulterating in minute amounts) its gold to save money, or make more of it, depending on how you look at it, in 2018, but got caught by the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE).
If the complaints by SGE, the Perth Mint’s biggest client, prompt a recall and replacement, the ABC remarks “It would also be difficult for the mint and would likely require support from WA taxpayers.”
Elizabeth Tang arrested after visiting imprisoned union leader husband
According to the HK Labor Rights Monitor, the General Secretary of International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) and former Chief Executive of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Elizabeth Tang Yin-ngor, was taken away after visiting her husband, imprisoned union leader, Lee Cheuk Yan.
Sources have alleged that Tang is arrested on suspicion that she had colluded with foreign forces to endanger national security. Tang had recently returned to Hong Kong after leaving the city to the United Kingdom in 2021.
Petition calls for Oscars ban on HK star
‘Ip Man’ Donnie Yen, a big supporter of the CCP. Photo: Cecilia Wang; WikiCommons.
Close to 100,000 (at the time of writing) had signed a petition to remove Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen as an Oscars presenter on Sunday due to his support for the Chinese government.
Writes the BBC:
Yen is a globally recognised action star who recently drew controversy for an interview in which he called the protests a riot.
The 59-year-old is best known for the Ip Man movies, a Hong Kong series based on a martial arts master which has grossed more than US$400m (£338m) at the worldwide box office. He will next appear alongside Keanu Reeves in Hollywood film John Wick 4.
‘He’s made it clear he wants to use films as a medium to tell positive stories of China and Hong Kong. He’s helping to whitewash the Chinese regime,’ Henry Tong, a Taiwan-based democracy advocate from Hong Kong who started the petition, told VICE World News. Tong joined large-scale protests in 2019 demanding greater freedoms in Hong Kong and is among tens of thousands of residents who have since left the city amid a crackdown on civil liberties, including curbs on free speech.
If you’re new to Yen, as ChinaDiction is, and need an instant opinion on the popular actor, he sided with the CCP against pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and was appointed to the National Committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as a representative of Hong Kong’s art and culture sector in January this year.
Even the Oscars’ organizers should know better, one would think … possibly.
Tsai to meet House Speaker in California
The Financial Times reports that Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (Cài Yīngwén, 蔡英文) “has convinced US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to meet in California rather than Taipei.”
The thinking, apparently, is that this will lessen China’s ire – something China generally has no shortage of … and at the least provocation.
Washington has been rife with speculation about whether McCarthy would visit Taipei. Advocates of a trip say senior US lawmakers should show support for the country in the face of rising Chinese aggression, while critics argue that high-profile visits provoke China without helping Taiwan.
A senior Taiwanese official said Tsai’s administration had provided McCarthy’s team with “some intelligence about what the Chinese Communist party is recently up to and the kinds of threats they pose”.
Liu Pengyu, the Chinese embassy spokesperson in Washington, said China rejected all forms of official interaction between the US and Taiwan. “No matter [if] it is the Taiwan leaders coming to the United States or the US leaders visiting Taiwan, it could lead to another serious collision in the China-US relationship,” Liu said.
Let’s cut to the quick: The US House Speaker flying to Taiwan, the Taiwan president flying to the US: one is as bad as the other in China’s eyes.
No easy fix for southern Taiwan water shortages
The Zengwen Reservoir back in 2010, when water shortages were as much a problem as they are today. Photo: Pat Cullen; WikiCommons.
Water levels at the Zengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫), which is key to supplying water to Chiayi and Tainan in southern Taiwan, have dropped to just 19% of capacity and may only have enough supplies for another 20 days reports the Taiwan News.
The 20 days is hyperbole. As the Water Resources Agency (WRA) points out, there are other reservoirs that supply the South, but the situation this year is unusually bad because:
A prolonged drought has contributed to the dangerously low levels of the reservoir. The amount of rainfall in the south hit a 30-year-low in 2022, and the region has seen no precipitation surpassing 200 millimeters for more than 570 days, said the WRA.
Reduced water pressure has been implemented for Tainan and Chiayi, with water restrictions to kick in in Kaohsiung starting Wednesday (March 8) as part of an emergency response. Well drilling and halted irrigation, among other measures, are being taken to avoid a red water alert, meaning water rationing, for Tainan.
The Taipei Times has an interesting think piece by a former WRA section head on what can and should be done. It makes for sobering reading.
Taiwan has approved just one new large-scale reservoir project, the Niaozueitan (鳥嘴潭) artificial lake, which leaves de-silting the existing reservoirs and raising the height of their dams. De-silting is expensive and time consuming.
As for the Zengwen dam, it has already been heightened by 3 meters, “thus increasing its capacity by about 55 million cubic meters for a cost of just NT$200 million.”
But for that to be of any use, southern Taiwan is going to need rain – a lot of it.
Triad holds spring bash at the Marriott
The qipao brigade in waiting for the mob at Taipei’s Marriott Hotel. Photo: Twitter.
The United Daily News (Chinese) was less interested in the fact that renowned triad group the Bamboo Union was holding its spring banquet at the Marriott Hotel than by the presence of up to 170 辣妹 “spicy little sisters,” or simply “babes” dressed in traditional qipao at the event.
As it happened, the Bamboo Union holding a daytime party in one of Taipei’s most exclusive hotels was enough to create a furore, with legislators declaring themselves to be “shocked” that the underworld could act with such brazen and arrogant impunity.
Inevitably, the story began to leak into the international press, which actually takes an interest in Taiwan these days.
Director of Police Huang Mingzhao (Huáng Míngzhāo,黃明昭) said that the police have “absolutely zero tolerance for underworld gangs,” and they will strictly deal with any violation of the law.
Premier Chen Chien-jen (Chén Jiànrén, 陳建仁) yesterday ordered police to redouble efforts against organized crime, saying that incidents like the Marriott event “created bad optics and openly insulted Taiwan's law enforcement authorities,’ reports Focus Taiwan.
No doubt the mob will choose a more discrete venue next year.
In old Lhasa, a warren of tales
Old Lhasa book cover. Camphor Press.
I confess to not having read “Old Lhasa: A Biography” (Camphor Books), but it’s on my list, and in the meantime China Underground has an interview with the author, MA Aldritch, who had to reduce his time spent on the ground to a minimum due to China’s highly restrictive rules on visiting the High Plateau.
I launched myself into a campaign of researching about all aspects of Lhasa. This ranged from its urban design, to religious festivals, to food and beverages, to ghosts and goblins, to political disputes, to traditional architecture, to legends and myths.
Next I booked tours through an authorized Chinese travel agent and obtained official approval for my itinerary. This is a mandatory step since foreign independent travel is prohibited. My itineraries served as a “road map” to historic and cultural sites in and around Lhasa.
Surprisingly, I was able to wander around Lhasa on my own during my tour’s off hours and explore the Tibetan Quarter, which is geographically and symbolically the heart of Old Lhasa. (New Lhasa is the modern monstrosity that has been expansively built up around the old city in the past seventy years.)
Public transport for pets
The ETtoday report has some fascinating details on how public transport for pets will work in Taipei, with the pets getting pet behavior trainers and veterinarians in their specialized carriages to ensure their welfare.
It actually sounds so good, it’s likely the problem will be keeping the humans out.
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