One world, two systems ChinaDiction #77
US President Joe Biden and CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping have both spoken and they appear to agree that it's competition, not cooperation, that now rules.
Yes, that’s Open AI DALL-E’s interpretation of my thoughts on the US and China below. Comments not welcome.
In the aftermath of the downing of China’s surveillance balloon, it’s been a week of speechifying – US President Joe Biden with a State of the Union address and CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping on why China is special at the opening of a study session at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance), according to Xinhua (English).
The session was attended by newly-elected members and alternate members of the CPC Central Committee, as well as principal officials at the provincial and ministerial levels.
Biden was in a combative mood, as the Associated Press reports, maintaining he’d work with China – if China behaves itself:
‘I'm committed to work with China where we can advance American interests and benefit the world,’ Biden said. ‘But make no mistake about it: as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did.’
The AP divined the last note as a reference to the balloon the US blew out of the sky over the Atlantic foreshore.
Xi, according to the Xinhua report at least, appears to have made no references or allusions to balloons; rather he came across as fixated on the uniqueness of Chinese modernization and how it was worth championing and fighting for:
‘The cause of promoting Chinese modernization, which is an unprecedented and pioneering venture, will inevitably encounter all kinds of risks, challenges, difficulties and even dangerous storms, some of which we can foresee and others we cannot,’ Xi said. ‘Let us harness our indomitable fighting spirit to open new horizons for our cause.’
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning did refer allusively to the balloon incident in a press briefing on Wednesday in which she signaled Beijing’s disapproval, again according to the AP.
China does not fear competing with the U.S. but is “opposed to defining the entire China-U.S. relationship in terms of competition.”
‘It is not the practice of a responsible country to smear a country or restrict the country’s legitimate development rights under the excuse of competition, even at the expense of disrupting the global industrial and supply chain,” Mao said.
Mao’s comments came against a background of raging disputes over trade, Taiwan, human rights and access to advanced technologies.
There are no subtleties here that require geopolitical or China expertise. The heads of the US and China are basically shouting at each other, as the US attempts to stymie China’s technological ambitions.
Both sides say they don’t want a war, but neither side knows how to make the concessions required to avoid one.
Spy balloons are global: US Officials
Be on the lookout for suspicious types who appear poised to release balloons. Photo: Warren Wong; Unsplash.
The New York Times reports that China’s balloons are part of a global surveillance effort that is designed to collect information on the military capabilities of countries around the world.
The balloon flights, some officials believe, are part of an effort by China to hone its ability to gather data about American military bases — in which it is most interested — as well as those of other nations in the event of a conflict or rising tensions. U.S. officials said this week that the balloon program has operated out of multiple locations in China.
At a news conference on Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesperson revealed that the balloons were basically everywhere – “spotted operating over Latin America, South America, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Europe …
‘This is what we assess as part of a larger Chinese surveillance balloon program.’
If you’re wondering, why balloons when satellites are apparently watching our every move, over to the Times again:
The balloons have some advantages over the satellites that orbit the earth in regular patterns. They fly closer to earth and can evade radar.
And then there are the ICBMs …
The Wall Street Journal reports that the military “has notified Congress that China now has more land-based intercontinental-range missile launchers than the U.S.”
The notification comes as the U.S. is facing the challenge of deterring Russia’s substantial nuclear forces as well as China’s growing nuclear arsenal. U.S. lawmakers are involved in an increasingly heated debate about how best to counter Beijing, including the Pentagon’s response to the Chinese surveillance balloon that recently traversed the U.S. and hovered over Montana, where a portion of the American military’s ICBM arsenal is deployed.
Obviously, as noted here at ChinaDiction and by many other China-watchers, there’s an “element” of fear-mongering at work here, as the US military tries to drum up funding for dealing with a fragmenting world order in which everybody seems to be at everyone else’s throats.
At least the WSJ concedes:
The U.S., which is modernizing all three legs of its land, sea and air based nuclear arsenal, has a much larger nuclear force than China.
Extreme acronyms with Chinese characteristics
The race is on in China to replicate ChatGTP for lonely Chinese with wide-ranging questions and no doubt hoards of bedroom marketers of cosmetics and fell-off-the-back-of-a-truck fashions.
Enter Ernie Bot, created by Baidu (China’s private answer to Google, which was kicked out in 2010 for providing answers to questions that should not be asked in China).
Ernie, you might ask? (I did).
Reports The China Project:
The Chinese company that has the best chance of replicating ChatGPT’s influence is Baidu, which has been working on AI for years. The company has now confirmed that it will release its AI chatbot, called Ernie Bot (or wénxīn yīyán 文心一言 in Chinese) in March. (Ernie is an acronym for Enhanced Representation through kNowledge IntEgration.)
ChinaDiction asked ChatGPT what it thought about Ernie Bot and Baidu’s chances of success, and it scored badly on figuring out Baidu’s inventively selective use of letters for the “Ernie” acronym, but it did so with confidence …
Ernie is short for ‘Emotional Reasoning and Intelligence.’ [Wrong!] As for the success of Baidu's Ernie Bot, it's difficult to say. It depends on several factors, including the quality of the technology, the demand for chatbots in China, and how well Baidu is able to market and promote its product. However, Baidu is a large and well-established technology company in China, so it has the resources and expertise to develop a successful AI chatbot if it chooses to do so. Additionally, the demand for chatbots is growing globally, so there is potential for success in this market.
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The Greater Sinosphere
Smile for the cameras
Photo: RickySpanish; WikiCommons.
As Australia celebrates the resumption of coal exports to China and the warming of relations under a vaguely left of the center Labor government, the BBC and other media outlets report that Chinese-made surveillance cameras will be removed from defense sites.
It comes after an audit found 900 pieces of surveillance equipment built by companies Hikvision and Dahua on government estates.
The UK and US made similar moves last year, citing fears the device data may be accessed by the Chinese government.
Hikvision says those fears are unfounded. Dahua has not responded to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, the Australian government has found the cameras on more than 200 buildings.
The Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles on Thursday said the government would find and remove the cameras from any defence locations to make them "completely secure".
Bloomberg reports that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a press conference Thursday that he wasn’t concerned about a backlash from China if Australia decided to remove the technology.
HSBC complicit in human rights violations
HSBC Hong Kong. Photo: Yusuf Miah; Pexels.
HSBC has denied pension payouts “to those who fled the authoritarian crackdown, an inquiry by [UK] peers and MPs has concluded,” according to a report in the The Guardian, making the bank complicit in human rights abuses against Hong Kong residents.
The report by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Hong Kong took issue with the fact that banks including HSBC – which help to manage the compulsory pension fund that all residents pay into – have bowed to local authorities and refused to recognise the documentation of tens of thousands of residents who have tried to withdraw their pensions after fleeing to the UK.
More than 88,000 people who have left Hong Kong for the UK since early 2021 have been granted residency under the British National Overseas (BNO) visa scheme, after Beijing’s security crackdown intended to suppress widespread pro-democracy protests in 2020.
According to the APPG, the bank’s actions “contravened UN guiding principles which state that ‘everyone has the right to leave any country including his own’.”
HSBC said in a statement: “As we told the APPG in November 2021, HSBC has an enduring commitment to Hong Kong, its people and communities. It is where we were founded nearly 160 years ago.
No politics, just run
Yes, not to be confused with China Confucian run-xue meme (“get the hell out of China”), Hong Kong is holding an old-fashioned marathon on Sunday, and it’s to be a patriotic, family affair with no “Down with Xi Jinping,” “Remember the 47,” “Abolish the National Security Law” etc T-shirts.
No umbrellas or sheets of A4 either, just to be on the safe side is ChinaDiction’s advice.
Home-grown submarines nearly ready for testing
Photo: ROC Navy file photo.
The Chinese language Liberty Times reports that Taiwan’s home-grown submarine prototype – the Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) – is expected to be launched in September this year.
The budget for the as yet unnamed domestic submarine is expected to reach more than NT$300 billion (approximately US$10 billion), and the Ministry of National Defense this week said that mass production will only take place after the prototype ship completes combat evaluation.
The new arrivals are essential given the current state of Taiwan’s navy, as Naval News reports:
The ROC Navy currently have 4 submarines. Two of them are World War II vintage and were transferred from the U.S. in 1970’s. SS-791 ROCS Hai Shih (sea lion) was former Tench Class USS Cutlass (SS-478), ROCS Hai Pao(seal) was former Balao class USS Tusk (SS-426), both received Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) conversion, therefore unofficial called Guppy class in Taiwan. Two ships are still operational and reportedly capable of combat.
The other two are ageing Chien Lung (Sword Dragon) class, also known as Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) class. ROCS Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) SS-793 and ROCS Hai Hu (Sea Tiger) SS-794 were purchased from the Netherlands in the 1980’s.
The ‘Dove’s Dilemma’ for KMT in China
Taiwan KMT Vice Chairman Andrew Hsia (Xià Lìyán, 夏立言) met with Song Tao, head of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, in China yesterday (Thursday).
Song said that China is “willing to enhance exchanges and build up mutual trust with the KMT, and work with the KMT to promote relations between the two parties and two sides of the Taiwan Strait,” according to a Bloomberg report.
The ruling DPP, who were initially low-key in response when the nine-day visit was first announced, have been starting to push back.
Both parties know that the presidential elections, approximately a year from now, will hinge on China issues and on ensuring Taiwan’s safety – the KMT through olive-branch diplomacy; the DPP by making Taiwan more prickly to digest (the so-called porcupine strategy), while also rousing international support a-la Ukraine.
The Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei said in a statement that Beijing was handling the talks with Hsia in a way that was ‘harming our sovereign dignity.’ Beijing should ‘abandon coercive thinking towards Taiwan,’ it added.
Reports that Hsia might meet with Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Huning, the No 4 official in the CPC – and the man who has been tasked with coming up with a custom-made-for-Taiwan alternative to Deng Xiaoping’s “One Country, Two Systems” – remain unconfirmed.
Arguably, the Hsia visit is one of the first skirmishes in what will be an interesting presidential battle, but at this point the DPP probably have their line-up and their strategy better organized than the KMT – the China jaunt notwithstanding – whose members are having trouble establishing consensus and who owns who in the party power structure.
Buddhist master and political influencer passes away
A Taiwan government file photo of Master Hsing Yun with former President Ma Ying-jeou in 2010. WikiCommons.
The South China Morning Post reports that Master Hsing-yun (Xīng Yún, 星雲), one of Taiwan’s most influential Buddhist monks died peacefully at the age of 95 last Sunday.
His passing is significant in Taiwan – and even in China – for many reasons, but not least for outsiders looking in, because Buddhism is a powerful political force on the island.
Hsing Yun – born to a poor family in China’s Jiangsu Province in 1927 – founded the Fo Guang Temple in Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung and came to be an advocate of peaceful unification between Taiwan and China.
He founded Fo Guang Shan in 1967, and considered himself a Kuomintang member and supporter of peaceful cross-strait unification.
He was a guest of a succession of Taiwanese and mainland leaders, including presidents Chiang Ching-kuo, Lee Teng-hui and Ma Ying-jeou in Taiwan, and Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping.
He was also respected by former president Chen Shui-bian and incumbent leader Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.
In short he was a complex religious figure in a complex political environment, calling on Beijing to reconcile with the Dalai Lama, for example, earning him the label of a “political monk.”
‘At first, I didn’t like this reference, but later I thought that politics is part of life, so I didn’t care what they call me,’ Taiwanese media reported him saying.
1 million Tibetan children separated from families: UN
Tibetan children at play in Kathmandu, 2007. Photo: Wonderlane; WikiCommons.
According to an explosive UN press release, around a million Tibetan children are being culturally, religiously and linguistically assimilated to Han culture through a residential school system.
‘We are very disturbed that in recent years the residential school system for Tibetan children appears to act as a mandatory large-scale programme intended to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture, contrary to international human rights standards,’ the experts said.
In residential schools, the educational content and environment is built around majority Han culture, with textbook content reflecting almost solely the lived experience of Han students. Children of the Tibetan minority are forced to complete a ‘compulsory education’ curriculum in Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua) without access to traditional or culturally relevant learning. The Putonghua language governmental schools do not provide a substantive study of Tibetan minority’s language, history and culture.
‘As a result, Tibetan children are losing their facility with their native language and the ability to communicate easily with their parents and grandparents in the Tibetan language, which contributes to their assimilation and erosion of their identity,’ the experts said.
Don’t forget the war
You might be just popping out to buy some soy sauce or some greens – and there it is; a handy little propaganda bite to remind you that a brutal death by live ammunition is never far away.
Frankly, as anyone who has lived in China will aver, nobody pays any attention to this stuff, but it’s there and it’s a reminder that the CPC is not taking armed conflict as an option off the table, and nor nowadays are the US, Japan and Taiwan, not to mention India.
We’ve drifted into a highly volatile situation – the theme of this edition of ChinaDiction. We’re sure there will be some better news next week!
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