The big tussle
China's frictions with the West extend far beyond Taiwan issues.
Art: Mark Corry.
China’s top leadership is on the move after lurking for more than a year in “dynamic zero-covid” China.
General Secretary Xi Jinping will travel to Kazakhstan – his first trip overseas since the outbreak of the pandemic – reports the South China Morning Post, while China’s “top legislator,” Li Zhanshu (third in power after Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang), is heading to Russia, Mongolia, Nepal and South Korea, reports Reuters.
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Li is expected to address the Seventh Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok (September 5-8).
It’s possible that Xi might visit Uzbekistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Samarkand on September 15 and 16.
In Uzbekistan, Xi would be expected to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin for the first time since the pair announced a ‘no limits’ partnership on the eve of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The United States on Friday approved US$1.1 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.
The State Department said the arms package aims to boost Taiwan's defense capabilities and includes $355 million for Harpoon air-to-sea missiles and $85 million for Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
An amount of $655 million would go toward a surveillance radar system to help Taiwan track incoming missiles.
Former United Nations Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet released a damning report on the incarceration and “reeducation” of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous zone minutes before her departure from office, Associated Press (and everyone else) reported.
The UN report calls reports of “human rights violations” credible and adds they may “constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
The Strategist, published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), notes:
While the report was long overdue and lacked strength in certain areas, its release following a four-year investigation is a positive development celebrated by victims of Xinjiang’s human rights crisis, as well as scholars, journalists and advocates around the world who have for years sought to pour sunlight on the issue.
Wu’er Kaixi, exiled Tiananmen Square protest leader and now Taiwan Parliamentary Human Rights Representative, speaking as a Uyghur, told ChinaDiction:
The UN ran out of space to deny what is happening in Xinjiang.
The UN report does not use the word “genocide” but a legal source in Taipei told China diction:
The report didn’t address population control of Uyghurs, which might support a charge of genocide, not just crimes against humanity.
But some think that the report was wise to focus on issues that support crimes against humanity because the evidence for these as adduced by the UN is overwhelming. The evidence for genocide is not as well developed so better to leave it out for now in favor of making a compelling overwhelming case for crimes against humanity rather than opening the door for a hard-to understand debate about lesser known aspects of the definition of genocide.
The Great Lockdown
Whether China’s latest spate of lockdowns is another Great Leap Forward – a Mao-era policy that is thought to be responsible for millions of deaths to starvation – or not; the number of cities and Chinese citizens going into lockdown is growing by the day.
In the absence of verifiable numbers, 65 million people upwards are thought to be restricted to their homes – no matter what:
Cause of death: organ ‘donation’
A tweet by Donald Clarke, questioning why this story hadn’t been picked up by mainstream media, brought our attention to another tweet by Adrian Zenz in early April this year
Which, in turn, leads to a peer-reviewed report in the American Journal of Transplantation, which poses questions such as “The challenge of ethically procuring hearts and lungs from prisoners.”
The dead donor rule is fundamental to transplant ethics. The rule states that organ procurement must not commence until the donor is both dead and formally pronounced so, and by the same token, that procurement of organs must not cause the death of the donor. In a separate area of medical practice, there has been intense controversy around the participation of physicians in the execution of capital prisoners. These two apparently disparate topics converge in a unique case: the intimate involvement of transplant surgeons in China in the execution of prisoners via the procurement of organs.
Is the CCP beachside get-together a myth?
Mao Zedong checking out something on vacation at Beidaihe Beach, 1954. Photo: Lyu Houmin; WikiCommons.
MERICS Senior Fellow Charles Parton makes the shocking claim that the legendarily secret annual Beidaihe CCP beachside rendezvous may not actually take place at all.
Many reputable newspapers see the ‘Beidaihe meeting’ as an important moment in China’s political year. The New York Times spoke of “Xi and top officials and party elders….[being] expected to hold secret meetings in August in the seaside resort of Beidaihe.” Reuters described Beidaihe as the “site of a secretive annual summer party leadership conclave”, while The Guardian went as far as to say that “the [Pelosi] visit happened right before the Beidaihe conference – a secretive gathering of Chinese Communist party elites where major policy decisions are made.” But perhaps the prize goes to the think tank that commented: ‘While most outsiders will focus on the party congress in the fall, the real decision-making conclave is the annual August get-together of the CCP elders and high-level party officials at the beautiful beachside resort of Beidaihe.’
But does this “conclave” – a word suggestive of papal secrecy – exist beyond the imaginations of commentators? There is scant evidence that it does. And its existence – or non-existence – matters. If General Secretary Xi Jinping is indeed having to meet party leaders and elders prior to the fall party congress to discuss and agree major policy decisions and personnel appointments to be announced there, then he is not as powerful as many think.
ChinaDiction has no opinion other than it’s known that senior Chinese party members vacation in Beidaihe and it’s unlikely they don’t talk to each other – perhaps in a touchy-feely, off-the-record kind of way.
Do the beach hols set the agenda for five-year plans etc? Unlikely – at least based on ChinaDiction’s experience of beaches in Asia.
The Greater Sinosphere
To ease or not to ease …
With speculation mounting over the past week that there are official tensions in Hong Kong over how to deal with Covid-19, Chief Executive John Lee has acknowledged the government is having internal conversations on whether to cut hotel quarantine, Bloomberg reports.
Lee is facing pressure from the international business community to lift hotel quarantine in Hong Kong, as pandemic policies weigh on the economy. The city leader has reduced hotel isolation from seven to three days since taking office on July 1.
On Tuesday [today], Lee said further cuts would hinge on the number of daily infected cases. Hong Kong reported more than 10,000 daily infections Monday, although fatalities remained below 10 a day.
Tomb of Genghis Khan discovered by accident – maybe
Yuan Dynasty painting of Genghis Khan. Brooklyn Museum: WikiCommons.
According to Achaeology World construction workers in Mongolia may have stumbled upon the grave of the man who is thought to have killed 40 million people in days long before mechanized warfare.
Yes, Genghis Khan, first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire.
Forensic experts and archaeologists were called to the site, which was revealed to be a Mongolian royal tomb from the 13th century that the scientists believe to be Genghis Khan’s.
The team of scientists affiliated with the University of Beijing has concluded that the numerous skeletons buried on top of the structure were most likely the slaves who built it and who were then massacred to keep the secret of the location.
And, yes, his grandson, Kublai, established the Yuan Dynasty (1271 CE-1368 CE), which was the first to make Beijing (known as Dadu at the time) capital. The Yuan also rebuilt the Grand Canal and established an empire-wide postal system.
Australian offer to fund elections rejected as ‘assault’ on democracy
In the latest twist in the rolling Solomon Island’s drama, Australia’s ABC reports that Foreign Minister Penny Wong today (Tuesday) confirmed an offer to help fund elections in Solomon Islands next year.
The offer was promptly rejected in categorical terms.
Late on Tuesday, the Solomon Islands government issued an angry statement calling the offer "inappropriate" and scolding the Foreign Minister for making it public while MPs are debating the bill to delay the poll.
‘The timing of the public media announcement by the Australian government is in effect a strategy to influence how Members of Parliament will vote on this Bill during the second reading on Thursday 8th September 2022,’ the statement says.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has been accused by his opposition of trying to “bulldoze” a bill to delay next year’s elections through parliament.
It’s breaking news by the hour in the US/Australian/New Zealand tussle with China over the Pacific islands, but sadly, as Australia and other Western allies should know from previous encounters – say Cambodia – offers to fund elections are not the way to a strongman’s heart.
China, on the other hand, has it figured out that endorsing and funding local strongmen is key to getting what it wants.
Defense budget gets a 14% bump
Following China’s biggest-ever war games around Taiwan (staged to entertain US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi), the Executive Yuan proposed a double-digit increase in defense spending
China carried out its largest-ever war games around Taiwan after a visit this month by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
As Newsweek notes:
The amount, a record high, is a year-on-year increase of 13.9 percent—about 2.4 percent of the island's projected GDP—and includes a $3.58 billion special budget for defense equipment, as well as an additional discretionary fund. Past rises in defense spending have fallen within single digits, mostly under 5 percent.
And it’s not just defense
A vintage photograph of Taiwan indigenous people fishing by a small dam on the lower reaches of the Wulai River, year and provenance unknown. Photo: WikiCommons.
Taiwan will spend even more on infrastructure in 2023. NT$597.2 billion (US$19.7 billion), an increase of 32%, has been earmarked for yet more construction projects on the highly developed island.
Like their counterparts in Japan, Taiwanese politicians love spending money pouring concrete in every corner of the densely developed island.
Unlike defense expenditures, new public projects are popular with voters and drive Taiwan's version of the East Asian developmental state so ably explained in Alex Kerr's classic Dogs and Demons: Tales From the Dark Side of Modern Japan.
The timing is also good with a presidential election coming up in 2024.
One of Taiwan’s new projects is a controversial water diversion project that will take water from the pristine Nanshi River in southern New Taipei City's Wulai District to be stored in reservoirs in Taoyuan and Hsinchu Counties.
Home to Taiwan's tech industry, these thirsty counties are Taiwan's fastest growing areas.
With TSMC planning to build 14 new fabs in Taiwan over the next three years, Taiwan's insatiable need for water will only increase. But Wulai and the route for the pipeline are all in indigenous areas of Taiwan, where residents say that they haven’t been consulted as required by law.
ChinaDiction predicts that development interests will win this one as usual.
Michael Fahey, Taipei
Frontline drone action
Taiwan's Ministry of Defense says it shot down a commercial drone on one of the small islands it controls near Taiwan.
The news comes after an embarrassing video of Taiwanese soldiers apparently throwing rocks at another drone circulated widely online last week.
Speaking at an awards ceremony for the military, President Tsai said one day earlier that the drones were forms of a “gray zone” and “cognitive warfare,” before ordering the military to take “necessary measures.”
Voila! A drone was shot down.
This sequence of events suggests that Taiwan's military is now firmly under civilian control – something far less certain under previous administrations.
Michael Fahey, Taipei
Taiwan moves cautiously to open borders
Multiple Taiwan sources yesterday, including Focus Taiwan, reported that Taiwan may be moving to nudge open its borders as early as September 12 by resuming visa-free entry privileges to multiple countries worldwide.
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced Monday (yesterday):
For the time being, the weekly cap on arriving travelers will remain at 50,000, with all entries required to follow the "3+4" protocol of three days of quarantine and four days of ‘self-initiated epidemic prevention.’
‘Monster’ fish evades authorities; authorities drain lake
This is how Texas deals with an alligator gar. Photo: Clinton & Charles Robertson, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0.
According to the Washington Post (paywall), “millions” of Chinese have been edge-of-the-seat-tracking (via livestreaming) the government’s efforts to hunt down a “monster” fish with razor-sharp teeth in Henan Province, Central China.
Precisely: it’s an alligator gar – native to North and South America – which can grow up to three meters long and is considered an “invasive threat” to ecosystems and humans.
Unfortunately – attempts to catch the beast proving elusive – authorities took the only obvious other option and drained the 30-acre lake.
Still no alligator gar.
The New York Post writes:
Government officials later claimed the torpedo-shaped creature could be hiding in a 200-yard-long U-shaped pipeline leading to the lake.
There have also been suggestions that the torpedo-shaped, razor-toothed fish from hell “escaped”.
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