Whole lotta Pelosi
Since when did China get to call all the shots?
Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Wiki Commons
It’s almost certain that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan early next month (next week, to be precise), Taiwan sources tell ChinaDiction.
Meanwhile, NBC on Wednesday reported that Michael McCaul, the ranking member on the foreign affairs panel, said both he and Chairman Gregory Meeks, had been invited by the speaker on an upcoming trip to Taiwan, in the first somewhat official confirmation from the US that the visit is going ahead.
What will China do?
China will huff and puff, but it’s not going to blow Nancy down over the Taiwan Strait.
That would be incredibly dumb – indeed, potentially catastrophic.
But, as The Economist notes, China might do all kinds of other things.
China has already made its feelings clear, threatening “strong and resolute measures” if the trip goes ahead. Hu Xijin, a former editor of a nationalistic Chinese tabloid, proposed that China’s armed forces impose a no-fly zone on Taiwan or at least fly aircraft over the island. He also suggested that Chinese warplanes should escort Ms Pelosi’s aircraft and that, if they came under fire, China should attack Taiwan’s military aircraft and bases.
Parsing The Economist follow-on:
Chinese government officials, like the rest of us, are beginning to realize that the US is “recalibrating” its “one-China” policy – it might abandon it altogether in favor of reduced ambiguity (over defense of Taiwan).
See the South China Morning Post: “Former US defence chief says one-China policy has ‘outlived its usefulness’.”
In the face of a possible change in US policy, do not expect Beijing to go quietly into the night. Any movements away from the so-called “status quo” will face strident – if not shrill – resistance and militarily threatening moves.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, meanwhile, is expected to get an unprecedented (post-Mao) third term at the Party Congress later this year amid plummeting GDP growth, inflationary pressure, youth joblessness, a go-nowhere “zero-covid” policy and international isolation due to support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In short, Xi needs to go into that congress as the big boss, in control of everything.
A full-fledged Taiwan crisis would not be conducive to that.
Meanwhile, The Financial Times reports that Taiwan fears that if the trip is cancelled, China will see it as a victory over US foreign policy:
Several people involved in national security policy in Taiwan said the country was trapped between the risk that China would ‘punish’ Taipei for Pelosi’s planned visit next month and the risk that Washington would cancel the trip and effectively give China a say in US-Taiwan policy.
Three people in Taipei familiar with the situation said the US administration’s public opposition to the trip threatened to embolden China. ‘If the visit is called off, that means China’s intimidation tactics works,’ said a senior official. ‘That will have a chilling effect as others will shy away from engaging with us.’
The Biden government has shown signs of being genuinely spooked about the Pelosi visit, citing unprecedentedly fierce language coming out of China.
But, as the Associated Press notes, momentum is growing in favor of China not dictating US foreign policy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reported plans to travel to Taiwan have upended Washington’s political divide, with a rift emerging with President Joe Biden over the visit to the self-governing island while prominent Republicans offer encouragement to a political opponent they normally scorn.
Pelosi’s supporters include a conservative Republican senator, at least two former Trump administration officials and the last speaker of the House to make the trip to Taiwan, also a Republican. They are urging Biden to back the trip even as China threatens a forceful response if she goes.
Pelosi, D-Calif., has not confirmed the trip publicly. The White House and the speaker’s office have yet to challenge each other directly, and Biden has not said publicly that Pelosi should not go.
On that last note above, he won’t because he can’t.
As one Taipei-based China-watcher told ChinaDiction this week, “The rules are changing very fast; it started in 2016 … Obviously, everyone entangled with China is in denial.”
But some argue that an end to backdowns, cave-ins, walk-backs due to Chinese “sensitivities” is the best way to avoid outright major conflict.
“Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan is the best move the US can make to ensure that if clashes are going to happen they happen on its own terms, not China’s,” says Wu’er Kaixi, exiled Tiananmen student leader and President, Taiwan Association for Democracy in China, and General Secretary, Taiwan Parliamentary Human Rights Commission.
Whole lotta Pelosi redux
USS Ronald Reagan. Photo: Tomás Del Coro.
According to The South China Morning Post, the US is readying a show of force ahead of Nancy Pelosi’s possible visit.
China and the United States are building up their military strength around the Taiwan Strait as tensions rise over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s possible visit to the island.
The American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group, including a guided missile destroyer and a guided missile cruiser, set out from Singapore on Monday heading northeast towards the South China Sea, according to ship-tracking information provided by Beijing-based think tank the South China Sea Strategic Probing Initiative.
China asks UN to ‘bury’ Uyghur report
East Turkestan’s historic Silk Road town of Kashgar under Chinese-ruled reconstruction. Photo: Wiki Commons.
Reuters reports that China asked the United Nations human rights chief to “bury” a report on human rights violations in Xinjiang.
Reuters claims to have seen a the Chinese letter, which has been confirmed by diplomats from three countries who received it.
The letter authored by China expressed "grave concern" about the Xinjiang report and aims to halt its release, said four sources – the three diplomats and a rights expert who all spoke on condition of anonymity. They said China began circulating it among diplomatic missions in Geneva from late June and asked countries to sign it to show their support.
What a scorcher!
I’ll blast my brains out with water: that’ll cool me down. Image: Wiki Commons.
Most of the northern hemisphere is melting for reasons nobody could have predicted – and China is no exception, reports Bloomberg.
Scorching temperatures across China are straining power grids as the country tries to ramp up industrial activity to support the economy, while farmers are scrambling to save crops such as rice and cotton from the impact of the searing heat.
Several regions have already posted record power demand and have cut electricity to factories at peak hours to make sure enough is available to keep air conditioners running. Rice crops and fruit and vegetables in Southern China are at risk of being damaged by the heat, and melting glaciers are causing floods in the cotton-growing regions of Xinjiang.
Frankly, that sounds like the end of the world. Add to that China’s property/banking crisis and it seems surreal that we’re worrying about Nancy Pelosi taking in a boba tea in Taipei.
ChinaDiction reckons most of China isn’t worrying about it.
A water park in Chongqing rented out ice buckets that tourists can sit in while they play mahjong.
The banks are alright
Kangbashi, a subdivision of the Chinese city of Ordos, Inner Mongolia. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.
No, they’re not, not really. The news hasn’t got any better since ChinaDiction last posted on this subject.
There’s been a small deluge of “human interest” stories on it: The New York Times on “Sun Song, a 26-year-old-businessman,” US$600,000 in savings frozen by a rural bank; Vice on 27-year-old Zhong Qichao who basically bankrupted his family to buy an apartment that never got built for his wife to be, who dropped him when the housing deal fell through.
There are most likely hidden debts spread across China. The country’s seemingly unstoppable growth over the past few decades had encouraged speculative borrowing and lending behavior by everyone from online lenders to major real estate companies.
Writes Michael Pettis, Finance Professor at Peking University, in a Twitter thread:
Some of us have been expecting this for years. Whenever you have many years of soaring real-estate prices, rapidly expanding credit, and ferocious, self-reinforcing growth, it is inevitable that huge imbalances emerge around which the financial system coalesces.
Businesses, banks and investors learn that those who engage in highly speculative behavior based on risky financing structures will systematically outperform their rivals, and so the whole economy, and especially its financial system, becomes increasingly risky.
In short rebalancing the entire edifice becomes harder than international-level Jenga®.
Beijing will undoubtedly sort it out because Nancy’s visiting Taiwan, the world still suspects Beijing’s not coming clean on cultural genocide in Xinjiang (and Tibet) and the hot weather is withering crops and forcing ordinary citizens to play mahjong in buckets of ice.
And then there’s the gay rights crowd. They’re up next.
Tsinghua University punishes students for LGBQT flags
Allegedly China’s first LGBQT event. Photo: Wiki Commons.
Sometimes you just know that the CPC is kind of like the guy you don’t want to get talking to while you’re ordering a beer at the bar.
If ChinaDiction had an easily definable schtick, it would be, Get with some diversity, China. Is anyone gay, transgendered or just plain cis-gender female a Politburo member?
The Politburo, 2017. Nothing’s changed. Photo: AFP.
Two students at one of China’s most prestigious universities were issued warnings for distributing LGBTQ rainbow flags, highlighting how the nation’s increasing intolerance for sexual diversity is extending further into campuses.
The pair were reprimanded for placing 10 handheld flags on a table at an on-campus supermarket in Beijing on May 14 alongside handwritten notes encouraging people to take the items, according to a person familiar with the incident who asked not to be identified publicly discussing a sensitive issue.
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The Greater Sinosphere
Casinos go west
Macau’s casinos are highly unlikely to survive into the next stage of communism – or Covid-19. Photo: Wiki Commons
Bloomberg reports that the slot machines have “fallen silent” in Macau and “its gaming floors have emptied …
as the enclave endures a lockdown to tame its biggest Covid-19 outbreak. That’s adding to months of virus curbs in China that have helped saddle the city’s six licensed casino operators with an estimated combined loss for the second quarter of $478 million, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts. In the Nevada desert, by contrast, business is booming as the US tries to live with the virus.
So, “the casinos reopened Saturday, with conditions, after an almost two-week shutdown.
But optimism in Macau has become chaff in the wind …
President Xi Jinping has reaffirmed China’s strict virus approach is here to stay, no matter the economic cost, and the mainland’s cases have crept higher in recent weeks as even the harshest mitigation measures struggle in the face of highly transmissible subvariants.
In short, Las Vegas has regained its crown as the gambling capital of the world.
The territory [Macau] reported $2.9 billion in gambling revenue from January through May, vs. $3.2 billion for the Las Vegas Strip. And Macau’s outlook is deteriorating, with monthly income running at just 10% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of June.
Daily covid tests for Philippines passport holders
The Chair of the Macau domestic workers’ union slammed a government order for all Filipinos to take daily daily nucleic acid test tests, reports Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP).
“If the government is really serious about [tackling] the outbreak, why not [test] all? Why not the mainlanders, the people from Myanmar [and] Dubai?” Jassy Santos, the chairperson of the Progressive Labour Union of Domestic Workers told HKFP, adding that the order was “racist and unfair.”
Leong Lek Hou, Health Minister, said, “Our epidemiology research found they tend to have more gatherings, like meetings among friends.”
Singapore pushes ahead with controversial executions
Singapore social media lit up over the nation state’s 5th execution since March, with the spotlight on a photoshoot allowed for the convicted to provide memories for his family members.
Nazeri bin Lajim, who was convicted of drug trafficking five years ago, was hanged in Singapore’s Changi Prison last Friday.
A sixth execution took place on Tuesday, July 26.
Abdul Kahar Othman, a Singaporean, was the first to be hanged this year, with his execution on March 30 ending a two-year pause in the use of the death penalty, reported Al Jazeera.
In April, the country went ahead with the execution of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a Malaysian with learning disabilities, whose case drew global attention and numerous appeals for clemency from his family, United Nations experts, the European Union and the Malaysian government.
In a statement released after Nagaenthran’s execution, a group of UN human rights experts said Singapore’s continued use of capital punishment for drug-related crimes was contrary to international law. It stressed that countries that maintained the death penalty should use it for only “the most serious crimes” and that drug offences did not meet the threshold.
Getting serious about war drills
No, that’s not the latest model of Taipei garbage truck. Photo supplied.
As the Associated Press reports, Taiwan has been holding air raid drills and its Han Kuang military drills with an earnestness that Taiwanese and long-term foreign residents of Taiwan say they haven’t seen before.
In Taipei, police directed people to shelters when a siren went off shortly after lunchtime. Streets emptied and shops closed.
Air raid sirens were sounded in the capital Taipei and the military was holding its annual multi-day Han Kuang drills, including joint air and sea exercises and the mobilization of tanks and troops.
Air raid drills – like typhoons and earthquakes – are simply things to get used to in Taiwan. But post Ukraine – and with a controversial US House Speaker imminent – uncertainty is becoming more definitive of the Taiwan condition than ever.
Vice President Lai Visits Japan for Abe mourning
Taiwan Vice President William Lai. Photo: Simon Liu, Office of the President.
Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) quietly touched down in Japan three days after former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo was assassinated at a campaign event in Nara, Japan, on July 8.
Taiwan's Presidential Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs both declined to comment on Lai's trip to Japan.
Lai expressed grief on his official Facebook page on the day of the assassination, recalling Abe's heart-warming messages and substantive support after the 2016 Tainan earthquake, when Lai served as the mayor of the city: "In this time of difficulty, if Taiwan needs any support, Japan will provide it," he quoted Abe as saying.
Taiwan’s Chinese-language United Daily News reports that the inaugural Paiwan National Assembly will take place on August 1 (Indigenous Nationality Day) in Shizi Township, Pingtung County.
The Paiwan ethnic group has a population of about 100,000 – making them the second most populous indigenous minority in Taiwan – mainly in Pingtung and Taitung counties.
Officially established in Japan, the Paiwan National Assembly is a step in the process of decolonization of Taiwanese society said the general convener, Professor Le Kai Lu Puluan.
Dalai Lama visits Indian-China border region
Deutsche Welle reports that the Dalai Lama’s visit to Ladakh – remote, Tibetan Buddhist and bordering China – for a month is “irking” Beijing.
Beijing really needs to consider establishing a Ministry of Irks and Hurt Feelings.
Despite strident denunciations by China’s Ministry of Irks and Hurt Feelings, the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of occupied Tibet …
… received a rousing reception, with thousands of people lining up on both sides of the road outside the airport in the cold desert region's town of Leh [capital of Ladakh] to welcome him.
"Tibet and Ladakh share rich cultural and religious ties. The people of Ladakh — including Buddhists, Muslims and Christians — have huge respect for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama," Jigmat Paljor, one of Ladakh's leading student and social activists, told DW.
It was the spiritual leader of Tibet’s first time to leave Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan Government in Exile since SARS-CoV-2 went global in early 2020.
Entrepreneur/Philanthropist jailed for 18 years
Tenzin Choephel. Photo: TCHRD.
The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) claims that Tibetan entrepreneur and philanthropist Tenzin Choephel has been arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison for “inciting separatism” in Nagchu City, the Tibet Autonomous Region, or the Tibetan province of Kham.
A reliable source informed TCHRD that Mr Choephel was sentenced on 24 May 2019 to 18 years’ fixed-term imprisonment and five years’ deprivation of political rights for allegedly committing various crimes including “inciting separatism”, “illegally sending intelligence overseas”, and “financing activities that endangered state security”. Chinese authorities also confiscated all of his personal property.
Australian activist accused of Chinese Embassy bomb plot
Amnesty International has requested that the Australian government step up its support for activist Drew Pavlou, who was arrested in London for allegedly threatening to blow up the Chinese embassy.
Obviously bomb threats need to be taken seriously, but so does the right to protest peacefully, if Pavlou, as he claims, was not behind the emailed threat.
Amnesty International has written to Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong about human rights activist Drew Pavlou, who was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London last Thursday. He had staged a protest at the Chinese embassy when the Metropolitan Police arrested him over an alleged bomb threat sent to the embassy from an email under his name.
Framing peaceful protests as threats to national security and sending fake emails are common tactics used by the Chinese government against Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hong Kongers. Mr Pavlou believes the fake email address was designed to frame him for his activism. According to his lawyer, circumstantial evidence suggests his client is a victim of a set-up by the Chinese state.
Hong Kong Book Fair embraces diversity
No comment necessary …
Oh, alright …
Ah, Hong Kong, I loved you once, ate at your dai pai dong, nearly missed the last Lamma ferry every night – until I really did; scudded across the harbor on junks and made out with Cantonese girls, ate dim-sum in Kowloon, Mexican in Wan Chai and gone-south Sichuan in Central.
‘Stop all the clocks,’ as Auden once wrote, ‘The stars are not wanted now: put out every one’
‘Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.’
What was done to Hong Kong cannot be undone.
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