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Xi and friend(s?) ChinaDiction #81
All the talk of a 'peace speech' is likely hyperbole and if we get a position statement today it will be more of the same – a call for peace talks and an end to arms for Ukraine
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, back when anything seemed possible (2019). Photo: The [Russia] Presidential Press and Information Office via WikiCommons.
Today, the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping – it has been said – will deliver a peace speech to the United Nations.
Nobody who has been tracking China’s position on the war over the past year expects much – especially a peace speech – but a “position paper” may be released with some vague calls for peace, love and understanding – with some you started it thrown in.
Reuters are reporting that talk of a peace plan is exaggerated, at least in the context of the Wang Yi-Putin meeting in Moscow:
"We note statements by some Western politicians and media reports regarding some kind of 'Chinese peace plan'. As usual, they distort the real picture," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
"The Chinese partners briefed us on their views on the root causes of the Ukrainian crisis, as well as approaches to its political settlement. There was no talk of any separate plan," she added.
In the meantime, Der Spiegel is warning that China might be considering supplying weapons to Russia for its war effort, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed the US had intelligence to suggest it did:
According to … information, the Russian military is engaged in negotiations with Chinese drone manufacturer Xi'an Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology over the mass production of kamikaze drones for Russia.
That’s probably China’s Plan B, if the West doesn’t fall for peace talks and an end to arms supplies for Ukraine.
It will spell further disaster for US-China relations, already at a historical nadir.
China has next to no friends and Russia is a major ally in its mission to create a “multi-polar world.”
As the Wall Street Journal reported while China’s top diplomat Wang Yi was in Moscow Xi Jinping plans to travel to Moscow for a spring summit with Vladimir Putin.
The partnership between the two countries has deepened since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, troubling the U.S. and its Western allies. Both countries have declared that their friendship has “no limits.” China has extended an economic lifeline to Russia, which is grappling with Western sanctions.
It’s clear that China wants to play a more active role in a war that looks likely to drag on longer than anybody wants it to, and it’s also very likely that China is nervous about Putin going nuclear, but it needs Russia as a partner against US hegemony.
As one Kremlin source told Reuters, “Putin knows he cannot win the war, but he knows he cannot lose.”
China, for its part, has to manage an escalating disaster with dignity, keep Russia afloat and keep Putin close enough that it can dissuade him from any disastrous moves.
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The missing dealmaker
The disappearance of the founder of investment bank China Renaissance, Bao Fan, has, according to some commentators, sent an icy chill up the spine of China’s sprawling tech sector. But the sector has been under siege for several years now as Xi stacks up his ideological playing cards with common prosperity and a new era of communism, etc.
In China, reports Bloomberg, even state bank lenders are confused:
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co., Bank of Communications Co., China Citic Bank Corp., and China Merchants Bank Co. are among lenders that have requested more details on Bao’s situation as they assess the risks of loans and other business ties to his investment bank China Renaissance Holdings Ltd.
The Financial Times has what is so far the most plausible story behind his disappearance: he was trying to shift his money to Singapore, which has come to be seen by Chinese entrepreneurs beset by the CPC’s whimsical policy changes as the Switzerland of the East.
It is unclear if Bao was successful in setting up a fund or if the process is still ongoing. A government portal search showed no family office with Bao listed as director.
In other words, the FT has done its stab at due diligence, but it’s highly unlikely that Bao would be using his own name to establish a Singapore office.
One lawyer said:
‘A lot of them use their children’s or spouse’s names as directors while the [Monetary Authority of Singapore] does not license or regulate them as they aren’t managing third party money.’
Japanese chip manufacturer to shift out of China
The Tokyo Kyocera Dome. Photo: Grayswoodsurrey; WikiCommons.
One of the world’s major manufacturers of chip components, Japan’s Kyocera, claims it will shift its production out of China and and bring much of it home, reports The Financial Times.
Hideo Tanimoto, president of a company that is an important part of the chip supply chain, makes his stark assessment as he leads an aggressive investment strategy for Kyocera that includes construction of its first factory in Japan in nearly two decades.
‘It works as long as [products are] made in China and sold in China, but the business model of producing in China and exporting abroad is no longer viable,’ Tanimoto told the Financial Times. ‘Not only have wages gone up, but obviously with all that’s happening between the US and China, it’s difficult to export from China to some regions.’
China flunks AI chat, bans it
Chat in China; doesn’t compute. Art: Open AI DALL-E.
AI chat looked poised to become a hit in China. Yes, as CNN reports, the ChatGPT, developed by the American research lab OpenAI, is not officially available in China, but WeChat users previously had access to the chatbot.
Those doors now appear shut. Earlier this week, the apps ChatGPTRobot and AIGC Chat Robot said their programs had been suspended due to ‘violation of relevant laws and regulations,’ without specifying which laws.
Speculatively speaking, it’s easy to see why the Chinese authorities are concerned about its citizens freely chatting with bots that have trawled the entirety of the internet.
In the meantime, it’s set the controls for the heart of the sun in the freewheeling West:
Microsoft plans to invest billions in the San Francisco-based OpenAI and unveiled its AI-powered Bing chatbot last week, though it made headlines for veering into darker, sometimes disturbing conversation. Earlier this month, Google announced it will soon roll out Bard, its own answer to ChatGPT.
Police monitor China departures
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that police in China are calling those who have booked flights overseas –particularly Southeast Asia – and asking about their travel arrangements and when they plan to return.
Reportedly, those who do not answer the calls cannot pass immigration for their flights.
Police in the central province of Hubei announced on Feb. 7 that non-emergency and non-essential travel to Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Turkey, among other countries, is now banned.
Yes, it’s a somewhat murky story, but one Hubei resident surnamed Zhang allegedly told RFA, “Right now, the airlines transmit your details to your local police station as soon as you buy your ticket.”
Local police stations in China have long reserved the right to allow or not allow overseas travel.
The Greater Sinosphere
A hive of spies
Can’t see the spies for the ‘red dust’ of money. Photo: John Byrne, WikiCommons.
The Australian Security Intelligence Office (ASIO) boss has described dealing with infiltration and espionage in Australia as almost like “hand-to-hand combat,” according to the The Sydney Morning Herald in a report that does not mention China by name but everybody knows to be China.
ASIO boss Mike Burgess has warned Australians to be vigilant as he revealed the nation is experiencing the highest level of foreign interference and espionage in its history, surpassing the Cold War, September 11 and the height of the Islamic State caliphate.
In his latest annual threat assessment – the first since the federal election in May 2022 – Burgess also revealed his agency had disrupted and deported a “hive of spies” in the past 12 months who had recruited proxies and agents as part of a broader goal to steal sensitive information.
‘They are using espionage to covertly understand Australia’s politics and decision-making, our alliances and partnerships, and our economic and policy priorities. They are using espionage to recruit to their own cause elected officials, public servants, well-placed individuals in business, and leaders in our communities.’
East Turkestan (Xinjiang)
Outspoken Kazakh singer’s family members arrested
Zhanargul Zhumatai; art: The Muslim Times.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that a popular Kazakh singer was detained in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, allegedly for speaking to an Associated Press (AP) reporter and that her family members – her mother, sister and two brothers — were arrested several days later on February 13.
Before they were arrested, Zhanargul’s family members were taken to a neighborhood committee meeting and publicly criticized them for not stopping her from speaking with foreign reporters, and accused them of helping her do it, according to an eyewitness who did not want to be identified for security reasons and a police officer.
‘We arrested them because they did not stop Zhanargul from communicating with foreign reporters and allowing her to communicate with them conveniently,’ a police officer said.
RFA notes it has not been possible to confirm whether the Kazakh singer spoke to anyone at the AP.
Calls earlier this month to the phone number given out by the purported AP reporter who contacted her on Feb. 8 resulted in a message saying the number was temporarily unavailable.’
Happy Hong Kong
Yes, as some have pointed out, a government campaign campaign to promote happiness in Hong Kong is ironic given that the government itself is what has dampened the joy one used to see wherever one looked in Hong Kong (further irony alert).
15-year-old detained for planning ‘terror attacks’
Reports Bloomberg, a 15-year-old student became the city state’s “youngest person to be held under the … Internal Security Act for terrorism-related activities.”
According to a statement by Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the student “harbored the desire to establish an Islamic caliphate through violent means.”
Singapore’s Internal Security Act allows for lengthy periods of preventive detention without trial.
The 15-year-old student fantasized about exploding himself and also allegedly thought of beheading non-Muslims in popular tourist areas in Singapore.
Foreign minister in Washington
Taiwanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu. Photo: Taiwan Presidential Office.
On Monday, ChinaDiction reported that Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (Wú Zhāoxiè, 吳釗燮); and National Security Adviser Wellington Koo (Gù Lìxióng, 顧立雄) would be in Washington for a “diplomatic dialogue” that was “intended to remain private to avoid sparking an angry reaction from China.”
Predictably, The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports:
China Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warned Wednesday that official meetings between the U.S. and Taiwan would increase tensions in the region and blamed the U.S. for using Taiwan to contain China’s rise.
The response is very mild by China’s standards, particularly given – as the same WSJ report notes – the unusually public nature of this US-Taiwan security exchange.
Some media and political pundits in Taipei said the meeting represented a notable step in Taiwan’s relationship with the U.S. given the semiofficial venue of the institute—the U.S. office that handles Taiwan affairs, located in Arlington, Va., just a few miles from the White House.
‘This is the first time we’ve seen the foreign minister travel in a public way,’ said Vincent Chao, a member of the Taipei City Council who previously headed the political division at Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington. ‘These sorts of exchanges were kept low profile because of unwillingness to offend China.’
US to expand troop presence in Taiwan
Taiwan troops in training exercise from 2011. Photo; WikiCommons.
The US claims that moves to expand the number of its troops in Taiwan were in planning for months before US-China relations began plumbing their recent depths.
The Wall Street Journal again:
The U.S. plans to deploy between 100 and 200 troops to the island in the coming months, up from roughly 30 there a year ago, according to U.S. officials. The larger force will expand a training program the Pentagon has taken pains not to publicize as the U.S. works to provide Taipei with the capabilities it needs to defend itself without provoking Beijing.
The number of American troops, which has included special-operations forces and U.S. Marines, has fluctuated by a handful during the past few years, according to Defense Department data. The planned increase would be the largest deployment of forces in decades by the U.S. on Taiwan, as the two draw closer to counter China’s growing military power.
Beyond training on Taiwan, the Michigan National Guard is also training a contingent of the Taiwanese military, including during annual exercises with multiple countries at Camp Grayling in northern Michigan, according to people familiar with the training.
As always, whenever the US says it’s making incremental changes so as not to provoke Beijing, any moves short of abandoning Taiwan to its own devices are provocative in the eyes of the Chinese government.
US representative claims Taiwan concerned about weapons delays
US Representative Mike Gallagher told US media that Taiwan is concerned about delays in the delivery of weapons by Washington following a visit to Taiwan, according to the Taipei Times:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Jeff Liu [Liú Yǒngjiàn] (劉永健) yesterday said Gallagher met with President Tsai Ing-wen [Cài Yīngwén] (蔡英文), Vice President William Lai [Lài Qīngdé] (賴清德) and National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo [Gù Lìxióng] (顧立雄) during his visit from Friday last week to Monday.
Gallagher chairs the US House of Representatives Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.
Taiwan faces a US$19 billion arms backlog, including crucial weapons such as Harpoon anti-ship missiles and F-16 jets, the Post reported, quoting one congressional aide as saying that Harpoons ‘aren’t likely to begin arriving in real numbers until 2027 at the earliest.’
Shanghai delegation conducts low-profile visit
Monday’s ChinaDiction ran out of space to dwell on the fact that a delegation of six officials, including the deputy head of the Shanghai office of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Li Xiaodong, was in Taiwan at the invitation of the Taipei City Government headed by Chiang Wan-an (Jiǎng Wàn'ān, 蔣萬安) of the opposition KMT.
The Shanghai delegation’s visit comes hot on the heels of a nine-day trip to China by a KMT delegation, which Taiwan watchers described as receiving a “lukewarm” response from the Taiwan public.
Wen-ti Sung, a political scientist in the Taiwan Studies Program at the Australian National University, told Al Jazeera:
‘Taiwan is caught between the US and China and its security ultimately rests on both strong relations with the US coupled with cordial relations with Beijing. The ruling DPP has shown that it can build strong relations with the US, but not China. The KMT argues it alone can do both.’
Yes, the KMT argues it can do both, but we’re arguably fast entering an era in which it will not be possible to have “strong relations” with the US and remain “cordial” with Beijing.
How Taiwan voters see that, we will find out approximately one year from now.
Death of an asylum seeker
Uyghur people in former East Turkestan (Xinjiang). Photo: Sean Chiu, WikiCommons.
The death of a Uyghur asylum-seeker in Thailand has led to calls from human rights groups to humanely resolve the issue of 50 Uyghur men who have been detained for nine years in Thailand.
Aziz Abdullah, 49, died after he collapsed in the Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok where he was being held.
He was part of a wave of more than 350 Uyghur asylum-seekers who fled from Xinjiang in western China in 2013, and were detained in Thailand.
Aziz Abdullah had been an Islamic leader in a remote part of south-western Xinjiang, and arrived in Thailand with his pregnant wife, his brother and seven children sometime in late 2013.
Some 350 Uyghurs have been detained in Thailand attempting to travel to Malaysia and onto Turkey.
The Kingdom has a checkered history in dealing with refugees. In 2015, 173 of them, including Aziz Abdullah's wife and children, were allowed to fly to Turkey, which raised a hue and cry from Beijing, leading Thailand to forcibly repatriate 109 of them to China in hoods.
All fall down
A mesmerizing glimpse into the biggest real-estate boom in human history – and its ongoing collapse.
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