Welcome to the China Foreign Policy Letter.
This week's highlights: China confirms four troops have died in the past year Border skirmishes with India, Canada's Parliament overwhelmingly votes in favor of declaring the genocide in Xinjiang, and the Biden government has responded to Beijing's tacit threats against the Rare earth supply chain.
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China recently confirmed that three corporations and one officer were “martyrs” in the clash with Indian forces in the controversial Galwan River Valley last year and may have lost more than four troops. The People's Liberation Army rarely admits its losses and has not previously admitted any losses in the clash. For example, China still claims that there has not been a single COVID-19 case among military personnel, including those sent to Wuhan during the first outbreak last year.
Chinese state media have named the young soldiers and attributed patriotic quotations such as “One should perform wherever the party needs them.” The Chinese Communist Party sometimes requires soldiers to write testimonies full of approved idiots as part of indoctrination efforts, however the lines recall the case of Lei Feng, a 22-year-old soldier whose diary of Maoist efforts allegedly was found after his accidental death in 1962.
The announcement could re-create tensions between Beijing and New Delhi, which had eased since last summer but are still much higher than before the clash with Galwan. Both sides recently agreed to withdraw troops from around Lake Pangong, and China may see the new wave of nationalism as politically necessary to justify the withdrawals. Anti-Indian sentiment has increased on the Chinese internet over the past week without censors intervening.
Previously, sketchy reports suggested the death toll on the Chinese side was more than four. India said it lost 20 soldiers immediately after the clash and the Indian media was skeptical of China's announcement. Some Chinese people, including at least three bloggers, were arrested for publicly expressing their doubts.
Under President Xi Jinping, questioning official reports of martyrdom, whether recent or in the past, became increasingly risky. In 2017, defamation of "heroes and martyrs" became illegal.
Canada says genocide. Canada's parliament voted overwhelmingly to explain the atrocities of the genocide in Xinjiang. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abstained on the motion, which was passed 266-0. China responded with the usual vitriol. The decision follows former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement on genocide, despite a shared memo from the State Department. Some US lawyers argue that the atrocities are crimes against humanity and not genocide.
Relations between Canada and China are already strained. Two years ago, China arrested two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, for espionage after Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou following an extradition request from the US. The Canadian government has called China's actions "hostage diplomacy". The new Genocide Act includes a provision that will postpone the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing if the atrocities continue – a significant step given Canada's influence in winter sports.
End of local democracy in Hong Kong. With pro-democracy politicians already out of the Legislative Council and many opposition members arrested, the Hong Kong government is now trying to eliminate local representatives who oppose Beijing's policies. The government suffered a shock defeat in 2019 as pro-Democrats swept local elections and angered Beijing – something the city government does not appear to want to repeat.
New tests of patriotism preemptively preclude any representative who does not follow the official line, and pro-Beijing numbers are likely to replace elected representatives in their limited role in choosing the Hong Kong leader.
Xi personality cult. A full page of the Monday edition of the People's Daily was devoted to a hagiographic account of Xi's poverty reduction work, followed by a double distribution the next day – with no fewer than 139 mentions of the president's name. (An accompanying piece in English is here.) Since 2015, China has spent considerable money on the goal of eradicating extreme poverty – those who make less than $ 600 a year. It officially achieved this goal last November and made the fight against poverty an important part of future xi-ism.
The US is rethinking supply chains. Chinese authorities have begun surveying companies about their role in the U.S. rare earth elements supply chain, and the Biden government has begun a full review of U.S. manufacturing and defense vulnerabilities, including computer chips (mainly found in endangered Taiwan). , Rare earths and batteries. The review could lead to a US government-led push into domestic production – or a turn to allies who are themselves renegotiating their political and trade ties with China, such as Australia.
Ambassador prospects. US President Joe Biden has not yet announced his election for the US ambassador to China and has launched a guessing game in Washington. There is currently talk of long-time ally Biden and former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well as a few other individuals who largely lack Chinese language skills or experience in the country.
But the truth may be that the role just isn't that important. At a time of acute tension, the U.S. ambassador's ability to enjoy putting himself into the hearts of Chinese officials is more fragile than before. The position is also a potential career goblet as the Republican Party will question any relationship with China.
Boris talks about China. While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken out in favor of stronger relations with China, members of his cabinet such as Dominic Raab have raised concerns on human rights issues. Campaign groups like the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China have had a significant impact on the Conservative Party despite Johnson's opposition. Meanwhile, the UK House of Lords has re-insisted that a proposed trade law includes a genocide clause, aimed primarily at China, before it is passed.
Other European countries are also feeling US pressure to move away from China, despite the recent investment agreement with the European Union
“Crime, Race, Security: What Really Happens in Oakland Chinatown?”, Jointly published by Oaklandside and Oakland Voices
A number of recent attacks on Asian elders, particularly on the US west coast, reflect the rise in anti-Asian racism in the US during the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, former Trump administration officials continue to use terms like the "Wuhan virus," which exacerbate racism. Some on Chinese-language social media have reacted with fears of crime and anti-black feelings.
The Oaklandside and Oakland Voices have a strong two-part series from a local perspective that explores the attacks, the impact on the community, and attempts to build Asian-Black solidarity.
That's it for this week.
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