I Overview

China:

  • U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics
  • China launches 2 satellites into space
  • Income Tax Department launches investigations into several Chinese firms
  • Central Economic Work Conference held
  • China’s aircraft carriers conduct drills and training simultaneously

Japan:

  • Japan’s Cabinet passes 107.60 trillion Yen budget for fiscal 2022
  • Japan – U.S. 2+2 dialogue on 7 January
  • Japan too endorses diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

South Korea:

  • President Moon promises to continue diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang
  • Contenders for Presidential Elections in South Korea

North Korea: 

  • Kim Jong-Un focuses on Economic Development of the country
  • North Korean defector returns

Taiwan: 

  • President Tsai warns Beijing against military adventurism​​​​​​

II Developments in China

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics


On 6 December 2021, the United States Administration announced a “diplomatic boycott” of the 2022 Winter Olympics scheduled to take place at Beijing in February. This implies that even though U.S. athletes will participate in the Games, there will be no official delegates from the U.S. to China. The U.S. announced that it was taking this measure to register its protest against China’s treatment of its people in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.  

China launches 2 satellites into space

On Christmas Eve 2021, China launched two satellites – the Shiyan 12.01 and Shiyan 12.02 – into space aboard a Long March 7A rocket. The launch took place from Wenchang Launch Site on Hainan Island. The satellites will undertake space environment surveys and other related technology tests. This mission was the 402nd flight of the Long March carrier rockets. China has undertaken 50-plus orbital launches in 2021, which is a record number of launches for China. 

Income Tax Department launches investigations into several Chinese firms

India’s Income Tax Department launched investigations into the income of several Chinese firms including Xiaomi, Oppo and One Plus. Over 20 premises of these firms were part of the investigation including in Delhi, Mumbai, Rajkot and several locations in south India. Indian experts in Chinese academia have immediately called for the Indian government to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese firms. 

Central Economic Work Conference held

The Central Economic Work Conference was held at the beginning of December 2021, with the entire Politburo attending aimed at drawing up targets and policies for 2022. It is an important year for China with the 20th Party Congress scheduled to take place in the second half of the year. Analysts expect softer economic policies next year which will keep growth higher so that there is an aura of positivity during the year. Common prosperity will continue to be a leitmotif of economic policy and film and TV personalities were admonished for not paying their fair share of taxes. 

China’s aircraft carriers conduct drills and training simultaneously

China’s two aircraft carriers carried out drills and training simultaneously in December 2021. The Shandong carrier group trained in the South China Sea while the Liaoning group trained in the western Pacific. Military observers have commented that the PLA is trying to get the two carrier groups working together. 

III Developments in Japan

Japan’s Cabinet passes 107.60 trillion Yen budget for fiscal 2022

Japan’s Cabinet passed a budget amounting to 107.60 trillion Yen for fiscal 2022, a record high for the 10th year in a row. The budget predicts a record high tax revenue of 65.24 trillion Yen while defense outlay is projected at a record 5.40 trillion Yen. The budget will need to be approved and passed by the Diet. 

Japan – U.S. 2+2 dialogue on 7 January

The first 2+2 dialogue between Japan and the United States under the PM-ship of Fumio Kishida, is scheduled on 7 January. While it was first planned as an ‘in-person’ meeting there is a likelihood that the Foreign and Defense Ministers of the two sides will now only meet virtually.

Japan too endorses diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Japan followed the lead of the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics stating that no Ministers or other senior functionaries of the Government will participate at the Games commencing February 3, 2022. Japanese sportspersons will continue to take part in the Games. 

IV Developments in South Korea

President Moon promises to continue diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang

In an end of year promise, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has stated he would use his last days in office to make a push for a diplomatic breakthrough with Pyongyang. Moon said he would not stop efforts for institutionalizing a sustainable peace between the two nations. Moon is pushing for an “end of war declaration” to revive stalled talks and negotiations. 

Contenders for Presidential Elections in South Korea

There are three main contenders in the upcoming Presidential election in South Korea as President Moon Jae-in completes his five-year term in May 2022. Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung leads the race at present, with People Power Party candidate Yoon Suk-yeol in second place. Bringing up the rear is People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo who has gained ground in the recent past. Apparently, Ahn enjoys support amongst younger voters. 

V Developments in North Korea

Kim Jong-Un focuses on Economic Development of the country

In a major address at the end of 2021, capping a decade in power, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un told the 4th Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of his Worker’s Party of Korea that jump starting economic development and improving people’s lives were the most important aspects of the work of the Party. Terming this as a “great life-and-death struggle” Kim was apparently pointing to the economic crisis that North Korea is facing along with the Covid pandemic. He spent the majority of his speech detailing domestic issues from an ambitious plan for rural development to people’s diets, school uniforms and the need to crack down on “non-socialist practices”. Foreign policy and defense issues hardly came up in the speech catching analysts by surprise. 

North Korean defector returns

The end of the year brought some good news for Pyongyang with a North Korean defector returning home due to hardships he faced in the South. The defector quietly passed through the DMZ between the two Koreas evading detection by South Korean troops. This created a furore in Seoul around the issue of how he could have evaded detection.  

VI Developments in Taiwan

President Tsai warns Beijing against military adventurism


In a major end of year speech, Taiwanese President Tsai Ying-wen has warned Beijing against ‘military adventurism’ against the island. Tsai asked Beijing to not misjudge the situation. The Chinese Communists responded that if Taiwan crossed any red lines it would lead to “profound catastrophe”. 
 

The previous issues of East Asia Digest are available here: LINK

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(The views expressed are personal)
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About the Author

Ambassador Gautam Bambawale

Former Ambassador of India to Bhutan,
China and High Commissioner to Pakistan and Distinguished Visiting Fellow- AC

Ambassador (Retd) Gautam Bambawale was a member of the Indian Foreign Service from 1984 to 2018. He was India’s Ambassador to Bhutan, Pakistan and China.

Bambawale was stationed in Washington DC in 2004-07 during the Indo-US nuclear deal which transformed ties between the two countries. He has been India’s first Consul General in Guangzhou (China) 2007-09. He was Director of the Indian Cultural Centre, Berlin 1994-98.

Ambassador Bambawale worked in the Prime Minister’s Office 2002-04. At the Ministry of External Affairs he was Joint Secretary for East Asia from 2009-2014. Bambawale has dealt with China for 15 years of his 34 year diplomatic career. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and German.

Ambassador Bambawale is currently Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Symbiosis International University, Pune and teaches a course on Diplomacy and International Governance at the Symbiosis School of International Studies. He has an M.Phil. in Economics from the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.