I Overview

China:

  • Xi Jinping’s Address on the 100th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China
  • EAM Jaishankar meets Chinese FM Wang Yi in Dushanbe on sidelines of a SCO meeting
  • General Secretary Xi Jinping Visits Tibet
  • PM Modi greets Dalai Lama on his 86th birthday
  • China Rejects WHO attempts to re-open investigation into Chinese laboratories
  • What do Didi Chuxing’s troubles indicate?
  • China’s GDP grows well in H1 but underlying slowdown in growth is apparent
  • 9 Chinese workers killed in Pakistan
  • US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman Visits China

Japan:

  • 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games run smoothly
  • President Macron of France visits Tokyo for inauguration of Tokyo Olympics
  • Japan’s Foreign Trade Surges

South Korea:

  • US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visits Seoul

North Korea: 

  • US, Japan and South Korea hold Vice Minister level talks on North Korea
  • North Korean newspaper calls grain production a “life-or-death” matter

Hong Kong:

  • Occupy Co-founder leaves HK for Taiwan

Taiwan: 

  • Taiwan test fires Patriot III missiles at US missile range

II Developments in China

Xi Jinping’s Address on the 100th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China

General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping delivered an important address from the ramparts of the Tiananmen in Beijing on 1 July 2021, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Party. Naturally, the focus of the speech was on how there would have been no New China without the CPC, on how well China has done in eradicating poverty in the country and reaching a moderately prosperous level of economic development due to the Party’s focus on economic reform and opening to the rest of the world. There can be little doubt about the CPC’s accomplishments on the economic front, a fact that all Chinese people are extremely proud of. Talking about China’s 5000 years of history, the CPC dwells only on the last 250 years of that hoary past, the period when China experienced vestiges of colonialism in the form of the loss of Hong Kong to Britain and the establishment of treaty ports by most if not all the colonial powers. China has weaponized this recent past so as to whip up nationalist sentiment and Xi did exactly that in his speech, stressing that rejuvenation of the Chinese nation was a goal for all the people. Xi clearly stated that China will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or subjugate it. What is quite significant was the need for Xi to also state that, in turn, China has never bullied, oppressed or subjugated the people of any other country. Having to express this overtly means that China’s current aggressive tactics are being negatively assessed by others, forcing Xi to defend his country’s record. The importance of military might and modernization of the PLA was also extolled as necessary for the protection of the nation. This clearly shows that the Chinese Communists clearly believe in the power of the gun. The next goal for China is that of the 2nd centenary – namely the centenary of the People’s Republic of China in 2049 by when China is likely to become a fairly progressive and well-off society.

EAM Jaishankar meets Chinese FM Wang Yi in Dushanbe on sidelines of a SCO meeting

Dr S. Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at Dushanbe on 14 July 2021 on the sidelines of a SCO Foreign Ministers Meeting. They exchanged views on the current situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh. Our EAM emphasized the need to follow up on the agreement reached between the two Foreign Ministers at their last meeting in Moscow in September 2020 regarding disengagement of troops and resolution of other friction points. Prolongation of the situation on the ground is visibly impacting the relationship between the two countries in a negative manner. Dr Jaishankar once again reiterated India’s understanding that maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas is the foundation and necessary condition for the development of ties in other areas. China on the other hand clearly believes that the boundary issue and the rest of the India – China relationship should be kept separate. A reading of the press statement by India’s Ministry of External Affairs clearly indicates that while there has been disengagement at Pangong Tso, the situation in other parts of Eastern Ladakh continues as it has been since April 2020. 

General Secretary Xi Jinping Visits Tibet

Xi Jinping visited Tibet, for the first time in his capacity of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, on 21-23 July 2021. The visit was kept on secret mode until Xi was already in Tibet and photographs began to leak out on social media. The visit was to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet”. Apart from Lhasa, Xi also visited Nyingchi near the Arunachal border. Further details of the visit will begin to come out through the Chinese media over the coming weeks. At the macro level, the visit signifies that Tibet is a part of China, that the steps taken over the decades by the CPC to integrate it with the PRC are correct and will continue. That Tibet will remain an issue between China and India – at least as Beijing views it – is a given. Xi’s visit to Tibet could also spell greater Chinese aggression against India. We shall have to be very careful on our borders with China over the coming months. 

PM Modi greets Dalai Lama on his 86th birthday

PM Modi tweeted in early July 2021 that he had spoken on the phone with HH Dalai Lama to greet him on the occasion of the latter’s 86th birthday. Clearly, this is a message from the leader of the Government of India to China that given the aggression on our borders, India is not going to be sensitive to Chinese concerns and will undertake activities which will be discomforting to Beijing. It is quite clear that Tibet continues to be an important issue between India and China and New Delhi has shown it can and will use and play the Tibet card. 

China Rejects WHO attempts to re-open investigation into Chinese laboratories

China has turned down attempts by the DG, WHO to re-open investigations into the lab leak theory of the Covid-19 virus. Zeng Yixin, Vice Minister of the Chinese National Health Commission stated recently that this attempt “revealed a lack of respect for common sense and an arrogant attitude towards science” going on to say “we can’t possibly accept such a plan for investigating the origins” of the virus. The WHO itself is now caught between a rock and a hard place and how the DG will conduct himself and his organization in the coming months will provide a glimpse into the pressures on him. 

What do Didi Chuxing’s troubles indicate?

The troubles faced by the Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing over its IPO listing on Wall Street is now well known to people outside China. The Cybersecurity Administration of China had advised the firm to delay its listing until it got a security clearance from the regulator in China. Didi did not take this advice and its share price collapsed immediately after it went public in the United States. At the heart of China’s concerns with tech companies listing on Wall Street are worries about the data that they own. Apparently, two other Chinese firms have also been asked to postpone their listing in the US. It is learnt that Chinese regulators had issues with Didi’s maps depicting sensitive installations in Beijing and perhaps all over China and the possible mis-use of such data by institutions in the U.S. Whatever the nature of those concerns, the list of casualties in China is now long and appears unending. How these measures will impact entrepreneurship in China is a subject which will need research and study. What cannot be refuted is that large tech firms in China are being seen as a source of competition for the Communist Party of China. This cannot be good news for such Chinese firms. Whether measures taken by the Chinese government will impact the economy at large is something only time will tell. 

China’s GDP grows well in H1 but underlying slowdown in growth is apparent

China’s GDP grew by a strong 12.7% in H1 2021, with growth being 18.3% in Q1 and 7.9% in Q2. Industrial output rose 15.9% and retail sales were up by 23%. However, these increases are all on low bases. GDP growth in China is actually slowing with the 2-year annualized growth being just 5% in Q1. In mid-July China’s government suddenly announced a cut in the Reserve Requirement Ratio which the market had not expected. This has led to speculation that the Chinese Central Government has information which has not been shared with the public on the slowdown of the economy. Time will tell.

9 Chinese workers killed in Pakistan

In what is clearly a terrorist attack on a bus carrying Chinese and Pakistani workers to the Dasu Hydroelectric Project in Khyber Pakhtunwa province of Pakistan, 9 Chinese nationals and 4 Pakistan citizens were killed earlier this month. China is putting pressure on Pakistan to get to the bottom of the incident but both sides are also downplaying it by stating that the casualties took place because the bus slid down the hill rather than due to an IED blast which caused it to do so in the first place. 

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman Visits China

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited Tianjin, China over the weekend of 24-25 July 2021, held talks with her counterpart Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng and also called on FM Wang Yi. Initial reportage of the visit showed that China blamed the United States for the “stalemate” in ties and for demonizing China in what is described as a “highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy”. Xie is reported to have told Sherman that China’s rise cannot be stopped. While reportage from the US side is likely to become public later, the Biden Administration had clearly stated that the visit was aimed at keeping channels of communication open, rather than negotiating specific issues. It is apparent that US – China relations are not going to mend soon. 

III Developments in Japan

2020 Tokyo Olympic Games run smoothly

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games commenced smoothly even though no spectators were permitted into the venues due to the Covid-19 pandemic. PM Modi conveyed his wishes to the Government and people of Japan for the conduct of the Games, while inaugurating a Zen Garden and Kaizen Academy at Ahmedabad. 

President Macron of France visits Tokyo for inauguration of Tokyo Olympics

President Macron of France was one of the few Heads of State to visit Tokyo for the opening of the Olympic Games, as France will host the next Games in 2024. His meeting with PM Suga resulted in enhancement of defense cooperation between the two aimed at ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, exchange of information on how to ensure a successful Olympic Games in conditions of a pandemic, joint discussion and cooperation in ensuring equitable distribution of vaccines amongst the world’s population and joint fight against climate change. Macron’s 2-day visit to Tokyo on 23-24 July 2021 was very low key due to the pall of the pandemic hanging over the Games. 

Japan’s Foreign Trade Surges

Japan’s exports surged 48.6% in June 2021 compared to the same month of the previous year to US $ 66 billion, while her imports also rose by 32.7% to reach US $ 62 billion. Albeit these increases come on low base figures of the previous year. In H1 of 2021, Japan has experienced a trade surplus of US $ 9 billion. 

IV Developments in South Korea

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visits Seoul

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was in Seoul on 22 July 2021 where she met Korea’s National Security Adviser and called on President Moon. She also met with Foreign Minister Chung and had detailed discussions with her counterpart Vice Foreign Minister Choi. The two governments coordinated their positions on many regional issues including on how to get Pyongyang back to the table for denuclearization talks. 

V Developments in North Korea

US, Japan and South Korea hold Vice Minister level talks on North Korea

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited Tokyo on 21 July 2021 for trilateral discussions with Japan and South Korea on relations with the North. She stated that the 3 nations and their Governments sent a clear message to Pyongyang that they were together where their positions were concerned on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. 

North Korean newspaper calls grain production a “life-or-death” matter

North Korea’s main newspaper Rodong Sinmun recently called grain production a matter of “life-or-death” exhorting all citizens to contribute to this goal. It is well known that North Korea has not been producing adequate grains to feed its populace and this appears to be confirmation of this fact. Estimates put North Korea’s foodgrain requirements at 5.5 million tonnes per annum but she is short of this goal by more than 1 million tonnes. Hunger is known to be quite widespread. 

VI Developments in Hong Kong

Occupy Co-founder leaves HK for Taiwan

One of the co-founders of the Occupy movement in Hong Kong, sociologist Chan Kin-man revealed that he is now in Taiwan as a visiting professor at the National Chengchi University in Taipei. He turned down suggestions that his move was “abrupt” stating that he had received the invitation while in jail serving out a 16-month sentence. Chan plans to be in Taiwan for a year during which he hopes to complete a book on the Occupy movement of HK. There has been an exodus of opposition activists from HK since the passage of the new National Security Law. This has been shrugged off by CE Carrie Lam. 
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VII Developments in Taiwan

Taiwan test fires Patriot III missiles at US missile range


Taiwan’s military test fired Patriot III missiles at the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at the end of the month. A live-wire verification of Taiwan’s Patriot missiles is carried out in the US every 2 years. The Patriot missiles target what is considered an incoming Chinese missile and destroys it, if the test is successful. Taiwan and Japan are the only countries which conduct missile tests inside the United States. 
 

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.