I Overview

China:

  • 6th Plenary Session to be held 8 – 11 November 2021 
  • New Provincial Party chiefs appointed
  • China’s Q3 GDP grows at 4.9%
  • 13th round of India – China Corps Commanders talks on disengagement do not produce any result
  • China protests Vice President Naidu’s visit to Arunachal
  • Bhutan – China MOU on 3-step Road Map to Advance Boundary Negotiations
  • China tests a nuclear hypersonic missile

Japan:

  • PM Fumio Kishida wins majority in Diet
  • Kishida pledges to double Japan’s defense spending
  • Princess Mako gets married

South Korea:

  • South Korea establishes a Task Force for Resilient Supply Chains
  • South Korea ships 290,000 more doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine to Vietnam
  • South Korea trying to sell 10 fighter trainers to Slovakia

North Korea: 

  • Possibility of Pope Francis visiting North Korea
  • North Koreans directed to eat less
  • North Korea test fires a suspected submarine launched missile

Taiwan: 

  • China flies over 200 military aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ
  • US states it will defend Taiwan from Beijing

II Developments in China

6th Plenary Session to be held 8 – 11 November 2021


The 6th Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is scheduled to be held at Beijing 8 – 11 November 2021. One major focus of the plenum will be a history resolution which is likely to be titled “Resolution on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party’s Century of Struggle”. There have been other so-called ‘history resolutions” in the past too and the present one while not negating previous resolutions will have to take CPC history forward into the Xi Jinping era. Once passed at the plenum it will provide the definitive outlook on the history of the party over the past 100 years. This is where Xi also gets to ensure his version of the recent past is endorsed as the Party line. 

New Provincial Party chiefs appointed

Several new Provincial Party leaders were appointed over the past few weeks further ensuring that Xi Jinping’s people occupy the top posts across the length and breadth of the CPC. 
Xu Qin has been made Heilongjiang party secretary.
Wu Zhenglong has been made Jiangsu party secretary.
Yi Lianhong is the new party secretary in Jiangxi Province.
Zhang Qingwei in Hunan.
Wang Junzheng in Tibet.
Liu Ning in Guangxi.
Wang Ning in Yunnan.
These changes are being effected one year ahead of the CPC Party Congress scheduled for November 2022 where Xi Jinping will get a 3rd term as General Secretary and many other central leaders will change.

China’s Q3 GDP grows at 4.9%

As per statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the country’s GDP rose 4.9% in the 3rd quarter of 2021. For the first 9 months of the year, GDP has risen 9.8% over the same period of the previous year. 

13th round of India – China Corps Commanders talks on disengagement do not produce any result

The 13th round of India – China Corps Commanders talks about disengaging forces at Hot Springs did not produce the anticipated result leading journalists to term it as a ‘failure’. Statements from both sides were also sharp and exhibited each side’s frustrations and disappointment. While we believe that an event-to-event or episodic analytical approach will not be useful, and that talks will continue in future too, this experience underlines the fact that China did not move its troops into eastern Ladakh in May 2020, merely to restore the status quo ante at a later point in time. It has been and will continue to be a long haul for both sides. India needs to be mentally prepared for such a process. Media reaction to this round of talks unfortunately shows that media outlets are being shortsighted in their approach, highlighting that we are not preparing and thinking for the long run.  

China protests Vice President Naidu’s visit to Arunachal

China made its now normal protests against the visit to Arunachal Pradesh by Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu saying that China has never recognized the so-called Arunachal Pradesh. India retorted back that the State is an integral and inalienable part of India and Indian leaders routinely travel to it. 

Bhutan – China MOU on 3-step Road Map to Advance Boundary Negotiations

China and Bhutan have signed a MOU on a 3-step road map to advance boundary negotiations between them, a development which created a lot of noise in the Indian media especially as the contents of the MOU were kept secret. How the boundary negotiations between the two countries progresses from here will be closely watched in India but given China’s current approach to international relations it is doubtful that she will make too many concessions even to tiny Bhutan. In turn, whether Bhutan will be willing to compromise on its national interests is questionable. 

China tests a nuclear hypersonic missile

Western media reported that China had tested a nuclear-capable, hypersonic missile in August 2021 exhibiting an advanced missile capability which may have caught the U.S. by surprise. 

III Developments in Japan

PM Fumio Kishida wins majority in Diet

Fumio Kishida took over as the new Prime Minister of Japan and led his LDP party alongwith its smaller partner Komeito to electoral victory with a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. The LDP’s strength shrank from 276 to 261, while Komeito went from 29 to 32. PM Kishida is set to present a stimulus package for the economy by mid-November. 

Kishida pledges to double Japan’s defense spending

During the recent electoral cycle, Japanese PM Kishida promised to double defense spending from roughly 1% of GDP to 2% of GDP. While it may take time for Japan to raise defense expenditure to this level, the country is willing to do so without any great public debates on the subject. Japan’s post WW II position has always been pacific but former PM Shinzo Abe has been preparing the country and its people for a steady increase in defense spending. 

Princess Mako gets married

Japan’s Princess Mako married her commoner boyfriend of many years Kei Komuro on 26 October 2021. The couple will live in the United States where Komuro has a job. The Princess loses her perks as a former member of the Royal Family of Japan. Public approval for the couple had declined steadily before the wedding. 

IV Developments in South Korea

South Korea establishes a Task Force for Resilient Supply Chains

Pursuant to a global supply chain summit convened by US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit at Rome, the South Korean Government has set up a Task Force for this purpose at their Foreign Ministry. It is also referred to in Korea as an ‘economic security’ team since it aims at protecting national interests abroad. Global chipmakers have been asked to share information on inventories and other aspects by 8 November.

South Korea ships 290,000 more doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine to Vietnam

South Korea shipped 290,000 more doses of Astra Zeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine to Vietnam. Earlier it had sent over 1.1 million doses. There are many Koreans living and working in Vietnam. 

South Korea trying to sell 10 fighter trainers to Slovakia

South Korea is in talks with Slovakia to sell 10 FA-50 homegrown trainer jets in a deal which is valued at US $ 500 million. Slovakia is scheduled to issue a Request For Proposal in the first half of 2022. The jet is jointly developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin. 

V Developments in North Korea

Possibility of Pope Francis visiting North Korea

There is an outside chance of Pope Francis visiting North Korea at an unspecified time in the near future, if the Kim Jong Un regime wants it. Speculation is rife at present but no confirmation is forthcoming. 

North Koreans directed to eat less

North Korea’s food shortages seem to be getting worse when the regime asked its people to eat less food. Bizarrely, they were also told to eat protein rich black swans. As per the FAO, North Korea is short of 860,000 tonnes of food this year.

North Korea test fires a suspected submarine launched missile

Recently, North Korea test fired a suspected submarine launched missile into waters off the coast of Japan. This development comes a few weeks after South Korea carried out its own test of a similar missile. 

VI Developments in Taiwan

China flies over 200 military aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ


In the first few days of October, coinciding with Beijing’s National Day, over 200 PLA Air Force planes violated Taiwan’s ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) over a period of 3-4 days. This was a show of force by Beijing which made Taipei scramble some of its own jet fighters to ward them off. It is clear that China is signaling that a military takeover of Taiwan and a non-peaceful resolution of this question is still a distinct possibility. 

US states it will defend Taiwan from Beijing

At a town hall event in the United States, when a questioner asked President Biden if the US would help defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression, he responded firmly in the affirmative. While this was interpreted as a change in policy by Washington D.C., the White House was at pains later to clarify that the President’s reply did not constitute as any change in policy. 

 

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.