LAC & Indo-Pacific - Ideology & India-China Ties - Xi's Centenary Speech - Party Membership - China-Russia Ties - Camouflage Controversy in SL - Quetta Attacks - Pew's China Perceptions Survey

Hello folks,

Before we get to the regular programming, here’s my take on the CCP@100, which was published in the Hindustan Times. I also had a piece this week in Quint, talking about the impact of the Indian government’s decision to ban Chinese apps last year and the challenges that remain.

Finally, my book, Smokeless War is now available for purchase. You can pick it up here. If you’d like a peek into what to expect in the book, you can check out this conversation I had with Ananth Krishnan on the The Hindu On Books podcast.

I. LAC Build-up & Indo-Pacific

Last week, we learned that India and China had agreed to hold the 12th round of Corps Commander level talks. So far, however, we don’t have a date for this. The MEA’s Arindam Bagchi told the media on Thursday that talks would cover “all friction points.” But Shishir Gupta reports for HT that the talks will be “restricted to disengagement and de-escalation of armies of the two countries from general areas Gogra and Hot Springs. The issue of Depsang Bulge will be dealt with by local commanders as it was a 2013 legacy issue.” Once again, I am reminded of this piece by Lt Gen (Dr) Rakesh Sharma, which pushes back against the framing of Depsang as a legacy issue. 

While we await talks, Sudhi Ranjan Sen reports for Bloomberg that India has “redirected at least 50,000 additional troops to its border with China in a historic shift toward an offensive military posture.” The report adds that:

“Over the past few months, India has moved troops and fighter jet squadrons to three distinct areas along its border with China, according to four people familiar with the matter. All in all, India now has roughly 200,000 troops focused on the border, two of them said, which is an increase of more than 40% from last year...Whereas previously India’s military presence was aimed at blocking Chinese moves, the redeployment will allow Indian commanders more options to attack and seize territory in China if necessary in a strategy known as ‘offensive defense,’ one of the people said. That includes a lighter footprint involving more helicopters to airlift soldiers from valley to valley along with artillery pieces like the M777 howitzer built by BAE Systems Inc.”

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh was in Ladakh this week. He inaugurated a whole bunch of new bridges, praised the Indian army and also said that issues with neighbours can be resolved but “we need pure intentions.” Amid all this, Indian Army chief General Naravane told a think tank forum this week that “The situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is normal ever since the disengagement took place in February this year from the northern and southern banks of Pangong lake as well as the Kailash ranges...Since then both sides have strictly adhered to in the letter and sprit of the disengagement that was agreed upon. We are engaging the Chinese at various levels at the political level, at the diplomatic level and of course at the military level.” 

Anyway, here’s how China’s Foreign Ministry responded to the Bloomberg report:

“The situation at China-India border maintains general stability, and the two sides are resolving the boundary issue through negotiation. Against such background, the words and deeds of relevant important military and government officials, and military deployments should be conducive to deescalating and cooling down the situation, and to enhancing mutual trust, rather than the opposite.”

Then in another report for WSJ, Rajesh Roy says that “China’s People’s Liberation Army has gradually increased its troop presence, mostly over the past few months, to at least 50,000, up from about 15,000 at this time last year, according to Indian intelligence and military officials.” The Global Times’ Hu Xijin eventually put out an edit piece, saying that the US wants “to provoke confrontation between China and India, so that the two powers consume each other.” From his point of view, “the overall situation on the China-India border area is stable” and “none of these (military moves) has affected the temporary control framework of the border areas formed through several negotiations. On the Chinese side, military deployments have entered a relatively stable phase, and China is confident that it has a firm foothold in the strategic and tactical initiative based on strength.

Now after reading this, check out the Chinese language commentary in GT that takes off from Bloomberg’s report and Rajnath Singh’s visit to Ladakh. It says that the movement of troops and Rajnath inaugurating bridges is “not conducive to the relaxation of the Sino-Indian border situation.” 印度总理和防长去边境“劳军”或给基础设施剪彩不时上演,这肯定不利于中印边境局势的缓和. 

Where the piece does agree with what Hu wrote in English is that the US, Australia and Japan are trying to draw in India as an “ally” and are trying to “create long-term hostility between China and India.” This is to ensure that India and China remain locked in a contest, which will impact China in the short-term and damage India’s long-term prospects. They are, thus, “strategically, killing two birds with one stone.” 美日澳极力拉拢印度搞“四方机制”,试图把印度打造成“盟国”,就是想制造中印长期敌对并彼此消耗的“龙象斗”格局,这样他们可以短期损中国,长期穷印度,战略上一石二鸟. 

While we are talking about Beijing’s anxieties related to Washington, let’s look at what Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the ninth World Peace Forum at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Here’s an excerpt from Xinhua’s report:

“Wang said that zero-sum game is a Cold War mentality and goes against the common aspiration of all countries to seek peace, development and cooperation. The ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’ that seeks bloc confrontation should be swept into the garbage dump. ‘Revisiting the old dream of Cold War hegemony cannot win the future, let alone “rebuild a better world”,’ Wang said, adding that all countries should work together to build a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation. He called for opposing power politics and the practice of pressuring other countries while claiming to maintain ‘rules-based international order’. ‘In fact, they are imposing their own will and standards on others. They are replacing the universally accepted international law with the rules of a few countries,’ he said. Wang urged clarification of the ‘rules’ and the nature of ‘order’ advocated by a few countries. They must be clearly defined rather than being left to be vague.”

Another interesting story that’s developing in India is the case of freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma, who had been arrested by Delhi police in September 2019 for alleged espionage at the behest of China. This week the Enforcement Directorate arrested him “for alleged money laundering” reports the Indian Express. The report adds: “ED arrested the journalist on Thursday and has secured his seven-day custody from a special court. ‘During investigation, it was revealed that Rajeev Sharma had supplied confidential and sensitive information to Chinese Intelligence officers in exchange for remuneration thereby compromising the security and national interests of India,’ ED said in a statement.” The ED added that “Apart from cash, huge transactions were made with various Chinese companies and some other trading companies in India which are being examined.” While you read this, do also check out this October 2020 story by Newslaundry’s Basant Kumar about the case. There’s so much - for instance, what is the nature of the information in question - that is unclear in this case.

Next, the Indian army chief this week spoke about drones and AI. Referring to the existing defence procurement process, he said “we need to shed old mindsets and make our procedures more flexible and adaptive.” He added: “Artificial intelligence is today the modern, holy grail of technology, with far-reaching implications on the nature of geo-politics and geo-strategics. By way of impact and influence, it will exceed the Industrial Revolution by several orders of magnitude.” Also, speaking at a UNSC discussion, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla hit out at “some states” that “are leveraging their expertise in cyberspace to achieve their political and security-related objectives and indulge in contemporary forms of cross-border terrorism...The world is already witnessing the use of cyber tools to compromise state security through, inter alia, attacking critical national infrastructure, including health and energy facilities, even disrupting social harmony through radicalization.” On the issue of cyber security and capabilities, a new International Institute for Strategic Studies report classifies India as a Tier 3 power; China, meanwhile, is a Tier 2 power. I think such categorisation using broad metrics doesn’t fully capture the actual capability gap.

Greg Austin, who leads the IISS programme on Cyber, Space and Future Conflict and played a leading role in the preparation of the report, told The Indian Express Sunday: “India has some cyber-intelligence and offensive cyber capabilities but they are regionally focused, principally on Pakistan. It is currently aiming to compensate for its weaknesses by building new capability with the help of key international partners – including the US, the UK and France – and by looking to concerted international action to develop norms of restraint.” For instance, see this HT report, which says that the “Department of Military Affairs (DMA) is planning to send up to 100 personnel to US to train in latest cybersecurity technology and artificial intelligence (AI) for future warfare.”

Another important report to note is this one by Abantika Ghosh in ThePrint. She writes that “the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research has started working with the coal and petroleum industries to generate chemicals that form the main therapeutic components in various medicines, in a bid to permanently address India’s dependence on China for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). The Department of Pharmaceuticals has drawn up a list of 56 APIs to prioritise them for the Make-in-India initiative. These include APIs or bulk drugs that go into the making of essential drugs, such as antibiotics, anti-HIV medicines, and the humble but indispensable paracetamol.”

Finally, doing a quick scan of Chinese media outlets, here are some of the reports and pieces that I noted:

  • CDS Bipin Rawat’s comments about the IAF being a support arm and the pushback that has ensued - Infighting’s the buzzword here.

  • Bhim Bhurtel’s piece in Asia Times, which says that the “miserable failure to combat the coronavirus pandemic has exposed India’s weakness. The West had a misconception that India is growing and can be a global player and instrumental in countering China. However, the epidemic helped the West to dispel its illusion” has got purchase on Guancha.

  • The Covaxin deal controversy in Brazil is also something that’s been covered.

  • Xīnmín Zhōukān covered the possibility of the INS Vikrant heading for sea trials soon. The writer roughly says this: I would like to believe that this time the Indian-made aircraft carrier is really going to enter into service. However, considering that this is the only aircraft carrier in the history of human aircraft carriers that has been launched several times and has survived at least four Indian defense ministers, it is difficult to take its launch seriously. 我倒是想相信这次印度国产航母真的要服役了. 然而,面对这人类航母历史上唯一一艘曾搞过多次下水仪式,熬走至少四任印度国防部长的航母,对其可能下水,有时候也只能听过算过,当不得真.

In addition, given that this was the week of the Party centenary, the People’s Daily published a three-part timeline of Party history. I tried to isolate key bits from these in my weekday Tracking People’s Daily blog. Here’s what it said about the 1962 war:

“On October 20, the Chinese border guards were ordered to carry out self-defense counter-attacks against the armed attack of the Indian army. Starting from December 1, the Chinese border guards unilaterally withdrew 20 km from the line of actual control on November 7, 1959, and set up a civil checkpoint on the Chinese side of the line of actual control.” I wonder if this is the view, then why not just clarify officially that this is your perception of the LAC?

Also on the centenary, we saw protests by Tibetan activists outside the Chinese embassy in Delhi. The police detained a number of them.

Before I end, here are some really strong pieces around the CCP centenary in Indian media:

Also Read:

II. Ideology & China-India Ties

This section today isn’t covering the news this week, but I thought I’d use it to talk about something that’s been on my mind all week. These are rough thoughts; think of it as brainstorming, in which it would be great to hear from you all. So, I was asked a question recently about what is/could be the possible impact of Xi Jinping’s increased emphasis on ideology on India-China ties? And here’s what I could think of:

First, let’s define ideology. To me, I’d approach it as a worldview — a framework about how the world is and what it ought to be. In that context, being ideologically motivated, one’s task is to shape the world from what it is to what it ought to be.

Second, in this context, from the CCP’s perspective, it is exceptional and it faces existential challenges at home and abroad. The developed world is increasingly hostile to its existence, particularly as it gains power. Therefore, it is acting to shape the external environment, using inducements and coercion; it has become extremely sensitive to criticism; is increasingly approaching all spheres from a securitised mindset. This is also evident domestically in terms of the approach to ethnic minority regions, Hong Kong, areas like data governance, economic policies, etc. Most significantly, it is evident in the restructuring of Party organisation that’s underway with adherence to political and moral loyalty and integrity and the “two safeguards” being emphasised. In addition, the Party is trying to address domestic contradictions related to livelihood, which too are often discussed from a survival instinct perspective rather than positive, forward-looking ambition.

Third, in all of this, the Party doesn’t particularly see India as a systemic competitor today, unlike say the 1950s and 60s. There is little to no propaganda that points to the Indian governance system or values-based system challenging the Party’s legitimacy at home. What we do see, however, is narrative about India’s ties with the US, New Delhi’s apparent hegemonic designs in the Indian subcontinent, and its supposed aggression on the boundary. Perhaps, this suggests that if India starts to succeed, primarily in terms of hard power, or if it moves even more close to the US and China-US competition further intensifies, then we could see a change in the narrative. So perhaps the Party’s policies with regard to India today are aimed at inhibiting/delaying this from happening. How successful they are is a whole other question.

Fourth, in the meantime, India is a useful negative example, given the power asymmetry and perception of mis-governance. As long as it remains significantly weaker or keeps failing - economically and in terms of social stability - it is unlikely to be seen as a systemic competitor.

Fifth, India and China both appear to have concerns with regard to the values-based judgements from the West on issues like human rights, albeit to very different degrees. This has been expressed in the press, by officials and via the BRICS framework. Chinese commentators often argue that unlike Beijing, India tends to get a pass on human rights issues from the West. The view in many quarters in India is very different, of course. Also, do note that New Delhi has been silent on Xinjiang, Hong Kong and, by and large, Tibet too.

Sixth, so for now, I guess perception in China is more in the context of India’s position vis-a-vis China’s strategic competition with the US. But what if this eases? How would the ideology matter then? I guess if nothing else, the propaganda about India’s hegemonic approach to the Indian subcontinent and the boundary issue would continue.

Finally, from a long-term perspective, as Xi nurtures a new generation of “Red” cadres and leadership, does China become that much more inflexible in dealing with India? Does one then see more threats where perhaps none might actually exist on the ground? If top-down rigidity becomes more systemic will it make adaptability and bargaining even more challenging? Also, what happens in case of domestic turmoil, say if there is a turbulent transition from Xi down the road…how does that impact India?

Do please get in touch and share your thoughts on this. Like I said, I’d like to treat this as a brainstorming exercise.

III. Centenary and Xi’s Speech

It was a week of celebrations for the Communist Party as it marked its centenary. There were two key speeches from Xi Jinping through the week.

First, on Tuesday, Xi Jinping conferred the first-ever July 1 Medals, the Party’s highest honour, on model CPC members. 29 CCP members who have made “outstanding contributions to the Party and the people” received the honour, some posthumously, Xinhua tells us. Xinhua English has a good breakdown of Xi’s comments.

He termed the individuals as role models who “embody Party members’ staunch faith, fighting and dedicated spirit, integrity and devotion, and loyalty to the Party's fundamental tenet -- putting the people at the very center of their hearts, and wholeheartedly serving the people.”  In saying this, he called the awardees “everyday heroes” who are “rooted in the people.” 

PD summarised the key points of his speech:

  • All party members must love the Party and maintain a firm belief in Marxism and socialism with Chinese characteristics

  • All members must “always maintain flesh-and-blood ties with the people”

  • All members must be at the forefront of tackling challenges---the more difficult the situation, the more at the forefront one shall be

  • He wants them to be strict in terms of public and personal morality, practising self-restraint, frugality, self-discipline and political integrity

Xi also met with outstanding county-level Party secretaries. Note that Xi was accompanied by Ding Xuexiang and Chen Xi. A total of 103 county-level Party secretaries were awarded for remarkable achievements on their posts. PD says that Party members and cadres should view these individuals as examples and that they should “thoroughly study and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, strengthen the ‘four consciousnesses’, strengthen the ‘four self-confidences’, achieve ‘two maintenance’, and build a loyal character.” 广大党员干部要以受表彰的优秀县委书记为榜样,深入学习贯彻习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想,增强“四个意识”、坚定“四个自信”、做到“两个维护”,铸牢忠诚品格,坚守人民情怀,弘扬务实作风,砥砺担当精神,锤炼过硬本领,保持清廉操守,为全面建设社会主义现代化国家、实现中华民族伟大复兴的中国梦作出新的更大贡献.

Then on Thursday, Xi delivered the big centenary speech from Tiananmen Rostrum before a 70,000-strong crowd. I’ve done a full breakdown in my weekday Tracking People’s Daily blog. So I urge you to look at that if you want a detailed breakdown. But I am sharing five key points here.

First, I used the official English translation while also running through the Chinese language text. My broad takeaway is this:

The underlying or essential message is the same in both these texts, but there are, of course, differences in terms of how evocative the comments are in Chinese. This, from my view, matters, because it’s not like this was an off-the-cuff set of comments. The language would have been carefully chosen to convey the message and have maximum impact with regard to the primary audience, i.e., the 95 million Party members and the Chinese people. But of course the leadership would have known that the world is watching. So the choice of words and phrases tells us about a certain comfort with if not desire for being interpreted/seen a certain way externally. In that sense, it is an active choice that is being made. Anyway, from a policy point of view, the essential message - i.e., expression of confidence, aggressive nationalism at home, the inevitability of China’s rise and CCP rule, signalling strength to a foreign audience, and an emphasis on China’s might and willingness to use force - is what’s important.

Second, Xi’s historical narrative:

“The victory of the new-democratic revolution put an end to China’s history as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society, to the state of total disunity that existed in old China, and to all the unequal treaties imposed on our country by foreign powers and all the privileges that imperialist powers enjoyed in China. It created the fundamental social conditions for realizing national rejuvenation.” 

Also this:

“By carrying out socialist revolution, we eliminated the exploitative and repressive feudal system that had persisted in China for thousands of years, and established socialism as our basic system. In the process of socialist construction, we overcame subversion, sabotage, and armed provocation by imperialist and hegemonic powers, and brought about the most extensive and profound social changes in the history of the Chinese nation. This great transformation of China from a poor and backward country in the East with a large population into a socialist country laid down the fundamental political conditions and the institutional foundations necessary for realizing national rejuvenation.”

“Through tenacious struggle, the Party and the Chinese people have shown the world that the Chinese nation has achieved the tremendous transformation from standing up and growing prosperous to becoming strong, and that China’s national rejuvenation has become a historical inevitability.

Third, he said that:

“The Party has also acquired a wealth of experience through its endeavors over the past 100 years and during more than 70 years of governance. At the same time, we are also eager to learn what lessons we can from the achievements of other cultures, and welcome helpful suggestions and constructive criticism. We will not, however, accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us.”

The people’s military has made indelible achievements on behalf of the Party and the people. It is a strong pillar for safeguarding our socialist country and preserving national dignity, and a powerful force for protecting peace in our region and beyondWe will take comprehensive measures to enhance the political loyalty of the armed forces, to strengthen them through reform and technology and the training of competent personnel, and to run them in accordance with the law.”

Fourth, the bit that’s led to so much controversy:

“We Chinese are a people who uphold justice and are not intimidated by threats of force. As a nation, we have a strong sense of pride and confidence. We have never bullied, oppressed, or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will. By the same token, we will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us. Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.” This highlighted sentence has been the cause for so much consternation and debate. Here’s SCMP translating it as: “Anyone who would attempt to do so will have their heads cracked and bleeding against the great wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people.” Here’s NYT: “Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on the Great Wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people.” Here’s Hu Xijin telling us that the comment’s trended on Chinese social media. Anyway, my take’s as mentioned above.

Fifth and finally:

“On the journey ahead, we must keep firmly in mind the old adage that it takes a good blacksmith to make good steel. We must demonstrate greater political awareness of the fact that full and rigorous self-governance is a never-ending journey. With strengthening the Party politically as our overarching principle, we must continue advancing the great new project of Party building in the new era. We must tighten the Party’s organizational system, work hard to train high-caliber officials who have both moral integrity and professional competence, remain committed to improving Party conduct, upholding integrity, and combating corruption, and root out any elements that would harm the Party’s advanced nature and purity and any viruses that would erode its health. We must ensure that the Party preserves its essence, color, and character, and see that it always serves as the strong leadership core in the course of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.” Honestly, to me, this is the most intriguing part of the speech. This is about how Xi moulding the Party’s future. For instance, the mention of moral integrity ahead of professional competence for officials implies priorities. Likewise, the call to ensure that the Party serves the core is in line with greater efforts to centralise policymaking and leave implementation to lower levels of government. Also, when I read that “self-governance is a never-ending journey” I am reminded of the recent WSJ story about the corruption campaign targeting retired officials.

Anyway, I wanted to end this section with this bit from the centenary coverage in China. I thought this was incredible example of technology, ideology, nationalism and entertainment all blending together.

Also, here’s some of the international coverage of Xi’s speech.

IV. Party Membership & Xi Thought Centers

Continuing with the centenary theme, Xi informed us in his speech that the Party today has over 95 million members. The Party’s Organisation Department put out a detailed breakdown of membership this week. It shows that:

  • Total membership of the Party: 95.148 million, a 3.5% increase from 2019.

  • 23.677 million members are aged 35 and below, accounting for 24.9% of the total membership.

  • 49.513 million party members have a college degree or higher qualification, accounting for 52.0% of the total membership

  • Female members at 27.450 account for 28.8% of Party membership

  • 7.135 million members are from ethnic minority groups, accounting for 7.5% of total membership

  • 33.9% of the total number of party members are “workers and peasants.”

  • 10.612 million of members are “managers of enterprises, institutions and social organizations”

  • 15.075 million are classified as “professional and technical personnel” 

  • Number of organizations at the grassroots level: 4.864 million

Here’s the age-wise break-up of Party membership

Moving on, do note this report in Xinhua English on the increasing institutionalisation of Xi’s ideas and vision.

Seven new research centers...have been established to further study, research and promote Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New EraEleven research centers or institutes for this purpose had already been set up earlier...The seven new research centers were set up in the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and the China Law Society, as well as in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian and Shandong provinces.”

V. Xi & Putin: We’re Good Neighbours, Not Cold Warriors

Just before the centenary celebrations, Xi Jinping spoke to Vladimir Putin, with the two leaders officially deciding to extend the China-Russia Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation. Xinhua reports that Xi said that the treaty is a vivid example of fostering a new type of international relations and building a community with a shared future for humanity. PD informs that he added: “Today's Sino-Russian relations are mature, stable and solid, and can stand the test of any international changes. The two sides have firmly supported each other on issues involving their core interests, and their strategic cooperation has been fruitful, which has effectively safeguarded the common interests of the two countries.”今天的中俄关系成熟、稳定、坚固,经得起任何国际风云变幻考验。双方在涉及彼此核心利益问题上相互坚定支持,战略协作富有成效,有力维护了两国共同利益. 

Putin said (comments reported by TASS) the treaty demonstrates the willingness of enduring friendship between the two peoples. “Russia is satisfied with the unprecedented high level of current China-Russia ties as well as comprehensive and steady development of bilateral cooperation,” Putin added.

PD added:

“The two sides stressed that they should jointly and firmly safeguard the international system with the United Nations as the core and the international order based on international law, safeguard global strategic security and stability, support and practice true multilateralism, oppose interference in other countries' internal affairs under the guise of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’, and oppose the imposition of unilateral coercive sanctions.” 双方强调,共同坚定维护以联合国为核心的国际体系和以国际法为基础的国际秩序,维护全球战略安全稳定,支持和践行真正的多边主义,反对打着“民主”和“人权”幌子干涉别国内政,反对搞单边强制性制裁。

They also spoke about vaccines and trade, along with cooperation in low-carbon energy, digital economy, and agriculture. The discussion also covered the US’ Afghanistan pullout. I thought this bit about the SCO was very interesting, although it’s unclear what this means.  “Both sides believe that under the current situation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is facing new opportunities and challenges, and should comprehensively plan and promote its development.” 双方认为,当前形势下,上海合作组织面临新的机遇和挑战,应全面谋划和推进该组织发展. 

The joint statement that was issued addressed a number of issues. This below is an unofficial translation, of course.

  • The two leaders felt that it was important to extend the treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation given its practical use, particularly amid intensified international competition amid the pandemic.

  • “Sino-Russian relations have reached the highest level in history, and are characterized by maturity, constructiveness and sustainability...Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and China needs a strong and successful Russia....Russian-Chinese relations are based on the principles of equal treatment, a high level of mutual trust, adherence to international law, protection of each other's core interests, and support for each other's defense of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

  • Sino-Russian relations are not similar to the military-political alliance during the Cold War, but a new type of international relations, which transcends the mode of state-to-state relations, does not seek expediency, does not have ideological color, comprehensively considers each other's interests, does not interfere in each other's internal affairs, has independent value, and does not target third countries.

  • The statement also says that both sides have resolved all issues related to the border and not territorial issues remain between them.

  • Part 4 of the statement talks about “military and military-technical cooperation that is not directed at third countries.” “The two sides abide by the consensus reached on the mutual reduction of military forces in the border areas and the strengthening of trust in the military field...” In addition, they commit to “expand the number and scale of joint exercises, strengthen the exchanges between the theaters and services of the two countries, improve the legal basis for military cooperation, and expand cooperation in the field of military education.”

The next bit says that in order to support each other’s core interests, they will work on:

  • Expanding bilateral trade

  • Strengthening strategic and comprehensive energy cooperation; this includes hydrocarbons and nuclear energy

  • Supporting the expansion of local currency-denominated settlements in the areas of bilateral trade, investment and credit.

  • Strengthening ties in industry, information communication, and aerospace.

  • Partnering in basic science and high-tech fields, promote the two-way flow of talents, and expanding innovative cooperation.

  • Agriculture and post-pandemic opening

  • They also say: “we will use the Northern Sea Route to strengthen cooperation and promote the sustainable development of the Arctic.”

The next few sections talk about education, cultural cooperation, environment, TV and media communication and partnering on health, covering “areas of early warning and response to infectious diseases, drug, diagnostic reagents, and vaccine research and development.” There’s also a bit in there on opposing politicisation of sports, mentioning the 2022 Winter Games.

Section 8 is interesting in that it deals with the current nature of geopolitics. It says that:

“The world is going through a period of turbulent change, and instability and uncertainty have increased significantly. The governance deficit, trust deficit, development deficit and peace deficit faced by mankind in international affairs are increasing, and there is still a long way to go to achieve universal security and promote sustainable development.”

It talks about certain countries “advocating competition and confrontation among major powers” and “believe in zero-sum games” and says that: “Some countries draw ideological lines, violently interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states, impose unilateral sanctions at every turn, and shake the legal basis of the international relations system, including in the field of arms control, with various negative effects. The process of resolving international conflicts and problems has become more complicated. The threats of terrorism, extremism and separatism are on the rise, especially in the neighboring countries and surrounding areas of China and Russia.” 

And so: 

“Both China and Russia believe that it is necessary to build a more just and democratic international order. Therefore, both sides need to strengthen foreign policy coordination, defend common interests in the international arena, and maintain international and regional balance of power. The more turbulent the world is, the more necessary it is for China and Russia to strengthen strategic cooperation.”

Backing the UN system, they say:

The two sides are opposed to changing the generally accepted arrangements and mechanisms in line with international law through ‘engaging in small circles’, solving international problems by alternative solutions without consensus, and engaging in political confrontation in multilateral institutions.

The statement adds that Russia “positively assesses” China’s idea of building a community of common destiny...and China China “positively assesses Russia's efforts to promote the construction of a fair and multipolar international relations system.”

They talk about the “politicisation” of human rights and oppose “double standards,” of “using human rights issues as a tool to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign States.” 

On arms control, they both back the NPT and we get this:

“The two sides believe that nuclear-weapon States have special responsibilities for maintaining international security and global strategic stability, and should solve existing concerns through dialogue and consultation, enhance mutual trust, consolidate common security, and avoid misunderstandings and strategic misjudgments that may intensify contradictions and trigger military confrontation. Nuclear war can’t be won, won’t be won, and should never be launched. Considering the risk of nuclear escalation, every effort should be made to avoid any military conflict between any nuclear-weapon States.”

On the INF Treaty: “The two sides emphasized that after the withdrawal of the United States from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, it accelerated the research and development of land-based medium-range and medium-and short-range missiles and sought to deploy them in Asia-Pacific and Europe, which aggravated tension and distrust, increased international and regional security risks, weakened the international arms control and non-proliferation system and undermined global strategic stability. China and Russia urge the United States and relevant countries to exercise restraint and respond positively to Russia's initiative to suspend the deployment of land-based medium-range and short-range missiles. The two sides will maintain close dialogue and coordinate their positions.”

The section also contains paragraphs on weaponization of outer space, chemical weapons and biological weapons, but they say that “multilateral non-proliferation and export control cooperation should not target individual countries and hinder legitimate international economic and scientific cooperation.” 

The statement then talks about promoting “the construction of a global international information security system based on the principles of preventing information space conflicts and encouraging the peaceful use of information technology.” In this, they want the “development of a new UN code of conduct for states in cyberspace.” The statement also talks about the “convergence of their positions on international Internet governance issues, including ensuring equal participation of all countries in governance, enhancing the role of all countries in the process, and preserving the sovereignty of domestic Internet governance.” Russia backs China’s Global Data Security Initiative. 

Finally, for those interested, below’s a really good thread on Aleksandr Dugin’s thoughts on the CCP@100.

Also Read:

VI. Region Watch

Let’s begin with how some of the countries in the Indian subcontinent marked CCP@100:

  • Pakistan: Prime Minister Imran Khan contributed an article to the Global Times. Full of admiration, the editorial stuck to the traditional rhetoric of deep mutual trust, the CPEC complementing the government's vision of Naya Pakistan and support for the One-China Policy. Speaking to the media, Prime Minister Khan repeated Pakistan’s support of the Chinese government’s policies in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang province. He also praised the one-party system, adding that it offered a better alternative to electoral democracy.

  • Bangladesh: In her address, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina acknowledged the historic ties between the Awami League and the Party. She recalled Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s visits to China (in 1952 and 1957) as a young leader of Awami League, where he exchanged views with the then CPC leadership.

  • Sri Lanka: In what the media is calling an unprecedented move, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka will issue a commemorative coin to mark the centenary celebrations. But the details about this remain unclear as reports also suggested that China may have minted the coins and handed them to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka as a gesture of goodwill. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa called the Party the ‘backbone force’ of development in a congratulatory letter

Now, back to your scheduled programme. 

A controversy erupted over the dredging of an ancient irrigation tank Tissamaharama Wewa in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota District. Media reports showed Chinese men in military fatigues similar to those worn by PLA soldiers at the site. Cabinet spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella dismissed the claims, saying that the Chinese workers' outfits were similar to overalls worn by Sri Lankan workers at local automobile workshops. Additionally, the Chinese Embassy in Colombo tweeted that camouflage clothing can be purchased online. 

A Chinese joint venture to renovate irrigation tanks in Sri Lanka was launched this year with the renovation of the Tissawewa first. But the initiative has since raised much controversy. Last month, a senior archaeologist said the Chinese company was using heavy machinery for dredging without permission from the Archaeological Department. The Department’s Director-General Prof Anura Manatunga informed the media that the company has since obtained permission from the department and no action will be taken against it.

Taking note of the camouflage uniform issue, Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne urged the Chinese Embassy in Colombo to:

 ‘educate the respective employer to refrain its employees from wearing the controversial military-style camouflage uniforms in future.’

Meanwhile, China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) has become the first foreign company to own a highway in Sri Lanka. CHEC, a subsidiary of state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), is set to build a 17-km elevated highway on the outskirts of Colombo. The government’s approval of the project has triggered a debate about whether the ‘build, operate and transfer’(BOT) model is more feasible when compared with the public-private partnership model. While economists have differing opinions on which of the two approaches will result in lesser debt for the island, politicians question the CHEC’s intentions. The CHEC has led several infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka including Hambantota Port, Mattala International Airport and Colombo Port City and has had its share of corruption scandals. The government’s latest approval fuels concerns about CHEC’s role in enhancing Chinese influence on the island. 

Disapproval of Chinese projects took a turn for the worse when the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) set Chinese telecom installations on fire in Quetta. The group also detained six officials who were involved with the projects. According to an ANI report, China had set up a communications network with telecom giants Huawei, Netcom, Exeleron and ZTE to get information about the Baloch separatist movement. This is the latest in a series of violent opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which Balochistan is a focal point. 

A Nepal Airlines plane will fly to Beijing this week to bring the first consignment of 4 million vaccine doses under a non-disclosure agreement with the pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm. While this will allow Nepal to restart its so far intermittent inoculation drive, there are concerns. Public health experts are worried about the management capacity of authorities and the absence of a mass communication strategy. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has assured the public that the government will be able to secure enough doses before the midterm election in November. 

Health Ministry officials say that storage space is a non-issue. Dr Jhalak Gautam, chief of the National Immunisation Programme, told The Kathmandu Post:

‘We can easily store over one million doses of BBIBP-CorV vaccines (vaccines developed by Sinopharm) in Kathmandu itself. We have vaccine storage facilities in all provinces, we can store it there too.’

Experts are worried that there is no clarity among the public about whether those who have received a single dose of Covishield can get the Sinopharm vaccine. It is also reported that there is no information about the timeline for vaccinating those who have contracted the virus. So far the government has vaccinated about 5.9% of the country’s population. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, the Chinese ‘Spring Sprout’ vaccine program was launched in Dhaka and other cities in a joint effort by the government and the Chinese embassy. Under the program, a vaccination was set up to provide free COVID-19 vaccines for the Chinese nationals in Bangladesh. 

Also Read:

VII: Perceptions of China

Pew published its latest survey with regard to perceptions of China and the US across 17 Western countries and US partners the Asia-Pacific. This graphic below broadly captures the perceptions of China in these countries.

Here’s another useful datapoint:

I find this question below to be rather odd. One can prefer deeper economic ties with the US over China, but wouldn’t the real question be about comparative advantage and trade-offs that people are willing to make at the end of the day? For instance, the US may simply not be producing what China produces. The US market might not be as significant a consumer for certain goods like the Chinese market might be. Or even on new technologies, how does one weigh cost-effectiveness, issues of privacy, etc, will make a difference in what choices are eventually made.

Also, these last two graphics are useful to note. While, Xi Jinping is not popular, neither does it seem that Biden’s values-based approach getting much traction, at least in East Asia.

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