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President Biden’s decision on Monday to try to align with Asian partners to form an economic bloc against China comes at a moment of frustration over his administration’s economic approach to Beijing, with some White House advisers pushing the president to move away from the Trump-era policies he criticized and others arguing that Mr. Biden risks being seen as weak on China if he relents. Some officials have grown frustrated that US trade relations with China are still defined by policies set by President Donald J. Trump, including tariffs imposed on more than $360 billion of products and trade commitments made during a deal the United States and China signed in early 2020.This week, Biden will join Modi in Tokyo at a meeting of the Quad, the US-backed coalition of “Indo-Pacific democracies” — India, Japan, Australia, and the United States. The four Quad countries agree on one major goal: They want to counter China’s rise as the dominant power in Asia. But when it comes to the world’s most pressing crisis, the war in Ukraine, the Quad won’t have much to say because India, the odd country out, is still sitting on the fence. One reason for India’s refusal to join the global condemnation of Russia is practical: Moscow is its No. 1 military supplier. According to one study, as much as 85% of India’s major weapons are Russian made. If Russian President Vladimir Putin cut off those supplies, India would soon run out of spare parts for aircraft and missile systems.Time is running out for Beijing to reach a deal with Washington to prevent mass de-listings of Chinese companies whose shares trade on US exchanges. After more than a decade of standing in the way of US regulatory inspections of Chinese companies’ auditors, authorities in China have been unusually vocal in recent months about their desire to resolve what has become a major drag on overseas-listed Chinese stocks like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc. The change in tone has come as a three-year countdown for China to comply with the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act of 2020 looks increasingly likely to be shortened. Striking and executing any deal would entail a lengthy process, and the new timetable could see US stock-trading bans for some Chinese companies starting as early as next March.
After three months of war in Ukraine, Beijing still refuses to condemn Moscow’s actions and Chinese President Xi Jinping is among the few world leaders yet to have direct talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. China has also continued to speak out against Western sanctions targeting Russia and has begun ramping up purchases of Russian oil at bargain prices, helping to fill the vacuum left by Western buyers that backed away from the market following the start of the war. “Now that the West has taken a ‘dictator’s position’ [against Russia], our economic ties with China will grow even faster,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on May 23. But despite drawing closer in many respects — a fact laid bare by a February 4 announcement by Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in which they heralded a new era of “no-limits” partnership — distrust, criticism, and a quiet rivalry remain part of the two countries’ complicated ties.China and Russia flew nuclear-capable bombers Tuesday in a joint military drill that came as President Biden is in Japan, a senior administration official confirmed. The exercise demonstrates that Beijing is continuing its military cooperation with Moscow in the Indo-Pacific “even as Russia continues to conduct a brutal war against Ukraine,” the official told The Hill in a statement. The bombers “traversed the Sea of Japan and continued through the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea,” the official said, adding that the exercise was likely planned well in advance by both countries and included Chinese navy ships. China’s Ministry of National Defense also confirmed the drill, what it called a “joint aerial strategic patrol,” which took place over the Sea of Japan, known in South Korea as the East Sea, the East China Sea, and the western Pacific Ocean, according to a statement posted to its official website.Since Russia invaded Ukraine, setting off an escalating series of Western sanctions, Beijing has repeatedly claimed that China will “maintain normal trade relations” with its northern neighbor, even in the face of mounting Western pressure. But the trade data appears to tell a different story, and so have Chinese exporters. Shrinking demand from Russia — fueled by unprecedented sanctions, wariness among Chinese multinational companies fearing collateral damage, and problematic hurdles regarding payments and shipping — is suppressing the flow of goods between the two countries. The World Bank has projected that Russia’s economy could shrink by 11 per cent this year due to the extended war and escalating sanctions, while the estimation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development put that figure at 10 per cent.
CCP Foreign Influence
Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday said the country’s relationship with China would remain “a difficult one,” before leaving for a Quad summit in Japan with U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders of Japan and India. “It is China that has changed, not Australia, and Australia should always stand up for our values and we will in a government that I lead,” Albanese said during a media briefing, after taking charge as the country’s 31st prime minister. Australia’s relations with China, its largest trading partner, are at a low ebb after they clashed over a number of issues including trade, the origins of the coronavirus and accusations from Australia of foreign interference.China’s foreign minister went on the geopolitical offensive in Latin America last week, promoting his country’s proposed “Global Security Initiative” in the US’s backyard as Washington sought to shore up ties in Asia. In phone calls with his counterparts from Uruguay, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, Wang Yi said China opposed efforts by “some countries” to use ideology to divide the international community and it had no geopolitical considerations when working with Latin America. Chinese President Xi Jinping first touted the initiative at the annual Boao Forum for Asia in April, calling for cooperation and respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-interference with the internal politics of other countries.Argentina is a prime example of how Latin America is turning eastward for its economic and development needs, possibly locking in a China-centric trajectory for years to come. In February, Buenos Aires became the latest member of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, its overseas investment program. The Belt and Road now includes 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, with Argentina its largest economic partner in the region to date. China has invited Argentina to attend the upcoming June summit of the BRICS grouping of emerging economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—and to become a member of its New Development Bank, a Shanghai-based multilateral bank that aims to be an alternative to traditional financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Beijing stepped up quarantine efforts to end its month-old COVID outbreak as fresh signs of frustration emerged in Shanghai, where some bemoaned unfair curbs with the city of 25 million preparing to lift a prolonged lockdown in just over a week. Even as China’s drastic attempts to eradicate COVID entirely—its “zero-COVID” approach—bite into prospects for the world’s second-biggest economy, new reported infection numbers remain well below levels seen in many Western cities. The capital reported 48 new cases for Monday among its population of 22 million, with Shanghai reporting fewer than 500. Still, Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan called for more thorough measures to cut virus transmission and adhere to the nation’s zero-COVID policy during an inspection tour in Beijing, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday.China has unveiled a new round of stimulus measures to stabilize the nation’s faltering economy and support businesses, but analysts say the actual impact may be limited if the nation’s stringent zero-Covid policy remains unchanged. A 33-point package of policy items will help “get the economy back on a normal track” while keeping major economic indicators within an appropriate range,” the official state press agency, Xinhua, reported following Monday’s regular meeting of the State Council, China’s cabinet. The announcement by the State Council, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, came as many analysts have warned that Beijing will be hard-pressed to achieve its economic growth target of “around 5.5 per cent” for the year while sticking with strict coronavirus-control measures.Airbnb is closing down its business inside China indefinitely, as the country’s zero-Covid policy, lockdowns and travel restrictions continue. On Tuesday Airbnb told its China-based users it would cease taking all bookings for accommodation and experiences in China from 30 July. The ability to book for dates beyond July 29 was suspended on Tuesday morning, according to screenshots of the Airbnb notice shared across Chinese social media. An attempt by the Guardian to make bookings from outside China after that date produced an error message. According to a source familiar with the decision, who confirmed the shutdown, Airbnb’s domestic business in China is suffering under China’s pandemic restrictions, with no indication that authorities intend to move towards co-existence with the virus or opening its borders.
Former Hong Kong law professor and activist Benny Tai was sentenced to 10 months in prison Tuesday for illegal election spending aimed at boosting the number of pro-democracy lawmakers in the city’s legislature. Tai, 57, who previously served jail time for his role in organizing a 2014 sit-in protest that paralyzed downtown Hong Kong, was accused of shelling out $253,000 Hong Kong dollars ($32,200) on half a dozen newspaper advertisements that endorsed candidates for a 2016 legislative poll. Prosecutors had alleged that the ads violated election laws because Tai was not a candidate, and they could improperly influence the election’s outcome. In 2020, Tai was fired from his tenured position at the prestigious University of Hong Kong, after being sentenced to 16 months in jail for his role as a leader in the 2014 Occupy Central protest, also known as the “Umbrella Movement.”Cardinal Joseph Zen, barrister Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, and three others have pleaded not guilty to charges over an alleged failure to register a defunct protester relief fund as a society in Hong Kong between 2019 and 2021. The six defendants linked to the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund appeared before Principal Magistrate Peter Law at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Tuesday morning, after being issued summons by the National Security Department of the police for allegedly breaching Section 5 (1) of the Societies Ordinance. They were said to have failed to apply for local society registration for the fund between July 16, 2019 and October 31, 2021. They all denied the charges.For the first time in three decades, there will be no organized memorial to the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Hong Kong, the last place on Chinese territory where any kind of commemoration was possible. On Tuesday, the Hong Kong Catholic diocese announced that it would no longer hold memorial Mass to pray for the victims of the June 4, 1989, massacre in Beijing, reflecting how the churches, along with the rest of civil society, have been pushed into censoring themselves. A Beijing-written national security law has crushed dissent in the once semiautonomous city. The church’s move comes after the candlelight vigil that once featured thousands marking the anniversary at an outdoor park was banned in 2020 and 2021, because of the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said at the time. The Catholic Church’s memorial Masses, which persisted until this year, were the last form of organized commemoration in the city.
U.S. President Joe Biden has warned China is “flirting with danger” over Taiwan and vowed to intervene militarily to protect the island if it is attacked. Speaking in Japan, he appeared to contradict long-standing US policy in the region, although the White House insisted there had been no departure. Biden drew a parallel between Taiwan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting an angry rebuke from Beijing. He is on his first tour of Asia as US president, visiting regional allies. Biden prefaced his remarks saying US policy toward Taiwan “has not changed.” But his comments in Tokyo are the second time in recent months he has unequivocally stated the US would defend Taiwan if China attacked, in what has been seen as a change in tone.Ten countries on Monday voiced their support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the World Health Assembly (WHA) during the second day of the WHA’s annual meeting in Geneva after a proposal to invite it to the gathering was not put on the meeting’s agenda. The 10 countries that spoke up for Taiwan were two diplomatic allies, Paraguay and Guatemala, as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, and Lithuania. It was the first time a Lithuanian health minister had publicly voiced the country’s support for Taiwan’s WHA bid by directly naming the country at the annual gathering. In his address, Lithuanian Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis that needs global responses. “We emphasize the importance and adherence to the principle of effective multilateralism to be able to build a secure global health architecture.”The U.S. Congress is considering a plan to provide several billion dollars of financial support to Taiwan so the island can procure weapons, according to three sources connected to the legislature. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns in Congress about a potential China invasion of Taiwan, and lawmakers see the need to boost the island’s defense capabilities. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to complete deliberations on the plan as early as this summer. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who chairs the committee, in December indicated he intended to prepare a broad bipartisan bill on Taiwan support. It has been suggested that the bill include financial support. A separate debate on possible financial support is also underway in the House of Representatives.
Yesterday, May 24, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) released of a bombshell VOC report based on the to-date largest and most significant leak of internal documents from directly within Xinjiang police networks. The “Xinjiang Police Files” consists of tens of thousands of files containing extensive incriminating details from inside China’s internment camp system. The files were obtained by a third party from directly inside confidential internal Xinjiang police computer networks, and have been authenticated and analyzed by Dr. Adrian Zenz, a foremost scholar on the Xinjiang internment campaign and VOC Senior Fellow and Director in China Studies, a peer-reviewed academic paper published in the respected Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies and a second paper published in the online magazine ChinaFile, and reported in partnership with a media consortium of over a dozen major global outlets including BBC News, USA Today, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and El Pais.China has said the UN rights chief’s visit to the country this week will be conducted in a “closed loop” as previously agreed with the UN, referring to the Chinese model of isolating people inside a “bubble” in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, embarked on a six-day trip to China on Monday. She will be visiting the southern city of Guangzhou and two locations in the Xinjiang region, where Chinese authorities have been accused of human rights abuses against Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group. Before she began her journey on Monday, Bachelet told Beijing-based diplomats that her trip would not be an “investigation,” but rather was aimed at promoting, protecting, and respecting human rights, according to Bloomberg News, citing sources who attended the closed-door online meeting.China on Tuesday said the United States, Britain, and other foreign powers are seeking to sabotage its foreign relations by orchestrating criticism surrounding a trip by the top United Nations official for human rights. China has long held back the fact-finding mission led by Michelle Bachelet, focused on allegations of mass confinement, forced labor, and compulsory birth control measures imposed on members of the Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Muslim minorities. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin went on the offensive over such criticisms Tuesday, saying “the US, Britain and other Western countries have been repeatedly staging political farces around the UN high commissioner for human rights’ visit to China.”
The China Debrief is a resource of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.