Tag: Beijing

China tightening its hold on Hong Kong elections: Report
Asia Pacific Focus

China tightening its hold on Hong Kong elections: Report

Hong Kong elections: China is planning to take further actions to curb pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong elections

A week after Hong Kong authorities arrested 53 pro-democracy activists in the territory, media reports are pointing at a further crackdown by China in the country to curb dissent.

These lawmakers, lawyers and activists were arrested under Hong Kong’s six-month-old National Security Law, on the charges of participating in unofficial primaries for pro-democracy candidates for the territory’s elections last year. Beijing termed the primaries “illegal” and a “provocation” of the electoral system in the semi-autonomous territory.

Amid this development, the People’s Daily newspaper, mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party, on Tuesday said that those people who will be found disloyal would not be allowed to run for the office. Chinese state media added that actions will be taken to ensure that anti-China and trouble-making forces are out of Hong Kong elections. 

In the aftermath of the imposition of the controversial security law in June 2020, authorities have targeted the media, arrested tens of political figures and activities, disqualified lawmakers, frozen their assets, seized their documents, phones and computers. Hundreds of activists have also fled into exile to avoid arrests.

World governments and international institutions have condemned Beijing’s actions to subvert democracy in the territory. The United Nations also raised alarming concerns over the arrest of 53 leading figures in Hong Kong, calling for their immediate release. 

Meanwhile, Beijing has continued to deny its action to curb freedom and human rights in the Asian financial hub.

As a report by the South China Morning Post newspaper last month, Chinese authorities are aiming to curb the limited influence of pro-democracy leaders on the 1200-person election committee that selects Hong Kong’s chief executive, such that candidates will require Beijing’s approval to contest in the elections. With the Chinese authorities seeking other changes in the electoral structure of Hong Kong, elections are expected to be delayed further.

While the Legislative Council elections were scheduled to take place in September 2020, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam postponed them citing health risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the legislative council has largely reduced to a pro-Beijing body after mass resignations, arrests and disqualification of pro-democracy lawmakers since the introduction of the security law.

As per reports, the standing committee of the National People’s Congress is scheduled to hold meetings between January 20 to 22 to decide the fate of elections in Hong Kong. 

British Companies Not Sure Of Safe Haven In China Anymore
Geopolitics

British Companies Not Sure Of Safe Haven In China Anymore

The worsening trade relationship between Beijing and London is becoming a point of worry for British companies in China. The geopolitics could be one big reason for the dropping percentage of companies wishing to invest in China. 

According to St John Moore, Chairman, British Chamber of Commerce in China, existing companies are doubtful about their plans to expand business operations in China. Most planned to invest more in Shanghai, while half were looking to expand in Beijing. Only 13 per cent of the British companies wanted to invest more in Hong Kong.

Statistics were collated after interacting with more than 250 companies. Most of them hail from professional services, advanced manufacturing and transport, and education, and 60 per cent expected the state of bilateral relations to have a negative impact on their business prospects. Of those, 20 per cent saw deteriorating ties as having a strong negative impact.

There are other concerns like global economic uncertainty that has been exasperated due to the pandemic, rising protectionism and labour costs. Trade relations between the nations have been growing bad to worse as Britain retracted any trade over telecom equipment makers Huawei Technologies. 

The two countries have also clashed in recent months over Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong. In retaliation it seems, Beijing isn’t doing too much to maintain a friendly relation with Britain either. For example, their new foreign investment law hasn’t improved the position of British companies in China. 

Overall picture is grim for British companies who still prefer mainland china for their existing and future business expansion hopes. 

China launches a major campaign on steroids targeting Biden team 
Asia Pacific Focus

China launches a major campaign on steroids targeting Biden team 

Major campaign on steroids: The United States Intelligence officials claim China has begun a major campaign on steroids to impact President-elect Joe Biden’s team. 

The chief of the Director of National Intelligence’s counter-intelligence branch William Evanina stated that they have “noticed an uptick, which was designed and we anticipated, that China would now aim their influence campaign to the new US regime”

Evanina added that the Chinese were likewise zeroing in on individuals close to Biden and named it a foreign power campaign on steroids.

During the most past four years, the Sino-US relationship has crumbled with the Trump rule with continuous sanctions on China and also condemning China for the spread of coronavirus.It is not likely that the relations between both nations will get better after the President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The world’s two biggest economies marked a phase one trade deal in January, showing some respite from the growing strains escalating since the last two years.

However, critics state that China is behind on satisfying consented to the purchase of U.S. goods, while negotiations for the second phase is still pending.

It’s still unclear how a Biden team will deal with taxes, which have harmed trade amid both nations following China’s reaction to U.S. sanctions.

The intelligence official likewise added that China had tried to interfere in the current US presidential elections, as well as the US begins to develop a vaccine for coronavirus.

The United States had ordered the closing of China’s consulate in Houston causing a severe diplomatic setback to a relationship. China in retaliation ordered the closing of the US embassy in Chengdu.

The new measures practicing a harder line on Chinese business and trade pass through Congress with enormous margins. Republicans and Democrats both echo similar stance against Beijing.

China’s COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy failing in ASEAN: Report
Geopolitics

China’s COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy failing in ASEAN: Report

China’s COVID-19 vaccine: As China tries to boost its image with COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy, ASEAN is looking for alternatives

As countries across the world are working diligently to develop a viable vaccine against COVID-19, China has been making efforts to restore its image through its vaccine diplomacy in response to widespread criticism over its mishandling of the pandemic outbreak. 

However, Beijing has faced a major setback in its strategy after ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members including Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines signed various deals for procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine with pharmaceutical companies from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Notably, China’s delay in providing crucial information related to the genetic components of Coronavirus hampered the efforts of other countries to develop a potential vaccine to tackle the virus. Coronavirus had originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in November 2019 and spread across the world within months, affecting the lives of billions of people. 

With access to all information about the virus, China benefitted from a head start in developing a potential vaccine. As soon as it achieved success in developing a vaccine against COVID-19, China offered it to other countries in a bid to bolster its diplomatic engagement, exert geopolitical influence and pursue its broader regional objectives. 

A number of senior Chinese leaders visited Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar, assuring them priority access to the vaccine. Countries like Indonesia and Malaysia had also signed deals to work together with Chinese state-owned drug makers to develop the vaccines. At a time when advanced nations such as the US, UK and Australia were busy developing potential vaccines prioritising domestic needs, China stepped up its efforts to provide vaccine development and distribution assistance to ASEAN nations.

However, as per media reports, ASEAN countries have been asked to extend support to Beijing at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in barter for the vaccine in a bid to revive its goodwill. According to an Economic Times report, a reporter from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency had posted on his Weibo account that Premier Li Keqiang had made it a prerequisite for ASEAN countries to support China at the WHO for its support in combating the virus. 

Amid this development, ASEAN countries have grown cautious of Beijing’s strategy to influence the region. On Friday, Thailand and the Philippines reportedly secured millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. At the same time, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also announced that the country has signed a deal with US drug maker Pfizer to procure its COVID-19 vaccine for 20 percent of its population amid efforts to combat the pandemic.

Notably, the vaccine race has now grown into a proxy war for dominance between China, the US and Russia, amid a global dissociation on the critical issue. The provision of a Chinese vaccine will have significant geopolitical implications. Significantly, Beijing has already offered a $1 billion loan to Latin America and the Caribbean for access to its COVID-19 vaccine. 

Meanwhile, over 150 countries have joined the COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility) initiative launched by a collaboration of the WHO, vaccine alliance Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It aims to speed up the development, manufacturing and equitable distribution of vaccines against COVID-19 among member countries.

COVID-19 and geopolitics over a global superpower
Geopolitics

COVID-19 and geopolitics over a global superpower

COVID-19 and geopolitics: Amid the ongoing fight against COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitics over a global superpower is changing 

At a time when countries across the world is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese economy is growing in a bid to help the country attain the status of a superpower over the United States. While the US and Eurozone economies are projected to face declining growth, China is among those countries projected to grow at 1.9 percent. With US’ influence gradually fading away, China is taking over a strategic superpower after transforming its economy and bolstering its political structure. 

Countries across the world are expressing concerns over China’s increased influence and participation in various regions and sectors such as information and communication. As per a recent survey by Nikkei, China’s cross-border data flow in 2019 outstripped that of 10 countries examined including the United States. As of now, China accounts for 23% of cross-border data flows, while the US ranks at second with 12%.

Over the last six years, China’s Belt and Road Initiative has expanded exponentially. As of April 2020, around 138 countries and 30 international institutions are a part of the initiative. As per the World Bank, China has the world’s largest economy and is the world’s largest exporter. It is one of the biggest infrastructural giants in the world. 

The United States is finding itself in the middle of changing global forces where it sees China as a peer competitor and Russia as its main key adversary. Both China and Russia are in direct contest in the international order to wield greater influence across the world. However, as Beijing’s influence and economic grows, Russia is also grappling with increased competition. Burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia is likely to remain financially stable due to several reasons including its National Wealth Fund. However, the economic shock is likely to put millions into extreme poverty and hamper Moscow’s plan to improve people’s welfare. At the same time, China is overtaking Russia in terms of development and mobilisation of high technology. 

Taking note of these developments, Efforts are being made to rethink economic interactions with Beijing and reduce Chinese-dominated supply chains. European Union is accelerating efforts to cut Chinese takeovers and technology and pharmaceutical dependence on Beijing. A number of countries including Australia, Japan and India are investing in projects to support local manufacturing and reduce their reliance on global supply chains. 

With the changing equation of global superpower, the COVID-19 pandemic has started a new era of geopolitics.

RCEP, the largest trade agreement in the world has born
Geopolitics

RCEP, the largest trade agreement in the world has born

The largest trade agreement: The free agreement in history has been signed in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. We are talking about Asia, and yes above all, about China. In fact, Beijing brings home an unprecedented result: a commercial alliance with the nearby “Asian tigers” and with Australia and Japan, long ago in the US orbit created by Obama thanks to the TPP, later abandoned by Trump. An abandonment that left the Land of the Rising Sun orphan of its major commercial partner and which therefore forced him to turn to the second on the list, namely China, with which, however, he had not yet signed any commercial agreement. 

And in addition to the unpublished agreements on duties, eCommerce, and intellectual property, what stands out most of all is precisely this newfound multilateralism in a region, that of Asia-Pacific, which has always been studded with differences and frictions. Thanks to the RCP, and to the end of America first, Beijing proves that it can become the new epicenter of multilateralism, by signing an agreement of historic significance. For the first time, three of the top four Asian economies – China, Japan, South Korea – will be part of the same free trade agreement.

For some time, China has been trying to establish itself in the Asian region as a champion of multilateralism. And not just in Asia; we think of the new Silk Road, of investments in Africa, of those in European ports and commercial hubs, Italy in the lead. The RCEP is nothing more than a – great – complement to a party strategy that starts from far away. In addition to its immense commercial grade, the agreement has a significant political value.

 In the competition with the United States for world supremacy, Beijing has patiently and determinedly pursued its diplomacy, and it has built, for now only on paper, an influence block which represents 30% of global GDP and which, nevertheless, welcomes Washington’s old allies. However, it is a success for the whole area. From Japan, which manages to defuse the ongoing trade war between China and Australia, to then move on to the same ASEAN area, which expects to benefit widely from the reduction in tariffs.

Screenshot 2020 11 21 at 5.41.55 PM 1024x575 - RCEP, the largest trade agreement in the world has born

Even with India absent, the numbers of the agreement are impressive. We are talking about an area that, as we have seen, produces almost a third of world GDP and hosts 2.7 billion people. It includes all ten ASEAN countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and New Zealand. Observers estimate that it will strengthen economic ties within the region and add about $ 200 billion a year to the global economy. In terms of the GDP of the signatory countries, it will also have a greater weight than NAFTA in North America and the European Union itself. The result for Asia will be the strengthening of regional supply chains. An aspect on which Beijing is increasingly aiming to reduce Asian dependence on the United States.

Screenshot 2020 11 21 at 5.42.03 PM - RCEP, the largest trade agreement in the world has born

The focal point of the agreement reached is the commitment to progressively reduce duties by up to 90% on goods in circulation over 20 years – to 65% in the short term. That means goodbye to the many bilateral agreements in Asia that limited the circulation of goods and caused costs to rise. Thanks to the RCEP, it will no longer be necessary to conclude specific agreements between two states each time to remove duties on traded goods. From now on, a member country of the RCEP producer will be able to trade freely with all the other 14 nations of the agreement. According to analysts’ estimates, 86% of Japanese industrial exports to China and 92% of exports to South Korea will benefit from the cancellation of existing tariffs.

 The most important novelty is represented by the “rules of origin,” as the rules officially define the origin of a finished product. Today, a product made in Thailand that contains New Zealand parts, for example, could be subject to duties in some Asian states. Under the RCEP, on the other hand, the components of any member country would be treated in the same way, giving companies in the area an incentive to seek suppliers within the commercial region.

Washington denounces China’s new law and the expelling of opposition lawmakers
Asia Pacific Focus

Washington denounces China’s new law and the expelling of opposition lawmakers

Washington denounces China’s new law: Hong Kong has dived further into tensions after a new law was passed by Beijing under which they had disqualified few opposition members by calling them unpatriotic and claimed that they incited the whole pro-democracy protest.

Robert O’Brien, the US national security advisor, blamed China for having “outrageously abused” its global commitments and warned to impose further fresh sanctions on those answerable for quenching Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy. 

Chinese and Hong Kong authorities could confront new sanctions from the United States over their imposing of the new law that disbarred four pro-democracy lawmakers and provoked a statement of a mass resignation by the supportive of the pro-democracy council. 

Within minutes after the disqualifying legislation was declared by Chinese state media, the Hong Kong government delivered an official statement in which they prohibited four lawmakers.

The mass resignation would likewise leave Hong Kong’s governing body with just pro-Beijing legislators, who as of now make a majority, however, would have the option to pass bills in parliament supported by Beijing with the absence of much opposition.

On Wednesday, China’s highest administrative body passed a measure to banish anybody from Hong Kong’s legislative council who wish to supports autonomy, and reject to recognize Beijing’s government over Hong Kong. However, seeking help from foreign nations or forces to meddle in the internal issues of the region or to employ different acts that jeopardize country’s national security, they could face similar consequences. 

Under the new law, the legislators who are deemed to advance or support Hong Kong’s autonomy, or who won’t recognize Beijing’s government, will “quickly lose their qualification,” the new law stated. 

On Monday, the city’s 15 pro-democracy legislators declared that they would also resign stating that the “One Country Two Systems” structure that had intended to provide Hong Kong with more prominent self-rule from the region has ended. 

The administration clampdown comes after the months-long pro-democracy protest, While some Hong Kong activists including former legislators and dissent pioneers have looked for political refuge in different nations, dreading their security under the new bill. 

However, in June, Beijing had announced a new national security law that some have called draconian after the anti-legislature protests shook the city for quite a long time, and it has utilized it to take action against opposition cries. 

Accordingly, the U.S. imposed sanctions on a few authorities, including Lam. A few Western nations have halted their extradition treaty with the region, and Australia and Britain have offered Hong Kongers simpler ways to settle in those nations. 

Beijing has lashed out at these offers and called it gross foreign interference in the Chinese government. Chinese Foreign Ministry representative Wang Wenbin stated on Wednesday that disqualifications were important to keep up rule of law and the constitution in Hong Kong. 

Beijing’s most recent crackdown in Hong Kong has become a source of stress on both sides. Under US President Trump, Washington had revoked the special relationship with Hong Kong, pronouncing it would be dealt with similar to China. The US is thinking of imposing more sanctions on Chinese officials for passing an unjust law and also following the resignation of opposition legislators.

Taiwan not invited to WHO meet due to Chinese intervention
Asia Pacific Focus

Taiwan not invited to WHO meet due to Chinese intervention

Taiwan not invited to WHO meet: Taiwan has blamed China’s obstruction for not being invited to WHO’s annual assembly on COVID-19

Taiwan has yet not received an invite to a key meeting of the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week that focuses on the global implications of the Coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, the island’s foreign ministry released a statement alleging that Chinese “obstruction” prevented it from participating in the 73rd WHO annual assembly on November 9-14. 

This development came even as the United States Mission in Geneva had urged WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Taiwan to the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of WHO. 

“In view of Taiwan’s resounding success in responding to COVID-19, Director-General Tedros must allow Taiwan to share its best practices at the WHA,” the US Mission had said in its statement.

While the US has backed the participation of the island, the 83-page list of delegations for WHO’s assembly meeting does not include any members from Taiwan. The island is yet to be invited to join the virtual meeting of 194 member states, the foreign ministry said in its statement. Taiwan’s foreign ministry also expressed regret and dissatisfaction with WHO’s continuous neglect of the health and human rights of 23.5 million people of the island. 

Reportedly, Taiwan has been blocked out of a number of key international organisations including the WHO due to Beijing’s objections as it claims the island within its territory.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has asserted that the decision to invite Taiwan for the WHA meeting lies with the member states. 

As per a Reuters report, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva Chen Xu on Monday had told the WHO ministerial meeting that Taiwan’s inclusion in the meeting as an observer will be “illegal and invalid”. Earlier on Friday, China’s mission to the UN in Geneva had condemned US “distorted” remarks on Taiwan’s participation, adding that the island will be allowed to join the assembly session only after it admits to being a part of China. However, the Taipei government has always maintained that Taiwan is a separate nation whether or not independence is declared officially.

Last week, as many as 650 members of parliament from 25 European nations had also sent an open letter to WHO Director-General Tedros, demanding Taiwan to be invited as an observer to the WHA meeting. In addition, the World Medical Association had also written to the WHO chief, calling for inviting Taiwan in an observer capacity. 

While Taiwan joined the WHA as an observer between 2009 and 2016, China has intensified its efforts to exclude from participating in the WHO global actions. After Beijing took its seat in the WHO, Taiwan was forced out of the international organisation in 1972.

This has come at a time when the Taiwanese government has achieved astounding success in combating the COVID-19 pandemic on the island. It is been more than 200 days since the island reported any virus transmission.

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