Welcome to the China Foreign Policy Letter.
This week’s highlights: Chinese President Xi Jinping Speech at the World Economic Forum shows how concerned he is about the prospect of decoupling a Chinese comedian becomes the target of online misogyny and why Alibaba’s Ant Financial changes its melody.
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How to read Xi Jinping’s Davos speech
In his speech on Monday at this year’s virtual world economic forum, which normally takes place in Davos (Switzerland), Chinese President Xi Jinping followed the usual stance on the world stage: China is against an ideological confrontation and a so-called new Cold War. “The strong should Don’t bully the weak. “
These remarks are hypocritical. While Beijing is telling the world that it is speaking out against a new Cold War, it is running anti-foreigner campaigns at home, cracking down on foreign ideologies, threatening smaller countries that do not obey their demands, building its military presence in disputed areas on and sends flights over Taiwan, claiming that its mind crime laws have global scope. What China really opposes is for everyone else to react to their aggressive moves.
Xi in particular sought sanctions and the decoupling of the supply chain. Part of this is because Davos audiences can be gullible about economic globalization. (Many have summarized Xi’s 2017 speech on the subject.) But when China tries to assess the Biden government, the re-emphasis shows how concerned it is about the prospect of decoupling.
China is sensibly trying to build its own internal supply chains and reduce its reliance on foreign technology, such as the supply of semiconductors from Taiwan. Tech industry decoupling proposals have rapidly gained momentum in Washington and pose a threat to China’s most important source of global influence: the size of its market.
The willingness of US companies to partner with China in the 2000s was a huge boost. Without the Trumpism factor, there is a serious threat that some of them are now thinking.
Further coronavirus bans. China continues its policy of understandable overkill when it comes to potential coronavirus outbreaks within its borders. Following a single incident in Kashgar, Xinjiang, health authorities carried out over 4.7 million tests. This is an impressive achievement by the public organization, even if the control systems are already in place.
But limitations come with frustration. The northern city of Tonghua has seen food and medicine shortages under a new lockdown. Lockdowns have spread in northern China with winter temperatures, but the number remains at around 100 cases per day – more than China has seen for months, but not threatening. Still, authorities have strongly advised against travel for the upcoming Spring Festival, which has resulted in a drop in ticket prices.
Can’t you make a joke Popular comedian Yang Li is the target of an online misogynist campaign after a sarcastic comment about “Men Without Borders”. Yang is one of many women leading a revitalized feminist movement in Chinese cultures. The movement was faced with a government campaign promoting patriarchal values and online backlash from angry men.
Feminist activists point to a number of legislative changes that they say threaten women, such as the recently introduced divorce cooldown. While this is common in developed countries, it is much more dangerous in rural China, where women are often pushed back into abusive environments.
Under fire. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for Ambassador to the United Nations, was welcomed at her confirmation hearing on Wednesday of a 2019 speech at a Confucius Institute at Savannah State University. Thomas-Greenfield called the speech “a big mistake”.
But it is not the host of the speech that matters; It’s the content. Thomas-Greenfield’s list of talking points praising China’s actions in Africa could have come straight from a state media article. Given the generally harsh tone of the Biden administration on China, it is unlikely to have any impact on their work – but China’s growing influence is the main US concern at the United Nations
Ant Financial changes its mindset. After Ant Financial – Alibaba’s fintech spin-off – described itself primarily as a technology company for years, it is restructuring itself as a financial holding company under the supervision of the Chinese central bank. The move comes after months of pressure from regulators after Alibaba founder Jack Ma criticized the authorities shortly before a planned – and later canceled – IPO.
The extreme nature of the restructuring shows how threatened Ant and its parent company are by the government. Expect more this year as Ma tries to find his way back into Beijing’s grace.
Has the FBI gone too far on China? The arrest of Gang Chen, an engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on charges of professional dealing with China sparked a backlash from his colleagues. Chen’s colleagues say this is part of a disturbing trend by the FBI against scientists with Chinese heritage.
But three years after the FBI cracked down on scientists who fail to report their Chinese contacts, someone in Chen’s position should have been far more conscious of ticking the right boxes. The engineer worked directly as an expert for the Chinese consulate in New York. The Justice Department’s reported plans for an amnesty over funding issues seem reasonable, but the double immersion in US and Chinese government funds common in the 2010s is over.
Requires technical decoupling. A group of prominent tech and think tank personalities calling for the US to decouple from China reflects a growing mood in both Washington and Silicon Valley. It’s hard not to be cynical about proposals like this, given the time Big Tech has spent bringing Beijing to justice. But it’s undoubtedly the direction things are going right now. The question might be what role the US government plays in sharing the technology – not whether it will act at all.
54 days: China and the pandemic
This terrifying BBC documentary is an excellent illustration of the shortcomings surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. (It’s actually backed by a guest appearance by you.) While the world is unlikely to ever fully know who knew what and when, the central government’s responsibility to cover up the first few days of the pandemic seems greater than originally thought .
The documentary is currently only available to UK viewers – or those sensible enough to keep a VPN going outside of China.
That’s it for this week.
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