China Geopolitical Watch – From 10 December to 16 December 2022

Watch contributors: Thomas Taochy, Vadim Leduc Argenta, Anna Balawender (coordinator)

11/12/2022: New confrontation between China and the United States after Jimmy Lai was convicted of fraud by a Hong Kong court -Thomas Taochy-

Following the sentencing of media tycoon Jimmy Lai to more than five years for fraud, the United States issued criticism on December 11 that was not appreciated by China.

The SCMP media reports on the initial rebuke by US State Department spokesman Ned Price, who called on the Chinese government to respect freedom of expression, including for the press. He wrote on Twitter: “The United States condemns the grossly unfair outcome of the latest sentencing in Jimmy Lai’s trial. By any objective measure, this outcome is neither fair nor just.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responds to his comments. According to the Global Times, the spokesperson explains: “Rights and freedoms cannot be used as a passport to immunity for lawbreakers, nor as a privilege for anti-China forces. In the Jimmy Lai fraud case, the evidence is clear, the proceedings are based on the law and the trial is open and transparent.”

The Guardian last reported that the trial was postponed after Jimmy Lai’s British lawyer was refused a visa extension and forced to leave. The Diplomat points out the serious stakes of the trial: the media mogul who has already served 20 months may see his sentence extended to life under the new National Security Law.

12/12/2022: Beijing says it will “properly manage” Taiwan-related issues -Vadim Leduc Argenta- 

After a two-day trip by an American delegation to China’s Hebei province to prepare for a visit by the US Secretary of State to China in early 2023, China announced on this Monday 12 December that it would “properly manage” its quarrel over Taiwan with the US.

The meeting between the delegation, led by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink and National Security Council Senior Director for China Laura, Rosenberger and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Xie Feng, followed directly on from the previous meeting at the G20 summit in Bali between Biden and Xi last month.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the two US officials and Xie Feng had “in-depth” exchanges on the implementation of the consensus previously discussed by Xi and Biden in Bali, including the establishment of guiding principles for Sino-US relations.

The ministry added that the exchanges had been “frank, in-depth and constructive” and that it had been agreed to continue the discussion.

13/12/2022: New clash between Chinese and Indian troops on the Himalayan border -Thomas Taochy-

Several media outlets including The Times of India revealed on December 13 that a scuffle broke out between Chinese and Indian troops in Arunachal Pradesh, a Himalayan border, last week. Both sides reported minor injuries, but gave conflicting explanations as to how the incident unfolded.

On the one hand the SCMP reports the words of Long Shaohua, a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Western Theatre Command, as saying that the incident occurred during a regular border patrol on Friday when Chinese soldiers were intercepted by the Indian army for crossing the border illegally. Long Shaohua added: “The response of our troops was professional, firm and standard, which helped stabilise the situation”.

But the Guardian reports a different version of events. According to Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the Chinese soldiers attempted to cross the de facto border known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). He explains: “The Chinese attempt was firmly and decisively challenged by our troops…the Indian Army prevented the PLA from entering our territory.”

The two counterparts exchanged on 11 December and everything was back to normal. The Chinese Foreign Ministry website reports: “As far as we know, the border areas between China and India are generally stable. The two sides have maintained smooth communication on border-related issues through diplomatic and military channels.”

12/13/2022: China says it is worried about a Sino-US confrontation on the African continent -Vadim Leduc Argenta- 

Joe Biden hosted a new Africa-US summit in Washington with a desire to “be concrete” while avoiding “empty slogans”, as described by Le Monde.

This summit took place between 13 and 15 December, eight years after the previous one under President Obama. It appears under the sign of a new American strategy in Africa, unveiled in the summer of 2022. It consists in re-founding and reaffirming the policy of the United States, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, to counter the Russian and Chinese presence.  The country of Uncle Sam has announced that it wants to devote 55 billion dollars to African countries over the next three years. According to SCMP, this summit is nothing more than the materialization of American concern about China-Africa activities.

The summit did not leave Beijing speechless. On 13 December, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said: “We are happy to see that all parts of the international community are paying more attention to Africa, but we strongly oppose the use of Africa as an arena for great power rivalry and the use of the Africa strategy as a tool to limit and attack other countries’ cooperation with Africa”. He added that partnerships between China and the African continent would be based on mutual respect, equal treatment, and “sincere” cooperation.

Finally, Wang Wenbin stressed that China and the United States should “exchange their selfish focus on democracy for tangible and practical economic cooperation that will benefit the African people”.

We thus see a Chinese willingness not to make Africa the new battleground of the Sino-US confrontation.

14/12/2022:  Diplomats at the centre of the Manchester consulate affair recalled back home -Thomas Taochy-

Six Chinese diplomats left Britain on December 14, according to Politico. They were at the centre of scuffles during a protest outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester in October, and were accused of beating a protester.

It was in the name of diplomatic immunity that the Chinese government decided to repatriate its consul general and five other diplomats. They will therefore avoid having to answer questions from investigators about the incident. The BBC reports that after denying the incident, Consul General Zheng Xiyuan finally revealed that he was trying to protect his colleagues and that the protester Mr Chan was “abusing my country, my leader. I think it is my duty.”

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the House of Commons: “I am disappointed that these people will not be interviewed and that they will not face justice.” But the Guardian media outlet explains that the minister welcomes the response of diplomats: “We will continue, on the world stage and at home, to respect the rule of law and we expect others to do the same.”

However, many Members of Parliament have criticised the slow pace of the sentencing of the Chinese diplomats. According to many, embodied by Iain Duncan Smith, they should have been expelled long ago.

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