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China Geopolitical Watch – From November 5 to November 11, 2022

Watch redactors: Thomas Taochy, Vadim Leduc Argenta, Ines Eugène, Anna Balawender (coordinator)

11/06/2022: Sharp boost in demand for housing in the UK by students from Hong Kong and mainland China -Ines Eugene-

The last trimester has seen a dramatic increase in the demand for housing by students in the United Kingdom, particularly in London. More than 140,000 international students now reside in the city, which represents 38% of the total student population, according to Knight Frank.

This increase can be explained by three factors. The first factor is the current weakness of the British pound, a notable consequence of Brexit; then comes the post-pandemic international optimism. The last factor is Hong Kong students beneficiating from the accelerated residency program for BN(O) (British National (Overseas)) passport holders – since the June 2020 implementation of the National Security Law by Beijing, the scope of the BN(O) passport has been changed. Indeed, the United Kingdom considers the promulgation of this law as a clear violation of the “one country, two systems” principle. Thus, since January 31, 2021, the country has allowed BN(O) citizens to apply for limited permission to stay to work or study in the UK, and to be eligible for permanent residence status after 5 years of qualified residence. BN(O) citizens with permanent residence status can register as British citizens after an additional 12 months.

According to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, “the British government’s act ignores China’s solemn position and blatantly violates the British commitment.” Indeed, June 2021 and June 2022, more than 133,000 Hong Kongers were granted permission to settle in the United Kingdom.

11/07/2022 : Alleged Chinese probing into Canadian 2019 and 2021 elections revealed  -Anna Balawender-

On November 7, the Canadian intelligence body CSIC (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau its report on Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections. Although the report itself has not been made public, the head of state has spoken out about it, denouncing China’s “aggressive” moves towards North American institutions and democracy, reports The Guardian.

Globalnews reveals that several activities that can be linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are evidence of attempted interference: placement of staff in the offices of parliamentarians, co-optation, bribing. The payments traced were made through agents affiliated with the Chinese government residing in Canada, and through intermediary agencies acting as “proxies”.

Responding to Mr. Trudeau’s speech, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that China has “no interest in Canadian internal affairs,” reports Chinese media outlet Sohu. “The Canadian side should stop making comments that harm China-Canada relations,” added Mr. Zhao.

11/08/2022 : Chinese authorities cancel EU Council chief’s speech criticizing war in Ukraine. -Thomas Taochy- 

Charles Michel had been invited to deliver a speech at the Hongqiao International Economic Forum on November 8. However, the media Reuters reported that this speech, which was pre-recorded, was deleted by the Chinese authorities.

Three EU diplomats explained the Chinese decision as a result of the content of the European Council leader’s speech calling Russia’s war in Ukraine «illegal». Barend Leyts, spokesman for Charles Michel, confirmed to The Guardian that: «As requested by the Chinese authorities, we had indeed provided a pre-recorded message, which was not shown in the end».

Having not received an explanation from the Chinese authorities as to why the speech was suppressed, Barend Leyts told reporters: «We leave it to them to explain what happened». Asked about this, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was quoted as saying: «I am not aware of the situation in question […] I cannot comment on it».

11/08/2022 : Chinese President Xi Jinping warns Putin not to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. -Thomas Taochy-

Xi Jinping received German chancellor Olaf Scholz in Beijing on November 5 for bilateral talks. The Chinese president used the opportunity of the meeting to affirm that China and Germany “jointly oppose the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons”.

While China has been heavily criticized by the West for its neutrality and refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Xi Jinping said he shared international fears that war could become a nuclear one: “Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be waged”, according to the SCMP daily outlet.

This commitment to nuclear non-proliferation in the military field is in line with the “joint commitment to limit nuclear weapons to defense” signed last January by the states officially recognised as possessing nuclear weapons, a group that includes China.

The German chancellor, who was also strongly criticized following his trip and his exchanges with China, replied to Reuters: “Because the Chinese government, the president and I were able to declare that no nuclear weapons should be used in this war, that alone was worth the whole trip”.

However, several experts explained that Russia was well aware of Chinese positions on nuclear weapons and that this would not damage relations between the two countries.

11/11/2022: Deterioration of Sino-American relations few days before a meeting between Biden and Xi -Vadim Leduc Argenta-

In a context of highly tensed Sino-American relations, President Biden announced on Friday 11 November that he will meet President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Bali on 14 November.

The news recently reported that Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant, has pledged to further increase its investment in Africa’s “digital transformation” after a summit in Bangkok last October to usher in the era of 5g in Africa.

The US Federal Communication Commission calls Huawei and other Chinese telecoms companies “threats to national security”, a qualification that China condemns. Despite this and the presence of Europe and the US in Africa, Huawei is standing firm and continuing to build a large number of communications and information technology infrastructure, which is scaring the West.

SCMP especially notes that the US mid-term elections will not be without effect. One expert says that if the Republicans take control of the House and possibly the Senate, it “could have an impact” on Chinese policy, including Taiwan and trade protectionism.

So, in the midst of the mid-term elections, Republican Kevin McCarthy told the Sunday Morning Futures that if he wins the presidency of the House of Representatives, he will launch a new investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in China.

Finally, Republican Marco Rubio, a long-time critic of China, won a third term in the US Senate on 9 November. Rubio had been pushing for a tougher line against China as vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. This meeting will mark the first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January 2021.

A senior US official told SCMP that the meeting should include discussions on Taiwan, human rights, Ukraine, and current harmful economic practices, with the aim of “building a floor” under the tensions between the two states. He added that the main objective will be “to deepen their understanding of each other’s priorities and intentions and, if possible, to reduce misunderstandings and misperceptions”.

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