China Geopolitical Watch – From September 24 to September 30, 2022

09/26/2022 : China takes note of the results of the parliamentary elections in Italy

On Monday, September 26, the Chinese government announced that it had taken note of the election of Giorgia Meloni as head of the Italian Parliament. Its spokesperson expressed the hope that Italy «will continue to follow a positive and pragmatic policy towards China», recalling that China and Italy are «strategic partners» whose exchanges «serve the interests of both countries».

The choice of words expresses China’s doubts about the nature of relations with the new Italian Prime Minister, who has recently expressed support for Taiwan, its «strategic trade partner». She also denounced the «human rights abuses» in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and criticized Beijing’s «ambivalent stance» towards the conflict in Ukraine.

09/26/2022 : China gifts pandas to Qatar in gratitude for its political and strategic support

On September 26, Zhou Jian, Chinese ambassador in Doha, announced that the Chinese government plans to offer two pandas to Qatar, which will arrive next month ahead of the World Cup. In a context where the gap between China and the West is widening every day, this token of friendship is not without a symbolic dimension: the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, recalls Al-Jazeera, is one of the only heads of state to have attended the Winter Olympics held in Beijing in February 2022.

In addition to the diplomatic dimension, the flourishing economic ties between the two countries benefit Sino-Qatari relations. Indeed, Chinese companies are well established in Qatar, especially in the construction sector. But above all, and this factor has all the more weight in view of the current tensions over energy supply, China signed a major LNG import contract with Qatar in 2018, guaranteeing it access to Qatari liquefied gas for a period of 22 years.

09/28/2022 : Pew Reseach Center’s latest survey highlights a notable deterioration in perceptions of China among developed economies

In its annual modelling pertaining to China, the Pew Research Center surveys representatives from more than sixty countries, tracking their perceptions of Chinese power since the turn of the century. But the latest survey published on September 28, 2022 stands out, in that it highlights a sudden deterioration in opinion in developed economies: between 2017 and 2022, unfavorable opinion soared in the United States (from 47% to 82%), the United Kingdom (from 35% to 69%), France (54% and 68%) and South Korea (60% to 80%). At the core of the contention are issues concerning human rights, military escalation, economic competition and management of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This report also illustrates the fault lines on the international political scene. For example, when the pollsters asked whether they should «try to promote human rights in China, even if it means undermining economic relations with China» or rather «prioritize the strengthening of economic relations with China, even if it means disregarding human rights issues», the second proposition was majoritarily chosen in several states not systematically aligned with the Western bloc, such as Malaysia (55%), Israel (57%) and Singapore (60%). Conversely, this figure is in the minority in Japan (34%), the United States (28%) and Canada (19%). Citizens of Malaysia and Singapore also express confidence in towards Chinese President Xi Jinping (62% and 69%), in contrast to distrustful populations in the United States (15%), France (15%), South Korea (12%) and Japan (9%).

09/29/2022: Joint exercises of the German and Japanese air forces over the Pacific

On September 29, three German and three Japanese aircraft conducted a joint air exercise over the Pacific Ocean. The demonstration was part of the «Rapid Pacific 2022» program, which involves German and French forces, and aims to build bridges with non-NATO partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

Two days earlier, German Ambassador to Japan Clemens von Goetze said that «the security situation in the [Indo-Pacific] region is of concern to [Germany]», as incursions by Chinese aircraft into the sovereign airspace of neighboring states have increased in recent months.

09/30/2022 : China supports protection of Ukraine’s territorial integrity but refrains from openly condemning Russia

Following the referendums on the attachment to Russia in the Ukrainian separatist territories, the Chinese spokesman at the UN Zhang Jun reiterated the call for a «peaceful resolution» of the conflict. However, China refrained from questioning the legality of the referendums, as well as to openly condemn Russia : in the UN Security Council vote, it chose the blank vote.  On the 28th, Zhang Jun had motivated his statement by referring to «the concerns of many heads of state about the prolongation and expansion of the crisis in Ukraine and its spillover effects». He later added that «block confrontation, political isolation, sanctions and pressurization» could only «lead to a dead end».

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