China geopolitical strategy January 2024-

Written by  //  May 8, 2024  //  China, Geopolitics  //  Comments Off on China geopolitical strategy January 2024-

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Belt and Road Initiative:
Relevance beyond the Xi Jinping regime?

In the year of the dragon, will China breathe fire into its deflating economy?
Amy Hawkins
Plunge in consumer prices has fuelled calls for a stimulus package – yet Beijing may stick to the new normal of lower growth
China consumer prices plunge at fastest rate for 15 years
China’s economy has gone from bad to worse – and it is only February.
Figures released on Thursday showed consumer prices fell by 0.8% in January compared with a year earlier, outstripping economists’ expectations and marking the biggest contraction in 15 years.
Prices in China have been flat or falling nearly continuously since July. Although the country’s zero-Covid policy was abandoned more than a year ago, consumers are still cautious about spending, both on everyday goods and on property, which has traditionally been the driver of growth in China’s gross domestic product. Income growth has slowed, and high unemployment rates are pushing down wages for some workers.
Some economists are worried that persistently low demand in China could have knock-on effects around the world as it may start to rely on demand from other countries to revive its economy.

6-8 May
China’s Xi arrives in Hungary for talks on expanding Chinese investments
(AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Hungary late Wednesday, the final stop on his five-day European tour, where he’s expected to finalize a number of agreements with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that will deepen China’s economic footprint in the region.
Xi is set to spend two nights in the Hungarian capital Budapest where he will meet with Orbán and Hungarian President Tamás Sulyok. Talks will center on future Chinese investments in the Central European country, which has courted deep economic ties with Beijing even as mainstream European leaders have pursued more protectionist policies to limit its reach on the continent.
Xi Jinping sends love letter to Viktor Orbán
Chinese leader prepares for arrival in Budapest with gushing missive to Hungary.
(Politico Eu) Xi Jinping is whispering sweet nothings to his allies in Europe.
Ahead of his imminent visit to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the Chinese leader celebrated the two countries’ 75-year-old diplomatic relations in a letter published Wednesday in a Hungarian outlet.
“Although the two countries are separated by a huge geographical distance, the friendship between the Chinese and the Hungarian people can still boast a long history,” Xi wrote in the pro-government outlet Magyar Nemzet, one day after penning a similar note to Serbia.
China’s Xi to discuss multi-billion euro investments in Serbia
(Reuters) Serbia welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping with a military guard of honour on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with his Serbian counterpart to discuss China´s multi-billion euro investment in the Balkan country and possible new deals.
Xi´s visit coincides with the 25th anniversary of NATO’s accidental bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade and is part of his first European tour in five years, which included France with Hungary the next stop.
“We are writing history today,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told an audience of several thousands gathered in front of the Serbian presidential palace, applauding and chanting “China, China”.
Both leaders boast of an ironclad partnership between their countries. Along with Hungary, which is Xi´s next stop, Serbia is Europe’s firmest supporter of China’s huge Belt and Road infrastructure project across parts of Asia and Europe.

Xi Jinping’s European tour
(Politico Nightly) The official reason for the visit — which includes France, Serbia and Hungary — is to mark the 60th anniversary of China’s relations with France on the first stop of his trip and the 75th anniversary of official ties with Hungary on his last stop. So Chinese state media is playing up the trip as Xi’s celebration of friendly relations with European nations. But the subtext for the trip is that Xi is anxious to fend-off a looming trade war with the European Union and seeking to leverage French Prime Minister’s Emmanuel Macron’s more Beijing-friendly stance to dilute growing EU concern about both China’s predatory trade practices and its alignment with Russia’s war on Ukraine.
China angles for Gaza mediation role to expand influence in Middle East
Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic editor
Beijing joins France in urging Israel against Rafah offensive in latest effort to make its diplomatic mark
(The Guardian) Xi Jinping, sensing a diplomatic opening, is stepping up China’s intervention in the Middle East crisis, issuing a joint statement with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to urge Israel not to go ahead with an offensive in Rafah.
The rare moment of Sino-European synergy is the latest effort by China to make its diplomatic mark in a region in which it has deep economic interests, but more shallow diplomatic moorings.
Beijing’s primary initiative is to try to effect a reconciliation between the two main Palestinian factions, the secular Fatah and Islamist Hamas and it hosted talks between the two groups last week. Palestinian unity is seen by China, as it has by Gulf states too, as a precondition to a coherent plan for the administration of Gaza and the West Bank, on whatever terms the war ends.
Xi Jinping arrives in France with Ukraine and an EU trade row at the top of his agenda
On his first visit to Europe since 2019, Xi is set to meet with Emmanuel Macron before heading to Serbia and Hungary
French President Emmanuel Macron is set to urge Xi to reduce trade imbalances and to use his influence with Russia over the war in Ukraine. Xi is due to meet Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Monday.
Xi, who was welcomed in Paris by prime minister Gabriel Attal, said in a statement released on his arrival that ties between China and France were “a model for the international community of peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between countries with different social systems”.
One of Macron’s key priorities will be to warn Xi of the danger of backing Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, with western officials concerned Moscow is already using Chinese machine tools in arms production.
The west wants China above all not to supply weapons to Russia and risk tipping the balance in the conflict.
… France is also backing a European Union probe into Chinese electric vehicle exports, and in January, Beijing opened an investigation into mostly French-made imports of brandy, a move widely seen as a tit-for-tat retaliation for EU probes. … The European Commission, the European Union’s authority on trade issues, has opened a slew of competition probes targeting China in recent months. Beijing has reacted furiously to the most recent investigation, into suspected inequitable access to China’s medical devices market, calling it a sign of EU “protectionism”.

3 May
Xi’s visit reaffirms the importance of Serbia and Hungary in China’s plan towards Europe
Belgrade is a valuable bridgehead at the gates of the European Union to strengthen Beijing’s economic presence as well as political influence. Within the EU space, Budapest plays a similar function
(Agenzia nova) The Chinese president’s visit to Europe Xi Jinping, the first after five years, sees a careful selection of stages in the program.

11 – 12 April
Ian Explains: Xi Jinping’s nationalist agenda is rebuilding walls around China
Ian Bremmer breaks down how Xi Jinping is turning China inwards at a time when it can’t afford to close itself off. Since assuming the presidency in 2012, Xi has consolidated power within the Communist Party to become China’s most dominant ruler since Chairman Mao Zedong. Under Xi’s watch, China has rolled back democratic rights in Hong Kong, implemented crackdowns on the powerful tech, finance, and real estate sectors, restricted English in schools, and even expanded the definition of espionage so broadly that basic interactions with foreigners are viewed as suspect.
President Xi’s nationalist vision has become so dominant that it’s written into the Constitution and official history of the People’s Republic. But will that vision make China hostile to the very ideas that fueled its economic transformation in the first place?
A club for hemming China in
China’s growing military and political belligerence is rattling other countries, and they are responding by drawing together in a way that would have been out of the question a decade ago.
Stephen Maher
(GZERO media) Monday, as Chinese ships carried out exercises in disputed waters in the South China Sea, the US, UK, and Australia announced that they were talking to Japan about inviting that country to participate in Pillar II of the security pact.
Pillar I of AUKUS, which was announced in 2021, is a collaboration between Australia, the Americans, and the Brits aimed at adding a powerful new capacity to Australia’s military: nuclear-powered (though conventionally armed) submarines.
Like Australia, Japan is being driven to closer cooperation with the United States by its concerns about an increasingly powerful and assertive China. Japan’s trade-focused economy depends on international shipping passing freely through the South China Sea, for instance, where China has been clashing with the Philippines.
So Tokyo has reason to be interested in Pillar II of the AUKUS arrangement, which focuses on defense technology sharing, including quantum computing, hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence, and electronic warfare — all areas where China presents a technological challenge, and where Japan could offer expertise.

9 April
Russia and China to deepen security cooperation in Asia, Europe
Russian foreign minister visits Beijing and also receives assurances of strengthened economic cooperation from China.
(Al Jazeera) Lavrov additionally denounced the “unlawful sanctions” imposed by the West against Russia and other countries and warned that the sanctions policy “is starting to be actively applied towards (China) as well”.
Wang told Lavrov that China “will support Russia’s stable development under the leadership of Putin”, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

28 February
China urges largest nuclear states to negotiate a ‘no-first-use’ treaty
(Reuters) – States with the largest nuclear arsenals should negotiate a treaty on no-first-use of nuclear weapons against each other or make a political statement in this regard, the Chinese foreign ministry’s arms control department said.
Director general of the department, Sun Xiaobo, called on nuclear states to fulfil their “special and priority responsibilities” on nuclear disarmament according to the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, which seeks to prevent nuclear war, official news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday.
China and India are currently the only two nuclear powers to formally maintain a no first use policy. Russia and the United States have the world’s biggest nuclear arsenals.
Sun also called for a universal, non-discriminatory, non-proliferation, export control order to address global security challenges, and promote more compliance in the field of biochemistry to maintain the authority of the arms control treaty system.

9 February
C Uday Bhaskar: World needs China to take up diplomatic gauntlet in Middle East
As it seeks to project itself as a major global power in contrast to the US, China would be well advised to review its tangible contribution to the global good
Beijing has a rare opportunity to explore options for lowering the temperature in the region, by first seeking to end the spiral of violence and enable tentative negotiations
(SCMP) The UN Security Council emergency meeting, held on Monday at Russia’s request to deliberate the US military strikes against targets in Iraq and Syria – and the potential implications for peace and security in a region still reeling from the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and the disproportionate reprisals – ended in an inconclusive but predictable manner.
The five permanent members stuck to their respective national positions – as is often the case when there is a sharp divergence between the United States and Russia – and there appears to be little light at the end of a dark, blood-spattered tunnel. An escalation stemming from miscalculation could have catastrophic consequences given the number of interlocutors in the turbulence that has engulfed the long-troubled Middle East.
… Scholars Zha Daojiong and Dong Ting wrote in an Asian Perspective journal article last year that Xi’s speech [China’s Xi Jinping rails against ‘cold war mentality’ and US hegemony in call for global cooperation] “used the expression ‘anquan buke fenge’ put forward as a principle (‘yuanze’). The core elements therein are ‘anquan’ (security) and ‘buke fenge’ (not to be divided or separated in conceptualisation). When used to discuss topics pertaining to national security and/or international affairs, ‘buke fenge’ can be translated into English as ‘inalienable’, ‘inseparable’ or ‘indivisible’.”
China surprised the world with its diplomatic dexterity last year by helping broker a deal between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. While the structural fault lines between Tehran and Riyadh in the religious, ethnic and geopolitical spheres will pose complex challenges, the resumption of normal diplomatic engagement between the regional heavyweights augurs well.
Beijing must now seek to burnish its nascent credibility as an enabling power in conflict negotiations and contributing to the global good. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council that pitches itself as being in the same league as the US, China should pick up the political-diplomatic gauntlet to stabilise things in West Asia.

22 January
Red Sea crisis: China firms eye Plan B ahead of Lunar New Year as container prices soar further
Average rate during the second week of January for shipping a 40-foot container between Europe and China was about US$5,400, up from US$1,500 a week earlier
Demand for containers in China has increased ahead of the Lunar New Year, with firms seeking to avoid the Red Sea following recent attacks by Houthi militants
(SCMP) Shipping prices between Europe and China have continued to soar amid the Red Sea crisis, weighing on China’s fragile export growth and pushing its companies to seek contingency plans to fortify their supply chains ahead of the Lunar New Year.
Pan Guang, a senior researcher with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said that the ongoing Red Sea crisis could add risks to China’s investment in the region.
“The shipping route of the Red Sea is crucial for China’s belt and road projects,” Pan said in an interview with Shanghai-based news website Guancha on Wednesday.
“It is not just a responsibility to be shouldered by one single country to keep smooth and safe international shipping ways.”
China has called for a joint effort to restore and ensure the security of the shipping lanes in the Red Sea to avoid disruption to the global supply chain and international trade order.
“We will intensify coordination with relevant departments, closely monitor developments and offer support and assistance to firms,” Ministry of Commerce spokesman He Yadong said at a press conference on Thursday

14 January
The real winner of Taiwan’s election
(Bloomberg) What a weekend! Taiwan chose a new leader in the hardest-fought election in decades. But while the Democratic Progressive Party held onto the presidency, the political landscape changed dramatically.
Taiwan’s current vice president, Lai Ching-te, won with just 40% of the vote — the lowest winning percentage since 2000. His ruling DPP also lost its majority in the legislature. Opposition votes were split between the Kuomintang, which failed to gain enough seats to control the assembly, and the upstart Taiwan People’s Party, which holds the balance of power.
That makes the big winner of the election the status quo, which may bode well for the sensitive, three-way relationship between Taiwan, China and the US. Strong checks and balances between the executive and legislative arms of government make sharp changes in policy unlikely, potentially lowering the risk of changes that could, in turn, increase tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The president-elect’s weak mandate and the divided assembly mean he must work with the opposition on crucial decisions, including on military funding. The 64-year-old has already pledged to look at his rivals’ policies, and to appoint officials from other parties to government.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office repeated President Xi Jinping’s stated aim of unification with the island, and — without naming Lai — said his victory didn’t reflect mainstream public opinion. Six People’s Liberation Army warplanes, four navy vessels and one balloon were seen around Taiwan by Monday morning, according to the island’s defense ministry. That’s not particularly unusual.

After attempts to meddle in Taiwan’s elections fail, China takes stock
(WaPo) Taiwanese voters have made it clear — for the third time in a row — that they don’t want a leader who will kowtow to China. The democratic island on Saturday elected as president Lai Ching-te, the current vice president and former independence advocate whom Beijing views as a dangerous “separatist.”
Now, Beijing must craft a response.
For Beijing, Lai’s victory is a loss that deepens anxiety about its ability to bring Taiwan under its control, a long-held goal of the ruling Communist Party and a key part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s legacy. The result gives Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which Beijing refuses to engage with, an unprecedented third term.
“A Lai win will mean that Xi loses face,” said Chen Fang-Yu, assistant professor of political science at Soochow University in Taipei. “It means his Taiwan policy has failed. So now he must do something to show his muscle.”
World reactions to Taiwan election
(Reuters) – Following are reactions by some foreign leaders and other officials to the result of Saturday’s election in Taiwan, won by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate Lai Ching-te. Lai’s party champions Taiwan’s separate identity and rejects China’s territorial claims.

This weekend, Taiwanese voters are heading to the polls to elect their next president. The race has been marred by a misinformation campaign from China, highlighting the contest’s importance to relations with Beijing. But, as David Sacks writes in a new article, the three major candidates are largely similar—and will likely continue the agenda of President Tsai Ing-wen, who has worked to bolster the country’s defense and anchor Taiwan more firmly to the West.
In an essay she wrote for Foreign Affairs in 2021, [Taiwan and the Fight for Democracy – A Force for Good in the Changing International Order] Tsai made the case for Taiwan’s vital role in upholding the liberal order—and the stakes of rising tensions in cross-straits relations. “If Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system,” she warned. “It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy.”

10 January
Taiwan’s Status Quo Election
Why the Result Won’t Have Much Effect on Cross-Strait Relations—or U.S.-Chinese Tensions
David Sacks
(Foreign Affairs) … From the perspective of the Chinese Communist Party, however, Taiwan’s very existence as one of Asia’s strongest democracies, and by some measures the region’s freest society, is a threat. Taiwan’s success reveals—despite the CCP’s claims to the contrary—that democracy and a majority ethnically Chinese society are not incompatible. Moreover, as China and Taiwan’s political systems continue to diverge, there is little support on the island for unification. Taiwan is increasingly anchored to the West, and its population broadly favors strengthening relations with Japan, the United States, and Europe.

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