Weekly roundup: Oct. 21, 2022
A former Japanese prisoner cries on TV recalling torture by Beijing
Dear China watchers, welcome to this week’s roundup. Before we begin, we’d like to take a few seconds to welcome our new subscribers–it’s good to have you here. And to the older subscribers, thank you for your continued support.
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As always, let’s start with some superpower-related news:
This week, the beating of a Hong Kong protester by a group of men at the Chinese consulate in Manchester continues to make international headlines. The British government said on Thursday it expects China to waive diplomatic immunity for any official facing police charges.
Here are this week’s highlights from the middle powers:
Saudi Arabia and China poking the U.S. where it hurts
Egyptian pundits praise Xi in Chinese state media
A tearful recount of a Japanese pro-Beijing activist
German chancellor goes against his own ministers for China
Canada and Australia investigate whether retired military pilots are working for China
The Saudi government vowed deeper cooperation in the energy sector with Beijing on Friday amid increasing tension with the U.S. — a move that could be seen as another punch in the gut to Washington, following the announcement of large OPEC+ production cuts two weeks ago.
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and the director of China's National Energy Administration Zhang Jianhua emphasized the importance of long-term cooperation at an online meeting on Friday.
From the Saudi state media agency SPA:
“[The two ministers] highlighted the significance of regular exchange of viewpoints for China and Saudi Arabia, as important global energy producers and consumers. They confirmed their willingness to work together to support the stability of the international oil market.”
The officials also discussed joint investments in BRI countries and establishing a regional hub in the energy sector supply chain for “Chinese manufacturers to utilize the Kingdom's favourable location between three continents.”
That’s not the only friendly gesture Saudi Arabia made to China recently. According to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman expressed the kingdom’s desire to be part of BRICS, an economic bloc that includes China, during a visit to Riyadh last weekend.
China welcomed the rumour. In a Thursday article from Xinhua, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said Beijing “supports the BRICS countries in recruiting more members” and taking BRICS+, an initiative proposed by Xi Jinping, to a new level.
While Saudi Arabia continues cozying up to China, Riyadh-Washington relations are on the downturn after Saudi-led OPEC+ cut down supplies to boost sagging oil prices.
Egyptian academics and media personalities spent a Tuesday afternoon praising Xi Jinping and discussing the third volume of his book The Governance of China.
The session was part of a “cultural forum” sponsored by the China International media group to reflect on the last 10 years of Beijing-Cairo relations. Those in attendance included Egyptian government officials, Beijing’s ambassador to Cairo, the deputy editor-in-chief of China Today and the Director of the Confucius Institute at Suez Canal University. Most researchers quoted in the article are affiliated with the Egyptian government or Chinese state media. Those who are not directly connected to the two regimes have been quoted speaking positively of the CCP in state media.
Here’s what some of the attendees had to say:
Ezzat Saad, former assistant foreign minister to Egypt, said the two countries have a strong relationship where they both oppose interfering in other nations’ internal affairs.
Kamal Jab Allah, a journalist and former editor at the prominent Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, was quoted commending the Communist Party’s “miracle” of eradicating poverty in China. Jab Allah published a book in 2021 on the strategic partnership between China and Egypt, in which he denied the CCP’s alleged repression of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Mohammed Hussein Abu Al-Ela, a professor and author with a dozen books under his name tackling U.S. politics and Islamic influence in Egypt, praised Xi’s ability to learn from history when attempting to strengthen international relations. Abu Al-Ela has bylines in China Today.
Adel Ali, who the article describes as a researcher and who has bylines in Chinese state media CGTN and China Today, singled out the theory of “great state diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” as one of the most important ideas put forward by Xi.
This week, Japanese TV station TBS broadcast a tearful interview with a prominent Japanese pro-Beijing activist, Inji Suzuki, who was released after six years of imprisonment in China. Before being seized by the Chinese Communist Party, Suzuki had held various important positions in China, including guest lecturer at Beijing Foreign Studies University and chairman of the China-Japan Youth Exchange Association.
In the interview, Suzuki detailed the torture he endured in prison, including only seeing the sun once every six months. He also denied the espionage charges against him.
The interview received attention from Chinese social media influencers, notably the Japanese journalist and commentator Yaita Akio who wrote about the video on his public Facebook account.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has confirmed his plan to visit China early next month with a delegation of business chiefs.
If you’ve been following us since last month, you’re probably familiar with Scholz’s flip-flopping attitude toward China.
The chancellor said in May the German government would not shy away from criticizing China’s ongoing human rights abuses and advised the private sector to diversify its supply chains and exports. But his toughened tone on Germany’s biggest non-EU trading partner has clashed with business owners and Beijing. It seems that Scholz has since re-adjusted his stance.
An investigation by German regional public broadcasters reported Wednesday that Scholz's chancellery is pushing to approve the acquisition of a container port in Hamburg by Chinese state-owned shipping giant Cosco, ignoring warnings from six federal ministries.
The Chinese embassy in Germany is reportedly contacting German companies directly, coercing them to throw their weight behind the port deal or otherwise face consequences.
Reports that at least 30 British ex-military personnel were offered lucrative packages to train China’s People’s Liberation Army pilots have triggered a ripple effect across the middle powers. Both Australia and Canada have launched investigations into the alleged scheme in their own country. While veteran pilots in these democracies are still bound by secrecy commitments, they are free to gain employment once they leave service. The British government said it wants to change the law to stop former RAF pilots from training the Chinese military.
Aside from looking into these allegations, the Australian government is also ramping up its diplomacy with the Pacific islands amid China’s increasing influence in the region. Canberra said it would increase official assistance to the Pacific by US$565 million, over the next four years.
This is the second financial boost from the labour party (the ruling party) in the region, underlining the region’s importance to policymakers. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in July that the government would add a US$127 million fund for infrastructure investment and climate change on top of the US$334 million increase that the party promised during the recent election campaign.
Have a few extra minutes? We’ve got some recommended readings for you.
The Qatari government hired the same Chinese company that built a prison used in China’s mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province to construct the venue for the Qatar 2022 World Cup final. The claims, revealed by the Times, are based on public documents available on Chinese-government-run websites and Google Earth Images.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy released a report examining China’s security presence in the Middle East. The report suggests that the U.S. must work harder to secure its existing partnerships in the region. The Jerusalem Post interviewed the author, Grant Rumley, for some Israel-specific insights.
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