This month considers China’s continued expansion plans, being pursued at the expense of any other country: its continual push for power and control of a greater region is manifesting in several different ways. This post highlights the need for other countries to work together to stand up to a country that is continuing to force an agenda and control people regardless of their rights or international laws.
China’s Expansion: At Any Cost?
China has pursued much expansive activity recently whilst other countries are inwardly looking in order to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been an opportunity whilst other countries that have focused internally that have manifested in various ways in numerous geographical locations.
There is an on-going trade war with the USA, with President Trump refusing to engage with China’s President Xi. In the more immediate area around China Hong Kong territory has seen the imposition of Chinese rules on the former UK colony, there has been much activity to take control of the South China sea and disruption on the China-Indian border among others.
Indian Border Skirmish
In June 2020 Chinese troops attacked and killed Indian troops in the remote area of the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, North India. The event caused a rise in tensions between the two most populous countries in the world. The fighting was triggered by a row over two Chinese tents and observation towers that India said had been built on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Residents of India highlight the continued Chinese incursions into Galwan and other disputed areas, such Panong Tso, over the LAC. In Panong Tso, a freshwater lake on the border, there was a similar but non-deadly clash between Indian and Chinese forces in early May 2020. There has been substantial Chinese military structures built here, including a radar tower. They have been built close to a ridge known as Finger Four in June and July 2020, despite agreements to disengage.
Around Panong Tso, known as the eight fingers, are eight ridges. India used to control the whole area. Chinese troops gradually moved in, and in June 2020, they now control four of the eight fingers. China is said to be building a helipad and other infrastructure around Finger Four, as well as bringing more troops into the territory. Further details in this report.
Since the dispute in mid June 2020, when disengagement was discussed between the leaders of India and China, there has been continued building activity on the Chinese side of the border. This Reuters report shows satellite imagery indicating much activity by the Chinese soon after the incident. Road construction on the Chinese side of the border has increased whilst the Indian forward post has retreated. The images show a new Chinese camp suggesting that disengagement is far from the truth.
South China Territorial Claims: At Other’s Expense
China is trying to erode the internationally agreed marine limits. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam challenge China’s claim to about 90% of the South China Sea.
Vietnam is chairing the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Hanoi. Both Vietnam and the Philippines highlight growing regional insecurity as China was advancing its territorial claims under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic. China increasingly has military drills in the regions and has built fortified islands around the Sea, often outside of its accepted water limits.
China has claims to the Sea based upon a vague, U-shaped “nine-dash line” including much of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It also claims the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands and overlaps the EEZs of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
In 2016, a tribunal at The Hague, brought by the Philippines, ruled that China has no historic title over the waters. Its line was superseded by the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. In 2019 there was a standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels that were embroiled in a months-long standoff in Vietnam’s EEZ. A Chinese research vessel was conducting a seismic survey of waters overlapping Vietnamese oil blocks. Similar activity occurred in Malaysian waters close to where a drill ship contracted by the Malaysian state oil firm, Petronas, had been working. Indonesia has started to take a harder stance against China: Chinese vessels had entered Indonesia’s EEZ around the northern Natuna islands.
Australia has also become another country to reject the Chinese claims to the South China Sea according to this report. Australia made a declaration to the United Nations to reject the claims. Further details were from this report.
In Japan, there has been accusations that China is pushing its territorial claims under the cover of Covid-19 whilst “assisting” other nations. China is continuing to try and change the status quo of the East China Sea region. There are continued “relentless” intrusions around a group of islets claimed by both nations in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
Japan’s annual defence review claimed China’s responsibility for “propaganda” and “disinformation” amid “social uncertainties and confusion” caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Hong Kong’s Rights: Gone
China has declared full control over the territory of Hong Kong. A new national security law criminalises subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces. The law fundamentally change the territory’s legal system. Article 29 states that anyone who conspires with foreigners to provoke “hatred” of the Chinese government, or the authorities in Hong Kong, could have committed a criminal offence.
China’s national security law for Hong Kong has fundamentally changes the territory’s legal system. There will be severe penalties for new crimes that includes up to life in prison. The law opens the way for mainland security personnel to legally operate in Hong Kong with impunity. The wording is highly subjective and malleable. Article 55 allows Chinese mainland security operatives the right to investigate some national security cases that are “complex”, “serious” or “difficult”. China is allowed to set up the “Office for Safeguarding National Security” in Hong Kong. It is a mainland Chinese body to be staffed by mainland Chinese personnel. Article 60 makes it clear: anyone working there does not have to abide by Hong Kong’s laws and shall not be subject to “inspection, search or detention”. This means mainland Chinese personnel are untouchable. Further details can be found on this BBC report and Hong Kong’s Security Law.
The new security law is wide-ranging and includes:
- It is now illegal to incite hatred of China’s central and Hong Kong’s regional governments.
- Closed-door trials are now allowed, wire-tapping of suspects and the potential for suspects to be tried in mainland China
- A wide range of acts, including damaging public transport facilities, can be considered terrorism.
- Internet providers might have to hand over data if requested by police.
The impact of the changes in Hong Kong will affect its economy with the New York Times moving to Seoul in South Korea. TikTok is looking to relocate its headquarters from the Territory.
Even before 2020 security law change, Beijing has increasingly undermining freedom of speech and the media. In 2018 the Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet was barred from entering the city weeks after his work visa had not been renewed without any explanation. He had angered Beijing by hosting a guest speaker at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club who advocated secession.
Human Rights Abuses: The Case of the Uighurs
In the north west of China is Xinjiang province where the Uighurs, a Muslim minority group, mainly live. They have Muslim Turkic ethnicity and are culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations. There are around 11 million Uighurs in Xinjiang (see this report).
There is increasing global political criticism over China’s alleged persecution of this group of people. Reports of forced sterilisation of women and mass “re-education” camps. In the camps the
Uighurs, who have their own Uighur language, are forced to learn Mandarin. Religious freedoms have been eroded and Xinjiang is covered by a pervasive surveillance. This include police checkpoints and facial recognition and number plate cameras. Xinjiang is perhaps the ultimate “Smart City” for total control of a population.
The Communist Party of China is trying to silence anyone abroad supporting the Uighur’s plight for rights. The UK Times reported (25 July 2020) that a Belgium Uighur Rights Activist was contacted by Chinese callers who try to stifle dissent abroad. This tactic is not uncommon and includes threatening calls, emotional blackmail, and recruitment from within Uighur communities living abroad.
Cyber Attack On Australia
A massive cyber attack on Australia was carried out in June 2020, was from a state actor with significant capabilities. The attacks crippled widespread computer networks in both government and private sectors. The attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The attacks, allegedly by China, hit sites including government, industrial, political organisations, education, health, essential service provider sites.
Relations between Australia and China have have worsened in recent years but declined further after Australia echoed the US in calling for an inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19, first detected in China late last year. China imposed tariffs on Australian barley, stopped beef imports and warned its citizens and students about “risks” of travelling to Australia because of racist incidents. Australia has increased its rhetoric. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said he would not give in to “coercion” from Beijing.
Whether it was an attack from China, there are very few countries capable of this sort of cyber attack. Additional information is in this BBC News report.
This article highlights the extent and how far China is willing to go to dominate and get its own way at the expense of anyone or any country. Human rights are being ignored and nations will need to collectively act against a rising state that will impose its own totalitarian laws as it wants to.