- China under scanner over coronavirus origination and spread
- During these grim times, China is getting involved in disputes with most of its neighbors and receiving criticism worldwide over its actions
- Current disputes may impact ties with Australia, India and Japan
The cataclysmic impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the globe along with Chinese nationals questioning the inability of the country to contain the virus in china, the Chinese government is experiencing strong backlash both at home and internationally. With repeated blames regarding mishandling of virus containment measures and speculation galore over malicious influence on World Health Organization (WHO), it seems China is also repeatedly lashing out at other countries.
The latest in the row is the speculated involvement of China in the virtual attack on the Australian Parliament House website. Though Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not blamed any particular state, speculation is high as the Australian strategic policy Institute claimed that the probability of the virtual attack originating from China is “95% or more”.
China has been in the focus for various reasons. Recently, the US secretary of State, Mike Pompeo held a six hour long meeting with Yang Jiechi, a top Chinese diplomat to discuss on global political situation with Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, China-India clashes and striking Australia by creating trade constrains such as banning beef exports from four abattoirs after Morrison called for an investigation on how the virus spread globally from China.
2 Canadians under prosecution on Espionage
China launched a public prosecution on 19 June 2020 against two Canadian citizens on espionage charges 18 months after they were arrested nine days after the arrest of a Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, in December 2018 in Vancouver. Meng Wanzhou, the Chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunication behemoth Huawei, is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the CEO and founder of Huawei. The move was considered retaliatory worldwide. The two Canadian arrests were perceived by the global media as the Chinese reactions on the arrest of Meng Wanzhou who is under an extradition plea from the US.
The launch of the prosecution came after a Canadian Court Judge ruled that proceedings to extradite Meng Wanzhou to the United States will go ahead on 27 May 2020. China, after a legal review declared the public prosecution of 2 Canadian including one ex-diplomat on charges relating to espionage and stealing state secrets.
According to the Supreme People Procuratorate, China’s highest prosecutorial organisation, Michael John Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadian nationals arrested in December 2018 will be tried separately on charges including stealing of state secrets and spying charges. Michael Spavor, the business man who organised cultural trips to North Korea and Michael Kovrig, the Canadian ex-diplomat faces similar charges.
The current developments are seen by many to put pressure on Canada to drop the US extradition plea. China has denied any claims of a link between the two cases.
The US is keen to extradite Meng Wanzhou for Huawei selling sensitive technology to Iran which violated the US sanctions on Iran while the Chinese counterparts believe is a ploy to stop the global reach of Huawei and Chinese technology companies.
New Framework of Security Law Revealed in Hong Kong, Freedom of Speech and media likely to be restricted
In continuation to the China’s increasing control over Hong Kong, Beijing unveiled its plans to form a national security agency and pass a new law to provide the Chinese central government to keep the protest activities in check and may even provide direct access to intervene.
Hong Kong, earlier a British colony until 1997, was handed over to China contingent upon a 50 years transition period to end in 2047 with special status and autonomy except for defence and foreign affairs under the one china, two systems.
The recent aggressive approach and control of China in Hong Kong has sparked off a widespread protest from the local masses as they took out numerous marches in May and June. Also, the year 2020 marked a banning of the annual march on the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre over COVID-19 restriction on maintaining social distancing. May nationals fear that the ban may not get lifted at all with Chinese central government determined to keep a check on protest activities.
A rise in espionage and secession cases may be registered following the passing of the new law and would also restrict the voice of the people and local media which earlier had access to the outside world. The new laws are anticipated to implement amendments related to secession, terrorism and foreign interference.
The Hong Kong government, however, talks about the legislation to be aimed at the criminal with no implications on the freedom of speech and media.
The Chinese intrusion attracted stern comments from the United Kingdom and the United States with China reciprocating the advancements as an internal matter.
Earlier Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, had told the US was working on its way to find the accountable person or organisation for curbs over Hong Kong. The new legislation has already drawn stern remarks from the United Kingdom and the United States. The new legislation came at a time when India-China faces a face-off in the Himalayas and is seen as a decoy to draw the world’s attention from Chinese handling of the virus.
India Responds Politically against China with intention to ease down the Dispute
Post the territorial clash at the Galwan Valley in Laddakh, India, China is building up cordial relations with India’s neighbouring partners including Nepal and Bangladesh. China waived off a 97% duty on Bangladeshi exports to China for 5,000+ items in order to please the India’s neighbour.
India is also making strategic moves and has signed two key defence agreements with Australia in June. The two mega countries could even come together for a comprehensive strategic partnership. India in these times has to play strategically to avoid any military clashes as the developing countries focus on domestic infrastructure development and may become the biggest contender for China in the next 2 decades.
Tiff of with Japan
The Japanese government had earlier announced a mega stimulus package of 243.5 Billion Yen to assist the Japanese companies in shifting their manufacturing sites out of china. The move was in order to save the Japanese manufacturers as Chinese imports reduced by 50% in February because of COVID-19 shutdowns leading to severe business loss for Japanese manufacturers of parts.
At present, the media reports state that Japan is pushing to draw in the Hong Kong-based mega financial professionals to shift to Tokyo from Hong Kong. The Chinese foreign ministry had earlier advised the member nations of the G7 to stay out of the China and Hong Kong affairs.
In addition, coast guard ships have been dispatched to an area, the uninhabited island group, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China, as a bill has been approved by a city council that changes the administrative status of the uninhabited island group chain claimed by both Japan and China.
With repetitive territorial conflicts with Hong Kong, Taiwan, South China Sea, Japan, India and now Australia, China is distancing itself in the Asia Pacific region.