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Home Business How 2020 left China ‘diplomatically diminished’ | Asia Pacific News

How 2020 left China ‘diplomatically diminished’ | Asia Pacific News


#China alerted the #World #Health #Organization (WHO) to the first cases of COVID-19 a year ago.

#As the respiratory illness spread rapidly across the globe, #Beijing’s handling of the disease – first detected in the central city of #Wuhan – drew intense international scrutiny and opened a new front in the deteriorating ties between #China and the #United #States.

#Although #Beijing managed to stamp out its own outbreak and became the only large economy to grow this year, analysts say #President #Xi #Jinping’s #China faces the new year more “diplomatically diminished” than ever. #That is owing not only to the pandemic, but also its crackdown in semi-autonomous #Hong #Kong and its adoption of more coercive diplomatic tactics – including in #Taiwan, #India and #Australia.

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#Here’s a review of five key stories about #China from 2020.

#Hong #Kong’s freedoms ‘wiped out’

#Hong #Kong’s protest movement kicked off 2020 with a huge rally on #New #Year’s day, which ended in violent clashes and the arrest of about 400 people marching against #Beijing’s tightening grip on the city.

The bleak start to the #New #Year only got worse.

#In #March, #Hong #Kong’s leader #Carrie #Lam banned gatherings of more than four people to stem the spread of the virus. #In #June, #China’s parliament passed national security legislation for the former #British colony, punishing anything #Beijing deemed secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

#Many decried the sweeping legislation as the “end of #Hong #Kong’s autonomy”, but #Beijing defended it as necessary to restore stability after a year of mass protests. #Soon afterwards, the protest anthem: #Glory to #Hong #Kong was banned in slogans, dozens of pro-democracy candidates were disqualified from contesting legislative elections and media tycoon #Jimmy #Lai was arrested and his office raided for suspected collusion with foreign forces.

#Activists #Joshua #Wong, #Agnes #Chow and #Ivan #Lam were jailed on protest-related charges, while dozens including activist #Nathan #Law and legislator #Ted #Hui fled into exile.

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#Lam, the chief executive of #Hong #Kong, also postponed a legislative election scheduled for #September by a year and expelled four opposition members from the legislature on national security grounds. The moves resulted in #Hong #Kong’s pro-democracy camp resigning en masse from the legislature.

“We are seeing a place that had almost complete freedom become subject to a dictatorship, with all forms of political opposition being wiped out in front of our eyes,” said #Brad #Adams, the #Asia director for #Human #Rights #Watch.

#Following the passage of the national security law, the US, UK, #Australia and several other #Western nations suspended extradition treaties with #Hong #Kong, while #Washington ended the city’s preferential trading status. US #President #Donald #Trump’s administration also slapped sanctions on #Lam and key officials for the crackdown in #Hong #Kong.

‘Grey-zone’ warfare in #Taiwan

#Whilst quashing resistance to its rule in #Hong #Kong, #China also became more assertive towards #Taiwan, a self-ruled and democratically governed island that #Beijing claims as its own. #Since #President #Tsai #Ing-wen’s landslide re-election in #January, #China has engaged in a form of “grey-zone” warfare in relation to the island, deploying more than 100 aircraft towards #Taiwan’s airspace and forcing its military to scramble its jets on numerous occasions.

#Earlier this month, #China also sent an aircraft carrier group through the #Taiwan #Strait on their way to drills in the disputed #South #China #Sea.

#Tsai, who has rejected #Chinese rule in #Taiwan, said on #December 8 that the island was now facing military threats on a “daily basis” from “authoritarian forces”.

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#Bonnie #Glaser, director of the #China #Power #Project at the US-based #Center for #Strategic and #International #Studies, says #Beijing is trying to “increase psychological pressure on the #Taiwanese military and the public”.

#She also noted rising tensions between #Beijing and #Taiwan’s #China-friendly opposition #Kuomintang (KMT), which pulled out of a key cross-strait forum after #Chinese state-television made disparaging remarks about a top politician.

“If #China loses confidence that it can work with the KMT to promote reunification, pressure may build on the mainland to invade or to compel #Taiwan to enter into political talks,” #Glaser told #Al #Jazeera.

#Amid the rising tensions, the US stepped up support for #Taiwan, approving more than $5bn in arms, including drones, missiles and artillery, while also lobbying for #Taipei’s inclusion in the #World #Health #Organization’s decision-making body, the #World #Health #Assembly.

#Washington also sent its secretary of health to #Taipei, marking the highest-level visit by a US official in 40 years.

#Beijing has warned the US against boosting support for #Taiwan, with #Foreign #Minister #Wang #Wenbin saying #Taiwan was the “most important and sensitive issue in #Sino-US relations”.

‘Free-fall’ in US-China relations

The deterioration in US-China ties this year has caused alarm, with former #Australian #Prime #Minister #Kevin #Rudd warning in #August that the world was confronting the “prospect of not just a new #Cold #War, but a hot one as well”.

The year began on a positive note with the US and #China ending a two-year trade war by signing a #Phase #One trade deal.

#But relations quickly plummeted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with #Trump repeatedly referring to the virus as the “Chinese virus” and blaming #China’s initial cover-up in #Wuhan for the spread of the disease globally. The US leader also cut funding to the WHO, faulting the global health body for what he called bias towards #China.

#While boosting support for #Taiwan and sanctioning the #Chinese officials responsible for the crackdowns in #Hong #Kong and the far-western region of #Xinjiang, #Trump made #China a key focus of his unsuccessful re-election campaign this year. #Secretary of #State #Mike #Pompeo, in a #July speech declared that 50 years of engagement with the #Chinese #Communist #Party (CCP) had failed, saying #Washington and its allies must use “more creative and assertive ways” to press “Frankenstein” #China to change its ways.

#Since then, in tit-for-tat measures the two sides have expelled journalists and closed the other’s consulates. The #Trump administration also moved on the technology front, ordering bans on the #Chinese mobile applications #TikTok and #WeChat and forcing the #Chinese owner of #TikTok to sell its operations to a US company – all on national security grounds.

“The cascading free fall in US-China relations is awash with danger, as chances for escalation or miscalculation rise to flood-water levels,” #Robert #Lawrence #Kuhn, an investment banker and author, told the #Chinese state-owned tabloid #Global #Times last week. “Political wisdom is needed urgently for avoiding further exacerbation and escalation, which would only harm both countries and the world as a whole.”

The election of incoming #President #Joe #Biden, a #Democrat, analysts say could help cool tensions, but the US’s tough stance appears unlikely to change given bipartisan support for the move in the US #Congress.

“Trump represents immediate danger. #Biden represents long-term danger,” #Einar #Tangen, a political analyst based in #Beijing told #Al #Jazeera. “But #Chinese officials are hoping that, at least on the economic and also on the military front, that there won’t be the kind of aggressive posturing that you had from #Trump with the increased freedom of navigation patrols through the #South #China #Sea and the #Taiwan #Strait, and in their view advocating insurrection in #Xinjiang, #Taiwan and #Hong #Kong.”

#Despite #China’s “tough year” on the international stage, #Tangen said, officials were facing the new year “feeling much more confident” in their political system due to the economic recovery and success in containing COVID-19.

#Deadly brawl on #China-India border

#This year also saw the first fatal confrontation between #Chinese and #Indian troops in more than three decades. #At least 20 #Indian soldiers died in the brawl in a remote #Himalayan valley, where the two countries are competing to build infrastructure along a disputed border.

#Chinese state media acknowledged casualties on its side but did not provide details.

The standoff, which was triggered amid accusations of intrusion over the #Line of #Control (#LoC), continues.

#Each side has sent tens of thousands of troops to the region and #India has tightened rules for investments from #China and banned more than 150 #China-linked apps, including #TikTok citing security concerns.

#New #Delhi also invited #Australia to participate in #Indian #Ocean exercises along with US and #Japanese navies – a move analysts see as part of a bid to boost defence ties to counter #China’s influence in the #Indo-Pacific region.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_#GxDHdrQ8E

“2020 may well be the year when romanticism about #Sino-Indian ties finally died,” #Harsh V #Pant, director of research at the #New #Delhi-based #Observer #Research #Foundation, wrote in #Foreign #Policy magazine this week.

“[Beijing’s] behaviour will inevitably alter the trajectory of the #Chinese-Indian relationship, which has been premised on an understanding that even as the boundary questions remain unresolved, the two nations can move forward on other areas of engagement – global, regional, and bilateral. #That fundamental tenet today stands seriously undermined.”

#He added: “If a lasting solution to the border problem is not found, therefore, greater turbulence along the #LoC will continue to be the new normal.”

‘Worst sustained deterioration’ in #China-Australia ties

#Chinese-Australian ties plummeted to their lowest in decades, with #Beijing slapping sanctions on billions of dollars of #Australian imports as tensions over defence, trade and foreign policies boiled over.

#Australia, which was the first country to ban #Chinese tech giant #Huawei, angered #China this year by calling for an inquiry into the origins of the new coronavirus and by taking part in the #Indian #Ocean military drills (#Beijing calls the informal alliance between US, #India, #Japan and #Australia the “Asian version of NATO”).

#China has curbed #Australian beef imports and levied tariffs totalling 80.5 percent on #Australian barley. #It has also imposed tariffs worth 200 percent on #Australian wine, cut imports of #Australian copper by half and stalled coal shipments.

#With #China accounting for about 35 percent of #Australia’s total trade, some experts fear an all-out trade war could cost the latter 6 percent of its gross domestic product or GDP. #In contrast, #Australia accounts for less than 4 percent of #China’s commerce.

The moves prompted #Australia to file a formal appeal at the #World #Trade #Organization earlier this month over #Beijing’s decision to impose tariffs on #Australian barley.

#Herve #Lemahieu, director of the power and diplomacy programme at the #Sydney-based #Lowy #Institute, called the row “the worst sustained deterioration in bilateral ties between #China and #Australia” since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1972.

#China’s hard crackdown on #Australia could serve as “as a means of making an example, and trying to deter others from pursuing a similar kind of hard line,” he said.

#But #China’s coercive diplomacy in places like #Australia and #Taiwan means the country has emerged from the pandemic “diplomatically diminished,” said #Lemahieu.

“And I think it’s really been a squandered opportunity, a squandered year for #China. #It still has supporters, but it has far more detractors than it had at the beginning of the year.”





[ source link ]
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/31/how-2020-left-china-diplomatically-diminished

#left ##China #diplomatically #diminished ##Asia ##Pacific ##News

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