Hong Kong activists now face a choice: stay silent, or flee the city. The world must give them a path to safety



Sipa USA Willie Siau / SOPA Images/Sipa U

Brendan Clift, University of Melbourne

In recent days, the prime ministers of the UK and Australia each declared they are working toward providing safe haven visas for Hong Kong residents. In the US, lawmakers passed a bill that would impose sanctions on businesses and individuals that support China’s efforts to restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The prospect of a shift from rhetoric to action reveals just how dire the situation in China’s world city has become.

July 1 is usually associated with Hong Kong’s annual pro-democracy march. This year, it saw around 370 arrests as protesters clashed with police under the shadow of a brand new national security law.




Read more:
‘We fear Hong Kong will become just another Chinese city’: an interview with Martin Lee, grandfather of democracy


Hong Kong police have been cracking down hard on demonstrators for over a year – with Beijing’s blessing – and most of this week’s arrests were possible simply because police had banned the gathering.

But ten arrests were made under the national security law for conduct including the possession of banners advocating Hong Kong independence.

Already, a pro-democracy political party has disbanded and activists are fleeing the city.

What’s in the national security law and how it could be applied

The national security law had been unveiled just hours earlier, its details kept secret until this week. It was imposed on Hong Kong in unprecedented circumstances when Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Beijing’s appointed leader in the city, bypassed the local legislature and promulgated it directly.

The law creates four main offences: secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.

Hong Kong law already contains some offences of this sort, including treason, a disused colonial relic, and terrorism, tightly defined by statute. The new national security offences are different beasts – procedurally unique and alarmingly broad.

Secession, for example, includes the acts of inciting, assisting, supporting, planning, organising or participating in the separation or change of status of any part of China, not necessarily by force. This is calculated to prevent even the discussion of independence or self-determination for Hong Kong.

More than 300 people were detained at a protest this week and ten were arrested under the new law.
e: Sipa USA Willie Siau/SOPA Images/Sipa U

Collusion includes making requests of or receiving instructions from foreign countries, institutions or organisations to disrupt laws or policies in or impose sanctions against Hong Kong or China.

This is aimed at barring Hong Kongers from lobbying foreign governments or making representations at the United Nations, which many protesters have done in the past year.

The law contains severe penalties: for serious cases, between ten years and life imprisonment. It also overrides other Hong Kong laws. The presumption in favour of bail, for instance, will not apply in national security cases, facilitating indefinite detention of accused persons.

Defendants can be tried in Hong Kong courts, but in a major departure from the city’s long-cherished judicial independence, the chief executive will personally appoint the judges for national security cases.

The chief executive also decides if a trial involves state secrets – a concept defined very broadly in China. In these cases, open justice is abandoned and trials will take place behind closed doors with no jury.

A black Hong Kong flag burning last month during an anti-government demonstration.
Viola Kam/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

While Hong Kong courts can apply the new national security law, the power to interpret it lies with Beijing alone. And in the most serious cases, mainland Chinese courts can assume jurisdiction.

This raises the prospect of political prisoners being swallowed up by China’s legal system, which features no presumption of innocence and nominal human rights guarantees. China also leads the world in executions.

Much of the national security law’s content contradicts fundamental principles of Hong Kong’s common law legal system and the terms of its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Even the territory’s justice minister – another unelected political appointee – has admitted the systems are incompatible.




Read more:
Hong Kong: does British offer of citizenship to Hongkongers violate Thatcher’s deal with China?


Why it is deliberately vague

In the typical style of mainland Chinese laws, the national security law is drafted in vague and general terms. This is designed to give maximum flexibility to law enforcement and prosecutors, while provoking maximum fear and compliance among the population.

The government has said calls for independence for Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang and even Taiwan are now illegal, as is the popular protest slogan “liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times”.

Posting Hong Kong independence stickers can now lead to severe punishments.
Sipa USA Willie Siau / SOPA Images/Sipa U

A Beijing spokesman has said the charge of collusion to “provoke hatred” against the Hong Kong government could be used against people who spread rumours that police beat protesters to death in a notorious subway station clash last year, echoing the infamous mainland Chinese law against “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

The law does not appear to be retroactive, but fears that it could be interpreted that way have caused a flurry of online activity as people have deleted social media accounts and posts associating them with past protests.

This is unsurprising given the Hong Kong government’s record of trawling through old social media posts for reasons to bar non-establishment candidates from standing at elections.

Dissent in any form becomes extremely hazardous

Despite the promise of autonomy for Hong Kong, enshrined in a pre-handover treaty with the UK that China claims is now irrelevant, the national security law has escalated the project to “harmonise” the upstart region by coercive means, rather than addressing the root causes of dissatisfaction.

Under the auspices of the new law, the Chinese government will openly establish a security agency, with agents unaccountable under local law, in Hong Kong for the first time. It has also authorised itself in the new law to extend its tendrils further into civil society, with mandates to manage the media, the internet, NGOs and school curricula.

Under the weight of this authoritarian agenda, dissent in any form becomes an extremely hazardous prospect. It is no doubt Beijing’s intention that it will one day be impossible – or better yet, something Hong Kongers would not even contemplate.




Read more:
China is taking a risk by getting tough on Hong Kong. Now, the US must decide how to respond


The aim of silencing all opposing voices – including those overseas – is clear from the purported extraterritorial operation of the law.

The international community has condemned Beijing’s actions, but its members have a responsibility to follow words with actions. The least that democratic countries like the US, UK, Australia and others can do is offer a realistic path to safety for the civic-minded Hong Kongers who have stood up to the world’s premier authoritarian power at grave personal risk.

Some 23 years after China achieved its long-held ambition of regaining Hong Kong, it has failed to win hearts and minds and has brought out the big stick. Its promises may have been hollow, but its threats are not.The Conversation

Brendan Clift, Teaching Fellow and PhD candidate, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

China’s push into PNG has been surprisingly slow and ineffective. Why has Beijing found the going so tough?



Peter Parks/Pool/EPA

Ian Kemish, The University of Queensland

Chinese activity in Papua New Guinea was not the only factor behind Australia’s Pacific “Step-Up”. As a former high commissioner to PNG, I know it followed serious deliberations about Australia’s overall strategic imperatives in the region.

But China’s engagement with our nearest neighbour was in the minds of many when Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the foreign policy initiative in November 2018, pledging to

take our engagement with the region to a new level.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was about to make a state visit to Port Moresby, before joining other world leaders at the APEC Summit there. China had been busy repairing roads and constructing an international conference centre in the PNG capital ahead of the meeting, along with a six-lane highway leading to the parliament.

A Chinese hospital ship had just conducted a well-publicised “humanitarian mission” to PNG. And Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had recently signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative, fuelling concern that PNG’s growing financial exposure to China might be converted to Beijing’s strategic advantage.

Xi Jinping was the first Chinese leader to visit PNG when he arrived for the APEC summit in November 2018.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Xi then used the opportunity of his state visit to pledge an additional US$300 million in concessional loans to the country.

Several Papua New Guinean friends commented then that none of this activity would be of lasting benefit to the struggling developing country. But it certainly captured public attention, and suggested a renewed strategic intent on China’s behalf to boost its influence in the region.




Read more:
Despite its Pacific ‘step-up’, Australia is still not listening to the region, new research shows


Recent setbacks in China’s outreach

Eighteen months later, China is still looking for ways to engage with PNG, motivated by interest in both its abundant natural resources and key strategic location. But these efforts sometimes seem uncoordinated, and Beijing has suffered some significant setbacks.

China has been surprisingly slow to respond at critical moments. For instance, PNG officials became frustrated with bureaucratic stalling in early 2019 as they sought to follow up on Xi’s promised loan, and Australia ultimately stepped in to supply the required A$440 million.

Canberra also outmanoeuvred Huawei’s bid to lay undersea high-speed internet cables to PNG and the neighbouring Solomon Islands.

And this year, China has not sent any meaningful signal of solidarity to PNG since the onset of COVID-19 – just proforma PPE donations. Western institutions like the IMF are instead stepping in with emergency financial assistance but, so far at least, China has been nowhere to be seen.

Anti-Chinese sentiment flares up

The recent experience of China’s Zijin Mining Group points to another constraint – the anti-Chinese sentiment that sometimes lurks below the surface in PNG.

The PNG cabinet decided in April not to renew the gold mining lease held jointly by Zijin and Canada’s Barrick Gold at Porgera in the Highlands region. Prime Minister James Marape announced Porgera would instead transition to national ownership.

A letter from Zijin Chairman Chen Jinghe to Marape was then leaked. Chen warned if Zijin’s investment was not “properly protected”, he was

afraid there will be significant negative impact on the bilateral relations between China and PNG.

This provoked visceral anti-Chinese sentiment and praise for Marape’s stance on social media in PNG. Speculation last week the government was looking to sell the mine to another Chinese group sparked a further wave of anti-Chinese feeling – this time critical of Marape.

The tone of some of these messages brought to mind the violent attacks against Chinese and other Asian small business owners at past moments of economic hardship and local tensions in PNG.

A Chinese store owner taking shelter during anti-Chinese protests in PNG in 2009.
ILYA GRIDNEFF/AAP

Zijin is not the first Chinese resource company to face difficulties in PNG. In 2004, China’s Metallurgical
Construction
Company (MCC) secured the agreement of then-Prime Minister Michael Somare to buy the Ramu nickel mine in Madang province.

The company learned quickly that an agreement with the head of government is not enough. MCC did not plan adequately for engagement with landowners, provincial authorities and environmentalists, and inflamed local tensions by using imported Chinese labour.

MCC spent almost two years in court pitted against these groups, to its substantial cost.




Read more:
Everything but China is on the table during PNG prime minister’s visit


China is not giving up

PNG can be a hard place to operate. As the Australian government and many businesses and NGOs have found, success requires sustained effort with multiple stakeholders.

Chinese companies are not giving up. China Mobile reportedly looked at taking over domestic mobile carrier Digicel earlier this year, and Shenzhen Energy is persevering with its stalled US$2 billion “Ramu 2” hydro power project, given initial approval by the O’Neill government in 2015.

Industry sources report the current government, eager to announce employment-generating projects, is considering moving to implementation stage after some hesitation.




Read more:
In the post-APEC scramble to lavish funds on PNG, here’s what the country really needs


A deal has also recently been signed allowing PNG seafood exports to China.

China has every right to pursue investments in the region, and PNG is entitled to diversify its external links. Beijing will likely make further advances, but on current form these will likely be more opportunistic than strategic.

Australia should engage China positively in PNG, consistent with its bilateral interests in both Port Moresby and Beijing. It should also build confidently on the advantages that flow from geographic proximity and a long, overall positive relationship with its friends across the Torres Strait.The Conversation

Ian Kemish, Former Ambassador and Adjunct Professor, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Alert but not alarmed: what to make of new H1N1 swine flu with ‘pandemic potential’ found in China



Shutterstock

Ian M. Mackay, The University of Queensland

Researchers have found a new strain of flu virus with “pandemic potential” in China that can jump from pigs to humans, triggering a suite of worrying headlines.

It’s excellent this virus has been found early, and raising the alarm quickly allows virologists to swing into action developing new specific tests for this particular flu virus.

But it’s important to understand that, as yet, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of this particular virus. And while antibody tests found swine workers in China have had it in the past, there’s no evidence yet that it’s particularly deadly.




Read more:
Victoria is on the precipice of an uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak. Will the new measures work?


What we know so far

China has a wonderful influenza surveillance system across all its provinces. They keep track of bird, human and swine flus because, as the researchers note in their paper, “systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic.”

In their influenza virus surveillance of pigs from 2011 to 2018, the researchers found what they called “a recently emerged genotype 4 (G4) reassortant Eurasian avian-like (EA) H1N1 virus.” In their paper, they call the virus G4 EA H1N1. It has been ticking over since 2013 and became the majority swine H1N1 virus in China in 2018.

In plain English, they discovered a new flu that’s a mix of our human H1N1 flu and an avian-based flu.

What’s interesting is antibody tests picked up that workers handling swine in these areas have been infected. Among those workers they tested, about 10% (35 people out of 338 tested) showed signs of having had the new G4 EA H1N1 virus in the past. People aged between 18 to 35 years old seemed more likely to have had it.

Of note, though, was that a small percentage of general household blood samples from people who were expected to have had little pig contact were also antibody positive (meaning they had the virus in the past).

Importantly, the researchers found no evidence yet of human-to-human transmission. They did find “efficient infectivity and aerosol transmission in ferrets” – meaning there’s evidence the new virus can spread by aerosol droplets from ferret to ferret (which we often use as surrogates for humans in flu studies). G4-infected ferrets became sick, lost weight and acquired lung damage, just like those infected with one of our seasonal human H1N1 flu strains.

They also found the virus can infect human airway cells. Most humans don’t already have antibodies to the G4 viruses meaning most people’s immune systems don’t have the necessary tools to prevent disease if they get infected by a G4 virus.

In summary, this virus has been around a few years, we know it can jump from pigs to humans and it ticks all the boxes to be what infectious disease scholars call a PPP — a potential pandemic pathogen.

If a human does get this new G4 EA H1N1 virus, how severe is it?

We don’t have much evidence to work with yet but it’s likely people who got these infections in the past didn’t find it too memorable. There’s not a huge amount of detail in the new paper but of the people the researchers sampled, none died from this virus.

There’s no sign this new virus has taken off or spread in the regions of China where it was found. China has excellent virus surveillance systems and right now we don’t need to panic.

The World Health Organisation has said it is keeping a close eye on these developments and “it also highlights that we cannot let down our guard on influenza”.




Read more:
4 unusual things we’ve learned about the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic


What’s next?

People in my field — infectious disease research — are alert but not alarmed. New strains of flu do pop up from time to time and we need to be ready to respond when they do, watching carefully for signs of human-to-human transmission.

As far as I can tell, the specific tests we use for influenza in humans won’t identify this new G4 EA H1N1 virus, so we should design new tests and have them ready. Our general flu A screening test should work though.

In other words, we can tell if someone has what’s called “Influenza A” (one kind of flu virus we usually see in flu season) but that’s a catch-all term, and there are many strains of flu within that category. We don’t yet have a customised test to detect this new particular strain of flu identified in China. But we can make one quickly.

Being prepared at the laboratory level if we see strange upticks in influenza is essential and underscores the importance of pandemic planning, ongoing virus surveillance and comprehensive public health policies.

And as with all flus, our best defences are meticulous hand washing and keeping physical distance from others if you, or they, are at all unwell.The Conversation

Ian M. Mackay, Adjunct assistant professor, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus Update


Australia

Pacific Region

European Union

China

Japan

South Korea

USA

Why China believed it had a case to hit Australian barley with tariffs



Shutterstock

Weihuan Zhou, UNSW

China’s landmark investigations into Australian barley led to the imposition of “anti-dumping” and “anti-subsidy” tariffs of 80.5% in May, threatening an Australian export market worth $A600 million a year.

China says it made its own calculations on the extent to which Australia subsidised barley after Australian authorities failed to give it all the information it needed in the form it requested.

It set out its findings on subsidies in a report at present only available in Chinese.

One was that Australian officials “did not comply” with its requirements in relation to the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program.


‘The Australian government reported the overall situation in the answer sheet, but did not comply with the requirements of the investigating authority’

Australia disputes that conclusion.

At first glance the possibility that Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program could have had anything to do with subsidising barely exports seems baseless.

The Murray Darling Basin Plan, of which the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program is a part, is a long-running program aiming to remedy a century of over-exploitation of water.

It includes no discussion of production targets, export volumes or anything else that might be expected to set off trade alarm bells.

Plan more than environmental

But the plan and its A$13 billion budget is about more than the environment.

It originally prioritised the environment, but in 2010 its goal was explicitly changed to address a triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental concerns.

From there, its management became a major economic and political issue.




Read more:
While towns run dry, cotton extracts 5 Sydney Harbours’ worth of Murray Darling water a year. It’s time to reset the balance


Scandals surround huge payments for dubious water rights, infrastructure spending that doesn’t actually save water, and massive subsidisation of irrigation expansion into areas that were not previously irrigated.

Stories abound of favoured companies or regions reaping large windfalls at the expense of taxpayers, other farmers, the environment, or all three.

Administered with ‘habitual’ secrecy

Australia’s Department of Agriculture says the government fully engaged with China’s investigation, “including providing extensive information on production and commercial information on the Australian barley industry”.

But the department hasn’t always been forthcoming about its operations.

A South Australian Royal Commission concluded that its claim to be committed to engaging in public debate and open dialogue should be regarded with “deep suspicion”.

The separate Murray Darling Basin Authority operated with “an unfathomable predilection for secrecy”.

The behaviour was “habitual”, in the assessment of the Royal Commission.

We might have given China a case

Even if Australian officials did participate in the Chinese investigation in good faith, the potential for confusion is considerable given the jargon that engulfs both water management and trade law.

Few water managers speak trade law and equally few trade lawyers understand the jargon of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

From a trade law perspective, although the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program and the Basin Plan do not explicitly subsidise exports, the fact that much of the Basin’s produce is exported means it could be argued that they distort trade.




Read more:
The Murray-Darling Basin scandal: economists have seen it coming for decades


It is open to a country such as China to take action if the program has conferred benefits to an Australian industry and the subsidised exports have caused a material injury to a competing domestic industry.

China alleges this is the case for barley, but a stronger case could perhaps be argued for the Basin’s bigger export crops: cotton, almonds and walnuts.

Part of the reason is that the program involves government spending, but it is possible to argue that the implementation of the Basin Plan has also subsidised exporters in another way, by environmental mismanagement.




Read more:
Australia’s ‘watergate’: here’s what taxpayers need to know about water buybacks


The Barwon-Darling has been described by environmental regulators as “an ecosystem in crisis”. Contributing to the crisis has been a system that allocates scarce water to irrigators and diverts huge volumes of floodwater into private dams.

This arguably illegal practice of “floodplain harvesting” provides huge benefits to cotton exporters.

It is uncertain whether China’s barley decision will bring about changes to Australian water management that downstream communities, irrigators, Indigenous nations and environment groups have long called for.

It would help if water regulators explained what they were doing in terms that can be understood by ordinary Australians and Chinese trade experts alike.


Contributing to this article were Maryanne Slattery, a former director at the Murray Darling Basin Authority and a director of water consultancy Slattery Johnson, Rod Campbell, Research Director at the Australia Institute and Allan Behm, director of the Australia Institute’s International and Security Affairs program.The Conversation

Weihuan Zhou, Senior Lecturer and member of Herbert Smith Freehills CIBEL Centre, Faculty of Law, UNSW Sydney, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Foreign Minister Payne pledges continued fight against Chinese ‘disinformation’



Joel Carrett/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has attacked China’s “disinformation” about racism in this country and committed Australia to a more activist role in pressing for reform of multilateral institutions, including the World Health Organisation.

In a Tuesday night speech titled “Australia and the world in the time of COVID-19”, Payne rebutted criticism of the Morrison government for getting out in front of other countries in pushing for an inquiry into the origins and handling of COVID.

“We can be small in our thinking, timid in purpose and risk averse. Alternatively …we can be confident, believe in Australia’s role in the world and prioritise Australia’s sovereignty – and Australians’ long term interests – by making the difficult decisions and choices,” she said.

Payne condemned countries using COVID “to undermine liberal democracy and promote their own, more authoritarian models.”

“I have also been very clear in rejecting as disinformation the Chinese government’s warnings that tourists and students should reconsider coming here because of the risk of racism.

“I can say emphatically that Australia will welcome students and visitors from all over the world, regardless of race, gender or nationality,” she said, adding that law enforcement agencies would deal with individual crimes.

“The disinformation we have seen contributes to a climate of fear and division when what we need is cooperation and understanding.

“Australia will resist and counter efforts at disinformation. We will do so through facts and transparency, underpinned by liberal democratic values that we will continue to promote at home and abroad.”

Payne said a foreign affairs department audit of Australia’s engagement in multilateral institutions, commissioned by Scott Morrison last year, had recognised the limitations of these bodies. But “Australia’s interests would not be served by stepping away and leaving others to shape the global order for us”.

“We must stand up for our values and bring our influence to bear in these institutions to protect and promote our national interests, and to preserve the open character of international institutions based on universal values and transparency.

“Australia will continue to work to ensure global institutions are fit-for-purpose, relevant and contemporary, accountable to member states, free from undue influence, and have an appropriately strong focus on the Indo-Pacific.

“We will continue to support reform efforts in the United Nations and its agencies to improve transparency, accountability and effectiveness. This is foreign policy designed to use Australian agency and influence to shape a safer world and make us safer at home.”

On the World Health Organisation, she said, “Through our role on the WHO executive board, and proactive participation in a range of regional and global health forums, Australia will present tangible proposals and initiatives to ensure that the global health architecture emerges stronger from Covid-19.”

In general, Australia would direct its efforts to preserving three fundamental parts of the multilateral system:

  • rules protecting sovereignty and peace and enabling international trade and investment

  • international standards on health, transport, telecommunications and other matters underpinning the global economy

  • norms underpinning universal human rights, gender equality and the rule of law.

“We will work to ensure that the development of new rules and norms to address emerging challenges is consistent with enduring values and principles. This is particularly important in the case of critical technologies, including cyber and artificial intelligence, and critical minerals and outer space.”

“Effective multilateralism, conducted through strong and transparent institutions, serves Australia’s interests,” Payne said.

“Our challenge is to ensure the institutions, and our active engagement, delivers for Australia and for Australians. To do this, Australia must better target our role in the global system.

“Australia’s role in seeking an independent review of COVID-19 is a prime example of this active engagement in the national interest,” she said.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

China and India’s deadly Himalayan clash is a big test for Modi. And a big concern for the world.



Michael Kappeler DPA/AAP

Ian Hall, Griffith University

Sometime on Monday, an Indian army patrol skirmished with Chinese troops in the Galwan River Valley, high in the Himalayas.

According to reports, no guns were involved, but the fight left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead from injuries caused by stones, makeshift clubs, and falls down the steep cliffs of the valley.

Although standoffs and even fistfights between Chinese and Indian troops have been relatively common in recent years, there have been no deaths on the disputed border for decades.




Read more:
ScoMosas over Zoom: what to expect from Scott Morrison’s virtual summit with India’s Narendra Modi


Such confrontations are usually defused by talks between commanders on the ground, leading to choreographed disengagements.

In this case, it appears those processes have failed, and at a moment when relations between China and India – both nuclear armed states – are already tense.

Origins of the dispute

When India gained its independence in 1947, it inherited unsettled frontiers with several neighbours.

That situation was exacerbated by Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s decision to seize control of Tibet – which up to that point had been a buffer state – three years later.

More than a decade of failed negotiations to agree a border followed, to the frustration of all. Then, in October 1962, in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Mao ordered a sudden attack on Indian forces.

China decisively won this short “pedagogic war” – designed to teach New Delhi a lesson. It gained ground from India, but then withdrew its forces, bringing them back close to their starting positions.

Since then, a “Line of Actual Control” (LAC) has, in effect, constituted the frontier.

Several more fruitless rounds of talks to settle an official border have taken place. And there have been several military standoffs, including one in 1975 that left four Indian soldiers dead.

Mounting tensions and the threat of war

The Galwan River Valley incident is by far the worst to occur on the LAC for some time. It also comes against a backdrop of several years of deteriorating relations between China and India, dating from the rise to power of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Since 2013, New Delhi has reported a series of incursions by Chinese troops into what it regards at its territory.




Read more:
China-India border dispute a grim sign for stability in Asia


The visits of both Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2013, and Xi in September 2014, were overshadowed by such incidents.

And in mid-2017, there was a ten-week standoff between Chinese and Indian troops in Bhutan, in a disputed area called Doklam (or Donglang).

During that crisis, Beijing openly warned that if New Delhi did not pull back, it might go to war.

Disagreement over other issues

At the same time, China and India have quarrelled and competed over a number of other issues.

New Delhi has emerged as a vocal critic of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and has tried to dissuade other states in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region from signing on to BRI projects.

China and India disagree over more than their borders.
Harish Tyagi EPA/AAP

India has complained about China’s trade practices, pointing to a growing trade deficit with its northern neighbour, as well as Beijing’s alleged attempts to influence the policies of smaller states such as Nepal.

Meanwhile, India has strengthened security ties with the United States, Japan and Australia among others – to Beijing’s obvious irritation.

The biggest test yet

There can be little doubt that what just happened in the Galwan River Valley constitutes the biggest test yet faced by Narendra Modi’s government.

India’s prime minister has long been portrayed as a “strongman”. This image has been burnished by retaliatory strikes against Pakistani targets for cross border terrorism in 2016 and 2019, as well as by his government’s apparent resilience during the Doklam crisis.

Indian public opinion is already angry with China over COVID-19 and in the wake of the deaths on the LAC, some media outlets, as well as opposition politicians, are calling for retaliation.

There have been protests in India after the Himalayan clash.
Sanjeev Gupta EPA/AAP

Modi’s options are, however, constrained.

If he backs down, or even concedes the area around Galwan River Valley that some think Chinese soldiers are now occupying, he could face a political backlash from Indian voters.

If he orders some kind of military response, he risks a wider war. There have been persistent reports of troop build-ups right along the 3,500 kilometre frontier with China.

There is no guarantee a limited action would not escalate into something bigger, nor that India’s friends and partners, including the US, would support such a move.

All eyes now on China

Much depends on what Beijing hopes to gain.

If Xi is simply seeking to humiliate India for perceived transgressions – and warn it off deepening ties with its security partners – he may now order his troops to pull back, having made his point.

But if he wants to redraw the border and send a message to others – in Taiwan, Japan, Southeast Asia, or elsewhere – that China is determined to take what it claims – then deescalating the situation will be very difficult for New Delhi.




Read more:
Why is there so much furore over China’s Belt and Road Initiative?


The Conversation


Ian Hall, Deputy Director (Research), Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus Update


Australia

New Zealand

Germany

Italy

United Kingdom

China

USA

Peru