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China unleashed | Belleville Intelligencer

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China, under Xi Jinping’s leadership since 2012, has shown increasing assertiveness and aggressiveness in its domestic and foreign policies. Upon coming to power, Xi launched a major campaign against corruption within the Communist Party and the government. During this campaign, he purged all potential rivals from his power and emerged with a monopoly of authority unknown since the time of Mao Zedong. Gone is the notion of collective leadership, which was to be replaced by a one-man regime. He strengthened his position by taking full control of the Party’s Military Committee and appointing fully loyal generals from among its members. He is now the undisputed leader of the country, which proclaims himself the champion of socialism with Chinese characteristics or, less modestly, of the thought of Xi Jinping.

From this position of dominance, Xi has launched a number of major initiatives. Among these is the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, which, as the name suggests, aims to provide credits and loans to the poorest Asian countries to help them develop their economic and social infrastructure. Although it is a competitor to the long-established Asian Development Bank, many countries, including Canada, have joined. Another major initiative was the launch of the Belt and Road program. This program has seen massive amounts of Chinese money invested in countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa (Pakistan alone benefits from $ 58 billion). China has used the program strategically to transform countries important to it into economic client states. This is particularly evident in its so-called pearl chain strategy to surround India with countries indebted to China.

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Over the past year or so, China has become increasingly aggressive in pursuing its interests. Last June, China imposed a new security law on Hong Kong. Under this law, protesters and demonstrators can be arrested and jailed for long periods. At its last party convention, held in early March, China drew up new rules for holding elections in Hong Kong. From now on, all candidates for elections must be examined by a new body created for this purpose. Only patriots will be allowed to stand for election, and patriots are defined as people who fully support the Chinese Communist Party regime. This, combined with other rule changes, will have the effect of totally destroying democracy in Hong Kong and making the territory completely subordinate to Beijing. As The Economist noted in a recent article: The imposition of strict continental control over the territory is not only a tragedy for the 7.5 million people who live there. It is also a measure of China’s determination not to compromise on how it asserts its will.

As it introduced its new national security law for Hong Kong, China sparked a military confrontation with India in the high Himalayas. In the clashes that followed, dozens of Indian and Chinese soldiers were killed, which resulted in a serious slowdown in bilateral relations. But that turned out to be only the most obvious manifestation of a Chinese desire to seize contested territory in the Himalayas. According to Chinese documents, the country is involved in an ambitious plan to create some 600 villages in the region. These villages will be inhabited by displaced Tibetan herders and Han Chinese immigrants, and their existence will serve to strengthen Chinese claims on disputed territories. This approach is very similar to that taken by China to expand its control over the South China Sea islands. As Indian strategist Brahma Chellaney concluded in a recent Globe and Mail article: So far, China’s strategy has been as effective on land as it has been at sea. India has not been able to recover any of the territories it had lost in recent Chinese advances.

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China’s decision to bring two detained Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, to justice shows similar aggressiveness. After keeping them in detention for more than 800 days, he timed the trials to coincide with his first high-level meeting with President Joe Biden’s new US administration. It was a deliberate slap on the face of the US president, who had publicly stated that he would call for an end to the arbitrary detention of the two Canadians. The two-hour trials, which took place in secret, are an affront to any normal conception of the rule of law. And the world was treated to the extraordinary sight of diplomats from 15 nations standing outside the Beijing courthouse and being denied access to the courtroom.

The new aggressiveness was also highlighted in the relations between China and Taiwan. In recent months, it has sent hundreds of military planes, including bombers, to the Taiwans Air Defense Identification Zone. This is clearly used as a tactic to dissuade the Taiwanese government from proclaiming independence. And this despite the fact that Taiwan has all the attributes of a viable independent state, a democratically elected government, functioning parliamentary and judicial institutions, a stable and prosperous economy and fairly strong and modern armed forces, and more recently an exemplary response. to the COVID -19 pandemic. Despite all of this, China continues to vehemently proclaim that Taiwan is an integral part of China and will be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary.

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China has been even more assertive in its response to any criticism of its treatment of its Muslim Uyghur population in Xinjiang province. Although there is overwhelming evidence here of widespread human rights violations, the Chinese government simply rejects it as hostile Western propaganda. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the time when other countries could recklessly interfere in China’s internal affairs by making up a story or a lie are long past and will not return. When the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada invoked sanctions against Chinese officials in Xinjiang, the Chinese government went ballistic. He not only verbally criticized the countries concerned, but imposed his own retaliatory sanctions on officials and institutions of the European Union and on Canadian and American parliamentarians. The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa issued a statement saying Canada was unable to teach other countries about human rights given its historic mistreatment of indigenous peoples and the fact that discrimination Systemic racialism is endemic in Canada. And Chinese authorities and state-controlled media have launched a loud campaign against Western garment companies that have publicly denounced forced labor in Xinjiang; some of these companies have had their products taken off the shelves of stores and e-commerce sites in China.

This new level of Chinese aggression is a problem that Western countries will have to get used to. As China’s economic, military and political power continues to grow, leaders will undoubtedly persist in defending their interests regardless of diplomatic niceties or the rule of law. This will usher in a world of very uncomfortable bilateral and multilateral relations, but will not herald a new cold war. Economic interdependence excludes that.

Louis A. Delvoie is a retired Canadian diplomat who served abroad as Ambassador and High Commissioner.

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