‘Vile’: China threatens European Union over vote in support of Taiwan
‘Vile’: China threatens European Union over vote in support of Taiwan
·2 min read
European Union legislators voted overwhelmingly in favor of trade talks with Taiwan and other measures flouting China’s claims to sovereignty over the island, leaving officials in Beijing fuming at the display of tension between Western democracies and the communist regime.
“It is vile in nature and has an egregious impact,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday. “A word for the relevant side: Do not underestimate the Chinese people’s determination, will, and capacity to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
China’s relationship with the European Parliament has soured in recent months, as European condemnation of China’s atrocities against Uyghur Muslims resulted in a trans-Atlantic move to impose sanctions on EU and British lawmakers. China hawks in the European Parliament countered by freezing a major EU-China investment deal, a rebuke compounded Thursday with the endorsement of trade talks and a proposal to rebound the “European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan” as the “European Union in Taiwan” — a loaded name change, given China’s hostility to any sign of political engagement between Taiwan and other governments.
“If the European Union would make such a step, it would be a really big deal, but I doubt it would be possible,” a Baltic official told the Washington Examiner after the vote. The official added, “It reflects the thinking of many European politicians, so that’s a very serious signal.”
China has turned trade relationships to geopolitical advantage in a number of ways, not least of which has been to impede transatlantic unity on issues that U.S. leaders and Western intelligence official regard as security threats from Beijing. Chinese officials have sustained some setbacks in recent years, even before their censorship of early pandemic warnings provoked global outrage, which has enhanced the European desire for good relations with Taiwan.
That interest was reflected in the proposal to abandon the “economic and trade” terms in the current office’s name.
“Countries usually have an economic office, which shows that they have no intentions of any kind of political relations with Taiwan,” the Baltic official said, noting that even cities can have international trade offices. “For China, if the European Union has an office — not a trade office, but a European Union office — that means that the European Union elevates those relations to the political level. That’s a red line for China.”
Wang, the Chinese foreign ministry official, implied that deference to Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over the island, a democratic society that the Chinese Communist regime has never ruled, is “the political foundation of China-EU relations.”
Cross-regional joint statement on the Human Rights Situation in Xinjiang, October 21
Cross-regional joint statement on the Human Rights Situation in Xinjiang, October 21
21.10.2021 – Speech
I have the honor of delivering this cross-regional joint statement on behalf of the following 43 countries: Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Eswatini, Finland, Germany, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and my own country France.
We are particularly concerned about the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Credible-based reports indicate the existence of a large network of “political re-education” camps where over a million people have been arbitrarily detained. We have seen an increasing number of reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations, including reports documenting torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children. There are severe restrictions on freedom of religion or belief and the freedoms of movement, association and expression as well as on Uyghur culture. Widespread surveillance disproportionately continues to target Uyghurs and members of other minorities.
We also share the concerns expressed by UN Special Procedures in their 29 March statement and the letter published by UN experts describing collective repression of religious and ethnic minorities.
We thus call on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office, and relevant special procedure mandate holders, as well as to urgently implement CERD’s eight recommendations related to Xinjiang. We welcome the High Commissioner’s announcement to present her findings to date and encourage publication as soon as possible. In view of our concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, we call on all countries to respect the principle of non-refoulement. We also call on China to ratify without delay the ICCPR.
We urge China to ensure full respect for the rule of law and to comply with its obligations under national and international law with regard to the protection of human rights.
Turkey for the first time joins in annual rebuke of Beijing
China points to support it says it received from 62 nations
A group of 43 countries denounced China’s human rights record at the United Nations on Thursday, criticizing Beijing for its detainment of Uyghurs in the western region of Xinjiang.
While the group of mostly Western nations criticizes China annually in the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee, that rebuke was joined this year for the first time by countries including Turkey, Eswatini and Liberia. The new additions to last year’s group, which included 39 nations, help push back against Chinese claims that the rebuke is part of a Western effort to keep China from rising.
“We have seen an increasing number of reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations, including reports documenting torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children,” French Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said on behalf of the group. “Widespread surveillance disproportionately continues to target Uyghurs and members of other minorities.”
China shot back, with a Cuban envoy delivering a statement on behalf of 62 countries calling for respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of states. Zhang Jun, China’s UN ambassador, called the criticism baseless at a news conference after the UN meeting, and he blamed the U.S. for pressuring other nations to side against China.
“The U.S. and a few other countries are desperately trying to cover up their own terrible human rights record,” Zhang said. “The days when Western countries could bully and oppress developing countries are long gone.”
The international community has piled pressure on China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, where the UN estimates hundreds of thousands of members of the ethnic minority have been held in “re-education camps.” Beijing has defended the camps as “vocational education centers” intended to “purge ideological diseases,” including terrorism and religious extremism.
The UN group further called on China to allow “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers,” including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The group also called on countries not to send back asylum-seekers from Xinjiang in light of the “human rights situation” there.
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Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch, said the UN statement is significant because “for the first time, all UN regional groups joined in calling for the violations in Xinjiang to stop and UN investigators to get immediate access. UN member states should establish an international commission of inquiry to formally investigate alleged crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and recommend avenues for holding those responsible to account.”
The UN move comes after U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday asked the U.S. Customs and Border Protection about its enforcement of the ban on cotton imports from China’s Xinjiang region, saying the upcoming National Basketball Association season raises concerns about endorsement deals some athletes have with Chinese sportswear companies.
The Biden administration has stood by a declaration made on the final full day of the Trump administration that China is committing “genocide” in Xinjiang, a decision denounced by officials in Beijing.
In May, Europe suspended ratification of an investment pact with China, after the two sides exchanged tit-for-tat sanctions over Xinjiang. The European Parliament subsequently passed a resolution urging a boycott of the Winter Olympics next year in Beijing due to the issue.
Ambassador pick emphasizes US strengths in countering China
Ambassador pick emphasizes US strengths in countering China
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Senate US China
U.S. Ambassador to China nominee Nicholas Burns speaks during a hearing to examine his nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s pick for ambassador to Beijing told lawmakers considering his nomination on Wednesday that Americans should “have confidence in our strength” when dealing with the rise of China, a nation he said the U.S. and its allies could manage.
Nicholas Burns, a former senior State Department official and diplomat with decades of experience in Washington and overseas, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a time when the Biden administration is trying to swing U.S. focus overseas to managing competition with China. The post of China ambassador stands to be one of the most important for U.S. foreign policy.
China’s assertiveness militarily, diplomatically and economically in the region and beyond under its ambitious president, Xi Jinping, increasingly has given rise to warnings of a new Cold War. This includes hawkish talk of an arms race with warnings of China threatening to overtake the U.S. in high tech, trade, military technology and other arenas while challenging the U.S. for world influence.
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In his testimony Wednesday, Burns had a calmer take, framing the U.S. relationship with China as manageable.
China “is not an Olympian power,” Burns said. While a country of “extraordinary strength,” it also has “substantial” weaknesses and challenges politically, economically and demographically.
“We should have confidence in our strength, American strengths, confidence in our business community, in our innovation community, in our universities, in our ability to attract the best students from around the world, confidence in our unmatched military. In our first rate Foreign Service and civil service, confidence in our values that stand in brilliant opposition to China’s authoritarian regime.
“We will succeed if we build this American strength around our diplomacy,” he said.
He emphasized building alliances in the Indo-Pacific as essential to countering China. That included praising the defense alliance Biden announced last month with Australia and the United Kingdom as potentially “transformational.” Domestically, the defense pact is best known for triggering French pique, when Australia broke off a deal for French-made submarines in favor of subs with U.S. nuclear power.
Burns also gave what would be a rare bit of credit from the Biden administration to its predecessor, praising President Donald Trump and his last secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, for reinvigorating a bloc with Australia, India and Japan.
He echoed the Biden administration’s stand on cooperating with China where possible but condemning many of its actions, calling China’s treatment of its largely Muslim Uyghur minority “genocide” and its trade practices unacceptable. He aligned with U.S. support for Taiwan and Hong Kong in the face of China’s military and political actions there.
As the No. 3 State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, Burns led negotiations to control Iran’s nuclear program and to close a nuclear deal with India, which some have criticized as weakening longstanding policy on nuclear nonproliferation. His work since leaving the foreign service includes teaching diplomacy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Burns’ status as a senior statesman under Republican and Democratic administrations is likely to win his nomination broad support in a Senate vote. However, two Republican senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, are pledging to block Biden’s nominees over unrelated disputes, creating what the Biden administration says is a critical shortfall in U.S. diplomatic representation abroad.
General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and paramount leader of China
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LONDON (Reuters) -Chinese President Xi Jinping will not attend the COP26 climate summit in person, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been told, The Times newspaper reported.
Britain, which hosts the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, in Glasgow on Oct. 31-Nov 12, is seeking to get big power support for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.
“It is now pretty clear that Xi is not going to turn up and the PM has been told that,” The Times quoted an unidentified British source as saying. “What we don’t know is what stance the Chinese are going to take.”
The Times said British organisers fear that Xi’s decision to stay away could be a prelude to China refusing to set new climate change goals amid an energy crunch.
The Chinese embassy in London could not be reached for immediate comment.
Xi, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, has not left the People’s Republic since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic. He has joined video calls with global leaders.
China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter so Xi’s absence from discussions – either in person or via video calls – would mark a setback for Johnson’s hopes of getting world leaders to agree a significant climate deal.
Xi, 68, who has served as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party since 2012, attended the 2015 Paris climate conference.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has been overheard saying that she was irritated by world leaders who talk about climate change but then do very little or nothing to address the crisis.
“Extraordinary isn’t it. I’ve been hearing all about COP,” the 95-year-old monarch told Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the wife of her son, Charles, Prince of Wales and the presiding officer of the Welsh assembly. “Still don’t know who is coming…”
“It’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do,” Elizabeth said in a conversation picked up by a microphone.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kate Holton and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
Chinese officials accused Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen of promoting a “two-state theory” of relations between Beijing and Taipei, as the mainland communist regime uses a surge in fighter jet sorties to assert sovereignty over the island democracy.
“Both sides across the Taiwan Strait belong to one China, and their relations are by no means ‘state-to-state,’” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman, Ma Xiaoguang, told the South China Morning Post. “We will never tolerate any act of Taiwan independence and will never allow Taiwan to split from China.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has never ruled Taiwan, but the regime has claimed sovereignty over the island since the Chinese communist revolution in 1949. That dispute has crackled in recent days, as Chinese warplanes harried Taiwan’s air defense zone in the lead-up to the national day celebrations in both capitals, and the saber-rattling has alarmed President Joe Biden’s administration and lawmakers.
“Xi is calculating that President Biden doesn’t have the fortitude to step in and defend Taiwan — Biden needs to prove him wrong,” Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday. “The Chinese Communist Party seeks to take control of Taiwan and subjugate its people to their will. President Biden cannot let that happen.”
Tsai hailed her government’s growing relationship with key democratic powers and struck a defiant tone against Beijing in her National Day speech on Sunday.
“Taiwan today is no longer seen as the orphan of Asia, but as an Island of Resilience that can face challenges with courage,” she said. “Let us here renew with one another our enduring commitment to a free and democratic constitutional system, our commitment that the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China should not be subordinate to each other, our commitment to resist annexation or encroachment upon our sovereignty, and our commitment that the future of the Republic of China (Taiwan) must be decided in accordance with the will of the Taiwanese people.”
That language drew the rebuke from Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a wayward province masquerading as a country. “The so-called ‘not subordinate to each other’ is the explicit rhetoric of the ‘two-state theory,’” Ma protested. “Since 1949, although the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have not been completely reunified, the fact that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China has never changed and cannot be changed.”
Imperial Chinese authorities lost control of Taiwan in 1895 after losing a war with Japan, which proceeded to rule the island until the Second World War. The Republic of China government, founded in 1912 after the collapse of the imperial government, fled across the strait as its communist rivals won a civil war. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a mutual defense treaty with that government in 1954, but President Jimmy Carter abrogated that deal and established diplomatic relations with the mainland communist regime in a bipartisan bid to drive a wedge between Beijing and the Soviet Union.
“We have been very clear that our support for Taiwan is rock solid,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday, touting the long-standing “unofficial” relationship between Washington and Taipei. “We’ve also been very clear that we are committed to deepening our ties with Taiwan. We know that Taiwan is a leading democracy. It is a critical economic and security partner.”
U.S. military strategists regard Taiwan as a crucial link in a chain of democracies off the coast of China that impede Beijing’s military operations in the region and contributes to U.S. efforts to protect allies and keep shipping lanes open.
“The more we achieve, the greater the pressure we face from China,” Tsai said. “Free and democratic countries around the world have been alerted to the expansion of authoritarianism, with Taiwan standing on democracy’s first line of defense.”
Private companies will be prohibited from publishing or broadcasting news about politics, culture, sport, and pretty much everything else.
by Hu Zimo
Every year, China publishes a “Negative Market Access List,” jointly issued by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce, and approved by the Central Committee of the CCP. The list explains what activities are forbidden to non-state actors, including foreign investors and “non-public capital,” meaning private companies.
As many other Chinese regulations, first a draft is published for comments, and then the norms are enacted, normally with few changes if any with respect to the draft. The draft “Negative Market Access List” for 2021 has been published on October 8.
Foreign media have emphasized the prohibition of investing in cryptocurrency mining, which was expected, and mentioned the National Development and Reform Commission’s statement that the 2021 list is less restrictive than its 2020 version, as the number of activities restricted or prohibited to non-state actors has been reduced from 123 to 117.
This, however, is propaganda. Much more important than the number of restricted activities is the crackdown on any non-state presence in the field of information.
Number 6 of the Lists states that,
“–Non-public capital may not engage in news gathering, editing and broadcasting business.
–Non-public capital shall not invest in the establishment and operation of news agencies, including but not limited to news agencies, newspaper publishing, radio and television broadcasters, radio and television stations, and Internet news and information collection and publishing services, etc.
–Non-public capital may not operate news organizations, such as pages, frequencies, channels, columns, or public accounts.
–Non-public capital shall not engage in live broadcast of political, economic, military, diplomatic, social, cultural, scientific and technological, health, education, sports and other activities related to political direction, or public opinion and value orientation.
–Non-public capital may not introduce news issued by foreign subjects.
–Non-public capital is not allowed to hold forums and summits and give awards in the field of news and public opinion.”
In practice, this means that all information, in all forms and fields, should be not only controlled (which would not be new) but directly produced exclusively by public actors, i.e., by the CCP.
But Mr Xi’s remarks on Saturday were more conciliatory than his last major intervention on Taiwan in July, where he pledged to “smash” any attempts at formal Taiwanese independence.
Speaking at an event marking the 110th anniversary of the revolution that overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty in 1911, he said unification in a “peaceful manner” was “most in line with the overall interest of the Chinese nation, including Taiwan compatriots”.
But he added: “No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled,” he said.
But Taiwan’s presidential office said that public opinion was very clear in rejecting one country, two systems. In a separate statement, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council called on China to abandon its “provocative steps of intrusion, harassment and destruction”.
Shortly before Mr Xi spoke in Beijing, Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang accused China of “flexing its muscles” and stoking tensions.
China and Taiwan: The basics
Why do China and Taiwan have poor relations? China and Taiwan were divided during a civil war in the 1940s, but Beijing insists the island will be reclaimed at some point, by force if necessary
How is Taiwan governed? The island has its own constitution, democratically elected leaders, and about 300,000 active troops in its armed forces
Who recognises Taiwan? Only a few countries recognise Taiwan. Most recognise the Chinese government in Beijing instead. The US has no official ties with Taiwan but does have a law which requires it to provide the island with the means to defend itself
Despite the recent heightened tensions, relations between China and Taiwan have not deteriorated to levels last seen in 1996 when China tried to disrupt presidential elections with missile tests and the US dispatched aircraft carriers to the region to dissuade them.
And while a number of Western countries have expressed concern at China’s displays of military might, US President Joe Biden said Mr Xi had agreed to abide by the “Taiwan agreement”.
However, this agreement also allows Washington to maintain a “robust unofficial” relationship with Taiwan. The US sells arms to Taiwan as part of Washington’s Taiwan Relations Act, which states that the US must help Taiwan defend itself.
In an interview with the BBC this week, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US will “stand up and speak out” over any actions that may “undermine peace and stability” across the Taiwan Strait.
WASHINGTON – Tensions between the U.S. and China have flared in recent days as the Biden administration rebuked Beijing for its military aggression against Taiwan, prompting a fierce backlash from Chinese officials.
The verbal sparring serves as a stark illustration of China’s mounting aggression against its neighbors and highlights President Joe Biden’s quandary as he tries to counter China’s military expansion.
Some experts fear that if the brewing “cold war” between Washington and Beijing turns hot, Taiwan will be the spark. China views Taiwan as part of its territory; Taiwan sees itself as an independent, sovereign nation. The U.S. has long tried to navigate a fraught middle ground that aims to support Taiwan without infuriating China. That balancing act is now being stress-tested.
On Sunday, the State Department accused Beijing of engaging in “provocative” and “destabilizing” behavior and reiterated America’s support for Taiwan.
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Sunday. “The U.S. commitment to Taiwan is rock solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
In response, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, essentially told the Biden administration to butt out.
“Taiwan belongs to China, and the U.S. is in no position to make irresponsible remarks,” she said on Monday. “China will take all necessary measures to resolutely crush all attempts at ‘Taiwan independence.'”
Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-Wen, cast the latest confrontation in stark terms, saying her country is “on the frontlines of a new clash of ideologies” between democracy and authoritarianism.
“If Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system,” she wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday by Foreign Affairs magazine. “It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy.”
Weighing threat vs. bluster
Experts are divided over whether the record number of Chinese military flights, along with other recent threats against Taiwan, signal a looming invasion of the territory or military bluster. But most agree the Biden administration needs to tread carefully to avoid stumbling into a war with a country that has spent billions of dollars transforming its military over the past decade.
“There’s a bit of a war scare right now, with some people believing that a Chinese attack on Taiwan could come sooner rather than later,” said Eric Heginbotham, a research scientist at MIT’s Center for International Studies and expert in Asian security issues.
Craig Singleton, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a hawkish think thank, noted that China’s recent moves began on China’s national day celebration and said they have more to do with stirring up nationalist sentiment than with threatening Taiwan or provoking the U.S.
“It would be a mistake to read too much into these latest military maneuvers,” he said.
He said Xi Jinping’s government is under intense internal stress because of economic problems, most notably the possible default of Evergrande, an overleveraged real estate giant that helped fuel China’s housing bubble. Xi will continue to pursue hostile policies toward the U.S. and Taiwan as he tries to cement his grip on power before next fall’s Communist Party gathering, Singleton said.
“The potential for miscalculation vis-a-vis Taiwan is only likely to increase in the lead-up to next October’s Party Congress,” he said.
Bonny Lin, an expert on China with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said China’s leaders have incentives to exaggerate the country’s military capabilities for deterrence and coercion, and she notes the country spends more on internal security – surveillance and repression of dissent – than it does on its external defense.
‘Obsessed’ with China as its military spending skyrockets
Biden has put China at the center of his foreign policy, arguing that Beijing’s economic growth and military expansion is a threat to American prosperity, Western democracy and the international order.
That outlook has driven many of Biden’s priorities – including a recent defense agreement with Australia designed to counter China’s regional aggression.
Lin said that deal was a good first step, but it’s impact won’t be clear for decades.
“In terms of how much it changes the military balance of power, it remains to be seen,” she said, noting it will take 20 to 30 years for the submarines in the U.S.-Australia agreement to come online. Other elements of the agreement, such as provisions to share artificial intelligence, need to be fleshed out, she said.
Heginbotham and others note that China has dramatically increased its military capabilities in recent years. It now boasts the world’s largest Navy in terms of the number of ships, and it has formidable ballistic and cruise missile programs.
Biden’s secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, has said the U.S. military needs to retool its strategy to focus on advanced technologies that will “scare” China. He made the remarks in an interview in August with Defense News.
“I’ve been obsessed, if you will, with China for quite a long time now – and its military modernization, what that implies for the U.S. and for security,” Kendall told the news outlet. “They’re moving faster than I might have anticipated. So, we have a lot of work to do.”
China’s military expenditures are the second-highest in the world after the United States, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China’s defense spending has increased for 26 consecutive years, the longest series of uninterrupted increases by any country, according to the institute’s analysis.
Heginbotham says China has the ability to inflict significant damage on the U.S. in a way its military has not experienced in decades.
“That doesn’t mean war is imminent or even in the foreseeable future,” he said. And policymakers in Washington need to be careful not to provoke an unwanted conflict by tinkering with U.S. policy on Taiwan, he said.
Lin said that as China has become stronger economically and militarily over the past decade, it also has become more willing to use that strength to coerce neighboring countries. Lin does not believe Xi’s government will launch an invasion of Taiwan anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. can turn its attention elsewhere.
“We still need to be there to support our allies and partners,” she said.
China says its policies aimed at narrowing the widening wealth gap are precisely what it needs in this moment of its economic trajectory – but critics say it comes with even greater control of how business and society will be governed.
And while this “common prosperity” drive is squarely focused on people inside the country it has the potential to have huge repercussions for the rest of the world.
One of the most visible consequences of common prosperity has been the refocusing of corporate China’s priorities to the domestic market.
Technology giant Alibaba, which in recent years has seen its global profile rise, has now committed $15.5bn (£11.4bn) to help promote common prosperity initiatives in China, and set up a dedicated task force, spearheaded by its boss Daniel Zhang.
The firm says it is a beneficiary of the country’s economic progress, and that “if society is doing well and the economy is doing well, then Alibaba will do well”.
Rival tech giant Tencent is pitching too. It has pledged $7.75bn to the cause.
China Inc. is keen to show it is playing ball with the Party’s mandate – but when the push towards more companies publicly backing Xi Jinping’s new vision first started, it did come as a “bit of a shock”, one major Chinese company told me privately.
“But then we got quite used to the idea. It’s not about robbing the rich. It’s about restructuring society, and building up the middle class. And we are a consumption business at the end of the day – so it’s good for us.”
Luxury sector may lose out
If common prosperity means an increased focus on the emerging Chinese middle class – then that could mean it is a boon for global businesses catering to these customers.
“We can see that the focus on young people getting jobs is good,” Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, told me.
“If they feel they are part of social mobility in this country, which has been eroding, then it is good for us. Because when the middle class grows, then there is more opportunity.”
However, businesses that are tied to the luxury sector may not do as well, Mr Wuttke warns.
“Chinese spending accounts for about 50% of luxury consumption globally – and if China’s rich decide to buy less Swiss watches, Italian ties and European luxury cars then this industry will take a hit.”
But while Mr Wuttke acknowledges China’s economy does need critical reforms to increase the amount an average Chinese person earns, he says common prosperity may not be the most efficient way to get there.
Steven Lynch of the British Chamber of Commerce in China also says common prosperity is not a guarantee that the middle class will grow in the same way it has in the last forty years.
He likes to tell a story about how quickly the Chinese economy has expanded over the last few decades.
“Thirty years ago a Chinese family could have a bowl of dumplings once a month,” he told me on the phone from Beijing. “Twenty years ago, perhaps they could have a bowl once a week. Ten years ago – that changed to everyday. Now: they can buy a car.”
But so far Mr Lynch says, common prosperity hasn’t resulted in anything concrete, besides the sorts of corporate social responsibility efforts that Alibaba and Tencent have adopted.
“There are also a lot of instant regulations sprung on a lot of sectors,” he said of the recent crackdown on technology companies. “That causes uncertainty – and raises questions. If they are turning more inward – then do they really need the rest of the world?”
The ‘new socialism’
At its heart common prosperity is about making Chinese society more equitable, at least according to the Communist Party. And this has the potential to transform what socialism means in the global context.
“The Party is now concerned about average workers – like taxi drivers, migrant workers and delivery boys,” says Wang Huiyao of the Centre for China and Globalisation from Beijing.
“China wants to avoid the polarised society that some Western countries have, which we have seen leads to deglobalisation and nationalisation.”
But long time China-observers say that if transforming socialism – with Chinese characteristics – into an alternative model for the rest of us is really what the Party wants, then common prosperity is not the way.
“It is part of the leftward lurch and part of the lurch towards ever more control that has been indicative of Xi Jinping’s tenure,” says George Magnus, associate at the China Centre at Oxford University.
Mr Magnus adds that common prosperity does not mean replicating a European style social welfare model.
“The implicit pressure is to comply with the Party’s goals,” he says. “There will be tax on high and ‘unreasonable’ incomes, and pressure on private firms to donate to Party economic objectives,” he says, “but no big move towards progressive taxation”.
A top down Utopian China
It is clear that common prosperity is a major part of how the Chinese state and society will be governed under Xi Jinping.
With this comes the promise of a more equitable society – a bigger and wealthier middle class, and companies that give back rather than just take.
A sort of top down Utopian China, that the Party is hoping will prove to be a viable alternative model for the world to what the West has on offer.
But it does come with a catch: even more control and power in the hands of the Party.
China has always been a difficult environment for foreign businesses to operate in, common prosperity means that the world’s second largest economy just got even more difficult to navigate.
This is the third in a three-part series looking at China’s changing role in the world.