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China’s rise – risks and opportunities for Eurasia

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Balancing economic growth with demographic decline, calibrating brewing social expectations, tempting anti-politics of nationalism, all with the security dilemmas remains a fundamental issue for Beijing, but also for the most of Eurasia. Former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, distinguished Yale University professor and friend of MD, Stephen S. Roach gives his highly interesting account on the topic.

It has taken nearly seven years of internal debate, but China now seems set to embark on a new economic course. Its long awaited pro-consumption rebalancing is finally at hand, or at least that seems the verdict to be taken from last November’s Third Plenum of the Central Committee of China’s 18th Party Congress.

The debate over China’s growth strategy began in earnest in March 2007, when former Premier Wen Jiabao pondered the fate of an economy that looked strong on the surface, but which in his own words was beneath the surface increasingly “unbalanced, unstable, un-coordinated, and ultimately unsustainable.” These “Four Uns” underscored the realisation that China’s highly successful “Producer Model” powered by exports and fixed investment had outlived its usefulness. That left the option of a rebalancing towards more of a consumer society, a strategy that was formally endorsed in March 2011 in the 12th Five-Year Plan.

But that plan was always more of a broad framework than a detailed transformational blueprint. It was up to China’s newly installed fifth generation of leaders headed by Xi Jinping to put the plan into action. The Third Plenum provided that opportunity, and by focusing on social reforms it filled in an important missing piece of the 12th Five-Year Plan. Committing 30% of the profits of China’s state-owned enterprises to funding woefully under-funded safety-net programmes like retirement and healthcare will make Chinese families’ futures much more secure. Other reforms to the one-child family planning policies, the residential permit (hukou) system, and a likely shift to market-based deposit interest rates also featured prominently in the Third Plenum.

China now has a well-articulated strategy (the 12th Five-Year Plan) as well as a comprehensive implementation framework (Third Plenum), both of which complement each other in the transition to a new economic model. The plan established new opportunities for emerging middle class consumers – more job creation via the development of an embryonic services sector and higher wages that come with aggressive urbanisation. Together, they will provide an important impetus for higher incomes and more consumer purchasing power. The social reforms of the Third Plenum complete the circle by prompting shifts in behavioural norms that should provide incentives for Chinese families to reduce their fear-driven precautionary saving and allocate more income toward discretionary spending.

With China on the cusp of a major structural transformation, there’s enormous opportunity for its major trading partners to participate in what could well be the most spectacular consumption bonanza of the 21st century. Unlike Japan, which was modern Asia’s first growth miracle, although a relatively closed economy, there is good reason to believe that China will be much more effective at spreading the wealth. China’s imports have averaged 28% of its GDP since 2002 – triple Japan’s historical ratio – and its neighbours in Asia are specially well positioned to benefit from the coming upsurge in Chinese consumption – not just because of their proximity but also because they have long provided critical supply chain inputs to Chinese producers and assemblers.

A simple extrapolation helps convey the dimension of this coming opportunity. It is based on three key assumptions: One, that average Chinese GDP growth will tail off to about to about 7% between now and 2025. Two, that the growth rate in U.S. dollar terms will be about 1.5 percentage points faster per annum due to the steady appreciation of China’s currency, the renminbi. Three, that the consumption share of Chinese GDP increases by about 1 percentage point a year, starting in 2014, from its current rock-bottom portion of 35%. Under those conditions, Chinese consumption would increase between now and 2025 by about $10 trillion in U.S. dollar terms. If the import share of its GDP holds at the historical norm of 28%, that would translate into incremental growth of nearly $3 trillion that would be available to China’s trading partners.

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The coming structural transformation of the Chinese economy will only deepen China’s now well-established role as the dominant economic engine in Asia

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Export-led Asia will be first in line to benefit from this rebalancing bonanza, because China is now many Asian countries’ largest export market. It wasn’t always that way; throughout the 1990s, the United States and Europe were the largest export markets for most Asian economies other than China. Then, around the turn of the century, Asian exporters started to draw greater support from China, and that’s especially true of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The World Trade Organisation says their exports to China account for an average 23% of their total export earnings. For ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, shipments to China generally rank in the top three export destinations and account for around 12% of their total exports.

So as an increasingly open Chinese economy shifts from export-led to consumer-led growth, the rest of Asia will be well positioned to capitalise on this latest shift in China’s development. The China-centric character of Asia’s export-led growth dynamic offers the region a new and potentially powerful source of economic growth at just the point in time when many are questioning the dynamism of the developing world.
The coming structural transformation of the Chinese economy will only deepen China’s now well-established role as the dominant economic engine in Asia. Data from the International Monetary Fund underscores recent dramatic shifts in China’s economic leadership position. In 2012, the Chinese share of world output was estimated at 14.7% when measured on a purchasing-power parity basis which adjusts for international disparities in pricing structures. In other words, China accounted for nearly 43% of total Asian output in 2012, up from about 36% of the Asian total in 2000. China’s export impetus was even more powerful, its one-third share of all Asian exports in 2012 was 2.3 times the 14% share in 2000.

The rebalancing from the producer model towards a consumer society will undoubtedly change the character of China’s economic leadership in Asia. It will become an economy that relies increasingly on its trading partners – not just in Asia but even in the developed economies of Europe and America – as sources for its emerging internal demand of both goods and services. That stands in contrast with the first phase of the Chinese development miracle from 1980 to 2007, where the producer model squeezed out others for market share. In that vein, the rebalancing of China’s economy should be viewed as an opportunity for its major trading partners, especially in Asia.

But the opening up of a rebalanced Chinese economy to Asian partners comes with a possible offsetting wildcard – mounting pan-regional strategic frictions between China and its neighbors. This would be, to say the least, a disconcerting development. That’s especially true of the deep-rooted animosity between China and Japan now being exacerbated by the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. It will be especially difficult for two nationalistic leaders, Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe, to defuse these tensions without damaging their carefully cultivated public support for the “China Dream” or the rejuvenation of Japan after two lost decades. The establishment of overlapping air defense identification zones over the disputed islands is already heightening the risk of a military accident that could then escalate.
There isn’t as much geopolitical tranquility as might be wished elsewhere on China’s borders. Tensions over maritime security lanes in the South China Sea have been mounting, leading to frictions with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and India. Add Washington’s “Asian pivot” to the equation, with its shift in American naval strategy back towards Asia, and there’s little mistaking China’s growing sense of geo-strategic isolation. Acutely sensitive to these risks, the Third Plenum’s establishment of a new State Security Council, rumored to be headed by Xi Jinping and apparently modelled after the U.S. National Security Council, looks set to elevate geostrategic security concerns as a major consideration for China.

This is a precarious balancing act. The pan-Asian economic opportunities that will stem from China’s pro-consumption rebalancing could go for naught if regional security tensions were to boil over. Historians have long warned of the risks of its rising power, and the record-breaking speed of China’s economic ascendancy only accentuates these risks.
Modern China’s leaders have long spoken of the “peaceful rise” of their nation, and its focus on internal stability and rising prosperity, with an absence of territorial ambitions. The rest of Asia has benefitted greatly from the economic rise of China, and is likely to realize even greater benefits from the coming consumer-led transformation of the Chinese economy. The risk that escalating geostrategic security considerations might compromise those benefits remains a worrisome wildcard for Asia and the world at large.

(First published by the Europe’s World, article re-posted per author’s permission)

East Asia

Hollywood with Chinese Characteristics

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Authors: Dr. Abhishek Srivastava and Ms. Shreyasi*

Cinemas are an effective tool to project soft power and influence communities at large. A number of Hollywood production-finance firms in the last decade have seen a major rise in Chinese investments. Some of the biggest Hollywood box office hits are backed by Yuan. To maximize profit off of the Chinese domestic movie consumption market, these movies either have elements of Chinese culture or they self-censor to appease the Chinese censorship authorities. A dominant explanation to this phenomenon is that China pursues a significant influence in the American culture by infiltrating Hollywood. Hollywood itself has, through its movies, exported American values since its inception. Any impact on this industry will consequently reflect on its movie consumers eventually.

China wears the global box office crown worth $7.3 billion and reigns as the biggest movie consumer market in the world. It bounced back from the pandemic slump of 2020 and turned twice the amount of revenue only 26% less than pre-pandemic numbers. During the pandemic movie theatres all over the world were shut down, literally zeroing down the movie theatre business. China due to its regime style, somehow managed to open up theatres to some extent and garner revenues.

China opened its domestic movie market for outside films only in the 1990’s. The ever-growing domestic movie market China has made it a golden spot for foreign language films to get screen time and thereby huge returns. More and more Hollywood movies and especially blockbuster category movies are lining up to get a spot since Chinese authorities allow only 34 films per year quota to foreign language movies. This strategy along with the promise of money has resulted in Hollywood movies altering their plot, stories, scenes etc., to suite the regulations of the Chinese censorship authority. The censorship authority’s aim is to induct Chinese values and promote their ideas through the Hollywood movies. Last 10 years has culminated into an intersection of free market and Chinese censorship. This is an unprecedented path whose outcome is very unpredictable.

Another strategy is the use of China’s economic power to get into the American movie business and then trying to induct a cultural change. Los Angeles has a big presence of Chinese firms and conglomerates who have major or minor shares in big production houses or have co- financed individual movie projects. It is not only limited to production companies but theatre chains, distributing retails and public relations management companies are also being brought by Chinese firms.

Chinese Soft power and public diplomacy through movies

Joseph Nye coined the term soft power and further broadened the area of study to public diplomacy. Much of what he has written on soft power, tools used by the United States to exercise soft power is relevant even today. According to Nye, Hollywood in itself is the biggest soft power influencer of the United States. The power Hollywood movies have had on different countries through generations is incomparable.

According to Stanley Rosen, a professor of political science in University of South California and a specialist on politics in the People’s Republic of China, even after spending $10 billion year in exercising soft power, China has not been able to compete with the U.S. Chinese soft power is much more involved in dealing with the domestic crowd. Much of the soft power is controlled by the state. This does not allow a natural spurt in soft power. Successful American soft power on the other hand has largely grown away from the clutches of the government. And this is what Chinese authorities are trying to bank on.

China in Hollywood

As explained before, the Chinese production house and firms exert control by buying up screen spaces. But movies themselves self-censor to appease the censorship board of China. The aim is to make it to the list of 34 movies which is allowed screen time in the domestic movie landscape. Chinese real-estate and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co. has signed a deal for a majority stake in Legendary Entertainment that would value the U.S. film and television company at nearly $4 billion. Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings bought 10% of Skydance Media, the Hollywood company behind movie Terminator. The valuation of the deal of the production company is at approximately $1.5 billion. As part of the arrangement, Tencent and Skydance will co-finance movies, TV shows and video game projects too.

Apart from the Chinese values, an instance which shows the Chinese government’s good governance, foresight, China’s technology boom, good standard of living are expected to be shown in the movie by the producers themselves. The production houses of these movies often have Chinese co-financiers who work to make the Chinese authority happy. Any image which shows the country in a bad light is frowned upon. In the disaster movie, 2012, humanity is saved because the Chinese government had the foresight to build the life-saving arcs. In Gravity, Sandra Bullock survives by getting herself to the Chinese Space Station which was shown to be the most advanced one.

The 2006 released book titled World War Z, a zombie apocalyptic horror novel written by American author Max Brooks was adapted in a 2013 movie of the same name by the Paramount pictures production. The original plot of the book is about a global pandemic in which people infected with the virus turns into a zombie. The virus origins or the patient zero as mentioned in the book is found in China but the movie adaptation refers to the source of the virus to be in Taiwan. This allowed the release of the movie in Chinese theatres.

In 2014, hacked Sony e-mails revealed that the original script of the movie PIXELS, which was released in 2015, called for blowing up of the Great Wall of China but finally in the movie, Taj Mahal of Agra is seen being blown up. This change was done with the hope that the movie could gain access to the Chinese theatre market. Blowing up of a national heritage site was not something the audience or the national film agencies of China would have appreciated. This incident is a classic example of American movie self- censoring themselves to gain access to a huge market, thereby ensuring a decent profit margin.

Understanding how important movies are in constructing imagery, the Chinese authorities make sure the country is represented in the fairest and best way possible. This includes hand picking visuals of the country in movies, curating dialogues, altering plots, storylines and characters, changing the way the people are represented in the movies. The censorship is so strong and rigid that certain words and cases are not allowed in the movies. Issues of homosexuality, democratic values and free spirit, rejection of authority, liberty and equal rights are certain areas which are a significant part of the Western cultural discourse. Nuances regarding these issues are often put up in public discourse through movies. But when such movies are presented to the Chinese censorship for approval, scenes representing these issues are straight away omitted. This is an attempt by the authority to isolate the local population from western cultural values. A prime example is the 2018 hit, Oscar awarded movie The Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie represented the life and times of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the British music band The Queen and a well-known member of the LGBT community who died of AIDS. The movie’s cut which was shown in Chinese theatres lacked certain sections of the cinema which talked about the lead singer’s life as a homo sexual. This takes us again to Stanley Rosen’s argument that a bigger chunk of Chinese soft power strategy is within its border for its own public. The country keeps her media in check by regulating movies, especially foreign ones.

The 1997 movie, Seven years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt, depicts China’s controversial takeover of Tibet and the harsh Chinese rule in the country. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud and stars Brad Pitt and David Thewlis were allegedly banned from even entering China.

In the May month of 2021, actor John Cena apologised publicly on Chinese social media platform for referring Taiwan as a country. The production house of the movie, Universal pictures has a long-term co-financing deal with a Chinese entertainment company called the Perfect World Pictures. The movie is backed by Chinese money which made it mandatory for the actor to publicly apologise.

The sensitivity regarding Taiwan is so much that even public acknowledgement of the island nation as a country sparks outrage and objection by China. Tibet, Taiwan, Tiannamen square, Uighur province etc. are certain sensitive issues for the Chinese. The authority does not want any incident, in real life or in movies, to happen that could legitimise their existence, both amongst the domestic and the international audience.

China’s sensitivity to Tibet could be seen in the 2016 hit movie Doctor Strange, part of the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe of the Marvel production house. The ethnicity of a major character was changed completely. In the original comic books, the Ancient one is a Tibetan character, and the studio that was making Doctor Strange changed it to a Celtic character. The movie went on to earn around $109 million in the country. Eliminating a Tibetan character is an attempt to remove the issue of Tibet from the minds of any average movie watcher.

One of the top three highest grossing films in the box office of 2022 is the movie Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel to the 1986 movie Top Gun. In the original 1986 movie, the central character of Tom Cruise’s wears a jacket which went on to become a national rage in Northern America and consequently in more English language movie watching countries. The jacket on its back had a flag patch of US, Japan and Taiwan. In the trailer for the sequel released around two years back, Taiwan’s flag, which the island country has used since 1949, was seen being replaced with an ambiguous patch. This self-censoring by the movie makers was somewhat expected by audience since the movie’s co –producer, Paramount Pictures signed on Tencent, a Chinese tech firm to co-finance the movie. The Shenzhen-based conglomerate hoped to act as an “investor and co-marketer” of the film. But things turned out to be a different when the movie was released.

How receptive is the American movie industry and consumer?

The reaction of the American audience to the trailer, specifically to the changes made in the original jacket in the movie was extremely fierce. The aware audience has somehow grown a resentment towards artistic changes and additions made to American movies, done solely to appease the Chinese authorities. The makers of the movie sensed it and reverted to the original jacket which had the flag patch of Taiwan.

The case of Chinese authorities curating American movies is seen by Hollywood stakeholders as an attempt at altering culture and value system of the nation as well as the larger audience who are American movie watchers. Another matter of concern is the literal buying up of domestic movie production and distribution houses of America by big Chinese firms and conglomerates. A law has been introduced to the US Congress, that would regulate funding of these big American production house by foreign companies. In April 2020, Republican Ted Cruz introduced a bill titled “The Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies Act” that the Texas Senator described as “cutting off Hollywood studios from assistance they receive from the Department of Defence if those studios censor their films for screening in China.” The legislation, called the SCRIPT Act, was introduced in May and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. 2020 was also the time when tensions between the U. S. and China were at its peak and a probable trade war between the two countries was looming large.

Conclusion

Soft power is a long-term strategy which reaps benefit only in future. It’s arduous, laborious and results might not be visible instantly, unlike hard power which yields outcomes almost as soon as it is used. But when it does, it is the most profitable and significant investment a country could make in terms of both time and money. China realised this way back in the 1970s, when it mended relations with the U.S. The country has come a long way since the days when Bruce Lee’s movies were dubbed and rationalized to suit American and world audience. It is amazing to see how the world’s most powerful movie industry plays tune to China’s censorship authority’s pipe.

However, Beijing’s strategy of using money to implement soft power tactics has been unveiled. For a very long time this phenomenon was under wraps. Chinese firms pumping money in Hollywood production houses rose only post-2010 but it was done aggressively around 2015. When it comes to allowing foreign language movies to open in China, a limit of 34 movies have been posed. But these movies happen to be the biggest blockbusters of Hollywood, watched by a huge audience across globe. The impression these movies make is simply unimaginable. By censoring and planting favourable plot lines in movies, Chinese authorities intend to artificially manufacture of opinions. Off course, these opinions work in favour of the Chinese regime. This allows them to present to the world a narrative on issues close to Beijing’s heart.

*Ms. Shreyasi Post graduate Student, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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The U.N. as a collective security says no to politicalized agenda

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Since the United Nations was founded at the end of the WWII, it has played a seminal role in preserving the world peace and international justice from time to time. Based on the U.N. Charter which champions the no-use of force and collective security, the U.N. is seen as a relatively efficient global organization of sovereign states since then. There is no question that the U.N. has historically promoted the decolonization and changes in the composition of the international community when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960. Since then, it is fair to say that the new states have come to end the dominance of the West which then commanded a majority of the seats in the General Assembly.

From the very beginning, a world public opinion is seen as the most potent of all forces for peace. Nowadays, it has been since more strongly developing throughout the world. In particular, the U.N. General Assembly is declared to be “the open conscience of the world as Hans Morgenthau used to argue. China has consistently and persistently championed the legitimate rights of the all states in general and the small/weak countries in particular. As Chinese government has reiterated that as the world’s largest developing country, China will continue to stand with all developing States, who are no longer the silent majority in international and multilateral processes.

Also as one of Five Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council, China should and also must stand up to defend the sacredness of the United Nation as it is a permanent forum in which countries could come together to deliberate and attempt to resolve disagreements rather than sowing the seeds of hatred among them. In reality, the U.N. has been used properly but is also misused and even abused by some governments for the purposes of politicalizing the issues and demonizing its rivals with no moral criteria or any bottom lines. Given this, this essay argues for the necessity of preserving the sacredness and purity of the U.N. for the original goal of acting a collective security rather than unilateral tool abused by any small bloc.

Recently, China allies itself with the statement made by Eritrea on behalf of a group of like-minded countries. Chinese ambassador Geng Shuang made it clear that remedy and reparation is an important way to deliver justice, offer consolation and promote reconstruction after wars and conflicts. Deeply victimized by numerous foreign wars against China in the modern history, China has endured immense losses. Accordingly, the Chinese people and the elite empathize with the heartbreaks of war victims, and sympathize with their misery. Meanwhile, China opines that any remedy and reparation should be achieved through correct political means and legal proceedings in line with international will, fairness and justice, and the humanitarian spirit. The U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly should and can play the role as expected by the international community.

Regarding the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, China has reiterated its sincere concerns with the current situation in Ukraine and the four points about what must be done in the wake of the outbreak of the crisis and the four things the international community must do together later. It is self-evident that given a global, composite crisis in Ukraine, it is important to give serious thought to the following: first, conflicts and wars produce no winner; second, there is no simple solution to a complex issue; and third, confrontation between major countries must be avoided. China has and will continue to look forward to a resumption of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. At the same time, it is imperative that the U.S. and its allies of the NATO and the EU should hold direct dialogues with Russia. This is the nature of classic diplomacy championing negotiation, persuasion and mutual compromises rather than driving a decisive victory in the battlefield.

Due to the discussion of China’s stances on the international issues and the role of the UN in the crises management, it is quite easy to perceive China’s refusal of the draft resolution on remedy and reparation submitted for actions of the Emergency Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly on November 16 since it has obvious flaws and loopholes and does not conform to China’s position and proposition. However, Chinese Ambassador Geng Shuang presented three points to verify the general principles and practices of the UN as a collective security forum.

First, legally speaking, China believes that the draft resolution intends to address the issue of international legal responsibility directly through the General Assembly, thereby overstepping GA’s authority. As it is well-noted that the UN Charter clearly stipulates the mandates of the principal organs of the UN and the General Assembly is not an international judicial body. Thus, it has no legal power to define and hold accountable for internationally wrongful acts. As a matter of fact, the resolutions previously adopted by the 11th Emergency Special Session of the GA do not constitute solid legal basis for remedy and reparation.

It is clear that the draft resolution aims to invoke the Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts to pursue accountability, yet, doing so lacks legal basis in a professional way. The aforementioned Articles are research products of the International Law Commission which is an expert body. It is not an inter-governmental treaty and not legally binding. From a perspective of international law, neither do the Articles provide legal norms to define an internationally wrongful act or determine whether such an act exists. Hence, it is not appropriate to cite the Articles to make legal determination and pursue accountability.

Second, given the fact the draft resolution intends to bless the creation, by some countries, of a mechanism for reparation and a register of damage outside the UN framework, thus it deviates from the normal practice. The above mentioned mechanisms proposed by some countries are not in the framework of the UN, not overseen by the UN, and do not report to the UN. Nevertheless, the General Assembly is requested to adopt a resolution specifically for their creation. This approach makes no sense and has no precedent in practice.

It deserves noting that the issue of remedy and reparation is of great dimensions and far reaching implications. It concerns peace and security on the one hand, justice and conscience on the other. Moreover, it concerns not only the sacredness of the United Nations, but also the justice of international rule of law. Thus, the issue of remedy and reparation needs to be presented in a legal and procedural way. Historically, countries in the world victimized by internationally wrongful acts such as colonialism, external interference, unilateral sanctions and economic blockade have the right to seek remedy and reparation. The action taken by the General Assembly today should help to provide correct guidance for the settlement of possible future claims of relevant countries for remedy and reparation. Yet, the red-line is that it should help to maintain the impartial image of the UN that treats all member states equally. It should help to ensure various UN bodies can work in concert according to their respective mandates. Regrettably, the sponsor states did not organize consultations in earnest, did not substantively respond to the concerns of member states, and instead insisted on pushing the General Assembly to take a hasty action which is totally unconstructive.

As it is well-known that the Ukrainian crisis has been ongoing nearly nine months. It has sent shockwaves throughout the world and brought more uncertainty and instability to the world. Since the crisis serves no parties’ interests including Ukraine and Russia, China has appealed to all parties concerned to return to dialogue and negotiation as soon as possible. In so doing, the international community, including the General Assembly, should work actively to this end, instead of intensifying tensions, provoking confrontation and aggravating divides. In fact, China’s position on the Ukraine issue is clear and consistent. That is to say that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be fully observed. However, the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be also taken seriously. Accordingly, China endorses the tireless work with the international community to play a constructive role in promoting the early realization of ceasefire and cessation of hostilities.

To sum up, China has no bias against any parties concerned in the Ukrainian crisis. Yet, the key is that China must act a responsible power to upload the authority of the UN Charter and the credibility of the General Assembly. Given this, China decided to vote against the draft resolution along with more than ten other countries, though they were a minority. For the end of safeguarding true multilateralism and maintaining the international rule of law and fairness and justice, China has done as it should do as always.

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Silence on Uyghurs and Kashmir: A tacit quid-pro-quo between India and China

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On the 7th of October, India abstained from voting on a resolution for “holding a debate” on China’s alleged atrocities on Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. Although, on previous occasions, India had called for the human rights of Uyghurs to be respected, and had taken note of a UN Human Rights report finding human rights violations by China; When presented with an option to finalise and consolidate its stance on the matter, India chose to abstain from voting.

In this post I argue that, India’s choice to abstain from voting against China’s alleged human rights violation in the Xinjiang province, is part of a tacit quid pro quo between the two states to remain silent on each other’s human rights violations.

Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic community in the Xinjiang region of China, have been, and continue to be subjected to severe human rights abuses by the Chinese state. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has established centres which the international media has come to refer to as, “re-education centres”. At these centres the CCP works towards preventing citizens from being influenced by extremist thoughts, and to “nip terrorist activities in the bud.”

In the context of Uyghurs, a plethora of allegations have been levelled against China. These range from forced labour, illegal detention, to genocide, and may even extend to crimes against humanity. However, as discussed previously on this forum, even though the corpus of evidence on China’s violations of Human Rights against Uyghurs continue to grow, the same must be protected, and finally utilised to prove the role of the State in these human rights violations.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), to which China is a signatory, defines genocide to include, five acts. Evidence suggests, China has violated every single clause of this article. These include, (i) killing members of a group, (ii) causing serious bodily, or mental harm, (iii) deliberately inflicting conditions of life to bring about the physical destruction of the group, (iv) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and (iv) Forcefully transferring children of the group to another group. (For a consolidated list of human rights violations by China in Xinjiang, see this report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)

It is therefore, shocking to see that although India continues to stand for respecting the human rights of Uyghurs, India chooses to abstain from voting on China’s alleged atrocities on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

However, a closer study of India’s abstention on the Uyghur vote speaks volumes. India itself faces numerous accusations of Human Rights violations in the erstwhile state (and now Union Territory) of Jammu, and Kashmir. These range from civilian killings, to restrictions on freedom of expression, and many other forms of human rights violations. (A consolidated list of human rights violations by India in Indian-administered Kashmir can be found in this report)

Therefore, in light of this, India’s abstention can in many ways be seen as a quid pro quo between India, and China. China’s absolute silence on Human Rights violations by India in J&K, even in the face of growing evidence for the same, must be seen in tandem with India’s abstention at the UNHRC. Alternatively, India’s move to abstain from voting could also be a move to mollify, the ever-increasing Chinese aggression, and expansionist policies in the Indo-pacific.

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