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China Jostling For Power & Influence In Myanmar – Another Country That Neighbors India

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While China aggressively promotes and defends its CPEC project (under BRI) in Pakistan administered Kashmir, Beijing at the same time is using COVID diplomacy to push its BRI initiative in neighbouring Myanmar via CMEC (China-Myanmar Economic Corridor).

In the present times, when the world struggles with the China-origin virus, Beijing still manages to find its way to strengthen its billion-dollar ambition – The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Launched in 2013, the BRI is also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt or the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road and is an attempt to build connectivity and promote international co-operation across six main economic corridors that consist of China, Mongolia and Russia; Eurasian countries; Central and West Asia; Pakistan, Myanmar and some other nations of the Indian-subcontinent and Indochina.

China Ignores India’s Objections

Earlier this month, Pakistan awarded a contract to a Chinese state-run firm to construct Diamer-Bhasha dam in the contentious region of Pakistan administered Kashmir. As EurAsian Times reported, the project is located in Gilgit-Baltistan and is a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

India had been objecting to the BRI for long since the CPEC passes through Pakistan controlled Kashmir, a region claimed by India as part of Jammu and Kashmir.

When New Delhi shared its concerns with Beijing, the Chinese government brazenly dismissed it by saying “China’s position on the issue of Kashmir is consistent. China and Pakistan conduct economic cooperation to promote economic development and improve the well-being of the local people.”

COVID Diplomacy in Myanmar for BRI

In January this year, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping visited Myanmar, the first time in about two decades. The prospects that Xi brought along included New Yangon City, Kyaukphyu Deep-Sea Port and Industrial Zone and the China-Myanmar Border Economic Cooperation Zone that will strategically allow China direct access to the Indian Ocean.

Branded as three pillars of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), Xi had said that both sides will deepen “result-oriented Belt and Road cooperation” and move from “the conceptual stage to concrete planning and implementation” of building the CMEC.

Myanmar joined as a founding member of BRI in 2015 and it is reported that many MoUs had been signed with China and that the planning for BRI in Myanmar was underway until the coronavirus pandemic halted everything.

Since China publicly declared that it had controlled coronavirus, Beijing then began with COVID Diplomacy. “Chinese government started sending medical supplies and personnel across the world — including to Myanmar — to build goodwill and show global leadership in fighting the pandemic,” writes Shah Suraj Bharat, a Yangon-based transport infrastructure analyst.

Many of the Chinese provincial governments have taken the front seats on COVID diplomacy in continental Southern Asia. A closer look reveals that the Yunnan provincial government sent medical aid supplies and medical teams to Myanmar and Laos. While Pakistan received medical teams and emergency medical supplies from Uygur Autonomous Region.

“Myanmar has shown a degree of autonomy in its economic relations with China. Indeed, soft power is defined as the ability of a state to get what it wants through attraction rather than coercion, which some see China as trying to do via its COVID diplomacy” Shah writes.

Chinese Influence in Myanmar’s Politics

Since the elections in Myanmar are scheduled for November this year, some reports suggest the State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi is a trusted ally of Beijing.

Post the Northern Rakhine State clashes, Aung San Suu Kyi, once viewed as a peace icon, dramatically turned into a global outcast of human rights due to her refusal to condemn the genocide of the Rohingya minority in the region.

This led to limited aids and grants from the Western nations, however, it is reported that China has been opening its arms to Myanmar for assistance. Some reports suggest that apart from being a part of Myanmar’s official politics, Beijing has also been supplying arms to insurgents in the country.

Bertil Lintner writes that “China’s double-game in Myanmar, where it serves as both an armed conflict mediator and supplier of arms to insurgents, is a long-worn carrot and a stick approach to get what it wants, namely the CMEC and access to Myanmar’s rich natural resources including copper, gold, jade, amber and rare earth metals.”

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Americas

China & Russia Block US’s Arms Embargo Against Iran At UNSC

China and Russia are the permanent members of the UNSC who rejected the motion. The other permanent members of the UNSC – the UK and France – also failed to support the extension of the embargo against Iran.

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The US’s demand to extend the arms embargo against Iran, due to expire in four months, has been rejected by the members of the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) including China and Russia.

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China and Russia are the permanent members of the UNSC who rejected the motion. The other permanent members of the UNSC – the UK and France – also failed to support the extension of the embargo against Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that lifting the ban on the trade of conventional weapons would turn Iran into a “rogue weapons dealer,” supplying advanced weapons to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and fueling conflicts in Venezuela, Syria and Afghanistan.

“Iran will hold a sword of Damocles over the economic stability of the Middle East, endangering nations like Russia and China that rely on stable energy prices,” said Pompeo to the members via videoconference due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The arms embargo prohibits Iran from importing or exporting any kind of weapon. Pompeo characterised Iran as “the world’s most heinous terrorist regime” and said that it would develop and export weapons that would threaten the Middle East and European capitals.

“Iran is already violating the arms embargo, even before its expiration date. Imagine if Iranian activity were sanctioned, authorized by this group if the restrictions are lifted,” he said.

The embargo is part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the nuclear deal with Iran signed in 2015. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in its facilities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

In 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and started reimposing sanctions. However, the Trump administration is now threatening to “snap back” U.N. sanctions if the embargo is not extended. “Having quit the JCPOA, the U.S. is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger a snapback at the Security Council,” said China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia also criticised the strategy saying that the task is to achieve regime change or create a situation where Iran literally wouldn’t be able to breathe. “This is like putting a knee to one’s neck”, referring to the killing of George Floyd after a police officer knelt on his neck.

Even the Europen Union allies of the US that supported extending the embargo said that they do not support the reimposition of new sanctions on Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed that expiration of the arms embargo was an integral part of the 2015 nuclear deal and demanded the US to compensate Iran for the damage its sanctions have inflicted on the economy.

“The international community in general — and the U.N. Security Council in particular — are facing an important decision,” he said. “Do we maintain respect for the rule of law, or do we return to the law of the jungle by surrendering to the whims of an outlaw bully?”

In the latest move to disrupt ties, the US is seeking to seize the four tankers sailing towards Venezuela with gasoline supplied by Iran. In May, defying the US sanctions, Iranian vessels successfully shipped gasoline to South American country, Venezuela.

Mojtaba Zonnour, representative of Qom in the Iran Parliament celebrated then, saying that the arrival of Iranian tanker, carrying gasoline, to Venezuela showed the message of authority and dignity of the Iranian nation to the world.

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EurAsian Region

FACT CHECK: Has China Really Claimed The Russian Port City Of Vladivostok?

Historically, Vladivostok once used to be part of China’s Qing dynasty and was known as Haishenwai. It was annexed by the Russian empire in 1860 after China’s defeat by the British and the French in the Second Opium war.

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Has China claimed the Russian port city of Vladivostok? Media outlets in India have lambasted China for its relentless expansionist policies especially after the India-China border clash at Galwan Valley.

Chinese App Ban: Weibo Users Ask Indian PM Narendra Modi To Return $750M Loan Granted By China

The latest expansion claims are targetted at the Russian city of Vladivostok. Chinese diplomats, journalists and nationalists took to the internet to assert claims over the Russia city of Vladivostok formerly part of the Qing dynasty, a news extensively covered by Indian media outlets.

The backlash started after the Russian embassy took to Weibo to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the founding of the city, whose name means “ruler of the east” in Russian.

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Reacting to the Russian embassy’s message, Shen Shiwei, a journalist working with the state-owned broadcaster CGTN, took to Twitter to remind the world that Vladivostok was once a part of China.

Zhang Heqing, a Chinese diplomat working in the embassy in Pakistan, also commented “isn’t this what in the past was our Haishenwai?”, referring to the Chinese name for the area before its annexation.

Indian media was quick to react to the Chinese claims and blasted Beijing for having an insatiable appetite for territory.

Wion TV stated that China dismisses treaties that don’t suit it and mentioned its territorial disputes with 20 countries including Russian, India, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Laos, Philippines, Malaysia Indonesia, South Korea, North Korea etc.

Galwan Valley Clash: Top Indian General Decodes Why India Lost 20 Soldiers In India-China Border Conflict

Times Now, one of the biggest Indian media outlets also published an article talking about Chinese expansionism in Russia, Nepal and Bhutan.

The Russian government offered no response to the comments made online by Chinese nationals and it will be interesting to see how Moscow reacts. While both countries currently enjoy friendly relations, they have clashed over territorial disputes in the past.

CPEC Project A ‘Trillion-Dollar Blunder’, Pakistan Calls It ‘Outstanding Initiative’

In 1969, erstwhile USSR and China almost went to war after Peoples Liberation Army troops ambushed Soviet border guards on Zhenbao Island.

Historically, Vladivostok once used to be part of China’s Qing dynasty and was known as Haishenwai. It was annexed by the Russian empire in 1860 after China’s defeat by the British and the French in the Second Opium war. Since then, it has been administered by Russia and is the capital of Primorsky Krai.

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Asia Pacific

Chinese App Ban: Weibo Users Ask Indian PM Narendra Modi To Return $750M Loan Granted By China

The Indian government banned a total of 59 Chinese apps including the teen favourite TikTok. India’s IT ministry has announced the banning of 59 Chinese apps that include giants like ShareIt, UC Browser, Likee, WeChat, Weibo and Bigo Live.

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Indian PM Narendra Modi’ move to quit Weibo, after the Chinese app ban was announced hasn’t gone down well with its users. With comments like ‘shut the door on your way out’ and ‘some people leave and you never even knew they were there’, most of the users seem to be either unaffected or critical of the move.

Galwan Valley Clash: Top Indian General Decodes Why India Lost 20 Soldiers In India-China Border Conflict

Another popular comment on Weibo was that India should return the $750-million loan, recently granted to assist the government in responding to the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a bank headquartered in Beijing.

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, the Indian government banned a total of 59 Chinese apps including the teen favourite TikTok. India’s IT ministry has announced the banning of 59 Chinese apps that include giants names like TikTok, ShareIt, UC Browser, Likee, WeChat, Weibo and Bigo Live.

The Indian ministry called the Chinese-owned applications as “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order.” The Indian Cyber Crime Coordinate Centre under the Ministry of Home Affairs sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these “malicious apps”.

This marks the end of the “Weibo diplomacy” with China that started in 2015 as a means to directly communicate with the people of China before Modi’s first visit there. His first message said, “Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo”. He had 2.44 lakh followers on the application.

“Prime Minister Modi had 115 posts on Weibo. It was decided to manually delete them and after much effort, 113 posts were removed,” said a source.

“There were two posts left where PM Modi and these are posts with photos with President Xi. On Weibo, it is difficult to remove posts with the photo of the Chinese President. Which is why, two posts still remained,” said a source. A government official said that for reasons best known to the Chinese, there was great delay in granting this basic permission.

“Some believe Modi should have been a little thicker skinned, comparing his action to that of the U.S. ambassador to China who maintains his Weibo page despite being the subject of longstanding criticism from Chinese netizens,” wrote CX Tech.

The state-run, Global Times described the ban as “deliberate interference in practical cooperation” between the two countries. It slammed the move stating “a lacklustre explanation for the nonsensical move”.

“If India’s sovereignty can be damaged by a handful of apps, just how vulnerable is it?” the paper said. “It was not long before Indians realised that turning nationalist rhetoric into action is more difficult, as there are no available and affordable alternatives to Chinese-made products such as smartphones, chemicals, automotive components and many other items… It seems that not only has the Modi government failed to rein in the rising nationalism among Indians, it has also yielded to domestic pressure and even encouraged such a boycott to escalate.”

It also warned of a dip in investment as the paper said that it surveyed experts who “predicted Chinese overseas direct investment (ODI) into India will drop sharply in 2020, with two experts forecasting a more than 50 per cent cut.”

“Bad feelings go both ways, and the chance for China-India relationship to pick up in the short-term is slim. Chinese investors are on the edge with risk-aversion instinct kicking in,” Qian Feng, director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University.

China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng said that India’s app ban could have possibly violated the World Trade Organization’s rules and commitments. “We hope that India can immediately correct its discriminatory practices against China and Chinese enterprises”, Feng added.

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