Newsletter April 2022

CONTENT: Blog posts: Ukraine-Rusia: Those who are not with us … // News: Greenwashing the Junta in Myanmar / Go Game in the Pacific / China Pakistan Economic Corridor again top priority // Countermovements: Myanmar: Mining / Greece: Piräus / Pakistan: coal power plant // Readings: The complex relationship between China and India in light of Russia’s war in Ukraine / The Specter of Global China revisited.

Blog Posts

Ukraine-Russia: Those who are not with us ….

For its answer to the war against Ukraine, the Western world is looking for partners all over the world. But after the unexpectedly widespread support in the United Nations for Russia’s condemnation, many countries of the Global South have since taken a rather more neutral attitude, because the escalation of the conflict goes against their own interests. There are signs of a new alliance emerging, which could benefit China in particular. More

News

Greenwashing the Junta in Myanmar

In der ersten Aprilwoche begannen die Bauarbeiten an zwei neuen PV-Projekten in Myanmar, für die die China Power Investment Corporation die Ausschreibung vor zwei Jahren gewonnen hatte. Weitere Projekte wurden von der Militärregierung ausgeschrieben, die jedoch nur sechs Angebote erhielten – davon zwei aus China. Die Projekte sind ein Indikator dafür, wie weit es der Militärregierung gelingt, mit chinesischer Hilfe die schwere Versorgungskrise zu überwinden, nachdem seit dem Putsch zahlreiche Energieprojekte eingestellt wurden. Nach Einschätzung von Jason Tower vom US-amerikanischen Institute of Peace gibt Beijing inzwischen die anfängliche Zurückhaltung gegenüber der Junta auf und unterstützt sie zunehmend.

Go game in the Pacific

Die Befürchtungen vor einer Ausweitung chinesischer Militärpräsenz in aller Welt haben einen neuen Aufreger: Im März machten die ersten Berichte die Runde, dass Beijing mit der Regierung der Solomon-Inseln im Pazifik ein Sicherheitsabkommen verhandelt, einschließlich einer Stationierung von Soldaten und Polizisten auf der Insel und von Versorgungsmöglichkeiten für chinesische Schiffe, wie The Diplomat berichtet. Heftige Proteste kamen umgehend unter anderem von Australien, das erst im vergangenen September seine eigene Sicherheitspolitik mit dem Militärbündnis AUKUS mit den USA und Großbritannien aufgerüstet hatte. Aber auch aus Washington und von Regierungen anderer Inselstaaten wurden schwere Bedenken wegen einer Verschiebung der Machtverhältnisse in der Region vorgebracht. Die genaueren Verabredungen sind bislang geheim geblieben. Die solomonische Regierung dementiert, dass eine dauerhafte Militärbasis angestrebt werde, Beijing bezeichnete die Berichte als „Fake News“ und fuhr gegen Australien, mit dem es seit Langem eine wirtschaftliche und politische Fehde austrägt, schweres Geschütz auf: Die Drohung des australischen Premierministers Scott Morrison, das Abkommen sei eine „Rote Linie“, wurde aus Beijing als „a colonialist myth-driven violation of sovereignty“ verdammt.

Kurioserweiser hat Australien, das sich selbst als ‘Sicherheitsgarant’ in der Region versteht, selbst Polizei- und Militärkräfte als Teil einer ‘Friedensgruppe’ auf der Insel im Einsatz, nachdem es mehrfach zu heftigen gewaltsamen Auseinandersetzungen gekommen war, bei denen auch das enge Verhältnis der Regierungschefs Manasseh Sogarvare zu Beijing Zündstoff geliefert hatte.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor again a top priority

Eines der Flaggschiffe von Belt&Road, der China Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC, ist seit einiger Zeit ins Gerede gekommen (link). Die Kontroversen in Pakistan und die Angriffe von militanten Autonomiebewegungen nahmen zu, die Fortschritte bei der Umsetzung sind schleppend. Jetzt hat der neue pakistanische Premierminister Shehbaz Sharif unmittelbar nach seinem Amtsantritt am 20. April 2022 angekündigt, dem Milliardenprojekt ‚neues Leben einzuhauchen’, so die South China Morning Post. Sharif, dem gute Kontakte zur chinesischen Regierung nachgesagt werden, war bereits früher eng in die Umsetzung des Projekts involviert, ebenso wie sein neuer Minister für Planung und Entwicklung, Ahsan Iqbal. Die Vorgängerregierung von Premierminister Imran Khan setzte dagegen eher auf Sonderwirtschaftszonen als auf weitere Megaprojekte im Infrastruktur- oder Energiebereich. Wenn jetzt Beijing und Islamabad wieder am gleichen Strang ziehen, bestärkt das Hoffnungen, CPEC nicht nur neuen Schwung zu verleihen, sondern auch nach Afghanistan und in den Iran auszuweiten.

Source: South China Morning Post, April 20, 2022

Countermovements

Myanmar: Mining

The resistance against the Junta in Myanmar once again threatened actions against Chinese projects if tehx are not shut down. Sixteen rebel groups issued a joint statement on April 21, 2022, saying income from mining would line the pockets of senior Myanmar military officials and cronies. „We asked the people who worked for the businesses to leave their jobs by May 5″, the joint statement said.  

China’s Wanbao Mining has a partnership with Myanmar military-owned conglomerate Myanma Economic Holdings to run the controversial Letpadaung and Sapetaung-Kyesintaung copper mines near Salingyi in the Sagaing region. The Letpadaung mine has for years been dogged by complaints about land grabs, environmental damage and brutal police crackdowns on protesters. Back in January, resistance groups blew up electricity pylons supplying the Chinese-run Tagaung Taung nickel mine in Sagaing, a project developed by state-owned China Nonferrous Mining and a Myanmar state-owned enterprise. Publish What You Pay, a coalition activist group campaigning for transparency in the resources sector estimates the Myanmar military earned $725 million from the three Sagaing mines in the 2020-2021 financial year.

Source: New Straits Times, April 203, 2022

See also the Country profile Myanmar by The People’s Map

Greece: Piräus

Piraeus Port (GREECE): On 11 March 2022, Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court (Decision 549/2022) rejected the Master Plan of the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA), now controlled by the Chinese state-owned enterprise China Ocean Shipping Company Limited (COSCO), for the planned expansion of the port. The legal grounds for this decision was that COSCO failed to comply with the legal requirement to obtain an approval of its strategic environmental impact assessment before submitting the Master Plan. The planned expansion included new cruise and passenger piers, a new passenger station, four new hotel complexes, the expansion of the Car Terminal, and the construction of a five-storey car park and 80 new storage facilities. Local communities and environmental groups had raised concerns about the environmental impact of COSCO’s plans, especially in relation to the expansion of the cruise terminal, but COSCO’s Master Plan was approved in 2019 by the new conservative government. Following legal action by local citizens and municipalities, the 2019 governmental approval was overturned. COSCO will now have to submit an approved strategic environmental impact assessment as part of its new Master Plan.

Source: The People’s Map Digest No. 3, March 2022. More context about China’s engagements in Greece, including the Piraeus Port, in the country profile by Konstantinos Tsimonis.

Pakistan: Coal Power Plant

In late March, the think tank coalition Alliance for Climate Justice & Clean Energy held a webinar presenting a study titled ‘Air Pollution, Health and Toxic Impacts of the Proposed Coal Mining and Power Cluster in Thar, Pakistan’. The study found that Thar will be a major air pollutant and CO2 emission hotspot in South Asia, and flagged a range of failures by the environmental impact assessment agencies. Working in joint venture with local and other international companies, China Machinery Engineering Corporation and Shanghai Electric Group play key roles in Thar Blocks I and II, with financing provided by several Chinese policy and commercial banks.

Source: The People’s Map Digest, 3 March, 2022. More on the mine and power plant by the Rural Development Policy Institute

Readings

The complex relationship between China and India in light of Russia’s war in Ukraine

On Sinica Podcast, a weekly discussion of current affairs in China, produced in partnership with SupChina, end of April there has been a talk with two Indian scholars, Manjari Chatterjee Miller and Manoj Kewalramani, to examine the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the geostrategic landscape as viewed from Beijing, as well as looking at one of the most significant pieces of that landscape, which is India.

In her introduction, the host, Kaiser Kuo, editor of SupChina, a New York-based, China-focused news, information, and business services platform, framed the talk: „If there’s another major power that is conflicted as China is over the Russian invasion, then it’s probably India. Like Beijing, New Delhi has tried to have it both ways, but the similarities — as Beijing may have found out the hard way — don’t go much further than that. If there’s strategic empathy between New Delhi and Moscow and there’s strategic empathy between Beijing and Moscow, the simplistic view might be that by commutative property, there should be the same between New Delhi and Beijing. But it is not at all that simple, especially given India’s deepening security relationship with the United States, and of course the recency of the brutal clashes in the Galwan Valley, between Chinese and Indian troops in the disputed border area of Ladakh.“

Manjari Chatterjee Miller and Manoj Kewalramani are both working on Sino-Indian relations. Miller is Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of Why Nations Rise: Narratives and the Path to Great Power, which looks at rising powers historically to understand what sets China and India apart. Kewalramaniis is chairperson of the Indo-Pacific Research Programme and a China studies fellow at the Takshashila Institution, an Indian public policy education center. He puts out a newsletter on China-India relations called “Eye on China”.

Transkript of the Podcast ‚China and India are more different than aligned’. Sinica Podcast, April 28, 2022.

The Specter of Global China revisited

„Ching Kwan Lee’s The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa (2017) had a major impact on discussions about Chinese global economic policy, transcending a tired debate about whether China is engaged in neocolonialism“, states Eli Friedman, Professor in the Department of International and Comparative Labor at Cornell University’s ILR School, in his intro into the long talk with the professor of sociology at UCLA. „Lee’s fieldwork drew our attention to both the continuities and ruptures between Euro-American empire and an ascendant China in patterns of investment, natural resource extraction, and labor politics. But much has changed in the half-decade since the book was published. China’s overseas investments have been dramatically curtailed; political and economic disarray in the United States has bolstered China’s relative geopolitical standing; the Chinese government has become increasingly repressive internally, especially in the peripheries of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong, while seemingly more aggressive in the South China Sea and Taiwan; and of course, a global pandemic has occurred.“

In this interview with Eli Friedman, she explains how her understanding of Global China has been evolving in the wake of the dramatic developments that have taken place in the past few years. Issues raised are, among others, the controversy about „Debt trap diplomacy“, espacially related to Africa, where Lee has done a lot of her earlier research, about „the advantage of seeing global China as a Chinese state-capitalist power project, much like David Harvey’s conceptualization of neoliberalism as a global capitalist class project,“ that „forces us to ask questions about agency (who), interests (why), methods (how), and resistance, countermovements, adaptations, and accommodations (so what)“, and about countermovements, or resistance to global China like Hong Kongers’ resistance to Chinese interventions in the past two decades that „has been fueled by Chinese internal colonization, and it amounts to a decolonization struggle“, which is the focus of her present research.

China’s Global Statecraft: An Interview with Ching Kwan Lee, Dissent Magazine, Spring 2022

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