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Weekly Contemporary Developments

17 - 30 April, 2020

  • US-China decoupling to be accelerated by tightening of technology export controls, experts say Under the leadership of US President Donald Trump, Washington this week broadened restrictions on technology exports to China to keep products away from the military. Experts expect severe supply chain disruptions and accelerated decoupling as the coronavirus row also inflames the relationship between the two superpowers. (South China Morning Post, China, April 30, 2020)
  • China, ASEAN see more opportunities for trade cooperation despite pandemic While deepening their cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which enjoy complementary trade and low logistical costs, have registered strong trade growth. (People’s Daily, China, April 30, 2020)
  • Looking beyond the coronavirus, military powers jostle for dominance in Indo-Pacific region Taiwan Strait and South China Sea are settings for China and the US to assert influence and defiance. Analysts warn costly missteps and miscalculations are possible amid rift. As the USS Barry, one of the US’ most advanced destroyers, sailed through the Taiwan Strait last Thursday, an officer on board posted a message on Facebook: “They don’t call us the Finest Forward Deployed Destroyer for nothing! Your Bulldogs always have the watch – together, we ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific!” (South China Morning Post, China, April 29, 2020)
  • US tightens export restrictions to keep tech out of Chinese military’s hands Crackdown is attempt to ensure that certain items, even those intended for civilian use, don’t help support the People’s Liberation Army. New rules will require US companies to get licenses to sell specific products to businesses in China. (South China Morning Post, China, April 29, 2020)
  • Chinese military lashes out at American warship’s ‘intrusion’ in South China Sea PLA scrambles air and sea patrols near Paracel Islands in response to what it says is violation of Chinese sovereignty. Tensions rise in region, with both countries at odds over handling of the coronavirus pandemic. (South China Morning Post, China, April 29, 2020)
  • China leads global green development with concrete actions China has achieved much progress in environmental protection and taken the lead in green development in recent years.The efforts have exemplified Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposal of "working together for a green and better future for all" made a year ago in his speech at the opening ceremony of the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 Beijing. (People’s Daily, China, April 29, 2020)
  • Trump says China wants him to lose 2020 re-election race to Biden Trump has been heaping blame on China for the global pandemic. He believes Beijing wants Joe Biden to win to ease pressure on trade issues. US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he believes China’s handling of the coronavirus is proof that Beijing “will do anything they can” to make him lose his re-election bid in November. (South China Morning Post, China, April 30, 2020)
  • Coronavirus: China’s economy shrank for the first time since 1976 in first quarter China’s economy shrank by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 after the coronavirus shut down large swathes of the country. Industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investment all shrank again in March, showing challenge in restarting the economy. (South China Morning Post, China, April 17, 2020)
  • Coronavirus: China job listings tumble by 27 per cent in first quarter as economic toll ofpandemic mounts The coronavirus outbreak has led to a steep decline in demand in China’s job market, with employment ads tumbling by 27 per cent in the first quarter. New study shows that export-oriented firms and companies with foreign investment particularly aggressive in cutting new hires. (South China Morning Post, China, April 17, 2020)
  • Coronavirus: no ‘business as usual’ with China after pandemic, Britain says Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says ‘hard questions’ need to be asked following Covid-19 outbreak, in latest sign of hardening attitudes towards Beijing. France’s Macron says there were grey areas in China’s handling of disease, adding that ‘things happened that we don’t know about’. (South China Morning Post, China, April 17, 2020)
  • Respect for life is the basic logic behind revision of COVID-19 data (The command centre for the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province and the previous epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, released a notification regarding the revision of the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths on Friday. (People’s Daily, China, April 18, 2020)
  • ‘We are not the culprit’: Beijing tells US to stop blaming China for coronavirus pandemic Foreign ministry spokesman says global community should ‘stay united and cooperate’ to overcome the virus. Beijing is under mounting pressure over its handling of the crisis, with calls for an independent inquiry. (South China Morning Post, China, April 21, 2020)
  • Vietnam accuses Beijing of ‘seriously violating’ sovereignty in South China Sea Move to create administrative units for disputed Paracel and Spratly Islands angers Hanoi China has been engaged in a series of stand-offs with rival claimants recently. China’s latest activities in the South China Sea have triggered a strong protest from rival claimant Vietnam, which said the move “seriously violated” its sovereignty.The complaint came after China announced on Sunday that it had set up two new administrative districts on the Paracel and Spratly Islands. (South China Morning Post, China, April 21, 2020)
  • Global oil price collapse a historic opportunity for China to ‘bottom out’ energy assets: analysts China's crude oil futures edged down 3 percent on Tuesday's opening, following an overnight slide from a major US oil benchmark into unprecedented negative territory. Analysts say the historic drop in oil prices offers China, a major source of oil imports, a good opportunity to "bottom out" certain oil assets and scale up strategic reserves. (Global Times, China, April 21, 2020)
  • US paranoia about China is misplaced and it’s now impeding global action to stop thecoronavirus spread The US continues to drive the global economy. It must move beyond this distraction and raise its education standards to beat back China’s challenge. If the world is to stop Covid-19 in its tracks, China has to be seen as part of the solution, not the problem. (South China Morning Post, China, April 23, 2020)
  • Coronavirus: WHO row between US, China sees G20 leaders summit called off at last minute,source says The Group of 20 (G20) planned to hold a second virtual leaders’ summit on Friday, to be attended by President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump But the video conference was called off amid US-China row over World Health Organisation (WHO), but could happen in near future. (South China Morning Post, China, April 25, 2020)
  • Donald Trump owes tens of millions to the Bank of China – and the loan is due soon One of US president’s most prized New York buildings was refinanced for almost US$1 billion in 2012, a chunk of which came from China Revelation complicates Trump’s charge that ‘China will own the US’ if rival Joe Biden is elected president in November. (South China Morning Post, China, April 25, 2020)
  • China urges U.S. not to go against int'l community The U.S. has been smearing and attacking WHO without any factual basis. Its tactics of pressure and coercion will only draw greater disapprobation from the international community, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. (People’s Daily, China, April 25, 2020)
  • Military spending surged to US$1.9 trillion in 2019, biggest increase in a decade Before Covid-19 struck, the world’s militaries increased spending by 3.6 per cent The US was the largest spender, accounting for 38 per cent of the global total. Global military expenditure saw its biggest uptick in a decade in 2019, researchers said Monday, marking the first year two Asian countries were among the top three spenders. (South China Morning Post, China, April 27, 2020)
  • China's industrial profits fall 36.7% in Q1 as most sectors hit by COVID-19 Profits of China's major industrial firms dropped 36.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter (Q1) amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the decline narrowing 1.6 percentage points from the first two months, official data showed on Monday. (Global Times, China, April 27, 2020)
  • Coronavirus latest: Trump says ‘we are not happy with China’ as US cases near 1 million,56,000 dead US president suggested that he may seek damages from China over the coronavirus outbreak World should have listened to WHO on virus, director general says. Compiled by SCMP’s Asia desk and Agencies. (South China Morning Post, China, April 28, 2020)

1 - 16 April, 2020

  • US military requests US$20 billion in funding to counter Beijing’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region The request’s sweeping budgetary priorities include more air missile units, new radar warning systems and expanded training exercises. It calls for nearly US$1.7 billion to fund a 360-degree air missile defence system in Guam. Owen Churchill in Washington, DCUnited States military officials have requested an additional US$20 billion in funding from legislators to fortify the country’s naval, airborne and ground-based operations in the Indo-Pacific region, a sign of Washington’s intensifying efforts to counter Beijing’s militarypresence in the area. (South China Morning Post, China, April 7, 2020)
  • Coronavirus: Donald Trump’s threat to cut WHO funds ‘puts American interests at risk’ An outbreak anywhere can be a problem everywhere, pandemic experts say after US president takes aim at the UN health body. ‘China, not the WHO, should be held accountable’ for information supplied in the early days of the disease. (South China Morning Post, China, April 16, 2020) Economic havoc wreaked by coronavirus has likely throttled US-China trade deal, experts say Need to address economic damage will put more pressure on Beijing to reform China’s economy, say Rhodium Group’s Daniel Rosen and ex-Australian PM Kevin Rudd. China’s high debt levels and likely GDP contraction will make it nearly impossible for Beijing to fulfil its buying commitments. (South China Morning Post, China, April 16, 2020)
  • China may have conducted banned nuclear test blasts, US says Concerns about possible breach of international pact was prompted by activities at Lop Nur site in China. Report, which does not provide evidence of tests, could worsen ties already strained by US claims about Beijing mishandling coronavirus outbreak. (South China Morning Post, China, April 16, 2020)
  • IMF fears worst recession since 1930s Agency predicts rebound for China of up to 9.2% growth in 2021 after 1.2% rise this year With the International Monetary Fund predicting on Tuesday the worst global downturn since the 1930s, China has deployed an additional policy response to address the slowdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic and facilitate economic recovery through incentivizing bank lending and stabilizing corporate hiring. (People’s Daily, China, April 16, 2020)
  • China plays vital role in stabilizing global industry chain despite epidemic
  • While securing a phased success in curbing the COVID-19 epidemic at home, China has taken several measures that give it a vital role to play in stabilizing global industry chains. As the world’s second largest economy, largest industrial producer and largest trader of goods, China has accelerated the orderly resumption of work and production, and rolled out policies to maintain stability in foreign trade. (People’s Daily, China, April 14, 2020)
  • Coronavirus outbreak brings US and Taiwan closer together Ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing have prompted the US to promise to cooperate with the island for ‘years to come’. Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO has been another source of tension and the US is backing its efforts to join more international organizations. The US has used the Covid-19 pandemic to shore up its relations with Taiwan despite strong protests from mainland China. (South China Morning Post, China, April 13, 2020)
  • Oil price war ends with historic Opec+ deal amid coronavirus pandemic The biggest oil cut ever is more than four times deeper than the previous record cut in 2008. US President Donald Trump helped broker solution after talks almost broke down. The world’s top oil producers pulled off a historic deal to cut global petroleum output by nearly a 10th, putting an end to the devastating price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. (South China Morning Post, China, April 13, 2020)
  • China and Vietnam ‘likely to clash again’ as they build maritime militias Vietnamese fishing boat sank last week after colliding with Chinese coastguard ship, as neighbours report seeing more Chinese vessels. Use of state-supported fishing militias in the disputed South China Sea can facilitate force without necessarily sparking a military response, experts say. (South China Morning Post, China, April 13, 2020)
  • Cybersecurity at top of Huawei’s agenda as Europe decides on 5G infrastructure Gaining support from major European economies, like Germany and the UK, is vital for Huawei to further expand its business on the continent. Huawei had 91 total 5G network projects as of February, 47 of which are located in Europe. Entering Huawei Technologies’ cybersecurity transparency centrein Brussels, visitors could be forgiven for thinking it is a large exhibition facility. (South China Morning Post, China, April 13, 2020)
  • Inside China Tech: A tale of two targets – Huawei and Zoom The hammer blow to Huawei came in May 2019 when it was put on a trade blacklist, effectively banning it from doing business with US firms. The risk of personal data being used for unauthorised purposes is common across cloud services, according to one expert. (South China Morning Post, China, April 12, 2020)
  • Coronavirus: China trade improved in March, but global outlook remains grim China’s imports and exports showed a ‘certain improvement in March’, after combined figures for January and February had dropped 17.2 per cent. China exported US$15 billion worth of medical equipment and supplies between March 3 and April 4. (South China Morning Post, China, April 10, 2020)
  • Coronavirus is paving the way for a return to military rule in Asia Poor leadership, weak institutions and public mistrust have exposed the fragility of countries which have embraced democratic reform. As the going gets tough, some are falling back on militaries that still command extensive networks of power and influence. (South China Morning Post, China, April 4, 2020)
  • Chinese firms race to supply life-saving ventilators as global demand surges Analytics firm GlobalData predicted that about 880,000 more ventilators are in demand globally amid the pandemic. Ventilator manufacturers across the world are running full-steam to meet thesurging demand. China, one of the largest ventilator producers, has joined the global fight against COVID-19. (People’s Daily, China, April 4, 2020)
  • Politicization of Chinese aid negatively impacting China-Europe cooperation Some European politicians have recently politicized the COVID-19 pandemic, smearing China's goodwill in helping Europe with the fight against the virus. This narrow-minded, ideological and politicized mentality is not helpful to combat the coronavirus or conducive to promoting the comprehensive development of China-Europe relations. (Global Times, China, April 4, 2020)
  • Chinese air force’s drill ‘aimed at signalling deterrent around Taiwan’ 36-hour exercise simulates countering enemy planes during wartime, report says. People’s Liberation Army placing increasing emphasis on airborne early-warning and control aircraft, observers say. (South China Morning Post, China, April 2, 2020)
  • Xi says China-India relations at new starting point China-India relations are standing at a new starting point and facing new opportunities, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Wednesday when exchanging congratulatory messages with his Indian counterpart, Ram Nath Kovind, on the 70th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties. In his message, Xi said China-India relations have experienced extraordinary development during the past 70 years. With joint efforts of both sides, the two countries have established a strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity, and are endeavoring to build an even closer partnership of development, he added. (Global Times, China, April 2, 2020)
  • Coronavirus pandemic expected to slash China’s 2020 growth to 2.3 per cent, World Bank warns East Asia will see a sharp drop in growth due to coronavirus, with China’s expansion slowing to 2.3 per cent this year in a best-case scenario, says World Bank. Severe economic contraction followed by a sluggish recovery could see 11 million people in the region could descend into poverty. (South China Morning Post, China, April 1, 2020)