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‘Different norms’: Biden downplays China’s repression of Uighurs

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At his CNN town hall Tuesday night, President Joe Biden downplayed China’s repression of its Uighur Muslim minority, which former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month declared “genocide,” instead calling the mass internment a “different norm.”

The president’s remarks come a few days after his first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping and after the U.S. State Department earlier this month said it was “deeply disturbed” by a report from the BBC about the systemic rape and torture of millions of Uighurs. Following the report’s release, China banned BBC World News from its airwaves.

Tuesday evening, Biden was asked by CNN host Anderson Cooper about his roughly two-hour talk with the Chinese leader and began by talking about Xi’s justification for the human rights violations.

“If you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been, the time when China has been victimized by the outer world is when they haven’t been unified at home,” Biden began. “So the central—well, vastly overstated—the central principle of Xi Jinping is that there must be a united, tightly controlled China. And he uses his rationale for the things he does based on that.”

“I point out to him no American president can be sustained as a president, if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States,” the president continued. “And so the idea—I am not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uighurs in western mountains of China and Taiwan, trying to end the One China policy by making it forceful […] [Xi] gets it.”

“Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow,” he continued.

Biden was also asked if there would be repercussions for the Chinese Communist Party for the human rights violations.

“Well, there will be repercussions for China and [Xi] knows that. What I’m doing is, making clear that we, in fact, are going to continue to reassert our role as spokespersons for human rights at the UN and other agencies that have an impact on their attitude,” he said.

Moreover, the U.S. president was also asked if China was already too powerful to be prevented from continuing its human rights abuses.

“China is trying very hard to become the world leader,” Biden said. “And to get that moniker and be able to do that, they have to gain the confidence of other countries. And as long as they are engaged in activity that is contrary to basic human rights, it’s going to be hard for them to do that.

“But it’s much more complicated than that,” he added, “I shouldn’t try to talk China policy in 10 minutes on television here.”

Pompeo fired back at Biden for his remarks about China, telling the Fox News show “Mornings with Maria” Wednesday that Biden was evoking “Chinese propaganda.”

“That language that it’s just a set of different norms, that’s the Chinese propaganda line, they want you to think this is just a quiet nation [that] may have a little bit of a different system, but goodness gracious, what’s all the fuss about?” Pompeo told host Maria Bartiromo.

“The truth of the matter is they are trying to wipe out an entire people,” he said.

On top of that, Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his confirmation hearings in January agreed with the then-outgoing Pompeo about China’s actions against the Uighurs being a “genocide.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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China Expands Charm Offensive in Southeast Asia to Squeeze out U.S.

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Similar to what is happening in the Pacific, the US is facing a significant uphill battle to balance China’s rise in Southeast Asia. During the recent G20 and ASEAN summits in Indonesia and Cambodia, the Chinese Community Party (CCP) media upped its propaganda war against the United States over Southeast Asia. Outlets like Global Times and Xinhua claim that China’s interests in Southeast Asia are focused on mutual benefits, while the US is a malicious force in the region. The CCP press also claims that China is generously giving robust and purposeful aid to the Southeast Asian countries, while the US is neglecting them.

Claim #1: China’s Interest in Southeast Asia is Peaceful and Mutually Beneficial

China’s approach to Southeast Asia is benevolent and focused on mutual benefits, according to the CCP-run press. “China’s goal is to achieve a truly prosperous and peaceful ASEAN,” and “doesn’t interfere in ASEAN members’ internal affairs,” according to Global Times. “China focuses on pragmatic issues, such as promoting infrastructure construction, living standards, which are needed in those countries,” and “China is seeking a cooperative path toward common development,” according to another Global Times article. That same article quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as stating that China and the ASEAN countries “are good neighbors who will always be there for each other…”

One country that is particularly thankful for growing Chinese influence, according to the CCP press, is Indonesia. Indonesians want China to “lead…the world to a more peaceful and prosperous future,” and view Chinese President Xi Jinping “with an apparent sense of affability and affection,” according to Global Times. Marzuki Alie, former speaker of the People’s Representative Council of Indonesia, praised China as “becom[ing] essential in improving global governance,” and that “the visionary concept of building a human community with a shared future proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping shows China is willing to work with other countries to create a peaceful and secure world with openness and inclusiveness,” according to Xinhua. And perhaps the most perplexing aspect of China’s “benevolence” in Indonesia is the “Peace Ark” – a hospital ship that has recently docked in Indonesia, but that is also a navy ship run by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), according to Global Times.

Malaysia has a favorable view of China as well, according to the CCP press. Koh King Kee, president of Center for New Inclusive Asia, a Malaysian think tank, stated that “China is the backbone of the global supply chain and acts as a ballast stone of the global economy in times of uncertainty,” according to Xinhua.

And in response to US concerns over rising Chinese influence in Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian dismisses the base as not targeting any third party, according to Global Times. Cambodia’s Minister of National Defense Tea Banh further claimed that the Chinese involvement in that base is benevolent, stating that the base helps Cambodia “in cooperating with friendly countries and help[ing to] maintain regional peace, stability and prosperity,” according to that same article.

Claim #2: The US’ Interest in Southeast Asia is Manipulative, Malevolent

In contrast to China’s benevolence, the United States “only wants [ASEAN] to serve as its pawn to counter China, and to fulfill its own hegemony goal, according to Global Times. At the G20 conference in Bali, the US takes a “hegemonic, unilateral and protectionist approach,” and “is preaching war and confrontation,” according to that same article.

The US and the West are merely using the G20 summit in Bali “to advance their own geopolitical agenda against Russia, therefore preventing the crucial meeting from tackling serious economic issues,” according to another Global Times article. “Such a geopolitical focus “will worsen this uncertain and unstable world,” according to Veronika S. Saraswati, China Study Unit Convener at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia.

According to another Global Times article, the US is using ASEAN “to drive a wedge between China and Southeast Asian nations in the future,” is attempting to “rope in the region via political, security, and value-oriented agendas,” and is trying “to buy off” Southeast Asian countries “by pledging to spend certain amount[s] of money.”

Claim #3: China gives Robust, Targeted Aid to Southeast Asia

CCP media taunts the extensive aid that China is giving to Southeast Asian countries. China has pledged $1.5 billion in “development assistance” to ASEAN countries in November 2021, and Chinese-ASEAN trade was about $878 billion in 2021, according to Global Times. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang claims that of the 160 “cooperation initiatives” that China has suggested with the ASEAN countries in the previous 10 years, over 99.5 percent of them have been implemented, as reported by another Global Times article.

Li also stated that China is planning to build emergency storage for medical supplies and rise within the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) framework, according to Global Times.

Chinese state-run media is particularly touting China’s Belt and Road investments in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Laos. According to Global Times, the Jakarta-Bandung high speed railway will be operational in June 2023, and as a “flagship project of China-Indonesia cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative,” will be the first high speed train in Southeast Asia, according to Xinhua. China’s ambassador to Indonesia praised the project, claiming that the railway “will greatly reduce traffic jams, make travel more convenient for local people, improve local investment environment, boost businesses and tourism along the route, and accelerate the building of a high speed railway economic corridor.” The ambassador also mentioned that existing Belt and Road initiatives with Indonesia like the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park and the PT Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry Park, “have generated tax incomes, job opportunities and foreign exchange earnings, and provided Indonesia with opportunities for greater participation in global industrial chains of stainless steel and new energy.”

Meanwhile, Global Times asserts that the China-Laos Railway has generated at least $1.7 billion in trade and has transported almost 10 million tons of goods.

Claim #4: US Investment Lags Behind China

On the other hand, the CCP media claims that the US is lagging far behind Chinese investments in Southeast Asia. President Biden’s newly announced “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” with the ASEAN countries “…looks more like a symbolic act. The US is playing the catch-up game with China,” according to Koh King Kee, president of a Malaysian think tank, according to Global Times.

US and ASEAN trade, at $441 million in 2021, was almost half that of Chinese investment for that same time, according to Global Times. President Biden pledged to ask Congress for $850 million in aid for electric vehicles and clean energy to ASEAN countries, but this amount is “symbolic” and a “mere ‘drop in the bucket’,” according to Global Times. In May, Biden “announced a $150 million development and security package” for the ASEAN countries according to that same article, which pales in comparison to the amounts in aid that China claims it is giving those same countries.

According to Global Times, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang mentioned that US investment in ASEAN is “a drop in the bucket if compared to US support for Ukraine” during the Biden administration, which Global Times claims is “over $18.9 billion in security assistance.”

Conclusion

CCP media is waging a charm offensive targeting Southeast Asia. While China is investing heavily in these countries, the US has yet to devise a credible counter to such influence.

You can follow Steve Postal on @HebraicMosaic 

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