The recent high-official foreign ministry meetings between the US and China in Tianjin show two sides of a coin. On the one hand, both sides reiterated longstanding positions. On the other, any discussion is a step in the right direction. But as the two continue to test each other before making sudden moves, the road ahead could be a long and trying one.
Han Yong Hong takes stock of the bruised feelings and sensitivities that have been stirred up in a sideshow to the CCP’s recent 100th anniversary. Whether it is a “lone wolf” attack in Hong Kong, Didi’s fate or Sony’s misstep, nationalist netizens are quick to “correct” wrongdoings that hurt China or its feelings. All this just makes one feel a greater need to walk on eggshells. Looks like doing business in China just got trickier for foreign and domestic companies alike.
Han Yong Hong observes that the Hong Kong pro-democracy paper Apple Daily meant different things to different people. Its own history and rise to infamy was also chequered and at times conflicting. But its demise just before 1 July seems to indicate that the central government is sending a clear message that without “one country”, there can be no “two systems”.
At a study session on international communications for the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on China to build an image of a “credible, lovable and respectable China”. Putting aside the euphemism, says Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong, what is most important is how the goal can possibly be achieved in China’s current diplomatic context.
Amid punishments meted out to Chinese private enterprises such as Alibaba, President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to various private enterprises was seen as a way for the Chinese government to assure companies that the state would still be supporting them. However, the status of private enterprises has always been a little fuzzy in China. Companies feel that they are at a disadvantage when competing with state-owned enterprises and may be reined in when they grow too large. Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong looks for a way out.
Biden’s brilliant stroke of sending his close advisors to Taiwan while sending the US climate envoy to Beijing shows that the US is certainly prepared to be “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be”. How can China create room for manoeuvre within this framework?
BBC China correspondent John Sudworth's sudden move to Taiwan from Beijing has elicited opposing interpretations from China and the West; in fact, so has his reports on Xinjiang. Was Sudworth creating “false reports” of Uighur factory girls? Or were the Chinese officials coercing young Uighurs to leave their hometowns for work in the cities as asserted by the BBC? Han Yong Hong thinks the contradictory interpretations show a clash in ideological values and views between China and the West.
While Western and Chinese governments continue their tit-for-tat one-upmanship, multinational companies and their big brands are running greater risks of stepping on political landmines in the Chinese market. But can they stay out of the fray?
Amid a strong sense that the East is on the rise while the West is in decline, China’s annual Two Sessions came to a close on a confident note, says Han Yong Hong. This augurs well for China’s plan to reach its goal of having a per capita GDP of a moderately developed country by 2035. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and unforeseen variables can still develop at every turn.