Strategic Vision, Issue 46

Page 1


for Taiwan Security

Satellite Supremacy

Chris Liu

PRC Leverages COVID for Regional Hegemony

Patrick Mendis & Dominique Reichenbach

Diplomats Employ ‘Wolf Warrior’ Tactics

Hon-min Yau & Bheki Mthiza Patrick Dlamini

India’s relations with North Korea

Prashant Kumar Singh

China’s Ties with India and Japan

Amrita Jash

Volume 9, Issue 46 w June, 2020 w ISSN 2227-3646





Prashant Kumar Singh

Amrita Jash

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Volume 9, Issue 46 w June, 2020
BeiDou satellites sharpen threat from PLA ...................................4 Beijing leverages COVID to supplant US hegemony .................. 10 PRC envoys embrace ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy ........................... 18 India’s relations with North Korea ...............................................24 China’s unstable ties with India and Japan ..................................29
Chris Liu


Fu-Kuo Liu

Executive Editor

Aaron Jensen

Associate Editor

Dean Karalekas

Editorial Board

Chung-young Chang, Fo-kuan U

Richard Hu, NCCU

Ming Lee, NCCU

Raviprasad Narayanan, JNU

Chris Roberts, U of Canberra

Lipin Tien, NDU

Hon-Min Yau, NDU

Rui-lin Yu, NDU

Li-Chung Yuan, NDU

STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security

(ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 9, Number 46, June, 2020, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University.

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From The Editor

While the world continues to suffer from the economic shutdowns implemented to fight the spread of COVID-19, the events that threaten an impact on the security of the Asia-Pacific region continue to transpire unabated, and the staff and editors here at Strategic Vision are committed to continuing our coverage and providing the finest on reporting and analysis.

We begin this month with an article by Chris Liu, a PhD student at the ROC National Defense University, about China’s BeiDou satellite system and its integration with geographic information, Internet of things, big data, and mobile communication, and how this presents a threat to Taiwan, and regional, security. Next, Patrick Mendis and Dominique Reichenbach offer their take on the US-China rivalry, and how Beijing is leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to fill the international vacuum being created by the United States’ America First strategy. We follow this up with an analysis, provided by Hon-min Yau and Bheki Mthiza Patrick Dlamini, of the recent emergence of the new practice of “wolf warrior” diplomacy on the part of PRC representatives as they press China’s interests abroad. Next, Prashant Kumar Singh looks at India’s relations with North Korea and how New Delhi is keeping the channels of communication open with the Pyongyang regime. Finally, Amrita Jash of the Center for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi examines the effect of the pandemic on China’s complex relations with India and Japan.

We wish our regular readers all the best during this difficult time, and we hope to continue providing you with timely analysis and policy recommendations as the region and the world slowly emerge from the global pandemic, and as we prepare to resume our normal lives.

Strategic Vision vol. 9, no. 46 (June, 2020)

Satellite Supremacy

Deployment of BeiDou satellites sharpens threat from People’s Liberation Army

Chris Liu

In the 1980s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) realized the danger of relying on foreign Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) systems for military operations. In 1986, former CCP leader Deng Xiaoping initiated Plan 863 to promote satellite navigation technology as one of the key projects in aerospace development. Concerns about relying on foreign PNT systems proved to be well-founded in the mid-1990s during the third Taiwan Strait crisis from 1995 to 1996, as ballistic missiles launched

by the CCP in an effort to influence voters in Taiwan’s presidential election became disconnected and failed to hit their targets due to interruptions in US GPS signals. This incident was a great humiliation for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and it strengthened the Beijing authorities’ determination to develop their own satellite navigation and positioning systems. In 2003, China accepted the European Union’s invitation to join the Galileo satellite navigation system. Due to security concerns and other differences, however, it

Chris Liu is a PhD student at the Graduate Institute of China Military Affairs Studies, National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at

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Artist’s rendition of the GPS Block IIF interim satellite, used to keep the Navstar Global Positioning System operational. photo: NASA

was excluded from the program, and so China embarked on its own satellite navigation system.

Arrows and satellites

The BeiDou-1 project was launched in 1994. In 2000, the CCP launched two satellites into geostationary orbit to provide positioning, timing, wide area augmentation, and short message communication services to users in China. In 2003, a third geostationary satellite was launched. In 2004, construction began on the BeiDou-2 system, and in November 2012, BeiDou-2 began to provide users with regional positioning services in the Asia-Pacific area. The BeiDou-2 system contains 16 satellites with six geostationary satellites, six tilted geosynchronous orbit satellites, and four medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites. In 2019, the CCP implemented a high-density launch of “seven arrows and ten satellites.” All MEO satellites in the BeiDou-3 complex completed networking, and the

core constellation of BeiDou-3 was fully deployed. In June of 2020, China launched its last geostationary satellite into orbit. At this point, the BeiDou-3 system was truly completed, and China has now entered a new era of global service.

With the completion of the BeiDou navigation satellite system (BDS), the CCP’s satellite navigation and positioning technology will be integrated with geographic information, Internet of things, big data, mobile communication, and other technologies, providing more comprehensive services. It is estimated that in 2035, a comprehensive positioning, navigation, and timing system will be built with the BeiDou system

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photo: Michael Kleiman A Minotaur I rocket lifts off carrying the TacSat-2 micro satellite as well as NASA’s GeneSat-1 spacecraft.
“In areas with more severe COVID-19 outbreaks,hundredsofunmannedaerial vehiclesusedtheBeiDousystemtoprecisely deliver urgently needed medical andanti-pandemicmaterials.“

at its core.

Currently, the BeiDou system is already helping China in a wide variety of areas. The swift construction of Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals in Wuhan during the CCP’s fight against COVID-19 were aided by the BeiDou system’s ability to provide accurate positioning information. In areas with more severe COVID-19 outbreaks, hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles used the BeiDou system to precisely deliver urgently needed medical and anti-pandemic materials. The Ministry of Transport also continued to broadcast information on the pandemic to more than six million vehicles through BeiDou terminals, which are connected to the national public supervision and service platform for road freight vehicles, providing information on road conditions and transportation services. Faced with rapid growth in logistics and distribution pressure, hundreds of thousands of BeiDou terminals across China have also joined the work of anti-pandemic logistics.

The BDS is critical to the PLA’s information war-

fare and global deployment capabilities. Without its own global navigational satellite network, it would be difficult for the PLA’s various strategic and tactical missiles to accurately strike their targets at medium and long distances.

During the CCP’s 19th National Congress in 2017,

General Secretary Xi Jinping declared that the army should be equipped with the ability to win an information warfare campaign by 2035. This goal was originally proposed by former leader Jiang Zemin, and the schedule was set at the middle of this century. Xi Jinping moved the goal 15 years ahead, and seeks to use these 15 years to build the PLA into a worldclass fighting force. Jiang Zemin and Xi Jinping both set this current year (2020) as the key year for laying

A DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missile on display during a parade held in front of Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, Sept. 3, 2015.
“The BDS has an indispensable strategic importance for the PLA’s informatization and global combat capabilitydevelopment.“
photo: Voice of America

a solid foundation for military informatization. The most important achievement of informatization this year was the completion of the BDS and its ability to provide global coverage. As the coverage range of the BDS expands, the distance and frequency at which the PLA’s naval and air forces can be projected outwards will increase accordingly, and the precision strike capabilities of its missiles will increase as well. The BDS has an indispensable strategic importance for the PLA’s informatization and global combat capability development.

Joint operations backbone

The CCP proposed the goal of army reform and modernization in its 3rd Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee. The goal is closely related to the CCP’s ability to achieve modernized joint operations. The C4ISR system forms the backbone of the

joint operations’ command mechanism, of which the most critical is the use of space-based systems for reconnaissance.

The PLA’s Strategic Support Force operates and oversees space systems. The terminal equipment of the system can be installed on various platforms on land, sea, and air and provide positioning information including latitude, longitude, and time in a standard format, and then upload information to the joint operations command center at all levels to form a common image of the battlefield. Such an image is used as the basis for military commanders to make decisions. After the BDS completes its regional and global formation, the joint combat capabilities of the PLA’s various branches will be strengthened even further.

China’s BDS system not only meets the country’s own needs but also provides an option for other countries, especially those that are not allies of the United

Satellite Supremacy b 7
A ‘smokey’ surface-to-air missile is launched during training, giving off a distinct heat signature for realistic evasion training for pilots. photo: Ian McMahon

States. Therefore, the BDS system can also enhance China’s relations with other countries and strengthen its military diplomacy.

In addition to the BDS system, China’s other satellite systems, such as those for reconnaissance and communications, are growing rapidly in terms of both quality and quantity. The CCP has demonstrated a determined attitude to surpass Russia and catch up with the United States in its development and deployment of space-based systems.

Taiwan’s soft-kill capability

In response to improvements in China’s military satellite capability, Taiwan has developed a number of countermeasures. Taiwan’s National ChungShan Institute of Science & Technology (NCSIST) has developed a soft-kill capability, which is able to jam GPS and BDS signals.

Important military facilities in Taiwan, including the Armed Forces Joint Operations Command Center and the Jiashan Base in Hualien, are all equipped with de-

vices designed to prevent PLA ballistic missiles from hitting their targets. In addition to jamming BeiDou signals, Taiwan’s armed forces can send out false signals to confuse the CCP’s satellite positioning system and make its missiles hit false targets, so that damage can be reduced. Moreover, in view of the fact that PLA satellites can carry out reconnaissance at any time above Taiwan’s key military installations, the NCSIST has produced a synthetic aperture radar satellite countermeasure system to degrade China’s reconnaissance abilities. When PLA satellites pass over Taiwan’s strategic bases, the synthetic aperture radar reconnaissance and detection vehicles will detect the frequency band. High-frequency and low-frequency synthetic aperture radar jamming vehicles will then be deployed to counter and jam the signals. This will hamper or prevent the PLA from obtaining usable imagery of sensitive military sites and areas in Taiwan. In terms of hardkill capability, Taiwan’s forces can use their arsenal of Wan Chien, or Ten Thousand Swords, air-to-ground cruise missiles, produced by the NCSIST, to neutralize BeiDou support stations in China.

US Air Force’s Communications/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS).
photo: NASA

With the completion of the BDS system, China’s military power will only continue to grow. Taiwan must take concrete steps to strengthen its space capabilities by deepening military cooperation with the United States, Japan, and other countries that have a vested interest in preventing a Chinese takeover of Taiwan. In particular, Taiwan must improve its ability to conduct reconnaissance, which would enhance its ability to conduct strikes against the enemy, and develop satellite jamming and other antisatellite systems.

Secondly, in response to the PLA’s growing number of long-range satellite-guided weapons, the BDS will be the PLA’s only long-range weapon guidance system. It is estimated that the CCP’s Dongfeng missiles, long-range missiles, anti-ship missiles, some air force air-to-air missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles will be fully converted to the BDS. Taiwan should mitigate the PLA’s offensive capabilities by developing advanced jamming systems, which will

decrease the accuracy and effectiveness of the PLA’s satellite-guided weapons.

Furthermore, satellite combat and anti-jamming exercises must be added to actual military exercises and computer-driven wargaming to strengthen the professional skills of military officers and soldiers. In response to enemy threats and warfare capabilities, Taiwan’s military must develop its electronic warfare units, navigation and countermeasure equipment construction, education, and training.

Taiwanese education officials should also promote fields like aerospace. Only by strengthening people’s understanding and support of aerospace technology, and by integrating R&D talent and resources, can schools effectively cultivate the expertise that the nation needs. Currently, the government has not yet set a clear direction for the cultivation of aerospace talent. Government and industry should work together to develop and retain local talent in the aerospace sector. n

Chinese rockets and space vehicles on display at a military museum.
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photo: Gary Todd
Satellite Supremacy

Strategic Vision vol. 9, no. 46 (June, 2020)

Rivalry Going Viral

China leverages COVID-19 to supplant US from position as hegemon

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is utilizing the novel coronavirus outbreak as strategic leverage to vie for global leadership in the post-pandemic era. This is facilitated by a lack of visionary leadership from Washington, as the international reputation of the United States continues to falter, which could lead to a significant shift in the world order.

China’s sweeping geopolitical strategy provides opportunities from Europe to Africa, whereas the administration of US President Donald Trump is using Taiwan and Sri Lanka as pawns in its Indo-Pacific

Strategy. With a lack of diplomatic acumen or vision on the part of the United States, Trump’s range of deflections, failures, and incompetence in the face of COVID-19 presents a victory by default for China.

In a controversial move, which The Washington Post characterized as a “new form of retail politics,” the Treasury Department ordered that Trump’s name be printed in the memo line of stimulus checks being issued to the American people from taxpayer money. Trump had originally requested that he be allowed to formally sign the checks, presumably to remind Americans that he is a cheerleader for the United

Dr. Patrick Mendis, a former American diplomat and military professor, is a Taiwan Fellow of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a distinguished visiting professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei.
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Dominique Reichenbach is a graduate of Arizona State University and an American David Boren scholar in Taiwan. She has served as a research intern and teaching assistant at National Chengchi University. Dominique Reichenbach

States, but this would have gone against standard practice by the Treasury Department to ensure that government disbursements remain nonpartisan.

This illustrates the way in which Trump—and indeed, most US politicians—are dealing with the pandemic as a political issue, exacerbated by the state of hyper-partisanship in America right now and the fact that this is an election year. As a result, Trump’s view of the pandemic is as a domestic problem, not an international one, and his administration is focusing on fighting the disease solely in America. This approach was exemplified by the decision to seal the US border to Europeans and attempts to secure exclusive American rights to a vaccine being developed in Germany. It has left other nations floundering for aid and cooperative partnerships and created a vacuum into which China is attempting to step.

Writing in Politico, Matthew Karnitschnig has suggested that the PRC is pursuing its geopolitical ambitions by conducting a “not-so-subtle PR campaign,” and is in fact “winning the coronavirus propaganda war,” earning praise for its humanitarian

response from such high-level quarters as World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

According to Barron’s Magazine, China’s “donation diplomacy” had, by April 2020, led to the sale of nearly 4 billion masks overseas, as well as 16,000 ventilators, 38 million pieces of protective clothing, and 3 million testing kits, not to mention over US$2 billion in relief aid to various nations in Europe and Africa. While several countries, including the Netherlands, the Philippines, Croatia, Turkey, and Spain, have complained that the medical products provided by China have proved to be faulty or substandard, Barron’s reported, the media coverage has largely been in Beijing’s favor.

Humanitarian implications

This stands in stark contrast to the approach taken by the Trump administration, which initially invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act to halt export of 3M facemasks to Canada. Writing in The Guardian, Julian

China Leveraging
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photo: Toto Lozano Chinese aid for COVID-19 arrives at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Pasay City in the Philippines.


Borger predicted that this executive order would have “significant humanitarian implications for countries desperate for safety equipment.”

Indeed, Chinese aid to foreign countries comes after its initial COVID-19 cover-up that endangered the world. ABC News even suggested that China’s generous aid is an attempt to blur the memory of this fact. However, the aid represents a chance for China to bolster its global reputation, as well as a strategic opportunity for Beijing to transform its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into a new “Health Silk Road,” a term coined by PRC General Secretary Xi Jinping himself.

Taiwan has gotten caught in the crosshairs of China’s attempts to enhance its standing via the BRI, and American attempts to counter it. Beijing and Washington spent weeks casting accusations at one another, referencing Taiwan and the WHO.

On one side, Trump has referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus,” “Wuhan virus,” and “Kung Flu,” as its provenance derives from the city of Wuhan, China, and because Beijing exacerbated the global death count by spending weeks attempting a cover-

up, rather than warning the international community. The New York Times has warned that this moniker could incite xenophobia. Trump also suspended US funding to the WHO, for reasons that included China’s undue influence over the operations of that world body.

On the other, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, claimed that “No conclusion has been reached yet on the origin of the virus,” leading to the emergence of conspiracy theories in the PRC. One such theory, promoted by a Chinese diplomat, suggests that US soldiers engaged in spreading the epidemic around Wuhan while they competed in the Military World Games in Wuhan the previous year. Though unfounded, these conspiracy theories have not been removed by China’s normally efficient

“China has the power of the purse, andmanycountriesseemtobeshiftingtheirallegiancesaccordingly.”
President Trump placed travel restrictions on China on January 31 after Delta, United and other carriers had stopped flying there due to coronavirus. photo: The White House

Internet censors, suggesting they may be beneficial to the Xi regime.

While the two dominant powers in the region continue to swipe at each other in the coronavirus propaganda war, to use Karnitschnig’s term, Taiwan has emerged from the pandemic with real gains in terms of international perception.

Due to their close proximity and strong trade and transport links, Taiwan is one of the most at-risk countries outside of China, according to an assessment by Johns Hopkins University. Despite this inherent vulnerability, Taiwan has fared better than almost any other nation, with just 447 confirmed cases and seven deaths at the time of writing. Under the leadership of Republic of China (ROC) President Tsai Ing-wen, the government accomplished this feat by moving quickly once signs of an infection in China became apparent. These measures included immediately shutting down travel to and from China, banning cruise ships from docking, issuing strict repercussions for breaching quarantine, and ramping up local production of face masks.

Moreover, Taiwan made these gains without insti-

tuting the kind of authoritarian measures employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) just across the strait, such as welding shut the doors of patients’ homes to enforce quarantine. Indeed, even before the pandemic hit, Taiwan’s health system was one of the best in the world, with near-universal coverage, despite Taiwan long being excluded from the WHO at China’s behest.

Taiwan’s success

It was perhaps Taiwan’s well-reported success in dealing with COVID-19 that motivated both major powers to seek to share this spotlight. While Beijing sought to take credit for Taipei’s successes by claiming to represent the island’s people in the WHO, Trump inked the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act, or TAIPEI Act, designed to boost Washington’s ties with Taipei and encourage other nations to follow suit.

China responded by calling the Act “evil” in its state-run mouthpiece, The People’s Daily, and saying it presented a “hegemonic threat.” Chinese lead-

China Leveraging COVID-19 b Sri Lanka’s current prime minister, and former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, appears with PRC General Secretary Xi Jinping. photo: Mahinda Rajapaksa

ers are upset that the Act all but recognizes Taiwan as independent and encourages other countries to establish relations with Taipei by promising to increase US “economic, security, and diplomatic engagement” with those that do so. It even threatens to punitively “alter” its engagements with nations that undermine Taiwan. The Act represents a threat to China’s desire for unification with Taiwan under the same “one country, two systems” framework implemented in Hong Kong, and is considered “sabotage” against China, according to The People’s Daily and the CCP.

Coupled with the election of President Tsai to a second term, the TAIPEI Act and the enhanced USTaiwan relations it represents have made trilateral Washington-Beijing-Taipei relations particularly icy. President Tsai has long been firm in her contention that the people of Taiwan have no interest in being ruled under China’s “one country, two systems” formula, and PRC leaders have made no secret of their disdain for her.

After Tsai’s second inauguration as president of the democratic country, US Secretary of State Mike

Pompeo congratulated her, stating “the United States has long considered Taiwan a force for good in the world and a reliable partner.” Predictably, this raised China’s hackles, and the PRC Ministry of Foreign

Affairs responded by saying that the congratulatory statement “seriously damaged the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations.” According to a CNBC translation of the ominous PRC statement, “China will take necessary countermeasures and the US will bear the consequences.”

Ultimately, the Trump administration hopes that the TAIPEI Act will promote democracy abroad and provide cover for other countries that desire to choose a partnership with the United States instead of with China. The Trump administration hopes that the economic and diplomatic benefits of this legislation—in addition to the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages

photo: ROC Presidential Office ROC Air Force pilots, seen here in the new Air Force jet trainer, train to defend Taiwan’s airspace from foreign incursions.
“Taiwanislosingitsdiplomaticallies tothemuchmorespendthriftChina, maintainingjustfifteen.”

visits between high-level officials of the United States and Taiwan—will serve as an attractive alternative for nations that fear the risk of the debt trap that analysts associate with China’s BRI scheme.

While the TAIPEI Act may enhance US-Taiwan relations, it is nothing more than a lame attempt to curb China’s growing influence. China’s BRI—estimated by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies to incorporate up to US$8 trillion in infrastructure development projects and connecting more than 100 countries—is far more attractive than the TAIPEI Act’s subtle threats and vague promises of either altered or enhanced US engagements depending on diplomatic ties to Taiwan. At this point, there is virtually no benefit for most countries to hitch their wagon to America’s star, as China is successfully “reshaping the global order,” as stated by Kurt Campbell and Rush Doshi in Foreign Affairs Magazine

China has the power of the purse, and many countries seem to be shifting their allegiances accordingly. Sri Lanka, for example, is a country that is becom-

ing increasingly important to US and Chinese foreign policy aims. In a January 2020 special briefing in Washington after returning from Colombo, US Ambassador Alice Wells said Sri Lanka “occupies some very important real estate in the Indo-Pacific region” due to its strategic location in the Indian Ocean, and would be crucial to helping the United States sustain its maritime supremacy and contain Chinese expansion. The United States has a military base on nearby Diego Garcia, approximately 1,800 km southwest of Sri Lanka, but its lease from the British will expire in 2036. Sri Lanka is also on the planned Maritime Silk Road component of China’s BRI.

History of neglect

With a long history of neglecting Sri Lanka in its preference for India, the United States is losing its grip over the Colombo administration—a change made evident by the recent US failure to renew its Status of Forces Agreement, even after pledging US$480 million in development aid via the Millennium Challenge Compact.

A US Navy captain meets with the commander of Sri Lankan Navy Special Boat Squadron during exercise CARAT in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka in 2017.
photo: Amy Forsythe 15
China Leveraging COVID-19 b


Writing in The Diplomat, Ana Pararajasingham stated that Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena “has been forthright in ruling out the presence of any American troops or base on the island.”

Enter China. Just days after a request from Colombo, Beijing announced that it would extend a 10-year, US$500 million concessionary loan to help Sri Lanka manage the COVID-19 pandemic, it was reported in The Colombo Page. The US only provided Sri Lanka US$5.8 million to fight the pandemic, according to a fact sheet released by the US Embassy in Colombo—a tiny fraction of the Chinese offer. Clearly, the TAIPEI Act will be unlikely to sway Sri Lanka from a partnership with the Chinese. Similarly, Taiwan is losing its diplomatic allies to the much more spendthrift China, maintaining just fifteen at the time of writing.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, the United States was losing out to China on the 5G battlefield. By mid2019, even America’s closest intelligence-sharing allies, the members of the Five Eyes alliance consisting of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, had yet to definitely rule out a partner-

ship agreement with China’s Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. in building the next-generation wireless network infrastructure, despite the severe security risk this poses to the integrity of these governments’ intelligence-gathering and military operations.

Faltering reputation

Now, however, China’s faltering international reputation—the result of increased public awareness of Beijing’s initial coronavirus cover-up, its Draconian measures to stem the spread of the virus, and the unreliability of data and information provided by the PRC government—has led to losses on the 5G battlefield. In May 2019, the US Department of Commerce announced export controls intended to limit Huawei’s access to chips, semiconductor designs, and other technologies. To comply with the new US regulations, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), halted all new orders from Huawei. TSMC’s decision could not have been made lightly, given that Huawei

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A cyber-warfare specialist works in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., on December 2, 2017. photo: J.M. Eddins Jr.

is their second-largest client after Apple Inc. The regulations were announced on the same day that TSMC revealed plans to construct a US$12 billion plant in the US state of Arizona—another announcement that caused consternation in Beijing.

Following these US sanctions, the British National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) launched an emergency review of Huawei’s role in the UK, and London is now contemplating phasing out Huawei’s role in Britain’s 5G networks completely by 2023. Perhaps the tides of Five Eyes cooperation are turning in America’s favor.

The PRC has taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue economic partnerships, with Sri Lanka and other countries benefiting from the BRI, that advance its foreign policy goals. China’s new donation diplomacy tactics “offer a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence,” Xi promised in a 2017 speech at the 19th Congress of the CCP.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s shortsighted policies use Taiwan as a pawn and are leading the

United States into a natural defeat in geopolitics. If President Trump continues to pursue his failed nativist policies, undermine US intelligence agencies, distrust European and Asian allies, and shirk global responsibilities, China will be well-poised to replace the United States as the global leader in a post-pandemic era.

To reassert its trademark strength in the post-World War II global order, the United States must refrain from threatening to decrease its engagements with nations who participate in BRI projects and instead offer competitive loans and development programs. Most importantly, though, US politicians on both sides of the aisle—Trump included—must immediately cease their relentless partisan enmity, which has caused great rifts along party lines and destroyed any semblance of domestic unity. Leaders must attempt to reconcile their internal political differences if America is to have any hope of effectively curbing China’s growing influence in the international community. In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.” These words are as true now as the day they were spoken. n

China Leveraging COVID-19 b
As long as America is a house divided against itself, to borrow a phrase from Lincoln, China and others will leverage that disunity for global influence. photo: Dean Karalekas

Strategic Vision vol. 9, no. 46 (June, 2020)

Wolf Worries

China’s representatives embrace aggressive new ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy

Hon-min Yau & Bheki Mthiza Patrick Dlamini

The novel coronavirus, which first emerged in Wuhan, China, in 2019, has bruised China’s global image. Beijing is agitated by references to the disease as the “Wuhan virus,” as used by Taiwan, and the “China virus,” as it is referred to in the Western World and Africa. As a diplomatic response and damage-control strategy, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has accelerated the use of its so-called wolf warrior diplomacy. This new type of diplomacy is characterized by aggressive statements and reactions by Chinese diplomats and it takes its name from China’s popular series of

nationalistic action movies, Wolf Warrior and Wolf Warrior II. In the films, Chinese actor Wu Jing plays a hero who stands up for China’s values and saves Africa from Western barbarians.

While Deng Xiaoping once instructed that China should “hide our capabilities and bide our time,” the assertive nature of this new diplomatic strategy seems to be a departure from his dictum and is a significant shift from the previous low-key, non-reactive approach to foreign provocation. However, people often forget that Deng also emphasized the need for China’s policy to be agile and flexible. The former

Dr. Hon-min Yau is a professor at the ROC National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at

Bheki Mthiza Patrick Dlamini is a Master’s student at the Graduate Institute of Strategic Studies, ROC National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has been particularly outspoken during the COVID-19 pandemic. photo: PRC Government

paramount leader used the analogy of crossing a river by feeling the stones. China has long maintained a low profile because it did not have the strength to challenge its adversaries. China is now much more powerful, and it can now challenge whomever it perceives as an adversary.

Maintaining party legitimacy

In line with the flexible nature of Deng’s river-crossing approach, China’s use of wolf warrior diplomacy varies depending on the venue. It has been used in Africa, the United States, and the rest of the West, as well as within the continent of Asia. Hence the analysis in these different continents will further explain China’s use of this new diplomatic strategy to support the above assumption. The central goal of this strategy is still domestic, due to the CCP’s urgent need to maintain legitimacy amid the negative international image it is earning as a result of the coronavirus.

First, it is important to note that China’s Wolf Warrior and Wolf Warrior II movies portray Africa as a battleground between the United States and

China—a battle with a strong moral component wherein Chinese values are portrayed as superior to those of America. This observation begs the question, why was Africa chosen as the background for China’s global image-building endeavor? Contextually, Africa was chosen for several reasons.

Africa is said to be fertile ground for foreign manipulation, as its politicians, military leaders, and top bureaucrats are said to be greedy and corrupt. According to the stereotype, these African powerholders are more often at each other’s throats over fatuous things, as opposed to matters of national interest. They strive for selfish personal gain for themselves, their families, and their cronies. This preconception is a departure from Africa during the pre-colonial era, which is often characterized as having virtues such as selfless service to the people and humanity, as espoused by the African philosophy of Ubuntu.

The values characterized by greed and apathy, among other detrimental values, are most likely to have been encouraged by China, with its wolf warrior diplomacy. However, China’s strategy encompasses

Wolf Warrior Diplomacy b 19
Chinese students hold a rally in Seoul, South Korea in 2008 in a counter-protest against locals’ anti-China protests. photo: Parrhesiastes


more actions, such as increasing military and economic aid, especially during COVID-19, and includes Chinese language training and academic exchanges, which help increase its national power as it vies for influence in Africa. Chinese investments in Africa are mainly clustered in certain countries. Its diplomatic efforts tend to exaggerate the successes of China’s activities in Africa by framing China’s cultural and political models as being superior, as depicted in the Wolf Warrior movies. Africa was selected due to its strategic value in countering India, the United States, and other Western powers.

“Without Africa,” former French President Jacques Chirac once remarked, “France will slide down into the rank of third world power.” Likewise, World Bank reports are littered with highlights of how rich Africa is in natural resources while battling with corruption and weak state institutions. The degree of corruption there is illustrated by the 10th edition of the Global Corruption Barometer’s findings, wherein most people in Africa indicated that they feel corruption has been continuously increasing in their countries.

It is worth mentioning that this form of corruption involves multinational corporations from the West as well as China’s state-owned enterprises, thus validating Chirac’s assertion. Therefore, China’s diplomacy in Africa supports its grand strategy of countering US dominance and exploiting natural resources. Increased competition for trade with Africa between China and the United States in recent years also indicates that China seeks to counter US dominance near the Suez Canal and other naval trade routes, as

well as in the Middle East. Ostensibly this is meant to facilitate the free movement of Chinese ships with good logistics support and continuous supplies, just as the United States and its Western allies have historically done. This assertion is supported by China’s live-fire exercises on its naval base in Djibouti, which stands in sharp contrast to China’s public statement

“Theongoingwarofwordsbetween WashingtonandBeijinghasonlyfed China’swolfwarriormentality.”
Chinese fighter planes, such as the J-20s shown here, have been more active in their incursions into Taiwan’s airspace in recent weeks. photo: Sunson Guo

that the base serves only as a logistics facility. This development demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between China’s security apparatus and its diplomatic corps, with diplomatic strategy being driven by national security, intelligence, the diplomatic community, and information departments.

Second, the ongoing war of words between Washington and Beijing—especially regarding the Trump administration’s insistence that since the virus originated in China, Beijing must take responsibility for it—has only fed China’s wolf warrior mentality. Following Trump’s remarks, the wolf warriors fired back, demanding that the United States take full global responsibility for the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, and elsewhere.

This argument, which seems facile at first glance, is probably premised on the fact that although the United States was among the first to discover HIV/ AIDS, it was not the source of the disease. Thus, by pushing this narrative, China is making the oblique claim that while it was the first country to detect COVD-19, this does not mean that the virus originated in China. This spin certainly has the poten-

tial to manipulate how people interpret blame for COVID-19.

Wolf warrior diplomacy has also celebrated the race riots taking place throughout America, triggered by an act of police brutality on an African American suspect. According to some US and Western observers, these events present China with a golden opportunity to fast-track the long-expected downfall of US unipolarity. The tensions between the world’s two largest economies were further demonstrated by the US ban on passenger flights from China on June 16, 2020, which occurred in response to China’s refusal to let US airlines resume flights to China.

Flight bans

As expected, Chinese diplomats railed against Washington’s action while defending Beijing’s decision, claiming that the suspension of US flights was fair because the ban applied to all foreign airlines. In mid-June, flights between the US and China resumed, but the number of such flights was substantially reduced.

Wolf Warrior Diplomacy b
Citizens in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, line up at a pharmacy to purchase face masks. photo: China News Service

China’s diplomacy in Europe has also been characterized by bullying and coercion, as noted by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stoltenberg observed that the outbreak had “magnified existing tensions” concerning NATO’s security. Australia is also calling for an international inquiry into the origins and spread of COVID-19, while at the same time expressing concerns about China’s assertive rhetoric. Australia also views China’s diplomacy as an attack on its enemies and a push for global influence.

Playing the race card

In response, the wolf warriors played the race card, accusing Australia of racism while defending the CCP’s actions toward Africans in China. Beijing did not provide any empirical evidence to show that Australia’s call for an investigation of the COVID-19 outbreak is fueled by racism. In fact, much of the rest of the world was asking similar questions about the provenance of the disease.

Third, in Asia, China seems poised for quick gains while the United States is preoccupied with domestic

problems. For Taiwan, cross-strait relations soured at the peak of COVID-19, as both Chinese and US military planes transited Taiwan’s airspace. According to The Taiwan News, on June 16, 2020, Chinese J-10 fighter jets violated Taiwan’s airspace and were reportedly warned by Taiwan to leave. The mission could not be determined, but according to various commentators, this was not an isolated case, as China frequently conducts such missions to collect intelligence and as a show of force.

China’s diplomacy seeks to make quick gains on US allies to enhance the CCP’s legitimacy at home. In India, for example, the border dispute recently escalated as a result of an alleged provocation by Chinese forces. In May 2020, large contingents of Chinese soldiers ventured deep inside Indian-controlled territory. Subsequently, a series of high-level meetings were held to diffuse the situation, and the role of the wolf warrior diplomats was to downplay China’s provocative behavior toward India. In June, the war of words threatened to turn into the real thing as the two sides clashed, leading to human casualties.

Diplomacy is commonly perceived as an instrument for foreign affairs, but China’s wolf warrior di-

photo: ROC Presidential Office ROC Army airborne forces train to defend Taiwan.

plomacy is targeting a domestic audience. In a scene from the first movie in the series, a Chinese soldier loudly proclaims, “Anyone who offends China will be killed no matter how far away they are.” This line reflects the current nationalist sentiment in China. The COVID-19 outbreak has presented a golden opportunity for China to turn the situation to its advantage through the efficient use of this strategy for the achievement of its domestic policy objectives.

Rewriting history

As the CCP has successfully indoctrinated the Chinese public and skillfully linked its political legitimacy with the survival of China itself, some Western intelligence organizations, in particular in the United States, correctly assert that the primary role of this strategy is to rewrite the history of the coronavirus, in order for the CCP to protect its reputation at home and around the world. In other words, these initiatives are a means to the same old end: the CCP’s survival.

COVID-19 has proved that the so-called global

village is also accompanied by grave security risks. Pandemics can travel at frightening speeds in an interconnected world. Similarly, harsh rhetoric can now reach all corners of the globe in an instant. While China’s wolf warrior diplomacy may play well to Chinese audiences, it could be harmful to China’s national interests internationally. China’s aggressive rhetoric has already escalated tensions globally, in particular in Africa, the West, and Asia, at the peak of the pandemic, which is likely to remain the case even beyond COVID-19.

On the positive side, democracy, regardless of its flaws, has again triumphed over totalitarianism, as democracies such as Taiwan have managed to combat the virus effectively due in part to the transparency of their systems. In contrast, dictatorial regimes such as the CCP have failed because of their alleged coverups, which ended up negatively impacting the entire world. Democracies in Africa, the Western World, and Asia will continue to be the prime targets of China’s wolf warrior diplomacy, and so they must strive to strengthen their institutions and work more closely together to counter common threats. n

Wolf Warrior Diplomacy b 23
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen wears a mask while speaking to the press. Taiwan has handled the pandemic exceptionally well. photo: ROC Presidential Office

Strategic Vision vol. 9, no. 46 (June, 2020)

India-DPRK Relations

New Delhi keeping channels of communication open with Pyongyang regime Prashant

By all available information, India remains the second-largest trading partner of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), better known as North Korea. Although India’s compliance with UN sanctions has reduced the value of this bilateral trade to the point that it is almost negligible, being the country’s second-largest trading partner has a symbolic value. Intermittent contacts between officials and the now largely symbolic—yet ongoing—trade linkages underline India’s position as a rare window to the world for the notoriously insular Hermit Kingdom.

India’s former Minister of State for External Affairs Vijay Kumar Singh made an unannounced visit to the DPRK in May 2018. According to then Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, the visit was made at the invitation of DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, extended during the Mid-Term Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), held the previous month in Baku, Azerbaijan. During that meeting, Ri reminded Swaraj that neither the India-DPRK Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) nor the Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) had been held for many years, and urged India to send its external affairs minister to Pyongyang immediately.

The low-key visit was consistent with India’s practice of quietly maintaining engagement with the DPRK. It has welcomed North Korean ministers and other high-ranking officials from time to time, the last being an April 2015 visit by Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong.

Moreover, North Korea has received humanitarian aid from India, including through the UN World Food Program (WFP) in 2011 and 2016. It has been a regular participant in the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program and the Professional Course for Foreign Diplomats (PCFD), run by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), though its ITEC slots have significantly decreased since 2016, most probably due to non-utilization. This pattern indicates that India has been attempting to maintain a delicate balance between nurturing relations with the DPRK and complying with UN sanctions against that country.

Singh’s visit was notable for two reasons. First, a ministerial visit from the Indian side had not taken place in 20 years, although ministers from the DPRK have visited India during this period. Second, Singh’s visit took place at a time when the Singapore summit between Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump, then being planned for June 2018, seemed to be in jeopardy. The urgent invitation was therefore hard to ignore.

The usual circumspection would have suggested to India not to time the visit when the region was dealing with many uncertainties. Also, significantly enough, the visit was preceded by the appointment of an officer from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS)— the first in more than five years—as Ambassador to the DPRK. Furthermore, in what was reported as an unusually swift process for the DPRK, Atul Malhari

24 b
Dr. Prashant Kumar Singh is an associate fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses who focuses on India’s engagement with East Asia. He can be reached at Kumar Singh

Gotsurve assumed his post on May 14, 2018, a mere nine days after his arrival. Singh reached Pyongyang on May 15, 2018. It is conceivable that, notwithstanding the supposed spontaneity of the invitation, consultations regarding the summit may have been behind this visit.

Continued cooperation

India’s cessation of ministerial visits after 1998 appeared to have been the result of tensions between the United States and North Korea on the nuclear issue, as well as on North Korea-Pakistan nuclear and missile cooperation. However, foreign ministry officials continued to meet under the FOC mechanism. Cooperation in ITEC and PCFD and India’s aid to the DPRK continued, and Pyongyang donated US$30,000 in aid to India after a Tsunami devastated its eastern coast in 2004. The relationship remained a low priority for India in the 2000s, but the establishment of Joint Secretary-Director General (JSDG) level talks in 2013 signaled a change in India’s approach toward the country. After this point, the annual reports released by the Indian MEA start-

ed mentioning North Korea by name, pointing out Pyongyang’s support for India’s candidature in various specialized UN agencies.

After Ri Su-yong’s visit to India in April 2015, during which he reportedly asked India to include the DPRK in its Act East Policy, Singh’s visit conveyed New Delhi’s desire to encompass the DPRK within the ambit of this policy, whose aim is to boost relations with the vast Asia-Pacific region. Then Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju issued a statement after attending an event held at the North Korean Embassy in New Delhi in September 2015.

“We have been discussing inside the government ways and means of upgrading bilateral ties … ever since the North Korean Foreign Minister visited Delhi last April [2015]… there should not be the usual old hurdles and suspicion… as North Korea is an independent country and also a member of the United Nations. A relationship based on greater trade and commerce … is the way ahead,” Rijiju’s statement read.

In September 2017, the United States suggested that India pare down its ties with North Korea. However, during a meeting with then US Secretary of State Rex

India-DPRK Relations b 25
photo: Krokodyl The North Korean Embassy in the Czech Republic.


Tillerson in October 2017, Swaraj advised that “some of their [US’s] friendly countries should maintain embassies there so that some channels of communication are kept open.” After the meeting, Tillerson told the media in Geneva that Indians think that their embassy in Pyongyang “has a value as a conduit for communications” between the United States and North Korea, and that this assessment could be correct.

Shared perspectives

During his visit, DPRK representatives shared their perspectives on some of the recent developments on the Korean Peninsula with Singh, who in turn reiterated India’s support for the DPRK’s peace initiative with South Korea. Furthermore, responding to India’s concerns in the context of the proliferation linkages with what amounts to the North Korea-Pakistan nexus, DPRK officials assured him that their government would never allow any action that threatens Indian security.

They also discussed cooperation in vocational edu-

cation, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and promotion of Yoga and traditional medicines. To mark 45 years of diplomatic relations, they agreed to strengthen people-to-people contacts through educational and cultural exchanges. This discussion was in keeping with India’s long-standing approach to the affairs of the Korean Peninsula, India’s own security concerns, and its Act East Policy.

Developments that have taken place since the setting-up of JS-DG level talks and Singh’s visit point to a fresh approach taken by India toward relations with North Korea. Incidentally, in its last three annual reports, the MEA listed the DPRK among the countries on which the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), manned by the MEA, conducted studies. In 2019-20, India reported that it was supplying food and anti-TB medicine kits to the DPRK through the WFP and World Health Organization (WHO)—aid packages that amounted to US$1 million each.

A circumstantial reading of such developments suggests that there might have been a link between the summit, whose possible occurrence was indicated

The unfinished yet imposing Ryugyong Hotel stands stark in the skyline of North Korea’s capital city of Pyongyang. photo: Dean Karalekas

in March 2018 on the one hand, and North Korea’s invitation in Baku at the NAM ministerial meet. Gotsurve’s swift approval as envoy, and Singh’s visit to Pyongyang the next day, might have been something more than a mere coincidence, given the fact that doubts had begun to emerge about the TrumpKim summit. The phraseology of the aforementioned discussion between Singh and his interlocutors indicated that the proposed summit and its uncertain status was on the agenda for the sudden, unannounced meeting. Later, Singh discussed issues of mutual interest with Ri Yong-ho on August 3, 2018 on the periphery of the ASEAN Regional Forum, held in Singapore. Indian leaders seem to believe that there should be multiple channels for direct communication with Pyongyang.

Moreover, India remains engaged with the international community on the issue of the DPRK, which has figured into Indo-US dialogue and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. It supported the inter-Korean Summit at Panmunjom in April 2018 and the historic Trump-Kim Summit in June 2018 in Singapore, followed by the inter-Korean Summit

in Pyongyang in September 2018 and the second Trump-Kim Summit in February 2019 in Hanoi. It is not implausible that the minister may have travelled to Pyongyang in the context of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, even though Swaraj would later deny any mediatory role, stating only that “due to our bilateral relations, General VK Singh visited DPRK.” The idea here is not to exaggerate the importance of Singh’s visit or allude to any formal mediatory role by India, but to underline the rare consultative space India enjoys on the Peninsula. It appears that North Korea invited India to share its perspectives and misgivings, and possibly to convey reassurances to the United States.

Long legacy

The legacy of India’s contacts with the DPRK goes back to its mediation efforts during the Korean War. Against the backdrop of Trump’s transactionalism and the strategic uncertainties that it had caused, together with a series of confrontations in IndiaChina relations since 2013, Singh’s visit might well have conveyed a message about India’s strategic au-

India-DPRK Relations b 27
India’s Secretariat Building, also known as the Central Secretariat, is where the Cabinet Secretariat is housed. photo: Laurie Jones

tonomy and aspirations to the powers that matter in the region. Incidentally, Rabia Javed, a Pakistan-based writer, has recently termed Indian-DPRK relations an “illicit connection” and “the axis of anxiety,” exaggerating rather old data about India’s negligible trade with the DPRK and the participation of DPRK scientists in a UN space science training program that was held in India.

It will take time for evidence to surface to prove a possible connection between Singh’s visit and the summit. Presently, what is more notable is that bilateral relations have picked up over the past few years. Notwithstanding the importance of the visit, expecting a substantive refactoring of North Korea in Indian foreign policy would be premature. South Korea’s importance to India was manifest when the ambassador-designate called on the South Korean ambassador to offer reassurances about India’s policy, prior to leaving for Pyongyang.

India is adopting the same cautious approach in striving to regain confidence in its engagement with the DPRK that it has exhibited with Taiwan in the last two decades. Therefore, high-level contacts will

still take time to bear fruit, owing to the sensitivities involved.

Even so, a reset of India’s China policy that looks imminent after the Galwan Valley clash in May 2020 is likely to substantially dilute India’s respect for China’s concerns. It should motivate India to deepen its engagement with Taiwan, Vietnam, and the DPRK more proactively.

New Delhi has a desire to preserve its historical contacts with Pyongyang to better position itself for a time when the DPRK emerges as a state responsibly engaged with the world. India’s prospective strategic interests in North Korea are manifold: economic interests in the country’s untapped mineral market; securing a friend in multilateral organizations; dissuading it from any undesirable cooperation with Pakistan; information and perspective-sharing on regional affairs; and pushing the envelope of its Act East Policy. Thus, although growth in bilateral relations depends on external factors, India has its prospective interests to pursue in the DPRK, if and when that country opens up to the world. n

photo: Dean Karalekas Shoppers on their way to the Charminar Bazaar in Hyderabad, india.

Strategic Vision vol. 9, no. 46 (June, 2020)

Missing the Old Normal

COVID-19 global pandemic hinders China’s relations with India and Japan

What started as the Wuhan virus in December 2019 in China had transitioned by March 2020 into a global pandemic, rebranded as COVID-19. On one hand, the stringent measures employed by Beijing to combat the virus outbreak, such as imposing lockdowns, travel restrictions, and testing through no-contact measures, have been lauded in the press; on the other hand, China’s lack of transparency and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak have put Beijing under global scrutiny. This has raised serious doubts over China’s ability to act as a responsible stakehold-

er, and has hampered the diplomatic efforts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

With increased damage to China’s responsible image, the pandemic severely hijacked Beijing’s relations and led to harsh criticism of the communist regime. Examples of this criticism include references to COVID-19 as the Chinese virus or Wuhan virus; describing China’s aid activities as little more than “mask diplomacy”; and calls to make China pay for the damage done. The biggest casualty has been China’s relations with the United States. With hundreds of thousands having died from the virus

b 29
Dr. Amrita Jash is Research Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), in New Delhi-India. She holds a PhD in Chinese Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University. US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit. photo: Shealah Craighead

worldwide, countries have been prompted to rethink their ties with the Beijing regime. India and Japan have been notable exceptions, however, by not joining in the blame game.

The significance of Beijing’s relations with New Delhi and Tokyo is four-fold. First, China shares important bilateral ties with both. Second, both are important trading partners. Third, China has unresolved territorial issues with both, including territorial and maritime disputes with Japan in the East China Sea. Fourth, both New Delhi and Tokyo are important partners to the United States.

COVID-19 impact

Given these factors, it is imperative to understand the impact of COVID-19 on China’s good relations with India and Japan, as they have important repercussions for Asia, and for the globe. Calling for a global effort to fight the pandemic, Chinese leaders have launched a Health Silk Road approach to diplomacy, by providing test kits, masks, ventilators and other medical supplies to over 100 countries. In addition, countries

such as Italy, Pakistan, Iran, Venezuela, and others have also received contingents of Chinese medical teams. Through such efforts, China hopes to boost its international status. However, its own handling of the virus outbreak has raised serious doubts over Beijing’s ability to act as a responsible world leader. China’s battle against international criticism has

given rise to another aspect of the COVID-19 fallout: the rise of so-called wolf warrior diplomacy. Chinese diplomats have become increasingly more strident and combative, applying diplomatic aggression to win the war to control the narrative. “The days when China can be put in a submissive position are long gone,” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece The Global Times tweeted.

International crises can often become make-orbreak opportunities. For China, COVID-19 has proved to be a “break” moment. With the pandemic

photo: Isaac Maxwell US, Japanese, and Indian Naval officers address participants during the 2019 Malabar Exercise.
“The wolf warrior attitude of Beijing’s representatives is only causing more damagetoitsalreadytarnishedimage.”

destabilizing the international economy and global order, the most pressing challenge for China—besides saving the lives of its citizens—is damage control. Unfortunately, the wolf warrior attitude of Beijing’s representatives is only causing more damage to its already tarnished image.

Spirits dampened

The celebratory spirit of the 70th anniversary of China-India relations has been gravely hit by the pandemic. What was supposed to be a landmark year has seen a number of severe diplomatic challenges over COVID-19. First, India stepped up scrutiny of investments from neighboring countries to curb “opportunistic takeovers and acquisitions”—phrasing that is clearly aimed at Chinese investments. Now, countries need to approach the Indian government rather than opting for the automatic route. Calling this “discriminatory,” a spokeswoman for the Chinese Embassy in India, Counselor Ji Rong, emphasized the need “to treat investments from different countries

equally, and foster an open, fair and equitable business environment.”

Second, the Indian Council of Medical Research found the test kits for coronavirus antibodies provided by two Chinese firms to have poor accuracy, and was forced to return them. Ji went on the defensive, saying that using the word “faulty” to describe Chinese products was “unfair and irresponsible.”

Third, The Global Times took exception to an opinion column in the Indian media outlet WION, which expressed support for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly, given that country’s impressive handling of the pandemic and its diplomatic isolation at the hands of China. The aforementioned CCP mouthpiece advised WION, and other Indian media, to “think independently,” characterizing WION’s words of support for Taiwan as defiance of China’s “internationally recognized one-China principle.”

Finally, the virus failed to prevent or dampen tensions at the border when in June, India and China witnessed a violent scuffle in the Galwan Valley of

PRC Ties With Japan, India b 31
A US Air Force B-1B takes off from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam to support operations in the Sea of Japan. photo: River Bruce

Eastern Ladakh, resulting in the death of 20 Indian soldiers. This was the deadliest incident between the two countries’ militaries since 1967. The precursor to this was set in May, when Indian and Chinese troops clashed in two previous incidents, to which China responded by saying “our troops there are committed to upholding peace and stability.” Furthermore, China accused India of causing the tensions by turning a blind eye to its own transgressions along the contested border that led to the calamity. These situations exemplify the tensions at play between China and India, and the pandemic is only adding new facets to old diplomatic tensions.

What looked to have been improving Beijing-Tokyo relations was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, the outbreak has hijacked the biggest potential political breakthrough in Sino-Japanese ties by stalling a state visit by PRC General Secretary Xi Jinping planned for April. This diplomatic event was seen by both sides as a potential stabilizer for the fragile ties, but the virus outbreak caused a delay. On

a positive note, Japan was the first to provide medical aid to China by donating masks, goggles, protective suits, and other supplies for epidemic prevention and control. In addition, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party Diet members also donated a portion of their March salaries (5,000 yen) to China’s fight against COVID-19—a sum totaling 2 million yen, or about US$18,170.

The impact on bilateral ties can be witnessed in several areas. First, the disruption of the export-import supply chain has prompted Japan to shift its manufacturing of high value-added products from China back to Japan, and for the production of other goods to be

A traditional ceremony is held at a monastery in Ladakh. The region has been the site of conflict recently between Indian and Chinese troops.
“Althoughthewolfwarriordiplomacy employed by China’s diplomats has not yet been directed toward India orJapan,relationsexhibitthestrains ofdiscord,suggestingthatnoteverythingisgoingwell.”

spread across Southeast Asia. In doing so, a significant amount of the US$2.3 billion stimulus package against COVID-19 has been allotted for companies to shift production back to Japan, or to other countries. This decisive move by Japan risks impacting the effort by Xi and Abe to stabilize relations. With the growing economic contingencies, Japan’s economic recovery will act as a decisive factor in shaping the ties between the two trading partners.

Second, on the political front, Tokyo is showing signs of resentment toward Beijing for its culpability for the virus outbreak. Speaking on the issue of China’s undue influence in the operations of the World Health Organization (WHO), Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso expressed criticism by suggesting, “it shouldn’t be called the WHO. It should be renamed the CHO [China Health Organization].” This official criticism of China exemplifies instability in the relationship.

Third, the viral outbreak has failed to reduce tensions in the East China Sea. In March, a Chinese fishing boat collided with the JS Shimakaze, a Hatakaze-class guided missile de-

stroyer in Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force. This further demonstrates that old tensions remain far from settled. These factors exemplify the divide that runs in contrast to the intention of putting relations on a stable track.

Significant shift

China’s relations with India and Japan are undergoing a significant shift under the COVD-19 pandemic. Although the wolf warrior diplomacy employed by China’s diplomats has not yet been directed toward India or Japan, relations exhibit the strains of discord, suggesting that not everything is going well.

PRC Ties With Japan, India b 33
Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa)

With national interests held high, there seems to be a divide in the pursuit of interests. The biggest casualty is China’s trade, given that both India and Japan are major trading partners. Amid a global push to disengage from China, India is becoming an attractive new option as a manufacturing base, which will cause China’s economy to suffer from a withdrawal of investments. Japanese manufacturers pulling out of China will only add to the damage done to China’s economy, given Japan’s huge investments there.

Testing grounds

Furthermore, given the unresolved territorial and maritime disputes, if China takes a wolf warrior attitude toward New Delhi and Tokyo, then both the Chinese border with India and the East China Sea will become the testing grounds for Beijing’s resolve to recover from the secondary effects the pandemic. This will further add to the security dilemma between these states.

In addition, the US factor looms large in shaping a

new normal in China’s ties with both India and Japan, given that both are strong partners with Washington and, most importantly, members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, which seems to unnerve Chinese leaders.

The global action against China for its silence and lack of transparency over the Wuhan epidemic acts as a litmus test. This will act as a pressure point for both India and Japan, if they so choose. This will result in creating severe discord in ties if New Delhi and Tokyo fail to maintain their respective pre-COVID-19 policies toward Beijing.

With the growing uncertainties and increasing economic distress accompanied by overwhelmed health care systems, many countries are now forced to reevaluate their diplomatic ties with China. India and Japan are no exceptions. Under these circumstances, and with no immediate upswing in relations apparent on the horizon, China’s ties with India and Japan are likely to sink to a new diplomatic low. Therefore, a return to the old normal would appear to be a farfetched prospect. n

Sailors aboard the USS McCampbell stand at attention for India’s International Fleet Review 2016 passing exercise hosted by the Indian Navy.
photo: Soon Kwon
STRATEGIC VISION for Taiwan Security Taiwan Center for Security Studies National Chengchi University No.64, Wanshou Road Wenshan Dist, Taipei City 11665 Taiwan (ROC) +886-2-8237-7228
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