China

Cindy Yu

China will struggle to resist Biden’s trade war

Attending a business summit in Shanghai earlier this year, I was struck by how downbeat the mood was. China’s stagnant economy, in particular the slow-motion meltdown of the property market, had clipped investor confidence across a number of industries. One Italian businessman told me the event had many fewer international attendees than previous years. But the apprehensive mood was cut through by the bolshiness of one senior executive from a leading Chinese electric car company: ‘America, Europe, Japan and South Korea are our high-potential markets’, the exec beamed as he set out a plan for what seemed like world domination. His optimism was not misplaced. In post-pandemic China, electric cars

Max Jeffery

Max Jeffery, David Shipley, Patrick Kidd, Cindy Yu, and Hugh Thomson

33 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: Max Jeffery interviews Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Massoud (1:13); former prisoner David Shipley ponders the power of restorative justice (8:23); Patrick Kidd argues that the Church should do more to encourage volunteers (14:15); Cindy Yu asks if the tiger mother is an endangered species (21:06); and, Hugh Thomson reviews Mick Conefrey’s book Fallen, examining George Mallory’s tragic Everest expedition (26:20). Produced and presented by Patrick Gibbons.

Ian Williams

Putin and Xi’s anti-West alliance is strengthening

The visit by Russian president Vladimir Putin to the north-eastern Chinese city of Harbin today was no doubt designed as a symbol of the tightening economic relationship between the two countries. Harbin is a gateway for their burgeoning trade; the Russian leader was there to open a China-Russia expo. In the minds of many Chinese nationalists, though, Harbin has far darker symbolism. ‘Little Moscow’, as the city is sometimes called, was established by Russian settlers at the end of the nineteenth century and was the administrative centre of the Russian-built Chinese Eastern Railway. This was an imperialist project to give Russia a shortcut to Vladivostok and the Russian Far East,

Ian Williams

Why is the UK not blaming China for the MoD hack?

The personal details of members of the UK’s armed forces appear to have been the latest target of China’s prolific cyber spies, with the Ministry of Defence’s payroll system containing the names, bank details and some addresses of up to 272,000 people on its books targeted by hackers. The government though is directing its fury at the hapless MoD contractor whose systems were breached, rather than the suspected perpetrators in Beijing. Defence secretary Grant Shapps said the attack was carried out in recent days and was ‘the suspected work of a malign actor’. He would not name the actor, though in multiple background briefings China was identified as prime suspect

Ian Williams

The rusting Philippine ship raising US-China tensions

The rusting and disintegrating hulk of a former Second World War landing ship has become an unlikely but dangerous flashpoint in US-China relations. The Sierra Madre, built for the US navy to land tanks, has for several decades been stranded on a shoal in the South China Sea. But now it has become a symbol of Beijing’s growing aggression in the region and its disdain for international law. The Philippines, which bought the ship in 1976, intentionally grounded her on the largely submerged Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly islands in 1999 to defend their claim to the territory. There she has remained to this day as a lonely symbol of sovereignty and home to a small contingent of Philippine marines. For many years,

Ian Williams

US businesses are falling out of love with Xi’s Chinese dream

A US diplomat in Beijing once told me a story of an American businessman hospitalised in the city of Ningbo after being hit at the airport by an electric buggy that was ferrying a group of Chinese VIPs who were late for their flight. The authorities confiscated his passport, demanding he pay for the damage to the buggy before he could leave. The diplomat was outraged, but when he got to Ningbo to provide help, the businessman told him to go home, explaining that he wanted to pay the fine since he was on the cusp of a big deal and didn’t want to upset the authorities. To the diplomat

China’s threats to Kinmen should be taken seriously

When two Chinese fisherman died last month trying to flee Taiwan’s coastguard, Beijing laid the blame at Taipei’s feet and demanded an apology. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also spied an opportunity to advance its territorial claims. China has been targeting Kinmen, an island controlled by Taiwan, more aggressively over the past few weeks. The CCP stated that ‘there is no such thing as “prohibited or restricted waters”’ – saying that the waters around the island had been used as traditional fishing grounds by both sides. On the morning of 19 February, four Chinese coast guard vessels patrolled around Kinmen’s restricted waters. Personnel boarded and inspected a Taiwanese tourist boat that had ‘veered slightly of course’. The next day, a

Ian Williams

Hungary has become China’s useful idiot

This week a security deal was announced that could see Chinese police on the streets of Hungary. Despite this, there was remarkably little fanfare about the agreement – just a few vague details in public statements made days after the deal was signed between the interior ministers of the two countries. Yet is represents another troubling challenge by Hungary’s authoritarian leader Viktor Orban to both Nato and the EU, of which he remains an increasingly troublesome member. The security pact will involve ‘enhancing cooperation in law enforcement and joint patrols,’ according to the Hungarian statement, while the Chinese version said the two countries would, ‘deepen cooperation in areas including counter-terrorism,

How the Chinese markets lost faith in the CCP

Ahead of the Chinese new year holiday, Beijing has been intervening to prop up the country’s stock markets. Regulators have tightened market trading conditions, and this week the head of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, Yi Huiman, was fired abruptly, presumably as the fall-guy for the relentless decline in the markets, which have lost about $6 trillion in value since the end of 2021. There is a palpable concern about financial instability in China that travels all the way up to Xi Jinping Chinese equity prices have touched their lowest levels since 2018, and are not far from the lows reached in the 2015-16 financial crisis. Mr Yi’s two predecessors were also fired

The devastating cost of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan

The next twelve months will be dominated by elections, with polls expected in at least 64 countries. Of these, there are only a few that really matter in geopolitical terms. The US elections of course, especially if won by an isolationist Donald Trump (assuming he is allowed to run). India’s parliamentary elections in April will help steer the course of a superpower for the future. And in Europe, the rise of populist parties may well change the direction of the EU in the years to come. But perhaps the most consequential one has just happened this weekend, in Taiwan, where William Lai has just been elected president. There is significant

Why China benefits from the Maldives’ spat with India

Think of the Maldives and you’re likely to conjure up images of expensive honeymoons and golden beaches, but the archipelago is also the focus of an extraordinary spat with India. The Maldives’ high commissioner was summoned by the Indian government last week after three Maldivian deputy ministers published derogatory posts on X/ Twitter, labelling Indian prime minister Narendra Modi a ‘terrorist’, ‘clown’ and ‘puppet of Israel’. One message even compared India to cow dung. The fallout from this imbroglio has been swift. The trio were suspended and the posts have now been deleted. But India is furious: the hashtags #BoycottMaldives and #ExploreIndianIslands have been trending and there have been reports

Ian Williams

China calls the shots in its alliance with Russia

There has been a strange atmosphere at recent top level meetings between ‘best friends’ China and Russia. It is not so much the elephant in the room as the pipeline running through it, with Moscow almost over-eager to talk about what has been billed as one of their most important joint economic projects, while Beijing has been doing its best to change the subject. That project is the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline, which is supposed to carry 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas a year from the Yamal region in northern Russia to China, by way of Mongolia. It was conceived more than a decade ago

Ian Williams

Taiwan’s voters defy Beijing

Taiwan’s voters have defied Beijing’s threats and intimidation and elected as president the most independence-minded of the candidates for the job. After a typically boisterous election, Lai Ching-te of the China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) declared victory Saturday evening, having received just over 40 per cent of the vote in Taiwan’s first-past-the-post system. ‘We’ve written a new page for Taiwan’s history of democracy,’ he told reporters, after winning by a bigger margin than expected. Hou Yu-ih from the more China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) came second with 33.4 per cent, while Ko Wen-je of the populist Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) received 26.4 per cent. There was no immediate reaction on Saturday from Beijing, which had denounced Lai, 64, as a dangerous separatist and ‘a troublemaker through and through’. The Chinese Communist party

When will the West stand up to Xi Jinping?

Since the Umbrella Movement democracy protests in 2014, China’s president Xi Jinping has been dismantling Hong Kong’s freedoms – and its very democratic essence – in plain sight. The culmination of the city-state’s metamorphosis from open society to authoritarianism is marked by the trial of Hong Kong entrepreneur, media mogul and pro-democracy campaigner Jimmy Lai, which began a week before Christmas and resumed on 2 January. Initially the erosion of Hong Kong’s way of life was gradual. But over the past four years, since the imposition of a draconian national security law in June 2020, the destruction has been rapid, far-reaching and comprehensive. Freedoms of expression, assembly, association and of

How China is weaponising trade against Taiwan

Why should we care that Beijing has suspended tariff relief for 12 Taiwanese petrochemical products? The move certainly lacks the fear factor which Chinese military manoeuvres around Taiwan generate – exercises which have become more routine and grander in scale during 2023. Yet China’s economic warfare against Taiwan is just as pernicious. It is also premeditated, with moves on this front aligning with key moments in Taiwan’s political calendar and developments in the country’s relationship with the United States. By targeting specific products with restrictions and sanctions, Beijing seeks to punish both the Taiwanese people and their government. What’s more, while it seems unlikely to win the hearts of the former, these punitive

How Britain failed Jimmy Lai

There is something shameful about the government’s reluctance to publicly call for the release of Jimmy Lai, a British citizen and democracy campaigner, held in solitary confinement in Hong Kong. Lai, the founder of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, and one of the most prominent critics of China’s Communist Party, has languished in prison for more than 1,100 days. His trial, on national security charges, finally got underway today. Yet it is only now that a British minister has summoned up the courage to properly condemn Lai’s prosecution for the politically motivated sham it undoubtedly is. Lord Cameron, the foreign secretary, said he was ‘gravely concerned’ about the trial, and joined the  United

Ian Williams

How China weaponises its cuddly giant pandas

So Yang Guang and Tian Tian are on their way back to China. Rather like a pair of high-profile celebrities, the giant pandas travelled in convoy to Edinburgh airport this morning, with every detail of their last days in the UK scrutinised in dewy-eyed detail. They’re not travelling business class, not quite, but they do have specially constructed metal crates apparently complete with sliding padlock doors, bespoke pee trays and removable screens so the keepers accompanying them can check on them during the flight. ‘I think they’ll be fine. I’m sure they’ll have a safe journey,’ said Rab Clark, the zoo’s blacksmith, who built the crates. Arguably the giant panda,

The remarkable life of Henry Kissinger

The next few weeks will be filled with remembrances, fulsome appreciations, and harsh criticism of Henry Alfred Kissinger, who died on Wednesday at 100. His prominence is well deserved. The only modern secretaries of state who rank with him are George C. Marshall and Dean Acheson, who constructed the architecture of Cold War containment in the late 1940s. Kissinger’s central achievement was updating that architecture to include China, less as an American ally than as a Russian adversary. Until the late 1960s, Washington and Beijing had seen each other as bitter foes, not only because they had fought each other in the Korean War but because they represented the era’s two

Cindy Yu

How China cornered the green market

When Rishi Sunak announced that the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars would be delayed by five years, he framed it as a common-sense move. What he didn’t say is that he had been advised that, had the original deadline stuck, Britain’s electric vehicle (EV) market would have been handed over to China. Going green, Sunak was told, would mean going Chinese. At the COP climate summit in Dubai starting this weekend, other leaders will have reached the same conclusion. They’re all a bit late. With little fanfare and a lot of state help, Chinese companies are now world leaders in wind, solar, hydro, lithium batteries and electric cars

Why Argentina is turning its back on Brics

‘Today, the rebuilding of Argentina begins’, Javier Milei declared in his first speech as the new president-elect. The anarcho-capitalist is wasting no time in his mission.  Milei has already pulled the plug on what was set to be current president Fernandez’s career-defining achievement: Argentina’s historic admittance to Brics (a loose alliance of economies led by Brazil, Russia, India and China). Argentina’s new leader intends instead to swivel westwards, prioritising trade and relations with ‘the liberal democracies of the world’, while casting a backwards glance at China. Is Milei right to reorient Argentina, or is he biting the hand that feeds him? Beijing has declared it a ‘grave error’ if Argentina