There will be two reasons why the convening of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC) will be unique this year. The first is that it will be the first time this meeting has been delayed from its March slot since the 1980s, when it started to be held with something like regularity as part of the Deng era institution building reforms. The second is that it will be the first that might turn out to be genuinely revealing and information. The cause for both of these happens to be the same: COVID-19.
George Orwell’s predictions in 1984 came several decades too early, but they hit the mark. In a heartbeat, Orwell’s dystopic digital authoritarianism might have translated into reality, to the point that nowadays we no longer cast a curious look at the tracking apps on our phones or the video surveillance cameras in shops or buses. This is particularly true for China, where social surveillance has deeper philosophical roots than in Western societies.
Popular mobilisation is one of the key recurring elements that have characterised Chinese politics since Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and has entered Beijing’s political grammar as a well-established practice. It has featured prominently even after the reform era initiated by Deng Xiaoping, for instance after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
During the last four decades, China experienced impressive economic growth, becoming one of the leading powers of the global economy. After a century of humiliation imposed by Western and Japanese colonial powers, today the country is demonstrating a strong desire to achieve its national rejuvenation (guojia fuxing).
When thinking about the most controversial external actor in the Western Balkans from Brussels’ perspective, one tends to look east. Russia has long been labelled the most influential (and problematic) external actor in the region.
Although the Chinese authorities have so far not explicitly said that the donation of masks and other protective equipment to developing countries is part of a formal, coherent strategy, the Chinese government has put significant effort into activating its diplomatic machinery, seemingly taking a leading role in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Africa.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC), and more importantly the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is a major factor in the global information environment. China is both a consumer and a supplier for that network. Some 850 million Chinese people have access to the Internet. China is an integral part of the global supply chain for information and communications technologies (ICT).
China’s growing interest in the Persian Gulf – together with all the talking of U.S. retrenchment from the very same region – gives rise to a question: will China’s increasing economic interest in the Persian Gulf lead to a more activist security policy there? And, to put it bluntly, will China and the U.S. switch roles in the long term? To answer these questions, we need to consider a few aspects. First, what is the strategic relevance of the Gulf to China? Second, how do U.S. and Chinese interests in the region overlap, and how do they separate?
Ever since Beijing started stretching its muscles into the Upper Western Indian Ocean (UWIO), New Delhi has refused to be a passive spectator. Some Indian policymakers interpreted Chinese actions in the area through the lenses of the “String of Pearls” theory, according to which China aims to gain access to a series of strategic locations (i.e., “Pearls”) in the Indian Ocean in order to project power.