November Analysis: Global Affairs

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Timeline of Major Events

DateEvents
11 NovemberPresident Xi Jinping becomes the third Chinese leader to issue a document summarizing the Chinese Communist Party’s 100-year history at the sixth plenary session.
15 NovemberPresident Joe Biden and President Xi-Jingping hold a virtual meeting.
24 NovemberThe Biden administration extends Taiwan an invite to participate in an upcoming US-hosted Summit for Democracy.
26 NovemberFive U.S. lawmakers arrive in Taiwan to meet government officials.
26 NovemberThe 18th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of China, Russia and India

The United States’ Unclear China Policy

The US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping held a virtual meeting on November 15 marking their first formal meeting in which the leaders discussed collaboration on global issues of climate change and security. The call came amidst escalating U.S.-China tensions which analysts have also referred to as the lowest points in the relationship between the countries in decades. Since the meeting was also the first time the two leaders engaged after Biden took office, the lack of communication also became a measure of the rising tensions between China and The United States. The White House statement released after the meeting stated that “the leaders discussed areas where our interests converge and where our interests, values, and perspectives diverge”. Although the meeting did not yield a significant turn in relations between the two countries, some analysts have said that the meeting was an optimistic development positive step towards a more positive economic and political cooperation. Whereas certain analysts have argued such talks are unlikely to improve ties in the long run.

President Joe Biden is greeted by, from left, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz as he arrives at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, en route to Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn. Photo: AP

The status of the island of Taiwan has become a major point of tension amidst deteriorating U.S.-China relations. In recent months, the Chinese government has escalated military and political pressure in its claims over the island while American support for Taiwan’s military has steadily escalated. The arrival of five bipartisan United States lawmakers, only days after the Xi-Biden virtual meeting has defied and riled only China. The news came a day after the Biden administration invited Taiwan to be one of the 110 delegations to a meeting of democracies to be held on December 9 and 10 wherein countries such as Russia and China have been excluded, further diplomatically bucking Beijing. The United States has thus defied China policy and does not officially recognize Taiwan.

Xi Jingping has bolstered his legacy in political history in what various reports have called a “historical resolution” that documents the Chinese Communist Party’s 100-year old history and lists its key achievements. Whereas, Joe Biden has found himself under domestic pressure to take a tough position with China on economic, technological, human rights, and geopolitical fronts. While both leaders have adopted strong positions on key issues, they have acknowledged that their difference must not lead to any serious confrontations. Thus, while we can observe a classic case of posturing during great power rivalry, there also appears to be a realization that interdependence between the two countries is much too deep and the risks in terms of decoupling are not worth taking. However, the American hard line towards China on matters such as the status of Taiwan and the South China Sea also appears to undermine the sincerity of its cooperation efforts.

Debt Trap Scare in Uganda

The failure to amend a loan arrangement with China’s Export-Import bank has put Uganda’s only international airport, Entebbe International Airport, under the risk of being “taken over”. According to reports, Chinese rejection to renegotiate certain clauses in the 2015 deal may subject the Entebbe International Airport to be controlled by Chinese lenders. This has fanned flames to debt trap concerns in terms of projects carried out between China and many developing countries, especially in Africa. The situation with Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport regarding debt trap appears all the more dubious given the situation with after Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port became controversial after a Chinese firm got a contract

The spokesperson for the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority has refuted the claims and said that Uganda is still operating within the grace period of 7 years to repay the loan and that it wasn’t the first time such allegations had come up. Economic analysts have also suggested that it is time for the government to re-examine how it handles its agreements with donors as technically, any loan received from the Export-Import Bank is not treated as a loan but as an export, thus making it difficult to negotiate. Some analysts maintain that loan deal could become a problem if Uganda ever has trouble paying back the loan.

India supports 2022 Winter Olympics to be hosted in Beijing

Indian support for China to host the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games expressed in a joint communique during the 18th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of China, Russia, and India has courted attention. The statement comes after American President Joe Biden said that the United States was considering a “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Winter Olympics Games citing China’s human rights abuses as a reason. The comment from the American President comes just days after his virtual meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Certain analysts have alleged that India’s position on the Beijing Winter Olympics demonstrates that “despite close ties with the United States, India maintains a strong diplomatic and strategic autonomy wherein it does not incline to the US over all regional and international affairs”. Albeit symbolic, India’s position on the matter is a positive development in Sino-Indian relationship.

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