DPG China Monitor

China Monitor

The 27th Meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held in New Delhi on May 31, 2023. India sought progress on disengagement in remaining areas. The two sides agreed to hold the next round of senior military commander level talks in the near future.

On May 4, 2023, India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, met Chinese Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Minister’s meeting in Goa. Reacting to the Chinese Foreign Minister’s contention that the situation along India-China borders is stable, EAM Dr. Jaishankar reiterated that India-China relations are not normal; there cannot be normalcy if peace and tranquillity in the border areas remain disturbed. Mutual respect, mutual sensitivity, and mutual interest must remain the basis of the relationship, Dr. Jaishankar added.

During the 18th round of military commanders' talks held on April 23, 2023, the PLA put forward a demand for creating a 15-20 Km buffer zone or 'no patrol zone' inside India’s claim lines as a precondition for disengagement from the Depsang Plains. India rejected the Chinese claim and instead offered a limited 3-4 Km buffer zone, which was not acceptable to the Chinese side. The Status quo prevails in the region.

Given the unresolved standoff in the Depsang Plains, the Indian Army is planning to restore patrolling in the area. Among the two remaining friction points of Depsang and Chumar, Depsang is strategically more important, as it is sandwiched between the Siachen Glacier on one side and China-controlled Aksai Chin on the other.

In regional developments, on May 6, 2023, China and Pakistan held their fourth Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad. China reiterated that the “Kashmir dispute was left over from history” and should be “properly and peacefully resolved in accordance with the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions, and bilateral agreements”.

Along with the bilateral Foreign Ministers dialogue, Pakistan also hosted the 5th China-Pakistan-Afghanistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ meeting. The three countries agreed to enhance their economic relations by extending CPEC to Afghanistan, cooperation on counter-terrorism, and extending connectivity.

China hosted the first China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an. President Xi hailed China-Central Asia ties as entering a new era and stressed the importance of “staying committed to mutual assistance, common development, universal security, and everlasting friendship”.

Leaders of the G7 met in Hiroshima, Japan on May 19, 2023. The G7 Leaders’ Communiqué expressed concerns over China’s coercive economic practices, unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas, the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits, and concerns about the human rights situation in Tibet, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang. Beijing counselled the G7 to stop hyping China-related issues and asserted that “the international community does not accept the G7-dominated Western rules that seek to divide the world based on ideologies and create exclusive small blocs designed to serve America-first and vested interests of a few”.

People’s Daily editorial severely criticised Japan for hyping the “China threat” as part of its G7 Presidency. It also expressed concerns about Japan spearheading NATO’s forays into Asia-Pacific with plans to open a NATO office in Tokyo.

US-China tensions over Taiwan showed no signs of abating. As the US continues to strengthen Taiwan’s self-defence capabilities, China warned that the US is turning Taiwan into a “powder keg”. China turned down a US request to schedule defence minister level talks on the margins of the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore. However, the commerce ministers of the two countries held trade consultations during the month and diplomatic contacts are continuing. Wang Yi, Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee met US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, in Vienna on May 10-11, 2023. With mutual trust impaired between the two sides, Chinese state media reminded Washington that it "cannot warm up China-US relations only with words".

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited Germany, France, and Norway between May 8-12, 2023. Even as this visit strengthened dialogue and mutual trust between the two sides, a Global Times editorial shed light on four major issues that mar the China-Europe relationship. These include the Ukraine crisis, European impulse to interfere in China’s internal affairs, especially the Taiwan question, the EU’s attempts to decouple from China in the name of trade de-risking and succumbing to the US’s China containment strategy.

On May 24, 2023, President Xi met Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Beijing. The two sides reiterated their resolve to deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership and stand together to repel the collective West’s attempts to maintain their global dominance.

China's Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs, during a visit to Ukraine on May 15, 2023, stressed that “there is no panacea to resolve the Ukraine crisis”, urging all parties to build trust and create the conditions for facilitating peace talks that will end the conflict.

Amidst an uneven post-Covid economic recovery, China’s factory activity dipped in April 2023 owing to weak demand. Growing youth unemployment, and Chinese local government’s "Hidden Debt" further added to Chinese economic concerns.