July 29, 2022- Stealth War 98: Execution of Activists in Myanmar Sparks International Backlash, but China Remains Silent; China-Iran Trade Exchanges Increase for Second Straight Year; China Announces Four Points of Consensus with India in Border Dispute Talks; U.S., Partner Navies Stage RIMPAC Exercises as China Looks On; Indonesian President Visits China

By: Jamestown Foundation

Fri July, 2022, Age: 10 months


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July 29, 2022

Welcome to the Stealth War Newsletter, a collection of the top 5 recent news items, collected on The Jamestown Foundation’s website, stealth-war-org.cdn-pi.com. To continue to receive this weekly collection, click the button below to subscribe. 

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This issue’s number to watch

$52 Billion

Funding set aside by Congress as part of the the new “Chips and Science act” to provide government subsidies for U.S. production of semiconductors. 

This Week: 

Execution of Activists in Myanmar Sparks International Backlash, but China Remains Silent 

* China-Iran Trade Exchanges Increase for Second Straight Year 

* China Announces Four Points of Consensus with India in Border Dispute Talks

U.S., Partner Navies Stage RIMPAC Exercises as China Looks On

* Indonesian President Visits China

Top Stories

(source: Wikipedia)

Execution of Activists in Myanmar Sparks International Backlash, but China Remains Silent 

Recently, the Tatmadaw, which is the military junta that rules Myanmar, generated major international backlash over its execution of four prominent pro-democracy activists. The activists executed were Kyaw Min Yu (better known as Ko Jimmy), Phyo Zayar Thaw, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw. Thaw and Yu were accused of leading and planning guerrilla raids on the junta’s forces, while Aung and Za were accused of murdering military informants. In response to criticism over the executions, junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun doubled down on the Tatmadaw’s decision, stating that the executed activists “deserved many death sentences” due to their alleged crimes. Following the executions, a pro-junta mob attacked the homes of the activists’ families. The mob pelted their homes with stones and other projectiles while shouting insults and death threats.

The junta has received extensive criticism both internationally and domestically over the executions. In response to the deaths of the activists, the United States, European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom released a joint statement condemning the junta’s actions. In Myanmar, many anti-junta Ethnic Armed Organizations further condemned the executions. The United League of Arakan noted that the junta’s “absurd death penalty” had “provoked anger, a sense of righteousness and even worse” in Myanmar’s citizenry.

Notably, China did not criticize the actions of the junta, despite urging from the United States for Beijing to condemn the executions. In a press conference held on Monday, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated that the People’s Republic of China adheres to the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. However, nearly a month ago, the junta rolled out camera surveillance systems across ten of Myanmar’s largest cities, which were sourced from Chinese tech giants Zhejiang Dahua Technology, Huawei Technologies, and Hikvision.

(source: China Daily)

China-Iran Trade Exchanges Increase for Second Straight Year 

Today, Chinese president Xi Jinping said Beijing will strengthen cooperation with one of its most important allies in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic of Iran. In a phone call reported by the Global Times, Xi told Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi that “China is willing to strengthen cooperation with Iran within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and other frameworks.” The call took place while the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was holding a summit of foreign ministers in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. In the wake of bitter relations with the U.S., China and Iran have raised their bilateral relations to the strategic level, going so far as to sign a deal under which Beijing will invest more than $400 billion in Iran over the next 25 years.

The call for increased cooperation between the two countries is no surprise, however, considering their growing economic partnership and the rumors surrounding Iran’s potential entry into BRICS. Compared to 2021, trade exchanges between China and Iran increased by 23 percent in the first half of 2022, the total value of such trade exchanges exceeding $8 billion. China imported 4.081 billion dollars’ worth of goods from Iran, a 31 percent increase over the previous year. Chinese exports also increased by 16 percent from January to June, reaching 4.182 billion dollars. During the same period in 2021, the value of trade exchanges between the two countries was only $5.481 billion. But like this year, Iranian-Chinese trade exchanges grew by 11 percent in 2021. The last two years show a pattern of growing economic and strategic interdependence between the two countries.

One of the areas where China and Iran are growing their economic ties is in agriculture. Ahead of Xi Jinping’s phone call with President Raisi, Iran inked two new agreements with China to facilitate agricultural exports. The documents were signed by Iranian Agricultural Minister Javad Sadati-Nejad and Head of China’s General Administration of Customs Yu Jianhua in an online ceremony on Thursday, according to the Tehran Times. One of the documents concerned the health requirements for the exports of fresh citrus fruits from Iran to China, while the second document concerned Iranian honey exports to China. Such deals demonstrate the vivacity and diversification of Iranian-Chinese trade beyond the sphere of oil. If the last two years are any indication, Chinese-Iranian economic cooperation will continue to grow in scope and intensity.

(source: Stears)

China Announces Four Points of Consensus with India in Border Dispute Talks

 On July 28, representatives of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) stated that four points of consensus were reached during the 16th round of dialogue between New Delhi and Beijing regarding the ongoing Ladakh border dispute clashes and military build-up. According to the PLA’s press release, these are:

  • Adhering to the political guidance and earnestly implementing the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries.
  • Focusing on the overall situation and maintaining the resumption of momentum of bilateral relations.
  • Effectively managing and controlling differences, and safeguarding the security and stability in border areas until the issue is solved.
  • Maintaining communication and dialogue, and reaching a mutually acceptable solution as soon as possible.

By contrast, the representatives from India have not mentioned a consensus. Sources familiar with New Delhi’s perspective indicate that while a small amount of progress may have been achieved, escalating military activity and a failure to agree on primary objectives may cause relations between the two nations to rupture. These sentiments were revealed in the days following the July 17 meeting. Since then, the People’s Republic of China has continued aggressive fighter jet maneuvers near various hot spots along the border. Such incidents, which have become more frequent since June, were a key point of contention during the 16th round of dialogue. Specifically, the cessation of PLA flights within 10 kilometers of the so-called “Line of Actual Control” is part of the agreed upon confidence building measures supporting the dialogue process, but Beijing’s failure to respect Delhi’s wishes does not bode well for future diplomacy. Thus, even if the two nations’ foreign ministers do meet at the end of the month, as has been tentatively discussed since the last dialogue, little positive change is to be expected.

(source: RFA)

U.S., Partner Navies Stage RIMPAC Exercises as China Looks On

The month-long, multilateral Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 naval exercises conclude next week. The year’s iteration of  RIMPAC, which is organized by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, includes 38 surface ships, four submarines, nine national land forces, more than 30 unmanned systems, approximately 170 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel from twenty-six nations. While China was invited to participate in RIMPAC in 2014 and 2016, the PLA Navy has not been included in the multilateral exercises in recent years.

The theme of this year’s RIMPAC exercises is Capable Adaptive Partners, which aligns with the efforts of the U.S. and its allies and partners’ efforts to bring about a networked security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region. Notably, the U.S. Navy’s four largest prototype unmanned surface vessels (seaborne drones) are participating in this year’s exercise. The Pentagon has displayed growing interest in waterborne drones as a cost-effective means to maintain pace with China’s rapidly growing naval fleet. Despite its past RIMPAC participation, Chinese state media has taken a dim view of this year’s U.S.-led exercises. A caustic editorial in the state-run Global Times stated: “the sewage of the Cold War cannot be allowed to flow into the Pacific Ocean.”

(source: FMPRC)

Indonesian President Visits China

On July 26-27, Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) visited China and met with People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping. Notably, Widodo is the first foreign head of state to visit China since the Beijing Winter Olympics. Widodo thanked Xi and the PRC for the support Indonesia received during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the PRC supplied Indonesia with Chinese-made vaccines through sales and donations. Moreover, during the visit, Widodo and Xi announced renewed commitment to deepen bilateral relations between their two countries. The two leaders stated their countries would work together to help accelerate the formulation of the Five-Year Action Plan for the Implementation of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between China and Indonesia. Moreover, both Xi and Widodo expressed interest in completing the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway system as part of the Belt and Road initiative.

In October, Indonesia will host the 17th Group of 20 (G20) Heads of State and Government Summit in Bali. The focus of this year’s summit will be on rebuilding after the pandemic, specifically in regard to global health architecture, sustainable energy transition, and transformation of digital infrastructure. However, this Summit will not come without controversy, as some G20 members plan on boycotting the event if Russian President Vladimir Putin attends due to his invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, recent tension between the United States and the PRC over Taiwan may serve to further unravel the cohesion of the summit. During his visit, President Jokowi invited Xi to attend the G-20 forum in person, but Xi’s response was non-committal.

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