July 2020


Take note of Tibet

Dear Sir
I am grateful for your editorial decision to carry Mr Sonam Tsering Frasi’s article on the Tibetan people’s missing Panchen Lama in the June issue of Asian Affairs. The article has come at a time when the world is questioning China’s domestic and international policies. In Xinjiang, China is alleged to have forced large numbers of Uighur people in camps for ‘re-education purposes’. In the context of the Tibetan experience, this doesn’t surprise me. Tibetan identity has been systematically subjected to attempts at the same remodelling as their religion and culture were forced into the Chinese Communist Party’s mould.
Now, when the whole world is witnessing Chinese aggression and is questioning their handling of the pandemic, one may only hope that people will take note of the fate of Tibet, which most of the world initially ignored, and now attempt to correct that historical wrong.

Madhur Sharma
Meerut, India

Missing link

Asian Affairs reported on a timely panel discussion on China’s accountability in the COVID-19 global pandemic, with the attendant implications for its foreign policy and internal stability (‘Time for new narrative on China?’, June issue). Much was said of great interest, most notably the impossibility of countries such as Britain and the US sustaining their ‘bellicose rhetoric’ on China, considering its importance as a trading partner in a post-COVID world, whether we like it or not.
But where was the view from China? This was a conspicuous omission in what was an otherwise balanced, not to mention informative and intelligent debate with excellent contributors.

P.T. Marchant

The power of infrastructure

The Sino-Indian relationship is not only going through a commercial face-off (‘Advantage India’, Asian Affairs, June 2020) – unprecedented high levels of tension have also arisen between the two countries at multiple locations in eastern Ladakh on the disputed border. I believe that the response from the Indian side has been calm and measured, calling for discussions and negotiations. The Indians are trying to avoid that kind of situation which occurred during the Doklam crisis of 2017. Quiet diplomacy is the best way to produce results in these kinds of situations.
It is also important to recognise India’s efforts to develop the infrastructure in the Ladakh border area. In fact infrastructure development is rapidly increasing on both sides, even in spite of the stand-off situations where India and China both have overlapping claims.

Sanjay Kr. Mandal
Summer Research Intern, Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India

A blighted relationship

What a sorry mess the state of US-China relations has become, as highlighted in Yuwan Wu’s article ‘The blame game’ (Asian Affairs, June issue).

With both the United States and China facing severe economic damage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as acute levels of domestic instability set off by political events – the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in the US, and ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong for Beijing – they cannot afford such ongoing antagonism. It will take time but the US will ultimately need China as a supplier of low-cost goods as it tries to climb out of its economic slough, while China, still an export-led economy, will look to the American consumer as its largest customer.

On top of this, accusations of double standards are being aimed at Washington from Beijing – with some justification – as President Trump responded to peaceful protesters with police brutality and military force, even as he castigated Beijing for its own response to the protests in Hong Kong.

Trump’s handling of the aftermath of the George Floyd tragedy has surely set back his chances of re-election (though who can tell with ‘Teflon Trump’?). But in any case, if, as Ms Wu predicts, China becomes ‘a focal point for both the Democrats and Republicans, who hope to outdo each other in the China-bashing arena’, it may make little difference who occupies the White House come November.

Martin Cohen

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