Before we hit the weekend, check out the China news you may have missed this week:
There’s been a lot of talk lately about China possibly acting as a mediator between the Afghan government and the Talban. Now Reuters adds an interesting twist to the story, reporting that Kabul arrested and repatriated Uyghur militants originally from China in an attempt to cajole Beijing into taking a more active role in the negotiation process. The Afghan government under new President Ashraf Ghani has been quite vocal about its hope that China will use its close relationship in Pakistan to get Islamabad on board – and Pakistan in turn is believed to be able to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
In a play to win China’s goodwill, Reuters reports, Kabul specifically targeted Uyghur militants. One security officials told Reuters that Afghanistan security forces arrested a total of 15 Uyghurs and transferred the prisoners to Beijing. An Afghan security official who helped arrange the transfer told Reuters, “We offered our hand in cooperation with China and in return we asked them to pressure Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban or at least bring them to the negotiating table.” Other Afghan sources also pointed out that the militants, though arrested in Afghanistan, were believed to have trained in Pakistan.
In case you missed it, The Diplomat’s own Ankit Panda sorts out the conflicting reports regarding Afghan-Taliban negotiations (or the lack thereof) over at our Pulse blog.
In other news, Cheng Guoping, vice minister of foreign affairs, confirmed this week that Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will attend each other’s celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II. The report from Xinhua [Chinese] said Cheng made the remarks in a new conference hosted by Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is also expected to attend Russia’s ceremonies commemorating the end of the World War II. Cheng also noted that this year China will seek to push forward its “strategic partnership” with Russia in the fields of aviation and space flight, energy (including nuclear energy), and high-speed railways. RT has an English-language summary of Cheng’s press conference.
China celebrated its New Year this week, which means 700 million people tuned in for the annual CCTV Chinese New Year Gala. Rachel Lu of Foreign Policy’s Tea Leaf Nation examines this year’s program, with some interesting takeaways: increased representations of ethnic minorities and Hongkongers and an emphasis on anti-corruption. As Lu points out, even though younger Chinese have difficulty taking the gala seriously, it remains must-see TV simply because it’s a “nationally shared experience.” Lu elaborates: “In spite of the show’s often glaring faults, no other cultural event serves as such rich fodder for water cooler conversation after Chinese families return to the office after Spring Festival.”
Chinese media also had their two cents to add on this year’s gala, with Xinhua publishing an article focused on the anti-corruption themes in the program. According to Xinhua, the various comedic routines won accolade from netizens (with the only small quibble being that they weren’t actually all that funny). The skits focused on different types of corruption, from taking bribes to graft and seeking to get ahead through personal connections with the powerful – topics that were taboo in previous years.
Even Xi Jinping himself has joined in the fun of anti-corruption themed videos — at least in cartoon form. Xinhua highlights three cartoons meant to assure the public that, yes, the anti-corruption crackdown is for real. The videos highlight the achievements of the campaign, showing a cartoon Xi beating tigers, cutting red tape, and chatting amicably with ordinary Chinese citizens. For your viewing pleasure, here are the videos (in Chinese): “Is the ‘Mass Line’ Campaign for Real?” (群众路线动真格了?), “Is It Easier for the Public to Get Stuff Done with the Government?” (老百姓的事好办了吗?) and “Are Officials Really Scared?” (当官的真怕了吗?).