China. In March, the National People’s Congress gathered for its annual meeting and the approximately 3,000 members appointed Xi Jinping for a new term as president of the country. The following day, the People’s Congress approved a proposal to remove the restriction on two terms of office for the president. This means that Xi can continue as head of state even after 2023. Xi’s strong position was manifested by having his name and personal ideology inscribed in the Communist Party’s statutes and being titled “leader” within the party. This has not happened since Mao Zedong’s and Deng Xiaoping’s time in power.
Xi’s campaign against corruption continued and a special national surveillance commission to investigate corruption crimes within the state apparatus was established. In May, the former party leader in Chongqing and former member of the political office Sun Zhengcai were sentenced to life imprisonment for receiving over 170 million yuan in bribery. Sun was also accused of conspiring with formerly convicted Zhou Yongkang, former security chief, and Bo Xilai, former party secretary in Chongqing. According to Countryaah.com, Beijing is the capital city of China, a country located in Eastern Asia.
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Foreign policy was largely influenced by the relationship with the United States this year. In January, it was reported that China reached a record trade surplus relative to the US in 2017. The imbalance is one of the things that US President Donald Trump has promised to rectify. In January, for example, the United States imposed high import duties on washing machines and solar panels, a technology in which China is the world-leading manufacturer. In March, new duties were imposed on Chinese goods. This was seen as a way to punish China for not respecting copyright for, for example, technology development. China responded by drawing up a list of US goods that could be subject to tariff. See Digopaul for more information.
The risk of a trade war seemed to have been mitigated in May when delegations for the two major powers negotiated an agreement to waive the increased tariffs. Instead, it was agreed that Chinese imports of American goods would increase. But in June, the announcement came that around 1,100 Chinese goods were subjected to 25 percent penalty rates of the equivalent of US $ 50 billion starting in early July. Trump threatened to impose tariffs on many other commodities unless China changed its trade policy. On the contrary, Beijing’s response was to impose duties on US goods of similar value. Both sides accused each other of wanting to start a trade war. In August, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce threatened to notify the United States to the World Trade Organization (WTO), as it was believed that US tariffs were in breach of WTO rules.
The relationship between the superpowers became even more tense when the United States in September imposed sanctions on a department of China’s defense force responsible for purchasing. The reason was that China bought fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft equipment from the Russian Federation. This, according to Washington, was against the sanctions imposed after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. However, China had not acceded to these sanctions.
In contrast, Chinese relations with the two other regional powers, India and Japan, seemed to improve somewhat during the year. In April, Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province. As late as June 2017, the situation was very tense when China began to build a road in Dolkam in the Himalayas, an area that Bhutan (with close relations with India) claims. India then sent troops to the area. At the informal meeting between Xi and Modi, the leaders agreed to work to reduce tension along the borders between the two countries.
In October, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went on an official visit to Beijing. Among other things, he and Xi signed an agreement on a specially designed communications mechanism to exclude collisions between military vessels from both countries. At the same time, several important business deals were concluded, giving Japanese companies access to the Chinese market.
However, several conflicting incidents arose between China and Sweden. In September, the Tibetan leader visited the Dalai llama Sweden. The following week, China’s ambassador to Sweden demanded an apology after three Chinese tourists were handcuffed by a police officer from a hotel in Stockholm. The hotel staff called the police when the tourists – a man and his parents who came over the years – tried to stay overnight in the lobby because they had no room reserved. Video footage of the tourists out on the street was shown in Chinese media. Later in September, a feature of SVT’s satirical program “Swedish News” provoked strong reactions in China and the Chinese embassy in Stockholm made allegations of racism.
The publisher Gui Minhai, who is a Swedish citizen and who has been incarcerated after publishing regime-critical books, was arrested in January, just a few months after being released. He was taken on a train trip to Beijing when he was accompanied by two Swedish diplomats. Three weeks later, a video recording spread where Gui criticized Sweden’s actions in his case.
In October, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the world’s longest water bridge, was inaugurated. The 5.5-mile-long bridge connects Hong Kong and Macao to the Chinese mainland. The connection, which began to build in 2009, has been seen by some as a method for Beijing to consolidate its influence over Hong Kong.
In February, Hong Kong’s highest court rejected prison sentences against three of the leaders of the 2014 democracy protests. The three were released in November 2017 after serving two months in prison. According to the court, the punishment was too harsh because they were introduced retroactively, but the court warned that similar actions in the future would result in harsher penalties. In January, one of the Democrat fighters was sentenced to three months in prison for another misdemeanor in 2014. In June, Edward Leung, who led an independence movement in Hong Kong, was sentenced to six years in prison for throwing bricks against the police during a demonstration in May 2016. Two others activists were sentenced to seven years in prison. In September, the Hong Kong Nationalist Party (HKNP) was banned by the security authorities.
Beijing made sure to keep its grip even though other, remote parts of the country. In May, a Tibetan man was sentenced to a five-year prison sentence for contributing to separatism. The man had been in house arrest since he was interviewed in the New York Times 2016. He has criticized the regime for trying to eradicate Tibetan culture and warned that the Tibetan language might cease to exist.
In August, the UN Committee Against Racial Discrimination reported that about three million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region were interned, either in special camps against extremism or in training camps for retraining. The data was rejected by the regime. The situation in Xinjiang has become even more current as China goes ahead with the huge prestige project called the New Silk Road (the English Belt and Road Initiative) which will open trade routes between China and the outside world, both on land and at sea.