Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 05/15/2023

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter May 8 – 15, 2023 Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s European tour Chinese Foreign Minister Qin


Geopolitics Newsletter May 8 – 15, 2023

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s European tour

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s trip included stops in Germany, France, and Norway. The trip follows in the wake of remarks made by Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to France, who sparked outrage in Europe when he questioned Baltic states’ sovereignty, casting doubt on Beijing’s efforts to portray itself as a non-aligned party to the conflict in Ukraine. Qin’s visit took place two weeks after China reaffirmed its commitment to upholding the sovereignty of all former Soviet states.

Relations with China are among Europe’s top foreign policy concerns, but EU politicians have different philosophies on how to deal with a Beijing that is becoming more repressive toward minority populations and more confrontational with neighbors. This was made clear by the controversy surrounding Emmanuel Macron’s remarks about avoiding a conflict between the US and China over Taiwan.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell emphasized that the EU should recalibrate its policy approach toward Beijing, highlighting China’s internal changes (with nationalistic ideology on the rise), the hardening of US-China competition, and China’s position as a major regional and international power.

The European Commission recently added eight Chinese companies to a draft of an upcoming package of sanctions; these businesses are thought to have circumvented EU restrictions on Russia’s purchase of dual-use products like microchips. In a conversation between Qin and German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, he warned that Beijing will react strongly if the EU goes through with the sanctions. The tour highlighted growing tensions between the EU and China, as Europe remains far from establishing a unified stance against Beijing’s anticipated escalation in the crisis over Taiwan. Read more.

Chinese Foreign Minister

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang next to German Minister of Foreign Affairs during a press conference | Photo: Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

Indo-Pacific Geopolitics

Japan downgraded COVID-19 classification – May 8

Japan’s health ministry reduced COVID-19 to a lower-risk infectious disease category that includes seasonal influenza. The decision marks an important step towards the complete reopening of the nation’s economy and society. Read more.

42nd ASEAN Summit convened – May 9

The three-day summit took place in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, convening leaders from the 10 country-bloc, in addition to their foreign affairs, trade and national security ministers. Most notably, the group made a commitment to continue trying to end the violence in Myanmar, despite the ruling military there having made no progress on an agreed peace plan. Read more.

India’s FM Jaishankar participated in the EU’s Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum –May 13

About 60 foreign delegates participated in three parallel roundtable discussions on security, sustainability, and environmental cooperation. Jaishankar discussed India-EU relations during the visit and will continue discussions on a subsequent trip to Brussels. Read more.


China People’s top legislator Zhao Leji visited North, West African states – May 11

Zhao, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) began his trip in Morocco and Senegal. The visit comes amid China’s growing economic interest in the continent, largely for the mining of critical minerals. Read more.

China VP Han Zheng concluded his trip to Portugal and the Netherlands – May 12

In the Netherlands, Chinese Vice President Han met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, where the two addressed cooperation on commerce and climate change, although some condemned the VP’s warm welcome given the recent escalation in tensions. Read more.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy met with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome – May 13

Zelenskyy, who was previously expected to make a trip to Berlin, held separate meetings with the Italian president and prime minister. PM Meloni reiterated full support for Ukraine, stating that Italy would continue to provide weapons and other supplies for as long as necessary. Read more. [EXTERNAL]

National Security

Russia celebrated victory day – May 9

Anticipation for the annual celebration was overshadowed by a series of drone attacks that occurred in Moscow just days before. Celebrations were scaled back as a result. Read more.

U.S. Title 42 asylum restrictions end – May 11

Title 42 authorized the U.S. Border Patrol to prevent migrants from entering the country for reasons of public health endangerment during COVID-19, sparking controversy since it barred refugees from claiming asylum in the US. Migrant flows to the border are expected to increase as a result. Read more.

Environment, Finance, Economics, and Technology

Zimbabwe introduced gold-backed digital currency – May 8

The digital currency will be sold to investors at a minimum price of $10 for individuals and $5,000 for corporations. The currency will be utilized as a legal tender and a store value alongside the Zimbabwean dollar and bond notes. Read more.

European Parliament voted on the AI Act – May 11

The proposal is meant to strengthen legislation on data quality, openness, accountability, and human oversight. The parliament’s civil liberties and internal market committees jointly adopted the text by a large majority, and the next step, the plenary adoption, is set for June 14. Read more.

2023 Climate Leadership Conference Concludes in Los Angeles – May 12

The Climate Registry, a non-profit organization, hosted the conference in Los Angeles. The agenda included discussing pathways to net zero emission through new technologies, as well as increasing collaborations between the public and private sectors. Read more.


China to send a special envoy to Ukraine – May 15

Following the recent phone conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, China will dispatch Ambassador Li Hui, formerly ambassador to Russia, to both Ukraine and Russia. This move is intended to solidify China’s role as a peacemaker. Li will also visit France, Germany, and Poland. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Taiwan to commence annual war games – May 15-19

Taiwan will commence its annual Han Kuang military drills, with tabletop exercises held during May 15-19. Live-fire exercises will follow on July 24-28. This year’s focus will be on testing Taiwan’s combat readiness in case of an attack by China’s People’s Liberation Army. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Deadline for Black Sea Grain Initiative to expire (BSGI) May 18

The agreement, established between Russia and Ukraine by Turkey and the United Nations, aims to export grain from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea. The agreement has been extended for increasingly shorter periods since its debut in July 2022, amid mounting tensions over the Russia-Ukraine war. On March 18, it was extended for 60 days rather than the original 120 days Read more. [EXTERNAL]

Japan will host the 49th G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima – May 19-23

The main topics on the agenda include countering geopolitical fragmentation and the war in Ukraine. Participants will include the core G7 members, invited countries such as Australia and India, and leadership from international organizations including the United Nations. Read more. [EXTERNAL]


Contributions by: Madeline McQuillan and David Song-Pehamberger