China. In April, the second summit was held on China’s huge infrastructure project New Silk Road, also called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). At this year’s meeting, leaders of 37 states, including the Russian Federation, Southeast Asian countries and seven EU countries (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria) participated. Hundreds of other countries sent lower-level representatives. The United States and India failed completely. The project, which aims to improve communications between China and the outside world, both onshore and at sea, has been criticized for low-income countries being indebted to China through huge infrastructure projects. This could include, for example, the construction of a large port financed by extensive loans from China. This, in turn, is seen as a way for China to increase its influence in the world. During the meeting, China tried to respond to this criticism and in a speech President Xi Jinping promised that the Chinese market would be made more accessible to foreign investors. Already the month before, a new law was passed which means that it will no longer be mandatory for foreign companies to share technology when they cooperate with Chinese companies in so-called joint venture companies.
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In June, Xi Jinping visited North Korea’s capital Pyongyang and met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Chinese state visit was the first in North Korea in 14 years. The visit was considered a way to send a signal to the outside world, especially the United States, about the extent of Chinese influence in the region. In July, China’s first national defense plan was published since 2012. The plans include an investment in new technical systems and the ability to conduct what is commonly called “intelligent warfare”. The threats that China considers itself necessary to face are so-called separatists in the autonomous areas of Tibet and Xinjiang as well as Taiwan, which China still regards as part of the country and which have sharpened the tone in recent years. In a speech in early January, Xi Jinping said that a Taiwanese reunification with mainland China is “inevitable” and that China reserves the right to take all the resources necessary to achieve this. A solution according to the “one country, two systems” principle is advocated. This principle also applies in the case of Hong Kong, which was withdrawn by China in 1997.
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However, in Hong Kong, fears grew for the central government to further increase its influence. A bill that would give China the right to demand suspected criminals extradited sparked widespread protests in Hong Kong, the biggest since the so-called umbrella revolution in 2014. The underlying reason for the demonstrations was a fear that the law could be used to reach regime critics. The bill was put on ice in mid-June, after protesters earlier this month surrounded the building where Hong Kong’s legislative council meets. On July 1, the day 22 years after China returned to Hong Kong, the same building was stormed by activists who vandalized the premises before being forced out of the riot police. Just over a week later, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s head of government since 2017, described the bill as “dead.”
However, the wave of demonstrations continued to sweep across Hong Kong with more general demands for democratization. The fact that the controversial bill was withdrawn completely in early September did not help. On the contrary, the clashes between activists and police became increasingly violent and the situation became even more tense as the People’s Republic of China turned 70 on October 1. In Beijing, the event was celebrated with a record-breaking military parade of 15,000 soldiers and the display of missiles and drones, among others. President Xi talked about the fact that China is now about to regain its former status. Three days later, Hong Kong introduced a ban on protesters wearing face masks. Since Carrie Lam made use of special exemption legislation, the legislative council was not required to address the issue. It was the first time since 1967 that the law was used. However, the measure only led to new protests. The violent situation escalated further in November. Protesters had then occupied several university buildings, including Hong Kong’s polytechnic university. They had also set up roadblocks, including at the Cross-Harbor Tunnel, which connects Hong Kong Island with the Kowloon Peninsula. The protesters were ordered to cancel the occupation, but the police were met by stone throwing and home-made fire bombs. According to reports, a policeman was hit in the leg after someone shot with a bow. Activists who tried to leave the campus could not do so without being arrested by police, which caused most to interrupt the escape attempt. The actions of the protesters can be defined as riots, a crime that can give 10 years in prison. In late November, the occupation ended. By then, over a thousand people had been arrested by police. However, new mass demonstrations were also held later.
In January, the US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Chinese telecom company Huawei and its finance chief Meng Wanzhou, who were arrested in Canada in December 2018 following US pressure. The US has accused Meng of trying to circumvent sanctions against Iran and demanded her extradition. Huawei is also charged with fraud and for trying to steal corporate secrets from a competitor. China responded by sentencing a Canadian man to death for involvement in drug smuggling.
In May, US President Donald Trump declared national emergency because of what was described as threats to information and communications technology and services. A ban on cooperation between US and foreign telecom companies was issued. The measures were considered to be hard hit against Huawei. However, the United States was not alone in worrying that Huawei’s products could be used for surveillance. The ongoing trade war between China and the United States had already escalated when the United States first and then China announced that they would impose or raise tariffs on a variety of goods.
However, at a G20 summit in June, Trump and Xi Jinping met. The presidents then agreed that the trade talks between the countries would resume. Trump promised, first, that the extensive tariffs he previously threatened would not be implemented, and that US companies would be allowed to sell goods to Huawei again. The situation fluctuated as early as August, when Trump again announced that US $ 300 billion customs duties on Chinese goods would be introduced because China did not increase its US agricultural imports as promised. After a couple of weeks, Trump announced that the imposition of tariffs was postponed in the future. China’s response to the planned tariffs was initially its own raised US $ 75 billion tariff, which would be introduced in installments, but already after a few days Beijing appeared to have regretted it.
In October, 28 Chinese companies and security organizations in Xinjiang were banned from buying American goods. Some of the companies are active in video surveillance and artificial intelligence. The reason for the trade ban was that the designated companies and organizations had participated in the abuse of Uighurs in Xinjiang. During the year, the prison-like so-called retraining camps in the autonomous province received renewed attention. In October, the United States also restricted the opportunities for Chinese officials who are believed to have participated in the Xinjiang abuses to obtain visas to the United States. Xinjiang and the difficult situation of the Uyghurs became even more appealing when, at the end of October, the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize to the Uyghur economist and human rights advocate Ilham Tohti. He has researched the relationship between Uighurs and Chinese and pleaded for China to apply the regional self-government law to a greater extent. Although Ilham Tohti is considered a moderate advocate for Uighur rights, he was sentenced in 2014 to life in prison for separatism.
Another of the many people imprisoned in China for their political views is the Chinese-Swedish publisher Gui Minhai. When in November he was awarded the Tucholsky Prize by the Swedish PEN Club, Minister of Culture Amanda Lind was invited to the awards ceremony. China reacted strongly to this. The Minister of Culture would be denied entry into China, and other consequences were also mentioned for Swedish. The Swedish government stood up and emphasized that there is freedom of opinion and opinion in Sweden.
At the beginning of December, an over 300 km long gas pipeline extending from the eastern Russian federation to the industrial-dense Chinese province of Lioaning in the northeastern part of the country was inaugurated. The project has been run by the Russian company Gazprom and is expected to be in full operation by 2025.
According to CountryAAH, the population of China in 2019 was 1,433,783,575, ranking number 1 in the world. The population growth rate was 0.430% yearly, and the population density was 152.7217 people per km2.