Much has been said about the treatment of tennis star Peng Shuai since she and her husband were detained for allegedly “giving the false impression of being intoxicated” by cultural attaché Ma Jun. In early October, Premier Li Keqiang said that he does not understand what Meng Jianzhu, the Chinese Communist party’s top diplomat, has in mind. Li also said that “Nobody has the right to misuse the provisions of laws or the constitution for other political purposes.”
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said that China won’t help Peng Shuai, following her detention on suspicion of fraud, in a post on Twitter. “It’s okay with me to detain her. We’re not afraid of fate. How old is she?” he tweeted.
This is an extract of the Asia Weekly Online, a digital magazine produced in collaboration with Bloomberg.
There’s no doubt that Zhong Wen Ji, Meng Jianzhu’s counterpart in the Foreign Ministry, is a busy man. Over a single working day, he meets with top diplomats from more than half a dozen countries, including Jordan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Japan, Italy, Russia, South Korea, Australia, and India.
He skims through prepared statements in which Beijing vaunts its ties to the world’s second-largest economy. He reads out a blunt press release that indirectly hints that Sweden, the most recent country to accuse China of violating press freedom, should expect severe “measures” if it was found to be discriminating against Chinese speakers. And he meanders through senior ministries and party organs, listening closely to what officials have to say about various issues.
To begin with, Zhong considers his guests’ political history and policy positions. With or without their consent, he does not hesitate to ask them detailed questions about their views.
On international relations, China’s stated interest in turning North Korea into a functioning democratic country remains largely hypothetical.
Similarly, China’s stated desire to create a “community of shared destiny” between China and countries in the region remains an unfilled vow.
The victory of the antisecrecy group Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong hasn’t translated into a great deal of goodwill on the mainland.
As president of the Vietnam Association of Arts and Crafts, Zhu Jianye takes China’s “cultural diplomacy” one step further.
With China, he aligns himself with China’s global efforts to redefine the concept of “good governance.”
Although Beijing has made a number of efforts to promote its “soft power” since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, most of those involved sports-related efforts. Zhu Jianye’s association sponsors a number of events, involving athletes from both China and Vietnam, in countries such as Brazil, Korea, Australia, and the United States. Zhu expects the association to finance more cultural activities next year, as China and Vietnam are looking to deepen relations. He also hopes to encourage more Vietnamese to take Chinese law classes.
If the government’s indifference to it or its willingness to interfere are both uncertain, Zhu’s status as the first Vietnamese CEO of a Chinese cultural association may give it additional leverage. Zhu took over the chairmanship of the association in May 2012, two years after relations between China and Vietnam normalized.
The uncertainty stems in part from the fact that the International Tennis Federation, which governs the game, has refused to grant Peng Shuai a wildcard invitation to play in the Kremlin Cup later this month. This decision has led to widespread speculation on the country’s return to international tennis, after she competed in the Moscow Ladies Doubles Championship in July and lost in the first round.
As Shanghai hosts the third-round of the WTA Finals next week, Peng has taken a break from international sports competition. In an interview with the Shanghai Evening News, she alluded to the arrest as a “tragedy,” but was noncommittal about her future plans.