Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 12/12/2022

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter December 5-12 2022 China lifts nearly all COVID-19 restrictions – Dec. 7 Following widespread protests and


Geopolitics Newsletter December 5-12 2022

China lifts nearly all COVID-19 restrictions – Dec. 7

Following widespread protests and underwhelming economic performance, the Chinese government surprised many by abruptly ending pandemic controls and quarantine requirements. On December 7, China’s State Council issued nationwide instructions that effectively ended three years of zero-COVID. Going forward, those infected and their close contacts can now isolate at home, people can travel freely across China and PCR tests will only be required to enter hospitals, schools and care homes.

Chinese markets initially soared on the positive news, but the country will likely face difficult months ahead, as the virus is allowed to spread freely for the first time. While three doses of China’s locally-made vaccines appear to be effective against severe disease and death, only 40% of the population have the full three doses required to impart sufficiently high levels of protection. Unless immunity within China’s population increases rapidly, hundreds of thousands might die and China’s healthcare system could quickly become overburdened.

Chinese state media has already pivoted from its daily reports on the dangers of infection and reporting deaths in Western countries to now focusing on the benign nature of Omicron and, in some cases, questioning the existence of long COVID. The Chinese government has started dissuading people from getting tested and will likely stop publishing statistics on COVID-19 infections and deaths in the coming months—similar to how it already treats flu-related deaths. For now, China is open for business again, but it may face a rough winter. Read more [EXTERNAL]

China covid restrictions

People walk down a street in Wuhan after China eased its covid restrictions, December 9, 2022 – Photo: Martin Pollard/REUTERS

Indo-Pacific Geopolitics

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia – Dec. 8

The Chinese president visited Saudi Arabia on a three-day trip. The two countries expressed their intent to strengthen their partnership in energy and defense, without interfering in each other’s internal affairs. Read more

Japan and Australia vowed to improve security ties – Dec. 9

Japanese and Australian foreign and defense ministers met in Tokyo to discuss the implementation of a recent defense treaty. The meeting was aimed at promoting cooperation on procedures for joint operations and deeper ties in other sectors, including energy. Read more.

Vietnam held its first international arms trade fair – Dec. 8-10

Vietnam held its first large-scale arms fair, which attracted exhibitors from 30 nations, including the U.S. and Russia. Washington and Moscow are vying for Hanoi’s attention to increase military cooperation with the Southeast Asian country, in light of increasing disputes between Hanoi and Beijing over territory in the South China Sea. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Taiwan, Japan to strengthen security cooperation – Dec. 10

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen pledged to increase security cooperation with Tokyo, following the visit of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s policy chief in Taipei. The move is likely to further worsen relations between Beijing and Tokyo. Read more [EXTERNAL]


Russian and Chinese foreign ministers met virtually – Dec. 5

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin met virtually with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Discussions focused on ensuring bilateral economic and trade cooperation moving forward, particularly in areas of investment and energy. Read more.

Vietnams president visited South Korea – Dec 5

Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul, South Korea. The meeting focused on increased economic and security cooperation. The two presidents also issued a joint statement opposing the militarization of the South China Sea. Read more [EXTERNAL]

EU-Western Balkans Summit held in Albania – Dec. 6

Leaders of the EU and Western Balkan states met in Tirana, Albania. The main topics of discussion were the Ukraine war, strengthening political and policy engagement, and reinforcing security and migration. Read more.

National Security

Baltic PMs met on Russian security threats – Dec. 9

The Baltic Council of Ministers met with the prime ministers of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to discuss Russian security threats. The ministers also discussed continued aid to Ukraine and possible trials for war crimes committed by Russian troops. Read more.

Kuwait and France held joint military exercises – Dec. 7

Kuwait and France concluded the 2022 iteration of their joint Pearl of the West military exercises. This year’s exercises included an information exchange to implement and support joint operations. Read more.

AustraHind 22 military exercise concluded – Dec. 11

Australia and India concluded their two-week-long joint military drills, aimed at fostering closer military cooperation. Both nations are also part of the Quad Alliance, which recently conducted joint naval exercises. Read more

Finance, Economics and Technology

TSMC to triple investment in U.S. chip factory – Dec. 6

The world’s most valuable chip manufacturer TSMC announced it would triple its investment into its Arizona factory to $40 billion as President Biden visited the site, making this one of the largest foreign direct investments in U.S. history. This marks an important step toward Biden’s plan for onshoring cutting-edge semiconductor manufacturing. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Eurasian Economic Union Summit held in Kyrgyzstan – Dec. 7

The economic union–consisting of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia–held its summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to discuss further economic integration. The union’s impact has been tarnished since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it remains a means for Moscow to maintain its influence over the post-Soviet states. Read more

India to start producing semiconductors – Dec. 8

India’s Tata Group announced it would be investing $90 billion over the next five years to break into the semiconductor market. India has recently been expanding its market share from cutting-edge electronics, including iPhones, as companies are increasingly divesting from China. Read more [EXTERNAL]


Perus president arrested following coup attempt – Dec. 7

After trying to dissolve Peru’s Congress, President Pedro Castillo was ousted and arrested. Vice President Dina Boluarte was quickly sworn in as the country’s first female president. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Indonesia passed strict new criminal code – Dec. 6

The new law bans extramarital sex, increases punishment for blasphemy and makes it illegal for Indonesians to give up their religion. The code will take effect in three years. Read more [EXTERNAL]

UN campaign against gender-based violence concluded – Dec. 10

The 16-day UN campaign focusing on violence against women and femicide concluded. At the center of the campaign were human rights violations in authoritarian regimes, including ongoing protests in Iran following the killing of Mahsa Amini in custody. Read more

Tunisians protested against upcoming elections – Dec. 10

One week before upcoming parliamentary elections, Tunisians took to the street to protest against President Kais Saied’s increasingly authoritarian rule. The elections will be the first since recent constitutional amendments, which strengthened the presidency and significantly weakened parliament. Read more


IEA report shows positive outlook for renewable energy – Dec. 6

The International Energy Agency’s new report noted that the global energy transition was progressing faster than expected. Based on current trends, more renewable energy capacity will be added in the coming five years than in the last two decades combined and will soon overtake coal as the world’s primary source of electricity. One reason for this is the energy crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Biodiversity COP commenced in Canada – Dec. 7

The biannual UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) began in Montreal, Canada, and will continue until December 17. Delegates from around the world hope to achieve a breakthrough in creating a global biodiversity agreement similar in scope to the Paris Agreement for climate change. Read more [EXTERNAL


U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to commence – Dec. 13

Leaders from across Africa will visit the White House for a three-day summit, focused on strengthening U.S.-African relations. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Chinese Deputy PM to visit Iran – Dec. 14

Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Hu Chunhua is expected to visit Iran. This comes within days of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Saudi Arabia and is likely meant to assuage Iranian fears of strengthened Chinese ties with its rival Riyadh. Read more [EXTERNAL]

EU-ASEAN Summit to be held in Brussels – Dec. 13-14

Leaders of the EU and ASEAN will meet in Brussels to discuss strengthening relations between the two blocks. The Business Summit will be held on December 13, followed by the Commemorative Summit on December 14, which will celebrate 45 years of EU-ASEAN relations. Read more [EXTERNAL]

India expected to hold test of its submarine-launched ballistic missile – Dec. 15-16

The Indian government announced a 5,400km long no-fly zone in the Indian Ocean for December 15-16, during which it is expected to test its K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which may significantly upgrade India’s capacity for strategic deterrence. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Tunisia to hold parliamentary election – Dec. 17

Tunisians will head to the polls for the first time since constitutional reforms earlier this year. Critics fear that new rules will further erode Tunisia’s young democracy. Read more [EXTERNAL]


Contributions by: David Song-Pehamberger, Madeline McQuillan and Shravan Krishnan Sharma