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The Pentagon wants to improve bases in Guam and Australia to counter China following a review of U.S. military resources around the globe. The Global Posture Review (GPR), of which an unclassified version is set to be released later on Monday, “directs additional cooperation with allies and partners who advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter Chinese military aggression,” including “enhancing infrastructure in Guam and in Australia,” a senior defense official told reporters. Such improvements are set to start next year and include airfields that would aid the Defense Department in quickly moving troops in and out of the region for drills, deployments or a possible conflict.The United States and China are engaged in an arms race to develop the most lethal hypersonic weapons, the U.S. Air Force secretary said on Tuesday, as Beijing and Washington build and test more and more of the high-speed next-generation arms. “There is an arms race, not necessarily for increased numbers, but for increased quality,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told Reuters during an interview in his Pentagon offices. “It’s an arms race that has been going on for quite some time. The Chinese have been at it very aggressively.” In October, the top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, confirmed a Chinese hypersonic weapons test that military experts say appears to show Beijing’s pursuit of an Earth-orbiting system designed to evade American missile defenses.The Biden administration has invited Taiwan to its “Summit for Democracy” next month, according to a list of participants published on Tuesday, a move likely to infuriate China, which views the democratically governed island as its territory. The first-of-its-kind gathering is a test of President Joe Biden’s assertion, announced in his first foreign policy address in office in February, that he would return the United States to global leadership to face down authoritarian forces led by China and Russia.The United States government put a dozen Chinese companies on its trade blacklist on Wednesday for national security and foreign policy concerns, citing in some cases their help developing the Chinese military’s quantum computing efforts. The department also said several entities and individuals from China and Pakistan were added to the Commerce Department’s Entity List for contributing to Pakistan’s nuclear activities or ballistic missile program. The latest U.S. action on Chinese companies comes amid growing tensions between Beijing and Washington over the status of Taiwan and trade issues. In total, 27 new entities were added to the list from China, Japan, Pakistan, and Singapore.
China could double down on its zero-Covid approach as the new omicron variant reignites concerns about another Covid wave in the global pandemic and wreaked havoc across global markets last week, analysts say. “The spread of highly transmissible variants may ultimately make the strategy untenable. But in the short-term, the authorities are more likely to double down,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics, in a note Friday, adding that it will have “implications” for China’s zero-Covid strategy. Helen Zhu, managing director at Hong Kong-based investment firm Nan Fung Trinity echoed similar sentiments about China’s response. “If omicron turns out to be a major threat, I think China will certainly continue to lengthen the period of staying isolated,” she said on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday.Despite two confirmed cases of the heavily mutated variant in Hong Kong, Chinese public health experts have expressed confidence in the country’s existing border control measures. China’s response — or the lack thereof — is hardly surprising. The country’s border restrictions are already among the strictest in the world, with most foreign visitors, from tourists to students, banned from entering mainland China. Those few who are allowed to enter, as well as returning Chinese citizens, must undergo at least 14 days of strict centralized quarantine. And that can be extended to up to 28 days by local authorities, often followed by another lengthy period of home observation. Zhang Wenhong, an infectious disease expert in Shanghai and arguably China’s most trusted voice on Covid-19, said the new variant would have “no major impact on China at this time.”Chairman Xi Jinping has said China would offer another one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to African countries and would encourage Chinese companies to invest no less than $10bn in Africa across the next three years. The pledge of additional vaccine doses – on top of the nearly 200 million that China has already supplied to the continent – comes as concerns intensify about the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus, known as Omicron, which was first identified in southern Africa. The Chinese leader said that his country would donate 600 million doses directly. A further 400 million doses would come from other sources, such as investments in production sites.
CCP Foreign Influence
A video call between the head of the International Olympic Committee and Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is casting renewed spotlight on the former senior official accused of sexual assault in a post on the athlete’s social media account—who played an important role in arranging the upcoming Winter Olympics. Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and retired member of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee, kept a relatively low profile for an official of his rank. But during his time in office, he was regarded as a powerful and skilled technocrat, and was tasked with handling some of Beijing’s highest priorities, among which was managing China’s bid for the 2022 Games. Zhang headed a steering group to “guide, support and supervise the 2022 bid,” according to IOC documents. The steering group included the “heads of all relevant ministries,” the documents say, and his role in it put him in contact with the highest-ranking Olympic officials, including IOC president Thomas Bach.A former Hong Kong lawmaker has called for measures to counter foreign infiltration by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), after dozens of organizers of a pro-China “anti-racism” rally attacked counter-protesters from Hong Kong in London’s Chinatown at the weekend. “Yesterday, there was a crowd of pro-Beijing thugs ferociously attacked Hongkongers who countered their propaganda campaign in Chinatown,” former pro-democracy lawmaker Nathan Law said via his Twitter account on Sunday, accusing the CCP of “trying to erode our democratic tradition to silence dissent.” Law called on the U.K. authorities to investigate the organizers of the “Stop Anti-Asian Racism and Reject the New Cold War” rally for links to Beijing, and to bring those who attacked the counter-protesters to justice.According to U.S. national security officials, academics, dissidents and other experts,  Chinese intelligence officers are monitoring campuses across the United States with online surveillance and an array of informants motivated by money, ambition, fear or authentic patriotism. Students who don’t conform to the “views and ideology of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Mike Orlando, who leads the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, “risk being targeted for harassment.” China’s efforts to “suppress free speech and debate on U.S. campuses are concerning,” he said. At Brandeis University near Boston, Chinese students mobilized last year to sabotage an online panel about atrocities against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region. To the dismay of participants, the university’s leaders failed to condemn the incident. At the University of Georgia, a graduate student became the prey of an intelligence officer in China who pressured him over the phone to become a spy and inform on fellow dissidents in America. When the student made the conversations public, Chinese security forces harassed his family back home.
Hong Kong
Dozens of pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong will spend Christmas and the New Year behind bars, as a court adjourned their case under the Beijing-imposed national security law to next year with no clear trial date. The 47 democrats, most of whom have been detained for around nine months, appeared at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Monday after the proceedings to formally commit their case to the High Court were adjourned twice. The group stands accused of taking part in a conspiracy to commit subversion, in connection with an unofficial legislative primary election held in July last year. So far, only 14 defendants have been granted bail pending trial. They could face up to life imprisonment if convicted by the High Court.An episode of The Simpsons in which the family visits Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+’s Hong Kong platform. Episode 12 of season 16 was found today to be absent from the streamer’s catalogue in the nation, which launched in Hong Kong earlier this month. The episode features the family going to China to try to adopt a baby. At one point, they visit Tiananmen Square, which was the site of a deadly crackdown in 1989 against democracy protestors. A satirical sign in the cartoon square reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.” At the time of publication, it is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode or was ordered to by the authorities; Disney has not responded to requests for comment. The discovery will lead to further concerns over censorship in Hong Kong.Three voting stations will be set up at border control points between Hong Kong and mainland China to accommodate voters staying on the other side of the border. However, the public and media will not be allowed to observe vote counting at these stations, the government has announced. Capped at accommodating a maximum of 111,000 voters, Hongkongers must register well in advance in order to secure a spot to cast their ballot at either one of the border control voting stations on the election day, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang said during a press briefing on Monday. Hong Kong voters in the mainland who are able to present required identification documents, negative Covid-19 virus test results as well as successfully register via a website may cast their ballot on December 19 at the booths set up in a “fully closed loop”, Tsang said.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met Monday with visiting lawmakers from three Baltic nations, as all sides agreed to cooperate more closely in their shared fight against authoritarianism. Tsai received the parliamentarians from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia at the Presidential Office. Taiwan currently holds no formal diplomatic relations with any of the three Baltic states. “Taiwan and the Baltic states share a common history. We all endured authoritarian rule and, in the course of fighting for our freedom, learned how precious democracy is,” Tsai said at the meeting. Tsai and the delegation, led by Lithuanian parliamentarian Matas Maldeikis, agreed to work toward stronger ties. “You managed to build your democracy while balancing … a very complicated geopolitical environment,” Maldeikis said. “We are here to express our solidarity with you.”Five U.S. lawmakers met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Friday morning in a surprise one-day visit intended to reaffirm the United States’ “rock solid” support for the self-governing island. The bi-partisan group of lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives arrived in Taiwan on Thursday night and were planning to meet with senior leaders including Tsai, said the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy. No further details were provided about their itinerary. The visit comes as tensions between Taiwan and China have risen to their highest level in decades. “When news of our trip broke yesterday, my office received a blunt message from the Chinese Embassy, telling me to call off the trip,” Representative Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who is part of the delegation, wrote on Twitter. Representatives Mark Takano, D-Calif., Colin Allred, D-Texas., Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., and Nancy Mace, R-S.C., are also part of the visiting delegation.Taiwan’s air force scrambled again on Sunday to warn away 27 Chinese aircraft that entered its air defense zone, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said, the latest increase in tensions across the Taiwan Strait as China’s President met his top generals. Chinese-claimed Taiwan has complained for a year or more of repeated missions by China’s air force near the democratically governed island, often in the southwestern part of its air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands. Taiwan calls China’s repeated nearby military activities “gray zone” warfare, designed to both wear out Taiwan’s forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test Taiwan’s responses.
A panel of lawyers and activists in the U.K. has published what it describes as leaked Chinese government documents that shed additional light on the role leader Xi Jinping played in directing the Communist Party’s campaign of forcible assimilation against religious minorities in the country’s northwestern region of Xinjiang. Copies of the documents, some marked top secret, describe internal speeches delivered by Xi and other senior party leaders regarding circumstances in Xinjiang between 2014 and 2017, the period when the assimilation campaign was conceived and launched. The documents show Xi warning about the dangers of religious influence and unemployment among minorities, and emphasizing the importance of “population proportion,” or the balance between minorities and Han Chinese, for maintaining control in the region. Adrian Zenz, a Minnesota-based researcher of Chinese ethnic policy and senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said he was tapped by the Uyghur Tribunal to authenticate the documents, which he did with the help of two peer reviewers.The Chinese government is heavily promoting tourism in Xinjiang while committing genocide against the region’s native residents. Xinjiang’s tourism industry profits from a system that largely excludes Uyghur people while appropriating their culture for state purposes and the financial gain of China’s majority ethnic group. The booming tourism business has put U.S. company Airbnb in the crosshairs of U.S. and Chinese politics, as Axios reports that the U.S. vacation rentals company has 14 properties on land in Xinjiang owned by a Chinese paramilitary group sanctioned by the U.S. government for complicity in genocide.Police in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, have detained six protesters who were demanding the release of relatives they say are being illegally held in China. The November 29 rallies in front of the Chinese Consulate in Almaty were the latest in a series of demonstrations in Kazakhstan linked to the massive detention of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the neighboring Chinese province of Xinjiang. One of the detained persons, Gulfia Qazybek, managed to call Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and said that she was being transported to a hospital to treat injuries to her hand that she sustained while being forced into a police car. She added that she was taken to a police station along with three other women and two men.
The China Debrief is a resource of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.