THE CHINA DEBRIEF – ORIGINAL DOCUMENT

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Three quarters of 100 Japanese firms that are critical to the nation’s economic security see uncertainty in U.S.-China relations as the most pressing concern regarding economic security, a survey conducted by the Asia Pacific Initiative showed. A questionnaire was sent between mid-November and mid-December to 100 firms and research institutions seen as both critical and susceptible to economic security challenges, asking about their business risks in regards to economic security, as well as what kind of government support they need. According to the survey, 60.8% of the respondents said tensions between Washington and Beijing actually affected their businesses, and 12.5% responded that they feel caught in a dilemma regarding the two countries.

As tensions between China and the United States keep rising, 2022 could see a new front open along China’s 2,000-kilometer border with Myanmar. Unlike the risky but manageable naval maneuvering in the contested South China Sea, the sparring on land is likely to assume the form of difficult to rein in proxy conflicts with consequences for the wider region. After progressively extending its influence into mainland Southeast Asia over the past two decades mainly via infrastructure investment, Beijing has more recently intervened in Myanmar’s complex array of ethnic conflicts, conducted joint patrols along the Mekong River and, most controversially, is now said to be building a naval base in Cambodia. In response, the U.S. has aggressively retooled the pivot to Asia initiated during the Obama administration, with Congress recently approving $7 billion in defense spending for the region, mostly focused on the U.S. Navy.The Pacific may be the part of the world most likely to see “strategic surprise,” the US Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell has said, in comments apparently referring to possible Chinese ambitions to establish Pacific island bases. Campbell told Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies that the United States has “enormous moral, strategic, historical interests” in the Pacific but had not done enough to assist the region, unlike countries such as Australia and New Zealand. “If you look and if you ask me, where are the places where we are most likely to see certain kinds of strategic surprise – basing or certain kinds of agreements or arrangements – it may well be in the Pacific,” he told an Australia-focused panel.U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Friday expressed strong U.S. support for Lithuania and the European Union in the face of “economic coercion” from China during a call with EU Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, USTR said in a statement. The expression of support for Lithuania is the second this week from Tai, who had a call with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis on Wednesday. Lithuania is under pressure from China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, to reverse a decision last year to allow the island to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius under its own name. China has recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and downgraded diplomatic ties, and is pressuring companies like German car parts giant Continental to stop using Lithuanian-made components. It has also blocked Lithuanian cargos from entering China.
COVID-19
The Winter Olympics are three weeks away, but tickets have yet to go on sale. Airlines are shifting schedules, creating travel confusion. Now, a spate of coronavirus outbreaks around China — including some locally transmitted cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant — is adding to the uncertainty ahead of the Games in Beijing. As of Wednesday, more than 20 million people remained confined to their homes in at least five cities around China. Especially worrying for officials has been a recent flare-up in Tianjin, a port city just 70 miles from Beijing that Chinese state media have previously likened to a “moat” protecting the country’s capital. The surge in infections even before the arrival of thousands of athletes, journalists and officials underscores the challenge Chinese organizers face in trying to hold the Games while sticking to Beijing’s “zero Covid” standards.Singapore has released new figures suggesting shots produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are much more effective at preventing deaths than the Chinese-developed Sinopharm and Sinovac doses. Eight hundred and two people died of COVID-19 in the city state in 2021, of whom 555 were not fully vaccinated, while 247 received one of several locally available vaccines, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told lawmakers on Monday. In terms of deaths per 100,000 people, there were 11 for those immunized with Sinovac and 7.8 for the Sinopharm vaccine, the state-affiliated Straits Times newspaper reported. The rate dropped for people who received messenger RNA vaccines, with 6.2 deaths for Pfizer-BioNTech and one fatality for Moderna.A third Chinese city has locked down its residents because of a COVID-19 outbreak, raising the number confined to their homes in China to about 20 million people. The lockdown of Anyang, home to 5.5 million people, was announced late Monday after two cases of the omicron variant were reported. Residents are not allowed to go out and stores have been ordered shut except those selling necessities. Another 13 million people have been locked down in Xi’an for nearly three weeks, and 1.1 million more in Yuzhou for more than a week. It wasn’t clear how long the lockdown of Anyang would last, as it was announced as a measure to facilitate mass testing of residents, which is standard procedure in China’s strategy of identifying and isolating infected people as quickly as possible.
CCP Foreign Influence
Morocco has become the first North African country to sign a Belt and Road Initiative implementation plan with China, as Beijing steps up its engagement with Africa. Observers said it meant China could expand its use of Morocco as a link for trade between Africa and Europe, but would focus less on energy and resources trade than was the case in its dealings with other African nations. Ning Jizhe, vice-chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, signed the cooperation plan with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on Wednesday. Five North African countries – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco – have signed a belt and road memorandum of understanding, but Morocco is the first to commit to the implementation plan, which details specific cooperation and projects with China, including proposed timetables.China supports Russian-led forces deployed to Kazakhstan to help quell unrest, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov late on Monday. In a phone call held between the two parties and summarised by Chinese state media, Wang said that China supports the Kazakhstan president’s assessment that the source of the unrest was terrorist activity. Wang added that China and Russia should “oppose external forces interfering with the internal affairs of central Asian countries,” and prevent “colour revolutions” and the “three evil forces” from causing chaos, the readout stated. China defines the “three evil forces” as religious extremism, territorial secessionism and violent terrorism and has described them as the cause behind the instability in Xinjiang province.Russia and China have blocked the United Nations Security Council from supporting a decision by the West African economic bloc ECOWAS to impose new sanctions on Mali, after its military leaders proposed staying in power for up to five years before staging elections. A French-drafted council statement endorsing the sanctions failed to be approved in closed-door consultations on Tuesday, prompting three African council members – Kenya, Ghana and Gabon – to speak to reporters to back the regional bloc’s position. Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, Martin Kimani, said he was “disappointed” that the council could not agree on what he called a “relatively mild” press statement and expressed support for the “imposition of sanctions on the military authorities in Mali to ensure an expedited transition to constitutional rule.”
Hong Kong
China’s military says the former head of internal security in the Xinjiang region will lead the People’s Liberation Army’s garrison in Hong Kong, in the latest of a series of moves aimed at bringing the semiautonomous city under Beijing’s tight control. A brief report on the Defense Ministry’s website Monday said Maj. Gen. Peng Jingtang’s appointment had been signed by president, Communist Party leader, and PLA commander Xi Jinping. It said Peng had pledged to “perform defense duties in accordance with the law, resolutely defend national sovereignty, security and development interests, and firmly safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability.” Peng met Monday morning with Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who told him her government would work with the garrison to “jointly safeguard the sovereignty, security and development interests of the nation and help maintain the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.”Hong Kong will outlaw a host of new national security crimes, the city’s leader said Wednesday, as she presided over the first session of a new “patriots only” legislature scrubbed of political opposition. The law will add to an already sweeping national security law imposed directly on Hong Kong by Beijing that has transformed the international finance hub and empowered authorities to carry out a widespread crackdown on dissent. The current national security law outlaws four crimes: secession, subversion, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces. But on Wednesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam confirmed that her government will create new “local legislation” that meets Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which calls for the city to pass its own national security laws. Lam did not outline what the new crimes would be. Hong Kong’s legislature convened for the first time since elections last month that were held under new legislation ensuring that only “patriots” who have proven their loyalty to Beijing could run as candidates. The 90-seat Legislative Council, known as LegCo, is now completely dominated by Beijing’s allies. Leading opposition figures are in jail, exile, or have been intimidated into silence, and independent media outlets forced to close. The largest pro-democracy party, the Democratic Party, decided not to field candidates rather than lend legitimacy to what it regards as a fundamentally undemocratic process. Just 20 of the seats were directly elected, and the turnout of 30.2% was the lowest since the British handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. All candidates were vetted by a largely pro-Beijing committee before they could be nominated.
Taiwan
Taiwan’s government announced Wednesday that it would create a $200 million fund to invest in Lithuania’s economy, boost bilateral trade, and send an expert team to help the tiny Baltic nation stand up its own semiconductor industry. Taiwan is stepping up for Lithuania where the European Union — so far — has been either unwilling or unable. The European Commission has paid lip service to Lithuania’s “current trade irritants” with China, but seems powerless to take real action without buy-in from EU member states who are wary of further antagonizing Beijing. Noah Barkin reports in his Watching China in Europe newsletter that several member states are “deeply unhappy” with how Lithuania handled the Taiwan issue. Barkin reports that there’s speculation in Germany that the U.S. pushed Lithuania to approve the use of the name Taiwan — though these rumors may be colored by Berlin’s fears of being pulled into a U.S.-China cold war.Taiwan’s parliament on Tuesday passed an extra spending bill of nearly $8.6 billion in its latest bid to boost defense capabilities against an increasingly bellicose China. The government proposed a five-year special defense budget of around TW$237.3 billion from 2022 as Chinese warplanes breached its air defense zone at unprecedented levels last year. Beijing’s saber-rattling towards the island has increased considerably since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016, as she regards the island as a sovereign nation and not part of “one China.” Last year, Taiwan recorded incursions by around 970 Chinese warplanes into its air defense zone, according to a database compiled by AFP, more than double the roughly 380 carried out in 2020.Taiwan and Canada held “exploratory discussions” about ways to boost trade ties, in Taipei’s latest move to reduce its economic reliance on China. Mary Ng, Canada’s minister for international trade, met with Taiwanese minister without portfolio John Deng about a deal to promote investment, according to an emailed statement from the Canadian government. Ng “highlighted Taiwan is a key trade and investment partner as Canada broadens its trade links and deepens its economic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region,” according to the statement dated Monday, which added that Taiwan is Canada’s sixth-largest trading partner in Asia. The two officials agreed in their video meeting to continue strengthening supply chain resilience and explore more business opportunities, according to a statement from Taiwan.
Xinjiang
A Uyghur religious scholar detained without charge in Saudi Arabia may be deported “within days” to China, where he could face imprisonment and torture, his daughters have told Middle East Eye. Aimadoula Waili, also known as Hemdullah Abduweli, is one of two Uighurs at risk of imminent deportation to China from the kingdom. The scholar travelled to Saudi Arabia in 2020 on a yearlong visa from Turkey, where he is an official resident, to perform a pilgrimage to Mecca. But Waili went into hiding after the Chinese consulate in Riyadh allegedly requested his deportation. Moving from one Uyghur’s home to another, Waili relied on a network of Uyghurs inside Saudi Arabia to keep him safe, fearing that going to the airport would lead to his automatic deportation.Intel Corp. removed references to the Chinese region of Xinjiang from an open letter it sent suppliers last month, after the contents of the note sparked a social-media uproar in China and led the U.S. semiconductor company to apologize to the Chinese public. In mid-December, Intel published a letter to its global suppliers on its website, calling on its business partners to avoid sourcing from the northwestern Chinese region, where the Chinese government has conducted a campaign of forcible assimilation against ethnic Muslim minorities. Within days, the Santa Clara, California-based company was denounced by Chinese social-media users and state-run media for cutting business dealings with the region, while one of its China brand ambassadors pulled out in protest. The chip maker apologized on December 23 on its Chinese social-media accounts, adding that the letter was written to comply with U.S. law and didn’t represent its position on Xinjiang.Senators Jeff Merkley and Rep. Jim McGovern raised concerns about Airbnb’s business activities in China’s Xinjiang region in a letter to the company’s CEO last Friday. An Axios investigation last year revealed that Airbnb has more than a dozen homes available for rent in Xinjiang on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the U.S. government for complicity in genocide and forced labor against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region. Axios identified 14 Airbnb listings on land owned by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a large paramilitary organization that controls vast swaths of Xinjiang’s land, natural resources and economy and has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.

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