THE CHINA DEBRIEF – ORIGINAL BRIEFING REVEALED

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False claims about sources of coronavirus cause spat ...

Two U.S. Navy carrier strike groups are currently drilling in the South China Sea amid the latest show of force of Chinese aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone on Sunday. The Carl Vinson CSG and Abraham Lincoln CSG began dual-carrier operations in the South China on Sunday, the same day Taiwan said the People’s Liberation Army Air Force flew 39 planes in Taiwan’s ADIZ. The CSGs “will engage in joint operations to include enhanced maritime communication operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations and maritime interdiction operations to strengthen maritime integrated-at-sea operations and combat readiness,” the U.S. Navy said in a news release, adding that training will take place in accordance with international law in international waters.

U.S. House of Representatives leaders on Tuesday unveiled a bill aimed at increasing U.S. competitiveness with China and supporting the U.S. chip industry, including $52 billion to subsidize semiconductor manufacturing and research. President Joe Biden’s administration is pushing to persuade Congress to approve funding to help boost chip production in the United States, as shortages of the key components used in autos and computers have exacerbated supply chain bottlenecks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the 2,900-page bill, called the “America Competes” act, would “supercharge” investment in chips and boost U.S. manufacturing and research capacity, as well as advance U.S. competitiveness and leadership. The Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act last year, which includes $52 billion to increase U.S. semiconductor production and authorizes $190 billion to strengthen U.S. technology and research to compete with China.Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have sent a letter to NBC Universal executives voicing concerns about “the extent of influence the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) may have over NBCUniversal’s coverage of the games.” NBC paid $7.75 billion for the rights to exclusively broadcast the Olympic Games in the U.S. through 2032. That money contributes roughly 40% of the International Olympic Committee’s revenue. NBC itself will typically make more than $1 billion selling ad sponsorships against Olympics content. The letter, addressed to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel, asks NBC how it plans to use its “investment in the Games to shed light on China’s history of human rights abuses.”On Dec. 21, China banned four commissioners of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) from entering the country in retaliation for U.S. sanctions on its officials over rights abuses against Uyghurs and other minorities in its far-western Xinjiang region. China also froze any assets that Chairwoman Nadine Maenza, Vice Chair Nury Turkel, and Commissioners Anurima Bhargava and James W. Carr hold in the country. “We remain undeterred by these actions, and we stand in solidarity with USCIRF and its staff,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in response. “The United States is committed to defending human rights around the world and will continue to use all diplomatic and economic tools to promote accountability.” The U.S. also called on China to stop its transnational repression of Uyghurs abroad, including imprisoning and denying freedom of movement to family members of Uyghur American activists.
CCP Foreign Influence
A major Dutch university’s decision to sever a Chinese funding stream has reignited political debate in the Netherlands about the methods Beijing is using to try to steer human rights discussions in Europe. Following an investigation by Dutch broadcaster NOS last week, the Free University of Amsterdam, the country’s fourth largest, is paying back a subsidy granted to the Cross Cultural Human Rights Center (CCHRC), an independent research institute operating under the university’s mantle, over funding connections to the Chinese Communist Party. The link is problematic because the center’s website cites views championing China’s human rights policy. In one example, the website noted in October 2020 that a delegation of people affiliated to the center had “recently” visited the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where several countries, including the United States, accuse China of perpetrating a genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. The CCHRC website concluded: “The situation we encountered in the 4 cities in this trip did not reflect the grim situation as depicted in the Western reports. There is definitely no discrimination of Uyghurs or other minorities in the region.”As the U.S. and Europe mount increasingly frantic efforts to deter Russia from any invasion of Ukraine, its Chinese President Xi Jinping who may have the biggest influence on Vladimir Putin’s timetable. The Russian president has said he will join Xi at the opening ceremony February 4 of the Beijing Winter Olympics, where the Chinese leader has lavished billions of dollars to showcase his nation’s superpower status to the world. The last thing Xi would need is for Putin to overshadow China’s big moment by triggering a global security crisis with the U.S. and Europe, analysts say. That’s especially the case given Xi is looking to bolster his prestige at home as he seeks endorsement for an unprecedented third term later this year.The intelligence services of the British government harnessed the power of the media to try to protect the state from Chinese interference. In an almost unprecedented move, MI5 – the agency focused on counterintelligence within the U.K. – chose to call out an alleged Chinese spy, whom it said has been making payments to politicians. The warning about Christine Ching Kui Lee, a solicitor who runs a law firm in London, was accompanied by her photograph, which ensured that her face appeared prominently across websites and social media, even though she was not arrested nor charged with any crime. Excited journalists jumped in to add new twists to the story. The next day the papers were filled with a great deal of comment and analysis – alongside plenty of hearsay and speculation.
COVID-19
China expressed “serious concerns and dissatisfaction” with the United States over reports of an internal State Department request to allow the departure of diplomats and their families from China amid tightening anti-pandemic measures. China has pursued a strict “zero tolerance” policy toward outbreaks, including lockdowns of millions of people, travel bans, compulsory masking, mass testing and health surveillance by smartphone apps. Classes, including those at international schools, have been moved online and travel links between Beijing and much of the rest of the country are suspended. The latest requirements call for testing of anyone purchasing cough, fever, or cold medications. It wasn’t clear if any embassy staff or their families had departed China in recent days, while Beijing enforced lockdowns on parts of the city ahead of the February 4 opening of the Winter Olympics in the city and its outskirts.Beijing residents are coping with abrupt local lockdowns and sweeping COVID-19 testing requirements as the Chinese capital seeks to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in advance of the Winter Olympics that opens in less than two weeks. A cluster of COVID-19 cases in Beijing has prompted authorities to test millions and impose new measures, even as the city of Xi’an in northcentral China lifted on Monday a monthlong lockdown that had isolated its 13 million residents. At least six Beijing neighbourhoods have been targeted for lockdowns and officials in the capital said they would conduct a second round of mass testing of the Fengtai district’s two million residents, where the majority of the capital’s 40 coronavirus cases since January 15 have been found. Some trains and flights to Beijing have also been suspended to stop travel from areas with outbreaks.Xi Jinping has pledged $500 million in aid over the next three years to the countries of Central Asia to bolster their economies and security, while also extending its vaccine diplomacy by offering supplies to the region. Speaking during an online summit of leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to mark the 30th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between Beijing and the five former Soviet republics, Xi said on January 25 that the funds will be used “on projects involving people’s livelihoods.” The Chinese leader also pledged to provide 50 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the group of five nations this year and said Beijing may transfer vaccine production technology.
Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19 could keep the Asian financial hub cut off from most of the world until 2024 and fuel a large-scale exodus of international workers and executives, according to a draft report by the European Chamber of Commerce in the city. The most likely scenario for Hong Kong’s exit from its isolation is to wait for China to finish developing a powerful messenger RNA vaccine and immunize its 1.4 billion people, the business group said in an internal document seen and verified by Bloomberg. A reopening could then happen late next year or early 2024, the document said, adding that companies should prepare for Hong Kong to remain “semi-closed” to international travel. “We anticipate an exodus of foreigners, probably the largest that Hong Kong has ever seen, and one of the largest in absolute terms from any city in the region” in recent history, the report said. Hong Kong will expand the scope of its anti-espionage ordinance to tackle activities that present a “threat” to national security. Security Secretary Chris Tang said in a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday that an amended ordinance would prepare Hong Kong to face “the kinds of things we have seen since 2019.” “The Hong Kong SAR government must handle espionage acts and offences in a targeted manner to prevent incidents endangering national security,” Tang said. He made reference to “certain countries” that attempted “to foment a ‘colour revolution’ in Hong Kong,” adding that the “serious violence since June 2019 is a vivid example of this.” Hong Kong’s existing Official Secrets Ordinance, he said, was enacted years ago and “cannot fully address the criminal acts of espionage and theft of state secrets at present.”Volunteers across Hong Kong have mobilized to save hamsters from the clutches of the government, which has been exterminating the animals after an outbreak was tied to a pet shop. Under the latest order, authorities will cull more than 1,000 hamsters seized from a warehouse and almost three dozen pet shops. Officials also asked anyone who bought a hamster since December 22 to surrender it, and said these animals will also be killed regardless of their COVID status. Government officials said the campaign was launched out of prudence amid fears of animal-to-human transmission, even though experts said there is minimal risk of such cross-infection. Social-media groups sprang up to prevent hamsters from being handed in, collecting the pets and connecting them with foster homes and prospective owners. Some veterinarian nurses stayed up all night to make hamster care packages to distribute to animal adopters. Other volunteers searched for abandoned hamsters in city parks and around garbage areas.
Taiwan
Washington has suggested Lithuania consider changing the name of Taiwan’s representative office in the capital Vilnius in an effort to help ease tensions between the Baltic state and China since the mission was established. Lithuania has been embroiled in a spat with Beijing since it allowed Taiwan to open the mission, which is called the “Taiwanese representative office” rather than the “Taipei representative office”, after Taiwan’s capital city — a formulation used in most countries. According to several people familiar with the situation, U.S. diplomats have floated the idea of changing the name with Lithuanian officials. They said Washington thought the choice of name had opened the door to Chinese coercion that risked undermining the expansion of ties with Taiwan. The White House denied the administration had suggested changing the name of the office.Lithuania is under pressure from German companies to back down in a dispute with China to end a blockade of the Baltic state, as European trade officials struggle to defuse the row, people familiar with the matter said. China has pressed multinationals to sever ties with Lithuania or face exclusion from its market, an unusually harsh move that has dragged companies into a political dispute and placed Beijing on a collision course with the European Union. Some of the companies affected have asked Lithuania’s political leaders to de-escalate the dispute or risk a corporate exodus, according to people involved and correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to Lithuania’s foreign and economy ministers, the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce said imports of Chinese machinery and parts and the sale of Lithuanian products to China had ground to a halt and that some firms may have to leave.Taiwanese Vice-President William Lai Ching-te has held virtual talks with U.S. politicians during his transit stay in the United States en route to Honduras, despite warnings from Beijing. Lai departed on Tuesday for a six-day trip in which he will attend Thursday’s inauguration of Honduran president-elect Xiomara Castro as a special envoy of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, aimed at bolstering relations with the Central American country. He had seven video conferences with American politicians from his hotel after arriving in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning local time, Taiwanese media reported on Wednesday. On landing, he was greeted in person by James Moriarty, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan – the U.S.’s top envoy in charge of exchanges with the island.
Xinjiang
A group of 35 legislators, representing over 10 countries and blocs including the EU, UK, India and Australia, have called on their governments to draw up a blacklist of entities involved in “perpetrating atrocities in the Uyghur region” of China. The parliamentarians demanded a blacklist similar to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Entity List, which identifies bodies complicit in human rights violations and abuses of ethnic Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China. The politicians said in a statement that their intention was to block investors from funding the firms that are involved in abuses of the ethnic minority. The coordinated move by representatives from several European Union nations and others like Canada and the UK is being led by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an international cross-party network of some 200 legislators focused on relations with China.The chairmen of two congressional panels on oversight and trade have assailed Tesla’s expansion in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, where mass internment camps have drawn heavy criticism, and asked the electric carmaker about its Chinese product sourcing. “Your misguided expansion into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region sets a poor example and further empowers the CCP [Chinese government] at a fraught moment,” Democrats Bill Pascrell and Earl Blumenauer, who head two House of Representatives ways and means subcommittees, wrote in a joint letter to Tesla chief executive Elon Musk. Tesla made a New Year’s Eve announcement that it opened a showroom in Xinjiang, becoming the latest foreign business caught up in tensions related to the region. “On the last day of 2021, we meet in Xinjiang. In 2022 let us together launch Xinjiang on its electric journey!” a Weibo post announcement on December 31, 2021 read.The European Union is moving forward with plans to outlaw goods made using forced labour, senior officials said, citing allegations of widespread uses of such practices in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. Testifying on Monday before the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, French Trade Minister Franck Riester said it was “perfectly clear that the Xinjiang situation is extremely serious.” “And that’s why I will come back to this: we should have a specific instrument to block certain products which are the product of forced labour,” said Riester, who was outlining Paris’ trade priorities. France had assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the EU earlier this month. The ban was announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in September – a surprise move that caught other parts of the EU unaware.
The China Debrief is a resource of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

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