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July 7, 2022

U.S.-China Relations
Speaking alongside his British counterpart in London on Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray called China the “biggest long-term threat” to both the U.S. and the U.K. “The Chinese government is set on stealing your technology — whatever it is that makes your industry tick — and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market,” Wray said while giving remarks to international business leaders. “And they’re set on using every tool at their disposal to do it.” Wray also warned of potential tactics by Chinese officials, saying they steal technology by using intelligence officers to “target” valuable pieces of information and companies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold a rare meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a regional conference in Bali this week, the State Department said on Tuesday July 5. Wang and Blinken, who last met in October, will meet on the sidelines of a Group of 20 ministerial meeting on the Indonesian resort island, the State Department said, amid high tensions on a range of issues including Taiwan. The meeting comes as US President Joe Biden voices hope for a new conversation in the coming weeks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has not travelled internationally since the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Russian forces invaded Ukraine nearly five months ago, the Biden administration led dozens of governments in banning the export of advanced technology to Russia to hobble its economic and military development. Now, the U.S. government is using the lessons it learned from those actions to expand restrictions on exports to China and other countries in cases where companies or groups might threaten U.S. national security or violate human rights, current and former American officials say. President Biden and his aides call China the greatest long-term rival of the United States, surpassing Russia. The effort involves broadening the circumstances under which so-called export controls would be imposed and getting partner nations on board. It also aims to redefine what technologies are considered sensitive or critical and of potential use to militaries and security agencies — to encompass things like artificial intelligence, for example.
The G7 summit was held last week in Bavaria. America’s 46th president took this opportunity to announce the country’s collective commitment to a new global infrastructure program, projected to be $600 billion in scope over the next five years. Called the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), this is a rebranding of Joe Biden’s domestic jobs and economic recovery plan, “Build Back Better,” which hasn’t exactly been welcomed with fanfare by Congress or the American public. This is Biden’s chance for a second take. Africa will be a main beneficiary of PGII, which will be funded by a combination of G7 partners and private capital. Biden explained the new program’s backstory, how they have been working to provide better, more “equitable” options for developing countries (alluding to the popular theory that construction contracts in countries like Zimbabwe or Zambia are allocated in exchange for exploitative mining concessions).
A U.S. counterintelligence agency on Wednesday warned state and local officials that China is intensifying influence operations aimed at manipulating them into pressing the federal government to pursue more Beijing-friendly policies. China “understands that U.S. state and local leaders enjoy a degree of independence from Washington and may seek to use them as proxies to advocate for national U.S. policies Beijing desires,” the National Counterintelligence and Security Center said in a bulletin sent to state and local officials.
Former US Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Frank Lavin offers his perspectives, amid reports that US President Joe Biden may lift some tariffs on Chinese goods. He speaks with Yvonne Man and David Ingles on “Bloomberg Markets: China Open”.

Russia-China Relations
The so-called VRIC nations will take part in the 2022 edition of the International Army Games, organized by Russia and hosted by several countries since its inception in 2015.  The news comes from a report by The Centre for a Secure Free Society which says: “In mid-August, Venezuela will host the “Sniper Frontier” competition with the participation of Russia, Iran, and China’s military, as well as at least 10 other nations.” The report noted that the competition is a “strategic move that seeks to preposition forward-deployed military assets in Latin America and the Caribbean. “The VRIC (Venezuela, Russia, Iran and China) nations are getting ready to make a loud statement that the region is ready to embrace the multipolar force.” The United States has imposed a series of sanctions on all four members of the VRIC community, prompting the members to unite in resisting pressure from Washington.
From oil deals to diplomatic cover in international institutions, there’s no denying that Beijing has supported Moscow throughout its war with Ukraine, but to what extent remains an issue of contention and highlights the deep contradictions in the China-Russia relationship. Finding Perspective: China’s growing appetite for discounted Russian oil made headlines in late June as Beijing overtook Germany as the biggest single buyer of Russian energy. India, which also has historic and complicated ties to Moscow, has also bought up Russian oil. Despite being sold at a steep discount, the purchases – along with climbing oil prices – have allowed Russian revenues to grow in the face of Western pressure and given Moscow a crucial financial lifeline to keep funding its war effort.
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) on Wednesday said that it has never had any customers in Russia, assuaging investor concerns that the Chinese contract chip maker could be punished by Washington over potential violations of US economic sanctions on the country for invading Ukraine. “SMIC has always been operating in compliance. The company has never had any Russian customers,” the firm said in response to an investor’s question on an online information platform run by the Shanghai Stock Exchange. That response comes months after SMIC,  mainland China’s largest and most advanced chip manufacturer, was singled out by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who warned that Washington could “essentially shut” the company down by denying it access to American tools and software if it sold semiconductors to Russia.
Before the war in Ukraine, China was already pursuing a national strategy of “tech independence,” emphasizing indigenous innovation and the recruitment of overseas talent. Xi has stressed its importance in recent years as both the Trump and Biden administrations have tightened U.S. restrictions on Chinese tech giants like Huawei and ZTE that they deem threats to national security. However, Russia’s growing isolation from companies like Apple has added to calls for China’s tech independence from the West, which is also referred to as the “great decoupling.”

CCP Foreign Influence
To evaluate the prevalence of Chinese state media across search results, we first developed a list of 12 key terms related to Xinjiang and COVID-19 and then tracked the extent to which these terms returned search results from Chinese state media. Over the course of four months, we then collected the first page of (or first ten) search results for each of these terms from Google News, Bing News, Google Search, Bing Search, and YouTube every day between November 1, 2021, and February 28, 2022. We then classified the results from each day based on whether they returned known state-backed media sources. During the 120 days that we tracked search engine results for terms linked to Xinjiang and COVID-19, Chinese state media featured prominently.
Chinese government-funded language and culture centers known as Confucius Institutes have rapidly closed down across the United States over the past four years amid pressure from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Department of State, the US Congress, and state legislatures, concerned about China’s influence on universities. However, “many once-defunct Confucius Institutes have since reappeared in other forms”, according to the association’s just-released reportAfter Confucius Institutes: China’s enduring influence on American higher education. It adds: “The single most popular reason institutions give when they close a CI is to replace it with a new Chinese partnership programme.”
China and Thailand reaffirmed political and economic ties in an official meeting between their foreign ministers, who also agreed on the need to promote mutual cooperation in a fast-changing world. During Tuesday’s meeting, the two leaders exchanged views on regional and international issues, such as revitalizing their economies affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, cooperation on multilateral platforms and cyber-security issues. They also highlighted the need for each country to complement the other’s economic development strategies, specifically through projects such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called on Myanmar’s junta leaders to talk to their opponents amid concerns over escalating violence and deteriorating human rights in the Southeast Asian country. Wang is in Myanmar for his first visit since the junta overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Su Kyi in February 2021. His trip is the most high profile by a Chinese representative since leader Xi Jinping met junta chief Min Aung Hlaing in 2020 to discuss China-backed projects including a controversial dam and an economic corridor. “We encourage all parties in Myanmar to engage in political dialogue within the constitutional and legal framework and restart the process of democratic transformation,” Wang said in remarks published by his ministry. He also pledged support and reiterated hopes for Myanmar’s “political and social stability.”
A Chinese university sanctioned by the US said it had successfully carried out a test flight of a new hypersonic aircraft on Monday. Feitian 1, which was developed by a research team at Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in Xian, Shaanxi province, used a combination of rocket and air-breathing engines and could generate a thrust faster than Mach 5, according to a statement posted on the university’s social media account on Tuesday. The rocket and scramjet engines burned kerosene, a low-cost fuel. The university said the test flight was a “complete success” and was world-first proof of the feasibility of critical new technologies. The launch was conducted in an unspecified test facility in China’s northwestern region.

Beijing on Wednesday announced a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for residents to enter public venues, becoming the first city in mainland China to do so as it attempts to contain a highly infectious Omicron subvariant. From July 11, people will need to show proof of vaccination to enter a wide range of public places in the Chinese capital, including cinemas, libraries, museums, gyms, stadiums and training centers, a city health official told a news briefing Wednesday. People who are “not suitable” for vaccination will be exempted from the requirement, the official added, without clarifying how they can provide proof for exemption. It also remains unclear how people who received vaccination overseas can satisfy the requirement. China’s health code systems — which are used to show proof of vaccination — do not currently recognize foreign vaccines.
Hong Kong will stop banning routes for airlines that bring in too many passengers with Covid-19, suspending a policy that has been heavily criticized by businesses and travelers for snarling plans and leaving people stranded. The flight ban was one of many strict Covid-control policies that have left the Asian financial center more isolated from a world that is moving on from pandemic restrictions. Other travel-deterring controls including long hotel quarantines and tough testing requirements for boarding flights will remain in place, but the suspension of the flight ban beginning Thursday removes a hurdle.
Now, China is closing in on the finish line on developing its own covid antiviral pill. And it has what looks to be a promising candidate. In late May, Shanghai-headquartered biotech firm Junshi Biosciences announced results from its late-stage Phase 3 trial of VV116, an oral covid antiviral pill. While full data have not yet been released, the company said that trial results showed VV116 to be more effective than Pfizer’s Paxlovid in accelerating covid patients’ recovery.

Hong Kong
It was no accident that Chinese leader Xi Jinping repeatedly used the word “chaos” to describe Hong Kong as he marked the July 1 anniversary of the 1997 handover of the former British colony. Mr. Xi vowed that Hong Kong would move “from chaos to control.” But what he was really affirming is that China’s leaders will not tolerate democracy and its discontents, and intend to finish off Hong Kong as a beacon of free thinking and openness.
The Chinese-Canadian tycoon’s trial was said to have started on Monday, five years after he disappeared from a luxury Hong Kong hotel. The incident sent shockwaves through Hong Kong at the time. It raised many questions about Beijing’s reach and deepened fears that residents could be forcibly taken by Chinese agents to face trial on the mainland. Those fears would later spark some of the largest protests Hong Kong had ever seen in 2019, after authorities attempted to introduce a bill that would allow these extraditions to take place. His disappearance took place at a time when China was cracking down on conglomerates. Mr Xiao had also owned non-controlling stakes in banking and insurance companies, and was known to have built strong connections with families of Communist leaders after he sided with the party against student protests in Beijing in 1989.

A top Taiwanese official said on Thursday that the biggest benefit from a proposed trade agreement with the United States would be to prop up Taiwan’s economy and democracy in the face of China’s attempts to isolate the country. “If our economy can not be strong enough, then there’s only one place that we can go — China,” John Deng, Taiwan’s minister without portfolio, said in an interview. “More reliance on their market. More dependent.”  That’s a concern because Taiwan’s economy is heavily entwined with China, giving Beijing increased leverage in the ongoing fight between the two sides over whether Taiwan is a separate country. 
As the geopolitical effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine become more obvious, the collective defense provided by NATO is the key security umbrella that unites European countries and protects them from further intrusion by their malicious eastern neighbor. With Finland and Sweden having been invited to join NATO — which, if they join, would increase the number of member states from 30 to 32 — two more nations in the region are in line to be included in the regional security pact. Meanwhile, the support that Russia has been receiving behind the scenes from China and other countries is one of the main reasons the war is still going on.
A year before Britain handed Hong Kong to China, then-President Jiang Zemin hailed the “one country, two systems” plan for the city as a model for the country to one day unify with Taiwan. Taiwan would get “a high degree of autonomy” – the same pledge China used for Hong Kong – while keeping legislative and independent judicial power, and its own armed forces, according to Jiang’s speech, copies of which were distributed at Hong Kong’s handover center in 1997. For Taiwan though, the proposal has never been an option. 

With the release of the so-called Xinjiang Police Files, the claims of atrocities being carried out against the Uyghur population in China seem to have been confirmed. Although China continues to deny that it is committing human rights violations and insists that the Uyghurs are attending voluntary vocational training, these leaked files provide severely damning evidence to the contrary. The disturbing files have shed new light on the Chinese government’s twisted interpretation of and lack of respect for human rights. Despite China’s repeated denials, the extensive cache of images, lists of guards and detainees, detailed instructions for running the camps, and internal communications from high-ranking officials paint a very disconcerting picture of what is happening to an estimated 1-2 million Uyghurs in China. The files seem to corroborate what Dr. Zenz uncovered in his years of research and described in a 2020 article as “probably the largest incarceration of an ethnoreligious minority since the Holocaust.”
Hundreds of multinationals and smaller companies are using forced or slave labor in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. For the moment, it is not clear how the Biden administration will react to such abhorrent employment practices. On June 22, Jewish World Watch, an NGO, launched an online database of businesses that either are or appear to be employing such labor, either directly or through suppliers. There are now 803 firms from more than 35 countries on the database. The release is timely because on the previous day, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act went into effect. The American law creates a rebuttable presumption that goods made in Xinjiang were produced with forced labor and are therefore ineligible for importation into the U.S. pursuant to the Tariff Act of 1930.

The China Debrief is a resource of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.