Thursday, Oct 6, 2022

China’s Tentacles Reach Across The Globe  

 

In a world already immersed in multiple crises—the pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine, recession, food shortages—US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan triggered yet another perilous scenario – the specter of a long-feared Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Pelosi’s trip also forced the spotlight onto the broader issue of China’s growing military, technological and economic power, which in some areas already surpasses those of the United States.

Chinese leaders treated Pelosi’s arrival almost like an invasion, news outlets reported. Air raid sirens sounded in coastal towns in China as Pelosi’s plane approached. When she finally landed, the Chinese military announced live fire exercises in the airspace around Taiwan for the next four days, deploying fighter jets, warships and ballistic missiles as if in preparation for a major invasion, according to Fox News.

Taiwan, an independent Chinese government that split from the mainland during a civil war in 1949, has been self-governing since then.

In the ensuing decades, the United States has tried to walk a tightrope between recognizing Communist China as the legitimate government of the Chinese nation of 1.4 billion, and keeping unofficial relations with the thriving Taiwanese democracy of 23 million people.

Although America is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has never directly promised to intervene militarily in a conflict with China, deliberately upholding a position of what is termed “strategic ambiguity,” code for doubletalk.

The Chinese Communist regime considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory and consistently threatens to annex the region, by force if necessary.

In the eyes of Communist Party elites, unifying Taiwan is a prerequisite to making China a superpower. For years, “it has carried out deliberate military provocations below the threshold of armed conflict,” writes NBC.

“Such operations, known as ‘gray zone aggression,’ include frequent airspace incursions by Chinese fighter aircraft, shows of force by Chinese warships around Taiwan and cyber-attacks.”

China’s Navy, Armed Forces Massively Upgraded

“This is exactly the wrong time, the craziest possible time, to send 82-year-old [Pelosi] to Taiwan,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said. “The U.S. has never been less ready for war, particularly for a war with China.”

The U.S. is still overall the world’s premier military power today, with some 800 bases worldwide and an estimated 280 installations in the Asia-Pacific region alone.  Yet, Chinese dictator Xi Jinping has poured millions into building military bases across the world and is taking other steps to ensure the Chinese have deterrence in the Asia-Pacific region.

In recent years, China has been expanding its naval strength and is gradually eclipsing US superiority in the sea. In the past 20 years, the size of China’s navy has tripled.

A recent Pentagon report indicated that the Chinese navy has outperformed the U.S. Navy in shipbuilding, conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, and integrated air defense systems, reported The Diplomat. These indicators are considered key to sizing up the stand-off in the Taiwan Strait.

In addition, Communist leader Xi Jinping has invested tremendous resources into modernizing and expanding the capabilities of China’s armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army.

By contrast, across all branches, U.S. military recruitment and retention rates are falling to historic lows. Critics fault the Biden administration. “Since the day he took office, Joe Biden has politicized and weakened the United States military systematically,” Carlson asserted.

His point was amplified by conservative talk show host Mark Levin who referred to huge budget cuts the Defense Department had suffered. In addition, he noted the armed forces have been infiltrated by CRT, an extremist left-wing ideology that teaches that American society is poisoned by racism and oppression of minorities.

Under pressure from the White House, the military has adopted CRT programs of indoctrination which is one of the factors driving away potential army recruits, Levin said.

Others have attributed the drop in recruitment to DOD Covid vaccine mandates; the Department’s refusal to recognize natural immunity as grounds for refusing vaccination; and its denial of religious exemptions for thousands of army, navy and air force applicants.

Due to the difficulties in attracting new recruits, the Army is significantly cutting the total number of soldiers it expects to have in the force over the next two years, reports the Associated Press.

“Army officials have said the service will fall about 10,000 soldiers short of its planned end strength for this year, and prospects for next year are grimmer,” the article said. “Army Gen. Joseph Martin, vice chief of staff for the Army, said it is projecting it will have a total force of 466,400 this year, down from the expected 476,000.

If the shortfalls continue, Martin said, this could potentially impact the ability of the United States to respond to threats around the world.

Companies Capitulate To China’s Coercion Tactics

In the wake of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and the Chinese leader’s meltdown, Apple, an American technology company, asked its suppliers in Taiwan to label iPhone components “Made in China” as opposed to “Made in Taiwan.”

The move was aimed at pacifying Beijing in hopes of avoiding retaliation in the form of disruption of supply lines by Chinese customs inspections.

The phrase “Made in Taiwan” can lead to delays, fines, and even the rejection of an entire shipment under the Chinese rule. But Taiwan regulations inquire exports to be labelled with the true point of origin: either the name “Taiwan” or the country’s official name, “Republic of China.” These clashing regulations have created moral and practical dilemmas for many companies.

Apple’s caving in to China in requiring suppliers to deny Taiwan’s independent existence has drawn criticism from around the world.

GreatFire, which counters Chinese censorship online, noted that the move was an escalation from a previous surrender by Apple, which removed the Taiwan flag from emoji keyboards for users in China.

In a further act of obeisance, Apple stores encryption keys at the Chinese state-owned company that operates Apple’s data center in China, the New York Times reported in June.

Analysts say Apple’s kowtowing to the Chinese is not unique; it should be seen in context of a wave of capitulation that characterizes a whole range of companies across the globe who do business in China.

The Chinese government is increasingly flexing its economic weight to force companies to do its bidding. Global businesses have learned the hard way that standing up for democratic values can cause them massive revenue losses in the Chinese market.

Controlling Global Behavior Through Boycotts, Shutdowns

“Through boycotts, website shutdowns and other retaliatory measures, the Chinese government pressures international firms and other organizations to avoid statements or actions that cross Chinese Communist Party red lines,” claimed a report in Axios.

Those government–imposed taboos include support for democracy in Hong Kong, upholding Taiwan’s autonomy, or discussing the pandemic as the “Wuhan virus.” This year, numerous companies have been pressured by Beijing to make concessions.

“Fashion companies Zara and Hugo Boss were forced to walk back statements they had made distancing themselves and their operations from Xinjiang cotton,” where human rights abuses are alleged, the Axios article said. And the Marriott hotel in Prague refused to host a conference of leaders from China’s Uyghur internment camps, citing “political neutrality.”

But the results of Beijing’s strategy go far beyond mere censorship. The Chinese government has forced companies to hand over technology and data in order to continue operating there, threatening the security of users.

Amazon has complied with this demand, transferring cloud technology to local Chinese companies to obey China’s regulations and remain in the market, Reuters reported.

Some firms refused to surrender. LinkedIn and Yahoo announced this year they were leaving the Chinese market due to the difficult regulatory environment.

“But others have stayed, handing over key aspects of their business as they have done in no other market,” the article noted.

Despite tough policies imposed on China during the Trump administration, the U.S. government failed to establish new mechanisms to support U.S. businesses facing CCP coercion, such as emergency aid to support them when facing revenue loss in China.

In October 2021, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers attempted to reverse this situation with a bill that, if passed, would create a task force to come up with recommendations to address China’s economic coercion.

The EU, in turn, is considering a new set of anti-coercion trade regulations aimed at blunting Beijing’s economic retaliation. The new proposals on both continents are still wending their way through the respective legislative bodies.

Grabbing Up Land in the United States

Recognizing that massive Chinese investments in U.S. agricultural may provide the CCP with leverage over U.S. supply chains and access to national security information, Senators Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and Tommy Tuberville R-Alabama, introduced a bill this month to prohibit members of the CCP from purchasing any land in the United States.

“Chinese investments in American farmland put our food security at risk, and provide opportunities for Chinese espionage against our military bases and critical infrastructure. Instead of allowing these purchases, the U.S. government must bar the Communist Party from purchasing our land,” said Cotton in a statement.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports, Chinese investors’ holdings of U.S. agricultural land surged from 13,720 acres in 2010 to 352,140 acres in 2020.

USDA estimated that overall land acquisition has been augmented since March 2021 with a collective $6.1 billion in land, a press release from Sen. Cotton’s office said.

In one example of Chinese land purchases that fueled suspicions of nefarious motives, an energy company in 2021 purchased more than 130,000 acres of land near Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. The Chinese are now reportedly attempting to build a wind farm there to access the U.S. power grid.

Fox News reported that Huawei, another Chinese company, has purchased a significant amount of land in Montana, not far from a US nuclear arsenal. The federal government is said to be conducting an investigation to see whether those Huawei cell towers were intercepting and could block U.S. communications.

“We cannot continue giving our top adversary a foot in the door to purchase land in the United States and undermine our national security,” said Tuberville.

[According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foreign investors control nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland, roughly the size of Ohio. Texas has the second highest amount of foreign ownership with 3 million acres under control.]

China’s rapaciousness is only part of the picture, Sen. Josh Hawley, R.-Missouri., explained. In an appearance on Fox News, he called out those in Washington who for decades enabled China to exploit America by allowing billion dollar industries “from Big Tech to Wall Street to Nike, the NBA, and Disney…to pursue profit at the expense of everything else.”

The real sellouts to China, Hawley said, are mega corporations that are “obsessively wedded to the Chinese market,” and don’t flinch from taking advantage of forced labor in China and elsewhere. “This is shameful. It is wrong. And it holds our country back.”

Technology Theft

Part of dealing with the growing China menace is the question of how to counter the CCP’s goal of “economic espionage through rob, replicate and replace,” as former National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe described the scheme.

China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology, and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace, intelligence expert Ratcliffe noted in a WSJ opinion piece. He pointed to the Chinese company, Sinovel, as an example.

“In 2018 a federal jury found the Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer [Sinovel] guilty of stealing trade secrets from American Superconductor,” Ratcliffe wrote. “Penalties were imposed but the damage was done. The theft resulted in the U.S. company losing more than $1 billion in shareholder value and cutting 700 jobs. Today Sinovel sells wind turbines world-wide as if it built a legitimate business through ingenuity and hard work rather than theft.”

The U.S. government estimates that China’s intellectual-property theft costs America as much as $500 billion a year, the former National Intelligence director wrote.

The economic espionage is a carefully crafted system, according to FBI reports. China oversees hundreds of what the government calls ‘Talent Plans,’ an innocent-sounding name for a program used by China to transfer, or more precisely steal, foreign research and technology to benefit the Chinese government.

The Trump administration took measures against China in its final months, imposing sanctions on officials and companies for their violation of human rights in Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

Trump halted imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang, a major global supplier of cotton, and has also blacklisted companies linked to forced labor in the region. Communist party officials linked to the Xinjiang anti-Uighur campaign have been targeted with US sanctions.

The Biden administration has cancelled most of these sanctions.

Chinese Cutting-Edge Technology Enable Malicious Activity 

China has poured immense resources into developing world-class capabilities in emerging technologies and is a world leader in this industry.

“But its intelligence services use their access to hi-tech firms to enable malicious activities, including the introduction of vulnerabilities into software and equipment,” wrote former national intelligence director Ratcliffe.

China’s efforts to dominate 5G telecommunications—it has just built the world’s largest 5G high speed mobile network—will increase Beijing’s opportunities to collect intelligence, disrupt communications and threaten user privacy world-wide, experts say.

Concerns over Chinese involvement in 5G wireless networks stem from allegations that cellular network equipment sourced from Chinese vendors may contain “backdoors” enabling surveillance by the Chinese government (as part of its international intelligence activity), according to Wikipedia.

Prompting these concerns are Chinese laws, such as the China Internet Security Law, which compel companies and individuals to assist the state intelligence agency on the collection of information whenever requested.

The allegations came amid the rising prominence of Chinese telecommunication vendors Huawei and ZTE in the 5G equipment market. The controversy has led to other countries debating whether Chinese vendors should be allowed to participate in 5G deployments.

The United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have declared that the use of Huawei telecommunications equipment, particularly in 5G networks, poses “significant security risks.” These countries as well as Britain, Japan and Vietnam have heavily discouraged or banned Chinese companies from providing its 5G equipment due to security concerns.

*****

Chinese Quest For Cobalt Fuels Human Rights Abuses

At a human rights hearing this week, Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, exposed the Chinese Communist Party for its exploitation of children in Africa—especially the labor trafficking of more than 40,000 children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—to mine cobalt, lithium and various rare earth minerals in order to control this critical part of the global supply chain.

“On the backs of trafficked workers and child laborers, China exploits the vast cobalt resources of the DRC to fuel its economy and global agenda,” said Rep. Smith, who chaired the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing.”

The hearing featured compelling testimony from a Catholic priest from the DRC, Rigobert Minani, who has helped lead efforts to expose China’s horrific human rights abuses across the country—which produces over 70 percent of the world’s cobalt—as well as a Congolese civil rights attorney who previously represented child soldier victims before the International Criminal Court.

“According to studies, ‘more than 90% of the DRC’s gold is reported to be illegally mined and smuggled out of the country through the eastern neighboring states,” said Minani. “The number of miners is estimated to be 200,000 people, among them thousands of children and pregnant women.”

In an appearance on the Mark Levin show, Rep. Smith and Levin elaborated on the multi-faceted national security threats from China; the Chinese Communist Party’s basic brutality; and the Biden Administration’s failure to hold Communist China to account.

FBI and British M15 Law Enforcement Agencies Warn about China Espionage

In an unprecedented collaboration, the heads of the FBI and the British MI5 law enforcement agencies issued a joint statement warning about espionage and other economic threats from China, according to the National Law Review. 

Addressing an audience in London that included American and British chief executives of businesses and universities, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that the economic and national security threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party are “immense” and “breathtaking.”

MI5 head Ken McCallum called them “game-changing.”

Director Wray noted that the Chinese government “poses an even more serious threat to Western businesses than many sophisticated businesspeople realize,” and that China had interfered in politics, “including recent elections.”

This assertion was validated by the U.S. National Counter-intelligence in a separate statement that indicated that China has accelerated efforts to influence U.S. policy-making through overt and secretive means.

These methods range from open lobbying to collecting personal information about state and local community leaders, and employing economic incentives to reward or punish officials, the article said.

McCallum elaborated that MI5 had more than doubled its countermeasures against Chinese activity in the last three years and is expected to soon double them again.

Wray told the gathering that the Chinese government was “set on stealing your technology – whatever it is that makes your industry tick – and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market.”

He added that China had deployed cyber espionage to “cheat on a massive scale,” engaging in a level of hacking activity that rivaled every other major country combined.

McCallum stressed that the biggest risk from the Chinese Communist Party is to “the world-leading expertise, technology, research, and commercial advantage developed and held by people in this room, and others like you.”

He noted that intelligence information about cybersecurity threats had been shared with 37 other countries, the National Law Review report said.

Wray stated that the Chinese government posed the “biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security – and by ‘our,’ I mean both of our nations, along with our allies in Europe and elsewhere.”

The two officials concluded with a lengthy list of actions and precautions for attendees to review in order to update their cybersecurity practices.

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