US imposes new sanction on Beijing over South China Sea

US imposes new sanction on Beijing over South China Sea

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool) more >

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By MATTHEW LEE

Associated Press

Thursday, January 14, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration on Thursday imposed new sanctions on Chinese officials over Beijing‘s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea. The penalties are yet another Trump administration move that may make President-elect Joe Biden’s diplomacy with China more difficult when he takes office next week.

In its waning days, the Trump administration put in place travel bans on an unspecified number of Chinese officials and their families for what it said were violations of international standards regarding the freedom of navigation in those waters. The administration also said it was adding China‘s state oil company, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, to a list of companies with which U.S. citizens are banned from doing business.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the sanctions less than a week Inauguration Day, next Wednesday, in what is the latest in a series of last-minute U.S. moves against China.

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“The United States stands with Southeast Asian claimant states seeking to defend their sovereign rights and interests, consistent with international law,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to act until we see Beijing cease its coercive behavior in the South China Sea.”

Since the fall of 2019, the administration has steadily pressured China over human rights issues in Tibet, Hong Kong and the western region of Xinjiang, as well as over trade, Taiwan and the Chinese response to the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, the administration banned the import to the U.S. of some agricultural goods, provoking an angry response from Beijing.

Thursday’s move affects Chinese officials and others involved in South China Sea activities. The announcement did not specific which officials would be targeted but many may be covered under previous actions,

In July, Pompeo announced that the U.S. would reject virtually all of China‘s maritime claims in the South China Sea, which are disputed by most of China‘s smaller neighbors.

Russia, China dole out own vaccines in effort to expand influence on world

Russia, China dole out own vaccines in effort to expand influence on world

Rivals immunize citizens amid charges of rogue behavior

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Brazilian officials have been testing the COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac, made by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, since November and say it is effective. (AP Photo/Andre Penner) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Monday, January 11, 2021

Roughly 7 million Americans have received the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine but rival superpowers in Moscow and Beijing are using their own shots to immunize their citizens and engage in a form of inoculation diplomacy.

China and Russia have faced questions about the rigor of their clinical trials, but their pushes reflect an attempt to expand their influence on the world stage while filling the vacuum left by Western countries who snapped up doses from top drugmakers.

Russia and China are using vaccines as a political tool. They want to build and enhance their reputation in Africa and the Middle East, in poor countries that they hope, ultimately, to do deals with for natural resources,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

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Beijing is pushing to immunize 50 million Chinese residents with its Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines ahead of the Lunar New Year, while Indonesia on Monday approved the Sinovac version for emergency use.

Russia, meanwhile, sent 300,000 doses of its Sputnik V vaccine to Argentina and Moscow’s direct-investment fund announced Monday that the Palestinian health ministry registered the vaccine and will accept shipments in the first quarter of this year.

“We are happy that on top of Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, Sputnik V will now also be present in the Middle East. This will allow us to further combine forces for a quicker joint victory over the coronavirus infection by guaranteeing access to an effective and safe vaccine for more countries and their people,” said Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

Russia and China are doling out vaccines as they face charges of rogue behavior, from cyber-hacking to human-rights violations and anti-democratic crackdowns.

“After hacking the world’s research labs and launching a flood of propaganda, they are now engaged in global inoculation diplomacy,” said Patrick Cronin, the Asia-Pacific security chair at the Hudson Institute in Washington. “Russia and China want to deflect blame from their oppressive and at times brutal ways. But more generally, they want to enhance their authority at home and abroad, especially if it comes at the expense of the country that has dominated international security since the end of World War II — the United States.”

In some ways, these nations are filling the void left by rich countries that are ahead of the game in launching vaccines. Data compiled by Statista show as of mid-December, rich nations representing 14% of the world’s population — including the U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan, Switzerland, Israel and the European Union — had struck deals securing over half, or 53%, of the initial supply of vaccines.

“Just because Moscow and Beijing want to sand the sharp edges off their autocratic reputations doesn’t mean they are not also providing a global public good,” Mr. Cronin said. “The world needs all the safe and effective vaccine it can get to make COVID-19 seem like just another seasonal flu. We need to monitor their outreach activities, especially when it involves either America’s partners or potential adversaries. But like a vaccine itself, the shelf-life of vaccine diplomacy is also likely to be limited.”

Aside from politics, scientists are worried that places like Russia and China haven’t been transparent as they shop around their vaccines. Brazil and Turkey are testing China’s Sinovac vaccine and say it is effective, but the Chinese haven’t produced much independent data.

“It’s a lot of what I would call testimonials. ‘Believe us, it works.’ Maybe it does,” Dr. Caplan said. “They’re moving their vaccines out to other countries without the safeguards and transparency we really should expect and demand.”

The U.S., Canada and western European nations are employing a high regulatory bar in vetting vaccines from global drugmakers like AstraZeneca and Pfizer. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration balked at talk of delaying the second dose of the two-dose vaccines to maximize early supply, saying it shouldn’t stray from what’s been proven to work.

However, Russia on Monday said it wants to know if a one-dose “Sputnik Light” vaccine is effective so it can distribute more doses to countries struggling with the virus, according to Reuters.

The investment fund said a two-dose regimen will remain the standard in Russia, a move that Dr. Caplan called “suspicious.”

“Because you’re basically experimenting on people,” he said, “taking advantage of their desperation.”

China denies coercive birth control measures in Xinjiang

China denies coercive birth control measures in Xinjiang

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Xu Guixiang, a deputy spokesperson for the Xinjiang regional government, looks up near a slide showing a photo of Uighur infants during a press conference to refute accusations of genocide in Beijing, China. The Chinese official on Monday denied Beijing … more >

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By

Associated Press

Monday, January 11, 2021

BEIJING (AP) – A Chinese official on Monday denied Beijing has imposed coercive birth control measures among Muslim minority women, following an outcry over a tweet by the Chinese Embassy in Washington claiming that government polices had freed women of the Uighur ethnic group from being “baby-making machines.”

Xu Guixiang, a deputy spokesperson for the Xinjiang regional government, told reporters Monday that birth control decisions were made of the person’s own free will and that “no organization or individual can interfere.”

“The growth rate of the Uighur population is not only higher than that of the whole Xinjiang population, but also higher than that of the minority population, and more significantly higher than that of the (Chinese majority) Han population,” Xu said. “As for the so-called forcing ethnic minority women in Xinjiang to wear IUDs, or undergo tubal ligations or abortions, it is even more malign.”

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An Associated Press investigation in June found that the Chinese government was forcing draconian birth control measures on Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, including IUD fittings, contraceptives, and even abortions and sterilizations.

The measures are backed by the threat of detention, with parents with three or more children swept into camps and prisons if they’re unable to pay massive fines. As a result, the birth rate in Xinjiang’s minority regions plummeted by over 60% in just three years, even as Beijing eases birth restrictions on the Han population ahead of a looming demographic crisis.

Twitter took down the Chinese Embassy’s Jan. 7 tweet following protests by groups that accuse Beijing of seeking to eradicate Uighur culture. Users complained the tweet was a violation of rules set by Twitter, which is blocked in China along with Facebook and other American social media platforms.

“China’s fascist government is now openly admitting and celebrating its use of concentration camps, forced labor, forced sterilizations and abortions, and other forms of torture to eliminate an ethnic and religious minority,” Nihad Awad, national executive director of The Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in an emailed statement.

China has been waging a years-long campaign against what it calls terrorism and religious fanaticism in Xinjiang and the embassy’s tweet referenced those polices, saying: “Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines.”

The tweet cited a study by Li Xiaoxia, a Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences researcher who has asserted that the birth control measures in Xinjiang are voluntary.

Li’s papers in past years laid the theoretical foundations for justifying mass birth control measures. In one 2017 paper, Li said having many children was a sign of “religious extremism and ethnic separatism.” Li worried that predominantly minority districts were breeding grounds for terrorism, calling it “a big political risk.”

Monday’s news conference was the latest attempt by Beijing to deflect rising international criticism over its policies in Xinjiang, particularly over alleged forced labor and the detention of more than 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others in prison-like centers for political indoctrination. China says the centers are intended to combat extremism and teach job skills, but former residents and rights groups say they target Islam and minority languages and culture.

Elijan Anayat, another regional government spokesperson, said all those at the centers had “graduated” as of October 2019, countering reports that China continues to expand the system.

“With the help of the government, they have achieved stable employment, improved the quality of life and lived a normal life,” Anayat said. “At present, there is no education and training center in Xinjiang.”

Taiwan heralds visit by US ambassador to UN as China fumes

Taiwan heralds visit by US ambassador to UN as China fumes

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FILE – In this Sept. 21, 2020, file photo, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft speaks during a news conference at the U.S. State Department in Washington. According to the United States Mission to the United Nations, Craft … more >

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By HUIZHONG WU

Associated Press

Friday, January 8, 2021

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwan said Friday it welcomed the visit of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the closing days of the Trump administration, in a move that brought China’s renewed condemnation of Washington.

Kelly Craft will visit Taipei, the island’s capital, on Jan. 13-15, a week before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said Thursday the visit would “reinforce the U.S. government’s strong and ongoing support for Taiwan’s international space.”

A spokesperson for Taiwan’s Presidential Office said Friday they “sincerely welcome” the visit and that final discussions about the trip were still underway.

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The trip is a “symbol of the solid friendship between Taiwan and the U.S, and will positively help and deepen the U.S.-Taiwan partnership,” the spokesperson said.

In announcing the trip on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was sending Craft to show “what a free China could achieve.” Taiwan’s official title is the Republic of China, the name of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party government that he moved to Taiwan in 1949 as Mao Zedong’s Communists swept to power on mainland China.

China continues to regard Taiwan as part of its territory to be recovered by force if necessary.

The visit is yet another move from the Trump administration to step up interactions with the island despite their lacking formal diplomatic ties since Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. The U.S. outreach to Taiwan has exacerbated tensions between Washington and Beijing that are already running high over the COVID-19 pandemic, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

Craft was appointed by President Donald Trump to the position in 2019, and is due to be replaced by career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield after Biden takes office.

In defiance of China’s warnings, Congress and the Trump administration have pushed for more visits by sitting government officials, along with arms sales and political support. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar visited in August, followed the next month by Under Secretary of State Keith Krach.

China stepped up its angry rhetoric and flew fighter jets near the island in a display of force during both visits.

Heightened tensions with China present a diplomatic challenge for Biden, who is expected to maintain many of Trump’s policies toward Beijing while seeking to put relations on a more predictable, less confrontational track.

While Beijing has called for improved relations, it refuses to back down on issues such as Taiwan that it considers to be among its “core interests.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Friday said a “handful of anti-China politicians within the Trump administration, to be clear, such as Pompeo, have been staging a show of madness as their days at the reins are numbered, stopping at nothing to deliberately sabotage China-U.S. relations for selfish political interests.”

China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing. “If the U.S. insists on going its own way, it will definitely pay a heavy price for its erroneous actions.”

___

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Dany Shoham: Virus likely unnatural

Israeli intel expert: Virus likely ‘unnatural’

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SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is thought by an Israeli expert to have a genomic origin of a Chinese bat virus that underwent extensive adaptation to humans before infecting patient zero. (Associated Press/File) more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Retired Israeli Lt. Col. Dany Shoham, who was among the first to suggest that the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak may be linked to China‘s military research, now believes there is a strong possibility that the virus escaped from a Chinese laboratory.

Col. Shoham stated in an article published last month that the initial theory that the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic occurred naturally is coming under strong doubt by both scientists and intelligence analysts.

The former senior intelligence analyst for the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry is a microbiologist and expert on chemical and biological warfare who has studied the matter.

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According to Col. Shoham, the probability of human intervention in creating the coronavirus is higher than naturally occurring, spontaneous evolutionary adaptation. However, Chinese secrecy, deception and obfuscation about the virus origin are preventing spies and scientists from learning where the virus outbreak began.

“The genomic origin of the index virus (the strain that infected patient zero) has been determined to be a Chinese bat virus that underwent extensive pre-adaptation to humans, including continual transmissibility, prior to infecting patient zero,” Col. Shoham, now with the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, an Israeli think tank, wrote in a journal article.

“The open question is how, where, and when such exceptional genomic pre-adaptation took place,” he stated.

The debate over the virus origin has the potential for explosive disclosures, he said, yet intelligence agencies around the world so far have remained largely silent.

“Several Western countries, as well as Russia, India, Japan, and Australia, had formed intelligence estimates as early as January 2020 but kept their conclusions quiet,” he stated. “The very persistence of intelligence agencies’ silence implies that they judge the initial contagion to have been unnatural. Had they concluded that the pandemic resulted from a natural contagion, they would probably have made that conclusion public.”

The CIA has not disclosed its findings about the virus origin but is said to be working on an assessment.

The former Israeli intelligence analyst’s comments followed similar remarks by White House Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger. Mr. Pottinger told an online meeting of British members of Parliament recently that the leading theory now is that the virus leaked from a Chinese laboratory.

A China expert who was one of the first American officials to warn about the danger of the pandemic last January, Mr. Pottinger said the most recent intelligence suggests the virus emanated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and not a wild animal “wet market” nearby that Chinese authorities initially blamed for the outbreak.

“There is a growing body of evidence that the lab is likely the most credible source of the virus,” the Daily Mail newspaper quoted Mr. Pottinger as saying during the meeting.

The virus likely escaped from a leak or accident, he said. “Even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story,” he said.

Col. Shoham, in his analysis, found “significant mismatches and errors” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the sole lab in China capable of conducting secure virus research, along with other institutions in Wuhan and other parts of China for a decade before the latest pandemic.

His list includes scientific papers with what he said were incoherent data or findings, unexplained gaps and contradiction, twisted chronologies, illegitimate secrecy, the elimination or distortions of records and databases and the obscuring and possible destruction of existing viruses.

Chinese authorities also pressured scientists and officials and made key people disappear from public view. They also have interchanged military and defense institutions with civilian institutions, he said.

“All this misconduct was allegedly meant to serve one principal purpose: to hamper the tracing of the roots of the index virus,” Col. Shoham said. “These deliberate obfuscations collectively form a powerful argument in support of the unnatural contagion concept.”

The World Health Organization is conducting an investigation into the virus origin and recently complained that China is blocking investigators.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week that several U.N. scientists who were promised entry into China have been told that they do not yet have government permission to enter the country.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday that her government and the WHO are still consulting about the scientists’ visit.

“On the issue of COVID-19 origin-tracing, China has always been open, transparent and responsible and taken the lead in carrying out scientific cooperation in tracing the origin with WHO with the purpose of promoting international research on origin-tracing,” she told reporters.

A senior U.S. official said intelligence agencies at the beginning of the pandemic lacked the expertise needed to study the virus origin. As a result, agencies had to rely heavily on U.S. scientists, many of whom were influenced to support Chinese government views as a result of work with Chinese counterparts.

Many American scientists are reluctant to consider the theory that the virus escaped from a laboratory over fears that doing so would upset relations with Chinese scientific institutions. Pro-China scientists have conducted research in China that allows greater leeway in scientific work with fewer safety and ethical regulations than U.S. institutions.

CHINESE GLOBAL MASS SURVEILLANCE

The leak of a Chinese database in September provides new clues to Beijing’s mass collection of data as part of a global surveillance program.

According to a recent report by the State Department-led Overseas Security Advisory Council, the leaked database was gathered by a Chinese “data scraping” company called Zhenhua Data that is used by China‘s intelligence service for its operations.

The disclosure of the database by an Australian company revealed personally identifiable information on 2.4 million people, including 52,000 Americans.

“This is just the latest in a stream of evidence showing the Chinese Communist Party’s expansion and exportation of internal controls and surveillance,” the report said.

The data gathered by Zhenhua was mostly open-source information, although much was obtained from the dark web. Other information was obtained by hacking private companies, the report said.

“There are a wide variety of people covered in the database, including prime ministers, state and federal politicians, military officers, diplomats, academics, business executives, journalists and lawyers,” the report said.

“Zhenhua’s chief executive spoke of using data to wage ‘hybrid warfare’ through propaganda and psychological warfare on his personal WeChat,” the report noted. “China has long used surveillance as a powerful tool for control and collection both domestically and internationally.”

The collection of the data is part of China‘s massive domestic surveillance network and a key intelligence-gathering technique for the Ministry of State Security, the civilian spy agency.

“While the MSS employs traditional case officers much like other international intelligence services, it also makes use of the worldwide network of Chinese communities,” the report warned.

“Relying on the loyalty (sometimes forced through pressure on family still in China) of professionals abroad, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been able to collect significant amounts of technological information.”

Starting the 1980s, China launched a similar intelligence program in the United States to bolster its nuclear program. “Fifteen years later, it had all the information needed to create its own nuclear program on par with that of the U.S.,” the report said.

“Essentially, the CCP now has nuclear weapons because of its successful collection of mass data through Chinese citizens abroad.”

During the 1990s, the Clinton administration launched a program of nuclear scientist exchanges with China. That resulted, according to a public conclusion by the CIA at the time, in China obtaining through espionage secrets relating to every deployed warhead in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

Hong Kong arrests 53 activists under national security law

Hong Kong arrests 53 activists under national security law

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In this July 15, 2020, file photo, pro-democracy activists who were elected from unofficial pro-democracy primaries, including Joshua Wong, left, attend a press conference in Hong Kong. About 50 Hong Kong pro-democracy figures were arrested by police on Wednesday, Jan. … more >

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By Zen Soo

Associated Press

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police arrested 53 former lawmakers and democracy proponents Wednesday for allegedly violating the new national security law by participating in unofficial election primaries for the territory’s legislature last year.

The mass arrests, including of former lawmakers, were the largest move against Hong Kong’s democracy movement since the law was imposed by Beijing last June to quell dissent in the semi-autonomous territory.

“The operation today targets the active elements who are suspected to be involved in the crime of overthrowing, or interfering (and) seriously destroy the Hong Kong government’s legal execution of duties,” John Lee, Hong Kong’s security minister, said at a news conference.

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He said those arrested were suspected of trying to paralyze the government, via their plans to gain a majority of the seats in the legislature to create a situation in which the chief executive had to resign and the government would stop functioning.

In a video released by former lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting on his Facebook page, police turned up at his house and told him he was “suspected of violating the national security law, subverting state power.” Police told those recording the video to stop or risk arrest.

The legislative election that would have followed the unofficial primaries was postponed by a year by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who cited the public health risks during the coronavirus pandemic. Mass resignations and disqualifications of pro-democracy lawmakers have left the legislature largely a pro-Beijing body.

Lee said the police would not target those who had voted in the unofficial primaries, which were held in July last year and attracted more than 600,000 voters even though pro-Beijing lawmakers and politicians had warned the event could breach the security law.

All of the pro-democracy candidates in the unofficial primaries were arrested, according to tallies of the arrests being reported by the South China Morning Post, online platform Now News and political groups.

At least seven members of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party — the city’s largest opposition party — were arrested, including former party chairman Wu Chi-wai. Former lawmakers Lam, Helena Wong and James To were also arrested, according to a post on the party’s Facebook page.

Benny Tai, a key figure in Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy Central protests and a former law professor, was also arrested, reports said. Tai was one of the main organizers of the primaries.

The home of Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist who is serving a 13 1/2-month prison sentence for organizing and participating in an unauthorized protest last year, was also raided, according to a tweet posted from Wong’s account.

American human rights lawyer John Clancey was also arrested on Wednesday. Clancey was the treasurer of political group Power for Democracy, which was involved in the unofficial primaries.

“We need to work for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong,” Clancey said as he was being led away by police, in a video posted by local online news outlet Citizen News.

Police also went to the headquarters of Stand News, a prominent pro-democracy online news site in Hong Kong, with a court order to hand over documents to assist in an investigation related to the national security law, according to a livestreamed video by Stand News. No arrests were made.

Lee also pointed to a “10 steps to mutual destruction” plan among those arrested, which included taking control of the legislature, mobilizing protests to paralyze society and calling for international sanctions.

That plan was previously outlined by former law professor Tai. He predicted that between 2020 and 2022, there would be 10 steps to mutual destruction, including the pro-democracy bloc winning a majority in the legislature, intensifying protests, the forced resignation of Lam due to the budget bill being rejected twice, and international sanctions on the Chinese Communist Party.

The concept of mutual destruction — in which both Hong Kong and China would suffer damages — is popular among some protesters and pro-democracy activists.

“The plot is to create such mutual destruction that if successful … will result in serious damage to society as a whole,” said Lee. “That is why police action today is necessary.”

Senior Supt. Steve Li from the national security unit said that 53 people were arrested in an operation that involved 1,000 officers. The 45 men and eight women were aged between 23 and 79, according to a police statement.

Six were arrested for subverting state power by organizing the unofficial primaries, while the rest were arrested for allegedly participating in the event, Li said. He said more arrests could be made and investigations were ongoing.

Alan Leong, chairman of the pro-democracy Civic Party in Hong Kong, said at a news conference held by the pro-democratic camp on Wednesday that plans to exercise voting rights to veto the budget and eventually oblige the chief executive to step down are rights enshrined in the Basic Law.

The arrests were an “affront to the constitutionally protected rights to vote” in Hong Kong, Leong said.

“We don’t see how by promising to exercise such rights could end them up as being subversive,” he added.

Beijing supports Hong Kong police in their carrying out of “their duties in accordance with the law,” said Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The rights and freedom Hong Kong people enjoyed have not been affected in any way,” Hua said at a daily briefing with journalists. “What was affected was that some external forces and individual people in Hong Kong colluded with each other in an attempt to undermine the stability and security of China.”

In recent months, Hong Kong has jailed several pro-democracy activists, including Wong and Agnes Chow, for their involvement in anti-government protests, and others have been charged under the national security law, including media tycoon and outspoken pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai.

The security law criminalizes acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers to intervene in the city’s affairs. Serious offenders could face up a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

Lam had said at the time of the unofficial primaries last year that if their aim was resisting every policy initiative by the Hong Kong government, the election may fall under subverting state power, an offense under the national security law.

Beijing had also called the primaries illegal and a “serious provocation” of Hong Kong’s electoral system.

Following the handover of Hong Kong to China by the British in 1997, the city has operated on a “one country, two systems” framework that affords it freedoms not found on the mainland. In recent years, Beijing has asserted more control over the city, drawing criticism that it was breaking its promise of Hong Kong maintaining separate civil rights and political systems for 50 years from the handover.

The sweeping arrests drew condemnation from Anthony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State nominee for the upcoming Biden administration, who said on Twitter that it was an “assault on those bravely advocating for universal rights.”

“The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy,” Blinken wrote in his tweet.

Human Rights Watch said the arrests suggest Beijing has failed to learn that repression generates resistance. HRW senior China researcher Maya Wang said in a statement that “millions of Hong Kong people will persist in their struggle for their right to vote and run for office in a democratically elected government.”

In further remarks to The Associated Press, Wang said it wasn’t clear what provisions of the law were being cited to justify the arrests, but that local authorities seem less concerned with legal substance.

“The very nature of the national security law is as a draconian blanket law allowing the government to arrest and potentially imprison people for long terms for exercising their constitutionally protected rights,” Wang said.

“The veneer of rule of law is also applied in mainland China stripped of any meaning. Hong Kong is looking more like mainland China but where one ends and the other begins is hard to discern,” she said.

NYSE withdraws plans to delist 3 Chinese phone carriers

NYSE withdraws plans to delist 3 Chinese phone carriers

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FILE – In this Oct. 14, 2020, file photo, people wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus talk on their cellphones near a booth for Chinese telecommunications firm China Mobile at the PT Expo in Beijing. … more >

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By JOE McDONALD

Associated Press

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

BEIJING (AP) – The New York Stock Exchange has withdrawn plans to delist shares of three Chinese state-owned phone carriers. The shares were to be removed under an order from President Donald Trump, a move Beijing had warned might lead to retaliation.

The exchange cited “further consultation” with regulators but its announcement late Monday gave no other details.

China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday criticized Washington for “suppressing foreign companies” but made no direct comment on the NYSE announcement.

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The NYSE said Thursday it would remove China Telecom Corp. Ltd., China Mobile Ltd. and China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. under Trump’s November order barring Americans from investing in securities issued by companies deemed to be linked to the Chinese military.

The order added to mounting U.S.-Chinese tension over technology, security and spying accusations.

The Trump administration has imposed export controls and other sanctions on some Chinese companies, visa curbs on members of the ruling Communist Party and other restrictions.

“The suppression will have very limited impact on Chinese companies, but it will damage the national interest and image of the United States,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Han Chunying. She expressed hope Washington will “do more to maintain the order of the global financial market” and protect investors.

Political analysts expect little change in policy under President-elect Joseph Biden, who takes office Jan. 20, due to widespread frustration with China’s trade and human rights records and accusations of spying and technology theft.

Trump’s November order bars Americans from investing in securities issued by companies deemed by the Defense Department to be part of efforts to modernize the Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army.

The 2 million-member PLA is one of the biggest and most heavily-armed militaries. It is spending heavily to develop nuclear submarines, stealth fighters, ballistic missiles and other advanced weapons.

The Pentagon has added 35 companies to its blacklist. In addition to the phone carriers, they include telecom equipment giant Huawei, China’s biggest maker of processor chips, three state-owned oil producers and construction, aerospace, rocketry, shipbuilding and nuclear power equipment companies.

Hong Kong-traded shares in the three phone carriers surged Tuesday. China Telecom rose 3.4%, China Mobile jumped 5.7% and China Unicom surged 8.5%. Shares in all three have fallen recently.

The Chinese government has accused Washington of misusing national security as an excuse to hamper competition and has warned that Trump’s order would hurt U.S. and other investors worldwide.

On Saturday, the foreign ministry said Beijing would take unspecified “necessary countermeasures” to protect its companies.

The government made the same announcement following previous U.S. sanctions without taking action.

U.S. officials press China over growing nuclear arsenal

U.S. officials press China over growing nuclear arsenal

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“Today, China allows no such transparency for the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal,” wrote Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Marshall Billingslea, the special presidential envoy for arms control, in an op-ed for Newsweek on Monday. (ASSOCIATED PRESS) more >

Print

By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Monday, January 4, 2021

China is engaged in a nuclear arms buildup and is stonewalling the international community regarding its strategic weapons intentions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump’s chief arms control negotiator said Monday.

Mr. Pompeo and Marshall Billingslea, special presidential envoy for arms control, wrote in joint op-ed published Monday by Newsweek that arms control during the Cold War served both Washington and Moscow’s interests by showing transparency on nuclear arsenals. But Beijing has repeatedly resisted their invitation to join talks with Washington and Moscow on an extension of the soon-to-expire New START treaty.

“Paired with its weapons modernization, Beijing’s nuclear posture is getting more aggressive, threatening even non-nuclear neighbors and undermining confidence in its so-called ‘no first use’ policy,” they wrote. The Trump administration, they added, regards China’s “two-decades-long, asymmetric arms race” as “a core part of that challenge.”

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China’s build-up “endangers the American homeland, our strategic positions in the Indo-Pacific, and our allies and partners,” they added, noting U.S. allies, partners and “even the highest levels of the Russian government” have been briefed on Beijing’s growing arsenal.

China has consistently rejected U.S. offers to join arms talks, despite what the U.S. sees as the dangers posed by its growing force of strategic weapons, dominated by several types of new missiles of all ranges, ballistic missile submarines and bombers.

“Today, China allows no such transparency for the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal,” Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea said. “Beijing refuses to disclose how many nuclear weapons it has, how many it plans to develop, or what it plans to do with them. It is the least transparent of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.”

China is rapidly developing a triad of missiles, submarines and bombers under President Xi Jinping. Mr. Xi’s recent elevation of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Forces into a new military branch is part of the drive to create a world-class military by 2049.

The two U.S. officials said that satellite imagery revealed PLA advances during a 2019 military parade showing off nuclear-capable missiles. The parade stretched nearly 3 miles and was almost 10 times longer than a similar parade a decade earlier.

The latest parade showcased the new DF-41 multiwarhead missile capable of striking the U.S. in 30 minutes. The DF-41 will be deployed in silos and on mobile launchers in the near future as part of a bid by Beijing to double its nuclear arsenal in the next 10 years.

Beijing has done all this while exploiting the United States’ decades-long compliance with ineffective arms-control agreements,” Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea stated.

“While we were constrained by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty’s limits on ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, the PLA has fielded more than a thousand theater-range ballistic missiles near its coast,” they noted.

Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea said China test-fired more ballistic missiles in 2018 and 2020 than all other nations combined, more than 220 ballistic missiles. China also is conducting year-round activity at its nuclear testing site at Lop Nur in western China. In the past, activity there was seasonal and sporadic.

Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea said that a Pentagon report showing evidence that PLA Rocket Forces are moving to a more unstable “launch on warning” nuclear posture brings into question Beijing’s “no first use” nuclear policies.

China has refused repeated calls by the Trump administration to join the current U.S.-Russia nuclear talks, with the incoming Biden administration facing an early call on whether to agree to a bilateral extension with Russia of New START, due to expire next month. Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea stated that any successor treaty to New START must include China’s forces.

“Our calls for China’s leaders to change course are reasonable. We’ve asked Beijing for transparency, and to join the United States and Russia in crafting a new arms control agreement covering all categories of nuclear weapons,” they stated.

While the current U.S.-Russia New START treaty limits both nations’ development of certain weapons, China has been free to continues its build-up unchecked.

“The United States has done its part to reduce nuclear dangers; it is time that China stopped posturing and began to comport itself responsibly,” they said.

Noting China’s desire to be accepted as a great nation, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Billingslea argued that “any nation with claims to greatness” should handle the world’s most dangerous weapons responsibly.

Tsai credits Taiwan for virus wins, notes China’s threats

Tsai credits Taiwan for virus wins, notes China’s threats

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People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying) more >

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By

Associated Press

Thursday, December 31, 2020

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday hailed the island’s progress in containing the coronavirus pandemic and growing the economy while facing military threats from China.

In her annual New Year’s Day address, Tsai said Taiwan had effectively conquered the virus through “believing in professionalism, trusting one another and unifying as a society,” without lockdowns or serious disruptions to business and education.

Taiwan has been applauded for its swift and sustained efforts to contain COVID-19, with just seven deaths and fewer than 800 confirmed cases, despite its close proximity to China, where the pandemic began.

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Taiwan is investing in its people with pensions for farmers and the construction of public housing and new kindergartens, alongside new industrial projects to generate jobs, Tsai said.

Yet, while the economy is growing and the stock market booming, Taiwan and the region have been imperiled by “the frequent activities of military aircraft and warships on the other side of the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai said, a reference to China, which has been upping its threats to forcefully annex the island it considers part of its territory.

She said stability in cross-strait relations were a concern not only to both sides but to the wider world.

Taiwan, which receives defensive weapons and strong political support from the U.S., would stick to its current policies and hope for dialogue with Beijing on the basis of equality and mutual respect, Tsai said.

China cut links with Tsai’s government shortly after her 2016 inauguration to a first term and demands she recognize Taiwan as a part of China.

Beijing has steadily ratcheted up military, economic and diplomatic over her years in office, prompting Tsai to strengthen the island’s defenses and seek closer relations with Washington and other major countries with which Taiwan has close ties, despite a lack of formal diplomatic relations.

Beijing has strongly protested closer Taiwan-U.S. relations and is also expected to be angered by Taipei’s plans to issue a new passport prominently featuring “Taiwan” on its cover rather the Republic of China, the government’s formal name.

China arrests nuns, stunning clerics with ‘unusual’ move: ‘There is no freedom of expression’

China arrests nuns, stunning clerics with ‘unusual’ move: ‘There is no freedom of expression’

'It is highly unusual for nuns to be detained. Normally they are left alone'

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A Chinese flag hangs near a Hikvision security camera outside of a shop in Beijing on Oct. 8, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump has stepped up a conflict with China over security and technology by issuing an order barring Americans … more >

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By Douglas Ernst

The Washington Times

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Beijing is flexing its intimidation muscles in the wake of a new national security law by arresting nuns who serve Hong Kong’s 400,000 Catholics.

Multiple sources, all but one who chose to remain anonymous out of fear for their safety, spoke to Reuters of the previously undisclosed house arrests in May.

The women were detained during a visit home to Hebei province, yet never charged with an actual crime.

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“It is highly unusual for nuns to be detained,” one cleric told Reuters for the exclusive published Wednesday. “Normally they are left alone.”

“We are at the bottom of the pit — there is no freedom of expression anymore,” the former Bishop of Hong Kong, 88-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, said in a written statement. “All these things are normal in mainland China. We are becoming like any other city in China. … For any word you say, [Beijing] can say you’re offending the National Security Law.”

Senior members of the clergy said the arrests are likely an effort to influence who will become the city’s next bishop since the position has not been filled for two years.

The Liaison Office, the main arm of the Chinese government in Hong Kong, didn’t respond to questions for Reuter’s article.

Inquiries as to the nuns’ status were ignored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

A Vatican spokesman and the acting head of the local church, Cardinal John Tong, also declined to comment for Reuters’ story.

China renews crackdowns as coronavirus circles back

China renews crackdowns as coronavirus circles back

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Residents line up for coronavirus tests at tents set up on the streets of Beijing on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. Beijing has urged residents not to leave the city during the Lunar New Year holiday in February, implementing new restrictions … more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Monday, December 28, 2020

The place where the coronavirus crisis began — China — is back in the spotlight, with a cluster of locally transmitted cases in the northeast and the Lunar New Year prompting the communist government to crack down on travel.

China detected dozens of locally transmitted cases in the past week, with some in Beijing and many in the port city of Dalian to the east.

While some new measures resemble those in the U.S., including canceled concerts and pleas to stay put over the holidays, officials ordered civil servants in Beijing to remain in the city from Jan. 1 through the Lunar New Year that begins Feb. 12.

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Travel restrictions are notable because the Lunar New Year usually marks one of the world’s largest migrations of people, as Chinese families gather for reunion dinners in the country of more than 1 billion people.

Authorities also want to vaccinate 50 million people before the traditional holiday — it was upended by the nascent pandemic last year — as part of its bid to avoid a large outbreak after using draconian lockdowns and wide-scale testing to stiff-arm the virus and largely return to normal life this year.

The coronavirus devastated the Hubei province housing Wuhan one year ago, prompting global headlines in January about a mysterious new virus that was flooding hospitals and putting people on ventilators.

It spread out to South Korea, Italy and eventually the entire globe. China was faulted for its early secrecy about the pathogen — President Trump still refers to it as the “China virus” — and crackdown on whistle-blowers.

The country is still trying to control the narrative. A Shanghai court sentenced a 37-year-old independent journalist, Zhang Zhan, to four years in prison on Monday for reporting on the true extent of the early outbreak in Wuhan. Her lawyer told American news outlets she was convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

Other parts of the world are concerned about transmission that far exceeds what has been reported in China.

In Europe, German officials said a lockdown that spanned the winter holidays likely will continue beyond Jan. 10 instead of expiring. The nation’s daily death toll remains high and nearly hit 1,000 on Dec. 22.

Schools in the Netherlands, meanwhile, are closed until Jan. 15 in a bid to control a surge in transmission.

Indonesia is banning foreign visitors for 14 days, starting Jan. 1, to fend off the new variant, while Saudi Arabia extended its ban on international visitors for another week.

Japan banned foreign nationals from entry, starting Monday, after it discovered the more transmissible U.K. variant within its borders. Also Monday, the government said it detected one case of another variant, from South Africa, in a woman in her 30s.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is requiring travelers from the U.K. to test negative test no more than 72 hours before departure.

China used a series of superstrict lockdowns to wrangle the virus after it was discovered in Wuhan last December. Experts say the severe measures China imposed aren’t replicable in freer societies.

“I think the Chinese model of violating individual rights is not the model for COVID-19 control,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Widespread testing linked to contact tracing and isolation is the paradigm the world should follow.”

He said “targeted public health interventions” — not blanket or blunt ones — that are sustainable and recognize that certain aspects of human productivity must continue should be the default.

The U.S. is relying on basic mitigation measures such as mask-wearing and physical distancing while governors impose a patchwork of economic restrictions to try to thwart the virus.

Daily reported cases have decreased to about 188,000 compared to 216,000 one week ago, according to a seven-day average from The New York Times.

More than 118,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, however, and experts are worried about a post-Christmas spike caused by travel and the mixing of households. The U.S. has the world-leading death toll, which now exceeds 330,000 people.

The Johns Hopkins University tracker says China has reported nearly 96,000 cases and about 4,800 deaths, though Mr. Trump and others say that must be an undercount.

Beyond locally transmitted clusters, Beijing detected one imported case in a 39-year-old man who returned from Sweden on Monday, according to state media in the Global Times.

A top Chinese official, Cai Qi, asked Beijing districts to enter “emergency mode” by sealing off sections of the city with infections, according to Reuters. It also said officials began a mass-testing effort of the 800,000 people in Shunyi district, where the latest cases were found.

Turkey’s health minister, Fahrettin Koca, said the latest cases in Beijing delayed the first delivery of the 50 million doses of Sinovac vaccine it ordered from China.

“Customs movement has been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 alarm in Beijing and the COVID-19 incident at Beijing customs,” he tweeted over the weekend. “For this reason, the arrival of our vaccines, which are expected to depart after customs procedures, has been delayed for a day or two.”

U.S., China ‘cold war’ poses immediate test for Joe Biden

U.S., China charge toward ‘full-blown cold war’ as Beijing becomes more aggressive

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In this Sept. 24, 2015, file photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Vice President Joe Biden, stand for the U.S. national anthem during an arrival ceremony in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) more >

Print

By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a “cold war” between communist China and the United States, with Beijing scrambling at levels previously unseen to try to undermine America’s status as the world’s leading superpower.

Although the recent emergence of coronavirus vaccines suggests the pandemic’s end may be in sight, foreign policy analysts generally agree that the expanding geopolitical battle between Washington and Beijing will only intensify in the post-COVID-19 era.

“We now have underway a full-blown cold war between the U.S. and China,” said Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank known for its hawkish foreign policy positions.

SEE ALSO: Russia, China flex military muscle with joint air patrols over Pacific

“This war actually started years ago,” Mr. May said in an interview. “But America’s elites, Republican and Democrat, have been in denial about it considering how much Wall Street is invested in China and how much U.S. consumers have been accustomed to cheap goods from China often made from exploited, if not slave, labor.”

Although he credited the Trump administration with engineering a clear-eyed shift in U.S. policy toward China even before COVID-19 hit, Mr. May said the U.S. establishment has been dangerously slow to let go of false and long-held beliefs that China will liberalize its political system and moderate its behavior on the world stage as its wealth grew through ties to America and the U.S.-backed global economic order.

China hawks say that has not happened, and President-elect Joseph R. Biden faces difficult questions on whether to embrace President Trump’s hard-edged approach or seek a reversal toward the moderate and much softer posture the U.S. embraced when he was vice president.

Republicans view Mr. Biden with skepticism because of his son Hunter’s checkered history of business dealings in Beijing.

The broader uncertainty over China policy stands to shape the next administration’s approach to other global issues, including those involving North Korea and Iran. As a neighbor and ally of North Korea and a permanent, veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, China already has influence in both of those arenas and could increase that influence given likely disruptions in the post-COVID-19 era.

China also poses major questions about how its power moves will influence the behavior of other U.S. adversaries such as Russia, which the Trump administration quietly sought to peel away from China. The administration hoped to create a strategic alignment of allies including India, Australia and Japan to present a united front in countering China.

Mr. Biden will arrive at the White House during Beijing’s accelerating push to portray itself to the world as a more organized and reliable partner than the U.S., especially to weaker nations facing the hardship of a pandemic-driven global economic downturn.

Beijing is already billing itself as a better global citizen than Washington. It touts its dedication to multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Paris climate accord and the World Trade Organization that Mr. Trump shunned while appealing for Mr. Biden to shift away from his predecessor’s “America First” policies.

The Trump administration “ignores the vast common interests and room for cooperation between the two countries and insists that China is a main threat,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a speech Friday to the New York-based Asia Society.

“This is like misaligning the buttons on clothing,” Mr. Wang said. “They get things wrong at the very beginning.”

By contrast, the Trump administration’s leading voices on China, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, readily embrace the cold war idea and warn that Beijing could be an even more formidable adversary than the Soviet Union, which operated in a political and economic sphere largely separated from the West.

“What’s happening now isn’t Cold War 2.0. The challenge of resisting the [Chinese Communist Party] threat is in some ways worse,” Mr. Pompeo said in a September speech in the Czech Republic. China “is already enmeshed in our economies, in our politics, in our societies in ways the Soviet Union never was.”

Although the novel coronavirus originated in China, Chinese government officials have suggested that the U.S. may have been responsible for the outbreak and argued that China’s system has far outperformed the U.S. in containing COVID-19 and limiting its economic impacts.

China, with its military growing stronger by the year, is also engaged in increased regional muscle-flexing, apparently to test U.S. resolve should a clash break out over flash points such as Hong Kong, Taiwan or control of the South China Sea.

The Chinese military has “stepped up the frequency” of activities around Taiwan as well as near the many disputed reefs and islands of the South China Sea, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

An examination by the initiative found a roughly 50% increase in Chinese military activities in the Indo-Pacific reported by Chinese state-controlled media over the past year. The study cited a similar, albeit less dramatic, increase by U.S. forces in the region.

U.S. officials predict Beijing will be emboldened to increase its military moves as it prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in July.

High stakes for China

Not everyone is convinced that the fallout from the pandemic will aid China’s emergence.

“The jury is still out as to whether COVID-19 accelerates the geopolitical transition which has been underway before,” said former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who heads the Asia Society Policy Institute.

“The variable here is U.S. policy and strategy and … whether [that] policy and strategy is sustained beyond the four-year point in terms of a long-term return to American regional and global leadership role,” Mr. Rudd told the annual GZERO Summit hosted this month by the Eurasia Group, a New York-based consulting firm.

He suggested that the Trump administration, despite its confrontational approach to Beijing, ultimately weakened America’s geopolitical standing by going it alone on China rather than pursuing a more cohesive strategy with regional allies. Many on Mr. Biden’s national security team strongly agreed with the criticism.

“The bottom line is the ball is very much now in America’s court about what it wishes to do in the region and the world,” Mr. Rudd said at the summit, which was held virtually under the title “Geopolitics in a Post-Pandemic World.”

The Trump administration’s China hawks warn that the ruling Communist Party’s ambitions are global. They say Beijing is ready to exploit the pandemic-induced global economic crisis to expand its ambitious “Belt and Road” campaign through loans to a growing number of nations in need.

China’s gross domestic product, at an estimated $13.4 trillion, is just two-thirds that of the United States. But its position as a rising powerhouse has been increasingly harder to deny since 2013, when President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road program.

The campaign has since grown into a vast web of deals, contracts, grants and loans. Beijing has doled out well over $100 billion in loans to more than 100 countries to finance roads, bridges, ports and rail lines.

U.S. officials accuse China of engaging in predatory lending by offering loans it knows nations will have trouble repaying, only to offer relief later in exchange for control over coveted natural resources.

Beijing sharply denies such accusations, but China has emerged over the past decade as a go-to source of loans for cash-strapped countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and parts of Europe. It has become an alternative capital source to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Washington-based pillars of the liberal international economic order that the U.S. has fostered since shortly after World War II.

Criticized early in the COVID-19 crisis for failing to offer concessions to its strapped borrowers, China now seeks to portray itself as benevolently delivering generous debt relief to countries in need.

Finance Minister Liu Kun said last month that Beijing had extended debt relief worth some $2.1 billion to developing countries, but that figure is tiny compared with the mountains of debt that developing countries owe China.

A World Bank study found that the world’s poorest countries owe Beijing more than $112 billion through the Belt and Road program, raising questions of whether China overextended itself as markets and national economies struggle to recover.

Mr. Rudd said China’s reputation already has been damaged by its handling of the coronavirus in the earliest days of the crisis and by what many saw as Beijing’s hubris in trying to exploit its position as the world’s leading supplier of protective medical equipment.

China,” the former Australian prime minister said, “took a big reputational hit because the virus came from Wuhan.”

China’s attempt to use the distribution of PPE around Asia and the rest of the world as a tool of diplomacy effectively backfired,” he said, “because China insisted on statements of loyalty to the imperial throne as a precondition for the delivery of PPE. This was received negatively around the world.”

China’s nationalistic state-controlled media even raised the specter of using Beijing’s control over global pharmaceutical supply chains as leverage to block critical components for dependent U.S. drug companies and send America into a COVID-19 “hell.”

The Trump administration and lawmakers from both parties responded by calling for a revamping of domestic U.S. drug manufacturing operations that had been outsourced to China and a handful of other nations. That’s another big question awaiting Mr. Biden as he weighs what it takes to wage a Cold War with China.

Waiting on Washington

Former Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono, who also spoke at the GZERO Summit, said U.S. allies in Asia are on edge as they await how Mr. Biden approaches the post-Trump and post-COVID-19 geopolitical landscape.

“We need to be very carefully monitoring the United States’ intentions, if the U.S. is again trying to take leadership in building a coalition among the like-minded countries … to sustain democracy, a coalition to protect global rule and trying to protect the liberal international order that has brought about this economic prosperity after World War II,” said Mr. Taro, now minister for administrative and regulatory reform for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

“Is the United States trying to re-create [the] global trade regime? Is the U.S. coming back to the WTO? Is the U.S. joining [pan-Asian Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal]? Hopefully,” Mr. Taro said.

Japan has proceeded with the Pacific Rim trade deal in absence of U.S. support over the past four years. While trade watchers try to figure out whether Mr. Biden will seek to join the Asian trade deal Mr. Trump shunned, some analysts are skeptical that the incoming president understands how dramatically the regional dynamics have changed since he was vice president just four years ago.

“I’m not yet convinced by any means that Biden himself recognizes that it’s a cold war,” Mr. May said.

Mr. May said a key wild card will be how Hunter Biden’s legal problems connected to China affect his father’s ability to alter policy with Beijing. Hunter Biden recently acknowledged that his taxes were under investigation in connection with a former Chinese tycoon now believed to be in jail facing corruption charges.

Mr. Biden has strongly defended his son, but the potentially distracting investigation is poised to proceed at least through the early months of his presidency.

“Joe Biden saw no reason why his son shouldn’t be involved with business with China,” said Mr. May, who writes a regular opinion column for The Washington Times. “Whether he recognizes now that China is a dangerous adversary, we don’t know. Whether he will take a tough policy toward China, we also don’t know.”

Mr. Rudd, meanwhile, suggested the coming four years could bring as much of a geopolitical shift as the past four. The world, he said, should not take lightly the potential for a massive policy shift by the incoming U.S. administration.

“There is a grave danger that people underestimate the capability and capacity of President-elect Biden and the team that he has assembled,” Mr. Rudd said. “This will be as formidable a foreign policy and national security team as was assembled by President Truman after the war, and the Truman administration was much underestimated by the rest of the world.”

Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act could delist some Chinese companies from U.S. markets

Law could delist some Chinese companies from U.S. markets

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President Trump signed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act. The law prevents securities at foreign companies from being listed on any U.S. exchange if firms fail to company with federal PAOB audits. (ASSOCIATED PRESS) more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Sunday, December 20, 2020

President Trump has signed into law a new measure designed to force Chinese companies linked to the military out of U.S. capital markets in a measure opposed by some in the administration who favor close business ties with Beijing.

The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act prevents securities of foreign companies from being listed on any U.S. exchange if the firms fail to comply with federal Public Accounting Oversight Board (PAOB) audits. The companies must also prove to the board they are not owned or controlled by foreign government, something most Chinese companies are unable to do.

Under the law, if the board cannot audit reports from Chinese companies, the companies must be delisted from capital markets.

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Chinese companies have refused to provide audit reports in the past, claiming their audits are conducted by non-U.S. public accounting firms and cannot be shared with American regulators.

Administration officials familiar with the legislation said several senior officials opposed the new law and urged Mr. Trump to veto the bill, arguing that keeping Chinese companies inside U.S. markets could prevent them from investing in other foreign markets.

One of those who opposed enacting the legislation was Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker.

Two officials said Mr. Mnuchin has been a frequent critic of Mr. Trump’s hardline policies toward China and in the past has sought to soften new policies toward Beijing over concerns they would upset trade and financial relations.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Mnuchin disputed the officials’ account.

“He never opposed the bill,” said Monica Crowley, assistant Treasury secretary for public affairs.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a leader behind many of the administration’s tougher approaches to China, said he and Mr. Mnuchin are not at odds.

“There is no clash between Secretary [Mnuchin] and me,” he tweeted. “We are simply working to resolve interagency mechanics of an important executive order.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the two Cabinet secretaries clashed over a recent executive order that blocked Americans from investing in Chinese companies tied to Beijing’s military.

The new law is the latest step by the Trump administration designed to prevent China from exploiting U.S. capital markets for building up its military. Mr. Trump in November signed an executive order the blocks U.S. investors from holding shares in companies linked to the Chinese military.

The law applies to all companies but mentions Chinese companies in particular that would be restricted under its provision.

A senior State Department official said the law was the result of a whole-of-government approach to shady accounting practices by Chinese companies.

“This act is long overdue,” the official said. “The Trump administration should be given credit for fighting vested interests in American society that are addicted to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) financial sugar high.”

The official said the CCP has been making money by skirting standard international accounting practices and creating false records. “They have basically cheated for years,” the official said.

Passage of the law followed a high-profile accounting scandal in April involving China‘s Luckin Coffee, a Starbucks competitor, that admitted to reporting $310 million in fabricated sales.

The company was forced to leave the Nasdaq Stock Market in June.

The legislation passed with rare bipartisan support in both the House and Senate earlier this month. Its main sponsors were Sens. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, and Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat.

“This law will protect American retail investors and pensioners from risky investments in fraudulent, opaque Chinese companies that are listed on U.S. exchanges and trade on over-the-counter markets,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and a key proponent of restricting Chinese access to U.S. capital markets.

“I was proud to work with Sen. Kennedy on this important legislation that sends a strong message to the Chinese Communist Party: if Chinese companies want access to U.S. capital markets, they must comply with American laws and regulations for financial transparency and accountability,” Mr. Rubio told The Washington Times.

A State Department fact sheet made public earlier this month stated that U.S. investors were funding malign Chinese companies on major indices, such as the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), a major stock market index, and the Financial Times Stock Exchange Group, known as FTSE.

“The money flowing into these index funds — often passively, by U.S. retail investors — supports Chinese companies involved in both civilian and military production,” the State Department said

Some of the Chinese companies on the indices produce technology in China that has been used in repression of ethnic Uighurs, where over 1 million people have been put in concentration camps. The companies also are providing surveillance gear to repressive regimes such as Iran and Venezuela.

The State Department fact sheet identifies over 70 companies or subsidiaries listed on five difference MSCI and FSE indices that are involved in Chinese military activities.

Also, 22 of the 31 companies identified by the Pentagon as part of the Communist Chinese military buildup are invested in U.S. financial markets.

Thirteen Chinese companies are listed on the Commerce Department’s Entities List that is designed to block exports of U.S. goods deemed valuable for military programs. The companies include major Chinese military contractors, telecommunications firms and high-technology companies.

According to the State Department, Chinese stocks directly affect pension funds of American workers and retirees.

“Some of the Chinese companies [on MSCI Index] present significant national security and humanitarian concerns for the United States which increases the risk that they could be subject to sanctions, public protests, trade restrictions, boycotts, and other punitive measures that jeopardize their business and profitability,” White House National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien and National Economic Council Chairman Lawrence Kudlow stated in May.

Former White House National Security Council official Roger W. Robinson Jr., was among the first experts to identify how China was using U.S. capital markets to finance military projects.

Mr. Robinson believes Chinese investment in U.S. capital markets is a stalking horse for China‘s stealth financial warfare and part of a strategy to compromise U.S. policy toward China.

If Americans’ pension funds and other investment portfolios became filled with Chinese securities, scores of millions of Americans would have a vested financial interest in lobbying to thwart U.S. sanctions or penalties on Beijing for fear that their retirement accounts and other investments would lose value.

“This unanimously passed legislation is a historic achievement as it is the first investor protection bill of its kind directed at America’s foremost adversary,” said Mr. Robinson, president of RWR Advisory Group.

“It’s only a shame that Chinese companies were given three full years to comply with PAOB audits after almost 20 years of not doing so — and receiving completely unjustified preferential treatment over American firms as a consequence.”

Mr. Robinson first disclosed that in 2018, China Shipbuilding announced plans to build the Chinese navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Shortly after the announcement, China Shipbuilding issued a $1 billion bond in the German bond market in Frankfurt, part of efforts to fund the naval construction.

China condemns new US Hong Kong sanctions, Taiwan arms sale

China condemns new US Hong Kong sanctions, Taiwan arms sale

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FILE – In this Sept. 25, 2015, file photo, a military honor guard await the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping for a state arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington. China on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, lashed out … more >

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By

Associated Press

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

BEIJING (AP) – China lashed out at the U.S. on Tuesday over new American sanctions against Chinese officials for their actions in Hong Kong, along with the sale of more U.S. military equipment to Taiwan, moves touching on two of the most sensitive issues in the increasingly contentious relationship between the nations.

The foreign ministry summoned Washington’s top diplomat in China to express “strong indignation and strong condemnation.”

The U.S. actions “seriously violated the basic norms of international relations, seriously interfered in China’s domestic politics, seriously damaged China-U.S. relations, are arrogant, unreasonable and vile,” Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang was quoted as telling Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Forden.

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Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also condemned the new sanctions leveled against 14 officials in the standing committee of China’s legislature, which passed a sweeping Hong Kong National Security Law earlier this year.

China will “take resolute and forceful countermeasures and resolutely defend its sovereignty, security and development interests,” Hua said at a daily briefing.

The State Department on Monday said the 14 officials will be banned from traveling to the U.S. or accessing the U.S. financial system over actions in Hong Kong seen as squelching free speech and opposition politics.

It also announced the approval of a $280 million sale of advanced military communications equipment to Taiwan.

China passed the National Security Law as part of a campaign to impose tighter control and drive foreign political influence from Hong Kong, a former British colony that was handed back to China in 1997 with a promise it could retain its relatively liberal political, legal and economic systems for 50 years.

Harsh suppression of months of increasingly violent anti-government protests last year led to unyielding enforcement of the law, including the arrest of leading government opponents and the expulsion of four opposition members of the Legislative Council. That prompted the rest of the opposition bloc to resign en masse, while Washington leveled sanctions at leading figures in both the Hong Kong government and related Chinese government departments.

In his comments to Forden, Zheng said U.S. expressions of concern for democracy, human rights and autonomy in Hong Kong were merely cover for its real goals of spreading chaos in the territory and stifling China’s stability and development.

That, he said, proved Washington was the “black hand” behind disorder in Hong Kong, repeating a frequent Chinese accusation rejected by the U.S.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing described the meeting as a chance to express U.S. concern over the National Security Law.

Forden “noted that Beijing has used the law repeatedly to suppress freedom of expression and assembly in Hong Kong and to arrest Hong Kong residents who have raised peacefully their concerns over Beijing’s oppressive policies,” the embassy said in a statement on its website.

The dispute over Hong Kong comes as China is upping military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, a self-governing island democracy that Beijing claims as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary.

Hua demanded the U.S. cancel its latest arms sale to Taiwan and said China would make a “proper and necessary response.”

President Donald Trump’s administration has incensed Beijing with 11 separate arms sales and closer military and political ties with the island.

China has responded with stepped-up military flights and wargames near Taiwan and pledged to punish U.S. companies involved in arms deals with the island. It has sought to poach Taiwan’s dwindling number of diplomatic allies while blocking the island from participating in international medical, economic and other organizations, demanding that President Tsai Ing-wen first recognize that the island is Chinese territory.

Taiwan’s government welcomed the sale of U.S. military equipment, saying it showed Washington is honoring its commitment to bolster the island’s defenses.

Taiwan has been at the receiving end of such military threats on a daily basis,” Tsai told reporters. “Only through engagement and by working together can we tackle the threats and challenges that beset our region and the world.”

The U.S. earlier imposed sanctions on Chinese officials implicated in abuses against Muslim minority groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. It has also gone after Chinese companies as part of a feud over trade and alleged pilfering of intellectual property, last week adding China’s biggest maker of processor chips and a state-owned oil giant to a blacklist that limits access to American technology and investment.

Earlier this year, the U.S. also forced the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston – prompting China to shutter the U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu – and last week, it cut the duration of U.S. visas for members of China’s ruling Communist Party and their family members from 10 years to one month.

The Trump administration appears to be using Taiwan, Hong Kong and other issues to heighten the level of confrontation in China-U.S. relations, said Su Hao, professor of international relations at China Foreign Affairs University.

“Trump would like to see a formation of a solidified structure of China-U.S. relations that will make it difficult for (President-elect Joe Biden) to make changes,” Su said.

Trump may view the increased toughness toward China as a legacy of his time in office, said Diao Daming, associate professor in the School of International Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University.

“This is hurting bilateral relations, harming the interests of the countries and their citizens, and failing to meet the expectations of international society,” Diao said.

Australia government gains new power to scrap foreign pacts

Australia government gains new power to scrap foreign pacts

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By ROD McGUIRK

Associated Press

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – The Australian Parliament on Tuesday gave the government power to cancel deals struck with foreign nations by lower levels of government that conflict with the national interest, despite China warning against disrupting cooperation.

An agreement signed by Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, with Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative to build trade-related infrastructure is among 135 deals with 30 countries that the government argues need to be reviewed.

“We didn’t agree with it in the first place, still don’t agree with it, and no doubt decisions on that will be made in due course,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters, referring to the Victoria deal.

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The laws allow the federal government to review and scrap state, territory, local council and public university deals with other nations.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne can assess arrangements between governments or public universities and foreign governments to check if they align with foreign policy goals.

When the new federal power was proposed in August, the Chinese foreign ministry cautioned against disrupting “successful pragmatic cooperation” with Victoria.

Australia should see two sides’ cooperation under the BRI in an objective and reasonable manner and not set obstacles artificially for normal exchanges and cooperation,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in Beijing.

Bilateral relations have since deteriorated further, with Chinese officials announcing on Monday that Queensland state abattoir Meramist had become the sixth Australian meat exporter suspended from trading with China. No reasons were given.

China last month added wine to the growing list of Australian goods barred or restricted from its markets in a trade war against Australia over disputes including its support for a probe into the origin of the coronavirus.

Earlier, China stopped or reduced imports of Australian coal, barley, seafood, sugar and timber after Australia supported calls for a probe into the origin of the pandemic, which began in China late last year.

A diplomatic war of words recently erupted between Australia and China over a fake image that had been tweeted by a Chinese official.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed indignation and anger at the tweet, which depicted a grinning Australian soldier holding a bloodied knife to an Afghan child’s throat.

The post took aim at alleged unlawful killings and abuses by Australian soldiers during the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Australian government created new powers to veto foreign deals as lawmakers become increasingly sensitive about Chinese political and economic influence.

In August, Australian regulators blocked a Chinese company’s purchase of Japanese brewer Kirin’s Australian beverage unit as “contrary to the national interest.”

In 2018, Australia passed sweeping national security laws that ban covert foreign interference in domestic politics. Beijing protested that the laws were prejudiced against China and poisoned Chinese-Australian relations.

Payne, the Australian foreign minister, said a task force would be created within her department to review international agreements under the new law.

“The legislation is necessary to appropriately manage and protect Australia’s foreign relations and the consistency or our nation’s foreign policy,” she said in a statement.

China agents in U.S. government helped influence policy, academic says

Red alert: Chinese boast of operatives ‘inside America’s core circle of power’

Academic says Trump trade war cut off spies

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In this file photo, Chinese president Xi Jinping, center, waves after he is greeted by Ambassador Peter A. Selfridge, left, Chief of Protocol of the United States, upon his arrival at the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 31, 2016. … more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Sunday, December 6, 2020

China influenced American policies for decades through a covert network of “old friends” — sympathizers and agents — who had penetrated the highest levels of the U.S. government and financial institutions before the Trump administration, according to an academic linked to the Chinese government.

Di Dongsheng, a professor and associate dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing, also suggested in a Nov. 28 speech that China’s Communist Party helped Hunter Biden, a son of presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden, obtain Chinese business deals.

On influencing the United States, Mr. Di said, he could not provide further details about the work of Chinese agents without compromising their identities. However, he said President Trump’s trade war with China upset decades of close ties between Washington and Beijing that the agent network facilitated.

SEE
ALSO: Excerpts of remarks by Di Dongsheng

Disputes such as the Navy’s EP-3 midair collision with a Chinese jet in the western Pacific in 2001 and the mistaken U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Serbia in 1999 were resolved within months because of the influence operations.

“Now, I’m going to drop a bomb: Because we had people up there inside America’s core circle of power, we had our old friends,” said Mr. Di, adding that he needed to speak carefully because “I can’t sell out these people.”

A video of the remarks was posted on Mr. Di’s Weibo social media account but was quickly removed. Copies of the video, however, survived and went viral.

Mr. Di could not be reached for comment. The university’s Contemporary China Studies Program, where Mr. Di works, had no immediate comment.

The academic’s comments bolster warnings last week by senior Trump administration officials that China now poses the most significant national security threat to the United States.

“The intelligence is clear,” Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a published article. “Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically. There are no moral or ethical boundaries to their pursuit of power.”

Bill Evanina, director of the DNI Counterintelligence and Security Center, said China has begun targeting officials slated to hold posts in an incoming Biden administration.

During online remarks hosted by the Aspen Institute, Mr. Evanina said China is conducting intelligence and malign influence operations “on steroids.”

“We’ve also seen an uptick, which was planned and we predicted, that China would now re-vector their influence campaigns to the new administration,” he said.

A senior Trump administration official said Mr. Di’s speech was a rare case of a Chinese official revealing very sensitive information.

Mr. Di states on his biography page at Renmin University that he is a frequent consultant to Chinese Communist Party and government organs, including the Foreign Ministry and the International Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, the Central Organization Department and other ministries and commissions.

In 2013, the State Department sponsored him to give lectures on Sino-U.S. economic relations to senior U.S. officials. Wall Street hedge funds have invited him “to teach company executives the impact of China’s reforms on global financial markets,” according to his biography.

In his remarks last month in Shanghai, Mr. Di explained how one of these agents, whom he described in anti-Semitic terms, successfully pressured the owner of the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington in 2015 into permitting a Chinese government official to hold an event unveiling a book by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China’s propaganda department tasked Mr. Di with arranging the book event and hosting and participating in a panel discussion.

“Just like today, they said, ‘Hey, Di Dongsheng, you are very good at fooling the foreigners,’ because they had seen how I conned them, which they thought was very effective,” he said.

Mr. Di said it was difficult to arrange the event on short notice and bookstore owner Bradley Graham refused to give in to the Chinese demands.

“So I asked him, ‘Which author booked the place for that time frame?’ What did I mean by asking him that? Well, there is nothing U.S. dollars can’t buy. If one bundle of cash couldn’t, I’d throw in another. That’s how I work,” he said.

Mr. Graham said Mr. Di’s account of the book event was “very distorted” and “filled with untruths.”

“We didn’t feel pressured to host it and did so in the spirit of improving U.S.-China relations,” said Mr. Graham, co-owner of Politics and Prose.

“We set conditions for how the event was to unfold, conditions that Chinese representatives then proceeded to violate,” he said. “All in all, it was a very unpleasant and disappointing experience that has made us wary of ever taking Chinese authorities at their word again.

Mr. Di said the bookstore owner refused to tell him as a matter of principle which author was scheduled for the time frame he requested and described him as arrogant and pretentious and having “some opinions on our party, which is why he deliberately refused to play along.”

The problem was reported to senior Chinese Communist Party officials, and a deputy director of the propaganda department notified him that the problem had been solved, he said.

The bookstore identified the official who spoke at the book event as Guo Weimin, deputy director of the Chinese State Council Information Office.

“The reason why we could go as planned was because a hero had helped us out. [The CCP official] introduced me to an old lady with a big nose, obviously a Jew simply by that look,” Mr. Di said.

The woman, who was not identified by name, said she was a Chinese citizen, had lived in China and spoke perfect Mandarin.

“I suddenly realized she is one of the Chinese people’s ‘old friends,’” Mr. Di said.

“I asked her how she managed to force him to comply,” he said. “The old lady cunningly grinned, ‘I reasoned with him.’ Do you know where that phrase came from? It’s a famous line from the Mafia movie ‘The Godfather,’ in which they cut the horse head off and stick it in someone’s bed. Of course, she is not Mafia.”

Mr. Di said the woman was in charge of Asian operations for a major Wall Street financial institution.

“In plain and simple language, during the last three to four decades, we used the core circle inside America’s real power,” he said. “As I said, the Wall Street had a very profound influence over America’s domestic and foreign affairs since the 1970s. We used to heavily rely on them.”

However, after Mr. Trump was elected in 2016, “Wall Street couldn’t control Trump, because, awkwardly, there was a soft breach of contract between them, which made them hostile to each other,” he said.

“During the U.S.-China trade war, they tried to help,” Mr. Di said. “My friends in U.S. told me that they tried to help, but they couldn’t.”

However, Mr. Di said once the Biden administration takes control, China will have renewed its connections.

“Now with Biden winning the election, the traditional elites, political elites, the establishment, they have a very close relationship with the Wall Street,” he said.

On Mr. Trump’s comments that Hunter Biden has financial interests around the world, Mr. Di said: “But who helped Biden’s son build his global companies? You understand? There are indeed buy-and-sell transactions involved in here. So I think at this particular time [after Biden won the election], it is of strategic and tactical value for us to show goodwill [to Mr. Biden]. Of course, this is just from my limited perspective as a political economist.”

Hunter Biden’s business dealings prompted the presumptive president-elect to announce last week that he would avoid all conflicts of interest once in office.

China expert Gordon Chang said, “Di Dongsheng’s comments show the breathtaking arrogance of the Chinese elite, which now has no hesitation about expressing in public its belief that with a President Biden, China will once again control the highest levels in Washington.”

State Department cancels China-paid junkets for congressional staff

State Department cancels China-paid junkets for congressional staff

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In this file photo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens as Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi speaks after a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, near the Israeli-Syrian border, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, … more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Friday, December 4, 2020

The State Department on Friday canceled five longstanding cultural exchange programs with China that had allowed Beijing to fund all-expenses-paid trips to China for congressional staff.

The program, authorized under a section of the 1961 Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (MECEA), was halted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as part of efforts to counter Beijing’s covert influence operations carried out by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) known as “united front work.”

Notice of the cancellation was sent to the Chinese Embassy in Washington in a diplomatic note. An embassy spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.

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The five programs, dating from 1994, were identified as the Policymakers Educational China Trip Program, the U.S.-China Friendship Program, the U.S.-China Leadership Exchange Program, the U.S.-China Transpacific Exchange Program and the Hong Kong Educational and Cultural Program.

Mr. Pompeo said the five programs “are fully funded and operated by the [Chinese] government as soft power propaganda tools.”

“They provide carefully curated access to Chinese Communist Party officials, not to the Chinese people, who do not enjoy freedoms of speech and assembly,” he said in a statement Friday night. “The United States welcomes the reciprocal and fair exchange of cultural programs with PRC officials and the Chinese people, but one-way programs such as these are not mutually beneficial.”

Officials said the program was killed as a threat to U.S. national security, since China has targeted Congress as part of a major campaign of influence peddling and pro-Beijing propaganda.

China’s lobbying efforts include attempts to block policies its opposes, such as arms sales to Taiwan, and to promote U.S. policies that favor Beijing. China has used similar exchanges in the past to recruit visiting U.S. nuclear scientists as spies.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe revealed this week that China’s government has been waging a “massive influence campaign” targeting several dozen members of Congress and congressional aides. He did not elaborate.

Separately, Mr. Pompeo, announced Friday the department is imposing new visa restrictions on Chinese officials, including those working with a party unit called the United Front Work Department (UFWD).

China “has long sought to spread Marxist-Leninist ideology and exert its influence all over the world,” Mr. Pompeo said in a statement. “The CCP’s United Front Work Department funds and supports overseas organizations to spread propaganda and coerces and bullies those who would oppose Beijing’s policies.”

Effective Friday, the State Department rescinded its approval of five cultural exchange programs that were funded by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress — the Chinese legislature — and the Chinese Foreign Ministry. In reality, U.S. officials say, the programs were part of covert Communist Party united front operations targeting Congress.

The Beijing-funded travel programs had been permitted under Section 108A of MECEA. The section permits federal employees, including those from the Congress and the judiciary, to travel on approved cultural exchange programs funded by the Chinese government.

The State Department is continuing to support people-to-people exchanges as part of its diplomatic mission. But the department says it now wants reciprocity and more transparency about the goals of exchange and cultural programs with China. The programs had been handled by the State Department’s education and cultural affairs office.

A Trump administration official familiar with the decision to cancel the programs said the exchanges were examined and determined to be fraudulent cultural exchange efforts. The five programs – four for China and one for Hong Kong – were being used to further China’s global, multi-million dollar influence operations.

The programs were also scuttled because the United States had no role in selecting or overseeing officials who were permitted to travel to China, what locations they could visit and what officials they would meet. That lack of oversight was viewed as a serious national threat.

The cancelation of the program is expected to upset some in Congress who favor keeping the programs going as part of people-to-people exchanges they believe will develop closer U.S.-China ties.

But Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the congressional China Task Force, however, praised the move.

“I’m in favor of getting rid of [MECEA trips] to the PRC, given [China‘s] ongoing espionage and influence operations aimed at members of Congress and staff,” he said.

“These trips, in my mind, use the pretext of educational and cultural exchange as means to engage in broader malign efforts. The U.S. government should not allow a MECEA[trip] to a country that is an outright adversary.”

Spokesmen for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not respond to email requests for comment.

Mr. Pompeo said the front has used intimidation tactics against members of academia, business and civil society groups and overseas Chinese communities who speak out against China’s human rights abuses in places like Xinjiang and Tibet.

The UFWD has used “doxing” — or releasing personal information about targeted groups and people — as one means of political intimidation,.

Starting Friday, the new visa restrictions will prevent entry into the United States by Chinese government, CCP and UFWD officials who have been linked to the use of threats of violence, theft and release of private information, espionage, sabotage or malicious interference in U.S. political affairs. Those that threaten academic freedom, personal privacy or business activity will also be restricted from entry.

“These malign activities are intended to co-opt and coerce sub-national leaders, overseas Chinese communities, academia and other civil society groups both in the United States and other countries in furtherance of [China‘s] authoritarian narratives and policy preferences,” Mr. Pompeo said. “I will continue to implement such visa restrictions to make clear that those responsible for actions that contravene the rules-based international order are not welcome in the United States.”

China accuses Danish politicians in feud over Hong Kong

China accuses Danish politicians in feud over Hong Kong

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FILE – In this Aug. 12, 2019, file photo, pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui, center, argues with pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, left, during a demonstration in Hong Kong. Hui who is currently visiting Denmark urged European nations on Wednesday to allow … more >

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Associated Press

Friday, December 4, 2020

BEIJING (AP) – China on Friday accused Danish politicians of violating “basic norms governing international relations” in a feud over a visit by a former Hong Kong opposition lawmaker and pro-democracy activist to the Scandinavian country.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the action of the lawmakers, whom she did not name, “damages Denmark’s image as a country that has always emphasized the rule of law.”

Hua’s comments at a daily briefing came during a visit to Denmark by Ted Hui, who was arrested in Hong Kong in May over a protest in the city’s Legislative Council. Hui was able to get his passport back from the government and obtain a visa after receiving an invitation from Danish lawmakers to travel to Denmark, where he arrived Tuesday.

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“We oppose any individual, organization or country interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, meddling in Hong Kong’s judicial sovereignty and harboring Hong Kong criminals in any way,” Hua said.

Hui on Thursday told The Associated Press that he is going into exile and will soon move to Britain, which ran Hong Kong as a colony from 1841 until returning it to China in 1997.

It was not clear when Hui would travel to Britain, which, in response to a crackdown on opposition in Hong Kong, has extended residency rights for up to 3 million Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas, or BNO, passports, allowing them to live and work there for five years and offering a path to eventual citizenship.

The passport issue has angered Beijing, and Hua repeated the government’s threat to retaliate over what she called interference in China’s internal affairs.

“If the U.K. violates its commitments in the first place, China will consider no longer recognizing BNO passports as valid travel documents, and we reserve the right to take further measures,” she said.

Hong Kong has become a major flashpoint in China’s foreign relations following the suppression of sometimes-violent anti-government protests in the city last year. In June, Beijing imposed a sweeping National Security Law that led to a further crackdown and which critics say amounts to China betraying its promise to allow Hong Kong to retain its separate political and civil rights until 2047.

Since the start of the anti-government protests in June 2019, Hong Kong police have made more than 10,000 arrests, most recently prominent pro-democracy figures including activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, as well as outspoken media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

Hui’s parents, wife and two young children left Hong Kong on a flight on Wednesday, Hong Kong online news portal HK01 reported. It did not mention their destination.

Along with Hong Kong, China has tangled with European nations over human rights, Taiwan, trade and other issues.

US intelligence director says China is top threat to America

US intelligence director says China is top threat to America

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By DEB RIECHMANN

Associated Press

Friday, December 4, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) – China poses the greatest threat to America and the rest of the free world since World War II, outgoing National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said Thursday as the Trump administration ramps up anti-Chinese rhetoric to pressure President-elect Joe Biden to be tough on Beijing.

“The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” Ratcliffe wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal. “Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.”

“I call its approach of economic espionage ‘rob, replicate and replace,’” Ratcliffe said. “China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace.”

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In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying dismissed the editorial as a further move to spread “false information, political viruses and lies” in hopes of damaging China’s reputation and China-U.S. relations.

“It offered nothing new but repeated the lies and rumors aimed at smearing China and playing up the China threat by any means,” Hua said at a daily briefing on Friday. “It’s another hodgepodge of lies being produced by the relevant departments of the U.S. government for some time.”

Trump administration officials have been stepping up their anti-China rhetoric for months, especially during the presidential campaign as President Donald Trump sought to deflect blame for the spread of the coronavirus . On the campaign trail, Trump warned that Biden would go easy on China, although the president-elect agrees that China is not abiding by international trade rules, is giving unfair subsidies to Chinese companies and stealing American innovation.

The Trump administration, which once boasted of warm relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, also has been ramping up sanctions against China over Taiwan, Tibet, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. It has moved against the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and sought restrictions on Chinese social media applications like TikTok and WeChat.

Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist who has been accused of politicizing the position, has been the nation’s top intelligence official since May. In his op-ed, he did not directly address the transition to a Biden administration. Trump has not acknowledged losing the election.

Ratcliffe said he has shifted money within the $85 billion annual intelligence budget to address the threat from China. Beijing is preparing for an open-ended confrontation with the U.S., which must be addressed, he said.

“This is our once-in-a-generation challenge. Americans have always risen to the moment, from defeating the scourge of fascism to bringing down the Iron Curtain,” Ratcliffe wrote in what appeared to be call for action to future intelligence officials.

Biden has announced that he wants the Senate to confirm Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, to succeed Ratcliffe as the next national intelligence director.

“This generation will be judged by its response to China’s effort to reshape the world in its own image and replace America as the dominant superpower,” Ratcliffe wrote.

He cited several examples of Chinese aggression against the United States:

The Justice Department has charged a rising number of U.S. academics for transferring U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property to China.

He noted the theft of intellectual property from American businesses, citing the case of Sinoval, a China-based wind turbine maker, which was convicted and heavily fined for stealing trade secrets from AMSC, a U.S.-based manufacturer formerly known as American Superconductor Inc. Rather than pay AMSC for more than $800 million in products and services it had agreed to purchase, Sinovel hatched a scheme to steal AMSC’s proprietary wind turbine technology, causing the loss of almost 700 jobs and more than $1 billion in shareholder equity, according to the Justice Department.

Ratcliffe and other U.S. officials have said that China has stolen sensitive U.S. defense technology to fuel Xi’s aggressive military modernization plan and they allege that Beijing uses its access to Chinese tech firms, such as Huawei, to collect intelligence, disrupt communications and threaten the privacy of users worldwide.

Ratcliffe said he has personally briefed members of Congress about how China is using intermediaries to lawmakers in an attempt to influence legislation.

John Ratcliffe says China poses greatest threat to America

‘Once-in-a-generation challenge’: Ratcliffe says China ‘poses the greatest threat to America’

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Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe looks on as President Donald Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former football coach Lou Holtz, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan … more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said he regards Communist China as the No. 1 national security threat facing the United States.

“If I could communicate one thing to the American people from this unique vantage point, it is that the People’s Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide since World War II,” Mr. Ratcliffe stated in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal published Thursday.

Mr. Ratcliffe, a former Texas Republican congressman who has been DNI since May, said he based that assessment on his access to “more intelligence than any member of the U.S. government other than the president.”

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The director, whose post was created in the aftermath of the intelligence failures related to the September 11 attacks, oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies and produces the President’s Daily Brief, an all-source intelligence report outlining threats facing the country.

“The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” Mr. Ratcliffe said. “Many of China‘s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.”

The comments by the DNI reflect the new tough American policy toward China taken during the Trump administration. Under Mr. Trump, the U.S. government has taken steps to stamp out large-scale technology theft and spying operations by Beijing.

Sanctions have also been imposed on Beijing for human rights abuses in places like Xinjian, where over 1 million ethnic Uighurs have been imprisoned, and Hong Kong, where critics say China has violated its promise to permit the democratic system first set up under British rule to continue.

Mr. Ratcliffe described China‘s economic espionage as “rob, replicate and replace.” A 2017 White House report on Chinese “economic aggression” estimates that China‘s technology theft amounted to between $250 billion and $600 billion annually.

China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology, and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace,” the DNI stated.

One example is the 2018 case of China‘s Sinovel, that was found guilty of stealing trade secrets related to wind-turbine technology from American Superconductor. The theft cost the American company an estimated $1 billion in lost revenue and led to the loss of 700 jobs.

Sinovel is now selling wind turbines world-wide based on the stolen technology, Mr. Ratcliffe said.

The DNI also noted the recent FBI arrest of the chairman of the Harvard Chemistry Department, Charles Lieber, Jr. who was paid 50,000 a month as part of a Chinese scheme to attract American scientists and reward them for stealing information.

Mr. Lieber has pleaded not guilty to making false statements in the case.

Mr. Ratcliffe charged that China is also engaged in the theft of defense technology as part of President Xi Jinping’s to make his country the world’s leading military power.

U.S. intelligence shows that China has even conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities,” he said. “There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power.”

In a bid to obtain advanced technologies, Chinese intelligence are using their access to firms like the telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies, for malicious activities, “including the introduction of vulnerabilities into software and equipment,” he said.

“Huawei and other Chinese firms deny this, but China‘s efforts to dominate 5G telecommunications will only increase Beijing’s opportunities to collect intelligence, disrupt communications and threaten user privacy world-wide,” Mr. Ratcliffe said.

The use of Chinese-linked technology will several restrict the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to share information with allies.

China‘s rulers also are suppressing U.S. Internet content that is perceived as undermining Chinese Communist Party rule and building up offensive cyber warfare and cyber espionage capabilities for use against the United States, he said.

On the information warfare front, Mr. Ratcliffe said China this year conducted a “massive influence campaign” targeting several dozen members of Congress and congressional aides.

He did not elaborate on the campaign but suggested it involved Chinese-owned manufacturing plants pressuring union leaders to lobby against legislation opposed by Beijing. The Chinese threaten to coerce union leaders into doing China‘s bidding or the plant and all jobs will be gone.

“The union leader contacts his congresswoman and indicates that his members won’t support her re-election without a change in position,” Mr. Ratcliffe said. “He tells himself he’s protecting his members, but in that moment he’s doing China‘s bidding, and the congresswoman is being influenced by China, whether she realizes it or not.”

To counter Chinese hostile operations against the United States, Mr. Ratcliffe said that more funding from within the $85 billion a year intelligence budget to meet the threat.

“This shift must continue to ensure U.S. intelligence has the resources it needs to give policy makers unvarnished insights into China‘s intentions and activities,” he stated.

Mr. Ratcliffe said that inside U.S. intelligence agencies “a healthy debate and shift in thinking” is underway.

Older analysts and operations officers were steeped in a Cold War focus on first the Soviet Union and then Russia. Later, the focus shifted to counterterrorism.

“But today we must look with clear eyes at the facts in front of us, which make plain that China should be America’s primary national security focus going forward,” he said.

A new Cold War involves a struggle between two incompatible ideologies, he said. China is preparing for a long-term confrontation with the United States and Washington must respond.

“This is our once-in-a-generation challenge,” Mr. Ratcliffe said.

China spacecraft collects moon samples to take back to Earth

China spacecraft collects moon samples to take back to Earth

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In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a screen shows the landed Chang’e-5 spacecraft and a moon surface picture, below, taken by camera aboard Chang’e-5 spacecraft during its landing process, at Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) in Beijing on … more >

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By JOE McDONALD

Associated Press

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

BEIJING (AP) – A Chinese spacecraft took samples of the moon’s surface Wednesday as part of a mission to bring lunar rocks back to Earth for the first time since the 1970s, the government said, adding to a string of successes for Beijing’s increasingly ambitious space program.

The Chang’e 5 probe touched down Tuesday on the Sea of Storms on the moon’s near side after descending from an orbiter, the China National Space Administration said. It released images of the barren landing site showing the lander’s shadow.

“Chang’e has collected moon samples,” the agency said in a statement.

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The probe, launched Nov. 24 from the tropical island of Hainan, is the latest venture by a space program that sent China’s first astronaut into orbit in 2003. Beijing also has a spacecraft en route to Mars and aims eventually to land a human on the moon.

This week’s landing is “a historic step in China’s cooperation with the international community in the peaceful use of outer space,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.

China will continue to promote international cooperation and the exploration and use of outer space in the spirit of working for the benefit of all mankind,” Hua said.

Plans call for the lander to spend two days drilling into the lunar surface and collecting 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of rocks and debris. The top stage of the probe will be launched back into lunar orbit to transfer the samples to a capsule to take back to Earth, where it is to land in China’s northern grasslands in mid-December.

If it succeeds, it will be the first time scientists have obtained fresh samples of lunar rocks since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 probe in 1976.

The samples are expected to be made available to scientists from other nations, although it is unclear how much access NASA will have due to U.S. government restrictions on cooperation with China’s military-linked program.

From the rocks and debris, scientists hope to learn more about the moon, including its precise age, as well as increased knowledge about other bodies in our solar system. Collecting samples, including from asteroids, is an increasing focus of many space programs.

American and Russian space officials congratulated the Chinese program.

“Congratulations to China on the successful landing of Chang’e 5. This is no easy task,” NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, wrote on Twitter.

“When the samples collected on the Moon are returned to Earth, we hope everyone will benefit from being able to study this precious cargo that could advance the international science community.”

U.S. astronauts brought back 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of lunar samples from 1969 to 1972, some of which is still being analyzed and experimented on.

The Chang’e 5 flight is China’s third successful lunar landing. Its predecessor, Chang’e 4, was the first probe to land on the moon’s little-explored far side.

Chinese space program officials have said they envision future crewed missions along with robotic ones, including possibly a permanent research base. No timeline or other details have been announced.

The latest flight includes collaboration with the European Space Agency, which is helping to monitor the mission from Earth.

China’s space program has proceeded more cautiously than the U.S.-Soviet space race of the 1960s, which was marked by fatalities and launch failures.

In 2003, China became the third country to send an astronaut into orbit on its own after the Soviet Union and the United States. It launched a temporary crewed space station in 2011 and a second in 2016.

China, along with neighbors Japan and India, also has joined the growing race to explore Mars. The Tianwen 1 probe launched in July is on its way to the red planet carrying a lander and a rover to search for water.

Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam jailed

Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam jailed

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By Zen Soo

Associated Press

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

HONG KONG (AP) — Three prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were sentenced to jail Wednesday for a protest outside police headquarters as authorities stepped up a crackdown on opposition to tighten control by Beijing over the territory.

The activists — Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam — are among more than 10,000 people who have been arrested since June 2019 on charges related to protests against a proposed extradition law that expanded to include demands for greater democracy.

Beijing responded to the protests by imposing a sweeping national security law to crack down on dissent, which prompted more public opposition.

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Wong, 24, is known abroad for his role as a student leader of the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution” protests in Hong Kong. He was sentenced to 13 1/2 months in jail after pleading guilty to organizing and taking part in the June 21, 2019, demonstration outside Hong Kong’s police headquarters over the extradition bill and police use of force against protesters.

Chow was sentenced to 10 months by the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts after pleading guilty to participating and inciting other protesters. Lam pleaded guilty to incitement and was sentenced to 7 months.

The crackdown has prompted accusations Beijing is violating the autonomy it promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997. It also has triggered warnings the ruling Communist Party is damaging Hong Kong’s appeal as a global business center and one of Asia’s most dynamic cities.

Other democracy advocates including media tycoon Jimmy Lai have also been arrested under the security law.

The jailing of Wong, Chow and Lam drew a rebuke from Hong Kong’s final British governor, Chris Patten. He said in a statement that it “is another grim example of China’s determination to put Hong Kong in handcuffs.”

Amnesty International said the three “must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

“Once again, the government has used the politically motivated charge of ‘inciting others to protest’ to prosecute people who have merely spoken out and protested peacefully,” said the group’s Asia-Pacific regional director, Yamini Mishra.

“By targeting well-known activists from Hong Kong’s largely leaderless protest movement, authorities are sending a warning to anyone who dares openly criticize the government that they could be next.”

James Mattis failed to disclose his role with consultant tied to China in bombshell column

Mattis failed to disclose role with global consultant tied to China in bombshell column

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and Vice President Mike Pence, right, listen to President Donald Trump, center, speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 23, 2018, about the $1.3 trillion spending bill. (AP Photo/Pablo … more >

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By Rowan Scarborough

The Washington Times

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A column this week by former Defense Secretary James N. Mattis that blasted President Trump‘s “America First” theme did not disclose that Mr. Mattis holds a senior position at the Cohen Group, a firm that dedicates itself to making business deals in China.

Mr. Trump‘s get-tough approach toward China — tariffs and prohibitions on Beijing‘s cyberproducts — is generally counter to the Cohen Group‘s objective of bringing Chinese and U.S. companies together in multimillion dollar deals.

The Cohen Group, founded by former Defense Secretary William Cohen and staffed by a number of former high-ranking government and military leaders, has two of its four overseas offices in China.

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Mr. Mattis’ Nov. 23 ForeignAffairs.com column was co-authored with three other national security experts, but it was his name that gave it weight in the news media. The article’s thoughts resemble the Obama administration‘s China approach. It could be a window into how presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden pulls back from Mr. Trump‘s hardline.

Mr. Mattis is identified in his column as a former defense secretary and fellow at the Hoover Institution, but not as a senior counselor at the Cohen Group global consulting firm in Washington.

In the column, Mr. Mattis rejects Secretary of State Mike Pompeo‘s campaign of rallying Asian countries against China‘s drive for dominance. Mr. Mattis does not mention China‘s declared economic war against U.S. ally Australia in retaliation for Canberra calling for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.

China has yet to explain and document exactly how the pandemic began in Wuhan, where the virus was first discovered in 2019.

Mr. Mattis wrote, in a broad indictment of Mr. Trump‘s foreign policy: “Crucially, the United States should not press countries to choose outright between the two powers. A ‘with us or against us’ approach plays to China‘s advantage, because the economic prosperity of U.S. allies and partners hinges on strong trade and investment relationships with Beijing. Rather than treating countries as pawns in a great-power competition, a better approach would emphasize common codes of behavior and encourage states to publicly promulgate a vision for their country’s sovereign future and the types of partnerships they need to pursue it.

“It would also expand the cooperative space in which all countries supporting a rules-based order can work together to advance shared interests. Cooperation across different ideological systems is difficult but necessary, and there should be opportunities to cooperate with China in areas of overlapping interests, such as pandemic response, climate change and nuclear security.”

Mr. Mattis urged Mr. Biden to remove “America First” from all foreign policies.

The Cohen Group announced Mr. Mattis’ hiring in September 2019 as a “senior counselor,” calling him a “national treasure.” His photo is prominently featured on its home page. “China is a market of enormous opportunity and complexity,” the firm states. “The Cohen Group’s (TCG) China Practice has a solid record of success with professionals in offices in Beijing, Tianjin and Washington, D.C.

“Building upon decades of experience, on-the-ground management expertise, and longtime personal and professional relationships throughout the region, TCG‘s China Practice helps companies succeed in the Chinese market. TCG enables Fortune 500 companies, as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises, to achieve their commercial goals in China through tailored government, business and media relations strategies.”

Citing a recent “success,” the website said, “TCG facilitated discussions between a global pharmaceutical company and relevant Chinese government entities regarding the regulatory framework for a high-profile drug, resulting in a mutually beneficial solution for both the company and the Chinese healthcare community.”

Mr. Mattis, a highly decorated and respected Marine Corps four-star general who oversaw all Middle East troops as Central Command head, resigned as Mr. Trump‘s defense secretary to protest planned troop withdrawals from Syria.

American forces are backing Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State terrorists. Mr. Trump argues he smashed the ISIS hold on Syrian territory. About 500 American troops remain in Syria.

Robert Gates, a Republican and President Barack Obama’s first defense secretary, has praised Mr. Trump‘s foreign policy.

“At least he has not started any new wars,” Mr. Gates said on “Meet the Press.” “And he has robustly funded the military. … I thought his challenging China was about time.”

Mr. Gates has said that the Western powers welcomed China into the family of nations some 20 years ago and China reacted by violating trade rules to gain advantages.

Led by Mr. Pompeo, the Trump administration unleashed a series of actions against China‘s drive to lead the world. It uses tariffs to rein in what it calls unfair trade practices and calls out China for the illegal theft of U.S. inventions and personal identities and for rampant spying in colleges, businesses and government.

The FBI says it opened numerous counter-intelligence probes into Chinese nationals. It estimates that China has broken into computer networks and stolen the personal information of half the American population.

The Trump administration shut down a Chinese consulate in Houston, calling it nothing more than an intelligence collection hub. Mr. Trump has blocked U.S. businesses from doing deals with Chinese companies supporting the People’s Liberation Army. It has called China‘s telecommunications giant Huawei a spying tool. He has required China‘s propaganda arms in the U.S. to register as foreign agents rather than continue operations as journalists.

Mr. Pompeo and congressional Republicans have accused China of covering up the coronavirus outbreak by telling the world initially that it was not contagious as travelers arrived in the U.S. and Europe where the virus went on to infect millions.

As vice president Mr. Biden was the Obama administration‘s point man on China while his son, Hunter, engaged in networking with Chinese billionaires. He eventually worked out multimillion-dollar deals for himself and uncle James Biden.

A Senate Republican report documented the flow of cash based on Treasury Department suspicious activity reports (SARS) filed by lending institutions because they suspected illegality such as money laundering.

In 2011, Mr. Biden delivered a speech in China as Hunter was making business contacts there, promising to integrate China into American life.

“In order to cement this robust partnership, we have to go beyond close ties between Washington and Beijing, which we’re working on every day, go beyond it to include all levels of government, go beyond it to include classrooms, and laboratories, authentic fields and boardrooms.”

Mr. Biden returned to China in 2013 with Hunter onboard Air Force 2.

Japan, China agree on economic ties, split over islands

Japan, China agree on economic ties, split over islands

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China’ Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, and his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi (unseen) participate in a press briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Wang met Motegi on Tuesday to discuss ways to revive their pandemic-hit economies as well … more >

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By MARI YAMAGUCHI

Associated Press

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

TOKYO (AP) – China‘s top diplomat told Japan‘s leader on Wednesday that Beijing wants the two Asian powers to have good relations and cooperate in fighting the coronavirus and reviving their pandemic-hit economies, but the two sides remained at odds over an island dispute.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered a message from Chinese President Xi Jinping expressing his hope of developing positive relations with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and “strengthen cooperation with Japan in pandemic measures and for the economic recovery,” Wang told reporters after meeting with Suga.

Wang told Suga that ties between the two countries have improved through high-level dialogue and mutual efforts and that China wants to cooperate further in a range of areas.

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“A stable relationship between the two countries is important not only for Japan and China but also for the region and the international community, and I would like to fulfill our responsibilities together,” Suga said during his talks with Wang.

Wang’s visit came as Japan is actively promoting military and economic partnerships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s rise, which Japan considers a security threat. Beijing has criticized the move as an attempt to create an “Asian NATO.”

Often-thorny relations between the two countries have improved in recent years as China’s trade dispute with the U.S. has escalated, but territorial disputes continue to strain ties.

Suga reminded Wang of Japan‘s claim over Japanese-controlled East China Sea islands and raised concern about China‘s growing activity in the area. Chinese coast guard ships have stepped up activity around the islands despite protests and warnings by Japan.

Japan says the islands belong to it historically and under international law and that China started claiming them only after undersea oil reserves were found in the area in the 1970s.

Earlier Wednesday, Japan protested the increased Chinese activity and what it called infiltration around the islands.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said the government protested after Chinese ships entered Japan’s contiguous zone, just outside its territorial waters, for the 306th time this year, including 20 cases of territorial violations.

“The situation is extremely serious,” Kato told reporters after meeting with Wang.

The Chinese ships entered the zone only a day after both sides agreed to avoid provocative actions in the contested area, he said.

On Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Wang agreed to try not to escalate tensions over the islands.

Wang was firm about China‘s right to defend its sovereignty, and accused Japanese authorities of sending “fake” fishing boats into the area to interfere with the Chinese side. Japan has said Chinese ships threatened the safety of the Japanese fishing boats.

“We hope that both sides can calmly deal with it so that it will not affect the current hard-won improvement of Sino-Japanese relations and the future development of bilateral relations,” Wang said.

The two foreign ministers agreed to resume business travel between the world’s second and third largest economies through a “business track” program that will allow visitors to engage in limited activities during their 14-day quarantine periods. They also agreed to work together on climate change, energy conservation, health care and digital commerce as part of their economic cooperation.

It was the first trip to Japan by a top Chinese official since the February visit of Chinese foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi. Officials said the two sides did not discuss a rescheduling of Xi’s state visit to Japan, postponed from the spring due to the pandemic.

After his visit to Japan, Wang heads for meetings in South Korea.

____

Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Michael Studeman visit shatters another Taiwan taboo

U.S. intel officer’s visit shatters another Taiwan taboo

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The guided missile destroyer, U.S.S. Barry. The warship is one of four destroyers sent to the Mediterranean. (credit: U.S. Navy) more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Trump administration is stepping up pressure on China with the unprecedented visit to Taiwan by a senior military intelligence officer and the transit of a guided missile destroyer through the Taiwan Strait.

U.S. officials said Rear Adm. Michael Studeman, director of intelligence for the Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific Command, arrived unannounced in Taipei on Sunday for intelligence-sharing talks with the island’s government, which has been a major target of Chinese military intimidation attempts in recent months.

In the past senior military officers were blocked from visiting Taiwan over concerns the visits might upset relations with Beijing, which considered Taiwan a renegade province that will eventually join the mainland.

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A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the visit that was first reported by Taiwan news media based on the arrival of a charter aircraft at Taipei’s Songshan Airport on Sunday evening.

A day earlier, a Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed through the disputed Taiwan Strait.

“The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Nov. 21 in accordance with international law,” said Navy Lt. Joe Keiley, 7th Fleet spokesman.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

Asked if the warship was shadowed by Chinese ships or aircraft, a military official said the passage was not disrupted.

The visit by Adm. Studeman and the passage by the Barry comes at a time of political uncertainty in the United States over the still-disputed presidential election.

Last weekend’s moves by the administration appear designed to avoid any miscalculation by China.

China in recent months has stepped up both naval and air force activities near Taiwan as part of a what U.S. officials have called military coercion. Large-scale military exercises were held near the island in September in what Chinese officials said could be used as a prelude for an invasion of the island.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Nov. 11 that “Taiwan has not been a part of China,” a comment that also angered Beijing.

Additionally, the administration has arranged for more than $5 billion in arms sales to Taiwan to bolster its defenses. The sales include F-16 jets and long-range land-attack missiles.

“All of these things are designed to live up to the promises that have been made between, frankly, China and the Taiwanese people,” Mr. Pompeo said in a radio interview.

China’s government voiced anger at the admiral’s visit and promised an unspecified response.

China firmly opposes any form of official exchange and military contact between the U.S. and the Taiwan region,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

China will make legitimate and necessary responses in light of the developments,” he added.

Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell said the visit is a breakthrough, reversing the past policy of limiting visits to Taiwan by senior military officers.

Adm. Studeman’s visit to Taiwan “reflects the seriousness of the PRC’s military threat to Taiwan,” Capt. Fanell said.

If the visit is confirmed officially, it would be “unprecedented and would highlight the importance of intelligence-sharing between the U.S. and Taiwan as Beijing has dramatically increased its military operations and threats to Taiwan,” he said.

Defending the status quo

Strategically, a visit by such a senior military official would reconfirm the importance of maintaining the status quo in the cross-strait standoff given 20 years of Chinese military modernization and operations against Taiwan, he said.

“Such a visit is testament to the correctness of this administration’s China strategy, something previous administrations never articulated and have certainly never had the intellectual capacity to formulate,” Capt. Fanell said.

The visit by Adm. Studeman highlights the U.S. strategic and moral interests in bolstering Taiwan, which is facing the threat of a Chinese military invasion for the first time in five decades, said Rick Fisher, a China affairs analyst.

“Sending high military and intelligence officials like Rear Adm. Studeman to Taipei to confer with counterparts would be consistent with the defense of those interests,” said Mr. Fisher with the International Assessment and Strategy Center. “Signaling American willingness to help defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion by sending U.S. Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait is also consistent with the defense of American high interests.”

Mr. Fisher said the Trump administration has succeeded in elevating the strategy dialogue with Taiwan. “It helps to assure the people of Taiwan as it serves to demonstrate to China’s Communist Party leadership that its threats against Taiwan will only serve to further strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan relationship,” he said.

The Studeman visit was disclosed after Taiwan media initially reported that the visit included CIA Director Gina Haspel. That report was later corrected to state that Adm. Studeman was the visitor.

The Taiwan Foreign Ministry denied Ms. Haspel had come and said in a statement that it would not comment on the reported visit, noting that the schedule for a “senior U.S. official” would not be made public. The ministry added that interaction and exchanges between the two countries are common and that U.S. officials’ visits are welcome.

The Studeman visit is the first by a senior military officer following two earlier visits by high-ranking Trump administration officials. In September, Keith Krach, undersecretary of state for economic growth, traveled to Taiwan, and in August, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II visited the island.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler is expected to visit Taiwan next month.

The visits and warship passages are designed to warn China against taking any action against Taiwan while the U.S. is distracted over the election outcome and a possible transfer of power in the White House, a U.S. official said.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has stepped up threatening military maneuvers near the island in recent months.

China’s Communist Party-affiliated Global Times outlet denounced the visit as part of “ramped-up collusion” between Washington and Taipei. The outlet reported that the Trump administration is seeking to lock in policies toward Taiwan before a Biden administration takes office.

“Trump has less than two months in his term,” Global Times stated. “How bold would the U.S. and Taiwan be to perform the ‘final madness’?”

Both the U.S. and Taiwan fear China will resort to military action against Taiwan, Global Times said.

“The Chinese mainland’s air force and navy have normalized their flight and navigation around the island,” it stated. “Fighter jets of the Chinese mainland have crossed the ‘median line’ of the Taiwan Straits multiple times. Fighter jets of the Chinese mainland flying over the island may take place at any time.”

Mainland military drills by China’s armed forces “are no longer merely a warning, but a combat exercise,” the Global Times wrote. “All these have produced actual deterrence. Neither the U.S. nor Taiwan can afford to take [them] lightly.”

APEC leaders, including Trump, agree on free trade

APEC leaders, including Trump, agree on free trade

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In this photo released by Malaysia Department of Information, a screen shows New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, and Microsoft President Brad Smith speak via virtual meeting during the APEC CEO Dialogues 2020, ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation … more >

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By EILEEN NG

Associated Press

Thursday, November 19, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, including U.S. President Donald Trump, pledged Friday to work toward free, open and non-discriminatory trade and investment to revive their coronavirus-battered economies.

The leaders cast aside differences to issue their first joint statement since 2017, in which they agreed to further deepen regional integration by working toward a massive free trade agreement involving the 21 APEC economies.

This year’s host, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, told a news conference that the U.S.-China trade war that had hampered talks in the past has “been eclipsed” by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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With growth in the Asia-Pacific region expected to slump 2.7% this year, from a 3.6% growth in 2019, he said APEC‘s focus was on accelerating economic recovery and developing an affordable vaccine.

“The health risks and its impact on the global economic ecosystem has been the major priority agenda for all APEC economies this year,” he said.

APEC, whose members account for 60% of global GDP, has also “pledged to refrain from backtracking and resorting to protectionist measures to keep markets and borders open,” he added.

The APEC leaders’ meeting was the first since 2018 after last year’s host, Chile, canceled the annual summit due to violent domestic protests. But at the Papua New Guinea summit in 2018, APEC leaders failed to issue a joint statement for the first time amid a U.S.-China row over trade policies.

Trump’s participation Friday, his first since 2017, came as a surprise as he challenges the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, won by Joe Biden. Last weekend, Trump skipped the East Asia Summits and withdrew from speaking at an APEC CEO meeting earlier Friday.

Trump, whose “America First” policy has alienated trading partners, addressed the meeting but his speech wasn’t immediately available.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his remarks, urged countries to “defend multilateralism” and called for the establishment of an “Asia-Pacific free trade zone at an early date.”

He told the meeting that Beijing would also “actively consider” joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that includes Japan, Canada, Mexico and other regional economies but not the United States. Trump pulled out of the CPTPP’s predecessor, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which never took effect.

Xi’s comments came just after Beijing and 14 Asian nations inked the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest free trade agreement.

If China were to join the CPTPP, that would make Xi’s government a member of the Asia-Pacific region’s two biggest trade arrangements, while Washington is part of neither.

APEC leaders adopted the Putrajaya Vision 2040, a new 20-year growth vision to replace the Bogor Goals named after the Indonesian town where leaders agreed in 1994 to free and open trade and investment.

They pledged to build an “open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful region” by 2040, and tasked officers to draw up implementation plans by next year.

“We recognize the importance of a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable trade and investment environment to drive economic recovery at such a challenging time,” according to the joint statement.

“We resolve to further navigate the region towards recovery along the path of strong, balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure economic growth,” the statement added.

Earlier Friday, the leaders of Japan and New Zealand warned countries against the temptation of retreating into trade protectionism.

Speaking by video link from Tokyo to the meeting of APEC CEOs, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said “making rules for a free and fair global economy is critically important.”

While continuing to promote WTO reform, he said Japan will “aspire for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who will be next year’s APEC host, voiced hope that APEC leaders will join hands to bolster the regional economy.

“As we confront this generation’s biggest economic challenge, we must not repeat the mistakes of history by retreating into protectionism. APEC must continue to commit to keeping markets open and trade flowing,” she said.

APEC brings together Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

New Zealand will also host next year’s APEC meetings virtually due to the pandemic.

___

AP journalist Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

Xi: China will avoid decoupling amid tension with US, Europe

Xi: China will avoid decoupling amid tension with US, Europe

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By

Associated Press

Thursday, November 19, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – China’s President Xi Jinping on Thursday spurned suggestions that his country might decouple or separate itself from the U.S. and other trading partners amid tension with Washington and Europe over technology and security.

Speaking by video link from Beijing to a meeting of Asia-Pacific CEOs, Xi promised to open China’s market wider but announced no initiatives to respond to complaints the ruling Communist Party improperly subsidizes and shields technology and other industries from foreign competitors.

Xi rejected suggestions Beijing might respond to U.S. sanctions on its fledgling technology companies by trying to separate their industries from global trading partners.

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The ruling Communist Party has promoted its own standards for mobile phones and other technology, which would encourage customers that adopt them to use Chinese suppliers. That has prompted fears world markets might split into smaller segments with incompatible industry standards, hurting productivity.

“We will never go back in history by seeking to decouple or forming a ‘small circle’ to keep others out,” Xi said.

Thursday’s event came ahead of a meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders hosted by Malaysia. The meeting Friday is due to be conducted via video conference due to the pandemic.

Xi’s comments followed Sunday’s signing of the world’s largest free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, by Beijing and 14 other Asian neighbors.

The Chinese-initiated RCEP appeals to other developing countries because it reduces barriers to trade in farm goods, manufactured goods and components, which make up most of their exports. It says little about trade in services and access for companies to operate in each other’s economies, which the United States and other developed countries want.

The Trump administration has cut off Chinese tech giant Huawei’s access to most U.S. components and technology on security grounds. Washington has shut Huawei and a rival Chinese telecom equipment vendor, ZTE, out of the U.S. market. The White House is pressing the Chinese owner of video service TikTok to sell its U.S. operation, which American officials say is a security risk.

Xi promised to cut tariffs but gave no details.

“We will further reduce tariffs and institutional costs, cultivate a number of import trade promotion innovation demonstration zones, and expand imports of high-quality products and services from various countries,” he said.

China’s repeated promises to set up trade zones and ease import restrictions prompt complaints by the United States, Europe, Japan and other trading partners that Beijing is using such isolated steps to avoid complying with promises made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 to allow foreign companies to compete freely in its economy.

China is one of the world’s biggest importers, but the United States and other governments complain Beijing is dragging its feet on carrying out two-decade-old promises to open its markets to foreign competitors in banking, finance and other services.

Leaders from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia also spoke at Thursday’s event, calling for a deeper commitment to open and free trade to bolster the region’s economy.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said RCEP was a “big step forward” for Asian economic integration as progress in APEC was hampered by Washington’s inward-looking trade policy.

With new President-elect Joe Biden’s government seen as more supportive of multilateral trade, Lee voiced hope the new U.S. government will be more constructive in its dealings with other countries.

“Taking care of America’s interests does not mean having to ride roughshod over other countries’ interests,” Lee said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said free and open trade and investment, regional economic integration, as well as economic and technical cooperation must remain APEC’s priorities moving forward.

But he said there is now a need “to ensure a delicate balance between our health priorities and economic needs.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo defended a controversial new jobs law that he said would improve the business climate and prop up his country’s economic growth.

The law approved last month revises dozens of existing regulations to cut red tape. It sparked violent protests from workers who fear it will cripple labor rights and harm the environment.

“Indonesia is using the momentum of this crisis to carry out extraordinary structural reforms….so that we can move quickly through these difficult times. We are ready to open the doors widely for businessmen and for investors in new ways,” Widodo said.

China congratulates Joe Biden, Kamala Harris on election victory

China congratulates Biden, Harris on election victory

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As vice president, Joseph R. Biden visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. He called for intimate U.S. economic and trade integration with the emerging communist power. (Associated Press/File) more >

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By Lauren Toms

The Washington Times

Friday, November 13, 2020

China on Friday congratulated presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris nearly one week after they were projected to win the Nov. 3 election.

“We respect the choice of the American people,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing, as quoted by Reuters. “We extend congratulations to Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris.”

“We understand the results of the U.S. election will be determined according to U.S. laws and procedures,” Mr. Wang continued.

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The congratulatory message comes despite President Trump’s refusal to concede to the former vice president. Mr. Trump is contesting some of the projected wins in court.

During Mr. Trump’s time in office, tensions between Washington and Beijing skyrocketed over disputes of trade, technology, business, human rights and defense.

China congratulates Biden, but few US policy changes seen

China congratulates Biden, but few U.S. policy changes seen

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In this Sept. 16, 2018, file photo, American flags are displayed together with Chinese flags on top of a trishaw in Beijing. On Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, China has become one of the last major governments to congratulate Joe Biden … more >

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By Joe McDonald

Associated Press

Friday, November 13, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday became one of the last major countries to congratulate U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to make few changes to U.S. policy in conflicts with Beijing over trade, technology and security.

China, along with Russia, avoided joining the throng that congratulated Biden last weekend after he and vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris secured enough Electoral College votes to unseat President Donald Trump.

“We respect the choice of the American people,” said a foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin. “We congratulate Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris.”

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Wang gave no reason for the delay but said, “the result will be confirmed according to U.S. laws and procedures.”

U.S.-Chinese relations have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid a tariff war over Beijing’s technology ambitions and trade surplus, accusations of spying and tension over human rights, the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong and control of the South China Sea.

Trump labeled China a security threat and imposed export curbs and other sanctions on Chinese companies. On Thursday, he stepped up those sanctions by issuing an order that bars Americans from investing in securities issued by companies U.S. officials say are owned or controlled by the Chinese military.

Forecasters had said even if lost his re-election bid, Trump was likely to try to increase pressure on Beijing before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

Political analysts expect Biden to try to resume cooperation with Beijing on climate change, North Korea, Iran and the coronavirus. And they say Biden might pursue a more traditional, predictable policy toward China.

However, economists and political analysts expect few big changes due to widespread frustration with Beijing’s trade and human rights record and accusations of spying and technology theft.

“A tough stance on China has broad support across the U.S. political spectrum,” Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics said in a report this week. “Biden’s own pronouncements and policy program suggest he will continue to try to maintain the U.S. technological lead and to attract manufacturing activity.”

Some forecasters suggest the change from Trump, who rejected multilateral alliances, to Biden might increase pressure on China if Washington forms a coalition with other developed countries to push for policy changes.

China has tried to recruit Germany, France, South Korea and other governments as allies against Washington but all have refused. They criticized Trump’s trade tactics of surprise tariff hikes, which also were used against allies, but echo U.S. complaints that China is violating its free-trade commitments.

Some Chinese trade experts have suggested Beijing might try to renegotiate the “Phase 1” agreement signed in January as a first step toward ending the trade war. It calls for China to increase purchases of U.S. goods in exchange for postponing further tariff hikes. But that came before the coronavirus derailed global trade, leaving China behind on meeting its commitments.

Renegotiation might fit a “more strategic, longer-term orientation” expected from a Biden administration, but he “cannot be seen to be ‘soft’ on China” after the “hard rhetoric” of the campaign, Kuijs said.

Chinese leaders were quieter during this year’s election than in the 2016 presidential race, when they favored Trump over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They disliked her for carrying out then-President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, which included pressuring Beijing on human rights. Trump’s public image of business success resonated with the Chinese public.

Trump shook up China’s leaders by hiking tariffs on Chinese products in 2018 over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.

The White House has lobbied allies to exclude telecom equipment giant Huawei Technologies Ltd., China’s first global tech brand, from next-generation telecom networks on security grounds. Huawei’s access to American components and technology was cut off over the past year, threatening to cripple its global sales.

Trump is trying to bar Chinese social media companies from the United States, citing fears they might gather too much personal information about Americans. The White House is pressing video service TikTok to sell its U.S. operation and is trying to block companies from dealing with WeChat, the popular Chinese message service.

China expanding nuclear arms plants revealed

EXCLUSIVE: China’s ‘secretive, crash’ nuclear buildup revealed

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Thursday, November 12, 2020

China is rapidly building up its nuclear forces, including the expansion of plutonium and uranium plants as part of a secretive, crash program to add warheads to its growing missile and bomber forces, according to declassified U.S. briefing slides obtained by The Washington Times.

The four slides were part of a recent briefing for NATO allies in the past month on Chinese nuclear forces and show three facilities that appear to have sharply increased in size since 2010.

One plutonium production area, the Jiuquan Atomic Energy Complex, doubled in size at a nuclear reprocessing zone in the past two years alone and added another reactor in the past year.

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ALSO: Chinese nuclear weapons complex facilities

U.S. officials view the significant construction at Jiuquan as part of what the Pentagon said recently is a plan by Beijing to double the size of its warhead stockpile in the next decade. China has more than 200 warheads and is building more for its growing force of multiwarhead missiles.

Intelligence from the briefing challenges widely reported studies on Chinese fissile material production. As recently as 2017, international experts concluded that China ended plutonium production for weapons in 1991 and uranium production for arms in 1987.

“The world deserves to know what China is up to. They have never admitted how many nuclear weapons they have and how many they plan on building,” said Marshall Billingslea, the State Department’s lead envoy for arms control.

“But it is clear from imagery that China is engaged in a secretive crash buildup of its infrastructure. There is no doubt that China wants to be on par with the United States and Russia in terms of its military and nuclear capabilities,” he added.

The information from the slides is part of the Trump administration’s effort to persuade China to join New START nuclear arms talks with the United States and Russia. Beijing so far has rebuffed U.S. appeals to join the arms talks.

A second satellite photo made public shows extensive expansion of the nuclear-weapons-related research complex at Mianyang, in south-central China. Mianyang produces warheads and conducts research, development and testing of nuclear arms under the direction of the China Academy of Engineering and Physics, or CAEP.

The academy has been compared to a combination of the U.S. Energy Department’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons were designed, and the Pantex plant in Texas that assembles the warheads that can deliver nuclear weapons to targets.

The CAEP has been described as a brain trust and the leading institution in China engaged in nuclear work, both military and civilian. It also conducts extensive financial transactions as part of its international business portfolio.

A third satellite photo made public reveals that China‘s military reactor complex at Leshan over the past decade grew by about 20 times the size of the original reactor in place in 2010.

Leshan, in southern Sichuan province, is the site used for making nuclear-weapons-related materials and naval nuclear reactors. In the past, a uranium enrichment plant was located in Leshan.

The Leshan complex appears to be part of China‘s major buildup of nuclear-powered ballistic missile and attack submarines.

An obligation to negotiate

Mr. Billingslea said Beijing has a legal obligation under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to engage in arms talks.

“For months now, we have been calling on the Chinese Communist Party to come to the table and negotiate in good faith,” he said. “This is not merely an ask that we have. This is an obligation of theirs. China is legally bound to honor it. The NPT states plainly that all parties must pursue negotiations in good faith. China is perilously close to standing in violation of the NPT due to their repeated refusals to meet.”

Earlier, the Trump administration declassified new briefing slides on Chinese excavation at the Lop Nur nuclear testing site. Work at the facility recently increased, and the administration has suggested in official reports that China may have carried out nuclear tests there.

The briefing also included satellite photos of Chinese missiles paraded during the annual national day festivities.

A comparison of parades of missiles since 2009 showed that the latest parade in 2019 was 10 times longer than the first and displayed new missiles such as the DF-17 hypersonic missile, DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile, and DF-31 and DF-41 ICBMs, along with the JL-2 submarine-launched missile.

“In the past, I’ve said that in 2019 China launched 225 ballistic missiles. That is a huge number, more than the rest of the world combined,” said Mr. Billingslea, the arms envoy.

“The same was true in 2018,” he said. “As of October of this year, even with COVID-19, China has shot off 180 ballistic missiles.”

Adm. Charles Richard, commander of the Strategic Command, told reporters in September that China‘s nuclear buildup should not be measured by numbers of warheads, which are far fewer than the United States’ 1,550 deployed warheads.

Adm. Richard said a nation’s stockpile is a relatively crude measure of capabilities.

“You have to look at the totality of it: the delivery systems, what they’re capable of, what their readiness is,” he said. “And China, in particular, is developing a stack of capabilities that, to my mind, is increasingly inconsistent with a stated no-first-use policy.”

China has claimed its nuclear arsenal is far smaller than those of the U.S. and Russia and that it would not be the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict. That claim is under scrutiny because of the nuclear forces buildup.

“Given the huge gap between the nuclear arsenals of China and those of the U.S. and the Russian Federation, it is unfair, unreasonable and infeasible to expect China to join in any trilateral arms control negotiation,” Geng Shuang, China‘s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told the U.N. General Assembly last month. He called the U.S. demand to join the nuclear talks “a trick to shift the focus of the international community.”

China‘s submarine missile capability is also a concern.

China now has the capability to directly threaten our homeland from a ballistic missile submarine,” Adm. Richard said. “That’s a pretty watershed moment.”

The annual Pentagon report on the Chinese military stated that China‘s nuclear forces will “significantly evolve” in 10 years with advanced weapons and larger numbers of a land-, sea- and air-based delivery system.

“Over the next decade, China‘s nuclear warhead stockpile — currently estimated to be in the low-200s — is projected to at least double in size as China expands and modernizes its nuclear forces,” the report said.

It was the first time in decades that the Pentagon had revealed its estimate of warheads. Some experts say the number is much larger and includes hidden stockpiles of warheads.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not return an email request for comment.