Chinese Weapons in Russia; TikTok: The Final Countdown; Alliances Take Shape
News Brief (19 MAR 2023)
Chinese Weapons in Russia
VERMILION: These shipments of rifles and other military equipment are likely lagging indicators of the existence of a flow of war material produced in China and delivered to the Ukrainian battlefield. Whether Washington speaks out or takes action is secondary to the fact that both sides are expending considerable resources (including reputational) to amplify efforts to strictly contain each other's foreign policy objectives globally - a mark of the high Cold War.
‘Hunting rifles’ — really? China ships assault weapons and body armor to Russia - POLITICO
Chinese companies, including one connected to the government in Beijing, have sent Russian entities 1,000 assault rifles and other equipment that could be used for military purposes, including drone parts and body armor, according to trade and customs data obtained by POLITICO.
The shipments took place between June and December 2022, according to the data provided by Import Genius, a customs data aggregator.
China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, one of the country’s largest state-owned defense contractors, sent the rifles in June 2022 to a Russian company called Tekhkrim that also does business with the Russian state and military. The CQ-A rifles, modeled off of the M16 but tagged as “civilian hunting rifles” in the data, have been reported to be in use by paramilitary police in China and by armed forces from the Philippines to South Sudan and Paraguay.
Russian entities also received 12 shipments of drone parts by Chinese companies and over 12 tons of Chinese body armor, routed via Turkey, in late 2022, according to the data.
China Aids Russia’s War in Ukraine, Trade Data Shows - WSJ
WASHINGTON—China is providing technology that Moscow’s military needs to prosecute the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine despite an international cordon of sanctions and export controls, according to a Wall Street Journal review of Russian customs data.
The customs records show Chinese state-owned defense companies shipping navigation equipment, jamming technology and jet-fighter parts to sanctioned Russian government-owned defense companies.
Those are but a handful of tens of thousands of shipments of dual-use goods—products that have both commercial and military applications—that Russia imported following its invasion last year, according to the customs records provided to the Journal by C4ADS, a Washington-based nonprofit that specializes in identifying national-security threats. Most of the dual-use shipments were from China, the records show.
China’s backing for Russia while it wages war on Ukraine was supposed to be on the agenda for discussion during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s travels to Beijing this weekend. That trip was indefinitely postponed Friday after the Pentagon said that it had tracked a Chinese reconnaissance balloon over the continental U.S. earlier in the week.
TikTok: The Final Countdown?
VERMILION: It is growing increasingly likely that TikTok will face a nationwide ban in the United States, as Vermilion predicted late last year. If the US TikTok ban is signed (joining India), it will almost certainly begin a process of completely bifurcating the internet into two poles - one free and one unfree. The economic fallout would likely be high.
TikTok faces potential US ban if Chinese owners do not sell stake - FT
The Biden administration has threatened to ban TikTok if its Chinese owners do not sell their stake in the social media company to address growing national security concerns, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (Cfius) — an inter-agency panel that evaluates foreign investment in the US — made the divestiture request recently as part of its ongoing review into the company, which is owned by Beijing’s ByteDance, the people said.
TikTok, the popular short-form video app, has faced growing scrutiny over fears data it collects on American users could be passed to the Chinese government and Communist party. While it has denied those claims, some Republican and Democratic senators have urged the app be banned or ByteDance to divest its US arm. The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the demand.
According to people familiar with the matter, 60 per cent of ByteDance shares are owned by global investors, while 20 per cent are owned by employees and a further 20 per cent by its founders, including Zhang Yiming and Liang Rubo, ByteDance’s current chief executive.
TikTok’s chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, is set to testify before the House energy and commerce committee next week to discuss its data security practices, as well as its relationship with China.
Justice Dept. Investigating TikTok’s Owner Over Possible Spying on Journalists - NYT
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating the surveillance of American citizens, including several journalists who cover the tech industry, by the Chinese company that owns TikTok, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The investigation, which began late last year, appears to be tied to the admission in December by the company, ByteDance, that its employees had inappropriately obtained the data of American TikTok users, including that of two reporters and a few of their associates.
The department’s criminal division, the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia are investigating ByteDance, which is based in Beijing and has close ties with China’s government, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
A Justice Department spokesman had no comment.
Confirmation of the investigation comes as the White House hardens its stance toward forcing the company to address national security concerns about TikTok. They include fears that China might be using the popular video service to gather data about or spy on Americans, undermine democratic institutions and foster internet addictions among young people.
Beijing displeased amid reports US will force ByteDance to sell TikTok or face US ban - SCMP
China has urged the US government to stop “abusing state power” and “suppressing related businesses” amid reports that the Biden administration will demand a sale of TikTok, signalling Beijing’s growing displeasure with Washington’s stance on its technology sector.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a routine media briefing on Thursday that the US had failed to present any evidence to show that TikTok poses a threat to US national security and Washington should stop spreading “false information” over data security.
The comments came after reports that Washington has demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell the app or face a ban in America, a request identical to one made by former US President Donald Trump two years ago.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter was quoted by Reuters as saying that the company had recently heard from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which had demanded that the Chinese owners of the app sell their shares, otherwise they would face a possible US ban of the video app.
Alliances Take Shape
VERMILION: Xi is heading to Moscow next week in a move likely meant to demonstrate continued support for Putin and the Sino-Russian “unshakeable alliance.” Many pundits expect Xi to speak to Ukraine’s President Zelensky to broker a peace deal, but even if this is the case, it is unlikely that any such deal will be acceptable to Ukraine.
Aside from this, it is clear that Japan is taking the China threat seriously and is working on shoring up potential defense partners all throughout the Indo-Pacific. It is likely that Japan realizes how desperate their situation will be if China gains the upper hand in the region. This political bifurcation is very similar to the electronic and economic rifts opening up between a Washington-led pole and a Beijing-led pole.
Analysis: China's Xi takes 'diplomatic dance' to Russia - Reuters
March 18 (Reuters) - Xi Jinping walks a diplomatic tightrope as he heads to Moscow, seeking to present China as a global peacemaker while strengthening ties with his closest ally, President Vladimir Putin, who faces criminal charges over his Ukraine war.
Leaving on Monday for his first trip overseas since securing a third term as president, Xi will seek to burnish Beijing's diplomatic clout after it brokered a surprise detente between Saudi Arabia and Iran last week, even as he cements his "no limits" partnership with the increasingly isolated Putin.
Xi, who has tightened his control at home as the strongest Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping, will also be wary of antagonising the West, analysts say.
China's top trade partners are the United States and the European Union - among the fiercest critics of Russia's war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a "special military operation".
China published a proposal last month to end the conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced millions to flee. It received a lukewarm welcome in Kyiv and Moscow, although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he would be open to talks with Xi, which some media reports say could follow the Chinese leader's Russia trip.
Korea-Japan rapprochement creates new opportunities in the Indo-Pacific - Brookings
In a sign of further diplomatic thawing, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol traveled to Tokyo this week to meet his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. It was the first official visit of a South Korean president to Tokyo in 12 years due to tensions in South Korea-Japan relations. Yoon’s visit comes just over 10 days after the two leaders struck a deal to resolve a dispute over South Korea’s 2018 court ruling against Japanese companies’ use of forced Korean labor during World War II.
The Yoon-Kishida summit gives Seoul and Tokyo a diplomatic boost and provides further political momentum to establish a “future-oriented” bilateral relationship. The meeting also bodes well for strengthened U.S.-Japan-South Korea trilateral relations. It therefore carries positive implications for the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. However, the Yoon government faces strong domestic political headwinds. Nearly 60% of South Koreans oppose Yoon’s handling of the forced labor issue with Japan.
Japan's Kishida to announce new Indo-Pacific plan, seek India's support - Reuters
NEW DELHI/TOKYO, March 17 (Reuters) - Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will on Monday announce a new plan for an open and free Indo-Pacific in New Delhi and seek India's support to partner with Tokyo to check China's growing influence across the region.
Under the plan, which will be announced during Kishida's two-day visit to India, Japan will increase support to emerging economies, especially in the region, Japanese officials said.
India and Japan have been adding more depth to their relations, especially in defence and strategic affairs, as both face threats from a dominant China.
Kishida’s decision to announce his new plan during the annual summit between the two countries underlines the importance Tokyo places on New Delhi as a key player in the Indo-Pacific region.
Japanese officials said that Kishida believes that given India’s strategic geopolitical location in the Indian Ocean, and as the world’s largest democracy, it will play a significant role in realising his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.