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European Media Expose “Loyalty Contracts” for Chinese Students Studying Abroad

A joint investigation by Deutsche Welle and the German media outlet CORRECTIV reported that Chinese students studying in Germany are being closely monitored by the Chinese authorities. Those who receive scholarships from the China Scholarship Council (CSC) are required to sign an agreement and report to the Chinese embassy. Those who violate the agreement will be punished. According to the report, several German universities have already established cooperation with the CSC, and one Chinese student who signed the agreement said he was afraid to participate in demonstrations in Germany, while other Chinese students also expressed fear of surveillance by the Chinese authorities.

The China Scholarship Council is a unit directly under the administration of the Chinese Ministry of Education and is responsible for organizing, funding and managing Chinese citizens studying abroad and foreign citizens studying in China. The majority of Chinese students currently studying abroad with government support are receiving  scholarships provided by the CSC, which covers the study and living expenses of Chinese students admitted to overseas universities. Overseas institutions that cooperate with the CSC accept Chinese students with government scholarships, and all costs are covered by the Chinese side, without taking away from the foreign school’s own research funds. Therefore, this kind of cooperation is welcomed by overseas institutions, and some of them even provide special quotas for Chinese students with government scholarships. In recent years, the students with government scholarships have tended to be in the fields of science and technology, and some European institutions have found that some Chinese students have military backgrounds, which has increased the suspicion that European countries have toward Chinese students.

Besides Germany, countries such as Sweden have also discovered agreements between Chinese students and the CSC, and some universities have even terminated their cooperation agreements with China as a result. The agreements signed between the students and the Chinese authorities mainly stipulate that the students must return to China to serve for two years after graduation, that the scholarship recipients must have two Chinese citizens as guarantors, that the guarantors who are permanent residents of China should take a single trip abroad not exceeding three months, and that the spouse should not act as a guarantor. If the scholar violates the agreement, the guarantors are jointly and severally liable.

The agreement also stipulates that, during the period of study, the signatory “shall not engage in any activities detrimental to the interests and security of the motherland,” “shall obey the guidance and management of the embassy or consulate abroad during the period of study,” and “shall report regularly on the progress of study and research.” The agreement is not terminated until the signatory returns to China after two years of service.

The agreement requires the scholar not to interrupt his or her studies without cause, or the sponsor, who lives in China, will be liable for the compensation. The agreement came to light earlier this year when a Chinese student at Lund University in Sweden was advised to discontinue his studies due to poor academic performance. The student was concerned that discontinuing his studies would cause his family trouble because of the agreement he had signed with the Chinese authorities. Following reports in the Swedish media, leading universities such as Lund University and Uppsala University in Sweden said that, following reports in the Swedish media, in the future they would stop cooperating with the CSC.

Source: Voice of America, March 18, 2023

China’s Local Government Finances Are under Severe Pressure

Statistics from China’s Ministry of Finance show that from January through February of this year, the public budget revenue of local governments was RMB 2.38 trillion, an annual growth rate of only 2 percent; national tax revenue decreased compared to the same period last year. Revenue from the sale of state-owned land use rights was 562.7 billion yuan, down 29 percent from the same period last year.

A professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics said that local governments have been in financial trouble for a long time and that the three-year epidemic has deepened the crisis. The economic slowdown has reduced local government revenues and property market adjustments have caused a sharp decline in local government finances. Some local governments are in financial distress.

This year’s central government work report mentioned that “some grassroots governments have large deficits.” The budget report emphasized the requirements of living a tight life and keeping a firm grip on budget management, asset allocation, and government procurement.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), March 21, 2023

Official Media on Xi Jinping’s Visit to Russia: China Should Say Four “Don’ts” to the West

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, the official Xinhua News Agency published a commentary saying that Western countries were worried about the Chinese leader’s trip to Russia and that China needed to say four “don’ts” to the U.S. and the West.

“Don’t make irresponsible remarks about the normal interactions between sovereign states.” The article said, “Friendship and cooperation between China and Russia are growing. Since 2013, the top leaders of China and Russia have met 40 times; Chinese leaders have visited Russia eight times. Whether the United States and the West like it or not, whether there is a crisis in Ukraine or not, normal contacts between the two countries should not be interrupted.”

“Don’t compare China-Russia relations with those between small groups of U.S. allies.” He added, “The U.S. is stuck in the Cold War mentality, drawing in one faction and isolating the other, forming various alliances and coterie. China and Russia,however, are not allies. It makes no sense for the U.S. and the West to tie China and Russia together at every turn.”

“Don’t undermine China’s efforts to promote peace talks on Ukraine.” The article boasted, “China has recently brokered a successful resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two of the Middle East’s oldest enemies. This has drawn waves of praise from the international community and made the United States envious and jealous. It is now worried that the Ukraine issue will be turned around in the same way.”

“Stop using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to attack and sanction China. The writer criticized, “The U.S. has the military, financial and technological hegemony to slander and oppress China. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is another ‘China containment card’ in the hands of the U.S., which links China and Russia and labels them as authoritarian states and an axis of evil in an attempt to tarnish China’s image. The U.S. has also sanctioned some Chinese companies for suspected support of terrorism.”

Source: Central News Agency, March 21, 2023

SARS Whistleblower Died; the Authorities Banned Public Mourning

Jiang Yanyong, a retired Chinese military doctor known as the “whistleblower” of the 2003 SARS epidemic, died Saturday at the age of 91 at the People’s Liberation Army General Hospital in Beijing (also known as the 301 Hospital)  after he had contracted pneumonia and other illnesses that led to heart and lung failure.

A friend of Jiang Yangyong in Beijing told Radio Free Asia that the authorities had told Jiang’s family to keep his funeral low-key. “No public funeral, no public mourning or flower baskets, and no media interviews.” Wreaths or elegiac couplets must be given to Jiang’s wife, who will then submit them to the authorities for approval. The bureau has even written a eulogy for him.

Because of his exposure of the SARS epidemic in China in 2003, as well as his call for the authorities to correct the name of the 1989 student movement, from 2003 until the end of his life, Jiang’s personal freedom was constantly restricted . He also publicized his experience of saving the lives of students who were shot during the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

During the 2019 sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Jiang wrote letters to Chinese President Xi Jinping and the NPC, asking them to redress the 1989 student movement.

The friend said that after writing the letters in 2019, Jiang was again placed under house arrest. “He was checked and not allowed to see outsiders. We couldn’t even see him, and his home phone was cut off. Even his son couldn’t contact him. Dr. Jiang was mentally hurt and his mood was negative. He suffered from Alzheimers in his later years. He wanted to go out to see a doctor, but the guards would not let him. Recently he contracted pneumonia and was admitted to the 301 Hospital.”

Source: Radio Free Asia, March 14, 2023

China’s Official Media: Live a Frugal Life

On March 5, China’s Ministry of Finance (MOF) released the budget report for 2022 and the budget proposal for 2023, emphasizing that next year’s fiscal reform includes the strict implementation of the policy of “living a frugal life.”

The state-run Economic Daily followed up with an article stating that, in the face of various risk challenges and spending needs for people’s livelihood, the “money bag” is not loose and “fiscal revenue and expenditure will remain in a tight balance for a long time.”

The article said that Party and government organs must “live a frugal life” as a regular disciplinary requirement, strictly controlling non-essential and flexible expenditures, while cutting administrative expenses.

It called for “no spending without a budget” and advised against arbitrary extra spending. It also demanded that financial supervision be strengthened and that violations be seriously investigated and punished so that financial discipline becomes an untouchable “high voltage line.”

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), March 12, 2023

More than Ten Chinese Radio Stations Have Infiltrated Taiwan with Waves of Chinese Propaganda

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers questioned in the Legislative Yuan, the island nation’s legislature, that China’s United Front radio waves have invaded all of Taiwan with more than ten different stations. Taiwan officials promised to meet within a month to review the situation.

Lai Pin-yu, a member of the ruling DDP, said, “Some people drive through the Miaoli and Hsinchu areas and want to listen to Taiwan’s local radio stations, but they can’t receive them. To their dismay, they receive several Chinese radio stations instead, all of which have united-front content and promote China’s policy toward Taiwan.

She added that all counties and cities in Taiwan can receive Chinese broadcasts, both AM and FM. She can even listen to China’s Voice of the Taiwan Strait station in her office in Taipei.

According to Lai, more than ten radio channels from China can be received in Taiwan. Taiwan’s radio channels are usually set in odd numbers, and these stations from across the strait are often set in even numbers.

In response, Chiu Tai-san, minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, said that there are two ways in which China is infiltrating Taiwan through broadcasting. One is that it transmits high-power signals directly to Taiwan. The second is to have Taiwan’s radio stations produce or broadcast Chinese-made content, which violates the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland.

Radio Free Asia interviewed Gong Yujian, a Chinese dissident now living in Taipei. Gong said he has been listening to Chinese broadcasts for the past two and a half years. He has also listened to Taiwan’s military radio, which broadcasts to mainland China.

Gong pointed out that the “Voice of the Taiwan Strait” station, which is affiliated with China National Radio under the Central Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party, imitates a Taiwanese accent or uses young Taiwanese as anchors. It produces many soft programs on travel, food, and lifestyle to package the content of China’s united front.

Gong believed that Taiwan’s Kinsmen and China’s Xiamen are too close to each other. The radio frequency can easily be occupied by Chinese broadcasts, which is a geographical and technological problem. Recently, Matsu Island’s undersea cable was cut. As a result, people cannot connect to Taiwan’s network. Some local people have even used Chinese mobile phone numbers to access the Internet.

Gong added that Taiwan is a democratic and free society and cannot control information. The only way is for Taiwan to build radio stations in the same frequency and transmit radio waves that are stronger than the Chinese counterparts. Of course, that could cost a lot of money.

Source: Radio Free Asia, March 14, 2023

China’s Military Spending to Increase by 7.2 Percent

On March 6th, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei responded to the 7.2 percent increase in the military budget for 2023 by stating that China’s “limited defense spending is entirely to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests.” The additional funds will be allocated toward strengthening military training and preparation, as well as major projects in science, technology, and equipment.

Tan explained that the Chinese government adheres to the policy of “coordinated development of national defense and economic construction,” and “reasonably determines” the scale of defense spending based on national defense needs and the level of national economic development. Over the past few years, China has maintained “moderate growth” in defense spending while ensuring sustained and healthy economic and social development. This approach aims to promote “simultaneous enhancement of national defense strength and economic strength.”

According to Tan, China’s increased defense spending this year will primarily be used to: comprehensively strengthen military training and preparation for war, in line with the 14th Five-Year Plan for military construction; accelerate the construction of a modernized logistics system; implement major projects in defense science and technology and weaponry, and transform science and technology into combat power; consolidate and expand the achievements of national defense and military reform; and improve the level of military governance. The increased funding will also adapt to the level of national economic and social development and continuously improve the working, training, and living conditions of troops.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), March 6, 2023

China to Limit the Export of Solar Technology; Experts Express Concern

On December 30, 2022, China’s Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Science and Technology released a draft of the “Catalogue of China’s Prohibited and Restricted Technologies for Export” for public consultation. It includes “photovoltaic silicon wafer (solar silicon wafer) technology” in the list of restricted export technologies.

However, some experts have expressed concerns that limiting the export of solar technology could harm China’s related industries. Bai Chong’en, dean of the School of Economics and Management of Tsinghua University, who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, stated in his proposal that many overseas enterprises are already seeking alternative solutions to Chinese technology. In particular, companies in Europe and the United States are restarting the manufacturing of slicer equipment and the construction of solar rod pulling and slicing capacity.

Bai believes that foreign countries have been reducing their dependence on China’s energy sector in recent years and that restricting the exportation of solar silicon wafer preparation technology would be detrimental to China’s related industries. He also stated that the technological barrier for solar silicon wafer preparation is not high and that China’s solar industry mainly relies on the advantages of a mature supply chain and low labor costs to maintain its leading position. Moreover, other countries such as the United States, Europe, Japan, and Taiwan already possess semiconductor-grade monocrystalline silicon wafer production technology, which naturally equips them with the ability to produce solar silicon wafers.

Bai expressed concern that if China restricts the export of this technology, the prolonged approval process could make overseas cooperation and negotiations more uncertain, potentially missing the best opportunities for overseas deployment. Instead, foreign companies that master semiconductor silicon wafer technology, such as those in Europe, the United States, Japan, and South Korea, could quickly form a substitute for Chinese solar companies.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), March 6, 2023