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Geo-Strategic Trend

Beijing Interfered in the Canadian 2022 Local Election

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) reported that, last year, China’s Vancouver Consulate interfered in the election of Vancouver’s mayor and the election of its city council .

A CSIS report on January 10, 2022, summarized that Tong Xiaoling, then China’s Consul-General, discussed how to “groom” the Chinese diasporas to get political positions in order to advance Beijing’s interests. In the middle of November 2021, Tong said they needed to try all of their efforts to increase the minority’s vote ratio. She stressed this was necessary because candidates would rely on those votes (to be elected). Tong also expressed that they needed to get a specific person (Tong had her eyes on who to select, but the CSIS report didn’t disclose his name) to enter the Vancouver city council.

It appeared that the CCP had also interfered in the election of Vancouver’s mayor. After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sanctioned Member of Parliament Michael Chong for criticizing Beijing, then Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart cancelled his meeting with the CCP diplomats and strengthened ties with Taiwan. Both Tong and the Chinese language media criticized Kennedy. Some Chinese language media called him the “Cold War Mayor.” In the  election for mayor, Kennedy lost to Chinese diaspora candidate Ken Sim by a small margin – 37,000 votes.

Source: Epoch Times, March 16, 2023

Ecuador’s Former President Accused of Accepting the CCP’s Bribes

Lenin Moreno, who was the President of Ecuador until he was succeeded by the incumbent on May 24, 2021,  was sued by prosecutors on March 5 for accepting bribes amounting to US$ 76 million from China’s state-owned enterprise Sinohydro between 2009 and 2018. The government of Ecuador contracted Sinohydro to build the Coca Codo Sinclair Dam under China’s “Belt & Road Initiative.” Construction started in 2010 and the dam was put in use in 2016. However, by 2018, 7,648 large and small cracks were identified on the dam’s wall.

Source: Aboluo, March 8, 2023

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

TikTok Faced Bans in Britain, Belgium, Demark and New Zealand

Well-known Chinese news site Sina (NASDAQ: SINA) recently reported that British cabinet minister Oliver Dowden announced in the House of Commons that the British government will ban government staff from using the Chinese app TikTok on official mobile phones. The ban then took effect immediately. The UK’s move is in line with the U.S. and the European Commission, marking a “180-degree shift” in the UK’s previous position.

Earlier, United Daily News (UDN), one of the primary Taiwanese news groups, also reported that the Belgian Prime Minister said on March 10, because of concerns about online security, privacy and disinformation, that, for at least six months, Belgium will temporarily ban the use of TikTok on devices owned or paid for by the Belgian federal government. In the meantime, the Danish public broadcaster and TV station Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) advised employees not to use TikTok on business mobile phones due to security concerns. This is the first news organization to issue such an advice.

In addition, the New Zealand Chinese online news site Solace Media also reported that Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, chief executive of Parliamentary Services, said that, following the advice from cybersecurity experts, Parliamentary Services have informed Members of Parliament and staff that TikTok should be removed from all devices that have access to Parliament’s network.

(1) Sina, March 16, 2023
(2) UDN, March 10, 2023
(3) Solace Media, March 17, 2023

Vietnam to Welcome the “Largest Ever” U.S. Business Delegation

Well-known Chinese news site Sina (NASDAQ: SINA) recently reported that more than 50 defense, pharmaceutical and technology companies, including SpaceX, Netflix and Boeing, will join a delegation organized by the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council to visit Vietnam soon to explore investment and sales opportunities in the country. The U.S.-ASEAN Business Council Vietnam Chief Representative Ngo Thu Thanh said that similar activities organized by the organization have a history of 30 years. However, this time, Vietnam will usher in the largest delegation in history. Ng Thu Thanh pointed out that most of the companies in the delegation already have operations or production bases in Vietnam, such as Apple, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and some companies are planning on expansion. Ng Thu Thanh revealed that Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Bell will hold meetings with several Vietnamese state-owned defense procurement companies. Boeing said in a statement that its discussions with Vietnam will focus on their growing partnership and ways to strengthen the country’s aerospace and defense capabilities. SpaceX, which is looking to sell satellite internet services to Vietnam and other countries in the region, was also in the delegation. The delegation also includes a number of semiconductor companies, pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, Abbott, Visa, Citibank, Meta and Amazon Web Services, along with other large companies. The trade friction between China and the U.S is in the ascendant, and the trend of staying away from China has allowed Vietnam to benefit. This visit shows that the international community is paying more attention to this rising international manufacturing center. With the expansion of the middle class, Vietnam, with a population of 100 million, has also become a rapidly growing consumer market. After Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s resignation in January, some companies also came to learn more about the local political situation.

Source: Sina, March 17, 2023

India Does Not Support the Use of RMB for Foreign Trade Settlement

Well-known Chinese news site Sohu (NASDAQ: SOHU) recently reported that, according to three Indian government officials involved in policymaking and two banking sources, India has asked banks and traders to avoid using the Chinese Yuan (RMB) to pay for Russian imports. India is “dissatisfied” with foreign trade settled in Yuan, said a government official directly involved in the matter. Another Indian official said that, until relations between China and India improve, India cannot allow the use of the Yuan for settlement. Analysts believe that India’s motivation comes mainly from political factors. Tens of thousands of Indian troops have been deployed along the disputed Himalayas since 2021, clouding geopolitical ties. Indian officials did not say whether there were economic reasons behind India’s reluctance to accept Yuan settlement. In 2022, UltraTech Cement, India’s largest cement producer, used RMB to purchase a batch of Russian coal. The deal sparked concern among Indian authorities. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), not keen on using Yuan for foreign trade settlements, confirmed that the government has blocked it. The Indian Rupee is partially exchangeable, meaning it must be converted into U.S. Dollars before it can be converted into any other currency, making the rupee an unattractive as a reserve currency for global central banks and settlement of trade.

Source: Sohu, March 15, 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

LTN: Russia Banned China’s WeChat

Major Taiwanese news network Liberty Times Network (LTN) recently reported that the Russian Federal Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media Supervision Agency (Roskomnadzor) issued a statement stating that Russian government officials are prohibited from using some communications software developed and operated by foreign companies, including Discord, Teams, Skype for Business, Snapchat, Telegram, Threema, Viber, WhatsApp, and China’s WeChat. After the news spread across China, Chinese netizens ridiculed the government’s whining about the U.S. ban of TikTok. Last month the U.S. banned the TikTok use across federal agencies. In response to the U.S. ban, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “The U.S. is so afraid of an app that young people like; it is too underconfident.” However, the Chinese government remained quiet on the Russian WeChat ban, and the Chinese mainstream media has been compltely silent. WeChat is the most popular mobile instant messaging app in China. It has been the world’s largest standalone mobile app since 2018 with over 1 billion monthly active users. The Russian WeChat ban was based on the amendments to the “Information, Information Technology and Information Protection Act” passed in 2022, and the amendments went into effect on March 1, 2023. The ban also applies to businesses and financial organizations with state involvement. The WeChat blockage by the Kremlin also made many Chinese people feel (it was) sudden and (they were) puzzled, due to China’s friendly position on the Russia-Ukraine war.

Source: LTN, March 5, 2023