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China Pushes the Launch of COVID 19 Vaccine

As COVID 19 spread from Wuhan to the world, countries around the world were in fierce competition to develop a vaccine. In June, China made high profile claims that it had made significant progress in vaccine deployment, but so far, there is still a lack of confidence in the vaccines that China has pushed forward due to the lack of data transparency and effectiveness.

Recently after China Kexing Biosciences abruptly delayed the release of the COVID 19 vaccine test results, Watson Bio announced that it will start producing 120-200 million doses of mRNA vaccine in 2021, even though the vaccine is still in the clinical trial I stage. A former official of China Red Cross criticized the premature release of the vaccine. He said that after Pfizer and Mederna successfully launched the COVID vaccine, China has been under pressure to introduce its own version. He accused China of disregarding the potential risk and of using the general public for human trials instead.
Another report that Caixin published showed that there are a number of other pharmaceutical companies involved in vaccine manufacturing. A couple of them were close to finishing the clinical trial stage III but had to delay the release of trial data due to a deficiency in trial results. For the vaccines that have been approved, there are restrictions imposed on who can receive the vaccine. According to an official notice issued by Qingyan City of Gansu province, the age group of the vaccine recipients is limited to 18-59 and to those with no chronicle illness. The same restriction was applied to the vaccines sold in the United Arab Emirates.

Source: Radio Free Asia, December 28, 2020

China Could Dominate World’s New Energy Vehicle Industry

In the past 30 years, China had a tough time overcoming core technical difficulties in the domestic auto industry using the traditional internal combustion engines technology. However, with the rise of new energy led by electric vehicles, it might enable China to realize its dream to lead new energy vehicle manufacturing and the supply chain in the world.

China has become the world’s largest market for car sales. According to statistics from data service agency Statista, China registered 21.05 million new motor vehicles in 2019, followed by the United States, with 16.97 million new vehicles sold in 2019.

According to statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers and the International Energy Agency, China’s new energy vehicle sales in 2019 were 1.206 million, accounting for 55 percent of the total global sales of 2.21 million. By the end of 2019, China’s cumulative sales of electric passenger vehicles reached 3.66 million, accounting for 48 percent of the global total. In 2019, the number of electric vehicles in China was 2.58 million, compared with 970,000 in Europe and 880,000 in the United States.

In October of this year, the State Council issued a new energy vehicle industry development plan for 2021-2035, setting the new energy vehicle sales target for 2025 at 20 percent of total vehicle sales. The Plan also included a “full value chain” proposition in the battery industry while encouraging companies to gain access to key mineral resources such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, and platinum. Currently China has 80 percent of the market share in the cobalt refining industry. Among the top six global cobalt refining companies, five of those are Chinese companies. Of the 14 largest cobalt mines in the Congo, eight are owned by Chinese companies.

To reach the new energy vehicle development plan, the Chinese government has given hundreds of billions in subsidies to the electric vehicle industry.

According to CSIS (the Center for Strategic and International Studies) statistics, in the past 10 years, the Chinese government has subsidized the new energy vehicle industry in various forms equivalent to 676 billion yuan (approximately US$100.9 billion). Although government subsidies were reduced in 2019, 30.7 percent of China’s new energy vehicle sales revenue still comes from government subsidies. In 2019, there were 119 active new energy vehicle manufacturers in China.

China’s electric vehicle industry is also alleged to have engaged in technology theft. In February 2020, William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, singled out two fields where China is putting a priority on technology theft: electric vehicles and aircraft. Evanina was one of many American officials speaking at a conference on “Chinese economic espionage” hosted by Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. In a lawsuit Tesla filed in California in 2019, it claimed that a former engineer who worked at the company copied more than 300,000 files related to the source code of the autopilot before joining Xiaopeng Motors.

Facing the rise of China’s electric vehicle industry, improving the competitiveness of the United States in this field is a national security concern. In a recently published report, the organization “Protect the Future of America” recommended that the U.S. government restore subsidies for consumers to purchase electric vehicles, develop a mineral supply chain that does not rely on China, and encourage U.S. auto companies to cooperate with each other to resist China. Experts, however, also warn that since the United States has a solid foundation in the traditional automobile manufacturing industry and employs a large number of workers, the US automobile industry cannot rush to transition to new energy vehicles too quickly.

Source: Voice of America, December 28, 2020

HKET: China Banned TripAdvisor from Its App Stores

Hong Kong Economic Times (HKET), the leading financial daily in Hong Kong, recently reported that China banned major U.S. travel service app TripAdvisor from the China region’s App stores on both Apple and Android markets. As of now, a search in the Chinese App stores will no long find TripAdvisor. This is part of the latest wave of the removal of 105 apps in the Chinese app market. The Chinese authorities claimed these are apps spreading obscene, violent, bloody and other illegal information. Some offered illegal services facilitating gambling and prostitution. Some of the applications did not comply with the “requirements of the government reviews.” It is unclear what caused the removal of a reputable global travel service provider like TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor does provide the capability for customers to make comments on services. China expressed the intent to continue this campaign of “cleaning up the app market” with similar future waves.

Source: HKET, December 9, 2020

LTN: Huawei Western Europe Sales Are in Free Fall

Major Taiwanese news network Liberty Times Network (LTN) recently reported that, according to the latest numbers from IDC, Huawei sold 2.5 million smartphones in the Western Europe market, representing a year-over-year free fall of 58.7 percent. Huawei sold 6.2 million smartphones in the same period last year. This was the largest decline in history. Given the U.S. sanctions, Huawei could not have built-in Google services, which hold a high market share in Europe. Google also took extra steps to prevent end users from manually installing its services by checking the smartphone processor model. This sales result led Huawei’s market share in Western Europe to fall from 20 percent to 8.8 percent. In the meantime, the Apple iPhone 11 obtained a 1.1 percent growth, with a total output of 8.2 million smartphones sold. This was achieved without the help of iPhone 12. With the free fall of Huawei’s market share, other Chinese brands, Xiaomi and OPPO achieved a 151.6 percent and a 566.2 percent growth, respectively. Xiaomi is now the number three smartphone vendor in Western Europe, after Samsung and Apple.

Source: LTN, November 30, 2020

HK01: Japan Decided to Decommission Unmanned Aircraft Made in China

Popular Hong Kong new online media HK01 Network recently reported that the Japanese government decided to replace all unmanned aircraft that provincial governments operated with more secure Japanese products. It is effectively decommissioning around one thousand China-made unmanned aircraft. This “reevaluation” process is set to start in 2021. These aircraft took videos, photos and saved flying records. This information was then transferred via the communications network. With the deployment of 5G technology, the risk of network-based information leaks is expected to increase. Chinese unmanned aircraft vendor DJI has been the subject of such topics as security leaks for a few years now. In 2017, the United States Army ordered an immediate stop to the use of DJI products. The new Japanese government policy review will identify “critical tasks” that should use higher security standards, such as defense, criminal investigation, intelligence topography emergency rescues and more. Current unmanned aircraft will have to be replaced according to the new rules. The new rules will also include an added procurement process for future purchases, which will require cabinet level risk assessment to evaluate “supply chain risk.” This past spring, the Japanese government conducted a study on government use of unmanned aircraft  and found around 1,000 DJI products. Government officials also explained that, even for work not listed as “critical tasks,” in principle the government should still use domestic products.

Source: HK01, November 30, 2020

The Paper: India Banned another 43 Chinese Apps

Well-known new Chinese news site The Paper recently reported that, according to the Cybercrime Coordination Center of India’s Ministry of the Interior, the Indian government banned another 43 Chinese apps based on Article 69A of the Information Technology Law. The newly banned apps include widely used Alipay, AliExpress, and Tencent’s WeTV, among others. These are highly popular Chinese apps. The Indian government explained that these apps participated in activities that are not conducive to India’s sovereignty, national security and public order. The Indian government had banned 59 Chinese apps in June and 118 apps in September. Those include well-known apps like TikTok, WeChat and the Xiaomi Browser. So far India has banned a total of 220 Chinese apps. The spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed his serious concerns. China also believed India’s bans violated WTO rules as well as free-market principles and called for immediate corrections of this discrimination against Chinese businesses.

Source: The Paper, November 25, 2020

Wuhan District Government Took over Hongxin Semiconductor Company

Wuhan Hongxin Semiconductor, a failed example of the “Great Leap Forward” in the Semiconductor industry, was on the verge of bankruptcy. The Wuhan Dongxihu District Government recently took it over but made no change to the board members of the company. Wuhan Hongxin was reported to be a 128 billion-yuan (US$19.5 billion) project. It was established in November 2017. From the very beginning, it claimed that it owned the technology to make a 14nm chip, and will make a 7nm chip one year later. It also invited Chiang Shang-yi, former TSMC Chief Operating Officer, to be the CEO. In July of this year, the media report showed that Wuhan Hongxin was at risk of a capital chain rupture and payments to the subcontractors were delayed for months. In June, Chiang Shang-yi also submitted his resignation.

In recent years, there has been an upsurge to build semiconductor-related factories in different parts of China. However, one after another, the investment of tens of billions or even hundreds of billions in Jiangsu, Sichuan, Hubei, Guizhou, and Shaanxi, failed and the local governments who came up with the initial funding ended up taking them over. On October 20, a spokesperson from China’s National Development and Reform Commission said that they have noticed that companies with no experience, no technology, and no talent intend to invest in the chip industry. Some local governments are standing behind and push for the project. For projects that ended up with major losses and wasted resources, they must understand that “whoever supports the project should bear the full responsibility.”

Source: Central News Agency, November 17, 2020

200,000 Chinese Journalists Passed the “Xi Thought” Exam

At the end of 2019, Chinese authorities ordered journalists to pass an exam featuring Xi Jinping’s speeches. According to the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), as of October 30, 2020, a total of 205,000 Chinese journalists had passed the “Xi Thought” exam and obtained a passport-sized Chinese journalist ID card with gold letters against a red background.

Cheng Yizhong, a senior Chinese media person who participated in the founding of Southern Metropolis Daily and Beijing News, told Radio Free Asia that this shows that China now has high confidence in its propaganda outlets and this has nothing to do its press freedom. “(The Chinese government) is confident that it has reached a state of complete control over the terminal (reporter) and information. … With a press ID card, it is easier to maintain control.”

According to the announcement of the NPPA, a Chinese journalist’s ID is good for a term of five years, contingent on annual reviews. The press ID’s can only be issued by news organizations that the government certifies.

RFA also interviewed a young man surnamed Li, who completed his master’s degree in journalism in the United States and chose to work in China’s state media. For Li, taking the press card exam is a career development requirement for which he had no choice. Li showed a screenshot of his phone and repeated the exam questions and standardized answers.

Question: As General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized, what is the most basic principle of news and public opinion work?
Answer: The Party’s leadership over news and public opinion work.

Question: As Xi Jinping emphasized, what is the basic guidance for news and public opinion?
Answer: Unity, stability, and positive propaganda.

Question: What should cyberspace be?
Answer: A new space for the Party to build consensus.

In 2020, according to data from the U.S. non-profit organization the Committee to Protect Journalists, China is the country that has the largest number of imprisoned journalists in the world. In the annual World Press Freedom Index report from Reporters Without Borders, China ranked fourth to the last around the world. The number is even higher than in dictatorship regimes such as North Korea. The report also mentioned that if Chinese journalists had the right to report freely, the COVID-19 pandemic could have been avoided, or at least it would not have come to be as tragic as it is now.

Source: Radio Free Asia, November 6, 2020