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China to Strengthen Military Training for High School Students

China’s Ministry of Education and the office of National Defense Mobilization under the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) released a “Syllabus for the Military Training of High School Students.” It will be implemented on August 1, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP. The syllabus specifies that the military training curriculum for Chinese high school students should not be less than 56 class hours or 7 days in total.

According to the official website of the Ministry of Education, the preamble of the syllabus, which was released nationwide on March 26 and only announced on April 13, emphasizes that the syllabus was developed in order to implement fully “the Party’s education policy,” implement “the fundamental requirements of the goal of strengthening the military,” comprehensively regulate the organization and implementation of military training for high school students, and “strengthen the building of national defense reserve forces.”

The syllabus emphasizes that the organization of student military training is a “mandatory educational activity” in high schools, and is an important measure that will implement comprehensively the “Party’s education policy,” the “strategic military policy for the new era and the overall national security concept.” It will also strengthen national defense education, the building of the national defense reserve force and the quality of education for young students.

The syllabus specifies that the military training for Chinese high school students consists of two parts: “basic military knowledge” and “basic military skills.” The teaching time ranges from 7 to 14 days, with a total of no less than 7 days and 56 class hours (one “class hour” means one class period including the class break).

Among them, “basic military knowledge” includes 24 class hours, of which 12 hours are compulsory training and 12 are of optional training. “Basic military skills” has 88 class hours, including 44 hours of compulsory training and 44 of optional training.

This syllabus strictly orders that all types of high schools should not reduce the content of military training and the required hours. Schools are also encouraged to offer courses on military knowledge and skills training to broaden the content of military training.

Source: Central News Agency, April 13, 2021

Financial Times Suggests Xi Jinping Ready to Attack Taiwan

The British Financial Times mentioned the assessment of the Biden administration about Xi Jinping’s possible move on Taiwan. A senior U.S. official revealed that China’s recent actions reflect Xi Jinping’s “big hand shaping his own historical image and positioning.” Taiwan officials warned that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might attack Taiwan in 2022, when Xi Jinping is re-elected as president or 2027, when the People’s Liberation Army was founded 100 years ago.

The official told Financial Times, “China appears to be moving from a period of being content with the status quo over Taiwan to a period in which they are more impatient and more prepared to test the limits and flirt with the idea of unification.” “As we prepare for a period in which Xi Jinping will likely be entering his third term, there’s concern that he sees capstone progress on Taiwan as important to his legitimacy and legacy,” the official added. “It seems that he is prepared to take more risks.”

Last Friday (March 26) Taiwan and the United States signed the “Memorandum of Cooperation in Maritime Patrol.” On that day, the CCP sent 20 PLA aircraft to disrupt Taiwan.

When reporting to the US Senate and Congressmen, John Aquilino, who is about to take over as the U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander, pointed out that the CCP’s attack on Taiwan is more urgent than many people understand. Aquilino emphasized that China’s actions in the Sino-Indian border conflict are aggressive, and all signs show that China is becoming more and more unscrupulous. Aquilino told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “What we have seen is what we did not expect.” He also called on Washington to “be prepared.”

The US Indo-Pacific Affairs Officer (Kurt Campbell) believes that China’s actions in different areas are provocative, with Taiwan being the toughest. China’s actions in the South China Sea, economic pressure on Australia, the launch of “wolf war diplomacy” with Europe, and the outbreak of border conflicts with India, are all signs that show that China is “showing its strength” to the world.

Taiwan’s national security officials warned that Xi Jinping might launch an offensive against Taiwan at two times. One is in 2022, during the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China through which he will enter his third term; the other is the centenary of the People’s Liberation Army in 2027.

Source: Radio Free Asia, March 28, 2021

Indian Air Force Will Soon Have 14 Dassault Rafales Fighter Jets

Well-known Chinese news site Sina (NASDAQ: SINA) recently reported that by mid-April, the Indian Air Force will receive several shipments more of Dassault Rafales fighter jets from France . India will own at least 14 Dassault Rafales. The full contract calls for 36 in total with expected delivery to be fulfilled by the year 2023. Currently a group of Indian pilots has arrived at Merignac Air Force Base in Bordeaux, France. They plan to fly the new fighter jets directly back to India, with air refueling. The Indian government has high expectations for these Dassault Rafales jets. It even has the hope that they can actually face the Chinese J-20 fighter jets. Some Indian media even reported that “China is very much worried about India’s Dassault Rafales.” However, the J-20 is a fifth-generation stealth heavy fighter which can carry a large number of weapons as well as more powerful radar. It is the equivalent of the U.S. F-22.  The French Dassault Rafales is in the category of light fighters, and is considered to be the four-and-half generation, so, these two models are not even comparable. The Indian Dassault Rafales jets are expected to be deployed to the Ambala Air Force Station and Hasimara Air Force Station.

Source: Sina, March 27, 2021

British General Warns of the Advantage Russia and China Have in Cyberspace

On March 13, Patrick Sanders, the head of the Strategic Command of the British Armed Forces, wrote an article for the Times. In the article he stated, “We are ceding the strategic initiative to our rivals. For all we herald the return of great power competition, the truth is it has never ended. While we drained our strength in interventions like Iraq, others have used the time and space to further their interests more strategically.” Sanders wrote for the Times, “China has pursued a strategy of winning without fighting, changing the terms of the international order; Russia has combined military and non-military means to alter the map, attempting to change the balance of power and undermine the cohesion of our societies through disinformation. Both are gaining a decisive advantage in information age military technologies.”

The senior military officer further stated, “The consequence has been a succession of strategic surprises, the erosion of strategic advantage and the loss of initiative. Unchecked it is not unthinkable that we will find ourselves vulnerable in time to a fait accompli, where as a nation we have capitulated without a shot being fired.”

Sanders listed a three-pronged integrated strategic response, including Defense Intelligence, Information Age warfare by deploying artificial intelligence systems, and growing grey zone capabilities to secure networks and data and regain the edge in electronic warfare.

Source: The Times, March 13, 2021

China to Increase Military Budget by 6.8 Percent in 2021

On March 7, at the 4th Session of the 13th National People’s Congress, Wu Qian, spokesperson for the PLA and the Armed Police Force delegation said that China’s defense expenditure would be 1,379.544 billion yuan (US$212.4 billion) in 2021, an increase of 6.8 percent over the previous year.

In explaining the reason for the steep increase in the military budget, Wu said, ”A strong country must have a strong army, and a strong army can ensure national security. National defense is as important as sunlight and air. At present, the instability and uncertainty of international security have become more prominent. The Covid-19 epidemic is raging around the world. Hegemonism, power politics, and unilateralism are on the rise from time to time. Regional conflicts and local wars exist continuously. The international security system and order are under attack. The risks and challenges in homeland security that China is facing cannot be ignored. Land border disputes have not yet been completely resolved; island territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes still exist; the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) authorities stubbornly adhere to the separatist stand of “Taiwan independence,” which is the biggest real threat to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. In view of the current complex situation, it can be said that the world is not peaceful, and national defense must be strong.”

Source: website of Chinese Defense Ministry, March 8, 2021

Chinese Hackers Exploit NSA-linked Tools to Attack U.S. Targets

On February 22, Check Point Research, an American-Israeli cybersecurity company, published an exhaustive report discussing certain cyber tools. The report stated that cyber tools that the Equation Group, a group believed to be affiliated to the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), had fallen into the hands of a Chinese hacker group, which then repurposed them in order to attack U.S. targets.

In 2014, the Chinese group APT31 (APT is abbreviation of Advanced Persistent Threat), also known as Zirconium or Judgment Panda, made a replica of an exploit originally attributed to the Equation Group, known as EpMe. An exploit is a hack that leverages a security hole or flaw, as opposed to a hack that requires installing malware. The Chinese hackers then used that tool, which Check Point has named “Jian” or “double-edged sword,” from 2015 until March 2017, when Microsoft patched the vulnerability it attacked.

Check Point pointed out, “Both exploit versions for APT31’s “Jian” or Equation Group’s “EpMe” are intended for … elevating the privileges of the attacker in the local Windows environment.” “The tool is used after an attacker gains initial access to a target computer — say, via zero-click vulnerability, a phishing email, or any other option — to give the attacker the highest available privileges, so they could “roam free” and do whatever they chose on the already infected computer.”

Check Point believed that the Equation Group exploit samples could have been acquired by the Chinese APT in one of these ways:

Captured during an Equation Group network operation on a Chinese target.
Captured during an Equation Group operation on a 3rd-party network which was also monitored by the Chinese APT.
Captured by the Chinese APT during an attack on the Equation Group infrastructure.

The research report also mentioned that APT31 used “Jian” to conduct network attacks from 2015 to March 2017 until Microsoft patched the vulnerabilities.

APT31, a state-sponsored hacking collective, is alleged to conduct reconnaissance operations at the behest of the Chinese Government, specializing in intellectual property theft and credential harvesting, with recent campaigns targeting U.S. election staff with spear-phishing emails containing links that would download a Python-based implant hosted on GitHub, allowing an attacker to upload and download files as well as execute arbitrary commands.

Sources: Check Point Research, February 22, 2021
WIRED, February 22, 2021

China’s Military Newspaper Reported Details of Border Clash with India, Claiming Victory

China’s top military newspaper PLA Daily published articles on February 19, which reported in detail the whole process of the military clashes between China and India last year at the West border area of the Karakoram Plateau. The report stated, “Since April 2020, the relevant foreign (India) troops have seriously violated the agreement between our two countries by building roads, bridges and other facilities in the Kalwan Valley area toward the border, deliberately provoking incidents, trying unilaterally to change the status quo of the border control, and even violently attacking China.” The report further disclosed that four Chinese military officers and soldiers died in a fierce fight in June 2020, after the negotiations failed.

The article claimed that the Chinese military came out victorious, “Under the circumstances of unbearable tolerance, the border officers and soldiers resolutely responded to the violent acts and achieved major victories, effectively defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

On February 10, 2021, China’s Defense Ministry’s spokesperson declared that, after 8 months of confrontation, both sides have started to retreat from the border simultaneously.

Sources: PLA Daily, February 19, 2021;
Sohu, February 10, 2021

Report Reveals Beijing’s Sponsorship of High-Technology Research in Leading UK Universities

Civitas, a London based think tank, recently released a report titled, “Inadvertently Arming China?: The Chinese military complex and its potential exploitation of scientific research at UK universities.”

The report found that there is a ‘pervasive presence of Chinese military-linked conglomerates and universities in the sponsorship of high-technology research centres in many leading UK universities.’

The report, by Radomir Tylecote and Robert Clark, finds that at least 15 UK universities have productive research relationships with Chinese military-linked manufacturers and universities. The UK taxpayer sponsors much of the research at the university centres and laboratories through research councils, Innovate UK, and the Royal Society.

In many cases, these UK universities are unintentionally generating research that China’s military conglomerates sponsored and which may be of use to them, including those with activities in the production of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and also including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as well as hypersonic missiles and research in which China is involved in a new arms race and seeks ‘massively destabilizing’ weaponry.

This report analyses the relationships that at least 15 UK universities have established with 22 Chinese military-linked universities as well as weapons suppliers or other military-linked companies. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) deems many of these Chinese universities to be ‘Very High Risk.’

Sponsorship of high-technology research in UK universities covers areas such as:
▪ Metals and alloys;
▪ Aerospace physics and hypersonic technology;
▪ Ceramics, piezoelectrics and rare earths;
▪ Drones and radar;
▪ Shipbuilding;
▪ Data science, AI, and facial recognition; and
▪ Robotics (land, sea and space)

The report recommends the UK government should list all those Chinese military-linked companies and institutions that it wants to bar from sponsoring science research in UK universities and from research cooperation in general.

The authors also suggest the UK set up a new government organization similar to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), whose role would include monitoring and assessment of university sponsorship.

Source: Civitas, February, 2021

Inadvertently Arming China?