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President-elect Joe Biden Appointed Thomas Zimmerman to Serve as Deputy Lead for National Security Personnel

President-elect Joe Biden has appointed Thomas Zimmerman as a Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel as part of the new appointments he announced on December 30, 2020. Zimmerman will serve as Deputy Lead for National Security Personnel on the Biden-Harris Transition team.

Mr. Zimmerman has prior experience working in China as a visiting scholar at the Department of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS).

For example, on February 10, 2015, Mr. Zimmerman, senior project officer of the International Cooperation Office of New York University, delivered a speech at the SASS International Relations Institute on the future of the U.S. policy in Afghanistan. In his speech, he discussed the changes in the future U.S. security mission in Afghanistan and the corresponding policy adjustments, how U.S. domestic political changes in the general election would affect U.S. Afghanistan policy, and how China and the United States can jointly cooperate to carry out projects to achieve common goals.

On March 12, 2015, Mr. Zimmerman also participated and spoke at a forum titled, “U.S. Anti-Terrorism Policy and the Asian-African Counter-Terrorism Posture.” The Shanghai Institute of American Studies and the Center for West Asian and North African Studies of the SASS jointly organized the event. During the discussions, Mr. “Zimmerman expressed the belief that, in resolving the Afghanistan issue, the United States is also pinning its hopes on China, hoping that China can play an active role in it. The United States and China share common interests and goals on the issue of Afghanistan. China is advocating the construction of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy, but due to the continued civil war in Afghanistan, the potential for economic cooperation in Afghanistan is difficult to evaluate. Western countries led by the United States have been making strategic retreats from this region and China’s role in resolving the Afghanistan issue has become increasingly apparent.”

In June 2016, Mr. Zimmerman visited the Shanghai Institute of American Studies and conducted internal discussions with attendees from SASS and the Shanghai Institute of American about the “One Belt and One Road,” terrorism issues, and the Sino-US anti-terrorism cooperation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

SASS, a leading think tank in China, was established in 1958 and is primarily funded by the Chinese government. According to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against Keven Mallory in June 2017, since 2014, the FBI has assessed that the Shanghai State Security Bureau (SSSB), a sub-component of China’s Ministry of State Security, has had a close relationship with SASS and uses SASS employees as spotters and assessors. The FBI has further assessed that SSSB intelligence officers have also used SASS affiliation as cover identities.

Shanghai Institute of American Studies
U.S. Department of Justice

Global Times: China Will Not Hesitate to Strike Back

On January 11, China’s State media Global Times issued the second editorial responding to the January 9, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo’s lifting of all restrictions on the official interactions with Taiwan. Global Times issued its first editorial on January 10.

Global Times complained that, “The American establishment is watching from the sidelines and Pompeo and his cohorts are doing whatever they want with Sino-US relations, without any restraints.”

The editorial stated that Pompeo’s moves on Taiwan lack strong support and many want to see the moves fail. “We [China] must turn the final ten days of struggle into a closure that defines a clear bottom line and show to the U.S. and Taiwan the grave consequences when they hit the bottom line.”

The editorial stressed that China must hit back hard. Otherwise, “the Biden Administration will mistakenly believe that the room for pressure on China may be further expanded. The Sino-U.S. relations in the next four years will have a very unfavorable start for China.”

Source: Global Times, January 11, 2021

Australian Intelligence Agency Considers Chinese Businessman a Risk to National Security

A Melbourne Chinese businessman who supports well-known members of the Liberal Party is facing deportation. He was previously assessed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) as a risk to national security. The Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce under ASIO is conducting an investigation. Earlier, because of security concerns, the federal government rejected his application for permanent residency.

The businessman is Liu Huifeng, a political donor of the Liberal Party and former soldier of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. He established a personal relationship with the Federal Liberal Party MP Gladys Liu and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar. Since June 2016, Liu has participated in a series of pre-election fundraising activities and has been a frequent guest at events involving Liu and Sukkar. For example, Liu posted on his social media account on April 27, 2017, “Tonight I was invited to attend the private dinner of Michael Sukkar, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia … He kept telling others that I was his old friend.”

He co-founded a community aid organization that agreed to accept funding from the Chinese Consulate in Melbourne and share information with them. The association, the Australian Emergency Assistance Association Incorporated (AEAAI), acts as an intermediary in policing incidents and legal cases that involve Chinese speakers. On the Chinese social media WeChat, the association promoted itself as a grassroots community platform to its 55,000 members, mainly ethnic Chinese living in Australia.

Liu Huifeng signed a letter of intent with the Chinese Consulate General in Melbourne in 2017. In the agreement announcement, Mr. Liu promised “close communication” with the Chinese Consulate General in Melbourne. According to a secret document that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) obtained, AEAAI agreed to accept instructions from the consulate, report incidents involving Chinese citizens to the consulate, and provide “information involving security risks.” The letter of appointment signed by AEAAI and the consulate stipulates that, “The association will appoint volunteers in accordance with the authorization and specific requirements from the consulate on a case-by-case basis.” The document stated that volunteers should “assist the Consulate General to go to the scene of the incident to understand the situation of the case, provide assistance to Chinese citizens in need of assistance, and promptly report the situation to the Consulate General.”

Source: ABC, January 4, 2020

A Number of Provincial Military Commands, Municipal Garrison Commands and Beijing Garrison Commands across China Held Meetings

Recently, a number of provincial party committee secretaries participated in meetings of the Provincial Military Commands, Municipal Garrison Commands and Beijing Garrison Commands.

From January 6 to 7, the Beijing Garrison Command, the Chongqing Garrison Command, the Zhejiang Provincial Military Command, the Jiangxi Provincial Military Command, the Guizhou Provincial Military Command, and the Yunnan Provincial Military Command all held expanded meetings of party committees.

The Secretary of the provincial party committee attended the meetings. All 31 provincial administrative regions are equipped with corresponding provincial military commands.

Source: Sohu, January 9, 2021

Xingtai Calls for Emergency Donations of Pandemic Materials

On January 10, 2021, the United Front Work Department of the Xingtai Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, Hebei Province, issued a solicitation calling for emergency donations of pandemic materials for Nangong city which is under Xingtai’s jurisdiction.

According to the solicitation, the Xingtai epidemic is at a critical stage. “The situation is grave and the task is arduous.” Nangong City urgently needs the following 16 categories of items: single beds, mattresses, quilts; pillows, toiletry bags, thermos bottles, electric kettles, electric plug panels, water buckets with lids; water scoops, washbasins; hand sanitizers, (13) bed sheets, trash bins, medical disposal bags, and portable potties.

“5,000 sets of the above 16 items are urgently needed: 1,000 sets are needed today (January 10), 2,000 more are needed tomorrow (January 11), and the remaining 2,000 sets may be accepted in installments. It is preferred that all sets come in together at one time.”

The authorities indicated that these materials will be used for front-line medical workers and those personnel working with quarantined people.

Source: Dazhongwang, January 11, 2021

China Reduced Lower Mekong Water Level with No Notice until Six Days Later

Well-known Chinese news site NetEase (NASDAQ: NTES) recently reported that China issued notice to the lower Mekong River countries on January 6 that it reduced Mekong River water level via its dams on upper Mekong. Both Thailand and the Mekong River Committee (MRC, an organization jointly formed by Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam) confirmed the notification. The reason China provided was power transmission line maintenance. Water volume reduction was expected to be 47 percent from 1904 cubic meters per second to 1000 per second. China made an agreement last October with MRC to share water information. However, the Stimson Centre (sponsored by the United States) and another consulting firm, Eyes on Earth, both said, according to their monitoring data, China has been reducing the Mekong River water level since December 31. The MRC said the water volume reduction was observed on December 31 which was six days before China’s notification. This volume reduction could result in a lower water level of 1.2 meters. The drastic change could impact water transportation and fishing. China promised to restore the water volume “back to normal” without giving the actual cubic meter numbers.

Source: NetEase, January 8, 2021

Global Times: Count-down of Taiwan’s Final Days

On January 10, 2021, China’s State media Global Times published an editorial in response to the U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo’s announcement on January 9, 2021, that lifts self-imposed restrictions on the U.S.-Taiwan relationship in terms of interactions between diplomats, service members, and other officials of the United States and their Taiwanese counterparts. 

Entitled “Pompeo may have started the count-down of Taiwan’s final days,” the Global Times editorial stated, “Pompeo once again is frantically digging holes and placing mines for Sino-US relations and the Taiwan issue. This is a criminal, structural sabotage to cross-strait peace and the bottom-line stability of Sino-US relations. The extent of its severe consequences is unpredictable.”

The editorial believes Pompeo’s announcement indicates two uncertainties: whether Biden will implement this policy and whether Pompeo will make further big moves such as Pompeo’s surprise visit to Taiwan before stepping down.

“Whether [we should] push the Biden Administration to abolish the crazy decision of the last days of the current U.S. Administration or prevent Pompeo and others from taking actions beyond the bottom line at the last minute, Beijing must clearly and resolutely oppose the U.S. extreme provocations and be determined to fight head-on.” 

 “Beijing needs to send a strong signal that the United States must stop before it is too late. It must let the United States and Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party authorities know that if they dare to let Pompeo visit Taiwan before the end of his term, Beijing’s response will be overwhelming.”

The editorial continued with a threat to Taiwan saying, “The last few days of the current U.S. administration may also be the last few days of the existence of the Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party.”

The editorial stated that Biden is “worried that the Trump administration may do stupid things including the use of atomic bombs in the last few days.” “If they had a sudden showdown on the Taiwan issue, it would be equivalent to throwing an atomic bomb into world peace. We must give the most severe punishment to those that destroy peace.”

Source: Global Times, January 10, 2021


Chinese Pork Market Price Skyrocketed

Well-known Chinese news site Sohu (NASDAQ: SOHU) recently reported that, since the end of December, pork prices have seen a significant increase across China, especially in Eastern China, Southern China and Southwestern China. The daily pork price increase rate reached 0.43 Chinese Yuan. The Imported pork price reached 36.02 Chinese Yuan (per half kilogram). In Northeastern China, the daily price increase reached 0.6 Chinese Yuan and the domestic pork price was almost 20 Chinese Yuan (per half kilogram). With the new year’s price hike, it is widely expected that the upcoming Chinese New Year (early February) will have another major increase in the price of pork. Many retailers now refuse to sell pork in hand and hope to make much more money by waiting just a few days, even if this means the breach of a contract where a compensation deposit was received. China is currently suffering a decline in imported pork volume due to the pandemic. Pork holds two thirds of Chinese meat market and its price significantly impacts the CPI (Consumer Price Index), which is a major indicator of an economy.

Source: Sohu, January 4, 2021