Announcements

Join the German Marshall Fund on Thursday, July 9, for a panel discussion featuring Congresswoman Debra Haaland on possible strategies, policies, and challenges to eliminating all forms of discrimination and prejudice to ensure equality in a post-pandemic world. Register here.

Director Laura Rosenberger will participate in an EU Defense Washington Forum panel on how the United States and Europe can address the technology challenge posed by China. Tune in at 11:00 am ET on Thursday, July 9.

Our Take

For the United States and Japan to meet the challenge of China’s rise together, they must develop greater consensus on how best to respond in the geostrategic, economic, and ideological arenas, Co-director Zack Cooper argues in a Sasakawa Peace Foundation policy memorandum with Jennifer Lind, Toshihiro Nakayama, and Ryo Sahashi.

The George Floyd protests are the first time we have seen China carry out an aggressive messaging campaign on a Western social media platform about a topic that doesn’t directly relate to its own interests, Digital Media and Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer explains on VOA Chinese.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Besides the ubiquitous coverage of the coronavirus, Russia, China, and Iran’s state media and government messengers last week hit on familiar themes for each of their respective countries. For Russia, that meant elevating claims of “Russophobia” in relation both to The New York Times’ reporting on U.S. intelligence’s conclusion that Russian military intelligence offered bounties to the Taliban to kill coalition troops in Afghanistan, as well as Latvia’s decision to ban seven RT channels from its airwaves. For China, that meant warnings to adversaries challenging the party state—whether in the context of foreign criticism over Hong Kong’s new national security law or the Indian government’s decision to ban 59 Chinese apps from the Indian market. And for Iran, that meant a continuation of the near-constant drumbeat of criticism directed at the United States, this time in the form of #AmericanHumanRightsWeek, a hashtag campaign aimed at highlighting alleged American injustices at home and abroad.

Read more here.

News and Commentary

United States labels Huawei and ZTE national security threats, signaling deeper split between China and the West: The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally designated Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE as national security threats last week, blocking them from accessing FCC subsidies. The move comes after the FCC unanimously voted in November to bar U.S. telecom groups from using federal subsidies to purchase equipment from companies deemed threats, specifically over concerns that the Chinese Communist Party might exploit companies, like Huawei and ZTE, to spy on or sabotage communications. The Chinese government responded by accusing Washington of “abusing state power” and “oppressing Chinese companies.” Yet, U.S. arguments against Chinese telecom firms are gaining traction in Europe amid growing anger over China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its crackdown on Hong Kong. The United Kingdom is poised to reverse its decision and begin phasing out the use of Huawei’s technology in its 5G network as soon as this year, and France is encouraging its telecom companies to avoid switching to Huawei. Meanwhile, a German court case has raised concerns regarding Huawei’s respect of European privacy rules. Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman has urged the United States and its European partners to work together to reduce geopolitical dependence on China and protect privacy and human rights in a data-centered age. (The Hill, Reuters, BBC, The Associated Press, The Washington Post, The Telegraph, Politico EU, The Atlantic)

China’s passing of new Hong Kong security law faces global backlash: On June 30th, China passed a controversial new national security law that provides a legal framework to crack down on challenges to Beijing’s authority in Hong Kong. The new law focuses on four broadly defined offenses: secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign or external sources. It also explicitly applies to non-Hong Kong residents, as well as to offenses committed outside of Hong Kong. Critics and experts have noted that the extremely broad construction of the law is already sending a chill over free speech and political expression in the city. At the United Nations, the security law faced backlash from democracies, led by the UK, while many countries rated by Freedom House as “partially free” or “not free” lined up to support the law. In response to the law, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered 3 million Hong Kong residents a path to British citizenship for which the Chinese embassy in the UK quickly threatened retaliation. Facebook, Google, and Twitter have also announced that they are suspending processing government requests for user data in Hong Kong following passage of the law. A past ASD report argues that China’s confidence in their successful approaches to exporting authoritarian control to its neighbors and weaker democracies will pose a growing challenge to more consolidated democracies. (BBC, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, The Economist, Politico EU, Reuters, ASD).

Elections in Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma avoid major pitfalls: Primaries in Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma last week managed to avoid the issues of previous elections, such as those in WisconsinGeorgia, and the District of Columbia, thanks in part to the widespread use of mail-in voting systems. Both Colorado and Utah established universal vote-by-mail systems prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, Oklahoma allows voters to vote-by-mail without an excuse, with the state recording a record amount of absentee ballot participation. Though massive increases in mail-in voting have led to long waits for election results in other states, Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma began sorting through and counting mail-in ballots prior to Election Day, mitigating major delays. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine has argued that preparing for an increase in mail-in voting is a crucial component of the modifications states should take to protect their citizens’ right to vote in the 2020 presidential election. (The New York Times, The Washington Post, Roll Call, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Oklahoman, ASD).

In case you missed it

  • Senators Mike Crapo (R-WI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to require beneficial ownership disclosure, which would help crack down on fraudulent shell companies—a common vehicle to facilitate authoritarian regimes’ interference in the United States.
  • S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning specific Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, over concerns that the apps may be sharing user data with the Chinese government.
  • In comparison to reputable outlets, coronavirus-related content published by RT and Sputnik achieved higher average engagement per article, according to a recent study by the Oxford Internet Institute.
  • S. Senate and House leaders received closed-door briefings from the White House regarding allegations that Russian operatives offered bounties for the killings of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Some congressional leaders requested more information.
  • Chinese hackers began building malware for the Chinese government’s surveillance of the country’s Muslim Uyghur population in 2013 and continue to do so today, according to Lookout, a San Francisco mobile security firm.
  • Due to a flaw in how Facebook recorded inactivity on apps, the social media platform inadvertently allowed 5,000 developers to gather personal data after a time limit on data collection rights had expired.

ASD in the News

07.02.20 Foreign Interference, “2020Talks.” Comments from Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine

NATO’s approach toward China, Women in International Security’s “WIIS Brussels Voices.” Interview with Fellow and Program Manager Nad’a Kovalčíková

Could the US shut down the Open Skies Treaty?, Al Jazeera. Comments from Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina

Quote of the Week

“One way that [Russian and Chinese nation state-level adversaries] could mess around with the system is that they have a really messy, noisy, low level campaign in a key jurisdiction, and then that could introduce the perception that the entire national campaign is at risk. What we are really trying to encourage here are paper ballots; have an analog process that you can audit the process. Let’s make sure that the integrity is built into the system as much as possible.”

  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Chris Krebs discussing election security amid the coronavirus ahead of November’s general election on Lawfare’s cybersecurity podcast (July 1, 2020)
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.