Beijing’s coronavirus-related assistance to Europe was less about altruism than about deflecting criticism away from the Chinese authorities’ handling of the pandemic, promoting China’s image as a global leader, and fostering business and investment opportunities, Research Assistant Etienne Soula argues in a joint paper with Franziska Luettge, Melissa Ladner, and Manisha Reuter of GMF’s Asia Program.
The United States and its allies were, once again, the primary targets of negative messaging from Russia, China, and Iran’s diplomats and state media last week. Kremlin-funded media hammered the Baltic states for a second straight week after Lithuania joined Latvia in banning several Kremlin-funded media outlets, and attacked various transatlantic countries on issues related to Huawei, Nord Stream 2, and arms control. China’s messengers continued their months-long criticism of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus (which included a renewed effort to promote a conspiracy theory related to the origins of the virus), while also attacking Canada, Australia, and the U.K. for “interfering” in their domestic affairs after the three countries criticized Hong Kong’s new national security law. Finally, Iranian media and government officials took aim at the EU and U.S. in advance of the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, while promoting their close ties with Russia and, to an even greater extent, China, perhaps foreshadowing a reported partnership agreement between Tehran and Beijing.
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British government bars Huawei from its 5G network: Today, the British government announced that it will ban new deployments of Chinese technology company Huawei’s equipment from its 5G infrastructure and phase out existing Huawei 5G equipment by 2027. The move reverses an earlier decision in January to allow the Chinese technology company to hold a limited role in the U.K.’s nascent 5G network, which drew strong criticism from the United States. The Trump administration banned U.S. companies from working with Huawei due to concerns over the company’s close relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and potential surveillance risks, while heavily lobbying European countries to do the same. ASD’s Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman argued that the United States and Europe should collaborate on a shared solution to protect next-generation 5G networks and work together to lessen geopolitical dependence on China, while safeguarding privacy and human rights. (The Washington Post, CNN Business, The Guardian, The Atlantic)
Tech companies begin to halt processes in Hong Kong following new national security law: Facebook, Google, and Twitter, among other major tech companies, have decided to temporarily cease compliance with Hong Kong authorities’ requests for user data in response to the recently implemented national security law. Earlier last week, Chinese-owned TikTok also ceased all operations in Hong Kong and released a transparency report on recent content takedowns by government request. In turn, the Hong Kong government stated that it will penalize companies for noncompliance with the law. Experts allege that it is possible for Hong Kong to terminate the service of tech companies that choose to not comply, which would remove companies from access to the Hong Kong market, resembling Beijing’s use of its market and boycotting efforts to force foreign companies to adhere to demands. ASD Director Laura Rosenberger explained how authoritarian regimes, particularly China and Russia, view the information space as a key domain in their national security strategy for competition against democratic systems, and the new Hong Kong national security law serves as an example of the growing reach of authoritarian censorship. (The New York Times, The Hill, Axios, TikTok, Foreign Policy, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Twitter)
Incumbent wins tight Polish presidential race amidst election security and media concerns: Originally scheduled for May and postponed due to coronavirus, Poland’s runoff presidential election on July 12 saw incumbent President Andrzej Duda narrowly hold off challenger Rafał Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, in a campaign marred by controversy. According to monitoring groups, 87 percent of the state media’s flagship outlet’s coverage of the Trzaskowski campaign was negative, while 97 percent of coverage concerning Duda was positive. Foreign-owned outlets, on the other hand, were on the receiving end of criticism for less flattering portrayals of the president. Duda went so far as to claim that Germany attempted to interfere in the election after a German-owned outlet reported on Duda pardoning a man charged in a pedophilia case. Duda’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro implied that the Polish government might take punitive measures against such foreign-owned media outlets. In addition to these issues, ASD’s Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine highlighted that the compressed time frame of the rescheduled elections and questionable security around vote-by-mail efforts by Polish authorities also posed risks to the integrity of the vote. (ABC, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, Financial Times, Politico EU, Reuters, Rzeczpospolita, Twitter)
In case you missed it
- President Donald Trump publicly confirmed that he ordered a military cyberattack to disrupt the Russian Internet Research Agency’s internet access during the 2018 midterm elections.
- Facebook removed a network of over 100 pages and accounts affiliated with Roger Stone, a Republican operative, citing “coordinated inauthentic behavior” for the takedown.
- As mail-in ballot use increases throughout the United States, voting rights advocates share concerns about the possible surge of arbitrary ballot rejections.
- Democratic lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee included a $500 million increase for election security as part of the House version of the 2021 Financial Services and General Government spending bill.
- S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack indicated that current foreign national journalists working in the United States for Voice of America will not have their visas extended.
- House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership introduced bipartisan legislation that would expand a current State Department program that offers rewards for people who help U.S. authorities catch terrorists and drug traffickers to include those who interfere in U.S. elections.
- China imposed sanctions on Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback in response to recent American sanctions on Chinese officials.
The Trump administration considers banning TikTok, Newsy. Comments from Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman
Explainer: Anger among Iranians over long-term deal with China, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Comments from Middle East Fellow Ariane Tabatabai
US declares ‘most’ of China’s maritime claims in South China Sea illegal, CNN. Comments from Co-director Zack Cooper
Beijing’s claims in South China Sea “unlawful,” says US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South China Morning Post. Comments from Co-director Zack Cooper
China begins “mass production” of new stealth fighter jet, Washington Examiner. Comments from Co-director Zack Cooper
What Iran wants in Afghanistan, Foreign Affairs. Written by Middle East Fellow Ariane Tabatabai and Colin P. Clarke
Satellite images reveal damage at Iranian nuclear facility, NPR. Comments from Middle East Fellow Ariane Tabatabai
“China is engaged in a whole-of-state effort to become the world’s only superpower by any means necessary. The greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality, is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China. It’s a threat to our economic security—and by extension, to our national security.”
- U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray said about the Bureau’s active counterintelligence investigations and the escalation of Chinese activity in this field at a Hudson Institute event (July 7, 2020).