Congratulations to ASD founder and Director Laura Rosenberger, who has been selected as senior director for China at the National Security Council. We are excited for her and thankful for her leadership and vision over the past four years. Dave Salvo is acting director of ASD as the search commences for a new director, and Zack Cooper continues in his role as co-director.

Our Take

For democracies to succeed in the competition with autocracies, they need not only to act in accordance with their values but also to understand that those values are their principal competitive advantage, Directors Zack Cooper and Laura Rosenberger wrote in Foreign Affairs in December.

China’s engagement with Europe has increased significantly over the past decade. ICYMI, Director Laura Rosenberger and Julie Smith lay out China’s European toolkit and explain what Europe can do to address this threat and protect democracy in a feature video.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian state media last week focused heavily on the content moderation policies implemented by tech platforms following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, depicting the policies as profit-driven censorship by companies with too much power. RT also suggested the policies could portend further purges of alternative viewpoints from social media platforms. As has been the case for some time, Russian state media and diplomats continued to emphasize positive news about the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, while highlighting reports of deaths following vaccinations with the Pfizer vaccine—a pattern observed with Chinese state media as well.

Beyond vaccine coverage, Chinese state media and government officials doubled down on a controversial tweet (later removed by Twitter) from the Chinese embassy in the United States that claimed the CCP’s actions in Xinjiang were justified and benefited Uighur women. Chinese state media also pushed back on the West’s depiction of Xinjiang, calling reports of forced labor and mistreatment of Uighurs in the region the “lie of the century.” Finally, Chinese state media outlets provided extensive coverage of anticipated violence around the inauguration of President-elect Biden, making the implicit and explicit point that U.S. exceptionalism is a myth.

Iranian state media provided extensive coverage of the fallout from the January 6 riots, as evidenced by the fact that “Trump” was the top keyword last week among Tehran-linked accounts tracked by the dashboard. Like its Russian state media counterparts, Iranian state media also highlighted big tech censorship, accusing Democrats of using the unrest to crack down on dissent.

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News and Commentary

U.S. adversaries may seek to benefit from attack on Capitol: On January 17, the FBI filed an affidavit stating that the agency is investigating evidence that a woman who entered the U.S. Capitol on January 6 stole a laptop or hard drive from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office in order to sell it to Russia’s foreign intelligence service. The court filing, which relies on witness statements and videos, notes that the “transfer of the computer device to Russia fell through for unknown reasons.” Speaker Pelosi has confirmed that a laptop used for presentations was stolen during the attack. On January 14, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security produced an intelligence analysis showing that Russia, China, and Iranian state media are exploiting the siege of the Capitol to denigrate democracy, justify authoritarianism, and portray the U.S. as a declining power. Meanwhile, the FBI opened an investigation into whether foreign governments, organizations, or individuals provided financial support to the extremists who planned the attack on the Capitol, including $500,000 worth of cryptocurrency transfers through France to right-wing organizations in the United States on December 6. ASD Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph and Research Assistant Thomas Morley have written about authoritarian efforts to use cryptocurrency payments as a means to conceal financial flows into democratic politics.

Biden administration plans to elevate cybersecurity and emerging technology issues: President-elect Joe Biden called on Congress to implement a range of measures to modernize federal information technology and bolster the nation’s defenses against cyber threats as part of his first coronavirus relief package. The plan proposes roughly $10 billion in cybersecurity funding. Its recommendations include providing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency with $690 million to improve security monitoring and incident response; expanding investment in the Technology Modernization Fund; and increasing the amount of cyberspace technology and engineering experts in the government. Biden’s National Security Council will also include a deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology, which will be filled by Anne Neuberger, and a senior director for technology, which will be filled by Tarun Chhabra, who was a member of ASD’s Offset Strategy Task Force. ASD Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman previously recommended that the NSC establish a technology director position to increase interagency coordination on national security threats created by emerging technologies.

Ukraine says it will hold accountable individuals accused of interfering in U.S. election: On January 13, the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said that the country will do “everything in its power” to hold responsible Ukrainians who sought to influence the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The announcement came two days after the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned multiple Ukrainian individuals associated with a foreign-influence network connected to Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker who the U.S. government previously sanctioned and designated an “active Russian agent.” Derkach was a key figure in a disinformation campaign that promoted unproven allegations of corruption by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s son. Oleksandr Dubinsky, a parliamentarian from President Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, was among the individuals targeted by the January 11 sanctions. ASD Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph has called for the Treasury Department to work with allies and mobilize a range of new regulatory measures to defend against authoritarian interference.

In case you missed it

  • Twitter users are engaging less with tweets from Chinese media outlets since the platform began labeling them as state-affiliated, an analysis by the China Media Project found.
  • The right-wing social media platform Parler, which was previously dropped by Amazon’s hosting service, is back online with help from a Russia-based technology company.
  • The cybersecurity firm FireEye released a white paper and tool to help victims of a sweeping Russian cyberespionage campaign assess its impact and evict the hackers.
  • The White House established a National Artificial Intelligence Office to oversee AI strategy and coordinate research between the government and private sector.
  • The Commerce Department finalized new rules that make it easier for the federal government to block technology imports from China and other U.S. adversaries that could threaten national security.
  • A Hong Kong telecoms provider blocked a website featuring material on the 2019 anti-government protests, marking the first censorship of a local website under the city’s national security law.

ASD in the News

Capitol breach and Cold War lessons for Sino-U.S. ties, War on the Rocks’ “Net Assessment.” Co-hosted by Co-Director Zack Cooper

Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress, The Hill. Comments from Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine

Twitter CEO stands by decision to ban President Trump from platform, Sinclair Broadcast Group. Comments from Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

US President-elect Biden vows to mend ties with Asia, The Straits Times. Comments from Co-Director Zack Cooper

European powers to boost Asia presence to counter China, VOA. Comments from Co-Director Zack Cooper

The post-Trump era in U.S.-China relations has begun, Politico. Comments from Co-Director Zack Cooper

US-China ties: Biden has limited time to repair Trump’s damage, say analysts, SCMP. Comments from Co-Director Zack Cooper

Trump supporters have left Twitter and created an “alternative reality information sewage system,” MSNBC. Interview with Non-Resident Fellow Clint Watts

Quote of the Week

“Here at home, we must strengthen our cybersecurity, safeguard our critical infrastructure, and turn the ongoing technological revolution from a threat to an advantage by integrating new technologies to improve the capacity and superiority of our intelligence into the future.”

  • Avril Haines, nominee to be the director of national intelligence, said during her confirmation hearing.
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.