As the Chinese government accelerates its crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, the Trump administration has sharpened its view of the world’s most important bilateral relationship.
What’s happening: Senior officials tell me they are increasingly concerned about Beijing’s treatment of activists in Hong Kong and, increasingly, fear overreach that could also target Taiwan. This comes as any chance of an armistice in the trade war seems to be shrinking away.
Why it matters: Based on numerous conversations with Trump administration officials over the last few weeks, it is clear that many of the president’s top advisers view China first and foremost as a national security threat rather than as an economic partner.
- This is a new normal. And it’s poised to affect huge parts of American life, from the cost of many consumer goods — likely to go up under a punishing new round of tariffs — to the nature of this country’s relationship with the government of Taiwan.
- Trump himself still views China primarily through an economic prism. But the angrier he gets with Beijing, the more receptive he is to his advisers’ hawkish stances toward China that go well beyond trade.
- The big open question remains whether Trump’s anger with China — especially its flooding of the U.S. with deadly fentanyl and its backtracking on promises to make huge agricultural purchases — will ever grow to such a point that he wants to move in a tougher direction on national security and human rights. If he gets to that point, his advisers will have plenty of hawkish policy ideas waiting for his green light.
Reuters HONG KONG (Reuters) — Thousands of Hong Kong residents held a sometimes scrappy anti-government protest on Wednesday at a suburban subway station that was attacked by a mob last month, angry that nobody has yet been prosecuted for the violence.
Some masked protesters clashed with police, spraying fire extinguishers from the inside of Yuen Long station as others smeared the floor with cooking oil, beer and detergent to stop the police from advancing.
Some blocked station exits with bins, booths and other station furniture as others sealed roads outside the station, aiming green laser beams at the lines of shield-bearing officers. Others threw empty fire extinguishers at police lines.
Many inside the station sat quietly.
It was the latest in a series of demonstrations since June against a perceived erosion of freedoms in the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
It also marked a return to aggression after a brief lull in tensions following a huge peaceful march on Sunday.
Sarah Zheng reports: Hong Kong’s summer of protests looks very different from inside and outside the Great Firewall that encircles the internet in mainland China.
On Monday morning, the top trending topic on Weibo, China’s highly regulated version of Twitter, featured a Shanghai tourist who was “harassed and beaten” during a massive pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong on Sunday evening. It racked up 520 million views. A prominent video on the topic from Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily showed the man, surnamed Ma, telling reporters about protesters accosting and accusing him of photographing their faces, under the tagline: “Is this the ‘safety’ that rioters are talking about?”
But in Hong Kong, where there is unfettered access to the internet, the focus was on the peaceful Sunday demonstrations, which organisers said drew 1.7 million people despite heavy rain. On LIHKG, the online forum where Hong Kong protesters discuss and organise their action, one hot topic celebrated Weibo posts on Ma that mentioned a taboo – Beijing’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. The topic cheered the “first time China’s Weibo allowed public discussion of June 4th”, referencing posts about Photoshopped images of Ma in a shirt calling for justice over the crackdown.
Since the protests began in Hong Kong in early June, triggered by a now-shelved extradition bill, there has been a clear dichotomy between how the movement has been portrayed online, inside and outside China. Read the rest of this entry »
Kyle Hooten reports: Chinese state media is using rap music to rally public support in opposition of Hong Kong protesters, even threatening that the Chinese military can “wipe out” the protesters.
Last week, a state-supported Chinese hip-hop group known as Tianfu Shibia or CD Rev, released a rap video titled “Hong Kong’s Fall.” The song accuses America of supporting the massive protests in Hong Kong, which are aimed at preserving some of the region’s sovereignty from China, and threatens the death of the protesters. The group is supported by the unilateral Communist Party of China, according to the Guardian.
“There are 1.4 billion Chinese standing firmly behind Hong Kong police,” the lyrics state. “They will always protect Hong Kong without any hesitation. Airplanes, tanks and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army all gathering in Shenzhen waiting for command to wipe out terrorists [protesters] if needed.” Read the rest of this entry »
Continued American silence will convince China that it can advance on other fronts. We must show Beijing that Hong Kong’s freedom isn’t up for grabs.
Marion Smith writes: Would the United States have let the Soviet Union invade West Berlin? Never. Yet America is on the verge of allowing Communist China to enslave the free city of Hong Kong. If this happens, it will be one of the greatest abdications of U.S. moral leadership in history.
Right now, Communist China is massing paramilitary forces on its border with Hong Kong. The purpose appears obvious: Intimidate the pro-freedom movement that has brought parts of the city to a standstill in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Beijing’s rulers have labeled Hong Kong’s protesters “terrorists,” while stating that “those who play with fire will perish by it.” The echoes of the Tiananmen Square massacre 30 years ago are unmistakable.
These developments are eerily familiar to the Soviet Union’s attempts to dominate West Berlin. Yet the United States always made it clear that we would defend the city. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan even traveled there personally, proving by their presence that America stood with its residents.
Compare that with today. The best President Donald Trump can muster is a tweet: “Everyone should be calm and safe!”
A new Cold War
It’s time to admit that we’re in a new Cold War. The blockade of Berlin in 1948 was widely seen as the opening salvo of the decades-long struggle between freedom and communism. With Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong already well underway, maybe now we’ll admit that another struggle has arrived. The Soviet Union is gone, and America’s new adversary is the Chinese Communist Party.
Yet unlike the first Cold War, this time it’s unclear whether America has the will to win. Read the rest of this entry »
America’s relative silence over the Hong Kong protests and the impending Chinese crackdown is deafening, and telling. It’s also dangerous.
John Daniel Davidson writes: The protests in Hong Kong that began two months ago have now shut down the city’s airport—one of the busiest in the world—amid violent clashes with riot police in recent days. Chinese troops, we’re told, are amassing along the border even as Chinese propaganda outlets warned Tuesday that protesters were “asking for self-destruction” and Chinese officials decried the demonstrations as “deranged acts” that marked “the first signs of terrorism.”
In other words, it appears the situation is about to get much worse. Why has the American response to all this been so muted? Hong Kong is the most important city in the world right now, and the cause of the pro-democracy protesters is one that all Americans should rally behind.
Yet, rhetorically, it’s not even clear what side the United States is on. President Trump has been content to offer platitudes and unhelpful observations like, “We’ll see what happens. But I’m sure it’ll work out. I hope it works out for everybody, including China, by the way.” On Tuesday, he tweeted, “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”
Okay, thanks for that, president of United States and leader of the free world.
This is the future liberals want… https://t.co/Rq83wuNPTU— EducatëdHillbilly™ (@RobProvince) August 15, 2019
News and social media have largely focused on other stories, like Chris Cuomo flying off the handle at some random guy in New York calling him “Fredo,” or whether the Clintons had Jeffrey Epstein assassinated, or how stupid the 2020 Democratic candidates look eating corn dogs and pandering at the Iowa Sate Fair.
Meanwhile in Hong Kong, protesters are waving the American flag and singing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” They do this because they know that America is an idea and that the principles of our Founding are universal. Read the rest of this entry »
Kaput. Fini. Terminado. 完. законченный. Done. Over. No more.
Dan Harris writes: Not sure why nobody has just come out and said this yet, but Hong Kong as an international business and financial center is no more. I take no comfort in saying this because I have many friends in Hong Kong and I’ve always loved going there, but Hong Kong’s special position is over. Kaput. Fini. Terminado. 完. законченный. Done. Over. No more.
I challenge you to say “one country two systems” with a straight face.
For the last few months I have been relentlessly asking everyone I know in Hong Kong or who used to be in Hong Kong or who at one time contemplated setting up a business in Hong Kong how what has been happening in Hong Kong has and will or would impact their doing business in Hong Kong. Based on those responses and on my own experience with how international companies operate, I foresee the following:
- Companies that were deciding between Hong Kong or Singapore for their Asian headquarters will choose somewhere other than Hong Kong.
- Growing companies with offices in Hong Kong and with offices somewhere else in Asia will increase their hiring outside Hong Kong and decrease or eliminate their hiring in Hong Kong.
- Companies with offices in Hong Kong and with offices somewhere else in Asia will be move personnel from their Hong Kong office to their other offices.
- Fewer contracts will be drafted with Hong Kong as the venue for arbitration.
- Companies will move their Hong Kong bank accounts elsewhere. It is no coincidence HSBC stock hit its 52 week low today.
- Travelers will choose somewhere other than Hong Kong as their Asia stopover. It is no coincidence Cathay Pacific stock hit its 52 week low today.
- Many Hong Kongers will eventually go elsewhere.
Hong Kong International Airport has canceled all remaining flight departures for the second straight day due to protests.
Riot police stormed the Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday as protests by thousands of anti-government demonstrators forced flights to be canceled for the second straight day.
Travelers at one of the world’s busiest airports were advised that check-in had been suspended and hundreds flights were cancelled, and that they should leave the terminals as quickly as possible and contact airlines for more information.
The clashes appeared to represent an escalation 10 weeks after the protest’s massive, peaceful beginnings in early June, when hundreds of thousands marched in the semi-autonomous city against a now-suspended extradition bill. A Chinese official said Tuesday that protesters “have begun to show signs of terrorism,” and China appeared to be weighing a crackdown on the democratic movement.
Bolstered by anger over the crackdown by Hong Kong police, the protests has grown more confrontational in recent weeks and reached new levels last Monday with a city-wide strike that disrupting traffic and hundreds of flights.
After weeks of issuing warnings, but deferring to Hong Kong authorities to quell protests, Beijing has hinted at a more assertive posture. Chinese paramilitary police were seen in video released by the state holding exercises in Shenzhen, China, which sits across the border from Hong Kong. Images circulated online showing a convoy of armored personnel carriers from the People’s Armed Police traveling to the site. Read the rest of this entry »
BEIJING— Chun Han Wong reports: Chinese authorities condemned violent weekend demonstrations in Hong Kong as “deranged” acts that marked the emergence of “the first signs of terrorism” in the semiautonomous city, vowing a merciless crackdown on the perpetrators.
The escalating rhetoric from Beijing followed a day of heated protests in Hong Kong, including the hurling of petrol bombs, and came as thousands of protesters gathered at Hong Kong’s international airport on Monday, prompting officials to cancel all flights for the rest of the day apart from those already en route to the air-travel hub.
“Radical Hong Kong protesters have repeatedly used extremely dangerous tools to attack police officers,” a spokesman for the Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office told a news briefing on Monday, according to Chinese state media. “The first signs of terrorism are starting to appear.”
On Sunday, police in riot gear fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of protesters across Hong Kong, some of whom threw bricks and what police identified as Molotov cocktails and smoke bombs. Police said an officer was hospitalized with burns to his legs after being hit by a Molotov cocktail hurled by a protester.Read the rest of this entry »
At least 100 flights were canceled and subway service widely disrupted in Hong Kong on Monday as a pro-democracy movement called for a general strike.
Cathay Pacific and other domestic carriers such as Hong Kong Airlines were the most affected by the flight cancellations, public broadcaster RTHK said. Airport express train service was also suspended.
A citywide strike and demonstrations in seven districts in Hong Kong have been called for Monday afternoon. They follow a weekend of clashes with police on the streets. Read the rest of this entry »
Alvin Lum reports: Hundreds of workers at 34 banks joined calls for a citywide strike next week against the government’s handling of recent unrest which has rocked Hong Kong.
The finance staff added their voices to an umbrella group of 95 unions from the public and private sectors behind the action planned for Monday.
The appeal from the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) and staff from local banks, including international investment banks and Chinese state-owned banks, was also echoed by teachers and art groups.
Civil servants, meanwhile, got the go-ahead from police to host an unprecedented rally on Friday evening in Chater Garden to urge the government to respond to the demands of protesters against the now-abandoned extradition bill.
The idea of a strike was first floated weeks ago on an online forum, and has gained momentum after two protests that descended into clashes over which 44 people have been charged with rioting. Read the rest of this entry »
Alice Su reports: The latest protests in Hong Kong appear to have touched a nerve in Beijing, where officials and state media have escalated rhetoric against the pro-democracy movement, accusing the United States of interference and ominously affirming the People’s Liberation Army’s ability to intervene at the Hong Kong government’s request.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a news conference Wednesday morning that the protests on Sunday were “intolerable.”
“Some radical protesters’ actions challenge the authority of the central government and the bottom line of ‘One Country, Two Systems,’” Wu said, adding that the ministry would follow Article 14 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
“One Country, Two Systems” is China’s way of referring to its administration of Hong Kong, under which it is part of China but allowed to maintain some degree of autonomy. Article 14 states that the Chinese government’s military forces stationed in Hong Kong will not interfere in local affairs unless the Hong Kong government requests assistance “in the maintenance of public order” or for disaster relief.
As mass protests against a proposed extradition bill morphed into a desperate pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong over the last two months, the local government has denied rumors that the Chinese military might intervene. Some analysts who study Hong Kong expressed skepticism that Beijing would send its military, which could have devastating consequences.
But Chinese officials and media are now stoking nationalist anger with rhetoric that’s been used to pave the way for crackdowns in the past, specifically with accusations of foreign intervention and condemnations of “chaos” and “disorder.”
Sunday’s protests broadened the scope of conflict as protesters shifted from targeting the Hong Kong territorial government and police to directly challenging the Chinese government.
Thousands marched to Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong, chanting a pro-independence slogan. They splattered the Chinese government emblem with eggs and black ink and spray-painted the walls with derogatory terms for China. Read the rest of this entry »
- John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, “got into a physical altercation” with a Chinese official during President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing last year, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Kelly reportedly told colleagues he would not accept an apology from the official unless it occurred under a US flag in Washington, DC.
- Relations between Washington and Beijing are tense as Trump spars with the Chinese government over trade and other issues.
John Haltiwanger reports: John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, “got into a physical altercation” with a Chinese official during President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing last year and refused to accept an apology, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The official was reportedly attempting to access the nuclear football, a 45-pound aluminum briefcase that’s always by the president’s side, carried by a military aide. It contains information and instructions for the president on how to conduct a nuclear strike.
Kelly told colleagues he would not accept an apology from the official unless it occurred under a US flag in Washington, DC, according to the report.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. Read the rest of this entry »
Adam Kredo reports: Explanatory media website Vox has been receiving money from a Chinese communist government-backed front organization.
A recent Vox blog post by foreign editor Yochi Dreazen titled, “The big winner of the Trump-Kim summit? China” discloses at the bottom of the piece that the reporting was subsidized by the China-United States Exchange Foundation.
“This reporting was supported by the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a privately funded nonprofit organization based in Hong Kong that is dedicated to ‘facilitating open and constructive exchange among policy-makers, business leaders, academics, think-tanks, cultural figures, and educators from the United States and China,'” the post states in a note at the bottom.
CUSEF, as first noted by Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, is a front organization backed by the Chinese government and established to spread the party’s propaganda.
“You know CUSEF is chaired by a top official in the Chinese Communist Party’s influence operations network, right?” Rogin queried Vox on Twitter.
“Tung Chee-hwa, CUSEF’s chair, is vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which is connected to the United Front Work Department, the Communist Party agency designed to advance party objectives with outside actors,” Rogin went on to note.
Vox’s ties to CUSEF are receiving increased scrutiny in light of efforts to lawmakers to counter China’s promotion of propaganda in the U.S. media. Read the rest of this entry »
The number of informants executed in the debacle is higher than initially thought.
Zach Dorfman reports: It was considered one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades: Over a two-year period starting in late 2010, Chinese authorities systematically dismantled the agency’s network of agents across the country, executing dozens of suspected U.S. spies. But since then, a question has loomed over the entire debacle.
How were the Chinese able to roll up the network?
Now, nearly eight years later, it appears that the agency botched the communication system it used to interact with its sources, according to five current and former intelligence officials. The CIA had imported the system from its Middle East operations, where the online environment was considerably less hazardous, and apparently underestimated China’s ability to penetrate it.
“The attitude was that we’ve got this, we’re untouchable,” said one of the officials who, like the others, declined to be named discussing sensitive information. The former official described the attitude of those in the agency who worked on China at the time as “invincible.”
Other factors played a role as well, including China’s alleged recruitment of former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee around the same time. Federal prosecutors indicted Lee earlier this year in connection with the affair.
But the penetration of the communication system seems to account for the speed and accuracy with which Chinese authorities moved against the CIA’s China-based assets.
“You could tell the Chinese weren’t guessing. The Ministry of State Security [which handles both foreign intelligence and domestic security] were always pulling in the right people,” one of the officials said.
“When things started going bad, they went bad fast.” Read the rest of this entry »
The company sampled searches from a Beijing-based website to hone its blacklists.
Engineers working on the censorship sampled search queries from 265.com, a Chinese-language web directory service owned by Google.
Unlike Google.com and other Google services, such as YouTube, 265.com is not blocked in China by the country’s so-called Great Firewall, which restricts access to websites deemed undesirable by the ruling Communist Party regime.
265.com was founded in 2003 by Cai Wensheng, a Chinese entrepreneur known as the “the godfather of Chinese webmasters.” In 2008, Google acquired the website, which it now operates as a subsidiary. Records show that 265.com is hosted on Google servers, but its physical address is listed under the name of the “Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co.,” which is based out of an office building in northwest Beijing’s Haidian district.
265.com provides news updates, links to information about financial markets, and advertisements for cheap flights and hotels. It also has a function that allows people to search for websites, images, videos, and other content. However, search queries entered on 265.com are redirected to Baidu, the most popular search engine in China and Google’s main competitor in the country.
It appears that Google has used 265.com as a de facto honeypot for market research, storing information about Chinese users’ searches before sending them along to Baidu. Google’s use of 265.com offers an insight into the mechanics behind its planned Chinese censored search platform, code-named Dragonfly, which the company has been preparing since spring 2017.
After gathering sample queries from 265.com, Google engineers used them to review lists of websites that people would see in response to their searches. The Dragonfly developers used a tool they called “BeaconTower” to check whether the websites were blocked by the Great Firewall. They compiled a list of thousands of websites that were banned, and then integrated this information into a censored version of Google’s search engine so that it would automatically manipulate Google results, purging links to websites prohibited in China from the first page shown to users. Read the rest of this entry »
An explosion was reported on Thursday outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Bystanders shared video of the aftermath on social media, showing images of smoke unfurling in the street and what appeared to be police vehicles surrounding the building in the city’s Chaoyang District.
American and Chinese officials did not immediatly respond to comments on the incident.
The scene near the US Embassy in Beijing. pic.twitter.com/AbTc32f3cw
— Ahron Young (@AhronYoung) July 26, 2018
China and the U.S. are in the middle of a trade dispute … (more)
This is a developing story. Read the rest of this entry »
U.S. strategy in region rooted in ‘principled realism’ and shared interests, defense secretary says.
SINGAPORE— Nancy A. Youssef reports: The U.S. and China appear to be headed for a more confrontational relationship in Southeast Asia as Washington warns of a more aggressive response to the militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned there could be “much larger consequences” in the future from China’s moves to install weapons systems on islands in the sea. He didn’t specify what the consequences would be.
The warning, in response to a question from an audience member, came after a speech by Mr. Mattis in which he said “despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”
He also called his decision to not invite China to the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise, slated to begin later in June, “an initial response” to its increased militarization of the South China Sea. Read the rest of this entry »
In April 2018 the Chinese Air Force 15th Airborne Corps completed a yearlong reorganization effort that involved disbanding the three airborne divisions (the 43rd, 44th and 45th) and reassigning divisional headquarters and support troops as well as the units of the airborne regiments to six independent airborne infantry brigades (127th, 128th, 130th, 131st, 133rd, and 134th) which now report directly to the headquarters of the 15th Airborne Corps. While the new airborne brigades have some support troops they now also receive logistics, maintenance, engineer and signal support from the 15th Corps Strategic Support Brigade, as well as the Aviation Brigade (over a hundred helicopters and large UAVs) and Special Operations Brigade (airborne commandos and recon troops).
After the reorganization, the Chinese airborne force still has about 35,000 personnel who still serve in the Air Force 15th Airborne Corps. The airborne units no longer operate as three airborne divisions and an aviation brigade. The airborne divisions no longer exist as the brigades can operate independently and report directly to corps headquarters. This brigade organization makes it easier to rapidly deploy airborne forces and copies a practice that many other nations have adopted over the last few decades.
The Chinese have had some airborne units since the 1950s and these belonged to the air force from the beginning. The 15th Airborne Corps was created in the 1960s and was always considered a strategic reserve unit. By the late 1980s, China had enough air transports to move an entire division (about 10,000 troops) anywhere in China. At the time such a movement took weeks to organize and monopolized most of the air transport aircraft the military had.
Moving a division anywhere by air on short notice was first done in 2008 when one division was sent to Sichuan province to assist in earthquake relief. The early large scale movements by air movements were experimental. Read the rest of this entry »
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a strongly nationalistic tone in his closing address Tuesday to the annual session of the ceremonial parliament, saying China would never allow “one inch” of territory to be separated from it.
Speaking before the nearly 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress who had earlier abolished term limits on his rule, Xi declared that the Chinese people were now “closer now than at any time in history to realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
“Maintaining national sovereignty, territorial integrity and complete unification of the motherland is the common aspiration of all Chinese,” Xi said.
“In the face of national righteousness and the tide of history, all attempts or tricks aimed at dividing the motherland are doomed to failure,” Xi said to loud applause. “All will receive the condemnation of the people and the punishment of history.”
China to Ban Citizens with Bad ‘Social Credit’ Rating from Raking Flights or Using Trains for Up to a YearPosted: March 19, 2018
President Xi Jinping’s plan based on principle ‘once untrustworthy, always restricted’ to come into effect on 1 May.
China said it will begin applying its so-called social credit system to flights and trains and stop people who have committed misdeeds from taking such transport for up to a year.
People who would be put on the restricted lists included those found to have committed acts like spreading false information about terrorism and causing trouble on flights, as well as those who used expired tickets or smoked on trains, according to two statements issued on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website on Friday.
Those found to have committed financial wrongdoings, such as employers who failed to pay social insurance or people who have failed to pay fines, would also face these restrictions, said the statements which were dated 2 March.
It added that the rules would come into effect on 1 May.
A remarkable moment during a media conference of the 13th National People’s Congress has ignited a social media storm.
A female journalist attracted the attention during a live broadcast when she disapprovingly glanced at the woman next to her posing a rather long and stylized question. Everything about this controversy and its aftermath. (Turn on English subtitles if needed).
Go here for more
An Iranian oil tanker ablaze off the Chinese coast was at risk of exploding or sinking, authorities said Monday, as they reported there was no sign of survivors 36 hours after the vessel erupted in flames.
A huge fire was still raging around the stricken ship, which had been carrying 136,000 tons of light oil, with fierce heat and thick black smoke billowing from the vessel and the surrounding sea.
The body of one crew member was found aboard the tanker, an Iranian official said.
Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency that the body was sent to Shanghai for identification.
Rescuers were attempting to reach the other 29 Iranian and two Bangladeshi crew members but were being beaten back by toxic clouds, authorities said.
The Panamanian-flagged 274-meter tanker Sanchi is “in danger of exploding or sinking,” the ministry said.
The U.S. Navy sent a military aircraft to assist with the search, which spanned an area of about 12,350 square km but said in a statement it did not locate any of the tanker’s 32 missing crew members.
The Sanchi tanker, run by Iran’s top oil shipping operator, collided Saturday evening with the CF Crystal about 300 km off China’s coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.
Chinese state media showed pictures of the tanker ablaze and billowing plumes of thick dark smoke on Sunday. China sent four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site, while South Korea dispatched a ship and a helicopter.
The Panama-registered tanker was sailing from Iran to South Korea carrying 136,000 metric tons of condensate, an ultra light crude. That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels, worth about $60 million, based on global crude oil prices.
The freighter, which was carrying U.S. grain, suffered limited damage and the 21 crew members, all Chinese nationals, were rescued.
The extent of the environmental harm and size of the spill were not yet known, but based on the tanker’s tonnage, it has the potential to be the worst since 1991 when 260,000 metric tons of oil leaked off the Angolan coast. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom DiChristopher reports: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday appeared to threaten to disrupt Chinese crude oil shipments to North Korea following the hermit kingdom’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday.
China’s refusal to completely cut off energy exports to North Korea have been a sticking point as the United States leads the charge to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
Haley revealed during a speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York City that President Donald Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday morning to tell him the time has come for China to cut off crude oil supplies to North Korea.
“We now turn to President Xi to also take that stand. We believe he has an opportunity to do the right thing for the benefit of all countries. China must show leadership and follow through. China can do this on its own, or we can take the oil situation into our own hands,” she said.
Authoritarian regimes like Russia and China are outspending the United States in the realm of soft power, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the National Democratic Institute’s annual Democracy Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C. last night.
“Our budget is $650 million—a fraction of what our adversaries spend,” he said “Today, Russia is spending over a billion dollars on covert propaganda operations,” he added. “Russian TV, radio, and internet bots continue to push misinformation without almost no pushback from the US.”
The authoritarian threat required greater investment in non-kinetic resources for exerting influence abroad, Murphy added.
“We have more people working at military grocery stores than diplomats deployed abroad,” he said.
Facebook estimates that 10 million people saw the [Kremlin’s] paid ads and up to 150 million people saw other content from the fake accounts, which Facebook has traced to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed troll farm, WIRED reports:
Psychologists and students of advertising say the ads were cleverly designed to look like other internet memes, and to appeal to readers’ emotions. Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor of psychology at NYU, says he was surprised at the sophistication of the campaign. “It wasn’t transparent lies. It was just pushing our buttons,” says Van Bavel. “To me, this is more pernicious. It’s not a matter of fiction that we can root out with fact-checking. It’s more about turning Americans against each other.”
“The IRA are not amateurs, they’re clearly familiarizing themselves with the kind of content that resonates with the target audiences,” says Renee DiResta, researcher with Data for Democracy, a nonprofit group that has been digging into the data on Russian-linked accounts.
The threat of disinformation and other active measures employed by the Kremlin requires adaptation and innovation from the advanced democracies, according to NATO’s Secretary General.
“Defense is no longer about just looking at a map and deciding where to place armies,” Jens Stoltenberg said this week. “It’s also about countering misinformation. Protecting infrastructure. Making our societies resilient to attack.”
“The geography of danger has shifted,” he added.
The NDI dinner honored three civil society groups on the front lines of confronting disinformation and false news – . Rappler from the Philippines, the Ukraine-based StopFake and the Oxford Internet Institute.
“When a lie is repeated 1 million times it becomes truth, especially when it’s state-sponsored hate,” said Rapplerdotcom‘s Maria Ressa. “A sock puppet network of 26 fake accounts can reach 3 million.”
Disinformation “exploits the fracture lines of society,” she said, adding that she received an average of 90 hate messages per hour.” Read the rest of this entry »
Chance Miller reports: Earlier this year, Apple was forced to remove several VPN apps from the App Store in China due to regulatory reasons. At the time, Tim Cook explained that he would rather not remove them, but was forced to comply.
Now, United States Senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy are pressing Apple for more information…
In a letter sent to Tim Cook, Cruz and Leahy say Apple may be “enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet,” noting that China has an “abysmal human rights record.”
Specifically, Cruz and Leahy pointed to Cook’s acceptance of the Newseum’s 2017 Free Expression Award. While receiving the award, Cook remarked that Apple “enables people around the world to speak up.” The senators, however, argue that Apple’s removal of VPN apps in China do the exact opposite of that:
While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to “speak up.” To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese governments, it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China’s new regulations targeting online anonymity.
Cook and Leahy outline a list of questions they want Cook to answer. Read the rest of this entry »
Beijing has been increasingly clamping down on use of VPNs in recent weeks. This has prompted concerns among various groups that it will stifle academic research and international trade.
[VIDEO] Hong Kong’s PLA Garrison Stages Biggest Military Parade in 20 Years as Xi Jinping Inspects TroopsPosted: June 30, 2017
President Xi Jinping today inspected 20 squads of the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong at the biggest military parade since the city’s handover to China – marking 20 years since the army was first stationed here in 1997.
Xi Asserts Authority in Hong Kong
HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected troops based in Hong Kong on Friday as he asserts Chinese authority over the former British colony China took control of 20 years ago.
Xi rode in an open-top jeep past rows of soldiers lined up on an airstrip on his visit to the People’s Liberation Army garrison. He called out “Salute all the comrades” and “Salute to your dedication” as he rode by each of the 20 troop formations.
Armored personnel carriers, combat vehicles, helicopters and other pieces of military hardware were arrayed behind the troops.
It was a rare display of the Chinese military’s might in Hong Kong, where it normally maintains a low-key presence.
Xi, wearing a buttoned-up black jacket in the steamy heat, spent about 10 minutes reviewing the troops at the Shek Kong base in Hong Kong’s suburban New Territories. It’s part of a visit to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, when Britain gave up control of the Asian financial hub to China on July 1, 1997.
President Donald Trump is growing his brand in China.
David Francis reports: According to a report from the Associated Press, the Chinese government has approved nine Trump trademarks it had earlier rejected, in whole or in part. The latest development is likely to add to the growing controversy over Trump’s potential conflicts of interest, and especially charges that he could be in violation of the emolument clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is supposed to prevent a sitting president from gaining a financial benefit from foreign nations.
There are now three lawsuits alleging the president is violating the Constitution by refusing to put his assets into a blind trust; Trump has put his son in charge of managing his many business dealings. Trump’s new Washington hotel is a particular sore spot, since many visiting delegations stay there. One was filed by nearly 200 Congressional Democrats Wednesday; a joint one was filed by the attorney generals of Washington, D.C. and Maryland; and a similar suit was filed by the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Benefitting from foreign governments, whether through hotel bills or the granting of trademarks, lie at the center of all these cases. In the case of the China trademarks, records don’t show why these requests were initially rejected or why they were reconsidered. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Krauthammer: North Korean Nuclear Program Faces Pressure from China, U.S. – Will Anything Change?Posted: April 28, 2017
It seems to be a deliberate provocation by the leadership in Pyongyang, but it is not, as John Roberts pointed out, the kind of ICBM that would threaten us. It is still liquid-fueled, so it is not advanced in its technology. It seems to me simply a deliberate provocation with us at the Security Council, with our secretary of state presiding over the meeting, with all the threats, with the president saying we are near, or at least there’s a threat of a major, major conflict here – trying to challenge the Trump administration to say, “Show us what you’ve got.” And what the administration seems to be saying is, “We’ve got China.” Well, we don’t see anything from China. We just heard that the Chinese are in contact with the North Koreans to try and put pressure on them not to test. Well, they did test. So I think we are now at point where we are going to see whether the Chinese connection is an illusion whether Trump was taken in by the meeting with Xi, president of China, or whether this is really a process where they have agreed to do things over time, but we haven’t seen a thing yet, and this is a way for the North Koreans to try, at least preliminarily, to call the American bluff.
Source: National Review
China Deploys 150,000 Troops to Deal with Possible North Korean Refugees Over fears Trump May Strike Kim Jong-unPosted: April 10, 2017
The Chinese army has reportedly deployed 150,000 troops to the North Korean border to prepare for pre-emptive attacks after the United States dropped airstrikes on Syria.
President Donald Trump‘s missile strike on Syria on Friday was widely interpreted as a warning to North Korea.
The troops have been dispatched to handle North Korean refugees and ‘unforeseen circumstances’, such as the prospect of preemptive attacks on North Korea, the news agency said.
China’s top nuclear envoy arrived in Seoul Monday for talks on the North Korean threat, as the United States sent the naval strike group to the region and signalled it may act to shut down Pyongyang’s weapons program.
Speculation of an imminent nuclear test is brewing as the North marks major anniversaries including the 105th birthday of its founding leader on Saturday – sometimes celebrated with a demonstration of military might.
Wu Dawei, China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, met with his South Korean counterpart on Monday to discuss the nuclear issue.
The talks come shortly after Trump hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a summit at which he pressed Pyongyang’s key ally to do more to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions.
‘(We) are prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us,’ US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after the summit.
He added however that Beijing had indicated a willingness to act on the issue.
‘We need to allow them time to take actions,’ Tillerson said, adding that Washington had no intention of attempting to remove the regime of Kim Jong-Un. Read the rest of this entry »