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International press review Extrema Ratio - 11 April

Extrema Ratio focuses on the topics we work on, including geopolitcs, cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference, disinformation, international law, national security.


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China

China plans to ban exports of rare earth magnet tech The Japan News Seima Oki China is considering banning the export of technologies used to produce high-performance rare earth magnets deployed in electric vehicles, wind turbine motors and other products, citing “national security” as a reason, it has been learned.

China’s SenseTime unfurls latest challenger to ChatGPT Bloomberg SenseTime Group Inc. showed off a suite of new artificial-intelligence services developed with the company’s access to vast troves of data and deep computing power, including the latest Chinese challenger to AI phenom ChatGPT.

Chinese officials flock to Twitter to defend TikTok The New York Times Sapna Maheshwari and Steven Lee Myers In an information campaign primarily run on Twitter, Chinese officials and state media organizations widely mocked the United States in the days before and after the hearing, accusing lawmakers of hypocrisy and even xenophobia for targeting the popular app, according to a report released on Thursday by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a nonpartisan initiative from the German Marshall Fund.

Beijing’s tech restructuring signals enhanced competition with the United States Asia Society Policy Institute Patrick Beyrer In early March 2023, Beijing announced a science and technology governance overhaul that suggests China is continuing to lean further into its technological competition with the United States. The institutional reform plan, published after China’s annual parliamentary Two Sessions, said the Chinese Communist Party would establish a Central Science and Technology Commission to coordinate policy in these areas and would restructure the state Ministry of Science and Technology.

  • China and Australia strike a deal over barley tariffs as the Albanese administration pursues constructive dialogue. The Australian government has agreed to temporarily suspend WTO dispute process while China conducts an expedited review of the tariffs. Daniel Hurst.The Guardian. 11 April

  • China sanctions two US organisations for hosting Taiwan’s president. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the Hudson Institute and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library would be banned from any cooperation, exchange or transaction with Chinese institutions or individuals. CNN. 7 April

  • PLA declares end to three-day military drills. Taiwan’s defence ministry has said it will continue to monitor the PLA’s activities. Helen Davidson.The Guardian. 10 April

Tracking China’s April 2023 military exercises around Taiwan. The China Power team at CSIS analyse China’s military exercises and other major activities after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with Speaker McCarthy. China Power. 10 April
US and Philippines launch biggest joint drills yet across the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. The Balikatan drills will run up to the 28th April and involve more than 17,600 military personnel. The Guardian. 11 April
  • China jails two human rights lawyers after closed-door trial. Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi have received jail terms of 14 years and 12 years respectively for state subversion. Ding’s wife, who lives in the US, has been pursuing the case with the US State Department. The Guardian. 10 April

  • Uyghurs living overseas report transnational repression by China. Research by the Uyghur Human Rights Project indicates that four-fifths of Uyghur respondents in Turkey had been threatened by Chinese police or security officials. Yuan Yang and Ayla Jean Yackley. The Financial Times. 11 April

British Embassy in Beijing calls for the release of Ekpar Asat and all those unjustly detained in Xinjiang. The British Embassy shared a post on twitter to mark the 7th anniversary of Asat’s detention for “inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination”. Twitter. 9 April
  • US shares intelligence with India in China border clash. Real-time intelligence provided by the US considered a signal of strengthening security cooperation among Quad members. Khushboo Razdan. South China Morning Post. 11 April

  • South Korean biotech companies diversify in anticipation of US export restrictions. South Korea working to reduce reliance on raw material imports from China after the Biden administration identified biotechnology and bio-manufacturing as strategic industries. Song Jung-a and Jamie Smyth. Financial Times. 7 April

  • EU Chips Act likely to get green light this month. EU lawmakers will meet at the European Parliament’s monthly session on 18 April. The proposed legislation aims to double the bloc’s share of global semiconductor output over the next decade. Reuters,South China Morning Post. 6 April

  • Tesla to build Megapacks battery plant in Shanghai. The facility will produce large-scale utility batteries used to stabilise energy grids. The Shanghai project will match the capacity of Tesla’s existing Megapack factory in California. Business Insider, Technode. 9 April

US House Committee chair has responded to reports of a new Megapack factory in Shanghai with concern. Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair of the House of Representatives’ select committee on China’s Communist Party, has asked how Tesla CEO will balance US government support with its operations in China. South China Morning Post. 11 April
  • Shanghai offering cash awards of up to CNY 100 million to attract high-tech manufacturing projects. Shanghai to embark on a series of favourable policy initiatives to restore investor confidence after Covid lockdowns brought the city to a standstill. South China Morning Post. 6 April

  • Hong Kong’s richest families hit by property slide. Hong Kong’s four biggest family-owned developers see share prices fall as Covid-19 restrictions and interest rates hit the property market. Financial Times. 10 April

  • Alibaba rolls out ChatGPT alternative. The service is currently only available to corporate clients and a limited number of media outlets. Technode. 10 April

  • Volkswagen to build EV academy in Hainan. The German carmaker will work with local authorities to train local talent in China’s southern-most island. Iris Ouyang. South China Morning Post. 10 April

  • Tencent and Douyin sign partnership deal on video content distribution after years of contentious copyright disputes.Users of Bytedance-owned Douyin, Xigua Video and Jinri Toutiao will now be able to produce derivative works based on Tencent-owned videos. Iris Deng.South China Morning Post. 7 April

  • Grasping shadows: The politics of China’s deleveraging campaign. Analysis of the economic and political consequences of China’s deleveraging campaign. Logan Wright. CSIS. 10 April

  • Beijing chooses targets carefully as it goes on offensive in US chip wars. Industry experts believe any further retaliation will be limited, given China’s reliance on Nvidia, Intel and Qualcom. Eleanor Olcott and Richard Waters. Financial Times. 10 April

  • Why defrosting the EU-China investment deal will be difficult. Von der Leyen stresses the need to reassess the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China, a trade deal that has been stalled since 2021. Henry Foy. Financial Times. 6 April

  • The age of energy insecurity: How the fight for resources is upending geopolitics. Jason Bordoff and Meghan L. O’Sullivan. Foreign Policy. 10 April

  • How China’s economic slowdown could hurt the world: Slower Chinese growth threatens the fight against climate change. Daniel H. Rosen and Sophie Lu. Foreign Policy. 10 April

  • Xi Jinping wanted China to be a global soccer power. What went wrong? Andrew McNicol and Andrew Raine.CNN. 7 April

Warning of the prospect of a Chinese-dominated chip market in his annual letter to shareholders, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon stated:

But China, using subsidies and its economic muscle to dominate batteries, rare earths, semiconductors or EVs, could eventually imperil national security by disrupting our access to these products and materials. We cannot cede these important resources and capabilities to another country.

Xinhua

As agreed between China and Brazil, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Federative Republic of Brazil will pay a state visit to China from April 12 to 15, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced on Tuesday.

Xinhua

China's National Health Commission on Monday unveiled the latest plan for COVID-19 vaccination, which aims to raise the immunity levels of certain groups and further reduce the risks of severe infection and death from the virus.

Xinhua

China State Shipbuilding Corporation has signed a cooperation agreement with France's CMA CGM Group to produce 16 large container vessels worth more than 21 billion yuan (about 3 billion U.S. dollars).

Reuters

Chinese warplanes and navy ships were still in the waters around Taiwan, the island's defence ministry said on Tuesday after the end of three days of war games, as Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen criticised Beijing for its "irresponsible" behaviour.
China began the exercises on Saturday after Tsai returned to Taipei following a meeting in Los Angeles with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

USA

Intelligence leak exposes U.S. spying on adversaries and allies The Washington Post Shane Harris and Dan Lamothe On Saturday, as U.S. officials and their foreign allies scrambled to understand how dozens of classified intelligence documents had ended up on the internet, they were stunned — and occasionally infuriated — at the extraordinary range of detail the files exposed about how the United States spies on friends and foes alike.

  • How the latest leaked documents are different from past breaches The New York Times David E. Sanger The cache of 100 or so newly leaked briefing slides of operational data on the war in Ukraine is distinctly different. The data revealed so far is less comprehensive than those vast secret archives, but far more timely. And it is the immediate salience of the intelligence that most worries White House and Pentagon officials.

  • From Discord to 4chan: The improbable journey of a US intelligence leak Bellingcat Aric Toler In recent days, the US Justice Department and Pentagon have begun investigating an apparent online leak of sensitive documents, including some that were marked “Top Secret”. These documents appeared to be dated to early March, around the time they were first posted online on Discord, a messaging platform popular with gamers. However, Bellingcat has seen evidence that some documents dated to January could have been posted online even earlier, although it is unclear exactly when. Bellingcat also spoke to three members of the Discord community where the images had been posted who claimed that many more documents had been shared across other Discord servers in recent months.

Justice Department recently looked into Twitter, lawsuit says The New York Times Kate Conger and Ryan Mac A lawsuit filed on Monday by several former Twitter executives said they had personally spent more than $1 million on legal expenses related to shareholder lawsuits and several government investigations, including an inquiry by the Justice Department.

Biden administration weighs action against Russian cybersecurity firm The Wall Street Journal John D. McKinnon and Dustin Volz President Biden’s Commerce Department is weighing an enforcement action under its online-security rules against Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity company that has long faced accusations of posing a threat to the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter.

Washington vows to tackle AI, as tech titans and critics descend The Washington Post Cat Zakrzewski AI hype and fear have arrived in Washington. After years of hand-wringing over the harms of social media, policymakers from both parties are turning their gaze to artificial intelligence, which has captured Silicon Valley. Lawmakers are anxiously eying the AI arms race, driven by the explosion of OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT. The technology’s uncanny ability to engage in humanlike conversations, write essays and even describe images has stunned its users, but prompted new concerns about children’s safety online and misinformation that could disrupt elections and amplify scams.

CISA director: AI cyber threats the ‘biggest issue we're going to deal with this century’ The Record by Recorded Future Jonathan Greig A top U.S. cyber official expressed grave concerns about the security implications of generative artificial intelligence at a forum on Thursday, warning that legislative action is needed to regulate its use.

State Dept wants ‘cyber assistance fund’ to aid allies and partners against hackers Breaking Defense Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. The State Department’s roving ambassador for cybersecurity, Iraq combat vet Nate Fick, recently said the department would “push” for a special, flexible fund to assist friendly foreign countries in cybersecurity crises, adding he was optimistic Congress would approve the necessary changes to statute.

The real-world costs of the digital race for bitcoin The New York Times Gabriel J.X. Dance, Tim Wallace and Zach Levitt Bitcoin mines cash in on electricity — by devouring it, selling it, even turning it off — and they cause immense pollution. In many cases, the public pays a price. Until June 2021, most Bitcoin mining was in China. Then it drove out Bitcoin operations, at least for a time, citing their power use among other reasons. The United States quickly became the industry’s global leader.

Doomsday to utopia: meet AI’s rival factions The Washington Post Nitasha Tiku Inside Silicon Valley’s AI sector, fierce divisions are growing over the impact of a new wave of artificial intelligence: While some argue it’s imperative to race ahead, others say the technology presents an existential risk. Those tensions took center stage late last month, when Elon Musk, along with other tech executives and academics, signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause on developing “human-competitive” AI, citing “profound risks to society and humanity.”

North Asia

Hardware giant MSI confirms cyberattack after new ransomware group issues demand The Record by Recorded Future Ben Blanchard and Jeanny Kao Taiwanese hardware maker Micro-Star International confirmed Friday that it was the victim of a cyberattack following reports that said a new ransomware group targeted the company.

TSMC talking to US about CHIPS Act 'guidance' amid subsidy concerns Reuters Jonathan Greig Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC said on Monday it is communicating with Washington about its "guidance" for a law designed to boost U.S. semiconductor manufacturing that has sparked concerns about subsidy criteria.

South Korea's Yoon calls strategy meeting to boost chip, battery sectors Reuters Choonsik Yoo and Hyunsu Yim South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered on Monday a national strategy meeting to boost the competitiveness of the country's rechargeable battery and semiconductor sectors, a presidential spokesperson said.

Southeast Asia

Army can't find suspected hacker of personal data of 55m Thais Bangkok Post Wassana Nanuuam The army has yet to find a way to contact a sergeant, a driver at its transport department, suspected of hacking the personal data of 55 million Thais, according to the deputy army spokeswoman.

Vietnam to probe TikTok over "toxic" content Reuters Phuong Nguyen Vietnam will probe TikTok's operations in the country from May, as "toxic" content on the short-video platform "poses a threat to the country's youth, culture and tradition", the Information Ministry said on Thursday.

Cambodia to deport 19 Japanese cybercrime scam suspects Associated Press Nineteen Japanese men detained in Cambodia in January on suspicion of taking part in organized phone and online scams will be deported to their homeland, a Cambodian immigration police officer said Friday.

South & Central Asia

Separatist Indian movement’s Twitter bots spread violent messages The Washington Post Joseph Menn Amid escalating conflict between the Indian government and followers of the Sikh religion, some supporters of a separatist movement are using automated Twitter accounts to promote acts of vandalism and at times violence around the world.

Twitter takes down post on Home Minister globally The Hindu In an apparent first, Twitter appears to have withheld a tweet globally in response to a “legal demand” in India. Journalist and Right to Information activist Saurav Das posted a screenshot of two past tweets, one of which appears to quote Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah, with a message from the social media platform stating that the content has been “withheld in Worldwide”.

Like-minded nations must cooperate to ensure internet remains open, safe and trusted The Strategist Rajeev Chandrasekhar There are about 830 million Indians connected to the internet today. There will be almost 1.3 billion Indians connected to the internet by 2025, making India one of the most connected nations in the world and the largest single presence on the internet.

Australia

‘Consider what damage could be caused’: Government launches cyber ‘war games’ for major banks The Sydney Morning Herald Matthew Knott The nation’s biggest banks and financial services companies will be summoned to a series of unprecedented war-gaming exercises to test how they would respond to debilitating cyberattacks that could upend the lives of tens of millions of Australians.

Tasmania officials: 16,000 student documents leaked by Clop ransomware group The Record by Recorded Future Jonathan Greig Government officials in Tasmania confirmed on Friday that more than 16,000 sensitive documents were leaked by the Clop ransomware group following a data theft incident two weeks ago.

Queensland University of Technology has 'no way to verify' if hacked data from thousands of staff and students was sold ABC Jemima Burt The Queensland University of Technology has admitted it has no way of knowing if some of the highly sensitive data of more than 11,000 current and former staff and students has been sold after its shared drive was hacked.

‘Absolutely critical’ to get DARC space situational system to Australia: Space Forces Indo-Pacific head Breaking Defense Colin Clark The vast landmass of Australia, possessed of clear skies free of city lights or pollution, is the perfect spot to place the most acute space situational awareness systems. Which is why Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, the head of Space Forces Indo-Pacific says it’s “absolutely critical” to get a new radar system there as quickly as can be.

Labor under pressure to ban use of Israeli spyware in investigations of alleged welfare fraud The Guardian Josh Taylor and Stephanie Convery The Albanese government is facing pressure to ban Services Australia from using Israeli spyware that cracks the passcodes on people’s phones as part of investigations of alleged welfare fraud after Australia signed on to a White House statement agreeing to limit the use of the controversial technology.

Cyber criminals, state actors increasingly targeting health sector The Australian Rhiannon Down Cyber security experts have warned the rate at which criminal gangs and state actors are targeting the health care sector is “accelerating” because of the ability to cause significant damage – which increases the likelihood of being paid a ransom – or to steal cutting-edge research, a report has found.

Focusing on the future of Australia’s critical minerals The Strategist Madeleine King Australia’s critical minerals are becoming increasingly important as the world looks to these resources to build the technology needed to reach net-zero emissions. Critical minerals and rare-earth elements are the now the building blocks of the modern economy. They are crucial to increasing our global importance, and central to supporting the shared geostrategic aims of Australia’s allies and partners throughout the region.

The Saturday Paper

Martin McKenzie-Murray

In 2021, the Chinese government quietly became a stakeholder in ByteDance, and has several representatives on its board. As the Australian Strategic Policy Institute wrote in February, in its submission to the federal senate’s select committee on foreign interference through social media, “The PRC party-state is completely intertwined with ByteDance to the extent that the company, like many other major Chinese tech companies, can scarcely be considered a purely private company that is only geared towards commercial ends. These companies are neither state-owned nor private, but hybrid entities that are effectively state-controlled.”

The Strategist

Kaja Kallas

Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, spoke at ASPI’s Sydney Dialogue about how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the importance of securing democracies against malicious cyber actors.

Ukraine - Russia

Twitter is now resurfacing official Russian accounts in search results TechCrunch Ivan Mehta A year after Twitter restricted the Russian government accounts on its platform, the social network appears to have removed those blockings. The Elon Musk-owned platform has resumed surfacing accounts of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Embassy in search results.

UK

The UK government has sparked an encryption row over powers it might never use Financial Times Ciaran Martin Just as the phrase “government by WhatsApp” enters the British political lexicon, the platform itself might be on its way out of the UK. So too might Signal — WhatsApp’s not-for-profit, privacy-obsessed competitor — which has become the messaging app of choice for security-conscious officials across the west. Apple, provider of iMessage, is quieter, but no less unhappy. The problem is a set of new government measures intended to counter the horrors of online child sexual exploitation. These provisions — contained in relatively obscure parts of the much-delayed online safety bill — would give Ofcom, the communications regulator, the power to require messaging platforms to adopt “accredited technology” to detect (and potentially block, and report) illegal images. This is all due for debate in the House of Lords after Easter.

Reuters

Russian forces pounded frontline cities in eastern Ukraine with air strikes and artillery attacks, while U.S. officials stepped up efforts to locate the source of a leak of classified U.S. documents, including those on Ukrainian counter-offensive plans.

The Russians pressed on with their offensive in the eastern Donetsk region where several cities and towns came under heavy bombardment, Ukraine's general staff said on Tuesday.

Middle East

Iran installs cameras in public places to identify, penalise unveiled women Reuters In a further attempt to rein in the increasing number of women defying Iran's compulsory dress code, authorities are installing cameras in public places and thoroughfares to identify and penalise unveiled women, the police announced on Saturday.

Big Tech

‘Twitter Files’ reporter bails on Twitter after Elon makes it ‘unusable’ Daily Beast Justin Baragona Matt Taibbi, one of Elon Musk’s handpicked disseminators of the so-called “Twitter Files,” informed his readers on Friday that he was ditching Twitter after the Chief Twit restricted links to Substack this week.

Microsoft leads effort to disrupt illicit use of Cobalt Strike, a dangerous hacking tool in the wrong hands CyberScoop Elias Groll and AJ Vicens Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, cybersecurity firm Fortra and the Health Information Sharing & Analysis Center announced legal action Thursday to seize domains related to criminal activity involving cracked copies of the security testing application Cobalt Strike, which has become a favorite tool for cybercriminals to carry out attacks around the world.

Tesla hit with class action lawsuit over alleged privacy intrusion Reuters Hyunjoo Jin and Mike Scarcella A California Tesla owner on Friday sued the electric carmaker in a prospective class action lawsuit accusing it of violating the privacy of customers.

While TikTok faces uncertainty abroad, its twin, Douyin, booms at home The Sydney Morning Herald Eryk Bagshaw As the Australian government was busy banning TikTok from all government devices this week, the Chinese social media app’s parent company was busy collecting money.

Artificial Intelligence

Why regulators in Canada and Italy are digging into ChatGPT's use of personal information CBC Jason Vermes As governments rush to address concerns about the rapidly-advancing generative artificial intelligence industry, experts in the field say greater oversight is needed over what data is used to train the systems.


Thanks for reading.


Photo: La Cina di Xi Jinping - Verso un nuovo ordine mondiale sinocentrico?

Gabriele e Nicola Iuvinale

ASE 2023

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