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International press review Extrema Ratio - 18 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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Extrema Ratio

Il de profundis della von der Leyen all'UE Siamo davvero una colonia cinese in procinto di essere depredata da Pechino?

Sono parole importanti quelle pronunciate oggi (18 aprile) da Ursula von der Leyen al Parlamento Europeo. In un passaggio del suo discorso, infatti, la Presidente della Commissione ha messo il dito nella "piaga cinese", affermando che

"Negli ultimi decenni la Cina è diventata una potenza economica e un attore globale chiave. Ora sta riducendo la sua dipendenza dal mondo mentre aumenta la dipendenza del mondo da se stesso. Dobbiamo sviluppare un nuovo approccio".

On April 1, 2023, Central Military Commission (CMC) Chairman Xi Jinping and State Council Premier Li Qiang promulgated Order No. 753 of the CMC called "Regulation on military service". The Conscription Regulations will enter into force on May 1, 2023.

China

Hikvision internal review found contracts targeted Uyghurs Axios Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Ina Fried Chinese surveillance giant Hikvision has repeatedly denied reports that the company is complicit in human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang. But new details from an internal review of its contracts with police agencies in the region reveal the company has known since at least 2020 that some of its Xinjiang contracts were a "problem" because they included language about targeting Uyghurs as a group, according to a recording of a recent private company meeting obtained by technology trade publication IPVM and exclusively shared with Axios.

Discord leak suggests China doesn’t need TikTok to find U.S. secrets The Washington Post Will Oremus The Discord document dump is the latest in a colorful 21st-century tradition of secrets spilled online, from WikiLeaks’ earliest uploads to Russian operatives’ hack of the Democratic National Committee. At a time when swaths of the U.S. government are fixated on Chinese spycraft, it serves as a reminder that information leaks in the internet age can come from just about anywhere — a risk the U.S. government has generally accepted as a price of free speech, said Anumpam Chander, a law professor at Georgetown University and an expert on technology regulations.

Why China's chip industry still has power despite export curbs Nikkei Asia Mo Yelin, Dy Zhihang, Liu Peilin and Qian Tong Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned Japan, "Do not do unto others what you don't want done unto you" after Tokyo decided to curb exports of semiconductor gear, joining a U.S.-led pact to limit access for Chinese companies to cutting-edge chip technology.

The green energy factory facing a storm of China backlash The Wall Street Journal Phred Dvorak Chinese clean-energy manufacturers were enticed by huge green subsidies to expand in the U.S. Now, they are confronting a storm of anti-China sentiment. Projects across the country involving Chinese companies face resistance, including a $3.5 billion battery factory Ford Motor Co. is setting up with the help of Chinese battery company Contemporary Amperex Technology Co.

  • China ready to broker Israel-Palestine peace talks. Foreign minister Qin Gang has held separate calls with Israeli and Palestinian diplomats. Beijing is on a diplomatic offensive, having recently brokered the restoration of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Guardian.

  • Transnational oppression: Two charged in New York with running secret “police station” for China. The defendants were involved in counter-protests during President Xi’s visit to Washington in 2015 and helped locate Chinese dissident living in the US. Joe Miller, Stefania Palma and Demetri Sevastopulo. Financial Times.

  • Joshua Wong sentenced in another Hong Kong activism case. The activist has been sentenced to three months in prison for “doxxing” - disclosing personal information about a police officer during 2019 anti-government protests. Kanis Leung. The Independent.

  • Navy could base permanent warship in Asia to counter China threat. The permanent deployment of at least one Type-31 frigate is under discussion as Western allies attempt to strengthen naval presence in the region. George Grylls. The Times.

  • PLA on high alert as US warship sails through Taiwan Strait in “routine transit”. The US navy sails warships through the strait around once a month as part of regular freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea. Reuters.

  • China’s economic growth exceeds expectations. GDP grew 4.5 percent year on year in the first quarter. Strong growth in exports and infrastructure investment as well as a rebound in retail consumption and property prices said to be driving recovery. Joe Leahy, Sun Yu, and Edward White. Financial Times.

  • Tesla workers in Shanghai complain of bonus cuts in response to fatal safety incident. Staff at Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory took to social media to appeal to Elon Musk. Reuters.

  • Price war over electric vehicles erupts in China. Over 40 carmakers have discounted electric and gas-powered vehicles in China this year as auto sales slump. Claire Fu and Daisuke Wakabayashi. The New York Times

  • Volkswagen, BMW, Nissan, Rivian, Hyundai and Volvo electric vehicles will lose access to US tax credit under new battery sourcing rules. The rules are aimed at weaning the United States off dependence on China for EV battery supply chains. David Shepardson. Reuters.

  • TikTok owner offers to buy back employee shares as IPO is stalled among political headwinds. Bytedance’s stock repurchase offer has remained steady despite company valuation declining. Coco Feng. South China Morning Post.

  • Tao Wang on making sense of China’s economy. An interview with chief China economist at UBS. Andrew Peaple. The Wire.

  • The existential threat to Aukus: choking on US red tape. Technology sharing under AUKUS agreement faces bureaucratic hurdles. Mark Magnier.South China Morning Post.

  • A guide to TikTok bans around the world. Details of the new Montana TikTok ban and other restrictions on the app around the world. Arran Hope.The China Project.

  • Podcast: How serious is the risk of war over Taiwan. Richard C. Bush. Ryan Hass and David Dollar.The Brookings Institution.

USA

F.B.I. arrests two on charges tied to Chinese police outpost in New York The New York Times William K. Rashbaum and Karen Zraick Two men were arrested on Monday and charged with conspiring to act as agents of the Chinese government in connection with a secret police outpost they operated in Manhattan’s Chinatown, federal officials announced.

  • U.S. arrests two, charges dozen for alleged illegal U.S. activities by Chinese security agents The Wall Street Journal James Fanelli, James T. Areddy and Aruna Viswanatha More than 40 Chinese security officers and their associates wielded thousands of fake social-media personas to discredit American policies and set up a secret police station in New York City to harass China’s critics, U.S. prosecutors charged in three complaints unveiled Monday.

  • 40 officers of China’s national police charged in transnational repression schemes targeting U.S. residents The United States Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs Two criminal complaints filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York were unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging 44 defendants with various crimes related to efforts by the national police of the People’s Republic of China – the Ministry of Public Security – to harass Chinese nationals residing in the New York metropolitan area and elsewhere in the United States.

The critical minerals club Foreign Policy Christina Lu U.S. lawmakers are scrambling to weaken China’s grip on the critical mineral supply chains that are key to the global energy transition, as escalating tensions stoke fears of strategic vulnerabilities and potential geopolitical disruptions.

The US is pouring money into surveillance tech at the southern border Center for Strategic and Emerging Technology Tate Ryan-Mosley Late last year, the agency responsible for policing the border, US Customs and Border Protection, began asking for proposals for a $200 million upgrade and expansion of a network of surveillance towers that pepper a trail from San Diego, California, to near Port Isabel, Florida. CBP claims that these towers help agents monitor border crossings, intercept human trafficking and drug smuggling, and provide an essential service in a time of crisis, and the program has cost over a billion dollars since 2005.

FP

The official biography of Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state reveals startling lessons for U.S. engagement today.

FDD

A missile contract that won’t be fulfilled until 2029 demonstrates that our foreign military sales program is unacceptably slow.

The Department of Defense announced on April 7 that the Navy had awarded a procurement contract for 400 Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles for Taiwan. On its face, the announcement is certainly welcome news. The missiles will accompany the new Harpoon Coastal Defense System (HCDS), which can play a potentially pivotal role in helping Taiwan deter aggression from Beijing, namely an amphibious assault or maritime blockade.

What the announcement actually reveals, though, is that the U.S. foreign military sales program is far too slow and in dire need of reform.

  • US lawmakers to vote on new tariffs on solar panel imports from several Asian countries following anti-circumvention inquiry. The Department of Commerce’s decision to put off new tariffs on solar panel imports will be challenged under the Congressional Review Act. E.A. Crunden and Manuel Quinones. E&E News.

  • U.S./China: U.S. prosecutors unsealed criminal charges (NYT) against two men accused of running a clandestine Chinese police outpost in New York that was used to harass Chinese dissidents.

Americas

NSA

A Colombian taxi driver who last month was handed a 36-month prison sentence for his part in secretly delivering cash payments from Chiquita Brands International to a right-wing “paramilitary” organization played a more extensive role in the scheme than has been reported and was a key intermediary in the 1990s between the multinational fruit company and practically every major armed actor in Colombia’s conflict, according to internal documents and other material published today from the National Security Archive’s Chiquita Papers collection.

Trudeau, rival clash over Twitter labeling CBC 'government funded' Reuters Steve Scherer Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday accused Conservative rival Pierre Poilievre of enlisting U.S. billionaires to attack Canada's public broadcaster, after Poilievre prodded Twitter owner Elon Musk to label the CBC "government-funded."

  • NYT: Mexico Is Most Prolific User of Pegasus Spyware. Mexico’s government has continued to use the spyware on human rights defenders in recent months despite pledging to stop, the New York Times reported.

  • Canada: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) paused its use of Twitter (AP) after the social media platform labeled the company as “government-funded media.” CBC says the label aimed to undermine its credibility.

Taiwan

  • Report: Taiwan to Buy Four Hundred Land-Launched Missiles From U.S.. Taiwan had previously purchased (Bloomberg) ship-launched versions of the same missile. The $1.7 billion deal comes amid a period of heightened tensions between the United States and China.

South & Central Asia

US tech giants warn India’s fact-checking rule will ‘profoundly infringe’ on press freedom TechCrunch Manish Singh The Asia Internet Coalition, an influential industry organization representing technology giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Amazon, has voiced concerns over a recent amendment to India’s IT rules, saying the changes grant the local government expansive content removal authority without implementing adequate procedural safeguards.

  • India’s Top Court Begins Hearing on Same-Sex Marriage. A five-judge panel will begin hearing petitions (Mint) today seeking the legalization of same-sex marriages. India’s central government has opposed legalizing same-sex marriage, saying it would wreak “complete havoc” on the country.

  • This backgrounder looks at global legislation on marriage equality.

  • Bangladesh: Bangladesh will use the Chinese yuan (Bloomberg) to repay about $300 million worth of debt to Russia for building a power plant in the capital, Dhaka. The deal comes as some countries, such as China and India, seek to reduce their reliance on the U.S. dollar.

Australia

Australian insurers warn against outright ransomware payment ban iTnews Ry Crozier The Insurance Council of Australia has warned the government to tread carefully in its contemplation of an outright ban on paying ransoms and extortion demands in data breach incidents.

Australia's IPH reveals data breach originated from member firm's systems Reuters Jaskiran Singh Australia's IPH said on Monday a forensic probe into the data breach last month revealed that a limited set of data, which originated from member firm Spruson & Ferguson, was downloaded by an unauthorised third-party.

Ukraine - Russia

China smartphone sales rise to more than 70% of Russian market Reuters Alexander Marrow Chinese smartphones made up more than 70% of the Russian market in the first quarter of 2023, consumer electronics retailer M.Video-Eldorado said, up from around 50% last year. China's smartphone surge comes after Samsung and Apple both curtailed sales in Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, with Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi and Realme now occupying the market's top two spots.

Russians boasted that just 1% of fake social profiles are caught, leak shows The Washington Post Joseph Menn The Russian government has become far more successful at manipulating social media and search engine rankings than previously known, boosting lies about Ukraine’s military and the side effects of vaccines with hundreds of thousands of fake online accounts, according to documents recently leaked on the chat app Discord.

  • Putin Meets With Commanders in Russia-Occupied Ukraine After Military Shakeup. Russian President Vladimir Putin made a rare visit (WaPo) to meet with military commanders in the Kherson and Luhansk regions in Ukraine, the Kremlin said, months after a shakeup in Russia’s military leadership. News of his visits came as jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appeared in a Moscow court (BBC) for the first time. The court denied the appeal of his arrest on espionage charges, which the U.S. government and his employer reject.

  • Meanwhile, during a meeting in Japan, ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) countries pledged to continue to support (Bloomberg) Ukraine for “as long as it takes.”

Europe

Georgia National Guard will use phone location tracking to recruit high school children The Intercept Sam Biddle The Georgia Army National Guard plans to combine two deeply controversial practices — military recruiting at schools and location-based phone surveillance — to persuade teens to enlist, according to contract documents reviewed by The Intercept.

China ‘greatest threat’ to Dutch economic security, Dutch intelligence says Reuters Anthony Deutsch and Toby Sterlin China is the greatest threat to Dutch economic security, the Netherlands' intelligence service said on Monday in an annual assessment of threats it said included commercial espionage and covert investments. While the Netherlands regards China as a major trading partner, its military ambitions are driving attempts to obtain Dutch and Western technologies, the agency known by its acronym AIVD, said in its 2022 annual report.

  • Dutch intel agency paints grim picture of multiple threats Associated Press Mike Corder The Dutch national intelligence agency painted a grim picture Monday of a growing number of internal and external threats to the rule of law in the Netherlands compounded by Russia’s war in Ukraine, international cyberattacks and espionage.

  • Dutch National Intelligence Agency brands China “biggest threat to the Netherlands’ economic security”. The agency’s director general accuses China of using students and scientific personnel, as well as cyberattacks, to steal knowledge. Mike Corder. The Independent.

  • German chancellor backs EU-Indonesia trade deal to curb China reliance. Olaf Sholz is working to get the agreement across the line to reduce reliance on China for crucial raw materials. The Independent.

  • U.S. Approves Sale of Jet Software Upgrade to Turkey While Larger Sales Remain on Hold. The sale, valued at up to $259 million, will help Turkey upgrade its fleet of F-16 fighter jets (Reuters). U.S. lawmakers have stopped short of approving a larger request from Turkey for new jets due to issues relating to Greece, Russia, and Syria.

ChatGPT and advanced AI face new regulatory push in Europe The Wall Street Journal Sam Schechner European Union lawmakers want to give regulators new powers to govern the development of technologies like those behind ChatGPT, the biggest push so far in the West to curb one of the hottest areas in artificial intelligence.

UK

Capita investigates authenticity of ransomware gang leaks The Record by Recorded Future Alexander Martin Capita, the United Kingdom’s largest outsourcing company, said on Monday that it has not yet been able to confirm whether data released by a ransomware group was in fact stolen from the company.

Bank of England says may need limits on using stablecoins for payments Reuters Huw Jones There may need to be limits initially on the use of major stablecoins for payments, and they should also be backed by high quality and liquid assets to protect consumers, Bank of England Deputy Governor Jon Cunliffe said on Monday.

  • UK delays long-awaited semiconductor strategy over “optics”. The strategy was due to be unveiled this Thursday. Reports suggest it has been stalled by uncertainty over who will deliver the announcement as Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan takes maternity leave. Tom Bristow and Pieter Haeck. Politico.

  • British Geological Survey maps potential areas for exploration as Ministers’ push to secure critical minerals. The mapping of possible mineral deposits marks the first step towards realising the UK Government’s plan to strengthen supply chains and reduce dependence on China. Harry Dempsey.Financial Times.

Africa and Middle East

In Nigeria, government and local VCs are helping startups weather the tech downturn Rest of World Temitayo Lawal As startup ecosystems across the world reel from a funding crunch, in Nigeria — the leader in startup funding among all African nations in 2022 — the government and local investors have stepped in to offer the support the fledgling industry needs.

  • Leaked Documents: Egypt Gave Ukraine Weapons. Egypt halted a plan to supply rockets to Russia last month, instead choosing to send artillery ammunition to Ukraine, according to leaked U.S. intelligence documents seen by the Washington Post. The reversal came after talks between U.S. and Egyptian officials.

  • Saudi Arabia/Syria: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister visited Syria (The National) today for the first time since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011, resulting in Syria’s suspension from the Arab League.

  • Sudan Death Toll Surpasses One Hundred. At least 185 people have been killed (Al Jazeera) and more than one thousand injured amid fighting between Sudan’s military and the paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces, the UN envoy to Sudan said.

  • Uganda: The country’s assistant finance minister was charged with corruption (Reuters) related to an embezzlement of funds meant for an aid project in northeast Uganda. He is the second minister to be charged in the matter.

Big Tech

Nation-state actors are taking advantage of weak passwords to go after cloud customers, Google says CyberScoop Tonya Riley Weak passwords and other comprises of user identity continue to drive security incidents for Google Cloud customers, with weak passwords accounting for nearly half of the incidents affecting its clients, according to a report released by the company Thursday and first shared with CyberScoop.

Twitter suspends user for sharing Washington Post story about Pentagon docs leaker Techdirt Mike Masnick You’ve likely heard about recent leaks of Pentagon documents that were first leaked via a Discord server. On Wednesday, the Washington Post’s Shane Harris and Samuel Oakford broke quite a story about where the documents came from, discussing the small, private Discord group, and the guy who operated it. Twitter now appears to be permanently suspending at least some accounts that have shared the Washington Post story.

Artificial Intelligence

Competition authorities need to move fast and break up AI Financial Times Sarah Myers West At present, Big Tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon are positioned to strengthen their foothold on the digital economy, consolidating their power by dominating both the commercial AI industry and the horizon for future AI research. Without the robust enforcement of competition laws, generative AI could irreversibly cement Big Tech’s advantage, giving a handful of companies power over technology that mediates much of our lives.

ChatGPT's AI to power Chegg study buddy as educators wrestle with tech Reuters Jeffrey Dastin The artificial intelligence behind ChatGPT, the homework-drafting chatbot that some schools have banned, is coming to more students via the company Chegg Inc. The U.S. educational software maker has combined its corpus of quiz answers with the chatbot’s AI model known as GPT-4 to create CheggMate, a study aide tailored to students.

Sony World Photography Award 2023: Winner refuses award after revealing AI creation BBC Paul Glynn The winner of a major photography award has refused his prize after revealing his work was in fact an AI creation. German artist Boris Eldagsen's entry, entitled Pseudomnesia: The Electrician, won the creative open category at last week's Sony World Photography Award.

Misc

Satellites threaten astronomy, but a few scientists see an opportunity The New York Times Lyndie Chiou Each night, the stars of the sky compete with thousands of satellites. The number of intruders is only growing as constellations of satellites proliferate, with companies planning to launch orbiters by the tens of thousands to transmit internet and other communications signals back to Earth. Among them are SpaceX, which has already launched thousands of Starlink satellites, and Amazon, which plans to begin its Project Kuiper constellation later this year. For astronomers studying the universe from the surface of our world, this is a mounting problem.

Research

An overview of global cloud competition Center for Strategic and International Studies James Andrew Lewis The United States made an immense effort, with some success, to dissuade countries from using Chinese suppliers for their 5G infrastructure. This success will be of limited value if Huawei and other Chinese companies become the main suppliers of cloud infrastructure and services.

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

Gabriele and Nicola Iuvinale

ASE 2023

To download the book index, preface and introduction: https://www.extremarationews.com/reuters-news

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