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International press review Extrema Ratio - 26 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

Agenda Digitale EU

Dall’ascesa di Xi, la Cina ha imposto la sua forza in molteplici ambiti e l’Occidente si è solo illuso che modernizzare volesse dire anche democratizzare. Nel libro “La Cina di Xi Jimping: verso un nuovo ordine mondiale sinocentrico? ” gli strumenti per addentrarsi nelle istituzioni cinesi e comprenderne i rischi.


Per decenni, le democrazie liberali si sono illuse che la modernizzazione della Cina avrebbe determinato anche la sua democratizzazione. Dopo il crollo del muro di Berlino e il successivo dissolvimento dell’Unione Sovietica, l’establishment della politica estera statunitense – e non solo – ha nutrito questa certezza all’interno di una più ampia politica estera di “esportazione” delle libertà e della democrazia.

However the reality is quite different Taiwan has never been Chinese


Chinese threats to Taiwan are an opportunity for Beijing both to bring the island into its authoritarian hands and to dismantle American alliances in the region.

Money.it

Le voci sulla morte della valuta statunitense sono tanto esagerate quanto troppo spesso ripetute.

Money.it

G e N Iuvinale

Pechino ha sviluppato un sistema che aiuta i paesi debitori ad evitare il default e continuare a onorare i loro debiti relativi alla Belt and Road Initiative.

Agenda Digitale EU

G e N Iuvinale

Chinese companies banned or restricted by the US military and national security networks continue to enter into contracts with state governments and various government agencies such as offices, schools and law enforcement agencies.


Opinion & long reads

  • Rare Earth Reshore: Can the European Union overcome its deep reliance on China’s critical minerals supply chain? Luke Patey. The Wire, 23 April

  • How to make it big in Xi Jinping’s China. A look at China’s most valuable startups. The Economist, 24 April

  • China doesn’t want peace in Ukraine, Czech president warns. Former NATO general Petr Pavel argues that China benefits too much from the conflict. Lili Bayer and Ketrin Jochcova. Politico

World

Quad countries to bolster cyber defense with information-sharing Nikkei Asia Rieko Miki The U.S., Australia, India and Japan have begun working on how to coordinate the sharing of information on cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure facilities. Data on attacks will be used to enable each country to quickly prepare defense measures. The four members of the Quad framework aim to reach an agreement at their summit in Australia in late May, according to sources in the Quad. Russia's use of "hybrid warfare" - the combined use of cyberattacks and conventional weapons - in its invasion of Ukraine has made stronger cyber defense an urgent priority in deterring both it and China.

  • The Taliban has killed the self-styled Islamic State militant group “mastermind” who orchestrated the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. officials said yesterday. That attack left 13 U.S. troops and about 170 Afghans dead. Initially, neither the U.S. nor the Taliban knew that the mastermind was dead. He was killed during a series of battles earlier this month in southern Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Islamic State group’s affiliate, according to several officials. Farnoush Amiri, Matthew Lee, Aamer Madhani and Lolita C. Baldor report for AP News.

  • Over the past two months, armed Russian warplanes have repeatedly violated longstanding agreements with the U.S. by flying dangerously close to U.S. fighter jets and over U.S. forces working in Syria, officials said on Monday. This creates new risks of a deadly miscalculation between the two military superpowers. Dion Nissenbaum reports for the Wall Street Journal

China

  • China’s vice-president, who oversaw the crackdown in Hong Kong, is expected to attend the king’s coronation. Han Zheng, the recently-appointed deputy to President Xi Jinping, was in charge of Hong Kong affairs for the Chinese government between 2018 and March this year. Eleni Courea.Politico

  • Taiwanese activist faces ‘secession’ charges in China. Yang Chih-yuan was detained in Wenzhou last year. The case marks the first time a person from Taiwan will face separatist charges in a mainland court. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council has called for his release. Amber Wang and Lawrence Chung.South China Morning Post

  • China reveals arrest of Taiwanese book publisher Li Yanhe. Li was born in China and relocated to Taiwan in 2009. He founded Gusa Press, which has published books that are critical of Beijing. Reports that he was missing emerged about a week ago, after returning to China to visit relatives. BBC

  • China continues crackdown on espionage. Dong Yuyu, deputy head of the editorial department at Guangming Daly faces espionage charges after meeting Japanese diplomat, claim family. Helen Davidson. The Guardian

  • India and China set to speed up border dispute resolution process. Defence ministers will meet in New Delhi this week. Jack Lau. South China Morning Post

Pending amendment to espionage law expected to be approved today. Once approved, the coverage of spying charges will be expanded from theft of ‘state secrets’ to ‘all data and items related to national security’. Asia Times
  • FSB signs maritime security cooperation agreement with China. The Chinese Coast Guard and the FSB’ Border Guard are to cooperate on law enforcement matters in the Barents Sea and Arctic waters. Russia is currently the chair of the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, however other Arctic countries have refused to participate in joint maritime exercises this year. The Barents Observer

  • China seeks to censor AI systems. Regulators issue draft rules to ensure new technology reflects ‘core socialist values’ and avoids information that undermines ‘state power’. Vishwam Sankaran. The Independent

  • China bolsters food security drive with plans to grow nearly 90% of its grain by 2032. China’s new grain self-sufficiency projections likely to impact corn and soybean farmers in the US, as well as rice exporters in south east Asia. Mia Nulimaimaiti.South China Morning Post

  • China completes landmark real estate registration system. The unified real estate database is viewed as vital for the central government to regulate the housing market and boost transparency in ownership. Reuters

  • Chinese space agency unveils plan for International Lunar Research Station. Seven launches are planned by 2028 to explore the lunar environment and its resources. Ling Xin. South China Morning Post

  • China could deliver Elon Musk’s Hyperloop by 2035. Chinese researchers consider building first hyperloop train line between Shanghai and Hangzhou. Vishwam Sankaran. The Independent

China to test out 3D printing technology on moon to build habitats Reuters Ryan Woo China will explore using 3D printing technology to construct buildings on the moon, the official China Daily reported on Monday, as Beijing solidifies plans for long-term lunar habitation.

China's planned changes to espionage law alarm foreign businesses Nikkei Asia Yukio Tajima China is preparing to restrict transfers of any information related to national security under an updated counterespionage law, raising fears of a stepped-up crackdown on foreign individuals and companies here. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress began deliberating the changes Monday. The legislation, which will broaden the definition of espionage, is expected to pass Wednesday.

Cottage industry of Chinese scammers target TikTok Financial Times Ryan McMorrow, Nian Liu and Cristina Criddle TikTok’s spiralling use around the globe brought in about $15bn in revenues for Beijing-based parent company ByteDance last year. But its global user base of more than 1bn has attracted a cottage industry of scammers in its home country who have found ways to profit from the global reach of a Chinese group like never before.

China's Shanghai to ramp up high-tech investments Reuters Bernard Orr and Albee Zhang China's financial hub of Shanghai will promote investments in specialized technology including chip design, circuitry and artificial intelligence as the country pushes forward with a move toward tech self-reliance.

China makes major push in its ambitious digital yuan project CNN Laura He Public sector workers in an eastern Chinese city are set to be paid fully in digital yuan, as the country makes a significant push to popularize the currency. Changshu, located in the province of Jiangsu, will start the new payment process in May, according to an official document widely posted on government websites. This is the biggest rollout of the currency, also known as the e-CNY, in China so far, according to state media.

China says chatbots must toe the party line The New York Times Change Che Five months after ChatGPT set off an investment frenzy over artificial intelligence, Beijing is moving to rein in China’s chatbots, a show of the government’s resolve to keep tight regulatory control over technology that could define an era. The Cyberspace Administration of China unveiled draft rules this month for so-called generative artificial intelligence — the software systems, like the one behind ChatGPT, that can formulate text and pictures in response to a user’s questions and prompts.

A satellite phone that works anywhere? The U.S.-China rivalry makes that harder. The Wall Street Journal Yang Jie Building an affordable service that works everywhere on the planet has been the dream of mobile telephony since its early days. Companies in the U.S. and China are among those getting closer to delivering that service through satellite technology. But there is a problem. Both of the superpowers are determined to dominate the technology, and each has the ability to tarnish the dream for the other. Each can wield regulations to prevent the other’s satellite services from being used within its own borders.

Chinese censorship is quietly rewriting the Covid-19 story The New York Times Mara Hvistendahl and Benjamin Mueller Early in 2020, on the same day that a frightening new illness officially got the name Covid-19, a team of scientists from the United States and China released critical data showing how quickly the virus was spreading, and who was dying. Within days, though, the researchers quietly withdrew the paper, which was replaced online by a message telling scientists not to cite it. What is now clear is that the study was not removed because of faulty research. Instead, it was withdrawn at the direction of Chinese health officials amid a crackdown on science. That effort kicked up a cloud of dust around the dates of early Covid cases, like those reported in the study.

USA

  • US House of representatives unanimously approves resolution demanding release of detained US citizen. The House calls on China to release Mark Swidan, a businessman from Texas who was arrested on drugs charges in 2012 and received a death sentence. Mychael Schnell.The Hill

  • US senators call on Biden administration to impose sanctions on Huawei Cloud and other Chinese cloud service providers. The letter, led by Senator Bill Hagerty, argues that cloud companies are engaging with foreign entities that directly challenge national and economy security. David Shepardson.Reuters

  • President Biden yesterday formally announced that he is running for reelection in 2024. Zeke Miller reports for AP News

  • Joint operations between the Pentagon-based Cyber Command and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have stymied the impact of two state-linked attacks, senior officials disclosed on Monday. During the 2020 presidential election, the joint operation thwarted Iranian-linked efforts to affect vote reporting. The joint operation also uncovered that three federal agencies faced an “intrusion campaign from foreign-based cybercriminals.” Sam Sabin reports for Axios

  • President Biden aims to strengthen a commitment from South Korea to bolster Ukraine’s military during a state visit by President Yoon Suk Yeol this week. As weapons stockpiles dwindle globally following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Seoul’s reluctance to supply arms to Kyiv is among U.S. officials’ top priorities. In return for a stronger U.S. commitment to Seoul’s long-term security and economic prosperity, Biden also hopes to work with South Korea and Japan to create a more formidable Indo-Pacific security alliance to counter the rising threat of China. Vivian Salama reports for the Wall Street Journal

  • South Korea’s relationship with the United States will not be hurt by the leaked intelligence reports, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol told NBC News. “I believe that this matter is no reason to shake the ironclad trust that supports the U.S.-South Korea alliance, because it is based on shared values like freedom,” Yoon said on Monday. Lester Holt, Jennifer Jett, and Stella Kim report for NBC News

Commerce Dept. outlines plans to fund cutting-edge chip research The New York Times Ana Swanson and Don Clark The Biden administration outlined plans on Tuesday to propel research on the type of cutting-edge microchips needed to power computers, cars and other devices, saying it would establish a new national organization with locations in various parts of the United States.

  • A vision and strategy for the National Semiconductor Technology Center US CHIPS Research and Development Office The pace of innovation in the semiconductor technology sector over the past seven decades has been extraordinary. The industry has progressed from building a few transistors in silicon to, today, building billions of transistors on a single wafer. Much of this success is due to advances in the manufacture of ever smaller semiconductors following a consistent progression in scaling known as Moore’s Law.

US sanctions supporters of North Korean hackers, Iranian cyberspace head The Record by Recorded Future James Reddick The U.S. government on Monday took action against three people accused of helping launder funds stolen by North Korean state hackers, as well as the head of the bureau that governs Iranian cyberspace.

Iran gained access to election results website in 2020, military reveals The Washington Post Joseph Menn The U.S. military discovered that an Iranian hacking group had penetrated a local government website that was to report 2020 election results and disrupted the attack before the votes were tallied, officials revealed Monday during a conference of cybersecurity professionals.

Supreme Court to decide if officials can block constituents on social media The Washington Post Robert Barnes The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will consider whether the First Amendment prohibits a public official from blocking constituents from personal social media accounts when those accounts are used to communicate with the public.

Nearly half of U.S. voters would ban TikTok, particularly those who have never used it The Wall Street Journal John D. McKinnon Nearly half of U.S. voters support banning the Chinese-owned TikTok video app, according to a new Wall Street Journal poll, but there are sharp divisions along partisan, age and even racial lines. Most voters view the app as a national-security risk and favor forcing its sale to non-Chinese owners, the poll found. But younger voters and Democrats are far less likely to support a ban than older voters and Republicans.

Industrial security vendors partner to share intelligence about critical infrastructure threats CyberScoop Christian Vasquez Some of the largest operational technology cybersecurity vendors are building an open-sourced, opt-in threat intelligence sharing portal to provide early warnings about threats to critical infrastructure. The platform called Emerging THreat Open Sharing, or ETHOS, is designed to break down information gaps that occur because organizations don’t have access to the same information about the latest hacks or vulnerabilities that could affect the entire energy sector, pipeline operators or other industrial sectors.

Inside Biden's push to keep tech secrets from China Axios Hans Nichols The Biden administration is ramping up its work with the G7 to prevent leaks of sensitive technology to China — and discussing how to keep investments from the U.S. and its allies from funding China's defense industry, officials say.

North Asia

Japan's Kishida says ChatGPT will be on G7 summit agenda -Kyodo Reuters Kiyoshi Takenaka Leaders from the Group of Seven advanced economies will discuss generative artificial intelligence ChatGPT when they gather in Hiroshima next month for a summit, Kyodo news agency quoted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as saying on Wednesday.

Japan to subsidize half of costs for lithium and key mineral projects Nikkei Asia Ko Fujioka The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will subsidize up to half the cost of mine development and smelting projects of important minerals by Japanese companies, Nikkei has learned. The initiative seeks to secure raw materials such as lithium and rare-earth metals essential to electric vehicle batteries and motors. Currently dependent on countries such as China for many important minerals, Japan aims to diversify its supply network.

Japan to develop drones to boost maritime security against China Japan Today Japan pledged to promote the development of unmanned underwater drones to strengthen maritime security against China's increasing military assertiveness in a revised draft of Tokyo's five-year ocean policy, government officials said.

US urges South Korea not to fill China shortfalls if Beijing bans Micron chips Financial Times Demetri Sevastopulo The White House has asked South Korea to urge its chipmakers not to fill any market gap in China if Beijing bans Idaho-based Micron from selling chips, as it tries to rally allies to counter Chinese economic coercion.

Hong Kong student arrested over social media posts in Japan DW William Yang Concerns about safety are rising among Hong Kong's diaspora community after authorities in the city arrested a university student under the controversial National Security Law when she returned from Japan last month. The 23-year-old student was arrested over posts she shared on social media, which Hong Kong police described as "inciting Hong Kong independence." The student has reportedly been charged with "inciting secession."

Southeast Asia

Forget a U.S. ban — TikTok is thriving in its second-biggest market Rest of World Aisyah Llewellyn It’s been TikTok’s ambition to boost its vast audience into a moneymaking shopping arm, TikTok Shop, for two years now. That effort is being stymied in the U.S. by concerns of a potential countrywide ban, and had collapsed in the U.K. last year under a cloud of missed targets and management concerns. But TikTok Shop is sweeping across Indonesia, the company’s second-biggest market behind the U.S. — home to an estimated 110 million users, according to consultancy DataReportal.

Taiwan

  • Taiwan’s annual military drills this year consider China’s recent war games and focus on breaking a blockade, the defense ministry said today. Taiwan’s defense ministry said the exercises would be split into two parts – tabletop drills from May 15 to 19 and live-fire exercises from Jul. 24 to 28. Tsai Ming-yen, the director-general of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, said it had upgraded its computers to exchange real-time intelligence with the “Five Eyes” alliance of the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Ben Blanchard reports for Reuters

Australia

  • Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles today said Australia would start domestic manufacture of guided missiles by 2025, two years sooner than expected, in a wide-ranging shakeup of defense arrangements to focus on long-range strike capabilities. Reuters reports.

Defence Strategic Review: Cyber warfare now in the front line The Australian Eric Johnston The elevation of cyber and information threats as one of the five strategic priorities in the Albanese government’s Defence Strategic Review recognises that wars and other conflicts in the future will take place online as much as on land or across the seas.

‘Catastrophic damage’: AGL warns of a government-imposed cyber ransom ban The Australian David Swan Power giant AGL Energy has warned against a plan being mulled by the federal government to ban the payment of cyber ransoms, declaring that such a move may result in potential loss of life and “catastrophic damage”, according to a submission made to an overhaul of Australia‘s cyber security strategy.

Australia to dramatically scale back spending on infantry fighting vehicles in major defence overhaul The Guardian Daniel Hurst Australia is set to dramatically scale back the number of infantry fighting vehicles it buys for the army as part of a defence overhaul to be announced on Monday. The report is believed to argue “difficult decisions and trade-offs” are required to manage the defence budget, citing severe workforce pressures, new capability needs, and the cost of sustaining existing capabilities.

Russia-Ukraine developments

  • Ukraine says it is rapidly increasing its production of drones as demand grows on the front line. The government has relaxed import laws and scrapped taxes for drone parts and equipment. The expansion is being funded by a fundraising campaign called the Army of Drones, which has raised more than $108 million. Joe Tidy reports for BBC News.

  • China and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on strengthening maritime law enforcement cooperation, Chinese state media said today. Reuters reports.

  • Two Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft and one Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft, flying without transponder signals, were intercepted in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, the German airforce said on Twitter.

  • A group of leading Russian lawyers yesterday asked the Constitutional Court to declare unconstitutional a law banning criticism of the armed forces. More than 6,500 Russians have been penalized for “discrediting” the Russian Army since the law passed. The court must respond to the filing. Such rulings typically take several months. Ivan Nechepurenko reports for the New York Times.

  • The grain deal that got Ukrainian exports moving and eased a global food crisis is risking support for Ukraine among struggling European farmers. One Romanian farmer noted that prices had been driven so low by a flood of cheap food from Ukraine that selling would mean earning less than he paid to produce his crops. Over the past week, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Bulgaria imposed tight restrictions on importing Ukrainian grain. Only Romania stopped short of an outright ban. Andrew Higgins reports for the New York Times.

Europe

  • The E.U. will send a civilian mission to Moldova to help the Eastern European nation combat foreign threats following reports that Russia is working to destabilize Moldova. The E.U.’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said the mission will focus on “crisis management and hybrid threats, including cybersecurity, and countering foreign information manipulation and interference.” Gabriel Gavin reports for POLITICO

Commission announces first platforms to fall under EU digital rulebook’s stricter regime Euractiv Luca Bertuzzi The European Commission identified on 25 April 19 online platforms and search engines that must comply with its more rigorous rules for digital services. These digital platforms are deemed to be systematically relevant and have a special responsibility for society to make the internet safe. Thus, the EU put in place stronger safeguards for these online players in terms of risk management, transparency, content moderation and children protection.

Hackers to show they can take over a European Space Agency satellite The Record by Recorded Future Alexander Martin Cybersecurity researchers will show this week how they seized control of a European Space Agency satellite in a demonstration that has been described as the world’s first ethical satellite hacking exercise.

Five G7 nations aim to cut dependence on Russian nuclear technology Nuclear Engineering International Japan, the UK, Canada, the US and France have agreed to co-operate to reduce dependence on Russia as a supplier of nuclear materials and technology. Their statement was issued at the Nuclear Energy Forum being held in Japan’s Sapporo alongside the meeting of Group of Seven ministers on climate, energy and environment. It was published on the UK government website.

Rare earth reshore: Can the European Union overcome its deep reliance on China’s critical minerals supply chain? The Wire Luke Patey Along with other critical minerals, such as lithium and cobalt, the 17 rare earth elements are essential for the green and digital transitions. But European leaders are also keenly aware that China dominates the industry, stressing that Chinese suppliers provide an astonishing 98 percent of Europe’s rare earth demand.

UK

UK to press ahead with long anticipated reform to tackle Big Tech’s market power TechCrunch Natasha Lomas The UK has signalled it will press ahead with an ex ante competition reform aimed at addressing the market muscle of Big Tech. The legislation will also aim to strengthen consumer rights by targeting fake reviews and subscription traps, with the aim of making it less of a minefield for web users to shop online and extricate themselves from unwanted contracts.

  • New bill to stamp out unfair practices and promote competition in digital markets UK Competition and Markets Authority The CMA welcomes draft legislation enhancing its ability to promote competition and protect consumers, including new powers for its Digital Markets Unit.

  • Foreign secretary outlines the UK’s position on China. The speech, delivered at Mansion House yesterday, calls for constructive relations.

James Cleverly: ‘we have an obligation to future generations to engage because otherwise we would be failing in our duty to sustain – and shape – the international order’. Gov.uk,


Africa

  • Despite the U.S.-brokered cease-fire in Sudan, gunfire and loud explosions could be heard in parts of the capital yesterday, threatening continued efforts by thousands of people to flee the conflict. At least 459 people were killed and more than 4,000 wounded, according to the World Health Organization. Abdi Latif Dahir reports for the New York Times

  • Ahmad Harun, a former Sudanese politician wanted for alleged crimes against humanity, has said that he and other former officials are no longer in jail – following reports of a break-out. Harun addedthat he would be ready to appear before the judiciary whenever it was functioning. Kathryn Armstrong reports for BBC News

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday warned of a “huge biological risk” after Sudanese fighters seized the National Public Health Laboratory in the capital. A high-ranking medical source said paramilitary RSF forces had taken over the lab. Nima Saeed Abid, the WHO representative in Sudan, described the development as “extremely dangerous because we have polio isolates in the lab, we have measles isolates in the lab, we have cholera isolates in the lab.” Rob Picheta, Mostafa Salem, Celine Alkhaldi, Brent Swails and Lianne Kolirin report for CNN.

Terrorists using local language to spread propaganda on Facebook HumAngle Aliyu Dahiru Members of an Al-Qaeda-linked terror group in Nigeria have been using social media to spread their jihadi propaganda, recruit members and gather sympathisers freely, going undetected by moderators.

Africa fell in love with crypto. Now, it’s complicated Rest of World Damilare Dosunmu According to one estimate in mid-2022, around 53 million Africans owned crypto — 16.5% of the total global crypto users. Nigeria led with over 22 million users, ranking fourth globally. Blockchain startups and businesses on the continent raised $474 million in 2022, a 429% increase from the previous year, according to the African Blockchain Report. Young African creatives also became major proponents of non-fungible tokens, taking inspiration from pop culture and the continent’s history. Several decentralized autonomous organizations, touted as the next big thing, emerged across Africa. Now, however, much of this buzz seems to be a thing of the past.

Middle East

Israel aerospace industries to supply Azerbaijan with satellites Haaretz Oded Yaron Israel Aerospace Industries has been chosen to supply Azerbaijan with two satellites for $120 million, Haaretz has learned. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who visited Baku last week, confirmed in an interview with Times of Israel that Azerbaijan “chose an Israeli company in a satellite procurement deal.”


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

Gabriele and Nicola Iuvinale

ASE 2023

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