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Press review EX - 23 March

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 to boost support for high-end manufacturing Reuters Liangping Gao and Ryan Woo China will strengthen its policy guidance to support advanced manufacturing, Premier Li Qiang was quoted as saying by state radio on Wednesday. The world's second-biggest economy is under increasing pressure from the United States, which has cited national security in restricting access to Chinese semiconductors and artificial intelligence technology.

The U.S. Sun

China will attack the US when it’s weak, and distracted and when supplies are at record lows. Beijing is already preparing the battlefield.

Antony Blinken says China will be capable of invading Taiwan by 2027. In February, CIA Director William Burns said that, as a matter of assessment, China seems to be capable of conducting an invasion by 2027.


Top developments BRI

  • Chinese Companies to Advance Infrastructure Linking DRC to Angola’s Port of Lobito. On March 7, subsidiaries of Jiayou International Logistics Co. Ltd. and Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd. announced a $363 million joint investment to improve road and land port infrastructure between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Angola’s Lobito port. This will enable mines in the DRC’s south, including many owned by Chinese entities, to export minerals more efficiently to the Atlantic Ocean port. The project will create a paved highway link between Dilolo with Kolwezi, the site of numerous copper and cobalt mines. In addition, Jiayou and Zijin will modernize the Dilolo Land Port, a transshipment site along the DRC-Angola border. The road improvements between Kolwezi and Lobito also stand to benefit several Chinese companies with mining operations around Kolwezi including China Molybdenum, Sicomines, and Zijin Mining.

  • China Energy Engineering Group Corporation to Build $5.1 Billion Green Hydrogen Facility in Egypt. On March 10, state-owned China Energy Engineering Group Corporation (CEEC) announced the development of a $5.1 billion green hydrogen facility in Suez, Egypt, with construction slated to begin in May 2023. This project is among the first green hydrogen facilities in Egypt to make it to the construction phase. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was initially signed in November 2022. The facility will produce 140,000 tons of green hydrogen per year from solar and wind power facilities and take place in two phases. The first phase includes a solar and wind farm and the second includes a facility for electrolyzing water and synthesizing ammonia. In 2022, Egypt signed at least ten agreements with international partners for green hydrogen and ammonia production facilities in the strategically located Suez Economic Canal Zone (SCZone) at Ain Sokhna. While many agreements fall in the multi-billion-dollar range, it is unclear how many have progressed beyond MoUs to implementation. Egypt is positioning the SCZone as a regional hub for green hydrogen production that provides optimal solar and wind power conditions, reducing the per kilogram costs.

  • Sinosure, Saudi EXIM Sign Cooperation Agreement to Pursue Joint Investments. On March 5, China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Saudi Export-Import Bank (Saudi EXIM Bank) to establish a cooperation framework between the two entities that would facilitate knowledge-sharing, employee training, and financing and investment opportunities in their respective countries. According to the announcement, the agreement will support Saudi EXIM Bank's mission to boost non-oil exports, however it could also support the increased joint investment activity in Belt and Road countries that the two sides announced in October 2022. Previously, China and Saudi Arabia have agreed to expand cooperation in a broad range of industries including: oil and petrochemicals, decarbonization technologies, electricity and renewables, hydrogen, energy efficiency, civil nuclear energy, and supply chain security, industrial cooperation, the fourth industrial revolution, mining and logistics, civil aviation and aviation security, and digital economy.

  • China Railway to Construct Bridge Connecting Fijian Provinces. On March 7, China Railway First Group Co., Ltd. (CRFG) launched the construction of the $5 million Toga Bridge Project in Fiji that will connect the towns of Muana, Vunisei, and Navatuyaba in the Toga and Rewa Provinces. Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) and Fiji's Ministry for Public Works, Transport, and Meteorological Services will oversee the project. CRFG, in February 2021, began construction on an $8.2 million development project at Fiji’s Lautoka port, the country’s second largest. In 2018, CFRG’s contract for Fiji’s 9-Miles to Rewa Bridge project was terminated. On January 26, Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka – in a rare public rebuke of Chinese overseas security agreements – stated that there is no longer a need for Chinese state security personnel to continue their partnership with the Fiji police force.

  • Sinopec Will Finance Construction of Oil Refinery at Hambantota Port. On March 13, reports announced that state-owned China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) proposed that it would fully finance the construction of an oil refinery at the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, where China's CMPorts holds a 99-year operating lease. Sinopec met with Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe and other officials to discuss the proposal, which came in response to the government’s request for expressions of interest. Sinopec Fuel Oil Sales Co., which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sinopec, was awarded a tender by Hambantota International Port Group in April 2019 for oil trading works and the operation and maintenance of an oil tank terminal and associated facilities at the port.

USA

New York Post

“Taiwan is a strong ally. I think that’s a critical interest for us but also for our key allies like Japan & South Korea. Overall the #1 issue that we face internationally is checking the growth and the rise of China.”

“They’re much more powerful than Putin and Russia are, and they really represent the biggest threat that we’ve seen to our ability to lead since the Soviet Union.”

U.S. state-government websites use TikTok trackers The Wall Street Journal Byron Tau & Dustin Volz More than two dozen state governments have placed web-tracking code made by TikTok parent ByteDance Ltd. on official websites, according to a new report from a cybersecurity company, illustrating the difficulties U.S. regulators face in curtailing data-collection efforts by the popular Chinese-owned app.

US semiconductor firm Marvell lays off entire China research and development team in latest round of job cuts amid industry slowdown South China Morning Post Lilian Zhang US semiconductor company Marvell Technology is laying off its entire research and development team in mainland China, about five months after the firm initiated job cuts to scale down its operations in the world’s largest chip market. Santa Clara, California-based Marvell said it is eliminating about 320 jobs, or 4 per cent of its global workforce, in response to what the company described as an industry slowdown, according to a statement from the firm on Wednesday.

U.S. tech industry urging hard line on Canada’s online bills ahead of Biden visit Global News James McCarten A high-tech industry coalition in the United States is urging President Joe Biden to take a hard line against Canada’s approach to digital services. The group says the proposed digital services tax unfairly targets U.S. companies and is offside with international efforts to establish a global standard.

National security is teaching the US to love tech controls Financial Times Marietje Schaake Intelligence suggests that the Chinese government could use its access to data held by companies there to collect information on hundreds of millions of people, including Americans. It might then use apps for operations to influence the public and control the algorithms recommending content to users. Bipartisan legislation, recently introduced, seeks to mitigate these concerns by mandating the commerce department to identify and address threats from foreign tech products.

Americas

Liberal MP Han Dong secretly advised Chinese diplomat in 2021 to delay freeing Two Michaels Global News Sam Cooper Liberal MP Han Dong, who is at the centre of Chinese influence allegations, privately advised a senior Chinese diplomat in February 2021 that Beijing should hold off freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, according to two separate national security sources.

Ukraine - Russia

She posted online about the war in Ukraine. Then she faced a prison term. The New York Times Valerie Hopkins Sitting in a small courtroom flanked by her two lawyers last month, Olesya Krivtsova was facing a stiff penalty for her fondness for posting on social media. Barely 20 and until this year a university student in northern Russia, she was accused of “justifying terrorism” and “discrediting the Russian armed forces,” and was facing up to a decade in prison.

Rand Corporation

The Russian General Staff is unlike any single organization within the U.S. defense establishment. The absence of an analog in the United States means that audiences within the U.S. civilian and military communities largely are unfamiliar with the concept of a General Staff. Because of the increasing militarization of Russian foreign policy since 2008, it is important to understand not only the formal authorities and responsibilities of this institution but also its capacity to influence Russia's national security decisionmaking process.

Europe

As AI booms, EU lawmakers wrangle over new rules Reuters Supantha Mukherjee & Martin Coulter Rapid technological advances such as the ChatGPT generative artificial intelligence app are complicating efforts by European Union lawmakers to agree on landmark AI laws, sources with direct knowledge of the matter have told Reuters. The European Commission proposed the draft rules nearly two years ago in a bid to protect citizens from the dangers of the emerging technology, which has experienced a boom in investment and consumer popularity in recent months.

German green group sues Meta alleging failure to curb threats Reuters Matthias Williams A prominent German enviromental group said on Wednesday it was suing Facebook's parent company Meta, accusing the social media firm of failing to clamp down on insults and threats of violence and murder

UK

UK Government sets out strategy to protect NHS from cyber attacks Gov.UK Department of Healh and Social Care & Lord Markham CBE Patients will benefit from bolstered protection to the nation’s health and adult social care services as a new cyber security strategy for England is published today. The cyber security strategy for health and adult social care sets out a plan to promote cyber resilience across the sector by 2030, protecting services and the patients they support.

Indo-Pacific

A state-backed Chinese company has won a contract to develop a key port in the Solomon Islands, a major victory in Beijing's quest to gain a strategic toe-hold in the South Pacific.

The Solomon Islands' government on Tuesday announced that the China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. had been chosen to lead a $170-million project to develop the international port in the capital Honiara.

Pacific Forum

It is newsworthy on its own that conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol flew to Tokyo to meet with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio last week. Yoon’s predecessor, the progressive Moon Jae-in, demonstrated little interest official meetings with his Japanese counterparts across his five years as president, one of the few things he had in common with his conservative forbearer Park Geun-hye. Park, whose political opponents were quick to label her the daughter of a Japanese-trainedmilitary strongman, also avoided meetings with Abe Shinzo without an American mediator present. Instead, she focused her efforts on Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in a vain hope that he would play a proactive role in inter-Korean reconciliation. As the PRC’s bilateral trade with South Korea has come to dwarf exchanges between South Korea and Japan, so have its diplomatic interactions with Seoul’s leadership compared to Japan’s.

FDD

Honduras has said it intends to shift diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China. We know this story: with the exception of 2007, when St. Lucia switched from Beijing to Taipei, the trend has run in this direction, with China peeling off country after country. The 13 remaining countries that recognize Taiwan are under a constant political warfare assault to switch. In countries like Palau, People’s Republic of China (PRC) representatives make it clear that the individuals who make it happen will be well-rewarded.

RFA

China batted on Thursday for friendly negotiations to settle simmering differences, including over the South China Sea and greater access for U.S. troops to Philippine bases, as Manila and Beijing began two days of talks to assess their relationship.

The so-called bilateral “consultative” talks, which have taken place every year since 2016, are the first under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Africa

Artificial intelligence institute set up in South Africa Mail & Guardian Eunice Stoltz Africa is improving the way it solves problems through self-designed and self-managed artificial intelligence. This week, Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Mondli Gungubele, in partnership with the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Johannesburg, launched the Artificial Intelligence Institute of South Africa. AIISA will focus on three sectors of the economy: the fourth industrial revolution in manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture and food processing.

East African survey deep dives into challenges and opportunities faced by the region’s tech start-up ecosystem Zawya A new regional survey of tech start-ups across East Africa reveals that whilst investment levels remained relatively stable over the last twelve months, the heart of Africa’s start-up ecosystem perceives many roadblocks as having the potential to disrupt the region’s growth trajectory.

Big Tech

‘This might be the end’: TikTok showdown reaches fever pitch with CEO’s Congressional testimony National Review TikTok’s last major chance to fight off an impeding U.S. regulatory crackdown on its presence in the U.S. might come on Thursday, when TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appears before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

  • TikTok CEO says company is 'not an agent of China or any other country' NPR Bobby Allyn TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew is set to address the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday, and he plans to describe the firewall between the company's American operation and China, or as Zi Chew puts it, protections against "unauthorized foreign access."

  • TikTok chief to tell US Congress the app has never shared data with Beijing South China Morning Post Mark Magnier The chief executive of TikTok plans to tell Congress on Thursday that the popular video-sharing app has never provided any of its users’ personal data to the Chinese government, that it never will and that safeguards in place should give US lawmakers confidence in its integrity and business operations.

  • Pulling the plug on TikTok will be harder than it looks The New York Times David E. Sanger, David McCabe & Sapna Maheshwari In the summer of 2020, in full re-election mode and looking for new ways to punish China, President Donald J. Trump threatened to cut off TikTok from the phones of millions of Americans unless its parent company agreed to sell all of its U.S. operations to American owners. The effort collapsed. Now, more than two years later, after lengthy studies of how Chinese authorities could use the app for everything from surveillance to information operations, the Biden administration is attempting a strikingly similar move. It is better organized, vetted by lawyers, and coordinated with new bills in Congress that appear to have considerable bipartisan support.

Nikkei Asia

Cissy Zhou

Google has suspended Chinese e-commerce app Pinduoduo from its Google Play app store after versions offered outside the store were found to contain malware, the U.S. internet giant said on Tuesday. The suspension comes amid growing concern in the U.S. over the safety of Chinese apps.

Australia

Australian Government flags possible tech sector liability for cyber security iTnews Richard Chirgwin The federal government is considering making the tech sector bear more liability for insecure products, according to cyber security minister Clare O’Neil. O’Neil yesterday delivered a keynote to the Australian Information Security Association’s Cyber Conference, and said too much risk is borne by the community.

Latitude Financial data breach widens as fears over copies of driver's licences grow 9News Trevor Long Latitude Financial has today released a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange which confirms fears foreshadowed two days ago that the data breach is far worse than first anticipated. When the company first reported the breach, the number of affected customers was around 330,000, however today a statement says "regrettably our review has uncovered further evidence of large-scale information theft affecting customers and applicants across Australia and New Zealand".

NASA boss Bill Nelson visits Canberra, amid concerns for Australian space industry’s failure to launch ABC News James Riley Federal Industry minister Ed Husic has dampened expectations of a big pool of new money being attached to the looming National Quantum Strategy, saying the government is taking a longer view of the emerging sector’s needs.

Australia in talks to tap US carbon fund for batteries boost Financial Review Julie Hare The Albanese government is negotiating with the Biden administration to tap into its $369 billion USD carbon reduction fund to fire up a local battery manufacturing capacity, while dismissing critics who say Australia is not up to the task without massive public investment.

Australian military looks to build crucial space capabilities that will support Aukus Nuclear subs The Guardian Tory Shepherd Defence is looking for a mesh of military space satellites that can talk to each other as well as to the ground, and is “scalable, rapidly deployable and reconstitutable”. The system, in other words, would need to be able to be made bigger, to be quickly put into action and to be repaired in case of attack or accident.

National Quantum Strategy won’t be raining dollars InnovationAus James Riley Federal Industry minister Ed Husic has dampened expectations of a big pool of new money being attached to the looming National Quantum Strategy, saying the government is taking a longer view of the emerging sector’s needs.


Photo: La Cina di Xi Jinping - Verso un nuovo ordine mondiale sinocentrico? Gabriele e Nicola Iuvinale

2023

Stango Editore


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