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Press review EX - 1 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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  • FBI Director Wray acknowledges bureau assessment that Covid-19 likely resulted from lab incident. CNN

  • The Australian Government is pursuing a new cybersecurity agenda in the wake of last year’s major cyber breaches with Optus and Medibank. The Conversation

  • Chipmakers must agree not to expand capacity in China for a decade if they are to receive money from a $39bn federal fund designed to build a leading-edge US semiconductor industry, according to new commerce department rules. Financial Times

  • The European Union's diplomatic service is banning its staff from using the Chinese-owned social media application TikTok. POLITICO

Indo-Pacific

U.S. Naval Institute

China aspires to dominate the Indo-Pacific region—the impact of which would dramatically undermine Americans’ security, freedom, and prosperity. The only workable strategy is to deny China this goal. The naval services will play a central role. The primary threat to core U.S. interests is that China could dominate Asia, and from that position atop more than half the global economy, undermine Americans’ prosperity, freedom, and even security. This is not a merely speculative fear. Beijing is pursuing regional hegemony over Asia, and if successful, it will very likely pursue the kind of global preeminence that would enable it to directly intervene in and exercise a domineering influence over Americans’ lives.

Elbridge Colby, co-founder of The Marathon Initiative, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development, and author of The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict, returns to The Realignment to follow up on last year's episode on Taiwan. Elbridge and Marshall discuss whether the U.S. can "walk and chew gum at the same time," what a "Twelve-Step" program for revitalizing the defense industrial base looks like, and how the U.S. can deter conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.


China

Reuters reporters' online accounts faked to approach China activists Reuters James Pomfret Two Reuters journalists had their identities faked by an unknown person or people who then used sham social media accounts to engage with Chinese activists on several online platforms over several months. The false representations of the two journalists, Shanghai bureau chief Brenda Goh and Hong Kong-based correspondent Jessie Pang, starting in late November, appeared on platforms including Instagram and the Telegram message app.

What does the Chinese disinfo post say exactly about Kenny Chiu? Found in Translation China’s interference in Canada’s elections has been a boiling topic in the media over the past week, and one of the most prominent pieces of evidence of China’s interference is its disinformation campaigns against Kenny Chiu, the then-Conservative candidate for Steveston—Richmond East during the 2021 election.

  • China's annual parliament to implement Xi's tightening grip. China's annual parliament opens on Sunday and will implement the biggest government reshuffle in a decade as President Xi Jinping tightens control. The Central Committee of China's Communist Party concluded a three-day plenary session Tuesday, at which Xi explained a draft plan for "reform" of the party and government institutions. Reuters, 1 March

  • EU Parliament bans staff from using TikTok over ‘cybersecurity concerns’. Following in the footsteps of the European Commission and Council of the EU, Parliament President Roberta Metsola and Secretary-General Alessandro Chiocchetti have told about 8,000 officials they should uninstall TikTok from corporate devices such as mobiles and tablets by March 20. Politico, 28 February

China hits out at US over TikTok ban on federal devices. BBC, 28 February
  • ‘Time is not on our side’: Congress panel says tackling China defines next century. The US Congress must act urgently to counter the economic and national security threats posed by the Chinese government, a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers on a newly created special House committee has warned during an inaugural, primetime hearing. On Tuesday, lawmakers on the committee heard from four witnesses who argued that China had taken advantage of the US. The Guardian, 28 February

  • Japan defence pacts with UK and Australia move closer to approval. Japan's cabinet on Tuesday approved defence agreements and related legislation with the UK and Australia to smooth the way for closer cooperation that Tokyo hopes will strengthen deterrence against China. Nikkei Asia, 1 March

  • Belgium’s cyber security agency links China to attack on MP. Belgium’s cyber security agency has linked Chinese state-sponsored hackers to an attack on MP Samuel Cogolati after he wrote a resolution to warn of “crimes against humanity” against Uyghur Muslims in China.FT, 1 March

  • China spends billions on pro-Russia disinformation, US special envoy says. The Guardian, 28 February

  • British Museum to address ‘violence’ inflicted on China by Britain in new exhibition. The Telegraph, 28 February

  • Chinese factory activity expands at fastest pace in more than a decade. China’s manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest pace in more than a decade in February, in one of the clearest signs that the world’s second-largest economy is shaking off the effects of a nationwide Covid-19 outbreak and years of growth-constraining pandemic curbs. FT, 1 March

  • Australia blocks Chinese investment in rare earth firm citing national interest. Northern Minerals Ltd on Tuesday said Australia’s government has blocked the heavy rare earths producer’s largest shareholder, China’s Yuxiao Fund, from increasing its investment on the grounds of national interest. Treasurer Jim Chalmers said Australia would become more selective about who it lets invest in its critical minerals industry. Reuters, 28 February

  • Huawei export licenses could be revoked by US. The Biden administration is considering revoking export licenses issued to US suppliers for sales to Chinese company Huawei, according to people familiar with the matter. The action would cover products that use advanced 5G technology as well as older 4G products. WSJ, 28 February

  • Shenzhen sets up London Connect link, adding a second transborder funding channel between China and the UK. SCMP, 1 March

  • There’s one way Xi can show he's serious on the economy. China’s leader needs to take a knife at long last to inefficient state-owned companies. Minxin Pei.Bloomberg, 1 March

  • Russia turns to China’s yuan in effort to ditch the dollar. Moscow has jettisoned longstanding concerns about giving China too much leverage over its economy. WSJ, 28 February

  • China’s censorship reaches globally through WeChat. Seth Kaplan. Foreign Policy, 28 February

  • Could the West ban TikTok for good? Matt Oliver. The Telegraph, 1 March

USA

CNN

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday acknowledged that the bureau believes the Covid-19 pandemic was likely the result of a lab accident in Wuhan, China.

In his first public comments on the FBI’s investigation into the virus’ origins during an interview with Fox News, Wray said that “the FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.”

US Marshals Service suffers 'major' security breach that compromises sensitive information NBC News Andrew Blankstein, Michael Kosnar, Jonathan Dienst and Tom Winter The US Marshals Service suffered a security breach over a week ago that compromises sensitive information, multiple senior US law enforcement officials said Monday. The incident did not involve the database involving the Witness Security Program, commonly known as the witness protection program, a source told NBC News.

ACLU urges US lawmakers not to ban TikTok, citing free speech Reuters David Shepardson The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday urged Congress not to ban the Chinese-owned video app TikTok, saying it would violate the free speech rights of millions of Americans, a day before a US House of Representatives committee is to take up legislation.

Americas

TikTok banned from official devices in Canada, joining US and Europe The Independent Andrew Griffin TikTok has been banned on official Canadian devices, making it the latest country to take action against the app. Similar bans are already in place in the federal US government, many states, and the European Commission.

North Asia

Inside Taiwanese chip giant, a US expansion stokes tensions The New York Times John Liu and Paul Mozur Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world’s biggest maker of advanced computer chips, is upgrading and expanding a new factory in Arizona that promises to help move the United States toward a more self-reliant technological future. But to some at the company, the $40 billion project is something else: a bad business decision.

A video-gaming school stumbles on a way to get dropouts back in class The New York Times Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno Japan’s first e-sports high school thought it would turn out pro gamers. Instead, it attracted an unexpected demographic.

Southeast Asia

The problem with Indonesia’s plan to attract ‘digital nomads’ The Diplomat Stephanie Wild Late last year, the Indonesian government announced that a Second Home Visa – adapted from the country’s existing retirement visa – would be available from December 24 for foreigners looking to work remotely from one of the country’s 18,000-odd islands for up to 10 years.

South & Central Asia

Five years in a row: India is 2022’s biggest internet shutdowns offender Access Now Zach Rosson, Felicia Anthonio and Carolyn Tackett In 2022, authorities shut down the internet across 35 countries at least 187 times. India shut down the internet at least 84 times — the highest number of any country in the world for the fifth consecutive year.

Europe

EU bans its diplomats from using TikTok, too POLITICO Stuart Lau and Laurens Cerulus The European Union's diplomatic service is banning its staff from using the Chinese-owned social media application TikTok on work phones and private phones with work-related apps installed, it said Friday.

Fragmenting data governance – Europe needs a strategy to live with China MERICS Rebecca Arcesati The future of data flows between Europe and China is anything but certain. By prioritising national security in its data governance regime, China is interfering with the free, efficient and safe transmission of data across borders the world has come to know. US policymakers are responding to this danger, even if calls for bans on China-based internet platforms risk fracturing the digital economy even further.

Dutch warn against internet toll as EU looks to Big Tech to fund networks Reuters Foo Yun Chee The Netherlands on Monday warned against hitting Big Tech with a so-called internet toll to help pay for billions of euros in network investments, saying such a move may breach net neutrality rules and lead to price hikes for Europeans. The comments by Dutch Economic Affairs Minister Micky Adriaansens marked the first by an EU country.

UK

British tech minister: TikTok should be ‘personal choice’ for UK officials POLITICO Annabelle Dickson and Tom Bristow Britain will not follow the US and Brussels in banning government officials from using Chinese-owned TikTok, Rishi Sunak's new tech champion said Monday. 'I think that's a personal choice,' Michelle Donelan, the minister at the helm of the UK's new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, told POLITICO.

Ukraine - Russia

Inside the Kremlin's year of Ukraine propaganda Time Vera Bergengruen Three weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine last Feb. 24, a video appeared on a Ukrainian news site that seemed to show President Volodymyr Zelensky imploring his fellow countrymen to stop fighting and urging soldiers to lay down their weapons.

Middle East

Twitter under fire for censoring Palestinian public figures Aljazeera Dalia Hatuqa On December 15, Twitter owner Elon Musk suspended the accounts of some journalists, including reporters from newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Defending his decision, Musk claimed the journalists had breached the company’s new rule about revealing people’s locations. Chaos ensued.

Big Tech

Chipmakers receiving US federal funds barred from expanding in China for 10 years Financial Times Chipmakers must agree not to expand capacity in China for a decade if they are to receive money from a $39bn federal fund designed to build a leading-edge US semiconductor industry, according to new commerce department rules. The department on Tuesday called for applications for funds from the Chips Act passed by Congress last year, as it launched a landmark industrial policy programme designed to counter China.

How Temu topped the U.S. app charts by turning shopping into a game Rest of World Viola Zhou Chinese e-commerce company Pinduoduo is bringing its viral games to the American market with its US-based shopping app Temu. The app wins customers over with low prices and addictive referral campaigns in the form of mobile games.

One avatar to rule them all? Exploring new modes of visual representation in the Metaverse USC Center on Public Diplomacy Corneliu Bjola With the arrival of the Metaverse, avatars and digital humans have the potential to fundamentally alter the way we think about visual representation in digital diplomacy. In virtual environments, avatars allow individuals to create and inhabit digital bodies that can be designed and customised in ways that are not possible in the physical world.

Nokia changes iconic logo to signal strategy shift Reuters Supantha Mukherjee Nokia announced plans on Sunday to change its brand identity for the first time in nearly 60 years, complete with a new logo, as the telecom equipment maker focuses on aggressive growth.

Artificial Intelligence

DoD AI drones that can recognise faces pose ethical minefield Newsweek Jess Thomson Artificially intelligent military drones that can use facial recognition technology to detect the faces of targets are now being developed by the US. This has led many people to raise concerns about the ethics involved. New Scientist reported that the US Department of Defense has an $800,000 contract with Seattle-based company RealNetworks to create these autonomous drones.

Misc

USCBC statement on recent Global Times article US-China Business Council A recent Global Times article stated that USCBC representatives criticised US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns’s remarks at a recent American Chamber of Commerce celebratory dinner. It further asserted that USCBC will reconsider whether to invite the ambassador to the celebration of the Council’s 50th anniversary this year. These assertions are false.

Australia

Prairie Fire Magazine

The Inquiry "Foreign Interference Through Social Media" is in process. After nothing happens, it will be the de-facto stamp of approval for CCP control of our Social Media.

Australia has a new cybersecurity agenda. Two key questions lie at its heart The Conversation Jeffrey Foster The federal government is pursuing a new cybersecurity agenda in the wake of last year’s major cyber breaches with Optus and Medibank. ‘For businesses these days, cybersecurity is as important as having a lock on the door,’ said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in opening the government’s cybersecurity roundtable in Sydney on Monday.

Cyber security industry anxious about Albanese Government’s intervention The West Australian Kimberley Caines One of Australia’s most powerful intelligence agencies would be given Big Brother powers to take over the IT systems of companies targeted by hackers under far-reaching reforms proposed in the wake of the Optus and Medibank data breaches. The Australian Signals Directorate would have an expanded capacity to ‘step in’ and intervene in private companies as part of an overhaul of cyber security laws.

Australia blocks Chinese investment in rare earth firm citing national interest Reuters Kirsty Needham Northern Minerals Ltd on Tuesday said Australia’s government has blocked the heavy rare earths producer’s largest shareholder, China’s Yuxiao Fund, from increasing its investment on the grounds of national interest. Yuxiao Fund sought Foreign Investment Review Board approval in August to raise its ownership to 19.9% from 9.92%.

Cyber security NSW 2022 year in review Digital NSW Tony Chapman In 2022 Cyber Security NSW made notable achievements towards its vision of a cyber-secure NSW Government. Among a host of other accomplishments, this included steady progress in outreach to local councils, leadership in major cyber security incidents affecting NSW Government, and ongoing assistance to help the state recover from the massive data breaches of 2022.

Indigenous voice adviser warns vote on knife edge as Liberals say referendum ‘dead’ without conservatives The Guardian Josh Butler The Indigenous voice to parliament is 'really susceptible to misinformation,' a leading communications expert advising the government has warned, saying the referendum is 'poised on a knife edge' because voters may make up their minds far later in the campaign than at a standard election.

ASPI

India can play a crucial role in bridging the global divide in artificial intelligence The Strategist Raj Shekhar and Antara Vats The recent explosion in automation enabled by artificial intelligence, often dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, is fuelling expectations of a future of ‘phenomenal wealth’, including an economy in which the price of labour will be close to zero. AI is expected to contribute US$15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030—more than the current economic output of India and China combined.


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