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Press review EX - 8 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’s Paper on Ukraine and Next Steps for Xi’s Global Security Initiative | The Ukraine Weapons Drain | China has a digital grand strategy. Does the president know? | FBI, Pentagon helped research facial recognition for street cameras, drones | Online abuse ‘hitting younger girls’ | Plan to forge a better Britain through science and technology unveiled


  • China’s Paper on Ukraine and Next Steps for Xi’s Global Security Initiative Extrema Ratio

  • It will take the United States six years to replenish stocks of shells transferred to Ukraine The American Conservative

  • The answer to the above question is, regrettably, no. We have been unable to find anyone in government, who has heard of this strategy, which raises a few questions: Does China have a digital grand strategy? If so, is it part of our calculations in the current grand strategic competition over technology? Pacific Forum

  • The FBI and the Defense Department were actively involved in research and development of facial recognition software that they hoped could be used to identify people from video footage captured by street cameras and flying drones, according to thousands of pages of internal documents that provide new details about the government’s ambitions to build out a powerful tool for advanced surveillance. The Washington Post

  • Girls are experiencing more ­online abuse, at increasingly younger ages, Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has told a UN conference, as she called on the tech giants to build in more safety features to their platforms rather than leave governments and regulators to react to harm being done. The Australian

  • The Prime Minister and Technology Secretary today launched the government’s plan to cement the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower by 2030. UK Government

China

The daring ruse that exposed China’s campaign to steal American secrets The New York Times Yudhijit Bhattacharjee Although China publicly denies engaging in economic espionage, Chinese officials will indirectly acknowledge behind closed doors that the theft of intellectual property from overseas is state policy.

Extrema Ratio

Gabriele Iuvinale

On February 24, General Secretary Xi Jinping did not make an expected “peace speech” to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Instead, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a “position paper.” Leading up to this publication, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has embarked on a narrative campaign to criticize U.S. foreign and domestic policies and attempt to undermine U.S.-European alliances. Throughout February, China’s diplomats have released a series of position papers, speeches, and reports that promote China’s Global Security Initiative (GSI), criticize the United States and alliances, and demonstrate continued support for Russia. The GSI’s core objective appears to be the degradation of U.S.-led alliances and partnerships under the guise of a set of principles that are full of ideals but empty on substantive steps for contributing to global peace or resolving existing disputes like the war in Ukraine.

  • China shakes up government with finance and tech to move under direct party oversight. Beijing is set to create new regulatory bodies to oversee broad segments of China’s financial system, as well as the use of data and related digital technologies. Other state institutions, including the Ministry of Science and Technology, would be restructured or have some of their powers redistributed to other departments. Central government agencies would cut their head count by 5% across the board. WSJ, 7 March

  • Biden administration backs new TikTok bill, wants swift passage. The White House endorsed a bipartisan ‘Restrict Act’ introduced on Tuesday that would give the president the ability to force the sale of foreign-owned technologies, applications, software or e-commerce platforms if they present a national security threat to US users. Bloomberg, 7 March

  • TikTok meets GCHQ to soothe security concerns. Representatives from TikTok have held what it considers to be productive discussions with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). NCSC is understood to be reviewing the app, though a government source stressed TikTok had not yet been given a clean bill of health by spooks. The Telegraph, 7 March

  • UN human rights chief urges China to address issues in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Volker Turk, the new United Nations human rights chief voiced “grave concerns” on Tuesday over conditions in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, urging Beijing to take “concrete steps” to address its recommendations for the regions. SCMP, 8 March

  • China offers Sri Lanka debt moratorium, promises deal on debt treatment. The Export-Import Bank of China has told Sri Lanka it will not seek immediate repayment of debt for 2022 and 2023 and expedite negotiations on "medium- and long-term debt treatment" to finalise specifics in the coming months, according to a letter seen by Reuters. Reuters, 8 March

  • Beijing official tells Hong Kong deputies to ‘preach the spirit of the central government. HKFP, 7 March

  • Studying Ukraine war, China's military minds fret over US missiles, Starlink. Reuters, 8 March

  • China’s cities struggle under trillions of dollars of debt. China’s economy is being weighed down by the colossal debts of its local governments, which swelled during the pandemic and are starting to come to a head. About a third of China’s major cities are struggling to pay just the interest on debt they owe, according to a survey by Rhodium Group. WSJ, 7 March

  • ASML chief warns of IP theft risks amid chip sanctions. The head of ASML, a key supplier to the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers and Europe’s biggest tech company, said he was guarding against intellectual property theft more fiercely than “ever before”, as a geopolitical tussle forces China to bolster its homegrown semiconductor industry. FT, 8 March

  • Xiaomi-backed fund raises nearly $1.4 billion for chip investment. An equity investment fund backed by Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomilaunched a second funding round with a group of investors led by the Beijing municipal government, moving closer to its 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) target to finance the chip industry. Caixin, 8 March

  • Huawei looks to Middle East and Southeast Asia for growth as headwinds in West gather strength. SCMP, 7 March

  • Semiconductor industry demands UK strategy to attract investment. CityAM, 7 March

  • Technology companies are collateral damage in the US-China divorce. Katie Prescott. The Times, 8 March

  • Return of the wolf warriors? China’s fiery foreign minister Qin Gang. The trusted ally of President Xi says China has to face the west’s ‘jackals and wolves’ head on. Amy Hawkins and Helen Davidson. The Guardian, 7 March

  • China’s new State Council: What analysts might have missed.Cheng Li and Mallie Prytherch. Brookings, 7 March

  • Fractured foundations: Assessing risks to Hong Kong’s business environment. Logan Wright.Atlantic Council, 7 March

USA

The American Conservative

In the American capital, the Ukrainian flag is a less common sight now than it was when the Russian invasion began a little more than a year ago. Maybe people have realized the U.S. involvement in the war is a sham. Maybe they’ve just gotten bored. Nevertheless, the blue and gold remains ubiquitous—just as common in the imperial city as the stars and stripes, if not more.

Pacific Forum

Dr. David Dorman and Dr. John Hemmings

The answer to the above question is, regrettably, no. We have been unable to find anyone in government, who has heard of this strategy, which raises a few questions: Does China have a digital grand strategy? If so, is it part of our calculations in the current grand strategic competition over technology?

This is worrying. China’s digital grand strategy has a name: Digital China. “Digital China” was elevated to the elite level of a Chinese Communist Party national developmental strategy by Xi Jinping personally, 6 years ago. As a concept, it dates back even further to Xi’s elevation to General Secretary in 2012. In fact, Xi Jinping started thinking grandly about digital technology more than 20 years ago when he was still a provincial governor. All of this has been extensively covered in Chinese-language newspapers for 20 years.

FBI, Pentagon helped research facial recognition for street cameras, drones The Washington Post Drew Harwell The FBI and the Defense Department were actively involved in research and development of facial recognition software that they hoped could be used to identify people from video footage captured by street cameras and flying drones, according to thousands of pages of internal documents that provide new details about the government’s ambitions to build out a powerful tool for advanced surveillance.

Twelve U.S. senators back giving Commerce secretary new powers to ban TikTok Reuters David Shepardson A bipartisan group of 12 U.S. senators will introduce legislation on Tuesday that would give Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo new powers to ban Chinese-owned video app TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats, Senator Mark Warner said.

US sees China propaganda efforts becoming more like Russia’s Associated Press Nomaan Merchant and Matthew Lee China has long been seen by the U.S. as a prolific source of anti-American propaganda but less aggressive in its influence operations than Russia, which has used cyberattacks and covert operations to disrupt U.S. elections and denigrate rivals.

Cyber command chief: Election interference is not going away The Hill Ines Kagubare U.S. Cyber Command Director Gen. Paul Nakasone on Tuesday said that election interference from nation-state threat actors is still an ongoing issue that the U.S. must continue to address.

One leader for Cyber Command, NSA has ‘substantial benefits,’ report says The Record by Recorded Future Martin Matishak The head of U.S Cyber Command and the National Security Agency testified Tuesday that the two entities should continue to share a leader, citing the conclusions in a recent high-level review that has yet to be shared with the public.

There’s a new US national security obsession — biotech Financial Times Chris Miller When the US last week added several units of BGI Group, a Chinese genetic sequencing firm, to its entity list restricting technology transfer, the primary justification was that the company had been “contributing to monitoring and surveillance”, including of ethnic minorities. Yet the human rights implications of China’s domestic surveillance state aren’t Washington’s only concern. The new regulations also state that BGI’s programmes of “collection and analysis of genetic data a significant risk of diversion to China’s military”.

Americas

Internal documents show Mexican army used spyware against civilians, set up secret military intelligence unit The Record by Recorded Future Dina Temple-Raston and Will Jarvis Two digital rights groups, Mexico's R3D and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, have just released an update to their “Ejército Espía” (“Spying Government”) report from late last year. In October 2022, they revealed that the Mexican army bought spyware and deployed it against at least two Mexican journalists and a human rights advocate between 2019 and 2021. While they had compelling circumstantial evidence, there was no smoking gun. The newly-released internal classified documents appear to prove it.

  • Spying by Mexico’s armed forces brings fears of a ‘military state’ The New York Times Natalie Kitroeff and Ronen Bergman Mexico’s armed forces spied on a human rights defender and journalists who were investigating allegations that soldiers had gunned down innocent people, documents show, providing clear evidence of the military’s illegal use of surveillance tools against civilians.

Canada roiled by leaked intelligence reports of Chinese election ‘meddling’ The Guardian Leyland Cecco A flurry of leaked intelligence reports has reignited allegations that China interfered in Canada’s recent federal elections, kicking off a fierce debate over possible responses to Beijing’s meddling.

North Asia

South Korea says U.S. Chips Act subsidies have too many requirements The Wall Street Journal Jiyoung Sohn The U.S. Chips Act is dangling billions of dollars in subsidies in front of the world’s biggest semiconductor manufacturers, but South Korea says there are too many strings attached.

Southeast Asia

Huawei looks to Middle East and Southeast Asia for growth as headwinds in West gather strength South China Morning Post Ben Jiang With Huawei Technologies Co expected to face more headwinds in Europe with a potential German ban on its products and the cancellation of its plan to build a research facility in the UK, the Chinese telecoms giant will likely turn its attention to other regions, analysts say.

South & Central Asia

India’s crypto industry is imploding Rest of World T. Bijoy Idicheriah WeTrade and WazirX’s NFT marketplace are just two among many casualties of the Indian government’s decision to bring crypto and virtual digital assets under its tax ambit.

Europe

New EU-US data pact may come too late for Facebook -regulator Reuters Conor Humphries A new pact to facilitate the safe transfer of EU citizens' personal data to the United States might not come into force in time to avoid a suspension of Facebook's transatlantic data flows, the U.S. firm's lead European regulator said on Tuesday.

Germany reviews security risks posed by China’s 5G technology Financial Times Laura Pitel, Yuan Yang and Anna Gross Germany is reviewing the use of Chinese components in its 5G network as Berlin scrutinises its ties with Beijing in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

UK

Plan to forge a better Britain through science and technology unveiled UK Government The Prime Minister and Technology Secretary today launched the government’s plan to cement the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower by 2030.

  • UK should send more students to China to reduce geopolitical tensions, says head of universities sector. Britain should send more students to study in China in a bid to reduce geopolitical tensions between the two countries, said Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK. Stern cautioned that the move would have to tread a fine geopolitical balance, as British universities attempt to disentangle themselves from their over-reliance on Chinese students. iNews, 7 March

Middle East

Thousands of fake avatars linked to disinfo ops taken down – and that’s a problem Haaretz Omer Benjakob Two weeks after a global network of journalists revealed a disinformation-for-hire group operating thousands of fake online personas as part of influence campaigns for private and political clients worldwide, Twitter removed all the different accounts linked to an Israeli group known as “Team Jorge” last Friday.

Australia

The first 72 hours: How an attack on Taiwan could rapidly reach Australia The Sydney Morning Herald Peter Hartcher and Matthew Knott Within 72 hours of a conflict breaking out over Taiwan, Chinese missile bombardments and devastating cyberattacks would begin pummelling Australia. For the first time since World War II, the mainland would be under attack. Meanwhile, 150,000 American troops would descend on the Top End seeking refuge from the immediate conflict zone. These are the scenarios Peter Jennings, a former deputy secretary for strategy in the Defence Department, says the nation needs to prepare for.

Iran

FDD

Hackers working for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security conducted a cyberattack against the Technion Institute, a leading Israeli biomedical and hi-tech research university, Israel’s National Cyber Directorate announced today. Initial press reporting last month had pointed toward criminal actors, when a previously unknown ransomware gang claimed responsibility for the February attack. The university’s assessment, however, quickly shifted toward Iran as investigators determined that the goal of the operation was to “harm a national icon,” a source told Israel Hayom.

International

  • G7 eyes joint effort to turn e-waste into rare earths, other metals. G7 countries are bolstering cooperation on urban mining, a process that turns electronic waste into a source of rare-earth elements and other industrially important rare metals as they seek to reduce dependence on major producers like China. The UK Foreign Affairs Committee is visiting Chile as part of a critical minerals inquiry. Nikkei Asia, 8 March

Gender & Women in Tech

Online abuse ‘hitting younger girls’ The Australian Sarah Ison Girls are experiencing more ­online abuse, at increasingly younger ages, Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has told a UN conference, as she called on the tech giants to build in more safety features to their platforms rather than leave governments and regulators to react to harm being done.

Big Tech

At Elon Musk’s ‘brittle’ Twitter, tweaks trigger massive outages The Washington Post Faiz Siddiqui Since taking over Twitter, CEO Elon Musk has laid off more than two-thirds of the company’s staff, embarking on aggressive cost-cutting and shedding workers in part by compelling them to a commit to an “extremely hardcore” workplace or leave the company. The massive layoffs led to widespread concerns about Twitter’s ability to retain core functions, as critical engineering teams were reduced to one or zero staffers.

Facebook parent delivers mixed response to suggestions on controversial VIP program The Wall Street Journal Jeff Horwitz Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. said it would work to implement many of an outside advisory group’s recommendations to reform a system for VIP users called “cross check,” but rejected important provisions intended to enhance transparency and prevent political favoritism.

On Facebook, visual misinfo widespread, highly asymmetric across party lines Tech Policy Press Justin Hendrix A new study based on a massive dataset of posts collected from Facebook pages and groups in the runup to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election finds that visual misinformation is widespread across the platform, and that it is highly asymmetric across party lines, with right-leaning images five to eight times more likely to be misleading.

Artificial Intelligence

Powerful Meta large language model widely available online CyberScoop Elias Groll A set of sophisticated large language models developed by Facebook parent company Meta — and intended to be accessed only by authorized researchers — were made available for download on Friday, releasing to the public the most powerful such AI model yet and increasing the likelihood that the technology might be misused.

Will Meta’s massive leak democratise AI – and at what cost? The Guardian Alex Hern Last week, Meta announced LLaMA, its latest stab at making a GPT-style “large language model”. If AI is the future of tech, then big tech companies need to control their own models or be left behind by the competition.

A documentary: By ChatGPT BBC Lara Lewington As a test user for Bing AI, I've experienced search powered by ChatGPT. Never has "knowledge is power" felt so true. Add some actual information to a technology that knows how to sound human, and you are really (virtually) talking. It helped me plan dinner for 17, improve my workout, and book some sightseeing. Its choice of links was surprising, and its guidance was not gospel, but it seemed reasonable, and useful.

Misc

The privacy loophole in your doorbell POLITICO Alfred Ng As networked home surveillance cameras become more popular, Larkin’s case, which has not previously been reported, illustrates a growing collision between the law and people’s own expectation of privacy for the devices they own — a loophole that concerns privacy advocates and Democratic lawmakers, but which the legal system hasn’t fully grappled with.

ASPI

Southeast Asia the ‘new China’ for supply chains: business group Al Jazeera Amy Chew China leads the world in 37 out of 44 critical technologies, with Western democracies falling behind in the race for scientific and research breakthroughs, according to a report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank earlier this month.


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

2023

Stango Editore

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