December 17, 2021- Stealth War 68: Lithuania Forced to Close Embassy in Beijing; China Calls for Global Regulations on AI Military Applications; “Stability” main economic priority for China economy in 2022; Microsoft’s Bing Search Engine Cuts Auto-Suggest Function Due to PRC Pressure; US-Japan 2+2 Talks set for Early January

By: Jamestown Foundation

Mon December, 2021, Age: 1 year



December 17, 2021

Welcome to the Stealth War Newsletter, a collection of the top 5 recent news items, collected on The Jamestown Foundation’s website, To continue to receive this weekly collection, click the button below to subscribe. 

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Strategic Indicator
This issue’s number to watch

$1.6-2.7 Billion

Approximate amount that the PLA spends on Artificial Intelligence (AI) related technology each year. 

This Week:

*  Lithuanian Diplomats Leave China and Close Embassy in Beijing Amid Tensions Over Taiwan

*  China Calls for Global Regulations on AI Military Applications

*  “Stability” is the Priority for China’s Economy in 2022

*  Microsoft’s Bing Search Engine Eliminates Auto-Suggest Function Due to Chinese Government Pressure

*  U.S. and Japan to Hold Ministerial Level, 2+2 Talks in Early January as Japan’s Defense Spending Rises

Top Stories

Lithuanian Diplomats Leave China and Close Embassy in Beijing Amid Tensions Over Taiwan

On Wednesday, Lithuania closed its Embassy in Beijing and pulled its diplomats from the country, including charge d’affaires ad interim Audra Ciapiene, the senior-most Lithuanian diplomat in China, who returned to Vilnius for consultations. According to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, the decision was made for safety reasons amid the recent uncertainty over the legal status of the Lithuanian diplomats. Lithuania claims that Beijing sought to lower the status of its diplomats stationed in China and rename the Lithuanian embassy to “Office of the Charge d’Affaires,” which would potentially revoke diplomatic immunity. Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that these claims were “purely groundless fabrications out of thin air.” The embassy will operate remotely until further notice.

The news comes amidst deteriorating relations between Beijing and Vilnius over Taiwan. In November, Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius using the name “Taiwan” and not “Taipei”. Beijing saw the move as a blatant violation of the one-China principle it insists on in its foreign relations with other countries. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said it was a reckless move by Lithuania that “creates the false impression of ‘one China, one Taiwan’ in the world.” In response to the initial announcement, Beijing recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and pressed Vilnius to recall its ambassador back to China, and downgraded its diplomatic ties. On Thursday, Reuters reported that Lithuania will ask the European leaders for support as it faces increasing pressure from China.

China Calls for Global Regulations on AI Military Applications

On Monday, China released a position paper proposing rules on the military applications of artificial intelligence (AI) to the sixth review conference of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons held in Geneva. Chinese Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs Li Song indicated the widespread security challenges arising from the increasing use of AI technology for military purposes, including transforming the future of warfare, provoking an international arms race, and triggering humanitarian catastrophes. The position paper said China is concerned about long-term impacts, such as “strategic security, rules on governance, and ethics,” calling on countries to “refrain from seeking absolute military advantage, and not use AI as a tool to start a war or pursue hegemony.” The paper also included ideas for a multilateral mechanism to promote dialogue and a rules process, as well as to support developing countries to obtain AI technologies.

The use of AI has contributed to the rapid military modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). According to a China Military Power Report released this year by the Pentagon, the PLA pursues several AI projects, such as AI-enabled wargaming for training purposes and machine learning for strategic planning. In October, a report by Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) estimated the PLA could be spending between $1.6 billion and $2.7 billion each year on AI-related technologies, making its annual spending comparable or even greater than the U.S. The use of AI technology has allowed the PLA to improve the precision of its warfare and design systems to identify undersea vehicles and track U.S. navy ships, surpassing the U.S. in this capability. This position paper does not minimize Beijing’s objective to have the world’s most technologically advanced military, but may be part of Chinese efforts to present itself as a model for other states to follow, as strategic competition grows with the U.S.

(source: Caixin Global).

“Stability” is the Priority for China’s Economy in 2022

China’s annual Central Economic Work Conference wrapped up in Beijing last Friday, outlining the principal economic policy objectives for the upcoming year. Economic “stability” is the top priority, which according to senior Chinese economic officials refers to policy measures that seek to “boost demand, support market entities, and ensure stable growth in 2020.” Held a few days prior to the conference, the 6th plenum meeting of the CPC Central Committee also underscored stability and the importance of increasing fiscal spending to boost domestic demand, deepen reform and opening up, and coordinate efforts to curb COVID-19.

Beijing wants to “front-load” its policies to support economic growth, as it faces “threefold pressure, including contraction of demand, supply shocks, and weaker expectations.” These challenges partly come from the uncertain environment resulting from COVID-19, and also Beijing’s efforts to reduce smog for the Winter Olympics, including restrictions on industrial production in 64 cities that will significantly impact the economy and domestic supply chains. 

(source: RFA)

Microsoft’s Bing Search Engine Eliminates Auto-Suggest Function Due to Chinese Government Pressure

Microsoft remains one of the few Western technology companies with a sizable share of China’s internet sector. However, earlier this year, Microsoft was forced to withdraw its career-focused social network-LinkedIn from China citing “a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements” in the country. Microsoft ended up replacing Linkedin in China with a new application that lacks a social feed.
Microsoft is now dealing with another issue that could negatively impact its continued presence in China, which is that authorities have ordered the Seattle-based company to remove the autofill feature from its Bing search engine. Although other Western search engines such as Google have long vacated China, Bing remains and currently holds about a four percent share of China’s search engine market. According to the South China Morning Post, Bing may already be self-censoring results to cater to China. This summer searches for “tank man” did not turn up images of the iconic scene from the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

(source: Asia Society)

U.S. and Japan to Hold Ministerial Level, 2+2 Talks in Early January as Japan’s Defense Spending Rises 

The U.S. and Japan have agreed to hold minister-level talks between each countries’ defense and foreign ministers in Washington on January 7. The meeting will be the first “2+2” talks to take place since Prime Minister Fumio Kishida assumed office this September. The announcement follows the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s decision to create a senior-level office to handle East China Sea maritime issues, including Taiwan and the Senkaku islands, which are both claimed by Beijing.

The announcement of the January 2021 meeting follows Tokyo’s decision to increase defense spending by a record $6.7 billion in order to deal with growing challenges from China and North Korea. This is the seventh straight year that Japan has set a new record for defense spending surpassing its longstanding cap of limiting expenditures to 1% of GDP. The LDP has promised to strengthen Japan’s deterrence capabilities by acquiring ballistic missile defense technologies, and deepening its efforts to develop emerging technologies with military applications such as hypersonic weapons and machine learning.




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