December 3, 2021- Stealth War 66: China-Laos Railway Opens; Facebook Removes China-based COVID Disinformation Network; New Aerial Refueling Plane Joins Taiwan ADIZ Operations; China Boosts Vocational Training; Pro-Beijing Candidate Wins in Honduras

By: Jamestown Foundation

Mon December, 2021, Age: 1 year



December 3, 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– 87% 

Percent decline in overseas Chinese tourism during 2020 due the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel figures for 2021 are on track to slightly increase, but still remain far below pre-pandemic levels.

This Week:

*  BRI Roundup: China-Laos High Speed Railway Opens for Business

*  Facebook Removes China Based COVID-19 Disinformation Network

*  China’s New Aerial Refueling Plane Joins Probe of Taiwan’s ADIZ

*  China Boosts Vocational Training as Manufacturing Industry Struggles to Move up Global Value Chain

*  Pro-China Candidate’s Win in Honduras Sparks Concern in Washington, Taipei

Top Stories

(source: Radio Free Asia

BRI Roundup: China-Laos High Speed Railway Opens for Business

A high speed railway project linking the capital of China’s Yunnan province, Kunming with Vientiane, the capital of Laos officially opened for passenger and freight transportation today. The railway, which was constructed as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative is 643 miles long, and trains traveling along it are capable of reaching speeds of nearly 100 miles per hour. Chinese officials have marketed the $9 billion project as a financial lifeline for Laos, converting it “from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub.” Laos’s leadership has promised that the railroad will transform the highly impoverished country into a prosperous one given the increased ability to trade with China.

However, the project has not escaped criticism, both inside Laos and in the West. Within Laos, the South China Morning Post estimates that nearly 40% of the population fears that the jobs brought on by the railway “are going to be taken by the Chinese people.” Western analysts warn of more debt-trap diplomacy, pointing out that Laos is already heavily in debt. The cost of the railway, which Laos owns a 30 percent stake in, amounts to nearly one third of it’s GDP. There is also a clear geopolitical rationale for the project, which is part of a rail network connecting China to Thailand, Myanmar and in the Indian Ocean that circumvents the Strait of Malacca chokepoint.

(source: CGTN)

Facebook Removes China Based COVID-19 Disinformation Network 

Facebook parent company, Meta, stated it has removed from its platform a China-based network of more than 500 Facebook accounts that circulated false narratives that the US has sought to make China a scapegoat for the COVID-19 epidemic. This is redolent of the situation early in the pandemic, when China moved quickly to discredit the hypothesis that the COVID-19 virus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a claim that many experts now find increasingly plausible.

The Facebook disinformation campaign included a fake Swiss biologist, Wilson Edwards, who posted and tweeted this summer that the US was pressuring World Health Organization scientists to blame the virus on China. The post was widely recirculated, including by Chinese state media accounts. However, the Swiss government later clarified there is no Swiss citizen named Wilson Edwards. Facebook removed the posts shortly thereafter.

(source: Global Times)

China’s New Aerial Refueling Plane Joins Probe of Taiwan’s ADIZ 

The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) aerial intimidation of Taiwan, and probing of its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) has become routine over the last several years. However, a sortie this past Sunday was unique in that a Y-20 aerial refueling plane joined a mass intrusion of Taiwan’s ADIZ along with 26 other military aircraft — 18 fighter jets, five nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, two KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft and a Y-9 transport aircraft.

The deployment of the Y-20 aerial-refueling plane indicates that the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) may have mitigated a key logistical bottleneck that has limited the range of its war planes. The plane, which the state-run tabloid Global Times claims can carry 60 tons of fuel, is capable of refueling both J-20 fighter jets and H-6 bombers in the air, a capacity that greatly expands the operational range of China’s warplanes. Hitherto, the PLAAF has relied on a handful of Russian-made Il-78 tanker planes, and the domestically developed but more limited HU-6, for its aerial refueling capacity. Improving this capacity will enhance the PLA’s air warfare capacity in a Taiwan or other contingencies in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

(source: China Daily)

China Boosts Vocational Training as Manufacturing Industry Struggles to Move up Global Value Chain

Premier Li Keqiang announced that China will accelerate the vocational skills training with “highly skilled talent,” at the State Council executive meeting on Wednesday. The State Council approved a plan to advance vocational skills training during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025) that consists of efforts to support vocational schools and training institutions with investment from the central budget, as well as providing more training in key industries such as advanced manufacturing and modern services. The Chinese government  expects to train over 30 million rural migrant workers over the time period. 

The plan comes as China’s faces growing problems in its manufacturing industry, as its seeks to better integrate education and training with product development. China lags behind Western countries in several sectors and relies heavily on imports, including for operating systems, industrial software and integrated circuits. As part of the U.S.-China tech war, Washington restricted China’s access to key foreign technology, including semiconductors, and as labor and others costs mount, China also faces heightened competition with developing countries over low-end manufacturing.

(source: Taiwan News)

Pro-China Candidate’s Win in Honduras Sparks Concern in Washington, Taipei

In a development that has fostered unease in Washington and Taipei, Xiaomara Castro, who is widely regarded as a pro-Beijing candidate, won victory in Honduras’s presidential election this week. Honduras is one of just 15 countries that retains diplomatic ties with Taiwan. However, Castro has pledged to end the longstanding relationship with Taiwan and to begin formal relations with China, a pledge that many analysts see as an effort to gain greater latitude vis-à-vis the United States.

Despite the setback, Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen congratulated Castro for her victory and expressed her desire to work together to “strengthen the longstanding Taiwan–Honduras partnership.” In a sign of potential willingness to engage in dialogue, Castro retweeted the message and expressed her thanks to Tsai. In seeking official relations with Beijing, Honduras may be following the model of Panama which switched official relations from Taiwan to China in 2017, and has received a large injection of Chinese investment since.

Despite Castro’s campaign trail rhetoric, there are some early signs that her administration may be reconsidering making the switch from Taipei to Beijing. For example, Salvador Nasralla, one of three vice presidents under President-elect Castro, stated that as long as Honduras maintains good relations with the U.S., it will not establish diplomatic relations with China.




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