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December 9, 2022- Stealth War 113: U.S. Approves New Military Sales, Aid to Taiwan as China Objects; Saudi Arabia Cuts Deal with Huawei; Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Cautious on Russian Energy Export Scheme to China; With Space Station, China’s “National Rejuvenation” Extends to Outer Space; On Strategic Stability, China Prizes Opacity

By: Jamestown Foundation

Fri December, 2022, Age: 1 year



December 9, 2022

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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Stat Du Jour 
This issue’s number to watch1.181.18 children per woman –China’s 2022 total fertility rate which is down substantially from earlier decades and significantly below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 children per woman. 

This Week: 

* U.S. Approves New Military Sales, Aid to Taiwan as China Objects

Saudi Arabia Cuts Deal with Huawei During Xi’s Visit

* Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Cautious on Russian Energy Export Scheme to China

With Space Station, China’s “National Rejuvenation” Extends to Outer Space

On Strategic Stability, China Prizes Opacity

Top Stories

(source: Wikipedia)

U.S. Approves New Military Sales, Aid to Taiwan as China Objects 

On Tuesday, the White House approved sales worth about $425 million of spare parts to support Taiwan’s F-16 fighters, C-130 transport planes and other U.S.-supplied military aircraft. The package includes $330 million in standard replacement parts and $98 million in non-standard equipment along with related accessories and logistics.

In response, a People’s Republic of China (PRC) Ministry of National Defense spokesperson criticized the pending U.S. arms sales stating stated that “the Taiwan question is at the very core of China’s core interests, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-US relations, and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations.” Furthermore, continued support for Taiwan’s independence “will inevitably escalate tensions across the Taiwan Straits and eventually draw fire against the US itself.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress just passed the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes $10 billion in military aid to Taiwan through fiscal year 2027. This may include 100 PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement munitions and upgrades for the M903 missile launch platforms, enhancing the range and use of Taiwan’s air defenses. If approved, these systems will arrive somewhere between 2025 and 2026.

(source: Wikipedia)

Saudi Arabia Cuts Deal with Huawei During Xi’s Visit 

As a part of broader talks held at a summit between China and Saudi Arabia this week, Saudi officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Chinese tech giant Huawei on December 8. The memorandum discussed cooperation regarding the construction of data centers, the utilization of cloud computing and the development of smart industrial infrastructure in key cities, with the overarching goal of diversifying the Saudi economy and meeting the broader economic development aims enshrined in “Vision 2030.”

In the last five years, there have been a series of MoUs signed between various Saudi ministries and Huawei, which underscore China’s growing economic influence in the country. In 2018, Huawei committed to aid Saudi Arabia in the construction of 5G infrastructure across the nation’s major cities before 2023, a plan that has largely come to fruition. In 2020, Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Informational Technology Commission signed an MoU with Huawei with the intent of engaging in industry collaboration and knowledge sharing across several sectors. More recently, in 2021, the Saudi Ministry of Transport signed yet another MoU with Huawei to receive assistance in modernizing transportation and logistical infrastructure and utilizing “big data” to improve efficiency in other strategic areas.

The Saudi-Huawei MoU is just one of 34 agreements on strategic economic sectors signed during the Chinese-Saudi summit. While the specifics of the agreement have not yet been published, multiple Saudi state news outlets report that the total sum of the collective memoranda lies around $30 billion. The summit itself is part of a larger diplomatic blitz by China in the Arab World, with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping landing in Riyadh to lead both the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit.

(source: Wikipedia)

Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Cautious on Russian Energy Export Scheme to China

A Russian-proposed ‘gas union’ to export natural gas to Central Asia and onward to China has received a cool response from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Uzbek Energy Minister Jorabek Mirzamahmudov put a damper on the proposal, seen by many as part of Russia’s plan to reorient its economic infrastructure away from Europe and towards the Pacific, saying that any agreement would only be a ‘technical contract’ with no political concessions. Although Kazakhstani President Jomart-Kassym Tokayev appeared initially supportive of the idea, his press secretary immediately tempered Kazakhstan’s position.

Any resistance on the part of Astana and Tashkent to Russian gas exports through its territory is likely to be met with concern from Beijing, as Kazakhstan has recently reduced its supply of natural gas to China to meet domestic demand and Uzbekistan has ceased supply altogether in the face of winter weather. Chinese premier Li Keqiang brought these concerns to the surface at the end of November in conference with Kazakhstani Prime Minister Alikhab Smailov, when he urged Kazakhstan to honor its contractual commitments to Beijing.

(source: Global Times) 

With Space Station, China’s “National Rejuvenation” Extends to Outer Space 

On November 29, the Shenzhou 15 manned spaceflight mission launched into the atmosphere from the Gobi Desert carrying three astronauts destined for China’s newly completed space station Tiangong. The three astronauts replaced the previous crew that had completed the final construction of the space station, whose name means “heavenly palace” in Mandarin. With the completion of Tiangong, China has become the third nation to operate a fully-functioning, permanent space station alongside the U.S. and Russia, making it one of the world’s foremost space powers. However, unlike the collaborative, U.S.-led International Space Station, Tiangong was entirely constructed and is run solely by China. This self-reliance is an important step for China, and highlights the fact that their goal of “national rejuvenation” is not just domestic or even just global in scope, but extraterrestrial.

The Chinese space station was built with a focus on performing research on life in space, specifically on the growth and development of different types of plants, animals, and microorganisms, with 1,000 experiments planned for the next ten years. To accomplish this mission goal, the space station is equipped with three modules, with one core module where six astronauts can live while they conduct experiments in the two outlying modules. The station also has an external robotic arm, which enables it to run experiments outside the station. In addition to these capabilities, Tiangong has three docking ports for resupply vehicles and manned spacecraft. The total length of the station is 180 feet for a total of 3,884 cubic feet of space, making it about one-fifth the size of the ISS. The design was based on an older Soviet-era one, but has been heavily modernized.

In contrast to the previous Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, where even at the height of the conflict the two superpowers cooperated with each other when it came to space, there has been no communication nor cooperation between China and the United States since Chinese space technology and exploration developed in the 1990s. Due to the Wolf Amendment, which prevents NASA from collaborating with China in any capacity, the subzero wastes of space will likely become the next arena for the brewing competition between Xi Jinping and the U.S.

(source: Global Times)

On Strategic Stability, China Prizes Opacity

On November 29, the U.S. Department of Defense released its annual, congressionally mandated report on “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” One of the “special topics” covered in this year’s report is the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) views on strategic stability. Beijing’s “strategists typically define strategic stability as including nuclear, conventional, and political-military aspects of state relations…frequently refer[ring] to strategic stability as a general state of balance between the PRC and its rivals in multiple domains, including military, economic, and political.” However, there are increasing emphases on “ensuring mutual vulnerability,” “crisis stability,” and “arms control stability.” These three areas of emphasis are concerned with the impact of emerging technologies on deterrence, arms build ups, and proliferation.

Specifically, for the PRC, hypersonic weapons, the ability of the U.S. to rapidly advance its missile defense programs, cyber-attacks and surveillance capabilities have combined to heighten the security dilemma, creating incentives for first use nuclear strikes and encouraging strategic arms buildups. In other words, Beijing is concerned that, if properly motivated, the US could quickly eliminate their ability to deter Washington or its regional allies and should it choose, dismantle the PRC’s land based strategic assets while crippling its command and control infrastructure. They also fear that U.S. allies could feel emboldened to create their own nuclear arms or act more aggressively towards Beijing (presumably, for example, in border disputes). All this said, PRC has been reluctant to directly address such strategic stability concerns and remains committed, publicly at least, to a “no first use” nuclear policy. This reticence extends to China’s willingness to undertake formal discussions on strategic stability with the U.S., including talks on strengthening crisis communication channels and reducing the risks posed by emerging technologies. Perhaps this constitutes Beijing’s own kind of strategic ambiguity.