June 4, 2021 – Stealth War 40: Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre; Huawei Launches HarmonyOS; Biden Expands Investment Blacklist

By: Jamestown Foundation

Fri June, 2021, Age: 2 years



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June 4, 2021

Welcome to the Stealth War Newsletter, a collection of the top 5 recent news items, collected on The Jamestown Foundation’s new website, stealth-war-org.cdn-pi.com. 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

13 percent

The amount by which the RMB has surged against the dollar since May 2020, marking a three year high. The People’s Bank of China has increased the reserve ratio for foreign exchange holdings.

This Week:

* Chinese Leaders Crack Down on Censorship and Ban Events Commemorating June 4

* Huawei Launches HarmonyOS While Under Scrutiny in Europe

* Biden Expands Investment Blacklist of Military-linked Chinese Firms Amid Economic Negotiations

* Chinese Air Force Intrudes into Malaysian Airspace Continuing Trend of South China Sea Militarization

* G7 Prepares to Launch BRI Green Rival While China Eyes Myanmar, Afghanistan

Top Stories

Chinese Leaders Crack Down on Censorship and Ban Events Commemorating June 4

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere throughout China on June 4, 1989. The protests were precipitated by the death of the popular pro-reform CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang in April, and by late May had spread to over 300 cities, coalescing into a wide-ranging movement that supported constitutional due process, free speech, freedom of the press, government accountability and democratic reforms. In response, the central government declared martial law on May 20, and soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army mobilized to occupy the central areas of Beijing in the early hours of June 4, leading to what would become known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Western diplomats and journalists who were present have estimated that the death toll ranged between hundreds and thousands.

The Tiananmen Square movement has become a symbol of the pro-democracy movement among overseas Chinese, particularly in Hong Kong. This year marks the first time that no candlelit vigil will commemorate the Tiananmen incident in Victoria Park, after city authorities cited both anti-pandemic measures and the 2019 National Security Law to ban the event. This year, city officials shut down a museum dedicated to the massacre two days after it reopened and reportedly deployed 7,000 officers around major junctions and near Victoria Park to dissuade gatherers. Hong Kong’s security minister warned residents last week that those taking part in unauthorized assemblies could face up to five years in prison. Past event organizers told people, “under the circumstances, mourn June 4 in your own way, at the right time and place, so that the truth will not disappear,” and journalists reported that people around the city were spotted wearing black with electronic candles or their phone flashlights on. Within mainland China, people reported that sensitive keywords including the numbers 6, 4, 8, 9 and the candle emoji were banned on social media.

An opinion piece in the independent Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily explicitly tied June 4 to current events in Hong Kong, saying, “The Tiananmen crackdown 32 years ago put a curse on Hong Kong: the city that supported the Tiananmen student movements in 1989 is now encountering crackdowns on itself by the CCP.” In a piece titled “Never forget” for the Mekong Review, Jeffrey Wasserstrom observed that June 4 memorials abroad are now headlined by two kinds of exiles: those who left after Tiananmen in 1989 and Hong Kong activists who left after 2019.

Huawei Launches HarmonyOS While Under Scrutiny in Europe

On Wednesday, Huawei officially launched its HarmonyOS operating system alongside a suite of new products powered by its in-house operating system, seeking to switch 200 million devices from Android to the new OS by the end of the year. After the U.S. placed Huawei on an investment blacklist over national security concerns, its devices have been blocked from updates and technical support for Google’s Android. By developing its own operating system, Huawei aims to circumvent American sanctions and expand its share of the global smartphone market. Since Huawei has lost presence in the West following U.S. sanctions, the company has turned to partners elsewhere to strengthen its supply chain, including Russia. HarmonyOS was created with help from Russian research groups. Huawei’s pivot to Moscow is part of a broader strengthening of ties between China and Russia under U.S. pressure.

In Europe, Huawei has recently faced both victories and challenges. On May 20, the Italian government authorized a conditional deal between Vodafone and Huawei to construct its 5G network. But Huawei still faces a high security threshold and is prohibited from remote intervention to repair technical glitches under the deal. Meanwhile, in Poland, an espionage trial of a former Huawei executive and a Polish secret services agent began on Tuesday. The two men were arrested in 2019 on charges of spying for China. While Warsaw has not blocked Huawei from operating in Poland, the legislature has proposed regulations which would effectively exclude the firm from building its 5G networks.

Biden Expands Investment Blacklist of Military-linked Chinese Firms Amid Economic Negotiations 

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen virtually met with China’s trade czar, Vice Premier Liu He, on Wednesday. While no details have emerged regarding the talks, both sides have stated their agreement on the importance of trade negotiations, and held “candid” exchanges on the macroeconomic situation and bilateral and multilateral cooperation, according to Xinhua. Liu also held talks with the U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on May 26.

China has sought greater engagement with the United States on trade issues during the Biden presidency, even as it has failed to meet the terms of the Phase One trade deal signed with the Trump administration. Although the trade war figured prominently in U.S.-China relations under the Trump administration, so far this year the Biden administration has prioritized human rights and national security issues. But the upcoming expiration of the Phase One deal at the end of this year will likely bring renewed debate over the U.S.’ trade ties with China.

Despite the apparent slight warming on trade, President Biden also signed an executive order on Friday morning expanding an investment blacklist of Chinese companies with alleged ties to the Chinese military-industrial complex. The list increases the number of sanctioned companies from 31 under the Trump administration to 59, while also removing a handful of companies for unstated reasons. Emily Weinstein, from Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technologies, has argued that the new order concerningly removes a previous focus on military-civil fusion, marking a step back from “targeted/nuanced language back to broad ambiguity.”

Chinese Air Force Intrudes into Malaysian Airspace as Global Powers Send Warships to South China Sea  

During a conference call with Asia-based media sources today, the commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces General Kenneth S. Wilsbach stated that China is trying to return to an era of vassal states. “They don’t believe there can be multiple superpowers,” said the general, “they believe that there can only be one, and they want to return back to the glory days of [imperial] China where everybody else was a vassal state and everybody [kowtowed] to the emperor.”

General Wilsbach’s statement comes in response to Beijing’s increasing militarization of the South China Sea. China is trying to back up its territorial claim to 90 percent of the strategically located, resource-rich region. Wilsbach cited recent incursions by People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) jets into Malaysian airspace on Monday, with the Malaysian air force scrambling its jets in response to 16 PLAAF fighter jets flying 60 nautical miles off the coast of the Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo. China’s flyby off of Malaysian territory is not a novel situation; such incursions by the PLAAF frequently take place against Taiwan and Japan’s Senkaku Islands.

The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Tuesday met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh, expressing concern over the presence of Chinese naval officials at the country’s Ream Naval Base. Sherman sought clarification on why Cambodia demolished two U.S.-funded buildings on the base last year. Analysts have expressed worries in the past that the PLA Navy (PLAN) might open a naval base in the country, which is closely allied with Beijing.

Beijing’s efforts to exert influence in the South China Sea is drawing a response from neighboring countries and global powers. The U.S. Navy is currently deploying a third of its Pacific Submarine Force as part of a major exercise to assess its combat readiness, called Exercise Agile Dagger 2021. As pointed out by General Wilsbach, China’s aggressive military moves in the region has fueled distrust of the country around the world, resulting in disparate powers coalescing in opposition.

G7 Prepares to Launch BRI Green Rival While China Eyes Myanmar, Afghanistan

The Group of Seven nations (G7) is prepared to launch the “Clean Green Initiative,” an investment campaign to support sustainable development in developing countries. U.S. President Joe Biden has continually pushed for a joint effort among allies to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative. While details on funding for the Clean Green Initiative have not yet emerged, its strategic framework and initial goals will likely be discussed at next week’s G7 leadership summit.

Meanwhile, China has signalled its interest in expanding its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the controversial states of Myanmar and Afghanistan. China has already launched several BRI projects in Myanmar, including the Myitkyina Economic Development Zone and the Yangon Mega City Project. The February coup d’etat, however, complicated China’s investment plans in Myanmar. Nevertheless, the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) told the Financial Times that it was open to investments in Myanmar under the military junta. AIIB possesses a framework to deal with “de facto governments,” including effective control over the territory, recognition of financial obligations and potential financial risk.

At a virtual dialogue between the foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi also expressed China’s intention to expand BRI projects in Afghanistan after the U.S. troop withdrawal. The U.S. is set to remove its remaining military presence from Afghanistan by September 11, the twentieth anniversary of 9/11.  Wang called the U.S. exit from the country as an opportunity for the Afghan people to “control their own destiny,” and the ministers from the three countries all agreed to open greater dialogue.

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