March 25, 2022-Stealth War 81: Solomon Islands Part Ways With Australia for China; Chinese Foreign Minister Makes Surprise Visits to Afghanistan, India; Tajikistan’s China Funded Parliament: A Larger Trend; Chinese Province Calls to Bolster Ties with Russia; China’s Draft of Regulations for the “Management of Human Genetic Resources”

By: Jamestown Foundation

Fri March, 2022, Age: 1 year


March 25, 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 watch43.3%
Growth in bilateral trade between China and India in 2021. The spike is notable given that relations between the two Asian giants were largely defined by geopolitical rivalry (for more on this relationship see the second item below)





This Week: 

Solomon Islands Part Ways With Australia for China

Chinese Foreign Minister Makes Surprise Visits to Afghanistan and India

Tajikistan’s China Funded Parliament: A Larger Trend

Chinese Province Calls to Bolster Ties with Russia 

China’s Draft of Regulations for the “Management of Human Genetic Resources”




Top Stories





(source: KRDO)




Solomon Islands Part Ways With Australia for China




 China and the Solomon Islands are signing a new security agreement that will alter the strategic landscape in the Indo-Pacific region according to Australian and U.S. sources. The deal follows mass protests in November 2021 over the Solomon Islands’ formal diplomatic recognition of China and economic hardships facing the country. The violence began after protestors from the group “Malaita for Democracy” traveled to the capital of the Solomon Islands to call on Prime Minister Sogavare to explain his decision. When he failed to deliver an explanation, let alone address their economic concerns, rioting erupted. Shops were set ablaze, businesses were looted, and four people were killed in the unrest. Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji sent hundreds of police to subdue the riots, with Australia dispatching the most—100 in total. Historically, Australia has offered such peacekeeping services in similar circumstances, but history is beginning to change course.

In signing this new deal, it seems the government in Honiara is reorienting ties away from Australia in favor of China. The agreement will function along the same lines as the previous one with Australia, allowing China a wide range of authority in maintaining public order, protecting Chinese assets and interests, and providing humanitarian and disaster relief. It will grant China the power to use its military, paramilitary and police forces to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel and major infrastructure projects in the Solomon Islands. Significantly, the Chinese government will also obtain a naval base in the island chain, less than 2000 kilometers off Australia’s coast. Other provisions in the agreement suggest logistics and supplies will be made available in the Solomons to support the People’s Liberation Army Navy as well. Thus, the agreement will extend Chinese authority greatly, using logistical supply capabilities and material assets it hereto lacked access to outside the South China Sea, and into a region that has been under the protective mantle of Australia since World War II.





(source: CGTN)




Chinese Foreign Minister Makes Surprise Visits to Afghanistan and India




On Thursday and Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made surprise visits to Afghanistan and India for high-level talks with their leaders during his South Asia tour—both visits planned in secret. In Kabul, Wang met Acting Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, making it China’s highest-level visit since the Taliban took power following the U.S. withdrawal last August. While Beijing has not formally recognized the Taliban government, both sides emphasized their historical and friendly ties, and Wang confirmed that “China respects the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integration of Afghanistan.” They also discussed political and economic relations, including Afghanistan’s potential participation in the Belt and Road Initiative, as Beijing has clear interests in ensuring the security of its border with Afghanistan. Following the meeting, Muttaqi claimed the country is now open for “international investors, including China, to invest in Afghanistan, thereby benefiting the Afghan people in terms of economic growth and stability.” The visit came one day after the Taliban reversed its decision to allow girls to return to high school classes, prompting the U.S. to cancel its upcoming talks with Taliban leaders in Doha, as well as international backlash over the decision.

In New Delhi, Wang met his counterpart- External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, which was China’s highest-level visit to India since the Galwan Valley border clashes in June 2020. During the meeting, the two sides discussed ways to restore normal bilateral relations and resolve the military stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Wang said that the two countries “should not let the border issue define or affect the overall development of the bilateral relationship,” and that the two countries should work together to promote global peace and stability. However, New Delhi made it clear that bilateral relations could not return to normal until they resolve the border stand-off on mutually acceptable terms. “So long as there are very large deployments, the border situation is not normal,” said Jaishankar during a news briefing. Despite this apparent cleavage, both countries have remained ambiguous on their positions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and had agreed that an “immediate ceasefire and return to diplomacy” was needed.





(source: Eurasianet)




Tajikistan’s China Funded Parliament: A Larger Trend




Every now and then, pictures of the construction of the new Tajik parliament building emerge. While the pictures themselves do not reveal much, they do serve as a reminder that China is funding the building of the legislative body’s new home, and that this is not the first parliament building China has constructed for another nation. In September 2017, during Tajik President Rahmon’s state visit to Beijing, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed to boost bilateral cooperation, expanding on Tajikistan’s early involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative. As part of this agreement, China awarded a 150 billion RMB (around $225 million at the time) “no strings attached” grant to Tajikistan for the construction of a new parliament building, to be built by a Chinese construction company. By 2018, the first stone was laid by President Rahmon and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, by 2020 construction was begun by the Yanjian Group, and the project is set to be completed by October 2023. So, what is the problem?

The issue goes beyond concerns about corruption, deepening economic integration, or Chinese military bases being built in Tajikistan. At their core, such projects are arguably just as much about espionage and undermining sovereignty as they are about charm offensives. Though far from the only means of gathering intelligence, constructing government facilities allows a nation to easily install and conceal any means of surveillance they wish. This is likely a driver of why Beijing has been so keen to give supposedly unconditional loans to construct government buildings, with over 186 having been constructed in African nations alone as of 2020, including seven parliaments, and 14 “sensitive intragovernmental telecommunications networks.” China has of course brushed aside concerns over eavesdropping, but bugs and data breaches were found in 2018 in the African Union headquarters which were traced back to China, and in 2020 it was again reported that the African Union was subject to Chinese surveillance. At the core of the 2020 scandal, and likely an element of the previous one, was China’s telecom company Huawei, which provided and installed the IT infrastructure for the African Union. Information has always been power, but the amount of power it allows an actor to wield with modern technology is unprecedented. As the Central Asian states seek to maintain their sovereignty while balancing their two more powerful neighbors (China and Russia), they are better off if they “look the gift horse in the mouth;” maybe the West should be helping more countries do just that.





(source: SCMP)




 Chinese Province Calls to Bolster Ties with Russia 




As China attempts to maintain its ambiguous stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing faces growing pressure from the West to distance itself from President Putin. However, at least one Chinese province has called for increasing ties to Russia. Xu Qin, Communist Party chief of Heilongjiang province, which is located in northeast China and shares a border with Russia, wants to expedite construction of new pipeline branches to secure the China-Russia natural gas pipeline. According to the Heilongjiang Daily newspaper, Xu claimed China and Russia should, “speed up the all-around opening up to Russia and make new contributions to ensuring national energy security and serving China-Russia strategic coordination.” Xu’s statement came after the Biden-Xi phone call last week, wherein President Biden underscored that “China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression.”

Opened in December 2019, the pipeline, which stretches 3,000 kilometer in Russia and 5,111 kilometer in China, runs through nine Chinese provinces and has supplied natural gas imports to regions including Beijing and Tianjin. The pipeline is a key part of the energy cooperation between Beijing and Moscow in the Belt and Road Initiative, especially after Xi and Putin agreed to a new 30-year contract that will supply China with 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year in February. It has generated local economic growth, but now faces significant risks as Russia has been hit with widespread sanctions that have crippled its economy, including Biden’s promise to help the EU access more liquefied natural gas, decreasing dependence on Russian fuel imports. To offset these economic impacts, Putin looks to further deepen ties with China by increasing gas exports and constructing more cross-border energy pipelines. Chinese experts believe China will purchase more energy from Russia, seeing Siberia as a driver for economic growth, which will also help its efforts to decrease its natural gas dependence on the U.S. and Australia.





(source: Global Times)




China’s Draft of Regulations for the “Management of Human Genetic Resources”




On March 22, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology released a draft regulatory document titled “Detailed Rules for the Implementation of the Regulations on the Management of Human Genetic Resources.” The purpose of the regulation is “to effectively protect and rationally utilize China’s human genetic resources and safeguard public health, national security and public interests, in accordance with the Biosecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China,” and numerous other security, criminal, and scientific regulatory laws of China. China’s biosecurity law is notable not only for its surveillance functions within the nation (both health and security oriented) but also for outlawing foreigners from collecting, preserving, utilizing, or providing to foreign entities any form of China’s Human Genetic Resources (as well as plant and animal genetics), whether in physical or data form, without governmental approval.

The new draft regulation gives more detailed guidance on the implementation of the biosecurity law, Notably, the law calls for genetic “surveys” to be carried out every five years (or sooner if requested) in which DNA is collected from the residents of various regions. In addition to an interest in disease and general sampling to build up a centralized database for research and security, there appears to be a particular interest in, “the genetic resources of people who live in isolation or special environments for a long time and have special physical characteristics or adaptive traits in terms of physiological characteristics.” Undoubtedly, most of the research will be beneficial to humanity, and it is typical of modern governments and companies to gather large DNA databases (whether or not it is ethical or consensual is something else entirely). However, not all governments have the same concepts of ethics and laws, and there are already several synergistic arms races for AI, big data, and biotechnology, with China the forefront. There are of course concerns about the surveillance or abuse of Chinese citizens, but there are also larger concerns about weaponizing genetics to target individuals or groups, to create super soldiers, or to create WMDs. Indeed, the United States and undoubtedly China are striving to defend soldiers against the weaponization of gene editing. Who comes out on top will largely depend on how much data they can collect and utilize, and the sorts of laws and ethics guide their collection and utilization. The Chinese draft regulation paints a picture of this, giving a superficial feeling of regulation while not excluding or clarifying approaches that the biosecurity law left ambiguous, and, by prioritizing national security, does not rule out a worrisome research culture.




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