November 19, 2021- Stealth War 64: China’s Zero-COVID policy; Beijing Deepens ties with Myanmar; Sino-Russian Coal Cooperation; China’s Use of Exit Bans; Danish University professor working with PLA on primate research

By: John Foulkes

Tue November, 2021, Age: 2 years



November 19, 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

3.7 million

Approximate number of U.S. jobs lost as a result of China’s World Trade Organization (WTO) accession in 2001. The 20th anniversary of China’s WTO entry is next month on December 11. 

This Week:

*  China Pushes forward with Zero-COVID policy, Despite International Isolation, Internal Frustrations

*  China Deepens Ties with Junta, Lobbies for Myanmar’s Inclusion in ASEAN meetings

*  Energy Crisis Drives China to Deepen Cooperation with Russia on Coal, Natural Gas

*  China Accused of Leveraging Exit Bans for Diplomatic Gains Following Release of American Daniel Hsu

*  Leading Danish University “Very Proud to Have” Professor who Experimented on Monkey Brains for the PLA

Top Stories

(source: CNA

China Pushes forward with Zero-COVID policy, Despite International Isolation, Internal Frustrations 

Earlier this week, General Secretary Xi Jinping declared that China had “overcome” the negative impact of the COVID-19 epidemic in a cost-effective manner. Despite Xi’s upbeat message, China remains wedded to its maximalist zero-COVID strategy, which includes imposing immediate mass lockdowns to respond to even a single outbreak, and going so far as to screen imports of food and clothing for the virus, even though they are unlikely sources of infection.

Beijing’s zero-COVID approach, along with China’s packed domestic political calendar, has left Xi and other top leaders with little time or inclination for international diplomacy. Xi, who has not traveled outside of China in nearly two years, missed recent gatherings of world leaders, the G20 summit in Italy and the COP-26 meetings in Scotland. Chinese leaders’ absence from the world stage and the closing of China to the outside world due to public health restrictions, has contributed to growing international isolation and a “bunker mentality” in Beijing.

Frequent lock-downs have also begun to stir internal unrest in China. For example, in the town of Ruili in southern Yunnan province, which sits along the border with Myanmar, COVID-related restrictions have been so excessive, e.g. one baby has reportedly been tested 74 times, that rare outbursts of online protest and complaints regarding official policies have taken place.

(source: Xinhua)

China Deepens Ties with Junta, Lobbies for Myanmar’s Inclusion in ASEAN meetings 

A Chinese diplomat has reportedly asked the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to allow Myanmar’s coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to attend its annual summit. However, the move has encountered widespread opposition from the grouping of Southeast Asian states.

Last month, ASEAN blocked Myanmar’s military leader from joining its summit in an unprecedented move. The decision came after Min Aung Hlaing failed to meet with democratic lawmakers, who were overthrown in the coup. After Myanmar failed to send a non-political representative, it was excluded from ASEAN. China is set to meet with ASEAN on November 22. Several ASEAN member-states, including Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore have expressed their desire to have Min Aung Hlaing prohibited from joining the summit, according to political sources.

The report comes as Beijing special envoy Sun Guoxiang is on a visit to Naypyidaw in an effort to ease the political crisis that has wracked Myanmar since the February coup. Sun has made several low-profile trips to Myanmar in recent months. Since the military coup took place, China has adopted a careful approach to engaging with Myanmar. Immediately after the coup, China closed its border with Myanmar to prevent spillover from the conflict, and faced challenges from anti-China protests and violence in Yangon. Since August, however, China has engaged with the military government. China has petitioned to meet with leaders from the National League of Democracy, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who was driven out of office by the military in February. However, Naypyidaw has denied these requests. Nevertheless, in August, China signed a $6.1 million deal with Myanmar for 21 development projects.

(source: Global Times).

Energy Crisis Drives China to Deepen Cooperation with Russia on Coal, Natural Gas 

One of the most controversial moments of this year’s COP26 conference was China’s refusal to sign a pledge to reduce its use of coal. At the conference, some of the world’s top consumers agreed to phase out coal as an energy source including Indonesia, Poland, and South Korea. China, however, insists that coal is essential to its economic development and energy security, and there is strong evidence that this may be the case.

China has been facing its worst energy crisis in two decades this winter, and experts are attributing the crisis to coal shortages on the international market as the world phases out the use of fossil fuels. As a result of this crisis, China is grasping for options to keep families warm this winter. This week, Chinese and Russian officials entered talks to negotiate a long-term contract to develop coal deposits in Russia. China has also turned to Russia for emergency shipments of natural gas in an effort to get a better handle on its energy shortages. This collaboration signals a growing trend, as the West puts pressure on China and Russia to go green, the two may deepen ties and continue to work together on coal, oil, and LNG projects. 

(source: Everett Herald)

China Accused of Leveraging Exit Bans for Diplomatic Gains Following Release of American Daniel Hsu

The Chinese government’s use of exit bans has become a more common tactic for Beijing to exert political leverage in its diplomatic relations. After being detained in China for seven years, US officials stated that Daniel Hsu’s exit ban was finally lifted, with Hsu arriving home to Issaquah, Washington earlier this week. Hsu’s release coincided with the Biden – Xi virtual summit, and was interpreted by some as a concession to the US, in an effort to increase the likelihood of official US participation in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Hsu’s detention was attributed to his relationship with his father, who has been accused of embezzlement and is wanted back in China for prosecution on corruption charges.

Due to the party-state’s dominance of the legal and security systems, essentially anyone, regardless of citizenship, is potentially subject to detention in China, often on vague and unsubstantiated charges of criminal, fraudulent, or subversive activity. The US Department of State has warned US citizens to “reconsider travel” to China due to the risk of extralegal punishment, including exit bans. The US has also criticized  the unlawful nature of these exit bans, referring to their widespread use as a form of collective punishment, and has threatened to take necessary measures to respond to this practice.

(source: Xinhua)

Leading Danish University “Very Proud to Have” Professor who Experimented on Monkey Brains for the PLA

Denmark is in shock over revelations that a Chinese professor at the University of Copenhagen undertook genetic research with a PLA laboratory on monkeys. The research included subjecting monkeys to inhumane conditions, extreme altitude. The research is particularly valuable to the PLA due to the large numbers of soldiers it stations in high-altitude areas of Tibet along the border with India.

The professor who led the study, Guojie Zhang, did not disclose his research to university authorities as doing so was not required. Zhang co-authored a paper with a PLA major general in January 2020, which the University of Copenhagen claims it was unaware of at the time.

The University of Copenhagen expects the review of “ethical and security policy limits” for collaboration will result in new rules for universities – and greater focus on the risks,”  but also stated that “we are very proud to have Prof. Zhang … as one of our very highly performing researchers.”




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