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November 4, 2022- Stealth War 109: Chinese Rocket Debris Lands; Chinese Parts Found in Iranian Drones Playing Key Role on the Battlefield in Ukraine; UK’s Sunak Promises to Close Confucius Institutes; China Set to Debut New Drones at Upcoming Zhuhai Airshow; India Questions Belt and Road Initiative at Shanghai Cooperation Organization Meeting

By: Jamestown Foundation

Fri November, 2022, Age: 1 year


November 4, 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 watch

2.8%Amount China’s consumer price index (CPI) increased last month, the most since August 2020. Much of the increase is due to spiking pork prices. 

This Week: 

* Chinese Rocket Debris Makes Uncontrolled Reentry in Pacific Ocean

Chinese Parts Found in Iranian Drones Playing Key Role on the Battlefield in Ukraine

* UK’s Sunak Promises to Close Confucius Institutes

China Set to Debut New Drones at Upcoming Zhuhai Airshow

India Questions Belt and Road Initiative at Shanghai Cooperation Organization Meeting

Top Stories

(source: Wikipedia)

Chinese Rocket Debris Makes Uncontrolled Reentry in Pacific Ocean 

The remnants of a Chinese rocket booster that had been used to carry a new component to the Chinese space-station Tiangong crashed landed in the Pacific Ocean early Friday morning. China’s space program has a longstanding pattern of launching rockets into space and undertaking deliberate uncontrolled atmospheric reentry. NASA administrator Bill Nelson released a statement raising concern that “Once again, the People’s Republic of China is taking unnecessary risks with the uncontrolled rocket stage reentry of their Long March 5B rocket stage. They did not share specific trajectory information which is needed to predict landing zones and reduce risk.” Spain briefly closed part of its airspace due to the risk of rocket debris falling through the atmosphere.

The Chinese government pushed hard on the notion that the uncontrolled entry was reckless. In response to a question from the New York Times about the risks to populated areas, PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that “China has all along pursued the peaceful use of outer space in accordance with international law.” He also claimed that the “rocket you mentioned is designed with special technology, and the overwhelming majority of its components will burn up during the re-entry into the atmosphere. The probability of this process causing harm to aviation activities or to the ground is extremely low.” However, Ted Muelhaupt, a consultant with The Aerospace Corporation said that while the risks of any one person getting hurt are exceedingly low (six in ten trillion) he also pointed out that “88% of the world’s population is at risk, and so 7 billion people are at risk” from the Chinese space debris falling on them.

(source: Wikipedia)

Chinese Parts Found in Iranian Drones Playing Key Role on the Battlefield in Ukraine 

In recent weeks, the war in Ukraine has spiraled into a new and dangerous phase involving an increase in UAV attacks. Iranian-manufactured suicide drones, the Shahed-136 and Mohajer-6, are being used by Russian forces to destroy critical infrastructure in Ukraine, while also terrorizing the local population in the process. According to a newly released report by the Institute for Science and International Security, these drones appear to be built using Chinese parts taken from captured Western designs. Researchers with the institute discovered that the Shahed-136 drone uses an engine built by Beijing MicroPilot Flight Control Systems, which is a knock off version of an engine built by the German company Limbach Flugmotoren.

In addition to using Chinese engines outright, Iran has also created its own designs modeled off the Chinese parts. The Shahed-131 drone, one of the other types of Iranian drones Russia is using, contains an engine built domestically in Iran that was reverse-engineered from another Beijing MicroPilot Flight Control Systems engine. Notably, this Chinese engine is also based on a British design. Thus, “it appears that Chinese companies are supplying Iran with copies of Western commodities to produce UAV combat drones” which are then being purchased by Russia to use against Ukraine, linking the three countries in a trilateral outsourcing consortium where all three directly benefit from Western technological advancements. According to Spencer Faragasso, a research fellow at the Institute for Science and International Security, it is unclear how China obtained these Western designs, but what is clear is that these engines are being produced in China and exported to Iran. It is also unknown when specific Chinese parts arrived in Iran.

Last week, Ukrainian investigators also discovered Western-made parts in the Shahed-136 and Mohajer-6 drones that help to steer, power and guide the drone’s weapons, which indicates that some of its parts are being directly purchased from western nations, rather than reverse engineered in China or Iran. Based on these findings, researchers are concluding that customs officials in the U.S., Europe, and Australia, as well as businesses and governments, need to be more vigilant about distributing commercial products with potential military applications. Globalization is changing the way militaries produce their weaponry, and the war in Ukraine is demonstrating this evolution clearer than any conflict in recent memory.

(source: Wikipedia)

UK’s Sunak Promises to Close Confucius Institutes

On November 1, the United Kingdom’s (UK) Security Minister, Tom Tugendhat, confirmed that newly minted Prime Minister (PM) Rishi Sunak is “looking to close” the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Confucius Institutes that are currently operating in the nation. Funded by Beijing, these supposed educational centers are purportedly a form of soft-power, with benign intentions of teaching Chinese language and culture. As of 2019, there are over 550 centers in more than 150 countries. However, some experts believe that Confucius Institutes are a form of “sharp power” (i.e. a means of undermining democracy, often via disinformation and other influence campaigns). The institutes may also serve as a means of espionage.

During the summer scramble for a new PM, which Liz Truss ultimately won, the PRC’s Global Times called Sunak “the one candidate with a pragmatic view of developing balanced ties with China.” This resulted in the other candidates attacking him as soft on Beijing. However, in addition to Sunak’s promise to close all Confucius Institutes, he has called the PRC the “biggest long-term threat to Britain.” Now that Sunak is in power, and facing pressure from both the recent revelations of “secret” PRC police stations to persecute dissidents in the UK and the video of a PRC diplomat assaulting protestors, he appears intent on following through with his promise. If Sunak succeeds, between 26 and 30 Confucius Institutes will be shut down in the UK, along with an additional 92 Confucius Classrooms; some of which are in Scotland’s universities.

(source: Global Times)

China Set to Debut New Drones at Upcoming Zhuhai Airshow 

The fourteenth iteration of China’s Zhuhai Airshow is set to kick off next week. The annual event in the Guangdong metropolis, which lies opposite Macau, features the newest innovations from China’s military and civilian aerospace industries.

Dual use and military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will have a starring role in this year’s Zhuhai airshow. The China South Industries Group Corporation (CSGC) is rolling out a lightweight vehicle-mounted swarm weapon system, which can perform a range of complex tasks, including reconnaissance, area denial and control, precision cluster strike. In addition, the show will feature a range of new “Rainbow” or CH-series drones capable of handling multi-role functions with long-range, stealth and high-altitude models now coming on line. China has emerged as a major producer of military drones. Production of CH-series UAVs is at maximum capacity due to unprecedented demand, with more than 200 units having been sold recently.

(source: Twitter)

India Questions Belt and Road Initiative at Shanghai Cooperation Organization Meeting 

At a meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) heads of government, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar  said infrastructure “connectivity projects must respect sovereignty issues” in an apparent reference to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). New Delhi has been particularly frustrated that projects within the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key BRI corridor, traverse the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan, which Pakistanis call “Free Kashmir” and which Indians refer to as Pakistani Occupied Kashmir.

Jaishankar used the meeting to promote, India’s preferred connectivity initiatives, Iran’s Chabahar port and the International North South Transport Corridors (INSTC). The INSTC, which was initiated by Russia, India, and Iran in September 2000 in St. Petersburg, seeks to connect South Asia with Central Asia and Russia, but has largely failed to gain much traction. He also stressed that it was particularly important for the SCO to cooperate to enhance infrastructure connectivity between Central Asia and the broader region.