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October 22, 2021– Stealth War 60: NSC Denies Xinjiang Report; Human Rights and the Olympics; Hypersonic Test; Europe and Taiwan; BRI Air Pollution

By: Jamestown Foundation

Tue November, 2021, Age: 2 years



October 22, 2021

Welcome to the Stealth War Newsletter, a collection of the top 5 recent news items, collected on The Jamestown Foundation’s new website, To continue to receive this weekly collection, click the button below to subscribe. 

Strategic Indicator
This issue’s number to watch49
Number of district councillors in Hong Kong who have been disqualified from holding office because their loyalty oaths to China were ruled invalid.

This Week:

* NSC Vigorously Denies Report Kerry, Sullivan stifled Bipartisan Legislation on Uyghur Forced Labor

* Human Rights Criticism of China Increases in Advance of Olympics

* China’s Hypersonic Missile Test: Assessing the Fallout

* US, Europe Emphasize Commitments to Taiwan

BRI Roundup: Despite Green BRI Goals, Air Pollution Plagues Communities with Chinese Projects

Top Stories


NSC Vigorously Denies Report Kerry, Sullivan stifled Bipartisan Legislation on Uyghur Forced Labor  

This week, a National Security Council spokesperson vigorously denied a story in the progressive magazine American Prospect that the Biden administration’s Special Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had “requested the House leadership to block floor action” on the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act “for the sake of appeasing Beijing.”

The bipartisan legislation, which was co-sponsored by 55 Senators, would prohibit the importation of products made using forced labor in Xinjiang’s Uyghur internment camps. Despite its brisk passage through the Senate, the bill has been held up at the Committee Desk since July. The issue re-emerges as those in favor of a more competitive China strategy fear the Biden administration may be focused on a quick win, e.g a breakthrough agreement at the COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland last month, and may be recalibrating toward a policy that places greater emphasis on engagement with China. The issue gives credence to the fears that some center-left foreign policy experts, such as the Brookings Institution’s Thomas Wright, had voiced over “The Risk of John Kerry Following His Own China Policy.”

(source: Xinhua)

Human Rights Criticism of China Increases in Advance of Olympics

The Olympic flame’s path back to China has been marred by human rights criticism ahead of the February 2022 winter games. On Monday, protesters carrying a Tibetan flag disrupted the flame lighting ceremony in southern Greece, birthplace of the Olympics. Activist groups, including the International Tibet Network, accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of allowing China to gain legitimacy for its human rights abuses while still holding the games in Beijing. Activists called for a boycott of the Olympic Games given alleged human rights abuses against Tibetans and Uyghurs. Despite accusations of China’s human rights abuses, IOC President Thomas Bach called for the games to be “respected as politically neutral ground.” The flame was received by Beijing’s Party Secretary Cai Qi on Wednesday at an airport ceremony with tight security.

On the same day the flame returned to China, National Basketball Association (NBA) player Enes Kanter of the Boston Celtics released a two-minute video expressing support for Tibet. Kanter also wore shoes designed by dissident cartoonist Badiucao that read “Free Tibet.” In a statement to sports broadcaster ESPN, the office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed support and gratitude for Kanter’s statements. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin slammed Kanter for “clout-chasing.” Meanwhile, Celtics games have been removed from Chinese streaming platform Tencent. NBA players and staff have previously encountered trouble for criticizing China, with a notable incident being Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey’s 2019 Tweets in support of Hong Kong protesters. Kanter’s remarks return the NBA to a struggle over free speech, especially given the Chinese market’s importance to the association.

(source: Global Times).

China’s Hypersonic Missile Test: Assessing the Fallout 

The Financial Times dropped a bombshell report on the international defense community this week: China successfully tested a nuclear capable hypersonic missile back in August. Hypersonic missiles, which can fly at more than five times the speed of sound, are an emerging technology that other militaries are still working to master.

The test demonstrates the rapid technological progress of the Chinese military, which flew under the radar of US intelligence, and indicates that PLA capabilities may be approaching or surpassing the US and Russia, sooner than many imagined.

In response to concerns about the test, the Chinese government has denied any possession of such a weapon, claiming that the test was a routine spacecraft test. US President Biden is reportedly “very concerned” about the development. The news of China’s capability is predicted by some analysts to be the start of a “space-based arms race.”

(source: Xinhua)

US, Europe Emphasize Commitments to Taiwan

At a CNN Town Hall on Thursday night, President Biden affirmed the United States’ commitment to defending Taiwan from a Chinese attack. The administration, however clarified Biden’s remarks after the event and stated that the United States’ policy on Taiwan is unchanged, and remains based on the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which is predicated on opposing efforts by either Beijing or Taipei to unilaterally alter the status quo in the cross-straits relationship through military force or other means. The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a sharp response to Biden’s remarks stating that: “When it comes to issues related to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, there is no room for China to compromise or make concessions, and no one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Meanwhile, the European Union Parliament overwhelmingly voted on a non-binding resolution to strengthen ties with Taiwan, including investments with the island state. The resolution also calls for the bloc’s trade office in Taipei to be formally renamed the European Union office in Taiwan. Although the renaming does not officially upgrade relations into formal diplomatic ties, it signals the European Union’s increasingly vocal support for Taiwan. The European Union designated Taiwan as a potential trade deal partner in 2015, and while talks have not yet been opened, Taiwan has expressed interest in the prospect.

Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu also announced that he would visit Slovakia and the Czech Republic next week. Over the visit, Wu will attend a think tank forum in Slovakia, and meet with Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib and Czech speaker of the upper house of the parliament Milos Vystrcil. Announcement of the visit provoked ire from Beijing, with the Chinese foreign ministry expressing that it would use any “necessary interests” to defend its sovereignty and claim over the self-ruled island.

(sources: Xinhua)

BRI Roundup: Belt and Road Faces Challenges and Takes New Forms

Over the past two years, the residents of Bor, a mining town in eastern Serbia, have protested rising air and water pollution. They claim that the local river has turned a reddish color and has a foul odor. Air quality tests have come back positive for sulphur dioxide, arsenic iron, nickel, and cadmium, all of which can negatively affect human health. What is to blame for the poor environmental conditions in Bor? Residents and local environmentalists point to the Chinese mining company Zijin, which run’s the city’s copper mining complex. This week, Zijin announced plans that it will expand operations in the town, this time with a green agenda. Despite these claims, residents continue to push back on the project, citing the company’s previous treatment of the environment as a human rights violation.

In addition to the copper mines of Serbia, the rust belt of America is also pushing back on Chinese investments. This month, after years of protests about the air quality of the area, the EPA sent a notice of violation to Metalico, a scrap metal recycling plant in Pittsburg. The plant is owned and operated by Chinese company Ye Chiu Metal Recycling.

China’s recent BRI policy rhetoric has taken an environmentalist turn: this week with the recent launch of the Qingdao Initiative for Belt and Road Green Energy Cooperation. Just weeks ago, they announced that China would no longer invest in coal plants abroad. Despite rhetroric, criticism is still mounting over the deleterious environmental impacts of current and previous investment projects.