October 30, 2020 – Stealth War Newsletter 14

By: Jamestown Foundation

Fri October, 2020, Age: 2 years

 

 


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October 30, 2020

Strategic Indicator
This issue’s number to watch

$65.9 billion

The value of China’s year-to-date imports of covered products under the Phase One trade deal. This is just over half of its target of $124.9 billion, which China would need to reach to stay on track and comply with its promise to expand its purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion in 2021.

Top Stories

This week, the U.S. Justice Department has charged eight defendants, some of whom are Chinese nationals, with involvement in an illegal campaign by Beijing to coerce Chinese-origin U.S. residents who had fled China to return. Five have been arrested in the U.S., and the rest are believed to be in China. The defendants are believed to have been conducting activities connected to “Operation Fox Hunt,” an anti-corruption campaign aimed at cracking down on corrupt officials who have fled abroad. The FBI has criticized Fox Hunt, arguing that it actually targets activists critical of the Chinese government. The charged suspects were allegedly involved in harassing U.S. residents critical of the Chinese government, threatening that they would assault family members still residing in China if the residents didn’t return. Operation Fox Hunt highlights a troubling tendency of the Chinese government to treat foreign nationals of Chinese heritage as “first and foremost a Chinese citizen,” and to increasingly seek to exert pressure on non-Chinese citizens living abroad. China has imposed so-called “exit bans” on naturalized foreign citizens who were born in China, and Chinese agents have also targeted members of the persecuted Uighur minority living in Australia and Turkey for harassment and threats.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday publicizing the charges, FBI Director Chris Wray said that, “the Chinese government’s brazen attempts to surveil, threaten, and harass our own citizens and lawful permanent residents, while on American soil, are part of China’s diverse campaign of theft and malign influence in our country and around the world.”

New economic data has shown that the U.S.’s trade war against China has not achieved its central objective of reversing a U.S. decline in manufacturing. And despite the imposition of tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods, the U.S.’s overall trade imbalance has ballooned this year to a record $84 billion. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S.’s trade deficit with China has also increased, offsetting a temporary dip back in 2019. At the same time, a recent study has found that Chinese purchases of products covered under a much-lauded trade deal were just above 50 percent of their year-to-date targets during the first nine months of 2020. And despite recent record imports of American oil and corn, China is far behind all of its targets to increase purchases of manufacturing, agricultural, and energy sector products from the U.S.

The State Department continues its aggressive stance on China, with Mike Pompeo warning this week in a speech in Indonesia that the Chinese Communist Party is the greatest threat to religious freedom in the world. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. And while civil society groups in Indonesia have criticized China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, the government has been noticeably reluctant to go against Beijing. Pompeo’s trip to Southeast Asia this week was aimed at boosting trade and security ties with America’s traditional regional allies, as well as encouraging them to push back against neighboring China’s growing and economic power.

The State Department has also continued with its campaign to highlight Chinese influence organs operating in the U.S., moving to designate the National Association for China’s Peaceful Unification (NACPU) as a PRC foreign mission this week. The announcement follows a decision last week to designate an additional six media entities based in the PRC as foreign missions last week – marking a further escalation in the U.S. and China’s tit-for-tat restrictions on journalism, which have all but decimated the ranks of American reporters in China.

Finally, despite a recent outbreak in Xinjiang, China has been touting its economic recovery and apparent successful control of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to an outbreak that may have been linked to forced labor camps that has infected over 180 people, the Chinese government announced that it would carry out mass testing of 4.7 million people in Kashgar. As virus cases rise around the rest of the world, anticipating a so-called “fall surge”, China has largely managed to contain the virus, effectively sealing off its borders to the outside world and responding to small hotspots with massive testing campaigns. Hard hit sectors such as tourism and domestic consumption have begun to recover. In an apparent indicator of its success in dealing with the pandemic, China’s economy surged to 4.9 percent in the latest quarter. Western countries’ failures to contain the pandemic have helped Mr. Xi bolster the party, which came under attack for its early missteps in handling the crisis. As China’s leadership wraps up key Fifth Plenum meetings, China’s comparative success in dealing with the coronavirus has fueled a triumphalist propaganda frenzy, and the success of China’s public health battle has been inextricably linked with the supposed strengths of its authoritarian system.

Stealth War Flyover

 

In the third episode of Stealth War Flyover, Jamestown President Glen Howard and former Senior Director for Strategy to the President Robert Spalding discuss China’s threat to arrest U.S. citizens in China in reciprocity for recent arrests of PLA-affiliated people in the United States; the State Department mulling a ban on American businesses working with the Chinese fintech firm, the Ant Group; what the trial release in Shenzhen of a new Chinese digital currency mean for American interests; Peter Navarro’s recent comments at the Hudson Institute; and Hillary Clinton’s recent article in Foreign Affairs on China and US national security strategy.

Stealth War Flyover is a periodic series featuring Brigadier General (ret.) Robert Spalding and Jamestown Foundation President Glen Howard discussing and dissecting the latest news in the ongoing competition between China and the United States.

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