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October 9, 2020 – Stealth War Newsletter 11

By: Jamestown Foundation

Fri October, 2020, Age: 3 years



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October 9, 2020

Strategic Indicator
This issue’s number to watch


The percentage of the U.S.’s rare earth minerals supply that is directly imported from China. Portions of the remainder are also indirectly sourced from China through other countries, according to a new executive order.

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President Donald Trump has signed an executive order “declaring a national emergency in the mining industry” that is aimed at incentivizing the domestic production of rare earth minerals while reducing U.S. dependence on China for 17 elements that are used extensively in both consumer electronics and national defense equipment. Following this order, the U.S. invested $25 million in TechMet, a mining group based in London, which will help fund the development of mining operations in Brazil, Rwanda, and Burundi, as well as a lithium-ion battery project in Canada. This investment comes even as a recent S&P analysis has found that funding for new exploration dropped 11 percent year-over-year in 2020, likely due to the economic impact of COVID-19.

New reporting this week shows the national security risks associated with Chinese technology companies such as TikTok and Huawei. The Financial Times has revealed that until earlier this year, a former Chinese government official named Cai Zheng ran ByteDance’s global content policy team in Beijing. Mr. Cai joined ByteDance in 2018, when the company was under scrutiny for the content of TikTok’s Chinese sister app, Douyin. As a result of these pressures, ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming was forced to issue a public apology in which he promised to “further deepen cooperation with authoritative [official party] media…[and] ensure that authoritative [official party] media voices are broadcast to strength.” TikTok has now devolved responsibility for forming content policy and moderating videos to hubs in Los Angeles, Dublin, Singapore and Silicon Valley. However, the heads of these regional offices still report back to a global head of trust and safety in Beijing, who is mostly known inside ByteDance by the pseudonym Yuyi F. This news casts doubt on TikTok’s supposed independence from its owner, as well as reinforcing concerns that its opaque algorithms censor content even as the widely popular app increasingly influences America’s younger generation.

A British parliamentary inquiry has concluded that there is “clear evidence of collusion” between Huawei and the “Chinese Communist Party apparatus,” and MPs have pushed the government to bring forward a deadline to remove the Chinese firm’s 5G hardware from the UK’s mobile networks. The House of Commons defense committee report was based on testimony from academics, cyber-security experts, and telecom industry insiders, among others, and concludes, “It is clear that Huawei is strongly linked to the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party, despite its statements to the contrary. This is evidenced by its ownership model and the subsidies it has achieved.” The United States has pushed its allies to divest from Huawei’s cheap technology, particularly in the realm of 5G. This British report further strengthens the validity of American concerns over the national security risks posed by the Chinese company.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s annual report ranks China as the top country of origin for goods produced through forced labor, with a total of 17 Chinese goods, including artificial flowers, Christmas decorations, clothes, shoes, fireworks, and products made with human hair making the list of products that have been traced back to forced labor and child labor. A variety of investigations over the past year by Buzzfeed, ASPI, and the Jamestown Foundation have found that China has rapidly expanded its utilization of prison labor on a nationwide scale, building out coercive labor schemes in Xinjiang and Tibet, which rely heavily on the oppression of religious and ethnic minorities. By labeling these categories of products as tainted by forced labor, the U.S. government is indicating future scrutiny and perhaps import prohibitions on said supply chains tainted by links to forced labor.

Stealth War Flyover


In the second episode of Stealth War Flyover, Jamestown President Glen Howard and former Senior Director for Strategy to the President Robert Spalding discuss President Trump’s recent executive order potentially banning TikTok and WeChat; what policy options Washington has on the situation in Hong Kong; and recent comments made by Keith Krach, the undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, on U.S. universities’ index funds holding Chinese stock.

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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