September 23, 2022- Stealth War 104: President of Nepal Addresses PRC-led Global Security Initiative Event; U.S., Canadian Warships Transit Taiwan Straits; Italy’s Future Prime Minister Promises to Stand in the Way of Chinese Expansion; Mongolia Promotes Russia-China Oil Pipeline; Texas A&M Professor Charged for Concealing PRC Links

By: Jamestown Foundation

Fri September, 2022, Age: 9 months



September 23, 2022

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Stat Du Jour 
This issue’s number to watch-63% 

The amount that water levels have fallen in Jiangxi province’s Poyang Lake over the last three months due to the severe drought afflicting much of Central China. Many reservoirs are getting close to empty.  

This Week: 

President of Nepal Addresses PRC-led Global Security Initiative Event

U.S., Canadian Warships Transit Taiwan Straits as Tensions Remain High

* Italy’s Future Prime Minister Promises to Stand in the Way of Chinese Expansion

Mongolia Promotes Russia-China Oil Pipeline

* Texas A&M Professor Charged for Concealing PRC Links

Top Stories

(source: Khabarhub)

 President of Nepal Addresses PRC-led Global Security Initiative Event 

On September 21, a pre-recorded statement by Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari was delivered to “the Chinese People’s Association of Peace 2022,” themed, “Acting on the Global Security Initiative to Maintain World Peace and Stability.” The Global Security Initiative (GSI) is a sweeping global security cooperation program, which was announced in April by People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping. The GSI, which has yet to be fully fleshed out, is nevertheless widely perceived as a Sino-centric alternative to US-led international security structures. Many nations are under pressure to join the GSI, especially if they are participating in the PRC’s Global Development Initiative (GDI), which Beijing has linked to its security interests and the GSI. As a country whose sovereignty relies on non-alignment and balancing between China, India and the U.S., many at home and abroad are concerned that the venue in which the President Bhandari’s remarks were made may be interpreted by some as leaning towards the PRC’s security interests.

President Bhandari’s statement was approved by the foreign ministry and the prime minister, recorded, and in the process of being submitted to Beijing, at which time the ministry and prime minister’s office apparently realized the theme of the event was security related and advised that it should not air. Some modifications were made to the script as a result (e.g., emphasizing Nepal’s non-alignment). Consequently, aside from the context of its delivery, the speech did not actually deviate from Nepal’s foreign policy; the president maintained Nepal’s neutrality and did not commit to the GSI. Meanwhile, despite the Belt and Road Initiative’s failure to launch in Nepal since the agreement was signed in 2017, two development projects are underway via the GDI; one program feeds Nepalese school children, and the other is concerned with pandemic prevention and “green recovery.”

Kathmandu says it endorses the GDI simply because it is in alignment with the United Nation’s development goals. While different political parties in Nepal may lean towards the PRC or India, ultimately it is unlikely that any are willing to strongly align with one over the other. As a result, we can expect Kathmandu to continue approving development projects when it feels they are appropriate, stopping them if things change, and pivoting as needed between the PRC, India, and others as needed.

(source: Wikipedia)

U.S., Canadian Warships Transit Taiwan Straits as Tensions Remain High 

Earlier this week, the USS Higgins, a guided missile destroyer and the Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate Vancouver transited the Taiwan Strait. Per a Pentagon press briefing, the ships traveled solely through international waters and did not venture into any state’s territorial waters. This is the second time that U.S. warships have transited the Taiwan Strait since China conducted mass live fire exercises following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit in early August; two cruisers from the U.S seventh fleet traversed the strait on August 28. The joint US-Canadian patrol followed U.S. President Joseph Biden’s remarks in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes that U.S. troops would come to Taiwan’s defense should the People’s Republic of China (PRC) ever move to attack the de facto independent island.

According to defense ministry spokesperson Colonel Shi Yi, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) closely monitored the US and Canadian ships and is prepared to “resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” In June, the PRC Foreign Ministry asserted that China “has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait” and stated it is “false” as certain countries claim that the  Strait is “international waters.” The U.S. State Department has countered these claims, reiterating that the Taiwan Strait is an “international waterway” and underscored that China’s claims are inconsistent with international law. The U.S. has also sought to reaffirm and reinforce the Taiwan Straits’ status as international waters by dispatching naval vessels to transit the passage.

(source: CSM)

Italy’s Front-runner for Prime Minister Promises to Roll Back Deals with China 

Today, the favorite to become Italy’s next prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, told reporters from the Taiwanese news agency CNA that she would pull out of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) when the agreement between Italy and China comes up for renewal in 2024. In the interview, Meloni called the deal a “big mistake” and stressed that the political conditions to renew the contract are non-existent in her right-wing party, Brothers of Italy (FDI). Italy is the only Group of Seven country to have signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative. In 2019, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also signed a memorandum of understanding with China. According to Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, a former foreign minister who is now in charge of foreign affairs for the Brothers of Italy party, the memorandum signed in 2019 will be “thoroughly reviewed” in “close consultation with European and Atlantic partners, in order to rebalance the weights with Beijing.”

Meloni and Terzi’s statements promise to build on a shift by Rome away from China, which gained headway under Conte’s successor as Prime Minister,  Mario Draghi. Under Draghi’s leadership, Italy toughened its stance on China until his resignation following a vote of no confidence on July 20, 2022. Meloni and her party have signaled continuity with Draghi’s approach, rolling back the agreements between Italy and China while bolstering commitments to Taiwan. In the same interview with CNA, Meloni condemned China’s coercive tactics against Taiwan and vowed that the island nation would be an essential concern for Italian foreign policy under her administration. Currently, Meloni and the conservative Brothers of Italy party are almost 20 percentage points in front of the Italian Democratic Party ahead of election day on September 25. Should she be elected, Meloni will become Italy’s first female prime minister.

(source: Wikipedia)

Mongolia Promotes Russia-China Oil Pipeline

On September 15, during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh announced that his country supports the construction of multiple oil and gas pipelines linking Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The statement was made to Russia’s President Putin and the PRC’s President Xi during their trilateral meeting. While natural gas projects such as the “Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline via Mongolia to China with a view to exporting 50 billion cubic meters of gas per year via the route by 2030,” have been in the works since 2018, apparently no oil pipelines have been formally proposed yet. President Khurelsukh proposed that feasibility studies be carried out for the development of both types of pipelines, likely meaning additional routes for natural gas and one or more for oil.

Mongolia has pushed to become a major Eurasian transit route for some time, including at least two decades of energy proposals. Unfortunately, only a couple years after appearing to get the green light on trilateral development studies and negotiations, sanctions on Moscow may stall the projects indefinitely. Though both Russia and the PRC has historically resisted linkages through Mongolia, Beijing has been the more reluctant of the two. Whereas Moscow became the strongly motivated investor and project manager, the impact of sanctions on funding, materials and sales may mean that construction will depend on the PRC’s willingness to pursue it.

Despite the July 18 announcement that construction on the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline will begin in 2024, unless at that time sanctions have been lifted and Russia avoids extreme inner turmoil, it is hard to envision Mongolia receiving assistance from its northern neighbor. If Beijing believes it will be able to import Russian energy without incurring the wrath of sanctions in the short to medium term, and if Mongolia’s proposals are feasible, then the PRC may decide to build the infrastructure itself. Alternatively, if it indeed turns out that Mongolia contains vast natural gas and oil reserves, Ulan Bator may not have to rely on Russia to rejoin the global community.

(source: DOJ)

Texas A&M Professor Arrested for Concealing PRC Links

Former Texas A&M University professor and material scientist Zhengdong Cheng pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal charges of making false statements to NASA to conceal his links to two Chinese universities. In the plea, Cheng also agreed to reimburse NASA nearly $87,000 in funding he received for a microgravity experiment on the International Space Station. Per federal law, NASA is banned from funding any research involving Chinese institutions.

Cheng’s case had previously come to court through the Department of Justice’s China Initiative, which sought to stem the flow of U.S. intellectual property that reaches the PRC through scientific and academic exchanges. Opponents of the initiative have claimed it unfairly targets scientists of Chinese descent. In March, the Department of Justice opted to wind down the China Initiative, but critics fear the move will embolden the PRC in its continued economic and scientific espionage.  PRC theft of U.S. intellectual property remains a huge issue, with estimates putting the yearly cost of stolen trade secrets at as high as $500-$600 billion.




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