January 14, 2022- Stealth War 71: Britain’s MI5 Warns of Interference Efforts by Chinese Agent; Why Tibet’s Spike in Investment From the New 5-Year Plan Matters; China Beef?: How Beef Impacts Geopolitics; Beijing Presses Biden to Adopt No First-Use Nuclear Policy; China Launches New China-Europe Freight Train Route

By: Jamestown Foundation

Tue January, 2022, Age: 1 year

January 14, 2022


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



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Strategic Indicator

This issue’s number to watch 4.3%
China’s estimated growth rate in 2022 per Goldman Sachs, which downgraded the figure by a half percent due to the likely continuance of zero-COVID policies that will dampen business activity in China for the foreseeable future. Estimates were already lower heading into 2022 due to the uncertain regulatory environment in China.





This Week:

*  Britain’s MI5 Warns Lawmakers of Interference Efforts by Chinese Agent

*  Why Tibet’s Spike in Investment From the New 5-Year Plan Matters

*  China Beef?: How Beef Impacts Geopolitics

*   As China Scales up Nuclear Arsenal, Beijing Presses Biden Administration to Adopt No First-Use Nuclear Policy

*  BRI Roundup: China Launches New China-Europe Freight Train Route from Inner Mongolia



Top Stories



(source: The Mercury)



Britain’s MI5 Warns Lawmakers of Interference Efforts by Chinese Agent



Yesterday, MI5, the United Kingdom’s counterintelligence and security agency, informed British lawmakers that an agent of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had sought to interfere in Parliament’s political processes. The alert identified the agent as lawyer and British citizen Christine Ching-Kui Lee, stating that she “acted covertly in coordination” with the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD). The UFWD attempted to interfere in Britain’s politics by “establishing links with established and aspiring Parliamentarians across the political spectrum,” and M15 confirmed that Lee provided financial donations to various UK politicians and was connected to the all-party parliamentary group, Chinese in Britain, which has now been disbanded. As of now, the UK Parliament has decided not to deport Lee and her actions do not warrant prosecution; however, the government has clearly warned lawmakers and politicians over Chinese political influence operations.

In response to the allegations against Lee, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin claimed that China “has no need and will never engage in so-called political interference activities” at a press briefing. He further called the claims groundless and that “some people have seen too many James Bond films and made too many unnecessary associations.” This development comes amid ongoing UK-China tensions, as the UK has accused Beijing of economic subterfuge and human rights abuses.





(source: Nikkei Asia)



 Why the Spike in Investment in Tibet From Chin’s New 5-Year Plan Matters



China has announced a 58% increase in investment for Tibet, which is a major increase over the 72 year annual average investment growth of 21.6%. The spike is part of the 14th Five Year Plan period (2021-2025), bringing investment from the 2016-2020 period, $59.68 billion U.S. Dollars, to about $94.3 billion U.S. Dollars. This significant increase comes almost half a year after China published a new White Paper on Tibet’s vital importance to China’s survival, and is likely an effort to further mollify the local population, and increase economic and military access to the region. Tibet has played an important role in geopolitics throughout history, most famously perhaps during the so-called “Great Game” (early 19th century through early 20th), where the British and Russian empires competed for control of the Eurasian continent during a low point in Chinese power. 

Recognizing the region’s importance, one of the first acts of the Chinese Communist Party post-World War II was to take over (or reintegrate from a Chinese perspective) Tibet so as to protect its vulnerable western flank. Ever since then, China has resorted to violence, surveillance, cultural repression, and investments in an effort to quell uprisings. Control of Tibet has granted China control over numerous rivers, upon which the existence of China and most countries in South and Southeast Asia rely. Tibet, along with Xinjiang to its north, have also endowed China with trade routes for its Belt and Road Initiative, critical raw materials, and an excellent area for hard to counter military bases (including nuclear launch sites and hypersonic missile testing ranges). In 2013, Xi discussed the geopolitical importance of Tibet saying: “To govern the country well we must first govern the frontiers well, and to govern the frontiers well we must first ensure stability in Tibet.’” As for the future, this statement and recent actions purposefully mirror Mao’s famous “Five Fingers” strategy from the 1950s, in which Tibet is the “palm” of the hand, from which Nepal, Bhutan, Ladakh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh could be “liberated” by China. Thus, as tensions have risen with India and other neighbors, and resistance continues within Tibet, the investment represents both an effort to maintain internal stability and to prepare the region for increased capacity for potential military or “gray zone” actions. 





(source: Xinhua)




China Beef?: How Beef Impacts Geopolitics




In December 2021, Canada reported a cow tested positive for Mad Cow Disease. The cow was euthanized and no other cases reported. Nonetheless, out of caution, South Korea, China, and the Philippines suspended Canadian beef imports, with the combined potential to cost the Canadian beef industry around $18.19 million U.S. dollars (USD) per month at January 12, 2022 Canadian-U.S. exchange rates, and China’s imports alone valued at $11.33 million USD per month. There is no reason to believe this ban is politically motivated, and it will likely be resolved within weeks. The event does however highlight beef as one of many potential means of economic leverage in the agricultural sector. Since China lifted its 14-year ban on U.S. beef in 2017, the luxury import has surged, with China purchasing a record $773 million USD of U.S. beef products in the first seven months of 2021 alone. This accounted for 4.5% of all U.S. agricultural exports to China over the same seven months, and contrasts with beef only comprising 1% of agricultural exports to China in 2020. Furthermore, China’s U.S. beef purchases are expected to rise by about 6% by the end of 2022.

How much leverage does this give China, and how likely is it to exercise such leverage? If Australia’s recent experience is any indicator, China is more than willing to suspend agricultural trade as punishment for actions that Beijing considers unfavorable. At the same time, Australia’s suffering was manageable, with alternative global markets and semi-legal China import routes picking up the slack. Beef remains globally popular, and record prices due to COVID-19 disruptions do not seem to have curbed the world’s appetite, which is currently at a 30-year high. Ultimately, China may still cash in on its ill-conceived trade war policies, or pursue economic coercion and warfare, the bigger issue is that China wants plant-based meat alternatives. However, unless the world truly eschews beef, the impact of meat alternatives may be secondary.  The bigger issue, from a competitor’s perspective, may be lost leverage against China as it becomes insulated from a volatile meat market and threats to sources of proteins. Specifically, as widespread access to beef is presently associated with China’s prosperity, loss of access has political consequences. If China can alter the status of beef and meat consumptions in its culture, a significant threat to its food security could be alleviated.





(source: Global Times)



As China Scales up Nuclear Arsenal, Beijing Presses Biden Administration to Adopt No First-Use Nuclear Policy 




Last week, the leaders of the five treaty-recognized nuclear weapons states, the U.S., Russia, China, France and United Kingdom (the P5) issued a statement on “Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races.” The five powers affirmed their collective belief that nuclear weapons should only serve defensive purposes, and reaffirmed commitment to their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

Shortly after the P-5 statement, PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Wang Wenbin called on the U.S. to adopt a “No-first use policy’ which has been China’s officially-stated principle regarding the use of nuclear weapons since 1964. On the campaign trail candidate Biden did express his commitment to a “sole purpose” nuclear policy, where weapons would be solely limited to a deterrent function. However, it remains to be seen whether the Biden administration will adopt sole purpose as official policy in the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which is expected later this month.

These developments are occurring against the backdrop of China’s massive scale-up of its nuclear and missile arsenal, and development of hypersonic weapon systems. As China develops increasingly advanced and diverse nuclear delivery systems, which can very likely evade U.S. ballistic missile defense systems, many nuclear security experts have expressed concern at the growing threat posed to the American homeland





(source: Xinhua)



BRI Roundup:  China Launches New China-Europe Freight Train Route from Inner Mongolia




On Wednesday, the first cargo train departed Urud Back Banner in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region en route for Moscow, Russia. The trip officially opened the new China-Europe freight train route from the city of Bayannur, which has become a key node in the New Silk Road Economic Belt for trade and economic cooperation across Eurasia. The Banner constructed two logistic rail lines and a container yard to facilitate the new route’s efficiency. It has significant plans for the upcoming year, including the transportation of 50,000-60,000 tons of goods with an average annual trade value of $47 million over 55 freight trains trips. Wednesday’s cargo train is reportedly carrying 50 goods containers and the trip will take about 10 days to complete.

The new freight train service marks the second major route out of Bayannur, following the launch of the route connecting the city to Tehran, Iran in 2018. This route was expected to cut shipping times by roughly 20 days compared to ocean and sea freight services. Over the last few years, the PRC has renewed its focus on China-Europe freight train services, which was first established in 2011, to lessen the impacts of global supply chain issues and increasing prices. The volume of goods transported by freight trains from China to Europe reached 24 million metric tons in 2020, with prices increasing from $2,000 per container in June 2020 to $15,000 per container in 2021.







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