China Geopolitical Watch – From October 15 to October 21, 2022

10/15/2022 : Crude rise in censorship and Wechat account banishment to accompany the XXth Congress unfolding -Anna BALAWENDER-

On the eve of the opening of the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party on October 16, Chinese censorship has intensified dramatically. Any search on the media Weibo on the terms «Sitong», «bridge», «brave» or even «Beijing» does not lead to any result. This follows the protests against the Party’s pre-eminence that were held on the Sitong Bridge (in Beijing) on October 13.

But more worrying for Chinese residents is the wave of Wechat accounts blocking: any user who shared photos of the protests – or sometimes even just mentioning the event – with their contacts saw their account banned. This is particularly damaging for Chinese users who rely on Wechat to communicate with family and customers, pay for groceries, use their health QR codes, and other essential daily tasks. The Wall Street Journal assimilates the loss of a Wechat account to «digital death

Some users have tried to recreate an account, but these alternative accounts are also being banned. According to the MIT Technology Review, they have been «begging» Tencent, the parent company of Wechat, to give them back access to their personal accounts since the beginning of this week.

10/17/2022 : A Hong Kong protester attacked in front of the Chinese consulate in Manchester -Thomas TAOCHY-

Incidents were reported during a demonstration outside the Chinese consulate on Monday October 17th. The rally followed the start of the 20th Communist Party Congress in Beijing which aims to re-elect its leader Xi Jinping for a further five years.

Bob Chan, a Hong Kong expatriate living in the UK and one of the protesters, was surrounded and beaten by men working at the consulate. He suffered injuries to his eye, neck and back.

After several investigations, The Guardian revealed that the Chinese consul himself, Zheng Xiyuan, was among the attackers. According to Member of Parliament Alicia Kearns for the BBC, the diplomat had also been seen «ripping down posters during peaceful protests».

While British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the media that «The UK stands for freedom, the rule of law and democracy. The quashing of peaceful protest will never be tolerated on our streets», the Chinese foreign affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin justified the consulate’s move by explaining that «disturbing elements had illegally entered the consulate». The latter also reminded Britain to increase protection for Chinese diplomatic personnel.

10/18/2022 : The «strategic deterrent», a rupture and a sign of the rise of Chinese nuclear power -Vadim Leduc Argenta-

On October 18, 2022, two days after the opening of the twentieth congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping, the party’s general secretary, announced his desire to strengthen the “forces of a new field with new combat capabilities. Indeed, according to the South China Morning Post, the report of this congress testifies to China’s nuclear ambitions, particularly with regard to nuclear deterrence against other nuclear powers. This desire is part of a policy of strategic deterrence, particularly towards the United States.

In 2021, the latter had already expressed their fears about the expansion of Chinese nuclear power through a Pentagon report, predicting a considerable increase in the number of their nuclear warheads by 2030. This desire breaks with the previous Chinese strategy, visible in the previous CCP report (from 2017) where the concept of «strategic deterrence» was not mentioned. Finally, according to some reports, China is also extending this deterrence into space and cyber warfare with the use of artificial intelligence technology, mega data and unmanned combat platforms.

10/19/2022: Tokyo and Canberra develop intelligence cooperation to counter China’s military rise -Anna BALAWENDER-

Ahead of the meeting of Fumio Kishida and Anthony Albanese, respectively Prime Ministers of Japan and Canada, which will be held this Saturday, the Japanese ambassador to Canberra Shingo Yamagami gave an interview to the British newspaper The Guardian, analyzing the reasons for the rapprochement.

According to Mr. Yamagami, the meeting is expected to result in a joint declaration on sharing information on China’s actions and movements. The partnership would be motivated by the increase in China’s military budget, the intensification of Chinese incursion campaigns in Japanese airspace, as well as the increase in maritime incidents between China and Australia.

According to the South China Morning Post, the war in Ukraine is also factored into Tokyo and Canberra’s calculations: according to Mr. Yamagami, it is a matter of «making sure that nothing similar can happen in the Taiwan Strait».

In the first half of October, Japan’s foreign minister had already begun a dialogue on information sharing and military cooperation with Canada. In doing so, Japan is gradually moving closer to the «Five Eyes» security partnership involving the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, but also Canada and Australia. A journalist for The Diplomat wonders, «Is the Time Right for Japan to Become Five Eyes’ ‘Sixth Eye’?»

10/19/2022 : Britain’s Ministry of Defense affirms some of its former pilots were recruited to help the Chinese military. -Thomas TAOCHY-

Britain’s Ministry of Defense issued a report on Wednesday October 19 condemning China’s recruitment of some 30 former British pilots to train the People’s Liberation Army’s air force.

The pilots recruited would in fact be used to teach the Chinese government how Western military aircraft operate, information which the BBC media report could be vital in future conflicts such as the Taiwan issue. Money is the main factor that drives pilots to train the Chinese army with payments of up to $270,000 (£237,911 or €273,793).

Although technically this international recruitment process is not illegal, the British government strongly condemns the practice. The Ministry of Defense announced on Twitter : «When former UK military pilots provide training to the People’s Liberation Army of China it clearly erodes the UK’s defense advantage. We are taking immediate steps to deter and penalize this activity».

However, the British are not the only victims of overseas recruitment by the Chinese government. According to the Taipei Times, other nations such as Australia are lamenting that some of its soldiers have joined a flight school in South Africa that is allegedly operating in China.

When questioned by the press, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reportedly said he was not aware of any such recruitment process.

10/21/2022 : Saudis plot energy cooperation with China  -Olivier HUSSON-

The Saudi energy minister held a video conference on 21st October with his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Jianhua, director of the National Energy Administration. They «confirmed their willingness to work together to support the stability of the international oil market». Saudi Arabia is the main supplier of oil and a reliable partner for China.

This meeting took place a few weeks after the announcement by Saudi Prince Mohamed bin Salman to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day. It represents a severe diplomatic setback for the United States, which is already suffering from soaring inflation.

During the meeting there was a discussion about admitting Saudi Arabia to the BRICS group. Saudi Arabia did indeed express its desire to be part of BRICS. China, president of the BRICS this year, «actively supports BRICS in starting the membership expansion process».

Civil nuclear energy was also discussed, as China has been exporting nuclear reactors around the world for several years, including to Pakistan.

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