Separatists — Beijing’s biggest security worry

Access Archive

1. Separatists — the top threat in China’s white paper on national defense

Xinhua News Agency reports that China has issued a white paper titled “China’s National Defense in the New Era.” Its purpose: to help “the international community better understand China’s national defense.” The last white paper on military strategy was published in 2015

The complete text of the white paper is here in English, and here in Chinese. One key point: separatism in Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang is identified as the major threat to China’s national security. 

China security scholar Adam Ni tweeted a useful summary of some key points, in a lightly edited précis here:

  • The world is undergoing changes “unseen in a century” with “prominent destabilizing factors and uncertainties in international security.” These changes include the acceleration of the “realignment of international powers” with the “configuration of strategic power…becoming more balanced.” Despite this, the “international security system and order are undermined by growing hegemonism, power politics, unilateralism and constant regional conflicts and wars.”

  • The white paper is highly critical of the U.S., singling it out for adopting “unilateral policies,” for provoking “intensified competition among major countries” rising defense expenditure, and pushing for enhanced capabilities in “nuclear, outer space, cyber and missile defense, and undermining “global strategic stability.”

  • U.S. alliances, deployments, and intervention in the region are “adding complexity to regional security. This includes the deployment of THAAD in ROK, which has “severely undermined the regional strategic balance” and security interests of other countries. See also China says the U.S. is undermining global stability (porous paywall) from Bloomberg. 

  • “The situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and improving,” while in the broader Asia-Pacific, the security situation is “generally stable” with SCO and ADMM Plus playing “positive roles in enhancing trust among regional countries.” 

  • There is a not-so-subtle dig at Japan: “In an attempt to circumvent the post-war mechanisms, Japan has adjusted its military and security policies…becoming more outwards-looking in its military endeavor.”

  • “Australia continues to strengthen its military alliance with the U.S. and in military engagement in Asia-Pacific, seeking a bigger role in security affairs.” Given the context of the section, China does not seem to like this, and sees this as adding to uncertainties.

  • On regional hotspots, the Korea Peninsula, India/Pakistan, Afghanistan, and territorial disputes are mentioned, but Ni does not “see anything new about the language.”

  • Taiwan: The top security risk for China is “separatists.” This problem is becoming more “acute.” Taiwan continues to slide toward “de jure independence,” and this “remain[s] the gravest immediate threat to peace & stability.”

  • After Taiwan are “Tibet independence” and “East Turkestan” separatist forces, which interestingly are characterized as “external separatist forces” that threaten China’s national security and social stability. 

  • “Territorial disputes” remain a threat to “China’s homeland security,” including U.S. actions in conducting “close-in reconnaissance on China by air and sea, and illegally enter[ing]” Chinese territory.

  • “China’s overseas interests” are “endangered” by international and regional turmoil, terrorism, and piracy. Attacks on Chinese diplomatic missions, businesses, and people around the world are mentioned.

  • Technology competition: “Global military competition is intensifying.” Major countries are trying to “seize the strategic commanding heights in military competition” by optimizing force structures and applying new tech such as “AI, quantum information, big data, and cloud computing.”

  • The PLA has “yet to complete the task of mechanization” and is in “urgent need of improving its informatization,” pointing out that China’s military security is confronted by risks from “technology surprises.” 

2. Techno-trade war talks to resume in Shanghai 

“U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are set to travel to China Monday for the first high-level, face to face trade negotiations between the world’s two biggest economies since talks broke down in May,” reports Bloomberg (porous paywall or see the South China Morning Post).

“I would say there are a lot of issues,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “My expectations is this will be followed up with a meeting back in D.C. after this and hopefully we’ll continue to progress.” (In the same interview, Mnuchin also said “that he and President Donald Trump aren’t aware of any questionable work between Google-parent Alphabet and the Chinese government.”)

Shanghai is the venue for the new round of talks, which the South China Morning Post says “could be a fresh sign that Beijing is revising its strategy as it prepares for a protracted trade war,” citing one observer’s comment that “the location of the talks send[s] a message that ‘trade should be trade, and politics should be politics.’”

Here is the rest of today’s news from various fronts of the U.S.-China techno-trade war, day 384 by our count: 

Banning the buses: U.S. Congress is moving toward a ban on buying Chinese buses and railcars “over spy fears,” says the Wall Street Journal (paywall). “Advocates of the ban say it would protect U.S. industry from subsidized Chinese rivals and claim cameras and other gear could provide surveillance.”

“China’s industrial sector has lost 5 million jobs in the last year, including 1.8 to 1.9 million jobs because of the trade war with the United States,” according to analysts at China International Capital Corp (CICC), a leading Chinese investment bank. 

“FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators that China is engaging in a sweeping effort to steal its way to economic dominance, with more than 1,000 investigations underway on intellectual property theft ‘almost all leading back to China,’” reports Bloomberg (porous paywall), or see Time: FBI chief says China is trying to ‘steal their way’ to economic dominance. “There is no country that poses a more severe counterintelligence threat to this country right now than China,” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.  

Huawei: “The Trump administration plans to handle applications from tech companies seeking waivers over Huawei Technologies blacklisting within the next few weeks,” according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as cited in the South China Morning Post. Meanwhile in China, nearly half of China’s iPhone users who “switched devices in the first half of the year chose Android handsets… Of those, nearly half opted for a Huawei smartphone,” reports TechNode

3. China vows to take a hard line on child sexual abuse

On July 24, the Supreme People’s Court of China released information about its handling of four “typical” cases that involve sex crimes against children. Per China Youth Daily (in Chinese), the justice system’s declaration of its stance on child sexual abuse is timely because this kind of assault has become a hidden, growing epidemic in China in the past few years.

  • Courts across the country have heard more than 8,000 cases of child sexual abuse since 2017. Cases reported to authorities each year likely fall far short of the actual number. 

  • According to a court official, the revelation of its decisions on the cases indicates that China has adopted a “zero tolerance” attitude toward sexual abuse of minors and is striving to raise public awareness of the issue.

  • “Child sexual abuse is a significantly under-reported crime since it often happens in private,” the official said, adding that a notable percentage of claims do not enter legal process due to an array of “objective and subjective reasons,” such as child victims’ fear of making their allegations public, and the difficulty of validating statements from minors.

For details, please click through to SupChina.

4. Chinese TV in Africa

CNN reports

StarTimes has been the Chinese government’s primary contractor to carry out the 10,000 Villages Project, paving the way for the Beijing-based firm — not any of its American or European media competitors — to dominate the African market of 1.2 billion people. A spokesperson for StarTimes said it was “important” for Beijing to work with “an experienced and cost-conscious enterprise for the assignment.”

Today, the company beams Chinese TV shows into the homes of 10 million subscribers in 30 African countries, pushes China’s state-owned propaganda news network into households over Western news networks, and controls television networks to such an extent in Zambia and Kenya there have been fears the company could black out TVs in those countries, if it wanted to.

While channels like the BBC reach more people and South African distributor MultiChoice has more subscribers, StarTimes’ breadth of reach has some critics worrying: Does the company, with its close ties to Beijing, now have too much power over African television networks?

5. The latest on Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s protesters show no sign of slacking, but Beijing is sending menacing signals. Here are the latest developments from the only city in China where people are still allowed to protest en masse:

New planned protests 

“A march has been planned for Yuen Long on Saturday in protest of the violent mob attacks at the district’s metro station,” reports Hong Kong Free Press.  

Will China send in the tanks?

“China on Wednesday warned that it would not tolerate protesters’ efforts to threaten the central government’s authority in Hong Kong and suggested that it could, if necessary, mobilize troops in the People’s Liberation Army garrison there to maintain order,” reports the New York Times (porous paywall) or see a report in Hong Kong Free Press

Beijing is certainly dialing up the rhetoric, blaming foreign interference and calling for punishment for protesters. See for example Hong Kong opposition’s pipe dream of amnesty to the mob in the Global Times, or No external forces allowed to disrupt Hong Kong from Xinhua News Agency. 

For more on the propaganda effort from Beijing, see Hong Kong through China’s distorted lens by David Bandurski of the China Media Project. 

The death threat from pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho

“In an ominous warning at a time when political violence has become a persistent concern in Hong Kong, Junius Ho [何君堯 Hé Jūnyáo], a pro-Beijing lawmaker, cast what was widely perceived as a death threat toward an opposition lawmaker in a late-night video message,” reports the New York Times (porous paywall). Per Wikipedia:

Ho is known for advocating violence against his opponents. In 2017 he called for the deaths of Hong Kong independence activists, and in 2019 he defended indiscriminate attacks on commuters by suspected triad members, who he called his “heroes” and said should be “pardoned for defending their homes”.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Free Press reports, “Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu [朱凱廸 Zhū Kǎidí] has said that pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho’s alleged role in the violent mob attacks in Yuen Long on Sunday should be investigated.” 

Students clash in Australia

“Pro-Hong Kong and pro-China students have clashed at the University of Queensland during a protest against Hong Kong’s controversial extradition law,” according to the Guardian

6. Is Guo Wengui a spy?

When you read the name “Mar-a-Lago” in a headline, you know something dodgy is about to be described. In the story titled Is this Chinese tycoon and member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago also a spy? in the South China Morning Post, that dodgy thing is exiled tweeting real estate tycoon Guō Wénguì 郭文贵 aka Miles Kwok.

  • Guo fled to the U.S. four years ago and is seeking political asylum. He is wanted for bribery and other charges by the Chinese government.  

  • Guo has been making a fuss on Twitter and YouTube, suggesting he has evidence of high crimes by senior Chinese officials, and befriending people like Steve Bannon. As the SCMP puts it, he “has long promoted himself as a dissident being hunted by the Chinese government for his opposition to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.”

  • “But Washington-area research firm Strategic Vision US LLC, in a commercial dispute with Mr. Guo, alleged in a federal court counterclaim Friday that he is a spy for the Chinese government,” reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

  • “‘Guo Wengui was, and is, a dissident-hunter, propagandist, and agent in the service of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party,’ according to federal court papers filed on Friday,” per the SCMP. 


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—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


A bet on sustained demand for liquor has helped [one investor named Wang] return 60 percent this year, more than any year since the Fullgoal Fund Management Co. consumer-focused fund started in 2014. Wang is making an even bigger bet on the stocks, more than doubling her holdings of Kweichow Moutai Co. in the second quarter, according to the fund’s latest quarterly report. She also boosted her shares of Wuliangye Yibin Co. and Anhui Gujing Distillery Co. by 71 percent and 40 percent respectively.

China will replace its benchmark lending rates with market-based alternatives, central bank Governor Yì Gāng 易纲 told Caixin in an interview in Beijing last week.

Yi’s words mark the first time that the central banker has specified how the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) plans to unify the country’s two-track system of lending interest rates — one track is the benchmark rates set by the PBOC, while the other track is rates that are chiefly set by the market.

Although the benchmark rates are meant to act only as a reference and following them is no longer compulsory, they continue to loom large in the minds of bankers and borrowers. Replacing them with ones set by the market will give commercial banks more room to price loans, with lower rates for lower-risk companies and vice versa.

These funds provide financing to distressed companies, prevent their financial problems from spilling over into other companies and other parts of the financial system, and compensate customers, investors and counterparts who have lost money.

  • Building a robot superpower
    China’s tech spending surges as it strives to be robotics superpower / Nikkei Asian Review (porous paywall)
    While China has deliberately toned down its “Made in China 2025” policy in state media, new figures show that investment in at least one of its crucial tech sectors — smart manufacturing, i.e., robots, automation technologies, etc. — remained strong through 2018, surging “46 percent on the year to 69.6 billion yuan ($10.1 billion),” according to a new report. Smart manufacturing employs robotics, automation, and other technologies to increase productivity and cut labor costs.

  • TikTok in India
    TikTok suspends accounts of three users after Shiv Sena’s IT Cell files FIR / Hindustan Times
    On July 8, TikTok suspended the accounts of three users based on report to the police filed by a member of Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist political organization. The users were three very popular Muslim influencers, who had posted a video reaction to the lynching of a Muslim man in which one of them said: “You killed innocent Tabrez Ansari, but tomorrow if his children take revenge, do not say that all Muslims are terrorists.”
    TikTok’s statement on the suspension said it has “a zero-tolerance policy toward content that has any negative impact on its users or the country it operates in.”


“It’s like having a driving license,” one man who manages security at an apartment complex said, whose additional tasks now include checking residents’ garbage to make sure the sorting was done right. “You’ll be fined if you break the rules.”


We are very enthusiastic about the Belt and Road Initiative. We are very interested in what President Xi is doing [for the plan]… Don’t forget [we are] the most open international investment [destination], particularly [for] Chinese investment. We have Chinese companies coming in to do Hinkley, for instance, the big nuclear power plant.

Russia carried out what it said was its first long-range joint air patrol in the Asia-Pacific region with China on Tuesday, a mission that triggered hundreds of warning shots, according to South Korean officials, and a strong protest from Japan.

The flight by two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and two Chinese H-6 bombers, backed up by a Russian A-50 early warning plane and its Chinese counterpart, a KJ-2000, marks a notable ramping-up of military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow.

The rebel Arakan Army has indicated that it welcomes foreign investors, including Chinese investment in large-scale infrastructure projects under the massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in western Myanmar’s underdeveloped and war-torn Rakhine state, where the ethnic force is fighting the national military for greater autonomy and self-determination.

Australian authorities have been told to stop interfering in the case of the Chinese-Australian writer Dr Yáng Héngjūn 杨恒均, who has been detained by China since January.

Amid reports last week that Yang was to be charged with endangering state security, Foreign Affairs Marise Paynee said he was being detained for his political views and should be released.

Yang is a member of the Australian media union, the MEAA, which backed calls for his release.

I’ve known Yang for many years — he is a former PhD student of mine — and I also believe he should be released.


  • Culture in the countryside
    The case for an artistic revival of rural China / Sixth Tone
    Qú Yán 渠岩, contemporary artist and the director of the Research Institute of Rural Arts and Construction at Guangdong University of Technology, writes: “Over the past decade, I’ve used the arts to promote rural revitalization without turning the countryside into a cultural wasteland.”


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Tibet: What is happening there now?

As international attention drifts, China has continued to tighten its grip on Tibet. What are the core issues for Tibet, and how has the situation developed since the 2008 riots?


Sinica Early Access: Michael Swaine on the ‘China is not an enemy’ open letter

The Washington Post recently published an open letter signed by five scholars and former government officials: M. Taylor Fravel, Stapleton Roy, Michael Swaine, Susan Thornton, and Ezra Vogel. The letter laid out seven main arguments for why the U.S. should not treat China as an enemy, and not surprisingly, the letter got a lot of pushback from more hawkish China-watchers. This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy talk to Michael Swaine, the primary author of the open letter, about the origins and intentions of the letter and the reactions to it. Michael is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

  • Sinica Early Access is an ad-free, full-length preview of this week’s Sinica Podcast, exclusively for SupChina Access members. Listen by plugging this RSS feed directly into your podcast app. 


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BE京jing No. 3: Window

This photo from March 2018 is part of BE京jing, a 30-part photo essay project by Gregorio Soravito. It’s about everyday life on the streets of the Chinese capital, a kind of narration about the people who live in this unpredictable city and are constantly growing, changing, and upgrading. BE京jing is a collection of moments that tries to transmit, through a gesture or a facial expression, an identity both individual and collective. It focuses its attention not on places but on people: the human resources that make this gigantic city feel natural and alive.