The Telegraph, Sophie Yan, 13 June, 2019

“As the Conservative Party gears up to choose the next prime minister, it is becoming apparent that a different kind of leadership is required, one that puts Britain’s principles and values back in the centre of the relationship with China,” wrote John Hemmings, deputy director of research at the Henry Jackson Society, a British think tank.


President Xi’s strongman tactics have severely backfired in Hong Kong

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The Telegraph, 12 June, 2019

Hong Kong’s reunification with the mainland looks increasingly problematic

This week’s scenes from Hong Kong are eerily reminiscent of another battle for Chinese democracy, one that took place just 30 years ago in Beijing. While it’s true that the clashes between Hong Kong’s protesters and the Hong Kong police have been nowhere as violent as that dished out by the People’s Liberation Army that warm June evening in 1989, the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against the crowds are a troubling sign.

From one perspective, this is just a battle between the Hong Kong government and its people over an extradition law, which might make it possible for people in the city to be extradited to the mainland.

Seen from another perspective, however, it’s a single battle in the war between closed, authoritarian states and open, democratic ones – a conflict between those who believe that a single party should be the arbiter of law, of social taste, of economic life, of education, and even, of thought – and those who believe that it is down to the individual to decide on much of this, and that dignity and happiness lay in the latter – not the former.

As one Hong Kong-watcher wrote this week, “It’s not easy to turn a million prosperous people into political dissidents. But that’s what China might have pulled off in Hong Kong.” Given the fact that Hong Kong’s approval rates for Chinese rule in 1998 were as high as 60 per cent, it is astonishing to think how Beijing has mismanaged the former British colony.

On the 20th anniversary of the handover, just two years ago, less than 3.1 per cent of Hong Kong youth identified as Chinese, while a University of Hong Kong poll found that less than 40 per cent of the city’s residents were satisfied with Chinese rule. It is astonishing, and tragic.

For despite the UK’s historic role in separating Hong Kong from the mainland in what Gladstone called a “most infamous and atrocious” conflict, the Opium War, there was some sense in 1997 that a wrong was being righted. History, however, is not always black and white. Handing over some five million souls back to the Chinese Communist Party now looks increasingly problematic.

To some extent, these current troubles have come not because of the expansion of democratic forces in Hong Kong, but because of the expansion of authoritarian ones on the mainland. The central figure in this push has been China’s President Xi Jinping, who since 2013, has done more than any other global figure to promote, protect, and expand authoritarianism. Personally, he is said to have more power inside China than Chairman Mao Zedong, outclassing his immediate predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin.

He has also been at the heart of a push to bring all aspects of Chinese society back under direct Party supervision and control; he has forbiddenthe discussion of “Western” ideas inside China, banning discussion of “seven perils”, including constitutional government, civil society, “nihilistic” history (read non-CCP history), universal values, neo-liberalism, and the “West’s view of the media”, instead promoting party thinking, such as the Three Self Confidences, defined as confidence in the political system, confidence in the party line, and confidence in party theory.

The impact on China’s media has been immense, and has seen a budding free media, with Chinese editors and journalists being sacked and replaced by those who tow the party line.

On Xi’s watch, China has promoted an expansionist and nationalist authoritarianism that is now undermining the US-China economic relationship. He has ended collective rule and term limits in China, and personally greenlit the militarising of the South China Sea.

His support for China’s state-owned enterprises and efforts to co-opt Chinese tech giants like Huawei into Beijing’s “going out” policy and civil-military fusion have created a backlash against the company in the US and Europe. And finally, he has become a symbol of fear and repression among the Uighur minority, directing and promoting a policy of mass incarceration and re-education.

Earlier today, Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan tweeted: “Taiwan stands with all freedom-loving people in Hong Kong”. As China’s Xi increasingly becomes a symbol of repression and of the closing of the Chinese mind, so will Hong Kong’s fate play on the minds of the Taiwanese.

It certainly is playing on our minds.


It’s time for Britain to find its spine and finally start standing up to China

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The Telegraph, 10 June, 2019

We have a legal obligation to Hong Kong that we cannot ignore

The sight of a million people marching down Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday was a remarkable spectacle. Perhaps even more incredible was the fact that it was paralleled by a further 29 rallies held in 12 countries across the world including the cities of London, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, Sydney and Taipei.

Predictably, Chinese state media accused “foreign forces” of being behind the event, but it was clear that with more than a seventh of the city’s total population on the streets, Beijing’s claim to speak for all Chinese rang hollow. While the protest was nominally motivated by new legislation that would allow extradition between the city and mainland China, it is really about the incremental dismantling of Hong Kong’s rule of law.

For many of those on the march, the timing of the bill is highly symbolic. Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, when Beijing’s crackdown killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Chinese citizens who wished for political rights. This year is also the 60th anniversary of the Great Leap Forward when Mao Zedong’s disastrous agricultural policies cost tens of millions of lives.

In a joint submission to a 2017 enquiry by the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Anson Chan, Hong Kong’s former Chief Secretary, and Martin Lee, founder of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, stated that the “precious rights and freedoms guaranteed under ‘one country, two systems’ such as freedom of the press, of publication, and of academic thoughts, are being chipped away”. A report published by the Henry Jackson Society this week confirms this, showing that the legal, press and political rights are steadily being eroded by the Hong Kong Government under the direction of Beijing.

As the Conservative Party gears up to choose the next prime minister, it is becoming apparent that a different kind of leadership is required, one that puts Britain’s principles and values back in the centre of the relationship with China. The UK has, for too long, prioritised trade in the relationship. As a consequence, whenever China has pushed back – on, for example, Hinkley Point, Britain’s South China Sea transits or the banning of Huawei from the 5G network – the response has been recklessly weak. For too long, the British Lion has been a paper tiger.

In the case of Hong Kong, Britain has a clear and direct legal responsibility for ensuring  that the one country, two systems principle is upheld for the 50 years mandated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, an obligation that won’t expire until 2047. This is not an obligation that can be ducked.

Not only is standing up to China the right thing to do, now is the perfect time to do it. China is currently desperate to diversify its trade partners as it reels from the Trade War with the United States, the world’s largest economy. In Beijing, this has sparked fears that the country could find itself diplomatically isolated and as such party leaders are now increasingly sensitive to global public opinion. So bad are these worries that President Xi Jinping has even taken to calling Russian President Vladimir Putin his “best and bosom friend”.

It is into this space that the new Prime Minister must step and recalibrate the Sino-British relationship. A reset in our dealings with China is now long overdue.

The UK must begin by speaking more forcefully in bilateral meetings. That means continually pushing for guarantees that Beijing will uphold the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. We may even have to threaten to internationalise the issue or sanction key individuals if China’s suppression of Hong Kong continues unabated. Frankly, we are going to have to find our spine. And what is true for Britain, is doubly true for the West writ large.

China is going to an important trade partner for many years to come; if the West is to really succeed in this relationship, we must ensure that an increasingly authoritarian China understands the importance with which we view our principles and values. Some are already moving in this direction, with Germany giving Hong Kong rights activists Ray Wong and Alan Li refugee protection status last week.

We are all going to have to redefine our China policies. If we do not, if we contribute to a worldwide diminishment of democracy and human rights, we will be letting down not only the people of Hong Kong but ourselves as well.


The world is in denial about the new Cold War with China

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The Telegraph, 20 May, 2019

About a year ago, I got into a heated dinner discussion about whether or not the West was entering a new “Cold War” with China. My sparring partners, a senior Asian diplomat and a professor of international relations, felt strongly about the topic. I realised afterwards that they didn’t want a new cold war. Frankly, neither did I, but that wasn’t the point.

History, sadly, does not really care how we feel about issues and a clear assessment of where we are will help us plan for a tough future.

Quite a few international relations scholars have argued about whether a new cold war is upon us. Many on the “nay” side have pointed to how different the current age is from that which characterised US-USSR relations between 1947 and 1991.

To these points, I think a few points are worth bearing in mind:

First, we have entered a period where all great power competitions are bound to be “cold”. As my colleague, James Rogers has written, nuclear weapons make hot wars impossible to win.

As a result, competing great powers are bound to fight hybrid wars, intelligence wars and on occasion, proxy war (like Vietnam). Therefore, holding up the current cold war to the previous one’s standards is intellectually obtuse. Yes, we’re in a cold war, but no, it’s not exactly the same as the previous one.

Second, I think we should recognise the increasingly important role of ideology, as the US and China each seek to define the relationship between state and society. Under Xi, Beijing has reasserted Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dominance in every facet of Chinese life, including the “free market” part of the Chinese economy, ordering companies in China to host party committees.

In 2006, there were only 178,000 party committees inside Chinese companies. Today, there are more than 1.3 million. In addition, Xi has repressed human rights groups, created a new techno-driven social surveillance system, banned the discussion of democracy and human rights in Chinese universities, and muzzled the Chinese media through ever-tighter control.

Third, the Americans and China are both determined to export their vision of political order.  According to Anne Marie Brady, a New Zealand scholar who has written extensively on Chinese interference activities overseas, the recently-empowered United Front Work Department in China seeks to control and co-opt foreigners and foreign media, to support and promote Chinese foreign policy goals and Chinese perspectives.

The New York Times has also reported that China is exporting intelligent monitoring systems to 18 countries – including Zimbabwe, Kenya, Pakistan, Boliva, Ecuador, the UAE, and Uzbekistan – with a further 36 receiving training in “public opinion guidance”.

To extend an olive branch to my dinner companions from a year ago, no one expected the new cold war to heat up so quickly. Going forward, the UK (and other allies in Europe and Asia) will have to decide: which side of the tech curtain and economic curtain do we wish to be on. Of course, they will seek to do business with both, but as the US begins to lay down the policy foundations of a new separation, and as China’s own repressive system begins to harden, we will need to make difficult choices.

The recent debate over Huawei here in the UK is in many ways, a symbol of that looming choice. Do we press on with a narrow technical risk-assessment system that says Huawei’s potential spying on the behalf of China can be mitigated, or do we look at the wider trend of China’s increasing use of tech companies as agents of its foreign policy and intelligence-collection goals?

Britain must debate the possibility that we are in a new cold war, for only then can we begin to address the myriad of challenges that China (and Russia) present to us at home and begin crafting appropriate policy responses. What is the correct response of Chinese subversion and influence campaigns inside the UK? What is the correct response to its funding of our political parties? What is the correct response to the expansion of its propaganda organs – such as the new CGTN hub in Chiswick? Should we limit the foreign ownership by Russians and Chinese of British newspapers?

Doubtless these must all be discussed and debated in the West.

In 1991, we stood as victors in the Cold War, having defeated our opponents with an arsenal of human rights, and political rights, democracy and capitalism. While this “cold war” is not the same that we waged against the Soviet Union, I believe that this same arsenal of norms and values will be critical in the years ahead


The Times, 16 May, 2019

In a strongly worded foreword to the report from the Henry Jackson Society, the conservative think-tank, the former chief of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, branded the government’s strategy a risk “we simply do not need to take”. He called on the government to “reconsider the Huawei decision” and not to “worry about giving offence to China” or “be influenced by the threat of the economic cost”.

The report said it was quite possible that UK cyber experts would be unable to find any “Trojan horses” that existed in Huawei’s equipment even if they searched for years. One of the report’s authors, the Conservative MP Bob Seely, warned that Huawei risked becoming a “cyber-Hydra we cannot control”.

The Times, Charlie Parton, 16 May, 2019

If the smokescreen of a “golden era in UK-China relations” befuddles them, they could do worse than read the report put out today by the Henry Jackson Society. It sets out, with great lucidity, why allowing Huawei a role in the UK’s 5G would be a massive mistake, both for technological reasons and to avoid putting long-term trust in a company so closely bound up with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). American and Australian contributors to the report explain why their governments have banned Huawei.

5G will be a critical part of national infrastructure over the next 30 years. The report lays out how Huawei’s ownership (far from transparent, but despite its claims not a private company), its ties to and support from the CCP, as well as an obligation under Chinese law to help Chinese intelligence add up to a threat our national security. Ministers should read the report.

 

The Telegraph, Harry Yorke, 16 May, 2019

Huawei argues that these are “hypothetical scenarios” which misunderstand its role as a manufacturer rather than operator in the network, insisting that its founder has made clear it would never install backdoors.

However, Mr Turnbull has endorsed a wide-ranging report published on Thursday by the Henry Jackson Society think tank, which claims the UK’s risk assessment of Huawei is so “narrow” in scope and definition that it is effectively “useless”.

The report, co-authored by Dr Varnish, Dr John Hemmings, director of Asia studies at HJS, and the Conservative MP Bob Seely, claims the “purely technical mandate” used to assess Huawei fails to consider the “wider issue of trust” and the political and legal climate in which it operates.

The trio have urged the Government to block Huawei from the 5G network unless it can demonstrate a “very high degree of insulation” and to work with its Five Eyes allies to create a new system which considers a firm’s “ownership, legal environment and transparency”.

Their concerns are echoed by Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, who in a foreword to the report warns that however “remote” the threat may seem, it is one “we simply do not need to take”.

 

Daily Mail, 16 May, 2019

In its report, co-authored by Conservative MP Bob Seely, the HJS said that while Huawei claims to be a private company, in China it acts like – and is treated like – a state-owned enterprise.

It said the company’s organisational structure is “opaque” and it is subject to China’s National Intelligence Law, which means it could be required to assist China’s intelligence agencies in their operations and research and development.

It also questioned claims the risks to UK security could be “mitigated” by excluding it from the “core” elements of the network and restricting it to “dumb” components like antennas.

The report said: “Our technical advisers have indicated that antennas can be modified at both the hardware and software level.

“Indeed, as 5G means moving more and more to software-networking, the ability of a manufacturer to re-purpose an antenna without detection will increase.”

 

BBC News, 16 May, 2019

In a foreword to a new report by the Henry Jackson Society think tank, Sir Richard said: “The fact that the British government now appears to have decided to place the development of some of its most sensitive critical infrastructure in the hands of a company from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is deeply worrying.

“The PRC uses its sophisticated technical capabilities not only to control its own population (to an extreme and growing degree), but it also conducts remotely aggressive intelligence gathering operations on a global scale.

“No part of the communist Chinese state is ultimately able to operate free of the control exercised by its Communist Party leadership.

 

The Guardian, Dan Sabbagh, 16 May, 2019

In a report from the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), the authors go on to claim Huawei “has long been accused of espionage” – a claim denied repeatedly by the firm – and notes that “while there are no definitely proven cases”, a precautionary principle should be adopted.

The document is co-authored by the Tory MP Bob Seely, who has already raised concerns about Huawei, and the expert academics Prof Peter Varnish and Dr John Hemmings. It adds to pressure heaped on the British government to reconsider letting Huawei participate in the UK’s 5G network from the US and Australia, whose intelligence agencies share information with the UK

 

Graeme Burton, Computing, 16 May, 2019

Huawei has lashed out at a report by the Henry Jackson Society, co-authored by a Conservative MP and a former scientific advisor to the Ministry of Defence, that argues that Huawei should be barred from every aspect of the UK’s 5G networks.

“The People’s Republic of China uses its sophisticated technical capabilities not only to control its own population (to an extreme and growing degree) but it also conducts remotely aggressive intelligence gathering operations on a global scale,” wrote former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove in the foreword.

He continued: “No part of the Communist Chinese state is ultimately able to operate free of the control exercised by its Communist Party leadership… China’s military strategists perceive a world in which the military and the civilian will be fused into a single plane of conflict. The ability to control communications and the data that flows through its channels will be the route to exercise power over societies and other nations.”

While Huawei claims that it is employee-owned, the report points out that it is, in reality, 98 per cent owned by a trade union committee and that, in China, trade unions are subordinate to the state – effectively making it state controlled.

In addition, China’s government treats the company like a state-owned enterprise, lavishing it with up to $77bn in lines of credit to underwrite its rapid expansion in China and overseas.


Australian Financial Review, Hans van Leeuwen, 9 May, 2019

The Five Eyes partnership is extremely robust but not entirely unbreakable, said John Hemmings, director of the Asia Studies Centre at the London-based Henry Jackson Society.

“If the technical vulnerabilities are such that they threaten US and Australian national interests or security then inevitably there will be a gradual degrading of what is shared, and that will be a tragedy for Britain and for the other four,” he said.

Jeremy S. Maxie

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