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  • Author: Willy Wo-Lap Lam
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Under Xi Jinping, the leadership of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has initiated multi-pronged measures to ensure the success of celebrations marking the centenary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in July this year and planning for the 20th CCP Congress, scheduled for the second half of 2022. The accent is on preserving political stability and further consolidating the apparently unassailable authority of President Xi, who is also CCP General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).
  • Topic: Media, Political Parties, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Elizabeth Chen
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Amid the coldest winter recorded since 1966, provinces across the People’s Republic of China (PRC) struggled with the worst electrical blackouts seen in nearly a decade (OilPrice, January 8). More than a dozen cities across Zhejiang, Hunan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, and Guangdong provinces imposed limits on off-peak electricity usage in early December, affecting city infrastructure and factory production. Analysts expect power shortages to persist through at least mid-February (SCMP, December 23, 2020). Officials have repeatedly assured the public that residential heating would not be affected and that China’s electrical supply remained “stable” and “sufficient,” even as energy spot prices continued to rise into the new year.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Services, Electricity, Coal
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Ryan D. Martinson
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: In the past decade, the China Coast Guard (CCG, 中国海警, zhongguo haijing) has experienced two major reforms. The first, which began in 2013, uprooted the service from the Ministry of Public Security—where it was organized as an element of the People’s Armed Police (PAP)—and placed it under the control of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), a civilian agency. In the process, the CCG was combined with three other maritime law enforcement forces: China Marine Surveillance (CMS), China Fisheries Law Enforcement (CFLE), and the maritime anti-smuggling units of the General Administration of Customs. The resulting conglomerate was colloquially called the “new” CCG, differentiating it from the “old” CCG of the Ministry of Public Security years. The second reform began in 2018, when the “new” CCG, now swollen with the ranks of four different forces, was stripped from the SOA and transferred to the PAP, which itself had just been reorganized and placed under the Central Military Commission (CMC) (China Brief, April 24, 2018). While much research has been done on the first reform, little is known about the second, at least in the English-speaking world. This article seeks to answer basic questions about the “new, new” CCG. What are its roles/missions, organization, and force structure? How does it differ from the CCG of the SOA years? How is it similar? What progress has been made two years after the second reform began?
  • Topic: Law Enforcement, Armed Forces, Reform, Borders
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Michael C. Davis
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: After the Hong Kong protest movement exploded in 2019, the world looked on with both hope and trepidation. Protestors made five demands: that a proposed extradition law be withdrawn; that there be an independent investigation of police behavior; that the protests stop being characterized as riots; that any charges against arrested protesters be dropped and that promised universal suffrage be implemented (HKPF, December 25, 2019). After months of protest, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam publicly withdrew the extradition bill, fulfilling the first of the protestors’ demands (SCMP, September 4, 2019). But this temporary victory was too little too late and overshadowed by the ongoing and often violent crackdown on the protesters, and then in 2020, with Beijing’s imposition of the new National Security Law (NSL) (China Brief, July 29, 2020).
  • Topic: Human Rights, Law, Rule of Law, Protests, Repression
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Hong Kong
  • Author: Elizabeth Chen
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On January 28, members of an international team led by the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded fourteen days of quarantine and began field work in Wuhan, China for a mission aimed at investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the time of writing, the team had made visits to the Hubei Center for Disease Control and Prevention; the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. State media also reported that the WHO team visited “an exhibition featuring Chinese people fighting the epidemic,” raising concerns that the trip could prove to be little more than a public relations move even as the origins of the coronavirus remain heavily politicized and uncertain (Global Times, January 31). Foreign experts have worried about whether the WHO investigation will be sufficiently transparent or if investigators will be allowed adequate access to key locations and scientific data (SCMP, January 27). Apart from a “terms of reference” report and a list of WHO members released in November, further details on the WHO team’s trip have not been released.
  • Topic: World Health Organization, COVID-19, Misinformation , Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Zachary Haver
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: In recent years, the maritime law enforcement (MLE) forces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have dominated the contested waters of the South China Sea (AMTI, December 4, 2020). While the exponential growth and increasing assertiveness of the China Coast Guard (CCG) have captured headlines, the evolving role of technology in China’s MLE operations has received less attention. New communications infrastructure and monitoring systems, for example, help Chinese MLE forces monitor and control contested maritime space in the South China Sea (CMSI, January 2021). These investments align with China’s broader pursuit of information superiority in the South China Sea, which involves building up electronic intelligence, counter-stealth radar, and other capabilities (JHU APL, July 2020).
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Communications, Armed Forces, Satellite
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, United States of America, South China Sea
  • Author: Sergey Sukhankin
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Following the 2013 announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at a speech given by People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping during visit to Kazakhstan, Central Asia has been a key regional priority and an indispensable element for the success of the BRI as a whole (PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 7, 2013). Over the years, the BRI—nebulously defined from the start—has come to be associated with a variety of policy and investment programs. A previous series of articles has covered security-related developments associated with the BRI aimed at maintaining stability and protecting economic investments across the region (China Brief July 15; October 19; August 12).China has also begun to expand its export of digital infrastructure and surveillance technology under the umbrella of the BRI. The digitalization strategy—ostensibly aimed at promoting the international integration of technology with infrastructure and finance as well as spreading digital innovation abroad—is often referred to as the Digital Silk Road (DSR, 数字丝绸之路, shuzi sichou zhi lu). The high-level emphasis on promoting the DSR has only grown under the COVID-19 pandemic (CGTN, June 10, 2020). Across Central Asia, the DSR has been primarily represented by efforts to export China’s Smart/Safe City programs, which allow governments to collect, store, process and analyze vast amounts of personal information. The promotion of the so-called “informatization” of society (信息化, xinxi hua) and data commodification are yet more driving forces behind China’s DSR ambitions in Central Asia.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Surveillance, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Digital Policy
  • Political Geography: China, Central Asia, Asia, Uzbekistan
  • Author: Linda Zhang, Ryan Berg
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is drawing increased scrutiny from U.S. policymakers. The International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (ILD) (中共中央对外联络部, zhonggong zhongyang duiwai lianluo bu) is one of the many Chinese organizations active in LAC. Although its footprint is relatively small compared to larger trade and governmental organizations, the ILD’s emphasis on ideology and on long-term relationship building in its engagements is noteworthy and should be monitored more closely within the context of China-Latin America relations.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs, Political Parties, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Latin America
  • Author: Elizabeth Chen
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: A new study published February 8 by the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (MPS, 中华人民共和国公安部, zhonghua renmin gongheguo gongan bu) reported that there were 10.035 million registered births in 2020, down from 11.79 million in 2019. This represents a 15 percent decrease following the coronavirus pandemic (Guancha.cn, February 8). Althou­gh the number of registered births—that is, newborns recorded in the household registration hukou (户口) system—is not the same as China’s official birth rate, the decline has concerned analysts that a long-forewarned demographic crisis may be approaching faster than expected.National birth and population figures for the previous year are usually released in January but have been delayed until April this year as China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) compiles its decennial census. In the meantime, data released by some provinces and cities in January has appeared to confirm the implications of the MPS study. Data released from the capital city of Guangdong province—which saw the highest number of births per province in 2019—showed that birth rates in Guangzhou were down by 17 percent year-on-year and mirrored broader trends across the rest of the province. In Zhejiang, China’s wealthiest province, the cities of Wenzhou and Taizhou reported that new births in 2020 fell by 19 percent and 33 percent respectively compared to 2019 (SCMP, February 2).
  • Topic: Demographics, Development, Aging, Population Growth
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Ryan Fedasiuk
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On Monday, November 12, 2018, the recently-appointed director of China’s Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission (CAC) Zhuang Rongwen (庄荣文) summoned senior executives from WeChat and Sina Weibo for a “discussion” (Central CAC, November 16, 2018). While there is no transcript of the meeting available to the public, one thing is certain: It did not go well. For months, Zhuang had been telegraphing his discontent with the state of censorship in China—and specifically, the role that social media giants had played in undermining it (New America, September 24, 2018). His official statement about the meeting, which was uploaded to the CAC’s website a few days later, accused China’s largest internet companies of “breeding chaos in the media” and “endangering social stability and the interests of the masses.” Under his watch, he vowed that the Central CAC would “strictly investigate and deal with the enterprises that lack responsibility and have serious problems” (Central CAC, November 20, 2018). Rarely do Party officials offer such scathing public admonitions.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Internet, Surveillance, Censorship
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Russia received notably high attention in United States President Joseph Biden’s first foreign policy speech, delivered at the State Department last Thursday, February 4. President Vladimir Putin may take pride in earning a personal mention and a place ahead of China; although the latter was specifically recognized as the US’s top peer competitor, while Russia was characterized mainly as the world’s foremost troublemaker (Izvestia, February 5). Biden asserted he is taking a tougher tone with Moscow compared to his predecessor but said he also has to deal with a rather different Putin. Indeed, the accumulation of authoritarian tendencies, exorbitant corruption and aggressive behavior in recent years has produced a new quality to Putin’s maturing autocratic regime, making it less liable to be moved by criticism coming out of Washington.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Sanctions, Protests
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, United States of America
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: In most parts of the world, the lines on maps separating countries are true borders. That is, they are controlled by the governments on one or both sides. But in some places, they remain the quasi-open frontiers they were in the past or have reemerged as such because of recent political changes; those borders are highly porous zones, where people and goods can move more or less freely in one or both directions without much regard to the powers that be. Such situations invite outside involvement that can ramp up quickly and disturb preexisting international arrangements. One poignant example is the adjoining border area shared by Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In recent years, that frontier has attracted attention because of the danger that Islamist militants from Afghanistan could cross it to move north into Tajikistan and beyond. But another danger is emerging: China is establishing increasing control over Tajikistan and, thus, is putting itself in a position to project power southward from Tajikistan into Afghanistan. If Beijing does so, that could fundamentally change the security situation and geopolitical balance in Central and South Asia as a whole.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Borders
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, China, South Asia, Central Asia, Asia, Tajikistan
  • Author: John C. K. Daly
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Amidst growing political dissatisfaction, the Russian government is grappling with the apparent vulnerabilities of the country’s internet. On February 1, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairperson of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, acknowledged during an extensive interview with Russian media what foreign analysts have long suspected: disconnecting Russia from the internet is possible (TASS, February 1). And as if to provide a rationale for such potential action, the previous week, the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents (NKTsKI) reported a threat of possible cyberattacks by the United States and its allies against Russia’s critical infrastructure (Interfax, January 22).
  • Topic: Government, Internet, Repression
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War (September 29–November 9) has had a transformative effect on the country. It not only changed the attitudes of its population, whose members now feel themselves to be heroes rather than victims (see EDM, January 21), but also bolstered the diplomatic weight and possibilities of the Azerbaijani government in its dealings with other regional states. In prosecuting a triumphant war against Yerevan, Baku demonstrated its own ability to act. But just as importantly, Azerbaijan has shown to peoples and governments in the Caucasus and Central Asia that it is a force to be reckoned with, in part thanks to its growing links with Turkey. Moreover, that alliance makes possible an appealing path to the outside world for all who join it. That reality is causing countries east of the Caspian to look westward to and through Azerbaijan in their economic planning and political calculations. At the same time, however, these developments are generating concerns in Moscow and Tehran, which oppose east-west trade routes that bypass their countries’ territories and instead favor north-south corridors linking Russia and Iran together. As a result, Azerbaijan’s recent successes in expanding links with Central Asia set the stage for new conflicts between Azerbaijan and its Turkic partners, on the one hand, and Russia and Iran, which have far more significant naval assets in the Caspian, on the other (see EDM, November 27, 2018 and February 20, 2020; Casp-geo.ru, December 24, 2019; Chinalogist.ru, November 21, 2019).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Central Asia, Middle East, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Rahim Rahimov
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Iran emerged as a potential loser from the Russia-brokered trilateral truce accords that ended last autumn’s 44-day Second Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan (see EDM January 25). Therefore, Tehran is seeking ways to reposition itself into the new situation in line with its interests. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s five-country regional tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey, between January 25 and 28, clearly carried that mission (Tasnim News Agency, January 30). In particular, a top agenda item during this series of foreign visits was the proposal to reactivate a Soviet-era railway connecting Iran and Armenia via Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, which is wedged between them and Turkey (Twitter.com/JZarif, January 26).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Infrastructure, Transportation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Given the Vladimir Putin regime’s past reliance on oil exports, it is perhaps no surprise that Moscow has been casting about for some other raw material it can sell abroad now that hydrocarbon prices have fallen and Russian government revenues along with them. But its apparent selection of water as “the new oil” that it can sell to water-short China is again outraging Russians. Indeed, the policy may soon lead to the repetition of protests against such projects that roiled the country east of the Urals in 2019 and 2020. And this could complicate Russia’s relations not just with China but with Mongolia and Central Asian countries as well. By focusing exclusively on the possibility of foreign profits rather than the concerns of its own population, the Putin regime—wittingly or not—is recapitulating some of the steps the Communist leaders fatefully took in the years preceding the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Water, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Alla Hurska
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On February 19, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) imposed sanctions on Ukrainian tycoon and politician Viktor Medvedchuk and his wife, Oksana Marchenko (Pravda.com.ua, February 19). Medvedchuk is a leader and people’s deputy of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform–For Life, the largest opposition faction in the Ukrainian parliament. Moreover, he is a close acquaintance of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The NSDC sanctions list also includes five Russian nationals and Ukrainian national Nataliya Lavreniuk. The latter is Marchenko’s friend and the common-law spouse of Taras Kozak (already under sanctions), a people’s deputy from the same political party and Medvedchuk’s business partner. Apart from targeting those eight individuals, sanctions were imposed on nineteen associated businesses, including firms that own aircraft and operate direct flights from Kyiv to Moscow as well as a number of joint stock companies registered in Russia, Moldova and Portugal (Pravda.com.ua, February 20). These measures came two weeks after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered the shutdown of several television channels—ZIK, NewsOne and 112—connected to Kozak. The move was described by Zelenskyy as a necessary step to fight Russian propaganda. But according to the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) and the NSDC, these actions were motivated by more complex issues. Specifically, the three aforementioned TV channels were being financed by limited liability company trading house Don Coal (Rostov, Russia), which receives revenue from smuggling coal out of the Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” (LPR/DPR) (Pravda.com.ua, February 4).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Coal
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Pavel Felgenhauer
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The Second Karabakh War, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, began on September 27, 2020, and ended on November 9, 2020, with a Russian-brokered and guaranteed agreement. The conflict claimed the lives of thousands of Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers. But after 44 days of fierce fighting, it concluded with Yerevan soundly defeated: Armenia lost territory occupied during the First Karabakh War in 1992–1994 as well as over 30 percent of prewar Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast—a region of Soviet Azerbaijan majority populated by ethnic Armenians. Today, the rump self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR or “Artsakh”)—still controlled by Armenians and not recognized by anyone—is fully surrounded by Azerbaijani troops and territory. The rump Karabakh “republic’s” perimeter is guarded by some 2,000 Russian “peacekeepers” who also control the so-called Lachin corridor, the only highway left open from Armenia proper to Karabakh through the city of Lachin. The future of the rump NKR and its Armenian population is unclear. Baku refuses to discuss any special administrative status for the territory, insisting Armenians born in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast or their descendants must disarm and apply for Azerbaijani citizenships to stay as a minority inside Azerbaijan. In turn, the NKR leadership has declared Russian an official language alongside Armenian to avoid use of Azerbaijani Turkish (Izvestia, February 17). Officials in Stepanakert (Khankendi in Azerbaijani) apparently hope this may tempt Moscow to keep its peacekeepers in Karabakh permanently and maybe eventually agree to annex the NKR outright.
  • Topic: Weapons , Conflict, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Eastern Europe, Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Author: Farhan Zahid
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province has experienced a fresh wave of nationalist-separatist terrorist attacks since 2019, with new targets indicating shifting trends. Baluch nationalist–separatist militant groups have not only ramped up their attacks, but also have changed strategy and formed a new alliance. The implications of this are a steep incline in attacks against the Pakistani security forces.
  • Topic: Security, Nationalism, Insurgency, Non State Actors, Islamism, Separatism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Author: Jacob Lees Weiss
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On December 20, 2020, 21 Katyusha rockets struck the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, breaking an Iranian-sponsored ceasefire in Iraq for a second time (U.S. Central Command, December 23, 2020). The Iraqi security forces later arrested a member of the Iraqi political and militant organization Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), Hussam al-Azirjawi, after finding conclusive evidence of his involvement in the attack (al-Hurra, December 26, 2020). Following al-Azirjawi’s arrest, multiple widely-shared clips on social media appeared to show a large mobilization of armed AAH militants in East Baghdad. A further clip showing masked AAH gunmen threatening to attack Iraqi security forces on command from AAH leader, Qais al-Khazali (al-Arabiya, December 25 2020). These arrests and video clips reveal that AAH has begun to show increasing signs of dissent from the party line set by Iran and its most loyal proxy in Iraq, Kata’ib Hezbollah.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Conflict, Militias, Resistance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East