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China Reform Monitor - No. 1316

Walling off Xinjiang;
How China spies on Africa

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
February 20, 2018

January 22:

China has installed listening devices in two strategic seabeds deep in the waters near Guam, home to America's biggest military base in the Western Pacific and Submarine Squadron 15. China's deep-sea surveillance networks are maintained by Chinese research vessels and have a listening range of more than 1000km,
the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports. The acoustic sensors are being used to study earthquakes, typhoons and whales, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which recently revealed that the sensors have been in operation since 2016. But the equipment can also track submarines and intercept underwater signals between the submarines and their command bases. One of them is in Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on earth at 10,916 meters below sea level; another is near the Yap, a Micronesian island about 500km southwest of Guam.

January 23:

To prevent the infiltration of militants from outside the country, China's Xinjiang western region will build a "Great Wall" along its border using technology and improved roads and other infrastructure, Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir has told the annual session of the regional assembly. "We will try our best to leave no gaps or blind spots in social security management and ensure the key areas remain absolutely safe. The overall situation was stable in 2017, which made people feel safer. We won't allow separatism to stage a comeback and will ensure religious extremism never rises again from the ashes and terrorist attacks are doomed to failure," he said in
comments carried by the official China Daily. During last year's annual session of the National People's Congress, Xi Jinping told Xinjiang officials to build a "great wall of iron" to safeguard stability, Japan Times reports.

January 24:

Official media outlets have been told to downplay the financial and debt problems of big Chinese conglomerates such as HNA Group and Dalian Wanda Group. The instructions did not mention specific companies, but were instead a reminder that the press should not spread market panic. Guidelines on cautious reporting to ensure market stability are in place, but specific instructions are given during times of market turbulence. A leaked document from China's banking regulator last June revealed that Beijing had placed the country's high-profile global deal makers under increased scrutiny. The government has criticized some debt financed deals to buy overseas property and assets as "irrational" and a potential threat to financial stability,
the South China Morning Post reports.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The conglomerate HNA Group has seen fall in the share prices of its subsidiaries after chairman Chen Feng said the group faces liquidity problems. HNA Investment Group announced it was suspending stock trading after it shares fell 5.4 percent early one day this week making it the seventh HNA subsidiary to halt share sales in China. Hainan HNA Infrastructure Investment, another subsidiary, also fell by 10 percent, the daily limit, as did HNA Innovation. Dalian Wanda Group, headed by billionaire Wang Jianlin, has been selling assets both in China and abroad to repay debts. Dalian Wanda reported an 11 percent drop in revenue in 2017, and its Hong Kong listed unit, Wanda Hotel Development, has suspended trading. The group's subsidiary listed in mainland China, Wanda Film Holding, halted trading last July.]

January 29:

France's Le Monde published an expose revealing that, for years, data from the Chinese-built African Union (AU) headquarters has been secretly transferred to servers in Shanghai. The spike in data transfer activity, which occurred regularly between midnight and 2am, was spotted this month, but had been ongoing since 2012, when the AU building opened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. AU officials subsequently brought in Algerian security experts to sweep the entire headquarters for bugs and discovered microphones in desks. China's ambassador to the AU Kuang Weilin hailed the headquarters as a "monument" to his country's relationship with Africa, and dismissed the report as "preposterous," BBC reports.

January 30:

Wang Qishan, 69, China's former anti-graft tsar, has defied political convention and held on to a seat in the National People's Congress that will allow him to remain politically influential for years to come. At a meeting of the Hunan provincial legislature, Wang was among 118 provincial legislators selected as deputies to the upcoming national session,
the official reports. Wang, who stepped down from the CPC's seven-member Politburo Standing Committee in October after reaching the Communist Party's unofficial retirement age of 68, is expected to be named vice-president at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in March, SCMP reports

[Editor's Note: China's state laws set no age limits for either the president or the vice-president, although both are limited to two five-year terms. In 2013, the vice-presidency was filled by Li Yuanchao – a Politburo member but not on the Standing Committee – associated with the beleaguered Communist Youth League faction. Li, who was largely responsible for receiving foreign dignities, stepped down from the Politburo in October's reshuffle.]

Related Categories: China; China and East Asia Program

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