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China Reform Monitor - No. 1339

China's declining "soft power";
Beijing's burgeoning stake in Israel

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
September 3, 2018


July 8:

In order "[t]o cultivate the national consciousness of Hong Kong youth," the New Home Association (NHA), a Communist Party United Front group, is arranging trips for thousands of students to visit cities in the mainland, including Xian, Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing, t
he South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports. The NHA has received more than $5 million in government funding to sponsor 19,100 students, and so far 7000 have visited. About 2000 students, aged 15 to 29, joined the NHA 4th annual visitors' program. CH Tung, the Vice Chairman of the Chinese People's Consultative Congress, Wang Zhimin, Director of the Beijing's Hong Kong liaison office, and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attended the NHA launch ceremony. A recent University of Hong Kong poll revealed that only 16 percent of Hongkongers aged 18 to 29 are proud to be a part of China. "They know too little about the country, and they are influenced by biased media," explained NHA chairman Hui Wing-mau.

July 13:

"China's soft power has been weakened by its hard line on foreign policy and human rights,"
the SCMP reports. China was ranked 27th of 30 countries in the Soft Power 30 report put out by the University of South California Center on Public Diplomacy, down two places from last year. "China's record in human rights and civil liberties reflects poorly among Western audiences," the survey concluded, adding that "relatively low scores in competitiveness, ease of doing business, and rule of law diminish its attractiveness as a global business hub of choice."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: In March, China merged the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television with the Ministry of Culture to create a super cultural ministry to expand CPC ideological influence. For an excellent review of recent publications on China soft power, see this
report by the China Digital Times.]

July 19:

China's investment in Israeli technology is booming and a growing number of Israeli firms are entering the Chinese market,
the BBC reports. In 2016 China's direct investment in Israel almost tripled to $16 billion and it will soon overtake the U.S., the Jerusalem Post has reported. In recent years, Chinese companies have either bought Israeli firms outright or purchased shares in their businesses, including medical lasers operation Alma Lasers, medical devices group Lumenis, the dairy business Tnuva, image recognition firm Cortica, and gesture control group Extreme Reality. Business events are now held every year, such as Silicon Dragon Israel in Tel Aviv and the China-Israel Innovation Summit, which was held this month in Guangdong. Given China's reputation for IPR theft and Washington's concerns about high-tech transfers Israel must be selective about what kind of manufacturing they outsource to China.

July 22:

China will deploy "large, smart and relatively low-cost" autonomous robotic submarines in the early 2020s against U.S. forces in the South China Sea and western Pacific Ocean,
the SCMP reports. The unmanned artificial intelligence (AI) subs are part of Beijing's plan to use the new technology to boost the country's naval power. They will handle a wide range of missions from reconnaissance to mine placement to even "suicide" attacks against enemy vessels and other high value targets. AI subs can be produced and operated on a large scale at a relatively low cost. They can be stationed for long periods at strategic "chokepoints" and ambush enemy targets. Lin Yang, marine technology equipment director at the Shenyang Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, is the chief scientist of the 912 Project, a classified program to develop new-generation military underwater robots in time for the CPC's100 year anniversary in 2021.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The AI-powered subs now under development are "giants" compared to China's existing unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Current UUVs are mostly small and require another ship or submarine for deployment and recovery. They are limited in operational range and payload capacity.]

July 23:

Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences Ltd. is under investigation of after the drugmaker was found to have falsified records and inspection reports for a rabies vaccine and sold more than 250,000 substandard doses of the infant DPT vaccine (for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) to the Shandong Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Problems with the rabies vaccine were found this month, after a tip prompted regulators from the China Food and Drug Administration to hold a spot inspection,
the official Xinhua reports. The DPT recall also included Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of China National Pharmaceutical Group, which produced more than 400,000 defective DPT doses for city and provincial governments, the official China Daily reports. This month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a safety alert for medications whose active ingredient was produced by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals because the products were tainted with a cancer-causing impurity, NPR reports
.