China Report #7

Executive summary

This BLUF assessment for the month of November has outlined the most relevant events of China’s activities in the cyber, space and technological domains.

Regarding space activities, it is reported China’s latest launches of two satellites into orbit as well as the launch of a new series of classified Yaogan reconnaissance satellites. Their importance is particularly relevant since it is recognized that Yaogan satellites might be exploited for military purposes.

Other relevant events include Chinese astronauts completing a space walk outside the core module of a future space station. The section also assesses a paper from the SCMP, revealing that Beijing’s space programme will go nuclear to power future missions to the moon and Mars.

In the cyber domain, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found that US companies and their Chinese affiliates are increasing investment in Chinese semiconductor companies. Conversely, a Chinese tabloid revealed that this month the Indian hacking outfit “Evil Flower” launched cyberattacks against Chinese aerospace industries. Indeed, China is looking to recast itself as the victim in cyberspace as a counterreaction to the pressure and the accusations coming from the west and the US. Moreover, it is widely analyzed the reason behind the Japan and Vietnam’s latest decision to sign a cybersecurity agreement, as the two Asian nations rapidly step up their military ties amid concerns over China’s growing assertiveness. In conclusion, a dedicated paragraph gives special attention at providing recommendations to counter China’s strategic advantage in quantum computing.

In the technology domain, relevant events confirm a positive trend in China’s technological advancements: Chinese air force equiped 16th Air Division with WZ-7 HALE UAVs and also deployed recently unveiled J-16D in combat training. However, the highlight of the month is certainly the new US DOD 2021 Report on Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China. The paper has been widely assessed and commented worldwide and indeed represents the most comprehensive updated analysis of military and security developments involving the PRC. Worth mentioning is also a new International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)’s report outlining key drivers of defence innovation and the future of operational advantage, with a special focus on China. In the end, it is analyzed a Taiwan Ministry of National Defense (MND)’s report released in November. According to the paper, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is strengthening its superior capabilities within the battlespace of the first island chain and is bolstering its deterrence capabilities beyond the second island chain to fully develop the ability to invade Taiwan by force.

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