April 25, 2018

Belt and Road at a Glance: RWR Advisory

Belt and Road at a Glance

Top Developments

EU Ambassadors to China (sans Hungary) Rebuke BRI in Joint Letter
On April 18, Germany’s Handelsblatt reported that 27 of 28 EU ambassadors to China had signed a joint statement criticizing the Belt and Road Initiative.Hungary, a major target of Chinese largesse, was the only EU member-state that did not sign the document. The main criticism expressed by the ambassadors was that BRI “runs counter to the EU agenda for liberalizing trade and pushes the balance of power in favor of subsidized Chinese companies.” While the report was not made public and is not necessarily an expression of policy from the countries involved, it is a significant setback for China’s hope of rallying EU member-state support for its reimagining of the global trading order.Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan: No Military Intent for CPEC
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing sought to allay growing concerns in the country about the strategic risks associated with the BRI-linked China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, telling Voice of America on April 22, “I want to make it very clear, Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, and with CPEC under it, is purely a commercial development project. We don’t have any kind of military or strategic design for that.” He conceded that it was “natural” that such concerns would arise. Yao’s message, however, was muddled by China’s newly-arrived Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe, who told Pakistan’s Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi that China is preparedto provide security guarantees for the Belt and Road project.Battling Forex Crisis, Pakistan Mulls “Panda Bond” Issue
In an effort to stave off a months-long dwindling of foreign exchange stocks and avoid seeking IMF assistance, Islamabad authorities are consideringissuing an RMB-denominated “Panda Bond,” as well as raising dollar-denominated debt targeted at the Pakistani diaspora. The World Bank warned in October that Pakistan needed to raise $17 billion to meet its debt repayment obligations and settle its current account deficit. The strategy further links Pakistan to a China-centric financing strategy. According to the Financial Times, Pakistan quietly borrowed more than $1 billion from Chinese financial institutions last year during a worsening of its current account deficit.China, Nepal Pursue Trans-Himalaya Railway; India Invited to Join
China and Nepal share a “long-term vision” for building a “trans-Himalayan connectivity network,” the two country’s foreign ministers announced in Beijing on April 18. Specifically, Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gwayali said both sides had agreed to joint feasibility studies on a cross-border railway linking the Tibetan city of Gyirong on the Nepal-Tibet border to Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Lumbini. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Nepal and China would invite India to join the project, noting that “support for Nepal’s development should be a common understanding between India and China.” The project is likely to raise questions with regard to the competition for influence in Nepal (between China and India) playing out in the economic and financial domain.China, Finland to Enhance Arctic Research Cooperation
China and Finland have agreed to establish a joint research center for Arctic space observation and data sharing services, the China Academy of Sciences announced on April 18. The agreement states that the center will be built in Sodanklya, Lapland. This announcement follows the 2016 construction of the China Remote Sensing Satellite North Polar Ground Station, located inSweden. China has been seeking greater overall involvement in Scandinavia alongside its efforts to gain a seat at the table internationally on matters related to the Arctic.CCCC To Build Tunnel Complex at Colombo, Sri Lanka
China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) will invest $800 million to build a road tunnel network serving Sri Lanka’s Port City, a reclamation project in the country’s capital, Colombo. The government of Sri Lanka is preparing tax incentives to help meet its goal of $15 billion in investment in the project over the next 30 years. The Colombo Port City project is contractedto CCCC subsidiary China Harbor Engineering Company, which also worked on the controversial port construction project at Hambantota.Three Chinese Mining Companies Banned in Cameroon
The warmth generated by Cameroonian President Paul Biya’s recent visit to Beijing suffered a setback on April 21, when the country’s Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Technological Development announced that three Chinese companies (Hong Kong Mining, Peace Mining, and Lu & Lang) were ordered to cease operations and leave East Cameroon due to allegations linking them to local deaths and operating without the necessary licenses. While none of the companies involved rank among China’s top mining companies, the development is still remarkable as the announcement came just one month after a series of major investment announcements, including China canceling part of Cameroon’s debt.

Data from IntelTrak, April 10 - 24

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What They're Saying

Interview with the Associated Press

"We feel that we will stop borrowing. We will try to renegotiate the terms of the borrowing. In the case of projects, we may have to study whether we would continue or we would slow down or we would renegotiate the terms."

Speaking with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawala Asif

"Our iron friendship with Pakistan will never rust or be tempered into steel."

Speaking at the China-IMF Capacity Development Center launch

"The first challenge is ensuring that Belt and Road only travels where it is needed. With any large-scale spending there is sometimes the temptation to take advantage of the project selection and bidding process. Experiences from across the globe show that there is always a risk of potentially failed projects and the misuse of funds. "

Interview ahead of the Summit of the Americas

"If China doesn’t import goods from the United States, it’s going to import them from other countries...in that sense the disputes between China and the United States could bring opportunities."


"It is easy to vent anger against the Chinese, but who brought them in? It is Cameroonians that have led them to behave like they do."

By the Numbers

Data from RWR's IntelTrak tool

Data from RWR's IntelTrak tool

Domestic Developments

Policy Guidance

April 18: The State Council unveiled the new State International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDCA), two weeks after Wang Xiaotao was announced as the agency’s head. Wang, former Deputy Director of the National Development and Reform Commission, has a strong background in foreign capital, overseas investment, and trade negotiations within the Belt and Road framework. SIDCA will take on the foreign aid responsibilities of China’s Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and play a significant role in furthering the Belt and Road Initiative in developing countries.

Public Engagement

April 12: The People’s Bank of China and International Monetary Fundlaunched the Beijing-based China-IMF Capacity Development Center (CICDC), which will support officials from China and other Belt and Road countries in policy-making, personnel training, and institution-building. CICDC is one of several regional IMF capacity development centers.April 12: The United Nations Development Program’s 2018 High-Level Policy Forum on Global Governance took place in Guangzhou. The China Center for International Economic Exchanges co-hosted the forum, with support from China’s National Development and Reform Commission. This year’s forum was themed “Belt and Road Finance and Investment” and convened senior representatives from international financial institutions, the private sector, development agencies, and governments.April 23: The “China-South Africa Investment Seminar” was held in Beijing, sponsored by the China-Africa Development Fund. Attendees included representatives from Sinopec, Datang Group, Bank of China, Sany Heavy Industry, and China Construction Bank. The Fund plans to expand its role to increase investment in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors as well as promote advanced Chinese production capacity in African countries through the Belt and Road Initiative.

Regional Developments

East Asia and the Pacific

April 1o: China and Mongolia signed a series of agreements and memoranda of understandings during a recent state visit: China’s Ministry of Commerce and Mongolia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a memorandum of understanding on accelerating negotiations on establishing an intergovernmental agreement on developing bordering regions. The Export-Import Bank of China and Mongolia’s Ministry of Finance signed a loan agreement for financing the Erdenet thermal power plant modernization project. China’s National Markets Supervision Management Bureau signed a memorandum of understanding with Mongolia’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Light Industry on small-and-medium enterprise cooperation. Mongolia’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sciences, and Sports signed an agreement on educational exchange and cooperation with China’s Ministry of Education, and a memorandum of understanding with China's State General Administration of Sports on sports cooperation. The two governments also agreed to strengthen production capacity, build a new wastewater treatment plant in Ulaanbaatar, and for China to provide Mongolia with about $315 million in aid.April 18: China’s Ministry of Commerce and Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment, Green Development, and Tourism signed an agreement to implement a three-year project to save Mongolia’s critically endangered Gobi (Mazaalai) bear. The project will be funded by a $17.5 million donation from the Chinese government. The bears reside in Mongolia’s Great Gobi conservation area, which is their only habitat in the world.April 17: PowerChina Resources acquired an 80% stake in the development of Tasmania’s 150MW Cattle Hill Wind Farm. The seller, Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology subsidiary Goldwind Capital Australia, will retain 20% of the project. Renewable electricity generated by the wind farm will bepurchased by government electricity retailer Aurora Energy under a long-term contract.April 20: The New Zealand-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Seminarhosted by the Oceania Silk Road Network (OSRN) was held in Auckland, New Zealand with current and former politicians in attendance. OSRN was established under the Belt and Road Initiative to connect China and New Zealand’s government institutions, think tanks, industrial associations, and other bilateral actors.

Southeast Asia

April 12: China-Singapore (Chongqing) Strategic Connectivity Logistic Development and China-Singapore (Chongqing) Multimodal Transport & Logistic Development signed a joint venture and cooperation agreement todevelop the China-Singapore connectivity project’s South Passage. Chongqing’s southwestern location and manufacturing industry position the city as a potentially crucial hub for Belt and Road activity. South Passage seeks to reconfigure existing regional logistics patterns, connecting Chongqing through Singapore to the rest of Southeast Asia — and eventually South Asia, the Middle East, and other regions. The multimodal project will feature railways, highways, waterways, and air transport.April 13: Chinese companies signed a series of infrastructure agreements withIndonesia’s North Kalimantan province, valued at a speculative $39 billion: China Gezhouba Group International Engineering plans to build a $10 billion hydroelectric power plant in Sungai Kayan with Indonesia Dafeng Heshun Energy Industry, and a $10 billion industrial area in Bulungan with Adhidaya Suprakencana. East China Engineering Science and Technology plans to build a $700 million coal-to-dimethyl ether (DME) facility in Tanah Kuning with Dragon Land. Sinohydro Corporation will form a joint venture with Kayan Hydro Energy to build a $17 billion hydropower plant in Bulungan. Metallurgical Corporation of China plans to develop a $1.2 billion steel smelter with Prime Steel Indonesia. The countries also signed memoranda of understandings on developing the Tanah Kuning Mangkupadi Industrial Park in North Kalimantan and cooperating on electric vehicles. All speculative values are subject to change.April 15: Expanding on the series of bilateral agreements signed on the sidelines of the Boao Forum, China agreed to provide about $4 million in aid to support agricultural production in the Philippines. The Philippine Ministry of Agriculture will use the capital to upgrade the Philippine-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology (PhilSCAT)’s hybrid rice technology research and demonstration center.April 17: The China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences and the Laos Public Health Ministry’s Traditional Medicine Research Institute signed a memorandum of understanding on medicinal plants research cooperation. The two sides will conduct a medicinal resource census in Laos to compile a volume on “Flora of Laos.” There are also plans to jointly establish a traditional medicine research center and hold training on medicinal plant research.April 18: China and Thailand signed several cooperation agreements on Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Special Fund projects. China offered to provide $1.7 million from the fund to support rural e-commerce development, cross-border trade and logistic facility upgrades, and business exchange projects in Thailand.April 23: Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group signed a series of agreements and memoranda with Thai government entities: Alibaba Singapore E-Commerce Ltd. and Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor Office (EECO) signeda memorandum of understanding between on expanding Thai agricultural exports through Alibaba’s platform. Alibaba affiliate Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Hong Kong signed an agreement with EECO and Thailand’s Customs Department to establish a Smart Digital Hub to boost regional and global trade through e-commerce. Cainiao plans to invest about $351 million to develop the Smart Digital Hub, which will also support markets in Cambodia, LaosMyanmar, and Vietnam. Alibaba Business School signed a memorandum of understanding with Thailand’s Department of Industrial Promotion (DIP) and Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) on developing digital training programs for Thai entrepreneurs. Alibaba subsidiary Zhejiang Fliggy Network Technology Company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) on promoting Thai tourism in secondary Chinese provinces, using Alibaba’s digital platforms for marketing and travel logistics.April 23: China’s Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group andCambodia’s Try Pheap Group signed a cooperation agreement to conduct a feasibility study on constructing a deep-sea port in Kampot province. The proposed port would be able to accomodate large-scale vessels carrying up to 30,000 tons of cargo, nearly double the capacity of Cambodia’s existingSihanoukville deep-sea port.

South Asia

April 11: China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) plans to invest $800 million to build an underground road network to the Colombo Port City development in Sri Lanka, which is currently under construction by CCCC subsidiary China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). The proposed underground network would reduce overland traffic once the development is completed.March 30: Bank of China (BoC) opened its first branch in Sri Lanka, in the capital city of Colombo. The bank will help expand Sri Lanka’s ties with overseas manufacturers as part of international supply chains.March 31: The Export-Import Bank of China will provide $147.9 million andSri Lanka’s People’s Bank will provide the remaining $26.1 million to financeconstruction of Sri Lanka’s Thalapitigala hydropower reservoir. Sinohydro Corporation has been contracted to build the 15MW reservoir.April 2: China’s GCL System Integration Technology and Japan’s Softbank Investment signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint venture company in Andhra Pradesh, India to produce and sell solar module components. The joint venture is seeking funding up to $930 million.April 4: China announced plans to develop a 750-acre industrial park inBangladesh’s port city of Chittagong, primarily for Chinese manufacturing use. China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) will develop the park through a joint venture with the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone Authority (BSEZA).April 6: Pakistan delayed signing the second phase of its free trade agreement with China at the last minute due to reservations about Beijing’s list of concessions. The first phase of the agreement had given China duty concessions that led to an influx of Chinese goods and hurt local industries. The Faisalabad textile business community, in particular, has expressed concerns about further concessions in the new phase. A joint meeting of the National Assembly standing committees on finance and commerce will take place in the near future.

Middle East and North Africa

April 10: The China-Arab Beidou Center was inaugurated in Tunis, Tunisia by China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Arab League’s Arab Information and Communication Technology Organization (AICTO) based in Tunisia. The center will showcase and promote China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), as well as provide joint satellite navigation research opportunities.April 10: Chinese clean energy company TBEA Sunoasis launched constructionof four solar power stations at the Benban Solar Energy Park in Aswan, Egypt. The stations will have an output of 186MW upon completion. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) contributed partial financing to the $180 million project.April 14: Shanghai Electric Group signed an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) to build a 700MW concentrated solar power (CSP) project in Dubai, UAE as the fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. Shanghai Electric is the main contractor in a consortium including Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and China’s Silk Road Fund. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) will act as the mandated lead arranger for loan financing, which Bank of China (BoC) and Agricultural Bank of China will also be involved in.April 19: Huawei Technologies Investment signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to develop the country’s information and communication technology (ICT) talent by providing training opportunities for Saudi youths and establishing an innovation center for technology entrepreneurship.April 21: The Chinese Enterprises Association in Israel (CEAI) was establishedin Tel Aviv to promote bilateral economic and trade ties. Earlier this month, Beijing-based ZhongGuanCun Science Park (Z-Park) announced plans to open a liaison office in Tel Aviv to facilitate Chinese business operations in Israel and attract local tech talent to China.April 23: The Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) to develop an international Belt and Road Exchange primarily serving the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. The exchanges haven’t specified the types of instruments that will be traded on the new exchange.April 23: Iran’s National Petrochemical Company signed a memorandum of understanding with China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation (CPCIF) on building a petrochemical park in Iran. CPCIF is an organization comprised of various Chinese companies, institutes, and and associations in the petrochemical industry.

Sub-Saharan Africa

April 11: The Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography (XIEG) received government approval to provide technical supportfor the African Union’s Great Green Wall initiative. XIEG will work specifically with MauritaniaNigeria, and Ethiopia to conduct environmental adaptability assessments and provide desertification prevention technologies in efforts to reverse desertification in the Sahel region.April 16: A Chinese medical team arrived at the Butha-Buthe Hospital inLesotho’s northern Butha-Buthe district for a week-long visit, coordinated by Lesotho’s Ministry of Health and China’s Ministry of Commerce. The team held academic lectures, paid ward visits, and donated medicine and equipment.April 16: The Nigerian branches of China Overseas Construction Group, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, PowerChina, China Gezhouba Group, Huawei Technologies, and China Harbour Engineering Companydonated office equipment to the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations. The donation was made in acknowledgment of China’s role in Nigeria’s economic development.April 17: The Chinese Embassy in Cairo and the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) hosted the two-day China-Africa Special Economic Zone Cooperation Forum in Cairo, Egypt. Delegations from six African countries were in attendance.April 17: China donated $760,000 worth of information and communication technology (ICT) equipment and office furniture to Malawi’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Tourism. The donation is intended to facilitate Malawi’s industrialization process, which hundreds of Chinese companies are currently involved in, through projects like the Sogecoa Business Park, Blantyre Golden Peacock Hotel, and China-Malawi Cotton Company textile factory in Salima.April 18: Standard Chartered Bank held a “Belt and Road” themed customer appreciation event in Gaborone, Botswana with Chinese Embassy officials and Standard Chartered UK executives in attendance.April 20: A delegation from the China Institute for Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) arrived in Rusororo, Rwanda for a three-dayvisit with the governing Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi). The Chinese Communist Party and RPF have had a relationship for two decades. During the visit, the two sides seek to exchange ideas on governance and political mass mobilization, and prepare for the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit in Beijing.April 20: China Aerospace Construction Group was awarded a construction contract by Kenya Urban Roads Authority for the first phase of the Kangundo Road and Eastern Bypass-Outer Ring Road upgrading project in eastern Nairobi. The company is currently also under contract to dredge and build the Kosachei dam in Eldoret, western Kenya.April 21: Cameroon’s Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Technological Development (MINMIDT) announced the ban of three Chinese companies from mining in East Cameroon, where they primarily operate in the gold-rich Bétaré Oya district. The companies, Peace Mining Corporation, Hong Kong Mining, and Lu & Lang, were found to be noncompliant with contractual terms. All three have allegedly contributed to environmental degradation and agricultural damage. Two had been mining without government authorization and the third has been tied to multiple local deaths. MINMIDT ordered the companies to halt operations earlier this month after conducting mining site raids.

Russia and Eurasia

April 10: Uzbekistan published its Priority Directions for the Development of Foreign Policy and External Economic Cooperation, which indicated the country’s intention to build the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway and implement the Belt and Road Initiative through industrial park construction and infrastructure modernization. The China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway was conceived in the 1990s, but has been stalled for various economic and geopolitical reasons.April 10: Huawei Technologies launched OpenLab Moscow, a showroom and research facility intended for joint technology development and testing. This is the tenth OpenLab facility that Huawei has established overseas, and will specifically focus on the finance, transportation, energy, oil and gas, and public safety sectors. Huawei is currently working with 51 Russiancompanies, and will offer remote facility access to partners through its Lab-as-a-Service model.April 17: The Astana International Finance Center (AIFC) signed several memoranda of cooperation with Chinese financial service providers, including Shenwan Hongyuan Group, Haitong Securities, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and CITIC Securities. Kazakhstan-based AIFCseeks to become a financial hub for Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and western China.April 19: The China-Russia Biopharmaceutical Technology Transfer and Innovation Center in Shanghai was unveiled on the opening day of the third annual "Belt and Road" China-Russian Forum on Science and Technology Cooperation. The center will provide technology transfer services and introduce new cooperation projects between China and Russia.April 20: The first meeting of the Sino-Tajik Cooperation Committee was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan to discuss scientific and technological cooperation. The Tajik Academy of Sciences, China's Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Gansu Science and Technology Department co-organized the event in recognition of Tajikistan’s importance as a gateway for the Belt and Road Initiative. The Gansu Academy of Membrane Science and Technology, Institute of Business Technology, and Productivity Promotion Center signed several cooperation agreements with their Tajik counterparts.


April 10: Bank of Shanghai and Spain’s Banco Santander signed a memorandum of understanding on Belt and Road strategic cooperation, with a specific focus on Europe and Latin America. The banks will jointly providefinancial services to Chinese enterprises investing overseas, including trade finance and corporate loans.April 12: Denmark’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) approved Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s proposed acquisition of a majority stake in Saxo Bank, a Danish investment bank specializing in online trading. The acquisition still requires several other regulatory approvals, currently pending.April 13: People’s Bank of China and Bank of Albania extended their bilateral local currency swap agreement, originally signed in 2013. Through the agreement, the central banks can access up to $318.5 million in each other’s local currency as needed.April 13: New resident companies signed agreements to establish operations at the China-Belarus Great Stone Industrial Park in Minsk. These include SZAO Aviation Technologies and Systems, a joint venture between Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences (NASB) and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) which plans to develop high-tech products like unmanned aerial vehicles.April 13: The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia held a Serbia-China investment and trade forum in Belgrade, during a delegation visit by China’s Council for Promoting South-South Cooperation. Representatives from Chinese and Serbian businesses were in attendance, seeking cooperation opportunities in sectors including infrastructure, agriculture, and technology.April 15: A delegation of Chinese farmers traveled to Belgium to learn about agricultural sustainability and innovation through an exchange programorganized by China's Ministry of Agriculture and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development. Site visits included the European Commission, BelOrta vegetable and fruit auction, and Belgium’s Research Station for Vegetable Growing. The delegation plans to visit the UK and Estonia in the following weeks.April 16: China’s e-commerce company JD.com announced the launch of its Spanish-language platform, Joybuy.es, at the World Retail Conference inSpain. The platform had begun beta testing the week before, selling primarily Chinese-made goods to Spanish and Latin American customers. JD.com plans to open a local warehouse by the end of the year, to facilitate direct deliveries.April 18: The Chinese Academy of Sciences announced it signed an agreement earlier this month with the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s Space and Earth Observation Center to establish a joint research center for Arctic space observation and data sharing. Specifically, the two sides plan to enhance cooperation on cryosphere research with the use of satellites. The center will be built in Sodankylä, in Finland’s Lapland region as part of China’s Digital Belt and Road Program for environmental monitoring.April 19: A business delegation led by Estonia’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications visited Beijing, where the two sides discussed digital, logistics, and e-commerce cooperation. During the visit, GTS Rail, a subsidiary of Estonian logistics company GTS Express, signed a cooperation agreement with Xi’an International Inland Port Multimodal Transportation to launch a new freight train route from Xi’an to Muuga Harbour, which is Estonia’s largest cargo port. The trains will begin arriving in June.April 23: China’s Heng’an Group signed an agreement to acquire 36.5% ofFinnish pump producer Finnpulp for $14.29 million, with the option of raising its stake to 49%. The two companies will jointly develop a major softwood pulp plant in Kuopio, eastern Finland.

North America

April 13: Several commercial agreements were signed between Chinese and Canadian companies during the Canadian creative industry trade mission visit to China, valued at nearly $125 million. These include agreements for theater tours, concert performances, literacy partnerships, licensing agreements, and film co-production agreements. Many Chinese and Canadian museums also signed collaborative agreements to jointly strengthen China-Canada public dialogue in science, education, technology, and culture.April 20: U.S.-based Citibank signed memoranda of understandings with Bank of China (BoC) and China Merchants Bank to support Belt and Road-related projects and investments. Citi plans to explore ways to cooperate with the Chinese banks in sectors including infrastructure, power and energy, telecommunications, oil and gas, and agriculture. Previously, Citi served as BoC’s sole global coordinator on $10 billion in Belt and Road bond issuances.

Latin American and the Caribbean

April 24: China’s CRRC Qingdao Sifang signed a $278 million contract with the Argentine Ministry of Transport to supply 200 electrical multiple unit (EMU) train cars and related parts for the Roca line in Buenos Aires. The cars will supplement the existing fleet of 42 CRRC EMUs already in service, and facilitate the withdrawal of outdated Toshiba EMUs.

If you enjoy our Belt and Road coverage, consider checking out IntelTrak: RWR's visual analytic tool that tracks and maps the global activities of Chinese and Russian companies in real time.

RWR Advisory Group is a Washington DC-based research and advisory firm that specializes in the risks present at the intersection of global business activity and national security concerns

Why Syria may be the most aggressive electronic warfare environment on Earth


By: Mark Pomerleau    21 hours ago


Adversaries in Syria are jamming communications and even disrupting AC-130 aircraft.

Syria today presents the “most aggressive [electronic warfare] environment on the planet from our adversaries,” according to the head of Special Operations Command.

Speaking before an audience at the annual GEOINT symposium April 24 in Tampa, Florida, Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas said adversaries are testing the U.S. every day.

This, he said, has come in the form of knocking down communications and disabling AC-130 aircraft.

While he did not specifically name any one perpetrator, it is well known that Russia not only possesses advanced EW capabilities, but has deployed it on battlefields in Syria and Eastern Ukraine.

“They have used Syria as a testing ground for not just aircraft, but also their munitions as well,” Air Force Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, deputy chief of staff for ISR, said of the Russians at a January event in Washington.

“I would highlight they have fired off cruise missiles; they have fired off air-to-air missiles; they have used long-range aviation; they have conducted really what I could characterize as their first away-game operations in a complete and continuous deployment arena.”

NBC News recently reported that Russia has begun to jam small, tactical U.S. drones in Syria. Moreover, defense officials described the use of electronic warfare aircraft, such as the EA-6B for electronic warfare suppression, in the April 13 strikes against alleged Syrian chemical weapons facilities. This could have been to jam advanced air defenses Russia has deployed to the region.

Threat from Russian UAV jamming real, officials say

Threats demonstrated from Russia jamming UAVs in Ukraine absolutely pose a threat to U.S. systems, according to officials.

By: Mark Pomerleau

These factors, along with others including the testing of equipment and concepts in the Ukraine, have influenced the U.S. decision to rebuild electronic warfare capability that atrophied at the conclusion of the Cold War

April 24, 2018

Think tanks as builders of trust in fragmented societies





Think tanks are instrumental to strengthening the capacity of societies to overcome fragmentation caused by democratic competition. They also play a key role in promoting dialogue and generating innovative solutions to complex problems.

The Latin American experience has proven that one of the most important roles think tanks play is generating a plural, impartial and independent space. It is in this space that people from different ideologies can discuss ideas and develop action plans. In Chile, for example, during the Pinochet regime intellectuals of different ideological tendencies took refuge in think tanks. These provided a space for actors of different political associations to debate and agree on strategies which later allowed the return to democracy.

If we understand ‘governance’ as the way the State, the market and civil society engage with one another, the involvement of think tanks has eased the coordination and collaboration (and sometimes even co-creation) between the different actors in society. From this point of view, think tanks are part of the foundation of ‘good governance’: they have ensured economic and social development stemming from new collaboration between public entities, the private and the non-profit sectors.

However, think tanks can only fulfill this role if society trusts in their capacity to resolve conflicts and tensions inherent in the competition of ideas think tanks embody. Therefore, I will argue that internal governance in think tanks is key for them to fulfill their role promoting dialogue which is plural, informed and intended for social change.

I will define think tank governance as the rules of the game- formal and informal- intended to regulate how decisions are made and executed. A think tank with ‘checks and balances’ represented by the existence of different levels of decision making (i.e. an autonomous Board and executive direction) is more likely to enjoy credibility from society. The existence of these tiers of governance does not translate to an organisation where all decisions made are good, but it does translate to an organisation where decisions are the result of evidence and internal deliberation (not a product of an individual’s perspective).

A second dimension of governance is how transparent these rules are. Trust is generated by what we see and what we can prove: making the rules of the game for good governance visible is as important as having them in place. This transparency sets the stage to be recognised as an actor with the capacity to articulate and influence the democratic process.

We learned this at Grupo FARO in Ecuador, where the political context was unfriendly to the work of organisations who sought to contribute, from outside the State, to the improvement of public policies. The only way we could mitigate the arguments which questioned our legitimacy was by being transparent about our internal politics, strategies and decision-making processes on issues such as research topics, research quality, and how our research and intervention agenda was financed.

In fragmented societies such as the Latin American case, think tanks face the challenge of finding ways to become ‘political forums’ and connect with organisations which represent different social perspectives, interests and needs.  By achieving this they can become what Camou calls ‘transversal parties’ which include different political tendencies and allow the implementation of public policy reforms to stay beyond an election term. Only with a rational and transparent internal governance will think tanks be able to contribute to a society where there is more trust amongst its members and, by consequence, where public policies reflect different perspectives and serve the interests of the majority.


Orazio Bellettini:  Social entrepreneur, professor of public policy, and co-founder of Grupo FARO

Chinese Media Monitor: Freedom House

Freedom. House

New crackdown targets popular news apps, humor and video platforms 

State censors this month forced the suspension of several popular news and video platforms, and a humor application with a loyal following of millions across China was shuttered entirely, spurring fans to memorialize the service.

On April 4, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) announced its decision to take “rectification measures” against the news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and the live-streaming app Kuaishou, including freezing video uploading services pending a review. The decision followed an April 1 exposé by the state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV) that criticized Kuaishou and several other video platforms for allowing teen mothers to live-stream their daily routines through pregnancy and motherhood. However, Kuaishou has also been used frequently by protesters and striking workers, and “was arguably the most popular app for recording Beijing’s mass evictions last year,” according to the Hong Kong–based China Labour Bulletin. Kuaishou is now seeking to hire 3,000 more internal censors alongside an existing team of 2,000 to monitor user content.

On April 9, Jinri Toutiao and three other news apps—NetEase News, Tiantian News, and Phoenix News—were suspended from various Android app stores in China. Jinri Toutiao, the most popular of the four with an estimated 120 million users, was suspended for three weeks. The crackdown appears to be punishment for “inappropriate” video content. Chief executive Zhang Yiming of ByteDance, the parent company of Jinri Toutiao, issued an apology on April 11 for allowing content “that was incommensurate with socialist core values” and “that did not properly implement public opinion guidance.”

Neihan Duanzi, a humor site also owned by ByteDance, was forced to shut down on April 10. “In accordance with the request of the relevant authorities, ‘Neihan Duanzi’ will permanently shut down its client software and public accounts,” the company announced on WeChat. “We will uphold correct value guidance and build a clear and positive internet environment.” Fans of the site, who call one another duanyou, expressed their sorrow on the social media services Weibo and WeChat with images of mourning and acerbic words for the government censors. “There’s a grave in my heart for everyone at SART,” one Weibo user wrote, referencing the soon-to-be new acronym for the regulator under a bureaucratic restructuring effort. Videos have surfaced of duanyou greeting each other on the road with their signature honk or by reciting lines from coded couplets, though journalists have noted that these videos of honking and protest may combine footage from both before and after the Neihan Duanzi shutdown. Still, the circulation of the videos itself points to real support for the late humor platform.

Launched in 2012, Neihan Duanzi started as a platform for GIFs, written jokes, and internet memes. As video streaming grew in popularity across the Chinese internet, so did Duanzi’s streams, eventually becoming its mainstay. Users tended to be working-class men in their 30s. The “Reddit-like” platform at one point claimed to have 200 million users, though news sources put the figure at 4 million just before its demise. Journalist-activist Michael Anti told the South China Morning Post he was “shocked to find that such an enormous [internet-based] community had existed for years outside the watch of the mainstream media.” It is precisely this shared sense of community, based on content far removed from official propaganda messaging, that may have sealed the app’s fate.

Censorship updates: Kim Jong-un, the Bible, #MeToo, Weibo gay ban, Instagram study

Kim Jong-un nicknames blocked: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s visit to Beijing at the end of March was kept secret until he had already left. In the meantime, a variety of nicknames for Kim were blocked from search results on the social media platform Weibo, among them “Kim Fatty III” (a title invented when Kim’s father Kim Jong-il died in 2011), “Kim Pig,” and “the obese patient.” Even the vaguest of references, such as “he has arrived,” and social media comments about the “neighbor” and “visitor from the northeast,” were censored.Bibles pulled from e-commerce platforms: The central government has banned e-commerce sites from selling copies of the Bible, and as of April 5 searches for the holy book returned “no results” on major retail platforms, including Taobao and Amazon.cn. It has long been illegal for bibles to be sold commercially, but until now online retailers had taken advantage of a loophole in the law. The ban highlights the intersection between increasing religious controls and online censorship in recent years. #MeToo defies censorship: The case of a student’s rape and suicide in April 1998 has become the latest rallying cry for the #MeToo movement in China, outpacing censors on the 20th anniversary of her death. Friends of Gao Yan, who killed herself soon after her Peking University professor reportedly forced her to have sex, have enabled her story to go viral, being shared millions of times. Peking University and other universities are now making public statements condemning sexual harassment and drafting new institutional regulations.Weibo walks back ban on gay content: On April 13, Weibo announced a three-month “clean-up” of violent and pornographic content, including “comics, images of text, and short videos on homosexual topics.” Internet users responded with outrage, and millions tagged themselves #iamgay before that hashtag, too, was blocked. Just three days after the campaign began, Weibo walked back its ban, and the popular account Gay Voice (@同志之声) resumed posting 48 hours after it had announced its own demise. The reversal also came after commentary published in the People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, reaffirmed the importance of avoiding discrimination based on sexual orientation. The outcome has been widely viewed as a rare victory for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community and for all internet users in China.Sudden censorship spurs circumvention, greater awareness: Internet users are motivated to circumvent censorship when a website or app is blocked without warning, according to a new article by William Hobbs and Margaret Roberts published in the journal American Political Science Review on April 2. Based on a study of Chinese Instagram users in September 2014, when the app was blocked during the Umbrella Movement protests in Hong Kong, the authors found that users learn to circumvent censorship specifically to access the platform that has been blocked, but in the process they discover other censored content, a phenomenon the researchers call the “gateway effect.” Hobbs and Roberts conclude that sudden censorship “can politicize previously apolitical citizens, and can accumulate collective action potential that it often seeks to suppress.”

New report examines abuses behind televised confessions

A new report published on April 11 by the rights group Safeguard Defenders provides the first in-depth look at a trend that has emerged since 2013—televised confessions by prisoners of conscience and other victims of state repression. The report, Scripted and Staged: Behind the scenes of China’s forced TV confessions, details 45 confessions recorded between 2013 and 2018, 60 percent of which featured journalists, bloggers, publishers, lawyers, or activists. The case studies point to the highly choreographed nature of the recordings, the use of deception and pressure to coerce detainees, and the collaborative role played by media outlets—especially the state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV)—in producing, editing, and airing the confessions to the authorities’ satisfaction.

Each confession entails calculated costuming, careful staging, multiple takes, tight scripting, and in some cases, heavy editing. The report highlights a change in presentation beginning in 2015, from mostly jailhouse attire and locations to more civilian alternatives, in a possible effort to soften the impression of clips geared toward foreign audiences. Many detainees report being asked to read lines provided by police verbatim, or to repeat their words until a satisfactory take is recorded.

The report notes the use of sleep deprivation, torture, drugging, and other physical coercion to force detainees to cooperate, as well as threats against loved ones should they refuse to comply. The researchers also describe repeated deception on the part of police or television crews. In many cases, detainees were told that the footage would not be aired on television but was rather for the benefit of judges, “higher ups,” or the public security bureau. In other instances, an amateur camera or webcam was used, and the detainee was assured that if the comments were to be aired on television, then professional cameramen would be in attendance.

Such professionals were indeed present, in many cases. The report provides a plethora of examples in which CCTV was knowingly complicit in the recording, editing, and airing of coerced confessions. CCTV journalists and camera crews were often present, but police asked the detainee questions or dictated the questions that a journalist should ask. In one instance, lawyer Wang Yu was taken directly to CCTV’s studios for filming, though she refused to cooperate and was returned to the detention center. In addition to the on-site recording, CCTV was active in “producing a sophisticated news package with graphics and interviews with police and commentators to paint the suspect as guilty.” Although CCTV has been the outlet most closely associated with recording and distributing the confessions, various Hong Kong news outlets are also implicated, including Phoenix TV, the Oriental Daily, and the South China Morning Post.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations, including for foreign governments to consider sanctioning high-level CCTV executives, just as Iranian state television officials have been sanctioned by the European Union after airing forced confessions by jailed activists.

HONG KONG Public survey on press freedom yields worst results yet

Hong Kong residents feel that media freedom is more threatened now than in the past five years, according to the annual Hong Kong Press Freedom Index. The report, published by the Hong Kong Journalists Association on April 11, found that the general public’s perception of press freedom in the territory fell to 47.1 out of 100, the lowest score since the survey began in 2013. A separate score based on journalists’ views rose slightly to 40.3 due to a decline in physical violence and threats against them over the past year, but they also reported increasing pressure from the central government.

More than 93 percent of the journalists surveyed cited three events in the past year as serious blows to press freedom: the retraction of a South China Morning Post column related to Chinese president Xi Jinping, TVB’s airing of a Xi speech instead of its regular programming from Hong Kong’s public broadcaster, and neighboring Macau’s refusal to let Hong Kong reporters into the city after Typhoon Hato hit last August. The Post column, written by veteran financial commentator Shirley Yam, suggested that a Hong Kong investor is benefiting from ties to one of Xi’s advisers. Yam, convener of the Press Freedom Subcommittee that worked on the survey, quit the Post after her article was axed. This was but one example of a trend reported by journalists in which editors are increasingly deleting articles, omitting news reports, or killing story ideas for fear of offending the central government.

Yam told reporters that the survey results would likely have been even worse if the study had been conducted after the recent wave of verbal attacks on Benny Tai, a law professor and 2014 Occupy Central protest leader who—at a recent academic discussion in Taiwan—mentioned Hong Kong independence as a hypothetical possibility should the Chinese Communist Party no longer control China in the future. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has denied pointing a finger at Tai for his remarks.

BEYOND CHINA Man Booker prize, UK theater, Texas Confucius Institutes, UN rights resolution

Man Booker seesaws on nationality of Taiwanese author: When the organizers of the prestigious Man Booker literary award first announced their list of nominated novels in translation in mid-March, they identified Wu Mingyi’s country as Taiwan. The author of The Stolen Bicycle was pleased, until the award foundation received a complaint from the Chinese embassy in London and changed his listed nationality to “Taiwan, China.” Wu and his supporters balked, and Man Booker’s Facebook page was bombarded with one-star reviews. Finally, the foundation restored Wu’s place of origin to “Taiwan,” but also relabeled the heading for all authors as “Country/Territory,” a compromise that has satisfied Wu and his supporters but still placates Beijing.UK theater hid reasons for pulling Tibet play: The Royal Court Theatre in London cited “financial reasons” when it canceled its production of Pah-La. But, according to an April 4 report in the Guardian, a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the British Council had advised the theater to drop the play because it would have coincided with “significant political meetings” in Beijing during the fall of 2017 and jeopardized a joint project the two British institutions are running with writers in China. The Royal Court Theatre has issued an apology and now plans to produce the play in 2019. In Pah-La, Indian playwright Abhishek Majumdar incorporates the personal stories told to him by Tibetans in Dharamsala. Such efforts by Beijing to stifle theatrical productions it deems objectionable are not uncommon, as indicated by dozens of instances of pressure surrounding Shen Yun, a New York–based classical Chinese dance show that tours internationally and includes pieces related to the persecution of Falun Gong and historical events like the Cultural Revolution.Sweden charges Tibetan spy suspect: Dorjee Gyantsan was indicted on April 11 for allegedly spying on the Swedish Tibetan community—which numbers just 140 people—for Beijing. He was accused of gathering information on families, living arrangements, and travel and relaying it to Chinese officials in Finland and Poland. In one instance Gyantsan was paid 50,000 krona (nearly $6,000) for his efforts. He had lived in Sweden as a refugee since 2002 and reported for Voice of Tibet. “We are living in a democratic country but still you are not allowed to practice the democratic way,” said Jamyang Choedon, president of the Tibetan Community in Sweden, describing the fear that Gyantsan’s case had provoked.Two Texas Confucius Institutes to close: Two schools in the Texas A&M University system will end their contracts with the Chinese government’s Confucius Institutes in response to an open letter from Congressmen Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Michael McCaul (R-TX). “We are terminating the contract as they suggested,” said Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp in an April 5 statement, marking the first time a university representative has attributed such a closure to concerns raised by elected officials. McCaul and Cuellar also urged Texas Southern University and two University of Texas campuses to close their Confucius Institute facilities. Members of Congress from both parties have been pushing universities in their home constituencies to abandon the Chinese educational programs amid concerns about foreign influence and possible intelligence gathering at U.S. schools. This national security focus represents a shift from initial debates about Confucius Institutes, which primarily centered on academic freedom and integrity.UN rights council passes China-led resolution: The UN Human Rights Council adopted the second of two recent Chinese resolutions on March 23, this one titled “Promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights.” The resolution passed with 28 votes; 17 countries abstained, and only the United States voted against. The U.S. vote was accompanied by a strongly worded statement criticizing the resolution and its underlying motives: “The ‘feel good’ language about ‘mutually beneficial cooperation’ is intended to benefit autocratic states at the expense of people whose human rights and fundamental freedoms we are all obligated, as States, to respect.” Critics worry that China is chipping away at human rights principles by shifting the focus from protecting the individual toward promoting “mutually beneficial cooperation” between states. An analysis of the resolution by Andrea Worden notes, “There is not even one mention of the word ‘individual’ in the resolution, nor do the terms ‘human rights defender’ or ‘civil society’ appear. But ‘cooperation,’ appears 19 times, and the words ‘mutually’ or ‘mutual,’ are mentioned 13 times, ‘dialogue’ makes 6 appearances, and ‘constructive’ is used 5 times.”


Jiang Tianyong, 46, is a well-known human rights lawyer serving a two-year prison sentence for reportedly helping to expose a fellow attorney’s torture in custody. Hunan’s Intermediate People’s Court announced the sentence on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” on November 21, 2017 via social media platform Sina Weibo. For over a decade, Jiang has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government’s human rights record and rule of law shortcomings online and in interviews with foreign and overseas Chinese media. 

Police detained Jiang in November 2016 when he was en route to visit attorney Xie Yang. Authorities revoked Jiang’s license to practice law in 2009 in retribution for his defense of activists like Chen Guangcheng and persecuted religious believers like Falun Gong adherents, but he continued to aid fellow lawyers informally. Xie’s detention gained international notoriety in January 2017, when detailed allegations of torture he suffered in custody were publicized online. These reports became a focus of prosecutors’ case against Jiang, although Jiang was detained before Xie’s abuse was made public.

During an August 2017 trial, portions of which were aired on television, Jiang was shown pleading guilty, claiming the torture reports were fabricated, and asking for mercy. His confession was widely seen as forced and likely induced by abuse he suffered during almost a year of secret detention, which included a ban on seeing his own lawyers.

Jiang is one of the most prominent attorneys sentenced to prison in a crackdown on rights lawyers that began in July 2015. The campaign has sought to punish attorneys not only for their legal work but for their use of media and internet outreach strategies to publicize cases and pressure authorities to protect the rights of their clients. Since his sentencing, Jiang has been held at Changsha No. 1 Detention Center rather than being transferred to a prison and his health has reportedly deteriorated. Jiang’s wife resides in California and has been unable to contact her husband since his arrest; on April 19, 2018, the detention center cancelled an expected visit by Jiang’s family in China, reinforcing concerns over the state of his health.


Long-term impact of latest app crackdown: As suspended news apps come back online, watch for shifts in their coverage, including greater inclusion of state media content or party propaganda. Also watch for ongoing netizen protests surrounding deleted humor app Neihan Duanzi and any reports of increased circumvention of the Great Firewall by users seeking greater access to uncensored information or social media applications. 

Updates on free expression cases: The cases of three people detained or placed under house arrest in recent months for exercising their right to free expression are likely to move forward: Zhen Jianghua—a well-known blogger—was charged with “inciting subversion of state power in late March, journalist Zou Guangxiang from Inner Mongolia was detained in Beijing on March 28, and Li Wenzu, wife of detained lawyer Wang Quanzhang was placed under house arrest on April 10 as she was trying to complete a 100 km protest walk to where she believes her husband is being held incommunicado. Watch for information about prosecutorial cases against these activists or news of reduced restrictions. 

Increased Hollywood restrictions and self-censorship: Under restructuring announced at the March meeting of the National People’s Congress, responsibility over film regulation will shift to the supervision of the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department alongside a state regulator. Although the party’s red lines have long governed decisions related to films shown in Chinese cinemas, Isaac Stone Fish points out in a March 30 article, “the most likely outcome is that U.S. studios will have to jump through higher ideological hoops to get their films approved — and thus will more carefully scrub their films of elements that Beijing deems sensitive.” Watch for how such dynamics unfold as the restructuring is implemented.


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