Heritage Foundation: Asia Insights Weekly – January 26, 2021


January 26, 2021

The Heritage Foundation is excited to announce the China Uncovered podcast available on AcastApple PodcastsSpotify, or your favorite podcast app. In this podcast, Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Olivia Enos hosts representatives of world-class data projects to discuss how their projects are shining a spotlight on the Chinese Communist Party’s actions and emerging trends from their data. This is an ongoing effort of Heritage’s China Transparency Project.
On December 28th, we released our seventh and final episode of Season One: Asia Power Index featuring Hervé Lemahieu and Special Remarks from Speaker Newt Gingrich. Olivia sat down with Hervé Lemahieu, Director of the Power and Diplomacy Program at the Lowy Institute to discuss the 2020 Asia Power Index. To wrap up the season, the Honorable Newt Gingrich delivered his special remarks. Stay tuned for Season Two!
We now have a website for the China Transparency Project. Check it out to discover world-class data tracking projects from organizations across the globe.

How the U.S. Should Respond to Genocide in Xinjiang

On the last day of the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a determination saying that genocide and crimes against humanity are taking place against Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, China.

Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Olivia Enos writes that the determination is an essential step toward ensuring justice for the more than 1 million Uighurs currently held in political reeducation facilities in China, for the Uighur women being forcibly sterilized at the hands of their own government, and for Uighur Americans with loved ones in China they haven’t heard from in years.
This late-hour atrocity determination is an encouragement to the Biden administration to stand by the voiceless facing atrocities in Xinjiang, as well as a charge to a divided U.S. Congress to unify over the need to help those who can’t help themselves.
Atrocity determinations aren’t mere feel-good measures. They have historically led to follow-on action by Congress and the executive branch. Next steps can and should include extending priority-2 refugee status to Uighurs, continuing to combat and upping the ante on efforts to combat forced labor, and identifying additional individuals and entities in the Chinese Communist Party ripe for sanctioning.
The atrocity determination should not be seen as an apex of policy achievements, but rather as a call to action for other countries to join the U.S. in responding to a crisis that will go down in history as among the worst.
This is an opportunity for U.S. leadership, demonstrating that we are not afraid to call a spade a spade and that we are ready to protect and preserve the human rights of the Chinese people, even when their own government fails to do so.
Dive Deeper: Click here to read the Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Olivia Enos’ commentary on why the U.S. should do more to tackle forced labor in Xinjiang.

Pitfalls of the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment

On December 30, leaders from Brussels and Beijing reached terms on a new China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). After seven years of negotiations, the deal will reportedly grant the EU enhanced market access in China, in sectors such as health services, chemicals, electric vehicles, and telecoms. Advocates say it will enhance legal protections for EU investments in China, eliminate equity caps and quantitative restrictions, ease requirements for joint ventures, and increase transparency in the Chinese market.
That all sounds just fine. Why, then, has the CAI met significant disapproval in India and the United States, as well as within Europe itself? In an article in The Diplomat, Heritage Davis Institute Vice President James Carafano, Vivekenanda International Foundation Director Arvind Gupta, and Heritage Research Fellow Jeff Smith write that there are two broad lines of criticism.
First, some experts are skeptical the deal will accrue substantial economic benefits for most European capitals or stimulate many reforms inside China. Every EU member save for Ireland already had a bilateral investment treaty with China. Even if it’s reasonable to expect some economic benefits in some select sectors, Beijing is unlikely to allow EU companies to challenge the market positions of any of its top state-owned enterprises.
The more damning lines of criticism, however, relate to the CAI’s geopolitical context and regrettable timing. The U.S. and EU had just launched a new dialogue designed to coordinate approaches to China in October 2020. One week prior to the CAI, with the Biden administration preparing to take office in Washington, incoming national security advisor Jake Sullivan tweeted the administration “would welcome early consultations with our European partners on our common concerns about China’s economic practices.”
Beijing’s sudden flexibility and rush to complete the agreement before the end of the year was clearly aimed at pre-empting the prospect of closer U.S.-EU coordination. Brussels obliged, and while Beijing will honor some of the specific sector commitments, those gains will likely pale in comparison to the promises that go unfulfilled and the strategic advantage Europe has ceded.
The timing of the CAI is particularly disappointing for India. Currently, thousands of Indian soldiers are engaged in a tense military standoff with the People’s Liberation Army at the Line of Actual Control in minus 30-degree Celsius temperatures in the Himalayas.
Having stood firm in 2020 against China’s assertiveness, including banning hundreds of Chinese apps on security considerations and declining to sign the RCEP trade agreement in part over concerns about Chinese trade practices, India hoped the international community would increase the pressure on Beijing. The EU has done the opposite, and there is a lesson for India in this.
As China seeks to weather an international backlash, it’s betting on one simple fact: that foreign capitals can issue diplomatic protests ad infinitum but at the end of the day everybody wants to make money. The EU seems determined to prove Beijing right.
China prefers not to stand alone. That’s why it has invested so much energy into courting disunity among ASEAN member and within Europe itself. Now it is attempting to forestall greater coordination among the world’s top democracies – including the Quad, the EU, and likeminded partners like Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K. – on issues where they enjoy considerable strategic convergence, from investment and trade to human rights, cybersecurity, and freedom of navigation. Not only is it proving successful, Beijing is securing its prize at a significant discount, in return for vague or hollow commitments and marginal economic concessions.
The CAI is not yet a done deal. The European Parliament and member states must still finalize and ratify the agreement before it takes effect and many European parliamentary leaders are already voicing opposition. There is still time to reconsider this ill-advised investment agreement.
Biden Administration Must Address Daunting North Korea Challenge

As Joe Biden begins his presidency, he will likely seek to prioritize domestic issues, including remedying the devastating societal and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, over foreign policy. The world, however, has a tendency to intrude on the plans of new Presidents. In the Indo–Pacific, China will undoubtedly be the major foreign policy concern for the Biden Administration, since it encompasses military, economic, and diplomatic challenges.
North Korea may not initially be a predominant focus of the Administration, but Pyongyang does not like to be ignored. The regime has historically ramped up tensions early in a new U.S. or South Korean administration to, as one North Korean defector told this author, “train them like a dog” and induce concessions. Provocations could include continuation of tactical-level missile launches or the initial launch of the new massive intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) revealed in North Korea’s October 10 parade or another nuclear test. Heritage Senior Research Fellow Bruce Klingner writes that such blatant violations of United Nations resolutions would require a firm response by the Biden Administration.
For decades, every incoming U.S. President has inherited a more dangerous North Korea than his predecessor. President Biden is no exception. During the past four years, North Korea’s nuclear, missile, and conventional forces increased in scope and sophistication. Pyongyang conducted its first hydrogen bomb test and successfully launched two different ICBMs that can reach the American homeland with nuclear weapons.
North Korea will remain an intractable problem for yet another U.S. Administration. President Biden needs to develop a policy of deterrence, containment, pressure, and diplomacy. While each component has been a part of previous Administrations’ policies, they have been applied in different manners and degrees.
The United States must always remain open to diplomatic engagement and negotiations, but must also learn from the mistakes of the past. Washington must maintain a strong military deterrence and continue to enforce U.S. laws until Pyongyang has taken necessary steps to reduce its nuclear threat to America’s homeland and those of its allies. The road ahead will continue to be long and potentially dangerous but must be tread in close coordination with allies South Korea and Japan.
Latin American Countries Must Not Allow Huawei to Develop Their 5G Networks

Like in many regions of the world, countries in Latin America are considering foreign vendors to develop their fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology. Some countries, such as Uruguay, have already launched minor 5G projects and will begin auctioning off their 5G spectrums in 2021. Unlike previous modernizations, 5G represents a seismic technologic evolution. While the increased speeds will provide new opportunities for economic and social development, the interconnectedness and expedited data transfers also present fundamental vulnerabilities.
In 2021, a number of Latin America’s leading economies, including Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, are scheduled to auction off their 5G spectrums. Huawei—despite bans in various countries due to its work on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—remains a top contender. Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Ana Rosa Quintana writes that allowing Huawei, and by extension the CCP, to develop Latin America’s 5G infrastructure would leave the region subservient to a regime with a proven track record of weaponizing its relationships.
Huawei and other Chinese state-sponsored telecommunication firms often function as an extension of the CCP’s security enterprise and operate to advance Beijing’s national interest. Huawei’s proponents in Latin America and elsewhere argue that the company’s low technology costs and large penetration of the mobile market make it the ideal partner. Even so, these short-term cost savings must be balanced with the long-term need to maintain sovereign networks, a competitive advantage, and control over critical infrastructure.
Latin American governments must carefully weigh their options as they pursue their 5G future. This next-generation technology is not solely about reaching faster Internet speeds; it is also about maintaining sovereignty over critical sectors and infrastructure. Protecting nations means restricting Huawei and, by extension, China’s intelligence services, from dominating the region’s wireless networks.
Related: Click here to read Heritage CTP Director Klon Kitchen’s 2019 Issue Brief on why the U.S. must treat China as a national security threat to 5G networks.
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