Welcome to Axios China! If you're interested in exclusive scoops and big news about China's role in the world, this is the place for you.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
With the U.S. paralyzed by political gridlock and western institutions stagnating, China is positioning itself as the primary architect of new power structures in the 21st century.
Why it matters: If the U.S. continues to anger allies, withdraw from global institutions, and ignore much of the developing world, in 20 years it may wake up to find itself resigned to a small corner in a world defined and dominated by China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's sweeping vision — the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — puts China at the commanding center of global economic and geopolitical relationships.
1. The global economy: As the world's top exporter, Beijing economic heft is acutely felt.
2. Tech and telecommunications: Beijing views Huawei's position as global 5G leader as a key geopolitical strategy.
3. Scientific research: The Chinese government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into R&D, with the aim of becoming a global tech superpower.
4. Military: In October 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives created a bipartisan task force to assess America's ability to counter emerging threats.
The bottom line: China's power and leverage with nations around the world has reached a new level. Some of the Chinese-led power structures are obvious, some are hidden from view, but all are shaping the world on a grand and long-lasting scale.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
After a high-level meeting to address the deadly coronavirus, China's leaders have prescribed even tighter information controls around the outbreak.
Why it matters: The suppression of vital information about the coronavirus during its earliest weeks of transmission contributed to the devastating epidemic China is now facing.
Driving the news: In a Feb. 3 meeting, the Politburo standing committee called for authorities to "strengthen internet and media control."
The early days of the epidemic marked a period of unusual openness for Chinese journalists to do high-impact reporting. Privately owned Chinese news outlets Caixin and Caijing published report after report documenting the victims and spread of the illness.
Follow what's happening here.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Britain will allow Huawei into its national 5G network. Germany may not be far behind. But one European country has unequivocally sounded the alarm on Huawei: the Czech Republic.
Why it matters: Europe's giants are having trouble resisting Chinese inducements to open their 5G networks to Huawei's less expensive equipment.
Background: Just a few years ago, the central European country was heavily beholden to Chinese oil conglomerate CEFC China Energy, which had close ties to Beijing.
But in December 2018, the country's cybersecurity agency, NÚKIB, issued a legally binding warning stating Huawei posed a security threat.
Between the lines: "The strong Huawei position is part of a larger backlash in the Czech Republic," Martin Hála, a leading Sinologist in Prague, told me. The two European countries with the most unfavorable view of China were Sweden and the Czech Republic, according to a recent Pew Research survey.
The bottom line: It was the superficial, and ultimately fragile, nature of Chinese economic investment in the Czech Republic that allowed a single rogue cybersecurity agency to push back so effectively against Huawei.
FBI special agent in charge John F. Bennett at a Sept. 30 news conference, announcing charges in a Chinese espionage case. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The U.S. government is trying to solve a difficult problem: How to protect scientific research from China-linked theft, without quashing international collaboration or resorting to racial profiling.
Driving the news: In one of the most high-profile cases to date, last week federal prosecutors charged Charles Lieber, chair of the Harvard University chemistry department, with lying about funds he obtained through a Chinese government recruitment program.
A recent report proposes existing disclosure practices should be enough to address foreign influence in research, including problems with coercion and theft.
The bottom line: Law enforcement officials have to tread carefully to protect U.S. research and civil rights.
Each week, I'll highlight stories from all over the globe on China's influence. Today, the Scandinavia and Baltic states edition...
Sweden: A group of major media outlets condemned China's attacks on the Swedish media, the Guardian reports.
Lithuania: In a new threat assessment, the country's national security agency warned against “the malicious use of Chinese cyber capabilities in Lithuanian cyberspace.”
Finland and Estonia: "Foreign infrastructure can lead to political influence," says a new report from the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute on the Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel being built as part of China's BRI.
Credit: U.S. Naval Institute
Chinese espionage hinges on a sophisticated network of spies focused on state-sponsored tech theft, according to a new book that dispels outdated theories of how Beijing collects intelligence around the world.
Between the lines: Research by co-author Peter Mattis, a former CIA counterintelligence analyst, has played a leading role in debunking the "thousand grains of sand" hypothesis.
But not everything China's spy agencies do is standard. "Other countries focus on stealing classified information," said co-author Matt Brazil. "The CCP pursues this standard espionage but also focuses on tech theft to benefit not only its military but also its state-owned enterprises."