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#Kazakhstan - Anti-Chinese activist accused of calling for 'jihad'

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The anti-Chinese activist Serikzhan Bilash has been detained in Kazakhstan. According to the local prosecutor’s office, he was arrested on on suspicion of inciting ethnic hatred.

The news has had a huge resonance in the media, especially in light of the close international attention to the so-called “political re-education centers” in Xinjiang.

The Kazakh Police Department confirmed that Bilash publicaly called for a “jihad” against ethnic Chinese. The video of this is circulating on social networks.

For the time of the pre-trial investigation, Bilash has been placed under house arrest for two months.

“The appeal for national discord in Mr. Bilash’s remarks was confirmed by reviewing the report, as well as video evidence taken from social networks, witness testimonies and other case materials” the prosecutor’s office statement says.

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European Union and West urged to take action against Chinese 'genocide' of Uyghurs

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The international community has been urged to respond to the “genocide” being perpetrated by the Chinese regime against the country’s Uyghurs and take “concrete action”.

An event in Brussels was told that up to 3 million Uyghurs are held in Nazi-style “concentration camps” with “insidious” pressure also being applied on those who try to champion the rights of the Uyghur community in China.

Many companies still do business with China and pretend the reported horrors against Uyghurs “is not happening” and Beijing is “not held accountable” for its actions.

Branding the current situation as a “genocide”, Rushan Abbas, a Uyghur activist, even drew a comparison with the Holocaust in WW2, saying, “history is repeating itself”.

In a passionate plea, she said: “China must be held accountable for these unspeakable crimes. If we don’t it will affect all our futures.”

Abbas was speaking at a virtual debate on the issue on 13 October, organized by The European Foundation for Democracy, in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy to Belgium and the US Mission to the EU.

New evidence of China’s persecution of the Uyghurs, its 12 million strong “minority” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, continues to emerge with reports of torture, forced labour, coercive family planning (including forced abortion and forced sterilization), sexual assault, and attempts to “Sinicise” the exercise of the Islamic faith.

China’s repressive policies and so-called “re-education centres” are described as being like ethnic cleansing and gross violations of human rights targeting its own Muslim population.

Rushan Abbas, founder and Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs, began with a quote from a Holocaust survivor, adding, “here we are in the modern age and the most brutal side of human nature is manifesting itself again. You would hope the world would learn from its mistakes but the international community is failing its own conscious.

“The world, after WW2, said ‘never again’ but again a regime is  waging a war on freedom of speech and religion. The Chinese call the Uyghur religion a  disease and say they don’t have human rights and what is happening is a dangerous ideology that will spread with even more people being brutalized.”

“There are 3 million Uyghurs in concentration camps, with crematoria attached. My own sister, a retired doctor who was abducted from her home, is among them.  Artists, intellectuals and successful businessmen are included.  More than two years later I still do not know if she is still alive. Where is my sister? Where are our loved ones?  Will no one call out the Chinese regime?”

She added: “The world continues to buy the Chinese narrative on this genocide. At first China denied the camps existed then, when they had to accept they did, they called them “schools,” and said the world should not interfere.

“But it is not China’s internal issue and the world must intervene.The West is complicit in massed rape, forced marriage and abortion, sterialisation, child abduction and organ harvesting and conducting genocide against Uyghurs. These crimes by a barbaric regime against humanity must be addressed. China’s blood money has won the compliance of the UN and the international community which has failed to stand up to China and its money.”

She suggested that ordinary people can take proactive action by speaking with their local mayors and politicians along with grassroots organizations. They should, she argued, also boycott Chinese products “made from slave labour”.

The coronavirus crisis has brought further suffering as they have been “denied treatment and locked in their homes without food”.

Vanessa Frangville, director of the Research Center for East Asian Studies, ULB, told the meeting: “We know that China resorts to all sorts of strategies to attack academics who speak out including being condemned to life sentences and this is happening to Uyghur academics.

"There are several who have vanished or sentenced to death and that includes Uyghurs living outside China in countries like Turkey.

“The regime also pressurizes scholars who work on the Uyghur situation which forces them to stop their work because they are worried. For example, my university published a public motion to support Uyghurs and the ULB president got an angry letter from the Chinese embassy who sent representatives to meet him and to demand that he remove the motion and my articles from the ULB website. They warned that further collaboration with our Chinese partners could be impacted if we refused.

“They also asked for information on Chinese students at ULB. This is typical of the intimidation by the Chinese. If you complain about such pressure they just mention ‘China bashing.’ Increasingly, this is typical of our situation as scholars who work on the Uyghur crisis. We have to be aware of these sort of insidious things and should not accept it.”

She admitted some universities still work closely with China because they fear that a collapse in collaboration, angry letters or even threats against colleagues in China.

She said: “You try not to let it affect your work but at some point you have to make a choice between speaking out or not. The same goes for the EU. If, for example, Spain or France speaks out and is not backed up by other member states it will be isolated. This is another Chinese tactic.”

On what action might be taken she cited the example of France where she said 56 national MPs had been “mobilised” to support Uyghurs, saying “this is important”.

“China is leading a misinformation campaign and it is important for people to distance themselves from this.”

 

Further comment came from Ilhan Kyuchyuk, an MEP and Vice President of the ALDE Party, who said, “We have seen enough of what is going on in the region and things are getting worse.”

 

The deputy, who has worked on the issue for some time and helped draft a parliamentary resolution last year on the Uyghur situation, added, “Europe is not united or consistent. We have to move this matter to the centre of EU debate. I know it is not easy to deal with China but we have to be more vocal and strengthen cooperation on this. Let us support the voice of voiceless people. Europe needs to act on this.”

He said the Uyghur issue was addressed at a recent EU/china summit but said: “Much needs to be done as the situation is deteriorating.”

“The dialogue has not resulted in any meaningful change by the Chinese. It is obvious the EU must act to protect the fundamental rights of the Uyghurs. We must speak out against this unacceptable repression against minorities for ethnic and religious reasons.”

In a Q and A session, he said: "The EU is much more aware of this issue compared with four or five years ago when they did not talk about the Uyghurs. There are no easy answers in how to deal with this though but the EU must get rid of the unanimity rule which requires member state agreement on acting against authoritarian regimes. The problem is at member state (council) level which must come up with a common approach when it comes to China.”

He added: “I am not saying we should sit and wait but to counter this problem you need a strategy and a holistic approach. It is easy for a great power like China to buy a member state. We will get nowhere if we deal with this persecution against the Uyghur minority and China’s counter narrative at member state level alone and that is why we need a European strategy.

He also suggested an EU version of the Magnitsky Act might be useful in its dealings with China.

This is a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2012, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail.

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EU and China co-operation in research and science is vitally important – in the delivery of economic development.

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The EU-China Business Association (EUCBA) today held a highly successful and interactive webinar. The subject under discussion was on the importance of research and science co-operation in the delivery of economic recovery.

Gwenn Sonck the executive director of the EUCBA explained that “the EU-China Business Association promotes trade and investment between the EU and China and vice-versa.

It unites 19 Chinese business associations from 19 different countries in Europe, representing over 20,000 companies. This webinar is timely because both the EU and China are prioritising investment into research and science. Such investment accounts for 2.5% of Chinese GDP while the EU target for investment in research under Horizon Europe is 3%. The innovation co-operation dialogue that is taking place between the EU and China at this time will also set the framework conditions for this future bilateral relationship.”

 

Frances Fitzgerald MEP is a member of the European Parliament–China delegation and she is a former deputy Prime Minister from Ireland.

She said that “the research, science and innovation sectors are totally inter-linked. Countries and companies cannot do all the research on their own.

International collaboration is a key element in the delivery of new innovative products and solutions. This is particularly the case when the world is seeking to find a vaccine against Covid-19. Researchers from all over the world must work together to find a secure and trustworthy Covid-19 vaccine.

Openness, transparency, reciprocity and a rules based approach to international trade must underpin the EU-China relationship. But there is clearly a challenging geo-political environment. We are at a crossroads with regard to the EU-China relationship and EU leaders will meet on November 16th next to review EU-China relations.

455 Chinese companies took part in the Horizon 2020 research, innovation and science programme during the period 2014-2020. Chinese companies will continue to participate in Horizon Europe which is the new research, innovation and science framework programme that will run between the period 2021-2027.”

 

Zhiwei Song is the President of the EU-China Association for innovation and entrepreneurship. He said that “his association is supporting incubators and it is bridging the knowledge gap between the EU and China and between China and the EU.

His organisation is also organising online presentations to promote research mobility from the EU to China and vice-versa. It is participating in European Commission supported programmes such as Enrich and Euraxess. The former initiative furthers research co-operation between Europe and China while the later scheme promotes scientific collaboration in an international context.”

 

Abraham Liukang is the chief representative for Huawei to the EU institutions.

He said “Don’t believe all the press headlines. Huawei is no stranger to Europe. Huawei has been based in Europe for over 20 years.

Huawei has 23 research centres in Europe and we employ 2,400 researchers in Europe, 90% of whom are local hires. Huawei has been an active participant in research projects under the Horizon 2020 research, innovation and science programme 2014-2020.

Huawei has 230 technology agreements with research institutes in Europe and we have partnerships with over 150 universities in Europe.

Abraham Liukang is the chief representatve for Huawei to the EU institutions.

Abraham Liukang is the chief representative for Huawei to the EU institutions.

Our engagement in Horizon 2020 related to research into improving the quality of digital infrastructure and this included 5G and big data research.

The roll-out of 5G has been politicised and this has had the direct effect of slowing down 5G deployment in Europe.

Huawei takes security issues very seriously and that is why Huawei has a cyber-security evaluation centre in the UK and we have an agreement on security isssues with BSI in Germany.

Huawei wants to engage actively in Horizon Europe and in particular in building the smart networks and services of the future.

Over the next 5 years, Huawei plans to invest 100 million euro into our AI eco-system programme in Europe, helping industry organisations, 200,000 developers, 500 ISV partners and 50 universities. Huawei will work with our partners to shape the AI industry in Europe.”

 

Veerle Van Wassenhove is the Vice-President for R&D and Innovation at Bekaert, a globally leading company with headquarters in Belgium and a strong research foothold in China. She said that “Bekaert’s research operations in China leverage the company’s global innovation capabilities. Together, we are building expertise for both the Chinese market and globally. Covid-19 brought along some difficulties because we, as researchers, want to keep direct contact with our customers in our technology approach, but we manage.”
 
Yu Zhigao is the SVP Technology Rubber Reinforcement and head of the Bardec (R&D center in China). He said that “Bekaert has very strong confidence in China. There is excellent research and technical expertise in China. The company operates 18 sites in 10 cities in China and employs 220 researchers in the Jiangyin R&D center and 250 engineers and technicians in the Engineering site. The Chinese operations contribute to both world class research actions and to achieving the strategies of the company. Our research teams in China create value for our customers.”

Jochum Haakma is the chairperson of the EU-China Business Association.

He said that “the new EU investment screening regulation has only come into force since last Sunday. This means that from now on EU member states will have to consult with Brussels when screening Chinese direct investment measures in strategic sectors. I believe that it would be a very positive development if China and the EU were to agree the terms of a new trade and investment treaty. This is a matter that both sides are actively engaged in at this time. EU leaders will be discussing this important issue too when they convene for their European Council meeting in mid-November.

But the reality is that we do live in a complex world – where trade, politics and security issues at times seem to be inter-linked.

The digital economy is growing faster than the global economy.

And increased activity within the digital economy is going to play a key role in driving economic growth in both Europe and in China. However, one cannot build a strong digital economy without a sound foundation. And this foundation is built by governments in Europe and in China investing strongly in research, innovation and science. It is through advances in both basic and applied sciences that will deliver the innovation that is driving positive change within society today.”

 

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Could the digital Renminbi address China’s vulnerability to the global financial system?

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The international financial system is dominated by the US. Washington has often used its clout in the international financial system to further its economic and geopolitical interests through financial sanctions. As antagonism between the US and China moves beyond trade and technology, how the US-China rivalry will play out in the new stage of international finance is a matter of great concern to the world.

China has been working on a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) since 2014, and is intensifying its efforts to internationalise the Renminbi.

On the surface it appears the CBDC will be for domestic use, but a CBDC will simplify cross border transactions. For a long time, the country has been dissatisfied with the U.S. Dollar’s (USD) ongoing role as the global reserve currency and is committed to extending its currency’s reach.

It even has an initiative to denominate international trade credit in Renminbi (RMB) rather than dollars. And the Belt and Road Initiative has seen China extend more than $1 trillion in foreign loans.

At a recent online global seminar organised by the Pangoal Institution China and the Centre for New Inclusive Asia Malaysia, experts from China, Russia, Europe and the US deliberated and disussed the issue.

One of the key speakers was Mr Ali Amirliravi, CEO and Founder of LGR Crypto Bank of Switzerland. and creator of the Silk Road Coin digital currency.

Mr Ali Amirliravi, CEO and Founder of LGR Crypto Bank

Mr Ali Amirliravi, CEO and Founder of LGR Crypto Bank

He addressed China’s vulnerability to the global financial system, and said:

“This is a very interesting question as there are a lot of factors to consider. To begin, I think it might be helpful to define China’s vulnerabilities specifically. We are speaking about international finance here (it’s a very complex and politically charged system) and since the second world war, the space has been more or less dominated by the interests of the US. We see this in the global dominance that the US dollar has held for the last 70 years. We see that in the steps that Washington has taken to ensure that the dollar acts as the global reserve currency - particularly in industries like the global oil trade. Up until quite recently, it was probably difficult to even imagine a global financial system that was not directly supported by the US dollar.

By virtue of this global reliance, the American political machine was given significant power to wield in international finance. The best evidence of this can probably be found in the history of crippling economic sanctions that the US has enacted against specific states - the impacts of which can be devastating. In a nutshell, it’s an asymmetrical power dynamic wherein the US has carved out a significant negotiating  advantage over other countries.

LGR Crypto Bank of Switzerland

LGR Crypto Bank of Switzerland

Put it this way: when the global economic system is built to fit the domestic currency of a specific state, it is easy to see how that state would be able to tailor certain policies and promote behaviours that would further their own geopolitical interests - this has been the American reality for the last few decades.

But things change. Technology advances, political relationships evolve, and international trade and money flows continue to expand and grow - now incorporating more people, countries and businesses than ever before. All of these factors (economic, political, technological, societal) work to shape the reality of the international order, and we are now at a place where a serious discussion about a replacement for the US dollar is warranted - that’s why I am excited to be here speaking about this issue today, it’s really time to have the conversation.

So, now that we have set the scene, let’s tackle the question: could the creation of a digital Renminbi address the vulnerability and asymmetry that China is dealing with in international finance? I really don’t think this is a simple yes or no answer here, in fact I think it is valuable to consider the question with a broad outlook on development over the next few years.

 

SHORT-TERM

Starting with the short term, let’s put the question like this: will the digital renminbi have significant impact internationally immediately following launch. The answer here I think is no, and there are a few reasons for that. First of all, let’s consider the intention of the issuer, the Chinese central bank. Reports show that the initial focus of the DRMB project is domestic, the Chinese government is looking to challenge private sector digital payment methods like AliPay etc., and getting the broader population used to the idea of Central Bank-issued digital currencies powering the majority of economic transactions in the country. To put it simply, the scope of the first stage of the DRMB launch is too small and domestically focused to directly impact the international system - there just won’t be enough DRMB in circulation globally.

There is another point to consider in the short-term: voluntary acceptance. Even if stage one of the DRMB project did have an international focus and was committed to minting huge amounts of digital currency, international impact requires international use - meaning that other countries would have to voluntarily accept and support the project in the early stages. How likely is this to happen? Well it’s a bit of a mixed bag, we’ve seen a few agreements start to pop-up between China and some countries in Central Asia as well as South Korea and Russia, which outline future frameworks for DRMB acceptance and trade, however there isn’t too much in place yet. And that’s just it: before the DRMB can have international impact, there needs to be widespread international access and acceptance, and I don’t see that happening in the short-term.

 

MID-TERM

Let’s move to a mid-term analysis. So imagine that phase 1 of the DRMB is complete and we have individuals and corporations in China accepting, transacting and trading it. What will phase 2 look like? I think we will start to see China expanding the scope of the DRMB project and incorporating it into their international development and infrastructure projects. If we consider the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative and China’s commitments and focus on development and investment across central Asia, Europe and parts of Africa, it is clear that there are many opportunities to promote and incentivize use of the DRMB internationally.

A great example to consider is the group of countries that make up the Silk Road area (about 70 countries). China is participating in infrastructure projects here, but it is also promoting increased trade in the area - and that means a lot of money moving cross-border. This is actually an area that my company LGR Crypto Bank is focused on - our goal is to make cross-border payments and trade finance transparent, fast and secure - and in an area with over 70 different currencies and incredibly disparate compliance requirements, this is not always an easy task.

Here is precisely where I think the DRMB could add a lot of value - in clearing up the confusion and opacity that comes with cross-border money movement and complex trade finance transactions. I believe that one way the DRMB will be marketed to China’s trade and development partners is a way to bring transparency and speed in complicated transactions and international transfers. These are real problems, especially in the multi-commodity trade business, and they can cause serious delays and business interruptions- If the Chinese government can prove that adoption of the DRMB will address these issues, then I think we will see real eagerness in the market.

At LGR Crypto Bank, we are already researching, modelling and designing our own money movement and trade finance platforms to work in harmony with digital currencies, particularly our own Silk Road Coin and the Digital Renminbi - we are ready to offer customers the best in class finance options as soon as they are made available.

When it comes to the international stage, I think that China will use its BRI as a proving ground for the DRMB in real-world commerce. By doing this, they will start to develop a network of DRMB acceptance across the Silk Road Countries and will be able to point to successful infrastructure projects as proof of the success of the Digital Renminbi. If this phase is carried out properly, I think it will create a very good foundation of DRMB acceptance that can be built on and expanded globally. The next step would likely be Europe - this is something of a natural extension of the Silk Road Area, and also ties in to the reality of increased trade between the EU and China. It’s important to note that if we consider all of the domestic economies that make up the Euro block together, it is the largest importer/exporter in the world- it would be an incredible opportunity for China to bring international attention to the DRMB and prove its capabilities in the West.

 

Long-term

In the long-term, I do think that it is possible for the DRMB to gain high levels of international traction and achieve some level of global acceptance. Again, it will all depend on the success of the Chinese government in making the case for adoption throughout the earlier phases. The value propositions of central bank digital currencies are very clear (increased transaction speed, improved transparency, fewer middlemen, less delays, etc.), and China is certainly not the only one developing such an asset. Currently, however, China is a leader and if they can execute an expansion plan without too many issues along the way, this head-start could make it difficult for other state offerings to catch-up. Maybe not, though.

It could be that in the long-term, all states will have a sovereign digital currency - and this begs the question: in the age of digital currencies, is there still a need for a global reserve currency? I’m not sure. What would the value add be of a reserve currency when central bank digital currencies could be traded effortlessly with immediate settlement times? Maybe reserve currencies will simply become a relic of an outdated financial system.

Looking forward to the long-term, I can imagine 2 scenarios where the DRMB could alleviate China’s vulnerabilities in the international financial system:

  • The DRMB becomes the new world reserve currency
  • The notion of a world reserve currency becomes obsolete and the new economic order runs on state-backed digital currencies operating without a hierarchy.

Whatever happens, I do believe we are on the cusp of a major change in global finance. There is no doubt that digital currencies, specifically central bank digital currencies, will play a massive role in defining the new economic paradigm. I believe that China is making great moves in leading the pack on this, and I know that at LGR Crypto Bank we look forward to adopting the DRMB where we can to further optimize and expedite the money movement and trade finance solutions that we offer to our customers.

 

 

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