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RWR Belt and Road Monitor : August 27

RWR Belt and Road Monitor (Standard): August 27

This edition covers developments from August 11 - August 25

Top Developments

♦️Chinese Involvement in the UK’s Nuclear Sector Under Scrutiny
August 21: China’s heavy involvement in the UK’s nuclear power sector has come under criticism, with former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith recently emphasizing China’s influential role in the industry as a threat. These criticisms follow other recent government decisions to limit risk exposure to China, notably limiting Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G network. Currently, China General Nuclear Power (CGN) is constructing a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in southwest England, along with French partner EDF, which is due to be finished in 2025. The partners are also waiting for approval to begin construction at a new plant along the Suffolk coast. CGN has invested over $4.9 billion in the UK’s nuclear industry. 

♦️Australia Blocks Sale of Lion Dairy & Drinks to Mengniu Dairy
August 25: Long-standing plans to sell Australia-based Lion Dairy & Drinks, currently owned by Japanese beverage company Kirin, to China’s Mengniu Dairy have faltered after Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg stated that the deal would be contrary to Australia’s national interest. Although the acquisition, agreed to by Kirin in November 2019, had already been approved by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board, recent changes to Australia’s foreign investment regulations gives the Australian Treasurer ‘last resort’ powers to reassess previously-approved foreign investments for emerging national security concerns. The Treasurer did not provide further explanation on how the deal would threaten national security. The decision comes after China opened a trade investigation on Australian wine imports. 

♦️Moscow Invites Huawei’s (Again) into Russia’s 5G Network
August 24: After a month in which various countries, such as the UK, USA, and France, took actions to limit Huawei equipment in their 5G networks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Moscow officials were prepared to cooperate with China and Huawei on the technology. Huawei, however, has already been involved in the development of Russia’s 5G network. In November 2014, Russia-based telecom firm Megafon and Huawei signed an MoU on deploying a trial 5G network in Russia, with a successful test occurring in June 2017, and in June 2019, Huawei signed a 5G development deal with Russia’s largest mobile operator, MTS, timed to coordinate with President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow. 

♦️India-Based Chinese Money Lending App Found to Store Data in China
August 13: A Chinese-owned (but India-based) money lending application known as Moneed, was accused of storing the personal data of its users (and their contact lists) in a vulnerable China-based database. This data was later exposed, reportedly revealing personal data on more than 300 million people. The users’ list of contacts was reportedly downloaded to the company’s Hangzhou-based, Alibaba-operated servers, despite assertions by the company that local user data was being stored on servers based in India. The data was collected from users between August 2019 and July 2020. In the period since the report broke, it appears that the Alibaba Security Response Center has taken the database offline, and Moneed claims the problem has been fixed.

♦️Cambodian PM Hun Sen Travels to China to Finalize FTA
August 12: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen led a trade delegation to China to finalize a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, the first such agreement for Cambodia with another individual country. Although the details have not been officially released, public officials have stated that Cambodian agricultural products will be a major component of the deal, potentially boosting Cambodian exports to China by 25% annually. Many experts believe that the agreement is biased in favor of China, and that the agreement will not be a sufficient substitute for Cambodia’s partial loss of EU tariff exemptions, effective August 2020, due to human rights abuses and democracy rollbacks under Hun Sen’s regime. Many also believe that the secrecy of the deal and the speed at which it was conducted could put Cambodia in a vulnerable position. 

♦️Chinese Companies Develop Indonesian Nickel Supply Chain
August 18: After a recent Indonesian ban on all nickel ore exports, with the government hoping to develop Indonesia’s domestic nickel supply chain, China Gezhouba Group International and Indonesia’s PT.OTI EYA ABADI Mining Company signed a $160 million contract for the mining and transportation of laterite nickel ore in Morowali County, Sulawesi, Indonesia, approximately 84km away from the Morowali Airport. Additionally, on August 14, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) invested $2.6 billion into the construction of a new lithium battery factory in Indonesia, which will be the largest in the country upon completion. Investment in the electric battery industry has been strongly promoted by the Indonesian government to boost domestic manufacturing. Indonesia was China’s second-largest source of nickel ore in 2018. 

♦️Pakistan’s Minister of Aviation Orders Probe into Chinese-Built Airport Terminal
August 14: A new passenger terminal at the Islamabad International Airport in Islamabad, Pakistan, opened in 2018 and constructed by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), suffered partial roof collapse after heavy rainfall, prompting the Pakistani Minister of Aviation to order a probe into its construction. The airport ceiling drainage system had been designed to withstand rainfall up to 150mm an hour, and the collapse occurred after 56mm of rain had fallen in less than 90 minutes. The construction quality of the new airport had already been under investigation for the past two years, according to local reports. 

♦️Transsion Phones in Africa Found to Have Installed Malware
August 25: Chinese manufacturer Transsion, the top-selling phone maker in Africa, was found to have malware installed on approximately 53,000 of its Tecno smartphones in Ethiopia, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana and South Africa. The discovery was announced by anti-fraud company Upstream, which stated that it was pre-installed on handsets typically bought by low-income households. The malware installs code that finds subscription services and submits requests to these firms without users’ knowledge, using up prepaid airtime.

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