[Teatime with Transcript] Xi’s October Surprise? Can a short-lived Committee Stop Xi’s Bid for a Third Term?

Simone Gao: Whenever there is a lot of red in China’s news media, you know something important is happening. It is either the Chinese New Year or an important political event. In this case, it is the prelude of the Chinese Communist Party or CCP’s 20th National Congress-The Seventh Plenary Session of the 19th CCP Central Committee.

Don’t get confused by their long names. The whole 20th National Congress of the CCP has one core mission that matters to the world: Xi Jinping’s so-called re-election into the top leader position of the Party and the country. So Let’s just call it Xi’s re-election conference.

The conventional wisdom is that Xi has subdued his opposition and will get a third term as the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, chairman of the Central Military Commission, and president of the People’s Republic of China, an incident that would violate the Communist Party’s long standing rule of top leadership’s serving only two terms. Nevertheless, Xi would most likely get his way. But just a few days ago, this gentleman, Gao Wenqian, an expert on the history of the Chinese Communist Party, revealed an important detail that he thinks could change Xi Jinping’s fate at the last minute.

What is it? It is the formation of a small committee whose lifespan is about 10 days.

This committee is called the Standing Committee of the Presidium of the 20th National Congress. It is the highest decision-making body during the Party Congress. Decisions on major matters must first be decided by the Standing Committee, then communicated to the Presidium, and then to all the delegates.

Why does this matter? You see, by the time the previous Central Committee has ended its work, the new Central Committee has not yet been elected. During this short period, who will lead the Party? Not Xi Jinping since he is the General Secretary of the Party elected by the outgoing Central Committee. It is this standing Committee of the Presidium which is elected by the outgoing central committee. It will preside over things during the Party’s congress until the new Central Committee is elected. In other words, Xi Jinping will not be in total control of the Party during those 10 days. This committee should be announced on October 15, the day before the opening of the 20th National Congress.

But… wait a minute, the Communist Party never has real elections, so can Xi decide who will be “elected” into the Standing Committee of the Presidium? Well, here is the thing.

Based on the Party’s precedent, the Standing Committee of the Presidium has a certain fixed composition of members which contains past, current and future members of the Politburo Standing Committee and some current politburo members and other high ranking officials. The Politburo Standing Committee is the Party’s highest ruling body so its members are considered the ones who really govern the country.
Keeping that in mind, now let’s see who is in the Standing Committee of the Presidium for the 17th National Congress right before Xi became the top leader.

It consists of 41 members. 7 from the future or upcoming politburo standing committee, 9 from the current or outgoing politburo standing committee, 12 from the earlier Politburo standing committees, and 15 from the current lower level politburo and other departments.

Xi Jinping is most concerned with the members from the past Politburo Standing Committees. These people are called political elders and there are quite a few of them who oppose Xi.

What could these opponents do? According to the CCP’s rules, the Standing Committee of the Presidium performs a range of functions including studying the major issues related to the conference, and submitting opinions to the conference presidium for discussion and decision. In other words, they have the right to submit special motions for the Central Committee to discuss. This is where unexpected things could happen, and things similar in nature have happened in the past.

In 1978, right before the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee , A Politburo Standing Committee member Chen Yun raised some controversial issues regarding the Cultural Revolution. His remarks had wide resonance which led to the change of the original agenda for the conference. The conference was prolonged to 36 days, during which the theoretical foundation of then Chairman of the Party Hua Guofeng (华国锋)was criticized; multiple political figures have been rehabilitated. Not long after the conference, Hua’s power was replaced by Deng Xiaoping. China entered a new era.

What a terrifying example for Xi Jinping and there are more in the CCP’s history! According to historian Gao Wenqian, the essence of such events is that when the elders of the Party gather together, it is very hard to stop them from voicing their opinion. If one person raises his hand, can you not let him speak? If his remarks have resonance, things could get out of control. The Standing Committee of the Presidium could propose a special motion for the National Congress to discuss certain issues.

And there are many issues people would like to discuss regarding Xi’s policy. The collapse of the Sino-U.S. relations, the questionable alliance of China and Russia; the notorious zero-covid policy and the failing of the Chinese economy, to name just a few. However…

Guess what? If you and I have thought about these scenarios, I guarantee you Xi Jinping has thought about them too. In fact, Xi has made thorough preparations to avoid such surprises.

In May, 2022, the General Office of the CCP Central Committee issued an Opinion that pointed out the necessity to ensure that retired cadres, especially Party members who have held leadership positions, continue to listen to the Party’s words, follow the Party’s words, and consciously align with the Party Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core. The Opinion specifically forbade arbitrary discussion of the major policies of the Party, spreading of negative political remarks, and participating in activities of illegal organizations.

This is to prevent the political elders from getting together to plot against Xi Jinping. It is reported that eavesdropping of these people is prevalent. They don’t dare to talk about sensitive things over the phone. If they had no preparations, no communications beforehand, would they improvise such a high risk operation at the meeting in a concerted effort? I highly doubt it. But historian Gao Wenqian seems hopeful. He said among the political elders, some of them are from Xi’s father’s generation. Some of them promoted him, others did him huge favors, still others hold strong opposing views on Xi’s policies. So this is a group of people Xi has a hard time dealing with.

Another preemptive move from Xi’s side is to make the Party incorporate the so-called Two Establishments into an important Party resolution last November. What are the Two Establishments? They are Establishing Comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the Party Central Committee and the core of the whole Party, and establishing the guiding position of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.
Narration: This resolution was passed by the last Plenary Session of the 19th CCP Central Committee. In other words, it was adopted by the same group of people who will attend the upcoming 7th Plenary Session. What does that mean? It means if Xi Jinping’s position and Xi Jinping’s guiding thoughts were to be changed or altered, the same group of people not only denied themselves, but also would need to bear responsibilities for making such a mistake to adopt the Two Establishments in the first place. That will mean the dysfunction of the CCP as a whole. Therefore, such an outcome will turn out to be highly unlikely. In fact, the Two Establishments and some other doctrines that aim to establish Xi’s permanent leadership position will be written into the Party Constitution during the 20th National Congress. That will pave the way for Xi to get a life-long tenure.

According to the Communiqué of the 7th Plenary Session of the CCP Central Committee, The Party will continue to unite around the Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core. This is an indication that Xi will get a third term. But the Standing Committee of the Presidium of the 20th National Congress is still the thing to watch for. If the number of political elders is reduced, it will mean Xi has changed the rules once again, but it also shows Xi is concerned about them. If there is no change to the composition pattern of the Standing Committee, it could mean Xi is confident that there will be no surprises. It could also mean Xi does not have the authority to change this long standing tradition of the Party. In either case, its implications will only be revealed after the 20th National Congress.

 

[Teatime with Transcript] Is a Covert China-Russia Alliance underway? | Zooming In with Simone Gao

Simone: No, no, no, no, still no, Putin and Xi Jinping’s meeting did not make it to the picture headlines of the People’s Daily, China’s largest government owned newspaper.

Did the People’s Daily report their meeting at all? Ok, here it is, hmmm, there is no video, and no pictures. I wonder if Xi’s other meeting reports don’t have photos either.

Oops, other meetings have videos; that’s because China Central Television, the country’s largest government owned TV station reported them. Only Putin’s meeting with Xi was not carried by CCTV.

What’s going on? What happened between Xi Jinping and Putin?

Xi Jinping visited ex-Soviet Uzbekistan on September 15 for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. That was Xi’s first overseas visit since the pandemic began almost three years ago. The highlight of the summit was supposed to be his meeting with Russian president Putin, whom Xi has called a good friend, an old friend and a true friend, and maybe now the only friend.

But the much-anticipated warm interaction didn’t happen. Xi obviously kept some distance from this old friend. Putin in his opening statement in his meeting with Xi said: “We appreciate our Chinese friends’ balanced position in connection with the Ukraine crisis. We understand your questions and your concerns in this regard. During today’s meeting we will certainly explain in detail our position on this issue, although we have spoken about this before.”

Let me try to explain what he really meant: “My dear friend, I didn’t want to accuse you of not helping enough. I completely understand your situation and concerns. However, you should still help me. And this is why.”

We don’t know what Putin actually discussed with Xi Jinping because the rest of the meeting was muted. But we do know that Xi rushed to the airport the minute the summit was over. It really didn’t seem Xi was too enthusiastic about this whole thing.

However, the day after Xi went back to Beijing. Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, arrived in China on a working visit. He met with the CCP’s Central Committee Politburo member Yang Jiechi.

One of the main messages he conveyed was that based on the agreement between Putin and Xi, the priority in Russian-Chinese relations is to work consistently to strengthen their strategic link.

More specifically, he said “The parties agreed on further cooperation between the military departments with an emphasis on joint exercises and patrols, as well as on strengthening contacts between the general staffs. Mutual interest was expressed in maintaining a high level of military-technical cooperation.”

And a day after that, Putin did this.

Putin: I think it is necessary to support the Ministry of Defense and the general staff to conduct a partial military mobilization in Russia. We have no moral right to hand over our loved ones to the executioners, we can not fail to respond to their sincere desire to determine their own fate…and have asked us, Russia to help.

Simone: And lastly, he warned the West that In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of the country and to defend the Russian people, they will use all weapon systems available including, he implied, the nuclear weapons.

This partial mobilization will call up 300,000 reserve troops. But there is a problem. Wasn’t Russia running out of weapons and ammunition already? If they get another 300,000 troops on the battlefield, what are these soldiers going to fight with? And do they have the money to support this operation? Hmmm, this escalation took place right after Putin met Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan, which followed by a ministerial level meeting that discussed among other things, further cooperation between the military departments of the two countries. Could Xi be backing Putin up after all?

This guy is more important than Patrushev and Yang Jiechi combined when it comes to China-Russia relationships because he is the number three guy in China.

His name is Li Zhanshu, chairman of China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee. By the way, China’s People’s Congress is not like the congress in democratic countries. The representatives are not elected through a real democratic process, but rather, are nominated by government officials. This doesn’t mean the People’s Congress does not have power, it does. It legislates just like Congress in America. Only, the legislation reflects the wills of the Party leaders, not the Chinese people. Anyway, Li Zhanshu is the head of the People’s Congress. And he also ranked third in the Party’s seven Politburo Standing Committee, THE top ruling body in China. Last but not least, he is a Xi Jinping confidant.

Li Zhanshu went to Russia right before Putin and Xi Jinping’s meeting at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. He delivered a key message to his Russian counterpart that the “strategic coordination” between the two countries had “reached an unprecedented level,” According to Russia’s State Duma, Li told Russian legislators that “China understands and supports Russia on issues that represent its vital interests, in particular on the situation in Ukraine.” and that China is providing its assistance.

The English word assistance doesn’t reflect the exact meaning of “策应”. “策应” is more than just assistance. It is support by coordinated action, most commonly used in a military context.

Li Zhanshu’s promise was not improvised. His choice of words must have been discussed and decided by the Politburo Standing Committee. Therefore, it represented the top Chinese leadership’s decision although they don’t want to make it as public as the Russian media did. Li Zhanshu’s mention of supporting Russia over the Ukrainian war was cut from the Chinese media’s readout, just like the severe downgrade of the report on Xi’s meeting with Putin. But why? Who is the Chinese Communist Party hiding this information from?

The CCP hid it from its own people more than anyone else. Russia had just lost 6000 square km of occupied land in Ukraine. Forming an alliance with a loser is particularly sensitive for Xi Jinping now.

The party’s 20th National Congress will be held in October this year. Xi Jinping’s top priority is to be elected smoothly into the position of General Secretary of the Party for the third time. Anything obstructing this goal will need to be eliminated. He strives to be possibly entitled “the people’s leader of China”, on the same footing as Mao Zedong, at this conclave. He can’t afford to be closely associated with someone who is incompetent and could potentially bring trouble to China. Public opinion could turn very negative, even with heavy handed censorship. Xi does not lack opponents in China. They are watching carefully for loopholes in Xi to destroy him. Xi can not give them that opportunity. He also didn’t want to stir up more trouble for himself with America and the West right before the 20th National Congress. American sanctions could incur serious internal criticism against him.

This is why he couldn’t support Russia openly. But with Li Zhanshu’s promise and Patrushev’s follow up trip to China, you can be sure that China’s support to Russia will continue if not increase. One area mentioned in Patrushev’s statement is further cooperation between the two militaries with an emphasis on joint exercises and patrols.

Why joint military exercises? A joint exercise could serve multiple purposes. And one of them could be this: If the exercise is conducted on the Sino-Russian border or in Russia. Could China conveniently bring a large number of weapons to Russia? And after the exercise, what about leaving a portion of them for their Russian friends?

This video was filmed by Russian citizens in Vladivostok a few weeks ago. A long fleet of Chinese military vehicles were seen driving in the city. What’s inside of these vehicles? We don’t know. But we do know that starting from September 1st, Russia held a week-long military exercise at seven firing ranges in Russia’s Far East and the Sea of Japan and involved more than 50,000 troops and over 5,000 weapons units, including 140 aircraft and 60 warships. The participating parties include several ex-Soviet nations, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.

If the Chinese military does leave weapons to the Russians, Russia could theoretically claim they bought them from North Korea who bought them from China before. In fact, according to the Guardian, the Biden administration officials earlier this month confirmed a declassified US intelligence assessment that North Korea was in the process of selling arms to Russia in violation of UN security council sanctions banning Pyongyang from importing or exporting weapons. North Korea denied such sales.

Another area as mentioned in Patrushev’s statement is the military-tech cooperation between the two countries. I talked to a veteran Chinese air force officer about this and asked what this military-tech cooperation could be. He told me that China has been relying on Russia’s military doctrines and technologies since the P.R.C. was formed. And that has lasted ‘til today.

Russia could provide advanced technologies to China in exchange for money, equipment and components. It is highly suspected that China already supports Russia through disguised civil trade, such as selling electronics including chips. A lot of those chips used in consumer electronics can also be transferred to weapons. China could also transfer weapons or other materials to Russia via a third party, for example, a country in the Shanghai Cooperation organization.

I read this interesting report from Aid Data, a research lab at William & Mary. It was released in 2021 and it says that China’s contracts contain unusually broad confidentiality clauses, which prevent borrowers from revealing the terms or sometimes even the existence of the loans. The researchers also found that China’s contracts have become more secretive over time, with a confidentiality clause in every contract in the dataset since 2014.

Could China support Russia via these secretive contracts? We definitely can’t rule out the possibility. But what if America finds out and sanctions China? Well, first of all, it is hard to find out given the secrecy of these contracts. Secondly, I don’t think China cares that much since China assumes America is decoupling from China and trying to besiege China economically anyway. The Biden administration’s recent ban on selling sophisticated chips to China and Russia is a good example.

In fact, Biden revealed to CBS’s 60 Minutes that during his recent telephone conversations with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. “Biden said: if you think that the Americans and others will continue to invest in the Chinese economy while violating sanctions against Russia, then you are making a huge mistake.”

And guess what? At SCO’s final press conference, Putin said that he and Xi Jinping “stated a significant increase in trade turnover”. An open defiance to Biden’s warning.

This is what we expected. The two countries are both severely isolated. And they DO need each other. The most important tie is energy.

One of the highlights of this SCO summit is the tripartite talks between China, Russia and Mongolia because Russia’s natural gas pipelines to China and other Asian countries are likely to be laid in Mongolia.

Russian state energy giant Gazprom has been researching for years how to lay the massive gas pipeline Siberia 2 to transport natural gas to China over Mongolia. If the pipeline is laid, it will be able to transport 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, equivalent to the annual transmission volume of Nord Stream 1 and about one-third of the total natural gas that Russia sends to Europe each year.

Russia has now replaced Saudi Arabia as China’s largest oil importer. If this pipeline goes through, energy sanctions against Russia by Europe and the United States will hardly bring a fatal blow to Russia. At the same time, the threat to cut off oil transport from Saudi Arabia to China through the Strait of Malacca will also lose its deterrent effect. This has great strategic significance for both China and Russia. For this reason alone, China and Russia have to form an alliance.

Does the CIA or FBI have think tanks under them? I have never heard of it. But China does. And because it is under the intelligence agency, it is more important than other think tanks. So In a recent article by Fu Mengzi, vice president of a think tank affiliated to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, Mr. Fu proposed three responses from China’s side in response to the West’s countering of a China-Russia alliance.

The first is to oppose a Unipolar world order, the second is to seek an alternative development mode in a post globalization era, and the third is to solidify relationships with neighboring countries, to reorganize the supply chains within these countries to create an extended internal economic circulation in defense of a Western blockade. Just to be clear: Russia has a four thousand three hundred kilometer border with China, the second longest among all of China’s neighbors.

The article also recognized that the trend of an Eastern rise and a Western descent is slowing down. A stronger West and a Weaker East will not be changed in the near future. Therefore, China should be prepared for a long haul.

Xi Jinping probably looks beyond the Russian-Ukrainian war. He sees Russia as an indispensable piece in his united front against America and the West. Xi Jinping’s Taiwan ambition also needs Russia’s vocal and material support. Yes, China and Russia compete in central Asia for leadership. China’s Belt and Road Initiative intrudes into what Russia considers its strategic backyard. But China and Russia need each other more. It doesn’t seem they have other choices now. They are literally each other’s strongest support. Xi Jinping couldn’t let Putin fall. The deeper Putin is in trouble, the more Xi Jinping has to help him, unfortunately.

[Teatime with Transcript] Documentary | Xi Jinping’s Plan of Dominating the World Using Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

This is TikTok. It puts the world in motion and sets it to music. You create, you laugh and you share. For much of the younger generation, this IS the world. Owned by the Chinese technology company ByteDance, TikTok is one of the world s most popular social media apps. It has been downloaded more than 2 billion times globally and maintains a total of 100 million active users in the United States.

Given that the app has been around for just over 2 years, how has it become so popular so quickly? As I learned from AI experts, TikTok is designed to be addictive. The first time you open it, it doesn t know what you like. It’ll recommend some default pages. Those pages are decided by your locale. His name is Jack, and he is a former employee of Huawei, China s largest telecommunications company. For security reasons, we ve blurred his face. Jack is a Big Data and AI expert. When you register, it may also ask you to make some simple selections. It can guess what your age is, your gender, and also the version of your phone’s operating system, so it can vaguely confirm your identity.

According to these conditions, it may give you recommendations for what videos you may like. He told me that TikTok s system adds multiple tags to every video clicked on by a user. The more videos you click, the more TikTok knows about you. Through this data collection and their powerful algorithm, they can deliver the exact videos you like. Before you realize the tactics, you are addicted to what they deliver.

The story of TikTok is the story of data, big Data. TikTok collects massive amounts of data from its users. According to researchers, and as reported by Bloomberg, TikTok starts collecting data the minute you download the app. It tracks the websites you’re browsing and how you type, down to keystroke rhythms and patterns. The app warns users it has full access to photos, videos and contact information of friends stored in the device’s address book, unless you revoke those permissions.

The app also tracks everywhere you go using your IP address and GPS coordinates, providing the app with your precise location while working, voting, attending protests, traveling, or simply picking up milk from the grocery store. Are we okay with this? Through my conversations with data security experts and everyday users of social media apps, I came to realize that most adults know that information will be collected about them and will be used by marketing companies to target advertising effectively.

This is true of most social media platforms in America. But for Communist China, data is handled in a very different way. Can you compare Google, Facebook and Amazon’s methods of collecting data with that of TikTok? Google is, as I mentioned, compared to all the others, it actually collects the information more aggressively for the commercial purpose. But, remember its commercial purposes, it does not use that to hack you or do something like that, right? But TikTok is a different story.

TikTok is kind of a dangerous animal, because TikTok collects the data, uses the data to improve their algorithm. This is James Qiu, a former Apple executive. He explains how China collects data differently from the Americans. China, you know that there is no privacy. I mean, who cares? Right? So, the company actually collects every single thing of persons. And, because of that, because they have the capability of collecting all the information from a person and they can actually train their deep learning model to be perfect.

In this case, U.S. companies and Western companies cannot compete with them. The privacy law said if one company has 10 different apps, the information collected by each app can only be used by each app. You cannot combine them and interrelate them and then synthesize new data out of them. Okay. So, that is significantly restricted. But for a Chinese company, there is no such a rule. That’s why they can build a better recommendation algorithm, this is a very dangerous company. When it collects your data, they know who you are, they know what you like and dislike. They can actually manipulate you.

Narration: In other words, while TikTok does aggressively collect its own data, its powerful algorithm may not be built solely on data collected within the app. TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, has been proven to be a data vacuum entity, amassing a large amount of user data, not only from its three popular apps but also from its many tech partners.

Narration: According to James, the intention of the TikTok s algorithm is to encourage a compulsive use of their app. Once it becomes a compulsion, users are more likely to be manipulated. Messaging hidden in seemingly harmless videos goes well beyond making money. TikTok represents a model the CCP is using to influence the world. Retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Spalding explained to me the CCP s grand vision for Big Data and AI:

So Kaifu Lee says that China seeks to become the Saudi Arabia of data. So, think about the entire world’s data and collection of that data as being tantamount to having power over the world. This is the way that the Chinese communist party sees the global internet. Globalization is connected to this… That’s why Xi Jinping goes to Davos and says, We must work together. We must continue globalization. We must continue this global connectivity Because it enables him to take the data into China behind the great firewall and create this huge data ocean that then their artificial intelligence can learn from.

So, this is their goal, because they know that they can use that, just like TikTok is used as a platform to influence. They can use that to influence not only their own people, to basically not know the true history of China, but also to influence the rest of the world. This is the power that, quite frankly, we built. Silicon Valley built this power. We built it and made hundreds, trillions of dollars. The Chinese Communist Party saw that and said, not only do we want to have control over that economic engine, we want to have the ability to influence socially and politically as well.

Thanks for everyone’s help, support and care. His name is Han Kuo-yu, Taiwan s Nationalist Party of China s presidential candidate for 2020. While initially popular as a candidate, he ultimately lost to the incumbent, President Tsai Yingwen, largely due to Taiwan’s overwhelming rejection of the Mainland Chinese government that was backing Han.

While Han s loss was due to the Chinese Communist Party, his initial rise was their doing as well. The key milestone of Han’s political career was his victory in the Kaohsiung mayoral race. Han was largely unknown through the first four months of the election season. A day after formally announcing his campaign, however, a Facebook fan group was formed. The page promoted Han through talking points and memes, consistent sharing of fake news about his opponent and public shaming of his critics. By election day, Han had more than 66,000 members on the fan page and received a surge of fan posts just hours before being elected in a landslide victory.

Dr. Puma Shen, Assistant Professor at National Taipei University, did a study on Han’s sudden rise to popularity. First, China created many websites that published and shared a large number of articles on Han-Kuoyu and fake news on Han s opponent party: The Democratic Progressive Party. They then generated a massive amount of search requests on Han Kuo-yu. They literally overwhelm the system with their requests. By doing so, google’s algorithm worked to push Han related news that the CCP generated to the first two pages.

According to Dr. Shen s research, a significant percentage of the fans on Han’s Facebook group were not from Taiwan. They were from Mainland China. To further demonstrate China s involvement, Dr. Shen s group tested Han’s name on the internet for the final two months of the campaign. They found that Taiwan was just 16th on the list of countries searching for information on Han.

Jack told me the CCP is obviously behind the efforts and this is how they did it. A large number of search results can come from people s natural behavior, and it can also come from bots automatically publishing articles. They can come from IP addresses inside China, from IP address in Taiwan, or IP addresses from any other country. In this way, Taiwan may have less searches than other countries.

According to the Financial Times, key governmental departments in Taiwan receive tens of millions of hacking attempts each month. Then between 2015 and 2017, that number tripled. These attacks, intended to steal sensitive governmental data and personal information, were primarily perpetrated by China. Does the CCP have enough resources to do things in America that s similar to what they do in Taiwan?

That s the scary part. They have been building in the last few decades control over our corporate institutions, our wall street, our investment banks, our political systems, academia, our think tank, our law firms, our PR firms, our consulting firms. You know, what we forget is the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t need to use PLA to do all of these, they can pay Washington PR firms, they can pay Washington consultants, they can pay Washington law firms, and they do.

The Taiwan story took a drastic turn though. Prior to the presidential election, massive demonstrations broke out in Hong Kong against a Chinese extradition law. Those protests, and the CCP s brutal response to them, led the Taiwanese people to reject a future under the rule of the CCP and a president indebted to them. They chose the incumbent President Tsai-Yingwen who, though not popular at the time, is consistently tough on the CCP. It is safe to say, if it is not because of Hong Kong, Beijing would have secured a Taiwanese president of their choosing.

The game to influence a major political election is complicated and can be costly. Sometimes, it takes on the least expected form. This is Christine, an emigrant from China, and a successful real estate agent in the affluent Orange County area of California. Like many among the extensive Chinese diaspora in the U.S., Christine continues to habitually use Chinese apps.

I use a lot of Chinese apps, such as WeChat, Chinese Tiktok Douyin and etc. Because it is very convenient for me to use these apps to communicate with my friends and family in China. WeChat is the world s largest standalone multi-purpose mobile app with a billion active users worldwide, mostly Chinese. Douyin s popularity stems from its short, entertaining videos, much like sister company TikTok. Both are owned by ByteDance but operate independently of each other, with Douyin created for users in China and TikTok designed for international use. Christine says that news about America has been circulating rapidly on these Chinese apps, and they all strike one tone.

Since the Pandemic began, I found there have been a lot of negative reports about America in these apps. Many of them are false, strange reports. They don t reflect what I know about the situation here. I support Trump. But what I saw on WeChat and Douyin is all negative information about Trump. It seems there is more pro-Biden information
out there. America is the biggest threat to global stability and security. Although Douyin uses powerful algorithms to determine your interests and target the recommended content accordingly, algorithms are not the only factor in what Douyin shows to each user.

In China, the most posts DouYin users see are from the Party s mouthpiece – People s daily, simply because DouYin is required by the government to push People s Daily s content to its 500 million active users. As a result of such a powerful promotion, the People s Daily has almost 100 million followers on Douyin today. This is a recognizable and recurring strategy within China. TikTok functions in a similar way to Douyin, only, instead of recommending the CCP s official propaganda, TikTok pushes political content that comes from other app users.

Ethan, a TikTok user from the U.S., told me how it works. Once I started using TikTok, it pushed a lot of anti-Trump or pro-Biden videos to me. But I did not even say or select that I am interested in politics. But after a while, like I used the app for a while, the anti-Trump video became a little bit fewer. I started to see some pro-Trump videos as well. That might be because I did not like or follow any of those anti-Trump videos. But the anti-Trump videos were still like 80 or 60%, around that in the political videos. Recently it changed. It might be because that, I don t even watch those anti-Trump videos. So, right now it is only maybe a quarter or less than that. But there are still Anti-Trump videos pushed to me.

Tiktok has a sophisticated AI model making recommendations to its users. When a user begins to use TikTok without being classified by the system as pro-Biden or pro-Trump. TikTok displays neutral content to the users. I quote neutral since it is based on TikTok s standard. In reality, there are many more pro-Biden content being displayed to the users anyhow. Based on the data collected on the users browsing searching habit, TikTok can classify the users as a conservative user quickly. Then it starts to display a few pro-Trump content to the user while mixing it with various pro-Biden content. When TikTok figures out the user is not very interested in politics, it starts
to display fewer political content.

So the goal of TikTok is to, you know, Number one, do not get this user so upset to the degree that he just won t use TikTok anymore. But at the same time TikTok still pushes pro-Biden content to him in a degree that he can tolerate.

James: That is absolutely right. Do you think TikTok can influence people s political opinions? TikTok has the potential of influence people with the manipulated information. They are good at it. It inherits the AI model of Toutiao which is Bytedance s popular news platform. Toutiao helps the Chinese government monitor and manipulate mass opinions.

So in that sense, do you think TikTok has the potential to influence the American people’s political stance during the election. What TikTok needs to do is to fine tune the AI model using the data they collected from the western country. It is a piece of cake for TikTok. This is what I have learned so far: The danger the CCP poses to the U.S. through TikTok is two-fold. First, it uses pop culture as a trojan horse in order to influence the younger generation. Second, it uses collected American data to perfect its AI model for further manipulation in this country.

On September 28th, Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C revoked the Trump Administration s ban on TikTok, leaving it available for download in U.S. app stores through November 12th. The Trump administration originally demanded that TikTok be sold to an American company or face a complete ban within the U.S.. A
proposal emerged between TikTok, Oracle and Walmart, but despite an early signal of support from Trump, questions over exact ownership percentages and the data hosting arrangement suspended the deal.

I talked to a Huawei expert about this prospect of, uh, Oracle, uh, owning part of the company overseas. you know, oversees, the security operation oversees their coding and everything. And he said, as long as ByteDance is still a main stakeholder there, uh, technician Chinese technicians are still writing the code. There are managers overseeing the daily operation and they are participating in the decision making, risks cannot be eliminated at all. I mean, the Chinese, no matter how good the deal looks like on the surface, do you agree?

By allowing the Chinese communist party to have any interest whatsoever, whether it’s in understanding the technology, or it is in allowing people to actually physically touch the code or the hardware where the code runs, it’s all vulnerable. TikTok s use of a powerful Chinese algorithm, and the resulting collection of user data, has revealed another possibility: the likelihood that apps from China may be operating with secret access keys, master passwords, and secret commands, called backdoors. In spite of that risk, James told me that thousands of Chinese apps are accepted in the Apple and Google app stores every year without a proper vetting process.

So, how does Apple vet Chinese apps that are trying to enter its app store? A lot of Chinese apps actually sneaked into the U.S. app store as if it is native. Right? So that is the first problem. The second problem is when Apple app store checks the apps, it checks very basic stuff. So, basically, Apple published a set of rules, and every mobile app needs to follow those rules. Apple only checks off those kinds of things, but as for whether the app is kind of tracking the customer behavior and you know send the private data into a third party server, or use that for commercial purposes or other purposes, Apple has no way to check it. So, in that sense, every mobile app has a widely open back door that can do whatever they want to.

Silicon Valley may be the country s best line of defense against malicious apps from China. But they seem uninterested in that responsibility. How much control or how much reign does the national security establishment have on the Silicon Valley?

None, zero. In fact, a Silicon Valley despises the national security establishment. Now there’s a few people that have worked within, um, government, but what happens is many of them are entrepreneurs or people that think outside of the box. And of course, what you find when you come to Washington, D C is it abhores, you know, people that think outside of the box, they want conformity and they want you to be, be bureaucratic. So, they don’t tend to last very long and they don’t tend to make much headway because in order to actually innovate in government, you have to have patience.

You have to be wily and you have to kind of figure out where is the way that you can actually make, um, you know, progress happen. There’s not a lot of people that are willing to do that because they get frustrated by the bureaucracy. In 2017, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, announced a bold plan for Beijing. He predicted that China would catch up with the United States in AI by 2025 and lead the world by 2030. China may have reached that goal earlier than they had planned.

Although America still leads in cutting-edge AI technology, China has surpassed America in AI application. They accomplished this by collecting far more data. More data means better AI. I believe that, in the eyes of Xi Jinping and his colleagues, Big Data and AI are more than just another curious technology. Xi openly stated that Big Data is the most critical national resource for China. Why would he believe so? Likely because the CCP knows exactly what Big Data and AI are capable of, how they can be used to control over their own people and manipulate other countries. Best of all, the Party is confident that their political system guarantees China a reliable advantage
in data collecting and AI application over the free world.

I mean what do you think is the biggest strength America still has today over China? The constitution. I think the constitution, as an idea, as a foundation for how to build a society, a blueprint, if you will, for how to build a human society, where you have human frailty and you have to deal with it, and you have to ensure that the way you deal with that is to ensure that no human or humans can have ultimate power. I think that is the strength of America. Our total existence as a free society, where people are allowed to live as they want and reach their, to present potential is at risk from the tools that we ourselves built. And the Chinese communist party have appropriate and begun to, you know, use extensively to undermine our society.

It has been 244 years since this nation was founded. At that time, a claim was made. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe if these claims are true, they must
be true then, true during the civil war and true today.

If you go back to the founding of this country, it wasn’t everybody that decided, Hey, we wanted a free country. It was a few, it was a determined few that were not going to be subjugated, that they were going to stand up for their rights. And they were going to find other people that were like-minded and they were going to work together to build this new land. And those people exist today.

We just have not been fighting to get, so yes, absolutely. We can win. We just have to stand up and fight. Fighting together. Democrats and Republicans. Absolutely.

[Teatime with Transcript] In-depth | Military and Xinjiang behind China’s Solar Industry

Joe Biden: We are going to invest $1.7 trillion dollars in securing our future, so by 2050 America will be a 100% clean energy economy.

Simone: President Biden announced a ‘New Green Deal’ and issued restrictions on fossil fuel supplies. This will make America more dependent on solar energy, but companies from which country will supply those solar panels?

Keith Krach: China, Inc. controls 80-90% of the market.

Simone: And who is funding China’s renewable energy industry?

Tianliang Zhang: So this company is not a private enterprise but an institution controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Simone: So what implications does a Chinese Communist Party-controlled solar industry mean to America’s energy independence and national security?

Keith Krach: That means we lose our energy independence. That also means we will be totally dependent on China for our clean energy. And if we do nothing, it is scary.

Simone: Hello and welcome to Zooming In China. I am Simone Gao. A consortium of renewable energy CEOs have asked President Joe Biden to remove tariffs that the Trump administration had issued on imported solar panels. They argue that the tariffs are an obstacle to the renewables industry’s ability to tackle climate change.

On March 1st, The Biden administration decided to stand behind Trump’s policy. The new administration asked the court to dismiss a complaint from some members of the solar industry arguing that President Trump’s tariffs were unlawful.

However, the bigger question is where the ‘New Green Deal’ policy of the new administration will lead America to? How will it affect America’s energy independence, and if America becomes less energy independent, who will America rely on more for solar energy? And what will be the consequence of that? In this episode of Zooming In China, we will try to explore these questions.

The current tariff imposes a 18% tax on solar cells made outside of the United States, most of which are imported from China. Those cells are assembled into panels and sold by many American companies.

Biden has announced ambitious goals for curbing global warming. In his first few days in office, the president canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, rejoined the Paris Accord, and called for a 2 trillion dollar ‘New Green Deal.’

Solar energy will play a huge role in this initiative. It already accounts for more than 12% of all renewable energy in the United States, and is expected to account for one-half of all green energy by 2050.

But there’s a catch. The global supply chain for solar panels is dominated by Chinese firms, and most of the solar panels sold in this country use imported components. This poses a strategic risk for the United States if it becomes too dependent on its rival for energy.

First let’s look at how China obtained its quasi-monopoly of the world’s solar energy industry in the first place. How did a country known for its lax environmental regulations and pollution become such a key player in renewable energy?

China’s solar energy industry originated in the 1990s as an exports-oriented industry, designed to meet the demands of European countries. Countries like Germany and Italy had passed legislation to encourage the use of solar energy, and domestic manufacturers couldn’t keep up. This was instead outsourced to Chinese suppliers.

Since then the industry has grown precipitously, and China has become the undisputed world leader in solar technology. Longi Technology is the largest solar company in the world, and is responsible for manufacturing 25% of all silicon wafers across the globe.

But Longi isn’t alone. Collectively, the Chinese solar industry accounts for at least 60% of global capacity in every stage of the supply chain, producing more than 66% of polysilicon and nearly 80% of solar cells.

On the other hand, companies from across the world wanted to enter this field as renewable energy was becoming more lucrative. But it’s difficult to survive in this industry. Since 2011, more than 750 solar companies have liquidated or closed, most notably Solyndra, which was backed by the Obama administration. In 2020, the Trump administration was still recovering parts of a $425 million loan that had been granted to a solar company during the Obama years.

The failed project, called Crescent Dunes, used thousands of mirrors in the Nevada desert to heat up steam in a giant tower, and had cost more than $1.1 billion in total.

The solar industry is an inherently risky enterprise that requires enormous investments across many years, as productions aren’t cost-efficient until the project reaches a large scale. Rapid technological changes means that hundreds of millions can go up in smoke as yesterday’s innovation becomes obsolete.

That said, how did the Chinese companies manage to outperform their competitors globally? I asked former undersecretary of State for the Trump administration Keith Krach this question. Mr. Krach was responsible for economic growth, energy and environment during the last administration.

Simone:Thank you Mr. Krach for being with us today. It seems that Solar cell manufacturing is not an easy business, most of the startups don’t make it, there is a constant flux of companies going out of business. What is the biggest reason for that?

Keith Krach: 250 firms that entered the PV industry globally and 150 exited. The bloodletting is worse for second- and third-generation technologies like thin film. 27 of 34 start-ups went belly up.

The reason is simple. China Inc has come to dominate solar cell manufacturing through a 20 year set of systematic non-market state policies, subsidies, slave labor, state financing, IP theft, with unlimited amounts of “capital” thanks to government policy and buying up companies weakened by this strategy.

Free countries companies operate according to free market principles. Chinese state-led companies don’t. There is not a level playing field.

Simone: China’s domination in the renewable energy market presents another problem for the U.S.. Given the difficulty in manufacturing effective solar technology. If a nation loses its competitive edge in the field, it may lose it forever. An illustration example is the story of America’s decline in telecommunications technology.

In 2019, Trump banned US companies from using communication technology that posed a ‘national security risk,’ which included 5G networks produced by the Chinese tech giant Huawei.

The FBI and intelligence agencies warn that the company had ties to the Chinese Communist Party and their products could serve to spy on their customers.

After the ban, US companies shifted their reliance on European companies like Nokia, based in Finland. The row over Huawei raised an embarrassing question, why couldn’t the US produce its own 5G network?

In the second half of the 20th century, the United States was a leader in telecommunication technology, and in 1999 Lucent was the sixth largest US company in market capitalization.

In the 1980s and 1990s China’s IT industry was still primitive and was reliant on imported technology. However, state regulators required foreign companies to share their trade secrets with local firms if they wanted access to the Chinese market, and companies like Lucent agreed to sharing.

At the time, they didn’t see the Chinese IT industry as a threat, but starting in 2002 Huawei and others started to muscle their way into the US market while Lucent still struggled to gain an even footing after the dot-com bubble burst.

US telecom equipment imports rose from $71 to $129 billion between 2000 and 2008, while Chinese exports rose from $19 to $124 billion around the same timeframe. By then, Lucent had been sold to a French company, and Nortel, which was once Lucent’s biggest American rival, had gone bankrupt.

There are some industries that can’t be conjured up overnight, and a year and a half after Trump’s ban on Huawei, there’s no end in near sight for America’s reliance on imported 5G equipment.

What has happened to America’s telecom companies could also happen to its solar industry. It’s arguably already halfway there.

While solar cells might not pose the same cybersecurity risks as 5G networks, there remains the threat that China might choose to embargo the United States over a diplomatic dispute.

Samantha Sloan, vice president of First Solar said this to Politico in an interview: “Solar panels are the next crude oil, and allowing China to dominate solar manufacturing is the equivalent of establishing an electro-state on the lines of OPEC.” In 1973, an OPEC oil embargo caused oil prices in America to quadruple, which led to a severe recession. I asked Mr. Krach what it means if China dominated the solar energy industry
Simone: China is on track to gain a monopoly on manufacturing solar panel cells. Do you think in the future there is a possibility that the U.S. will be dependent on Chinese solar energy and supplies? and if that happens what it will mean to America?

Keith Krach: They are already a monopoly. China Inc controls 90% of the market. All top 10 companies are Chinese except First Solar in US with 2 % and a Korea 5% Chinese manufacturers have diversified some production within Asia to avoid tariffs, but Chinese factories still produce 60 percent of the world’s PV cells

Here is what it means. According to Some experts solar could account for 70% of our energy needs by 2050. That means we go from energy independence to being totally dependent on china for the majority of our clean energy. And that’s scary.
Simone: right, you just said the U.S. still has a tiny industry that produces solar energy component, do you think they can effectively compete with Chinese manufacturers in the coming years?
Keith Krach: There are 3 big problems with status quo.
A. Makes more expensive to finance. China’s Inc.’s subsidies, whether flowing or serving as backstop, will make an investor seek a higher return as compensation.

B. Stifles innovation. Given the climate challenge. PV is too important a technology to fail. There is a real chance that the industry’s system of innovation will not be able to meet the challenge. PV solar appears to function much more as a barrier than a bridge for next -generation technologies to gain a foothold to establish their own experience curves.

C. China Inc strategically owns the beginning of the supply chain particularly polysilicon and the vast majority of it is produced in Xingjiang.

Simone: Talking about Xinjiang, Its official name is Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. It is the largest province-level division of the country and is home to a number of ethnic minority groups. Reports from the World Uyghur Congress submitted to the UN in 2018 suggest that 1 million Uyghurs are currently being held in the re-education camps. Officials from both the Trump and Biden administration have declared that genocide has been happening in Xinjiang. So where is Xinjiang in China’s green energy production landscape? And who is really running China’s green industry?
Today, when we talk about China’s renewable energy industry, we can not skip the Golden Concord Holdings Limited, or GCL Group. A conglomerate that specializes in renewable energy, GCL Group ranked number 3 in a 2017 list of top 500 global new energy enterprises.

On the surface, GCL is a privately owned company, but it actually has deep ties with the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army.
On its website, it says “Dating from 1990, GCL has been following the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party or CCP and leading green growth with the red genes.” In the organization, there are 12 CCP committees, 5 CCP branch committees, 120 CCP divisions and 3,000 CCP members.

Zhu Gongshan, Chairman of the company, also serves as a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a central part of the Party’s United Front system.

In 2011, by partnering with the Poly Group, GCL-Poly became the world’s largest polysilicon manufacturer. The Xinjiang base is its new production center, and is planned to have an annual output of 100,000 tons of high-purity polysilicon, the largest in the country. By October 2019, it already had a 60,000-ton polysilicon production capacity. The cost of producing Polysilicon in that facility fell below 40,000 yuan, or around $6,000 dollars, per ton.

Simone: How did the cost of Xinjiang’s polysilicon production drop so much? China expert, Dr. Zhang Tianliang told me this.

Tianliang Zhang: There are two reasons why Xinjiang has become a manufacturing base. We know this industry consumes a lot of energy. It may take three years for a solar panel to generate the energy that was consumed by its production. And Xinjiang Zhundong has the largest coal mine in China so far. Just this Zhundong coal mine contains 7% of the whole country’s coal reserves. It can also provide high Calorific Value coals by Open-pit coal mining. This can tremendously cut the production cost of solar panels.

Secondly, the labor cost in Xinjiang is also very low. The average salary may be just a half or a third of that in Shanghai. It is about $700 a month in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang. Workers in the United States or Europe cannot compete.

Simone: This is what Mr. Krach think about Xinjiang’s facility.

Simone: Talking about Xinjiang, we know that Xinjiang has become the biggest manufacturing base for polysilicon. And there are many reason for that, but the two big reasons are, One, there happened to be a big coal mine near the facility so they get cheap coals to produce polysilicon. And two, Xinjiang’s labor is very cheap, we now know that Xinjiang’s cotton production uses concentration camp labors. We don’t know if that is the case with their polysilicon production as well. But do you think the world should be concerned about these factors?

Keith Krach: Well, you have your facts right Simone. And this is troubling for a number of reasons. I would turn the question around and ask what does this mean for freedom, human rights, and environmental protection. Consider that Xinjiang represents about 65% of China’s solar manufacturing capacity.
In 2016, only 9% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon came from Xinjiang. But by 2020 it provided about 45% of the world’s supply. Media has reported about forced labor on a population of about 13 million Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs, and others. Current Sec. of State Blinken reinforced Secretary Pompeo’s labeling the treatment of Uighurs as genocide.

We all want to take action on climate change. However, we must remain true to our values and stand up for human rights. Everyone likes cheap goods and services. Yet, there have been multiple times when free nations and consumers decided that the relative savings or corporate profit was outweighed by the cost to society. Consider the case of “blood diamonds.”

As Supreme Court Justice Brandeis noted, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” The public will turn away from infected Chinese solar if there is greater transparency. The U.S. was a leader in fostering the solar industry. We can resume that role and will be competitive once we ensure a level playing field.
Simone: Now, let’s go back to the GCL group, it has close ties not only to the Party, but to the military as well.

In 2020, GCL partnered with the Poly Group again. By receiving Poly investment’s gigantic funding, the two entities were set to pioneer cutting-edge photovoltaic and semiconductor technology.

Who is behind Poly Group, you might wonder.

Tianliang Zhang: China Poly Group is among the 102 biggest central state owned enterprises in China. It was set up on the basis of Poly Technologies, Inc., an arms-manufacturing wing of the People’s Liberation Army of China. Now it is primarily engaged in representing the Chinese defense manufacturing industry in international sales. The two founders are Wang Jun and He Ping. Wang Jun is the second son of Wang Zhen, who was a founding general of PRC, and was vice premier and vice president in China. He Ping’s father in law is Deng Xiaoping. It is not a private enterprise, but an institution controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Simone: President Biden wants to reduce the consumption of traditional energy sources that come from fossil fuels and has issued restrictions on things like fracking and the Keystone XL oil pipeline. In the future, if the US is dependent on Chinese solar energy and the Communist Party decides to embargo America, What will happen? Here is Keith Krach again.

Simone: Do you think America’s existing ‘strategic’ energy reserves are enough to counter a serious major energy embargo?

Keith Krach: It is a good question. Many wars have been lost won because of oil. As under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment. I looked at those three responsibilities as an optimization equation that maximize national security by optimizes economic growth, energy security and the health of the planet. This is a delicate balance to ensure that our grandchildren can enjoy the same prosperity and freedoms that we have. We must not lose sight of that.

Keith Krach: In terms of strategic energy reserves, it can only last so long. So the big question is to get that delicate balance and optimizing that and that requires a lot of analytical thinking and a lot of analysis.

Simone: So what is the way going forward?

Keith Krach:Government does have a role to play in ensuring clarity and to allow for free enterprise to flourish. Increase public investment in R&D is absolutely essential. I am free trader and Believe America’s free market system is the best in the world. But when somebody comes into the market and doesn’t play by the rules the market is no longer free. As I said in my Senate confirmation hearing when I was asked about what my strategy would be dealing with the China challenge, I said it would entail harnessing three of America’s biggest comparative advantages—uniting and mobilizing our allies, leveraging the innovation resources of our private sector and amplified democratic values. When we do that Chyna cannot compete.

I believe strongly in the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the American private sector. However, the U.S. government along with other free nations, must ensure there is an opportunity to compete. We believe in and enforce transparency, human rights and environmental standards. Free nations must demand that the energy transition is not done on the backs of minority populations in Xinjiang when a genocide is going on.

The case of PV manufacturing is not over. Nor is it unique. The threat of Chinese innovation mercantilism hangs over other, less-mature sectors, such as batteries, electrolyzers, and carbon capture devices, with the potential to reduce global carbon emissions. Policymakers should adopt measures that counter China’s policies and raise the odds that alternatives to the dominant designs in PV and other key climate and clean energy technologies get a fair chance to succeed in the coming decade. Innovation and deployment of these technologies are both important goals for public policy.

Simone: Do you think the Biden administration would go on this path?

Keith Krach: I think everybody understand the importance of energy security and how that’s tied with national security. But here again, it is an optimization equation. …

Simone: As the Biden administration presses forward with its green energy policy, it will have to deal with the dilemma of increased reliance on China-sourced solar components. Demand for solar energy will only increase if fossil fuel faces more restrictions.

Although US solar-cell manufacturers do exist, they’re responsible for a minority of the solar panel market in America. Whether that industry can survive, and thrive, will remain a critical strategic issue for America, and the world, in the coming decades. Thanks for watching Zooming In China. I am Simone Gao and see you next time.

[Teatime with Transcript] Oil Prices Soar, but American Oil Producers Are Not in the Mood to Drill, Why?

As the war in Ukraine continues into its second month, fears about global oil shortages and costs continue. European countries that have been deeply dependent on Russian oil are now looking for quick alternatives and looking to countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Venezuela to provide them. In the case of natural gas, European leaders are also reaching out to what Campbell Faulkner, chief data officer at OTC Global Holdings, calls “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas”—the United States—to do more to help their ailing NATO allies. 

Although the United States ranks 4th in proved natural gas reserves, behind Russia, Iran, Qatar, and Turkmenistan, it is the biggest natural gas producer in the world followed by Russia. 

President Biden has heeded the European leaders’ call for more natural gas from America. He committed to send 15 billion cubic tons of liquefied natural gas to Europe through the end of 2022. He has pledged to increase that total to 50 billion cubic tons per year through 2030.

But that commitment comes amid rising gas and oil prices in the United States and ongoing pressures on the shale oil industry. Despite what Bloomberg calls “vast shale fields holding a seemingly endless supply of natural gas and giant terminals capable of liquefying it and shuttling it abroad,” the U.S. shale oil industry has spent decades caught in a boom-and-bust cycle that threatened to undo the entire industry as recently as 2020. 

In the late 2000s, new technologies introduced in the U.S. oil and gas industry, like horizontal drilling and advanced hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, led to the boom of a “shale revolution.” In big shale states like Colorado, this revolution brought with it a six-fold increase in production between 2010 and 2019, according to Chase Woodruff of Colorado Newsline. That production increase drove down prices and, as Woodruff reports, “in 2018 the U.S. made the world’s top oil producer for the first time since 1973.”

These new drilling technologies were not cheap, though, and the required capital for the technologies and operating expenses came, in many cases, from Wall Street. Investment money flowed freely in the early excitement of the fracking boom. But investors soon soured on oil companies’ use of their capital to fund production with little regard for investment returns. And as early rounds of funding dried up, publicly traded companies simply issued new stock to balance the books, a habit that sent many investors packing.

Then came the chaos of 2020 and, alongside it, a sharp decrease in the demand for oil amid COVID lockdowns. The price of crude oil has once dropped to below $0 dollar a barrel in the United States.

46 American oil and gas companies filed for bankruptcy that year. Many more were involved in mergers and acquisitions that began even before the pandemic and continued well into 2021. The companies that remain, says reporter Irina Slav, “rearranged their priorities from ‘growth at all costs’ to ‘returns above all’.”  We are now in a time, says Slav, “when investors are wondering if it’s even worth it to stay in oil, what with the energy transition and [environmental, social, and governance] commitments.” 

To hold on to current investors and encourage new money coming in, the shale industry has shifted its business model. This shift can be seen clearly in their financial results reports of 2021 and investor outlook documents in 2022. Language like a “new return of capital framework” or “new shareholder return framework” or “updated stockholder distribution strategy” permeate these documents. And despite the now surging oil prices, oil executives and analysts doubt we will see a change in this new industry direction. Says Scott Sheffield, CEO of Texas-based Pioneer Natural Resources, “Whether it’s $150 oil, $200 oil, or $100 oil, we’re not going to change our growth plans.” So, despite the oil and gas industry as a whole having 9,000 unused permits to drill on federal lands, they have no intention of using them to help ease the gas shortage created by the conflict in Ukraine.

They have little reason to, given the sentiments President Biden has made so clear in prioritizing alternative energies. Biden has consistently mentioned his belief that fossil fuel industries will be obsolete within 30 years and committed his administration to the work of energy transition. 

In November 2021, the Biden administration proposed reforms to the country’s oil and gas leasing program that would raise costs for energy companies to drill on public lands and water.

The report completes a review that Biden ordered in January. The president directed a halt to new federal oil and gas lease sales on public lands and waters, but a Louisiana federal judge blocked the administration’s suspension in June.

To make his intention more clear, In his recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Biden provided a more than $65 million investment in clean energy and the electric grid. That investment will go to upgrading the U.S. power infrastructure, expanding renewable energy, research and development for advanced transmission and electricity distribution technologies, and the promotion of smart grid technologies. Investments are also made in “next generation technologies like advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture, and clean hydrogen.”

No new investments were made in the fossil fuel industries or the technologies that support them. And now, with global need climbing and no viable energy alternative, Biden is pleading with U.S. oil companies to ramp up production. Shale oil producers aren’t buying in, and for good reason. The industry needs funds to survive, and those funds will not come from Washington. They will come from shareholders and those shareholders “have been very clear that that money is theirs and they don’t want them to spend it on growing supply.” 

A Zooming In audience member summed it up quite bluntly: who wants to drill and be attacked, vilified and the profits taken by socialist? Hmm, another way to look at it.

I’m your host Simone Gao and I’ll see you next time.

[Teatime with Transcript] Putin’s Bet on Germany; A CIA Warned, Reagan Opposed, Zelensky Protested Project Went Ahead, Why?

One month into the Ukraine war, reigning in Russia using sanctions still proved difficult for the European member countries who were deeply entangled with Putin due to their reliance on Russian gas and oil. How did that reliance come about and is there any chance for them to break free from the need for Russia’s energy?

The current European dependence on Russian oil began decades ago, during the Reagan era and with the promise of a pipeline. That Soviet pipeline traverses the landscape between Siberia and Germany and brings with it much needed gas imports that, according to a March 1981 CIA memo, were needed to offset likely declines in oil supplies for the six European countries in question. They also argued that “related equipment sales by West European firms would create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in business.”

Despite those positives, the CIA warned of some serious risks in creating this type of infrastructure with the Soviet Union. In their memo titled USSR-Western Europe: Implications of the Siberia-to-Europe Gas Pipeline, they find that such a pipeline would “provide the Soviets one additional pressure point they could use as part of a broader diplomatic offensive to persuade the West Europeans to accept their viewpoint on East-West issues,” citing, as an example, an attempt to undermine “European willingness to act in concert with the US on economic sanctions against the Soviets or on security issues.”

They also cite a potential for a “natural gas weapon,” stating that “the likelihood is strong that the Soviets will attempt subtle exploitation of the developing natural gas relationship” and warning that the effects of that pressure would depend on “West European and NATO cohesion and will” and “progress over the next few years by Western Europe in installing ‘insurance’ in the form of strategic reserves and fuel substitution capability.”

A bitter dispute followed. Reagan vehemently opposed the pipeline and issued sanctions preventing American corporations from participating in the construction and operation of that pipeline. But after what The New York Times calls “a public-relations and lobbying blitz that played out across newspaper opinion pages, congressional committees and a direct appeal to the White House,” Reagan backed away from the sanctions, and the pipeline moved forward.

In the decades since, two more pipelines—the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2—have been added, both running under the Baltic Sea and taking gas from the Russian coast to Germany. Together, they could deliver 110 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe every year. But while the Nord Stream has been operational since 2011, the $10 billion Nord Stream 2 project has now been put on hold. The US, UK, Poland and Ukraine strongly oppose the project, fearing that it would provide Russia with an even greater stranglehold on Europe. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called it “a dangerous political weapon.” And German regulators are fearful that because Russian state-owned firm Gazprom owns both a 50% stake in the pipeline and all the gas that goes through it, Russia would have too much control over supply.

That supply is substantial. Even without the Nord Stream 2, Russia currently provides roughly 40% of the European Union’s natural gas imports. Russian supply drying up leaves Europe vulnerable, especially Germany and Italy who consume 42.6 billion cubic meters and 29.2 billion cubic meters respectively. Belarus, Turkey, the Netherlands, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, China and Japan are also at risk if Russia cuts off the supply.

And Russia has a history of tinkering with the supply when they feel politically justified in doing so. The Soviets cut off oil supplies to Yugoslavia in 1948, to Israel in 1956, and to China in the early and mid-1960s. More recently and more notably, Russia cut off gas supplies to the European region in a 2009 diplomatic dispute with Ukraine. According to The New York Times, they left “tens of thousands of homes without heat” and “more than a dozen people froze to death, mainly in Poland, before Russia reopened its pipelines.”

The risks the CIA warned us of in 1981 are just as real today, and we are just as unprepared for them. The EU had proposed a plan to end reliance on Russian oil by 2030 but now, eight years ahead of that date, finds itself scrambling to find alternatives in order to end their participation in the funding of the attack on Ukraine. The US has committed at least 15 billion cubic meters to Europe in the remainder of 2022 along with its commitment to making “sure the families in Europe can get through this winter and the next while we’re building the infrastructure for a diversified, resilient and clean energy future,” as Biden said in a recent statement at the U.S. Chief of Mission Residence in Brussels. But 15 billion cubic meters won’t be enough to meet that goal, and without help from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Venezuela, there seemed no real plan on how to offset European reliance on Russian gas and oil.

Or there is one more route, according to Bloomberg, If there’s any country that might’ve been in a position to rescue Europe from its energy crisis, it’s the U.S. — home to vast shale fields holding a seemingly endless supply of natural gas and giant terminals capable of liquefying it and shuttling it abroad.

But American shale drillers refuse to drill more. Why? We will explain in our next video.

[Teatime with Transcript] Putin Arrests Intel Officers; Time for U.S. to Discourage this War to Be Fought to the Bitter End?

Simone Gao: (43:59)

I just saw from, uh, LinkedIn in, uh, a, a news broke out. This is not verified yet, uh, that Putin has, uh, put, um, one of his, uh, senior intelligence officer under house arrest, because he provided not good intelligence about Ukraine before the invasion. So Putin got the impression that the, the Ukrainian people will kind of, uh, even welcome this invasion as like a liberation act from Russia’s part, but it turned out that, uh, they were met with stiff resistance and the Ukrainian people do not like this invasion at all.

Michael Desch: (44:38)

Yeah. I mean, ID heard that story, um, earlier this morning, um, and again, um, you know, uh, I don’t have, uh, great sources in Moscow and I’m certainly not in pres president Putin’s head, uh, on what he was thinking. Um, I do think that, you know, the, the Russians hoped, uh, that, you know, by, uh, a use of military force, they might be able to, uh, cut out, uh, or, uh, scare the Ukrainians, uh, without much fighting, um, you know, and I think that’s what they hoped initially. Um, but I also don’t think that they, uh, were counting on that. I mean, the size of the, uh, force that the Russians built up, uh, you know, look like they were preparing that if things didn’t work out, that they would, uh, you know, go to war and, uh, fight, uh, for what they’re trying to achieve.

Simone Gao: (45:48)

Hmm. In other words, they’re very, they have great resolute. They have a great result.

Michael Desch: (45:56)

Well, we’ll see, you know, how long that resolve holds because, um, you know, uh, there are certainly significant casualties, um, and the war is going slowly, although, you know, no war goes quickly. If you look at, uh, when the United States invaded Iraq in, uh, 2003 in late March, it wasn’t until, um, may, uh, early may that, you know, we sort of declared victory there. So, and, you know, of course our advantage militarily over Iraq was, uh, significantly greater than the Russian advantage over the Ukraine.

Simone Gao: (46:42)

Hmm that’s right. So this is gonna be a long war. And do

Michael Desch: (46:46)

You, it could be,

Simone Gao: (46:48)

Do you see, uh, Putin give up at some point or he thought he wouldn’t get what he originally expected? So he would adjust his goals, like, like there, uh, three demands from, um, the criminal recently. I’m sorry.

Michael Desch: (47:09)

Yeah. Um, again, one would hope that, uh, that would be the, uh, the case, the, you know, war, um, is bloody and terrible as it is as, uh, you know, the German, uh, uh, philosopher of war, uh, KLAS famously argued. It’s a continuation of politics by other means and a continuation of diplomacy and bargaining. Um, and sometimes, uh, you know, uh, before a war two potential combatants, uh, you know, aren’t sure, uh, what the balance of power is between the two sides and the balance of resolve. And so they go to war and war in a way clarifies that, and that makes negotiation possible. And that’s what we’ve gotta hope comes out of, uh, this.

Simone Gao: (48:13)

Right. Um, why did you think Putin make the military move now?

Michael Desch: (48:21)

I, I think, um, you know, they, the Russian military was watching the, uh, uh, build up, uh, and improvement to the Ukrainian military and, you know, was, um, you know, uh, understood that, uh, the longer, um, they waited the, uh, more capable that force might be. It’s also possible that they feared that a better armed and better trained Ukrainian military, um, you know, could, uh, go on the offensive in the Don boss and maybe even, uh, Crimea.

Simone Gao: (49:03)

Okay. And do you think, um, president Biden and our disastrous exit of, uh, from Afghanistan as the play does all?

Michael Desch: (49:14)

No. I mean, the, uh, president Putin is well aware that, uh, uh, a lot of, uh, great powers have, uh, left Afghanistan with their tails between their legs, whether to the British empire and the 19 nine or in the, uh, 19th century, uh, or, uh, Russia in the, or the Soviet union in the 1990s, uh, or, uh, the United States. So, no, I don’t, I don’t think that they put connected those two things.

Simone Gao: (49:49)

Hmm. That’s interesting. So, um, let’s talk about the, um, recent Russia demanded three things now, neutrality for Ukraine, decriminalization of the country. Let me say this again. Russia demanded three things now, uh, neutrality for Ukraine of the country recognition of breakaway regions and loss of crime. First, all does Ukraine cannot have a military?

Michael Desch: (50:28)

Well, um, uh, neutral Finland, um, had a, uh, a military, a small military, but, uh, a capable one, um, Japan after the second world war, uh, you know, uh, the United eights rewrote its constitution. So, uh, it couldn’t have a military, it had self defense forces. So, um, I, and again, not knowing how the Russians would define it, but, you know, I think, uh, de militarized, uh, Ukraine would not mean Ukraine without any military capability. That’s certainly possible

Simone Gao: (51:13)

Maybe put purposely, uh, I mean, maybe put in intentionally, put this term, do not explain this term very much, very clearly. So it has a room to adjust and step

Michael Desch: (51:29)

In. Right, right. And that’s the art of democracies to use, uh, ambiguity creatively.

Simone Gao: (51:38)

Right. Uh, but I mean, in either sense, do you think Ukraine will accept a terms like that? The militarization of the country? Uh,

Michael Desch: (51:50)

Uh, not in the sense that, uh, you know, it would have no defensive military capability. I mean, if, uh, what the Russians expect is Ukraine to become Costa Rica, which doesn’t have an army, uh, that it seems to me, a nonstarter probably was before the war, but now in the war, it certainly is.

Simone Gao: (52:17)

Hmm. Based on Russia’s,

Michael Desch: (52:19)

But that, but, uh, just to finish the thought, uh, that doesn’t mean that, um, limits on its military would be, uh, unacceptable.

Simone Gao: (52:31)

Hmm. Based on Russia’s, uh, demands right now. Can we tell what Putin’s real goals are in Ukraine, for example, is it to prevent a NATO expansion into Ukraine or to, you know, revive the so-called Russian empires glory by reclaiming lost land or divert, uh, domestic pressure political pressures, uh, or all of them, because, uh, put this facing reelection in 2004, uh, 2024,

Michael Desch: (53:03)

Well, you know, uh, political acts like this are always the result of, uh, multiple factors and all of those things could be a part of the calculation. The important question, which we can’t really answer is what’s the relative importance of each of them I would’ve guessed. And I think I would still guess that, um, prime in, uh, Putin’s mind is gone. It’s part of Russia. I think he would negotiate a way, uh, Hans and Donette as part of, uh, some sort of, uh, federal arrangement in Ukraine. Um, and I think he’d do it for two reasons. You know, I don’t think he wants to next those, uh, uh, republics to Russia. Um, you know, they they’d be almost more troubled than there were, but I think he also count on, you know, the more pro Russian people in those countries as, uh, being, uh, a check on the, uh, you know, the pro Western, uh, elements of Ukrainian, uh, society.

Michael Desch: (54:23)

Um, so, and I trying to control all of Ukraine, I think would be impossible for Russia. I think even the area east of the Neer, um, is gonna be very hard, uh, for Russia to occupy and control. Um, and the further there west, you go in Ukraine, uh, the more overwhelmingly pro Western and anti-US the sentiment of the population becomes. So I find it hard to, uh, believe, um, that, uh, Putin, you know, thinks that Russia could control all of Ukraine and, you know, the fate of, uh, uh, Ukrainian president Yna Kovi indicates that installing a puppet and Kiev, uh, is not a reliable strategy that, you know, they could be ousted as he was, uh, by the myON uprising or voted out of office. Um, and so if, if he’s thinking about this whole thing, uh, in a rational, strategic way, uh, the end game would be, uh, a negotiation, um, that, uh, limits, uh, the size of the Ukrainian military force and keeps it out of NATO. Um, but you know, once wars begin, they take on a dynamic of their own. Um, and also my, uh, more optimistic scenario depends on some assumptions about Putin’s mindset that, you know, we can’t know if they’re right or not, but that’s my instinct.

Simone Gao: (56:13)

Hmm. So do you think, um, I understand, uh, you, you think, uh, that Putin from the very beginning never thought, um, never thought that he could, Russia could occupy the whole Ukraine, but what, what about his, uh, three demands? Do you think those demands are, are his goals always, or they have changed because the outcome of from the battlefield is not what he has expected so far?

Michael Desch: (56:43)

Well, the, the one demand you didn’t mention is, uh, what he calls deification. Um, and, uh, you know, that’s

Simone Gao: (56:54)

The most talk about that anymore.

Michael Desch: (56:56)

Pardon?

Simone Gao: (56:58)

I mean, um, from the recent, the latest Kremlin spokeswoman, uh, from the latest, uh, uh, claim, um, I mean the latest claim from the Russia side did not include the, the deification anymore.

Michael Desch: (57:15)

Right. And that’s an important, uh, modification of demands. I mean, that, uh, demand was always is, uh, you know, both the most amorphous, you know, what exactly, uh, were the Russians talking about in terms of, uh, you know, Nazis and Ukraine, um, and also potentially, you know, the most difficult to deal with because, you know, if you were equating, uh, Nazi with Ukrainian nationalism, that would be the majority of the Ukrainian people. So, um, you know, the, the it’s, uh, a good thing that, that seems to be moving off the agenda.

Simone Gao: (57:59)

Hmm. So Putin is adjusting, his goals

Michael Desch: (58:03)

Seems like it. Yeah.

Simone Gao: (58:08)

Um, now the EU accepted Ukraine as a member, how is that going to change things?

Michael Desch: (58:15)

Not at all.

Simone Gao: (58:18)

Okay. Why

Michael Desch: (58:19)

It could, uh, make a difference in terms of, uh, postwar, um, Ukraine, which, you know, will make available to Ukraine, even more resources to, uh, rebuild the country. Um, and maybe, you know, uh, a, uh, a deal could emerge in which the Ukrainians, um, you know, uh, are given by the Russians or allowed by the Russians EU membership, uh, in exchange for, um, NATO membership, not being on the table. Um, and you know, that could be part of a, uh, uh, a settlement.

Simone Gao: (59:08)

(twitter clip)Um, although, uh, the Ukrainian army has made a great, I mean, although Putin has met, um, you know, unexpected a stiff resistance from the Ukrainian armies and, uh, civilians, but the Ukrainian armies are not winning either. So as time goes on, do you think America and NATO should still encourage Ukraine to fight to the end?

Michael Desch: (59:39)

I think that’s the, uh, the big question, um, you know, both strategically and morally, uh, that we in the west, um, need to, uh, engage candidly. Um, and I’ll, I’ll premise what I say, uh, with the assumption that, uh, Russia, uh, can continue to bring overwhelming military force and that the ability of the Ukrainian army even, uh, with, uh, Western military support to continue to fight, uh, you know, at the level of intensity they are, are now, uh, is gonna decline. And also just the human cost of this war, uh, on Ukrainian civilians, uh, continues to, uh, to be catastrophic. So if you, the, if the Ukrainians cannot win militarily, which I don’t believe they can, um, and if prolonging the war means, uh, more, uh, Ukrainian civilian deaths, then it seems to me, uh, you know, we ought to be thinking, uh, about ending the conflict as soon as we can. And that can all only end, uh, by a quick defeat, which I don’t think will happen by either side or, uh, by a negotiated settlement. I think, uh, we really need to be, uh, pushing towards a negotiated settlement.

Simone Gao: (01:01:19)

Hmm. But now it doesn’t seem like that’s a America is trying to do. I think it’s almost, uh, politically impossible to walk back from the current stance that, uh, Putin is imoral invader. Uh, we need to support the Ukrainians to fight, to, to win this battle, to fight to the end, to show the, and all that stuff. It’s very important. It’s very, it’s almost impossible to walk back from that stance and say,

Michael Desch: (01:01:50)

You’re, you’re right. It’ll be very difficult. We’ve painted ourself into a corner, um, you know, uh, in, in making exactly those arguments. Um, on the other hand, uh, very few wars are fought to the bitter end and eventually, um, you know, uh, people are even in the, uh, United States are gonna come to the conclusion, um, that there’s gonna have to be, uh, some sort of settlement. And I would think that, um, if it hasn’t already started in the Biden administration, uh, it will soon, um, that, you know, pressure to, uh, think about, uh, negotiated off ramp for this war.

Simone Gao: (01:02:42)

Hmm. Okay. And you, you see, uh, that is the only way out of this.

Michael Desch: (01:02:49)

Yeah. Well, and look, um, president Biden, courageously in my view, uh, stuck with the withdrawal all from Afghanistan, even though, uh, he got a lot of criticism for it, not only in the chaotic weeks before and after the evacuation of cobble, but, you know, when he started talking about it, but, you know, the American public was just tired of the war, um, after 20 years. Um, and, uh, the stomach, uh, of the, uh, not only the American public, but the European public, uh, for this war, uh, is, uh, you know, going to, uh, wither, um, over time as well, you know, right now in Poland, um, you know, to their credit, uh, they’re welcoming, I think, over a million now, uh, Ukrainian refugees, but, you know, over time with more Ukrainian refugees, that’s gonna put more of a burden, uh, on Poland or Romania or Hungary. And, and, uh, they’re gonna get tired of that. Um, and so, uh, and I think the, you know, the Ukrainian people are gonna get tired of it as well, too. So, uh, a solution that maintains Ukrainian sovereignty and, uh, especially in domestic politics, uh, you know, could be attractive, whether it is now or not. Uh, I’m not sure, but I think it will become so as the war grinds on.

[Teatime with Transcript] Why Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Is Forever on the Way?

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Zooming In China Tea Time. I’m Simone Gao.

Just days ahead of the Chinese New Year, the start to the year of the Tiger, state-owned CCTV and the CCP Disciplinary Inspection Commission revealed their five-part documentary series on Chinese corruption. “Zero Tolerance” features former Chinese officials from behind bars, revealing the causes of their corruption and their deep regret over their crimes against the country. 

Those alleged crimes are substantial, and the punishments are even more so. One episode features Hu Huaibang, a former head at China Development Bank, who was sentenced to life in prison for bribery. Wang Fuyu, who said in his episode that “my crazy greed is at its peak, but I don’t know why I want money,” was sentenced one day after his episode aired. The sentence imposed for allegedly accepting 434 million yuan (about 68 million U.S. dollars) in bribes? He received the death penalty, suspended for two years at which point it will be commuted to life in prison.  

The premier was broadcast on Saturday, January 15th, during primetime, showing the importance of this campaign—and its reach to the Chinese citizens it hopes to convert. The first episode, titled “Not Losing 1.4 Billion,” focuses on Sun Lijun and sets the tone for the series, with Sun claiming that he “didn’t expect that I would become a destroyer of the construction of the rule of law or fairness and justice.” Sun Lijun was once the vice public security minister and is said to have received bribes in excess of 14 million US dollars. He is also currently facing charges related to stock manipulation and gun possession.

It is the 1.4 billion citizens of China that Xi, according to this propaganda series, is claiming to protect through his anti-corruption campaign. In the beginning of the first episode, Xi says “If you don’t offend hundreds of corrupt officials, you must offend 1.4 billion people.” Clearly, in order to achieve stability for the regime, the majority of the Chinese people need to be pacified. They need to be persuaded. They need to believe that the CCP, and Xi Jinping in particular, are working for them by removing corrupt officials. The series also aims to “kill the chicken to scare the monkey,” as they say in China. It aims to take power and momentum away from any of Sun’s associates who may intend to oppose Xi through the political or legal systems. It says, in essence, that your boss is down. The trend is over. You have no path forward. Obediently disarm and surrender before the 20th National Congress. 

Should we believe that Sun Lijun and the others featured in this series completely disarmed and surrendered? I believe so. Analysts are saying that Sun’s indictment has shrunk recently, showing a much smaller list of crimes than that originally reported by the party. That may be because of his cooperation with the party both on this documentary and, potentially, on turning over names of his associates in order to atone for his own wrongdoing. Censorship within the party focuses on political issues, like overly inflated political ambitions, but the party cannot punish opponents on the basis of political opposition. Instead, they bring charges often relating to bribery and often punished by life imprisonment. 

Why might Xi have opted to begin this series with Sun Lijun? Perhaps because of the outsized threat he posed to Xi. Sun was the youngest deputy minister of the Ministry of Public Security. He had clear political potential and advantages. Alongside those advantages came ambition. Sun developed a “15-year plan” for himself, striving to improve in five-year increments. 

Sun opted for five years chunks because the party congress of the Communist Party of China is held every five years. At that time, CCP officials from central government all the way down to local governments change ranks, and the promotion of officials is rushed during this period. If you are not promoted, you are likely to face a five year wait for another opportunity or, worse, lose the opportunity because you have aged out of the appointment. In the CCP system, cadres of the Communist Party are appointed by age. 

In Sun’s case, he designed steps very likely looked like this: in the first five years, when the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is held in 2022, he would become Minister of the Ministry of Public Security; in the second five years, in 2027, he would become the deputy secretary of the Political and Legal Committee and enter the central politburo; and, in 2032, he would become a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, perhaps even becoming chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. At that point, he would be 64 and would be able to serve one term.  

Ambitions such as these would be normal, in a political system where the leader would be replaced after his stated two terms. But that was never Xi Jinping’s intention. And now, because Xi remains in his position and the key positions of the CCP leadership would be stuffed with confidants of Xi Jinping, others who also have their eyes on those positions often find themselves facing corruption charges. Xi will not rotate out his inner circle nor give up power himself. The ambitious have nowhere to go but to quietly fade from politics or be sent to Qincheng Prison on corruption charges. Qingcheng is a prison for jailing only high ranking CCP officials. 

The political and legal system is the top priority of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign to eliminate his challengers. Clearly, he will arrange for his own people to ascend to the top of key departments like the Ministry of Public Security which is under the Political and legal committee. While Sun Lijun was never a Xi Jinping confidant, I believe that he initially did try to please Xi in his role as deputy minister. In one example between October and December of 2015, five staff members from Causeway Books (located in Hong Kong) went missing and were believed to be detained in mainland China. The owner was among those kidnapped, and it has been suggested that the detainments came because of the bookstore’s sale of a book titled Xi Jinping and His Six Women. Sun Lijun would have been in a position to oversee those detainments at the time. Unfortunately for Sun, this move did not win Xi’s trust.

With Sun’s 15-year plan at odds with Xi Jinping’s ambitions, Sun Lijun had no political path forward. That would be difficult for a man like Sun to take. But the corruption charges were more likely tied to Sun’s leadership in the asssasination attempt of Xi Jinping. His role in the Ministry of Public Security provided him with access to local public security departments, especially those in Jiangsu, a site of an alleged assassination attempt on Xi Jinping. Others rumored to have played a part in that attempt were also featured in the “Zero Tolerance” documentary as the small gang of Sun Lijun.

But despite this group being named as the gang of Sun Lijun, a deputy minister of the Ministry of Public Security does not have the reach or resources to carry out a coup d’état alone. If the assassination was successful, there would need to be a new regime set to take over, including not only a replacement for Xi Jinping but the entire top leadership of the CCP. It would take players whose rank go beyond the political and legal systems in China to carry out such a coup. Who might those other players be? Because Sun was a member in the “Shanghai clique,” a group led by former CCP general secretary (and Xi Jinping rival) Jiang Zemin. Notable figures in  this clique become suspects. Such as Meng Jianzhu, the former head of the political and legal Committee and Zeng Qinghong, former member of the politburo’s standing committee, Jiang Zemin’s right hand man.  

Sun’s assasination attempt did not come out of the blue. It represents an escalation of opposition to Xi Jinping in the CCP leadership. The initial coup d’état attempts are believed to begin in the earliest moments of Xi Jinping’s regime. In 2012, Zhou Yongkang, secretary of the Political and Legal Committee, and Bo Xilai, former governor of Liaoning and an ambitious princeling, crafted a plan to oust Xi and make Bo the top leader of China. The plan was exposed, though, leading to Xi Jinping’s vow to vigorously eliminate their influence over the political and legal systems. 

Nearly a decade has passed, and Xi’s commitment to his anti-corruption campaign has not ceased. With more than 100,000 people indicted for corruption and more than 1.3 million lower-level officials punished since 2013, why is Xi unable to end the influence of the opposition within the CCP for such a long time? 

It is understandable that Xi would be so forceful and persistent in his attempt to end this opposition given that others were plotting his ouster even before he formally took power.  However, if all he had done was to round up those involved in that attempt, this likely would have ended. Those at fault were Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai and a very small number of accomplices. Had he punished only the guilty, others would not have given it a second thought.

Instead, Xi chose to purge the political and legal systems of anyone close to or promoted by Zhou. He assumed guilt by proximity. That assumption led to scores of others being punished where there was no crime or for crimes that were common practice even among Xi and his inner circle. 

Why do it then? Probably as a show of power, of prestige. He was just coming to power amid disagreement over whether he should even be the general secretary. His power was unstable, in part because of his few political achievements at the local level. With the attempted coup, the spotlight on his lack of authority and overt qualifications for this new role was even brighter. So, he deemed a show of force necessary to establish his rule over the political system of China.  

But there is problem. In the current CCP system, top leaders promote those who are below them and, in many cases, those promotions come through connections or interests. If you want to become the mayor of Hangzhou, you must bribe the secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee. Often, those bribes are in the tens of millions and are accompanied with an inspection to be sure that the leader finds you loyal. Where does that money come from? It comes from bribes paid to you from those below you or from kickbacks gained from major projects. There is no layer of the chain of CCP commands that is clean. 

As the top leaders fell in the anti-corruption campaign, lower-level players tended to join forces—not against Xi, but to defend themselves as one body. And as the anti-corruption campaign expanded, Xi pushed those on the sidelines who were simply looking to protect themselves into an alliance against him. Selective anti-corruption felt like a sword hanging over the heads of these officials who knew it could fall at any time because none of them were clean. 

And these people have no national law written in their hearts. Sun Lijun gives an example in “Zero Tolerance,” stating that after he became the deputy minister, he always ran red lights. He did so believing that red lights were meant to restrain ordinary people and, as the deputy minister, he should not be bound by them. This is an attitude that is common in the political and legal system, in ways well beyond the running of red lights. These officials believe there is nothing they cannot do, no matter who it is that is setting the restraints around them. The Sun Lijun clan is known to eavesdrop on the top CCP leadership, they record their conversations and even record videos of their private affairs. So, if these people begin to truly feel threatened, they are likely to take the risk and kill Xi Jinping. 

Those same reasons may be driving Xi to become more dangerous and less willing to step down. The more he takes this hard-handed approach to this corrupt system, the more enemies he creates. And the more enemies he creates, the more at risk he becomes. 

The 2018 revision of China’s constitution, removing the requirement that the president of the country step down after two five-year terms, ended the peaceful path to a transfer of power. This change affected more than just Xi Jinping himself. 

A perfect example is Sun Zhengcai. Sun’s life can be summed up by the phrase “the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He was a rising star in Chinese politics, serving as a member of the politburo and mostly seen as Xi Jinping’s successor as the general secretary of the Party when Xi’s tenure was up. But when Xi decided not to step down, Sun’s existence became intolerable to Xi. Therefore, Sun was charged and convicted of bribery and received a common sentence among Xi’s opposition: life imprisonment. 

At a larger scale, the consequence of Xi using only people he knows and trusts from Zhijiang and Fujian provinces where he worked before is that the careers of most officials in the CCP will be negatively affected. Trusting only your own people does not even leave open the opportunity for others to defect to your faction. As a result, rising numbers within the CCP are becoming increasingly alienated, even antagonistic. 

That antagonism is likely to hit a breaking point at the upcoming party congress. As I mentioned earlier, every five years brings an intense struggle at the party congress when entire cadres are promoted. Should you miss the promotion at the right age, you are aged out of advancement in the political system and left with nowhere to go. Xi is not about to upset a handful of CCP leadership hopefuls. He is about to alienate thousands and create an even longer list of political enemies. Those who advanced together as cadres and have now been shoved aside as cadres are likely to unite against the Xi Jinping regime. 

So long as Xi continues with these tactics, he will continue to create ever-larger numbers of enemies. Doing so will ensure an endless battle against the opposition, one he claims as a war against corruption. Besides this, Xi’s vision of taking the country to a more closed future is at odds with the more reform-minded party majority. Getting rid of Xi Jinping becomes a common interest of all. 

That’s all for today.Thanks for watching Zooming In China. Please like, share, subscribe and donate to this program if you like my content. Also, head over to my membership site at zoomingin.tv. You can get video/audio formats of my shows, full transcripts, and in-depth reports available only to members. Just $5 a month, or $50 a year and you can cancel anytime. Please check it out.