Micronesian President Warns Against Chinese External Influence Operations

Federated States of Micronesian President David Panuelo.

Federated States of Micronesian President David Panuelo.

“I believe that our values are presently being used against us. One of the reasons that China’s political warfare is successful in so many arenas is that we are bribed to be complicit, bribed to be silent.”

According to the excerpted article from the Asia-focused outlet, The Diplomat, outgoing Micronesian President David Panuelo recently warned of Beijing’s efforts to shape his country’s external operational environment via “political warfare”[i]and “gray zone operations.” To mitigate the China’s influence, Panuelo suggested that Micronesia switch diplomatic allegiance from China to Taiwan in exchange for Taiwan providing Micronesia with $50 million. The 13-page warning[ii]  letter detailed Chinese covert, coercive, and corrupting influence activities in Micronesia, including bribery, spying, and other external interference. 

Panuelo provided examples stating a former Chinese ambassador had tried to bribe Vice President Palik with an envelope of cash to be seated in a place of prominence at a Chinese Embassy Banquet. When Palik refused, the Chinese ambassador said something to the effect of “you could be President someday.” At the July 2023 Pacific Islands Forum, Paneulo relayed that he was followed by a People’s Liberation Army intelligence officer stationed at the Chinese Embassy in Fiji. The letter also recounts Chinese efforts to manufacture international support for China at the China-Pacific Island Countries Political Dialogue by having a Micronesian private citizen represent the Micronesia when the Micronesian government declined to attend a meeting of the regional multilateral forum. In response to these claims, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson derided Panuelo’s assertions as “smear[s] and accusations…completely inconsistent with the facts,” adding Beijing has “always respected Micronesia’s development path that it has chosen in light of its own national conditions and has supported the Micronesian side in safeguarding its independence.” While it remains to be seen if Micronesia will pursue the diplomatic shift Panuelo proposed after he steps down from office, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has expressed concerns over the burden such “dollar diplomacy” would put on Taiwan.[iii]


“Micronesia’s President Writes Bombshell Letter on China’s ‘Political Warfare’,” The Diplomat (international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region), 10 March 2023. https://thediplomat.com/2023/03/micronesias-president-writes-bombshell-letter-on-chinas-political-warfare/

It is on this basis that Political Warfare and Grey Zone activity occur within our borders; China is seeking to ensure that, in the event of a war in our Blue Pacific Continent between themselves and Taiwan, that the FSM is, at best, aligned with the PRC (China) instead of the United States and, at worst, that the FSM chooses to ‘abstain’ altogether.

We understand that Mr. Wu [Beijing’s choice for ambassador to FSM] would, upon his arrival, be given the mission of preparing the FSM to shift away from its partnerships with traditional allies such as the U.S., Japan, and Australia. We know that Mr. Wu would expand PRC security activity, awareness, and interest in the FSM … I declined the Ambassador-designate his position … they’re simply awaiting the new President to take power so Mr. Wu can become the Ambassador of China to the FSM.

You can imagine my surprise when I was followed this past July in Fiji during the Pacific Islands Forum by two Chinese men; my further surprise when it was determined that they worked for the Chinese Embassy in Suva; my even further surprise when it was discovered that one of them was a PLA intelligence officer; and my continued surprise when I learned that I had multiple Cabinet and staff who had met him before, and in the FSM. To be clear: I have had direct threats against my personal safety from PRC officials acting in an official capacity.

Ambassador Qian was formerly the ambassador to Fiji – and by extension was the one responsible for  authorizing the two Chinese to follow me in Suva. ,,, Ambassador Qian also would have been present during the 2nd China-PICS Political Dialogue. That itself is noteworthy insofar as that was the public meeting where the FSM Government found itself represented not by myself or a Cabinet member or even a member of our Foreign Service – indeed not by anyone in our Government at all but, rather, a private citizen named Mr. Duhlen Soumwei. I said to the PRC that we would not have formal representation at the meeting, and the PRC went to the extent of taking one of our citizens and then publicly having that citizen formally represent us. To say it again: China has established a precedent of taking out private citizens in multilateral meetings to formally represent our country without our Government’s awareness or approval thereof.

In November, 2021 – after the Secretary of Health and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and myself had changed cellphone numbers due to incessant calls from Ambassador Huang – the FSM signed an agreement that we accept the Chinese vaccines. We included various stipulations, such as that they were to be used only for citizens of China in the FSM; but that wasn’t what China wanted. What China wanted was for the FSM to be on the list of countries that they could publicly promote as having accepted their vaccines. China got exactly what it wanted.

Senior officials and elected officials across the whole of our National and State Governments receive offers of gifts as a means to curry favor. The practical impact of this is that some senior officials and elected officials take actions that are contrary to the FSM‘s national interest, but are consistent with the PRC‘s national interests.

This isn’t rare. This happens all the time, and to most of us – not just some of us. It is at this point that I relay, simply as a point of information, that 39 out of 50 members of Parliament in Solomon Islands received payments from China prior to their vote on postponing elections that were otherwise scheduled for this year. Have you personally received a bribe from the PRC? If the answer is “no,” you are in the minority.When we sent our own patrol boats to our own Exclusive Economic Zone to check on PRC research vessel activity, the PRC sent a warning for us to stay away.


[i] Political warfare [政治战] seeks to mobilize and utilize the spectrum of strategic resources (party, state, military, commercial, and civilian) to influence the conduct, policies, motives, and perceptions of foreign actors in a manner favorable to the strategic objectives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Political warfare differs from public diplomacy in its lack of transparency and calculated manipulation of a target to influence its norms, policies, and strategies through inducive and coercive methods of persuasion. For a more detailed exploration of the CCP’s political warfare and political work concepts, see: Mark Stokes and Russell Hsiao, “The People’s Liberation Army General Political Department: Political Warfare with Chinese Characteristics,” Project 2049 Institute, 14 October 2013, https://project2049.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/P2049_Stokes_Hsiao_PLA_General_Political_Department_Liaison_101413.pdf and for more on the PLA’s conception of political warfare, see: Peter Mattis, “China’s ‘Three Warfares’ in Perspective,” War on the Rocks, 30 January 2018. https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/chinas-three-warfares-perspective/

[ii] For the full report see: LinkedIn Post, 10 March 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/cleopaskal_panuelo-letter-on-switch-to-taiwan-prc-activity-7039672476045340672-8RmJ/

[iii] “MOFA Response to Comments that Taiwan is Seeking New Allies through ‘Dollar Diplomacy’,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of China (Taiwan), 10 March 2023. https://en.mofa.gov.tw/News_Content.aspx?n=1330&s=99863

Image Information:

Image: Federated States of Micronesian President David Panuelo
Source: https://www.fsmgov.org/ngovt.html
Attribution: Public Domain

Chinese Military Researchers Debut “Precision Strike” Concept for Cognitive Domain Operations

Cognitive Change Cycle with Precision Strike in Cognitive Domain Operations.

Cognitive Change Cycle with Precision Strike in Cognitive Domain Operations.

“The continuous application of artificial intelligence, big data, and other technologies [equip] the technically advantaged party with the ability to swiftly and efficiently collect cognitive data and then discover the weaknesses, sensitivities, and points of ignition in the adversary’s cognitive system.”

Researchers with China’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT)[i] recently published an article outlining a framework for “precision strike” in covert efforts by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) to shape foreign audiences’ perceptions and behaviors. While the article is not singularly authoritative, the concept of precision strike broadly represents a military framing of the Chinese Communist Party’s “precise communication”[ii] external propaganda strategy, which uses consumer data to segment target audiences so that messaging can be crafted to successfully influence those audiences’ perceptions and behaviors.

In the NUDT researchers’ concept, behavioral data collection and algorithmic targeting enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and machine learning (ML) technologies are seen as the “fuel” and “engine” of cognitive domain operations. They facilitate the monitoring, collection, analysis, and evaluation of a target audience to sketch an “intelligent portrait” of its beliefs, values, opinions, and behaviors over time. Dynamic pool-based labeling[iii] and ML predictive models can then identify changing cognition and can suggest a time and place to inject bespoke messaging to maximize the impact of its messaging.

The authors assert tailored content is the “ammunition” of precision strike cognitive domain operations. The authors suggest that tailored content should match an audience’s cognitive profile to core messaging themes that align with their values. These may include legal persuasion, military deterrence, contradiction and diversion, emotional appeal, righteous guidance, and martial mobilization.[iv] The authors further conceive that such messaging could be used to build “information cocoons,”[v] or insulated and self-reinforcing media ecosystems that limit a target audience’s exposure to outside information. However, they do not suggest solutions for how Chinese propaganda and cognitive warfare practitioners could overcome what Chinese strategic communications experts often refer to as Western dominance in the international media layout,[vi] or the fact that Western media and social media platforms have effectively monopolized international news feeds through first mover advantages.

Finally, the NUDT researchers consider social media to be both the “delivery vehicle and battlefield” for cognitive domain precision strikes. The authors assert Western social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, are the key arena where China is competing for the hearts and minds of overseas audiences. Specifically, they assert Facebook is used for agenda-setting (what the authors call “preempting”),[vii] while Twitter and YouTube are used for coordinating actions and disseminating content, respectively, which the authors call “bombardment.” Precision strike’s parallels to precision communication showcases the degree to which PLA information and psychological operations are informed by the CCP’s propaganda work. While detailed open-source analysis of PLA information and psychological operations planning remains scant, analysis of China’s broader propaganda ecosystem can inform information operations and psychological operations practitioners as to how the PLA will seek to influence foreign audiences in the future.


“如何实现认知域作战精准打击? (How to Achieve Precision Strike in Cognitive Domain Operations?),” PLA Daily (official news outlet of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army), 13 March 2023. http://www.81.cn/yw_208727/16209631.html

Cognitive domain operations should grasp the rhythm and strength of “temporal immersion” – select the right delivery time according to the target’s cognitive dynamics, and gradually seek to expand the effects. Before the target audience forms an initial understanding of an event, we should seize the priority of information dissemination and “bombard” them with information to strive to “preempt.” In addition, during the fermentation stage of an event, when the subject’s cognition is not yet solidified, repeated dissemination of specified information can achieve the purpose of subconsciously reconstructing the subject’s cognition.


[i] The National University of Defense Technology (NUDT, 中国人民解放军国防科技大学) oversees some of China’s top computer sciences, cyber, information and communications engineering, and intelligence portfolios. For more on NUDT, see: National University of Defense Technology (中国人民解放军国防科技大学), in China Defense Universities Tracker, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), 23 November 2019. https://unitracker.aspi.org.au/universities/national-university-of-defense-technology/

[ii] For more on precise communication and the CCP’s broader external propaganda strategy, see: Devin Thorne, “1 Key for 1 Lock: The Chinese Communist Party’s Strategy for Targeted Propaganda,” Recorded Future, 28 September 2022. https://go.recordedfuture.com/hubfs/reports/ta-2022-0928.pdf

[iii] “Dynamic pool-based labeling,” or “label pooling” (标签池) is a category of machine learning algorithms and subset of semi-supervised learning that ranks all unlabeled instances according to informativeness measurement and selects the best queries to annotate. The authors reference Cambridge Analytica as a model of such methods.

[iv] The authors do not distinguish between cognitive domain operations for overseas audiences and domestic. However, CCP researchers have discussed elements of legal persuasion in the context of sovereign claims over disputed territories. PLA researchers have frequently asserted its messaging can serve to mobilize domestic will-to-fight as a deterrence mechanism to weaken foreign audiences’ resolve to fight and win. Recent PLA propaganda research asserts that Syria’s use of women and children in anti-foreign intervention emotional appeals has successfully impacted support for foreign intervention.

[v] “Information cocoon” (信息茧房) refers to the phenomenon that people’s attention to information domains is likely to be habitually guided by their interests, and thus their exposure and consumption of novel ideas.

[vi] International media layout (国际媒体布局), as opposed to international media structure (国际媒体格局), refers to the strength, structure, and strategy of (in this context) a country’s international media penetration and influence.

[vii] PLA researchers broadly recognize the influence of first impressions and identify first-mover advantages as key to winning in the cognitive domain.

Image Information:

Image: Cognitive Change Cycle with Precision Strike in Cognitive Domain Operations
Source: Created by Author
Attribution: Image by Thomas Shrimpton

China Developing Ultra-Low Earth Orbit Satellites With Possible Military Applications

Flatpack Starlink communications satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Flatpack Starlink communications satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“Compared with traditional orbits, ultra-low orbits can effectively reduce satellite development and launch costs, improve efficiency in collecting and transmitting data, and is suitable for satellite mass production with high-frequency launches.”

The following excerpt from Science & Technology Daily, the official newspaper of China’s Ministry of Science & Technology, quotes a senior leader of one of China’s main developers[i] of space and missile technologies discussing ultra-low earth orbit satellites, which could potentially be used for military applications. The article notes that ultra-low orbits range between 150-300 km. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is typically defined as orbits at an altitude between 160-1000 km; the “Kármán line” at 100 km above sea level is typically used to describe where space begins.

As explained by Song Xiaoming, President of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation’s Second Academy, China plans to begin testing ultra-low-earth orbit satellites in September 2023. These satellites have higher revisit rates and can achieve superior or equal resolution in imaging at lower costs in both financial and weight terms, allowing mass production. Separate reporting claims that a manufacturing facility for the satellites could produce upwards of 240 such satellites per year.

Spacecraft in ultra-low and low-earth orbits experience greater drag from the atmosphere than those in higher orbits, shortening their service life. Two efforts could help address these issues: miniature engines to raise their orbits, and orbital refueling to replenish maneuver and altitude-control thrusters. Chinese media reports suggest that progress has already been made in these areas. In September 2022, China successfully completed tests of Hall thrusters on its satellites, raising the altitude of a satellite in LEO by nearly 300 km.[ii] Hall-effect thrusters use magnetic fields to ionize and accelerate propellants at very efficient levels with minimal weight requirements, making them optimal for spacecraft. China reportedly first tested on-orbit refueling in 2016 with the Tianyuan-1 satellite.[iii] China has also recently tested orbital sails, which help de-orbit debris, as well as improved data-transmission satellites, space-based debris detection satellites, and other technologies.[iv]  If successful, the development of ultra-low earth orbit satellite constellations will further improve the revisit rate and volume of satellite imagery it is able to gather. However, the rapid revisit times, high-resolution imagery, quick manufacturing, and mass launch capabilities of satellites into these orbits strongly suggest they could be used for military applications as well.


“宋晓明委员:超低轨卫星星座首发星在研制 9月具备发射条件” (Committee Member Song Xiaoming: First Ultra-Low Earth Orbit Satellite is Under Development; Launch Planned for September), Science & Technology Daily [科技日报] (Official newspaper of PRC Ministry of Science & Technology [MOST]), 3 March 2023. http://digitalpaper.stdaily.com/http_www.kjrb.com/kjrb/html/2023-03/03/content_549908.htm?div=-1  According to Song Xiaoming, President of CASIC’s Second Academy, his institution is currently developing satellites for an ultra-low orbit satellite constellation, the first of which is planned for launch in September. After being placed into orbit, tests of key technologies are planned, including flight technology, high-resolution ground imaging, on-board intelligent processing, and information transmission to user terminals. Ultra-low orbit usually refers to an orbit at an altitude of 150-300 kilometers. Compared with traditional orbits, ultra-low orbits can effectively reduce satellite development and launch costs, improve efficiency in collecting and transmitting data, and is suitable for satellite mass production with high-frequency launches. Satellites in lower orbits can achieve the same resolution as satellites in higher orbits at a significant reduction in weight and cost. During the “14th Five-Year Plan” period (2021-2025), China proposed development of a remote sensing space infrastructure system with global coverage and efficient operation. Song Xiaoming said that in the face of urgent requirements such as higher resolution, shorter revisit cycles, and faster transmission speed, the Second Academy used its institutional advantages in small satellite, low-earth orbit communications and intelligent manufacturing to quickly carry out research on ultra-low orbits. The development of ultra-low orbit satellite constellations is intended to achieve similar performance as traditional satellite systems at lower costs and with a faster response time superior to other satellites. Other goals involve mass production and efficient, high tempo launches.


[i] China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation’s (中国航天科工) Second Academy [二院] has historically had responsibility for the development of surface-to-air missiles. See: Peter Wood, Alex Stone China’s Ballistic Missile Industry, China Aerospace Studies Institute (Affiliated with USAF Air University), 11 May 2021. https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/CASI/documents/Research/PLARF/2021-05-11%20Ballistic%20Missile%20Industry.pdf

[ii] “我国电推进系统首次完成低轨卫星升轨任务 (China’s Electric Propulsion System Carried Out Altitude Raising Mission for Low-Earth Orbit Satellites for First Time),” Xinhuanet, 21 September 2022.


[iii] The name of the satellite translates literally “space resources No. 1.” Wang Yaowen [王握文] Zhang Feibo [章飞钹], “我国实现在轨卫星 ‘太空加油’ (China Achieves ‘Space Refueling’ with a satellite in Orbit),” PLA Daily (the official newspaper of PRC military), 1 July 2016. http://www.81.cn/201311jxjjh/2016-07/01/content_7182369.htm

[iv] See: Peter Wood, “China Debuts New Space Capabilities,” OE Watch, 10-2022. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/427695

Image Information:

Image: Flatpack Starlink communications satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Starlink_Mission_%2847926144123%29.jpg
Attribution: CC0, 24 May 2019

China Developing Improved Equipment for Deep Sea, Polar Exploration

Drift ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean as seen from the deck of icebreaker Xue Long.

Drift ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean as seen from the deck of icebreaker Xue Long.

“The Xuelong 2 is like a mobile laboratory at sea, sailing into many areas that were inaccessible in the past.”

China regards deep-sea[i] areas and polar regions as critical to its future development due to their abundant resources. President Xi Jinping even included them in his Holistic National Security Concept, which lays out domains that he regards as critical to China’s development and national security.[ii] However, both deep-sea exploration and polar regions pose significant technical challenges due to the extreme pressure or weather conditions encountered. As the following excerpts explain, China has made significant progress in overcoming these challenges.

The first excerpted article, from an early March 2023 edition of the official newspaper of China’s Ministry of Science & Technology, examines some of the equipment China has completed or is developing to explore deep sea and polar regions as part of its efforts to become a powerful maritime country. The article focuses on two technologies: icebreakers and deep-sea drilling rigs. The Xue Long 1 [GRLCUT(1] and Xue Long 2 [GRLCUT(2] icebreakers, originally based on a Ukrainian design, have improved China’s ability to explore polar regions. The article cites an acoustic engineer with experience studying polar environments, who highlighted how the Xuelong 2 had opened many previously inaccessible areas to exploration.

The latter half of the article focuses on deep sea drilling, noting the advances made with the “Manatee II” deep sea drilling rig, which is reportedly capable of operating at depths of 2,000 m or more and has set world records by drilling over 200 m into the ocean floor. A major priority for exploitation by this and future rigs is “combustible ice,” a mixture of frozen water and natural gas present on the sea floor in the deep sea. According to the article, the Manatee II has carried out exploration missions searching for combustible ice in many areas surrounding China, as well as for traditional offshore oil and gas deposits. Due to the experience from operating the Manatee, China has improved its technologies in this niche but important area, and the first of China’s next generation of deep-sea drilling ships is expected to be completed in 2024.[iii] It will reportedly be capable of drilling in waters deeper than 10,000 m.[iv] The minerals and natural gas potentially recoverable by these drills could create an economic bonanza and help China offset its reliance on imported energy.   The second article is based on an interview with Sun Bo, Party Secretary of the China Polar Research Center Polar Research Institute of China, which is part of China’s Ministry of Natural Resources. Sun Bo noted how vital China’s second icebreaker, the Xuelong 2, completed in 2019,[v] has been for China’s polar exploration efforts, highlighting that having two icebreakers now allows China to effectively support research teams at both poles at the same time. While these articles underscore how China has clearly made important strides in overcoming technical bottlenecks, it might now face legal ones. The UN recently concluded negotiations about exploiting biological and mineral resources on the high seas, which might constrain China’s activities in polar and deep-sea regions.[vi]


He Liang [何亮], “科技扬帆,引领海洋探索挺进深蓝” (Science and Technology Set Sail, Setting a Course for Ocean Exploration into the Deepest Blue Sea), Science & Technology Daily [科技日报] (Official newspaper of PRC Ministry of Science & Technology [MOST]), 6 March 2023. http://digitalpaper.stdaily.com/http_

Accelerating [China’s] development into a maritime great power and making good use of marine resources is not possible the important support of science and technology. To protect the marine ecological environment, it is necessary to strengthen basic research and fully understand the ocean’s riches; to develop marine resources, it is necessary to address the urgent requirements of improving development of technologies and equipment of scientific research for technology and equipment, and concentrate efforts to develop more “national strategic weapons.”[i]

“With the help of more and more advanced equipment, China’s polar scientific research has maritime, land and aerial capabilities.” Yin Jingwei [殷敬伟], vice president of Harbin Engineering University[ii], has long been engaged in research on polar acoustic technology….According to Yin [Xuelong 2’s] superior ice-breaking capabilities allow more scientific research facilities and supplies to be transported into the Antarctic regions. “It is like a mobile laboratory at sea, sailing into many areas that were inaccessible in the past.”

As of September 28, 2021, China has completed 12 Arctic expeditions. However, China is not an Arctic nation, and its deep-sea and polar-related research work started relatively late compared to other countries, and its support capabilities have also been limited to a certain extent. There are still many weak links and capabilities in the fields of polar science and technology research, polar equipment development, and deep-sea polar exploration. missing.

Yin Jingwei told the Science and Technology Daily reporter of that China does not yet have nuclear-powered icebreakers and underwater equipment capable of breaking ice in the polar regions, and the ability to collect maritime below the ice is also very weak. Additional efforts are needed to overcome technological and environmental hurdles to move forward.

“深耕新疆域,推动极地科考再上新台阶——海洋领域专家谈建设海洋强国” (Exploring New Frontiers and Taking Polar Scientific Research to a New Level—Maritime Experts Discuss Building a Maritime Great Power), Science & Technology Daily [科技日报] (Official newspaper of PRC Ministry of Science & Technology [MOST]), 19 January 2023 http://digitalpaper.stdaily.com/http_
www.kjrb.com/kjrb/html/2023-01/19/content_547740.htm?div=0In today’s world polar regions have become a “new frontier” for development and a focal point for global governance, a new high ground for technological competition, an area with new sea routes and a new source of resources. The China Polar Research Center of the Ministry of Natural Resources adheres to the principle of “understanding, protecting, and using” these regions proposed by General Secretary Xi Jinping, and is committed to providing support for China’s polar scientific research. China continues to improve its independent innovation capabilities and overall there is momentum to continue improvements. The China Polar Research Center independently built the “Xuelong 2” icebreaker with, filling a major gap in China’s capabilities required for polar scientific research and developed a way to use both the Xuelong and Xuelong two effectively in concert. This new pattern of “Double Xuelong” Polar exploration (one assigned to each polar region) has greatly improved the on-site support capabilities for China’s polar scientific investigations.


[i] Deep-sea areas are typically defined as those below 200 meters. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 80 percent of the Earth’s ocean floor remains unmapped and unexplored. “How much of the ocean have we explored?,” NOAA [Accessed March 2023]. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/exploration.html

[ii] See: Peter Wood, “China’s Holistic Security Concept Explained,” OE Watch, 07-2018. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-singular-format/275650

 [iii] The ship was developed by China State Shipbuilding Corporation’s (CSSC) 708 Research Institute and is subordinate to the China Geological Survey Bureau. The bureau also operates ships involved in mapping the seafloor in potential sensitive areas, which has drawn the alarm of nearby nations. See for example, Naoki Inoue, Tsukasa Hadano and Jun Endo, “Chinese survey ships straying into other nation’s EEZs, data shows”, Nikkei, 31 January 2021. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/South-China-Sea/Chinese-survey-ships-straying-into-other-nations-EEZs-data-shows

 [iv] “China’s first ultra-deepwater scientific research drilling ship achieved main hull penetration today” [我国首艘超深水科考钻探船今日实现主船体贯通], China Mining News [中国矿业报 ], 18 December 2022. https://www.cgs.gov.cn/xwl/ddyw/202212/t20221218_720062.html

 [v] See: Les Grau, “China Developing More High Latitude Equipment”, OE Watch, 11-2019. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/337636

 [vi] “UN delegates reach historic agreement on protecting marine biodiversity in international waters,” United Nations, 5 March 2023. https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/03/1134157   


 [i] This phrase, 国之重器, is frequently used to describe strategically impactful or game-changing weapons systems (ballistic missile submarines, aircraft carriers etc.,) and civilian technologies such as nuclear reactors.

 [ii] Harbin Engineering University is one of the “Seven Sons of National Defense,” which are universities that work closely with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Image Information:

Image: Drift ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean as seen from the deck of icebreaker Xue Long.
Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/Teadlased_j%C3%A4%C3%A4l.jpg
Attribution: Timo Palo, CC BY-SA 3.0

New Milestone in China’s Support for Egypt’s Space Program

Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt at Night (NASA, International Space Station Science, 10/28/2010).

Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt at Night (NASA, International Space Station Science, 10/28/2010).

We are achieving one of the main goals of Egypt, which is the localization of the satellite industry and technology … through this cooperation with China…”

Egypt’s domestic space program is slowly taking off, thanks in part to a modest Chinese investment that is likely to pay dividends for years to come.[i] The latest milestone in Sino-Egyptian space collaboration came in late February and early March 2023, when China launched into orbit two Egyptian-assembled, remote sensing, low-earth orbit satellites, Horus-1 and Horus-2. As remote sensing tools, the Horus satellites will have various uses for the Egyptian government, including monitoring the vast desert stretches that make up approximately 95 percent of the country’s surface. In space, they join two other Egyptian-owned satellites that were launched in 2019: EgyptSat A, a Russian-made earth-observation satellite, and Tiba 1 (Thebes 1), a French-made military communications satellite.[ii]

The accompanying excerpt from Egyptian news website El Watan cites the head of the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA), who explained on a popular morning TV show that cooperation with China had put Egypt on the road toward achieving one of its key goals in space, namely the “localization of the satellite industry and technology.” The Horus satellites were made at an assembly, integration, and testing center built with Chinese grant money. Egypt hopes to eventually have a satellite launch site and a series of control stations for indigenously produced satellites.[iii] The EgSA, which was established in 2019, has collaborative agreements with the space agencies of several countries; however, Chinese financing and know-how may be playing an outsized role in its early development. Chinese support for Egypt’s space program dovetails with investments in other information and communications technology sectors that could eventually lead to deepening bilateral cooperation on military satellite and communications technology. Last February, at the IDEX 2023 arms fair in Abu Dhabi, Egypt’s Arab Organization for Industrialization signed a deal with the China Aerospace Construction Group Company to “localize manufacturing technology in several defense industries fields, including co-producing a 3D radar to detect and track UAVs.”


“وكالة الفضاء المصرية: قمر «حورس 2» يستخدم في الكشف عن الثروات المعدنية

(Egyptian Space Agency: Horus-2 used to uncover mineral resources),” El Watan (Egyptian news website), 13 March 2023. https://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/6473128e The CEO of the Egyptian Space Agency continued: “We are achieving one of the main goals of Egypt, which is the localization of the satellite industry and technology. We are talking about a major goal in the national space program, one that was partially achieved through this cooperation with China”…


[i] The Chinese investment consists of three cumulative grants: $23 million in 2016, $45 million in 2018, and $72 million in 2019. See: “Egypt Commences Implementation Phase Of China-funded MisrSat II Satellite And AIT Centre,” al-Monitor, 9 September 2019. https://africanews.space/egypt-commences-implementation-phase-of-china-funded-misrsat-ii-satellite-and-ait-centre/

[ii] Egypt’s space program is still in its infancy, but its near-term ambitions should not be dismissed. A 100-acre tract of land has been set aside for “Space City” in the yet unfinished New Administrative Capital, to the east of Cairo. Space City hosts the African Space Agency (AfSA), whose headquarters were formally opened in January 2023. See: “African Space Agency formally inaugurated,” Spacewatch Africa, 30 January 2023. https://spacewatch.global/2023/01/african-space-agency-formally-inaugurated/

[iii] “Egypt considers space program,” al-Monitor, 28 September 2020. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2020/09/egypt-manufacture-satellite-launch-space-technology.html

Image Information:

Image:  Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt at Night (NASA, International Space Station Science, 10/28/2010)
Source:  NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/12868402644       
Attribution: CC 2.0

Taiwan Testing Satellite Program To Overcome Communications Vulnerabilities

“Taiwan’s network vulnerabilities are very real.”

Over the next two years, Taiwan plans to test a satellite program to ensure its command systems continue to operate should the country lose connectivity through its conventional links. As shown in the first article, according to the Singapore-based Straits Times, in September Taiwan Minister of Digital Affairs Audrey Tang announced the launch of a telecommunication network resilience plan. The article explains that international internet traffic currently relies heavily on fiber optic cables lining the ocean floor. There are 15 submarine data cables connecting Taiwan with the rest of the world. Taiwan would be cut off from the Internet should these cables be cut. According to the article, experts warn that Taiwan’s network vulnerabilities are very real.

As demonstrated in the second article from Chinese state-owned multi-language news source Xinhua, in President Xi Jinping’s speech kicking off the 20th National Congress in mid-October, Xi asserted that the Taiwan question remains an important matter for the China. He asserted that while China would continue to strive for peaceful reunification, it will not rule out the use of force. Such a message, it appears, could put even more urgency in Taiwan’s plans to improve its communications vulnerabilities.


Yip Wai Yee, “Taiwan Plans for Ukraine-Style Back-Up Satellite Internet Network Amid Risk of War,” The Straits Times (Singapore-based daily),22 September 2022. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/taiwan-plans-for-ukraine-style-back-up-satellite-internet-network-amid-risk-of-war

Over the next two years, (Taiwan) is set to trial a N[ew] T[aiwan]$550 million (US$24.67 million) satellite programme that aims to keep Taiwan’s command systems running if conventional connections get cut, Ms. Tang (Taiwan’s minister of Digital Affairs) said. Several Taiwan companies are now in discussions with international satellite service providers, she added, without providing details.

Currently, international Internet traffic is mostly carried through fibre-optic cables lining the ocean floor. Taiwan is connected to the world via 15 submarine data cables. “The Internet used in Taiwan relies heavily on undersea cables, so if (attackers) cut off all the cables, they would cut off all of the Internet there,” Dr Lennon Chang, a cyber-security researcher at Monash University, told The Straits Times. “It makes sense for the government to have alternative forms of communication ready for emergency situations,” he added.

Already, some analysts say that concerns over Taiwan’s network vulnerabilities are very real.

“(CPC Congress) CPC to Unswervingly Advance Cause of National Reunification: Xi,” Xinhua (Chinese state-owned multi-language news source), 16 October 2022. https://english.news.cn/20221016/29113f9cbf3247978534dd1f4aee299e/c.html

Xi Jinping said… the Communist Party of China (CPC) will implement its overall policy for resolving the Taiwan question in the new era, and unswervingly advance the cause of national reunification. “Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese,” said Xi at the opening session of the 20th CPC National Congress.

“We will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort, but we will never promise to renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary…

Xi said that the wheels of history are rolling on toward China’s reunification…