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submitted 10 months ago by HeapOfDogs@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

I can't seem to find anything in a sidebar or sticky thread that talks about the moderation / rules of the news community. I'm very interested in coming to this community to learn about news, but right now it seems whats being posted tends to be relatively low (lower?) quality.

Examples of common rules

  • Use the same titles as the article itself
  • No blog spam, link to the source
  • Political news, should go to the political community
  • No dupes of same topic

As an example, take a look at other news aggregators that focus on news.

My goal here isn't tell people what to do but its start a conversation on the topic.

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‘Adversaries know migration is our vulnerability,’ says Kaja Kallas, spelling out negative consequences to Europe of Ukrainian defeat

Vladimir Putin is seeking to weaponise the threat of mass migration to divide and weaken Europe as supporters of Ukraine struggle to maintain unity to defeat Russia, Kaja Kallas, the Estonian prime minister, says.

“What our adversaries know is migration is our vulnerability,” she said. “The aim is to make life really impossible in Ukraine so that there would be migration pressure to Europe, and this is what they are doing.”

Speaking in Tallinn on Friday, she said Russia had already created the migration pressure through disruption in Syria and in Africa via the Wagner group.

“I think we have to understand that Russia is weaponising migration. Our adversaries are weaponising migration.

“They push the migrants over the border, and they create problems for the Europeans because they weaponise this since with human rights, you have to accept those people. And that is, of course, water to the mill of the far right.”

Kallas admitted the plight of the Ukrainians on the front was “very serious” and European promises of extra weapons had not been delivered, something that could be rectified if Nato took charge of coordinating weapons delivery. “The problem is that our promises do not save lives,” she said.

Kallas is one of many European politicians trying to spell out the many negative consequences to Europe of a Ukrainian defeat, and rebut those who claim such a reverse could be contained.

She was speaking the day after the former Estonian president Toomas Ilves predicted that if Ukraine fell to Russia as many as 30 million Ukrainians would seek to flee. “That is the threat we face due to our inaction,” he said, adding that Europe had a “complete meltdown” when faced with 2 million refugees from the Middle East in 2015.

A pamphlet produced by pro-Ukrainian NGOs has detailed how Russian shelling between October 2022 and January 2023 had increased migration out of Ukraine by a quarter compared with the previous year.

The recent round of attacks has targeted electricity generation rather than transmission. Olena Halushka, board head at the international centre for a Ukrainian Victory, said: “Right now they are trying to bomb Ukraine into the stone age,” adding that in the past two months more damage had been inflicted than the whole of the winter of 2023.

She said: “Europe needs to think about Kharkiv, a city the size of Munich without energy this winter and then think about the financial implications of tens of millions of Ukrainians fleeing the war due to fear of occupation”.

Kallas said Russian assaults were now targeting Ukrainian cities every day and night.

She conceded that, based on geography and history, some countries in Europe did not see the threat of a Ukrainian defeat in the same way. “They don’t see and they don’t believe that if Ukraine falls Europe is in danger, the whole of Europe, maybe some countries, but not the whole of Europe”.

She said she feared a mistake was being made similar to the late 1930s, when linked conflicts were seen as isolated events. Kallas, tipped as a possible successor to Josep Borrell as EU high commissioner for foreign policy, cited links between the conflicts in Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Middle East, and the South China Sea. She said the same error was made in the 1930s about the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, the German occupation of Austria and the Sino-Japanese war.

“The lesson from 1938 and 1939 is that if aggression pays off somewhere, it will be taken up elsewhere. Ukraine’s defeat is something all aggressors will learn from. They will learn that in 2024, bluntly, you can just colonise another country and nothing happens to you.”

She pointed to what she described as baby steps to strengthening the European defence architecture, including a European defence fund, the increase in individual nation state defence spending, and the proposal for a shared defence debt bond to boost spending. She denied Estonia had had any serious discussions about sending troops to Ukraine, while arguing at the same time it was better to keep Putin guessing about Europe’s plans.

She said it was also a valid criticism that Ukraine was not moving fast enough to mobilise more troops.

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry warned the west it was playing with fire by allowing Ukraine to use western missiles and weapons to strike Russia, and said it would not leave such actions unanswered.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that it saw the hand of the US and Britain behind a recent spate of attacks, and blamed Washington and London for escalating the conflict by authorising Ukraine to use long-range rockets and heavy weapons they had supplied against Russian targets.

“Once again, we should like to unequivocally warn Washington, London, Brussels and other western capitals, as well as Kyiv, which is under their control, that they are playing with fire. Russia will not leave such encroachments on its territory unanswered,” the ministry said.

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submitted 18 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

The national security advisor to the Estonian president is the latest NATO nation official to weigh into the debate over the wisdom of foreign forces in Ukraine, while a senior British officer said it's still "not a path that the [UK] Prime Minister wants to go down".

The government of Estonia is “seriously” discussing the possibility of sending troops into western Ukraine to take over non-direct combat, “rear” roles from Ukrainian forces in order to free them up to fight on the front, though no decision is imminent, Tallinn’s national security advisor to the president told Breaking Defense.

Madis Roll said the executive branch is currently undertaking an analysis of the potential move, and though he said Estonia would prefer to make any such move as part of a full NATO mission — “to show broader combined strength and determination” — he didn’t rule out Estonia acting in a smaller coalition.

“Discussions are ongoing,” he said on May 10 at the presidential palace here. “We should be looking at all the possibilities. We shouldn’t have our minds restricted as to what we can do.” He also emphasized that it’s “not unthinkable” that NATO nations opposed to such a move would change their minds “as time goes on.”

Following publication of this report, Madis clarified that such a decision is not pending before the Estonian prime minister or her cabinet specifically, and he meant only that the discussion “is not dead” and is “ongoing in Estonia in general.” “We have not excluded any option in the future,” he said.

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur on May 14 told the European news outlet ERR such talks haven’t “gone anywhere” in Tallin.

“There is nothing new here. When France came up with the idea of considering whether Europe and the allies could do more, it has been floated in various discussions, but it has not gone anywhere, because at the moment there is no clear understanding among the allies of what it adds,” Pevkur said. “There is certainly no initiative by Estonia and certainly Estonia alone is not going to do anything.”

Roll’s boss, Estonian President Alar Karis, holds a position with many ceremonial duties relative to the nation’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, but he is ultimately Estonia’s commander-in-chief and is a key figure in foreign policy.

Roll’s comments came after the head of Estonia’s defense forces, Gen. Martin Herem, told Breaking Defense earlier last week there had been discussions in the military months ago about sending troops to western Ukraine to take on jobs like medical services, logistics or air defense for some western cities, but the air had gone out of those talks after the idea became a public lightning rod.

Herem and Pevkur were referring to the outcry that followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s declaration that Western nations must be open to discussing sending their troops in to aid Ukraine. (Kallas, the Estonian PM, in March appeared to defend Macron’s statement, noting that he wasn’t talking specifically about sending ground troops into combat. “In the exact same way, I can assure you that our soldiers will not go there to fight,” she said.)

Also earlier last week a key Estonian lawmaker, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Marko Mihkelson, told Breaking Defense that European nations “have to start thinking about a coalition of the willing” to more directly help Kyiv, potentially with direct combat forces. (The Estonian officials spoke last week to an audience from the Kaplan Public Service Foundation; Breaking Defense accepted accommodation in Estonia from KPSF.)

The willingness of different nations to send some forces into Ukraine is a potential dividing line inside NATO. Although each member of the alliance is free to send forces where it feels it must for its national interests, some nations have been clear they see more risk than reward in doing so.

Notably, Germany and the US have flatly rejected the idea of sending in troops. The US Ambassador to Estonia, George Kent, pointed Breaking Defense to the Biden administration’s policy of aiding Ukraine through significant aid packages, but a firm commitment not to send in American soldiers.

Asked May 9 in Washington how Russia could react to NATO-nation forces being in Ukraine, British Chief of Defense Adm. Sir Tony Radakin was evasive, saying, “I won’t go into too much commentary on your question, if you don’t mind … The UK position is very clear in terms of, that’s not a path that the Prime Minister wants to go down.

However, he emphasized that the UK position is not “being governed by how Russia will react.” Instead, he said, it is based around what the UK views as the best approach overall: “I think that what you’ve seen all the way through, is a UK that has done the right thing, based on its judgment of what’s needed to be done.”

In contrast, there is Macron’s statement, as well as Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Simonytė who recently told the Financial Times she was open to sending Lithuanian troops into Ukraine to train Kyiv’s forces there. The FT wrote that Simonytė predicted Russia could see the move as an escalation, but added, “If we just thought about the Russian response, then we could not send anything. Every second week you hear that somebody will be nuked.”

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submitted 18 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

TLDR: - China's president Xi wants to maintain an alliance with Putin's Russia, while also knowing that close ties with a pariah puts at risk his stable ties with the West which he needs to help his ailing economy.

- The costly war in Ukraine has changed their relationship, exposing the weaknesses in Russia’s army and its economy.

- China’s interests are not Russia’s interests. As the senior partner in this relationship, Mr Xi will likely co-operate when it suits him – even if his “dear friend” and ally needs him.

Vladimir Putin’s state visit to China this week was a show of strength. It was a chance for the Russian president to prove to the world that he has a powerful ally in his corner.

The Russian leader is widely regarded as a pariah after ordering the invasion of Ukraine. But to China’s President Xi Jinping, he is a key partner in seeking a new world order that is not led by the US.

And Mr Xi made his guest welcome. He rolled out the red carpet, the band played old Red Army songs, and cheering children greeted both leaders as they strolled through Tiananmen Square. There was even a brief hug for the cameras.

Russian and Chinese state media focused heavily on the camaraderie between the two leaders. But in truth, this is no longer a partnership of equals.

Mr Putin came to China cap in hand, eager for Beijing to continue trading with a heavily sanctioned and isolated Russia. His statements were filled with honeyed tones and flattering phrases.

He said that his family were learning Mandarin – this was particularly noteworthy because he very rarely talks about his children in public.

He declared that he and Mr Xi were “as close as brothers” and went on to praise China’s economy, saying it was “developing in leaps and bounds, at a fast pace”. This will likely play well with Beijing officials worried by a sluggish economy.

But Mr Xi himself did not echo the tone of these lofty compliments. Instead, his remarks were more perfunctory – even bland. Mr Putin, he said, was a “good friend and a good neighbour”. For China, the welcome ceremony and show of unity is in its interests, but lavishing its guest with praise is not.

The costly war in Ukraine, which shows no signs of ending, has changed their relationship, exposing the weaknesses in Russia’s army and its economy. Mr Xi will know that he is now in charge.

The war has isolated Russia. China’s ties with the West may be tense, but Beijing has not cut itself off from the world like Russia, nor does it want to.

While the public statements may have lacked enthusiasm, President Xi did hint at the importance that China places on the relationship.

He invited Mr Putin to his official residence, Zhongnanhai. Few leaders are afforded that honour - US President Barack Obama being among them back in 2014, when ties between the two were at their best.

President Xi is attempting a fine balance - he wants to maintain an alliance with Mr Putin, while also knowing that close ties with a pariah puts at risk his stable ties with the West which he needs to help his ailing economy.

The fact is, this visit was all about the money: Mr Putin needs China’s support for his war in Ukraine.

The make-up of the Russian leader’s entourage was a sign of what he hoped to get out of the trip: he brought with him the governor of Russia’s Central Bank, his finance minister and his economics advisor.

The joint statement released to mark the visit also contained some eye-catching ideas to increase trade – building a port on an island which the two countries once wrangled over for more than 100 years, and speaking to North Korea to see if Chinese ships could navigate through a key river to reach the Sea of Japan.

It mentioned the word “co-operation” 130 times.

All of this will, of course, have been carefully watched by the US. Last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China to stop fuelling Russia’s war and trading in components that could be used in Russian drones and tanks.

So they will not have missed the fact Mr Putin toured a state-backed university famous for its cutting-edge defense research during Friday’s visit to the city of Harbin.

The tour - and the ceremony and symbolism surrounding this visit - certainly appears to suggest Mr Xi is determined to prove that he will not be swayed by pressure from the West.

But behind the scenes of this show of unity, there may be limits to how far Mr Xi is prepared to go.

After all, China’s interests are not Russia’s interests. As the senior partner in this relationship, Mr Xi will likely co-operate when it suits him – even if his “dear friend” and ally needs him.

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- Total credit demand in China fell in April for first time since 2005 - China has increasingly hidden negative data in recent years

A series of research reports from Chinese brokerages on the country’s recent bad credit data disappeared from social media over the weekend, highlighting the increasing difficulty of getting reliable information about the world’s second-largest economy.

At least seven research reports from mainland brokerages and securities firms that had been posted to WeChat by analysts were unavailable for viewing on Monday. The link to six of the reports now leads to an error message saying the content couldn’t be viewed after complaints about unspecified violations of rules governing public accounts.

A report from China Merchants Securities Co. was deleted from a WeChat account where the brokerage’s fixed-income analyst Zhang Wei usually posts research, according to a screenshot of the posting viewed by Bloomberg News.

Reports from analysts at Zheshang Securities Co., Guosheng Securities Co., GF Securities Co., China International Capital Corp., Shenwan Hongyuan Securities Co. and Soochow Securities Co. were also unavailable for viewing or had been taken down before Monday morning.

None of the seven companies responded to requests for comment.

China has increasingly hidden negative data over the past few years, making it harder for investors to accurately judge what is happening in the economy. The nation’s exchanges are set to switch off a live feed of foreign money flows into stocks as early as Monday, the latest example of closely-watched information being removed.

The data released over the weekend showed that total credit demand fell in April for the first time since 2005. That unexpectedly bad result was driven by weak demand from companies and households to borrow, and also by local governments across the country pulling back on selling bonds.

The data released over the weekend showed that total credit demand fell in April for the first time since 2005. That unexpectedly bad result was driven by weak demand from companies and households to borrow, and also by local governments across the country pulling back on selling bonds.

China’s the top securities newspapers attempted to put a positive spin on the data. A front-page article

in China Securities Journal on Monday suggested the credit data would stabilize and pick up once the government started issuing more bonds.

The central government said it will start selling ultra-long bonds from Friday, although that likely won’t immediately turn around the falling demand for mortgage loans from households or the weak demand from companies to borrow money.

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submitted 2 days ago by mozz@mbin.grits.dev to c/news@beehaw.org
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submitted 1 day ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

Russia has been bolstering its military presence in Libya for the past few months, according to an investigation. Libya has been mired in civil war since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and Russia has long been accused of meddling in the conflict. Now, the Kremlin appears to be shipping more military equipment to Libya and the surrounding region and redeploying regular troops disguised as mercenaries, along with recruits from Wagner Group’s Africa operations.

The increased military activity in the region may also have something to do with increased pressure for Libya to hold elections. While there have been several attempts to hold elections, plans have often been delayed or disrupted due to escalations in the military conflict. The U.N. has urgently called for elections to be held to prevent the country from sliding further into war.

'Tectonic shifts’

In the past three months, Russia has begun actively transferring military personnel and mercenaries to Libya, according to Verstka’s findings. These forces are primarily concentrated in eastern Libya, a region under the control of Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army and a Kremlin ally. (The western part of the country, including the capital, Tripoli, is governed by the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord.)

A source within a Libyan security agency reported that at least 1,800 Russian military personnel have arrived in the country in the last two weeks alone. Some were dispatched to Niger, while others remain in Libya awaiting further orders.

One serviceman told journalists that he and several hundred other special forces soldiers were redeployed from Ukraine at the beginning of the year. Several thousand more fighters — both professional soldiers and mercenaries from Wagner Group’s Africa operations — arrived in Libya between February and April. In conversations with journalists, the soldiers themselves acknowledged that their presence in Libya is unofficial. They said that they’re there as part of a private military company, though they didn’t specify which one.

Russian military personnel and equipment have been spotted in at least 10 locations in eastern Libya since the beginning of March. Russian troops are stationed around major military bases, such as Al Jufra Air Base and Ghardabiya Air Base, as well as near smaller ones by Waddan and Marj.

Sources say that some of the newly arrived Russian military personnel are involved in training local soldiers and new recruits from private military companies. Others are carrying out combat missions, such as securing the transport of military equipment.

“There’s never been such a fuss; tectonic shifts are happening here,” one Russian soldier in Libya commented. “I think a big mess is brewing.”

Following the breadcrumbs

Location data from Telegram users show an increase in activity around military sites in Libya. On March 5, a Russian soldier with the username “Andrey” showed up near the Ghardabiya Air Base near Sirte. A few months before, “Andrey” was in Mulino — a city in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region where soldiers are being trained for combat in Ukraine. Nearly two weeks after “Andrey” appeared at Ghardabiya Air Base, the Libyan National Army conducted military exercises there.

Soon after, another group of Russian soldiers was spotted in Marj, Libya. On March 17, photos of them were posted on Libyan social media; Verstka and its investigative partners were able to geolocate these photos by comparing the buildings and structures in them with satellite images.

In early May, geolocation data confirmed the presence of two Russian soldiers in Jufra. One of them was the same “Andrey” who’d been at the Ghardabiya Air Base in March. He stayed there until at least April, then moved to Jufra by May.

The second soldier in Jufra was 26-year-old Pavel Vavilov from Russia’s Vladimir region. It’s likely that Vavilov entered the military recently: leaked data shows he worked as a security guard in 2020, and before that, as a taxi driver. He’s faced various legal issues, including a theft conviction. Another Telegram account linked to Vavilov shows a car with a license plate from the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” in the profile picture.

In recent weeks, there’s been a notable increase in shipments of Russian weapons and transport vehicles from Syria to Libya. In photos published on March 30 by the Russian pro-war Telegram channel Military Informant, several Russian Tigr armored personnel carriers can be seen being used in Libyan National Army exercises. Judging by the unit insignia on the front doors, they were delivered to the Libyan National Army’s 106th Brigade.

The channel also released video footage of the exercises. After comparing the terrain, buildings, and landmarks seen in the video to satellite images, Verstka and its investigative partners determined that the footage was shot between Al Jufra Air Base and the town of Waddan.

Russia is shipping a large amount of military equipment to Libya by sea. A source told Verstka that he had personally escorted equipment from a “military port” to various “military bases.” In some cases, the equipment comes to Libya via Syria’s Tartus port. For instance, on April 2, two Russian landing ships — the Alexander Otrakovsky and the Ivan Gren — were spotted in Tartus. On April 6, the same ships were off the coast of Crete, and on April 8, they arrived at the Port of Tobruk in Libya. These vessels were transporting vehicles and weaponry; one item in the shipment resembled a Soviet-era 2S12 “Sani” heavy mortar system. According to open-source investigators, this marked the fifth such shipment in the last six weeks. Satellite imagery shows that since then, the ships have continued to make trips back and forth.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya expert at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank, drew attention to the fact that Russian military personnel are being redeployed to the Brak al-Shati base in Libya. According to him, the number of Russian-speaking personnel at the base has increased by about 25 percent in recent weeks.

Back in March 2024, investigators from the All Eyes on Wagner project didn’t find any Russian Telegram accounts at the base. However, the situation has changed in the last few weeks. For example, in early May, an account registered to a Russian number was discovered near the base. The user, 28-year-old Russian Maxim Kukol, doesn’t appear to have been connected to the military before 2021. But there’s no public record of his employment after this. However, by 2022, his debts had been cleared.

Geolocation data also shows a steady stream of Russian military personnel arriving at the Tartus port in Syria, which has become a kind of redistribution hub for military resources. Among them is 19-year-old Navy serviceman Anton Zaikin, who was stationed in Baltiysk, in Russia’s Kaliningrad region, in early 2024. By early May, he had relocated to Syria.

A strategic move

Turkey, the U.S., and other countries have repeatedly accused Russia of interfering in the Libyan conflict, including through the use of Wagner Group mercenaries. Journalistic investigations have confirmed that Russian mercenaries have been present in Libya since at least 2019, and experts say the Kremlin has been supporting Khalifa Haftar since around 2018.

In 2023, Russian officials and Haftar held their first public negotiations since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In August, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov met with him in Libya, and in September, Haftar met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Following this, there were multiple media reports of Kremlin plans to build a Russian naval base in Tobruk, Libya (where Russian military cargo arrives from Syria).

In January 2024, shortly before Russia began sending large numbers of troops to the region, Yevkurov visited Libya again. He met with Haftar in Benghazi; Verstka’s sources say that a new Russian military training base is already operating not far from this city. According to Verstka and All Eyes on Wagner’s sources, the Russian contingent in Libya is controlled by four commanders who were previously in Syria. They, in turn, report to Yevkurov.

"I think the Russians are betting on a war inside Tripoli among the militias, so they’re going to shift gears,” said one military source. Another source suggested that the current influx of Russian equipment and the repositioning of troops are intended to supplant Wagner Group forces in Libya and pave the way for further deployments to other African countries.

RUSI’s Jalel Harchaoui noted that an increased presence in Libya aligns with many of Russia’s strategic regional interests. “Libya offers extremely valuable access to the Mediterranean Sea, acts as a southern flank to exert pressure on NATO and the E.U., and strengthens dialogue with other key Arab countries,” he explained. “Importantly, it also serves as a gateway to Sub-Saharan African countries, offering a strategic route to countries like Sudan, Niger, and beyond.”

According to him, cooperating with the Haftar family allows the Kremlin to achieve these goals while minimizing costs. “Roughly speaking, the Haftar family rewards Moscow materially and financially for doing things that are already in its interest,” Harchaoui believes.

The increased military activity in the region may also have something to do with increased pressure for Libya to hold elections. While there have been several attempts to hold elections, plans have often been delayed or disrupted due to escalations in the military conflict. The U.N. has urgently called for elections to be held to prevent the country from sliding further into war.

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Note: There are diagrams I can't post here, it may be worth clicking the link.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have praised the deep ties between their countries, during a meeting in Beijing.

It was their fourth meeting since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

In that time, Beijing has become a vital partner for Moscow, as it seeks to soften the impact of sanctions imposed by the US and other countries.

Is China providing Russia with weapons?

China has repeatedly denied allegations that it supplies Russia with weapons.

In an interview with BBC News, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "What's not happening is the provision of actual arms by China to Russia for use in Ukraine."

However, China has been accused of building up Moscow's war machine by providing critical components.

Mr Blinken said: "Those are being used to help Russia on what's an extraordinary crash course effort to make more munitions, tanks, armoured vehicles, missiles."

About 70% of the machine tools and 90% of the microelectronics Russia imports come from China, he added.

Sanctions announced by Washington in May targeted about 20 firms based in China and Hong Kong. It said one exported components for drones, while others helped Moscow bypass Western sanctions on other technologies.

China defends its trade with Moscow by saying it is not selling lethal arms and "prudently handles the export of dual-use items in accordance with laws and regulations".

Beijing exports more than $300m worth of dual-use items - those with both commercial and military applications - to Russia every month, according to an analysis of Chinese customs data by the Carnegie Endowment think tank.

It says the list includes what the US has designated as "high priority" items, which are necessary for making weapons, from drones to tanks.

RUSI, a UK-based think tank has also cautioned about the potential use of Chinese satellite technology for intelligence on Ukraine's front line.

How much has trade between China and Russia increased?

Beijing has become Moscow's key supplier of cars, clothing, raw materials and many other products, after Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia.

Trade between China and Russia reached a record $240bn (£191bn) in 2023, up more than 64% since 2021 - before Russia's invasion of Ukraine - according to official figures from China.

Russian imports from China were $111bn and its exports to China $129bn, the figures show.

At their meeting in Beijing in May, Mr Xi and Mr Putin praised growing trade between the two countries.

They highlighted that the two nations now use their own currencies for 90% of trade, instead of US dollars.

Mr Putin also said he welcomes Chinese carmakers in Russia. This came just days after the US announced a quadrupling of tariffs on China's electric vehicles to 100%.

The export of Chinese cars and parts to Russia reached $23bn in 2023 - up from $6bn the previous year.

"Russian natural gas is fuelling numerous Chinese households, and Chinese-made automobiles are running on Russian roads," said China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in March.

However, some experts consider this a "lopsided" relationship in which Russia is more dependent on China than vice versa.

As of 2023, China has become Russia's top trade partner, while Russia is China's sixth-largest trade partner.

How much oil and gas does China buy from Russia?

Almost half of all the Russian government's annual revenues come from oil and gas.

Its sales to the US, UK and EU countries have plummeted since the invasion, because of sanctions.

A significant amount of this shortfall has been made up with increased sales to Asia - in particular, China and India.

In 2023, Russia surpassed Saudi Arabia to become China's top crude oil supplier. Beijing imported 107 million tonnes of crude oil from Moscow - a 24% increase from 2022.

The G7 group of "advanced" economies, along with the European Union and Australia, has also tried to limit Russia earnings by imposing a worldwide cap on the price of its oil transported by sea.

However, China has continued to buy Russian crude at above the price of the cap.

India, which has continued to maintain its decades-old relationship with Russia, has also been a major buyer of its discounted oil since the invasion.

Russia's share of India's total oil imports hit a record high of 44% in June 2023, according to the Bank of Baroda, an Indian state-controlled lender.

In 2023, China also imported eight million tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from Russia, a 77% increase from 2021.

The two countries also plan to expand energy ties, including a new pipeline - called the Power of Siberia 2 - to export natural gas from Russia's western Siberia region to north-eastern China.

China already receives gas from Russia through the original Power of Siberia pipeline, which has been in use since 2019.

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A segment on The Hill that cites The Intercept and Democracy Now, and calls out the media downplaying credible accusations of IDF mistreatment of prisoners, including prior to Oct 7? Did I wake up in upside-down world today?

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"I don't want anyone to think that I ever said these horrible things in my life. Using a Ukrainian girl for a face promoting Russia. It's crazy.”

Olga Loiek has seen her face appear in various videos on Chinese social media - a result of easy-to-use generative AI tools available online.

“I could see my face and hear my voice. But it was all very creepy, because I saw myself saying things that I never said,” says the 21-year-old, a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

The accounts featuring her likeness had dozens of different names like Sofia, Natasha, April, and Stacy. These “girls” were speaking in Mandarin - a language Olga had never learned. They were apparently from Russia, and talked about China-Russia friendship or advertised Russian products.

“I saw like 90% of the videos were talking about China and Russia, China-Russia friendship, that we have to be strong allies, as well as advertisements for food.”

One of the biggest accounts was “Natasha imported food” with a following of more than 300,000 users. “Natasha” would say things like “Russia is the best country. It’s sad that other countries are turning away from Russia, and Russian women want to come to China”, before starting to promote products like Russian candies.

This personally enraged Olga, whose family is still in Ukraine.

But on a wider level, her case has drawn attention to the dangers of a technology that is developing so quickly that regulating it and protecting people has become a real challenge.

From YouTube to Xiaohongshu

Olga’s Mandarin-speaking AI lookalikes began emerging in 2023 - soon after she started a YouTube channel which is not very regularly updated.

About a month later, she started getting messages from people who claimed they saw her speak in Mandarin on Chinese social media platforms.

Intrigued, she started looking for herself, and found AI likenesses of her on Xiaohongshu - a platform like Instagram - and Bilibili, which is a video site similar to YouTube.

“There were a lot of them [accounts]. Some had things like Russian flags in the bio,” said Olga who has found about 35 accounts using her likeness so far.

After her fiancé tweeted about these accounts, HeyGen, a firm that she claims developed the tool used to create the AI likenesses, responded.

They revealed more than 4,900 videos have been generated using her face. They said they had blocked her image from being used anymore.

A company spokesperson told the BBC that their system was hacked to create what they called “unauthorised content” and added that they immediately updated their security and verification protocols to prevent further abuse of their platform.

But Angela Zhang, of the University of Hong Kong, says what happened to Olga is “very common in China”.

The country is “home to a vast underground economy specialising in counterfeiting, misappropriating personal data, and producing deepfakes”, she said.

This is despite China being one of the first countries to attempt to regulate AI and what it can be used for. It has even modified its civil code to protect likeness rights from digital fabrication.

Statistics disclosed by the public security department in 2023 show authorities arrested 515 individuals for “AI face swap” activities. Chinese courts have also handled cases in this area.

But then how did so many videos of Olga make it online?

One reason could be because they promoted the idea of friendship between China and Russia.

Beijing and Moscow have grown significantly closer in recent years. Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Putin have said the friendship between the two countries has “no limits”. The two are due to meet in China this week.

Chinese state media have been repeating Russian narratives justifying its invasion of Ukraine and social media has been censoring discussion of the war.

“It is unclear whether these accounts were coordinating under a collective purpose, but promoting a message that is in line with the government’s propaganda definitely benefits them,” said Emmie Hine, a law and technology researcher from the University of Bologna and KU Leuven.

“Even if these accounts aren’t explicitly linked to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], promoting an aligned message may make it less likely that their posts will get taken down.”

But this means that ordinary people like Olga remain vulnerable and are at risk of falling foul of Chinese law, experts warn.

Kayla Blomquist, a technology and geopolitics researcher at Oxford University, warns that “there is a risk of individuals being framed with artificially generated, politically sensitive content” who could be subject to “rapid punishments enacted without due process”.

She adds that Beijing’s focus in relation to AI and online privacy policy has been to build out consumer rights against predatory private actors, but stresses that “citizen rights in relation to the government remain extremely weak”.

Ms Hine explains that the “fundamental goal of China’s AI regulations is to balance maintaining social stability with promoting innovation and economic development”.

“While the regulations on the books seem strict, there’s evidence of selective enforcement, particularly of the generative AI licensing rule, that may be intended to create a more innovation-friendly environment, with the tacit understanding that the law provides a basis for cracking down if necessary,” she said.

'Not the last victim’

But the ramifications of Olga’s case stretch far beyond China - it demonstrates the difficulty of trying to regulate an industry that seems to be evolving at break-neck speed, and where regulators are constantly playing catch-up. But that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.

In March, the European Parliament approved the AI Act, the world's first comprehensive framework for constraining the risks of the technology. And last October, US President Joe Biden announced an executive order requiring AI developers to share data with the government.

While regulations at the national and international levels are progressing slowly compared to the rapid race of AI growth, we need “a clearer understanding of and stronger consensus around the most dangerous threats and how to mitigate them”, says Ms Blomquist.

“However, disagreements within and among countries are hindering tangible action. The US and China are the key players, but building consensus and coordinating necessary joint action will be challenging,” she adds.

Meanwhile, on the individual level, there seems to be little people can do short of not posting anything online.

Meanwhile, on the individual level, there seems to be little people can do short of not posting anything online.

“The only thing to do is to not give them any material to work with: to not upload photos, videos, or audio of ourselves to public social media,” Ms Hine says. “However, bad actors will always have motives to imitate others, and so even if governments crack down, I expect we’ll see consistent growth amidst the regulatory whack-a-mole.”

Olga is “100% sure” that she will not be the last victim of generative AI. But she is determined not to let it chase her off the internet.

She has shared her experiences on her YouTube channel, and says some Chinese online users have been helping her by commenting under the videos using her likeness and pointing out they are fake.

She adds that a lot of these videos have now been taken down.

“I wanted to share my story, I wanted to make sure that people will understand that not everything that you're seeing online is real,” says she. “I love sharing my ideas with the world, and none of these fraudsters can stop me from doing that.”

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Three lesbian women have died and one more is in critical condition in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after a man threw a Molotov cocktail into their boarding house room on May 6, setting them all on fire. One woman, Pamela Fabiana Cobas, was severely burned and died almost immediately. Her partner, Mercedes Roxana Figueroa, died of organ failure two days later, with burns covering 90 percent of her body. Andrea Amarante died in the hospital on May 12.

Police arrested a 62-year-old male suspect but have not announced a motive for the attack.

Local human rights defenders have expressed concern that disparaging comments about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their rights made by prominent politicians, some of whom are now holding high office, are contributing to already high levels of violence against queer communities. The 2023 report from Buenos Aires’ LGBT ombudsman found that offensive speech by members of President Javier Milei’s political party, as well as on social media and in the streets, in the context of the 2023 presidential campaign “built a climate of segregation, rejection and discrimination; the most fertile ground for violence toward historically vulnerable groups.”

In May 2023, then-candidate Milei said on TV that education on gender and sexuality seeks to “exterminate the population” and causes “the destruction of the most important social nucleus within society ... the family.” In November 2023, now-Foreign Minister Diana Mondino claimed to support marriage equality, but then compared it to head lice in a nationally televised interview, saying: “If you prefer not to bathe and be full of lice and it is your choice ... then don't complain if there is someone who does not like that you have lice.”

A 2023 Human Rights Watch investigation found that around the world, lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ+) couples have been murdered, sexually assaulted, dismembered, or physically attacked alongside their partners. The report found that this “risk of lethal violence” to couples is chronically under-documented. In 26 countries, including Argentina, interviewees repeatedly cited “the extreme danger of appearing in public with an LBQ+ partner as a reason to stay home, refrain from holding their partners’ hand, or otherwise limit their movement and queer signaling.” In Argentina, where government data from 2023 showed 41.7 percent of the population lives in poverty, lesbian couples face heightened barriers to secure housing, limiting their ability to use the privacy of a home to protect themselves.

Authorities in Argentina should conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the killings and ensure proper medical care and housing for the surviving woman. Government officials should cease and condemn rhetoric that stigmatizes queer women and may contribute to a climate in which they are seen as deserving of violence.

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Archived link

TLDR: Some false narratives on Chinese-language media in Taiwan included a piece distributed by Russian media and pro-Russia Weibo accounts saying that "nobody wanted to greet Zelenskyy at the NATO summit". Other false news claimed that "Russian troops have defeated Western allies of Ukraine, like the United States and NATO members" and that "Russians had captured NATO European commander Roger Cloutier" and "NATO generals surrendering to Russia".

One narrator stated that “Ukraine had 60,000 female soldiers, but almost all of them have been killed. Taiwan must not be used by the Americans to become the second Ukraine!” The pieces of this disinformation are often accompanied by remarks warning of the dire consequences of war, urging Taiwanese youth to learn from the horrors of war and persuaded viewers not to encourage conflict with China.

The report: Insights from TFC fact-checking reports on the Russo-Ukrainian War disinformation over the past two years

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, disinformation about this war and the parties involved has pervasively spread in the global community, including among Chinese language speakers.

"While the themes of narratives about the war share some similarities with those in other regions, the disinformation narratives spread in Taiwan have exploited this war, attempting to incite more distrust in the U.S. and the fear of the cost that people would bear, particularly in the event that China and Taiwan go to war", the Taiwan FactCheck Center says in a new report.

Since February 2022, the Taiwan FactCheck Center has published 120 reports related to the Russia-Ukraine War that have circulated in Taiwanese mainstream media and social media, such as Facebook, LINE, and TikTok. The graphic below shows the percentage of themes in the disinformation pieces that have been verified as incorrect

Among the disinformation pieces, the most common category is videos of the war scenes (battlefield situation), which were widely spread during the first few months of the war and mostly depicted Russia’s attacks in Ukraine. A large portion of the videos can be traced back to overseas social media platforms. When the videos were shared on Facebook or LINE by what appeared to be Taiwanese accounts, they were often accompanied by remarks warning of the dire consequences of war.

For example, one piece of disinformation claims that "Ukrainian vehicle troops were attacked by Russia's precision-guided weapon. None of the Ukrainian soldiers survived" first appeared on TikTok written in Russian. When this piece was shared on Facebook and LINE, those who reposted it in Chinese urged Taiwanese youth to learn from the horrors of war and persuaded viewers not to encourage conflict with China. According to TFC's verification, the footage in this piece was obtained from a video game; the film's original producer also confirmed that the video was a game screenshot rather than a real image.

The second largest category of narratives is information about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Some pieces spread in the earliest stage of the war focused on the president’s former career as an actor or his bravery in fighting on the frontlines. However, these images or videos were appropriated from older news articles prior to the war, mistakenly mixed up with another actor, or undergone manipulation.

Nevertheless, as the war wore on, more disinformation pieces portrayed Zelenskyy in a more negative light, such as Zelenskyy using drugs and his family buying luxuries. Some reports attempted to convey the impression that he and Ukraine were being isolated from Western countries.

For example, a piece distributed by Russian media and pro-Russia Weibo accounts saying that "nobody wanted to greet Zelenskyy at the NATO summit" was shared on Taiwan's online forum, PTT. Those who circulated this photo used the disinformation piece to highlight that the United States and Western countries were unreliable. Fact-checkers pointed out that while this photo was taken at the NATO Summit, the assertion was false because other photos showed Zelenskyy and other Western leaders interacting warmly.

Allegations that Western media or Ukraine staged the scenes of the war in Ukraine were also prevalent, circulating mostly during the first four months of the war. One example is a claim first promoted by Chinese propaganda websites, such as Guancha.cn [观察者网]. It claimed that Ukrainian influencers staged the photos in Western media showing pregnant women injured at the Mariupol hospital during a Russian airstrike. The Chinese media coverage further quoted the Defense Ministry of Russia, claiming that the so-called “Russia strike” was faked by Ukraine. However, the TFC found that the photos were authentic and indeed taken during Russia’s air assault in Ukraine.

Eight pieces of disinformation among the 120 fact-checks were directly related to Taiwan. The subjects of these pieces, however, ranged from Russians kidnapping Taiwanese volunteers in Ukraine to Taiwan giving Ukraine weapons. When the U.S. Congress was debating whether to increase aid to Ukraine, some X accounts spread a rumor that the U.S. intended to shift part of the Ukraine funding to Taiwan. The Taiwanese media then quoted and propagated this rumor. Actually, this false information exaggerated an interview with a former advisor, who mentioned a rumor that some funding for Ukraine could be reallocated to Taiwan. The TFC determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the advisor’s statement.

The 120 fact-checking pieces over the past two years also revealed that some themes faded out of attention over time, while others endured but with changes in the narratives. In the first year of the war, more disinformation narratives were about the scenes of the battlefield (particularly Russia’s attacks on Ukraine) and the “fake news” produced by Western media. When the war proceeded into the second year, the narratives became more diverse, with spotlights on the desperation of Ukrainian soldiers and the scheme of the U.S. behind the war. Meanwhile, malicious actors continued producing false information about the Ukrainian allies’ loss. Overall, the main messages behind the narratives intend to deliver the image that the U.S. is unreliable, and that Ukraine has made a bad choice to plunge itself into a war with Russia.

On Chinese social media platforms, there are rumors that Russian troops have defeated Western allies of Ukraine, like the United States and NATO members. One of the earliest claims stated that the Russians had captured NATO European commander Roger Cloutier in Mariupol. This fake article appeared to have been posted in early April by a pro-Russia Twitter (now X) account before spreading over Chinese social media. Several Chinese video content creators made comments based on this inaccurate claim; some even asserted that the BBC said Russia refused to speak with the U.S. over the commander's detention. These pieces were also posted in traditional Chinese on Facebook, targeting Taiwanese audiences. TFC Fact-checkers verified that this information was untrue since NATO had not sent any ground forces into Ukraine; the commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command (not “the NATO European commander”), Roger Cloutier, was in Turkey during the conflict in Mariupol.

Nevertheless, in May 2022, another video about several NATO generals surrendering to Russia in a steel plant at Mariupol emerged on Chinese social media. Facebook posts also shared the footage and criticized the Taiwanese media for not covering this event. According to the verification by TFC, this video was a compilation of images about other irrelevant events. Again, in January 2024, a piece started circulating on TikTok, Weibo, and Facebook, citing “Russian sources” and claiming that Lloyd Austin, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, was not hospitalized because of cancer. Instead, he was seriously hurt by Russian missiles in Ukraine on January 3rd and has since passed away. The TFC found this information untrue and was actually translated from an American fake news website, Real Raw News.

In addition to the narratives depicting the capture of Western generals and officials, several pieces spread on Facebook and TikTok claimed Russia destroyed Ukrainian allies’ fighter aircraft or sunk ships, including a Japanese cargo ship that “shipped weapons and aids for Ukraine.” According to fact-checking results, the claims were fabricated, and the images used in the claims were actually about other unrelated events.

The above disinformation narratives about Western allies’ fiascos, together with other narratives of Ukraine soldiers’ rising death tolls or refusal to fight in the war, have been used in Chinese-language disinformation to caution the Taiwanese not to become the pawns of the Americans. A recent false piece shared on TikTok and Facebook showed dead bodies being hurled into a truck. The narrator stated that “Ukraine had 60,000 female soldiers, but almost all of them have been killed. Taiwan must not be used by the Americans to become the second Ukraine!” According to the Ukrainian government’s available data, there have indeed been 60,000 female soldiers in Ukraine. Nonetheless, over the last two years, 100 Ukrainian female soldiers have died, rather than “almost all of them.”

To prove that the U.S. encouraged the war in Ukraine for its own benefit, some pieces faked statements made by American or Ukrainian high-ranking officials or generals. For example, a false piece claimed that former American general Jack Keane said the aid to Ukraine was “a good investment” since “it’s the Ukrainians who were sacrificing, not Americans.” The piece further said Keane said the same situation applies to Taiwan.

Another recent piece spread in April 2024 on Douyin claimed that Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and current Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Kingdom, left a will, accusing the U.S. of pushing Ukraine into the war and warning Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines not to be fooled by the Americans. Fact-checking results show that the first statement manipulated Keane’s interview with Fox News, and the “will of Zaluzhnyi” was totally fabricated.

The disinformation about the Russia-Ukraine War has plagued the global community, and the false pieces spread in different regions were used for various purposes. According to the Atlantic Council report, the disinformation narratives spread in Europe intended to erode European support for Ukraine, whereas false claims disseminated in the Middle East and North Africa attempted to incite anti-West and anti-colonialist sentiments.

As for the disinformation circulated around in Taiwan, the messages have been fixated on “the manipulation of the U.S.” and emphasized the devastating repercussions of the war.

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submitted 4 days ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

The British police have charged three men with assisting Hong Kong’s foreign intelligence service.

The men were detained alongside several others during a series of raids across the United Kingdom last week, the police said on Monday. The operation is the latest in a spate of action against suspected Russian and Chinese spies across Europe.

They were set to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday to face charges filed under the National Security Act, passed last year to introduce new measures against espionage threats from foreign states.

“While these offences are concerning, I want to reassure the public that we do not believe there to be any wider threat to them,” Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said in a statement.

The London police said 11 people had been detained earlier this month, most of them from Yorkshire, in northern England.

Those who were charged were Chi Leung Wai, 38, Matthew Trickett, 37, and Chung Biu Yuen, 63, all from southeast England.

Seven other men and one woman were not charged and were later released from custody.

Police said the investigation was ongoing, without providing any other details on the charges.

Spate of spying charges

The arrests come as concerns mount across Europe over intelligence operations linked to China and Russia.

The UK announced in late April the arrest of two people suspected of providing “prejudicial information” to Beijing.

The same day, the German police reported that they had charged three citizens with handing technologies with potential military purposes to Chinese intelligence, with whom they have been accused of working since at least June 2022.

The same month, Germany arrested an aide to a far-right member of the European Parliament on suspicion of spying for China.

The British police noted on Monday that the charges against the trio over their work for Hong Kong intelligence are not linked to an ongoing investigation involving Russia, which was also conducted under the National Security Act.

The British government said last Wednesday that it was expelling a Russian defence attache for spying, amid several measures targeting Moscow’s intelligence-gathering operations in the UK.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said the measures were aimed at the “reckless and dangerous activities of the Russian government across Europe”.

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The inner workings of China's notorious secret police unit and how it hunts down dissidents living overseas – including in Australia – have been exposed by a former spy in a Four Corners investigation, raising tough questions about Australia's national security.

It is the first time anyone from the secret police – one of the most feared and powerful arms of China's intelligence apparatus – has ever spoken publicly.

The investigation also found the existence of an espionage operation on Australian soil only last year and the secret return of an Australian resident to China in 2019. Spy speaks out

The spy — who goes by the name Eric — worked as an undercover agent for a unit within China's federal police and security agency, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) between 2008 and early 2023.

The unit is called the Political Security Protection Bureau, or the 1st Bureau. It is one of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) key tools of repression, operating across the globe to surveil, kidnap and silence critics of the party, particularly President Xi Jinping.

"It is the darkest department of the Chinese government," Eric said.

"When dealing with people who oppose the CCP, they can behave as if these people are not protected by the law. They can do whatever they want to them."

Four Corners has chosen not to publish Eric's full name or the identities of his secret police handlers due to concerns for the 39-year-old's safety.

Eric fled China and arrived in Australia last year where he revealed his history to ASIO, Australia's domestic spy agency.

ASIO declined to comment for this story.

Eric revealed to Four Corners how China collects intelligence on those it deems enemies of the state – and in some cases the tactics it uses to see them return to China to face prosecution.

He was tasked by his handlers with hunting down dissidents across the globe, sometimes by using elaborate cover stories — once as a property executive and another as an anti-CCP freedom fighter — to try to gain their confidence and lure them to countries where they could be abducted and returned to China.

Four Corners has seen hundreds of secret documents and correspondence that back up Eric's story about his assignments and targets which covered China, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Canada and Australia. 'Secret agents in Australia'

In 2023, AFP officers raided a Sydney location and uncovered a Chinese espionage operation targeting Australian residents.

One of them was Edwin Yin, a political activist whose online videos have targeted President Xi and his daughter.

The AFP spoke to Mr Yin after the raid.

"They told me ... they had disrupted an intelligence agency in Australia," he said.

"They acquired information and material that indicated the CCP was looking for me in Australia through this intelligence agency."

Four Corners understands the AFP's investigation is ongoing.

In 2021, Mr Yin was the victim of a physical attack in Melbourne that left him with a broken nose. Mr Yin thought the two men who attacked him, and a third who filmed it, were Chinese government agents.

"I don't feel safe in Australia," he said.

Eric was asked to target Mr Yin in 2018.

He told Four Corners he has no doubt Chinese secret agents currently operate in Australia, and that they rely on a network of support organisations and businesses.

"In an area where there are secret agents, a support system is required so when the agents are dispatched there, they can receive the necessary support," he said.

"They certainly have established a support system in Australia."

China says it is seeking Mr Yin's return over several financial fraud allegations. Four Corners spoke to one of his alleged victims who maintained the crimes happened.

Mr Yin says he was framed. China's global reach

Counter-intelligence experts said it was "political security" with which China's vast spying network was most concerned.

Holden Triplett previously led the FBI's office in Beijing where he regularly dealt with the Ministry of Public Security.

"The MPS portrays itself as a police service … but in my mind, they're anything but that," he said.

"Their job is to protect the party's status … and when I say status, I mean control … The party has to remain in control."

Under Mr Xi's rule, that control has become much tighter. Since becoming leader in 2012, Mr Xi has reordered the Chinese security and intelligence services and strengthened the party's grip on the Chinese population overseas.

"Now they're heavily engaged in the world, they need resources from all sorts of places," Mr Triplett said.

"So anyone within the Chinese population internally, or in the diaspora … that could threaten the party's control … that's what they would be investigating, opposing and disrupting if necessary."

MPS works with other elements of China's national state security including the country's foreign spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, and the CCP's main foreign influence arm, the United Front Work Department (UFWD).

The UFWD is tasked with increasing China's influence abroad and UFWD-associated community groups exist in virtually all countries where there is a significant Chinese population – including Australia.

"United Front work creates tall grass to hide the snakes," said former CIA analyst Peter Mattis.

"The MPS are some of those snakes." Citizens returned

Mr Xi has used his anti-corruption campaigns Fox Hunt and Sky Net to return more than 12,000 so-called fugitives to China since 2014. Many were returned in covert operations without the knowledge or permission of local authorities.

As part of Fox Hunt, in 2014 two Chinese police officers covertly entered Australia to pursue and return a Melbourne bus driver. When it was made public the following year, it caused a major diplomatic incident and the Chinese government promised it would never happen again.

In 2019, Chinese officers came to Australia again and returned with a 59-year-old Australian resident.

"The MPS sent officials … to Australia to have a so-called heart-to-heart with a female who was then persuaded to come back," said Laura Harth, campaigns director at human rights NGO, Safeguard Defenders.

"They used the [Australian] Chinese consulate-general and embassy to help them."

Four Corners has established that the AFP did approve the 2019 visit, but the Chinese officers didn't follow the agreed protocol and the woman was escorted back to China by them without the AFP's approval.

Do you know more about this story? Contact Four Corners here.

Last month, Safeguard Defenders released a report documenting more than 280 cases of foreign citizens and residents being repatriated to China. The individuals are accused of committing economic crimes.

There were at least 16 successful individual extrajudicial returns from Australia between 2014 and 2023, according to the report, which relied on Chinese state media. Four of those returns took place last year.

"These successful operations — or even the attempts at operations that turn out not to be successful — are a clear violation of Australia's sovereignty," Ms Harth said.

A spokeswoman for the AFP said it "will never endorse or facilitate a foreign agency to come to Australia to intimidate or force foreign nationals to return home".

"Under Australian law, that is a crime," she said.

"It is an offence for foreign governments, or those acting on their behalf, to threaten culturally and linguistically diverse communities, or anyone else in Australia. This includes harassment, surveillance, intimidation and other coercive measures."

An Australian Government spokesperson said defending against malicious foreign interference was "a top priority".

"Australia's law enforcement and intelligence agencies assess, investigate, disrupt and where possible, prosecute acts of foreign interference."

"The ASIO and AFP-led Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce is actively investigating a range of foreign interference cases."

The Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Australia and China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

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Pakistan's Gwadar port was meant to be a shining success for the prestigious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of China's global collection of infrastructure projects and trade networks known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But almost two decades later, it still sits empty.

All over the world, governments are hoping to boost their economies through new and expanded ports and other infrastructure projects — and Chinese banks are more than willing to provide financing. Chinese companies often build and operate the ports as well.

These deals are lucrative for China, said Jacob Mardell, a former analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies, a German think tank.

"This model almost kind of acts as a subsidy for Chinese companies," he says. He explained that Chinese banks loan money to governments that then give that money to Chinese construction companies and pay the loan back to the bank over time. This means the money essentially never leaves China, "while the bill is ultimately footed by taxpayers in other countries."

However, as in many.other countries, observers close to the matter say that behind the scenes, both Pakistan and China have become disillusioned with the project.

"Jobs promises were not met. Industrial promises were not met. The business opportunities for Pakistanis were not met," said Khalid. "They [China] promised nine special economic zones. Not one is fully functional to date."

"When it comes to investment decisions, the Chinese are famously not risk-averse," he told DW. He says "basically unlimited" state backing for state-owned investment and construction companies, coupled with the political will to rapidly step up competition with Western economies, has led China to fund even very risky projects in less stable countries worldwide.

Still, countries like Pakistan are now stuck paying back large amounts of debt to Chinese lenders. "Pakistan has to pay billions of dollars back in loans, because of reckless investments in the name of CPEC," an expert says.

Similar cases have previously led to criticism that China is conducting debt-trap diplomacy, allowing partner countries to go into unsustainable amounts of debt to gain political influence.

Moreover, part of the revenue from the newly built projects also goes back to China.

"China gets the lion's share of everything," says an expert. With Pakistan's Gwadar port, for instance, 90% of the quite limited revenue goes to the Chinese operating company. The Pakistani government receives 10%, while nothing goes to the Balochi regional government.

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submitted 6 days ago by tardigrada@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

Here is the archived version.

If people are naturally drawn to human rights, democracy, and freedom, then those concepts have to be poisoned.

The American extreme right and (more rarely) the extreme left benefit from the spread of antidemocratic narratives, they have an interest in silencing or hobbling any group that wants to stop, or even identify, foreign campaigns.

Senator Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that “we are actually less prepared today than we were four years ago” for foreign attempts to influence the 2024 election. This is not only because authoritarian propaganda campaigns have become more sophisticated as they begin to use AI, or because “you obviously have a political environment here where there’s a lot more Americans who are more distrustful of all institutions.” It’s also because the lawsuits, threats, and smear tactics have chilled government, academic, and tech-company responses.

One could call this a secret authoritarian “plot” to preserve the ability to spread antidemocratic conspiracy theories, except that it’s not a secret. It’s all visible, right on the surface. Russia, China, and sometimes other state actors—Venezuela, Iran, Hungary—work with Americans to discredit democracy, to undermine the credibility of democratic leaders, to mock the rule of law. They do so with the goal of electing Trump, whose second presidency would damage the image of democracy around the world, as well as the stability of democracy in America, even further.

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