Chinese Weibo users are also asking why the country hasn’t ‘recovered’ Chumi Gyatse waterfall in Arunachal Pradesh from India. Some suggest occupying it

In this week’s Chinascope, we look at a MeToo scandal involving one of the most senior Chinese leaders, Yahoo search leaving China, State media accusing an Indian hacking group of cyber-attacks, and other stories from China – and the world.

What happens when one of China’s top leaders, one who helped Xi Jinping rise, is accused of sexual assault, that too before a crucial Communist Party meeting? A tennis star’s social media post has taken the country by storm.

This past week, MeToo allegations by tennis star Peng Shuai against former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli shook Chinese social media. The news was heavily censored across different Chinese social media platforms. Peng Shuai wrote a detailed post in a private group on WeChat, later shared in various WeChat groups. Peng summarised the allegations in a post on Weibo – it disappeared just a few hours after it was posted. The original long post couldn’t be found or shared on WeChat. Even use of the word ‘tennis’ was censored. The screenshots of the allegations were shared in some closed Chinese messaging groups and were widely circulated on Twitter.

According to the allegations, Peng said Zhang invited her to play tennis with him and his wife, and he assaulted her in his house. Zhang Gaoli was the Senior Vice-Premier of China between 2013 and 2018, and was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee between 2012-17.

Chinese overseas media and international media primarily reported the news about the MeToo scandal. Chinascope recommends reading ‘Censors go nuclear as tennis player’s MeToo allegations against top officials go viral‘ by Jeremy Goldkorn and Jiayun Feng.

In other news, Beijing has grown wary of foreign agencies trying to access its data. China has decided to ban access to Flightradar24, a real-time commercial aircraft flight-tracking service that provides equipment to volunteers to collect aviation data. A Chinese national security agency in 2020 discovered that a citizen with the surname Li had signed up to receive the equipment from Flightradar24 and track aircraft.

CCTV reported that Beijing Municipal National Security Bureau found data-sharing poses a security threat to military aircraft. It added that security agencies seized the equipment given to volunteers by Flightradar24. Chinascope recently told you that China’s Ministry of State Security declassified an investigation into the theft of Chinese airlines’ data by a foreign spy agency. It is unclear if the Flightradar24 case and that are related.

The tough Chinese regulations and surveillance are also making it hard for other companies to work. US companies in China are finding it particularly difficult. Last week, China’s new personal data protection law came into effect, requiring private companies to hire data compliance officers.

Now, Yahoo has decided to exit the Chinese market and shutter the company’s remaining services. The company blamed “increasingly challenging business and legal environment in China” for its decision. The move is largely symbolic because the company had already stopped offering most of its services in China since 2013. Yahoo’s exit coincided with the data protection law coming into effect and may have pushed the US internet giant out of China.

The tough business environment isn’t just reserved for foreign companies. Xi Jinping’s China has been cracking down on Chinese businesses too. So, China’s entrepreneurs are looking for ways to cash out.

Zhang Yiming, the ByteDance founder, has officially stepped down from the company’s board after an announcement in May 2021. ByteDance owns the popular platform TikTok. South China Morning Post reported citing sources that Zhang remains “powerful behind the scenes”. The CEOs of technology companies have been trying to cash out their shares in anticipation of tightening controls. Financial Times recently reported that at least two heads of Chinese tutoring companies started selling their shares right after Xi Jinping criticised private tutoring earlier in March.

And in case you thought there is a stalemate at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), think again. The tensions between India and China aren’t just limited to the border anymore, and have crossed over to the cyber domain.

Chinese State media accused an Indian hacking group called ‘Evil Flower’ of targeting “government, defence and military units, as well as state-owned enterprises in China, Pakistan, and Nepal”. Global Times has claimed in an investigation that the hacking group has the support of the Indian government.

“Their attacks were largely on the rise in the first half of 2021, targeting education, government, aerospace and defence industries in many fields. Those attacks were especially aimed at organizations or individuals mentioned in online trending topics on politics and economy, the pandemic situation and industrial activities,” Chinese technology company 360 Security Technology told Global Times.

In the Chinese report, the hacking group was also referred to as “rattlesnake”.

Bloomberg reported, citing sources, of a potential acquisition of South China Morning Post by State-owned Bauhinia Culture (Hong Kong) Holdings Ltd. Alibaba group, which owns the media house, has denied the report of sale.

“Any reports suggesting that Alibaba is considering a sale of SCMP are incorrect, Alibaba is fully committed to SCMP’s mission and business goals, and there are no plans for an ownership change,” a spokesperson of Alibaba group said.

China In World News

China’s grand military plan was the talk of defence and strategy experts last week.

On 3 November, the US Department of Defence published its annual China Military Power report. The report says China is fast expanding its nuclear arsenal and may deploy 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030. International media extensively covered the report.

One of the key revelations in the report is the People’s Liberation Army modernisation plan for 2027. By that date, the PLA can provide Beijing with a credible military option during a “Taiwan contingency”.

The report adds that China is building a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that will improve its nuclear-capable missile forces. We already know from analysis by open-source researchers that China is building ICBM silos. According to the report, DF-41s are likely candidates for the deployment at the silos that have been made so far.