In Other News – US releases new strategy on dismantling corruption, releases new strategy on dismantling corruption, & More – 12/10/2021

December 10, 2021

Greater private public collaboration anticipated after United States releases new strategy on dismantling corruption. In early June, US President Biden placed the fight against corruption as a core national security interest of the United States, kicking off a broad, interagency review to take stock of current US anti-corruption efforts, identify gaps in current policy, and develop a strategy to mitigate corruption moving forward. The United States has historically recognized decreasing corruption as a goal of its foreign policy, but now that the global financial system is extremely interconnected, US financial institutions are being readily abused by corrupt actors to hide assets and launder proceeds of corrupt acts.

In response to the pervasive threat, this week Washington published its first-ever US Strategy on Countering Corruption. The report details how the United States will tackle the issue by increasing relevant intelligence collection and diplomatic measures, further emphasizing that criminal actors must be held accountable. But the strategy focuses heavily on bringing greater transparency to the US and international financial systems, which indicates that private financial institutions- both domestic and foreign- will be increasingly called upon to assist. The US has already issued a fresh round of sanctions on corrupt government officials and companies this week, including on former Ukrainian official Andrey Portnov, accusing him of buying influence in Ukraine’s courts.

Uptick in tensions with China as new information about human rights abuse surfaces, Beijing Olympics approach. This week, an unofficial UK tribunal reported that the Muslim minority Uyghur population of China has been subjected to genocide and crimes against humanity by the Chinese government. The tribunal was comprised of lawyers, academics, and businesspeople, and was heavily informed by leaked government documents detailing the abuse. The documents indicate that the Chinese government took efforts to sterilize Uyghur women, imposing measures to prevent births within the group- a recognized component of genocide. The tribunal also concluded that the degree of state repression could not exist without high-level government approval.

While the tribunal is not a government-backed entity and cannot sanction China in response, the research details ongoing allegations of human rights abuses at a time of heightened attention on Beijing. The Chinese Embassy in London denounced the tribunal as a “political tool used by a few anti-China and separatist elements to deceive and mislead the public”, further stating that any Chinese policies in Uyghur region of Xinjiang were aimed at preventing terrorism. This week, the UK, Canada, and Australia joined the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. In response, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson stated that the nations “will have to pay the price for their mistaken acts.”

Despite the pandemic, sustained government demand keeps the sale of weapons and military services on upward trajectory. According to new findings by Swedish thinktank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), even as the global economy contracted by about 3% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, arms sales increased. The world’s top 100 largest arms firms reportedly clocked in record sales of $531bn in 2020, a 1.3% increase in real terms from 2019. US-based companies represented the greatest percentage of the top 100 arms companies, and researchers noted several top US companies were also venturing into space technology via acquisitions. Chinese firms represented the second largest percentage of the total top 100, with UK firms in third. There were nine Russian companies in the top 100 but their sales combined decreased by 6.5% from 2019-2020. This follows Russia’s reported downward sales trajectory since 2017, but Russian firms are notably diversifying their product lines in response to a government policy to increase their share of civilian sales to 50% over the next ten years.