14 December 2018

India-US-EU Combine Halts China's Belt and Road Initiative at the UN

Seema Sirohi

Washington: In a significant expression of international will, references to China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) have been deleted from all UN resolutions, bringing an end to Beijing’s “wordplay diplomacy” and dealing a blow to its biggest strategic gambit.

The spread of “Xi Jinping thought” via subterfuge came to a complete halt, at least at the UN, thanks to some diplomatic due diligence by India, the US and the EU. China’s little helper Pakistan could do nothing but watch.

The last vestige of BRI propaganda was deleted from a resolution on Afghanistan on December 6 in a final act of cleansing that started last year when India took a strong stand against BRI and rained on Xi’s parade by raising questions about transparency, environmental standards, predatory economics and violations of sovereignty.

Is China's AIIB Developing Asia, Or Just Propping Up China's State-Owned Banks with Extra Cash?

by Salvatore Babones

The AIIB was supposed to lend $30 to $40 billion in its first three years. It has disbursed just $1 billion. Something doesn't add up.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was supposed to be the keystone of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, but it has disbursed just $1 billion in its first three years of operation.

Back in 2016, the AIIB was touted and feared as the new colossus of development banks. Promoters pointed to Asia's need for trillions of dollars of new infrastructure. Critics feared that the AIIB would marginalize existing institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

US Shouldn’t Give Even A dollar to Pakistan: Haley

The outgoing American ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists that turn around and kill American soldiers, asserting that Washington should not give Islamabad even a dollar until it addresses the issue.

Haley said that U.S. did not need to give money to countries that wish harm to America, go behind its back and try and “stop us from doing things”.

” … I think there should be a strategic view on which countries we partner with, which ones we count on to work with us on certain things, and move forward accordingly. I think we just blindly allow money to keep going without thinking that this is real leverage. We have to use it,” Haley told US magazine ‘The Atlantic’, cited by the Times of India.

Japan to Convert Izumo-Class Into F-35-Carrying Aircraft Carrier

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force plans to upgrade one of its flattops into a full-fledged aircraft carrier.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF) largest warship, the so-called helicopter destroyer JS Izumo, the lead ship of the Izumo-class, will be converted into an aircraft carrier capable of launching the F-35B–the U.S. Marine Corps variant of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter capable of vertical or short takeoffs and vertical landings (STOVL) without requiring a catapult launcher—from its flight deck, according to Japan’s new draft defense plan presented on December 11.

The revised version of the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), which set out Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) capability targets over a period of about 10 years, stated that the government will “enable fighter jets to be operated from existing warships, if necessary, to improve the flexibility of their operation.” The NDPG furthermore re-designates the JS Izumo as a multi-purpose escort destroyer to comply with Japan’s pacifist constitution that limits JSDF capabilities to self-defense.

The Deep Roots of Sri Lanka's Political Crisis

By Umesh Moramudali

In the first week of December, Sri Lanka’s political crisis deepened after the country’s Court of Appeal issued an interim injunction order restraining former President Mahinda Rajapaksa from functioning as the prime minister. The interim injunction order, issued on December 4, also restrained 49 others from functioning as ministers. Technically, Sri Lanka is left with no functioning prime minister or a cabinet. The political uncertainty seems set to continue until the Supreme Court delivers the final verdict regarding the validity of the action taken by President Maithripala Sirisena to dissolve the Parliament.

The Court of Appeal issued its interim order in response to a Writ of Quo Warranto filed against Rajapaksa and others, stating that a no-confidence motion was passed by the majority in the Parliament against Rajapaksa holding the office of prime minister. However, Rajapaksa, responding to the interim order, filled appeals in the Supreme Court the very next day. He also claimed that he is not in agreement with the order issued by the Court of Appeal and insisted that only the Supreme Court is vested with the power to interpret the constitution and make final determinations on that regard.

The US & China: A Colder Peace or Thucydides’ Trap?


As President Trump pushes Beijing on trade and cyber espionage, the United States and China are on a collision course. The U.S. urgently needs a new strategy to avoid the traditional fate of rising and status quo powers: catastrophic war.

Chinese H-6K bomber and J-11 fighters

In late October, Southeast Asian navies held their first-ever joint exercises with their Chinese counterparts. The hope was to ease years of tensions over disputed islands in the South China Sea. Instead, the exercises gave an alarming preview of how Chinese hegemony would work.

The “nine-dash line” describing Chinese claims to the South China Sea

During a briefing for officers from the 10-country Association of South East Asian Nations, the chief of China’s Southern Theater Command presented a map including the “nine-dash line” border long used by Beijing to claim dominion over nearly the entire South China Sea — claims the ASEAN members do not recognize. Despite an international tribunal declaring in 2016 that the nine-dash demarcation had “no legal basis” in international law, the Chinese official insisted to his ASEAN counterparts not only that the 9-dash line delineated Chinese sovereignty, but that as head of Southern Theater Command, he was responsible for enforcing those boundaries. According to U.S. officials, the ASEAN naval leaders were outraged — though not surprised — by what seemed like a deliberately insulting provocation by the Chinese.

Everything you need to know about Google’s controversial China plans in advance of Tuesday’s congressional hearing

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By Shirin Ghaffary

The search giant and other tech firms have had a history of issues in the country over where to draw the line on government censorship.

On Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai will face a roomful of members of Congress demanding answers. One of the topics he’ll have to address is a growing area of concern from both the political left and right: His company’s previously secret plans to build a censored search engine in China.

Critics fear that the project, code-named Dragonfly, will enable the Chinese government to block its citizens from accessing information it doesn’t like and surveil its political opponents. A prototype of the product blacklisted specific search terms such as “human rights,” “Nobel Prize” and “student protest,” according to the Intercept.

It was also reported that Google would rely on a Chinese partner company for the infrastructure of the project, potentially leaving users’ search history vulnerable to be seized by the Chinese government, which regularly arrests and detains political dissidents.

China's Europe Strategy


SCHLOSS ELMAU, GERMANY – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently shared some history with a friend, explaining why he reached out to China’s then-Premier Wen Jiabao in 2011, seeking urgent financial support and providing Beijing one of several European inroads in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Orban’s reason was a simple one: survival. Facing a potential debt crisis and unwilling to accept austere loan conditions from Western institutions, Beijing offered a lifeline. For his part, Orban convened some Central European leaders with Beijing, and they laid the groundwork for the “16-plus-one” initiative based in Budapest that since then has provided China unprecedented regional influence.

It didn’t take long for China’s investment to bear fruit. In March 2017, Hungary took the rare step to break European Union consensus on human rights violations, refusing to sign a joint letter denouncing the alleged torture of detained lawyers. In July 2016, Hungary joined Greece – another distressed European target of Chinese largesse – in blocking reference to Beijing in a Brussels statement on the illegality of Chinese claims in the South China Sea.

Beijing's economic 'red lines' may clash with Trump's 90-day plan, analysts say

Huileng Tan

Washington has accused China of forcing technology transfers, and tacitly supporting intellectual property violations and cyber-crime.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to continue lending state support to targeted industries, particularly in technology under the "Made in China 2025" program, according to TS Lombard's Eleanor Olcott.

U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping arrive at a state dinner in China on November 9, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping may have put their tit-for-tat tariff fight on hold, but differences between the two countries' views on technology and state-supported businesses will challenge negotiations between the two economic giants, analysts said.

How Asia Fell Out of Love With China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Iain Marlow and Dandan Li

In late August, President Abdulla Yameen of the Maldives hailed the opening of a Chinese-built bridge connecting two islands in the archipelago as “the gateway into tomorrow and the opportunities beyond.”

One month later, Yameen was voted out and the new government of the palm-fringed nation off the coast of India began to uncover the mountain of debt with which he’d saddled the country. A pro-China strongman who jailed opponents and judges, Yameen borrowed heavily from Beijing to build a new runway for the main airport, housing developments and a hospital, as well as the 2.1 kilometer (1.3 mile)-long “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge.”

On a recent trip to New Delhi, Maldives officials opened up about their frustration over the scale of the debt to China—the equivalent of almost 20 percent of GDP—and the inexplicable preference given to Chinese financing under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In just one example, the previous government rejected a $54 million hospital bid in favor of an “inflated” Chinese offer of $140 million.

Iraq's Electricity Sector Is Caught in the U.S.-Iran Power Struggle

Iraq’s electricity sector has been in near-constant crisis mode since the fall of Saddam Hussein and will likely remain troubled in the immediate future. 

Chronic brownouts and blackouts will continue to plague the Iraqi electric grid, driving protests over shortages, as its aging and inefficient infrastructure cannot keep up with the growth in demand despite new investment. 

Iraq will seek to diversify away from Iran by investing in new domestic infrastructure and importing more from other neighbors, but this long-term strategy will not help in the short term. 

Broken Europe

Source Link
By Helen Thompson

The European Union has always struggled to accommodate the democratic politics of its members. The problem became serious in 1999, with the creation of a currency union without an accompanying political and fiscal union. Then, beginning in 2011, the eurozone sovereign debt crisis turned what had been a real but manageable issue into a predicament from which the EU has no discernible escape. Stuck with an unworkable currency union, the EU can neither accommodate democracy in its member states nor suppress it. The result is likely to be the continuation of the pattern over the last decade: crisis after crisis with no lasting solution.

The Brexit That Nobody Wants

By Sam Knight

On Monday afternoon, Theresa May announced that she was postponing a vote in the House of Commons on the deal that she struck last month to take Britain out of the European Union. The vote, which was scheduled for Tuesday evening, was shaping up to be a calamitous defeat for May, possibly signalling the end of her time as Prime Minister. It was called off only at the last minute. On TV and radio shows on Monday morning, ministers had insisted that a five-day parliamentary debate on May’s Brexit deal, which began last week, remained on course to conclude tomorrow. Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary and the last prominent Brexiteer still standing by the Prime Minister, told the BBC that he had been working on his speech over the weekend. “The vote is going ahead,” he said. Three hours later, he and the rest of the Cabinet were summoned for an emergency conference call. May acknowledged to the House of Commons this afternoon that her deal, in its present form, would be rejected by M.P.s by “a significant margin.”

Trump Russia affair: Key questions answered

For nearly two years the Trump-Russia affair has dominated front pages and mired the president's administration in conflict and controversy. But what is it exactly? How did it begin? And where is it going?

The inquiry is being led by Robert Mueller, a widely respected former director of the FBI. Holed up in an unremarkable office in Washington DC, Mr Mueller's team is quietly going about one of the most high-profile political inquiries in US history.

Five people connected with Donald Trump's campaign and presidency have been charged with criminal offences.

One of them, his former lawyer Michael Cohen, could be jailed on Wednesday on several charges, making him the first member of the president's inner circle to be imprisoned in relation to the inquiry.

Trade War Battles: Latest Conflicts

By Kathleen Claussen

The last weeks of 2018 have precipitated significant developments in the so-called trade wars between the United States and its trading partners. Yet the recent agreements made and signed did little to advance efforts toward greater cooperation on the “three-digit sagas”—the tit-for-tat tariff battles occurring under statutory delegations known by their three-digit references, such as Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The announcements coming out of the G20 summit in Argentina make now a good time to take stock of the state of play in the trade wars. 

U.S. Petroleum Imports From OPEC Have Fallen Since 2000

OPEC began a week-long meeting in Vienna yesterday. The oil cartel has agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, with the exception of Iran. As of today, the U.S. is a net oil exporter for the first time in 75 years, meaning the amount of crude oil the United States exports exceeds the country's imports.

Geoeconomics: the U.S. Strategy of Technological Protection and Economic Security

By Anthea Roberts, Henrique Choer Moraes, Victor Ferguson 

In three previous posts, we have looked at the emerging Geoeconomic World Order, the increased convergence of economics and security in this new order and some elements of China’s geoeconomic strategy with respect to technological advancement and cyber security. The challenges posed by China’s economic rise have led the United States to dramatically revise its approach to international trade and economic law. In this post, we examine the United States’s use of geoeconomic strategies that seek to foster U.S. technological protection and economic security.

Invoking the mantra that “economic security is national security,” the United States has adopted a wide range of measures to protect its technology and manufacturing sectors. On a substantive level, these measures appear to be part of a longer-term strategy of protecting U.S. technological dominance and “decoupling” key sectors of the U.S. and Chinese economies. On a procedural level, the United States is also seeking to remove international judicial review over its economic decision-making in general and its invocation of national security exemptions in particular.

The World According to George Soros

Source Link
By Connie Bruck

Is the speculator and philanthropist a one-man foreign-policy machine or an unregulated billionaire with a messiah complex?

On a recent visit to Budapest, George Soros stood across the street from the apartment building where he had lived until he was fourteen, when, during the Nazi occupation, he and other members of his family assumed false identities and went into hiding. The stately building overlooked a small square, full of foliage, and the Danube, just beyond. Soros pointed to a large casement window with a view high enough to clear the trees, and, turning to his twenty-three-year-old son, Jonathan, who was standing beside him, told him that he used to sit there for hours at a time, watching the river flow by. It made a nice tableau—and a cameraman from a British television crew that was working on a documentary about Soros, the multibillionaire speculator and philanthropist, captured it. It has become something of a ritual for Soros, accompanied by camera crews, to visit this site, or the cellar where he hid, or the apartment building where his father constructed another hideout. Just then, a tour bus rolled slowly by. Soros glanced at it, and suddenly burst out laughing, exclaiming to his son, “I can just hear the tour director saying, ‘And there is Soros, explaining his life.’ ”

Tomgram: Subhankar Banerjee, The Vanishing

Subhankar Banerjee

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a reminder that signed, personalized copies of Ben Fountain’s new book, Beautiful Country Burn Again, are still available for a $100 contribution to this website ($125 if you live outside the U.S.) -- but not for long. Check out our donation page for the details because the offer will end this Friday. Of the book, Andrew Bacevich has written: “As a stylist, Fountain combines the talents of Ambrose Bierce, Norman Mailer, and Hunter Thompson… A penetrating critique of a contemporary American politics thoroughly corrupted by money... Ben Fountain’s voice -- enraged, unsparing, unrelenting, acutely attuned to hypocrisy, and suffused with wit -- invests his testimony with an authority that commands respect.” And a million thanks to all of you who already donated for a copy -- your support truly does make all the difference to us! Tom]

Energy Opportunities under the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision

Jane Nakano

Energy has emerged as a key element in the economic agenda under the Trump administration’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, which essentially seeks to marshal a counteroffensive to China-led multi-billion-dollar energy and energy infrastructure outreach in the region. In July 2018, the U.S. administration announced several economic initiatives to “support foundational areas of the future: digital economy, energy, and infrastructure.” In particular, Asia EDGE (Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy) is an initiative that aims to strengthen energy security and promote energy access across the Indo-Pacific by growing regional markets and boosting U.S. energy exports, such as natural gas that is a lower carbon alternative to coal, whose demand is on rise in the region.

Lies, Damned Lies, and AI


As algorithmic decision-making spreads across a broadening range of policy areas, it is beginning to expose social and economic inequities that were long hidden behind "official" data. The question now is whether we will use these revelations to create a more just society.

CAMBRIDGE – Algorithms are as biased as the data they feed on. And all data are biased. Even “official” statistics cannot be assumed to stand for objective, eternal “facts.” The figures that governments publish represent society as it is now, through the lens of what those assembling the data consider to be relevant and important. The categories and classifications used to make sense of the data are not neutral. Just as we measure what we see, so we tend to see only what we measure.

Why Microsoft is fighting to stop a cyber world war

By Steve Ranger

The tech industry is becoming more vocal about its worries about a cyberwarfare arms race. But are the right people listening?

On 12 May the WannaCry ransomware attack created havoc by encrypting PCs across the world -- forcing the UK's NHS to cancel appointments and operations -- and costing billions to repair the damage. Just over a month later on 16 June the NotPetya malware caused more damage, again costing billions to fix. Western governments have blamed WannaCry on North Korea, and NotPetya on Russia -- it probably was designed as an attack on Ukraine which then got out of hand.

"One of the things we see is that tools we've created, the tools you've created have been turned by others into weapons. 2017 was a wakeup call, it was a wakeup call about how people unfortunately in some nation states and some governments are using our tools as weapons," said Smith, speaking on stage at the Web Summit conference last month.



Our in-house Know-It-Alls answer questions about your interactions with technology and science.

Q: What Causes Hangovers, and How Can I Avoid Them?

A: The winter holidays require much of us—mindfulness of tradition (both religious and familial), emotional forbearance (both general and familial), financial judgment, good cheer (real or pretend), and, for some, a higher-than-usual intake of alcohol. For people who indulge, the season’s parties, vacation time, and family gatherings invite overindulgence. That, in turn, invites some pretty miserable mornings after.

A New Old Threat

Countering the Return of Chinese Industrial Cyber Espionage

China is once again conducting cyber-enabled theft of U.S. intellectual property to advance its technological capabilities. To combat the problem, the United States should build a multinational coalition, sanction Chinese companies, and strengthen cyber defenses.

Ira A. Lipman Chair in Emerging Technologies and National Security and Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program


After a three-year hiatus, the cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property by Chinese hackers is once again a point of contention in the U.S.-China relationship. Cybersecurity firms have reported new attacks on U.S. companies, and Donald J. Trump administration officials have claimed that China is ignoring a 2015 agreement in which both countries pledged not to conduct hacking to benefit commercial entities.

Sen. Warner, Gen. Dunford Question Google, Silicon Valley For Helping China


WASHINGTON: As the Pentagon pumps billions of dollars into jets, tanks, and new types of ships, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said there’s another form of war that the United States is losing: an invisible, digital war of 1s and 0s.

“We have entered a new era of nation-state conflict,” Sen. Mark Warner, the son of a World War II veteran, said in Washington on Friday, “one in which a nation projects strength less through traditional military hardware, and more through cyber and information warfare.”

Generals and pundits alike have warned that the US is being outmaneuvered by Russian and Chinese actions in the “gray zone” between peaceful cooperation and open war, where hacking and online propaganda often play a larger role than uniformed forces.

Behind the White House’s plan to be more aggressive in cyberspace

By: Justin Lynch

The warnings came from Donald Trump’s predecessor, top spies and Kim Jong Un himself.

So when the North Korean leader promised to tame Trump with “fire,” in September 2017, White House leaders considered how to slow the Asian country’s march to developing a nuclear weapon.

During a meeting in late 2017, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis presented a military strategy and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presented a diplomatic answer. But when it came time to discuss intelligence and hacking options for the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, some on Trump’s team were frustrated with the answer. They argued the NSA couldn’t digitally deter Kim.

The internet risks fracturing into quarters

Most of us have lived with the internet, through its most common application, the worldwide web, for a quarter of a century. It seems as reliable as electricity or drinking water, and it is recognised as critical infrastructure. But the internet is not as substantial as it appears — it depends on a precarious balancing act behind the scenes, where technical problems are addressed in the midst of political squalls.

Although some commentators have started talking about a “ splinternet” that carves up the online world into US and Chinese spheres of influence, I would argue that this understates the divisions. In fact, viewed through a geopolitical lens, the monolithic, unchanging internet dissolves into at least four.

The World's Biggest Arms Companies

Last year, the sale of arms and military services around the world was 2.5 percent higher than in 2016, totalling $398.2 billion, according to new data released by Sipri. American companies accounted for $225.5 billion of that total.

U.S. companies were driven by large export orders and major acquisitions. Lockheed Martin retained its place at the top of the biggest arms-producing companies with $44.9 billion in sales. Its November 2015 purchase of helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky and accelerated deliveries of the F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft contributed to its success. Boeing's arms sales came to $27 billion last year and its more notable weapons systems include the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

Out of the ten largest arms manufacturers, five are American and BAE systems is the first-non U.S. company on the list. Known for producing the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers as well as the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, it comes fourth on the list in 2017 with sales coming to $23.87 billion.

Army Multi-Domain Update: New HQs, Grey Zones, & The Art of The Unfeasible

SOURCE: Army Multi-Domain Operations Concept, December 2018.

Smart missiles to strike hard targets hundreds of miles away. Wireless links to pull data from stealth fighters and foot soldiers alike. Command posts agile enough to coordinate it all — not only in open war, but in the ambiguous “grey zone” of hacking, proxy warfare, and Twitter trolls. That’s just a few of the most crucial pieces of the Army’s new concept for Multi-Domain Operations out Thursday.

CDs, faxes make comeback as military file-sharing service taken offline


The shuttering of a widely used military file-sharing service last month has left the services without an online option for transferring sensitive unclassified files, so they’re turning to CDs, DVDs, postal mail and even fax machines.

Both the Navy and Marine Corps issued official guidance late last month saying optical discs are the only way to securely send large files that contain private information like Social Security numbers or medical data, after the military disabled the Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center Safe Access File Exchange, or AMRDEC SAFE.

Neither the Air Force nor the Army have issued similar guidance, but officials with those services said they also lack an online alternative.