19 December 2018

India, Maldives Recalibrate Their Bilateral Relationship With Modi-Solih Summit

By Ankit Panda

On Monday, Ibrahim “Ibu” Mohamed Solih, the new president of the Maldives, met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top Indian officials in his first overseas trip since assuming the presidency. Solih’s trip to India marks the beginning of a recalibration in the Maldives’ foreign policy back toward New Delhi, its closest historical partner, after a swing away from India during the tenure of former President Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen’s remarkable defeat in the September elections this year marked a moment of political transition in the Maldives, which had veered away from democracy and toward authoritarianism under his leadership. Yameen had also pivoted the Maldives toward China; in December 2017, the two countries concluded a free trade agreement and Malé took on considerable Chinese financing for infrastructure projects.

Japan Looks to India’s Growing Tech Talent Pool

By Thisanka Siripala

Japan’s information technology (IT) sector is feeling the crunch in a worsening technical skills shortage that could stunt the industry’s technological edge and global competitiveness in the coming future. The latest data from the Ministry of Trade, Economy, and Industry estimates Japan will be short 290,000 tech workers in 2020, which will double to 590,000 by 2030 if left unaddressed. With an impending sense of crisis, IT company recruiters are broadening employment options and are aggressively scouting top tech talent in booming IT hubs such as India, which has a reputation for highly productive and hard-working graduates.

India’s prestigious engineering science university, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), held its first job fair exclusively for Japanese companies in October. The fair featured Japan’s 10 biggest companies, such as Toshiba and Denso.

U.S., Taliban Meet in U.A.E. to Discuss Afghanistan Peace

By Eltaf Najafizada

The Afghan Taliban said it was holding another round of talks with U.S. officials in the U.A.E. on Monday after peace negotiations failed last month.

Representatives from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the U.A.E. will also attend the meeting, Zabihullah Mujahed, a spokesman for the militant group, said in a statement released on late Sunday evening. Pakistan has also confirmed that talks will be taking place and hopes the meeting “will end bloodshed in Afghanistan and bring peace to the region,” Mohammad Faisal, a foreign ministry spokesman in Islamabad, said on Twitter.

Perception And Misperception: Ten False Narratives About Afghanistan – Analysis

By Tamim Asey*

Afghans and Afghanistan has an image problem. An image less reflective of the realities of Afghan society and polity and more portrayed for them by western academics, diplomats and politicians.

An Afghan proverb, “If you repeat a lie a hundred times then it becomes the truth,” best describes most of the paradoxical and far from truth narratives that has defined Afghanistan and the developments in this country.

In the western literature, Afghans are perceived as warrior savages with an extreme sense of independence with no respect for central authority therefore a centralised government and against progress and development. The only few scholars who have defied such an image of the country are Frederick Starr, Robert D. Crew and Frank L. Hot who have taken a civilizational approach to state and state building in Afghanistan. The argument of a centralised authority weary Afghans is as good as Republicans or the GOP calling for a small government in the United States with less intrusive powers in people’s individual lives.

Balochistan shocked over its poor share in CPEC projects


A study carried out with the technical assistance of the World Bank has shocked the leaders of the volatile Pakistani province of Balochistan, which feels deprived of its due share of investments pledged under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) mega-project.

The Balochistan cabinet, during a briefing last week, was informed that the investments thus far made in the province were dismally low while the ongoing development projects moved along at a snail’s pace.
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The province’s legislative assembly termed Chinese investment a joke and exhorted Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani to take up the issue with the central Pakistani government for rectification, a demand that the federal Planning Ministry cannot possibly meet without first ratifying it with the China-Pakistan Joint Coordination Committee (JCC).

The Land That Failed to Fail


The West was sure the Chinese approach would not work. It just had to wait. It’s still waiting.  In the uncertain years after Mao’s death, long before China became an industrial juggernaut, before the Communist Party went on a winning streak that would reshape the world, a group of economics students gathered at a mountain retreat outside Shanghai. There, in the bamboo forests of Moganshan, the young scholars grappled with a pressing question: How could China catch up with the West?

It was the autumn of 1984, and on the other side of the world, Ronald Reagan was promising “morning again in America.” China, meanwhile, was just recovering from decades of political and economic turmoil. There had been progress in the countryside, but more than three-quarters of the population still lived in extreme poverty. The state decided where everyone worked, what every factory made and how much everything cost.

China Confronts Its Eternal Dilemma

Christopher Balding

China’s top leaders meet this week in Beijing to set economic policy objectives for the coming year. The central question is whether they will do what they want or what the country needs.

Clear evidence has emerged in the past couple of months that the Chinese economy is slowing to an uncomfortable degree. That’s raised expectations that the leadership will opt for significant stimulus at the Central Economic Work Conference, which Bloomberg News reported will be held from Dec. 19-21.

Xi Jinping prepares to unveil China’s economic game plan for 2019 amid trade war tensions with US

Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling a meeting with the country’s top leadership to manage lingering trade tensions abroad and deepening growth slowdown at home, in which tax cuts, fiscal stimulus and greater market openings are expected to be discussed.

The Central Economic Work Conference, which is likely to be held next week, is an annual gathering of Chinese state leaders, ministers, provincial governors and senior advisers that is intended to build a consensus and chart out economic policies for the country’s most important economic issues, from growth to structural reform.

The 2018 conference will be held at a particularly critical moment when the world’s second biggest economy is at a new crossroads.

Pearls, Angel Wings, and Taxi Rides: The Faces of the Chinese Economic Slowdown

By Bonnie Girard

It takes some drilling down to find and feel the effect of the U.S.- China trade war in China itself. In Beijing, a Western-branded hotel in the center of the city said they had had no decrease in business, and that seemed to be true, judging by the number of clientele throughout the hotel in comparison with this time last year.

In Hongqiao Market, a shopping haven for foreign tourists seeking bargains and locals seeking high-end jewelry at reasonable prices, traffic seemed to be steady in the lower-end shops. Shop owners in the main market, which sells everything from electronics, apparel, accessories, and jewelry, did say that 20 to 30 vendors of the several hundred occupying the market had closed up and “gone back to the provinces,” but also said this was a normal attrition rate. Some just don’t make it.

The Stealth Superpower How China Hid Its Global Ambitions

By Oriana Skylar Mastro

“China will not, repeat, not repeat the old practice of a strong country seeking hegemony,” Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said last September. It was a message that Chinese officials have been pushing ever since their country’s spectacular rise began. For decades, they have been at pains to downplay China’s power and reassure other countries—especially the United States—of its benign intentions. Jiang Zemin, China’s leader in the 1990s, called for mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, and cooperation in the country’s foreign relations. Under Hu Jintao, who took the reins of power in 2002, “peaceful development” became the phrase of the moment. The current president, Xi Jinping, insisted in September 2017 that China “lacks the gene” that drives great powers to seek hegemony.

It is easy to dismiss such protestations as simple deceit. In fact, however, Chinese leaders are telling the truth: Beijing truly does not want to replace Washington at the top of the international system. China has no interest in establishing a web of global alliances, sustaining a far-flung global military presence, sending troops thousands of miles from its borders, leading international institutions that would constrain its own behavior, or spreading its system of government abroad.

China’s Economy Slows Sharply, in Challenge for Xi Jinping

By Keith Bradsher and Ailin Tang

DONGGUAN, China — China’s consumers and businesses are losing confidence. Car sales have plunged. The housing market is stumbling. Some factories are letting workers off for the big Lunar New Year holiday two months early.

China’s economy has slowed sharply in recent months, presenting perhaps the biggest challenge to its top leader, Xi Jinping, in his six years of rule. At home, he faces difficult choices that could rekindle growth but add to the country’s long-term problems, like its heavy debt. On the world stage, he has been forced to make concessions to the United States as President Trump’s trade war intensifies.

How badly this hurts him could depend on the extent to which Chinese workers like Yu Hong find their jobs disappearing. On a recent afternoon, Mr. Yu, 46, was boarding a train home, to Hubei Province in central China, for a nearly three-month unpaid holiday. The lamp factory in Dongguan where he works had drastically reduced pay and cut hours.

Infographic Of The Day: Visualizing Global Shipping Container Traffic

Globalization owes a lot to the humble shipping container. In the distant past, loading a ship was a complicated affair involving pallets, crates, and winches. This process was labor-intensive and expensive, meaning most goods were simply not worth shipping overseas.

In the 1970s, the standardized shipping container solved this problem on a wide scale and turned the world economy on its head. This standardization drove the cost of shipping down as the efficiency of ports skyrocketed. Modern ports can now move upwards of 70 containers per crane per hour.

Made in China

With the barrier of shipping costs effectively removed, production began to migrate to countries with cheaper production costs.

It’s not a trade war with China. It’s a tech war.

By Michael Morell

Michael Morell, a Post contributing columnist, is a former deputy director and twice acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency. David Kris is a former assistant attorney general for national security and co-founder of Culper Partners consulting firm.

The United States is in an escalating technological cold war with China. It’s not centered on tariffs and trade, which President Trump often cites; instead, it involves both China’s use of technology to steal information and the theft of technology itself.

There have already been casualties in this cold war in both the U.S. government and the private sector — including Beijing’s hack into the computer system of the Office of Personnel Management to steal security-clearance applications of U.S. government employees and, more recently, a breach of the Marriott hotel chain’s reservation system. As highlighted in recent indictments and a new “China Initiative” from the Justice Department, we have also seen the theft of significant amounts of technology itself.

Why Saudi Arabia Will Struggle to Draw Investors in 2019

Economic growth in Saudi Arabia in 2019 will stem largely from public sector spending. The reliance on public sector spending underlines how difficult it will be for Saudi Arabia to move to a more diversified economy with a vibrant private sector. Political uncertainty in the Middle East, as well as perceptions of domestic political turmoil within Saudi Arabia, will contribute to lackluster foreign direct investment in the kingdom.

With 2019 just around the corner, Saudi Arabia's economic strategists are busy planning the oil giant's budget for the coming year. The outlook for economic growth is good, especially when compared with a year ago. Over the past year, oil prices have been high enough that the desert kingdom has succeeded in narrowing its substantial budget deficit faster than originally planned. Real growth in the gross domestic product hit 1.8 percent in the first half of 2018 — up a full percentage point from the same period of 2017. Non-oil revenue for the first half of 2018 was also up nearly 50 percent year to year from 2017. And spending next year looks like it will be higher than ever. Riyadh plans to boost government spending by as much as 7 percent as part of total budget expenditures, which are expected to total 1.106 trillion Saudi riyals ($295 billion), for the kingdom's biggest budget ever. All told, Saudi authorities project that the country's GDP will grow by 2.9 percent in the coming year.

Iran’s Cyber influence Campaign against the United States, and Implications for Israel’s Security

Itay Haiminis

Over the past six months, cyber security firms and technology companies have exposed extensive Iranian cognitive-related activity in cyberspace aimed primarily at the American public, with Iran’s seeking to exacerbate internal US debates between different social groups. Iran’s influence efforts in cyberspace reflect the importance Tehran attributes to the ideological struggle at home and against its external enemies, first and foremost the United States. In the regime’s eyes, the United States, in addition to its political and economic war, is waging an ideological struggle for the hearts and minds of the Iranian public against the values of the Islamic Revolution. Therefore, Iran’s cyber influence campaign is not merely a counteraction to US moves (real and imagined), but also another step in Iran’s longstanding desire to destabilize the United States by weakening its internal robustness. Israel, likewise a target of Iranian cyber influence efforts, would do well to monitor Iran’s developing cyberattack capabilities, along with Iran’s overt threatening capabilities in conventional and non-conventional weapons.

Can the Yellow Vest Movement Remake French Politics?


As hundreds gathered at the St. Lazare train station Saturday morning for “Act Four” of the so-called Yellow Vest protests, police patrolled the surrounding streets, conducting searches and identity checks. Observers crowded around a group of officers who were holding one protester, clad in a yellow vest, to the ground. “Shame! Shame!” one woman chanted at the police, as she filmed on her phone.

The diffuse Yellow Vests movement that has rocked France began in mid-November in opposition to a fuel tax aimed to curb fossil-fuel emissions. Since then, it has transformed into a fierce denunciation of Emmanuel Macron, “president of the rich,” as these protesters and others call him, criticizing his right-leaning economic policies in this famously labor-friendly country.

Civil Society Under Russia’s Threat: Building Resilience in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova

Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, constituting the western rim of the EU’s Eastern Partnership group of countries, are at the front line of a heated battle for their own future. They are highly exposed to various threats emanating from Russia, which deploys a set of tools aimed at weakening their sovereignty. State cohesion and stability in Eastern Europe are key to wider European security. Building societal and institutional resilience to Russia’s negative influence in the three countries represents a potentially viable strategy for more secure and less damaging cohabitation with the current Russian regime. Civil society has an important role to play in building social cohesion, and in insulating the three countries against Russian influence. The ability to recognize Russian interference, design effective responses and prevent damaging trends from taking hold is key to strengthening country defences.

Carrying the Lessons Learned About Trump Into 2019

By Reva Goujon

U.S. President Donald Trump may be unorthodox in his methods, but he is still largely reacting to the impersonal forces driving the great power competition in the international system. The president's tactics, however, not only can deviate from U.S. grand strategy but also directly undermine it in some critical cases. This puts middle powers in an especially awkward position in trying to balance among the United States, China and Russia. Even as Congress and the military establishment have been significant institutional checks on executive policy, personality and ideology remain potent forces shaping policy in the Trump era. Closely tracking the rise and fall of enablers and inhibitors surrounding the president has proved just as important as having a structural framework to make sense of the daily scuttlebutt.

Russian Effort to Influence 2016 Election Targeted African-Americans

By Scott Shane and Sheera Frenkel

The Russian influence campaign on social media in the 2016 election made an extraordinary effort to target African-Americans, used an array of tactics to try to suppress turnout among Democratic voters and unleashed a blizzard of posts on Instagram that rivaled or exceeded its Facebook operations, according to a report produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The report adds new details to the portrait that has emerged over the last two years of the energy and imagination of the Russian effort to sway American opinion and divide the country, which the authors said continues to this day.

“Active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms,” says the report, produced by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Texas, along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research LLC. One continuing Russian campaign, for instance, seeks to influence opinion on Syria by promoting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president and a Russian ally in the brutal conflict there.

Daily Memo: Buyer’s Remorse in Britain, Protests in Europe, US-Turkey Ties

All the news worth knowing today.

Buyer’s remorse in Britain. Pressure has been mounting for a second Brexit referendum ever since the first, but now that there’s a clear picture of what the Brexit deal looks like, the pressure is overwhelming. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that The Guardian and The Sunday Times have reported that members of Prime Minister Theresa May’s inner circle are hatching a plan for a second vote. According to the plan, the House of Commons would hold a series of votes on various outcomes, including another referendum. It’s doubtful that any of the votes would command a majority, but the hope is that a referendum would get close enough to justify another attempt. If all goes according to plan, the blame for the Brexit’s potential failure would shift from May’s government to the Commons. The problem is that no one knows what would be on the ballot. One plan is to make it a choice between May’s deal and no deal, but once the lid is off it will be hard to avoid making Remain an option as well. Whatever happens, at least half the United Kingdom’s voters will be angry, and it will likely take years for the nation to heal.

Opinion today: How does the tech war end?

The US says it wants to reset relations with China, but may also block its rival’s rise © Daniel Pudles Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Save to myFT Miranda Green 6 HOURS AGO Print this page0 This article is from today’s FT Opinion email. Sign up to receive a daily digest of the big issues straight to your inbox. As the US and China wrangle over trade, exchanging threats, accusations, punitive measures and retaliations, Gideon Rachman writes in this week’s column that there are two ways of interpreting their confrontation. The Trump administration says it wants to reset the relationship between the two superpowers. But the US may also want to block China’s rise. “These two ways of thinking point to very different potential endings,” 

The impact of artificial intelligence on international trade

Joshua P. Meltzer

Artificial intelligence (AI) stands to have a transformative impact on international trade. Already, specific applications in areas such as data analytics and translation services are reducing barriers to trade. At the same time, there are challenges in the development of AI that international trade rules could address, such as improving global access to data to train AI systems. The following provides an overview of some of the key AI opportunities for trade as well as those areas where trade rules can help support AI development.


Before proceeding to the impact of AI on trade, it is important to clarify what is meant by AI. More specifically, that there is a key difference between narrow AI such as translation services, chatbots, and autonomous vehicles and general AI—“self-learning systems that can learn from experience with humanlike breadth and surpass human performance on all tasks.” General AI raises broader existential concerns, such as how to align the goals of such a system with our own to prevent catastrophic outcomes,[1] but general AI remains a technology still to be developed in the distant future.

Technology Is Making Warfare in Cities Even Deadlier


From airports to undergrounds, new weapons and brutal tactics will make things worse for urban dwellers.

War is won by breaking an enemy’s morale until their ability to resist collapses. In Iraq, the U.S. military employedshock and awe,” demonstrating overwhelming force while using superior technology and intelligence. It was a new term for an ancient approach: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt,” Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, centuries before Christ. Strike suddenly, brutally, and with the element of surprise to sow confusion and encourage surrender and retreat—or to stage annihilation.

The Third Reich’s blitzkrieg techniques did the same (“the engine of the Panzer is a weapon just as the main gun,” the German general Heinz Guderian noted), along with the shrieking “Jericho Trumpet” sirens its Luftwaffe attached to planes making dive-bomb attacks on cities. The aim was not just the shattering of buildings but the shattering of nerves.

The Divide Between Silicon Valley and Washington Is a National-Security Threat


Closing the gap between technology leaders and policy makers will require a radically different approach from the defense establishment.

A silent divide is weakening America’s national security, and it has nothing to do with President Donald Trump or party polarization. It’s the growing gulf between the tech community in Silicon Valley and the policy-making community in Washington.

Beyond all the acrimonious headlines, Democrats and Republicans share a growing alarm over the return of great-power conflict. China and Russia are challenging American interests, alliances, and values—through territorial aggression; strong-arm tactics and unfair practices in global trade; cyber theft and information warfare; and massive military buildups in new weapons systems such as Russia’s “Satan 2” nuclear long-range missile, China’s autonomous weapons, and satellite-killing capabilities to destroy our communications and imagery systems in space. Since Trump took office, huge bipartisan majorities in Congress have passed tough sanctions against Russia, sweeping reforms to scrutinize and block Chinese investments in sensitive American technology industries, and record defense-budget increases. You know something’s big when senators like the liberal Ron Wyden and the conservative John Cornyn start agreeing.

Google is Pursuing the Pentagon’s Giant Cloud Contract Quietly, Fearing An Employee Revolt


Last August, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis made a journey to the West Coast and met with Google founder Sergey Brin and CEO Sundar Pichai. Over a half day of meetings, Google leaders described the company’s multi-year transition to cloud computing and how it was helping them develop into a powerhouse for research and development into artificial intelligence. Brin in particular was eager to showcase how much Google was learning every day about AI and cloud implementation, according to one current and one former senior Defense Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It wasn’t an overt sales pitch, exactly, say the officials. But the effect of the trip, during which Mattis also met representatives from Amazon, was transformative. He went west with deep reservations about a department-wide move to the cloud and returned to Washington, D.C., convinced that the U.S. military had to move much of its data to a commercial cloud provider — not just to manage files, email, and paperwork but to push mission-critical information to front-line operators.

Project Maven Overseer Will Lead Pentagon’s New AI Center


Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, who oversaw the Pentagon’s controversial Project Maven artificial intelligence project, will lead its new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC, according to Pentagon officials who spoke to Defense One on background and individuals directly familiar with the matter.

The new JAIC will coordinate artificial intelligence research across the Department, and with government labs and private companies — basically, it has a hand in everything the Pentagon creates related to AI.

Autonomous weapons expert Paul Scharre calls Maven “the first serious attempt by DOD to cut through the bureaucratic red tape to deliver AI tools quickly to warfighters. The JAIC is, in many ways, an expansion of what Maven started, with the aim of scaling up a project into an institution that can help bring AI technology into the Department as a whole.”

New report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate, shows the operation’s scale and sweep

By Craig Timberg and Tony Romm

The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to analyze the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Some of the Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process and stir up tensions around divisive social issues. (Jon Elswick/AP) 

A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump — and worked even harder to support him while in office. 

Russian Effort to Influence 2016 Election Targeted African-Americans

Russian Effort to Influence 2016 Election Targeted African-Americans

Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, and the Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin, center, at a dinner in 2011. Mr. Prigozhin was indicted by American prosecutors for his involvement in interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, and the Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin, center, at a dinner in 2011. Mr. Prigozhin was indicted by American prosecutors for his involvement in interfering in the 2016 presidential election.CreditCreditPool photo by Misha Japaridze

The Russian influence campaign on social media in the 2016 election made an extraordinary effort to target African-Americans, used an array of tactics to try to suppress turnout among Democratic voters and unleashed a blizzard of posts on Instagram that rivaled or exceeded its Facebook operations, according to a report produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Cryptocurrencies, Tariffs, Too Big To Fail, And Other Top Posts Of 2018

"Cryptocurrency" hit the cultural mainstream in 2018. In March, Merriam-Webster added "cryptocurrency" to the dictionary, and in what was perhaps a greater litmus test of pop culture recognition, "bitcoin" was added to the official Scrabble dictionary in September. With such a surge in interest, it’s not too surprising that the most viewed post on Liberty Street Economics this past year focused on an issue surrounding how digital currencies operate that is not often put in the spotlight - trust.

Similarly, as the subject of tariffs has become a more frequent topic of discussion in the news, readers have sought additional info, which fueled interest in another of our most viewed posts of the year. As 2019 approaches, we offer a chance to revisit these posts and the rest of our top five of 2018.

10 tanks that changed the history of armored warfare

The tank was introduced in World War I when Britain unveiled the then-secret weapon against German forces and were able to run these rolling fortresses right over German barbed wire and trenches, firing cannons and machine guns into German fortifications. Now, armored columns are a commander's fist, punching holes in enemy lines and then rushing through them to annihilate enemy formations.

Here are 10 tanks that shaped armored warfare, either by completely destroying their enemies or by introducing new design features that gave them the edge in combat:

10. British Centurion