30 April 2019

Why India’s Jet Airways Lost Its Wings

After 26 years in operation, India’s Jet Airways had its final flight last week, following a refusal by lenders for emergency funding. The lenders’ action came as a result of a string of missed debt-servicing payments by the airline and disagreement over whether it could be revived under the management of its founder and 51% equity owner, Naresh Goyal.

Jet Airways had also missed payments to aircraft leasing companies, which led to the grounding of about two-thirds of its 121-strong fleet in March. The airline posted a loss of Rs. 588 crores ($86 million) on revenues of Rs. 6,198 crore ($911 million) in the quarter ended December 2018, its fourth consecutive quarter in the red. Jet’s 15% share of the Indian civil aviation market is up for grabs by rivals, while the fate of its 22,000 employees remains uncertain.

War & Peace in Contemporary India


This Special Issue looks at the importance of institutions and the role played by international actors in crucial episodes of India’s strategic history. The contributions trace India’s tryst with war and peace from immediately before the foundation of the contemporary Indian state to the last military conflict between India and Pakistan in 1999. The focus of the articles is as much on India as it is on Pakistan and China, its opponents in war. The articles offer a fresh take on the creation of India as a regional military power, and her approach to War and Peace in the post-independence period.

The rise of India as a major Asian power is a significant geopolitical process of our times. While India’s growing economic heft is undoubtedly true, it is also a partial and an ahistorical reading. On the one hand, it assumes that the institutional sinews of power flow automatically from economic growth. On the other hand, it overlooks the longer trajectory of India's rise going back to the decade preceding independence – an arc of historical evolution that marks out India from many other post-colonial states. This article identifies India’s participation in the second World War as the starting point of its ‘long rise’ as an Asian power. In analyzing the military transformations that India underwent during the war, it focuses on the institutional dimension of these changes and considers the longer-term changes wrought by the war in the composition of the army, the logistical and support infrastructure, and the emergence of an indigenous military industrial base. Taken together, the article argues, these changes positioned India as a potential regional military power even before it emerged as an independent actor in the international system.

Fear and Loathing in Balochistan

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

In Balochistan, bad news always keeps coming, despite the government’s near daily assurances about restoring peace in the province. Now, once again, Balochistan’s situation is going from bad to worse. There have been sporadic assaults on the security forces in Balochistan’s northern belt, the areas dominated by Pashtuns. There are reports of banned religious outfits regrouping and gaining momentum, too.

But the worst news that always comes out of the province is that of the Hazaras. Once again, they have been targeted in a suicide attack, this time at Quetta city’s vegetable market, in Hazarganji. Reportedly 20 people were killed in the April 12 attack, including Balochs and Pashtuns as well. Once again, Hazaras took to the streets to protest against the killings. The protest ended with assurances from the government about completely implementing the National Action Plan (NAP), a blueprint for ridding Pakistan of terrorism and militancy unveiled in 2014 after the tragic attack on an army school in Peshawar. Ironically, on the same day this promise was being made, another blast in Chaman killed two people and injured at least 10 others.

How Can Sri Lanka Recover?

Panic has gripped Sri Lanka after the serial suicide bombings on Easter Sunday at three churches and three luxury hotels that claimed 253 lives and wounded hundreds of others. But the island nation has a fighting chance to restore peace and communal harmony, according to experts. The country had proven as much with the peace it had achieved over the last nine years following 26 years of civil war between the government and Tamil separatist groups in the north of the country. Even its tourism economy continued to flourish despite sporadic incidents of violence.

Knowledge@Wharton looked at how Sri Lanka can rebuild peace with Henrik Syse, research professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo and a professor of peace and conflict studies at Bjorknes University College in Oslo; Andrew Perumal, associate professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Boston; and Mary Anne Mohanraj, a clinical associate professor of English at the University of Illinois, Chicago. They spoke on the Knowledge@Wharton radio show on SiriusXM. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)

From the Ruins of the Caliphate: Sri Lanka’s Bloody Easter

By Siddharthya Roy and Stephanie Rose Justin

No sooner had the news of the serial bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday spread than fevered attempts were made to pin the attacks to the known brands of international terrorist outfits like the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

While a handful of experts argued that the “DNA of the attacks” matched that of IS and that the scale clearly shows signs of the involvement of a foreign hand, some others disagreed and said this looked to be more up AQIS’ street.

On Tuesday, two full days after the attacks, an account on Telegram claiming to be “official IS” sent out a message taking responsibility for the attacks. This was followed by a longer press release and a video showing the supposed attackers in front of the Islamic State’s black flag, swearing allegiance to the cause of the Caliphate. While that invariably closes the debate over which brand the attacks will be associated with, not everything adds up neatly.

How young Chinese consumers are reshaping global luxuryApril 2019 | Report

By Lan Luan, Aimee Kim, and Daniel Zipser

Global brands face new opportunities as luxury represents a powerful form of social capital for young Chinese consumers.

Set to be the engine of global spending on high-end shoes, bags, fashion, jewelry, and watches, China’s affluent upper-middle class presents an enticing prospect for the world’s designer brands. In fact, Chinese luxury spending is expected to double to 1.2 trillion renminbi by 2025, delivering 65 percent of growth in the market globally (Exhibit 1).
Exhibit 1
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Why China Will Rival the U.S. in High Tech

Dan Wang

Those who think China can’t catch up in innovation tend to base their arguments on abstractions: A rigid education system stifles creativity, they say, while heavy-handed industrial policies such as the “Made in China 2025” program encourage waste and inefficiency.

Those skeptics are ignoring a far more concrete and relevant factor, however: the growing size and sophistication of China’s domestic market. The Chinese economy has expanded threefold since 2008, and tenfold since 2000. That makes it highly likely that China will develop leading technology companies. And it is nearly enough on its own to guarantee that China will join the ranks of technologically advanced countries.

To understand why, consider the example of wind turbines. China created the world’s largest wind-turbine market at the stroke of a pen with the government’s push to promote renewables. Many Chinese provinces are about as populous as large European countries; their procurement plans created enough internal competition to spur the buildup of globally competitive firms. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, severalChinese companies are now leading wind-turbine makers.

The World China Wants


European Union leaders sat down this week in Brussels for a summit with a China it recently branded a “systemic rival,” and the United States is nearing the end game of trade talks with a China that national security documents refer to as a “strategic adversary.”

So, it’s surprising that transatlantic leaders are neither working at common cause nor asking the most crucial geopolitical questions of our age.

What sort of world does China want to create? 

With what means would it achieve its aims? 

And, what should the United States and Europe do to influence the outcome? 

China’s Belt and Road Debate

By Antara Ghosal Singh

The Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is underway in Beijing. The Chinese media has projected the three-day forum, from April 25 to 28, as China’s most important diplomatic event as well as the most anticipated and high-profile global event for the year. Around 40 foreign leaders and thousands of representatives from more than 100 countries and international organizations are expected to attend the conference, which will focus on the theme “together building the One Belt One Road and creating a better future.”

Ahead of the Second Belt and Road Forum, Chinese strategic circles are abuzz with debates and discussions on BRI – some conducting strategic review of the “Belt and Road” construction over the past five years, others locating problems and exploring their root causes or proposing solutions to ensure smooth implementation of this grand project in the following years.

Making Sense of China’s Reaction to the French Navy’s Taiwan Strait Transit

By Ankit Panda

This week, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Defense accused France of “illegally entering Chinese waters.” Following this apparent transgression, Beijing withdrew the French Navy’s invitation to participate in the naval parade off Qingdao to commemorate the 70th year of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Given the nature of China’s complaint, one might think that the French Navy had conducted a freedom of navigation operation through the Paracel Islands, where China has illegally established straight baselines, or through the Spratly Islands, near Beijing’s seven artificial islands. Indeed, Chinese officials have claimed the South China Sea nearly in its entirety as “Chinese waters” for some time.

A Slimmer Belt and Road Is Even Scarier

by Andrew Small 

China’s globe-spanning infrastructure program is shrinking. The rhetoric at the second Belt and Road Forum, opening in Beijing on Thursday, is almost certain to be less triumphalist — and new plans for roads, pipelines, bridges and rail lines more modest — than at the first. Unfortunately for the U.S. and its allies, though, a downsized program could pose more, not less of a competitive threat to the West.

Until now, most worries about the Belt and Road have focused on its size and itsweak standards. The sheer volume of the supposedly multi-trillion-dollar initiative looked impossible to match. Meanwhile, a corrosive combination of debt, corruption and privileged access for Chinese companies threatened to lure or coerce countries away from the U.S. orbit and into China’s.

In many ways, though, this model always contained the seeds of its own failure. The emphasis on speed and scale came at the expense of sustainability, both economically and politically. In most countries, China failed to build a broader consensus for its investments beyond whatever government happened to be in office. In a series of elections from Malaysia to the Maldives, opposition parties have sailed into power by railing against Chinese megaprojects that looked to be lining the pockets of politicians more than boosting the economy. Investments in countries such as Pakistan had already been pared back as rising debt levels limited their ability to take on new projects.

Time for Trilateral Coordination on 5G

By Dennis Blair, Michael Chertoff, and Arthur Coviello

We applaud the recent call by the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality for greater coordination among the United States, Japan and Europe on policy for emerging IT technologies, particularly 5G cellular technologies and networks. Commissioner Věra Jourová told U.S. lawmakers on Thursday that it was critical for the United States and Japan to work with Europe on developing common policies and standards for 5G cellular technologies, artificial intelligence and digital privacy.

All three are important areas for policy development. But in the short term, we see both a more pressing need and clearer way forward to collaborate on 5G because networks are being built in the next few years, and we all face a common threat in the form of state-backed Chinese 5G competitors, notably Huawei.

ISIS's Newest Recruiting Tool: Regional Languages

by Krishnadev Calamur

When ISIS claimed responsibility for the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, it did so in Arabic and English—and in languages spoken in just a few regions across South Asia.

When ISIS claimed responsibility for the coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 350 people, it did so, as one would expect, in Arabic and English. But it also issued statements in other languages—including Tamil.

There is yet no independent verification of the terrorist group’s claim, but the pronouncement in a language spoken by about 70 million people, overwhelmingly in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, as well as in Malayalam, spoken by about 35 million people mostly in the southern Indian state of Kerala, suggests the organization has recruits fluent in what are essentially regional languages with relatively few speakers.

Perceptions of American Decline

By Cameron Munter

The new style of foreign policy practiced by the Trump administration has provoked a great amount of commentary on the waning of an international order created in America's image. But this style of commentary says more about the way experts debate trends in international affairs than about the substance of foreign policy itself. For a better perspective, let’s focus on America’s role and actions in the Middle East.

America historically has had two overriding interests in the Middle East: supporting the state of Israel and ensuring the free world's oil supply. It was generally believed that the United States did this by attempting to balance the interests of others in the region. The Suez Canal crisis of 1956 allowed Washington to supplant the British and French, while the emergence of Anwar Sadat allowed them to supplant the Russians in Egypt. The Americans now presented themselves as the region’s key arbiter. Despite severe challenges from Iran in 1979 and in Iraq in 2003, this was understood to be a region where the Americans called the shots, or at least prevented anyone else from doing so. 

Did Russia Just Concede a Need to Regulate Military AI?


After years of Kremlin efforts to derail international guidelines on militarized artificial intelligence, a national-security leader appeared to signal a new course.

Did the Russian military just concede that militarized artificial intelligence should be subject to international regulation?

For several years, Russia has helped derail UN-sponsored attempts to hammer out global guidelines concerning lethal autonomous weapons systems, or LAWS. But on Wednesday, a top Russian security official appeared to reverse course.

“We believe that it is necessary to activate the powers of the global community, chiefly at the UN venue, as quickly as possible to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework that would prevent the use of the specified [new] technologies for undermining national and international security,” Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said on Wednesday at an annual international-security conference in Moscow, according to state media. “Modern technologies make it possible to create attack instruments with the use of artificial intelligence, genetics, and synthetic biological agents—they are often as deadly as weapons of mass destruction.”

Trump’s Inconsistent Approach to Iran Oil Waivers Means He Can’t Have His Cake and Eat it Too


The Trump administration shocked global oil markets on April 22 with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s surprise announcement that the United States would not renew any waivers for importing Iranian oil when they expire on May 2. While Pompeo noted that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would increase production to match the approximate 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude that will come off the market, this will cut into global spare capacity and has already pushed Brent crude up over 3 percent over $74 as of publication.

This is the second time the Trump administration has been forced to choose between two competing goals: bringing Iranian oil exports down to “zero” and keeping oil prices low. Taking the opposite tack from when the first round of waivers came up in November, this time the administration chose the former option, an apparent victory for Iran hawks in the Cabinet and on the Hill. In November, despite signaling since it left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May that it was pushing for zero Iranian oil exports, the administration granted Significant Reductions Exemptions (SREs or “waivers”) to eight countries importing Iranian oil, leaving approximately 1-1.3 million bpd of Iranian crude on the market, in an effort to manage oil prices. This was roughly the same number of barrels left on the market—if not more than—under Obama administration sanctions.

An ‘Increase in Clarity’ in US Cyber Strategy


Brig. Gen. Timothy D. Haugh (USAF), commander of the Cyber National Mission Force of the US Cyber Command, speaks at the International Conference on Cyber Engagement in Washington, DC on April 23, 2019. 

In the year since the US Cyber Command was elevated to a unified combatant command there has been an “increase in clarity” on the US cyber strategy, specifically on the Department of Defense’s role, and an “alignment in the law,” US Air Force Brig. Gen. Timothy D. Haugh, commander, Cyber National Mission Force at US Cyber Command, said in Washington on April 23.

“What we are focused on in terms of military activities in cyberspace is…not about what the Department of Defense’s role is, it’s how can we enable our international partners, our domestic partners, and industry to be able to defend those things that are critical to our nation’s success,” said Haugh.

“As you think about the United States Cyber Command…think of us as a teammate, think of us as a close partner and someone that is most interested in defending the critical infrastructure of the United States,” he added.

The Genetics Revolution is Already Here and Has Major National Security Implications


When most of us think about genetic technologies, healthcare comes to mind for some very good reasons. Our growing understanding of how our genes impact how our bodies function has made possible incredible medical innovations to treat and even cure some truly awful genetic diseases. But our genomes don’t just underpin our health, they are the blueprints of much of our lives.

Because our lives are about much more than our healthcare, the impact of the genetics revolution will extend far beyond the realm of health. It will change the way we assess our risks and opportunities, the way we make babies, our lifespans, the nature of the babies we make, and ultimately our evolutionary trajectory as a species. It will have massive national security implications.

Opening supercomputing to all agencies


Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry wrote last May that “the future is in supercomputers,” but until recently, only a handful of agencies have been able to tap into that kind of power. Traditionally, high performance computing (HPC, or supercomputing) has required significant capital investment -- as much as $400 million to $600 million for large-scale supercomputing infrastructures and operating expenses. It also called for small armies of scientists and engineers skilled in HPC application development. Precious few agencies had these resources and technical expertise.

But times have changed, according to Ian Lee, open source lead at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “We’ve been doing open source on big Unix systems for more than 20 years. Back then, if we produced open source software for our supercomputers, we were the only ones who could use that software," he said. "Now, the software can be ported out and mainstreamed, and it’s a lot easier to make use of supercomputing in other places.”

Open source and the hybrid cloud: de facto technologies for HPC

Is Cyber Command really being more ‘aggressive’ in cyberspace?

By: Mark Pomerleau  

Earlier this year, Congress and the White House granted the U.S. Cyber Command a range of new authorities, and, in the months since national security experts have said the Department of Defense will be more aggressive in cyberspace, leading attacks against bad actors who have stolen intellectual property or against those who are attempting to influence American elections.

But a new narrative with additional nuance now surrounds that discussion. Rather than thinking of the United States as being more aggressive, national security experts and government officials say that Cyber Command has more flexibility and that the authorities allow for offensive action in the name of defensive purposes.

Cyber Risk Wednesday: Supply Chain Security in the 21st Century


On March 27, 2019, the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, hosted a public panel to discuss supply chain cybersecurity. The timely discussion, underwritten by Raytheon, followed on the heels of the March 25 disclosure that computer hardware company ASUS had unwittingly been delivering malicious software to ASUS computer owners via its automatic software update utility. While an estimated one million ASUS computer users were affected in the campaign that Symantec Corporation believes began as early as June 2018, other supply chain attacks, such as NotPetya in 2017, have been far more widespread and damaging, and will certainly grow more so in the future.

Government and industry have not been blind to this growing threat, and supply chain security is now getting its moment on Capitol Hill, such as in the “SECURE Technology Act” signed into law on December 21, 2018. This growing awareness prompted the Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative to convene subject matters experts Ms. Joyce Corell, Assistant Director of the Supply Chain and Cyber Directorate at the National Counterintelligence and Security Center within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI); Mr. John Costello, Senior Adviser to the Director of the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and Mr. Jon Check, Senior Director of Cyber Protection Solutions, Cybersecurity and Special Missions at Raytheon Intelligence, Information, and Services to discuss the topic and where public and private supply chain security can go from here. The Scowcroft Center’s own Cyber Safety Innovation Fellow Mr. Beau Woods moderated the discussion.

This Is Why Quantum Field Theory Is More Fundamental Than Quantum Mechanics

Ethan Siegel

Visualization of a quantum field theory calculation showing virtual particles in the quantum vacuum. (Specifically, for the strong interactions.) Even in empty space, this vacuum energy is non-zero. As particle-antiparticle pairs pop in-and-out of existence, they can interact with real particles like the electron, providing corrections to its self-energy that are vitally important. On Quantum Field Theory offers the ability to calculate properties like this. 

If you wanted to answer the question of what’s truly fundamental in this Universe, you’d need to investigate matter and energy on the smallest possible scales. If you attempted to split particles apart into smaller and smaller constituents, you’d start to notice some extremely funny things once you went smaller than distances of a few nanometers, where the classical rules of physics still apply.

5G Access Key to Competing Globally, Says Former Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff


“We are poised for the next big revolution in infrastructure—that has to do with moving from 4G to 5G,” Michael Chertoff, a former secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, said at the 8th annual International Conference on Cyber Engagement, a conference co-hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington on April 23. (Photo Credit: ImageLinkPhoto.com/Dennis Kan)

A tweet can reveal your location, an Apple Watch monitors your health, a grocery chain loyalty card allows the supermarket to track your purchases. All of this constitutes what Michael Chertoff describes as “digital exhaust”—data that we constantly and unconsciously emit. The challenge this poses is how to protect that data in an increasingly interconnected world.

Even as governments grapple with this challenge, “we also should consider the next generation of technology that is going to support the Internet—and that is 5G,” said Chertoff, who served as secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009.

Characteristics of Successful U.S. Military Interventions

by Jennifer Kavanagh

Research Questions

What types of political objectives has the United States historically pursued through military interventions?

How successful has the United States been historically at achieving political objectives during military operations?

What are the characteristics of U.S. military interventions that are most likely to achieve their political objectives?

How do such factors as the size of the intervention, the operating context, the local dynamics, and the international system influence the outcome of the intervention?

Is neuroscience the future of warfare?

James Giordano

Broad and rapid advancements in neuroscience and its technologies (i.e.- neuroS/T) have prompted renewed and growing interest in and use of these tools and methods to exert influence and power on the global stage. "The military is examining ways that brain science can be employed to augment warfighters’ and intelligence operators’ performance"

Brain research and the use of its information and products in medicine can affect soft power by gaining an advantage, if not hegemony, in world economic markets. In addition, neuroactive drugs, microbes, toxins and devices can be employed as weapons to directly to affect cognitive and physical abilities of both friendly forces (i.e.- optimization effects) and adversaries (i.e.- denigration effects).

29 April 2019

India sent three alerts to Sri Lanka before Easter Sunday attack

Neeraj Chauhan and Sudhi Ranjan Sen 

India sent as many as three alerts to Sri Lanka, including one on the day of the Easter Sunday attack that left 321 people dead and 500 injured, according to senior intelligence officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The first alert was on April 4, and it came from investigations by Indian agencies that followed after the National Investigation Agency (NIA), in December 2018, stumbled upon the videos of National Thowheed Jama’at (NTJ) leader Maulvi Zahran Bin Hashim while probing the Islamic State (IS) Coimbatore module.

In the first alert, the agencies told Sri Lanka that, apart from churches, the Indian High Commission in Colombo could be a target. The second alert was sent a day before the attack and was even more specific than the first one in that it mentioned the possible targets, the officials said.

Hired Guns: U.S. Employs Unprecedented Number of Security Contractors in Afghanistan

by Paul D. Shinkman

The number of security contractors the military employs in Afghanistan is higher now than at any time since President Barack Obama declared an end to combat operations in the country in 2014, Defense Department documents show.

More than 5,800 privately employed security personnel are currently operating in Afghanistan under Pentagon contracts, according to the latest report released this month that the military headquarters overseeing Middle East wars compiles for Congress. The number of security contractors jumped by more than 1,000 in the three months since the last report – a spike of more than 20 percent and the biggest increase in two years.

More than 17,000 uniformed troops from NATO and partner countries are currently operating in Afghanistan in support of local forces, up from roughly 13,000 when President Donald Trump took office. Of those, roughly 8,500 are Americans. Another 5,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan for the separate mission of hunting insurgent forces like the Islamic State group and elements of the Taliban.

Key Issue Could Cost Afghanistan Billions in Foreign Aid

By Paul D. Shinkman

THE FATE OF AFGHANISTAN rests on a little-discussed human rights issue that will determine whether the war-torn nation can rebuild itself once a peace agreement is reached, a senior official overseeing reconstruction there said Wednesday.

International backers, including the U.S., will only continue to pay for rebuilding Afghanistan if a peace agreement includes securing rights for women and girls, John Sopko, the congressionally appointed special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told a small group of reporters Wednesday.

The issue, which senior officials in the Trump administration have signaled is not a top priority, stems from the Taliban's brutal rule prior to 2001 that secured Afghanistan's enduring position as the worst place in the world for women.

Easter Day Terror in Sri Lanka: Geopolitical Implications

By Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran

The Diplomat‘s Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) and Prashanth Parameswaran (@TheAsianist) discuss the April 21, 2019, terror attacks in Sri Lanka.

Click the arrow to the right to listen. If you’re an iOS or Mac user, you can also subscribe to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast on iTunes here. If you use Android, you can subscribe on TuneIn here. If you like the podcast and have suggestions for content, please leave a review and rating on iTunes and TuneIn.

Sri Lanka’s Christians and Muslims Weren’t Enemies


In November 2016, Sri Lanka’s justice minister announced to Parliament that 32 locals from four families had joined the Islamic State. Given the minister’s ties to some anti-Muslim Buddhist prelates, his claim was quickly dismissed as opportunistic­—even racist. Since then, however, credible evidence has backed him up. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the deadly Easter Sunday bombings that killed around 360 people, including nearly 40 foreigners.

To be sure, the Islamic State has a reputation for taking credit for terrorist acts it had nothing to do with. Its claims must therefore be treated skeptically. At the same time, however, there is no gainsaying that Islamist terrorist groups in South Asia and elsewhere support the Islamic State’s vision for a caliphate and crave alliance with it. And these groups, in solidarity with the Islamic State, have in the past targeted Christians on Easter. One such group is Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which killed 75 people in Lahore, Pakistan, in March 2016.

What does a US-China trade deal look like?

by Dan K. Eberhart

A trade deal with China appears within reach, but it’s unknown whether it will be the signature win for the United States that President Donald Trump claims. There are reasons to think it will end up as something less.

Trump deserves credit for standing up to the Chinese, whose decades of unfair trade policies and outright piracy of intellectual property warrant a tougher stance from the United States and Europe. We should applaud Trump for advancing the issue, and his feisty approach plays well with his base. The president has made some free-trade Republicans, and even some Democrats, realize that a firmer hand with Beijing is needed to protect American business interests.

But what concessions will the United States win from China if Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, can hammer out a deal when they meet next, reportedly by the end of May during Trump’s expected meeting in Japan?

China’s Blockchain Dominance: Can the U.S. Catch Up?

By all counts, China is leading the world in the use and development of blockchain technology. It has far and away filed the most patents related to blockchain in the world and some of the biggest names in the blockchain and cryptocurrency community are Chinese firms. What’s more, blockchain is also a national priority: The Chinese State Council included its development in the nation’s 13th Five-Year Plan. And last year, President Xi Jinping said China seeks to lead in innovation worldwide, citing blockchain, AI, the Internet of Things and other technologies as the driving forces.

This national focus was confirmed by Chinese executives and entrepreneurs involved in blockchain endeavors at the recently held invitation-only roundtable discussion on blockchain hosted by the Penn Wharton China Center. Two-thirds of blockchain-related patents come from Chinese firms or entities, one participant said, adding that China also holds 72% of the mining power for bitcoin. “China is very pro-blockchain technology and the government has positioned itself to dominate the blockchain space in the world.”

China’s Strengths and Weaknesses 101

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address centered on improving U.S. innovation and competitiveness. And as he noted, China’s rapid economic growth and heavy investments in science, technology, and innovation pose a serious challenge to our nation’s status as the world’s leading economy. A recent report by the Center for American Progress, “Rising to the Challenge: A Progressive Approach to China’s Innovation and Competitiveness Policies,” provides a number of reasons why the United States needs to adopt new strategies to capitalize on our nation’s historical, institutional, and structural advantages as the world’s economic powerhouse. But policymakers also need to be aware of China’s many assets and liabilities. 

Here are five of them, alongside the action the United States should take. China is making more competitive products but lacks true innovation China’s strength The technological products behind China’s tremendous growth are largely developed incrementally, often as refinements of imported pre-existing technologies. This “import/ assimilate/re-innovate” model has proven to be a successful strategy, as China courts foreign companies to move their manufacturing facilities, then coerces those companies to share their technology with the state. China’s weakness While historically conducive to growth, the “import/assimilate/re-innovate model” does not foster a climate of original innovation. For China to truly become the dominant world economy, it will have to display true technological leadership. High levels of R&D investment may be effective to that end. U.S. action This is why the United States needs to maintain its science and technology leadership through expanded R&D investments of its own. 

Understanding and Combating Russian and Chinese Influence Operations

By Carolyn Kenney, Max Bergmann

Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections has focused American attention on the long-standing and complicated subject of malign foreign influence operations. While Russia has brought this issue into the mainstream political conversation, concerns over the ability of foreign nations—particularly autocracies—to exploit the openness of America’s democracy in order to influence U.S. policy and politics are not confined to any single foreign actor. In fact, influence efforts by Iran and Persian Gulf monarchies have also drawn considerable scrutiny, as have those carried out by China.1 Yet when considering offenders’ capabilities and positions as geopolitical competitors, China and Russia stand out as the two most immediate concerns.

None too soon, US readies to combat Beijing's South China Sea aggression


The new cold war with China is on. This week, China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) by flaunting its naval might in a parade of ships off the port of Qingdao to impress and intimidate countries from the region and around the world.

Meanwhile, the white and orange ships of the United States Coast Guard are joining the gray hulls of the U.S. Navy in the “gray zone” waters of the South China Sea. Their mission: to assist in confronting increasingly aggressive maritime activities by the PLAN.

The Coast Guard deployment is an astute Trump administration response to the military component of the global offensive China has been waging unilaterally against the United States without serious pushback from previous administrations.

The cutters will operate under the command of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is charged with maintaining freedom of the seas and regional peace and security in the Asia-Pacific (now known as the Indo-Pacific to include the expanding role of India).

Indonesia’s Fragile Festival of Democracy

Krithika Varagur

Jakarta, Indonesia—Democracy in Indonesia always seems to come at a high price. At least a hundred people died while keeping the polls open on Election Day last week, from causes such as heat-stroke and exhaustion. The Indonesian islands straddle the Equator and most of them are hot, at least eighty degrees, every day of the year. They are home to 264 million people and are the stage for world’s largest single-day election, which is deeply impressive in its logistics. Seven million citizens volunteered to keep the polls running last Wednesday across more than 800,000 polling stations. Ballots were distributed to the periphery via planes, canoes, and elephants. The voting booth volunteers who died have been dubbed locally as “martyrs of democracy.”

Elections in Indonesia are billed as Pesta Demokrasi, or Democracy Festival. Election Day is a national holiday and voter turnout is regularly above 70 percent. It seemed fitting that in this election’s organizational tour de force, the politician who most exemplifies technocratic competence and moderate rhetoric came out on top once again. 

Britain Can’t Afford to Keep Talking About Brexit


The recently extended Brexit delay has temporarily averted a harmful “no deal” scenario and handed Britain more time to find a consensus. But it isn’t cause for celebration. It only prolongs a paralysis in necessary economic decision-making, which is already taking its toll.

Heated disagreements about the nature of Brexit, both within the ruling Conservative and opposition Labour parties, have been the sticking points at the heart of a long maelstrom in British politics. It has meant the U.K. executive, legislature, civil service, and media have all become increasingly absorbed by the Brexit process—leaving little oxygen to address the socio-economic grievances that played a role in the June 2016 referendum outcome to leave the European Union in the first place.

Demographic analyses reflect how that vote partly served as a proxy for a confluence of unchecked economic wounds, including weak wage growth, poor social mobility, and vast regional imbalances. Indeed, the poorest households and groups that were left behind by growth in Britain’s globalized financial and research centers—typically those people in rural, coastal, and post-industrial areas—generally voted in higher numbers to leave. Yet with the U.K. Parliament in a state of flux ever since and delays to Brexit, the lack of political focus threatens only to exacerbate these economic challenges.

Perceptions of American Decline

By Cameron Munter

The new style of foreign policy practiced by the Trump administration has provoked a great amount of commentary on the waning of an international order created in America's image. But this style of commentary says more about the way experts debate trends in international affairs than about the substance of foreign policy itself. For a better perspective, let’s focus on America’s role and actions in the Middle East.

America historically has had two overriding interests in the Middle East: supporting the state of Israel and ensuring the free world's oil supply. It was generally believed that the United States did this by attempting to balance the interests of others in the region. The Suez Canal crisis of 1956 allowed Washington to supplant the British and French, while the emergence of Anwar Sadat allowed them to supplant the Russians in Egypt. The Americans now presented themselves as the region’s key arbiter. Despite severe challenges from Iran in 1979 and in Iraq in 2003, this was understood to be a region where the Americans called the shots, or at least prevented anyone else from doing so. 



In France, the neon-yellow vests known as gilets jaunes are like proverbial opinions: Everyone has one, or at least every motorist does. In case of a breakdown, drivers are supposed to don these reflective garments and lay a high-visibility “warning triangle” (also provided in one’s kit de sécurité) on the road in front of their vehicles. When men and women wearing yellow vests began slowing down traffic at hundreds of ronds-points (traffic circles) throughout the countryside last November, and then massing by the thousands on Saturdays in Paris, Bordeaux, and Toulouse, it was hard to dismiss them as a bunch of radical-fringe demonstrators. They were wearing the uniform the government itself had asked good citizens to wear to make themselves visible in an emergency.

This, however, was a different kind of emergency. What set the movement off was a number of inegalitarian regulations and taxes passed at the urging of Emmanuel Macron, France’s unpopular president. There was a carbon tax (not initiated by Macron but steadily rising), a special tax on diesel (which most French cars still use), and a reduction of the speed limit to 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph). Other grievances had been simmering below the surface for a long time: widening inequality, stalled economic growth, shifting demography, threatened identity.