3 May 2019

What China’s Belt and Road Initiative is, and why India gave it a miss again


New Delhi: India has, for the second time, chosen to keep itself away from China’s mega Belt and Road Initiative summit which began in Beijing Friday, despite speculation that it may not be averse to a second Wuhan-type summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returns to power.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti, British chancellor Philip Hammond as well as heads of state and government of the 10 ASEAN nations are among 40 countries attending the Beijing summit.

Italy is the first Western nation to come on board the China-backed project which aims to connect nations and continents, promoting trade and investment. The entire cost of the project is expected to stand at around $500 billion, according to a 2017 estimate by Credit Suisse.

The Virtual Islamic State – OpEd

By Neville Teller

Just a few years ago the Islamic State (IS) was only too real. Spread across Syria and Iraq, It covered more than 34,000 square miles and controlled millions of people. Its revenues came from oil produced in the areas it had overrun, sold at bargain prices to dealers in Turkey and elsewhere, augmented by taxes levied on its population, the sale of stolen artifacts, ransoms from kidnappings, smuggling and extortion.

At its height IS had set up a system of government that in many aspects paralleled that of a modern state. The ruler – the self-styled caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – headed a central structure of advisory councils and administrative departments that were replicated regionally, and then right down at local level. These departments oversaw a range of functions and services including health provision, education, a legal system, security, finance and media – services which came with a clear ideological orientation, particularly the religious and educational institutions it set up in newly acquired territory.

What explains rich-kid terrorists

By Peter Bergen

Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a vice president at New America and a professor of practice at Arizona State University. He is the author of "United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles at CNN.

(CNN)Sri Lankan Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said Wednesday that most of the terrorists who killed at least 253 people at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Sunday were "well-educated and come from maybe middle- or upper-middle-class. So, they are financially quite independent, and their families are quite stable financially."

Two of the suicide bombers were the sons of a wealthy Sri Lankan spice trader, Mohamed Ibrahim, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

‘We Will Come for You’: How Fear of Terrorism Spurs Online Mobs

by Amanda Taub – New York Times

Less than a day after the worst terrorist attack in Sri Lanka’s history, thousands of Sri Lankans were consumed with vitriol, outrage and fear. Their community was threatened, they believed. Something must be done.

But some settled on a target who was not a perpetrator of the Easter bombings, not a sympathizer, not even someone who lived in Sri Lanka. He was Thusiyan Nandakumar, a doctor and part-time journalist living thousands of miles away in suburban London. He stared at his phone in bafflement and terror as thousands of threats rolled in.

“I know where you live,” one message said. “We will come for you terrorist low life to teach you a lesson.”

“If I see you anywhere,” read another, “I will cut your throat.”

In Sri Lanka, angry mobs attacked Muslims after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, and the island nation braced for further violence. But in the echo chambers of social media, Dr. Nandakumar — who is not Muslim — was singled out as an enemy. And the threats kept coming.

Islamist Terrorism Remains the World’s Greatest Threat to Peace

David Harsanyi 

After the horrific mass murder of 50 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, there was widespread coverage and a torrent of mainstream news networks contemplating the threat of white supremacy.

These conversations, completely reasonable and necessary in the face of violent attacks from a racist gunman, soon began deteriorating into politically motivated and specious claims contending that “white supremacy” had become the predominate terror threat in the world.

Well, the coordinated bomb blasts aimed at Christian worshippers on Easter Sunday, which killed at least 290 people and injured hundreds more, demonstrates the kind of meticulous planning, funding, resources, and support that is still exclusively the domain of radical Islamic terrorism.

It’s not merely that the act was planned to maximize the death toll, but that it is a continuation of long-standing efforts by Islamists to destroy the Christian communities left in Asia.

With Easter Bombings, a New Brand of Terrorism Arrives in Sri Lanka

Sudha Ramachandran

As Christians around the world were flocking to churches for Easter services Sunday, Sri Lanka was already in mourning. A string of deadly, coordinated explosions early Sunday, which tore through churches and luxury hotels in Colombo and across the island nation, killed over 321 people, including some 38 foreigners, and injured around 500 others. Seven of the eight attacks were suicide bombings. A ninth explosion was prevented late Sunday when security personnel defused an improvised explosive device on the road to Colombo International Airport.

Among the churches attacked on Sunday morning was the 18th-century St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church at Negombo, and the Zion Church in Batticaloa in the island’s Eastern Province. The targeted hotels included the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La and the Kingsbury—all in Colombo, with clientele who are largely Western tourists and businessmen. Later on Sunday, a bomb went off at a hotel near the National Zoo in Colombo and a suspected safe house on the outskirts of the capital. ...

The Attacks in Sri Lanka Highlight Another Missed Early Warning. How Does This Happen?

By Siobhán O'Grady – Washington Post

… Underlying all these developments is a single, pressing question: Could the carnage have been stopped before it ever started?

It’s a question intelligence officials around the world grapple with in the aftermath of every deadly terrorist attack — from 9/11 to the Paris attacks, the Manchester Arena bombing and beyond.

“Any terrorist attack is by definition an intelligence failure,” said Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London. “Intelligence’s job is to stay on top of these problems and stop them from happening.”

But experts say it’s much easier in hindsight to understand what was a crucial piece of information and to see that security forces should have acted on it. On a daily basis, intelligence officials “may be getting swamped” with tips and warnings, said Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies…

Sri Lanka is Already Drawing the Wrong Lessons from the Attacks

by Nimmi Gowrinathan 

Within 72 hours of last Sunday’s Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, Colombo had passed a 30-day Emergency Regulations act. The measure gives the military carte blanche to enforce the already draconian strictures of Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has been in place since the late 1970s.

The move may have been a predictable reaction to a moment of mass violence. In response to national catastrophes such as Sunday’s attacks targeting churches and hotels, which killed more than 250 people, governments typically try to enact a one-size-fits-all counterterrorism policy, often drawn from the countering violent extremism (CVE) industry playbook. But in Sri Lanka, such prescriptions are more likely to incite violence than quell it.

The recent attacks do bear some of the hallmarks of a classic terrorist strike, but Sri Lanka’s contested political landscape doesn’t fit neatly into existing narratives about violent extremism: namely, prevalent theories that focus on individualized radicalization into groups like the Islamic State rather than the collective struggle of anti-state movements that have shaped Sri Lanka’s own history of violence.

UN Regional Development Arm To Cooperate With China’s BRI

To speed up sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations’ regional development arm has committed to cooperating with the government of China on a wide range of areas at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing this week.

Guided by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will work to further strengthen regional connectivity. A balanced and integrated approach across countries and sectors will be taken to accelerate progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

ESCAP Executive Secretary and United Nations Under Secretary General Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana remarked, “As we work to accelerate the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, signing this MOU marks a new milestone in the cooperation between ESCAP and the People’s Republic of China. It will add momentum to our work to promote economic, social and environmentally sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.”

China 70 Years From Now – Analysis

By Giancarlo Elia Valori*

In my opinion, after the 19thCPC National Congress, two changes characterize the new form of Communist China: the amendment to the Party’s Constitution, with the phrase “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” introduced directly by current President Xi Jinping. The other change is the new autonomous dimension of the Party’s ideology and hence of its practice.

This is the “miracle” promised to China by President Xi Jinping in his speech on the 40th anniversary of China’s Reforms started by Deng Xiaoping. A miracle that has in fact made China ready for a “new start”, while “the Party has strengthened China’s new pride” – after the mistakes of the “Cultural Revolution”, in particular – while the economic and social reforms could anyway lead to “sudden storms”.

Therefore China will not allow separatisms – “not even an inch of our Motherland can and will be separated from China”. Hence a hegemonic China, but “without seeking hegemony”.

China's Xi touts more than $64 billion in Belt and Road deals

Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - President Xi Jinping on Saturday hailed deals worth more than $64 billion signed during China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) this week as he sought to reassure skeptics the project will deliver sustainable growth for all involved.

Xi said market principles will apply in all Belt and Road cooperation projects and that his signature initiative to recreate the old Silk Road joining China with Asia and Europe will deliver green and high-quality development.

“More and more friends and partners will join in Belt and Road cooperation,” he said in his closing remarks. “The cooperation will enjoy higher quality and brighter prospects.”

Xi and other top Chinese officials repeatedly sought to reassure partners and potential participants this week that Beijing does not intend to saddle them with high debts and wants BRI to benefit all parties involved.

Huawei is at the centre of political controversy

It is hard to think of a better reflection of the rise of China than the rise of Huawei. Like China, the firm, which was founded in 1987, began at the bottom of the value chain, reselling telephone-switching gear imported from Hong Kong. Also like China, it was not content to stay there. These days its products—from smartphones to solar panels—are sleek, high-tech and competitive with anything its rivals can produce. As a result its revenues have soared, hitting $105bn in 2018 (see chart 1). Huawei, and its mother country, have become technological pacesetters in their own right. The firm employs 80,000 people in research and development alone. China filed 53,345 patents in 2018, a hair behind America’s 56,142. Of China’s, around one in ten came from Huawei alone.

Huawei’s ascent, like that of China, has caused a good deal of worry elsewhere in the world. Three decades on, the firm is still in the telecoms-equipment business. Along with Nokia, a Finnish firm, and Ericsson, a Swedish one, Huawei has become one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the high-tech kit used to build mobile-phone networks around the world. Of the three, Huawei has been the most active in setting the technical standards for “fifth-generation” (5g) networks. These promise big increases in speed and capacity that will improve some existing technologies, such as connected cars, and make possible new ones, including the sensor networks that will supposedly enable “smart cities”. Huawei and China therefore sit at the heart of technologies which governments worldwide have come to regard as a critical piece of future national infrastructure.

Special Report: How China is replacing America as Asia's military titan

David Lague, Benjamin Kang Lim

HONG KONG (Reuters) - In 1938, in the midst of a long campaign to bring China under Communist Party rule, revolutionary leader Mao Zedong wrote: “Whoever has an army has power.”

Xi Jinping, Mao’s latest successor, has taken that dictum to heart.

He has donned camouflage fatigues, installed himself as commander-in-chief and taken control of the two million-strong Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army. It is the biggest overhaul of the PLA since Mao led it to victory in the nation’s civil war and founded the People’s Republic in 1949.

Xi has accelerated the PLA’s shift to naval power from a traditionally land-based force. He has broken up its vast, Maoist-era military bureaucracy. A new chain of command leads directly to Xi as chairman of the Central Military Commission, China’s top military decision-making body. Operational leadership of naval, missile, air, ground and cyber forces has been separated from administration and training - a structure that Chinese and Western defense analysts say borrows from U.S. military organization.

How Politically Influential Is China’s Military?

By Christopher K. Colley

The Chinese naval parade in Qingdao on April 23, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), showcased multiple indigenously produced Chinese warships and submarines. Most prominent of these were an upgraded Type 094 Jin-class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine and the new 10,000-13,000 ton Type 055 guided missile destroyer. This event is the latest example of China flexing its maritime muscles and demonstrating to the region, and the world, that the PLAN is quickly developing into a powerful force.

A key question is whether this growth been matched with the emergence of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as a major bureaucratic force within the Chinese government. Does the PLA have the ability to significantly influence the decision-making process on events related to foreign and security affairs?

A Necessary Voice: Small States, International Law, and the UN Security Council

By Adam Lupel and Lauri Mälksoo for International Peace Institute (IPI)

Adam Lupel and Lauri Mälksoo argue that if the international rule-based order continues to deteriorate, small states—by definition vulnerable in a world where only might makes right—are most at risk. This might make such states natural defenders of the international order and international law, but how can they perform this role? Our authors explain that one way is through the part small states can play in the UN Security Council. Further, perhaps not since the founding of the UN has their voice been more necessary for all to hear.

Executive Summary

The international rule-based order has come under threat on multiple fronts. If this order continues to deteriorate into an older model based on power politics, small states are most at risk. Small states are by definition vulnerable in a world where international law is compromised and only might makes right. This makes them natural defenders of the international order that protects them.

Mega Economies Of Tomorrow: Indonesia’s Way Up – Analysis

By Dharendra Wardhana*

The World Bank analytically divides the world’s economies into four income groups: high, upper-middle, lower-middle and low. Countries that are categorized as upper-middle income are the ones with income per capita ranging from US$3,896 to $12,055.

With income per capita at $3,846 as of 2017, Indonesia is moving closer to attain upper-middle income country (UMIC) status and is expected to join the group in less than five years. This new status would convey a discerning signal that Indonesia manages to gradually develop. Indonesia has been in the lower-middle income country (LMIC) group since 2003.

Previously, between 1998 to 2002, Indonesia had been relegated to the low income country (LIC) group after joining the LMIC group for the first time since 1993. In total, Indonesia has had LMIC status for 21 years.

Is a new world order emerging to replace US hegemony?

Marco Carnelos

China’s global rise and Russia’s renewed assertiveness are stimulating heated debate about the endurance of the so-called liberal world order, led by the United States. 

This global confrontation has many facets: clashes in the Middle East, Ukraine and the South China Sea; US and EU sanctions against Russia; the trade war against China; cyber-warfare, 5G and telecommunications network security tensions; the Venezuelan crisis; China’s Belt and Road Initiative; and, last but not least, the search for an alternative financial system to the Western one and unhooked from the dollar. 

There is a debate on the current international rules - whether they should be changed, how and by whom. After the 1945-1991 bipolar world order, followed by the unipolar American one, is an increasingly multipolar, culturally diversified world order, unhindered by Washington’s leadership, finally emerging? 
The Iranian revolution

5 Sustainable Solutions for Middle East Security

by James Jay Carafano

The United States is a global power with global interests and responsibilities. Protecting these interests hinges on access to the commons (sea, space, air, cyberspace) and stability in Europe, the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific region (the great trading centers).

In some ways the Middle East is the most important of these three regions. It is the intersection of commercial air and sea travel between the other key regions. It is a global energy hub, a lynchpin of international financial networks and a crossroads for human migration. Much of what is good (and evil) in the world is based in the Middle East or passes through it.

American prosperity and security is always heightened when this part of the world is more stable, peaceful and prosperous. Any serious U.S. strategy looking beyond 2020 must have a serious component for dealing with the Greater Middle East, including North Africa.

Watergate Scandal: President Richard Nixon announces the release of edited transcripts of White House tape recordings relating to the scandal.

Opposite of Leading from Behind

Don’t Panic: The Digital Revolution Isn’t as Unusual as You Think

The digital revolution has dramatically changed life on Earth, making it easy to think we’re living in the greatest time of innovation. But a new book by Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is a reminder that remarkable change has happened many times before. The invention of the printing press in the 15thcentury created upheaval and reorganized everything in society, as did the subsequent inventions of the telegraph, telephone and railroad. From Gutenberg to Google: The History of Our Future is an insightful look at the development of networks, the physical links that bind people together. Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, recently joined the Knowledge@Wharton radio show on SiriusXM to talk about why history often repeats itself. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page).

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: This is a unique perspective on history. Where did you get the idea for this book?

Artificial Intelligence (AI): What About The User Experience?

Tom Taulli

Vintage AI Artificial Intelligence Businessman Concept Searching or Scan System Problem. AI Artificial Intelligence concept about finding searching or scan system problem. Innovation for IT and technology and business category GETTY

One of the key drivers of the AI (Artificial Intelligence) revolution is open source software. With languages like Python and platforms such as TensorFlow, anybody can create sophisticated models.

Yet this does not mean the applications will be useful. They may wind up doing more harm than good, as we’ve seen with cases involving bias.

But there is something else that often gets overlooked: The user experience. After all, despite the availability of powerful tools and access to cloud-based systems, the fact remains that it is usually data scientists that create the applications, who may not be adept at developing intuitive interfaces. But more and more, it’s non-technical people that are using the technology to achieve tangible business objectives.

Dawn of the code war

By Usman W Chohan

'Dawn of the Code War: America's Battle against Russia, China, and the Rising Global Cyber Threat'.

Cybersecurity is now an imperative cog in the national infrastructure apparatus in several countries, and the protection or disruption of national cyberarchitecture represents a pressing concern in many world capitals.

To varying degrees, countries are now employing “cyber armies” to engage in low-intensity conflict in cyberspace, in addition to preparing for larger-scale interstate hostilities.

Non-state actors and smaller countries are also eking out asymmetric advantages by investing resources in cyber capabilities.

As the third decade of the 21st century soon begins, cyberwarfare will come to be an ineluctable security consideration, even in peacetime conditions.

Everyone in the world wants to fix Facebook. Here’s why no one can.

Mother Jones

While the United States holds congressional hearings to listen to tech giants say they want to do better, other countries are passing and promising new laws that aim to take action against the virulent spread of disinformation, violence, and hate speech.

Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May unrolled a proposal that outlines new regulations for social media companies, holding them responsible for a “duty of care“—which includes strict penalties if hate speech is not policed. “The era of social media firms regulating themselves is over,” she says in a video on Twitter.

May is not alone in her efforts. Australia passed a law that bans “abhorrent violent material” on social media in the wake of the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 people dead at the hands of a gunman who livestreamed his rampage. Canada is “actively” considering content moderation. Singapore plans to crack down on “fake news” with the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill. And there is the long-standing “Great Firewall” of China, a catch-all term for a long-held government policy of extreme online censorship.

Online companies must start taking responsibility for their platforms, and help restore public trust in this technology.

Cybersecurity: UK could build an automatic national defence system, says GCHQ chief

By Danny Palmer 

The UK could one day create a national cyber-defence system built on sharing real-time cybersecurity information between intelligence agencies and business, the head of GCHQ has said. Today's security threats have expanded in scope and seriousness. There can now be millions -- or even billions -- of dollars at risk when information security isn't handled properly.

Individual internet users shouldn't be forced to hold responsibility for staying safe online in the face of cyber-criminal gangs and advanced hacking groups, but rather it's cooperation between government, internet service providers and technology firms that should be doing the heavy lifting when it comes to cybersecurity, says the director of the UK's intelligence services. 

With a recent UK cybersecurity survey suggesting that only 15 percent of people say they know how to protect themselves online, it's time "to do more to take the burden of cybersecurity away from the individual," Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ will tell a security conference today. 

Confronting the risks of artificial intelligenceApril 2019 | Article

By Benjamin Cheatham, Kia Javanmardian, and Hamid Samandari

Artificial intelligence (AI) is proving to be a double-edged sword. While this can be said of most new technologies, both sides of the AI blade are far sharper, and neither is well understood.

Consider first the positive. These technologies are starting to improve our lives in myriad ways, from simplifying our shopping to enhancing our healthcare experiences. Their value to businesses also has become undeniable: nearly 80 percent of executives at companies that are deploying AI recently told us that they’re already seeing moderate value from it. Although the widespread use of AI in business is still in its infancy and questions remain open about the pace of progress, as well as the possibility of achieving the holy grail of “general intelligence,” the potential is enormous. McKinsey Global Institute research suggests that by 2030, AI could deliver additional global economic output of $13 trillion per year.

Yet even as AI generates consumer benefits and business value, it is also giving rise to a host of unwanted, and sometimes serious, consequences. And while we’re focusing on AI in this article, these knock-on effects (and the ways to prevent or mitigate them) apply equally to all advanced analytics. The most visible ones, which include privacy violations, discrimination, accidents, and manipulation of political systems, are more than enough to prompt caution. More concerning still are the consequences not yet known or experienced. Disastrous repercussions—including the loss of human life, if an AI medical algorithm goes wrong, or the compromise of national security, if an adversary feeds disinformation to a military AI system—are possible, and so are significant challenges for organizations, from reputational damage and revenue losses to regulatory backlash, criminal investigation, and diminished public trust.


It is clear that U.S. diplomatic efforts are not working. The reality is that the bottom line is largely driving decision-making. Therefore, rather than take a purely negative approach, the United States should consider using positive inducements to make its 5G products more appealing. While the United States should not strive to mirror China’s top-down approach to innovation, it should work with allies to use market incentives to make U.S.- and Western-developed 5G infrastructure and products more competitive. Furthermore, the U.S. military needs to anticipate that its use of native telecommunications infrastructure in a future operating environment may be compromised, limited, or denied. The U.S. military will inevitably need greater bandwidth on the tactical edge and this should be an imperative that drives investment in research and development to address this challenge.

Technological innovation was at the crux of the United States’ comparative military and economic advantage in the twentieth century. In this contemporary great power competition, U.S. failure to innovate at the scientific and technological frontier will have direct (and deleterious) effects for the United States on the distribution of power in the international system over the long term.