25 May 2019

French, US, Australian, Japanese Warships Drill in Bay of Bengal

By Steven Stashwick

A French carrier strike group conducted exerciseswith U.S. and Australian, and Japanese warships while sailing through the Bay of Bengal this week. It is the first time the four navies have exercised exclusively together. The multi-national exercise follows a U.S. submarine joining the French group to conduct an anti-submarine exercise in the Indian Ocean.

France’s Charles de Gaulle, the world’s only other nuclear aircraft carrier outside the U.S. Navy, and its four escorts, was joined by a U.S. destroyer, a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) frigate and submarine, a Japanese destroyer, and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s (JMSDF) largest warship, the helicopter carrier Izumo(which Japan classifies as a helicopter destroyer).

The exercise, dubbed “La Perouse,” after an 18th century naval officer whose squadron disappeared on an exploratory expedition in the Pacific, focused on interoperability, communications, formation steaming, live-fire weapons shoots, and search and rescue drills. Australia’s Defence Ministry said the exercise also practiced humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security operations, sea control, and anti-submarine and air defense exercises.

Confronting Hezbollah and Hamas: Surgical versus Therapeutic Strategies

Shmuel Harlap

One may distinguish between two manifestations of political and military strategy: surgical strategy versus therapeutic strategy. In the struggle against Hezbollah, Israel’s prime interest is to drive a wedge between Hezbollah’s Lebanese identity and the fact that it is a Shiite tool driven by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The more Hezbollah integrates into Lebanese politics, the more it becomes a partner with those responsible for Lebanon, casting its own destiny with that of the nation. By contrast, the more Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah operates on behalf of Iranian interests, the more he gambles with, and risks, Lebanon’s security and wellbeing. Thus Israel’s interest lies in deepening Hezbollah’s commitment to Lebanon. Given that in Lebanon, some civilian infrastructures support combat, they are a legitimate military target for a surgical strike. By contrast, in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s policy must work in the opposite direction: to rebuild the infrastructures, even at the risk that Hamas will use them for both civilian and military ends. In other words, in the case of Hamas, Israel must adopt a therapeutic rather than a surgical approach. Israel should begin by accelerating moves toward an arrangement vis-à-vis Gaza; a massive improvement to the quality of life in Gaza will expose Hamas to warnings against risking any new achievement by resuming fighting with Israel. Economic growth and higher employment rates stand to diminish jihadist incitement, and the Gaza Strip, now a pit of despair, may become a wellspring of hope.

How Geography Determined Afghanistan’s Fate? – OpEd

By Neela Hassan*

It is often believed that the reality of nations is determine by individuals and the decisions that they make; but there is such thing as constraints and limits that are out of human beings’ control and cannot be overcame. Among all the constraint that a territory can have, the most obvious and important one is geography. According to Robert Kaplan (2012), geography is the backdrop of the human history, and it can reveal a lot about government’s long-term intentions and its secret councils. It also is a fundamental factor in the foreign policy of states because it is the most permanent one.

The entity now called Afghanistan has a long history of invasions, migrations, and civil conflict. It is known for its important geostrategic location in the region, since its connecting East and West Asia. The country links three major cultural and geographical regions of Indian subcontinent to the southeast, central Asia to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the west. The land has been a target for various invaders, as well as a source from which local powers invaded neighboring regions to form their own empires. From the invasion of Alexander the Great in 330 BC and making Kabul a base for his operations to the take over the rest of the Asia, to the attempts of Iran to include the country in its territory, and being main part of the great game between British and the Russian empire for most of the 19th century.

Is Sri Lanka Really a Victim of China’s ‘Debt Trap’?

By Umesh Moramudali

Sri Lanka is often portrayed as a country that fell into a debt trap as a result of public investment projects financed by China. One such investment project was Hambantota port, which was leased to China Merchant Port Holdings Limited (CM Port) for 99 years for $1.12 billion in 2017. This project is largely the reason as why Sri Lanka is widely cited as a clear example of getting trapped in Chinese debt and being forced to hand over assets with national and strategic importance to China. The general belief seems to be that Sri Lanka was unable to pay off the loans obtained from China to construct Hambantota port in the first place, and therefore had no choice but hand over the port to Chinese control to pay off the debt.

However, the real picture of Sri Lanka’s debt crisis, which is not often explained, is very different and far more destructive. Debt owed to China is in fact the tip of the iceberg, and that should make the debt crisis all the more alarming. The famous Hambantota port deal is not merely an issue of Chinese debt — Sri Lanka has much larger economic issues that go well beyond the debt owed to China.

Buddhist Anger Could Tear Sri Lanka Apart


The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka last month were a massive human tragedy for a country that has already experienced too much violence. Prior to the attacks on Christian churches and luxury hotels, Sri Lanka was already a deeply divided nation. The bombings and their aftermath have worsened long-standing problems and may lead to a bleak future of communal clashes, instability, greater fracturing of society, and even more loss of life.

The government’s civil war against the separatist Tamil Tigers ended on May 18, 2009. Ten years on, the Sri Lankan state, which is dominated by ethnic Sinhalese, is proving yet again that it cannot protect minority rights, and that the state is too often complicit with the Sinhalese Buddhist majority against minorities such as the mostly Hindu Tamils, who make up about 12 percent of the population, and Muslims. The root causesof the country’s long-standing ethnic conflict have been ignored for far too long. Now, with Islamic terrorism arriving on the scene with the Easter attacks, attacks against Muslims—already targeted by militant Buddhist groups in recent times—are likely to continue.

China’s GMO Paradox

By Eugene K. Chow

In a country as tightly controlled as China, where everything from tattooed celebrities to Winnie the Pooh is censored, an uncharacteristically tense public debate over genetically modified crops has erupted and it is revealing the limits of state power.

Despite the fact that President Xi Jinping has declared GM crops a top national priority, state-run newspapers have openly questioned the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and opposing factions have taken to openly quarreling with one another. The wildest claim – that GMOs are a Western conspiracy to cripple China by controlling its food supply and causing cancer – was first published in the Global Times, a state-run newspaper.

While mentions of democracy, human rights, and other sensitive topics are promptly removed by state censors, the government has given citizens surprising latitude when it comes to GMOs. Social media is rife with fake news and anti-GMO fervor, spread by everyone from popular TV personalities to Maoists and NGOs like Greenpeace.

China Raises Threat of Rare-Earths Cutoff to U.S.


With a simple visit to an obscure factory on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping has raised the specter that China could potentially cut off supplies of critical materials needed by huge swaths of the U.S. economy, underscoring growing concerns that large-scale economic integration is boomeranging and becoming a geopolitical weapon.

With the U.S.-China trade war intensifying, Chinese state media last week began floating the idea of banning exports of rare-earth elements to the United States, one of several possible Chinese responses to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to jack up tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods and blacklist telecoms maker Huawei.

U.S. oil refiners rely on rare-earth imports as catalysts to turn crude oil into gasoline and jet fuel. Permanent magnets, which use four different rare-earth elements to differing degrees, pop up in everything including ear buds, wind turbines, and electric cars. And China dominates their production.

The US-China trade war is the biggest threat to the “fragile” global economy, the OECD says

By Eshe Nelson

“Rather bleak.”

That’s the global economy’s outlook, according to Laurence Boone, the chief economist of the Organization for European Cooperation and Development. In a report published today, the Paris-based institution said that after a sharp slowdown in economic growth in the second half of last year, growth has stabilized. It’s not much to cheer about: The global economy can expect only “moderate but fragile growth” for the next two years, the OECD added.

The organization expects world GDP growth to slow from 3.5% last year to 3.2% this year, before picking up slightly to 3.4% next year. Trade tensions are the principal factor threatening the global economy, Boone said. “Growth is stabilizing but the economy is weak and there are very serious risks on the horizon,” she said today at a conference in Paris.

Global trade is projected to grow by 2.1% this year, which would be the lowest rate in a decade, according to the OECD. Last year it grew by 3.9% and by 5.5% in 2017.

Huawei to the Danger Zone: Chinese Telecommunications Company Threatens Britain's National Security

by John Hemmings

The news that the United States has put Huawei on the Entities List comes as the Henry Jackson Society publishes a report on the prospect of including Huawei into the United Kingdom’s build of 5G. I coauthored this report alongside Member of Parliament Bob Seely and Professor Peter Varnish. My job was to look into claims around Huawei’s place within China’s foreign-policy strategy. We have all seen claims around it being too close to the PLA or China’s security services, but were they actually true? Were these claims just an overly-protectionist America seeking to discredit a successful Chinese tech competitor to Apple and Silicon Valley? This whole discussion took place in the wake of a UK National Security Council meeting in late April, during which time—if the Telegraph newspaper is to believed—the council decided that Huawei could take part in a limited part of the UK’s 5G network.

Our findings were absolutely clear: Huawei was constrained, influenced and directed by the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese state in a multiplicity of ways.

22 people are killed at an Ariana Grande concert in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

China's Tariff List Advertises Its Trade War Weakness

by Alan Tonelson

Unless Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his advisors are completely incompetent, there’s only one way to interpret Beijing’s list of U.S. products that will be slapped with retaliatory tariffs on June 1 if the trade war with the United States isn’t somehow deescalated pronto: China increasingly realizes that it’s playing a losing hand in the trade war, and its counter-moves have been made mainly for public consumption in China.

After all, the ostensible purpose of retaliation is inflicting enough pain on the target to change behavior. Therefore, you’d think that most of the new China tariffs would hit products that generate major earnings either for the entire U.S. economy or for key political constituencies (as with the previous import taxes on soybeans). But according to a compilation by Quartz.com, few of the goods scheduled by China to take the biggest (25 percent) tariff hits merit these definitions. Indeed, many aren’t even made in the United States anymore, or certainly not in meaningful quantities, much less exported to any measurable extent to China.

What comes next in the US–China trade war?

Stephen Roach

The escalation of tit-for-tat tariffs between the United States and China is now in the danger zone. Surely, reason will ultimately prevail. At least that is the common refrain in the echo chamber, especially in light of the dark history of earlier trade wars.

While it is likely that a deal will be struck on or before the upcoming G20 Osaka summit in late June, I fear any such agreement is likely to be superficial and offer little or no fundamental resolution to the deep-rooted conflict between the world’s two great powers.

The deal is likely to be superficial because it will probably focus on the least consequential aspect of the dispute — the bilateral US–China trade imbalance. This is the lightning rod in the debate, the culprit behind what US President Donald Trump calls the ‘carnage’ of job losses and wage pressures.

China Has Already Lost the Trade War


President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are caught in a growing dispute over trade and, more broadly, the significant differences between their two very different political economies. Tough as it is to predict the future, there are some signs as to who will be the winners and losers.

Trump calls the dispute “a little squabble,” and in economic terms the threat of conflict with China does seem minimal. The retaliatory tariffs China unveiled last week, for example, won’t significantly slow the American economy, cutting economic growth by about a tenth of a percentage point next year if the spat isn’t ended, according to Oxford Economics and Moody’s Analytics.

Indeed, the biggest cost may be imposed on investors, who for years have inflated the economic potential of communist China’s state-directed economy. Major public companies in the United States, including Apple, Caterpillar, and Boeing, are among some of the leading exporters to China. Yet exports to China accounted for just 7.2 percent of overall American exports in 2018. According to the U.S. Trade Representative, the top export categories that year were: aircraft ($18 billion), machinery ($14 billion), electrical machinery ($13 billion), optical and medical instruments ($9.8 billion), and vehicles ($9.4 billion).

Is the U.S.-China Trade War Turning Into a New Cold War?

Kimberly Ann Elliott

The tit-for-tat trade war between the United States and China is costly enough, but it could be morphing into something far more serious. A week after raising tariffs on $200 billion in imports from China, the Trump administration took aim at Huawei, the Chinese company leading the global race to create new, faster 5G telecommunications networks. The new regulations would, if fully implemented, restrict Huawei’s ability to access the U.S. market, either for exports of its products or for imports of key technologies. There are reasons to be concerned about Beijing using Huawei’s networks for nefarious purposes, as well as legitimate grievances regarding China’s trade and industrial policies. But the costs of President Donald Trump’s trade war are clearly rising, and with them the prospects of an unnecessary cold war with China that would be in no one’s interest.

China Has Been Running Global Influence Campaigns for Years


Pro-China protests ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics were orchestrated by Chinese officials. The world thought they were a spontaneous showing of Chinese nationalism.

In the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, with the torch relay soon set to pass through San Francisco, an envoy from China met with the city’s then-mayor, Gavin Newsom.Riots had broken out the month before in Lhasa, Tibet, leading to a crackdown by Chinese security forces. The torch’s journey through London and Paris had been marred by anti-China protests and arrests. Pro-Tibet and pro-Uighur activists, among others, were planning demonstrations in San Francisco, the torch’s only U.S. stop.

Beijing was deeply concerned about damage to China’s image as its Olympic debut approached, and hoped to clamp down on dissent beyond the country’s borders. The envoy who met with Newsom demanded that he prohibit the demonstrations and, in effect, suspend the First Amendment, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information. Newsom, now California’s governor, refused, according to the former official. (Newsom did not respond to a request for comment.)

Why capturing Huawei is no victory in tech war


It’s geopolitical, geoeconomic war. Cold, so far, but now about to descend to deep freeze. The US National Security Strategy unmistakably spells it out. China is a strategic competitor and must be contained, no holds barred, on all fronts: economic, military and most of all, technological.

Enter the current, concerted offensive across the spectrum, from 5G and AI to moves attempting to prevent the coming of globalization 2.0. Add to it maximum pressure all over the world to prevent nations from joining the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the organizing foreign policy concept for China in the foreseeable future and the strategic road map for Eurasian integration up to 2049. 

It’s all interconnected; the Trump administration’s trade war, Google blocking Huawei from the enhanced Android OS, the demonization of Belt and Road. It’s all about control of global supply chains and technological infrastructure.

Special report: Hobbling Huawei - Inside the U.S. war on China's tech giant

Cassell Bryan-Low

CANBERRA (Reuters) - In early 2018, in a complex of low-rise buildings in the Australian capital, a team of government hackers was engaging in a destructive digital war game.

The operatives – agents of the Australian Signals Directorate, the nation’s top-secret eavesdropping agency – had been given a challenge. With all the offensive cyber tools at their disposal, what harm could they inflict if they had access to equipment installed in the 5G network, the next-generation mobile communications technology, of a target nation?

What the team found, say current and former government officials, was sobering for Australian security and political leaders: The offensive potential of 5G was so great that if Australia were on the receiving end of such attacks, the country could be seriously exposed. The understanding of how 5G could be exploited for spying and to sabotage critical infrastructure changed everything for the Australians, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Mike Burgess, the head of the signals directorate, recently explained why the security of fifth generation, or 5G, technology was so important: It will be integral to the communications at the heart of a country’s critical infrastructure - everything from electric power to water supplies to sewage, he said in a March speech at a Sydney research institute.

The 10-minute interview: Joy Dantong Ma on why Trump is targeting Huawei

By Matt Field

By Wednesday, the United States and China had already announced staggering new tariffs on a combined $260 billion worth of trade—a figure reflective of a pretty bad week for bilateral relations. But then the White House delivered a one-two punch so stunning The Washington Post likened the second act to a divorce. First came an executive order that vividly paints a picture of foreign adversaries sabotaging US communications networks and compromising critical infrastructure. It directs the commerce secretary to draft a ban on telecommunications technology that poses a risk to US national security. At around the same time, in case anyone was wondering at whom the order was aimed (it doesn’t list countries, companies, or specific technologies), the Commerce Department announced it will include the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, the largest equipment maker in the industry, on its so-called entity list, curtailing the firm’s critical ability to buy components from the United States.

The US government has been skeptical of Huawei since at least 2012, when the House Intelligence Committee issued a report suggesting the company’s technology could be used by the Chinese government to spy and disrupt infrastructure. In 2018, President Donald Trump signed a bill preventing the federal government from using Huawei equipment, although some rural telecommunications carriers do. Google, with its Android operating system, is a major supplier to Huawei, as are other big US companies. Lately the Trump administration has been trying to convince allied countries to bar the company from participating in the next-generation 5G communications networks they are building.

China: Determined to dominate cyberspace and AI

By Chris C. Demchak

China is chasing dominance in emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in both the private and military sectors, as a central part of its effort to be the leading global cyber power. The rise of AI – a subset of cyber as are machine learning, quantum computing, and other new technologies – does not herald a new arms race equivalent to that of the Cold War. Rather, the concern should be on the profound disruption to the existing westernized global order. This piece reviews how the 1990s westernized national creation called cyberspace created so many ubiquitous, embedded vulnerabilities whose easy exploitation directly accelerated the rise of an otherwise impoverished authoritarian and aggressive China. Today no single democracy has the scale and sufficient resources to alone match the foreknowledge and strategic coherence of the newly confident and assertive China. To change current global trends, the small group of consolidated democratic civil societies needs a collective approach to counter China’s growing dominance across all fields of cyberspace. The piece ends describing the Cyber Operational Resilience Alliance (CORA) to provide the public and private scale and collective strategic coherence required to ensure the future wellbeing and security of democracy in an overwhelmingly authoritarian, post-western, cybered world. This article is free-access in the May/June issue until July 1, 2019.

A Battle for Supremacy in the Middle East

The struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for dominance in the Middle East has insinuated itself into nearly every regional issue. Meanwhile, the region is rife with ongoing conflicts and the long-simmering dispute between Israel and Palestine continues to worsen. Better understand a chaotic region when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR). 

The struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for dominance in the Middle East has insinuated itself into nearly every regional issue, fracturing international alliances and sustaining wars across the region, while raising fears of a direct conflict between the two powers.

Saudi Arabia has ramped up its regional adventurism since Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful son of King Salman, was appointed crown prince in 2017. And it has cracked down on its opponents, including the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. That appears to have had little effect on the crown prince’s increasingly close ties to the Trump administration, though. Determined to undermine the Iranian regime, Washington has pulled out of the nuclear deal with Tehran and, more recently, used its economic might to block five countries from continuing to purchase Iranian oil. 

Be Afraid of the World, Be Very Afraid


Who’s right: Cassandra or Dr. Pangloss? Are we on the brink of serious trouble, as Cassandra of Greek myth prophesied, or is all for the best “in this best of all possible worlds,” as the fictional Pangloss insisted in Voltaire’s Candide? In recent decades, Cassandra-like warnings include Robert Kaplan’s The Coming Anarchy, the late Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, Bill McKibben’s gloomy environmental and social forecasts, and predictions from everyone who thinks U.S. President Donald Trump will end democracy as we know it. On the other side, the ranks of neo-Panglossians include Steven Pinker, Joshua Goldstein, and (on some issues) John Mueller, who stress the extraordinary progress humans have made over the past 500 years and believe that risk of violence or other major disruptions continues to shrink.

I’m generally a fairly upbeat guy, despite my realist proclivities and my recurring frustrations at the embarrassing state of U.S. foreign policy. But today I’m going to indulge my inner Cassandra and describe the five bad things that worry me today. I hope I’m wrong.

9 questions about the scary US-Iran standoff you were too embarrassed to ask

By Alex Ward

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group transits the Suez Canal in Egypt on May 9, 2019. The aircraft carrier and its strike group are deploying to the Persian Gulf on orders from the White House to respond to an unspecified threat from Iran. Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Darion Chanelle Triplett/US Navy via AP

For the past two weeks, the US and much of the world has been consumed by a terrifying question: Is America going to war with Iran?

It’s an understandable question. The Trump administration says it has intelligence showing that Iran plans to attack Americans in the Middle East. Iran, meanwhile, has told its proxies to prepare for war and indicated it may soon restart some activities related to its nuclear program (though it hasn’t said that it plans to pursue a nuclear weapon).

Those developments, combined with the rise of Iran hawks in the administration like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have led to widespreadfear that some sort of conflict between Washington and Tehran is imminent.

War: Easy To Start, Hard To End

by Jim Welsh

“In the U.S. time is measured by quarters, but in China it is measured in decades. China’s leadership is not immune from short term considerations, but their focus is not centered on the next year or two but where things will be in 5 to 10 years and beyond. China has been taking steps to insulate and bolster its economy from any short term negative impact from trade. By stimulating its economy, China can weather the storm in the short term and achieve its long term goals. According to Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu,

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

How Trump’s approach to the Middle East ignores the past, the future, and the human condition

Shibley Telhami

President Trump’s son-in-law and top Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, pushed back recently against suggestions that the administration should hold off on its expected “deal of the century” plan for Middle East peace over concerns that it’s likely to be dead on arrival. As part of the unveiling, the administration revealed plans to hold an “economic workshop” in Bahrain to discuss “potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement.” Immediately rejecting the idea, the Palestinians called it an attempt “at promoting an economic normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

While the specific details of the Trump plan remain unknown, we already know the troubling principles on which the plan is based.

Details aside, Trump’s approach not only breaks with international law and long-held U.S. policies, it also enshrines historic U.S. responsibility in an unjust process that will ultimately backfire against Israel, the Palestinians, and American interests.

What have we learned about the learning crisis?

Michelle Kaffenberger

That learning in many developing countries is in crisis has been well established. The learning crisis was the focus of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2018, and UN global education goalshighlight the need for improved learning. Yet, we are still learning much about the contours of the learning crisis, with important implications for how to address it. Recent research and analysis conducted by the RISE Programme sheds light on the severity and scale of the crisis, showing that dramatic improvements are needed to address it.


1. New data shows just how severe the crisis is in many countries

PISA for Development (PISA-D), a new effort to include more low- and middle-income countries in the internationally comparable PISA assessments, released its first results in late 2018. Test results revealed shockingly low learning levels. Across the seven countries participating, only 12 percent of children who were tested met minimum proficiency levels for math, and 23 percent for reading, compared with 77 percent and 80 percent in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, respectively. Further, the test is only administered to 15-year-olds who are in school and in at least grade seven. When children who were ineligible for the test are taken into account, only six percent of all 15-year-olds on average across the PISA-D countries demonstrated proficiency in math (Figure 1). In Zambia it was only one percent. These measures of minimal proficiency correspond with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for literacy and numeracy, meaning these countries are far from achieving this basic goal.
Figure 1: All PISA-D countries fall far short of universal minimum proficiency in mathematics

Beyond Technology: The Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Developing World

There are not going to be driverless Ubers in Lagos anytime soon. Robots are not going to steal millions of jobs from American miners or factory workers. Nor will our genes be spliced with technological enhancements to defeat diseases and to supercharge our neurons. Not yet, at least. But we are beginning to see symptoms of the globally disruptive phenomenon known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Rapid periods of past technological industrialization have created tectonic shifts in societies throughout human history. Diverse technologies have grown and scaled to knock off behemoths and traditions to become the next giants themselves. 

Some of these technologies that will define next-generation human enterprise, connectivity, and lifestyles already are here, but they haven’t been scaled to everyday utilization. For example, the vertical lift technology for flying cars has been around for years, but the regulatory environment, legal considerations, and other issues currently outweigh the benefit to innovate. Just because society has these technologies does not mean they will roll out. There are growing speed bumps to technology around privacy, competition, and equitable access. Technologies’ dramatic impact on everyday life could take a long time, but just like previous revolutions, if we do not plan for these evolutions now, we won’t benefit from them in the future.

This report is made possible by the generous support of the Royal Embassy of Denmark.