19 November 2019

China’s Indigenous Carrier Transits Taiwan Strait

By Ankit Panda

The transit comes shortly after President Tsai Ing-wen announced her running mate.

In a statement on Sunday, the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense announced that a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait in a southerly direction. The carrier appeared to have been the Type 002, the first indigenously designed conventional Chinese carrier, which is expected to enter formal naval service with the PLAN later this year or in early 2020.

According to the Ministry’s statement, the Chinese vessel was reportedly trailed by a U.S. Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel. The short statement did not include details on which U.S. or Japanese vessels were involved in pursuing the Chinese carrier.

The Taiwanese military scrambled fighters and ships to “ensure national security,” the Ministry of National Defense said.

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force did not clarify which vessel was involved. A MSDF spokesperson cited by Channel News Asia said “he had no information about the movement of the Chinese carrier or any Japanese ships nearby.”

The transit of the Taiwan Strait came shortly after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced that William Lai, a prominent pro-Taiwan independence voice, will be her running mate in the 2020 elections.

The Furor Over TikTok Is About Something Much Bigger


The U.S. can’t just play whack-a-mole with Chinese tech companies. It needs a plan.

As TikTok, the social media platform that has perfected the art of short-form communication by video, has risen to market dominance, so has awareness of its potential geopolitical threat. Launched just three years ago, it now has more than 500 million active users and was the most downloaded app on the app store in the first quarter of 2019. And its owner is ByteDance, a leading Chinese technology company.

In a letter to Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton warned: “With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore.” On Tuesday, Sen. Josh Hawley joined the bandwagon, so apoplectic about the security threat that he derailed his own committee hearing. Meanwhile, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has reportedly started a probe into the national security risks of ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of the app Musical.ly, the precursor of TikTok.

Is BRICS Losing Its Shine for China?

By Eleanor Albert

Excitement surrounding the BRICS may be waning as economic and political divisions grow.

From November 13 to 14, heads of state and government from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa gathered in Brasilia for the 11th BRICS summit, a grouping of emerging national economies. China previously hosted the third and ninth BRICS summits respectively in Sanya and in Xiamen in 2011 and 2017. Amid China’s going global push, it has sought to foster linkages with the developing world, increasingly via regional groupings.

Earlier this fall, Beijing issued a new white paper outlining China’s relationship to the world. China’s view of itself as a developing country featured prominently. Most of its messaging was not new, drawing on win-win, South-South cooperation and assistance without conditions. Moreover, the paper emphasized China’s efforts to democratize the international system by advocating for and promoting the interests of other developing countries and highlighting the opportunities that the rise of China has brought by “fundamentally altering the international structures of power.”

China’s Surveillance State Has Eyes on Central Asia

China’s advanced surveillance regime is taking root along the length of the Belt and Road—especially the Belt, the overland Eurasian routes that were the origin of the government’s ambitious investment project. Recently, Kyrgyzstan opened a new police command center in its capital, Bishkek, putting its new facial recognition cameras to work. The equipment was supplied—reportedly free of charge—by the China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation, a defense company currently sanctioned by the United States.

The initiative is part of Bishkek’s emerging effort to become a so-called smart city—a catchall term for cities with advanced data-processing capabilities. Such projects are being implemented across the region with help from China. This April, Huawei closed a $1 billion deal with Uzbekistan to build a traffic-monitoring system involving some 883 cameras. Meanwhile Hikvision—another Chinese company under U.S. sanctions that advertises its ability to spot the faces of members of the Uighur minority in crowds—supplies major urban centers across Kazakhstan, including Almaty and Shymkent. Kazakhstan has been experimenting with developing smart cities since 2017.

China’s Pacific Challenge – Analysis

By Lucio Blanco Pitlo III

Growing aid, trade, and diplomatic outreach and rumored interest in securing bases heighten worries about China’s expanding footprint in the Pacific. But while Pacific island states are not naïve to growing great power competition, they do not necessarily share the same level of concerns as those held by Oceania’s longstanding powers. Some even welcome China’s arrival as a way to compel traditional Pacific powers to recommit to the region. Besides, while Beijing certainly wants to increase its influence in the Blue Continent, the attitudes of longstanding powers, especially in relation to climate change, provide greater push for island countries to accommodate new suitors.

China’s Pacific outreach is on a roll. From 2011 to 2019, China provided $1.47 billion in concessional loans to Pacific island states. If it pays up to its pledges, it may overtake Australia to become the region’s top donor. Last month, the Third China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum was held in Apia, Samoa attended by Vice Premier Hu Chunhua. In the same month, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang met Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in Beijing. Xi also met former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in Beijing. In September, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, a timely meeting given increasingly frayed bilateral ties.

China Has Always Trailed the U.S. in Chipmaking. In the Trade War Era, Will It Finally Catch Up?

Grady McGregor

China famously spends more on importing semiconductor chips than it does on importing oil. This bit of trivia illustrates China's deep dependency on foreign chips and is especially notable given China's outsize efforts to break the habit. Even now, after years of investments, China still lags far behind the U.S. in manufacturing the tiny chips that power your iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or Huawei Mate. But the nation's escalating tensions with the U.S.—home of giant chipmakers like Intel and Qualcomm—may be spurring China's firms and supply chains to finally catch up.

Semiconductor silicon chips have formed the backbone of the technological revolution, helping to power mobile phones, computers, driverless cars, and ‘smart’ devices. And they've doubled in computing power every two years—an industry principle known as Moore’s Law—spurring the unprecedented era of technological growth.

China has devoted resources to developing the crucial components since the 1950s. But chips have proven particularly difficult to manufacture since innovation is costly, and their rapid advancement is difficult to catch up with. In 2017, for example, Intel alone spent over $13 billion on research and development for semiconductors. 

Putin Moves Closer To China As New ‘Technological War’ With U.S. Intensifies

Zak Doffman

In the world of authoritarian regimes, an alarming game of “keeping up with the Joneses,” or more accurately the Xis, is playing out as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin looks on with envy at China’s technological lockdown. Putin has described the standoff between China, Russia and the U.S. as a technological war—one that has inspired additional domestic controls as the tech world polarises. Changes have been made to the online infrastructure, and now we’re seeing proposals to restrict the content and applications running across the top. If there is a template Putin wants to follow for Russia’s digital future, it isn't difficult to figure out where it is coming from.

November started with Russia’s Sovereign Internet Law mandating state surveillance hardware to be installed inside the country’s internet access points. Within a week, Putin had proposed replacing Wikipedia with a “more reliable” Russian version. At the same time, his parliament shaped a bill to force computers and smart devices to preinstall Russian tech. Both proposals were criticised for further restricting the online freedoms of Russia’s 150 million citizens. Wikipedia is already banned in China—as are services and applications from Western tech giants. You can join the dots.

Ukraine Doesn’t Need Aid. It Needs Land Reform.

by Andriy Radchenko

Ukraine remains one of six nations in the world where selling land is forbidden. It shares this dubious distinction with North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Tajikistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since the 2014 Maidan Revolution and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its partners have provided billions of dollars of financial aid to Ukraine. But Ukraine doesn’t need more money from the United States. It’s a wealthy country. What Ukraine needs is America’s assistance in unleashing its own natural wealth, much of which is currently locked up in the country’s land.

Ukraine remains one of six nations in the world where selling land is forbidden. It shares this dubious distinction with North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Tajikistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As newly inaugurated President Volodymyr Zelensky identifies priorities for his administration, the United States has an opportunity to support reforming Ukraine’s land ownership system. In addition to being valuable to Ukraine, doing so would be consistent with the Trump administration’s foreign assistance and development philosophy—rather than providing direct financial aid, the administration seeks to support U.S. partners in unshackling their own economies, making them both more self-sufficient and more prosperous.

While Impeachment Mania Consumes Washington, a New North Korea Crisis Is Brewing.

by Daniel R. DePetris

If President Trump doesn’t want to ring in the New Year with the first North Korean ICBM launch in over two years, then it would behoove him to look in the mirror and ask himself what his administration can do to prevent dialogue from crumbling. 

With every day that ticks off the calendar, the Trump administration is that much closer to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s ominous end-of-year deadline. North Korean officials and spokespeople are making increasingly strident statements about Washington‘s negotiating position and approach, all of which suggest that Kim is indeed serious when he told the world earlier this year that he was running out of patience. Back in Washington, the White House resembles a headless chicken with no direction, running around every which way, too consumed with the impeachment battle dominating every waking moment of their lives to care very much about salvaging Trump’s signature foreign policy initiative.

In the weeks since working-level talks in Stockholm, Sweden broke down after a single day, Pyongyang has been registering its contempt in the typical North Korean way: with fire and flare. This week has been no exception. On November 13, the spokesman of the State Affairs Commission delivered a not-so-subtle hint that the North is very close to breaking its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests. In the words of the spokesman, “At present when one party backpedals on its commitments and unilaterally takes hostile steps, there is neither reason nor any excuse for the other party to keep itself bound to its commitments.” One day later, chief North Korean negotiator Kim Myong Gil released his own set of comments, where he again expressed sincere doubts about whether Washington is truly committed to finding a way forward. 

How to deal with a declining Russia

Joseph S. Nye

The Kremlin is on a roll. Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has replaced the United States in Syria, continues to intervene in Eastern Ukraine, and recently hosted an African summit in Sochi. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. True, Russia retains a vast nuclear arsenal, equal in size to that of the US, and it used force effectively against Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, provided military assistance to save Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, and has used cyber means to disrupt US and other elections. But Russia can only be an international spoiler. Behind the adventurism, it is a country in decline.

In 1959, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev famously boasted that the Soviet Union would overtake the US by 1970 or 1980. Instead, in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving a significantly shrunken Russia, with three-quarters of the USSR’s territory, half its population, half its economy and one-third of its military personnel. Its GDP is only US$1.7 trillion, compared with US$21 trillion for the United States. In 1989, the Soviet economy was twice the size of China’s; today, Russia’s GDP is one-seventh that of China. Moreover, Russia is heavily dependent on energy exports; high-tech products account for only 11% of its manufactured exports (compared with 19% for the US).

Russia's Undeclared 'New-Generation War' On The West

by Connor Dilleen

Russia has the capability and demonstrated intent to do more than just play a spoiling role in international politics.

Joseph Nye’s recent article on a declining Russia provided a stark outline of a country in decline in terms of economics, demography and global influence. According to Nye, Russia can only be an international spoiler but should nevertheless be taken seriously because it remains a significant nuclear power and because declining powers tend to be less risk-averse. However the evidence suggests Nye’s narrow characterisation of Russia as a declining power is problematic.

Russia has the capability and demonstrated intent to do more than just play a spoiling role in international politics. And it represents a genuine and profound threat not just to the US but also to the global order.

Russia is now playing from a different rule book to the one that shaped the Cold War period of great-power rivalry. In addition, today’s geopolitical and geoeconomic conditions create a fertile environment for Russia to assume the role of disrupter on a grand scale. Moscow has already shown that it’s adept at deploying disruptive strategies to undermine those countries it sees as adversaries.

The Ukraine-Russia War: Five Cutting Edge Books

When, on 21 November 2013, former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych decided to postpone an EU Association Agreement, few would have predicted that this would lead to a prolonged inter-communal conflict in Europe’s borderland. What started as a peaceful demonstration of support for Ukraine’s pro-European course by thousands of people in Maidan Square in Kiev has developed into a vicious confrontation dividing families, communities and the Ukrainian nation. Since the events of 2013, E-International Relations has published five books covering the crisis from a wide range of angles and viewpoints, with contributions from almost 40 leading scholars. Each book is free to read and can be downloaded by clicking on the cover image below.

What Is an Oligarch?


And why it matters for Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.

With the impeachment hearings for President Donald Trump under way, several American diplomats and ambassadors have testified about the influence of oligarchs on the Trump administration.

I am a scholar of international law who has been working in the Soviet and post-Soviet space since the early 1990s. As the impeachment hearings in Washington take center stage and talk turns to the politics of Ukraine, I believe it’s important to understand what oligarchs are and what power they wield.

Over 2,300 years ago, Aristotle coined the term oligarchy as he contemplated the forms of state governance.

Like aristocracy, oligarchy meant rule by the few, as contrasted with democracy, which is rule by the people. From Aristotle’s time until the early 1990s, the concept of an oligarchy – and oligarchs – largely remained the stuff of academic writing. 

'No Friends But the Mountains.' What Life Looks Like for the Kurds of Syria, Now That the U.S. Has Pulled Back

By Karl Vick

The modern Middle East was formed exactly 100 years ago when, in the wake of World War I, the victors began creating new countries. Among the populations deemed deserving of nationhood — along with Armenians and Azeris — were the Kurds. The Kurds had lived for centuries in the mountains and high plains where Mesopotamia becomes Anatolia and, with their own language, culture and identity, met the criteria for a nation of their own.

Instead, the Kurds ended up within the borders of five other nations, a tapestry cut by a jigsaw. What photographer Moises Saman documents is that division playing out in three of the countries: Kurds in Iraq are giving refuge to Kurds from Syria, who have come under attack by the army of Turkey, the nation with the largest Kurdish minority of all. (The Kurds in Iran and in Armenia are uninvolved in the current conflict, except by viewing the Kurdish satellite channels that unite the roughly 24 million Kurds in the region, plus 1.5 million living in Europe.)

On Oct. 6, President Trump spoke on the phone with the President of Turkey, then abruptly ordered U.S. forces to abandon their positions protecting Syria’s Kurds, who had been essential allies in the common fight against ISIS.

Israel Tests New Air-Ground Tactics Vs. Islamic Jihad


The Israeli Air Force just wrapped up a “Blue Flag” wargame with the US & European allies and a real war with Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

An Israeli F-35I takes off from Uvda airbase during Blue Flag 2019.

TEL AVIV: Today, the Israeli Air Force concluded its latest Blue Flag wargames at its Uvda airbase in the Negev Desert, less than 100 miles away from an active war zone in the Gaza Strip — under 10 minutes’ flight time for a loaded fighter jet at cruising speed. For days, Israeli, US, German, Italian, and Greek fighters, including stealthy F-35s, had practiced dogfights and airstrikes against simulated air defenses, even as other IAF units conducted real airstrikes and real anti-rocket defense against Islamic Jihad.

An Italian Air Force pilot poses in front of his F-2000 Eurofighter Typhoon during the 2019 Blue Flag exercises at Uvda airbase in Israel.

The ability to wage real war and simulated war at the same time, using new and sophisticated tactics in both cases, is a testament to the growing capabilities of the Israeli Air Force. “The fact that the Israeli Air Force had to perform strikes against targets in Gaza, parallel to its participation in the exercise, was the best demonstration of how an advanced aerial force is operating,” an Israeli source told Breaking Defense.

Germany Can Reduce Its External Surplus


For years, Germany's ballooning current-account surplus has rankled the rest of the world, and German policymakers have thrown up their hands as if powerless to do anything about it. But the external imbalance is a result of policies that are fully within the government's power to change.

MUNICH – At just below 8% of GDP, Germany’s current-account surplus is the highest of any country in the world. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the size of the German surplus has raised hackles around the world, and it remains a topic of concern at the International Monetary Fund and other global institutions.

Nonetheless, early this year, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier’s Scientific Advisory Council published a report with a conclusion that is nothing short of astonishing: Germany, the report says, has no available instruments to reduce its massive external imbalance.

That finding comes after repeated complaints about the German surplus from US President Donald Trump’s administration, which has threatened to impose import tariffs and other protectionist measures. Even during former President Barack Obama’s administration, the United States repeatedly called on the German government to reduce its surplus. More recently, the G20 made “global imbalances” one of its central areas of concern.

Guinea's President Tempts Fate to Extend His Reign

Guinea's President Alpha Conde greets his supporters in the capital, Conakry, on Oct. 31, 2019, after weeks of violent protests against the leader's perceived bid to prolong his rule claimed around 10 lives.

Guinean President Alpha Conde's attempt to remove his term limits via a constitutional referendum will spark months of violent protests and security crackdowns.

To retaliate against the government, there's a chance protesters could start targeting the country's lucrative mining operations.

As clashes escalate, Russia may also eventually come to Conde's aid to protect its own political and economic interests in Guinea. 

As 2019 nears an end, a new and likely bloody political battle in Guinea is just unfolding. The West African country's 81-year-old president, Alpha Conde, is seeking to hold a constitutional referendum that would let him run in the 2020 election for a third term. The effort has already mobilized serious protests, setting the scene for more violent confrontations as opposition groups try to run out the clock on Conde's grand plan before next year's presidential vote. But as Guinea's president heads down the familiar path that so many of his African peers have trodden, it will come with similar pitfalls and likely ramifications for the resource-rich country's foreign suitors — and in particular, Russia.

What the Impeachment Inquiry Means for the U.S. Relationship With Ukraine

Casey Michel

The quickly unfolding impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump has already ensnared many other people, while raising more and more questions. From the extent of Trump’s involvement in pressuring Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals to the culpability of prominent officials in and outside his administration in that scheme, the public hearings that started this week have set the stage for an impeachment vote that could be among the most pivotal political moments in recent American history.

One of the questions swirling around this scandal is what the revelations about Trump will mean for future U.S. policy toward Ukraine. That is, can the Ukrainian government continue to rely on Washington as a reliable partner in its efforts to dislodge Russian-backed separatists from eastern Ukraine, while steering a course toward the European Union and fulfilling the promise of the country’s successful, pro-democracy revolution five years ago?

The fallout from the impeachment inquiry so far has already been swift. Just in the past month, reporting has revealed—and testimony has corroborated—that the White House placed a surprise, and apparently illegal, hold on congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine, totaling nearly $400 million. When Kyiv discovered the hold in early August, Ukrainian officials were, as The Wall Street Journal reported, “stunned,” leading them on a “panicked search for answers,” as Christopher Miller, a journalist based in Kyiv, added. At the time, the State Department, the National Security Council and the Pentagon were all “unanimous” in their support for providing the aid to Ukraine.

Doomed from the Skies, Damned on the Ground

Samiullah Doorandesh

Every U.S. airstrike resulting in civilian casualties nullifies the eighteen-year long endeavors of reconstruction and nation building aimed at winning the hearts and minds of Afghans in the perpetual War on Terror. The airstrikes have alarmingly augmented the xenophobia of Afghans towards the foreign troops and especially those of the United States. The continuation of civilian casualties will further provoke the victims to join the ranks and file of armed militants and ultimately, produce more “terrorists” rather than eliminating them.

From the U.S. airstrikes on the Omar kheil village of Kunduz in 2009, resulting in the killing of 70 civilians and Nangalam Village, of Kunar, in 2011, which perished nine teenage boys who were collecting firewood in the mountains to the aerial bombing of alleged methamphetamine drug labs in Bakwa and Delaram districts—resulting in the killing of 60 civilians—and the massacre of 30 ill-fated pine nut farmers in Khogyani district, Nangarhar, on September 29, 2019, who were relentlessly bombed by drone strikes—which Col. Sonny Leggett, the spokesman for American-led coalition in Afghanistan, claimed “was a precision strike on ISIS terrorists.” These are only a few stories that depict the excruciating lives of Afghan civilians under the War on Terror. Having survived the liquidation of the Taliban, the dismal socioeconomic conditions and the inhumane brutality of ISIS, they are butchered and maimed by the airstrikes of foreign troops—who are supposed to be protecting them.

UK government funds 18 projects to develop anti-drone technologies

By Catalin Cimpanu

Government has listened to ideas, is now funding the development of proof-of-concepts and prototypes.

The UK government has approved £2 million ($2.57 million) worth of funding for 18 projects that will develop anti-drone and drone detection technologies.

The funding comes part of a competition held by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) program under the UK's Ministry of Defence (MOD).

MOD officials approved funding earlier this year, in April, after a series of amateur drone incursions froze air travel at several airports across the UK.

Infamous is a three-day incident at the Gatwick Airport in London just before Christmas last year, and another day of flight cancellations in January, at Heathrow, London, one of the world's largest airports.


In April, MOD, through DASA, asked the private sector for solutions to detect and neutralize "small UAS (unmanned aerial system) threats."

Engineering firms and defence contractors were given six months to come up with new technologies that could do one of two things: (1) detect approaching drones, and (2) neutralize incoming threats before they reach a target.

Social Media in Asia: A New Frontier for Mass Surveillance and Political Manipulation

By Samuel Woodhams

Although stark across Asia, the rise of social media monitoring tools and disinformation campaigns is a global phenomenon.

Social media surveillance programs are rapidly becoming ubiquitous, as an increasing number of governments look to monitor citizens online and stifle political dissent. 

Aided by dramatic advances in artificial intelligence and the declining price of surveillance technology, the practice is no longer limited to the most technically advanced authoritarian regimes.

In fact, according to Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report, 13 of the 15 countries in Asia assessed have introduced advanced social media monitoring programs between June 2018 and May 2019. 

As governments from Kazakhstan to the Philippines look to surveil their populations online, freedom of expression has been suppressed, democratic processes have been compromised, and human rights activists, journalists and opposition politicians have been tracked down and arrested for their online activity.

Don’t get too hyper about hypersonics: The Drift, Season II, Vol. I

By: David B. Larter 

ALEXANDRIA – Good Evening, Drifters

Welcome to Season II of The Drift. We were on hiatus through October, but we’re back and I thank you for your patience!

We have so much to catch up on its insane, but I want to start with a topic I’ve spent a fair amount of time digging into recently: Hypersonics and what effect, if any, they’ll have on Navy force structure.

The DoD is investing a lot of money in the development of hypersonic missiles, but it’s just that: Development. How long will that development take? What kind of hypersonics should we buy? What will their mission be? Who will fire them? How do we target them? None of these questions have complete answers, as best I can tell. Most of the answers amount to goals but, hey, we all have goals. I want six-pack abs.

New technologies can be as elusive as the Hugh-Jackman-in-Wolverine-physique I’ve always wanted, and before we go hog wild on new CONOPS and force structure for taking down China with boost-glide weapons, we should ask: just how useful are they? Are they really a game changer or an expensive side mission on DoD’s quest to find some advantage over China?

Hot Electrons Harvested Without Tricks

Semiconductors convert energy from photons (light) into an electron current. However, some photons carry too much energy for the material to absorb. These photons produce ‘hot electrons’, and the excess energy of these electrons is converted into heat. Materials scientists have been looking for ways to harvest this excess energy.

Scientists from the University of Groningen and Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) have now shown that this may be easier than expected by combining a perovskite with an acceptor material for ‘hot electrons’. Their proof of principle was published in Science Advances.

In photovoltaic cells, semiconductors will absorb photon energy, but only from photons that have the right amount of energy: too little and the photons pass right through the material, too much and the excess energy is lost as heat. The right amount is determined by the bandgap: the difference in energy levels between the highest occupied molecular orbital (HOMO) and the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO).

‘The excess energy of hot electrons, produced by the high-energy photons, is very rapidly absorbed by the material as heat,’ explains Maxim Pshenichnikov, Professor of Ultrafast Spectroscopy at the University of Groningen.

Why Matter Matters: How Technology Characteristics Shape the Strategic Framing of Technologies

Previous work stresses that actors use strategic technology framing—i.e. purposeful language and rhetoric—to shape technology expectations, persuade stakeholders, and influence the evolution of technologies along their life-cycle. Currently, however, the literature predominantly describes strategic technology framing as a sociopolitical process, and provides only limited insights into how the framing itself is shaped by the material characteristics of the technologies being framed. To address this shortcoming, we conducted a comparative, longitudinal case study of two leading research organizations in the United States and Germany pursuing competing solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies to examine how technology characteristics shape the strategic framing of technologies. We show that to frame PV technologies in their own favor, executives made use of four framing dimensions (potential, prospect, performance, and progress) and three framing tactics (conclusion, conditioning, and concession). Moreover, we show that which framing dimensions and tactics actors selected depended on the maturity and evolution of the technology they pursued, respectively. By highlighting how technology characteristics shape strategic technology framing, we contribute to the literatures on social movements, institutional entrepreneurship, and impression management. Additionally, by providing a coherent framework of strategic technology framing, our study complements existing findings in the literature on the sociology of expectations and contributes to a better understanding of how technology hypes emerge.

Winter 2019 U.S.- China Cybersecurity Update

It is difficult to accurately speculate on the progress of U.S.-China trade negotiations, as media reports on the status of key policy proposals seemingly differ each day depending on the transparency and messaging agenda of the sources involved. However, what has been certain during the winter of 2019 is that major updates to U.S. and Chinese cybersecurity regulations are in the process of being implemented, and these developments stand to set key precedents for the intersection of applicable foreign investment and cybersecurity regulations in the U.S. and China. 

Building on our previous two articles regarding U.S. economic espionage concerns and updated U.S. foreign investment restrictions, this article will provide an overview of notable cybersecurity legislative and investigative developments that will likely dictate the near future of critical facets of U.S.-China relations in the 21st century, including (1) the implementation of China’s revised cybersecurity legislation known as the Multi-Level Protection Scheme (“MLPS 2.0”); (2) the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) reported investigation into the popular social media app TikTok; and (3) the race to implement 5G infrastructure and ongoing speculation regarding Huawei’s licensing status.

The Dollar Goes to War

Although it hasn’t commanded the same attention as US President Donald Trump’s tweets and tariffs, America’s increasingly aggressive use of the dollar as a means of diplomatic coercion could bring about a sea change for the global economy. Is America wading too far into the unknown?

In this Big Picture, Harvard’s Jeffrey Frankel notes that while the dollar is still the uncontested global reserve currency, America’s abandonment of global leadership and abuse of its privileged position could prompt other countries to seek alternatives. Chief among those will be China, which, according to Paola Subacchi of the University of London, is already hankering for international monetary reform in response to the Trump administration’s trade and currency war. And, as Zaki Laïdi of Sciences Po adds, Europe, too, is realizing that its reliance on the dollar system implies a loss of control over its own foreign policy.

Against this backdrop, MIT’s Simon Johnson points out that digital currencies such as Facebook's recently unveiled Libra represent an entirely new kind of threat to the dollar. And as former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis argues, Libra, if taken out of Facebook's hands, could serve as the basis for a “new Bretton Woods” system to replace the dollar-centric status quo.

Army Tests Out Drone that Can Fire Grenades into Enemy Hideouts

By Matthew Cox

U.S. Army weapons officials are testing an experimental drone armed with a multi-shot, 40mm grenade launcher to destroy enemy targets hiding behind cover.

The man-packable Cerberus GL unmanned aerial system -- made by Skyborne Technologies Pty. Ltd. -- is being evaluated in the Army Expeditionary Warfare Experiments 2020 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The drone weighs 14 pounds, has a range of two miles and can fire three 40mm high-explosive grenades at defiladed targets well beyond the 400-meter maximum effective range of the M320 grenade launcher.

It's been two years since the Army canceled the XM25, a sophisticated, shoulder-fired counter-defilade weapon, but Army weapons officials continue to search for solutions capable of killing enemy troops protected behind cover.

The Pentagon and Lockheed Are Fighting Over Who Really Owns the F-35's Buggy Computers

by Sebastien Roblin

More bad news for the trillion-dollar stealth fighter jet?

The U.S. military sees the Lockheed F-35 Lightning as representing a new paradigm of air warfare. The new tactical jet fighter controversially trades in some of the raw agility of preceding fourth-generation jet fighters in favor of capabilities emphasizing stealth, and reliance upon networked computers and powerful long-range sensors and missiles.

But the F-35 Lightning also represents a new business paradigm—one in which the jets are offered more and more as a service than as a physical product, with manufacturer Lockheed Martin retaining exclusive rights to modify much of the aircraft’s critical mission and ground-based software.

Earlier, while attempting to persuade Turkey not to purchase Russian surface-to-air missiles, the United States even reportedly threatened that it could cut off software support for any F-35 delivered to Turkey, rendering them virtually unusable.

Of course, maintenance, training, and spare parts contracts have for decades meant that jet fighters amounted to lucrative long-term revenue streams for their manufacturers. But the F-35 advances this paradigm dramatically in that Lockheed retain exclusive rights to modify its operating software, a fact which has not sat well not only with foreign importers but even the U.S. military. 

Exploring the Foundation of Multi-Domain Operations

Brandon C. Kasubaski

Attaining one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the pinnacle of excellence. Subjugating of the enemy’s army without fighting is the pinnacle of excellence.

--Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The U.S is facing multifaceted challenges, including our adversaries, which it cannot favorably engage in competition and conflict. This requires creative solutions and responses from the entire Department of Defense. Last December, U.S Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) released their capstone product TRADOC Pamphlet (TP) 525-3-1, The U.S Army in Multi Domain Operations 2028. TP 525-3-1 describes how the Army contributes to deterring and defeating our adversaries in both competition and conflict. Within TP 525-3-1 the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept drives the detailed solutions to problems posed by our adversaries.

However, MDO applies beyond just those threats. MDO according to TP 525-3-1 is how the Army will fight across all domains, the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), and the information environment at echelon.1 MDO, while still at the component level, will eventually refine the Army’s role operating across multiple domains alongside the joint force.2 MDO at its core incorporates domains and capabilities previously unacknowledged and used together irregularly in war. While TP 525-3-1 establishes what MDO achieves and how it supports the Army’s strategic roles, the underlying foundational strategies and how they contribute to MDO are absent. Understanding and interpreting these foundational strategies is critical for planners and leaders to gain insight into MDO.

Crypto army: token rewards for Chinese soldiers


The People’s Liberation Army could soon be rewarding its soldiers’ good performance with cryptocurrency tokens if China’s military brass embrace blockchain technology, according to a military newspaper.

Applying the technology to military management would likely spur innovation, the PLA Daily, a military mouthpiece, stated.

The paper said the military should establish a digital currency token reward scheme for staff performance assessments based on criteria including training, speciality skills and task completion, the South China Morning Post reported.

“To award or deduct tokens according to one’s daily performance and thus generate an objective assessment would effectively energize the human resource management,” it said.

Thie article was published a few weeks after President Xi Jinping spoke positively about blockchain technology, which sparked a price surge in the cryptocurrency market and boosted related company shares.