29 February 2020

A Tale of Two Demagogues


PARIS – “America loves India,” declared US President Donald Trump on his recent visit to the Indian state of Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s power base. Before a crowd of more than 100,000 in the world’s largest cricket stadium, the two leaders triumphantly celebrated the deepening friendship between their countries – or, to be more precise, between their brands of charismatic populism. Not even Trump’s repeated mangling of Indian names during his speech could dampen Modi’s glow.

But Trump’s visit to India was not the major historical moment of which he and Modi boasted. Although Modi described the US-India relationship as “the most important partnership of the twenty-first century,” it may never match the ever-deepening ties between China and Russia. After all, conventional authoritarians find it far easier than populists to unite behind a common vision of their global interests. The China factor is of course important for both the United States and India, but it is not sufficient to transcend their cultural differences and deeply divergent economic interests (especially regarding trade).

Having said that, another type of history was in the making during Trump’s visit. But it was very different from the sort that he and Modi had envisaged.

Will India’s Budget Help Turn Around Its Economy?

India’s latest annual Union Budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021 that finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented on February 1 failed to recognize the gravity of the economic problems the country faces, according to experts from Penn and elsewhere. Expectations were high that Sitharaman would find ways to extricate India from its economic slowdown of two years, especially since Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sworn to expand the economy from $2.9 trillion today to $5 trillion by 2024-2025.

The metaphor of an elephant for the Indian economy captured the budget’s shortcomings for Duvvuri Subbarao, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India and a research fellow at the Center for Advanced Study of India (CASI) at the University of Pennsylvania. “As much as I hope the budget will inspire the elephant to start dancing, disappointingly there is little in [it] to get that act going to revive the economy’s growth performance,” he said.

India’s growth slowdown is “deeply structural, requiring a structured response,” according to Subbarao. “What the economy needs for a sustained turnaround is kickstarting private investment.”

Bangladesh’s Role in Forging a Bay of Bengal Community

Tariq A. Karim

Ambassador Tariq Karim points out that as commercial and development activities continue to grow, responsible management of the Bay of Bengal will need to be prioritized to ensure sustained prosperity in the region and globally. He explains why Bangladesh is uniquely positioned to take on a bridging role among the littoral states.

A revival of the Indian Ocean’s historical role as a key transit route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans raises the strategic importance of the Bay of Bengal as both a potential gateway and a chokepoint for economic development of the broader Asian region. Located at the northeastern tip of the Indian Ocean, the bay is bounded by the coastlines of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

With a combined population of 1.7 billion and sustained GDP growth currently of $3 trillion,[1] the Bay of Bengal depends on the ability of states to enhance subregional cooperation. A quarter of the world’s traded goods cross the bay, including huge volumes of Persian Gulf oil and liquefied natural gas, providing energy-scarce countries with a corridor to securing resources.[2] The Bay of Bengal itself contains vast untapped natural resources of oil, gas, mineral ores, and fishing stocks, promoting investment and economic interest from India, China, and Japan.[3] As a result, it has the potential both to positively contribute to the economies of littoral states and to serve as a point of contestation among larger competing powers.

Chips, Engines, and India

Andrew Schwartz: You're listening to the Trade Guys, a podcast produced by CSIS where we talk about trade in terms that everyone can understand. I'm H. Andrew Schwartz and I'm here with Scott Miller and Bill Reinsch, the CSIS Trade Guys.

Jack Caporal: I'm Jack Caporal filling in for Andrew Schwartz. This week on the Trade Guys, we'll break down the debate over high technology exports to China, plus we'll predict what's likely out of President Trump's trip to India next week. And we'll take on the debate over whether developing countries should embrace protectionism to grow. Stay tuned for a brand new episode of the Trade Guys.

Jack Caporal: All right, so we're back with a new episode of the Trade Guys and let's start with a story that's kind of been bubbling up over the past month, but I think also throughout the entirety of the Trump administration really, which is how the United States and the administration wants to deal with exports of high tech products to China. And the debate really centers around what's known as export controls and Bill, this is an area that you're deeply familiar with. So maybe you want to give us a little primer on what export controls are, why they matter, and why you know so much about such an archaic topic.

U.S.-Taliban Deal: The Beginning of the End of America’s Longest War?

American officials announced on Friday that the United States and the Taliban agreed to a seven-day “reduction of violence” that, if adhered to, would be followed by a signed agreement. The deal would pave the way for intra-Afghan talks and a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops. American and Taliban negotiators were close to inking a deal in September that would have seen a Taliban commitment to not harbor terrorist groups and a U.S. troop withdrawal plan. But, President Trump scrapped that deal and froze talks after a Taliban attack killed a U.S. serviceman. In the intervening months, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad brought the parties back to the table to get to this interim step. USIP’s Scott Smith examines the U.S.-Taliban deal and what comes next.

President Trump has conditionally agreed to a deal with the Taliban. What does that deal entail and what are the conditions that must be fulfilled?

The agreement in principle would commit the Taliban, the Afghan government, and international forces to a significant reduction of violence for a period of seven days. President Trump has insisted that this reduction be meaningful, lasting, and measurable. Our understanding is that it had to be vetted by the U.S. military to ensure these conditions were met. It is not clear yet when the seven-day clock begins, but Taliban officials have said that they expect to sign the agreement before the end of February, meaning the reduction in violence could begin as soon as this weekend.

How the Good War Went Bad

By Carter Malkasian

The United States has been fighting a war in Afghanistan for over 18 years. More than 2,300 U.S. military personnel have lost their lives there; more than 20,000 others have been wounded. At least half a million Afghans—government forces, Taliban fighters, and civilians—have been killed or wounded. Washington has spent close to $1 trillion on the war. Although the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead and no major attack on the U.S. homeland has been carried out by a terrorist group based in Afghanistan since 9/11, the United States has been unable to end the violence or hand off the war to the Afghan authorities, and the Afghan government cannot survive without U.S. military backing. 

At the end of 2019, The Washington Post published a series titled “The Afghanistan Papers,” a collection of U.S. government documents that included notes of interviews conducted by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. In those interviews, numerous U.S. officials conceded that they had long seen the war as unwinnable. Polls have found that a majority of Americans now view the war as a failure. Every U.S. president since 2001 has sought to reach a point in Afghanistan when the violence would be sufficiently low or the Afghan government strong enough to allow U.S. military forces to withdraw without significantly increasing the risk of a resurgent terrorist threat. That day has not come. In that sense, whatever the future brings, for 18 years the United States has been unable to prevail. 

Tomgram: William Astore, Stamping Out War

by William Astore

Here’s a word that essentially dropped out of Washington’s dictionary in this century: peace. It used to be part of the rhetoric, at least, of politicians there, but in the era of the war on terror it’s barely made an appearance. In election year 2020, however, it’s back, not as a global phenomenon or as a general term, but very specifically connected to the more than 18-year-old American war in Afghanistan. News reports now regularly refer to a “peace deal” or “peace agreement” that’s been secretly (and yet half-publicly) negotiated between the Trump administration and the Taliban and that will reportedly be signed at the end of this month; if, that is, it doesn’t collapse the way the last version of it did when Donald Trump cancelled a meeting with Taliban officials at Camp David. 

However, before you assume that “peace” actually means the end of the American war in Afghanistan, you should take a very deep breath. After so many years of U.S. military “progress” there, it looks as if this deal -- should something like a ceasefire descend on that beleaguered land -- might only result in the withdrawal of perhaps a few thousand of the 12,000 American troops still stationed in that country “over time,” as Secretary of Defense Mark Esper put it recently. (And don’t even think about CIA personnel or private contractors.)

Artificial Intelligence: Potential Intensifier of Strategic Dynamics in South Asia

By Hananah Zarrar
Source Link

With growing dependency on artificial rationalization, human reasoning and decision-making is under continuous suppression. Where machine learning and deep learning tends to empower machines to carry out functions and break assigned tasks into easier ones, it nevertheless fastens the route towards a world order that is likely to be in absolute control of Artificial Intelligence(AI). Does it indicate cutting humans entirely out of the loop?

This deliberate submission of power to machines has some assured repercussions in the realm of strategic stability which rational actors must take into consideration. The simulation of human cognition – the capacity of human mind to learn, interpret and reason- in machines is what artificial intelligence refers to. It eventually stands as a defining feature of modern societies. By the enhanced use of algorithms, AI optimizes the ability for collecting avast range of data whether numeric or categorical in the form of big data to measure the information and derive results accordingly. Thus, Artificial Intelligence is itself emerging as a vast technological industry for creating intelligent machines. Such machines would be capable of independent decision-making based on the level of subjectivity conceded to AI. This subjectivity defines the rationale of decisions made by machines. Along with enhanced precision and prompt responses, it suggests that over-reliance on AI could probably take the shape of absolute control.


Ajit Kumar Singh

Backed by ‘all weather friend’ China, Pakistan again escaped the ignominy of being put into the ‘club’ of High-Risk Jurisdictions, commonly referred to as the ‘black list’, by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran are the two present members of the ‘club’. 

Despite Islamabad’s continued attempts to deceive FATF by taking superficial action and come out of the Jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring, the ‘grey list’, however, FATF decided to keep Pakistan in this listing, along with 17 other countries. Pakistan has been on the ‘grey list’ since June 2018. 

FATF President Xiangmin Liu of China, chaired the FATF Plenary held on February 19-21, 2020, at Paris, France. In a release dated February 21, 2020, FATF noted that "all deadlines in the action plan have expired" and the FATF "again expresses concerns given Pakistan's failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in light of the TF [terrorist financing] risks emanating from the jurisdiction". The FATF warned,

To date, Pakistan has largely addressed 14 of 27 action items, with varying levels of progress made on the rest of the action plan. The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by June 2020. Otherwise, should significant and sustainable progress especially in prosecuting and penalising TF not be made by the next Plenary, the FATF will take action, which could include the FATF calling on its members and urging all jurisdictions to advise their FIs [Foreign Investors] to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan. 

Interestingly, in a release dated October 18, 2019, FATF had raised a similar warning,

The West Is About to Fail the Coronavirus Test

Source Link

When an authoritarian accumulates power by eliminating political opponents and building a cult of personality around his leadership, the downside is that when things go wrong, often everybody blames him. Chinese President Xi Jinping has kept a low profile in this epidemic, which has killed more than 2,500 people in China as of Monday.

The crisis has become as great a strain on the country’s political leadership as it has on its medical workers. Stunningly, the system itself has acknowledged this, with the official account of one meeting led by Xi saying the coronavirus is “a major test of China’s system and capacity for governance.” Meanwhile, at ground zero in Wuhan, doctors don diapers because they have no time for breaks, while cancer patients complain of neglect.

How China manages COVID-19 is being closely scrutinized and widely criticized. But with global health specialists cautioning the current outbreak may not wane like the regular flu with the arrival of spring, and one epidemiologist at Harvard University even estimating a pandemic infecting 40 to 70 percent of the world—countries everywhere, including democracies, will be tested and judged on how they respond and how they treat people. And the signs are that many—including members of the G-7—will disappoint, in some cases calamitously.

Containing the Coronavirus: What’s the Risk to the Global Economy?

On Monday, February 24, stock indices tumbled, spooked by reports that the coronavirus outbreak that emerged in China is spreading to countries including Italy, Iran and South Korea. A day later, trading in stocks across world markets remained choppy, reflecting hope that the economic fallout might be manageable — just as damage from the SARS epidemic was some two decades ago — but also fear that the economic impact could be significant and linger longer.

The markets’ movements mirror the uncertainty that prevails and persists not just in the U.S. but all over the world. Several weeks into the coronavirus outbreak that has brought the world’s second largest economy to its knees, some of the most basic aspects of the virus remain unknown. It’s not yet clear how widely beyond China COVID-19 will spread; this week, numbers of infected individuals have surged outside China. Still, exactly how it is transmitted, how easily, and how lethal it might be are aspects of this coronavirus that remain to be uncovered, according to University of Pennsylvania scientists.

As the human toll mounts, so does the economic damage. The business realm, of course, tends to shudder in the face of uncertainty, and right now, with reports on the seriousness of the coronavirus evolving each day if not each hour, the eyes of commerce are on epidemiology.

Securing the Belt and Road

by Nadège Rolland

On August 1, 2017, the day of its 90th anniversary, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officially inaugurated its first permanent overseas support facility under the blazing Djiboutian sun. The event indicated a dramatic departure from the previously prevailing claim that China “does not station any troops or set up any military bases in any foreign country” as a matter of policy.[1] It also highlighted the long-term role assigned to the PLA in protecting China’s expanding national interests, a role that Hu Jintao had granted the Chinese military back in 2004 as part of its “new historic missions.”[2] For the past fifteen years, recognizing that “security risks to China’s overseas interests are on the increase,”[3] the PLA has taken on the new challenges created by globally expanding national interests and entanglements, pushing farther away from China’s shores, broadening its strategic horizons, and enhancing its power-projection capabilities. The 2015 defense white paper put an unprecedented emphasis on maritime interests and on the PLA’s responsibility to protect them as one of its core missions.[4]

Chinese strategic planners generally agree that the “boundaries of China’s national security” are defined by the expansion of its overseas interests and that “where national interests expand, the support of the military force has to follow.”[5] Since its introduction in late 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been pushing the boundaries of China’s national interests well beyond the traditional focus on the country’s immediate neighborhood. China’s Ministry of National Defense publicly denies that BRI has any military or geostrategic intent.[6] Even if that is truly the case, the priority Beijing has given to BRI for the last six years has created an overall acceleration and geographic expansion of Chinese overseas activities that will inevitably generate the need for some level of state and military protection.

China's Eurasian Century?

by Nadège Rolland

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become the organizing foreign policy concept of the Xi Jinping era. The 21st-century version of the Silk Road will take shape around a vast network of transportation, energy, and telecommunication infrastructure, linking Europe and Africa to Asia and accompanied by strengthened monetary cooperation and increased people-to-people exchanges. Beijing sees physical infrastructure as a first step toward Eurasian integration, thanks in part to the creation of economic corridors that will enable greater regional policy coordination and foster a vibrant “community of common destiny.”

Drawing mostly from the work of Chinese official and analytic communities who are striving to make BRI a reality, this study examines the concept’s origins, drivers, and various component parts, as well as the accompanying ideational narrative and domestic and international objectives, as seen through Beijing’s eyes. While Beijing is selling the promise of economic development, its main focus is on the benefits that it hopes BRI will bring to China, not simply in the realm of economics but most importantly in the geopolitical domain. More robust engagement of the entire Eurasian continent through BRI is intended to enable China to better use its growing economic clout to achieve its ultimate political aims without provoking a countervailing response or a military conflict.

Introduction to China’s Digital Silk Road: Economic and Technological Implications

by Ashley Dutta

Each of the authors in this roundtable examines a different aspect of China’s ambitions and initiatives in the Digital Silk Road, including projects and investments in artificial intelligence, smart city development and deployment, the Internet of Things, 5G technologies, fiber-optic cable construction, financial technologies, social networking, and blockchain.

Over the last few years, many researchers have analyzed China’s Belt and Road Initiative, yet very few have studied a growing and critical component of that initiative—the Digital Silk Road (DSR). Since the DSR could have enormous economic, technological, social, political, and security implications for the United States and other countries around the world, the National Bureau of Asian Research sought to address the current gap in research on this topic. In September 2019 we hosted a workshop that brought together experts to examine China’s DSR activities in Southeast Asia—a region that has been an intense focus of the DSR—and the implications for the United States and Japan in particular. This roundtable in Asia Policy builds on the presentations and discussions at that workshop.

As the four essays in this roundtable demonstrate, the DSR includes a broad set of Chinese public policies, information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure development projects, and public- and private-sector investments. These efforts aim to strengthen China’s international leadership and capabilities in emerging technologies, which support and link to many of China’s other major goals in its grand strategy. Each of the authors in this roundtable examines a different aspect of China’s ambitions and initiatives in the DSR, including projects and investments in artificial intelligence (AI), smart city development and deployment, the Internet of Things, 5G technologies, fiber-optic cable construction, financial technologies (fintech), social networking, and blockchain.

Can the United States and China Cooperate on the Coronavirus?


In early February 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to hail his excellent call with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the coronavirus outbreak. Trump called Xi a “strong, sharp and powerfully focused” leader who was successfully eradicating the coronavirus. That same day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington would spend up to $100 million to help Beijing curtail the virus, in addition to the nearly eighteen tons in medical supplies it had already sent to China.

Twenty-four hours later, however, Pompeo stood in front of the U.S. National Governors Association with a very different message. In his latest China speech, Pompeo warned of competition with Beijing that threatens “the very basic freedoms that every one of us [U.S. governors] values.” Just days later at the Munich Security Conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that U.S. “accusations against China are lies and not based on facts.”

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle holds the Maurice R. Greenberg Director’s Chair at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center based at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Haenle served as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama prior to joining Carnegie.

The discrete messaging over a matter of days highlighted the sharp downturn in U.S.-China ties and reinforced the increasingly competitive, contentious, and antagonistic state of the relationship. Beijing’s lack of transparency has exacerbated a global health crisis and limited cooperation, while Washington’s focus on competition has fueled greater mistrust. The coronavirus has exposed just how difficult it’s becoming for the two countries to cooperate on issues that are of mutual interest—even ones that threaten the lives of their own citizens.

Controlling Coronavirus Will Mean Keeping People Apart

By Benjamin Cowling

A coronavirus checkpoint in Dali, China, February 2020Toby de Silva / Redux

In Hollywood, movie sequels are often weaker than the originals. For viruses, that logic does not always apply. The virus now named the “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses will have an impact that far exceeds the death toll and economic damage caused by the original SARS.

In late January and early February 2020, China embarked on the most drastic social-distancing measures ever seen, confining hundreds of millions of people to their homes. This approach has been successful in reducing the transmission of the “SARS 2” coronavirus to the extent that daily case numbers have declined throughout China in February.

Outside of China, however, such sweeping social controls will not be possible. The virus is spreading. As of this writing, nearly 30 countries worldwide have reported cases, and local transmission has been reported in new areas almost every day. A brief window of time remains for health authorities around the world to consider what measures they can take to reduce the transmission of the virus and slow its spread—once they acknowledge that containment efforts are futile.


Coronavirus Weakens China’s Powerful Propaganda Machine

By Li Yuan
Source Link

Exhausted medical workers with faces lined from hours of wearing goggles and surgical masks. Women with shaved heads, a gesture of devotion. Retirees who donate their life savings anonymously in government offices.

Beijing is tapping its old propaganda playbook as it battles the relentless coronavirus outbreak, the biggest challenge to its legitimacy in decades. State media is filling smartphones and airwaves with images and tales of unity and sacrifice aimed at uniting the people behind Beijing’s rule. It even briefly offered up cartoon mascots named Jiangshan Jiao and Hongqi Man, characters meant to stir patriotic feelings among the young during the crisis.

The problem for China’s leaders: This time, it isn’t working so well.

Online, people are openly criticizing state media. They have harshly condemned stories of individual sacrifice when front-line medical personnel still lack basic supplies like masks. They shouted down Jiangshan Jiao and Hongqi Man. They have heaped scorn on images of the women with shaved heads, asking whether the women were pressured to do it and wondering why similar images of men weren’t appearing.

Refocusing the China debate: American allies and the question of US-China “decoupling”

Lindsey Ford

The common wisdom in Washington is that policymakers and experts have settled into a new consensus about China. Engagement is dead, long live strategic competition!

But ongoing policy debates suggest this consensus may not be as well-formed as it first appears. Beyond the desire for a new approach toward Beijing, there is still relatively little agreement on where to go from here. How should U.S. policymakers turn a relatively vague concept of “competition” into a more coherent set of policies? What objectives and assumptions should drive U.S. strategy? And what role are U.S. allies and partners willing to play in this new approach?

Unfortunately, many of the past year’s China debates provided few answers to these questions. Instead, the U.S.-China narrative has often mired down in increasingly stark disagreements over history, ideology, grand strategy, and geoeconomics. The flaw of many of these debates is that they miss the center of gravity when it comes to managing China’s rise. “Competition” does not necessarily require a unified vision of the sources of Chinese conduct, but it does require a deeper consensus on how the United States will define its own role in the Indo-Pacific region and a firmer consensus with allies and partners about how to align our political and economic strategies.

Refocusing the China debate: Beijing’s ideological exports and the question of who “lost” China

Lindsey Ford

Looking back on the most prominent China debates of 2019, it’s clear that we need to refocus the discussion about “strategic competition” for 2020. The center of gravity in U.S. policy debates needs to shift away from Beijing and toward the challenging policy choices needed to better adapt the U.S. alliance network to manage China’s rise.

In an accompanying piece, I explore allied anxieties about “choosing” between Washington and Beijing, as well as how to manage fears about a U.S.-China decoupling. Here, I discuss how to reframe ongoing debates about U.S. grand strategy and ideological competition.

One debate that dominated the 2019 conversation is whether China is seeking to export its authoritarian model and ideology elsewhere in the world. The Trump administration, and many U.S. experts, have argued that the contours of an emerging ideological competition are obvious. Secretary Pompeo warned European leaders in June 2019, “China wants to be the dominant economic and military power of the world, spreading its authoritarian vision for society and its corrupt practices worldwide.” Other analysts have echoed this perspective, warning of a more explicitly Leninist emphasis in Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policymaking and a systemic competition between authoritarian and democratic societies.

The Canadian Geopolitical Dynamic

By George Friedman

Canada is being wracked by what appears to be a moderately important internal crisis over First Nations’ objections to the construction of a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia. This crisis gives me a chance to write about the geopolitics of North America, with particular focus on Canada. Normally, we would not need to address such problems because Canada is generally a country in which conflict is contained in a predictable framework. At the moment, the conflict remains within that framework, but it is not impossible that it will break out. That would affect the United States, and things that effect the United States frequently wind up in a different framework in a place far away. Since I doubt the U.S. has any plans to occupy Canada (actually, I can’t be sure), and most of the security issues involving the U.S. and Canada revolve around scheduling joint training, I regard Canada’s problems as internally manageable. Still, there is value in using this as an opportunity to consider the Canadian dynamic.

Center of Gravity

According to our model, the center of gravity of the global system shifted after the fall of the Soviet Union to North America. Note that I said North America rather than the United States because, as in Europe over the course of centuries, the leading nation on the continent can vary. The United States is enormously powerful, but it shares the continent with two other significant powers: Mexico and Canada. All three countries share a single characteristic: They are continental powers that have access to both the Atlantic and Pacific. It is this geographical reality that makes the dominant North American nation the center of gravity. Asia does not have ready access to the Atlantic, nor does Europe have ready access to the Pacific. North America has access to both.

Connecting the Blue Dots

The photo of planet Earth from distant space that Carl Sagan made famous—“the pale blue dot”—turned thirty this month. The popular astronomer might be flattered, or puzzled, to have inspired an effort today by the United States and two of its allies to promote high-quality global infrastructure: the Blue Dot Network (BDN). The initiative holds promise and should be encouraged, but it also raises nearly as many questions as the cosmos.

The BDN was announced by the United States, Japan, and Australia in November 2019 at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Thailand. Together, the three allies aim to certify infrastructure projects around the world that meet high standards of transparency, sustainability, and developmental impact. They seek to accomplish for “quality infrastructure” what Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has accomplished with energy efficiency in buildings or the Forest Stewardship Council has accomplished with certified logging. In doing so, they hope to give private investors the confidence to help meet the world’s pressing infrastructure needs—estimated at $94 trillion over the next two decades.

Cynics say the color choice in the initiative’s name was not an accident: a contrast to the red of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Xi Jinping’s signature initiative promises trillions of dollars of Chinese spending on roads, ports, and digital connections around the world. The Trump administration has barely tried to hide its disdain for the Chinese initiative, critiquing everything from BRI’s non-transparent financing to Beijing’s geopolitical designs.

What Trump Really Doesn’t Get About Trade

Source Link

When Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Dennis Shea tore into the European Union last week, attacking the $178 billion goods trade deficit the United States runs with the EU and acknowledging that the deficit “colors” every aspect of America’s approach to trade with Europe, it was hardly a departure for anyone in the administration.

U.S. President Donald Trump has, since 30 years before day one in office, been obsessed with trade balances, viewing the difference between a country’s imports and exports as something like the balance sheet of a business—more outflows than inflows must be the road to bankruptcy (something Trump is intimately familiar with), so the only path to solvency must be to balance the books by importing less and exporting more.

During Trump’s first two years in office, that metric—his own—got worse, with the U.S. trade deficit steadily widening. Last year, it shrank a bit to $616 billion—a bit better than in 2018 but still a wider gap than when he took office.

Europe Is Thinking Harder About Divorcing America


This year’s Munich Security Conference convened under the rubric of “Westlessness.” The implication was clear: Not only are the United States and Europe staking out separate, clashing positions on everything from telecommunications to energy, but they have issued sharp disagreements on the basic building blocks of foreign relations—namely, how the international system should work. French President Emmanuel Macron seized the spotlight, and sent the hearts of European federalists aflutter, by calling for “a European way” while raising the possibility of a French-led European nuclear deterrent, a precondition for any true independence from the United States.

It is an axiom of international relations that democracies do not go to war with one another. What is less clear, however, is the conditions under which they might separate into competing strategic blocs. History is full of examples of democracies banding together into strategic alliances, but few examples of such countries decoupling and transforming into political rivals. Are the United States and its closest allies in Europe nevertheless on the path to a historic divorce?

Malaysia’s Geriatric Palace Intrigues Are Causing Political Turmoil

Source Link

Anwar Ibrahim may be the most outmaneuvered man in Malaysia. The trials of his political life have been Job-like, from multiple sodomy accusations to police assaults to nearly a decade spent in jail. In 2018 he seemed, momentarily, to have been rewarded for his forbearance, when his party coalition with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad won a surprise election victory, overturning the National Front that had ruled Malaysia since its independence from Britain in 1957. Anwar “won” from jail, through a baroque setup by which he was supposed to eventually succeed the then 92-year-old Mahathir after two years, in a transition whose specifics were never explained. But he would eventually get his day in the sun … right?

Wrong. After a series of hushed, closed-door meetings, backdoor plots, and obtuse power plays over the past five days, the Malaysian government is now in chaos, and it seems like Anwar may let power slip through his fingers again. Mahathir resigned as prime minister at 1 p.m. on Monday, as well as from his leadership of the Bersatu political party. Meanwhile, Bersatu, which accounts for 26 seats in the lower house of Parliament, announced that it was exiting the Alliance of Hope (Pakatan Harapan) coalition that won in 2018, depriving it of its parliamentary majority and essentially dissolving the government. The same day, 11 members of Anwar’s party resigned. The clock is ticking for a new ruling coalition to emerge soon. The suddenness and rapid succession of these events have the dramatic flair of late-season scripted television.

China Brief

· The CCP’s New Leading Small Group for Countering the Coronavirus Epidemic—and the Mysterious Absence of Xi Jinping

· How the Wuhan Epidemic Has Dented Xi Jinping's Authority and Prestige

· The Future of Chinese Foreign Economic Policy Will Challenge U.S. Interests, Part 2: Renminbi Internationalization and International Economic Institutions

· Sino-Indian Cooperation on Counter-Terrorism: Not Truly “Hand-in-Hand” At All

The Promise and Perils of Technology in International Affairs

Technology has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for the world’s populations, but there are no guarantees it will. Concerns remain about everything from how the growing digital divide risks leaving large swathes of society—and the world—behind, to questions about the security of data and its potential weaponization. And, of course, there is the ongoing debate around how technology and information platforms can be used to undermine democratic processes, including elections.

To address these concerns, a panel of experts assembled by the United Nations recently called for a “multistakeholder” approach that would convene governments, members of civil society, academics, technology experts and the private sector in an attempt to develop norms and standards around these technologies. Even they could not agree on what this structure might specifically look like, though, underscoring how difficult it will be to ensure that technology is harnessed for everyone’s benefit.

We’re not prepared for the end of Moore’s Law

by David Rotman

Gordon Moore’s 1965 forecast that the number of components on an integrated circuit would double every year until it reached an astonishing 65,000 by 1975 is the greatest technological prediction of the last half-century. When it proved correct in 1975, he revised what has become known as Moore’s Law to a doubling of transistors on a chip every two years.

Since then, his prediction has defined the trajectory of technology and, in many ways, of progress itself.

Moore’s argument was an economic one. Integrated circuits, with multiple transistors and other electronic devices interconnected with aluminum metal lines on a tiny square of silicon wafer, had been invented a few years earlier by Robert Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor. Moore, the company’s R&D director, realized, as he wrote in 1965, that with these new integrated circuits, “the cost per component is nearly inversely proportional to the number of components.” It was a beautiful bargain—in theory, the more transistors you added, the cheaper each one got. Moore also saw that there was plenty of room for engineering advances to increase the number of transistors you could affordably and reliably put on a chip.

The largest cyber exercise you’ve never heard of

Mark Pomerleau
For years, the first time the Department of Defense’s cyber forces faced high-end digital attacks was not in practice or in a classroom, but in actual operations.

For the cyber teams that focused on offense, a playbook developed from years of National Security Agency operations guided their work. But on the defensive side, standards and processes needed to be created from scratch meaning, in part, there was a lack of uniformity and little tradecraft to follow.

Because cyber leaders had focused on staffing, training opportunities for defensive cyber operators had been sparse.

To help solve that problem, the Department of Defense is expected to award a contract worth roughly $1 billion later this year for a global cyber training environment. But in the meantime, some units across the joint force have gone so far as to create their own small-scale training events and exercises to keep their forces’ skill sets sharp.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2020

Here is our annual list of technological advances that we believe will make a real difference in solving important problems. How do we pick? We avoid the one-off tricks, the overhyped new gadgets. Instead we look for those breakthroughs that will truly change how we live and work.

We’re excited to announce that with this year’s list we’re also launching our very first editorial podcast, Deep Tech, which will explore the the people, places, and ideas featured in our most ambitious journalism. Have a listen here.

Later this year, Dutch researchers will complete a quantum internet between Delft and the Hague.


An internet based on quantum physics will soon enable inherently secure communication. A team led by Stephanie Wehner, at Delft University of Technology, is building a network connecting four cities in the Netherlands entirely by means of quantum technology. Messages sent over this network will be unhackable.

Competition and Cooperation in the Maritime Domain

Competition over the world’s maritime resources and territorial disputes over maritime borders are becoming increasingly prominent in international affairs. At the same time, depleted fish stocks and polluted waters make the question of how countries can collectively manage maritime resources a central one, particularly in discussions over climate change.

Against the backdrop of heightened competition in the maritime domain, China has been rapidly modernizing and expanding its naval capabilities thanks to an unprecedented shipbuilding effort. By contrast, the U.S. Navy is struggling to meet its ambitious goals toward expanding its fleet while nevertheless maintaining a demanding operational tempo. As a result, ship maintenance and crew training have suffered, a dynamic that appears to have contributed to several deadly incidents in recent years.

Meanwhile, the resources that lie beneath the ocean’s surface are increasingly at risk of overexploitation. Illegal fishing is devastating already diminished global stocks and may soon present a severe crisis to countries whose populations depend on seafood for their diets. In the South China Sea, competition over fishing rights as well as offshore oil and gas reserves has been a major driver of tensions and conflict.

28 February 2020

Nagaland: Rising Skepticism

On February 10, 2020, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio announced that the Government of India (GoI), the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM), and the Working Committee of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) had wound up “the talks and are now working out the competencies to ink a solution to the Naga issue.” Adding a note of caution, CM Neiphiu Rio clarified that “nowhere has it been mentioned that the peace process has concluded. Only the talks have concluded on a positive note, which signifies that the negotiating parties have arrived at meeting points on the various topics of the negotiations”. 

The NNPGs comprise of seven Naga militant groups: the NSCN–Neokpao-Kitovi (NSCN-NK), NSCN-Reformation faction (NSCN-R), Khango Konyak faction of NSCN-Khaplang (NSCN-K) and four factions of the Naga National Council (NNC) – Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN), NNC-Parent Body, Non-Accordist faction of NNC/National People's Government of Nagaland (NPGN/NNC-NA), and Government Democratic Republic of Nagaland /NNC-NA (GDRN). The NNPGs were included in talks with GoI under an effort to widen the peace talks on September 27, 2017. 

Afghan truce worry: 1 militant could threaten peace process


WASHINGTON (AP) — Hopes for ending America’s longest war hinge on maintaining a weeklong fragile truce in Afghanistan that U.S. officials and experts agree will be difficult to assess and fraught with pitfalls.

What if one militant with a suicide vest kills dozens in a Kabul market? Or, if a U.S. airstrike targeting Islamic State insurgents takes out Taliban members instead, does that destroy the deal?

The agreement, which took effect Friday, calls for an end to attacks around the country, including roadside bombings, suicide attacks and rocket strikes between the Taliban, Afghan and U.S. forces.

But in a country that has been wracked by violence for more than 18 years, determining if the agreement has been violated will be a tough task. And there are a number of other groups and elements in the country that would love to see the deal fall through.

“The reason this is a challenge is this is a very decentralized insurgency,” said Seth Jones, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an Afghanistan expert. “There are going to be a lot of opportunities for any militia commander, element of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other local forces who don’t want to see a deal, to conduct violence.”

The Haqqani network is an insurgent group linked to the Taliban.

The Taliban's lies in the New York Times

by Tom Rogan

The Taliban is lying. That's my response to Sirajuddin Haqqani's New York Times opinion article on Thursday, "What We, the Taliban, Want."

As my colleague Becket Adams observes, the choice to allow the Taliban to write this article is itself questionable. But Haqqani's words are also a masterpiece in deception.

Haqqani is indeed the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban and the leader of his Haqqani network subgroup. His article thus suggests seriousness about the imminence of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal. The problem is that his wordplay indicates commitments he has very little intention of keeping.

The most ludicrous commitment comes with his pledge to "find a way to build an Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights, where the rights of women that are granted by Islam — from the right to education to the right to work — are protected, and where merit is the basis for equal opportunity."