31 May 2020

A China-India Clash Would Be Xi Jinping's Grand Mistake

by Michael Rubin

President Xi Jinping has moved forward with his plans to strip Hong Kong of its separate status and impose the primacy of Chinese communist rule on the former British territory. Xi’s action highlights China’s fundamental dishonesty and should give all states pause in trusting any agreement with the People’s Republic of China given that this was not a simple political deal but a formal Sino-British treaty ratified by both governments in which both agreed to allow Hong Kong to govern itself for 50 years, the basis of the so-called, “One China, Two Systems” policy.

The ease of Xi’s take-over of Hong Kong and the lack of meaningful international reaction may have only whetted the Chinese leader’s appetite. The People’s Republic of China has long claimed Taiwan as an integral part of one China. History does not agree: Over the last four centuries, mainland China only arguably ruled China during the Qing dynasty (1683 to 1895), and even then, its rule only extended from the theoretical to the tangible for at most a few decades. Any visitor to Taiwan today understands that, the Kuomintang flight to Taiwan notwithstanding, Taiwan is culturally very different from China. Taiwanese have no desire to be the new Tibetans, Uighurs or, now, Hongkongers.

As China faces economic uncertainty and a demographic precipice, Xi may feel otherwise, believing both the United States to be a paper tiger and a crisis in the Taiwan straits to be useful to distract the public from his own failings. Hence, in comments on Friday, May 22, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang deliberately omitted “peaceful” from the usual formulation about “peaceful reunification.”

Climate Change Brings the Worst Locust Attack in Decades to India

Kabir Agarwal and Shruti Jain
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New Delhi/Jaipur: Large swarms of desert locusts have entered areas in India where they had not been seen since 1993 and have already caused damage to crops in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. 

The migratory pest has made several incursions into Rajasthan in the last two decades – including a significant one last year. But this time, the swarms have spread to parts of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and even Maharashtra.

Locusts last swarmed Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in 1993 and have not been seen since 1974 in Maharashtra. 

A swarm reached the city of Jaipur on Monday, as urban residents commented on Twitter that 2020 might be the “last year for humankind”.

The real damage, however, is being caused and will be caused in rural India where farmers already bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 induced lockdown and the low prices they have fetched in the last few years, stare at massive crop damage that the locust swarms are capable of inflicting. 

The End of Europe’s Chinese Dream


The COVID-19 crisis has pushed Europeans' strategic thinking about China – already shifting because of three developments – past the tipping point. After years of pursuing closer bilateral economic ties, Europeans suddenly realize that they have become dangerously dependent on Chinese trade and investment.

BERLIN – A paradigm shift is taking place in relations between the European Union and China. The COVID-19 crisis has triggered a new debate within Europe about the need for greater supply-chain “diversification,” and thus for a managed disengagement from China. That will not be easy, and it won’t happen quickly. But, clearly, Europe has abandoned its previous ambition for a more closely integrated bilateral economic relationship with China.

In the past, when Europeans sought trade, economic-, and foreign-policy reforms vis-à-vis China, their hope was always to increase contact with the country while making the relationship fairer and more reciprocal. The basic goal was to expand bilateral trade and pry open the Chinese market for European investments. Even when the European Union toughened its approach toward China, its objective was still to deepen economic ties with the country. The creation of new EU instruments to screen investments and enforce antitrust measures were presented as regrettable but necessary measures to create the political conditions for closer cooperation. 

How China Is Using COVID-19 to Advance Its Interests in Latin America

Eric Farnsworth 

The coronavirus pandemic has yet to peak across Latin America and the Caribbean, but China is already maneuvering to try and capitalize on the crisis and bolster its position and influence in the region. The heated blame game between Washington and Beijing over the coronavirus’s origins will eventually fade from the headlines, and Chinese leaders are quietly working to ensure that when it does, the strategic ground will have shifted in their favor. At the heart of these efforts is a campaign for ideological supremacy, to show the moral equivalence and even the supposed superiority of the Chinese communist system over traditional Western democracy.

The key for Beijing is producing positive results by assisting people in desperate need, both in China itself and across Latin America and the Caribbean. At the same time, China is highlighting failures by the United States and its allies, seeking to undermine Washington’s claim as the preferred partner for Latin American countries and casting doubt on American primacy. It is a potent mix, building on years of patient Chinese investment in the region across a full spectrum of activities, from infrastructure and technology to media and people-to-people exchanges. At stake are the hearts and minds of over 650 million people across the Western Hemisphere.

China paints a target on Hong Kong, but abandons one for growth

JUST AS THE sun rises in the east and people need water to survive, so has China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, convened its plenary session every March and opened the session with a lengthy—nay, soporific—“work report” from the prime minister. This year is different for two reasons. First is the coronavirus pandemic, which had delayed the NPC itself by nearly three months. The second is that in the past year the Chinese government has faced protests on a scale unseen for three decades, in one corner of its domain, Hong Kong.

In his work report, Li Keqiang, the prime minister, spoke of establishing a “sound” legal system to ensure national security in Hong Kong, which has flourished in part because of its independent judiciary and political freedoms. Just before the NPC opened, China had signalled how it hopes to achieve that “soundness”: by adopting legislation that would require Hong Kong to prohibit acts of subversion against the Chinese government.

Coronavirus: Experts warn of bioterrorism after pandemic | DW | 25.05.2020

by Deutsche Welle 
Source Link

The Council of Europe has warned of a potential increase in the use of biological weapons, like viruses or bacterias, in a post-coronavirus world. Terrorists would not forget “lessons learned” during the pandemic.

Security experts from the Council of Europe have warned that the global coronavirus outbreak may increase the use of biological weapons by terrorists in the future.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable modern society is to viral infections and their potential for disuption,” the council’s Committee on Counter-Terrorism said in a statement.

The deliberate use of disease-causing agents — like viruses or bacterias — as an act of terrorism “could prove to be extremely effective.”

Damage to humans and economies could be “significantly higher” than that of a “traditional” terrorist attack.

European states need coordinated effort

Hong Kong Is Becoming Ground Zero in the New Cold War

For Hong Kong as a whole, the move delivers a death blow to its century-long status as a separate legal jurisdiction, which is the very foundation of its economic success, freedom, and human rights. It sends a chill to Hong Kong’s democracy camp, as they will come under the heel of greater authoritarian suppression. It’s also bad news for the establishment, as China’s decision to bypass the Hong Kong legislative process is a vote of no-confidence in the previous model of indirect rule. In the future, the local elites, including the chief executive, will find themselves increasingly sidelined under a new direct-rule approach from the center.

For the West, this step rings the death knell for their presence in Hong Kong. Western companies are going to lose the only Western-oriented business center within Chinese territories and their business interests will no longer be well protected by the British-style common law jurisdiction. U.S. business interests in Hong Kong – which include 1,300 companies and $82.5 billion in direct investment — have now been put at risk by China’s long arm. Apart from the economic presence, the extensive presence of the West in Hong Kong in terms of international nongovernment organizations (INGOs), media branches, and intelligence operations are also at risk of being uprooted by China’s heavy hand. The West, particularly the United States, may forever lose its foothold in the door of China.

Hong Kong's moment of truth — and China's


For decades before the coronavirus emerged from Wuhan and exploded onto the rest of the world, China has been waging a cold war against the United States and the West on a number of fronts: trade and economics, intellectual property, Taiwan’s democratic security, maritime freedoms in the South and East China Seas, proliferation, cyber security and human rights. It has supported North Korea and Iran, and sided with every rogue regime seeking to undermine the West and challenge the global order and its moral underpinnings. On virtually every international norm, Beijing has been aggressively on the wrong side of history.

The failure of past U.S. administrations to confront the communist regime for the sake of expected reforms through engagement has only whetted its appetite for further advances against Western interests. The Trump administration emphatically declared an end to the one-sided relations, and was beginning to make progress on curtailing China’s exploitation in the trade area with its Phase 1 agreement.

The eruption of the coronavirus pandemic stopped that progress in its tracks while destabilizing the global economy and much of the international social order. The outbreak’s origin and the dubious circumstances of China’s handling of it have aroused suspicions that even if its beginnings were purely accidental and innocuous, its spread to the outside world was clearly avoidable and therefore plausibly intentional.

How to Avoid a China-Led World Order

by Seth J. Frantzman 

The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in drills in the western Pacific, April 2018. (Stringer/Reuters)Parallels between China’s current global rise and our own history may help us avoid complacency.NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE A s the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, it has opened our eyes to China’s rapidly expanding role in the international order and global economy. Beijing’s outsize role in the World Health Organization has come under attack, as has the muscular diplomacy used by China’s foreign ministry in responding to criticism.

Three decades of American global hegemony after the Cold War led to complacency about the growing role of China. But changes to the U.S. National Defense Strategy in 2018 signaled a new willingness to confront China and Russia, shifting the focus from the Global War on Terror. China’s current role has historic parallels that may be closer to home than is often realized. At the start of the 20th century, the United States had emerged from a civil war and a period of rapid industrialization to become a global power almost overnight. By 1920, the country was beginning to chart a path similar to China’s today.

VPN demand in Hong Kong reveals a new fear: China weaponizing the Internet

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Tear gas was still fresh in the air as Lee, a 33-year-old demonstrator, watched a line of protesters trade insults with riot police in downtown Hong Kong on Sunday during a lull in the city’s largest anti-government demonstration since 2019.

Dressed in all black and wearing a surgical face mask, Lee, who only shared his surname to avoid being identified by authorities, said that he was there to oppose the new national security law that China’s government proposed for Hong Kong on Thursday. Beijing says the law is intended to prevent and punish acts in Hong Kong that threaten China’s national security. Critics believe it will be used to diminish freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong when the U.K. handed the city over to China, such as the right to protest, a free media, and an independent judiciary system.

“I’m not afraid of China and that’s why I came here today,” Lee said. But even as Lee felt emboldened to publicly protest Beijing’s growing influence in Hong Kong, his fears about the fallout manifested elsewhere. Hours after Beijing’s announcement, Lee downloaded a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which conceals his Internet activity by routing his connection through servers around the world. As Beijing asserts more control over the self-governing region, Lee is increasingly worried about his digital privacy.

He’s not alone.

China announces $178.2 billion military budget

By: Mike Yeo  

MELBOURNE, Australia — China has announced a 6.6 percent growth in its defense budget for this year, its lowest rate of increase for almost three decades.

The growth in China’s defense budget would see spending rise from $167 billion last year to $178.2 billion, an increase of about $11 billion. The country has the second-largest defense budget in the world, behind only the United States.

Despite the growth of China’s defense budget being at its lowest, in percentage terms, since the early 1990s, the 6.6 percent figure only represents a slightly lower figure than the 7-7.5 percent growth many analysts estimated before the pandemic. In real dollar terms, the $11 billion increase in defense spending is the fifth-highest increase ever for the country.

It also shows that China is determined that the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, will remain insulated as much as possible from the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in China’s economy shrinking by 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time last year.

Chinese firms bump down Western companies on Top 100 list

Why the West is so focused on Hong Kong

Alex Lo
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There are many places around the world where people suffer from extreme poverty, human rights abuses and unimaginable hardships.

Hong Kong is not one of them. Yet, the Western world, its politicians and media, choose to focus on our every development, setback and struggle, and claim “to stand with Hong Kong people”. If that’s not cringeworthy, I don’t know what is.

Let me put this out as a political axiom: China wants Hong Kong to succeed and prosper more than any other country. Why? Because it is part of China.

If some Hong Kong people have other ideas about the future of the city, that’s for them and the mainland to work out, and no one else. All these seem to me elementary and axiomatic. Unfortunately, it is not so for many people. My bad!

But why the intense interest of the West, especially the United States? Because we have entered into an epochal struggle for supremacy between China and the US. Hong Kong people, with no sense of history and tragedy, have naively let themselves be dragged into this geopolitical vortex from which there is no escape.

Israel, Pressed By US, Blocks First Big Chinese Deal


TEL AVIV: The strict U.S warning to Israel to limit ties with China has its first result as the Chinese failed to win a tender for the construction of the giant desalination plant in central Israel. The Palmahim site is in close proximity to Israel’s missile test and satellite launch facility.

The Soreq 2 facility, with the capability to process 200 million cubic meters of water per year, is expected to be the largest of its kind in the world, increasing the state’s desalination capacity by about 35%. The new desalination plant joins five facilities already operating in Israel. Two weeks after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warned against further Chinese involvement in projects in Israel the Chinese company lost and an Israeli company, IDE.

That may lead to a confrontation with the Chinese. Two weeks ago, Netanyahu told Pompeo that the issue was under discussion by the Foreign Investment Committee at the Treasury. The US fears Chinese investments could create dependencies on China’s companies and countries, and is working to prevent them.

The next challenge: the Chinese and the power companies. In coming days, a decision will be made whether to award the Chinese government company China Harbor’s bid for the power plant of Ramat Hovav, part of the huge reform of Israel’s once government-owned electricity sector.

Liminal and conceptual envelopment: warfare in the age of dragons

SWJ Interview with Dr. David Kilcullen, author of the newly published Dragons and the Snakes - How the Rest learned to fight the West, Oxford University Press, March 2020. He is a professor of practice in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University and a professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of New South Wales.

This interview is dedicated to Dave Dilegge’s legacy, the founder of Small Wars Journal, “a scholar, warrior and agitator who gave the counterguerrilla underground a home.”

Octavian Manea

Robert Kagan was talking about the (geopolitical) jungle that grows back. Your latest book has more of Game of Throne (GOT) vibe: the return of the dragons. In short, from GWOT [Global War on Terrorism] to GOT. The emerging changes to the character of war, the ways in which the dragons are practicing warfare are at the core of your new book. Based on your observations, how did the character of contemporary war change?

Hong Kong's moment of truth — and China's

For decades before the coronavirus emerged from Wuhan and exploded onto the rest of the world, China has been waging a cold war against the United States and the West on a number of fronts: trade and economics, intellectual property, Taiwan’s democratic security, maritime freedoms in the South and East China Seas, proliferation, cyber security and human rights. It has supported North Korea and Iran, and sided with every rogue regime seeking to undermine the West and challenge the global order and its moral underpinnings. On virtually every international norm, Beijing has been aggressively on the wrong side of history.

The failure of past U.S. administrations to confront the communist regime for the sake of expected reforms through engagement has only whetted its appetite for further advances against Western interests. The Trump administration emphatically declared an end to the one-sided relations, and was beginning to make progress on curtailing China’s exploitation in the trade area with its Phase 1 agreement.

The eruption of the coronavirus pandemic stopped that progress in its tracks while destabilizing the global economy and much of the international social order. The outbreak’s origin and the dubious circumstances of China’s handling of it have aroused suspicions that even if its beginnings were purely accidental and innocuous, its spread to the outside world was clearly avoidable and therefore plausibly intentional.

Yes, Blame WHO for Its Disastrous Coronavirus Response

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Time was when the World Health Organization (WHO) was the least controversial of multilateral bodies. Its parent organization, the United Nations, is idealized by some but vilified by others. The International Monetary Fund inspires riots when it meets. The World Trade Organization has become a political punching bag. And the less said about the U.N. Human Rights Council, the better.Much of the circumstantial evidence surrounding WHO’s coronavirus response points toward complicity.

Yet from its founding in 1948 until the first decade of this century, WHO was mainly known for defeating smallpox, fighting polio and tuberculosis, and providing support to poor countries that lacked sufficient health infrastructure. However, under the leadership of Margaret Chan, appointed director-general in 2006, and her successor since 2017, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO has bounced from scandal to scandal. Widely panned for mishandling the swine flu in 2009 and Ebola in 2014, it has also been embroiled in expenses scandals.

Then came the coronavirus.

The Post-COVID-19 World Will Be Less Global and Less Urban

The COVID-19 pandemic will reverse the trends of globalization and urbanization, increasing the distance between countries and among people. These changes will make for a safer and more resilient world, but one that is also less prosperous, stable and fulfilling, writes Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett in this opinion piece. (This article originally appeared as part of Penn on the World after COVID-19, a joint project of Penn Global and Perry World House.)

For the past four decades, globalization and urbanization have been two of the world’s most powerful drivers. Global trade increased from under 40% of the world’s GDP in 1980 to over 60% today. Over the same period, the number of people living in cities more than doubled to over 4 billion people today — more than half the world’s population.

COVID-19 will reverse both of these trends, increasing the distance both between countries and among people. Some will laud these changes for increasing safety and resilience. But a world that is less global and less urban would also be less prosperous, less stable and less fulfilling.

Here are two core predictions about the world after COVID-19:

Pulling Through the Pandemic: Advice for Entrepreneurs

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For Karl Ulrich, vice dean of entrepreneurship and innovation at Wharton, the existential threat to small businesses struggling through the coronavirus pandemic isn’t just an academic exercise.

Ulrich owns MakerStock and Xootr — two small businesses housed under the same roof in Scranton, Pennsylvania. MakerStock supplies plywood, acrylic and other materials to university labs, engineering and architecture schools, and individual buyers. Xootr makes foldable scooters, the kind often used to zip around city streets.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in late January, forcing many states to shut down nonessential business throughout March and April, the demand for MakerStock products flatlined. But the scooters were suddenly selling like crazy.

“The MakerStock business basically went away [because] our customers literally closed their doors. And the Xootr business — everyone said, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to be on a subway,’ and went looking for alternative transportation,” Ulrich said. “So, in the same building, we’ve seen two business, one get boosted and one get crushed.”

Tracking The 5 Iranian Oil Tankers Heading To Venezuela

The Iran-Venezuela tanker crisis is a potential flash-point that threatens a major escalation. Five tankers loaded with gasoline are sailing across the Atlantic from Iran to Venezuela. Using open-source intelligence it is possible to track the tankers’ progress and, if it comes to it, watch an international confrontation unfold.

It appears possible that U.S. forces could intervene to prevent the arrival. Both Iran and Venezuela are subject to economic sanctions. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and partner agencies have recently initiated Enhanced Counter-Narcotic Operations. This includes the Caribbean and brings many warships within reach of the tankers.

The U.S. has not voiced any intention of stopping them, however. Despite this the Venezuelan military appears to be on high alert and is conducting a ‘comprehensive naval exercise’ called Bolivarian Shield 2020.

One of the tankers, Fortune, has already been met by the Venezuelan Navy and is now in Venezuelan waters. The Venezuelan warship, PO-13 Yekuana, is an offshore patrol vessel armed with a 76 mm cannon and light weapons. It would be no match for a U.S. navy interdiction force. A similarly equipped Venezuelan warship, BVL Naiguatá, recently sunk after it rammed a cruise liner it was attempting to seize.

How the Coronavirus Revealed the Hollowness of Putin’s “Vertical of Power”

By Joshua Yaffa

From the moment Vladimir Putin first took office, more than twenty years ago, he has returned time and again to the idea of the “vertical of power,” or a top-down apparatus of state authority that has become a trademark of his rule. This “vertical” was pitched as an antidote to the supposed disarray and fecklessness of the Russian state in the nineties; by contrast, Putin’s Russia would be run as a coherent, hierarchical machine, with him at the very top, and his will and decisions flowing downward from there, implemented by everyone from the country’s governors to its businesspeople, school principals, and spies.

The truth is that Putin’s supposed vertical has always been overhyped and riddled with inefficiencies—the Times Moscow correspondent Andrew Higgins skillfully documented its many “shockingly ramshackle” qualities last year—but, in the coronavirus pandemic, it has confronted an even starker challenge, one that can’t be overcome with bluster, oil wealth, or propaganda. Gleb Pavlovsky, a former adviser to Putin who fell out with him and left the Kremlin in 2011, told me that, for matters of both domestic and foreign consumption, the vertical was designed to make Putin look the man of decisive action, the “commander-in-chief who is always ahead and manages to outplay everyone.” But, as Pavlovsky added, “The virus played a different game.”

Peter W. Singer and August Cole’s latest book Burn-In has everything you need to pass the pandemic time a little quicker

Graham Pulliam

Their last book, Ghost Fleet, had parts that rang truer than others, but I really enjoyed it. Ghost Fleet's portrayal of US Marines liberating a US state from foreign occupation added up. As a former grunt, I could absolutely see a senior leader eating an Osprey ramp under full combat load on insert, breaking his nose and getting stuck fighting that way for days.

On the other hand, the war widow turned murder-hooker or the grizzled Navy Chief's love story seemed harder to buy (everybody knows Chiefs don't have hearts). Basically, you read Ghost Fleet for the rail guns not the feels. So you can imagine my surprise when I picked up Burn-In and found the storyline of the Marine war-bot wrangler turned FBI agent's disaster of a homelife just as compelling as the high stakes domestic terrorist hunt she was leading. It might be the pandemic talking, but the upside-down outside world following the characters home and wreaking havoc on their relationships will be equal parts release and escape for anybody who's spent a little too much time at home over the past several months.

Big tech offers a utopian view of our connected future but Burn-In plays trends forward and explores the dystopian outcomes lurking around the corner. Ever feel a pang of guilt when you hand over your biometric data without reading the terms and conditions or connect your new toaster to the cloud? Burn-In will make you painfully aware of what all that data can do in the wrong hands.

U.S. Effort to Depart WTO Gathers Momentum

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Frustration with hyperglobalization, China’s “economic imperialism,” and a seemingly broken world trading system is boiling over into serious calls for the United States to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO)—which would have potentially disastrous implications for the country if carried out.

For the first time since 2005, lawmakers from both parties and both houses of Congress are pushing to pull the United States out of the trading body it helped create and which was the culmination of decades of postwar efforts to boost free trade and economic integration. By law, the United States has a chance to vote every five years on staying inside the WTO, but staying on board was such a no-brainer in recent years that no such resolution was even presented. But this year—powered by a rise in economic nationalism, growing concern about China, and frustration with two decades of paralysis at the WTO—the knives on Capitol Hill are out, to the delight of some of the trade hard-liners in the White House.

“The WTO has been a disaster for the United States,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, who introduced House legislation to withdraw this month.

“No trade regime can last when it no longer serves the people of the countries who are part of it,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, in a recent Senate floor speech after introducing his own resolution to leave. “Our interests and those of the WTO diverged long ago.”

The Politics of Pandemics: Why Some Countries Respond Better Than Others

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The capacity of a state and the degree of economic inequality among its residents will determine how successful it is in coping effectively with a pandemic like COVID-19. Whether it is a democracy or a dictatorship matters relatively less, according to recent research by Wharton management professor Mauro Guillen.

Titled, “The Politics of Pandemics: Democracy, State Capacity, and Economic Inequality,” Guillen’s working paper tracks epidemic outbreaks in 146 countries since 1995. It is the first study to explore the effects of democracy, state capacity, and income inequality on epidemic dynamics.

“In democracies, greater transparency, accountability, and public trust reduce the frequency and lethality of epidemics, shorten response time, and enhance people’s compliance with public health measures,” Guillen wrote in his paper. However, “democracy has no effects on the likelihood and lethality of epidemics.”

According to the paper, inequality increases the frequency and scale of an epidemic, and it undermines people’s compliance with epidemic containment policies such as social distancing and sheltering in place because people at the low end of the socioeconomic scale cannot afford to stay at home—they must go to work. But strong state and government structures could help offset most of the shortcomings. “State capacity is a bulwark against the occurrence and ill effects of crises and emergencies, while economic inequality exacerbates them,” Guillen wrote.

Is it a game or is it real? Simulations and wargaming in cyber

by Simon Handler

This article is part of the CSI5x5 series by the Cyber Statecraft Initiative, in which five featured experts answer five questions on a common theme, trend, or current event in the world of cyber. Interested in the CSI5x5 and want to see a particular topic, event, or question covered? Contact Simon Handler with the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at SHandler@atlanticcouncil.org.

In the summer of 2002, the United States Armed Forces conducted the Millennium Challenge (MC02), a three-week exercise simulating a military confrontation between “Blue” forces, the United States, and “Red” forces, a fictitious formidable Persian Gulf state. Consisting of computer simulations and live exercises, the joint, 13,000-person, $250 million wargame’s objective was to put the United States military’s “transformation”––a shift toward more network-centric operations––to the test. Aside from its size and cost, the wargame was notable in how it revealed organizational and tactical deficiencies of US forces. Retired Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, having played the part of a “Red” commander, told the Guardian afterward that US forces were ill-prepared for battle. Riper’s forces were so successful in fact, that they forced a reset of the game under new and more Blue force friendly rules.

The Other Great War

Lance Morrow

The background of Rudyard Kipling’s book, The Irish Guards in the Great War, is a sad one. His only son John, barely 18 years old, had joined the Guards in the summer of 1915—and died a few weeks later in the Battle of Loos. They didn’t even know which corpse was his: in death the boy was anonymous—“Known to God,” in the phrase that his father coined. In the regimental history, Kipling refers to his son only twice, in passing, as “Lieutenant J. Kipling,” who went missing in action and was presumed to be dead. It would have been bad taste for Kipling to make more of it than that. The author subsumed his family’s affliction in the larger sacrifice of the regiment.

Kipling wrote the book (a fine example of regimental history, as you would expect—a brisk, vivid tick-tock of life in the trenches on the Western Front) as a memorial to his son and a tribute to the men with whom he served. It was Kipling’s way of coping with his grief—and with the guilt that he must have felt for having pulled strings to get his much-too-young and near-sighted boy into the Irish Guards in the first place, after the Royal Navy had rejected him because of poor eyesight. Few of the people involved in the Great War, including Kipling, emerged from it, after four years, feeling Kipling-esque. The war finished off not only his son, but also the British Empire, though the unraveling would take another generation or two.

30 May 2020

‘Overtaken by Aliens’: India Faces Another Plague as Locusts Swarm

By Jeffrey Gettleman and Suhasini Raj

NEW DELHI — Magan Doodi, a groundskeeper at a golf course in Jaipur, was making his rounds earlier this week when he saw the sky suddenly turn a weird pink.

It wasn’t some quirk of the weather. It was locusts — millions of them, “like a spreading bedsheet,” he said.

“The locusts have attacked the golf course!” Mr. Doodi yelled into his cellphone during the battle Monday morning. “It’s man versus locusts!”

As if India needed more challenges, with coronavirus infections steadily increasing, a heat wave hitting the capital, a recent killer cyclone and 100 million people out of work, the country now has to fight off a new problem: a locust invasion.

Scientists say it’s the worst attack in 25 years and these locusts are different.

“This time the attack is by very young locusts who fly for longer distances, at faster speeds, unlike adults in the past who were sluggish and not so fast,” said K.L. Gurjar, the deputy director of India’s Locust Warning Organization.

Will COVID-19 Kill The Liberal World Order?

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For a brief moment it seemed that the worst global pandemic in a century might lead to increased comity between the United States, China and Russia after years of geopolitical eye-gouging. As the virus spread there were early signs of a pause in the escalating cycle of military brinksmanship, cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns and trade wars that has badly shaken the rules-based international order in this era of great power competition.

Beijing seemed to initially embrace a spirit of cooperation when it donated protective gear and testing equipment to hard hit countries in Europe. President Trump for months was uncharacteristically effusive in his praise of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to combat the virus. Russian President Vladimir Putin got into the soft power act in early April when he dispatched an An-124 military transport to New York filled with donated masks and ventilators. (Of course, you can also argue it was a highly effective information operation designed to undermine U.S. standing in the world.)

That moment was short lived.

Taipei Caught Between Beijing And Washington

The U.S.-Taipei relationship is raising tensions between the U.S. and Beijing. On Wednesday, May 20, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo broke decades of diplomatic protocol when he tweeted congratulations to Taiwan’s newly re-elected leader, Dr. Tsai Ing-wen. In the tweet, Pompeo referred to the new leader as “president”—another serious breach of protocol. According to Taiwan’s foreign ministry, it was the first time a US secretary of state had congratulated the island’s chief executive. The tweet provoked no less than three Beijing officials to lash out at Pompeo’s kind words.

The Ministry of National Defense said that the military would “take all necessary measures to firmly safeguard” China’s sovereignty, as reported by Bloomberg. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the U.S. to “immediately correct its mistakes” or the nation would respond. The Guardian also quoted China’s Taiwan Affairs Department as saying Beijing would continue “to work with both sides but would never tolerate any act separating Taiwan from China or leave any room for any forms of independence.” These threats contribute to a deteriorating political environment between the U.S. and China widely considered to be a new cold war, an environment where the strained relationship has been politicized by both sides and Taiwan has been used as leverage against Beijing.

China Wants to End Hong Kong's Autonomy While COVID-19 Distracts the World


The move by China's ruling Communist Party to set in train a national security law for Hong Kong signals a crackdown on the city's freedoms and could spell the end to the autonomy it has had since the British handover of 1997, activists and analysts have said.

The controversial law that bans "treason, sedition, secession and subversion" in Hong Kong will be presented at China's National Party Congress (NPC), which has just started, and largely rubber stamps the leadership's wishes.

After months of unrest and anti-China protests in the city last year, the new law is seen by its opponents as a way to rework the "one country, two systems" arrangement in place over the 23 years since the British transfer of Hong Kong's sovereignty, which gave it a high degree of autonomy and self-governance.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who was the British foreign secretary in 1997, described the situation as "desperately serious" and that, as signatories to the treaty that ended its administration of Hong Kong, the U.K. had legal and ethical obligations to stand up for it.

What can be done to protect front-line communities from COVID-19?

John Hudak and Makada Henry-Nickie

In the first part of this analysis, we used mobility data for more than 90,000 devices in Detroit, collected earlier this year, to demonstrate the racial and income disparities in social distancing. In Detroit, as the pandemic wore on, Black residents were less likely to engage in social distancing compared to their fellow white residents. Many Black people were likely to be going to work, using public transportation, and then returning to more densely populated housing units—generating a cycle that can facilitate infection and additional transmission. Through the device data, we observed a community of front-line Detroiters who are disproportionately Black and poor.

There are similar front-line communities all over the country. What steps, then, can governments take to protect them as COVID-19 ravages the nation?

Providing PPE to front-line workers

We urge the Detroit Health Department and health departments across the country to strengthen physical safety protections for essential workers deemed low- or medium-risk under the Occupational and Safety Health Act (OSH Act). We also implore employers of all sizes to provide essential workers with personal protective equipment (PPE). OSHA’s recently released COVID-19 advisory outlines helpful precautionary measures that employers can implement to protect workers, but the advisory does not confer any regulatory burden to provide low- and medium-risk workers with PPE. And where OSHA falls short, states and localities should use their regulatory and enforcement authorities to go further. Increased oversight, enforcement, worker complaint hotlines and an ombudsman should be part of the parcel, too. Essentially, there should be no uncertainty within the employer community about accountability or the standard of care that management is expected to provide for vulnerable workers.

The Kremlin’s disinformation playbook goes to Beijing

Jessica Brandt and Torrey Taussig
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The coronavirus pandemic is laying bare a growing competition between democratic and authoritarian governments. As the U.S. and Europe struggle to contain the virus at home, Russia and China are seizing the moment to enhance their international influence through information operations. Moscow and Beijing have long aimed to weaken the United States, blunt the appeal of democratic institutions, and sow divisions across the West. Their goals in this crisis are no different.

Information manipulation is just one of a suite of asymmetric tools Russia and China use to advance their political goals abroad. Other tactics include cyberattacks, economic coercion, malign financial activity, and societal subversion. The efforts by Moscow and Beijing should remind Western leaders of the ongoing geopolitical challenges percolating beyond the pandemic. As decisionmakers focus on shoring up their public health systems and economies, Russian and Chinese information campaigns are having a mutually reinforcing effect. Strong responses are needed from the United States, Europe, and democratic partners to ensure that authoritarian disinformation does not take root in fertile ground.


The End of Hong Kong

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China moved to take away the city’s autonomy, one of several aggressive actions by Beijing across the region.

Over the course of April and throughout May, while much of the world’s attention was trained on the coronavirus’s spiraling death toll, hardly a day passed in Hong Kong without news of arrested activists, scuffles among lawmakers, or bombastic proclamations from mainland officials. Long-standing norms were done away with at dizzying speed.

In that time, Beijing was undertaking aggressive actions across Asia. A Chinese ship rammed a Vietnamese vessel in the contested waters of the South China Sea, sinking it. Off the coast of Malaysia, in the country’s exclusive economic zone, a Chinese research vessel, accompanied by coast-guard and fishing ships—likely part of China’s maritime militia, civilian vessels marshaled by Beijing in times of need—began survey work near a Malaysian oil rig. The standoff that followed drew warships from the United States and Australia, as well as China. Beijing then declared that it had created two administrative units on islands in the South China Sea that are also claimed by Vietnam. Chinese officials have reacted, too, with predictable rage to Taiwan, whose handling of the pandemichas won plaudits and begun a push for more international recognition.