14 April 2020

Pakistan Seeks Extradition of IS Leader From Afghanistan

By Kathy Gannon

Pakistan has asked neighboring Afghanistan to extradite a leader in the local Islamic State affiliate who was arrested in an Afghan intelligence operation in southern Afghanistan earlier this month, the foreign ministry said. 

Aslam Farooqi is a Pakistani national wanted in connection with attacks claimed by IS in Pakistan. The Afghan government accuses him of involvement in last month’s attack on a Sikh house of worship in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that killed 25 worshipers. 

The Islamic State group, on the website of its Amaq news agency, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by Indian national Abu Khalid Al-Hindi in revenge for Indian military actions in the violence-wracked India-administered section of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

A single gunman rampaged through the Gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, exploding grenades and firing at worshipers before Afghan special forces killed the attacker. There were about 150 people inside at the time.

What the COVID-19 Outbreak Means for Afghanistan’s Troubled Economy

By Shoaib A. Rahim

Even before the novel coronavirus took the world hostage, the World Economic Outlook Report 2019 produced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had already raised concerns as it estimated a negative economic outlook due to slowing economic growth across different regions. The major reasons were issues like the trade war between the United States and China and Brexit. A World Bank report stated that extreme poverty is stagnating in Fragility or Conflict-affected States (FCS) and that up to two-thirds of the global extreme poor will be living in these countries if serious actions are not taken. This was the story before the outbreak of COVID-19, which brought the world to a stand still. The pandemic will certainly worsen global economic outlooks and it might take even the major economies years to recover. Afghanistan, ranked as a High-Intensity Conflict among FCS countries, is no exception and will bear the ramifications. 

The Afghan economy does not get much attention in global economic reports, mainly because it is smaller in size and less integrated with the world economy. During the global financial crisis of 2007-08, the Afghan economy was almost unaffected as it was mainly dependent on aid, which continued to flow uninterrupted. Even fluctuations and shocks in the global oil market do not affect the country significantly, as they do elsewhere in the world. However, the case of COVID-19 is different and is snowballing to hit the fragile, conflict-affected economy.

China’s Deepening Diplomatic and Economic Engagement in Afghanistan

By: Syed Fazl-e Haider
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On February 29, U.S. and Taliban representatives signed the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” in Doha, Qatar, which laid out a framework for ending the 18-year old conflict in Afghanistan (U.S. State Department, February 29). Despite skepticism in many quarters regarding the viability of the deal, the negotiations leading to the agreement have been supported by many international actors, to include the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). On February 18, PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) commented on the U.S.-Taliban negotiations by stating that “China firmly supports the broad and inclusive peace and reconciliation process [and] welcomes the news that the U.S. and the Taliban are expected to reach and sign a deal… China stands ready to step up cooperation with all parties to the Afghan issue and the international community for peace, stability and development in Afghanistan” (PRC Foreign Ministry Briefing, February 18).

As the U.S plans to draw down its forces in Afghanistan—a key element of the February 29 deal—China is set to further deepen its involvement in Afghanistan (Nikkei Asian Review, January 14, 2019). Beijing wishes to achieve at least two key objectives. First, it wants once and for all to block any contact between the Taliban and ethnic Uighur Muslim militants seeking independence from China (China Brief, April 24, 2019). Second, the PRC wants long-term stability in Afghanistan in order to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)—the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—to the war-wracked country. Beijing sees Afghanistan as a primary link between the Central Asian republics and the CPEC (China Brief, December 10, 2019). To achieve its objectives, Beijing has pursued positive engagement with the Taliban movement that controls more than half of Afghanistan’s territory. These ties have increased over the past couple of years: for example, in 2019 Taliban representatives paid at least two visits to Beijing (in June and September) for talks with PRC officials (CGTN, June 20, 2019; Al-Jazeera, September 23, 2019).

Rockets Hit U.S. Air Base in Afghanistan; No Casualties

KABUL — Five rockets hit a major U.S. air base in Afghanistan on Thursday but there were no casualties, Afghanistan's NATO-led force said, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State militant group.

The attack comes weeks after Taliban militants and the United States reached a deal on the withdrawal of U.S.-led international troops in exchange for Taliban security guarantees. Islamic State militants have not been included in the pact.

"Five rockets were fired at Bagram airfield early this morning," the NATO-led mission, Resolute Support, said on Twitter, referring to the main U.S. air base in Afghanistan, north of Kabul.

"There were no casualties."

Islamic State said in a statement on social media that their fighters had targeted a helicopter landing pad at Bagram.

A Taliban spokesman said on Twitter that his group was not behind the attack.

China Confronts Major Risk of Debt Crisis on the Belt and Road Due to Pandemic

By Nick Crawford and David Gordon

People walk by a display board showcasing China’s construction projects at the media center of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, Saturday, April 27, 2019.Credit: AP Photo/Andy Wong

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to cause a wave of economic crises along China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With several BRI countries already facing high external debt and likely to be hit hard by the pandemic, Beijing is poised to confront multiple, simultaneous debt crises in countries where it is heavily invested. As a report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) highlights, China would have faced constraints on its future lending and debt renegotiations even if the pandemic had not occurred. But now, China faces a serious test to preserve the BRI, to maintain its own domestic financial stability, and to cooperate in an unprecedented way with other creditors.

Economic Dangers Along the Belt and Road

The COVID-19 pandemic is precipitating economic crises across the developing world, and the BRI countries are among those most exposed. Many have high levels of external debt and are reliant on steady flows of export revenues, foreign direct investment and foreign lending to maintain financial balance and the value of their currencies. They face escalating debt-servicing costs and growing external debt just as they need to borrow more to fund the public health response and emergency economic measures.

The Danger of China’s Maritime Aggression Amid COVID-19

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

While most countries in the Indo-Pacific region are battling the coronavirus pandemic, China has been active in the South China Sea, taking aggressive action against Indonesia and Vietnam. China’s belligerent behavior, including military maneuvers and large-scale deployment of military assets to the region, have caught many of its neighbors and the United States off-guard, understandable considering their preoccupation with the pandemic in their respective countries. Such aggressive behavior, in the midst of a crisis that is itself blamed on China, is only likely to further antagonize China’s Indo-Pacific neighbors.

For several weeks, China has been hounding Indonesian fishing vessels in the Indonesian waters off the Natuna Islands. Chinese fishing fleets with the support of armed Chinese Coast Guard ships have been encroaching into areas that Indonesia considers exclusive. Indonesian fishermen are perturbed that the government in Jakarta is not doing anything to protect them. Ngesti Yuni Suprapti, the deputy regent of the Natuna archipelago, said, “There was a vacant period, then China came back. Our fishermen feel scared.”

Global Supply Chains, Economic Decoupling, and U.S.-China Relations, Part 1: The View from the United States

By: Sagatom Saha, Ashley Feng
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A series of trade disputes between the United States and China (frequently termed a “trade war” between the two sides) commenced in January 2018, with a series of import tariffs levied on Chinese goods by the U.S. government, followed by retaliatory tariffs issued on American products by the Chinese government. (For two previous China Brief discussions of some of these issues, see: “Xi Reasserts Control Over PRC Politics as Trade War Deepens,” September 19, 2018; and “What Derailed the U.S.-China Trade Talks?” May 29, 2019.) Although a limited “phase one” deal was signed between the two sides in January, many contentious issues remain unresolved.

The trade disputes of the past two years have revived discussion of a controversial topic: the extent to which foreign governments and companies could or should pursue economic “decoupling” from China, and the extent to which they should consider measures to relocate manufacturing and supply chains out of China. In this first part of a two-part article series, analysts Ashley Feng and Sagatom Saha consider some of the complex issues associated with potential decoupling—focusing both on U.S. government policies, and the considerations faced by U.S. companies that source production in China. The second part of this series, to appear in our next issue, will focus on policy issues surrounding economic decoupling in China itself.

Introduction: The “Trade War” and U.S.-China Economic Decoupling

The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Rise of Chinese Civil Society

By: Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Introduction: China’s Civil Society Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

According to figures provided by People’s Republic of China (PRC) authorities, the COVID-19 pandemic peaked in early March. One day after Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping made his only inspection tour of Wuhan on March 10, the epicenter of the outbreak, official statistics indicated that only eight new cases had appeared in the city—with only 15 new cases in China overall. Also per official figures, on February 25 more newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 originated from outside of China rather than inside the country (WHO, February 26). At least from one perspective, the authority and prestige of Xi seem to have been salvaged to some extent.

However, public intellectuals, journalists, whistleblowers and other members of civil society have insisted that if Xi had been forthcoming about the outbreak from day one—and if adequate medical facilities and equipment had been transported to Hubei Province in good time—the number of cases in China would have been significantly lower than 80,000 and that almost certainly, the number of fatalities would have been much less than the official figure of 3,199 as recorded on March 15 (Economic Times, March 15; Straits Times, March 12).

The Chinese Charm Offensive Towards Italy as the Coronavirus Crisis Deepens

By: Dario Cristiani


One year ago, Italy was hitting the headlines as Rome became the first G7 country to formally sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China to join the Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI (China Brief, April 24, 2019). For Italy-China relations, 2020 would have been in any case a vital year: marking fifty years since the establishment of official diplomatic ties, the Italian President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella was due to visit China by the end of the year, after People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping came to Italy in March 2019 to sign the MoU (La Repubblica, January 17). However, twelve months later, Italy is finding itself facing the worst health and economic crisis it has experienced since World War II—a crisis in which the PRC is playing a number of prominent roles.

This global pandemic has been caused by a new strain of coronavirus that emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei Province) in late 2019. Officials of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at first tried to cover up the outbreak, before having to admit to its existence (China Brief, January 17; China Brief, January 29). It was just a matter of weeks before this disease started spreading worldwide. Beyond China itself, the country that has faced the most virulent outbreak is Italy: as of March 31, the COVID-19 virus had claimed the lives of 11,591 Italians, while 14,620 have recovered out of 101,739 people who tested positive (Corriere della Sera, March 31). Such a horrific outbreak has thrown Italy into the worst crisis of its republican history, and one of the worst in its unitary history. This crisis soon assumed a multifaceted dimension: it became not merely a public health emergency, but also developed into a political, institutional, economic, security, and even psychological emergency, with entire Italian communities under lockdown for weeks.

European Troubles and Chinese Readiness

Universities Fill the Void

By Louise Richardson 
One of the very many disheartening aspects of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been the near absence of international institutions in fashioning a response to this global crisis. The Group of Seven leading industrialized nations could not agree on a joint statement, much less joint action, and the Group of 20 could agree only that the problem was global and serious. The UN Security Council has been silent, despite UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s pleas for a coordinated global response. Disease, like other grave threats to the world today, does not respect national borders. Yet the response to this pandemic has tended to be a nationalist one. The only international institution in evidence throughout the crisis, the World Health Organization, has been increasingly marginalized, its efforts stymied by chronic underfunding and a lack of enforcement authority.

The coronavirus pandemic itself reflects a failure of international institutions as well as national governments. Multiple warnings preceded the outbreak in China in late 2019. The SARS epidemic of 2002 and 2003 is believed to have originated in a Chinese wet market. But wet markets continued to operate there and in other countries, and there is some evidence that the new coronavirus outbreak may have begun in a wet market as well. The Ebola epidemic of 2013–16 should have served as another warning. Since all but one of the more than 11,000 people who died during that crisis did so in West Africa, however, wealthy Western nations largely ignored the lessons—chief among them that international cooperation is necessary to contain outbreaks of infectious disease.

Quantum Computers Will Break the Internet, but Only If We Let Them

Hackers may soon be able to expose all digital communications by using advanced quantum computers. A new form of cryptography would stop them, but it needs to be put into place now.

You log into your account, assuming that only you and your bank can access your financial information. Your password is strong. You're using two-factor authentication. And you take comfort in knowing that the bank has solid security measures of its own. You're confident that no one else can see or change these sensitive data.

This is the invisible handshake between users and institutions that fuels today's daily flurry of online banking—and so many other digital transactions. But what happens tomorrow?

Let's say that, in 10 or 20 years, “Future You” logs into your account, only to see that it's been zeroed out. Your life savings have been transferred elsewhere. How could this be? What happened to your password, your 2FA, and the security measures that used to help lock down your account?

A hacker used something called a quantum computer to speed past all those safeguards, right to your money.

Critical Care Surge Response Strategies for the 2020 COVID-19 Outbreak in the United States

by Mahshid Abir
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This is a pre-publication version of the report. It has completed RAND's research quality assurance process but was not thoroughly copyedited or proofread in the interest of rapid dissemination. The final online version is forthcoming.

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented stresses on hospital and health care systems. In this report, the authors present a list of strategies for creating critical care surge capacity and estimate the number of patients accommodated, given the number of available critical care doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists, ventilators, and hospital beds. They also document the development of a user-friendly, Microsoft Excel–based tool that allows decisionmakers at all levels — hospitals, health care systems, states, regions — to estimate current critical care capacity and rapidly explore strategies for increasing it.

Learning the Value of Solidarity in Coronavirus-Stricken Spain

Alana Moceri 

MADRID—On the first Friday in March, Spain was deep into the rigorous hand-washing phase of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, but still about a week away from a lockdown. That night, I met a friend at a quiet tapas bar close to home. Afterward, we went to another bar in the Arguelles neighborhood, a popular late-night haunt for students at several nearby universities. It was the typical Friday pandemonium of people yelling orders, drinks and plates being passed around, and used napkins covering the floor. As I washed down my Spanish omelet with a glass of Verdejo, I looked around and remarked, “This is the perfect place to pass around the virus.”

It would be my last night out for the foreseeable future, yet even at that point, it was pretty stupid to head into any bar, let alone one that crowded. Since then, Spain has become one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with a confirmed death toll of more than 15,000 people. No one can say whether that number might now be lower if authorities had acted more quickly or if people had taken the virus more seriously. But there are still some broad lessons to take from countries like Spain.

First, no one really believes that this virus will affect them until it’s actually killing people in their own country, in their own hospitals. This has played out in country after country. It is part of why too many governments, especially Spain’s, have been slow to take action.

The New “Twenty Years’ Crisis”: 2000-2020

By Jose Miguel Alonso-Trabanco
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In the late 1930s, the British diplomat and scholar Edward Hallet Carr finished writing The Twenty Years’ Crisis: 1919 – 1939, one of the most seminal books in the field of international relations scholarship, and one that is still widely read by most contemporary geopolitical analysts. The work – fatefully published a few weeks before World War Two broke out– discusses the ultimate folly of utopian thinking regarding the grandiose expectations related to the overall prospects of everlasting peace, prosperity, and co-operation amongst national states. In blunt terms, it dismisses attitudes, calculations, and actions derived from wishful thinking and daydreaming.

From a very anthropologically pessimist perspective (consistent with the ideas of classical realists like Thucydides, Hobbes, Chanakya and Machiavelli) E. H. Carr pointed out that faith in the goodness of human nature was a recent and dangerous heresy. After all, instead of seeing “an arc of the moral universe that bends towards justice” – as the traditional creed of ‘Whig historiography’ suggests – the world was witnessing phenomena like widespread economic turmoil, a dramatic financial collapse, the ascent of both fascism and communism, increasing systemic geopolitical tensions, the aggressive proliferation of militarism in Europe and Asia and boiling socio-political agitation in several nations. Moreover, the League of Nations had been rendered useless and, far from bringing peace, the so-called “War to End All Wars” engendered a great deal of resentment, with scores waiting to be settled.

Coronavirus and the Future of Surveillance

By Nicholas Wright

The novel coronavirus pandemic is causing tens of thousands of deaths, wreaking economic devastation, leading to lockdowns across much of the world, and upending societies and their assumptions. But going forward, one of its most significant legacies will be the way that the pandemic dovetails with another major global disruption of the last few years—the rise and spread of digital surveillance enabled by artificial intelligence (AI).

Public health measures have always depended on surveillance, but that has been especially true in governments’ responses to the coronavirus. China, after initially suppressing news of the outbreak in Wuhan, used its arsenal of surveillance tools to tackle the pandemic. These techniques ranged from deploying hundreds of thousands of neighborhood monitors to log the movements and temperatures of individuals, to the mass surveillance of mobile phone, rail, and flight data to track down people who had traveled to affected regions. But democratic countries in East Asia also used expansive surveillance powers to battle COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. South Korea harnessed closed-circuit television (CCTV) and credit card data to track the movements of individuals, and Taiwan integrated health and other databases so all Taiwanese hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies could access the travel information of their patients.

Oil Ground Zero: Running Out of Storage

by Amy M. Jaffe

In recent days, the Donald J. Trump administration appears to have been sending mixed messages about oil. Typically, low oil prices can be a stimulus to the U.S. economy, but that is in situations where American consumers can benefit from reducing the burden of the costs of their gasoline use. In what is increasingly moving towards a national lock down to stem the severity of COVID-19, falling gasoline prices pack little punch to the many Americans, who are sitting in their homes out of work and to the rest of working Americans whose pocketbook is focused not on car travel, but on necessary home goods: food, medicine, cleaning supplies, and home maintenance. To keep the logistics of vital goods moving, an army of brave Americans – truck drivers, postal workers, warehouse workers, cargo pilots, and others, are serving our nation. The U.S. oil industry needs to make sure that these valiant workers have the fuel they need. In the case of goods movement, that is diesel fuel for trucks and natural gas for local delivery vehicles. 

Right now, there are roughly 140 million barrels of diesel fuel accumulating in storage tanks inside the United States. That is sufficient to support the vial goods industries of the United States for a few months. But storage for other petroleum products such as jet fuel and crude oil is filling rapidly and can become a larger logistics problem, even inside the United States, if it is not managed eventually. Total U.S. on-land inventories of jet fuel are at about 40 million barrels, with only about 10 million barrels left in tankage. As a result, companies are starting to investigate storing jet fuel on ships until demand picks up again. Globally, jet fuel tanks are also closing in on physical limitations, but air travel and refiner flexibility in some locations will be higher than in others. This burgeoning problem of oil storage is yet another reason why the Trump administration is correctly focused on diplomacy to end the oil price war. Time is of the essence since running out of oil storage globally is in no one’s national interest. 

South Korea Goes to the Polls Despite COVID–19 Pandemic

By Bruce Klingner

South Korean elections are often a wild and unpredictable adventure. That said, this year’s National Assembly election will be one for the books — less so for the polling result than for it being held at all. Other nations have postponed elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic or held them amidst controversy. While South Korea’s COVID-19 testing program is cited as the global gold standard for epidemic response, it is uncertain whether its election procedures will be similarly lauded.

Contests for all 300 seats of the unicameral National Assembly will come to a vote on April 15. President Moon Jae-in’s term does not expire until 2022, but legislative elections are interpreted as a public referendum on the president’s tenure.

Initially, the COVID-19 outbreak had created uncertainty over whether the elections would be held as scheduled. But South Korea’s expansive testing and monitoring program overcame the worst of the epidemic. Moreover, the nation has experience holding elections during major calamities. Duyeon Kim, senior advisor for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, highlighted, “Elections have never been postponed in Korean history, not even during the Korean War or the H1N1 outbreak.”

Stepping Back from Economic Disaster

What the current situation boils down to is this: is economic meltdown a price worth paying to halt or delay what is already amongst us?

— Tom Jefferson and Carl Heneghan, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Oxford University

April is mathematics awareness month, and this essay is about math and probability. Actuarial tables are used by the insurance industry to calculate risk. Actuarial data suggests that for Covid-19 there are significant variations in risk. In all likelihood, the number of deaths from Covid-19 will be comparable to other causes of death in the United States, such as influenza, car crashes, or suicide. And using an actuarial approach to pandemics helps us think about how to use data in balancing the risk of death against the certainty of self-inflicted recession and mass unemployment.

Let’s start by using Italy and China to set upper and lower bounds on risk. It is unlikely the U.S. mortality rate will be higher than Italy’s or lower than China’s reported figures. The effect of Covid-19 on the United States will fall between the two. The U.S. population is five times larger than Italy’s, suggesting that with the same mortality rate, we should expect 87,000 deaths. Italy has the older population, more smokers, and the highest population of antibiotic-resistant individuals in Europe, making it vulnerable in ways that the United States is not. Statistics from China are suspect, since they are tailored to fit the Communist Party’s political needs. China’s claim that it has a fraction of the infections the United States has is ludicrous. China’s population is four times larger than the United States, yet it reports around 83,000 cases and 3,300 deaths. Some reporting suggests that China may conceal two-thirds of its cases. Other estimates suggest China underreports deaths by almost a factor of 20 . Even if adjusted for underreporting, China’s data suggests only 18,000 U.S. deaths. To put the figures from Italy and China in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says United States suffered around 34,000 deaths from the flu in 2019.
Bad Data Means Bad Decisions

Time to Get a Handle on America’s Conduct of Proxy Warfare

By Brittany Benowitz, Tommy Ross 

In the past decade, proxy warfare has become a major challenge to global stability. In fact, in nearly every major conflict of the 21st century—civil wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya; U.S.-initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; ongoing conflicts in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and eastern Ukraine—proxies have featured prominently. Yet, as an expert working group convened by the American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights found, the international community lacks sufficient tools to regulate proxy warfare. What’s more, the currently available accountability mechanisms are insufficient to ensure that the United States—one of the world’s most visible and robust sponsors of proxy groups—complies with its obligations under international law when using proxies. As the release of the Afghanistan papers in December 2019 demonstrated, the failure of the United States to address the corrupt and/or predatory practices of its foreign partners can doom U.S. military operations in the long term. Here, we dive into the themes that animate the ABA paper. What are the threats of proxy warfare and the gaps in the current enforcement toolkit?

The Nature and Risks of Proxy Warfare

The Expert Working Group of the ABA Center for Human Rights examined the international legal framework regulating proxy warfare. That study, as outlined below, identified a number of ways in which the United States leads efforts to ensure partners’ compliance with international law but also identified several areas in which the United States could improve its performance.

A Few Good Men

By Max Boot 

When Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, there was good cause to think that he would be popular with the armed forces. He was, for a start, a Republican, and the military leans heavily conservative. He had also run an ostentatiously pro-military campaign, promising to “rebuild the military, take care of vets and make the world respect the U.S. again!” There were, to be sure, some warning signs of trouble to come, such as when he attacked the war hero John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona (“I like people who weren’t captured”), and belittled the parents of a soldier who had died in combat after they dared to criticize him. 

But initially, at least from the military’s perspective, the good seemed to far outweigh the bad. Trump pushed for higher defense spending; sent more U.S. forces and firepower to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria; and liberalized the military’s rules of engagement, giving commanders on the ground more freedom of maneuver. Even more eye-catching was his appointment of generals to senior civilian positions: the retired Marine Corps general James Mattis became the secretary of defense, the retired Marine general John Kelly became the secretary of homeland security and then the White House chief of staff, the retired army lieutenant general Michael Flynn became Trump’s national security adviser—and, when he flamed out after just 24 days, was replaced by the then active-duty army lieutenant general H. R. McMaster. Trump, for his part, reveled in the generals’ aura of manliness, hailing “Mad Dog” Mattis (a nickname Mattis hated) as “a true General’s General!”

The Climate Club

By William Nordhaus 

Climate change is the major environmental challenge facing nations today, and it is increasingly viewed as one of the central issues in international relations. Yet governments have used a flawed architecture in their attempts to forge treaties to counter it. The key agreements, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris climate accord, have relied on voluntary arrangements, which induce free-riding that undermines any agreement.

States need to reconceptualize climate agreements and replace the current flawed model with an alternative that has a different incentive structure—what I would call the “Climate Club.” Nations can overcome the syndrome of free-riding in international climate agreements if they adopt the club model and include penalties for nations that do not participate. Otherwise, the global effort to curb climate change is sure to fail.

In December 2019, the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in Madrid, Spain. As most independent observers concluded, there was a total disconnect between the need for sharp emission reductions and the outcomes of the deliberations. COP25 followed COP24, which followed COP23, which followed COP22, all the way back to COP1—a series of multilateral negotiations that produced the failed Kyoto Protocol and the wobbly Paris accord. At the end of this long string of conferences, the world in 2020 is no further along than it was after COP1, in 1995: there is no binding international agreement on climate change. 

The Human-Capital Costs of the Crisis


BERKELEY – US President Donald Trump tells us that once COVID-19 is contained and it is safe to go back to work, the economy will be “great again.” Is he right?

There is at least one reason to think he is. After all, unlike a hurricane or earthquake, the pandemic has caused no damage to the physical capital stock. It follows, Trump and his advisers argue, that we can pick up where we left off. The economy took a time-out, but now output will rebound swiftly to pre-crisis levels and growth will proceed as before.

We are even told that the economy will be stronger than ever. People who put off buying a car because it was unsafe to visit the dealership will do so now. Firms that have put expansion plans on hold will double down on investment. Baseball teams unable to play in the spring will schedule double-headers in the fall.

Unfortunately, reality will not oblige Trump’s rosy scenario. Households newly aware that they lack the financial reserves to deal with unforeseen circumstances will increase their precautionary saving and continue to put off buying that new car. Firms won’t invest in expanding capacity until they are confident that the virus won’t return. With the developing world entering and exiting the crisis later than the United States, exports will be weak.

French regulator says Google must pay news sites to send them traffic


France's competition authority says that Google must go back to the bargaining table to negotiate a rate that the search giant will pay to link to articles on French news sites. So far, Google has flatly refused to pay fees to link to news articles, despite a new EU copyright directive designed to force Google to do so.

France was the first country to transpose the EU's order into national law. Google read the French law as allowing unlicensed use of the headline of a story, but not more than that. So in September, Google removed the "snippet" that often appears below headlines from its French news search results, as well as thumbnail images.

"We don't accept payment from anyone to be included in search results," Google wrote in a September blog post. "We sell ads, not search results, and every ad on Google is clearly marked. That's also why we don't pay publishers when people click on their links in a search result."

Military Activity and Political Signaling in the Taiwan Strait in Early 2020

By: John Dotson


On March 16, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force aircraft conducted a set of unusual nighttime sorties over the sea to the southwest of Taiwan. At least one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEWC) aircraft and an undisclosed number of J-11 FLANKER-L jet fighters participated in the mission, and at one point crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which prompted a scramble by Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) F-16 fighters in response (Focus Taiwan, March 17; Taipei Times, March 18). Although the nature of the mission was unusual—this marked the first time that PLA aircraft flew in the vicinity of Taiwan at night—the incident was otherwise consistent with a pattern of increasingly provocative naval and military aviation operations conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan by PLA units in the first quarter of 2020.

This uptick in tactical military activity has been accompanied by more assertive rhetoric from People’s Republic of China (PRC) media outlets and spokespersons since the landslide reelection of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) on January 11 (China Brief, January 17). These military operations (see further discussion below) have also taken place as PRC officials and citizens have scrambled to cope with the social, economic, and political impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that first manifested in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December (Jamestown, ongoing). This suggests that senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials wish to project the message that the crisis has not inhibited the PLA’s capabilities to defeat Taiwan “separatism”—and may further wish to use such operations to assert an image of strength in the face of the internal crisis produced by the pandemic.

Background: PLA Aviation Operations Near Taiwan Prior to 2020