7 September 2020

India And China Are Clashing Over Their Disputed Border (A War Could Kill Millions)

by Kyle Mizokami

Here's What You Need To Remember: A war between India and China would be nasty, brutal and short, with far-reaching consequences for the global economy. The balance of power and geographic constraints means a war would almost certainly fail to prove decisive. Both sides have almost certainly concluded this, which is why there hasn’t been a war for more than fifty years. We can only hope it stays that way.

A hypothetical war between India and China would be one of the largest and most destructive conflicts in Asia. A war between the two powers would rock the Indo-Pacific region, cause thousands of casualties on both sides and take a significant toll on the global economy. Geography and demographics would play a unique role, limiting the war’s scope and ultimately the conditions of victory.

India and China border one another in two locations, northern India/western China and eastern India/southern China, with territorial disputes in both areas. China attacked both theaters in October 1962, starting a monthlong war that resulted in minor Chinese gains on the ground.

China Links U.S. to India Border Fight, Framing Clash as Proxy Conflict

The China-India border conflict is rumbling on, with talks aimed at solving the Himalayan standoff thus far producing little progress as both sides reinforce their positions along the remote frontier and prepare for further clashes.

The two sides have a long history of conflict over the porous border, even fighting an extended war there in 1962 which killed thousands of soldiers. Though confrontations and even skirmishes are common, the outbreak of violence in June marked the first deadly clash since 1962.

Both sides accuse the other of violating the Line of Actual Control—the disputed demarcation line that marks the border. Satellite images and Indian media reports suggest that Chinese troops have moved beyond their previous posts along the LOAC, establishing new forward positions in what India considers its territory.

While Beijing and New Delhi condemn each other, China is also seeking to frame the conflict as part of its wider confrontation with the U.S., which has been supercharged by the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Chinese firms are learning a painful lesson’: India’s app crackdown opens doors for U.S. tech giants

Arjun Kharpal

On Wednesday, India banned 118 Chinese apps including major hit games from Tencent and NetEase as well as services from the likes of Baidu and Alibaba affiliate Ant Group. 

The broader crackdown on Chinese technology opens opportunities for U.S. technology giants like Facebook and Apple in India.

One analyst said Washington and New Delhi “may foster one of the most important relationships in the 21st century.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Chinese President Xi Jingping during the BRICS meeting in Goa, India, on October 16, 2016.

India’s crackdown on Chinese apps could help the country’s homegrown technology firms grow, analysts told CNBC.

This also presents an opportunity for U.S. giants which have long seen the world’s fifth-largest economy as critical to their future growth prospects, they said.

On Wednesday, India banned 118 Chinese apps including major hit games from Tencent and NetEase as well as services from the likes of Baidu and Alibaba affiliate, Ant Group

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology claimed the apps were “engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity” of the country. The government also alleged these services sent citizens’ data to servers located outside of India.

Death in the Himalayas


A bloody border clash exposed how tensions are building between India and China. With Europe reassessing its own relations with Beijing, it should pay more attention.

On June 15 of this year, the armies of India and China clashed in the Galwan valley region of the Himalayas, resulting in the death of 20 Indian soldiers. While India and China share a long and contentious border, this clash was of vital importance for a number of reasons.

First, this was the first time in decades that the India-China border has seen this level of violence, as well as an increase in the buildup of Chinese troop numbers at multiple points along the border. Second, the clash shattered trust between India and China built carefully over years through agreements dating back to 1993, confining “the entire border architecture to the heap of history.” Third, while India continues to be a secondary concern in China, public opinion in India has decisively shifted to viewing China as a major security threat. Many in New Delhi believe this crisis reflects an inflection point that will fundamentally change the trajectory of India-China relations.
A Pattern of Border Tensions

Defying Peace Deal, Freed Taliban Return to Battlefield

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Taliban prisoners released by the Afghan government as part of a deal brokered by the United States aimed at ending almost 20 years of war are returning to the battlefield as commanders and fighters, in direct contravention of pledges made by the insurgents to the White House. 

Confidential research obtained by Foreign Policy shows that the majority of Taliban prisoners released under an agreement signed by insurgent leaders and the United States are taking up arms to fight Afghan forces and continue their “jihad” to overthrow the U.S.-backed Afghan government and replace it with an Islamic emirate.

In an unreleased paper written for the Afghan Peace Dialogue Project at Queen’s University in Belfast, Norther Ireland, the Taliban experts Michael Semple and Felix Kuehn found that former Taliban prisoners were “participating in combat, being killed fighting, being taken prisoner and one case of an ex-prisoner being involved with revenge assassinations.”

Political Violence in South Asia: The Triumph of the State?


In the first decade of the twenty-first century, anti-state rebellions were an endemic feature of South Asia’s political landscape. Both separatist and revolutionary insurgencies presented serious challenges in India; Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, rose with frightening speed to challenge a long-complacent Pakistani security establishment; Maoist insurgents mobilized against the Nepali government; the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE; “Tamil Tigers”) carved out a de facto state in northern Sri Lanka; and some predicted a rising violent Islamist tide in Bangladesh. In extreme cases, there were fears of partial or total state failure.

Yet by 2020, the state is ascendant in South Asia. Most anti-state revolts across the subcontinent have been crushed, demobilized, or contained. The major insurgencies in India have seen a downward trend in lethal violence; the TTP has been badly degraded; the Tamil Tigers have been destroyed; Nepal’s Maoists have been incorporated into a new Nepali political system; and Bangladesh’s descent into “competitive authoritarianism” has been grimly accompanied by a reduction in direct anti-state violence.1

Governments have established greater control of previously contested territories, deployed new technologies of surveillance, and, in some cases, fused party rule with state coercive power. New forms of state and non-state coercion have become more politically prominent, especially localized mob and vigilante violence, which are often linked to, rather than aimed at, the state and ruling parties. These changes are neither universal nor irreversible: important conflicts persist and continue to exact a severe human cost. Nevertheless, the landscape of political violence in much of the region is strikingly different in 2020 than in years like 2004 or 2010.

China’s Top Diplomat Checks in on Myanmar Projects

By Sebastian Strangio

On Tuesday, Yang Jiechi, the head of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, paid a short visit to Myanmar as part of a globe-spanning tour that will also take him to Greece and Spain. Coming almost eight months after President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Myanmar in January, Yang’s stop in Naypyidaw was aimed at shoring up key areas of bilateral cooperation ahead of Myanmar’s upcoming elections on November 8, which the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) is widely expected to win.

In separate meetings with Myanmar’s State Counselor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and its de jure President Win Myint, Yang sought assurances about the implementation of key Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects. In particular, he focused on the slew of BRI projects gathered under the smaller umbrella of the Cambodia-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), a planned overland network of highways, railways, pipelines, and industrial zones intended to link China’s Yunnan province to Myanmar’s coast on the Bay of Bengal.

Space Security and Geopolitical Competition in the Asia-Pacific

By Ankit Panda

The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast host Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) speaks to Brian Weeden, the director of program planning for Secure World Foundation, about counterspace capabilities and geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific.

Click the play button to the right to listen. If you’re an iOS or Mac user, you can also subscribe to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast on iTunes here; if you use Windows or Android, you can subscribe on Google Play here, or on Spotify here.

If you like the podcast and have suggestions for content, please leave a review and rating on iTunes and TuneIn. You can contact the host, Ankit Panda, here.

Has China already won? You bet

On Tuesday, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt spoke at the Bipartisan Policy Center about artificial intelligence and global leadership, concluding that China will pretty much be running things from now on.

This is a position I have been defending for quite some time: Beijing’s approach, which we in the West consider unacceptable, has positioned China as a world leader in the technologies that will dictate the future of humanity, while the rest of the world sat back and watched or, in the case of the United States during the Trump administration, took steps backwards.

“China is on its way to surpass us in many, many ways, and they’re cleverly run in a way that’s different from the way we would ever want to run. We need to take them seriously… they’re going to end up with a bigger economy, more R&D investments, better quality research, wider applications of technology, and a stronger computing infrastructure.”

The Chinese government has long asserted, repeated at Communist Party congresses, that its model is not only different, but superior, and that the time has come for China to take center stage and make a bigger contribution to humanity. From a purely strategic point of view, China’s form of government and the reinvention of state capitalism carried out by Xi Jinping has produced any number of large, decisive and top-down initiatives, which implies a much higher degree of efficiency. In Schmidt’s words:

China’s Mega Banks Are in Mega Trouble—And So Is the Chinese Economy

by Gordon G. Chang

The five largest Chinese banks posted at least 10 percent profit declines for the first half of the year. These poor results, the result of increased provisions for bad loans, were the biggest profit drops in at least a decade. As a CNBC headline put it, “China’s Mega Banks Lost Billions of Dollars in Profit as Bad Loans Rise During Coronavirus Pandemic.”

The profit drops are a warning of long-term troubles, especially because, in all probability, the banks are understating the severity of bad loan problems. Moreover, the outlook for China’s banks is gloomy because the outlook for China’s economy is gloomy.

These five Chinese institutions—the Big Four of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, and Bank of China plus the Bank of Communications—are struggling. The essential problem is that the Chinese economy—like the economies of almost all other countries—was flattened by efforts to control the coronavirus. Gross domestic product contracted 6.8% year-on-year in the first calendar quarter of this year, according to the official National Bureau of Statistics. In reality, it was down about twice that.

Breaking Down the Pentagon's 2020 China Military Power Report: A Quest for PLA Parity?

by Andrew S. Erickson

My first impression is that this is the latest and greatest of the Pentagon’s China Military Power reports since their inception two decades ago. At 173 pages, it is quite possibly the longest and most substantive. A high-water mark in public analysis from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to date, it begins with a self-critical stocktaking of previous editions, yielding striking conclusions concerning the rapidity and relative comprehensiveness of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s progress. This wake-up call regarding the current advanced state, and rapid forward advancement, of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) military capabilities, should land loudly on the desk of Members of Congress and all other U.S. foreign policy and defense community stakeholders. Essential reading, indeed!

The report puts key concerns front and center: arguably, China’s meteoric military progress in recent years has not simply narrowed the gap in limited niches, but has in fact pursued parity and even selective superiority to the degree that, broadly interpreted, “China is already ahead of the United States in certain areas”:

- “Shipbuilding: The PRC has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants. In comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.

Double blow for China after Thailand scraps Kra Canal project, delays submarine deal amid public pressure

Sidharth Shekhar

New Delhi: China’s Malacca dilemma continues to haunt it after Thailand announced it will scrap the Kra Canal project that Beijing wanted to build to bypass the Strait of Malacca. The Indian Navy had deployed its frontline vessels along the Malacca Straits, a strategic chokepoint, after the Galwan Valley clash in Ladakh.

This comes as a double blow to China amid a standoff with India. 

The Thai government has also delayed the purchase of two Chinese submarines worth USD 724 million after facing intense pressure from its arch-rival Pheu Thai Party and the public.
Thailand succumbs to public pressure, opposition 

The Kra Canal project, a proposal 120-kilometre mega canal cutting through the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand could have been a crucial strategic asset for China, allowing the Chinese navy to move freely and quickly between its newly constructed bases in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Big blow to China as Thailand scraps KRA canal project

It also delayed the purchase of two Yuan-class S26T submarines worth $724 million highlighting China's losing grip on its key allies in Indo-Pacific Region.

In a big blow to China, Thailand on Thursday announced it will scrap a Chinese led-KRA canal project under which Beijing wanted to build a bypass to the Strait of Malacca.

It also delayed the purchase of two Yuan-class S26T submarines worth $724 million highlighting China's losing grip on its key allies in Indo-Pacific Region.

Thailand took the step after facing intense pressure from its arch-rival Pheu Thai Party and the public who had raised concerns that the proposed 120-kilometre mega canal would undermine the independence of poor Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar and Cambodia, which have comparatively weak civil societies that are highly vulnerable to Chinese interference.

Why Did Tajikistan Make an Appearance in the China Military Power Report?

By Catherine Putz
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China’s presence and machinations in Tajikistan have popped into headlines several times in the last few years and the Pentagon is, apparently, paying attention. In an annual report delivered to the U.S. Congress, the Department of Defense included Tajikistan in a list of countries where the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is “very likely already considering and planning for additional overseas military logistics facilities to support naval, air, and ground forces.’”

The report lists a dozen such countries: Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, the Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and Tajikistan.

While Tajikistan made a handful of appearances in past China Military Power Reports (the official name of the annual report is less cool: “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China”), the 2020 edition highlights the Central Asian state more than ever before. Tajikistan is by no means a major part of the report, but the parts of the report in which Tajikistan features are critical for understanding the evolution of Chinese activities in the region.

How China Strengthens the Quad

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or the Quad has regained strength in the face of an aggressive China. The foreign ministers of the four countries – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – are scheduled to meet in Delhi for a face-to-face meeting in late September. That New Delhi is playing host to the Quad ministerial meeting amid the COVOD-19 pandemic is particularly noteworthy. The countries are reacting to increased bullying by China. The grouping has gained greater traction since early 2020 because of Beijing’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic and the manner in which it has attempted to hijack multilateral institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The four countries are also concerned about global supply chain problems, recognizing the vulnerability of their dependence on China. The upcoming in-person foreign ministers meeting appears, at the least, aimed at sending a strong message to China about the resoluteness of the Quad. 

That said, the Quad does face some minor headwinds, which are likely to be easily overcome, due to political changes in both Japan and the United States.

In Libya’s War, Russia Is Directionless—and Falling Behind

At some level, Russia’s approach to the war in Libya seems successful. Yet Russia can only achieve so much without a clear idea of what its interests in Libya are and what the country is good for beyond a demonstration of the influence Moscow has gained by intervening militarily in Syria—possibilities that are shrinking as the United States turns its attention anew to the country’s years-long war.

On August 21, the latest ceasefire in Libya’s long war between the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj and the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar took effect.

The main force behind the new ceasefire was the United States, even though it was just a few months ago that Russia and Turkey appeared to be in control of the peace process. Washington’s successful mediation has led many to ask whether Moscow has lost the initiative in Libya and is at risk of squandering the gains it has made there in recent years.

The fighting in Libya effectively stopped back in early June, when Turkish-backed GNA forces repelled a fourteen-month assault on Tripoli by Haftar’s men and cleared the country’s west of them.

Russia and Turkey tried, but failed, to secure a ceasefire. A previous diplomatic effort in January had fallen through because of Haftar’s intransigence, but now the obstacle was Sarraj’s resistance—a hurdle seemingly overcome by the United States, whose role in the conflict has grown in recent months.

Yanis Varoufakis: capitalism isn't working. Here's an alternative

Yanis Varoufakis

When Margaret Thatcher coined “Tina” – her 1980s dictum that “There is no alternative” – I was incensed because, deep down, I felt she had a point: the left had neither a credible nor a desirable alternative to capitalism.

Leftists excel at pinpointing what is wrong with capitalism. We wax lyrical about the possibility of some “other” world in which one contributes according to one’s capacities and obtains according to one’s needs. But, when pushed to describe a fully fledged alternative to contemporary capitalism, for many decades we have oscillated between the ugly (a Soviet-like barracks socialism) and the tired (a social democracy that financialised globalisation has rendered infeasible).

During the 1980s, I participated in many debates in pubs, universities and town halls whose stated purpose was to organise resistance to Thatcherism. I remember my guilty thought every time I heard Maggie speak: “If only we had a leader like her!” I was, of course, under no illusion: Thatcher’s programme was despotic, antisocial and an economic cul-de-sac. But, unlike our side, she understood that we lived in a revolutionary moment. The postwar class war armistice was over. If we wanted to defend the weak, we could not afford to be defensive. We needed to advocate as she did: out with the old system, in with a brand new one. Not Maggie’s dystopian one, but a brand new one nevertheless.

Bill Gates: How we'll move around in a clean, green future

Bill Gates

Addressing CO2 produced from travel is vital to ensure the sustainability of the planet, whilst still ensuring economic benefits associated with travel, writes Bill Gates.
Low/no-emission alternatives such as electric vehicles, alternative fuels and electrofuels are essential in the fight against carbon-emitting combustion engines.

Earlier this month, I wrote about how COVID-19 is a cautionary tale for climate change. There’s no doubt that we have experienced terrible suffering and economic hardship over the last several months. But as hard as it is to imagine right now when we’re still in the middle of the pandemic, climate change has the potential to be even more devastating.

The pandemic has also reminded us how much innovation is needed to prevent a climate disaster. The best numbers I have seen estimate that the economic slowdown due to COVID-19 reduced global emissions by around 8 percent. That’s not nothing, but the austerity that got us there obviously isn’t sustainable. If we’re going to address climate change, we need to find new ways to do things that don’t release greenhouse gases, including how we move around.

Abe’s Resignation Is an Unexpected Test


Japan will soon have a new prime minister. This used to seem like an annual occurrence, but it has not happened for nearly eight years since Shinzo Abe capped his unlikely political comeback by leading the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to a general election victory in December 2012. That victory ended a rare stint out of power for the LDP, which has dominated Japan’s political scene for sixty of the past sixty-five years. To almost everyone’s surprise, Abe went on to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in history, until a chronic health ailment forced him this month to step down.

Abe’s unexpected resignation set off a frenzy of lobbying among the LDP’s factional groups, who will have an outsized role in choosing the party’s next leader on September 14 and—by virtue of its majority within the parliament—Japan’s next prime minister. The subsequent personnel and policy changes will likely be subtle in the short term, because the favorite to replace Abe is his long-time right-hand man, Yoshihide Suga. But this quick transition belies an important potential turning point in Japanese politics and foreign policy that offers opportunities and pitfalls for Tokyo and Washington. The United States has some ability to nudge developments in a positive direction for the alliance if it pays proper attention, but the most important variables are outside of its control.


‘America First’ Enters Its Most Combustible Moment

William J. Burns

The months before and after a presidential election are particularly fragile for foreign policy. Each of the five presidents I served understood, as did his team, the weight of this time. Politics and legacy were always front of mind. They were all also conscious of the ways they could help pave an easier path for their successors. They all ultimately put country over party. That won’t be the case with Donald Trump. If the next 150 days turn out to be Trump’s final days in office, he could still wreak a lot of havoc on American foreign policy.

As a young National Security Council staffer, I sat in the Oval Office in December 1988 as Ronald Reagan—the fireplace crackling behind him—authorized the first-ever U.S. dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization. He saw it, at least in part, as a way to spare his successor, then–Vice President George H. W. Bush, from spending precious political capital early in his administration on an essential, if controversial, step toward Middle East peacemaking.

At the end of the George H. W. Bush administration, in January 1993, as the head of the State Department’s policy-planning staff, I wrote a long transition memorandum for incoming Secretary of State Warren Christopher. That memo was not appreciably different from a draft I had written six months earlier, prematurely titled “A Foreign Policy for the Second Bush Term.” The point of the exercise was less the title, or even the content, than the commitment to a responsible transition and the national interest.

Trump’s Vaccine Can’t Be Trusted

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True to the president’s word—or threat, perhaps—the United States government is preparing to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine on, or before, Nov. 1, even though none of the more than 150 vaccines in the research pipeline worldwide have completed Phase 3 safety and efficacy clinical trials. In its mad sprint to Election Day, the White House has funneled billions of dollars into drug companies and ordered government agencies to execute their public health duties at breakneck speeds that defy credulity. Like most experts closely watching these developments, I have no confidence that a safe, effective vaccine will be ready for use by Halloween. Worse, I can no longer recommend that anyone retain faith in any public health pronouncements issued by government agencies.

State and territorial governors across America have received a letter dated Aug. 27 from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield, instructing them to grant facilities and licensing to a private contractor, McKesson Co., for mass immunizations. “CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities,” Redfield wrote, “and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020.”

Warren Buffett’s Recent Explanation of How Money Now Works Is the Most Important in History

Tim Denning

Watching Warren Buffett completely change what he believes about money in a matter of months has been fascinating.

He is considered the most successful investor in history, so he’s worth listening to when financial markets enter a strange period that nobody understands or can properly explain (even if, like me, you don’t love everything he says).

These two lines from Warren made me think:

“The [US] debt isn’t going to be repaid; it’s going to be refunded.”

“You better own something other than debt.”

Buffett explains that when the government can just keep on printing money to pay their own debt it’s laughable to think they will ever default. He says, “The trick [for countries] is to keep borrowing in your own currency.”

So if money will keep being printed out of thin air then what does that mean for your investments, assets and savings? Let’s explore the topic in simplistic terms and see what you can do about it.

The Most Important Lesson On How Money Works From Warren Buffett

This is what Warren said recently about how money works that will test everything you thought you knew about money:

Infographic Of The Day: World Population In 2100, By Country

Plenty of signs have pointed to there being a population plateau, but recent research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), published in The Lancet, suggests that the number of people on this planet may actually start to shrink well before the year 2100.

Google’s Genius $49/mo Course Is About to Replace College Degrees

Alan Trapulionis

Google, a company that has successfully “organized the world’s information,” is about to tackle an issue we’ve long endured but have never known what to do about: tech education.

It’s not a secret that colleges and universities are struggling miserably to stay relevant in tech domains. Our grandparents have a difficult time understanding how a neat LinkedIn profile can be more powerful than a 4-year college degree — or how you could get a job without one.

However, a 2016 StackOverflow survey found that 56% of developers do not have a college degree in computer science or related fields. They also noticed that —

A portfolio of projects and products you have made credible contributions to is worth more than years of experience or schooling.

In 2018, the rumors have been made official: Google, Apple, IBM, Intel, Hilton, Starbucks, Publix, Penguin Random House, Costco Wholesale, Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Home Depot, Bank of America, Chipotle and Lowe’s posted numerous job positions that do not require a formal degree.

Will the British Army Retire the Tank After 105 Years?

by Peter Suciu

It was 104 years ago this month that the British military first used “tanks” in battle, and that came just a year after Winston Churchill established the Landships Committee, which oversaw the development of the original tanks. The goal of this small committee first was to oversee the development of large wheeled “landships” that were estimated to weigh as much as 300 tons and could roll over any terrain.

The idea proved to be too ambitious and the actual first tank—dubbed “Little Willie” as a joke mocking Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II—was far smaller than the massive landships originally envisioned and it was even unarmed. It actually took more than a year for the eventual MkI tanks to be refined. In an effort to hide exactly what the military was building, the vehicles were called “tanks” to suggest a container to transport fresh water to the front. In December 1915, the codeword “tank” was officially adopted, and the Landships Committee officially became the Tank Supply Committee.

When the tanks rolled into action during the Battle of the Somme it was just the beginning of things to come for tanks in combat.