30 September 2020

Space War Between India & China Since 2007? US Says China Attacked Indian Satellites

By Sheetal Bhalerao

It seems that China is taking all the efforts to strike India from every front.

China has already carried out a series of cyber-attacks between 2007 to 2018 that also includes the computer attacks against Indian satellite communication in 2017, according to a new report by US-based China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI).

CASI Report

Further, The 142-page report notes that China has carried out multiple cyber-attacks between 2012 and 2018.

So far, this report elaborates on the result only in one case.

The report points out a Chinese network-based computer attack on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) In 2012.

It further says that the attack “allowed ‘full functional control’ over JPL networks.” 

While listing out some of these attacks, the report quotes multiple sources.

Here CASI is a think-tank that basically supports the secretary, chief of staff of the US Air Force, the US chief of space operations, and other senior air and space leaders.

CASI is tasked to provide China’s space narrative among other things. 

An Asian Pandemic Success Story

By Swee Kheng Khor and David Heymann

Just as a heart attack can jolt a person into changing habits for the better, a pandemic can spur a nation to profoundly improve its public health systems and policies. The harsh experience with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003—and to a lesser extent, H1N1 in 2009–10 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2014–15—had such an effect on East Asian countries. China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, among other states, retooled their public health systems after SARS in a manner that allowed them to mount particularly effective responses to COVID-19.

As the world struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, East Asian countries lead the way in both control and recovery. They consistently report lower death rates from COVID-19 than do countries in Europe and North America, suggesting that their governments have been better able to protect those at risk of serious illness and death. By and large, their public discourse has already shifted to restarting the economy and public life instead of remaining focused on initial measures to flatten the curve of infections. East Asian societies have demonstrated solidarity, rather than allowing the disease and its control to become unnecessarily politicized or weaponized. At the root of the efficacy of this response lie the hard-won lessons of the region’s experience with SARS.

Global China: Global governance and norms

From human rights to energy to trade and beyond, how is China approaching global norms and norm development?

The fears that China is changing the United Nations from within seem if not overblown, at least premature. The U.N. can still be a force multiplier for the values and interests of the United States, but only if Washington now competes for influence rather than assume automatic U.N. deference.

China’s involvement in United Nations peacekeeping is one of its better-known investments in the multilateral system. But its contributions to blue helmet missions remain limited, and Beijing has taken a cautious approach to expanding its commitments.

Is the Chinese government’s greater engagement with international institutions a gain for the global human rights system? A close examination suggests not.

Chinese Communist Party policies towards Xinjiang have increased colonial development, further eroded Uyghur autonomy through force and ethnic assimilationism, and co-opted the “Global War on Terror” framing to portray all Uyghur resistance as “terrorism.”

China’s Economy Bounces Back, But to Which Growth Path?

David Dollar

China is leading the major economies in recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. But for a variety of reasons there is unlikely to be a quick “V-shaped” recovery back to the old growth path. Prolonged global weakness plus the U.S.-China trade war mean that exports will not play the same role as they did in the past. The buildup of debt to risky levels also sets limits on the role that investment will play. Furthermore while uncertain at this moment, there is a good chance that people will be more cautious about many activities even after a vaccine is developed, so it is likely that private consumption will be lower than it was on the previous growth path. China can turn all of these factors to its advantage, but it will take an acceleration of reform to do so. Particularly important will be new trade agreements, financial sector reform, and expansion of social services to migrants. 

China’s economic growth plummeted from 6.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 to –6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020—a breath-taking drop in activity. This was the economy’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with most factories, offices, and retail establishments closed for a month. The lockdown, coupled with the recipe for testing, tracing, and isolation, brought the virus under control (recognizing that it will not be fully under control until a reliable vaccine is developed and distributed worldwide). Starting in March, the economy began to bounce back, and in many ways the recovery has been faster in China than it has been in other major countries. But a key question remains—to which growth path is the economy bouncing back?

The next section of this essay examines the immediate recovery of the economy during mid-2020. The remainder of the essay focuses on potential long-term changes occasioned by the pandemic. There is tremendous uncertainty at the moment about the path of both the virus and the economy. But I argue that it is unlikely that China will return to its former growth path. Also, because that path was unsustainable it is not necessarily a bad thing that the growth model will be adjusted. The crisis creates an opportunity to implement reforms that will enhance the welfare of the Chinese people, have spillover benefits for the rest of the world, and make Chinese growth more sustainable.

As U.S.-Taiwan Ties Flourish, China’s Discontent Grows

J. Michael Cole

Recent Chinese military maneuvers were a stark reminder that the Taiwan Strait remains one of the world’s most dangerous flash points. After months of saber-rattling near Taiwan, China’s air force sent dozens of warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Sept. 18 and 19, across the median line in the Taiwan Strait that both sides have long tacitly acknowledged as an unofficial border. Days later, and amid further incursions by Chinese aircraft, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson denied the existence of any “so-called median line,” raising concerns of further escalation by Beijing. Although several factors account for this belligerence, one major cause is the closer relationship that has developed in recent months between Taiwan and the United States.

Since withdrawing its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in 1979, Washington has relied upon the Taiwan Relations Act to govern its unofficial ties with Taipei. To avoid undermining relations with Beijing, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province, the U.S. has maintained a so-called “One China” policy, acknowledging Beijing’s contention that the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government of China. At the same time, to help Taiwan deter potential Chinese attempts to take it over by force, the U.S. government regularly provides Taiwan with the defensive materiel it needs to counter a Chinese assault.

Much of U.S. policy toward Taiwan occurred under the premise that peaceful engagement with China, and its integration into the world economy, would eventually result in a China that is more liberalized and more open, if not altogether democratic. This view, which up until recently was the prevalent one in Washington, also had a constraining effect on U.S. willingness to engage Taiwan. There were long periods, particularly under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, during which Washington either refrained from selling arms to Taiwan or substantially reduced their delivery.

Chinese nuclear forces, 2019

By Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda

The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists, and Matt Korda, a research associate with the project. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. This issue’s column examines China’s nuclear arsenal, which includes about 290 warheads for delivery by ballistic missiles and bombers. This stockpile is likely to grow further over the next decade, and we estimate that China will soon surpass France as the world’s third-largest nuclear-armed state.

China’s nuclear arsenal includes about 290 warheads for delivery by ballistic missiles and bombers and is likely to grow over the next decade,

The climate risks of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

By Sagatom Saha

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is not the green project that Beijing claims it is. Leading up to the first BRI forum in May 2017, the Chinese government published official documents declaring BRI would promote the Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals (Chen 2019). At the forum itself, Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping advertised BRI as a “vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular, and sustainable” (Xinhua 2017). BRI, which promises sustainable development for all participating countries, hinges on the truth of this premise. General Secretary Xi accrued significant international support and global participation for BRI with this claim. China established the International Green Development Coalition on the Belt and Road in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, increasing BRI’s international legitimacy (Liqiang 2019).

However, evidence abounds of the environmental harm the Chinese government wreaks beyond its borders. China has long been the world’s largest exporter of coal power equipment, exporting twice as much as Japan, its nearest competitor (United Nations 2020). Chinese banks are financing more than 70 percent of all coal plants outside of China, with Chinese firms constructing many of them, including in countries like Egypt and Pakistan that previously burned little to no coal (Quartz 2019). At current rates, Chinese coal equipment exports and financing make it virtually impossible to limit global warming to safe levels, which would require retiring one coal plant per day globally (Hilton 2019). BRI’s environmental damage is not limited to the energy sector. Transportation infrastructure, mining, and land reclamation for mega-cities carry their own environmental and climate risks that are harder to

Brushing Off Criticism, China’s Xi Calls Policies in Xinjiang ‘Totally Correct’

Chris Buckley

Brushing aside condemnation from Western powers, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, called his policies in the ethnically divided region of Xinjiang a “totally correct” success, and vowed more efforts to imprint Chinese national identity “deep in the soul” of Uighurs and other largely Muslim minorities.

Mr. Xi made the remarks during a two-day conference that ended Saturday, which is likely to set the direction of Chinese policy in Xinjiang for years to come. While the initial official summary of the meeting gave few details, Mr. Xi’s unyielding words signaled that condemnation from the United States, the European Union and other powers has not shifted his determination to subdue Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities through a dual strategy of political indoctrination and state-driven demographic change.

“Viewed overall, Xinjiang is enjoying a favorable setting of social stability with the people living in peace and contentment,” Mr. Xi told the meeting, according to the summary issued by Xinhua news agency. “The facts have abundantly demonstrated that our national minority work has been a success.”

Mr. Xi’s speech was revealed at the end of a week that exposed the stark costs of China’s security strategy in Xinjiang, as well as continued international ire over the indoctrination camps and detention sites that have held hundreds of thousands — and possibly a million or more — Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. But Mr. Xi gave no signs of markedly softening his policies there.

The China Economic Risk Matrix

Executive Summary

As the global economy continues to struggle during the Covid-19 pandemic, China’s return to economic growth in the second quarter of 2020 was a rare positive surprise. Conventional wisdom credits China’s quick recovery to the distinct characteristics of China’s economy: a high degree of state control, directed flows of credit, and a high level of domestic policy credibility in responding to economic downturns. 

But those same elements have also pushed China’s financial system deep into a gauntlet of systemic financial risks. Throughout the past decade, China’s financial system has ballooned in size much faster than its real economy. Economic growth has been facilitated by the largest single-country credit expansion in over a century. Yet until the Covid-19 outbreak, China had not faced a rapid slowdown, nor a financial crisis. 

Despite rising inefficiency, China’s financial system has served as the shock absorber that has helped China’s economy recover from the virus outbreak and maintain growth. But as even Beijing acknowledges, a tree cannot grow to the sky, and the slow-motion credit risks now accelerating within China’s banking system are breaking through the calm surface of economic data. China’s financial system is highly vulnerable to the threats of falling property prices, defaults on loans and corporate bonds, tightening interbank market conditions, and capital outflows. But it is difficult to determine when these medium-term vulnerabilities will catalyze short-term financial stress and when that stress will become too severe for Beijing to handle. 

The answer in this report, drawing from a previous CSIS report, Credit and Credibility, is that China’s financial system becomes most vulnerable when Beijing’s credibility erodes and implicit guarantees on assets are suddenly questioned. In some cases, credibility weakens during attempts to reform China’s system, while other events may force Beijing to react to rising credit risks and defaults. Building on the earlier work, this report explores the specific conditions and markets in which changes in government credibility can have a significant impact on systemic stability in China.

Opinion – Emerging Elements of a New US-China Cold War

Ragul Palanisami

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, Sino-US relations have been passing through a rough patch. Towards the end of its first year, the Trump administration released its National Security Strategy (NSS) report, which openly identified China as a “revisionist power”. In early 2018, President Trump launched his trade tirade against China, which has consummated into a trade war. The rivalry between the US and China has metamorphosed from being an economic competition into a geopolitical competition. Consequently, analysts have been warning against the possibility of a new Cold War or even have concluded that a new Cold War has already begun. Technological competition is one area where a parallel between the old and the new Cold War is noticed. Similarity is also witnessed in the US domestic political scene. Here, the current perception of China as an external enemy is gradually bridging the party polarization inside the US, just like with the Soviet Union during the previous Cold War period.

During the old Cold War, the two superpowers hardly had any economic contact to speak about. Today, on the contrary, the US and China have a deeper economic interconnection between them. The US provides a vast market for the Chinese goods. In return, China holds trillions of dollars in US treasury bills, which has helped to finance the US’ growing trade deficit with it. Moreover, multinational corporations from both the countries have invested billions of dollars in each other’s economy. It is also important to mention here that despite the new low in their political ties, the US investments in China have actually grown in 2020.

In recent months, President Trump has constantly warned about the possibility of a “complete decoupling” from China. Such a decoupling could be the precursor to the formation of economic blocs. Thus, a successful decoupling would make a new Cold War possible on the same lines as the old one. However, many commentators have expressed doubts about the possibility of total decoupling given the strong economic ties between the two countries. Thousands of US corporations still operate from China. It would be difficult for these corporations to extricate themselves from the deeply integrated East Asian supply chains, which have China at their core.

We're in a cyber cold war with China. Here's how we gain the upper hand

By Matt Sandgren


Last month, President Trump announced his intentions to ban TikTok unless the Chinese company finds an American buyer. The news came just weeks after a European court struck down the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which facilitated data sharing on both sides of the Atlantic. 

What do these seemingly disparate events have in common? They both underscore growing concerns over the misuse of consumer data — and the urgent need for Congress to pass a federal privacy framework. Passing this framework is essential to securing America’s digital leadership in the new cold war with China.

Over the last decade, China has become Silicon Valley’s fiercest competitor, proving that it’s not just good at stealing technology but building its own innovations as well. Beijing has established itself as a near-peer adversary in quantum computing, artificial intelligence and 5G technology. Huawei, meanwhile, is growing faster than any other smartphone maker in the world, even as the company’s reputation for being a pawn of Chinese intelligence grows with it.

Then there’s TikTok, the white-hot social media platform with more than 1 billion users around the globe, including more than 80 million in the United States alone. Like Huawei, U.S. officials consider TikTok a tool of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). They even suspect the CCP of using the app to spread propaganda and harvest American user data — hence the president’s decision to take action against its parent company, ByteDance.

Iran and the United States Can’t See Each Other Clearly

By Puneet Talwar

Just before the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, the United States and Iran appeared to be set on a collision course. COVID-19 quickly displaced such concerns from international headlines. But as the world prepares for further outbreaks of the disease in the months ahead, it should similarly brace for tensions between the United States and Iran to flare up again. Domestic political dynamics in the two countries risk fueling a cycle of escalation. Each side is digging in and making decisions based on flawed assumptions. Meanwhile, the odds of a diplomatic resolution dwindle by the day.


The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump fundamentally miscalculated when it abandoned the Iran nuclear deal two years ago and opted for a policy of “maximum pressure.” The bet was that sanctions on Iranian oil exports would compel Tehran to come to the negotiating table, where it would agree to far-reaching concessions on its nuclear program and end its aggressive policies in the region.

One Virus, Two Americas

By Ashish Jha

The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every nation in the world, with results as variable as each government’s response. While some countries rapidly harnessed the powers of science and good governance to contain the virus, others shunned the advice of health experts and failed to slow the spread of the disease. Eight months into the pandemic, the United States finds itself in the latter category, leading the world in COVID-19 deaths, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of population. But if the U.S. response deserves to be called a failure at the national level, the picture is more complicated in the 50 states: certain U.S. states have brought their rates of infection under control, leveraging their own resources to compensate for federal ineffectiveness.

In the United States of America, two nations are responding to one virus. The national government has largely abdicated responsibility for the pandemic response. But in a country with a federalized public health system, states that embrace science and the advice of health experts have largely succeeded in containing the virus, while infection rates have spiraled out of control in those that do not. The divergence of these two Americas reveals the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the U.S. federal system in the midst of the deadliest disease outbreak in a century.

The Transformation of Diplomacy

By William J. Burns and Linda Thomas-Greenfield

We joined the U.S. Foreign Service nearly 40 years ago in the same entering class, but we took very different paths to get there. One of us grew up amid hardship and segregation in the Deep South, the first in her family to graduate from high school, a Black woman joining a profession that was still very male and very pale. The other was the product of an itinerant military childhood that took his family from one end of the United States to the other, with a dozen moves and three high schools by the time he was 17. 

There were 32 of us in the Foreign Service’s class of January 1982. It was an eclectic group that included former Peace Corps volunteers, military veterans, a failed rock musician, and an ex–Catholic priest. None of us retained much from the procession of enervating speakers describing their particular islands in the great archipelago of U.S. foreign policy. What we did learn early on, and what stayed true throughout our careers, is that smart and sustained investment in people is the key to good diplomacy. Well-intentioned reform efforts over the years were crippled by faddishness, budgetary pressures, the over-militarization of foreign policy, the State Department’s lumbering bureaucracy, a fixation on structure, and—most of all—inattention to people.

When the System Fails

By Stewart Patrick

The chaotic global response to the coronavirus pandemic has tested the faith of even the most ardent internationalists. Most nations, including the world’s most powerful, have turned inward, adopting travel bans, implementing export controls, hoarding or obscuring information, and marginalizing the World Health Organization (WHO) and other multilateral institutions. The pandemic seems to have exposed the liberal order and the international community as mirages, even as it demonstrates the terrible consequences of faltering global cooperation.

A century ago, when pandemic influenza struck a war-torn world, few multilateral institutions existed. Countries fought their common microbial enemy alone. Today, an array of multilateral mechanisms exists to confront global public health emergencies and address their associated economic, social, and political effects. But the existence of such mechanisms has not stopped most states from taking a unilateral approach.

It is tempting to conclude that multilateral institutions—ostensibly foundational to the rules-based international system—are, at best, less effective than advertised and, at worst, doomed to fail when they are needed most. But that conclusion goes too far. Weak international cooperation is a choice, not an inevitability.

The dismal multilateral response to the pandemic reflects, in part, the decisions of specific leaders, especially Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump. Their behavior helps explain why the WHO struggled in the initial stages of the outbreak and why forums for multilateral coordination, such as the G-7, the G-20, and the UN Security Council, failed to rise to the occasion.

The Incremental Revolutionary: Japan after 8 Years of Shinzo Abe

Carlos Ramirez

After 8 years in power, the longest of any postwar Japanese Prime Minister, the legacy that Shinzo Abe leaves behind will no doubt shape the country for years to come. As Yoshihide Suga assumes the leadership of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), he also simultaneously becomes the Prime Minister, as the party holds a large majority in parliament. Suga will be extraordinarily busy with much unfinished business left behind by his predecessor. This is largely the consequence of forces that resisted and constrained the retiring Prime Minister’s often controversial agenda. When all is said and done about Abe’s tenure, the most salient feature of his record will be the new policy paths blazoned by his administration and yet the very short distances travelled. Many of Abe’s ideas were beyond reform, some would say even radical in nature, yet the actual implementation and progress were, in the end, incremental at best. The main reason, as will be argued in this review and evaluation of Abe’s time in power, is that he allowed his ideology to color and permeate his policy throughout his term bequeathing numerous economic and domestic challenges to his successor and the country.

When Abe became Prime Minister for the second time in 2012, he had full intention of carrying out the sweeping changes to Japan’s security policy that he had begun during his first stint as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007. That effort was cut short by the same illness (chronic ulcerative colitis) forcing his current abrupt retirement. The principle objective both then and now has been to bury the Yoshida Doctrine once and for all. The Doctrine has been at the bedrock of Japan’s politics, economy and society since the end of the Second World War. Under its terms, Japan relinquished much of its security and defense policy to the USA as per Article 9 of the post-War Constitution. Article 9 stipulates that Japan renounce both the right to wage war and to retain a standing army with such a capability. Secure under the American defense umbrella, Japan could in turn focus its resources on rebuilding the war-ravaged economy. By the end of the 1960’s, Japan became the world’s second largest economy and America’s staunchest ally in the region. Abe’s ultimate goal was to revise the Constitution and Article 9 to allow for a more assertive and muscular foreign policy buttressed by a “normal” armed forces. From the outset, he did not shy from showing his ideological inclinations with a visit in 2013 to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, infamous for honoring war criminals and thereby enraging China and the Koreas.

Opinion – Europe is Still Able to Build Tanks

Robert Palmer

Since the end of the cold war, numerous tank programs have been launched, but by a decreasing number of countries. In short, the market is consolidating, and the big players are increasing their exports. The capacity to conduct tank programs is often used as marker of a military power’s overall capacity. The market shift has profoundly changed the face of the European military industry, but Europe has adapted to this new phase. The old continent isn’t dead, when it comes to making tanks. In fact, it has just come back stronger. The art of warfare is particularly sensitive to innovation: while older equipment can still be used outside high-intensity combat areas, each military force simply needs to match or surpass the capacities of the opposing party. Therefore, each upgrade triggers a chain of responses within all the surrounding forces, so as to maintain strategic balance. Over the years, as different countries had various levels of resources and committed to different degrees, leading countries were able to systematically answer the need for innovation, while others found it increasingly difficult to stay abreast when it came to complex programs.

The difficulty in building high-tech and complex military vehicles, such as main battle tanks, isn’t new: the Germans were already putting massive efforts into their armor technology during World War Two, resulting in the legendary Tiger tank. It is true, that quantity can be used to compensate for quality (as the United States chose to do with sub-par Sherman tanks), but only with an overwhelming imbalance. What was possible in 1944, when in industrially flourishing America overran resource-starved Germany, simply is no longer feasible, now that the Eastern bloc, Europe, Asia and America have reached balanced economic levels. Therefore, technological innovation has become the only way to safeguard sovereignty. King’s College professor Nick Butler writes:

For European countries, the difficult strategic and economic times they face mean that they will have to become accustomed the idea of constrained defence budgets for a foreseeable future. For all European countries, budget constraints are compounded by the range of commitments defence budgets must cover.

American Influence on Russian Information Warfare

Bryan Nakayama

Imagine a powerful country that is interested in influencing the domestic politics of other states using information technology. Since the 1990s, this country has leveraged information technology to secretly and not-so-secretly influence the availability of information in other countries to achieve its foreign policy goals. This country even went so far as to create a fake social media service to gather data on and study the population of a long-term foe with the intent of provoking social upheaval. In response to these activities, its former chief rival declared that this powerful country was conducting information warfare and that the rival needed to rethink their strategy to account for this new way of conflict. If you are an American you will likely guess that the countries in this sketch are Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. What if I told you that the powerful country was the United States, the long-term foe was Cuba, and the former rival was Russia in the 2000s/early 2010s?

The revelation of Russian information operations against the 2016 presidential election has been viewed by some as an unprecedented act; a revelation which suggested that the United States had been playing cyberwar checkers while Russia was playing information war chess. Scholars studying the evolution of Russian cyber-enabled information operations generally argue that they are the legacy of Soviet strategic thinking and propaganda practices. However, these debates have consistently overlooked actions taken by the United States during the 2000s and early 2010s which resemble contemporary information operations and were perceived by Russia as acts of information warfare that necessitated a response. This is not to engage in whataboutery, rather, I contend that reckoning with the American influence on Russia’s perception of information warfare provides useful lessons for how we should think about the ambiguities of perception that impact information conflict. Additionally, it suggests that attempts to democratize states by influencing their information ecosystems will backfire. In the following, I’ll first provide an overview of American information operations, then describe the Russian perception of these activities, and I will conclude by describing what lessons we can draw from this episode.

Contested Multilateralism as Credible Signalling: Why the AIIB Cooperates with the World Bank

Benjamin Faude and Michal Parizek

Over the past decade, rising powers have been acting to induce institutional change in major international institutions, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) (Hopewell 2015; Vestergaard and Wade 2015). Since established powers defended the institutional status quo rather successfully, China and its partners decided more recently to establish new international institutions, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the New Development Bank and the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization Agreement. Thus, rising powers have responded to their dissatisfaction with the degree of change they have been able to effect within the existing institutional order by setting up a set of new international institutions which overlap in their competences with legacy institutions. In conceptual terms, rising powers have exercised contested multilateralism (CM) (Morse and Keohane 2014). The essence of CM is that a group of states strategically uses one international institution – existing or newly created – as an instrument to contest the governance activities of another international institution.

Contested Multilateralism as Credible Signaling

In a recently published paper, we analyze how pursuing CM impacts on the ability of states to reap joint gains through institutionalized cooperation. We conceptualize CM as embedded in institutional adjustment bargaining between defenders and challengers of a given institutional status quo (Urpelainen and Van de Graaf 2014). More precisely, we understand the exercise of CM by the challengers of the institutional status quo to be a reaction to deadlock in institutional adjustment bargaining. Our premise is that deadlock results from challengers’ inability to credibly communicate the degree to which they are resolved to challenge defenders over the institutional status quo.

The Neo-Neo Debate in Understanding the Geopolitics of Outer Space

Aleena Joseph

Outer space is developing as the next domain of Geopolitics in this century. Space exploration, which began after the 1950s initially benefitted the scientific world. Later the increased dependence on outer space by the space-faring nations, for surveillance, reconnaissance, and telecommunication purposes in one way or another increased the nation’s pride. Soon, the outer space created an impact in the field of geopolitics. With the increasing impact of outer space in geopolitics and the many theories that have been put forward by scholars like Everett Dolman and David Deudney, outer space is today considered as the next critical domain. Many International Relations theories have been explaining this developing domain of geopolitics with varying perspectives. In this point, the fact that when one considers the geopolitics of outer space, it is very evident that events in the domain can be well explained in a neo-realist perspective, where the countries are competing for power, rather than the neo-liberal perspective, where the cooperation between the countries is given more emphasis. Since outer space is considered as an evolving and dynamic domain the relevance of the neo-realism and neoliberalism debate gathers much importance. Space is an entity that can be a source of a multitude of possible interpretations that are ambiguous or incompatible, and these differing interpretations led to the development of different political interpretations. It has been argued by scholars that no genuine “debate” as such has been done in the domain, related to the theories of International Relations, except neo-realism and neo-liberalism debate; nevertheless, the idea of clearly distinct theories is analytically useful in allowing comparison of different perspectives and relating them to different policy implications.[1]

Neo-realism and neo-liberalism are the two main theoretical paradigms in International Relations. Neo-realism put forth by Kenneth Waltz argues that states deeply care about the balance of power and compete among themselves either to gain power at the expense of others or at least to make sure they do not lose power. On the other hand, the central concern of neoliberalism involves how to achieve cooperation among states and other actors in the international system. According to Keohane, he argues that “the policies followed by one government are regarded by its partners as facilitating the realization of their own objectives.” Both being state-centric, has concerns regarding the explanation of stability within an anarchical system. While neo-liberalism supports cooperation between the states through international institutions, neo-realism stands for cooperation, with relative gain between them in the international system. While neo-realist looks for power in anarchy, neo-liberals view cooperation as a key to survive in a better way and prosper in anarchy. Wendt’s statement gains much importance, as in both cases, certain roles and behaviors dominate the system at different points of time.[2] While the powerful states were focusing much on competition in outer space, alongside cooperating with other countries, with their increased technological, scientific, financial, and political capabilities, those states who thought about the practical applicability of the space activities, had a contrasting emphasis on cooperation. 

The African Union Needs to Resolve Ethiopia’s Dam Dispute

By Ola Owojori

Egypt and Sudan have threatened to withdraw from negotiations over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, which flows into the Nile River. Thus, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan all ultimately share the water of the Blue Nile, but Egypt and Sudan—both of which sit downstream from Ethiopia on the river—fear putting control of a vitally needed water supply in Ethiopia’s hands. The dispute has lasted for years, but with the livelihoods of millions depending on the project and on the smooth flow of the water, it is crucial that the African Union (AU) helps to resolve the deadlock imminently.

Negotiations involving the U.S. Treasury Department and the World Bank have failed, thanks to the perceived U.S. bias toward Egypt, a long-term ally of the United States. Even worse, the United States is now suspending aid to Ethiopia over the dam, a crude threat that worsens the odds of any resolution. But the AU can speak from an African perspective, and a relatively unbiased one. All three states are AU members, and some AU officials have a rich and nuanced understanding of the problems of the Nile Basin.

The $4.6 billion hydroelectric project, which began nearly a decade ago, is being built along the Ethiopian-Sudanese border. From the start, it was a controversial scheme, and the three Nile Basin countries have failed, despite years of negotiations, to reach a trilateral agreement. Ethiopia sees the dam as a means to drive forward its economy by improving access to electricity in a country where up to 65 percent of the population are not connected to the power grid. Egypt however, worries that Ethiopia will have too much control over the Nile, a huge risk given that up to 90 percent of Egypt’s water supply for fresh water and agriculture comes from the river. Sudan is stuck in the middle—literally. On the one hand, it welcomes the idea of Ethiopia being able to produce and supply energy, as it will mean that Sudan can buy cheap hydropower. The dam could also help to prevent floods. But on the other hand, it doesn’t want Ethiopia to become a hegemon fueled by control over the Nile.

Dubai’s Role in Facilitating Corruption and Global Illicit Financial Flows


Legal Disclaimer: The mention of any individual, company, organization, or other entity in this report does not imply the violation of any law or international agreement and should not be construed as such.


A twenty-first-century city, Dubai is a global financial center, a shopper’s paradise, and an oasis for the world’s well-to-do. While the vast majority of financial, business, and real estate transactions in Dubai are not associated with illegal activity, part of what underpins Dubai’s prosperity is a steady stream of illicit proceeds borne from corruption and crime. The wealth has helped to fuel the emirate’s booming real estate market; enrich its bankers, moneychangers, and business elites; and turn Dubai into a major gold trading hub. Meanwhile, both Emirati leaders and the international community continue to turn a blind eye to the problematic behaviors, administrative loopholes, and weak enforcement practices that make Dubai a globally attractive destination for dirty money.
Corrupt and criminal actors from around the world operate through or from Dubai.

As leaders in Washington and several other Western capitals reassess their strategies and relationships in the Gulf to reflect changing geopolitical realities, new economic imperatives, and growing divergences with regional partners on a range of policy issues, there is a fleeting opportunity to elevate and address widespread concerns about Dubai’s role in enabling global corruption and its many destabilizing effects. But doing so will require a fine understanding of why and how corruption has become such a central element of Dubai’s political economy. It will also require anticorruption practitioners to recognize that traditional—and largely punitive—policy instruments will not succeed absent a more affirmative and sustained effort by Emirati leaders to ensure that Dubai’s economy remains competitive and attractive over the long term.

How the U.S. Military is Prioritizing Great-Power Competition

by Michael O'Hanlon 

Nearly three years into the implementation of the January 2018 National Defense Strategy, developed under Secretary Jim Mattis but still prominently emphasized by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, how much impact is the renewed focus on great-power competition actually having on U.S. military priorities

One telling way to answer this question is to examine the deployment of Department of Navy assets—particularly, aircraft carrier battle groups, as well as amphibious ready groups and their associated “Marine Expeditionary Units”—to the broader Persian Gulf region. It is that Central Command region, of course, that has consumed so many American military resources and so much policymaking bandwidth for at least two decades. President Barack Obama tried to “rebalance” away from it, and more towards the Asia-Pacific region, in his presidency, and then refocused on Europe as well starting with Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014. President Donald Trump took the logic a step further with his National Security Strategy, and its clear emphasis on China and Russia. Mattis and Esper have followed suit with their Pentagon document.

But does a National Defense Strategy really tell us much about resource allocation in the U.S. Department of Defense? After all, with sixty treaty allies or close security partners around the world, the United States has many responsibilities in many theaters. Moreover, the Middle East tends to suck back even those most determined to break free of its strategic embraces.

If we look at naval deployments, then the answer to this question would seem to be yes—to a degree. There hasn’t been a radical change, but there does appear to be a modest reduction in overall U.S. naval commitments to the region.

Deterring the Dragon: Returning U.S. Forces to Taiwan

Capt. Walker D. Mills

During the Cold War, the primary objective of the U.S. military’s conventional deterrence was to prevent a Soviet invasion of Western Europe and most of the literature on conventional deterrence focused on Europe. Since then, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the expansion of the NATO alliance to include many post-Soviet states have dramatically lowered the threat of a conventional invasion of Western Europe. While there remains a risk of fait accompli actions and other malign behavior, the overall risk does not compare with the risk of invasion during the height of the Cold War. Meanwhile, the United States has “pivoted” to Asia and is primarily concerned with an aggressive and “revisionist” People’s Republic of China, also called mainland China.1 China has made it clear that it views the Republic of China (hereinafter referred as Taiwan) as its most important “core interest” and that it would use force to prevent full Taiwanese independence. Chinese leadership has also made clear that they intend to reunify Taiwan with mainland China by 2049.2 Parallel to increasingly assertive rhetoric from Chinese leadership, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has undergone a dramatic modernization and is rapidly approaching parity with U.S. forces in some areas and has surpassed U.S. forces in others like intermediate range missiles.3 Current trends including the increasingly assertive Chinese claims over Taiwan, an increasingly potent and aggressive Chinese military, and the U.S. pivot to Asia have set the stage for escalation and potential confrontation over Taiwanese sovereignty. The United States needs to recognize that its conventional deterrence against PLA action to reunify Taiwan may not continue to hold without a change in force posture. Deterrence should always be prioritized over open conflict between peer or near-peer states because of the exorbitant cost of a war between them. If the United States wants to maintain credible conventional deterrence against a PLA attack on Taiwan, it needs to consider basing troops in Taiwan.
Assessing Intentions

Assessing the intentions or redlines of foreign governments is particularly difficult, and the United States has an imperfect track record with China after major miscalculations regarding Chinese intervention in the Korean War. However, Chinese leadership has made their intention to reunify Taiwan and China by force, if necessary, unequivocally clear. They have never wavered from their “One China” policy and have been calling for PLA invasion of Taiwan since 1949.4 Since at least 1993, the PLA has held up a potential cross-strait operation as their number one strategic priority.5 Some analysts like Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes argue in the book Red Star over the Pacific that Taiwan is even more valuable to China than many Western analysts recognize in the minds of mainland leadership.

Places and Names: On War, Revolution and Returning

By John Waters

When tennis player Rafael Nadal won his twelfth French Open title in 2019, a reporter asked his coach, Uncle Toni Nadal, how the champion had maintained such a high level of intensity through a career spanning nearly 20 years. Pointing to his heart, Uncle Toni quoted Picasso. "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. It's [the same] for a painter, a sportsman, a journalist, everyone. Inspiration is good, but it's the work."

Something similar can be said of Elliot Ackerman, whose inspiration has also found him working nearly non-stop since he started publishing seven years ago. After spending almost a decade as a Marine infantry officer and paramilitary case officer in the Central Intelligence Agency, Ackerman left behind the profession of arms and began to write, first journalism and later books. His debut novel Green on Blue was published to wide acclaim in 2015, and Ackerman has published three more novels since then (Dark at the Crossing, Waiting for Eden, and Red Dress in Black and White) along with one collection of essays (Places and Names), in addition to dozens of articles and editorials for major publications. And he shows no signs of slowing down. Ackerman will publish his sixth novel, a geopolitical thriller co-written with Admiral James Stavridis in early 2021. 

What follows is our conversation about the Marine Corps, his mentors, and Ackerman’s unique approach to writing stories. 

Your career in the Marine Corps was brief but action-packed, starting from the time you were still an undergraduate at Tufts University. How did you launch so quickly?