2 November 2020

Is the Naval Blockade of the Straits of Malacca a Realistic Option for India: An Assessment

Major General PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


The Straits of Malacca is the shortest sea route between Persian Gulf suppliers of oil and key Asian markets. It links major economies such as Middle East, China, Japan, South Korea, etc. Being the 500 nautical mile funneled waterway, the Strait is only 1.5 nautical miles (2.8 km) wide at its narrowest point─ the Phillips Channel in the Singapore Strait. The Strait is not deep enough to accommodate some of the largest ships, mostly oil tankers, but it is significant as through the South China Sea it connects the Indian Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. Very often, the blockade of the Straits of Malacca for disruption of Chinese energy sources and trade is being offered as a possible Indian strategic deterrence option against China in a conflict scenario. 1 With hardly any other deterrence Continue Reading

India May Contribute 20% of Amazon’s Growth Over Next Five Years

by Ethen Kim Lieser

India is far from being a major contributor to Amazon’s international growth today, but that might soon change.

“When you think about Amazon and their growth profile, (they) just had wicked growth in the last six months,” tech investor and analyst Gene Munster, who is the founder and managing partner at Loup Ventures, recently said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

“But you think about a normalized growth profile, you think about the impact of India, this could be 15 percent to 20 percent of its growth over the next five years—India could be.”

Amazon has already announced an array of investments worth at least $6 billion in India—including a $1 billion pledge in January to help small businesses in the country of 1.4 billion people.

The e-commerce giant is hoping that by the year 2025, it will export $10 billion worth of India-made goods around the globe.

Amazon, however, must find a way to maneuver through regulatory hurdles in the South Asian nation, which could include antitrust probes.

The company did, though, receive positive news last weekend when it won an injunction from a Singaporean arbitrator to temporarily stop a deal between the two major Indian retailers Future Retail and Reliance Industries.

In August, Future Retail announced that it would be selling its businesses in retail, wholesale, and logistics to Reliance for $3.4 billion, including debt. Amazon filed a legal suit against Future Retail, saying that the retailer breached contractual agreements that were part of a separate deal with the U.S. company.

Incomplete Kaladan Project May Delay India-Myanmar Connectivity Plans

By Rajeev Bhattacharyya

Myanmar’s Sittwe port will be operationalized early next year, but its link with India’s landlocked northeast is still uncertain as vital projects are yet to be completed.

The multi-million Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project in India’s border state of Mizoram continues to suffer from delays, with the COVID-19 pandemic being the latest addition to the list of hurdles.

Owing to the pandemic, contractors have been facing hardships in assembling daily wagers for the project who are brought from other states in the country.

“Due to COVID-19, most of the daily wagers have returned to their hometowns. The two companies engaged with the construction have applied for permission for bringing the laborers. Permission has been granted but all these people would have to go through the mandatory quarantine whenever they come,” said Lawngtlai deputy commissioner Dr. Andrew H. Vanlaldika.

Lawngtlai is in south Mizoram abutting Myanmar, where a component of the project is being implemented over 99 kilometers, linking the district headquarters with Zorinpui at the border.

Currently, as many as eight bridges on the highway in Lawngtlai are yet to be completed. Work on Ruankhum bridge has not yet started as approval from the Guwahati-based Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is pending on the scheme.

Quetta Rally Marks a Turning Point in the Opposition Movement in Pakistan

By Umair Jamal

Pakistan’s opposition parties rally in Quetta, the capital of restive Balochistan province, on October 25 may have pushed the country’s political situation to a point of no return. In the Quetta rally, political leaders asked questions that have always remained a “no go area” for Pakistan’s politicians.

The opposition rallies in Gujranwala and Karachi earlier in the month may have called out the country’s military leadership for their alleged interference in domestic politics, but the rally in Quetta is an altogether different ballgame.

Two weeks ago, no one in Pakistan even imagined that the country’s mainstream political parties would head to Quetta to call out the security agencies for allegedly abducting Pakistani citizens. Moreover, no one thought that Punjab’s political leadership would use Balochistan as a platform to target the military’s rank and file.

So far, the military leadership has not responded to the opposition’s attacks. There are two reasons behind the current silence from the security establishment. First, the attack from the opposition parties was so swift that the country’s national security establishment has been caught off guard. For now, they do not appear to offer an adequate response to the opposition’s onslaught. The incident of Sindh province’s Inspector General (IG) of Police being allegedly kidnapped by the intelligence agencies on October 19 – in order to force him to issue a warrant of arrest against opposition leader Safdar Awan — may have helped put the military on the back footing. It is unprecedented that the entire police force of a province went on leave to protest their IG’s mishandling by another state institution.

Furthermore, the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s weak governance policies may have added fuel to the fire, making the military’s job more difficult. Sensing the mounting alienation of the public, the opposition has directly gone after the supporters of the current government. The opposition’s narrative has found a strong footing right from the get-go, and there appears to be no plan on the horizon on the part of the military as well as the Khan government to deal with the situation.

Mike Pompeo Visits Sri Lanka and the Maldives in a Bid to Win Friends and Influence People

By Abhijnan Rej

Less than a week before the November 3 presidential elections, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s whirlwind tour of South and Southeast Asia continues as he seeks buy in from regional powers for the Trump administration’s free and open Indo-Pacific strategy, framing the contest between China and democracies in Manichean terms.

After his two day visit to New Delhi on October 26 and 27, where he – along with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper – participated in a much-praised 2+2 defense and foreign ministers’ dialogue, Pompeo travelled to Sri Lanka on October 27, and from there on to the Maldives on October 28. The two visits to these Indian Ocean islands – entangled as they both are with China as well as India — could not be more different.

While in Colombo, Pompeo met with Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as well as Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. A State Department readout of the Pompeo-Rajapaksa simply notes, in terms of what was on the agenda, that they “discussed post-pandemic economic recovery and development and noted the benefits of long-term U.S. private sector trade and investment, which offers sustainable, transparent, and high-quality partnership.” It goes on to add that the “two leaders agreed to remain in contact on issues of mutual concern, including cooperation on counterterrorism, and the post-pandemic economic recovery.” Aside from the bizarre phrase “two leaders” – which suggests parity between a secretary of state and a foreign head of state – what was striking is the near absence of security discussions, beyond counterterrorism.

In fact, the striking difference in tone between Pompeo and Gunawardena became visible in a joint press availability in Colombo. While Gunawardena did strike a warm note toward Pompeo and the United States – and more crucially, affirmed Sri Lanka’s commitment to “maintaining the freedom of navigation in our seas and airspace, also protecting sea lines of communication and the undersea cables,” given its location in the Indian Ocean – he was pointedly oblique when asked about the possibility of greater U.S. presence in Sri Lanka and of a triangular China-Sri Lanka-U.S. dynamics.

Book Review - China: The Bubble That Never Pops

by John West

Way back in 2001, Gordon Chang wrote a book entitled "The Coming Collapse of China". And ever since, Western analysts of China have been predicting a crisis. Among the many concerns have been China's massive debt, the inefficiency of the large state-owned enterprise sector, excess capacity in a range of heavy industries, real estate ghost towns in the desert, white-elephant infrastructure, and the rapidly ageing population. In short, while economic growth rates have looked strong, they have been financed by a debt bubble.

But the Chinese bubble never pops. Indeed, if there was ever a moment for a financial crisis, it was the first quarter of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a sharp decline in China's GDP. Once again there was no sign of a Chinese bubble popping. And while many Chinese lost their jobs, there was not even a sign of social unrest, as often predicted by those who see a Faustian pact between the Chinese Communist Party and its citizens. Indeed, the Chinese economy bounced back in the second and third quarters, and it is now widely forecast to be the only large economy to record positive economic growth in 2020.

It was this paradox that inspired Thomas Orlik to write a fascinating new book, "China: The Bubble that Never Pops". Orlik, who is now Chief Economist at Bloomberg, lived in China for 11 years and has seen many Western prophets of doom at close hand.

Orlik has documented a thorough financial history of China's reform era. The first cycle was launched by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 with the initiation of reform and opening up policies. This was followed by Deng's "southern tour" in 1992 to restart reform in the wake of the Tiananmen Square incident. The next cycle was in 2001 when China joined the World Trade Organisation, and Premier Zhu Rongji implemented large reforms to the state-owned sector. The fourth cycle began after the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008/09 with China's mega fiscal stimulus.

Saudi Arabia and Normalization with Israel

Saudi Arabia is gradually changing its attitude toward Israel, laying the groundwork for a process that could culminate in full bilateral relations. Saudi Arabia's economic, religious, and political importance gives Israel an interest in achieving a normalization agreement with the kingdom, as long this would not result in the erosion of Israel's qualitative military edge (QME). Riyadh, however, has various internal and external constraints, as well as a set of particular sensitivities. For Saudi Arabia, the question of relations with Israel relates primarily to the kingdom's internal stability and regional status. It is quite possible that at the present time, full normalization with Israel is perceived as one step too far. This does not mean, however, that preparations are not underway for such an agreement, especially with regard to public opinion, which is still mostly opposed to normalization with Israel, including piecemeal measures tantamount to "creeping normalization." In any case, when considering an agreement, Saudi Arabia will presumably seek to test two principal parameters: the success and expansion of the Abraham Accords and improvement in relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Additional factors likely to encourage normalization are a US agreement to sell advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia and internal changes in the kingdom.

As part of the momentum toward peace and normalization agreements between Israel and countries in the Gulf and Africa, Saudi Arabia's economic, religious, and political importance gives Israel an interest in achieving a similar agreement with the kingdom. Riyadh, however, has various internal and external constraints, as well as a set of particular sensitivities. The price of normalization with the kingdom is likely to be higher than with the other Gulf states, and it is therefore unclear when and under what conditions Saudi Arabia will be willing to sign an agreement in the style of the Abraham Accords. This article analyzes the opportunities and challenges for the kingdom in the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and examines the significance and likelihood of such an agreement.

Imagination, Probability, and War

By Jacob Parakilas

In the 1950s, military theorists in the United States and the Soviet Union assumed that the future of war was nuclear. After all, nuclear weapons had capped the most destructive war in human history and represented exponentially more firepower than any other class of weapon ever imagined – so, why wouldn’t they figure prominently in future conflicts?

The doctrinal response was to try to insert nuclear weapons or propulsion into virtually every aspect of warfighting. In short order, one or both sides of the Cold War had tested or deployed nuclear torpedoes, artillery shells, depth charges, landmines, demolition charges — even a nuclear bazooka whose use imperiled its own crew. Nuclear propulsion was trialed successfully on surface ships and submarines and less successfully on aircraft and cruise missiles. Both fictional narratives and war plans assumed that battlefield nuclear weapons use was a given in the event of any shooting war between major powers.

It never happened. The potential for escalation, the unpredictable spread of fallout from their use, and the enormous expense of building and maintaining those weapons all combined to make tactical nukes impractical; and ultimately, precision-guided weapons proved able to complete the same missions without the massive downsides. While the nuclear arms race never left us — and in many ways is heating up again — investment and development at this stage is largely toward strategic weapons rather than battlefield ones.

Nor is that the sole example of the martial imagination failing to survive contact with reality. From the idea that armored cavalry would dominate battlefields through the advent of professionalized militaries and the longbow to the pre-WWII conception that airborne light infantry could not overwhelm static defenses, our collective imaginations of what war will look like and the realities have always diverged.

How Israel Could Destroy Drone Swarms at Sea

by Seth J. Frantzman

Israel’s need to confront threats at sea, especially amid rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, has led the country to improve its naval assets over the years. That has meant new submarine orders and a new class of Sa’ar 6 corvette. Much of Israel’s naval technology is kept under wraps by the country, lest enemies get a sense of how Israel’s multi-layered capabilities work. Israel’s defenses knit together its fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters with air, naval and ground force advances. However, some of Israel’s advances were on display at the recent Euro Naval 2020 exhibition. 

For starter’s Israel Aerospace Industries Elta subsidiary announced a collaboration with Hensoldt, a company that makes sensors in Germany. The two companies have built an Integrated Communication and Surveillance system for submarines. This is basically a mast that sits atop the submarine, like one is familiar with in movies where people look through periscopes. Today’s submarines are festooned with different communications masts and sensors, all of which make them a bit less stealthy than submariners would want their subs to be. Israel’s Elta says this new mast combines Hensoldt’s existing OMS150 mast with Elta’s SIGINT and SATCOM payloads.

The new concept of submarine warfare envisions the submarine as part of a task force, not out there listening and hunting alone. “The demand is now for submarines to perform optical surveillance capability day and night and in all weather conditions, monitor radar and communication transmissions, and intelligence gathering,” Elta’s statement said.

Afghanistan: The Peace Negotiations Have Become an Extension of War by Other Means

Anthony H. Cordesman

In one of his most famous quotes in On War, Clausewitz states that, “War is not merely a political act but a real political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of the same by other means.” Far too often, however, peace negotiations become the exact opposite: They become “A continuation of war by other means.” Some – or all sides – combine negotiating with further fighting, threats, and intimidation, or they use negotiations as a cover for different forms of active struggle.

Even seemingly successful negotiations often fail to create stable countries or to avoid further fighting. They create enough political compromises to end the current fighting, but they do not lay the groundwork for reducing the causes of conflict. They fail to create sufficiently stable and effective enough political systems, levels of security, governance, economic progress, and rule of law to avoid new forms of conflict and create a successful state.

Even when peace negotiations are not a deliberate extension of war by other means, they often fail when the end result is to create a state with so many internal stresses or unresolved issues that the “peace” becomes a prelude to new and different forms of conflict.

Peace Negotiations as a Cover for Withdrawal? The Key Goal Was Leaving by May 2021

From the start, the Afghan peace process the U.S. agreed to in February 2012, seems to have been at least as much a cover for American withdrawal as an effort to achieve a real peace. While the U.S. never stated that withdrawal was its primary goal, its February agreement did virtually nothing to define what a peace with the Taliban could or should be. It placed far more emphasis on full withdrawal in 14 months than it did on creating the conditions for successful peace negotiations.

Climate Change and Israel's National Security

Prof. Colin Price

The recent heat wave in Israel and the wildfires raging in the country in mid-October, as well as in neighboring Syria and Lebanon, serve as a stark reminder that climate change is happening now, and that its impacts are already felt in the Middle East. Given the expected frequency of heat waves, the reduction in water resources, and rising sea levels in the Middle East, Israel might well face a significant problem of regional instability, accompanied by large numbers of climate refugees at its borders. To better prepare for this dark future, Israel should incorporate climate change into its national security agenda, and integrate climate threats, domestic and abroad, in its national security assessments. Israel should consider the regional scenarios under any adaptation plan, and budget and operate accordingly.

There is clear evidence that the Earth's climate is changing, and we are leaving our "comfort zone" of the Holocene geological era that has resulted in fairly constant climatic conditions on Earth for the last 10,000 years. This is the period in which our civilizations developed around the globe, with fairly constant temperatures, regular rainfall patterns, and stable sea levels. We are now rapidly leaving the Holocene era and entering what some call the Anthropocene, a new climate era influenced by the human race. Since the industrial revolution (~1750) not only has the world population grown from less than 0.5 billion people to more than 7 billion today, but the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today is the highest they have been in at least 1 million years. It is true that the Earth has undergone past ice ages and interglacial warm periods (even warmer than today) over periods of hundreds of thousands of years, but our civilizations did not exist in those periods, and hence if we are focused on the impact on humanity, such analogies are not relevant, and even misleading.

A list of specific, actionable foreign policy ideas for the next president

Madiha Afzal, Pavel K. Baev, Richard C. Bush, Daniel L. Byman

The world is a vastly different place today than it was four years ago; so too are America’s relations with allies, adversaries, and institutions. Whoever wins next week’s presidential election will face an ongoing pandemic and the economic and social devastation it has brought, persistent conflicts in the Middle East, deeply strained relations with Europe, and a worsening climate crisis. He’ll face opportunities, too, including the chance to make highly consequential and hopefully constructive choices on China, international trade, and post-COVID recovery. He’ll have alliances that remain intact albeit frayed, and a highly capable U.S. military that has been successfully reorienting toward stronger deterrence of China and Russia.

The next president, whoever he is, will need smart, specific, actionable policy ideas at his fingertips to navigate a fraught international environment. Here, Brookings Foreign Policy experts offer 19 concrete ideas.


Pursue deeper trade ties with Taiwan.

Richard C. Bush, Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Center for East Asia Policy and the John L. Thornton China Center

The next administration should immediately begin exploratory talks with Taiwan on negotiating a bilateral trade agreement. Or, as an alternative, it should begin negotiations on a series of agreements on trade and investment that cumulatively would be the functional equivalent of a bilateral trade agreement.

The Year in Misinformation, So Far

By Kevin Roose

This has been, by any measure, a bad year for consensus reality.

First, there was President Trump’s impeachment — a divisive and emotionally charged proceeding that unleashed a torrent of lies, exaggerations and viral innuendo.

Then came the Covid-19 pandemic — an even bigger opportunity for cranks, conspiracy theorists and wishful thinkers to divide us along epistemic lines, into those who believed the experts and those who preferred to “do their own research.”

The Black Lives Matter protests this summer were a feeding frenzy for those looking to distort and reframe the narrative about police violence and racial justice.

And while election years are always busy times for fact-checkers, Mr. Trump’s fusillade of falsehoods about voter fraud, Spygate and Hunter Biden’s emails this year has resulted in a bigger challenge for those charged with separating truth from fiction.

Zignal Labs, a firm that tracks online misinformation, analyzed which major news topics in 2020 were most likely to generate misinformation. Its data, which draws from sources including social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Reddit, as well as newspapers and broadcast TV transcripts, isn’t an exact accounting of every single piece of misinformation out there. But it’s a rough gauge of which topics are most frequently used as vehicles for misinformation, by those looking to inject confusion and chaos into media narratives.

(Quick methodological note: These “misinformation mentions” are limited to topics related to either the election or the Covid-19 pandemic, and are calculated by Zignal’s automated system based on the number of mentions of a given term along with a term that is frequently associated with misinformation. So, for example, a post that mentions vaccines in the context of Covid-19 would not be counted as a misinformation mention, but a post that mentions vaccines along with a hashtag like #FauciTheFraud or a name like Bill Gates — a frequent target of anti-vaccine activists — would be counted, even if the underlying story was debunking such a false claim.)

The US must not lose the cyberwar with Russia


Russia’s reported interference in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections is child’s play compared to its ability to upend our transportation, energy, financial and communication systems and bring life to a halt. Should this trend continue, Russia could become the dominant force on the world stage, despite its small army and an economy smaller than Italy’s. The U.S. had better wake up.

The U.S. won the Cold War against the Soviet bloc in1990 but is losing the cyberwar. The 1990s economic restructuring humiliated Russia and impoverished many of its citizens, thanks to U.S. demands that it quickly privatize its state enterprises. Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, a spy himself, Russia chose to deploy low-cost, high-impact digital weapons against the U.S. and other countries in order to reclaim its role on the world stage. 

Any country with decent internet expertise can readily develop and deploy digital power in cyberwars. Examples include China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Israel. In such a war there is no need for a big defense budget, or a big army, and there is no need to stockpile arms. Furthermore, cyberwar technology advantage can augment a country’s conventional arms by, for example, providing it with early warning of an imminent attack. 

The goals and tactics of cyberwars are not different from those of the Cold War’s. Even the main players stayed the same: Russia and the U.S., or more generally East and West blocs.

Russia has the relative advantage in this ongoing war between the two blocs. Its conventional army weak, Russia can deploy its internet technology and use big data and numerous social media platforms to attack the U.S. in broad daylight. Russia can target any political candidate, party and voter group and influence their behavior more accurately than a sharp-shooter. And it could wreck havoc on the U.S. financial, transportation, health and energy systems and bring American lives to a halt. 

China’s Next “5-Year Plan” Likely to Increase Animosity Between Washington and Beijing

Riley Walters, Dean Cheng


The Chinese Communist Party’s leadership will meet this week to formalize its plans for the next five years (2021-2025).

Like previous plans, the 14th five-year plan will draw criticism from world leaders and continue to drive a wedge between Washington and Beijing.

China’s five-year plans, while not always accurate or practical, give China watchers a look at Beijing’s priorities for the next few years.

The Chinese Communist Party’s leadership will meet this week to formalize its plans for the next five years (2021-2025). This will be the 14th “five-year plan” created by the Communist Party Congress, and is likely be adopted early next year. These five year plans play a central role in Chinese economic and broader policy planning, as they provide resources and policy direction across the Chinese bureaucracy for the next half decade.

Like previous plans, the 14th five-year plan will draw criticism from world leaders and continue to drive a wedge between Washington and Beijing.

China’s five-year plans provide observers with a sense of priorities and focus for key strategic missions. For example, Chinese military developments ranging from modernization goals to doctrinal shifts tend to occur within the framework of the five-year plan. Chinese military commenters have said that the “initial phase” of Chinese military reform will be completed by 2020, therefore, we would expect a new set of reforms and shifts to occur in the 2021-2025 timeframe.

Suga in Southeast Asia: Japan's Emergence as a Regional Security Hub

Michael J. Green, Gregory B. Poling
Source Link

Japan’s Yoshihide Suga made his first overseas trip as prime minister last week. He did not travel to Washington, as his predecessor Shinzo Abe had, but instead spent two days each in Hanoi and Jakarta. There was a time when U.S. policymakers would have fretted about the “Asianization” of Japan’s foreign policy and Japanese pundits would have pointed to Suga’s trip as evidence of “datsu-Bei, nyu-A” (distancing from the United States and entering Asia). But today, Suga’s visit is another reminder that the traditional U.S. “hub-and-spokes” alliance system is transforming for the better.

Rather than “choosing” Asia over the alliance with the United States, Japan is reinforcing the free and open Indo-Pacific vision championed by both Washington and Tokyo. Former secretary of state James Baker worried about this scenario in the early 1990s, when he called for a continuation of the security architecture in which the United States was the hub and Japan and other allies were the “spokes” in the region. But with the shifting balance of power and Beijing’s growing ambitions, security now requires that key allies like Japan become “hubs” themselves within the region’s emerging security architecture. And Suga’s visit to Southeast Asia advances that strategy.

Suga met with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc on October 19 and signed pacts across a range of issues. But the most important were probably those related to a burgeoning security partnership. Under the Abe government, Tokyo undertook ship visits, low-level joint training, and the provision of coast guard patrol vessels and other platforms to Vietnam. But it avoided transferring explicitly military platforms. That is set to change under a new equipment transfer agreement signed during Suga’s visit. The Japanese prime minister declared the new deal “a major step” in the relationship and declared, “Vietnam is crucial to achieving our vision of ‘the Free and Open Indo-Pacific.’” Neither leader mentioned China, but Beijing’s growing use of coercive tools against neighboring states—including both Japan and Vietnam—provided a subtext to the entire visit.

What Can Taiwan’s Semiconductor Industry Learn From Japan?

By Gary Xie and Sophie Grant

On the surface, Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is extremely successful. Its champion, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), alone holds 51.9 percent of the world’s foundry market, dwarfing the 18.8 percent of Samsung, the runner-up. But beneath the surface, Taiwan’s semiconductor industry faces challenges that will require major restructuring if it wishes to maintain its competitive edge in the crowded global market. This is where the Japanese experience may prove a valuable lesson.

In 1971, fearing that Japan had too many computer makers to counter American computer giant IBM’s introduction of its 370 series mainframe computers, Japan’s powerful Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) forced the reorganization of six Japanese computer manufacturers into three pairings: Hitachi-Fujitsu, Nippon Electric-Toshiba, and Mitsubishi Electric-Oki Electric. The goal was to reduce competition among domestic computer manufacturers, giving them more market power and consequently more profits to invest in research. This decision reflects a long-standing obsession with the concept of “excessive competition” in Japan, a phenomenon that has implications for Taiwan’s semiconductor industry today.

Kato Kyoso

The Japanese concept of kato kyoso, literally translated as “excessive competition,” was important in guiding Japan’s rapid post-war growth. Healthy competition is an integral feature of a market-driven economy. However, post-war Japan’s MITI found that too much competition among manufacturing firms in global markets resulted in consistently lower levels of profitability than counterparts in other countries such as the United States and Britain, which did not possess as many domestic enterprises competing in the same industry as Japan.

Under Trump, the US Strategy for Countering China Is Mimicking China

By Andreea Brînză

More than 70 years ago, when the United States was facing the threat of Soviet Communism, George Kennan advised the U.S. to be the best it can be, in order to attract other countries into the democratic sphere and make democracy the most coveted political system. Today, the United States under Donald Trump seems happy to ignore that advice. It is engaged more and more in replicating the methods and propaganda of the Chinese government than in promoting democratic alternatives.

All started when, after years of criticizing the Belt and Road Initiative’s wave of Memoranda of Understating (MoUs), in 2019, the United States started its own wave of MoUs, but targeting Huawei (without explicitly mentioning it). Over the past year, the U.S. has signed this type of MoU with almost all the 17+1 countries (the 17+1 is a Chinese mechanism of dialogue between China and 17 countries from the Central and Eastern Europe). With every MoU signed, the United States scored a success in the CEE region – a region perceived by some American experts as being under Chinese influence. Even Serbia, a state sometimes described as a Chinese client state, recently joined the club. But, unlike the other CEE countries, Serbia didn’t sign the standard MoU targeting Huawei; instead a clause targeting “untrusted vendors” was added into an MoU signed between Serbia and Kosovo and mediated by the United States.

Above and beyond the MOUs, the United States has been copying China’s 17+1 mechanism through the Three Seas Initiative. While this forum was started as a regional initiative for 12 European Union countries between the Baltic Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and the Black Sea, the U.S. has been more and more involved since 2017. As of late, Washington has even begun to promote the initiative as an alternative to China’s 17+1. In a letter to Albania’s prime minister, Donald Trump said very bluntly that “I am also pleased by Albania’s strong role in the Three Seas Initiative – a transparent, market-based, and fair alternative to China’s 17+1 format, which I urge you to exit.” Keep in mind that Albania is not in the Three Seas Initiative, as it is not an EU member state. It seems the United States is eager to replicate China’s 17+1 blunder.

In the meantime, at the geoeconomic level, the United States under Donald Trump started assimilating Chinese behaviors too. One of the first visible steps was taken when Trump forced Google, Intel, and other U.S. and non-U.S. tech companies to go against demand, contracts, and the free market and stop selling products to Huawei. In other words, the Trump administration used these American private companies in the same way it is afraid China would use Huawei and other Chinese companies: as tools to advance the government’s interests and gain geopolitical advantages.

Google's Nightmare: Is Apple Preparing to Launch Its Own Search Engine?

by Stephen Silver

In recent weeks, a couple of developments have brought attention to Google’s search engine, and its dominant position. The Department of Justice and eleven state attorneys general, on Oct. 20, brought a lawsuit against Google, in order to “stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets and to remedy the competitive harms.” 

The DOJ compared this effort to high-profile actions that were taken against AT&T, starting in the early 1970s, and against Microsoft, in the 1990s, in using the Sherman Act to go after high-profile companies. 

Among Googles alleged misdeeds, per the DOJ, is that the company has entered into “long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default—and de facto exclusive—general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools.” The New York Times recently put the annual amount of money Google pays Apple annually for that exclusive right at between $8 billion and $12 billion. DOJ compared that to deals made by Microsoft, in the 1990s, which was at the crux of the government’s case against that company in the 1990s.

Now, there are reports that Apple, in the event that they are forced out of that arrangement, could be taking steps to launch a search engine of its own, to compete with that of Google.

Artificial Intelligence Cold War on the horizon


The United States is the world’s leading force in artificial intelligence (AI), for now, but China is rapidly catching up making partnerships among democracies critical to staying ahead of China’s capabilities. Alongside those competitive and security tensions, the world lacks a common rulebook for the ethical use of AI.

Speaking at a POLITICO AI Summit on Thursday, Eric Schmidt, chairman of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and former CEO at Google, said the U.S. urgently needs a national AI strategy based on the principle of "whatever it takes." Schmidt said Americans could not relax on AI issues because even consumer AI innovations have the potential to be “used for cyber war” in ways that aren’t always evident or anticipated. Schmidt has previously warned against "high tech authoritarianism."

While the U.S. has lacked central organizing of its AI, it has an advantage in its flexible tech industry, said Nand Mulchandani, the acting director of the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. Mulchandani is skeptical of China’s efforts at “civil-military fusion,” saying that governments are rarely able to direct early stage technology development.

Tensions over how to accelerate AI are driven by the prospect of a tech cold war between the U.S. and China, amid improving Chinese innovation and access to both capital and top foreign researchers. “They’ve learned by studying our playbook,” said Elsa B. Kania of the Center for a New American Security.

Securing Cyberspace

Michael Nelson, George Perkovich

Traditional approaches to governing have never gotten a handle on cyberspace. There are too many actors and there is too much information, from too many sources, moving too quickly across too many jurisdictions. Bad actors further compound the problem, and discord among the big powers prevents the international community from cooperating effectively.

Although most software and digital infrastructure is commercially owned and operated, technology companies lack the legitimacy, breadth of interests, and public policy impulse to make life online safer and more civil. It’s not enough to have Facebook rules, or Google rules, or Alibaba and Huawei rules. And it certainly won’t help if bureaucrats in Beijing, Brussels, or Washington try to divide and conquer the digital political economy, pushing the rest of the world into one bloc or another.

Technology companies lack the legitimacy, breadth of interests, and public policy impulse to make life online safer and more civil.

It’s clear a new approach is needed. Strengthening cyber civilization will require hybrid strategies that channel the inventiveness of market forces to further security, development, human rights, and rational discourse.

Because scaled technology can produce and deliver goods and services that people want and profit from, its inventors and distributors must be involved in setting rules and standards, lest regulation unduly or inadvertently stifle business. Conversely, governments must demand more of firms that might otherwise view social harms as irrelevant externalities on their paths to quashing competition and maximizing profit.

The U.S. Air Force Has One Word on Its Mind: Drones

by Kris Osborn

The Air Force not only wants more drones, but multi-functional drones able to pursue a wider range of missions from a single platform such as logistical operations, personnel recovery, surveillance and attack.

“When you start looking at the different platforms and mission areas, we have strike and ISR but less on logistics. If you are able to build a UAS system that has mixed capability you will have flexibility to move forward,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown told The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in a special video interview. 

The Air Force Reaper, for instance, can very successfully conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions and also increasingly fire a wide range of weapons. The Air Force is even developing the Reaper, and its future replacement, with more weapons including lasers, new air-dropped bombs and air-to-air weapons as well. The Reaper can perform reconnaissance and attack missions, but can it do logistics? 

What about Brown’s comment that unmanned aircraft are needed for supply and logistics missions in high-risk areas while under enemy fire? At the moment, manned C-130s perform much of the air-dropping of supplies in so-called “hotzones.” While this has proven successful, it is an extremely high risk, raising the question as to whether cargo-carrying drone aircraft could perform the mission just as successfully. There is, of course, a need for forward combat troops to have food, water, equipment, fuel and of course ammunition. So, what if a large, heavy-lift flying drone were able to deliver combat-crucial supplies? 

How Fast Can the U.S. Military Build Hypersonic Weapons?

by Kris Osborn

The Pentagon wants to build hypersonic weapons quickly and in large numbers.

Senior Department of Defense weapons developers made it clear that the U.S. military services do not just seek to prototype hypersonic weapons, but that they want very large numbers of them battlefield-ready.

This dual-pronged goal explains the rationale for the Pentagon move to stand up a new University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics designed to streamline testing, research, innovation, weapons development and acquisition into a sharp, laser-focused, high-speed operation. Run by Texas A&M, the consortium is moving quickly to award up to $20 million in funding for as many as twenty-six project solicitations, Dr. Gillian Bussey, Director of the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office, told reporters according to a Pentagon transcript of the event. 

How fast will large numbers of new hypersonic weapons arrive ready for war? That remains a bit of a mystery but the answer is within a few years. That being said, Pentagon leaders emphasized that there is a broad boundary or goal time of 2028 as a point at which to have many war-ready hypersonics. 

“We’re looking to deliver real capabilities in just a handful of years. We don’t say exactly when because we’ve got peer competitors who are carefully monitoring what we’re doing. We do believe that we are in a bit of a race right now,” said Dr. Mark Lewis, Director Of Defense Research And Engineering For Modernization.

Lewis explained that the Pentagon effort encompasses a wide-range of hypersonic weapons applications, depending upon the pace at which new technical innovations arrive, mature and become operational. 

Conventional-Nuclear Integration in the Next National Defense Strategy

By John K. Warden

The Bottom Line

The next National Defense Strategy (NDS) should prioritize conventional-nuclear integration so that:

U.S. defense and nuclear policies give precedence to deterring limited adversary aggression that is backed by threats of escalation, including across the nuclear threshold.

Deliberate combatant command plans are designed to achieve U.S. objectives while minimizing the risk of nuclear escalation.

Combatant commands have adaptive planning capabilities and procedures to develop courses of action that will achieve U.S. objectives should the adversary employ nuclear weapons.

The Joint Force is prepared to conduct operations under threat of adversary nuclear employment, and if necessary, in a nuclear environment.

The best mix of U.S. nuclear, non-nuclear, and dual-use capabilities are fielded to deter conflict and escalation.


Many of the challenges that will confront the next NDS relate to new military technologies, ranging from maneuvering hypersonic-speed missiles to artificial intelligence and machine learning. It is just as important for the strategy to account for how major power adversaries may rely on a proven technology—nuclear weapons—to advance their interests in a conflict with the United States and its allies. For too long, the trend was to treat nuclear weapons issues as a bolted-on annex of U.S. defense planning. But now that U.S. defense strategy has recentered on preparing for high-intensity conflict with nuclear-armed adversaries, the next NDS must build on the limited progress that has been made to integrate conventional and nuclear strategy, planning, doctrine, and capabilities.

U.S. Military Forces in FY 2021: Army

Mark F. Cancian
Source Link

This is part of the CSIS series U.S. Military Forces in FY2021. The U.S. Army plans slow expansion through FY 2025, but a constrained budget environment will force it to choose between maintaining the units it has and building new kinds of structures. With modernization, the Army has increased production of proven systems and shifted billions into development of high-priority programs to prepare the Army for great power conflict.

Key Takeaways

After a dip in personnel strength in FY 2019, both regular and reserve components have recovered. FY 2021 targets include: regular Army, 485,900; Guard, 336,500; and Army Reserve, 189,800.

The regular Army and Army Guard project small increases through FY 2025; the Army Reserve will stay essentially level. This represents a substantial reduction to earlier growth plans, but probably the most expansion that can be done in the current budget and security environment.

New air and missile defense units are entering the force. Security Force Advisory Brigades continue despite their focus on stability operations. Other new kinds of units, such as the widely discussed multidomain brigades, remain mostly conceptual.

The active-reserve mix has stabilized at 52 percent Guard/Reserve, 48 percent active. There is now less tension between regular Army and its reserve components as a result of closer consultations, higher overall budgets, and shared recruitment challenges.

The Leaky Pipeline

Dr. Naazneen H. Barma

The last decade has brought a series of welcome initiatives to amplify, bolster, and expand the diversity of voices in the national security sphere—including the Leadership Council for Women in National Security, the Diversity in National Security Network, Out in National Security, and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security. What each of these seeks to redress is the simple fact that a paucity of diverse voices in the national security spaces results in poorer national security dialogue and practice. There is a normative imperative: our national security professional cadre should represent us and the diversity of identities that comprise this country; it is the right thing to do. And the goal is also instrumental: bringing the wealth of a wider range of lived experiences into national security policy formulation does improve the process; it is the effective thing to do.

A crucial part of the challenge of achieving better representation in national security lies in the pipeline that runs through academia and into the policy-making sphere. Whether we are talking about those who undertake graduate education in order to pursue national security careers or about emerging scholars who want to make a career of studying and informing national security, the pipeline leaks diverse voices all along the way.

The “leaky pipeline” metaphor encapsulates therecognition that, at various steps along the way, structural sexism and racism in the academy and in our society lead women, people of color, and other under-represented and historically marginalized groups to leave what could have been successful and influential careers—in this case, in national security academia and policy. In any starting cohort of graduate students interested in pursuing such a career, some will be discouraged at the outset by blatant bias—the false message that minorities cannot contribute meaningfully and will not have successful policy careers. Others will feel the sting of the more subtle yet incessant signals sent to them over the course of their academic careers: such as a lack of representation in the classroom (in terms of both faculty and other students) and such a high degree of gender bias in curricula that only one in five required readings in core international relations graduate seminars are written by women.