8 November 2020

India Does Not Follow ‘Arthashastra’ in Its Foreign Policy

By Krzysztof Iwanek

New Delhi’s foriegn policy strategy is inspired by Kautilya, while the Chinese are inspired by Sun Tzu – we read such sentences often. And the more they are written, the more shallow and less useful they become. It is very easy to claim, but how does one actually prove that today’s decision-makers have their source of inspiration in a treatise written in ancient times when technology, warfare, and state administration were so vastly different from what they are now?

Kautilya is believed to be an author of a fascinating ancient Sanskrit treatise on statecraft, “Arthashastra.” Let’s leave aside academic deliberations on when exactly the work was composed, whether it was written by one author or many, and whether the author’s name was Kautilya, Chanakya, or Vishnugupta. While such discussions are important to understand history, what concerns us here is that many claim that “Arthashastra” remains an inspiration for Indian foreign policy even today.

Let me be brutally honest: In its crude form, this belief often signals intellectual laziness, an attempt by the author to appear versatile without reading much, and to summarize complex processes with a short, suggestive maxim. Thus, “India follows Kautilya while China follows Sun Tzu” stands next to such hot takes as “Chinese play Go while Indians play chess.” While attractive on the surface, these statements fail to explain anything in depth when we try to apply them in order to understand contemporary national behavior. 

The Quadruple Threat: North Korea, China, Pakistan, and Iran

By Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The vast, uninterrupted territory that contains North Korea, China, Pakistan, and Iran has greater geostrategic importance today than ever before. Of the two outermost countries of that territory, an anonymous senior US administration official recently said that “Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation in the framework of a project on long-range missiles that includes the transfer of core components.”

On September 8, 2020, a meeting took place between Chairman of National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian Parliament Mojtaba Zolnouri and North Korean Ambassador to Iran Han Sung-joo. The meeting was held to discuss the launch of financial and barter networks between the two countries. US Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams responded by saying, “We are very concerned about Iran‘s cooperation with North Korea. …We will be watching the cooperation with North Korea very carefully and doing what we can to prevent it.”

A senior US administration official who preferred to remain anonymous recently said that “Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation in the framework of a project on long-range missiles that includes the transfer of core components,” a venture that is subject to interpretation. A “transfer of core components” might well extend beyond items related to solely conventional warhead-carrying missiles. No matter what it will in fact entail, the transfer will likely be insufficiently monitored due to the parties’ ability to make untraceable transfers on land across their contiguous territories. Aerial non-commercial transportation flights along the same uninterrupted corridor are also not easily monitored.

The other two countries in the contiguous nexus, China and Pakistan, are not likely to interfere. On the contrary: they are essential parts of the complex.

Enemy Attacks Rose Sharply in Run-up to Intra-Afghan Negotiations: Report

By Catherine Putz

Another quarter, another quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). As usual the report is big and contains myriad sections detailing the state of the oversight mission tasked to SIGAR within the context of the state of war.

As of the end of fiscal year 2020 (which ran from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020), appropriations for reconstruction and related activities in Afghanistan since 2002 had reached $141.24 billion. According to SIGAR, citing the U.S. Defense Department’s June 30 Cost of War Report, the Pentagon’s “cumulative obligations for Afghanistan, including U.S. warfighting and reconstruction, had reached $805.8 billion.”

One statistic highlighted in the report which is sure to get attention is this: According to U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A), average daily enemy-initiated attacks in the country were 50 percent higher in the July-September 2020 quarter than in the previous quarter. The military also, SIGAR notes, characterized overall enemy-initiated attacks in the most recent quarter as “above seasonal norms.”

That may be true for natural seasons, but negotiation season hardly adheres to the laws of nature.

The Sovereigns of Thailand and the Skies

Edoardo Siani

Last Thursday, a transgender protester wearing the traditional garb of a queen strutted down a red carpet in a street of central Bangkok. Another protester dressed like a court page — with sneakers — followed her, holding a red umbrella aloft in the style of a royal parasol. A crowd sat on the ground, prostrate, eyes cast down, as is required in the presence of royalty.

For centuries, the kings and queens of Thailand have walked under parasols that are color-coded astrologically. Every planet is associated with both a color and a day of the week, and Thai royals have parasols in the color that represents the day on which they were born.

This symbolism is just one of the means by which the monarchy presents its legitimacy as celestial, its mandate as divine. The state promotes various stories and narratives celebrating Thailand’s monarchs as demigods or Buddhas-to-be.

But now all that symbolism is being co-opted by the people. For several months, protesters have held marches and rallies calling for a new Constitution; for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former general who seized power in a coup in 2014, to step down; and, more radically, for the monarchy to “truly,” as protesters say, come under the law.

Australian Import Bans Show the Sharp Edge of China’s Economic Power

By Sebastian Strangio

In the same week that China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to promote “an open world economy” in a speech at an international trade expo, his government declared a raft of punitive restrictions on imports from Australia.

As my colleagues at The Diplomat have noted, China this week ordered traders to stop purchasing at least seven categories of Australian commodities: coal, barley, copper ore and concentrate, sugar, timber, wine and lobster. The government has ordered the halt to begin on November 6, with the South China Morning Post reporting that a ban on Australian wheat is likely to follow.

The reports confirmed fears that emerged last weekend, when tons of live lobsters from Australia were unexpectedly stranded at Chinese airports while waiting to be inspected by customs officials. This came shortly after Beijing imposed tariffs on Australian barley imports, and said it would block imports of timber from the state of Queensland due to pests.

The restrictions are set to deal a multibillion dollar blow to an economy that is already grappling with COVID-19-induced economic recession, its first in three decades. Iron ore, Australia’s biggest export to China, has reportedly been excluded from the import freeze.

Xi Sells China as ‘Market for the World,’ But Concerns Linger

By Shannon Tiezzi

On November 4, as the United States’ presidential election drama stretched into a second day, China’s president was speaking, via video, at the opening of an import expo. In a keynote address at the third annual China International Import Expo, President Xi Jinping tried to reassure the world that his government’s new focus on self-reliance and boosting domestic consumption will not disadvantage foreign firms.

The CIIE was a showcase for the Chinese economy, one of the first to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Certainly the mere fact that China held an international event, with reportedly over 500,000 registered participants, right now is a testament to the government’s confidence in its pandemic management. More broadly, however, China is among the only major economies projected to grow in 2020, with the IMF and World Bank both predicting growth of around 2 percent. Speaking to the CIIE, Xi sought to make the most of the opportunity to convince foreign companies that China is their best bet for growth as well.

However, Xi’s task is made a bit harder by his government’s new focus on “dual circulation,” which prioritizes the “domestic cycle” of internal consumption and production over the “foreign cycle” of international trade. The two are supposed to complement each other, but it is no secret that China is aiming to prioritize the former. That much was made clear in the communique issued after an important Party plenum in late October. The same communique also reiterated China’s focus on becoming “self-reliant” in science and technology, another worrying point for foreign firms in those sectors.

Less than a week after the communique was issued, however, Xi pivoted to trying to reassure foreign companies (and governments) about China’s commitment to continued “reform and opening” – which also figured in the communique, although less prominently. The CIIE, Xi proclaimed in his speech, “demonstrates China’s sincere desire to share its market opportunities with the world and contribute to global economic recovery.”

China's H-20 Stealth Bomber Has a Strike Range Over 5,000 Miles. Problem?

by Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need to Know: The H-20 could be a gamechanger for Beijing.

While waiting for large numbers of its emerging H-20 bomber to arrive, China has been consistently upgrading its legacy Xian H-6 bomber to a degree that continues to generate U.S. concern.

The H-6, which can be traced as far back as to the Cold War era Tu-16 strategic heavy bomber, is mentioned thirty-three times in the Pentagon’s 2020 China Military Power report, according to a report from Flightglobal.

The report says the H-6 will likely fly into the 2030s, by virtue of an ongoing series of significant upgrades. Newer K, J, and N variants of the aircraft are powered by two more efficient Soloviev D-30 turbofan engines.

“With much larger engine inlets to accommodate the upgraded powerplant, the K, J and N variants dispense with the original glass nose of the Tu-16 and H-6, replacing it with a solid nose housing for a passive electronically scanned array or, potentially, an active electronically scanned array radar. It also has an electro-optical/infrared turret under the fuselage. The tail gunner’s station found on previous iterations makes way for a fully enclosed tail,” the Flightglobal report says.

China to modernize military, arsenal in next 5 years

By Liu Xuanzun and Leng Shumei 

China will develop and produce modern, advanced weapons and equipment in the upcoming five years, as the world could witness the debut of China's first long-range, stealth-capable strategic bomber, the country's third and electromagnetic catapults-equipped aircraft carrier, among other new weapons that aim to safeguard the country's sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests, Chinese military experts and analysts predicted on Monday, after China's recently released 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and the Communiqué of the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) set the tone for the development of the country's national defense and armed forces.

The roadmap is in line with China's overall national strength and the urgent needs of national defense brought by the likes of hegemonies, power politics and regional instabilities in other parts of the world when China is having more development interests overseas, analysts said.

The plenary session made "making significant strides in the modernization of national defense and armed forces in the next five years" one of the main goals for the development of the economy and society in the 14th Five-Year Plan, and stressed that the development of the economy should go side by side with the strengthening of the military.

Among others, it is arranged in the 14th Five-Year Plan that the military should be enhanced by technologies, the integrated development of mechanization, informatization and intelligentization should be accelerated, key and innovative fields should develop in a coordinated way, and the layout for national defense and technology industry should be optimized.

China shocked to discover the developed world views it in a negative light


China, the only major economy with positive growth this year, is apparently shocked to discover that the developed world, instead of admiring its rapid recovery, judges that it handled the coronavirus epidemic poorly and views it much more negatively now than in the past, a 14-country survey shows.

“Unfavorable opinion has soared over the past year,” the Pew Research Center reported of its survey. The 14 countries spanned the world, from Canada in the north to Australia in the south, including most of the world’s richest countries.

In each country, a majority holds an unfavorable opinion of China. And in nine — Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada — negative views have reached their highest points since Pew began polling on this topic more than a decade ago.

One explanation for China’s negative image, offered by the nationalistic tabloid Global Times, is “sour grapes.”

A more likely one is that China’s chickens have come home to roost. In January, after Wuhan was stricken, quite a few countries responded to China’s appeal for help by sending face masks and other supplies. Beijing asked them not to publicize their donations so that it would not lose face.

But not much later, the virus spread beyond China’s borders and countries that had sent aid to China themselves faced critical shortages. Beijing then relished the role of benefactor, sending — in many cases selling — needed supplies, some of which were defective.

China’s Fifth Plenum: Old Goals and Shifting Priorities

By Tristan Kenderdine

China’s fifth plenum communique has all the hallmarks of retro Soviet oratory combined with all the future path-dependencies of the Amstrad computer. While innovation in science and technology goals remain important, critical policy areas are being downgraded or ignored as the planning stages of the 14th Five-Year Plan near completion. This communique and the proto-14th Five-Year Plan that it presages highlight a continuation of regressive economic policy, not a bold leap into an innovation-led future.

Much analysis has focused on the prominent position of innovation in science and technology policy in the communique. But innovation was already the highest policy priority area in 2016’s 13th Five-Year Plan. More important than the continuation of innovation as the highest policy priority are the higher position of manufacturing, the lower position of rural reform and a shift in rhetoric from “opening up” to “international cooperation.”

Plenums are annual meetings of the full Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). There are seven plenums in a five-year administrative term, the most important being the Third, Fourth and Fifth Plenums. The Third Plenum is the administration’s first attempt to really set its policy agenda, so its communique normally has the most practical policy measures. The Fourth Plenum is mostly concerned with party-building, ideology and governance matters – providing the internal party renewal that elections would in a democratic system. The Fifth Plenum is mostly an analysis of the previous five-year plan and sets the policy blueprint for the coming plan.

“Helmsman” Xi Jinping primed to rule at least until the early 2030s

By: Willy Wo-Lap Lam


The Fifth Plenary Session of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee, which took place from October 26 – 29, has elevated the status of President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping to that of Helmsman, a title once reserved only for the late Chairman Mao Zedong. [1] Strong signals were also sent that the Central Committee—comprised of 198 full and 166 alternate members—supported the 67-year-old supreme leader’s desire to continue exercising power for an additional ten years or more.

During the session, the Central Committee passed the main points of the 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the 2035 Long-Range Objectives (中共中央关于制定国民经济和社会发展第⼗四个五年规划和⼆〇三五年远景⽬标的建议, ZhongGong Zhongyang Guanyu Zhiding Guomin Jingji He Shehui Fazhan Di Shisi Ge Wunian Guihua He ErLingSanWu Nian Yuanjing Mubiao De Jianyi). These can be understood as a general and detailed outline of the 14th FYP. The actual plan, including specific, quantifiable targets for economic development, will likely be published sometime in March.

A communiqué summarizing the four-day plenum, released on October 29, underscored the fact that the party and country’s policies and objectives would closely abide by “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for the New Era” (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想,Xi Jinping Xin Shidai Zhongguo Tese Shehui Zhuyi Sixiang). The communiqué noted that, “Experience has repeatedly indicated that with comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the “central party authorities” (中央, Zhongyang) and with the core of the party being the “navigator and helmsman” (领航掌舵, linghang zhangduo) … we can definitely win over various difficulties and impediments on the road ahead” (Xinhua, October 29; Cpc.people.com.cn, October 29).

Evaluating the Utility of Global Data Collection by Chinese Firms for Targeted Propaganda

By: Devin Thorne


A series of media leaks in recent months have put a spotlight on Chinese firms engaged in global social media data collection—one of several prerequisites to realizing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s vision of a data-driven propaganda apparatus (China Brief, May 15). [1] In August and September, Western media outlets reported on such data collection efforts, to include: documents reportedly hacked from three Chinese firms that suggest those companies conduct social media monitoring and data collection for People’s Republic of China (PRC) security organs; and a reported database that allegedly contained identifying information, social media accounts, and personal history profiles for more than 2 million individuals, including American, Australian, and European politicians, military personnel, academics, and business executives. [2]

This article seeks to contextualize bulk social media data collection in relation to the CCP’s goals for future propaganda work, and to evaluate Chinese firms’ ability to exploit bulk data for actionable insight. To do this, the author investigated the outputs of a particular Chinese company active in this space: TRS Information Technology Company Ltd. (北京拓尔思信息技术股份有限公司, Beijing Tuoer Si Xinxi Jishu Gufen Youxian Gongsi). [3]

Bulk Data Collection in Context

Systematically accessing the opinions, interests, and behavior of social media users both in China and abroad is critical to the future of the CCP’s “public opinion guidance” (舆论引导, yulun yindao) work. The Party hopes to create an early warning system by monitoring public opinion and sentiment to pre-empt the destabilizing effects of so-called “black swan” or “gray rhino” events (China Brief, February 20, 2019; China Brief, May 15). The CCP’s other stated goals for China’s future propaganda work, which include automated content creation and targeted distribution capabilities, likewise demand broad access to online behavioral data (China Brief, May 15). Plans for the application of such an agile, responsive propaganda apparatus are not limited to China’s borders: this system will also be critical to ensuring that the CCP can “improve [its] ability to engage in international communication so as to tell China’s stories well, make the voice of China heard, and present a true, multi-dimensional, and panoramic view of China to the world” (Xinhua, August 22, 2018).

Rethinking the “Quad” Security Concept in the Face of a Rising China

By: Rajaram Panda


On October 19, it was announced that Australia would be joining India, Japan, and the United States in the 2020 Malabar Exercises for the first time since 2017. The 2020 Malabar Exercises are anticipated to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea later this year (Press Information Bureau (India), October 19). The announcement of Australia’s participation followed recent high-level meetings in Tokyo between the foreign ministers of the four countries, and signalled a renewed strengthening of the Quadrilateral Initiative (aka “Quad”) security framework—which is aimed at advancing a “free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” and “preserving and promoting the rules-based order in the region” (U.S. State Department, May 31, 2019).

The Quad concept was initially spearheaded in 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan), August 22, 2007), and paralleled the start of the 2007 Malabar Exercises, which were conducted in the Bay of Bengal and involved a record participating 25 vessels from India, the United States, Japan, Australia, and Singapore. However, support for the new alliance system rapidly waned almost as quickly as it had begun, and the Quad framework quickly fell into disuse—largely overshadowed by other regional trilateral agreements—until it was resurrected in 2017 in response to concerns over a more assertive People’s Republic of China (PRC) under the leadership of Xi Jinping. Beijing has viewed the Quad negatively from the start, lodging diplomatic complaints with all four participating nations almost immediately after its founding and generally viewing it as an alliance aimed at containing China’s expanding regional power. At various times, member states have sought to distance themselves from the Quad as they balanced their support for the initiative against maintaining positive economic and political relationships with China, with the framework effectively lying dormant for over a decade.

India’s Growing Support for the “Quad 2.0”

Unlike some ASEAN countries, which maintain exclusive economic zones in the contested South China Sea (SCS), none of the Quad members have a direct stake in the region. However, the PRC’s efforts to exert sovereign control over parts of the South China Sea arguably violates the 1982 United Nations Conventions on the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS), which sets the rules for conducting international commerce in open seas. The overseas arm of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) is engaged in oil exploration activities in Vietnam’s EEZ, and it is possible that India’s economic interests in the region could one day be threatened by Chinese activities (China Brief, May 29). Additionally, over $5 trillion in global commerce passes through the SCS every year, underpinning the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in the region. If a single nation were to disrupt the peaceful status quo, it would become the collective responsibility of law-abiding nations to secure the area and maintain freedom of movement in the region.

Turkey’s business leaders keep quiet as economic crisis deepens

Mustafa Sonmez

Turkey’s economic turmoil is worsening amid a fresh bout of currency depreciation, but a deafening silence reigns over the country’s leading business groups as few seem to have the courage to openly criticize President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government.

The freefall of the Turkish lira has meant a 48% increase in the price of the dollar over a year, threatening to send inflation out of control. And the COVID-19 pandemic, which is picking up anew, has only compounded the economic tumult plaguing Turkey since mid-2018. 

In October alone, the price of the dollar rose 9%. The Central Bank stood by, unlike in September, when it had raised interest rates to prop up the lira. The bank’s inaction only fueled the rush for dollars as many feared that they could be late in seeking the safe haven of hard currencies. Strikingly, hard currency has come to account for about 60% of individual deposits in Turkey.

Higher foreign exchange prices translate to a higher cost of anything that Turkey imports, including inputs and intermediate goods needed by local industries. The jump in producer prices totaled 6.3 percentage points in September and October, while the year-on-year increase exceeded 18%, though the full impact on consumer prices has yet to be seen. Consumer prices rose 3.1 percentage points in September and October, hitting nearly 12% over a year. Independent researchers say the actual inflation rate is much higher than the official figure.

We remain a divided country, but look at the horrors that didn’t come to pass

David Ignatius

The one indisputable fact about Election 2020 is that America remains a divided country. President Trump has lost the popular vote and appears close to losing the electoral college as well. But Republicans currently have the upper hand in retaining control of the Senate.

Americans want health and economic recovery — but exit polls show a sharp split about which comes first. Encouragingly, the band of “purple” states, between red and blue, seems to be widening.

Rather than arguing with this mixed message, let’s think about what it means for the country: A majority of Americans are fed up with this president, but a substantial minority mistrust what they see as a liberal elite that ignores or disdains their views. “Trumpism” may continue without Trump in the White House. But this should pose a political challenge for Democrats, not an existential threat.

Don’t fight the problem,” famously observed Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff during World War II and later secretary of state. Meaning, in this case, if Joe Biden is elected, he shouldn’t try to govern over the heads of people who voted for Trump, or behind their backs — but through them, with policies that will make “unity” more than just a slogan. To quote Jamie Gorelick, a Democratic lawyer and former deputy attorney general, “Just telling people that they are wrong does not work.”

One America, Two Nations


NEW YORK – As I write this, officials across the United States continue to count votes in the 2020 US presidential election. When tallies are finalized, recounts and legal challenges are sure to follow. This is to be expected in a hotly contested election that generated record turnout.

Only citizens may vote for the US president, but the choice affects people everywhere. If it is too soon to be certain of the results, it is not premature to explore what the election reveals about the world’s most powerful country.

On the positive side, the United States remains a robust democracy. Voter participation was high, despite the physical constraints linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The process appears to be unfolding as designed. Violence has been minimal. Courts are investigating what seem to have been politically motivated decisions by the US Postal Service to impede the delivery of ballots from areas expected to vote mostly Democratic. President Donald Trump’s unwarranted declaration of victory Tuesday evening gained little traction, while his calls to stop the counting (at least in those states where he leads) appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

What is concerning, however, is that the US electorate remains so deeply divided. Voters were near-equally split between the two candidates. Not surprisingly, this division is likely to lead to divided government. If current trends continue, Democrats will win the White House and retain control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans will keep control of the Senate. Governorships and state legislatures are near evenly split between the two parties (Republicans hold a slight advantage).

The “blue wave” anticipated by Democrats did not materialize. Joe Biden will probably win the popular vote by a wide margin – some four or five million out of nearly 160 million votes cast. But Republicans held onto seats in the Senate that many predicted would flip to the Democrats, who actually lost seats in the House. There was no firm mandate, no political realignment.

Vienna Terrorist Attack: What We Know

Katrin Bennhold

A man who opened fire in central Vienna on Monday night while armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a machete was a 20-year-old Austrian citizen who once tried to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said in a news briefing on Tuesday.

The rampage left four dead and 22 others wounded in the heart of the Austrian capital before the gunman was killed by the police nine minutes after the assault began, Mr. Nehammer said. Though the authorities initially spoke of multiple gunmen, on Tuesday they said the evidence gathered so far showed no indication that others were involved.

The attacker, an Austrian who also has citizenship from North Macedonia, was identified as Kujtim Fejzulai by officials and his former lawyer, Nikolaus Rast.

Barely 24 hours after the attack, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for it, calling the gunman a “soldier of the caliphate” who had targeted “close to 30 Crusaders,” according to a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremist messaging.

It was not clear from the declaration whether the Islamic State was claiming to have helped plan the attack. But the group has used similar language before in asserting responsibility for assaults by individuals who had acted on their own.

Why Inclusion Is Important for U.S. Foreign Policy

By Sohini Chatterjee, Mark P. Lagon

This year, the United States has faced the dual challenges of struggling with the coronavirus pandemic and grappling with public anger over a history of structural racism. The tragic death of George Floyd in particular unleashed a national outcry over police brutality: A wide range of citizens put aside their own health concerns to take to the streets and make their voices heard.

Recently, COVID-19’s disproportionate harm to marginalized communities around the world has underscored how a policy of inclusion is essential to global development and national security. Economies and societies squander precious human assets when women, minority groups, and marginalized populations (including those disadvantaged by the legacies of colonization or slavery) are denied access to education, health care, or capital.

The Trump administration has repeatedly declined the chance to denounce white supremacist groups and expressed outright disdain for women and minorities. The administration inaugurated in January 2021 will have an important opportunity to elevate social inclusion and halt a backsliding into a society where tribalism and repression can grow.

Social inclusion is a phrase thrown around quite often and used in varying ways. In foreign policy, inclusion should not be a simple numbers game but rather a fundamentally new approach that informs both personnel and policy choices. While there have been attempts to prioritize inclusion in previous administrations, the United States must now go even further. It is naive to assume that merely recognizing or articulating the existence of a problem represents progress. It is only the first step. While the image of the United States as a trailblazer—imperfect but improving—has been tainted in the last four years, the next administration can usher in an era of true inclusion. But how?

Coming soon: A neutral South Korea?


Around five years ago, I submitted an article to a leading strategic studies journal detailing how options previously considered extreme – such as abandoning the US alliance, acceding to China’s dominance, declaring a position of neutrality and/or securing a nuclear weapons capacity – were entering strategic debate in South Korea. Their assessment was that such views were unrealistic and fanciful. One Trump administration later, and these views have entered mainstream political debate in South Korea. It’s time to realise that strategic change on the Korean peninsula will not come from North Korea – strategic change will come from South Korea.

The dominance of North Korea in any analysis of the Korean Peninsula always amazes me. In a strategic context, South Korea is more important – significantly stronger economically, more populous and, most importantly, substantially more socio-politically dynamic.

North Korea sits frozen in time, sustaining an ailing economy and maintaining a flawed, but evidently effective, political system. Change is anathema to North Korea. The securing of a nuclear weapons capacity was not strategic change. It filled an ever-increasing gap between North Korea and combined US–South Korean conventional forces, and it reflected long-term aims, which should’ve been factored into the stock market of strategy long ago. North Korea and its strategic aims are so remarkably consistent that speculation regarding what North Korea will do next seems redundant.

Within the next administration in both the US and South Korea, decisions will be made that history books will mark as turning points.

U.S. Options for Countering the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa

By Drake Long

National Security Situation: The United States is competing with the People’s Republic of China and its landmark Belt and Road Initiative.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author believes ‘great power competition’ as prescribed by the National Defense Strategy is in reality a competition for the favor of unaligned countries, most especially the economically dynamic middle powers and rising powers in Africa.

Background: Thirty-nine African countries have signed onto China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an infrastructure and investment project that is synonymous with Chinese foreign policy[1]. More African college students attend Chinese universities over that of the U.K. and U.S., largely through programs like the China-Africa Action Plan that recruits 100,000 African civil servants and military officers annually[2]. However, African countries have also grown wary of Chinese investment, renegotiating their debt with China as a bloc this year[3].

Significance: BRI projects are one method of co-opting African political elites, as the ‘corrosive capital’ of Chinese investment often exacerbates existing inequality and graft issues in developing countries[4]. Certain Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOE) hold virtual monopolies on certain materials like cobalt, found only in a select few places on the African continent, to secure materials necessary for an advanced economy[5]. On top of this, China’s co-opting of local media means negative coverage of China is suppressed.

Option #1: The U.S. facilitates local journalism in African countries at the center of China’s Belt and Road Initiative through specialized grants to local news outlets and public-private partnerships to create tertiary journalism schools.

Why the United States Needs to Rethink its China Strategy

by Hashim Abid

America’s current strategy to prevent China’s rise in Eurasia is failing and needs to be rethought. Prior to Trump taking office, the United States’ strategy to blunt China’s challenge rested on the hope that the People’s Republic would accept the liberal principles associated with political and economic reforms. This proved unsuccessful. The Trump Administration’s China strategy towards the Zhongguo (Middle Kingdom) is now one of containment and aggressive trade wars, and it too will fail. In fact, rather than solving the problem, it is likely to create more obstacles for the US (and its Allies). As this paper will demonstrate, Western strategists’ reliance on history and unnecessary levels of force as their baseline remains flawed. Instead, America’s strategy needs to be far more inclusive and focus on those areas where it is strong: diplomacy, humanitarian aid, financial support and economic development.

The Problem with History

Western strategists who are disciples of international relations tend to have a narrow view when it comes to the application of force to defeat an adversary and this prevents them from fully understanding the changing character of war. Prior to 1914, strategists remained fixated on the wars fought by Napoleon Bonaparte and Fredrick the Great. The First World War showed this approach to be both misguided and inadequate.

The same issues were repeated during the Second World War where the battles of Verdun and The Somme still held sway. Even the success of certain operations during the Second World War, such as the German Blitzkrieg against France in 1940, often achieved success due to the demoralisation of the enemy, itself a hangover from the previous conflict. Similarly, Naval strategists who were advocates of blockades failed to grasp the impact submarines and aircraft carriers would have in overturning the primacy of capital fleets. The same predicament was exacerbated during the Cold War where the shadows of nuclear weapons meant the conduct of war and the political objectives had changed, once again rendering the strategists’ fixation on history ineffective.

Why the U.S. Can and Must Win the Race for Hypersonic Weapons

By Dan Gouré

Winning the race to deploy hypersonic weapons will be one of the most important achievements in U.S. national security of the 21st Century. This is why the former Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Dr. Michael Griffin, called hypersonics his number one priority in 2018. With the appropriate enablers, particularly sophisticated ISR and targeting, these weapons could radically alter the character and pace of modern warfare.

For the U.S. and its allies, hypersonic weapons are more than a counterbalance to Russia and China. They hold out the prospect for fundamentally undermining competitors’ massive investments in so-called anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. The Department of Defense has put together a well-thought-out and -funded program to provide all Services with hypersonic weapons. Equally important, the aerospace and defense industries of the U.S. and several allies are demonstrating the technical expertise and innovative approaches that are likely to make hypersonic weapons a near-term reality.

Because hypersonic weapons are still so new, it is worth explaining what they are and how they differ from traditional ballistic and cruise missiles. Hypersonic weapons fly at least five times the speed of sound but retain the capability to maneuver in the atmosphere. There are two basic varieties of hypersonic weapons.

First, a hypersonic boost-glide vehicle (HGV) is launched aboard a ballistic missile into the upper atmosphere, at which point it is deployed. The HGV then uses the ballistic missile's speed to skip along the upper layers of the atmosphere with much greater maneuverability than traditional warheads.

5G Experiments In US Pave Way To Battlefields Abroad


WASHINGTON: Upcoming experiments at a dozen bases will inform not only how the Pentagon adopts 5G networks on US territory, but how the military modifies civilian 5G tech for battlefield use around the world.

The rapid global spread of 5G networks gives US forces much faster ways to communicate, not only with each other, but with foreign allies — potentially enabling a future international meta-network known as Combined Joint All-Domain Command & Control.

“It’s certainly easier for our allies and partners to get access to 5G equipment — much easier than tactical radio systems,” Joseph Evans, technical director for 5G in the undersecretariat of defense for research & engineering, said.

But operational deployments on foreign soil – let alone to active war zones – raise questions of security, resiliency, and range that civilian-grade 5G may not answer. The solution, Evans said, may be to adopt commercial tech wholesale for use on US bases, but cherry-pick components to incorporate into military tactical networks abroad.

Joseph Evans“Working in the continental US or US [territories], we can certainly use 5G technology pretty much off-the-shelf,” Evans told an ACT-IAC conference this afternoon. “We may want to have specific configurations or use specific protocols…but really, it’s commercial 5G.”

Fighting Tomorrow’s Wars with Yesterday’s Rifle

By Jacob Parakilas

Toward the end of the Second World War, the German Army introduced a new type of infantry weapon: the StG 44, a select-fire, intermediate-caliber assault rifle firing from a 30-round detachable box magazine.

It represented a revolutionary concept. At the time, infantry soldiers carried a variety of weapons that were specialized for different tasks. Standard-issue battle rifles were lethal to distances of a mile or more but were bulky and clumsy in close quarters combat. Lower-caliber submachine guns and carbines provided high volumes of fire at short distances but were poorly suited for fights in open terrain. An infantry squad carrying a mixture of weapons would be able to fight in any scenario, but wouldn’t be able to share ammunition and would have some members poorly equipped for any given firefight. The assault rifle was designed to be a “good enough” solution in any scenario: capable of functioning well enough in both ranged and close-quarters combat that it could be issued almost universally, simplifying training and logistics in the process.

Three quarters of a century later, the German Army announced the winner of its new service rifle competition: the Haenel MK556, a select-fire, intermediate-caliber assault rifle firing from a 30-round detachable box magazine.

A modern assault rifle, of course, is much more reliable, accurate and adaptable than its World War II-era predecessor. But in the same period, other types of military equipment have undergone far more radical change. Piston-engine fighters have been replaced with supersonic, radar-evading jets armed with precision-guided standoff weapons. Heavily armored warships bristling with guns have been supplanted by lighter, stealthier ones designed to fight with missiles and embarked aircraft. By that standard, are we overdue for a revolution in small arms, and if so, what would it be?

How to protect troops from an assault in the cognitive domain

Jan Kallberg

Great power competition will require force protection for our minds, as hostile near-peer powers will seek to influence U.S. troops. Influence campaigns can undermine the American will to fight, and the injection of misinformation into a cohesive fighting force are threats equal to any other hostile and enemy action by adversaries and terrorists. Maintaining the will to fight is key to mission success.

Influence operations and disinformation campaigns are increasingly becoming a threat to the force. We have to treat influence operations and cognitive attacks as serious as any violent threat in force protection. Force protection is defined by Army Doctrine Publication No. 3-37, derived from JP 3-0: “Protection is the preservation of the effectiveness and survivability of mission-related military and nonmilitary personnel, equipment, facilities, information, and infrastructure deployed or located within or outside the boundaries of a given operational area.”

Therefore, protecting the cognitive space is an integral part of force protection.

History shows that preserving the will to fight has ensured mission success in achieving national security goals. France in 1940 had more tanks and significant military means to engage the Germans; however, France still lost. A large part of the explanation of why France was unable to defend itself in 1940 resides with defeatism. This including an unwillingness to fight, which was a result of a decade-long erosion of the French soldiers' will in the cognitive realm.

In the 1930s, France was political chaos, swinging from right-wing parties, communists, socialists, authoritarian fascists, political violence and cleavage, and the perception of a unified France worth fighting for diminished. Inspired by Stalin’s Soviet Union, the communists fueled French defeatism with propaganda, agitation and influence campaigns to pave the way for a communist revolution. Nazi Germany weakened the French to enable German expansion.