19 November 2020

The unexpected trip: The future of mobility in India beyond COVID-19

Patrick Hertzke, Jitesh Khanna, Khushboo Kumra, Timo Möller, and Gandharv Vig.
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COVID-19 has presented India with an unprecedented economic, humanitarian, and healthcare challenge. The lockdown measures have helped contain the spread of the coronavirus but exacted an immense economic toll, with economists now predicting that the country’s gross domestic product will shrink between 1.5 percent and 5 percent during the 2021 fiscal year.1

On the business side, India’s automotive and mobility sectors are among the hardest hit. Following the pattern seen in countries where COVID-19 spread earlier, lockdown measures and other restrictions have limited travel and left many consumers unable or unwilling to purchase vehicles. Adding to the pain, the coronavirus took hold just as automotive OEMs and mobility players were attempting to recover from a precipitous drop in annual sales in 2019.

When looking beyond the immediate challenges, however, the picture is not as bleak. Over the long term, as COVID-19 is controlled and India enters the next normal, we expect that automotive and mobility players will return to their former strength. Although many challenges lie ahead, the coronavirus could accelerate some beneficial trends. For instance, electrification will increase in select segments, such as two-wheel (2W) and three-wheel (3W) vehicles, and shared mobility could also increase because of the growth of various use cases, such as last-mile delivery, ride hailing, and rentals. As they prepare for the future, a solid understanding of the changed landscape can help OEMs and other stakeholders update their strategies for the Indian market.

A New Phase for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific

By Shin Kawashima

Foreign ministers from Japan, Australia, India and the U.S. met in Tokyo as part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or Quad) last month. This was their second meeting, the first having been held in New York in September 2019, and it built on the inaugural discussion but also took into consideration the COVID-19 pandemic and the intensifying U.S.–China rivalry.

With the four countries growing increasingly wary of China’s intentions, they have been touting the concept of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), although their thinking here is hardly perfectly aligned. Nonetheless, these foreign ministers’ meetings have allowed them to identify some common ground.

The First Japan–Australia–India–U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in 2019 sought to affirm a general framework. The ministers began by stressing “their shared commitment to close cooperation on maritime security, quality infrastructure, and connectivity” based on “preserving and promoting a rules-based order in the region.” Second, they identified and discussed “cooperative initiatives including counter-terrorism, cyber security, and regional disaster response as significant areas for ongoing engagement.” Third, they affirmed “their strong support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN-led regional architecture.”

ASEAN, China, Other Partners Sign World’s Biggest Trade Pact

By Elaine Kurtenbach

China and 14 other countries agreed Sunday to set up the world’s largest trading bloc, encompassing nearly a third of all economic activity, in a deal many in Asia are hoping will help hasten a recovery from the shocks of the pandemic.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed virtually on Sunday on the sidelines of the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“I am delighted to say that after eight years of hard work, as of today, we have officially brought RCEP negotiations to a conclusion for signing,” said host country Vietnam’s prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

“The conclusion of RCEP negotiation, the largest free trade agreement in the world, will send a strong message that affirms ASEAN’s leading role in supporting the multilateral trading system, creating a new trading structure in the region, enabling sustainable trade facilitation, revitalizing the supply chains disrupted by COVID-19 and assisting the post-pandemic recovery,” Phuc said.

15 Asian nations sign RCEP, world’s biggest free-trade deal, after eight years

Catherine Wong

China scored a “victory” on Sunday as 15 Asia-Pacific nations signed the world’s biggest free-trade pact, sealing an agreement that excludes the United States and extends Beijing’s economic sway in the region.

The realisation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) comes after eight years of negotiations.

China’s Love-Hate Relationship with the United States

by Evan Sankey

Amid an ongoing trade war, an escalating struggle for technological supremacy, and intensifying strategic competition Americans and Chinese at least agree that 2020 has been a bad year for the United States. This summer a Wall Street Journal poll of Americans found that 80 percent feel their country is “spiraling out of control.” Gathering public opinion data in China is a difficult business, but the available evidence suggests that the average U.S. favorability rating in China has declined significantly this year. But that general Chinese perception masks a characteristically huge diversity of views among 1.3 billion people. It is easy for politically and epidemiologically exhausted Americans to imagine that China is laughing all the way to the bank at America’s travails, but in reality, they are confused about America too. 

America’s political and social unrest and failure to control the coronavirus pandemic have certainly given added force to pre-existing perceptions of American decline, especially against the backdrop of China’s successful pandemic response. The Trump administration in general and its chaotic pandemic response, in particular, are broadly seen as having damaged American prestige to China’s benefit.

How Biden and Xi Can Keep the New Cold War From Turning Hot

Niall Ferguson

A little French word that used to play a big role in global politics is poised for a comeback: detente. The word was first used as a diplomatic term in the early 1900s, for example when the French ambassador in Berlin attempted — in vain as it proved — to improve his country’s strained relationship with the German Reich, or when British diplomats attempted the same thing in 1912. But detente became familiar to Americans in the late 1960s and 1970s, when it was used to describe a thawing in the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

I have argued since last year that the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China are already embroiled in Cold War II. President Donald Trump did not start that war. Rather, his election represented a belated American reaction to a Chinese challenge — economic, strategic and ideological — that had been growing since Xi Jinping became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012.

Now, Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. presidential election (the various legal challenges to which will achieve nothing other than to salve Trump’s huge but hurt ego) creates an opportunity to go from confrontation to detente much sooner than was possible in Cold War I.

As China’s military confidence grows, it’s now looking to ‘design’ how war is fought

Kristin Huang

China is expected to become more proactive in seeking to shape military events as its technology advances instead of following other powers, according to analysts.

But a shift to pre-emptive planning could push China’s neighbours in the Indo-Pacific and the United States to try to counterbalance its moves and possibly prepare for a “pre-war period”, they said.

The change was highlighted in an official publication released this month laying out China’s next five-year development plan to 2025. Xu Qiliang, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, wrote that China had to “broaden its strategic approaches to catch up, surpass and accelerate the transition from passively adapting to war to actively designing how a war is fought”.

Making America Decent Again: Biden and the Future of U.S. Human Rights Policy

Stewart M. Patrick 

It’s no coincidence that while congratulations for Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. presidential race came quickly from Western democracies, many thuggish regimes remained conspicuously silent. The many despots who welcomed Donald Trump’s crass indifference to the fortunes of freedom are right to be wary of Biden. The president-elect intends to make America decent again, not only at home but abroad, by restoring the promotion of liberty and defense of democracy as pillars of U.S. foreign policy. Rebuilding U.S. credibility on human rights will take time, however.

Trump’s affinity for autocrats is well documented. “It’s funny,” he mused to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post. “The relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. You know? Explain that to me someday, okay?” Amusing or not, Trump is at least self-aware. His predecessors used their bully pulpit to champion universal liberties enshrined in America’s founding documents. He is just a bully, drawn to other bullies. ...

Scoop: Trump plans last-minute China crackdown

Jonathan Swan, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

President Trump will enact a series of hardline policies during his final 10 weeks to cement his legacy on China, senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plans tells Axios.

Why it matters: He'll try to make it politically untenable for the Biden administration to change course as China acts aggressively from India to Hong Kong to Taiwan, and the pandemic triggers a second global wave of shutdowns.
Watch for National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe to publicly describe in granular detail intelligence about China's nefarious actions inside the U.S.

Details: Trump officials plan to sanction or restrict trade with more Chinese companies, government entities and officials for alleged complicity in human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, or threatening U.S. national security.
The administration also will crack down on China for its labor practices beyond Xinjiang forced labor camps.

2nd virus vaccine shows striking success in US tests


A second experimental COVID-19 vaccine — this one from Moderna Inc. — yielded extraordinarily strong early results Monday, another badly needed dose of hope as the pandemic enters a terrible new phase.

Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own vaccine looked 90% effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

The results are “truly striking,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-diseases expert. “The vaccines that we’re talking about, and vaccines to come, are really the light at the end of the tunnel.”

A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases topped 11 million in the U.S. over the weekend — 1 million of them recorded in just the past week — and governors and mayors are ratcheting up restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving. The outbreak has killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, over 246,000 of them in the U.S.

America Should Rewrite the China Trade Contract


NEW DELHI – Once US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration has made the relatively easy decisions to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, remain in the World Health Organization, and attempt to reboot the World Trade Organization, it will confront three key foreign-policy issues. In order of importance, they are China, China, and China.

Biden’s dilemma is that China has become too deviant to cooperate with fully, too big to contain or ignore, and too connected to decouple from. So, what principles should govern America’s economic engagement with it?

Two decades ago, the United States and the rest of the world bet that China, as it became richer, would open up economically and politically, while remaining benign in its international conduct. Under the resulting implicit contract, embodied in China’s 2001 WTO accession agreement, the world promised to guarantee market access for Chinese exports; in return, China would make its economy more open and transparent, and play by international rules.

But China has changed since then, and not only by becoming much richer and a much larger trader. Under President Xi Jinping, an authoritarian in the mold of Mao Zedong, China has repudiated Deng Xiaoping’s three guiding tenets: collective leadership in domestic politics, steady economic opening and reliance on market forces, and quiet cooperation with the world. Instead, Xi’s repressive regime is fashioning a new brand of inward-oriented, state-dominated capitalism. And it poses a threat to many of its neighbors, including Taiwan, Australia, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan.

Who is Michelle Flournoy? Meet Biden’s likely pick to head the Pentagon


President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take a historic step and select a woman to head the Pentagon for the first time, shattering one of the few remaining barriers to women in the department and the presidential Cabinet.

Michele Flournoy, a politically moderate Pentagon veteran, is regarded by U.S. officials and political insiders as a top choice for the position.

Her selection would come on the heels of a tumultuous Pentagon period that has seen five men hold the top job under President Donald Trump. The most recent defense secretary to go was Mark Esper, who was fired by Trump on Monday after pushing back on issues including troop withdrawals and the use of the military to quell civilian unrest.

If confirmed, Flournoy would face a future that is expected to involve shrinking Pentagon budgets and potential military involvement in the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.

Democrats have long sought to name a woman to the top post in a department that didn't open all combat jobs to female service members until about five years ago. Flournoy had been the expected choice of Hillary Clinton if she had won the 2016 election. Her name surfaced early as a front-runner for Biden's Cabinet, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

The New World Order That President Biden Will Inherit

President-elect Joe Biden has signaled that he will move swiftly to restore dignity to the badly sullied image of the United States; respect for the professionals of America’s diplomatic, intelligence and military services; and a more predictable, nuanced and sympathetic approach to foreign relations. That message of a restoration of norms is likely to resonate in many capitals around the world, as it did with an electorate that gave Mr. Biden a decisive victory over Donald Trump.

There is much that Mr. Biden can do in his first 100 days. He has already vowed to promptly rejoin the Paris accord on climate change and to make climate action central to his administration. He has declared his intention to restore the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organization, signaling that the United States will join forces with the rest of the world to halt the rampage of the coronavirus.

Mr. Biden is also expected to organize a summit of democracies, and to recommit the United States to exposing human rights abuses wherever they arise, whether in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia or Turkey. At the same time, he will seek ways to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, and agree with Russia to extend the New START treaty on limiting strategic nuclear arms. Hopefully, Mr. Biden will terminate American support for Saudi Arabia’s terrible war in Yemen.

Trump bans Americans from investing in Chinese firms he claims have ties to the military

By Jazmin Goodwin and Sherisse Pham

New York/Hong Kong (CNN Business)President Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning Americans from investing in Chinese firms that the administration says are owned or controlled by the Chinese military.

The order applies to 31 Chinese companies which it says "enable the development and modernization" of China's military and "directly threaten" US security.

Smartphone maker Huawei and Hikvision, one of the world's largest manufacturers and suppliers of video surveillance equipment, are among the blacklisted companies. Some of the other companies listed, including China Telecom and China Mobile, trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Trump's order bans US investors from owning or trading any securities that originate or are exposed to those firms. This includes pension funds or owning shares in the companies that are banned. Investors will have until November 2021 to divest from the companies.

Why Is North Korea So Good at Cybercrime?

By Jason Bartlett

Despite U.S. and U.N. sanctions designed to stop the illicit financing of nuclear weapons, North Korea continues to baffle the world with its unprecedented success in sanctions evasions and cybercrime. As countries scramble to find consensus on cybersecurity protocols, North Korea has moved quickly to expand its cyber capabilities both at home and abroad. This signals to U.S. policymakers that as sanctions tighten in other areas, North Korea continues to exploit the vulnerabilities in cybersecurity to acquire funds for its dangerous nuclear weapons development program.

The cyber market’s size and lack of legal safeguards is a major attraction for North Korean financial crime as the country’s cyber operations are low-risk and low-cost, with potentially high gains. According to Nam Jae-joon, former director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, Kim Jong Un himself equated the importance of developing cyber capabilities to that of nuclear power, claiming that “cyber warfare, along with nuclear weapons and missiles, is an ‘all-purpose sword’ that guarantees our [North Korea’s] military’s capability to strike relentlessly.” 

What leaders overseas will want to ask of the Biden administration

Madiha Afzal, Ranj Alaaldin, Pavel K. Baev, Carlo Bastasin

The U.S. election was watched closely around the world, with foreign leaders acutely aware that in some ways, the result of the presidential campaign could have major impacts on their future relations with the United States.

As Joe Biden prepares to enter the White House in January, what questions or concerns is he likely to hear from his counterparts in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America, as well as officials from international institutions? Below, Brookings Foreign Policy experts channel the priorities — and in many cases anxieties — of foreign capitals as Washington approaches a leadership change.


Norway hopes for a re-energized U.N. Security Council.

The Pandemic Is Revealing a New Form of National Power


Each geopolitical age places a premium on particular forms of national power—seapower and colonial possessions prior to the world wars, nuclear weapons and alliance networks during the Cold War, soft power after the Cold War. And the new era ushered in by COVID-19 has done so as well, revealing the salience of “resilient power”: a country’s capacity to absorb systemic shocks, adapt to these disruptions, and quickly bounce back from them. As the scholar Stephen Flynn once told me, the aim of resilience is to design systems not just so they can endure shocks, but also so they can “fail gracefully and recover nicely.”

The pandemic has taught us that today, a country’s best offense is a good defense. One of its lessons is that national clout and advantage, and thus international power dynamics, will be rooted in resilient power amid the types of mass traumas that look set to dominate this century—not just pandemics, but also climate change, cyberattacks, financial crises, and disinformation campaigns. And right now, it’s a measure of power where the United States is clearly falling short.

We can stop COVID-19: Moderna vaccine success gives world more hope

By Julie Steenhuysen, Michael Erman

(Reuters) - Moderna Inc's MRNA.O experimental vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial, the company said on Monday, becoming the second U.S. drugmaker to report results that far exceed expectations.

Together with Pfizer Inc's PFE.N vaccine, which is also more than 90% effective, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the United States could have two vaccines authorized for emergency use in December with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available this year.

The vaccines, both developed with new technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA), represent powerful tools to fight a pandemic that has infected 54 million people worldwide and killed 1.3 million.

Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s shot can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, which should make it easier to distribute, a critical factor as COVID-19 cases are soaring, hitting new records in the United States and pushing some European countries back into lockdowns.

“We are going to have a vaccine that can stop COVID-19,” Moderna President Stephen Hoge said in a telephone interview.

A No-Brainer for the G20


LONDON – We may soon witness the bargain of the century. G20 leaders, representing the world’s largest economies, will discuss COVID-19 this month at a virtual summit, where they will have a chance to secure a return on investment that would make even the legendary investor Warren Buffett blush.

With less than one-tenth of one percentage point of global GDP, the international community can vastly expand access to life-saving COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines (once they are available), thereby putting the global economy back on track to long-term growth and stability.

Investing now to ensure that effective diagnostics, therapeutic drugs, and vaccines are developed and distributed to people around the world is not only the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do. Enlightened self-interest dictates that we should be underwriting future demand for goods and services, so that global trade and growth can bounce back. This should be an easy call for G20 leaders.

But just in case policymakers have failed to recognize the returns that are on offer, here are the facts. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the world economy averaged annual economic growth of around 3.3%, and that rate increased to 3.7% over the past two decades, owing to the rise of China and the other BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, and India). In the 2020s and 2030s, however, growth will have to be driven by a new group of predominantly low-income countries that are striving to climb the ladder to middle- and high-income status.

Starting Dec. 1, Cybersecurity Is No Longer Optional


ALBUQUERQUE: As the deadline nears for the first 15 contracts awarded in compliance with the new Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, the Pentagon made it clear that is just the beginning, saying it will probably need to certify at least 1,500 contractors and subcontractors.

“It’s trust but verify. This is the start of a new day in the Department of Defense where cybersecurity, as we’ve been saying for years is foundational for acquisitions, we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We mean it,” said Katie Arrington, CISO for the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment. On Dec. 1, the rules come into effect for new work contracts. Adversaries who target weak security in the United States can attack both commercial and military networks, looking to steal secrets. “We’re doing it because it is so critical to our commerce, our national security.”

Arrington said she and her team are pushing straight ahead: “The CMMC is going to continue. We are not stopping. We haven’t let up on the gas, we are rapidly rolling through mere days until the interim rule becomes effective.”

Block the Pentagon’s 5G Power Play


Who should determine who may use the various frequencies needed for 5G wireless communications, whose speed promises to unleash a whole host of benefits for military and commercial users? 

Pentagon leaders say they should. They are proposing to retain control of the 3.1-3.55 MHz band, representing about 40 percent of the mid-band spectrum available for 5G. These frequencies are in a sweet spot, balancing capacity, a trait of higher frequencies; and distance, a trait of lower frequencies. Further, this band of spectrum is already being used for 5G operations in other countries, including China. Defense officials are exploring a model that would share these frequencies with companies, providing wholesale access to a 5G network, while DOD retains ownership. 

They are also looking into operating this portion of the spectrum through “dynamic spectrum sharing,” or DSS — in essence, finding ways to allow portions of the electromagnetic spectrum to be used both by the commercial sector and also existing defense operations. If DSS can be made to work, its proponents say it would allow for more efficient and faster deployment. But some experts dispute this claim. Further, as with the DOD proposal for shared wholesale access, DSS would give so-called “ruthless preemption” to DOD. This uncertainty in reliability would be of concern for commercial operators and users. 

Study: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Still Won’t Stop Global Warming

by Ethen Kim Lieser

Even if all of the world’s countries collectively stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, it still wouldn’t be enough to slow down the warming trend that the planet will have to endure for centuries to come, according to a new modeling study out of Norway.

The eye-opening research, published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, contends that the natural drivers of global warming—heat-trapping clouds, thawing permafrost, and shrinking sea ice—have already been set in motion and will continue to take on their own momentum, the study’s authors said.

“According to our models, humanity is beyond the point of no return when it comes to halting the melting of permafrost using greenhouse gas cuts as the single tool,” lead author Jorgen Randers, a professor emeritus of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, told AFP.

“If we want to stop this melting process, we must do something in addition—for example, suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it underground, and make Earth’s surface brighter.”


By Thomas Bruscino 

Military strategy depends on geography to a far greater degree than what is currently practiced or taught.

One of the effects of the diminished attention to military strategy as warmaking has been to focus the efforts of military strategists on crafting or sorting out objectives. The favorite gripe of military professionals, even in military strategic positions, is that all the best tactical or operational efforts in the world cannot make up for poor or unclear political or strategic guidance. But this complaint, however true, does nothing to improve the crafting and execution of war or theater of war efforts. In fact, it is almost always buck passing–based on the assumption that the military is fundamentally good at all military tactics, operations, and strategy, so any failures must lay in the political arena. Failure couldn’t possibly be the military’s fault. This line of thinking incorrectly absolves military strategists of taking responsibility for their work and it neglects important deficiencies in contemporary military strategy, especially around problems of military geography.

China’s military lays out technology road map to catch up with the US

Kristin Huang

China must apply cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence if it wants to transform its military into a modern fighting force on a par with those of other leading powers, according to new guidelines and comments from senior leaders.

The statements come from a booklet published this month by the state-run People’s Publishing House, in which senior officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, outlined the latest five-year plan for the country’s development.

According to a communique released after a high-level meeting last month, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be transformed into a modern military force by 2027. Analysts say China’s aim is to build an army that is on a par with that of the United States.

The Amazing Way U.S. Navy Submarines, Aircraft Carriers and Destroyers Talk to Each Other

by Kris Osborn

Submarines, Destroyers, Carriers and Amphibious Assault Ships will increasingly need to share information, and network targeting and radar data during war time. In addition, they will rely upon advanced levels of computerized autonomy to succeed when attacking in a high-risk major power maritime warfare environment. 

The U.S Navy has issued two task orders to BAE Systems to integrate the Navy’s fast-emerging communications system called Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services (CANES), for two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, a Virginia-class submarine, and two Blue Ridge-class command ships.

CANES provides Navy surface ships with the computing, transmission and storage connection from individual work stations to servers, routers, radio systems, weapons and fire control; it is designed to seamlessly network ships, submarines, shore locations and other tactical nodes in a maritime environment.

CANES continues to be installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least fifty CANES systems and has many more in production. Nodes on CANES communicate use an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to connect with satellites assets using multiband terminals. CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.