4 December 2020

Pakistan’s Opposition Holds Rally in Multan Day After Arrests

By Asim Tanveer

Despite a government ban and arrests of hundreds of activists, Pakistani opposition supporters rallied in a central city on Monday, calling on Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign over alleged bad governance and incompetence.

The rally in the city of Multan was held a day after police, on orders from the government, carried out the arrests and banned the gathering, defending the move as necessary to combat the coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan.

Police earlier in the day acknowledged arresting over 370 people, while opposition groups put the number at more than 1,800. Authorities in Multan also switched off the area’s mobile phone network.

On Sunday night, security forces placed shipping containers on major roads to block off the path to a public park where the opposition planned to hold the protest. But opposition leaders defied that to march to the park, setting off clashes that led to the arrests.

With RCEP Complete, China Eyes CPTPP

By Hemant Adlakha

Straight from celebrating the signing of the world’s largest trade pact, the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Chinese President Xi Jinping surprised everyone when he announced at the virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit five days later that China will actively consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade agreement.

Why is Beijing suddenly interested in joining a trade bloc that was initially pitched as anti-China? China’s state-controlled media has been very candid in stating that Beijing’s desire to join the CPTPP is strategically timed and aimed at a possible reconciliation with the United States under President-elect Biden. In a commentary released just a day after Xi made the announcement, the state-owned CCTV’s English language news and current affairs channel, CGTN, said: “With the incoming Biden administration now on the horizon, China has decided the ‘strategic time’ is now right to actively consider joining the CPTPP.”

US Targets China’s Quest for ‘Military-Civil Fusion’

By Bonnie Girard

It is a fundamental mistake to believe that Beijing is concerned with living up to agreements to use technology it buys from the United States in civilian applications only, a condition of its purchases from American companies. The fallacy is underscored by China’s perspective on the role of its citizens and their relationship to the Chinese state.

In 2017, China enacted an Orwellian National Intelligence Law. Article 7 mandates that ordinary citizens must “support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work.” The same goes for organizations.

A country that erases the line between the role of a person as a citizen and the role of a person as an agent of the state is not going to quibble over erasing the line between the role of a product for civilian use or the role of that same product for military use – even if a sale is predicated on commercial, civilian use only.

EdTech in Rural China

By Layne Vandenberg

Educational technology, otherwise known as “EdTech,” is rapidly proliferating across the world due to increased virtual learning during the global pandemic. While other countries may be adapting to new online educational tools and procedures, China has a leg up in its approach and integration of EdTech into formal (schools) and informal (tutoring) education.

China is also unique in its pre-COVID investment in EdTech companies. China has identified e-learning as a key direction for improving education across the country. Science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics (STEAM) classes along with K-12 constitute the largest segments of China’s EdTech market, which in 2018 reached $300 billion in revenue. China’s attention to this market may not only indicate foresight into the future of education, but also points to developing solutions to larger societal issues.

There are currently large disparities when it comes to education inequalities. These are most obvious between urban youth and “left behind children,” or children whose parents migrate to urban areas while they stay in the village or township with their relatives, who are usually uneducated grandparents. With this urban and rural divide in access to quality education, EdTech could be a “great equalizer” for a society built upon the Confucian principle of meritocracy.

China and the Middle East: Conflict and Cooperation

By Mercy A. Kuo

Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into Asia affairs. This conversation with Dr. Guy Burton – adjunct professor of international relations at Vesalius College in Brussels and author of “China and the Middle East Conflicts: Responding to War and Rivalry from the Cold War to the Present” (Taylor & Francis 2020) – discusses China’s strategic interests in the Middle East and its changing approach to the region.

Compare and contrast China’s past and present strategic interests in the Middle East.

There’s been a lot of attention on China as an economic actor in the region in recent years, especially in the wake of its Belt and Road Initiative. I wanted to tell China’s story from another angle, through war and rivalry from a historical perspective.

China’s Monster Fishing Fleet

By Christopher Pala

On Aug. 5, 2017, China complied with a United Nations decision and formally imposed sanctions on North Korea, including a ban on seafood exports. Seafood, particularly squid, is one of North Korea’s few significant foreign-exchange earners, and the sanctions were expected to increase the pressure on the regime.

But just a few weeks after the ban came into effect, hundreds of squid-fishing vessels left Chinese waters and rounded the southern tip of South Korea. They entered North Korea’s 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), nearly doubling the number of Chinese fishing vessels operating there from 557 to 907, according a recent Global Fishing Watch report that tracked data from four different satellite systems. Even as China publicly claimed that is was complying with sanctions, many of the Chinese vessels continued to make trips to North Korea and back, including several round trips each year during both 2018 and 2019, said Jaeyoon Park, one of the report’s lead authors.

By Crippling the WTO, Trump Paved the Way for China’s Trade War on Australia

Edward Alden

Australia is suddenly facing a broad economic assault from China, by far its largest trading partner. Last week, Beijing imposed tariffs of more than 200 percent on imports of Australian wine, essentially shuttering the industry’s largest export market. China has halted shipments of Australian coal, leaving ships stranded off China’s coast, and has blocked or restricted imports of a dozen other products, including Australian beef, sugar and timber. The sanctions so far have affected one-third of all Australian exports to China.

It’s all Chinese retaliation for moves by the Australian government that have irritated Beijing, which presented Canberra with an extraordinary list of 14 grievances last month. They included Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for an impartial international investigation into the origins of COVID-19, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, as well as Australia’s ban on procurement from Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and restrictions on Chinese investment acquisitions.

Is This The End Of Made In China?

Enrique Dans

In early July, an important announcement by Apple went relatively unnoticed: it was shifting assembly of its iPhone 11, then the most advanced model in its product line, from China to Chennai in India.

A couple of weeks later, Samsung, along with several other Apple suppliers (Foxconn, Pegatron and Wistron), Indian manufacturers Micromax and Lava, and up to 18 other companies applied for an Indian government incentive program for the large-scale manufacture of electronic products, that would see a significant part of these companies’ manufacturing transferred to the subcontinent.

On the one hand this will allow them to avoid the 20% levy that India, one of the world’s most important markets in quantitative terms, imposes on imported electronics, within its increasingly protective trade policy. Perhaps more importantly, it reflects deeper macroeconomic issues to do with China’s higher costs, as well as the mechanization of production, which means less dependence on labor.

The mistake of designating the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization

Gregory Johnsen

One of Donald Trump’s first foreign policy decisions as president was authorizing a Navy SEAL raid in Yemen. That operation, which he signed off on over dinner, was poorly planned, risky, and rushed. The result: several dead Yemeni civilians, including 10 children, and one dead U.S. soldier.

Now, as President Trump prepares to leave office, he looks poised to make another unforced error in Yemen. This time the Trump administration is seeking to designate the Houthis, a local militia group that has seized power in the country’s northern highlands, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. That would be a mistake. Designating the Houthis would be bad for Yemeni civilians, bad for peace talks, and, ultimately, bad for U.S. national security. It would also box-in President-Elect Biden before he even takes the oath of office, although perhaps that’s part of the attraction for exiting Trump officials.

For much of the past six years — under both the Obama and Trump administrations — the United States has been complicit in Saudi Arabia’s brutal and bloody war in Yemen. The U.S. trained Saudi pilots, sold the kingdom billions in weapons, and performed mid-air refueling for Saudi jets on bombing runs to Yemen, a shocking number of which resulted in civilian casualties. The U.S. bears at least some responsibility for those deaths.

Dear Joe, It’s Not About Iran’s Nukes Anymore

With the assassination presumably by Israel of Iran’s top nuclear warhead designer, the Middle East is promising to complicate Joe Biden’s job from Day 1. President-elect Biden knows the region well, but if I had one piece of advice for him, it would be this: This is not the Middle East you left four years ago.

The best way for Biden to appreciate the new Middle East is to study what happened in the early hours of Sept. 14, 2019 — when the Iranian Air Force launched 20 drones and precision-guided cruise missiles at Abqaiq, one of Saudi Arabia’s most important oil fields and processing centers, causing huge damage. It was a seminal event.

The Iranian drones and cruise missiles flew so low and with such stealth that neither their takeoff nor their impending attack was detected in time by Saudi or U.S. radar. Israeli military analysts, who were stunned by the capabilities the Iranians displayed, argued that this surprise attack was the Middle East’s “Pearl Harbor.”

Alliances First: Joe Biden’s Historic Opportunity to Reshape Global Order

by Ash Jain Alex Pascal

2021 will be a pivotal year for international order as the world begins to emerge from a devastating pandemic and a contentious period of nationalism and populism stoked and symbolized by Donald Trump. But rather than emerging dominant after a period of great struggle, as in 1945 or 1989, America will face the world with its international reputation in tatters, its polity deeply polarized, and its economy in disrepair. And the Biden administration will be presented with a daunting inbox of harrowing threats and profound challenges.

And yet, with most of the world looking forward to America’s return to the global stage, President-Elect Joe Biden has a historic window of opportunity to reshape a global order in need of innovation and modernization. The Biden administration will need to make clear that it is not simply going to return to the status quo ante, but is prepared instead, with humility and purpose, to embrace a new approach for America’s role in the world. Biden has spoken often about restoring cooperation with allies. To succeed in advancing America’s core interests and values, the administration should follow its rhetoric with concrete actions making a true partnership with democratic allies the central organizing principle of US foreign policy.

America Is Navigating a Bipolar Era Amid a Growing Chinese Threat

by Colin Dueck

The conventional wisdom has been that this is a multipolar era. A few brave souls respond that we still live in a one-superpower world. But what if the international order we’re headed toward is neither of these things and instead bipolar

A bipolar international system is one in which two great powers stand head and shoulders above all others, due to sheer material capabilities. It’s worth clarifying how to tell such a system from others. Multipolarity, strictly speaking, does not simply refer to a system with multiple significant actors or centers of power. Almost any system has multiple such centers. Rather, multipolarity refers to a system with three or more great powers of roughly similar capabilities, even if asymmetrical. The European state system of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was genuinely multipolar, though Napoleon tried to change that. 

Unipolarity, while commonly taken to refer to one state in an all-powerful position, means no such thing. No state is or ever has been all-powerful. Rather, unipolarity refers to a system with one state in a different league from all of the others by virtue of far superior economic and military capabilities. Superpowers are states that have a global military, economic, diplomatic, and ideological presence. A world with one superpower is a unipolar world. A closely related term is primacy, used to refer to a system where one state enjoys capabilities well beyond those of any competitor. Primacy is a condition. It is not a strategy. 

How Should Democracies Confront China’s Digital Rise? Weighing the Merits of a T-10 Alliance

by Steven Feldstein

With President-Elect Joe Biden’s election victory, foreign policy experts are debating what a pivot from four years of America First isolationism should entail. One idea that is gaining traction is for the United States to initiate an alliance of democracies to combat China’s technological expansion and check the spread of digital autocratic norms. Specifically, many experts are proposing the creation of “Technology 10” or “T-12” groupings to counter China’s digital ambitions, safeguard the West’s technological leadership, and allow liberal democracies to shape emerging technologies. While such alliances are instinctively appealing, especially in light of the Trump administration’s abdication of international leadership, policymakers should ask tough questions about what a T-10 or T-12 alliance would accomplish and whether putting together such a group is even feasible.

To start, what would be the purpose of a democratic tech alliance?

Language and Lockdowns


ITHACA – Our recent experience with COVID-19 and the word “lockdown” once again illustrates the power of language to influence our lives and well-being. The infinite variety of reality, and the finite number of words and phrases we have to describe it, creates an inescapable philosophical challenge to articulating policy. Adding to the challenge is our tendency to regard a person’s usage of certain words as a signal of their political ideology.

In managing the pandemic, much of the policy discussion has coalesced around lockdowns. But reducing the issue to a binary question (Should we lock down or not?), or even a linear one (How much should we lock down?), oversimplifies a complicated problem.

The binary tendency has been prominent in US President Donald Trump’s recent statements. At an Iowa campaign rally shortly before the presidential election, Trump claimed that, “The Biden plan will turn America into a prison state, locking you down.” He also tweeted that, “Biden wants to LOCKDOWN our Country, maybe for years. Crazy! There will be NO LOCKDOWNS.” Trump’s brazen politicization of the COVID-19 policy debate put left-wing groups on the defensive, because, unlike the president, they accepted the science and usually favored certain aspects of lockdowns.

Designing Vaccines for People, Not Profits


LONDON – Recent announcements of demonstrated efficacy in COVID-19 vaccine trials have brought hope that a return to normality is in sight. The preliminary data for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s novel mRNA vaccines are highly encouraging, suggesting that their approval for emergency use is forthcoming. And more recent news of effectiveness (albeit at a slightly lower rate) in a vaccine from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford has fueled optimism that even more breakthroughs are on their way.

In theory, the arrival of a safe and effective vaccine would represent the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. In reality, we are not even at the end of the beginning of delivering what is needed: a “people’s vaccine” that is equitably distributed and made freely available to all who need it.

To be sure, the work to create vaccines in a matter of months deserves praise. Humanity has made a monumental technological leap forward. But the springboard was decades of massive public investment in research and development.

U.K. Bans Installation of Huawei 5G Equipment From September


Telecoms giants in the U.K. must stop installing Huawei equipment in the country's 5G networks from next September, the government has said.

Britain's digital and media secretary, Oliver Dowden, revealed plans to phase out the involvement of Chinese company Huawei ahead of the passing of a new Telecommunications Security Bill. The British government set a September 2021 deadline for carriers to stop installing Huawei equipment after banning it over the summer following pressure from the United States. Westminster had initially allowed the company a limited role in the U.K.'s 5G rollout.

Washington has imposed strict sanctions on Huawei, claiming the Shenzhen-based company could enable the government in Beijing to spy on sensitive communications. Huawei denies the U.S. allegations. The U.K. Telecommunications Security Bill is the first to enshrine the banning of the Chinese company's involvement in Britain's 5G network into law. British lawmakers will debate the bill at a second reading in Parliament.

The New Geopolitics of Climate Change

By Scott Moore

For the world’s climate activists, the last half of 2020 has been both the best and the worst of times. Even as the pandemic raged, at the September meeting of the United Nations General Assembly Chinese leader Xi Jinping unexpectedly pledged to make the world’s second-largest economy carbon neutral by 2060. Weeks later, Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, one-upped Beijing by pledging to do the same thing, but 10 years earlier. And in early November, the American people elected Joe Biden president on by far the most ambitious climate policy platform ever put forward by the world’s largest economy.

Less encouragingly, the same period also brought an unrelenting stream of bad news on the state of the world’s climate: In September scientists reported that two of Antarctica’s largest glaciers were close to collapse, threatening several meters of additional sea level rise; in early October five tropical cyclones formed in the Atlantic Ocean for only the second time in recorded history; and just weeks later came the heartbreaking report that half the Great Barrier Reef’s corals have died off just since 1995.

Inside the vault of Britain’s secret service agency

John Xavier

The GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) is one of Britain’s leading intelligence agencies known for its code-breaking achievements during the Second World War. Enter Behind the Enigma: The Authorized History of GCHQ, Britain’s Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency (Bloomsbury Publishing): the first book to authoritatively capture the history of this secretive intelligence agency.

The 848-page book explores GCHQ’s early missions of information assurance and signals intelligence, underpinning why the organisation continues to be the top security and cyber-intelligence tool of Britain state.

In an email interview with MetroPlus, author John Ferris shares his perspective on surveillance, data gathering and how intelligence agencies have changed their approach to bring in contractors after the Edward Snowden episode — an incident which stunned the GCHQ.

In the book, you mentioned that bulk collection of data and of private messages happened in 1914. How different is it now?

From Development to Democracy, Africa Is a Continent of Contradictions

It makes sense that a continent home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people would also house a mass of contradictory developments. Africa features several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a burgeoning middle class. But much of the continent remains mired in debt, ravaged by conflict, disease or terrorism, and plagued by elites clinging to power. Now, although the human cost of the coronavirus pandemic has so far been less catastrophic than many feared, its economic impact could undo much of the continent’s growth over the past two decades.

Even during the years when economies across Africa expanded, many people were driven to migrate—either within Africa or to Europe and even South America—because of humanitarian catastrophes or because economic opportunities were not coming fast enough for everyone. Those who remained behind at times succeeded in disrupting the status quo. Civilian-led reform movements toppled regimes in Algeria and Sudan last year, and recent examples of independent courts overturning fraudulent elections—as well as other signs of democratic institutions taking hold in previously corrupt or authoritarian states—offered hope for the health of democracy in Africa. Yet, a rash of recent elections marred by fraud and violence, including several involving incumbents seeking constitutionally dubious third terms, confirms that the phenomenon of long-ruling authoritarian leaders—known as “presidents for life”—remains a problem.

Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ)

Social Media Weaponization: The Biohazard of Russian Disinformation Campaigns

Recruiting Cyber Specialists: Why the Services Must Modernize Qualification Standards

Space Operations: Lines, Zones, Options, and Dilemmas

The Strategic Potential of Collected Exploitable Material

Competition Is What States Make of It: A U.S. Strategy Toward China

Pardon the Paradox: Making Sense of President Trump’s Interventions in Military Justice

Artificial Intelligence: A Decisionmaking Technology

Decision Superiority Through Joint All-Domain Command and Control

Rightsizing Our Understanding of Religion

Success on Purpose: A Message for Leaders of Military Organizations

The Importance of Joint Concepts for the Planner

Mobilization in the 21st Century: Asking the Right Question

A Globally Integrated U.S. Coast Guard on a World Stage

Differentiating Kinetic and Cyber Weapons to Improve Integrated Combat

Calling Forth the Military: A Brief History of the Insurrection Act

More Afraid of Your Friends Than the Enemy: Coalition Dynamics in the Korean War, 1950–1951

High Altitude: The U.S. Army Wants Hot Air Balloons to Fight a War

Here's What You Need to Remember: The Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command thinks that balloons could make a comeback to support multi-domain operations. By experimenting with a variety of lighter-than-air platforms, the SMDC thinks that balloons could take on quite a few missions. 

When thinking about the military applicability of lighter-than-air balloons, perhaps one of the first craft that comes to mind is the Zeppelin airship of inter-war infamy.

Hopes were high for the German-invented Zeppelin. They were just slightly slower than fixed-wing biplanes of the era and could carry a considerably higher bomb load. A number of sorties were flown by Imperial Germany against targets in England, and, though they were not always militarily successful, were nonetheless a strong psychological blow to the British civilian population. Ultimately the Zeppelins fell out of favor following the Hindenburg disaster, and due to airplane aeronautical advances that eliminated any advantages Zeppelin’s had previously enjoyed.

STARCOM: Training Troops To Fight Space Wars, Boldly


WASHINGTON: Space Force’s new training and readiness unit, called STARCOM, is working from the ground up to figure out what doctrine, skills and tech space professionals will need for orbital warfare.

“What we are really bringing to the fight is focus. Focus on space,” Col. Peter Flores, commander of the Space Training and Readiness (STAR) Delta Provisional at Space Operations Command, said in an interview today. (STAR Delta is the predecessor to a brand new training and readiness field command, that will be called STARCOM. It will be led by a two-star and is expected to be up and running sometime next year.)

“We’ve decided that the topic is important enough and unique enough that we need a group of people who understand it down to its most fundamental levels,” Flores added.

Currently, Flores is overseeing 900 personnel, shifted over from a mishmash of former Air Force units. Those units include:

China’s H-20 stealth bomber will give PLA ‘truly intercontinental’ strike capacity, says report

Kristin Huang and Liu Zhen

China’s subsonic H-20 stealth bomber will give the country a “truly intercontinental” capacity expanding its reach far beyond the country’s seaboard, according to a report by a leading think tank.

The bomber is still under development but the Pentagon believes that when completed it will be able to target US overseas territories such as Guam, while other analysts believe its range will bring Hawaii within reach.

The report by the London-based Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies gave an overview of how Russia and China were developing their air forces, including next-generation planes and new weapons.

“Armed with nuclear and conventional stand-off missiles, the H-20 would represent a major break from previous PLAAF (PLA Air Force) doctrine and equipment development practice,” said the report released in late October.

Deterrence in Space: Requirements for Credibility

By Christopher M. Stone

To deter, the United States must be able to attribute an attack on its satellites…
to justify a punitive response elsewhere…

                                                            -Michael Gleason and Peter Hays
                                                            Aerospace Corp Center for Space Policy and Strategy

Even in a relatively peaceful period, under circumstances where a hostile relationship is
unclear, the presence and development of one side’s space systems and the boosting of
its space [weapons] capability, still can potentially influence and constrain the military
activity of other nations and generate a certain deterrent effect. 

                                                                -Sun Zhaoli
                                                                People’s Liberation Army’s Science of Strategy

China has an active, attack to deter, approach to space deterrence. It is one grounded in a first-mover advantage, escalation dominance framework. It is not an approach based on mutual vulnerability, space security, or space environmental concerns. As such, the U.S. framework for assessing and developing a credible deterrence posture must be focused on who the adversary believes they are, not what we want them to be. Towards this end, a reality-based approach to deterrence in space requires a tailored framework that takes this vital context into account.

The Army Wants To Launch Drone Swarms Behind Enemy Lines From High-Altitude Balloons


The U.S. Army is looking at developing a network of high-altitude balloons that would fly in the stratosphere and be able to launch swarms of unmanned aircraft, including those configured as loitering munitions, also known as "suicide drones," over enemy-controlled territory. These lighter-than-air vehicles could also be configured as sensor platforms to collect various kinds of intelligence or deploy other surveillance systems that would fall to the ground in order to monitor hostile movements, as well as act as communications relays.

The Army's Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors, or PEO IEW&S, posted a briefing, which had been presented at a recent industry day event and that showed general depictions of these concepts of operation, on the U.S. government's top contracting website, beta.SAMG.gov, last week. The balloons are one part of a broader, layered Multi-Domain Sensing System (MDSS) concept that the Army is in the early stages of developing.