5 December 2020

Why India’s V-Shaped Economic Recovery Falls Short

India’s economy appears to be staging a V-shaped recovery after four rounds of coronavirus lockdowns, but a closer look reveals that the economic woes are more severe, according to a recent article by researchers at Wharton and elsewhere. The article, titled “Employment, Income, and Consumption in India During and After the Lockdown: A V-Shaped Recovery?” was published on the website of the University of Chicago Booth School’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation.

The conventional indicators of trends in unemployment, employment, income and consumption show “rapid improvement” after the lockdowns began to be eased in phases, but those gains are limited. “We do see some recovery in income, but those incomes are staying still substantially lower than they were prior to the lockdowns,” said Heather Schofield, Wharton professor of business economics and public policy and assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Schofield is one of the article’s authors, along with Marianne Bertrand, professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and faculty director of the Rustandy Center and UChicago’s Poverty Lab; Rebecca Dizon-Ross, associate professor of economics at Booth; and Kaushik Krishnan, chief economist at the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. Their latest effort is a follow-up of their earlier research that captured the economic distress in India after the first round of lockdowns.

China’s Defense Minister Visits Pakistan

By Abhijnan Rej

The Chinese defense minister, Wei Fenghe, visited Pakistan on December 1 and met with the country’s President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, along with meeting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Nadeem Raza and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Earlier this week Wei had also visited Nepal.

Writing on Wei’s Islamabad trip, China Global Television Network (CGTN) noted him as saying that “the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership is unique in the world,” language consistent with how China publicly describes Pakistan. During Wei’s visit, both countries signed a memorandum of agreement around greater defense cooperation.

According to CGTN, during Wei’s visit, Alvi promised Pakistan’s support to China across issues including the South China Sea, Taiwan, and Tibet, and also to push ahead with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Interestingly, according to CGTN, Wei also said China is “keen to jointly cope with risks and challenges with Pakistan, firmly safeguard the sovereignty and security interests of both countries and maintain regional peace and stability,” language that would inevitably be interpreted in India as directed toward that country.

US Has Achieved ‘Modicum of Success’ in Afghanistan, Top General Says


Two decades of war in Afghanistan have seen a “modicum of success” but also years of “strategic stalemate,” the nation’s top general said Wednesday in one of the military’s frankest assessments of progress in the wartorn nation in recent memory. 

The United States has been successful at preventing another 9/11-style attack from originating in Afghanistan, Gen. Mark Milley said during an online Brookings event, through its model of training and supporting the Afghan military and working with the government in Kabul.

"We believe that after two decades of consistent effort, we've achieved a modicum of success,” Milley said. “I would also argue over the last five to seven years at a minimum, we have been in a condition of strategic stalemate.”

Because neither the Taliban nor the government of Afghanistan—backed by the U.S.—was going to be victorious on the battlefield, Milley said, “the only way that war should or could come to an end that was somewhat in alignment with U.S. national security interests—and also in the interests of the people of the region—was through a negotiated settlement.”

China Won 2020


BERLIN – In future history books, 2020 will be known as the year of the great COVID-19 pandemic, and rightly so. But it will also be remembered as the year when US President Donald Trump’s vile tenure was brought to an end. Both episodes are closely connected and will leave lasting traces, partly because they unfolded during a broader global transition from the US-dominated twentieth century to a Chinese-dominated twenty-first century.

Against this backdrop, 2020 proved to be a highly successful year for China. To be sure, things didn’t look that way at its start, when a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was rampaging through the metropolis of Wuhan. Serious failures by Chinese authorities permitted that outbreak to grow into a pandemic that has now killed almost 1.5 million people and brought the global economy to a standstill. Earlier in the year, it looked as though China’s central leadership was facing a deep crisis of confidence. Coming on the back of a trade war with the United States, COVID-19 momentarily brought the country to its knees.

Since then, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s forceful suppression of the democracy movement in Hong Kong has further increased Western distrust. The administrative clampdown under a draconian new national-security law ends the era of “one country, two systems,” and raises grave questions about the future of Taiwan.1

China drafts rules on mobile apps' collection of personal data

(Reuters) - China unveiled draft guidelines on Tuesday seeking to limit the scope of mobile apps’ collection of personal data in the latest attempt to curb the sprawling technology sector.

The set of draft rules published by the Cyberspace Administration of China covers 38 types of apps from online shopping and instant messaging to ride-hailing and bike sharing.

China has increased scrutiny of its technology sector in recent weeks, last month drafting anti-monopoly rules for tech firms.

It has also expressed concerns about data protection and consumer rights, while authorities have on a number of occasions ordered apps to be suspended for mishandling user information.

“In recent years, mobile internet applications have been widely used and have played an important role in promoting economic and social development and serving people’s livelihoods,” the cyber administration said in a statement.

“At the same time, it is common for apps to collect ... personal information beyond their scope, and users cannot install and use them if they refuse to agree.”

Does the Cost of the Fakhrizadeh Assassination Outweigh the Benefits?

Shlomo Brom, Shimon Stein

No party has yet taken responsibility for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of the Iranian nuclear weapons project, but the prevailing assumption in both the international and Israeli media and among governments around the world is that Israel is responsible. This assumption requires us to assess the costs and benefits of an Israeli decision to carry out the assassination. To this end, certain questions must be answered: What was the strategic purpose of this action, and what is the likelihood of its ultimate success? Given this goal, was the timing of the action correct? And finally, are the potential costs greater or smaller than the expected benefit?

If Israel is indeed responsible for Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, the decision to take this action was likely made with the approval of the Trump administration and in coordination with it, less than two months before President-elect Joe Biden enters the White House. Perhaps Israel and the United States deliberated and coordinated the strike during the most recent visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the region, on November 18-21, 2020. Perhaps there was also a certain level of coordination with the Saudi leadership during the clandestine tripartite meeting in the city of Neom in Saudi Arabia that included Israeli Prime Minister Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. Coordination and approval from the US are necessary, given that the US and the Gulf states may well pay some of the prices of the anticipated Iranian response.

The battle over Trump’s huge UAE arms deal, explained

By Alex Ward

On Monday evening, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met for a classified briefing with Trump administration officials to hear about a proposed $23 billion weapons sale to the United Arab Emirates. Right when it ended, one of the attendees blasted what had transpired behind closed doors.

“Just a mind blowing number of unsettled issues and questions the Administration couldn’t answer,” tweeted Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy. “Hard to overstate the danger of rushing this though.”

That remark underscored the growing political fight over the arms deal announced in early November, a standoff that could severely impact America’s relations with its authoritarian ally and the military balance in the Middle East.

President Donald Trump wants to sell up to 50 F-35 fighter jets, nearly 20 Reaper drones, and around 14,000 bombs and munitions to the UAE — and he wants to do it before President-elect Joe Biden enters the Oval Office and potentially scuttles the sale.

Ash Carter: How the U.S. Congress and STEM Experts Must Work Together

by Ashton B. Carter

The incoming Biden-Harris administration brings hope that scientific expertise will once again be a cornerstone of good governance. 

There are good reasons to expect that Washington will do so. As President-elect Biden said during his victory speech, “Americans have called on us to marshal…the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time.”

We are in the midst of one such great battle now. Despite promising news on several potential vaccines, COVID-19’s trajectory of cases portends a dark pandemic winter

At times like these, we need all hands on deck. Especially critical to our efforts will be enlisting more scientists and technologists into the policymaking process. So, let me speak directly to those engineers, coders, geneticists, and others on the front lines of innovation who may be considering public service. 

What Yellen Must Do


NEW YORK – US President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to appoint Janet Yellen as the next Secretary of the Treasury is good news for America and the world. The United States has survived four years under a mendacious president who has no understanding of, let alone respect for, the rule of law, the principles undergirding democracy and the market economy, or even basic human decency. Not only has Donald Trump spent the weeks since the presidential election spewing lies about non-existent voter fraud; he has also convinced a large majority of his party to embrace these lies, thus revealing the frailty of American democracy.

Undoing the damage will not be easy, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic compounding America’s problems. Fortunately, no one is better equipped – in intellect, experience, values, and interpersonal skills – to deal with today’s economic challenges than Yellen, whom I first met when she was a graduate student at Yale University in the 1960s.

First on the agenda will be recovery from the pandemic. With multiple vaccines in sight, the immediate task is to build a bridge from here to the post-crisis economy. It is too late for a “V-shaped recovery.” Many businesses have gone bankrupt, and many more will do so in the coming weeks and months; household and firm balance sheets are being eviscerated. Worse, headline figures may belie the depth of the crisis. The pandemic has taken a massive toll at the bottom of the income and wealth distribution. Those who have availed themselves of policies to prevent evictions and foreclosures are nonetheless falling deeper into debt, and could soon face a reckoning.

Biden Wants America to Lead the World. It Shouldn’t.

By Peter Beinart

There’s a lot we still don’t know about how President-elect Joe Biden and his foreign policy team will approach the world. But this much is clear: They believe in American “leadership.”

In a 2015 speech, Antony Blinken, Mr. Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, employed some version of the word 21 times. This spring, Mr. Biden wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs titled “Why America Must Lead Again.” Last week, when he introduced his national security nominees, he said that “America is back, ready to lead the world.”

Let’s hope not. In the post-Trump age, “leadership” is a misguided, and even dangerous, vision for America’s relationship with the rest of the globe.

For the past four years, foreign policy elites have trumpeted American “leadership” as the safe, bipartisan and benign alternative to the Trump administration’s belligerent America First nationalism. But look up the word “lead” in a dictionary and you’ll find definitions like “the first or foremost place,” being “at the head of” and “to control a group of people.” Leadership doesn’t mean motherhood and apple pie. It means being in charge.

Nato report says China could pose military threat to Europe and US

Stuart Lau

In a critical assessment by Nato, China has been portrayed as a potential military threat facing not only the US but also Europe, rendering Beijing a test of Nato’s collective defence system that binds 30 Western countries.

Beijing’s repeated promises to rise peacefully into a global superpower were largely ignored in the report outlining the next 10 years of focus for Nato, which is now called upon to “increase capacity to anticipate and react to Chinese activities that undermine allies’ security”.

While Russia remains the top Nato threat, the report suggests that the coalition “remain open to discussing peaceful coexistence” with Moscow while staying united to respond to hostile moves – a mix that reflects the differences in attitude among Nato members.

On China, however, the report is much more hawkish, calling into question Beijing’s willingness to use force against its neighbours and the rapidity of its military modernisation. It also calls for a partnership with India, China’s military arch-rival in South Asia.

Reviving nuclear arms control under Biden

Steven Pifer

The Biden presidency that begins in January will adopt some very different directions from its predecessor in foreign policy. One such area is arms control, particularly nuclear arms control with Russia — the one country capable of physically destroying America.

President-elect Biden understands that arms control can contribute to U.S. security, something that President Donald Trump never seemed to fully appreciate. Biden will agree to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the sole remaining agreement limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. His administration should aim to go beyond that and negotiate further nuclear arms cuts. That will not prove to be easy. Doing so, however, could produce arrangements that would enhance U.S. security and reduce nuclear risks.


The outgoing administration will leave behind an unimpressive record on arms control. Trump withdrew from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty without trying political and military measures to press the Kremlin to end its violation and come back into compliance. Trump administration officials also considered conducting a nuclear test that would have ended a long-standing moratorium and triggered nuclear tests by other countries, eroding the U.S. nuclear knowledge advantage.

Air Force Research Institute (AFRI)

Strategic Studies Quarterly, Winter 2020, v. 14, no. 4

On the Future of Air and Space Power

Space: New Threats, New Service, New Frontier

Poison, Persistence, and Cascade Effects: AI and Cyber Conflict

Nuclear-Armed Hypersonic Weapons and Nuclear Deterrence

Space Traffic Management in the New Space Age

Missing: Legal Frameworks for Chemical Security

Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones and Contemporary Arms Control

Is Putin Really Considering a Military Alliance With China?

By Alexander Gabuev

At a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club several weeks before the U.S. presidential election, Russian President Vladimir Putin made an interesting comment. Asked whether it was possible to conceive of a military alliance between China and Russia, Putin replied, “It is possible to imagine anything.… We have not set that goal for ourselves. But, in principle, we are not going to rule it out, either.”

For many years, Putin and senior Russian officials — and the Chinese leadership, too — have always stated clearly that no alliance with China was on the agenda. Moscow and Beijing are well aware that their interests don’t always coincide. China, for example, does not recognize Abkhazia or South Ossetia as independent nations, and officially considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine. Russia, for its part, doesn’t recognize Chinese claims to the South China Sea, and stays out of China’s territorial disputes. Neither side wishes to risk getting drawn into a major conflict over the interests of its partner.

The logical explanation for Putin’s refusal this time to rule out a military alliance with China may lie not in Russia’s relationship with China, but with the West. 

Why a cut-and-paste approach to digital transformation won’t cut it: An interview with the founder of Biocon

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw cuts a formidable figure in India’s pharmaceutical industry. The chair of the country’s largest biopharmaceutical company, which registered more than 65 billion rupees ($930 million) in revenue last year, established Biocon in 1978 with initial capital of just 10,000 rupees ($140). Mazumdar-Shaw has increased Biocon’s stable of products from a single papaya enzyme, used to arrest the clouding process in beer, to scores of diabetes, oncology, and immunology treatments reaching more than 120 countries. Its mission, says the company, is to make drugs and medicines affordable to all, with an innovation model seeking to “reduce disparities in access to safe, high-quality medicines, as well as address the gaps in scientific research to find solutions to impact a billion lives.” Biocon’s “Mission 10 cents,” for example, offers human insulin to diabetes patients in lower- and middle-income countries for less than ten cents a day.

COVID-19 has touched Biocon’s founder in an especially personal way. On August 18, Mazumdar-Shaw, who maintains a lively social-media presence, tweeted “I have added to the COVID count by testing positive. Mild symptoms n [sic] I hope it stays that way.” Still, she continued to oversee Biocon from home as she recovered and even found time in September to participate in a videoconference interview with McKinsey’s Sathya Prathipati and Joydeep Sengupta.

What to expect in year two of the pandemic


FOR MUCH OF 2020 the public rhetoric around the pandemic was combative. Politicians and health officials talked about “hammering” the novel coronavirus and “squashing” towering epidemic curves. But the pesky clump of RNA that, in a few months, has killed hundreds of thousands of people, tanked the global economy and wiped out years of progress on poverty has kept marching on. Though vaccines will emerge, reaching every corner of the world with them will remain an aspiration. So a more conciliatory tone is in order. In 2021 humanity will continue to adapt to living with the virus—in ways that make the coexistence less taxing.

The basics will remain the same. Masks and avid hand-washing will still be necessary. People will give others a wider berth in public spaces without even thinking about it. But as the pandemic enters its second year, be prepared for changes in three areas: testing, quarantine rules and the guidelines for social distancing.

Reenergizing an exhausted organization: A conversation with Admiral John Richardson

“When will this be over?” This question—and the current waiting period—are top of mind for leaders everywhere as the combination of COVID-19, economic uncertainty, and social unrest continues to fuel a pervasive sense of fatigue and disillusionment in organizations around the world. At the same time, many leaders recognize this as a unique moment to be bold, reinvent, and transform—a chance to infuse new hope and energy into the organization, outperform competitors, and “win on the recovery.”

As a veteran of multiple extended deployments aboard nuclear submarines, Admiral John Richardson is no stranger to leading through long-term crises with prolonged uncertainty. Drawing on that and other experiences from his distinguished naval career, the retired four-star admiral and former chief of naval operations recently joined McKinsey’s Aaron De Smet, Daniel Pacthod, Annie-Lou St-Amant, Bob Sternfels, and Tiffany Vogel for a wide-ranging discussion about how leaders can better manage their energy during a crisis, anticipate problems in their teams, and nurture the kind of self-supporting, self-reinforcing dynamic that binds groups together during uncertain times. Condensed and edited excerpts from their October 21, 2020, conversation follow.

Why the Nagorno-Karabakh Cease-Fire Won’t End the Conflict

By Anoush Baghdassarian, Cameron Pope

On Nov. 9, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a cease-fire agreement to terminate the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region at the center of a lengthy “frozen conflict” between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The agreement—signed after 44 days of fighting—introduces a number of novel terms that have not previously been included in any cease-fire, all considered successes for Azerbaijan and Russia, but not necessarily for Armenia.

The conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh Region (NKR), which Armenians call Artsakh, has been ongoing since 1988, when the region’s majority ethnic Armenian population expressed its desire to leave the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic just as the Soviet Union was collapsing. The resultant war ended in 1994, but as neither Azerbaijan nor any other country recognized the independence of the new Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, the region’s status became mired in contention among Azerbaijan, NKR and Armenia. The cease-fire agreement that ended the 1990s war was known as the Bishkek Protocol. It had no expiration date and was meant to remain in force until there was a final agreement. Yet no such agreement has emerged—and no new cease-fire protocol had been established until the one agreed to this month.

Why Can't Europe Defend Itself?

by Ted Galen Carpenter

The sense of relief among European political and policy elites in response to Joe Biden’s election is almost palpable. So, too, is their desire for a return to the pre-Trump status quo ante with respect to Washington’s policy toward NATO

There are some dissenters, especially French President Emmanuel Macron, who has called for European defense “sovereignty” regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, now or in the future. But there also is intense opposition to his call on other European Union (EU) members to take security issues more seriously and develop a credible, independent European defense capability. Washington’s client states in Eastern Europe seem all-too-willing to perpetuate the current system of overwhelming reliance on the United States for their security. Worse, the EU’s leading member, Germany, appears content to do the same. 

That attitude creates the very real danger that Europe’s long-standing habit of free-riding on America’s security exertions will resume after a brief (and partial) interlude during the Trump years. The foreign policy team that President-elect Biden is assembling has a lengthy track record not only of being tolerant of such behavior but eagerly encouraging it. However, such a development would be unhealthy for Americans, and ironically, for Europeans as well.

Marketing the Future: How Data Analytics Is Changing

Data analytics helps marketers learn about their customers with target precision, from the movies they watch on Netflix to their favorite scoop of chocolate ice cream.

Data is ubiquitous, essential and beneficial — except when it’s not.

Experts warn that data analytics is at an inflection point. Growing concerns about security risks, privacy, bias and regulation are bumping up against all the benefits offered by machine learning and artificial intelligence. Layer those concerns on top of worries about the coronavirus pandemic and how it has rapidly changed consumer behavior, and the challenges become clear.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of chaos in terms of what is the right answer. And what we’re seeing is a change in strategy,” said Neil Hoyne, chief measurement strategist at Google and a senior fellow at Wharton Customer Analytics.

We Need a Backup for GPS. Actually, We Need Several of Them


Creating a backup to the GPS constellation has been federal policy since 2004, when President George W. Bush’s National Security Policy Directive-39 ordered the Pentagon to redouble efforts to counter jamming and other interferences and to ensure uninterrupted access to the positioning, timing, and navigation signals that undergird so many of our society’s vital functions. But although much progress has been made since then, the GPS constellation remains vulnerable to jamming and spoofing — and even the kind of physical attacks foreshadowed by China’s 2007 anti-satellite test and Russia’s 2020 suspected deployment of an on-orbit weapon. There is, as yet, no backup worthy of the name.

Fortunately, the private sector has stepped up. There are a number of promising businesses developing and fielding alternative-PNT solutions that can satisfy the diverse requirements of our transportation, energy, telecommunications, and financial sectors. A recent DHS report evaluated several of these systems and the test results are encouraging. The report also highlights what was not necessarily appreciated in 2004: no one system can sufficiently mitigate all of the threat vectors and simultaneously meet the unique demands of our 16 critical infrastructure sectors. The government does not need a single backup; that would simply establish another single-point-of-failure risk. The enduring solution will require several systems. 

China is trying to make up for its military commanders' lack of experience in modern warfare

Minnie Chan
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A recent Chinese military training guideline tries to close gap between today's Chinese troops and the rapid move toward advanced weapons systems.

Unlike Russian and American defense forces, China's military has not seen real combat since the 1980s, leading to a lack of warfare knowledge.

A lack of combat experience and knowledge of modern warfare at the top are hampering the Chinese military's modernisation drive and ability to confront growing security challenges at home and abroad, analysts said.

The People's Liberation Army, which has 2 million troops, had tried to learn from the US military in the past few decades, but experts said intrinsic faults and China's political system were compounding problems with the modernisation push.

Over the last four years, the PLA has embarked on an unprecedented overhaul transform the bulky military into a more nimble modern fighting force. The ruling Communist Party wants the PLA to be a modernised force by 2027 and a world-class military by 2050.

How the U.S. Military Can Compete with Russia and China's New Weapons

by Kris Osborn

The pace at which China is adding carriers, destroyers and amphibious ships is staggering, the Russians reportedly already operate hypersonic missiles and possibly even satellite-launched missiles and both Iran and North Korea seek advanced nuclear weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and tactical nuclear-armed rockets.

China is already working on a second and third indigenous carrier and plans to double its fleet of destroyers within just the next five years. Russia and China have both made fast progress modernizing their respective nuclear arsenals. 

All of these well-known realities continue to provide new urgency to the longstanding refrain that the U.S. military is in desperate need of more effective acquisition reform. The idea, which has actually circulated for decades as a huge, yet largely unrealized priority, may actually be happening now thanks to computer simulation, digital engineering and rapid prototyping.

Robot Warfare: Why the U.S. Army Is Experimenting With New Technology

by Kris Osborn

Movement to enemy contact, forward attack, amphibious operations, reconnaissance and scout tactics and defensive combat maneuvers were all missions performed by small Army robots engaged in mock-combat with dismounted infantry soldiers to replicate major warfare.

The experiment, known as a Soldier Operational Experiment (SOE), was conducted at Fort Benning, Georgia. Soldiers used four Light Robotic Combat Vehicle (LRCV) surrogates to perform combat operations in a range of great-power warfare scenarios. The idea, as explained in statements, was to give infantry the ability to perform high-risk missions both with and without the fleet of small robots to determine the impact of margin of difference the robots will make to a Rifle Platoon.

“The SOE re-enforced our idea that RCVs will not operate as a standalone system, but will provide new capabilities to an integrated fighting force,” said Major Cory Wallace, RCV lead for the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross-Functional Team.

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