19 January 2021

Indian Cities in the Post Pandemic World

As economic powerhouses, cities drive growth and innovation, create jobs, improve livelihoods, and advance prosperity. In India, cities contribute around 70% of the country’s GDP and approximately 25–30 people migrate to Indian cities from rural areas every minute. But cities have also been epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic which has exposed existing fault lines in South India’s largest urban agglomerations, including wide economic disparity, inadequate access to affordable housing, suboptimal land utilization and inefficient planning, and unequal access to core public services. The impact has been profoundly different on different segments of the population. The poor and vulnerable, including migrant workers and urban poor, have suffered from the dual blows of lost income and weak social protection coverage. The pandemic has also laid bare gender-based imbalances in public and private life in urban areas in India.

The pandemic can be a turning point in India’s urban journey if we draw the right lessons and translate them into lasting change. It presents a historic opportunity to build back better and create a new urban paradigm – one that enables Indian cities to be healthier, more inclusive, and more resilient. The World Economic Forum’s report entitled Indian Cities in the Post Pandemic World highlights India’s most pressing urban challenges that were further exacerbated by the pandemic. The report, produced in collaboration with IDFC Institute in Mumbai, India, provides insights for translating the lessons learned from the pandemic to an urban reform agenda across seven thematic pillars: planning, housing, transport, environment, public health, gender, and vulnerable populations. The insights have been compiled through extensive interviews and consultations with 14 leading global and Indian urban experts.

The next wave of globalization: Asia in the cockpit


Four years ago, the Trump administration came into office promising to bring back industrial jobs from Asia and revitalize America's manufacturing foundation. He pledged to slash the country's trade deficit with China by forcing it to buy more oil, food and industrial goods from the U.S.

But things haven't worked out as planned. November 2020 was the busiest month in the history of the port of Los Angeles, with up to 20 container vessels being unloaded every day -- mostly from China, which sent a record $52 billion of goods across the Pacific Ocean that month.

Trump trumpeted his anti-globalization credentials from the beginning of his administration to the end, promising to protect American industries from Chinese competition and defeat the "ideology of globalism." But ultimately -- and not surprisingly -- it got the better of him.

Orwell's world?

Today's world is beset by contradictory megatrends of the type just illustrated. High-stakes tensions between the U.S. and China over trade, technology, and Taiwan, but also massive investments in new connective infrastructure from freight railways to internet cables. Protectionism and industrial policy to nearshore manufacturing and boost self-sufficiency, but also intense competition to export digital technologies and lure investment into capital markets. Nationalism and xenophobia restricting migration, but also a war for talent to capture students, nurses, and tech workers.

Why Biden Should Abandon Trump’s Failed Trade War with China


SHANGHAI – When President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated next week, he will quickly move to transform most dimensions of US policy. A glaring exception is China. But if Biden maintains outgoing President Donald Trump’s confrontational approach to the world’s second-largest economy, he will come to regret it.

While Biden may be less overtly antagonistic toward China than Trump was, he has echoed many of his predecessor’s complaints about China’s trade practices, accusing the country of “stealing” intellectual property, dumping products in foreign markets, and forcing technology transfers from American companies. And he has indicated that he will not immediately abandon the “phase one” bilateral trade agreement reached last year, or remove the 25% tariffs that now affect about half of China’s exports to the United States.

In Biden’s view, it is best not to make any significant changes to the ongoing approach to China until he conducts a full review of the existing agreement and consults with America’s traditional allies in Asia and Europe, in order to “develop a coherent strategy.” His chosen US Trade Representative, Katherine Tai – an Asian-American trade lawyer (and fluent Mandarin speaker), with extensive experience in China – might play an important role in the review process.

China’s Fateful Year


CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – When historians look back at 2020, many may regard it as a pivotal year, like 1949 and 1979, which transformed China’s relations with the West. After Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the country became part of the Soviet bloc and an avowed enemy of the US-led West. But 30 years later, when Deng Xiaoping launched his reforms and made an official visit to the United States to normalize Sino-American relations, a China impoverished by Mao’s calamitous rule received a warm welcome back to the international community.

In 2020, the pendulum swung back again toward mutual distrust and hostility. Two developments in China played a decisive role in this fundamental shift: the COVID-19 pandemic and the national-security law that the Chinese government imposed on Hong Kong.

Infographic Of The Day: China's Dominance In Rare Earth Metals

Although deposits of rare earth metals exist all over the world, the majority of both mining and refining occurs in China. The above graphic from CSIS China Power Project tracks China's exports of rare earth metals in 2019, providing a glimpse of the country's dominating presence in the global supply chain.

Jack Ma’s Disappearance and the Dangers of Doing Business in an Autocracy

Frida Ghitis

The last time China’s most famous billionaire, Jack Ma, was seen in public was October. It was an appearance that did not please the regime in Beijing. The founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba—something of a Chinese Jeff Bezos—may have grown too confident and too powerful for the Chinese Communist Party, which may have decided it was time to not just silence him and limit his power, but to send a message to other potential critics with wealth and influence.

It would not be the first time that China has used repressive tactics to put elites in their place. And it wouldn’t be the first time a repressive regime has used mafia tactics to bring people who have gotten too wealthy, too influential—and perhaps too comfortable—to heel. We have seen it in recent years in Russia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Ma last spoke publicly at the Bund Summit, a financial conference, in Shanghai on Oct. 24. Before an audience that included Chinese government officials, he talked about the planned stock listing of his massive Ant Group, which would have been the largest not just in China’s history, but “the largest in human history,” he said. But Ma also criticized China, saying the banking system operates with a “pawnshop” mentality, with outdated demands for collateral and guarantees for loans.

A New Chinese Cash Flow: Enhancing Partnerships prior to the Biden Era?

Beijing is gearing up in advance of a new administration in Washington: in a short time, China has successfully concluded economic agreements with Eastern and Western states, promoted interests in Africa, and presented political initiatives for the Middle East. What is China trying to achieve, and how is this significant for Israel?

The heads of the European Union and the President of China recently announced the conclusion of a comprehensive investment agreement, reached after seven years of negotiations. For China, this agreement joins the free trade agreement in Asia (RCEP), the strengthening of bilateral relations with African countries, and declarations calling for the preservation of the nuclear agreement with Iran and the promotion of regional dialogue in the Gulf. A Chinese decision to accelerate negotiation processes and sign economic agreements, along with advancing political moves, is intended to strengthen the growth of the Chinese economy and its global position ahead of Biden's entry into the White House. Israel should follow the Chinese activities closely, study their significance for the Israeli policy and economy, maintain a dialogue with China at the leadership level, and at the same time coordinate positions in the context of these initiatives with the United States, the European Union, and the Gulf states.

China – Winning the Pandemic… for Now

Is it not ironic that the Coronavirus pandemic, which arguably began in a Wuhan ani­mal market in late 2019, has accelerated China’s rise? Indeed, early interim assess­ments show that Beijing’s draconian, sometimes inhumane, disease control measures have proven highly successful. China’s containment of Covid-19 domestically has enabled a return to normality and laid the foundation for a strong economic up­swing. Party and state leaders are using these achievements for political advancement at home and abroad. China’s effective crisis management – epidemiological, economic, and politi­cal – reveal that the country is winning this crisis in the end of 2020. Nonetheless, the sustainability of these economic and political successes is debatable.

In Europe and across the Americas, Covid-19 infection rates rise significantly once again while economic trajectories face new downward trends, yet China seems to be exuding strength. Boasting supremely low infection rates and a noticeable increase in economic activity, the Chinese state and its ruling party are touting themselves, both domestically and abroad, as representatives of a system that is superior to that of the US and the West.

Successful Containment

“Greening” China: An analysis of Beijing’s sustainable development strategies

Main findings and conclusions

China’s leadership acknowledges climate change and environmental degradation as real and pressing threats to long-term regime survival and economic prosperity. However, while a trend towards a concerted push for sustainability shows in national-level policies, the lack of forceful sectoral and local-level incentives leaves China with a mixed track record on sustainability.

China’s Covid-19 stimulus measures are more targeted at investing in carbon-heavy infrastructure for economic stability. However, the pandemic has not stopped Beijing’s policy machinery for more sustainability and a greener economy.

China’s authorities pursue a non-disruptive and incremental green policymaking approach, always concerned about political stability and economic costs.

Beijing’s strategic bet for its sustainable future is on achieving state-guided and funded technological breakthroughs in, enabling a green transformation at home and global tech leadership in all areas, from renewables to environmental protection equipment.

China’s state-supported R&D efforts show first results in green technology innovation, but a large number of green tech patents (e.g., in wind power) does not necessarily translate into high-quality outcomes.

The greening of China’s manufacturing system is key for realizing a more sustainable economy. The transformation is making headways, but green growth and product performance are lagging.

China’s green ambitions will continue going forward: the forthcoming 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) is expected to drive decarbonization and indigenous tech innovation, however, without proposing overly ambitious climate actions.

China Wages War NOT Competition

By Bob Howard

“Our traditional way that we differentiate between peace and war is insufficient to [the dynamic of competition below armed conflict].”

“We think of being at peace or war…our adversaries don’t think that way.”

General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

21 September and 5 October 2016 [1]

China at War with the United States

The concept of Great Power Competition (GPC) is flawed. The term GPC leads to an apathetic response by those with a responsibility to act and protect western democratic interests such as businessmen, politicians, intelligence, academia, media, national and international government institutions, and the military.[2] China’s government is waging war against the United States (US); NOT COMPETING.[3]

Into the danger zone: The coming crisis in US-China relations

The US-China competition may not be a “superpower marathon,” but a decade-long sprint.

China will have strong incentives to behave aggressively in the coming decade, as its relative power peaks and perhaps begins to decline.

The United States will need a “danger zone” strategy geared toward preventing China from achieving major gains that could alter the long-term balance of power in two areas—tech and Taiwan.


In foreign policy circles, it has become conventional wisdom that America and China are running a “superpower marathon” that may last a century.1 But what if the sharpest phase of that competition is more like a decade-long sprint? To be sure, a Sino-American contest that is driven by clashing geopolitical interests and stark ideological antagonism won’t be settled anytime soon. Yet the intensity of even the longest rivalries can vary greatly over time. Both history and China’s recent trajectory suggest that the Sino-American competition may reach its moment of maximum danger during this decade.2

The reason for this is that China has reached a particularly perilous moment in the life of a rising power—the point where it has gained the capability to dramatically disrupt the existing order but has lost confidence that time is on its side. On the one hand, the balance of power has been shifting in Beijing’s favor in important areas of US-Chinese competition, such as the Taiwan Strait and the struggle over global telecommunications networks. Moreover, China currently surveys a world and a superpower rival that are demoralized and distracted.

China and its Arctic Trajectories: The Arctic Institute’s China Series Report 2020

China’s Arctic engagement has increased considerably during the past decade, which has not only offered plentiful economic opportunities but also created new risks and concerns among the eight Arctic states, non-state actors, and peoples. To increase understanding of dimensions of Beijing’s Arctic activities, The Arctic Institute’s 2020 China series probed into China’s evolving Arctic interests, policies, and strategies, and analyses their ramifications for the region (and beyond).

As the articles of the series demonstrated, China has constructed an Arctic identity and partakes in international frameworks, such as the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), that support its globalist view of the Arctic. China has also developed bilateral Arctic partnerships, and Chinese investors are involved in economic projects in many parts of the region. As the biggest carbon dioxide emitter in the world, China undoubtedly contributes to environmental security in the Arctic. At the same time, there are also signs that many Arctic states are increasingly concerned about hard security implications of China’s growing Arctic engagement.

All in all, The Arctic Institute’s 2020 China series offered a comprehensive account of China’s policies and interests in the Arctic – highly recommended reading if we are to enhance international cooperation and assure that the Arctic remains an international zone of peace in the future.

You can download a pdf-file of all published articles throughout 2020 or start by reading our intro-text from March 17, 2020.

Doing Business with China

The terms of the West’s economic engagement with China are again in the spotlight, as a result of the European Union’s recent investment agreement with the country and the change of administration in the United States. In particular, can Western leaders balance political and human-rights concerns regarding China with firms’ desire to do more business with it?

In this Big Picture, Columbia University’s Jeffrey D. Sachs welcomes the new EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment and hopes for renewed great-power cooperation to end the COVID-19 pandemic and foster a green, digital global recovery. But Harvard University’s Dani Rodrik says that because the CAI exposes EU firms to complicity in Chinese abuses and won’t transform China’s economic or political system, the key question is whether it allows Europe to remain true to its own values.

Charles A. Kupchan of Georgetown University and Peter Trubowitz of the London School of Economics worry that the EU’s decision to sign the pact, despite bipartisan US opposition, underscores the potential for serious Western discord vis-à-vis China. They urge US President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration to forge a united democratic front toward the country. Likewise, Johns Hopkins University’s Anne O. Krueger calls on Biden to abandon Trump’s failed unilateral trade policies toward China in favor of a multilateral approach.

What Is the Iran Nuclear Deal?

Kali Robinson

Signed in 2015 by Iran and several world powers, including the United States, the JCPOA placed significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

President Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018, claiming it failed to curtail Iran’s missile program and regional influence. Iran began ignoring limitations on its nuclear program a year later.

President-Elect Biden has pledged to return the United States to the JCPOA if Iran resumes compliance, but it is unclear whether Iran will agree to new negotiations.


The Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is a landmark accord reached between Iran and several world powers, including the United States, in July 2015. Under its terms, Iran agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in exchange for billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief.

However, the deal has been in jeopardy since President Donald J. Trump withdrew the United States from it in 2018. In response to the U.S. departure, as well as to deadly attacks on prominent Iranians in 2020, including one by the United States, Iran has resumed some of its nuclear activities.

Trends in Terrorism: What’s on the Horizon in 2021?

The year 2020 was unprecedented in many ways. Just three days into the year, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander Qasem Soleimani. That news was soon eclipsed by the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus and the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns, protests, and a bitterly contested presidential election in the United States are just a few of the factors influencing the terrorism threat heading into 2021. So, what will this upcoming year bring?

On a global level, several developments could increase terrorism in certain parts of the world. With the United States drawing down forces in the Middle East, South Asia, and throughout Africa, al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS), and their respective affiliates could make a renewed push to capture new territory and destabilize countries and regions. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Nigeria are home to jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and ISIS. Even with the current state of its leadership in question with uncertainty surrounding the health of Ayman al-Zawahiri and the recent assassination of al Qaeda veteran Muhammad al-Masri, 2021 could prove to be a banner year for al Qaeda as it seeks to reassert itself through affiliates around the globe.

As the United States continues to shift resources and redeploy troops in various theatres, there could be openings for terrorist and insurgent groups to take advantage of potential power vacuums. In Syria, while the Bashar al Assad regime has consolidated control over critical territory, Idlib Province is dominated by terrorist groups, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the al Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Din. COVID-19 did little to slow the operational tempo of Islamic State attacks in Syria. In all of 2019, there were 144 total attacks, but through the first three quarters of 2020, ISIS managed to conduct 126 attacks, expanding significantly in southern Raqqa and eastern Hama. This year may present more, not fewer, opportunities for terrorist groups to recruit and launch strikes throughout the Levant.

A New “Year Zero”


DAVOS – The year ahead could be a historic one – and in a positive way. Seventy-five years after the original “Year Zero” that followed World War II, we once again have a chance to rebuild. The process after 1945 was literal: building anew from the wreckage of war. This time, the focus is on the material world but also on so much more. We must aim for a higher degree of societal sophistication and create a sound basis for the well-being of all people and the planet.

After WWII, we developed a new economic philosophy grounded in collaboration and integration, with material well-being as its primary objective. This project gave rise to international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the OECD, as well as the arrangements that would evolve into the World Trade Organization and the European Union. Neoliberalism – a staunch commitment to free markets and limited government – reigned in the West, where it delivered decades of prosperity and progress.

But this model has broken down. While COVID-19 delivered the final blow, it has been clear for at least two decades that the post-war model is no longer sustainable, environmentally or socially (owing to today’s sky-high levels of inequality). The English historian Thomas Fuller famously said that “the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.” And yet, we cannot simply assume that a better year will follow an annus horribilis that brought the greatest public-health crisis and the steepest recession in a century. We must act to make it so.

Whither America?


NEW YORK – The assault on the US Capitol by President Donald Trump’s supporters, incited by Trump himself, was the predictable outcome of his four-year-long assault on democratic institutions, aided and abetted by so many in the Republican Party. And no one can say that Trump had not warned us: he was not committed to a peaceful transition of power. Many who benefited as he slashed taxes for corporations and the rich, rolled back environmental regulations, and appointed business-friendly judges knew they were making a pact with the devil. Either they believed they could control the extremist forces he unleashed, or they didn’t care.

Where does America go from here? Is Trump an aberration, or a symptom of a deeper national malady? Can the United States be trusted? In four years, will the forces that gave rise to Trump, and the party that overwhelmingly supported him, triumph again? What can be done to prevent that outcome?

Trump is the product of multiple forces. For at least a quarter-century, the Republican Party has understood that it could represent the interests of business elites only by embracing anti-democratic measures (including voter suppression and gerrymandering) and allies, including the religious fundamentalists, white supremacists, and nationalist populists.

Of course, populism implied policies that were antithetical to business elites. But many business leaders spent decades mastering the ability to deceive the public. Big Tobacco spent lavishly on lawyers and bogus science to deny their products’ adverse health effects. Big Oil did likewise to deny fossil fuels’ contribution to climate change. They recognized that Trump was one of their own.

The Legacy of 2020

As if COVID-19’s impact in 2020 was not pervasive enough, its long-term implications may be even broader and more far-reaching. Even if vaccines bring an end to the pandemic as quickly as hoped, they will not reverse its most consequential effects on governance, geopolitics, and culture.

In this Big Picture, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis says the COVID-19 crisis has shown that national governments, which had seemingly been sidelined by globalization, in fact retain enormous power. Arguing in a similar vein, former Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio thinks the pandemic may have triggered a fundamental reshaping and rebalancing of the relationship between state and society, particularly in Western liberal democracies.

Ngaire Woods, the dean of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, explains why many poor, ill-equipped countries nonetheless managed the virus much better than wealthy countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom did. And former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer warns that whereas China – after a rocky start – has emerged stronger from this year of crisis, America has come out weaker. But Bill Emmott, co-director of the Global Commission for Post-Pandemic Policy, cautions that it would be premature to declare 2020 the beginning of a new “Asian Century.”

Finally, Harvard University’s Jeffrey Frankel notes how a year dominated by US President Donald Trump and COVID-19 came to be symbolized by three pervasive terms, whose users often did not understand what they meant.

Why our fast-paced society loves yoga


Judge Eleni Derke cuts an imposing figure, shrouded in her black robe and seated behind the elevated wood-paneled bench in the county courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida. From the jury box and lawyers’ tables, you can’t see what else she’s wearing: wildly patterned yoga pants.

More than 25 years ago, Derke discovered yoga. She was suffering from the searing abdominal pain of Crohn’s disease. Her doctor recommended surgery. Hoping to avoid it, she went to see a cousin who was a yoga master. He taught her the upside-down poses known as inversions. They are said to clear the body of toxins, though there’s no scientific evidence to support the claim. Derke’s symptoms quickly subsided. “Yoga saved my life.”

In the West, yoga often focuses on the asanas, or postures, of hatha yoga, one of its many branches. In India, where the discipline began more than 4,000 years ago, followers of Krishna perform bhakti, or devotional, yoga, by moving 108 stones the length of their body during repeated prostrations on a 13-mile circuit of Govardhan Hill.

She trained as a yoga instructor, and if it’s not too hot, she holds free monthly classes on the courthouse lawn. When lawyers drone on at trial, she will order a break and lead jurors in standing stretches and breathing exercises. But she’s best known in legal circles as the judge who sentences offenders to take yoga behind bars.

2020 Trends in Terrorism: From ISIS Fragmentation to Lone-Actor Attacks

BY: Alastair Reed; Kateira Aryaeinejad

In the past five years, terrorist attacks have declined notably around the globe. While this is certainly good news—particularly in the 20th year of the so-called global war on terror—terrorism remains a pervasive threat. Despite declines in its prevalence, the scale of the challenge posed by terrorism and the violent ideologies that underpin it is still immense and the mechanisms by which to address it remain complex and in need of further coordination on a global scale. What trends did we see in 2020? And how can those trends inform policy to counter violent extremism?

In November 2020, the Institute of Economics and Peace released their annual Global Terrorism Index (GTI), an invaluable resource for understanding the current impact of terrorism around the world. On a subject that provokes much speculation and conjecture, the GTI provides hard empirical data illuminating the actual scale and impact of terrorism worldwide with important implications for identifying ongoing and future terrorism trends, tolls, and threats. The GTI data highlights two key patterns of particular note for informing more proactive and effective policy: the decline and displacement of the Islamic State group in the Middle East and the rise of far-right violence in the West.

Global Economic Prospects, January 2021

Although the global economy is emerging from the collapse triggered by COVID-19, the recovery is likely to be subdued, and global GDP is projected to remain well below its pre-pandemic trend for a prolonged period. Several risks cloud the outlook, including those related to the pandemic and to rapidly rising debt. The pandemic has further diminished already-weak growth prospects for the next decade. Decisive policy actions will be critical in raising the likelihood of better growth outcomes while warding off worse ones. Immediate priorities include supporting vulnerable groups and ensuring a prompt and widespread vaccination process to bring the pandemic under control. Although macroeconomic policy support will continue to be important, limited fiscal policy space amid high debt highlights the need for an ambitious reform agenda that bolsters growth prospects. To address many of these challenges, global cooperation will be key.

Distributed Kill Chains

by Nicholas A. O'Donoughue, Samantha McBirney, Brian Persons

What are the advantages of Mosaic warfare?

What are potential challenges in the transition to Mosaic warfare?

What changes in the way that systems are procured, evaluated, and fielded might be required to cope with the expected traits of Mosaic warfare?

In Mosaic warfare, individual warfighting platforms are assembled — like the ceramic tiles in mosaics — to make a larger picture or, in this case, a force package. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing this novel warfighting construct to acquire, field, and employ forces. To reveal the value of Mosaic warfare and uncover potential challenges in the transition to this system, the authors of this report present a pair of case studies: (1) an analysis of the human immune system's response to pathogens and (2) an analysis of the U.S. Navy's Naval Integrated Fire Control — Counter Air (NIFC-CA) project.

Noting that the human immune system has evolved over 500 million years to exhibit mosaiclike properties — meaning that these properties have conferred some evolutionary advantage — the authors suggest that Mosaic warfare might have similar advantages, such as resilience and adaptability, over other approaches to defeating a threat. They then discuss lessons and best practices from the NIFC-CA project, which largely owes its success to its unique approach to development and fielding. For example, NIFC-CA used preexisting testing infrastructure; approached testing in a scientific manner, in which failure was viewed as a learning opportunity rather than a setback; and had a lengthy development timeline. From these lessons, the authors derive a cohesive set of policy recommendations for DARPA.

Findings on Mosaic Warfare from a Colonel Blotto Game

by Justin Grana, Jonathan Lamb, Nicholas A. O'Donoughue

Is Mosaic warfare better (i.e., more cost-effective and robust) than more-monolithic approaches to conflict?

What are some of the key trade-offs of adopting a Mosaic force?
Can we gain any insight into the benefits of Mosaic warfare from competitive games?

RAND researchers explored the capabilities and limitations of future weapon systems incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) through two wargame experiments. The researchers modified and augmented the rules and engagement statistics used in a commercial tabletop wargame to enable (1) remotely operated and fully autonomous combat vehicles and (2) vehicles with AI/ML–enabled situational awareness to show how the two types of vehicles would perform in company-level engagements between Blue (U.S.) and Red (Russian) forces. Those rules sought to realistically capture the capabilities and limitations of those systems, including their vulnerability to selected enemy countermeasures, such as jamming. Future work could improve the realism of both the gameplay and representation of AI/ML–enabled systems.

In this experiment, participants played two games: a baseline game and an AI/ML game. Throughout play in the two game scenarios, players on both sides discussed the capabilities and limitations of the remotely operated and fully autonomous systems and their implications for engaging in combat using such systems. These discussions led to changes in how the systems were employed by the players and observations about which limitations should be mitigated before commanders were likely to accept a system and which capabilities needed to be fully understood by commanders so that systems could be employed appropriately.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (Download the full report here)

“This epidemic is not only a crisis, but also a big test, and a war. I said from the beginning, we must fight; this is a people’s war.”

—Xi Jinping, General Secretary, Chinese Communist Party

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the global order and reshaping the balance of power on the world stage. The lessons that nations and their militaries take from this crisis will be highly consequential to their capacity to adapt to this disruption and enhance their resilience going forward. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, China’s self-declared successes in its national response increased Beijing’s influence and its confidence in the advantages of its Party-state model, which CCP leaders claim possesses “systemic superiority” (体制优势).

The Party’s accounts of its success can be difficult to evaluate critically, given the suppression of information and extensive propaganda. Indeed, accounts have since emerged that contradict Beijing’s official narrative, including with regard to initial delays in testing and distortions in data. While important lessons can be learned from the CCP’s eventual successes in combating the pandemic, there are also lessons to be drawn from early failures that had allowed the outbreak of COVID-19 to become a pandemic in the first place. Certain issues exposed during the early stages of the pandemic have been revealing of systemic problems that have yet to be resolved. At this point, the question of whether Chinese leaders will learn from and adapt in response to the crisis remains to be seen.

The Other Side of COIN

2ndLt Robert C. German

The War on Terror ushered in a new era of warfare for the United States and the Marine Corps. Gone are the days of Desert Storm-like conflicts when the United States could simply flex its muscle and use its technological advantages to bring an enemy to its knees. This muscle has now turned into the country’s Achilles heel, exposing it to devastating attacks from insurgents, cyber warriors, and the like. These enemies are not caught on a battlefield, but rather attack from the shadows, costing the country dollars and blood it cannot continue to pay. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to the widespread adoption of counterinsurgency (COIN) tactics by both Army and Marine Corps units in order to mitigate this weakness. The question is: as Marines begin to leave areas of past conflict and move into the Pacific theater, where China's influence is growing stronger on a daily basis, how will these ideas blend into the ever-evolving problems of the region? The answer lies in COIN, which, if properly implemented, has the potential to enhance our fighting ability in this new environment for three distinct reasons. First, the age of unrestricted warfare makes big militaries open to small wars, which COIN seeks to solve. Second, the cultural understanding requisite to COIN provides unique solutions that are more adaptive to a changing environment. Third, COIN requires collaboration between the military and the government, aimed at the strategic alignment of policy and executive action, which will prove most effective in dealing with the threat China poses to the world.