7 February 2021

Why Tensions Between China and India Won't Boil Over

by Rafiq Dossani

China-India relations seem to be at their lowest point in decades. To head off the risk of escalation, it could be in the interest of both nations to look for ways to improve a relationship that is at once one of the world’s most important and most dangerous.

In June 2020, Chinese and Indian soldiers confronted each other in the disputed area on their western border known as the Galwan River Valley. Although not publicly admitted by either side (presumably, for fear of domestic political repercussions within India), China is believed to have taken control of at least twenty square miles of Indian controlled territory following the incident. Implicitly, this is recognized by India which has made repeated requests to China to pull back its troops to the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) that preceded the incident. There has been no progress since, despite eight rounds of military-to-military level talks at the disputed site. India subsequently imposed economic sanctions on China, leading to lost contracts worth several billion dollars, again to no avail.

The immediate provocation for the incident was India’s construction of a feeder road to the LOAC in 2019. China had complained to India in May that it raised the likelihood of quick forward deployment of troops against China. India ignored the complaint suggesting that it had the right to build infrastructure in territory under its control, even if disputed. A month later, China sent troops to the disputed area and India responded by sending its troops to the area. There were casualties on both sides, marking a change from the decades of mutual understanding between the two countries that they would not use firearms or kill the personnel of the other side.

The US-Taliban Deal: A Year Later

By Franz J. Marty

In this Monday, Sept 14, 2020 file photo, families gather at the graves of their relatives, adorned with their pictures, on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan.Credit: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File

On February 29, 2020, the United States and the Taliban — after having been at war for over 19 years — signed the historic Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan. The agreement stipulates that the Taliban will prevent anyone from using Afghan soil to threaten the United States and their allies and enter into negotiations with other Afghan sides to forge an Afghanistan that is also at peace with itself. In return, the U.S. promised to withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan. While some parts of the agreement have been implemented over the past year, others remain open and raise questions. Meanwhile, fighting between Taliban and Afghan government forces as well as terror attacks continue across Afghanistan.

According to the U.S.-Taliban Agreement, intra-Afghan negotiations between the Taliban and other “Afghan sides” — the current Afghan government is, as a concession to the Taliban, not explicitly mentioned in the agreement — were supposed to start on March 10, 2020. However, they actually kicked off on September 12, 2020 in Doha, Qatar. The main reason for the delay was haggling over the release of Taliban prisoners, which was in turn caused by a lack of clarity as to what had actually been agreed upon.

Taliban falsely claims: ‘There are no Al Qaeda operatives present in Afghanistan’


The Taliban has once again attempted to falsely claim “there are no Al Qaeda operatives present in Afghanistan,” despite that fact that U.S. and Afghan forces have killed several senior Al Qaeda leaders in the country over the past year.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied today that Al Qaeda is present in Afghanistan in an official statement released on the Taliban’s English language website, Voice of Jihad.

Mujahid made the patently erroneous claim in response to a U.S. Treasury report released earlier this year that noted Al Qaeda was “gaining strength” in Afghanistan with the help and “protection” of the Taliban. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Al Qaeda ‘gaining strength’ in Afghanistan, U.S. Treasury says.]

From the Taliban statement:

We strongly reject this report. The report has been compiled by partisan and warmongering circles based on false information.

In the year 2001 when a large-scale war broke out in Afghanistan and the subsequent uprisings in parts of the Arab world, members of Al Qaeda and other foreign nationals that had previously sought refuge in Afghanistan returned back to their homelands.

Currently, there are no Al Qaeda operatives present in Afghanistan and neither does there remain a need for any foreign national to live in Afghanistan.Remarks by spokesman of Islamic Emirate concerning report by US Treasury Department, Voice of Jihad, Jan. 27, 2021

The Taliban’s claim that Al Qaeda “returned back to their homelands” after the U.S. invasion following the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the U.S. is laughable.

Al Qaeda ‘gaining strength’ in Afghanistan, U.S. Treasury says


Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Department posted a written update on its work to combat illicit terrorism financing. The summary was submitted in response to inquiries from the Department of Defense’s Lead Inspector General. Written in a question and answer format, the Jan. 4 memo provides a window into how Treasury’s counterterrorism officials currently view al Qaeda and the Islamic State’s competing networks. Much of the document cannot be independently corroborated, as the source information has not been made public.

Al Qaeda “gaining strength” under Taliban’s “protection”

The Trump administration sold its Feb. 29, 2020, agreement with the Taliban as a victory for America’s counterterrorism efforts. Despite supposed assurances that the Taliban would break with al Qaeda, however, the Treasury Department’s analysts find that the two remain closely allied.

As of 2020, according to the report, al Qaeda was “gaining strength in Afghanistan while continuing to operate with the Taliban under the Taliban’s protection.” Al Qaeda “capitalizes on its relationship with the Taliban through its network of mentors and advisers who are embedded with the Taliban, providing advice, guidance, and financial support.”

To date, there is no publicly available evidence showing that the Taliban has taken steps to uproot al Qaeda’s network inside Afghanistan. The Taliban continues to lie about al Qaeda as well, falsely claiming that the group isn’t even present inside the country.

Treasury reports that senior Haqqani Network officials “have discussed forming a new joint unit of armed fighters in cooperation with and funded by al Qaeda.” This and other claims in the memo are consistent with earlier assessments by a panel of experts who work for the United Nations Security Council. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, U.N.: Taliban “regularly consulted” with Al Qaeda throughout negotiations with U.S.]

Democracy Hero? Military Foil? Myanmar’s Leader Ends Up as Neither

By Hannah Beech

In the years Myanmar was cowed by a military junta, people would tuck away secret photos of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, talismans of the heroine of democracy who would save her country from a fearsome army even though she was under house arrest.

But after she and her party won historic elections in 2015 and again last year by a landslide — cementing her own popularity within Myanmar — Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi came to be viewed by the outside world as something altogether different: a fallen patron saint who had made a Faustian pact with the generals and no longer deserved her Nobel Peace Prize.

In the end, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, could not protect her people, nor could she placate the generals. On Monday, the military, which had ruled the country for nearly five decades, seized power again in a coup, cutting short the governance of her National League for Democracy after just five years.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in a pre-dawn raid, along with her top ministers and a slew of pro-democracy figures. The rounding up of critics of the military continued into Monday night, and the nation’s telecommunications networks suffered constant interruptions.

Across the country, government billboards still carried her image and that of her party’s fighting peacock. But the army, under commander in chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, was back in charge.

In China, How People Are Pushing Back On Surveillance State

Frédéric Schaeffer

BEIJING — On Xingfu Street, in central Beijing, a dozen people dressed in reflective vests compose a single file line — but they are not merely standing. Hunched to the ground or cautiously walking sideways, they advance as if they were simulating a hostage evacuation or avoiding a sniper. Watched by bewildered passersby, these citizens are participating in a performance by the artist Deng Yufeng, aiming to depict exactly how difficult it is to escape the video surveillance cameras infesting the Chinese capital.

Occasionally zigzagging and walking backwards to hide their faces from the eyes of Big Brother, these volunteers, recruited online, took more than two hours to traverse the 1 kilometer section on Xingfu (or "Happiness") Street. "I found there was something ironic and tragic in the idea of disappearing on Happiness Street," explains the artist from his studio in a Beijing suburb.

It took Deng Yufeng, 34, two months to locate the cameras, discreetly noting their positions and taking measurements in the street. Back at his studio, he studied the different camera angles on the internet then created a route accordingly. "There were 89 cameras when I started creating the route, but on the day of the performance I noticed new ones! Luckily, we were able to add a few adjustments on the spot." Due to a police investigation, Deng gave up his plans of repeating the performance and putting the itinerary online.

Escaping Big Brother is a nearly impossible mission in China. In the name of counterterrorism, the number of surveillance cameras are exploding. The country counted some 350 million in 2018, according to IHS Markit. This number could reach 560 million next year, half of the estimated one billion surveillance cameras in use around the world. Eighteen of the world's 20 most monitored cities are in China, according to the British company Comparitech. In Beijing alone, there are believed to be one million surveillance cameras — still less than the amount in London — if they're estimated in ratio to the number of inhabitants (56 cameras for 1,000 citizens in the Chinese capital against 67 in the British capital).

How Will China Counter US Financial Hegemony?

By Robert Farley

How does China plan to contest U.S. financial hegemony, and what does this contest mean for the power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over China’s private sector economy? A new report from the Center for New American Security examines the Digital Currency/Electronic Payment (DCEP) project, China’s latest efforts to develop and take advantage of technology in the financial domain. “China’s Digital Currency: Adding Financial Data to Digital Authoritarianism,” written by Yaya Fanusie (adjunct senior fellow in the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at CNAS) and Emily Jin (research assistant in the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at CNAS), details China’s efforts to yoke the development of digital currency to both the domestic and international interests of the CCP.

China is pursuing the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) project for several inter-related reasons. It would give the Chinese government an unprecedented degree of insight into the functioning of the Chinese financial system, and consequently of the Chinese economy. The digital currency project gives the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), and thus the CCP, more control over the activities of firms within its borders, and especially over the powerful financial services and payment companies that have become critical to the functioning of the Chinese economy. Financial transparency would also support long-term efforts to achieve full convertibility of China’s currency, as well as enhance the ability of the state to fight crime, of both the digital and ordinary variety.

The EU’s South China Sea Challenge

By Sophie Boisseau du Rocher

European Council President Charles Michel, top right, speaks with China’s President Xi Jinping, top left, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, bottom right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, bottom left, during a virtual summit by videoconference at the European Council building in Brussels, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.Credit: Yves Herman, Pool via AP

The European Union is certainly not a major stakeholder in the South China Sea disputes and does not claim to be. Yet, at the same time, it has significant interests in the issue – and not only because 40 percent of its foreign trade is dependent on this free and safe corridor. The EU has major partners directly involved in the disputes, and perhaps more importantly, it has systemic interests to defend. As suggested in 2016 at the Shangri-La Dialogue by Jean-Yves Le Drian, then France’s defense minister, “if the law of the sea is not observed in the China Seas today, it will be in jeopardy in the Arctic, the Mediterranean or elsewhere tomorrow” – a concern recently echoed by a NATO report.

Where are we today with this assessment? Is there any possibility for the new “geopolitical” EU Commission (as it has branded itself) to budge China without compromising too far on its fundamentals? Or will the South China Sea challenge be an additional humiliating game of hide and seek for Europe? Facing China’s increased self-confidence – even impatience – in shaping its own global order, can the EU contribute to that order’s elaboration while preserving its core values? At the very end, what is at stake is the EU’s legitimacy as an exemplary model for peace.

Defending Forward to Confront China’s Military Aims

By Craig Singleton

The passage of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) marked the moment the budget finally caught up to a grim geostrategic reality: The capabilities gap between the U.S. and Chinese militaries is shrinking, and fast. The NDAA also rightly acknowledged the linkage between China’s military pursuits and its deft ability to operate in the gray zone between traditional war and peace. Nowhere is this trend clearer than in the Indo-Pacific, where China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is fortifying its fixed military positions in the South China Sea while simultaneously investing in advanced next-generation technologies with over-the-horizon applications.

The seeds of China’s massive, ongoing military modernization were, of course, planted decades ago, although they have taken on new dimensions in recent years under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership. In pursuing Xi’s principal goals of attaining great-power status and securing China’s place within the international hierarchy, Beijing has prioritized efforts to transform the PLA into a capable and agile expeditionary fighting force.

These aims include conducting joint operations on a modern battlefield, emphasizing expanding naval operations far beyond China’s immediate vicinity, all the while employing integrated, real-time command and control networks to ensure rapid decision-making and information sharing. China also remains keen to significantly enhance its anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities while laying the technical groundwork needed to win “informatized” (cyber) wars.

Xi Tells the World What He Really Wants


On Jan. 25, Chinese president Xi Jinping gave a speech to the online version of the World Economic Forum’s Davos conference, with the lofty title “Let the Torch of Multilateralism Light Up Humanity’s Way Forward.” It was important not because it offered new revelations about Xi’s thinking or China’s ambitions, but because it provided a handy summary of how China wants to be seen by others.

Although much of Xi’s speech may have been completely honest and sincere, the public nature of the performance and some obvious inconsistencies suggest that it needs to be read with a careful and critical eye. How should it be interpreted, and what is the best way for other states to respond?

All great powers try to attract support and minimize opposition by presenting themselves in a positive light. China under Xi is no exception, and he went to considerable lengths to portray China as a rising but benevolent great power that only has humanity’s best interests at heart. He called for macroeconomic coordination to “jointly promote strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth of the world economy.” He repeated China’s familiar plea that states “abandon ideological prejudice and jointly follow a path of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit, and win-win cooperation.” Saying “no two leaves in the world are identical,” he emphasized that “each country is unique” and “none is superior to the other.” Instead of judging social systems according to some set of universal values, therefore, “the best criteria are whether a country’s history, culture, and social system fit its particular situation … [and] serve to deliver political stability, social progress, and better lives.”

How We Lose against China


The Cold War ended not on the battlefield but inside the Soviet Union. There were no tank maneuvers through the Fulda Gap in Germany, nor was there a nuclear armageddon. Instead, one of the two superpowers faced an internal crisis that shattered its society and its European empire. The Cold War was a global struggle, but its end was a matter of domestic politics.

This history has profound implications for our new struggle with China, which has been likened to the Cold War. Experts including me have written many books and essays about Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the Korean Peninsula, not to mention cyber and space warfare and, as China advances its Belt and Road initiative across Eurasia, the struggle over trade and trade routes. As with the Cold War, we see the struggle with China as unending. We simply can’t imagine a world beyond it.

But what if this new struggle were to end as the Cold War did in 1989: with a domestic evolution in either China or the United States that renders one of the two parties unwilling or unable to continue the competition? If we consider this scenario — a domestic conclusion to a global struggle — we of course assume the fatally weakened party will be China. After all, China is a society of increasing totalitarian dimensions, with a growing and increasingly restive middle class sitting atop a mountain of debt that carries the potential of igniting a domestic crisis. With its blend of communism and capitalism, China may not be truly Marxist anymore, yet it is more and more Leninist as its dictatorship suffocates the public space, leaving only the personal sphere for people to express themselves in. And regimes like that don’t end well, as we know from the examples of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc.

The Turkey-Pakistan entente: Muslim middle powers align in Eurasia

Arif Rafiq

In the 1950s, at the onset of the Cold War, Pakistan and Turkey were part of the Central Treaty Organization or CENTO, a pro-Western bloc of Muslim-majority states. Today, the two countries — both with troubled relations with the United States — are Muslim middle powers with a growing entente in a multipolar Eurasia.

In recent years, cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey has strengthened not just in the defense, diplomatic, and economic realms, but also in the cultural space, causing geopolitical ripple effects in the Himalayas, the Arabian Peninsula, and the South Caucasus.

The emerging Pakistan-Turkey entente now has the buy-in of Pakistan’s leading political parties and three military services, as well as the Turkish leadership. The partnership aids and, at times, complicates the quest of both countries for strategic autonomy as options in the West narrow. However, the potential of the Pakistani-Turkish entente will be constrained by the economic precarity of the two countries and the limited prospects for growth in trade in the near term.

Brothers in arms

On Jan. 23, at a ceremony for Turkish-built naval vessels, including a corvette for the Pakistan Navy, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke of the “great potential” for defense industrial cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey, which he described as “brotherly countries.”

Indeed, as its domestic arms industry has grown rapidly, so too has the profile of Ankara’s defense deals with Islamabad, quickly shifting from the upgrading of Pakistani hardware originally procured from other NATO countries — American F-16s and French Agosta 90-B subs — to the sale of arms made in Turkey.

G.M.’s Electric Car Push Could Put China in the Driver’s Seat

By Keith Bradsher

SHANGHAI — The business of making cars has reached a critical juncture — and it looks as if China is in the driver’s seat.

General Motors’ surprise announcement on Thursday that it aspires to eliminate gasoline and diesel cars from its fleet by 2035 and embrace electric cars follows a road map successfully drawn by Beijing. To get there, G.M., the Detroit stalwart and symbol of American industrial might, may have no choice but to embrace car and battery technologies in which Chinese companies play leading roles.

Even when setting the time frame, G.M. seems to be matching Beijing’s speed. Just three months ago, Chinese policymakers ordered that most vehicles sold in China must be electric by 2035.

“When it comes to global automakers’ electric vehicle plans, all roads lead back to Beijing,” said Michael Dunne, a former president of G.M.’s Indonesia operations.

Precisely how G.M. will shift its industrial capacity isn’t entirely clear, and the company declined on Friday to comment on what influence Beijing’s policies may have had in its planning. It didn’t mention China in its announcement on Thursday.

It didn’t have to. China has the market clout and the steadiness of regulatory policy to influence automotive decisions made from Detroit to Tokyo to Wolfsburg, Germany.

China already is by far the world’s largest car market, accounting for a third of global sales. It is bigger than the American and Japanese auto markets combined. G.M. and Volkswagen both sell more cars through joint ventures in China than in their home markets.

List of Taiwan targets for China's bombers revealed

By Keoni Everington

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Amid China's show of force last weekend featuring eight bombers and reports that this is a "dress rehearsal" for war, China affairs analyst Ian Easton has provided a list of the major potential Taiwan targets of Chinese warplanes in the event of an attack, including in the heart of Taipei.

On Saturday (Jan. 23), the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew 13 planes over Taiwan's air identification defense zone (ADIZ), including one Shaanxi Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, four J-16 fighter jets, and eight Xian H-6K bombers. This was followed the next day by an intrusion into the ADIZ by 15 military aircraft, including two Y-8 anti-submarine planes, two SU-30 fighter jets, six J-10 jet fighters, four J-16s, and one Y-8 reconnaissance plane.

On Tuesday (Jan. 26), Forbes cited Bernard Cole, a professor at the National War College in Washington, D.C., as asserting that the sorties represented a "dress rehearsal" for a future assault on Taiwan. “It does demonstrate the PLAAF’s ability to put together a multi-plane strike, which we would likely see in the event of a hot war against Taiwan,” said Cole.

When asked to comment on which Taiwanese locations would likely be targeted by China's fleet of over 200 H-6 bombers in the event of an all-out war, Easton provided a list of targets acquired from internal PLA military documents labeled for "military use only" and published in his book "The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan's Defense and American Strategy in Asia." According to Easton, who is a fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, the first wave of attacks would be aimed at Taiwan's "important command and control centers, early-warning radars, airstrips, and air defense batteries."

Jailing Jihadists in the West

Tam Hussein

“Did you have any trouble getting here?” asked the balding man with the bullish neck, grey beard, and high-pitched voice. “Just a little bit,” I answered politely, concealing the difficulty I had finding his home. Abu Qatadah lives in Tabarbour, just outside the Jordanian desert town of Zarqa. Google Maps had deemed his street insignificant, so I drove around in circles trying to locate it. When I eventually arrived at the place where Abu Qatadah has been under house arrest for the past six years, I found one of the world’s most notorious jihadist ideologues quietly picking up plastic bags and bottles off the street like he’d moved with the times and become an eco-warrior.

In November 2019, as debates intensified in the West about Islamic State prisoners like Shamima Begum stranded in northeastern Syria, and after recent attacks by the group in Europe, I went to Jordan to explore the question that policy makers in Europe and the United Kingdom are still wrangling with: How do you imprison jihadists in a Western democracy?

I had been given a set of unreleased judicial review documents from an inmate in Long Lartin Prison in England that related to the prison governor’s management of the high-security unit following Abu Qatadah’s arrival there in 2008. According to the documents, the governor had been preoccupied with containing Abu Qatadah’s influence, claiming that he ran roughshod over the needs of the other detainees. While the governor’s extensive witness statement made his reasoning clear, Abu Qatadah’s one-page statement was far less revealing. And so, I went to see the man who had spent more than a decade in a Western prison and whom the British tabloids had dubbed “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man.”

Misinformation, propaganda cloud Turkey's Africa policies

Fehim Tastekin

Turkey’s regional ventures, spurred by Ottoman nostalgia, have earned it a hostile Arab front led by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Though Turkey’s ambitions have hardly translated into a success story, they have fueled a plethora of myths and falsehoods that both Turks and Arabs are feeding off.

In his comments on regional issues, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan often brings up the treaties that led to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire or evoke the Ottoman legacy by, say, pledging Turkish citizenship to Lebanese Turks or speaking of one million ethnic Turks in Libya. For many in the Arab world, such statements are a signal that the Turks have designs on Arab lands and are eyeing a comeback. Maps of a “Greater Turkey” circulated by figures close to Erdogan have only fueled the suspicions.

The Erdogan-controlled Turkish press has similarly fanned Arab fears by marketing Ankara’s regional moves with a heavy dose of hyperbole and nationalist bluster. Pro-government commentators theorize that the defense of Turkish borders begins in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, boasting that Turkey is building lines of defense on three continents. Many Arab journalists, too, paint an overblown picture of Turkey and its capabilities, though in an alarmist fashion. From the optics of both sides, Turkey looks like a Leviathan pervading a sprawling region — from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen to Libya, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mali and Senegal. Using the same toolbox, both sides are fanning enmity and deluding their respective publics.

Coming Soon: The Demise of the U.S. Dollar?

by Desmond Lachman

There are many reasons to worry about the U.S. dollar’s underlying economic fundamentals. However, before despairing that America is well on the way to a dollar crisis a person might want to ask two questions.

First, does the dollar have any serious rival to displace it as the world’s international reserve currency? Second, would the dollar not fare well in the event that today’s global everything asset and credit market bubble were to burst? The answers to those questions would suggest that America is not about to experience a dollar crisis anytime soon.

The dollar pessimists point to the extraordinary easing of U.S. economic policy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as a reason for dollar despair. Never before has the United States had a peacetime budget deficit anywhere nearly as large or a public debt level anywhere nearly as high as it has today. Never before, too, has the U.S. Federal Reserve kept interest rates so low and expanded its balance sheet as rapidly as it is doing today.

Equally troubling is that there is very little prospect that there will be a change in U.S. economic policy anytime soon. The Biden administration is intent on securing passage of yet another massive budget stimulus package. At the same time, the Federal Reserve repeatedly assures the country that for the indefinite future it intends to keep interest rates at record low levels and to keep expanding its balance sheet.

Biden Should Keep His Word and Recognize the Armenian Genocide | Opinion


In the final days of the Trump administration, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that China was committing genocide against Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang province. Whether this was intended to box in our newly elected president remains to be seen. Historically, the United States' record on recognizing genocide has been problematic.

It should not have taken so long for Pompeo to come to such a conclusion on his last day in office, especially with the prevalence of Uighur testimonials and satellite images of Chinese camps. It makes you question the efficacy and authenticity behind the decision. It sows further doubt in our government institutions and highlights how genocide can be used as a political tool.

We have seen for decades how presidents from both parties use the Armenian genocide for political expediency. President Joe Biden has a unique opportunity to restore faith and confidence in Washington by recognizing the Armenian genocide on April 24, which marks the 106th anniversary. Through this small but significant move, Biden can upend the status quo by sending a strong message to the world that the United States is committed to upholding democratic values and principles in the wake of Trumpism.

The politics of genocide can be complex. But it does not have to be. Armenian Americans know all too well what happens when politics can supplant human rights. It builds distrust and unbridled cynicism with our elected officials and leaders in government. It fosters apathy. Sadly, this is a direct result of what happens after years of being lied to and misled.

The Key Foreign Policy Challenges Facing President Biden


Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME. He is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy, and GZERO Media, a company dedicated to providing intelligent and engaging coverage of international affairs. He teaches applied geopolitics at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and his most recent book is Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism.

We’ve already dived into the U.S. domestic political divisions Joe Biden faces, but as his administration begins getting key officials confirmed this week, let’s survey some of the other big challenges he’ll have to tackle: the geopolitics, the economics, and the technology.

In geopolitics, Biden will spend time and political capital rebuilding the Transatlantic relationship, something other recent U.S. presidents never had to worry about. He’ll have to re-establish U.S. credibility in the region by reassuring South Korea, Japan and other Asian allies—who are rightly fearful that Trumpism might return—that the U.S. remains committed to help them manage challenges created by China’s rise. That means a tighter alignment of free-market democracies and a coordinated multilateral approach.

This Decade’s Growth Champions


ITHACA – With 2021 still young, and hope in the air thanks to new COVID-19 vaccines and a new occupant of the White House, we can finally stop covering our eyes in horror and peer furtively into the future. As the decade unfolds, which countries are likely to be the biggest economic success stories?

My bet is on South Korea, Vietnam, and Mexico, three countries at markedly different stages of development. South Korea is an advanced economy, while Vietnam is what the World Bank calls a lower middle-income economy, like India or Bangladesh. Mexico, an upper middle-income country like Colombia, Botswana, or Indonesia, is somewhere in between. I predict that each of these economies will outperform others in its cohort over the next ten years.

South Korea is the safest pick of the three. Beginning in the late 1970s, during the last years of Park Chung-hee’s presidency, its economy gathered steam and sustained a two-decade-long growth run, before hitting the roadblocks thrown up by the 1997 East Asian financial crisis.

Rich countries have less growth potential than poorer ones. But among rich countries, South Korea’s prospects stand out – mainly because of its investment in human capital. With 3,319 patent applications per million population in 2019, South Korea is head and shoulders above other countries. Japan had the second-highest number, with 1,943, while China and the United States had 890 and 869, respectively. In April 2019, South Korea became the first country to launch a nationwide 5G campaign, and South Korean firms plan to capture 15% share of the global 5G market by 2026.

Can Cheap Countries Catch Up?


CAMBRIDGE – Poor countries are cheap. In 2019, a dollar could buy more than twice as much in Argentina, Morocco, South Africa, and Thailand as it could in the United States. It could buy more than three times as much in Vietnam, India, and Ukraine, and more than four times as much in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Egypt. If a country is cheap, it should be more competitive and thus able to catch up with richer economies. In fact, many cheap countries are falling further behind.

At first glance, the fact that poor countries are cheap is counterintuitive. If poor countries are much less productive, shouldn’t things there cost more, because it takes more time and effort to make them?

This would be the case if salaries were the same in all countries. But they are much lower in poor countries than in rich ones. According to the OECD, average annual wages in 2019 (in constant prices) were over $60,000 in Switzerland and the US; over $50,000 in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany; over $40,000 in France, South Korea, and Sweden; over $30,000 in Spain, South Korea, Italy, and Poland; over $20,000 in Greece and Hungary; and over $10,000 in Mexico.

Such differentials suggest there is a possible alternative universe in which highly productive countries pay higher wages and unproductive countries pay lower wages, so that all goods and services cost the same everywhere. It makes sense, but that is not the world we live in: a dollar buys more in a poor country than in a rich one.

The standard economic explanation for this is that, although poor countries may be unproductive across the board, they are particularly unproductive at making things that trade internationally, relative to those that do not. But how can this explain why poor countries are cheap?

Author Talks: Richard N. Haass on making sense of a complex world

In his latest book, Richard N. Haass explores how our globalized and interconnected world works and why we should be paying attention to it.

In this edition of Author Talks, McKinsey’s James Manyika chats with Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, about his latest book, The World: A Brief Introduction (Penguin Press, May 2020). The experienced diplomat and policymaker helps readers to understand the world better—both its promise and its threats—to make more informed choices. An edited version of the conversation follows.

What problem are you hoping to solve with this book?

I’m struck by how many people in this or other countries aren’t paying particular attention to the world, for better and for worse, and it’s not only bad. It’s not only risks, or costs, or threats. But given the objective importance, I’m always taken aback by the lack of understanding about how the world works and why it matters. What really makes this era of history fundamentally different from any other in modern history—and by that, I mean, the last few hundred years—is the importance of global issues.

We’ve talked about climate, terrorism, infectious disease, a nonregulated cyberspace proliferation, trade, investment. The flows that are so fundamental, and yet—again, for better and for worse—that are qualitatively different from what we’ve seen historically.

So it’s this combination of the return of geopolitics, the emergence of global issues, and, now, the parallel emergence of American reluctance to be active in the world that keeps me up at night.

What should global businesses or leaders worry about in the coming years?

The Next Cyberattack Is Already Under Way

By Jill Lepore

In the nightmare, sirens caterwaul as ambulances career down ice-slicked, car-crashed streets whose traffic lights flash all three colors at once (they’ve been hacked by North Korea) during a climate-catastrophic blizzard, bringing pandemic patients to hospitals without water or electricity—pitch-black, all vaccinations and medications spoiled (the power grid has been hacked by Iran)—racing past apartment buildings where people are freezing to death in their beds, families huddled together under quilts, while, outside the darkened, besieged halls of government, men wearing fur hats and Kevlar vests (social media has been hacked by Russia), flashlights strapped to their rifles, chant, “Q is true! Q is true!”

“someone should do something,” reads the T-shirt worn by one of Nicole Perlroth’s sources, a hacker from New Zealand, in “This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race” (Bloomsbury). Someone should. But who? And do what? And about which of the Biblical plagues facing humankind? Perlroth is a longtime cybersecurity reporter for the Times, and her book makes a kind of Hollywood entrance, arriving when the end of the world is nigh, at least in the nightmare that, every night, gains on the day.

Perlroth is interested in one particular plague—governments using hacking as a weapon of war—but her book raises the question of whether that’s the root of a lot of other evils. For seven years, Perlroth investigated the market in “zero-days” (pronounced “oh-days”); her book is the story of that chase, and telling that story, which gets pretty technical, requires a good bit of decoding. “A zero-day is a software or hardware flaw for which there is no existing patch,” she explains. Zero-days “got their name because, as with Patient Zero in an epidemic, when a zero-day flaw is discovered, software and hardware companies have had zero days to come up with a defense.” A flaw can be harmless, but zero-days represent vulnerabilities that can be turned into weapons. And, as Perlroth demonstrates, governments have been buying them and storing them in vaults, like so many vials of the bubonic plague.

Is News Worth a Lot or a Little? Big Tech Wants to Have it Both Ways

by Tim Dwyer

Google would have “no real choice” but to cut Australian users off entirely from its flagship search engine, the company’s Australian managing director Mel Silva told the committee. Facebook representatives in turn said they would remove links to news articles from the newsfeed of Australian users if the code came into effect as it currently stands.

In response, the Australian government shows no sign of backing down, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg both saying they won’t respond to threats.

So what’s going on here? Are Google and Facebook really prepared to pull services from their Australian users rather than hand over some money to publishers under the bargaining code?

Is news valuable to Facebook and Google?

Facebook claims news is of little real value to its business. It doesn’t make money from news directly, and claims that for an average Australian user less than 5% of their newsfeed is made up of links to Australian news.

But this is hard to square with other information. In 2020, the University of Canberra’s Digital News Report found some 52% of Australians get news via social media, and the number is growing. Facebook also boasts of its investments in news via deals with publishers and new products such as Facebook News.

Solorigate attack — the challenge to cyber deterrence

Jan Kallberg

The exploitation of SolarWinds’ network tool at a grand scale, based on publicly disseminated information from Congress and media, represents not only a threat to national security — but also puts the concept of cyber deterrence in question. My concern: Is there a disconnect between the operational environment and the academic research that we generally assume supports the national security enterprise?

Apparently, whomever launched the Solorigate attack was undeterred, based on the publicly disclosed size and scope of the breach. If cyber deterrence is not to be a functional component to change potential adversaries’ behavior, why is cyber deterrence given so much attention?

Maybe it is because we want it to exist. We want there to be a silver bullet out there that will prevent future cyberattacks, and if we want it to exist, then any support for the existence of cyber deterrence feeds our confirmation bias.

Herman Kahn and Irwin Mann’s RAND memo “Ten Common Pitfalls” from 1957 points out the intellectual traps when trying to make military analysis in an uncertain world. That we listen to what is supporting our general belief is natural — it is in the human psyche to do so, but it can mislead.

Here is my main argument — there is a misalignment between civilian academic research and the cyber operational environment. There are at least a few hundred academic papers published on cyber deterrence, from different intellectual angles and a variety of venues, seeking to investigate, explain and create an intellectual model how cyber deterrence is achieved.

Apocalypse Now: It’s Time to Watch the Doomsday Clock

Stewart M. Patrick

Last Wednesday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in December, unveiled the latest installment of its famous “Doomsday Clock,” which purports to measure how close the world is catastrophe. When it first appeared in 1947, at the dawn of the nuclear age, its hands were set at 7 minutes to midnight. In the intervening years, it’s moved both closer to and farther from that witching hour. The most comforting installment appeared in 1991, amid the sudden end of the Cold War, when the Clock was reset to a sanguine 17 minutes to midnight.

That optimism has long since receded, replaced by pervasive foreboding. Last year, the Bulletin’s scientists moved the Clock’s hands to just 100 seconds to midnight, the closest ever to apocalypse. Last week, they left it unchanged, signaling their continued alarm. In making their call, the scientists cited the dangerous confluence of a fraying nuclear order, accelerating climate change and a raging pandemic. .

The Erosion of America’s Professional Officer Corps

by William S. Smith

The politicization of many retired military officers is a sign that the healthy American tradition of a professional military officer corps is breaking down. For decades, the elite members of the officer corps generally avoided politics unless they were voicing their opinion on military matters as part of the normal political process of deciding national security policy. In recent years, however, retired senior officers have seen fit to voice their opinions on a host of partisan and divisive issues, placing civilian-military relations into uncharted waters.

The U.S. Constitution contains many provisions that have stood the test of time. There seems little doubt, for example, that the separation of powers doctrine, when properly enforced, is one of the bulwarks of liberty. One aspect of the Constitution, however, that achieved obsolescence in the nineteenth century were its provisions on civilian-military relations. As Samuel Huntington has pointed out, the Framers of the American Constitution did not envision the need for strong constitutional provisions for “civilian control of the military” because the military was not a professional force but a militia, composed entirely of civilians. When the nation needed to conduct military actions, prominent civilians would be installed as officers, and the militia would be called up from the civilian population. Early in the life of the Republic, it would not have been considered odd if the president, as Commander-in-Chief, were to have accepted military command of a unit in battle. The military were civilians, so there was no need to clarify a chain of command.

The result of this constitutional omission is that, while the president is Commander-in-Chief and the Congress can structure and fund the armed forces, there is no clear provision establishing “civilian control” of the military, even though both Article I and Article II imply some congressional and executive oversight of the military. This is because the Framers of the Constitution did not envision the rise of a highly professional military and a huge standing army.

American Universities Declare War on Military History

Max Hastings

Now, notice a contradiction. War is also a curse, responsible for untold deaths. Humans should do everything possible to mitigate it. And even if scientists cannot promise a vaccine, the obvious place to start working against future conflicts is by researching the causes and courses of past ones.

Yet in centers of learning across North America, the study of the past in general, and of wars in particular, is in spectacular eclipse. History now accounts for a smaller share of undergraduate degrees than at any time since 1950. Whereas in 1970, 6% of American male and 5% of female students were history majors, the respective percentages are now less than 2% and less than 1%, respectively.

Fredrik Logevall, a distinguished Harvard historian and author of seminal works on Vietnam, along with a new biography of John F. Kennedy, remarked to me on the strangeness of this, given that the U.S. is overwhelmingly the most powerful, biggest-spending military nation on earth. “How this came to be and what it has meant for America and the world is surely of surpassing historical importance,” he said. “Yet it’s not at the forefront of research among academic historians in this country.”

South Korea Develops Aircraft Carrier in Military Overhaul


The Moon Jae-in administration came to power promising an overhaul of South Korea’s military structures and industries. Due in part to the country’s delicate geopolitical situation – a bellicose neighbor to the north, a rising powerhouse across the Yellow Sea, and a mercurial ally across the Pacific – the effort has received wide support from the public. But can it succeed in making South Korea an independent military player in the region?


A comprehensive overhaul of the ROK armed forces was announced in July of 2018, dubbed “Defense Reform 2.0.” The program involves political aspects, such as de-emphasizing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as an overriding threat, increasing civilian control over the armed forces at all levels, and striving to take over operational command from the ROK-US Combined Forces Command in the near future. It also seeks to impose new operational paradigms, many of reflect the (late) arrival of RMA thinking in the ROK armed forces. For example, in response to dwindling birth rates, President Moon increased wages for enlisted personnel by 88% in an effort to foster greater professionalization. In terms of technology, the plan promotes home-grown missile and satellite surveillance platforms, combat drones, and cyber defense among other platforms. Nearly all of it fits the RMA dictum of quality over quantity – to do more with less.


By Jeffrey E. Baker

Before the events of 6 January in the nation’s capital, WAR ROOM received several submissions dealing with the topic of the military’s relationship with “politics.” It’s an extraordinarily complex discussion–from understanding, interpreting, and abiding by relevant law and regulation, to the importance of norms, and the very definition of what counts as “political” or “partisan”–none of these questions are simple. Investigations since the 6th have revealed at least one active and a number of former military members who appear to have been involved in varying degrees with the activities seen around the world on news feeds. In an attempt to further a useful discussion of the civil-military relationship WAR ROOM will publish these pieces over the next several weeks each Friday.

This third offering is by Jeff Baker. In it he examines the role of the retired senior military leader, generals and admirals, in the political sphere. Their participation in politics, even out of uniform, has long been considered taboo. Perhaps it’s time to re-look the benefits of decades of training, education and experience possessed by these skilled and seasoned leaders.

In the aftermath of the 2020 election season, some active and retired senior military officers found themselves embroiled in the election process—some by choice, and some by circumstance.

If the latest U.S. presidential election was any indication, American politics and elections are likely to remain highly polarized, contentious, and perhaps even contested affairs, and both major political parties will look for a competitive advantage. One such advantage that both sides have attempted to leverage in the past is the support of retired senior military officers. In the aftermath of the 2020 election season, some active and retired senior military officers found themselves embroiled in the election process—some by choice, and some by circumstance. As the topic of civilian and military relations is one that is not likely to fade anytime soon, the role of retired senior officers during election years deserves some in-depth discussion.