1 June 2021

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

  Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd) 

The digital era has transformed the way we communicate. Using social media like Facebook and Instagram, and social applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram, one can be in contact with friends and family, share pictures, videos, messages, posts and share our experiences. Social media has become an effective way of influencing human society and behavior, and shaping public opinion. By sharing a post, tweeting an idea, contributing a discussion in a forum and sharing a sentimental picture, we can influence others and sometimes convince into with our opinion.

Use of cyber tools and methods to manipulate public opinion is called ‘Cyber Influence Operation’. In the present day, many countries use cyberspace, especially the social media, to accomplish Cyber Influence Operations as a part of Information Warfare. Most of these operations are done covertly. It is difficult to differentiate between legitimate or malicious influence operations. Continue Reading..... 

Defining China’s Intelligentized Warfare and Role of Artificial Intelligence

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

China feels that U.S. is its main adversary ... China is trying to match U.S. technological capabilities with its own strength in AI as a leap frog technology and a new concept of war ... But there will be lot of problems in implementing this concept of Intelligentization Warfare to reality. However, President Xi Jinping has thrown the gauntlet, and it is up to the U.S. the other adversaries and the rest of the world to follow this concept keenly. Continue Reading...

What’s going wrong with India’s Act East policy?

by Sanjaya Baru

The reaction in Singapore to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s recent remarks about a Singapore variant of Covid and his related critical comments should alert Indian policymakers and foreign policy analysts to a wider and larger challenge to India’s standing in Southeast Asia as a whole. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who has a good understanding of Singapore and the region and who has maintained good relations with top leaders in the island republic, was quick to nip the controversy in the bud. However, it would be wrong to assume that this was merely a storm in a Chinese tea cup.

The reaction of Singapore’s government and, more importantly, its civil society, draws attention to a larger problem India faces in what used to be called the Indo-China region. Ever since 1992 when Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao enunciated a “Look East Policy” reaching out to Southeast Asia, India has engaged the region on all fronts — diplomatic and security, economic and people-to-people. Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh built on Narasimha Rao’s foundation and constructed a robust relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), so much so that in 2007 Singapore’s founder-mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, a longstanding India sceptic, went to the extent of naming China and India as the two engines of Asian economic growth.

Taliban maintains close ties with al Qaeda, DIA reports


The Taliban has “maintained close ties with al Qaeda” and is “very likely preparing for large-scale offensives against population centers and Afghan government installations,” according to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The DIA’s analysis is cited in a report prepared by the Department of Defense’s Lead Inspector General for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.

The inspector general’s report was released on May 18. That same day, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.

During his testimony, Khalilzad claimed that the Taliban has made “substantial progress” on its counterterrorism commitments, though he failed to provide a single example. Khalilzad’s claim is contradicted by the DIA’s assessment, as well as other official reporting since the U.S. State Department entered into its agreement with the Taliban on Feb. 29, 2020.

Khalilzad was questioned by Congressman Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from New York who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“There is a question of whether or not you were able to negotiate a commitment from the Taliban to separate from al Qaeda,” Rep. Meeks said. “Did you negotiate that or not?”

Taliban Tells Afghanistan’s Neighbors Not to Host US Forces

By Catherine Putz

Since U.S. President Joe Biden announced on April 14 that the United States would fully withdraw from Afghanistan by September 2021, there has been discussion — among regional observers and, according to reports, among diplomats — about the possible staging of U.S. forces just over the horizon from Afghanistan.

The Taliban made clear in a statement on May 26 that it would not accept U.S. forces based in countries near Afghanistan.

In his April 14 remarks, Biden stressed that the administration would “not take our eye off the terrorist threat” and would “reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent reemergence of terrorists — of the threat to our homeland from over the horizon.”

There are limited options for Washington, most of which will require new basing or access agreements with neighboring countries. Among those reported being discussed are Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan.

On an official level, the United States has remained mum about its efforts and has not directly answered the question of where, precisely, “over the horizon” is. In reference to Pakistan, for example, the spokesman for U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Sonny Leggett, said speculation about the U.S. seeking to set up bases in Pakistan is “false.”

Afghanistan: Continued Assistance Flows Are Vital as U.S. Troops Leave

President Biden and his team have said the United States will continue to support the Kabul government following his April decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The decision produced a crisis of confidence in Kabul and more widely among the Afghan people. Managing this fast-evolving situation represents a serious test for U.S. diplomacy.

As the NATO mission in Afghanistan ends, the United States and its international partners must address a series of urgent issues. These include: (1) advancing a stalled intra-Afghan peace process while maintaining support for Afghan security forces; (2) restructuring civilian assistance programs that provide vital resources to the Kabul government and Afghan civilians; (3) maintaining effective counterterrorism surveillance in the region and a coherent plan for a continued U.S. and international diplomatic presence in Kabul; (4) determining the best means of supporting human rights, in particular those of women and children; and (5) fulfilling U.S. commitments to Afghans who supported or worked for the United States, perhaps by offering them entry into the United States. Creating a comprehensive framework that addresses these issues is essential for maintaining support for the Kabul government.

During the last two decades, successive U.S. administrations led a coalition in offering extraordinary support to the Kabul government and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). This enabled the Afghan people to progress in a variety of developmental areas. As this withdrawal decision has made clear, the NATO alliance at the core of the broader coalition is “in together and out together.” It is critical that the Biden administration and Congress work creatively to meet this moment and move with urgency to preserve, to the extent possible, that broader coalition of support for the Kabul government.

Power Shots


As countries continue to face the detrimental economic and health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been high demand for vaccines. More than 1.4 billion vaccines have been administered worldwide, which is only 9.7 percent of the global population. The gap between the supply and demand of vaccines has created a new currency for international diplomacy in which the provision of vaccines has become a tool of soft power used by countries to enhance their influence and revamp their image internationally.

When it comes to vaccine diplomacy, Russia and China have taken the lead in using vaccines as tools of global influence, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. As Western countries joined the vaccination race and adopted a “my nation first” mindset, Russia and China decided to engage, instead, in a race to provide vaccines to others. Because of the slow rollout of vaccines by Covax, the worldwide initiative to distribute vaccines equitably, poor and emerging countries have struggled to obtain doses for their populations. China and Russia have taken advantage of this to strengthen their global presence, boost relations with countries, and present themselves as “saviors” of the emerging world.

Vaccine diplomacy has been deployed in several ways across the across the Arab world and Turkey. Some countries have purchased vaccines, while others have received them in the form of donations or political transactions. The Russian and Chinese vaccine strategy has adapted to the social and political gaps present in the Middle East and North Africa and exposed some countries as fragile, others as resilient, and others as “anti-fragile”—able not only to endure disasters but to be strengthened by them. In this context, Russia and China have tailored their policies to the political and economic specificities of each category.

The first category involves fragile countries characterized by weak governance systems and economic and political instability, such as Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. China and Russia have supplied their vaccines to these countries, offering cheaper and more widely available options than their western counterparts. China had already provided fragile countries with medical supplies as part of its “mask diplomacy” efforts last year. As for Russia, it has been less focused on donating vaccines than on brokering business deals. It has sold its Sputnik-V vaccines to the private sector in many countries to help speed up their vaccination campaigns.

The Chinese Are Coming – to Taiwan?

By Amitai Etzioni

The May 15 cover story of the usually circumspect Economist calls Taiwan “the most dangerous place on Earth.” What happened? Are Chinese marines amassing on ships, the way Russian troops are on the border with Ukraine? Has China grabbed the two Taiwanese-owned islands, Kinmen and Matsu Islands, which are a mere three miles from the Chinese mainland, the way Russia grabbed Crimea or Turkey seized parts of Syria? Has China sent a message through back channels to the new Taiwanese government, which is less friendly to China than their previous one, calling for Taiwan to yield or else…?

Of course not. China did somewhat increase its harassment of Taiwan via overflights and ship maneuvers, but not by much. True, China seeks to incorporate Taiwan into the People’s Republic of China; however, this is a generations-old ambition. True, China is building up its military and, last year, it produced some more landing vessels and submarines, but it has been doing so for years.

What is new is that the Biden Administration, very keen to find a theme that can unite Americans and gain bipartisan support, finally found one. It is not curbing the pandemic, as horrible as its toll was and continues to be; it is not the rollout of vaccines, which allows for the reopening of the economy and a return to a semi-normal life. It is China bashing.

Iran Needs the Nuclear Deal to Keep Russia and China at Bay

By Jamsheed K. Choksy and Carol E. B. Choksy

The United States unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, declaring the accord’s provisions inadequate and Iran in violation. The administration of former President Donald Trump began reinforcing sanctions, much to the chagrin of the accord’s other signatories; but Iran did not annul it. Rather, Tehran steadily increased pressure, directly on Washington and indirectly through other signatory nations, to restore the deal.

Why does Iran’s government still require a nuclear deal? Because in the long term, Tehran stands to gain much economically and geopolitically while giving up little tactically.

Iran has vocally insisted that “the nuclear deal it made” in 2015 be restored and “implemented word by word.” But in practice, the Islamic Republic has actually shown considerable flexibility. A senior member of Iran’s parliament, taking his cue from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has suggested that negotiations in Vienna will result in “a new and binding agreement.” The diplomatic door is open for the United States and Iran to reach a more robust deal that will weather transitions of administrations in both countries.

Palestinian Politics Are More Divided Than Ever

Ghaith al-Omari

The cease-fire that entered into force last Friday brought an end to 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, leaving behind at least 248 Palestinian and 12 Israeli dead, as well as untold destruction in Gaza. Yet even as the fragile truce is holding thus far, the power struggle between the two largest Palestinian parties—Hamas and its rival, Fatah—seems poised to only intensify.

The most recent round of violence was the fourth since 2007, when Hamas violently wrested control of Gaza after winning elections the previous year. It took place against the backdrop of an intense political crisis triggered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to call, then cancel, the first round of Palestinian national elections since that 2006 vote. Abbas’ Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority from the city of Ramallah, in the West Bank, was largely seen as irrelevant during the Gaza conflict, and is reeling from internal divisions that were exposed and deepened by the ill-conceived election gambit. ..

Operation Guardian of the Walls: Over, but Not Done With

Udi Dekel

Operation Guardian of the Walls was another round in the asymmetric conflict between Israel and Hamas. This asymmetry also applies to the operation's goals. While Hamas's objectives were political and cognitive, Israel's objectives were military. It was proven again that there was no magical solution that would have a lasting, substantive positive impact on the situation in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, the option of an arrangement with Egyptian mediation – a long-term ceasefire and the return of the Israeli prisoners and bodies of missing soldiers in exchange for significant easing of the closure of the Gaza Strip and advancement of infrastructure projects in the region – should be encouraged. Increasing the value for Israel of the arrangement option requires stabilization and inspection regimes, especially an Egyptian and international commitment to an effective inspection mechanism for preventing rearmament and renewed force buildup by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In order to contain the strengthening of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority must be stabilized and strengthened in preparation for the post-Mahmoud Abbas era. By canceling the elections and cooperating with Israel in maintaining quiet on the West Bank, Abbas has lost the little legitimacy he enjoyed among the Palestinian public. Leverage that would help the Palestinian Authority depends on renewal of the political process, accompanied by Israel’s refraining from creeping annexation measures on the West Bank.

Three Political Crises Drove the Gaza Violence


While the explosions, air raid sirens, and images of rubble led many to interpret the recent violence between Israelis and Palestinians as a military crisis, it was really the product of three simultaneous political crises. If Secretary of State Tony Blinken is to achieve any lasting results during his swing through the region, he must seek not just to cement a ceasefire but to revive cross-border discussion.

The first political crisis is in Gaza. Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since in 2007, but Hamas is no unified actor. The organization is split between its political and armed wings, and its Gaza organization and its organization outside Gaza. Because Hamas operates in secret, understanding the forces at play is difficult, and understanding how to influence them is more difficult still. Even so, Yahya Sinwar’s narrow reelection as the head of Hamas’ Gaza political bureau in March suggests underlying tensions, as does the sudden ubiquity of political chief Ismail Haniyeh after years of quiet.

Latin America’s lessons for Biden


It’s easy to discount what Latin America may have to teach the world about running an economy. After all, what can a region perpetually embroiled in intractable problems possibly teach us? In this part of the world turmoil is the norm. In reality, though, the basic problem in Latin America is not its chronic economic instability, but the inability of its leaders to learn from experience, and their propensity to keep pushing policies that have already proven disastrous. I call it ideological necrophilia – the passionate commitment to dead ideas.

This, however, does not mean that more advanced economies can’t learn from Latin America. In fact, here is some advice from Latin America that President Joe Biden and his team would do well to keep in mind.

The first is not to ignore the deficit. The idea of brushing aside the consequences of spending far more than a government collects in taxes has a long history, and is the subject of a fierce academic debate. In 1932, John Maynard Keynes argued that recessions can be remedied with dramatic increases in public spending. In 2002, then-US Vice President Dick Cheney blandly asserted that “deficits don’t matter.” That debate is very much alive. In 2020, economist Stephanie Kelton published a book titled The Deficit Myth. In this bestseller, the unorthodox economist explains why the so-called Modern Monetary Theory means that a government that controls its currency can increase public spending as much as it wants. Again: fiscal deficit doesn’t matter.

It has become easy to ridicule economists who sound the alarm about inflationary spikes that never seem to materialize

ExxonMobil loses a proxy fight with green investors

“The stone age did not end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of petroleum.” That battle cry animates critics of Big Oil, who dream of phasing out hydrocarbons in favour of cleaner fuels and technologies. Their bête noire is ExxonMobil, long the richest and mightiest of Western oil supermajors—and the most unrepentant in its defence of crude. Lee Raymond, a formidable former boss of the Texan titan, once told your correspondent to get out of his office after being challenged over his flagrant denial of climate science.

Darren Woods, who currently does Mr Raymond’s old job, does not deny that climate change is real. And he must now contend with the biggest rebuke to the firm’s management in living memory. At his company’s shareholder meeting on May 26th a coalition of activist investors led by Engine No.1, a small hedge fund, managed to put at least two green-tinged directors on the board to promote a lower-carbon strategy of the sort espoused by European supermajors such as bp, Royal Dutch Shell and Total. As The Economist went to press the fate of a third activist nominee had yet to be determined.

Limiting Drone Strikes Outside war Zones

By Grant Golub

Earlier this month, the Biden administration quietly disclosed its predecessor’s secret rules for counterterrorism operations outside established war zones. Known as “direct action,” these operations include activities like commando raids and drone strikes. While portions of the guidelines were redacted, the remainder reveals the distressing amount of discretion American military commanders wielded when choosing to launch these operations inside countries where the United States is not at war.

Although the Trump-era rules were suspended on the day of President Biden’s inauguration, they shed light on two disconcerting issues in U.S. foreign policy. The first is the Pentagon’s massive expansion of power over highly classified military operations. At a time when U.S. civil-military relations are in crisis, handing the generals even more control will lead to a further deterioration of accountability and transparency in how the United States uses lethal force abroad.

This leads to the second problem: If Biden is serious about ending endless war, then he should sharply limit or end U.S. direct action operations away from conventional battlefields. While Biden should be applauded for announcing the withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the forever wars will not cease if the focus of military activity shifts toward secret operations in countries many Americans cannot locate on a map.

Biden urged by tech firms to embrace commercial software

By: Joe Gould

WASHINGTON ― Several dozen tech companies and groups are urging U.S. President Joe Biden to ensure that federal agencies buy more commercial software over custom-built versions, in line with the law.

In a letter Wednesday, they argued government software development efforts fail because, too often, government leaders “continue to favor custom-built, more expensive solutions, even when there are proven, widely available commercial solutions” and don’t apply existing commercial preference regulations to software and technology procurement.

Following the Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds cyber intrusions, Biden issued an executive order aimed, in part, at tightening standards for commercial software used by the federal government and accelerate the government’s adoption of cloud computing. The order calls for the National Institute of Standards and Technology to issue new guidance to shore up vulnerabilities in the government’s commercial software supply chain.

Peace with Russia, China ‘Fraying at the Edge,’ Milley Tells Graduating Cadets


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Air Force Academy class of 2021 is graduating into a security environment where the relative peace the United States has held with Russia and China is “fraying at the edge,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told graduating seniors Wednesday.

That peace “is under stress,” Milley said. “We would be wise to lift our gaze from the never-ending urgency of the present to set the conditions for a future that prevents great power war.”

“You can expect to be at the edge many, many times, to make hard choices with imperfect information,” the Army general told the Air Force’s newest officers. “You will have to keep your guard up against the enduring nature of evolving security challenges.”

On Thursday, Milley will join Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Capitol Hill, where they will press the case for the vast modernization both leaders see as necessary to match China’s technological rise.

Biden’s China strategy: Coalition-driven competition or Cold War-style confrontation?

Cheng Li

In 1998, at a time when the United States enjoyed supreme power and influence on the world stage, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, wrote his classic book on grand strategy, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. In the book, Brzezinski, one of the world’s foremost strategic thinkers, issued a warning to the American foreign policy establishment:

Potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an “antihegemonic” coalition united not by ideology but by complementary grievances. It would be reminiscent in scale and scope of the challenge once posed by the Sino-Soviet bloc, though this time China would likely be the leader and Russia the follower. Averting this contingency, however remote it may be, will require a display of U.S. geostrategic skill on the western, eastern, and southern perimeters of Eurasia simultaneously.

The geopolitical landscape today seems to reflect what Brzezinski feared over two decades ago. Throughout President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, his administration has largely continued the Trump administration’s hawkish approach toward China. President Biden has also made international coalition building his primary foreign policy initiative, which differs markedly from his predecessor’s “America First” approach.

The Drawbacks of Biden’s ‘Competition With China’ Habit

Howard W. French

In last week’s episode of “America Competing with a Rising China,” the geopolitical equivalent of a TV series, Joe Biden took the wheel of a Ford truck and all but burned rubber as he pulled away from reporters who had come to witness the stunt.

Biden’s visit came on the eve of Ford’s announcement of a new, all-electric version of its model F-150, the most popular motor vehicle in the United States, and he used it to enlist the automaker’s innovations in his ongoing campaign to prove not just that “America is Back,” whatever that means, but that the country can outcompete its biggest rival, China. ...

How Should the U.S. Respond to China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy?

Elsa Kania

During Donald Trump’s presidency, the term “military-civil fusion” (MCF) came to feature prominently in U.S. officials’ characterizations of their concerns about China. While efforts to integrate China’s civilian and defense economies have been a goal of China’s leaders for decades, Xi Jinping has elevated MCF as a priority and has expanded, intensified, and accelerated the effort across multiple domains, including to concentrate on more integrated development of emerging technologies. This strategy is regarded as critical to China’s capacity to succeed in a confrontation of systems.

During the Trump administration, U.S. officials expressed worries over the perceived threat of transfer of dual-use technologies, as well as about the long-term competitive challenge, should this initiative prove successful in improving synergies within China’s innovation ecosystem. Already, the rapid and ongoing advances in China’s military modernization have provided an impetus and sense of urgency for ongoing initiatives in American defense innovation intended to increase investments, explore novel mechanisms for rapid procurement, and improve the Pentagon’s capacity to leverage commercial technologies.

COVID-19: Made in China?

By George Friedman

In a recent interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked whether he was confident that COVID-19 developed naturally. He has long maintained that though it was not impossible, the virus was in all likelihood a product of natural evolution. But this time he said something curious: “No, actually. I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened.” In other words, he raised the possibility of unnatural and therefore nefarious origins.

I don’t peddle in conspiracy theories, but my job often demands that I play devil’s advocate for the sake of playing devil’s advocate. So let’s do that here.

Consider the supplementary information. Shortly after Fauci’s statement went public, The Wall Street Journal ran a story about an intelligence leak (notably, the agency from which it was leaked was not named) that said that in November 2019 three researchers at a lab in Wuhan were hospitalized with COVID-like symptoms. This was a month before China reported the first cases. Implicit in the intelligence leak was the idea that the three men somehow contracted the illness in the lab, and that the Chinese government knew they had fallen ill.

Beyond Polysilicon: The Ties between China’s GCL-Poly and the United States

Matthew P. Funaiole

China’s ongoing suppression of Uyghur and other minority populations in Xinjiang continues to incite alarm among U.S. policymakers. A broad bipartisan consensus has coalesced around excising Chinese goods tainted by forced labor and human rights abuses from U.S. supply chains. Existing efforts have largely targeted agricultural and textile products, but policymakers are now looking into the solar industry’s ties to Xinjiang. Tracing these linkages, however, is no easy task.

Polysilicon is at the heart of the matter. The high-grade form of silicon is produced through an energy intensive process before it is melted into cylindrical ingots, sawed into the thin wafers, and converted into photovoltaic (PV) cells for use in solar panels. China is the world’s leading producer of polysilicon, with Xinjiang alone accounting for 50 percent of the global polysilicon output in 2020.

An abundance of cheap electricity and preferential government policies have incentivized China’s solar giants to set up shop in Xinjiang. GCL-Poly, the second-largest polysilicon manufacturer in the world, ramped up its operations in Xinjiang when it broke ground on a new 60-metric-ton plant in 2017. Part of the plan included the relocation of existing facilities from Xuzhou (in Jiangsu province), which enabled GCL-Poly to capitalize on the low tariff rates of a nearby coal-fired power station and produce polysilicon at a reduced cost.

Europe Is Finally Waking Up Over Belarus


The time for bland statements from EU officials is over.

A Ryanair commercial flight traveling from Athens to Vilnius on May 23 was forced to land in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The crew was told there was a bomb on board. There wasn’t.

Instead, on board was Raman Protasevich, a leading independent journalist, activist, and editor of opposition Telegram channel Nexta.

As soon as the aircraft doors were opened, Protasevich was taken away by security officials. Later, he appeared in a video on state television, bruised. He had been clearly forced to make a confession about damaging the interests of Belarus.

This is what some dissidents and those considered troublemakers were pressured into doing during the communist era. But this is 2021. These things are happening in a country that borders the European Union. It is a country of 9.5 million people, of whom so many have been protesting peacefully since last August against rigged presidential elections.

Since then, Alexander Lukashenko, in power in Belarus since 1994, has cracked down. Thousands of young and old, men and women, students, workers, artists are in prison. The independent media is almost destroyed.

Until Protasevich’s kidnapping, the EU’s reaction to what was taking place in Belarus was tepid. A few economic sanctions were imposed on high-ranking officials, including Lukashenko himself, as well as some enterprises and their managers. But that was all.

Did China Just Sound The Death Knell For Venezuela’s Oil Industry?

By Felicity Bradstock

China has announced that it will impose taxes on heavy sour crude, a move that could hit Venezuela hard as it continues to struggle with U.S. sanctions and a dilapidated oil industry. Media reports suggest as many as 400,000 bpd of Venezuelan oil could be orphaned as new Chinese tax laws make it impossible for the country to export its crude to Asia. New regulations expected to come into place on June 12 would make the profit margins on Venezuelan oil too low to warrant its current export route.

Venezuela has not been exporting oil directly to China since 2019, largely due to the U.S. sanctions that continue to restrict the country’s oil exportation. However, China has been importing Venezuelan oil via Malaysian refineries, where it is mixed with fuel oil or bitumen before continuing on to China. China’s new rules could add around $30 per barrel to this "diluted bitumen", making it economically inviable. Light cycle oil (LCO) and mixed aromatics will also be taxed under the new scheme.

Chinese customs data suggests that around 380,000 bpd of diluted bitumen were coming into the country via Malaysia between January and March, much of which originated in Venezuela.

Clear skies over Asia’s new foreign investment landscape

David Dollar

Compounding the fallout of the US–China trade war, the global pandemic and recession have caused considerable speculation on the future of foreign investment and global value chains (GVCs). But though there is likely to be some permanent change, it will probably not be as great as politicians expect.

The United States is alarmed at China’s technological advance. It has instituted a range of restrictions on sales of high-tech products to China and Chinese investment in the United States, and is heavily taxing imports from China. These measures were introduced by the Trump administration and are under review by the Biden administration — but most of them will likely remain in place, reflecting a bipartisan distrust of China.

China, in turn, has doubled down on industrial policies aimed at generating domestic innovation and limiting technology imports. The pandemic caused temporary global shortages for medical equipment, raising concerns about dependence on imports for key products and leading to calls for increased domestic production of these items.

Principles for the Combat Employment of Weapon Systems with Autonomous Functionalities

By Robert O. Work


An international debate over lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) has been under way for nearly a decade.1 In 2012, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued formal policy guidance on weapon systems with autonomous functionalities,2 and nations have come together since 2014 to discuss LAWS through the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The discussions at the CCW have been hampered by the lack of an agreed-upon definition for LAWS.3 However, states party to the CCW agreed in 2019 that “human responsibility” for the decisions over the use of weapon systems and the use of force “must be retained.”4 Accordingly, discussions now tend to focus on the type and degree of human involvement required to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law and satisfy ethical concerns.5

Several scholars argue these discussions should focus on “developing objective, commonly held, and function-based understandings of autonomy in the military context” (emphasis added).6 The premise of this paper is that the best way to achieve such an understanding is to develop, debate, and agree upon some commonly accepted principles for the employment of weapon systems with autonomous functionalities in armed conflict.7 This is where the legal, ethical, and moral questions about autonomy in warfare are most acute and deserve the most attention.

These seven new principles concentrate on the responsible use of autonomous functionalities in armed conflict in ways that preserve human judgment and responsibility over the use of force and help minimize the probability of loss of control of the system or unintended engagements, especially against noncombatants.

This paper offers a starting point for these discussions. The seven principles proposed in this paper are intended to complement and build on existing DoD guidance, including DoD Directive (DoDD) 3000.09, Autonomy in Weapon Systems, and DoD’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Principles.8 They are also consistent with the 11 guiding principles adopted in 2019 by the CCW in its “Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.”9 These seven new principles concentrate on the responsible use of autonomous functionalities in armed conflict in ways that preserve human judgment and responsibility over the use of force and help minimize the probability of loss of control of the system or unintended engagements, especially against noncombatants.

Information and Command in a New American Way of War

By Chris Dougherty

China’s rise and Russia’s reemergence as serious military competitors to the United States during the last decade have changed the character of warfare as profoundly as the U.S. victory in the Gulf War. Precision-guided munitions and other advanced weapons systems likely will play an important role in this new era of warfare. However, to confer an advantage, these systems will require the ability to gather, transmit, process, understand, and act on information faster and with greater accuracy than an opponent. Advantage in peace and victory in war will demand a mixture of technical information systems and cognitive functions such as command decision-making. Every effort should be expended to attain an advantage by degrading adversary systems and protecting friendly systems while disrupting the enemy’s cognitive command processes and sustaining one’s own. These imperatives create a “techno-cognitive confrontation” that is continual and widespread, crossing delineations between peace and war. Within this context, great-power warfare would be far more chaotic, lethal, and contested than the conflicts of the post–Cold War period.

Chief of Naval Research Talks about Quantum Tech, Lasers, Basic Research, and STEM Education

By Rear Admiral Lorin Selby, U.S. Navy

Proceedings: Can you describe the Navy’s efforts in quantum computing and the potential implications for this technology?

Selby: We are in a new era of change and capabilities that rivals some of humanity’s greatest epoch moments—equivalent to the advent of agriculture, or the Industrial Revolution—moments where new technologies revolutionized everything. The arrival of quantum technologies in the near future is among those groundbreaking capabilities emerging today (along with artificial intelligence (AI), autonomy, synthetic biology and more). Quantum capabilities bring enormous promise for naval applications, from improved timekeeping and navigation for GPS-denied platforms, to potential increases in computational speed in solving complex logistics problems. The application space for quantum sensing and quantum information science and technology is broad.

The Key to Future Readiness Is Big Data

By Pam Braden & Mike Schwartz

In the quest for military readiness, are defense decision makers over-investing in “ready to fight tonight” forces at the cost of preparing for the conflicts to come? In two recent op-eds, General Charles Q. Brown, chief of staff of the Air Force, and General David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, make a compelling case for re-evaluating the current measurement of military readiness to better balance urgent near-term needs with equally important modernization efforts.

Failure to make the shift, they argue, could leave the U.S. military unprepared to deter and defeat future threats from near peer competitors like China and Russia. To assess strategic decisions under their new readiness framework, the Joint Chiefs call on the Pentagon to harness advances in big data and artificial intelligence to deliver rigorous, data-driven analytics about legacy platforms and future capabilities.

The analytic tools they envision are not futuristic and don’t have to be expensive. There are cost-effective analytic tools and techniques which are real, readily available, and already being deployed with great success on a smaller scale for this very purpose. We at Gryphon Technologies are experts in model-based systems engineering and associated analytics, which provide a clear picture of the immediate, ongoing, and future needs of existing systems. The rapid analysis is comprehensive, efficient, and cost-effective.

Armenia, Ukraine Lessons Shape New US Cyber/EW Unit


WASHINGTON: The Army’s year-old Cyber Warfare Support Battalion has “fully fielded” the first of 12 Expeditionary Cyber Teams, the head of Army Cyber Command said today.

“We’re going to get the first ECT out this summer [to] run it through its paces,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty told the Association of Old Crows CEMA conference. “We’re going to try out a series of ideas that we had” in the field.

“Much of it is has been influenced by the lessons-learned” from recent conflicts, he said, especially the Azerbaijan-Armenia war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

But Fogarty disagrees with the widespread wisdom that Azerbaijan defeated Armenia primarily through the power of drones. After all, before Azerbaijan’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) could attack Armenian targets, they first needed to find them. They needed to electronically blind or disable their defenses. And above all, they needed commanders to pull together a wide range of information and quickly make the decision to strike – before the target moved on and was lost.