28 July 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

… With its growing assertiveness in the international arena, China uses new technologies to achieve its foreign policy goals and project an image of responsible global power … spending billions on influence operations across the world ... fits in with China’s larger aim of expanding its soft power alongside its growing economic and military power … reach of Beijing’s overseas media is impressive and should not be underestimated. But the results are mixed ...

Like them or not, Taliban are a reality. India can deal with them if BJP resets its politics


There is a flurry of activity between New Delhi and Kabul. The writing on the Hindukush wall is clear. The Taliban are on the ascendant. Where does it leave India?

Should India be heart-broken, jilted that new US President Joe Biden has made such a clinical retreat? Or, are there opportunities in the new turn? Is a relationship of hostility with the Taliban an inevitability? Similarly, do we take it for granted that they will continue to be an Islamic militia controlled by Pakistan?

After George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan and co-opted Musharraf’s Pakistan, Washington gifted us that description for the region: Af-Pak. Does India now accept this as a given? Can we de-hyphenate our strategic thinking here? In 2011, I had written this National Interest listing the reasons India should leave ‘Af’ to ‘Pak’. How have we moved on from there?

First, is there evidence that the Taliban, out of dependence or gratitude, will remain a vassal of the Pakistanis forever? An inseparable ally, linked to Pakistan through a friendship “higher than mountains, deeper than the ocean”, to borrow that description often used in the rhetoric of Pakistan-China summits?

Pakistan’s great game in India and Afghanistan

Shishir Gupta

It is a worn-down cliché to say that the 1999 Kargil war is a reminder to India that Pakistan can never be trusted. Can an enemy ever be trusted is the logical question to this surmise. On the eve of the 22nd Kargil Vijay Diwas, it is obvious that the Pakistan army’s perfidy in the rarefied heights of Mushkoh, Drass, Kaksar and Batalik sectors of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was aimed at exploiting the Indian fault lines with Srinagar in mind. With the Narendra Modi government dividing the erstwhile state into two union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and abrogating the special status of the former J&K state, the fault-line has virtually been erased. For the past three decades, Pakistan has also been using terrorism as another weapon to create fissures within India and polarise the communities.

However, the surgical strikes post the 2016 Uri terror attack and Operation Bandar after the 2019 Pulwana bomb strike have severely blunted Pakistan’s plan to use terror as a weapon against India. Much to the chagrin of the Pakistani deep state, not only is India under Narendra Modi unfazed by Pakistani nuclear prowess but it is Islamabad that is on the backfoot with Indian overt and covert response. The surgical strike and airstrike at Balakot terror camp in hinterland Pakistan show that the Indian response was massive to the initial terror strike and caught Islamabad unawares. Rawalpindi GHQ’s new weapon is an unmanned aerial vehicle or drone, used to drop weapons and explosives to foment terror and violence in the border state of Punjab and UT of Jammu and Kashmir. Behind this overt motive is to ensure that Indian use of drones for surveillance of borders with Pakistan and beyond is also stopped or severely restricted. Besides, the Pakistani ISI will constantly target the fault-lines within communities to widen the rift in the name of religion or economic disparity or ideology and try to destabilise India.

Opinion: Afghan resistance to the Taliban needs U.S. support — and a big morale boost

Ronald E. Neumann

Reeling from Taliban victories and the United States’ withdrawal, Afghanistan is in danger of losing the gains in women’s rights, a free press and democratic norms it has achieved over the past 20 years. But on a recent trip to the country, in meetings with government, opposition and military figures, I found a more complex picture — and some positive signals.

First, the bad: The Taliban has overrun many districts, cutting roads and isolating garrisons and checkpoints. Taliban forces have surprised foreign and Afghan militaries by shifting from the south and east — historically the areas of heaviest fighting — and attacking one of the weaker Afghan army corps in the north. Many smaller posts, which U.S. commanders warned for years were unsustainable, surrendered or overrun.

Extensive recent Afghan command changes may have contributed to the problems — as, no doubt, did some measure of corruption and padding of enlistment rolls. But the United States holds some responsibility for the larger problem, as well.

U.S. Intensifies Airstrikes in Afghanistan as Taliban Offensive Nears Kandahar

Alan Cullison and Gordon Lubold

The U.S. has stepped up airstrikes in southern Afghanistan amid growing apprehension over a Taliban offensive threatening Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city and spiritual capital of the Taliban movement.

The fall of Kandahar would deal a heavy blow to the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, which is trying to impart calm to its citizens as the Taliban has seized swaths of the countryside, but so far failed to take a major city.

The airstrikes, about a dozen in recent days, point to a continuing role for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, despite confidence expressed by President Biden and the Pentagon that the Afghan armed forces are well-equipped and ready to fight the Taliban on their own. U.S. forces are due to depart Afghanistan by the end of August.

The Rising Risk of China’s Intellectual-Property Theft


Congress must protect new intellectual property while promoting its development

The most important dimension of U.S.–China relations is technology, which is vital to economic, military, and even ideological competition.

In the economic competition, the main American challenge is not, as is sometimes implied, inadequate innovation. The U.S. is the world’s wealthiest country by tens of trillions of dollars. The number of U.S. patents granted to Ameri­cans set a record in 2019 and nearly matched it in 2020. That more than tripled the number of patents granted to second-place Japanese filers in our market.

The main challenge is not even Chi­nese innovation. Beijing’s preference for large firms and state funding at the expense of genuine competition ensures it will struggle in key areas, from aircraft development to shale. The main challenge is China’s acquisition of intellectual property (IP) and use of regulatory and financial subsidies to develop products from that IP to drive the U.S. out of global markets.

China’s National Cybersecurity Center: A Base for Military-Civil Fusion in the Cyber Domain

Dakota Cary

Executive Summary
China wants to be a “cyber powerhouse” (网络强国). At the heart of this mission is the sprawling 40 km2 campus of the National Cybersecurity Center. Formally called the National Cybersecurity Talent and Innovation Base (国家网络安全人才与创新基地), the NCC is being built in Wuhan. The campus, which China began constructing in 2017 and is still building, includes seven centers for research, talent cultivation, and entrepreneurship; two government-focused laboratories; and a National Cybersecurity School. The NCC enjoys support from the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Party’s Cyberspace Affairs Commission established a committee to oversee the NCC’s operations and policies, giving it a direct line to Beijing.

International competition forged China’s commitment to growing its cyber capabilities. Despite a deficit of 1.4 million cybersecurity professionals, China is already a near-peer cyber power to the United States. Still, the current shortfall leaves China’s businesses and infrastructure vulnerable to attack, while spreading thin its offensive talent. The NCC will likely bolster China’s capabilities, making competition in the cyber domain fiercer still. U.S. policymakers should expect that China’s increased capabilities will threaten the U.S. advantage in cyberspace.

China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

Derek Grossman

U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement that U.S. troops will be gone from Afghanistan by Aug. 31 will remove the most formidable obstacle to total Taliban takeover of the country. The Taliban claim they already control as much as 85 percent of Afghan territory. In the absolute best-case scenario, the Afghan government and the Taliban might share power, but that seems increasingly like wishful thinking.

For 20 years, the United States’ presence in Afghanistan, though not always appreciated, has nevertheless served as a predictable and stabilizing force. Now, the prospect of renewed Taliban rule has sparked major anxiety among the region’s powers. For example, earlier this month, Indian Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar visited Moscow and Tehran while Taliban representatives were in each city, raising questions about whether back-channel negotiations are ongoing. Moscow is preparing to leverage the six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organization to address potential trouble at the Afghan-Tajik border, which is being taken over by the Taliban on the Afghan side. As Pakistan’s relations with the Afghan government rapidly unravel, Islamabad appears to have negotiated a quid pro quo with the Taliban to reject U.S. bases on Pakistani territory in exchange for the Taliban’s assistance in combating Pakistan’s own Taliban-style militants, the organization known as Tehrik-i-Taliban. Meanwhile, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an economic and security grouping comprising China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and four Central Asian states, met last week with future Afghan stability at the top of their agenda.

The Inevitable Unraveling of Saudi-UAE Ties

Ryan Bohl

The once-close Saudi-Emirati relationship is weakening — or, put in another way, normalizing — as overlapping economic competition and strategic differences on issues like Yemen and the Muslim Brotherhood finally pop up into the public spheres. It is not a shift towards a virulent rivalry like others in the region, but rather a turn away from a period of unprecedented closeness that emerged after the Arab Spring in 2011. And like the external factors that brought Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates close for nearly a decade, changes in regional and global geopolitics are now again forging new wedges between them by periodically putting their interests at direct odds.
From Rivals to Fraternal Nations

In the mid-20th century, Saudi Arabia and the tribes that would become the United Arab Emirates watched one another warily. War was averted thanks to British intervention, but the Saudis kept pressing on the Emirati border until the 1974 Treaty of Jeddah ceded Emirati territory to Riyadh — including the United Arab Emirates’ only land border with Qatar. After the United Arab Emirates gained independence in 1971, the Saudis and Emiratis became less adversarial as they bonded over mutual desires for a stable oil market, concern about Iraqi and Iranian expansionism, fear of jihadist terrorism, and a need to keep the United States engaged in the region’s security. Personalities mattered too: the close bonds between Emirati and Saudi rulers helped cement ties.

Cold reception: US diplomat arrives in China for a ‘good tutorial’ in how to behave

Stephen Bartholomeusz

The second-most senior diplomat in the US arrived in China on Sunday hoping to reset relations between the two countries. If the Chinese follow through on their promises, however, Wendy Sherman will instead be given a “tutorial” on how to treat other nations.

The trip by Sherman, the US deputy Secretary of State, is the first high-level diplomatic contact between the two countries since the acrimonious meeting between her boss, Antony Blinken and China’s most senior diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Anchorage, Alaska, in March that disintegrated into a lengthy slanging match between the two.

Even before she landed for the meeting in Tianjin, Sherman was snubbed by the Chinese. She had hoped to hold talks with China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, but was told the discussions would be with vice foreign minister Xie Feng and, rather pointedly, that Wang would only “meet” rather than hold formal talks with her.

President Biden, Keep China Away From American Farmland


Is Joe Biden weak on China? Millions of Americans certainly think so.

With TikTok and WeChat, two spy tools favored by the Chinese regime, still operating in the U.S., President Biden could certainly do more to combat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Now, though, according to a recent Politico report, the Biden administration has woken up to the threat posed by Beijing. Action, it seems, will be taken.

Ryan McCrimmon, the author of the piece, claims that the “push to drain China’s influence from the U.S. economy” has reached America’s farmland. Congressional lawmakers “from both parties” are now considering measures “to crack down on foreign purchases of prime agricultural real estate.”

The Aftermath Of Sovereign Debt Crises – Analysis

There is little consensus on the macroeconomic impacts of sovereign debt crises, despite the regularity of such events. This column quantifies the aggregate costs of defaults using a narrative approach on a large panel of 50 sovereigns between 1870 and 2010. It estimates significant and persistent negative effects of debt crises starting at 1.6% of GDP and peaking at 3.3%, before reverting to trend five years later. In addition, underlying causes matter. Defaults driven by aggregate demand shocks result in short-term contractions, whereas aggregate supply shocks lead to larger, more persistent losses.

What is the macroeconomic impact of sovereign debt crises? In every year since the mid-1970s, more than 30% of sovereigns have been in default (Beers and Mavalwalla 2017). Despite the scale of the global sovereign debt problem, its consequences are not well understood. Answering this question is important not only retrospectively – to understand the waves of default in history – but also for the present, as the pandemic stretches the fiscal sustainability of developing and emerging economies (Bolton et al. 2020a, 2020b).

The Difficulty of Sino-American Economic Disentanglement

Robert Farley

Have the pandemic and the trade war disentangled the Chinese and American economies? Not so much, it seems. As both economies have recovered from the pandemic, the upward direction of their trade relationship has reasserted itself. To be clear, some of the specifics have changed as regulations and supply chain disruptions have altered the character of certain relationships. But in fact it is extremely difficult to disentangle major trade relationships, even as political relations between Beijing and Washington have grown more frosty.

A recent study by Mariya Grinberg points out that the idea that belligerents must suspend trade with one another is very recent; as late as World War I, the United Kingdom struggled to eliminate direct and indirect avenues of trade with the Central Powers. Disruption of trade often upsets important domestic constituencies, which try hard to find ways around formal restrictions. The British government struggled to convince British exporters and financiers that the immediate needs of the war trumped their long-term economic interests. But even in the extreme countries at war can continue to trade if they require imports for long-term economic well-being and if they believe that exports cannot immediately be converted to military gain.

China Cannot Solve the North Korea Conundrum

Doug Bandow

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited the People’s Republic of China (PRC) hoping to ease tensions. Her trip appeared to be a grand flop. At least, Beijing officials were anything but conciliatory in public. But why would anyone imagine a nationalistic rising power would respond well to someone whose government publicly announced that she was going to discuss Washington’s “serious concerns” with Chinese behavior?

Although the PRC’s response must have been a disappointment, perhaps it helped end the persistent Washington illusion that China’s leadership is disposed to help the U.S. pressure North Korea into denuclearization. During meetings in Seoul before heading to Beijing Sherman opined that “thinking together about bringing the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is certainly an area for cooperation.” Looking ahead to her PRC swing, she added, “I have no doubt that my conversations in Tianjin in a few days, that we will discuss the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). China certainly has interests and thoughts.”

Disinformation for Hire, a Shadow Industry, Is Quietly Booming

Max Fisher

In May, several French and German social media influencers received a strange proposal.

A London-based public relations agency wanted to pay them to promote messages on behalf of a client. A polished three-page document detailed what to say and on which platforms to say it.

But it asked the influencers to push not beauty products or vacation packages, as is typical, but falsehoods tarring Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine. Stranger still, the agency, Fazze, claimed a London address where there is no evidence any such company exists.

Some recipients posted screenshots of the offer. Exposed, Fazze scrubbed its social media accounts. That same week, Brazilian and Indian influencers posted videos echoing Fazze’s script to hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Colonizing Space Is Not the Solution to Our Problems on Earth

Stewart M. Patrick

Last week, the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, journeyed to the edge of space in a Blue Origin rocket christened the New Shepard. Bezos’ trip came only nine days after his fellow billionaire Richard Branson had done the same in a Virgin Galactic space plane.

So, what else is new? Wealthy industrialists have always enjoyed building themselves expensive toys. Think Howard Hughes and his Spruce Goose. What sets these voyages apart is their techno-utopianism. Bezos and Branson, along with Space X founder Elon Musk, are the modern avatars of Icarus. They believe that humanity’s destiny lies not on terra firma but in the heavens—and that exploring, exploiting and ultimately colonizing the solar system offers our species its best and perhaps only chance to escape our Earth-bound problems. ...

Mercenaries Are a Growing Labor Pool


A lot about the stunning July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in his bedroom still doesn’t make much sense, and the details we’ve learned since haven’t cleared much up. One mystery: How did the recently bankrupted Florida-based pastor who allegedly masterminded the plot have the resources or wherewithal to do it? Another: How could the perpetrators, who were caught almost immediately, have pulled off such an audacious, Abbottabad-style commando raid on a guarded presidential compound without an apparent exit strategy?

The Haitian authorities, such as they are, don’t have a whole lot of credibility here. There are clearly more shoes to drop, but until they do, it’s hard to know what conclusions to draw from any of this, except for maybe this: These mercenaries were very available for work. And the relative accessibility of the sort of men with the skills to carry out a presidential assassination for money is partly the result of the increasing privatization of two forever wars: the one on drugs and the one on terrorism.

Will Russian forces really leave Libya?

Mark N. Katz

At the second Berlin Conference on Libya, which took place on June 23, Russia (as well as other participants) reaffirmed their earlier calls for “credible steps towards the dismantling of armed groups and militias by all parties.” One of the “armed groups and militias” present in Libya is the Russian private military force, Wagner. Does this mean that Moscow really intends to withdraw Wagner from eastern Libya?

It is possible that this will happen. But it seems more likely that Moscow will retain a military presence in Libya in one form or another.

Before analyzing why, a brief review of the situation is needed. Following the downfall of Qaddafi in 2011 and the fracturing of Libya among rival factions, the main division in Libya evolved into one between the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in western Libya and its opponents led by Khalifa Haftar, who styles himself as “Field Marshal.” Haftar has received support from both neighboring Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (among others) while the GNA has received support from Turkey and Qatar. Russia’s Wagner forces (which it is believed the UAE is paying for) are in eastern Libya supporting Haftar, but Russia also recognized the GNA as Libya’s government and maintained good working relations with it.

The Role of US Aid in Tackling Climate Change: Context and Questions for USAID and MCC

Sarah Rose and Jocilyn Estes

The Biden-Harris administration has outlined an ambitious agenda intended to restore US leadership in the fight against global climate change, rejoining the Paris agreement and announcing commitments to halve domestic emissions from 2005 levels and double climate-related financing to developing countries. After four years of neglect from the White House under President Trump—and declines in direct funding—climate has (re)emerged as a centerpiece of US global engagement and US development policy more specifically, as policymakers seek to support emerging economies to meet economic growth goals in a sustainable way.

US international investments to tackle the climate crisis take several forms, including contributions to multilateral institutions, funding for diplomatic efforts, financing extended by the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and the provision of bilateral development assistance. This paper focuses primarily on the role of US bilateral development assistance in addressing climate change, particularly aid provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

A new direction for the European Union’s half-hearted semiconductor strategy


A basic component in electronic devices, semiconductors are essential to the production of many products, from smartphones to cars. Securing reliable supplies of semiconductors to safeguard the production lines of a range of industries has thus become an important policy goal, especially in the context of an increasingly confrontational international environment in which high-technology leadership is also associated with military power and geopolitical reach.

The semiconductor sector is highly concentrated, capital- and R&D-intensive, and particularly exposed to bottlenecks and political risks. High-end chip fabrication is centred in Asia, dominated by the duopoly of Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung. In other parts of the supply chain, companies in the United States and Europe hold relative monopolies that have been leveraged for trade sanctions. The United States has taken steps to block the supply of chips and components to emerging tech giants in China, and to contain China’s ambitions of building its own cutting-edge chip production capacities.

National Defense University Press

Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ) 102, (3rd Quarter, July 2021)

Fighting as Intended: The Case for Austere Communications

Improving the Battle Rhythm to Operate at the Speed of Relevance

Military Power Reimagined: The Rise and Future of Shaping

Hydrocarbons and Hegemony

Linking Foreign Language Capabilities with Expeditionary Requirements

A Lesson from an Ancient: Facilitating Retreat and Desertion Among Insurgencies

Deconflicting Exercises and Experimentation Under Global Integration

Thrust and Agility from Trust and Antifragility: A Combatant’s Guide to Expeditionary Medical Leadership

Avoiding Great Power Phony Wars

Cyber Threats and Vulnerabilities to Conventional and Strategic Deterrence

Force Integration in Resistance Operations: Dutch Jedburghs and U.S. Alamo Scouts

The Quantum Zoo of International Relations

Zhanna Malekos Smith

Enter the “Quantum Zoo of International Relations”—our main attraction is a towering behemoth machine with tiger stripes of tubes, wires, and a long steel cylinder snout. Peering into the cage with intense curiosity, states are increasingly studying quantum computers to gain a technical edge in cybersecurity and intelligence operations and promote economic growth.

Quantum computers are highly advanced machines that can solve complex mathematical problems more efficiently than classical computers (an impressive list of 65 quantum algorithms is available here). According to the U.S. intelligence community's 2021 annual threat assessment, the United States, China, and Russia are vying to become the global leader in advanced computing. Last month, Germany became the first European country, in partnership with IBM, to develop a quantum computer.

But could universal quantum computing also help promote stability in international relations?
Applying Systems Thinking

Leaders Discuss Reforms in the Special Operations Community


Leaders of special operations forces discussed reforms including diversity and inclusion efforts, programs for families, and efforts to reduce the high operational tempo caused by frequent deployments at a hearing on the fiscal year 2022 budget request.

Joseph McMenamin, performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low intensity conflict, and Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, testified yesterday before the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations.

"Enhancing the readiness and resilience of our SOF personnel and their families remains a top priority," and programs related to that effort are reflected in the FY 22 budget request, McMenamin said.

Why the U.S. Military Might Not Win a War Against China Easily (If At All)

Eli Fuhrman

What would happen if the United States and China were to come to blows?

At least one former top military official believes that if a war between the United States and China were to break out, the outcome would not be as clear-cut as many people might think.

Admiral James Stavridis, formerly the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and the former Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, argues that while the United States retains an overall military advantage over China, the gap is narrowing and is likely to continue to do so in the years ahead. And while Admiral Stavridis notes that predicting the outcome of a military conflict requires a deep assessment of a wide range of factors, he points to some key areas which suggest that a military showdown between the United States and China would be a close call.