6 July 2022

How Will the Taliban End? Remember the Khmer Rouge

Michael Rubin

It has been almost a year since the chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan drew easy parallels to the U.S. exit from South Vietnam almost a half-century before. In Kabul, images of young Afghans, their promises betrayed, running after airplanes and some subsequently falling to their deaths were seared into the American consciousness, updating the iconic photograph of American government employees scrambling onto a helicopter as Saigon fell.

There were other parallels between America’s longest and second-longest wars. Politics and poor diplomacy rather than military defeat caused the United States to throw in the towel. Historians now understand the Viet Cong was far closer to the breaking point than contemporaries realized when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated the agreement that allowed North Vietnam to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Likewise, when Joe Biden pulled the rug out from beneath the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, the Pentagon had, for a cost not much larger than the U.S. presence in Japan and Korea, enabled a small American force to amplify Afghanistan’s army and enable it to keep the Taliban out of every district capital let alone Kabul. In the last eighteen months of the Trump administration, U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan averaged less than one per month. What Biden and his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called “endless wars” had become, in Afghanistan, traditional deterrence.

Sri Lanka’s Crisis and the Power of Citizen Mobilization


Sri Lanka is facing an exceptional political and economic crisis that has sparked months-long protests across the country. Its citizens have demanded that the president resign using the tagline #GoHomeGota, that the powerful Rajapaksa family relinquish power (after having been active in politics for several decades), and that the government address systematic corruption and usher in political accountability. Despite the government’s attempts to disrupt these protests, tens of thousands have joined demonstrations across Sri Lanka in a reawakening of peaceful political activism. The massive mobilization and sustained pressure jolted the presidency of the previously all-powerful Gotabaya Rajapaksa, prompted mass resignations from the government at the time, and solidified existing spaces and created new spaces for dissent and discussions on much-needed reforms.

Despite troubling trends of authoritarianism, democratic backsliding, and ethnomajoritarianism sweeping across Sri Lanka, key moments in recent history have united diverse groups in a show of peaceful pushback. These events have enabled the most recent wave of citizen mobilization, which has the potential to significantly transform Sri Lanka.

Divergent Economic and Ideological Visions Contend Ahead of 20th Party Congress

Dominik Mierzejewski


As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) approaches its 20th National Congress, the economic downturn in China has opened a Pandora’s Box of theoretical debates on how to manage this crisis. Premier Li Keqiang recently suggested that the nation’s economic performance has been weak and may not meet its GDP growth targets as the problems facing the economy are more serious than they were in 2020 (Gov.cn, May 26). In China’s political arena, theoretical discussions have always been key to guiding the country’s future development, especially at a time of social and economic disruption. This dynamic is particularly marked at present in light of the recent revelation about a possible policy divergence between General Secretary Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang over China’s future economic development model. While the principal contradiction remains unchanged, the questions of how to deliver common prosperity and how to manage policy direction, defined seven years ago, remain unanswered.

Xi’s Way of Seeing Contradictions

The concept of contradictions (矛盾, maodun ) is embedded in the CCP’s rhetorical foundation and plays an important part in China’s domestic theoretical debates. Furthermore, Marxist doctrine, which the Party follows, states that only by identifying and solving the “general contradiction” can a society peacefully develop, while failure to do so will push society toward chaos and revolution. In the history of the CCP, this discussion started with Mao’s paper “On contradiction” (August 1937), and twenty years later, his writing “On the correct handling of contradictions among the people” (February 1957). [1] Verbs that connotate conflicts, such as fight and struggle (斗争, douzheng) occur frequently in party documents. In the Maoist period, this was reflected in the party’s intense focus on class contradictions that sparked the modern Chinese revolution, as well as a three-sided conflict between imperialism, feudalism, and the Chinese nation that constituted a modern society.

16 + 1: China’s Push Into Central and Eastern Europe Loses Momentum

Filip Jirouš


Since its inception in 2012, the Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (China-CEEC; 中国—中东欧国家合作, Zhongguo—Zhong Dong Ou Guojia Hezuo), better known as the 16+1 or 17+1 initiative, has often been described as a security risk with the potential to divide European structures and make them serve the interests of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC). The 16+1 is a Sinocentric economic cooperation initiative comprising China and 16 Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, which share only a mutual Communist past as a common denominator (in 2019, Greece, which is heavily indebted to China, joined, and the platform was briefly renamed to 17+1). Apart from several different formats such as inter-party dialogues and think tank conferences, the 16+1 holds annual summits attended by state heads, with Premier Wen Jiabao (温家宝) and then Li Keqiang (李克强) the official highest-ranking PRC representatives in attendance. In comparison, two other, similar, Sinocentric regional platforms — China-CELAC Forum (中国-拉共体论坛, Zhongguo- Lagongti Luntan); and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC: 中非合作论坛, Zhongfei Hezuo Luntan) — are regularly attended by President and General Secretary Xi Jinping (习近平) (China-CELAC Forum, March 1, 2018). Thus far, FOCAC has generated the greatest level of interest from participating regional countries (China Brief, December 3, 2021). By contrast, several CEE countries have distanced themselves from the 16+1 platform: in 2021, Lithuania quit the group and this May, a Czech parliamentary committee urged the government to consider making the same move.

Despite Threats, New Survey Data Reveals Few in Taiwan Pay Much Attention to China

Timothy Rich, Madelynn Einhorn, Josie Coyle


How often do Taiwanese people think about China? Given growing evidence that Beijing could use military force against Taiwan, and with President Tsai Ing-wen stating that the threat from China grows “every day,” it would be reasonable to expect the public to be increasingly focused on their much larger neighbor (Taipei Times, June 24, 2022; Taiwan News, February 2, 2020). However, our original survey data finds that the vast majority of Taiwanese citizens rarely think about China, with only 11.56 percent stating they think of China every other day or more often. Low levels of attention may be a result of desensitization to frequent media coverage of China, or they could be due to public preoccupation with pressing domestic issues.

Media Coverage, Domestic Politics Shape Public Opinion on China

Media framing theory suggests that media focus and tone shape public beliefs. [1] During times of warmer cross-strait relations, China was able to expand its influence in the Taiwanese media. [2] In 2019, reports emerged of China paying for positive media coverage in Taiwan in an attempt to influence public opinion (South China Morning Post, August 9, 2019). A 2021 U.S. State Department report claimed that Beijing sought to pressure Taiwanese media with parent companies in China over critical content, and reports of skewed media coverage continue today (Taiwan News, March 31, 2021; Taipei Times, June 22, 2022). Taiwan’s hyper-competitive news media environment often encourages sensationalism, which would presumably magnify the threat from China. That foreign media frequently speak of Taiwan’s vulnerability, including connecting the Russian invasion of Ukraine to cross-strait relations despite many fundamental differences between the two cases, would seem to further exacerbate domestic concern over China (Taipei Times, May 28, 2022; United States Institute of Peace, March 4, 2022; New Bloom, March 2, 2022).

No Choice but to Lie Flat: Youth Unemployment Surges in China

John S. Van Oudenaren

Pity the class of 2022. The job market in China has long been a gauntlet for college graduates as the country’s largely industrial economy does not generate sufficient opportunities in the knowledge industries to satisfy the career aspirations of its growing number of college graduates. However, prospects for the current crop of jobseekers are particularly grim with a record 10.76 million college students graduating this year (Wuhan Evening News, May 24). Recent graduates must navigate an intensely competitive labor market where demand for jobs greatly outstrips supply due to the negative ramifications of the dynamic clearance zero-COVID policy, which has led to mass hiring freezes and layoffs. Regulatory crackdowns on private businesses, which reached a crescendo last year, have fostered uncertainty in the technology and private education industries, sectors where many graduates had previously found work (South China Morning Post, March 20). According to the annual “College Student Employability Survey Report” released by the recruitment firm Zhaopin (招聘), only 46.7 percent of graduating college students had received job offers as of mid-April, which is down from 62.8 percent last year (Hangzhou Daily, April 28). Not only have fewer graduates found work, but those that have, are earning less this year with an expected monthly salary of 6,295 yuan ($939), a six percent decrease from 2021.

After a devastating April marred by the mass lockdown in Shanghai, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released several positive indicators that the economy has “recovered momentum” in May. For example, industrial production, which fell 2.9 percent in April, rebounded by 5.9 percent in May. On the employment front, the urban unemployment rate fell slightly to just under six percent, but youth joblessness remains high with 18.4 percent of 16-24 year-olds out of work (NBS, June 15). Youth unemployment is typically cyclical in China. As large numbers of high school and college graduates hit the market in late spring, joblessness rates tend to peak in the summer, and then gradually subside. A recent Bank of America report predicts this dynamic will be quite severe this year, and estimates that youth unemployment could spike to 23 percent in July and August (Asia Financial, June 6).

With Macron’s Return to Elysée, What’s Next for China-France Relations?

William Yuen Yee


On April 24, President Emmanuel Macron won reelection with 58 percent of the vote, becoming the first French leader in nearly a generation to win a second term (France 24, April 24). Much has already been written about the implications of Macron’s victory for the liberal democratic world. However, the potential implications of a second Macron term and Paris’s continued pursuit of strategic autonomy for relations with Beijing and U.S.-China geopolitical competition are less clear.

A tongue-in-cheek title from China’s state-backed Global Times, “Macron’s victory a ‘relief’ for EU and U.S., for now,” sheds light on Beijing’s view of France under Macron (Global Times, April 25). Some Chinese experts believe that Paris will continue to maintain a level of distance from Washington despite the boost to transatlantic unity amid the war in Ukraine. Foreign Minister Wang Yi once told his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian that he appreciated France’s “independent diplomatic style” (South China Morning Post, April 23, 2020). Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian praised Macron for France’s decision not to join the U.S.-led diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over Xinjiang (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, December 20, 2021). In his congratulatory message to the French leader on his reelection, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized that both China and France share a “tradition of independence,” and expressed Beijing’s hopes for a continued “sound and stable development” of bilateral relations (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, April 25).

Taiwan in 2024 and the Ukraine conflict

“I am more worried about the future of the Taiwan Strait than I have ever been. Ominous trends are building on all three sides of the [Washington-Taipei-Beijing] triangle, and conflict could be the result. It is by no means inevitable, or even the most likely future. But for the first time in decades, I can see a plausible path to disaster in the Taiwan Strait.”

Rigger was (correctly) worried that political movements on the island, coupled with Beijing’s increasing aggressiveness and Trumpian incoherence, could upended the status quo and potentially trigger a military conflict. Rigger identified two pernicious political trends on the island: the ascension of pro-Beijing populist Han Kuo-yu, the (now-former) KMT Mayor of Kaohsiung, and the uncertain ambitions of Lai Ching-te, a self-identified member of the DPP’s pro-independence faction. Tsai entered the election as a significant underdog, with some polls showing her support at around 20 percent.

Labeled a ‘Challenge’ by NATO, China Signals Its Own Hard-Line Worldview

Amy Qin and Austin Ramzy

When NATO put forward a new blueprint for the future this week, the alliance did not mince words on China.

China, NATO declared, was a systemic “challenge,” calling out the country for the first time in its mission statement. The country’s policies were “coercive,” its cyberoperations “malicious” and its rhetoric “confrontational.” Together with Russia, Beijing was striving to “subvert the rules-based international order,” the alliance said — efforts that “run counter to our values and interests.”

For Beijing, the forceful declaration by NATO reinforced a sense that China is being encircled by hostile powers bent on hobbling the country’s ascent. Adding to that concern, the NATO summit included, also for the first time, the leaders of four Asia-Pacific countries: South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Pentagon wrapping up tests for new ‘microwave weapon’

The US military will run a “capstone test” for a new high-power microwave weapon, according to Pentagon developers, who also noted progress on a separate microwave system intended to bring down enemy “drone swarms.”

Final trials for the High-Powered Joint Electromagnetic Non-Kinetic Strike Weapon (HiJENKS) will be conducted jointly by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Office of Naval Research at a military base near California’s China Lake, part of intensive tests this summer which marked the end of a five-year development project.

Jeffry Heggemeier, who leads the AFRL’s high-power electromagnetics division, said the weapon still hasn’t found a platform, but noted that its smaller size would allow for a variety of uses in combat.

Export controls against Russia are working—with the help of China

Martin Chorzempa

The economic sanctions targeting Russia after its invasion of Ukraine have been described as an effort to permanently weaken its ability to make war. Russia is vulnerable to export restrictions on military-related components, many of which come from abroad. At the same time, most countries have refused to join the US-led coalition in applying sanctions and export controls, leaving a large potential loophole Russia could turn to for parts, technology, and currency.

The situation is complex and dynamic, but the evidence suggests that export restrictions and sanctions are biting Russia's economy and military. Russia's imports have fallen significantly, not only from countries in the sanctioning coalition but, surprisingly, also from countries that have refused to adopt the sanctions, most notably China. After the European Union, China is the second-largest contributor to Russia's import decline since the invasion, despite President Xi Jinping's promise of "no limits" cooperation; the pro-Russia slant of Chinese media; and the display of solidarity represented by the sending of bombers, along with Russia, near Japan during President Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s visit to Tokyo in May.

Disabling Satellites, China Is Building A ‘Gigantic Telescope’ To Study Solar Winds That Disrupt Space Missions

Sakshi Tiwari

China recently revealed plans to build the first phase of an ambitious space-based solar power station in 2028, two years ahead of schedule to take on its rival NASA. Now, in a separate endeavor, it is working on a telescope set up on the ground to monitor and study solar waves interacting with the Earth.

The researchers working on the ‘Mingantu interplanetary scintillation (IPS) telescope’ have announced that the work on the assembly of a massive new telescope will soon begin in the grasslands of northern China, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

When finished, Inner Mongolia’s Mingantu telescope will be the world’s most sensitive of its kind. It will play a critical role in monitoring solar winds to assist in safeguarding people and spacecraft in orbit as well as electrical networks on Earth.

China’s Response to the Ukraine Conflict

Srikanth Kondapalli

The on-going Ukrainian conflict since late February this year has major implications for China as with many countries in the world today. At stake for China are its assiduously built narratives on its “peaceful rise”, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), “community of common destiny”, “multipolarity” but also to its regional dominance efforts and relations with the United States, European Union and others. Already affected by the debilitating novel Coronavirus that spread from Wuhan in late 2019 to the rest of China and the world, the Ukrainian conflict exposed China’s vulnerabilities. China’s short-term positions and long-term goals seems to be at complete variance.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 came in the immediate aftermath of the conclusion of the Beijing Winter Olympics, attended by President Vladimir Putin and others, but also to the joint statement between China and Russia a day earlier to the sports event that stated to “no limits” to their strategic partnership and cooperation.[1] Further, recently on June 16, President Xi had a telephonic conversation with President Putin, where the former stated that both “continue supporting each other on their respective core interests concerning sovereignty and security, as well as on their major concerns, deepening their strategic coordination”.[2] This has led to speculations about China’s prior knowledge and compliance in the Russian war efforts, although denied by Beijing.

Does China Have Enough Food to Go to War?

Maj. Jamie Critelli

The ongoing escalation in diplomatic tensions between the United States and China along with the recent trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed the fragility of the economic and political ties between the two nations. In addition, as China continues to pursue an increasingly aggressive diplomatic agenda and expands its military capabilities, there is a growing concern about the risk of a military confrontation with the United States and its allies. However, while some of these concerns may arguably be warranted, food self-sufficiency and internal food security challenges could dissuade China from launching a prolonged and full-scale war.

China is the largest food producer in the world, and agriculture has played a pivotal role in its emergence as a global economic powerhouse. Chinese economic transformation throughout the twentieth century was sparked by agrarian reforms (e.g., the “Household Responsibility System”) that transferred rights and the responsibility for profits and losses to individual farmers. These policy changes resulted in dramatic improvements in agricultural production and laid the foundations for the Chinese industrial revolution. As testaments to that success, China has achieved high levels of food self-sufficiency, and ironically now has the highest number of obese people in the world.1 More recently, agricultural trade and investments have become important components of China’s diplomacy and its Belt and Road Initiative.2

Russia and China: Partners in Dedollarization

Mrugank Bhusari and Maia Nikoladze

As the Winter Olympics commenced in Beijing, President Putin visited his Chinese counterpart and the two released a joint statement endorsing Russia’s position on NATO expansion. With tensions escalating along Ukraine’s borders, a potential Sino-Russian security alignment is worrying Western policymakers. However, those concerned about military cooperation should be careful to not overlook China’s increasing convergence of interests with Russia on another front – finance and dedollarization.

Dedollarization emerged as a priority for Russia in 2014 in response to the imposition of Western sanctions following the annexation of Crimea that limited the ability of state firms and banks to raise financing in Western markets. China also began seeing value in this initiative after the onset of the US-China trade war in 2018 and the use of punitive financial measures by the US.

Prolonged war may make Russia more cyber aggressive, US official says

Colin Demarest

WASHINGTON — Russia may turn to increasingly brazen cyberattacks as its military is stymied by Ukrainian forces, according to a senior U.S. cybersecurity official.

While a feared wave of cyberattacks against U.S. networks and critical infrastructure at the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine failed to materialize, a protracted conflict could motivate Moscow to act more aggressively in cyberspace, Neal Higgins, deputy national cyber director for national cybersecurity, said June 14.

“A slow military progress continues to thwart the Russians on the ground in Ukraine. They may increasingly consider cyber options to divide our allies and to dilute international resolve against its action,” Higgins said at an event hosted by Defense One. “We have not seen that yet, but we’re not out of the woods. We have to keep our shields up, we can’t let our guard down.”


Steve Wills

The recent loss of the Russian Navy guided missile cruiser RFS Moskva from a cruise missile strike called forth many comparisons to previous losses of large surface combatants, including the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano and even the Japanese super dreadnought Yamato. Only a few however remembered the HMS Sheffield from the Falklands War. While Moskva was a large and capable surface warship that invited comparisons with the losses of larger combatants, the Russian cruiser’s demise may have much more in common with that of the Royal Navy Type 42 destroyer than Belgrano or any World War II warship.

The birth of the modern cruise missile in the Cold War, and the many sensors, communication tools, and other systems needed to use or defend against anti-ship missiles set the stage for a whole new era in naval warfare. A series of unfortunate events laid the British warship open to attack and a similar version of those events may have doomed Moskva as well. Modern warships are very much “eggshells armed with hammers” and even one hit is enough to put the ship out of combat action or cause her sinking. As the 40th anniversary of the first successful cruise missile attack of the Falklands War recently transpired, it is useful to review the fate of HMS Sheffield to understand what her loss and the loss of the Moskva mean for war at sea now and in the future.

NATO’s Hard Road Ahead

Charles A. Kupchan

Thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin, NATO’s Madrid Summit takes place this week against the backdrop of a resurgent Western alliance. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine compels NATO to return to its founding mission of providing collective defense against Russia. Members of the alliance are demonstrating remarkable unity and resolve as they funnel arms to Ukraine, increase defense spending, bolster the alliance’s eastern flank, and impose severe economic sanctions against Russia.

The invasion of Ukraine has shown that NATO is back, but the reality is that it never went away. The alliance was actually in good shape even before Putin launched his errant war, which is one of the reasons that it has been able to respond to developments in Ukraine with such alacrity and solidarity. Since the Cold War’s end, NATO has demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to the times, undertaking operations far afield, including in Afghanistan and in the Balkans, and opening its doors to Europe’s new democracies. As a consequence of the war in Ukraine, an already strong NATO just got stronger.

Cyber Attacks Are Escalating Israel’s ‘Campaign Between Wars’

David Siman-Tov

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used to have two basic systemic situations: fighting in war and preparing for war. These dynamics existed for decades, but the situation began to change after the Second Lebanon War (2006). A few years later, a third dimension in IDF strategy appeared, as formulated by former IDF chief of general staff Gadi Eisenkot: “the Campaign Between the Wars” (CBW). Among the objectives of the CBW is to postpone war, disrupt the opponent’s initiatives, give Israel a dimension of initiative, and design the strategic arena.

At CBW, the IDF operates all the tools and methods, both overt and covert, including the cyber dimension. As early as 2009, the IDF defined cyber as a strategic and operational combat space and started preliminary organizational changes. The former commander of Unit 8200, the IDF’s cyber intelligence unit, addressed the need to create cyber superiority and the need for constant friction in order to turn the theory into practical capabilities. He also proposed establishing cyber offensive capabilities as part of Israel’s combat concept.

The 20-Somethings Who Help the 70-Somethings Run Washington

Annie Karni

WASHINGTON — When an alarmed Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, called the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, demanding to know why the president of the United States had suggested he was coming to the Capitol while Congress met to certify his election defeat, the person on the other end of the line had just turned 25 years old.

“I said, ‘I’ll run the traps on this,’” Cassidy Hutchinson, now 26, testified this week before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, recalling what she had told Mr. McCarthy, Republican of California. “I can assure you, we’re not coming to the Capitol.”

Ms. Hutchinson’s two hours of testimony provided a riveting account of President Donald J. Trump’s mind-set and actions the day of the mob attack and situated the young aide — an assistant by title, but a gatekeeper in practice — at the very center of some of the most sensitive conversations and events of that day.

How to win Ukraine’s long war

Ukraine won the short war. Mobile and resourceful, its troops inflicted terrible losses and confounded Russian plans to take Kyiv. Now comes the long war. It will drain weapons, lives and money until one side loses the will to fight on. So far, this is a war that Russia is winning.

In recent days its forces have taken the eastern city of Severodonetsk. They are advancing on Lysychansk and may soon control all of Luhansk province. They also threaten Slovyansk, in the north of next-door Donetsk. Ukrainian leaders say they are outgunned and lack ammunition. Their government reckons as many as 200 of its troops are dying each day.

Fortunately for Ukraine, that is not the end. The Russian advance is slow and costly. With nato-calibre weapons, fresh tactics and enough financial aid, Ukraine has every chance of forcing back Russia’s armies. Even if lost territory will be hard to retake, Ukraine can demonstrate the futility of Vladimir Putin’s campaign and emerge as a democratic, Westward-looking state. But to do so it needs enduring support. And that is still in doubt.

How to Break Russia’s Black Sea Blockade

Mark Cancian

The world is facing a global food crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine’s agricultural products are critical for global food security—Russia and Ukraine account for 13 percent and 8.5 percent of the world’s wheat exports, respectively—and sanctions against Russia, as well as Moscow’s naval blockade of Ukraine’s sea ports, have taken these vital exports off the market. As a result, millions of people are at risk of experiencing acute food insecurity, particularly in the developing world. The stakes are high: a food crisis on this scale could lead to catastrophic global hunger, fuel political instability in countries that depend on grain imports, and send shock waves throughout the global economy.

The international community has military and diplomatic options to ease this looming crisis, but all have downsides. NATO could use its formidable navies and extensive air power to escort Ukrainian grain ships. But a treaty known as the Montreux Convention limits the size of the force that can enter the Black Sea, and Russia might oppose convoys with its own naval arsenal, most likely by using mines and submarines. Alternative approaches, such as third-party convoys or shipping grain from non-Ukrainian Black Sea ports, would be less provocative but would still hinge on Russian acquiescence.

China is doubling down on its bid to challenge the dollar's global dominance. Analysts lay out why it's unlikely to succeed.

George Glover

China started cooking up fresh challenges to the US dollar's role in international trade in recent days, but the signs are it's unlikely to make much headway.

The BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — plan to develop a new global reserve currency based on a basket of their currencies, President Vladimir Putin said. Meanwhile, China said it will build a fresh yuan reserve alongside Hong Kong, Singapore and three other states, with each contributing around $2.2 billion.

Beijing likely hopes that these moves will threaten the dollar's position as the world's reserve currency, used in contracts to oil international trade. But the greenback has seen off such challenges before.

Pentagon too Slow to Recognize Risk and too Fast to Give Away Needed Capability Permanently

Mackenzie Eaglen

On the path to ceding a similar fate, Pentagon leaders seem to echo how Macbeth described the perpetuation of his fruitless days, “tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day…The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!”

The U.S. military’s conventional deterrence and global leadership will also extinguish if time is continually wasted on uncertain wishes for an equally uncertain tomorrow. Unlike the financial state or strategic posturing of American military forces, there is one variable of which neither Congress nor the Executive has control—one that burns away irrespective of perception: time.

Not only are we unable to control it, we can rarely anticipate what it may bring. The U.S. entered “brief” missions in Iraq and Afghanistan that resulted in two nearly twenty year conflicts still smoldering. Putin decided to invade Ukraine much earlier than defense planners and leaders anticipated—on his timeline, not ours. Time slips away from war plans, even when there are the people, the funds, and the strategies set to define the actions encompassed by it.

The Maritime Counterinsurgency Project Begins

Hunter Stires

For all the attention paid to its growing capabilities for a possible future war, China’s decisive line of effort to undo the foundation of the U.S.-led rules-based international order is well underway—and has made grave inroads without firing a shot. Rather than embarking on a costly and hazardous large-scale war of aggression, China is working below the threshold of armed conflict to subjugate the large civilian maritime population of Southeast Asia—more than 3.7 million people—who depend on access to the South China Sea for their daily livelihoods.1

Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia forces steal fishermen’s catches, confiscate radios and navigational equipment essential to safe operations at sea, and pour gasoline into civilians’ drinking water supplies to compel them to return to shore.2 Chinese forces kidnap Vietnamese fishermen and hold them for ransom.3 China has threatened to openly attack Southeast Asian countries on multiple occasions for daring to pursue energy development in their own national exclusive economic zones (EEZs).4 And Chinese maritime militia and coast guard ships fire upon, ram, and sink civilian vessels, often leaving their crews in the water to drown, an outrageous desecration of the most foundational rule governing conduct among mariners.

Musk’s tech put to deadly weapon effect in Ukraine


Two technologies have helped Ukraine fend off a huge Russian onslaught. One of them is imported; the other is homegrown.

Perhaps the more important, overall, is Elon Musk’s Starlink system. Starlink is made up of thousands of satellites in low earth orbit that provide internet service. Last February, Musk initially provided 5,000 receiver sets to Ukraine. Now the number is up to 11,000.

These satellites are crucial for linking Ukrainian drones to shooters (artillery and rocket forces) and are used to keep essential services functioning. Starlink receivers have been provided to hospitals and emergency services and to schools in Ukraine.

While the Russians are able to jam satellite transmissions, so far they have not been able to jam Starlink. Musk has reported that they are trying but so far have not been successful.

Silicon Twist Managing the Chinese Military’s Access to AI Chips

Ryan Fedasiuk, Karson Elmgren and Ellen Lu

Executive Summary

Over the last five years, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made significant progress adopting artificial intelligence for combat and support functions. Chinese leaders broadly expect AI to usher in the “intelligentization” (智能化) of military affairs, characterized by ubiquitous sensor networks, more frequent machineon- machine engagements, and a faster tempo of operations.

But the PLA’s progress in AI and related technologies largely depends on continued access to a special class of semiconductors—AI chips—which are used to train advanced machine learning systems. By analyzing 24 public contracts awarded by PLA units and state-owned defense enterprises in 2020, this policy brief offers a limited but detailed look at how the Chinese military comes to access these devices.

Marine Corps unveils information guidance as US rivals spew propaganda

Colin Demarest

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps is seeking to better position itself to combat threats posed by propaganda, inaccurate information and digital influence campaigns waged by world powers such as China and Russia.

To do so, leadership is increasingly emphasizing media literacy among the ranks and underlining the value of verifiable information in day-to-day operations and planning.

“We’ve been complacent in just assuming information is like the air we breathe” and there is no consequence to using it incorrectly, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Matthew Glavy, the deputy commandant for information, said June 28. “History is telling us, current events are telling us, that approach will not work, either mid-term or long-term.”

A New DIME Approach to Policy for Iran and China

Jeremiah Shenefield

The role of any foreign policy, regardless of political leanings, should always focus first on the preservation of the national security of the United States. The central sticking points for politicians, government bureaucrats, and planners are what topics rise to the level of national security concerns? Policymakers have claimed national security extends to international terrorism threats, climate change, or ensuring lasting global democracy in the face of authoritarianism. While all reasonable, a common policy concern/goal is the pursuit of economic prosperity and the continued status of the U.S. as the global economic leader. Economies are broad, touch every aspect of society, politics, and foreign policy, especially in Washington. The driver of global economy and commerce is energy; either solar, wind, fossils fuels, commerce, and by extension, world economies grind to a haul without it. Outside regional terrorism and proxy/sectarian wars, energy is the reason Iran is still relevant in U.S. foreign policy circles. Policy effects regarding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) must weigh risks to global shipping commerce, threats to gulf allies (themselves involved in energy exports and affairs), the proliferation of weapons and destabilizing governments, and the wider role energy plays in the newest global power struggle between the U.S. and China.

Factbox: China-Russia trade has surged as countries grow closer

BEIJING, March 1 (Reuters) - China and Russia have grown increasingly close in recent years, including as trading partners, a relationship that brings both opportunities and risks as Russia reels from tough new sanctions led by the West in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Total trade between China and Russia jumped 35.9% last year to a record $146.9 billion, according to Chinese customs data, with Russia serving as a major source of oil, gas, coal and agriculture commodities, running a trade surplus with China.

Since sanctions were imposed in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea, bilateral trade has expanded by more than 50% and China has become Russia's biggest export destination.
Reuters Graphics

The two were aiming to boost total trade to $200 billion by 2024, but according to a new target unveiled last month during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Beijing for the Winter Olympics, the two sides want bilateral trade to grow to $250 billion.

As sanctions against Russia mount, China could offset some of its neighbour's pain by buying more, but would also be wary of running foul itself of potential sanctions.

Below are key areas of trade cooperation between China and Russia.


Exports of Russian oil and gas to China have steadily increased. Russia is China's second-biggest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia, with volumes averaging 1.59 million barrels per day last year, or 15.5% of Chinese imports.

About 40% of supplies flow via the 4,070-km (2,540-mile) East Siberia Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline that was financed by $50 billion in Chinese loans.

Russia is also Beijing's No. 3 gas supplier, exporting 16.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) of the fuel to China in 2021, meeting about 5% of Chinese demand.

Supplies via the Power of Siberia pipeline, which is not connected to the network of westbound Russian gas pipelines, began in late 2019 and are due to rise to 38 bcm a year by 2025, up from 10.5 bcm in 2021, under a 30-year contract worth more than $400 billion.

Russia aims to build a second gas pipeline, Power of Siberia 2, with capacity for 50 bcm a year to run via Mongolia to China.

Russia was also China's No. 2 coal supplier in 2021.

Last month, Putin unveiled new Russian oil and gas deals with China worth an estimated $117.5 billion. 


Russia's food trade with China is small but expanding.

In 2019, China allowed the import of soybeans from all regions of Russia, and the two countries signed a deal to deepen cooperation in soybean supply chains, which saw more Chinese firms growing the beans in Russia.

Soybean exports to China stood at 543,058 tonnes last year and are expected to reach 3.7 million tonnes by 2024.

In 2021, China approved beef imports from Russia, while last Friday, it allowed imports of wheat from all regions of Russia.

Other food exports from Russia to China include fish, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, poultry, wheat flour and chocolate.

China is also a huge buyer of timber from Russia's Far East, with imports of timber and related products worth $4.1 billion last year.

In the other direction, China sells mechanical products, machinery and transport equipment, mobile phones, cars and consumer products to Russia. Chinese exports to Russia stood at $67.6 billion last year, up 34%.


Western sanctions have forced Russia to look toward China for investment opportunities in recent years, and Chinese state banks have helped Russia finance everything from infrastructure to oil and gas projects under China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Russia is by far Beijing's largest recipient of state sector financing, securing 107 loans and export credits worth $125 billion from Chinese state institutions between 2000 and 2017, data from the College of William and Mary's AidData research lab showed.

China and Russia began using their own currencies to settle bilateral trade in 2010 and opened their first currency swap line in 2014, which they renewed in 2020 for 150 billion yuan over three years.

Yuan settlements accounted for 28% of Chinese exports to Russia in the first half of 2021, compared with just 2% in 2013, as both countries seek to ease reliance on the dollar while developing their own respective cross-border payment systems.

The Chinese currency accounted for 13.1% of the Russian central bank's foreign currency reserves in June 2021, compared with just 0.1% in June 2017, with Moscow's dollar holdings dropping to 16.4% from 46.3% in the same period.

The Societal Foundations of National Competitiveness

Michael J. Mazarr

Nations rise and fall, succeed or fail in rivalries, and enjoy stability or descend into chaos because of a complex web of factors that affect competitive advantage. One critical component is the package of essential social characteristics of a nation. The ultimate story of the Cold War is that the United States was simply a more competitive society than the Soviet Union: more energetic, more vibrant, more innovative, more productive, more legitimate. Through analysis of comparative studies of historical eras and trends, historical case studies, and the findings of issue-specific empirical research, the report explores how seven characteristics of a society determine its competitive standing and distinguish dynamic and competitively successful nations.

If the history surveyed in this report provides an accurate guide to the future, the fate of the United States in today's rivalries will not be determined solely, or even in significant degree, by the numbers of its weapons or amounts of defense spending or how many proxy wars it wins but by the basic characteristics of its society. The author applies the seven leading characteristics that affect national standing to the United States to create a snapshot of where the country stands. That application provides some reason for optimism. The United States continues to reflect many of these characteristics, and the overall synergistic engine, more than any other large country in the world. However, multiple trends are working to weaken traditional U.S. advantages. Several, such as the corruption of the national information space, pose acute risks to the long-term dynamism and competitiveness of the nation, raising the worrying prospect that the United States has begun to display classic patterns of a major power on the far side of its dynamic and vital curve.