27 July 2022

Just the Beginning: Why India-Philippines Ties Will Continue to Blossom

Don McLain Gill

The Press Trust of India recently revealed that senior officials from the Philippines and India are engaged in talks regarding Manila’s desire to fast-track its military modernization program. As it seeks to diversify and replace its aging helicopter fleet, the Philippines has shown its interest in acquiring a batch of India’s indigenously developed advanced light helicopters (ALH), which are known for their effectiveness in diverse military operations. What adds relevance to this development is that it comes after the BrahMos cruise missile deal, sealed between the two countries under the Duterte administration early this year.

After the Philippines-India strategic partnership received significant momentum under former President Rodrigo Duterte, bilateral ties are set to improve further under the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The Philippines is situated at a complex geopolitical juncture amid the intensifying power competition between the United States and China. Both great powers are vital components of Philippine foreign policy, with Washington being its traditional security and developmental partner and Beijing being its significant commercial partner and most materially-powerful immediate neighbor. However, Marcos Jr. does not seek to disturb the volatile security architecture of its immediate neighborhood by engaging in activities that will plunge the Philippines deeper into the power competition. Rather, by banking on an independent approach to foreign policy, he aims to provide the Philippines with a conducive environment for its growth and development without contributing further to the turbulent shifts in the regional balance of power.

The U.S. Military Is Already Building the AI of Tomorrow

Kris Osborn

The commanding general of the Air Force Research Lab is already thinking about the next generation of artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool that could not only engage in database comparisons but learn in real-time and assist in taking on missions that were once thought to be strictly meant for human beings.

“AI today is very database intensive. But what can and should it be in the future? How can we graduate it from just being a database to something that can leverage concepts and relationships, or emotions and predictive analyses? And so there’s so much more that we as humans can do that AI cannot. How do we get to that?” Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, commanding general of the Air Force Research Lab, told The National Interest in an interview.

China fines Didi $1.2 billion for violating cybersecurity and data laws

Yong Xiong, Larry Register and Laura He

Hong Kong (CNN Business)China's cyberspace regulator fined Didi Global just over 8 billion yuan ($1.2 billion) on Thursday for violating cybersecurity and data laws, putting an end to a yearlong investigation into the ride-hailing giant.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement that the firm had breached the country's cybersecurity law, data security law, and personal information protection law.

"The facts of violations of laws and regulations are clear, the evidence is conclusive, the circumstances are serious, and the nature is vile," the statement added.

Aside from the $1.19 billion penalty, the regulator also imposed a personal fine of 1 million yuan ($147,000) on Didi's chairman and CEO Cheng Wei and president Liu Qing, respectively. Liu Qing is also known as Jean Liu in English.

Hackers for Hire: Adversaries Employ ‘Cyber Mercenaries’

Elizabeth Montalbano

A for-hire cybercriminal group is feeling the talent-drought in tech just like the rest of the sector and has resorted to recruiting so-called “cyber-mercenaries” to carry out specific illicit hacks that are part of larger criminal campaigns.

Dubbed Atlas Intelligence Group (A.I.G.), the cybergang has been spotted by security researchers recruiting independent black-hat hackers to execute specific aspects of its own campaigns. A.I.G., also known as Atlantis Cyber-Army, functions as a cyber-threats-as-a-service criminal enterprise. The threat group markets services that include data leaks, distributed denial of service (DDoS), remote desktop protocol (RDP) hijacking and additional network penetration services, according to a Thursday report by threat intelligence firm Cyberint.

FBI investigation determined Chinese-made Huawei equipment could disrupt US nuclear arsenal communications

Katie Bo Lillis

Washington (CNN)On paper, it looked like a fantastic deal. In 2017, the Chinese government was offering to spend $100 million to build an ornate Chinese garden at the National Arboretum in Washington DC. Complete with temples, pavilions and a 70-foot white pagoda, the project thrilled local officials, who hoped it would attract thousands of tourists every year.      
But when US counterintelligence officials began digging into the details, they found numerous red flags. The pagoda, they noted, would have been strategically placed on one of the highest points in Washington DC, just two miles from the US Capitol, a perfect spot for signals intelligence collection, multiple sources familiar with the episode told CNN.  

Also alarming was that Chinese officials wanted to build the pagoda with materials shipped to the US in diplomatic pouches, which US Customs officials are barred from examining, the sources said.    

Federal officials quietly killed the project before construction was underway.    The Wall Street Journal first reported about the security concerns in 2018.      

The canceled garden is part of a frenzy of counterintelligence activity by the FBI and other federal agencies focused on what career US security officials say has been a dramatic escalation of Chinese espionage on US soil over the past decade.   
Since at least 2017, federal officials have investigated Chinese land purchases near critical infrastructure, shut down a high-profile regional consulate believed by the US government to be a hotbed of Chinese spies and stonewalled what they saw as clear efforts to plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities.    

Among the most alarming things the FBI uncovered pertains to Chinese-made Huawei equipment atop cell towers near US military bases in the rural Midwest. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the FBI determined the equipment was capable of capturing and disrupting highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by US Strategic Command, which oversees the country's nuclear weapons.

While broad concerns about Huawei equipment near US military installations have been well known, the existence of this investigation and its findings have never been reported. Its origins stretch back to at least the Obama administration. It was described to CNN by more than a dozen sources, including current and former national security officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.  

F.E. Warren Air Force Base, a strategic missile base, is located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, an area near a host of cell towers using Huawei equipment.

It's unclear if the intelligence community determined whether any data was actually intercepted and sent back to Beijing from these towers. Sources familiar with the issue say that from a technical standpoint, it's incredibly difficult to prove a given package of data was stolen and sent overseas.   

The Chinese government strongly denies any efforts to spy on the US. Huawei in a statement to CNN also denied that its equipment is capable of operating in any communications spectrum allocated to the Defense Department. 

But multiple sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN that there's no question the Huawei equipment has the ability to intercept not only commercial cell traffic but also the highly restricted airwaves used by the military and disrupt critical US Strategic Command communications, giving the Chinese government a potential window into America's nuclear arsenal.  

"This gets into some of the most sensitive things we do," said one former FBI official with knowledge of the investigation. "It would impact our ability for essentially command and control with the nuclear triad. "That goes into the 'BFD' category."     
"If it is possible for that to be disrupted, then that is a very bad day," this person added.     

Turning doves into hawks

Former officials described the probe's findings as a watershed moment. The investigation was so secret that some senior policymakers in the White House and elsewhere in government weren't briefed on its existence until 2019, according to two sources familiar with the matter.      
That fall, the Federal Communications Commission initiated a rule that effectively banned small telecoms from using Huawei and a few other brands of Chinese made-equipment. "The existence of the investigation at the highest levels turned some doves into hawks," said one former US official.     

In 2020, Congress approved $1.9 billion to remove Chinese-made Huawei and ZTE cellular technology across wide swaths of rural America.       

But two years later, none of that equipment has been removed and rural telecom companies are still waiting for federal reimbursement money. The FCC received applications to remove some 24,000 pieces of Chinese-made communications equipment—but according to a July 15 update from the commission, it is more than $3 billion short of the money it needs to reimburse all eligible companies.

Absent more money from Congress, the FCC says it plans to begin reimbursing approved companies for about 40 percent of the costs of removing Huawei equipment. The FCC did not specify a timeframe on when the money will be disbursed.

In late 2020, the Justice Department referred its national security concerns about Huawei equipment to the Commerce Department, and provided information on where the equipment was in place in the US, a former senior US law enforcement official told CNN.

After the Biden administration took office in 2021, the Commerce Department then opened its own probe into Huawei to determine if more urgent action was needed to expunge the Chinese technology provider from US telecom networks, the former law enforcement official and a current senior US official said.

That probe has proceeded slowly and is ongoing, the current US official said. Among the concerns that national security officials noted was that external communication from the Huawei equipment that occurs when software is updated, for example, could be exploited by the Chinese government.

Depending on what the Commerce Department finds, US telecom carriers could be forced to quickly remove Huawei equipment or face fines or other penalties.

Reuters first reported the existence of the Commerce Department probe.

"We cannot confirm or deny ongoing investigations, but we are committed to securing our information and communications technology and services supply chain. Protecting US persons safety and security against malign information collection is vital to protecting our economy and national security," a Commerce Department spokesperson said.

US counterintelligence officials have recently made a priority of publicizing threats from China. This month, the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center issued a warning to American businesses and local and state governments about what it says are disguised efforts by China to manipulate them to influence US policy.

FBI Director Christopher Wray just traveled to London for a joint meeting with top British law enforcement officials to call attention to the Chinese threats.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Wray said the FBI opens a new China counterintelligence investigation every 12 hours. "That's probably about 2,000 or so investigations," said Wray. "And that's not even talking about their cyber theft, where they have a bigger hacking program than that of every other major nation combined, and have stolen more of Americans' personal and corporate data than every nation combined."

Asked why after years of national security concerns raised over Huawei, the equipment is still largely in place atop cell towers near US military bases, Wray said that, "We're concerned about allowing any company that is beholden to a nation state that doesn't adhere to and share our values, giving that company the ability to burrow into our telecommunications infrastructure."

He noted that in 2020, the DOJ indicted Huawei with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets.

"And I think that's probably about all I can say on the topic," said Wray.

Critics see xenophobic overreach

Despite its tough talk, the US government's refusal to provide evidence to back up its claims that Huawei tech poses a risk to US national security has led some critics to accuse it of xenophobic overreach. The lack of a smoking gun also raises questions of whether US officials can separate legitimate Chinese investment from espionage.   

"All of our products imported to the US have been tested and certified by the FCC before being deployed there," Huawei said in its statement to CNN. "Our equipment only operates on the spectrum allocated by the FCC for commercial use. This means it cannot access any spectrum allocated to the DOD." 

"For more than 30 years, Huawei has maintained a proven track record in cyber security and we have never been involved in any malicious cyber security incidents," the statement said.  

In its zeal to sniff out evidence of Chinese spying, critics argue the feds have cast too wide a net — in particular as it relates to academic institutions. In one recent high-profile case, a federal judge acquitted a former University of Tennessee engineering professor whom the Justice Department had prosecuted under its so-called China Initiative that targets Chinese spying, arguing "there was no evidence presented that [the professor] ever collaborated with a Chinese university in conducting NASA-funded research."      

And on Jan. 20, the Justice Department dropped a separate case against an MIT professor accused of hiding his ties to China, saying it could no longer prove its case. In February, the Biden administration shut down the China Initiative entirely.   

The federal government's reticence across multiple administrations to detail what it knows has led some critics to accuse the government of chasing ghosts.   

"It really comes down to: do you treat China as a neutral actor — because if you treat China as a neutral actor, then yeah, this seems crazy, that there's some plot behind every tree," said Anna Puglisi, a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology. "However, China has shown us through its policies and actions it is not a neutral actor."    

Chinese tech in the American heartland

As early as the Obama administration, FBI agents were monitoring a disturbing pattern along stretches of Interstate 25 in Colorado and Montana, and on arteries into Nebraska. The heavily trafficked corridor connects some of the most secretive military installations in the US, including an archipelago of nuclear missile silos.        

For years, small, rural telecom providers had been installing cheaper, Chinese-made routers and other technology atop cell towers up and down I-25 and elsewhere in the region. Across much of these sparsely populated swaths of the west, these smaller carriers are the only option for cell coverage. And many of them turned to Huawei for cheaper, reliable equipment.        

Beginning in late 2011, Viaero, the largest regional provider in the area, inked a contract with Huawei to provide the equipment for its upgrade to 3G. A decade later, it has Huawei tech installed across its entire fleet of towers, roughly 1,000 spread over five western states.   

As Huawei equipment began to proliferate near US military bases, federal investigators started taking notice, sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Of particular concern was that Huawei was routinely selling cheap equipment to rural providers in cases that appeared to be unprofitable for Huawei — but which placed its equipment near military assets.    
Federal investigators initially began "examining [Huawei] less from a technical lens and more from a business/financial view," explained John Lenkart, a former senior FBI agent focused on counterintelligence issues related to China. Officials studied where Huawei sales efforts were most concentrated and looked for deals that "made no sense from a return-on-investment perspective," Lenkart said.    

"A lot of [counterintelligence] concerns were uncovered based on" those searches, Lenkart said.   

By examining the Huawei equipment themselves, FBI investigators determined it could recognize and disrupt DOD-spectrum communications — even though it had been certified by the FCC, according to a source familiar with the investigation.  

"It's not technically hard to make a device that complies with the FCC that listens to nonpublic bands but then is quietly waiting for some activation trigger to listen to other bands," said Eduardo Rojas, who leads the radio spectrum lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. "Technically, it's feasible." 

To prove a device had clandestine capabilities, Rojas said, would require technical experts to strip down a device "to the semi-conductor level" and "reverse engineer the design." But, he said, it can be done.   

And there was another big concern along I-25, sources familiar with the investigation said.

Weather camera worries 

Around 2014, Viaero started mounting high-definition surveillance cameras on its towers to live-stream weather and traffic, a public service it shared with local news organizations. With dozens of cameras posted up and down I-25, the cameras provided a 24-7 bird's eye view of traffic and incoming weather, even providing advance warning of tornadoes.   
But they were also inadvertently capturing the movement of US military equipment and personnel, giving Beijing — or anyone for that matter — the ability to track the pattern of activity between a series of closely guarded military facilities.    

The intelligence community determined the publicly posted live-streams were being viewed and likely captured from China, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Two sources briefed on the investigation at the time said officials believed that it was possible for Beijing's intelligence service to "task" the cameras — hack into the network and control where they pointed. At least some of the cameras in question were running on Huawei networks.  
Viaero CEO Frank DiRico said it never occurred to him the cameras could be a national security risk.         

"There's a lot of missile silos in areas we cover. There is some military presence," DiRico said in an interview from his Colorado office. But, he said, "I was never told to remove the equipment or to make any changes."  

In fact, DiRico first learned of government concerns about Huawei equipment from newspaper articles — not the FBI — and says he has never been briefed on the matter.    

DiRico doesn't question the government's insistence that he needs to remove Huawei equipment, but he is skeptical that China's intelligence services can exploit either the Huawei hardware itself or the camera equipment.      

"We monitor our network pretty good," DiRico said, adding that Viaero took over the support and maintenance for its own networks from Huawei shortly after installation. "We feel we've got a pretty good idea if there's anything going on that's inappropriate."  

Scouring the country for Chinese investments 

By the time the I-25 investigation was briefed to the White House in 2019, counterintelligence officials begin looking for other places Chinese companies might be buying land or offering to develop a piece of municipal property, like a park or an old factory, sometimes as part of a "sister city" arrangement. 

In one instance, officials shut down what they believed was a risky commercial deal near highly sensitive military testing installations in Utah sometime after the beginning of the I-25 investigation, according to one former US official. The military has a test and training range for hypersonic weapons in Utah, among other things. Sources declined to provide more details.        
Federal officials were also alarmed by what  sources described as a host of espionage and influence activities in Houston and, in 2020, shut down the Chinese  consulate there.   
US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue announcing indictments against China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, several of its subsidiaries and its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on January 28, 2019.

Bill Evanina, who until early last year ran the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, told CNN that it can sometimes be hard to differentiate between a legitimate business opportunity and espionage — in part because both might be happening at the same time.   
"What we've seen is legitimate companies that are three times removed from Beijing buy [a given] facility for obvious logical reasons, unaware of what the [Chinese] intelligence apparatus wants in that parcel [of land]," Evanina said. "What we've seen recently — it's been what's underneath the land."       

"The hard part is, that's legitimate business, and what city or town is not going to want to take that money for that land when it's just sitting there doing nothing?" he added.   

A complicated problem

After the results of the I-25 investigation were briefed to the Trump White House in 2019, the FCC ordered that  telecom companies who receive federal subsidies to provide cell service to remote areas — companies like Viaero — must "rip and replace" their Huawei and ZTE equipment.      

The FCC has since said that the cost could be more than double the $1.9 billion appropriated in 2020 and absent an additional appropriation from Congress, the agency is only planning to reimburse companies for a fraction of their costs.  

Given the staggering strategic risk, Lenkart said, "rip and replace is a very blunt and inefficient remediation."     

DiRico, the CEO of Viaero, said the cost of "rip and replace" is astronomical and that he doesn't expect the reimbursement money to be enough to pay for the change. According to the FCC, Viaero is expected to receive less than half of the funding it is actually due. Still, he expects to start removing the equipment within the next year.     

"It's difficult and it's a lot of money," DiRico said.        

Some former counterintelligence officials expressed frustration that the US government isn't providing more granular detail about what it knows to companies — or to cities and states considering a Chinese investment proposal. They believe that not only would that kind of detail help private industry and state and local governments understand the seriousness of the threat as they see it, but also help combat the criticism that the US government is targeting Chinese companies and people, rather than Chinese state-run espionage.      

"This government has to do a better job of letting everyone know this is a Communist Party issue, it's not a Chinese people issue," Evanina said. "And I'll be the first to say that the government has to do better with respect to understanding the Communist Party's intentions are not the same intentions of the Chinese people."        

A current FBI official said the bureau is giving more defensive briefings to US businesses, academic institutions and state and local governments that include far more detail than in the past, but officials are still fighting an uphill battle.    

"Sometimes I feel like we're a lifeguard going out to a drowning person, and they don't want our help," said the current FBI official.  But, this person said, "I think sometimes we [the FBI] say 'China threat,' and we take for granted what all that means in our head. And it means something else to the people that we're delivering it to."    

"I think we just need to be more careful about how we speak about it and educate folks on why we're doing what we're doing."   

In the meantime, the "rip and replace" program has remained fiercely controversial.    
"It's not going to be easy," DiRico said. "I'm going to be up nights worrying about it, but we'll do what we're told to do."   

Focusing on China Will Prepare the U.S. Military for the Future

Steven Metz

The U.S. military has an elaborate professional education system to prepare its leaders as they take on higher levels of command and increased responsibility. Selected officers attend a staff college midway in their career and a war college as they prepare for the final stage of their time in uniform. The professional education system is a mechanism to assure that each new cadre of leaders has a common skill set and knowledge base, its curriculum reflects what future military leaders must understand. Today, this system needs to be refocused on America’s paramount security challenge: China.

Much of the curriculum in professional military education is based on enduring topics like responsible command, military professionalism, team building in large organizations, civil-military relations, and complex enterprise management. But it also represents what senior military leaders feel their subordinates need to know about the strategic environment. This evolves as the global security system and American strategy change.

The Scramble for Influence in the South Pacific Intensifies

John Kraus

On July 13th, two Chinese defense attaches gained admittance to an invitees-only address delivered by Vice President Kamala Harris for the 51st annual Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji. The two CCP officials, posed as journalists for the Xinhua news agency, were ultimately identified and escorted from the room. Such acts of subterfuge are emblematic of the growing geopolitical tension in the South Pacific, as the United States and China continue to jockey for leverage in this strategically significant part of the world.

Last week’s PIF revealed manifold concerns shared by the participant island nations, namely climate change, COVID-19, and the eroding architecture of the forum itself. This year, several island nations have made a sharp about-face from traditional institutions, jarring actors like the United States and Australia out of complacency. In April, the Solomon Islands drew international attention after it signed a shadowy security agreement with China, dubbed by some Australian lawmakers as the “worst foreign policy failure since 1945.” More recently, two Micronesian states, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, announced their withdrawal from the annual Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). As evidenced by a US leader’s first ever address to the forum on Wednesday, the event marks a pivot point for Western powers seeking to gain more influence in the region amid heightened security concerns stirred by Beijing.

GEN Mark Milley Says Chinese Military Aggression Has Worsened

Lolita C. Baldor

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The Chinese military has become significantly more aggressive and dangerous over the past five years, the top U.S. military officer said during a trip to the Indo-Pacific that included a stop Sunday in Indonesia.

U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the number of intercepts by Chinese aircraft and ships in the Pacific region with U.S. and other partner forces has increased significantly over that time, and the number of unsafe interactions has risen by similar proportions.

“The message is the Chinese military, in the air and at sea, have become significantly more and noticeably more aggressive in this particular region,” said Milley, who recently asked his staff to compile details about interactions between China and the U.S. and others in the region.

Uncertain Future Of War In Ukraine

Suminda Jayasundera

As Russia and Ukraine are heading to the twenty-second week of continuous fighting in Ukraine, the situation has become even grimmer in the absence of diplomacy to pacify or to create a ceasefire paving the way for negotiations. It is evident that Russia and Ukraine both trying their military might to emerge victorious under different circumstances in this conflict.

As many international security analysts pointed out at the outset, the conflict started due to a lack of trust between the parties to this conflict. However, we cannot go back in time to correct or undo events that led to this conflict. Despite colossal damages and continued brutal attacks in Ukraine, there is still time to find a solution that is acceptable to Ukraine and Russia. The destiny of Ukraine should be in the hands of Ukrainian and it should not be influenced by other powerful actors. It’s a fact that geography cannot be changed and Ukraine continues to remain an immediate neighbor of Russia, which shares a common border and vice versa.

Lessons from Sri Lanka


WASHINGTON, DC – A tragedy is unfolding in Sri Lanka. Citizens must queue for food and pharmaceuticals, vehicle owners cannot fill their tanks, and there have been rolling power outages. The economy is paralyzed, and because the country’s debts are already unsustainable, it cannot borrow. The country is suffering the world’s worst economic crisis since World War II.

The situation is so dire that millions of people have taken to the streets. The president has fled the country, and now parliament has elected a new, but unpopular, replacement. If all goes smoothly (a big if given the events of recent weeks), the International Monetary Fund can come to Sri Lanka’s aid with a rescue loan package (allowing for the purchase of essential imports) and a program to achieve sustainable fiscal, monetary, and exchange-rate policies.

Deglobalization’s China Wild Card


NEW HAVEN – The widely acclaimed globalization of the post-Cold War era is now running in reverse. A protracted slowdown in global trade has been reinforced by persistent pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions, ongoing pressures of the US-China trade war, and efforts to align cross-border economic ties with geostrategic alliances (“friend-shoring”). These developments tighten the noose on China, arguably the country that has been the greatest beneficiary of modern globalization.

Of the many metrics of globalization, including financial, information, and labor flows, the cross-border exchange of goods and services is most closely tied to economic growth. Largely for that reason, the slowdown in global trade, which commenced in the aftermath of the 2008-09 global financial crisis and intensified in the COVID-19 era, points to a sea change in globalization. While global exports went from 19% of world GDP in 1990 to a peak of 31% in 2008, in the thirteen years that followed (2009-21), global exports have averaged just 28.7% of world GDP. Had world exports expanded on a 6.4% trajectory – halfway between the blistering 9.4% pace of 1990-2008 and the subdued post-2008 rate of 3.3% – the export share of global GDP would have soared to 46% by 2021, far above the actual share of 29%.

New Research Raises Doubts Over Indian Government’s Clean Ganga Mission

Rajeev Bhattacharyya

The Indian government’s efforts to clean the Ganga River, considered holy by millions of Hindus, could require greater efforts. New research reveals that the river’s lower stretch is the most polluted, with glaring evidence of algal bloom and signs of eutrophication compared to the middle or upper zones.

Eutrophication is the process by which the water body becomes excessively enriched with nutrients, leading to an increase in the production of algae and macrophytes.

The research study, which The Diplomat has seen, reveals the poor quality and sewage runoff in the lower stretch of the river. This was the first study that quantified the true extent of pollution in terms of water quality index and algal bloom in the lower stretch of the river. Algal bloom on such a large scale had not been reported earlier.

The Economic Effects of Extreme Heat in China

Sara Hsu

As heatwaves burn through the country, China will suffer the economic effects of extreme heat. Some cities are on high alert for temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, while many cities across the nation are likely to surpass 104 degrees F. This extreme heat will have economic impacts through power rationing, reduced crop yield, and effects on delivery and other outdoor workers.

Extreme heat is roiling China, challenging individuals and businesses in carrying out everyday activities. Over 600 million people have been affected, and some cities have reported heat stroke deaths. The heat challenges not only impact human economic activity but may affect infrastructure such as dams, which will face stresses as the heat melts glaciers.

The power grid is already under pressure due to increased demand for air conditioning in homes and offices. Zhejiang province has already asked its households and businesses to save power and has rationed power supply for energy-intensive firms, including textile producers and printers. Electricity consumption hit record highs in the provinces of Shandong and Henan due to increased air conditioning usage. Constrained power supply, coupled with targeted emission reductions, will reduce the amount of power available to electricity-hungry homes and businesses.

Russia is Gaining an Indo-Pacific Foothold Through Myanmar

Mohamed Zeeshan

Earlier this month, the leader of Myanmar’s ruling military junta, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, went to Russia in order to expand his regime’s defense and energy cooperation with Moscow. The relationship is most definitely lopsided and Moscow has not been willing to publicly embrace Min Aung Hlaing’s regime just yet. During his visit last week, the general was not granted a meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and Russia downplayed the visit as a “private” one.

Yet, since the coup last February, Russia has been using its military might to expand its influence in Myanmar by sponsoring the junta’s operations. Moscow has supplied drones, fighter jets, and armored vehicles to the military regime, according to one United Nations expert. Russia has also thwarted statements at the U.N. Security Council aimed at Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis. The two governments are now united by their fight against Western sanctions and find themselves with expanding common ground.

Islamic State’s Expansion in Africa and its Implications for Southeast Asia

Jasminder Singh and Rueben Dass

On June 15, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), the Islamic State (IS) group’s affiliate in northeastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin, released on its various media outlets a 39-minute propaganda video titled “A Book that Guides and a Sword that Helps.” The video called on Muslims around the world to undertake hijrah (migration) to Africa in order to build up a new base of operations there. This was followed by the release of IS’ weekly newsletter, the An-Naba (343rd Edition) which stated that the African states were “one of the fruits of IS’ blessed path” and the “land of jihad and hijrah.”

IS in Africa

Recent statistics have shown that more than half of IS’ official provinces are located in Africa. These are IS-Sinai, IS-Libya, IS-Sahel, ISWAP, IS Central Africa Province (ISCAP), IS-Mozambique, and IS-Somalia. Africa, in particular Mozambique, is the only other region where IS has been able to control territory apart from the Middle East and Marawi, Philippines. ISCAP laid siege over the strategic port of Mocimboa de Praia in August 2020, which they held for almost a year, and the town of Palma in March 2021, which they held for four days. IS-Mozambique was declared a separate wilayah (province) in May of this year.

China Is Not Russia; Taiwan Is Not Ukraine

Tiejun Zhang

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked an avalanche of discussion about the implications for Taiwan. One of the most commonly discussed lessons from the Ukraine War has been that China would need to think more seriously before waging a reunification war against Taiwan, given the setbacks suffered by the Russian invading forces. In my understanding, however, the risk of Beijing launching a cross-strait war was never high to begin with, so the “lesson” has little use.

History might repeat itself but not always. To illustrate the differences, we need to draw two parallels: China vs. Russia and Taiwan vs. Ukraine.

China Is Not Russia

Comparing China and Russia, the two countries have very different strategic priorities. First, there is a great difference in their respective economic and military capabilities and potentials.

Europe Does A Complete U-Turn On African Oil And Gas

Irina Slav

European governments are scouring the world for natural gas as they seek to reduce their overwhelming and increasingly uncomfortable dependence on Russia's Gazprom.

Besides the United States, which has done its best to supply as much LNG as possible to its European allies, several African countries have emerged as potential sources of additional gas supplies. But they are not exactly happy about it.

"The gas here goes to Bonny and Europe to power homes and industries but we have no benefits from it," one local community development activist from the Niger Delta told Bloomberg recently. "Nothing comes to us."

The comment was part of an in-depth analysis by Bloomberg on Europe's mad dash for gas that has seen Nigeria, for example, send millions of tons of LNG abroad while local communities use illegally made fuels and wood to stay warm. Nigeria is far from the only one.

Meet the Taliban’s Would-Be Rainmaker

Ali M. Latifi

KABUL—When Hassib Habibi enters a room, it’s easy to be intimidated. His black turban and traditional perahan tunban outfit are accessorized with an AK-47 that hangs from his shoulder. Physically, he looks every bit the stereotypical Taliban fighter, and he knows it.

Once he starts talking, though, a different man emerges. The 31-year-old deputy director of economic cooperation at the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs—one of the men most responsible for attracting foreign investment to a pariah state under a pile of international sanctions and opprobrium—eschews the fire and brimstone that characterize most Taliban harangues. He speaks in quiet, measured tones even when he’s on about something he’s absolutely sure of, like the justice of the Taliban’s 20-year fight against Western occupation.

Put simply, he comes off like most other 31-year-olds in Kabul, and with good reason. For much of his life, Habibi alternated between studying in the Afghan capital and returning to the battlefields of his native Maidan Wardak province, before he was rounded up and sent to the notorious Bagram prison for more than four years. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August freed him and ultimately made him a senior diplomat.

Biden in Saudi Arabia: Realpolitik vs. Morality

George Friedman

The war in Ukraine rages on as the United States still wants to prevent Russia from effectively reaching Eastern Europe. To that end, Washington’s strategy has been to provide weapons to the Ukrainian army and execute an economic war against Russia. Economic warfare is similar to warfare in general. Targeting is imprecise, time frames are uncertain, and the outcomes are unexpected. The most consequential outcome so far has been the removal of oil from global markets, an issue serious enough that internal pressure in some allied nations has forced them to reconsider their position on the war. Oil is simply a politico-military necessity.

This is the context in which U.S. President Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia, one of the few countries that could single-handedly bring down oil prices through increased supply, at least in theory. Asking for favors from Saudi Arabia was seen as cynical and contributing to human rights violations. The Saudis’ violations of those rights are many, but the most high-profile incident was the murder and dismemberment of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who many believe was killed at the behest of Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman. The problem is that Biden is running a war that clearly isn’t going to end quickly and is being fought by a fraying coalition. Limiting oil output, stopping Russia and boycotting Saudi Arabia are all seen as moral imperatives, sometimes by the same people. But in this case, the moral imperatives contravene each other, such that Biden can’t pursue all three without violating one.

EU Defense Integration Is Moving From Fantasy to Reality

Alexander Clarkson

Just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Europe still reeled in shock, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared that it was time for what he called a Zeitenwende, or sea change, in how the country approaches national and collective defense. Announcing huge increases in Germany’s defense budget, Scholz’s speech to the Bundestag—the German Parliament—on Feb. 27 represented an epochal shift in Germany’s strategic priorities. But it also reflected a wider reassessment across the European Union over how to respond to military threats facing Europe’s neighborhood.

The dilemmas that rapid rearmament has raised for Germany are vast. Having been worn down through decades of underinvestment, the German military is now riddled with institutional dysfunctions that will require a huge effort to tackle. Coupled with frantic attempts to prepare German society for the toll that ending Russian gas imports will exact on businesses and consumers alike, the dilemmas Germany alone now faces will absorb the attention of German policymakers for years to come.

The Energy Crisis Is Global

Christina Lu

As Russia plays hardball with Europe’s gas supply, the continent is staring down a worrisome energy future—and it’s not alone. For months, sky-high natural gas and oil prices have been wreaking havoc around the world, and experts warn that there is no end in sight as long as the war in Ukraine barrels on.

From Ecuador to South Africa, fuel shortages and blackouts have plunged import-dependent countries into economic turmoil, leaving desperate governments scrambling for workaround solutions. In Sri Lanka, which was already buckling under mounting crises, acute shortages and dayslong lines have forced authorities to issue work-from-home orders. Pakistan has resorted to shortening its work week to relieve pressure from lengthy power cuts, while Panama has been rocked by demonstrations over surging prices.

“We are experiencing the first global energy crisis,” said Jason Bordoff, an energy expert at Columbia University, who noted that the crunch has hit almost all of the world’s regions and energy sources. “The ripple effects are being seen globally, and I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it yet.”

Ghana’s ‘Success’ Exposes the West’s Toxic Development Model

Howard W. French

At first glance, an item of business news that crossed my transom one morning this week seemed like a clear economic win from Africa: Ghana, which enjoys a reputation as one of the continent’s most successful nations, had signed a $3.2 billion contract with an international consortium to rehabilitate a defunct railway line between its western port city of Takoradi and its second-largest city, Kumasi, in the nation’s interior.

Putting the 210-mile route back into service would allow Ghana to deliver the minerals and commodities it produces to international markets more easily. Before the line became inoperable in 2006, worn out by years of heavy use and inadequate maintenance, it had been used to transport raw manganese, bauxite, and unprocessed cocoa, earning export income in dollars intended to power the country’s development. Read quickly, the contract sounded like unadulterated progress for a country that is seeking to broaden prosperity for its fast-growing population.

Afghanistan Still Wants Its Frozen Funds

Lynne O’Donnell

The United States and the Taliban continue to negotiate the release of billions of dollars of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves that could help get the moribund economy back to work and bring some relief from the widespread hunger and poverty that are hammering millions of Afghans. But discussions keep stalling on the Taliban’s insistence that they control the cash, even though they have a habit of pilfering money and financial aid to give to their soldiers and supporters.

Afghanistan had reserves of more than $9 billion in banks in the United States and Europe when the Western-supported government collapsed last August. (Another $500 million belonging to individuals who hold accounts with privately owned Afghan banks is also frozen.) The money had been managed by Da Afghanistan Bank, the central bank, and used as reserves traditionally are, especially to keep the currency stable, to finance imports, and to provide liquidity to the banking system.

By Not Acting on Climate, Congress Endangers U.S. National Security

Jason Bordoff and Meghan L. O’Sullivan

Last week, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin seemingly dashed Democrats’ hopes for congressional action to slow climate change. Sen. Bernie Sanders accused Manchin of “sabotag[ing] the president’s agenda”; Rep. John Yarmuth, when asked about the consequences of Congress not acting on climate change, said, “We’re all going to die”; and climate activists, as well as some Democrats in Congress, wondered if Manchin should be removed as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Without a doubt, the failure to act now to slow climate change will move the United States further away from its goals to reduce carbon emissions, with serious implications for the climate and the planet. But Manchin’s rejection of the Biden administration’s energy package should not only be viewed as a tragedy for the climate; it’s also bad for U.S. national security and energy security.

China once saw Europe as a counter to US power. Now ties are at an abysmal low

Simone McCarthy

Hong Kong (CNN)When Chinese leader Xi Jinping made his first state visit to Europe in 2014, he set out to herald a new era of cooperation in a multi-country tour, which the European Parliament President at the time called "a welcome signal of the importance that the new Chinese leader attaches to a strengthened EU-China partnership."
Eight years later, the optimism of that period has cratered, with the relationship between China and the European Union reaching what analysts call a clear low point of recent decades.
European concern about China's global ambitions and its human rights record, US-China tensions, tit-for-tat sanctions and, now, Russia's war in Ukraine -- the impact of which on China-EU ties Beijing appears to have either underestimated or dismissed -- have all brought relations to a nadir.

That was underlined last month during two summits featuring European leaders. Both the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies and NATO significantly hardened their lines on China, in a signal that views in Europe have fallen more in line with Washington's.

The shift is the culmination of a series of steps in which Beijing may have at times underestimated the extent to which it was pushing Europe away, but also appeared prepared to pay that price.

But it is a significant blow for Beijing's ideal vision: a Europe with robust China ties that provides a counterbalance to American power and posture.

"China and the EU should act as two major forces upholding world peace, and offset uncertainties in the international landscape," Xi told EU leaders at a summit in April, urging them to reject "rival-bloc mentality."

But those words appeared to fall flat with the European side, which focused instead on pressing China to help broker peace in Ukraine. "The dialogue was everything but a dialogue. In any case, it was a dialogue of the deaf," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said afterward.

Downward spiral

Beijing had carefully crafted its relationships in Europe in recent decades -- creating a dedicated annual summit with Central and Eastern European countries and seeking inroads for its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which won support from one G7 member when Italy signed on in 2019.

US concerns about the risks of collaboration with China resonated in Europe. And European nations were themselves watching Xi's China grow increasingly assertive in its foreign policy, from the combative tone of its "wolf warrior" diplomats to the establishment of a naval base in Africa, rising aggressiveness in the South China Sea and toward Taiwan, and the targeting of companies or countries that ran foul of its line on hot-button issues.

Allegations of major human rights violations in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, and its dismantling of civil society in Hong Kong also played a role in shifting European perceptions, analysts say. Chinese officials have called allegations that it held more than a million Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in internment camps in Xinjiang "fabrications," and slammed discussion of these issues as "interference" in its internal affairs.

The EU declared China a "systemic rival" in 2019 and ties have continued to fray since.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping attends the opening of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands during his first state visit to Europe.

"China now demands the rest of the world pay it due respect and recognize the positions China takes, without paying much regard to what the others may think," said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London.

This approach made Western democracies "abandon the decades-long policy of helping China to modernize and rise with a hope that greater economic integration will encourage China to become a responsible stake holder in world affairs," Tsang said.

Economic edge

China was the third largest export market for European goods and the largest source of products entering Europe last year, but frictions have taken their toll on the economic relationship between the EU and Beijing.

Earlier this year, a dispute between China and Lithuania pushed the EU to level a case at the WTO. It accused Beijing of "discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania" in retaliation for what Beijing views as a violation by the Baltic state of its "One China" principle, by which it claims self-ruled Taiwan as its sovereign territory.

The greatest financial casualty was the long-awaited trade deal between the EU and China, which stalled last year after being caught in the crossfire of a sanctions exchange. Beijing slapped penalties on EU lawmakers and bodies, European think tanks and independent scholars after the EU sanctioned four Chinese officials for alleged abuses in Xinjiang.

But the damage was greater than just the deal.

"This overreaction (from Beijing) was not a wise move," said Ingrid d'Hooghe, a senior research associate at the Netherlands-based think tank Clingendael, pointing to the harmful effect on public opinion.

"China's strategy toward Europe was falling apart and it apparently didn't understand that all these actions -- the over-reactive sanctions, coercive diplomacy -- in the end worked against China's diplomatic goals ... and also pushed Europe closer to the United States," she said.

While these actions may have pushed a shift in European thinking with clear economic consequences, they added up for Beijing's Foreign Ministry, according to Henry Gao, a professor at Singapore Management University's Yong Pung How School of Law.

"For them, the cold relationship is a necessary price and it is more important to make political points," he said.

Blind spot?

It is China's most recent calculations over how to respond to Russia's war in Ukraine that may end up the most costly when it comes to European ties.

As European countries and the US united in support of Ukraine, China refused to condemn the war -- instead bolstering its relationship with Russia and joining the Kremlin in finger-pointing at the US and NATO.

There were leading policy analysts in China who understood the negative consequences China's position would have on its European ties, according to Li Mingjiang, an associate professor and Provost's Chair in International Relations at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. But that assessment may have been "underestimated" by decision makers, Li said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Brazil in 2019.

Calculations about the geopolitical importance of ties with Russia, and also the close bond between Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin also likely came to bear, he added.

"It's a really huge dilemma for China ... and they couldn't afford any major negative consequences on the China-Russia strategic partnership. That imperative really prevailed," Li said.

There has been acknowledgment of China's myopia among mainland scholars,

Chen Dingding, founding director of the Intellisia Institute think tank in Guangzhou, wrote in a coauthored article in The Diplomat, that the risks of the war in Ukraine are "not fully understood in China," where officials and academics had failed to acknowledge the "shock" that death and destruction in Ukraine would bring Europeans.

"The geographic as well as emotional proximity of the war will fundamentally change European sentiments toward common security, economic dependencies, and national sovereignty for years to come," Chen and his international group of coauthors wrote.

However, strong voices within many countries do continue to advocate a balanced approach to China, according to d'Hooghe. The future may bring not a decoupling, she said, but rather a recalibration within Europe of how to collaborate with China while keeping an eye on security and balance.

"But right now -- and this is also true with the European relationship with Russia -- normative considerations seem to weigh heavier than economic interests," she said.