10 August 2022

What if Machine Learning Is Less Than It Seems?

Vincent J. Carchidi

Artificial intelligence (AI)—particularly its most famous iteration, machine learning—has been hailed as the next game-changing technology for military affairs in the lineage of gunpowder, the combustion engine, and the airplane. One of the defining characteristics of AI innovation in today’s geopolitical competition between the United States and China is that it has occurred primarily in the private sector. Whereas Chinese officials adopt a “military-civil fusion” policy to centralize the Chinese Communist Party’s leverage over private sector AI research, American analysts increasingly call for a “whole-of-nation” approach to basic technological research. While AI is a strategically important technology, what if the long-term utility of machine learning, in particular, is more limited than it seems?

The question might seem odd since private sector AI researchers wear their sense of momentum on their sleeves. DeepMind researcher Nando de Freitas, for example, recently proclaimed “the game is over'' and that the keys to advancing AI are here for the taking. Breakthroughs in AIs’ capacities to match or exceed human abilities have driven up interest in machine learning. Examples include AlphaGo’s victories over professional Go player Lee Sedol, GPT-3’s ability to write articles and code, Gato’s ability to perform multiple specialized tasks as opposed to just one, and AlphaFold’s fresh breakthrough on all known protein structures. In national security, seemingly not a day goes by without news of Department of Defense (DOD) efforts to procure emerging technologies, including semi-autonomous, unmanned systems.

Battle in the Skies: Why Ukraine and Russia Can’t Achieve Air Superiority

Kris Osborn

The Russo-Ukrainian War has been underway for six months but somehow Ukraine has managed to prevent the larger Russian Air Force from achieving air superiority.

Ukraine operates sixty-nine fighter jets while Russia has 772 fighter aircraft, according to the Global Firepower index. However, some might look at this numerical imbalance and ask how many of Russia’s fighter aircraft are functional, high-tech, fourth-generation Su-35s, which emerged in 2014. Ukraine also operates air defenses which the Pentagon says continue to be effective against Russian air power.

The Ukrainians operate a collection of Cold War-era Soviet-built surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, the most recent of which is the SA-15 Gauntlet from 1986. How many of these decades-old systems have been maintained and upgraded? What kinds of additional air defenses has Ukraine been receiving from the West? Whatever air defense systems Ukraine might have, it seems clear that they are working because Russia still has not achieved air superiority. One factor which may still be informing operations is that the Russians have been described by the Pentagon as “risk averse,” meaning that they are less inclined to fly into areas where Ukrainian air defenses can target them.

Could the U.S. Gain Superiority in the Skies Over Taiwan?

Kris Osborn

A quick look at force structures, basing, and geography in the Pacific suggests that U.S. and allied naval power would be crucial to stopping any Chinese assault on Taiwan. How would a hypothetical U.S. response to a Chinese attack play out?

Although much is made of the fact that China now operates a larger navy than the United States, there are several other key factors to consider.

The first and most obvious factors are timing and location. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command operates as many as five aircraft carriers and more than 1,100 sea-launched aircraft. How fast could they respond? Will they be in position in time? This would hinge upon forward operations, overhead surveillance from drones and satellites, and the Navy’s operating presence in the region.

America Can’t Win Without a Coherent Grand Strategy

Axel de Vernou

The United States has forgotten one of the basic principles of being a great country: have a strategic vision. Citizens at home and abroad could once point to Washington and name its blueprint for the world. It would change based on the administration, but it always remained coherent and definable. This is no longer the case.

When America descends to Venezuela to foster cooperative dialogue between President Nicolás Maduro’s regime and opposition groups purely for the purpose of acquiring oil, her pleas to India to abandon Russian imports lose their urgency.

When President Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Asian leaders must have been surprised to hear Vice President Pence warn that China is responsible for preventing “us from coming to the aid of our allies.”

Why Can’t Cyber Scholars Move Beyond the Basics?

Brandon Valeriano

The most exciting part of the scientific process and research is the process of discovery and figuring out something that you did not know before. Being a scholar and researcher is about feeling stupid from time to time, scratching at the edges of knowledge to push the field further.

The struggle for many observers and scholars in the cybersecurity community is that it’s difficult to feel stupid. There are few challenging questions in cybersecurity, rather, the truly remarkable thing about cybersecurity is the complete lack of novelty. The questions are always the same and rarely evolve. Is this a cyber war? Can cyber deterrence work? Will cyber operations help states during wars and change the nature of warfare?

Instead of pushing knowledge forward, the field of cybersecurity in geopolitics has mostly become about explaining why something didn’t happen rather than why it did. The entire concept of cyber war has been inflated to such a point that every modern movie seems to include the necessary shot of the hacker winning the day.

Tanker Trouble: Why China Can't Project Global Firepower

Kris Osborn

When it comes to a quick assessment of Chinese air power, one might wonder if the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has enough fifth-generation fighter jets to achieve air superiority in support of an amphibious attack on Taiwan. In addition, China may not have enough aerial refuelers to project air power across continents or even sustain long-dwell fighter jet attack campaigns over Taiwan, given that J-20s would need to launch from land.

Perhaps recognizing this potential deficit and the absence of carrier-launched J-31, the Chinese Air Force is quickly moving to expand its fleet of air-to-air refueling aircraft. This may also be an effort to close a visible tanker deficit with the United States and fully project global air power.

According to Global Firepower, the United States operates as many as 625 tanker aircraft, whereas China is listed as only having three. This lack of tankers would limit or even imperil any Chinese effort to launch a large-scale cross-continental air campaign.

The Key to Taiwan’s Defense? An American Forward Presence

Kris Osborn

With tensions potentially higher than they have been in years, and Chinese planes and warships conducting war drills around Taiwan, a confrontation between China and the United States appears increasingly possible.

Could Chinese carriers in the Taiwan Strait or in striking distance of Japan successfully defend Taiwan from a joint U.S. and allied attack? While it’s only a hypothetical, it’s certainly a complex question worth considering. Chinese carriers and amphibious vessels might succeed in an amphibious assault to take over Taiwan if U.S. and allied forces could not get there in time or simply were not close enough to intervene in an impactful way.

However, should U.S., South Korean, or even Japanese forces have sufficient warning of an imminent invasion, U.S. and allied naval assets could be in close enough proximity to challenge or stop a Chinese takeover of Taiwan.

In the Russia-Ukraine war, drones are one of the most powerful weapons


SOUTHERN UKRAINE — The images on the laptop are of a ghost town. The camera looking down swivels and zooms in on a burnt-out school.

Sitting in the back of a Ukrainian military van, hidden under camouflage netting, Sacha is monitoring video from a surveillance drone. His team just launched the drone off a 30-foot-long slingshot. It's now crossed the front line and is peering into a Russian-occupied village.

Sacha zooms in further.

"You see the burned machines," he says, pointing to a pair of rust-red metal carcasses in the school yard. A turret comes into view as the drone, flying nearly one kilometer above the village, crosses over the school. "That's a burned tank," Sacha says.

Will the New Taiwan Crisis Spiral Out of Control?

Michael D. Swaine

There’s no such thing as a winnable U.S.-China crisis over Taiwan. And yet we appear to have sleepwalked into a crisis anyway, pushed over the brink by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to travel to Taipei and meet with Taiwan president Tsai Yingwen.

Pelosi’s trip was a wrongheaded move that, no matter how well-intentioned, failed to deliver meaningful benefits to Taiwan while providing Beijing with a pretext for sharp military and diplomatic escalations. As most experts predicted, Pelosi’s ill-advised trip has triggered a confrontation that poses serious risks to Taipei and Washington alike. China and the United States must now prepare to defuse the crisis triggered by the speaker’s visit to Taiwan.

For more than fifteen years, a university colleague and I have worked with former U.S. and Chinese officials, military officers, and specialists on how to manage a serious political-military crisis of the sort that we now face. Over the years, officials in Beijing and Washington alike have been briefed on the many lessons we have drawn from this undertaking. Unfortunately, thus far, it doesn’t look like many of them are being put to use at this perilous moment. Failing to do so risks propelling us from crisis to conflict.

Angry Kitten electronic attack pod bares its claws during Air Force tests


WASHINGTON: Sometimes, the name of a piece of military technology is meant to inspire fear. The F-4 Phantom II. The MQ-9 Reaper. And now…the Angry Kitten Combat Pod.

Ok, so maybe it’s not the most terrifying name out there. But despite the humble moniker, the Air Force believes the electronic warfare system — which was built to simulate enemy threats, but was so capable that the Air Force is considering turning into an operational pod that can be used to jam and electronically attack adversaries — could “dramatically shape” the future of electronic warfare, the service said in an Aug. 3 news release.

The technology stems from the Angry Kitten pod originally built about a decade ago by Georgia Tech Research Institute, which sought to create an EW system that could adapt to new threats more quickly by using machine learning and easily updatable software.

McMaster: Taiwan Could Prove Difficult for China to Invade

John Grady

Speaking during a Hudson Institute online forum on Thursday, the retired Army lieutenant general added that Taipei could be difficult to attack across the 100-mile wide, often stormy Taiwan Strait. It’s a matter of “capability and will.”

To protest House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) 19-hour visit this week to the self-governing island, Beijing fired missiles into Japanese waters, sent military aircraft into Taipei’s air defense identification zone and conducted large-scale live-fire exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

But all these escalating military moves from the People’s Republic of China is a “signal to the world” that Beijing could blockade or invade Taiwan, said Patrick Cronin, Hudson’s Asia-Pacific chair. He mentioned threats by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that Pelosi’s visit could lead to a slippery slope of conflict as a means of intimidating other nations.

NATO Navies Send Strategic Signals in the Indo-Pacific

William R. Hawkins

In his door-opening statement at the Madrid NATO summit on 29 June, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted that for the first time the People’s Republic of China would figure in the alliance’s new Strategic Concept. “China is not mentioned with a single word in the current [2010] Strategic Concept. China will be part of the Concept we agree at this Summit, and I expect that Allies will agree that China poses or is a challenge to our values, to our interests and to our security. China is not an adversary but, of course, we need to take into account the consequences to our security when we see China investing heavily in new modern military capabilities, long-range missiles, nuclear weapons, and also trying to control critical infrastructure.” This statement did not herald anything truly new. Stoltenberg had been charged with drawing up the basics of a new Strategic Concept in 2019 and his initial report in early 2020 called for NATO to look toward the Indo-Pacific as part of a global approach to security and stability. This reflected the influence of the Trump Administration which was refocusing U.S. security policy towards China, a pivot initiated by the Obama Administration that continues under the Biden Administration.

The NATO 2030: United for a New Era report (released 25 November 2020) states “NATO must devote much more time, political resources, and action to the security challenges posed by China—based on an assessment of its national capabilities, economic heft, and the stated ideological goals of its leaders.” The June 2021 Brussels summit went further: “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security. . . . It is opaque in implementing its military modernisation and its publicly declared military-civil fusion strategy. It is also cooperating militarily with Russia.” This warning about a Russo–Chinese axis would take on added weight when Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Beijing’s Blockade Of Taiwan Is The Latest Sign Washington Needs To Streamline Its Defense Trade With Allies

Loren Thompson

China’s live-fire exercises around Taiwan in response to a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are being described as a de facto blockade, foreshadowing the strategy Beijing could one day use to force the island nation into submission.

Beijing is not discouraging that interpretation.

Whatever answer Washington might mount to this escalation of regional tensions, it is clear that the U.S. needs to maintain close military ties with other democratic nations in the Western Pacific. Countering China’s rising military power will require something more than unilateral action on the part of the United States.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps that can be taken in Washington to facilitate the efforts of like-minded nations in deterring Chinese aggression.

All Elements of National Power

Seth Cropsey

A pivotal issue in Ukraine’s defense is the West’s—and the U.S.’ in particular—ability to provide weapons and ammunition swiftly enough to defeat Russia. As Western arms shipments continue, the Ukrainian military will become more capable. Several thousand Ukrainians are now training in the UK and Eastern European NATO states, learning to employ new Western weapons. A multi-week lag exists between weapons delivery and employment because of this training. As the gap shrinks, Russia will face the unsavory prospect of redeploying its overwhelmingly concentrated units to the south, yet still being outmaneuvered and possibly outnumbered. Over time, then, Ukraine’s advantages will accumulate enough to make a serious Russian strategic reversal probable.

Nevertheless, Ukraine’s Western benefactors face a structural issue. It is not the Kremlin’s “commodity war” strategy per se. Although global food and energy pressures will cause macroeconomic stress, an impending Euro-American recession has already reduced oil prices to pre-February 24th levels. Fertilizer producers are adjusting to Russian-induced supply chain disruptions, and excess capacity has increased enough to make a price drop probable, blunting some food pressures. As central banks tighten, disinflationary effects will manage price growth, albeit too late to avoid pressure on consumers. Absent a brutally frigid winter, additional food supply disruptions, and central bank unwillingness to combat inflation, the Russian commodity weapon will disgruntle Western publics, but may not derail Western policy.

Time for NATO to Take the Lead in Ukraine

Alina Polyakova and Ilya Timtchenko

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, the West has provided billions in military and economic assistance aid to Kyiv. The United States alone has provided more than $8 billion in security support in the last six months. The money and arms are making a difference on the battlefield. The recently delivered U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), for example, have allowed Ukraine to launch counteroffensives in the southeast and repel attacks elsewhere.

Support from other NATO allies has been mixed, however. Germany, for example, has been delayed in delivering similar rocket systems, with the first arriving just in the last few days, and other promised heavy weapons likely delayed until the end of the year. France, which has one of Europe’s most capable militaries, has provided only around $160 million in military support to Ukraine, and committed 0.008 percent of its GDP in military aid. In contrast, Estonia, Latvia, and Poland committed 0.84 percent, 0.69 percent and 0.32 percent, respectively, despite having much smaller economies. Poland alone has delivered at least $1.8 billion worth of weapons.

America’s China Challenge


ASPEN – At this year’s Aspen Security Forum (which I co-chair) in July, China’s ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, appealed for better understanding of his country. But there was considerable debate among the assembled experts about China’s objectives. President Xi Jinping has announced China’s intention to outpace America in critical technologies such as artificial intelligence and synthetic biology by 2030, and many analysts predict that China’s GDP (measured at market exchange rates) will surpass that of the US early in the next decade. Is China seeking to displace the US as the world’s leading power by the centenary of communist rule in 2049?

Some alarmists figuratively describe the Chinese as “ten feet tall,” but one experienced Aspen participant joked that China is more like 5’10” compared to America’s 6’2”. In any event, China has made impressive progress over the past few decades, and US strategists describe it as the “pacing challenge” in a great-power competition.

What happens over the next three decades will depend on many unknowns. Some analysts see China declining after failing to escape the “middle-income trap.” Others envisage it hitting a plateau because of demographic constraints, low factor productivity, and Xi’s policy of favoring state-owned firms over private companies. In addition, China faces serious problems of rising inequality and environmental degradation. Xi’s “China dream” and any other linear projection could be derailed by unexpected events such as a war over Taiwan or a financial crisis.

Tech Expert Toby Walsh on the Menaces of AI

Hilmar Schmundt

DER SPIEGEL: The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine seems at times like a test run for modern weapons systems. Ukraine relied heavily on Turkish Bayraktar drones from the start, and now Russia could follow suit with Iranian drones. Could these weapons also be used autonomously in the future, controlled with the help of artificial intelligence?

Walsh: Yes, the use of AI-controlled killer robots is only a matter of time. I just warned in an essay about a new type of Russian anti-personnel mine called the POM-3. The POM-3 is based on a German Wehrmacht design called the Schrapnellmine, jokingly called "Bouncing Betty" by Allied soldiers. This is because this mine detects footsteps, then first jumps into the air and then detonates at a height of one meter to shred as many soldiers as possible with shrapnel. Russia has announced that it will control this shrapnel mine using AI software that can accurately distinguish whether its own Russian units are approaching, in which case it will not explode; or whether they are enemy soldiers, in which case it will go off. Such landmines are bestial, shredding people indiscriminately, often hitting children. That is why they are outlawed internationally; 164 states have pledged not to use them, including Ukraine. Russia is not among them. My criticism of the POM-3 gave me access to a club: I ended up on an entry ban list and am no longer allowed to travel to Russia. I take that as a compliment.

Hong Kong from the Inside

Ian Johnson

In November 2019 some one thousand young pro-democracy protesters occupied the campus of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University, which is located at a crucial junction of two highways and the cross-harbor tunnel. They disrupted traffic for more than a week, trying to pressure the government to investigate police misconduct during large-scale protests earlier in the year. On November 17 they repulsed police efforts to storm the campus. The police threatened to use live ammunition but decided to starve them out instead.

What happened on the following morning was a remarkable show of civic courage. Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents tried to deliver supplies to the protesters. Police pushed them back, but they still found ways of rescuing the young people. Motorcyclists raced under a pedestrian bridge to pick up some who had climbed down on ropes. Civil engineers used maps of the sewage system and tidal tables to figure out when others could escape through the enormous underground tunnels without drowning. In the end, only one hundred of the protesters had to surrender to police.

The U.S. Relationship With China Does Not Need to Be So Tense

China, economically ascendant, has become increasingly assertive in pressing its economic, political and territorial claims. The United States, which long treated the country as something of a charity case, now regards it as a rival and, increasingly, as a threat. While some tension is inevitable, the rhetoric in both nations has taken a bellicose turn. There is little trust or cooperation even on issues of clear mutual interest, like combating the Covid-19 pandemic or addressing climate change.

The hardening on both sides was on full display this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a provocative visit to Taiwan to underscore America’s support for its democratic government, and China mounted an overheated response, staging military exercises that encroached on Taiwan’s airspace and territorial waters to emphasize its determination to establish sovereignty over what it regards as its own. China announced on Friday that it also would suspend communication with the United States on a number of issues, including climate change and efforts to prevent drug trafficking.

Ukraine Needs A Miracle To Drive Russia’s Military Out Of Kherson

Daniel Davis

At the end of July, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry released a stark warning for Russian forces in the Kherson region. The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), the statement said, were preparing for a large-scale counteroffensive, saying the Russians in Kherson had a choice: “retreat or be annihilated.” Like many other claims by Ukraine in the south, however, this threat has yet to be acted on. A study of the geography and a comparison of the forces involved, however, exposes the reality that only a miracle could see Ukraine drive Russia from Kherson.

Actually, Kyiv would need closer to three miracles to pull an effective offensive there.

On March 2, just days into the war, Russia captured Kherson in southern Ukraine, making it the first major city to fall. Putin’s troops have held it ever since. Almost immediately, Ukraine declared their intention to retake the city. Over the past several months, various Ukrainian officials have claimed the UAF was either about to begin a counteroffensive to take back the city, or had already started it.

Populists at the Gates

Michele Barbero

For the first time in decades, under now outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy seemed to have claimed back its mantle as one of the pillars of the European Union. The former president of the European Central Bank, Draghi played a crucial role as Italy and its neighbors sought to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, a devastating war on the EU’s doorstep, and an energy crisis that is sending the cost of living through the roof. For a year and half, Rome carried yet again almost the same weight as Paris or Berlin.

But following the downfall of Draghi’s national unity government this month, Italian political parties have swiftly leapt back into campaign mode, and the country finds itself plunged in a state of deep uncertainty—at the worst possible time.

Polls suggest that the post-fascist Brothers of Italy party has a good chance to come out on top in a general election slated for the end of September, with its leader, Giorgia Meloni, close to becoming Italy’s first far-right (and first female) leader since the end of World War II. The only major party in opposition during Draghi’s tenure, the Brothers of Italy has seen its appeal steadily grow in recent months. It is currently polling at about 23 percent (up from just over 4 percent in the 2018 election), neck and neck with the center-left Democratic Party.

War in Ukraine Has Sparked a New Race to Succeed Putin

Andrey Pertsev

The war in Ukraine and ensuing sanctions have failed to cement Russia’s power vertical or unify the country’s influential business and political groups. Had President Vladimir Putin gotten the swift victory he was clearly counting on when he launched his “special operation,” he would have solidified his position as ruler, but as the conflict drags on, the elites are being forced to think of their future and to try to find their place within it.

Putin himself demonstrates no intention to step down, but looks increasingly relegated to the past. The elites and potential successors are watching his every military move, but they can already see that he has no place in their postwar vision of the future. His sole remaining function in their perception of the new era of peace will be to nominate a successor and leave the stage.

The war has, therefore, set in motion a public race of the successors. In recent years, political maneuvering in Russia was kept in the shadows, but in this new era, loud proclamations and high-visibility political gesturing are again the norm. It is as though an active election campaign is already under way, with bureaucrats and functionaries within the ruling party doing their best to get into the limelight and even attacking one another. Until recently, such behavior was almost unthinkable: the presidential administration worked in silence, while high-status functionaries at the ruling United Russia party restricted themselves to making promises on social policies.

Intelligence is dead: long live Artificial Intelligence

Yasmin Afina

The press has widely reported claims made by a Google engineer, recently placed on ‘administrative’ leave, that its AI chatbot called LaMDA ‘has become sentient’ with an ability to express and share thoughts and feelings the same way a human child would. This claim has been met with interest from the public, but also a lot of scepticism.

However, the promotion of over-hyped narratives on AI technologies is not only alarmist, it is also misleading. It carries the risk of shifting public attention away from major ethical and legal risks; framing the technology in a way that would lead to dangerous over-confidence in its reliability; and paving the way towards ethical- and legal-compliance-washing.
Inherent risks of AI

From helping to advance research in cancer screening to supporting efforts at tackling climate change, AI holds tremendous potential in enabling progress in all segments of society. This is assuming that the technology is reliable and that it works in the intended way.

What Are the Implications of Uzbekistan’s Rapprochement With the Taliban?

Akram Umarov and Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili

In a dramatic shift from just a few years ago, when it closed its doors and eyes to its southern neighbor, Uzbekistan is now determined to play a leading role in global Afghanistan policy. This is evidenced by the fact that Uzbekistan hosted its third global conference on Afghanistan in as many years last month. The forum, which focused on economic development and security issues, was attended by more than 100 representatives from almost 30 countries. Most notably, it brought leaders of the Taliban into the same room with U.S. diplomats.

The conference was significant because it demonstrated the relentlessness with which the government of Uzbekistan is willing to work with the leadership of Afghanistan, regardless of who is in power.

For decades, Uzbekistan had chilly relations with Afghanistan. Since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016, he has realigned the country’s foreign policy by arguing that a healthy Afghanistan yields a healthy region. As Tashkent has become more comfortable with Taliban leadership, it has sought to bridge those parties, like the U.S., that still have tense relations with the Taliban.

Wang Yi Describes Bangladesh as Strategic Development Partner

Julhas Alam

Bangladesh on Sunday sought cooperation from China to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar during a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who promised better trade ties, investment and support for infrastructure development in the South Asian nation.

China had used its influence in Myanmar to broker a November 2017 agreement to repatriate about 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar in August that year. Despite attempts to send them back, the refugees refused out of fear, exacerbated by the military coup last year.

Wang arrived in Dhaka on Saturday and met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen. They discussed bilateral and global issues before his departure Sunday, said Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s junior minister for foreign affairs.

China’s Low-Growth Zero-COVID Policy Signals Transition Away From Reform Period

Sara Hsu

If it wasn’t clear before COVID-19 hit, it is now apparent that Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, does not prize economic growth above social and political factors. In fact, growth appears to be further down on China’s agenda than it has been in several decades. We can conclude this since China is still following a zero-COVID policy despite the reduction of COVID-related restrictions in the West.

To some extent, this makes sense, as China remains vulnerable; 38 percent of its population above 60 has not been fully vaccinated, and Chinese inactivated vaccines have been shown to be less effective than mRNA vaccines developed in the West. Scientists have strongly encouraged China to use alternative vaccines. Still, COVID-19 has taken a toll on China’s economic growth, with no end in sight. This underscores China’s transition away from a nation trying to keep up with its East Asian neighbors and Western counterparts into a more inward-looking, less market-oriented society.

China’s slowing growth due to COVID-19 lockdown policies has been well recorded in the media. In recent months, as major cities were placed on lockdown, China’s economy faced stark declines in GDP growth, declining by 2.6 percent in the second quarter of this year. This represented the slowest growth since the pandemic began. Production declined and logistics firms faced challenges in carrying out daily activities. In fact, one Hong Kong-based economist estimated that lockdowns cost China 3.1 percent of GDP per month, assuming the highest GDP contributing cities are under quarantine.

Amid Russia-Ukraine War, China Could Dominate the Value Arms Market

Vasabjit Banerjee and Benjamin Tkach

China may receive a boost in sales and arms diplomacy in the “value market” if Russian exports decline due to the Russian-Ukraine war. The “value market” is the arms market consisting of smaller transaction values of new and refurbished equipment. The market is dynamic: Some countries buy only “value market” equipment, others buy high-end equipment like fighter aircraft and shop in the value market for other equipment. For example, South Korea recently purchased 20 F-35As in the high-end market, but sold the value market F-50 light attack variant to Indonesia. Both aircraft are new, high-quality equipment but are representative of different costs and capabilities.

Russia was a major value market player for decades. Its participation brought financial returns, but more importantly was a foreign policy force multiplier. Russia President Vladimir Putin’s use of arms sale diplomacy is reflected in diplomatic visits. Prior to the invasion of Crimea in 2014, which hurt Russia’s diplomatic relations, countries importing Russian arms or exporting to Russia accounted for 65 percent of Putin’s diplomatic visits in 2011, 47 percent in 2012, 70 percent in 2013, and 79 percent, in 2014.

Germany Plans for a Winter Without Gas from Russia

Markus Feldenkirchen, Jan Friedmann, Simon Hage

From his office on the 13th floor, Klaus Müller has a good view over the Rhine River and the Siebengebirge mountains. He can see landscapes, houses, offices and factories, the sources of Germany's prosperity.
He can see some of the very businesses for which his agency may have to turn off the gas tap in a worst-case scenario.

Müller, 51, is the president of Germany's Federal Network Agency. The day before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the federal government cabinet of Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave the green light for his appointment. Since then, he has been preoccupied with one question more than any other: Will Germany have enough gas in the next few months, in the autumn and the winter? And what happens if it doesn't?

As China launches missiles and makes threats, Pacific nations keeping a cool head


SYDNEY: The biggest question for America’s treaty allies and close partners in the Indo-Pacific isn’t necessarily what China will do after US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, but how each nation will manage their reactions.

Already China has launched ballistic missiles over Taiwan, had ships and planes cross the so-called line of demarcation that marks the de facto border between the two governments and conducted what the official news organization Xinhua described as long-range live fire drills “on an unprecedented scale.”

China, said Xinhua, “flew more than 100 warplanes including fighters and bombers to conduct combat training exercises such as joint reconnaissance, aerial refueling, airspace control, and strikes on ground targets. Over 10 destroyers and frigates from the navy of the theater command conducted joint blockade operations in waters off the Taiwan Island.”

Why Superpower Crises Are a Good Thing

Hal Brands

Welcome to an era of grave and persistent tension, one in which great-power crises will be frequent and intense. In Europe, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has destabilized the continent’s eastern half, triggered a proxy war with NATO, and created an ever-present risk of escalation. In Asia, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan could touch off a serious crisis between the United States and China. Indeed, given the way the two countries’ interests are now colliding in hot spots throughout the Western Pacific, the question is not whether they will find themselves in some sort of perilous showdown but when, where, and under what circumstances.

These aren’t the only global flash points: Washington is currently laboring under the threat of renewed nuclear crises with Iran and North Korea. But showdowns with even the most roguish of rogue states aren’t as consequential as great-power military crises—incidents that have a meaningful prospect of war. So buckle up for a period when the world’s mightiest actors engage in high-stakes tests of strength.

Britain’s Uncertain Future After Brexit

In July 2019, three years after British voters narrowly voted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, Boris Johnson assumed the office of prime minister amid a political environment characterized by anger, turmoil and confusion. Now, as his time in office nears an end, the turmoil and confusion remain, even if the anger has faded.

Despite initial stumbles that led some observers to predict he would suffer the same dismal fate as his predecessor, Theresa May, Johnson managed to deliver on his promise to renegotiate the U.K.’s transitional withdrawal agreement with the European Union. His subsequent decisive victory in December 2019 parliamentary elections, built in part on successfully wooing traditional Labour party voters, gave Johnson the ample majority he needed to see his deal through.