22 August 2022

There’s more to China’s new Global Development Initiative than meets the eye

Joseph Lemoine and Yomna Gaafar

Over the past two decades, Beijing shifted its international development strategy from a bilateral to multilateral one, building up its influence through traditional global organizations while also launching alternative initiatives. The largest by far is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an infrastructure development strategy that grew from a vague suggestion to China’s Central Asian partners into a $900 billion initiative—which has sparked the United States and its Group of Seven (G7) partners to build their own alternative.

With US domestic political winds pushing against global leadership, coupled with the climate and COVID-19 crises, China seized an empty space. Despite its obvious shortcomings in dealing with the virus domestically, Beijing has tried to turn this struggle into an opportunity to boost its international influence by flooding the world with medical aid and vaccines. And on climate, it went from blocking key international agreements to being the world’s biggest investor in renewables.

India’s window of opportunity to counter China’s influence in South Asia

Stuti Bhatnagar

Political dynamics in South Asia have been garnering fresh attention this year. In Sri Lanka, a severe economic crisis led to widespread protests in April, followed by the departure of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in early July and a declaration of a state of emergency. Pakistan and Bangladesh have reached out to the International Monetary Fund for loans to help stabilise their depleting foreign exchange reserves.

Indian public discourse on events in Sri Lanka has prompted renewed attention on problematic Chinese loans as a cause of the region’s economic woes, emphasising New Delhi’s potential as the more reliable partner. The broader geopolitical focus on Indo-Pacific cooperative frameworks also pitches India as the dominant power in South Asia.

So, does the current crisis offer a window of opportunity for India to reassert its presence in South Asia? Both the question and the probable answers are complex.

'New normal' across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

Brad Lendon

(CNN)China is attempting to establish a "new normal" across the Taiwan Strait, eroding self-ruled Taiwan's territorial control and increasing the threat of a strike with each military sortie, officials and analysts say.

Beijing has ramped up military maneuvers in the 110-mile (180-kilometer) wide stretch of water that separates Taiwan from mainland China -- and the skies above it -- following a visit by United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island earlier this month.

Analysts say it could mark the realization of fears expressed by Pelosi and other US officials that Beijing may use its military response to her visit to change the status quo, with the presence of Chinese planes and ships near the island becoming more common and difficult to challenge.

Economic Indicators of Chinese Military Action against Taiwan

Gerard DiPippo
Source Link

China’s recent military exercises around Taiwan in response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip have raised concerns about Beijing’s intentions regarding cross-strait relations. Even before what some call the fourth Taiwan Strait crisis, some U.S. policymakers were worried that Chinese leaders were intending to use military force against Taiwan, perhaps within the next year and a half. What one believes about China's plans and intentions regarding Taiwan shapes how one interprets recent events. As this recent CSIS piece points out, the analytic divide is between two basic views. One group believes that China has a firm plan to "reunify" with Taiwan and is looking for the opportunity to do so. The other group believes that Chinese leaders do not intend to gamble their legitimacy by attacking Taiwan absent a severe provocation.

Could economic indicators help clarify Chinese leaders’ intentions regarding Taiwan? China would make economic preparations—especially to protect its economy from external vulnerabilities—if Beijing thought conflict over Taiwan was likely, but such preparations would vary with Chinese leaders’ expected timeframe. Therefore, analysts should separate the question between medium- or long-term indicators (years) and short-term or immediate indicators (months, weeks, or days).

China’s Taiwan Strategy After The Nancy Pelosi Visit: Forever Crisis?

Dean Cheng

U.S.-China Relations After the Pelosi Visit to Taiwan: There should be no doubt that the Communist Chinese leadership of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is angry at the United States, and especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for her visit to Taiwan. One signal has been the extension of Beijing’s military exercises meant to maintain tension on the island and in the surrounding areas. Another has been the “eight no’s,” marking the cancellation of US-Chinese dialogues, exchanges, and cooperation in key areas.

These “countermeasures” include:

Canceling China-U.S. Theater Commanders Talk.

Canceling China-U.S. Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT).

The China Trap

Jessica Chen Weiss

Competition with China has begun to consume U.S. foreign policy. Seized with the challenge of a near-peer rival whose interests and values diverge sharply from those of the United States, U.S. politicians and policymakers are becoming so focused on countering China that they risk losing sight of the affirmative interests and values that should underpin U.S. strategy. The current course will not just bring indefinite deterioration of the U.S.-Chinese relationship and a growing danger of catastrophic conflict; it also threatens to undermine the sustainability of American leadership in the world and the vitality of American society and democracy at home.

There is, of course, good reason why a more powerful China has become the central concern of policymakers and strategists in Washington (and plenty of other capitals). Under President Xi Jinping especially, Beijing has grown more authoritarian at home and more coercive abroad. It has brutally repressed Uyghurs in Xinjiang, crushed democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, rapidly expanded its conventional and nuclear arsenals, aggressively intercepted foreign military aircraft in the East and South China Seas, condoned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and amplified Russian disinformation, exported censorship and surveillance technology, denigrated democracies, worked to reshape international norms—the list could go on and will likely only get longer, especially if Xi secures a third five-year term and further solidifies his control later this year.

Beijing’s Upper Hand in the South China Sea

Gregory Poling

Since the 1980s, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has sought to be the dominant power in the South China Sea. China has not yet accomplished that goal, but it is much closer than Washington cares to admit. China’s artificial island building and its expansion of military capabilities in the area, combined with a massive naval and air force modernization program, raise serious questions about the U.S. military’s ability to maintain primacy in the area. Admiral Phil Davidson, then commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, testified before the Senate in 2018 that China “is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.” In reality, the balance has shifted even more than that. The truth is that the United States would likely have little choice but to cede the South China Sea in the opening stages of any conflict with China.

But China isn’t looking for a fight with the U.S. Navy. Even if China won, the costs for Beijing would outweigh the benefits. What China really wants is to convince the rest of Asia that the contest for primacy is already over. The greatest danger for U.S. military power in the South China Sea is not China’s preparations for war but its peacetime machinations. By using the China Coast Guard and maritime militia—state-funded and -controlled paramilitary forces that operate from fishing vessels—to steadily erode its neighbors’ access to their own waters, China hollows out the value of the United States as a regional security provider.

The Republic of Fatwas


Last week, a Shiite American of Lebanese origin, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, attempted to murder the Indian-born British-American author Salman Rushdie. Matar's social media posts display staunch support of the Islamist regime in Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. Reports indicate Matar was in contact with elements of the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds Force terrorist arm. Matar was executing former Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini's three-decade-old fatwa, issued as a death sentence against Rushdie because of the author's publication of The Satanic Verses, a work of fiction that radical Islamists saw as an affront to Islam and the Prophet Muhammed.

Khomeini has been dead since 1989, but his fatwa is not.

The Islamic Republic is a republic of fatwas, where "mujtahids"—those who have earned the right to issue fatwas—run or supervise the day-to-day operation of the regime under the "Vali Faqih," or "the guardianship of the Islamic jurist," the system's chief mujtahid. Today, that is Khomenei's successor, Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Mujtahids review any law in the country to ensure they do not run afoul of the Sharia law. Mujtahids dominate the judiciary. The supreme leader's representatives are present in every major organization and, through fatwas, the regime governs every aspect of life in Iran, from banking to hijabs, from foreign policy to family law.

America Is Going to Have a ‘Heat Belt’

Caroline Mimbs Nyce

When the heat index—a figure that takes into account both temperature and humidity—reaches 80 degrees, the National Weather Service advises Americans to take caution. When it reaches 90, that advisory gets bumped to possibly dangerous; at 100, it’s likely so. At a heat index of 125 or above, the National Weather Service warns of “extreme danger” and describes its effect on the body concisely: “heat stroke highly likely.”

Until now, that kind of extreme heat has been limited to relatively small parts of the country. But that might not always be the case. According to a new heat model released yesterday by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit organization that assesses future climate risk, more than 100 million Americans live in counties that are expected to experience at least one day with a heat index of 125 degrees or above in the next 30 years. That’s 13 times more than the 8 million people who are forecasted to experience such world-melting temperatures this year, the group notes. And it helps to illustrate just how much of the country will need to start preparing today for more regular periods of intense heat.

The war that changed the world

Jeremy Cliffe

It feels like an eternity ago, that grim wintry pre-dawn of Thursday 24 February. A time before the place names Bucha and Irpin, Kramatorsk and Mariupol became bywords for the bloodiest war in Europe since 1945; before the letter Z became emblematic of a new fascism; before a new Iron Curtain fell over the continent; before it became impossible to describe the Covid-19 pandemic as a “once in a decade” shock to the global system. A time when a British prime minister could, as Boris Johnson had done in November, blithely declare that “the old concepts of fighting big tank battles on the European landmass are over”.

The final act of that pre-invasion era was at one with the dark poetry of the moment. In a ten-minute video address issued in the early hours of 24 February, after months of Russian troop build-ups on the Ukrainian border and increasingly deranged rhetoric from Moscow, Volodymyr Zelensky made a last-ditch plea for peace. Ukraine’s president appealed directly to Russian citizens in their own language: “The people of Ukraine want peace,” he said, but warned that the country would defend itself: “While attacking, you will see our faces. Not our backs. Our faces.” Then, just before 5am local time, Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation”. Within minutes, air-raid sirens and the first explosions were heard in cities across the country.

Why North Korea Might Reject Yoon Suk-yeol’s Audacious Initiative

Scott A. Snyder

In his first Liberation Day speech marking the 77th anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol announced an “audacious” initiative that laid out the foundation of his administration’s approach to North Korea. The initiative is premised on the idea of a comprehensive, phased, and step-by-step denuclearization of North Korea and the normalization of inter-Korean relations in exchange for a bold program of economic assistance, development, and infrastructure investment. While Yoon’s audacious plan may be the most generous, tangible, and wide-ranging offer yet proposed by South Korea in exchange for North Korea’s complete denuclearization, there are at least three reasons why the North Koreans are likely to reject it out of hand.

The head of GCHQ says Vladimir Putin is losing the information war in Ukraine

It is a fallacy to say that cyber has not been a factor in the war in Ukraine. Both sides are using cyber capabilities to pursue their aims. Both sides understand the potential of integrating cyber and information confrontation with their military effort. And both sides know that they are engaged in a struggle for influence and opinion far beyond the immediate battlefield. It is a very modern digital and cyber war, as much as it is a brutal and destructive physical one.

Six months after Russia’s invasion, it is becoming clear how differing physical and virtual approaches have shaped the conflict. Just as with its land invasion, Russia’s initial online plans appear to have fallen short. The country’s use of offensive cyber tools has been irresponsible and indiscriminate.

Their information operations have proven clumsy and have been challenged by the release of intelligence. And Russian military attempts to destroy the digital infrastructure of Ukraine and to sow discord using cyber capabilities have been met with staunch, professional and effective Ukrainian cyber defence.

How Russia is harnessing cyber warfare in its conflict with Ukraine: State-sponsored attackers are using malware to steal data, spy on citizens and attack national infrastructure, study reveals


A new report shows that Ukraine is fighting a battle with Russia in cyber space, as well as a physical war.

Russia has been using 'cyber warfare' on Ukraine since the physical invasion started in late February, says Chicago-based security firm Trustwave.

Malware has been used against organisations in Ukraine either to destroy or gain control over their online systems and 'damage targets far behind the frontlines'.

Malware – a catch-all term for any type of malicious software – has been used to steal data, spy on citizens and attack national infrastructure.

Playing With Fire in Ukraine

John J. Mearsheimer

Western policymakers appear to have reached a consensus about the war in Ukraine: the conflict will settle into a prolonged stalemate, and eventually a weakened Russia will accept a peace agreement that favors the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Ukraine. Although officials recognize that both Washington and Moscow may escalate to gain an advantage or to prevent defeat, they assume that catastrophic escalation can be avoided. Few imagine that U.S. forces will become directly involved in the fighting or that Russia will dare use nuclear weapons.

Washington and its allies are being much too cavalier. Although disastrous escalation may be avoided, the warring parties’ ability to manage that danger is far from certain. The risk of it is substantially greater than the conventional wisdom holds. And given that the consequences of escalation could include a major war in Europe and possibly even nuclear annihilation, there is good reason for extra concern.
Christian Esch

As he leafs through my passport, the young man in civilian clothing asks: "Were you in Bucha?" We are sitting in a windowless room in Terminal 2 of Sheremetyevo Airport. I'm back in Moscow, the city where I have lived for 14 years, for the first time in six months and apparently the Russian state has a few questions for me this time.

The border guard had first withheld my passport. Then two other officers had a conversation with me. "What do you think about the military special operation?" one asked when the other had already left the room. "Special military operation" – that's the name of the invasion of Ukraine in Russian neologism. "War is terrible," I replied. So now, after hours of waiting, the second call. The young man introduced himself as Alik, and he is presumably with the FSB secret service.

Highlights From "Hazardous Heat"

New research from First Street Foundation analyzes the the prevalence of increasing extreme temperatures and dangerous heat wave events throughout the contiguous United States, with a key finding being the incidence of heat that exceeds the threshold of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) highest category for heat, called “Extreme Danger” (Heat Index above 125°F) is expected to impact about 8 million people this year, and grows to impact about 107 million people in 2053, an increase of 13 times over 30 years. This increase in “Extreme Danger Days” is concentrated in the middle of the country, in areas where there are no coastal influences to mitigate extreme temperatures.

The First Street Foundation Extreme Heat Model (FSF-EHM) was built using datasets from the US Federal Government, augmented with publicly available and third party data sources, and existing research and expertise on heat modeling. The model estimates localized heat risk at a 30-meter resolution across the United States today and 30 years into the future, creating a high- precision, climate-adjusted heat model that provides insights at a property level. Its analysis combines high-resolution measurements of land surface temperatures, canopy cover, impervious surfaces, land cover, and proximity to water to calculate the current heat exposure, and then adjusts for future forecasted emissions scenarios. This allows for the determination of the number of days any property would be expected to experience dangerous levels of heat.

Indian company to develop Nepal hydropower plant left by China

Nepal has signed a pact with an Indian company to develop a hydroelectric plant in the west of the nation years after a Chinese firm backed out, officials said.

Nepal has opened its rivers, which it sees as having a combined potential to generate more than 42,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power, to foreign players to develop its economy and export electricity to narrow the trade deficit of more than $13bn.

Officials said India’s NHPC Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Thursday allowing it to study details like feasibility, environmental effects, inundation of land and construction costs for two projects – West Seti (750 megawatts) and SR 6 (450 megawatts).

What's Appropriate on Social Media? DOD Spells It Out in New Guidance


The Department of Defense released its first-ever policy on Monday detailing how military and civilian personnel should use official social media accounts to further the department’s missions, mandating that imposter accounts be reported to that social media platform.

“Users, malign actors and adversaries on social media platforms may attempt to impersonate DOD employees and service members to disrupt online activity, distract audiences from official accounts, discredit DOD information or manipulate audiences through disinformation campaigns,” the policy states. “PA offices managing an [External Official Presence] must address fake or imposter accounts.”

The policy provides guidelines for official DOD social media use overall—including points about social media account records management—and measures to take so that personal social media accounts are not confused or misrepresented as official accounts.

Chinese Nuclear Force Modernization and Doctrinal ChangeBriefing de l'Ifri, August 19, 2022


Dating back to the first test in 1964, the Chinese nuclear force modernization process is motivated by other nuclear powers’ modernization across the years, mostly from the United States and the Soviet Union, but also by domestic factors such as economic debates and tensions in the scientific community.

At first, technical difficulties and a greater investment in conventional forces prevented the development of a ‘lean and effective arsenal’. However, the end of the Cold War and better economic conditions allowed China to improve its weapons toward a greater duality and mobility, thus reflecting the first tensions between the Chinese no-first-use doctrine and its growing technical capabilities and ambitions.

Nowadays, the Chinese nuclear arsenal is bigger than ever, ranking third in size amongst nuclear global powers and with an estimated 1,000 warheads in 2030. The weapons’ efficiency is also reportedly higher, aiming at a fully functioning triad. Furthermore, doctrinal debates are still ongoing, with potential consequences on arms control and risk management.

Web3 has been criticized for being used by extremists. That’s not quite the case — yet.

Benjamin Powers

Is Web3 the new playground for terrorists?

If you’re new to Web3, it’s a decentralized version of the internet structured so that no one person or company can control it. Web3 includes the technologies underpinning cryptocurrencies, like blockchains (a digital ledger, or record) among others, but is foundationally built upon the use of crypto.

Both Web3 and cryptocurrencies have been under fire for being used by criminals and sanctioned governments, like North Korea, to such an extent that the Treasury Department last week added a Web3 service to its sanctions list — leading to more questions than answers about how that could impact the technology.

Two researchers at the Global Network on Extremism and Technology at Kings College London published a report on Aug. 1 on how extremists are using Web3, which the authors refer to as “DWeb.”

The report found that advocates for a more decentralized internet are optimistic that the DWeb will alleviate some of the issues with the current internet, like being controlled largely by corporations and the associated censorship. But the authors are skeptical of this, noting that there is already “re-centralization” going on within the decentralized web — “jeopardising the very ideal it was thought to pursue.”

But along with those using the DWeb to avoid censorship, so have extremist actors, like terrorists and the far-right. However, the scale to which extremists rely on DWeb is minimal — linked to the issues that stop people from interacting with the DWeb generally.

Grid caught up with Lorand Bodo, an open source intelligence researcher with a background in terrorism research, and Inga Kristina Trauthig, a senior research fellow at the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, authors of “Emergent Technologies and Extremists: The DWeb as a New Internet Reality?” to discuss the relationship between DWeb and extremists in more detail.

Grid: Why is it important to look at how extremists are using the DWeb?

Inga Kristina Trauthig: Both of us have been researching extremism and terrorism for a few years now. Next to the granularity and specifics of certain movements due to local backgrounds (for example, [the Islamic State] in Libya vs. in Iraq) or ideological differences (for example, between religious or nationalist terrorism), there are certain characteristics that bind people who are engaged in extremism together. One of the most basic ones is that they are people and groups who have access to the same stuff as others do — and they work with trial and error.

In other words, once social media became a main source for communication and social organizing, these platforms were also increasingly used by extremists. However, while extremists are not always the first movers, they can be with regard to certain technologies — given their longing or necessity to operate under the radar.

G: There are two schools of thought on how terrorists are likely to use DWeb. Can you lay those out?

Lorand Bodo: We have been following a tendency to declare the decentralized web a new frontier for (online) extremism — with potential policy repercussions as lawmakers are alert to prevent future exploitation of technologies given that social media did not turn out to be the utopian online world many hoped for years ago.

However, when we spoke to DWeb advocates, they were largely convinced that extremists have and will continue to have little incentives and actual ways to exploit the DWeb due to its decentralized structure, onus on the individual and game theory approach, which allows for less power in the hands of few (potentially malevolent) actors.

G: What did you find while examining how extremists are interacting with DWeb?

LB: We found something in between the two poles I just outlined: On the one hand, the DWeb seems to play a marginal role for terrorist recruitment and communication, as the limiting features and related limitations of audience reach have been restraining their exploitation. On the other hand, it’s on their radar, which can be seen when extremists experiment with various DWeb tech.

We also want to emphasize that the DWeb movement should not be perceived as inherently problematic in our context. The DWeb can overall be a very positive development when it manages to shift power back to the users. And just because it’s more challenging to remove content [because no one government or company can make a unilateral decision] from the DWeb, doesn’t mean that DWeb services can’t do anything about it.

G: What was your most unexpected research result?

IKT: The most surprising and sobering finding was the relative low numbers for DWeb exploitation in both IS [Islamic State] and RWE [right wing extremist] data. At the same time, the DWeb is on extremists’ radar, given that those actors adapt regularly — and especially IS, which has higher pressure to operate secretively [because it is an international terrorist organization] than RWE actors, has started relying on DWeb services.

G: Ultimately, your report finds that extremists are not utilizing DWeb to a large degree. What does that say about the viability of a decentralized internet — particularly as critics have held up national security risks as a potential detriment?

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IKT: Since the DWeb is far from being as popular as the current Web 2.0, DWeb services may attract nefarious actors due to its greater resilience against account and content removals, but extremist entities also assess online platforms before choosing which ones to use for what. Audience reach and usability are factored into this assessment, and the DWeb scores relatively low in those regards.

Therefore, other technologies are still preferred by right-wing extremists (RWEs) as well as Salafi-jihadi actors. The analysis demonstrated that DWeb services are being exploited but not to a high degree. In fact, only 4 percent of the URLs or website addresses in the RWE sample led to a DWeb service. In the context of the Islamic State, just 14 percent of the URLs led to a DWeb service.

One attraction of the DWeb is that any content hosted there is not controlled by a central authority and thus not as easily removable. However, content moderation exists, it just works very differently than we are used to from the big social media companies — and we tried to elaborate on that a bit more in the report. This is one example of a major subfield of internet studies (content moderation) that needs to be reconceptualized, reassessed and incorporated into future studies assessing impacts of “the internet” on states and societies — if we don’t want to miss out on what could be the next big trend.

China Gearing up for Joint Air & Land Attack on Taiwan? How Effective Would It Be?


Using the term “island attack drills,” a Chinese-government backed newspaper says the People’s Liberation Army is flying bombers, fighters and surveillance planes in preparation for a possible so-called “joint land attack and long-range air strike” invasion of Taiwan.

However, while the phrasing and language of joint warfare operations may sound ominous, it raises an interesting question regarding the actual extent to which Chinese military forces are actually capable of “joint” multi-service operations.

Such an ability, now evolving quickly within the US military services, is technologically complex and dependent upon an ability to align data and messaging formats, connect separately engineered communications nodes across multiple domains and vast distances and process shared information at relevant speeds.

An Experiment Showed that the Military Must Change Its Cybersecurity Approach


Two years ago, a pair of Navy information leaders decided to attack their own networks—and not just once or twice a year during scheduled exercises, but far more frequently, and unannounced. Now they’re trying to get the rest of the Navy—and the Pentagon—to follow suit.

Their experiment showed that frequent, automated red-teaming reveals which vulnerabilities are the most dangerous, the easiest for an attacker to exploit with the highest impact—information they wouldn’t have otherwise, said Aaron Weis, the Navy’s chief information officer, or CIO, and Scott Bischoff, the command information officer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

And it’s far more effective than the way the Defense Department currently handles cybersecurity: with checklists of steps taken, patches implemented, and so on.

Can open-source technologies support open societies?

Victoria Welborn and George Ingram


In the 2020 “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres highlighted digital public goods (DPGs) as a key lever in maximizing the full potential of digital technology to accelerate progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while also helping overcome some of its persistent challenges.

The Roadmap rightly pointed to the fact that, as with any new technology, there are risks around digital technologies that might be counterproductive to fostering prosperous, inclusive, and resilient societies. In fact, without intentional action by the global community, digital technologies may more naturally exacerbate exclusion and inequality by undermining trust in critical institutions, allowing consolidation of control and economic value by the powerful, and eroding social norms through breaches of privacy and disinformation campaigns.

Just as the pandemic has served to highlight the opportunity for digital technologies to reimagine and expand the reach of government service delivery, so too has it surfaced specific risks that are hallmarks of closed societies and authoritarian states—creating new pathways to government surveillance, reinforcing existing socioeconomic inequalities, and enabling the rapid proliferation of disinformation. Why then—in the face of these real risks—focus on the role of digital public goods in development?

Can the Taliban Be Contained?

Saad Mohseni

It is difficult to overstate the multiple crises facing Afghanistan. With severe shortages and sky-high food prices, the World Food Program has reported that more than half the population is “marching to starvation”; an astonishing 97 percent of the population is at risk of falling below the poverty line by the end of 2022. Meanwhile, the Afghan government, with its profound disenfranchisement of women—girls older than 12 have been banned from school—has become the most gender repressive in the world. Western intelligence experts are also concerned that the country is once again becoming a haven for terrorist groups, as was made clear by the recent U.S. assassination of the al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the center of Kabul.

One year into Taliban rule, it is easy to blame these problems on the country’s new leaders. After the group captured Kabul, it was presented with an extraordinary opportunity to renounce some of its most extreme policies in exchange for some degree of international support. But it squandered a number of overtures by refusing to lift the ban on girls’ secondary education, for example, or taking steps to govern in a more inclusive manner. The regime’s failure to decisively deal with international terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda has further frustrated both Western leaders and Afghanistan’s own neighbors, which have demanded that the Taliban government match its words with action.

How Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan Drove Chinese Public Opinion Toward Reunification by Force

Leo Chu

On the night of August 2, many Chinese people were tracking U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s travels online. They either joined the millions of people looking at Flightradar24, or watched live streaming and discussed online. People believed that they were witnessing history – a possible shoot-down of the House speaker’s plane or a sudden military operation to reunify Taiwan.

That, obviously, did not happen. However, the direction of history has changed. Since Pelosi’s visit, the future of the cross-strait issue has surged toward military conflict, in the minds of Chinese netizens. Mainland public opinion now prioritizes reunification by force. When Pelosi planned her trip, the strategic logic was to ensure U.S. deterrence. But it may have done the opposite: increasing the likelihood of war by raising public demands for it within China.

The Chinese public was already paying close attention to Pelosi even before the House speaker started her trip. The Chinese government and media talked tough and used every chance to condemn Pelosi. Official voices did not make it clear in advance how China would react to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, yet both China’s Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Defense warned that there would be harsh countermeasures. Meanwhile, a narrative of China-U.S. rivalry and strong nationalist sentiments went viral among China’s internet users. When Hu Xijin, a prominent Chinese commentator and former editor-in-chief of China’s state-affiliated media Global Times, tweeted his support of tough military deterrence and posited a possible shoot-down of Pelosi’s plane, many Chinese people read that as a governmental statement. They expected a tough and fierce reaction from the government, and they expected that to come on the night of August 2.

Thailand’s Restive South Hit by Wave of Arson and Bombings

Sumeth Panpetch

A wave of arson and bombing attacks overnight hit Thailand’s southernmost provinces, which for almost two decades have been the scene of an active Muslim separatist insurgency, officials said Wednesday.

At least 17 attacks occurred Tuesday night in Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala provinces, mostly at convenience stores and gas stations, military spokesperson Pramote Promin said. Three civilians were reported injured. There have been no claims of responsibility.

More than 7,300 people have been killed since the insurgency began in 2004 in the three provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in Buddhist-dominated Thailand. Attacks have also taken place in neighboring Songkhla province.

Kabul Mosque Bombed, At Least 21 Dead

Rahim Faiez and Ebrahim Noroozi

A bombing at a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul during evening prayers killed at least 21 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 33 others, eyewitnesses and police said Thursday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on Wednesday night, the latest to strike the country in the year since the Taliban seized power. Several children were reported to be among the wounded.

The Islamic State group’s local affiliate has stepped up attacks against the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents took over the country last year as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal. Last week, the extremists claimed responsibility for killing a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious center in Kabul.

Will They Fight? Washington Wants to Know.

Amy Mackinnon

A little over a year ago, on Aug. 12, 2021, U.S. officials issued a dire but not-yet catastrophic warning about the future of the Afghan government. As Taliban militants cut a swath through the country in anticipation of the U.S. withdrawal at the end of that month, U.S. officials predicted Kabul could be surrounded within 30 to 60 days and fall within 90 days. The reality was far worse.

Just three days later, on Aug. 15, 2021, the Taliban sailed into the city unopposed as the Afghan national army and police force simply vanished, triggering a stampede at Kabul’s airport and an ignominious end to the United States’ longest war.

Six months later, as Russia amassed thousands of troops on its borders with Ukraine, U.S. officials warned that the capital, Kyiv, could crumble within days of a Russian invasion; instead, Kyiv has held out to this day, and Ukrainian forces are apparently preparing a counterattack to take back Russian gains in the south of the country.

Estonia says it repelled a major cyberattack claimed by Russian hackers.

Andrew Higgins

Estonia said on Thursday that it had repelled the biggest wave of cyberattacks in more than a decade, unleashed shortly after the removal of a Soviet-era tank from a war memorial celebrating the Red Army on its border with Russia.

The Estonian government, one of Europe’s most robust supporters of Ukraine in its war with Russia, announced on Tuesday that it would remove all Soviet monuments from public spaces, describing them as “symbols of repression and Soviet occupation” that had led to “increasing social tensions.”

The cyberattacks, claimed by Killnet, a Russian hacker group, began on Wednesday soon after the Estonian military dismantled a war memorial on the bank of a river separating the Baltic nation from Russia in the city of Narva and began moving its centerpiece, a T-34 tank, to a museum in the capital, Tallinn.

DOD’s Diplomats Don’t Need More Rank, Just Less Disdain


Dear Mr. Secretary,

You recently announced the downgrade of five military attaché positions currently held by general officers. Having been neither a general officer nor assigned to the affected embassies, I won’t weigh in on the merits of that decision.

Rather, as a two-time attaché at the O-6, or colonel, level, I can offer a way to improve the effectiveness of your military diplomats around the world, regardless of rank—and it won’t cost a penny. That’s because the host nation ultimately doesn’t care what rank the attaché holds; they care that he or she is well-informed and influential within America’s power centers.

As you’re well aware, the vast majority of our senior defense official/defense attaché positions are not held by general officers. Yet the position carries weighty responsibilities: to act as the “principal DoD official in a U.S. embassy as designated by the Secretary of Defense,” as “the Chief of Mission's principal military advisor,” as “the senior diplomatically accredited DoD military officer,” and as “the single point of contact for all DoD matters” related to the diplomatic mission.

Full Text: The Taiwan Question and China's Reunification in the New Era

BEIJING, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China published a white paper titled "The Taiwan Question and China's Reunification in the New Era" on Wednesday.


Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China's complete reunification is a shared aspiration of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation. It is indispensable for the realization of China's rejuvenation. It is also a historic mission of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The CPC, the Chinese government, and the Chinese people have striven for decades to achieve this goal.

The 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012 heralded a new era in building socialism with Chinese characteristics. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core, the CPC and the Chinese government have adopted new and innovative measures in relation to Taiwan. They have continued to chart the course of cross-Straits relations, safeguard peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits, and promote progress towards national reunification. However, in recent years the Taiwan authorities, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), have redoubled their efforts to divide the country, and some external forces have tried to exploit Taiwan to contain China, prevent the Chinese nation from achieving complete reunification, and halt the process of national rejuvenation.