31 August 2022

Through the Taiwan Strait

The U.S. Navy said Sunday that two warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait for the first time since China’s furious response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island. The announcement was an important demonstration that the Biden Administration isn’t ceding the strait to China despite its threats and recent war games that simulated a blockade and invasion.

The USS Chancellorsville and USS Antietam, a pair of guided-missile cruisers, sailed in international waters between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland on what the Navy called a routine transit mission. But little is routine these days in U.S.-Chinese relations, especially regarding Taiwan.

In June, China’s foreign ministry declared that the Taiwan Strait is part of China’s “internal waters,” including “territorial sea, contiguous zone, and the exclusive economic zone.” That makes it all the more crucial for the U.S. to show to Beijing, Taipei and the world that it doesn’t agree and is willing to back that up with naval deployments.

Fighting between U.S. troops and militias draws scrutiny to Syria role

Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe

Clashes between U.S. troops and Iran-backed militias in Syria this month have prompted new scrutiny of the Pentagon’s mission in Syria, as tit-for-tat strikes threaten to escalate tensions in the region.

The U.S. decision to target facilities in eastern Syria on Tuesday — which officials say had been used to launch attacks against U.S. forces by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — threatens to heighten tensions with Iran as the two countries try to reach a deal to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Biden's Iran nuclear deal sets the stage for a real 'forever war'

Michael Rubin

Word from Vienna suggests a further American collapse is in progress as Europe tries to broker a renewed Iran nuclear deal. With sanctions lifted and oil sales permitted, Iranian authorities will reap tens of billions of dollars, much of which will flow to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps coffers. While the White House is trying to spin this deal as one that is robust and foolproof, facts suggest otherwise.

The original 2015 Iran nuclear deal reversed decades of counterproliferation precedent; the 2022 analog manages to do even less. Not only will clauses of the deal expire, leaving Iran an industrial-scale program not beholden to many controls, but the Iranian government also claims that the deal on paper closes the file on investigations into Iranian cheating. President Joe Biden’s team may applaud themselves, but they’re not fooling anyone in the region.

The reality is the new Iranian deal is a tacit acknowledgment that Biden has no Plan B. While there are tangible steps that a much more creative administration might take, starting with the renewal of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “maximum pressure” campaign, Biden simply seeks to kick the can down the road and hope that Iranian leaders are polite enough to wait until he leaves office so that his surrogates can blame Iran’s nuclear bombs on his successor.

Here’s every weapon US has supplied to Ukraine with $13 billion


The Biden administration has committed nearly $13 billion worth of military assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded six months ago.

The scope and power of those weapons has increased over time, with Ukrainian officials arguing that firepower is crucial to defend not only their country, but democracy worldwide.

“Finally it is felt that the Western artillery — the weapons we received from our partners — started working very powerfully,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last month.

On Wednesday, the United States greenlighted another military assistance package to Ukraine, preparing to send nearly $3 billion in arms and equipment to meet Kyiv’s medium- and long-term needs as it beats back Russia’s military.

‘The Eye of the Storm’: Taiwan Is Caught in a Great Game Over Microchips

Paul Mozur, John Liu and Raymond Zhon

TAIPEI, Taiwan — As Chinese warships rehearsed a blockade of Taiwan this month, they simulated a scenario global leaders and policymakers have been busy worrying about: not war, but a grinding halt to the electronic supply chains that make the modern world run.

Taiwan’s biggest trading partners — which include China, the United States, Europe and Japan — have different ideas about the self-ruled island’s political future, yet all share common ground in one desire, to expand their piece of its cutting-edge semiconductor industry.

Beginning with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit in early August, a succession of American delegations have kissed the ring of top Taiwan chip executives. There’s much to gain. In recent years, Taiwan’s biggest chip maker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC, has pledged to open new factories in the United States and Japan. The Taiwan chip design firm MediaTek recently partnered with Purdue University to open a chip design center.

International Relations Theory Suggests Great-Power War Is Coming

Matthew Kroenig

This week, thousands of university students around the world will begin their introduction to international relations courses for the first time. If their professors are attuned to the ways the world has changed in recent years, they will be teaching them that the major theories of international relations warn that great-power conflict is coming.

For decades, international relations theory provided reasons for optimism—that the major powers could enjoy mostly cooperative relations and resolve their differences short of armed conflict.

Realist IR theories focus on power, and for decades, they maintained that the bipolar world of the Cold War and the unipolar post-Cold War world dominated by the United States were relatively simple systems not prone to wars of miscalculation. They also held that nuclear weapons raised the cost of conflict and made war among the major powers unthinkable.

Meanwhile, liberal theorists argued that a triumvirate of causal variables (institutions, interdependence, and democracy) facilitated cooperation and mitigated conflict. The dense set of international institutions and agreements (the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, etc.) established after World War II—and expanded and depended on since the end of the Cold War—provided forums for major powers to work out their differences peacefully.

Why China's response to US warships in Taiwan Strait surprised analysts

Brad Lendon

Seoul, South Korea (CNN)After United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in early August, the Chinese military staged some of its biggest ever military exercises around the island.

Chinese warplanes swarmed across the Taiwan Strait and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) even fired missiles over Taiwan, the democratically ruled island that the Chinese Communist Party claims as its sovereign territory despite having never controlled it.

Those Chinese military exercises set what some analysts and officials feared might be a "new normal" across the strait: A more permanent PLA presence ever closer to Taiwan.

US officials, meanwhile, vowed Washington would stay the course and Chinese intimidation tactics would be challenged.

On Sunday, the US Navy sent two guided-missile cruisers through the strait, over which Beijing claims sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction under Chinese law and its interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The US and others maintain the strait is international waters under the UN treaty.

Takshashila Issue Brief - NPT RevCon Shows Why NPT Should Give Way to Global No First Use Policy

After three weeks of discussions at the NPT RevCon, latest reports suggest that “a meaningful consensus document reviewing past implementation and outlining future commitments is far from assured.” Article VI of the NPT which requires State parties to achieve nuclear disarmament has remained a bone of contention at the conference. While nuclear weapon states have continued to claim that today’s security environment does not allow for disarmament, non-nuclear weapon states have questioned the progress made by the former towards fulfilling Article VI commitments.

We have argued previously that the NPT framework was unworkable from the beginning since it is based on an unfair bargain between nuclear weapon states and the rest. While the five nuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT have pursued non-proliferation vigorously with respect to others, their commitments towards disarmament and reducing risks of nuclear war have been weak. Unsurprisingly, several states including India and Pakistan have gone their own way to acquire nuclear weapons and even in countries like Japan and South Korea, there have been debates about the desirability of going nuclear.

Caught in the Crossfire: Tension and Trade Along the Line of Control


India and Pakistan commenced cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade on October 21, 2008 as a part of confidence-building measures (CBMs). This economic interaction was expected to build partnerships and people-to-people relations across a highly contested and often volatile border.

Over the last fourteen years, cross-LoC trade has witnessed a start-stop tendency. Trade suspension has had three main reasons: worsening political relations between the two sides, heightened cross-border kinetic activity, and rise of security concerns (such as smuggling of arms, ammunition, fake currency, and narcotics trafficking). However, beyond being a CBM, cross-LoC trade has benefits for the micro-economy in border areas, which are often overlooked. This piece argues for a relook at and resumption of trade with necessary structural changes from the perspective of border economy.

Takshashila Case Study - Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis

Aarushi Kataria, Anupam Manur and Sarthak Pradhan


The Sri Lankan economic crisis, which began in 2019, worsened in 2022 culminating in protestors storming the presidential palace in Colombo. The agitation of the people stems from acute shortages of food, fuel and other essential items, galloping inflation, long power cuts, and a collapsing economy with no avenues for employability. This case study examines the crisis by looking at the fundamental causes that date as far back as Sri Lanka’s independence– the lack of industrialisation, the economic price of the prolonged civil war, and the majoritarian leanings of policy. Terror attacks and the pandemic only exacerbated the crisis. globally, travel bans were introduced, and Sri Lanka’s tourism sector suffered a huge setback. More importantly, Sri Lanka’s debt portfolio has undergone a substantial change with the tipping of balance towards costly external debt. This crisis carries important lessons for developing economies – diversification of debt, industrialising the economy, avoiding populist tax cuts that hurt the government’s balance sheets, and cutting unnecessary public expenditure.

Lithium Monopoly in the Making? Beijing Expands in the Lithium Triangle

Daniel A. Peraza

China aims to expand its influence in the “Lithium Triangle” as a component of a broader campaign to construct a near-monopoly in the global lithium market. The Lithium Triangle, comprising Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, accounts for approximately 56% percent of global lithium supply. Beijing’s acquisition of multiple Argentinian, Chilean, and Bolivia lithium mining operations enables China to dominate regional lithium operations. From 2018- 2020, China invested approximately $16 billion on mining projects in the Lithium Triangle and will likely continue to invest in the region.

China’s economic involvement within Argentina’s lithium mining industry allows Beijing to establish a stronger position in the global lithium market, undermining future U.S mining operations within the region. Argentina harbors 21% of global lithium reserves. On 17 May 2021, China’s Ganfeng Lithium and Argentina’s mining ministry signed a memorandum of understanding, securing Chinese-backed development of a lithium battery manufacturing plant in Jujuy province. On 4 February 2022, Chinese Zijin Mining Group funded construction of a $380 million lithium refinery plant in the Tres Quebradas project. On 11 July 2022, Chinese Ganfeng Lithium secured $964 million for the acquisition of Lithium mining company Argentinian Lithea. On 28 July 2022, China’s Zangge Mining and Argentina’s Miner Ultra commenced investment collaboration, investing $290 million toward the Laguna Verde Project. These developments will expand China’s economic influence in Argentina’s lithium sector.

Why China-Taiwan Relations Are So Tense

Lindsay Maizland


Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), is an island separated from China by the Taiwan Strait. It has been governed independently of mainland China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), since 1949. The PRC views the island as a renegade province and vows to eventually “unify” Taiwan with the mainland. In Taiwan, which has its own democratically elected government and is home to twenty-three million people, political leaders have differing views on the island’s status and relations with the mainland.

Cross-strait tensions have escalated since the election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. Tsai has refused to accept a formula that her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, endorsed to allow for increased cross-strait ties. Meanwhile, Beijing has taken increasingly aggressive actions by flying fighter jets near the island. Some analysts fear a Chinese attack on Taiwan could potentially draw the United States into a war with China.

Beijing asserts that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it. It views the PRC as the only legitimate government of China, an approach it calls the One-China principle, and seeks Taiwan’s eventual “unification” with the mainland.

Behind the Facade of China’s Cyber Super-Regulator

Jamie P. Horsley

On July 2, 2021, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) abruptly launched its first ever cybersecurity review, targeting ride-hailing juggernaut DiDi Global just two days after it raised US$4.4 billion in a New York initial public offering, citing unspecified potential data and national security risks. The CAC also suspended new user registrations during the review, to prevent any expansion of risks. It then quickly issued additional orders to remove DiDi’s apps from Chinese stores for illegally collecting personal information.

The CAC’s actions caught markets by surprise. Under existing law and practice, DiDi’s U.S. share sale did not require Chinese government approval, nor did it appear to involve the purchase or installation of goods and services that might endanger cybersecurity, which was the standard at the time to trigger a cybersecurity review per then-current legislation. Indeed, the CAC on July 10, 2021, published a proposed revision of applicable rules to require a cybersecurity review in advance of foreign listings by companies that qualify as critical information infrastructure operators and hold personal information of more than one million people.

China’s summer heat wave is breaking all records

Christian Shepherd and Ian Livingston

The unprecedented heat wave that has engulfed China this summer has dried up rivers, wilted crops and sparked forest fires. It has grounded ships, caused hydropower shortages and forced major cities to dim lights. Receding waters have revealed long-submerged ancient bridges and Buddhist statues.

Among the many striking images is a pattern left in the mud flats around Poyang Lake, usually the largest freshwater body in the country, which has shrunk by more than two-thirds. Chinese media dubbed the branchlike patterns carved by trickling waters “Earth tree,” calling the lake’s condition a warning about a dangerous future of intensifying extreme weather.

At 73 days and counting, the heat wave has easily surpassed China’s record of 62 days in 2013. All-time highs are being broken, often only to be re-broken days later. “This heat wave overtakes anything seen previously worldwide,” tweeted climate historian Maximiliano Herrera.

The ‘MacGyvered’ Weapons in Ukraine’s Arsenal

Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt

WASHINGTON — The billions of dollars in military aid the United States has sent Ukraine includes some of the world's most advanced and lethal weapons systems. But Ukraine has also scored big successes in the war by employing the weapons and equipment in unexpected ways, and jury-rigging some on the fly, according to military experts.

From the sinking of the Moskva, Russia’s Black Sea flagship, in April to the attack on a Russian air base in Crimea this month, Ukrainian troops have used American and other weapons in ways few expected, the experts and Defense Department officials say.

By mounting missiles onto trucks, Ukrainian forces have moved them more quickly into firing range. By putting rocket systems on speedboats, they have increased their naval warfare ability. And to the astonishment of weapons experts, Ukraine has continued to destroy Russian targets with slow-moving Turkish-made Bayraktar attack drones and inexpensive, plastic aircraft modified to drop grenades and other munitions.

This Smoke Could Make U.S. Troops Invisible


The Pentagon’s mad scientist division is working on a fresh replacement for an old tool on the battlefield: smoke. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is leading an effort to develop a new smoke-like obscurant that will prevent enemy troops from seeing through it. The twist will be that while the new smoke blocks adversaries’ vision, it will still allow U.S. and allied forces to see the entire battlefield.

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One of the most useful tools in the history of warfare is smoke. Dense, billowy clouds of smoke, created by burning wood and other flammable materials, block lines of sight across the battlefield—for both sides. In the past, that might have involved using smoke pots to prevent militia defending castles from seeing approaching siege weapons, or artillery shells crashing down on the battlefield, preventing defending infantry from seeing advancing tanks.

Armies are re-learning how to fight in cities

“The city doesn’t exist any more,” said Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, in April. By then Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, had been under Russian siege for seven weeks—bombed, shelled and struck by rockets. The city fell the next month. Its mayor said that 1,300 high-rise buildings had been destroyed. Satellite images suggested almost half its built-up areas were badly damaged (see map). A pre-war population of over 400,000 had shrunk by more than 75%.

Mariupol’s grim experience holds useful lessons for armies around the world. “For practically all of history, generals have loathed the prospect of fighting in cities and have sought to avoid it,” write David Betz of King’s College London and Lieutenant-Colonel Hugo Stanford-Tuck, a British officer, in the Texas National Security Review, a military and security journal. But whether they like it or not, modern armies are increasingly forced to do so. They are looking to the past for guidance, and pondering how urban battles might best be fought with modern weapons.

China’s huge exercises around Taiwan were a rehearsal, not a signal, says Oriana Skylar Mastro

In the afternoon of August 4th, the People’s Liberation Army (pla) kicked off the largest and most sophisticated military exercises it has ever conducted. Over the course of a week, the Chinese launched dozens of missiles and conducted drills near Taiwan with 100 aircraft, ten destroyers and support vessels. Submarines and aircraft-carriers also played a role. The display has made the third Taiwan Strait crisis, which occurred between 1995-96, when China conducted four rounds of tests over the course of several months, with barrages of no more than six missiles, look like child’s play.

Part of the rationale for the latest exercise was to signal Beijing’s anger over Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Ms Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, was the highest-ranking American government official to visit the island since 1997. Back then Newt Gingrich, who was also the House speaker, made the trip. China warned that if Ms Pelosi added Taipei to her itinerary, there would be hell to pay.

The exercise is also a bit of a “coming-out party” for Beijing. In 1996 the third crisis ended when America sent two aircraft-carrier strike groups within 200 miles (322km) of Taiwan. America saw this as a great strategic success, and Chinese leaders were unhappy with its interference in what China considers a domestic affair. The resentment helped to drive China to build the pla into one of the greatest armed forces in the world.

Japan lacks munitions for large-scale war, military expert says

TOKYO, August 25. /TASS/. The Japanese government has embarked on the course of purchasing new more powerful and advanced weapon systems but the country’s armed forces lack the potential for conducting large-scale combat operations due to the absence of a sufficient amount of munitions, a leading Japanese military expert told TASS on Thursday.

"From the outset, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces were not established for conducting an independent war with a large power, originally with the USSR," Yu Koizumi, a senior fellow of the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo, said, commenting on the Japanese government’s efforts to set aside a record large defense budget for the next fiscal year.

"They have never had a sufficient numerical strength, sufficient armaments and munitions for such operations," he said. These forces were intended to hold on for some time until the arrival of the US troops and eventually to play a secondary role, he specified.
Fighting for no more than two months

India has joined the global chip race. Question is, should it fly solo?


India’s bid to join the global chip-manufacturing rush is likely to be its biggest “industrial policy” gambit in a long time. Such government-directed policy intervention went out of fashion decades ago as the free trade mantra caught on.

It has now made a comeback as the supply disruption of Covid-Ukraine has made every major economy conscious of strategic vulnerabilities. The nightmare scenario would be if Taiwan, which accounts for more than half the global chip supply, is attacked by China, which accounts for half the global demand.

Chips, or integrated circuits imprinted on silicon wafers, are at the heart of every kind of manufacturing industry from automobiles to telecom gear, and from defence equipment to solar panels. They will become even more so in a world of artificial intelligence and electric cars, which need many more chips than petrol-driven ones.

To What Extent is Israel Prepared for the Growing Threat of UAVs?

Eden Kaduri, Liran Antebi and Meir Elran

The subject of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has figured frequently in recent headlines. In early July 2022, Hezbollah launched three UAVs at the Israeli natural gas platform in the Karish field in the Eastern Mediterranean. These UAVs, which reportedly did not carry explosives, were detected in timely fashion by the IDF detection and air defense system; they were intercepted by missiles of the Barak 1 system stationed on Israeli naval vessels, and by F-16 Barak air force planes. Hezbollah admitted that it had launched the UAVs and stated, "The mission was completed." There are also reports of a UAV development project by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, which displayed UAVs developed by one of its members killed during Operation Guardian of the Walls. In tandem, another attack on the American al-Tanf base in Syria using UAVs, probably by militias supported by Iran, was reported. It is believed that this attack came in response to the attack attributed to Israel a few days earlier. There have also been disturbing developments in the global arena: the purchase of hundreds of Iranian UAVs will enable Russia to enlarge its order of battle, which was severely damaged in the war against Ukraine.

Although the July event was generally perceived as a successful response by the IDF, conclusions about Israel's ability to handle the growing threat posed by UAVs in the hands of hostile countries and organizations is premature. In recent years, this threat, once a marginal phenomenon, represents one of the most significant tools possessed by Hamas and Hezbollah and by Iranian-supported militias. UAVs enable these groups to harass Israel and its allies, joining the dramatic threat posed by Iran itself, which is emerging as a rising global power in this realm.

A Few Thoughts on Companies Leaving China

Derek Scissors

A weakening economy. COVID-related lockdowns. Reciprocal trade sanctions. Possible conflict over Taiwan. There are many reasons for companies to curb China operations. Each situation is different, but corporate decisions can be grouped by the nature of their activity in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). These categories also have implications for US policy: For one, full supply chains will not move on their own.
Group 1: Financial investors

This is the newest group. The correct amount of US portfolio investment in China was $368 billion through the end of 2016. The increment just from 2017 through 2020 was another $781 billion. (No 2021 number yet because the Department of the Treasury pretends the Caymans receives the most funds and publishes accurate figures only annually.)

This group was drawn by Chinese incentives (the PRC needs money) and the lure of exploiting underdeveloped financial markets. But fundamentals not mattering or being impossible to determine cap investor interest. Further, it’s much easier and faster for portfolio capital to exit than for physical operations, except for those who overcommitted financially and are begging for other people’s money to offset their mistake.

Biden’s Iran Nuclear Deal Sets the Stage for a Real ‘Forever War’

Michael Rubin

Word from Vienna suggests a further American collapse is in progress as Europe tries to broker a renewed Iran nuclear deal. With sanctions lifted and oil sales permitted, Iranian authorities will reap tens of billions of dollars, much of which will flow to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps coffers. While the White House is trying to spin this deal as one that is robust and foolproof, facts suggest otherwise.

The original 2015 Iran nuclear deal reversed decades of counterproliferation precedent; the 2022 analog manages to do even less. Not only will clauses of the deal expire, leaving Iran an industrial-scale program not beholden to many controls, but the Iranian government also claims that the deal on paper closes the file on investigations into Iranian cheating. President Joe Biden’s team may applaud themselves, but they’re not fooling anyone in the region.

The reality is the new Iranian deal is a tacit acknowledgment that Biden has no Plan B. While there are tangible steps that a much more creative administration might take, starting with the renewal of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “maximum pressure” campaign, Biden simply seeks to kick the can down the road and hope that Iranian leaders are polite enough to wait until he leaves office so that his surrogates can blame Iran’s nuclear bombs on his successor.

Salman Rushdie and the West’s Jihad Denial

Bruce Thornton

Recently an Iran-inspired jihadist attempted to murder author Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed ten times and remains in critical condition. The origins of this crime go back to 1989, when the leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa that promised millions of dollars (eventually $3.3 million), instant martyrdom, and a trip to paradise for anyone killed while murdering the apostate Rushdie, who allegedly insulted Islam in his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.

The subsequent response of the West to this grotesque violation of free speech exemplified the willful blindness to jihad that would characterize the Nineties and continue even after the spectacular carnage of the 9/11attacks. Given the persistence of the EU and the Biden administration in offering appeasing concessions to Iran in their desperate attempt to restart the failed nuclear deal, our foreign policy establishment is still blind to the reality of the West’s oldest enemy.

Khomeini’s fatwa didn’t just mark Rushdie for assassination, but included the publishers of the novel and bookstores selling it: all “are condemned to death. I call on all valiant Muslims wherever they may be in the world to kill them without delay, so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth. And whoever is killed in this cause will be a martyr.”

Should Uncle Sam Worry About ‘Foreign’ Open-Source Software? Geographic Known Unknowns and Open-Source Software Security

Dan Geer, John Speed Meyers, Jacqueline Kazil, Tom Pike

Nationalism has come to software. While downloading TikTok or WeChat onto your cell phone isn’t quite tantamount to installing Huawei equipment in your local cell tower, all indications suggest that a software geopolitical divide has arrived and won’t be going anywhere. This divide already informs whether the U.S. federal government consumes open-source software, arguably reducing the digital productivity of the U.S government in the here-and-now in order to avoid potential compromise. What is the range of coherent policy choices?

In our professional careers working with U.S. government organizations, we have observed that government officials and staff sometimes choose not to use open-source software components developed by foreign (often Chinese and/or Russian) software developers. Is this a meaningful, silent drag on the digital productivity of U.S. government agencies? Do government staff have to rewrite code from scratch, use second-best components, or abandon their original aims? Existing statutory language exempts open-source software from the typical foreign ownership, control, or influence concerns associated with federal procurement. But is that exemption good enough, much less wise?

Chinese discourse power: Ambitions and reality in the digital domain

Kenton Thibaut

Executive Summary

As China’s military and economic power has grown, so has its ambition to shape global norms to suit its priorities. China believes that the United States currently dominates the international system, and sees growing Western opposition to China as evidence that the current order is now a threat to the continued security of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). China’s leadership has come to see its ability to reshape the international order—or, at least, to decenter US power within it—as essential to the party’s future.

China’s leaders have clearly articulated that they believe that Western countries, and especially the United States, have been able to exert global dominance because they possess what China terms “discourse power” (话语权): a type of narrative agenda-setting ability focused on reshaping global governance, values, and norms to legitimize and facilitate the expression of state power.

For the CCP, gaining discourse power translates into an ability to increase China’s geopolitical power by creating consensus around an alternative, China-led international order—one that privileges state sovereignty over civil liberties, and that subordinates human rights to state security. China has identified both the digital realm and the geographic regions of the Global South as arenas of opportunity in advancing its goals and gaining a discourse-power advantage over the United States.

Lashkar-e-Tayyaba: China’s Handmaid in Balochistan

C. Christine Fair

Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), also known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) within Pakistan, is the most well-known terrorist organization based in and backed by Pakistan which operates mostly in India with limited forays in Afghanistan.1 While LeT is most known as a proxy of the Pakistan army to execute its preferred external security policies, the organization is also important to the Pakistan state because it advances internal security objectives as well. For example, the organization is part of the state’s fight against the Islamic State in Pakistan.2 It is also the only jihadi organization in Pakistan which “remains tied to the Nationalist-Islamist aims of Pakistan’s security establishment.”3 The organization is also opposed to sectarianism and holds that anyone who has recognized the supremacy of Allah cannot be killed irrespective of their offence; rather, they can only be rehabilitated through dawa (invitation to embrace the LeT’s interpretation of Islam) and tabligh (proselytization).4 While the LeT advocates brutal murder of non-Muslims—especially Hindus—abroad, it disdains communal violence within Pakistan. Instead, the LeT organization uses its charity and proselytization arms to attempt to convert Pakistani Hindus, especially in Sindh where Hindus are concentrated. Equally, it opposes efforts to undermine any given political regime in Pakistan whether civilian and military because it shares the state’s prioritization of stability.4 Notably, the LeT remained studiously silent during the recent implosion of former Imran Khan’s government and his showdown with the army. Finally, the LeT has emerged as a key partner of the Pakistani state’s bid to promote and secure public support for the controversial Chinese-Pakistan Economic Quarter (CPEC), particularly in Balochistan.

Rafael Grossi Is the Last Man Standing For Nonproliferation

Andrea Stricker and Anthony Ruggiero

“Grossi is still the main obstacle to the finalization” of a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, proclaimed Nour News, an outlet frequently used by Iran’s supreme leader for unofficial commentary. Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), may in fact be the last man standing against a shorter, weaker version of the 2015 nuclear deal that would irreparably harm the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Despite imminent pressure from all sides, including Washington, Grossi is refusing to close his agency’s probe into Tehran’s suspect atomic activities to pave the way for the accord’s revival.

Iran demands the permanent closure of the IAEA’s four-year-old investigation before a new deal can unfold, aiming to keep its nuclear weapons work hidden from the prying eyes of inspectors. The IAEA has already given in once: In 2015, the so-called P5+1 group of countries—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China—joined the rest of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors in a unanimous vote to close the agency’s inquiry into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. The IAEA, led by then-Director-General Yukiya Amano, took this step despite Tehran’s untruthful answers to the agency’s questions.

Why Wars Are Easy to Start and Hard to End

Stephen M. Walt

I’ve written several columns on important foreign-policy ideas that national leaders forget at their peril, such as the balance of power, nationalism, and the security dilemma. This week, I’m offering up another one, a simple observation that every world leader or foreign-policy advisor ought to have prominently displayed on their desk, on their office wall, or maybe just tattooed on the inside of their eyelids so they don’t ever, ever forget it: “It’s much easier to start a war than to end it.”

Illustrations of this phenomenon are ubiquitous. As Geoffrey Blainey described in his classic book The Causes of War, many past conflicts were fueled by “dreams and delusions of a coming war,” and especially the belief that it would be quick, it would be cheap, and it would yield a decisive victory. In 1792, for example, Austria-Hungary, Prussia, and France's armies rushed to the battlefield believing the war would be resolved after a battle or two. The French radicals thought their recent revolution would quickly spread to others, and the opposing monarchies believed the revolutionary armies were an incompetent rabble that their professional soldiers would easily sweep aside. Instead, they got nearly a quarter-century of recurring warfare that dragged in all the major powers and spread around the globe.

Similarly, in August 1914, the nations of Europe marched off to war saying the soldiers would be home by Christmas, blissfully unaware that the anticipated Christmas homecoming wouldn’t take place until 1918. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein succumbed to much the same illusion in 1980, believing that the 1979 revolution had left Iran vulnerable to an Iraqi attack. The resulting war lasted eight years, and the two states suffered hundreds of thousands of deaths and vast economic damage before calling it quits.

The Return of Great Power War

Timothy R. Heath, Kristen Gunness, Tristan Finazzo

Through carefully synthesising current and historical data on relevant factors, anticipated trends, and research-grounded speculation, the authors analyze several scenarios of systemic U.S.-China conflict under hypothetical conditions in which China has neared the point of global primacy. Drawing on academic and research findings regarding the potential trajectory of international security and warfare in coming years, China's approach to future warfare, relevant experiences of preceding great powers, and patterns in interstate wars, the authors explore the possibility of a U.S.-China war of power transition.

The authors develop two scenarios of systemic U.S.-China conflict. The first scenario features a low-intensity conflict that unfolds across much of the world, across many domains, and over many years. The second features a high-intensity war that evolves out of the low-intensity war. The high-intensity war scenario envisions aggressive actions by both countries to destroy the warfighting capability of the adversary and carries an extremely high risk of escalation to the most destructive levels. Both scenarios occur within the context of a deeply fragmented international situation in which the U.S. and Chinese militaries experience immense strain from sustaining the war effort while grappling with an array of nontraditional threats and responding to demands for aid from embattled partners. Although their analysis concerns a hypothetical conflict situation in which China has neared global primacy, the authors' findings could inform defense planning for potential contingencies even today.