19 October 2022

China’s surveillance ecosystem and the global spread of its tools

Bulelani Jili


Chinese tech companies are among the largest firms in the world. Initially focused on the domestic market, they now sell various surveillance technologies to a global customer base. Increased collaboration between the party-state and private Chinese actors in the sale of surveillance products inspires trepidations about the proliferation of China’s surveillance tools, ergo the rise of unwarranted surveillance. Namely, researchers scrutinize China’s diplomatic activities, raising questions about the degree to which the government enables surveillance practices abroad. Large Chinese firms and state amplify debate and concerns by pushing to change the norms and mechanisms in the use of public security technology.

This paper seeks to offer insights into how China’s domestic surveillance market and cyber capability ecosystem operate, especially given the limited number of systematic studies on the industry and its growing influence in the Global South. This issue brief focuses on the development of the Chinese surveillance industry and the firms that make it possible, including those firms that sell surveillance tools within the international surveillance market. The brief has four parts. The first discusses the development of China’s surveillance ecosystem. It specifically explores the establishment of the Golden Shield Project (GSP), a national Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) network intended to digitize the public security sector, and its consequences for surveillance practices in China. The second section investigates China’s conception of “cyber sovereignty,” or wangluo zhuquan, which seeks to influence the governance of cyberspace. This idea and policy prerogative helps Beijing’s promotion of a controlled cyberspace and, therefore, the development of surveillance practices that rely on the use of artificial intelligence, big data, and biometric collection, among other means, to monitor citizens. The third and fourth sections carefully look at how private-public partnerships have empowered China’s cyberpower, while at the same time creating a more restrictive legal and political environment in China. What appears to make the party-state distinct from other exporters is the legal and political system from which these surveillance tools emerge—crucially, how China promotes their use in the Global South.1 The brief concludes by taking a close look at how the spread of Chinese surveillance tools is both a consequence of China’s supply capacity and local demand factors.
China’s domestic tech environment

Why Cyber Dogs Have Yet to Bark Loudly in Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Nadiya Kostyuk, Erik Gartzke

As Russia’s massive armored buildup on the Ukrainian border became apparent in the fall of 2021, pundits began to offer contrasting predictions about the likely role that cyber war would play in any escalation of the crisis.1 These disparate claims mirror a larger ongoing debate about whether cyber war is more likely to supplant or exacerbate traditional modes of warfare in the 21st century. Specifically, advocates of the theory that cyber operations will increasingly substitute for conventional conflict argue that cyber conflict today and in the future could achieve what tanks did in the 20th century.2 Advocates of a competing theory argue that cyber operations will tend to coincide with, rather than replace, any significant use of military force.

While Russia has conducted some cyber operations in Ukraine, both in the lead-up to and after the February invasion, these have neither supplanted nor significantly supplemented conventional combat activities. Given Russia’s highly sophisticated cyber capabilities and its long-term presence in Ukrainian networks,3 why has it failed to utilize such apparently potent tools in seeking strategic or tactical advantages?

The answer to this perplexing question can be gleaned from a more systematic empirical assessment of cyber conflict. In a recent study, we examined whether cyber operations mostly serve as complements to, or substitutes for, conventional conflict, or whether the two forms of conflict more often occur independently.4 Our statistical analysis of global conventional military campaigns over an 11-year period suggests that, with a few notable exceptions, cyber operations are rarely used as either complements to or substitutes for conventional military operations. Instead, countries tend most often to use these two types of operations independently of one another, due to both the difficulty of coordinating them and the different political purposes served by the two modes of conflict. Ultimately, our results show that, while cyber operations are far more likely to be used independently of conventional warfare than as a direct substitute for or complement to it, there is an indirect link between cyber and conventional conflict: The more access a country has to the internet, the more likely it will be involved in cyber conflict, whether as the target or the aggressor. We call this effect “indirect substitution.”

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine didn’t rely on cyberwarfare. Here’s why.

Erica D. Lonergan, Shawn W. Lonergan, Brandon Valeriano and

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has perplexed observers expecting to see the cyber dimension unfold differently. When Russia began to mass troops along Ukraine’s borders, analysts predicted that cyber operations would be critical to Putin’s military strategy.

One headline offered that the Russian invasion could “redefine cyberwarfare.” Former White House cyber expert Jason Healey hypothesized that “it will be the first time a state with real capabilities is willing to take risks and put it all on the line.”

Despite these predictions, the expected “shock and awe” Russian cyber campaign in preparation of the invasion of Ukraine never emerged. Moreover, while the conflict will undoubtedly evolve, cyber operations don’t appear to be playing a decisive role on the battlefield.

Surprised? We’re not. Academic research explains why cyber operations are poor tools of coercion — whether used independently or as part of conventional warfighting.

Cyber Conflict and the Erosion of Trust

Miguel Alberto Gomez and Ryan Shandler

The prevailing wisdom before the Russia-Ukraine war was that Russia held a trump card that could end the hostilities without firing a shot–cyber power. After all, Russia had long exhibited tantalizing glimpses of its cyber capabilities. Resigned western officials anticipated a swift Ukrainian capitulation following the disruption of its critical infrastructure and command and control structure. Nevertheless, Russian cyber operations turned out to be more of a fizzle than a bang. A ragtag group of Ukrainian cyber specialists kept critical systems online or rapidly shifted to new systems, as happened in the case of the Viasat cyberattack. There is little evidence to suggest that Russian cyber capabilities altered realities on the ground, reinforcing a common refrain from scholars who have long questioned the ability of cyber weapons to shape the balance of power between states. This episode should once and for all mark the end of alarmist proclamations of cyberwar.

However, at the risk of resuscitating a notion best left forgotten, we acknowledge that the consequences of cyber operations are not easily measured. We should not be gauging the effects of a cyber onslaught by weighing rubble, counting bodies, or tallying degraded hardware. Indeed, by these metrics, cyberattacks have underwhelmed. However, their insidious societal effects remain unaccounted–their ability to instill fear, undermine trust in government, chip away at societal cohesion, and reshape policy preferences. We argue that these hidden, and at times unintended, consequences could facilitate political crises and re-frame cyber power as a strategic asset.

What Are the Implications of the Cyber Dimension of the China-Taiwan Crisis?

Wang Yu Ching

The crisis brewing between China and Taiwan has involved strident Chinese threats and warnings, military exercises (including firing nearly a dozen missiles toward Taiwanese-controlled waters), and China’s suspension of talks with the United States. Even if China is not seeking to use the current situation as a pretext to justify an invasion of the island, there is the risk that miscalculations or accidents could cause the situation to escalate along a dangerous trajectory.

But what about the cyber dimension of this crisis? Some experts have warned that international crises are fertile ground for cyber escalation and caution that the dangers are growing. Nevertheless, there is limited evidence that cyber operations lead to escalation (especially above a use of force threshold). Therefore, the present China-Taiwan situation may provide yet another case to evaluate the role of cyberspace in crisis stability. What does the evidence reveal?

First, there has been minimal cyber activity amounting to only a handful of publicly-identified incidents. These have largely comprised distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against government websites, including the Defense Ministry, Office of the President, Foreign Ministry, and the Taoyuan International Airport. In general, DDoS attacks are relatively unsophisticated and are more of a nuisance than anything else, causing temporary disruptions in service. Additionally, it’s not even clear whether the Chinese government is responsible–either directly or indirectly.

The Three Important Shifts Tucked Within the New National Security Strategy


Bureaucrats sometimes joke that strategy writing in the government is like ornamenting a Christmas tree—everyone gets a chance to add their favorite issue and, in the process, the strategy gets lost.

The White House released a national security strategy on Wednesday with the usual laundry list of challenges: food security, terrorism, arms control, pandemics, climate, cyberspace, technology, corruption, and plans for every region of the world. It is, in this sense, a well-decorated tree.

But it still signals some important shifts in policy.

The main thrust of the strategy is that America will focus on competing with China and containing Russia, and it will do so by investing at home, building a coalition of like-minded states, and modernizing its military. These are sensible priorities, but they’re also not surprising given Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which delayed the strategy for months, and America’s rising tensions with China, which date from well before Joe Biden became president.

Russia's Nuclear Signaling in Ukraine and China's Nuclear Policy

In this Policy Forum essay, Tong Zhao argues that China fundamentally sees the Ukraine conflict as being caused by hegemonic behavior by the US-led West forcing Russia’s hand. China has been watching and learning from Russia’s implicit use of nuclear threat, and the lessons learned may add further ambiguity and uncertainty to the interpretation and application of China’s No First Nuclear Use policy in potential conflict situations, including those involving Taiwan.

Tong Zhao is a visiting research scholar at Princeton University’s Science and Global Security Program, as well as a senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His research focuses on strategic security issues, such as nuclear weapons policy, deterrence, arms control, nonproliferation, missile defense, hypersonic weapons, and China’s security and foreign policy.

Engaging China on Strategic Stability and Mutual Vulnerability



The politics of U.S.-China relations today largely preclude efforts to improve the relationship, and no therapist or outside mediator can help for now. Such stagnation is not a new historical phenomenon. Two powerful antagonists are pursuing competing interests, feeling slighted or endangered by each other’s moves and misunderstood when they explain they are merely reacting to the other’s ill will. Competition and threats of word and deed mount. In such situations, sometimes war results, sometimes one or both governments collapse or change, and sometimes leaders secretly talk through ways to lessen tensions and reassure each other that the worst will not happen. With China and the United States today, it is impossible to predict confidently where the mounting competition and threats will lead.

If and when U.S. and Chinese leaders decide their interests require steps to reduce the specter of offensive or inadvertent war, and perhaps to channel national resources to more productive purposes than arms racing, they will do so because they recognize that their countries are mutually vulnerable to nuclear annihilation and there is no technological escape from this condition. On the basis of this recognition, they will then need to reach a shared definition of strategic stability to guide their force acquisitions and actions and provide a framework for mutually beneficial diplomacy. These steps may not occur; outcomes other than a modus vivendi are quite possible. But if war is to be avoided and relations to be tolerably stable, then explicit reckoning with mutual vulnerability and strategic stability must occur. This paper seeks to encourage this reckoning sooner rather than later, while understanding that current politics favor later rather than sooner.

Xi Jinping Is Weaker Than You Think

Howard Wang

The Chinese Communist Party's leading members will gather in Beijing for the 20th Party Congress starting October 16. Xi Jinping is widely expected to accept an unusual third term in the Chinese political system's highest office: General Secretary of the Communist Party. English-language media is already calling the 20th Party Congress a “coronationfor Xi, echoing earlier claims that Xi has become “emperor for life.”

This overstates his power. Although Xi wields significant influence over Chinese domestic politics—certainly more than his most recent predecessors—he still needs support from the Party elite. And on that front, some cracks are showing.
Building Backlash?

Xi's ability to shape China's policy depends on his ability to gain support from other Communist Party leaders. General Secretaries like Xi build that up in the run-up to the Party Congress. These months are rife with horse trading over leadership selection, delegate appointments, and haggling over wording in the all-important Party Congress Work Report (PDF), which will serve as the Party platform for the next five years. Typically, all of this happens out of the public's view. This year, however, was the rare occasion when signs of friction became public, suggesting weaknesses in Xi's influence.

China leading the race for influence in Central Asia

Yang Jiang

Central Asia, a vast land with abundant mineral resources and centuries-old Eurasian transport corridors, has resumed its historical importance in recent times. With Russia’s war in Ukraine and Western sanctions on Russia, as well as the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Central Asia has become an important alternative energy source and a crucial intercontinental transportation route.

However, Central Asia’s importance has long been underestimated by Western governments, which have only recently started to scramble for more access to the region. Western governments and organisations have adopted a Washington Consensus type of approach that forms a mismatch with Central Asian countries’ preferences: they have focused on democratisation and liberal economic reforms as pillar stones of their engagement in the region, while Central Asian governments prioritise stability and development.

At the same time, China has intensified efforts to boost economic and security ties with the countries in Central Asia in recent years, and China’s earlier initiatives there are paying off. A similar charm offensive is seen from other countries like Japan, India, Turkey, and the Middle Eastern countries. This policy brief focuses on China’s increased role in Central Asia (here it refers to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) in comparison with the lagging engagements from the West.

The 20th National Congress of the CCP, with Nis Grünberg and Johnny Erling

The main focus of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will be on the confirmation of China's state and party leader Xi Jinping in office for a third term. This historic decision will meet no headwinds, however, because Xi has a firm grip on the Communist Party.

Nis Grünberg, Senior Analyst at MERICS, and Johnny Erling, Senior Fellow at MERICS, discuss with Johannes Heller-John what can be expected from the party congress and what is likely to happen afterwards. They also touch on potential new additions to the country's most powerful bodies and room for resistance under Xi's increasingly absolute control.

The Dragon Reaches the Eastern Mediterranean: Why the Region Matters to China

Jens Bastian


Europe, Russia, and the United States have at different stages and in changing configurations sought to exercise influence in and power over various countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. But over the course of the past decade, the aforementioned triangle has been reshaped into a quadrangle. A new external actor has emerged and firmly planted its flag in the Eastern Mediterranean. The fourth country in question is the People’s Republic of China (henceforth China), and this forms the subject of this article.

The contribution inquires why the Eastern Mediterranean is of strategic value for Beijing. As will be illustrated, China pursues economic objectives that are integrated into its signature foreign economic policy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The primacy of economic engagement with Mediterranean states is anchored on infrastructure projects that combine maritime investments with land-based railway construction in the transport sector. China’s expanding footprint makes clear its strategic interest in the region and signals to other external actors in the Eastern Mediterranean that they have to contend with and react to Beijing’s growing involvement.

However, China is not (yet) prepared to insert itself as a security interlocutor in the Eastern Mediterranean. Neither is Beijing interested in a power vacuum. For its commercial ambitions and BRI agenda it values and requires broader regional stability. The Eastern Mediterranean is not a sphere of influence in the making for China. Rather, the region offers Beijing’s leaders a cost-effective way to demonstrate the alleged merits of the BRI, to stipulate the availability of alliances with a new external actor in the region, and to herald its credentials as a provider of vaccines against Covid-19.

Turkish and Iranian Involvement in Iraq and Syria

Since the establishment of the Islamic Repub­lic in Iran in 1979, relations between Tehran and Ankara have been a mix of cooperation and competition. Over the past four decades, the transnational messianic aspirations embedded in the Iranian narra­tive of revolutionary Islam have been a source of concern for governments in Mus­lim-majority countries like Turkey. In turn, Iranian leaders, for whom opposing the West constitutes an integral part of the Islamic Republic’s identity, have seen Tur­key, a rather secular state allied with the West and a member of NATO, as a potential chal­lenge. At the same time, social and histori­cal ties between the two neighbours, along with the benefits of economic and – some­times – security cooperation, have helped to balance bilateral relations and pre-empt tensions. That said, over the past decade, com­petition and mutual scepticism be­tween Iran and Turkey have taken on an increasingly evident geopolitical feature in that tensions are no longer just ideological or a mere side-effect of Iran-West disputes, rather they can now be seen as a compe­tition for regional influence. Iraq and Syria have become the main theatres in which this new competition has been playing out, increasing the potential for rising tension – or even conflict – between Iran and Tur­key.

This growing competition between An­ka­ra and Tehran is occurring at a time when their shared interests should align, par­ticu­larly as it relates to combating Kurdish insurgency and preventing a rise in sepa­ratism in Iraq and Syria. However, over­looking practical interests, the two have increasingly come to see one another as threats.

Ukraine and the Consequences for Nuclear Deterrence

Jonathan Eyal and Dr Matthew Harries

JE: Indirect but obvious threats from Russian politicians, suggesting that their country may be forced to use nuclear weapons if its territory – as defined by Moscow – is threatened, have multiplied in the past few weeks. Are you surprised by the emergence of these threats?

MH: No. Unfortunately, Putin’s war on Ukraine has had a nuclear element from the start; in unleashing the war, Putin made indirect nuclear threats. So, nuclear deterrence has been operating in the background of this conflict from the beginning, and it has to an extent been working on NATO. One of the reasons that the US and NATO allies don’t want a direct conflict with Russia – but not the only reason – is because at the end of the escalation ladder between Russia and the West is the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons.

Likewise, the nuclear threat has been operating for Russia as well: the leadership in Moscow know perfectly well that the US, the UK, France and NATO as an alliance are nuclear-armed. And they know that, just as we need to take Russian nuclear weapons seriously, Russia needs to take Western nuclear weapons seriously. So, the conflict has been limited in scope partly – but certainly not only – because of the presence of nuclear weapons on both sides. The corollary is that it is possible that the suffering and the punishment that Ukraine has had to absorb from this Russian aggression is more significant because of the existence of nuclear weapons and the existential fear of what an unrestrained war between the West and Russia would bring.

IISS Roundtable – Russia and Iran: isolated from the West and drawing closer

Relations between Russia and Iran have long been characterised by a degree of mutual suspicion. This is in part because of Russia’s historical ambition to control the Caucasus region, which led to a series of wars with Tehran that ended in the nineteenth century, and in part because the countries have conflicting interests in the present-day Middle East. But the two now share an important geopolitical objective: undermining what they view as a Western-dominated international order.

Russia’s acquisition of Iranian uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs) and direct-attack munitions for use on the Ukrainian battlefield has been the most visible sign of their partnership since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Russia and Iran have also announced joint initiatives to circumvent Western sanctions. As Western countries increase their efforts to provide Ukraine with weapons and inflict economic pain on Russia, Moscow and Tehran appear to be setting differences aside to cooperate against a common set of adversaries.

In devising a strategy to confront the West, Russia and Iran may fall back on their shared experience of mounting a joint campaign in the Syrian Civil War to rescue the regime of President Bashar al-Assad from collapse. In 2015, Russia and Iran decided to operate jointly to secure Assad's survival. Militarily, Iran and Russia cooperated well: the former applied political cover, air power, missiles, artillery and a limited number of soldiers (including mercenaries), and the latter provided UAVs and manpower, mostly Shia militiamen recruited across the region and South Asia but directed by commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. By late 2015, their combined effort began to turn the tide of the war.

Iran’s Protests ... and the Afghan Sisters Next Door

Belquis Ahmadi; Palwasha L. Kakar

Iran’s women are seizing worldwide admiration with 26 days of courageous defiance against their authoritarian government’s violent confinement of females as second-class citizens who may not freely work, marry, divorce, travel or even be seen with their heads uncovered. Less noted are this audacious movement’s existing, and potential, connections to the tenacious, 14-month campaign by Afghan women resisting the even tighter oppression of the Taliban. Street protest slogans, social media posts and other links illustrate a synergy between the movements that both should use in the difficult task of converting their inspiring courage into real change.

Iran’s widened protests this week, including workers’ strikes and Iran’s vital oil sector, underscore that its women are now leading the most potent challenge in years to the authoritarian rule by clerics and their allied security forces. The uprising began as a protest against the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in the hands of Iran’s morality police, who arrested her on a Tehran street for allowing some of her hair to stray from beneath the head scarf that her government requires all women to wear in public.

“Protest chants about her death quickly evolved into calls to oust the regime,” USIP fellow and Iran specialist Robin Wright wrote this week. They began chanting “‘Death to the Dictator,’ and ‘Our disgrace is our incompetent leader,’ and ‘We don’t want the Islamic Republic.’” In a default response, Iran’s security forces, such as the Basij militia, have attacked protesters, multiplying popular anger. As of Tuesday, those attacks have killed 185 protesters, including 19 children, reports the monitoring group Iran Human Rights.

Geospatial Technology’s Role in the Conflict in Ukraine

Romain BoscMichelle Hermes

On February 24, 2022, Professor Jeffrey Lewis from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California was searching through Google Maps data. He was working with a research team of students as part of a project to analyze images taken from space. The team noticed what they thought was a traffic jam near Belgorod, Russia, at 3:15 a.m. local time. However, they soon realized that it was a unit of Russian armored vehicles mobilizing toward the Ukrainian border. The students and Professor Lewis may have been among the first to realize that Russia would invade Ukraine, hours before the invasion was recognized on a larger scale and reported on by any media outlet.1 Anecdotes like this demonstrate the increasing role of space technologies and geospatial data in warfare.

While space technologies and the space sector more broadly are relevant for countless aspects of warfare, international cooperation, and industrial developments, the role of Earth observation (EO) data and the availability of global navigation satellite system (GNSS) signals and satellite communications, including broadband services, are particularly pertinent in light of the conflict in Ukraine.

The Strategic Role of EO Data in the Context of Hybrid Warfare

Not only is EO data vital for military strategy, but the public availability of indisputable satellite imagery has also been important in combatting disinformation. Many atrocities have been documented, including satellite imagery of a trench dug near the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where a mass grave was uncovered. In April, the United Nations established an inquiry into human rights violations by Russian military forces. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also launched an investigation in conjunction with the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office. Satellite images have been used in the past in courtrooms, notably in 2016 when the ICC prosecuted a defendant for a war crime using imagery of direct attacks on historic monuments and buildings in Mali.2

U.S. Influence Operations: The Military’s Resurrected Digital Campaign for Hearts and Minds

Renee DiResta, John Perrino

In October 2008, the U.S. Special Operations Command published a request for proposal (RFP) seeking “rapid, on-order global dissemination of web-based influence products and tools in support of strategic and long-term U.S. Government goals and objectives.” The RFP listing, for something nondescript called a “Trans Regional Web Initiative” (TRWI), appeared at a time when the global war on terror—and the growing online presence of terrorists—was a particularly critical mission. The TRWI required a lead that could handle everything from the development of website architecture and content management systems, to the development of content “tailored to foreign audiences” in the battle for hearts and minds.

At the time, the announcement was viewed with some skepticism. Wired, for example, warned that U.S. efforts had largely been unsuccessful at “creating cultural and/or news content that appeals to foreign audiences” and speculated whether anyone would read the websites. But in September 2009, the contract, worth $10 million for the first year with four annual renewal options that would later exceed $20 million, was awarded to one of the largest government and military contractors, General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT).

Five years later, in 2014, the TRWI was shut down, as Congress, too, became skeptical about whether its impact justified its price tag. But a variant would rise again—with much more alongside it—as the online propaganda battleground expanded from counterterrorism to a messaging war of all-against-all as state adversaries like Russia entered the mix.

U.S. Grand Strategy: The Case for Realism

Chris Gibson

The question before the house is: have our commitments to Ukraine and threats to Taiwan forced the U.S. to reconsider potential involvements in other parts of the world? The short answer is no—we are not forced to limit our actions based on those commitments. We have the strategic bandwidth to take decisive action in multiple parts of the world at once if we have to do so.

That stated, I strongly believe the U.S. should change course and recover its “Peace through Strength” grand strategy approach employed especially well by the President Reagan administration, and be much more careful in its decisions to use military force. Since Vietnam, the U.S. has been too hasty to use force and that approach has not made us safer. In the process, we have expended resources (including the precious lives of our citizens) that would have been better invested elsewhere. Those wars of choice have also significantly contributed to the polarizing of American politics and the tearing of our nation’s social fabric. Social and political turmoil sap national power, and limiting this development is an important consideration when choosing a grand strategy.

Our grand strategy should be grounded in realism that is advanced by deterrence and strengthened by alliances, with the aim of securing American vital interests, especially promoting peace and prosperity for all of her citizens.

Biden’s Decision to Sell F-16s to Pakistan Remains Foolish

Michael Rubin

It has now been two months since the Biden administration announced its decision to sell $450 million worth of F-16s and upgrade packages to Pakistan . Two weeks ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken doubled down, insisting the sale would better help Pakistan fight terrorist groups.

There are two problems with Blinken’s justification.

First, precedent shows that Pakistan is far more likely to use its air force against its own restive population in Baluchistan, where decades of mismanagement have led to a low-grade insurgency. To provide the weaponry that Pakistan uses to target its own citizens is morally obtuse and risks blowback.

Second, while Pakistan’s military has suffered thousands of casualties in its own war on terror, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency continues to finance, equip, and encourage terrorist groups. Until Pakistan takes the political decision to try top ISI leaders for treason for the damage they have done by fanning extremist flames domestically, the United States should ignore Pakistan’s victim narrative.

Is Pakistan Really a Victim of the War on Terror?

Michael Rubin

Speaking at a forum in Uzbekistan last month, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif declared, “Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism. I don’t have to go into its history. But suffice it to say that we have made huge sacrifices to defeat the monster of terrorism. Thousands of Pakistanis were martyred – brothers, sisters, mothers.”

Sharif’s statement is boilerplate. That Pakistan is a victim of the war on terror is a frequent talking point of Pakistan officials, diplomats, and those within the U.S. government who want to maintain normal relations with a state guilty of sheltering Al Qaeda and sponsoring an insurgency that cost hundreds of American lives.

Extremism in Pakistan

Certainly, Pakistani police and soldiers have died at the hands of radicals. In 2019, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs reported that close to 9,000 Pakistani security forces and more than twice as many civilians died in terror and extremist violence since 2001.

National Security Strategy—Observations, Interpretations, and Inconsistencies

Elaine McCusker

First, a few positive observations. The strategy is, well, positive. It has the inspirational, can-do tone that is useful for us all to keep in mind. Optimism and resilience are things Americans tend to share, so it is good to see them captured here. The NSS also rightly emphasizes the importance of the digital environment—as a threat and as something in which we must operate, trade, and connect. It clearly states that the US is a global power, with global responsibilities. It does not clearly state that it is important to resource the military for the tasks and presence required to support those responsibilities.

Second, the strategy bluntly declares what had previously been strongly implied and directed through the budget submissions. Everything is national security. Domestic issues are national security. Environmental issues are national security. Social issues are national security. Once dividing lines are broken down between foreign and domestic policy, the strategy points to “far-reaching investments here at home in our industrial and innovation base that will increase our competitiveness and better position us to deal with everything from climate to global health, to food security, to energy.”

Beyond nuclear deterrence


In October 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union squared off in what game theorist and Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling described as a nuclear game of “chicken” that threatened humanity’s survival. The Cuban Missile Crisis spurred six decades of efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and inspired a generation of scientists to think critically about reducing atomic risks. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent nuclear threats during the war in Ukraine are an unambiguous reminder that such dangers have outlived the Cold War. A new wave of scientific research is urgently needed to understand conditions for making global nuclear disarmament desirable and feasible.

October 1962 and October 2022 are hardly comparable. There were four nuclear-armed states then—the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France. Today, there are nine, with the additions of China, India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan. Success containing proliferation to just nine countries came about in no small part from the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and subsequent International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. These initiatives were a direct result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, as were US–Soviet/Russian arms control agreements that reduced worldwide nuclear stockpiles from nearly 70,000 warheads in the 1980s to ∼12,700 today.

Unfortunately, nuclear reductions have now been replaced by competition. China, Russia, and the US are modernizing their arsenals, ignoring disarmament commitments in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Meanwhile, new actors, proliferation risks, and intersections between nuclear and emerging cyber and artificial intelligence technologies challenge existing deterrence and nonproliferation theories. Amid these developments, 68 countries have ratified the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which seeks to ban all nuclear weapons–related activities. Nuclear-armed states reject the treaty, citing a lack of verification measures and a volatile security environment. Simultaneously, global research funding for nuclear risk reduction is shrinking rapidly, limiting opportunities for interested scientists.

Taiwan shows how winning the semiconductor race takes more than money

Chun-Chao Lin

The White House’s decision on Friday to impose more restrictions on selling semiconductors and chip-making equipment to China—a move designed to slow Beijing’s ability to upgrade its economy and military—was telling. It shows once again how the United States is under increasing pressure to stay ahead of China’s efforts to expand its semiconductor industry and reduce reliance on Taiwan as the sole supplier of advanced electronics essential to US military and commercial needs. The Biden administration’s new export controls come on the heels of Congress approving billions of dollars to support cutting-edge chips manufacturing. However, money alone will not guarantee the success of the US-based semiconductor industry. US firms should also glean critical lessons from successful incumbents in allied and partner countries like South Korea and Taiwan.

China’s recent breakthrough in producing semiconductors using seven nanometer (nm) process technology—a level of production prowess that has eluded the top US chip maker, Intel Corporation—underlined the need for US government support to ensure domestic chip makers maintain the capacity to produce the most sophisticated semiconductors. The CHIPS and Science Act allocates fifty-two billion dollars in subsidies and tax relief to support chip manufacturing along with another two hundred billion dollars dedicated to research and other investments. The law is intended to provide subsidies and other assistance to Intel and other US semiconductor makers as they ramp up capital investment in manufacturing facilities. The funding also will benefit the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Corporation as they build chip factories in Arizona and Texas, respectively.

Biden Is Now All-In on Taking Out China

Jon Bateman

The United States has waged low-grade economic warfare against China for at least four years now—firing volley after volley of tariffs, export controls, investment blocks, visa limits, and much more. But Washington’s endgame for this conflict has always been hazy. Does it seek to compel specific changes in Beijing’s behavior, or challenge the Chinese system itself? To protect core security interests, or retain hegemony by any means? To strengthen America, or hobble its chief rival? Donald Trump’s scattershot regulation and erratic public statements offered little clarity to allies, adversaries, and companies around the world. Joe Biden’s actions have been more systematic, but long-term U.S. goals have remained hidden beneath bureaucratic opacity and cautious platitudes.

Last Friday, however, a dense regulatory filing from a little-known federal agency gave the strongest hint yet of U.S. intentions. The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced new extraterritorial limits on the export to China of advanced semiconductors, chip-making equipment, and supercomputer components. The controls, more so than any earlier U.S. action, reveal a single-minded focus on thwarting Chinese capabilities at a broad and fundamental level. Although framed as a national security measure, the primary damage to China will be economic, on a scale well out of proportion to Washington’s cited military and intelligence concerns. The U.S. government imposed the new rules after limited consultation with partner countries and companies, proving that its quest to hobble China ranks well above concerns about the diplomatic or economic repercussions.