22 October 2022

Decoding Xi Jinping: What two major speeches tell us about how China has changed

Tom Nagorski and Lili Pike

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech to the Communist Party congress Sunday — a roughly two-hour address that is being dissected by China watchers the world over — was both Xi’s case for a third term and a State of the Union-style statement about his country.

But it was also notable for what it wasn’t.

A little over a year ago, Xi gave another speech, to the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission — a less significant occasion and thus less covered and analyzed by the global media. While that address, too, was billed as a roadmap for China’s future, its emphasis differed markedly from what China’s leader said Sunday. And a look at the two speeches says much about how China has changed in just a little more than a year.

China Quietly Abandons Goal of Overtaking U.S. Economy


Chinese leader Xi Jinping appeared to revise his long-term economic outlook when he opened a major political event over the weekend, hinting at modest growth that may see China fail to surpass the U.S.

Beijing's two-step plan to build what it calls a "great modern socialist country in all respects" by 2049, the centennial of the People's Republic of China, involves first raising levels of public wealth and doubling the national economy by 2035.

To achieve that, economists believed China would need to maintain annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of at least 5 percent, a once-realistic trajectory that might have seen it overtake the U.S. economy in GDP terms—valued at $23 trillion versus China's $17.73 trillion in 2021, per World Bank figures.

Eyeing Payback for Midterm Oil Cut, Biden Faces Saudis Going Their Own Way


As Saudi Arabia prepares to face a new pressure campaign from President Joe Biden's administration over Riyadh's recent decision alongside other leading oil exporters to slash production by nearly two million barrels per day, leading Saudi experts have offered Newsweek an insight into the Kingdom's calculus.

They conclude that Washington's attempts to postpone the cut agreed upon earlier this month by the expanded group of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+) was rooted in domestic political considerations related to the price of energy ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.

And while these analysts argue that the U.S.-Saudi relationship would likely withstand the current deterioration, which began nearly as soon as Biden took office early last year, they also asserted that Riyadh was prepared to continue pursuing its own policy path independent of Washington, no matter the "consequences" that the White House has vowed to unveil.

Why the Pentagon’s Crush on Elon Musk Is Dangerous to Democracy


SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s current spat with the Pentagon over who will pay for satellite internet services over Ukraine illustrates how democracy is vulnerable to the whims of authoritarian-minded tech magnates. But in the case of Musk, Pentagon officials are partially to blame.

A villain to some and a hero to others, Musk owns the Starlink communications satellites that are helping to keep many Ukrainians connected to the internet. Until recently, he seemed to many U.S. military leaders a model for how to build things in the age of information technology. Musk has headlined military conferences where he lectured the Defense Department on what it needed to do to be faster and cheaper. He has hosted key military leaders for private dinners, leaders who spoke about him in public with unguarded adulation.

“Look at SpaceX,” said Gen. John Hyten in 2020, when he was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hyten, who has since retired, lauded the company's ability to learn from launch failures. “Did they stop? No…They launched rapidly again. They changed systems. They changed subsystems. They go in a completely different direction."

Security News This Week: Elon Musk’s SpaceX Bails on Starlink Funding for Ukraine

USERS OF THE cryptocurrency exchange Celsius are in danger. Last week, as part of its bankruptcy proceedings, the company submitted a 14,500-page document that appears to contain the full names and recent transactions of its users. Typically private, this sensitive information ties people’s real-world identities to their once-anonymous cryptocurrency transactions, making them ripe targets for scammers and other criminals—and crypto-tracing investigators.

If you’re considering upgrading to the new Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro, rest assured that Google put the phone’s security hardware through the wringer to make hacking the device as costly as possible. Not only that, the tech giant plans to roll out a built-in VPN for Android later this year.

For Windows 11 users, we walked through how to take advantage of Microsoft’s automatic phishing protection features. And for students and their parents, we explained exactly what to do to protect against school surveillance technology.

The 2022 World Cup: Qatar's Make-or-Break Moment

James M. Dorsey

The final run-up to the 2022 World Cup and the tournament's management is make-it-or-break-it time for Qatar.

Both will determine Qatar’s ultimate soft power benefit from the World Cup. How Qatar manages the tournament, and potential flare and hick-ups will shape how the 2022 World Cup is perceived and remembered.

The jury is still out in contrast to Qatar’s success in meeting geopolitical challenges it faced in the 12 years since world soccer body FIFA awarded the Gulf state its hosting rights in late 2010.

Reproducing its geopolitical success, achieved as much on its own steam as with the unintended help of its erstwhile detractors, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, may prove easier said than done.

Ultimately, the primary litmus test will be how Qatar handles issues such as activists seeking to capitalize on the opportunity to make a point, potential fan rowdiness, and culturally sensitive issues such as intoxication, public expressions of affection, and sexual diversity.

Can the United States Do More for Ukrainian Air Defense?

As Russian missiles pummel Ukrainian cities, the Ukrainian government has pleaded for additional air defense systems to protect its people. The United States and NATO have responded positively, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin citing the need in his NATO press conference. That need is growing as the Russians increasingly use Iranian-supplied kamikaze drones to attack military and civilian targets.

Unfortunately, turning good intentions into battlefield realities will be difficult. The United States has already provided many air defense systems, including Stingers, the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), and S-300s, but is nearly out of equipment to provide. Recent DOD statements on air defense recognize the problem but do not announce any new U.S. actions. Austin pointed to the Europeans as the primary source of help in this area.

The Europeans are stepping up, but they can provide only small numbers of systems in the near term. In the longer term, the United States and Europe will provide systems from new production, but those will take years to arrive.

The Political Reality inside Metaverse Cities

Imagine the metaverse as an immersive communication and gaming platform that links virtual worlds together. This term was coined by science-fiction novelist Neal Stephenson, who described it as an amalgamation of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Essentially, VR technology transports the user to a fictional locale, whereas AR provides colorful scenic texture to explore virtual worlds. As a whole, Web 3.0 is part of an expanding decentralized version of the internet including technologies like nonfungible tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrencies, and the metaverse. Several national governments are already exploring offering state-sponsored metaverse cities—with some advocates even calling upon the United Nations to regulate it.

Q1: Why are some actors calling upon the United Nations to regulate the metaverse?

A1: During the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) minister of state for artificial intelligence, Omar Sultan Al Olama, warned against the possibility of “cyber murder” an act of virtual lethal violence directed against another person’s avatar. Minister Al Olama reasoned that cyber murder could be a traumatic experience for users, who regard violence perpetuated against their virtual character as an extension of themselves. “But if I come into the metaverse and it’s a realistic world we’re talking about in the future and I actually murder you, and you see it . . . it actually takes you to a certain extreme where you need to enforce [rules] aggressively across the world.” As a result, the minister advocated for the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to establish international standards of conduct and safety to prohibit users from committing murder in the metaverse, regardless of where the users lived. In response, several human rights activists called the proposal hypocritical and a veiled attempt by the UAE to censor dissident speech. “The purpose of this statement is not to combat crime, but [is] an introduction to the censorship of Metaverses. They use spyware under the pretext of combating terrorism,” director of the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center Hamad Alshamsi said. It is possible that this proposal could create negative externalities by diverting the international community’s finite resources away from addressing more immediate and tangible issues.

Moore’s Law and Its Practical Implications

Although economists and technologists frequently cite Moore’s Law in their analyses of the semiconductor industry, the drivers and consequences of this phenomenon for public policy are less widely understood. Understanding the practical implications of Moore’s Law is critical to support policies that advance the nation’s international competitiveness and national security.

Q1: What is Moore’s Law?

A1: While popularly referred to as a “law,” Moore’s Law is better understood as an empirical observation regarding advancements in computing. In a 1965 Electronics Magazine article, the cofounder of Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc. and Intel, Gordon Moore, projected that the ideal number of transistors per square inch on a microchip would double each year while the manufacturing cost per component would halve. Ten years later, Moore revised his original projection and said chip density would, instead, double every two years for at least the next decade.

More transistors and components, in layman’s terms, means more computing power, higher efficiency, and more complex functions. A corollary of Moore’s Law is that the cost of computing has fallen dramatically, enabling adoption of semiconductors across a wide span of technologies. Today, semiconductors are the technology platform underpinning how the world works, communicates, and consumes.

The Army’s Future Will Be Built on AI and Robots

Kris Osborn

The future of armored conflict and modern conceptions of Combined Arms Maneuver is unfolding, and major weapons builders are trying to anticipate future Army needs and requirements. They are investing in research and innovation to help discover new technologies and weapons. In a strategic and developmental sense, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) is seeking to align with, anticipate, and support the Army’s modernization strategy and vision, something which senior leaders say relies heavily upon continued innovation, experimentation, and the rapid harvesting of technologies. GDLS’s focus on innovation, development, and experimentation aligns with what Under Secretary of the Army, Gabe Camarillo told The National Interest in an interview.

“I think what we need to focus on at this point is continued experimentation, continued assessment of where the state of technology might be. And then I think we need to think through as we design, you know, look ahead beyond the Army of 2030,” Camarillo said. “How can we incorporate those technologies and those capabilities into the formations of the future, to enable us to be prepared to do what we’ve always done, which is to dominate the battlefield?”

Will AI Targeting Make Tank Gunners Obsolete?

Kris Osborn

Beneath the surface of its well-known and highly visible large-scale combat platforms such as the Abrams tank and Stryker, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) has more quietly pursued an intense research and development effort to uncover critical new innovations for land war. Artificial intelligence-enabled sensing, coupled with computer processing, can help dramatically improve the life span of many vehicles.

“On the sustainment and logistics side, we call it autonomous vehicle sustainment. You can run algorithms on the vehicle that monitor the key systems, and the engine and the electronic components and compare it to residual life models that we have developed based on decades of data. We can then predict when a system is going to be failing or begin to reduce its capability and provide that alert to the crew and provide that information to the maintenance officers and to the commander so they can make judgments about how to react to the future readiness status of their formation,” Tim Reese, director of U.S. business development at GDLS, told the National Interest in an interview.

GDLS weapons developers point to target recognition systems with artificial intelligence (AI) technology as another key innovation reshaping ground combat. An AI-capable system can collect and organize incoming sensor data, bounce it off of an existing database to solve problems, find patterns and identify targets. This is something GDLS is building into its Abrams and Stryker vehicles, among others.

Can the Army Drone-Proof the New AbramsX Tank?

Kris Osborn

The recently-unveiled General Dynamics Land Systems AbramsX main battle tank is set to be loaded out with artificial intelligence-enabled target data processing, breakthrough command and control, manned-unmanned teaming capabilities, autonomous navigation and sensing, and course-correcting ammunition. Just unveiled at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Symposium, the AbramsX demonstrator vehicle represents an effort to integrate a series of breakthrough technologies and enhancements to propel the tank platform for decades into the future. Could there even be an Abrams in 2050? Can the Army even develop a highly networked and lethal heavy armor platform? Only time will tell. Such questions are certainly on the Army’s mind as it evaluates its future force and seeks to transition promising new technologies to the operational force.

In a special interview with the National Interest, Undersecretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo explained that critical experimentation and analysis is necessary to navigate a specific path forward. However, he also stressed that the Army’s direction needs to prioritize innovation and continued modernization. At the moment, there are far too many evolving variables for a specific determination to be made, Camarillo emphasized. Of course, senior Army leaders regularly avoid offering opinions or making any specific comments related to a particular industry offering or platform, but Camarillo did address the critical dynamics related to heavy armor, combat platforms, and innovation for the future force.

Xi Pledges to Boost Chinese Military Strength at Party Conference

Chinese president Xi Jinping vowed on Sunday that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s military, would be brought to “world-class standards” within five years, setting it on a more level playing field with the United States in time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1927.

In his opening remarks for the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Party Congress in Beijing, Xi claimed that his government would devote further effort to training its troops and attempting to accurately simulate combat conditions. He also noted the political nature of the PLA’s mission and the role of the ruling Communist Party in its efforts to grow stronger.

“We will strengthen Party building across the board in the people’s armed forces to ensure that they always obey the Party’s command,” Xi said, outlining the creation of several new groups within the military tasked with rooting out corruption and enhancing discipline. The Chinese leader emphasized that the strength of the military was the “bedrock of ‘national rejuvenation,’” using a phrase that Beijing has repeated in recent years to refer to China’s future ambitions.

Miami Penthouse That Fetched $20.5 Million at Auction Last Month Now Listed for Nearly $34 Million


A Miami penthouse that sold for $20.5 million at auction in February is back on the market, now with a price tag of $33.9 million.

The three-floor penthouse overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the Regalia Miami in Sunny Isles Beach offers more than 13,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor living space, according to last week’s listing with Mark Pordes of Pordes Residential.

About 3,500 square feet is outdoor space, including a private rooftop that is accessed via a pneumatic glass elevator, the listing said. There’s a pool, a summer kitchen and a bar atop the 46-level tower.

There are also floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the residence that “frame the dramatic ocean and 360-degree unobstructed waterfront views from sunrise to sunset,” the listing said.

Over-the-top amenities can be found at every turn, including “functional art installations” such as a custom rainfall chandelier, a floating staircase in the great room and a lounge area with a 500-bottle wine case and a bar made with a single slab of amethyst stone, according to the listing.

Hands Off: United States Promises Taliban Not to Fund Rebels

Trevor Filseth L

The U.S. government reportedly assured the Taliban during a set of negotiations in early October that it would not attempt to fund resistance to the new government—an announcement made after months of civil protests and escalating anti-Taliban militant activity across the country.

The alleged American assurances came to light after a Taliban official described a high-level U.S.-Taliban meeting—the first meeting between the former enemies since the assassination of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul in July—according to Qatar’s state-run Al Jazeera media network. The meeting took place in Doha, Qatar’s capital, and allegedly included a CIA deputy director on the American side. The U.S. State Department did not comment on the details of the meeting, but confirmed that it had taken place, stating that Washington would “continue to engage the Taliban pragmatically regarding American interests.”

During the meeting, Taliban officials voiced their opposition to President Joe Biden’s transfer of $3.5 billion from the reserves of Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the country’s central bank, into a Swiss trust fund to be used for humanitarian aid projects. The group declared in August that the move was “unacceptable and a violation of international norms.” It has also condemned Biden’s plan to distribute an additional $3.5 billion from the DAB funds to survivors of the September 11 terror attacks, a move that many Western commentators likened to theft.

The Great Chips War


STOCKHOLM – In addition to dealing with the fallout from open warfare in eastern Europe, the world is witnessing the start of a full-scale economic war between the United States and China over technology. This conflict will be highly consequential, and it is escalating rapidly. Earlier this month, the US Commerce Department introduced severe new restrictions on the sale of advanced semiconductors and other US high-tech goods to China. While Russia has used missiles to try to cripple Ukraine’s energy and heating infrastructure, the US is now using export restrictions to curtail China’s military, intelligence, and security services.

Moreover, in late August, US President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS Act, which includes subsidies and other measures to bolster America’s domestic semiconductor industry. Semiconductors are, and will remain, at the heart of the twenty-first century economy. Without microchips, our smartphones would be dumb phones, our cars wouldn’t move, our communications networks wouldn’t function, any form of automation would be unthinkable, and the new era of artificial intelligence that we are entering would remain the stuff of sci-fi novels. Controlling the design, fabrication, and value chains that produce these increasingly important components of our lives is thus of the utmost importance. The new chip war is a war for control of the future.

The New Nuclear Era


NEW YORK – Nuclear weapons have been a feature of international relations since August 1945, when the United States dropped two of them on Japan to hasten the end of World War II. None has been used since then, and they arguably helped keep the Cold War cold by forcing a degree of caution on both sides of the confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union. Moreover, arms-control negotiations succeeded in limiting both countries’ nuclear arsenals and stopped or slowed nuclear proliferation. Today, only seven other countries (the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea) possess nuclear weapons.

The question now is whether we are on the cusp of a new era of expanding nuclear arsenals, a more prominent role for them in geopolitics, and efforts by more countries to acquire them. Adding to the danger is the sense that the nuclear taboo against possessing or even using nuclear weapons is fading, owing to the passage of time and to the emergence of a new generation of so-called tactical nuclear weapons that imply less catastrophic results and therefore may seem more usable.

Leveraging Data for the Public Good


LONDON – The digital age has taught businesses to see people as individuals rather than just as members of certain demographic cohorts. On social media, we receive personalized ads based on our responses to previous ads, our current location, and our shopping habits. Our massive digital footprint enables companies to know precisely how effective their advertising campaigns are at the individual level and to derive immense value from this knowledge.

Alas, it seems that this technological wave has yet to reach policymakers. Despite the advantages of big data, governments still tend to use a one-size-fits-all approach when planning investments or designing policies. To help improve public services through better use of data, we have developed a new framework we call Quantum Governance.

Every successful business is built on three foundations: a shared goal, which serves as its raison d’être; the tools and methods to achieve it; and consumers, who are motivated by their own interests, ambitions, and beliefs. While it has become a staple of public debate that governments should operate like businesses, that is impossible, because these two types of social organization were created for different purposes. What they do have in common, however, is the human factor. And that should be the focus of public-private partnerships in the digital age.

How to Save Emerging Economies from Another Crisis


SEOUL – As the world grapples with an inflationary surge fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sino-American trade frictions, and the war in Ukraine, the United States has settled on its response: interest-rate hikes. But, while this may help the US beat back price growth, higher US interest rates intensify inflationary pressures for others, especially emerging economies.

By raising interest rates, the Federal Reserve is drawing capital toward the US economy, largely from emerging economies. As capital inflows drive up the dollar’s value, capital outflows are dragging down emerging-economy currencies. Since the beginning of this year, the South Korean won has depreciated by 18%, the Egyptian pound by 20%, the Thai baht by 15%, the Indian rupee by 8%, and the Chinese renminbi by 13%.

At the same time, inflation has soared in emerging economies. Nigeria’s inflation rate hit a 17-year high of 20.5% in August. In Egypt, inflation is approaching 15%. And in Argentina, it is forecast to exceed 100% this year. While US monetary policy is hardly the only factor, it is undoubtedly making matters worse.

China’s Digital Inroads Into The Middle East – Analysis

John Calabrese

China’s engagement with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is driven by the need to maintain access to vital energy supplies. Beijing is also motivated by its ambition to expand markets for Chinese products and investment, establish ‘trade hubs’ along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road — the sea-based component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — and enlist partners in efforts to revise the standards and norms of an international order no longer dominated by the United States.

Over the past three decades the MENA has graduated from a region of peripheral importance to China to one ranking much higher in Beijing’s strategic calculations. During that time, China has developed multifaceted relationships with all the MENA countries and has risen to become the most consequential and influential extra-regional actor next to the United States in an era of unfolding US–China global strategic competition.

Sino–Gulf relations illustrate the upward trajectory and increasingly complex pattern of China’s partnerships across the MENA region, which encompass various forms of cooperation within and beyond the energy sector. Energy partnerships, which have served as the backbone of Sino–Gulf relations, have over the years become increasingly complex and mutually advantageous.

Pakistan And The US-India Partnership – Analysis

C Raja Mohan

Is Pakistan becoming a fly once again in the ointment for India’s expanding strategic partnership with the United States (US)? The recent kerfuffle over the renewed US engagement with Pakistan, however, appears to be a storm in a teacup rather than a major change in the US approach to the South Asian siblings and rivals–India and Pakistan.

The suspicions in the Indian foreign policy community about any US relations with Pakistan are deep. While the government continues to reflect these concerns in response to developments between Washington and Islamabad, Delhi might be aware that a potential US role in balancing the Chinese influence in Pakistan does serve Indian interests. So does a US policy moving Pakistan away from support to terror and towards regional economic integration.

For quite some time now, Pakistan appeared completely marginal to the rapid evolution of India-US relations. The chill between Washington and Islamabad that began under the administration of Donald Trump seemed to continue under the Biden Administration. That, however, appeared to be changing in the last few weeks.

China’s 20th Party Congress Report: Doubling Down in the Face of External Threats

President Xi Jinping loomed large over the opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress on October 16, 2022. He is all but guaranteed to emerge from the party congress with a history-making third five-year term, and he is widely expected to tighten his hold over the party by placing political allies in key positions.

Xi kicked off the party gathering with a landmark speech that stretched for nearly two hours. His address, an abridged version of the full party congress report, focused heavily on domestic issues but also provided a useful glimpse into how Xi and the party leadership view the world and China’s place in it. Xi’s address (and the full report) struck a different tone from the last one Xi delivered at the 19th Party Congress in 2017. While Xi still voiced confidence that China’s power and prospects are on the rise, he also doled out stark warnings about the growing threats and challenges that China faces.

China’s Worsening External Environment

In his 2017 report to the 19th Party Congress, Xi took a triumphant tone, proclaiming that China “stands tall and firm in the East” and asserting that China’s soft power and international influence were on the rise. That speech was seen at the time as presaging a more assertive and activist Chinese foreign policy. Those predictions panned out. The last five years witnessed Beijing ratchet up pressure on Taiwan and take steps to crush Hong Kong’s autonomy. Chinese “wolf warrior” diplomats also aggressively ramped up their rhetoric and tactics in defense of Chinese interests.

Supply Chain Sovereignty and Globalization

James Andrew Lewis

This commentary is part of Technology and Power, a series from the CSIS Strategic Technologies Program on the development and governance of key technologies and how they can be used to gain national advantage.

Supply chains are a focal point for tensions between the United States and China, and a central task for democracies is to reduce China’s role in international supply chains. Tensions over supply chains are also part of an increased desire for tech sovereignty. The supply chains constructed during the heyday of globalization were found to be fragile during the Covid-19 pandemic and a potential risk to national security. A reliance on imports and foreign producers is now seen in many capitals as a source of risk.

There is a growing preference for less reliance on imports and for expanding indigenous sources of supply. This can be called supply chain sovereignty. Sovereignty is the authority of a nation to govern itself. The general reassertion of sovereignty shifts policy toward increased national control—the abundance of data localization requirements exemplifies this trend—and sovereign control over important goods and services is also expanding. Globalization helps create the market for technology and supply chain sovereignty will shrink this.

With Pakistan, America is Back Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Mohamed Zeeshan

America’s tempestuous relationship with Pakistan is back on a seesaw. Last month, Washington gave Pakistan a $450 million package to sustain and upgrade its F-16 fighter jet fleet.

But only weeks later, U.S. President Joe Biden revealed what he really felt about Pakistan. “Maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan,” Biden said in a largely unscripted and extemporaneous speech. “Nuclear weapons without any cohesion.”

That statement was later diluted by his administration, which said that it is confident that Pakistan can secure its nuclear arsenal.

For India, this sequence of events brings an eerie sense of déjà vu. For the most part of this century, India has tried to wean the U.S. away from its Cold War era partnership with Pakistan — positioning itself as a more reliable strategic alternative. That foreign policy campaign was predicated on shared values and India’s potential as a democratic counterweight to China — attributes that many in both New Delhi and Washington have long argued Pakistan does not possess.

The Paradox of Bhutan’s Australian Dream

Yedzin Tobgay

When then Australian Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies invited the Royal Government of Bhutan to observe the Colombo Plan meeting in 1962, no one predicted the initiation of diplomatic connections between the two countries would lead to the eventual development of Bhutan’s largest diaspora group.

Fast forward four decades to 2022, and the first Bhutanese film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award was Pawo C. Dorji’s “Lunana, A Yak in the Classroom.” Pawo’s story of a young, discontented Bhutanese teacher convinced of greener pastures Down Under was globally received with praise and the usual hullabaloo lamenting the loss of traditional ways of life to the machine of modernity and globalization. Unfortunately, the reality is that the story of “Lunana” is far more daunting. While aspirations of mobility and building new lives in a foreign land are presumed to only afflict the youth, attrition and retention rates in critical sectors and industries in Bhutan tell a different story.

Presently, more than 30,000 Bhutanese reside in Australia and since the opening of borders in 2022, the numbers have only continued to increase. Although movement to Australia started with human resource development aid for Bhutanese civil servants in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Australia’s growing brand as an international education destination has expanded the doors for any Bhutanese aspiring to migrate. Observers have also noted that several eminent members of Bhutan’s current ruling government earned graduate degrees in Australian universities, signaling soft power returns for the Australian government.