3 December 2022

China Is Deepening Its Military Foothold along the Indian Border at Pangong Tso

Matthew P. Funaiole, Brian Hart, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and Jennifer Jun

China’s recent willingness to tamp down tensions with India at their disputed Himalayan border belies Beijing’s broader strategic ambitions in the region. In September 2022, the two regional powers mutually began to move their troops back from key positions along the hotly contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) near the Gogra Hot Springs. Yet neither side is engaging in a broader pullback. In fact, satellite imagery reveals that China is investing in a significant, long-term military presence near Pangong Tso, a remote lake that straddles the LAC just 50 kilometers south of the Gogra Hot Springs.

Let’s Put the Pentagon’s China Report in Context


The Pentagon released its annual report on Chinese military power this week, and hawks in Congress and the Pentagon will no doubt use it as evidence that China is on the march militarily, and that the U.S. should therefore continue its buildup in the Pacific and its development of a new generation of nuclear weapons. But a closer look at China’s military aspirations in the context of current U.S. capabilities tells a different story.

The report says that China likely possesses 400 nuclear warheads, and that if production stays on pace, the number could more than triple over the next decade. But the United States has over 5,400 warheads in its stockpile, including over 1,600 deployed on bombers, submarines, and long-range ballistic missiles. Even if the Pentagon’s assessment is correct, deterrence would hold; Beijing would be in no position to launch a nuclear strike on the United States or its allies without suffering a devastating attack in return.

Indeed, the disparity suggests that the Pentagon could forgo a significant portion of its three-decade, up-to-$2 trillion plan to build new nuclear-armed bombers, submarines, and missiles, along with new warheads to go with them. Instead of continuing a wasteful and destabilizing arms race, the United States could move towards a “deterrence-only” posture along the lines outlined by the organization Global Zero.

The Significant Hurdles Facing Pakistan’s New Army Chief


EXPERT PERSPECTIVE — Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has made his decision and has chosen Lieutenant-General Asim Munir to be the next Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Sharif has agonised for weeks over this choice and even flew to London in early November to consult his brother, Nawaz, the former prime minister.

Both Nawaz and Shehbaz are still haunted by their near-fatal error in choosing Pervez Musharraf in 1998, only for the apparently mild-mannered general to mount a coup the following year and appoint himself president for the next eight years. Nawaz’s long periods of exile and prison serve as constant reminders of the perils of such decisions.

However, the choice seems to be a good one. Munir was the highest ranking General on the list and has a good pedigree. He has commanded a brigade on operations in the north-west and an army corps near the Indian border. He has run Military Intelligence (MI) the body which monitors the security of the army itself and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) the powerful espionage and security agency which looks at external and internal threats to the state. The latter two appointments demonstrate that he has the total confidence of the outgoing chief, General Qamar Bajwa. After all, Bajwa needs someone to protect his back against any future political or judicial moves against his record in office.

Xi Jinping in His Own Words

By Matt Pottinger, Matthew Johnson, and David Feith

In October, at the 20th National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), General Secretary Xi Jinping set himself up for another decade as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, replaced his most economically literate Politburo colleagues with a phalanx of loyalists, and enshrined the Stalinist-Maoist concept of “struggle” as a guiding principle in the Party Charter. The effect was to turn the page on “reform and opening,” the term the CCP uses to describe the economic liberalization that began in the late 1970s and led to the explosive growth of the Chinese economy in the past four decades.

At the party congress, Xi was granted a third term as the CCP’s top leader—an unprecedented development in the contemporary era and a crucial step in his effort to centralize authority. But perhaps even more significant was the way the congress served to codify a worldview that Xi has been developing over the past decade in carefully crafted official party communications: Chinese-language speeches, documentaries, and textbooks, many of which Beijing deliberately mistranslates for foreign audiences, when it translates them at all. These texts dispel much of the ambiguity that camouflages the regime’s aims and methods and offer a window into Xi’s ideology and motivations: a deep fear of subversion, hostility toward the United States, sympathy with Russia, a desire to unify mainland China and Taiwan, and, above all, confidence in the ultimate victory of communism over the capitalist West. The end state he is pursuing requires the remaking of global governance. His explicit objective is to replace the modern nation-state system with a new order featuring Beijing at its pinnacle.

China’s Middle Class May Be Xi Jinping’s Biggest Threat

Minxin Pei

Myths take years to propagate and only days to puncture. In addition to shocking China’s seemingly unprepared authorities, recent Covid protests in major Chinese cities have claimed two enduring myths about the People’s Republic.

One obviously is the purported superiority of China’s top-down authoritarian system. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has stuck to harsh Covid Zero policies mainly to demonstrate that it can do a better job than Western liberal democracies at suppressing the pandemic. With new infection rates rising to record levels and public anger growing, China’s strategy and the political system behind it are clearly failing, not succeeding.

The other debunked myth is that the CCP has successfully co-opted China’s middle-class. Given that young professionals and college students appear to have made up the bulk of the protesters, we need to ask whether the world was too quick to write off middle-class Chinese as a force for political change.

Jiang Zemin Helped China Become a Global Powerhouse

Victor Shih

When Chinese recall Jiang Zemin, who stepped down as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2002, they sometimes laugh about a well-known episode in 2000 when he berated a Hong Kong reporter for being “too simple, sometimes naive.” Jiang’s outsized response to an innocuous question about the next leader of Hong Kong spurred bemused murmurs and plenty of sarcasm. It epitomized a patronizing and bullying style of leadership stemming from the deep conviction of Jiang and other leaders that they knew best.

In truth, Jiang, who, according to official media, died on Nov. 30 in Shanghai at the age of 96, oversaw two crucial transitions that shaped and largely improved the lives of the people of China. First, he peacefully guided his country out of the shadow of China’s founding revolutionaries, who had spent decades purging one another and at times caused great pain and sorrow for everyone else. Second, although hesitant at first, Jiang came to embrace the market economy. As China struggles under the pressures of its zero-COVID policy, and after nationwide protests swept the country last weekend, Jiang’s rule now seems to many like a period of relative hope.

Technology propels China’s Gulf strategy forward

N Janardhan,  and Gedaliah Afterman

A ‘flying car’ built by Chinese company Xpen Aeroht made its first public flight in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in October 2022. A few months earlier, China’s NWTN — a passenger transport company — announced that it would build an electric vehicle facility in Abu Dhabi. These technological headways show that US efforts to convince Gulf allies to restrict China’s influence have been unsuccessful.

Across the UAE’s borders, Huawei and the Saudi Digital Academy agreed in 2022 to advance local technological talent and realise the digital transformation — the use of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cybersecurity and 5G — envisioned in Saudi Vision 2030, Riyadh’s blueprint for economic diversification. Despite US President Joe Biden explicitly arguing in July 2022 that improving US–Saudi relations is essential to ‘outcompete China’, it will be an uphill task with the intensification of the Gulf–China synergy.

China may get top ownership of US lithium mine


A Canadian company is hoping to get approval and federal funding for a new lithium mine in northern Nevada, but former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Republican lawmakers are raising concerns about the mining company’s largest shareholder, a Chinese firm. The mining company is going through with an effort to dilute this Chinese ownership, but concerns remain about China’s potential influence over the critical mineral mine at a time when China is seeking to overtake the U.S. as a dominant global power.

Lithium Americas, a Canadian-based company, has been trying to get approval from the U.S. federal government to proceed with its Thacker Pass mine in northern Nevada for years but is awaiting approval to begin mining. The company is already facing a variety of legal challenges to the new mining project — including from Native American and environmental groups — but the Republican politicians are also honing in on the mining company’s largest shareholder: China-based Ganfeng Lithium Co Ltd.

Lithium is a key material for electric batteries. Lithium Americas is trying to get approval for the Thacker Pass mine at a time when China controls roughly 60 percent of the world’s lithium resources and has a commanding position over the electric battery supply chain. Bloomberg Law reported the U.S. currently only has one lithium mine in operation at Albemarle’s Silver Peak in southwestern Nevada.

Reject the CCP’s Effort to Co-opt Buddhism

Michael Rubin

In 2001, the world was aghast when the Taliban dynamited the 1,500-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site. The destruction of the Buddhas in Afghanistan was not the world’s worst assault on Buddhist heritage, however. That began in 1950 when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded Tibet. Nine years later, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Mao Zedong began a twenty-year campaign to eliminate Buddhist heritage in Tibet. Chinese forces destroyed more than 99 percent of the country’s 6,000 monasteries and forced the Dalai Lama into exile in India.

The CCP’s role as the most destructive force to Buddhism since Genghis Khan makes Beijing’s attempt to leverage Buddhism to China’s diplomatic benefit even more cynical and audacious. It is akin to Turkey seeking to speak on behalf of Armenian culture or Serbia seeking to be the voice of Bosnian or Kosovar Muslims.

Where Realpolitik Went Wrong


It may be a sign of decline in John Mearsheimer’s mental acuity that, nine months after coming off quite badly in one Q&A by the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, he agreed to strap himself in for another round of grilling and emerged more battered still.

Professors of political science don’t generally cause a stir, but intellectual self-immolation is a rare spectacle. And Chotiner’s one-two torching of Mearsheimer is a barn-burner.

In the past year, to a degree rarely matched by academics in his field, Mearsheimer made a splash in the public debate. He has argued that NATO—and especially the United States—is “principally responsible” for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; that Vladimir Putin’s aims in this war are limited to keeping Ukraine in Moscow’s orbit; that Putin has the right to make this claim; and that the U.S. should not only end the war quickly but form an alliance with Russia in broader geopolitical ventures. He is wrong on all these points, for reasons that go deeper than the obvious ones.

Why Isn’t Joe Biden Supporting Protests In China And Iran?

Michael Rubin

Biden Should Speak Out Forcefully for Chinese and Iranian Protestors: China’s protests caught the White House by surprise. America’s “near-peer” competitor and top military threat hobbled, at least temporarily, by widespread protests was not something the State Department or the intelligence community’s top China hands expected.

The Biden administration’s response was weak. “We’ve long said everyone has the right to peacefully protest, in the United States and around the world. This includes in the PRC [the People’s Republic of China],” a National Security Council statement read.

Once again, political appointees and professional diplomats responded as if by a computer algorithm rather than with an appreciation of the ideological battle in which the United States finds itself, the outcome of which will shape the fate of the rules-based order over the remainder of the century. The tepidness of the statement undermines any meaning it might have.

Washington’s Carthaginian Peace Collides With Reality

Douglas Macgregor

The national political and military leaders who committed America to wars of choice in Vietnam, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, did so as a rule because they were convinced the fighting would be short and decisive. American presidents, presidential advisors, and senior military leaders never stopped to consider that national strategy, if it exists at all, consists of avoiding conflict unless the nation is attacked and compelled to fight.

The latest victim of this mentality is Ukraine. In the absence of a critical root-and-branch analysis of Russia’s national power and strategic interests, American senior military leaders and their political bosses viewed Russia through a narrowly focused lens that magnified U.S. and Ukrainian strengths but ignored Russia’s strategic advantages—geographic depth, almost limitless natural resources, high social cohesion, and the military-industrial capacity to rapidly scale up its military power.

Eurasia in Crisis

George Friedman

Demonstrations against Beijing’s zero-COVID policy have surged in the past week, with people voicing their frustration at not only the lockdown measures but also the government and President Xi Jinping himself. This kind of unrest is nearly unprecedented in the modern Chinese era and certainly cause for concern among the ruling elite.

Since the pandemic began, Beijing has consistently sought to contain COVID-19 by imposing city-wide lockdowns in which entry and exit were limited, if not forbidden, and in which activities were severely constrained. Why the government adopted such strict measures is unclear. No other countries imposed this degree of containment, largely because the costs of doing so were so high. Shanghai, the country’s most important financial hub, was shut down for weeks, while similar shutdowns occurred in smaller cities. And this is to say nothing of the impossibility of hermetically sealing large, densely populated and otherwise bustling Chinese cities.

How Joe Biden suckered Europe

Marwan Bishara

Europe is lost for answers.

Ever since Russia took Europe by surprise in Ukraine, America has taken its transatlantic partner for granted. With a new type of cold war emerging between Moscow and Washington, the continent has been left in the cold, literally and figuratively.

Dumbstruck and destabilised, the European Union has been divided over how to respond to this new superpower rivalry. Though determined to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom and independence from Russia, Europeans have also been trapped by its consequences.

Some, like Hungary, want some form of accommodation for Russia, while others, like Sweden and Poland, want greater accommodation for America. But the continent’s political and economic power brokers are seeking greater independence from both.

John Mearsheimer: We’re playing Russian roulette


Until the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Professor John Mearsheimer was mainly known in academic circles as a leading scholar in the “realist” school of foreign policy. That is to say, he takes an unsentimental view of world affairs as being a muscular competition between great powers for regional hegemony.

But with the Ukrainian “Maidan revolution” in 2014 and then the Russian invasion this February, he became a figurehead for the millions of people worldwide who have misgivings about the wisdom of Western actions in Ukraine. A single lecture delivered in 2015 entitled “Why is Ukraine the West’s fault” has been viewed a staggering 28 million times on YouTube.

His central argument, that by expanding Nato eastwards and inviting Ukraine to join the bloc, the West (and in particular the United States) created an intolerable situation for Vladimir Putin which would inevitably result in Russia taking action to “wreck” Ukraine, is politically unsayable today. His critics denounce him as a Putin apologist; his supporters, however, believe the invasion was proof that he was right all along.

The Fight Over Eurasia Will Determine the Destinies of the World


Two retired U.S. Army colonels and combat veterans, Daniel Davis and Douglas Macgregor, writing separately in 19FortyFive and the American Conservative, respectively, warn that Russia has deployed a half-million combat forces in southern Ukraine, Belarus, and western Russia, including 1,000 rocket artillery systems, hundreds of tactical ballistic and cruise missiles and drones, 5,000 armored vehicles, more than 1,000 tanks, and hundreds of bombers, helicopters, and fighter planes, poised to attack Ukrainian forces in the wake of recent devastating air attacks on Ukraine’s power grids, communications and transportation infrastructure, and energy production.

Macgregor opines that “[i]t is now possible to project that the new Russian armed forces that will evolve from the crucible of war in Ukraine will be designed to execute strategically decisive operations.” Davis adds that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use “every conventional tool in his military chest to subdue Ukraine” because, if he fails in this war, he may be forced from power in 2023.

Writing the Ukraine War history, as it happens

James Carden

Heading into its tenth month, the war in Ukraine, and the resulting political, social and economic upheavals brought about by Russia’s illegal invasion, have given rise to a narrative in Washington notable both for its ferocity and unanimity.

A coterie of neoconservative and liberal interventionistthought-leaders’ with a direct line to the Biden National Security Council have ruled as out-of-bounds views which take into account the role the United States and NATO, or even Ukraine itself, may have played in bringing about the current crisis. Such views have been deemed largely irrelevant to what is seen as a global battle, in which Ukraine is currently the most important front, between an alliance of global authoritarians on the one hand (Russia, China, Iran) and the forces of freedom and democracy (Ukraine, the U.S., NATO) on the other.

The trouble with much of what passes for informed analysis on the current state of affairs in Ukraine is that it is clouded by what the Biden administration and its eager servants in the media wish to be true, rather than by what is actually true. That, as a recent Quincy Institute panel on the Global South demonstrated, enormous swathes of the world outside of Europe and the Anglophone North Atlantic do not share the NATO-centric view of Russian aggression seems rarely, if ever, taken into account by Washington’s foreign policy “Blob.” Yet, as the journalist and grand strategist Walter Lippmann once observed, “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”

Europe’s anti-American itch


BERLIN — It’s gotten cold in Europe, the economy is tanking and the natives are getting restless. There’s only one answer: Blame America.

Pointing across the Atlantic has long been a favorite diversionary tactic for Europe’s political elites when things start to get dicey on the Continent.

Whether it’s the war in Ukraine (Washington shouldn’t have expanded NATO), natural disasters (too many American SUVs fueling climate change) or the demise of French as a lingua franca (cultureless Hollywood), America is inevitably the culprit.

In the latest instalment of this tedious tradition, European officials are trying to blame the greedy Americans for the Continent’s current funk, accusing them of placing the mighty dollar über alles, stooping so low as to even take advantage of the war in Ukraine.

Warfare Unmanned

ibrahim al-marashi

On November 3, 2002, an unmanned U.S. Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile at an automobile in Yemen, carrying Al-Qaeda operative Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, and five other men. All of them were killed. The strike was the first time the US killed a member of Al-Qaeda outside of Afghanistan. It was also the first time a drone had successfully killed its intended target.

Exactly twenty years later, this weapon platform proves to be an addictive means for the US to project death from a distance. It serves as a politically expedient tactical measure for Washington. However, when the US introduced weaponized drones in the region, it would lead others to adopt and adapt these weapons, resulting in their proliferation, from armed hobby drones used by the Islamic State to domestically produced drones in Iran that even Russia has used as low-cost cruise missiles in Ukraine.

Two decades ago, the US ushered in the drone wars, and this conflict will continue to evolve. The technology has already been coupled with artificial intelligence to create a flying killer robot, the threshold of a new phase of digital warfare. Not only would such a technology give the leadership of any country the ability to wage war without the need for human pilots, and thus human oversight, but such technology can be turned within the borders of any state against its own civilians, either for surveillance or crushing domestic dissent.

Counterterrorism Yearbook 2022

Katja Theodorakis and Gill Savage

The Road from 9/11

It’s been its been over two decades since the 9/11 attacks when two planes hit the World Trade Center, one hit the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania. Close to 3,000 people died and many others were injured, and even more people were traumatised by the experience and the loss of loved ones. Today’s release of the Counterterrorism (CT) yearbook 2022 coincides with the anniversary of the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and the deaths of 174 people. These and other acts of terror have left an indelible mark and shaped the years that followed.

Australia’s overall security environment is increasingly challenging to navigate. Emerging threats such as information operation campaigns, cyberattacks and climate change are increasing the complexity of the world. In 2022, major geopolitical events including Russia’s war on Ukraine and China’s continuing coercive operations and aggression, occupied a significant space in national discourse. Foreign interference and espionage have continued to rise to the forefront of intelligence agencies priorities.