8 February 2023

Attention, Joe Biden: China Is Trying to Create a Crisis with India

Michael Rubin

On January 10, 2023, the U.S. House of Representatives formally assembled the Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party that Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) will chair. The Select Committee on China is long overdue. While previous attempts to stand up a similar committee faltered amidst House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s unease, China’s bluster against the backdrop of her Taiwan trip changed Democratic minds.

The committee has its work cut out for it. Chinese aggression is far more pervasive than many Americans recognize. Too often, China’s threats to Taiwan dominate the conversation in Washington. The United States should not take these threats lightly. China neither has a legal nor historical right to Taiwan. But they are only a small slice of China’s ongoing aggression. So too is China’s land grabs in the South China Sea, where it continues to seize and fortify Philippine and Vietnamese reefs and atolls. China employs the same strategy in the mountain highlands along its border with India where in June 2020, Chinese soldiers set upon an Indian patrol in Ladakh and beat them with rocks and clubs wrapped with barbed wire.
China Tries to Claim Territory in India

Even the aggression in Ladakh gets more attention than the current hotspot of Chinese aggression: Arunachal Pradesh. China’s ‘salami-slicing’ is picking up speed against the small northeastern Indian state. In December 2021, China began renaming towns and villages inside India and, just as it did with its so-called “Nine-Dash Line” in the China Sea, it fabricated a historical claim out of whole cloth. More recently, it has refused to issue visas to residents of the state traveling to China to compete in athletics competitions, Beijing argues this is because they are actually from China, no matter their Indian citizenship.

In recent months, however, China grew more aggressive militarily. On December 9, for example, the People’s Liberation Army clashed with the Indian Army near the Chumi Gyatse Falls. While the situation at the border is stable today, it remains unpredictable. That such armed clashes between two nuclear powers went largely unmentioned in the American media reflects a dangerous trend toward navel-gazing that, unfortunately, extends to the White House and Pentagon. It is important the United States remain engaged diplomatically in the Ukraine crisis, but Ukraine cannot be an excuse to ignore the rest of the world.

China Builds Into Territory

India and the Second Coming of the Space Age


Summary: India needs its domestic legal frameworks in place before it can compete in the Second Space Age and reap its benefits. The country should look at introducing or amending legal frameworks to provide certainty to domestic entrepreneurs and foreign investors about the scope of permissible space activities and how they will be treated under Indian law.

The term “sputnik moment” is popularly used to connote a moment in time when a nation realizes, usually belatedly, that its technological prowess has been surpassed by a rival nation. For the United States, this moment came when the erstwhile USSR launched the first-ever satellite Sputnik into outer space, ushering in the “first” Space Age.

The first Space Age was only a part of the larger geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and the USSR. Accordingly, the battle for supremacy in outer space was led primarily by public actors such as governments, with private entities taking a backseat with respect to geopolitical calculations. While rapid strides were indeed made in space technology, an important question to ask to gauge the success of the first Space Age is not only what happened, but what should have happened, and did not.

Arguably, the missing component here was the failure to involve more commercial enterprises as equal players in spacefaring endeavors. Accordingly, what began with a bang ended with a whimper as the first Space Age languished in commercializing the space sector to the degree seen in other sectors like semiconductors, which had broken ground around the same time.

However, this is now changing with the flourishing of a second Space Age.

Various factors are at play here. A McKinsey & Co. report highlighted how, due to advances in software, off-the-shelf components, miniaturization, and re-usable rockets had lowered the costs of reaching space. Geopolitical factors also remain as germane as ever. For instance, nations are now realizing that space is indeed the final frontier, for both public and private actors, in a race for dominance.

Frontiers in Flux: Indo-Tibetan Border: 1946–1948

Sonika Gupta

On the eve of Indian Independence, as Britain prepared to devolve the Crown’s treaties with Tibet to the Indian government, the Tibetan government was debating its future treaty relationship with India under the 1914 Simla Convention and associated Indo-Tibetan Trade Regulations. Soon after Indian independence, Tibetan government made an expansive demand for return of Tibetan territory along the McMahon Line and beyond. This led to a long diplomatic exchange between Lhasa, New Delhi and London as India deliberated its response to the Tibetan demand. This article decodes the voluminous correspondence between February 1947 and January 1948 that flowed between the British/Indian Mission in Lhasa, the Political Officer in Sikkim, External Affairs Ministry in Delhi and the Foreign Office in London, on the Simla Convention and the ensuing Tibetan territorial demand. Housed at the National Archives in New Delhi, this declassified confidential communication provides crucial context for newly independent Indian state’s relationship with Tibet. It also reveals the intricacies of Tibetan elite politics that affected decision-making in Lhasa translating to a fragmented and often contradictory policy in forging its new relationship with India. Most importantly, this Tibetan territorial demand undermined the diplomatic efficacy of Tibet’s 1947 Trade Mission to India entangling its outcome with the resolution of this issue. This was a lost opportunity for both India and Tibet in building an agreement on the frontier which worked to their mutual disadvantage in the future.

In 1959, as India and China wrangled over the McMahon line, the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai wrote to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asserting that the McMahon Line was illegal and that Tibet too had expressed ‘dissatisfaction with this line, and, following the independence of India in 1947, cabled Your Excellency asking India to return all the territory of Tibet region of China south of this illegal line.’1 In response to this Nehru wrote back to Zhou Enlai refuting the territorial claims made in the Tibetan cable as fantastical. Nehru asserted;

I entirely disagree with the inference drawn by you from the exchange of two communications between the Tibetan Bureau in Lhasa and the new Government of India in 1947. The facts are that our Mission in Lhasa forwarded to us a telegram, dated the l6th October 1947 from the Tibetan Bureau. The telegram asked for the return of alleged Tibetan territories on boundaries of India and Tibet ‘such as Sayul and Walong and in direction of Pemakoe, Lonag, Lopa, Mon, Bhutan; Sikkim, Darjeeling and others on this side of river Ganges and Lowo, Ladakh, etc., up to boundary of Yarkhim.’ It will be seen that the areas claimed by Tibet had not been defined. If they were to be taken literally, the Tibetan boundary would come down to the line of the river Ganges. The Government of India could not possibly have entertained such a fantastic claim. If they had the faintest idea that this telegram would be made the basis of a subsequent claim to large areas of Indian territory, they would of course have immediately and unequivocally rejected the claim.2

Who is Gautam Adani, the Indian businessman who lost $50 billion in 10 days?

Nikhil Kumar

When India’s Narendra Modi won the 2014 election to become the country’s prime minister, he flew in a private jet from his native state of Gujarat, in the west, to the capital New Delhi. The plane was emblazoned with the corporate insignia of a local business conglomerate that was only just beginning to make its presence felt on the global stage: the Adani Group.

It was a seminal moment that underlined the twin meteoric rises of Modi and Gautam Adani, founder of the conglomerate that bears his name and which does everything from operating ports and airports to manufacturing cement and food products.

Like Modi, Adani is a native of India’s western Gujarat state. Until January, he ranked among the world’s five richest people, with a fortune north of $120 billion that placed him in the company of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. He was unquestionably the richest person in Asia.

In the last few weeks alone, he has dropped precipitously in those rankings — and he has lost a fortune — after a New York-based financial firm accused his businesses of engaging in stock manipulation and accounting fraud.

The claims — angrily denied by Adani’s executives — triggered a sell-off in the stock prices of various Adani group companies. And that, in turn, has knocked Adani’s own net worth back by some $50 billion, according to calculations by Bloomberg. $50 billion — nearly half his net worth — gone in less than two weeks.

It has been a spectacular fall.

“We were shocked when the allegations appeared,” Girish Dane, the former head of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Grid.

Who is Gautam Adani? Dane has known Adani since his early years as a small-time trader in Gujarat, long before he vaulted into the ranks of the global superrich. A college dropout with no background in business, Adani was a shrewd dealmaker, Dani remembers, alive to new opportunities in new markets as India’s economy underwent a period of liberalization and expansion in the 1990s. He moved across sectors — from commodities to diamonds to infrastructure — doing deals that ultimately made him a billionaire.

A Force of Moderation or Radicalisation? The Role of Afghanistan’s Ulema

Tim Foxley and Dr Antonio Giustozzi

With Afghanistan largely turning its back on the outside world, the country’s religious scholars might be in a key position to influence the direction taken by the Taliban government. But what sort of an influence will they be?

In August 2021, the Taliban took power quickly and decisively in Afghanistan following the rapid unravelling of the former government. They are probably at a stage, relatively early into their rule, where they are less inclined to compromise on the direction of their government or to take advice from outsiders. Instead, the Taliban have called on the religious scholars (ulema) to legitimise and advise their government. After all, the ulema constitute the backbone of the Taliban as a clerical movement – and the Taliban’s leaders see themselves as ulema. From the start of their existence in 1994, the Taliban have been committed to the implementation of Islamic Law (Sharia), even if with significant changes over time.

The ulema are not internally homogeneous. The most obvious division is between Sunnis and Shia, with the latter representing probably around 15%, proportionally to the population. Although several senior Shia clerics have been negotiating with the Taliban, none of them are anywhere close to the Taliban’s leadership. There are divisions among the Sunnis as well, of the which the most important is between Salafis and Hanafis. The former account for at most 5% of the population and presumably for a similar share of the ulema. The Taliban leader, Amir Haibatullah Akhundzada, has declared that the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia will be in accordance with Hanafi jurisprudence. Within the 80% or so of ulema who are Hanafi Sunnis, different tendencies can be identified, such as the Salafi-leaning Ahl-e Sunnat wa Jamaat, which is quite marginal in Afghanistan; Sufi orders, which despite their long-term decline remain quite influential; Muslim Brotherhood-influenced groups, which are not united but overall are quite significant; and more. The ulema most influential with the Taliban leadership are all Hanafis influenced by the militant brand of Deobandism that has become popular in Pakistan. Many Sufis, Muslim Brothers and Ahl-e Sunnat wa Jamaat are also linked to the Taliban, or sympathise with them, but they are not, generally speaking, associated with the top leaders. The ulema linked to the notorious Haqqani network tend to be closer to the Muslim Brotherhood or even to Ahl-e Sunnat wa Jamaat, rather than Deobandism, and while they have access to Interior Minister Serajuddin Haqqani, they are not close to Akhundzada.

At present there is little evidence of Hanafi ulema groups opposing the Taliban’s Emirate and there appears to be widespread support, at least among Pashtuns. Many ulema appear keen to be involved in the design and administration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) governance model and have reached out to the Taliban. Various ulema groups peripheral to the Taliban (even Shia ulema) have also offered discussions, but with few tangible results thus far. Given the Taliban’s extreme reliance on religious stricture for all manner of political, military, social and cultural policy, it is likely that some ulema will have significant access and influence with the Emirate. On 30 June 2022, the Taliban gathered together up to 3,000 Taliban-friendly religious scholars in Kabul for a ‘Great Conference of Ulema’.

For Pakistan, dealing with its Taliban problem is a walk on eggshells

Javid Ahmad

The recent chain of troubling events involving the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, wreaking havoc paints an alarming picture of rising instability across Pakistan. At a disturbing rate, the TTP has killed members of Pakistan’s security services, brazenly broken into a prison, breached military checkpoints, attacked mosques, and undermined Pakistanis’ confidence in their government’s assurance of security. Amid Pakistan’s toxic political scene, the TTP threat has accelerated the danger of many smoldering fires across Pakistan’s sprawling network of jihadists waiting to be lit.

Alas, despite Pakistan’s spirited crisis marketing, much of the country’s internal upheaval is a consequence of its own making. Amid the complex of a divided nation stoked by anti-Americanism and on the brink of financial default, the government’s discriminatory treatment of ethnic Pashtuns and indigenous communities has steadily weaponized local grievances against the state. The Pakistani establishment has treated those communities effectively as a colony, disenfranchising the population and creating an extremist mercurial street. Historically, Pashtuns have not taken pleasure in how they are viewed as solid fighters, but rather that they are survivalists. And today, the establishment fears moderate Pashtuns more than extremist ones like the Pakistani Taliban. To be sure, the Pakistani Taliban are neither Afghan nor Indian, but disgruntled ordinary Pakistanis who are waging a dangerous domestic insurgency against the state.

But they are not alone in their struggle.

For years, the TTP delivered significant operational support to their ideological siblings in the Afghan Taliban and later romanticized the Taliban’s reclaiming of their lost emirate. For the TTP, the Afghan Taliban’s takeover presented an important victory template—a model the former has shrewdly followed to carve out its own Sharia-compliant territory inside Pakistan. To do so, elements within the Afghan Taliban have returned the favor to select TTP factions for their historical cooperation, including offering some TTP members refuge inside Afghanistan while also delivering others to Pakistan. Scores of TTP members have since relocated to Afghanistan—a bitter reality for ordinary Afghans who often derisively identify certain Afghan districts as the “TTP districts,” whose members despise being referred to as “foreign fighters.”

A Chinese balloon exposes a massive vulnerability


On February 2, a high-altitude Chinese balloon assumed to be loaded with sensitive surveillance gear traveled over Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States. It turns out to have been one of several over time – and the Pentagon watched it travel over Montana, home of one the US military’s land-based, nuclear-tipped Minuteman III missile fields.

Are you concerned? The Pentagon is surprisingly sanguine.

The Pentagon has confirmed that the balloon is Chinese, and that China has asked for “calm” about the incident. Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder said, “Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years.… We acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”

Three questions:If they knew about the balloons, why were they permitted to continue flight?
What weight does China’s call for “calm” carry with the administration in light of a military violation of our borders?
What if it wasn’t “surveillance equipment” at all?

The administration wants us to agree that a Chinese intrusion into US airspace is not a big deal. And a high-altitude balloon can, indeed, be used for surveillance. But it can also carry weapons – for example, a nuclear EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon intended to create a crisis over an American nuclear site.

The Pentagon made three points of its own. First, that the balloon was operating well above the altitude of commercial aviation, but the incident only became public because it was, in fact, spotted by a passenger on a commercial flight.

Second, the military opposed shooting down the balloon because there might be debris that could injure civilians, but the population density of Montana undermines the point.

China’s Dominance in Central Asia: Myth or Reality?

Yunis Sharifli

While many have argued that Russia will cede ground to China in Central Asia as a result of the Ukraine war, the reality is more complicated.

There are incessant debates on the Sino-Russian strategic partnership in Central Asia. The relationship between the two countries in the region has been termed ‘cooperative hegemony’ or a ‘division of labour’. According to the logic of the division of labour in Central Asia, Russia plays a vital role as a political and military power, while China acts as an important economic power and investor in infrastructural development. Since the Russia–Ukraine war began, there has been a growing narrative that China is increasing its power at Russia's expense in Central Asia.

According to this narrative, the war in Ukraine is increasingly challenging Moscow's political, military and economic dominance, leading to a loss of influence over the former Soviet countries in Central Asia. Supporters of the narrative argue that in line with Russia's dwindling power, Beijing is becoming more and more willing to defend its regional interests – even at the expense of Moscow – and stands to fill the emerging power vacuum.

A range of developments demonstrate the declining power of Russia in Central Asia. In terms of politics, Central Asian countries’ neutrality over the Russia–Ukraine war points to the Kremlin’s decreasing clout in the region. None of the Central Asian states endorsed Russia's annexation of parts of Ukraine. At the St Petersburg Economic Forum, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev rejected Russia's calls to recognise pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev eloquently condemned Soviet pressure. Moreover, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan's announcement recognising Ukraine’s territorial integrity and promising humanitarian aid to Ukraine can be seen as an example of Russia’s declining political influence in the Central Asian republics.

The war has damaged not only Russia’s political power in the region, but also its soft power. Tensions between Russia and Kazakhstan, fuelled by the nationalist discourses of Russian politicians regarding ethnically Russian regions in northern Kazakhstan and their obscene territorial claims, have negatively affected Central Asians' perception of Russia. The influx of Russians into Central Asian countries has also created anti-Russian sentiment and provoked ethnic divisions, fostering nationalist tendencies in public opinion.

China's precarious path forward – insights from the MERICS China Forecast 2023

Our survey of 880 China watchers suggests the country’s course is most unpredictable – except that it will continue to stand by Moscow and accept EU-China relations fraying.

Unbridled power in the hands of Xi Jinping, underlying pressures economic and social, and unpredictable policies in any number of fields – the level of uncertainty about China in the year ahead has never been higher than in this fourth edition of our MERICS China Forecast. We solicited the views of 880 China experts and non-expert members of the public with an interest in the country. Their responses don’t make for optimistic reading.

Last year’s events in China at least still ranged from the surprising to the certain. In October, Xi secured his expected third term as general secretary and packed the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Politburo with loyalists. But then in November, nationwide protests against draconian Covid-19 lockdowns caught the political establishment on the backfoot. And it, in turn, in December surprised everyone by abruptly ending many of its zero-covid measures.
China watchers suggest a possible “pressure cooker” scenario in China

At the start of 2023, the China watchers we surveyed consider the ongoing dynamics of Covid-19, the geopolitical environment and a looming global recession as the top three challenges the country in the (still almost) 12 months ahead. They are seen as additional risks to China’s economic and technological development, with the potential to put greater pressure on Chinese society. Given this, our respondents consider Covid-19 measures, economic stress and social inequality the most likely triggers of renewed public dissent.

Beijing takes aim at Airbus and Boeing’s dominance

COMAC’s new single-aisle jet could see the Chinese company break the Western duopoly in China and then in markets further afield, argue Max J. Zenglein and Gregor Sebastian.

China’s new C919 single-aisle passenger jet could hail the end of Airbus and Boeing’s global duopoly. After nearly 15 years of development, state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) delivered the country’s first homegrown passenger jet to China Eastern Airlines in December 2022. Airbus and Boeing can expect only a slow erosion of their supremacy over the large-jet market– for one, the C919 will need some time to prove its competitiveness. But they will have to brace for an eventually very different global market.

COMAC’s domestic market-share looks set to climb steadily

The C919’s market entry is a symbol of China’s technological rise and a source of national pride. A rival to the best-selling A320 and 737, the aircraft should enable China’s largely state-owned aviation sector to meet the government target of reaching 10 percent domestic market-share by 2025. Production glitches or safety issues aside, COMAC´s domestic market-share looks set to climb steadily in a huge and increasingly protected home market, with the company at some point reaching the scale to brave the step into foreign markets and global competition.

Boeing and Airbus currently have more than 10,000 commitments for orders on their books, most of them for narrow body aircraft. They are the bread-and-butter models for manufacturers, accounting for around 60 percent of all jets. Russian contenders ­– the Tupolev Tu-204 and Tu-214 and the more recent Irkut MC-21 – have over the past quarter century tried to break the US-European domination of the market for single-aisle aircraft. But they can at best occupy a stable, albeit tiny niche, having racked up a few hundred domestic orders.
The size of China’s market gives COMAC an essential home advantage

Given the high development costs, small production runs are not economically viable. This was the key reason for the consolidation of aircraft manufacturing in Europe and the USA over the past few decades. But the size of China’s domestic market gives COMAC an essential and lucrative home advantage. Boeing estimates that China will need 6,500 narrow-body aircraft between 2016-2035, a quarter of global demand. It’s likely that orders from Chinese airlines will no longer be tidily divided between Airbus and Boeing as COMAC gains ground at home.

Chinese Spy Balloons: The Sky’s the Limit

James Andrew Lewis

Balloons were an important tool for intelligence gathering in the nineteenth century. Since then, their usefulness has declined sharply. The United States used high-altitude balloons in the 1950s to spy on the Soviet Union (the Soviets complained and shot them down). Balloons were replaced, first by the U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance plane (also shot down) and then by Corona reconnaissance satellites, the first of many generations of spy satellites that many countries use today. Now a Chinese balloon is drifting over the United States, raising grave concerns over people who should know better.

Balloons are not an ideal platform for spying. They are big and hard to hide. They go where the winds take them (prevailing winds goes from North Asia to the Northwest United States) and are essentially unsteerable. Japan launched balloons to drop firebombs on Washington state in WWII—the target was Seattle, but they could never get the balloons to fly over it. Balloons would be a strange choice for a technologically advanced and sophisticated opponent.

A balloon has to carry a sensor payload to gather information, but since the balloon will never return to base, there has to be some way to transfer the collected data back home. In the 1960s, the United States developed a complicated technology that let a C-130 aircraft snatch the dangling payload dropped from the first reconnaissance satellites, but to use a similar system, the Chinese would have to fly a large plane over U.S. territory, a very risky proposition. Or the payload could be parachuted to the ground, but that means any payload would not be recovered unless China has people standing around in Montana or Labrador, also a risky proposition. The balloon could radio back any collected data, perhaps even to a Chinese satellite overhead, but there have been no reports of radio transmission from the balloon. Collecting data but being unable to get it back is a waste of time and money. No signal, no payload, no spying.

The Next Flashpoint? China, the Republic of Korea, and the Yellow Sea

Oriana Skylar Mastro

This article evaluates China’s strategy in the Yellow Sea by synthesizing relevant discourse, interests, capabilities, and behavior through an analysis of Chinese sources and the compilation of an original dataset of Chinese military activities in these waters.

China’s Yellow Sea strategy has received less scholarly and policy attention than its approaches to the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Indian Ocean. However, China has significant economic and strategic reasons to prioritize its presence in these waters, including ongoing sovereignty disputes with the Republic of Korea (ROK). Chinese military exercises in the Yellow Sea have increased in recent years, with gray-zone activities playing a distant, secondary role to traditional military exercises. Moreover, China’s propaganda approach has been relatively limited and moderate, and thus there is still time to shape Beijing’s thinking and approach to these waters.

POLICY IMPLICATIONSWhile Chinese maritime ambitions are arguably more limited in the Yellow Sea than the South and East China Seas, China’s expanding military capabilities and subsequent uptick in military activity demand a greater policy focus there.

The U.S. should pursue a proactive hedging strategy toward China in the Yellow Sea. This could entail seeking cooperation with Beijing to address shared security threats, like North Korean WMD proliferation, while also preparing to respond strongly if China’s ambitions change or if it begins a more extensive coercive campaign for exclusive control of these waters.

The U.S.-ROK alliance should adapt to China’s increasing activities in the Yellow Sea by increasing joint monitoring, contingency planning, and consultations about the degree to which the alliance covers the protection of ROK forces, aircraft, and civilian vessels operating in the sea.

China Aids Russia’s War in Ukraine, Trade Data Shows

Ian Talley, Anthony DeBarros

WASHINGTON—China is providing technology that Moscow’s military needs to prosecute the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine despite an international cordon of sanctions and export controls, according to a Wall Street Journal review of Russian customs data.

The customs records show Chinese state-owned defense companies shipping navigation equipment, jamming technology and jet-fighter parts to sanctioned Russian government-owned defense companies.

Those are but a handful of tens of thousands of shipments of dual-use goods—products that have both commercial and military applications—that Russia imported following its invasion last year, according to the customs records provided to the Journal by C4ADS, a Washington-based nonprofit that specializes in identifying national-security threats. Most of the dual-use shipments were from China, the records show.

China’s backing for Russia while it wages war on Ukraine was supposed to be on the agenda for discussion during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s travels to Beijing this weekend. That trip was indefinitely postponed Friday after the Pentagon said that it had tracked a Chinese reconnaissance balloon over the continental U.S. earlier in the week.

Chinese state-owned defense companies have shipped navigation equipment and other military gear to sanctioned Russian companies, customs records show. The Yangshan deep-water port in Shanghai.

War preparation needed: experts

Taiwan should strengthen infrastructure, stock up on reserves and step up efforts to encourage Taiwanese to fight against an enemy, legislators and experts said on Tuesday last week.

The comments sought to summarize what the nation should learn from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has exceeded 300 days, since Feb. 24 last year.

Institute of National Defense and Security Research fellow Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲) said that the war in Ukraine highlighted the importance of being ready for war.
Institute of National Defense and Security Research research fellow Su Tzu-yun, right, speaks during a news conference on Aug. 4 last year.

Taiwan’s development of an “asymmetrical warfare” doctrine and extending mandatory conscription to one year is a good start to preparation of defense against a possible Chinese invasion, he said.

War games simulated by the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) showed that while Chinese success in landing operations in Taiwan would be extremely low, as it is an island, it would be unable to receive aid like Ukraine, Su said.

The nation needs to inventory supplies, strengthen infrastructure such as underground railways, and repurpose abandoned tunnels for arms stockpiles, Su said.

Taiwan is prone to having its supply routes cut off, and it should acquire all supplies and equipment it needs before any war begins, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said.

A Chinese balloon exposes a massive vulnerability


On February 2, a high-altitude Chinese balloon assumed to be loaded with sensitive surveillance gear traveled over Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States. It turns out to have been one of several over time – and the Pentagon watched it travel over Montana, home of one the US military’s land-based, nuclear-tipped Minuteman III missile fields.

Are you concerned? The Pentagon is surprisingly sanguine.

The Pentagon has confirmed that the balloon is Chinese, and that China has asked for “calm” about the incident. Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder said, “Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years.… We acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”

Three questions:If they knew about the balloons, why were they permitted to continue flight?
What weight does China’s call for “calm” carry with the administration in light of a military violation of our borders?
What if it wasn’t “surveillance equipment” at all?

The administration wants us to agree that a Chinese intrusion into US airspace is not a big deal. And a high-altitude balloon can, indeed, be used for surveillance. But it can also carry weapons – for example, a nuclear EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon intended to create a crisis over an American nuclear site.

The Pentagon made three points of its own. First, that the balloon was operating well above the altitude of commercial aviation, but the incident only became public because it was, in fact, spotted by a passenger on a commercial flight.

Second, the military opposed shooting down the balloon because there might be debris that could injure civilians, but the population density of Montana undermines the point.

Five questions (and expert answers) about the curious case of the Chinese spy balloon

Atlantic Council experts

It’s much more than hot air. US fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday after it had floated across the United States. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had already canceled a planned trip to China amid concerns over the balloon. Beijing said the balloon was for civilian research and had gone far off course, but US President Joe Biden decided to shoot it down down after it was tracked above a sensitive nuclear weapons site in Montana. The scuttled trip would have been Blinken’s first to China in two years as secretary of state and reportedly would have included a sit-down with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. What happens to the world’s most important bilateral relationship now? Our experts, one of whom happened to be on the scene of the balloon brouhaha in Montana, are airing their thoughts.

1. What should happen now that the balloon has been shot down?

Now that the United States has taken down the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean, there are three steps the United States should pursue:Recover and exploit the balloon for both intelligence and counterintelligence value, while also not squandering an opportunity to directly refute the PRC’s preposterous claims that this was a weather research balloon. In short, deny the PRC its implausible deniability, both for diplomatic purposes and to weaken the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) confidence in its own military and intelligence apparatus.

Send a message about costs and red lines to the PRC through economic, military, and diplomatic actions both directly with the PRC and indirectly within the region and with the PRC’s global interests and partnerships. Encouragement of things like recent Czech overtures to Taiwan can be a part of this.

Channel broad and near-universal outrage on this brazen (though likely nominally effective) act of collection from one hundred thousand feet to energize US public will against PRC intelligence overtures that are substantially closer to home. Those include collection risks and vulnerabilities such as TikTok, the Office of Personnel Management breach, collection of US genetic data, Huawei 5G, industrial/economic espionage, and even more invasive activities. Efforts to date for public support to counter such activities have simply not been effective enough to feed into a necessary whole of nation approach.

Arun Iyer is a nonresident senior fellow with the Scowcroft Center’s Forward Defense practice and leads its project Adding Color to the Gray Zone.

2. What do you suspect is the real story behind the balloon?

Russia’s Iranian-Made UAVs: A Technical Profile

Uzi Rubin

The precision of Iranian-made suicide UAVs, combined with their cheapness, has turned them into a potent weapon on the battlefields of Ukraine.

The appearance of Iran’s Shahed 131/136 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Ukraine has catapulted them to the centre of global attention and generated numerous papers by military observers and analysts. Yet audiences in the Middle East have been familiar with them ever since their operational debut in Saudi Arabia. In September 2019, two major Saudi oil installations, Abqaiq and Khurais, were heavily damaged by swarms of UAVs, supposedly launched by Houthi insurgents in retaliation for the Kingdom’s intervention in the Yemen civil war. A few days later, debris from the attacking UAVs was exhibited in a press conference convened by the Saudi Armed Forces spokesperson. The debris included a hitherto unknown delta wing UAV powered by a small rotary engine (aka Wankel motor) driving a wooden propeller. Labelled by the Saudis as ‘Unknown Delta Wing UAV’, it was the first evidence of a secret Iranian UAV programme, apparently considered a game changer by the Islamic Republic.

The origins of the Shahed 131/136 are quite obscure. Iran’s armed forces have been acquiring and deploying indigenous UAVs ever since the Iran–Iraq war in the 1980s. Numerous types of new UAVs are routinely displayed in the annual military parades the Iranian regime loves to hold. They also feature prominently in various military exhibitions, each one being described and extolled by the eager military correspondents of Iran’s state-controlled media. Yet the ‘Unknown Delta Wing UAV’ was nor exhibited prior to the September 2019 attack on the Saudi oil installations, nor did it appear for some considerable time after that attack. Five years before that attack, in December 2014, Iran’s Mashregh News Agency featured 10 types of UAVs that could be used for suicide missions. One of them, called ‘Touphan’ (‘Typhoon’), which was described as being capable of ‘locating and destroying the enemy by using an optical tracker’, could ‘approach the enemy from various points and because of its high speed it is difficult for the enemy to react in time. The drone is constructed of lightweight radar-absorbing materials and has a small radar cross section… a front-facing camera in the nosecone transmits live images until the moment of impact’. This description was accompanied by an image of a delta wing UAV, very similar to the ‘Unknown Delta Wing UAV’ that struck Saudi Arabia almost five years later. Significantly, the ‘Touphan’ was never displayed again by Iran.

In this sole exposure in Iran's media, the ‘Touphan’ was described as having a speed of 250 km/hr and an endurance of one hour. In contrast, the ‘Unknown Delta Wing UAVs’ from September 2019 flew at least several hundred kilometres before hitting the Abqaiq oil facility, and no optical sensors were found among their debris. If the ‘Touphan’ was indeed the progenitor of the weapon used in the Saudi attacks, it has been modified considerably since its previous appearance in 2014, from a short-range loitering munition to a long-range suicide UAV – for all practical purposes a propeller-driven cruise missile.

Why did the Iranians keep this weapon under a veil of secrecy for almost half a decade? Perhaps they perceived it as a game changer, reserving it for a strategic surprise, which they achieved in their Pearl Harbour-like sneak attack on Saudi Arabia's major oil installations.

Dragon's Roar and Bear's Howl: Convergence in Sino-Russian Information Operations in NATO Countries?

Richard Q. Turcsányi Jan Daniel Vojtěch Bahenský

Russian – and increasingly also Chinese – information operations have in recent years been at the forefront of the threats assessment in NATO countries. The concerns about China’s power and its challenge to the existing Western-led international order, together with its attempts to increase its information influence, make the Chinese efforts in the informational domain a strategic and security issue, leading to its explicit inclusion in the new NATO Strategic Concept at the Madrid 2022 summit. Russia’s 2022 full-fledged invasion of Ukraine dramatically raised the stakes in countering the longstanding Russian influence operations in the NATO countries. While there has been growing similarities in China’s and Russia’s information activities, there also continue to be important differences. This report examines both countries' information activities, discusses areas of convergence and differences, and implications.

Going Farther Together: The U.S.-Japan Space Pact Is an Accelerator

Zhanna L. Malekos Smith

On January 13, the United States and Japan celebrated signing a space partnership agreement that was more than 10 years in the making—the Framework Agreement for Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, for Peaceful Purposes. During the signing ceremony at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Headquarters, U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken affirmed that the “future of space is collaboration” and this pact will enable both countries to “go farther and learn even more together.”

Q1: How will this framework agreement enable both countries “to go farther and learn even more together”?

A1: If the U.S.-Japan space collaboration partnership was a computer, then the framework agreement would be like adding a hardware accelerator to enhance the overall performance of the computing system. This broad legal agreement will “vigorously promote” the overall bilateral space relationship between Japan and the United States, announced Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida. The exact terms of the agreement, however, have not yet been published. According to NASA, the pact will enable civil space collaboration on advancing space operations and exploration, as well as scientific research, space transportation, and mission assurance. Undoubtedly, the framework reaffirms several preexisting space agreements between the United States and Japan. Recall that Japan was one of the seven original partner countries to join the NASA-led Artemis program and sign the Artemis Accords in 2020. Artemis is an international space exploration initiative to return humans to the moon in 2025 and support a crewed mission to Mars by the end of 2030.
Q2: What additional value will the agreement provide to pre-existing agreements?

A2: Ultimately, the agreement will enable more rapid collaboration between both countries’ civil space programs. It is both an internationally symbolic and operationally relevant endorsement of the Artemis program. Presently, there are 23 signatory states to the nonbinding Artemis Accords. The most recent signatories were Rwanda and Nigeria, joining in December. On November 16, NASA successfully launched Artemis I, the first in a series of three significant missions to return humans to the moon. In addition, Artemis reached a major milestone with its Space Launch System rocket, which NASA announced enabled the Orion spacecraft to travel “farther than any spacecraft built for astronauts has been before,” NASA announced. The first crewed mission, Artemis II, is slated for May 2024, followed by Artemis III around 2025.

Global Update on Energy and Climate

Joseph Majkut: Good afternoon. My name is Joseph Majkut. I’m the director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program here at CSIS. And I’m very pleased that you’re joining us for this digital program.

Three weeks from now will mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It’s fair to say that the energy world has been upended by that conflict, and the reverberations of it in the coming years are part of what we want to discuss today.

If I can briefly set the scene before introducing our speakers: Over the past year, oil prices took a round trip from $80 to $120, and then back down again. Historic and unprecedented releases of strategic petroleum reserves, particularly from the United States, played a new price control role that they had not before. And we’re now facing a market that has price caps on Russian exports and a divided and cleaved market, which had formerly been globally oriented.

In natural gas, Russian pipeline delivery to Europe was half of what it was in 2021 in the past year. EU LNG imports were up 60 percent, and the U.S. provided nearly two-thirds of those. A recent CSIS report covers that story. But this change in the market conditions drove prices nearly 10 times what they had been before. And there have been spillovers to other consumers and throughout the developing world.

At the same time, the world’s on the precipice of energy transition. Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently reported that energy transition and investment in 2022 for the first time matched fossil fuel investment. As we look toward an energy system that is in transition, we want to talk about what the world looks like at an inflection point.

A New Framework and Logic Model for Using Live, Virtual, and Constructive Training in the United States Air Force

Timothy Marler

Research QuestionHow can the U.S. Air Force identify the most effective mixes of live, virtual, and constructive simulation capabilities for aircrew continuation training?

The U.S. Air Force uses live, virtual, and constructive (LVC) capabilities to help enhance training and improve readiness. However, it is not always clear what combinations of LVC capabilities are most effective and how they map to training goals. The authors of this report analyze the use of LVC for aircrew continuation training and develop a framework for aligning LVC capabilities with training needs for collective, complex, cognitive tasks.

The framework involves (1) mapping missions to underlying tasks and skills, (2) parsing skills into skill factors, (3) parsing training technologies according to how users interface with technology, and (4) integrating the results of steps (2) and (3) to identify appropriate training tools. The authors also built a prototype interactive software application that allows users to explore this mapping. However, selecting technologies for training depends on many factors beyond skills requirements. Thus, the authors developed a logic model that illustrates how inputs, such as policy, training goals, and resources, influence selection of training technologies; how those technologies contribute to aircrew proficiency and readiness; how these outcomes influence the inputs; and the need for robust measures of aircrew performance to support the process. The authors describe how to apply the model to guide research on appropriate mixes of LVC.

This approach can enhance quality of training development and implementation, support research efforts on new capabilities, inform acquisition decisions about resource needs, and identify needs for possible changes in training policy.

Key Findings

West Coast Aerospace Forum 2022

Ylber Bajraktari

Even as the Russian military continued to struggle in Ukraine in December 2022, U.S. Air Force leaders and top national security experts gathered at the West Coast Aerospace Forum warned not to expect similar outcomes in a potential U.S. conflict with China. The seventh annual event focused on lessons learned from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and how those experiences will apply to security challenges in the Pacific theater and beyond. These videos include the proceedings from the event's five sessions.

Keynote presentations were given by General Jeffrey L. Harrigian[JA1] (Ret.), former Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and General Kenneth S. Wilsbach, Commander of Pacific Air Forces, each of whom described how lessons from the Ukraine war might apply to the Pacific Area of Responsibility. Subsequent panels examined lessons for the space domain, lessons for multi-domain operations, and what the rest of the world — China, Taiwan, and U.S. allies — are learning from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Finally, the closing panel examined how the defense industrial base is holding up in its role as the "arsenal of democracy."

The forum is a joint effort between RAND Project AIR FORCE, the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, MITRE, the Aerospace Corporation, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Technology Promotion and Protection Decision Tool

Christy Foran

Research QuestionUpon discovering a risk or vulnerability to U.S. science and technology innovation, how can DoD decisionmakers quickly and effectively determine relevant approaches that can mitigate the risk, and their related implementation considerations?

The U.S. government has developed hundreds of approaches to promote and protect critical technologies and their associated industrial base, and the sheer number and diversity of these programs, policies, and initiatives present a logistical challenge for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Upon discovering a risk or vulnerability to a critical technology, DoD must be able to quickly and effectively determine relevant approaches that can mitigate the problem, and the approaches' related implementation considerations.

To assist DoD in this approach selection, the authors of this report developed a selection framework that (1) identifies relevant approaches based on features of the technology and strategy, (2) provides details on approach implementation considerations, and (3) is instantiated by an interactive tool for use by government entities to inform approach decisionmaking. In this report, they describe the selection framework and provide supporting documentation for the associated tool.
Key Findings

The Promotion and Protection (P&P) Tool helps DoD decisionmakers select approaches to promote and protect critical technologies — and gain insight on this issueThe P&P tool is a Microsoft Excel workbook with Visual Basic for Applications that uses an algorithm based on simple Boolean logic to match user inputs to an underlying database containing a set of available approaches that are characterized for the same features.

Ships Are Flying False Flags to Dodge Sanctions

Elisabeth Braw

The world’s top three ship-owning countries are China, Greece, and Japan. But the top three countries under which ships sail include none of these—nor fourth-ranked United States or fifth-ranked Germany. The flag league is instead led by Panama, Liberia, and the Marshall Islands. They are flag-of-convenience states, economically weak countries that allow vessels to register in their ship registry for a much lower fee than developed countries. The lower fee comes with less service—and less scrutiny—than traditional maritime states offer. Although the former has made flag-of-convenience states popular with countless vessels over the past decades, the latter is now making them extremely attractive to vessels seeking to get around Western sanctions against Russia. Such vessels have begun switching to flag-of-convenience states—or even taken to sailing under their flag without telling them.

And these overburdened maritime nations do little to remove the squatters. Rickety tankers that should be headed for the junkyard are instead roaming the world’s oceans, bringing oil from Russia and its fellow sanctioned nations, Venezuela and Iran, to China and other customers. And it’ll take a major crisis to force the problem to the surface.

“Shipping companies that are trying to get around sanctions are targeting really small registries that are privately managed,” Lloyd’s List Intelligence maritime analyst Michelle Wiese Bockmann told Foreign Policy. “Then they either falsely claim that their ships are flagged there because the country will do nothing about it, or they legitimately flag the vessels there and get the country to issue false company IMO numbers,” referring to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Every shipping company has an identification number with the IMO. But if a shipping company or vessel doesn’t want to be recognized, then they can trick a flag state’s registry into using fake IMO numbers—and since flag-of-convenience states’ shipping registries are often poorly resourced, privately managed, or both, officials rarely spend serious time investigating IMO numbers. And shipping companies operating under a false IMO number can be traced only with extreme difficulty.

Read the full article on Foreign Policy.

What the War in Ukraine Tells Us About Deterring China

Max Hastings

Max Hastings is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. A former editor in chief of the Daily Telegraph and the London Evening Standard, he is author, most recently, of "The Abyss: Nuclear Crisis Cuba 1962."

The war in Ukraine is a year old this month, and only those who believe in Santa Claus will bet on its ending by this date in 2024. It represents one of the most terrible tragedies to befall Europe, and indeed the world, since 1945.

What follows, however, is not a reflection on the conflict itself, but on two closely related issues: Could Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion have been prevented? And what steps can the West take to deter other aggressors from similar courses, most notably China toward Taiwan?

Deterrence demands will, means and — an element often forgotten — a political climate in which to make preemptive measures acceptable. Many assert that the US and its European allies made a fatal error by failing long ago to extend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization umbrella to Ukraine. Only such a guarantee, they say, could have dissuaded Putin from launching his onslaught. They further argue that it reflects a pitiful weakness of will to have allowed fear of the Kremlin’s wrath to dissuade us from extending our support to a society eager to embrace democracy and freedom.

Russia is now so deeply committed to terroristic courses that it is hard to anticipate an early reconciliation with the West. At the outset, some pundits argued that this was Putin’s personal war, which ordinary Russians want no part of. A year on, however, we find most of Putin’s people still acquiescing in his monstrous deeds, accepting the Kremlin’s fantasy narrative that NATO is conspiring to humble their country.More from

Perhaps this was inevitable. Maybe there was never a path to making proud, chronically angry, grievance-burdened Russians recognize the realities of their national failure, and of Western success. Yet it was surely right, in the wake of the Cold War, to attempt to welcome the Russian Federation into the family of nations. Some of us think the West should have tried harder; that the US should have held back from its 1990s triumphalism, rubbing Russian noses in their defeat.

RAND experts fear stalemate, ‘frozen conflict’ in Ukraine


WASHINGTON — Despite 11 months of brutal war across Ukraine, there is no end in sight, experts at the influential RAND Corp. and other DC thinktanks warned Thursday.

With neither side able to break the other’s army on the battlefield, and both unwilling to come to the negotiating table, the emerging consensus says the likely outcome is a long war or a “frozen conflict”: a heavily armed peace broken by frequent, inconclusive violence. This marathon contest, the analysts warned, will strain both western democracies’ resolve and their defense production — and the Russian people’s historic capacity for endless suffering and loss.

Another mass mobilization of Russian men, now widely expected, will not enable Putin to drown the Ukrainians in human-wave assaults. But forthcoming Western deliveries of heavy tanks, long-range rockets, and even fighter jets may not enable Ukraine to break through Russia’s ever-denser lines of fortifications, either.

“Based on how the Russians are digging in at this point in eastern Ukraine, through a network of defensive positions and trenches, multiple lines, deep minefields, I think it’s going to be really costly for the Ukrainians to [oust] them from all areas of occupation,” said Dara Massicot, a Russia scholar, during a RAND briefing for reporters. “That being said, I just don’t see the Zelensky government ever wanting to sit down and negotiate with Russians for some type of territorial concession.”

The Kremlin position looks equally entrenched, said Massicot’s RAND colleague John Tefft, a Foreign Service veteran who was ambassador to Lithuania, Georgia, Ukraine, and Russia itself. “I’ve kind of thought from the beginning here that Putin is so dug in on this… he’s not going to budge, or is going to only budge at the very last minute if he’s under intense political pressure at home,” Tefft said. “It’s worth thinking through what a negotiation would look like, but given the military realities on the ground and Putin’s determination — and the Ukrainian’s determination — to keep fighting on, this doesn’t augur well.”

Nor is Putin likely to keep any promises he makes, Tefft added. “When I was ambassador in Georgia, in 2008, everyone will remember that first, the president of France and [then-US Secretary of State] Condi Rice came and negotiated a ceasefire agreement, and the Russians haven’t implemented anything that they agreed to.”