22 June 2023

Blinken, Beijing, Breakthroughs, Bans?

Amit Kumar

The 'Eye on China' newsletter features this week's most important developments on India-China relations, Chinese Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy, Economy and Tech, and the military!

Section A: India-China Relations

To begin with, this week, we are sharing our thoughts on ‘Three Years of Galwan Valley Clashes’

June 15, 2023, marks the third anniversary of the Galwan clashes between the Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh. The incident involved casualties on the India-China border for the first time since 1975. While India lost 20 soldiers, the Chinese reported four casualties.

The incident followed the buildup of tension between the two sides along the LAC since April 2020. The PLA in a surprise move diverted the movement of its 4th and 6th Highland Mechanised Infantry Division westwards to the LAC instead of withdrawing backward to its post after completion of their annual spring exercise in Tibet.

Taking cognizance of the Chinese maneuvers that violated the Agreement on Confidence Building Measures of 1996, the Indian Army carried out mirror deployment and initiated negotiations for disengagement and de-escalation.

After 18 rounds of Corp Commander Level talks between India and China since the beginning of the Ladakh standoff in April 2020, conditional disengagement contingent upon the observance of demilitarised/buffer zone has been achieved at four of the six friction points. These include Galwan (PP14), Pangong Tso (north bank and south bank), and Gogra-Hot Springs (PP15 and PP17A). The other two friction points, Depsang and Demchok, continue to be negotiated without any success.

Af-Pak: Terrorism, Organized Crime, And Competitive Violent Jihad – Analysis

Saman Ayesha Kidwai

The last two years have proven catastrophic for Afghanistan’s stability and security in traditional and non-traditional domains. The regime change has also resulted in fissures between Pakistan and its previously strategic depth partner (Afghan Taliban), while the former has borne the consequences of nurturing terrorism and oppressing its Baloch populace.

Furthermore, the decades-long insurgency waged by the Taliban, coming to a close in August 2021, has further pushed Afghanistan towards an era of deepened conflict with rival terrorist organisations, widening the scope for profiteering from narco-trafficking, repression of marginalised communities, and diplomatic isolation of its own making. These characteristics will continue defining Af-Pak’s fate for the foreseeable future with minimalist hopes of recovery or progress in the light of these developments. This will also significantly affect regional security and integrity, impacting contiguous or countries in proximity, such as India.

The AT-TTP-Pakistan Factor

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’s expansion within Pakistan, mainly after the Afghan Taliban’s (AT) takeover nearly two years ago, has served as a crucial reminder about the viability of ethno-jihadist networks and kinship binding the two actors. Despite engaging bilaterally with Pakistan or trilaterally through dialogues involving China, AT has steadfastly committed to its TTP allies.

As per reports, the Afghan leadership’s assistance has been critical to TTP’s rise as a significant terrorist threat within and across Pakistan’s porous borders with Afghanistan. This has mainly been the case as a shadow or parallel governments and administrative units have been instituted in various Pakistani provinces (all barring Sindh), terrorist attacks are on the rise, and media propaganda against state institutions, the federal government, and its allies has been on an upswing.

Politics, Law, and “Founding Moments” in Late Colonial India


When Benegal Narsing Rau died in 1953 at the age of 66, he was a judge on the International Court of Justice at The Hague and had barely completed a year on the court. Prior to his election to the court, which was supported by the United States, Rau had a stellar career as the Indian Representative at the United Nations during India’s tenure at the Security Council, and as a member of the International Law Commission. The New York Times, reporting his death on November 30, 1953, called him “a lawyer of international renown” and a “world peacemaker,” and referred to most of his adult life as devoted to conciliation and mediation on “a national, regional and local basis.”

Tellingly, left out in this obituary were Rau’s phenomenal contributions to Indian constitutionalism and, more specifically, to the making of independent India’s constitution. In his role as the adviser to the Constituent Assembly, which drafted the Constitution of India between 1946 and 1950, Rau prepared the first draft of the constitution, compiling provisions and recommendations drawn up by various committees in the Constituent Assembly. Rau was also instrumental as an adviser in drafting the constitution of independent Burma. In most legal and constitutional histories of South Asia, Rau is often confined to footnotes (if cited at all) as a member of the Indian Civil Service who worked in the interstices of the colonial state. Arvind Elangovan’s book seeks to correct the record by bringing to light the long-forgotten role that Rau played in the making of Indian constitutionalism through an extremely readable, thought provoking, and archivally rich meditation on the thought and writings of B.N. Rau in decolonizing India.

Histories of Indian nationalism and constitutionalism often go hand in hand, such that the legitimacy of anticolonial nationalism and its object, the democratic nation-state, have often justified sidelining constitutional thinking that did not speak to a tradition of democracy or popular sovereignty. Rau was one jurist and constitutionalist who did not think that a direct translation of popular will was essential for constitutions. This tradition of non-democratic constitutionalism was particularly prevalent among the leaders of the Indian princely states, liberals, and minority religious groups who, like Rau, did not see a centralized, democratic unitary state as the solution to the Indian problem. While Elangovan’s book does not allude to the constitutional tradition in which Rau is situated, it cannot escape notice that what is being presented as the asynchrony of nationalism, colonialism, and constitutionalism is more appropriately understood as a clash of constitutional worldviews, worldviews that sought to draw legitimacy from the popular will on the one hand, and those that sought legitimacy from existing imperial or non-democratic legal and political norms, on the other.

How Vietnam Can Disrupt China’s Dominance in EVs

Hugh Harsono

Vietnam has one of the fastest growing middle classes in Southeast Asia, with a recent McKinsey report estimating that more than 36 million people could join Vietnam’s consuming class by 2030. This growing middle class, along with the associated increase in its consumption capabilities, is just one facet driving Vietnam’s strong economic expansion, with the country’s GDP forecast to increase from $327 billion in 2022 to $470 billion by 2025.

One of Vietnam’s growing economic sectors is its electric vehicle (EV) industry, focusing on domestic and international manufacturing, infrastructure, and supply chain elements specific to EVs. Vietnam’s increasingly important role in both the production and consumption of EVs will soon make it one of the world’s most dynamic EV markets, potentially disrupting China’s current dominance of the EV ecosystem on both levels.

Vietnam’s Growing Importance in the EV Supply Chain

Manufacturing has contributed significantly to Vietnam’s recent economic growth, with the manufacturing sector accounting for nearly 25 percent of the country’s total GDP in 2021. As a result, interest in manufacturing EVs and electric batteries in Vietnam has skyrocketed, most recently with the announcement last month by Chinese EV manufacturer BYD of plans to manufacture EVs in Vietnam. BYD joins the ranks of companies like Hyundai, which opened a factory in Vietnam in November 2022 through a joint venture with Vietnamese company, Thanh Cong Group, specifically focused on EV production.

Michael Beda, the CEO of Eden Global Capital, an investment bank geared towards assisting Vietnamese companies to list in the U.S., said, “Vietnamese businesses have received record levels of foreign direct investment, with the government primarily focused on easing regulations in the green and blue economies. A large focus for the central government in the coming years is to increase the capacity of the power grid to support both clean manufacturing and a transition to EVs.”

To De-Escalate US-China Tensions, Decouple Differently


Imposing trade restrictions to address national-security concerns is at the heart of today’s heightened tensions between China and the United States. Instead, the two countries should establish new agreements on arms control and industrial policies, which will require rebuilding trust.

KUALA LUMPUR – Tensions between the United States and China have reached such a high level that the G7, led by the US, recently changed its objective in its relations with China from “decoupling” to “de-risking.” But the reality is that de-risking, like decoupling, requires the participation of both sides and a common agenda. And while the objective of de-risking may be clear, its substance is not, besides keeping communication channels open.

The first step toward a productive dialogue is to recognize that the interaction among three types of competition – trade, technology, and geostrategy – is driving the spike in US-China tensions. To stop this vicious cycle, these three types of competition must be decoupled, and, to the extent possible, the policy instruments applied to each segment must be kept distinct.

Weaponizing trade policy to address matters of national security, for example, has only reduced mutual benefits from the economic relationship without easing geostrategic tensions. China banned rare-earth exports to Japan in 2010 over a territorial dispute and restricted a range of imports from Australia in 2020 after the country called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Yet such retaliation was ultimately ineffective.

Blinken Meets Xi as China and the U.S. Try to Rein in Tensions

Edward Wong and David Pierson

U.S. diplomats visited Beijing to try to ensure that competition “does not veer into conflict.” The talks pave the way for a possible Biden-Xi meeting.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken meeting China’s leader, Xi Jinping, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday.Credit...Pool photo by Leah Millis

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Xi Jinping, China’s leader, on Monday in Beijing, as the two governments sought to pull relations out of a deep chill that has raised global concerns about the growing risk of a conflict between them.

The 35-minute meeting, which capped a two-day visit by Mr. Blinken, sent a signal, at least for now, that the United States and China do not want their relationship to be defined by open hostility, and that they recognize that their rivalry and their diplomatic efforts carry enormous stakes.

Mr. Blinken and Mr. Xi held talks at the Great Hall of the People, the grand building on the west side of Tiananmen Square where Mr. Xi often receives dignitaries. Striking a congenial note at the top of the meeting, Mr. Xi praised the two sides for making progress on some unspecified issues during Mr. Blinken’s visit, saying: “This is very good.”

Both Mr. Xi and President Biden, as the leaders of the world’s two largest economies, have been under growing pressure from other nations to tamp down their governments’ increasingly contentious stances toward each other. The two countries have opposing positions on towering issues: the status of Taiwan, the de facto independent island that Beijing claims as its territory; the Chinese military’s growing footprint; the development of advanced technologies; Russia’s war in Ukraine, and human rights.

Google claims it caught China government hackers redhanded breaking into hundreds of networks around the world


Suspected state-backed Chinese hackers used a security hole in a popular email security appliance to break into the networks of hundreds of public and private sector organizations globally, nearly a third of them government agencies including foreign ministries, the cybersecurity firm Mandiant said Thursday.

“This is the broadest cyber espionage campaign known to be conducted by a China-nexus threat actor since the mass exploitation of Microsoft Exchange in early 2021,” Charles Carmakal, Mandiant’s chief technical officer, said in a emailed statement. That hack compromised tens of thousands of computers globally.

In a blog post Thursday, Google-owned Mandiant expressed “high confidence” that the group exploiting a software vulnerability in Barracuda Networks’ Email Security Gateway was engaged in “espionage activity in support of the People’s Republic of China.” It said the activity began as early as October.

The hackers sent emails containing malicious file attachments to gain access to targeted organizations’ devices and data, Mandiant said. Of those organizations, 55% were from the Americas, 22% from Asia Pacific and 24% from Europe, the Middle East and Africa and they included foreign ministries in Southeast Asia, foreign trade offices and academic organizations in Taiwan and Hong Kong. the company said.

Mandiant said the majority impact in the Americas may partially reflect the geography of Barracuda’s customer base.

Barracuda announced on June 6 that some of its its email security appliances had been hacked as early as October, giving the intruders a back door into compromised networks. The hack was so severe the California company recommended fully replacing the appliances.

After discovering it in mid-May, Barracuda released containment and remediation patches but the hacking group, which Mandiant identifies as UNC4841, altered their malware to try to maintain access, Mandiant said. The group then “countered with high frequency operations targeting a number of victims located in at least 16 different countries.”

Dog Fight over the South China Sea?

Sribala Subramanian

A fighter jet skims low over the water and shoots past an off-shore drilling platform. A voice crackles over the radio: “You have entered China’s air defense identification zone.” The pilot of the intruding aircraft replies in American-accented English: “We can come and go whenever we want.” The stealth fighter goes full throttle, and a sonic boom shatters the windows of a coast guard boat nearby. Chinese Air Force jets chase after the intruder. But their planes cannot match the foreign army’s pyrotechnics.

The action film “Born to Fly” opens with a white-knuckle dog fight scene in a maritime setting. But where does the action take place? Journalist David Rennie, who watched the film in Beijing, said there are clues in every frame. “If you look at the fact that there’s a gas platform. If you look at the straw conical hats the fishermen are wearing, the best guess is the South China Sea,” The Economist’s Beijing bureau chief told the podcast “Drum Tower.”

The setting hints at conflicts to come. But Rennie feels the more unnerving aspect of the film lies in the dialogue, specifically the line: “We can come and go whenever we want.” At the end of the sequence, a Chinese Air Force officer voices his anguish over the nation’s humiliation at the hands of a “foreign army” whose advanced stealth fighters are “invading our jurisdiction of the sea.” The implication that “hostile” military aircraft are breaching sovereign airspace, Rennie argues, opens up “a geopolitical can of worms.”

The South China Sea is a contentious space. China claims a wide swath of the marine region. But some islands under China’s control are disputed territories claimed by neighboring countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, or the Philippines. The U.S. is not a party to territorial disputes but has clashed with China over the right of transit through international airspace and waterways.

Implications Of Russia-Ukraine War On Middle East – Analysis

The Russia-Ukraine war, which has been going on for 16 months already, has generated significant implications of the political scene of the Middle East, where the war has exposed the complexities of the calculations with which the states of the region are faced as a result of the escalation of international relations and the siding of the countries world-wide with one of the two groups – the group of the US and its western allies on one side and the Russian and China–led group on the other. The war also had repercussions on the geopolitical orientation of the states, as well as bilateral relations between the countries of the region and global powers.

The response by Middle East countries to the Russia-Ukraine war was diametrically opposite to the US and Western position and their wishes. Namely, they avoided taking a strong stance against Russia, in order not to undermine their common interests with Moscow and rather strived to achieve a balance in their relations with the two sides, which was based on condemnation of the invasion and extension of support to sovereignty of Ukraine. At the same time, they avoided introducing sanctions against Russia, as well as providing military support or funding the war like other Western countries. Their assistance to Ukraine was limited to minimum humanitarian support, with the exception of Türkiye, which had already established military cooperation with Ukraine prior to the outbreak of the war.

The Middle East countries supported the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian invasion on Ukraine, with the exception of Syria, which voted against the Resolution, and Iran, Algeria and Iraq, which abstained from voting. They also supported the UN General Assembly resolution rejecting the annexation of parts of Ukraine to Russia. However, while countries of the region, which are traditional allies of Washington, including Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, refrained from introducing sanctions and diplomatic isolation of Russia, they did not violate western sanctions related to delivery of specific components to Moscow. Furthermore, majority of countries in the region also refrained from supporting the initiative to suspend Russian’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council, with the exception of Libya, which supported the respective resolution. As the war developed, Türkiye and Gulf countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)[2] recorded a trend of outstanding growth of economic cooperation with Russia, while Iran and Algeria have fostered military cooperation as well.

The Dynamics of the Ukrainian IT Army’s Campaign in Russia

Kyle Fendorf 

Our understanding of cyber operations is almost entirely driven by defenders. Reports from cybersecurity companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies offer a view into what and whom cyber operations target, but this perspective is partial, only catching bits and pieces of the overarching campaign. Leaked documents, most notably Edward Snowden’s leak of Presidential Policy Directive 20 and other documents from the National Security Agency, and the occasional statement from U.S. Cyber Command offer some visibility into how and where offensive operations are conducted, but still leave many gaps in understanding the landscape. However, the Ukrainian IT Army, a hacktivist group organized in response to the ongoing Russian invasion and likely affiliated with the Ukrainian government, offers a unique viewpoint into the decisions and actions of the offensive side and how cyberspace can be leveraged during a war.

The IT Army of Ukraine was born in the opening days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It started with a simple tweet on Feb. 26, 2022 from Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation, who wrote, “We are creating an IT army. We need digital talents” and included a link to a Telegram channel where visitors could find a list of targets to attack. The concept behind the group is simple: The operators of the channel provide tools to conduct distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against Russian websites and put out a list of targets two or three times per week for volunteers to attack. These volunteers then use the tools from the channel and, in some cases, their own hacking skills, to take down services on the Russian internet, including banking websites, tax processors, and military hardware stores. The group has attacked prominent Russian websites and even managed to delay Vladimir Putin’s speech at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum for over an hour.

The Costly Return of Geopolitics


Geopolitics, which originated during the run-up to World War I, represents an inherently pessimistic view of international relations as a perpetual power struggle. But as the world’s military and policy establishments prepare for prolonged conflict, we must resist the allure of the zero-sum mindset.

LONDON – One of the regrettable consequences of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was the advent of the pseudoscience known as geopolitics. Drawing inspiration from Darwin’s concepts of “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest,” the progenitors of geopolitics argued that all of history was shaped by a competitive “struggle of nations.” This approach, which stood in stark contrast to the harmonious view of international relations championed by Enlightenment thinkers and classical economists, viewed all countries as potential predators, with the most successful ultimately subduing the rest.

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, leading Western universities created geopolitics departments with the goal of educating future leaders in this emerging “science.” German thinkers like Karl Haushofer, eager to establish Germany’s claim to a “place in the sun,” were enthusiastic advocates. But geopolitics also captivated British intellectuals like Halford Mackinder, who sought to preserve Britain’s naval supremacy. In his 1904 essay “The Geographical Pivot of History,” Mackinder famously asserted: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world.” The ambition to challenge the United Kingdom later drove Germany to initiate two world wars to wrest control of the Eurasian heartland from Russia.

As the British Empire began to decline, geopolitics found a new home in the United States. But while thinkers like Mackinder focused on the Eurasian heartland, the political scientist Nicholas Spykman highlighted the centrality of the rimland, which encompassed all the coastal regions in Western Europe, the Middle East, and the East Pacific that surrounded it. In 1944, Spykman revised Mackinder’s dictum, stating: “Who controls the rimland rules Eurasia; who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world.” With this in mind, the US set out to control the Eurasian rimland.

The Global Minimum Corporate Tax Needs More Work


Two years after a “historic” deal to establish a new global corporate-tax regime, the consensus is eroding, and developing countries are taking matters into their own hands. Their efforts are perfectly understandable, given that the agreement’s main provisions may have done more harm than good.

NEW YORK – It has now been over two years since G7 leaders announced a groundbreaking agreement to divvy up taxation of multinational corporations’ profits. That breakthrough followed years of fraught negotiations under the aegis of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework, which then adopted the same agreement later that year.

By establishing a 15% global minimum tax rate that companies would have to pay wherever they operate, the agreement aimed both to deter profit-shifting through tax havens and to limit beggar-thy-neighbor policies for attracting foreign investment. It also introduced an additional tax on “around 100 of the world’s largest and most profitable multinationals to countries worldwide, ensuring that these [firms] pay a fair share of tax wherever they operate and generate profits.” The goal was to force technology giants like Amazon and Google to pay more taxes to countries based on where their goods or services are sold, regardless of whether they maintain a physical presence there.

But the consensus behind the agreement appears to be eroding. While the European Union and other OECD members have started to implement the agreed global minimum tax, the US Congress rejected this approach last year for fear of putting American companies at a competitive disadvantage. Under the Inflation Reduction Act, the United States instead opted for a 15% alternative minimum tax on companies that book more than $1 billion in income for three consecutive years – a criterion that applies only to a small cohort of US multinationals.

Moreover, the other plank of the deal – the mechanism reallocating a small share of profits from the largest multinational to signatory countries – calls for a binding multilateral treaty. But that will be a non-starter in the US, where the ratification of any treaty requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Republicans have already made clear that they will oppose any new tax on US multinationals.

Why It Seems Everything We Knew About the Global Economy Is No Longer True

Patricia Cohen

While the world’s eyes were on the pandemic, China and the war in Ukraine, the paths to prosperity and shared interests have grown murkier.

Factory workers at a Chinese company in Mexico. Communist-led China turned out to be the global economic system’s biggest beneficiary.Credit...Luis Antonio Rojas for The New York Times

When the world’s business and political leaders gathered in 2018 at the annual economic forum in Davos, the mood was jubilant. Growth in every major country was on an upswing. The global economy, declared Christine Lagarde, then the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, “is in a very sweet spot.”

Five years later, the outlook has decidedly soured.

“Nearly all the economic forces that powered progress and prosperity over the last three decades are fading,” the World Bank warned in a recent analysis. “The result could be a lost decade in the making — not just for some countries or regions as has occurred in the past — but for the whole world.”

A lot has happened between then and now: A global pandemic hit; war erupted in Europe; tensions between the United States and China boiled. And inflation, thought to be safely stored away with disco album collections, returned with a vengeance.

But as the dust has settled, it has suddenly seemed as if almost everything we thought we knew about the world economy was wrong.

The economic conventions that policymakers had relied on since the Berlin Wall fell more than 30 years ago — the unfailing superiority of open markets, liberalized trade and maximum efficiency — look to be running off the rails.

Biden: We won’t ‘make it easy’ for Ukraine to join NATO


President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for a trip to Philadelphia, Saturday, June 17, 2023. | Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

President Joe Biden on Saturday said his administration would not “make it easy” for Ukraine to join NATO, adding that the war-torn nation must meet the same standards as other member states.

Asked in a gaggle in Philadelphia about easing Ukraine’s path to joining the transatlantic alliance — likely in reference to the Membership Action Plan, a key obstacle in Ukraine’s efforts — Biden said: “No. Because they’ve got to meet the same standards. So we’re not going to make it easy.”

According to the MAP, candidate nations must make military and democratic reforms before consideration for NATO membership. Last week, Biden officials said the president was “open to” waiving the requirement for Ukraine, which this week launched a counterattack amid Russia’s war of aggression.

Biden added that the U.S. has “done a lot” to make sure Ukraine has the “ability to coordinate militarily.”

At White House, Biden and Sunak vow support for Ukraine

Biden on Saturday also conveyed a hopeful outlook on U.S.-China relations ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing this weekend.

Blinken had been set to visit China in February but the trip was canceled after a U.S. fighter jet downed a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of the Carolinas.

Japan’s grand strategy as a declining power

Yusuke Ishihara, NIDS

The Yoshida Doctrine is no longer fit to understand Japan’s grand strategy. Its precepts emerged under former prime minister Shigeru Yoshida as an interim grand strategy in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat in the Second World War and was designed to help to realise the country’s economic recovery and redevelopment.

The Yoshida Doctrine prescribed that Japan maintain two principles. First, the continuation of a US military presence to guarantee Japan’s national security. Second, that it would eschew a resource-consuming and politically destabilising military build-up. To implement the latter principle, Japan gradually established a number of policy self-restraints, such as a defence budget ceiling of 1 per cent of GDP and the choice not to acquire long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

The Yoshida Doctrine’s original economic purpose was achieved by the 1970s, though Tokyo retained it for a number reasons, including assuaging its regional neighbours’ worries about its potential as a military menace as it became the region’s largest economic power.

The continuation of the Yoshida Doctrine was far from easy. Many Japanese leaders had serious discomfort about its foundations — including the useful, yet constraining, security treaty with Washington which legally sanctioned a US military presence in Japanese territory. While some Japanese policymakers did imagine Japan’s future without the security treaty, Tokyo judged that the country should stick to the alliance framework. One reason was to contribute to regional stability by rendering its self-restraints more credible in the eyes of neighbours.

To complement this reassurance, Japan also exercised self-restraint in regional multilateralism by carefully avoiding any outright leadership and respecting Southeast Asian countries’ initiatives. This reassurance logic of the Yoshida Doctrine survived the end of the Cold War.

Over the last decade, some key assumptions underpinning the Yoshida Doctrine have become outdated because of Japan’s relative decline.

The economic potential of generative AI: The next productivity frontier

AI has permeated our lives incrementally, through everything from the tech powering our smartphones to autonomous-driving features on cars to the tools retailers use to surprise and delight consumers. As a result, its progress has been almost imperceptible. Clear milestones, such as when AlphaGo, an AI-based program developed by DeepMind, defeated a world champion Go player in 2016, were celebrated but then quickly faded from the public’s consciousness.

Generative AI applications such as ChatGPT Copilot, Stable Diffusion, and others have captured the imagination of people around the world in a way AlphaGo did not, thanks to their broad utility—almost anyone can use them to communicate and create—and preternatural ability to have a conversation with a user. The latest generative AI applications can perform a range of routine tasks, such as the reorganization and classification of data. But it is their ability to write text, compose music, and create digital art that has garnered headlines and persuaded consumers and households to experiment on their own. As a result, a broader set of stakeholders are grappling with generative AI’s impact on business and society but without much context to help them make sense of it.

The speed at which generative AI technology is developing isn’t making this task any easier. ChatGPT was released in November 2022. Four months later, OpenAI released a new large language model, or LLM, called GPT-4 with markedly improved capabilities.1 Similarly, by May 2023, Anthropic’s generative AI, Claude, was able to process 100,000 tokens of text, equal to about 75,000 words in a minute—the length of the average novel—compared with roughly 9,000 tokens when it was introduced in March 2023.2 And in May 2023, Google announced several new features powered by generative AI, including Search Generative Experience and a new LLM called PaLM 2 that will power its Bard chatbot, among other Google products.3

The Other Counteroffensive to Save Ukraine

Lawrence H. Summers, Philip Zelikow, and Robert B. Zoellick

Local residents and rescuers work amidst the rubble at the site of a heavily damaged residential building hit by a Russian missile, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the town of Uman, Cherkasy region, Ukraine April 2023Carlos Barria / Reuters

As Ukrainians risk their lives battling for national survival, the United States, European countries, and their allies should prepare a counteroffensive of their own against Russian aggression: a massive new European recovery program to begin operation by next year. This counteroffensive would be nonviolent, centered on economic and political reconstruction. But it would help secure a lasting Ukrainian victory. An ambitious recovery program that recalls the Marshall Plan would sustain Ukraine, make Europe more secure, brighten the future of surrounding regions, and revitalize the European project itself. That would be a real triumph over Russia’s effort to plunge Europe back into a darker age.

To give this plan credibility, Western countries should prepare to use frozen Russian assets to help fund Ukraine’s reconstruction. The UN General Assembly has already endorsed an international mechanism for compensating Ukraine for loss, damage, and injury suffered during the war, and such a plan can give Moscow another opportunity to comply with its international obligations. But one way or another, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, not Western taxpayers, should bear most of the costs.

Russia’s military strategy is to ruin Ukraine, outlast it in a war of attrition, and ensure that a free and growing Ukraine does not outshine Putin’s increasingly isolated and corrupt dictatorial regime. In February, the historian Stephen Kotkin told The New Yorker that the Ukrainians were not yet winning because “they need their house, and the Russians are wrecking it,” going on to describe Putin’s strategy as “‘I can’t have it? Nobody can have it!’”

Tailoring U.S. Outreach to Indo-Pacific Allies, Partners

Jim Garamone

The Indo-Pacific is a vast complicated region with nations of varying capabilities, capacities and needs, and U.S. strategy in the region must be equally varied, said Lindsey W. Ford, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia.

At the Center of Strategic and International Studies 2023 Indo-Pacific Conference today, Ford emphasized that the United States' network of allies and friends are the basis for maintaining peace, prosperity and stability in the region.

Ford directly pushed back on the idea that U.S. troops in the Indo-Pacific are somehow destabilizing and provocative. "I would say the United States military has been forward and present in the Indo-Pacific region for decades," she said. "I think you can look back, historically, and that there is solid evidence for the fact that the presence has helped … maintain peace and stability in the region."

Changes to U.S. force posture in the Indo-Pacific are "a response to changes in the security environment, not forcing changes in the security environment," she said. "And I think if that were not true, we would not have allies and partners who are so interested in having the United States there more."

Globally and regionally, China is "the pacing threat" for the United States. China is actively seeking to overturn the international rules-based order that has kept the peace in the region since World War II. The United States works with allies and partners to maintain security and stability in the region.

South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand are treaty allies of the United States, and strategy with those countries is tied to those mutual defense treaties. The United States is also partnered with many nations in the region and deals with them bilaterally, multilaterally and through international organizations like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Ford used U.S. engagements with ASEAN; the Quad — India, Japan, Australia and the United States; and the Australia-United Kingdom-United States agreement as examples of the breadth of U.S. efforts in the Indo-Pacific. "I think we've been pretty clear repeatedly that we see ASEAN, the Quad, AUKUS as complementary efforts that are not in competition with each other," she said. "We're constantly providing reassurance … that we do not believe that something like an Asian NATO is relevant to the Indo-Pacific."

Top Russian general killed in Ukraine missile strike

Mike Glenn 

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with Russian war correspondents who cover a special military operation, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 13, 2023. 

British officials have confirmed that a top Russian general died in a Ukrainian missile strike this week during Kyiv’s counteroffensive against occupying forces.

Maj. Gen. Sergei Goryachev was “almost certainly” killed Monday in the attack on a Russian command post in southern Ukraine. He is the first Russian general killed in combat in Ukraine this year, British military officials said Friday.

At the time of the attack, Gen. Goryachev was the chief of staff of Russia’s 35th Combined Arms Army.

In their latest assessment of the battlefield in Ukraine, British military intelligence officials said there was a “realistic possibility” that Gen. Goryachev was acting commander at the time. Lt. Gen. Alexandr Sanchik, who has been appointed commander of the 35th CAA, is reportedly filling a temporary leadership position at higher headquarters.

The 35th CAA has a war record that is “both difficult and controversial,” British officials said on Twitter. Russian soldiers assigned to the unit were present during the March 2022 massacre of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha. In June 2022, the 35th CAA was routed during the battle of Izyum. Ukrainian officials said their troops “almost completely annihilated” the force.

Analysts said that remnants of the 35th CAA were sent to help defend occupied territory in the Kherson region along the West Bank of the Dnieper River.

De-dollarisation unstoppable, BRICS cooperation fostering multi-polar currency world

Yawen Xu

Amidst the growing flaws of the dollar-centric financial system and the concerning geopolitical weaponisation of the reserve currency, participants at this week’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) convened to discuss the transition from a unipolar currency-based international financial system to a new world order centred around a multipolar currency.

Moreover, the forum will explore the significant role of BRICS partnerships in shaping this emerging economic landscape.

De-dollarisation is occurring ten times faster than the decline witnessed in the previous two decades. From 2021 to 2022, the dollar’s share in global reserves dropped eight points, from 55% to 47%, compared to 73% in 2001.

What has led to this rapid de-dollarisation in recent years? Sanctions played a significant role. As Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, warned in a recent tweet: “If you weaponise currency enough times, other countries will stop using it.”

In response to the Ukraine crisis, the US-led West imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia.

Some financial sanctions involved banning Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system and freezing $300 billion worth of assets from Russia’s Central Bank reserves. The economic sanctions have backfired, serving as a wake-up call for many countries worldwide, particularly in the Global South.

“Every night I ask myself why all countries are forced to do their trade backed by the dollar. Why can’t we do our trade backed by our own currencies?” Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva asked these soul-searching questions during his state visit to China in April, which summed up the growing sentiment and frustration regarding the dollar hegemony in international trade.

Quantum Computing Advance Begins New Era, IBM Says

Kenneth Chang

Quantum computers today are small in computational scope — the chip inside your smartphone contains billions of transistors while the most powerful quantum computer contains a few hundred of the quantum equivalent of a transistor. They are also unreliable. If you run the same calculation over and over, they will most likely churn out different answers each time.

But with their intrinsic ability to consider many possibilities at once, quantum computers do not have to be very large to tackle certain prickly problems of computation, and on Wednesday, IBM researchers announced that they had devised a method to manage the unreliability in a way that would lead to reliable, useful answers.

“What IBM showed here is really an amazingly important step in that direction of making progress towards serious quantum algorithmic design,” said Dorit Aharonov, a professor of computer science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who was not involved with the research.

While researchers at Google in 2019 claimed that they had achieved “quantum supremacy” — a task performed much more quickly on a quantum computer than a conventional one — IBM’s researchers say they have achieved something new and more useful, albeit more modestly named.

“We’re entering this phase of quantum computing that I call utility,” said Jay Gambetta, a vice president of IBM Quantum. “The era of utility.”

White House Must Take More Action To Address AI Concerns

Adam Conner

When Vice President Kamala Harris meets with CEOs of the nation’s leading artificial intelligence (AI) companies on Thursday, May 4, she and other senior White House officials will discuss responsible development of the groundbreaking technology and the need for safeguards against bias, deceptive practices, and other risks.

Much of the discussion with the leaders of Alphabet, Anthropic, Microsoft, and OpenAI will likely focus on the Biden administration’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, released last year to establish key principles for guiding AI development. This is an opportunity for American AI companies to show that they are leaders in responsible AI by committing to implementing the AI Bill of Rights, and other American AI companies should follow suit.

Ahead of the meeting, the White House announced three new actions the federal government is taking on AI—an important first step. But the White House can and should do more.

Machine-Learning Tool Easily Spots ChatGPT’s Writing


Since OpenAI launched its ChatGPT chatbot in November 2022, it has been used by people to help them write everything from poems, to work emails, to research papers. Yet, while ChatGPT may masquerade as a human, the inaccuracy of its writing can introduce errors that could be devastating if used for serious tasks like academic writing.

A team of researchers from the University of Kansas has developed a tool to weed out AI-generated academic writing from the stuff penned by people, with over 99 percent accuracy. This work was published on 7 June in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science.

Heather Desaire, a professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas and lead author of the new paper, says that while she’s been “really impressed” with many of ChatGPT’s results, the limits of its accuracy are what led her to develop a new identification tool. “AI text generators like ChatGPT are not accurate all the time, and I don’t think it’s going to be very easy to make them produce only accurate information,” she says.

“In science—where we are building on the communal knowledge of the planet—I wonder what the impact will be if AI text generation is heavily leveraged in this domain,” Desaire says. “Once inaccurate information is in an AI training set, it will be even harder to distinguish fact from fiction.”

“After a while, [the ChatGPT-generated papers] had a really monotonous feel to them.” —Heather Desaire, University of Kansas

In order to convincingly mimic human-generated writing, chatbots like ChatGPT are trained on reams of real text examples. While the results are often convincing at first glance, existing machine-learning tools can reliably identify telltale signs of AI intervention, such as using less emotional language.

What war elephants can teach us about the future of AI in combat

Eric Velte and Aaron Dant

The use of artificial intelligence in combat poses a thorny ethical dilemma for Pentagon leaders. The conventional wisdom is that they must choose between two equally bad alternatives: either enforce full human supervision of the AI systems at the cost of speed and accuracy or allow AI to operate with no supervision at all.

In the first option, our military builds and deploys “human in the loop” AI systems. These systems adhere to ethical standards and the laws of war but are limited by the abilities of the human beings that supervise them. It is widely believed that such systems are doomed to be slower than any unsupervised, “unethical” systems used by our adversaries. The unethical autonomous systems appear to boast a competitive edge that, left unchallenged, has the potential to erode Western strategic advantage.

The second option is to completely sacrifice human oversight for machine speed, which could lead to unethical and undesirable behavior of AI systems on the battlefield.

Realizing that neither of these options is sufficient, we need to embrace a new approach. Much like the emergence of the cyber warrior in the realm of cybersecurity, the realm of AI requires a new role – that of the “AI operator.”

With this approach, the objective is to establish a synergistic relationship between military personnel and AI without compromising the ethical principles that underpin our national identity.

We need to strike a balance between maintaining the human oversight that informs our ethical framework and adopting the agility and response time of automated systems. To achieve this, we must foster a higher level of human interaction with AI models than simply stop/go. We can navigate this complex duality by embedding the innate human advantages of diversity, contextualization, and social interaction into the governance and behavior of intelligent combat systems.

Is Myanmar the Frontline of a New Cold War?

Ye Myo Hein and Lucas Myers

Ever since the Burmese military seized power in a coup in early 2021, the country has been caught in a deadly tailspin. What began as peaceful mass protest against the junta flared into armed resistance, with much of the country descending into renewed civil war. The conflict has since turned into a protracted insurgency, with newer pro-democracy forces fighting alongside ethnic armed groups that have battled central authorities for decades. Amid growing signs of a strategic stalemate, both the junta and the resistance appear determined to fight on. Neighboring states have tried to mediate, but a negotiated peace is not in sight.

For much of the last two years, the Burmese crisis received minimal attention from the United States and China, despite unfolding at a time of intensifying great-power tensions. Washington and its partners have voiced support for Myanmar’s pro-democracy faction, yet geopolitical considerations have limited their willingness to take forceful action against the junta. Although Beijing favors the military dictatorship in some respects, it initially opted to wait and see, too.

But this great-power restraint is now breaking down. Misperceiving several developments as indications that the antiregime forces are American proxies, Beijing is moving with increasing determination to shore up the junta. The result is what one might call Cold War–ization: the civil war is attracting outside meddling by great-power rivals, each fearing that inaction would benefit the other side.

This puts other countries in the region, particularly those in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in a bind. One of ASEAN’s core tenets has been that it should not be forced to choose between the United States and China. Instead, the group values maintaining good relations with both great powers. But as Myanmar’s civil war takes on aspects of a Cold War proxy conflict—a situation brought on in part by the unwillingness of governments in the region to unite against the junta early on—the country’s neighbors may soon face that exact choice: not just between a junta and a pro-democracy resistance but between China and the United States. For Washington and its allies, meanwhile, the entrenchment of a military junta beholden to China would portend diminished influence and greater instability throughout Southeast Asia.