24 November 2017

*** The Other Indian National Army

By Lt Gen H S Panag

It is well-known that the Indian National Army (INA) was first proclaimed in April 1942 after the fall of Malaya and Singapore with Indian Prisoners of War (POW) and the Indian diaspora. This volunteer force known as INA 1 was disbanded in December 1942 due to differences with the Japanese, but later merged with INA 2 raised under Subhas Chandra Bose in July 1943. What is less known is that similar forces at a smaller scale were also raised by Italy and Germany. At the outbreak of World War II, the struggle for freedom in India had been on for over five decades. Hence, it was logical for the Axis powers to capitalise on the anti-British sentiments by attempting to recruit a military force from disaffected Indian POW captured while serving with the British Indian Army.

*** In Afghanistan, The U.S. And Pakistan Fight A Conflict Of Interests

by Faisel Pervaiz

The ravages of a seemingly endless war have kept the United States mired in South Asia for over 16 years. In August, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a new solution to the intractable conflict in Afghanistan. The new strategy would focus not on meeting a specific deadline but rather on achieving the conditions necessary to bring peace to the war-torn country. To that end, Trump urged India to play a greater role in Afghanistan's economic development. He also had a few choice words for Pakistan.

India and the 12th East Asia Summit

By Rupakjyoti Borah

The recently-held 12th East Asia Summit (EAS) in the Philippines was crucial for India in many ways. With the Trump administration and many other countries increasingly veering towards the use of the terminology “Indo-Pacific,” many in India and outside see it as proof of India’s growing importance in the region. This Summit was important for India in many ways.

How hypersonic flight could transform air combat

By Gareth Evans

Although the concept of hypersonic flight has been around for a surprisingly long time, it is no simple matter to turn that idea into a functioning reality capable of travelling at more than five times the speed of sound – over 3,836 miles per hour, or a staggering 1.7 kilometres a second. The physics of the airflow alone places massive demands on airframe design, not least the generation of temperatures in excess of 1,500oC that will melt conventional aircraft materials. At relatively low hypersonic speeds, the molecular bonds in the air itself vibrate, changing the aerodynamic forces acting on the surface of the aircraft; faster and those bonds are torn apart, producing an ionised, electrically-charged plasma envelope around the vehicle. It is clearly not a design-challenge for the faint-hearted, but in the light of the announcement of a recent major test success, the hypersonic air force may no longer be quite so far away.

Uighur Foreign Fighters: An Underexamined Jihadist Challenge

Dr. Colin P. Clarke, Dr. Paul Rexton Kan

Uighurs, specifically individuals of Turkic decent from China’s northwest province of Xinjiang, have become a noticeable part of the constellation of globally active jihadist terror groups. Uighur jihadists first came to the world’s attention when the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001. While continuing their cooperation with the Taliban under the banner of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Uighur jihadists have now spread to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. ETIM’s members are part of the Turkestan Islamic Party fighting with the Al-Qaeda umbrella group in Syria, but other Uighurs have joined IS in Syria and Iraq, and still others have joined local terror groups in Indonesia. However, Uighurs are currently underexamined as active participants in jihadist organisations. Publications about Uighurs have been piecemeal – focusing on their struggles against the Chinese government or narrowly describing the specific groups in which Uighurs have been participants. This Policy Brief explores the scope and scale of Uighur Foreign Fighters (UFF) activity in various locations, its implications and how their participation in global jihadist groups may evolve.

Initial batch of J-20s may be deployed in western China

The J-20 all-weather stealth jet fighters – the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s ace warplane aimed at grabbing air supremacy – are one of the few fifth-generation fighters said to have entered service among the world’s militaries. Three J-20s are seen in a PLA massive parade in July. 

Three J-20s debuted in a high-profile flyover during the PLA’s 90th anniversary parade held at the end of July in Inner Mongolia, setting into motion a nationwide media puffery about how a Chinese super fighter will give a huge lift to PLA’s combat capacities and in turn change geopolitics, though scant details have been revealed about the deployment of the J-20s.

Is Islamic State losing control of its 'virtual caliphate'?

By Charlie WinterKing's College London

For years, a utopian vision of life under so-called Islamic State (IS) was at the heart of the propaganda it pumped out online. As it loses vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, is it also losing control of its "virtual caliphate"? In Syria and Iraq, Islamic State is on the brink of collapse. Just days ago, it lost the city of Deir al-Zour, its last major stronghold in Syria: a defeat that followed those in Mosul, Tal Afar and Raqqa.

America Shouldn’t Take Sides in the 1,400-Year-Old Sunni-Shia Conflict


On November 1, CIA Director Mike Pompeo released thousands of files found by SEAL Team Six in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Many documents detailed ties between al-Qaeda and Iran. Ned Price, former CIA analyst and de factoObama administration official, accused Pompeo of releasing the documents to torpedo the Iran deal and drum up support for regime change in Iran. In rushed The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes to claim the documents show how the Obama administration—Ned Price included—covered up the Iran and al-Qaeda ties for political purposes.

Social Media Field Manual: The Iraqi Ministry of Defense Learned to Take the War to Facebook

by Caroline Bechtel

Since the Islamic State (ISIS) swept through northern Iraq in the summer of 2014, many observers have examined efforts by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Security Forces (ISF) to learn and adapt. Such conversations typically revolve around battlefield inputs and effects—the number of recruits, training programs, soldier skills, and territorial gains--and have generally concluded that while the ISF has improved in terms of combat lethality, the force must work still to professionalize. Few, however, have discussed the Iraqi government’s efforts to adapt in the digital domain. But the Iraqi MoD’s presence on social media--and Facebook in particular--has been a crucial element of its military learning process since 2014. This adaptation demonstrates that the MoD has co-opted one of its enemy’s most valuable weapons: social media.



During the tense days of the Cold War, the United States deployed many kinds of small-yield nuclear weapons in the field. The “logic” of the ladder of escalation led Washington to field nuclear landmines, anti-ship demolition mines to be attached to the hulls of ships by atomic frog men, and even close-range rocket-propelled nuclear weapons. We managed to avoid all-out nuclear war at each rung on the ladder through a combination of luck and careful efforts to avoid miscalculation.

Sharing economy: creating opportunities in the digital era

Arindam BhattacharyaRajah AugustinrajJudith Wallenstein
The economic and business rationale for sharing is strong, both for start-ups and incumbents Companies around the world are developing a wide variety of platforms that permit users to gain temporary access to assets. Urban Indians have become increasingly familiar with ride-sharing applications in recent years. It’s hardly a surprise to see people of all ages hailing an Ola or an Uber to get them across town. The dramatic growth of such services coincided with the profusion of smartphones across diverse segments of age and income. The phenomenon of “sharing” assets is however, not confined to urban India. Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M), the well-known maker of transportation equipment, sensed a large untapped opportunity in India’s vast countryside. Only around 15% of India’s 120 million farmers used mechanical equipment because they either could not afford to buy it or because renting options are too difficult.

The ‘Combination’: An Instrument In Russia’s Information War In Catalonia – Analysis

By Mira Milosevich-Juaristi*

The principal objective of this paper (which serves to complement a previous work on ‘disinformation’)1 is to: (1) analyse the facts of Russian interference in the illegal referendum in Catalonia, along with the motives and objectives which guided the actions of the current Russian regime; (2) show how Russian interference in Catalonia forms part of an information war, an asymmetric military method which Russia employs in the US and Europe; and (3) evaluate the response of the West (the US, the EU and NATO) and determine whether or not it has been up to the challenge of Russia’s information war.

How Did North Korea's Missile and Nuclear Tech Get So Good So Fast?


Shortly after North Korea launched the Hwasong-12 in May, the scientists who developed the intermediate-range ballistic missile were honored on the streets of Pyongyang as national heroes. “The buses carrying them went through the streets of the capital full of flowers of welcome,” KCNA, the state-run news agency, reported at the time. “Citizens warmly congratulated them, waving flags of [North Korea], red flags and bouquets.” Among those offering his congratulations was Kim Jong Un. KCNA reported that the 33-year-old North Korean leader “hugged officials in the field of rocket research, saying that they worked hard to achieve a great thing.”


By George Friedman

Note from George: I wanted to let you know about a slight change that you may have already noticed. Beginning this week, Friedman’s Weekly is now the GPF Weekly. I am the founder of Geopolitical Futures, but this company is much more than just me. When I’m out traveling the world and our publication proceeds without a hitch, that’s because of their hard work. I believe our flagship product should reflect as much. On Nov. 19, 1942, the Soviet Union launched Operation Uranus. Its goal was to envelop and destroy the German army fighting in the city of Stalingrad. Uranus closed the noose on the Germans a few days later

Protecting the innocent from cyber warriors

NOVEMBER 16, 2017 —In new warnings about cyberattacks by foreign entities, Britain and the United States have lately left the impression that innocent civilians, and not just governments, might become victims on a digital battlefield. On Nov. 15, for example, the US said North Korea is targeting banks, airlines, and telecom firms. And Britain claimed Russian hackers have targeted energy networks and the media. Prime Minister Theresa May accused the Kremlin of a campaign of cyber “disruption.”

In the Era of Virtual Terrorism, All Cyber-Enabled Nations are Equal

Daniel Wagner

Governments spy on one another, and on their people―that is what governments do. They always have and they always will. But in the era of Virtual Terrorism, spying has been taken to a whole new dimension, wherein access to other nations’ secrets, their businesses, and their people have intersected with the promotion of state interest as a new art form. Intrusion and theft beyond the reach of the law have made deception all the more possible because of anonymity. Those nations with the greatest financial, military, and cyber resources are naturally the most prolific at perpetrating Virtual Terrorism. The countries which are the most adept at this, and have been the best documented as such, are China, Russia, and the US.

Technology helped fake news. Now technology needs to stop it

John Cook

Heavily criticized for their role in spreading lies that influenced the 2016 US presidential election, the social media giants have begun to acknowledge what happened. In October, representatives of Google, Facebook, and Twitter testified before Congress and pledged to improve their response to the problem. The companies have even taken action to flag misinformation when it appears on their sites.

We’re at cyberwar. And the enemy is us.

By David Von Drehle 

The United States and its allies are under attack. The cyberwar we’ve feared for a generation is well underway, and we are losing. This is the forest, and the stuff about Russian election meddling, contacts with the Trump campaign, phony Twitter accounts, fake news on Facebook— those things are trees.  We’ve been worried about a massive frontal assault, a work of Internet sabotage that would shut down commerce or choke off the power grid. And with good reason. The recent exploratory raid by Russian hackers on American nuclear facilities reminds us that such threats are real. 

$63 Trillion of World Debt in One Visualization


In an ideal situation, governments are just borrowing this money to cover short-term budget deficits or to finance mission critical projects. However, around the globe, countries have taken to the idea of running constant deficits as the normal course of business, and too much accumulation of debt is not healthy for countries or the global economy as a whole. The U.S. is a prime example of “debt creep” – the country hasn’t posted an annual budget surplus since 2001, when the federal debt was only $6.9 trillion (54% of GDP). Fast forward to today, and the debt has ballooned to roughly $20 trillion (107% of GDP), which is equal to 31.8% of the world’s sovereign debt nominally.


In today’s infographic, we look at two major measures: (1) Share of global debt as a percentage, and (2) Debt-to-GDP.

Let’s look at the top five “leaders” in each category, starting with share of global debt on a nominal basis:

In the era of virtual terrorism, all cyber-enabled nations are equal

By Daniel Wagner

A victory in information warfare can be much more important than victory in a classical military conflict. Although bloodless, the impact can be overwhelming and can paralyse all of an enemy state’s power structures. Governments spy on one another, and on their people that is what governments do. They always have and they always will. But in the era of Virtual Terrorism, spying has been taken to a whole new dimension, wherein access to other nations’ secrets, their businesses, and their people has intersected with the promotion of state interest as a new art form. Intrusion and theft beyond the reach of the law have made deception all the more possible because of anonymity. Those nations with the greatest financial, military, and cyber resources are naturally the most prolific at perpetrating Virtual Terrorism. The countries which are the most adept at this, and have been the best documented as such, are China, Russia, and the United States.

Army Looks To Replace $6 Billion Battlefield Network After Finding It Vulnerable


The U.S. Army has concluded that its $6 billion battlefield communications system would likely be breached by Russia or China in the event of a big-power conflict, rendering it all but useless against sophisticated foes. The Army says it needs at least two years to come up with a new, more resilient system that can provide the tactical networking that soldiers have come to rely on in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite the vulnerabilities and flaws that the Army has identified in the program in recent months, the service will still finish fielding the system to the entire force over the next two years, officials said, while trying to quickly patch in upgrades where they can while they search for a new solution. Meanwhile, Congress is prodding the Army to find fixes for the communication system and is only offering half the $420 million the Army requested to finish deploying it in 2018.

23 November 2017


                           - Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Graham Allison is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard University. He was previously director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. In the first term of the Clinton administration, Allison served as assistant secretary of defense for policy and plans From 1977 to 1989, Allison was founding dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.His recent book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap published in May 2017 has got rave reviews and quickly became a national bestseller.

Graham Allison thinks the world underestimates the risk of a catastrophic clash between China and the United States. When a rising power challenges an incumbent, carnage often ensues. Thucydides, an ancient historian, wrote of the Peloponnesian war of 431-404 BC that “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” Mr Allison has examined 16 similar cases since the 15th century. All but four ended in war. Mr Allison does not say that war between China and the United States is inevitable, but he thinks it “more likely than not”.

War would be disastrous for both sides, but that does not mean it cannot happen. No one wanted the first world war, yet it started anyway, thanks to a series of miscalculations. The Soviet Union and America avoided all-out war, but they came close. During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the Soviets tried to smuggle nuclear missiles onto Cuba, 90 miles (145km) from Florida, there were at least a dozen close calls that could have led to war. When American ships dropped explosives around Soviet submarines to force them to surface, one Soviet captain thought he was under attack and nearly fired his nuclear torpedoes. When an American spy plane flew into Soviet airspace, Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, worried that America was scoping targets for a nuclear first strike. Had he decided to pre-empt it, a third world war could have followed.

China and America could blunder into war in several ways, argues Mr Allison. A stand-off over Taiwan could escalate. North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, might die without an obvious heir, sparking chaos. American and Chinese special forces might rush into North Korea to secure the regime’s nuclear weapons, and clash. A big cyber-attack against America’s military networks might convince it that China was trying to blind its forces in the Pacific. American retaliation aimed at warning China off might have the opposite effect. Suppose that America crippled China’s Great Firewall, as a warning shot, and China saw this as an attempt to overthrow its government? With Donald Trump in the White House, Mr Allison worries that even a trade war might turn into a shooting war.

Graham Allison himself summarize the core argument of the book in a few bullet points:

• When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power, alarm bells should sound: danger ahead. Thucydides’s Trap is the dangerous dynamic that occurs in this interaction. In the case of the rise of Athens and its impact upon Sparta (which had ruled Greece for 100 years), or Germany in its rivalry with Britain a century ago in the run up to World War I, or China over the past generation as it has come to rival, and in many areas, surpass the US, this dangerous dynamic creates conditions in which both competitors are acutely vulnerable to provocations by third party actions. One of the primary competitors feels obliged to respond and there follows a cascade of actions and reactions at the end of which the two find themselves in a war neither wanted. Ask yourself again: how did the assassination of a minor archduke start a fire that burned down the whole of Europe at the beginning of the past century? How did North Korea drag China and the US into war 67 years ago last month? 

• Destined for War examines the past 500 years and finds 16 cases in which a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power. Twelve of these cases ended in war; four without war. Thus to say that war between a rising China and a ruling US is inevitable would be mistaken. But to say the odds are against us would not be.

• This book is neither fatalistic nor pessimistic. Instead, its purpose is to help us recognize that these structural factors create extreme dangers that require extreme measures on the part of both the US and China—if we are to escape Thucydides’s Trap. As I argue in the book, business as usual (which is what we have seen for the last two decades under both Democratic and Republican leadership) is likely to lead to history as usual. And in this case, that would be a catastrophic war that no one in Beijing or Washington wants. Indeed, every serious leader in both capitals knows that would be crazy. But none of the leaders of the major powers in 1914 wanted World War I. Neither China nor the US wanted war in 1950. The good news is that, as Santayana taught us, only those who refuse to study history are condemned to repeat it. We are under no obligations to repeat the mistakes made by Kaiser Wilhelm in 1914 or Pericles in classical Greece that led to war. 

• We must recognize that a rising China is not a “fixable” problem but rather a condition that we will have to cope with for a generation. Success in meeting this grand challenge will require a surge of imagination and adaptability as remarkable as that demonstrated by individuals we now celebrate as the “wise men” who created the Cold War strategy that we sustained for four decades until success was at last achieved. 

As Henry Kissinger’s explains, for the Chinese this means that “far better than challenging the enemy on the field of battle is maneuvering him into an unfavorable position from which escape is impossible.” In economic relations today, China is doing just that to its Asian neighbors and indeed to the US. China primarily conducts foreign policy through economics because, to put it bluntly, it can. It is currently the largest trading partner for over 130 countries — including all the major Asian economies. As China’s dominant economic market and its “One Belt, One Road” plan to network Asia with physical infrastructure (at a scale 12 times that of the Marshall Plan) draws its neighbors into Beijing’s “economic gravity,” the United States’ post–World War II position in Asia erodes.

Critics say : But Mr Allison’s overall thesis is too gloomy. China is a cautious superpower. Its leaders stoke nationalist sentiment at home, but they have shown little appetite for military adventurism abroad. Yes, the Taiwan strait and the South China Sea are dangerous. But unlike the great powers of old, China has no desire to build a far-flung empire. And all the wars in Mr Allison’s sample broke out before the invention of nuclear weapons. China and America have enough of these to destroy the world. That alone makes war extremely unlikely.

[https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/united-states-china-war-thucydides-trap/406756/ ]

What is The Thucydides Trap . The Thucydides Trap is a political metaphor. Thucydides was a 5th-century BCE Greek historian and politician who wrote the most famous account of the Peloponnesian War. Here's what he observed in the outbreak of the nearly 30-year conflict that rocked the Greek city-states.

Professor Graham Allison has popularized the phrase “Thucydides’ trap,” to explain the likelihood of conflict between a rising power and a currently dominant one. This is based on the famous quote from Thucydides: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.” This usage has even spread to Chinese President Xi Jinping who said “We all need to work together to avoid the Thucydides trap – destructive tensions between an emerging power and established powers … Our aim is to foster a new model of major country relations.” However, those like Graham Allison who talk about a Thucydides trap only capture half the meaning of the History of The Peloponnesian War. The true trap is countries going into, and continuing, war clouded by passions like fear, hubris and honor.

In Thucydides’ history, human emotion made conflict inevitable, and at several points where peace was possible, emotion propelled it forward. In the beginning, there is a set of speeches in Sparta debating the possibility of going to war with Athens. Archidamus, the Spartan king, tells the Spartan people not to underestimate the power of Athens and urged that Sparta “must not be hurried into deciding in a day’s brief space a question which concerns many lives and fortunes and many cities, and in which honor is deeply involved – but we must decide calmly.” However, Sthenelaidas, a Spartan ephor, advocated, “Vote, therefore, Spartans, for war, as the honor of Sparta demands.” The Spartans followed Sthenelaidas, which led to a war of honor and fear against the Athenians.

In the seventh year of the Peloponnesian War, at the battle of Pylos, the Athenians won a major victory over Sparta. Because of their loss, Sparta sent envoys to Athens offer a peace treaty. The Spartan envoys enjoined the Athenians to “treat their gains as precarious,” and advised that “if great enmities are ever to be really settled, we think it will be, not by the system of revenge and military success… but when the more fortunate combatant waives his privileges and, guided by gentler feelings, conquers his rival in generosity and accords peace on more moderate conditions than expected.” However, the Athenians, led by Cleon, who Thucydides described as the most violent man in Athens, accused the Spartans of not having right intentions, and made further demands on Sparta for a return of territories that Athens had previously ceded to Sparta before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, resulting in a continuation of the war.

The best advice that Thucydides’ work offers is clear, do not let emotions such as hubris, fear and honor drag you into a hegemonic war, and if war does occur, do not let these same emotions cloud your judgment if there is a chance for peace. This is a hard lesson to learn, but unlike the mechanistic vision of Thucydides’ Trap it accounts for human agency and shows a path towards peaceful co-existence rather than letting passions lead the way.

[https://thediplomat.com/2015/05/the-real-thucydides-trap/ ]

As China challenges America’s predominance, misunderstandings about each other’s actions and intentions could lead them into a deadly trap first identified by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. As he explained, “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” The past 500 years have seen 16 cases in which a rising power threatened to displace a ruling one. Twelve of these ended in war.

Of the cases in which war was averted — Spain outstripping Portugal in the late 15th century, the United States overtaking the United Kingdom at the turn of the 20th century, and Germany’s rise in Europe since 1990 — the ascent of the Soviet Union is uniquely instructive today. Despite moments when a violent clash seemed certain, a surge of strategic imagination helped both sides develop ways to compete without a catastrophic conflict. In the end, the Soviet Union imploded and the Cold War ended with a whimper rather than a bang.

Professor Graham Allison gave a statement to U.S. Senate Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy on “American Leadership in the Asia-Pacific, Part 4: The View from Beijing” on 14 November 2017. The gist is given below.

How does the Chinese leadership view the United States and its role in the region and the world 

China’s leaders believe that America’s grand strategy for dealing with China involves five “to’s”: to isolate China, to contain China, to diminish China, to internally divide China, and to sabotage China’s leadership. this is based on “a deeply held, deeply ‘realist’ Chinese conclusion that the US will never willingly concede its status as the preeminent regional and global power, and will do everything within its power to retain that position.”

Chinese leaders recognize that the role the US has played since World War II as the architect and underwriter of regional stability and security has been essential to the rise of Asia, including China itself. But they believe that as the tide that brought the US to Asia recedes, America must leave with it. Much as Britain’s role in the Western Hemisphere faded at the beginning of the twentieth century, so must America’s role in Asia as the region’s historic superpower resumes its place. As Xi told a gathering of Eurasian leaders in 2014, “In the final analysis, it is for the people of Asia to run the affairs of Asia, solve the problems of Asia and uphold the security of Asia.”

How is China’s regional and global posture taking shape under President Xi Jinping? What is your perspective on the outcomes of the recent 19th Party Congress? 

In his speech at the 19th Party Congress, President Xi was very clear about China’s posture today. He said: “the Chinese nation now stands tall and strong in the East; no one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests.” Moreover, he was bold enough to put a target objective and a date together, declaring China’s intention to become “global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence” by 2050. If, by mid-century, China achieves a per capita GDP equivalent to that of the US, its economy will be four times larger than ours—since it has four times as many people. He declared: “History looks kindly on those with resolve, with drive and ambition, and with plenty of guts; it won’t wait for the hesitant, the apathetic, or those shy of a challenge.” 

How has the United States’ view of China evolved over the past century, and how do you see it evolving in the decade ahead? 

Celebrating the US position as the Unipolar Power, Frank Fukuyama famously declared the End of History. Democratic capitalism had swept the field and hereafter nations would follow our lead first in adopting market capitalism in order to grow rich. As they developed a middle class, they would become democracies. And according to the “democratic peace” hypothesis, war would become obsolete since democracies do not fight each other. Thomas Friedman popularized this argument with his “Golden Arches” theory, declaring that two nations that had McDonald’s Golden Arches could not fight each other. Americans are now waking up to the fact that, a powerful China will insist on “being accepted as China, not as an honorary member of the West.”

What is your perspective on the Obama Administration’s “Asia Pivot” or “rebalance” policy, and what policy should the Trump administration pursue with respect to the Asia-Pacific, and China in particular

While we have been debating whether we should put less weight on our left foot (the Middle East) in order to put more weight on our right (Asia), China has just kept growing — at three times the US rate. As a result, America’s side of the seesaw has tilted to the point that both feet will soon be dangling entirely off the ground

But I believe that we need first to understand the shape of the challenge we face. There is no “solution” for the dramatic resurgence of a 5,000-year old civilization with 1.4 billion people. e ground. What America needs most at this moment is not a new “China strategy,” but instead a serious pause for reflection, followed by a surge of strategic imagination as penetrating as that displayed by those “wise men.” In short, it will demand something far beyond anything we have seen since the opening to China.

What I will say is that the strategy toward China that America has followed since the end of the Cold War, known as “engage but hedge,” is fundamentally flawed: it is a banner that permits everything and prohibits nothing. It relies on balancing China while hoping that China will become a liberal democracy, or at least accept a subordinate place in the American-led international order. It should now be obvious that this is not going to happen. If the US just keeps doing what it has been doing, future historians will compare American “strategy” to illusions that British, German, and Russian leaders held as they sleepwalked into WWI.

What is the current state of China-North Korea relations? How have they evolved in recent years? Given China’s desire to avoid a collapsed state and/or having the US military close to its borders, how much pressure can China be expected to apply to North Korea? 

China-North Korea relations are worse than ever before. Outraged by Beijing’s support for sanctions, some North Korean statements have even begun implicitly threatening China, noting that North Korea’s missiles can fly in any direction. Chinese internet users commonly refer to Kim Jong Un as “Little Fatty” and reportedly Xi Jinping personally cannot stand him. However, the strategic situation has not fundamentally changed for China. They see stability on the Korean Peninsula, even with an antagonistic neighbor, as preferable to any feasible alternative. They remain unwilling to support any action that would lead to the collapse of the regime. And they continue to see the biggest anomaly on the peninsula as the presence of the US.

How likely is it that a US-North Korea military conflict would trigger a wider Sino-American war? Under what circumstances might we expect China to intervene (or not intervene) in an American conflict with North Korea? 

Anyone who finds it hard to believe that a military conflict with North Korea could drag the US into war with China should remember 1950. In June of 1950, a Communist North Korea lad by KJU’s grandfather attacked South Korea and almost succeeded in reunifying the country under his control. The US came to the rescue at the last minute and US troops pushed the North Koreans back up the peninsula, across the 38th parallel, and rapidly approached the Chinese border. McArthur expected to wrap things up before Christmas so that US troops could come home. The possibility that China, which just the year before had consolidated control of its own country after a long, bloody civil war, would attack the world’s sole superpower, who just five years earlier had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was for McArthur inconceivable. But he awoke one morning in October to find his forces attacked by a “peasant army” of 300,000 Chinese who beat the US back down the roads they had come up, to the 38th parallel, where the US was forced to settle for an armistice. Tens of thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands of Chinese, and millions of Koreans died in that war.

for China the prospect of South Korea conquering the North and bringing US troops to China’s borders is as unacceptable today as it was in 1950. Expect China to intervene in some fashion on the peninsula in almost any military scenario―even if only to seize and hold a buffer zone in the north, as Chinese troops have recently been drilling to do.

Even if Chinese forces entered North Korea with no intention of fighting the US, there are many scenarios in which war could still occur through miscalculation, including a “vertical track meet” between Chinese and US special forces rushing to secure the North’s nuclear weapons in the event of a regime collapse. These weapons are held near China’s borders, so it is very likely that if and when US troops arrive, they will find Chinese special forces already there.

What diplomatic role can China play to defuse tensions between the US and North Korea, and advance diplomacy to denuclearize the Korean peninsula? 

The immediate cause of tension between the US and North Korea is North Korea’s drive to develop a credible threat to strike the American homeland with nuclear weapons, on the one hand, and President Trump’s determination to do whatever is required to prevent that from happening, on the other. This is the dynamic that will in the next 12 months take us to one of three destinations: (1) North Korea will have completed the next series of ICBM tests and be able to hold American cities hostage; (2) Trump will have ordered airstrikes on North Korea in an attempt to prevent that from happening; or (3) a minor miracle in which Xi and Trump, working together, convince Kim to halt his nuclear advance. 

China controls North Korea’s oil lifeline. If it squeezes that pipeline, North Korean aircraft, tanks, missile launchers, trucks, cars and factories will feel the pain. China has been reluctant to exercise this influence for fear of how Kim might react. But after recent provocations, Chinese officials have begun signaling that Xi might be willing to take that risk.

If Trump and Xi seek to hammer out a joint plan for stopping Kim from further ICBM and nuclear tests, what could that look like? The Chinese government has offered a formula it calls “freeze for freeze.” North Korea would stop testing for the year ahead and the U.S. would stop or significantly modify joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that Kim despises. The U.S. has rejected that idea outright. But if Trump recognizes that the only alternatives are the two previously mentioned, it should be possible to find adjustments the U.S. could make in exercises, bomber flights and troop levels in South Korea that, while uncomfortable and ugly, do not compromise anything vital. Whether that would be sufficient to persuade Xi to threaten Kim’s oil lifeline, and whether Kim would accept a freeze for freeze, is uncertain. And even if such a deal were possible, this would only kick the can down the road for another year.

Other than North Korea, what flashpoints do you see that could trigger military conflict between the US and China?

The dangerous dynamic of Thucydides’s Trap leaves both parties vulnerable to actions by third parties, or events that would otherwise be inconsequential or readily managed, but that trigger reactions by the primary competitors that lead to war. five all-too-plausible scenarios that could escalate mundane crises into a war that neither the US nor China wants: North Korea; an accidental collision in the South China Sea; a move by Taiwan toward independence; a clash between China and Japan in the East China Sea; and an economic conflict that escalates into a shooting war.

How do you assess President Trump’s visit to the region? 

One is reminded of Zhou Enlai’s response to Henry Kissinger when Kissinger asked him how he assessed the French Revolution. Zhou said: “it’s too soon to tell.” 

Overall, the trip seems to have been more successful than most observers had expected. Through a twelve day marathon, an individual known not to like to travel or to participate in big meetings with foreign leaders played his role and stayed on script. Since his primary objective was to develop support for stopping KJU’s nuclear advance, the fine words we heard both from Trump and from all his counterparts are good enough. But the proof of what was accomplished on this front—or not—will be in actions we see in the weeks ahead. 

The Trump Administration’s choice to focus on Xi and to do whatever it can to persuade him to rein in KJU was, in my view, the best of the feasible approaches available—given the realities they inherited in January.

How one wishes we have some system where experts in respective fields are invited to give their opinion and issues concerning National Security. 



Editor’s Note: This is the eleventh installment of “Southern (Dis)Comfort,” a new series from War on the Rocks and the Stimson Center. The series seeks to unpack the dynamics of intensifying competition — military, economic, diplomatic — in Southern Asia, principally between China, India, Pakistan, and the United States. Catch up on the rest of the seriesEarlier this month, an anonymous senior U.S. administration official offered an explanation for why North Korea pursued nuclear weapons. “North Korea’s goal is not to simply acquire these horrific weapons to maintain the status quo in the Peninsula,” the official noted. “[I]t is seeking these weapons in order to fundamentally change that status quo. Its primary goal, as stated … is to reunify [with] South Korea. These weapons are part of the plan to reunify with South Korea.”

The future lies in brain-intensive, not labour-intensive, industries

By Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar

The government’s ‘Make in India’ drive is in trouble. It aims to increase the share of manufacturing from 16% of GDP to 25% by 2022, creating 100 million jobs. Alas, industrial growth has been weak in Modi’s three years in office, the investment rate has fallen, formal employment growth has been miserable, and exports have stagnated. What’s gone wrong? I have long held that government attempts to boost this or that sector is a mistake. Far better is simply to improve the ease of doing business, remove constraints in all sectors, and then leave entrepreneurs to decide which area should soar, which should plod along, and which should close. In this approach, services will probably do better than manufacturing, and brain-intensive sectors better than labour-intensive ones. GoI needs to build on these strengths rather than hanker for labour-intensive areas whose time has gone.

In China, a New Political Era Begins

By Matthew Massee

The world has changed since modern China was founded, and it seems that China, not for the first time, is changing with it. When Mao Zedong established the republic in 1949, having fought a civil war to claim it, China was poor and unstable. To reinstate stability he ruled absolutely, his government asserting itself into most other state institutions. Private property was outlawed, and industrialization was mandated, from the top down, in an otherwise agrarian society. The goal was to disrupt China’s feudal economic system that enriched landlords but left most of the rest of the country in poverty. Mao’s techniques ensured compliance with government policies, but they did little to improve the country’s underdeveloped economy. This is what we consider the first era of communist rule.

A New US-Chinese Globalization Opportunity

Written by Dan Steinbock

President Trump’s grueling 12-day Asia tour took place amid a worrisome historical moment. Since the mid-2010s, global economic integration - as measured by trade, investment and migration - has come to a standstill. Trade has been falling. Investment continues to stagnate. And slower migration has given rise to elevated global displacement and refugee crises - the worst since 1945. After Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam, Trump attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, followed by the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN in Manila.

The Rise Of A Not-So-New World Order

by Sarang Shidore

For decades the United States has sat atop a unipolar world, unrivaled in its influence over the rest of the globe. But now that may be changing as a new, informal alliance takes shape between China and Russia. The two great powers have a mutual interest in overturning an international order that has long advantaged the West at their own expense. And as the Earth's sole superpower turns inward, they will seek to carve out bigger backyards for themselves. Will their marriage of convenience once more give rise to the bipolarity that characterized the Cold War, or will it unravel in the face of a natural rivalry rooted in geopolitics?

The Indo-Pacific: Defining a Region

In Stratfor's 2017 Annual Forecast, we wrote that China's influence in the South China Sea has steadily grown, thanks to a campaign meant to expand and modernize the Chinese military and to develop the sea's islands. China's strategy in the South China Sea has included making concessions to potentially amenable claimants in the region while pressuring more outspoken claimants through limited punitive economic measures. China will maintain this strategy in 2017, preferring to handle disputes on a strictly bilateral basis. Meanwhile, however, China's regional rivals — particularly Japan — will expand their maritime security cooperation and try to work more closely with the United States to counter China's rise. To this end, Japan, Australia, India and the United States are recharacterizing the Asia-Pacific region as the Indo-Pacific.

In Lebanon, Saudi Arabia Attempts the Impossible

In the regional competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon is the most recent proxy battleground. Iran's political and security connections in Lebanon mean Saudi Arabia will have a hard time countering its influence there. Saudi Arabia can wield some financial tools to try to pressure Lebanon, but Iran has the means to cushion some of the impact.

The Genius of North Vietnam's War Strategy

The long-awaited airing this past September on PBS of The Vietnam War, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, brought the sights, sounds, and whirlwind of emotions of the most divisive conflict in 20th century American history roaring back into the national conversation after a long hiatus. Reviewers have rightly praised the film for many things, especially its ideological evenhandedness and its careful attention to the experiences of America’s adversaries, both the handful of communists who were the chief architects of North Vietnam’s victory, and the millions of ordinary Vietnamese who served the revolutionary cause as soldiers, spies, or political cadres.

Russia’s Near-Abroad Interventions: Crazy Like A Fox – Analysis

By Enno Kerckhoff*

Introduction and Context

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has made several military interventions in neighbouring former Soviet republics. These actions have been interpreted aggressively in the West; however, in each case the intervention fulfills Russia’s power needs in their ‘Near Abroad.’1 Interventions in Moldova (1992), Georgia (1992, 1994 and 2008) and Ukraine (2014) have followed a common pattern where Russia perceives an oppressed minority, deploys military force to prevent this oppression, and a residual Russian military presence in the state provides sufficient instability to prevent that state from having the requisite pre-conditions for joining NATO.

Why Meeting The Paris Climate Goals Is An Existential Threat To Fossil Fuel Industries

by Henry Kelly

Any program with a reasonable chance of meeting the goals embraced by the 2016 Paris accords (holding global temperature increases below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels) is likely to mean drastic changes in fossil energy markets. And the task is only getting harder. After three years of leveling off, global greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are projected to grow 2 percent in 2017 to a new record high.

Russian Military Spreads Fake Intelligence

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

This week (November 14), the Russian Ministry of Defense posted on its official social media accounts a report about the Washington-led coalition and the United States military in northeastern Syria supposedly conspiring with Islamic State (IS) fighters. The Russian military accused US forces of refusing to air-bomb columns of IS trucks and armor allegedly fleeing a militant stronghold in Bukamal, on the Euphrates River, on November 9. Bukamal was under attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, supported by the Russian air force (VKS). The Russian defense ministry accused the US of not only refusing to hit the IS fighters in the open, while they were vulnerable, but alleged that US jets had actively prevented VKS bombers from attacking the IS columns.