February 02, 2019

Afghanistan institute for Strategic studies: Opinions

Iran’s Interests in Afghanistan: Water, Black Market Currency, & Extremism

By Ejaz Ahmad Malikzada

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi recently visited Kabul to discuss recent efforts towards peace in Afghanistan.

Though the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs hasn’t provided any details of the meeting, the visit is indicative of an Iranian effort to maintain relations with the Afghan government as the government neg..Read more

The Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (1996–2001): ‘War-Making and State-Making’ as an Insurgency Strategy

By Dr. Yaqub Ibrahimi

The establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) was the Taliban’s first effort to transform into a state structure in the midst of the Afghan civil war. However, the effort met with no ultimate success. After capturing Kabul in September 1996, the Taliban formed the IEA which was based on a two-track governance system..Read more


Vietnam Redux in Afghanistan: Peace as an Extension of War by Other Means

By Anthony H. Cordesman

It would be unfair to accuse any element of the US. Government as having had the wrong strategy for Afghanistan. The real accusation should be that it has had so many partially conflicting strategies that it never properly resourced or implemented overtime, or actively reversed, that it has had no real strategy at all. The United States has been remarkably inconsiste..Read more

Can the Afghan Peace Process Succeed?

By Mohammad Shoaib Haidary

Talks with the Taliban must include long-term, patient efforts to negotiate and resolve the disagreements between the Afghans on the issue of peace. In 2018, Afghanistan witnessed rapid changes in the ongoing peace process. In early February, President Ashraf Ghani extended an unconditional peace...Read more

AISS Publications

Cultural, Rituals and Beliefs of Afghanistan's People (Available in Farsi).Link

Trends in Student Radicalization Across University Campuses in Afghanistan (Available in English).Link

Afghan Democracy: Opportunities and Obstacles (Available in Farsi)Link

The Hear of Asia Process at a Juncture: An Analysis of Impediment to Further Progress.Link

Corruption Mapping in Afghanistan Research Report Link

Corruption Mapping in Afghanistan Research Report (Available in Farsi) Link

Trends in Radicalization across Unregistered Madrassas in Afghanistan Research Report Link

Trends in Radicalization across Unregistered Madrassas in Afghanistan Research Report (Available in Farsi) Link

Strangers Across the Amu River: Community Perceptions Along the Tajik– Afghan Borders. Link 

Social Media and Articulation of Radical Narratives in Afghanistan. Link

Social Media and Articulation of Radical Narratives in Afghanistan. (Available in Farsi).Link

Trends of Radicalization among the Ranks of the Afghan National Police.Link

Trends of Radicalization among the Ranks of the Afghan National Police(Available in Farsi).Link

Afghan people’s attitudes and perceptions towards peace talks between the Government and the Taliban. Link

Afghan people’s attitudes and perceptions towards peace talks between the Government and the Taliban(Available in Farsi).Link

Afghanistan’s constitution and the society in transition. Link

Afghanistan’s constitution and the society in transition (Available in Farsi).Link

Four Decades of Efforts for Peace and Reconciliation in Afghanistan: Analysis of the Impediments and Barriers to Sustainable Peace (Available in Farsi).Link

Four Decades of Efforts for Peace and Reconciliation in Afghanistan: Analysis of the Impediments and Barriers to Sustainable Peace (Available in English).Link

The Challenging Path towards Democracy in Afghanistan An Assessment and Critique of National Debates on Alternative Political Systems in Afghanistan (Available in Farsi).Link 

The Challenging Path towards Democracy in Afghanistan An Assessment and Critique of National Debates on Alternative Political Systems in Afghanistan (Available in English).Link 

Typology of Religious trends in Contemporary Herat (Available in Farsi).Link 

Strategic Analysis of the Chabahar Port: Afghanistan- Iran- India Relations (Available in English).Link 

Strategic Analysis of the Chabahar Port: Afghanistan- Iran- India Relations (Available in Farsi).Link 

The Afghan elites perception toward the Islamic Republic of Iran(Available in Farsi).Link 

The Afghan elites perception toward the Islamic Republic of Iran(Available in English).Link 

Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors of Youth in Afghanistan(Available in Farsi).Link 

Modalities of Conflict Resolution in Afghanistan: A Negotiated Settlement Scenario

Report available in English    Report available in Farsi

Electoral Reform and the Experience of Parliamentary Elections in Afghanistan

 Report available in English    Report available in Farsi

The Political Culture in Herat

 Report available in Farsi

Fatemiyoun Division: Afghan Fighters in the Syrian Civil War

 Report available in English    Report available in Farsi

The Fallacy of Peace Process in Afghanistan: The People’s Perspectives
 Report available in English     Report available in Farsi

The Myth of Afghan Electoral Democracy The Irregularities of the 2014 Presidential Election
 Report available in English      Report available in Farsi

GCSC Cyberstability Update, February 1st, 2019

GCSC Cyberstability Update, February 1st, 2019

Your weekly news updates on the GCSC, its members, and relevant developments in the field of international cyber affairs. For more information about the GCSC, please visitwww.cyberstability.org.

UN Panel Reviews Benefits, Risks of Digital Technology

The article by Leila Mead was published on the International Institute for Sustainable Development SDG Knowledge Hub website, 29 January 2019
The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace met in Geneva to discuss international security and information and communications technology (ICT). Fabrizio Hochschild, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, who participated in both meetings, reiterated the UN Secretary General’s belief that challenges posed by the digital age are “one of the key issues of our time,” next to climate change and inequality.

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76 Partners Launch WTO Talks on E-Commerce

The European Commission press release was published on their database, 25 January 2019
At the World Economic Forum in Davos today, 76 partners - the European Union and 48 other members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) - decided to start negotiations to put in place global rules on electronic commerce. The last two decades have seen the exponential growth of domestic and cross-border electronic commerce. Despite this fast increase in electronic transactions, there are no specific multilateral rules in the WTO regulating this type of trade. Business and consumers instead have to rely on a patchwork of rules agreed by some countries in their bilateral or regional trade agreements.

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Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – Vectors of Digital Transformation

The OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation paper was published on the OECD iLibrary website, 22 January 2019
This report examines key properties – or “vectors” – of the digital transformation that fundamentally affect the economy and society and accordingly the design and efficacy of public policies. It explores three main areas where digital transformation affects the ways the economy and society are operating, i.e.: a) scale, scope and speed; b) ownership, assets and economic value; and c) relationships, markets and ecosystems. Exposing the underlying nature of change, the seven vectors provide insights on how the transformation challenges policies that are frequently predicated on an analogue world of tangible products and assets, fixed geographic boundaries and physical locations, on transaction costs that limit the scale and scope of interactions and offerings, and on supply and demand conditions that reflect scarcity. The objective of this report is to support the review of existing and the design of new policies to ensure that they are well‑suited to the digital era.

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Undercover Agents Target Cybersecurity Watchdog

The article by Raphael Satter was published by theAssociated Press, 26 January 2019
The researchers who reported that Israeli software was used to spy on Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi's inner circle before his gruesome death are being targeted in turn by international undercover operatives, The Associated Press has found. Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert described the stunts as "a new low." "We condemn these sinister, underhanded activities in the strongest possible terms," he said in a statement Friday. "Such a deceitful attack on an academic group like the Citizen Lab is an attack on academic freedom everywhere."

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Russian DNC Hackers Launch Fresh Wave of Cyberattacks on U.S.

The article by Kevin Poulsen was published in The Daily Beast, 31 January 2019
Russia’s military intelligence directorate, the GRU, has been caught in a new round of computer intrusion attempts, this time aimed at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington, D.C. think tank heavy with ex-government officials.

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Security Shield: A Label to Support Sustainable Cybersecurity

The White Paper by Public Knowledge was published on their website, 25 January 2019
The federal government should test a “Security Shield” program to encourage companies to meet cybersecurity best practices, the nonprofit group Public Knowledge said in a white paper published Tuesday. The program would be based on criteria developed by the technical standards agency NIST, in coordination with other agencies and industry experts. “A pilot program” in which well-designed routers carry Security Shield labels “is one way to begin building towards a trusted label that consumers can use to reliably evaluate product risk and move the market towards a more secure internet ecosystem,” wrote Public Knowledge’s Megan Stifel, Dylan Gilbert and Mark Peterson.

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Pear.php.net Shuts Down After Maintainers Discover Serious Supply-Chain Attack

The article by Dan Goodin was published inArsTechnica, 23 January 2019
Officials with the widely used PHP Extension and Application Repository have temporarily shut down most of their website and are urging users to inspect their systems after discovering hackers replaced the main package manager with a malicious one. PEAR’s advisory is the latest to expose what’s known as a supply-chain attack. These attacks are particularly effective because a single hack poisons software at its source where potentially large numbers of people go to get their downloads.

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Security Isn't Enough. Silicon Valley Needs 'Abusability' Testing

The article by Andy Greenberg was published inWired, 28 January 2019
At the USENIX Enigma security conference in Burlingame, California, on Monday, former Federal Trade Commission chief technologist Ashkan Soltani plans to give a talk centered on an overdue reckoning for move-fast-and-break-things tech firms. He says it's time for Silicon Valley to take the potential for unintended, malicious use of its products as seriously as it takes their security. Tech companies need to think not just about protecting their own users but about what he calls abusability: the possibility that users could exploit their tech to harm others, or the world.

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February 01, 2019

For Science, Or The ‘Motherland’? The Dilemma Facing China’s Brightest Minds


The fathers of modern Chinese physics survived idealism and endured persecution.

They’re exalted now, but at what cost?


It was a chilly November day in 2007. The colloquium was scheduled to start at 4 in the afternoon, but hours earlier, the main auditorium at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) was already packed. Students without a seat sat on the steps and squeezed into the corridors. More huddled by the entrance, pouncing for an empty spot.

The celebrity speaker was Chen-Ning Yang (杨振宁 Yáng Zhènníng). The theoretical physicist and his collaborator Tsung-Dao Lee (李政道 Lǐ Zhèngdào) were the first people of Chinese ethnicity to win the Nobel prize in 1957. Though both had left China before the Communist government took power and conducted their award-winning work in the United States, Yang and Lee are venerated in the country of their birth as symbols of Chinese scientific prowess. Juniors at USTC, my roommates and I had waited outside after a quick lunch at noon, and could enjoy our hard-earned seats in eager anticipation.

We cheered as the 85-year-old took the stage. Yang spoke in English, and delivered a lecture on parity violation, his Nobel-winning work that proved the universe’s reflection in the mirror behaves differently from our expectations. The language barrier and specialized content did little to curb our excitement. We were finally witnessing one of our childhood science heroes in person.

I felt a particular affinity with Yang. We were both born and raised in Hefei, where USTC is located. In the early 1990s, the university erected a bronze statue of the scientist in front of its main teaching building. As a child, I spent countless hours playing by its feet, the metal surface giving shape to the stories I heard of Yang’s life and work. Little did I know at the time, our academic paths would cross twice on both sides of the Pacific. Yang studied briefly at my high school in Hefei in 1937, before the escalating Japanese invasion forced him and his family across China in search for safety. They finally settled in Kunming on China’s southwestern corner, where Yang’s father taught math at the National Southwestern Associated University (NSAU), and Yang later enrolled to study physics.

I received my doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago in 2015, the same school and program Yang graduated from 67 years prior. That same year, 2015, Yang relinquished the U.S. citizenship he obtained in 1964, and later became a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, returning to the land he grew up in but also to a state that he had not previously been a subject of. The Chinese Academy of Sciences had to make up special rules to transfer Yang’s membership from foreign to domestic, the first time such a change had occurred. “My late father’s blood runs in my veins. Chinese culture runs in my veins,” Yang explained to Chinese state media on this “no easy decision” of his.

I continue to live and work in the U.S. as a particle physicist. My experiment has thousands of scientists from dozens of countries in its collaboration, the results from which belong to no single state. For the past few years, I have watched with increasing alarm the deteriorating political climates in both my birth country and my adopted home. The Trump administration has deployed discriminatory policies and rhetoric toward women, immigrants, and people of color, all of which I am, and is increasingly suspicious of scientists of Chinese origin, citing concerns of national security and industrial espionage. On the other side of the Pacific, China under Xi Jinping descends further into the abyss of dictatorship and oppression, in the meantime flexing its techno-nationalistic muscle and advocating “civil-military fusion.”

Part of China’s strategy to become a science and technology superpower is aggressive pursuit of foreign-trained talent. The top of the homepage for the government’s flagship talent recruitment program reads in red, bold Chinese characters: “The motherland needs you. The motherland welcomes you. The motherland places her hope in you.”

The sentences do not begin with “China.” It’s “the motherland.” The Chinese government sees itself as not just ruling over a territory but in ownership of a people, whose basic rights it routinely denies. When Chinese scientists cross water, where is their motherland, and who are their people?


One of Yang’s best friends since adolescence was Dèng Jiàxiān 邓稼先. Two years Yang’s junior, Deng also majored in physics at NSAU. Among their professors was Wu Ta-You (吴大猷 Wú Dàyóu), who supervised Yang’s undergraduate thesis work. A native of Guangzhou, then known as Canton, Wu received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan and returned to China in 1934 before the war with Japan broke out. In the mid-1940s, all three left China for the U.S. to further their scientific work. Their fates would diverge in the whirlwinds of war and geopolitics, as physical and ideological borders divided the trio for decades to come. The story of Wu, Yang, and Deng is an epic saga of Chinese scientists’ search of national identity, political allegiance, and a higher purpose for science.

After the nuclear blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945 that brought the Japanese government to surrender, Chiang Kai-shek (蒋介石 Jiǎng Jièshí), leader of the Nationalist government in China, recognized the power of the new weapon and consulted Wu, one of leading physicists in the country. Wu told the Generalissimo that the key to a nuclear arsenal was not funding or lab space, but well-trained talent. At Wu’s suggestion, a small group of Chinese students were selected for postgraduate studies in the U.S. The physics candidates, handpicked by Wu, were Tsung-Dao Lee and Zhū Guāngyà 朱光亚.

Yang had also obtained a scholarship for the U.S. from the Boxer Indemnity. Both he and Lee came to the University of Chicago, where the first controlled, self-sustained nuclear chain reaction was achieved by Enrico Fermi and his team a few years earlier. Zhu went to Wu’s alma mater, the University of Michigan, where Wu also headed as a visiting professor. A couple years later, Deng joined them for his doctorate at Purdue University. Since the West Lafayette campus was only a few hours away, Deng shared a room on the south side of Chicago with Yang. The two were as close as brothers.

Nuclear weapons technology was a military secret closed off to foreigners. Instead of learning how to build the bomb, as Chiang’s government had hoped, the bright young minds from China pursued basic research in the booming field of fundamental physics. An ocean away, the civil war raged on in China, news of which weighed heavily on Yang and his cohort. Should they stay in the U.S. after graduation, which, despite its discriminatory policies toward Chinese immigrants, still offered much greater political stability, material comfort, and research opportunities? Or should they return to China, their battered, impoverished homeland that desperately needed scientific talent? Would it still be the same China if the government changed hands?

Yang shared his dilemma with his classmates from NSAU. Huáng Kūn 黄昆, then studying in the UK, responded with a long letter dated April 1, 1947. Huang acknowledged that intellectuals like them had little power to affect the fate of a nation, but even if returning to China meant “jumping into the pit of fire,” it was still worth it because “whether China has us makes a difference.”

“To successfully organize an independent center of physics (in China) is more important than winning a Nobel prize. Devotion to the cause must trump desire for individual achievement. I think you must agree with me!” Huang wrote at the end of the letter, both to persuade Yang and to affirm his own belief, “Whatever I preach implies that I struggle to adhere to it, so I must declare it loudly to strengthen myself.”

Deng agreed with Huang. In 1950, the 26-year-old boarded a ship back to China nine days after receiving his Ph.D. from Purdue. Huang returned to China the year after. Yang stayed in the U.S. for a postdoctoral position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Wu moved to Canada to work at its National Research Council.

Deng and Huang would find themselves in good company. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, by 1956 more than 2,000 Chinese scientists, among an estimated 5,000 in the diaspora, had returned to their country of birth. Who could have predicted the persecutions they’d endure from the new government they had high hopes for?

The year 1956 was pivotal in the lives of all three characters in this story. Wu came to Taiwan per invitation of the Nationalist government in de facto exile, where he taught physics and advised on science policy. Yang published his paper on parity violation, co-authored with Lee, who also stayed in the U.S. Their theoretical prediction was confirmed by experiments the following year, garnering Yang and Lee the Nobel prize in physics. The People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, notably ran three articles in 1957 on Yang and Lee’s accomplishment, highlighting their Chinese origin by addressing them as “our country’s U.S.-based physicists Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang.”

Deng joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1956. A leading figure in the newly established Chinese nuclear weapons program, Deng worked alongside Zhu Guangya, one of the two students Wu selected to study in the U.S. who returned to China in the same year as Deng. USTC, my undergraduate alma mater, was founded in 1958, counting among its central mission to train scientists for the country’s fledgling nuclear and space programs.

China successfully detonated its first atomic bomb in 1964, and its first hydrogen bomb in 1967. In middle school history class decades later, my classmates and I memorized these figures: “It took the Americans 13 years. It took the Soviets seven years. It took the Chinese two years and eight months.” They were the times between the A-bomb and the H-bomb for each country. The interval was the shortest in China, a clear indicator of the superiority of Chinese science, and by extension the Chinese state, so we were taught.

Though the civil war drained resources and derailed the plan, Chiang’s government never gave up its ambition for the bomb. In the 1960s, the project was back on the agenda in Taiwan, and Wu was again consulted as head of the science council. Unlike last time, Wu dissuaded Chiang, citing both practical and ethical concerns. A nuclear weapons program would be a huge financial burden for the government, and complicate its relationship with the U.S. The island lacked physical sites for testing, and a nuclear confrontation across the Taiwan Strait would be disastrous for both sides. Despite much displeasure from the military, Wu advocated for peaceful use of nuclear energy. Taiwan commissioned its first nuclear power plant in 1978. It would be another decade and a half before China did the same.

In a bitter twist of history, the Chinese scientists who built up the country’s nuclear defense found themselves defenseless when political winds turned and science was deemed heresy. When the Cultural Revolution started in 1966, Deng had a modicum of political protection compared with scientists in other disciplines, but as the country descended into abject chaos, even the top nuclear and space scientists were persecuted in fanatic political struggle. In 1971, Deng and his team were sent to the gulags in the northwestern Qinghai province, its neighboring dry lake of Lop Nur being home to China’s Los Alamos.

Yang became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1964, citing convenience for international travel, and returned to China for the first time seven years after. At a time when Chinese scientists were demonized and tortured, Yang was treated as a foreign dignitary and met with the highest levels of the Communist government. The first person Yang asked to see was his old friend Deng, a request that freed Deng from the reeducation camps and plausibly saved his life. Among the millions who perished in the Cultural Revolution were China’s most distinguished intellectuals and their family members, including Wu’s undergraduate mentor Ráo Yùtài 饒毓泰 (one of China’s founders of modern physics, who committed suicide under persecution) and Deng’s older sister. Huang Kun, whose letter to Yang argued passionately why he must return to China to “make a difference,” endured hard labor but survived. Huang’s field of semiconductor technology was crippled from the beginning for political reasons, and is still playing catch-up in China today.

Deng continued working on the Chinese nuclear weapons program. The mission was so shrouded in secrecy that it was not until 1985 that the Chinese government publicly acknowledged Deng and his colleagues’ monumental work. “China’s Oppenheimer” died of cancer in 1986. Yang visited him in Beijing in his final days.

In 1987, the Taiwanese government lifted its 38-year-old martial law order, as well as the ban on travel to mainland China that had lasted the same duration. Five years later, an 85-year-old Wu went to Beijing for two international conferences on physics. It was the first time he returned to China in 46 years. Wu spent his final years teaching in Taiwan and working toward a book on the history of modern physics in China. “(The book) can be done on the mainland, but cannot be done in Taiwan alone,” he told his collaborator in China. “The father of Chinese physics” died in Taiwan in 2000 before the book was finished.

According to my Taiwanese colleagues, Wu was one of the most famous scientists in the Chinese-speaking world, his name appearing on buildings, in the media, and on the covers of textbooks. Growing up in China, I knew Wu was an esteemed physicist, but Deng and Yang were the household names, their life stories often compared against each other. Despite Yang’s well-recognized academic accomplishments, Deng was almost always portrayed as the superior scientist. Unlike Yang, Deng did not make significant contributions to advancing human understanding of nature, but Deng’s science served a higher purpose, as we were told, that in defense of one’s country and people. The Chinese government does not recognize dual nationality, and Yang’s U.S. citizenship was regarded as a betrayal to his blood by many in China, including Yang’s own father. “Till the day he died, my father never forgave me for giving up my Chinese citizenship,” Yang recalled in a 1983 book.

I arrived at the University of Chicago in the fall of 2009 for my Ph.D. in physics. On the academic family tree, Samuel K. Allison, whose lab Yang worked at briefly before switching to theoretical physics, would be my great-grandfather. The teaching building at the physics department has a wall adorned with portraits of the two dozen Nobel Laureates who once called the department home. There are Yang and Lee, as well as a long list of scientists who built the first bomb. A few among them, like Enrico Fermi and Eugene Wigner, and several more on the Manhattan Project, left Europe for the U.S. when the fascists came into power. They would find themselves not only living on the other side of the ocean, but also fighting on the opposite side of the war against their home governments.

One in particular, James Franck, resigned his position in Germany in protest of the Nazi government. He helped Jewish scientists in his native country find work overseas, and later headed the committee at the University of Chicago that issued the “Franck Report” in June 1945, arguing against the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. The U.S. government decided otherwise.

An earlier face on the wall is that of Werner Heisenberg. One of the founders of quantum mechanics was also the lead scientist in Nazi Germany’s nuclear weapons program. It is easy to criticize Heisenberg, but was it any more ethically justified to build the nuclear bomb for Mao than for Hitler?

Desiring atomic weapons since the late 1940s, Mao Zedong officially launched the program in 1955, during the First Taiwan Strait Crisis and under nuclear blackmail from the Eisenhower administration. Deng and his colleagues believed in using science to protect their homeland and its people, yet the government they built weapons for caused more Chinese deaths than any foreign invader in the country’s modern history. When a state could not guarantee its people basic human rights, should scientists have trusted the state with the most powerful weapons?


In our middle school Chinese class, we studied an eulogy by Yang in memory of his lifelong friend Deng. In hauntingly beautiful prose, Yang recalled the Tang Dynasty verse “Elegy for the Ancient Battlegrounds,” a classic piece of traditional Chinese literature he used to recite with Deng during their college days at NSAU. The lifeless deserts in northwestern China, where battles were fought between Han Chinese and steppe empires over millennia, became the research and test sites for the country’s nuclear weapons program, as well as its most notorious political prisons.

“I wonder how Jiaxian felt, when he buried his colleagues in the sand among the withering grass?” Yang asked, hinting at the enormous human sacrifice behind the Chinese bomb. Toward the end of the article, Yang suggested that if a film about Deng were ever to be made, an early 20th-century Chinese song, a favorite of Yang’s father’s, should serve as its theme music. The lyrics go like this: “The sons of China, the sons of China, they hold the sky aloft with a single hand. The rivers of the east surge on to the sea, the mighty mountains stand. How many valiant heroes through the ages gave up their lives in the barren borderland? The crimson never fades, from their blood spilled in the sand.”

As a woman, I do not appreciate the overtly masculine tone. As a scientist, I will not use my work to kill for a state. As an immigrant, I do not believe in absolute ownership of a land. And yet, as a Chinese person rereading these words over a decade and half later from an ocean away, I find tears streaming down my face. I cry for my scientific forefathers, the country they died for, and the state that did not deserve them.

Yangyang Cheng will return on the final Wednesday of every month. This is the SupChina science column.

Blackwater Founder’s New Company Strikes a Deal in China. He Says He Had No Idea.


Erik Prince said he had “no knowledge or involvement whatsoever” of a deal by Frontier Services Group to build a training camp in northwestern China.CreditZach Gibson for The New York Times


Erik Prince said he had “no knowledge or involvement whatsoever” of a deal by Frontier Services Group to build a training camp in northwestern China.CreditCreditZach Gibson for The New York Times

By Alexandra Stevenson and Chris Buckley

Feb. 1, 2019

HONG KONG — Erik Prince, a former member of the Navy SEALs best known as the founder of the security contractor formerly known as Blackwater, has made it clear that he considers China a priority. He teamed up with one of China’s biggest conglomerates and set up a company that would help Chinese companies overseas.

But Mr. Prince scrambled on Friday to distance himself from the latest announcement: that his company, Frontier Services Group, had struck a deal to build a training camp in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been detained in indoctrination camps that have drawn condemnation in Washington and abroad.

Frontier Services Group said in January that it had reached an agreement with officials and an industrial park in Tumxuk, a city in western Xinjiang, to build a training facility there. The announcement provided few details about what kind of training would take place there, though the company cast the project as a move to help upgrade the city through tourism and infrastructure projects.

Chinese media later reported that FSG would invest about $600,000 into the camp and train about 8,000 people a year.


But on Friday, in a statement provided by a spokesman, Mr. Prince said he had “no knowledge or involvement whatsoever” of what he called a “preliminary memorandum.”

Mr. Prince added, “Any potential investment of this nature would require the knowledge and input of each FSG board member and a formal board resolution.”

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By Friday, the statement announcing the deal had been removed from the FSG website.

Mr. Prince, who is the brother of the United States education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has long courted controversy, most recently when he laid out a plan for President Trump to privatize the war in Afghanistan. Blackwater, a United States military contractor in two Asian conflicts, became a symbol of unchecked American power in the Iraq war after its employees killed 17 unarmed civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

Frontier Services Group has expressed interest in western China before. Two years ago, it said it would set up an office in Xinjiang, where the Chinese authorities have taken an increasingly hard line on the local population, citing concerns about terrorism. Xinjiang is home to a largely Muslim ethnic minority group called Uighurs.


Since then, a fuller, more disturbing picture has emerged.

Officials in Xinjiang have rounded up ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in huge numbers, putting them into re-education camps where they are subjected to a severe indoctrination program to remove any devotion to Islam and make them obedient to the Chinese Communist Party. Experts, human rights groups, and officials in the United States and elsewhere estimate hundreds of thousands of people have been caught up in the campaign, part of an expansive crackdown that Beijing has put in place in the name of fighting extremism and separatism.

“Xinjiang is a region where we have documented severe human rights abuses both by the police and ordinary officials,” said Maya Wang, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Anything that would involve training government officials involved in this repression would be contributing to human rights abuses.”

United States officials have taken notice. Lawmakers have introduced bipartisan bills that urge the Trump administration to punish Chinese officials and to prevent sales of some American equipment to some Chinese state agencies. Officials at the White House and in the State and Treasury Departments have been discussing whether to impose economic sanctions on Chinese officials who oversee the system of repression in Xinjiang.

Mr. Prince made a name for himself as the founder of Blackwater, a private military contractor that did business in Iraq. After Blackwater employees were held responsible for civilian deaths in Baghdad, Mr. Prince sold the company and set up FSG, turning his sights to the growing demand from Chinese companies moving into countries and regions with ethnic strife.


FSG, which is listed in Hong Kong, has unabashedly courted Chinese officialdom. Citic Group, one of China’s biggest state-owned conglomerates, owns a quarter of FSG’s stock. A security and logistics company, FSG has tied itself to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a major campaign by President Xi Jinping to develop geopolitical ties by building bridges, trains and ports through Asia. China considers Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan and several other Central Asian countries, a gateway to a strategically important region.

Tumxuk lies between Kashgar and Aksu, larger settlements that have been a focus of the Chinese government’s drive to stifle antigovernment sentiment. The city comes under the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an organization run along military lines and founded in the 1950s to bring security, development and Han Chinese settlers — members of China’s largest ethnic group — to the region. Even now, the corps acts as a kind of parallel administration in Xinjiang, holding vast areas of land and operating its own schools, courts and other institutions.

But Tumxuk has also been drawn into the regionwide drive to transform Uighur society through indoctrination camps.

The government says the camps wean Uighurs and other Muslim minorities from religious extremism, while teaching them Chinese language and job skills. But former inmates have described harsh, even brutal treatment, and United Nations human rights committees and experts have condemned the camps for holding people in the camps without legal appeal.


Tumxuk has more than 160,000 inhabitants, nearly two-thirds of them Uighur, according to official population estimates, and government reports and records show that the city has built at least one camp, as well as other specialized schools, to “deradicalize” minority residents.

Uighurs are nearly all Sunni Muslim. In the previous decade some of them embraced more conservative strains of Islam, and Xinjiang experienced bursts of violence directed at government targets and Han Chinese people. The Chinese government said the violence was inspired and orchestrated by terrorists seeking an independent Uighur homeland, but many experts outside the country said the attacks often appeared to be poorly organized local efforts.

In 2017, a unit of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in Tumxuk issued a tender notice inviting bids for building work on a “legal education and training center” — a phrase sometimes used for the indoctrination camps. The work required included installing video surveillance equipment and renovating dormitories and a canteen for the inmates. In 2017, Tumxuk also hosted a meeting of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps officials to discuss the growing indoctrination drive, according to a corps report at the time.

The FSG deal would have put the company in direct business with Tumxuk officials. A news release that has since been removed from the FSG website included a photograph of local officials signing the memorandum. One was Li Zhenguo, the Communist Party secretary for Tumxuk, who recently warned about the rise of terrorism in the region.

According to a statement on the local government website on Friday, Mr. Li recently implored local officials to “always be on alert in the war against separatism and terrorism.”

Alexandra Stevenson reported from Hong Kong, and Chris Buckley from Beijing. Austin Ramzy contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

Hindu Temples Vs Government Control


*Hindu Temples Vs Government Control*: Today, 2 Feb, 2019, 6-8 Pm , Hotel Plaza, Begumpet, Hyderabad

*Meet our Speaker*: J Sai Deepak, Advocate-Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.

On 26 July 2018, the day of the hearing on Lord Ayappa’s of Sabrimala’s right to remain a ‘Naistika Brahmachari’ senior counsels made their submissions, the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra allowed advocate J Sai Deepak-the counsel appearing for intervener organisation People for Dharma -10 minutes to present his submissions as the court had to rise for lunch.

Sai Deepak, began his arguments with a simple statement: The temple has asserted its rights, women have asserted their rights, but no one has asserted the rights of the deity inside Sabarimala. And the "deity's advocate" wanted to assert the rights of his "client" by all means.

In less than 5 mins, he made arguments that convinced the bench to give him more time post lunch. While arguing for the deity's rights as a juristic person, he said Sabarimala's Lord Ayyappa has rights under articles 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, and his right to remain a "naisthika bramhachari" falls under Article 25 and hence, women's entry inside the temple should continue to be restricted. "The fact that nobody introduced the deity's rights in court or personified the deity's right by giving it a certain flesh-and-blood character, which already exists and is recognised under law, is perhaps why Sai Deepak spkoe for more than an hour and got a standing ovation.

Sai Deepak submitted a 50-page written submission in court, in which he cited several judgments in this context. "It is evident from the above judgments that Lord Ayyappa, too, has the character of a juristic person under the Hindu law, as recognised by this hon’ble court," the submission says. "Consequently, the deity enjoys rights as a person under article 25(1), 26 and 21. The deity as the 'Owner of His Abode' enjoys the right to privacy under Article 21. This includes the right to preserve his celibate form and... (uphold) his vow of a naisthika brahmacharya."

His submission adds: "It is the will of the deity that is being preserved by the temple through the traditions it observes, which is effectively the object of Article 26. Finally, the deity has the right to follow his dharma like any other person under Article 25(1) and the state is duty-bound to protect his faith. In light of this, clearly the petitioners' rights under Article 25(1) cannot prevail over the deity's rights. In fact, they must be necessarily subservient to the rights of the deity."

Lord Ayappa has a new counsel and his name is J. Sai Deepak. And Sai Deepak is here to speak on the right of the Hindus over the temples today in Hyderabad.

All are invited! Please consider this as my personal invitation.

Monica Reddy

Belt and Road Initiative: Top Developments

RWR Advisory

📌Xi Calls for Belt and Road Safety Guarantee System
On January 21, President Xi Jinping gave a speech at the Central Party School of the CCP on the importance of risk management. In his address, Xi specifically mentioned the need to establish a Belt and Road “security guarantee system” to “strengthen the protection of overseas interests and guarantee the security of large-scale overseas projects and personnel.” These remarks come in the wake of several attacks on Chinese nationals working on Belt and Road projects in Pakistan, and, more recently, an incident in which a Chinese construction site in Kenya came under fire from alleged al-Shabab militants. The Xi administration is also exploring more innovative measures for protecting overseas Chinese assets and personnel. In Myanmar, Beijing has called on the Ta’ang National Liberation Army insurgent group to protect China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group employees working on the Mandalay-Muse high-speed railway.

📌Malaysia Wavers on CCCC East Coast Railway Link Contract
Reports emerged on January 22 that the Malaysian government had cancelled China Communications Construction Company (CCCC)’s contract to build the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) and was in the process of finding a new contractor. This has been a possibility since Mahathir Mohamed’s election in May 2018, and work on the ECRL has beensuspended since July 2018. Prior to the cancellation rumors, Mahathir offered CCCC an opportunity to accept a reduction in the project’s scope and to increase local procurement , but CCCC rejected the new terms. On January 29, however, Mahathir refused to confirm the cancellation, noting that, “It is not that we do not want to honor our contracts, but we just cannot pay. It will impoverish us so we seek understanding of the parties concerned … because we are really tied in terms of finance.” The present, official status of the contract remains unclear.

📌Facing EU Screening, Three Gorges Halts EDP Takeover Talks
On January 25, China Three Gorges Corporation halted talks with European regulators regarding its proposed $10.3 billion takeover ofPortugal-based utility company Energias de Portugal (EDP). Three Gorges, which already holds a 23% stake in EDP, first launched its takeover bid in May 2018 but has yet to complete regulatory filings in Europe and the United States. but is thought to be considering withdrawing from the deal entirely. Some sources attribute this decision to concern over pending EU efforts to implement an investment screening mechanism, but other factors are likely coming into play, such as thereshuffle of company leadership.

📌China Surpasses Japan to Become Second-Largest UN Financier
A calculation of individual member nation’s funding obligations for the UN’s 2019-2021 budget revealed that China has replaced Japan as the second-largest contributor to the organization’s budget. The United States remains ranked first, but Beijing’s share of the financing burden rose from 7.92% over the 2017-2019 period to 12.01% under the new budget. This increase has led to some concern that Beijing might pressure various UN forums to endorse the Belt and Road Initiative or to avoid criticizing its human rights record. Dozens of UN offices, agencies, and commissions are already involved with the initiative and have signed cooperation agreements with China. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore recently invitedChina to tap into UN resources and systems, saying, “The Belt and Road is about investing in more than infrastructure. It is about investing in the people that infrastructure will serve, today and tomorrow.”

📌Peru and China Commit to “Optimize” FTA Amid Port Deal
On January 23, COSCO Shipping Ports reached an agreement withPeruvian polymetallic mining company Volcan Compañia Minera to acquire a 60% stake in its subsidiary, Terminales Portuarios Chancay, for $225 million. The two companies will jointly develop a multipurpose port terminal in Chancay, located approximately 80-km north of Lima, which is expected to cost $3 billion to develop and will include an entrance complex, underground viaduct tunnel, and port operational zone. An earlier announcement by the Chinese Ambassador to Peru indicated that COSCO will operate the port as well. This agreement comes one day before Peruvian Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism Edgar Vasquez announced that, from April, officials from Peru and China will begin a series of bilateral meetings to optimize the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries

📌.ExIm Bank of China Loans Egypt $1.2 Billion for Light Rail Project
On January 17, the Egyptianparliament approved a loan worth $1.2 billion from the Export-Import Bank of China for the constructionof a light rail that will connect an industrial city on the outskirts of Cairo with the new administrative capital (NAC), a key initiative of President Sisi's that is currently under construction. China has been extensively involved in NAC projects: China Fortune Land Development Company’s long-held plans to invest in the development recently collapsed, but China State Construction Engineering Corporation has agreed to train10,000 Egyptian construction workers and is slated to build a major skyscraper. Although talks between project administrators and China Fortune, in particular, have been contentious at times, the latest financing agreement may indicate that Beijing still sees the project as a productive way to ensure good relations with Sisi despite these challenges, and as a means to advance China’s other interests in the country, including along the Suez. In this context, it is also of note that the Chinese Embassy in Cairo signed an implementation agreement with Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing & Space Sciences on January 21 to jointly developEgypt’s Sat II satellite project.

📌China Great Wall Industry Corporation to Assist Argentina Satellite Launch
On January 16, China Great Wall Industry Corporation signed a multiple launch services agreement with Argentina’sSatellogic to launch 90 of Satellogic’s small, remote-sensing satellites on Long March 6 missions from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi Province. After achieving orbit, the satellites will form an Earth observation constellation capable of imaging the entire world with a 1-meter resolution on a weekly basis, which is intended to remap the planet for geospatial analytics. China’s existing relationship with Argentina in the space sector includes a controversial space mission control station in Argentina’s Patagonia region under the management of the PLA Strategic Support Force’s China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General.

📌Chinese Mining Activity in Africa Under Pressure
There were several indicators during the past two weeks that Chinese mining activity in Africa continues to create controversy and generate opposition from local miners and politicians alike. On January 15, a Kenyan court ordered Linjin Mining Company toshut down its gold and copper mining operations in the Macalder area and restore the environment to its original state after it was discovered the company never received approvals to operate there in the first place. InCameroon, miners beganprotesting outside a Chinese gold mine in Ngoura on January 17, alleging that Chinese miners had bribed corrupt officials to overlook code violations and were illegally purchasing concessions acquired by Cameroonians. And, Ghana'sMinistry of Lands and Natural Resources suspended Shaanxi Mining Ghana Limited’s operations on January 23 and launchedinvestigations into its Gbane mine after 13 miners died from smoke inhalation and several others sustained injuries from a blast. The Ghana Small-Scale Miners Association has vowed to stop Shaanxi Mining from operating in the country.

📌CEEC Signs Telecom Infrastructure MoU, Enters Philippine Market
China Energy Equipment Company (CEEC) signed an MoU with thePhilippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology on January 18 to investabout $4.4 billion in the construction of common cell towers in the country. CEEC needs to first secure an agreement with a telecommunications company in the Philippines before proceeding with construction. In November 2018, a joint venture between China Telecommunications Corporation and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corporation known as Misatel became the third biggest telecommunications company, and first foreign player, in the Philippine market. While there is some uncertainty over whether these projects will move forward and gain the necessary approvals, they are representative of what appears to be a growing Chinese investment footprint in the Philippines.

📌China Partners with Singapore to Set Up Belt and Road Mediation Panel
During the first China-SingaporeInternational Commercial Dispute Resolution Conference on January 25, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade signed an MoU with the Singapore International Mediation Centre toset up an international mediation panel for Belt and Road-related disputes. The two sides will work together to define rules, establish protocol, and devise enforcement procedures to resolve multi-jurisdictional disputes that may arise during the project delivery process. Singapore first offered to help China develop a dispute resolution framework during the Belt and Road Forum in May 2018 and is likely going to continue serving as a driving force for these mechanisms.

📌Sri Lanka Takes on Further Chinese Lending to Pay Existing Debts
On January 17, Sri Lanka’sMinistry of Finance agreed to take on a $300 million sovereign loanoffered by the Bank of China and increase the amount to $1 billion over the next three years. Sri Lanka is expected to receive the initial loan by the end of the month. In a sign of the country’s precarious financial position, the loan is intended to service existing debt obligations. It is notable that the loan was issued by Bank of China, which is a commercial bank, rather than the China Development Bank or the Export-Import Bank of China.

January 31, 2019

Rest in Peace George Fernandez

It was year 1998
BJP was single largest party and NDA was the strongest alliance   in Loksabha. Vajpayee was elected as  the PM. Confidence motion was put before the house. Congress and CPM had joined hands to vote against NDA government.

Leaders of both parties were sitting together and attacking BJP NDA . Whenever Congress leader spoke, the  CPM leaders were thumping the desks and vice-versa. Whenever a leader from NDA was attacking Congress, leaders from CPM were counter  attacking fiercely. All 'secular' forces were united to dethrone the Vajpayee government.
Veteran leader George Fernandez was defending the government. He said " Speaker sir, I want to inform you what a strong organisation has to say something on Congress party". He took out a book while speaking so and started reading.

"Congress party is the fountainhead of corruption...(big shouting from congress benches)...The British left and the Congress party replaced them. Over the past 50 years, Congress has established ever new records in corruption. (again big shouting from congress )

Congress ministers have often been found embroiled in several scams, including Mundra scam, Churhat Lottery scam, Bofors scam, Sukhram scam, Harshad Mehta scam, JMM Bribery scam and Hawala, that took place during its regime. Congress has corrupted and misused every institution of the Indian democracy."

At this point, both Congress and CPM got charged up and said  "Speaker sir! Please ask the honourable member to name the source, We can't allow him to read from any unnamed document. Please restrain him."

George Fernandez said "Please don't get impatient. I'll definitely name the source. But first let me complete what it says. It says, "The Congress party's record on Secularism too has been chequered. At various times in history, Congressi goondas took active part in riots and killed people. 3000 Sikhs were butchered by them on streets of Delhi and prime minister Rajiv Gandhi watched it silently."

Big shouting and noise again from benches of Congress and CPM.

George Fernandez, "Just give me two minutes...and then I'll reveal the source"

He continued to read from book "Speaker sir, it says, "No country in history has ever progressed with bad governance and excessive corruption as partners. None! The Congress suffers from this twin ailment since decades. Its survival is detrimental to the progress of India. Therefore, in the interest this nation, it's important that Congress party is wiped out from this land for ever."

Big shouting and noise again from benches of Congress and CPM.
"Speaker sir! It cannot go on like this. We will not allow him to speak any further if he doesn't give the source he is quoting from."

"Ok, Ok" said George , "There is more to read. But since our friends from Congress and CPM are so desperate to know the source, let me tell you what I am reading from...

...I'm reading from the Manifesto of CPI(M) issued just before these Lok Sabha elections."

Pin drop silence in the house. Leaders from Congress and CPM were starring each other..

George , "What happened, why silent ? You were  shouting we want to know the source, we want to know the source.  Once you heard the name of the source, your voices were mute. Shame  on your selves ! Definitely you should be ashamed ...

My friends from the Left! Either you don't read your own manifesto or you don't mean a word of it. In either case, you should be ashamed of yourselves. In the name of secularism, you have joined hands with Congress that has broken all records in corruption. I urge you to introspect to determine your future course of action. And if you do not mend your ways, your party will become history, sooner rather than later."

Rest in Peace George Fernandez...🙏🙏

Save Rashid Hussain Baloch

By Fateh Jan Baloch

On 26 December 2018, the UAE intelligence agencies have arrested and taken to an undisclosed location the 23-year-old Baloch student and social media activist Rashid Hussain Baloch while he was on his way from Sharjah to Dubai. The UAE police expressed cluelessness about his whereabouts and formally registered the FIR of his ‘disappearance’ at the request of his family.

A few days later more than a dozen intelligence security officers brought Rashid Hussain to his apartment and demand from his family to hand over his passport. This demand for the passport was followed by intimidating phone calls to his family. People called from withheld numbers and threatened the family about Rashid’s passport.

However, when Rashid Hussain’s family have asked about his whereabouts and well-being, they did not get any satisfactory reply from the UAE authorities. The family then, according to the law of UAE, hired a lawyer and gave him the power of attorney to find out if there were any charge/allegations against Rashid Hussain.

The lawyer has contacted all government institution and found that there is no case against Mr Hussain. That means his disappearance is unlawful.

Since Rashid is a well known social media activist and has been very active in highlighting Human Right violations in Balochistan on social media.

Pakistani forces have already killed Rashid Hussain’s cousin Majeed Zehri and his uncle Haji Mohammad Ramzan Zehri (Majeed’s father). Due to which Rashid Hussain could not complete his education in Balochistan and had to flee to UAE where he has been living on work permit visa and working from past two years.

The Baloch, Pashtun, Sindhi and Shia activists have been campaigning on social media against Rashid Hussain’s enforced-disappearance from past many days. However, on Tuesday the Pakistan media has reported that Rashid Hussain had been arrested in Sharjah and he’s allegedly one of the ‘Key facilitators’ of the attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi on 23 November 2018. There is no doubt that the Pakistani media and state wants to mislead the world through such allegations.

The disappearance of Rashid Hussain and misleading reports by Pakistani media after one month of his abduction confirms the concerns of social media activists that if Rashid is forcibly deported to Pakistan, he will also be killed like other members of his family.

It is the responsibility of all Human Rights organisations, freeborn people around the world and Human Rights activists to appeal the government of United Arab Emirates that UAE must not succumb to the lies and misleading reports by Pakistan and its media. Deporting Rashid Hussain to Pakistan would be deliberately pushing him into the jaws of death. Hence, every individual must play his/her role to save the life of Rashid Hussain Baloch.

Appetite for destruction

31 January 2019 | Disinformation ReviewTop Story

Some say that lard is the new health food. Others claim it makes your cholesterol go up. Pro-Kremlin media, in turn, propose a recipe: fry a herring in lard and you will get anti-Russian Estonia. Welcome to this week’s Disinformation Review!

Entrée à la Baltic  

Have you ever tried herring deep-fried in lard? According to pro-Kremlin media, this is something that every Estonian politician has tasted, as they turned Estonia into a small, angry, anti-Russian project

Disinformation this week came back in a new wave directed at the Baltic states. On the one hand, it questioned their statehood and independence, on the other it tried to manipulate the audience by showing ‘examples’ of how bad the Baltics are, especially towards Russian speakers and people of Russian descent.

Disinforming outlets told stories about Estonians forbidding Russian veterans to wear their medals, which were as close to the truth as the ones accusing all Baltic states of glorifying Nazism. Their aim was to portray Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as Russophobes, in order to sow distrust, especially among Russian speakers. 

But do not lose your appetite in the way that the Baltics and Ukraine, according to disinforming outlets, lost their sovereignty because of Europe (which, by the way, was claimed to have limited sovereignty, too)! 

Main course: the spectre of war 

A spectre is haunting the world – the spectre of war. It is supposed to come in 2022 or 2026, as the disinformation narratives say this week. The earlier date was linked to a supposed attack on Belarus, staged by the West, which should until 2022 flood the Belarusian opposition with grants, in order to slowly take over the whole country. The later date is when the West is supposed to attack Russia – this is what the Rail Baltica project is really for, as claimed by a few disinforming outlets. 

Add those narratives to the ones describing Poland and Ukraine as having ‘military psychosis’ as well as behaving aggressively towards Belarus and Russia, and you have a classic pro-Kremlin recipe for evoking fear in the audiences. While being afraid, one might be distracted from Russia’s clear violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. One might also not notice that the bellicose narratives contradict each other. And this is how another box on the disinforming media’s list is ticked: chaos and doubtfulness were aroused. 

A touch of conspiracy for dessert 

This week, disinforming outlets did not shy away from using well-known conspiracy theories, trying to prove the existence of hidden agendas and éminences grises. They were also ripe with narratives claiming the West’s ignorance of supposed impeccable, solid evidence provided by Russia, both in the case of Sergei Skripal’s poisoning and the downing of MH17. Ukraine was targeted, too, predominantly in the sauce of accusations of behaving aggressively towards RussiaBelarus and in the Azov Sea. Nothing better than a good debunk to digest a heavy disinformation meal. 

Some say that appetite comes with eating. For those still hungry for more – see the extensive list of disinformation cases we gathered for you this week.

Poland and Ukraine have aggressive military intentions towards Belarus and Russia

Additional details: The "military psychosis" of Poland and Ukraine and their plans to strengthen air defence systems reflect their aggressive intentions threatening Belarus and Russia. In light of the aggressive policy of the collective West, Poland acts as an "intermediary and vehicle", whereas Ukraine serves as the "battering ram".

Language / Targeted audience: Belarus

Link to the disinformation:sputnik.by/defense_safety/20190114/1039575158/Obedinennaya-sistema-PVO-Ukrainy-i-Polshi--ugroza-Minsku.html

Disinforming outlet(s): Sputnik Belarus

Reported by:

Disproof note:


No evidence given. Recurring pro-Kremlin narrative on Western belligerence in general and of Poland and Ukraine in particular.

See earlier publications about the West preparing aggressive plans and encircling Russia.  

Keywords: Encircling Russia

Countries: West, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland


Manipulation And Disinformation In Social Media: The Case Of Estonia And #ESTexitEU


28 January 2019 |

On 12th of December last year, a man protesting against the UN Global compact for migration was attacked. A few days later, photos of the brawl appeared on the Russian social media site Vkontakte, showing someone with an Estonian flag on their sleeve beating the protester. The post in the ”Мы-Нарвские” or ”We from Narva” group also featured photos showing the placard stating ”EU=USSR”, ”Stop the UN assault pact” and ”#ESTexitEU”.

The post quickly captured the attention of volunteers running the Estonian Propastop blog and what they discovered is more than interesting. Firstly, snow was present in the photos, but during the time of the alleged dustup the weather conditions hadn’t been so nordic. Secondly, there were many pictures but none of them revealed a face. Thirdly, no police records of the attack could be found. Thus the verdict of Propatop was: it’s fake news.

Intrigued by the hashtag suggesting Estonia should leave the EU, volunteers at Propastop launched a probe into the background. What they found out matched their suspicions – the hashtag had been used for the first time in November 2018 on Twitter by user Heigo Ponn. But was this user real? He had “borrowed” a photo from an account belonging to Aleksandr Gerasimov who lives in Nižni Novgorod, Russia. The other user spreading the hashtag was Gennady Karpov and he had “borrowed” an image from Sergei Tatskii living in Volgograd, Russia. Neither Ponn or Karpov posted in Estonian and large numbers of their posts were about Russia and Ukraine. Also, both of the accounts had followers that seemed to be fake.

The hashtag also found its way to Facebook where the group ESTONERS used it extensively. According to Propastop, the administrators of the group used fake accounts – one remarkably even “borrowed” a photo from a well-known Estonian journalist. Other fake administrators used photos “borrowed” from Russian social media. Most of the administrators’ accounts were created in September 2018.

The spreading of ironic photos, illustrations and memes about Estonian politicians and divisive topics in society lasted until 10th of January when Facebook closed the initial fake accounts of Estoners’ original administrators and thus deleted the content shared by them. As Facebook stated: “We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they post. In these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”  

All of this brings us to three conclusions. First on the scale and reach of such campaigns. According to a report by NATO Stratcom CoE , Vkontakte in Estonia has approximately 327 000 users and Odnoklassniki 250 000. That means that in some parts of Estonia they are more popular than Facebook.

Secondly, all of this corresponds with findings about Russian social media propaganda in the US: “bad actors specifically go after vulnerable people who are more susceptible to radicalization”. And both in the US and in Estonia, tensions for example around immigration make it easier to create propaganda campaigns online and thus drive a wedge in society. 

The last, but not least takeaway is: according to experts, automated bots – that were used in US elections in 2016 – can be identified quite easily, but operations to spread disinformation are way more complex and difficult to recognize. 

On 17th of January, Facebook removed almost 300 pages that “masqueraded as groups with special interests – ranging from food to support for authoritarian presidents  – and amplified content from the Kremlin’s media agency, Rossiya Segodnya.” Pages like “russkie.v.estonii” (“Russians in Estonia”) and “russkie.v.baltii.estonia.latvia.litva” laundered and amplified articles from Sputnik which despite its claim to provide alternative and non-establishment information is 100% controlled by the Russian government and has often been found deliberately spreading disinformation. In the case of Estonia, material from Sputnik was mixed with links from other local sites. 

According to DFR Lab, most of the pages Facebook deleted, did not mention a connection to Rossiya Segodnya. The number of followers such behaviour resulted in is 853,413. That’s 1.7 times higher than the total number of followers of all Sputnik’s official pages across the same countries.

IIT Kanpur has develped a website on our treasures of Vedas, Shahstras

IIT Kanpur has develped a website on our treasures of Vedas, Shahstras etc. Finally someone from today's science & technology field, is digging into what has already been done many many years ago.

Check it out: https://www.gitasupersite.iitk.ac.in/

No issue of language as IITK smartly put each Shloka in various languages. Most amazingly, commentary on each shloka by various scholars has also been provided. When you select the language as Bengali, it automatically translate everything into Bengali. Good use of technology.

Please share this as much as u can.

January 30, 2019

Too Much Risk or Not Enough? New Development Finance Agencies in China and the United States

By Scott Wingo

The past year has seen significant shake-ups to the development finance regimes of the world’s two largest economies. In April 2018, China officially established its new China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA). Not to be outdone, the United States Congress in October 2018 passed the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development Act, better known as the BUILD Act. The BUILD Act established the United States International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC), which will replace and expand upon the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). At first glance, it might be easy enough to dismiss these two agencies as roughly parallel developments in a tit-for-tat competition between the United States and China. Indeed, there is an undeniable element of Sino-American competition at play here, especially given the current state of overall bilateral relations. However, CIDCA and the USIDFC actually serve very different purposes rooted in the particularities of their respective domestic political economies.
In China, state-owned firms with easy access to government money can afford to take risky bets, and as is the case in Las Vegas or Macau, these bets can result in anything from spectacular gains to large losses. The United States, on the other hand, has a private sector-led system in which corporations do not expect much support from the government and are more cautious in their overseas activities. The USIDFC’s challenge will not be to rein in American firms so much as to prod them outward. A look at these two agencies reveals quite a bit about how two very different political and economic systems can have divergent implications for development finance practices.

The China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA)

China’s development finance practices are in many ways a natural outgrowth of its domestic financial system. During the Mao era, China’s banks were more akin to those in the Soviet Union: they existed to channel credit to the government’s preferred projects, but were not expected to turn a profit. Since Deng Xiaoping initiated China’s “reform and opening up” in the late 1970s, and especially since the reforms of economic czar Zhu Rongji in the 1990s, China has tried to overhaul this system to make it more similar to privately run banking systems in other countries. However, the transition has been incomplete. The banks are still predominantly state-owned and have a relatively high rate of non-performing loans (NPLs)—essentially, loans that aren’t being paid back—and the bulk of these loans are to state-owned firms.
Of course, there is a reasonable defense for losing money in this fashion. The private sector tends to underinvest in projects like public infrastructure that only generate profits after an extended period of loss, if at all. China’s willingness to use state credit toward questionably profitable projects could actually be an asset in this regard. Former World Bank Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin and World Bank Senior Economist Wang Yan use the term “patient capital”—in other words, willingness to wait until a loss-making project turns profitable, as in a new highway or railway slowly generating traffic to an underdeveloped area. More recently, Made in Africa Initiative Chief Economist and former Renmin University researcher Jason Cheng Cheng has termed China’s approach “blood cell finance,” using the metaphor of the body’s circulatory system to describe how spending money on connectivity projects can serve to benefit the rest of the economy. After all, the heart burns a lot of energy pumping blood, but you wouldn’t exactly call it a waste, right?
The most obvious problem with this approach to development finance is that it can be fairly difficult to predict which projects are worth a period of loss-making. Even when this is possible, Chinese firms do not face much incentive to lower their operational risks. Firms know that the government will probably back them up with further loans if projects fail, and they obtain credit on cheap enough terms that there is little reason not to gamble, even in unfavorable investment climates. This issue is compounded by a variety of internal divisions. Many outsiders tend to view China as a centrally coordinated monolith, but the reality is that it is internally as fractious and chaotic as most market-based systems. Firms may gamble on dicey projects just to keep rival firms from getting them. Large state-owned firms subject to the centralized State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) may receive a degree of oversight, but provincial and local firms often slip through the cracks. Government ministries, for their part, are not particularly unified either. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ emphasis on diplomatic interests frequently leads to clashes with the business-minded Ministry of Commerce, leading to a general lack of coordination, as well as increasing the odds that firms can find at least one government patron for unreliable projects. A series of bad investments has prompted the government to tighten the belt over the past few years, but there is still a distinguishable gap between Chinese practice and that of most private firms.
There exists yet another divide between China’s firms and government: the state simply lacks the capacity to effectively oversee all of its firms’ activities. During a recent trip to Beijing, I found Chinese specialists to be quite divided on to what degree China should impose greater constraints on its firms, but unanimous in their assessment that China’s government was much weaker than its firms. Most Chinese embassies abroad and agencies in Beijing have a fraction as many personnel as their developed country counterparts, despite frequently overseeing larger volumes of financial flows. This lack of oversight opens the door to bad behavior by firms abroad, as evidenced by recent corruption scandals in places like ChadKenya, and Malaysia.
Resentment of such cases sometimes resonates in local politics: few would have foreseen the return of the nonogenarian “Asian values” godfather Mahathir Mohamad to the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office on a platform critical of Chinese corruption, but he nonetheless took office last year. Even where corruption is not involved, many borrower country publics have become leery of their governments’ ability to repay debts involving projects that might not be as profitable as anticipated. China Merchants Group’s takeover of the management of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port in response to debt non-repayment has sparked a public relations backlash that appears to have exceeded Beijing’s expectations, with fears of a similar fate surfacing in a range of countries including DjiboutiLaosKenyaPakistan, and Zambia.
This has led many observers to fear that China is using “debt trap” diplomacy: lending unsustainable amounts of money to poor countries knowing that when they cannot repay, China can use the overdue debt as leverage to gain influence and take control of assets. This danger is much more real in some cases than others. The large majority of projects are not as strategically significant as the Sri Lankan port, which is situated at the center of the Indian Ocean shipping route linking China to African and Middle Eastern commodities, as well as to European consumers. Beijing faces little incentive to take over, say, a semi-profitable plastics factory. However, the speed-of-light rumor mill that is the modern media environment can easily turn a deal gone bad due to poor planning and ineffective oversight into a sinister plot, with actual and perceived negative developments alike contributing to the “debt trap” narrative. This narrative is currently in vogue in many Western outlets, but the bigger problem for Beijing is that many people in developing countries are beginning to believe it as well. Unlike third-party Westerners, developing country leaders and voters actually have the ability to delay or cancel deals.
China’s so-called “governance deficit” requires attention, lest the benefits of infrastructure construction fall victim to weak risk management practices. Chinese experts and official documents both convey that CIDCA is intended to address these shortcomings. Jason Cheng Cheng’s book, for example, devotes much of its last section to how the new agency can address the “ethics trap,” or the danger that unscrupulous corporate bosses could derail investment projects and damage China’s reputation by committing legal or ethical violations.
Analysis of primary source materials backs this argument. Marina Rudyak of Heidelberg University has helpfully published a side-by-side comparison of CIDCA’s 2018 guidelines for foreign aid with the Ministry of Commerce’s 2014 predecessor document. The majority of the language in the new document is copied and pasted from the old, but the new parts are telling. A number of clauses discuss planning and coordination. “CIDCA shall, in conjunction with relevant departments, establish an interdepartmental aid coordination mechanism in order to plan and coordinate major foreign aid issues,” states one new paragraph; “CIDCA shall be responsible for the top-level design of foreign aid, drafting of foreign aid strategies, and implement[ing] them upon approval,” states another. Keeping in mind that enforcement and oversight are historically issues for China, the new document promises that “CIDCA shall […] establish supervision and inspection mechanisms for major projects” and provides for “on the ground” inspections of embassies and project sites. It certainly seems that Beijing is becoming aware of the “governance deficit” in its development finance activities and is trying to reduce the presence of white elephants and black markets among its projects. Also of note is CIDCA’s situation within the Chinese bureaucracy. Like the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Commerce, CIDCA is directly under the purview of the State Council, China’s top level of governmental (as opposed to Party) authority. This should grant it a degree of independence from either.
More intriguing is the appointment of Wang Xiaotao as CIDCA’s inaugural chairman. A career civil servant in the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s powerful economic planning agency, Wang’s appointment serves as a means of bypassing the headaches that would come from selecting someone from one of the feuding Ministries of Foreign Affairs or Commerce. One can understand Xi’s desire not to take sides in a spat between agencies, but the choice of someone from NDRC cuts against recent political trends. Xi sees China’s bureaucracies as excessively rigid and unwieldy. So, he has attempted to centralize power above them through the use of Leading Small Groups (领导小组), in which highly placed people oversee much larger bureaucracies from perches in the State Council. Given the NDRC’s strength and the sheer scope of its activities regarding the economy, energy, and the environment, it could easily be considered a poster child for China’s powerful bureaucracy. A recent reshuffling of China’s bureaucratic flowchart transferred responsibility for certain issues involving agriculture, energy, and the environment from NDRC to other agencies, and CIDCA itself has been interpreted as part of a secular trend of transferring power away from entrenched bureaucracies. Appointing Wang Xiaotao, a thirty-year NDRC veteran, might thus be considered one step forward and two steps back, depending on to what degree he maintains his NDRC linkages in his new capacity. Or, perhaps his appointment is two steps forward and one step back: Xi might be willing to augment the power of one ministry (NDRC) in order to limit that of two deadlocked rivals (Foreign Affairs and Commerce).

The United States International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC)

If CIDCA is a product of the need to rein in risk-tolerant, cash-flush state-owned firms and increase coordination in the context of numerous internal divisions, then the USIDFC is the product of a very different set of problems. Instead of fighting over international development contracts, American firms often avoid them altogether, especially in the most difficult markets. The reason lies in the fundamental organization of the United States’ domestic political economy. The United States government tends to take a hands-off approach to the economy, with private firms playing a leading role. In the context of international development, this means that American firms do not frequently receive “patient capital”-type support to invest in projects with long periods of loss or high degrees of political risk. What’s more, while Chinese firms rely on state-owned banks for much of their financing, American firms rely more on equity financing through the stock market. The stock market is generally short-term in outlook, with most corporate bosses judged by whether quarterly earnings reports meet analysts’ targets by margins of pennies per share. American financial analysts also tend not to look kindly on excessive corporate reliance on government funding. Such a system does not lend itself to slow-moving, high-risk projects.
The resulting numbers are sobering. As of 2014, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available, AidData estimates that China committed approximately US $140 billion in new development finance projects worldwide. OECD figures put American commitments at $29.4 billion in the same year. The United States still maintains a lead over China in other areas, but is being badly outclassed in development finance, despite boasting a larger economic base. Developing countries are taking notice; a recent piece in Foreign Affairs titled “A Post-American Africa” captures a certain melancholy sentiment.
The passage of the BUILD Act has largely been in response to this sentiment. Even members of Congress not historically amenable to foreign aid voted in favor. Sponsoring Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL) told the New York Times after the bill’s passage that:
“[…] it is all about China […] My whole impetus in running for Congress in the first place was to get rid of foreign aid. It was my thing. But if we can reformulate and modernize it, yeah, I have no problem with that. There are people who want to do this for humanitarian aid, fine. There are people like me who want to do this for national security, like me, fine.”
The bill sailed through the House by a vote of 398-23, and through the Senate by 93-6. Such a consensus is all the more impressive given the gridlock that prevails in Congress on most other issues, not to mention the $60 billion price tag. Clearly, anxiety about China is creating that most elusive of creatures: a common sense of purpose.
As is the case in China, this sense of purpose cuts across traditional political divides. Foreign aid is historically more popular among Democrats than Republicans. Some on the right see aid as a waste of money when there are still needy people within America’s borders; others see it as “corporate welfare” distorting markets through an inappropriate use of government funds to intervene in the economy. For this reason, OPIC, the USIDFC’s predecessor, faced periodic threats of abolishment by Congress during the 2010s. It says something that Republicans such as Representative Yoho and President Trump have nevertheless turned to embrace the BUILD Act. Indeed, one of the USIDFC’s biggest proponents has been Ray Washburne, a Dallas real estate investor and longtime Republican fundraiser appointed by President Trump to lead OPIC.

Looking Forward

So what does this all mean in the future? How far will China and the United States go in reforming their development finance systems? With CIDCA less than a year old and the USIDFC not yet operational, it is still too soon to definitively say, but this author would predict only gradual change. In China’s case, the reason is fairly simple: state capacity. Even with the new agency, the government does not have enough resources and personnel to oversee all firm activities. Increasing staffing levels will take time, and even a larger CIDCA will run into the usual problems encountered whenever regulators take on powerful entrenched interests. There is every indication that the Chinese leadership is serious about CIDCA, but full implementation will not happen overnight.
The United States’ situation is much more complicated. There is an old adage that “in China, it is easy to pass a law, but difficult to enforce it. In the United States, it is difficult to pass a law, but easy to enforce it.” The adage seems appropriate here. In China, laws can be passed more or less because President Xi says they should be, but mustering the resources to enforce them against well-entrenched bureaucracies is a steeper hill to climb. In the United States, it took the major shock of being eclipsed by a developing country in the realm of development finance to jolt Congress into action, and agencies are almost certain to comply with the letter of the recently passed law. The real question, then, is what exactly is in the law?
A look at the substance of the bill reveals that it is unlikely to be quite as transformative as advertised. The first issue is the amount: the $60 billion cap on outstanding assets is quite a bit of money to most of us, but still less than the amount that China might add to its books in one year. Still, the cap is a doubling of OPIC’s. However, even if the quantity of financing provided represents a significant change, the nature of the financing does not. The opening lines of the bill are worth reading:
It is the policy of the United States to facilitate market-based private sector development and economic growth in less developed countries through the provision of credit, capital, and other financial support—
(1) to mobilize private capital in support of sustainable, broad-based economic growth, poverty reduction, and development through demand-driven partnerships with the private sector that further the foreign policy interests of the United States;
(2) to finance development that builds and strengthens civic institutions, promotes competition, and provides for public accountability and transparency;
(3) to help private sector actors overcome identifiable market gaps and inefficiencies without distorting markets […]
A consensus has emerged in Washington that the United States should counter China in development finance, but not that it should act like China in development finance. Traditional American priorities such as maximizing the role of the private sector in the economy are on full display, as are some more generally Western priorities such as clean governance and reliable institutions. As the bill later puts it, the USIDFC is intended to “ensure that support provided under this title is additional to private sector resources by mobilizing private capital that would otherwise not be deployed without such support.” This reflects a classic tradeoff in international development. On the one hand, development agencies can fund projects in countries with strong institutions and rule of law knowing that they are more likely to result in greater private sector growth and employment. On the other hand, these well-governed countries typically do not need the help as badly, simply because private investors also take note of their better business climates.
Reaching the world’s most desperate often involves dealing with unscrupulous leaders and hoping that some funds are not squandered or stolen before having any impact. China is willing to do this. David Landry’s statistical analysis of development finance in Africa finds that Western countries tend to pay attention to factors such as corruption and human rights, but China is basically agnostic. Per AidData, the top five recipients of Chinese development finance from 2009 to 2014 were Russia, Venezuela, Pakistan, Iran, and Belarus. Russia, Venezuela, and Iran have all been subject to broad-based US sanctions, while the United States’ relationships with Pakistan and Belarus could best be described as complicated. China is filling a void where the United States and many others are afraid to go, and the BUILD Act’s provisions regarding support for the private sector and good governance would indicate that this pattern is unlikely to change, at least for the US. This is not to say that the pattern should change, but simply to say that we should remain clear-eyed about to what degree the USIDFC directly competes with CIDCA.
Furthermore, the BUILD Act allows up to 35 percent of USIDFC assets to be in the form of equity investments. This is a positive in that it avoids the potential backlash from excessive debt burdens—no “debt traps” here!—but simultaneously presents some difficulties in certain markets. Namely, complex ownership contracts are difficult to adjudicate in many developing country court systems. In my own forthcoming research, I find that China tends to use more debt than equity financing in high-risk countries partially for this reason: many loan agreements amount to beefed up IOUs, leaving little room for courtroom interpretation. At least 65 percent of USIDFC assets will go toward debt, insurance, and technical cooperation arrangements, but the equity component will function better in more stable, middle-income countries. Included safeguards regarding adherence to trade agreements and labor and environmental standards may have a similar effect, as dicier markets are less likely to remain in compliance. Last, but not certainly not least, the USIDFC must be self-sustaining and revenue neutral. This is a positive for fiscal sustainability, especially given the United States’ budget deficit, but it does mean that marginally profitable projects with high risk and low interest rates are not likely to be a big part of the USIDFC’s portfolio.


The USIDFC, then, is not going to compete with China in high-risk markets. China’s risk appetite may be shrinking, but it is still willing to accept greater losses and longer periods of unprofitability than the USIDFC or Western private sector. This is doubly true with respect to markets either formally sanctioned by the West or simply unpopular with investors due to questionable track records of economic management. To directly compete with China, the United States would certainly have to develop a higher tolerance for financial loss, and in some cases would have to fundamentally change its foreign policy approach toward unsavory regimes. There are a whole host of reasons why Americans will not want to make these kinds of changes, beginning with concerns for human rights and budgetary mathematics, and we should not expect the USIDFC to look all that much like Chinese lenders.
Early public statements from American leaders indicate both an awareness of these differences, and a willingness to use them as an asset. A White House statement after the BUILD Act’s passage emphasized the goal to “better incentivize private sector investment in emerging economies and provide strong alternatives to state-directed initiatives that come with hidden strings attached.” The word “China” is not uttered, but “state-directed” and “hidden strings attached” are pretty clear references to the “debt trap” narrative, and the “private sector” reference is a nod to the American system. The USIDFC isn’t meant to prod Americans into investing like Chinese; it’s meant to prod them into investing like Americans.
For all this talk about the United States and China, we should end by discussing the oft-neglected other half of the equation: developing countries. The developing world encompasses over half of humanity and is no monolith. Some developing countries—think of Botswana or Chile—are historically friendly to an American-style model of private sector-led growth and strong rule of law. These are likely to embrace the USIDFC and continue to polish their pro-market reputations among international investors. Another group—think of Russia or Zimbabwe—are simply not going to want to fundamentally overhaul their domestic systems in exchange for a handful of American loans. These will continue to rely on China. A third group, perhaps the largest of all, does not particularly care about ideology and will simply go with the most favorable offers. China’s willingness to lose money on overseas deals has admittedly diminished, but barring some surprises in how the USIDFC does business, China is still likely to offer cheaper repayment terms and larger quantities. A pragmatic developing world leader would have to take this into consideration.
The USIDFC’s real impact, then, will not be to expand to higher-risk countries, but to expand to higher-risk or less profitable projects in safer countries. For example, electricity generation is often not very profitable, but it has enormous consequences for industrialization and growth. The same goes for other areas of American strength such as medicine, air travel, and telecommunications. The USIDFC will enable some of this talent to be put to use in lower-risk developing markets. However, we shouldn’t kid ourselves about how much this will allow the US to compete with China, especially in the parts of the world most in need of capital. The Chinese system is wired to support high-risk gambles on projects that could help to transform poor economies, or could completely go bust. The American system is wired to support safe short-term bets. Both sides are changing incrementally, but more via evolution than revolution.


Scott Wingo is a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Pennsylvania focusing on China’s economic engagement in the developing world and why its modes of doing business are different from those used by Western governments, international organizations, and multinational corporations. He has previously worked with the Woodrow Wilson Center, the World Bank, and in the private sector, and has served as a teaching assistant for five semesters at Penn. He holds both a Bachelor’s of Science in Foreign Service and a Master’s of Arts in Asian Studies from Georgetown University. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottCWingo.