May 11, 2019

Overextending and Unbalancing Russia

Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options

by James DobbinsRaphael S. CohenNathan ChandlerBryan FrederickEdward GeistPaul DeLucaForrest E. MorganHoward J. ShatzBrent Williams

Related Topics:Military Command and Control,North Atlantic Treaty Organization,Nuclear Deterrence,Peacekeeping and Stability Operations,Russia,U.S.-European RelationsCitationEmbedView related products

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This brief summarizes a report that comprehensively examines nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the United States and its allies could pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress—overextend and unbalance—Russia’s economy and armed forces and the regime's political standing at home and abroad. Some of the options examined are clearly more promising than others, but any would need to be evaluated in terms of the overall U.S. strategy for dealing with Russia, which neither the report nor this brief has attempted to do.

The maxim that “Russia is never so strong nor so weak as it appears” remains as true in the current century as it was in the 19th and 20th.

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Today’s Russia suffers from many vulnerabilities—oil and gas prices well below peak that have caused a drop in living standards, economic sanctions that have furthered that decline, an aging and soon-to-be-declining population, and increasing authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin’s now-continued rule. Such vulnerabilities are coupled with deep-seated (if exaggerated) anxieties about the possibility of Western-inspired regime change, loss of great power status, and even military attack.

Despite these vulnerabilities and anxieties, Russia remains a powerful country that still manages to be a U.S. peer competitor in a few key domains. Recognizing that some level of competition with Russia is inevitable, RAND researchers conducted a qualitative assessment of “cost-imposing options” that could unbalance and overextend Russia. Such cost-imposing options could place new burdens on Russia, ideally heavier burdens than would be imposed on the United States for pursuing those options.

The work builds on the concept of long-term strategic competition developed during the Cold War, some of which originated at RAND. A seminal 1972 RAND report posited that the United States needed to shift its strategic thinking away from trying to stay ahead of the Soviet Union in all dimensions and toward trying to control the competition and channel it into areas of U.S. advantage. If this shift could be made successfully, the report concluded, the United States could prompt the Soviet Union to shift its limited resources into areas that posed less of a threat.

The new report applies this concept to today’s Russia. A team of RAND experts developed economic, geopolitical, ideological, informational, and military options and qualitatively assessed them in terms of their likelihood of success in extending Russia, their benefits, and their risks and costs.

Figure 1. Russian Petroleum Exports Are Declining

SOURCE: United Nations (UN), UN Comtrade Database, electronic online database, 2017.

Economic Cost-Imposing Measures

Expanding U.S. energy production would stress Russia’s economy, potentially constraining its government budget and, by extension, its defense spending. By adopting policies that expand world supply and depress global prices, the United States can limit Russian revenue. Doing so entails little cost or risk, produces second-order benefits for the U.S. economy, and does not need multilateral endorsement.

Imposing deeper trade and financial sanctionswould also likely degrade the Russian economy, especially if such sanctions are comprehensive and multilateral. Thus, their effectiveness will depend on the willingness of other countries to join in such a process. But sanctions come with costs and, depending on their severity, considerable risks.

Increasing Europe’s ability to import gas from suppliers other than Russia could economically extend Russia and buffer Europe against Russian energy coercion. Europe is slowly moving in this direction by building regasification plants for liquefied natural gas (LNG). But to be truly effective, this option would need global LNG markets to become more flexible than they already are and would need LNG to become more price-competitive with Russian gas.

Encouraging the emigration from Russia of skilled labor and well-educated youth has few costs or risks and could help the United States and other receiving countries and hurt Russia, but any effects—both positive for receiving countries and negative for Russia—would be difficult to notice except over a very long period. This option also has a low likelihood of extending Russia.

Economic Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and RisksExpand U.S. energy productionHighHighLowImpose deeper trade and financial sanctionsHighHighHighIncrease Europe’s ability to import LNG from sources other than RussiaModerateHighModerateEncourage emigration from Russia of skilled labor and well-educated youthLowLowLow

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in green while a low likelihood of success is shaded in red. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

Geopolitical Cost-Imposing Measures

Photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan/DoD

Providing lethal aid to Ukraine would exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability. But any increase in U.S. military arms and advice to Ukraine would need to be carefully calibrated to increase the costs to Russia of sustaining its existing commitment without provoking a much wider conflict in which Russia, by reason of proximity, would have significant advantages.

Increasing support to the Syrian rebels could jeopardize other U.S. policy priorities, such as combating radical Islamic terrorism, and could risk further destabilizing the entire region. Furthermore, this option might not even be feasible, given the radicalization, fragmentation, and decline of the Syrian opposition.

Promoting liberalization in Belarus likely would not succeed and could provoke a strong Russian response, one that would result in a general deterioration of the security environment in Europe and a setback for U.S. policy.

Expanding ties in the South Caucasus—competing economically with Russia—would be difficult because of geography and history.

Reducing Russian influence in Central Asia would be very difficult and could prove costly. Increased engagement is unlikely to extend Russia much economically and likely to be disproportionately costly for the United States.

Flip Transnistria and expel the Russian troops from the region would be a blow to Russian prestige, but it would also save Moscow money and quite possibly impose additional costs on the United States and its allies.

Geopolitical Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and RisksProvide lethal aid to UkraineModerateHighHighIncrease support to the Syrian rebelsLowModerateHighPromote liberalization in BelarusLowHighHighExpand ties in the South CaucasusLowLowModerateReduce Russian influence in Central AsiaLowLowModerateFlipping TransnistriaLowLowModerate

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in green while a low likelihood of success is shaded in red. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

Ideological and Informational Cost-Imposing Measures

Photo by Dmitry Vereshchagin/Adobe Stock

Diminishing faith in the Russian electoral systemwould be difficult because of state control over most media sources. Doing so could increase discontent with the regime, but there are serious risks that the Kremlin could increase repression or lash out and pursue a diversionary conflict abroad that might run counter to Western interests.

Creating the perception that the regime is not pursuing the public interest could focus on widespread, large-scale corruption and further challenge the legitimacy of the state. But it is hard to assess whether political volatility and protests would lead to a more extended Russia—less able or inclined to threaten Western interests abroad—or to a Russia more inclined to lash out in retaliation or to distract, making this a high-risk option.

Encouraging domestic protests and other nonviolent resistance would focus on distracting or destabilizing the Russian regime and reducing the likelihood that it would pursue aggressive actions abroad, but the risks are high and it would be difficult for Western governments to directly increase the incidence or intensity of anti-regime activities in Russia.

Undermining Russia’s image abroad would focus on diminishing Russian standing and influence, thus undercutting regime claims of restoring Russia to its former glory. Further sanctions, the removal of Russia from non-UN international forums, and boycotting such events as the World Cup could be implemented by Western states and would damage Russian prestige. But the extent to which these steps would damage Russian domestic stability is uncertain.

While none of these measures has a high probability of success, any or all of them would prey on the Russian regime’s deepest anxieties and might be employed as a deterrent threat to diminish Russia’s active disinformation and subversion campaigns abroad.

Ideological and Informational Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and RisksDiminish faith in the Russian electoral systemLowModerateHighCreate the perception that the regime is not pursuing the public interestModerateModerateHighEncourage domestic protests and other nonviolent resistanceLowModerateHighUndermine Russia’s image abroadModerateModerateModerate

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in green while a low likelihood of success is shaded in red. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

Air and Space Cost-Imposing Measures

Photo by Anthony N. Hilkowski/DVIDS

Reposturing bombers within easy striking rangeof key Russian strategic targets has a high likelihood of success and would certainly get Moscow’s attention and raise Russian anxieties; the costs and risks of this option are low as long as the bombers are based out of range of most of Russia’s theater ballistic and ground-based cruise missiles.

Reposturing fighters so that they are closer to their targets than bombers as a way to achieve higher sortie rates to compensate for their smaller payloads would likely concern Moscow even more than reposturing bombers, but the likelihood of success is low and risks are high. Because each aircraft would need to fly multiple sorties during a conventional conflict, Russian leaders would probably be confident that they could destroy many fighters on the ground and shut down their deployment airfields early on with few or no additions to their missile inventory.

Deploying additional tactical nuclear weapons to locations in Europe and Asia could heighten Russia’s anxiety enough to significantly increase investments in its air defenses. In conjunction with the bomber option, it has a high likelihood of success, but deploying more such weapons might lead Moscow to react in ways contrary to U.S. and allied interests.

Repositioning U.S. and allied ballistic missile defense systems to better engage Russian ballistic missiles would also alarm Moscow but would likely be the least effective option because Russia could easily saturate current systems and any planned upgrades with a small percentage of its existing missile inventory, leaving many missiles still available to hold U.S. and allied targets at risk.

There are also ways to get Russia to extend itself in strategic competition. In terms of benefits, such developments would exploit Moscow’s demonstrated fear of U.S. airpower capabilities and doctrines. Developing new low-observable, long-range bombers, or simply adding significantly more of types that are already available or programmed (B-2s and B-21s) would be worrisome for Moscow, as would developing autonomous or remotely piloted strike aircraft and producing them in high numbers. All options would likely incentivize Moscow to devote ever-greater resources to making its command and control systems harder, more mobile, and more redundant.

A key risk of these options is being drawn into arms races that result in cost-imposing strategies directed against the United States. For example, investing in ballistic missile defense systems and space-based weapons would alarm Moscow, but Russia could defend against such developments by taking measures that would probably be considerably cheaper than the costs of these systems to the United States.

As for likelihood of success, some options are good cost-imposing strategies, but some—such as investing more in HARMs or other electronic warfare technologies—are clearly better than others, and some approaches should be avoided, such as those that focus on space-based weapons or ballistic missile defense systems.

The United States might goad Russia into a costly arms race by breaking out of the nuclear arms control regime, but the benefits are unlikely to outweigh U.S. costs. The financial costs of a nuclear arms race would probably be as high for the United States as they would be for Russia, perhaps higher. But the more serious costs would be political and strategic.

Air and Space/Nuclear Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and RisksOption 1: Changing air and space force posture and operationsReposture bombersHighModerateLowReposture fightersLowModerateHighDeploy additional tactical nuclear weaponsHighLowHighReposition U.S. and allied ballistic missile defense systemsLowLowModerateOption 2: Increasing aerospace research and development (R&D)Invest more in low-observable aircraftModerateModerateModerateInvest more in autonomous or remotely piloted aircraftHighModerateModerateInvest more in long-range strike aircraft and missilesHighHighModerateInvest more in longer-range high-speed antiradiation missiles (HARMs)HighModerateModerateInvest more in new electronic warfare technologiesModerateModerateLowFocus on long-range, precision-guided conventional missiles (e.g., conventional prompt global strike)ModerateModerateHighFocus on space-based weaponsLowModerateHighFocus on “spaceplanes”Low to moderateModerateHighFocus on small satellitesLowModerateHighOption 3: Increasing air and missile components of the nuclear triadBreak out of the nuclear arms control regimeLowModerateHigh

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in green while a low likelihood of success is shaded in red. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

Maritime Cost-Imposing Measures

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Declan Barnes/DVIDS

Increasing U.S. and allied naval force posture and presence in Russia’s operating areas could force Russia to increase its naval investments, diverting investments from potentially more dangerous areas. But the size of investment required to reconstitute a true blue-water naval capability makes it unlikely that Russia could be compelled or enticed to do so.

Increasing naval R&D efforts would focus on developing new weapons that allow U.S. submarines to threaten a broader set of targets or enhance their ability to threaten Russian nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), which could impose anti-submarine warfare costs on Russia. There are limited risks, but success depends on being able to develop these capabilities and on whether they are sufficiently capable of influencing Russian expenditures.

Shifting nuclear posture toward SSBNs would entail increasing the percentage of the U.S. nuclear triad assigned to SSBNs by increasing the size of that fleet. While it might force Russia to invest in capabilities that can operate in a blue-water environment in two oceans and would reduce risks to U.S. strategic posture, the option is unlikely to entice Russia into changing its strategy and, thus, extending itself.

Checking the Black Sea buildup would involve deploying strengthened North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) anti-access and area denial over the Black Sea—perhaps in the form of long-range, land-based anti-ship missiles—to drive up the cost of defending Russian bases in Crimea and lower the benefit to Russia of having seized this area. Russia would certainly mount a vigorous diplomatic and informational campaign to dissuade coastal NATO and non-NATO states from participating. Also, operating in the Black Sea is politically and logistically more difficult for the U.S. Navy than the Russian Navy; it is also more dangerous for the former in a conflict.

Maritime Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and RisksIncrease U.S. and allied naval force posture and presenceModerateModerateLowIncrease naval R&D effortsModerateModerateModerateShift nuclear posture toward SSBNsLowLowLowCheck the Black Sea buildupModerateModerateModerate

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in green while a low likelihood of success is shaded in red. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

Land and Multidomain Cost-Imposing Measures

Photo by Anthony Sweeney/DVIDS

Increasing U.S. forces in Europe, increasing European NATO member ground capabilities, and deploying a large number of NATO forces on the Russian border would likely have only limited effects on extending Russia. All the options would enhance deterrence, but the risks vary. A general increase in NATO ground force capabilities in Europe—including closing European NATO member readiness gaps and increasing the number of U.S. forces stationed in traditional locations in Western Europe—would have limited risks. But large-scale deployments on Russia’s borders would increase the risk of conflict with Russia, particularly if perceived as challenging Russia’s position in eastern Ukraine, Belarus, or the Caucasus.

Increasing the size and frequency of NATO exercises in Europe may help to enhance readiness and deterrence, but it is unlikely to prompt a costly Russian response unless the exercises also send risky signals. Large-scale NATO exercises held near Russia’s borders and exercises that practice counterattack or offensive scenarios could be perceived as showing the intent and willingness to consider offensive operations. For example, a NATO exercise simulating a counterattack to retake NATO territory lost to advancing Russian forces might look like an exercise to prepare for an invasion of a piece of Russian territory, such as Kaliningrad.

Developing but not deploying an intermediate-range missile could bring Russia back into conformity with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty but could also prompt an acceleration of Russian missile programs. Withdrawing from that treaty and building the missiles but not deploying them in Europe would add little to U.S. capabilities and would probably prompt Russia to deploy such missiles itself—and, perhaps, invest more in ballistic missile defense. Taking the further step of deploying the missiles to Europe, assuming that NATO allies were willing, would also almost certainly prompt a Russian response, potentially involving substantial resources, or at least the diversion of substantial resources from other defense spending, though it is hard to assess what share would be directed toward defensive capabilities versus offensive or retaliatory ones.

Incremental investments in new technologies to counter Russian air defenses and increase U.S. long-range fires could significantly improve defense and deterrence while compelling increased Russian investment in countermeasures. Investments in more-revolutionary, next-generation technologies could have even greater effects, given the Russian concerns about new physical principles, but depending on the capability, such investments could also risk strategic stability by threatening the Russian regime and leadership security in a crisis.

Land and Multidomain Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and RisksOption 1: Increasing U.S. and NATO land forces in EuropeIncrease U.S. forces in EuropeModerateModerateModerateIncrease European NATO member ground capabilitiesLowHighLowDeploy large number of NATO forces on the Russian borderModerateModerateHighOption 2: Increasing NATO exercises in EuropeIncrease the size of U.S participationLowModerateModerateGenerate a mass mobilization of European NATO member forcesLowHighModerateHold exercises on Russia’s bordersModerateModerateHighHold exercises practicing counterattack or offensive scenariosModerateModerateHighOption 3: Withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces TreatyFund a missile development program without withdrawingModerateLowModerateWithdraw and build missiles but do not deploy to EuropeHighLowModerateWithdraw, build missiles, and deploy to EuropeHighModerateHighOption 4: Investing in new capabilities to manipulate Russian risk perceptionsInvest in incremental improvements in counter–anti-access and area denial capabilities (e.g., enhanced Army Tactical Missile Systems, advanced anti-radiation guided missiles)HighModerateModerateInvest in revolutionary, swarm counter–anti-access and area denial capabilitiesHighHighHighInvest in incremental improvements in counter–ground forces/fires (e.g., enhanced Javelin)LowLowLowInvest in revolutionary, unmanned ground forces/fires capabilitiesModerateModerateModerateInvest in weapons based on “new physical principles” (e.g,. directed-energy counter–air-defense weapons)ModerateHighHigh

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in green while a low likelihood of success is shaded in red. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

Implications for the Army

The task of “extending Russia” need not fall primarily on the Army or even the U.S. armed forces as a whole. Indeed, the most promising ways to extend Russia—those with the highest benefit, the lowest risk, and greatest likelihood of success—likely fall outside the military domain. Russia is not seeking military parity with the United States and, thus, might simply choose not to respond to some U.S. military actions (e.g., shifts in naval presence); other U.S. military actions (e.g., posturing forces closer to Russia) could ultimately prove more costly to the United States than to Russia. Still, our findings have at least three major implications for the Army.

The U.S. Army should rebuild its linguistic and analytical expertise on Russia. Because Russia does pose a long-term threat, the Army needs to develop the human capital to engage in this strategic competition.The Army should consider investing and encouraging the other services to invest more in capabilities, such as Army Tactical Missile Systems, Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2, longer-range anti-air defense, and other systems designed to counter Russian anti-access and area denial capabilities. The Army also might consider spending some R&D resources on less-mature, more-futuristic systems (e.g., swarm unmanned aerial vehicles or remote combat vehicles). While these measures would likely be insufficient in themselves to greatly extend Russia, they would benefit U.S. deterrence efforts and could augment a broader whole-of-government policy.Even if the Army were not directly involved in extending Russia per se, it would play a key role in mitigating the possible blowback. All the options to extend Russia incur some risk. As a result, enhancing U.S. deterrence posture in Europe and increasing U.S. military capabilities (e.g., an enhanced Javelin or active protection systems for Army vehicles) might need to go hand in hand with any move to extend Russia, as a way of hedging against the chance of tensions with Russia escalating into conflict.


The most-promising options to “extend Russia” are those that directly address its vulnerabilities, anxieties, and strengths, exploiting areas of weakness while undermining Russia’s current advantages. In that regard, Russia’s greatest vulnerability, in any competition with the United States, is its economy, which is comparatively small and highly dependent on energy exports. Russian leadership’s greatest anxiety stems from the stability and durability of the regime, and Russia’s greatest strengths are in the military and info-war realms. The table below draws from the earlier tables to identify the most-promising options.

Most of the options discussed, including those listed here, are in some sense escalatory, and most would likely prompt some Russian counterescalation. Thus, besides the specific risks associated with each option, there is additional risk attached to a generally intensified competition with a nuclear-armed adversary to consider. This means that every option must be deliberately planned and carefully calibrated to achieve the desired effect. Finally, although Russia will bear the cost of this increased competition less easily than the United States will, both sides will have to divert national resources from other purposes. Extending Russia for its own sake is not a sufficient basis in most cases to consider the options discussed here. Rather, the options must be considered in the broader context of national policy based on defense, deterrence, and—where U.S. and Russian interests align—cooperation.

Most-Promising Cost-Imposing OptionsLikelihood of Success in Extending RussiaBenefitsCosts and RisksExpand U.S. energy productionHighHighLowImpose deeper trade and financial sanctionsHighHighHighIncrease U.S. and allied naval force posture and presenceModerateModerateLowReposture bombersHighModerateLowInvest more in autonomous or remotely piloted aircraftHighModerateModerateInvest more in long-range strike aircraft and missilesHighHighModerateInvest more in longer-range HARMsHighModerateModerateInvest more in new electronic warfare technologiesModerateModerateLow

NOTE: For all the tables in this brief, high and low rankings for costs and risks are inverted in desirability from the rest of the table; i.e., low costs are good in the same way that a high likelihood of success is. Thus, a low cost is shaded in green while a low likelihood of success is shaded in red. All assessments listed in the tables in this brief are based on analysis by the report’s authors.

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May 09, 2019

Smashing the Bell Jar

Smashing the Bell Jar

Shades of Gender in China

January–March 2019

Sun and moon have no light left, earth is dark; / Our women’s world is sunk so deep, who can help us? / Jewelry sold to pay this trip across the seas, Cut off from my family I leave my native land. / Unbinding my feet I clean out a thousand years of poison, / With heated heart arouse all women’s spirits. / Alas, this delicate kerchief here / Is half stained with blood, and half with tears.

Qiu Jin, 1904 (translated by Jonathan Spence)


As she bode farewell to China in the summer of 1904, early revolutionary Qiu Jin penned these words to bemoan the fate of herself and of uncountable Chinese women. She was leaving behind her husband—whom she had married out of obligation—and two young children to go to study in Japan. Having returned to China, she would continue to engage in revolutionary activities, and was ultimately beheaded by the Qing authorities in July 1907 at the age of 31. Martyrdom made her into a legend. More than a century later, bound feet belong to another age and kerchieves stained with blood and tears have become an overused trope in revolutionary literature. Still, Qiu Jin’s spirit is more alive than ever in a whole new generation of Chinese feminists who are fighting for women’s rights—a renewed attempt to smash the bell jar of China’s patriarchal society. This issue of the Made in China Journal offers a series of perspectives on the plight and struggles of women and sexual minorities in today’s China.



Table of Contents


Transnational Carceral Capitalism in Xinjiang and Beyond|  Gerald Roche
State Repression in the Jasic Aftermath: From Punishment to Preemption |  Kevin Lin
Where Is China’s Interpol Chief?|  Maya Wang
Intellectual Property, Artificial Intelligence, and Ethical Dilemmas: China and the New Frontiers of Academic Integrity |  James Darrowby
From the Outside Looking In: A Response to John Garnaut’s Primer on Ideology |  Christian Sorace

China Columns 

Hidden Rules and the ‘Heartache’ of Chinese Government Officials |  Jie Yang
Against Atrophy: Party Organisations in Private Firms | Jude Blanchette
Anti-poverty Policies and Discourses of Blame in China | Yang Lichao and Robert Walker


Chinese Feminism as We Know It: Public Pedagogies of the Anglophone Media Space | Dušica Ristivojević
Does China Have a Feminist Movement from the Left? |  Yige Dong
Beyond #MeToo in China: A Conversation with Zhang Leilei |  Nuala Gathercole Lam
Global Connections: Chinese Feminism, Tibet, and Xinjiang | Séagh Kehoe
Separated Again by a High Wall |  Zheng Churan
The Plight of Sex Workers in China: From Criminalisation and Abuse to Activism |  Tiantian Zheng
Accidental Activists: The Resistance of the ‘709’ Wives | Nicola Macbean
Queer History, Culture, and Activism in China: A Conversation with He Xiaopei |  Bao Hongweiand He Xiaopei

Window on Asia 

Descending into Debt in Cambodia |  Milford BatemanNithya NatarajanKatherine Brickell and Laurie Parsons
A Road to Forgetting: Friendship and Memory in China’s Belt and Road Initiative |  Yi Xiaocuo

Work of Arts 

Once Upon a Time in China: Lu Zhixiang’s Sketches of Shanghai’s Society in the 1930s |  Martina Caschera
Hooligan Sparrow: A Conversation with Wang Nanfu |  Zeng JinyanTan Jia and Wang Nanfu


Illiberal China: A Conversation with Daniel Vukovich | Christian Sorace and Daniel Vukovich

Oracle To Lay Off 1,600 Staff In China

The mass sacking triggered protests and concerns over U.S.-China tech tensions


U.S. computer technology giant Oracle is shuttering its entire Research and Development Center in China (CDC). More than 900 employees have been laid off, and the second round of job cuts is expected to happen in July.

According to several Chinese media reports, the layoff notice was made in an all-hands meeting on Tuesday. In the meeting, the company’s head of human resources for the Asia-Pacific region announced that per orders from the U.S. headquarters, Oracle was planning to make some major changes to optimize its business structure, which would inevitably result in huge multi-phase staff reductions globally. Following the brief statement were private layoff conversations inside the Beijing branch of the center, where about 500 employees were informed of their loss of jobs.

Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald reported (in Chinese) that rumors about potential layoffs had started floating around since the end of last year, when CDC stopped hiring new people. The employees affected by the first round of layoffs were told to sign their releases before May 22 to claim full severance packages. After the complete closure of CDC’s Beijing office, Oracle’s employees in Nanjing, Dalian, and Shenzhen are on the line to lose their jobs. By slashing its entire staff of CDC, Oracle is planning to cut over 1,600 jobs in China.

The layoffs quickly prompted workers’ protests denouncing the short notice and unclear reasons of job cuts. On the afternoon of May 7, some Beijing employees put up banners outside the office buildings. One banner reads, “High profits, why layoffs?” and another reads, “We need jobs. Our kids need to go to school.” Some appeared to have linked the layoffs with the escalating trade tensions between China and the U.S. as one banner says, “We are against political layoffs. Keep politics away from technology!”

People working in the Chinese tech industry reacted to the news with a mix of shock and, depending on their positions, empathy or indifference. On the one hand, because the average age of the people who were sacked is reportedly 37 years old, which some consider too old for the fast-paced tech sector, many worry it will be difficult for the laid-off employees to find new jobs. In an attempt to help this new group of job seekers, recruitment platform has launched a specific page named “Oracle talents” to connect them and potential employers. On the other hand, a former employee of Oracle China pointed out that the company had long been known as an “elderly care facility” in the industry because of its low-stress work environment and good employee benefits compared with those of domestic firms. “The severance packages are quite generous,” an internet user wrote (in Chinese) in disagreement with the protests. “They need to remain alert and step out of their comfort zone.”

The staffing cuts came at a particularly sensitive time for U.S.-China relations because of the ongoing trade war. In fact, as indicated in a Fox News interview of Oracle’s co-founder Larry Ellison last October, the tech giant seems to have picked a side in the dispute. In the video, Ellison describes China as a big threat to the U.S., adding that there is some hypocrisy in Google’s policies of refusing to work for the U.S. military while trying to return to China. “I think our big competitor is China, and that if we let China’s economy pass us up — if we let China produce more engineers than we do, if we let China’s technology companies beat our technology companies — it won’t be long before our military is behind technologically also,” he said.

Additional sources:

现场|甲骨文中国裁员 被裁员工呼吁“加班时我们全力以赴,裁员时请真情相对” / National Business Daily甲骨文大裁员 / 36krLarry Ellison agrees with his nemesis Jeff Bezos over one big thing: the ‘shocking’ way Google views the U.S. military / Business Insider


Apr 29, 2019




Nina Hachigian







Note from the CPD Blog Manager: This article was originally published by Foreign Policy here and is re-posted with permission. Learn about CPD's latest research on city diplomacy here.

By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, the United Nations projects. Urban centers already have an outsize economic impact, generating over 70 percent of the world’s GDP. Statistics like these, and the hope in some quarters that cities will step into the void the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump has created by exiting international commitments and disparaging traditional allies, have ushered in an age of city diplomacy, in the United States and around the globe.

The world’s toughest problems—climate change, refugee resettlement, income inequality—often concentrate in cities, and the most promising and creative solutions are emerging from their inclusive politics and burgeoning innovation ecosystems. Increasingly, U.S. cities are conducting their own international relations and, in the process, learning what city diplomacy is best equipped to do and what falls beyond their legal, technical, or political purview.

Foreign-policy makers used to operating at a national level may be surprised at the degree to which cities are global actors in their own right. Under former President Barack Obama, I served as the U.S. ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and I am currently the first deputy mayor for international affairs for Los Angeles. I’ve found in my transition to municipal government that I still interact with diplomats all the time, negotiate the texts of agreements, and attend meetings between heads of state and my principal. The difference is the immediacy of the results, which is gratifying, and the aim to deliver to the people in just a single metropolis. There is freedom in that focus: We can have a productive relationship with foreign counterparts even when tensions arise at the national level, and we can engage all kinds of local partners, such as diaspora communities, businesses, nonprofits, and artists, to help us execute our initiatives. That being said, an urban scope is narrower and resources far fewer.

City diplomacy must, first and foremost, serve the core purpose and objective of local government: to improve the lives of residents. For example, at the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, which Mayor Eric Garcetti established in September 2017—and whose staff have served stints at the Departments of State, Commerce, and Defense; the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; the East Wing of the White House; and the National Security Council—we work with consulates, trade offices, and other institutions from more than 100 countries (and some foreign cities and provinces) to bring economic, cultural, and educational opportunities to Los Angeles. International direct investment has helped expand LA businesses and create local hiring—and tourism, a growing segment of which is international, generates over a half million jobs a year in Los Angeles County. Tens of thousands of foreign students attend colleges and universities in the city, and foreign companies employ more than 200,000 workers throughout LA.

Perhaps the most important way in which cities operate internationally is when they use their collective power and will to tackle a serious global challenge.

Diplomacy also helps power the city’s cultural engines. Government-owned institutions such as Japan House and Germany’s Thomas Mann House bring culture and learning to Los Angeles, not to mention the multitude of events and exhibits that consulates host or enable. The city’s winning bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in summer 2028 was the result of an intense diplomatic contest, and LA residents are already benefiting from the upfront investments by the International Olympic Committee in youth sports. And the mayor has started a program to send largely first-generation American community college students from underserved communities abroad, almost always for the first time, expanding their horizons. Two of the students who went to Egypt last summer had never before had a passport or been on an airplane.

Perhaps the most important way in which cities operate internationally is when they use their collective power and will to tackle a serious global challenge. Nothing illustrates this better than climate change. Seventy percent of worldwide carbon emissions comes from urban centers, and cities have at their command powerful levers to reduce these emissions—establishing rules for building efficiencies, providing public transportation, setting targets for renewable energy, and influencing the design of the urban landscape.

When Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord last spring, Garcetti pledged to stay in, and now more than 400 Climate Mayors have joined him, representing over 70 million Americans. LA reduced its carbon emissions by 11 percent in 2016, and the city is on track to become carbon-neutral by 2050. With input from private sector partners, LA started a consortium so U.S. cities could pool their buying power for electric buses and other vehicles in city fleets to drive down prices and signal strong demand for zero-emissions vehicles.

Internationally, the C40 network brings megacities together to learn practical lessons from one another on what climate interventions have worked, but also to leverage peer pressure to incentivize bolder, faster steps.

Many other city networks seek similar impacts. The organization 100 Resilient Cities encourages cities to share information and experiences preparing for natural and human-made disasters. The Strong City Network does similar work around addressing extremism and social inclusion. This past year, a new urban migration network launched in Morocco to address goals in the U.N.’s global compacts on migration and refugees. As mayors are perhaps the most results-driven politicians there are—and not immune to healthy competition—these networks can help boost local outcomes by sharing and highlighting individual city accomplishments.

City diplomacy has less tangible effects as well. Many of the programs and interactions discussed above are reported by Los Angeles-based diplomats back through their foreign ministries, thus deepening the bonds of our international relations as Washington uproots them.



May 6, 2019



Austin Maddox

When CPD Director Jay Wang told me that he wanted to speak to me in his office, I was nervous. It was only my first semester as a journalism student fellow at CPD, and so far I had tried my best to make engaging videos to bring public diplomacy to a wider audience. As I walked down the hall to his office, I ran through all the possibilities of what this confrontation could be about but, nothing came to mind. I guessed I would find out soon enough.

I shuffled into his office nervously grabbing my notebook and sat down at the small, round table in front of his desk and waited for Jay to begin telling me what I did wrong. But then, he began to talk about a conference taking place India.

He explained that the India Foundation would hold the country's first Conference on Soft Power, and because CPD is a leader in public diplomacy, we were invited to serve as an academic partner and host a panel at the conference.

Then, Jay then invited me to join CPD on their trip to India to create content about the speakers and conference attendees. “Are you free around December 17-19?” he asked. “Yes, definitely,” I said, without even pretending to glance at my calendar. I left the office excited, but soon I realized, I didn’t really know what soft power was.

The good thing about soft power diplomacy and journalism is that they’re both about finding the best way to communicate a topic to a diverse audience.

The first order of business was to do a ton of research and find out what stories would be most compelling to our audience within the context of soft power. I learned that soft power is a nation’s “ability to persuade other countries and peoples through appeal and attraction (as opposed to coercion through hard/military power).” Countries can use their culture, national values and policies to influence other nations.

Great, but how do I convey this concept in an engaging way? As a USC Annenberg master of journalism student, I spend most of my time covering race, politics and popular culture, so this was new territory for me. But the good thing about soft power diplomacy and journalism is that they’re both about finding the best way to communicate a topic to a diverse audience. I found that the best way to do this was from a multimedia angle, using videos and photographs to add multiple perspectives to the story. 

A few weeks later, I packed up my camera and got on a plane straight to Delhi, India (with a minor 24-hour delay in Istanbul, but that’s a story for another day). When I arrived, I was immediately struck by India’s unique beauty. The country was covered in a beautiful yellowish-orange haze, accented by lush green trees that lined the streets. Birds sang at all hours of the day, flying over a labyrinth of cars and motorcycles moving in chaotic harmony. Being in India was truly humbling. The people were welcoming and warm, especially those who came up to me and asked for a selfie. I guess they’d never seen anyone who looked like me before, so in a way, I was representing my culture while also learning about another.

Click through the slideshow below to see photographs I took while exploring Delhi.


Though I couldn’t travel through Delhi for more than a day, the Conference on Soft Power proved to be the perfect place to learn about various facets of India all at once.

Each day, experts from industries who are essential to Indian culture—nationally and abroad—spoke about what they wanted the future of India to look like. Vikas Khanna, a chef, restaurant-owner and judge on MasterChef India, talked about taking Indian food to the next level with fast food restaurants. Then, entrepreneur Manish Sinha discussed how his company Unhotel uses the power of tourism to provide a more multi-dimensional view of India.

After I would hear an especially profound speaker, I would make my way toward the stage to meet them, weaving through crowds of people who all wanted a chance to chat and exchange information. Normally, I’m pretty shy, but something about holding a camera gives me the confidence I need to walk up to established people who have no idea who I was and ask them for an interview. Turns out, it worked.

Three speakers stood out the most to me because of the way they explained how supporting and uplifting culture is essential to sharing the story of their nation. See highlights from my conversations with Shelly JyotiGopi Kallayil and Rukmini Vijayakumar below:

I spoke to so many amazing people who gave me a better perspective on India and its culture. Through attending the conference and speaking with attendees, I learned that India has so much more to offer that what we see, but just needs to find the right way to present these offerings to the world. What was most inspiring was the dedication that these speakers had to their county. Each person was invested in using their platforms to improve how India is viewed globally, mostly through the power of art. As an artist myself, I was affirmed in knowing that what I create can make a difference in shaping our home countries locally and globally.

After experiencing a bit of India and the Conference on Soft Power, I understand that not only do news publications and magazines have brands, but nations do, too. Now I take into account how the information I'm given in the news or just in every day life about a foreign country works to inform its reputation in my mind. This outlook has made me a better journalist and has made me a more discerning consumer of information. 

To read more about what was discussed during the conference, visit our India's Soft Power "In Review" page here

May 08, 2019

Burkha and Ghunghat

As Miyan Javed Akhtar continues to compare the Burkha to the Ghunghat… refraining from commenting on the Burkha, as its none of my “very Hindu” business, I pose a few questions about the Ghunghat.

Have you seen women working in corporate offices in full ghoonghat?

Have you seen women in malls in full ghunghat denying to show their faces when asked?

Have you seen school/college going kids in full ghunghat?

When was the last time you saw a woman in full ghunghat walking around the busy roads of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore?

When was the last time a MAN came out posing as a woman in full ghunghat to cast a fake vote?

When was the last time police/security officers/Army personnel caught a terrorist or criminal posing as a woman in full ghunghat?

When was the last time a woman in full ghunghat pelted stones at officials or civilians?

When was the last time a full ghunghat clad woman blew herself up killing dozens of others?

When was the last time a full ghunghat clad woman was caught in human trafficking?

Javed Sahab is a brilliant poet, I am an absolute fan of his writings. But, I guess we have been tricked into believing that people who act, direct, or write poems or prose well, are, by the virtue of their craft, intellectuals.

No, in most cases artists are devoid of any real-time awareness of the world at large and when they come out of their world of make-believe, they are found blabbering mind-bendingly bizarre gibberish.

May 07, 2019

Never mind Balakot, IAF is worse off than Pakistan Air Force on pilot strength

Compared to Pakistan Air Force’s 2.5 pilots per aircraft, the IAF is at a ratio of 1.5. The IAF also has issues with squadron strength and target practice.

SNEHESH ALEX PHILIPUpdated: 7 May, 2019 2:02 pm IST

Indian Air Force pilots walk away from their IL-76 medium cargo jet | US Air Force photo | Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo

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New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) may have successfully conducted a daring air raid against terrorist camps in Pakistan’s Balakot in February, but when it comes to a key metric, the IAF doesn’t compare well with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

Whether it is pilot to aircraft ratio, or target practice and an ever-depleting squadron strength, the situation is a matter of serious concern.

The IAF currently has a ratio of 1.5 pilots per aircraft as against 2.5 pilots per aircraft for the PAF, top sources in the defence establishment told ThePrint.

Effectively, this implies that the PAF can carry out day and night operations more efficiently than the IAF in case of a full-scale war. The reason behind this is that aircraft can be made to carry out even six sorties a day, but the pilots have to deal with the limits of human endurance.

The IAF also depends a lot on simulation instead of preferred actual bombing practice.

The all-important Western Air Command, which looks after the entire air space with Pakistan and parts of China, does not have a single firing range to drop larger calibre bombs.

Not only this, the IAF does not have a single range to carry out high altitude bombing — a shocking fact given that India shares its borders with China at high altitudes, both in the north and the east.

Also read: 2 months after Balakot, Pakistan changes nuclear weapons tune – they’re for deterrence only

Sanctioned strength

The IAF has a sanctioned fighter squadron strength of 42 and officers strength of about 12,500. Each squadron consists of 16-20 fighter aircraft.

While the shortfall in terms of sanctioned officer’s strength is only at about 2 per cent every year on an average, it’s important to note that the sanction was given in the 1970s.

“The sanctioned strength, which includes fighter pilots, has increased marginally all these years. The pilot strength cleared when India was flying the MiGs. Now we have about 270-odd Su30 MKI, which are twin seats, meaning more pilots are consumed,” said a source.

“Also, as against the sanctioned squadron strength of 42, the IAF currently has only 30, and hence the force has a pilot to aircraft ratio of 1.5. If the squadron strength increases, the ratio will come down,” said the source.

The IAF is looking at increasing the pilot to aircraft ratio to about 2.2, said sources.

Gagan Shakti

Last year, the IAF carried out a massive all-air exercise, Gagan Shakti, spanning the entire length and breadth of the country, which saw months of planning. The aim behind the exercise was to put to test the IAF’s war strategy.

In a bid to stretch and ensure maximum number of sorties, especially keeping day and night operations in mind along with a two-front war scenario, the IAF enlisted all serving and medically fit officers below the age of 48 for Gagan Shakti.

Usually, pilots above the rank of a Wing Commander don’t usually fly as they get tied down to more desk-oriented jobs. Despite enlisting such pilots, the pilot to aircraft ratio rose only to 2.

“But this increase of 0.5 in ratio was a huge boost to flying operations as we were able to do record number of sorties and were also able to stretch the endurance level of aircraft to the maximum,” said a source said.

The exercise, held from 8-22 April 2018, saw over 11,000 sorties, including approximately 9,000 sorties by fighter aircraft.

Over 1,400 officers and 14,000 men were pulled out of training establishments and deployed for the exercise, to augment existing resources.

Also read: Untold story of an IAF Canberra & its crew, 60 years before Wing Commander Abhinandan’s MiG

Firing ranges

At present, the IAF fighter pilots practice their bomb-dropping skills on simulators because of the non-availability of firing ranges.

“No matter how much simulation one might do, there is a huge difference between actual dropping of bombs from the aircraft to hit a target and the one fired from the joystick in front of a large computer,” a source said.

The main issue is with high altitude ranges. The IAF does not have high altitude ranges and the only one available — the Tosa Maidan range in Jammu and Kashmir — was taken over by the state government.

“The IAF has asked the government for two high altitude ranges — one each in Ladakh area and in Arunachal Pradesh. The force is waiting for the decision since 2015,” a second source said.

The Western Air Command currently practices firing at the SK Range near Halwara in Punjab. However, heavy calibre bombs cannot be dropped there because of the size of the range.

“The IAF had identified a place in Thukrana in Rajasthan for creating a range for heavy calibre. But the new Land Acquisition Bill increased the prices phenomenally and it became out of budget for the IAF,” said the second source.

The IAF has to depend on Pokhran range for heavy calibre practice. However, sources said it’s done on a bare need basis because it’s a logistics nightmare to bring in aircraft from across the country.

In a First, Israel Has Responded to a Cyber Attack With an Air Strike on Hamas in The Gaza Strip

This could indeed be the very first time a digital attack has been responded to with the full might of the military.

Vishal Mathur | @vishalmathur85

Updated: May 6, 2019, 10:55 AM IST

This could indeed be the very first time a digital attack has been responded to with the full might of the military.

Adrian Brody Rubbed Halle Berry The Wrong Way When He Did This

The geo-political dynamics around the world have led us to a stage where cyberattacks are being considered with the utmost of urgency and priority by governments. Israel has confirmed that they have responded to a cyber-attack with full military power. The Israeli Defence Forces have said that they launched air-strikes on a building which is believed to have housed Hamas digital warfare operatives. The building was located in the Gaza Strip, which Israeli fighter jets have now destroyed.

“We thwarted an attempted Hamas cyber offensive against Israeli targets. Following our successful cyber defensive operation, we targeted a building where the Hamas cyber operatives work. HamasCyberHQ.exe has been removed,” said the Israeli Defence Forces on Twitter. The details of the cyber-attack reportedly launched by Hamas isn’t available yet. However, the IDF says that Hamas no longer has the capabilities to launch another cyber-attack, in an official statement.

This comes at a time when cyber warfare is gaining even more significance, and many countries are weighing in on multiple response mechanisms. Israel’s response to the cyber-attack on its virtual networks could in a way set a new benchmark for responding to digital warfare that could be designed to compromise the national security of any country. The closest any country has come to taking such a step earlier was back in 2015 when the US launched a drone strike against terror group ISIS after a cyber-attack leaked the personal details of US military personnel online. 

May 06, 2019

Long Island City's Amazon effect


The Citi building in Long Island City. Photo: Erica Pandey/Axios


When Amazon announced its retreat from Queens amid a backlash from local activists, Long Island City seemed to have lost 25,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in investment.

Erica writes: Instead, two months later, the neighborhood is experiencing a boom: Other companies have grabbed much of the 1.5-million-square-foot, all-glass building that was to be the beachhead of Amazon's Queens expansion, and interest has surged in nearby commercial real estate.

“It’s an Amazon effect,” says Jonathan Wasserstrum, CEO of SquareFoot, a commercial real estate company. “A lot of people now get to piggyback on the work that they did.”

What's happening: In Long Island City, there is a before and an after Amazon.

Before Amazon announced that the Queens neighborhood was one of two surprise winners of its year-long contest to host HQ2, Long Island City was a somewhat sleepy afterthought on the outskirts of glamorous Manhattan — garnering some interest from businesses but not much.

Now, after Amazon's brief recognition made the area an "it" place, it is suddenly a sought-after location with its own, singular cachet.

Health care company Centene Corporation just signed a lease for 500,000 square feet in the Citi building that Amazon intended to occupy.A second big tenant is in negotiations to pick up another chunk of the building, Nicole LaRusso of CBRE tells Axios.In March, the month after Amazon left, SquareFoot got six times as many inquiries about Long Island City than the same month last year from other businesses looking to set up shop in the same area.

The spike seems directly linked to the e-commerce giant.Last year, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo — another up-and-coming mini-tech hub — was receiving the same interest on SquareFoot as Long Island City. But that interest hasn't turned into an outright boom.

"There aren't many boundaries to Manhattan that are still available and affordable," says Harry Chernoff, a New York developer. "Long Island City is very undeveloped still and relatively cheap. Smart businesses picked up on [Amazon's] interest in LIC."

The big picture: Tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Google — magnets for top talent — have turned city after city into superstar tech hubs, beginning in Seattle and Silicon Valley and spreading to Austin and Boston.

But the Long Island City phenomenon suggests something more — that the big companies can anoint outlier neighborhoods, too, even if Big Tech itself does not stay.

And the incoming businesses get to take advantage of some of the same tax incentives that became a rallying cry during the push against Amazon:

REAP, New York’s incentive program for Long Island City, gives companies up to $3,000 per employee per year for moving to the area.While no one incentive package will come close to Amazon’s $3 billion, neither will any single firm create 25,000 new jobs in one go, as Amazon promised. For example, Centene, which appears to be the biggest new get by Long Island City, is simply moving employees, not hiring more, reports Crains New York.     2. A wave of Uber and Lyft protests

A 2016 Uber protest in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty


At Uber and Lyft, sky-high Wall Street debuts are set against deep driver dissatisfaction — and the latter is threatening the former.

Erica writes: On Wednesday, ride-hailing drivers in several U.S. cities plan to strike to protest low wages, among other things. The significance: It's 2 days before Uber goes public, and its investors get to cash in on one of the biggest IPOs in history.

In New York, the plan is for all 80,000 of the city's Uber and Lyft drivers to stop work from 7 am to 9 am — the morning rush hour.Uber drivers in Boston, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia and D.C. are planning to strike for a full 24 hours on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Among the drivers' biggest complaints is that Uber and Lyft take too big of a whack out of their fare — 20%–25%. They want that reduced to 10%.

It's a common complaint by merchants against the big platforms. Apple and Amazon, too, take up to 30% of a merchant's retail price right off the top, and critics compare them to the medieval-era German "robber knights" who charged people enormous tolls to cross their roads.

As Uber and Lyft balloon, one potential hurdle to survival is that the gig jobs they are creating are not well-paying and stable. Until they have autonomous cars, they need a steady supply of drivers.

In a tight labor market with just 3.6% unemployment, the ride-hailing companies may soon burn through the whole pool of workers willing to do these jobs, writes WSJ's Christopher Mims.

An Uber spokesperson said, “Drivers are at the heart of our service ─ we can’t succeed without them ─ and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road."

A Lyft spokesperson said, "Lyft drivers’ hourly earnings have increased over the last two years, and they have earned more than $10B on the Lyft platform. Over 75% drive less than 10 hours a week to supplement their existing jobs. On average, Lyft drivers earn over $20 per hour."

Fortune controls only half of one's actions, leaving free will to control the other half

The Prince

Summary and Analysis Chapter 25

Source:    CliffsNotes


Many people believe that fortune controls everything, so that there is no use in trying to act, but fortune controls only half of one's actions, leaving free will to control the other half. Fortune can be compared to a river that floods, destroying everything in its way. But when the weather is good, people can prepare dams and dikes to control the flood. If Italy had such preparations, she would not have suffered so much in the present floods.

Princes are successful one day and ruined the next, with no change in their natures. Two men may use the same method, but only one succeeds; and two men may use different methods, but reach the same goal, all because the circumstances do or do not suit their actions. If a man is successful by acting one way and the circumstances change, he will fail if he does not change his methods. But men are never flexible enough to change, either because their natures will not let them or because they become accustomed to a certain behavior bringing success.

It is better to be bold than timid and cautious, because fortune is a woman, and the man who wants to control her must treat her roughly.


This chapter is perhaps the most pivotal in The Prince, because Machiavelli discusses the relationship of action and fortune in determining the prince's success. Machiavelli uses fortune (fortuna) in at least two senses. In Chapters 7 and 8, Machiavelli contrasts virtùwith fortune in the sense of luck or the favor of powerful people. In those chapters, the contrast is between what the prince can control (his own actions) and what he cannot control (the favor of others). In this chapter, fortune refers more to prevailing circumstances and events, which are still things that the prince cannot directly control. Rather than taking the fatalistic view that all events are controlled by destiny and that it is useless to work toward a particular outcome, Machiavelli gives fortune control over only half of human actions, letting free will influence the rest. If free will did not operate, all of a prince's virtù would be for nothing.

Yet Machiavelli struggles with the problem of why one person succeeds and another fails, even though they have employed the same methods, or why totally different methods can arrive at the same outcome. To explain this, he proposes that success comes when virtù is suited to the particular situation a prince finds himself in. Machiavelli envisions fortune as a set of constantly changing circumstances in which particular actions can bring about success or failure. To describe it, he uses one of his few extended metaphors, making fortune a force of nature, like a river that seems uncontrollable, yet can be tamed and directed by human activity. If the Italian princes had made suitable preparations, the "flood" of foreign invasions would not have swept over the open and unprotected country.

Having affirmed the value of free will, Machiavelli limits it by asserting that even though it may be possible to vary one's actions to suit the times, no one ever does. Machiavelli implies that this is because virtù is an inherent, natural quality that the prince cannot change. People act according to their character and cannot change their natures. This line of reasoning brings Machiavelli back to the pessimistic fatalism he rejected at the beginning of the chapter. If a prince cannot change his nature, success depends simply on being lucky enough to have a character suited to the times he lives in.

Fortune was frequently personified in Renaissance art and literature as Fortuna, a female figure who held a turning wheel to symbolize her constant state of change. Fortuna's fickleness is her greatest trait; no sooner are you at the top of her wheel than it turns, and you end up at the bottom. Drawing on this symbolism, Machiavelli closes the chapter by saying that a man who wants to subdue fortune must treat her like the woman she is, and approach her with boldness and roughness. While Machiavelli's metaphor may be offensive to some modern readers, it would not have been shocking in its own day. Even in modern times, the saying "fortune favors the bold" can still be heard.



While many political philosophies are doomed to be consigned to history, over five centuries since Niccolò Machiavelli was born, his vision of a ruthless, manipulative leader is as relevant as ever. 

Born on May 3, 1469, the 16th-century Florentine statesman and political philosopher is best known for his 1513 work The Prince, in which he argued that new princes shouldn’t be afraid of being ruthless in order to achieve their aims.

In the centuries following his death, Machiavelli’s name became synonymous with the ideas outlined in The Prince, and by the mid-20th century psychologists had used his enduring theories as the basis for a test named after him. You can take the Machiavellianism test here.

To find out more about how Machiavelli influenced political theory, Newsweek spoke to Dr. Loren Abell, a psychology lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. Abell is an expert in Machiavellianism in social behavior and relationships, including aggression and emotional manipulation.  

What is a Machiavellian personality characterized by? 
Machiavellianism is characterized by emotional detachment, cynicism, lack of concern with morality and the manipulation of others. Individuals higher on Machiavellianism are focused on strategic behavior that enables them to achieve their goals.

When did psychologists first explore the idea of the Machiavellian personality?
Although a historical figure, Machiavelli's work was used as a model to characterize individuals who manipulated others, and this was explored as a personality construct by professor Richard Christie [a social psychologist at Columbia University] and Dr. Florence L. Geis [a psychologist at the University of Delaware] in the seminal book Studies in Machiavellianism, published in 1970.

Christie and Geis developed the Mach IV, a questionnaire that contained statements that were based on Machiavelli’s The Prince or congruent with Machiavelli’s ideas, enabling measurement and subsequent investigation of how this personality construct may influence people’s behavior. 

Is this personality type wholly bad, or can it be useful in some ways? 
It is not a "bad" personality to have, but an adaptive response. The developmental literature suggests individuals who are higher on Machiavellianism may have had a more stressful childhood, such as poor attachment with parents. Machiavellianism is then an adaptive personality trait which enables those individuals to protect themselves from getting exploited or manipulated by others.

Indeed, research has shown that individuals higher on Machiavellianism are sensitive to rejection, and being emotionally detached from others may help to protect them from being exploited or manipulated by other people. Ultimately, individuals higher on Machiavellianism are strategic and focused on achieving long-term goals, and manipulating others may be a way to achieve that goal.

Is there any association between Machiavellianism and intelligence?
The Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis suggests that those who can manipulate others (i.e. individuals higher on Machiavellianism) are at an advantage in comparison to people who cannot skilfully manipulate others (i.e. lower on Machiavellianism).

Indeed, being able to strategize (rather than being impulsive like people higher on [the] psychopathy [scale]) allows selective manipulation of others to achieve long-term goals and success. Importantly, individuals who are higher in Machiavellianism can manipulate others using strategies which are more covert and less likely to be found out.

This may be methods such as getting other people to self-disclose information, or using strategies such making someone feel ashamed or embarrassed, or using gossip or rumors. In this light, Machiavellianism is seen as a form of social intelligence. Research often focuses on Machiavellianism and the relationship to emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence refers to how we perceive, regulate and use our emotions, and how we do this with regard to the emotions of others.

Research has found that Machiavellianism is negatively related to emotional intelligence, though Machiavellianism is related to using emotional manipulation (i.e. making another person feel embarrassed, ashamed or feel guilty). However, emotional intelligence is often associated with pro-social behavior. Therefore, people with Machiavellianism may use a "darker" aspect of emotional intelligence to manipulate others for their own gain.

A portrait of Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), the Florentine statesman and diplomat, and author of "Il Principe" ("The Prince").GETTY IMAGES

Are there any world leaders who are particularly Machiavellian?
I imagine there’s a few! But unless we get them to complete a measure on Machiavellianism, we will never know. However, some research has been conducted using experts' rating leaders' personalities, which found that ratings for Hillary Clinton were consistent with Machiavellianism, and ratings for Donald Trump were consistent with narcissism and psychopathy.

What is the Dark Triad, and where does Machiavellianism sit in this theory?
The Dark Triad is a constellation of three "socially aversive" personality traits (Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism), coined the Dark Triad in 2002 by [Professor Delroy L.] Paulhus and Dr. Kevin M. Williams [both of the University of British Columbia at the time].

Before this paper, researchers focused on investigating the personality traits separately. Psychopathy is characterized by lack of empathy, impulsivity and charm. Narcissism is characterized by attention-seeking, grandiosity, and entitlement. They are (largely) viewed as separate constructs but overlap in some characteristics and behaviors. Machiavellianism is more closely related to psychopathy than narcissism. These three personality traits allow the exploration of darker or more negative interactions that occur in human behavior.

Why is it useful for psychologists to understand these types of behaviors?
Often, researchers focus on the more positive side of human interaction and behaviors and the factors that predict these. However, it is also important to explore all aspects of human behavior, including the more negative behavior or interactions that may take place in our everyday lives and social interactions.

These personality traits allow us to see how human behavior and social interactions and relationships may be influenced by individuals who are more cynical, distrustful and emotionally detached from others. Importantly, the role of well-being in relation to Machiavellianism/the Dark Triad is now being explored.

What is the consensus in the academic community on the importance of Machiavellianism, and how is the debate changing?
There is debate about the similarity of psychopathy and Machiavellianism and whether Machiavellianism is essentially the "less dark" or "brighter" part of psychopathy. The most important debate in the literature at the moment is about the Dark Triad. Research is discussing more whether rather than having these three separate dark traits they are actually just low levels of honesty-humility (i.e. being low on modesty, sincerity, fairness, cooperation).

Additionally, researchers are debating whether the Dark Triad is too simplistic, and criticizing that much of the research looking at the Dark Triad is focused on undergraduate students (often psychology students), which makes results hard to generalize.

What is the best way to deal with a Machiavellian person?
Someone who is higher on Machiavellianism is not a bad person. They are using strategies them help to protect themselves and achieve their goals. However, individuals higher on Machiavellianism are more likely to use more indirect strategies, which may be getting other people to reveal information (which they can use to their benefit) or manipulate others so they may feel ashamed or guilty.