5 March 2021

Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

New York Times report on U.S. based intelligence firm Recorded future giving details of Chinese penetration of India’s power grid and its possible linkage to power outage in Mumbai on October 13, 2020 has caused a furor in Indian media.

I decided to strike when iron is hot. I wrote the paper on the next day based on open sources information titled Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage? To be published by any think tank it would taken time because of requirements of peer review and other requirements.

I have published in my own blog site the paper Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?, for earlier dissemination.


Any feedback is welcome.

---- PKM

Biden Has No Good Options in Afghanistan

BY MICHAEL KUGELMAN 

Welcome to Foreign Policy’s South Asia Brief. I’m Michael Kugelman, the Asia Program deputy director and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center in Washington, and I’m delighted to be the new writer of this newsletter.

I have big shoes to fill as I take over from Ravi Agrawal, now FP’s editor in chief. I look forward to sharing news and analysis from a region with one-quarter of the world’s population—and an endless supply of fascinating stories.

The highlights this week: The Biden administration faces tough choices in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan announce a surprise border truce in Kashmir, and why Bhutan has recorded only one COVID-19 death to date.

If you would like to receive South Asia Brief in your inbox every Thursday, please sign up here.

Biden’s Afghanistan Quagmire

What Life Is Like Under Myanmar's Internet Shutdown



RUMORS OF A coup were spreading before the military acted. Sophie*, an American software developer, was at home with her young son and her husband Aung*, a union worker and
Myanmar national, when Myanmar’s military took control in the early hours of February 1.

As the nation’s military leaders arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, president Win Myint, and other senior government figures, they also deployed a blunt tool of censorship: turning off the internet. Sophie, who was up early with their son, could still access the internet at home, as only phone data had been limited. The first she heard of the coup came from a New York Times article shared by a friend.

In the weeks since Myanmar’s military took control, internet shutdowns have become common, as documented by internet monitoring group NetBlocks. As protests have grown there have been total internet shutdowns and limits placed on individual services such as Facebook and its Messenger app. For most people in Myanmar, Facebook is the internet and is the main way people access news and chat with friends.

NetBlocks reports that for the past 12 nights the internet has been turned off like clockwork from 1 to 9 am. Civil rights group Access Now says the periodic shutdowns “facilitates abuse by, and impunity for, the military junta.” The shutdowns have been condemned internationally and make Myanmar the latest of more than 30 countries to turn off the internet in an attempt to assert control.

Semiconductors and the U.S.-China Innovation Race

BY FP ANALYTICS 

Semiconductors, otherwise known as “chips,” are an ­­essential component at the heart of economic growth, security, and technological innovation. Smaller than the size of a postage stamp, thinner than a human hair, and made of nearly 40 billion components, the impact that semiconductors are having on world development exceeds that of the Industrial Revolution. From smartphones, PCs, pacemakers to the internet, electronic vehicles, aircrafts, and hypersonic weaponry, semiconductors are ubiquitous in electrical devices and the digitization of goods and services such as global e-commerce. And demand is skyrocketing, with the industry facing numerous challenges and opportunities as emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced wireless communications, notably 5G, all requiring cutting-edge semiconductor-enabled devices. But the COVID-19 pandemic and international trade disputes are straining the industry’s supply and value chains while the battle between the United States and China over tech supremacy risks splintering the supply chain further, contributing to technological fragmentation and significant disruption in international commerce.

For decades, the U.S. has been a leader in the semiconductor industry, controlling 48 percent (or $193 billion) of the market share in terms of revenue as of 2020. According to IC Insights, eight of the 15 largest semiconductor firms in the world are in the U.S., with Intel ranking first in terms of sales. China is a net importer of semiconductors, heavily relying on foreign manufacturers—notably those in the U.S.—to enable most of its technology. China imported $350 billion worth of chips in 2020, an increase of 14.6 percent from 2019. Through its Made in China 2025 initiative and Guidelines to Promote National Integrated Circuit Industry Development, over the past six years, China has been ramping up its efforts using financial incentives, intellectual property (IP) and antitrust standards to accelerate the development of its domestic semiconductor industry, diminish its reliance on the U.S., and establish itself as a global tech leader. As U.S.-China competition has intensified, notably under the former Trump administration, the U.S. has been tightening semiconductor export controls with stricter licensing policies, particularly toward Chinese entities. Concerns continue regarding China’s acquisition of American technology through civilian supply chains and integration with Chinese military and surveillance capabilities.

Chinese Belt and Road Investment Isn’t All Bad—or Good


BY NILANTHI SAMARANAYAKE 

In the last few years, the question of whether China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is predatory has been ripe for debate, with some arguing the loans Beijing offers constitute a debt trap and others pointing out that the BRI is ultimately beneficial for developing countries. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and Sri Lanka shows how.

The example often used to paint China’s BRI as nefarious is Colombo’s controversial deal to lease Hambantota port to a Chinese-majority joint venture in 2017. The mainstream view is Sri Lanka was forced to “cough up” the port of Hambantota to China after it could not repay its earlier loans. These critics see the port as a white-elephant project of a former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, with little economic benefit to the country. Some U.S. officials have even gone so far as to describe Sri Lanka as having “effectively ceded sovereignty over a key asset” when it made the deal.

At the other extreme, some observers are increasingly defending China as an undeserving target of criticism. They point out that Sri Lanka’s debt to China is no higher than its debt to some other countries and multilateral development banks. Moreover, they view the Hambantota port deal as little evidence of Beijing having any grand strategy and see Chinese lenders and negotiators as quite fair and amenable to restructuring loan terms for recipients.

Overlooked in this debate are a few factors that shed light on Sri Lanka’s—and perhaps other small states’—calculus when it comes to great powers.

Eye on 2022 (Part 2): Rising Stars in Beijing

Neil Thomas

In Part 2 of this series that looks ahead to the 20th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) National Congress in 2022, I examine key personnel changes in central Party agencies and State Council ministries over the past year.

As in Part 1 on provincial leaders, I use career trajectory and demographic data from “The Committee” to analyze recently promoted politicians. This series shows the importance of political networks for these rising stars, which we will analyze further as 2022 approaches.

The Party Center

Provincial leadership is the surest path to national leadership positions, but outstanding Party-State administrators can still advance. All seven of the ministerial-level politicians promoted in Party agencies last year will be younger than the mandatory retirement age of 65 in 2022, making them likely to feature in the next Central Committee (see Table 1).

Why Erdogan Has Abandoned the Uyghurs


BY KUZZAT ALTAY 

It’s been eight years since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Xinjiang, the ostensibly autonomous territory inhabited by Uyghur Muslims living under Chinese control. And in 2009, Erdogan called Chinese repression of Uyghurs a “genocide,” drawing the wrath of Beijing and cementing his reputation as a defiant Muslim leader willing to speak truth to totalitarian power.

Eight years seems like a lifetime given how much the Chinese Communist Party has encroached on Uyghur rights in just about every aspect of life. By now, much of the world has heard of the millions of Uyghurs being rounded up into concentration camps in Xinjiang (though no one seems to be doing much about it).

Beijing says the interned are being cleansed of extremism and taught how to be good citizens. And that they’re free to leave whenever they like. As someone whose father was interned, tortured, and released from a Chinese concentration camp two years later with a broken leg, I can assure you these camps are nothing but prisons that enable ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide.

Yet Uyghur repression didn’t start with the camps. Even when Erdogan was in Xinjiang, many Uyghurs were trying to get out. They saw Erdogan’s visit as a gesture of solidarity. The Uyghurs are an ethnically Turkic people, and our language is closely related to Turkish. So moving to Turkey made sense, especially considering how the country offered Uyghurs asylum as early as 1952.

What seemed like a good idea in 2012 turned out to be a false hope. Erdogan’s authoritarian efforts to keep power in Turkey have brought him closer to China and Russia.

The Middle East’s Next Conflicts Won’t Be Between Arab States and Iran


BY VALI NASR 

For more than two decades, the United States has seen the politics of the Middle East as a tug of war between moderation and radicalism—Arabs against Iran. But for the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, it was blind to different, more profound fissures growing among the region’s three non-Arab powers: Iran, Israel, and Turkey.

For the quarter century after the Suez crisis of 1956, Iran, Israel, and Turkey joined forces to strike a balance against the Arab world with U.S. help. But Arab states have been sliding deeper into paralysis and chaos since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, followed by the failed Arab Spring, leading to new fault lines. Indeed, the competition most likely to shape the Middle East is no longer between Arab states and Israel or Sunnis and Shiites—but among the three non-Arab rivals.

The emerging competitions for power and influence have become severe enough to disrupt the post-World War I order, when the Ottoman Empire was split into shards that European powers picked up as they sought to control the region. Although fractured and under Europe’s thumb, the Arab world was the political heart of the Middle East. European rule deepened cleavages of ethnicity and sects and shaped rivalries and battle lines that have survived to this day. The colonial experience also animated Arab nationalism, which swept across the region after World War II and placed the Arab world at the heart of U.S. strategy in the Middle East.

How Artificial Intelligence Can Slow the Spread of COVID-19



A new machine learning approach to COVID-19 testing has produced encouraging results in Greece. The technology, named Eva, dynamically used recent testing results collected at the Greek border to detect and limit the importation of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases among arriving international passengers between August and November 2020, which helped contain the number of cases and deaths in the country.

The findings of the project are explained in a paper titled “Deploying an Artificial Intelligence System for COVID-19 Testing at the Greek Border,” authored by Hamsa Bastani, a Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions and affiliated faculty at Analytics at Wharton; Kimon Drakopoulos and Vishal Gupta from the University of Southern California; Jon Vlachogiannis from investment advisory firm Agent Risk; Christos Hadjicristodoulou from the University of Thessaly; and Pagona Lagiou, Gkikas Magiorkinis, Dimitrios Paraskevis and Sotirios Tsiodras from the University of Athens.

The analysis showed that Eva on average identified 1.85 times more asymptomatic, infected travelers than what conventional, random surveillance testing would have achieved. During the peak travel season of August and September, the detection of infection rates was up to two to four times higher than random testing.

Biden’s Narrow Window of Opportunity on Iran

By Vali Nasr

Former President Donald Trump’s Iran policy was an abject failure, applying maximum pressure to minimal benefit. The United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and ratcheted up sanctions on Tehran. But far from containing Iran, these actions aggravated the country’s leaders and emboldened them to expand their nuclear enrichment activities. The result was greater regional volatility and a heightened risk of direct conflict between Washington and Tehran.

President Joe Biden knows he must reverse this dangerous downward spiral. In the hope of returning to the agreement that his former boss, President Barack Obama, brokered in 2015, Biden has agreed to join talks with the accord’s signatories. Iran, too, has indicated that it is ready to renew its commitments under the deal, responding to Washington’s overture by delaying a threat to disrupt the work of UN nuclear watchdogs. So far, so good.

But reversing the damage done by the previous administration is easier said than done. Precious little trust remains between Iran and the United States, and fraught domestic politics in both countries makes restoring the deal a long shot. To have any hope of salvaging the agreement, the new U.S. administration will have to move fast.

A Realist Reset for US-Saudi Relations

RICHARD HAASS

NEW YORK – The report issued Friday by the US intelligence community on the murder of Saudi journalist and permanent US resident Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey mostly confirms what we already knew. The operation to capture or kill Khashoggi was approved by Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and in many ways already the Kingdom’s most powerful person. MBS, as he is widely known, wanted Khashoggi dead, both to rid himself of a nettlesome critic and to intimidate other would-be critics of his rule.

We are unlikely to find a smoking gun, but MBS’s fingerprints are all over Khashoggi’s killing. There is not only abundant photographic and communications evidence that it was carried out by people close to the Crown Prince. There is also the simple reality that nothing of significant political magnitude happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS’s authorization.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration looked the other way at the time, as it often did in the face of flagrant human rights violations. Moreover, Trump wanted to avoid a rupture with MBS, whose anti-Iranian policies were appreciated and who was seen as central to his government’s willingness to purchase armaments from US manufacturers.

President Joe Biden’s administration feels differently. It has already distanced the United States from involvement in Saudi military operations in Yemen. And human rights are occupying a central role in its approach to the world. The fact that Biden has not communicated directly with MBS, and instead called the ailing King Salman, underscores Biden’s desire to separate the US relationship with the Kingdom from the relationship with the Crown Prince.

What Comes Next in the Standoff Between the U.S. and Iran?



In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the latest developments in the standoff between the U.S. and Iran, following the U.S. assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iran’s retaliatory ballistic missile strike against two military bases in Iraq where U.S. troops are stationed. Did the U.S. reestablish deterrence, as the Trump administration claims? Or will Iran take further covert action to avenge Soleimani’s death? And what impact will the U.S. political calendar have on how both sides manage tensions moving forward? Judah and Freddy discuss those topics and more on this week’s show.

Israel Says Iran Likely Behind Explosion On Israeli-Owned Cargo Ship


(RFE/RL) — Top Israeli defense and political leaders are scheduled to meet on February 28 to discuss a response to what Israel’s defense minister says was likely an attack by Iran against a an Israeli-owned cargo vessel in the Gulf of Oman.

Israel’s state-owned Kan television quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying Iran had “crossed a red line” in connection with an explosion on February 25 that struck the MV Helios Ray.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on February 27 that Iran was probably behind the explosion that struck the Israeli-owned vehicle carrier above the water line as it was traveling from the Saudi port of Dammam to Singapore.

“The location of the ship in relative close proximity to Iran raises the belief that Iran was responsible, but it must still be verified,” Gantz told Israeli state television Kan.

“Right now, at an initial assessment level, given the proximity and the context that is my assessment,” Gantz said.

There was no immediate response from Iranian officials.

Russia’s New ‘Arctic Offensive’: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Costs? (Part Two)

By: Sergey Sukhankin

On February 1, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree approving the launch of six large investment projects in the Arctic that are to be completed by 2027 (Government.ru, February 1; see Part One in EDM, February 17). While this plan might result in some longer-term solutions to anemic socio-economic development in the region, Moscow needs to be able to generate revenues from its vast Arctic resources right away to cover growing budgetary expenses. Yet until recently, Russia’s ability to tap the economic potential of the High North has been hindered by two interdependent factors. First, as noted by the head of the financial-analytical Alperi Center, Alexander Razyvaev, “[T]he Arctic region is Russia’s last unexplored oil and [natural] gas province […] the problem is that without tax subsidies, development of the majority of local deposits is only economically profitable at an oil price of $100 per barrel…” He added, “[I]n order to be able to reap the benefits, some serious investments are needed” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 1). Second, existing environmental laws and regulations constrain the ability of Russia’s largest oil-extracting corporations to increase the exploitation of Arctic-based energy resources.

This was explicitly underscored in an open letter (dated January 19, 2021) signed by representatives of Rosneft, Lukoil and Gazprom Neft, which asked the Russian government to amend existing environmental legislation in order to facilitate the exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons in the Arctic region (Salehard.bezformata.com, January 19). The main argument presented by the signatories boils down to the fact that these regulations not only obstruct the extraction of locally based natural resources, they also hamper further development of the geo-economically and geopolitically important Northern Sea Route (NSR) (Ridl.io, May 8, 2020). Each of the above-mentioned corporations have vital interests in the Arctic. For instance, Rosneft—whose CEO, Igor Sechin, enjoys close personal ties with President Vladimir Putin—is strategically interested in the launch of its major Arctic project “Vostok Oil” (Arctic-russia.ru, accessed February 15, 2021). Gazprom Neft has special interests in the Prirazlomnoye (located in the Pechora Sea) and Novoportovskoye (next to the Yamal Peninsula) petroleum fields. In turn, Lukoil is also interested in development of Bolshekhetskaya Depression deposits located in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

Russia’s Permanent War against Georgia


As the Biden administration works to develop its strategy to counter the Russian Federation, it is useful to reexamine traditional features of Russian foreign policy. Moscow has developed its own particular approach to strategy as the Kremlin continues its quest to be treated as a great power.[1] Russia seeks to avoid direct military confrontation with technologically superior enemies, especially Western powers. The modern Russian way of warfare is a product of this strategic thinking. Hybrid warfare is largely a continuation of Moscow’s traditional military thinking, with some innovations related to current social-political changes and modern technologies. Russia astutely uses a mixture of its national powers in different situations. The case of Georgia illustrates how Russia approaches its ways and means to uphold national ends.

Since Georgia gained its independence, the Kremlin has continued to exert pressure on Tbilisi by employing a combination of instruments of power. Along with traditional sources of power—such as using or threatening military force, supporting proxies, and creating separatist regimes as leverage against the country—Russia employs economic measures, information operations, and cyber-attacks.

US cybersecurity firm FireEye warns cyber-war imminent, will affect all Americans



A major US cybersecurity company has warned of an imminent cyber-war, saying Americans will be targeted by the next big cyber-attack, whether they know it or not.

FireEye, which provides US government cybersecurity, said that, “The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not.

The cybersecurity firm has been at the forefront of investigating attacks in cyberspace against companies throughout the world, but was hacked by foreign state “with top-tier offensive capabilities” late last year.

“People don’t even know all the things they depend on. All of a sudden the supply chain starts getting disrupted because computers don’t work,” FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia said.

He warned that an absence of clear-cut “rules” or justification for when and how to retaliate given the near-impossibility of determining responsibility for even a simple hack would only encourage attackers to continue their work.

US Treasury and commerce department were targeted in a cyber-attack in December, an attack experts said was the biggest cyber-raid against US federal agencies officials in years.

Brief: EU Recovery Worries

By Geopolitical Futures

Background: Last year, the European Union approved the 672.5 billion-euro ($815 billion) Recovery and Resilience Facility to help member states recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The funds are supposed to start flowing by mid-2021. In the meantime, member states’ economies are diverging, and there are mounting concerns over the recovery fund’s rollout and effectiveness.

What Happened: The EU commissioner for budget and administration warned that economies would recover at different rates. Southern European countries whose economies rely heavily on tourism are particularly vulnerable, whereas states with sizable industrial and manufacturing sectors are seeing growth sooner. The commissioner also cautioned against delays in the recovery fund’s rollout.

Separately, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva warned of a widening wealth gap in Europe, with per capita incomes of Central and Eastern European countries forecast to be 3.8 percent below pre-crisis projections even at the end of 2022, compared with a 1.3 percent shortfall in Western Europe.

Bottom Line: An uneven recovery is expected given the varying resources available across member states and the differences in their growth models. The danger is that as recovery comes into focus, the discrepancies and competition between member states will become more pronounced. This will further politicize the recovery and exacerbate the economic, political and social issues pulling at the eurozone, all of which will return with force as lockdowns end, and will likely be exacerbated by the politicization of the disbursements of recovery money.

America Will Be ‘Back’ if It Helps Vaccinate the World


Howard W. French 

Sometime this month, the U.S. Congress will likely approve the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, and with that will come the first real test of the new president’s favorite slogan: “America is back.”

The return of the United States that Joe Biden has so frequently promised has always contained a strong whiff of nostalgia. It is a message that has mostly been directed outwardly to the world, saying that after a period of relative decline, of withdrawal and of drift through much of this century, the U.S. is eager to reassume its long-accustomed mantle as undisputed leader of the world

With a Third Vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, Are We Finally Winning Against COVID-19?

By Amy Davidson Sorkin

Optimism is one of the things that the coronavirus pandemic has made it hard to hold on to, or even to measure. Going through the data can have a seesawing effect on a person’s state of mind. Last week, Johnson & Johnson announced that, in trials, its covid-19 vaccine had an efficacy rate of more than sixty-six per cent in preventing moderate to severe disease, and was eighty-five per cent effective at preventing severe to critical cases—and that no one who got the vaccine was hospitalized or died because of covid-19. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine-advisory committee voted, unanimously, to recommend that it become the third vaccine to be given an emergency-use authorization in the United States. It could be deployed as soon as this week.

Should one’s mood be lowered by the knowledge that the two vaccines that were previously approved, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, have higher efficacy rates—around ninety-five per cent? (Not really; the J. & J. numbers are still very good.) Alternatively, should one’s mood get an upswing from the knowledge that, unlike with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, only one J. & J. shot is required, and that the vaccine can be stored in a normal refrigerator? (Definitely.) Is there a sign that vaccinations, along with the end of the holiday season and a growing willingness to wear masks, are, finally, altering the trajectory of the pandemic? (Yes: since the beginning of the year, the average daily number of new cases in the United States has fallen by three-quarters; worldwide, the number is half of what it was.) Thankfully, the ups seem to be beating the downs.

Yet joy can be hard to come by, because of the weight of what the country is still going through. The average daily number of deaths is about two thousand—a sharp drop from mid-January, when it was well above three thousand, but quadruple what it was last July. And, as February ended, there seemed to be something of a wavering in the progress—perhaps because extreme weather caused disruptions or, more ominously, because of the spread of what appear to be more infectious variants.

Teacher survey: Learning loss is global—and significant

By Li-Kai Chen, Emma Dorn, Jimmy Sarakatsannis, and Anna Wiesinger

Although teachers around the world have different styles and standards for learning, there is one thing on which they seem to agree: a computer is no match for a classroom as a place for kids to learn. While many continue to teach students online because of the COVID-19 pandemic—and may be understandably reluctant to return to in-person instruction until they feel safe—the majority of those polled in a new McKinsey survey said that the remote learning experienced over the past year is a poor substitute for being back in the classroom. We asked teachers in eight countries to rate the effectiveness of remote learning when it was first rolled out in response to school shutdowns between March and July of 2020. They gave it an average score of five out of ten.1 The grades were especially harsh from teachers in Japan and the United States, where nearly 60 percent rated the effectiveness of remote learning at between one and three out of ten. That barely beats skipping school altogether. While the quality and support systems around remote learning have likely improved since the start of the pandemic, this is still a striking indictment.

McKinsey senior expert Emma Dorn describes key insights from this article.

COVID-19 has induced the largest remote learning experiment in history. Faced with a deadly threat, policy makers had to make decisions in the face of significant scientific uncertainty. While legitimate public health concerns led to school closures, our research suggests that students have paid a heavy price in lost learning. There is also emerging evidence that the stress and isolation of online learning is contributing to mental health issues among young people. Remote classes have improved as schools adopt best practices but remain difficult for students who struggle with issues such as learning challenges, isolation, or a lack of resources.

Electric Grid of the Future Should Prioritize Sustainability, Resiliency, Equity, Reliability, and Security, Says New Report


WASHINGTON – A new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine provides comprehensive recommendations for improving the U.S. electric power system so that it can adequately provide electricity to the nation in a safe, reliable, clean, resilient, and equitable way, especially as the U.S. pursues decarbonization of the energy supply. The report also recommends ways to accelerate innovations in technology, policy, and business models as global supply chains shift.

Currently the U.S. electricity system consists of utilities and other entities operating in a variety of regulated and competitive market environments, says The Future of Electric Power in the United States. Some systems are investor-owned yet regulated by public policy, while some are publicly owned and regulated more directly through private ownership and state and federal laws. This heterogeneity makes it difficult to generalize about many aspects of the system across the country, engage in cohesive long-term planning, or develop a common set of actions that is relevant to all parties, the report says.

The committee that wrote the report emphasized the need for better understanding of how the system will evolve, and identified a number of critical social, technical, and economic driving forces that will alter the landscape in the future. These include the possible large growth in demand for electricity, efforts to decarbonize the U.S. economy, a desire to reduce social inequities, concerns about the impacts of the energy transition on employment, and developments in grid distribution and stability.

To Democratize Vaccine Access, Democratize Production


BY MATTHEW M. KAVANAGH, MARA PILLINGER, RENU SINGH, KATHERINE GINSBACH 

As wealthy countries inoculate millions of their citizens against COVID-19 and other countries wait to even begin the rollout, G-7 leaders are increasingly struggling to address geopolitically charged vaccine inequities.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently noted his fear that countries would turn to China and Russia for vaccines and “the power of the West will … not be a reality.” He later walked back his statement somewhat, clarifying that vaccines are a matter of public health—not power. They are, of course, both. But Macron and other leaders will never get either issue right as long as they remain focused on what portion of a relatively small supply of vaccines to share. Rather, the real game-changer lies in a very feasible effort to expand the pool of available vaccines.

At the moment, vaccine production approved in the United States and Europe is needlessly limited to a handful of companies struggling to get enough vaccines out the door to meet demand. Yet in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, there is enormous human and production capacity that could be mobilized to make more vaccines and address the needs of people in low- and middle-income countries. Governments and companies, especially in middle-income countries, have been asking to do so. As Western firms have demurred, Russia has taken them up on their offers, sharing Sputnik V know-how for production in Brazil, India, Turkey, and South Korea. If U.S. and European Union leaders want to address both the public health and diplomatic imperatives facing them—while also vaccinating their own populations—they should consider doing the same.

In the City, the Bluffing Is Over


BY MICHAEL MORAN 

Back in 2010, with the pain of the global financial crisis still fresh, the Labour government of then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed raising the country’s top income tax rate to 50 percent as part of its effort to quell public fury over the bankers’ complicity in the global financial crisis. Working London myself at the time, I made a bet with a good friend—a fierce Labour Party supporter—that the move would lead the country’s financial services giants to make good on their threats to leave the United Kingdom for places like Ireland or Luxembourg.

I lost the bet. Leaving the city turned out to be a banker’s bluff, one the United Kingdom’s financial sector rolled out every time regulators threatened new strictures or governments mulled higher taxes. In fact, despite the top income tax rising to 50 percent in 2010 and staying there until 2013. London held its place as Europe’s most important financial hub. Very few London jobs decamped to cities furiously trying to woo bankers to cross the water, including to Amsterdam, Dublin, Paris, and Frankfurt. Nor did any of the hundreds of foreign financial institutions that have traditionally sited their regional operations in London choose to leave.

Now, post-Brexit, early signs suggest the bluffing is over. Last week, data from the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the world’s largest options trader, reported that Amsterdam surpassed London in daily trading in January, pushing London, the continent’s financial leader since the days of Empire, into second place.

By October 2020, about $1.5 trillion in assets held in the United Kingdom were also moved abroad.

On Climate, Declaring ‘America Is Back’ Doesn’t Make It So



BY JASON BORDOFF

“America is back,” U.S. President Joe Biden told the international community last week during the Zoom version of the Munich Security Conference, the annual confab of the world’s foreign-policy elite. As if to underline the promise, the United States formally rejoined the Paris Agreement on climate change the very same day. But declaring to be back does not make it so. Delivering on Biden’s promise requires Washington to commit internationally to an ambitious carbon reduction goal—and making good on that pledge requires the U.S. Congress to act. At a moment when bipartisan cooperation on climate change seems a pipe dream, the new administration’s credibility depends on it.

While many world leaders celebrated Biden’s return to the Paris process, their expectations are high for what he must deliver, particularly after four years of climate obstruction under former President Donald Trump. The test will come in two months when the United States is set to announce its 2030 emissions target, known in climate diplomacy jargon as a “nationally determined contribution” (NDC)—part of the preparations for the next United Nations climate meeting in November. Under the Paris Agreement, each country agreed to set an NDC every five years. This framework is intended to enable countries to gradually ramp up their ambition and create transparency so that nations can be confident that others are following suit rather than free-riding on their efforts.

The Real Lesson of the Texas Power Debacle

By Laura DeNardis, Gordon M. Goldstein

The infrastructure was essential, ubiquitous and providing basic functionality for everything in daily life from water to heat and transportation. And in an instant it was gone, plunging tens of thousands of residents into a life-threatening crisis. This is, of course, the narrative of the recent debacle in Texas, where a winter storm overwhelmed the state’s electrical grid and brought the state to a near-total blackout. But it should also be interpreted as a preemptive warning of what Americans will face from the next generation of the internet and the new realm of cybersecurity risk it will dramatically amplify.

Both forms of infrastructure—a state-run electrical grid and the 5G and “internet of things” future to which we are rapidly hurtling—share three attributes. First, their construction reflects a lack of imagination about the danger that can quickly coalesce when seemingly remote threat scenarios become real. Second, compounding a lack of analytic imagination is an absence of preparedness. Third, for both the Texas electrical grid and the emerging internet, public policy protections are either meager or completely absent.

In planning for the resilience of its electrical grid, public officials in Texas discounted the potentially devastating disruption that could occur from unpredictable events—whether related to climate change or just a once-a-century anomaly. They also eschewed precautions other states take seriously by allowing for the interconnection of electrical grid supply chains across their borders, ostensibly because of their ideological rejection of federal regulatory oversight governing such arrangements.

Americans are at risk of being dragged into global cyber warfare, FireEye's CEO warns: 'It's as simple as if you can be hacked, you are hacked'

AVERY HARTMANSMAR

In a world where more devices are connected to the internet than every before, that could open consumers up to massive risk.REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Americans are at risk of being dragged into cyber warfare, FireEye's CEO told "Axios on HBO."
Future cyberattacks could take down connected devices, leading to disruptions in daily life.
"It's as simple as if you can be hacked, you are hacked," he said.

Americans are at risk of being dragged into cyber attacks that would put their connected devices at risk, according to the cybersecurity executive whose company discovered the SolarWinds hack.

Kevin Mandia, the CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, told "Axios on HBO" on Sunday that future cyber warfare between the US and China or Russia could impact regular citizens, leading to widespread disruptions to daily life."Apps won't work. Appliances may not work. People don't even know all the things they depend on," Mandia said. "All of a sudden, the supply chain starts getting disrupted because computers don't work."

Mandia warned that the rules of engagement around cyberattacks are unclear, meaning that there may be nothing that's off-limits. In a world where more devices are connected to the internet than every before, consumers could opened up to massive risk.

"It's as simple as if you can be hacked, you are hacked," he said.Mandia's company, FireEye, was the first to notice the massive SolarWinds security breach last year, which FireEye discovered when its own systems were hacked.

4 March 2021

Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

New York Times report on U.S. based intelligence firm Recorded future giving details of Chinese penetration of India’s power grid and its possible linkage to power outage in Mumbai on October 13, 2020 has caused a furor in Indian media.

I decided to strike when iron is hot. I wrote the paper on the next day based on open sources information titled Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage? To be published by any think tank it would taken time because of requirements of peer review and other requirements.

I have published in my own blog site the paper Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?, for earlier dissemination.


Any feedback is welcome.

---- PKM



Last Exit from Afghanistan

By Dexter Filkins

On the night of August 14th, Fawzia Koofi was on her way home to Kabul from the funeral of family friends. Koofi, forty-five, is one of Afghanistan’s leading advocates for women’s rights—a former parliament member who, in the twenty years since the United States and its allies toppled the Taliban, has carried on a ferocious public fight to reverse a history of oppression. She and her twenty-one-year-old daughter, Shuhra, were riding in an armored car, as they often do. A second car, filled with security guards, trailed behind. The guards were necessary; in 2010, Taliban gunmen had attempted to kill her.

As they neared Kabul, her driver pulled over to get gas, and Koofi decided to switch cars. “Sometimes the armored car feels like a prison,” she explained, when I visited Afghanistan in December. As they left the gas station, she saw a car behind hers, seeming to track its moves; she was being followed. While she watched, a second car veered into the road, blocking the lane. Koofi’s driver accelerated and swerved onto the shoulder, but, before he could get clear of the blockade, men in the other car opened fire. Bullets smashed through the windows and tore through her upper arm. The assailants sped away. Koofi was rushed to the nearest safe hospital, forty-five minutes away, where surgeons removed a bullet and set her shattered bone.

A month later, Koofi was due to represent the government in peace talks with the Taliban—the latest in a decade-long series of attempts to end the Afghan conflict. As she prepared, the mood in Kabul was unusually fraught. A wave of assassinations had begun, which has since claimed the lives of hundreds of Afghans, including prosecutors, journalists, and activists. Officials in Afghanistan and in the U.S. suspect that the Taliban committed most of the killings—both to strengthen their position in talks and to weaken the civil society that has tenuously established itself since the Taliban were deposed. “They are trying to terrorize the post-2001 generation,” Sima Samar, a former chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, told me.

The rivalry between America and China will hinge on South-East Asia


During their 45-year feud, America and the Soviet Union fought proxy battles all across the world. But the cold war was at its most intense in Europe, where the Soviets constantly worried about their satellites breaking away, and America always fretted that its allies were going soft. The contest between China and America, happily, is different from that. For one thing, the two sides armed forces are not glowering at one another across any front lines—although in Taiwan and North Korea each has an ally in a tense, decades-long stand-off with the other. Even so, in the rivalry between the two powers, there will be a main zone of contention: South-East Asia. And although the region has drawn up no clear battle-lines, that only makes the competition more complex.

People across South-East Asia already see America and China as two poles, pulling their countries in opposite directions. Those protesting against the recent military coup in Myanmar, for example, hold up angry placards that attack China for backing the generals and pleading ones that beg America to intervene. Governments feel under pressure to pick sides. In 2016 Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, loudly announced his country’s “separation from America” and pledged allegiance to China instead. China’s claim that almost all the South China Sea lies within its territorial waters and America’s rejection of that assertion have sparked blazing rows in the main regional club, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (asean), which China has attempted to win over.

The World Faces a Choice Between Bad and Worse in Myanmar

By David Hutt

The Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire put it that “washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” And that, I give you, is the myth of ASEAN’s “non-interference.” Is that about to change now that Indonesia has taken it upon itself to try to reach some sort of resolution to the military coup in Myanmar?

The United States has clearly shown it’s unwilling to expend the energy needed to roll back the military’s power, after imposing only targeted sanctions that almost all pundits agree won’t convince the junta to step down. The European Union, even after taking three weeks to merely decide on whether they’ll impose sanctions or not, a decision taken on February 22, has still not announced what those measures will be, but everyone expects them to be even more limited than America’s. China clearly isn’t happy about the events but isn’t about to support the international community pressuring an authoritarian elite to remove itself from power, for very obvious reasons.

Small wonder, then, that the likes of Indonesia and Brunei, as ASEAN chair, sense they might occupy an important position in this vacuum. Things are messy. Earlier in the week, it was leaked to the media that Jakarta might be ready to accept the junta’s promise to hold fresh elections, a revelation that prompted protests outside of Indonesia’s embassy in Yangon and Bangkok by Burmese pro-democracy protesters, who are still demanding that the junta hands power back to the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, which won November’s general election.

Nepal’s Supreme Court Rules to Reinstate Parliament, Adding Twist to Tale

By Sudha Ramachandran

On February 23, a five-member constitutional bench of the Nepal Supreme Court decided unanimously to reinstate the lower house of the country’s parliament. It ruled that the dissolution of the house in December 2020 was “unconstitutional” and called for reconvening parliament within 13 days.

The ruling is a huge setback to Prime Minister Kharga Prasad Sharma Oli. It was on Oli’s recommendation that President Bidya Devi Bandhari dissolved the house and called for fresh elections in April-May. The decision was widely criticized in Nepal and had sparked mass protests by political parties and civil society activists.

The apex court’s ruling overturning Oli’s controversial decision has been widely welcomed. “By passing a judgment in favor of the constitution,” the Supreme Court has “stood by the people, and re-established the notion of an independent judiciary,” the Kathmandu Post said in an editorial.

Indeed the court decision is a triumph for the constitution and enhances the stature of the judiciary. However, it is unlikely to end the political uncertainty in the country. There is little clarity in what lies ahead.

Pressure is mounting on Oli to step down, but he is unlikely to do so. It is likely that he will have to face a no-confidence motion in parliament when it reconvenes on March 8.

Myanmar Crisis Hinges on Stance of Ethnic Political and Armed Organizations

By Philipp Annawitt

More than three weeks after the February 1 coup in Myanmar, in which the military toppled the civilian government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD), all attention is on the struggle between the junta and the disparate Civic Disobedience Movement, which has mobilized hundreds of thousands of (mostly young) people from across Myanmar’s geographical, social, and ethnic spectrum.

The protests have been covered in the international media much in the vein of the various “color revolutions” that have taken place in recent years: as a story of the people vs. the dictator. But a decentralized protest movement is not an actor, it cannot negotiate, and it is by itself unlikely to topple a regime. The reeling NLD is now finding its feet and has started building a shadow administration around the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, a collection of parliamentarians elected at November’s annulled election. In addition to setting up a network of local councils, it is reaching out to other domestic groups as well as to the international community.

In parallel, some smaller political parties have formed a General Strike Committee, and some ethnic political and civil society organizations formed a General Strike Committee of Nationalities, both of which supported the successful general strike on February 22. Though these efforts are not in sync with one another we can think of them as the beginnings of a proto-government. With two governments forming now, the junta and the proto-government in opposition, it will be crucial how ethnic political and armed actors align.

China Charges Ahead With a National Digital Currency

By Nathaniel Popper and Cao Li

After joining the lottery through the social media app WeChat, Ms. Huang, 28, a business strategist in Shenzhen, received a digital envelope with 200 electronic Chinese yuan, or eCNY, worth around $30. To spend it, she went to a convenience store near her office and picked out some nuts and yogurt. Then she pulled up a QR code for the digital currency from inside her bank app, which the store scanned for payment.

“The journey of how you pay, it’s very similar” to that of other Chinese payments apps, Ms. Huang said of the eCNY experience, though she added that it wasn’t quite as smooth.

China has charged ahead with a bold effort to remake the way that government-backed money works, rolling out its own digital currency with different qualities than cash or digital deposits. The country’s central bank, which began testing eCNY last year in four cities, recently expanded those trials to bigger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, according to government presentations.

The effort is one of several by central banks around the world to try new forms of digital money that can move faster and give even the most disadvantaged people access to online financial tools. Many countries have taken action as cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which has recently soared in value, have become more popular.

Latin American Governments Are Caught in the Middle of the U.S.-China Tech War

BY OLIVER STUENKEL

For most policymakers in Latin America, the best way to react to growing geopolitical tensions between the United States and China is obvious: Stay neutral. Given Latin America’s geographic proximity to the United States, growing economic dependence on China, and historic aversion to long-standing alliances that limit strategic autonomy, leaders across the ideological spectrum have largely decided to embrace a pragmatic stance and maintain friendly ties with both Washington and Beijing.

With few exceptions, this strategy was largely seen to be a winning formula over the past years. Chile’s right-wing president, Sebastián Piñera, for example, sought to present himself as the region’s most trusted interlocutor for both former U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s center-right former president, and his center-left successor Alberto Fernández have likewise been keen to simultaneously maintain constructive ties with the United States and China. In Colombia, right-wing President Iván Duque preserved Bogotá’s historically close security cooperation with the United States but also made clear his administration had no plans to preemptively exclude Huawei as the country prepares to build its 5G network, a stance surely welcomed in Beijing.