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Diplomacy & Crisis News

UN agencies welcome donor pledges for Venezuelan refugees and migrants

UN News Centre - Wed, 27/05/2020 - 18:33
The UN refugee and migration agencies have welcomed $2.79 billion pledged by donors at a solidarity conference aimed at supporting Venezuelans who fled the protracted crisis in their country for host communities across the region. 

‘Lockdown generation’ of young workers will need extra help after COVID-19, urges UN labour chief

UN News Centre - Wed, 27/05/2020 - 17:53
Further evidence of the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on the global job market has emerged in a new study by the UN labour agency, which on Wednesday said that more than one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the pandemic.

US states ‘manipulating’ COVID-19 pandemic to restrict abortion access, rights experts charge

UN News Centre - Wed, 27/05/2020 - 17:41
Independent UN human rights experts fear that some authorities in the United States are using the COVID-19 pandemic to restrict access to abortion, with at least eight states suspending procedures deemed medically unnecessary.

Le magot de l'industrie musicale

Le Monde Diplomatique - Wed, 27/05/2020 - 17:17
/ France, Monde, Audiovisuel, Industrie culturelle, Économie, Propriété industrielle, Musique, Culture, Médias - Sciences et idées / , , , , , , , , - Sciences et idées

‘Business as unusual’: How COVID-19 could change the future of work

UN News Centre - Wed, 27/05/2020 - 06:05
Millions of people around the world have been working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic and now experts are asking whether this “business as unusual” could be the future of work, at least for those people whose job doesn’t require them to be tied to a particular location.

Les urnes et le peuple

Le Monde Diplomatique - Tue, 26/05/2020 - 18:55
Dans la perspective de l'élection présidentielle de 2012, programmes et petites phrases seront disséqués par les commentateurs politiques. Mais ceux-ci seront moins diserts sur l'abstention, qui perturbe le fonctionnement du système représentatif. / France, Élections, État, Identité culturelle, Parti (...) / , , , , , , - 2011/09

Yemen aid lifeline near ‘breaking point’: UN food agency

UN News Centre - Tue, 26/05/2020 - 18:35
Humanitarian aid projects to war-torn Yemen are reaching breaking point, and some $870 million is needed to continue giving life-saving assistance to millions of vulnerable people for the next six months, the World Food Programme (WFP), warned on Tuesday.

La démondialisation et ses ennemis

Le Monde Diplomatique - Tue, 26/05/2020 - 16:55
Perchées sur le fil de la dette, les économies occidentales flageolent de crise en crise. Depuis trois ans, les responsables politiques ont endossé le rôle de voiture-balai de la finance. Mais une autre piste s'ouvre, suscitant déjà craintes et controverses : qui a peur de la démondialisation ? / (...) / , , , , , , , , - 2011/08

First Person: The struggle to protect human rights in East Africa during the pandemic

UN News Centre - Tue, 26/05/2020 - 08:05
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in East Africa, the UN Human Rights regional office, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has been contributing to the COVID-19 response of UN country teams in the region, by ensuring that human rights protection for vulnerable people is included in their plans. The head of the office, Nwanneakolam Vwede-Obahor, shared some of the challenges she and her colleagues are facing.

Making education safe for children with albinism in Malawi

UN News Centre - Tue, 26/05/2020 - 06:05
In Malawi, where children with albinism face attacks, and even ritual killings, going to school can expose them to life-threatening dangers. The UN is helping to make schools safer for these vulnerable students. 

Women peacekeepers from Brazil and India share UN military gender award

UN News Centre - Mon, 25/05/2020 - 21:34
For the first time, the UN Military Gender Advocate award has been awarded to two UN peacekeepers: Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a Brazilian Naval officer, and Major Suman Gawani, of the Indian Army.

La patrie littéraire du colonisé

Le Monde Diplomatique - Mon, 25/05/2020 - 19:49
Ecrire pour qui et dans quelle langue ? Les auteurs des pays du tiers-monde, de tradition orale, tentent de répondre, mais souvent dans le tourment, à cette question universelle. Ecrire exige de rencontrer un lecteur, mais ce dernier reste improbable dans des nations émergeant de la longue nuit (...) / , , , - 1996/09

Intégrismes et laïcité

Le Monde Diplomatique - Mon, 25/05/2020 - 17:12
Pour la petite histoire d'abord : ainsi les éditeurs se sont décidés à publier les Versets sataniques de Salman Rushdie ; ils l'ont fait au bout de quelques jours, ils avaient le droit d'hésiter, l'affaire était grave et non sans danger pour leur personnel et leurs biens. Bravo. Le récent manifeste, (...) / , - 1989/03

First person: ‘I am nothing without my culture’

UN News Centre - Mon, 25/05/2020 - 09:05
A master practitioner of the Hawaiian hula dance has told UN News that he is “nothing without my culture.”

Mozambique school children face ‘catastrophic’ fall-out from COVID-19: a UN Resident Coordinator blog

UN News Centre - Mon, 25/05/2020 - 06:05
School children in Mozambique are facing what a senior United Nations and World Bank official in the southern African country are calling “catastrophic outcomes” from the COVID-19 pandemic. By the UN Resident Coordinator in Mozambique, Myrta Kaulard, and Mark Lundell, World Bank Country Director.

Heed ceasefire call, UN chief urges, marking Africa Day

UN News Centre - Mon, 25/05/2020 - 02:05
African countries have “demonstrated commendable leadership” battling the COVID-19 pandemic, but more nations across the continent where conflict prevails, should heed the UN call for a global ceasefire to push back the deadly virus, said the Secretary-General on Monday.

5 reasons Costa Rica is winning plaudits for fighting COVID-19: a Resident Coordinator’s blog

UN News Centre - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 20:30
Costa Rica is winning plaudits for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alice Shackleford, UN Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica, and WHO Representative María Dolores Pérez-Rosales, explain why the small Central American country is managing to keep the number of cases down, and its population healthy.

Why the Confederacy's General Albert Sidney Johnston Was a Flop

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 20:00

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

Here's how it all went wrong for him.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis considered his old West Point classmate Albert Sidney Johnston “the greatest soldier, the ablest man, civil or military, Confederate or Union, then living,” and it is safe to say that no other general in either army began the Civil War with a more glittering—or fleeting—reputation.

High Expectations

The towering expectations surrounding Johnston’s Civil War service began even before he joined his first command. As a transplanted Texan, Johnston chose to stick by his adopted state when it seceded in February 1861. Resigning his post as commanding general of the Department of the Pacific two months later, Johnston headed east to meet with Davis in Richmond, Va. Breathless news reports of Johnston’s progress followed him every step of the way, and he was greeted as a hero before he ever set foot in the capital.

Inevitably, perhaps, Johnston could not meet the sky-high expectations. Amid all the hoopla, one salient fact was overlooked—Johnston had never commanded an army of his own. To make matters worse, he was given an assignment that even the most experienced of generals would have found daunting. With less than 50,000 troops at his disposal, Johnston was tasked with defending a 500-mile-long border stretching from eastern Kentucky to western Missouri—an area equal in size to western Europe. Complicating his task was the fact that three major rivers wound their way through his defenses, at the mercy of industrious Union gunboats.

It was sure-fire recipe for disaster, and Johnston was not long in adding to his own cup of woe by failing to adequately safeguard the Confederate strongpoints at Forts Henry and Donelson. In February 1862, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant easily captured both forts, along with 12,000 Confederate troops. That feat set Grant on the way to becoming the North’s leading commander, and put two large dints in Johnston’s previously spotless suit of armor. Still, his old friend Davis continued to support him. Responding to one Confederate congressman’s complaint that Johnston was “no general,” the president tartly replied, “If Sidney Johnston is not a general, the Confederacy has none to give you.” He angrily refused to remove Johnston from command.

“We Must Use the Bayonet”

Besides, Johnston had a plan for recovering both his reputation and the territory he had lost. Massing his army at Corinth, Miss., he organized a counterattack on Grant’s Union forces encamped around Shiloh Church in southwest Tennessee. On the morning of April 6, 1862, Johnston prepared to lead his army into battle. Picking up a tin cup, he sportively clinked his men’s bayonets. “These will do the work,” he assured them. “We must use the bayonet.” He added, for whatever it was worth, “I will lead you.” Earlier, he had rejected worries that the Union forces were too numerous to attack. “I will fight them if they were a million,” he asserted.

As it was, he did not fight them for long. Sitting astride his horse, Johnston suddenly reeled in the saddle and fell into the arms of Tennessee Governor Isham Harris–on hand that day as a civilian aide. “General, are you hurt?” cried Harris. “Yes, and I fear seriously,” Johnston replied.

Unnoticed in the heat of battle, Johnston had been struck behind the right knee by a Union bullet. Ignoring the wound, the general continued directing the battle while his boot filled with blood. The bullet had severed his femoral artery, and Johnston bled to death in a matter of minutes.

Ulysses S. Grant later rendered his own verdict on his slain opponent. “I do not question the personal courage of General Johnston, or his ability,” Grant wrote in his Personal Memoirs. “But he did not win the distinction predicted for him by many of his friends. He did prove that as a general he was over-estimated.” It was a verdict that Johnston did not live long enough to appeal.

This article originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia

Autonomous Navy Ships Could Revolutionize Amphibious Assault

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 19:30

Kris Osborn


The notion of a disaggregated, yet interwoven attack force, less vulnerable to enemy fire, will be launched to hit “multiple landing points” to exploit enemy defenses.

Here's What You Need To Remember: While this emerging Navy strategy is, of course, intended to implement a far more effective attack strategy, it is also, by design, intended to save more lives when launching dangerous assaults into heavily-defended enemy areas.

The future of amphibious attack may consist of thousands of disaggregated manned and unmanned surveillance boats, armor-carrying connectors, minesweepers and small attack vessels operating in tandem as the Navy and Marine Corps refine a new strategic approach and continue their pivot toward a new, great-power threat environment.

The concept is to configure a dispersed, yet “networked” fleet of next-generation connectors and other smaller boats launched from big-deck amphib “mother ships.” The larger host ships are intended to operate in a command and control capacity while bringing sensors, long-range fires and 5th-generation air support to the fight.

“We envision fleets of smaller, multi-mission vessels, operating with surface warfare leadership. People talk about a 355-ship Navy, how about a 35,000-ship Navy?,” Maj. Gen. David Coffman, Director of Naval Expeditionary Warfare, told an audience at the Surface Naval Association Symposium.

Coffman explained it as a “family of combatant craft, manned and unmanned, integrated in a distributed maritime operation.”

Since potential adversaries now have longer-range weapons, better sensors, targeting technologies and computers with faster processing speeds, amphibious forces approaching the shore may need to disperse in order to make it harder for enemy forces to target them. Therefore, the notion of a disaggregated, yet interwoven attack force, less vulnerable to enemy fire, will be launched to hit “multiple landing points” to exploit enemy defenses.

“This does not mean we give up the bigs, it means we use them more effectively. They are a big part of our ability to project combat power,” Coffman explained.

New ships, such as future Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC), Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV), Amphibious Combat Vehicles, ship-launched undersea drones and even newly up-gunned PC boats, are expected to empower the emerging strategy to introduce a new, more effective and lethal “over-the-horizon ship-to-shore” attack ability.

Future LCAC replacements, such as the now-under-construction Textron-built Ship-to-Shore Connectors, are expected to figure prominently in these anticipated missions. They introduce an unprecedented ability to transport 70-ton Abrams tanks to war and bring an integrated suite of new technologies to amphibious attack missions.

Execution of this new strategy is, depending upon the threat, also reliant upon 5th-generation aircraft, Coffman said; the Corp F-35B, now operational as part of Marine Corps Air Ground Task Forces aboard the USS Wasp and USS Essex, is intended to provide close-air support to advancing attacks, use its sensors to perform forward reconnaissance and launch strikes itself. The success of an amphibious attack needs, or even requires, air supremacy. Extending this logic, an F-35 would be positioned to address enemy air-to-air and airborne air-to-surface threats such as drones, fighter jets or even incoming anti-ship missiles and ballistic missiles. The idea would be to use the F-35 in tandem with surveillance drones and other nodes to find and destroy land-based enemy defenses, clearing the way for a land assault.

The entire strategic and conceptual shift is also informed by an increased “sea-basing” focus. Smaller multi-mission vessels, according to this emerging strategy, will be fortified by larger amphibs operating as sovereign entities at safer distances. Coffman said these ships would operate as “seaports, hospitals, logistics warehouses and sea-bases for maneuver forces.”

A 2014 paper from the Marine Corps Association, the professional journal of the US Marine Corps, points to sea-basing as a foundation upon which the Navy will shift away from traditional amphibious warfare.

“Seabased operations enable Marines to conduct highly mobile, specialized, small unit, amphibious landings by stealth from over the horizon at multiple undefended locations of our own choosing,” the paper writes.

In effect, future “ship-to-shore” amphibious attacks will look nothing like the more linear, aggregated Iwo Jima assault. A Naval War College essay on this topic both predicts and reinforces Coffman’s thinking.

“The basic requirements of amphibious assault, long held to be vital to success, may no longer be attainable. Unlike the Pacific landings of World War II amphibious objective areas could prove impossible to isolate,” the paper, called “Blitzkrieg From the Sea: Maneuver Warfare and Amphibious Operations,” states. (Richard Moore, 1983)

The essay, written in the 80s during the height of the Cold War, seems to anticipate future threats from major-power adversaries. Interestingly, drawing from some elements of a Cold War mentality, the essay foreshadows current “great-power” competition strategy for the Navy as it transitions from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to a new threat environment. In fact, when discussing its now-underway “distributed lethality” strategy, Navy leaders often refer to this need to return its focus upon heavily fortified littoral defenses and open, blue-water warfare against a near-peer adversary - as having some roots in the Cold War era.

The Naval War College essay also seems to anticipate modern thinking in that it cites LCACs as fundamental to amphibious warfare, writing that LCACs can “land at several points along an enemy coastline, seeking out enemy weaknesses and shifting forces.”

LCACs can access over 70-percent of the shoreline across the world, something the new SSCs will be able to do as well. Designed with over-the-horizon high-speed and maneuverability, LCACs are able to travel long distances and land on rocky terrain and drive up onto the shore. Referring to a more dispersed or disaggregated amphibious attack emphasis, the Naval War College essay describes modern attack through the lens of finding “surface gaps” to exploit as a way to bypass or avoid “centers of resistance.”

Dispersed approaches, using air-ground coordination and forward positioned surveillance nodes, can increasingly use synchronized assault tactics, pinpointing advantageous areas of attack. Not only can this, as the essay indicates, exploit enemy weakness, but it also brings the advantage of avoiding more condensed or closely-configured approaches far more vulnerable to long-range enemy sensors and weapons. Having an SSC, which can bring a heavier load of land-attack firepower, weapons and Marines, helps enable this identified need to bring assault forces across a wide-range of attack locations. None of this, while intended to destroy technologically sophisticated enemies, removes major risks; Russian and Chinese weapons, including emerging 5th-generation fighters, DF-26 anti-ship missiles claimed to reach 900-miles and rapidly-emerging weapons such as drones, lasers and railguns are a variety of systems of concern.

New Amphibious Attack Platforms

The effort to integrate large numbers of multi-mission smaller craft, naturally hinges upon the continued development of vessels enabled by newer advanced technologies. Textron's upgraded Ship-to-Shore Craft includes lighter-weight composite materials, increased payload capacity, modernized engines and computer-automated controls. Also, SSC’s new Rolls Royce engines have more horsepower and specialized aluminum to help prevent corrosion. Textron engineers also say the SSC is built with digital flight controls and computer automation to replace the traditional yoke and pedals used by current connectors. As a result, on-board computers will quickly calculate relevant details such as wind speed and navigational information, according to Textron information.

The Navy’s 72 existing LCACs, in service since the 80s, can only transport up to 60-tons, reach speeds of 36-knots and travel ranges up to 200 nautical miles from amphibious vehicles. The first several SSCs, which have been built and launched on the water, bring a new level of computer networking, combat-power transport technology and emerging elements of advanced maritime propulsion systems. The new SSC's have also moved to a lower frequency for ship electronics, moving from 400 Hertz down to 60 Hertz in order to better synchronize ship systems with Navy common standards. Along with these properties, the new craft uses hardware footprint reducing advances to lower the number of gear boxes from eight to two.

As part of this overall attack apparatus, the Corps is preparing to deploy new BAE-built Amphibious Combat Vehicles by 2021. By integrating a new, more powerful engine, large weapons and digitized C4ISR systems, the ACV is expected to bring new mechanized firepower to amphibious assaults - when compared to the existing AAV - Amphibious Assault Vehicle. BAE is now beginning Low-Rate Initial Production as part of a Marine Corps plan to build hundreds of the new vehicles. Unlike existing tracked AAVs, ACVs are eight-wheeled vehicles engineered for greater speed, maneuverability and survivability. By removing the need for torsion bars, a wheeled-vehicle such as the ACV can build a v-shaped hull for additional protection, BAE Systems developers say. "The Marine Corps went from tracked to wheeled because of advances in automotive technology," said John Swift, Director of Amphibious Warfare.

These vehicles, if upgraded with advanced AI-enabled networking and computer technologies, could help identify threats, protect SSCs and of course bring needed firepower to amphibious landings. BAE and the Corps are now preparing to fire weapons at the new vehicle until the live-fire attacks achieve "total destruction," as a way to prepare the vehicle for combat, Swift said.

Mine Threat:

Coffman also explained that he envisions unmanned, yet networked LCACs as something which, among other things, can limit risk to Marines from a range of enemy attacks such as deep-water mines.

“We have significant gaps in our capability to defeat 100,000 Russian and Chinese mines which will not be laid in shallow water,” Coffman said. When accompanied by a fleet of small attack and reconnaissance vessels, SSCs will operate with more protection from mines and other enemy threats.

While this emerging Navy strategy is, of course, intended to implement a far more effective attack strategy, it is also, by design, intended to save more lives when launching dangerous assaults into heavily-defended enemy areas.

“Amphibious landings are marked by extremely high costs and heavy casualties, and are considered among the riskiest and least desirable operations to conduct,” the Marine Corps Association essay maintains.

Kris Osborn is a Senior Fellow at The Lexington Institute. This piece was first featured in January 2019 and is being republished due to reader's interest.

Image: Reuters

Post-Coronavirus Asia: A Land of Great Power Tensions Set to Boil Over?

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 19:00

William R. Hawkins

Security, Asia

Discussion has flourished about what kind of "new" world will emerge after the coronavirus pandemic recedes. There is nothing new about hoping a global crisis will generate peace and cooperation, and nothing new about how it will turn out. The world will go on as before because nothing has changed geopolitically in the last few months other than major trends have accelerated. A quick tour around the Indo-Pacific region shows continued tension and conflict.

Discussion has flourished about what kind of "new" world will emerge after the coronavirus pandemic recedes. There is nothing new about hoping a global crisis will generate peace and cooperation, and nothing new about how it will turn out. The world will go on as before because nothing has changed geopolitically in the last few months other than major trends have accelerated. A quick tour around the Indo-Pacific region shows continued tension and conflict. 

On May 8, a gun battle erupted when Chinese troops crossed the border into Muguthang Valley in Sikkim province, a long-disputed region under Indian control but which Beijing claims is being illegally occupied. Tensions have been rising since January. In April, a Chinese “surveillance” ship rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in a disputed area of the South China Sea. Both countries claim sovereignty over what Hanoi calls the Hoang Sa archipelago and Beijing calls the Paracel islands. Besides sitting across vital shipping lanes, the islands also mean access to potentially rich undersea energy and mineral resources. Beijing has claimed Sikkim and the entire South China Sea as its territory based on the long past historical domination of these areas by Imperial China. 

On May 4, the Ministry of National Defense confirmed that China will establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, to match the one they have in the East China Sea where they have disputes with Japan. An ADIZ requires all aircraft to identify themselves, the point of which is to acknowledge the official expansion of Chinese airspace over the expanded maritime domain it claims. 

The United States, along with other maritime powers including Japan, India, the United Kingdom, and France have conducted "freedom of navigation" operations to demonstrate their rejection of Beijing's territorial claims. On April 28, the People’s Liberation Army boasted it had “expelled a US warship that trespassed into Chinese territorial waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea.” The story in Global Times, the media outlet of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, featured a photo of a Chinese warship firing a missile, but no shots were fired in the confrontation.  By its own accounts, all the PLA did was “organize naval and aerial forces to follow the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Barry.” They warned it to leave the area and claimed it had been expelled when all it did was complete its transit through the area. A bold PLA claim for propaganda purposes that further raised tensions. As the Global Times story asserted, “US warships and aircraft have been frequently operating in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Taiwan Strait recently. Chinese troops will resolutely fulfill their duty, safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.” In Beijing’s view, it is the United States and its allies who are provoking conflict by upholding international law.

The Taiwan Strait deserves mention as tensions are mounting there in the wake of the re-election of President Tsai Ing-wen. She leads the Democratic Progressive Party which is based on Taiwanese nationalism. The DPP has been growing in strength as younger generations have come to identify themselves as Taiwanese, not Chinese. Taiwan has been governed from Beijing for only four years (1945 to 1949) out of the last 125. A May 11 article in the South China Morning Post claimed that Beijing was trying to tap down rising “nationalist fervor” on Chinese social media calling for an invasion of Taiwan. The article also noted, “recently a number of commentators and retired military commanders have called for Beijing to retake control of the island….Some former military leaders have argued that the United States – which is bound by law to help the Taiwanese government defend itself – is presently unable to do so because all four of its aircraft carriers in the Pacific have been affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.” After the U.S. aircraft carriers Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan had to return to port to handle flu cases among their crews, China sent its carrier Liaoning with its escorts through the “first island chain” into the Pacific to demonstrate it was the local superpower. The United States responded by bringing in reinforcements and stepping up its operating tempo to counter any perception of weakness. 

A previous SCMP article cited Chinese strategists as fearing an invasion of the democratic island would be too costly and that Beijing will have to mobilize greater strength to do so. However, a lengthy essay published on May 12 by the PLA reported “The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has carried out combat readiness patrols in the Taiwan Strait region on many occasions…since February this year” and that its troops “are determined and capable of thwarting all ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities.” The article carried a direct threat to America at its conclusion, stating in bold type. “The Taiwan question is China's core interest and the bottom line of China that cannot be challenged” and that if the United States “repeatedly probes and even breaks through China's bottom line, it will eventually bring fire to itself.” President Xi Jinping is adamant that Taiwan “must and will” be absorbed into the mainland and during his tenure in office if possible. 

Further north, Japan has released its 2020 East Asian Strategic Review. The report proclaims a "free and open Indo-Pacific" that goes beyond the Japan-U.S. alliance to expand military cooperation with South Korea, Australia, India, and within ASEAN. It has already signed “Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreements” with the armed forces of Australia, the UK, Canada, and France. Another is pending with India. It also uses military aid to build ties within Southeast Asia. These efforts are all meant to build a coalition to contain a China that is threatening islands that form a strategic link between Tokyo and Taipei.

The carrier Ronald Reagan, which is based in Japan, is now back at sea. And to fill in the gap while the carrier Theodore Roosevelt recovers in Guam, the amphibious assault carrier America (which now embarks F-35B fighters) and the guided missile cruiser Bunker Hill have been operating off the coast of Malaysia near an area in dispute between Indonesia and China, and also showing the flag off Vietnam. China’s aggression in Southeast Asia is not confined to the sea. Beijing has built a series of dams at the headwaters of the Mekong River to produce electricity for southern China. But these dams also give Beijing leverage over Southeast Asian lands which depend on the Mekong for rice irrigation and fishing. Food security is already jeopardized by drought and has been further endangered by erratic water flows from the Chinese dams.

China has reacted strongly to an Australian demand for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus outbreak. Beijing is threatening trade with Canberra. The Global Times stated on May 13 how China views commerce as a part of foreign policy, “When the world enters the buyer's market, China has the right to select trading partners that can maximize its interest.”   

The United States has increased its backing for those resisting Chinese aggression since “the pivot” from the Middle East to the Pacific Rim instituted by the Obama administration. President Barack Obama was, however, reluctant to strike at the economic roots of Beijing’s rise. President Donald Trump has focused on international economics, targeting the outsourcing of American jobs and production capacity to China and Beijing’s theft of intellectual property. He has based his case on national security grounds. The pandemic has highlighted to the American public the dangerous dependency the United States has fallen into with China for a variety of strategic goods starting with medicine and including electronics, steel, auto parts and a host of critical supply chains. Efforts to decouple from China in key areas are underway led by the State and Commerce departments.

It is hoped that many of these industries can be brought back to America but even if they are merely diverted to trading partners who are allies or otherwise aligned with the United States, the gain to security will be substantial. New Delhi is putting itself forward, sending out invitations to 1,000 American firms doing business in China asking them to shift operations to India. Trump has been actively courting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a variety of high-tech projects and arms sales. India has been designated a Major Defense Partner of the United States.

The Japanese government is also offering incentives to its firms to shift critical production out of China. Business firms may resist efforts to put national security ahead of private profits. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce still says its “policy and advocacy efforts are guided by the belief that commercial engagement and the expansion of trade and investment ties between the United States and China benefit both countries and their business communities.” However, just as the pandemic has postponed the Chamber’s eleventh China Business Conference, the international situation will require commerce to follow the flag and adjust to a world that will operate on the basis of great power competition for the foreseeable future. 

William R. Hawkins is a consultant specializing in international economic and national security issues. He is a former Republican staff member on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Image: Reuters.