Analysis of China’s cyber warfare capabilities
DESMOND BALL of the Strategic and Defence Studies Center at the Australian National University at Canberra analyzes the development of China’s cyber-warfare capabilities since the mid-1990s, the intelligence and military organizations involved, and the particular capabilities that have been demonstrated in defence exercises and in attacks on computer systems and networks in other countries.

In an article in Security Challenges, “China’s cyber warfare capabilities“, he states that it was often very difficult to determine whether these attacks originated with official agencies or private “Netizens” as well as that China’s demonstrated offensive cyber-warfare capabilities were fairly rudimentary such as denial-of-service, Trojan horse etc. that have been fairly easy to detect and remove. He also states that  there was no evidence that China’s cyber-warriors could penetrate highly secure networks or systematically cripple selected command and control, air defence and intelligence networks and databases of advanced  adversaries, or to conduct deception operations by secretly manipulating the data in these networks.

He concludes that it could however employ asymmetric strategies designed to exploit the relatively greater dependence on IT by its potential adversaries but could not compete in extended scenarios of sophisticated information warfare operations and would function best when used pre-emptively, as the PLA now practices in its exercises.

Shale Gas: hype vs reality
PAUL STEVENS of the Chatham House states that the ‘shale gas revolution’ which was responsible for a huge increase in unconventional gas production in the US over the last couple of years was creating huge investor uncertainties for international gas markets and renewables and could result in serious gas shortages within the next 10 years.

In a Chatham House report, “The ‘Shale Gas Revolution’: Hype and Reality” he states that the global recession that caused a drop in the gas demand and the sudden and unexpected development of unconventional gas supplies in the US had contributed to a steep fall in gas prices. He casts serious doubt over industry confidence in the ‘revolution’, questioning whether it can spread beyond the US, or indeed be maintained within it, as environmental concerns, high depletion rates and the fear that US circumstances may be impossible to replicate elsewhere, came to the fore.

He avers that investor uncertainty would reduce investment in future gas supplies to lower levels than would have happened had the ‘shale gas revolution’ not hit the headlines. He cautions that although the markets would eventually solve the problem, rising gas demand and the long lead-in-times on most gas projects would inflict high prices on consumers in the medium term.

Strategic Communications and National Strategy
PAUL CORNISH, JULIAN LINDLEY-FRENCH and CLAIRE YORKE of the Chatham House raise awareness of the role and potential of strategic communications as a means of delivering policy and seek to clarify how strategic communications could help governments manage and respond to current and future security challenges.

In a Chatham House report, “Strategic Communications and National Strategy“, they argue that strategic communications should not be understood to be merely a messaging activity, but as the core of a comprehensive strategic engagement effort – integrating multi-media, multi-outlet, community outreach and face-to-face efforts in a single campaign designed for adaptation to a complex and changing environment.

They also state that strategic communications could challenge governments to explain themselves more clearly and convincingly in order to gain and maintain public support for policy and in order to ensure that messages and actions do not conflict with one another and undermine the competence and reputation of government.

Following the money trail
STUART LEVEY of the Council on Foreign Relations and CHRISTY CLARK of the Podesta Group state that although UN implemented targeted financial sanctions had gained acceptance among governments and the private sector in disrupting illicit networks and pressuring intransigent regimes by making it far more difficult for them to access needed financial services, their enforcement continued to be lax outside the US.

They argue that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) over its 20+ years of existence had successfully changed the international landscape on financial controls for combating money laundering and terrorist financing. in their op-ed for Foreign Policy, “Follow the Money“, and call for FATF to develop and enforce standards for implementation of financial sanctions.

The FATF’s published standards had incentivized countries to continually improve and gain FATF’s seal of approval, or at least not warrant its disapproval.

Training Afghan security forces: Lessons from the USSR
OLGA OLIKER of the RAND Corporation presents an overview of Soviet efforts to improve and facilitate the training and development of Afghan security forces from 1920 to 1989 that could inform current approaches to planning and operating with Afghan forces and overcoming cultural challenges.

In her RAND monograph, “Building Afghanistan’s Security Forces in Wartime The Soviet Experience“, she states that although the personnel of the Soviet military, ministry of the interior (MVD) and KGB were tasked with coordinating the efforts of the Afghan armed forces, the ‘Sarandoy’ gendarmerie-like police force, and KhAD intelligence services, respectively, there was poor co-ordination among each other and such stove-piping among the Soviets were mirrored within the Afghans and this was compounded by limited information sharing by the Soviets with their Afghan counterparts because of personal mistrust and security concerns.

The Afghan conscript army continuously experienced high desertion due to poor conditions, political, tribal, and ethnic tensions as well as targeting by insurgent groups and poor maintenance ensured that equipment was wasted while militias were encouraged which had little loyalty to the Afghan government.

She concludes that the ISAF could learn some lessons from the Soviet experience in terms of a greater Soviet willingness to deploy large numbers of police advisors, well-matched in rank and age to Afghan counterparts, better retention in volunteer Sarandoy force as well as the dangers of relying on militia.

H2O leverage
BRAHMA CHELLANEY of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi draws attention to the China’s rise as a hydro-hegemon assuming unchallenged riparian preeminence by controlling the headwaters of multiple international rivers and manipulating their cross-border flows and acquiring leverage against its neighbors by undertaking massive hydro-engineering projects on transnational rivers.

In a Japan Times article “China’s unparalleled rise as a hydro-hegemon“, he states that riparian neighbors in South and South-East Asia were bound by water pacts in contrast to Beijing which did not have a single water treaty with any co-riparian country. Beijing rejected the notion of water sharing or institutionalized co-operation with lower riparian states in favor of bilateral initiatives even as it promoted multilateralism in other areas on the world stage, causing water to increasingly become a political divide in its relations to neighbors like India, Russia, Kazakhstan and Nepal as well as the states of the lower Mekong.

He also states that these water disputes were likely to worsen with China’s focus on erecting mega-dams on the Mekong, Brahmaputra and Illy would cause significant disruptions to countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Kazakhstan, changing the status quo on flows of international rivers and calls for cooperation to halt Beijing’s unilateral appropriation of shared water resources as pivotal to Asian peace and stability.

Sustainable urban transportation choices
DEBORAH GORDON of the Energy and Climate program at the Carnegie Endowment and DANIEL SPERLING, director of University of California Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies state that the global proliferation of vehicles presented two alternatives: one where cheap oil, free roads, sprawled development and subsidized home ownership would result in a foreboding car monoculture and an alternative option involving low-carbon, location-efficient, economically productive mobility where  Government, industry, and consumers—especially in emerging economies—could reinvent transportation models and employ innovative solutions.

In their European Financial Review article “Critical Crossroad: Advancing Global Opportunities to Transform Transportation“, they state that the proliferation of automobiles alongwith the the rise of megacities would spur a spiraling motorization process that would result in unhealthy, inefficient, unsustainable cities and crushing financial burdens and advocate an intervention to move away from wasteful transportation system to more sustainable, diverse approach that mimics natural ecosystem with the direct involvement of business, government, and consumers that would transform vehicles, transform fuels, and transform mobility.

They state that transportation could be redesigned as a system and not be bound to a single mode and provide examples of cutting-edge cities which were leading the way on a number of fronts, using strategic policy tools to advance low-carbon mobility.