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  • Author: Jennifer A. Hillman, David Sacks
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy undertaking and the world’s largest infrastructure program, poses a significant challenge to U.S. economic, political, climate change, security, and global health interests. Since BRI’s launch in 2013, Chinese banks and companies have financed and built everything from power plants, railways, highways, and ports to telecommunications infrastructure, fiber-optic cables, and smart cities around the world. If implemented sustainably and responsibly, BRI has the potential to meet long-standing developing country needs and spur global economic growth. To date, however, the risks for both the United States and recipient countries raised by BRI’s implementation considerably outweigh its benefits. BRI was initially designed to connect China’s modern coastal cities to its underdeveloped interior and to its Southeast, Central, and South Asian neighbors, cementing China’s position at the center of a more connected world. The initiative has since outgrown its original regional corridors, expanding to all corners of the globe. Its scope now includes a Digital Silk Road intended to improve recipients’ telecommunications networks, artificial intelligence capabilities, cloud computing, e-commerce and mobile payment systems, surveillance technology, and other high-tech areas, along with a Health Silk Road designed to operationalize China’s vision of global health governance.1 Hundreds of projects around the world now fall under the BRI umbrella.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Infrastructure, Hegemony, Conflict, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Regionalism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Thomas J. Bollyky, Stewart M. Patrick
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States and the world were caught unprepared by the COVID-19 pandemic despite decades of warnings of the threat of global pandemics and years of international planning. The failure to adequately fund and execute these plans has exacted a heavy human and economic price. Hundreds of thousands of lives have already been lost, and the global economy is in the midst of a painful contraction. The crisis—the greatest international public health emergency in more than a century—is not over. It is not too early, however, to begin distilling lessons from this painful experience so that the United States and the world are better positioned to cope with potential future waves of the current pandemic and to avoid disaster when the next one strikes, which it surely will. This CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report seeks to do just that, framing pandemic disease as a stark threat to global and national security that neither the United States nor the world can afford to ignore again. It argues that future pandemic threats are inevitable and possibly imminent; policymakers should prepare for them and identify what has gone wrong in the U.S. and multilateral response. One of the most important lessons of this pandemic is that preparation and early execution are essential for detecting, containing, and rapidly responding to and mitigating the spread of potentially dangerous emerging infectious diseases. As harmful as this coronavirus has been, a novel influenza could be even worse, transmitting even more easily, killing millions more people, and doing even more damage to societies and economies alike. This Task Force proposes a robust strategy consisting of critical institutional reforms and policy innovations to help the United States and the world perform better. Although there is no substitute for effective political leadership, The recommendations proposed here would if implemented place the nation and the world on a firmer footing to confront humanity’s next microbial foe. The Task Force presents its findings grouped into three sections: the inevitability of pandemics and the logic of preparedness; an assessment of the global response to COVID-19, including the performance of the World Health Organization (WHO), multilateral forums, and the main international legal agreement governing pandemic disease; and the performance of the United States, while also drawing lessons from other countries, including several whose outcomes contrast favorably with the U.S. experience.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, World Health Organization, Pandemic, COVID-19, Health Crisis, Global Health
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jamille Bigio, Rachel Vogelstein
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Extremist groups rely upon women to gain strategic advantage, recruiting them as facilitators and martyrs while also benefiting from their subjugation. Yet U.S. policymakers overlook the roles that women play in violent extremism—including as perpetrators, mitigators, and victims—and rarely enlist their participation in efforts to combat radicalization. This omission puts the United States at a disadvantage in its efforts to prevent terrorism globally and within its borders. Women fuel extremists’ continued influence by advancing their ideology online and by indoctrinating their families. New technology allows for more sophisticated outreach, directly targeting messages to radicalize and recruit women. It also provides a platform on which female extremists thrive by expanding their recruitment reach and taking on greater operational roles in the virtual sphere. The failure of counterterrorist efforts to understand the ways in which women radicalize, support, and perpetrate violence cedes the benefit of their involvement to extremist groups.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Women
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Adam Segal
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States leads the world in innovation, research, and technology development. Since World War II, the new markets, industries, companies, and military capabilities that emerged from the country’s science and technology commitment have combined to make the United States the most secure and economically prosperous nation on earth. This seventy-year strength arose from the expansion of economic opportunities at home through substantial investments in education and infrastructure, unmatched innovation and talent ecosystems, and the opportunities and competition created by the opening of new markets and the global expansion of trade. It was also forged in the fire of threat: It was formed and tested in military conflicts from the Cold War to the war in Afghanistan, in technological leadership lost and regained during competition with Japan in the 1980s, and in the internal cultural conflicts over the role of scientists in aiding the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Confronted with a threat to national security or economic competitiveness, the United States responded. So must it once again. This time there is no Sputnik satellite circling the earth to catalyze a response, but the United States faces a convergence of forces that equally threaten its economic and national security. First, the pace of innovation globally has accelerated, and it is more disruptive and transformative to industries, economies, and societies. Second, many advanced technologies necessary for national security are developed in the private sector by firms that design and build them via complex supply chains that span the globe; these technologies are then deployed in global markets. The capacities and vulnerabilities of the manufacturing base are far more complex than in previous eras, and the ability of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to control manufacturing-base activity using traditional policy means has been greatly reduced. Third, China, now the world’s second-largest economy, is both a U.S. economic partner and a strategic competitor, and it constitutes a different type of challenger.1 Tightly interconnected with the United States, China is launching government-led investments, increasing its numbers of science and engineering graduates, and mobilizing large pools of data and global technology companies in pursuit of ambitious economic and strategic goals. The United States has had a time-tested playbook for technological competition. It invests in basic research and development (R&D), making discoveries that radically change understanding of existing scientific concepts and serve as springs for later-stage development activities in private industry and government. It trains and nurtures science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent at home, and it attracts and retains the world’s best students and practitioners. It wins new markets abroad and links emerging technology ecosystems to domestic innovations through trade relationships and alliances. And it converts new technological advances into military capabilities faster than its potential adversaries Erosion in the country’s leadership in any of these steps that drive and diffuse technological advances would warrant a powerful reply. However, the United States faces a critical inflection point in all of them. There is a great deal of talk among policymakers, especially in the Defense Department, about the importance of innovation, but the rhetoric does not translate fast enough into changes that matter. The Task Force believes that the government and the private sector must undertake a comprehensive and urgent response to this challenge over the next five years. Failure to do so will mean a future in which other countries reap the lion’s share of the benefits of technological development, rivals strengthen their militaries and threaten U.S. security interests, and new innovation centers replace the United States as the source of original ideas and inspiration for the world.
  • Topic: Security, National Security, Military Strategy, Innovation, Trade
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott A. Snyder, Geun Lee, You Young Kim, Jiyoon Kim
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Despite becoming influential on the world scene, South Korea remains a relatively weak country surrounded by larger, more powerful neigh- bors. This contrast between its global rank as a top-twenty economy and its regional status as the weakest country in Northeast Asia (with the exception of North Korea) poses a paradox for South Korean for- eign policy strategists. Despite successes addressing nontraditional security challenges in areas such as international development, global health, and UN peacekeeping, South Korea is limited in its capacity to act on regional security threats. South Korea has historically been a victim of geopolitical rivalries among contenders for regional hegemony in East Asia. But the coun- try’s rise in influence provides a glimmer of hope that it can break from its historical role by using its expanded capabilities as leverage to shape its strategic environment. The pressing dilemma for South Korean strategic thinkers is how to do so. As the regional security environment becomes more tense, South Korea’s strategic options are characterized by constraint, given potentially conflicting great-power rivalries and Pyongyang’s efforts to pursue asymmetric nuclear or cyber capabilities at Seoul’s expense. South Korea’s relative weakness puts a premium on its ability to achieve the internal political unity necessary to maximize its influence in foreign policy. Students of Korean history will recall that domestic factionalism among political elites was a chronic factor that hamstrung Korea’s dynastic leadership and contributed to its weakness in dealing with outside forces.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Nuala O'Conner
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Half of all Americans believe their personal information is less secure now than it was five years ago, and a sobering study from the Pew Research Center reveals how little faith the public has in organizations, whether governmental or private-sector, to protect their data—and with good reason. In 2017, there was a disastrous breach at Equifax, Yahoo’s admission that billions of its email accounts were compromised, Deep Root Analytics’ accidental leak of personal details of nearly two hundred million U.S. voters, and Uber’s attempt to conceal a breach that affected fifty-seven million accounts. Individuals are left stymied about what action they can take, if any, to protect their digital assets and identity. Nuala O’Connor Yet record-shattering data breaches and inadequate data-protection practices have produced only piecemeal legislative responses at the federal level, competing state laws, and a myriad of enforcement regimes. Most Western countries have already adopted comprehensive legal protections for personal data, but the United States—home to some of the most advanced, and largest, technology and data companies in the world—continues to lumber forward with a patchwork of sector-specific laws and regulations that fail to adequately protect data. U.S. citizens and companies suffer from this uneven approach—citizens because their data is not adequately protected, and companies because they are saddled with contradictory and sometimes competing requirements. It is past time for Congress to create a single legislative data-protection mandate to protect individuals’ privacy and reconcile the differences between state and federal requirements.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Privacy, Data, Digitization
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Felix Pena
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The institutional order governing world trade is going through a critical period. Debate over its future form and design will be a dominant theme on the global agenda for the coming years. The Donald J. Trump administration has questioned the benefits of the multilateral trading order and is pulling the United States back from its traditional leadership role. In December 2017, the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ended in disappointment with no substantive multilateral achievements. The shift in economic power from the West to the East and the growth of nonstate actors further complicate the search for consensus on international trade rules, leading to a so-called multiplex world. In a multiplex world, actors with different cultural values and relative power inequalities—such as nation-states, international and regional institutions, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations—compete against each other. To ensure a resilient trading system, multilateral trading rules and institutions need to be adapted to these new realities of trade, investment, and the distribution of global power. Unlike the international system as it functioned after World War II, today’s trading system does not reflect the interests of a single power or an alliance of powers with sufficient clout to impose their will on others in a sustained way. This is not a Group of Twenty (G20) or Group of Seven–led world: it is a G-Zero world, with no established lineup of who should be invited to the table where decisions are made. In this vacuum of global leadership it is increasingly difficult to identify who will create the new rules of international competition. Actors pursue their own self-interest, which results in less certainty for the international trade system.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Multilateralism, Trade Wars, WTO
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Elena Chernenko, Oleg Demidov, Fyodor Lukyanov
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: nformation and communications technology (ICT) presents one of the most critical modern challenges to global security. Threat assessments predict that the next major international crisis could be due to a state or terrorist group weaponizing ICTs to devastate critical infrastructure or military logistics networks. The proliferation of asymmetric warfare (i.e., conflicts between nations or groups that have disparate military capabilities) has increased states’ use of ICTs, which necessitates the development of an international code of cyber conduct. There is an urgent need for cooperation among states to mitigate threats such as cybercrime, cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, electronic espionage, bulk data interception, and offensive operations intended to project power by the application of force in and through cyberspace. Emerging cyber threats could precipitate massive economic and societal damage, and international efforts need to be recalibrated to account for this new reality. A common misperception is that the principal cybersecurity threats demanding urgent international collaboration are massive, state sponsored attacks that target critical infrastructure such as power plants or electrical grids, causing massive devastation and human casualties. In fact, cyber threats are more diverse and complex, often targeting private enterprises and endangering the technical integrity of the digital world. The near-total digitalization of business models makes the global economy more vulnerable to cyberattacks, not only from states but also from criminal organizations and other nonstate actors.
  • Topic: Security, International Cooperation, Infrastructure, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David P. Fidler
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The tasks of securing outer space and cyberspace are converging. The internet increasingly depends on space-enabled communication and information services. Likewise, the operation of satellites and other space assets relies on internet-based networks, which makes these assets, like cars and medical equipment, devices on the internet of things. New government actors, companies, goals, and technologies are expanding and transforming space activities. However, neither space policy nor cybersecurity policy is prepared for the challenges created by the meshing of space and cyberspace, which could increase national security risks. To meet these challenges, government, industry, and international action is needed. The Donald J. Trump administration’s National Space Council should develop cybersecurity recommendations for space activities, and federal agencies should prioritize these within the government and in cooperation with the private sector. In crafting needed legislation for commercial space activities, Congress should bolster industry efforts to strengthen cybersecurity. Private-sector actors should strengthen their adoption of cybersecurity best practices and collaborate with one another on improving implementation of cybersecurity strategies. Internationally, the United States should pursue collaboration on space cybersecurity through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), plurilateral space cooperation mechanisms, and bilateral forums.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Space
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Emerging challenges to international order require cooperation between the United States and China, two countries that share a common interest in preventing the world from becoming more dangerous and disorderly. U.S.-China relations are becoming more strained and antagonistic, however, and the prospects for cooperation appear to be receding. To explore whether there are still grounds for cooperation on issues of common concern between the two countries, in March 2018 the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) at the Council on Foreign Relations convened a group of fifteen experts from the United States and China for the workshop “Managing Global Disorder: Prospects for U.S.-China Cooperation.” CPA partnered with Peking University’s School of International Studies in Beijing for the workshop and also met with experts at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing and the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies in Shanghai. During the workshop, President Donald J. Trump announced plans to impose about $60 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports. While trade was a major topic of discussion, it was by no means the only area discussed. Workshop participants assessed conflicting views of the sources of global disorder and examined areas of global governance such as international trade, development, the environment, and the future of various multilateral institutions. They also discussed the most pressing security challenges in East and Southwest Asia. Participants highlighted the need for a greater understanding between the United States and China on the evolving international order. No major transnational problems will be solved without some cooperation between the two powers. It is therefore imperative that the two countries avoid a further deterioration of the relationship and instead identify areas of potential cooperation.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Trade and Finance, Tariffs, Social Order
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North America