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How China's Military Is Becoming Stronger

19.08.2019 4:24

Continued Evolution of PRC “Core” InterestsThe PRC claims that its policy for national defense is inherently defensive. However, the scope and scale of what the PLA may be called upon to defend is expanding, motivated by the “fundamental goal” of “resolutely safeguarding China’s “sovereignty, security, and development interests.” This phrasing has replaced, and is tantamount to, earlier assertions of China’s “core interests” (核心利益, hexin liyi). There have been changes and a degree of consistency in the framing of these interests over time. [2] However, the characterization of the tasks of the Chinese military and objectives of Chinese defense policy have evolved slightly between the 2015 and 2019 NDWPs. [3] In particular, the PRC’s commitment to safeguarding “national sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and security” is expanding.“China’s National Defense in the New Era” declares, “The South China Sea islands and Diaoyu Islands are inalienable parts of the Chinese territory.” Although the militarization of islands in the South China Sea has provoked serious concerns in the region, the PRC’s apparent confidence in its approach appears to have only increased. In 2015, “China’s Military Strategy” had highlighted the importance of “safeguard[ing] maritime rights,” calling for the PLA to “strike a balance between rights protection and stability maintenance.” By contrast, this 2019 NDWP lacks that emphasis on stability, and instead provides a direct defense of PRC actions: “China exercises its national sovereignty to build infrastructure and deploy necessary defensive capabilities on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea, and to conduct patrols in the waters of Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.” The justification of such measures as defensive reflects the flexible concept of defense that animates China’s strategy of active defense, which involves an offensive approach at the operational level.China’s national interests are continuing to expand into new domains and territories. The concern with threats and security interests in new domains, such as space and cyberspace, has been a consistent feature across the 2011, 2013, 2015, and now 2019 NDWPs. However, this latest document is more explicit in describing these as interests to be secured in China’s national defense, including not only outer space and cyberspace, but also the “electromagnetic space.” The PRC intends not only to improve its situational awareness in space but also to “enhance the capacity to safely enter, exit and openly use outer space.” The PRC’s future “use” (利用, liyong) of outer space could involve not only leveraging this domain for military purposes but also pursuing the exploitation of resources. At the same time, China’s attention to cyber security remains consistent with the concentration on cyber sovereignty, which requires reinforcing “national cyber border defense.” The emphasis on the electromagnetic space again highlights the spectrum as another domain for PRC interests.China has continued to concentrate on safeguarding its “overseas interests,” which are expanding worldwide. This imperative has been relatively consistent across the past couple of NDWPs, but the language in this document indicates its heightened importance. In particular, China’s armed forces intend to “address deficiencies in overseas operations and support,” including “build[ing] far seas forces” and “develop[ing] overseas logistical facilities,” such as the base in Djibouti and a potential base in Cambodia, which may be the first such bases of a number to come (China Brief, March 22). Inherently, China’s national defense requires supporting “the sustainable development of the country.” At a time when growth is slowing and depending ever more directly upon access to markets and resources worldwide, China’s future growth is directly linked to this global outlook. This concern justifies the call for the PLA to contribute to “global security goods,” which may see continued internationalization of China’s military power in ways that could start to challenge the United States.China’s Response to Global Military Competition“China’s National Defense in the New Era” reflects the PRC response to the 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy, which centered on sharpening the U.S. military’s competitive advantage. [4]American initiatives have evidently provoked a powerful response in the PLA, spurring on Chinese defense innovation (China Brief, October 4, 2016). As a result, the PLA has been greatly concerned with the risks of “technology surprise attacks” (技术突袭, jishu tuji), wary of a “growing technological generation gap” that could emerge as a result of this competition. By its own assessment, the PLA “still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries,” and a failure to adapt could place the PLA in a position of dangerous disadvantage.  This unfavorable situation necessitates innovation as a military, and indeed strategic, imperative.The PLA is confronting the challenge and opportunity of the “Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA, 军事革命, junshi geming) believed to be currently underway. This 2019 NDWP builds upon notable themes from the 2015 edition, which stated that the global RMA was “proceeding to a new stage.” In particular, those trends were assessed to involve the development of weaponry and equipment characterized as “long-range precision, intelligent, stealthy and unmanned.” In the “new era” described in the 2019 edition, China is particularly concerned with advances in cutting-edge technologies with promising applications in the military domain, especially artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information, big data, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things. As a result of these trends, the form (形态, xingtai) of warfare “is accelerating in its evolution towards informatized warfare, and intelligentized (智能化, zhinenghua) warfare is on the horizon.” [5]The PLA’s recent reforms have introduced unprecedented transformation into a force once considered resistant to change. However, the PLA continues to confront considerable challenges as a result of the disparities that persist even within the force. Chinese military leaders must “promote the integrated development of mechanization and informatization and accelerate the development of military intelligentization.” [6] The PLA today must undertake all three processes simultaneously, which presents distinct difficulties and potential chances to leapfrog in its development. Notably, this innovation is reportedly extending to the development of new military theories that may be formalized eventually into new “doctrine” or operational regulations (作战条令, zuozhan tiaoling) (The Diplomat, June 6, 2017). However, the PLA’s approach to the requisite technical and conceptual challenges is still taking shape.New Paradigms of Chinese Military PowerToday, the PLA is changing its paradigm for military power: the PLA is “striving to transform from a quantity-and-scale model to that of quality and efficiency, as well as from being personnel-intensive to one that is S&T-intensive.;” This objective has involved a significant downsizing of personnel, with 300,000 demobilized on the course of these reforms, and increased investment in human capital. At the same time, the PLA’s approach to military research has been restructured: the CMC Steering Commission on Military Scientific Research has been established, and a transformed Academy of Military Science (China Brief, January 18) has been officially designated to lead the military scientific research enterprise. Guided by Lieutenant General Yang Xuejun (杨学军)—the former commandant of the PLA’s National University of Defense Technology, known for his expertise in artificial intelligence and supercomputing—AMS appears to be undertaking rapid recruitment of the talent required to promote defense innovation in emerging technologies. The “new” AMS is also leading a new initiative to facilitate the integration of theory and technology (理技融合, liji ronghe), which could enable the innovative thinking required to realize the potential of emerging capabilities (Xinhua, February 14).The PLA is also improving and modernizing its system for weaponry and equipment. The PLA, once described as the world’s largest military museum, is phasing out older equipment while working towards introducing a new “system of systems” (体系, tixi) composed of high-tech weapons, such as Type 15 tanks, type 052D destroyers, J-20 fighters, and DF-26 intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles. The PLA’s next-generation capabilities could prove to be more sophisticated, from higher levels of autonomy to hypersonics and a range of “new concept” systemss, such as directed energy weapons. Whereas prior armaments development had been characterized by a lack of jointness, current initiatives mentioned in the 2019 NDWP are intended to improve capabilities by “coordinating the efforts of all services and arms,” while “promoting the balanced development of main battle equipment, information systems, and support equipment” in order to increase “standardization, serial development and interoperability.”The PLA’s apparent enthusiasm for technology and innovation can appear incongruous when juxtaposed against a concurrent attachment to tradition. For instance, Mao Zedong’s concept of “people’s warfare” (人民战争, renmin zhanzheng) was described in “China’s Military Strategy” as a “magic weapon” (法宝, fabao) for the PLA. Even as China’s national defense enters this “new era,” the espoused dedication to “give full play to the overall power of the people’s war[fare]” is again reiterated with calls for “innovating in its strategies, tactics and measures.” This is not merely rhetorical, but rather reflects a core concept: “China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people,” as the 2019 NDWP declares. This approach may appear to be anachronistic in an age of informatized warfare, yet arguably possesses enduring relevance, from cyber defense to a whole-of-nation approach to national defense mobilization. [7] The juxtaposition of low-tech concepts and options with high-tech ambitions can be strikingly incongruous. For example, the much-derided discussion of the PLA’s reintroduction of bugles in the 2019 NDWP can also be characterized as a measure with practical relevance, including to resolving the challenges of command and communications in a highly denied environment (China Military Online, September 12, 2018). China’s armed forces continue to attempt to reconcile such apparent contradictions.PLA Reforms in ProgressThe 2019 NDWP introduces certain updates regarding force structure that are worth highlighting. The PLA has apparently succeeded in overcoming considerable bureaucratic impediments to adjust its force structure—away from the prior dominance of the Army to expand the Navy and Rocket Force—while increasing investments in “new types of combat forces.” This adjustment and rebalancing of China’s armed forces has shifted resources to new priorities: there is a new focus on special operations, “all-dimensional offense and defense,” amphibious operations, far seas protection and “strategic projection,” with the objective to “make the force composition complete, combined, multi-functional and flexible.”As a significant innovation in force structure, the PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) is a unique outcome of the reforms. The PLASSF has consolidated capabilities for space, cyber, and electronic warfare, contributing to Chinese capabilities to “fight and win wars in the information age.” At the same time, its supporting function is officially described as including battlefield environmental protection, information and communication assurance, and information security protection, as well as new technology testing. The PLASSF is called upon to “accelerate the integrated development of new-type combat forces,” which may allude to recognition of potential synergies in capabilities across these domains. In a notable indicator of progress, the PLASSF is “actively integrated into the joint operations system, and solidly carrying out new-type domains confrontation drills and emergency response training.” For instance, the PLASSF has engaged in exercises in which it acted as a “blue force” through engaging in electronic countermeasures.Today, the PLA’s capabilities for “strategic deterrence” (战略威慑, zhanlue weishe) thus extend beyond the PLARF to emerging capabilities in new domains. In particular, the new strategic capabilities for space and cyber warfare have been consolidated through the PLASSF.  [8] The PLA Air Force was described in 2015 as endeavoring to “build an air-space defense force structure that can meet the requirements of informationized operations.” However, this discussion of “air-space defense” is not included in the 2019 NDWP, potentially reflecting organizational decisions that have resulted in the space mission being primarily entrusted to the PLASSF. [9] This shift thus appears to reinforce the assessment that the PLASSF is more likely to possess responsibility for the PLA’s space mission, though there is a possibility that the PLAAF and/or PLARF may retain some role in kinetic counterspace capabilities.The PRC’s capabilities for and strategic thinking on deterrence are evolving. The subtle changes in phrasing across these NDWPs convey notable nuances regarding the role of its missile forces. In 2015, the role of the former Second Artillery was described as involving “strategic deterrence and nuclear counterattack,” whereas in 2019, the PLARF was characterized as responsible for “nuclear deterrence and nuclear counterattack.” The fact that the PLARF is not described as the service with the sole role in strategic deterrence further confirms the shift in the PLA’s nuclear posture: from a monad to a triad, in which the PLA Navy and Air Force are also called upon to serve as newly “strategic” services in their own right. Also new to this defense white paper, the PLARF is called upon to “enhanc[e] strategic counter-balance capability” (增强战略制衡能力, zengqiang zhanlue zhiheng nengli). The meaning of this phrasing is not clearly defined, but it could be an allusion to the potential of new capabilities, such as hypersonics, intended to maintain deterrence in the face of missile defense.As the PLA continues to improve “preparations for military struggle,” its capability to “fight and win” future wars will depend upon the realism and sophistication of its training. This “actual combat” (实战, shizhan) training appears to be improving across the services. [10] For instance, the PLA Navy has started to concentrate on training in the far seas, reportedly deploying its new aircraft carrier task group for its initial “far seas combat exercise” in the West Pacific. The PLAN has also introduced “live force-on-force exercises codenamed “Mobility” (机动, jidong). Significantly, the introduction of the theater commands (战区, zhanqu) provides a critical mechanism to enable joint operations. This 2019 NDWP reveals that the theater commands have “strengthened their leading role in joint training and organized serial joint exercises codenamed the East, the South, the West, the North and the Central, to improve joint combat capabilities.” The existence of these exercises had not been previously disclosed, and their announcement is noteworthy as a new mechanism for improving joint combat capabilities.ConclusionToday’s PLA is very different from that of yesteryear. Chinese military power has increased dramatically over the past several decades, consistently surpassing the estimates of most analysts. The PLA is adapting to the challenges of military rivalry among great powers and pursuing new mechanisms for victory in future warfare. Of course, the PLA continues to confront numerous weaknesses and significant shortcomings—lagging behind the U.S. military, which is seen as the target of and teacher for these efforts. The apparent ambitions for the PLA to become truly “world-class” as a force by mid-century should not be dismissed. The gestures towards transparency, including new details on China’s defense budget, which reached $151.6 billion as of 2017, should be welcomed, but hardly resolve concerns about PRC intentions and growing capabilities. Meanwhile, the PLA remains more opaque about its actual military strategic guidelines and operational regulations, which are not, and are unlikely to be, publicly disclosed. [11] However, it is clear that China is well on its way to creating a military commensurate with its global standing and interests in this “new era.” This latest NDWP thus provides one more piece of the puzzle of reckoning with the rise of China’s military power.Elsa Kania is an Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program of the Center for a New American Security. She is also an Associate with the U.S. Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute.This article appeared originally at The Jamestown Foundation's China Brief.Image: Reuters. Notes[1] See this volume that provides significant assessments of major elements of the reforms: Phillip Saunders et al. (ed.), Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms(National Defense University Press, 2019).[2] See these earlier assessments of the evolution and characterization of China’s “core interest” (核心利益) over time: Caitlin Campbell, Ethan Meick, Kimberly Hsu, and Craig Murray, “China’s ‘Core Interests’ and the East China Sea,” US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2013. Michael D. Swaine, “China’s Assertive Behavior: Part One: On ‘Core Interests,’” China Leadership Monitor 34, no. 22 (2011): 1-25.[3] For instance, the only mention of the South China Sea in the “China’s Military Strategy” included the statement: “Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs; a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China.” The question of whether the South China Sea was considered a ‘core interest’ was previously debated and debatable, but “China’s National Defense in the New Era” seems to settle that issue more conclusively.[4] Department of Defense, “Summary of the National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Advantage,”[5] Potentially, the PLA’s military strategic guidelines may be revised someday to reflect its focus on preparing to fight and win future “intelligentized” wars.[6] For more context on the Chinese military’s approach to intelligentization, see: Elsa B. Kania, “Chinese Military Innovation in Artificial Intelligence,” Testimony  to U.S.-China Economic and Security  June 7, 2019,[7] For a more detailed assessment of China’s approach to national defense mobilization, see: Elsa B. Kania, “Testimony before the National Commission on Service’s Hearing on “Future Mobilization Needs of the Nation,”” April 24, 2019,[8] For initial assessments of the PLA Strategic Support Force, see: John Costello and Joe McReynolds, China’s Strategic Support Force: A Force for a New Era,  National Defense University Press, 2018; Elsa B. Kania and John K. Costello,”The Strategic Support Force and the Future of Chinese Information Operations,” The Cyber Defense Review 3, no. 1 (2018): pp. 105-122.[9] As a potential indicator of inter-service rivalry or dynamics, it may be notable that the PLASSF’s new commander, Lt. Gen. Li Fengbiao (李凤彪) is a career PLAAF officer who formerly commanded the PLAAF Airborne Corps. Potentially, his selection is an indication that the PLASSF is becoming more joint as an organization. For context and confirmation of this change, see: “CCTV screen leakage of personnel adjustment” [央视画面泄密人事调整], Duowei, May 15, 2019, For the original video of footage from the May 2019 conference, see: “Xi Jinping at the All-Nation Public Security Work Conference Emphasized” [习近平在全国公安工作会议上强调], CCTV, May 8, 2019,[10] As for other services, the PLA Army has continued such major exercises as “Stride” (跨越) and “Firepower” (火力), the PLA Air Force has continued to engage in regular system-vs.- system exercises, such as “Red Sword” (红剑), and the PLA Rocket Force has focused on “force-on-force evaluation-oriented training” while continuing major exercises, such as “Heavenly Sword” (天剑).[11] For a much more extensive discussion of the evolution of China’s military strategy over time, see: M. Taylor Fravel, Active Defense: China’s Military Strategy Since 1949, Princeton University Press, 2019.

Saudi Arabia’s Hyper-Nationalism Is Here To Stay

18.08.2019 15:13

As Saudi Arabia adjusts its social contract to lean away from religion and towards nationalism, it is siphoning power away from the religious extremists who have long dogged its reputation and security. But in so doing, it is also giving power to a new brand of Saudi radical: the hyper-nationalist. And while the Saudi hyper-nationalist trend does not seek the same kind of violent, global caliphate as previous Saudi extremists like Osama bin Laden, they nevertheless pose a real risk not just to the reputation of the Kingdom, but to its dependently-minded Gulf Arab neighbors, and aspects of its critical relationships with the West.          Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his hyper-nationalist deputies, Saud al-Qahtani and his agents in the Center for Studies and Media Affairs, are carrying out a far-ranging campaign against activists, academics, influencers and public personalities to rapidly transform Saudi Arabia’s social contract from religion-cum-tribalism to modern nationalism. The imperatives driving this transformation are multiple. At its core, the Saudi social contract is years out of date. The religious establishment’s long-standing loyalty, especially after the Siege of Mecca in 1979, helped glue Saudi society to the monarchy. But Saudi religiosity is changing, undermining the political potency of the clerics who once could reliably rally followers to the flag. The Kingdom’s cradle-to-grave welfare system is increasingly unaffordable; whereas once Riyadh could dump dollops of cash onto unruly citizens and regions to purchase loyalty, now the state must find means to turn its citizens into productive workers thriving in their currently moribund private sector. With the religious and economic planks weakened, Riyadh has sought to use nationalism as a salve to patch the strained relationship between rulers and ruled.It is a remarkable pivot. Saudi nationalism is a relatively new concept: not until 2005 did King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein officially recognized a National Day for the Kingdom, and only in recent years has the holiday begun to gain steam in the public sphere. Saudi kings typically saw nationalism as a dangerous flirtation with the anti-monarchical, pan-Arab nationalism espoused by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, and therefore sought to limit its growth. Now the Kingdom is embracing the concept with gusto to shore up its social contract.On the edges of this growing nationalist movement are the hyper-nationalists—mostly men, often young, who patrol social media, sometimes in foreign languages like English. They help shape the narrative of the Kingdom’s reputation and establish new red lines that Riyadh must consider when crafting policy. In 2018 alone, they helped stoke Canadian-Saudi tensions; cheered on the detention of women’s rights activists; extolled mass executions of political dissidents; justified the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, while taking on the mantle of maintaining public order once held by the religious police. As the taboos of the old religious establishment fade away, the hyper-nationalists are moving to command public opinion. Sometimes, the hyper-nationalists are useful tools for the state to enforce policy, shape public sentiment, and adjust the social contract. As nationalism gains credence, the religious establishment’s disquiet with social reform will increasingly become irrelevant—an important evolution in the state’s character, as many social reforms, like allowing women to travel and work freely, are also economic in nature. It will also help isolate the religious extremists within Saudi Arabia; although jihadi ideology has been given a stinging propaganda defeat with the destruction of the territorial version of the Islamic State, young Saudis, particularly in hinterland provinces being overlooked by the Kingdom’s tumultuous reforms, nevertheless find solace in the appeals of extremist preachers. There may be military benefits as well: typically casualty-averse, more nationalist military ranks may increase their tolerance for risky operations and national sacrifice, traits that Riyadh has chased for decades with little success. That will allow Saudi Arabia to be more confrontational with its regional rival, Iran, and mitigate some of the war weariness cropping up from its intervention in Yemen.Other times, the hyper-nationalists have proven to be reputational and policy risks for a Riyadh trying to court foreign investment and maintain strategic alliances. Al-Qahtani is widely blamed for the botched Khashoggi operation, an issue that has soured relations between Saudi Arabia and America’s Congress. Saudi Arabia’s hyper-nationalists also helped drive the Canadian-Saudi diplomatic spat of August 2018 which has interrupted the long-standing relationship between Canada and Saudi students, and which threatened to derail business relations between the two countries. The hyper-nationalists have also raised tensions with Iran: in an editorial in state-backed Arab News in May 2019 (which is part of Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Research and Publishing Company that is a key vehicle in pushing the nationalist narrative), the editorial board argued for punitive military strikes against Iran in retaliation for the tanker attackers in the Gulf of Oman and attacks by the Houthis on Saudi oil infrastructure.Moreover, the ever-evolving concept of national dignity will produce new diplomatic challenges for both Riyadh and its allies. While Saudi Arabia has never welcomed foreign opinion on its domestic affairs, it has, in the past, been able to ignore popular opinion in the name of state security, as it did when it invited in Allied troops to defend the Kingdom from Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and, more recently, as it reaches out to Israel for a common front against Iran.Moreover, Saudi nationalists have shown less tolerance for the regional deviation of nearby Gulf Arab states. Qatar has taken the brunt of these attacks, and the blockade has become infused with a nationalist spirit that will be hard to turn down should Riyadh ever find resolution with Doha. In the future, Oman and Kuwait may also face the strengthened ire of these nationalists. Oman’s Sultan Qaboos has been independent enough, especially with Iran and Qatar, to face pressure from Riyadh. Qaboos helped scuttle a Saudi attempt to strengthen the regional Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a Gulf Union in 2013, something that upset Saudi Arabia’s strategy of turning the GCC into a more unified front against Iran. In addition, Oman has never joined the Qatar boycott, and Muscat has felt exposed enough to Saudi criticism to take stridently pro-U.S. measures, like inviting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Muscat in November 2018, to reassure its alliance with the Americans. (It also opened up a military base with Britain, the first since decolonization in 1970). Finally, Kuwait’s long-standing territorial dispute in its oil-rich borders with Saudi Arabia also will increasingly take on nationalist tinges not present before.Perhaps most of all, Saudi Arabia’s new nationalism will infuse it with the political backing it needs to resist foreign influence to change its behavior. As Western allies grow concerned about Saudi Arabia’s human-rights record and conduct in Yemen, pressure from allies to change Saudi Arabia’s behavior will butt up against nationalist demands for the monarchy to maintain the Kingdom’s sovereignty. This will be a marked change from the heady days of George W. Bush and King Abdullah, when Bush helped pressure the king to hold municipal elections as part of his regional Freedom Agenda. Even close allies of the Kingdom may find that the more nationalism gains stature in Saudi Arabia, the more closed the minds of its officials become.Ryan Bohl is a Middle East and North Africa analyst at Stratfor. He holds a BA in history and an MAEd from Arizona State University, where he studied Middle Eastern history and education, and St. Catherine’s College at the University of Cambridge. He lived and taught in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar from 2009-14. Image: Reuters

Communists Rally in Moscow as Opposition Takes Weekend Off

17.08.2019 6:16

(Bloomberg) -- The Russian Communist Party held a rally in central Moscow calling for honest and fair city council elections as the newly energized opposition planned to skip mass protests this weekend for the first time in five weeks.The rally started at noon Moscow time at Sakharov Avenue, the traditional spot for demonstrations, and senior party officials, politicians and State Duma members were scheduled to take part. About 4,000 people gathered during the first hour, according to Moscow police.This weekend marks a lull in protests over the refusal to put opposition candidates on the ballot for city council elections, which sparked the biggest wave of unrest in the capital since 2011-2012. Last Saturday, as many as 60,000 people attended a demonstration in central Moscow to demand the excluded politicians be allowed to run, while over 2,000 people have been detained by riot police in recent weeks for participating in unsanctioned gatherings.Attempts to get a permit to hold an opposition demonstration this Saturday were denied by city authorities, Andrei Morev, a local politician and member of the liberal Yabloko party, wrote on Facebook Thursday. He called instead for a series of individual street protests, a form of opposition that is legal.The opposition plans to return to the streets next week en masse. While the city denied a permit for a rally in the center on Aug. 24, it authorized a meeting at the edge of Moscow in a working class neighborhood filled with Soviet-era residential towers. The protests have continued despite the arrests of many of the opposition politicians on charges of organizing unsanctioned protests. Opposition leader Alexey Navalny is serving 30 days in prison for urging supporters to join an unauthorized action last month.The Communists are one of four parties in Russia’s lower house of parliament but have seen their power wane since President Vladimir Putin was first elected in 2000. They currently hold less than 10% of seats in the chamber.Just 11% of Russians said they would vote for the Communists in parliamentary elections, according to a recent survey by the Levada Center. The low level of support comes despite the ruling United Russia party losing popularity after it pushed through unpopular pension reforms last year, according to a July 18-24 survey of 1,605 people.To contact the reporters on this story: Jake Rudnitsky in Moscow at [email protected];Yuliya Fedorinova in Moscow at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Torrey Clark at [email protected], Guy CollinsFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Macron's Quiet Summer May Turn to Anger as Voters Return to Work

16.08.2019 23:00

(Bloomberg) -- Macron’s quiet summer season could turn to discontent in the fall.President Emmanuel Macron has spent three weeks in the Cote d’Azur, south of France, alternating between the beach and preparing for a delicate G-7 summit on Aug. 24. The president’s holidays have so far been relatively uneventful, a contrast with his two previous summers marked by intense policy work, a soccer World Cup triumph and a dangerous scandal.All the same, “the return from the vacations could be quite agitated,” said Sylvain Boulouque, a French historian who has written books about popular movements. “There are quite a few reforms the government is proposing that could bring out large demonstrations.”While Macron himself doesn’t face voters until 2022, any turbulence would be an unwelcome backdrop as he gears up for local elections in the spring that are essential for developing his three-year-old party.UnhappinessUnions are promising major actions against his plans to streamline France’s unemployment insurance system. The tension has already been simmering during the summer with striking health workers, youths angry about police violence and farmers vandalizing offices of lawmakers who backed for a free-trade pact with Canada. On top of that, the grassroots Yellow Vests movement isn’t dead, and Brexit beckons.A recent poll by Ifop said 44% of the French “understand but don’t approve” of the attacks on deputies’ offices and 9% -- that’s more than 4 million adults -- fully approve.Not MellowThe Yellow Vests already forced the most significant U-turn of Macron’s presidency when he announced 15 billion euros of spending increases and tax cuts in December.Protesters had blocked roads across France and held sometimes violent demonstrations in Paris and other cities to protest rising gasoline taxes as the movement morphed into wider rejection of Macron’s ruling style. A handful of members were out marching Aug. 17 through various French cities for the 40th consecutive Saturday.“The movement isn’t dead because Emmanuel Macron hasn’t brought an answer to our political demands,” said Francois Boulo, a lawyer and activist in Rouen, north-west of Paris. “He continues to give tax breaks to the rich and continues to push through reforms that hurt the unemployed.”In late June, Macron’s government announced changes to the country’s unemployment insurance system that among other measures extends the period people have to work before being eligible. The changes are scheduled to take effect Nov. 1 and more is coming.Clashes at CustomsOn July 18, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe received a report recommending raising the effective age of retirement to 64 from 62, aligning public and private sector pensions and the government is aiming to legislate this year.Every recent government has tried and failed on this one, in the face of a backlash from voters.In the midst of this, Britain could tumble out of the European Union Oct. 31 without an accord and the customs officers who’d have to handle the disruption at French ports aren’t happy either.They staged occasion strikes earlier this year to drive home the point that France, which handles 60% of the goods traded between the U.K. and continental Europe, isn’t prepared. After long truck lines at Calais and seriously disrupted Eurostar train travels, pay increases achieved a temporary truce but still aren’t satisfied with the government’s hiring plans.“We are in a climate that’s very electric and politically tense,” Jerome Fourquet, Ifop’s head of opinion studies, said in a tweet.To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at [email protected], Geraldine AmielFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Hong Kong activists and British MPs join calls for Boris Johnson to intervene

16.08.2019 11:51

Two British MPs have called on the UK to directly condemn Beijing for failing to hold up its end of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, asking Boris Johnson's government to consider sanctions against Chinese officials and companies. Thousands, dressed in black, gathered in a public square Friday evening in Hong Kong’s business district in defiance of showers that had swept through the city. “What is happening in Hong Kong is truly a human rights crisis in the making,” said MP Heidi Allen, in a message read to the crowd. “We mustn’t allow China to use this as an opportunity to bully us into submission, and relinquish our responsibilities.” “This slow erosion of your freedoms is precisely what the Sino-British Joint Declaration was supposed to avoid when Britain signed that agreement in 1984,” said Tom Watson in a recorded address. The extradition proposal “clearly breaches that understanding and starts to align Hong Kong’s legal system with that of China; this is not acceptable," he added. Demonstrators hold placards and wear eye patches in solidarity with those allegedly injured by police Credit: David Gray/Bloomberg “The UK must not sit idly by as Hong Kongers lose their rights and freedoms,” he added as he called on the UK government to show “direct moral support” for city residents and to scope out steps to apply pressure on Chinese officials and companies. Cheers erupted in response to the messages at the peaceful rally. The Union Flag and Hong Kong’s British colonial flag have been fixtures at mass protests that have snaked through the city for three months, as protesters have continually called on the UK to express further support to preserve freedoms in the former colony. Mr Johnson and other British officials have already called on China to continue recognising the Joint Declaration as the protests continue. In 2014, China called the agreement a historical document with no present significance, worrying many that the freedoms long enjoyed in the former British colony were gradually disappearing. China, however, has condemned the UK for interfering in domestic affairs, threatening the government to keep out of the political situation in Hong Kong and accusing the government of retaining a colonial mindset. Joshua Wong, a promanent protest leader imprisoned after the Umbrella Revolution of 2014, told The Telegraph: "It's time for the Prime Minister, and I believe Boris Johnson should take a more active role. I know it's hard for him to strongly support Hong Kong democratisation with solid action or legislation, but at least make a phone call to president Xi [Jinping] to remind him not to send troops to Hong Kong - it's not the solution." He added that Mr Johnson wasn't "speaking up enough". "If they do not speak up, they are making the joint declaration into another Munich Agreement." In June, the UK halted further export licenses for crowd control equipment indefinitely until human rights issues were addressed after human rights group Amnesty International said some of the tear gas canisters fired by police to disperse crowds were manufactured by PW Defence, a British defence company. Protesters first came out against a now-suspended extradition proposal, though have stayed in the streets to demand the formal withdrawal of the bill. Calls have also expanded to include broader political reforms including the resignation of the city's chief executive, Carrie Lam, and direct leadership elections.

Democrat Elizabeth Warren floats plan to empower Native Americans

16.08.2019 10:05

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Friday unveiled her latest policy plan, which aims to empower Native American tribes through land protection and law enforcement reforms and boost financial support for chronically underfunded health and education programs.


The Most Important Brexiter Isn’t Boris Johnson

16.08.2019 4:00

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- In the highly entertaining Channel 4 drama about the 2016 referendum campaign “Brexit: The Uncivil War,” Benedict Cumberbatch, playing the mastermind of the Vote Leave campaign, is sometimes found crouched in the narrow pantry where he retreats to think. It’s not hard to picture the real Dominic Cummings doing just that.Cummings is no mere political curiosity. Though unelected and without a seat at the cabinet table, he is U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most important adviser. A master of the focus group and the targeted digital ad, he will play a critical role in any early election or second referendum on Brexit.The Johnson-Cummings pairing could be largely a matter of short-term expedience. Johnson wants a proven hand to carry out his “do or die” Oct. 31 Brexit pledge and win an election. But it could also be about something beyond Brexit. At the heart of the new government are two ambitious men possessed by a sense of history, some would say grandiosity, and an appetite for taking big gambles.For Cummings, Brexit is a means to a greater end: a complete overhaul of the machinery of government. This might have been started long ago, but Margaret Thatcher, that icon of the British right, didn’t go far enough in Cummings’s view. She shied away from reforming the civil service, whose inefficiencies Cummings finds maddening. He wants to finish the job he started with Vote Leave by using insights from the world of computing, physics, warfare and sport. If he stays beyond Brexit, Cummings will have to prove his ideas aren’t some utopian vision.But there’s a paradox: The political upheaval caused by Brexit may have opened the door to change, but the chaos of a no-deal Brexit could make the very reforms he seeks impossible to implement.No Ordinary BrexiterCummings cannot be confused with your garden variety no-deal Brexiter. He notes in one of his many, lengthy blog posts that he is “not a Tory libertarian, ‘populist,’ or anything else.” That explains his deep disdain for the “narcissist-delusional” group of hard-core Brexiters in the party. For them, leaving the EU is an ideological necessity and a mark of tribal loyalty. He isn’t one of that tribe, or any tribe. He even went so far, in a twitter exchange in 2017, as to say the referendum may have been a mistake.Most political advisers operate in the shadows, but Cummings is the subject of an endless stream of profiles; in a country that worships eccentricity, he is a journalistic gift that keeps on giving. He also invites inspection. His wide-ranging, occasionally breathless writings provide a dizzying tour of the innovators, historical figures, athletes and scientists who have informed his thinking. His political philosophy incorporates insights from Prussian Otto von Bismarck, interface design wizard Bret Victor, physicist and computer scientist Michael Nielsen, T.S. Eliot and many more.To imagine a Cummings-led takeover of the British state, visualize a room resembling a NASA launch control center in which Bismarck is huddled with, say, a crack team of designers and coders on loan from Apple. Bismarck, the “blood and iron” chancellor who distrusted democracy, is important. Cummings also singles out for praise the Chinese Communist Party for its “use of proven systems management techniques for integrating principles of effective action to predict and manage complex systems at large scale.”For the cadres of civil servants orbiting Downing Street, some might find Cummings’s own verdict of their world makes for uncomfortable reading:Critical institutions (including the senior civil service and the parties) are programmed to fight to stay dysfunctional, they fight to stay closed and avoid learning about high performance, they fight to exclude the most able people.His writings reveal strong views on education reform (he has written controversially that policy-makers too easily discount the role of genetics in achievement), immigration (doesn’t like the low-skilled type) and European agricultural subsidies (thinks them absurd although apparently a farm he co-owns benefits handsomely from them).We don’t know much about what he thinks is the right fiscal policy in an ultra-low interest rate borderline recessionary environment. He’s said little about whether U.S.-style regulations necessary for a trade agreement are an acceptable substitute for EU-style rules.OODA Loop Indeed, policy specifics seem less important to Cummings than design problems and engineering effective decision-making systems in government. He’s a big fan of the OODA loop, the decision-making cycle developed by the late military strategist and Air Force fighter pilot John Boyd. The sequence – observe, orient, design and act – enables the practitioner, originally fighter pilots, to stay one step ahead of their opponents, constantly taking in new information and using it.Doing the OODA loop well requires clear-eyed awareness of your own blind spots, something Cummings sometimes seems to lack. In his blogging days, he would occasionally respond to reader comments. But when readers questioned whether his views smacked of utopianism, or asked for a few examples of where changes he proposes had been road-tested in government, he didn’t reply.He cannot, however, be accused of thinking small. Think of him as a cross between Steve Bannon and Dick Cheney. Cummings would like to harness the extreme preparation and concentration of people like solo free climber Alex Honnold. This ideal of the super-athlete civil servant feeds into his view that selection for politics and government should be like winnowing the great from the also-rans in music or sport. That sounds appealing, but of course the French train up an uber-elite for government roles and still wound up with the gilets jaunes and stubbornly high levels of unemployment.  Held in contempt of parliament earlier this year, he appears bent on undermining elected lawmakers by persuading his boss to ignore constitutional convention in pursuing a no-deal Brexit. He is not one to sacrifice his agenda on the altar of careerism either. Indeed, former Prime Minister David Cameron once called him a “career psychopath.” So as long as Cummings is around, it’s fair to say that the Johnson Plan is the Cummings Plan.Homer Simpson MomentHis opponents, particularly on the left, paint him as self-important, hypocritical and a caricature of the mad genius rather than the real thing. After former Attorney General and anti-Brexit lawmaker Dominic Grieve said he was arrogant and didn’t understand the British constitution, Cummings snidely replied, “we’ll see what he’s right about.” “Not since Homer Simpson sat on a sofa trying to get to grips with the mystery of his own obesity while simultaneously eating donuts, can any TV viewing audience have had irony spoon-fed to them with such generous ease,” wrote the Independent’s Tom Peck.The bigger Homerian irony is Brexit itself. Cummings’s entire theory of remaking government is based on the criticism that, as he put it, “most of everybody’s day is spent just battling entropy – it is not pursuing priorities and building valuable things.” What exactly does he think people’s days will be spent doing when they confront tariffs and new regulatory barriers to trade? When they spend time and money duplicating EU bureaucracies or finding new sources of funding for scientific programs? Entropy indeed.If not an ideologue, he is at least an idealist and they can easily flame out once in power. His very critique of the hierarchical, fixed mind-set machinery of government suggests he would find the plodding experience of overhauling a bureaucracy, as opposed to the adrenaline rush of directing a referendum or election campaign, highly frustrating if he got the chance. The civil servants he wants to turn into decision-making Olympians may not play along. It’s not enough for revolutionaries to have vision, they also need charisma.Known for his brash style, Cummings doesn’t hold back on those he deems lesser beings, once referring to David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, as “thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus.” (Davis didn’t make it into Johnson’s cabinet.) As reports filter out of special advisers being fired without warning, one wonders whether he’ll inspire enough loyalty to carry through his grander plans.For now, though, it’s Johnson’s confidence that gives Cummings’s ideas wings. If he helps deliver Brexit and win an election that will no doubt secure him a sainthood among Brexiters. He reportedly postponed a surgery to join the government until the end of October, so who knows how long he’ll stick around.Cummings himself might find a short stay wholly unsatisfactory though. That would make him more like a skilled coder who follows his boss’s brief, or even just a hired gun, than the design revolutionary lionized in his writings.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at [email protected] contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Baker at [email protected] column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Putin’s Iconoclastic Economics Guru to Lose Kremlin Post

16.08.2019 3:34

(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. An economist known for challenging Russia’s tight-money policies as a top adviser to President Vladimir Putin is leaving the Kremlin after seven years.Sergei Glazyev will switch to the Eurasian Economic Commission that oversees relations between member states of the Eurasian Economic Union, comprising Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, a commission spokesman said Friday. His appointment as minister for integration and macroeconomics is planned to be confirmed formally at a summit of leaders of member states on October 1.Glazyev alarmed investors over the years with calls for massive state spending, abandoning the dollar and restoring capital controls to boost economic development. He was a forthright advocate in the Kremlin of using state power to direct growth in Russia’s economy, in opposition to rivals such as former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin who favored more market-led approaches.“Glazyev’s role in the Kremlin was to make sure there’s a vocal alternative to the liberals, so they don’t feel like they’re the masters of the financial-economic bloc,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. Glazyev “firmly believes in the effectiveness of massive government spending,” he said.Two advisers to Glazyev declined to comment on his move. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also declined to comment.As a member of Putin’s economic council in 2016, Glazyev developed an “alternative” program to the econonic plan then being developed by Kudrin, that called for a defense of the ruble to ensure a more stable exchange rate and using domestic sources of investment including refinancing instruments to pump up to 5 trillion rubles into modernizing the economy.‘Colossal Damage’He argued the same year that the central bank’s shift in 2014 to a free-floating exchange rate, a move hailed by the International Monetary Fund and investors, had dealt “colossal damage” to Russia. Glazyev has also suggested in the past that Russia should liquidate its dollar reserves.Glazyev, 58, is under U.S. and European Union sanctions for his role in the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. He suggested in 2017 that cryptocurrencies could be a way for Russian banks to avoid international sanctions as well as a method that the state could use to buy “sensitive” services around the world.Glazyev has past experience of working on economic coordination with the bloc of former Soviet republics. When Putin named him as an adviser in 2012, Glazyev’s brief was to develop the customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan that later evolved into the Eurasian Union that took effect as a single market in 2015.A former minister in the late President Boris Yeltsin’s 1992-93 government that administered “shock therapy” to the collapsing Soviet economy under Yegor Gaidar’s reforms, Glazyev broke with his pro-market allies and went on to become a leader of the nationalist Rodina party. He ran against Putin for the presidency in 2004, coming third with 4.1%.To contact the reporters on this story: Evgenia Pismennaya in Moscow at [email protected];Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at [email protected], Tony HalpinFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

What has gone wrong with rail franchising?

15.08.2019 19:06

Calls to reform the system are growing amid anger over rising fares and poor punctuality.

Tags: Reforms

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