Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:​

"When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent."
- Isaac Asimov

It's a dangerous conception of mental hygiene to assume that what a man needs equilibrium... . What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather a striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal..."
- Viktor Frankl

"There is but one thing of real value – to cultivate truth and justice, and to live without anger in the midst of lying and unjust men."
- Marcus Aurelius


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3. Ukraine wa Is Putin Sending Animal Eyeballs to Ukraine's Embassies?r shows Europe too reliant on U.S., Finland PM says

4. Is Putin Sending Animal Eyeballs to Ukraine's Embassies?

5. Taiwan Faces Its Ukraine Moment

6. Apple Makes Plans to Move Production Out of China

7. Why China Isn’t Facing Another Tiananmen Moment

8. Exactly the opposite: Russian propaganda attempts to pass their own losses as those of Ukraine

9. Top secret B-21 Raider stealth bomber finally revealed in high-powered ceremony

10.  CNN, Gannett, Other Media Giants Resort to Layoffs Ahead of Potential Downturn

11. Covid protests speak to evolution of Chinese dissent

12. The End of Companion Television

13. Ottawa to bolster security to combat foreign influence, disinformation in new Indo-Pacific strategy

14. Iran claims dozens of foreign spy organizations behind protests

15. Analysis | As Twitter defends its counterterror work, experts fear a spike under Musk

16.  How To Engage And Prevail In Political Warfare Against China – Analysis

17. Information Warfare Can Turn Russians Against Putin

18. Protests in China, Iran

19. Taiwan’s military not remotely ready for a China invasion

20. China’s Cry for Freedom

21. War Over Taiwan? ​JOSEPH S. NYE, JR.

22. Chinese military’s future warfare will aspire to ‘information dominance,’ Pentagon warns



Key Takeaways

  • Russia is attempting to capitalize on the Western desire for negotiations to create a dynamic in which Western officials feel obliged to make preemptive concessions to lure Russia to the table.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated as the basis for negotiations precisely the same demands that the Russian Foreign Ministry had made before the February 24 invasion, and Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitrii Peskov added the further demand that the West recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.
  • Russian forces still pose a threat to Ukrainian energy infrastructure despite the success of Ukrainian air defenses.
  • Additional Western air defense systems are prompting the Russian pro-war community to question the Russian air campaign against Ukrainian infrastructure.
  • Russian officials are setting conditions to negotiate the demilitarization of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), an agreement upon which Russia would likely renege and that would not eliminate or diminish the ongoing threat to the ZNPP.
  • Ukrainian forces made localized breakthroughs southwest and northwest of Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued to make minimal advances in the Bakhmut area and conduct offensive operations in the Avdiivka–Donetsk City area.
  • Russian forces may be struggling to properly allocate and deploy forces in rear areas in southern Ukraine due to Ukrainian strikes.
  • Poor logistics, unruly mobilized personnel, and domestic protests continue to prevent the Kremlin from achieving the goals of partial mobilization.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to attempt to mask military development projects in occupied territories for no obvious reason.


Dec 2, 2022 - Press ISW

Download the PDF

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, December 2

Riley Bailey, Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, Yekaterina Klepanchuk, and Frederick W. Kagan

December 2, 9:30 ET

Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Russia is attempting to capitalize on the Western desire for negotiations to create a dynamic in which Western officials feel pressed to make preemptive concessions to lure Russia to the negotiating table. Russian President Vladimir Putin held an hour-long telephone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on December 2 in which Putin falsely stated that Western financial and military aid to Ukraine creates a situation in which the Ukrainian government outright rejects talks between Moscow and Kyiv and called upon Scholz to reconsider Germany’s approach regarding developments in Ukraine.[1] Scholz stated that any diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine must include the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory.[2] The Putin-Scholz call corresponded with a diplomatic overture from US President Joe Biden on December 1 in which Biden stated that he is prepared to speak with Putin if the Russian president is looking for a way to end the war, although Biden acknowledged that he has no immediate plans to do so.[3]

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded to Biden’s comments on December 2 stating that Biden seems to be demanding the removal of Russian forces from Ukraine as a precondition for negotiations and said that the “special military operation” would continue.[4] Peskov added that America’s reluctance to recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories significantly complicates the search for common ground in possible negotiations.[5]

Putin’s and Peskov’s statements regarding negotiations follow Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s December 1 comments in the context of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) repeating precisely the same demand the Kremlin had made of the US and NATO before the February 24 invasion. Lavrov said that Russian officials will be ready to talk with Western officials if the West shows its willingness to discuss the documents Russian officials proposed in December of 2021.[6] The Russian Foreign Ministry published a draft of its “security guarantees” demands of the US and NATO on December 17, 2021, which called for an expansive list of concessions on NATO and Western military actions in Europe, including, as ISW noted at the time, "a moratorium on NATO expansion, a revocation of the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit Declaration that Ukraine and Georgia are eligible to become NATO members, a moratorium on establishing military bases on the territory of former Soviet and current non-NATO states, not deploying strike weapons near Russia, and rolling back NATO to its 1997 posture when the Russia­–NATO Founding Act was signed.”[7] The Russian Foreign Ministry had issued a statement on February 17 threatening to take “military-technical measures” in response to the refusals by the US and NATO to negotiate on this basis—those military technical measures were the “special military operation” that began a week later.

ISW has previously assessed that Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric indicates that he is not interested in negotiating seriously with Ukraine and retains maximalist objectives for the war.[8] It is likely that Putin, Lavrov, and Peskov made these statements regarding negotiations to create a perception among Western officials that Russia needs to be lured to negotiate. The Kremlin likely intends to create a dynamic in which Western officials offer Russia preemptive concessions in hopes of convincing Russia to enter negotiations without requiring significant preliminary concessions of Russia in return. Putin’s, Lavrov’s, and Peskov’s statements highlight what some of those desired preemptive concessions may be: decreased Western financial and military aid to Ukraine, recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, and restrictions on NATO and Western military actions in Europe. The Kremlin has also kept its language about the subject of negotiations vague, likely in order to convince Western officials to begin negotiation processes without a clear definition of whether negotiations are in pursuit of a ceasefire, a peace process, or a final peace agreement.

Russia would benefit from a temporary agreement with Ukraine and Western countries that creates a pause in hostilities that allows Russia to strengthen the Russian Armed Forces for future military operations in pursuit of maximalist goals in Ukraine.[9] Putin has shown little interest in such a ceasefire, however, and the Kremlin continues to make demands that are tantamount to full Western surrender, suggesting that Putin remains focused on pursuing military victory.

Western leaders rebuffed the Kremlin’s efforts and reaffirmed their support for Ukraine. Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in a joint press conference on December 1 reiterated their commitment to support Ukraine in its war against Russia.[10] Biden’s and Macron’s joint show of support for Ukraine and Scholz’s insistence on the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine indicate that France, Germany, and the US are not prepared to offer Russia significant preemptive concessions at this time. Biden added that “the idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension.”[11]

Russia may be trying to use its coordinated missile-strike campaign against Ukrainian infrastructure and the associated humanitarian situation in Ukraine to add pressure on Western officials to offer preemptive concessions. Putin falsely stated in his call with Scholz that Russia has been left with no choice but to conduct missile strikes on targets in Ukrainian territory.[12] Russia may be relying on causing undue human suffering, possibly to generate another wave of refugees, to pressure Western officials to offer preemptive concessions because the Russian military has been unable to achieve strategic success.

Russia still poses a threat to the Ukrainian energy grid and civilian population despite Ukraine air defense forces’ high rates of shooting down Russian missiles and drones at the current level of Ukrainian air defense capabilities. Ukrainian General Staff Deputy Chief Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov stated that Ukrainian air defenses shot down 72% of 239 Russian cruise missiles and 80% of 80 Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones launched throughout November.[13] Ukrainian Air Force Command Spokesperson Yuriy Ignat also noted that Ukrainian and Western-provided air defense systems have been “exhausting” Russian missile stockpiles and forcing the Russians to compensate for dwindling high-precision missiles by using inert Kh-55 designed solely to carry nuclear warheads as decoys.[14] Ignat, however, stated that the use of Kh-55 missiles alongside other missiles and drones is also wearing down Ukrainian air defenses. The small percentage of Russian strikes getting through Ukraine’s air defenses are nevertheless having significant effects on Ukrainian critical infrastructure, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stating that recent strikes had left six million Ukrainians without power ahead of winter.[15]

Russia will likely continue to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure at least as long as enough Russian weapons can get through to achieve effects. The UK Ministry of Defense assessed that Russia’s Destruction of Critically Important Targets (SODCIT) strategy is not as effective as it would have been during the earlier stages of the war, given that Ukrainians have successfully mobilized society.[16] ISW continues to assess that Russian strikes on critical infrastructure are unlikely to break Ukrainian will.

Additional Western-provided air defense systems are prompting the Russian pro-war community to question the long-term sustainability of the Russian missile campaign. Several prominent Russian milbloggers noted that the “build-up” of Western air defense systems in Ukraine is complicating Russia’s ability to conduct missile strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure and demanded that the Kremlin speed up its missile campaign.[17] A milblogger even reiterated Western assessments that current Russian missile strikes will have little effect on the frontlines unless “Russians drop their foolishness” and finish the campaign soon.[18] ISW previously reported on similar milblogger concerns over US-provided HIMARS systems, which have allowed Ukrainian forces to conduct successful interdiction campaigns.[19] Such panic among Russian milbloggers highlights the vulnerability of the Russian missile campaign if the West continues to enhance Ukraine’s air- and missile-defense capabilities.

Russia is setting conditions to negotiate the demilitarization of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in return for a Ukrainian guarantee of the continued flow of gas to Europe through the Druzhba pipeline, but Russia would likely violate any such agreement and blame Ukraine for not upholding it. Russian nuclear energy agency Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev stated that international negotiations to establish a safety and security zone around the ZNPP in Enerhodar, Zaporizhia Oblast continue, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi stated that he hopes that the IAEA, Russia, and Ukraine will reach an agreement by the end of the year – now less than 30 days away.[20] Russian opposition outlet Meduza reported on December 2, citing its sources within the Kremlin, that Russia is preparing to withdraw from the ZNPP without withdrawing from the area of Zaporizhia Oblast that surrounds the plant but did not specify whether the withdrawal would only apply to military units or would include occupation administrators.[21] Such an agreement would likely at least include military personnel and equipment.

The Ukrainian General Staff reported on December 1 that Russia is pulling forces and occupation authorities from various parts of occupied Zaporizhia Oblast, and Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on December 2 that there are only 500 Russian military personnel at the ZNPP and that withdrawing Russian personnel-planted 300 mines in the industrial zone of Enerhodar.[22] Meduza reported that the Kremlin expects that Ukraine would guarantee the uninterrupted pumping of gas through the Druzhba pipeline, which will become Russia’s main method of transporting gas to Europe on December 5 when the European Union’s embargo against water-transported Russian gas comes into effect.[23] However, as ISW has previously reported, Russia and its proxies have a long history of violating peace deals brokered with Ukraine and other states, then subsequently blaming the other party and leveraging the blame to fail to uphold Russia’s own obligations.[24]

Demilitarizing the ZNPP without a withdrawal of Russian forces from broader western Zaporizhia Oblast would not eliminate or diminish the ongoing threat to the ZNPP. Even if Russia did withdraw both its forces and occupation administration from Enerhodar, Russian forces would still control the surrounding area and would retain the ability to strike all the areas they are currently able to strike, including the ZNPP itself. Rather, so long as the military situation remains unchanged in southern Ukraine, Russia would most likely accuse Ukrainian forces of violating the terms of their agreement and use such accusations to justify a remilitarization of the ZNPP and set longer-term information conditions to falsely undermine Ukraine’s ability to safely operate the ZNPP and commit to any future ceasefire or peace agreements.

Key Takeaways

  • Russia is attempting to capitalize on the Western desire for negotiations to create a dynamic in which Western officials feel obliged to make preemptive concessions to lure Russia to the table.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated as the basis for negotiations precisely the same demands that the Russian Foreign Ministry had made before the February 24 invasion, and Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitrii Peskov added the further demand that the West recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.
  • Russian forces still pose a threat to Ukrainian energy infrastructure despite the success of Ukrainian air defenses.
  • Additional Western air defense systems are prompting the Russian pro-war community to question the Russian air campaign against Ukrainian infrastructure.
  • Russian officials are setting conditions to negotiate the demilitarization of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), an agreement upon which Russia would likely renege and that would not eliminate or diminish the ongoing threat to the ZNPP.
  • Ukrainian forces made localized breakthroughs southwest and northwest of Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued to make minimal advances in the Bakhmut area and conduct offensive operations in the Avdiivka–Donetsk City area.
  • Russian forces may be struggling to properly allocate and deploy forces in rear areas in southern Ukraine due to Ukrainian strikes.
  • Poor logistics, unruly mobilized personnel, and domestic protests continue to prevent the Kremlin from achieving the goals of partial mobilization.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to attempt to mask military development projects in occupied territories for no obvious reason.

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Ukrainian Counteroffensives—Eastern Ukraine
  • Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and one supporting effort)
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Supporting Effort—Southern Axis
  • Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Activities in Russian-occupied Areas

Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)

Eastern Ukraine: (Eastern Kharkiv Oblast-Western Luhansk Oblast)

Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Ukrainian forces made localized breakthroughs southwest and northwest of Kreminna on December 2. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces made marginal advances in the forests south of Kreminna and have reached the outskirts of Chervonopopivka (about 10km northwest of Kreminna).[25] The milblogger added that Ukrainian forces have intensified their counteroffensives along the entire frontline and in the area of the Svatove-Kreminna highway. Luhansk Oblast Administration head Serhiy Haidai vaguely noted that Ukrainian forces are “very close” to Kreminna and stated that Ukrainian forces “visited” the Kreminska power substation in the vicinity of the settlement.[26] Haidai added that the weather is finally changing on the Svatove-Kreminna frontline, noting that Ukrainian forces will soon be able to improve their maneuvers as the mud fully freezes in the area.[27] ISW had previously reported that fighting will likely intensify over that winter period given that frozen ground provides better conditions for maneuver warfare.[28] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Chervonopopivka and Bilohorivka (about 12km south of Kreminna).[29] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces defeated three Ukrainian company tactical groups that attempted to attack Chervonopopivka.[30]

Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to engage in localized battles west of Svatove on December 2. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults on Novoselivske and Stelmakhivka, both approximately 18km northwest of Svatove.[31] Geolocated footage published on December 2 showed Russian forces walking around Novoselivske, which indicates that Russian forces have likely regained their positions in the settlement.[32] Russian state media claimed that Russian forces are currently clearing Novoselivske of remaining Ukrainian forces.[33] Geolocated footage also showed a Russian serviceman surrendering to Ukrainian forces east of Stelmakhivka.[34] Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks on Kotlyarivka (about 29km northwest on Svatove) and Kuzemivka just east of Novoselivske.[35]

Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine

Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces continued to make minimal advances around Bakhmut amidst ongoing offensive operations on December 2. The Ukrainian Geneal Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Bakhmut, within 26km northeast of Bakhmut near Vyimka, and within 14km south of Bakhmut near Opytne, Kishchiivka, and Kurdyumivka.[36] Geolocated footage posted on December 1 shows Russian forces making minimal advances south and southeast of Bakhmut as well as near Opytne.[37] Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces are conducting reconnaissance around Klishchiivka and that fighting is ongoing near the settlement despite Russian claims that Russian forces completely occupy the settlement.[38] A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces have been advancing near Spirne (within 30km northeast of Bakhmut) and are preventing Ukrainian forces from transferring units to forward positions in the area.[39] Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces are rotating units from Zaporizhia Oblast into the Bakhmut area and suggested that this means that Ukrainian forces are facing a critical situation on this section of the front.[40] Ukrainian forces’ supposed rotation of units into the area would not be possible if Russian forces had the ability to interdict all roads in the Bakhmut area as a Russian source previously claimed.[41] The Ukrainian Joint Forces Task Force published an interview with a Ukrainian soldier in the Bakhmut area on December 2 in which the soldier states that conditions are incredibly harsh and that Russian forces continue to push offensive operations in the area despite the number of casualties.[42] ISW has previously assessed that the Russian effort to take Bakhmut is a high-cost effort concentrated on a city of limited operational significance.[43]

Russian forces continued to conduct offensive operations in the Avdiivka–Donetsk City area on December 2. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults within 28km southwest of Avdiivka near Severnye, Pervomaiske, Krasnohorivka, and Marinka.[44] Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces also continued offensive operations southwest of Avdiivka near Nevelske, Vodyane, and Novomykhailivka.[45] Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced to the eastern outskirts of Pervomaiske, with one claiming that Russian forces entrenched themselves within the settlement itself.[46] Russian milbloggers also claimed that Russian forces made minimal advances in the southern outskirts of Avdiivka and that fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces continues in the center of Marinka.[47]

Russian forces continued to conduct defensive operations in western Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts on December 2. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces continue to maintain defensive lines in this section of the front.[48] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian counterattacks near Mykilske in western Donetsk Oblast (within 47km southwest of Donetsk city).[49] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces continued routine indirect fire along the line of contact in Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts.[50]

Supporting Effort—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)

Note: ISW will report on activities in Kherson Oblast as part of the Southern Axis in this and subsequent updates. Ukraine’s counteroffensive in right-bank Kherson Oblast has accomplished its stated objectives, so ISW will not present a Southern Ukraine counteroffensive section until Ukrainian forces resume counteroffensives in southern Ukraine.

Russian forces may be struggling to properly allocate and deploy their forces in rear areas in southern Ukraine due to Ukrainian strikes on Russian logistics routed. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command Spokesperson Natalia Humenyuk stated on December 2 that Russian forces are trying to pull units in eastern Kherson Oblast closer to the Zaporizhia Oblast front line due to increased activity there, but that many units remain on the left (east) bank of the Dnipro River and central Kherson Oblast.[51] Humenyuk also noted that Ukrainian strikes against Russian rear areas south of the Dnipro River are complicating Russian forces’ ability to disperse reserves from highly-populated areas.[52] The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense stated that Russian forces very likely pulled their logistics nodes farther south and east to protect them from Ukrainian strikes and that such measures complicate a Russian munitions shortage that is the main limiting factor preventing Russian forces from restarting large-scale combat operations.[53] Russian forces continued to strike areas on the right bank of the Dnipro River, including Kherson City and its environs.[54]

Ukrainian forces continued to strike Russian forces in rear areas of Zaporizhia Oblast along critical logistics lines that could impact their ability to hold or equip defensive lines. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on December 2 that Ukrainian strikes against a Russian force concentration near Kamianske wounded over 100 personnel on December 1.[55] Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces struck Terpinna (north of Melitopol along the T401 Melitopol-Tokmak-Polohy highway) and Yakymivka (southwest of Melitopol along the E105 Melitopol-Dzhankoi highway), injuring and killing dozens of Russian military personnel and destroying 130 pieces of military equipment.[56] Zaporizhia Oblast occupation head Yevgeny Balitsky denied Ukrainian claims that Russian forces are withdrawing from Polohy and evacuating civilians from occupied areas close to the front lines.[57] However, continued Ukrainian strikes against Russian force concentrations and military assets along critical ground lines of communication (GLOCs), including Polohy on December 2, indicate that such areas remain vulnerable to Ukrainian interdiction efforts and that Russian forces may not be able to defend them.[58] Ukrainian Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov stated that Ukrainian strikes killed and wounded over 1,200 Russian personnel in Zaporizhia Oblast since November 27.[59]

Russian forces continued routine fire west of Hulyaipole and in Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv oblasts on December 2. Russian and Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces struck Zaporizhzhia City and Dnipro City.[60] Dnipropetrovsk Oblast head Valentyn Reznichenko stated that Russian forces struck Nikopol and Marhanets, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, across the Kakhovka Reservoir from Enerhodar.[61] Mykolaiv Oblast head Vitaly Kim stated that Russian forces also shelled Ochakiv, Mykolaiv Oblast just north of the Kinburn Spit.[62]

Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

Flaws in Russia’s partial mobilization continue to undermine the Russian military’s attempts to concentrate masses of fresh troops to achieve decisive effects on the battlefield. A Russian source reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) did not have the resources to quickly equip Russian forces with proper communication equipment at the beginning of the partial mobilization, leading Russian soldiers to buy cheap analogue radios on a mass scale and allowing Ukrainian forces to more easily intercept Russian communications.[63]

Russian authorities continue to struggle with low morale among mobilized military personnel and are reportedly attempting to address some of their complaints. Vladimir Oblast Governor Alexander Avdeev refuted claims that Russian military authorities are prosecuting personnel from the 346th Motorized Rifle Regiment who reportedly refused to fight in mid-November due to a lack of training and heavy losses on the battlefield.[64] A Russian source reported that mobilized personnel from Tyumen, Tyumen Oblast, have not received salaries since October.[65] Russian sources reported that authorities in Strezhevoy, Tomsk Oblast, plan to create a public commission to review payment orders for mobilized personnel, and that authorities in Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, plan to provide 10,000 rubles (approximately 160 USD) in support payments for children of mobilized personnel.[66] A Belarusian source claimed that several Russian soldiers fled from the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground near Baranovichi, Brest Oblast, Belarus, where they likely faced similar provision and command issues as training grounds in Russia.[67] A Russian source reported that the almost 2,000 mobilized personnel from the Chuvash Republic who previously staged a riot in a training center in Ulyanovsk, Ulyanovsk Oblast, will not deploy to the front until January 2023, suggesting that Russian authorities delayed their deployment date to quell such opposition.[68] The source claimed that authorities met with the men and gave them lump-sum payments and leave to visit home.

Russian authorities continue to face domestic protests against partial mobilization in light of heavy losses on the battlefield. A Russian opposition media outlet presented video footage chronicling the protests of wives and mothers of the mobilized and showed the women appealing to Russian authorities to provide food, equipment, and training to the mobilized.[69] The video provided evidence for the elimination of entire companies of Russian soldiers. A Russian source reported that the father of a deceased mobilized man from Tomsk, Tomsk Oblast, stated that authorities sent his son to the frontlines without training as “cannon fodder.”[70] Independent Russian media outlet ASTRA reported that authorities arrested a man in Kromy, Oryol Oblast, for using the word “chmobiki” on social media.[71] Ukrainian social media users frequently use this word to describe ill-prepared Russian mobilized personnel.

Ukrainian authorities reported that occupation officials are compiling lists of men suitable for mobilization in Luhansk Oblast and conducting data checks for conscripts at state enterprises in occupied Crimea.[72] A Russian source reported cases of men and women from the medical field receiving mobilization summonses.[73] A Russian source published a letter claiming that the Organizational and Staff Directorate of the Russian Guard indicated that the end of the recruitment of mobilized citizens does not mean the end of mobilization itself.[74] ISW makes no assessment on the authenticity of this letter.

Frequent riots, complaints about inadequate training, and rising instances of desertion are likely inhibiting the Kremlin’s efforts to use partial mobilization to promptly regain the initiative on the frontlines. The Kremlin’s poor execution of the partial mobilization order is forcing the Kremlin and local officials to show that they are trying to solve these problems. Their efforts to appease angry mobilized personnel and their families have hindered the Russian military command’s efforts to deploy a large enough concentration of mobilized men in a short period of time to achieve decisive effects. The Russian military command instead has been deploying demoralized mobilized personnel in ad hoc batches that have allowed Russian forces to restart slow, grinding, and costly offensives that will not be decisive. ISW has previously reported that Russian milbloggers speculated that Russia will need to mobilize more men to achieve the desired effect on the frontlines, but such follow-up efforts conducted in the coming months will also suffer from similar flaws due to Russia’s broken mobilization system and failing military industry.

Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied and annexed areas; forcibly integrate Ukrainian civilians into Russian sociocultural, economic, military, and governance systems)

Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to attempt to mask his military development projects on occupied territories within the Russian information space for no obvious reason. Kherson Oblast occupation head Vladimir Saldo announced on December 2 that Putin had instructed occupation officials to develop settlements on the left (east) bank of the Dnipro River.[75] Putin also ordered occupation officials to build social infrastructure such as residential buildings and hospitals in Henichesk and on the Arabat Spit just northeast of the Crimean administrative border. Saldo stated that Russian officials have already begun the construction of residential buildings in Henichesk and on the Arabat Spit, claiming that the Kremlin plans to develop the entire Azov Sea coastline from Mariupol to Henichesk as a tourist destination. These development plans are likely an unconvincing front for Putin’s ever-growing fortification efforts on the northern Crimean border. The Ukrainian Resistance Center previously reported that Russian forces are planning to expand the road on the Arabat Spit to transfer military equipment and establish a third ground lines of communication (GLOC) from Crimea.[76] Ukrainian General Staff Deputy Chief Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov also noted that Russian forces had converted Dzhankoy (55km southwest of Henichesk) and surrounding settlements into the largest military base in Crimea.[77] The Ukrainian General Staff also noted that Russian forces are intensifying filtration measures in Henichesk.[78]

Russian establishment of military bases in the destroyed city of Mariupol further makes Putin’s “civilian project development” narrative absurd. Saldo claimed that Russian officials are carrying out Henichesk and Arabat Spit development projects at the same pace as the conversion of leveled Mariupol into a vacation city.[79] Maxar Technologies satellite imagery from November 30 shows that Russian forces have constructed a new military compound in the northern part of Mariupol with an army slogan painted over the roof. Other satellite imagery showed destroyed residential buildings and Russian poor attempts to hide the obliterated Mariupol Drama Theater in city’s downtown with screens around the building. Such images are incompatible with the Kremlin’s claimed tourism development plan.

New Russian military compound in Mariupol observed on November 30. - Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

Russian coverup of the destroyed Mariupol Drama Theater observed on November 30. - Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

The Kremlin continues to deport Ukrainian children to Russia under the guise of medical and recreation schemes. Head of the Russian Department for the Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities Natalya Protasova stated that Russian occupation officials sent deaf children from occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts on an “excursion” to Moscow.[80] A Russian outlet also added that Moscow had opened 48 headquarters to “rehabilitate” residents of occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. ISW previously assessed that Russian officials are conducting a deliberate depopulation campaign in occupied Ukrainian territories.[81]

Head of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Leonid Pasechnik met with a Union State delegation on December 2, claiming that the Belarusian leadership had “personally” sent the delegation to occupied Luhansk Oblast on a humanitarian mission.[82] Pasechnik also met with the head of the delegation, Union State Secretary Dmitry Mezentsev, where they discussed future cooperation.

Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.

[7] https://www.mid dot ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/1790809/; https://mid dot ru/ru/foreign_policy/rso/nato/1790818/ ;

[13] https://armyinform dot

[14] https://suspilne dot media/328982-sist-miljoniv-ukrainciv-bez-svitla-zelenskij-zaprosiv-maska-v-ukrainu-281-den-vijni-onlajn/;

[21] https://meduza dot io/feature/2022/12/02/rossiyskie-voyska-mogut-uyti-s-zaporozhskoy-aes-utverzhdayut-istochniki-meduzy-blizkie-k-rukovodstvu-rf;

[22] dot ua/content/predstavnyky-rosatomu-na-zaes-pryvlasniuiut-hroshi-pryznacheni-na-zarplaty-ukrainskomu-personalu.html;

[23] https://meduza dot io/feature/2022/12/02/rossiyskie-voyska-mogut-uyti-s-zaporozhskoy-aes-utverzhdayut-istochniki-meduzy-blizkie-k-rukovodstvu-rf

[51] https://suspilne dot media/329920-sukaut-de-roztasuvatis-sob-ne-distali-zsu-gumenuk-rozpovila-pro-povedinku-vijskovih-rf-na-livoberezzi-hersonsini/

[52] https://suspilne dot media/329920-sukaut-de-roztasuvatis-sob-ne-distali-zsu-gumenuk-rozpovila-pro-povedinku-vijskovih-rf-na-livoberezzi-hersonsini/

[65] https://neft dot media/vse-regiony/materials/Dva-mesyaca-bez-zarplaty

[70] https://vot-tak(dot)tv/novosti/30-11-2022-mobilizovannyj/;

[71] https://www.24liveblog(dot)com/live/Un579?n=3180743520677828334;

2. The Crimea question: Why Ukraine’s final battle might be the Western alliance’s toughest test


In making the case to supporters for why Crimea may be worth the fight, Ukrainian officials have increasingly referred to international law and the U.N. Charter, which enshrines the inviolability of territorial integrity. The argument goes like this: Recognizing Russian control of Crimea would legitimize the kind of forceful land grabs that have been mercifully rare in the post-World War II era.
Then again, wars often end with messy and unsatisfactory compromises. To take one timely example: This week marks the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s 1939 invasion of Finland, a conflict during which the Finns showed surprising resilience and embarrassed the much larger Soviet military but were eventually ground down by superior numbers and ceded 10 percent of their territory. Even as they insist full liberation of Ukrainian territory — including Crimea — is possible, Ukrainian officials often concede that painful compromises may be necessary.
In any event, international recognition of Crimea as Russian territory remains highly unlikely. Courtney, the former ambassador, suggested a more likely scenario would be something like the Baltic countries during the Cold War: From the time the countries were occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 until they achieved de facto independence in 1991, the U.S. continued to officially recognize them as independent states. Crimea would remain an anomaly and a kind of geopolitical black hole.
For now, Ukraine has the battlefield momentum, and as long as it can maintain that momentum, Western governments are likely to continue publicly backing Kyiv, whatever their private misgivings. The fact that Crimea’s status is even a matter for discussion is a testament to how surprisingly effective the Ukrainian resistance and counteroffensives have been. The arguments between Ukraine and the West will come if and when the Ukrainians feel ready to make their move.

The Crimea question: Why Ukraine’s final battle might be the Western alliance’s toughest test

Retaking the peninsula would be a triumph for Ukraine and a humiliation for Russia. For military and political reasons, it won’t be easy.

Joshua Keating

Global Security Reporter

December 3, 2022 · by Joshua Keating

The official position of the Ukrainian government is clear: Its forces will continue fighting until they have recaptured all of Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory. That is, not just the areas Russian forces have captured since their February invasion, but all the territory they have occupied since 2014. This includes the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow formally recognized as its own after staging a hasty and flawed referendum eight years ago.

In the early days of the war, a battle for Crimea seemed highly unlikely; the Ukrainians had enough to worry about simply halting the Russian advance. But now the Ukrainians are on the offensive. And now senior Ukrainian leaders are sounding optimistic about retaking the peninsula.

At the recent Halifax International Security Forum, former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko concluded his remarks by suggesting that next year’s edition of the annual security summit be held in “Yalta or Sevastopol,” two Crimean cities. Noting that Yalta was where Allied leaders met in 1945 for a key summit to plan the postwar international order, senior presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak recently proposed it as a site to try Russian war criminals. “What started in Crimea — must also end there,” he tweeted. “There is no other way to force kleptomaniacs to respect international law rather than in a trial where the modern UN was founded.”

Of course, before Ukraine can host international events in Crimea, it needs to recapture the peninsula. In a recent interview with Sky News, Deputy Defense Minister Volodymyr Havrylov suggested it was possible that Ukrainian troops would enter Crimea “by the end of December” and that the whole war might be over by spring. As of the beginning of December, that timeline looks extremely optimistic, but Ukrainian commanders have reportedly been working on plans for capturing the peninsula — plans that at least some outside observers who’ve been briefed say are credible.


For many Ukrainians, only the recapture of Crimea would bring a real end to the eight-year military conflict with Russia. Polls suggest a large majority consider it the only acceptable “victory” in this war. For Russians, the 2014 annexation righted a historical wrong done to them at the end of the Cold War, and the peninsula has taken on an almost mystical importance. Losing it now, in a war that was meant to gain territory, would be a monumental humiliation for the Kremlin. The political stakes of the battle couldn’t be higher.

The stakes are high for the U.S. and its European allies as well. Officially, the position in Washington and other Western capitals is that “Crimea is Ukraine” and that support for the Ukrainian war effort will continue for as long as it takes to end the Russian occupation. When speaking anonymously, however, Western officials are more likely to concede that Crimea may need to be treated a bit differently.

“The West has been a little more careful talking about Crimea compared to the rest of Ukraine,” said William Courtney, a former ambassador and White House Russia adviser now with the nonprofit Rand Corporation. “I think for two reasons: the military challenge and the risk of escalation.”

Earlier this month, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, came closest among senior Western officials to publicly acknowledging these misgivings when he said, “The probability of a Ukrainian military victory — defined as kicking the Russians out of all of Ukraine to include what they claim as Crimea — the probability of that happening any time soon is not high, militarily.” He suggested that Ukraine’s recent military momentum made this an auspicious time to negotiate a political solution to the conflict. Reading between the lines, this would almost certainly be a solution that left Crimea in Russian hands.

So far this year, Ukraine has repeatedly surprised the world with the effectiveness of its military campaign, and its Western allies have surprised with the steadfastness and unanimity of support for that campaign. For all the doubts expressed earlier in the war, there’s been little daylight between the messages from Kyiv and from its Western supporters. Looking ahead, the question of Crimea may pose the biggest challenge to that partnership.


A tough fight ahead

It’s difficult to know exactly what sort of resistance the Ukrainians will meet in Crimea given that troop numbers have fluctuated significantly since the start of the war and that the battle — Havrylov’s optimism notwithstanding — is likely some ways off. But we do know that the peninsula, which includes the historic home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol, is heavily militarized. More than 31,000 Russian troops were based there even before the massive troop buildup that preceded this year’s invasion. The peninsula’s defenses may soon be bolstered by new troops from Russia’s recent mobilization. These might not constitute the most well-prepared, equipped or trained fighting force, but they are bodies to put on the line for a military that is comfortable with a high number of casualties.

Unlike the September offensive in the eastern Kharkiv region, where Ukrainian forces broke through thinly manned and ill-supplied Russian lines, the closer the Ukrainians get to Crimea, the better-defended the Russian positions will be. The offensive is likely to look more like the slow grinding approach to Kherson, during which the Ukrainians took heavy casualties for months, in exchange for relatively small territorial gains.

“[The Ukrainians] chewed themselves up pretty badly fighting for Kherson,” Chris Dougherty, a former Pentagon wargamer who is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Grid. “I know we were all kind of intoxicated by the seizure of Kharkiv and the surrounding region. But everything since then has been a lot more difficult and a lot more casualty-intensive on the Ukrainian side.”

Of course, the Russians withdrew from the city of Kherson, to the surprise of many who had expected a protracted fight for the provincial capital that the Russians had taken with great fanfare in the early days of the war, but Dougherty said this shouldn’t lull anyone into a false sense of confidence. By withdrawing from the city to the portion of Kherson Oblast between the Dnieper River and Crimea, the Russians have established a much easier position to defend. “The withdrawal from Kherson was politically humiliating but militarily the right choice, which is not something the Russians have done a lot of in this war,” Dougherty noted.

Treacherous ground

The geography doesn’t help the Ukrainian cause. Given that Ukraine is not thought to have much in the way of amphibious landing capabilities, that means any assault on Crimea would involve a ground invasion. Much of the land between the Ukrainian mainland and Crimea is an area of swampy lagoons known as the Svyash, or Rotten Sea, with relatively narrow land approaches depending on the tides.

Alina Frolova, a former Ukrainian deputy defense minister, told Grid that while she anticipates Crimea will be a realistic target for Ukrainian forces after they push the Russians out of eastern Kherson, these on-the-ground realities will make any advance very difficult. “Obviously the problem is with access to Crimea,” she told Grid. “We have very narrow access, and that’s obviously not the best position with high force rates.”

Adding to the difficulties are the coming winter cold, which is already slowing down offensive operations everywhere in Ukraine, as well as the spring thaw that will follow and turn terrain in some areas into impassable mud.

Frolova, now with the Kyiv-based Center for Defence Strategies, also noted that while the October explosion on the Kerch Bridge connecting Crimea to Russia hurt the Russian ability to resupply its forces there, the bridge is still partly operational and Russian forces in Crimea are better supplied than their counterparts in much of eastern Ukraine.

She anticipated that Russia’s naval forces in Crimea would need to be “dramatically decreased” before a major offensive could begin. Otherwise, she said, “we will face quite substantial capabilities.”

In a sign that this effort to degrade Russian strength may have begun, authorities in Sevastopol last week reported another drone attack on the port city, following a series of similar attacks over the summer. The Ukrainians have also been pushing the U.S. to supply them with longer-range missiles like the ATACMS, which can be mounted on their highly effective HIMARS launchers and would make it easier to strike targets within Crimea from Ukraine.


Tricky politics

Ukraine’s challenges when it comes to Crimea aren’t just the military variety. While there are certainly pockets of pro-Russian sentiment in mainland Ukraine, it’s likely far higher in Crimea. The region has always had a higher proportion of ethnic Russians than the rest of Ukraine, and as observers often point out — including most prominently Elon Musk in his now infamous “peace plan” tweet — it became part of Ukraine only when it was transferred from Russia by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, at a time when both were part of the Soviet Union.

None of this makes Russia’s annexation of the territory legal or legitimate under international law. As Ukrainians often point out, a majority of Crimeans — albeit a very slim majority — voted for independence in 1991 along with the rest of Ukraine, and Moscow agreed to respect newly independent Ukraine’s borders.

Frolova has little patience for the argument that Crimea has historical links to Russia. “Many regions have historical links with other countries, not only in Ukraine,” she said, pointing out Trieste, an Italian city that was historically part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as an example. “That doesn’t mean Germany or Austria have rights to it. Crimea also has historical links with Turkey. I don’t understand how this argument can be used seriously in political life.”

Legitimate or not, it’s still likely that Crimea’s population is more “Russian” today than it was in 2014. According to Russian statistics, around 150,000 presumably pro-Ukrainian residents left the peninsula for other Ukrainian areas in the three years after 2014. Roughly the same number of people moved from Russia to the region, encouraged by government incentives.

“When we’re talking about the people living in Crimea, that’s absolutely different than what we had eight years ago,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna told Grid during a reporter’s roundtable at the Halifax forum.


Add to this the fact that residents have been under de facto Russian rule and consuming Russian media for the past eight years, and it’s reasonable to ask whether a Ukrainian recapture of Crimea would be greeted with the same scenes of public jubilation that have broken out in other liberated Ukrainian cities.

Still, Stefanishyna said she was “sure that our path toward the European Union and our successes on the battlefield will play a game-changing role in the transformation of thinking in Crimea. I think that Crimea will soon be back to Ukraine.”

Will the West support an offensive?

So far, despite some tense moments, the U.S.-led Western alliance has been able to pursue its sometimes contradictory goals in Ukraine: giving the Ukrainians what they need to counter the Russian invasion and avoiding an all-out war between nuclear-armed superpowers. Crimea, some suggest, could change that.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea — a territory Russians long viewed as unjustly severed by the collapse of the Soviet Union — was enormously popular with the Russian public. Because of the territory’s role in the birthplace of Russian Orthodox Christianity, Putin has even referred to it as “holy land.” Russians may view Ukraine as a whole as “spiritually” part of Russia, to put it in Putinesque terms, but they view Crimea as literally part of Russia. Losing it would be a far greater political blow than any of the captured territory Russia has abandoned so far in this war.

“I think the discussion of acceptable risks and escalation risks would become much more acute if it actually looks like the Ukrainians were positioning to actually take back Crimea,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the U.S. National Security Council now with the Center for Naval Analyses, told Grid.


For obvious reasons, the question of whether Putin would order the use of a nuclear weapon to prevent the loss of Crimea has gotten the most attention, but Edmonds noted, “There are many capabilities the Russian military has that it has not used in this conflict: undersea capabilities, anti-space capabilities. There’s a whole toolbox of things they have that could raise the stakes.”

Beyond these risks, a Ukrainian campaign to retake Crimea would no doubt extend the war. With growing questions over the West’s political will as well as its physical stocks of ammunition and other supplies, it’s possible policymakers in some capitals will wonder if it’s worth continuing to fight to retake an area they weren’t willing to fight for in 2014.

The most painful bargaining chip

In making the case to supporters for why Crimea may be worth the fight, Ukrainian officials have increasingly referred to international law and the U.N. Charter, which enshrines the inviolability of territorial integrity. The argument goes like this: Recognizing Russian control of Crimea would legitimize the kind of forceful land grabs that have been mercifully rare in the post-World War II era.

Then again, wars often end with messy and unsatisfactory compromises. To take one timely example: This week marks the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s 1939 invasion of Finland, a conflict during which the Finns showed surprising resilience and embarrassed the much larger Soviet military but were eventually ground down by superior numbers and ceded 10 percent of their territory. Even as they insist full liberation of Ukrainian territory — including Crimea — is possible, Ukrainian officials often concede that painful compromises may be necessary.

In any event, international recognition of Crimea as Russian territory remains highly unlikely. Courtney, the former ambassador, suggested a more likely scenario would be something like the Baltic countries during the Cold War: From the time the countries were occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 until they achieved de facto independence in 1991, the U.S. continued to officially recognize them as independent states. Crimea would remain an anomaly and a kind of geopolitical black hole.

For now, Ukraine has the battlefield momentum, and as long as it can maintain that momentum, Western governments are likely to continue publicly backing Kyiv, whatever their private misgivings. The fact that Crimea’s status is even a matter for discussion is a testament to how surprisingly effective the Ukrainian resistance and counteroffensives have been. The arguments between Ukraine and the West will come if and when the Ukrainians feel ready to make their move.

Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article. · by Joshua Keating

3. Ukraine war shows Europe too reliant on U.S., Finland PM says

Ukraine war shows Europe too reliant on U.S., Finland PM says

Reuters · by Reuters

HELSINKI, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shown that Europe is too reliant on the United States for its own security, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Friday.

Speaking at a think tank in Sydney, Australia, Marin advocated boosting Europe's defence capabilities, including arms production.

"I must be brutally honest with you, Europe isn't strong enough right now. We would be in trouble without the United States," Marin told an audience at the Lowy Institute.

She added she had spoken with many U.S. politicians who had said they think Europe should be stronger.

"The United States has given a lot of weapons, a lot of financial aid, a lot of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Europe isn't strong enough yet," Marin said.

"We have to make sure that we are building those capabilities when it comes to European defence, European defence industry."

In a recent speech in Helsinki, Marin said Europe was currently too reliant on China for technology and should invest more in fields such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

Reporting by Essi Lehto, editing by Terje Solsvik and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Reuters · by Reuters

4. Is Putin Sending Animal Eyeballs to Ukraine's Embassies?

Not the kind of influence operations I would advocate. Though if we were to need to do something along these lines I would recommend a horse's head in Putin's bed.

Is Putin Sending Animal Eyeballs to Ukraine's Embassies? · by Alexander Motyl · December 2, 2022

Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine has just taken an especially disturbing turn.

On November 30, the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid received a mail bomb, which exploded and harmed one diplomat.

few days later, the home entrance of Ukraine’s representative to the Vatican was vandalized, the embassy in Kazakhstan received a bomb threat, and the embassy in Washington DC received a threatening letter.

All of this was business as usual for most diplomatic representations. But then came something disgustingly extraordinary.

The Ukrainian embassies in Budapest, The Hague, Warsaw, Zagreb, and Rome as well as the consulates in Naples, Cracow, and Brno received bloodied packages containing animal eyeballs.

As the Ukrainians officially put it, “we are studying the sense of this message.”

Sense, indeed.

The sick minds that concocted such a display of inhumanity obviously wanted to say something. That they’ll poke out the eyes of all Ukrainians? Too obvious, perhaps.

That they’ll incapacitate Ukrainians’ ability to see—and hear and feel and smell? More likely. Or are they following in the footsteps of the Croatian Ustasha, who collected Serbian eyeballs during World War II as a form of ethnic cleansing? Take your pick.

Who might be responsible for these atrocities?

There are only two possible candidates: the Russian secret service, the FSB, or fascist Russian refugees of emigres living in Europe.

I’d place my money on the FSB, which is a criminal organization spawned by the no less criminal Soviet secret police organizations, the Cheka, NKVD, and KGB.

If it’s the FSB, then it’s also Putin, who has retained his connections with the organization that he joined in 1975, at the height of its crackdown on Soviet dissent. His possible complicity is hardly surprising considering the genocide he’s perpetrating in Ukraine. What’s a few animal eyeballs when you’re killing thousands of innocent civilians?

But the fascist refugees or emigres aren’t out of the running. Russia has a long tradition of radical conservatives, monarchists, and fascists who fled the country, found succor in Europe, and plotted to destroy Russia’s enemies—among whom the Ukrainians have always been at the top of the list—in their bid to revive Russian power.

One can easily imagine a cabal of unhinged Russians gathering in smoke-filled European cafes and deciding which of them would have the honor of finding the appropriate animals…

Whoever the perpetrator of these bizarre acts, the one thing we can assert with a high degree of certainty is that they are Russian.

Is it any wonder that the Russian writer Viktor Yerofyeyev has recently stated: “Russia today is actually dead”?

A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Dr. Alexander Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, including Pidsumky imperii (2009); Puti imperii (2004); Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires (2001); Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities (1999); Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism (1993); and The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929 (1980); the editor of 15 volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Nationalism (2000) and The Holodomor Reader (2012); and a contributor of dozens of articles to academic and policy journals, newspaper op-ed pages, and magazines. He also has a weekly blog, “Ukraine’s Orange Blues.” · by Alexander Motyl · December 2, 2022

5. Taiwan Faces Its Ukraine Moment


So the Achilles’ heel of pluralistic democracies like Ukraine and Taiwan may be their inability to see what is staring them in the face, especially when that thing is too horrible to behold. Many Ukrainians (and several Russian liberals I know) found the idea of a fratricidal war like the one Putin unleashed simply inconceivable. Or maybe liberal democracies, which unshackle people to improve their individual lot above all else, just find it hard to price in the part that primal, atavistic impulses play in international relations.
At any rate, this is a reality that the United States faces in Taiwan. Americans, too, must not flinch and think that things are other than they are. Despite what many diplomats, politicians, and pundits say, the U.S. would not fight for Taiwan because it is a democracy. Taiwan would probably be worth defending even if Chiang Kai-shek were still ruling it with a bloody fist. Whether the island sometimes seems ungrateful for American largesse, or is even suspicious that the U.S. will drag it into a conflict it does not want, makes no difference.
To continue with the parallel, the U.S. is helping Ukraine not because it is a democracy, but because it makes sense for us to do so. Ukraine is weakening one of the main revisionist powers in Europe at comparatively low cost to us, and is thus helping lay the groundwork for a lasting security order in Europe. Taiwan is of greater strategic significance to the U.S. than Ukraine will ever be. And unlike aiding Ukraine, defending Taiwan could be much more painful.
What is America’s cost-benefit calculus? I’m up for that debate. But spare me the democratic sentimentalism.

Taiwan Faces Its Ukraine Moment

The island’s people seem blissfully oblivious of a looming conflict with China. The U.S. can’t afford that luxury.

By Damir Marusic

The Atlantic · by Damir Marusic · December 3, 2022

The night before boarding a flight home, at the end of a trip that had taken me from D.C. to Taiwan, Japan, Macedonia, Turkey, and back again, I came across a tweet that succinctly crystallized many of the fleeting impressions I had accumulated on the Pacific leg of my journey. The tweet was from Tanner Greer, a brilliant and iconoclastic China scholar, citing a quote about Taiwan sometimes attributed to Kurt Campbell, years before he became President Joe Biden’s chief Asia adviser on the National Security Council: “I thought I was going to find a second Israel; I found a second Costa Rica.”

“Whether Campbell ever said such a thing is beyond the point,” Greer wrote, explaining that he’d heard it from a Taiwanese think-tank associate. “What mattered was that this retired Taiwanese nat/sec official believed he could have said it, and believed the description accurate.”

The point of the anecdote is that the Taiwanese don’t seem to take the threats to their security nearly as seriously as most observers in Washington do. The Taiwanese worry, of course. It’s impossible not to, especially because China has altered the status quo in the Taiwan Strait after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit earlier this year by repeatedly sending fighter jets and frigates far into Taiwan’s territorial waters. But the mood on the island is much more relaxed than the mood in Israel, a country that similarly faces implacable hostility from some of its neighbors. Indeed, the contrast could not be more pronounced.

From the December 2022 issue: Taiwan prepares to be invaded

So what is going on with Taiwan? The two-day conference on nationalism I attended at Sun Yat-sen University, in the southern city of Kaohsiung, provided some clues. In my discussions with Taiwanese scholars, I quickly apprehended that Taiwanese identity is still in flux. This is not to suggest that Taiwan’s identity has not diverged significantly from China’s. Taiwan was long a Chinese backwater, with a distinct frontier culture, before it was ceded by the Qing dynasty to Japan in 1895. Half a century of Japanese colonialism left its mark, as did the subsequent brutal (and only semi-successful) re-Sinification policies of China’s nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. The advent of democracy in Taiwan in 1996, and its entrenchment since, has only deepened the differences with the mainland.

But the differences are not so cut-and-dried. Spend some time talking with Taiwanese business leaders or policy specialists in the more prosperous north, and Taiwanese identity takes on other valences. Almost no one fully identifies with mainland China, but people believe they understand mainlanders well—certainly better than the panicked West does. There is no way that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, would order an invasion, my fellow visitors and I were repeatedly assured. Such a move would not only be fratricidal; it would be counterproductive—destroying a vital hub in global supply chains that would otherwise fall into China’s lap should peaceful unification happen. One defense expert I spoke with even ruefully floated the idea that Taiwan is a buffer state likely to be drawn into a tragic spiral of escalating tensions between China and the United States as they compete for regional hegemony. He was not quite blaming us Americans for the war that many in Washington think is inevitable—but only just not.

Young people have markedly ambivalent attitudes, too. One researcher at the conference discussed preliminary survey data suggesting that the TikTok generation is developing some cultural affinity for China, especially through a renewed commitment to Mandarin (although it is the island’s official tongue, it competes with several minority languages). Taiwan remains a net exporter of pop culture to the mainland, I was told, but influence is not a one-way street. Dexter Filkins’s recent essay on Taiwan in The New Yorker includes a profile of two Taiwanese university students who started a popular satire show on YouTube poking fun at China. As one of them told him: “We don’t feel connected to China, but there is no way that we can say that we are not related to China, because many people’s ancestors are immigrants from there.”

As someone who carefully watches the Russia-Ukraine struggle, I’m struck by the parallels. Taiwan is, in many ways, where Ukraine was before the 2014 conflict started solidifying its national identity well beyond the legacy of the country’s long and complicated history. Like Taiwan, Ukraine has distinguished itself from its antagonistic neighbor by being a liberal democracy. And just as Taiwan’s business class was conflicted about its ties to China, so too did Ukraine’s post-Soviet oligarchs feel equivocal about their links to Russia. And indeed, like the Taiwanese, many Ukrainians were in deep denial about the threat from next door until it was almost too late; despite all the evidence, even President Volodymyr Zelensky was typical of his compatriots who could not bring themselves to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin would go all in and invade, as he did earlier this year.

Maybe, as in Ukraine, an all-out war with China would make the Taiwanese coalesce in ways that would surprise a visitor to the island today. But the problem for Taiwan is that, unlike Ukraine, it doesn’t have the possibility of trading territory for time, retreating and waiting until the enemy is overextended before delivering deadly counterpunches. Taiwan is more densely populated than anywhere I’ve ever seen. The seemingly separate cities virtually constitute a single interlocking megalopolis that hugs the entire shoreline facing China. Behind the cities loom steep mountains. There is no equivalent of Poland for Taiwan—nowhere for refugees to flee, and nowhere to stage weapons deliveries.

Read: The lessons Taiwan is learning from Ukraine

So the Achilles’ heel of pluralistic democracies like Ukraine and Taiwan may be their inability to see what is staring them in the face, especially when that thing is too horrible to behold. Many Ukrainians (and several Russian liberals I know) found the idea of a fratricidal war like the one Putin unleashed simply inconceivable. Or maybe liberal democracies, which unshackle people to improve their individual lot above all else, just find it hard to price in the part that primal, atavistic impulses play in international relations.

At any rate, this is a reality that the United States faces in Taiwan. Americans, too, must not flinch and think that things are other than they are. Despite what many diplomats, politicians, and pundits say, the U.S. would not fight for Taiwan because it is a democracy. Taiwan would probably be worth defending even if Chiang Kai-shek were still ruling it with a bloody fist. Whether the island sometimes seems ungrateful for American largesse, or is even suspicious that the U.S. will drag it into a conflict it does not want, makes no difference.

To continue with the parallel, the U.S. is helping Ukraine not because it is a democracy, but because it makes sense for us to do so. Ukraine is weakening one of the main revisionist powers in Europe at comparatively low cost to us, and is thus helping lay the groundwork for a lasting security order in Europe. Taiwan is of greater strategic significance to the U.S. than Ukraine will ever be. And unlike aiding Ukraine, defending Taiwan could be much more painful.

What is America’s cost-benefit calculus? I’m up for that debate. But spare me the democratic sentimentalism.

This article was originally published by The Wisdom of Crowds.

The Atlantic · by Damir Marusic · December 3, 2022

6. Apple Makes Plans to Move Production Out of China

Graphics and charts at the link. I would think if Apple could make this happen and remain profitable then it could lead the way for other companies to withdraw from China. On the other hand Apple is probably best suited to make these changes and absorb the short term costs than other companies without the profit margins and resources. Regardless, we will all end up paying the price for all companies who reduce dependency on the supply starting in China.

That said, given the political situation in China and the stranglehold of Xi with his iron hand, it is hard to see how companies can continue to accept risks that could come from domestic political instability. And then what happens if (when or ever?) China gets sanctioned for its human rights abuses? Surely companies would face legal issues and be forced to withdraw from China.

Apple Makes Plans to Move Production Out of China

Burned by Covid lockdowns and worker protests at Foxconn plants, the iPhone maker is looking to diversify the supply chain that has powered its growth

By Yang Jie

 and Aaron Tilley

Dec. 3, 2022 12:00 am ET

In recent weeks, Apple Inc. AAPL -0.34%decrease; red down pointing triangle has accelerated plans to shift some of its production outside China, long the dominant country in the supply chain that built the world’s most valuable company, say people involved in the discussions. It is telling suppliers to plan more actively for assembling Apple products elsewhere in Asia, particularly India and Vietnam, they say, and looking to reduce dependence on Taiwanese assemblers led by Foxconn 2354 4.05%increase; green up pointing triangle Technology Group. 

Turmoil at a place called iPhone City helped propel Apple’s shift. At the giant city-within-a-city in Zhengzhou, China, as many as 300,000 workers work at a factory run by Foxconn to make iPhones and other Apple products. At one point, it alone made about 85% of the Pro lineup of iPhones, according to market-research firm Counterpoint Research. 

The Zhengzhou factory was convulsed in late November by violent protests. In videos posted online, workers upset about wages and Covid-19 restrictions could be seen throwing items and shouting “Stand up for your rights!” Riot police were present, the videos show. The location of one of the videos was verified by the news agency and video-verification service Storyful. The Wall Street Journal corroborated events shown in the videos with workers at the site.

Coming after a year of events that weakened China’s status as a stable manufacturing center, the upheaval means Apple no longer feels comfortable having so much of its business tied up in one place, according to analysts and people in the Apple supply chain.


Tech Things With Joanna Stern

Everything is now a tech thing. Columnist Joanna Stern is your guide, giving analysis and answering your questions about our always-connected world.



“In the past, people didn’t pay attention to concentration risks,” said Alan Yeung, a former U.S. executive for Foxconn. “Free trade was the norm and things were very predictable. Now we’ve entered a new world.”

iPhone Factory Protests: Foxconn Workers Clash With Police


iPhone Factory Protests: Foxconn Workers Clash With Police

Play video: iPhone Factory Protests: Foxconn Workers Clash With Police

Footage shows police in Covid-protective suits beating workers at Foxconn’s facility in Zhengzhou, China. The world’s biggest site making Apple smartphones had been under Covid-19 lockdowns in recent weeks. Screenshot: Associated Press

One response, say the people involved in Apple’s supply chain, is to draw from a bigger pool of assemblers—even if those companies are themselves based in China. Two Chinese companies that are in line to get more Apple business, they say, are Luxshare Precision Industry Co. and Wingtech Technology Co. 

On calls with investors earlier this year, Luxshare executives said some consumer-electronics clients, which they didn’t name, were worried about Chinese supply-chain snafus caused by Covid-prevention measures, power shortages and other issues. They said these clients wanted Luxshare to help them do more work outside China.

The executives referred to what is known as new product introduction, or NPI, when Apple assigns teams to work with contractors in translating its product blueprints and prototypes into a detailed manufacturing plan. 

It is the guts of what it takes to actually build hundreds of millions of gadgets, and an area where China, with its concentration of production engineers and suppliers, has excelled.

Apple has told its manufacturing partners that it wants them to start trying to do more of this work outside of China, according to people involved in the discussions. Unless places like India and Vietnam can do NPI too, they will remain stuck playing second fiddle, say supply-chain specialists. However, the slowing global economy and slowing hiring at Apple have made it hard for the tech giant to allocate personnel for NPI work with new suppliers and new countries, said some of the people in the discussions.

Apple and China have spent decades tying themselves together in a relationship that, until now, has mostly been mutually beneficial. Change won’t come overnight. Apple still puts out new iPhone models every year, alongside steady updates of its iPads, laptops and other products. It must keep flying the plane while replacing an engine.

“Finding all the pieces to build at the scale Apple needs is not easy,” said Kate Whitehead, a former Apple operations manager who now owns her own supply-chain consulting firm.  

Yet the transition is under way, driven by two causes that are feeding on each other to threaten China’s historic economic strength. Some Chinese youth are no longer eager to work for modest wages assembling electronics for the affluent. They are seething in part because of Beijing’s heavy-handed Covid-19 approach, itself a concern for Apple and many other Western companies. Three years after Covid-19 started circulating, China is still trying to crush outbreaks with measures like quarantines, as many other countries have returned to prepandemic norms.

Zhengzhou, left, is home to a giant Foxconn facility known as iPhone City, where a worker is shown at right disinfecting equipment.


Protests in Chinese cities over the past week, during which some demonstrators called for the ouster of President Xi Jinping, suggested criticism over Covid-19 restrictions could build into a larger movement against the government. 

All this comes on top of more than five years of heightened U.S.-China military and economic tensions under the Trump and Biden administrations over China’s rapidly expanding military footprint and U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, among other disputes. 

Apple’s longer-term goal is to ship 40% to 45% of iPhones from India, compared with a single-digit percentage currently, according to Ming-chi Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities who follows the supply chain. Suppliers say Vietnam is expected to shoulder more of the manufacturing for other Apple products such as AirPods, smartwatches and laptops.

For now, consumers doing Christmas shopping are stuck with some of the longest wait times for high-end iPhones in the product’s 15-year history, stretching until after Christmas. Apple issued a rare mid-quarter warning in November that shipments of the Pro models would be hurt by Covid-19 restrictions at the Zhengzhou facility.

In November, as the worker protests in the facility grew, Apple issued a statement assuring it was on the ground looking to resolve the issue. “We are reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed,” a spokesman said at the time.

The risk of too much concentration in China has long been known to Apple executives, yet for years they did little to lessen it. China supplied a literate and diligent workforce, political stability and a huge local market for Apple’s products.

Taiwan-based Foxconn, under founder Terry Gou, became an essential link between Apple in California and the Chinese assembly plants where iPhones get put together. Foxconn managers share a language and cultural background with mainland workers. Pegatron Corp., another Taiwan-based contractor, has played a smaller but similar role.

Apple is looking to manufacture more in Vietnam, where a facility of China-based Luxshare Precision Industry Co., an Apple supplier, is shown above..


And both the government in Beijing and local governments in places such as Henan province, home to the Zhengzhou plant, have enthusiastically supported Apple’s business, seeing it as an engine of jobs and growth.

Even now, when ever-harsher anti-American rhetoric flows each day from Beijing over issues such as Taiwan and human rights, that backing remains strong.

People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, hailed the Apple production site in a Nov. 20 video, saying it accounted directly or indirectly for more than a million local jobs. Foxconn shipped about $32 billion in products overseas from Zhengzhou in 2019, according to a Chinese government-linked think tank. All told, the Foxconn group accounted for 3.9% of China’s exports in 2021, according to the company.

“The government’s timely assistance…continuously provides a sense of certainty for multinational companies like Apple, as well as for the world’s supply chain,” the People’s Daily video said.

Yet such words ring hollow to many U.S. businesses in light of stringent anti-Covid measures by the government that have hampered production and roused worker unrest. A survey by the U.S.-China Business Council this year found American companies’ confidence in China has fallen to a record low, with about a quarter of respondents saying they have at least temporarily moved parts of their supply chain out of China over the past year. 

To keep operating during government Covid measures, the Zhengzhou factory is among those compelled to adopt a system in which workers stay on-site and contact with the outside world is limited to the bare minimum to keep the goods flowing. Foxconn has sealed smoking areas, switched off vending machines and closed dining halls in favor of carryout meals that workers bring back to their dormitories, often a half-hour walk away, workers said.

Many have escaped, jumping fences and walking along empty highways to get back to their hometowns. In November, the pandemic policies and pay disputes further fueled workers’ grievances. Some clashed with police at the site and left smashed glass doors. 

Many of those abandoning the factory were young people who said on social media that they decided wages equivalent to $5 or less an hour weren’t enough to compensate for tedious production work, exacerbated by Covid restrictions.

People protested throughout China this past week, left, against the country’s strict anti-Covid protocols. Beijing residents, right, waited in line to be tested for the disease.


“It’s better for us to skate by at home than to be sucked dry by capitalists,” one person who identified herself as a departed Foxconn worker posted on her social-media account after the protests.

Asked for comment, a Foxconn spokesman referred to earlier statements in which the company blamed a computer error for some of the pay issues raised by new hires. It said it guaranteed recruits would be paid what was promised in recruitment ads. The spokesman declined to comment further.

China’s Covid policy “has been an absolute gut punch to Apple’s supply chain,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives. “This last month in China has been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Apple in China.”

Mr. Kuo, the supply-chain analyst, said iPhone shipments in the fourth quarter of this year were likely to reach around 70 million to 75 million units, which he said was around 10 million fewer than market projections before the Zhengzhou turmoil. The top-of-the-line iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models have been particularly hard-hit, he said.

Accounts vary about how many workers are missing from the Zhengzhou factory, with estimates ranging from the thousands to the tens of thousands. Mr. Kuo said it was running at only about 20% capacity in November, a figure expected to improve to 30% to 40% in December. One positive sign came Wednesday, when the local government in Zhengzhou lifted lockdown restrictions.

One Foxconn manager said hundreds of workers were mobilized to move machinery and components by truck and plane nearly 1,000 miles from Zhengzhou in central China to Shenzhen in the south, where Foxconn has its other main factories in China. The Shenzhen factories have made up some, but not all, of the production gap. 

Meanwhile, Foxconn is offering money to get workers to come back and stay for a while. One of its offers is a bonus of up to $1,800 for January to full-time workers in Zhengzhou who joined at the start of November or earlier. Those who wanted to quit have gotten $1,400

India and Vietnam have their own challenges.

People in Beijing protested this past week against stringent anti-Covid measures.


Dan Panzica, a former Foxconn executive who now advises companies on supply-chain issues, said Vietnam’s manufacturing was growing quickly but was short of workers. The country has just under 100 million people, less than a 10th of China’s population. It can handle 60,000-person manufacturing sites but not places such as Zhengzhou that reach into the hundreds of thousands, he said.

“They’re not doing high-end phones in India and Vietnam,” said Mr. Panzica. “No other places can do them.”


Do you think U.S. companies have grown overreliant on Chinese manufacturing? Join the conversation below.

India has a population nearly the size of China’s but not the same level of governmental coordination. Apple has found it hard to navigate India because each state is run differently and regional governments saddle the company with obligations before letting it build products there.

“India is the Wild West in terms of consistent rules and getting stuff in and out,” said Mr. Panzica.

The U.S. embassies of India and Vietnam didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Nonetheless, “Apple is going to have to find multiple places to replace iPhone City,” Mr. Panzica said. “They’re going to have to spread it around and make more villages instead of big cities.”

—Selina Cheng contributed to this article.

Write to Yang Jie at and Aaron Tilley at

7. Why China Isn’t Facing Another Tiananmen Moment


Uniquely among modern regimes, Mr. Xi assumed, China possessed the organizational capacity to impose the wide-ranging, fine-grained social controls to stop the disease. No other government could mobilize armies of functionaries in haz-mat suits to guard apartment complexes, facial recognition technology to identify errant citizens, and tracking technology on people’s mobile phones to control their smallest movements. Mr. Xi expected his high-tech social engineering to show the world the superiority of the “Chinese model.”

Instead, authoritarian hubris has trapped him between an exhausted populace and a relentless pathogen. China lacks an effective vaccine of its own, but importing foreign mRNA vaccines would impose a damaging loss of face. It is even doubtful whether enough doses could be acquired in a reasonable time frame. China’s vaccination rate, especially among the elderly, is too low to relax controls safely, but fixing that problem would require a coercive vaccination campaign that might well trigger further resistance. And although China is building more intensive care units, it will take a long time to build enough beds to handle a large Covid flare-up.
For all these reasons, meeting the popular demand to relax the zero Covid regime runs the risk of a pandemic wildfire that could cause millions of deaths—the very outcome the regime all along sought to avoid. Mr. Xi’s only option is to continue his repressive measures—perhaps with minor adjustments—until a highly effective Chinese mRNA vaccine is developed, and then he will have to roll out a forcible vaccination campaign, along with a new propaganda line that normalizes a certain level of transmission and death. This path is full of risk for the regime.
Yet in all scenarios, it is likely the leadership will hold together in its support for Mr. Xi. The police will obey orders, and the regime will remain in control. People will be angry but also fearful, and demonstrations are unlikely to snowball to a size that truly challenges his hold on power. The prospect is for a continuation of China’s current situation, with slow economic growth and high social tension—an unhappy state of affairs for the Chinese people and for the rest of the world.

Why China Isn’t Facing Another Tiananmen Moment

Chinese protesters are fed up with the country’s repressive ‘zero Covid’ policies, but the regime remains unified behind Xi Jinping

By Andrew J. Nathan

Dec. 2, 2022 10:55 am ET

In April 1989, a peaceful protest by several hundred university students in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square swelled over the course of four and a half weeks into massive demonstrations. Students, workers, and government and party officials took part, and similar protests broke out in over three hundred other cities across China.

Last week’s anti-Covid protests, by contrast, are now petering out, after a few heady days of defiance. Despite the country’s deep-seated and widespread public outrage at three years of rigid Covid restrictions, Xi Jinping has China under much tighter control than his predecessors did three decades ago.

The 1989 demonstrations swelled to crisis size because of a split in the Chinese Communist Party leadership. The General Secretary, Zhao Ziyang, believed that the students were patriotic and their reform demands were reasonable. He wanted to reason with them, offer reforms and disperse the demonstrators peacefully. The premier, Li Peng, argued that any such opening would spell the end of the regime, as one social group after another would start making demands on the ruling party. The other top leaders split between Zhao and Li.

Demonstrators calling for economic and political reforms surrounded a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, June 2, 1989.


As the authorities debated and no crackdown came, citizens sensed a rare opportunity to voice their resentments over inflation, corruption and the stagnation of economic and political reform, and they poured into the streets in a short-lived carnival of freedom. The crisis ended only when senior leader Deng Xiaoping came out of retirement to order a military crackdown, which killed at least hundreds of people in Beijing—the total number remains unknown to this day—and many others around the country.



A weekly look at our most colorful, thought-provoking and original feature stories on the business of life.



Today, in the aftermath of last month’s 20th Party Congress, a split in the Chinese leadership is unthinkable. The congress elected a Central Committee handpicked by Mr. Xi, which in turn unanimously handed him a third term as party leader and rubber-stamped the election of six of his acolytes to the highest organ of power, the Political Bureau Standing Committee. One of them, Li Xi, heads the Central Discipline Inspection Commission, which manages the long-running anticorruption campaign that keeps party officials at all levels under surveillance.

Mr. Xi himself heads the National Security Council, which coordinates the vast security apparatus, including the Ministry of Public Security. The nation is blanketed with well-trained and disciplined police forces armed with the most modern surveillance technology. A Xi loyalist controls the media. Two Xi appointees run the Central Military Commission under his own chairmanship.

No one inside the party is in a position to challenge Mr. Xi. No one outside the party can gather enough strength to overthrow him.

Meanwhile, senior leaders who lacked personal loyalty to Mr. Xi and who seemed to have slightly more liberal ideas were pushed into early retirement, most notably Premier Li Keqiang and the chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Wang Yang.

We know from opinion surveys that the majority of Chinese people believe in deferring to government authority. Even when they are angry at local authorities, they tend to believe that the central authorities know best. Beyond that, the Chinese are just as aware as outsiders are—indeed more so—that the security apparatus is vast and knows what each citizen is doing, which makes it dangerous to protest.

Despite its considerable size, China’s urban middle class of an estimated 400 million or more is still a minority in the population and fears the instability that might result from a weakening of party leadership. Although most are too young to remember the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, they know the dangers of chaos in a vast country teeming with social discontent and have tolerated high levels of control for a remarkably long time.

Even now, as popular patience wears thin, Mr. Xi remains in control. Every instrument of power is in his hands. No one inside the party is in a position to challenge him. No one outside the party can gather enough strength to overthrow him.


See more...

But Mr. Xi faces another, wilier foe: the Covid virus. His zero Covid policy—now visibly failing—was the paradigmatic policy mistake of an authoritarian ruler.

Uniquely among modern regimes, Mr. Xi assumed, China possessed the organizational capacity to impose the wide-ranging, fine-grained social controls to stop the disease. No other government could mobilize armies of functionaries in haz-mat suits to guard apartment complexes, facial recognition technology to identify errant citizens, and tracking technology on people’s mobile phones to control their smallest movements. Mr. Xi expected his high-tech social engineering to show the world the superiority of the “Chinese model.”

Related Video

How China’s Biggest Protests in Decades Unfolded Over Five Days


Large protests erupted across China as crowds voiced their frustration over nearly three years of Covid-19 controls. Here's how a deadly fire in Xinjiang sparked domestic upheaval and a political dilemma for Xi Jinping’s leadership. Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Instead, authoritarian hubris has trapped him between an exhausted populace and a relentless pathogen. China lacks an effective vaccine of its own, but importing foreign mRNA vaccines would impose a damaging loss of face. It is even doubtful whether enough doses could be acquired in a reasonable time frame. China’s vaccination rate, especially among the elderly, is too low to relax controls safely, but fixing that problem would require a coercive vaccination campaign that might well trigger further resistance. And although China is building more intensive care units, it will take a long time to build enough beds to handle a large Covid flare-up.

For all these reasons, meeting the popular demand to relax the zero Covid regime runs the risk of a pandemic wildfire that could cause millions of deaths—the very outcome the regime all along sought to avoid. Mr. Xi’s only option is to continue his repressive measures—perhaps with minor adjustments—until a highly effective Chinese mRNA vaccine is developed, and then he will have to roll out a forcible vaccination campaign, along with a new propaganda line that normalizes a certain level of transmission and death. This path is full of risk for the regime.

Yet in all scenarios, it is likely the leadership will hold together in its support for Mr. Xi. The police will obey orders, and the regime will remain in control. People will be angry but also fearful, and demonstrations are unlikely to snowball to a size that truly challenges his hold on power. The prospect is for a continuation of China’s current situation, with slow economic growth and high social tension—an unhappy state of affairs for the Chinese people and for the rest of the world.

Mr. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His many books include “Chinese Democracy,” “The Tiananmen Papers,” “China’s Search for Security” and “How East Asians View Democracy.”

Appeared in the December 3, 2022, print edition as 'Why China Isn’t Facing Another Tiananmen Moment'.

8. Exactly the opposite: Russian propaganda attempts to pass their own losses as those of Ukraine

imges at the link:

Exactly the opposite: Russian propaganda attempts to pass their own losses as those of Ukraine

Russian Telegram channels spread messages about the Armed Forces of Ukraine allegedly suffering colossal losses. They attempted to prove this with a screenshot from the British tabloid Daily Express or, rather, part of it. Propagandists cropped the screenshot so that the context of the answer became unclear and it could be interpreted the way Russian propaganda needed. The information contained in the text and translation provided below was totally fake.

According to the screenshot from the British source, Ukraine’s Svoboda Battalion Commander Petro Kyzyk was asked about losses on the battlefield and replied: “They are colossal. They don’t even count bodies.”

In the original interview, which Daily Express is referring to, the question was about the losses of Russian occupiers. Hence, using a screenshot of two sentences taken out of the context, Russian propaganda tried to pass their own losses as those of the Ukrainian side.

Petro Kuzyk, in the original interview, named the true number of the Svoboda Battalion’s members, who had been injured and killed.

“I would like people to know about the feat. Svoboda members are now in positions. We do not retreat and, thus, we have about 120 of those injured. Sixteen guys were killed,” Kuzyk told.

The article of the British source also contained the contextual inaccuracies, affecting the perception of information. Daily Express mentioned that Petro Kuzyk said his soldiers were staying in trenches full of corpses. However, there was nothing like that in Kuzyk’s original interview. At Ukrinform’s request, the interviewer who asked the commander about hostilities raging near Bakhmut also confirmed this.

Ukrinform contacted the author of the article published by Daily Express regarding information about corpses in trenches. The journalist admitted that such interpretation was incorrect and edited the text of the article. Now the British article says that the Svoboda Battalion’s soldiers are fighting in fields ‘littered with corpses’, which corresponds to the text of the original interview.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as of December 2, 2022, the Russian military death toll in Ukraine reached about 90,090 troops.

Dmytro Badrak

9. Top secret B-21 Raider stealth bomber finally revealed in high-powered ceremony

I have a recommendation for the DOD, Air Force, INDOPACOM and USFK Public Affairs officers. I (and my fellow Korea watchers) have been receiving queries from Voice of America and Radio Free Asia about this seemingly fantastic new capability. Unfortunately I know only what I read in articles like this and do not have any special insights on it. Nor do I have the airpower background to credible comment on this capability (so I have to fall back on MSU - "make s**t up" and hopefully what I make up will support our national security).

Public affairs officers should schedule interviews with VOA and RFA journalists to answer their queries because these excellent journalists are asking good questions that if provided with good information would certainly contribute to deterrence by properly describing what capabilities these aircraft have, how they support deterrence, and how they will support defense plans.

Here is a representative list of questions:

The US Air Force unveils its next-generation digital bomber B-21 on the 2nd.

A state-of-the-art digital bomber can fly from the US mainland and strike anywhere in the world in secret.

Q1) What does it mean to unveil the US B-21 bomber?

Q2) What unique capabilities does the B-21 bomber have?

Q3) What operations can the B-21 bomber carry out on the Korean Peninsula in an emergency?

Q4) What warning messages are sent to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats? (Especially the North Korean regime and Kim Jong-un)

I recommend that public affairs officers contact VOA and RFA and provide answers. We can speculate but it would be useful to provide official messages - the exact messages our military desires to send to those we seek to deter. VOA and RFA are listened to in north Korea (and I images in China as well). Their main mission is to explain US foreign policy and national security. We should effectively use them.

Top secret B-21 Raider stealth bomber finally revealed in high-powered ceremony - Breaking Defense

The B-21, the first new bomber for the Air Force in over 30 years, "looks imposing, but what's under the frame and the space-age coatings is even more impressive," Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.


on December 02, 2022 at 8:20 PM · by Valerie Insinna · December 3, 2022

Northrop Grumman unveiled the B-21 stealth bomber at a livestreamed ceremony on Dec. 2, 2022. (Northrop Grumman/screengrab)

PALMDALE, Calif. — Northrop Grumman finally pulled the cover off the first B-21 Raider aircraft, revealing the Air Force’s newest stealth bomber to the world during a once-in-a-generation roll out ceremony today.

After brief opening remarks by Northrop CEO Kathy Warden, who said the plane “will be the backbone of US air power” and represented a “new era in technology for national defense,” the gauzy silver veil was literally withdrawn to swelling orchestral music.

Backlit by blue and white lights, the B-21 then was towed halfway out of its hangar, likely to ensure that sensitive design elements in the back of the aircraft remain hidden. A flying wing similar to the B-2 — but perhaps appearing more like a flying saucer out of a 1950s sci-fi movie — the B-21 design exhibited some marked differences from its immediate predecessor, including inlets that are flusher to the body of the jet and smaller windows.

The new bomber already boasted Air Force markings, including a “0001” indicating its status as first of a series and the “ED” for its future home — Edwards Air Force Base.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, speaking in front of the plane and somewhat dwarfed by it, touted its capabilities.

“The B-21 looks imposing, but what’s under the frame and the space-age coatings is even more impressive,” he said, highlighting the bomber’s range, stealth and durability. “Even the most sophisticated air defense systems will struggle to detect the B-21 in the sky.”

Speaking of the aircraft’s range, Austin hinted that it could be even longer than the B-2s, B-1s and B-52s that make up the Air Force’s legacy bomber fleet. “No other long-range bomber can match its efficiency. It won’t need to be based in-theater, and it won’t need logistical support to hold any target at risk,” he said.

Echoing Warden’s remarks to Breaking Defense before the ceremony, Austin highlighted the technological adaptability of the bomber, designed to be easily upgraded.

“The Raider is designed to deliver both conventional and nuclear munitions with formidable precision,” he said,” he said. “So as the United States continues to innovate, this bomber will be able to defend our country with weapons that haven’t even been invented yet.”

The B-21 seen today is the first test article to roll off the production line, with five other bombers in some stage of production at Northrop’s facilities at the Air Force’s secretive Plant 42. After wrapping up ground testing, which will include powering its systems on and off and conducting taxi tests, the B-21 is scheduled to make its first flight in 2023 before being transferred to Edwards Air Force Base some 20 miles northeast.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks in front of the newly revealed B-21 stealth bomber on Dec. 2, 2022. (Northrop Grumman/screengrab)

About 600 people attended the historic event, including Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and a lineup of House and Senate lawmakers.

Many analysts had predicted that the B-21 would look like a slightly smaller B-2, and the long-awaited reveal didn’t deviate much from those forecasts.

“In line with expectations, it looks a lot like a scaled down B-2, with a few modifications,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with AeroDynamic Advisory. “Most of the progress in aerospace over the last 35 years has been with subsystems, materials, and connectivity, so that makes sense. It’s interesting that the flying wing concept created in the 1940s is still relevant today.”

For more than seven years, Northrop could only hint at the aircraft’s design in digital renderings and promotional images in which the B-21 was shown draped in a drop cloth to conceal its features — a depiction made famous in a commercial aired during the 2015 Super Bowl just months before Northrop beat out a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team to win the Long Range Strike Bomber contract.

During a roundtable with reporters before the rollout, Warden said Northrop had created “thousands” of design iterations in a digital environment before choosing the final design of the aircraft.

Almost all details about the B-21’s performance remain highly guarded by the Pentagon, which wants to protect its technological advances from China and Russia.

Although the B-21 was designed to either be operated by a human or flown without a pilot in the cockpit, the Air Force has not laid out a plan or timeline to use the aircraft in an unmanned capacity, with Andrew Hunter, the service’s top acquisition official, telling reporters today that fielding a crewed aircraft was the “primary focus.”

Over the lifespan of the program, the Air Force plans on buying at least 100 B-21s at an average procurement unit cost of $692 million per plane in 2022 dollars. That sum includes a B-21 as well as training, spares and support equipment.

The service begins funding low-rate initial production of the new bomber in fiscal 2023, spending $1.7 billion in procurement funding on top of $3.3 billion to carry on research and development activities. Air Force officials have declined to comment on how many B-21s that sum will buy.

As for the B-21 on display today, Warden said, “The next time you see this plane, it’ll be in the air.”

Unveiled Dec. 2, 2022, the B-21 Raider will be a dual-capable, penetrating-strike stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Breaking Defense’s Lee Ferran contributed to this report. · by Valerie Insinna · December 3, 2022

10. CNN, Gannett, Other Media Giants Resort to Layoffs Ahead of Potential Downturn

We may be at a major media inflection point. What is going to happen to the Fourth Estate and how is it going to (continue to) contribute to our Republic?

I know many of the fake news accusers will applaud this. But we should be careful what we ask for. If we do not sustain a strong and aggressive press we will find ourselves with a much weaker Republic.

CNN, Gannett, Other Media Giants Resort to Layoffs Ahead of Potential Downturn

Entertainment and publishing firms look to cut costs amid streaming losses and ad slowdown

By Sarah Krouse


and Joe Flint

Dec. 3, 2022 8:00 am ET

An advertising slowdown, economic worries and strains of the shift to streaming have many major media companies in cost-cutting and layoff mode.

News organizations, TV networks, movie and television studios, and entertainment giants laid off hundreds of workers over the past week alone, including Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.’s WBD -0.69%decrease; red down pointing triangle CNN and Paramount Global’s PARA 1.04%increase; green up pointing triangle television-production units.

The moves come after many entertainment companies spent the past few years spending heavily on streaming services that are now a drag on financial results. Traditional broadcast and cable television, meanwhile, continue to face viewer and subscriber erosion.

Add on fears of a recession and a slowdown in ad spending, and an industry that managed to survive and in some cases thrive as audiences swelled during the Covid-19 pandemic is now in retreat.

As Disney’s theme parks set records, its streaming business lost nearly $1.5 billion in the most recent quarter.


Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global lost a combined $2.5 billion on streaming in the most recent quarter alone and are now trying to rein in costs. On Tuesday, AMC Networks Inc. said it would cut 20% of its U.S. workforce, citing the inability of its streaming apps to make up for losses from cord-cutting.

At CNN, low ratings, advertising concerns and challenges at its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, led to layoffs this past week. In a memo to staff, CNN Chairman Chris Licht said CNN’s sister channel HLN would stop carrying live programming as part of its cost-saving efforts.

Gannett Co., GCI 4.88%increase; green up pointing triangle the publisher of many newspapers, including USA Today, on Thursday began laying off more than 200 people, on top of another 400 job cuts earlier this year. The Washington Post on Wednesday said it would stop publishing its Sunday print magazine, resulting in the loss of about 10 jobs.

Another Wave of U.S. Layoffs May Be Coming. Here’s Why.


Another Wave of U.S. Layoffs May Be Coming. Here’s Why.

Play video: Another Wave of U.S. Layoffs May Be Coming. Here’s Why.

As interest rates continue to climb and earnings slump, WSJ’s Dion Rabouin explains why we can expect to see a bigger wave of layoffs in the near future. Illustration: Elizabeth Smelov

The Labor Department said Friday that the U.S. labor market remained historically tight. Employment in the information sector has grown faster than the broader labor market in recent months, with jobs increasing 5% from January through November, about twice as fast as overall employment over the same period.

It could take time for ongoing layoffs to show up in economic data because there is typically a gap between when companies announce them and when people are let go and actually leave payrolls, according to some economists. Some laid-off workers are also quickly finding new roles as overall job openings remain abundant.


What does the wave of job cuts tell you about the state of the economy? Join the conversation below.

Neil Begley, a senior vice president at the ratings firm Moody’s Investors Service, said even though the job market remains strong, many companies are worried about a potential recession. Those economic concerns and layoffs by other companies make it easier for companies to reduce head count.

“There’s a nasty expression: You can’t let a perfectly good crisis go to waste,” he said.

NPR on Wednesday said that a decline in corporate sponsorships in light of “a worldwide economic shock” meant it must cut at least $10 million from its budget for the year and that it would essentially freeze hiring. The company said it would try to avoid layoffs.

Magna, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos.’s Mediabrands, in September said it expected U.S. ad spending to grow at a slower pace next year.

Warner Bros. Discovery has laid off more than 1,000 since the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia.


Entertainment companies are facing pressures that extend beyond the macroeconomic environment. Their huge bets on streaming now look shakier, as the market for streaming subscriptions is maturing in the U.S. and competition to add customers among a slew of rivals is cutthroat.

“As it becomes more crowded and competition becomes more fierce, there’s less to reap,” said Zuhayeer Musa, co-founder of, which helps workers negotiate offers from a range of companies, including tech and media firms.

Netflix Inc. was one of the first streaming companies to cut staff and costs, laying off more than 400 people earlier this year. Some media executives said Netflix’s moves—which came as the company lost subscribers for the first time in a decade—prompted a greater focus at other companies with streaming services on controlling costs and trying to improve profitability.


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Warner Bros. Discovery is facing an added set of challenges: reducing the heavy debt load stemming from the April merger of Discovery and AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia unit. The company, whose properties include HBO Max, Discovery+, the Warner Bros. movie and TV studios and cable channels including CNN and TNT, has laid off more than 1,000 workers since the deal’s completion.

Disney, whose streaming business lost nearly $1.5 billion in the most recent quarter alone, recently fired Chief Executive Bob Chapek and brought back his predecessor, Robert Iger, to the helm. Disney on Tuesday warned in a regulatory filing that it might face an impairment charge as it restructures its business.

In his first employee town hall since his return, Mr. Iger said Disney would give priority to making money over adding subscribers in its streaming business.

Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal is expected to make job reductions as part of cost-cutting across the unit, according to people familiar with the matter. NBCUniversal recently completed a voluntary retirement program that offered buyouts to people age 57 or older.

Paramount Global’s CBS unit recently restructured its entertainment operations as part of a cost-cutting effort, leading to the departures of two senior executives. There have also been cuts at Paramount’s ad sales units and production units at both CBS and Paramount.

‘Better Call Saul’ is one of the shows on AMC Networks, which said it is laying off about 200 people.


AMC Networks, the home of many popular TV shows, including “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul,” on Tuesday said it was laying off about 200 people to save resources as it struggles to generate enough money from its streaming services to make up for the continued decline of cable television.

Roku Inc., the largest maker of streaming devices in the U.S., last month said it planned to lay off about 200 employees. The company, which sells ads viewed on its own streaming service, the Roku Channel, and ads that appear on other streaming services viewed on Roku devices, said advertisers were reducing their fourth-quarter ad spending because of uncertainty over a potential recession.

“They aren’t spending with anyone,” Chief Executive Anthony Wood told investors recently. “It’s not just they’re not spending with us.”

—Sarah Chaney Cambon contributed to this article.

Write to Sarah Krouse at and Joe Flint at

11. Covid protests speak to evolution of Chinese dissent

No authoritarian regime can ever suppress dissent forever (even north Korea will not be able to do it forever).

Covid protests speak to evolution of Chinese dissent

Communist authorities respond with time-tested carrot and stick approach but social media-driven nature of revolt has changed the game · by More by Daniel Williams · December 3, 2022

China has decided to fight widespread anti-Covid lockdown protests by combining the heavy dose of official repression of the past week with a sudden willingness to relieve tight restrictions on movement.

When demonstrations against the so-called “zero-Covid” policy’s physical restrictions first erupted, President Xi Jinping answered with police repression, echoes of measures common to two other big outbreaks of public displeasure in the post-Mao Zedong era – the Democracy Wall Movement of the late 1970s and the mass Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing, 1989.

Xi mobilized security forces – in this case, municipal police and the paramilitary anti-unrest People’s Armed Police – to break up protests, make arrests and unleash China’s vast surveillance apparatus to identify troublemakers by inspecting mobile phones and internet messages.

Then, on Thursday, public health officials suddenly announced lockdown relief. Local bureaucrats would be allowed to undo restrictive measures, which had been Xi’s one-size-fits-all weapon to fight the spread of the epidemic.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, one of the country’s senior health officials, described the disease danger as fading even as a new Covid variant had emerged.

“The country is facing a new situation and new tasks in epidemic prevention and control as the pathogenicity of the Omicron virus weakens,” Sun said. “More people are vaccinated and experience in containing the virus is accumulated.”

She made no mention of zero-Covid goals and tactics. Limits on movements in Shanghai and Guangzhou, major city centers of anti-lockdown demonstrations, were immediately lifted, except on persons actually infected. Restrictions in districts of other cities, including Beijing, were also eased.

Democracy Wall. Photo: Wei Jingsheng / Free Asia

The stick-and-sudden-carrot approach has been a common practice of dealing with public unrest since the 1970s, after the fall of Mao and the rise of supposedly pragmatic, less ideological leadership. The Democracy Wall Movement, named after a kind of political bulletin board that stood in central Beijing, was tolerated for a few years.

But then dissidents and common citizens were arrested for demanding deep political changes. The Democracy Wall was dismantled; another was set up in a park three miles away. Whoever wanted to leave a message would have to register with name and address.

The carrot came in the form of capitalist-style economic freedoms. Maximum leader Deng Xiaoping appointed Zhao Ziyang, an economic reformer, to head the Chinese Communist Party and usher in free market economic changes that included the monumental dismantling of communal farms, putting the land into private hands.

There was, however, one caveat: Political leadership of the party and formal acceptance of Marxist-Leninist rule had to be maintained.

In 1989, thousands of demonstrators occupied Beijing’s iconic Tiananmen Square, just outside the Forbidden City, to protest Communist Party corruption, inflation and limits on free speech. Horrified by the fervor of the mostly student protestors and wary of igniting changes such as were occurring in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng dispatched the Peoples Liberation Army to clear the square.

In the early morning of June 4, hundreds of demonstrators camping in the square were killed – some shot, some run over by tanks. Dozens of activists were jailed; others escaped into exile.

Shortly afterward, Deng doubled down on economic reform, persuaded that increased prosperity would cement Communist rule and promote his drive to build China into an economic powerhouse. Zhao Ziyang, who had supported the Tiananmen protestors, was placed under house arrest for life. Zhao’s replacement, Jiang Zemin, kept to the straight and narrow of party rule while promoting capitalist-style growth and foreign investment.

Since the 1980s, scattered protests have taken place in response to various, if familiar, problems: government corruption, heavy-handed controls and economic problems. But the way that the current anti-Covid protests developed is new, at least for China, and might herald a period of public discourse within Xi’s tightly controlled political galaxy.

Chinese protesters air their views on the government’s ‘zero-Covid’ restrictions. Image: Screengrab / BBC

The current demonstrations erupted in a world of mobile phones and the internet. Images of a burning apartment building in Xinjiang, which received scant attention in the state media, were spread on cell phone videos.

What the government tried to downplay the event, millions of Chinese could ponder on their own, opening the way for spontaneous response. People in a variety of cities heard that doors in the flaming building were bolted shut by government order or that firefighters were obstructed by roadblocks intended to limit the spread of Covid. The fire disaster become a metaphor for the frustrations with zero-Covid felt by all who had been confined to their apartments for weeks or months, unable to move or work.

The new, dispersed nature of protests makes them harder to tamp down. After two months of tolerance, Tiananmen was cleared by military force in a night. Diffuse and apparently leaderless anti-Covid-restriction protests are harder to counter, at least without quick compromise.

Xi faces a dilemma. He bet on zero-Covid physical control rather than keeping up with boosters, especially among the elderly, and importing foreign-made mRNA vaccines. It’s not clear whether the sudden change of heart on lockdowns – and a concurrent step up in vaccinations – will work, or whether it is just a way to place responsibility for future failure on local officials.

“Citizens are exhausted,” wrote Yves Tiberghien, a professor of political science at Canada’s University of British Columbia. “Omicron virus is set to run rampant. Whether China can find a pragmatic and peaceful way out of its zero-Covid approach remains an open question.”

Xi himself seems not fully confident that Thursday’s lessening of restrictions is enough to quell discontent. He has issued an “emergency response” decree of censorship, including a crackdown on virtual private networks and other means of bypassing online censorship.

It appears that, beyond a Covid surge, the possibility of an epidemic spread of information outside Xi’s Great Firewall of communication control is also a source of alarm. · by More by Daniel Williams · December 3, 2022

12. The End of Companion Television

I used to like the original headline news format and found it useful - first 15 minutes, news; then weather, then 5 minutes of sports, then 5 minutes of entertainment/feel good stories. I could tune in the first 15 minutes of every half hour and get a current events update. And with international journalists around the world CNN could break news pretty quickly (thus creating the CNN effect). 

The End of Companion Television

CNN’s Headline News may seem thoroughly old-fashioned now that it’s dead. But its demise is a reminder of the creeping nature of media obsolescence.

The Atlantic · by Brian Stelter · December 2, 2022

Media Winter is here once more, and it is getting ugly. It seems as though every news giant is shrinking toward 2023 through end-of-year layoffs, hiring freezes, or otherwise Dickensian austerity. Text chains and Slack channels are bursting with farewells and expressions of uncertainty about the future.

Industry veterans will tell you they’ve come to expect these Christmas-time cutbacks. The Gannett newspaper chain is laying off scores of local and national journalists. NPR is looking for ways to save at least $10 million. The Washington Post is ending its Sunday magazine. CNN, where I was an anchor until August, is cutting several hundred jobs.

As usual, explanations vary. The advertising marketplace is softening. Economic headwinds are worsening. Shareholder demands are unforgiving. But the effect is always the same: contraction, lost livelihoods, diminished brands, fewer outlets for both reporters and consumers.

Yet there’s something different this time around. Job losses in journalism have been rolling across the industry for decades now. But it’s not every day that a fixture of cable television goes belly up. The demise of HLN, CNN’s 40-year-old sister station, which will stop airing original newscasts next week, deserves attention not just because it marks the end of an era but because it’s a reminder of how eras in media actually end. Before death comes obsolescence.

HLN, better known as Headline News, was a Ted Turner creation. The founding father of cable news rushed HLN to air on New Year’s Day 1982, a mere 19 months after he launched CNN. The goal was to preempt a rival with a similar idea: a headline-driven TV channel that would mimic the nonstop wheels of news radio. Whereas CNN in those days had a wide variety of programming, including in-depth interview shows, HLN had headlines around the clock. Quick bursts of news, barely 280 characters at a time, were perfectly suited for a pre-broadband age when news was relatively scarce.

Just as YouTube destroyed the MTV we once knew, the informational environment created by iPhones and tweetstorms irrevocably changed HLN. But irrevocable change can be hard to see as it is happening. Perhaps counterintuitively, the reinvention of a broadcast medium plays out anticlimactically, like a slowly abandoned shopping mall—one store closes at a time until the whole structure serves a different purpose.

At HLN, executives first tried to refashion the channel with new reasons to tune in, creating talk shows hosted by Glenn Beck, Joy Behar, Drew Pinsky, and others. The biggest hit was Nancy Grace’s fear-stoking crime fest. Grace pointed a profitable way forward for HLN, but the overall endeavor was a branding nightmare—crime one hour, comedy the next. The channel was revamped so many times that even Wikipedia could barely keep up. In retrospect, it’s clear that the network wasn’t simply pivoting, to use industry parlance. The ground was shifting dramatically, and HLN was trying to find a way to stay standing. Here’s the problem with obsolescence, though: It isn’t just the ground that shifts. It’s the whole media universe.

Television news, the way I see it, is about consistency and companionship. Or it was, anyway. TV journalists break big stories and speak truth to power the same way journalists in every other medium do—but the thing that sets TV apart is the relationship forged between the people on either side of the screen. Viewers form emotional bonds with the anchors they watch and stream. This was certainly the case for devotees of HLN’s weekday-morning host, Robin Meade, who was one of the longest-tenured morning hosts in history, and who lost her job in the gutting of HLN.

Almost anyone can do the wake-up shift for a day, maybe even for a year, but almost no one can do it for two decades, as Meade did. (I can speak with some degree of authority on this: I married a morning-show host.) Meade has done it with infectious joy—and with uncommon interviewing talent—for 21 years. TikTok’s emerging stars could learn a thing or two from Meade about connecting all the way through the camera lens to the person on the other side. Meade's signature greeting was “Morning, sunshine!” Sometimes she’d add, “Yes, I’m talking about you.”

Television is a team sport, never mind the fact that the hosts get most of the glory. That's why Meade, speaking on a call with her soon-to-be-unemployed colleagues on Thursday, called their show Morning Express, the “greatest joy of my life” and meticulously thanked the writers and producers, according to several people who were present. The team will have a chance to sign off on Monday morning.

No one at HLN whom I’ve spoken with in the past 24 hours was completely surprised to be canceled. To a person, they chalked it up to management’s quest for billions of dollars in cost reductions. They had seen the news coverage get snipped and sheared for years, gradually replaced by titillating true-crime reruns. It seemed inevitable that the news on HLN would stop altogether at some point. But hosts like Meade still had a fan base that your average podcast host or Substack writer could only dream of. She also had an audience outside of her industry’s coastal bubbles—with fans in towns and cities all across America.

That’s a pivotal part of this story. HLN exhibited a polite sensibility—lighter and less politically focused than Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC; Meade’s producers made time for entertainment and sports and lifestyle coverage. “How to carve your turkey” was a top segment before Thanksgiving. If you were home alone and wanted to leave on the TV all morning, you could do worse than HLN. Even in this age of pinpoint on-demand streaming, HLN asserted that companionship TV still had value.

But now? Effective next week, HLN will stop producing live news coverage. It will transform almost completely into a true-crime channel. (CNN will simulcast its recently rebooted morning show on HLN, but that’s primarily a concession to long-standing cable deals that say HLN must carry some amount of straight news.) In a flattened media world where practically anyone can read headlines or annotate a live-streamed trial, HLN seems to have been rendered obsolete. That’s why I am skeptical, too, of the TV start-ups that are trying to replicate the old Headline News wheel for less money and with less staff.

There are lots of things to love about our endlessly fragmenting information environment, complicated though it is. But Meade’s fans are right to feel a sense of loss. This strained moment for TV news has no small number of anchors and hosts questioning what they thought they knew about the medium—and how much shelf space will exist for them in the future. Another channel is disappearing into the TV ether. Viewers tuning in for companionship may find only the faintest echo of what once was. The TV will still be on, but all the warmth is gone.

The Atlantic · by Brian Stelter · December 2, 2022

​13.  Ottawa to bolster security to combat foreign influence, disinformation in new Indo-Pacific strategy

Ottawa to bolster security to combat foreign influence, disinformation in new Indo-Pacific strategy





The Globe and Mail · by Robert Fife · November 26, 2022

Canada's Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly attends a news conference with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sept. 30, 2022, at the State Department in Washington.Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press

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Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly will unveil a long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy on Sunday that promises to bolster the ability of national security agencies to combat foreign influence and disinformation campaigns in the region and in Canadian affairs.

Ottawa will provide nearly $230-million over the next five years to expand the capacity of Canadian intelligence and cyber security agencies to work closely with partners in the Indo-Pacific region and also to protect “Canadians from attempts by foreign states to influence them covertly or coercively,” according to the national security chapter provided to The Globe and Mail on Saturday.

The chapter said part of the money will go to detecting “cyber security threats originating in the region, including malicious activity targeting businesses, industry and infrastructure, and threats to democracy posed by online disinformation campaigns and surveillance technology, including online attacks targeting civil society and human rights defenders.”

China is not mentioned in this chapter, but in a Nov. 9 preview speech of the new Indo-Pacific policy, Ms. Joly called out Beijing as an “increasingly disruptive” global power in the region. She also vowed to boost efforts to fight meddling by foreign powers in Canadian affairs.

In a recent appearance before a Commons committee, Adam Fisher, director general of intelligence assessments at CSIS, warned that China is the “foremost aggressor” when it comes to foreign interference in Western countries, and that it works within their political systems to “corrupt” them. Mr. Fisher added that Beijing looks to “interfere domestically in all respects. That includes in certain elections and ridings.”

At the recent G20 summit in Indonesia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Chinese President Xi Jinping of serious concerns about his country’s “interference” in Canada. Mr. Xi later berated the Prime Minister for releasing what he considered to be a private conversation.

Last week, Mr. Trudeau told the House of Commons “there are consistent engagements by representatives of the Chinese government into Canadian communities, with local media, reports of illicit Chinese police stations.” The RCMP is investigating reports China is operating more than 50 police stations including three in the Greater Toronto Area.

In a preview of the new policy earlier this month. Ms. Joly said Canada intends to diversify and deepen trade in the Indo-Pacific region, which stretches from North America to the Indian Ocean. But Ms. Joly said Canada must continue to trade with China, even though it is autocratic and increasingly assertive, because of the sheer size of its economy.

Ms. Joly said Ottawa will be vocal about China’s brutal treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in the Xinjiang region, “where credible accounts of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity are well-documented.”

Canada will also continue to speak out about the crushing of free speech and the media in Hong Kong, oppose the escalation of Chinese military action against Taiwan and seek to “deepen our economic ties” with the self-governing island, she said. The notion of Canada pursuing stronger economic relations with Taipei is bound to be denounced by Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be part of China.

At the same time, Ms. Joly said Canada will co-operate with China on fighting climate change. It notes that the government is playing host in Montreal next month to the UN Biodiversity Conference, which is under a Chinese presidency.

The Chinese embassy in Canada has accused Ms. Joly of damaging China’s reputation. Her speech, it said in a statement on the embassy website, “contained a lot of negative contents related to China that distorted the truth, exaggerated the so-called ‘China threat’ and discredited China’s image, which constituted a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”

The Canadian government has been quietly formulating its Indo-Pacific strategy since 2020. An early version drafted by Global Affairs bureaucrats this past summer made no mention of China. But Ms. Joly overruled her department and took a hands-on role in writing the strategy.

Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada, said the government’s new policy is based on a “realistic assessment of risks and regional tensions, with a candid recognition Canada must continue to work with China on global priorities such as emissions reductions.”

The Globe and Mail · by Robert Fife · November 26, 2022

14. Iran claims dozens of foreign spy organizations behind protests

Of course they blame external actors. They cannot accept the fact that this is an organic uprising which appears to be led by women.

Iran claims dozens of foreign spy organizations behind protests

The commander of Iran’s Basij Organization says that the United States is engaged in a hybrid war against the country.

Iranian students from the Islamic Basij volunteer militia protest in Tehran on July 16, 2022. - ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

Al-Monitor Staff

November 30, 2022

After two and a half months of protests leading to hundreds of deaths, including an especially high number of teenagers, Iran has continued to claim that foreign hands are behind the unrest in the country.

Gholam Reza Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Basij Organization, addressed the protests that began on Sept. 16 when a young woman died in police custody after being detained by the country’s morality police for her loose-fitting hijab. Soleimani said that Iran’s enemies, particularly the United States and Israel, have given up trying to confront Iran directly and are now “headed toward a hybrid war with the use of media and psychological war by deceiving the people of Iran.”

According to Soleimani, Iran has made great progress in the field of domestic production, in particular in the fields of energy, despite years of sanctions, and this poses a problem for the US hegemony. He added that 47 spy agencies are engaged in a “full-fledged hybrid war against the Islamic Republic.” The idea that the United States desires to topple the Islamic Republic due to the progress the country has made in the last four decades since the 1979 Islamic Revolution stems from comments made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has made those comments numerous times — especially since the protests began.

Soleimani did not go into detail about which countries are affiliated with the 47 spy agencies and did not explain the nature of the hybrid war in detail. There is no secret, though, that a number of media outlets are currently operating and airing their coverage in Iran. The most prominent one as of late is the Saudi Arabia-funded Iran International, which has sensationalist coverage and whose journalists offer more commentary than news on their social media accounts. Perhaps due to those reasons, and their strong funding, the outlet has attracted viewers. Iran’s military commanders and diplomats have issued multiple warnings to Saudi Arabia over their coverage.

In addition to the deaths in the protests, there have also been thousands of arrests. According to a statement by the judiciary, there have been more than 1,000 releases of prisoners, some of them related to the latest protests. The statement did not clarify how many of those individuals were arrested in relation to the protests. The statement made clear that individuals who attacked security personnel or destroyed public property in the protests “would not be forgiven and there will be no leniency.”

Also according to Iran’s judiciary, four individuals have been sentenced to death for cooperating with Israel’s spy agencies. The individuals, who were described as “thugs,” were involved in crimes such as kidnapping, robbery, and destruction of private and public property. The article claimed that the individuals received money electronically.

16.  Analysis | As Twitter defends its counterterror work, experts fear a spike under Musk

Analysis | As Twitter defends its counterterror work, experts fear a spike under Musk

The Washington Post · by Cristiano Lima · November 30, 2022

Happy Wednesday! Let’s help this tragic hairdo make a comeback. Send news and styling tips to:

Below: Twitter stops enforcing its covid-19 misinformation policy, and Tim Cook plans meetings in Washington. First:

As Twitter defends its counterterror work, experts fear a spike under Musk

Twitter and other social media platforms took to the Supreme Court this week to defend their efforts to police against terrorist content, arguing that a lawsuit alleging they bear responsibility for aiding a 2017 terrorist attack in Istanbul is meritless.

But as Twitter defends its past work to crack down on terrorism, there’s mounting concern among researchers that the company’s protections against violent extremism could be weakened under new owner Elon Musk.

In a pair of filings to the court on Tuesday, Twitter, Facebook and Google argued that a lower court erred in finding that they could be held liable for allegedly aiding and abetting the killing of a Jordanian citizen during an Islamic State attack by hosting the group online. The case is set to test what responsibility platforms bear to curb such content under anti-terrorism laws.

Twitter argued in its filing that the plaintiffs — the family of the victim — failed to show that the company substantially assisted in the attack itself, and that a company should not be held liable simply for knowing that “terrorist adherents” were among its userbase.

Twitter also cited its policies prohibiting the promotion of terrorist content and said that it has “terminated over 1.7 million accounts for violating those rules since August 2015.”

Experts on online extremism say those efforts are now up in the air under Musk, who has downsized the company’s content moderation teams and pledged to bring back a slew of suspended accounts.

Musk last week announced that the company would be providing a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts “provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” Musk has also said that “incitement to violence” will result in suspensions.

It’s unclear, however, how that policy may apply to accounts that were previously suspended under Twitter’s rules banning users that “threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism.” (Twitter, which gutted its communications team, and Musk did not respond to requests for comment.)

Researchers said that gaps in Musk’s stated amnesty plans could leave room for accounts engaged in radicalization or recruitment efforts that might not be illegal to make a comeback.

“A lot of terrorist content is about recruitment rather than calls to action … so that seems like a major gap in how they’re approaching it,” said Graham Brookie, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, a think tank that researches extremism.

While Twitter is defending its counterterror work in court, researchers said the company under Musk has yet to reaffirm its commitment to tackling the issue meaningfully.

“Musk's rhetoric on the issue and even a lot of the tweets that he's posted himself are clearly signaling either a disinterest or clearly a disengagement from counterterrorism,” said Pauline Moore, a political scientist at the Rand Corp. think tank.

The researchers said it’s still too early to assess the full impact Musk’s overhaul may have on the company’s counterterrorism efforts.

But one early analysis by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank found 450 Islamic State accounts on Twitter in the first 12 days after Musk’s takeover, “a 69 per cent increase over the previous 12 days.”

“There's some early data that shows that extremist actors are recognizing that they have an opportunity to get back onto a platform that they had had success on previously and then lost their foothold on over the last few years,” said William Braniff, director of the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

Even if Twitter’s counterterror and anti-extremism policies don’t change under Musk, Braniff said, his cuts to key content teams will probably mean more content goes undetected.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, signaled he shares that concern.

“I’m incredibly concerned about the impact of the significant reductions in Twitter’s content moderation workforce,” Warner said in a statement, adding that platforms "have a responsibility to protect their users and prevent their sites from becoming tools for spreading hate, facilitating scams, and allowing violent extremists and terrorists to cause injury and harm.”

Our top tabs

Elon Musk faces an uphill battle in his war against Apple

The Twitter owner needs Apple more than the phone maker needs him, Naomi Nix reports. Apple’s privacy plans could affect Musk’s targeted advertising ambitions, Apple gets a 30 percent fee from app sales, and Apple was even Twitter’s top advertiser in the first quarter.

Musk has called Apple’s App Store a “monopoly” and questioned whether the company supports censorship. He said Apple threatened to remove Twitter from its app store, which Apple hasn’t confirmed. Musk has also signaled that he plans to “go to war” with the company.

“If there’s one company for him not to pick a fight with in the world, it’s Apple, and he just poked the bear,” said Dan Ives, a financial analyst with Wedbush Securities. ”It’s just another head-scratching battle that Musk has waged since his ownership of Twitter.”

Twitter no longer enforcing covid misinformation policy, company says

The shift has worried some public health experts, who say it could make people less safe as the coronavirus continues to take a toll, Taylor Lorenz reports. It’s the latest pivot announced by the company in the wake of Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

“Twitter introduced its policy against covid misinformation in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic,” Taylor writes. “Since then, the company suspended more than 11,000 accounts and removed more than 100,000 pieces of content for violating the policy, according to a report from the company. Several high-profile figures ran afoul of the policy, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), whose personal account was suspended in January for violating the policy by casting doubt on the efficacy of the vaccines. Her account was reinstated last week.”

17.  How To Engage And Prevail In Political Warfare Against China – Analysis

How To Engage And Prevail In Political Warfare Against China – Analysis · by Hudson Institute · December 1, 2022 · by Hudson Institute · December 1, 2022

By Dr. John Lee*


In his report to the Twentieth National Congress of the Communist Party in October, Xi Jinping praised the progress made over the past decade under his leadership to advance the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation domestically and internationally. According to Xi, this is taking place in an era of “momentous changes of a like not seen in a century [and which] are accelerating across the world.”1 For Xi, these “great changes” comprise “a significant shift [that] is taking place in the international balance of power, presenting China with new strategic opportunities in pursuing development.”2

A pillar of Xi’s plan to realize the rejuvenation of China and to emerge as the preeminent nation in the region and beyond

is to shrink the strategic, military, economic, political, and normative ground in the region on which the United States can sustain, build, and demonstrate its power and influence. This is because China knows there is no material or nonmaterial counterbalance without the US. Additionally, the more China can weaken the resolve of US allies and other countries to support American-led initiatives to counter China and the credibility of the US-led alliance system, the smaller and weaker the ground for Washington to maintain its footholds in distant lands becomes, and the closer China draws to its goal of preeminence.

The Chinese plan relies on building unmatched “comprehensive national power,” or CNP, which China can use to seduce, compel, or coerce other nations.3 CNP has material and nonmaterial elements. Regarding the latter, Beijing places enormous emphasis on political warfare in the form of information and influence operations. The first three memos in this series on Chinese political warfare argue that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) makes no distinction between wartime and peacetime and believes it is engaged in a perpetual “struggle” against the West.4 Regarding political warfare, the previous memos noted that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) plays a central and often dominant role in leading doctrine and operations when it comes to informational and influence warfare.

The memos focus on the PLA’s Three Warfares framework, which consists of public opinion, psychological, and legal warfare. The Chinese intent is not merely to disrupt, confuse, or create mischief but to craft and control grand narratives. This tactic is extremely effective because such narratives determine how we reflexively interpret information and situations, what seems possible or not, what seems prudent rather than reckless, and what appears to be rational and in one’s long-term interest. Grand narratives determine how we think about a problem, issue, or development. In doing so, they predetermine the range of “reasonable” options and solutions that we believe are available.

The third memo examines the United States and Australian information and influence doctrine and operations, especially by the defense establishments. In these two democracies, the government has largely allowed the defense establishments to lead doctrine and capability for the information and influence elements of political warfare.

However, the US and Australia tend to apply their approach and interest in political warfare only to understand the relevance of information and influence operations during a military exchange and to give greater effect to a military action. They give much less thought and develop much less doctrine for information and influence operations in a nonmilitary context, thereby hampering allied efforts to compete with and counter China in the so-called grey zone—the space between peace and war where protagonists engage in competition and rivalry.

Moreover, when it comes to information and influence operations abroad, the US and allied nations tend to focus on countering and deterring Chinese actions that directly harm our interests.5 In principle and practice, existing policies and efforts fall well short of proactive engagement in information and influence operations, that is, of shaping psychological and cognitive frameworks in other countries in terms of how they understand and respond to US and allied policies and actions rather than only countering another country’s efforts.

As the first three memos argue, this is a serious deficiency in the allied setup when dealing with a China relying extensively on political warfare to achieve strategic and even military objectives in the grey zone, or with Chinese efforts to manipulate and expand the grey zone within which it can operate and thrive.6 The memos argue that Beijing’s cognitive and psychological capture of regional elites goes a long way toward explaining why most Southeast Asian countries seem reticent to defend their stated interests vis-à-vis China; why the Solomon Islands is leaning toward Beijing with profound strategic and military ramifications; and why such a lack of overt support for US actions, such as freedom of navigation operations, exists even though China is engaging in aggressive and illegal activities in the South and East China Seas. Material factors alone cannot account for these adverse trends. The nonmaterial drivers are at least as important. This is a reminder of why the US should not only engage in countering and deterring Chinese political warfare to limit Chinese gains but also seize the initiative by using information and influence operations to gain the strategic advantage.

Moreover, it is worth noting that developing information and influence warfare doctrine and capabilities for use in times

of peace and not just war is relatively inexpensive and has disproportionately significant impacts across the continuum of conflict, from peacetime to the grey zone to conflict. When it comes to achieving strategic and military objectives, one gets tremendous bang for one’s buck. Conversely, failing to give greater attention and resources to these nonmaterial elements will lead to a deteriorating strategic and military environment for the US and its allies.

This memo argues that the defense establishments in the US and Australia are best positioned to lead tactical and operational efforts abroad spanning the entire continuum, subject to appropriate whole-of-government strategic guidance, oversight, and ethical guidelines. Note that the whole-of-government process exists to both assist and enable the successful conduct of political warfare and not only to restrict such activities. This effort will require a significant mindset shift that sees battling for cognitive and psychological dominance as a legitimate strategic and national security activity in peacetime. The more emphasis the US and Australia place on nonmaterial warfare in the form of resources and capabilities, the more effective these nonmaterial capabilities will become in managing problems and threats across the entire continuum of conflict.

Competing along the Entire Continuum from Peace to War

When dealing with information operations, the American and Australian national security and defense communities recognize that the cognitive and psychological elements have important material and military effects. For example, the Pentagon adopts an increasingly comprehensive understanding of the information environment, saying that it consists of the aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, disseminate, or act on information.

A 2017 update on the information environment does state that it “comprises and aggregates numerous social, cultural, cognitive, technical, and physical attributes that act upon and impact knowledge, understanding, beliefs, world views, and ultimately actions of an individual, group, system, community, or organization.”7 Moreover, “human aspects frame why relevant actors perceive a situation in a particular way.”8

Australia mirrors the US approach by conceiving of the information environment as comprising the physical, informational, and human or cognitive.9 The more recent doctrinal iteration is that analysis of adversaries’ decision- making methods, their psychological strengths and weaknesses, and the nonmaterial elements that could cause them to alter or abandon their objectives are inherent elements of the environment and constitute a “critical factor”10 in determining whether the Australia Defence Force (ADF) and its allies can prevail.11

This provides a solid doctrinal basis to develop information and influence operations to counter China and advance national and allied objectives even if there are persistent accusations that the militaries of both countries treat these operations as optional adjuncts to enhance the intended effects of using military force.

However, and in the context of comprehensively competing with China, the crippling problem is that the US and Australia are conceiving these nonmaterial approaches only when war has been formally declared and military activities have commenced. While there is deep angst about Chinese political warfare and activities in the grey zone, there is also surprising and damaging preparedness to cede the advantage to China in defining and thriving in the grey zone when it comes to the cognitive and psychological contest. As we have become accustomed to drawing hard distinctions between peacetime and wartime, we act as if warfare can only occur after adversaries formally declare war or a kinetic exchange has begun.

One suspects that civilian democratic governments feel a deep reflexive discomfort about shaping the cognitive and psychological processes of targets except in the most extreme circumstances (i.e., formal war). This reluctance is based on complacency and ignorance.

It is complacent because it stems from the comfort one feels that liberalism and democracy have already won the historical battle so that engaging in such nonmaterial activities would be overkill. Meanwhile, as previous memos argue, China is winning the battle of grand narratives, which is causing nations and governments to make decisions against our interests.

It is ignorant because it ignores the reality that all human subjects require a framework and narrative to understand and process information and events to inform action. If nations and governments use CCP-designed frameworks and narratives, then they are more likely to choose actions that favor CCP objectives.

In short, the US and Australia seek to gain an ever deeper understanding of Chinese grey zone strategies and yet are ceding the grey zone to Beijing in this important respect.

The three previous memos aim to persuade leaders in the US and Australia that the risk and cost of ceding this ground are already immense. They now exceed the perceived risk and cost associated with engaging in information and influence proactive and counter operations in so-called peacetime.

The sections below offer some suggestions as to what a US and Australian approach to information and influence operations might look like.

The Contest of Grand Narratives

Previous policy memos explain that the core purpose of Chinese political warfare in the region (especially by the PLA) is not merely to disrupt or confuse but to define and control grand narratives. By doing so, it can exert extreme power because it circumscribes what is possible and impossible, dictates what is considered prudent rather than reckless, and defines what appears to be in one’s long-term interest. Grand narratives determine how we think about a problem, issue, or development. In doing so, they predetermine the range of “reasonable” options and solutions we believe are available— and therefore how one acts or responds.

  • The key CCP and PLA grand narratives are these:
  • Chinese dominance is the historical norm and is inevitable.
  • The objectives of the CCP are permanent and unchanging.
  • The CCP and PLA are fundamentally undeterrable and prepared to pay any price to achieve an expanding list of core objectives.
  • The US is an increasingly weak, unpredictable, and unreliable ally.

These grand narratives lead to the cognitive, psychological, ethical, and institutional predisposition to accept and internalize perspectives and alternatives that directly contradict and undermine the free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP). They weaken the will and resolve of nations to resist. Further, they persuade decision-makers that the escalatory advantage is with Beijing, that preparing for and winning a war against China is impossible and must be avoided at any cost, that resistance will lead to catastrophic isolation and abandonment by the US and other allies, and that it is better to come to an arrangement with Beijing sooner rather than later even if the terms are heavily in favor of China. For self-serving regimes and leaders seeking to resist external attempts to impose standards of transparency and accountability on actions, the Chinese grand narratives assure them that they can be successful and prosperous with Chinese assistance.

The US and its allies need their own grand narratives to shape the way the region thinks about what is happening and to rebut the Chinese framing. The FOIP does not achieve this. It speaks to the principles the US and its allies are promoting but does not reshape how stakeholder nations understand and interpret the structural dynamics and undercurrents shaping events. In other words, and unlike Chinese grand narratives,the FOIP does not reshape and influence the cognitive and psychological frameworks of nations and governments. A nation can agree with FOIP principles and still conclude that it is unwise to position itself on the wrong side of China’s irresistible rise.

In this context, the US and its allies need to accept that a proxy war in the region is well underway and China is already fighting it. The former nations need to engage by crafting and promoting grand narratives of their own. Their construction needs to be clear, consistent (among allies and within one’s own government), credible, pithy, and simple to serve as foundational cognitive and psychological frameworks that others can use to interpret events and information. They also need to be accurate and truthful to align with the higher ethical standards that democracies have to abide by.

Although such grand narratives should be a whole-of- government enterprise involving extensive consultation with allies, the US and its allies need not over-complicate the task. They need to directly counter and diminish the above Chinese grand narratives and offer alternative cognitive and psychological frameworks.

Responding to cognitive and psychological frameworks that lead to impressions of futility and ineffectiveness of US and allied actions to prevent Chinese preeminence is the highest priority. As a result, the US should consider the counternarratives listed in table 1.

Understanding the Political Warfare Landscape

As in any warfare or campaign, understanding the terrain is an essential task. In many regional countries that China has targeted, the CCP has applied cognitive and psychological capture to achieve elite capture as elites tend to exercise disproportionate power and influence in either developing economies or those with weak or nonexistent democratic institutions.

In this context, understanding the terrain means acquiring more information and intelligence on the extent to which Chinese political warfare efforts have shaped the cognitive and psychological frameworks of elites and the subsequent impacts on that country’s strategic culture and decision- making.

The second policy memo offers case studies on the impact of Chinese political warfare activities in Singapore, Thailand, and the Solomon Islands.12 While the influence of Chinese grand narratives is evident in all three countries, elites and institutions in all countries are sui generis, and the CCP and PLA are using specially tailored emphases and tactics to target them.

The US and its allies need to make country-specific assessments regarding the following:

  • Strategic dangers and opportunities in the target country or institution (contra what China is seeking to achieve).
  • The elites who matter in the target country, how they construct their political and personal interests, and how they apply such narratives when pursuing such interests.
  • Which Chinese narratives have taken root and are most compelling to the country’s elites in shaping their interpretation of, and responses to, events.
  • The extent to which Chinese narratives have shaped and changed the implementation of strategy in the country.

In making these assessments, the US will be in a stronger position to understand why an individual leader, government, or nation is making certain strategic decisions that cannot be adequately accounted for using a material cost-benefit analytical approach (i.e., a utilitarian approach that assumes countries make decisions according to an objective analysis of how they can maximize expected material gain and minimize material costs or losses).

In assessing the political warfare terrain, one should always remember that the purpose is not to simply put forward positive messages promoting US and allied perspectives, achievements, and activities, which is the general aim of normal diplomacy. The US needs to engage in information and influence operations to achieve specific strategic and even military objectives—or deny such objectives to China—by shaping the cognitive and psychological frameworks of elites in target countries. For example, one is seeking to shape or influence third-party cognitive or psychological responses to Chinese activities in the South China Sea or the South Pacific, third-party interpretations and therefore reactions to AUKUS or the Quad, or third-party responses to US deployment of B-52 bombers in Australia.

Critically, one should also remember that the US and its allies are not conducting political warfare against the target country but are engaged in political warfare against China in a chosen environment. In other words, while a government is seeking to influence the cognitive and psychological frameworks of elites in other states, it is conducting political warfare against Chinese efforts to do the same. In this sense, political warfare is proxy warfare that the US and its allies fight against China in a third-party environment. Rather than cynical or amoral manipulation of a target, such activities seek to offer a more accurate and compelling framework for governments and nations such that they are better disposed, cognitively and psychologically, to support the principles, aspirations, and requirements of advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

It is also worth noting that US and allied engagement in information and influence operations is different but complementary to existing measures to encourage more robust democratic and liberal institutions and practices in various countries. As previous policy memos note, Chinese attempts at regime and elite capture, including through political warfare, tend to work best when such institutions and practices are weak or lacking. Chinese material and nonmaterial approaches also tend to encourage elites to elevate and entrench their interests above those of the broader population and country.

In contrast, and in both the traditional diplomatic and political warfare contexts, US and allied approaches seek to encourage governing elites to prioritize the interests of the broader population and country over narrower interests. For this reason, there is no ethical tension between traditional US and allied diplomacy on the one hand, and willingness to engage in information and influence operations on the other hand.

Operationalizing Information and Influence Warfare

Governments do not add content to and propagate grand narratives successfully by simply pronouncing such narratives in high-profile speeches or media releases. They have to weave the narratives into, or support them with, a constant and purposeful flow of information based on evolving events, policies, and developments. Below are some suggested principles for waging successful information and influence warfare.

Detail Aligned with Narrative

The US cannot simply issue statements that “China is a lonely great power” or “the US and its allies have enormous leverage over China.” Instead, it needs to tie these narratives to specific events and developments, many of which will not be obviously related to our desired narrative.

For example, the CCP and PLA will seize on Chinese technological or military achievements to reinforce the perception that Chinese preeminence is inevitable and the eclipse of the US and the West is at hand. Messages might not have an overt geopolitical tone but have consistency and intent in their crafting that links them to the preferred narrative, which others can infer.

The US and its allies need to do the same. We tend to treat information as if we are simply conveying facts that have no greater geopolitical or strategic impact or significance to the regional recipient. Instead, we should use facts to inspire countries and their elites to draw our desired inferences.

Moreover, rather than playing down advances in our technological capabilities, the US deployment of B-52s in Australia, or a new assistance package to a nation in Southeast Asia or the South Pacific, we should instead proactively craft and issue messages based on events and developments that underpin our desired narratives.

We also need to take advantage of evolving developments to shape how countries in the Indo-Pacific interpret them. For example, the ongoing problems with the Chinese residential property market are not just of commercial interest. The property sector’s woes relate to fundamental political economic weaknesses that the CCP’s ever-tighter control over the economy has created and exacerbated.13 We should tirelessly present this credible interpretation of flawed CCP economic stewardship to the region.

In short, we should examine every national or policy initiative, development, or achievement and assess its usefulness in advancing information or influence warfare objectives against a China doing the same against the US and its allies.


The CCP employs a whole-of-government and even a whole- of-nation approach to be the first to the microphone to convey its messages.14 First impressions (cognitive and psychological) matter. As time is of the essence, the CCP and PLA are relentlessly refining their tactical and operational procedures to allow them to respond rapidly to evolving events, set the conversation and agenda, and frame developments according to grand narratives.

The US and its allies have made poor efforts at seeking to be the first to shape cognitive and psychological impressions of events and developments. We have often found ourselves in the position of having to refute Chinese versions and interpretations after they have taken root in the region. This is a losing approach.

Instead, we need to react as or immediately after an initiative, development, or achievement occurs. US and allied messages need to gain the first-mover advantage whenever possible to frame how regional elites and populations think about or interpret an initiative, development, or achievement.

This means designating teams whose sole purpose is to engage in information and influence operations on the ground in key political warfare locations and who are always ready to act or respond. They will not be the usual media and engagement officers in embassies and consulates unless these officers are specifically trained to engage in constant combative but nonmaterial political warfare activities and have developed the institutional mindset to do so.

Persistence, Presence, and Repetition

Information and influence operations are a relentless activity. Even if one gains the first-mover advantage, one needs to repeat and spread one’s message relentlessly in different forms and platforms.

As marketing experts will attest, a repeated messaging campaign with accurate and compelling information creates a sense of familiarity in the receiver that has a higher chance of eventually convincing them of the campaign’s credibility and truthfulness.

This is another reason the US and its allies need dedicated information and influence operations teams whose sole purpose is to engage in such relentless campaigns. We cannot leave such activities to officers preoccupied with traditional diplomatic and media roles, in which political warfare is an afterthought.

It should also be noted that the greater the utilization of different platforms in the information environment (e.g., print media, television, social media, blogs, etc.), the more effective and entrenched the messaging becomes. For example, the CCP has achieved much with the persistent repetition and growing presence of disinformation, including multiple forms of messaging that its systematic oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang is both exaggerated by the West and better understood as a “counterterrorism” measure.15

Though the US and its allies should use a whole-of- government approach, they cannot and should not seek to replicate the Chinese whole-of-nation system in which the CCP exerts control and censorship over traditional and social media outlets and content. Neither can we control what third- party and private commentators and social media users write or say.

However, we can seek to acquire the first-mover advantage in releasing accurate and relevant facts and interpretations

of them to credible reporters, social media users, and other platforms and outlets. There is no guarantee that third-party entities will offer a favorable account or interpretation that aligns with our preferred narratives. However, early and persistent engagement with third-party entities and platforms through the provision of accurate and compelling information has a better chance of inspiring third parties and independent platforms to shape the subsequent conversation in ways that are more consistent with our preferred narrative. Indeed, the effectiveness of political warfare by democratic nations will depend heavily on third-party entities freely choosing to propagate accurate, compelling, and plausible accounts and viewpoints.

This is relentless and exhausting work requiring significant resources. But it is far better than belatedly responding to an alternative Chinese narrative when the latter has already taken hold in the region.

Delegation of Tactical and Operational Authority

Even within the narrower context of military action, Western nations tend to believe that key information and influence activities must first seek approval from high levels in the chain of command during the campaign. When applied to the grey zone, this approach will not work.

Setting key grand narratives is properly a whole-of-government activity that should be agreed to at the highest levels. Once that is done, there needs to be a devolution of tactical authority to dedicated political warfare teams within relevant agencies and to dedicated teams on the ground in high- priority countries.

This delegation is required because effective information and influence operations need to be immediate, responsive, agile, creative, opportunistic, and relentless. Political warfare teams need delegated authority to engage in the above tactical and operational activities without lengthy and cumbersome approval processes.

Devolving tactical and operational control will cause political, civilian, and military leaders some anxiety. Teams will make mistakes and poor decisions. Some messages could be contradictory. However, the alternative is the greater danger and cost of effectively vacating the political warfare space and allowing China to fill it. Centralized control will prevent US and allied teams from responding quickly or creatively to relentless CCP and PLA campaigns or achieving a first- mover advantage in shaping responses and reactions to developments.

Moreover, even without devolution of tactical and operational authority, those higher in the chain of command will certainly make errors of commission and omission. Leaders will have less context and understanding of nuances in the information and influence terrain, or of on-the-ground conditions that ought to shape tactical and operational decisions. There is the additional disadvantage that teams are more likely to blindly replicate errors throughout and down the system as occurs in centralized models of decision-making.

In summary, there are considerably more upsides than downsides to adopting a devolved approach to tactical and operational decision-making in the battle for cognitive and psychological advantage. This policy memo further argues that effectively engaging in political warfare is impossible without a decentralized structure for tactical and operational decision-making. Senior political, civilian, or military leaders can still assess the effectiveness of tactical and operational decisions, their alignment with the preferred grand narratives, or whether such narratives are advancing strategic or military objectives.

Strategic Alignment and Combined Tactical/Operational Teams

A major strategic goal of Chinese political warfare is to either weaken US alliances or dilute the credibility and standing

of the US-led alliance system. For this reason, it is critical that the US and key regional allies (such as Japan and Australia) align their grand narratives and broader messaging strategies.

Building on their existing intelligence and military intimacy and interoperability, the US and Australia should consider even closer cooperation in the form of tactical and operational teams with individuals from both countries. At the least, both countries can experiment with joint or merged teams.

Alignment in the tactical and operational aspects between the two Indo-Pacific countries most committed to responding to Chinese political warfare is an obvious virtue, especially in key battlegrounds such as Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Moreover, the existence of joint or merged teams means that members from one country can immediately raise red flags when they believe a tactical or operational error is imminent or suggest refinements to an existing approach. Joint or merged teams reduce the likelihood that US information and influence actions undermine Australian priorities and risk tolerances, and vice versa.

Political Warfare and the Defense Establishment

Understanding the political warfare landscape or terrain, selecting key geographies to compete in, identifying strategic and military objectives, and crafting preferred grand narratives are whole-of-government activities that leaders should agree to at the highest levels. The intelligence and diplomatic functions need to play a major shaping role in this context.

Setting the rules of engagement at the tactical and operational levels and developing relevant ethical frameworks and standards are also whole-of-government enterprises. The less obvious question is the role of various government agencies and entities in executing information and influence warfare at the tactical and operational levels.

Some might argue that since the primary purpose of the defense establishment is fighting and winning traditional wars, it should not be heavily involved in activities that have not crossed the threshold of traditional conflict. The first part of the preceding sentence is uncontroversially true, but the second part does not necessarily follow.

Chinese political warfare in the grey zone is designed to advance strategic and often military objectives, without the need to use force or to render subsequent military action more effective. In this context, we should not equate information and influence warfare with usual diplomatic or public relations activities. As in all warfare, the framework is a competitive

one in which a country is advancing specific objectives by weakening or eliminating resistance and seeking relative gains at the expense of an identified enemy. This is why the CCP and PLA engage in political warfare and what the US and its allies are seeking to counter.

Words have strategic and military ramifications and are weapons in this type of warfare. In this context, political warfare shares many characteristics with traditional warfare:

  • The object is to achieve strategic or military aims by weakening resistance or bringing about submission.
  • The conflict is enduring at the strategic level and relentless at the tactical and operational levels. Like traditional war, the information and influence war involves constant strikes and counterstrikes to advance a country’s objective.
  • It is critical to be prepared and in a state of constant readiness to respond to an adversary’s actions or proactively strike when opportunities arise.
  • Giving a belated or inadequate response, or opting out of the contest, cedes the advantage to the adversary and enables further Chinese psychological or cognitive capture of the target.

To be sure, there are differences with traditional war. Importantly, there is no endpoint or declaration of victory or acceptance of defeat. The struggle is a perpetual one of advancing the US and its allies’ cognitive and psychological framework at the expense of China’s. Nevertheless, the ongoing contest and campaigns to achieve information and influence dominance exhibit many similarities to warlike activity for the reasons above. It therefore makes sense for the defense establishment to assume a central role when it comes to the tactical and operational activities of political warfare in the grey zone, as it does when formal war is occurring.

As argued in previous memos, the defense establishment is already far more advanced than other departments and agencies in developing concepts of information and influence warfare, albeit still in the context of giving greater effect to military action in a traditional war. While strategic objectives and ethical rules of engagement are broader activities led by political and civilian leaders across government, it would also be sensible for the defense establishment to take a leading role in developing tactical and operational doctrine and concepts associated with political warfare in the grey zone.

The defense establishment is also in the best position to lead the tactical and operational approach of, and implementation by, the relevant political warfare department, section, unit, or team engaging in information and influence operations abroad—that is, the on-the-ground conduct of political warfare. Such political warfare entities would also include those from the intelligence and diplomatic functions. But combative tactical and operational activities against anadversary are more suited to the warfighting mindset and training provided to the defense establishment than to the usual diplomats or intelligence officers.

Note that the US Department of Homeland Security takes the lead in countering foreign information and influence operations within the US with assistance from policing and intelligence services such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This should remain the case. This policy memo concerns policy warfare abroad and is not suggesting that the US and its allies should conduct information and influence operations on their own populations. Correcting disinformation and dismantling covert influence activities by foreign entities in one’s own country is not the same as conducting political warfare elsewhere.

Finally, the defense establishment has the preexisting institutional setup and resources to oversee on-the-ground operations, while other arms of government, such as intelligence and the diplomatic services, do not.


The four policy memos in this series look at the high emphasis Beijing places on information and influence warfare to

achieve its strategic and military goals and the leading role of the PLA in these activities, especially the use of strategic narratives to achieve psychological and cognitive dominance in target countries. They also detail some of the significant successes of Chinese psychological and influence operations in the region and the high price of US and allied reluctance and slowness to engage in political warfare to advance its objectives.

This final policy memo argues that information and influence activities abroad ought to be a key element of US and allied national security policy. While political leaders and civilian entities, such as diplomatic and intelligence agencies, should work with the defense establishment to derive political warfare strategic objectives and narratives, the defense establishment should take a leading role in the tactical and operational execution of political warfare abroad.

Having developed appropriate strategic narratives, the US and its allies need to attach and relate these to national security, defense, aid and assistance, trade, industry, and technology policies to achieve psychological and cognitive dominance over China in target nations and to effectively counter Chinese efforts to do the same. Conversely, the US and its allies need to ensure national security, defense, aid and assistance, trade, and technological policies align as much as possible with the strategic narratives they seek to entrench. The US and its allies also need the political warfare infrastructure and the tactical and operational nous and capabilities to enter the grey zone battlefield and execute political warfare strategy.

A key difference between Chinese political warfare and the measures I propose in these memos is that US and allied efforts do not engage in disinformation or deception. Instead, the propagation of credible and compelling strategic narratives complemented by accurate information regarding our actions, intentions, and capabilities is consistent with our liberal democratic ethical standards. Of course, this puts the onus on the US and its allies to pursue strategically sensible military, economic, and technology policies. Whereas China usually aims to confound and confuse the receiver or to achieve psychological or cognitive capture of elites, we intend to illuminate, reassure, and give courage and purpose to those in the region who are willing to support the US and allied offering of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The US and its allies continue to enjoy considerable and even decisive leverage and advantages in the region vis-à- vis China.16 Getting others in the region to adopt a mindset concomitant with this assessment is a necessary step for the US and its allies to ensure that Chinese insistence on the inevitability of its success is unfounded.

*About the author: Dr. John Lee is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute

Source: This article was published by the Hudson Institute


  1. Xi Jinping, “Transcript: President Xi Jinping’s Report to China’s 2022 Party Congress,” Nikkei Asia Review, October 16, 2022, President-Xi-Jinping-s-report-to-China-s-2022-party-congress.
  2. Xi, “Report to China’s 2022 Party Congress.”
  3. See Timothy R. Heath, Derek Grossman, and Asha Clark, China’s Quest for Global Primacy: An Analysis of Chinese International and Defense Strategies to Outcompete the United States (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2021), dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RRA400/RRA447-1/RAND_ RRA447-1.pdf.
  4. See John Lee, “Chinese Political Warfare: The PLA’s Information and Influence Operations,” Hudson Institute policy memo, June 2022, PLA_Info_Infl_Ops_Memo_Lee_FINAL.pdf; Lee, “Chinese Influence and Information Warfare in Asia and the Pacific,” Hudson Institute policy memo, September 2022, John+Lee.pdf; Lee, “An Assessment of US and Allied Information and Influence Warfare,” Hudson Institute policy memo, October 2022, fare+-+John+Lee.pdf.
  5. For example, the US Department of State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) was created by Executive Order 13721 in April 2016 and subsequently codified in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. The GEC’s mandate is to “lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining U.S. national security interests.” Subsequent actions have focused on exposing foreign disinformation, preventing Russian interference in democratic elections abroad, and demonstrating the dangers to other nations of policies such as China’s Belt and Road Initia- tive (in the form of creating “debt traps.”) See Center for Strategic and International Studies, By Other Means—Part II: Adapting to Compete in the Grey Zone (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), pete-gray-zone.
  6. As the second policy memo argued, “whereas Western analysts observe that the PLA is operating in the ‘grey zone,’ the PLA is concomitant with this assessment is a necessary step for the US and its allies to ensure that Chinese insistence on the inevitability of its success is unfounded. instead redefining and expanding this grey zone by manipulating how other countries think about it. . . . With respect to this so- called grey zone, a cost-benefit analysis with both objective and subjective elements typically determines an entity’s decision to respond with military force. For example, crafting narratives about the PLA’s military superiority, elite capture, ability to foment dis- unity within a target country, or normalization of Chinese coercion raises our threshold of what demands a military response—there- by expanding the grey zone within which the PLA and CCP are allowed to operate” (1–2).
  7. Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Joint Operations,” Joint Publication 3-0, US Department of Defense, October 22, 2018, doddir/dod/jp3_0.pdf.
  8. Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Joint Operations.”
  9. Robert S. Ehlers Jr. and Patrick Blannin, “Making Sense of the Information Environment,” Small Wars Journal, March 3, 2020, vironment#:~:text=To%20be%20useful%2C%20information%20 must,over%20targeted%20individuals%20and%20groups.
  10. See Angus J. Campbell, Australian Defence Force Procedures 5.0.1 (Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2019), tary_appreciation_process_ed2_al3_1.pdf. “Critical factors” make up a “center of gravity” analysis that allows one to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a threat.
  11. Campbell, Australian Defence Force Procedures 5.0.1.
  12. Lee, “Chinese Influence and Information Warfare in Asia and the Pacific.”
  13. See John Lee, Understanding and Countering China’s Approach to Economic Decoupling from the United States (Washington, DC: Hudson Institute, 2022),’s+Approach+Eco- nomic+Decoupling+United+States+-+John+Lee.pdf.
  14. See George I. Seffers, “China First to the Microphone on Info Ops,” Signal, March 4, 2021, na-first-microphone-info-ops.
  15. See Jessica Brandt, Bret Schafer, Elen Aghekyan, Valarie Wirtschafter, and Adya Danaditya, Winning the Web: How Beijing Exploits Search Results to Shape Views of Xinjiang and COVID-19 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2022), https://www. na_seo_v2.pdf; Uyghur Human Rights Project, The Happiest Muslims in the World: Disinformation, Propaganda, and the Uyghur Crisis (Washington, DC: UHRP, 2020),
  16. See Lee, Understanding and Countering China’s Approach. · by Hudson Institute · December 1, 2022

1​7.​  Information Warfare Can Turn Russians Against Putin

Can we make use of IW's full potential? Can we learn to lead with influence?

What is the major difference in the views of conflict, strategy, and campaigning between China, Russia, Iran, nK, AQ, and ISIS and the US?

The psychological takes precedence and may or may not be supported with the kinetic

Politics is war by other means

For the US kinetic is first and the psychological is second

War is politics by other means

Easier to get permission to put a hellfire on the forehead of terrorist than to put an idea between his ears

Napoleon: In war, the moral is to the physical as three is to one

In the 21st Century the psychological is to the kinetic as ten is to one

The US has to learn to put the psychological first

Can a federal democratic republic “do strategy” this way?

Or is it only autocratic, totalitarian dictatorships that can “do strategy” this way?

An American Way of Political Warfare: A Proposal

Information Warfare Can Turn Russians Against Putin

It is time the West make use of information warfare’s full potential to split Vladimir Putin from his supporters.

The National Interest · by Julian Spencer-Churchill · December 1, 2022

Despite Russian president Vladimir Putin’s 83 percent approval rating, his deceptions about losses in Ukraine and gradual increases in the costs of sanctions make him vulnerable to a Western campaign of information warfare. Putin must now deliver victory or face being removed. Skeptics warn that any perceived foreign interference in Russian society will trigger a defensive nationalism that neutralizes any of the effects of Western-influenced agitation. They will highlight the consistent failure of contemporary psychological warfare units in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and will point to NATO’s collective indifference toward learning about Islamic political culture as a cause that led to those failures.

In March 2022, the war in Ukraine increased support for Putin from 69 to 83 percent. These numbers are similar to when Russia attacked Georgia in 2008 and seized Crimea in 2014, though support dipped temporarily as a result of partial conscription in October. Overwhelmingly, Russians see the war in Ukraine as defensive and preemptive of a worsening situation as NATO expanded east. While some analysts believe these estimates of Russian approval are accurate, the values need to be broken down into five contexts.

The Anatomy of Putin’s Public Support

First, Russia’s political culture is one of conformed non-participation, with up to 75 percent of respondents refusing to answer surveys, undermining the validity of the published figures. Structured surveys have shown that Russians misrepresent their true beliefs in polls, primarily out of concern for their personal safety.

Second, while 90 percent of those over the age of sixty-five support Putin, of those under thirty-five years of age, only a third feel national pride. Twenty-seven percent of the Russian population believes that the country is proceeding in the wrong direction. Putin’s poll numbers are actually soft because he is politically vulnerable across five dimensions. First, his regime has lied about Russian battlefield deaths in Ukraine. Second, he has staked his reputation on winning a war that he is currently losing. About half of those who support Putin do so out of negative feelings, meaning insecurity. They will turn against him if he cannot produce victory in Ukraine.

Third, the Russian economy is officially in a recession and the long-term economic and demographic prospects of Russia are grim. Fourth, as a symbol of Russian nationalism, Putin is enjoying a temporary rally-around-the-flag boost to his popularity. Fifth, and most importantly, he violated the Russian social contract of not imposing costs on Russian citizens when he called up conscripts, in exchange for them not becoming involved in politics. Furthermore, support for conscription has largely been maintained, despite false inducements promised by Moscow, through a native nationalism that will erode as casualties rise.

Certainly, any Western public diplomacy, to be credible, must acknowledge security concerns that are grounded in Russia’s fairly regular experience of predatory invasions from Central Europe. Implied threats to Russian geography or security and appeals to human rights issues or democracy will not resonate with more than a minority of the population. Any attempt to discredit the Russian leadership will fail from the beginning, as Putin will identify it with a conspiratorial NATO and anti-family cultural wokism. Putin will also gain succor from right-wing cultural supporters in the West, though this will be temporary, and it is the initial cost of pushing political self-reflection on the Russian people. Russians under thirty years old are almost ripe for civil disobedience if they do not already passively reject their government’s policies. Any information operation content must be careful not to unite the mainstream with either the political elite or the far right. There are three issues of an information warfare campaign that need to be addressed: the message, the means, and the blowback.

Conducting Information Warfare in Russia

The twofold use of information warfare centers around manipulating the trust conditions affecting cooperation between different groups, termed “collective action” by Nobel-prize winning University of Chicago professor Mancur Olson.

First, information can be disseminated to provide a collective action solution for groups otherwise divided due to mistrust. For example, soldiers could be prodded to revolt against incompetent commanders, signaling widespread disaffection amongst conscripts with their battalion-level officers. Parents of fallen soldiers, those at least not seeking solace in revenge, could be encouraged to demonstrate publicly. Otherwise, isolated ethnic communities, targeted for conscription, like the Buryats, Chechens, and Bashkirs, could be incited to counter-mobilize.

Second, mistrust can be sown around the leadership by identifying and suggesting the disloyalty of selective individuals and factions that pose a threat to Putin’s control, either to provoke his paranoia or to incite a preemptive reaction from factions concerned about being purged by him. The gangsterized intelligence organizations, the Rosgvardia paramilitaries, the weak but wealthy oligarchs contributing to Russia’s economic recession, the anti-democratic state bureaucrats, and bandwagoning political parties would be the key targets of this information operation.

Third, mistrust can be sown between the general population and the leadership by emphasizing what Stanford University professor James Fearon called “audience costs.” These are the costly-to-reverse promises Putin has made to the Russian people about not imposing costs on them. Conscription, battle deaths, increased work hours for wartime industries, defeats in Ukraine, and the worsening economy, erode the level of popular deference to his rule, which may matter if there is a leadership crisis.

However, this will produce a chaotic rather than a manipulable outcome and is hazardous for three reasons: First, it risks replacing Putin with an aggressive and competent military leader, termed the Thermidorian Reaction by revolution scholar Crane Brinton, describing Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power out of the chaos of wartime France in 1794. Second, Putin could be replaced by a risk-prone right-wing ideologue more willing to take drastic steps, such as the use of nuclear weapons. (Politico proposed twelve possible replacements, of which four are Putin’s choice, four replace him involuntarily, and four emerge out of a military coup.) Finally, Putin could be replaced by someone with greater competence in domestic politics and diplomacy. The British operation to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, Adolf Hitler’s putative successor, was in part due to his anticipated proficiency and longevity in power.

Choosing which champions to protect and which to manipulate will involve highly contentious debates within Western intelligence and psychological warfare organizations. For example, will Alexei Navalny be spared or held in reserve, given his alleged association with right-wing movements? The political science literature on regime-type transitions from authoritarian to democratic systems has found that almost all new governments retain factional members from the previous regime, so no new leader can be expected to be entirely innocent of association with Putin.

In 2022, 64 percent of Russians get their news from television, which is primarily state-directed, as compared with 39 percent from social media, and 32 percent from online media. Since March, Moscow has severely limited the reach of Russia’s and Ukraine’s internet to alternate sources of information, especially regarding the war. Eighty-five percent of Russians (124 million) have access to the internet and 80 percent followed an Instagram account outside of Russia before it was blocked in March. However, only 30 percent of Russians have access to a VPN.

Western intelligence services planting disruptive anti-Putin information on internet servers outside of Russia will require the cooperation of private operators but can do so easily through mechanisms like anonymous networks like TOR or I2P, mesh networks (which facilitated peer-peer communication during the 2020 Hong Kong protests), or software circumvention tools that do not rely on third-party VPN servers (proxies or rerouting programs), if Russia does not disable the enabling nodes.

Against the dissemination of anti-regime information on servers within Russia, Russia’s internet and media regulator, Roskomnadzor, can (and previously has) censor, slow down, or otherwise modify network traffic by keyword filtering, data packet inspection (DPI), DNS redirecting, or IP blocking. States can hide their censorship tactics by displaying error or other messages to users that make it seem as if they are experiencing network difficulties instead of censorship. These techniques are accessible and have been employed by countries like CubaSaudi Arabia, Iran, and North Korea.

Countries can physically disconnect their people from the internet by ordering ISPs to shut down access for a particular region, as often demonstrated by Iran, or modify internet protocols to complicate outside access. However, Russia’s internet operates through primarily Western-owned undersea cables, which would sever connections with its overseas developing world allies, like Syria. Russia’s internet connection to China or Iran could also be hijacked by Western agencies or already-planted programs could be propagated by anti-regime Russians, to coordinate internally using a private citizen hotline channel like those used on the Chinese network Weibo.

Individuals can theoretically bypass the censored network completely by connecting to the internet via a satellite phone or other satellite communication capabilities (like Starlink). WiFi balloons have also been deployed during emergency humanitarian missions to provide remote areas with an internet connection that cannot be blocked without the use of mobile jammers or air defense. Digital Radio Free Europe equivalents are possible although they may be jammed. The United States has broadcast-capable EC-130J aircraft that can facilitate communications over AM, FM, HF, and military communication bands, and could even break into television communications. There have been a number of Western initiatives, such as the Alliance for the Future of the Internet, but there is no overarching organization yet.


The essential problem is that authoritarian regimes guard access to their populations because they depend on propaganda, coercion, and creating a collective action problem for their political opposition. While any Western campaign of information warfare might not be decisive in bringing about a positive outcome in Ukraine, it might be critical in that it manipulates public sentiment more cheaply than any other instrument. If the campaign produces any effect, Russia may feel compelled to retaliate kinetically against the West if it believes domestic agitation is being instigated from abroad. Coming between a dictator and their audience will be highly provocative to a nuclear-armed autocracy and require vigilant Western deterrence. Russia and China have already engaged in targeted social media campaigns and the dissemination of disinformation, in particular against Georgia, Ukraine, the United States, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and more. The scale of this threat may lead them to align critical aspects of their disinformation operations.

Western liberalism is the world’s new revolutionary movement, casting aside both traditional and authoritarian regimes in countries with emerging middle classes. So far, Western governments have recognized this critical weakness in Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, and have withheld their equivalent of a nuclear option—which is active information warfare—to disrupt these societies’ confidence in their leaders. Both Russia and China are vulnerable to the fact that a segment of their populations born in the post-Cold War era have modern sentiments which are averse to authoritarianism, traditional religion, and war, while being adept at exploiting the modern information-based economy and paradoxically providing the fighting-age soldiery for the military.

Dr. Julian Spencer-Churchill is associate professor of international relations at Concordia University, and author of Militarization and War (2007) and of Strategic Nuclear Sharing (2014). He has published extensively on Pakistan security issues and arms control, and completed research contracts at the Office of Treaty Verification at the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, and the then Ballistic Missile Defense Office (BMDO). He has also conducted fieldwork in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Egypt, and is a consultant. He is a former Operations Officer, 3 Field Engineer Regiment, from the latter end of the Cold War to shortly after 9/11.

Touraj Riazi has previously advised Ontario’s President of the Treasury Board, Minister Responsible for Digital and Data Transformation, Minister of Finance, and was a manager for Ontario's first Minister Responsible for Digital Government. He specializes in the technologies of digital transformation, cyber security, artificial intelligence, defence, and global economics.

Image: Reuters.

The National Interest · by Julian Spencer-Churchill · December 1, 2022

18. Protests in China, Iran

Protests in China, Iran

The Korea Times · December 1, 2022

By Donald Kirk

Protests in China and Iran come as a surprise. One would have thought those bastions of authoritarian rule would have been almost the last places on Earth where dissidents would defy the systems in which they exist. The dictators at the top of the ruling structures of both countries count on their security forces to round up the miscreants and on their courts to mete out drastic sentences, including death.

The fact that China President Xi Jinping has had to repress demonstrations in both the capital, Beijing, and the business and industrial center, Shanghai, would have seemed unimaginable as he began a third five-year term as general secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Now images of the bloody crackdown on protestors in Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing in June 1989 come to mind.

Iran is in even worse trouble. The forces upholding the rule of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have killed several hundred mostly young people in a wave of unrest that's been going on for months. Ostensibly, the protest was triggered by the fatal beating of a young woman caught violating the strict Islamic dress code. Now the protests have escalated into calls for the end of a regime that's just as harsh as that of the U.S.-backed Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, overthrown in 1979.

In China, outrage focuses on the strict restraints imposed in the struggle to stop the spread of COVID-19. Authorities have quarantined entire communities in their ongoing response to the disease, which broke out in Wuhan in 2019. As in Iran, a single episode sparked the protests, the death of ten people who died in a fire in the remote city of Urumqi, in Xinjiang Province, after fire engines were delayed getting to the scene by barriers set up to combat COVID.

In both China and Iran, the protests have to be welcomed by Washington. The Chinese aren't going beyond rhetoric in their claims to the independent island province of Taiwan. President Xi, orchestrating a campaign to repress the protesters, has to focus on problems at home. The sight of signs calling for his ouster shows the weakness of his rule beneath external displays of bravado.

But what about North Korea? How is it that Kim Jong-un has been able to maintain such tight control over his people, many of them hungry, living in poverty as they face another harsh winter? Is there absolutely no chance of unrest finally flaring up against his brutal rule?

The answer, as it's been for the entire history of the Kim dynasty, going back to the installation of Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, by the Soviet Union after the Japanese surrender in 1945, is almost certainly no. No one is perceiving overt hints of opposition to his rule even though some of his impoverished citizens have got to be unhappy. He's been so successful at tightening his northern borders along the Yalu (Amnok) and Tumen rivers with China that we're not even hearing much from the few defectors who somehow are making it to the South.

In comparison to North Korea, China and Iran seem almost like free countries. It's virtually inconceivable, given the depth of domestic espionage in North Korea, of colleagues informing on colleagues, of neighbors spying on neighbors, to imagine anyone risking death by breathing a word of protest against the regime.

But aren't people in North Korea at all aware of what's happening in China? Don't they get the news by tuning into illicit broadcasts or via highly risky mobile phone connections? Thousands of North Koreans live and work legally, with full authorization, in the Chinese city of Dandong, across the river from Sinuiju, the major North Korean city facing China. Although Chinese authorities are stifling news of what's going on, some of these people must have gotten wind of trouble in cities elsewhere.

But maybe China's troubles are good news for Kim Jong-un. Xi and Kim have exchanged messages pledging to work more closely than ever for their mutual benefit. Xi may be less likely to pressure Kim into holding off on another nuclear test while worrying about simmering unrest at home. Maybe he'll throw in more shipments of food and other vital supplies and totally forget about U.N. sanctions against the North for its nuclear and missile tests.

For sure, Xi will be just as anxious as Kim to stop the disease of civil disobedience from spreading into North Korea. And Kim will keep his fiefdom as tightly shielded from the Chinese as he's been to block the spread of COVID-19 into North Korea since closing his borders at the first sign of the pandemic nearly three years ago.

Donald Kirk,, writes from Seoul as well as Washington.

The Korea Times · December 1, 2022

19. Taiwan’s military not remotely ready for a China invasion

I routinely hear a China expert ask how we can consider defending Taiwan when it has not made a sufficient effort to defend itself? Does it really have the will?

Taiwan’s military not remotely ready for a China invasion

Taiwanese have the will to defend themselves but desperately need a whole-of-society approach to preparedness · by Claire Tiunn · December 2, 2022

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, Taiwanese polls indicated that, should the People’s Republic of China attack Taiwan, 74% of Taiwanese citizens were willing to defend the island. The question is not if they will fight, but rather how prepared they are.

In Taiwan, all men are conscripted into the military. But the period of service has been shortened in recent decades – from the original two years to one year as of 2008 and now, since 2018, to just four months.

Yet, with the Ukraine invasion and the Chinese military drills following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to Taiwan, the reality of war is inching closer. Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said in late March that Taiwan is considering extending the compulsory military service.

If Taiwan is truly committed to defending itself against the People’s Liberation Army, discussions should consider not only duration but also how to reform the activities associated with conscription. To learn more, I spoke with young Taiwanese men about their experiences in the military and problems in Taiwan’s defense.

A shared pessimism, a fractured relationship

The interviewees included some men who had served the standard four months of military service and some who had completed the 12-day replacement service – an alternative option for men who have physical or mental health issues, dependent families or low-income households.

Replacement soldier service is fairly common: In 2021, 17% of men from Kaohsiung City enlisted in the replacement service instead of the standing military reserve service.

Within this cohort, there is a shared sense of pessimism. “If we had to be on the frontlines, we definitely did not have enough preparation. People just didn’t take it seriously,” one said. That is a sentiment that all the men seemed to share.

Where did this “unseriousness” toward conscription arise and how does Taiwanese society reinforce it?

Soldiers wearing face masks to guard against Covid-19 listen to an address by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen during her visit to a military base in Tainan, southern Taiwan, on April 9. Photo: AFP / Sam Yeh

There are some fixable but neglected problems reflected by my interviewees: broken practice equipment, 50-year-old guns, prolonged periods of sitting around doing nothing.

Society as a whole also does not prioritize military readiness. “The way people talk about the military just doesn’t feel that serious,” one of the men reflected. “People liken it to summer camp, or something to do between summers in college. If you took it seriously, it’s almost funny.”

For young Taiwanese men in the military, there is a jarring cognitive dissonance between their political and military stance.

Men in the military tend to be vocally against Beijing, Xi Jinping, and the People’s Liberation Army. In 2020, the Pew Research Center observed that Taiwanese between ages 18-29 are less likely to support closer economic or political ties with China when compared with their older counterparts.

However, anti-PRC sentiment does not motivate these men, or the wider society, to make sacrifices to defend their republic, nor does it translate into increased alertness toward PRC threats or investment into defenses.

In the military, an invasion by the PLA “is never a topic of discussion,” one interviewee said. Another lamented, “Of course, everyone knows that the threat from China has always existed, but they think that it’s only in the news. They don’t know that it’s coming.”

For one thing, the bias toward optimism clouds understanding of war. Taiwan clings to the hope that the PRC will not invade – or that, even if it did invade, the United States would break its strategic ambiguity and come to Taiwan’s rescue.

In a survey done by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, 51% of respondents replied negatively to the question “Do you think China will invade Taiwan at any time?” Only 39% of respondents expected an invasion.

Secondly, we see the stigma against occupational soldiers in a popular idiom, “A good man does not become a soldier, and a good piece of metal does not hit a nail.

This stigma is a byproduct of a fractured relationship between the military and the Taiwanese public that dates all the way back to 1949, when the Kuomintang (KMT) fled to Taiwan from the Chinese mainland and began its military occupation as the de facto government of Taiwan.

The subsequent 228 Incident and the martial law period, dubbed the White Terror, traumatized Taiwanese people as the KMT military imprisoned, tortured and executed local elites, intelligentsia and civilians.

On February 28, 1947, crowds protested at the Monopoly Bureau Taipei Branch and burned inventories of matches and cigarettes. Photo: Wikipedia

Modern-day Taiwan looks very different from the repressive, authoritarian regime that ruled the archipelago until a few decades ago. Taiwan’s road to democracy and investment in transitional justice has reformed many once-authoritarian institutions, making Taiwan a leading democracy in Asia.

However, political repression at the hands of the military still taints Taiwanese society’s view of the military generations later.

A military-civilian solution

The invasion of Ukraine shocked Taiwan, and the world. Analysts, policymakers and netizens often ask, “Is Taiwan next?” A more productive question would be: What can we do to make Taiwan prohibitively costly to invade?

Healing the fractured relationship between the military and the civilians is a harder task than any one policy can tackle. Taiwanese people should recognize and respect the military. More importantly, the military should earn its respect within Taiwanese society. There are two tangible ways the military and civilians can work together to achieve a defensive Taiwanese military for the Taiwanese people.

Not only should citizen soldiers have a longer and more intense conscription service, Taiwanese culture should shift to recognize the threat of invasion.

Critics should not interpret efforts to change the duration and quality of Taiwan’s military as an attempt to transform the liberal democratic country into a military regime. Instead, it is a way to signal to Beijing that the risks of invading Taiwan will outweigh the gains.

Taiwanese men should walk away from their service feeling more confident in their country’s defense system after going through rigorous boot-camp training.

Even more importantly, Taiwanese civilians should feel that their military will protect them. Besides improving conscription services, the Taiwanese military should also consider establishing short-term, low-commitment courses for civilians.

Taiwanese airmen parachute into an airbase from a military transport plane. Photo: Handout

Private companies in growing number already have taken the initiative in teaching civilians the basics of surviving war and using weapons.

The military can use this opportunity to build a stronger bond with the public and also lead and supervise disseminated information for a territorial defense force much like Ukraine’s “weekend warriors” prior to the 2022 invasion.

Taiwan’s future is not set. However, China’s military capacities are growing, making Taiwan’s need for deterrence ever-pressing and imperative. Taiwan must develop and fortify its defense units, starting from civilians and conscription soldiers.

This means more than buying new weapons, building asymmetric capabilities or lengthening the period of conscription. Taiwan needs a whole-of-society approach to preparedness, and must internalize Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech a day before Russia’s invasion: “When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.”

Claire Tiunn (Chang) ( is a research intern at Pacific Forum and a politics and Russian and Eastern European studies double major at Pomona College.

This article was originally published by Pacific Forum. Asia Times is republishing it with permission. · by Claire Tiunn · December 2, 2022

20. China’s Cry for Freedom


There is a distinct prospect that following this latest burst of protests, China’s people will hunker down again instead of escalating the fight against the regime. The key is to remember, especially at the darkest times, that the spirit behind those protests—as Xi knows well—is always alive.

China’s Cry for Freedom · by The Algemeiner

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks as the new Politburo Standing Committee members meet the media following the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 23, 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Tingshu Wang – There is no getting around the fact that we live in dangerous times, defined by the worst military conflict in Europe since the end of World War II and a global economic downturn.

Equally, there is no getting around the fact that the world’s authoritarian regimes are in deep trouble with many, perhaps the majority, of their subjects. In Russia earlier this year, thousands of opponents of Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine were incarcerated by the authorities in a bid to crush any domestic dissent. In Iran, now Russia’s main military ally, anti-regime protests that have raged since the end of September—when Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman, was murdered by the regime’s morality police for allegedly violating the hijab dress code—show few signs of dying down, despite the regime’s best efforts to repress them entirely.

And now we have China. In recent days, Chinese citizens have taken to the streets to oppose the Communist Party regime’s “Zero Covid” policy, one of the best examples of how a public health crisis can also be a tool of political repression. The policy revolves around lockdowns so draconian that hundreds of deaths have been reported among people forced into isolation. The immediate spark for the protests—which according to CNN have manifested in 23 cities across the country, including Beijing and Shanghai—was a deadly fire on the 15th floor of a residential building in Urumqi, a city in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. Ten people died that night, among them a three-year-old child, solely because the “Zero Covid” restrictions compelled them to remain in the burning structure.

In Iran, similarly, protests have been sparked by the regime’s contempt for the welfare of ordinary Iranians, frequently expressed through price hikes in the cost of fuel and food. But a pattern has emerged which indicates that anger over regime policies function as a gateway to a broader movement for the regime’s overthrow. The principal slogan of the Iranian protests is “Women, Life, Freedom”—the best riposte to a regime that trades on patriarchy, death and suppression. It is also a clarion call for regime change, and not mere political reform.

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The Iranian pattern is visible in China as well. What began as a protest against “Zero Covid” developed into a more generalized rejection of the Communist regime itself. The slogans chanted by protestors in Shanghai were directed at both the Party and its leader, Xi Jinping. “Communist Party, step down,” and “Xi, step down,” they sang.

It barely needs remarking that those who participate in these protests, whether in Russia, Iran or China, are exhibiting extraordinary courage. To protest against any regime that brooks no dissent is to invite incarceration, abuse and in many cases, torture.

Even so, China is not Iran, in the sense that its regime rests on much stronger foundations, so it shouldn’t surprise us that the protests have petered out. But there is no denying that the sentiment underlying them remains in play and is potentially the source of a dramatic political transformation.

The problem, however, is the policy of western governments, who can see no way out of their dependency on Chinese exports. Indeed, the US is China’s largest trade partner; in 2020, the year the pandemic spread like lightning, China’s trade surplus with the US—the ratio of imported goods to exported goods—was more than $250 billion. Nor are the goods China exports restricted to two or three sectors. China sends the rest of the world cheap electronics, constituting more than a quarter of its GDP, as well as plastics, furniture, clothing, medical equipment and much, much more.

Over the last month, human rights activists have expressed concern about the intimate relationship between the American billionaire Elon Musk and the Chinese authorities. According to Yang Jianli, a US-based Chinese dissident, Musk has drawn more than $1 billion in loans from Chinese state banks, meaning that the regime has a strong degree of leverage over the new owner of Twitter, the social media platform that is now wide open for Chinese manipulation and censorship. “It is one thing to buy a social media company in the US, where the government poses little threat to free speech,” he observed in a piece for the Daily Beast. “It’s another to buy Twitter when Musk’s other companies are entangled with China’s repressive regime, which has a history of forcing private companies to serve its interests.”

Back in October, about a month before his summit with Xi, US President Joe Biden declared that we “can’t build a future that’s made in America if we ourselves are dependent on China for the materials that power the products of today and tomorrow.” The US has already imposed export bans on certain Chinese semiconductors that can be deployed for military purposes. At his meeting with Xi, Biden raised this issue, as well as the issues of Taiwan and human rights on the Chinese mainland. After their discussions, the Chinese foreign ministry tweeted that the world “is big enough for the two countries to develop themselves and prosper together,” but that reads like a platitude. China’s abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, its lockdowns on its own citizens and its predatory approach to Taiwan all militate against what Communists once called “peaceful coexistence.”

Whilst we can now see the structural weaknesses underpinning the Iranian regime in all their glory, and therefore the distinct possibility of life outside the strictures of the Islamic Republic, in China it is fanciful to believe that the regime is going to collapse soon. Yet we should remain mindful of the Mishnah’s advice to “beware those in positions of power, for they only bring a person closer to them for their own needs.” Our wretched dependency on China does not compel us to trust that country’s rulers, just as is true with Russian and Iranian leaders.

There is a distinct prospect that following this latest burst of protests, China’s people will hunker down again instead of escalating the fight against the regime. The key is to remember, especially at the darkest times, that the spirit behind those protests—as Xi knows well—is always alive.

Ben Cohen is a New York City-based journalist and author who writes a weekly column on Jewish and international affairs for JNS. · by The Algemeiner

21. War Over Taiwan? ​JOSEPH S. NYE, JR.

War Over Taiwan?

Dec 2, 2022


For five decades, both China and the US benefited from the time they had bought on the question of the island’s status. To prevent what is currently a managed competition from spiraling out of control, the United States should take careful but clear steps to strengthen its longstanding policy of “double deterrence.”

CAMBRIDGE – Could the United States and China go to war over Taiwan? China regards the island 90 miles (145 kilometers) off its coast as a renegade province, and President Xi Jinping raised the issue at the recent 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Though Xi said he prefers reunification by peaceful means, his objective was clear, and he did not rule out the use of force. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the share of the population identifying as solely Taiwanese continues to exceed the share that identifies as both Chinese and Taiwanese.

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The US has long tried both to dissuade Taiwan from officially declaring independence, and to deter China from using force against the island. But Chinese military capabilities have been increasing, and US President Joe Biden has now said on four separate occasions that the US would defend Taiwan. Each time, the White House has issued “clarifications” stressing that America’s “one China” policy has not changed.

But China counters that recent high-level US visits to Taiwan are hollowing out that policy. China responded to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s trip there in August by firing missiles near the coast of Taiwan. What will happen if Representative Kevin McCarthy becomes speaker of the new Republican-controlled House and carries out his threat to lead an official delegation to the island?

When US President Richard Nixon went to China and met with Mao Zedong in 1972, both countries shared an interest in balancing Soviet power, because both saw the USSR as their largest problem. But now, China has an alignment of convenience with Russia, because both countries see the US as their largest problem.

Still, Nixon and Mao could not agree on the Taiwan issue, so they adopted a formula designed to postpone the matter. The US would accept the claim that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait were Chinese, and it would recognize only “one China”: the People’s Republic of China on the mainland, not the Republic of China on Taiwan. The two sides bought time for what Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, called the “wisdom of future generations.” It recalls the fable of a medieval prisoner who delays his execution by promising to teach the king’s horse how to speak. “Who knows?” he says. “The king may die; the horse may die; or the horse may speak.”

For five decades, both China and the US benefited from the time they had bought. After Nixon’s visit, the American strategy was to engage China in the hope that increased trade and economic growth would expand its middle class and lead to liberalization. That goal may now sound overly optimistic; but the US policy was not totally naive. As reinsurance, President Bill Clinton reaffirmed the US security treaty with Japan in 1996, and his successor, George W. Bush, improved relations with India. Moreover, there were some signs of liberalization in China at the beginning of this century. Xi, however, has tightened CPC control over civil society and regions like Xinjiang and Hong Kong, as well as signaling his ambition to regain Taiwan.

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US relations with China are now at their lowest point in more than 50 years. Some blame former President Donald Trump. But, in historical terms, Trump was more like a boy who poured gasoline on an existing fire. It was Chinese leaders who built the fire with their mercantilist manipulation of the international trading system, theft and coercive transfer of Western intellectual property, and militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea. The US reaction to these moves has been bipartisan. Not until the end of his second year in office did Biden meet face to face with Xi – at the recent G20 summit in Bali.

The American objective is still to deter China from using force against the island, and to deter Taiwan’s leaders from declaring de jure independence. Some analysts refer to this policy as “strategic ambiguity,” but it might also be described as “double deterrence.” In the months before his assassination, former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō was urging the US to commit more clearly to defending Taiwan. Other experts, however, fear that such a policy change would provoke a Chinese response, because it would eliminate the ambiguity that allows Chinese leaders to placate nationalist sentiment.

How likely is a conflict? The US chief of naval operations warns that China’s growing naval power may tempt it to act soon in the belief that time is not on its side. Others believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s failure in Ukraine has made China more cautious, and that the country will wait until after 2030. Even if China eschews a full-scale invasion and merely tries to coerce Taiwan with a blockade or by taking an offshore island, a ship or aircraft collision could change things quickly, especially if there is loss of life. If the US reacts by freezing Chinese assets or invoking the Trading with the Enemy Act, the two countries could slip into a real (rather than a metaphorical) cold war, or even a hot one.

In the absence of the Taiwan issue, the US-China relationship fits the model of what former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calls “managed strategic competition.” Neither country poses a threat to the other in the way that Hitler’s Germany did in the 1930s or Stalin’s Soviet Union did in the 1950s. Neither is out to conquer the other, nor could they. But a failure to manage the Taiwan issue could turn the conflict into an existential one.

The US should continue to discourage formal Taiwanese independence, while helping Taiwan become a difficult-to-swallow “porcupine.” It should also work with allies to strengthen naval deterrence in the region. But it must avoid openly provocative actions and visits that might cause China to accelerate any plans for an invasion. As Nixon and Mao recognized long ago, there is much to be said for strategies and diplomatic arrangements that buy time.


Writing for PS since 2002

239 Commentaries


Joseph S. Nye, Jr., a professor at Harvard University and a former US assistant secretary of defense, is the author, most recently, Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump (Oxford University Press, 2020).

22. Chinese military’s future warfare will aspire to ‘information dominance,’ Pentagon warns


The anti-regime protesters are expected to be arrested and imprisoned as political dissidents who will be harshly treated, if not killed, by Chinese authorities to crush any sign of political dissent. Relatives of the protesters will also likely be targeted for reprisal.
As part of its propaganda operations aimed at quelling the protests, the Chinese government has begun trying to redirect public anger at Chinese COVID testing companies that are making large sums of money from the strict lockdown policies. The goal is to divert public anger away from the government and the Communist Party.
Steven Mosher, a China expert at the Population Research Institute, a think tank, said the Biden administration should be prepared to hit back at China’s government for any crackdown.
“President Biden should make it clear now, before there is any violence, that there will be serious consequences for opening fire on unarmed protesters,” Mr. Mosher said. “The officials responsible, he should say, including Xi Jinping himself, will be sanctioned, and any U.S. assets they or their family members hold will be confiscated.”
The president should also promise that a violent crackdown will lead to a speedy decoupling of the U.S. and Chinese economies and a demand for reparations from China for unleashing COVID-19 on the world, he said.

Chinese military’s future warfare will aspire to ‘information dominance,’ Pentagon warns · by Bill Gertz


The Chinese military will wage large-scale information warfare in a future conflict using cyber, electronic and conventional attacks to achieve “information dominance,” according to new details of Beijing‘s growing military capabilities outlined in the Pentagon’s latest annual report on the Chinese military.

“The concept of information warfare is an expansive concept that includes individuals, enterprises, societies and national communications networks that form integrated entities, encompassing the electromagnetic spectrum, psychology and perception and intelligence operations,” the report released this week states in a special section on the topic.

Cyber, electronic and conventional military strikes will seek to destroy enemy information systems and promote Chinese Communist messaging and disinformation, according to U.S. analysts.

China’s goal for information warfare is to gain information superiority, which is achieved by destroying an adversary’s ability to acquire, transmit and process information,” the report said.

At the same time, the People’s Liberation Army will seek to protect its information capabilities from foreign attacks. The Pentagon report reveals that China is building electronic warfare systems to disrupt U.S. satellites and has practiced electronic strikes on satellites in military exercises. The targets include several types of space-based communications, radar systems and GPS navigation used in military movements and precision-guided weapons.

The PLA also plans to attack synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites used for military reconnaissance.

SEE ALSO: South Korea scrambles jets after Russian, Chinese military aircraft enter air defense zone

“Interfering with SAR satellites very likely protects terrestrial assets by denying imagery and targeting in a potential conflict involving the United States or its allies,” the report said.

China is also believed to be developing jammers to target military satellites communications in a range of frequency bands, including military-protected extremely high-frequency communications, the report said.

PLA information warfare is also behind the military concept of “informationized” warfare — high-technology conflict relying on information. The goal is to achieve “information dominance” — a key strategic military advantage in a conflict that was adopted from U.S. military information dominance during the Iraq War.

PLA forces plan to conduct psychological attacks before the start of a conflict, with the goal of eroding the will to fight by both the military and civilian population. Kinetic and cyber attacks on command and control systems would also be carried out to paralyze enemy information flows.

The PLA closely watched the offensive information operations by both Russia and Ukraine at the beginning of the conflict in February. PLA war fighters also plan to employ cognitive warfare that they believe is at the core of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Cognitive domain operations by the PLA would integrate military actions with political, economic, public opinion, psychological and other tools to affect enemy cognition, decision-making and behavior.

The goal is to achieve what the PLA strategists call “mind dominance” — the use of propaganda as a weapon to influence public opinion and change a nation’s social system while creating an environment supportive of Chinese interests and ideology. PLA researchers assert that a victory of cognitive narratives may produce greater benefits than firepower destruction and can last long after conflict ends.

Cognitive warfare would be used by the PLA against the United States to deter entry into a regional war or to shape perceptions and polarize society. The goal is to produce psychological pressure and fear and force a surrender without fighting.

Cognitive military operations would employ artificial intelligence and “big data” — a key Chinese advantage following theft over the past decade of masses of data on Americans obtained through cyberattacks. Artificial intelligence will be used by the PLA to run “bot” networks on social media that can create content and coordinate optimal post times.

“If the PLA is successful in incorporating these technologies into operations, it could increase obfuscation of activities, create more plausible content and enable more accurate targeting of audiences,” the report said.

China to crack down hard on protests

China analysts in China and the United States say Chinese Communist Party authorities are preparing to strike back at the mass protests that erupted last weekend against stringent “zero-COVID” controls and the lack of freedom in the country.

Party officials signaled the coming crackdown in a statement at a meeting this week of the party’s Political and Legal Affairs Committee.

“We must resolutely crack down on infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces in accordance with the law, resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order and effectively maintain overall social stability,” the committee said in a statement indirectly referring to recent mass protests. The statement also called for bolstering the “combat spirit” of authorities.

The warning came from the committee’s newly appointed chief, Chen Wenqing, a former Chinese intelligence officer who led the session, which was also attended by Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong.

In Beijing, hundreds of armored vehicles and other police vans with flashing lights were deployed along streets on Wednesday, as police continued conducting random checks of people’s phones for foreign apps used by protesters to communicate.

Arrests have been made and more are expected based on China’s ubiquitous mass surveillance system, a system that is capable of identifying protesters through their phones or from video cameras linked to security databases. Surveillance is so advanced that a bicycle rider in Shanghai who runs a red light can expect police to show up at their home within days to impose a fine.

Analysts in China say the protests were allowed to continue for several days as part of a plan by police and intelligence agencies to identify protesters and go after them. The action is said to be similar to Mao Zedong’s campaign in 1956 to 1957 known as the Hundred Flowers Campaign, which temporarily allowed free expression for the purpose of identifying regime opponents who were then ruthlessly suppressed.

Chinese sources warn that the protests are not expected to last and will soon be crushed as a threat to both the CCP and President Xi Jinping.

The protesters are said to be made up of a combination of groups with different outlooks.

Some are holding vigils for the victims of the recent fire in Xinjiang that killed 10 people who were forcibly quarantined under widely despised government pandemic controls.

Others turned out in large numbers to protest heavy-handed quarantine and lockdown policies by Chinese “neighborhood committees” — police in white hazmat suits called “Big Whites” who enforce the draconian zero COVID regulations. Those activities have included barricading people in apartments and forcing others into quarantine camps.

A small number of protesters are viewed as radical pro-democracy activists who want to see the Communist regime and Mr. Xi overthrown. It was this group that took the lead in the unusual protests that involved large crowds chanting for an end to CCP rule and for Mr. Xi to step down.

At those demonstrations, more moderate Chinese protesters departed from the group, leaving the radicals to be identified by police surveillance or by electronic phone surveillance.

The anti-regime protesters are expected to be arrested and imprisoned as political dissidents who will be harshly treated, if not killed, by Chinese authorities to crush any sign of political dissent. Relatives of the protesters will also likely be targeted for reprisal.

As part of its propaganda operations aimed at quelling the protests, the Chinese government has begun trying to redirect public anger at Chinese COVID testing companies that are making large sums of money from the strict lockdown policies. The goal is to divert public anger away from the government and the Communist Party.

Steven Mosher, a China expert at the Population Research Institute, a think tank, said the Biden administration should be prepared to hit back at China’s government for any crackdown.

“President Biden should make it clear now, before there is any violence, that there will be serious consequences for opening fire on unarmed protesters,” Mr. Mosher said. “The officials responsible, he should say, including Xi Jinping himself, will be sanctioned, and any U.S. assets they or their family members hold will be confiscated.”

The president should also promise that a violent crackdown will lead to a speedy decoupling of the U.S. and Chinese economies and a demand for reparations from China for unleashing COVID-19 on the world, he said.

• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter @BillGertz.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at

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David Maxwell

Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Senior Fellow, Global Peace Foundation

Senior Advisor, Center for Asia Pacific Strategy

Editor, Small Wars Journal

Twitter: @davidmaxwell161

Phone: 202-573-8647


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If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

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