Democratic Presidential Hopefuls and the Middle East
A Weekly Political News Magazine
While an Iranian Satellite Goes Up in Flames, France Explores an Economic Bailout for Tehran
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1764- september - 06/09/2019
Issue 1764- september - 06/09/2019
Tunisiaâ€™s Youssef Chahed: Agricultural Expert, Prime Minister, and Presidential Candidate www.majalla.com
The UK Economy is Not Ready for Brexit www.majalla.com
Editorial Brexit…that never-ending saga that both remainers and leavers have pretty much grown tired of. However, ever since the arrival of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, this interesting (and frankly elongated) story arc in Britain’s history has become a lot juicier and has provided people around the world with comic moments, though those living in the UK can only watch in horror as the country seems destined to crash out without a deal. One common theme that has been repeated throughout the past three years is the negative economic impact that Brexit (especially a no-deal one) will have on the country. Leading institutions such as the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility have warned of an imminent downturn and a possible recession in the event of no-deal, but ardent Brexiters insist that these are all part of project fear. This week’s cover story by Yasmine ElGeressi discusses all the evidence that points to these negative predictions and presents how leave campaigners are attempting to rebut them. Last week, Boris Johnson dropped a major bombshell as he got approval for proroguing parliament for a month, which would leave it without ample time to prevent a no-deal Brexit. As such, this week parliament worked quickly to gain back control of the Brexit timetable as they held an emergency motion to pass a bill that could prevent the Prime Minister from taking such a risky action that would affect the entire nation. Ali El Shamy covers the drama which unfolded this week as Boris Johnson lost four parliamentary votes, had 21 Tory MPs rebel against him and even had his own brother call it quits due to his disapproval of the government’s actions. As the 2020 US Presidential Election draws closer, the Democratic Party is in the midst of choosing its nominee to take on Donald Trump. Needless to say, the transition from Obama to Trump has created a shift in the US’s Middle East policy, as such if another change in leadership is to happen then we will likely witness another shift. Ali El Shamy analyzes the policies leading Democratic nominees would have towards the Middle East, and which countries in the region would gain a better advantage in the event of one of the nominees’ victories. Joseph Braude summarizes this week’s events surrounding Iran’s latest deescalation moves in the Middle East. The Israeli based Image Sat International uncovered a new Iranian military base in Syria. What distinguishes this one is the fact that it is larger than any of the existing ones, and it is in close proximity to a US army position. In other news, Iran and France have been holding negotiations as the latter is poised to give the former a 15 billion dollar aid package. We invite you to read these articles and more on our website eng.majalla. com. As always, we welcome and value our reader’s feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments on our website.
A Weekly Political News Magazine
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A Weekly Political News Magazine
32 Bolsonaro Fans the Flames
Issue 1764- september - 06/09/2019
14 BoJo Losses All Control
24 How Not to Fight a Currency War
28 China’s Long March to Technological Supremacy
46 Don' t Buy into Brain Health Supplements
Makers of ‘Avengers’ Present Hollywood’s First All-Arabic Action Movie 3
50 The Population Bust
Migrants queue upon their arrival at the harbour of Malaga on August 2019 ,29, after an inflatable boat carrying 132 migrants was rescued by the Spanish coast guard, off the Spanish coast. (Getty)
A calf is stuck in the mud due to drought in the Lake Ngami on August 100 ,29km away from Maun, Botswana. - The state declared this year as drought year. Lake Ngami is an Endorheic basin in Botswana north of the Kalahari Desert. (Getty)
eekly news up its uranium enrichment, but he also gave European powers two more months to try to save the multilateral pact. Separately, the United States refused to ease its economic sanctions on Iran, imposed fresh ones designed to choke off the smuggling of Iranian oil and rebuffed, but did not rule out, a French plan to give Tehran a 15$ billion credit line. Turkey Plans to Return One Million Syrians, Warns of New Migrant Wave in Europe Turkey plans to resettle 1 million refugees in northern Syria and may reopen the route for migrants into Europe if it does not receive adequate international support for the plan, President
Israel and Hezbollah Trade CrossBorder Fire for First Time in Years
Hezbollah launched an attack on Israeli military positions and drawn heavy return fire on Sunday in the first cross-border clash for years between the longstanding foes. Israel’s military said “two or three anti-tank missiles” had been fired from southern Lebanon toward an army base and a military ambulance but had caused no deaths or injuries. Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, an army spokesman, also said Israel had fired back with approximately 100 artillery shells and that attack helicopters had also struck the area. The exchange “was most likely over”, he said. Hezbollah, the pro-Iran Lebanese militant group, claimed the attack. It said its fighters had destroyed an Israeli
army vehicle near the frontier in the same area. It said it had killed and wounded people inside, contradicting Israeli claims.
Pentagon Chief Says Iran ‘Inching’ Toward Place Where Talks Could be Held
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that it appeared Iran was inching toward a place where talks could be held, days after US President Donald Trump left the door open to a possible meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York. Rouhani on Wednesday said Iran would take another step away from the 2015 deal by starting to develop centrifuges to speed
Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday. Turkey, which hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, controls parts of north Syria where it says 350,000 Syrians have already returned. It is setting up a “safe zone” with the United States in the northeast where Erdogan said many more could be moved. “Our goal is for at least one million of our Syrian brothers to return to the safe zone we will form along our 450 km border,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara. The comments come as Turkey mounts pressure on Washington for further concessions on the depth and oversight of the planned safe zone in the northeast, and as it comes under increasing pressure in Syria’s northwest Idlib region where a Russian-backed government offensive has pressed north.
Boris Johnson Faces Frenetic Week as UK Spins Towards Election
As the United Kingdom spins towards an election, Brexit remains up in the air more than three years after Britons voted to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum. Options range from a turbulent ‘nodeal’ exit to abandoning the whole endeavour.
measures announced this week to help restore order in the Chinese-ruled city were a first step, and disagreed with a credit downgrade by rating agency Fitch after months of sometimes violent protests. Hundreds of protesters gathered on Friday evening, with crowds expected to swell into the night, as the Asian financial hub braces for weekend demonstrations aiming to disrupt transport links to the airport after Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill failed to appease Ahead of a speech in Wakefield, northern England, where Johnson effectively began an informal election campaign, his own brother, Jo, resigned as a junior business minister and said he was stepping down as a lawmaker for their Conservative Party. The move comes in a frenetic week for the premier. On Tuesday, he expelled 21 Conservative lawmakers from the party for failing to back his strategy, including Winston Churchill’s grandson and two former finance ministers. On Wednesday, he wrested control of the lower house of parliament and an alliance of opposition parties and rebels expelled from the Conservative Party voted to force him to seek a three-month delay to Brexit rather than leaving without a deal on Oct. 31, the date now set in law.
devastated the island group. The most damaging storm to strike the island nation, Dorian killed 30 people when it hit as a highest-level Category 5 storm, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said. On Thursday morning, the eye of Hurricane Dorian was off the coast of South Carolina, moving north-north-east at 8mph. The center of the storm was projected to remain just off the eastern US seaboard, moving past South Carolina late in the day. More than 223,000 homes and businesses in the U.S. Southeast were without power on Thursday. some activists. Lam on Wednesday withdrew a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by its ruling Communist Party and announced three other measures to help ease the crisis. The Beijing-backed leader said she disagreed with the Fitch downgrade, adding that said some of the activists’ demands, such as dropping charges against protesters who used violence, violated the law.
Bahamas Reels from Dorian's Devastation, Storm Surge Threatens U.S. Southeast
Survivors of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas thronged rescue helicopters on Wednesday and the United Nations said 70,000 people needed immediate humanitarian relief after one of the most powerful Caribbean storms on record
Hong Kong Protesters Stage Fresh Rallies as Leader Says Bill Withdrawal a First Step Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Friday said
Robert Mugabe, Liberation 'Colossus' Who Crushed Foes as Zimbabwe Unravelled, Dead at 95
Robert Mugabe, the bush war guerrilla leader who led Zimbabwe to independence in 1980 and crushed his foes during nearly four decades of rule as his country descended into poverty, hyperinflation and unrest, died on Friday. He was 95. He was one of the most polarising figures in the history of his continent, a giant of Africa’s liberation struggle against colonialism, whose rule finally ended in ignominy when he was overthrown by his own army. Mugabe died in Singapore, where he has often received medical treatment in recent years. In November, Mnangagwa had said Mugabe was no longer able to walk when he had been admitted to a hospital in Singapore, without saying what ailed him.
The UK Economy is Not Ready for Brexit Contingency Planning May Not Avert Economic Chaos by Yasmine El-Geressi The past two weeks have been some of the most tumultuous weeks for Brexit after British Prime Minister, Boris, Johnson, made the decision to suspend Parliament for a month starting next week - a move edged the UK closer to a “no-deal” Brexit come the October 31 deadline. Johnson’s actions sent the pound tumbling. It fell %0.7 against the dollar and %0.6 against the
euro last Wednesday as markets feared that Britain would leave the EU without a deal. Sterling has plunged whenever the prime minister has talked up the chance of such a scenario and has been driven back up again whenever there are any signals of progress towards an agreement with Brussels. Since then, the embattled PM has been repeatedly defeated at Westminster, lost his majority, failed to call a snap election, expelled 21 of his MPs and watched his own brother walk out
Sterling has plunged whenever the prime minister has talked up the chance of such a scenario, and has been driven back up again whenever there are any signals of progress towards an agreement with Brussels.
A view of the London Skyline. (Getty)
his government. The passage of a new law through parliament on Friday to block a no-deal Brexit was the latest blow to the embattled PM and paves the way for a snap general election and requires Johnson to ask for an extension to the UK's departure date to avoid a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. But the PM has said he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than ask for a delay. While how exactly Britain will depart from the EU is unknown, the evidence is already clear that as Britain has moved closer to a hard or no-deal Brexit, the damage has intensified and there is reason to expect stormy economic weather this autumn. For the past three and half years, the public has watched as the majority of economists, experts, government departments, the civil service, NGO’s, economic and social commentators have presented sober warnings about the negative impact of leaving the EU.
CONTINGENCY PLANNING Warnings about an impact of no-deal were leaked last month and revealed concerns that there will be medicine shortages as increased customs controls at ports could disrupt the supply of drugs and the chemical compounds needed to produce them. Almost 75 percent of medicines come from, or via, the EU. The secret document also said the UK would face food shortages and
that hundreds of thousands of people could be left without clean eater. Tory critics said the secret Operation Yellowhammer files, penned by civil servants when Theresa May was PM, were out of date because Johnson had stepped up no-deal planning. They claimed the documents had been leaked by no-deal opponents in an extension of the ‘project fear’ campaign –” - a term used by hard Brexiteers to dismiss downbeat economic forecasts. But a senior Whitehall source told The Sunday Times: ‘This is not project fear - this is the most realistic assessment of what the public face. There are likely, basic, reasonable scenarios.” This week minister for no-deal planning Michael Gove pulled plans to publish a “watered down” version of Operation Yellowhammer, after ministers decreed that the findings would still alarm the public. Although officials working on the rewrite said the paper had been deliberately “neutralised” it was still seen as too gloomy for publication to the general public. Alongside the overarching no-deal Brexit contingency plan, the government has been scaling up preparations for no-deal. A week after taking office, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged an extra 2.1£bn specifically to prepare for leaving the EU without a deal. Prior to this, the government led by Theresa May had promised 4.2£b. to prepare for a range of Brexit scenarios. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell labelled the sum set aside for no-deal planning as an “appalling waste of taxpayers’ cash”.
ON THE BRINK OF RECESSION What it seems like a lot of money - 6.3£bn in total so far this year - when looked at against the backdrop of the gloomy economic forecast, the hefty sum feels like small change compared with what the government and businesses will have to spend to mitigate the long-term impact it will have on the British economy. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has forecast that a nodeal would plunge Britain into recession, sending unemployment soaring above 5 percent and house prices collapsing by 10 percent. “This will translate into hundreds of thousands more people losing their jobs; small businesses going bankrupt; people who already struggle to pay the mortgage finding themselves
trapped in negative equity. And it’s going to be those areas of the country hardest hit by decades of deindustrialisation and the financial crisis that will feel the economic pain of no-deal most sharply,” Sonia Sodha wrote in The Guardian. Based on assumptions that a no-deal would cause a recession, the OBR said in July that borrowing would be almost 60£bn if the UK leaves without a deal - up from 29.3£bn if it does get a deal. The forecast used by the OBR is less severe than those of the Bank of England and the Treasury. In November, the Bank said a no-deal outcome could send the pound plunging and trigger a worse recession than the 2008 financial crisis. The Treasury meanwhile has predicted a 90£bn hit to the economy by 2035 - although prominent eurosceptics dispute this view. In a comment piece for the Telegraph newspaper earlier this week, Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg called the forecast "silliness", adding that a no-deal scenario could instead boost the economy by 80£bn. News from the Office for National Statistics of the first fall in quarterly GDP in six and a half years sparked immediate speculation that a further bout of Brexit jitters leading up to the new 31 October departure date could lead to a second successive quarter of negative growth – the technical definition of a recession. The performance of the economy in the second three months of 2019 was much worse than most experts had predicted. It followed growth of 0.5 percent in the first three months of the year when the economy received a boost from unprecedented stockpiling by manufacturers in the run-up to the initial Brexit deadline of 29 March. A Bank of England study this week estimated the UK has already forfeited 3 percent of national income in the three years since voting to leave the EU and new Research by The UK in a Changing Europe, which analysed the effects of trading with the EU on WTO terms, found that after 10 years this would reduce the UK’s per capita income by 3.5 percent and 8.7percentt; other credible analyses come to much the same conclusion. “Such a large economic impact would also have major implications for
A report by the CBI, the UK’s biggest business group, showed that businesses have spent billions on contingency planning but remain hampered by unclear advice, timelines, cost and complexity.
the public finances. These would far outweigh any gains resulting from reduced EU contributions,” the report said. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that if the impacts on GDP were as estimated above, then in a no-deal scenario the cost to the public finances would be between %1 and %3.1 of GDP, and between %0.4 and %1.8 if the deal was implemented. This is even after taking account of the long-term saving on the UK’s net EU contributions of 0.4 percent of GDP. One of the most dangerous unknowns is what will happen to the island of Ireland. According to Oxford Economics, Ireland’s economy would be among the worst-hit victims if the UK crashes out of the EU as it could lose 2 percent to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030 to losses in trade. The UK and Ireland trade heavily through the border of Northern Ireland. The government has said that it will not apply checks and tariffs at the Irish border – a stance which is at odds with its commitments under, inter alia, WTO rules. The EU, however, has made it clear it intends to apply the rules, though whether all checks will be imposed from day one is less obvious.
BUSINESSES 'CAN NEVER BE READY FOR NO DEAL’ Uncertainty over Brexit has prevented business investment growth for the four years since parliament passed a law requiring a referendum and productivity levels have been falling. Businesses have consistently lobbied for a transition period during which trade will continue as now while the two sides negotiated a future relationship and were quick to respond to Johnson’s plans to suspend parliament last week, warning that more political chaos will cause further damage in a country already on the brink of recession. In a pointed rebuke to Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy, the British car industry said last month, so far as it is concerned, “you can never be ready for no deal.” Chief executive of the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), also reposted that UK car production in the first half of 2019 is down by a fifth on the same period last year, while investment is at standstill. He also warned that the industry in the UK has already spend more than 330£m on contingency planning for a no-deal, increasing stockpiles of parts, insuring against losses, and so on. A report by the CBI, the UK’s biggest business group, showed that businesses have spent billions on contingency planning but remain hampered by unclear advice, timelines, cost, and complexity. The analysis showed that every part of the economy is severely unprepared for a no-deal Brexit and said that while the UK’s preparation to date are welcome, the unprecedented nature of Brexit means some aspects cannot be mitigated. The business group used to the report to urge the UK and the EU to capitalise on the new political dynamic presented by the appointment of a new Prime Minister to work toward an agreement.
What No-deal Brexit Could Mean for Economic Growth 14%
UK Real GDP Growth
The 'no-Deal' scenario 1.6% lower than the 'deal' scenario
12% 10% 8% 6%
OBR March 2019 forecast based on a Brexit deal
IMF forecast based on no-deal
2% 0% -2% 2016
How No-Deal Could Affect Public Borrowing 'Deal' scenario
Source: Office of National Statistics (ONS), Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR)
BoJo Losses All Control Johnson Loses Four Votes in a Row as Parliament Takes Back Control by Ali El Shamy The drama continues to unfold in Britain’s greatest ever reality show. Last week Boris
Johnson, aka “Britain Trump”, kept audiences around the globe glued to their television sets as the Queen approved his request to suspend parliament to make sure it does not
Luckily, parliament did not follow Jacob Rees-Mogg’s example and decided not to take all of Johnson’s shenanigans lying down. day in parliament as MPs found themselves fighting against the clock before parliament is to be prorogued on September 11. As such, the members of the House of Commons needed to regain control of the parliamentary Order Paper (the daily schedule of the House of Commons). To do this, an emergency debate needed to be raised to the Speaker of the Parliament (John Bercow) via Standing Order 24.
Former Tory, Current Liberal Democrat MP Phillip Lee speaks to thousands of pro-EU demonstrators gathered for a cross-party rally in Parliament Square, organised by the People's Vote Campaign on 04 September, 2019 in London, England, to protest against Boris Johnson's Brexit strategy which involves leaving the EU on 31 October 2019 with or without an exit deal. (Getty)
have sufficient time to stop him from leaving the EU “do or die”, deal or no deal. Luckily, parliament did not follow Jacob Rees-Mogg’s example and decided not to take all this lying down, thus providing us with another action-packed week of Brexit shenanigans and unforgettable moments for the public to analyze and inevitably mock.
PARLIAMENT FIGHTS BACK AGAINST JOHNSON’S “COUP” September 3 proved to be quite an eventful
Former Tory MP, Sir Oliver Letwin raised the motion to debate whether or not parliament can accept a no-deal Brexit. Given the fact that Bercow has vocally criticized Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament, he naturally approved the debate to take place. Those in favor of the motion to block Johnson from taking the UK out of the bloc without a deal argued that in contrary to the government’s claims, it has not made any substantial progress in negotiating with the EU and that the government has yet to find any viable alternative to the Irish backstop. Moreover, the motion would force Johnson to ask the EU for an extension on the Article 50 deadline (which the MPs placed as January 2020 ,31, but the EU might choose another date). The motion was then passed with 328 votes to 301, with 21 Tory MPs going against their government by voting in favor of it. Those rebel Tories include senior figures such as former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and they ultimately paid the price for their mutiny as they lost their whip, meaning that they were kicked out of the party. Nevertheless, the passing of the motion meant that MPs won back control of the parliamentary timetable, moreover it paved the way for a bill to block the Prime Minister from pursuing a no-deal.
The next day, MPs started the reading process of the Benn bill (named after MP Hilary Benn one of the sponsors of the bill), if passed then Johnson will have to do one of two things either reach a deal with the EU by October 19 or get parliament to approve no-deal by the same date. In other, Johnson will be forced to get a new deal with the EU and the only way he could get a no-deal is through parliamentary approval. Of course, Johnson could circumvent this by calling a general election to take place on October 15 (something he has said he would do), but to do this he would need the support from 3/2 of the MPs. The bill passed through the first and second readings, and during the third reading 327 MPs voted for it, while only 299 voted against it, thus it successfully passed through the Commons. The bill was then passed to the House of Lords for their own readings; there was fear that pro-Brexit Lords would try to filibuster the bill by running down the clock in order to give Johnson his power back. Those fears were dashed when the Upper House of Parliament announced at 1:30 AM that it rejects any filibustering attempts for this bill, as a result, the bill will likely go back to MPs soon who will then vote on it again and if it
As if things could not get worse for Johnson, his own brother, Jo Johnson, has shown his disapproval of the Prime Ministerâ€™s actions by resigning from his posts as Minister of State for Universities.
garners parliamentary approval it would then be passed for royal assent. It should be noted that shortly after the bill passed through the third reading in the House of Commons, Johnson attempted to table a motion for a general election, and 298 MPs voted for it while 56 MPs voted against it, but as it did not pass the 3/2 threshold set under the Fixed-Term Parliament Act 2011 it did not through. It is now being reported that MPs will get to vote on another general election motion early next week.
BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER? Needless to say, the Prime Minister has made more enemies than friends this week. As was previously reported, the 21 rebel Tories were suspended from the party due to their actions. Furthermore, earlier in the week MP Phillip Lee defected from the Conservative party and
Former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson leaves Parliament on September 2019 ,3 in London, England. (Getty)
crossed over to the Liberal Democrats, which is branding itself as the official “people’s vote” party. This simple act made the Tories lose their majority in parliament, and the dismissal of the other 21 MPs has practically made them a lame duck in the House of Commons. It is no surprise that Johnson wants a general election, he’ll need so that he can obtain any functional majority in parliament. But as it has been previously seen, getting a general election is easier said than done. As the working week is coming to an end, the British government finds itself in another stalemate, but this time the stalemate is highly in the opposition’s (and parliament’s) favour. As if things could not get worse for Johnson, his own brother, Jo Johnson, has shown his disapproval of the Prime Minister’s actions by resigning from his posts as Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation and MP for Orpington, proving that when it comes to national interest blood isn’t thicker than water.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits police officers in West Yorkshire on September ,05 2019 in West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. (Getty)
While an Iranian Satellite Goes Up in Flames, France Explores an Economic Bailout for Tehran New Iranian Base in Syria of Unprecedented Size Marks Tactical Departure for the IRGC by Joseph Braude The first week in September marked a new phase in the ongoing confrontation between Tehran and the West. While
Israel uncovered a new Iranian base in Syria of unprecedented size, President Trump made cryptic comments over Twitter suggesting that the U.S. may have claimed another success in containing the Iranian ballistic missile program. Meanwhile,
in Europe, Iranian and French officials have been engaged in marathon negotiations to salvage what remains of the nuclear deal.
ISRAELI COMPANY UNCOVERS NEW IRANIAN BASE IN SYRIA On September 3, Image Sat International (ISI), an Israelibased company specializing in high-accuracy satellite imagery and geospatial intelligence, revealed that Iran has established a new military base in Syria. Significantly larger than most Iranian installations in Syria, this base, which is located between Albukamal and Al-Qaim, is capable of housing thousands of troops. ISI analysts also note that the base contains five different buildings capable of housing precision-guided missiles. The classified Iranian project, called the Imam Ali compound, was approved by top leadership in Tehran and is being completed by the Iranian Quds Force. This would mark a tactical departure for the IRGC, constituting the first time that they have constructed a base of this scale from the ground up in Syria, as opposed to expanding existing facilities. Adding strategic urgency to the development was the fact that the Imam Ali compound is located less than 200 miles from an American army position and considerably closer to the site of Israeli airstrikes in 2018.
TRUMP TAUNTS IRAN OVER ROCKET MISHAP This satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows a fire at a rocket launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran's Semnan province on Thursday. (AP)
On August 30, U.S. President Trump tweeted what appeared to be a calculated taunt directed at Tehran over a “catastrophic accident” in the form of a satellite that exploded during final launch preparations. Trump remarked that “the United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident” and, in an apparent sarcastic flourish, “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened.” The explosion marks the third failed rocket launch at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in recent months, raising suspicions both inside and outside of Iran that sabotage was involved. In February, reports emerged in American media that the Trump administration had accelerated a secret program to sabotage Iran’s missiles and rockets. It is widely believed in administration circles that Tehran’s space program is being used to camouflage a ballistic missile program which could house nuclear warheads. For its part, Tehran waited several days before acknowledging the explosion. On September 2, government spokesman Ali Rabiei categorically denied the possibility of sabotage, claiming “this has been a technical matter
This would mark a tactical departure for the IRGC, constituting the first time that they have constructed a base of this scale from the ground up in Syria, as opposed to expanding existing facilities. and a technical error. Our experts unanimously say so.” Rabiei also criticized President Trump’s commentary on the failure: “We don’t understand why the U.S. president tweets and posts satellite pictures with excitement. This is not understandable.”
IRAN BETTING ON FRENCH EFFORTS TO SALVAGE JCPOA On September 3, reports emerged that French president Emmanuel Macron was proposing a financial bailout package to compensate Iran for oil sales lost to American sanctions in exchange for renewed Iranian compliance with the terms of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. The aid package under discussion would consist of a 15$ billion letter of credit which Iran could trade for hard currency, at a time when most of its oil revenue is frozen in banks around the world due to renewed American sanctions. On September 3, the Iranian embassy in Paris tweeted that Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi and French officials had been in talks for over ten hours on Monday. “It was pretty much a technical discussion, and it went pretty well, on the whole,” according to a spokeswoman for the French foreign ministry. The previous day, Tehran spokesman Ali Rabiei sounded an optimistic note on the negotiations: “Fortunately, the points of views have become closer on many issues and now technical discussions are being held on ways to carry out the Europeans' commitments (in the nuclear deal)." At almost the same time, Iranian President Rouhani told the Iranian parliament, “We have never had any decision at any point to hold bilateral negotiations with the United States...When we talk about negotiations, we only mean it under the situation where all sanctions have been lifted.” In so doing, he reversed comments from the week prior, when he stated that he "wouldn't mind meeting with an individual" to advance Iranian interests, in what was widely interpreted as an allusion to President Trump.
Democratic Presidential Hopefuls and the Middle East Iran Nuclear Deal Takes Center Stage of Candidates’ Middle East Policy by Ali El Shamy As Britain’s involvement in the Middle East began to decline after the Second World War, the US’s role in the region started to gradually increase. Today, the Middle East has become a
cornerstone of American foreign policy and in many ways, an American president’s approach to the region can define his presidency. For example, Jimmy Carter’s short presidency was centered on two issues surrounding the Middle East, namely the Iran hostage crisis and the Camp David
Accords between Egypt and Israel. Furthermore, a new presidency can cause monumental shifts in American policy towards the Middle East, while Obama tried to normalize relations with Iran, Trump has been reinstating sanctions on the Islamic Republic in fear that it might obtain nuclear weapons which could further its region destabilizing activities. As the US is poised for a presidential election in a year’s time, a nominee from the Democratic Party is set to take on Trump for the highest office in the country. If Trump is to lose the upcoming election, then we might witness another shift in the US’s Middle East policy particularly when it comes to the controversial JCPOA deal with Iran. However, not all Democratic nominees share the same opinions on the region and, for better or worse, the more progressive candidates present the prospect of more radical changes US-Middle East relations, meanwhile the more establishment nominees will likely tread on familiar ground to previous democratic presidents from the past 20 years.
BERNIE SANDERS: THE ANTITHESIS OF DONALD TRUMP
Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks about the bill to end the U.S. support for the war in Yemen on December ,13 2018 in Washington, DC. (Getty)
In many ways, Bernie Sanders is the antithesis of Donald Trump when it comes to the Middle East. Back in November 2018, Sanders along with Senator Chris Murphy (Dem) and Senator Mike Lee (Rep) proposed a bipartisan resolution in Congress which would end the US’s support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Sanders would propose the resolution again in March of this year, which passed in the Senate 46-54 and 175-247 in the House. Trump would eventually veto the resolution, but if this resolution indicates anything it’s that a Sanders presidency would likely not come in Saudi Arabia’s favor. Sanders has been vocally critical of Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the JCPOA and is in favor of returning to the deal, on May 2019 ,8, he tweeted: “Trump has isolated the U.S. from its closest allies and put us on a dangerous path to conflict. We should rejoin the deal and work with allies to effectively enforce it.”
Even more controversial was Gabbard’s January 2017 visit to Syria, where she met with Bashar Al-Assad. Democratic leadership was not informed of her plans to visit Syria, and she was subsequently met with criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. Furthermore, in a June 21 article he wrote for The Guardian he stated that Iran’s increase in its uranium stockpile was a response for Trump’s maximum pressure campaign. It should be noted in the same article he stipulated that Iran pursues a number of bad policies such as supporting extremist groups around the region, which he thinks should be dealt with diplomatically and by working with allies.
TULSI GABBARD: THE CAUTIOUS (CONTROVERSIAL) VETERAN The Hawaii House Representative is an army veteran who has previously served in Iraq, and as such has had her experience influence her Middle East policy. Like her Democratic colleagues, she is critical of Trump’s decision to pull out of the JCPOA, and has stated that the move can result in unwanted consequences such as Iran restarting its nuclear weapons program. She has also said that the deal was not perfect, but was better than alternatives that seek to block Iran’s nuclear weapons program. She further warned against a confrontational approach to Iran and is fearful of an armed conflict with the Islamic Republic and warned that a war would potentially have worse effects than the Iraq war. In her opinion a war with Iran would cause pointless loss of soldiers’ lives, civilians’ lives, the worst refugee crisis in Europe’s history and would give leverage for terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS to expand.
Gabbard is not the anti-war candidate she leads us to believe though, for instance back in 2018 she voted for increasing the defense budget. Moreover, she is also for the limited use of drones in the region, as she thinks that the method is a quick and efficient way of attacking terror cells without any long-term deployment. Her views on Syria have proven to be the most controversial; in November 2015 she introduced a bipartisan bill to end the war in Syria. She has expressed her disdain for US’s involvement in the Syrian civil war and has said that her country is waging an illegal war to overthrow Assad; something she thinks would be counterintuitive to the fight against ISIS. Even more controversial was her January 2017 visit to Syria, where she met with Bashar Al-Assad. Democratic leadership was not informed of her plans to visit Syria, and she was subsequently met with criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
ELIZABETH WARREN: THE PSEUDO-PROGRESSIVE Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts, has been vying to become the progressive candidate for the Democrats. While she has shown similarities with Sanders when it comes to domestic policies, her foreign policies are much more of a mixed bag. For example, she has opposed the US’s involvement in Yemen and has been fairly consistent on that stance. But, she has shown to change her views on other issues,
A Democratic victory in the presidential elections might signal trouble for Saudi Arabia as most leading candidates have called for an end to US support for its efforts in Yemen.
for example she initially supported Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, but she later voted in favor of a sanctions bill against Russia, North Korea and Iran. Despite her seemingly inconsistent stances, she seems to have taken a much more condemnatory position on Trump’s Iran policy. In June of this year, during a town hall meeting in Florida, she vocally censured Trump’s actions toward Iran: “He has created a crisis that has taken our country to the brink of war; he has not made us safer. He has made the United States more at risk. He’s made the Middle East more dangerous. He has made the entire world a more dangerous place.” Like Sanders, she favors working with allies to find diplomatic solutions to the crisis.
JOE BIDEN: REHASH OF OBAMA’S POLICIES Depending on which polls you’re looking at,
Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii, an official candidate for the Democratic Primaries of the 2020 US Presidential election, gives a press conference in Washington DC on February 2019 ,15. (Getty)
would only return to the deal of Iran goes back to the commitments that it has violated, such as increasing its enriched uranium stockpile. He also addressed some of the issues that critics have of the deal, for example he stated that he would work with allies to improve the deal by making it more effective in halting Iran’s other destabilizing activities. Like the rest of the democratic caucus, he is opposed to the US’s involvement in the Yemen war and has vowed to end support for the Saudiled coalition in the conflict.
KAMALA HARRIS SHARES VIEWS WITH BIDEN
the former vice president is the frontrunner of the Democratic Party. Unlike, Sanders, Warren and Gabbard Biden is seen a return from the anti-establishment wave that started since the 2016 election and many older democrats see him as the ideal candidate to take on Trump. Biden’s voting record on the Middle East has been mixed, for instance, he voted against the Gulf War, but voted for the Iraq war nearly a decade later. Like Obama, he has a strained relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but that is unlikely to translate into strained US-Israeli relations should he become president. Having served as Obama’s Vice President, he has naturally defended the JCPOA and attacked Trump on multiple occasions for pulling the US out of the “hard-won nuclear agreement that the ObamaBiden Administration negotiated.” In spite of his defense of the JCPOA, he has admitted that under his presidency the US
Like the rest Democratic nominees, Kamala Harris has expressed a desire to rejoin the JCPOA, and like Biden, she said that she would seek to expand upon it so that it prevents Iran from carrying out ballistic missile tests. She criticized Trump for pulling out of the deal stating that it was working, and she is not in favor of the unilateral manner in which Trump walked away without consoling the rest of the P1+5. She has also been vocal against the US’s role in the Yemen war and voted for Sanders’ resolution to end US involvement in the conflict.
IMPLICATIONS OF A DEMOCRATIC VICTORY Thus far, the Iran nuclear deal has taken center stage of the nominees’ Middle East policies. Should a democratic candidate win the upcoming election, then it is likely that the US might return to the JCPOA, despite opposition from other key allies in the region. Naturally, the Iranian leadership is hoping for Trump’s defeat in the upcoming elections and is probably trying to endure the sanctions as much as it can, since it probably favors returning to the negotiating table with a democratic president rather than Trump. Furthermore, a democratic victory might signal trouble for Saudi Arabia as most leading candidates have called for an end to US support for its efforts in Yemen.
How Not to Fight a Currency War Branding China a “Currency Manipulator” Will Only Hurt the United States by Brad W. Setser Earlier this month, the United States officially branded China a currency manipulator. Trade hawks have long argued that Washington should call out Beijing for holding down the value of its currency in order to unfairly boost
its exports. But ironically, U.S. President Donald Trump picked a time when China wasn’t actually suppressing the yuan to formally brand it a manipulator. Although it has certainly manipulated its currency in the past, China stopped doing so in 2014. Yet Trump, upset by the yuan’s depreciation during the first week of August and frustrated
Although it has certainly manipulated its currency in the past, China stopped doing so in 2014. country’s bilateral trade balance with the United States, whether it is a net lender to the rest of the world, and the extent of its intervention in the foreign exchange market. Both laws are currently on the books, and some aspects of the 1988 law actually might be better suited to addressing real cases of manipulation, but Trump’s use of the earlier law to designate China was nothing more than cheap theater. That’s not to say the U.S. president didn’t highlight a real problem: with two flawed laws defining currency manipulation on the books, the United States lacks both adequate criteria for identifying currency manipulation and effective tools for responding to it. Unfortunately, branding China a manipulator at a time when it is not actually manipulating its currency will only make it harder to take a tough line against real manipulation in the future.
ONCE A MANIPULATOR, NOT ALWAYS A MANIPULATOR
United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (C) gestures as he chats with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (R) as US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L) looks on after posing for a «family photo» at the Xijiao Conference Centre in Shanghai on July ,31 2019. (Getty)
by a lack of progress in U.S.-Chinese trade talks, reportedly pressed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to make the designation over Mnuchin’s own objections. The designation is largely symbolic. Under the legislation cited by the U.S. Treasury Department, the penalty will be a year of negotiations between the United States and China, either directly or through the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In fact, the only way that the Treasury was able to designate China was through an expansive reading of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, whose criteria for manipulation include any action in the foreign exchange market aimed at “gaining an unfair advantage in international trade.” China doesn’t meet the more technical definition of manipulation set forth in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which considers a
Currency manipulation occurs when a country that runs a large trade surplus intervenes in the foreign exchange market with the aim of artificially depressing the value of its currency and making its exports cheaper on the global market. Although standard macroeconomic policies, such as cutting interest rates or buying domestic financial assets, can affect exchange rates, manipulation—correctly defined—is conceptually different. Whereas the aim of the former policies is to ease domestic financial conditions, the purpose of manipulation is simply to weaken a currency or to keep it from rising when it should. Governments typically accomplish this by purchasing foreign currencies and selling their own, artificially decreasing the demand for the latter. Genuine manipulation can sometimes be difficult to identify, as countries may have legitimate, prudential reasons for intervening in the foreign exchange market. When a country receives large financial inflows, for example, it may wish to build up foreign exchange reserves in case those financial inflows reverse. Heavily indebted countries that run trade deficits also need to hold foreign exchange reserves to limit the risk of a crisis. But if the intervention is done by a country with a large
trade surplus, then it is probably manipulation—a policy directed primarily at keeping the country’s trade surplus high rather than managing its domestic economy. China began manipulating its currency roughly 15 years ago, several years after its 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization provided a massive jolt to its economy. Under normal circumstances, the rapid growth that followed would have caused the value of the yuan to increase. Yet Beijing, which was determined to keep its exports cheap, refused to let its currency rise against the dollar, buying up foreign exchange reserves to artificially deflate the value of the yuan. China’s manipulation during this period was one reason for the so-called China shock—the rapid fall, in the first decade of the current century, in manufacturing employment in U.S. and European regions that compete most directly with China. Yet China stopped manipulating its currency in the second half of 2014, when the dollar strengthened significantly as a result of the Federal Reserve’s decision to start raising interest rates and the European Central Bank’s decision to begin quantitative easing. At the time, the yuan was tightly linked to the dollar, so the dollar’s rise pulled the yuan’s value up against many of China’s trading partners, putting additional stress on its weakening economy. Amid the resulting market uncertainty, many Chinese savers started to worry that the yuan might depreciate and sought to move their funds out of China. As a result, Beijing no longer needed to buy large sums of dollars in the foreign exchange market to keep the yuan from rising. On the contrary, it at times had to sell dollars (and buy yuan) to
The right penalty would be counterintervention by the United States—purchasing the currency of the manipulating country in order to push its value back up. Washington already has the legal authority to do this via the Treasury Department’s Exchange Stabilization Fund.
keep the yuan from falling in value. Beijing still doesn’t allow its currency to float freely—the Chinese central bank manages the market value of the yuan through means other than foreign exchange purchases, for instance by setting the center point for the yuan’s daily trading range. But today it is using these tools to keep the yuan from falling even faster than it has in recent weeks. The yuan easily could be between three and five percent weaker if China were not managing its value. Previous U.S. administrations made a political decision not to designate China a currency manipulator. Because the relevant legislation did not specify any real sanction for currency manipulation, top officials in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations argued that the designation would amount to name-calling without genuine consequences. They also worried that it would lead Congress to take matters into its own hands and impose sweeping tariffs on China, undermining what was believed to be the United States’ broader interest in integrating Beijing into the world economy. The Trump administration’s decision to designate China was equally political: Trump didn’t like that the yuan had depreciated against the dollar, which he feared
In this photo illustration, a one hundred U.S. dollar banknote featuring Benjamin Franklin is on display by two one hundred Chinese yuans banknotes featuring Mao Zedong on October 2007 ,23 in Shanghai, China. (Getty)
then look not at a country’s bilateral trade balance with the United States, as the 2015 law does, but at the country’s overall trade balance and its direct activity in the foreign exchange market. In a world of global value chains, a country’s trading balance with the United States isn’t a good guide to whether it’s manipulating its currency. Countries such as Singapore and Taiwan, for instance, have a history of unfair currency policies. But because they export highend electronic components to China and Vietnam for final assembly rather than selling directly to the United States, the current set of ill-defined standards lets them off the hook. Washington should also more rigorously assess other countries’ actions in the foreign exchange market. Currently, it looks narrowly at the actions of a country’s central bank. It should expand this assessment to include an evaluation of whether a country’s stateowned banks and investment funds are helping to weaken its currency.
would harm U.S. exports.
WRONG TARGETS, WORTHLESS WEAPONS There are legitimate reasons for the United States to be concerned about currency manipulation: currency manipulators effectively make it harder for their trading partners to grow their economies, especially under economic conditions such as the present, marked by weak demand, too much saving, and low interest rates. But a serious policy needs to be based on a well-defined process that sets out clear criteria for assessing a country’s actions in the foreign exchange market. The goal should be to deter countries from manipulating and name them only if they ignore clear warnings. That’s quite different from Trump designating China out of frustration. A better set of criteria for designating currency manipulators would take as a starting point a different portion of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 than the “unfair advantage” criterion Trump has seized on: a portion that emphasizes actions that “impede effective balance of payments adjustment”—that is, policies designed to preserve a large trade surplus. It would
Basing any claim of manipulation on a clear definition is especially important if a finding of manipulation is to be paired with real penalties. Right now, it isn’t. The 1988 law requires nothing more than a year of negotiations, and although the 2015 law calls for some sanctions, such as enhanced IMF surveillance or the loss of risk insurance through the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, these are largely pinpricks. The right penalty would be counterintervention by the United States—purchasing the currency of the manipulating country in order to push its value back up. Washington already has the legal authority to do this via the Treasury Department’s Exchange Stabilization Fund, a reserve fund authorized to deal in foreign exchange. But right now the fund has only around 100$ billion in assets— enough for a currency war with a small power but not a major one such as China. Congress could appropriate more money for the fund in order to establish a more effective deterrent. Trump’s decision to brand China a currency manipulator at a time when it doesn’t meet any sensible definition of manipulation was a mistake, even if the designation itself has few legal consequences. But it highlights how U.S. currency policy effectively amounts to going after the wrong targets with a worthless weapon. A better policy would make sure the United States not only names the right targets—those that are actively buying large amounts of foreign exchange in the market to hold their currencies down—but ensures there are real penalties for offending countries if they don’t change their behavior. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
China’s Long March to Technological Supremacy The Roots of Xi Jinping’s Ambition to “Catch Up and Surpass” by Julian Baird Gewirtz Until recently, American perceptions of Chinese technology tended to be either hopeful or dismissive. On the hopeful side, the information revolution was taken as a sure drive of greater freedom. “Imagine if the Internet took hold in China,” George W. Bush said in a presidential debate in 1999. “Imagine how freedom would spread.” Some observers noted considerable theft and imitation of U.S. technology firms, but Chinese technology was generally thought to represent little or no competitive threat, with analysts explaining—as a 2014 Harvard Business Review headline put it—“why China can’t innovate.” But China has quickly moved up the value chain, creating world-
class industries in everything from 5G and artificial intelligence to biotechnology and quantum computing. Some experts now believe that China could unseat the United States as the world’s leading technological force. And many U.S. policymakers view that prospect as an existential threat to U.S. economic and military power. “Very dangerous,” President Donald Trump said recently when talking about the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei; National Security Adviser John Bolton has warned of a “Manchurian chip.” Yet if China’s rapid technological advance came as a shock to most observers in the United States, for Chinese leaders it reflects a drive that dates to the origins of the People’s Republic. President Xi Jinping has described a formidable objective
for Chinese tech: “catch up and surpass.” But that ambition, abbreviated as ganchao in Chinese, has long been one of the Chinese Communist Party’s defining goals; it remains the essential framework for understanding China’s ambition to become a technological superpower today, bringing together the legacies of Marxism, Maoism, and the tortuous pursuit of modernization by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In the minds of China’s leaders, from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping, technological progress is not only a means to economic and military prowess but also an ideological end in itself—offering final proof of China’s restoration as a great power after decades of struggle.
An all-out rivalry between the world’s two technology leaders would be immensely costly, disruptive, and destructive. Instead, policymakers should focus on establishing and enforcing new rules for the race already underway, so that competition can occur fairly and be at least somewhat bounded.
“CATCH UP AND SURPASS”
Attendees take photos about an automatic patrol car at the exhibition room of China International Software and Information Service Fair 2016 on June 2016 ,16 in Dalian, Liaoning Province of China. (Getty)
Long before Donald Trump and Xi Jinping began their trade war, the CCP’s historical fixation on advanced technology emerged from a combination of nostalgia for China’s lost imperial glory and awe for Soviet modernization. Mao, like other Chinese revolutionaries and reformers, blamed the country’s having fallen behind partly on its inability to keep up with international technological advancements. And he watched as leaders in Moscow carved their own path to technological progress. Initially, Mao’s China received extensive technological and technical assistance from the Soviet “elder brother.” In 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev declared that his goal was to “catch up and surpass the United States.” Mao took the idea and made it his own, putting the Chinese variant of Khrushchev’s goal—ganchao—at the heart of CCP ambitions. He envisioned the socialist world’s “overwhelming superiority” in science and technology and came to see technological strength as central to economic, ideological, and geopolitical power—the view of catch up and surpass that CCP leaders continue to hold today. The Chinese adaptation of catch up and surpass quickly turned fevered and utopian. Mao, impatient to develop faster than the overbearing Soviet Union, announced in early 1958 that China would take a Great Leap Forward, in which “politics and technology must be unified.” The Great Leap Forward—a massive campaign to rapidly industrialize and collectivize the country—ended in a catastrophic famine that killed tens of millions of people. Yet even then, the CCP did not abandon ganchao. Continued concerns about China’s military backwardness, as Evan Feigenbaum has written, motivated repeated pushes for technological advancement. In 1975, Premier Zhou Enlai introduced the concept of the Four Modernizations: modernizing “agriculture, industry, national defense, and S & T . . . to the front ranks of the world” by the year 2000. And when Zhou and Mao died in 1976, their successors, Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping, attempted “a new leap forward,” aiming to help China “catch up” by importing more than 15$ billion worth of advanced technology from abroad. When this new leap also foundered, due to soaring debts and sloppy decision-making, Deng took a new approach to ganchao, this time relying on market reform, industrial policy, and economic opening. The CCP rehabilitated those who had been purged during the Cultural
Revolution, increased investment in S & T research and training, sent delegations abroad to bring new ideas and technologies back to China, and encouraged foreign firms to set up shop in China and share sophisticated equipment and know-how. The rise of information technologies became a particular fixation of the Chinese leadership in the 1980s. In 1983, Premier Zhao Ziyang gave a speech on the “global New Technological Revolution,” invoking the need to “catch up and surpass” and citing the writings of American futurist Alvin Toffler, whose The Third Wave predicted the rise of a new Information Age. Zhao and Deng sought “ ‘leap-frog’ development in key high-tech fields” such as information technology, automation, and bioengineering. In the marketizing economy, newly emergent private companies also served the national goal to “catch up and surpass.” Liu Chuanzhi, an engineer at the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, started a side business that grew into Lenovo, one of the world’s largest makers of personal computers. Ren Zhengfei, formerly an official in the People Liberation Army’s engineering corps, began importing and reverse-engineering foreign network hardware and electronics, establishing Huawei in 1987. In the 1990s and 2000s, the pursuit of advanced technology involved several strategies of varying degrees of legality and publicity. Fostering the private sector remained a crucial part of the CCP’s strategy; Huawei especially won high-profile endorsements from senior Chinese leaders and tens of billions in loans from state banks, becoming a national champion as it expanded overseas and partnered with foreign companies. Information technology firms boomed, but the CCP assiduously managed the perceived political and cultural risks that accompanied the rise of the Internet. While building up the Great Firewall, China’s rulers also took advantage of the more open networks in developed countries: aggressively recruiting overseas Chinese experts to return to the PRC, obtaining foreign intellectual property by mandating the transfer of technical know-how in joint ventures, and engaging in industrial espionage targeted at high-value technologies.
SILICON MARXISM In 2013, shortly after being appointed CCP general secretary,
Xi laid out his vision for China’s future in a series of remarks centered around the goal of national rejuvenation—regaining wealth, power, and glory for China. Alongside the problems of corruption, pollution, debt, and military competition, he worried openly about the lagging state of Chinese technology. Advanced technology had been key to the West’s “sway over the world in modern times”; Beijing would need an “asymmetrical strategy” to “catch up and surpass,” he said, explicitly invoking this decades-old CCP ambition. That long-standing view, reflecting a single-minded focus on ganchao, explains the intensity and persistence of Chinese theft of trade secrets, involving both conventional spycraft and cybercrime—what former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander called “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” It has been reinforced by a belief that China’s thefts were part of rectifying imperialist misdeeds by the Western countries as well as the linkage of technological advances to the ideology and identity of the CCP. It also reflects a paradox in the CCP’s relationship to technology: pursuing an ultimate state of self-reliance has relied above all on foreign technology and expertise. By the time Trump came into office, China’s rulers could see that their focus on ganchao was bearing fruit. Barring a major crisis, China will become the world’s largest economy by gross domestic product well before the hundredth anniversary of the People’s Republic’s founding, in 2049. Its rulers, accordingly, are already shifting from “catching up” to “surpassing.” Xi argues that indigenous technological innovation is necessary to surpass the West, even if copying has been mostly sufficient to catch up. He calls innovation “the primary driving force of development,” giving a Silicon Valley–friendly gloss to the Marxist idea of historical “driving forces.” Working closely with private companies and universities, the CCP has positioned fields such as chipmaking, bioengineering, telecommunications, and artificial intelligence (AI) as test cases of whether China can “surpass” the United States. A state-supported flood of discounted capital, world-class researchers, “civil-military
China has quickly moved up the value chain, creating world-class industries in everything from 5G and artificial intelligence to biotechnology and quantum computing. Some experts now believe that China could unseat the United States as the world’s leading technological force.
fusion,” and less constraining norms give Chinese labs an edge. In the race to develop next-generation wireless service, 5G, Huawei is leading the pack, with one of the biggest R&D budgets of any tech company and revenues roughly equal to telecom competitors Nokia and Ericsson combined. And when it comes to the data powering AI, according to a report from the think tank MacroPolo, China may benefits from having fewer constraints on experimenting with new systems. (The Uighurs have experienced what this is leading to in the chilling technoauthoritarian model implemented in Xinjiang.) Because the CCP already engages in large-scale surveillance and limits personal freedoms, innovations in big-data systems for smart cities and social credit point in a startlingly dystopian direction. To Xi, innovation is good for both maintaining social control and growing national power. His Made in China 2025 demonstrates the breadth of Beijing’s ambitions. Made in China 2025 aims to bolster Chinese firms and ensure that they control the domestic market in advanced technologies such as robotics, new-energy vehicles, medical devices, quantum computing, and AI. One Chinese official told The Wall Street Journal that the plan has undergone cosmetic changes “because the Americans don’t like it.” But it endures in substance, and other senior officials insist that the CCP “will never give an inch” on this scheme’s broader goals. Top-down, CCP-led technological innovation brings its share of challenges. Many observers correctly cite the risks of misguided government-steered investment, which has led to waste and massive oversupply, or the challenges of supporting small entrepreneurs and researchers without heavy-handed interference. But the record of the past several decades shows that CCP leaders will, in their pursuit of technological advancement, display persistence and ingenuity in responding to those obstacles. China’s leadership has certainly been prone to exaggerating its achievements throughout a long history marked by leaps, rushes,
A man passes by a symbol reading ‹Made in China 2025› during a manufacturing expo on November 2018 ,29 in Shanghai, China. (Getty)
and “asymmetric steps”—but they also have a record of doing whatever it takes to make the hype real.
A RACE AGAINST TIME The goal of surpassing other countries technologically does not mean that China’s rulers seek global military supremacy. But even in best-case scenarios, China’s transition from catching up to surpassing will be destabilizing, as other countries confront Chinese ambitions for greater prosperity and security and feel their relative power decrease. And for China, building 5G networks for other countries and making AI breakthroughs clearly advance CCP aims far beyond narrowly construed self-reliance. Even if firms such as Huawei and ZTE are not incontrovertibly compromised by the state, their work clearly serves CCP interests. Technology will remain at the heart of U.S.-China tensions well beyond the end of the current trade war. Technology, to the CCP, is power in practice—it is historical change in material form. The roots of “catch up and surpass” demonstrates that the CCP’s approach to technology is far more deeply entrenched than many analysts realize. If China’s rulers feel their technological rise is under threat, they are likely to react more forcefully and uncompromisingly than policymakers may expect—as the Chinese response to Washington’s effort to block Huawei’s global 5G dominance has demonstrated. An all-out rivalry between the world’s two technology leaders would be immensely costly, disruptive, and destructive. Instead, policymakers should focus on establishing and enforcing new rules for the race already underway, so that competition can occur fairly and be at least somewhat bounded. Within the United States, that will require scrutinizing Chinese investments and acquisitions of U.S. firms, well beyond the traditional purview of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United
States, as well as the footprint of both Chinese firms in the United States(such as Baidu’s AI lab in Silicon Valley) and U.S. firms in China (such as Google’s AI lab in Beijing). In addition, Washington should seek to begin negotiations with China as soon as possible to explore common rules for emerging technologies. Such agreements were possible with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Today, they can be effective again if they are based on deep understanding of the technologies under discussion and the importance of tech to both countries’ conceptions of national power. For the U.S. government, that may require creating or improve policymaking institutions, such as upgrading the Office of Science and Technology Policy (which currently runs the National Science and Technology Council) into a new National Emerging Technology Council. The National Emerging Technology Council would serve as a consistent, high-level body, overlapping the National Security Council and the National Economic Council, to coordinate more effectively across the whole of government and bring empowered expertise to bear on both domestic policymaking and international negotiations. The U.S. government’s response should not be premised on the notion, evidently in vogue in both Washington and Beijing, that all scientific and technological activity is a zero-sum competition between states. The history of ganchao suggests that so-called technological decoupling between China and the United States will continue in areas where it is most difficult to distinguish between commercial and military applications. But unwinding interdependence carries significant costs, and so U.S. policymakers should attempt to draw distinctions between sectors in China that feature strong private-sector leadership and those dominated by the state—not all “Chinese” technology is the same. Research institutions and private companies will also need much more help evaluating potential research cooperation with Chinese counterparts, to guard against problematic partnerships while preserving the great value of international exchange to the progress of scientific research. Above all, Washington must not view countering China’s technological advancement as a substitute for investing in a major effort at home. The Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to cut budgets for the National Science Foundation and other government S & T funding are profoundly self-defeating at a time of intensified U.S.-China tech competition. China’s technological advancement will challenge not only U.S. power but also the United States’ sense of itself as a global leader and innovator. This demands significant U.S. domestic investment in S & T—in government research labs and private research institutions for certain, and perhaps in private companies directly. It will also require mobilizing the American people behind making significant improvements to the education, infrastructure, and immigration systems, which are sources of the country’s enduring strength. If there is one thing that U.S. policymakers can learn from the history of ganchao, it is that the world still wants what the United States has. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
Bolsonaro Fans the Flames Brazil’s Government Still Has One Faction That Can Douse Them by Oliver Stuenkel Thousands of fires have raged over the past weeks in the Amazon, devastating parts of the rainforest
and badly damaging Brazil’s global reputation. Since taking office in January, the country’s farright president, Jair Bolsonaro, has encouraged deforestation, a policy that environmentalists
Since taking office in January, the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has encouraged deforestation, a policy that environmentalists around the world link to the forest fires and have loudly protested. fires in the Amazon as a threat to his country’s sovereignty. He and a coterie of closely allied ministers and advisers—known collectively as the “ideological faction” of the Bolsonaro government—ascribe the criticism to a globally coordinated campaign to weaken Brazil’s territorial integrity and keep it from developing economically. During the 1970s, when a military dictatorship governed Brazil, nationalists zealously promoted the notion of an international conspiracy bent on undermining the country’s sovereignty. Bolsonaro remains nostalgic for the era of the dictatorship. By striking its chords amid the environmental outcry, he assumes the role of culture warrior, fighting the “globalism” and “cultural Marxism” of international institutions and foreign-funded civil society organizations.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gives the thumb up during a ceremony to commemorate the first 200 days of his administration at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on July ,18 2019. (Getty)
around the world link to the forest fires and have loudly protested. But Bolsonaro seems to revel in his role as environmental enemy number one, responding to criticism from world leaders in the same way he reacts to his opponents at home: with provocative disdain. He taunted French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, called the fires and the deforestation of parts of Brazil’s rainforest an “internal issue,” and repeated that “the Amazon belongs to Brazil.” Bolsonaro views international concern over the
Bolsonaro’s ideological posture led him to dig in on the forest fires, and he was further aggravated by a personal dispute with Macron. But as the fires and the opprobrium continued to rage, worried advisers convinced the president to dispatch 43,000 soldiers to the forest. Moving troops to the forest to fight the fires—a palliative measure—is unlikely to change the international perception of Brazil. Safeguarding the Amazon will require a broad reversal of Bolsonaro’s environmental agenda. Two of the three factions in Bolsonaro’s government—his associated ideologues and members of the military—are unlikely to embrace such a reversal. These factions share
the fundamental view that environmentalists may threaten Brazil’s sovereignty. The third faction, composed of liberal economists and business interests, still has an outside chance to convince Bolsonaro to adopt necessary environmental policies by appealing to Brazil’s long-term economic and foreign policy interests.
THE IDEOLOGUES AND THE GENERALS Forest fires occur every year in the Amazon. The year before Bolsonaro took office, from 2017 to 2018, Brazil’s Amazon forest lost nearly one billion trees. The current government is not the first to neglect the problem. Nonetheless, its contempt for the environment is particularly brazen, and this year’s deforestation will almost certainly surpass last year’s figure. Bolsonaro and Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s minister of the environment, do not believe in climate change. The president campaigned on promises to cut back government protections for the rainforest. He has made good on that pledge in part by slashing the budget for Ibama, Brazil’s environmental watchdog, which enforces regulations and imposes fines for illegal logging and other encroachments. The government sacked the head of the National Institute for Space Research, which publishes data on deforestation. (Scientists at the institute claim that fires this year are up 35 percent from the average of the past eight years.)
Bolsonaro and Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s minister of the environment, do not believe in climate change. The president campaigned on promises to cut back government protections for the rainforest.
And the president has fostered an atmosphere of impunity, encouraging loggers, ranchers, miners, and farmers to breach regulations and cut into the forest. Government agencies have imposed far fewer fines this year than in previous years. The Bolsonaro government has made no secret of its hostility toward environmental NGOs and international conservation efforts. Without providing evidence, Bolsonaro accused environmental NGOs of having started the fires. And the government has questioned the value of the Amazon Fund, an enormously successful conservation program financed by the Norwegian and German governments. Over the past decade, Norway has committed more than 1$ billion to the fund, which supports hundreds of projects across the Amazon to reduce deforestation. NGOs play a significant role in managing the fund—an
Bolivian soldiers combat forest fires in Otuquis National Park, in the Pantanal ecoregion of Bolivia, southeast of the Amazon basin, on August 2019 ,26. (Getty)
a “bunker mentality,” entrenching himself in opposition to world leaders such as Macron. The Brazilian president may not even be that bothered that his handling of the fires is threatening a major free-trade deal between Brazil and the European Union. Unlike Paulo Guedes, Bolsonaro’s economically liberal minister of the economy, the president is an economic nationalist who has favored protectionist policies all his political life. To the extent that the radicalism of Bolsonaro’s ideological faction threatens the country’s economic interests, Brazil’s generals have acted as a moderating force. Vice President Hamilton Mourão, a former army general, has shouldered this duty. In the months after Bolsonaro’s election victory in October 2018, Bolsonaro and Araújo repeatedly attacked China, Brazil’s most important trading partner. Mourão worked tirelessly behind the scenes to undo the damage, traveling to Beijingto meet Chinese premier Xi Jinping in a show of goodwill. The vice president played a similar role in a recent contretemps between Bolsonaro and the president of Argentina.
arrangement the donors consider crucial to its success. But in May, Salles demanded a reduction in the NGOs’ role—a deliberate provocation that predictably led Norway and Germany to suspend their payments. “Isn’t Norway that country that kills whales up there in the North Pole?” Bolsonaro quipped. Ideologues in the Bolsonaro government, including the president’s powerful son Eduardo, the Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, and Salles, seem to welcome international ostracism. Bolsonaro thrives on controversy and conflict, and the international criticism helps strengthen the president’s narrative that powerful forces are at work to undermine him, even while it helps rally his government’s most ardent supporters around the flag. The more hostile international rhetoric becomes, the more Bolsonaro will embrace
Environmental policy, however, is a different matter altogether. Those who expect the military faction to act yet again as the adult in the room and provide a check to Bolsonaro are likely to be disappointed. Mourão himself has expressed doubts about whether climate change is actually man-made. The armed forces are fully aligned with the president’s views on sovereignty and international interference. The former commander of Brazil’s army, the influential General Eduardo Villas Boas, closed ranks with Bolsonaro when he rejected international criticism as a “direct attack on Brazilian sovereignty.”
LIBERALS TO THE RESCUE? With both the ideological and military factions of the government shrugging off international pressure, the government’s third faction, the neoliberals, has begun to mobilize against the president’s environmental policies, reaching out to agribusiness and civil society. The liberal faction is led by Brazil’s minister of agriculture, Tereza Cristina, and by Guedes, and it
includes many skilled technocrats in the ministry of the economy. Both worry that Bolsonaro›s posture on the forest fires will disturb trade negotiations and undercut efforts to liberalize and restart Brazil’s sluggish economy. Brazilian diplomats privately concede that the furor is likely to delay or even prevent the country’s long-sought accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And the Europeans could still refuse to ratify the EUMercosur trade deal, a pact that is estimated to add nearly 90$ billion to Brazil’s economy over the next 15 years, and which Bolsonaro counts as one of his biggest foreign policy achievements. The stakes are not lost on Brazil’s business leaders, particularly in agribusiness, which accounts for more than 20 percent of the country’s GDP. The European Union currently buys 5$ billion worth of Brazilian soy per year. Marcello Brito, head of the powerful Brazilian Agribusiness Association, recently warned that “it is only a matter of time” before the fires prompt boycotts of Brazilian products. In such a scenario, Brito noted, Brazil would struggle enormously to “regain confidence” abroad. In the contest among the three factions that make up Brazil’s government, the liberal probusiness faction holds one trump card, and that is the parlous state of Brazil’s underperforming economy and the swelling ranks of its 13 million unemployed. Unless he can manage a return to significant economic growth, Bolsonaro will not likely see his low approval ratings recover. His government has bowed to pressure from the business sector before. As president-elect in the fall of 2018, Bolsonaro expressed willingness to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change. Ambassadors from European Union member states coordinated a pressure campaign, meeting one-on-one with Brazilian congressmen representing agribusiness. The European diplomats told the lawmakers that if Brazil left the Paris agreement, consumers across Europe would boycott Brazilian products. Days later, Salles, the environment minister, announced Brazil would
not abandon the commitments it made in Paris. And yet European pressure may not make much of an impression on Brazil’s domestic policy. Unlike the big agricultural associations, Brazil’s small farmers continue to support Bolsonaro’s loosening of environmental protections. With less exposure to the international market, these farmers tend to prefer lax environmental rules. They are often actively involved in deforestation and disinterested in, or unaware of, its global repercussions. And Brazil will not be without trading partners in case of a European boycott: China buys 80 percent of Brazil’s soy exports, and this relationship has proved unresponsive to Bolsonaro’s shredding of environmental protections.
Aerial picture showing smoke from a twokilometre-long stretch of fire billowing from the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia, in northern Brazil, on August ,23 2019. (Getty)
Bolsonaro certainly faces little pressure from the White House. At the G7- meeting in Biarritz this month, U.S. President Donald Trump, himself a climate skeptic, dismissed the Amazon conflagration as a “niche issue.” Even European leaders are not united in their approach. Macron has adopted an aggressive strategy, accusing the Brazilian president of lying and insisting that he won’t ratify the EU-Mercosur deal under current circumstances. German Chancellor Angela Merkel disagrees, arguing that refusing to ratify the trade deal will not prevent “a single hectare” from being illegally logged in Brazil’s rainforest. Sending troops to the Amazon to contain the fires is laudable but insufficient. To really protect the rainforest and take Brazil’s environmental responsibilities seriously, Bolsonaro must
reverse his government’s systematic weakening of its environmental protection agency. He must explicitly recognize that climate change is real. And he should accept that NGOs make positive contributions in combatting deforestation. Such an about-face is highly unlikely. Bolsonaro’s ideological anti-environmental views are deeply intertwined with his entire political project. Economic liberals can raise the specter of a scrapped trade deal with the European Union, consumer boycotts, and denial of OECD membership—but such pragmatic concerns may not sway a president so committed to defiance, no matter the cost. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1764- september - 06/09/2019
Tunisiaâ€™s Youssef Chahed: Agricultural Expert, Prime Minister, and Presidential Candidate www.majalla.com
Makers of ‘Avengers’ Present Hollywood’s First All-Arabic Action Movie Russo Brothers Face Criticism Over Claims of Authenticity Majalla - London Filmmakers, Joe and Anthony Russo – the directing duo behind the highest grossing film of all-time, Avengers: Endgame – premiered Hollywood’s first ever all-Arabic action film this week at the Venice Film Festival. Making his directorial debut, Matthew Michael Carnahan transforms a New Yorker feature about the police’s 100,000 strong Nineveh SWAT team (made completely of officers who lost their families to ISIS) written by Iraqi journalist Ali Maula who was embedded in Mosul during the battle with ISIS that raged in the devastated Iraqi city in 2016 and 2017, into a tense action documentary-film in which the apocalyptic battle is presented as a chaotic middle that has no beginning or end. The Russos’ experience of the "global fandom for the Marvel movies" had
convinced them of the pressing need to "find stories from every corner of the globe to bring to the rest of the world". And for the American team behind the movie, this was a story that urgently needed telling, even as the brothers were busy crafting two giant Avengers blockbusters. The Russos’ are self-proclaimed "news junkies" that are constantly reading the news to help inform their work on the many Marvel films. Speaking to Esquire magazine, Joe Russo explains that he first became aware of the police officers through an article in the New Yorker that struck a chord with him, "I'd never read a piece of journalism and cried at the end. The plight of this team and everyone in Mosul brought me to tears,” he said. The entire film was shot in the Arabic dialect spoken in Iraq, a decision Carnahan says was made to further punctuate the documentary-like approach to the story.
Speaking to Deadline about this decision, Anthony Russo said, “I think that was part of his process of trying to make it as authentic to the actual experience as possible," he explained. "We are not Iraqis, so we are quite removed from that experience. So, any opportunity we can find on a creative level - any creative technique that we can employ to get us closer to that authentic story - was really valuable.” Assisting them in their quest for authenticity was Iraqi executive producer Mohamed Al Daradji, who was consulted on casting the actors and crew members from the Middle East and North Africa and the displaced Iraqi diaspora, and helped transport them from Iraq to Morocco where the film was shot. He also lent his own experience of life in post-Saddam Mosul to ensure the story remained truthful.
The entire film was shot in the Arabic dialect spoken in Iraq, a decision Carnahan says was made to further punctuate the documentarylike approach to the story. Only four months after Mosul was finally retaken in December 2017, shooting started in secret in Morocco for security reasons. “Lord of the Rings” production designer Phil Ivey was hired to make the Morocco locations match the Mosul look they were trying to convey, and you can feel the broken soul of a city in his sets. Al Daradji told reporters in Venice that he is very optimistic that this film can “open
the road for Hollywood to make more positive films about the Arab world and the Middle East.” "Unfortunately we have been portrayed in a bad way for a long time. I have suffered from that, we all have had experiences from it," he told reporters. But in this film the heroes are "recognizably Iraqi, Arab and Muslim... speaking just like police in Mosul do... We never have had the chance to have an Arab story shown in this positive way. By the way, we are human beings like you", he joked wryly. When it comes to Hollywood, Arabs are often demeaned or demonised, but the producers said they wanted their film to be a ‘turning point’ in the way Muslims were portrayed on the big screen. But Despite Russos’ claims of authenticity, people are pointing out that the authenticity of the film is hollow as it is written and directed by someone who learned about the story from an American magazine article and
But Despite Russos’ claims of authenticity, people are pointing out that the authenticity of the film is hollow as it is written and directed by someone who learned about the story from an American magazine article and isn’t fluent in Arabic himself.
isn’t fluent in Arabic himself. Although he has written several similarly explosive films before, Carnahan hasn’t directed a film before, which many felt followed Hollywood’s long history of giving opportunities to inexperienced white men while people of colour struggle to break through. Writing for Indie Wire, David Ehrlich criticised the characters of the film for
falling into familiar Western archetypes because of Carnahan’s insistence that these men are just like “us” which he says deprives them of the chance to be anyone else. “Even their quieter moments are distressingly committed to humanising them in a way that American viewers might appreciate,” he wrote. “They watch a Kuwaiti soap opera during a lull in the action, and exchange steroidal
one-liners as if they’re consciously trying to prove that brown people can sell Michael Bay dialogue. On their own, such overt attempts to connect with audiences weaned on “The Hurt Locker” are benign, but “Mosul” hardly ever balances them out with flourishes that feel unique to the people on the Nineveh SWAT Team. If Carnahan mercifully avoids cheap Muslim stereotypes, he only manages to do so by avoiding virtually everything else as well.”
Tunisia’s Youssef Chahed: Agricultural Expert, Prime Minister, and Presidential Candidate Majalla - London Youssef Chahed was born on Thursday 18 September 1975 in Tunis, Tunisia. He studied to become an agricultural engineer at the National Agricultural Institute of Tunisia, where he graduated as valedictorian in 1998. He then joined the Institute National Agronomique Paris-Grignon in France and graduated in 1999, obtaining a postgraduate diploma (DEA) in environmental economics and resource and in 2003 a PhD in Agricultural Economics under the direction of JeanChristophe Bureau. Until 2009 he taught agricultural economics at the Higher Institute of Agriculture in France and in other countries as a visiting professor and has written many scientific reports and articles on public policies in the agricultural and agricultural production sectors in Tunisia. Chahed’s political career began following the uprisings of 2011 when he founded, along with Slim Azzabi and Abdelaziz Belkhodja, the party Wifak Al Jomhouri. In 2012, the founders combined the party with two others to form Al Jomhouri, which Chahed left the following year to join Nidaa Tounes.
On 6 August 2016, after the prime minister Habib Essid overwhelmingly lost a confidence vote in parliament, Chahed was nominated by the Nidaa Tounes party to succeed him. On 26 August, his Government was approved by the Assembly of People's Representatives with 167 votes in favour out of 194 votes cast and was therefore appointed by the President of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, becoming the seventh head of government for the North African country has had since the 2011 overthrow of longtime leader Zine ElAbidine Ben Ali.
Mehdi Jomaa, and Defense Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, among others. Chahed has said he wants to “break with the old system and give hope to all Tunisians, including young people, that they can take on important positions in the state.” He has also said that Tunisia should press ahead with his government’s focus the economy and security if it is to “join the club of strong democracy.”
“We have to focus on the economy in order to give Tunisians prosperity and welfare, in order to give jobs for young Following the death of President Essebsi Tunisians and in order to prepare for a in July, Chahed announced that he will new sustainable model of development take part in the country’s presidential in Tunisia.” elections that are scheduled to take place on September 15. Tahya Tounes (Long He said he would use his position as Live Tunisia) - which Chahed help found president to focus on security issues, at the start of the year after falling out bringing foreign investment and of grace with President Essebsi’s Nidaa securing stronger EU support because of Tounes - has become the second largest Tunisia’s place on the front line of the party in parliament behind Ennahdha. Mediterranean migration crisis. Chahed He faces competition from Abdelfattah launched his overseas campaign in the Mourou of the Islamist-inspired French city of Lyon, casting himself Ennahdha party, former president as a human rights defender. Some 1.2 Mancef Marzouki, controversial media million Tunisians live overseas, mainly magnate Nabil Karoui, former premier in Europe.
Don t Buy into Brain Health Supplements Forget about those Over-thecounter Products that Promise Better Memory by Harvard Men›s Health Watch A recent survey found that about %25 of adults over age 50 take a supplement to improve their brain health with the promise of enhanced memory and sharper attention and focus. The problem? There›s no solid proof any of
them work. «The main issue with all over-the-counter supplements is lack of regulation,» says Dr. Gad Marshall, associate medical director at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women›s Hospital. «The FDA doesn›t oversee product testing or ingredient accuracy -- they just look out for supplements that make health claims related to the
Many brain supplements focus on omega3- fatty acids (such as those found in fish oil), vitamin E, various B vitamins, or various combinations. Why these? There›s strong evidence that certain diets -- like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND diet -- can help improve cognitive function, according to Dr. Marshall. A COMBINATION OF NUTRIENTS
Young women counts out her pills and medication for the week using a daily pill box. (Getty)
treatment of specific diseases.» In terms of brain health, this means a supplement manufacturer can claim a product helps with mental alertness or memory loss -- but not that it protects against or improves dementia or Alzheimer›s disease. «This way manufacturers don›t have to back up any claim that their product is effective or even safe,» says Dr. Marshall.
Many brain supplements focus on omega3- fatty acids (such as those found in fish oil), vitamin E, various B vitamins, or various combinations. Why these? There›s strong evidence that certain diets -- like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND diet -- can help improve cognitive function, according to Dr. Marshall. «These diets contain foods with large amounts of these vitamins and minerals,» he says. «But what is not clear is whether it›s the combination of nutrients in these diets that›s beneficial, or whether it›s specific ones or even certain amounts, or some other factors.» Researchers have tried to answer these questions by testing how these individual nutrients affect cognitive health. So far the limited studies have found no evidence they help, with a few rare exceptions. «Still, this doesn›t mean that the brain supplements may not work,» says Dr. Marshall. «It›s just that there is not much, if any, evidence from randomized clinical trials -- the gold standard for research -- on isolated vitamins or minerals and brain health.» Here›s a summary of what science has found so far and what it means.
OMEGA3- FATTY ACIDS (FISH OIL) There are three types of omega3-s: eicosapentaenoic
acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) -- which are found mostly in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel -- and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in leafy green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, spinach), vegetable oils (canola, soybean), and nuts and seeds (walnuts, flaxseeds). «The body coverts ALA into EPA or DHA, but only in small amounts, so the best way to get high amounts of EPA and DHA is by eating more fish,» says Dr. Marshall. Omega3-s help build cell membranes in the brain and also may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that could protect brain cells. Fish is a staple in the Mediterranean and MIND diets, among others, and studies have found an association between higher intake of fish and a lower risk of cognitive decline. However, omega3- supplements haven›t shown the same effect. «Any benefit seems to come from a greater intake of fish and not from taking fish oil supplements,» says Dr. Marshall.
VITAMIN E Vitamin E is an antioxidant and is believed to help with brain health by reducing oxidative stress. It is the only supplement that has been found to have any possible benefit.
The fan-shaped leaves of the ginkgo tree are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat all kinds of ailments, the extract from the leaves is sold as a supplement commonly called ginkgo biloba. One of its main selling points is as a memory enhancer. However, as with other brain health supplements, the science doesn›t support the claims.
A 2014 study in the journal Nutrients reviewed the existing research on vitamin E and various health issues, such as heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer›s disease. The researchers found that high-dose vitamin E may help people with mild to moderate Alzheimer›s dementia continue to perform daily life functions for a short period of time. However, vitamin E does not prevent the disease or reduce other symptoms, and high doses increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
B VITAMINS Three B vitamins are often linked with brain health: B6, B9 (folate), and B12. They can help break down homocysteine, high levels of which have been associated with a greater risk of dementia and Alzheimer›s disease. B vitamins also help produce energy needed to develop new brain cells. However, most people get enough B vitamins through their diet. «You may need extra B vitamins via supplements if you have a deficiency, or have trouble getting enough through your diet, but
in traditional Chinese medicine to treat all kinds of ailments. In the United States, the extract from the leaves is sold as a supplement commonly called ginkgo biloba. One of its main selling points is as a memory enhancer. However, as with other brain health supplements, the science doesn›t support the claims. One of the largest clinical trials that explored the possible link was the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study. Researchers recruited more than 3,000 older adults, average age %54 ,79 of whom were men, with normal cognitive function or mild cognitive impairment. Everyone was given either 120 milligrams of ginkgo or a placebo twice a day for almost six years. (This amount was chosen based on previous research.) The results found that ginkgo biloba did not lower the overall rate of developing dementia. «Most supplements are not tested rigorously in clinical trials,» says Dr. Gad Marshall, associate medical director at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women›s Hospital. «However, ginkgo has been tested thoroughly for its potential to prevent dementia, and there is strong evidence that it does not prevent memory decline or dementia and therefore should not be taken for that purpose.»
THINKING ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS So the question remains: with no evidence, why do people still buy in to brain health supplements? «The idea still exists that it›s easier to take a pill than to make lasting lifestyle changes,» says Dr. Marshall. Until more is known, Dr. Marshall›s advice is to save your money. «Invest more in doing aerobic exercise and following a plant-based diet. These can help with memory and
Ginkgo biloba in a mortar on a white background. (Getty)
otherwise they do not have any clear benefit for brain health,» says Dr. Marshall.
WHAT THE LEAVES SAY ABOUT GINKGO BILOBA The fan-shaped leaves of the ginkgo tree are used
brain health in the long term more than any supplement.»
The Population Bust Demographic Decline and the End of Capitalism as We Know It By Zachary Karabell The Human Tide: How Population Shaped the Modern World. Paul Morland. PublicAffairs, 352 .2019pp. Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline. Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson. Crown, 304 .2019pp. For most of human history, the worldâ€™s population grew so slowly that for most people alive, it would have felt static. Between the year 1 and 1700, the human population went from about 200 million to
about 600 million; by 1800, it had barely hit one billion. Then, the population exploded, first in the United Kingdom and the United States, next in much of the rest of Europe, and eventually in Asia. By the late 1920s, it had hit two billion. It reached three billion around 1960 and then four billion around 1975. It has nearly doubled since then. There are now some 7.6 billion people living on the planet. Just as much of the world has come to see rapid population growth as normal and expected, the trends are shifting again, this time into reverse. Most parts of the world are witnessing sharp and sudden contractions in either birthrates or absolute population. The only
thing preventing the population in many countries from shrinking more quickly is that death rates are also falling, because people everywhere are living longer. These oscillations are not easy for any society to manage. “Rapid population acceleration and deceleration send shockwaves around the world wherever they occur and have shaped history in ways that are rarely appreciated,” the demographer Paul Morlandwrites in The Human Tide, his new history of demographics. Morland does not quite believe that “demography is destiny,” as the old adage mistakenly attributed to the French philosopher Auguste Comte would have it. Nor do Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, the authors of Empty Planet, a new book on the rapidly shifting demographics of the twenty-first century. But demographics are clearly part of destiny. If their role first in the rise of the West and now in the rise of the rest has been underappreciated, the potential consequences of plateauing and then shrinking populations in the decades ahead are almost wholly ignored.
People walk through a market crowded with shoppers in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong on February 2018 ,4. (Getty)
The mismatch between expectations of a rapidly growing global population (and all the attendant effects on climate, capitalism, and geopolitics) and the reality of both slowing growth rates and absolute contraction is so great that it will pose a considerable threat in the decades ahead. Governments worldwide have evolved to meet the challenge of managing more people, not fewer and not older. Capitalism as a system is particularly vulnerable to a world of less population expansion; a significant portion of the economic growth that has driven capitalism over the past several centuries may have been simply a derivative of more people and younger people consuming more stuff. If the world ahead has fewer people, will there be any real economic growth? We are not only unprepared to answer that question; we are not even starting to ask it.
BOMB OR BUST? At the heart of The Human Tide and Empty Planet, as well as demography in general, is the odd yet compelling work of the eighteenth-century British scholar Thomas Malthus. Malthus’ 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population argued that growing numbers of people were a looming threat to social and political stability. He was convinced that humans were destined to produce more people than the world could feed, dooming most of society to suffer from food scarcity while the very rich made sure their needs were met. In Malthus’ dire view, that would lead to starvation, privation, and war, which would eventually lead to population contraction, and then the depressing cycle would begin again. Yet just as Malthus reached his conclusions, the world changed. Increased crop yields, improvements in
The only thing preventing the population in many countries from shrinking more quickly is that death rates are also falling, because people everywhere are living longer. sanitation, and accelerated urbanization led not to an endless cycle of impoverishment and contraction but to an explosion of global population in the nineteenth century. Morland provides a rigorous and detailed account of how, in the nineteenth century, global population reached its breakout from millennia of prior human history, during which the population had been stagnant, contracting, or inching forward. He starts with the observation that the population begins to grow rapidly when infant mortality declines. Eventually, fertility falls in response to lower infant mortality—but there is a considerable lag, which explains why societies in the modern world can experience such sharp and extreme surges in population. In other words, while infant mortality is high, women tend to give birth to many children, expecting at least some of them to die before reaching maturity. When infant mortality begins to drop, it takes several generations before fertility does, too. So a woman who gives birth to six children suddenly has six children who survive to adulthood instead of, say, three. Her daughters might also have six children each before the next generation of women adjusts, deciding to have smaller families. The burgeoning of global population in the past two centuries followed almost precisely the patterns of industrialization, modernization, and, crucially, urbanization. It started in the United Kingdom at the end of the nineteenth century (hence the concerns of Malthus), before spreading to the United States and then France and Germany. The trend next hit Japan, India, and China and made its way to Latin America. It finally arrived in sub-Saharan Africa, which has seen its population surge thanks to improvements in medicine and sanitation but has not yet enjoyed the full fruits of industrialization and a rapidly growing middle class. With the population explosion came a new wave of Malthusian fears, epitomized by the 1968 book The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich, a biologist at Stanford University. Ehrlich argued that plummeting death rates had created an untenable situation of too many people who could not be fed or housed. “The battle to feed
all of humanity is over,” he wrote. “In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now.” Ehrlich’s prophecy, of course, proved wrong, for reasons that Bricker and Ibbitson elegantly chart in Empty Planet. The green revolution, a series of innovations in agriculture that began in the early twentieth century, accelerated such that crop yields expanded to meet humankind’s needs. Moreover, governments around the world managed to remediate the worst effects of pollution and environmental degradation, at least in terms of daily living standards in multiple megacities, such as Beijing, Cairo, Mexico City, and New Delhi. These cities face acute challenges related to depleted water tables and industrial pollution, but there has been no crisis akin to what was anticipated. Yet visions of dystopic population bombs remain deeply entrenched, including at the center of global population calculations: in the forecasts routinely issued by the United Nations. Today, the UN predicts that global population will reach nearly ten billion by 2050. Judging from the evidence presented in Morland’s and Bricker and Ibbitson’s books, it seems likely that this estimate is too high, perhaps substantially. It’s not that anyone is purposely inflating the numbers. Governmental and international statistical agencies do not turn on a dime; they use formulas and assumptions that took years to formalize and will take years to alter. Until very recently, the population assumptions built into most models accurately reflected what was happening. But the
s for the billions of people in the developing world, the hope is that they become rich before they become old. The alternative is not likely to be pretty.
sudden ebb of both birthrates and absolute population growth has happened too quickly for the models to adjust in real time. As Bricker and Ibbitson explain, “The UN is employing a faulty model based on assumptions that worked in the past but that may not apply in the future.” Population expectations aren’t merely of academic interest; they are a key element in how most societies and analysts think about the future of war and conflict. More acutely, they drive fears about climate change and environmental stability—especially as an emerging middle class numbering in the billions demands electricity, food, and all the other accoutrements of modern life and therefore produces more emissions and places greater strain on farms with nutrient-depleted soil and evaporating aquifers. Combined with warminginduced droughts, storms, and shifting weather patterns, these trends would appear to line up for some truly bad times ahead. Except, argue Bricker and Ibbitson, those numbers and all the doomsday scenarios associated with them are likely wrong. As they write, “We do not face the challenge of a population bomb but a population bust—a relentless, generation-after-generation culling of the
A world of zero to negative population growth is likely to be a world of zero to negative economic growth, because fewer and older people consume less. they catch up, given that more women are becoming educated, more children are surviving their early years, and more people are moving to cities.
human herd.” Already, the signs of the coming bust are clear, at least according to the data that Bricker and Ibbitson marshal. Almost every country in Europe now has a fertility rate below the 2.1 births per woman that is needed to maintain a static population. The UN notes that in some European countries, the birthrate has increased in the past decade. But that has merely pushed the overall European birthrate up from 1.5 to 1.6, which means that the population of Europe will still grow older in the coming decades and contract as new births fail to compensate for deaths. That trend is well under way in Japan, whose population has already crested, and in Russia, where the same trends, plus high mortality rates for men, have led to a decline in the population. What is striking is that the population bust is going global almost as quickly as the population boom did in the twentieth century. Fertility rates in China and India, which together account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s people, are now at or below replacement levels. So, too, are fertility rates in other populous countries, such as Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, and Thailand. Sub-Saharan Africa remains an outlier in terms of demographics, as do some countries in the Middle East and South Asia, such as Pakistan, but in those places, as well, it is only a matter of time before
Morland, who, unlike Bricker and Ibbitson, is a demographer by training, is skeptical that humanity is on the cusp of a tectonic reversal in population trends. He agrees that the trends have changed, but he is less prone to the blanket certainty of Bricker and Ibbitson. This is not because he uses different data; he simply recognizes that population expectations have frequently been confounded in the past and that certainty about future trends is unreasonable. Morland rightly points out that even if fertility rates fall dramatically in Africa, there will be decades left of today’s youth bulge there. Because he is more measured in his assessment of the ambiguities and uncertainties in the data, Morland tends to be more circumspect in drawing dramatic conclusions. He suggests, for instance, that China’s population will peak short of 1.5 billion in 2030 and then stagnate, with an aging population and gradual absolute decline thereafter. Bricker and Ibbitson, on the other hand, warn that China’s fertility rate, already in free fall, could actually get much worse based on the example of Japan, which would lead China to shrink to less than 700 million people in the second half of the century. Morland does agree with Bricker and Ibbitson on one important point: when it comes to global population, the only paradigm that anyone has known for two centuries is about to change.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS The implications of the coming population bust occupy a large portion of Bricker and Ibbitson’s book, and they should occupy a much larger portion of the collective debate about the future and how to prepare for it. The underlying drivers of capitalism, the sense that resource competition and scarcity determine the nature of international relations and domestic tensions,
and the fear that climate change and environmental degradation are almost at a doomsday point—all have been shaped by the persistently ballooning population of the past two centuries. If the human population is about to decline as quickly as it increased, then all those systems and assumptions are in jeopardy. Both books note that the demographic collapse could be a bright spot for climate change. Given that carbon emissions are a direct result of more people needing and demanding more stuff—from food and water to cars and entertainment—then it would follow that fewer people would need and demand less. What’s more, larger proportions of the planet will be aging, and the experiences of Japan and the United States are showing that people consume less as they age. A smaller, older population spells some relief from the immense environmental strain of so many people living on one finite globe. That is the plus side of the demographic deflation. Whether the concomitant greening of the world will happen quickly enough to offset the worst-case climate scenarios is an open question—although current trends suggest that if humanity can get through the next 20 to 30 years without irreversibly damaging the ecosystem, the second half of the twenty-first century might be considerably brighter than most now assume. The downside is that a sudden population contraction will place substantial strain on the global economic system. Capitalism is, essentially, a system that maximizes more— more output, more goods, and more services. That makes sense, given that it evolved coincidentally with a population surge. The success of capitalism
We are vaguely prepared for a world of more people; we are utterly unprepared for a world of fewer. That is our future, and we are heading there fast.
in providing more to more people is undeniable, as are its evident defects in providing every individual with enough. If global population stops expanding and then contracts, capitalism—a system implicitly predicated on ever-burgeoning numbers of people— will likely not be able to thrive in its current form. An aging population will consume more of certain goods, such as health care, but on the whole aging and then decreasing populations will consume less. So much of consumption occurs early in life, as people have children and buy homes, cars, and white goods. That is true not just in the more affluent parts of the world but also in any country that is seeing a middle-class surge. But what happens when these trends halt or reverse? Think about the future cost of capital and assumptions of inflation. No capitalist economic system operates on the presumption that there will be zero or negative growth. No one deploys investment capital or loans expecting less tomorrow than today. But in a world
grinds to a halt, people may well start demanding a new and different economic system. Add in the effects of automation and artificial intelligence, which are already making millions of jobs redundant, and the result is likely a future in which capitalism is increasingly passĂŠ. If population contraction were acknowledged as the most likely future, one could imagine policies that might preserve and even invigorate the basic contours of capitalism by setting much lower expectations of future returns and focusing society on reducing costs (which technology is already doing) rather than maximizing output. But those policies would likely be met in the short term by furious opposition from business interests, policymakers, and governments, all of whom would claim that such attitudes are defeatist and could spell an end not just to growth but to prosperity and high standards of living, too. In the absence of such policies, the danger of the coming shift will be compounded by a complete failure to plan for it.
of graying and shrinking populations, that is the most likely scenario, as Japanâ€™s aging, graying, and shrinking absolute population now demonstrates. A world of zero to negative population growth is likely to be a world of zero to negative economic growth, because fewer and older people consume less. There is nothing inherently problematic about that, except for the fact that it will completely upend existing financial and economic systems. The future world may be one of enough food and abundant material goods relative to the population; it may also be one in which capitalism at best frays and at worst breaks down completely. The global financial system is already exceedingly fragile, as evidenced by the 2008 financial crisis. A world with negative economic growth, industrial capacity in excess of what is needed, and trillions of dollars expecting returns when none is forthcoming could spell a series of financial crises. It could even spell the death of capitalism as we know it. As growth
Different countries will reach the breaking point at different times. Right now, the demographic deflation is happening in rich societies that are able to bear the costs of slower or negative growth using the accumulated store of wealth that has been built up over generations. Some societies, such as the United States and Canada, are able to temporarily offset declining population with immigration, although soon, there wonâ€™t be enough immigrants left. As for the billions of people in the developing world, the hope is that they become rich before they become old. The alternative is not likely to be pretty: without sufficient per capita affluence, it will be extremely difficult for developing countries to support aging populations. So the demographic future could end up being a glass half full, by ameliorating the worst effects of climate change and resource depletion, or a glass half empty, by ending capitalism as we know it. Either way, the reversal of population trends is a paradigm shift of the first order and one that is almost completely unrecognized. We are vaguely prepared for a world of more people; we are utterly unprepared for a world of fewer. That is our future, and we are heading there fast. Zachary Karabell is the author of The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World. This article was originally published in Foreign Affairs Magazine.