India-US 2+2 - Shanghai's COVID Challenge - Russian Views of China - New 'Invisibility Cloak' - National Security Education Day - Foreign Trade - Horn of Africa - Churn in Sri Lanka & Pakistan
I. India-US 2+2
by Shrey Khanna
On April 11, 2022, the 4th Annual India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue was held in Washington, D.C. The 2+2 meeting was preceded by the virtual meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Biden, in the presence of the Indian defence and foreign ministers and their US counterparts.
The MEA’s readout of the meeting stated:
“The two Leaders had an extensive exchange of views on several regional and global issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, global economic recovery, climate action, recent developments in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region, and the situation in Ukraine.”
The White House statement was relatively more elaborate:
“They emphasized their shared commitment, as leaders of the world’s largest democracies, to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. The two Leaders also discussed the destabilizing impacts of Russia’s war against Ukraine, with a particular focus on global food supply.”
Following the 2+2 Dialogue, the two sides released a multi-pronged Joint Statement:
On the Indo-Pacific, the statement:
“reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states are respected, and countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion. They further reaffirmed their dedication to promoting regional stability and prosperity, with an inclusive regional architecture, abiding by the rule of law, the freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, and ASEAN centrality. They also reiterated the importance of adherence to international law to meet challenges to the rules-based order, including in the South China Sea.”
“The Ministers welcomed the progress made in the last year on developing a positive and constructive agenda for the Quad to deliver peace and prosperity to the region in pursuance of their shared vision for a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific. The Ministers reiterated their commitment to the take forward the initiatives announced by the Leaders, to empower the Quad as a force for global good for the Indo-Pacific region and welcomed ongoing discussions in the Quad Working Groups on vaccines, climate change, infrastructure, space, cyber security, and critical and emerging technologies for delivering practical and tangible benefits to the region.”
On Defense and Security:
“they reaffirmed their ambitions for building an advanced and comprehensive defense partnership in which the U.S. and Indian militaries coordinate closely together across all domains.
The Ministers acknowledged the importance of deepening collaboration in science and technology in the U.S.-India Joint Technical Group (JTG), and in evolving new defense domains, including space, artificial intelligence (AI), and cyber. The Ministers underscored the importance of cooperation in space and welcomed plans to conduct an inaugural Defense Space Dialogue in 2022. They welcomed the second Defense Cyber Dialogue held in 2021 and look forward to the next round this year. They decided to hold an inaugural AI Dialogue this year to harness opportunities for joint innovation and cooperation in new domains. The Ministers also discussed additional training opportunities for our respective militaries, and the United States welcomed enhanced Indian participation in advanced courses across these emerging domains.
Acknowledging that our navies have been a driving force in advancing the United States and India’s shared interests in the Indian Ocean Region and the wider Indo-Pacific, the Ministers discussed opportunities to further advance and deepen maritime cooperation, including in underwater domain awareness.
The United States also welcomed India’s decision to join the Combined Maritime Forces Task Force as an Associate Partner to expand multilateral cooperation in the Indian Ocean. Both sides look forward to India’s co-hosting of the Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference (IPACC) and Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS) in 2023.
Recognizing the importance of building robust private industry collaboration, the Ministers welcomed ongoing projects under the auspices of the U.S.-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), including a project agreement to co-develop Air-Launched UAVs. They called on both sides to consider additional DTTI projects, such as a counter-unmanned aerial systems (UAS) system and an Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) platform. They also lauded the rapid growth in bilateral defense trade over the past decade.
Seeking trusted and resilient defense supply chains, the Ministers welcomed the progress made towards implementation of the Industrial Security Agreement to facilitate collaboration on cutting edge defense technologies between industries. Both sides would explore and further promote the means to encourage reciprocal participation of U.S. and Indian vendors in each other’s defense supply chains. Acknowledging India’s focus on developing its domestic capabilities and helping to ensure reliable defense supplies, the Ministers committed to work closely across their respective governments on co-production, co-development, cooperative testing of advanced systems, investment promotion, and the development of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities in India. To further enhance defense industrial cooperation in the naval sector, both sides agreed to explore possibilities of utilizing the Indian shipyards for repair and maintenance of ships of the U.S. Maritime Sealift Command (MSC) to support mid-voyage repair of U.S. Naval ships.”
On India’s Permanent Membership in the UNSC:
“The Ministers reiterated their commitment to work together in close coordination at the UNSC and in international organizations. The United States reaffirmed its continued support for India’s permanent membership in a reformed UNSC and for India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.”
On Developmental Convergence in the Indo-Pacific
“Leveraging the recently extended U.S.-India Statement of Guiding Principles on Triangular Cooperation for Global Development, the Ministers called for greater cooperation to address global development challenges around the world, including in Asia and Africa. In this regard, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and India’s Development Partnership Administration (DPA) have decided to expand triangular development activity with third countries. In addition, the Ministers looked forward to continuing discussions on the establishment of the U.S.-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation.
The Ministers welcomed the 2021 Indo-Pacific Business Forum, co-hosted by the United States and India, and convened for the first time in South Asia. They affirmed their interest in expanding efforts to promote sustainable and durable infrastructure across the Indo-Pacific and affirmed they would remain engaged through the Blue Dot Network and Build Back Better World (B3W) Initiative. The United States appreciated the opportunity for USAID to co-chair the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)’s Governing Council. Both sides reaffirmed plans to collaborate through CDRI in supporting countries most impacted by natural disasters, including those resulting from climate change.”
On Resilient Supply Chains:
“The Ministers reaffirmed the vital role of secure, resilient, reliable, and diverse supply chains for Critical and Emerging Technologies (CET), and the need to enable regional and global innovation. The Ministers decided to put in place a framework to advance cooperation in CET such as advanced communication technology, artificial intelligence, quantum science, STEM, semi-conductors and biotechnology.”
On Science, Technology, Cybersecurity, and Space Cooperation:
“Reflecting on the positive science and technology cooperation between the two countries, the Ministers welcomed the announcement of a Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Technology in 2022, to discuss future science and technology collaboration.
The Ministers applauded the recent and upcoming meetings of the U.S.-India Cyber Dialogue and the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Working Group to deepen cybersecurity cooperation. They strongly condemned ransomware and other cyber-related crimes and recognized the need to bolster protection of critical networks and infrastructure.
Recalling their countries’ strong tradition of space exploration and endeavors, the Ministers announced the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding on Space Situational Awareness and pledged to expand bilateral space cooperation, acknowledging the pivotal role international cooperation plays in the long-term sustainability and safety of the outer-space environment. They applauded the ongoing development of the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite, planned for launch from India in 2023.”
In the presser following the meeting, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated that China’s construction of dual-use infrastructure along the LAC and its unlawful claims in the South China Sea erode the security of the Indo-Pacific region. He stated that
“The People’s Republic of China is seeking to refashion the region and the international system more broadly in ways that serve its authoritarian interests. Across the region, the People’s Republic of China is attempting to challenge and undermine the sovereignty of its neighbours. Beijing is eroding the security of the Indo-Pacific region from its construction of dual-use infrastructure along your border to its unlawful claims in the South China Sea, and we will continue to stand alongside you as you defend your sovereign interest”
He also supported India’s role as a net security provider in the region and expressed gratefulness for being a leader in the region.
“We are working closely with India on a range of priorities to support India’s security and its role as a net security provider. It is a leader in the region and it actually exports security to the region, and we are grateful for that. Some of the things that we talked about are information sharing, deeper cooperation in space, in cyberspace, liaison exchanges, continuing to work together more frequently and in the exercises but also exercises of increasing complexity. So we are working with India on a number of things, and we think these things will add tremendous value to the region in terms of security”.
Meanwhile, Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh in his address to the Indian-American community in San Francisco, asserted that if harmed, India will not spare anyone, invoking the Galwan valley clash in June 2021. He said:
“I cannot say openly what they (Indian soldiers) did and what decisions we (the government) took. But I can definitely say that a message has gone (to China) that India will not spare anyone, if India is harmed.”
Before his address, Singh also made a visit to Hawaii for meetings at IndoPACOM headquarters.
My take: Despite differences between the two countries on the Ukraine situation, the 2+2 reaffirmed the importance of the strategic partnership for a free and open Indo-Pacific. The growing cooperation on AI, counter-unmanned aerial systems, underwater domain awareness, and space situational awareness shows the common challenges in the region are becoming prominent on the agenda. Yet going by the pressers after the meeting, the significance of the India-Russia relationship as an important factor in bilateral ties and the overall Indo-Pacific security architecture is likely to continue.
The Indian Express reported on April 10 that Beijing has sent New Delhi a proposal on disengagement of troops from Patrolling Point 15 in the Hot Springs area of eastern Ladakh, which was rejected by India.
The report noted:
“Government sources said China proposed that Indian troops, who have been in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Chinese troops at PP 15 for almost two years now, move back to the Karam Singh Post between PP 16 and PP 17. China said it would withdraw its troops just behind the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as claimed by India in that region.
Sources said this was unacceptable to India since the Chinese claim line and India’s understanding of the LAC almost intersect at PP 15. If India were to accept the proposal, it would mean that while Chinese troops would move back very little, Indian troops would have to withdraw several kilometres behind.
While they will move back to just behind PP 15, they are asking us to relinquish even PP 16 which has never been claimed by China earlier. It’s like saying I will move back 1 km and you move back 5-10 km. It’s a non-starter of a proposal for discussion,” a government official said.”
The reports also emerged on Twitter that China has installed 3 mobile towers in the hot spring area, close to the Indian territory.
On April 12, the Indian MEA reported the inaugural delivery of Covid vaccines under the Quad’s flagship Vaccine Partnership to Cambodia.
II. China’s COVID Outbreak
by Manoj Kewalramani
China reported 26,155 new coronavirus cases on April 16, of which 3,529 were symptomatic and 22,626 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Sunday. That compares with 24,791 new cases a day earlier - 3,896 symptomatic and 20,895 asymptomatic infections, which China counts separately. Most cases were concentrated in the financial centre of Shanghai. The outbreak is already taking a toll on the economy and having social stability implications.
For instance, this WSJ report says:
Chinese health authorities on Thursday reported more than 29,000 new infections, the highest daily tally since the pandemic began in the central city of Wuhan more than two years ago. Strict measures appear to be working in China’s far northeast, where local officials are declaring victory following an extended lockdown. Yet localized lockdowns are being newly imposed, expanded or extended elsewhere in the country, including in parts of the southern megacities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen and the eastern city of Suzhou. Forty-five Chinese cities with a combined 373 million people had implemented either full or partial lockdowns as of Monday, a sharp increase from 23 cities and 193 million people a week earlier, according to a survey by Nomura. The 45 cities account for more than one quarter of China’s population and roughly 40% of the country’s total economic output. Cities subject to full lockdowns together accounted for more than 5% of Chinese gross domestic product, according to China-focused research firm Gavekal Dragonomics.
Another report by WSJ’s Stella Yifan Xie and Natasha Khan, dated April 15, 2022, says that:
Eighty-seven of China’s biggest 100 cities, from Changchun in the country’s far northeast to its southern metropolis of Guangzhou, collectively accounting for more than half of China’s population and overall economic output, have imposed restrictions on movements and activities because of the current outbreak, according to an estimate by Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm. On Friday, Xi’an, which earlier this year emerged from a monthlong lockdown, tightened restrictions again.
In addition, reports inform of anger and protests. This NBC report offers a good round-up of events of the last week. It says that residents at a housing complex in Shanghai clashed with health authorities on Thursday, after they tried to block a government-mandated requisition of buildings to house Covid-19 patients amid a coronavirus outbreak that has had the city on lockdown for weeks. The thread below adds to this.
The NBC report further says:
“Critics say the outbreak, and the resulting lockdown, is costing lives in other ways. When local health official Qian Wenxiong died this week, there was widespread speculation that he had taken his own life because of the pressure he was facing to control the outbreak. In a statement on Thursday, the Hongkou District Health Commission confirmed that Qian had died on Tuesday at age 55. It did not share the cause of death. The lockdown restrictions have been blamed for other deaths in Shanghai, including that of a nurse who was turned away from her own hospital during an asthma attack and the 98-year-old mother of a prominent Chinese economist who died waiting for kidney disease treatment because her Covid test result had not yet come back. An online initiative to document all deaths related to the restrictions had reached around 130 entries as of Friday. There are also continued complaints about difficulties obtaining daily necessities under lockdown rules, which confine residents to their housing complexes and sometimes even their apartments. Though food is also delivered by the government, residents are greatly dependent on online orders and overstretched delivery drivers. In many residential compounds, volunteers are working together to coordinate and distribute bulk orders of food and medicines. Lucia Shen, a documentary film producer, said procuring necessities for her community of about 1,500 people had become a full-time job.”
From the point of view of the economic impact of the lockdowns, AFP reports that:
The mounting cost of China’s zero-Covid policy threatens to derail Beijing’s ambitious GDP target, analysts say, as supply chains snarl, ports face delays and Shanghai remains mired in lockdown. Growth in the world's second-largest economy was already slowing in the latter half of last year with a property market slump and regulatory crackdowns, leading policymakers to set their lowest annual GDP target in decades for 2022. But analysts told AFP the figure of 5.5 percent would be tough to achieve with stay-at-home orders halting production and stunting consumer spending in key cities. Experts from 12 financial institutions polled by AFP forecast GDP growth of 5.0 percent for the full year. They expect a figure of 4.3 percent for the first quarter, just above the 4.0 percent recorded in the three months prior. Official first-quarter data will be published Monday.
Amid all this, the government and Chinese party-state media have been trying to focus on the positives, while underscoring that there is no other alternative for China other than following the dynamic zero-COVID policy. Xi Jinping underscored this during his visit to Hainan this week. The People’s Daily, meanwhile, has been running pieces calling for persistence and patience and demanding that “all departments, and all sectors of society firmly align their thinking and actions with the decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee, and the Party and government should both assume the same responsibilities and work together…”
Another piece earlier in the week argued that:
“Epidemic prevention and control is not only a battlefield without smoke, but also an examination room to test the original aspiration of party members. Shanghai is at a critical stage of epidemic prevention and control. The more we face such moments,, the more it tests Party members’ spirit, political quality, and sense of responsibility, the more it requires that the majority of Party members strengthen the political consciousness of ‘I am a party member, I will go first’...” 疫情防控是没有硝烟的战场，也是检验党员初心使命的考场。当前，上海疫情防控处在关键时期。越是这样的时候，越能考验党员的党性修养、政治素质、责任担当，越需要广大党员增强“我是党员我先上”的政治自觉、拿出“舍我其谁”的英雄气概.
Earlier in the week, during a briefing by the joint prevention and control mechanism of the State Council, NHC’s Lei Zhenglong said that the current policy approach has led to a situation in which at present there are no “new large-scale outbreaks.” The report added that “the epidemic situation in Hebei, Jiangsu, Anhui, Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, Shandong and other provinces is generally under control.” Later in the week, we were told that after 45 days, Jilin Province has achieved the goal of COVID clearance in its communities. This was touted as nn example of victory lying in persistence. Global Times’ report explains what it means to achieve clearance. In essence, it does not mean zero cases.
“This means all the cities and prefectures in the province have achieved the goal of zero new cases in communities. The new cases reported in Baicheng, Liaoyuan and Meihekou were all under quarantine and controlled personnel, while Siping has had no new cases for several consecutive days.”
Another shifting aspect of the dynamic zero-COVID policy is the easing of restrictions in some districts in Shanghai earlier in the week. Reuters reports that:
“city officials announced on Monday morning that they were grouping residential units into three risk categories as a step towards allowing ‘appropriate activity’ by those in neighbourhoods with no positive cases during a two-week stretch, adding that district authorities would publish further details. Among the first districts to release lists were the industrial area of Jinshan on Shanghai’s southwestern edge and the central area of Jing'an, which posted the names of residential sites still in high- and medium-risk categories.”
A PD article said that “implementing differentiated prevention and control by district classification and carrying out step-by-step management is a concrete manifestation of adhering to ‘dynamic zero-Covid policy’...” 实施分区分类差异化防控，进行阶梯式管理，是坚持“动态清零”的具体体现，是落实精准防控的有效举措，将为尽快实现社会面清零的目标提供有力支撑。
III. Region Watch
by Shibani Mehta
Two countries in the neighbourhood, Pakistan and Sri Lanka took on massive Chinese debt-funded infrastructure projects, declined into economic crisis, and now are caught in a quicksand of political disruption. Bangladesh and Nepal have exposure to Chinese debt but have stayed cautious. According to media reports, China has become the world’s largest government creditor over the past decade, with its state-owned policy banks lending more to developing countries than the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank in some recent years.
“We are working closely with China to encourage more transparency in their (China’s) lending to developing countries which is actually a sizeable problem,” said World Bank President David Malpass while asking countries to decrease their reliance on China.
With the war in Ukraine and Covid 19 lockdowns in China, observers of the region question Beijing’s role in settling the ongoing crises as a major creditor. Malpass believes that as the world's second-largest economy and likely to become the largest, China has an influential position as both a consumer and producer of goods. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) owned media disregards predatory economic policies of Beijing as propaganda and insists that loans given to countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka are a portion of their overall debt. Beijing’s financial aid is almost always tied to specific projects. And while it may have the ability to assist, does it have the political will to do so?
Only a couple of weeks ago, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) prompted Sri Lanka to consult the IMF on the economic challenges confronting the island. Some reason that Sri Lanka permitted itself to be led into a trap laced with Chinese debts. Would that indicate that China pushed two economies into failure? Besides loans from China, mishandled economy, skewed foreign policy, and internal political turmoil are some of the commonalities which have emerged between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is, therefore, necessary, to isolate what aggravated the situation from where its roots lie. Similarly, those who claim that this is the moment for China’s rivals to shift the balance of power in their favour by financially assisting Pakistan and Sri Lanka, neglect the reality that assistance sans domestic economic reforms only kicks the can of distress further down the road.
IV. Russian Perspectives on China amid the Ukraine War
Several Russian foreign policy experts have opined on their view of Russia’s relations with China after the launch of the “special military operation”. Here is a curated summary of the most notable ones.
Igor Denisov and Alexander Gabuev both believe that it is highly unlikely Putin discussed the “special military operation” with Xi Jinping before it was launched. Xi being in the dark, is largely a consensus shared by most other foreign policy experts in Russia too. Danil Bochkov also highlights in his piece for The Diplomat that China has not especially helped Russia in light of Western sanctions. Bochkov’s view that China is trying to avoid secondary sanctions, and Chinese businesses are also spooked for the same reason, is another consensus in Russia.
Vasily Kashin in his piece for RIAC says China replacing the EU as Russia’s largest trade partner could be accelerated as a result of the current crisis & sanctions. Kashin believes growing economic activity with China can lead to development of the Russian Far East (which is geographically closer to China) and even relocation of some Russian population to it from the European parts of Russia. Kashin concedes that Russia will have to align more closely with China to counter the US and its allies like Japan. Kashin believes a formal military alliance’s question between Russia & China is unlikely to be raised but can’t be hypothetically ruled out.
Ivan Zuenko, has an insightful take on how Chinese businesses, both large and small, are looking at the ongoing Ukraine crisis and are pretty much waiting and watching. Zuenko believes that China and its businesses hope to extract special concessions from Russia, but these are unlikely to be conceded by Moscow.
In a detailed interview, Alexei Maslov acknowledges that Russia and China have a huge economic disparity, and the scales are in China’s favour. Maslov also correctly points out that Russia is Beijing's only neighbour with which it doesn’t have conflicts and differences, and Russia is also a military and political peer to China. In Maslov’s view, many of Beijing’s larger geopolitical designs are unlikely to be realised without Russian cooperation which is the main hope why China may not abandon Russia. Maslov however stresses that Beijing is not appreciative of the surprise and uncertainty that the current crisis over Ukraine has ushered in. Maslov says that some conditions have to be fulfilled for China to extend meaningful help to Moscow - end of the “special military operation” in Ukraine with a ceasefire or some other agreement, Russia must clarify what it wants in the economic sphere, and finally China’s expectation must be fulfilled for a special economic offer (read concessions) different from what has previously been extended by Russia.
Professor Dr. Artyom Lukin from Far Eastern Federal University summarised the Russian outlook on China well in response to my request for a quote:
“China has refused to condemn and sanction Russia over Ukraine. However, there is a growing disappointment in some Russian quarters over Beijing’s stance. In particular, there is unhappiness that major Chinese companies, such as Huawei, are rolling back their activities in Russia due to the fear of American secondary sanctions. Understandably, China has to walk a tightrope between its commitment to the strategic partnership with Moscow and the fear of getting mauled by Western penalties. The question is, if this balancing act may eventually sow doubts in Russia about the reliability of China.”
Note by Manoj: In addition to the above, do check out these excellent graphics that Megha Pardhi has put together based on this dataset put together by the Yale School of Management team led by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, tracking the actions taken by foreign companies operating in Russia. Megha has focussed on what the data tell us about Chinese companies.
Note by Manoj:
Data released this week showed that China’s trade with Russia stood at $38.2 billion in the first three months, up 28.7 percent on a yearly basis. Global Times reports that the growth rate dropped from 38.5 percent in the first two months in 2022. Trade between Russia and China stood at 243 billion yuan ($38.2 billion) in the first quarter. Chinese customs spokesperson Li Kuiwen also said at a press conference on Wednesday that China-Ukraine trade stood at about 29.59 billion yuan in the first quarter, achieving positive growth…The slowdown in China's trade with Russia was more evident in the export sector than in the import sector. In the first quarter, China's exports to Russia increased 25.9 percent year-on-year, down from 41.5 percent in the first two months. Import growth fell from 35.8 percent in the first two months to 31 percent in the first quarter.
Bloomberg reports that Chinese firms sold $3.8 billion worth of goods to Russia in March, official data showed Wednesday, a 7.7% drop from a year earlier. That was the lowest amount since May 2020, when global trade was badly affected by the outbreak of Covid-19…Imports from Russia rose 26.4% from a year ago, likely pushed higher by rising commodity prices. China mainly buys oil, gas, coal and agricultural commodities from Russia and sells electronic equipment, machinery, and vehicles. Details on the actual goods moved across the border in March will be released later in the month.
V. Chinese Military Scientists Claim to have Created an ‘Invisibility Cloak’
by Megha Pardhi
Stephen Chen of South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that Chinese scientists from Air Force Engineering University claimed to have created an 'invisibility cloak' that can hide equipment from radar satellites.
What do we know as of now?
Name of scientist leading the research: Xu He-Xiu
Affiliation: Air Force Engineering University, Xian, Shaanxi province
Journal: Journal of Infrared and Millimetre Waves
One-line description: A new cloth-like material created by the Chinese scientists can help make the object nearly invisible to radar satellites.
I found the full text of the paper in Chinese, attached below. Unfortunately, there is no authoritative English translation available.
How does this invisibility cloak work?
This new material is a stretchable cloth-like cover, but with 3D printed circuits and different materials.
Top layer - Thin fabric carrying many printed circuits that can manipulate electromagnetic waves
Meta surface layers - Layers of plastic and thin metal. It can change the direction of a return signal to mimic the radar signature of flat land.
The following diagram is an extremely simplified version of how this 'cloth' is supposed to work.
How is this different from current stealth technologies?
As also noted by Chen in the SCMP article, stealth technologies that hide airplanes and fighters from radars already exist. But the weapons and equipment on the ground can be detected by spy radar satellites. The cloth-like material created by Chinese scientists would allow the on-ground material, like tanks, to hide.
This highly sought-after area has intrigued scientists. A Canadian company, Hyperstealth Biotechnology, also announced the creation of an invisibility cloak a few years ago. The Telegraph covered it in 2019.
Moreover, researchers around the world have created 'metamaterials' capable of creating invisibility cloaks before, but the team of Chinese scientists claimed that other materials do not offer the flexibility of the cloak they have created.
Why is this claim important?
Radar satellites can detect equipment on the ground even at night. Being able to hide from radar satellites would increase the stealth capability of the on-ground equipment of the military.
According to a source quoted by SCMP, this is extremely important since "camouflage technology can protect more than 80 percent of the military targets from being destroyed by missiles."
What are the Limitations
The 'cloth' does not work as a stand-alone item. As per the researchers, it must be paired with other methods to increase stealth capability. Like heat reduction, optical camouflage, and decoys.
This means that just covering a tank on the ground with this cloth won't make it 'invisible'; other measures to make it undetectable to sensors would also be necessary.
China's Quantum Communication Leap - 100km This Time
Last week, scientists from China's Beijing Institute of Quantum Information Science announced that they have achieved a new quantum direct communication system with phase quantum state and timestamp quantum state mixed encoding, with a communication distance of 100 km. The results of their experiment were published in the journal "Light: Science and Applications." The results of the study were announced jointly by the team Professor Long Guilu and Professor Lu Jianhua from Tsinghua University. Long Guilu is also vice president of the Beijing Institute of Quantum Information Science.
This is important since it is the first-time scientists have achieved communication over 100 km as per Science and Technology Daily, a newspaper published by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). This is an improvement from the previously achieved distance of 18km.
The study achieved a transmission speed of 0.54 bits per second, slow as compared to conventional communications systems. However, this speed is still good enough for basic communications over text and audio calls to some extent.
Also Read, Holly Chik's article on the same for South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Why is this announcement important?
One, this study has proved that point-to-point quantum direct communication between cities is feasible using existing mature technical means. Thus, reducing the burden of complete system overhaul compatible with quantum communication.
Two, this achievement is the first such in the world, as claimed by state media, and it indicates China's continued growth and leadership in quantum technologies over other countries. I have previously written about the importance of quantum technologies for China in one of the articles for NewsTrail - "Quantum computing: China ahead, US plays catch-up". I am pasting an excerpt from my article here,
"The development of offensive and defensive cyber capabilities is an important part of Beijing's plan of modernizing the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Chinese scholars have written a lot about their vision of futuristic warfare. From developing integrated battlefield command systems and unmanned combat systems to intelligent warfare, robust and impenetrable communication will be essential to prevent interference from hostile actors."
Three, this is likely to be a foundation for the goal of building an intercity quantum demonstration network based on a safety relay. The objective to achieve an intercity demonstration network was laid down in the Beijing's 14th Five-Year Plan for the Construction of the International Science and Technology Innovation Centre during the 14th Five-Year Plan (北京市"十四五"时期国际科技创新中心建设规划) released in Nov 2021.
VI. The Long & Short of It…
by Manoj Kewalramani
a. National Security Education Day:
April 15 was the National Security Education Day in China. There were a bunch of activities and events around the day. In the People’s Daily, there were two big pieces on the day. The first was a commentary bylined 仲音. The author discusses the overall national security concept and adds that:
General Secretary Xi Jinping has profoundly grasped the issue of national security through strategic thinking while keeping in mind the overall situation and having a broad global vision. He has adhered to bottom-line thinking, preparedness for danger and rainy days and adhered to the supremacy of national interests. He has taken people’s security as the purpose, political security as the root, economic security as the foundation, military, scientific, technological, cultural and social security as the guarantee, and the promotion of international security as the support. He has integrated development and security, openness and security, traditional security and non-traditional security, self-security and common security, and national security maintenance and national security shaping, thereby putting forward the concept of overall national security. The overall national security concept covers politics, military, homeland, economy, culture, society, science and technology, network, ecology, resources, nuclear, overseas interests, space, deep sea, polar regions, biology and many other fields. It embodies General Secretary Xi Jinping’s profound insights with regard to the national security situation, deepens and expands our Party’s theoretical vision and practical understanding of national security issues, and points out the way forward and provides fundamental guidelines for national security work in the new era. 习近平总书记以统揽全局的战略思维和宽广的世界眼光深刻把握国家安全问题，坚持底线思维、居安思危、未雨绸缪，坚持国家利益至上，以人民安全为宗旨，以政治安全为根本，以经济安全为基础，以军事、科技、文化、社会安全为保障，以促进国际安全为依托，统筹发展和安全，统筹开放和安全，统筹传统安全和非传统安全，统筹自身安全和共同安全，统筹维护国家安全和塑造国家安全，提出了总体国家安全观。总体国家安全观涵盖政治、军事、国土、经济、文化、社会、科技、网络、生态、资源、核、海外利益、太空、深海、极地、生物等诸多领域，集中体现了习近平总书记对国家安全形势的深刻洞察，深化和拓展了我们党关于国家安全问题的理论视野和实践领域，为新时代做好国家安全工作指明了前进方向、提供了根本遵循。
The piece also says that “the risks we face include not only domestic economic, political, ideological, social and natural risks, but also international economic, political and military risks.”
The other piece was by the Overall National Security Concept Research Center. You can read a breakdown of the article here. But I am sharing some excerpts below:
National security takes people’s safety as its aim, political security as its foundation, and national interests as its criterion, so as to ensure that the people live and work in peace and contentment, ensure the Party’s long-term rule/governance and ensure the long-term peace and stability for the country…Political security concerns the stability of state sovereignty, political power, system and ideology. It is the most fundamental demand of a country and the basic condition for the survival and development of all countries. It is impossible for a country to safeguard its own interests and achieve long-term development if it is not independent externally and if its internal politics are turbulent. The core of political security is regime security and system security.
In the new era, we should give more consideration to security factors in our development, strive to achieve a dynamic balance between development and security, and comprehensively improve our national security capability and level. According to the characteristics of national security laws, we should make overall plans for traditional security and non-traditional security, promote the modernization of national security systems and capabilities, and make overall plans to meet security risk challenges in various fields.新时代，我们要在发展中更多考虑安全因素，努力实现发展和安全的动态平衡，全面提高国家安全工作能力和水平。根据国家安全规律特点，统筹传统安全和非传统安全，推进国家安全体系和能力现代化，统筹应对各领域安全风险挑战。
b. China’s Foreign Trade:
The General Administration of Customs shared Q1 trade data this week. Here are the highlights:
Total imports and exports expanded 10.7 percent year on year to 9.42 trillion yuan in the first three months. In U.S. dollar terms, total foreign trade came in at 1.48 trillion U.S. dollars in the period, up 13 percent year on year.
Exports surged 13.4 percent year on year to 5.23 trillion yuan, while imports rose 7.5 percent to 4.19 trillion yuan. The trade surplus was 1.04 trillion yuan.
Exports of mechanical and electrical products expanded by 9.8 percent to account for 58.4 percent of the total, while exports of labour-intensive products increased 10.9 percent in the first quarter.
Trade with China’s top five trading partners, ASEAN, the European Union, the United States, South Korea and Japan, increased by 8.4%, 10.2%, 9.9%, 12.3% and 1.8% respectively.
Trade with Belt and Road countries grew by 16.7 percent from a year ago to 2.93 trillion yuan. Among these, exports were 1.64 trillion yuan, an increase of 16.2%; imports were 1.29 trillion yuan, an increase of 17.4%. Trade with BRI countries accounted for 31% of China’s overall trade.
Trade between China and RCEP countries expanded 6.9 percent year on year to 2.86 trillion yuan, accounting for 30.4 percent of China’s total foreign trade.
The number of enterprises engaging in foreign trade in the country increased to 432,000 in the first quarter of the year.
c. China’s Development Finance Diplomacy & Horn of Africa Initiative
First, there was an article in PD this week by Xue Bing, who is the Special Envoy for Horn of Africa Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Xue wrote that the proposed “Initiative of Peaceful Development in the Horn of Africa” is an example of the “creative practice of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. He writes that:
since “mid-March, he has led a working group to the Horn of Africa to work on the implementation of the concept. “We visited seven countries in 16 days, and were warmly received by African friends wherever we went. Leaders of five countries, foreign ministers or foreign ministers' representatives of seven countries made special arrangements for the meetings and engaged in 18 press conferences and other kinds of interview activities. All parties unanimously appreciated and thanked China for putting forward the initiative, and expressed their readiness to fully participate in and promote the early implementation of the initiative, and supported the convening of the Horn of Africa Peace Conference as soon as possible to discuss a plan for peaceful development…”
You can read my full breakdown of the article here.
Also this week, PD carried a piece on China’s development finance diplomacy. It says that:
“In 2015, President Xi Jinping announced the establishment of the China-United Nations Peace and Development Fund...So far, China has provided a total of $120 million to the fund, and initiated 112 cooperation projects, covering the fields of peace and security and development, benefiting more than 100 countries and regions in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania. China has also announced a series of measures to promote international development cooperation, including providing another $3 billion in international aid in the next three years to support developing countries in fighting the pandemic and restoring economic and social development, setting up the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund and the China-FAO South-South Cooperation Trust Fund, exempting interest-free inter-government loans of developing countries, and striving to increase investment in the LDCs to $12 billion by 2030. Building a BRI is highly consistent with the goals, principles and implementation paths of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which will inject momentum into the sustainable growth of all parties. According to the data, in 2021, China's non-financial direct investment in BRI countries reached $20.3 billion, a year-on-year increase of 14.1%. 2015年，习近平主席出席联合国成立70周年系列峰会期间，宣布设立中国—联合国和平与发展基金。迄今，中国共向基金提供资金1.2亿美元，启动开展112个合作项目，涉及和平与安全和发展领域，惠及亚洲、非洲、拉丁美洲和大洋洲100多个国家和地区。中国还宣布一系列推动国际发展合作举措，包括未来3年内再提供30亿美元国际援助，用于支持发展中国家抗疫和恢复经济社会发展，设立南南合作援助基金、中国—联合国粮农组织南南合作信托基金，免除有关发展中国家政府间无息贷款债务，力争到2030年将对最不发达国家投资增至120亿美元。共建“一带一路”同联合国2030年可持续发展议程在目标、原则、实施路径上高度契合，为各方实现可持续增长注入动力。数据显示，2021年，中国对“一带一路”沿线国家非金融类直接投资203亿美元，同比增长14.1%。
You can read my detailed breakdown of the piece here.
d. Inspection of Central & State Organs
This week, we learned that 15 inspection teams have been deployed across central and state organs that are being covered in the 9th round of inspections. These teams will be working over a period of two months and will be open to tips, petitions and calls till May 30th 2022. The report says that the leaders from the Central Leading Group for Inspection Work have informed the principal responsible persons of the organisations that are being inspected about the relevant work arrangements.
They informed that the “CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core attaches great importance to the work of the central and state organs. They added that the inspections are important for the inspected organisations to grasp decisive significance of the ‘Two Establishments’, strengthen the ‘four consciousnesses’, strengthen the ‘four self-confidences’ and achieve the ‘two safeguards’; the inspections are an important measure to strengthen party building in central and state organs, especially the political organs, and to promote the comprehensive and strict governance of the party across central and state organs.” 各中央巡视组组长指出，对中央和国家机关开展巡视，充分体现了以习近平同志为核心的党中央对中央和国家机关工作的高度重视，是对中央和国家机关把握“两个确立”决定性意义，增强“四个意识”、坚定“四个自信”、做到“两个维护”情况的全面检验，是加强中央和国家机关党的建设特别是政治机关建设，推动中央和国家机关全面从严治党向纵深发展的重要举措.
The report adds that the Central Leading Group for Inspection Work will thoroughly study and comprehend Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, identify political deviations in light of the new arrangements and new requirements of the CPC Central Committee, adhere to the center, serve the overall situation, adhere to the general tone of seeking progress while maintaining stability, and adhere to seeking truth from facts and abide by laws and regulations…and greet the 20th Party Congress with practical actions of inspection and supervision. 中央巡视组将深入学习领会习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想，对照党中央有关新部署新要求查找政治偏差，坚持围绕中心、服务大局，坚持稳中求进工作总基调，坚持实事求是、依规依纪依法，坚持同题共答、依靠被巡视党组织开展工作，以巡视监督的实际行动迎接党的二十大胜利召开.
Further the report adds that “the main person in charge of the inspected party organisations stated that it is necessary to improve the political position, strengthen the political consciousness of accepting supervision, and actively support and cooperate with the inspection work with the courage of self-revolution…It is necessary to take this inspection and supervision as an opportunity to further improve political judgement, political understanding, and political execution, strengthen mission responsibility, faithfully perform duties and responsibilities, and effectively embody the ‘two safeguards’ in the implementation of the Party’s line, principles and policies, in the practical actions promoting high-quality development, and in the practical actions of being worried about the Party, doing one’s duty for the country, and contributing to the people.” 被巡视党组织主要负责人表示，要提高政治站位，增强接受监督的政治自觉，以自我革命的勇气和同题共答的行动，积极支持配合巡视工作。要以这次接受巡视监督为契机，进一步提高政治判断力、政治领悟力、政治执行力，强化使命担当，忠诚履职尽责，切实把“两个维护”体现到贯彻落实党的路线方针政策的实际行动上，体现到推动高质量发展的实际行动上，体现到为党分忧、为国尽责、为民奉献的实际行动上.