Stop Playing Pretend About China

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

May 24, 2017

Troops on Streets a Shock to British System: Freedland

News that almost 1,000 troops are being deployed around Britain following the attack in Manchester would already be enough of a shock to the system for a public not used to seeing its military on the streets. But having troops deployed in the midst of an election campaign “is new and unsettling terrain for British democracy,” argues Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian.
“Past precedent suggests that these ‘critical’ periods last just a few days, as the security services catch and ‘roll up’ terrorist cells and networks. For that reason alone, we must hope that this critical state ends quickly,” Freedland writes.

“But there is a less concrete reason, too. No one wants this heightened martial state to last so long that we get used to it, that it becomes normalized, as perhaps it has in France. To be specific, we have to hope there are no troops on the streets of the U.K. on 8 June. That would feel like an election under siege.”

  • Sadly, the Manchester attack is unlikely to be the last time children are targeted, writes Rita Katz for the Daily Beast.

“ISIS has stressed even more leniency in its soft-target stances in the past year. Several issues of ISIS’ monthly Rumiyah magazine, which is published in 10 languages, have laid out an especially broad and indiscriminate span. The publication, a source of ISIS-branded ‘how-to’ attack guides, has specified children — not to mention other noncombatant civilians — as being permissible to kill.”

America, Stop Playing Lets Pretend About China…

China’s rise across a range of fields is unprecedented. “Yet in the face of what is arguably the most consequential geopolitical trend of our lifetime, Washington has mostly played a game of ‘let’s pretend,'” writes Graham Allison in the Boston Globe. That needs to stop, starting with education.

“Among the top 10 schools of engineering, China and the United States now each have four. In STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), which provide the core competencies driving advances in the fastest-growing sectors of modern economies, China annually graduates four times as many students as the United States,” Allison says.

“For Americans who grew up in a world in which USA meant ‘number one,’ the idea that China could truly challenge the United States as a global educational leader seems impossible to imagine.”

…And Admit You Need It’s Help to End the Afghan War, too

A surge in U.S. troops won’t be enough to end the war in Afghanistan. Instead, the key will be Pakistan, Bloomberg editorializes. And that will mean getting China on board, too.
“As long as Taliban fighters enjoy safe haven across the border, they can keep up their insurgency indefinitely. Billions in military aid and years of prodding by the U.S. have failed to convince Pakistani leaders to cut that lifeline. Some of the alternatives now being discussed — including expanding U.S. drone strikes into Pakistan proper, cutting off military aid and encouraging India to get more involved in Afghanistan — risk destabilizing a coup-prone nuclear power. Economic sanctions would be ineffective, given Pakistan’s deep and growing relationship with China, its biggest trading partner.”
“So the key to Pakistan’s cooperation is China. As with North Korea, where Trump has similarly sought Chinese help, this should be in China’s interests.”

Star Wars, Redux

America is “scrambling to weaponize space on a scale not seen since Ronald Reagan,” writes Shannon Stirone for the New Republic.
“While it’s not clear yet exactly how much of Trump’s military budget will go toward space defense systems, it’s a direction that enjoys strong bipartisan support,” Stirone writes.
“Back in 1983, when Reagan first proposed a missile defense system, the idea of using lasers, microwaves, and particle beams to shoot down incoming missiles sounded like something straight out of science fiction. But the ‘Star Wars’ initiative, however wasteful and misguided it proved to be, fit squarely within the government’s militarized view of outer space. America was forced into the stars, after all, by the fear of Sputnik, and the space program has always retained a military edge.”

Want to Know the Weather? Don’t Ask America

The United States is still a leader in a host of scientific fields, from space exploration to curing diseases. But when it comes to weather prediction? Not so much, writes Eric Niiler in Wired. And it’s set to get worse.

“America lags behind a European prediction model that does a better job at telling us how warm or cold it will be three to 10 days out,” Niiler writes.
“A lack of computing power, scrimpy research budgets, and an overworked National Weather Service are the prime reasons for this forecast gap. And as the White House considers new leadership for the agency that manages the weather service — and slashing its budget — many scientists, weather experts, and meteorologists worry that this gap might widen.

“…Weather pros…sometimes have to make a judgment call when the American and European models disagree. That’s no biggie when it comes to planning a backyard cookout or soccer game, but it has bigger implications when this year’s hurricane season starts on June 1.”

Will Asia Get Old Before Its Rich?

Virtually all of Asia “is at risk of growing old before ever becoming rich,” argues Changyong Rhee for Project Syndicate.
For years, he says, Asian countries have been able to take advantage of a young, expanding workforce. But most haven’t grown fast enough to allow per capita incomes to keep pace with other advanced economies “at similar stages of the aging cycle.”
Why? “For starters, although Asia is not the most aged region in the world today, it is aging remarkably fast. One indicator of this is the old-age dependency ratio: the share of the population that is 65 and older. In Europe, it took 26 years, on average, for this ratio to increase from 15% to 20%; in the United States, it took more than 50 years. Among Asian countries, only Australia and New Zealand aged at similar speeds. In most other countries in the region, this transition took – or will take – less than 15 years.”

Sand – the Next Scarce Resource?

It’s used in everything from the manufacturing of windows and cell phone screens to swimming pool filtration systems. “But sand isn’t just sand, it turns out. In the industrial world, it’s ‘aggregate.'” And it’s scarcer than you might think, writes David Owen in the New Yorker.
“Pascal Peduzzi, a Swiss scientist and the director of one of the U.N.’s environmental groups, told the BBC last May that China’s swift development had consumed more sand in the previous four years than the United States used in the past century,” Owen writes. “In India, commercially useful sand is now so scarce that markets for it are dominated by ‘sand mafias’ — criminal enterprises that sell material taken illegally from rivers and other sources, sometimes killing to safeguard their deposits.”



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