You ain’t no middleman: EU and NATO slam China’s bid to be a Ukraine peacemaker

“Central and Eastern European countries, the most vocal supporters of arming Ukraine further, are equally dismissive of Beijing’s rhetoric.
“China’s plan is vague and does not offer solutions,” Ivana Karásková, who heads the China Observers in Central and Eastern Europe think tank based in Prague. “The plan calls on Russia and Ukraine to deal with the issue themselves, which would only benefit Russia; China continues to oppose what it calls unilateral sanctions and asks for the sanctions to be approved by the UN Security Council — well, given the fact that the aggressor is a permanent UNSC member with a veto right, this claim is beyond ridiculous.””

Why the balloon and UFO affairs are a Sputnik moment

“Balloons, it turns out, are already part of that US arsenal, with the Pentagon spending $3.8 billion over the past two years on them, according to Politico. As industry expert George Howell posted on LinkedIn, “High Altitude Balloons are actually a pretty smart thing to invest in, they’re cheap, easy to transport, can be fielded in large numbers and are payload agnostic,” meaning that while they’re most likely to be carrying cameras or radar, in certain situations balloons could field a weapon.”

Why So Many States Want to Ban China From Owning Farmland

“foreign investors hold just 3.1 percent of all privately owned agricultural land in the United States, according to the most recent USDA report, which covers through the end of 2021. The numbers vary by state, but overall, investors from Canada own the most, and foreign-owned land was most often timber or forest.”

“Chinese investors own less than 1 percent of foreign-owned acreage nationwide. The total share of acreage owned by foreign investors and entities has been growing rapidly over the past few decades, but the overall numbers remain small.”

What the U.S. Should Learn From China’s Population Decline

“the U.S. largely owes its current population growth to immigrants. About 86 percent of U.S. population growth last year was the result of immigration, according to the nonpartisan Brookings Institution. China attracts far fewer newcomers, partially due to its strict immigration policy. United Nations data indicate that China received just 200,000 immigrants between 2010 and 2020. “The United States, by contrast, added more than 6 million new immigrant residents,” writes Washington Post columnist Philip Bump. “China’s increase from immigration was about 0.01 percent of its total population; the United States’ was almost 2 percent.””

“the U.S. may be squandering its immigration advantage. Over half of America’s top startups were founded by immigrants, but the U.S. has no visa pathway specifically devoted to foreigners who want to start a business and remain in the country. Massive visa backlogs mean that thousands of talented immigrants are caught in a decadeslong holding pattern, unable to secure permanent residency. International students are losing interest in the U.S. as a destination.”

China’s Mideast buildup stirs security worries for U.S.

“Chinese state-owned firms are building up their presence near the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East, a new report says, raising the risks of a future clash with U.S. interests in one of the world’s busiest oil transitways.
The growing footprint of Chinese commercial activity in the area, including billions of dollars in investments in oil pipelines and storage terminals alongside the Persian Gulf, is fueling worries from U.S. national security hawks who fear it could provide Beijing with dangerous influence over a major choke point for petroleum shipments.”

“China has previously used spending on pipelines, ports and other commercial facilities to pave the way for military bases near strategic locations such as the mouth of the Red Sea, the CSIS authors write. Now, China’s investment in regional ports and infrastructure in Oman and the United Arab Emirates could provide an entry point for Chinese naval ships in the strait. Such ships already travel nearby waters to patrol against pirate vessels.”

““Everything in the private industry in China is somewhat connected to the larger CCP or the PLA,” said the official, who was granted anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to be quoted in the media. “Even if you’re a private company, you might be called upon by the Chinese government to share intel.””

We Already Have 18 Intelligence Agencies. We Still Need 1 More.

“The U.S. cannot adequately address its national security challenges related to China, which are increasingly driven by technology, without the help of a potentially surprising partner: the Department of Commerce.

Unfortunately, the department itself lacks the critical support needed for these efforts. Most crucial: Commerce needs its own intelligence agency.”

“The cases that come before CFIUS are privileged and not publicly disclosed. But I can say this: The most challenging ones usually revolved around issues of advanced or dual-use technology, an area in which the Department of Commerce plays a critical role given its international trade and export control responsibilities.

Today, the Department of Commerce is an agency unexpectedly on the frontlines of vital U.S. national and economic security challenges, most prominently demonstrated by its leading role on ensuring critical access to semiconductors, and as evidenced by the CHIPS Act and recent rules promulgated by the department to protect against even knowledge transfers between the United States and China.

But these efforts are certain to be a beginning for Commerce, not an end. And a dedicated in-house intel agency can better identify emerging threats and challenges from China that Commerce needs to tackle, including potential spyware and other intrusions embedded in foreign technology. For instance, in late November, the U.S. issued a ban on new Huawei and ZTE equipment — along with that of three other Chinese companies — for fear it would be used to spy on Americans. Last month, Congress proposed limiting U.S. exposure to Chinese 5G leaders, including Huawei, by restricting their access to U.S. banks, adding them to Treasury’s Specifically Designated Nationals List.

In fact, Commerce’s current position is not unlike that of the Treasury Department’s in 2004.

That year — as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act — Congress established the current iteration of Treasury’s intelligence agency, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and formally made it part of the broader intel community. Since then, OIA has played a critical role for almost two decades combating terrorist financing, helping support sanctions efforts and providing financial intelligence to Treasury policymakers.

OIA’s successes would simply not have been possible without it being a full, integrated member of the intelligence community. Indeed, its assessments often find their way to the White House and to other senior policymakers across town, even as its primary focus is supporting the Treasury Department.

In the same way, the Commerce Department cannot be expected to play a more fulsome role in U.S. national security if its leaders are not fully informed of the strategic goals and illicit tactical efforts of U.S. adversaries. To meet that expectation, requires the launch of a new, 19th intel agency to be housed at the department.”

Why the U.S. used missiles, not cheap bullets, to shoot down Chinese balloon, 3 unidentified objects

“”the military’s ability to respond to balloons and similar craft is constrained by physics and the capabilities of current weapons,” The Washington Post reports, and you can’t really pop a giant balloon with gunfire at 40,000 feet.
“You can fill a balloon full of bullet holes, and it’s going to stay at altitude,” David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and fighter pilot, tells the Post. The air pressure that high up doesn’t allow helium to freely escape through small holes, even if fighter jets flying by at hundreds of miles per hour can riddle the near-stationary balloon with bullets.”

How China came to regret its one-child policy

“China’s population drop isn’t the result of a single, acute crisis, but years of policy decisions and cultural and economic shifts that have led this nation of 1.4 billion people to where it is today: facing an aging and shrinking population for the foreseeable future.”

“As much as China’s aging and eventual shrinking was a demographic inevitability as it became richer and more modern, the particular speed at which that transition is occurring, and the particular challenges that pace will present, are Beijing’s own doing.”

“In 2015, the Chinese government did something it almost never does: It admitted it made a mistake, at least implicitly.
The ruling Communist Party announced that it was ending its historic and coercive one-child policy, allowing all married couples to have up to two children.

The one-child policy had helped lead to the mother of all demographic dividends, the term for the economist boost created when a country’s birth and death rates both decline. Between 1980 and 2015, China’s working-age population grew from 594 million to a little over 1 billion. China’s dependency ratio — the total young and elderly population relative to the working-age population — fell from over 68 percent in 1980 to less than 38 percent in 2015, which meant more workers for every non-working person.”

“But no fuel burns forever, and over the past decade, hundreds of millions of Chinese have hit retirement age, with a plummeting number of young people to replace them. So the slogans went from “Having only one child is good” to “One is too few, while two are just right.”

How did the Chinese people react? Not by having more children. By 2021, China’s total fertility rate (that is, the number of expected births per woman over the course of their reproductive lifetime) had fallen to just 1.15, nearly a full child below the replacement rate of 2.1. (That’s two to replace each parent, plus a slight extra to make up for children who might die before they reach adulthood”

“For all its power and aggregate wealth — it is by most accounts the world’s second-largest economy — on a per capita basis, it’s still a middle-income country at best. To reach anything like a per capita parity with a country like the UK, let alone the US, would require years more of high-powered economic growth that will be increasingly difficult to pull off in an aging nation. In the end, China could get old before it gets rich.

And if China can’t grow faster, the elderly will bear the brunt of the cost. A 2013 study estimated that nearly a quarter of China’s seniors live below the poverty line, and the country — like many others in East Asia, including richer nations like Japan and South Korea — has little in the way of old-age support. That was less of a problem when older adults could count on being taken care of by their children, but decades of the one-child policy has left an inverted pyramid known as “4-2-1,” with four grandparents and two parents depending on one child.

As more and more young Chinese choose to go without children altogether — pursuing the “double income, no kids” lifestyle — more and more elderly Chinese will have no familial support whatsoever, with one survey projecting 79 million childless older adults in China by 2050. And those trends will reinforce each other — younger Chinese are already citing the burden of caring for elderly parents as one reason to have fewer or no children.”

“Beyond ending the one-child policy, the Chinese government has begun offering financial inducements to couples to have more children, following in the footsteps of other countries that have faced demographic deficits.

Shanghai will give mothers 60 days of additional parental leave, while Shenzhen has joined other Chinese cities in giving subsidies — $1,476 in its case — to couples who have a third child. But don’t expect these moves to make a major difference in birth rates. While such financial incentives might prompt couples to have a child earlier than they had planned, there’s little evidence the programs can convince a childless couple to have a kid, or lastingly increase birthrates.”

Are we in a new Cold War?

“If there is a Russian ideology, it’s ethnic nationalism. China’s case is also largely nationalism. In China, nationalism began to displace communism as an ideology in the 1970s, after the Cultural Revolution. It comes from the disappointment of the population with ideological dogma and with the great promise of a communist revolution that never happened. The Chinese Communist Party was facing a legitimacy deficit, and they were looking for things to fill it — so nationalism replaced communist revolution. The same thing happened with the Soviet Union falling apart; the Russian Federation had to reinvent itself on the basis of Russian nationalism.”