China’s digital transformation
Source: McKinsey & Company
As individual companies adopt web technologies, they gain the ability to streamline everything from product development and supply-chain management to sales, marketing, and customer interactions. For China’s small enterprises, greater digitization provides an opportunity to boost their labor productivity, collaborate in new ways, and expand their reach via e-commerce. In fact, new applications of the Internet could account for up to 22 percent of China’s labor-productivity growth by 2025.
Yet the Internet is not merely a tool for automation and efficiency; it also expands markets rapidly. Greater adoption of web technologies in China could lead to the introduction of entirely new products and services if government and industry take the right steps to maximize the potential (exhibit). A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), China’s digital transformation: The Internet’s impact on productivity and growth, projects that new Internet applications could fuel some 7 to 22 percent of China’s incremental GDP growth through 2025, depending on the rate of adoption. That translates into 4 trillion to 14 trillion renminbi in annual GDP in 2025.
Lack of Planning in $34.4 Million Department of Agriculture Soybean Program in Afghanistan (PDF)
Source: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
The Honorable Tom Vilsack Secretary U.S. Department of Agriculture
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Thank you for your response to my inquiry letter dated April 17, 2014, concerning the Soybeans for Agricultural Renewal in Afghanistan Initiative (SARAI) funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). After examining the materials that you provided, I’m concerned about the viability of the project and the apparent lack of analysis and planning performed prior to the project’s initiation. I’m most troubled by the following issues:
• The USDA confirmed that soybean production in Afghanistan has not met expectations and that there are doubts concerning the long-term sustainability of a soybean processing factory built as part of the project.
• The project’s implementer, the American Soybean Association, did not conduct feasibility or value-chain studies prior to initiation of the project in 2010.
• Scientific research conducted for the UK Department for International Development between 2005 and 2008 concluded that soybeans were inappropriate for conditions and farming practices in northern Afghanistan, where the program was implemented.
• Despite the lack of prior planning and analysis, and despite evidence that may have put the success of the program in doubt, USDA provided $34.4 million in commodities, transportation, and administrative funds to ASA for SARAI.
Chinese Military Modernization and Force Development: Chinese and Outside Perspectives
Source: Center for Strategic & International Studies
The goal behind this report is not to present the authors’ view of the balance, but rather to provide the basis for an unclassified dialogue on the military developments in China, including the size and structure of the country’s current and planned military forces. It draws on official US, Chinese, and other Asian official reporting, as well as the work of other scholars and the data bases developed by the IISS and Jane’s in an effort to compare different views of Chinese strategy and military developments, and is meant to provide US, Chinese, and other analysts with a better basis for understanding Western estimates of the changes in Chinese force strength and force quality.
The United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) face a critical need to improve their understanding of how each is developing its military power and how to avoid forms of military competition that could lead to rising tension or conflict between the two states. This report focuses on China’s military developments and modernization and how they are perceived in the UIS, the West, and Asia. It utilizes the unclassified data available in the West on the trends in Chinese military forces. It relies heavily on the data in the US Department of Defense (DoD) Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, particularly the 2013 and 2014 editions.
It relies heavily on the annual military balances compiled by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), though a range of sources are included. It should be noted that this report focuses on Chinese forces, and therefore presents only one side of the US and Chinese balance and the security situation in Asia. It also draws upon a Burke Chair report entitled The Evolving Military Balance in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, looking at the bilateral US-Chinese balance in more detail.
Accordingly, it focuses on the actual changes taking place in Chinese forces, and it provides a detailed analysis detailed analysis of the trends in Chinese military forces since 1985, examining how the often-conflicting trends in outside sources interact with reporting on Chinese military spending and strategy. It also shows that important changes are taking place in US strategy and that these changes must be considered when evaluating Chinese actions.
Iran’s Influence in Afghanistan: Implications for the U.S. Drawdown
Source: RAND Corporation
This study explores Iranian influence in Afghanistan and the implications for the United States after the departure of most American forces from Afghanistan. Iran has substantial economic, political, cultural, and religious leverage in Afghanistan. Kabul faces an obdurate insurgency that is likely to exploit the U.S. and international drawdown. The Afghan government will also face many economic difficulties in future years, and Afghanistan is highly dependent on international economic aid. Additionally, the biggest problem facing Afghanistan may be political corruption. Iranian influence in Afghanistan following the drawdown of international forces need not necessarily be a cause of concern for the United States though. Although Tehran will use its cultural, political, and economic sway in an attempt to shape a post-2016 Afghanistan, Iran and the United States share core interests there: to prevent the country from again becoming dominated by the Taliban and a safe haven for al Qaeda.
This study examines Iran’s historic interests in Afghanistan and its current policies in that country, and explores the potential implications for U.S. policy. The research is based on field interviews in Afghanistan, the use of primary sources in Dari and Persian, and scholarly research in English.
Global Cybercrime: The Interplay of Politics and Law
Source: Centre for International Governance Innovation
Examining global cybercrime as solely a legal issue misses an important facet of the problem. Understanding the applicable legal rules, both domestically and internationally, is important. However, major state actors are using concerted efforts to engage in nefarious cyber activities with the intention of advancing their economic and geostrategic interests. This paper explores the recent unsealing of a 31-count indictment against five Chinese government officials and a significant cyber breach, perpetrated by Chinese actors against Western oil, energy and petrochemical companies. The paper concludes by noting that increased cooperation among governments is necessary, but unlikely to occur as long as the discourse surrounding cybercrime remains so heavily politicized and securitized. If governments coalesced around the notion of trying to prevent the long-term degradation of trust in the online economy, they may profitably advance the dialogue away from mutual suspicion and toward mutual cooperation.
National Funding of Road Infrastructure
Source: Law Library of Congress
This report examines the funding of roads and highways in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England and Wales, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden. It provides a description of the infrastructure in the jurisdiction, information on the ownership and responsibility of the roads, and taxes or other ways of collecting money to fund the nation’s infrastructure. If applicable, a discussion of reforms or new initiatives is examined.
Student support crucial for offsetting impact of university tuition fees, says report
Source: European Commission
When balanced with student support, increased tuition fees do not have an overall negative impact on enrolments in higher education, even among students from lower socio-economic groups, unless the magnitude of change is exceptional. However increases in fees can result in falling enrolments among older students, according to an international study released by the European Commission today. The report underlines that grants and/or loans are crucial for offsetting negative consequences of fees or fee rises on university enrolments, particularly from vulnerable groups.
The Commission-funded study, carried out by independent researchers, analysed the impact of changes in student fees in nine countries with different models of funding over the past 15 years (Austria, Canada, UK-England, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and South Korea).
Country Analysis Brief: India
Source: Energy Information Administration
India was the fourth-largest energy consumer in the world after China, the United States, and Russia in 2011, and its need for energy supply continues to climb as a result of the country’s dynamic economic growth and modernization over the past several years. India’s economy has grown at an average annual rate of approximately 7% since 2000, and it proved relatively resilient following the 2008 global financial crisis.
The latest slowdown in growth of emerging market countries and higher inflation levels, combined with domestic supply and infrastructure constraints, have reduced India’s annual inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) growth from a high of 10.3% in 2010 to 4.4% in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). India was the third-largest economy in the world in 2013, as measured on a purchasing power parity basis. Risks to economic growth in India include high debt levels, infrastructure deficiencies, delays in structural reforms, and political polarization between the country’s two largest political parties, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Burden of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Related to Tobacco Smoking among Adults Aged ≥45 Years in Asia: A Pooled Analysis of 21 Cohorts
Tobacco smoking is a major risk factor for many diseases. We sought to quantify the burden of tobacco-smoking-related deaths in Asia, in parts of which men’s smoking prevalence is among the world’s highest.
Methods and Findings
We performed pooled analyses of data from 1,049,929 participants in 21 cohorts in Asia to quantify the risks of total and cause-specific mortality associated with tobacco smoking using adjusted hazard ratios and their 95% confidence intervals. We then estimated smoking-related deaths among adults aged ≥45 y in 2004 in Bangladesh, India, mainland China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan—accounting for ~71% of Asia’s total population. An approximately 1.44-fold (95% CI = 1.37–1.51) and 1.48-fold (1.38–1.58) elevated risk of death from any cause was found in male and female ever-smokers, respectively. In 2004, active tobacco smoking accounted for approximately 15.8% (95% CI = 14.3%–17.2%) and 3.3% (2.6%–4.0%) of deaths, respectively, in men and women aged ≥45 y in the seven countries/regions combined, with a total number of estimated deaths of ~1,575,500 (95% CI = 1,398,000–1,744,700). Among men, approximately 11.4%, 30.5%, and 19.8% of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and respiratory diseases, respectively, were attributable to tobacco smoking. Corresponding proportions for East Asian women were 3.7%, 4.6%, and 1.7%, respectively. The strongest association with tobacco smoking was found for lung cancer: a 3- to 4-fold elevated risk, accounting for 60.5% and 16.7% of lung cancer deaths, respectively, in Asian men and East Asian women aged ≥45 y.
Tobacco smoking is associated with a substantially elevated risk of mortality, accounting for approximately 2 million deaths in adults aged ≥45 y throughout Asia in 2004. It is likely that smoking-related deaths in Asia will continue to rise over the next few decades if no effective smoking control programs are implemented.
Countering Others’ Insurgencies: Understanding U.S. Small-Footprint Interventions in Local Context
Source: RAND Corporation
This study examines the counterinsurgency strategies and practices adopted by threatened regimes and the conditions under which U.S. “small-footprint” partnerships are likely to help these governments succeed. The report’s findings are derived from a mixed-method research design incorporating both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Simple statistical analyses are applied to a dataset of counterinsurgencies that have terminated since the end of the Cold War (72 in all), and more in-depth analyses are provided of two recent cases of U.S. partnerships with counterinsurgent regimes, in the Philippines and Pakistan. The quantitative analysis finds that the cases of small-footprint U.S. operations that are commonly touted as “success stories” all occurred in countries approximating a best-case scenario. Such a verdict is not meant to deny the importance of U.S. assistance; rather, it is meant to highlight that similar U.S. policies with less promising partner nations should not be expected to produce anywhere near the same levels of success. The majority of insurgencies have taken place in worst-case conditions, and in these environments, counterinsurgent regimes are typically unsuccessful in their efforts to end rebellion, and they often employ violence indiscriminately. The case studies of the Philippines and Pakistan largely reinforce the findings of the quantitative analysis. They also highlight the challenges the United States faces in attempting to influence partner regimes to fight counterinsurgencies in the manner that the United States would prefer. The study concludes with policy recommendations for managing troubled partnerships.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Nuclear Weapons: Ten-Year Budget Estimates for Modernization Omit Key Efforts, and Assumptions and Limitations Are Not Fully Transparent. GAO-14-373, June 10.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664003.pdf
2. Health Care Access: Improved Oversight, Accountability, and Prioritization Can Improve Access for Native American Veterans. GAO-14-489, June 10.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664009.pdf
1. Biosurveillance: Observations on the Cancellation of BioWatch Gen-3 and Future Considerations for the Program, by Chris Currie, acting director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-14-267T, June 10.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664000.pdf
2. Afghanistan: Oversight and Accountability of U.S. Assistance, by Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., director, international affairs and trade, before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, House Committee on Foreign Affairs. GAO-14-680T, June 10.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664033.pdf
3. Information Technology: Reform Initiatives Can Help Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-671T, June 10.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664031.pdf
4. VA Health Care: Ongoing and Past Work Identified Access, Oversight, and Data Problems That Hinder Veterans’ Ability to Obtain Timely Outpatient Medical Care, by Debra A. Draper, director, health care, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-679T, June 9.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663935.pdf
Higher Education in Asia: Expanding Out, Expanding Up
As demand for tertiary education continues to rise across Asia, countries are expanding their higher education systems outwards by constructing new universities, hiring more faculty and encouraging private provision. Many of these systems are also moving upwards by introducing new graduate programmes to ensure that there are enough qualified professors and researchers for the future.
Based on data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and a diverse range of national and international sources, this report provides a comprehensive view to evaluate different strategies to expand graduate education. Special focus is given to middle-income countries in the region which have recently experienced the most dramatic growth through an innovative mix of policies. For example, interventions aimed at improving university rankings may be controversial but are nonetheless reshaping university reforms. The report highlights the pros and cons by comparing the three most commonly-used university ranking systems.
Across the region, countries are not simply seeking to accommodate more students – they are striving to build top-quality universities that can produce the research and workforce needed for national economic development. So this report presents a range of data to better evaluate the economic benefits flowing from university research, as well as the spillover effects to the private sector. The authors also analyse the ways in which international collaboration can boost the productivity and quality of university-based research. Overall, this report provides the data and analysis to help countries weigh the balance of different policies to expand their higher education systems.
Annual Report to Congress — Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014
Annual Report to Congress — Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014
Source: U.S. Department of Defense
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to pursue a long-term, comprehensive military modernization program designed to improve the capacity of its armed forces to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity regional contingencies. Preparing for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait, which includes deterring or defeating third-party intervention, remains the focus and primary driver of China’s military investment. However, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also is placing emphasis on preparing for contingencies other than Taiwan, including potential contingencies in the South and East China Seas.
Baghlan Prison: Severe Damage to $11.3 Million Facility Requires Extensive Remedial Action (PDF)
Source: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
After construction of the Baghlan prison was completed in November 2012, building settlement occurred, which led to serious structural damage including wide cracks to three buildings. As a result, one building was demolished. Two other buildings also have collapsing walls and cracked structural beams and columns and will likely need to be rebuilt. The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) and its contractor, Omran Holding Group (OHG), an Afghan firm, do not agree on the cause of the building settlement and remain in negotiation regarding OHG’s responsibility for repairing the facilities and assuming the cost of those repairs. Nonetheless, both parties agree that OHG did not fully comply with all contract requirements. For example, OHG failed to construct a required stormwater management system and substituted lower-grade plumbing materials that had been prohibited by INL. OHG also failed to deduct 10 percent from its billed invoices to create a retainage fund as required by the contract. This led to an $807,254 shortfall in funds, which should have been retained for INL’s protection in the event of a contract dispute.
The Thai coup amid broader concerns
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia
The recent assumption of political control in Thailand by the military has induced concerns around the world, for diverse but not always openly-expressed reasons. Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha took power in Bangkok through a coup d’etat on 22 May and placed the country under martial law, suspending the Constitution and subsequently dissolving the Senate. A number of politicians, activists and academics has been interrogated and some detained. The Thai king has reportedly endorsed the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), through which military control is now exercised. The Australian Foreign Minister has indicated grave concern, while US Secretary of State John Kerry urged ‘the restoration of civilian government immediately, a return to democracy, and … early elections that reflect the will of the people’. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has cancelled upcoming military exercises with Thailand and various high-level visits. The expressed concerns lie, however, not solely with the long-term well-being of the people of Thailand, and thus the coup and related issues need to be viewed within a longer and broader frame. Key among these is that Thailand—a founder member of ASEAN, a pivot in mainland Southeast Asia and a long-term ally of western powers—is essential in the maintenance of Western influence in East Asia. Close US-Thai links extend back to the days of the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts, while Australia has also enjoyed long and generally steadfast relations with the kingdom.
Legislation on Use of Water in Agriculture
Source: Law Library of Congress
This report summarizes legislation concerning the agricultural use of water in nineteen countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Central Asia. It includes a summary of the laws that govern the agricultural use of water, the government authorities in charge of the administration of water for agriculture, requirements for licenses to use water for this purpose, and relevant guidelines on conservation and quality. In addition, some of the surveys provide information on intercountry disputes over the use of water. A comparative summary is included.
Managing Corruption Risks in India
In the past few years, India has emerged as one of the most promising destinations for investments. Its democratic government and large economy in terms of purchase power parity, highly skilled workforce, growing domestic market and sizeable English-speaking population, has resulted in an increasing number of global investors. According to a recent survey conducted by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), India has been ranked as the third most attractive destination for investments by transnational companies. In addition, the United States is one of India’s largest investment and trade partners and both countries are currently negotiating a bilateral investment treaty as part of their effort to strengthen their mutual economic ties and enhance investor confidence.
While India presents increasing investment opportunities, foreign companies in India face some unique challenges. This article focuses mainly on the corruption landscape in India, several associated risks and the need for implementing an effective anti-corruption compliance program in India.