Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What Happens to APP Interns II

The Paths to Net Zero: How Technology Can Save the Planet

By Inês Azevedo,  Michael R. Davidson,  Jesse D. Jenkins, Valerie J. Karplus, and David G. Victor
MICHAEL R. DAVIDSON is Assistant Professor of Engineering and of Public Policy at the University of California, San Diego; MIT PhD; APP Intern 2007.

Foreign AffairsMay/June 2020

For 30 years, diplomats and policymakers have called for decisive action on climate change—and for 30 years, the climate crisis has grown worse. There are a multitude of reasons for this failure. The benefits of climate action lie mostly in the future, they are diffuse and hard to pin down, and they will accrue above all to poor populations that do not have much of a voice in politics, whether in those countries that emit most of the world’s warming pollution or at the global level. The costs of climate action, on the other hand, are evident here and now, and they fall on well-organized interest groups with real political power. In a multipolar world without a responsible hegemon, any collective effort is difficult to organize. And the profound uncertainty about what lies ahead makes it hard to move decisively.

These political hurdles are formidable. The good news is that technological progress can make it much easier to clear them by driving down the costs of action. In the decades to come, innovation could make severe cuts in emissions, also known as “deep decarbonization,” achievable at reasonable costs. That will mean reshaping about ten sectors in the global economy—including electric power, transportation, and parts of agriculture—by reinforcing positive change where it is already happening and investing heavily wherever it isn’t.

In a few sectors, especially electric power, a major transformation is already underway, and low-emission technologies are quickly becoming more widespread, at least in China, India, and most Western countries. The right policy interventions in wind, solar, and nuclear power, among other technologies, could soon make countries’ power grids far less dependent on conventional fossil fuels and radically reduce emissions in the process.

Technological progress in clean electricity has already set off a virtuous circle, with each new innovation creating more political will to do even more. Replicating this symbiosis of technology and politics in other sectors is essential. In most other high-emission industries, however, deep decarbonization has been much slower to arrive. In sectors such as transportation, steel, cement, and plastics, companies will continue to resist profound change unless they are convinced that decarbonization represents not only costs and risks for investors but also an opportunity to increase value and revenue. Only a handful have grasped the need for action and begun to test zero-emission technologies at the appropriate scale. Unless governments and businesses come together now to change that—not simply with bold-sounding international agreements and marginal tweaks such as mild carbon taxes but also with a comprehensive industrial policy—there will be little hope of reaching net-zero emissions before it’s too late.


From today’s vantage point, no single domain offers greater opportunities for deep decarbonization than electric power. The use of electricity does not increase or reduce emissions in itself; electricity delivers energy that may or may not be clean depending on how it was generated. An electric car, for instance, doesn’t do much good against global warming if all the electricity comes from conventional coal plants. Still, electrifying the economy—in other words, designing more processes to run on electricity rather than the direct combustion of fuels—is essential. This is because, compared with trying to reduce emissions in millions of places where they might occur, it is far easier and more efficient to reduce emissions at a modest number of power plants before distributing the clean electricity by wire. Today, Western economies convert about 30 percent of their energy into electric power. If they want to get serious about decarbonization, that fraction will need to double or more.

No single domain offers greater opportunities for decarbonization than electric power.

Getting there will require progress on two fronts. The first is the electrification of tasks that use vast amounts of energy but still rely on fossil fuels, such as transportation and heating. Overall, transportation accounts for 27 percent of global energy use, and nearly all of it relies on oil. The car industry has had some success in changing this: the latest electric vehicles rival high-end conventional cars in performance and cost, and electric cars now make up around eight percent of new sales in California (although only 1.3 percent nationwide) and nearly 56 percent in Norway, where the government offers massive subsidies to buyers. With improved batteries, heavier-duty vehicles, including buses and trucks, could soon follow. In fact, China already fields a fleet of over 420,000 electric buses. By contrast, aviation—which makes up only two percent of global emissions but is growing rapidly and creates condensation trails in the sky that double its warming effect—presents a tougher challenge. A modern battery can store only two percent of the energy contained in a comparable weight of jet fuel, meaning that any electric airplane would need to carry an extremely heavy load in batteries to travel any reasonable distance. Even in the best-case scenario, commercial electric aviation at significant scale is likely decades away, at least for long-haul flights. Long-distance shipping also faces challenges so daunting that electrification is unlikely to be the best route. And in each of these areas, electrification is all the more difficult because it requires not only changing the conveyances but also building new charging infrastructures.

Besides transportation, the most important electrification frontier is heating—not just in buildings but as part of industrial production, too. All told, heating consumes about half the raw energy that people and firms around the world use. Of that fraction, some 50 percent goes into industrial processes that require very high temperatures, such as the production of cement and steel and the refining of oil (including for plastics). These sectors will continue to rely on on-site fossil fuel combustion for the foreseeable future, since electricity cannot match the temperature and flexibility of direct fuel combustion. Yet in other areas, such as lower-temperature industrial processes and space heating for buildings, electrification is more practical. Heat pumps are a case in point: whereas conventional heaters work by heating up indoor air, heat pumps act like reversible air conditioners, moving heat (or, if necessary, cold) indoors or outdoors—a far more efficient approach.

Electrification, of course, will not on its own reduce emissions by much unless the power grid that generates and distributes the electricity gets cleaner, too. Ironically, some countries have made modest progress on this front even as they have doubled down on fossil fuels. China, for instance, has swapped out aging coal plants with newer, more efficient ones, cutting emission rates in the process. (The country’s most efficient coal plants now emit less carbon dioxide per unit of electricity than comparable U.S. plants.) The United States, for its part, has cut down on its emissions thanks to innovations in horizontal drilling and fracking that have made it economically viable to extract shale gas. In 2005, when this technology first became commercially relevant, coal accounted for half of all the electricity produced in the United States; today, coal’s share is down to one-quarter, with much cleaner and inexpensive natural gas and renewables making up the difference.

In theory, fossil fuels could still become much cleaner, even nearly emission free. This could be possible with the help of so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, which capture the carbon dioxide emissions created by industrial processes and pump it safely underground. In practice, investors have remained wary of this approach, but in both the United States and some European countries, recently introduced subsidies are expected to unleash a wave of new CCS projects in the years ahead. One CCS scheme, currently being tested by a group of engineering and energy firms, completely rethinks the design of power plants, efficiently generating electricity from natural gas while capturing nearly all the carbon dioxide produced in the process at little extra cost. In regions where natural gas is cheap and abundant, this technology could be a game changer.

For now, improved fossil fuel technology has amounted to shallow decarbonization: it has reduced emissions enough to slow the rate of climate change—in the United States, emissions from the power sector have dropped by 29 percent since 2005 thanks mainly to the shale gas revolution and growth of renewables—but not enough to stop it. To prevent the world from warming further will require much more focus on technologies that have essentially zero emissions, such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear power, in addition to CCS, if it proves commercially scalable. According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, these low-carbon technologies would need to generate 80 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050 (up from about one-third today) in order to limit warming to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Renewables, in particular, will play a central role. Thanks to decreases in the cost of wind and solar power equipment—and thanks to a mature hydroelectric power industry—renewable energy already accounts for over one-quarter of global electricity production. (Nuclear provides another ten percent.) In the United States, the cost of electricity from large solar farms has tumbled by 90 percent since 2009, and wind energy prices have fallen by nearly 70 percent—and both continue to drop.

Given those plunging costs, the main challenge is no longer to make renewables cheap; it is to integrate them into the power grid without disruptions. To avoid blackouts, a power grid must align supply and demand at all times. Energy output from wind and solar plants, however, varies with the weather, the season, and the daily rise of the sun. The more a power grid relies on renewables, then, the more often the supply will not match the demand. In the extreme, extra power must be dumped—meaning that valuable capital and land were used inefficiently. To be less vulnerable to such shocks, utility companies will need to expand the size of their power grids, so that each can draw on a larger and more diverse array of energy sources. In order to deal with excess supply from renewables—a condition that will become much more frequent as the share of renewables rises—they must also create incentives for users to vary their demand for power more actively and find ways to store surplus electricity on a much larger scale. Today, nearly all bulk storage capacity takes the form of hydroelectric pumps, which store electricity by moving water uphill and recovering about 80 percent of the power when it flows back down. In the years ahead, soaring demand for electric vehicles will drive down the cost of lithium-ion batteries; those batteries could become an affordable way to store energy at the grid level, too. And as the need for storage increases, even cheaper methods may come on the market.

The main challenge is no longer to make renewables cheap; it is to integrate them into the power grid without disruptions.

To better integrate renewables, policymakers can also rely on the strategic use of another zero-emission technology: nuclear energy. Although most efficient when running flat out 24 hours a day, nuclear power plants can also operate flexibly to cover the supply gaps from wind and solar power. Some of France’s nuclear reactors, for instance, already cycle from about one-quarter to full power and back again, sometimes twice a day, to compensate for fluctuations in the supply and demand of renewables.

Independent of renewables, nuclear power already contributes massively to cleaner grids. Every year, some 440 operational nuclear reactors account for lower global carbon dioxide emissions of an estimated 1.2 billion metric tons. In the United States, research suggests that keeping most existing nuclear plants open would be far less expensive than many other policy options. In fact, most countries would do well to expand their nuclear power even further to cut back on their emissions. In the West, however, major expansions are not on the horizon: public opposition is strong, and the cost of building new reactors is high, in part because countries have built too few reactors to benefit from the savings that come with repetition and standardization. Yet in other parts of the world—especially China and South Korea, which have more active nuclear power programs—the costs are much lower and public opposition is less pronounced. Moreover, whereas countries once designed and built their own reactors, today many simply import them. That model can create new risks—the sector’s leading exporter today is Russia, a country not renowned for its diligence regarding reactor safety or the security of nuclear materials—but it also has the potential to make commercial nuclear technology available to many countries that could not develop and deploy it safely on their own. Abu Dhabi’s purchase of four gigantic South Korean–built reactors, the first of which is set to start operating next year, shows the promise of this model. The same approach could work for other countries that currently satisfy their large energy needs with fossil fuels, such as Saudi Arabia.

When it comes to the precise technological makeup of a future decarbonized economy, expert opinions diverge. Engineers and economists, for the most part, imagine solutions that bundle several approaches, with both CCS and nuclear power acting as important complements to renewables. Political scientists, on the other hand, tend to see a bigger role for renewables—one of the few areas in energy policy that usually garners support from across the ideological spectrum, including in the United States. Yet even this rather popular solution can prove divisive. Fierce debates rage over where to locate generators such as wind turbines, including among putative environmentalists who support the technology only if they don’t have to look at it. Public opposition to new wind turbines in Norway—even in already industrialized areas—and to offshore wind parks in the eastern United States are harbingers of tough siting fights to come. The same issue arises when it comes to power lines: making the most of renewables requires longer, more numerous power lines that can move renewable power wherever it will be needed, but public opposition can make such grid expansions a bureaucratic nightmare. In California, for example, the most recent big power line designed to move renewable power where it will be useful—in that case, from the sunny desert to San Diego—took a decade to build, even though the technical engineering and construction portion of the project should have consumed no more than two years. China, by contrast, has blown past the efforts of the United States and Europe, with dozens of ultrahigh-voltage lines, most of them built in the last decade, crisscrossing the country.


Political obstacles notwithstanding, expanding the electrification of transportation and heat and the production of low-carbon electricity offers the surest path to a clean economy to date. The latest analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for instance, suggests that more pervasive use of clean electricity in the global economy would cover more than half the cuts needed for deep decarbonization. Yet just how big a role electrification will ultimately play is hard to predict—in part because its impact will depend on the future trajectory of rival solutions that are only just beginning to emerge and whose potential is impossible to assess precisely.

Hydrogen, in particular, could serve much the same function as electricity does now in carrying energy from producers to users—and it offers crucial advantages. It is easier to store, making it ideal for power systems dependent on ever-fluctuating supplies of renewable energy. And it can be burned—without producing any new emissions—to generate the high levels of heat needed in heavy industry, meaning that it could replace on-site fossil fuel combustion in sectors that are hard to electrify. Hydrogen (either in its pure form or mixed with other chemicals) could also serve as liquid fuel to power cars, trucks, ships, and airplanes. A zero-emission economy could integrate the two carriers—electricity and hydrogen—using each depending on its suitability for different sectors.

The technology needed to turn hydrogen into an energy carrier already exists in principle. One option is to break up (or electrolyze) water into its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen could then be stored or transported through the natural gas pipeline networks that already string across all advanced economies. Once it reached its user, it would be burned for heat or used as an input for a variety of chemical processes. So far, this approach is too expensive to be viable on a large scale, but growing investment, especially in Europe, is poised to drive down the cost rapidly. Initial tests, including planned networks of hydrogen pipelines outside Stockholm (for making steel), Port Arthur in Texas (for industrial chemistry), the British city of Leeds (for residential heat), and the Teesside area (for several applications, including power generation) and numerous other ventures, will soon yield more insights into how a real-world hydrogen economy would fare.

CCS is somewhat of a wildcard, too. Some industrial processes produce prodigious and highly concentrated streams of carbon dioxide emissions that should be relatively easy to isolate and capture. The production of cement, which accounts for a whopping four percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, is a good example. But firms operating in global commodity markets, where missteps can be economically disastrous, are hesitant to invest in fledgling systems such as CCS. To change that, state-supported real-world testing is overdue. A nascent Norwegian project to collect carbon dioxide from various industrial sources in several northern European countries and inject it underground may provide some answers.

Another promising area for reducing emissions is agriculture, a field in which advances on the horizon could yield large cuts. More precise control over the diets of animals raised for food—which will probably require more industrial farming and less free grazing—could lead cows, sheep, and other livestock to emit less methane, a warming gas that, pound for pound, is 34 to 86 times as bad as carbon dioxide. (It would also help if people ate less meat.) Meanwhile, a host of changes in crop cultivation—such as altering when rice fields are flooded to strategically determining which engineered crops should be used—could also lower emissions.

Agriculture’s biggest potential contribution, however, lies belowground. Plants that engage in photosynthesis use carbon dioxide from the air to grow. The mass cultivation of crops that are specially bred to grow larger roots—a concept being tested on a small scale right now—along with farming methods that avoid tilling the soil, could store huge amounts of carbon dioxide as underground biomass for several decades or longer.

As the hard reality of climate change has set in, some have begun to dream of technologies that could reverse past emissions, such as “direct air capture” machines, which would pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground. Pilot projects suggest that these options are very costly—in part because it is thermodynamically difficult to take a dilute gas from the atmosphere and compress it into the high concentrations needed for underground storage. But cost reductions are likely, and the more dire the climate crisis becomes, the more such emergency options must be taken seriously.


The ramifications of climate change are proving more disastrous than originally thought, just as politicians are realizing that cutting emissions is harder than anticipated. That leaves a large and growing gap between climate goals, such as the Paris agreement’s target of limiting warming to 1.5–2.0 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and the facts on the ground. The world has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees, and at least another half a degree is probably inevitable, given the downstream effects of today’s emissions, the inertia of the climate system, and the inherent difficulty of reshaping industrial infrastructure.

The defining industrial project of this century will be to leave carbon behind.

To close the gap between aspirations and reality, governments need to grasp that they cannot rely solely on hard-to-enforce international agreements and seductive market-based approaches, such as carbon pricing, that will work only at the margins. The world needs new technology, and that means more R & D—much more—and a lot of practical experience in testing and deploying new technologies and business strategies at scale. To stimulate that progress, governments need to embrace what is often called “industrial policy.” In each major emitting sector, authorities should create public-private partnerships to invest in, test, and deploy possible solutions.

The details will vary by sector, but the common thread is that governments must directly support fledgling technologies. That means tax credits, direct grants, and promises to procure pioneering green products even if they are more expensive than their conventional alternatives. These steps will ensure that new low-emission products in sectors such as cement, steel, electricity, plastics, and zero-carbon liquid fuels can find lucrative markets. The need for such government intervention is hard to overstate. Producing steel without emissions, for example, could initially be twice as expensive as producing it in the traditional way—a penalty that no company operating in a global, competitive commodity market will accept unless it has direct support in developing the necessary technology, reliable markets through government procurement, and trade protections against dirtier competitors.

For now, no major government is taking these steps at a reasonable scale. The much-touted Green New Deal in the United States is still weak on specifics, and the more concrete it becomes, the harder it may be to form a supportive political coalition around it. Its counterpart, the European Green Deal, is further along yet also faces political challenges and administrative hurdles. If these schemes focus on making critical industries carbon free and provide lots of room for experimentation and learning, they could prove effectual. If they become “Christmas-tree proposals,” with ornaments for every industrial and social cause imaginable, then they may collapse under the weight of their cost and poor focus.

A bigger supply of new fundamental ideas for decarbonization is essential. On the first day of the 2015 Paris climate conference, a group of 24 governments, along with the eu and the billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, pledged to double their spending on clean energy R & D. So far, the group’s self-reported data show that it is at 55 percent of its goal; independent and more credible assessments suggest that the actual increase is only half of that. Mission Innovation, as the collective is known, has also set up working groups on solutions such as CCS and hydrogen, but those groups have little capacity to develop and implement a collective research agenda. What is needed instead are smaller, more focused groups of high-powered backers. Powerful governments have a part to play, but not an exclusive one, considering that some (such as the United States today) are unreliable and therefore less important than subnational actors, such as California, or even wealthy philanthropists.

Initiatives such as Mission Innovation are essential because markets for clean technology are global. Three decades ago, when diplomatic efforts to combat climate change began, most innovation in heavy industry, including in the energy sector, came from a small number of Western countries. No longer. When it comes to electric buses and scooters, China is king, with India taking some baby steps. For electric cars, U.S., Japanese, and European manufacturers are in the lead technologically, but Chinese firms have larger volumes of sales. Innovation in ultrahigh-voltage power lines is coming particularly from engineering firms based in Europe and Asia. The explosion in China of low-cost production of solar photovoltaics was initially geared to supply the highly subsidized German market.

Given this geographic breadth, nationalist trade policies that limit cross-border exchange and investment could easily gum up the works. In particular, the United States should reform its approach to foreign investment in sensitive technologies. Instead of the current review policy—an opaque process managed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States—regulators should follow the “small yard, high fence” rule proposed by former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates: identify a short list of technologies that are truly sensitive and protect the United States’ advantage in those areas while opening the doors to the power of globalization for all others.

Blaming China

Behind Trump’s push to blame China

Trump administration mounts global campaign against China that harks to false WMD claims made before US invasion of Iraq

By DANIEL SNEIDER, Stanford University and a former Christian Science Monitor foreign correspondent and APP member. This article originally appeared Monday in Tokyo Business Today.

Asia Times, May 26, 2020

The rhetorical clash between China and the United States over the Covid-19 pandemic escalated to new heights this past week. Harsh language and taunts are now a daily event, feeding growing concern that the war of words could lead to more serious tensions over Taiwan or the South China Sea.

Calls for “decoupling” from dependence on supply chains for vital medical equipment and technology produced in China took concrete form in new steps to block China’s Huawei telecom giant from using American-designed technology.

Both Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump face challenges to their legitimacy and political future from the pandemic and the two are equally eager to deflect responsibility for the crisis.

The Chinese regime has mounted an aggressive campaign to promote the superiority of its system and assert global leadership, despite widely held doubts about the veracity of its claims. It has hawked xenophobic propaganda blaming foreigners, even the US military, for the spread of the virus.

In Trump’s case, the urgency is even greater thanks to the presidential election campaign. The campaign now places central responsibility on China, labeling his Democratic Party opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, “Beijing Biden.”

This strategy was laid out in a confidential Republican strategy memo on April 17th that instructed candidates to accuse Democrats of being “soft on China” and to claim the virus is “a Chinese hit-and-run followed by a cover-up that cost thousands of lives.“

This election is going to be a referendum on China,” Trump advisor Peter Navarro predicted in a television interview this past week.

When Trump signed a trade pact with China on January 15, things were quite different. The trade deal was a centerpiece of a re-election strategy touting a booming economy and having put “America First.” And for the next two months, Trump issued a string of praises for China and Xi, lauding the handling of the virus.

Then came a stunning collapse of the stock market, a looming recession and rising infection rates. “Trump completely panicked after Covid and the economic collapse hit his campaign,” Jeffrey Bader, former Obama administration national security advisor on Asia, told me.

“He had to find a new villain. He had to come up with all these conspiracy theories about how the Chinese handled the virus. There is a whole disinformation campaign these guys are orchestrating.”

Trump is pushing for the US intelligence community to provide evidence to support this effort, according to reports in the New York Times and other publications, and confirmed to me by a senior intelligence official.

“Regarding Trump’s next steps, he has tasked the entire US intelligence community, including CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], NSA [National Security Agency], and DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], to search all of their files – intercepts, humint [human intelligence], whatever – to find out if China is responsible for COVID-19,” the senior official told me.

“When this kind of tasking takes place, it is almost certain there will be some type of ‘intelligence’ that can be overstated, manipulated, overblown, to make the case – any case.”

The official compared this to the pressure brought by former Vice President Dick Cheney on the CIA to provide evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda-9/11 link to justify the invasion of Iraq.

“While there is no denying the importance of determining how this came about,” he said, “it is equally hard to escape the conclusion that Trump will politicize the intelligence as a means of distraction from his own abysmal management and leadership in dealing with the pandemic. Of course, all of this is intended to serve one purpose: his re-election.”

In an unusual joint article in Foreign Policy, three former senior CIA officials warned against the politicization of intelligence by the Trump administration. They wrote:

“This pattern of politicization is particularly concerning now, as the country confronts the coronavirus pandemic. The answers to key intelligence questions – Did the coronavirus emerge from nature or escape from a Chinese lab? To what extent did the Chinese government misrepresent the scope and scale of the epidemic? – will have profound implications for the future of U.S. national security policy, especially concerning China." 

We know Trump’s preferred answers to those questions. What we don’t know is whether the career analysts in US intelligence agencies will be allowed to speak the truth when they uncover it.

Charge of Deliberate Speed

With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leading the charge, the Trump administration is mounting a global  campaign against China, including a four-page letter sent to the World Health Organization accusing it of doing the handiwork of the Beijing regime.

In recent days, Trump and his close advisors have moved beyond their earlier attempts to pin Chinese responsibility on their suppression of information on the infection, or the lab-origin theory, to a bolder charge that the Chinese government deliberately spread the disease out into theworld.

In a tweet this past week, Trump accused China of “trying desperately to deflect the pain and carnage that their country spread throughout the world.” Trump advisor Navarro, a key figure in the anti-China policy, told ABC News this past week that “China sent hundreds of thousands of Chinese on aircraft to Milan, New York and around the world to seed” the virus. 

This theory was first laid out in a little-noted commentary by Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former senior aide to Dick Cheney and now senior vice president at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank that has become the most important influencer of the administration’s China policy.

In the essay, published on April 29 in the conservative National Review, Libby argued that Xi and the Communist Party leadership were under increasing threat from multiple challenges – the protests in Hong Kong, the re-election of the pro-independence Taiwanese government, exposure of the suppression of Chinese Muslims and, most of all, the stumbling of the Chinese economy due to the Trump administration’s tough trade policy.

With Trump heading for re-election, party dissent against Xi was mounting, he wrote.The Covid-19 outbreak in China posed a new challenge for Xi. “As long as the virus raged primarily inside China – derailing only her economy, stigmatizing only her government – his troubles would soar. All the while, the world predictably would have leapt ahead, taking Chinese customers, stealing China’s long-sought glory.”

But the pandemic had a potential upside, Libby argued. Its spread diverted attention from the Chinese regime’s internal woes and “rendered disease-weakened nations more susceptible to China’s goods,” he wrote. Trump’s re-election was no longer certain and a weakened economy would impact US defense spending.

In Libby’s account, Xi went beyond simply taking advantage of an opportunity. The Chinese regime deliberately “let tens of thousands of travelers, infected among them, leave China and enter an unwary world.” All of this, he concludes, is part of the quest for world domination byXi’s inner circle. “A fever for Chinese primacy burns among them.” Libby is no stranger to the construction of this kind of narrative. 

He was Cheney’s point man in pressuring the CIA to support the false claims that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction and had links to the September 11 attacks. He was convicted in 2007 of perjury and obstruction of justice for his attempts to discredit a diplomat who disputed those claims.

Surprisingly, Libby was pardoned in April 2018 by Trump, even though former President George W. Bush had refused to give a pardon, despite pleas from Cheney.“

Libby’s presentation has the feel and smell of yet another problem in the making,” said the senior intelligence official, comparing this to the Libby role in the Iraq war buildup.“

This is Scooter’s ‘wag the dog’ fantasy,” agreed another former senior intelligence official with long experience in Asia. 

He dismissed Libby’s belief that the Chinese leadership would have an interest in spreading the pandemic around the world.“

Party legitimacy, Xi’s position and China’s future depend on sustained growth, even if the rate of growth is much slower,” the former intelligence official told me. “Spreading CV19 could only further depress Chinese growth and accelerate realignment of supply chains in ways that disadvantage China. Chinese leaders understand that.”

Hudson Institute Connection

The alarm over China’s assertiveness is widespread in U.S. policy circles. But Hudson is home to a group of policy makers who articulate a much darker view of China as both a totalitarian state and one with long-term plans for global domination.

Writers like Michael Pillsbury, who enjoys access to the President, as well as Libby and others are based at the think tank. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a major hardline China policy speech in late 2018 at Hudson, as did Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October 2019.

Hudson has also become the favored channel for Japan’s Abe administration to reach the White House. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has delivered several major addresses at Hudson, where Libby, a personal friend, introduced him. Hudson President Kenneth Weinstein, another Abe friend, has been nominated to be US Ambassador to Tokyo.

While Trump’s views of China seem mostly to reflect his obsession with trade imbalances and his neo-isolationist impulses, men like Pompeo, Navarro and Libby have deeply held views on the China threat.

“For the ideologues, this was their magic moment to overcome resistance,” Bader argues. “Trump went along with it because he needs an election plank. The true believers don’t know if Trump is going to win or not but they are putting as much in place as they can before November.”

Saturday, May 9, 2020

What Happens to APP Interns

Click to Order Book
Like Dinyar Patel they become PhDs from Harvard and publish path-finding books. An APP internship is only for the sharpest minds. The skills you learn at APP ensure that you succeed.

Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism’ Review: Portrait of an Independent Mind
by Dinyar Patel

A member of the British House of Commons at a time when Indians in India couldn’t vote, he argued that the empire was impoverishing his homeland.

By Tunku Varadarajan
Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2020

When the British government announced in 2014 that it would install a statue of Mohandas Gandhi in London’s Parliament Square, there were complaints in certain quarters that the wrong anticolonial Indian was being honored in the heart of an erstwhile empire. The statue, some said, should be not of the Mahatma—however great his status as tormentor-in-chief of the British Raj—but of Dadabhai Naoroji.

If there were many befuddled people who said “Dadabhai who?” at the time, there will be far fewer who will say so now, given the publication of “Naoroji,” by Dinyar Patel, an absorbing biography of the first Indian ever to be elected to the House of Commons. Naoroji won election as a candidate for William Gladstone’s Liberal Party in 1892. He represented Englishmen in a London borough at a time when Indians in India had no right to vote and no parliament of their own.

As struck as we may be today by the irony that the House of Commons was the only legislature for which Naoroji—a man with few rights in his own land—was entitled to run, we would also do well to note the unseemly fact that this “pioneer of Indian nationalism” is almost entirely forgotten in India.

There are many reasons for Naoroji’s absence from contemporary India’s nationalist memory bank. One is an intellectual failing to which Mr. Patel draws apt attention: Historians of South Asia, he writes, “have almost reflexively shunned political elites” who do not “mesh well with the Marxist and postcolonial traditions that still dominate” the Indian academy. Naoroji was a textbook man of the elite. He was an anglicized, highly educated Parsi (or Zoroastrian), a member of a tiny ethno-religious minority that fled to India from a recently Islamized Persia in the eighth century. The Parsis prospered greatly in their new Indian homeland, especially under the British, who favored them for their lighter skin and warmed to their embrace of Western ways, even as they remained faithful to their own tenacious religion.

The dogmatic anti-elitism of Indian historians is matched, says Mr. Patel, by their unwillingness “to accept biography as a legitimate form of scholarship.” Naoroji’s isn’t the only story to have gone largely untold by scholars, and there can be few major countries with a history as rich as India’s that have been as biographically neglectful of their prominent men and women. Luckily, Naoroji’s personal papers survive, although “forbiddingly vast,” damaged and disorganized. Mr. Patel—a Parsi himself, and now an assistant professor of history at the University of South Carolina—spent two years poring over Naoroji’s private correspondence, some 15,000 documents in all. His book grew out of eight years of study at Harvard, principally for his doctoral thesis. But the erudition of his enterprise, while everywhere evident, is never daunting.

Naoroji, born in 1825, deserves a sage biography. He was a scholar himself, becoming, at the age of 29, the first Indian to secure a full professorship at a British government university. He taught mathematics and natural philosophy at a college in Bombay, yet did so for only a year before setting sail for England in 1855 to partner in a business venture with wealthy Parsi confreres. In Europe, Mr. Patel tells us, Naoroji awakened to the gulf in prosperity between colonized India and the imperial West. He was, for instance, “simply stunned by the prosperity of the French countryside” and in London “felt the stark distance between mother country and colony.”

India now seemed, to the sensitive young Parsi, to be “the very byword for poverty and powerlessness,” and his appetite for commerce was soon dwarfed by a passion for nationalist politics. He embarked on what was to be a lifelong campaign to convince the British that they were “draining” India of its wealth. This “drain theory,” as it became known, disconcerted the British, and Naoroji developed it, Mr. Patel writes, “in an era when many Britons took it for granted that imperialism was a beneficent force and a stimulus for growth and prosperity in their colonies.” Through a “colossal assemblage of facts and figures”—mined from data made available to him by the British authorities themselves—Naoroji sought to demonstrate that imperialism was making Indians poorer by the year.

Paradoxically, it is this enterprise that may explain why Naoroji is an eclipsed figure in India today. Since Independence, most Indians have taken utterly for granted his once-radical view that the British Raj paupered India. Also working against any postcolonial celebration of Naoroji is the fact that he sought to persuade the British that their impoverishing of India was unacceptable, precisely because it fell short of Britain’s own moral values. He titled his own magnum opus on the subject, published in 1901, “Poverty and Un-British Rule in India,” again making the point that true “Britishness” was fairness.

Although he was a founding member of the Indian National Congress political party in December 1885, his calls for India to be “a self-governing and prosperous nation” were tempered by concessions that Indians would still be “loyal to the British throne.” For all his many ties to progressive individuals and movements in India, Britain and elsewhere—and these included women suffragists, Irish nationalists (for whom he had a particular fondness), black Americans like Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. Du Bois, and workers’ unions—he was a gradualist. He preferred suasion, not boycotts, debate not defiance. He held to these views to the end of his life—he died in Bombay in 1917, at the age of 91—even as the independence movement in India became fiercely (if nonviolently) radical.

For all his fidelity to the core ideas of Indian nationalism, it is perhaps fitting that Naoroji’s election to the House of Commons—in an age when such a thing was seen as outlandish—is regarded as his most enduring political contribution. No less a personage than Lord Salisbury, the British prime minister, exclaimed at a political rally in 1888 (four years before Naoroji’s victory at the polls) that no British borough would ever elect “a black man” to Parliament. Salisbury was widely pilloried in Britain for his coarseness, which had the effect of raising Naoroji’s profile and contributing to his victory. Today around 10% of the House of Commons traces its descent to Britain’s former colonies, and the house would appear to be more welcoming of candidates from outside the age-old Britannic mainstream than India’s own parliament is of religious minorities. One has to think that Naoroji, today, would be more at home in cosmopolitan Britain than he would be in his independent—but increasingly intolerant—India.

—Mr. Varadarajan is executive editor at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Abe's Cruellest Month

Japan’s capricious response to coronavirus could dent its international reputation

by Ra Mason, Lecturer in International Relations and Japanese Foreign Policy, University of East Anglia
The Conversation, April 24, 2020
The Japanese government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been reactive, chaotic and lacking in clear leadership. Japan has effectively lost control of its attempts to isolate all suspected cases.

A full nationwide state of emergency was only declared on April 16, after cases rapidly expanded outside central metropolitan areas. The national emergency gave prefectures the powers to impose their own lockdown measures, but these are partial and not enforceable by law.

This followed ambiguous recommendations by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for people across the country to practice the “three Cs”: avoiding closed spaces, concentrated gatherings and close contact.

But the government’s coronavirus strategy might be more fittingly categorised by “three As”: arrogance, anxiety and atypical. This includes over-confidence in party protocol, anxiety over making sudden societal changes and indifference towards conventional advice from foreign peers.

In some ways, this mirrors a wider pattern of the Abe administration implementing policies at home that are out-of-sync with the image Japan has of itself as a leader on the world stage. These contradictions between foreign and domestic policy have led Japan capriciously to the brink of a coronavirus disaster.

Since Abe’s return to power in 2012, Japan has set a foreign policy course aimed at regaining international prestige. This came partly as a response to domestic perceptions that Japan had damaged its reputation over the course of more than two decades of stagnation. Abe’s new agenda has been characterised by concepts of proactivity, promotion of an international rules-based system and regional leadership.

Why then, with so much at stake, has the response of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to the coronavirus pandemic been so erratic?

This begins with Abe, who has strengthened his grip on power under the pretexts of strong leadership and national interest. Though often framed in patriotic rhetoric, measures introduced by the prime minister on information sharing, military expansion and media control have largely amounted to a reduction in civil liberties and the empowerment of Abe and his inner circle. This concentration of power promotes a discourse of Japanese exceptionalism focused on national pride at home and international prestige abroad.

But there is an arrogance here based on the fact that Abe’s cabinet doesn’t actually have popular approval among the Japanese public for its handling of the coronavirus response. The LDP only commands an overwhelming electoral advantage because of the broken and dysfunctional opposition, with no other party gaining far above 5% of the vote.

This has created a kind of hubris, where the ruling party acts unilaterally as if given a mandate by a huge majority of the people, due not least to the LDP’s almost unbroken grip on power since 1955. In recent years government policies have only been subjected to limited domestic media scrutiny.Abe’s approach has been met with criticism. Kiyoshi Ota/EPA

Japan has long been considered a socially conservative country. Generally speaking, this includes a high level of social awareness and anxiety about social perceptions. This acts as a disincentive for politicians to make sudden or sweeping changes for fear of upsetting the apple cart.

Most Japanese prioritise stability and safety, which is largely reflected in the generally cautious actions of their political leaders. Securing such stability and safety is not, conversely, assumed to require dramatic measures that drastically change daily life. There is evidence, for example, of citizens ignoring or only partially adhering to the comparatively sudden social distancing measures the government requested.

At the same time, Japan has a problem of indifference. Criminal incidents, such as violence or anti-social behaviour, can often go unreported. Instead, there is an expectation for people to practice social awareness and consideration for others through their own, socially conditioned, behaviour. This makes it hard for the government to demand further additional adherence to draconian measures because while some people are anxious about how they are socially perceived, they expect to take personal responsibility for their own actions.

There is also a degree of trepidation in Japanese society that guards against military-style emergency measures that are associated with Japan’s wartime era.

In any case, there is already a degree of deliberate distancing from strangers, and the wearing of face masks has long been commonplace. This could partly explain the initially slow spread of the virus. On the flip side, however, this could have led to a false sense of reassurance.

Japan has tended to adapt rather than adhere to international orthodoxies. This goes for politics, economics and society, and has proven effective in sustaining the country’s economic strength and soft power esteem. However, it has also led politicians in Tokyo to believe that not following the advice, policies or behaviour of other leading powers may be warranted. Japan does things differently, they claim, for good reasons.

In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is starting to look like a grave mistake. Japan is out of kilter with many of the countries, such as South Korea, Taiwan and EU states, that it might most need to cooperate with, both to stop the spread of the virus and address its economic impact.

The health concerns from such an atypical approach are obvious. But economically, too, everything from air travel to the Olympics and tourism have been negatively affected. Even compared to other battered global economies and healthcare systems, the prognosis for Japan is grim.

Ironically, then, the combination of disjointed domestic policies could also result in Japan taking an extra hit to the one thing its leader was doubtless hoping to preserve – its international reputation.