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  • Author: Henry D. Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: Although much has been said about the fusion of China’s civilian and military sectors, no detailed, unclassified analysis has been done of how Beijing’s “peaceful” nuclear efforts might be exploited to make more nuclear warheads. Even the U.S. Department of Energy’s own explanations of the export restrictions it imposed on “advanced” nuclear exports to China failed to discuss this. This volume is dedicated to clarifying just what the connection could be. Much of it focuses on China’s advanced fast breeder reactor program and its related plutonium recycling efforts. As explained in this volume’s first chapter, “How Many Nuclear Warheads China Might Acquire by 2030,” the least burdensome way for China to achieve nuclear weapons parity with the United States is simply to use the weaponsgrade plutonium that its planned “peaceful” fast breeder reactor and reprocessing programs will produce to make primaries for the two-stage thermonuclear weapons designs they already have perfected. By exploiting this weapons plutonium and the highly enriched uranium and tritium that China can easily access or make, Beijing by 2030 could conservatively assemble an arsenal of 1,270 warheads (nearly as many as the US currently has deployed on its intercontinental missiles).
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Military Affairs, Nonproliferation, Missile Defense, Denuclearization, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Henry D. Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: With a new Democratic administration, Washington is almost certain to moderate its demands that Japan and South Korea pay more for American forces on their soil. This should ease tensions with Seoul to Tokyo. To strengthen security relations with Japan and South Korea, though, more will be required. Rather than simply increase their conventional military deployments, Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo will need to collaborate in new ways to enhance allied security. This will entail working more closely on new military frontiers, such as enhancing allied command of outer and cyber space as well as in underwater warfare. Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo will also want to carve out new functional areas of cooperation to make existing energy sources more secure, communications more reliable, data sharing easier and safer, and allied economic assistance to developing nations in strategic zones more effective. Enhanced collaboration in each of these areas has begun but is not yet locked in or fully institutionalized. It should be. Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo need one another to deal with China and North Korea. Yet, how each currently strategically views Beijing and Pyongyang differs. Nor is America’s preferred military approach to deterring Chinese and North Korean adventurism — by preventing Beijing and Pyongyang from projecting military strikes against their neighbors — all that easy to achieve. Adding new, more tractable items to America’s Asian security alliance agenda won’t immediately eliminate these misalignments. But it will strengthen the security ties they have as liberal democracies — bonds Beijing and Pyongyang are straining to fray.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, International Security, Military Affairs, Cyberspace, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, South Korea
  • Author: Fredrik Erixon, Matthias Bauer
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE)
  • Abstract: Covid-19 and its broader implications have highlighted the importance of Europe’s digital transformation to ensure Europeans’ social and economic well-being. It provides important new learnings about Europe’s quest for “technology sovereignty”. While the debate about technology sovereignty is timely, the precise meaning of sovereignty or autonomy in the realm of technologies remains ambiguous. It should be noted that the political discussions about European technology sovereignty emerged far before the outbreak of the Coronavirus. The European Commission’s recently updated industrial and digital policy strategies “institutionalised” different notions of sovereignty, reflecting perceptions that more EU action is needed to defend perceived European values and to secure Europe’s industrial competitiveness. Often the political rhetoric reflected perceptions that Europe is losing global economic clout and geopolitical influence. It was said that dependency on technological solutions, often originating abroad, would require a European industrial and regulatory response. Against this background, the Corona crisis provides two important lessons for EU technology policymaking. Firstly, during the crisis digital technologies and solutions made European citizens stronger. Technology kept Europe open for business despite the lock-down by enabling Europeans to work from home, receive essential home deliveries, home schooling, online deliveries and to use online payments, etc. In addition, Europe’s citizens became more sovereign with respect to accessing information and data that helped track and contain the spread of the virus. Secondly, the crisis tested Europe’s resilience and perceived dependency on (foreign) technology solutions. Early developments indicate that Member States’ homemade solutions did not fare better than existing European and international solutions. A few national and EU IT solutions failed while existing European and global solutions, from cloud infrastructure to communications, payments to streaming services, all continued to work well. Politically, however, the crisis could be used to justify more EU or national government interference in Europe’s digital transformation. Indeed, for some the debate about European technology sovereignty is largely about designing prescriptive policies, which paradoxically risk reducing Europeans’ access to the innovative technologies, products and services that helped Europe through the crisis. Policies taken into consideration include new subsidies to politically picked companies, or new rules and obligations for certain online business models. Policy-makers advocating for such policies tend to ignore critical insights from the Covid-19 crisis and failed industrial policy initiatives, including sunk public investments and protracted subsidies for industrial laggards. In a time of economic hardship, the EU and national governments should be wary of spending even more taxpayer money to replicate existing world-class technology solutions, that in most cases are used in combination with local technologies, with “Made in EU” services of inferior quality and reliability. Moreover, due to different levels of economic development and differences in regulatory cultures, prescriptive technology policies would exclude many Member States from utilising existing and new opportunities that arise from digitalisation, slowing down economic renewal and convergence. The EU cannot be considered a monolithic block that thrives on a unique set of prescriptive technology policies. Before the Corona pandemic, initiatives towards European technology sovereignty were mainly pushed by France and Germany, fed by concerns over their companies’ industrial strength in times of growing economic and geopolitical competition. Industrial and technology policies favoured by the EU’s two largest countries will have a disproportionately negative impact on Europe’s smaller open economies, whose companies and citizens could be deprived from cutting-edge technologies, new economic opportunities and partnerships on global markets, undermining these economies’ development and international competitiveness. Any EU-imposed technology protectionism along the lines suggested by some policy-makers in large EU Member States would leave the entire EU worse off. It would disproportionately hurt countries in Europe’s northern, eastern and southern countries more than the large countries whose economies are generally more diverse than Europe’s smaller Member States. It would, however, make sense for the EU to agree on a shared definition of “technology sovereignty”. Different interpretations could cause serious policy inconsistencies, undermining the effectiveness of EU and national economic policies. Anchored in technological openness, technology sovereignty can indeed be a useful ambition to let Europe’s highly diverse economies leapfrog by using existing technologies. To become more sovereign in a global economy, Europeans need to focus on becoming global leaders in economic innovation – not just in regulation. If anchored in mercantilist or protectionist ideas, technological sovereignty would make it harder for many Member States to access modern technologies, adopt new business models and attract foreign investment – with adverse implications on future global competitiveness, economic renewal and economic convergence. Policymaking towards a European technology sovereignty that benefits the greatest number of Europeans – not just a few politically selected “winners” – should aim for a regulatory environment in which technology companies and technology adopters can thrive across EU Member States’ national borders. The European Single Market has deteriorated in recent years and significantly during the crisis. The new von der Leyen Commission has now repeatedly called for a strengthening of the Single Market. Becoming a world leader in innovation requires a real Single Market in which companies can scale up, with as few hurdles as possible, and then compete globally. It should be supplemented by pro-competitive policies and incentives for research and investment. Brussels cannot set the global standards in technology policymaking alone. Europe’s policy-makers should aim for closer market integration and regulatory cooperation with trustworthy international partners such as the G7 or the larger group of the OECD countries. It is in the EU’s self-interest to advocate for a rules-based international order with open markets. International cooperation should be extended beyond trade to include cooperation on technology policies, e.g. artificial intelligence. Regulatory cooperation with allies such as the USA is essential to jointly set global standards that are based on shared values. Both the EU and the US have much more to gain if they prioritise such alignment, to advance a shared vision for a revamped open international trading system, in a world increasingly influenced by regimes with fundamentally different views on state intervention and human rights. Anchored in technological openness, the EU and the US can promote technology sovereignty that allows for development and renewal elsewhere in the world.
  • Topic: Industrial Policy, International Political Economy, Science and Technology, Sovereignty, European Union, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Global Focus