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  • Author: Jennifer A. Hillman, David Sacks
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy undertaking and the world’s largest infrastructure program, poses a significant challenge to U.S. economic, political, climate change, security, and global health interests. Since BRI’s launch in 2013, Chinese banks and companies have financed and built everything from power plants, railways, highways, and ports to telecommunications infrastructure, fiber-optic cables, and smart cities around the world. If implemented sustainably and responsibly, BRI has the potential to meet long-standing developing country needs and spur global economic growth. To date, however, the risks for both the United States and recipient countries raised by BRI’s implementation considerably outweigh its benefits. BRI was initially designed to connect China’s modern coastal cities to its underdeveloped interior and to its Southeast, Central, and South Asian neighbors, cementing China’s position at the center of a more connected world. The initiative has since outgrown its original regional corridors, expanding to all corners of the globe. Its scope now includes a Digital Silk Road intended to improve recipients’ telecommunications networks, artificial intelligence capabilities, cloud computing, e-commerce and mobile payment systems, surveillance technology, and other high-tech areas, along with a Health Silk Road designed to operationalize China’s vision of global health governance.1 Hundreds of projects around the world now fall under the BRI umbrella.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Infrastructure, Hegemony, Conflict, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Regionalism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Thomas J. Bollyky, Stewart M. Patrick
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States and the world were caught unprepared by the COVID-19 pandemic despite decades of warnings of the threat of global pandemics and years of international planning. The failure to adequately fund and execute these plans has exacted a heavy human and economic price. Hundreds of thousands of lives have already been lost, and the global economy is in the midst of a painful contraction. The crisis—the greatest international public health emergency in more than a century—is not over. It is not too early, however, to begin distilling lessons from this painful experience so that the United States and the world are better positioned to cope with potential future waves of the current pandemic and to avoid disaster when the next one strikes, which it surely will. This CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report seeks to do just that, framing pandemic disease as a stark threat to global and national security that neither the United States nor the world can afford to ignore again. It argues that future pandemic threats are inevitable and possibly imminent; policymakers should prepare for them and identify what has gone wrong in the U.S. and multilateral response. One of the most important lessons of this pandemic is that preparation and early execution are essential for detecting, containing, and rapidly responding to and mitigating the spread of potentially dangerous emerging infectious diseases. As harmful as this coronavirus has been, a novel influenza could be even worse, transmitting even more easily, killing millions more people, and doing even more damage to societies and economies alike. This Task Force proposes a robust strategy consisting of critical institutional reforms and policy innovations to help the United States and the world perform better. Although there is no substitute for effective political leadership, The recommendations proposed here would if implemented place the nation and the world on a firmer footing to confront humanity’s next microbial foe. The Task Force presents its findings grouped into three sections: the inevitability of pandemics and the logic of preparedness; an assessment of the global response to COVID-19, including the performance of the World Health Organization (WHO), multilateral forums, and the main international legal agreement governing pandemic disease; and the performance of the United States, while also drawing lessons from other countries, including several whose outcomes contrast favorably with the U.S. experience.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, World Health Organization, Pandemic, COVID-19, Health Crisis, Global Health
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Adam Segal
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States leads the world in innovation, research, and technology development. Since World War II, the new markets, industries, companies, and military capabilities that emerged from the country’s science and technology commitment have combined to make the United States the most secure and economically prosperous nation on earth. This seventy-year strength arose from the expansion of economic opportunities at home through substantial investments in education and infrastructure, unmatched innovation and talent ecosystems, and the opportunities and competition created by the opening of new markets and the global expansion of trade. It was also forged in the fire of threat: It was formed and tested in military conflicts from the Cold War to the war in Afghanistan, in technological leadership lost and regained during competition with Japan in the 1980s, and in the internal cultural conflicts over the role of scientists in aiding the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Confronted with a threat to national security or economic competitiveness, the United States responded. So must it once again. This time there is no Sputnik satellite circling the earth to catalyze a response, but the United States faces a convergence of forces that equally threaten its economic and national security. First, the pace of innovation globally has accelerated, and it is more disruptive and transformative to industries, economies, and societies. Second, many advanced technologies necessary for national security are developed in the private sector by firms that design and build them via complex supply chains that span the globe; these technologies are then deployed in global markets. The capacities and vulnerabilities of the manufacturing base are far more complex than in previous eras, and the ability of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to control manufacturing-base activity using traditional policy means has been greatly reduced. Third, China, now the world’s second-largest economy, is both a U.S. economic partner and a strategic competitor, and it constitutes a different type of challenger.1 Tightly interconnected with the United States, China is launching government-led investments, increasing its numbers of science and engineering graduates, and mobilizing large pools of data and global technology companies in pursuit of ambitious economic and strategic goals. The United States has had a time-tested playbook for technological competition. It invests in basic research and development (R&D), making discoveries that radically change understanding of existing scientific concepts and serve as springs for later-stage development activities in private industry and government. It trains and nurtures science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent at home, and it attracts and retains the world’s best students and practitioners. It wins new markets abroad and links emerging technology ecosystems to domestic innovations through trade relationships and alliances. And it converts new technological advances into military capabilities faster than its potential adversaries Erosion in the country’s leadership in any of these steps that drive and diffuse technological advances would warrant a powerful reply. However, the United States faces a critical inflection point in all of them. There is a great deal of talk among policymakers, especially in the Defense Department, about the importance of innovation, but the rhetoric does not translate fast enough into changes that matter. The Task Force believes that the government and the private sector must undertake a comprehensive and urgent response to this challenge over the next five years. Failure to do so will mean a future in which other countries reap the lion’s share of the benefits of technological development, rivals strengthen their militaries and threaten U.S. security interests, and new innovation centers replace the United States as the source of original ideas and inspiration for the world.
  • Topic: Security, National Security, Military Strategy, Innovation, Trade
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Edward Alden, Laura Taylor-Kale
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The challenge facing the United States today is to rebuild the links among work, opportunity, and economic security for all Americans in the face of accelerating technological change.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Labor Issues, Employment, Innovation, Emerging Technology, Machine Learning
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Aaron Connely
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: In April 2016, the Lowy Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations' International Institutions and Global Governance program held a workshop on Southeast Asian perspectives on U.S.–China competition, which informed this publication. That workshop was made possible in part by the generous support of the Robina Foundation. This report is a collaboration between the Lowy Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed in this report are entirely the authors' own and not those of the Lowy Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, or the Robina Foundation.
  • Topic: Governance, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: China, America
  • Author: Brad Sester, Cole Frank
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The 2014 fall in global oil prices, from over $100 a barrel to around $50 a barrel, reduced the export proceeds of the world’s main oil- and gas-exporting economies by about $1 trillion. After a decade of largely uninterrupted high oil prices, this dramatic swing has tested the economic resiliency and political adaptability of oil-exporting countries. One of the best single measures of the resilience of an oil- or gas-exporting economy is the oil price that covers its import bill—the external breakeven price.
  • Topic: Oil, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: William Norris
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Chinese government has embarked on an effort to reorient its economy from an investment- and export-driven model toward one predicated on a larger role for consumption and market forces. At the same time, China is also experiencing a new normal of much slower economic growth. The economic downturn and concomitant structural shift in China’s economy has already begun affecting its foreign policy. Security, not economics, is becoming one of President Xi Jinping’s—and China’s—top strategic priorities.
  • Topic: Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Laura K. Donohue
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: On December 31, 2017, section 702 of the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FAA) will expire. Section 702 governs the domestic interception of foreigners’ communications, when the targets are believed to be outside the United States. Although externally directed, this statute is being used by agencies to monitor, collect, and search U.S. citizens’ communications for foreign intelligence and criminal activity. Congress has an opportunity to amend section 702 to safeguard U.S. national security, protect citizens, and comply with the Constitution.
  • Topic: Global Security
  • Political Geography: America
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: On May 7–9, 2017, the Council on Foreign Relations hosted the sixth annual conference of the Council of Councils. The conference was made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation for CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance program. The views described here are those of workshop participants only and are not CFR or Robina Foundation positions. The Council on Foreign Relations takes no institutional positions on policy issues and has no affiliation with the U.S. government. In addition, the suggested policy prescriptions are the views of individual participants and do not necessarily represent a consensus of the attending members.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Matthew Taylor
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Guatemala has made notable gains in the fight against corruption and impunity in the last decade. President Otto Perez Molina resigned in 2015 and was tried and jailed on charges of corruption, alongside his vice president and several ministers. Several prominent criminal figures have been extradited to the United States, including another former president, Alfonso Portillo. Supreme Court justices and members of congress have been removed from office, drug lords jailed, and extortion rings dismantled. The overall impunity rate for homicides fell from 95 percent to 72 percent [PDF] between 2006 and 2012.
  • Topic: Corruption, International Security, Political stability
  • Political Geography: Guatemala