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SnapshotsOct 21, 2020 | 16:00 GMT
A worker assembles a power distribution cabinet in Hangzhou, China, on Oct. 19, 2020.
China’s Economic Recovery Widens, But Risks Remain
Stronger, broader-based growth in China’s economy in the third quarter of 2020 underscores that it will be the only major economy to end the year with a larger GDP greater than it began with. Downside risks remain, but the opportunity to further Beijing’s strategic goals could bear economic fruit in the form of furthering policies that foster domestic self-reliance, even as low consumption persists and a COVID-19 resurgence in the United States and Europe threatens Chinese exports. According to official government statistics released on Oct. 19, China’s GDP growth accelerated to 4.9 percent (year-over-year) from 3.2 percent in the second quarter of 2020, even as it fell somewhat short of predictions. Negative growth for the year was reversed with the economy expanding by 0.7 percent in the first nine months of 2020, including the 6.8 percent decline in the first quarter. This shores up the public image of the Chinese
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AssessmentsAug 25, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A vintage map of the Middle East.
What's Driving Muslim Countries to Normalize Their Ties With Israel?
The waning influence of the pan-Islamism and pan-Arabism movements, combined with increasing U.S. pressure, will cause Oman, Bahrain and Morocco to soon join the United Arab Emirates in formalizing ties with Israel, accelerating a longer-term normalization trend that no longer hinges on the formation of a Palestinian state. The allure of Israel's technology and defense capabilities could also compel other Muslim states with covert ties and limited histories of overt conflict with Israel, such as Pakistan, to follow suit. Israel will, in turn, see expanding global economic ties that strengthen its post-pandemic recovery, as well as stronger regional allies that bolster its position against Iran should the upcoming U.S. election yield a less hawkish administration in Washington.
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SnapshotsAug 18, 2020 | 14:46 GMT
The U.S. Broadens Its Tech Battle With China
The United States' move to expand export controls against Huawei’s cloud-computing affiliates indicates its pressure campaign against Chinese telecommunications and internet companies is evolving to include a wider spectrum of information technologies. On Aug. 17, the U.S. Commerce Department added a total of 38 new Huawei affiliates to its entity list, which increases U.S. export controls. The added companies include 22 of Huawei’s cloud-computing subsidiaries, such as Huawei Cloud Computing Technology and Huawei Cloud France, as well as several of its OpenLab units that promote research and development collaboration overseas. 
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SnapshotsJul 15, 2020 | 20:33 GMT
Trump Carefully Continues to Increase Pressure on China in Hong Kong
Despite growing bipartisan pressure among U.S. legislators to take more aggressive action against China, the White House's latest actions in Hong Kong indicate the administration still seeks to avoid any moves that could substantively damage the city's status as an economic hub or jeopardize the U.S.-China phase one trade deal. On July 14, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the issuing of an executive order invoking the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 to certify the city no longer warrants autonomous treatment under U.S. law, as well as the signing of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act (HKAA) into law. These two actions mark another step in the incremental escalation of U.S. pressure on China over its implementation of a severe new national security law in the city but still fall short of more extreme moves Washington could take, reflecting a still cautious White House strategy. 
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AssessmentsJul 9, 2020 | 11:00 GMT
A crane moves Nord Stream 2 pipes at a port near Sassnitz, Germany, on June 5, 2019.
Nord Stream 2 Overcomes One Hurdle Only to Be Met With Another
Denmark’s decision to drop certain technical requirements for operating in its waters will allow Russia to use both of its available pipe-laying vessels to finish constructing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Another Russian vessel, the MV Fortuna, will now also be allowed to operate on the natural gas pipeline between Germany and Russia in Danish waters beginning Aug. 3. The United States, however, is now seeking to expand its sanctions to target all services related to constructing Nord Stream 2, including supply vessels and backfilling vessels. But even if construction is completed before additional sanctions disrupt progress, Washington could still take action to prevent Russia and Germany from putting their pipeline into operation.
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AssessmentsMay 6, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An image displays rows of silicon wafers.
The U.S. Weaponizes COVID-19 Anger Against China’s Tech Sector
The United States and China have been locked in a technology cold war for several years. The COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, is now pressuring Washington to make even stronger moves against Beijing by fueling anti-China sentiment among U.S. voters and legislators alike. But the White House’s latest attempt to increase export controls on China and limit Beijing's overall access to U.S. technology will come at the cost of further fragmenting the global tech sector’s highly integrated supply chain network. 
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AssessmentsFeb 7, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An employee sits in the showroom of an Apple store in Beijing after it closed for the day on Feb. 1, 2020.
The Coronavirus Spreads Fears of a Shutdown in China's Tech Sector
Without question, the new coronavirus has taken a toll on China and many other places in the world, infecting at least 30,600 people and killing 633 as of Feb. 7. But only now, as the Lunar New Year holiday draws to a close, is Beijing preparing to assess just how much economic damage the coronavirus outbreak has wrought, especially as China is central to the global electronics and information technology sector. Ultimately, the breadth of the impact depends on how far the virus spreads beyond its current location. Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, are not critical nodes for the vast majority of China's electronics sector. But neighboring provinces, including Shaanxi, Henan and Jiangxi, are home to cities that are prominent in the global technology sector, while the provinces with the second and third most confirmed cases so far, Zhejiang and Guangdong, are arguably China's two most critical areas for tech.
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AssessmentsJan 20, 2020 | 20:17 GMT
A fire truck drives past a hill engulfed in flames on the night of Jan. 20, 2020 in Mount Adrah, Australia. The 2020 fire season has hit the southern coast of New South Wales particularly hard.
The Geopolitical Cost of Australia's Wildfires
Australia is at the start of what's shaping up to be a ­­­­record fire season with potentially drastic economic and political repercussions. As of mid-January, brushfires in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and elsewhere have resulted in insured property damage estimated at over $1.34 billion, burning nearly 12 million hectares (29.7 million acres) and resulting in 28 deaths. In addition to the areas already engulfed in flames, broad swaths of the country are at higher-than-usual risk of coming into the line of fire. And the damage to date could be just the tip of the iceberg, given that the country's annual fire seasons stretch from December to around April. As Australia's climate grows hotter and drier, so too will the severity of its wildfire woes. This sobering prospect has, once again, placed the country's oil and gas exports in the crosshairs of climate concerns. But even given the havoc fires
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AssessmentsJan 9, 2020 | 20:51 GMT
This photo shows pieces of a Qaim 1 missile after Iran targeted the Ayn al-Asad Air Base in Iraq on Jan. 8, 2020.
With Its Missile Strikes, Iran Flaunts Its Accuracy
The images paint a picture of precision: The first satellite imagery of the aftermath of the Iranian strike on Ayn al-Asad Air Base in Iraq highlights Iran's improved ability to accurately strike distant targets with its extensive missile arsenal. The pictures, released by imaging company Planet Labs on Jan. 8, show that Iran can chalk up its strike as a success even without inflicting U.S. casualties. What's more, they also show how Iran sought to skirt a delicate line in exacting public retribution while also avoiding an escalation that would lead to outright war.
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On SecurityJan 7, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
The funeral procession for IRGC-Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 6, 2020, in Tehran, Iran, after his Jan. 3 death in a U.S. airstrike.
Evaluating the State of Iranian Terrorism Capabilities
Iran's leadership unsurprisingly has issued broad threats of retaliation in response to the Jan. 3 killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatening to exact "severe revenge." One of the most influential individuals in Iran, Soleimani was seen as the key to Iran's aggressive military initiatives across the Middle East. There is little doubt that Iran will indeed seek revenge. The real question is when, where and how it will attempt to seek it. But while terrorist attacks by Iranian operatives or proxy groups working at the behest of Iran are a valid cause for concern, they are no reason to panic: Their activities can be detected and defended against through solid intelligence work and careful vigilance.
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AssessmentsDec 16, 2019 | 10:30 GMT
"Camp Castor" in Gao, Mali, is part of the U.N. mission in the country.
Western Reluctance in the Sahel Opens Doors for Russia
Western reluctance to increase its commitment to security in the militancy-plagued Sahel creates opportunities for Russia there. As part of its broader diplomatic offensive in Africa, Moscow already has been working to upgrade its military relationship with the traditionally French-aligned states of the Sahel, former colonies of France. For Russia, a greater security role in the Sahel, a region of West Africa at the southern end of the Sahara, could mean supplying military equipment and services -- such as the deployment of private military forces or training by the Russian military proper -- in exchange for minerals extracted locally. But while Moscow can offer local governments supplementary capabilities in the form of arms, training and direct military support, Russia is unlikely to supplant the role played by the larger, more deeply rooted French-led Western efforts in the region. And depending on how far any new Russian involvement extends, its new activities
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AssessmentsDec 5, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
A man displays his new two-dollar notes of the Zimbabwe dollar.
As Its Economy Worsens, Zimbabwe Teeters on the Edge of Chaos
2020 looks to be another trying year for Zimbabwe as a foreign currency shortage continues to ravage the country’s import-reliant economy. In January, fuel and food shortages spurred angry protests that ended in a violent security crackdown. President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration has since tried to address Zimbabwe's systemic economic weaknesses by floating and reshaping its currency, as well as restricting the use of the U.S. dollar -- though so far, to no avail. Desperate for revenue, the government is also now attempting to ramp up mining investments. But the windfall from such efforts will take years to materialize -- years Mnangagwa's administration may not have, especially if Zimbabwe's deteriorating living conditions end up turning his own security forces against him.
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On SecurityDec 3, 2019 | 12:15 GMT
A corporate surveillance team examines security footage of an office entrance.
Your Company’s Data Could Be Most at Risk in the Places You Least Expect
When asked why he robbed banks by a reporter, the notorious robber Willie Sutton apocryphally retorted "because that's where the money is." Sutton later denied having made this remark. But regardless of who (or if) anyone said it, the quote nevertheless highlights a fundamental truth of crime: criminals will select a target that has the item(s) they wish to steal. This same principle also holds true for corporate espionage. Your company's secrets are a target wherever they reside, including (and perhaps especially) in locations assumed to be less at-risk. Because of this, it's important to understand that espionage is a truly global and multifaceted threat -- and requires security programs equally robust in nature and scope to protect sensitive information from malicious actors.
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AssessmentsOct 24, 2019 | 17:22 GMT
An image of the Russian flag behind the African continent.
Russia Expands Its Game Plan in Africa
Russia’s strategy to expand its influence in Africa has been underway for two years, though so far it's largely consisted of covert, bilateral activities. But that's slated to change come Oct. 22, when Moscow hosts its first-ever Africa summit in the city of Sochi. The inaugural meeting will provide a platform for Russia to present a more positive view of its approach to Africa, where it can act as an enabler in economic and political affairs. More than 40 African leaders are scheduled so far to attend the two-day event -- many of whom hail from countries Russia has never had exceptionally close relationships with. But Moscow's ability to make inroads with these new nations will be limited by its lack of the massive budget that its Eastern and Western rivals have long leveraged to stake their claim on the continent. Thus Russia's expanded new diplomatic efforts in Africa will likely focus less on offering purely
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On SecurityOct 22, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
A woman walks in front of an office belonging to the Israeli cybersecurity company, NSO Group, in August 2016 near Tel Aviv.
When Espionage Skills Are for Sale, So Is Your Security
Reports emerged Oct. 16 that UAE-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter recruited officers who had previously worked for Israel's elite cyber intelligence outfit, Unit 8200. Interestingly, the story also noted that many of the Unit 8200 personnel had first worked at the Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group before reportedly departing the company for larger salaries at DarkMatter. Both NSO Group and DarkMatter have generated a great deal of media coverage for allegedly arming governments with intelligence tools to spy on potential dissidents and journalists, among other targets. These cases, however, undoubtedly only scratch the surface of a much larger threat -- that is, the increasing proliferation of intelligence tools and skills on the open market. Today, more actors than ever can purchase advanced intelligence capabilities, forcing us to reconsider the way we think about, analyze and protect against corporate espionage threats.
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SnapshotsSep 10, 2019 | 20:43 GMT
Russia, Mozambique: Moscow Treads a Well-Worn Path in Southern Africa
It's a revelation that will surprise no one who has watched Russia make steady inroads into Africa in recent years: Several observers have recently reported an uptick in its military presence in Mozambique. Russian soldiers are reportedly collaborating with Mozambique's security services in several locations in the north of the country, including the port towns of Palma and Nacala and the inland town of Mueda, likely for the purpose of training local forces and supporting them with intelligence and logistics. Naturally, the location of the Russian presence has raised speculation about Moscow's intentions, given that northern Mozambique is home to a persistent jihadist threat that local forces have failed to stamp out -- as well as the country's most important energy reserves.
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AssessmentsJul 31, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
A garment worker prepares shirts for shipment in a factory in Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 24, 2019.
Vietnam's Balance Between Great Powers May Start Skewing West
For the past two decades, Vietnam has leveraged its strategic location as the gateway to Indochina to become one of the biggest success stories in the Asia-Pacific. This position has allowed it to largely remain neutral among great power competitions over the years, which continues to serve to its benefit today as now the top export "safe haven" from the U.S.-China trade war. This, however, has come at the cost of ramping up its trade deficit with the United States, which has threatened to retaliate should Hanoi not increase its purchases of American goods and services -- a warning the U.S. trade representative reiterated on July 29, noting the "host of unfair trade barriers" that U.S. businesses face upon entering the Vietnamese market. Desperate to avoid coming under the siege of a trade salvo, Vietnam has used every opportunity to remind Washington of its value as a foil to China. Such words, however, hold only
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SnapshotsJul 12, 2019 | 21:40 GMT
China, U.S.: Beijing Takes Aim at U.S. Defense Firms Over Taiwan
Once again, Taiwan is poised to throw a wrench into U.S.-Chinese ties. On July 12, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said China would sanction any U.S. firms that sell arms to the self-governing island, just days after the White House approved the sale of $2.2 billion in tanks, missiles and related military equipment. The arms sales include 108 General Dynamics Corp. M1A2T Abrams tanks, which are produced and serviced at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Ohio, as well as surface-to-air Stinger missiles that Raytheon Co. primarily manufactures in Tucson, Arizona.
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