It is fashionable in Washington to deride, or even condemn, every move President Donald Trump makes that is a departure from past, staid U.S. foreign policy.  Secretary of State Tillerson's terse public statement on Wednesday's North Korean KN-14 missile test into the Sea of Japan was the latest example of ...

“The president needs to look strong and decisive, and China is a convenient whipping boy,” Quartz White House correspondent Heather Timmons wrote Friday. Is President Donald Trump, to save a faltering presidency, planning to create friction with China when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago today? Trump will ...

Over the past decade, Japan has had to deal with external threats, from Chinese assertiveness in the seas surrounding the island nation to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been making moves to give his country greater capabilities and flexibility to defend itself. The Cipher Brief’s ...

Since at least the 1979 Iranian revolution, intelligence and national security analysts have been working hard to identify the causal factors that lead to political instability. Working hard and yet struggling. Many factors, such as high infant mortality, have been found to correlate with the onset of political instability, and ...

China continues to deploy military equipment to contested islands in the South China Sea, raising concerns among regional players and U.S. forces stationed in the Pacific.    A Chinese government strategy document published last month by China’s state-owned news agency Xinhua signals that Beijing is building up its military cyber ...

In September 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama reached an agreement that neither nation would “conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors.” Many astute observers ...

China is a burgeoning great power. It is continually figuring out the various dimensions of power – not least of which is power in cyberspace – and putting them to use. Like other great powers dealing in an unknown medium, it is, to quote Deng Xiaoping, crossing the river by ...

Two decades of an expanding defense budget coupled with a multi-dimensional modernization effort have enabled China to field one of the world’s most capable militaries. While it should come as no surprise that a modernizing power with a global economy invests significantly in its national defense, curiosity and suspicion are ...

When Syrian government forces retook the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS for the second time in early March, they had the assistance of one of the world’s elite special operations forces: Russia’s Special Operations Command (SSO). In coordination with Russian air power, the combined forces killed or wounded 1,000 ...

Several Chinese government entities perform activities that fall under the rubric of special operations. China’s primary anti-terrorist forces are elements of the civilian Ministry of Public Security (MPS) police and paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP). People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Special Operations Forces (SOF) also are trained for anti-terrorism tasks along ...

The countries of the Pacific Alliance – a small Latin American trade bloc – will hold a summit next week in Vina del Mar, Chile. All eyes will be on another meeting, though, held on the sidelines of this summit. That meeting will bring together the remaining 11 members of ...

Just three days after his inauguration, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that confirmed his intent to abandon American participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Barring an about-face from Washington, the TPP as negotiated may now be dead. However, the deal includes 11 other Asia-Pacific economies, including Japan and Canada, ...

President Donald Trump confirmed his intention to abandon American participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership after signing an executive order on the subject in January. However, this does not necessarily mean that TPP is dead. The United States was the most important partner in the agreement but the deal includes 11 ...

In the span of one week we have seen North Korea test four missiles, evidence of U.S. attempts to sabotage North Korea’s missile program with cyber capabilities, the deployment of the controversial THAAD missile defense system to South Korea, and China proposing that the U.S. give up joint military drills ...

The South China and East China Seas present flashpoints for maritime conflict, though the assembled experts at The Cipher Brief’s Georgetown Salon Series could not agree which was a more pressing issue for the United States. Retired Admiral John Greenert was joined by Greg Poling Director of the Asia Maritime ...

In 2011, former President Barack Obama and then-Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard signed a deal to base 2,500 U.S. Marines in Darwin, Australia in an effort to expand the United States’ sustained regional presence as part of the Obama Administration’s “pivot” to Asia. However, issues over cost sharing and logistics ...

Conventional wisdom suggests Asia’s increasing wealthy and educated population will make it the most dynamic region of the world and that it will drive the global economy in the 21st century. However, there are many risk factors to keep an eye on. In his new book, “The End of the ...

On Thursday February 9th, President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had their first phone call. Accounts from both sides described the call as productive and cordial. Most importantly for the future of the bilateral relationship, Trump affirmed U.S. recognition of the “One-China Policy,” reversing an uneasy start to ...

President Donald Trump and his cabinet are now responsible for U.S. policy on one of Asia’s most contentious regions: The South China Sea. While China’s intentions to militarize the islands it claims have grown clearer—recent satellite imagery shows emplacements for anti-aircraft weaponry on the Spratly Islands— U.S. policy after the ...

Few security challenges are as vexing as the South China Sea. With multiple claimants and murky claims, the contours of the conflict can be difficult to grasp. In recent years, China has used ambiguity, asymmetry, and incrementalism to assert control over parts of the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the Obama ...

Since China undertook a massive artificial island building program in 2013 with the intention of militarizing the islands, the U.S. has grown increasingly worried about freedom of navigation through this economically important waterway. The Cipher Brief spoke to Admiral Jonathan Greenert, former Chief of Naval Operations, to understand how the ...

Like many other governments, China is seeking to reestablish its sovereignty over the digital sphere with a new Cybersecurity Law. But while the law could help address China's national security issues, critics argue the law gives the government free reign to conduct surveillance and systematically censor political dissent, while also ...

On Monday, Jan. 23, President Donald Trump used his first full weekday in office to sign an executive order pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact. The TPP was signed by all 12 parties – representing almost 40 percent of the global economy – last ...

President Trump said he wants to improve relations with China, but he has expressed concern with China’s theft of intellectual property, unfair taxes for U.S. companies in China, currency manipulation, product dumping and failing to reign in North Korea.  He took a congratulatory call from the President of Taiwan and ...

For years, China's GDP has soared under its hybrid model of a free-market and command economy. But as growth slows and debt levels rise, are cracks forming in this model that Beijing cannot control? Timothy Heath's article, published on December 14th, explores the implications of these economic and political dynamics. ...

Editor’s Note: Over the coming days, The Cipher Brief presents some of our most incisive coverage on key issues of 2016 and a look ahead at what is yet to come in 2017. The oppressive smog that overtook China in late December covered 3.9 million square miles, put 24 cities ...

Since coming to power in 2012, China's Xi Jinping has reforged the Chinese Communist Party with his anti-corruption campaign and his accumulation of titles. In a post-Mao system designed to distribute power, Xi's reforms risk tying China's success too closely to his own. Gordon Chang's article, written for The Cipher ...

Compared to China, ISIS amounts to a nasty swarm of gnats.  Compared to China, Russia comes across as a cranky old man (with a shotgun). However, neither ISIS, nor Putin’s Russia, nor any other world power can rival or possibly displace the U.S. as the major power in the world: ...

Hacktivism has been a fact of life even before the rise of Anonymous. In 2016, we saw a tidal wave of global hacktivism and cyber spying, and this trend will continue in 2017. The social unrest around the world is ripe for escalating hacktivism, and it is increasingly fueled by ...

Back in August, The Cipher Brief sat down with Leo Taddeo, Chief Security Officer for Cryptzone, to discuss the cyber threats posed by Russia and China. While China primarily uses its cyber collection capabilities “to compete on an economic level,” Russia places a greater “emphasis on collecting military and diplomatic ...

During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly slammed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a "bad deal" that would harm U.S. workers and export jobs to Asia. He has promised to renegotiate the agreement, or more likely, back out altogether. Assuming that Trump follows through with his campaign promises, The Cipher ...

U.S. competitors and adversaries are probably” mystified,” says the Atlantic Council’s Mathew Burrows, by President-elect Donald Trump’s refusal to accept a CIA assessment that Russia is behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and his disinterest in daily intelligence community briefings.  The Cipher Brief spoke to Burrows to learn ...

The election of Donald Trump and the demise of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement has unleashed a flood of anxiety-ridden commentary about how China will now seize leadership in Asia and how Trump may launch devastating trade wars that might lead to real wars. This is ...

Last month, China’s legislature passed the Cybersecurity Law, which is due to take effect next summer. The controversial law has received a number of criticisms from technology companies, Western government officials, and human rights advocates. The Cipher Brief spoke with Adam Segal, Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program ...

Do Chinese authorities need more laws to surveil people? From the earliest days of the Chinese Communist Party, authorities have kept the closest of eyes on all behavior for signs of dissent. At that time, party members were obliged to report on one another; during the Cultural Revolution, that grim ...

President-elect Donald Trump’s first meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to have gone smoothly, though it remains too soon to say what policies Trump will pursue to promote U.S. strategic and economic interests in East Asia. The Cipher Brief spoke with Mansfield Foundation President and CEO Frank Jannuzi ...

On November 25th, six Chinese aircraft—two nuclear-capable H-6K bombers, two Su-30 fighters, and two surveillance planes—participated in an exercise near Taiwan’s airspace. Four of the craft, in an especially provocative move, circled the island. This was the first time China’s planes had done so. A Taiwan defense spokesman said there ...

The December 2nd phone call between President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is the first such communication between a U.S. president or president-elect and a Taiwanese president since 1979. This poses major questions about the foreign policy direction of the incoming administration and how far it is willing ...

On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, alongside U.S. President Barack Obama, made a landmark visit to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. His appearance marked the first by a Japanese Prime Minister at Pearl Harbor while accompanied by a U.S. president. Abe also became the first sitting Prime Minister to visit the ...

As President-elect prepares to take office, the new administration has an opportunity to adjust U.S. foreign policy direction with key allies. After a recent meeting with Prime Minister Abe, Trump has begun to outline how he envisions the U.S. relationship with Japan. The Cipher Brief spoke with Thomas Cynkin, Vice ...

With the incoming Trump presidency, much ink has been spilled regarding the “end” of President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia. The pivot was centered on the military prong of moving 60 percent of U.S. naval assets to the Asia Pacific along with the economic prong of the Trans Pacific Partnership ...

When asked recently by The Atlantic about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy legacy with China, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger replied: “I’d say B-plus.” As President Obama wraps up his final days in office, presidential watchers are evaluating how well he performed, wonder what his legacy will be, and ...

For roughly 30 years, China’s “economic miracle” has catapulted the once-impoverished country from relative backwater to global economic juggernaut. Driven by export-led growth and massive state investments in manufacturing and infrastructure, China had enjoyed a period of scorching GDP growth at an average of 10 percent a year. However, that ...

Since the liberalizing economic reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, the Chinese economy has grown at an average annual rate of nearly 10 percent. However, as the returns of rapid industrialization and urbanization begin to diminish, this growth has begun to slow. At the same time, massive state-driven investment ...

President-elect Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping have more in common than they currently realize. Both want to make their countries “great again,” and both need to demonstrate that they can create jobs for the large segments of their population that have felt left behind by globalization. President Xi’s challenge ...

The idyllic American university campus conjures the image of a safe and open academic environment where students spend four or more years learning new ideas and preparing for future careers.  Professors challenge eager students to open their minds to old and new perspectives in science, mathematics, business, and of course, ...

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak’s visit to China this week comes as the embattled leader’s relationship with the United States has been tested by the Department of Justice’s investigation into the scandal swirling around the 1MDB state investment fund he founded. But despite the tension and Najib’s move to align ...

With a familiar turn of phrase that still finds the world collectively raising its eyebrow, Rodrigo Duterte has added to his list of people and organizations that he feels should “go to hell.” The latest to earn this distinction is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is ...

In the span of six months, the U.S.-Philippines relationship has gone from a 25-year highpoint to a period of worrisome uncertainty. At the center of this shift is President Rodrigo Duterte, whose frequent anti-U.S. rhetoric and desire to shift his country’s foreign policy course signal that the U.S.-Philippines relationship will ...

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte rattled decades of foreign policy on October 20 with his announcement of a military and economic “separation” from the United States. The declaration came in Beijing amid a Philippine pivot away from the long-standing relationship with the United States and toward China, with whom Duterte said ...