Towards a U.S.-China War?(2): Military Tensions in the Warming Arctic

From 1 to 28 September 2019, 3000 men and women of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps are participating in the “Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise”. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command leads this exercise. The exercise takes place in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska and Southern California (“Navy, Marine Corps conduct Arctic expeditionary capabilities exercise in Alaska”, CPF Navy Mil, 3 September, 2019”). Those naval manoeuvres are part of the recent U.S. military built up in the Arctic (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Towards a US China War? (1) – The New Cold War and the Chinese Belt and Road go to the Arctic”, The Red Team Analysis Society, May 20, 2019).

Chronologically, this deployment happens after the August 2019 30 warships-strong Russian naval drill (Thomas Nilsen, “Russian navy drill in northern Norway ended without smoke”, The Independent Barents Observer, August 18, 2019).

The American manoeuvres could also be seen as a follow up to the giant NATO Arctic exercise, Trident Juncture. That Arctic exercise involved 50.000 soldiers, 150 planes, 10.000 land vehicles and 60 warships. Landing, deployment and combat exercises took place from Norway to Iceland. The NATO manoeuvres were led to demonstrate reaction capability against a hypothetical adversary that would endanger a fellow NATO member in the Arctic region (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Militarizing the Warming Arctic – The race to Neo-Mercantilism(s)”, The Red Team Analysis Society, November 12, 2018) .

However, it must be noted that, from 11 to 17 September 2018, the Russian military organised its own massive manoeuvres. Vostock 18 mobilized 300.000 soldiers, more than 36.000 land vehicles, 80 warships and 1000 planes. For the first time, the Russian political and military authorities had invited the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to participate. China’s involvement confers an added geopolitical significance to this event. It demonstrates the political and military closeness of Russia and China in the face of possible strategic threats (Lyle J. Goodstein, “What Russia’s Vostok-18 Exercise with China Means“, The National Interest, September 5, 2018).

This combination of tensions and strategies has geopolitical and economic consequences for both political and corporate actors.

The warming Arctic, a great attractor for geopolitical tensions

We must closely analyse the geography of this U.S. Navy exercise, because it reveals how the rapid warming of the region triggers a new strategic and military state of play between the U.S, Russia, and China. 

The centre of this state of play is the use and the status of the Russian Northern Sea Route. This maritime route connects the Bering Strait to Norway and the North Atlantic area. Since 2018, it has become a powerful attractor for the global rising strategic tensions between the U.S. and China (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Militarizing the Warming Arctic – The race to Neo-Mercantilism(s)”, The Red Team Analysis Society, November 12, 2018).

Those tensions are rising because of the trade war. They are converging in the different areas where the U.S. and Chinese interests intersect. Thus, this convergence heightens the risks of a “hot conflict” between the U.S., China and Russia as China’s powerful partner.

The Arctic: the new Great frontier?

The choice of the Aleutian Islands for the “Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise” is particularly telling. As it happens, this archipelago creates a natural semi circle on the Pacific side of the Bering Strait. In other terms, securing this archipelago means securing the Pacific access to the Bering Strait. Thus, it also secures the Asian entry and exit to the Russian Northern Sea Route. Being able to intervene in this area  is a particularly important capability for the U.S. military, because the Chinese ship owners are increasingly using the NSR.

The Chinese polar Belt and Road

Since 2013, the number of Chinese cargo convoys that use the Russian Northern Sea Route increases (Atle Staalesen, “A Chinese-built Arctic tanker tests spring ice along remote Russian coast », The Independent Barents Observer, May 07,2019). As it happens, the rapid warming of the region transforms this passage into a navigable space (Atle Staalesen, “The warmest ever winter on the Northern Sea Route”, The Independent Barents Observer, March 28, 2019).

In the meantime, the Russian political, economic, and military authorities have launched a massive program of infrastructure, maritime and defence development for this 4500 km long area (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Warming Russian Arctic: Where Russian and Asian Strategies Interests Converge?”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, November 23, 2016).

That interest lasts and further grows. For example, in April 2019, the economic development of the Russian Arctic was also an important topic during the Beijing second Belt and Road Forum. There, Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin exchanged about the necessary Chinese and Asian investments for the next phase of development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) (Atle Staalesen, “Putin steps up talk with Beijing over Arctic Shipping”, The Independent Barents Observer, April 30, 2019).

Moreover, Vladimir Putin took the project to the next level. He declared that the Northern Sea Route could become part of the Chinese Maritime Belt and Road initiative. This would imply major Chinese investments. Those would further develop the logistical and, especially, transhipment capabilities along the Siberian coast (Staalesen, ibid).

Escaping the trade war?

So, for Beijing, the NSR and the European and Atlantic market outlets are becoming increasingly important. As it happens, the growing use of the NSR could become a way to mitigate the economic pressure that the trade war imposes on the Chinese economic growth despite the Chinese resilience (Amy Gunia, “China’s growth is at its lowest in almost three decades”, Time, 15 July, 2019). That is why having multiple accesses to the European market becomes so important.

Symmetrically, if the U.S. power cannot contain the development of the land B&R initiative, their rising influence on this segment of the maritime B&R is all the more important.

The U.S. Arctic: U.S. Frontier or Front?

Thus, the U.S. Navy manoeuvres in the Aleutian Island are intersecting with the Russian and the Chinese strategies. This way, the U.S. military reminds the whole Pacific region that the U.S has the capability to intervene this side of the Route.

The U.S. implements a new continental strategy of control

The same is true for the Arctic and Atlantic side of the Northern Sea Route. In this context, the 2018 Trident Juncture manoeuvres appear as being a demonstration of force between Iceland and Norway, at the Western exit of the Route.

In other terms, the U.S. Arctic military build up is literally a geopolitical pincer movement. As it happens, it reveals how the U.S. Navy is implementing a continental strategy of control of the NSR. And thus, it turns the Route into a support of the U.S. military influence over this new passageway, vital to the advancement of the Chinese interests in Europe and in the Atlantic.

Old geopolitics for a warming planet

In other words, the U.S. military might deploys itself on both point of entries of the NSR. This unveils a new age for a century long question. The U.S. founding father of geopolitics, Alfred Mahan pondered this very question at the end of the 19th century. According to him, it is possible to control the Heartland (Eurasia) through sea power, and, henceforth, to be a world power. The way the U.S. and China competition about the NSR links itself with the trade war appears as being the current form of the competition for the world island, in a time of climate change. And the U.S. military build up is a form of capability escalation, while the Chinese navy is more and more active in other parts of the Pacific.

It remains to be seen if this situation is the equivalent of a “plateau” or if it is going to become the point of support for a new cycle of escalation that could lead to war. In any case, the geopolitical and economic consequences of this shifting state of play are piling up and combining. And they need to be assessed and considered by and for economic, political and military actors.


Featured image: Adapted from Cryosphere Fuller Projection (2007) – Author, Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal. Full graphic, including sources, referencing etc are available here: http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/cryosphere – Image donated by author, no restrictions on use.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 12 Septembre 2019

Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Our weekly scan for geopolitical risks for 12 Septembre 2019. Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

Here, we focus on signals that could favourably or unfavourably impact private and public actors in international security. That field is broadly known under various names: e.g. global changes, national and international security, or political and geopolitical uncertainty. In terms of risk management, the label used is external risks.

The 12 September 2019 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including Quantum Information Science, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • AI, technology and weapons;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Four ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain – ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Mapping the Chinese Private Actors Race to Quantum

This article maps the Chinese private effort in the race to quantum (updated 11 October 2019). It builds upon the previous article, which detailed the efforts of the large Chinese IT companies in terms of Quantum Information Science (QIS) investments (★ The Chinese BATX in the Race to Quantum Computing: from Research to Venture Capital through Drugs and Fintech). It translates in graphs the main findings of our research.

Using exclusively open source information in both Chinese and English, we found that only the first three of the famous BATX (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and Xiaomi) had declared strategies and actions in the quantum world. After Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, we examined Huawei, as well as Quantum CTek, as actors of the Chinese private quantum effort. Finally, we also looked at the Chinese supercomputers manufacturers and did not find any open evidence of investment in QIS.

A country-wide division of labour?

As shown in the graph below, it is interesting to see that a division of labour of sorts takes place among the main private Chinese Quantum actors.

The Chinese Private Sector and Quantum Information Science and Technologies

(The 11 October 2019 graph was updated to include Qasky 问天量子 – Anhui Qasky Quantum Technology Co. Ltd, specialised in Quantum cryptography and communication and created in 2009).

Three out of four private actors develop quantum platforms where the quantum computing capabilities may be tested and experimented.

Tencent appear to specialise itself in experimenting and developing applications for QIS. Its main focuses are pharmaceuticals and finance, notably communication and security, and potentially simulations. Tencent thus contributes to spread QIS in the real world. It will ease early adoption of QIS and their applications.

Baidu is especially strong in venture capital. This strength is still only a potential as far as quantum technologies are concerned. Indeed, Baidu venture capital is currently mainly targeting artificial intelligence, but quantum is also underlined as a field of interest. As a result, Baidu should be able to invest rapidly in any promising quantum technology or application. This could prove a crucial advantage for China in the future, notably once efforts towards quantum computing increasingly bear fruits.

From research to market, beyond the public-private divide

If most private actors carry out research in QIS, so far Alibaba dominates that field. It does so notably in collaboration with the research public sector. The creation of Quantum CTek, as a child of the research of the University of Science and Technology of China, confirms the importance of the public sector for research in QIS.

Thus, assessing the potentiality of the Chinese ecosystem demands to look at both the public and private sectors. Together the private and the public create a relatively dense network. Furthermore, public research has notably been active since 2013 (see for details and sources Quantum, AI, and Geopolitics (3): Mapping The Race for Quantum Computing).

The Chinese Private-Public Quantum Ecosystem

That trend is not specific to China. Worldwide, for the race to quantum, the divisions public-private and research-commercial are blurred, if not misleading. This disappearance of classical categorisations is, actually, a striking feature of the global quantum ecosystem. It will most probably also impact the future quantum-powered world.


Featured image: From article ARL Public Affairs, “Army scientists explore properties to make or break quantum entanglement“, 2 April 2018. Public Domain.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 5 Septembre 2019

Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Our weekly scan for geopolitical risks for 5 Septembre 2019. Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

Here, we focus on signals that could favourably or unfavourably impact private and public actors in international security. That field is broadly known under various names: e.g. global changes, national and international security, or political and geopolitical uncertainty. In terms of risk management, the label used is external risks.

The 5 September 2019 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including Quantum Information Science, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • AI, technology and weapons;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Four ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain – ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 29 August 2019

Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Our weekly scan for geopolitical risks for 29 August 2019. Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

Here, we focus on signals that could favourably or unfavourably impact private and public actors in international security. That field is broadly known under various names: e.g. global changes, national and international security, or political and geopolitical uncertainty. In terms of risk management, the label used is external risks.

The 29 August 2019 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including Quantum Information Science, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • AI, technology and weapons;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Four ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain – ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 22 August 2019

Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Our weekly scan for geopolitical risks for 22 August 2019. Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

Here, we focus on signals that could favourably or unfavourably impact private and public actors in international security. That field is broadly known under various names: e.g. global changes, national and international security, or political and geopolitical uncertainty. In terms of risk management, the label used is external risks.

The 22 August 2019 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including Quantum Information Science, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • AI, technology and weapons;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Four ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain – ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 15 August 2019

Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Our weekly scan for geopolitical risks for 15 August 2019. Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

Here, we focus on signals that could favourably or unfavourably impact private and public actors in international security. That field is broadly known under various names: e.g. global changes, national and international security, or political and geopolitical uncertainty. In terms of risk management, the label used is external risks.

The 15 August 2019 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including Quantum Information Science, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • AI, technology and weapons;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Four ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain – ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 8 August 2019

Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Our weekly scan for geopolitical risks for 8 August 2019. Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

Here, we focus on signals that could favourably or unfavourably impact private and public actors in international security. That field is broadly known under various names: e.g. global changes, national and international security, or political and geopolitical uncertainty. In terms of risk management, the label used is external risks.

The 8 August 2019 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including Quantum Information Science, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • AI, technology and weapons;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Four ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain – ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 1st August 2019

Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Our weekly scan for geopolitical risks for 1st August 2019. Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

This week’s scan is an unedited version, i.e. a scan where pieces of information are shared directly after first identification and automatic categorisation.

Here, we focus on signals that could favourably or unfavourably impact private and public actors in international security. That field is broadly known under various names: e.g. global changes, national and international security, or political and geopolitical uncertainty. In terms of risk management, the label used is external risks.

The 1st August 2019 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including Quantum Information Science, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • AI, technology and weapons;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Four ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain – ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 25 July 2019

Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Our weekly scan for geopolitical risks for 25 July 2019: from climate change to Iran through China, and Europe looking for its place in the world…. and more.

Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

This week’s scan is a semi-unedited version, i.e. a scan where pieces of information are shared directly after first identification and a first categorisation.

Here, we focus on signals that could favourably or unfavourably impact private and public actors in international security. That field is broadly known under various names: e.g. global changes, national and international security, or political and geopolitical uncertainty. In terms of risk management, the label used is external risks.

The 25 July 2019 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including Quantum Information Science, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • AI, technology and weapons;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Four ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain – ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

EN
FR EN