Close menu Resources for... William & Mary
W&M menu close William & Mary

PIPS Fellows 2023-2024

Abigail Crews
“China’s Wagner on Water: How Private Security Companies Will Strengthen the PRC’s Fishing Militia”


China has equipped a maritime force of civilian fishermen to secure disputed territory and intimidate rivals in the South China Sea. However, the fishing militia has outgrown its original purpose. The fishing militia has evolved its mission set but not its organizational structure. Originally the militia performed surveillance operations while now it conducts aggressive patrols. Since the fishing militia’s organizational structure has not adapted to match this shift in mission, it faces several institutional challenges that limit its effectiveness. 

To remedy the fishing militia’s organizational problems, China may integrate private security companies (PSC) into fishing militia operations. This evolution will improve the sophistication and functionality of China’s fishing militia. China’s PSC augmented fishing militia will enable increasingly complex operations in the South China Sea that will challenge future U.S. operations.  

Brennen Micheal
“Avoiding the Fate of Melos: Regional Entrapment Fears and U.S. Aspirations in the Indo-Pacific”

In the Indo-Pacific, the United States has successfully deepened relationships with traditional allies but has struggled to court new partners. Current policy is focused on making U.S. security commitments credible. However, the United States underestimates the entrapment fears of traditionally non-aligned states in the region. These states do not want security cooperation with the U.S. to escalate tensions or pull them into conflict with China. As a result, these countries avoid rigid commitments to the United States. Current U.S. strategy struggles to account for these entrapment fears, leading to misallocated security cooperation efforts, ineffectual relationship-building, and less support to the United States in a contingency. Instead, the United States has the opportunity to reduce entrapment fears and contribute to regional stability by embracing strategic autonomy, centralizing regional institutions, and supporting domestic capacity in the Indo-Pacific. 

Annabel Richter
“Subverting Sovereignty: China’s Nickel Strategy in Indonesia”


In 2020, Indonesia – one of the largest global suppliers of nickel ore – banned the export of raw nickel. Foreign partners who once profited from processing Indonesian ore abroad must now purchase Indonesian nickel after it has been refined domestically at a much higher price. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has weaponized Indonesia’s new policy by setting up Chinese-owned and -funded refineries that operate on Indonesian shores. This strategic move has subverted Indonesia’s aims of resource sovereignty and divested massive profits from the state’s economy. If left unchallenged, China’s monopolization of Indonesian nickel will give it a significant competitive advantage in the global nickel market and destabilize global supply chains of critical materials crucial to American and international industrial, security, and energy goals.”

Leo Sereni
“Cater to the Audience: Add Cringe to Counter-Messaging Against White Supremacy in Gaming”


Violent white supremacists exploit online gaming’s insecure communication networks to radicalize gamers. These extremists spread offensive content on gaming platforms and then invite gamers who are open-minded to this messaging into private communities that encourage white supremacy and violence. Counter-messaging is under-utilized, although its bland delivery usually fails to interest gamers. The designers of counter-messaging must understand that gamers seek out “cringey,” rather than serious content. “Cringe” is something embarrassing or awkward that makes its audience feel judgment, perplexion, and sometimes amusement. Gamers consume and share “cringey” content with friends because it humors them. Gaming influencers post their reactions to “cringe” because “cringe” is a lightning rod for attention online. This paper argues that anti-radicalization messaging to gamers spreads best in “cringey” packaging. Attempts to combat the spread of white supremacy on gaming networks should capitalize on cringe’s utility.

Abigail Taylor
“PRC Debt-for-Nature Swaps: The Dark Side of Debt Relief in Africa”


Debt-for-nature swaps are surging in popularity among the environmental and finance communities. These swaps exchange outstanding debt for environmental projects. As the largest bilateral lender to African countries, Beijing is well-positioned to use debt-for-nature swaps to gain greater leverage on the Continent. China can then portray its activities as environmentally responsible and sustainable. However, the way China designs swaps may limit U.S.-Africa collaboration and restrict African countries’ sovereignty over their sustainable development.

At this early stage, the United States has an opportunity to limit the coercive and extractive use of this debt relief strategy. The United States should work with the international community to establish universal standards and push for transparent and inclusive negotiations.