Sand Wars: Bejing's Hidden Ambition in the South China Sea
by Amanda Blair
White Paper (pdf)
Rapid urbanization has accelerated the demand for raw materials in China. Sand, in particular, is critical to the production of concrete—but it is also a nonrenewable and increasingly scarce resource. Beijing has begun sourcing sand from its Southeast Asian neighbors. However, many of these governments have banned sand exports due to environmental concerns. With limited options, China will likely look to the South China Sea (SCS) not only to access oil and natural gas, but also sand. Although the United States seeks to manage regional disputes over sovereignty and energy resources, current policy overlooks sand as a potential driver of conflict. Washington should prioritize sand in SCS negotiating strategies and use access to research and development of manufactured sand as leverage against aggressive Chinese behavior.
The Death of Public Protest: Directed-Energy Weapons and their Hidden Consequences
by Mitchell Croom
White Paper (pdf)
Advancements in nonlethal directed-energy weapons (N-DEWs) significantly increase American military capability. However, oppressive governments that possess this technology will become highly resistant to domestic opposition. As democratic movements lose the ability to challenge illiberal regimes, a global rollback of democracy could ensue. The efficacy of these weapons, coupled with the lack of international governance, makes proliferation inevitable. The United States should enact a multilateral arms-control regime to limit the spread of N-DEWs. At the same time, Washington should create and propagate standards for the appropriate use of these weapons.
Feeding Hungry Cities: Linking Rural Supply through Private Investment
By Catherine Crowley
Exodus from rural areas and growth of megacities threaten food security and increase the risk of civil unrest in Sub-Saharan Africa. The depopulated and underproductive agricultural sector will be unable to support growing urban food demand, while heightened urbanization raises the specter of unemployment and food-related violence in cities. The international community already seeks to improve food security by promoting smallholder farming through education, technology, and loans. Insufficient attention, however, has been paid to commercializing and linking smallholder farms to national markets. To address this supply chain issue, the United States should incentivize private sector investment in rural transportation infrastructure by providing technical assistance to decrease the risk of investment in agricultural and transport networks. These measures will help prevent instability by improving rural livelihoods, discouraging growth of urban slums, and bolstering food security.
Silicon Desert: Preempting Economic Instability in Jordan
by Caper Gooden
Jordan faces the threat of economically driven instability. Recent liberalization policies required by the IMF have disproportionately harmed East Bankers, who have traditionally staffed the government bureaucracy and security services. If the Hashemites lose the support of this critical group, civil unrest will likely pose an existential threat to the regime. To counter this potential source of instability, Washington should help Amman create a source of well-paying jobs for East Bankers beyond government service. Specifically, the United States should encourage the development of Jordan’s IT industry through joint training programs focused on regime supporters and a Special IT Economic Zone for international businesses and local entrepreneurs to circumvent Jordan’s unattractive business climate.
Mobilizing Change in Central America: Fostering Women’s Networks to Combat Gang Violence
by Emily Wasek
Growing gang influence in Central America’s Northern Triangle contributes to failed states, the internationalization of gang violence, and the flow of refugees into the United States. Gang activity threatens Central American women with kidnapping, sexual assault, and femicide, which confines them to their homes. In the past, women’s networks have played a critical role in fostering political change and conflict resolution in Latin America. However, Central American governments have largely failed to include women in crafting anti-gang policies. Such exclusion prevents these policies from adequately addressing the needs of half the population they are affecting, and wastes the proven potential that female perspectives can provide. The United States should promote women’s capacity to combat gang violence through the use of mobile phone technology that encourages the development of women’s political networks.
Less is More: Emerging Donors, Foreign Aid Coordination, and Conflict
by Darice Xue
White Paper (pdf)
Lack of coordination among donors reduces the efficiency and efficacy of foreign aid dollars by exacerbating corruption, straining bureaucratic resources, and undermining the local economy. As a result, poor aid coordination contributes to conditions that increase the frequency and duration of conflict. Existing studies have focused on the negative impact of uncoordinated aid on development outcomes but have ignored its effects on conflict. Moreover, data limitations have limited research to traditional donors. Using newly available data on Chinese development finance in sub-Saharan Africa, this paper examines the relationship between conflict levels in African countries and the share of aid provided by traditional and emerging donors.
A Matter of Trust: Cultural and Institutional Barriers to U.S.-China Military Relations
by Jimmy Zhang
Chinese mistrust of American military officials and limited opportunities for communication have hindered U.S.-China military relations. The lack of regular, candid discussion between both armed forces jeopardizes East Asian regional stability by precluding a key mechanism for deescalating crises. Washington should adopt a two-phase process to improve dialogue. First, the United States should increase combined operations where Chinese and American interests align, such as disaster relief and counter-piracy efforts. This interaction can encourage informal communication channels, build mutual trust, and clarify intentions. Second, if China demonstrates interest, Washington should expand gatherings of retired U.S. and PLA officers at civilian institutions and eventually add an active duty military engagement component to the U.S.-China Economic and Strategic Dialogue.