This is the 2 December 2021 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks or, more largely, conventional and unconventional national and international security (open access). Scroll down to access the Weekly.
Editorial – This week, amid the rise of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant and related questions and many other signals, from Turkey, Iran and Russia for example, we feature an article on China’s latest blockbuster movie: The Battle at Lake Changjin (see trailers below). The film depicts a battle during the Korean War, which was a U.S. defeat against China.
This film knows a huge success in China (Chen Xi, ‘The Battle at Lake Changjin’ becomes highest-grossing film in Chinese film history“, Global Times, 24 Nov 21; see also a Forbes article for an American perception on the film “‘Battle At Lake Changjin’ Is China’s All-Time Highest-Grossing Film“, 29 Nov 21; or an earlier article in The Diplomat, Carice Witte ‘The Battle at Lake Changjin’ and China’s New View of War“, 14 Oct 21).
The film and its success are, of course, significant in terms of international relations. The official Chinese Global Times highlights that importance in its article “Korean War film breaks records, has implications for today’s China-US competition” (Liu Caiyu and Yu Jincui, 21 October 2021). Notably the authors quote a Chinese Military and TV expert as stating:
“The war epic film sheds light on Chinese people’s spirit that the Chinese people are firm in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests and that they are fearless whoever their rivals are.”Song Zhongping, military expert and TV commentator in Liu Caiyu and Yu Jincui, “Korean War film breaks records, has implications for today’s China-US competition“, 21 October 2021, Global Times.
The trailers (Singapore release) are worth watching:
Global Times also underlines that Chinese soldiers had to fight harsh climatic conditions, and could overcome them “with their strong will” (ibid.). This indicates that China starts preparing for the fight against climate change and for facing multiple security challenges at once.
The Battle at Lake Changjin is distributed internationally, for example in Singapore (11 November 2021), in the UK and Ireland (19 November 2021), in North America (19 November 2021) and Australia (2 December 2021), but is banned in Malaysia. It is thus also indicating a rising use of soft power for international influence, and even, potentially, of psyops’ “reflexive control”*.
*“Reflexive control” evolved from and complemented the Soviet Cheka’s (the military and security arm of the Bolshevik party) Maskirovka (the art of surprise through deception, concealment, or psyops) (Steve Tatham, U.S. Governmental Information Operations and Strategic Communications: A Discredited Tool or User Failure? Implications for Future Conflict, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, December 2013: 50-57 – for further explanations and an application to the Islamic State, see The Islamic State Psyops – A Framework, and The Islamic State Psyops – The Making of the Crusaders) .
- Speech at Alterre Day: Unsustainable! Towards Solutions…
- “Dune” – Adaptation to Climate Change as Power Strategy
- The Red Team Analysis Weekly – 13 January 2022
- Omicron Variant – “the Good, the Bad and the ‘Intriguing’” – Warning
- Omicron Variant – “Major, Imminent Threat” Warning
- Long COVID and the Fifth Wave – Three Scenarios
- Will there be Climate Civil Wars?
- Assessing the “Strategic” in Strategic Surprise
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.
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);
- science including AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
- analysis, strategy and futures;
- the Covid-19 pandemic;
- 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: Image of the Swedish-ESO 15m Submillimeter Telescope (SEST) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, located on the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile and at an altitude of 2400 metres. The photo was taken by Stefan Seip, one of the ESO Photo