Monday, May 27, 2013

Battle of attrition (CHINA)

Prasenjit Chowdhury, Nov 1, 2012 :
China has sought to keep India strategically contained within South Asia by propping up Pakistan politically and militarily. 
There seems to be discomfiture on the part of China about India memorialising this year the 50th anniversary of the Sino-India border conflict of 1962. The mainstream reaction of China has always been to underplay the 1962 border-dispute as a ‘minor scuffle.’

Why did 1962 happen? We have long been fed by the revisionist account of Neville Maxwell’s opus ‘India’s China War’ published in 1970 which blamed Nehru for arrogance and obduracy in the face of Chinese efforts to seek a negotiated solution. Not only Maxwell, but many of our pro-China communists, thought that it was India which asked for its humiliation at the hands of China in 1962. 

During the last two decades, however, a few former Indian defence officials including faculty at the Indian Defence Academy like Parshotam Lal and Srinivas Raghavan rubbished the central thesis of Maxwell. 

But the publication of Steven Hoffmann’s  account in 1990 is an important corrective to the revisionist thesis by capturing Indian perceptions more closely. There seems to exist a near-universal consensus in tracing the problem to the colonial days.

Make no mistake about it. That China is a hydra-headed monster with massive expansionist plans across South Asia is no longer a secret. It was Mao who termed Tibet as the ‘palm’ of a hand with its five fingers as Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan, and what has so long been as NEFA that pertain to our north eastern states.

He claimed that these were ‘Chinese’ territories that needed to be ‘liberated’. And there is merit in the argument that the pacifist Indian leadership remained blind to Communist China’s repeated claims on Tibet and large part of Indian territories. 
Clearly, China is in no mood to attach much significance to a ‘war’ that India considers as of epic proportions.

A Beijing-based researcher on Sino-India relations has to say that the Chinese foreign policy at popular and elite levels is about competing with the US, putting Japan in its place and keeping a ‘wary’ eye on Russia, while maintaining China's unity in terms of, for example, recovering Taiwan and pacifying Tibet and Xinjiang. Compared to India’s demonic obsession about China, India merits little attention of China.

Is China really as indifferent about India as it makes itself to be? It is true that the People's Liberation Army withdrew from all the territory it gained in the eastern sector and gave the territory back after holding it for a few weeks. Much to the outrage of the nationalists, China has secretly signed quite a few border agreements with its neighbours, in particular Russia and Central Asian states.

But recently in context of Japan’s ‘purchase’ of the Diaoyu Islands,  considered as a grave ‘violation’ of China's territorial sovereignty, Chinese vice foreign minister Zhang Zhijun registered strong protest.

Settled disputes

Fifty years is a long stretch of time in diplomatic calendar. China is no stranger to settlement of border disputes as China and Russia settled their decades-old border disputes signing an agreement fixing the 4,300-km border for the first time. China and Kazakhstan have resolved their border dispute and are working to demarcate their large open borders to control population migration, illegal activities, and trade.

Besides India, China has been involved in complex disputes with Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. But why is a settlement of the Sino-Indian border dispute given a slip, as years roll on, begs for an answer.
An article titled ‘Who sows discord in India-China relations’ in the Shanghai-based Liberation Daily regarded highly by the Chinese political and military establishment warned that the US and western media were trying to ‘sow discord’ between the two Asian giants and lead the two neighbours in the direction of a confrontation.

The article said that having to describe Chinese attempts to expand mutual co-operation with other South Asian nations as ploys to encircle India through a ‘string of pearls’ was a “a deliberate attempt to provoke the anti-Chinese forces in India”.

The problem is: one cannot attach a very benign tag to China’s desire of a peaceful rise. China has sought to keep India strategically contained within South Asia by propping up Pakistan politically and militarily with transfers of nuclear and missile technologies. 

It has fortified its military hold over Tibet, weighing down the military balance against us in the north. It has signed multimillion dollar aid, trade and defence deals with many Indian Ocean nations, while Chinese state-owned corporations have financed commercial ports in Pakistan (Gwadar), Sri Lanka (Hambantota and Colombo), Bangladesh (Chittagong) and Burma (Sittwe and Kyaukpyu). As a dominant economic player in central Asia, it is competing ferociously with India in shoring up areas of influence in both Iran and Afghanistan.

Perhaps, it is best not to repeat past mistakes and stick to inflexible stands. It is about time to get past the theory of surprise and betrayal spun around the defeat in 1962. On the one hand, we need solid military support to match the Chinese threat and on the other, we need to garner enough economic clout to neutralise China. 

There is enough room to accommodate the aspirations of China and India, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei recently said in response to India's commemorative activities. Engaging with China and improving relations with it wherever practicable must be encouraged. 

But, for two aspirational nations that some 2,000 years ago held the lion’s share of the world economy, this century could well be a battle of attrition – though there is little chance of a repeat of 1962 – India, in the face of China’s phenomenal economic growth, its obsession with national power and its expanding military capabilities, cannot afford to lose.

GPS Insights — September 2007

Though dated Jul 2007, most content is still current!!)

For every additional nanosecond of accuracy you achieve in the GPS constellation timing signal, that nanosecond will yield you another foot of accuracy for wherever you are located.


 What is GPS anyway, but a bunch of atomic clocks on orbit that broadcast a time signal? Certainly, in some aspects, GPS is much more sophisticated than this, but in reality it boils down to atomic clocks and a transceiver in a Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). Why MEO? That is a subject for another column, but remember: geometry matters. 

What we have on the ground in a GPS receiver in its most basic form is also a clock and a receiver with a processor, and for handheld size units the clocks are usually crystal or quartz.
Why crystal or quartz? Because they are small, cheap, accurate for short periods of time. and easily correctable or updateable. 

On the other hand, the clocks on orbit are Cesium and Rubidium atomic clocks: large, expensive, and incredibly accurate.

There are typically four atomic clocks per satellite and the time is averaged within the satellite and the constellation. Averaged because Cesium clocks are very accurate over the long term and Rubidium clocks are very accurate over the short term. Why do you need both?  Because the on-orbit atomic clocks are updated from even more accurate atomic clocks on the ground.

How accurate? The atomic clocks on the ground have an accuracy expressed as 1x10-15 , while the atomic clocks in orbit are typically accurate to 1x10-11 . The (-11) and (-15) are the number of zeros you add behind the number 10. Suffice it to say these are amazingly accurate clocks and each order of magnitude improvement (another zero) is an incredible achievement and will reap significant improvements we will discuss later.

If you had one of these atomic clocks at home, it would only lose, at most, one second every 10,000 years. So, here we have all these extremely accurate atomic clocks on orbit, currently 128 of them, more or less, broadcasting their timing signal. In a perfect world that time would be exactly the same on all the atomic clocks and that perfect time would be broadcast to your GPS receiver and if you were standing still — voilĂ ! You would know your position immediately to within about 1cm (centimeter).

So why is it 2 or 3 meters instead of centimeters today? Several reasons: all the on-orbit clocks are initially synchronized to the same time (a clock on the Earth) — but each clock drifts at a different rate.

And then we have the atmosphere with which we must contend.
You know the atmosphere — it provides us with the air we breathe, protects us from solar radiation and comets, stuff like that. Well, because the atmosphere actually has mass and consists of microscopic particles, the RF timing signal from and to the satellites interacts with the atmosphere, and the signal is delayed, and the delay changes depending on where you are on, above or below the Earth.

These perturbations cause the timing signals from different satellites to arrive at a slightly different time, which is the whole point for positioning, but then everything gets averaged, and our GPS receiver tells us where we are within about a body length.
But wait a minute! Surveyors and scientists, seismologists for instance, actually use GPS signals to determine position and track movements of the Earth’s crust with centimeter and millimeter accuracy. How do they do that? In a very simplified form, they accomplish this feat by integrating over time — it is not usually instantaneous — and they use augmentation systems like WASS, EGNOS and NDGPS that take out the atmospheric errors, by applying regional corrections, and frequently they post-process the signal and take out even more errors.

Have you noticed a common theme here? That theme of course is, “Time,” and everything we can do to make time more accurate and uniform in our GPS system will give us a more accurate position.

Here is a rule of thumb: for every additional nanosecond (a 10-9  second, or one billionth of a second) of accuracy you achieve in the GPS constellation timing signal, that nanosecond will yield you another foot of accuracy for wherever you are located. Don’t worry about how, it is just a simple physics and orbital mechanics problem.

Replacing the crystal or quartz clock in my handheld GPS transceiver with an atomic clock will start producing those added nanonseconds of accuracy in my receiver.

So: I have a tiny (cubic centimeter) atomic clock — a chip-scale atomic clock, or CSAC — in my GPS transceiver, and it is synched with the atomic clocks on orbit, thus we are both using the same timing reference. Now I have eliminated one of the equations my onboard computer has to process and I can accomplish things like:
  • Significantly decrease my time to first fix
  • Significantly decrease my position error for time and altitude with fewer satellites in view
  • Significantly increase my anti-jamming and anti-spoofing capability
  • More accurately synchronize with the RF communications signal from the satellites (which are really low in signal strength) and with augmentation systems
  • Significantly decrease GPS reacquisition time when the signal is lost under a jungle canopy, in a building, underground or in a jamming or interference environment
  • For the Perfect Handheld GPS Transceiver (PHGPST), it adds the capability to have your GPS transceiver become part of a communications network. That is, you are now a network resource and are connected to a network.
A bit more here about the network capabilities, the transceiver part: If you have a GPS with a CSAC and all its inherent advantages, but those around you don’t, and you are connected to a network, then you can broadcast your corrections and more precise time to others on that network and everyone can benefit — another great big plus of having a GPS transceiver versus just a GPS receiver.

There are indeed many more advantages, which can be explained in another write up.

 The CSAC, in its current form, has come about only because of years of intensive research primarily by U.S. government research laboratories and because of dedicated individuals like Randy Rollo at SPAWAR (see the Navigation Nugget article in the September issue ofGPS World. But there has also been a significant commercial research component. Companies like Symmetricom, for example, which has successfully competed in this timing arena and been awarded sponsorship over the years by DARPA will, most likely, be the ones to bring the CSAC to the commercial community.

Consequently, today you can buy an atomic clock the size of a pack of cards, but it is prohibitively expensive — or you can buy an extremely accurate quartz oscillator and other components on a card from companies like Trimble that supplies a 1x10-11 timing signal for several hours. While it is small, it is large for our PHGPST, but not too large for some surveying equipment or the equipment many telcos and businesses use today. Will it get smaller? I think and hope it will.
So the bottom line is – When it comes to GPS, time and size matter.
See you right here next month.  
What Drones can see from 17,500 ft

This is cutting edge technology and, and  photography.  This imagery is taken from 17,500 feet up.  That is roughly equal to 3-1/2 miles. 

These images could be you.....or me.  If you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry least for today.  The fact that this technology could be applied to our private lives has troubling potential. 
Another troubling aspect, from 17,500 feet the drone can see you from that altitude, but you can't see the drone. Also some of them may be armed with deadly missiles!!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reading Hayek in Beijing

A chronicler of Mao's depredations finds much to worry about in modern China.

In the spring of 1959, Yang Jisheng, then an 18-year-old scholarship student at a boarding school in China's Hubei Province, got an unexpected visit from a childhood friend. "Your father is starving to death!" the friend told him. "Hurry back, and take some rice if you can."
Granted leave from his school, Mr. Yang rushed to his family farm. "The elm tree in front of our house had been reduced to a barkless trunk," he recalled, "and even its roots had been dug up." Entering his home, he found his father "half-reclined on his bed, his eyes sunken and lifeless, his face gaunt, the skin creased and flaccid . . . I was shocked with the realization that the term skin and bones referred to something so horrible and cruel."
Mr. Yang's father would die within three days. Yet it would take years before Mr. Yang learned that what happened to his father was not an isolated incident. He was one of the 36 million Chinese who succumbed to famine between 1958 and 1962.
It would take years more for him to realize that the source of all the suffering was not nature: There were no major droughts or floods in China in the famine years. Rather, the cause was man, and one man in particular: Mao Zedong, the Great Helmsman, whose visage still stares down on Beijing's Tiananmen Square from atop the gates of the Forbidden City.
Zina Saunders
Yang Jisheng
Mr. Yang went on to make his career, first as a journalist and senior editor with the Xinhua News Agency, then as a historian whose unflinching scholarship has brought him into increasing conflict with the Communist Party—of which he nonetheless remains a member. Now 72 and a resident of Beijing, he's in New York this month to receive the Manhattan Institute's Hayek Prize for "Tombstone," his painstakingly researched, definitive history of the famine. On a visit to the Journal's headquarters, his affinity for the prize's namesake becomes clear.
"This book had a huge impact on me," he says, holding up his dog-eared Chinese translation of Friedrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom." Hayek's book, he explains, was originally translated into Chinese in 1962 as "an 'internal reference' for top leaders," meaning it was forbidden fruit to everyone else. Only in 1997 was a redacted translation made publicly available, complete with an editor's preface denouncing Hayek as "not in line with the facts," and "conceptually mixed up."
Mr. Yang quickly saw that in Hayek's warnings about the dangers of economic centralization lay both the ultimate explanation for the tragedies of his youth—and the predicaments of China's present. "In a country where the sole employer is the state," Hayek had observed, "opposition means death by slow starvation."
So it was in 1958 as Mao initiated his Great Leap Forward, demanding huge increases in grain and steel production. Peasants were forced to work intolerable hours to meet impossible grain quotas, often employing disastrous agricultural methods inspired by the quack Soviet agronomist Trofim Lysenko. The grain that was produced was shipped to the cities, and even exported abroad, with no allowances made to feed the peasants adequately. Starving peasants were prevented from fleeing their districts to find food. Cannibalism, including parents eating their own children, became commonplace.
"Mao's powers expanded from the people's minds to their stomachs," Mr. Yang says. "Whatever the Chinese people's brains were thinking and what their stomachs were receiving were all under the control of Mao. . . . His powers extended to every inch of the field, and every factory, every workroom of a factory, every family in China."
All the while, sympathetic Western journalists—America's Edgar Snow and Britain's Felix Greene in particular—were invited on carefully orchestrated tours so they could "refute" rumors of mass starvation. To this day, few people realize that Mao's forced famine was the single greatest atrocity of the 20th century, exceeding by orders of magnitude the Rwandan genocide, the Cambodian Killing Fields and the Holocaust.
The power of Mr. Yang's book lies in its hauntingly precise descriptions of the cruelty of party officials, the suffering of the peasants, the pervasive dread of being called "a right deviationist" for telling the truth that quotas weren't being met and that millions were being starved to death, and the toadyism of Mao lieutenants.
Yet the book is more than a history of a uniquely cruel regime at a receding moment in time. It is also a warning of what lies at the end of the road for nations that substitute individualism with any form of collectivism, no matter what the motives. Which brings Mr. Yang to the present day.
"China's economy is not what [Party leaders] claim as the 'socialist-market economy,' " he says. "It's a 'power-market' economy."
What does that mean?
"It means the market is controlled by the power. . . . For example, the land: Any permit to enter any sector, to do any business has to be approved by the government. Even local government, down to the county level. So every county operates like an enterprise, a company. The party secretary of the county is the CEO, the president."
Put another way, the conventional notion that the modern Chinese system combines political authoritarianism with economic liberalism is mistaken: A more accurate description of the recipe is dictatorship and cronyism, with the results showing up in rampant corruption, environmental degradation and wide inequalities between the politically well-connected and everyone else. "There are two major forms of hatred" in China today, Mr. Yang explains. "Hatred toward the rich; hatred toward the powerful, the officials." As often as not they are one and the same.
Yet isn't China a vastly freer place than it was in the days of Mr. Yang's youth? He allows that the party's top priority in the post-Mao era has been to improve the lot of the peasantry, "to deal with how to fill the stomach."
He also acknowledges that there's more intellectual freedom. "I would have been executed if I had this book published 40 years ago," he notes. "I would have been imprisoned if this book was out 30 years ago. Now the result is that I'm not allowed to get any articles published in the mainstream media." The Chinese-language version of "Tombstone" was published in Hong Kong but is banned on the mainland.
There is, of course, a rational reason why the regime tolerates Mr. Yang. To survive, the regime needs to censor vast amounts of information—what Mr. Yang calls "the ruling technique" of Chinese leaders across the centuries. Yet censorship isn't enough: It also needs a certain number of people who understand the full truth about the Maoist system so that the party will never repeat its mistakes, even as it keeps the cult of Mao alive in order to preserve its political legitimacy. That's especially true today as China is being swept by a wave of Maoist nostalgia among people who, Mr. Yang says, "abstract Mao as this symbol of social justice," and then use that abstraction to criticize the current regime.
"Ten million workers get laid off in the state-owned enterprise reforms," he explains. "So many people are dissatisfied with the reforms. Then they become nostalgic and think the Mao era was much better. Because they never experienced the Mao era!" One of the leaders of that revival, incidentally, was Bo Xilai, the powerful former Chongqing party chief, brought down in a murder scandal last year.
But there's a more sinister reason why Mr. Yang is tolerated. Put simply, the regime needs some people to have a degree of intellectual freedom, in order to more perfectly maintain its dictatorship over everyone else.
"Once I gave a lecture to leaders at a government bureau," Mr. Yang recalls. "I told them it's a dangerous job, you guys, being officials, because you have too much power. I said you guys have to be careful because those who want approval from you to get certain land and projects, who bribe you, these are like bullets, ammunition, coated in sugar, to fire at you. So today you may be a top official, tomorrow you may be a prisoner."
How did the officials react to that one?
"They said, 'Professor Yang, what you said, we should pay attention.' "
So they should. As Hayek wrote in his famous essay on "The Use of Knowledge in a Society," the fundamental problem of any planned system is that "knowledge of circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess."
The Great Leap Forward was an extreme example of what happens when a coercive state, operating on the conceit of perfect knowledge, attempts to achieve some end. Even today the regime seems to think it's possible to know everything—one reason they devote so many resources to monitoring domestic websites and hacking into the servers of Western companies. But the problem of incomplete knowledge can't be solved in an authoritarian system that refuses to cede power to the separate people who possess that knowledge.
"For the last 20 years, the Chinese government has been saying they have to change the growth mode of the economy," Mr. Yang notes. "So they've been saying, rather than just merely expanding the economy they should do internal changes, meaning more value-added services and high tech. They've been shouting such slogans for 20 years, and not many results. Why haven't we seen many changes? Because it's the problem that lies in the very system, because it's a power-market economy. . . . If the politics isn't changed, the growth mode cannot be changed."
That suggests China will never become a mature power until it becomes a democratic one. As to whether that will happen anytime soon, Mr. Yang seems doubtful: The one opinion widely shared by rulers and ruled alike in China is that without the Communist Party's leadership, "China will be thrown into chaos."
Still, Mr. Yang hardly seems to have given up hope that he can play a role in raising his country's prospects. In particular, he's keen to reclaim two ideas at risk of being lost in today's China.
The first is the meaning of rights. A saying attributed to the philosopher Lao Tzu, he says, has it that a ruler should fill the people's stomachs and empty their heads. The gambit of China's current rulers is that they can stay in power forever by applying that maxim. Mr. Yang hopes they're wrong.
"People have more needs than just eating!" he insists. "In China, human rights means the right to survive, and I argue with these people. This is not human rights, it's animal rights. People have all sorts of needs. Spiritual needs, the need to be free, the freedoms."
The second is the obligation of memory. China today is a country galloping into a century many people believe it will define, one way or the other. Yet the past, Mr. Yang insists, also has its claims.
"If a people cannot face their history, these people won't have a future. That was one of the purposes for me to write this book. I wrote a lot of hard facts, tragedies. I wanted people to learn a lesson, so we can be far away from the darkness, far away from tragedies, and won't repeat them."
Hayek would have understood both points well.
Mr. Stephens writes "Global View," the Journal's foreign-affairs column.