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Embracing New Tech, Innovation, China Poised to Thrive in Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The World Economic Forum’s 12th Annual Meeting of the New Champions, held in the city of Tianjin, closed on a note of resounding optimism on Wednesday. The three-day meeting broke several records this year, drawing some 2,500 participants from more than 111 countries to discuss the theme: Shaping Innovative Societies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In China – a country that has experienced exponential economic growth, lifting millions of people out of poverty in the last decade – the meeting generated productive discussions on fuelling innovation and productivity, and reconciling the drive to harness new technology and ensure robust GDP growth.

“Over the past three days New Champions from all over the world have gathered here, sharing illuminating thoughts and wisdom in brainstorming sessions. We are making development plans in advancing forth these ideas,” noted Zhang Guoqing, Mayor of Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, “In the discussions here, friendships have been forged, ideas and inspiration shared. Even mountains and seas cannot distance people with common aspirations.”

Since the first Annual Meeting of the New Champions was held in China 12 years ago, the country has managed to double its GDP output. The World Economic Forum platform, added Mayor Guoqing, “triggers outbursts of wisdom and inspiration” to address our greatest challenges.

In the past year, China has created 13 million new jobs but as technological advances accelerate, business leaders and industry experts emphasized, there is an urgent need to invest in education and focus on reskilling labour to adapt to the transformational change the Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring.

“In China, we emphasize education and this is improving progressively; there is a rising number of undergraduates, master’s and PhD students,” noted Chen Lei, Chief Executive Officer of Xunlei, People’s Republic of China, “But we also need to think about educating people in rural areas.”

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, echoed the sentiment: “The education system is one of the slowest moving parts of society; it takes decades to implement real change, from the first grade to universities,” he remarked, adding that computer science should be adopted as early as elementary school.

Addressing the tension at the heart of the challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Hua Fung Teh, Group Chief Financial Officer and Chairman, Greater China, ONE Championship, Singapore, stressed the role of governments, particularly when it comes to reskilling. Singapore’s successful transition from a manufacturing economy to one based on services was due to the government’s role in incentivizing the right types of industries and growth, he said.

“In the future, we are going to see entire workforces being wiped out by new technologies,” remarked Teh, “The government has a very important role to play here in retraining, not by themselves but in partnership with the private sector … China is uniquely positioned to lead the way on this because of the fact that it is a relatively centrally governed economy.”

While industry experts debated the “democratization of data” and concerns over privacy, some argued that fears about technology overtaking jobs might be misplaced.

“People misunderstand the tension between technology and traditional sectors. Related to this theme, I think the word ‘revolution’ is really more about ‘evolution’,” noted Zhang Lu, Founding and Managing Partner of Fusion Fund, USA. “New technology is there to increase the efficiency of the workforce, not to replace all human beings.”

Taking part in the closing ceremony, Lu Lin, Executive Vice-Mayor of Dalian, People’s Republic of China, hailed the World Economic Forum’s meeting in China, commenting that it allows “China’s voice to be heard”. Dalian, where the meeting is held every second year, he said, is making full use of the Forum’s platform to spur reform and growth.

Børge Brende, President and Member of the Managing Board at the World Economic Forum, outlined the key outcomes achieved over the three-day meeting.

Tangible outcomes include:

The World Economic Forum announced it would open a Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Beijing, becoming the third centre in its global network. The centre will collaborate on common issues and join projects with its other centres in San Francisco and Tokyo.

The World Economic Forum announced that it will partner with the UK government to develop the first artificial intelligence procurement policy.

The Forum formally launched a new community of Lighthouses – super-advanced factories of the future that have agreed to open their doors and help peers in industry master the complexities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Forum launched a Chinese version of its strategic intelligence tool, the Transformation Maps, to encourage multistakeholder collaboration on some of the world’s key issues and challenges.

The first set of “Green Investment Principles” was jointly drafted by the Forum, the Green Finance Committee of China Society for Finance and the Banking and the Green Finance Initiative of the City of London. Work has begun to mobilize business support to promote and implement these principles.

A multistakeholder project to address the issue of global energy poverty has been launched. The project will be led by State Grid Corporation of China on the Forum’s platform.

A new global multistakeholder effort will accelerate the impact of the internet of things (IoT) by making it easier for businesses and governments to procure and deploy solutions.

A consensus was reached among government and private-sector leaders on a global agile governance framework to help cities prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

A model was established for a body of global councils on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These councils will convene their first meeting at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January.

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Israel gives Ukraine intelligence. “The best thing” that could have happened to Israel-NATO relations?

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NATO sources tell ‘Haaretz’ some of the intel is on the Iranian drones in Ukraine, writes Yossi Melman at Israeli newspaper.

Israel has stepped up its intelligence assistance to Ukraine in recent weeks via NATO, sources in Brussels told ‘Haaretz’, with Jerusalem remaining keen to keep its aid to the embattled country indirect.

“Iran’s decision to supply drones and increase its military cooperation with Russia is a strategic mistake by Tehran and the best thing that could have happened to Israel-NATO relations,” an Israeli defense source told ‘Haaretz’.

Only a month and a half ago, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Aviv Kochavi, turned down a proposal by Ukraine’s defense minister to share information on the Iranian drones being shot down over his country. These details would have come in return for the passing on of Israeli intelligence. Israel feared that Russia might respond by hampering the Israel Air Force’s freedom in Syria’s skies, as Iran tries to deepen its presence against Israel to the north.

But American pressure and the stepped-up Iranian aid to Russia have convinced Israel to abandon its policy of apathy.

Last month, senior European officials told ‘Haaretz’ that under American pressure, Israel agreed to underwrite the purchase of millions of dollars of “strategic materials” for Ukraine. The materials were transferred via a NATO country, and Israel agreed to let NATO countries transfer to Ukraine weapons including electro-optical and fire-control systems made by Israeli firms.

Over several years, the Mossad, Military Intelligence, the IAF and the navy have built up a database on Iran’s drones. If Brussels gains access to this data, Ukraine and NATO countries will benefit, as will other states such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia.

In 1994, Israel signed an agreement granting it status as a NATO “partner.” This lets it appoint an ambassador and a military attaché, and take part in the alliance’s air and sea exercises in the Baltic states, Montenegro and the Indian Ocean.

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Berlin doesn’t trust Washington. Scholz doesn’t trust the U.S.

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Image source: twitter @Bundeskanzler

“If the U.S. is involved directly it’s more likely to use military force to defend its allies in Europe,” Carlo Masala, a German military expert with strong ties to the country’s political establishment, said on German public television. “That’s a very strong rationale for Scholz and why he insists that the U.S. is involved,” quotes POLITICO.

The breakthrough on sending Western-made battle tanks to Ukraine sparked hopes in both Washington and Europe that the tortured transatlantic debate over arming the country had been resolved once and for all. But… Just hours after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz cleared the way for the export of German-made tanks to the country, the focus shifted to the who, what, where and when of supplying fighter jets to Ukraine.

Once again, Scholz was the first to slam on the brakes, repeatedly warning in recent days of the dangers of “escalation,” while insisting that NATO would not become directly involved in the conflict. If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, join the club.

It turns out that an even bigger fear for Scholz than escalation is that NATO, and in particular the U.S., wouldn’t get involved if Russia were to retaliate against, say Germany. That worry — according to an adviser to the German government — is the reason that Scholz insisted that Washington agree to supply Ukraine with M1 Abrams tanks before the chancellor would lift his veto on delivering German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

While the NATO treaty’s Article 5 calls on alliance members to support one another in the event of an attack, it doesn’t require allies to respond with military force. In other words, Scholz doesn’t trust the U.S.

Given that Washington has about 40,000 troops in Germany and has already committed roughly $30 billion in military aid to Ukraine (more than 10 times the German total), one might reasonably question the logic underlying Scholz’s argument.

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How an American ‘Mozart Group’ imploded in Ukraine

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The Mozart Group, one of the most prominent, private American military organizations in Ukraine, has collapsed under a cloud of accusations ranging from financial improprieties to alcohol-addled misjudgments, writes Jeffrey Gettleman at ‘The New York Times’.

Its struggles provide a revealing window into the world of foreign volunteer groups that have flocked to Ukraine with noble intentions only to be tripped up by the stresses of managing a complicated enterprise in a war zone. The Mozart Group was training Ukrainian soldiers and evacuating frontline residents until the money ran out. Its collapse sheds light on the stresses faced by such groups.

Jeffrey Gettleman writes: “Andrew Milburn, a former American Marine colonel and leader of the Mozart Group, stood in a chilly meeting room on the second floor of an apartment building in Kyiv about to deliver some bad news. In front of him sat half a dozen men who had traveled to Ukraine on their own dime to work for him.

“Guys, I’m gutted,” he said. “The Mozart Group is dead.”

The men stared back at him with blank faces.

One asked as he walked toward the door, “What should I do with my helmet?”

“I’ve seen this happen many times,” said one of Mozart’s veteran trainers, who, like many others, spoke only anonymously out of concerns that the Russians might target him. “You got to run these groups like a business. We didn’t do that.”

Hundreds if not thousands of foreign veterans and volunteers have passed through Ukraine. Many of them, like Mr. Milburn and his group, are hard-living men who have spent their adult lives steeped in violence, solo fliers trying to work together in a very dangerous environment without a lot of structure or rules.”

“After months struggling to hold itself together, Mozart was plagued by defections, infighting, a break-in at its office headquarters and a lawsuit filed by the company’s chief financial officer, Andrew Bain, seeking the ouster of Mr. Milburn.

The lawsuit, filed in Wyoming, where Mozart is registered as a limited liability company, is a litany of petty and serious allegations, accusing Mr. Milburn among other things of making derogatory comments about Ukraine’s leadership while “significantly intoxicated,” letting his dog urinate in a borrowed apartment and “diverting company funds” and other financial malfeasance.

When Mr. Milburn showed up in Ukraine in early March last year, the capital, Kyiv, was seemingly on the precipice. Russian forces were blasting their way in from the suburbs and Ukraine was rushing thousands of inexperienced soldiers to the front.

That’s when, through a mutual friend, Mr. Milburn, 59, met Mr. Bain, 58. Also a former Marine colonel, Mr. Bain had been working in media and marketing in Ukraine for more than 30 years. Mr. Milburn, whose career has tracked America’s wars of the past three decades, from Somalia to Iraq, had both the combat experience and the contacts. He counts Marine heavyweights like the author Bing West and a former defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, as friends.

Mr. Bain had the organization. For eight years, since Russia invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014, he had been running the Ukrainian Freedom Fund, a charity he set up that turned donations into desperately needed gear for the Ukrainian military.

The two founded Mozart, the name a saucy response to the Russian mercenary force that uses the name of another famous composer, the Wagner Group. They also ran a short-lived podcast called “Two Marines in Kyiv.”

With the Ukrainian military desperate for all the Western support it could get, Mozart quickly expanded from a handful of combat vets to more than 50 employees from a dozen countries. The group’s two specialties became last-chance extractions of civilians trapped on the front lines, which was extremely dangerous work, and condensed military training.

As spring passed to summer, more Ukrainian military units asked Mozart for training. But the Ukrainians could not pay for it, leaving Mozart reliant on a small pool of steady donors, including a group of East Coast financiers with Jewish-Ukrainian roots and a Texas tycoon.

Everyone involved said it became stressful just making payroll. And several employees said that the way the money flowed into the organization, which was overseen by Mr. Bain, was opaque.

On top of that, the people Mozart hired were not the easiest to manage. Many were grizzled combat vets who admitted to struggling with PTSD and heavy drinking. When they weren’t working, they gravitated to Kyiv’s strip clubs, bars and online dating. “There was a lot of cursing, a lot of womanizing, a lot of things you wouldn’t want to take to mass,” said another trainer, Rob.

In September, they lost an important funding stream when a charity called Allied Extract decided to use less expensive Ukrainian teams to rescue civilians.  

Not long after that, a clip of Mr. Milburn disparaging Ukraine’s leadership circulated widely on social media. “I happen to have a Ukraine flag tied to my bag, but I’m not, ‘Oh my God, Ukraine is so awesome,’” he said. “I understand that there are plenty of screwed-up people running Ukraine.” The clip was taken from The Team House podcast, in which guests are invited into a living room setting to drink hard liquor with the hosts.

Mr. Milburn has rented a new office in Kyiv and says he is determined to resurrect the operation. But he’s not going back to the front anytime soon.

Wearing a gray sweatshirt, black sweatpants and running shoes, he spent hours this week in front of his laptop. He’s scouting out new business, such as training courses for hostile environments. He’s writing emails to donors.”

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