MMT Primer – Blog #41 Responses

MMT, Austrians, and Ideology

by L Randall Wray (March 15 2012)

Sorry for the delay. I will respond to comments on my blog and also to comments on Dan Kervick’s excellent piece on MMT (part one – if I have any comments for part two I will post them after I get time to read the post and comments).

Since many comments then led to discussion that I think sorted things out, I will be choosey, commenting only where I have something (useful, I hope) to add. I’ll reword comments to suit my purpose – no disrespect intended, I just want to focus on what I think is important.

Q1 (Philip): Austrians use a bait and switch operation – denying that what we have is capitalism and comparing it to some sort of ideal utopian capitalism.

A1: Agreed. That makes it easy to blame all of real-world capitalism’s problems on its deviation from utopia. It is fundamentally an anti-scientific approach. Let’s analyze what we have and try to make it better. We cannot have utopia. We’re dealing with human society, after all.

Q2 (PH): 2+2=4. Science but no ideology.

A2: Mitch did a great job answering this, and Joe supplemented. Let’s try this. 2+2=4 is a definition, not science. 2 cows + 2 cows = 4 cows moves us a bit closer. But what is a cow? We need some sort of view as to what qualifies. We need classification: do we count baby cows? Dead cows? We need a theory of species: ability to mate and produce a viable offspring. Okay then – as I told the MMR people – we are beyond cow plus cow and into bulls. So we need a view of gender. And then we’ve got nominal bulls who self-identify as females. And we’ve got donkeys and horses that happily mate and produce mules but their offspring cannot reproduce – although modern science will no doubt resolve that problem.

And then as Mitch said we want some sort of universal representation of value so that we can go beyond 2 cows + 2 bulls = 4 calves (maybe 5) and on to 2 cows + 2 bulls = 1 donkey cart. That is a tremendous ideological leap that literally took a million years for humans to make. But even then we’ve probably not advanced beyond accounting – which has some science behind it but what we really want do with science is to solve problems.

For that reason, we need to separate science from mere accounting and mere categorization and mere technique. For example, one objection often raised to my formulation is that Nazis used “science” to turn human skin into lampshades. In my view that is clearly false. Science must be purposeful and progressive, to serve humankind. Science does not refer to techniques used to perfect mass murder.

Q3 (Abram): Reality has a liberal bias.

A3: Exactly. I love it.

Q4 (PG): Marx-Engels odes to first 100 years of capitalism is a myth.

A4: Well if you don’t like that, what about the past 100? Or do you believe those stories about interplanetary travel by our ancient ancestors? You do not have to love capitalism to recognize its progress and advance – as Marx demonstrates. If I wanted to quibble with the odes to capitalism, I’d instead point to the remarkable progress of the Soviet Union in its first two decades, or to China in the past two decades – both of which deviated substantially from the capitalist model and still succeeded – rather than poo-pooing capitalism’s success at increasing the material means of expanded reproduction.

Q5 (PH): MMTers have different political positions.

A5: Yes. My point exactly. There is substantial room for disagreement over what government should do. Any self-respecting Austrian ought to adopt MMT – just as she ought to accept evolution as well as global warming. It is science. What should we do about global warming is a different question entirely. What should we do with our sovereign currency-issuing government is different from understanding what it can do. Now, I realize that much of the dissension in recent months has been over the question of the Job Guarantee/Employer of Last Resort (JG/ELR) – is that a “core” part of MMT. I won’t answer that today except to say that in my view MMT points the way to policy-making but does not seal the deal.

Q6 (Paul): Accepts that taxes are one important driver of money but the derivative uses of money (that is, to buy junk) are as important in creating demand for government’s currency.

A6: From inception, you need obligatory payments in the currency to drive it. Once you’ve got a heavily monetized economy, the “derivative” uses can easily swamp the taxes in the sheer number of transactions. But you cannot create a demand for money from inception by voluntary transactions – the reason is that there are no “virgin” Robinson Crusoe societies. All of them have an alternative method of production and distribution that does not require use of money. So you need to insert money into an already functioning society – and that requires disrupting existing relations and creating a demand for an institution that is entirely foreign. Taxes. Money.

Q7 (Peter): MMT is progressive; does that require a BIG government.

A7: Progressive, yes. Big enough is enough. How big is big enough? Depends. What do you want government to do? That big.

I cannot see any simple way to answer this. It depends. Lots of young? Probably need a big government to provide all the stuff a society with a baby boom needs. Lots of old? Need a big government to take care of the elderly. Mostly agricultural economy living in the Sacramento valley? Small will probably do. Under continual attack by armed and hostile neighbors? Bigger is better.

Q8 (Dan/Joe): If G>T then government fills the hole by borrowing. Deficits are a good thing and are not entirely endogenous.

A8: Sovereign government never “borrows” as that term is normally used. It spends by crediting bank accounts. Keystrokes. Taxes by debiting. When G>T there are net credits. End of story. Is that “good”? Is it discretionary? It takes two to tango. The nongovernment sector can choose to reduce its spending, which will likely increase the government’s deficit. The government can choose to spend more (or cut taxes) and that might increase the deficit but it depends on the private sector’s reaction. I actually think that worrying about this is not very helpful. We ought to look at something that is important: for example, are there people willing to work but unable to find a full-time job? If so, government ought to create a job for them. Take a devil-may-care view of deficits. Or, an owl view.

Both on my MMP blog and on the front page in response to Dan’s blog, Phil posed four questions. Let me briefly tackle them:

Phil 1: Do you think that MMT might be compatible with small government and low taxes, or is it inherently biased towards big government and high taxes? (I’m assuming that MMT would always involve some form of the ELR if it were to be fully implemented).

A: Okay so let us say we have ELR in place, do we need big government? No. ELR by itself will probably run one percent maybe two percent of GDP. That is exceedingly small. ELR workers will do a lot of the things we want government to do. Is it enough? I doubt it. But, again, this is mostly a political matter. Now there is a question about instability. As a rule of thumb, Keynes and Minsky lead us to conclude swings of the budget ought to be big enough to offset swings of investment (adjusted by swings of the trade balance). That gets us up to a minimum government budget of ten to twenty percent or more, depending on the amount of countercyclical swings you build into the budget. Still quite small. Add more and season to taste. I want good wine flowing from all fountains. So add another few tenths of a percent or two. What do you want? I think we will end up with a government that is twenty to fifty percent of GDP depending on taste.

Phil 2: Does MMT require a degree of nationalisation (that is, of banks/ corporations) and strict regulation, or is it compatible with no nationalisation and a more hands-off approach to regulation?

A: We need a sovereign currency. We could have a government-provided payments system as well as government community banks and development banks. Probably a good idea. But that does not follow from MMT. You could get by successfully with more public-private partnerships (which is what banks in all the developed countries really are) but you’ve got to regulate and supervise all the damned vampire squids. It isn’t easy. I don’t think the arguments for a big financial sector have ever been convincing. We could downsize it by 99% or more and greatly improve the operation of the capitalist economy. I would say that even if you adopt MMT + Minsky you’ve still got plenty of room for experimentation. Recall he argued there are 57 varieties of capitalism. At least. Maybe one of those would work. Or maybe we need to come up with a 58th.

Phil 3: Would you say that MMT economists have different political and ideological positions, or are you all more or less the same?

A3: I mostly answered above. Boy, I sure hope we’re all not the same! What a boring world that would be. But I do think we share the view that science – and MMT – are progressive in the sense I have discussed. And I hope my Austrian friends will also join the progressive camp.

Phil 4: Do the main MMT economists have different understandings of what MMT is or of how it could be implemented?

A4: Depends on what “main” means. If you mean all of us old geezers who have been there from the beginning I think the answer is yes. To be sure we do have different visions regarding how much government ought to do. But if you mean all the main themes, up to and including JG/ELR then certainly the answer is yes. I’ll begin to explain why next week. I realize this last response might seem inconsistent with what I argued above.

But let me just preview the argument: as most of you by now recognize the greatest fear about MMT and “fiat money” is that it will cause inflation. No other fear comes close. To deal with that fear we must have an anchor. Our gold bug friends have got their anchor. Our deficit hawks have theirs. MMT needs one. And we’ve got it.

Let me close with a comment on Dan’s excellent blog on the front page. I agree with almost everything. But readers of the MMP will have noticed one deviation.

I argue that government currency, as well as Treasuries (bonds), are indeed debts, IOUs denominated in the state money of account. Dan wants to argue they are not debts. I understand the “framing” issue. People are scared to death of debts. It sounds much more user-friendly if we can deny our government is in debt. Of course, by identity, if it is in debt we nongovernment types are in credit. The clock at Times Square is a credit or wealth clock, not a debt clock. Don’t think of the elephant and all that. Agreed.

But I’m afraid it is a bit misleading and confuses our understanding of what debt is all about.

As I argued in the MMP all IOUs share one common requirement – Innes’s universal law of debt – that the issuer must accept it back in payment. Banks must accept back their own IOUs (demand deposits) in payment of bank loans. Likewise, government must accept back its IOUs (currency) in tax payments. I call this “redemption”.

Many conflate this with the promise to convert. Banks promise to convert demand deposits to cash on demand. Governments might promise conversion, too – but MMTers distinguish convertible currency from nonconvertible currency. That is the difference between Greece and the US.

And many conflate the fundamental law of debt with the usual prohibition against retiring one’s own debt with one’s own debt: you must use a second or third party debt to retire your own IOU. You use a bank IOU to repay your own. This is normally agreed upon on advance: your creditor agrees to accept a bank IOU or some other IOU or even a real asset to redeem yourself – cancelling your debt.

But sovereign government that signs a contract to “pay later” can deliver its own IOU to “redeem”. It remains in debt but it owes nothing more. It is done. You can present its IOU to pay taxes, or to exchange it for another IOU of the government. Nothing more. Unless government promises more. But sovereign government never needs to promise more than that: it will accept its own IOU in payment to itself.

So there is a difference in the nature of the IOUs of sovereign government and nonsovereign “users” of the currency. But in my view, they are debts just the same. And in both cases, the issuers of IOUs must take them back. Refusal is a default.

Wray: MMT Primer – Blog #41

Wray: MMT Primer – Blog #41

MMT for Austrians Part 4:

Is Description without Theory, Ideology, or Policy Desirable?

Is it Even Possible?

by L Randall Wray (March 11 2012)

This will be the final part of this series. Next week we turn to the Job Guarantee/Employer of Last Resort.

The answer to both questions posed in the title is, I think, a big fat no.

I’m not going to go deeply into methodological debates. First, I’m no methodologist. Second I don’t think many readers here are that interested in such debates. And, third, it really isn’t necessary.

It is not possible to observe and describe without an underlying theory and ideology. Just take a look back at the questions and comments I receive. They are invariably value-laden. Why would I focus on money? More specifically on a very special kind of money – sovereign money? Why don’t I write more on privately created money – like bank money? What the heck is money, after all? Must it be something I can touch? Use? How? Many commentators want to skip money altogether and go to the “real stuff” – the physical assets that make up our physical wealth. And why does MMT (mostly) ignore the househusband who washes the dishes?

I must make all these choices and I’ve got to have a view as to what is important enough to try to understand. Take a gander and I think you’ll agree that every question or comment ever made had some underlying “purpose”.

Science is not value-free. Cannot be. Science – including economics – is inherently progressive. Why do you think that the far right wing wants to reject science in the areas of evolution, ecology, and female reproductive health? Because they well-understand that science is a progressive endeavor. And that includes the economics that is behind policy-making. So they must deny science in order to stop progress.

All of you now understand that sovereign government cannot “run out of its own money”; financial affordability is not the issue. That is a major scientific advance; it is inherently progressive. We’ve moved beyond the “magic” or “superstition” that Samuelson referred to. It’s all keystrokes and we can have as many as we want. We can use government to achieve the public purpose, and that is necessarily a progressive advance.

The debate then turns to “what should government do”. And, admittedly, we are still left with many questions about “what can government do”. Because there are things that would be progressive (say – end racism and sexism) that may not be possible to achieve, at least now, using government. Or, as I already said, progressive goals often conflict. This is why I think it is very useful to look at the public purpose and human rights as “aspirational” – it is easier to define and work toward progress than to define and achieve some end goal. We are always striving and never reaching that “mountain top”. That is okay, I think. Whatever progress we reach will never be enough – achievements cause us to reach for more.

Again, I do not want to wax philosophical, but whenever I hear a call for value-free economics, I immediately suspect a rat. In my experience the correlation is about 100%. Those who advocate economics as description merely hide their ideology and their policy goals. And they are almost always anti-progressive. I suspect they fear that if they put their goals on the table, they’d lose support. Hence, the refusal to admit their true mission.

However, I want to be clear on this. There is huge room for disagreement on the legitimate scope for the public purpose. And even if we all agreed on the public purpose, there is even greater room for disagreement on the best way to accomplish it. As I said, there are conflicts and uncertainties, and no final end point. All of that makes these discussions contentions. But we can’t really even discuss that if we have opponents who will not lay-out their views, hopes, and goals.

So MMT is inherently progressive. We choose to focus on a rather small but what we believe to be an important part of human behavior – what we might call the “monetary” part of the economy. Now, I make that even more specific – the “monetary production” part identified for analysis by Marx, Veblen, and Keynes. And most of the time we focus on modern times (modern monetary production) – although it is useful for our understanding of “where we are” to look at “where we came from”. These are big topics and there are many sub-topics within the scope.

One could, for example, limit the analysis to a description of an open market purchase of ten-year Treasury bonds on March 6. But why did you choose that topic and that date? What point were you trying to make? If that’s all you’ve got, who cares? More probably, the observation and description is to demonstrate a point and to comment on the policy. Was the purchase a good idea? What impact did it have? Should the Federal Reserve (Fed) have done something different? What was the Fed trying to accomplish? Was the stated purpose different from the apparent aim? How does that action fit into the Fed’s strategy? Without investigating these and other questions, the description is not helpful.

But even the choice to provide such a description is most likely “purposeful” even if the investigator has no interest in any such questions – for example to obfuscate and distract, a commonly used tactic.

Finally, Stephanie Kelton has made the following analogy. Almost everyone is familiar with Milton Friedman’s work. He was a “positivist” who is often identified as one who abhorred “normative” economics. I do not want to debate whether that is a fair description of Friedman’s actual views. Instead I want to look at monetarism itself. The “descriptive” part claimed a correlation between money growth and growth of nominal GDP and can be summarized as “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”. But as we know, the measurement of GDP involves many choices and underlying those are theories and ideologies (why did we leave out of the measure washing one’s own dishes, but include the “shelter services” of living in one’s own home?). Likewise, what is money? And what is inflation? As if those were not problematic enough, monetarists then identify inflation as “bad” and propose policy that supposedly will prevent inflation (controlling growth of money supply – whatever that is!). Let us say the correlations do indicate causation (contestable) and that the central bank can control the money supply (contestable) and that inflation is a bad thing (contestable) and that the benefits of lowering inflation through such policy outweigh the costs (contestable). You get the drift.

And monetarism without inflation-fighting and monetary-growth rules just wouldn’t be monetarism. There are other approaches that agree inflation is bad and the central bank should and can fight it – but they are not monetarist. You need the ideology, the theory, and the policy recommendations to get monetarism.

So I think that the notion that we can have a group of MMTers who avoid discussing theory, ideology, and policy is naive at best, but much more likely is designed to hide the orientation of the participants.

Now here is the bigger point I want to make, although it will be brief.

I am continually amazed at how little trust Austrians (and conservatives more generally) have in our capitalist system. In their view it is a very fragile system, easy to disturb and perhaps even to destroy. A little regulation by government overcomes entrepreneurial initiative. A bit of a tax on the rich and the profit motive is suddenly thwarted. Give a handout to someone is starving and the whole damned workforce will just stop working to stand in breadlines. It is such a weak system that we have to be extremely careful to stand aside to let the poor little invisible hand operate. Even the slightest obstruction would be catastrophic.

I think they read way too much of the doomsday writings of Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) – where he fretted about capitalism’s future – or perhaps Marx’s theory of the falling rate of profit.

Me, I’m more down with the Marx and Engels of the Communist Manifesto (1848) – who marveled at the accomplishments of the capitalist system:


Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturer no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.

Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.

… The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part. The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

… The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

… The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.

The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs-tariff.

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground – what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.


I do not recognize in this Marxian ode to the power of the entrepreneur the Austrian version of the poor little impotent capitalist at all.

Do you really think that a Timmy Geithner as regulator would stand a chance against a Marxian capitalist? A true revolutionary who can “burst asunder” all the previous forces and fetters? The capitalist who during the first hundred years of capitalism “has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together” – the previous million years and more of human existence? Heck, in Marx’s view, the capitalist created the modern government to serve. And left to its own devices, capitalism gobbles everything in its path, eating its young for breakfast. In truth, it is the most powerful beast humans ever created.

And this was written 160 years ago! They hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet! The whole darned globe wasn’t enough. Now Newt is going to colonize the moon if he gets half a chance!

Okay, before the critics rush to accusations that MMT is Marxism, my point in this is to emphasize the potency of capitalism. It is a robust system, albeit one that is predisposed to insufficiencies of demand and to periodic financial crises. But I find the idea that a bit of regulation and taxes is going to destroy capitalism to be fanciful and unnecessarily pessimistic.

Now, why is it the conventional wisdom that capitalism is fragile?

First, it is obvious that at the level of the firm, each is struggling to get advantage. Government subsidies and tax exemptions help to provide a competitive advantage. It is really handy if local government will cover a portion of capital and labor costs. It is nice when Congress passes out the “pork” to favor local industries. And it is great if regulators will look the other way.

Second, also at the level of individuals, many entrepreneurs are of course cruel. They like to see their workers suffer, and they are willing to take lower profits if necessary to obtain the enjoyment. I can recall when the California employers of farm workers forbade the use of long-handled hoes – forcing laborers to bend over to work with short hoes. Much research showed that productivity was higher with the long hoes, but employers were indifferent. They justified the short hoes on the argument that migrant workers enjoy being close to the ground.

And so they protest mightily if government tries to regulate the size of the rod they use to beat their slaves and workers.

Never underestimate cruelty as a motivating factor for resistance to sensible regulation. Indeed, Keynes referred to the advantages of directing such cruelty to tyranny over balance sheets rather than over people.

And finally, as Keynes also argued, the problem is that modern capitalism suffers from chronic insufficient aggregate demand, compounded by excessive inequality and unemployment. This is why, he said, policy is unnecessarily devoted to trying to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit – through pro-business legislation, subsidies, tax incentives, and deregulation. This is why, he said, the supposed solution to capitalism’s ills are always said to be found in promoting private investment and other supply side measures. And take a look at the typical presidential campaign where “business experience” is said to be an important quality for a candidate. It is not enough to design every policy with the businessperson in mind, you’ve also got to put one in the White House.

But this can never succeed – because it is devoted to solving an imaginary problem – so it just promotes ever more catering to business interests – all with reference to the supposed advantages of “free markets” and “invisible hands”.

In truth, unguided capitalism cycles between explosive speculative frenzies and the following inevitable collapses. And without government bail-outs in the crash, the capitalist economy can enter a dangerous debt-deflation process that not only is devastating in its economic impact, but also unleashes dangerous, fascistic politics. But with such bail-outs, the incentive is to bubble-up the economy to new highs, fueled by ever more scandalous behavior operating against the public purpose.

In truth, government guidance makes capitalism stronger and can direct it to better serve the public purpose.

US GAO Informs Public about Hypersonic Weapons

by Tyler Durden (September 19 2019)

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new report about hypersonic weapons, including hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs), and their development as the race for hypersonic technology heats up with Russia and China.

Hypersonic weapons fly between Mach 5 (3,836 miles per hour) and Mach 10 (7,672 miles per hour) and have the ability to out outmaneuver the world’s most advanced missile defense systems, such as the US MIM-104 Patriot and Russian S-400 missile system.

As shown in the GAO diagram, the HGVs and HCMs fly at lower altitudes and unpredictable flight paths than a traditional ballistic missile that flies typically at an arch from launch to target.

Hypersonic weapons have extreme maneuverability capabilities which make it difficult to defend against.

GAO said HGVs are hypersonic gliders that are initially propelled with a rocket to altitudes between 25 and sixty miles.

High-speed engines power HCMs during the entire flight. Can fly at altitudes between twelve and nineteen miles.



For most HCMs, a rocket would accelerate the missile to Mach 3 or 4, and then the HCM’s own ramjet or supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) engine would take over. A ramjet uses the speed of the vehicle to “ram” and compress air with fuel, which is burned to produce thrust. A scramjet is similar, with air moving at supersonic speed”, the report said.


The GAO cited a recent update from the US Air Force Scientific Advisory Board that said:



the core technologies needed for the development of a tactical range HGV have reached Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Five out of Nine. The board expected the remaining subsystems for such a weapon to reach TRL Six or higher by 2020. According to GAO best practices, TRL Seven is the level of technology maturity that constitutes a low risk for starting system development. It indicates that technology has achieved form, fit, and function, and has been demonstrated in an operational environment.


GAO lists several important features of hypersonic weapons, and how these weapons will make warfighting against major adversaries easier.

* Penetrate defenses: Hypersonic weapons would likely enable US warfighters to penetrate existing adversary anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems because of their speed, maneuverability, and altitude (above typical anti-aircraft defenses and below interception points for ballistic reentry vehicles).

* Strike fleeting targets: The speed of hypersonic weapons would allow them to hit targets that are only vulnerable for a limited time, such as mobile, high-value military targets and adversary weapons systems.

* Agile targeting: A traditional missile needs to be launched with a target in mind, but a hypersonic weapon could be maneuvered later in flight. This could provide US decision-makers more time and make it extremely difficult for adversaries to prepare.

* High travel speeds: Piloted hypersonic vehicles would allow for very short travel times and may have commercial applications. Such vehicles have essentially been limited to certain spacecraft reentering the atmosphere and experimental aircraft.

GAO also lists the challenges of developing a hypersonic weapon, and are likely some of the reasons why the US is losing the weapons race against Russia and China.

* Heat-tolerant materials: At hypersonic speeds, the exterior temperature of a hypersonic vehicle or weapon can exceed 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, necessitating advanced materials that will protect interior electronics. Such materials also need to be mechanically strong and efficient.

* Propulsion technology: Refinement of engine technology is needed for HCMs. This includes increasing the reliability and efficiency of scramjet engines. New types of engines that allow for propulsion from standstill to hypersonic speeds are also being developed, which would eliminate the need for rockets to provide the initial launch.

* Weapon tracking: Defense against a hypersonic weapon would involve tracking and intercepting it, but current radar and satellite systems are inadequate for this task.

* Limited testing resources: There are limited places to perform ground tests and flight tests of hypersonic weapons and vehicles in the United States. Currently, there are limited wind tunnel facilities in the country capable of running propulsion tests of hypersonic weapons and vehicles.

* Safety and control: Hypersonic velocities require additional improvements of aircraft control and guidance to help ensure the accuracy of hypersonic weapons and to

Within the Department of Defense (DoD), several top-secret programs by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Air Force, the Navy, and the Army have received billions of dollars in the last several years to develop hypersonic weapons.

GAO warns that these technologies aren’t mature and it could take time until deployment.

Meanwhile, Russia and China have been testing and deploying such weapons, signaling that the US is rapidly losing its global air supremacy, and another reason why the world is marching closer to war.

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Seven Decades of China’s Achievements

by Zamir Ahmed Awan (September 18 2019)

China is an old civilization and has been passing through various ups and downs throughout history. Which is very much rational and the natural cycle of human history. There was a time when Romans were at the peak, but today they stand nowhere, British and French colonialized half of the world, but today they are squeezed to a small state only. The Ottoman Empire in Turkey was in control of parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe, but today is a small developing nation. Every peak has to pass through fall, it is a natural cycle in the history of nations. But China, the last 200 years have been suffering due to the colonializations, imperialism, and expansionism of the Western World. Either it was opium war one or two or war of resistance, the Chinese suffered a lot. But with the establishment of The People’s Republic of China on the 1st of October 1949, China liberated itself at last. However, it did not end the Western world’s aggression against China. It was the economic blockade of China or war against communism threat, China was the victim in the early 1950s, 1960, and 1970s.

China spent almost three decades on internal reforms with a focus on ideology, unity, and change of mindset during the period 1949~1978, under the great leadership of Chairman Mao. Fight against feudalism and imperialism was at the top of the agenda. Equality was promoted, the farmers, workers, and soldiers were treated equally. In the eyes of the state, everyone was equal irrespective of its nature of job, profession, social status, or qualification. It gave a lot of courage to people of China and hope for a bright future, which was a motivational force for them to struggle for a better life. As a net achievement of political reforms, the whole nation became united and stands on one page with the Government.

After having great success on the political front, China entered into a new phase of Economic Reforms, under the visionary leadership of Comrade Deng Xiao Ping, since 1978. During the last four decades, the Chinese common man persistently worked hard, the visionary leadership has provided the incentive-based right policies and the Government has provided enabling environments. China made huge progress on the economic front, it has surpassed the German Economy in 2006, surpassed the Japanese Economy in 2010, and expected to surpass American Economy in 2026. Currently, China has gained the status of the second-largest economy just behind the USA only.

One of China’s major victories is on the “Poverty Elimination front”. Just within four decades, China has lifted around 750 million people from the line of poverty. No other nation or collectively whole world has not shown such huge achievements. It was a goal set up in the Millennium Development Goals by the UN and China has contributed a lot. In fact, China’s contribution to fighting against poverty worldwide has been recognized. Many nations are beneficiary of Chinese assistance to fight against poverty and hunger. Some of the nations are following the Chinese path to address the issue of poverty in their own countries and are successful to some extent.

The life of a common man in China has been improved to a huge extent. From the shortage of food and the basic necessities of life, China has turned into an abundance of food and a luxury lifestyle. I lived in China for seven years in the 1980s and eye witness to the use of coupons and rationing of food and daily consumer products. Buying a bicycle, washing machine, electric fans were considered luxury and faced many difficulties. New clothes and shoes were purchased at festivals, especially on Chinese “New Year” only. Living standards and public transport were rather poor in condition. As a result of Economic Reforms, China has emerged as a net exporter of its excessive production and earning a huge amount of foreign exchange. Spiritual life for Chinese citizens has also witnessed a big change, entertainment Industry, Tourism, and luxury life has been witnessed in width and length of China.

Chinese people enjoy more freedom of expression and access to information as compared to four decades ago. Law and order situation has been ranked as one of the best in the global arena. Curse of Terrorism is a very common phenomenon all around the world, but in China, it is comparatively safe and under control. The legal system inside China has improved a lot and people feel more safe and secure inside China. Openness and modernity are very much visible on the streets of all big cities in China. Prosperity is prevailing and sense of comfort is visible from the faces of the common man.

The third phase of China is globalization which is currently prevailing in China, under the great leadership of President Xi Jin Ping.

Chinese progress in Agriculture and the Industrial sector has changed the whole world’s trading pattern and become a hope for developing nations. China’s trade surplus with the rest of world, especially with the developed world has set an example for all developing nations. Today, no other country compete in China in the price and surrendered its market to China.

With the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has been engaged in developing Infrastructure and connectivity among the BRI states. Today, there are more than 150 countries, regions and international organizations, recognizes BRI and most of them are beneficiaries of BRI fruits. BRI is a model for the future development of economy and trade. As a matter of fact, BRI has changed the whole pattern of geopolitics.

The growing recognition of BRI is witnessed around the world, many more countries have shown interest in joining BRI initiatives. As a matter of fact, China is the only country, having an excessive amount of foreign exchange and expertise in the development of Infrastructures. China is at the top position in the world in the field of Infrastructure development. For example, High-Speed Trains, China has built the longest and largest network inside China, especially its High-Speed Train to Tibet, in the high mountains, at an elevation of 4500 meters above the sea level is not less than a miracle. Motorways, High ways, Tunnels and Bridges all across the country are visible proof of China’s lead in the world. Many developing countries are inspired and impressed with the Chinese achievements and are willing to cooperate with China to replicate their experiences with them. High Rise buildings and architectures in China witness its strength.

Chinese companies are engaged in many countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe to develop infrastructure projects. The money and experience gained by China are useful for many developing nations. In fact, the Chinese model is one of the most successful models of developments in the current prevailing systems of governance in the world. It has produced much more than the Western “Democratic” model. It is time for the rest of the world to learn the best things from the Chinese-Governance model. I believe any system, which makes people prosper, society stable and safe, access to justice and freedom of expression, is a good model of governance.

BRI is a message of peace, harmony, and development. It promotes people to people contact, promotes mutual understandings, and promotes trade and tourism. Based on mutual understandings, relations among nations can be established more durable and beneficial. At least, it can eliminate misunderstanding to huge extent.

The growing number of Chinese Universities, among the top 500 Universities of the world is a good indicator of Chinese leadership in the Education sector. The increasing trend of R&D in China has made it a leader in Telecommunication, IT, Artificial Intelligence, and many emerging technologies in the world. Chinese culture is dominant in the western world, many people are learning the Chinese language around the world, Chinese culture, movies, and dresses are getting more popularity globally. Chinese soft power has recognized as a force behind its success.

With the rise of China as a global power, China is equally contributing to world peace and proactively participating in international affairs positively. China understands its responsibilities and contributing its due share in geopolitics positively. China has not fought any war during the last four decades. Although there were many occasions where the war was inevitable, China, played “Big Country Diplomacy” and averted war. In 2017, when there was border stand-off between India and China at Doklam, it was China, who observed restrains and normalized the situation through diplomacy. Currently, the situation in Hong Kong is proof of continuity of China’s policy of openness, tolerance, and democracy (Chinese characteristic of Socialism). No one can imagine, in Socialist country, where the communist party enjoys full authority, allows its citizens to launch such violent and prolonged protests. In a matter of fact, regaining sovereignty of China over Hong Kong and Macao, was a big achievement of China, as without firing a single bullet or killing any one person, just with peaceful negotiation, China gained this victory of regaining sovereignty of its lost parts from Britain and Portugal after one hundred years.

China enjoys supremacy over the South China Sea, but never exercised its military hegemony. Instead, it always offered its doors of negotiations with any one of the stakeholders. In spite of interference from far away nations, China observed restrains and averted any war-like situation. China has the power to gain control over “Diao Yu Dao” disputed islands between China and Japan but prefers peaceful negotiation as a mode of resolving this issue too.

Regarding trade war with the USA, China always observed restrains and showed maximum tolerance, even in case of reciprocity, offered a mild response only. Many aggressive statements from President Trump are on the record, but, Chinese side did not pass any derogatory remarks. China has the capacity and capability, but deliberately, as per its own policy, is not stretching its muscles.

As a civilization of several thousand years, having experiences of a wide variety, China has emerged as a mature, wise, and tolerant nation. China has learned that wars and egos, may not solve the issues permanently, that is why China has focused on its internal developments and overcame any possibility of war. China’s peaceful rise may be a role model for the rest of the world to be followed. Chinese influence is visible around the globe and may increase in the future too.

China will celebrate the 71st anniversary of its liberation on the 1st of October 2019. Preparations are underway and a massive program of celebration has been chalked out. Chinese Embassies in all world capitals will also celebrate this occasion. Chinese communities in various countries are also prepared well to enjoy the festivity of “National Day”. Please join me in congratulation the Chinese people and Government in the happiness of National Day.


Professor of Engineering Zamir Ahmed Awan is a Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Academician, Researcher, Peace-activist, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), Islamabad, Pakistan. E-mail:

China Leads US on Potent Super-Fast Missiles

by David Lague (April 25 2019)

China is leading the US in a race to deploy hypersonic missiles that would defeat existing air defense systems, according to senior US officials.

The combination of speed, maneuverability, and altitude of these missiles makes them difficult to track and intercept. They travel at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound or about 6,200 kilometers (3,853 miles) per hour. Some will travel as fast as 25,000 kilometers per hour, according to US and other Western weapons researchers. That’s about 25 times as fast as modern passenger jets.

Admiral Harry Harris, the former head of US Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee in February last year that hypersonic weapons were one of a range of advanced technologies where China was beginning to outpace the US military, challenging its dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.

Last April, Michael Griffin, the US Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that China has deployed, or is close to deploying, hypersonic systems armed with conventional warheads. These can travel thousands of kilometers from the Chinese coast and threaten American forward bases or carrier battle groups, he said.

“We do not have defenses against those systems”, Griffin said.

Russia may have already fielded a hypersonic weapon. At a parade in May last year, the Russian military displayed what it had earlier said was a hypersonic missile. Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the missile as invincible.

Russia’s defense ministry did not respond to questions from Reuters about its hypersonic weapons capabilities.

The Chinese military in 2014 said it had conducted a hypersonic test flight. By early 2016, it had conducted six successful tests, according to US military officials.

In early November, China unveiled a new ballistic anti-ship missile, the CM-401, at the biennial airshow in the southern city of Zhuhai. Reports in the official state-controlled media said the new missile was a hypersonic weapon. An information panel alongside a model of the new missile said the CM-401 was a “high supersonic” ballistic missile which had a trajectory reaching near space. It had a range of up to 290 kilometers, the panel said.

China, Russia, and the United States have focused research and development on two classes of these weapons: hypersonic glide vehicles and cruise missiles that fly at hypersonic speeds, according to US and other Western weapons analysts and military officials. Both types could carry conventional or nuclear payloads.

A hypersonic glide vehicle is boosted aloft on a rocket to heights of between forty to 100 kilometers above the earth before detaching to glide along the upper atmosphere towards its target. It is released at a height and speed that would allow it to glide unpowered to the target. Control surfaces on the glide vehicle mean it can steer an unpredictable course and maneuver sharply as it approaches impact.

These glide vehicles follow a much flatter and lower trajectory than the high, arching path of a ballistic missile, these researchers say. That makes them much harder to detect early with radar, giving missile defenses less time to respond.

Hypersonic cruise missiles, meanwhile, have internal engines. But unlike regular cruise missiles, they travel far faster and higher.

After years of stop-start development of hypersonics, the US is now trying to accelerate testing and deployment to match China and Russia, according to senior Pentagon officials.

Last year, the US Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin Corporation two contracts to develop hypersonic missiles. And, the US navy said it conducted a successful test of a long-range hypersonic missile on October 30 2017. Last month, the Pentagon awarded missile-maker Raytheon Company a $63.3 million contract for hypersonic weapons development, the company said in a statement.

“Frankly, we were the leaders in that ten and fifteen years ago, and we just let it drop”, Griffin told the US Senate Armed Services Committee in April last year. “We need to get started again”.


Reporting by David Lague. Edited by Peter Hirschberg.

China’s Carrier-Killer Missile

by Harry J Kazianis (October 31 2013)

As Washington grapples with the visibly important issues of debt, the role and scope of government in Americans’ daily lives, and what should encompass core US foreign-policy goals, dangerous threats to our nation’s security are emerging almost unnoticed. How Washington deals with such challenges could critically affect America’s role in the world and determine whether we will remain a true superpower.

Over the past several years, a number of nations – such as China and Iran – have begun developing advanced weapons that have the potential to deny US forces the crucial ability to mass forces into a combat zone and by asymmetrical means to deter or defeat an adversary. These weapons are known by security scholars as Anti-Access Area-Denial or A2-AD. Strategically vital regions of the world such as the economically dynamic Indo-Pacific region are affected.

Through the development and deployment of advanced sea mines, ultraquiet submarines, and increasingly advanced cruise and ballistic missiles, some of America’s key competitors and potential adversaries are attempting to develop A2-AD capabilities that would force US military planners to make an awful choice: suffer unthinkable casualties or decline to defend allies in future military conflicts.

China is developing what could be seen as the ultimate such weapon, a real nightmare for the US Navy. Since at least the mid-1990s, Beijing has been developing a highly advanced ballistic missile, the DF-21D, popularly dubbed “the carrier-killer”. On paper, such a missile could truly complicate Washington’s ability to move naval vessels as a hedge against China’s growing military might.

How the missile works is key to understanding its deadly potential. The weapon is mobile, making its detection difficult – even under the best of circumstances. When fired, the missile is guided using advanced radar, satellites, and possibly even an unmanned aerial vehicle. Various reports indicate it has a maneuverable warhead potentially capable of defeating missile-defense systems. It slams down on its target – an oceangoing vessel like an aircraft carrier – at speeds of Mach Ten to Twelve. Even more frightening, the missile allegedly holds the ability to attack naval vessels up to approximately 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) away, outranging by many times the strike range of all US aircraft aboard existing carriers.

Until recently, considering the science fiction-like description of such a weapon, many doubted the ability of China’s still-evolving defense industry to develop the missile. Many have pointed to the inability of Soviet engineers in the 1970s to develop similar weapons. Hitting a moving target on the high seas is not an easy feat; only a world-class scientific and defense industry would even make the attempt.

However, simply dismissing China’s capability to develop such a missile may have been wishful thinking. A recent report from the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation mined Chinese sources and publicly available information to conclude that America has reason to worry.

Chinese military experts began thinking about how to use missiles against naval vessels as early as the 1970s. After America deployed two aircraft carriers during the 1995~1996 Taiwan crises, research moved into high gear. According to the report, as of 2010, the DF-21D was capable of hitting slow-moving targets. Late that same year, a US admiral declared the missile had reached “initial operational capacity”, and US officials this year think China has actually deployed the latest version of the missile.

Still, many US officials question whether the DF-21D missile will operate as claimed under battlefield conditions. They aren’t sure the missile could actually take out an aircraft carrier and wonder whether – or at least hope that – our own missiles might be able to intercept and destroy a carrier-killer before it reaches its target.

While the Chinese carrier-killer is cause for concern, so too is the fact that other nations are developing or at least lusting after such hardware. Countries such as North Korea, Syria, Iran, and others are acquiring increasingly advanced weapons with the clear goal of keeping US forces out of potential areas of conflict or at least forcing us to pay an inordinately heavy price for involvement. Compounding the problem is the tendency to use scarce resources to prepare to refight the last war rather than to prepare for future conflicts. Without a sustained effort to negate the challenge of weapons such as China’s carrier-killer, America could be in for quite a shock.


Harry J Kazianis is managing editor of The National Interest.

“We Don’t Need Aircraft Carriers,

We Need Weapons to Sink Them With”

– Russian Defense Minister

Not bankrupting your country … what a novel idea (September 19 2019)

The US may have a military budget that far exceeds that of Russia, but it doesn’t matter since the Russian military is there to defend the country, not attack other nations, the Russian defense minister said.

Russia’s military budget received a hike a few years ago for a massive rearmament program, but has been rolled back in recent years. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated Russia to be the world’s sixth-biggest defense spender in 2018, behind the US, China, Saudi Arabia, India, and France. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has been showered with money under the Trump administration, dwarfing other nations’ military budgets.

But the man in charge of the Russian Defense Ministry says his fellow Russians have no reasons to worry because their taxpayer rubles are well spent.

“The US spends huge amounts of money on private military contractors, on aircraft carriers. Well, does Russia really need five to ten aircraft carrier strike groups, considering that we do not intend to attack anyone?” Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told a Russian newspaper.


We need the means we could use against the enemy’s carrier strike groups should our country come under attack. They are far less costly and more efficient.


The minister also criticized Washington for its habit of justifying its military interventions throughout the world by the interests of the people living in the nations it targets.

Shoigu said:



In which of the nations they went “to bring democracy” did democracy flourish? Was that Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria? And one certainly can forget about sovereignty and independence after American involvement.


He added that the US doesn’t seem to be losing its appetite for ruining other nations, be it through military intervention or other means.



Our Western colleagues love to accuse Russia of waging “hybrid wars” or whatever. Well, I say [the] West is the one conducting actual hybrid warfare. The US now is about to leave Afghanistan in half-ruins and at the same time, they work hard to stir things in Venezuela – all for the “triumph of democracy” of course.


The US tried this year to topple the Venezuelan government by supporting Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president of the Latin American country. His pretendership, however, has not been that successful. His two attempts at triggering a large-scale public uprising and ousting President Nicolas Maduro fizzled despite Washington’s promise that it would lift crippling economic sanctions against Venezuela once their man takes control.