This week, we discuss what to watch for as the situation in China unfolds; the downsides of diplomacy with Russia; why intelligence work can be traumatizing and what to do about it; defining and measuring civic infrastructure; China's potential reactions to U.S. military activities in the Indo-Pacific; and managing expectations about the efficacy of the “mansion tax” in Los Angeles.
Recent protests against China's zero-COVID policy have conjured comparisons to the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.
It's too soon to equate these two moments in history, says RAND's Amanda Kerrigan. But reflecting on the past can provide insights into the future. Drawing on her knowledge of the Tiananmen protests, she identifies five key questions to monitor as the situation unfolds:
- How are protesters' demands evolving?
- Who is organizing and participating? Is it a broad swath of the population?
- What is the level of police response?
- How willing are China's leaders to respond to protesters' demands?
- Is there disagreement among these leaders about how to handle the protests?
Watching these factors closely may suggest what trajectory the Chinese Communist Party and protesters are on as both strive to achieve their goals. Whether the protests fizzle out or garner more support, they are a reminder that “authoritarian systems, like democracies, need to be responsive to their people one way or another,” Kerrigan says.
What is the harm in the United States pursuing a long-term settlement between Russia and Ukraine? Quite a lot, say RAND's Raphael Cohen and Gian Gentile. To start, diplomacy is unlikely to end the war or even prevent future escalation. Additionally, there may be serious costs to pursuing a settlement. For example, starting negotiations could halt the momentum Ukraine has gained in recent months. The time for diplomacy in Ukraine will hopefully come soon, our researchers say. But it doesn't seem to be today.
To many, being a secret agent is a dream job—adrenaline-filled and glamorous. It can be that way some days, says RAND's Heather Williams, who spent 13 years working in the intelligence community. But it can also be isolating, relentless, and traumatizing. A recent paper coauthored by Williams examines how lasting trauma affects intelligence personnel. The consequences of ignoring the mental and emotional costs of intelligence work can be tragic, both individually and to the nation, she says.
Recent events, such as the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, have increased concerns about the stability of American democracy. Is the United States in need of a civic renewal? In a new report, RAND researchers take a key step toward answering this question: establishing a framework to define and measure civic infrastructure. Such a framework can be used as a tool to monitor the health of democracy and determine ways to improve it.
Increasing Chinese militarization in the Indo-Pacific has led the United States to expand its own activities in the region over the past decade. As this continues, China's potential reactions are a crucial security consideration. A new RAND report examines how different U.S. military actions might increase the risk of escalation or aggression by Beijing. This includes activities related to defending Taiwan.
Los Angeles voters recently approved the so-called “mansion tax,” which aims to raise funds for affordable housing. Projects funded by the tax that consist of 40 or more housing units must be built by a nearly 100 percent union workforce. This incentivizes smaller development, which drives up the average cost of new housing, says RAND's Jason Ward. For this reason, Angelenos may want to temper their expectations of the new tax's ability to expand affordable housing.
Get Weekly Updates from RAND
If you enjoyed this weekly recap, consider subscribing to Policy Currents, our newsletter and podcast.