China and Russia are growing closer in an effort to offset America’s geopolitical sphere of influence. And it’s something to which defense and cybersecurity experts say Washington should pay attention.

Moscow and Beijing have a long complicated history. Russia has always feared a Chinese takeover of its under-populated Siberia. But for the first time in history 3,200 Chinese troops trained alongside 300,000 Russian troops in Siberia this September. And both Beijing and Moscow say they intend to make this a regular occurrence.

Defense experts say the location of this joint military exercise is calculated. Dr. Christopher Yung is an expert on Chinese warfare capabilities as well as its emerging foreign and defense policy. He is a former Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs (CSCMA), Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University (NDU). His thoughts expressed in this article do not represent the official views of the United State Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy, or the Department of Defense.

“The fact that a joint exercise took place in Siberia where the Russians are particularly sensitive to the possibility that China simply absorbs this part of Russian territory indicates that Moscow has made a short-term calculation that it is better to align with China now against the West/U.S. On the Chinese side, the Chinese appear to be taking the growing tension between itself and the U.S. seriously and therefore is willing to sacrifice good relations with the U.S. for the purpose of keeping the U.S. off balance,” says Dr. Yung.

China and Russia are not close. And that’s exactly why President Nixon’s national security advisor, Henry Kissinger decided to exploit this rivalry for the benefit of America with a policy that became known as “triangular diplomacy” or “triangulation.” Kissinger felt it was important for Washington to have better individual relations with Beijing and Moscow than the two countries had with one another. Dr. Yung says “the United States is not following this approach very well. Despite President Trump’s statements on the need for a closer relationship, US-Russian relations are not particularly good; and US-China relations are at a low point in the “New Period” (i.e. post-Mao). Russia and China have an alignment of convenience and are jointly poking at the international system of US leadership” But Dr. Yung says it’s important not to misrepresent this relationship as an alliance because that is an overstatement.

Both countries have also demonstrated proficient cyber espionage capabilities according to cybersecurity expert Luke McNamara of FireEye. “China has been one of the most prolific threat actors within their region and against the West, while Russia has leveraged their skills in conducting intrusions to target critical infrastructure for destructive attacks,” says McNamara. He adds that it’s “unclear if China and Russia have ever worked together to bolster their cyber capabilities, but there is evidence of each nation targeting the other through cyber espionage operations. While they may partner on security matters where they share joint interests, both nations likely maintain standing intelligence requirements to collect on political and military matters involving the other.”

China appears to also be making calculated moves in Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. And Dr. Yung says “the significance of this to the U.S. is that America’s power and influence is going to decline in relation to China’s in South and Central Asia.”

Beijing has reportedly abandoned its previous policy of not having an overseas military presence and is growing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops in Afghanistan. But China denies reports that it is planning military bases in Afghanistan.

Regardless China has growing economic, political and security interests internationally. And it “needs continued access to raw materials, energy, and needs a stable periphery; furthermore, it needs to create markets in some rough neighborhoods as its export markets start to dry up.” Says Dr. Yung. And he says The Belt and Road Initiative is central to this strategy.

“For every yuan of infrastructure and energy investment the Chinese make in these areas, there will be an increased need for security. Some of that will come with building partner capacity of these countries (hence the training of Afghan troops in China), some of it will come from private Chinese security contractors, and some of it will come from a gradually increasing PLA presence. The increased PLA presence in Afghanistan and some of the other Central Asian countries is a reflection of this dynamic,” says Dr. Yung.

The Belt and Road Initiatives is also drawing China closer to Iran. The Iran Nuclear Deal, despite U.S. withdrawal, creates a “potential for China to form closer strategic partnership with Iran,” but China will also counter-balance its own relationship with Tehran by getting closer with Saudi Arabia as well. Dr. Yung says “China sees the Middle East as a central source of its energy needs. It will, therefore, take no actions which will put that source in danger. In short, I think analysis which worries over China’s presence in the Middle East as overblown,” says Dr. Yung.

A geopolitical chess reset is taking place. As China continues to emerge as a peer competitor to the United States and is “seeking to revise the international system to suit its interests,” says Dr. Yung. And by doing so it’s joining Russia’s game. This realization is clear in the UN voting pattern where Russia and China often block vote similarly blocking the U.S. in votes on North Korea, Syria and Iran.” China and Russia see cooperation with each other, militarily, economically, diplomatically, as an opportunity to keep the U.S. off balance, to relieve strategic pressure from the West on their individual political interests, and in ensuring the survival of both the Russian government and the CCP regime,” says Yung.

Editor’s Note:This article was originally published by KWQC.com and republished with permission. To view the original article, visit here.

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
Sarah Jones
Sarah Jones is an Istanbul based journalist and a Diplomatic Courier correspondent.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.