German company to test laser weapon

The German subsidiary of European missile systems company MBDA has developed a solid-state laser weapon with an output of 40 kW. The purpose of the weapon is to take down airborne mortar shells and is claimed to have cut through 40 mm-thick steel plates “in a few seconds”.

Germany’s new laser gun

MBDA is owned by European aerospace and defense giants BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica. BAE Systems and EADS have proposed a merger recently.

MBDA’s laser gun is said to be ahead of its US competitors who have only managed a 25 kW laser zap-gun so far.

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Audi apologises to Japan following incident in China

The German car manufacturer Audi has apologised to Japan after staff in one of its dealerships in China called for the killing of Japanese as part of the disturbances over the contested islands of Diaoyu, or Senkaku as they are called in Japanese.

Anti-Japanese protests at Audi dealership in China

The 6 meter (20 foot) banner held up by the staff at Audi reads:

“Japanese must all be killed even if it means China is covered in graves. Diaoyu must be reclaimed even if China becomes barren land.”

Audi has not taken any actions against the staff of the dealership apart from telling them not to protest in this manner. It’s a sure reflection of how important the Chinese market is to the luxury car manufacturer.

Transatlantic Trends releases 2012 survey of US and EU opinions

Transatlantic Trends is an annual survey released by the American public policy institute German Marshall Fund with the help of  Compagnia di San Paolo, Fundação Luso-Americana, the BBVA Foundation, the Communitas Foundation, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Open Society Foundations. The survey polls opinion on a range of issues in the United States, Turkey, Russia and 12 European Union member states.

Some of the key findings in relation to Asia-Pacific are interesting. When surveying European nations on the question of which region is more important for national interests, the US or Asia, 61% of Europeans thought the US was more important, which is up 9% since last year. The opinion ranged widely with respondents in Russia, Turkey and Sweden most likely to look to Asia. Germans, French and British respondents thought the US to be more important by a wide margin.

US or Asia most important to European national interests?

On the question whether China is a threat or an opportunity, nearly two-thirds of U.S. respondents (59%) thought that China is more of an economic threat and the French were even more likely to view China as a threat. No doubt mirroring some of the fear the French have of globalisation. The successful exporting nations of northern Europe like Sweden, Netherlands and Germany saw an opportunity over a threat.

China, an opportunity or a threat?

The survey also reported on the opinions on military intervention in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and it gave some surprising results. Of all countries surveyed, Sweden was the most in favour of military intervention, more so than the US. The majority of Swedes are in favour of intervention in all three countries. Russia and Turkey were the most skeptic to military intervention.

Which country most supportive of military interventions in the Middle East?

Decreasing importance of US – China trade

Interesting piece by Australian military intelligence officer Dominic Skerritt at the always excellent website LowyInterpreter.org, which is run by the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia.

This graph shows how US-China trade is becoming less important for the Chinese economy as domestic demand and trade with other countries increases.

US-China trade decreasing as % of total Chinese foreign trade

Dominic points out that Chinese leadership is concerned about its exposure to US debt. Once the trust in the US dollar slips away, will the US still be able to run large deficits or will we see a Greece-style collapse?

Olympics and measuring national power

The London 2012 Olympics are long gone, but still to note for a foreign policy wonk, an article in the Foreign Policy magazine makes an interesting comparison between the final medals table and other measures of national power. There is more than just a hint of similarities between sporting prowess and GDP.

Olympic medals table and national power

Australia’s economy set to overtake Spain’s

As if to confirm the global economic tilt towards the Asia-Pacific region, the US news service Bloomberg reports that Australia’s economy is set to overtake Spain’s this quarter to become the 12th biggest in the world.

However, given that global resource prices – especially iron ore – are coming back down, it remains to be seen whether Australia can continue to grow at the current level of 3.7% per year.

Human spaceflight in decline

With the sad passing of Neil Armstrong – the first man on the moon – in mind, it’s worth noting that currently the number of living people who have stepped on an extraterrestrial body is in steep decline.

Will Germany with its increasing industrial and technological might step up and increase spending on manned spaceflight so that this negative trend can be reversed? Or will we simply have to wait for American budget deficits to disappear or maybe even the first Chinese taikonauts to take charge?