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Gaming the Electric Car Chase

As the four front-runners sprint around the track, some favorites could end up in the dust.

CHINA

Size of the bet: $15 billion by 2020

Strategy: Beijing has set wildly ambitious targets for its car companies, demanding that they put 500,000 electric cars on the road by the end of 2011, three to four years ahead of their U.S. competitors. The country is also luring foreign innovators with cheap manufacturing -- in exchange for invaluable intellectual property.

Why it could win: Because it really, really wants to.

Why it might not: Brains. Virtually all the leading battery-development scientists in the world live elsewhere, and China doesn't hold any of the patents for today's most cutting-edge technologies.

JAPAN

Size of the bet: $6.8 billion in subsidies for electric and high-efficiency vehicles

Strategy: Japan's car companies have partnered with local electronics giants, aiming to seize the new market for both batteries and electric cars.

Why it could win: Because it's winning today. Japan figured out the future of battery-powered locomotion before anyone else: The country's companies launched the first version of today's lithium-ion battery and sold 43 percent of them last year.

Why it might not: Japan has a relatively small domestic consumer base and relies on exports -- leaving the country at the mercy of Chinese and American trade protectionism, which has proved a stumbling block before.

SOUTH KOREA

Size of the bet: $12.5 billion over the next decade

Strategy: Unlike the other big three, South Korea isn't expending much effort on building hybrid and electric cars -- its companies have a single-minded focus on winning the battery game.

Why it could win: South Korea has a record of needling its way into Japanese markets. In 2005, South Korean companies began to crack the Japanese hegemony over consumer electronics such as flat-screen televisions. Industry analysts see a similar future unfolding in advanced batteries.

Why it might not: Japan has a record of figuring these things out first.

THE UNITED STATES

Size of the bet: $27 billion in loan guarantees and grants

Strategy: The U.S. government is pumping money into joint ventures between domestic car companies and foreign battery manufacturers. Its stimulus bill also poured billions for battery work into the government's elite research laboratories.

Why it could win: Because it has to. The United States badly needs a new platform for economic growth. History counts for something, too: Every major battery breakthrough of the last 100 years has originated in the United States.

Why it might not: Have you visited Detroit lately? The American manufacturing base is a thing of the past.

WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

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The Internet Jihad

Zach Chesser's how-to guide.

American suburban kid-turned-jihadi-propagandist Zachary Chesser is just one of many al Qaeda converts to embrace the Internet as a battlefield -- but he might be one of the only ones who grew up loving the early seasons of South Park in his middle-school years, well before he indirectly threatened to kill its creators a decade later. Coupling his inside knowledge of American culture with an extreme sense of his own new-media brilliance, Chesser declared himself an expert on the U.S. counterterrorism system and began laboring over long lists of dos and don'ts for his fellow would-be jihadi proselytizers. Here, summarized and paraphrased, are Chesser's top 10 most effective ways to wage the Internet jihad:

1) Anytime the United States does anything that can be perceived as a success in its war against al Qaeda, bury it. Whenever al Qaeda operatives are killed or captured, for example, flood the airwaves with discussions about their replacements.

2) When it comes to online articles and videos, each one needs to have a clear bias. Use derogatory phrases like "5 Western pigs sent to Hellfire in sha'a Allah" to make it clear whose side God is on. But always publish the truth because lies can backfire.

3) Spread videos of dying Americans because images of death dehumanize them in the minds of jihadists.

4) Publish statistics of how many Muslim civilians have been killed by the Americans, using the highest credible estimates.

5) Calibrate your messaging strategy according to the level of sympathy for al Qaeda that a target audience already has. Do not show a video of al Qaeda mowing down Americans, for instance, to a Muslim with a Barack Obama sticker on his or her backpack.

6) Anytime an American does something wrong, emphasize it, whether it's a silly statement that makes the person sound dumb or an intentional attack on civilians. Whenever you can use an embarrassing photo of an American, do so, just as the Americans only use the beardless and disheveled image of 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed when he was arrested.

7) Emphasize noncontroversial jihadi actions. Show images of them handing out zakat (charity). Mention that al Qaeda is not really against girls' schools and that the organization actively works to build them. Use positive images.

8) Exacerbate diplomatic rifts between the enemies of al Qaeda. When Israel does something against U.S. interests, publish it. Likewise, encourage the disunity of Western political parties.

9) Publish and comment on U.S. counterterrorism research reports. The best propaganda, outside the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, can come in the form of revealing what Americans say about how al Qaeda is waking up the sleeping Muslims.

10) Embrace online tools. Twitter is an incredibly easy way to approach young people who aren't active users of al Qaeda websites. Although Facebook bans jihadists from time to time, it is a good way of reaching large numbers of people -- even if the senior jihadi clerics haven't been convinced yet.

Illustration by Sean McCabe for FP