Archive for the ‘Regions’ Category

20
Aug

The Myth of a Better Deal

Foreign policy is serious business, because getting it wrong has real consequences. When countries conduct foreign policy in a cavalier or incompetent way, real human beings lose their lives or end up much poorer than they would otherwise have been. In extreme cases, states that mismanage relations with the outside world end up completely isolated and maybe even conquered and occupied. This is rarely, if ever, a pleasant experience.

That’s why it is so surprising when allegedly “serious people” rely on various forms of Magical Thinking when they talk about foreign affairs. Like FP contributor Jeffrey Lewis, by “magical thinking,” I mean analysis and prescriptions resting on unrealistic assumptions, unspecified causal relationships, inapt analogies, a dearth of supporting evidence, and wildly naïve optimism. People who do this are like the scientists in that old cartoon whose blackboard solution to a thorny problem consists of writing, “And here a miracle occurs.” Read more…

By Stephen Walt, published on Aug. 10 in Foreignpolicy.com

17
Aug

Iraq’s reforms may help it avoid Lebanon’s sectarian fateYesterday afternoon, Iraq’s parliament approved some of the most significant changes to the country’s political system since the 2003 invasion.

Most analysts have focused on the proposals of prime minister Haider Al Abadi that tackle corruption. But the reforms also have another aspect, one that has the potential to fundamentally change how democratic politics is done in Iraq. Whether that change will be for the better is as yet unknown.

Mr Al Abadi proposed removing the positions of the two vice-presidents and three deputy prime ministers. The two vice-presidents were meant to be shared between the Sunni and Shia communities (one and two respectively), and the three deputy prime ministers divided among Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities. When it was first proposed, in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, it was an inelegant solution to a problem of representation.

Mr Al Abadi has also banned a quota system across ministries, which, again, had a sectarian element meant to placate various communities. He has replaced it with a committee to oversee appointments – chosen by him.

If the old system of allocating political positions based on religion sounds familiar, that is because it has been tried before, in Lebanon.

Read more…

Published on Aug. 11 in http://www.thenational.ae by Faisal Al Yafai

13
Aug

Colonialism, Invasion, and Atomic Bombs: Asia’s Divergent Histories

On September 3 of each year, Chinese people celebrate their victory over Japan in the Pacific War, which ended in the summer of 1945. This year, which marks the 70th anniversary of that victory, the Chinese government has designated September 3—and the days before and after—a national holiday so that “all Chinese can join the celebration.” The government has also extended an invitation to the leaders of other countries, including North and South Korea, to attend their memorial military parade. However, although they too fought against the Japanese colonial power in the same war, Koreans celebrate the nation’s “day of liberation” from Japanese rule on August 15, not September 3.

For Japan, the day to commemorate (and not to celebrate) is August 6, the day that the U.S. atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. A memorial service honoring the victims of atomic bombs, along with a lantern floating ceremony, is held in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to bear wishes for lasting peace and harmony in the world. Meanwhile, the United States officially “remembers” only the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, holding an annual memorial parade and commemoration on December 7.

The above examples illustrate how differently the countries involved remember and revisit the memories of an unfortunate past marked by war and colonialism in the Asia-Pacific region. For Chinese and Koreans, Japanese acts of aggression, such as the Nanjing massacre, forced labor, and sexual slavery, are the most crucial in their memories of the war. Accordingly, it is only natural for Chinese to celebrate their victory over Japan and for Koreans to celebrate the day on which they regained national sovereignty from the “vicious” Japanese colonial power. Read more…

28
Jul

El proyecto de reforma financiera emprendido por la Unión Europea tras el estallido de la crisis en 2008, ha venido experimentando diferentes avances. El más significativo hasta la fecha se produjo en 2012, cuando los gobiernos nacionales de los 28 estados miembros decidieron reunirse para formular un marco común de regulación y supervisión bancaria: la Unión Bancaria. Sin embargo, la comisión Juncker ha decidido ir más allá y embarcarse en un nuevo proyecto, que puede calificarse cuanto menos de ambicioso: formar una Unión de Mercados de Capitales en la Unión Europea. La intención de este proyecto es crear un mercado de capitales europeo fuerte y estable, que proporcione financiación al sistema complementariamente al sector bancario.

En Febrero de este año la Comisión decidió publicar un libro verde explicando la idea, con la intención de que los diferentes interesados pudieran transmitir sus objeciones y sugerencias. Hace poco más de un mes que expiró el plazo para expresar opiniones y actualmente dicho organismo está trabajando en la elaboración de un plan de acción que será presentado en septiembre. Jonathan Hill, el comisario europeo de Estabilidad Financiera, Servicios Financieros y Mercados de Capitales de la Unión, ha recalcado en numerosas ocasiones la importancia y los beneficios de este proyecto, que deberá estar completado para 2019.

Bolsa

Los beneficios de la creación de una unión de mercados de capitales para los 28 estados miembros están claros. Las empresas tendrán mayor acceso a numerosas vías de financiación y no serán tan dependientes del crédito bancario, que tanto se ha restringido tras la crisis, para financiarse. Además, el desarrollo de un mercado de capitales común y sólido aumentará la atracción de inversores extranjeros y promoverá una mayor estabilidad financiera. Por lo tanto, la puesta en práctica de este proyecto contribuirá al crecimiento de la Unión Europea y a su estabilidad. Read more…

Publicado el 28 de julio de 2015 en http://blogs.elpais.com.

Carmen Múgica, Master en Relaciones Internacionales en la IE Escuela de Relaciones Internacionales y colaboradora de la Fundación Alternativas.

27
Jul

EL CHACO, Ecuador — Where the Andean foothills dip into the Amazon jungle, nearly 1,000 Chinese engineers and workers have been pouring concrete for a dam and a 15-mile underground tunnel. The $2.2 billion project will feed river water to eight giant Chinese turbines designed to produce enough electricity to light more than a third of Ecuador.

Near the port of Manta on the Pacific Ocean, Chinese banks are in talks to lend $7 billion for the construction of an oil refinery, which could make Ecuador a global player in gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products.

Across the country in villages and towns, Chinese money is going to build roads, highways, bridges, hospitals, even a network of surveillance cameras stretching to the Galápagos Islands. State-owned Chinese banks have already put nearly $11 billion into the country, and the Ecuadorean government is asking for more.

Ecuador, with just 16 million people, has little presence on the global stage. But China’s rapidly expanding footprint here speaks volumes about the changing world order, as Beijing surges forward and Washington gradually loses ground.

While China has been important to the world economy for decades, the country is now wielding its financial heft with the confidence and purpose of a global superpower. With the center of financial gravity shifting, China is aggressively asserting its economic clout to win diplomatic allies, invest its vast wealth, promote its currency and secure much-needed natural resources.

It represents a new phase in China’s evolution. As the country’s wealth has swelled and its needs have evolved, President Xi Jinping and the rest of the leadership have pushed to extend China’s reach on a global scale.

China’s currency, the renminbi, is expected to be anointed soon as a global reserve currency, putting it in an elite category with the dollar, the euro, the pound and the yen. China’s state-owned development bank has surpassed the World Bank in international lending. And its effort to create an internationally funded institution to finance transportation and other infrastructure has drawn the support of 57 countries, including several of the United States’ closest allies, despite opposition from the Obama administration.

Even the current stock market slump is unlikely to shake the country’s resolve. China has nearly $4 trillion in foreign currency reserves, which it is determined to invest overseas to earn a profit and exert its influence.

China’s growing economic power coincides with an increasingly assertive foreign policy. It is building aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and stealth jets. In a contested sea, China is turning reefs and atolls near the southern Philippines into artificial islands, with at least one airstrip able to handle the largest military planes. The United States has challenged the move, conducting surveillance flights in the area and discussing plans to send warships. Read more…

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