Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category


Composite image of China's President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou

This weekend’s historic summit in Singapore between the presidents of China and Taiwan may have surprised many, but the sides first broached the subject about two years ago and the leaders had their legacies very much in mind.

For Chinese President Xi Jinping, the summit may not change the outcome of Taiwan’s presidential election in January which the island’s main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is widely expected to win, two sources with ties to the Chinese leadership said. Anti-China sentiment is rising in Taiwan.

But longer term, Xi hopes to cement his place in China’s pantheon of great leaders if he is able eventually to lure the self-ruled democratic island, which Beijing claims as its own, back to the fold, the sources said.

“Xi is not thinking about just the present. It’s long term,” one source told Reuters, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“If Xi could eventually create a framework for reunification, he would be as great as, if not greater than Deng Xiaoping,” added the source, referring to China’s late paramount leader who negotiated Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule.

Read more at Reuters


When Barack Obama meets this week with Xi Jinping during the Chinese president’s first state visit to America, one item probably won’t be on their agenda: the possibility that the United States and China could find themselves at war in the next decade. In policy circles, this appears as unlikely as it would be unwise.

And yet 100 years on, World War I offers a sobering reminder of man’s capacity for folly. When we say that war is “inconceivable,” is this a statement about what is possible in the world—or only about what our limited minds can conceive? In 1914, few could imagine slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: world war. When war ended four years later, Europe lay in ruins: the kaiser gone, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the Russian tsar overthrown by the Bolsheviks, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of its youth and treasure. A millennium in which Europe had been the political center of the world came to a crashing halt.

The defining question about global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape Thucydides’s Trap. The Greek historian’s metaphor reminds us of the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power—as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago. Most such contests have ended badly, often for both nations, a team of mine at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has concluded after analyzing the historical record. In 12 of 16 cases over the past 500 years, the result was war. When the parties avoided war, it required huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions on the part not just of the challenger but also the challenged. Read more…

By Graham Allison; Published on 24 Sept. 2015 in

Graham Allison is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is the author of Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe and the co-author of Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World.


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…


Ukraine is Russia’s identity test

Written on July 20, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Culture & Society, Europe, Foreign Policy, Op Ed

Ukraine, which has long existed in the shadow of Russia, is sometimes compared to Ireland, which had a similar relationship with England, except scaled down to reflect their relative size.

Both Ireland and Ukraine were for many centuries colonized by their larger, more powerful neighbors. The Irish and the Ukrainians provided the manpower for various wars as well as for settling new colonial territories. The Irish diaspora numbers around 70 million people across the English-speaking world, while Ukrainians live in every part of Russia, from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad, having been either given land to move on their own initiative or transported there under guard during Stalin’s terror.

At different times, England and Russia engineered massive famines in Ireland and Ukraine, respectively, from which those countries are yet to recover demographically, physically and psychologically. In the 20th century, as European empires crumbled, Ireland and Ukraine finally won their freedom. Even the dates of their independence are symmetrical: the Irish declared it in 1919, while Ukraine, along with most other ex-Soviet republics, became a sovereign country with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

And now, since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, both former colonial powers are holding on to a piece of territory which belongs to their former subjects.

And yet, one thing is very different. Unlike the Russians, who still claim that Ukrainians are not a nation, the Brits never actually tried to deny a separate ethnic and cultural identity to the Irish – or, for that matter, to the Scots or the Welsh, even though they all speak English and to a casual visitor not attuned to various accents in English, telling them all apart is next to impossible.

The English are highly individualistic. They all but invented individualism, becoming, in effect, a nation of strangers. Modern English is the only European languages not to use a familiar form: lovers, schoolmates and even parents addressing their young kids use the formal you, whereas the personal pronoun I is always capitalized. Britain has a deeply ingrained tradition of eccentricity, in which individuals are allowed to act as they see fit, without conforming to the prevailing notions of “normal” behavior. Even on the crowded London tube, passengers manage to carve out a private space.

Russia, by way of contrast, has always been collectivist. The individual has never meant a thing; he or she is completely insignificant in relation to the state. Those who assert their difference from the crowd, or proclaimed their individuality typically risked expulsion from the community. Why this is the case has been extensively studied and there are plenty of explanations based on history, culture, geography, etc. Be that as it may, collectivism is evident in everyday life – you always see Russians stand on top of each other when they cue up, even if there is plenty of room on the sidewalk – as well as in major historical events, such as Russia’s embrace of communism. On the other hand, eighty years of communist rule, when being a cog in the great machinery of state was proclaimed a huge virtue, reinforced the nation’s natural collectivist tendencies.

To an individualist, the question of identity is pretty straightforward: it is always I. A collective “we” is trickier. You first have to define who else is included into this universe – and, equally important, who is not.

Historically, it has always been difficult for the Russians to define themselves, and the experience of “communist internationalism” made it next to impossible. Early Bolsheviks wanted the collective “we” to be all the workers of the world, then, when world revolution failed to materialize, it became the “Soviet people”, officially consisting of a “fraternal family of Soviet nationalities”. In reality, this collective identity was rife with ethnic enmities and prejudice.

When the Soviet Union fell apart, the Russian Federation attempted to create a new national identity. A new term appeared – rossiyanin – meaning a citizen of the Russian Federation, as opposed to russky, which denotes more narrowly an ethnic Russian. Creating a collective WE of the rossiyanins has not so far been especially successful, and the search for Russian self-identification is ongoing. Read more…

Posted on July 19th in

Alexei Bayer is a New York-based economist and writer. HIs new detective novel, “Latchkey Murders”, set in Moscow in the early 1960s, is coming out in English in early July.


Earlier this month, students from our current MIR intake organized a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. Here is current MIR student Calvin Nguyen’s account of the visit.

Embassy visit

Through the initiative of MIR student Jose Miguel, students from the Master in International Relations and other interested IE students attended a special talk on July 1st at the United States Embassy in Madrid, Spain. The talk focused on the topic of Public Diplomacy featuring civil servant Vickery Sanchez and her experience while working with the Department of State in Washington D.C.

3pm that day, we began the process of entering the fortress-like U.S. embassy undergoing a very lengthy security screening process. Soon after, we were led into a room that reminded me of a miniature theater with comfortable sofas, classical chairs, and lazy boy armchairs. With the air conditioning blowing cooling us from the oppressive 40 C degree Madrid summer heat and being comfortably seated in the sofas and armchairs, the presentation began.

It was a great opportunity to learn about Public Diplomacy which is different than classical diplomacy between governments and larger organizations. Rather, Public Diplomacy is the government directly engaging with the people themselves.

Throughout the presentation, we saw an example of an action plan of the U.S. government about how it engages in Public Diplomacy with the world. Additionally, we learned about the way social media has changed the way the government engages with people and how it serves as a valuable tool in Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

I had always heard of and knew about the U.S. Fulbright program which students utilize as an opportunity to teach, to work, and to conduct research abroad. Originally, I had thought of it as a way to expose Americans to other cultures, but after the presentation, I now see it as a means of the U.S. government to spread soft power through the world.

Vickery also mentioned the importance of Foreign Service Officers working in Public Diplomacy abroad as a means to combat both disinformation and misinformation by helping to deliver accurate information and news, and to properly represent the views of the United States.

Overall, it was a very informative event and a nice break during the extremely hectic period of thesis writing. Specially organized talks and events like these provide a very nice change from the classical classroom learning environment.

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